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23 July 2017 @ 11:02 pm
[Daiya no Ace] Miyuki/Sawamura/Chris: like a broken record (2/3)  
TITLE: like a broken record
FANDOM: Daiya no Ace
CHARACTERS: Miyuki/Sawamura/Chris, appearances from the rest of the Seidou ensemble and other familiar faces
RATING: R
SUMMARY: Miyuki Kazuya, of The Ultimate Rookies, wants nothing more than to work with legendary composer, Takigawa Chris Yuu. Problem is, no one's been able to pin the reclusive songwriter down in years. Not one to be deterred, however, Miyuki finally manages to pay him a personal visit – only to be greeted at the front door by a rude kid, who mysteriously calls his idol “shishou”. (25,000+ words)
WARNING/S: An almost alarming lack of baseball, run-on sentences, creeper!Miyuki, and Eijun’s dirty mouth.
NOTES: This was originally written for and submitted to Daiya no Bang, with art created by @hilaryfun. You can also find it on AO3.


{ like a broken record }
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Sawamura let him into the apartment a few days later, pouting when he realized that Miyuki had forgotten to bring them snacks. The kid had been counting on a box of doughnuts or cakes for dessert, which, again, made Miyuki feel like he was a gentleman caller, come to pay his intended a visit. He relented as the kid’s frown deepened. Promised he would bring something sweet with him next time. Made a gag of it by trying to fasten his pinky on to Sawamura’s. Wondered belatedly if Chris enjoyed sweets as well, which was possibly why the kid was so adamant about it.

“What are you making?” He asked, pulled a seat out by the counter, tilting it back as he watched Sawamura bustle about in the kitchen. The kid, who had obviously grown accustomed to Chris’s cupboards and fixtures in the short amount of time since he arrived, automatically held his hand out, rifled through the nearest cabinet for a large cooking pot. He dragged it from the shelf and deposited it in the sink, twisting a handle downward to allow a steady stream of water to gush out into the pot. He stopped, once it was filled halfway.

“Pasta,” Sawamura replied, glancing back at Miyuki warily before catching himself. He found it amusing how the kid hadn’t yet warmed up to him. Or, if he had, that Sawamura alternatively didn’t want to be caught looking at him. He could understand why. They were heavy prolonged looks, especially when the kid thought he hadn’t noticed. He decided not to inquire about them. Instead, he followed the kid’s movements as Sawamura prepared another pan on the opposite burner. He dripped a generous amount of olive oil into it, added large chunks of butter, and waited for the ingredients to sizzle before throwing chopped garlic and red pepper in. He lowered the heat when their fragrance started to spread through the apartment.

“What kind of pasta?” Miyuki prodded, his mouth watering.

“Shrimp,” the kid grinned, presenting him with a strainer full of them, already deveined. Miyuki groaned, lamented that that was just wrong, how Sawamura was tempting him with food. That it was awful how he couldn’t stay any longer than necessary. That he had more meetings to get to after he finished with Chris. But that he would be thinking of Sawamura’s cooking all day long at the rate they were going. The kid only laughed at him, the cheeky thing, as he poured the shrimp into the second pan, tossed them around until they were pink, and then added salt and pepper. He tapped a finger against his lower lip, his tongue darting out to taste. By the look on his face, Miyuki could tell it was salty.

The kid wasn’t done yet. He threw in a tablespoon of oregano, emptied a bowl of spinach, and stirred the mix around until the leaves had wilted. When he turned to check on the noodles, they were already done. He systematically drained the pot and tossed them into the pan.

“More butter?” Miyuki gasped, covering his mouth. It was torture. Sawamura gave him a look.

“You can never have too much butter.”

For the finishing touches, the kid littered the pot with copious amounts of parmesan and parsley. Added a zing to the dish by including lemon juice. Miyuki pointed out that he shouldn’t let the juice on his fingers go to waste, much like the seasoning. Sawamura narrowed his eyes.

“Yeah, yeah, you can have some later,” the kid waved him off, heading for the sink, where he washed the stickiness away. It was almost unfortunate, how he chose not to play along, their dangerous game going a little too far. Miyuki wondered why he was disappointed, his mouth upturned. Wondered what would have happened had their game continued. He caught himself as Sawamura began arranging the dining area, setting three places at the table.

“Make sure my serving is enough for two people,” he called, wondering if he should have offered to help.

“Shuddup, Miyuki.”

Hey, that was no way for the kid to talk to his senior. Miyuki came up behind him, the kid too busy to notice; his attention focused on lining the utensils. He slid his arms around the kid’s waist, all at once feeling his movements still. He didn’t know what he wanted to accomplish by doing that, only that he had already done it before he realized what was happening. But Miyuki knew that was no excuse. He carried on, testing the waters, waiting for the warning bells. Expecting them to ring. He kept a bit of distance between them, not quite embracing him, more to keep the kid from moving, from getting away.

“How’s Chris-san been doing since then?” He breathed down the kid’s neck, watching for Sawamura’s immediate reaction. Although his face remained unbothered, the kid had ceased trying to prepare their lunch. He was concentrating on Miyuki completely, looking to gain the upper hand, itching for the opportunity. It was like trying to catch a wolverine, maybe a badger. And it amused Miyuki to no end that every time he thought of Sawamura, if he didn’t imagine a subverted version of a beloved fairytale, then he saw an animal. A demented beast which needed to be tamed.

“What do you mean?” Sawamura responded finally, his tone measured, lowered, it almost reminded Miyuki of Chris. But he supposed it made sense, how similar they were when they were guarded. The two kept their secrets close, after all. Even then, probably more so, that didn’t stop Miyuki from wanting to extract those secrets.

“Geez, don’t you know how to make small talk?” He said, loosening his hold, dropping his arms to his side. Sawamura surprised him by latching on, gripping at the sleeve covering his right arm, fingers sliding down to encircle his wrist. He swung around to face Miyuki, searching his eyes. Miyuki found that familiar spark there, woven into the flecks of gold, molten amber, seeping into his very soul. He balled his other, free hand when he realized he was about to use it to cradle the kid’s cheek. He pulled away. The point went to Sawamura.

“It isn’t small talk if it concerns shishou,” the kid quipped later, as Miyuki returned to his seat and Sawamura, in turn, finished plating their shrimp pasta. There was a subdued note in the air, an almost regrettable one which Miyuki, nevertheless, did not feel like exploring. Not then. Because what was more unfortunate was the fact that they had missed Chris’s arrival, the sound of papers shifting around in the study catching their attention, signaling that they had somehow failed to hear him return. That he might have seen them, and formed his own conclusions. That he had let them be, without acknowledging Miyuki’s presence altogether.

Miyuki felt guilty. The kid nodded that it was all right for him to enter, incorrectly deducing the reason for his displeasure. But he knocked and waited for Chris to respond anyway, his mind still on their game. He skittered out of his daze when he noticed the troubled look on the composer’s face, his eyes widening.

“Chris-san?” He tried, moving closer towards the desk, chancing a hand on Chris’s shoulder. Like his second encounter with Sawamura on the street, he took it as a good sign that Chris hadn’t shaken him off. Unlike his experience with Sawamura, however, he wasn’t sure if he could persevere in trying to talk to him if Chris proved to be more unapproachable. He swallowed his uncertainty.

“Chris-san?” He repeated.

Chris got up without a word, led him to the piano. Miyuki, confused yet intrigued, allowed himself to be tugged along, almost as if he were in a dream. He waited on the other side. Studied Chris from across the lid, watched as Chris slid his fingers over the keys, positioned his feet atop the pedals. And as the legendary composer raised his arms, Miyuki held his breath. Felt his heart threaten to beat out of his chest, didn’t know if he would fall unconscious, the trepidation too much for him.

It started with a single note, a tentative one, splattered into a full verse, beckoning like a candle, the image of a darkened hallway and a million doors coming to mind. Miyuki felt chills. It was beautiful and sad and poignant. It was a maze, a labyrinth someone couldn’t get out of. Said person called for help and there was no answer. He closed his eyes, waited on the chorus, crossed his arms as Chris met him there. Flew with the notes as they took him places, shattered through the walls, almost too loud, he was sure the next floors could hear them. They didn’t have words yet, but Miyuki could see them forming. He resisted the urge to hum. But it ended too soon.

“What do you think, Miyuki?” Chris asked him in the aftermath, chin resting in his palms, his hollow gaze unyielding.

Miyuki waited to recover his voice, the words tumbling out before he could begin to think, before he could begin to phrase them properly. He held his arms tighter around himself, the blood viciously coursing through them. He took a step closer, watching Chris watch him. He gritted his teeth, stated, begged.

“I want it.”

**

It had been a month. In between performing at their scheduled gigs, as Ryosuke-san had succinctly informed him that they couldn’t and wouldn’t just drop everything to attend to their difficult collaborator, Miyuki continued to hear it. Couldn’t help hearing the call of that song, the unfinished song about navigating a dark corridor with nothing else but a dying candlelight to guide him. He tapped his foot impatiently inside the elevator, grounding his heels, pointedly ignoring the glares he was receiving from the other residents. He didn’t care. He had to have it. He had to have that song. But it had been a month since that day they’d eaten Sawamura’s shrimp pasta together, and Chris had already missed two meetings with the band. As it was, he still hadn’t met anyone other than Miyuki, though Ryosuke-san had hinted at speaking to him on the phone a few times, no doubt through Yuki-san who seemed agreeable enough, much easier to communicate with at the very least.

He thought back to Kuramochi’s regretful I-told-you-so. He thought back to Zono’s incessant worries, about whether they would make the deadline at the studio, how they needed to record a rough demo of the song as soon as possible. What they would be forced to do if Chris had bolted. Marched the distance between the lift and 18D, muttering to himself that he refused to be treated like a child. And, instead of pressing the buzzer to be let in, Miyuki pounded directly on the door, his knuckles aching as he rapped again and again. And again. Each whack louder than the last. Whipping his glasses off his face (as he had forgone his contact lenses), nearly crushing them in his grasp, he punctuated his strike with a yell. Bit down on the expletive.

“Sawamura, open up!”

Finally, the door clicked, swinging forward to reveal the kid gazing at him questioningly on the other side. He looked like he had just woken up, hair tousled, eyes sheepish, half of his shirt buttons undone, the top sliding off his already bare shoulder. He would have taken a moment to appreciate the sight, if not for his foul mood. Sawamura snapped in attention when he realized who the unannounced caller was.

“Miyuki?”

“Where is he?” Miyuki demanded, shoving him out of the way, careful not to push him too hard. He wasn’t about to take his anger out on the kid, but he couldn’t deny his frustrations either. The kid followed behind him, biting at his lower lip. Miyuki asked him again, checking the study, eyes darting around the living room, searching the terrace, the kitchen. Perhaps Chris had run off and the kid was simply that great at keeping the place spotless. Sawamura pulled at his arm as he turned a random knob in the hallway, ready to open a door he hadn’t entered before. The kid informed him that that was the library, shook his head, Chris wasn’t there, looked terribly uneasy. It took quite a bit of patience for Miyuki to wait until the kid decided to enlighten him. He probably deserved a pat on the back for that.

“Shishou is in his bedroom,” Sawamura admitted in the end, pointing to an oak door further down, past the kitchen, on the left. The lights on that side of the apartment had yet to be switched on, daylight barely able to seep through. Probably so that it wouldn’t garner any attention from unwanted visitors. The door opposite Chris’s, he guessed, was Sawamura’s room, the guest room.

“I don’t have time for this. Lead the way,” Miyuki mumbled, allowing the kid to walk ahead.

They paused in front of the bedroom door, the kid wringing his hands, then playing with the hem of the midnight blue sweater he had hastily dragged from the couch and slipped on. Miyuki could see that he was uncomfortable, that he probably did his best to stay out of the way and not invade Chris’s space unless absolutely he had to. Unless the building was burning or unless it was flooding. Unless the city was ravaged by a zombie apocalypse. Unless it was an emergency. Which this was, he told the kid gently, reassuringly.

At his change in tone, Sawamura nodded. The brave little soldier.

“Shishou? Miyuki is here to see you,” he called out, twisting the knob. He didn’t immediately walk through, politely waited to hear a reply. And, when there was none, he looked to Miyuki for approval before easing the door open slowly. It felt like they were intrepid explorers, inching their way through a forbidden cavern in which a mighty dragon slept, anticipating their arrival, ready to blast them with its hot breath, ready to tear them apart with its sharp talons. It felt like they were about to steal away into the night with a chest of gold and precious jewels, a daring feat which promised a hefty reward if they succeeded. And the most unfortunate, world-shattering punishment if they failed. He resisted the impulse to take the kid’s hand in his, anger momentarily forgotten.

The room was in utter disarray. There were papers everywhere, on the floor, piled on the bed, leading a trail into the bathroom. Random articles of clothing were strewn around as well. Sawamura located an unused hamper in the corner, crouched down, and began shoveling various shirts and pants and boxers into the basket. A household ninja on his own not-so-secret mission. Miyuki left him to that as his attention was on the room’s occupant, slouched forward at a smaller desk than the one in the study, his huddled form covered in a wooly blanket. If he shivered, it would complete the picture. Instead of a frightening dragon, the explorers were faced with a lost, little boy. A lost, little boy who couldn’t seem to catch a break.

Chris’s eyes were bloodshot, his face unshaven, eyes more lifeless than usual, if that was possible. Miyuki peered over his shoulder, saw the same arrangement he had heard last time. His unfished song, still missing a bridge and an ending. And all the words. Even then, he could hear them. Were they considered words when he couldn’t say them yet? Were they considered words if they were still resting on the tip of his tongue? Were they considered words if they were unrealized? He wondered if that was how Chris felt, if that was a demon Chris was battling with at that very moment. He drew the blanket away, reached for the desk lamp and clicked it on. That was when Chris spoke, the shadows under his eyes visible, his voice rough, defeated. Heartbreaking.

“I don’t know if I can finish the song, Miyuki.”

Chris stared up at him, said what he had needed to say. He picked up his mug, a wet ring imprinted beneath it, sighed into his tea, considered the bag, went through the motions, before dunking it back in. His tea was no longer hot. He didn’t seem to mind or care. Miyuki thought to how their roles had been reversed, to how Chris was the desperate one here, pleading for his help. And all he had to do was put the older man out of his misery. Pull the trigger. End both their problems. Tell him that he would move on, that they could put it off until they were in better positions. Until they were ready. If they would ever get there. Miyuki didn’t want to. Felt ashamed that he couldn’t, that he wouldn’t allow the chance slip through his fingers. Cursed at himself for needing and wanting Chris. For his obsession with a song that wasn’t finished. For his obsession with a song that could easily be replaced; only, he didn’t want to replace it. Refused to. That was not an option.

“I said that I wanted it and I’m going to have it, Chris-san,” Miyuki laid a hand on his shoulder, grip loose but solid, steady, “I won’t take no for an answer.”

The man he had admired, the renowned composer didn’t have the strength to respond. He managed a nod, still uncertain, weighing the exchange in his mind. Miyuki turned away from him, found the kid watching them, clutching one of Chris’s ties in his hands. He was shaking, about to cry. In his crumpled, unbuttoned shirt and with the baggy sweater over it, he looked even more like a child. A child with dewy, sunflower eyes. Another lost soul, trying to claw his way out of the dark. Miyuki walked the rest of the way to meet him, placed his hands around Sawamura’s body, held him close, massaged his back, whispered it was going to be all right. Wasn’t sure if he believed it himself, but wanted the kid to.

“It wasn’t like this,” Sawamura spoke after a heartbeat, so softly, it felt like only Miyuki had heard him, “Shishou wasn’t like this before.” Miyuki buried his face in the kid’s hair, inhaling the lingering scent of his shampoo, as he continued: “He loved music. It wasn’t just work to him.” He drew circles across the kid’s back, soothing himself in the process, holding on to that warm feeling, nodding as it spread, “He really, truly loved it.” The kid’s voice skipped, choking back a sob, Miyuki’s hand stilled, “And I want him to love it again.”

He pulled away, hands sliding up to Sawamura’s shoulders, peering down into the kid’s honeyed eyes. He willed the spark to reveal itself, to tell him that the kid wasn’t broken, not yet, set his mouth in a firm line. Watched his own thoughts reflect in the kid’s gaze. Caught a lone tear glide down his cheek. Miyuki wiped it away.

“I believe in you, Chris-san,” he said, facing Sawamura but directing his words to the man behind them. Knew that he was still there, present with them. Knew that he had heard the kid’s wish, and that was something he could count on. He ushered Sawamura towards the door, choosing not to turn around. Opened it, let the kid leave first, before he delivered his ultimatum. One more gamble. One last gamble.

“Let’s give it a week,” Miyuki added, cursing himself, surprised that he could find the words, “If you can’t finish it in a week, if you truly think there’s nothing else you can do, I’ll give up.”

He shut the door behind him, waited for the click, moved away from it. The kid was reaching for a glass of water when he turned the corner into the kitchen. Another glass had already been filled, set out on the dining table with a coaster beneath it. Miyuki took it, gulped the water down, cleared his throat. He announced his intentions, as the kid met his gaze.

“I’m staying here, Sawamura.”

To his credit, the kid understood perfectly, accepted his decision without question. He didn’t even seem taken aback. Miyuki slipped his phone out to make the call, wondering whom he could ask to deliver a change of clothes. He would stop by his apartment tomorrow for full provisions, but for now they had to get through the worst of it. Like waiting for a fever to break. He still wasn’t completely certain that Chris wouldn’t run off in the middle of the night. Chose not to reveal the dark turn his thoughts had taken to Sawamura, who was still studying him from the sink area. He settled on Ryosuke-san, considering his discretion, typed his agent a quick message.

“Shishou used to work with other artists, but they couldn’t make him happy,” Sawamura recalled, suddenly; Miyuki had to check to see if he wasn’t actually coming down with something. He sighed in relief, taking his hand away from the kid’s forehead. Sawamura seemed to be in a daze, a lonesome reverie. “He didn’t like how they performed his songs. He never found the right match. And then, at some point, Shishou stopped looking.”

“Shortly after that, his previous agent betrayed him,” Sawamura continued, brows knitting together, his disapproval obvious, “He gave Shishou’s songs away to other artists for their debuts.” The kid told him that he had kept up with Chris’s career via mail. They had been writing to each other for ages, and eventually switched to e-mailing. Sawamura had graduated from high school when he noticed the change, how Chris had stopped talking about his projects, how Chris had begun replying cryptically, evading any direct inquiries about his life in the city. How Chris seemed to only want to reminisce about the past, when things were simpler, happier. It was a lot of information, a lot of answers which branched out to new questions. But for the moment, Miyuki was satisfied. He kept silent, only reacting when the kid talked about moving his things out of the guest room, it would be impolite to let Miyuki sleep anywhere else.

He tipped the kid’s chin up, smiled, winked.

“Don’t worry, I’ll take the couch.”

**

There were moments when Miyuki knew that it was better to make himself scarce. Although his temporary roommates, as far as he knew, didn’t have a problem with him, and although it generally wasn’t that difficult to stay out of each other’s way, to work on his music in the library while Chris occupied the study or kept to his bedroom, Miyuki knew the two had a special bond. A bond that he couldn’t breach, even if they had tried to include him, even if the kid had gone out of his way to make him feel more welcomed. Even if he had tried to understand Chris through his songs. Sawamura had told him as much one night, when Chris had locked himself inside his room right after dinner.

“You were neighbors?” He stared incredulously, though he should have put two and two together before. Chris wasn’t married, had never been, and didn’t have siblings. Most of his family, including his jet-setting parents, had relocated to America, and there weren’t many of them. So, that crossed out the possibility of them being cousins or distant relatives. And even if there was a small chance he was simply keeping it a secret, well, Sawamura was far too old to be a love-child, no matter how well he played the part.

“Yeah, shishou used to come over to help me study,” Sawamura smiled to himself, settling against the sofa instead of on it, their shoulders lightly touching, their hands inches apart, flat on the carpeted floor. Miyuki could tell that he was thinking back to when they were children, felt he was intruding. Wasn’t sure if he wanted to change the subject to preserve the memory, or to hear more about Chris’s childhood. Wasn’t sure if he was starting to develop masochistic tendencies where the two were concerned.

“I also used to visit and watch him play.” At the image of a younger Chris sitting behind a grand piano, falling in love with music for the first time, Miyuki perked up.

“What was that like?” Miyuki wondered aloud. What had Chris been like? Had he always intended to start with the piano? Had he taken voice lessons in the past? If so, who had taught him? When had he decided to move to the city? When had he decided to pursue his craft? Miyuki didn’t know where to begin. They watched videos together, secret videos Chris probably didn’t want them watching, secret videos he had likely forgotten were stored in the library with extensive collection of his books, videos of the older man in his teens, playing song after song, grinning broadly at whomever was recording. It was probably his dad or Sawamura. Because there were videos of the kid, too, smaller than he was at present, still with that familiar spark in his eyes, running to catch up to Chris, as they sang on the way home from a hike up in the mountains. Videos of Chris and Sawamura blowing out birthday candles together, opening presents together, waving from a boat on a lake.

There were also clips of Chris with Yuki Tetsuya, working in the studio, during and after concerts, clips which the kid had not been present for himself when they were recorded, and so he gazed longingly at the screen. Eyes hungry. Miyuki wished he could be that transparent, that free with his emotions, with his desires. He pulled his knees up to his chest, reached over to ruffle the kid’s hair, caught Sawamura’s hand as he tried to swat him away, held it a bit longer than necessary. The kid seemed to understand what he wanted to ask, what he truly wanted to ask without further explanation. He quirked his head, grinning at Miyuki, sharing in the glow of their mutual admiration.

“Shishou has always loved music.”

“Eijun?” But then, there it was again. Sawamura quickly got to his feet, meeting Chris at the entrance of his study. Miyuki spied the papers lying around the piano, as if a hurricane had passed through. All this work, all this insanity for the one song.

Chris explained that he needed a breather, that he was feeling claustrophobic, that he needed space. More space. Miyuki gathered his wallet, mobile phone, a brown leather jacket. This was one of those moments, one of those moments where he couldn’t seem to get far enough. There was a dip in his confidence, an agonizing feeling in which he knew that he just wasn’t the right fit. That he could only follow them up to a certain point and see for himself that he wasn’t needed, grasping at their heels. The two had a very special bond. A bond he couldn’t breach. It was a circle he wasn’t part of.

“I apologize for the inconvenience,” Chris frowned, his voice low.

“Don’t worry about it!” Sawamura smiled. Miyuki moved for the front door. He was reaching for the knob, when the kid grabbed on to his arm from behind, telling Miyuki that he was coming, too. Don’t leave him behind. He paused, eyes wide. The kid had a way with drawing him back in.

“Miyuki and I will be all right. Just concentrate on the song.”

There was something about this strange arrangement, the way he had invaded their space, the way they had let him in. He knew that it started the day Chris had chosen to reveal his demons, the day Chris had trusted him enough to let him in, to show him that he was human and imperfect and in danger of being dragged under. That he was plagued by the same kind of demons Miyuki sometimes found himself fending off. There was the possibility that it could have been anyone, that he wasn’t the actual focal point of that moment, that it could have been another artist, another bystander, as long as Sawamura had been in the room at the same time, urging Chris forward. But Miyuki chose to believe in timing, that there was a reason it had been him, that he was meant to be in that moment. That he was meant to be standing inside Apartment 18D with Sawamura’s arm linked with his, as if they were long-time friends, as if they were family, promising Chris they would be home when he was ready for them.

They spent the rest of the day talking, about nothing and everything and all the things in between. Sawamura bought him an ice cream cone, two scoops of vanilla with sprinkles. Said that Miyuki could pay him back once the song was finished, once the single was released. He was so sure, so bright, so full of light, it hurt to look at him. It came easily to the kid, Miyuki had observed, to voice the things he wanted to say, to turn those ideas into words, to take his hope and slam it against him. It made Miyuki feel like the kid had gotten under his skin. He had let Sawamura do that, against his better judgement. Because there was no other way to receive him than to do a freefall, arms outstretched, diving into the unknown.

And when they returned, faces flushed from racing to the apartment at the last minute, Chris greeted them with a rare smile, a smile that almost broke his heart all over again: “It’s done.”

**

Chris and Ryosuke-san were watching them from the other side of the glass panel. Miyuki took a steadying breath, willing his nerves away. Everyone else was far more anxious than he was. Kuramochi couldn’t stop fiddling with his guitar, glancing back and forth between the two. The last time Miyuki had seen him act that way, his expression painfully stiff, was when they were in high school, performing for the first time in front of the student body at the summer rock festival. He covered his mouth to hide his grin. Kuramochi caught the movement, was about to snark at him. Ryosuke-san gave him an icy look, however, and that seemed to do the trick. Zono, who was seated behind them, kept dropping one of his sticks and apologizing, exclaimed he didn’t know what was happening to him, his fingers felt like jelly. If Miyuki wasn’t so frazzled, he would have tried to make a joke about it. Nori wasn’t speaking to anyone, checking his keyboard again for the umpteenth time. And Nabe, well, he thankfully wasn’t acting like it was his first time in the booth. Except that he had brought one too many water bottles with him.

The sound technician told them they could start with a dry run, treat it like a random jam session. As he began strumming the notes of the first chorus, Miyuki met Chris’s eyes. Sawamura had informed him over the phone that Chris wasn’t planning to attend the recording, but the kid had convinced him to at the last moment. Basically pushed him out the door. He was thankful for that, thankful to Sawamura. Fairly disappointed in Chris, on the other hand. He wanted to mouth the word ‘coward’ at him, just to get a rise, imagined the kid wagging a finger. Kept his mouth shut. The longer he played, his fingers adjusting, his breathing following suit, the less tension he felt. That feeling carried over to everyone else, and soon they were forming harmonies, meeting each other in the middle, playing on the same wavelength. It was magic.

“Ready when you are,” Kuramochi announced, like he always did for every track. Though they would cut that bit out for the album, Miyuki had already asked for the master copy. Made sure to keep the original recordings, made sure he had in his possession the ones without edits. He enjoyed listening to them, looking back to the conversations the band had before their songs. The audience didn’t usually get to hear Zono or Nori at performances, but they were a real hoot.

He brought his mouth to the microphone, could sense Chris watching him, following his every move, closed his eyes: “This is The Ultimate Rookies performing ‘Lost and Found’, song and lyrics written by Takigawa Chris Yuu.” And then, he signaled for Kuramochi to play him in.

Miyuki saw himself slinking down the corridor, cupping that small crystal of light in his hands, careful to keep it from blowing out. It was a tiny ball of intense flames, burning without a candle to hold it up. He saw himself cover it with his hands, expecting to get burned. He didn’t. He kept walking, searching, knocking at one door after the other. Calling out. Crying out. He was lost and alone and the world was swallowing him up. As Miyuki reached the chorus, he saw an answering glimmer at the end of the path. It had morphed into a tunnel. Someone touched his hand. He couldn’t see them, couldn’t see their face. But there was something about them, something kind, something familiar, something real. He followed them. It was comforting to hear two sets of footfalls, comforting to feel another presence with him.

But the fear wouldn’t let him go. It gripped at him, told him it was better in the dark. Told him, even if he did get out, he couldn’t be sure what he would find on the other side. He saw himself lose his voice, his resolve wavering, saw himself fall over, dropping the crystal. It went out. He panicked, felt around for it, his fingers blistering. But the other presence was still there. They tapped him on the shoulder, pointed to the end. He squinted. They were so close. Miyuki saw himself being supported, helped up to his feet. Felt himself getting pushed forward. He gave chase. He ran, stumbling, but not stopping. It was a while before he realized that the presence was gone and he had already reached the end, his crystal floating next to him, disappearing in the sunlight.

They were perfect on the first take. Miyuki caught the towel Nabe threw at him, muttering a quick thank you. The others were filing out to meet Chris and Ryosuke-san, Kuramochi leading the charge. He watched Zono reach for Chris’s hand, watched them shake, Zono’s face turning a deep red. Watched Nori bow, watched Chris tell him not to, he was the one feeling honored. As he wiped himself off, he greeted Ryosuke-san with a victory sign. Asked the sound technician if they were really good to go, to which the man countered that if Miyuki felt like he needed to change a line or two, they could stay behind. He shook his head.

Later, he heard Chris call his name, followed the older man outside to get some fresh air, an echo sounding in his ears. He knew that Chris wanted to say something, wanted to tell him something important. Felt his palms sweat in anticipation, rubbed them off on his towel. He had been on an adrenaline rush and now he was winding down, the exhaustion resurfacing, hitting him a hundredfold.

“What is it, Chris-san?” Miyuki smiled gamely, though he couldn’t help feeling breathless. Absently, he turned to study the vending machine beside them, dropping some coins in for a bottle of cold tea. He considered asking Chris if he wanted anything, but couldn’t get the words out. His heart was pounding so loudly, he was sure Chris could hear it. He contemplated asking about Sawamura, wondered what the kid was up to. Looked up at the sky.

“I’d like to work with your band on the full album,” Chris replied evenly, his eyes, if possible, brighter, his gaze certain, “if you’ll have me.” He didn’t look the least bit embarrassed. Miyuki dropped his bottle, watched helplessly as it rolled away,

**

He had discovered that Chris wasn’t a bad cook. He was definitely better than everyone in the band, including Miyuki. As he held his plate out for another helping of stuffed pork chops, Sawamura threw him a disbelieving look. Chris obliged, flattered, stacking two more pieces for him, cream cheese and spinach oozing out of the crevices. Miyuki swore he could very well keep eating until his stomach exploded. It would be a lovely way to die. The kid kicked him underneath the table, mouthing ‘ass-kisser’ before turning away. Miyuki kicked him back, teasingly asking if Sawamura could please pass him the mashed potatoes. The kid relented, probably because Chris had asked him what was wrong, was he feeling sick, did he not like the food.

Shortly after dinner, Chris retired to his bedroom, promising Miyuki that he would finish the rest of the songs soon. This had become something of a pattern. Miyuki was at the apartment often to informally check on Chris’s progress, and while he usually arrived a little past noon, he also frequently stayed until it was dark outside and Chris worried about sending him home so late, fearing he would miss his train. Or something worse could happen. Personally, he liked that his relationship with Chris had taken a turn. He liked seeing Chris smile, liked seeing Chris’s face light up, liked watching for that glimmer, liked hearing Chris laugh. Mildly enjoyed competing with Sawamura over who could make Chris laugh the most. And, so far, they were tied. Which Miyuki knew was a miscount, because the kid had probably chosen not to include the times before now. The times before he had come crashing into their lives, demanding that Chris collaborate with The Ultimate Rookies.

It had been nearly half a year since then, and they were three songs down, the rest waiting in post-production. Chris had mentioned that he wanted to cap it off at twelve songs, which was, again, more than the band had expected or bargained for. Miyuki wasn’t sure if he had done the right thing by letting Chris call the shots. Their contract, which Yuki-san had drawn up after Chris’s declaration outside the studio, had listed six. It was almost like living in a dream, one where things couldn’t go wrong. Though that was probably tempting fate. Ryosuke-san predicted that they would have their album out by the following quarter, and everyone was hard at work to meet that deadline. There was also talk about releasing an EP, which Kuramochi had suggested, to get the fans hyped for their comeback. For Chris’s comeback as well. Miyuki imagined that, once word got out, artists would be lining up to work with him again. Wondered what Chris would do then.

He was examining one of the unfinished tracks, ‘Leave Me A Sign’, tapping a pen against his cheek, absorbed in his musings, when Miyuki felt the kid’s presence behind him, lingering, uncertain. He didn’t need to turn around, merely reached up and pulled Sawamura directly to his side, tumbling him over, the couch dipping gently to accommodate the kid’s added weight. He studied the kid out of the corner of his eye, watched him fidget, watched him frown to himself. Miyuki sighed. If Sawamura wasn’t going to tell him what was on his mind, he wouldn’t be able to help. But he had learned a while back that all he had to do was wait. If Sawamura had something he needed to get off his chest, it would come out sooner or later.

“I’m thinking of getting my own place.” It was a gust of wind, swishing in his ears. Somehow, one of them had forgotten that they had left a window open. Maybe one of the bay windows to the balcony, as he was starting to get chills. Either that or his mind was playing tricks on him. Dangerous tricks. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to play along. He dropped the pen, gave the kid his full attention, chose his words carefully, decidedly.

“I can’t imagine Chris-san is onboard with that idea,” Miyuki replied, caressing the kid’s cheek, trying to read his expression. There was doubt there, and fear, and a slight bit of confusion. There was, also, inevitably, that stubborn spark, that sharp look in his golden eyes which told Miyuki that the kid was serious. That he had thought about it, weighed his options, let them sit in his head until he could no longer ignore them. That it was probably going to end in heartbreak. Possibly Chris’s heartbreak. Miyuki understood that, understood what that felt like. He resisted the urge to shake the kid, shake some sense into him.

“It’s not an idea. I’m doing it, Miyuki,” Sawamura said, once again jumping ahead, leaning into his touch, searching Miyuki’s eyes as well, mirroring him, “Shishou doesn’t know yet, so please don’t tell him.” It was unnerving, how quickly the kid could pick up his mannerisms. How easily the kid could learn to manipulate him, if he wasn’t already doing that. It was upsetting, unsettling how those eyes could do weird things to his insides, twist him about, how those eyes could get past his defenses, how those eyes took him places he didn’t want to go. Except, he did want to go, a little voice whispered in Miyuki’s head. All he had to do was accept it, let himself fall. He shook the voice off. Told the kid they could talk about it again next time, his head was pounding, it must’ve been the beer.

**

Chris invited him out, away from the apartment, two weeks after the kid had packed his bags. He didn’t have all that many possessions; it hadn’t taken him long to vacate his room. By the looks of things and the sound of Chris’s voice over the phone, he wasn’t taking the change very well. He was slipping, too, Miyuki gathered, façade of indifference abandoned completely. He watched the older man slouch forward, like a drunken uncle at a wedding, sloshing his sake everywhere. Felt grateful that they had thought to reserve a private room, because he couldn’t bear to have anyone else see Chris like that. He reached for the cup and patted Chris on the back, pulling his jacket off of him. He asked Chris if he wanted to remove his scarf as well, his face was too red, his eyes swimming.

“What could I have told him?” Chris asked dejectedly, undoing the maroon scarf himself. He threw it against the wall, fixed Miyuki with a glare, yielded within seconds. They had come a long way from Chris being able to intimidate Miyuki with his eyes. Of course, there were moments when Miyuki still felt that spine-tingling chill, wondered if he should prostrate himself or beg for forgiveness, or do both simultaneously. But, more often than not, those moments and those looks were directed at someone else. Someone who didn’t know the legendary Takigawa Chris Yuu as well as Miyuki did.

“For what it’s worth, I think you did the right thing,” Miyuki replied, consoling him. He took a sip of his own sake, allowed it to permeate, watched his glasses fog up with condensation. Took them off, wiped them with the hem of his shirt. He settled in his seat, glancing out into the traditional garden, admiring the landscape. The sakura petals had just started to fall and they were covering everything in pink. Miyuki wasn’t particularly fond of the sight, but he knew that the kid was probably enjoying it wherever he was. Enjoying it without them. With other people. He frowned. Caught himself. Directed his gaze back to his companion.

“I didn’t want to. I wanted him to stay,” Chris sighed, going off into his own world. He was staring out into the garden as well, stretching his arm in front of him, extending it through the window, catching petals with his fingertips, “But he needs his own space.”

“He’s not a child, Chris-san. He’ll be fine,” Miyuki nodded, believing in his words. How ironic. Truthfully, admittedly, Sawamura was the one who had been taking care of them. Long before their little makeshift family had come to be, the kid had been whacking hypothetical burglars with frying pans, preparing meals for wayward souls, and picking up after slovenly blocked writers. He had been doing those things for them up until the moment he had left, decided they could finally take care of themselves. Thought perhaps that he was Mary Poppins, off to use his skills elsewhere. Miyuki chuckled at the thought. The kid had also found him, and reached out to him when he had most needed a guiding light. Had taken a chance on him and had brought him to Chris when he had been about to abandon his ambitions. Miyuki took another sip, contemplated. Wondered what Sawamura was doing. That was when he got an idea.

“If it really bothers you that much,” he said, catching Chris’s attention, “I can check up on him for you.”

“Would you, Miyuki?” Chris smiled, gathering himself. He had lost some of the redness, his neck already back to its original color.

“Of course!” Miyuki offered him more water, offered to pour it into his glass for him. The older man obliged. They continued to watch the sakura in silence, their spirits lifted.

~ PART 3