Chapter 1

“It’s gotten a little colder…” Rei whispered with a small sigh.

The temperatures changes this year had been severe, like today, when even a suit couldn’t stave off the cold. Though admittedly, there had been times recently when, during the day, wearing a jacket was too hot. The fluctuating weather made it hard to keep oneself healthy.

8:50 AM

As usual, Rei left his house and started walking toward his employer’s office at SenaPro. It was only a 5-minute walk from his apartment to the office, and despite his complaints about the heat and cold, he’d be inside in short order. The walk wasn’t stressing, especially considering that he didn’t have to deal with the commuter’s traffic rush, which was particularly bad around his area. Not only that, but as an upstanding, working man, Rei considered the closeness of his place of work as a benefit to his living arrangements.

People who preferred keeping their private lives and work separate might have a hard time understanding that sentiment…though recently, Rei had been thinking that he might do better to put a bit more distance between the two as well. With these thoughts in his head, Rei opened the door to the office.

“Ah, Sagara-san. Good morning.”

“Good morning,” Rei returned the greeting of the other office staff as he went straight to his chair and turned on his computer. As he waited for the machine to start up, Rei checked the schedule written in his notebook, then set to work replying to his emails after the desktop had loaded.

A few email replies later, Rei finished with his computer, powered it down, and stood up. “I’m off to the residence. If something comes up, you can reach me at my cell,” Rei called out to the office staff and headed out a different door from that which he’d come in by–to enter the Sena family’s living quarters.

As the name suggested, SenaPro was a personal management company owned and run by the Senas, a family of many famous talents. The family’s area was connected to the business office on the first floor.

“Good morning,” Rei said to Nagisa and Seiya as he entered the living room while they enjoyed a late breakfast. The table, decorated with a vase of fresh flowers, was overlooked by a huge French window. The sparkling married couple, the picture of perfect contentment, sat at their table as though posed for a commercial of some kind. Rei, however was unfazed by the scene after such a long association with the family, and in fact, took it as quite an ordinary part of his daily routine.

The person closest to Rei as he sat down was Sena Nagisa, one of Japan’s foremost female actresses. Thanks to her modeling roots, she appeared much younger than she really was. At first glance, it appeared as though Seiya and she had married years apart, but in truth, Nagisa was not young–she was actually even older than Seiya himself.

“Good morning, Rei-kun,” Sena Seiya replied to his greeting. Getting his start in musical theatre, the head of the family, Seiya, was a big-time singer. Well-known in the past for his performances in the incredibly popular end-of-the-year ballad show, Seiya had started in the producing line of work as SenaPro’s company president.

Seiya’s father was an American and his mother Japanese, gifting him with more defined features and lighter coloring than many full-Japanese performers. It was perhaps because of his background that the years showed more strongly on him than his wife. But, throughout Japan, the couple was to this very day still popular with both young and old, male and female fans alike. The pair was still overflowing with so much ability and multiple talents that they had been able to start and maintain their own production business.

While their marriage had ostensibly happened on the heels of Nagisa’s relentless pursuit of Seiya after going to see one of his musicals and falling in love with him at first sight, Seiya, too, had fallen head over heels with the beauty touted as Japan’s foremost actress the moment he’d laid eyes on her. Their fans therefore naturally had no complaints over the match, such a fine couple they made. Such outstanding people couldn’t possibly be found anywhere else, so Rei thought daily.

And this didn’t even take their personalities into account, as they were practically angelic in their level of kindness and generosity. To have picked up someone like him and groomed him to handle such an important job… To Rei, Seiya was his savior, the most important benefactor in his life.

“Now, about today’s schedule. Seiya-san, you have a planning meeting this afternoon. We’ll be leaving at 2 PM, so please be ready by then. And Nagisa-san…” Rei glanced up at Nagisa while he read, “You have the day off.”

“What? Today, too??”

‘Well, of course’, was Rei’s immediate urge to respond to the complaint, feeling a tic in his cheek spasm in frustration. “That’s because you declined that offer for the drama series, Nagisa-san…”

She’d been offered a role for an oft-viewed channel’s 10 PM television drama, broadcast all over the country, with a veteran director and popular new cast. Everyone could see that the program was eager to have Sena Nagisa on board to boost the program’s ratings; it had been an ideal opportunity for all parties involved.

“But none of the actors stood out!”

Nagisa had rejected the drama offer point blank after that outburst. However, Rei has already adjusted her schedule to make room for the drama appearances, meaning that now Nagisa’s schedule was full of blank spaces with no work.

As Rei saw it, Nagisa was a victim of reaping what you sow in this sort of situation, and complaining to him wasn’t going to help. But Nagisa, as though she had the right, pursed her lips in a displeased pout.

“It’s like all the actors out there nowadays just don’t feel fresh, or like I’ve already performed with them somewhere.”

“Well, that may be…” Rei conceded, though it wasn’t as though there weren’t young actors that the actress hadn’t performed within this particular production. Nagisa wasn’t in the least impressed with any of them and barely gave them a thought, so low was her opinion. However, as Nagisa’s performance history was quite long, it was becoming hard to find any actors that she hadn’t performed with at some point or another. At her age, this was especially within the ranks of veteran actors. However, Rei knew that bringing up the subject of age was tantamount to inviting the wrath of his client, who was already self-conscious about the subject.

“Then, for my future reference, Nagisa-san, do you have any actors that you’re particularly interested in working with?” Of course, even if she did have a preference, there was no telling whether finding work with that actor would even be possible. However, if it meant getting Nagisa to perform in their productions, most TV networks and movie companies wouldn’t mind being asked to pull a few strings to make her wishes come true. If he just sent out the request, though, it may not be soon, but eventually Nagisa would definitely be able to act with the performer of her choice.

Then, if a job with the actor became available, Nagisa could work happily and avoid the current problem of large gaps of nothing to do. To avoid betraying Seiya and Nagisa’s trust, Rei held himself to the standard of never making the same mistake twice.

“The person I want to work with is… Oh, what was his name again?” Nagisa tilted her head in a cute, considering manner, making Rei wonder if the actor was really all that popular, considering she couldn’t even remember his name.

“Ah! Him, him! That’s the guy!!” Nagisa exclaimed while pointing a finger at the TV screen.

“Uh…” Rei was instantly at a loss for words after he moved his gaze toward the commercial. The reason being that the person in the commercial was none other than Ichijou Ryouma, the current extremely popular rising acting star of the day.

There was no way.

Ichijou Ryouma’s schedule had to have been booked solid for ages already. Much as Nagisa wanted to perform with him, that was definitely not going to be happening in the foreseeable future.

“Kyaa! Oh, he’s just so cool, don’t you think?” Rei let out an unintentional sigh as Nagisa pointed at the TV, bubbling at Seiya for confirmation of her opinion, who, of course, innocently agreed.

“…Morning…” Rei heard a lack-luster murmur and glanced up to see its source. There, recently arrived in the living room from the second floor, was Izumi. This, too, was a common scene.

Izumi was the Sena family’s second and youngest son. He’d started university just the previous spring, although you wouldn’t know that he’d just begun an exciting new chapter of his life given the rather depressing aura he emitted. His facial features were quite obviously of the Sena family blood—cute like an idol, though with his unfashionable glasses and hairstyle, it was all going to waste. On top of that, he was a shut-in, totally immersed in his weird anime (LalaLulu or LuluLala or whatever). In other words, a total otaku. He had a timid personality, or rather–he was meek-seeming in public and haughty at home. Perhaps thanks to his spoiled upbringing, he could also be a bit stubborn at times.

In addition, even though he was a college student, he still had a naive and selfish outlook about the world, proclaiming, even at his age, that he wanted to be a manga artist. Rei had seen Izumi’s art many times over the years and he never seemed to improve, always producing art that looked as though it could have been drawn by an elementary school student. In any case, he was nowhere near the level needed to be a manga artist.

Born into such a family, how on earth did Izumi end up like this, Rei had to wonder. At this rate, Rei was honestly worried that the boy would become a reclusive, jobless layabout after graduating, if things continued as they were. But, no matter how close Rei was to the family, as he was nearly considered one of their own, he did not feel that it was his place to voice such an opinion regarding their private matters.

Granted, if Rei felt there was something he could do for Izumi, given that he was Seiya’s son, Rei wanted to assist him as much as he could. It was just…

“Darling? I want to act with him!”

“I’m sure Rei will pull it off somehow, dear.”

Rei was brought out of his reverie suddenly at Seiya’s words to Nagisa as they both turned to face him. “Please don’t ask for the impossible, Mr. President! There’s no way that Ichijou Ryouma is available right now!” Even if it was a request from his benefactor and even if it was for the sake of that benefactor’s beloved wife, impossibilities were, of course, impossible! Rei had to get his point across to avoid any unrealistic expectations.

“Nagisa-san, really…”

“Oh, look, look! It’s Shougo!!”

Please, be reasonable, Rei had intended to say when he was cut off by Nagisa pointing at the TV screen again.

Rei went silent. The person now appearing on the TV was the eldest son of the Sena family, Shougo. At twenty-five years of age, Shougo was seven years older than his little brother Izumi. As the vocalist and song-writer of the popular rock band the ‘CRUSHERZ,’ Shougo had skyrocketed into the place of SenaPro’s biggest breadwinner. On top of that, with his cheerful personality, Shougo made frequent appearances on talk shows as well. His popularity was firmly fixed with both young and old, male and female fans alike, much like his parents.

“……” At the sight of Shougo standing at center stage, bathed in bright lights as he sang with that stunning voice of his, Rei unthinkingly inhaled sharply.

Given his handsome features and loads of talent, popularity, and saleability…Rei should by all accounts have absolutely no qualms with such a performer. In actuality, however, Rei was involved with Shougo in…many ways–more than simply as a face in their production company; indeed, more than anyone else in his life at the moment.

It wasn’t that he hated Shougo or just couldn’t deal with him; it was simply that, when it came to Shougo…well, there was a lot of extra baggage to consider with regards to what they were to each other.

“By the way, Izumi! Have you been going to see that voice trainer that I introduced you to lately?”

“Er…”

“Yes, and Johnny-san has told me that you’re welcome any time for those dance lessons we talked about earlier!”

“Uh…”

Glancing from the man on the TV screen back to their other underachieving son seated at the table, the two parents started voicing their own thoughts about the boy, turning to Izumi, who had almost finished his breakfast, and immediately starting in on him together.

At suddenly being put on the spot, Izumi’s face took on a bewildered expression when the topic switched to himself. He grew pale, clearly worried that they’d find out that he hadn’t been to voice training classes or dance lessons. His eyes darted back and forth, wondering what to do and likely unable to think of an excuse on such short notice.

“You’re eighteen years old already, dear! How long are you going to continue talking about this anime or what have you—” Nagisa began.

“Oh, would you look at the time! I gotta go!” Unable to withstand any more censure, Izumi made an extremely see-through excuse to cut off his mother’s sermon. He then pushed the chair back with a clatter and stood up. “I’m off!”

“Wait just a—oh, he got away!” Nagisa yelled after the boy as he sprinted out of the living room with more speed and agility than one would think possible from such a sedentary person, though whether or not he’d heard the parting shot at all was debatable.

“Really, now… will that boy ever make something of himself? He seems to be becoming a little otaku-ish, if you ask me…” Nagisa finished, letting out a small sigh.

“There’s no ‘ish’ about it…” Rei unthinkingly responded to Nagisa’s rare show of motherly concern. Beep, beep, beep, Rei’s cell phone went off, cutting off the conversation. He answered with a standard greeting, “Hello, this is Sagara from SenaPro.”

“Ah, thanks for all your help in the past, this is Asou from Hakutsuu Agency,” came the voice from the other end of the line.

“Oh, our thanks to you as well,” Rei returned, recognizing the name. Hakutsuu Agency was a large advertising recruitment company that often worked in conjunction with SenaPro and its actors.

“I was wondering if you could you spare a moment of your time, Sagara-san?”

“Yes, please continue.” Judging by the formality with which the man on the phone was talking, Rei figured this must be some sort of lucrative work they’d be getting and made sure to reply with all proper civility.

“My apologies for the abruptness of the question, but do you happen to know the wedding magazine ‘Happy Wedding?’” Asou continued their conversation.

“Ah, yes, I’ve heard of it,” he replied reflexively, searching his brain for what he knew of the magazine. He then remembered that a fairly long time ago, Seiya and Nagisa had done a commercial for them advertising their first issue.

“Well, you see, this year actually marks their tenth year in business.”

“Oh, ten years already?” At Asou’s words, the old, televised commercial began playing vividly in Rei’s mind. He saw Seiya in his tuxedo and Nagisa in her wedding dress–then the performers playing the little boy and girl who caught the bouquet that Nagisa threw. Just a few short seconds of film.

The commercial had been made at the height of their popularity. Seiya and Nagisa—such a beautiful couple was rarely seen, much less in a commercial, and in the blink of an eye, they became the hot topic among gossip circles. Rei recalled hearing that the magazine had sold out of several printings thanks to that publicity wave.

Come to think of it, hadn’t Izumi been in that…?

“Indeed, and to commemorate their tenth year in business, ‘Happy Wedding’ has been talking about creating a new commercial revolving around the concept ‘10 years later.’ That is, if Seiya-san and Nagisa-san might be available…?” Asou trailed off meaningfully.

“Ah, I see,” Rei made a non-committal confirmation, knowing that this was definitely something he’d have to consider.

A commemorative commercial after ten years… If they used Seiya-san and Nagisa-san for the roles again after all this time, business ploy or not, the flames of jealousy and intrigue surrounding such a famously successful romance and marriage would be rekindled in practically everyone who witnessed the advertisment. It could prove the chance to increase the magazine’s reader base among young adults by promoting the couple’s obvious wedded bliss, and those readers of the same age as Seiya and Nagisa, with children around a marriageable age, might also start subscribing to the magazine. It was a great marketing strategy worthy of such a well-known advertising recruitment company–as expected from Hakutsuu Agency.

Not to mention, it certainly couldn’t hurt SenaPro’s business either.

Even with Nagisa so picky about the jobs she’d deign to accept, with Seiya set to perform at her side, there was no way she’d refuse. In fact, she’d probably be ecstatic at the prospect.

“However, there is one condition with this commercial offer…”

“Oh?” Finding that he’d gotten a little carried away thinking about the benefits of accepting the offer, with some trepidation Rei turned his attention back to the phone conversation at hand.

“Regarding this plan, we’d like the same little girl that Nagisa-san brought in before as a last-minute replacement to reprise her role. However, we don’t know her name and were therefore hoping that SenaPro could get in contact with her, if possible.”

“Uh…!” Rei’s eyebrows flew up in response to Asou’s words.

The little girl… Which meant…

“Is the actress’ schedule too full at the moment? My client really is adamant about having her in the commercial, so if there’s anything you can do…?”

“Well, you see…” The schedule wasn’t the problem. In fact, Rei wished that the problem were with the schedule. As it stood, the problem was with the performer ‘her’self.

“Asou-san, by ‘client,’ to whom exactly are you referring? ‘Happy Wedding’ Publishing, or…?”

“Ah, no, actually…” Asou floundered for an answer.

“I find it more than a little odd that your client would place such a high priority on us accepting that particular condition over any guarantee of the performance of our company’s actors, Seiya and Nagisa–don’t you?” Rei, trying to escape the current topic of conversation without Asou inquiring too deeply into the ‘girl,’ stalled giving a more definitive answer by insisting on further information about the other man’s client.

After a moment of silence, Asou’s defeated voice responded through the telephone receiver, “… My apologies for being so roundabout. In actuality, my client is that little girl’s counterpart actor from the previous commercial, Ichijou Ryouma.”

“What? Ichijou Ryouma?!” Upon hearing the name of the other actor, Rei unconsciously started, his eyes going wide. “Is this true?”

“Yes, very true. I was surprised, as well… But his condition for accepting this role is that we not change the actors from ten years ago. He has said that no matter what, he wants to act with the same little girl as before. However, the only thing we have to go on in our search for her is that he remembers she had a very peculiar eye color as a defining feature. I’m afraid he’s quite serious in his request. His schedule is booked completely full, but if we can somehow fulfill his condition, he said that he would find a way to make an opening.”

“Is that…so…?”

“Would SenaPro consider it? Please?” Asou pleaded.

“…I suppose so…” Rei conceded haltingly. There might just be something promising to this idea, actually… With such astounding timing, Rei had to wonder if this was all due to Nagisa’s impressive dumb luck, or really just a simple coincidence after all… “Supposing we can respond positively, by when should we give our answer?”

“I apologize for the rush, but could we request a response by tomorrow evening? Ichijou Ryouma’s schedule is, as I said, quite packed, so our of consideration for his situation…”

“Tomorrow evening, correct? …I understand. Until then,” Rei replied with a note of finality.

“We hope to hear back favorably.”

“Thank you, excuse me.” Finished with his call, Rei turned back to the two at the table. “It seems that we may be able to do something about your wish to work with Ichijou Ryouma after all.”

“What?! Really?!” Nagisa squealed excitedly.

“Oh my, well speak of the devil!” Seiya responded in kind.

“However, there is one major obstacle…” Prefacing the explanation so as to prepare Nagisa–who was already in a fit of happiness thinking the situation decided–and her ever-composed husband Seiya, Rei proceeded to relate the phone conversation he’d just finished. “Do you happen to remember the commercial you two were in 10 years ago promoting the magazine ‘Happy Wedding?’”

“It was an informational magazine for wedding planning, if memory serves me. Nagisa looked so wonderful in that wedding dress that I remember it quite well, actually,” Seiya replied wistfully.

“Oh darling, you big silly!”

Not interrupting Seiya’s praise of his wife, nor Nagisa’s happiness, Rei then proceeded to explain about ‘Happy Wedding’s current 10th year of publication and their plans for a revival commercial revolving around their original advertisement involving the two of them.

“And so, you have been offered a role in their new commercial.”

“Oh, I see! So? What does that have to do with Ichijou Ryouma?” Nagisa asked, eyes sparkling at the idea.

“Do you remember the young boy that appeared in the same commercial? As it turns out, that boy was Ichijou Ryouma himself.”

“Eeh?!” Nagisa said, incredulous.

“Oh my, well that is a coincidence, isn’t it?” Seiya rejoined, mildly surprised.

“Yes, quite,” Rei nodded deeply, unthinkingly agreeing with Seiya’s opinion. To think that Ichijou Ryouma would have been the child actor that Sena Seiya and Nagisa had performed with in the past! He supposed that these sorts of bizarre coincidences really did happen on occasion. Despite having worked so hard to be of use to Seiya as the manager of his business and still to have not realized such a thing, though, was something Rei was chagrined to admit. “But, as I said before, there is one problem with this situation,” Rei plowed on with the explanation.

“What would that be?”

“The condition set forth by Ichijou Ryouma to get him to agree to appear in this commercial…is that we keep the same cast from ten years ago,” Rei explained with a grave set to his lips.

Nagisa looked at him in confusion, tilting her head in puzzled manner. “But that’s not such a problem, is it? I’ll do it! And you will, too, won’t you darling?”

“Of course, dear. But still…”

“Exactly,” Rei continued, seeing that Seiya seemed to understand the issue at hand. “The problem is the ‘little girl actress.’”

“Oh, that’s right!” Nagisa finally reached the same conclusion they all had with a wide-eyed blink of her beautiful eyes. “That little girl was played by Izumi, wasn’t it?”

“Uh…” Rei let out an involuntary sigh at Nagisa’s rather belated realization. Of course, this was the big issue.

Ten years ago, while shooting for the commercial, the actress that was supposed to catch the bride’s bouquet had proven unable to arrive in time due to a rescheduled flight. As a last-minute replacement, Izumi had been brought in as a stand-in, as he had happened to be on set at the time. But that had been then, and this was now–in this day and age, the notion of having Izumi reprise his role was ludicrous! Izumi was a boy–and not just a boy, but such a boy! A gloomy otaku, who–due to his own mistake during filming that last time–had come to despise the celebrity world. There was absolutely no way that he’d say yes if asked to put on women’s clothes and appear in another commercial!

But, aside from Ichijou Ryouma’s request, there were also now the wishes of Nagisa and Seiya to take into account. They all wanted to make this chance a reality, and not least of all because of the useful connections they would garner if they could pull it off.

“For the moment, I suppose that I should try to reason with Izumi-san once he gets home…” Rei eventually gave in.

“Yay! I get to act with Ryouma!”

“Isn’t that wonderful, Nagisa?” …Damn. Nagisa-san was already fully expecting to be able to work with Ryouma again. “Rei, we’re counting on you.”

“…Yes, of course,” was all that Rei could respond with when confronted with such a completely-trusting, smiling Seiya, much as he felt put on the spot with expectations. He had a feeling that a conversation with that shut-in Izumi wouldn’t be easy. What to do, what to do…?

However, looking at the two smiling people near him, Rei sighed again at the oddly difficult feeling he felt at the situation…


Later that night…

“A commercial offer?!” Izumi’s voice rose in a wild cry of disbelief. Rei had tried to broach the subject about the current situation to Izumi in the living room the moment he’d come back home from his day at school.

“For who?! ME!? What are you talking about?! Are you insane?!” Izumi tripped over his words in his rush to get them out, while Rei merely shook his head calmly at the insinuation against his mental health.

“I’m not insane, and there’s a reason that this offer has come to you specifically. First, take a look at this.” Rei produced here the video tape he’d found after scouring in the SenaPro materials room. As the film began, the figures of Nagisa and Seiya from 10 years ago appeared on the screen. Clothed in their respective wedding dress and tuxedo, they stood before the doors to the chapel, accepting well-wishes and congratulations from their guests. Nagisa, almost frighteningly the same as she had been depicted 10 years ago, threw the wedding bouquet in an impressive arc straight into the arms of a charming little girl. Then the girl and the little boy next to her shared a happy smile together.

“No matter the age, here’s to a wonderful wedding! Happy Wedding Magazine’s First Publication!” shortly after the narration finished, Rei pressed the pause button on the video.

“Th—this is from 10 years ago…” the younger Sena son admitted shakily.

“Precisely!” adjusting the bridge of his glasses before nodding vigorously at Izumi, who seemed to be stuck staring at the screen, Rei contemplated the person before him. That the charming little girl on the TV screen had become this gloomy, otaku college student standing before him in just 10 short years… It was a hard truth to swallow, but with the help of Seiya and Nagisa’s impressive genealogy, it kind of made sense. His looks had never been in question. As a child, Izumi had been beautiful enough to impress anyone, wherever he might go. At the same time, however, looking at the Izumi projected on screen as compared to the one in front of him, Rei honestly believed that the other had a graceful air and refined look about him. If Izumi had really wanted to become an idol, by now he surely would have gone far.

No, it still wasn’t too late to start! Rei was sure of it.

“The sponsor of this commercial, ‘Happy Wedding,’ is commemorating its tenth year of business by filming another commemorative TV spot. And the concept is … ‘Ten Years Later.’ The setting is ten years after the original wedding ceremony, this time with the little kids that caught the bouquet themselves tying the knot,” Rei resumed.

“W–wait just a minute!!” Izumi stopped Rei’s rapid-fire explanation. His bewilderment was understandable under the circumstances, but that didn’t account for the hint of amazement that seemed mixed in with his expression. “But I don’t actually have to be in this, right? Like if they found some similar-looking girl to play me instead?” Honestly, Izumi spoke as though Rei hadn’t already considered that. If only they could…

“I had the same opinion, however…” Rei unconsciously sighed again while rewinding the video tape. He then paused it at the scene of Izumi smiling radiantly at the other small boy and explained about the aforementioned request that the ‘actress from ten years ago remain unchanged’–and how, as luck would have it, this request was being posed by the actor who played the young boy, his sole condition for accepting the job in the first place.

“B—but… there’s no way he’d know that it’s really me. Someone else could…” Swallowing the surprise that the little boy was the Ichijou Ryouma, Izumi pressed his opinion. He obviously really didn’t want to do it. Rei knew that he could, but convincing him of that was another matter entirely.

“Ryouma remembers that the girl had ‘oddly colored eyes,’ so…” Rei sighed yet again and glanced back at the TV pointedly. It was hard to tell from the 10-year-old video tape quality, but even so, it was still visible on the screen. Izumi, like his older brother Shougo, had quite strangely colored eyes, possibly due to the fact that they had foreign blood accounting for a quarter of their lineage. And, given Asou’s words from that afternoon, Ryouma definitely remembered that specific fact. If not for that detail, someone else could have easily been used in Izumi’s stead; however…

“Please look at Nagisa-san’s excitement. We can’t back out now. I beseech you, please accept the offer, Izumi-san,” Rei implored with finality, gesturing to Nagisa behind them, bouncing around and hardly able to contain her joy.

“Wait just a—!” It seemed that Izumi was not to be persuaded, no matter what tactic Rei employed to get him to see reason. He furrowed his eyebrows and scowled at Rei, loudly protesting, “Aren’t you all forgetting something?! I’m a boy!! We might have been able to fool them 10 years ago, but now…”

Rei drew in close to get a good look at the protesting Izumi. He checked his height and figure, patting his much shorter head and flat chest just to make sure. Yes, just as he’d thought, there shouldn’t be any problem.

“You’ll be just fine. With that short stature and delicate form, you’ll easily pass—and be quite the hottie, at that,” Rei was quick to reassure Izumi of his still rather feminine appearance.

“Shut up!!” While Rei had intended the comment to be taken as an encouragement, hoping that with his fears allayed, Izumi would finally give his consent, instead the younger man’s face contorted into a petulant look, pending tears, before shouting, “Enough! I’m going to bed!!”

“Please wait!” Rei called frantically to Izumi, who had turned on his heels in anger. Distressed and fearing that if he let the boy leave like this, he’d never agree. He needed Izumi’s answer by tomorrow! With Izumi off at college most of the day, he needed to get his consent here and now. “This commercial could be your big chance–an opportunity to finally break into the entertainment industry…!” Rei tried once more.

“I told you—!” Izumi spun around, pouting with an immovably antagonistic set to his mouth, “—I don’t want to get into something like celebrity work! I absolutely can’t perform in front of other people!” he finished, spitting out the words in anger.

And that set him off. This time Rei was the one to square his shoulders and shout back, “Then what exactly do you plan on doing with your future?! With a degree from a third-rate college and no ability to talk to anyone with your gloomy, otaku personality–at this rate, you won’t even be able to be a normal office worker!!” Izumi’s tone while talking about ‘something like celebrity work’ raised Rei’s hackles; how dare he adopt such a dismissive attitude toward something so important to the Sena family!

At Rei’s unthinkingly severe tone while reproaching, Izumi flinched. “I—I’m going to become a manga artist…!”

“A manga artist?!” Despite Izumi’s recoil, Rei was so worked up by now you could practically hear his restraint finally snapping as he flung back his reply. “There’s no way you’ll become a manga artist with crappy art that looks like it was drawn with your left hand! Don’t underestimate the pressures of being a working adult making a living!” After getting that off his chest, Rei raised his gaze to Izumi’s, who stood there, too startled at what Rei had said to react immediately.

“… Crappy art…?!” he whispered, body starting to tremble slightly.

“Oh, no… I didn’t mean, I…” Rei pressed a hand to his mouth frantically, but it was impossible to take back his words now that they were already out there. Izumi’s eyes shone with tears, poetically twinkling as they threatened to spill down his cheeks.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid Rei!!! I’ll never do that commercial now!! Just go and die, Rei!” Izumi burst out in a loud, emotional shout and cried all the way back out of the living room.

“Now I’ve done it…” Rei cursed his lack of sense, leaving him saying anything that popped into his head. His sincerity hardly mattered at this point, since he knew that he’d taken his outburst a bit too far. In the past, there’d been a time when he was incredibly quick to anger. Usually he went to great pains to seem as intelligent and well-bred as possible, from his physical presentation down to his polite way of speaking, but when provoked to emotional responses, his true breeding showed.

In any case, he knew that nothing more he could say would make Izumi budge on the subject of this commercial. It was little surprise, really, given how he’d been broadsided by the sudden offer for a commercial appearance. There was nothing more to be done for it now, though, and he had honestly thought it was a long-shot to begin with anyway.

“Huh? But what about Ryouma?!” Rei gulped at Nagisa’s cry. “No way, no way!! I wanna act with Ryoumaaa!” she continued, well on her way to a tantrum.

“Oh, please don’t cry!” her husband coddled.

’Oh right’, Rei internally sighed. Nagisa had seen how that conversation with her son had gone, so he’d thought that surely she must see that it was impossible, just as Rei himself had… What a foolishly naive thought. But how to console her, in case she didn’t understand?

“Don’t worry! I’m sure that Rei will think of something!”

“Huh?!” At Seiya’s unthinking words, Rei jolted and his eyes grew wide. ‘Think of something?’ That was much more easily said than done, as Rei knew that, with Izumi in such as state, there was literally nothing he could do on his own. Nothing, and yet…

“Right, Rei-kun?”

“I—I…” That smile. When faced with that smile, even in the face of such an outrageous expectation, Rei swallowed back his incredulous refusal. Not that he had to be reminded, but Seiya was Rei’s benefactor. From the beginning, he’d never stood a chance against that smile. If Seiya wanted something to be done about Nagisa’s predicament, then it was Rei’s job to make sure that something was, in fact, done.

But still…

“I understand. I’ll try to persuade him further.” Rei found, for the first time when faced with that smile, that he was unable to give his whole-hearted reassurance to Seiya, so hopeless did he believe the situation.

“Really!?” In an instant, Nagisa’s face lit up and Rei felt the pressure on him redouble, knowing that, one way or another, he would have to make this work. He just had to pull out all the tricks at his disposal.

“I’ll take my leave for today… And, I’m very sorry for blowing up and saying such rude things to Izumi-san earlier…” Rei tried to apologize.

“Oh, don’t worry about that. We know you’re just trying to look out for our Izumi,” the Sena parents agreed. Reassured by those words, Rei finished his goodbyes for the time being and left the living area. During his walk toward the office, he sighed while traversing the hall.

“…Guess there’s nothing for it… I don’t like owing him favors, but…I’ll call one in this time.” Rei mumbled to himself. And so, reaching the deserted office, Rei pulled out his phone and punched in the numbers for Shougo’s cell. Despite Izumi’s general impression on first glance, he was definitely a coddled little brother, and even when he would stubbornly refuse to see reason when lectured by others, Shougo had always been able to get his younger brother to listen to him. Even so, Rei had made Izumi pretty angry this time, and it was a difficult subject to breach with the boy in the first place, so Rei doubted that even Shougo talking to him would make all that much of a difference anyway…

“Hey there!” Shougo’s ever-chipper voice answered, cutting into the ringing of the phone pressed to his ear. It sounded to Rei as though Shougo was out and about, as he could catch the sound of several people in the background.

“What are you doing now?” Rei wanted to check.

“I’m in the middle of a recording~!” Damn, what bad timing. Shougo’s current manager, Sotomura, along with another manager for the record company backing Shougo’s group, CRUSHERZ, were in charge of the man’s schedule. Therefore, Rei didn’t have a very clear handle on Shougo’s daily workload. He mused that it might be a good idea to at least take some note of Shougo’s schedule in the future; however, it was his policy to think of Shougo as little as he could possibly manage, so he’d entrusted the management of Shougo’s schedule to Sotomura.

“Should I call you back?”

“If it won’t take long, it’s totally fine!” Shougo replied to Rei’s inquiry brightly.

Shougo’s idea of ‘totally fine’ had a tendency not to coincide with others’, but if he’d truly been in a tight spot, he probably wouldn’t have answered the phone in the first place. Rei relented, “Actually… I’ve got a favor to ask you…” So saying, Rei related the details of the commercial shoot and Izumi’s potential involvement. “So basically, I need Izumi to agree to this offer…” Rei trailed off, expecting Shougo to understand his unsaid request.

“I get it. What’s the deadline for this thing?”

“Sometime tomorrow.” Silence followed Rei’s reply for a moment. “…Shougo?”

“Nah, ‘s nothing. Hmm… by tomorrow, huh?” After a pause long enough to make Rei wonder, he continued on as though talking to himself, “Well, they’re still waiting for me to finish my lyrics right now, so I’m pretty sure we’re just working on the karaoke track at the moment. Yeah, I bet I can swing it… probably?” he reassured. “All right. I’m not completely sure I’ll have the time, but I’ll do what I can!” Shougo finished, with all of the confidence he could muster.

“You…” After such a half-distracted response, Rei wanted to tell Shougo that he didn’t need to go so out of his way, but just then a voice in the background called out the singer’s name, and Rei bit back the rest of his response.

“Comi~ng!… Ah, sorry. But hey! Let’s do lunch tomorrow. If I can’t make it, I’ll let you know!” And with that, he hung up. Rei stared at his disconnected cell and released a small breath.

“How strange… He actually sounded slightly worried…” Usually, when Rei came to Shougo with a request, he’d immediately agree to it, often without even waiting to hear the details. He must have been honestly unsure about whether or not he’d be able to come through, after all.

Of course, without Shougo’s agreement to help, they’d never be able to pull this thing off. But Shougo, too, was one of SenaPro’s precious, top-billing names. His work should naturally come first and foremost as a top priority, given his current position.

“But if he’s that busy, he really shouldn’t go to all the trouble…for me…” With one last sigh, Rei quickly snapped his cell phone shut.


The next day…

Rei arrived at one of the more luxurious hotels in the capital. It was a weekday, so there weren’t many people around, yet he still went out of his way to duck down a hall with with little foot traffic, just in case. He’d gotten a call from Shougo some time after lunch, just as Rei had begun his work at the office again…

“I made it! I made it! Let’s meet at 〇〇 Hotel, room 1120. We can get room service, too!” Shougo had exclaimed before hanging up, leaving Rei to wonder just what exactly Shougo thought he was in time for? Still, he was here now, in the place Shougo had mentioned, as requested…

“Here?” Rei sighed as he stared at the number plate outside room 1120. Rei understood how truly difficult it was for a celebrity of Shougo’s caliber to find a quiet moment to talk without getting a private hotel room, but to Rei, meeting Shougo in a hotel room came part and parcel with some fairly depressing memories.

Still, he knew that he was the one who had asked for the favor in the first place, and sucking it up, he pressed the buzzer on the door. Immediately after came the frantic sound of footsteps, and the door was violently yanked open.

“Rei!! It’s been forever!” Shougo cried, tugging Rei sharply over the threshold. Almost before the door was actually shut, Shougo’s arm slipped around Rei’s lower back and—

“Mmph!” Shougo’s lips closed tightly over Rei’s.

…Yes, this was the problem.

This was the very reason Rei avoided thinking about Shougo at all costs. Shougo had a habit of saying ludicrous things, like “I love you” and other such nonsense, and Rei just couldn’t handle it. After so many years of endless declarations of love, he no longer knew how to fight back, and exhausted from such an onslaught of emotion from the other man, he continually found himself being swept away in the moment.

No—admittedly, if it had been limited to simple confessions of love, he might still find it manageable. The kicker was that whenever Shougo did some task for him, he demanded rewards for his help. And that always led to more and more wanting, until Rei finally lost his grip on the situation.

Of course, he understood that all he needed to do was simply turn down the other man’s advances. But then a bothersome series of complaints would follow—“I don’t wanna work, I can’t work~”—and Rei knew he was stuck with the status quo.

There were a number of rather convoluted reasons as to why things had progressed to such a level, and truly, the ups and downs and twists and turns in their mutually shared past would be enough to make anyone’s head spin…

“Oi…what are you—!?”

“Ow!”

Lost in his thoughts, Rei hadn’t noticed the hands slipping down his back to firmly grope his ass, and he shoved the other man away vehemently.

“Come on, just gimme a little something? It’s been so long… Just let me refill my Rei reserves…?” Shougo’s hand crept purposefully back along Rei’s body, despite being so thoroughly rebuffed. Rei just glared back, unmoving and silent.

“Surely this isn’t what you called me out for, right? What happened to your explanation?” At Rei’s question, Shougo pulled back immediately and reached for a small desk clock he’d thrown aside on the bed, holding it up in his hand for show.

“Haha! Just take a look at this!” crowed while shoving the clock under Rei’s nose. Shougo acted as though the clock were something amazingly special, but it looked like nothing more than a plain old desk clock to Rei…

“I called in a favor to a friend on the inside of the LalaLulu operation the second I arrived. Got a special recording to put in here, making this is a one-of-a-kind alarm clock. There’s no way that Izumi won’t fall for this thing!” Shougo explained, proudly.

What Rei had thought was a desk clock actually turned out to be an alarm clock… Okay, a special alarm clock with a personalized message to use as the alarm. Rei hadn’t thought of using something like this to convince Izumi to do anything.

…Though perhaps ‘convince’ was the wrong word. ‘Bribe’ might be closer.

Rei still didn’t understand what worth this sort of trinket could possibly have for Izumi, but given his utter obsession with that LuluLala-whatever, there was a high probability that Izumi would trip over himself trying to earn the clock.

“Wait…So, you haven’t actually gone to talk to Izumi yet?” That must be what Shougo had been referring to when he said that he was sure Izumi would fall for this trick. It also explained why the clock was still here at the hotel. “Then what exactly did you mean by you ‘made it?’ And the second you ‘arrived?’” He tilted his head at Shougo’s confusing choice of words.

Before Shougo had a chance to respond, though, Rei’s cell phone began buzzing in his pocket. He pulled it out and saw from the display that it was a call from the manager of Shougo’s band, the CRUSHERZ. Since Shougo was there with him, Rei unthinkingly pressed the answer button on the phone. “Yes, this is Sagara.”

“Oh! Sagara-san? Is Shougo-san there with you by any chance?!” Sotomura’s frantic voice came over the phone, making Rei blink, puzzled. “I received a message from him saying that he was going back to Japan for a bit and then he just disappeared!”

“Well, he’s here with me now,” Rei glanced Shougo’s way after hearing the way the manager was talking, and gestured with his head as though to pose a question the other man. Then something twigged. “Huh? ‘Back to Japan?’ Wait a minute. Where are the CRUSHERZ now?”

“They’re in the middle of recording in London.”

… London?…

LONDON!?” Rei unthinkingly shouted before apologizing and promising to call Sotomura back and cutting the connection, fixing Shougo with a sharp glare. “Mind giving me an explanation for this? How exactly are you here in Japan when you’re supposed to be in London?”

“Well, you see…” Shougo managed to look chagrined at his actions, but pasted on a winning smile and truthfully explained what had led to this turn of events.

Right after he had finished the phone call with Rei, Shougo had headed straight to the airport. He’d then hopped the first plane to Japan, arriving earlier that day in Narita, and spent the rest of the day running around getting the specialty clock made.

“A—are you insane?!” Rei yelled without thinking after Shougo finished his explanation. He’d never in his wildest dreams thought that Shougo would come all the way to Japan from London at his request.

“Well you asked me, Rei! I want to make anything you wish a reality!”

“But…” Rei began to protest, but found himself biting back his remarks at the look on Shougo’s face.

“Plus,” Shougo continued, “Right now I’m stuck on some lyrics, and I’m pretty sure it’s because I haven’t seen you for a while. Seriously! Right now, I’m suffering from a Rei deficiency!” He punctuated his insistent attempts at getting Rei to see his point of view by capturing Rei’s lips in another kiss.

It was always like this.

Shougo was always, always completely serious—throwing his all into everything he aspired to accomplish and become. Saying things like, if it were for Rei, he’d do anything—that he desperately needed him, with absolutely no pretense or falsehoods.

This was exactly what made this…this thing between them so troubling for Rei.

Rei had called Shougo at 7 am that morning, which would have been about 11 pm in London. That meant that, within only a couple of hours of the call, Shougo had dashed off to the airport and flown to Japan. And then he’d gone so far as to ask for a personal favor from a seiyuu…

It stopped Rei’s anger in its tracks to be told that all of the toil and work that Shougo went through was entirely for his sake.

For him. For Rei.

It was an immense thing that Shougo had done for Rei, but it had been partially Rei’s fault for not checking Shougo’s schedule before calling in the first place.

“Looks like I’ve run up a pretty high debt with this…” Rei said, begrudgingly.

“What, seriously? Well then…”

With shining eyes at Rei’s admission, Shougo made as though to embrace him. However, Rei stopped his advance by raising both of his arms to drive him off.

“But not now! Take that,” he gestured to the alarm clock, “Go and persuade Izumi immediately! Then get yourself back to London! I’ll return the favor once you’re back in Japan.”

“Guess you’re right…” Shougo laughed bitterly before kissing Rei with a resounding smack!

“Hey!” Rei sputtered and shoved Shougo off, which did absolutely nothing to wipe the mirth from Shougo’s face.

“I’ll just think of that as a down payment. And when I get back from London…” Shougo’s eyes seemed to focus on the future before coming back to the present, “It’s a promise!” With that, Shougo darted from the room, off to go talk to his brother.

Staring at the door as it banged shut, Rei let out a sigh. That kiss had been in no way satisfying, and Rei was, to his own frustration, bothered by how Shogo had left without even ordering with the room service he’d mentioned over the phone.

Logically, he knew that Shougo needed to go persuade Izumi as quickly as possible. He also knew that Shougo had to get back to London with all haste… But he couldn’t help but think that Shougo might still have spared the time for them to at least have dinner together. The guy had to be tired from the flight from London, after all…

“No, I shouldn’t coddle him like that!” After all, Shougo was no longer a child. If he was hungry, he’d be sure to eat something. Besides, if Rei had stopped him to ask if he wanted to eat, there was a high probability that Shougo would have responded with some cheesy line like, ‘I don’t want to eat dinner—I just want to eat you!’

Nope. For now, Rei would leave Izumi to Shougo and return to work himself.

With that decided, Rei opened his phone and dialed the number of the CRUSHERZ’s manager.

After work, Rei headed from his office back toward his apartment. Though his body was tired, the satisfied feeling of a job well-done kept his steps light. The area around SenaPro was definitely on the high-end of most housing developments, meaning the neighborhood got very quiet after dark. Besides a few people out walking their dogs, Rei barely saw anyone on his way home.

Rei thought about what he’d accomplished that day and what tomorrow’s plans would encompass as he passed under the lights of the street lamps. When he finally heard back from Shougo, it was nearly 4 pm the next day while Rei was swamped with work.


“Izumi says he’ll do the commercial!!” Shougo excitedly explained as soon as Rei answered his phone. He felt some of the tension in his body relax in relief. That alarm clock of Shougo’s must have done the trick, after all.

“Is that so? Thanks.” Now Rei just had to deal with making sure that Izumi’s shoot went smoothly—though that was something he could think about later. Imagining how happy Nagisa and Seiya would be at the news brought an unconscious smile to Rei’s face. All that was left was to figure out what was going on with Shougo.

“That reminds me, you are on your way to Narita Airport, right?” From his conversation with the CRUSHERZ’s manager that afternoon, it seemed as though there was no immediate problem with Shougo being away from location for now, but…

“Of course!” Shougo confirmed brightly. “If I don’t do my work duties properly, you’ll just be mad with me, after all!”

“At least you understand…” Rei wasn’t sure about the childish reasoning behind it, be he supposed that the important thing was that Shougo was getting things done. “Did everything work out with the plane tickets?”

“Yep! Perfectly! I should arrive in London tomorrow! That’s not the real problem, though—my lyrics are,” Shougo finished.

“Lyrics? Oh, right. You mentioned that they weren’t finished yet.” Rei’s eyebrow twitched as he remembered their conversation at the hotel, along with mention of how Shougo’s unfinished lyrics were somehow the result of not seeing Rei for so long, or some such nonsense… It surprised him to hear that Shougo wasn’t just teasing; he really was behind on finishing writing his lyrics. “Are you okay? When you’ve got writer’s block, it throws your whole schedule off.” Granted, Shougo technically had a bit of leeway with his recording schedule at the moment, as without lyrics, nothing was getting done anyway.

“Hmm…I think that if I’d just been able to hold and hug you for a little bit longer, these lyrics would be a cinch, buuut…”

“Is this really the time for jokes?” As Rei found fault with Shougo’s logic, he heard light laughter from the other end of the phone.

“Don’t worry. I’ll do my best here and look forward to what awaits me when I get back to Japan.” Shougo sounded legitimately okay, which put Rei a bit more at ease—until he was forced to remember what he’d agreed to when Shougo returned, mood souring.

He’d been convinced it had been unavoidable, but perhaps he’d been a bit hasty in turning to Shougo for help in handling Izumi. But…no—Rei quickly realized that this time, this whole mess had been resolved thanks to Shougo’s help.

“Right, right. Take care of yourself. Call me when you get back from London,” Rei finished, immediately hanging up without waiting for Shougo’s reply. He then turned around and dialed the number of Asou from the Agency to inform him of the Senas’ decision to accept his commercial offer.

“I’m glad that worked itself out…” Rei muttered to himself.

He could tell that Asou had been a bit worried as to whether the offer would be accepted or not when he phoned the agency. There was evident relief in his voice when he answered the call, though Rei supposed that wasn’t all that surprising given that this was a once-in-a-career chance to do business the Ichijou Ryouma. As soon as their conversation ended, Rei reported the state of affairs to the heads of the Sena household. Nagisa was thrilled, as expected—so much so, in fact, that she even agreed to give more thought to accepting the offer she’d dismissed out of hand earlier and consider performing in that two-hour-long drama special.

Seiya was happy, too, Rei noted with satisfaction.

“I knew you’d be able to pull it off, Rei-kun,” he had responded, and when Rei recalled the smile that had accompanied those words, he was immensely grateful that they’d managed to make Izumi agree.

Even Izumi himself looked in better spirits than he had that morning, as he bounded home clutching that strange alarm clock. Now, if only his mood would last until filming for the commercial had finished, Rei would have no complaints whatsoever. The over-worked manager’s spirits were unconsciously lighter…

… Except for the weight he felt when he remembered the promise he’d made to Shougo in the hotel room.

‘I wonder when Shougo is due back in Tokyo? I should check with Sotomura tomorrow…’ Rei mused, making a mental note to contact the man the next day, since it seemed hardly worth it to bother that night. He was nearly home now already.

“Oh! Welcome home!” came a sudden call from out of the darkness near the entrance to Rei’s apartment building. Rei started and stood stock-still in surprise.

“Wh—what are you doing here?!” There waving his hand jovially at the perplexed man, was none other than the supposedly in-flight-to-London, Sena Shougo.

The young man shrugged in response to Rei’s surprise, “Well… The weather got so bad that they bumped my flight to a later time, so it seems—”

“They what?!”

“Hey, can’t help it if they aren’t flying, can I?” Shougo grinned apologetically.

Rei thought of the other CRUSHERZ band members, their manager, and staff that must all be having a fit at that moment and felt a sudden headache rear its ugly head. But, he admitted, if planes weren’t flying due to weather conditions, there really was nothing to be done under the circumstances.

Please tell me that you at least called ahead to let them know…” Rei pleaded, praying for Shougo to have used his common sense.

“Of course! It’s London’s weather that’s the problem anyway. They understood,” he waylaid Rei’s concern.

“Can’t be helped, then… Come in,” Rei allowed reluctantly, opening the auto-locked entrance and stepping into the elevator with Shougo. “I’m surprised you could stand out there without getting noticed by someone.” Rei mentioned.

“Really? Well, I wasn’t exactly waiting for a long time, but no one passed by anyway,” Shougo remarked lightly, brushing off the concern. Rei felt his shoulders slump in relief that he lived in a place rarely frequented by passersby. He’d occasionally considered giving Shougo a duplicate key to his apartment for occasions such as these—but he knew such a gesture, logical though it might be, would only serve to make Shougo even more incorrigible, and he therefore quashed that idea in an instant. They stepped off the elevator together, and Rei opened his front door, beckoning Shougo through the entryway and into his room beyond.

The state of Rei’s studio bachelor pad was as one might expect of a single guy living alone: in a word, disorderly. Though he kept his desk at the office well organized, this apartment was a better reflection of his true personality, and while it was far from a disastrous degree of clutter, that was mainly due to the fact that Rei didn’t own enough stuff to make a big mess. As he pretty much only used his apartment for sleeping purposes, the only furniture besides the bed that he could boast was a coffee table and sideboard.

“Did you eat anything?” Rei called over his shoulder.

“Yep. I stopped at a restaurant. How about you?”

“I ate already,” Rei replied loosening his tie and shrugging off his jacket to return to its hanger in the closet, lest it wrinkle.

Then, without any warning, it started.

“Then… Shall we?” as Rei had half-expected since seeing the man on his doorstep, Shougo wound his arms tightly around Rei from behind.

“You’re quite energetic considering you had such a long flight today and then had to run all over the place after you disembarked.” In fact, Shougo had probably had to go all the way out to Narita airport only to come back to Tokyo after he’d rung during the evening.

“Well, yeah, I am a little tired…but I haven’t had my dessert yet…” Shougo murmured, in what Rei assumed was supposed to be a seductive tone. He wasn’t sure he liked being compared to food but made no move to shake Shougo’s arms off. After all, he’d known this was where things would lead the moment he’d let Shougo into his apartment.

“I’ve got work tomorrow,” Rei reminded pragmatically, “Let’s get this over with.”

“Aww, you’re kidding, right?… There’s no way I’d waste an opportunity like this…” Shougo breathed down Rei’s neck while his hand drifted to the belt holding his pants up, loosening the buckle and untucking Rei’s shirt from his trousers as he searched for more skin.

Rather than wasting his energy protesting, Rei began unbuttoning his own shirt from the top, with Shougo assisting with the buttons from the bottom. When they reached each other halfway down Rei’s torso, Shougo released his grip on the shirt and grasped Rei’s hand instead.

“Rei…” Shougo murmured, the edge of his lips just barely grazing the slant of Rei’s neck like a whisper of a kiss.

“… Mm…” Rei intoned in response.

Shougo slipped his hand into the part of Rei’s shirt, seeking out his bare skin. Rei’s shoulders flinched at the temperature of Shougo’s hands, still cold from the nip outside even though they’d been inside for some time now. When he paused to think about it, Shougo had been waiting for him outside, and even though Spring was on its way, the nights in Tokyo were still fairly chilly. That liar… Shougo must have been trying to spare his feelings when he said he hadn’t waited long. A celebrity’s health was of utmost importance—‘Just what was he planning to do if he caught a cold from this?!’ Rei was about to complain when Shougo stifled any protest with his lips.

“Nm…!”

Shougo kissed Rei’s lower lip, sucking it into his mouth to part them and slip his tongue into the recesses of the other man’s mouth. He tongue found Rei’s and rubbed against it so strongly it felt like his tongue was being yanked out by the roots. Their tongues tangled together, shooting desire straight through Rei.

“Unh…!”

Just as the kiss began to rob Rei of his senses, Shougo scraped his fingers against his chest. Rei let out a muffled noise through his nose at the sensation. Shougo’s fingers twisted and kneaded their way along the other’s chest, and Rei felt his shoulders shiver. Though they’d been cold earlier, those fingers of his were gradually gaining back their warmth.

“Ah…nm.”

When his fingers found a nipple and pinched strongly, Rei felt his knees weaken. He sprang back, releasing Shougo’s lips but for a thin thread of saliva still connecting their mouths. In embarrassment, Rei quickly wiped his hand across lips and broke the connection. For a second, he thought he saw a look of hurt flash across Shougo’s face and was taken aback. It wasn’t as though he had any reason to dislike Shougo’s kisses now, after all this time. He hadn’t meant for it to look dismissive when he wiped his mouth, but if he back-tracked now it would seem like a mere excuse now.

This thing between them might be consensual, but they were by no means what Rei would consider lovers. After all, this whole affair had sprung from Rei’s sense of guilt and sense of duty as Shougo’s manager…right?

“The bed’s right there. No need to be hasty,” Rei explained in a hasty attempt to cover his mistake and looked down, away from Shougo. As he did so, though, he heard a light laugh.

“Not like I can help it, right? It’s been so long. Even though I’d like nothing more than to sleep next to you every night…” Shougo easily smoothed over the awkward situation. And while he’d obviously meant it to sound like a joke, to put Rei’s feelings at ease, Rei knew better than to dismiss the comment so lightly. He berated himself for not thinking of Shougo’s feelings more.

It was becoming increasingly apparent that carrying on with this arrangement for so long had caused Rei to accidentally develop some level of feelings for Shougo. Thinking along those lines made him release an involuntary sigh. He had a feeling that if he delved too deeply into his feelings, he’d find a conclusion he wasn’t yet prepared to accept.

“Rei? What’s the matter?” Shougo sounded concerned at Rei’s silence.

“Nothing. In any case, let’s continue this on the bed.” Rei extracted himself from Shougo’s arms and settled onto the mattress, removing his glasses and setting them on the sideboard before Shougo even thought to move.

“Gotcha!” Shougo’s previous worry dissipated at Rei’s words. He smiled and settled next to him, wordlessly setting to divesting Rei of his shirt.

“I haven’t showered yet, you know?”

“So what? I like the way you smell,” Shougo murmured as he slid Rei’s arms free from his sleeves. He leaned into the nape of Rei’s neck and rested his lips there. “It’s a good smell.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Rei furrowed his eyebrows at the spellbound tone to Shougo’s voice while he continued kissing his neck.

As his work involved a lot of human interaction, Rei did try to remain conscious of the impression he left on others, paying particular attention to his smell. He supposed that, as the temperature that day hadn’t been particularly hot, he wasn’t drenched in sweat or anything, but still. After a full day’s work, other factors notwithstanding, he was bound to smell a bit.

“It’s not ridiculous, it’s true. I think you smell like the best smell in the world.”

“Quit talking and just get on with it!” Rei was finished with Shougo’s flattery, since he didn’t know how to respond to it.

“Gotcha.” Shougo giggled faintly at Rei’s protestations and moved his lips from Rei’s neck to his collar. From there he continued his kisses across the top of the man’s shoulders.

This was always Shougo’s way: to lightly kiss all over Rei’s body as he slowly removed his clothes. It was probably some sort of retaliation against Rei’s strict instructions to leave no lasting marks. Instead, Shougo would kiss his body so lightly it almost tickled, though it gradually became more and more erotic as he continued.

“Uh…!”

Shougo spent extra time at Rei’s particularly sensitive spots, but neglected nothing, lavishing Rei’s body with kisses. Rei soon found himself naked beneath Shougo’s hands, and no matter how much he writhed, Shougo continued to lick languidly, starting from his toes all the way up his thigh.

“It’s so cute that you have so many sensitive spots, Rei,” Shougo remarked with amusement.

“Sh—shut up…” Rei attempted to snipe back.

“Like between your toes…”

“Ung!”

“Or the backs of your knees…” he continued, kissing each part and then licking after. Rei had discovered a surprising number of pleasurable spots on his body of his years sleeping with Shougo. But for all that Shougo was seeking out and paying attention to the most elusively sensitive areas, he was pointedly avoiding Rei’s most sensitive area entirely. Rei writhed with every touch as it brought him more and more pleasure, pushing him closer and closer to the brink. But such fleeting stimulus just wasn’t enough to push him over wholly, leaving Rei teetering at the edge.

“Just…stop! Cut it out already!” Rei shoved at Shougo’s head, which had wandered somewhere around his navel.

“No. It’s not enough,” Shougo lifted his head as he spoke and continued to stretch up Rei’s body until he was able to draw his mouth into a deep kiss.

“…Ah!” Much as Rei didn’t want to admit it, Shougo’s kiss did make his breath speed up. He could hardly tell whether the kiss was more pleasurable or painful by now, his head was spinning so much.

Without breaking the kiss, Shougo trailed his hands down Rei’s chest to again tease at all the points that made him writhe, wherever his fingers caught against Rei’s skin. Every place he brushed caused a bolt of pleasure to course through Rei’s body.

“Nm…mm…”

Finally, Shougo started touching him where he really wanted to be touched. Instead of grasping and pulling on his dick, though, he pressed firmly against it, and as his fingers moved, Rei felt thick, viscous pleasure travel down his legs to the tips of his toes.

“Feel good?”

“Don’t ask me…that. Idiot—” Rei tried to glare up at Shougo to find him incredibly close, smiling happily, without a drop of remorse or apology on his features.

“I’ll make you feel even better…”

“N-no…ah!” Shougo moved his mouth toward the nipple he’d been sharply teasing earlier.

A keening cry escaped from Rei’s throat as the other man obscenely sucked and ran his tongue along the manager’s chest. Rei could tell that he was way too sensitive for this sort of thing, especially considering that it wasn’t as if he hadn’t had sex many times in the past. He knew that this extra layer of sensation had something to do with the fact that his partner was Shougo, but that thought process lead to complicated ground that he didn’t want to explore at the moment—not when Shougo’s tongue was driving away most of his coherent thoughts.

Barely aware of where Shougo’s hands were during all of this, Rei started when he felt them travel further down and finally close around his shaft directly. Shougo’s next words sent a jolt straight through his lower-half. “Mind if I have a taste?”

“D—on’t ask me that!”

Shougo’s expression was the same as ever, but his voice sent a hold of liquid seduction through Rei’s whole body. “Aww, come on. I’d love to hear you say it. Tell me to suck you off…”

Rei gulped and shook his head in disbelief. “I’d never…never say that.”

“Too bad,” Shougo sighed in mock regret. “But you know, I’m going to suck you either way…” he finished and stuck his mouth directly between Rei’s legs, extending his tongue to lick the tip.

Rei jerked at the sudden motion, “Ah! …Uhh…” Shougo wrang the cry from his partner’s throat as he slowly licked him from base to tip. Then he began in earnest, running his mouth over the head and sucking in small kisses. In surprise, Rei’s hips bucked up towards the mouth. Thanks to Shougo’s repeated licks to the shaft before him, Rei’s slit was leaking and twitching, and the wet slurping sound that reached Rei’s ears was grotesquely sexual.

Rei groaned again as Shougo finally closed his lips over the top. He felt as though his lower back was melting from the passionate heat of Shougo tonguing him from inside his mouth. “N-no…stop! Shougo… Let me go…” He’d only been directly touched for a few moments and he already felt like he was going to explode. He could barely hold back, so worried was he of cumming in Shougo’s mouth. Rei tried to push Shougo’s head away, but the man was having none of it. He pulled back once more to the very tip and then licked the head with a quick swipe. He kissed the end and blew against it before covering the whole thing with his mouth again.

It was too much for Rei, unable to hold off any longer. With a gasped moan, he spilled straight into Shougo’s waiting mouth, changing a glance down just in time to see him swallow the mouthful.

Rei quirked an eyebrow in judgment. “Don’t just swallow that kind of thing,” he mumbled. He knew firsthand that it wasn’t exactly a pleasant taste; he’d never been able to get used to it himself and avoided swallowing whenever possible.

Shougo had no such compunctions. “I want everything you have to give, Rei,” he said as he looked deeply up into Rei’s eyes. The cheesy line was even harder to swallow than the actual semen. It was bad enough to get swept away in the act, but Rei felt even worse for letting Shougo voice such feelings. He knew he was a terrible person for doing this sort of thing with Shougo merely out of some twisted sense of obligation as opposed to any real emotions—unlike Shougo himself, who poured his whole self into the act.

While Rei was silently battling his inner turmoil, Shougo had moved on to a more private area. He maneuvered Rei’s knee to bend up so that he could position his tongue further down and in.

“Ah! … J—just use lubricant…” Rei snapped, frazzled by the sudden influx of sensation.

“I’ll use that, too,” Shougo replied easily, moving his head back from between his legs long enough to reply. “It’s easier on you that way, right?” Even as Shougo said the words, he pushed his tongue in as deeply as possible. Rei felt his insides wet with Shougo’s saliva and tensed all the muscles in his back. Rimming was the one thing he had the most trouble getting used to. His vision blurred at the thought of exactly where Shougo was licking. That combined with the all-too-intense feeling of Shougo’s tongue invading a very private entrance always prompted Rei to tell him to stop. And yet, Shougo was undeterred, his hot tongue licking the outside pucker before drawing back and letting the cold air hit the sensitive area, then plunging back in, over and over. As he continued to thrust his tongue inside, he spread Rei’s cheeks apart to angle deeper and further within.

“Uhn—!” Rei’s knees shook as Shougo’s tongue twisted inside him. Much as he mentally disliked the action, Rei’s body betrayed him at times such as these. He felt the heat curl and build in his body with every swipe and wiggle of Shougo’s tongue, and when he pulled pack, Rei felt the tension leave his body with a vocalized gasp.

Shougo moved away briefly to grab a condom packet and tube of lube from the sideboard. “Open the lid for me?” He passed the tube over to Rei while he ripped open the condom package. Fingers trembling, Rei did as he was told and removed the lid, squirting a liberal dollop in the center of Shougo’s palm. Repositioning himself, Shougo pushed one finger as deep as it would go into the crook between Rei’s legs.

“Nn…uh!” The finger curved and twisted within the man, spreading the lubricant and fanning the heat building within him as he got used to the feeling. As the finger brushed up against that particularly good spot within him, Rei’s voice slipped from between his lips in a wanton moan. He immediately flushed.

“I-I…ah!” Shougo gave no quarter and increased the amount of fingers spreading Rei’s entrance. Though it hurt a bit as he pushed more fingers in, the pleasure increased as well. It was only a matter of time before he would be completely swept away in sensation. If only Shougo would just keep fingering that area…

“Looks like this part of you is saying that you want me. You’re clenching up around my fingers,” Shougo remarked knowingly, feeling the way Rei’s body reacted to the stimulus.

Rei flushed again in embarrassment, “N—no, I just…”

“Are, too. See?” Shougo twisted his fingers again.

“Ah!” Shougo proved his point by pushing immediately up against Rei’s prostate, making his hips jerk in response.

Shougo withdrew his fingers and wiped them on his thigh. “Yep, looks like you’re just about ready.” He leaned back over Rei and murmured lowly, “I can’t hold back much longer myself.”

“How many times have I told you to stop saying that sort of thing?” It was a complaint Rei had made many a time yet seemed never to back up with any action. Shougo always wanted some sort of reaction from Rei, so he continued to ask, clearly grateful for any response he could wring from his partner. Rei never bothered to confirm if Shougo actually wanted anything in particular when he made those sorts of comments. He knew that if he asked Shougo about it, he’d probably say something stupid again. That was something he was happy to avoid.

“Gotcha. Getting on with it, as you wish,” Shougo placated in response to Rei’s perturbed attitude. He lifted Rei’s legs and brushed his dick over where his fingers had just been, and Rei inhaled sharply as Shougo slowly pushed in, leaving him feeling as if he was being pulled apart. As soon as the head of Shougo’s penis pushed past Rei’s inner muscles, the rest of him followed in one shove, and Rei gave a breathy yelp as he felt Shougo slide home.

“Sounds like that felt good, huh?” Shougo sounded pleased that Rei was enjoying the experience.

Rei gulped for air to retort, “Sh-shut up…ah!” He’d meant to chide the other man for pushing in all at once, but his voice didn’t have the angry tone he’d been going for.

“You like it when I’m buried in you like this, right? Feels good?” Shougo ground down just a bit for emphasis.

“Ah-hahn… nnh!”

Shougo wasn’t making any pronounced movements, but Rei could feel himself become rallying with only the slow gyrating deep inside him despite having just cum only moments ago.

In the past, he’d never been able to get off when on the receiving end of their trysts, only finding his pleasure when Shougo touched him at the same time. But now, it was as Shougo said: he really did enjoy how it felt when his partner was buried to the hilt. Unwilling to admit it as ever, though, Rei swiveled his head in a sharp no.

“Now you’re just being stubborn.” Shougo sighed fondly at Rei’s stubbornness—and then shoved Rei all the way down onto the mattress to angle himself up for a kiss to Rei’s downcast face.

The sudden change in the angle of Shougo’s member as it drove into Rei’s body caused his passage to contract in pleasure, and he could feel Shougo pulse larger where they were joined.

“Can I move yet?” Shougo asked, almost timidly.

Truth be told, Rei was more than ready. He’d been eager from the start, actually, and slowing down now was not acceptable. “J—just do me already…!” Shougo laughed shortly at Rei’s quick response and grabbed tight onto his legs to begin thrusting in earnest.

“Ah—ah!” Shougo’s cock pierced deep into Rei, stirring up his insides and driving Rei crazy with how amazing it felt. His mind was drifting in a haze of bliss when Shougo’s voice pierced through the mist. “Rei…”

The sound of his name being called like that made something clench in Rei’s chest. They’d come this far and he was so hot that there was no way he could stop now. Or maybe this desperation was a direct result of hearing his name on Shougo’s lips. Either way, it seemed he couldn’t win against his hormones or true feelings.

Shougo had been the one who had moaned his name, but a different face flew to the forefront of his mind at the sound. And when they’d been kissing earlier, he’d found himself focusing on Shougo’s fascinating eyes and imagining they were someone else’s. Such a strange color, he couldn’t help but see another man in them… Even though he knew that wasn’t the person currently buried within him.

“Sh-Shou—go…” Strainging to fight back those thoughts, Rei closed his eyes tightly as he uttered Shougo’s name and wound his arms around the man’s neck, as if confirming just who was in bed with him by repeating his name. Shougo drew Rei in closer as he gripped his neck and waited for Rei’s emotions to settle before beginning his slow thrusts again.

Their bodies clung too close together to allow for any big movements, but they both were teetering on the edge of their respective climaxes. With sweat-slick hands, Rei grabbed onto Shougo and snapped his hips up to meet his partner’s thrusts. Putting some power into his legs, Rei closed himself around Shougo’s cock, and the tightened area made all of Shougo’s movements sharper and heightened the feelings inside him, his thrusts more wild and passionate.

“Shougo—!”

Rei…” At the sound of his name on Shougo’s lips, Rei found his completion. His body spasmed and closed around the man buried inside of him. He could feel the wetness pour from Shougo as he found his own climax as well. The arms around Shougo’s neck lost their strength, drained from such a powerful climax, and fell limp to the bedsheets.

“Rei? …You okay?” Shougo whispered, but there was no response. Rei heard Shougo call his name and distantly, heard the words “I love you” mumbled into his temple.

But to Rei’s ears, it overlapped with another voice in his head saying the same thing…


Rei’s hunger woke him the next morning, and he struggled to open his heavy eyelids—which weren’t the only part of him that felt heavy; his whole body ached with a dull sort of sluggishness that made rising from the bed practically unthinkable. His memories from the night before flooded back in an instant, and Rei woke from his stupor with a start, glancing around at the bedsheets surrounding him.

“Shougo…?”

There was no one else to be found in his apartment, and the shower was empty as well. All that filled the apartment was the still silence of early morning.

“Did he…go home?” Rei questioned, slightly relieved, and his sigh spilled into the room as it slowly filled with light from the gap in the curtains. Rei hated himself for feeling relieved not to have to see Shougo immediately after a night spent together, and he grimaced at the selfish emotion that welled up within him as he thought about the night before. Glancing over at his coffee table, Rei noticed something sitting atop it, and he slid his feet over the edge of the bed and padded over to get a better look.

“What’s this?” It was perfectly normal stationary, but when he looked at the contents, his eyes widened. It was in Shougo’s familiar handwriting, but the lyrics written down on it were some that he’d never seen before. Now that he thought about it, he remembered Shougo idly mentioning during their conversation that he hadn’t yet managed to finish the lyrics he’d been working on recently, and that if he’d had longer to hold on to Rei, he’d have had no trouble with them. Rei had taken it as a joke, but seeing the lyrics finally completed, he breathed a sigh of relief. As he started to read the lyrics, though, his contentment twisted into a tight pain in his chest.

Written on the paper was a love song—and Rei knew well…that all of Shougo’s love songs were written about him, for him.

It was always the same, with Shougo insisting that he always, always sang love songs specifically for Rei. He would never forget the day when Shougo had confessed that all of the songs, every song that his thousands of fans listened to and cried along with, were actually written for him.

He sighed deeply, distracted with the unease in his heart. “Why me…?” he asked the room at large. Rei would never be able to return those feelings, no matter how many times Shougo repeated them. Because he was in love with…

But before his brain could veer into territory he really didn’t want to dwell in, his usually scheduled morning alarm started ringing. Rei lifted his head from it’s slump. “Uh oh. Can’t let time get away from me now.”

He turned off the alarm quickly, eager to return to the usual humdrum of his work days. “Gotta get to work.” Sucking in a deep breath, he put the events from the night before behind him and headed into the bathroom to get ready for his day.

14 Responses to Chapter 1

  1. Flex32 on February 12, 2014 at 9:23 am says:

    Thank you very much 🙂

  2. Keremi on February 17, 2014 at 4:44 am says:

    Thank you! This is srsly amazing, I cant wait for more!

  3. Flex32 on March 8, 2014 at 7:07 am says:

    Thank u very much 🙂

  4. Constanza on April 16, 2014 at 11:26 am says:

    O O I cant believe this!!!!! So sad D: I feel sorry for shougo

    • septemberscans on April 16, 2014 at 11:43 am says:

      Luckily this all took place a loooong time before Shougo showed up…but there’s a lot of heartbreak still ahead! Shougo will be showing up very soon though :3

  5. ShelyGirl on April 24, 2014 at 11:40 pm says:

    Oh no. Don’t tell me he’s in love with…

    • taiga on May 17, 2014 at 2:35 pm says:

      yes, don’t tell me he’s in love WITH……………

  6. Eliso on May 4, 2014 at 3:17 am says:

    Thank you very much!!! 🙂 i just have one comment… Auchhh x__x… been there done that… poor Shougo :s… ( it’s gonna hurt buddy… )

  7. Nomnom on May 17, 2014 at 5:09 pm says:

    So I was really excited and happy when they had sex, like, in the very first chapter (wow this doesnt happen so much) but then this line came up: “he had found himself focusing on Shougo’s fascinating eyes and imagining they were someone else’s.” fucking shit rei u lil piece of- shh shougo bby momma’s here 4 u

    • septemberscans on May 19, 2014 at 6:40 am says:

      Rei has a lot of issues and unresolved desires, so you should read the rest of the books/summaries before making value judgments 🙂 Shougo knows what he’s gotten into, so Rei isn’t really doing anything wrong ^^

  8. Larkawolfgirl on July 30, 2014 at 4:30 pm says:

    OMG I love this so much! Thanks so much you guys~

  9. meganecchi on August 1, 2014 at 9:31 am says:

    Oh, my heart is breaking for Shougo. He’s the perfect boyfriend. Why can’t you see that Rei?

  10. kochan on August 4, 2014 at 2:02 pm says:

    Love this couple very much, and the emotion that Rei been through i can sympathize with that
    Thank you for the translation, can’t wait for more ><

  11. SamuraiSx on August 14, 2014 at 11:47 am says:

    mfgfgfg WHY I READ THIS AT ALL?! no I can;t stop >_<
    I love those two the most <3 I hope in anime Love Stage!! they'll put something for those two too :3 really hoping *Q*
    and you LIL SHIT Rei!!!! If you don't return those honest feelings of Shougo I'LL KILL YOU! *Q*

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