Disclaimer- Same as it ever was... (Whoever gets where that comes from gets a free "I Am a Child of the Eighties" button.)

Heart's Fašade

Chapter Two: Near and Far

Written by A Girl Named Goo

"Well, I guess it sucks to be you," Shuichi announced at last. It was the first thing he had said for close to a minute, upon hearing the news that Hiro had been reassigned. He leaned further back in the booth, picking up a fry and chewing on it.

"That's it?" Hiro asked, raising an eyebrow. He'd expected more of a response from the smaller, pink-haired man in the rumpled, too-large gray buisness suit (which had once belonged to him) than an indifferent statement.

"What do you want me to do? Burst into tears?" Shuichi asked, fry sticking out of his mouth.

"Well, yes. That's what the old Shuichi would have done," Hiro pointed out.

Shuichi finished his fry and sighed, drumming his fingers on the table in front of him. "No, actually, the 'old Shuichi' wouldn't have because, emotional as 'old Shuichi' was, he would have realized it's not like he is being seperated from you forever. So we work in different offices at different times and have different touring schedules. We can still see each other outside of work, right? Or did Seguchi-san also forbid you from ever seeing me again or we'll both lose our jobs? If that's the case, I will start crying and I'll quit my job."

"So you don't care?" Hiro asked in disbelief.

"I didn't say that! I do care! But there's nothing I can do about it, now, is there? Seguchi-san hates me. He always has and he always will. My advice is to shape up so you can get reassigned again if you want to work with me."

"You want me to shape up?! The only reason it looks like I'm doing a bad job is because I'm always pulling your ass out of the fire!"

"That's bullshit and you know it!" Shuichi snapped. "You only think you have to do everything for me. I've changed, Hiro. I've grown up. True, I have trouble keeping track of dates and times, but other than that I am much more disciplined! You're the one with the problem!"

"Excuse me?!" Hiro fumed. "What the hell kind of problem do I have?!"

"You're obsessed, for one!" was the angry retort. "Your personal life has gone down the shit hole, and now your professional life is threatening to do the same thing. So what do you do? You try to 'help' me and 'protect' me and 'defend' me because I'm about the only person left for you to help and protect and defend. You've been trying for seventeen years to get me to leave Yuki when it was Yuki that taught me to grow up and learn to do things myself, and I can't thank him enough. Remember what I was like after my accident? If I'd relied on you to take care of me, I'd still be in a wheelchair with you waiting on me hand and foot. But Yuki was forceful. He made me go through physical therapy, and when we got home he still pressed me to do things because he knew I could. Now I can do all the things I did before my accident and more. Hiro, you think you have my best interests in mind, but it's your own that you have in mind! You're lonely and desperate and as long as I need someone- or you think I need someone- then you have a purpose in my life."

"I am not obsessed with you!" Hiro snapped back. "Yeah, I do feel the need to look out for you and yeah, I do hate seeing you in pain. And I do dislike Yuki. While I'll admit if it wasn't for him being so hard on you you probably never would have recovered, to this day I think he only did it so you could return to being his personal maid. But all you two do is fight! Seventeen years after meeting him and you still come to me crying because Yuki said something or did something or didn't say or do something...that doesn't sound like a storybook romance to me. You can do better, Shuichi. Much better."

Shuichi leaned back in the booth. "Maybe I can. But I don't want to. We've been through this before, Hiro: our relationship is complicated, but we love each other. We don't want or need anyone else. Besides, after we fight he apologizes. He's never really hurt me. I personally don't see a problem. I think the problem is that you can't face the fact that it's time for you to move on, so rather than worrying about finding a new relationship for yourself you concentrate on ruining mine. Ayaka is happilly married with four kids now, and Fujisaki probably won't be coming back from America any time soon. They've moved on. Why can't you? You need to get out there and start dating again. Meet new people. Give romance another try. Third time's a charm, after all."

Hiro leaned forward over his food, taking off his sunglasses and rubbing his eyes. "I know, deep down inside, you're right. About me needing to start dating again, that is. I still think you should ditch the dead weight and hit the singles circuit yourself, but since telling you so would be wasting my breath I'll refrain."

"Thank you."

"But it just hurts so much to think about it. Every time I start to care about someone, start to get really serious, they go away, You're the only person in my life who is really consistant. We've done everything together. You said it yourself over seventeen years ago: you and I are Bad Luck. No one else. Not even Suguru. Even when we're not making music we're a team. And I just kinda took it for granted we always would be."

"We still are a team!" Shuichi cried defensively. "You're still my better half! You're my best friend, Hiro, and you always will be!" Shuichi walked to the other side of the booth and sat next to him, leaning over to give him a one-armed embrace. "I guess it's one of those 'I love you, but I'm not in love with you' things. You and Yuki are tied as being the two most important people in my life, and if I lost either one of you I don't know what I'd do. Besides, we have so much history together I don't think we can not be friends at this point."

"Hypothetically speaking, if I asked you to give up Yuki to date me, would you do it?" Hiro asked.

Shuichi looked up, trying to see if he was kidding. While he didn't appear to be joking, he didn't look serious, either. "Hypothetically speaking, no," he answered at last. "I don't know why you'd ask me to do that. We established years ago that even if we do sometimes 'play' with each other, we are just really close friends, and that's it, so don't try to spring it on me that you love me now. The only other reason I can see that you'd ask me to do that is because you are really desperate to get me away from Yuki, in which case even if I did do that it would never ever work."

Hiro buried his face in Shuichi's strawberry-scented hair and sighed contededly. "Going to be weird going on a tour without you, though. How will I ever pass the time?"

"Maybe Fujisaki told Seguchi-san about our little 'activites' and that's the real reason you were reassigned."

"Want to spend the night at my place? For old time's sake?"

"No can do. After Bad Luck disbanded- the official Bad Luck, anyway, as we live on- I swore myself to monogamy. Yuki and I were both sick of getting jealous every time I went on tour, thinking about who the other was with. Besides, I'm older. My sex drive isn't running at top speed anymore."

"But everything else is..."

Shuichi giggled and buried himself deeper in his best friend's chest. "I love you, Hiro. But in a run-into-a-burning-building-and-risk-my life-to-save-you sense, not a will-you-be-my-Valentine sense."

"Works for me."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was ten o'clock at night when Shuichi dragged himself home. The house was dark except for a dim light over the kitchen sink and the light of the television. Yuki was sitting on one end of the couch, and there was a lump wrapped in blankets on the other end, facing away from the rest of the house.

"When did he come back?" Shuichi asked, knowing it was Tokui under the blankets.

"Right after you left. I called Mika and told her he was staying here, and I'm going to rig up a trap to make sure he doesn't try to leave early in the morning," Yuki explained.

"A trap? How do you propose to do that?" Shuichi asked curiously.

Yuki stood up and left the room for a second. When he returned he was carrying five pieces of thread, each one with a little bell tied to it. He opened the door to the apartment, draped them over the top of the door, then shut it before they could hit the floor on the other side. "If he tries to open that door, they'll hit the floor and we'll wake up. Or I will. You can sleep through a low-flying B-52 flying overhead. Can and have. Even if I don't wake up, it should startle him enough to send him back into the house."

"That, or scare him so much he makes a mad dash for the stairs," Shuichi pointed out.

"That's unlikely. He likes to run away, but he doesn't like people to know when he's leaving. If he even thinks we heard those bells, he'll give it up and try again later."

Shuichi suddenly threw his arm around Yuki. "Yuki, you're so smart!"

Yuki looked down at Shuichi. "You smell like aftershave."

"I was with Hiro tonight. Nothing to get jealous about."

"Knowing what you do with Hiro?"

"What I used to do. I am all your's now. He had to tell me something important about work so we met at a restaurant to discuss it."

"That doesn't explain why you smell like aftershave."

"Just an innocent little hug! I'm trying to get Hiro to date again. He's lonely and I have to suffer for it."

Yuki sighed. "Take a shower before you come to bed. I don't like sleeping with you when you smell like another man."

"Can I sleep on your back?" Shuichi asked, sounding like an excited child who had just been offered an ice cream cone.

"By all means. Just be careful where you sleep this time. I don't know where you were or what you did last time, but I woke up with a horrible pain in the middle of my back."

Shuichi leaned up against Yuki. "Aww...should have told me. I would have given you a massage."

"Go take a shower. Now."

"Then can we fool around?"

"While Tokui's here?"

"Okay. Scratch that."

With that, Shuichi retreated to the bathroom.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was the early morning hours when Yuki hears the bells clattering to the floor. A quick glance at the clock indicated that it was about five in the morning, just after the break of dawn. With a slight groan, Yuki began the difficult task of detaching Shuichi's arm from around his waist and removing him from where he was laying on his back, with his head rested between his shoulderblades. He rolled Shuichi over so he was laying on his back on the bed, covered him up, then grabbed a pair of sweatpants to put on over his boxers, quickly slipping them on and walking into the living room.

Tokui must have slammed the door behind him when the bells scared him, though Yuki hadn't heard it. Now he was pressed up against the door, his arms braced in the doorframe, hyperventilating. Yuki walked over to the boy, opened his sachel for him, and handed him his inhaler, which he eagerly tore from his hand, taking in two deep inhalations of medicine. When his breathing slowed again, he put it back with the rest of his medicine.

"G-Gomen nasai, Eiri-ojisan," he whispered, still shaking slightly.

"Sit down on the couch. And take your medicine. You can't have taken it already this morning," Yuki ordered. He walked into the kitchen, opened the door, and grabbed a can of Shuichi's soda, putting it on the coffee table in front of the shivering teen.

It took some effort for Tokui to open the can. After succeeding, he took out a plastic pill caddy and opened up the slot for Thursday morning. No fewer than eight pills were in there, and he took one after another, following each with a swallow of soda. The can was almost empty by the time he finished taking his medication, and he put the caddy back into his bag.

Once, years ago, Yuki could have listed what each pill was for. Since his birth, his nephew had seemed to be cursed with every disease known to man, plagued with a slew of nuerological, respiratory, cardiovascular, muscular, and digestive problems as well as anemia and a severe allergy to many foods, and had almost died twice in his life. When he had been born two months premature, he was the smaller and weaker twin, underdeveloped because his sister had grown more rapidly than he had. He had stayed in the hospital almost a year, and it had taken five months before anyone could hold him. That was the first time he had nearly died. He'd actually been declared dead at one point when doctors failed to revive him, but suddenly, miraculously, his heart had began to beat again.

And when he was two he was once again struck down by illness. His heart and lungs had nearly given out, and he'd spent the better part of three years in the hospital, missing his chance to go to school with his sister or to go outside and make friends. Yuki had a feeling that it was these years without social interaction that had turned him into the timid creature he was today, though his sneaky nature and preference for small, enclosed spaces couldn't be as easily explained.

School had been chalked up as a failed experiment. He hadn't actually gone to school until he was twelve, and he kept hiding in the corners, refusing to sit at his desk or answer the teachers. Students would torment him endlessly, further ruining his opinion of other people, and if it wasn't for his sister he probably would have been driven to self-destruction. This was probably when he learned to sneak around, and even at school he was found in closets all the time. Finally deciding that Tokui would never be able to function in a school environment, Touma took him out (against Mika's wishes, though she couldn't deny it was better for him) and re-hired the tutor he had had when he was sick. (A female tutor, Yuki had noted when he'd first met her.)

"It's rude to take advantage of our hospitality and leave without at least saying good bye," Yuki said at last. The sun was rising quickly now, and he wished he was back in his bed more than anything else.

"Gomen nasai," Tokui whispered again.

"Don't apologize," Yuki ordered. "If you would listen to what I told you in the first place you wouldn't need to apologize. Now, if you want to go home, I'll give you a ride. If you want to go to NG, then wait until Shuichi wakes up and he'll take you when Nakano-san comes to pick him up. And if you don't want to go to either of those places, then why the hell were you sneaking out?"

"I don't know," Tokui whispered, his eyes filling with tears again. He seemed to shrink under his uncle's golden gaze.

"If you don't know where you want to go, then why the hell are you leaving? Why are you trying to kill yourself for no apparent reason? I've kind of grown accustomed to having you around, Tokui, and I don't want to have to bury you at age sixteen."

At that moment, Shuichi walked out of the bedroom, wearing his boxers and one of Yuki's old T-shirts. He stretched and yawned. "Okay, what gives? It's five in the morning."

"Tokui was trying to sneak out again," Yuki said, though he was glaring at Tokui when he said it. "I'm trying to talk some sense into him."

"At five in the morning? Can't you just tie him up and come back to bed for a few hours?" Shuichi muttered, throwing himself onto the couch next to Tokui. Tokui was looking at him fearfully. Noticing this, Shuichi sighed. "I'm kidding, Tokui. But it is too early for this..."

Yuki walked further into the living room and sat in his favorite chair with Shuichi leaning against the back of it. "You said it's five, Shuichi?"

"Well, closer to five-thirty..."

Yuki suddenly stood. "Touma usually arrives at NG at seven sharp, so he should still be home-"

"Yuki, no!" Shuichi cried. "Don't call his father!"

Tokui leaned further into the couch. Shuichi always sided with him, which made Tokui feel he was partially to blame for his uncle's problems with his lover, but Amai had assured him that, according to their father, their relationship had been rocky (to say the least) from the very beginning, and that what they had now was actually an improvement. "Marital troubles" was the term Amai used, usually followed by a snicker, though Tokui knew (mostly from overheard conversations) that most people DID think of his uncle and Shuichi as a married couple. (Amai had also said something about how Shuichi was an Aries and Yuki was a Pisces, two signs that usually had trouble working together, in the same breath that she mentioned Leo and Virgo didn't work well together.)

"I'm not going to call him," Yuki said. Both Shuichi and Tokui looked confused at this remark. "I was trying to think of where Tokui could possibly be going this early in the morning. NG's doors never open to anyone but security guards before Touma arrives. Not even Tokui could get through."

"So what are you going to do with him?" Shuichi asked softly, dreading the answer.

"I'm sending him to NG with you when Nakano comes to pick you up. And you and Amai are both going to keep an eye on him at all times. Then, when you come home, you're bringing him with you. In the meantime, I am going to call his parents. He's going to be staying here for a while. That way he is already here so he doesn't have to kill himself coming here, and he can get rides with you to and from NG. It will give his health a chance to improve and teach him not to be so secretive about everything. And to make sure he doesn't sneak out, I am going to install a security system. And I'm not going to give him the code. If he wants to come in or go out he has to ask one of us," Yuki explained cooly.

Shuichi wasn't sure if Yuki was serious, considering what he had said the day before. Perhaps the early hour was preventing him from thinking clearly...

"Yuki, you can't be serious," Shuichi said softly. "You can't take care of him. WE can't take care of him. We're both so busy. We can hardly give him enough attention as it is."

"I've been thinking long and hard about this, Shuichi," Yuki confirmed. "It's not the best solution, but the only one I can find. If either one of his parents wants to take extra steps, then they are free to do so. But until they stop worrying about their son's eccentricities and start worrying about his health I really do think this is the only thing that can be done. I'm sorry, Tokui, but unless you can prove to us that you're going to put aside your need to ridiculously secretive and you're going to start doing things with concern for your health, I am going to have to be firm on you."

Tokui was speechless. Of all the things he'd expected his uncle to do, this was about the last, and he was having mixed emotions about the whole arrangement. On the one hand, he would always be close to his uncle, who he idolized and regarded as his mentor, and would be near Shuichi, who always lavished him with attention and did many things for him, something that felt nice after years of exile, both involuntary and self-imposed. But on the other hand, his freedom would be gone. No coming and going between his parents' houses, his uncle's apartment, and NG whenever he wished, no sneaking away when people weren't looking, no hiding himself in a rehearsal room closet so he could hear Nakano-san's wonderful voice...

That last thought suddenly struck him cold. Hiro was Shuichi's best friend. They got together often, at both of their apartments (usually at Hiro's apartment, since the man couldn't stand his best friend's lover), and Hiro gave Shuichi a ride to work (in his car, since he had kept his motorcycle safely stored away with his guitar since leaving his rock star life behind) every day and would now be giving Tokui rides. It was one thing being close to the man when he knew he couldn't see him, but to actually be there, right out in the open...the thought made him both nervous and excited.

"Any protests, Tokui?" Yuki asked, as if the boy had a choice. He was rather surprised at this reaction, as it seemed that the boy wanted to live in this apartment, even at the cost of his freedom.

"What about me?" Shuichi asked. "I love Tokui right to death, but I can't take care of him! And neither can you! I thought you were the one who didn't want kids, Yuki."

"Is that what you're really mad about, Shuichi?" Yuki asked, rolling his eyes slightly. "You think I'm being a hypocrite because when you wanted to adopt I put my foot down, but I'm willing to take care of Tokui. Well, Tokui's a little different. For one, he's a teenager. He can pretty much take care of himself, even though he needs a little push in the right direction every now and then. And for another thing, he's family. I am not going to sit back and watch my flesh and blood hurt and kill himself. I thought you'd be happy at the chance to take care of him full time."

Suddenly, it became clear why Amai (and everyone else) seemed to enjoy comparing the two to a married couple to Tokui: the way they argued, the way they acted around each other, the things they talked about and fought about- they were all things that were to be expected of a man and a woman who had been married for about twenty years, not two men who were only live-in lovers. Of course, the fact that they had had seventeen years to get to know each other and learn each other's quirks might have had something to do with it....

Shuichi put his arm over Yuki's shoulder, leaning down to nuzzle his cheek slightly. "I just wonder if there would be enough time for us, that's all,"

Yuki sighed slightly before turning his head and lightly brushing a kiss against his lover's lips. "There will be plenty of time for us. If anything, having someone else around could help us. The longer we're here alone the more we fight. If someone else is here we have to get along."

Shuichi walked around to the front of the chair, placing himself in Yuki's lap so that he could kiss him easier. At first, neither seemed to notice Tokui sitting just across the room, but after a few moments Yuki broke away. "Shuichi, we've got a guest."

Tokui almost old them that he didn't mind. In fact, he enjoyed watching them kiss, though usually he had to hide and watch them do it secretly. He liked to watch them do many things: kiss, sleep together, and once he'd even watched them being intimate (on a night where they didn't even know he was in the house). He envied them greatly and wished there was someone who could do those things with him. Sometimes he fantasized about doing those things with Nakano-san, but they were just fantasies, and nothing more.

Shuichi sighed and put a kiss on Yuki's cheek. "Well, if I'm not going to go back to bed, I might as well take a shower and make breakfast."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"So he's really going to be living with you?" Hiro asked, gesturing with his head toward the back seat, where Tokui was curled up, as if he thought doing so would cause him to disappear. And probably wishing that would happen.

"That's what Yuki says. I don't know if he means it or not, but he sounded serious," Shuichi confirmed. He was wearing another one of Hiro's old suits, only this one was dark blue. After retiring from singing, Shuichi had been abruptly forced to "grow up". Unfortunately, with the wardrobe he had, he wasn't able to dress for the part, and had began to raid Yuki and Hiro's closets for clothes that they no longer wore. Now, five years later, he still chose to wear the clothes of the two men that mattered most to him rather than buy his own, even if he had to pin the sleeves of all of them up.

"Well, considering that he isn't one to joke, let alone about something like that, and he isn't the kind of person who rushes into things, I think he means it," Hiro pointed out.

Shuichi sighed and leaned back in the car seat. "Today you're supposed to meet that guy you're managing, right?"

"Right," Hiro said with a nod, turning the car into NG's parking garage. He held up his pass to the attendant, who nodded and raised the gate. "And you'll meet Amai's new manager."

"Fun," Shuichi muttered as Hiro eased his car into a parking space. He opened his door, leaning against the vehicle as he waited for Hiro and Tokui to exit. He forced Tokui to get in front of him before he and Hiro began their trek into the NG building.

"You need to get a haircut," Hiro observed, tugging a lock of bright pink hair playfully.

"Look whose talking," Shuichi retorted, giving Hiro's ponytail a playful yank.

"I have always had long hair. It's expected of me. But you just look like a bum who is too cheap to buy his own clothes and get a haircut," Hiro explained.

"I think you'd look good with short hair."

"I think you'd look good with black hair."

"All right! All right! After work I'll call for an appointment, but you're taking me. The least you can do is trim those split ends..."

"I don't have split ends!"

"Then what's this?" Shuichi asked, lifting up Hiro's ponytail to show him what he was looking at.

Hiro grabbed his hair and examined the end. "Dear lord, I have split ends..."

"See? Now we both need a trim."

Tokui was facing the asphalt-paved ground, looking as if he was heading toward his execution. He couldn't slip away or run, because not only would Shuichi no longer trust him, but it wouldn't impress Hiro much. Besides, he liked hearing the two men joke. He had always felt the pair had an ideal relationship, and he could tell that Hiro was protective of his best friend. From bits and pieces of conversations he had overheard, when Shuichi was younger he had gotten himself into a great deal of trouble, and it was often Hiro's job to pick up the pieces when it was over or get him back out of it. About the only thing keeping this man from being absolutely perfect in the blonde teen's mind was that he hated Yuki, for no reason that Tokui could figure out. He knew that his uncle was a cold man and at times difficult to like, but that didn't give anyone an excuse to flat-out hate him.

They approached the door to the main part of the building, stepping in. A receptionist looked up as the group walked in, nodded, then resumed looking at her magazine. They continued until they reached a corridor, when Shuichi suddenly embraced Hiro tightly.

"Don't leave me!" he cried out. "I can't work without you!"

"There's the Shuichi I know and love..." Hiro muttered as he detached his best friend from from his body. "It's just like you said yesterday, Shuichi: we'll still see each other after work and in the halls."

Shuichi detached himself from Hiro and smoothed down the front of his clothes. "Sorry. Don't know what got into me. Guess I got up too early today. Come, Tokui, you're sister and whoever this new manager person is are upstairs waiting for us."

Shuichi walked down the hall and was about to step on an elevator when Tokui grabbed his sleeve. "I'm afraid of elevators," he whispered softly. "Could we p-please take the stairs?"

Shuichi sighed and headed toward the stairwell, leaving Hiro alone to head in the direction of Seguchi Touma's office.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Seguchi Touma was late.

This was not something entirely unheard of, as the man was known to be a tad late from time to time, being the busy man that he was, even if he arrived at his office at the same time every single day like clockwork and would do so probably until the day he died, which, at the rate he was aging, probably wouldn't be for another two-hundred years.

And the fact that Hiro had to wait in his boss's office didn't bother him. It was the fact that he wasn't waiting alone that was....

A woman, about Hiro's age if not a little younger, in a neatly-pressed dark red skirt suit, pink shirt, and black high heels and tie was standing in front of Touma's desk. Her hair was brown and neatly trimmed, her eyes were smokey gray and wholly unremarkable, covered by oval-shaped glasses, and her skin had a slightly darker tone than those from the Tokyo area, suggesting she was from another part of the country, possibly Okinawa, and she was holding a briefcase similar to Hiro's. But she was so neat and plain that it was scary. She could just as easily have been a robot as a real, living, breathing woman. And the fact that she looked straight ahead and didn't acknowledge Hiro's presence in any way seemed to support the android theory.

Hiro tried to distract himself from this possibly mechanical woman by looking around the office, which he had seen at least a thousand times before. It had recently been recarpeted with a cream-colored carpet that Hiro guessed had to be steam cleaned frequently considering the amount of traffic that treaded over it, and besides the large mahogany desk and black desk chair it was furnished with two comfortable black chairs in front of the desk and a black couch on either side of the large room, if for nothing other than to take up space. There were potted plants scattered about the room, and at one end were the large, almost forboding oak doors, whereas the other side was taken up by a huge picture window. The other two walls were painted white, but several gold and platinum records were hanging all over them, both from Nittle Grasper and the other acts NG had managed to make a success. There was also a trophy case for other awards that the bands and company itself had earned.

Finally the doors flew open, and Seguchi Touma stepped into his office, his steps making no sound on the carpet, wearing a hunter green suit with a mint green shirt and dark green shoes and tie. But it was who was behind him that had Hiro's attention...

The man was extremely pale, almost to the point where he looked unhealthy. His hair was long, draping to about his waist, and hung loose, but the coloring was most unusual. The right half was a brilliant silver color, but the left half was deep blue. He was wearing ripped up white jeans, a dark blue T-shirt, and a black leather jacket. He also had a large assortment of jewelry, each ear adorned with no fewer than seven pairs of earrings in various designs, and each finger (pinkies and thumbs included) bedecked with a different silver ring with an alternating pattern of a black onyx and a deep sapphire studding each one. Around his neck was a black leather dog collar, a silver coin on a thin silver chain, and a silver cross. If he wasn't so strange looking, he could have been handsome.

But what Hiro noticed most were his eyes.

Those horrible, horrible eyes.

When he'd first entered, Hiro was sure they had been almost black in color, but when he'd turned to face Hiro they'd lightened considerably to an icy color, and now seemed to be turning bright blue. They immediately replaced Yuki Eiri's and Aizawa Tachi's as the worst eyes he had ever seen in his life, as they seemed to bore deep into his soul. He also noticed that there seemed to be some kind of defect in his left one, that the iris and pupil were a bit smaller and it didn't seemed to focus quite like the other, though it didn't seem to be blind. Though he couldn't place what exactly was wrong with it, he knew that it seemed oddly familiar. But no matter what was wrong with it, it unnerved him nonetheless.

The man's eyes turned black as he averted his gaze back to Touma, making his defect clearer. Hiro wondered if those eyes changed color at random, or with his mood. It seemed to be the latter, as they remained dark as he adopted an indifferent look.

"I apologize for being late," Touma began, looking around the room at the strange trio before him. "I believe the best way to begin is for you to introduce yourselves to each other, as you all know me quite well already." Touma pasted on a smile that, while meant to create the illusion of warmth, just struck Hiro as being smug, like the man knew that this was his situation. He had complete control.

When the other two made no motion to introduce themselves, Hiro sighed. "I am Nakano Hiroshi, and I will be acting as manager."

The woman smiled, though it seemed as fake as Touma's. "I am Kyousei Himeko, and I have been hired to act as a producer." Fortunately, though her voice wasn't exactly warm, it wasn't mechanical, either. Hiro had a feeling that the fact that she seemed mechanical was the main reason Touma had hired her. He loved people who could easily manipulate, like Sakano from Hiro's own music career.

"And I'm Chen Quon Yue," the man that Hiro had immediately decided he extremely disliked announced, making a very exhaggerated bow, obviously meant to mock the others in the room. "I suppose I'll be acting as your musical act for the day."

Touma's grin disappeared at Quon Yue's smugness, and Hiro was relieved to know he wasn't the only one in the room who already disliked him a lot, even if Touma didn't actually have to work with him.

When Quon Yue raised from his fake bow, he flashed an unnervingly charming smile, his eyes glittering bright blue now. They seemed to be full of mischief, and not of a kind that seemed to be in the least bit harmless. Hiro was ready to chalk up Chen Quon Yue as pure evil, and he had a feeling Touma was ready to do the same.

Touma sat down in his seat and shuffled some papers for effect, clearing his throat. "You may use an available rehearsal room. If you'll please excuse me, I have quite a bit of work to do."

Suddenly, Hiro came a realization: Touma was just as unnerved by the young singer as Hiro was and Himeko probably was, though she did a great job of hiding it behind her robotic mask.

"Come on. Let's go make me famous," Quon Yue announced, stepping toward the door. "And it was great meeting you, Seguchi!" he shouted behind him. The lack of formality suggested it was meant to be mocking, and Hiro hesitated to stand and follow the young man, though Himeko didn't seem to have such a problem.

What they didn't see was that as soon as they had left the room, Seguchi Touma actually shuddered. He had signed the man on to be a challenge to Nakano Hiroshi, but it seemed he would be just as much a challenge for him...

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Ukai Saki SUCKS!" Amai fumed, crumpling up the paper in her hand and dropping it, stepping on it. "I'll show her! As soon as my CD is finished we'll see who the last woman standing is!"

Shuichi and the dark haired man with the dark sunglasses and equally dark suit (who had introduced himself has Rosuto Koji) just raised their eyebrows. Tokui would have done the same, had he not sealed himself in the closet.

"Those idiots out there wouldn't know good music if it bit them on the ass! Well, no one shows up Seguchi Amai! I am going to sell so many albums people won't even remember her name when I'm done!" Amai vowed, kicking the review across the floor.

"A little friendly competition is nothing to worry about," Shuichi reassured, though he seemed nervous. Amai had a horrible temper and could be every bit as cunning and ruthless as her father. That, and the fact that she looked exactly like him added to the over-all effect, even if she was much more vocal about her diabolical plans and had a much shorter temper. "I had Nittle Grasper to contend with when my band first came out, after all, and I was still a huge hit."

Amai seemed to calm down upon hearing this. Though she was infinately proud of her father's musical background, the fact that the underdog had triumphed in the end made her feel better, though she by no means thought of herself as the underdog.

"Too bad Sakuma-san never had any children. Then all three of you could have formed a new band. Neo Grasper," Koji mused. He was a soft-spoken man, but had a powerful edge to him, especially since he looked like a secret agent.

"Sakuma-san does have a kid," Shuichi pointed out. "A son. He's seventeen now." Shuichi smiled, thinking of the boy. It was finding out his idol had a child that had made him suddenly want to become a parent so many years ago, and lead to what had to have been his longest and most damaging fight with Yuki ever. Had it not been for Hiro telling Shuichi that the less time Yuki spent caring for a child the more time he could spend with him they probably would have broken up, and Shuichi would forever be amazed that Hiro had been the one to save the relationship he hated so much.

"But there is no way in hell I will work with Ukai Saki," Amai declared, stomping her foot for effect.

"No one said you had to," Shuichi said quickly. "Though the thought is a cool one. The children of the three members of Grasper forming their own band...everyone recognized your father as the leader of the group, so you would probably have the same position."

"Besides, you have nothing against Ukai Saki personally, right?" Koji asked. "It's just that she's older so she got on the music scene before you did. Release a solo album, and if that takes off, then reconsider the Neo Grasper idea."

"We'd have to run the idea by Alexander Sakuma-Winchester first, though," Amai said, her voice turning haughty as she said the older boy's long and fancy name. She'd only met him once and had nothing against him, she just hated how long his name was.

"Alex likes to sing," Shuichi said with a nod. "But you're right: we don't know if either one wants to form a group with you. Rosuto-san is right: worry about your own album first and then worry about forming a band."

Amai shrugged and walked over to the closet, pounding on the door. "What do you think, baby brother?"

"S-sounds great," was the stuttered reply from the other side.

"Well, if Tokui is so thrilled about it, then I'll consider it. But I make no promises, got it?"

End of Chapter Two