]o[ ]o[ ]o[

Blue on Blue

Chapter Five: Sweet Life

Rated: T+

Soundtrack: Flashlight – Jessie J

Tomochika picked at her salad and looked across the table at her friend. "Are you sure you can handle this?" she asked quietly.

Haruka chewed the tiny bit of bread she'd taken and nodded. "Of course. I have to. What kind of professional would I be if I let myself fall apart at the first personal obstacle?"

"You've used that word professional quite a few times now," Tomo-chan said. "Who are you trying to convince? Me, the others, or yourself?"

Haruka blinked owlishly at her friend. While she admired Tomochika for being so assertive, this was a time Haruka wished she would keep it to herself.

"Because, if it's me, you don't need to." She toyed with the rim of her glass. "I know you are a professional," she made air quotes to accentuate her point. "If it's the others, they don't care. They just want you happy." She reached across and laid her hand over her friends. "Especially him."

Haruka sighed. "I know." She moved her hand away and waved it. "Of course I know."

"Can I ask you a blunt question?"

As if she hadn't already. "Of course you can, Tomo-chan."

"Are you afraid to hear what he has to say? Because, you know he has the most logical mind in the whole group. He probably has several options and contingencies tucked in his back pocket for this situation, which will keep the two of you out of any trouble. And why would that be so bad?" Tomochika shook her head. "You care for each other, don't you? Neither of you seem the type to indulge in a temporary fling." She took a sip of her sparkling water. "You both are too serious for that."

"That's the problem, Tomo-chan," Haruka said, helplessly. Could no one understand? "Eventually, he'll want to approach his family." She shrugged. "And we know how that will go. I would never be an acceptable choice for the Hijirikawa heir."

"That's a load of crap. This is the 21st century, for goodness sake!"

"I know that, you know that, but they are a very traditional family. I've heard how… difficult Mr. Hijirikawa can be. And I know how stubborn his son is."

Tomochika chuckled. "About a fraction less stubborn than you."

"Tch."

"It's true."

Haruka looked for a path toward denial of that fact. Out of luck, she said instead, "I do not want to cause Ma-Hijirikawa-san any trouble. Not now, not ever. And to keep going like we were would only stir up a hornet's nest."

"Maybe it won't be so bad. C'mon. He convinced his father to let him go to music school." Tomo leaned back. "Why don't you relax and let him fight that battle when it comes to it."

Haruka sat silent for a while. Then she offered, "I've told him that we could talk after the musical."

Tomochika clapped her hands. "Well, that's a step in the right direction!" She looked up and Haruka noticed her looking at a point over her left shoulder.

Haruka turned, but all she saw was Ittoki-kun sitting by a tree practicing his guitar. She grinned, suddenly excited to have something to talk about that didn't include her own personal relationship. "I suppose I should finish reading the script so I can get back to work," she said, giving her friend a tiny smile. "Thank you for listening to me whine, but now, why don't you go talk to him."

"Him?" Tomochika blinked innocently, finding something extremely interesting in the bottom of her glass. "Him who?"

Haruka just gave her friend a look. "You know who. I can tell you're dying to."

Tomochika whirled. "What?" she exclaimed, then waved her hands. "No, you must be seeing things! I-,"

"Can't keep your eyes off of Ittoki-kun." Haruka finished. "And you haven't been able to since the first day of school." She stood and picked up her tray. "Don't know what's taking you so long to make that move. I wonder who's afraid now."

"Haruka!"

Haruka laughed as she left the tables to head for her room.

It didn't take her long to read the pertinent parts of the script. It was the typical historical romance, set in the Edo Period. It would be easy enough to produce something for this section of the play. As she read, she could picture the whole thing. She even heard an ephemeral melody in the back of her mind already. Something that was simple to perform, but sounded very intricate. It would have the flavor of ancient times, and it would be something that would carry the audience away.

She didn't bother to read the ending; she knew how these plays usually ended. Hero wins girl, everyone is happy, and the world turned peacefully on. A phrase skipped in her mind that, had anyone heard it, would have earned her a mouth full of soap. She was just as romantic as the next girl was, but she didn't have time to be carried away with all of that.

She was already deep enough in her own troubles.

She sat up on her bed and closed the script, smoothing the cover flat in her lap. Okay, she thought, time to put this melody down before it was lost.

She was so busy scribbling shorthand into her notebook that she didn't see Ren until she almost ran into him. "Oh! I'm sorry, Jinguji-san."

He gave her was his usual lazy grin, slow and sweet like caramel sugar. "I'm not. It would have been a joy to hold you in my arms again," he said.

Haruka rolled her eyes. "Oh, please, Jinguji-san. You know that doesn't work on me anymore."

"More's the pity," he said, looking quite heartbroken.

Haruka did not believe that pitiful look on his face for one moment. A light chuckle escaped her lips.

"That's what I was looking for," he dropped the pretense and gave her a real smile. "I haven't heard your laughter in a while. It's good to hear."

She quieted and looked up at him. "I haven't had much to laugh about these days."

"I understand." He paused for a second, then took her arm, steering her down the hall toward a rehearsal room. "How would you like an opportunity to forget your worries? If even just for a moment?" he said mysteriously.

Haruka frowned. "What do you mean?"

"I have something that I want you to see. Actually, something that you have to see."

"Uh, actually, Jinguji-san, I have to go and work on this score for the musical-,"

"That Hijirikawa is currently cast in," Ren waved a hand. "I know the whole sad tale. He tries so hard, but he can't keep a whole lot from me."

Haruka stopped. "He… told you?"

"Of course he did," Ren said. "I mean, he looks like the silent, suffering type, but did you really think he would have no one to confide in?" He shook a finger at her. "Now that's not fair, lady." He started moving, to get her back moving, "I know you have your own sympathetic ear in Ittoki's little red-headed song bird."

"Ittoki's… you mean you know about that?" Haruka gaped. Apparently, Ren had found his second calling as the agency gossip.

"There's a lot I know about," he said conspiratorially. "In fact, that's what I wanted to share with you. I want to show you something that's going to make you want to run for your Oba-chan." He winked. "I swear it will take your mind of less happy things."

She almost laughed at that. However, she wasted no time following Ren where he led. If it would distract her that much, she had to see it.

"So," Ren began, "You really think there's no way you and Hijirikawa will work out?"

Haruka shook her head. "You should know that better than me. His father would never-,"

"Have you ever thought of letting him handle his father?"

That was the second time someone had asked her that. "What do you mean?"

Ren stopped, leaned against the wall and crossed his arms. "You've taken the whole choice right out of his hands." He looked at her from the corner of his eyes. "Do you know what it does to his sense of… correctness that you won't even let him make an attempt on your behalf?" Ren shuddered. "If it were me, I don't think I could stand the blow to my virility."

Men. "But, why should we even go to that point if we know it won't work?"

"So… the fact is that you don't trust Hijirikawa."

Haruka almost tripped over her own feet. Now that was a statement that had thrown every lyric and verse of her argument out of alignment. "Wh-what?"

"You don't trust him to point the way out of this. Do you think him incapable of asserting himself?" Ren shook his head. "Believe me; I may not agree with him on many occasions, but I can tell you that he has no problem with fighting for what he wants when he needs to. And, much to my dismay, he wants to be with you."

Now the argument was going out of tune, quickly. "I-I don't… what-what are you talking about? Of c-course I trust-,"

Ren laughed then. "There was a time in middle school that some idiot tried to test him one too many times and wound up on the wrong side of his own teeth." He sighed and gave her a thoughtful look. "Never mind," Ren suddenly said. "I'm sure you two can work this out."

They finally stopped in front of one of the rehearsal rooms. "I will say one last thing and leave the subject alone." He stopped, placed his hand on the doorknob.

"What?"

"Don't sell Hijirikawa short, Little Lamb." Ren murmured. "That's all."

Haruka flushed.

Ren put a finger on his lips. "Now," his whispered, "stay as quiet as you can. I'm going to show you something that will set your pretty hair on end."

Haruka shook her head a little. There was never a day where one of these men weren't setting her hair on end. "Okay, I'm ready."

Ren pushed the door open, gesturing for her to come closer. They peeked through the crack. She stood in the circle of his arms, taking in his cologne and feeling… safe. Not the way she felt safe when she was with… him. Safe as if she was in the arms of her oldest brother.

Haruka blinked. "What am I supposed to see? It's just Syo and Natsuki."

"Yes. Natsuki and I just returned from our shoot and he came straight here. Watch."

She did as he told her. She relaxed against him slightly, not moving, just observing the two blonds seated at one of the couches facing the windows. They were so engrossed in a book in Natsuki's lap that they would never have noticed the two eavesdroppers. From her viewpoint, she could only see the back of Syo's head, and could only see the light sparkling off Natsuki's frames. Occasionally, Syo would point at something on a page, Natsuki would speak, and then they would turn the page.

"Those are the proofs from Nacchan's last shoot," Ren whispered.

"Mm."

"Do you want to know what he was modeling?" Ren's voice was a mere breath in her ear. "Very tastefully, of course."

Haruka turned to look at him. "What?"

That wicked glint in Ren's eye should have warned her.

He leaned close and whispered a few words into her ear. When they settled into her brain, her bottom jaw dropped and a hand slapped against her mouth to stifle the squeak she almost let out.

"Are you serious?" she finally managed. "Say you're joking, Jinguji-san."

Ren shook his head. "Not joking. I modeled a new line of swimwear. Cecil worked with a summer sports line. Our true Prince was the only one who kept all of his clothes on." He turned her head back to the two on the couch. "Well. Nacchan was allowed to wear a white button down, but for aesthetic purposes alone."

"N-Natsuki modeled underwear?"

"Very well, in my opinion." Ren said. "It was a new campaign by the JBC. Now they're selling everything from the bottom on up."

Haruka felt just a bit light-headed as he focused back on the rehearsal room. So far, she'd seen nothing mentionable. However, now that she knew what they were looking at, her brain was giving her all kinds of visions. It also made her wonder.

She knew Natsuki and Syo were close, had been since childhood, but she couldn't think of a reason Natsuki would show another man pictures of himself modelling underwear, even his best friend. Then again, Natsuki wasn't really like any other man she knew, even among the wild set she truly knew.

Then they'd stopped on a page, somewhere in the middle of the album. Since she couldn't really see Syo's face, she had to rely on Natsuki's reaction to whatever he'd was doing. As she watched, holding her breath, she saw the color grow slowly on Natsuki's cheeks, and she saw his larger hand covering Syo's as he hovered over the picture. She saw Natsuki pull Syo a little closer as he said something in the smaller man's ear. She saw Syo shut the book and fling it behind him on the couch.

Then she almost swallowed her tongue.

Syo put a hand in the middle of Natsuki's chest and pushed. The taller man fell back on the couch, pulling Syo with him. What followed was nothing like their usual wrestling matches over the latest piece of Piyo-chan wear that Natsuki wanted to put on Syo. Nothing.

Haruka moved back, almost knocking Ren over in her rush to shut the door. "T-they," she started, swallowed, then started again. "They… were…"

"Yes, they were."

"But." Haruka knew her face was burning.

"What?"

"How long have they been…" How best to describe what she had seen? "Doing that?"

Ren leaned against the door and tapped his chin. "I think it was some time after our school debut."

Really, why she was even surprised at anything that went on around this agency? She blinked like an owl at the redhead for a full minute. She shook her head. "I don't think my Oba-chan could handle such a bit of news. You are a wicked, wicked man, Jinguji Ren."

"Well, thank you, lady. Now, have I scattered all those clouds away? Is your mind clear enough to write?"

When? When was she ever going to learn to be ready for whatever came out of Jinguji's mouth? When was she going to recall that Jinguji always had an ulterior motive for the things he did?

He bowed smoothly, and then moved to lead her toward another rehearsal room. "I think you are. My work here is finished."

He dropped her off at the rehearsal room with a gentle kiss to her hand. "Remember what I've told you about the other thing, Little Lamb. Trust. Hijirikawa has learned at the expert's knee how to look far, far down the road, way past tomorrow's darkness. I've a good feeling he's got plans."

Haruka swallowed the sudden lump in her throat and nodded.

"Set your mind at ease and compose the most beautiful song that you can."

Haruka watched him leave then sat down in front of the piano. She took a few moments to gather her tattered wits together, shake the sight of Natsuki and Syo… wrestling on the couch out of her mind, and then turned to the comfort of the piano keys.

Trust, he said. It gave her plenty of to think about, but that was something for another time. Right then she had music to finish, a project to complete before she could even entertain the idea of trust.