The Strength of Three Part 1 - Break Down
I'm not sure why the headline caught my eye that day. At that point I was more than used to seeing us in the tabloids. Maybe because it was specifically about me. They were usually about Shuichi and Yuki. Or Hiro and all the famous starlets they liked to claim he was dating, completely unaware of the fact that he had a steady girlfriend. And weekly they claimed we were splitting up for one reason or another. The one time I was focused on that I recall before that time was when they claimed I'd flunked my year-end test and would be held back a year. I'd actually had to answer to it on legitimate shows and interviews, too...as legitimate as show-biz gets, anyway. But this tabloid, combined with an unlikely series of events, was going to have a profound effect on my career and my relationship with my bandmates forever...
Suguru, his music folder under his arm, exited the store, pausing on his first bite of okonomiyaki when he spied his picture on a tabloid at the newstand. Making sure his hat and sunglasses still hid his face he couldn't resist going over and taking a look. 'Bad Luck's Suguru Fujisaki - Musical Prodigy or Charlatan?' The headline blazed.
"Charlatan?" Suguru murmured, picking one up.
"Good morning!" Shuichi greeted the secretary at the front desk as he charged through the front doors of N-G Studios. "Hold the door!" He shouted to whoever was in the elevator. Skidding through he saw it was Hiro.
"Hey, Shu. You keep being on time and you'll ruin all of K's fun."
Shuichi laughed. "I'll be late tomorrow to make him happy."
Hiro chuckled. "You've been in a good mood lately. Yuki must be getting nicer."
"More like I'm getting used to him." Shuichi replied, eyes dancing.
"So, did you finish the last song lyrics?"
"Nope." He said just as cheerily. Hiro fell over. "Don't worry, we've got our other new one to record today. Fujisaki said he'd finish the remix last night."
They entered the studio to find Nittle Grasper inside. They were recording a new song as well. K and Sakano were already there.
"What gives? I thought we had the recording studio today." Hiro mentioned.
"The other had technical difficulties." K turned, and frowned. "Shuichi."
Shuichi managed a grin, though he took a nervous step back. "Yes, K-san?"
K pulled out a gun, pointing it as Shuichi's head. "Where's the final song for the new CD?"
"Um...it's not quite done yet." He admitted.
K cocked the gun. "Why not?"
"Um...I didn't have time last night?"
"K! What are you doing? If you shoot Shuichi the song will never get written?" Sakano wailed.
"Calm down, both of you! I'll have the song done tomorrow. And don't worry, Sakano, you know K would never shoot me - not anywhere important anyway."
"Which explains why he always aims at your head." Hiro quipped, taking his seat. Shuichi shot him a glare.
They turned to find the group inside the recording studio staring at them.
"Oops...Sorry! We'll be quiet!" Shuichi promised, taking a seat.
"Shu-chan! Let's have lunch together!" Ryuichi tried to head toward the door, but Noriko grabbed him.
"We have to finish the song, you moron! Back to the mic." She tossed him back into position.
"Quite the slave driver." Hiro commented as the group started singing again.
"...this song is awesome! The beat is great!" Shuichi gushed, missing the fact that Suguru had just entered.
After a minute of watching the other group perform, he lowered his eyes to his music folder, which he was gripping so tightly his knuckles were white. As the song ended the gathered group clapped appreciatively, except Suguru - who's hands never stopped clenching the folder.
"Alright - our turn - get in there and make a hit!" K ordered, gun at the ready in case of complaints.
"Yes, sir!" Shuichi lept up, saluting their manager. Hiro stood up as well as Tohma, Noriko, and Ryuichi exited. "You got the music, Fujisaki?" He turned to their keyboardist.
Suguru's head shot up, his hands still tightly clutching the music folder. "I..." His gaze wandered from the rest of Bad Luck, to their managing crew, and then to his cousin and his bandmates before turning back to Shuichi. "I...didn't finish the remix."
There was a moment of stunned silence. Then Shuichi chuckled, giving Suguru's shoulder a shove. "Don't joke around - you really had us going. Where's the music?"
Suguru glared at him. "I said I didn't finish it! Are you deaf or something? Or do you think you're the only one who has anything so important to do that you can't finish work overnight! Well, I did and it's not finished and...why am I apologizing to you? You're almost never on time anyway!" The gathered group only stared in shock at him, tears were beginning to form in Shuichi's eyes. Biting his lip, he caught Tohma frowning at him, and stepped back. "Stop looking at me!" Whirling away he ran out of the room.
Tohma turned away to look back at the recording studio sadly.
I wasn't sure what everyone would think of my outburst. I wasn't sure what I thought of it. I knew K would be furious, and Sakano in tears. This sort of drama was not something they expected of me. It wasn't something I expected of myself. It was childish and unprofessional, and those were words I never wanted to be associated with. I couldn't go home. K - or, worse yet, Tohma - would be there. Demanding an explanation. Wanting to know what was wrong. And I couldn't explain it. It would only make me feel more pathetic. But if I didn't go home, where could I go? I doubted either of my bandmates would want to see me...
"Yuki...I'm home." Shuichi called out softly as he entered their apartment. To his amazement, Yuki exited his office a minute later.
"Shuichi, what are you doing here?"
"K sent us home. Fujisaki-san...he didn't finish our music."
"I'm surprised he didn't simply threaten him into finishing it there."
"He ran out."
"Fujisaki. Shouted something about not looking at him. He was so upset...what could be wrong?" Yuki grunted in reply, and headed into the kitchen to grab a beer from the fridge. "Yuki, what could be wrong with him?" He followed, his face unusually serious.
"Maybe he finally got tired of working with you." Yuki suggested, lighting a cigarette.
Shuichi's lip trembled, and tears began to fill his eyes, but he slowly got them under control. "Jerk! This is serious." He frowned at his lover, before giving up and turning away.
"Sounds like he's cracking under the public life."
"Eh?" Shuichi turned back.
"You said he said not to look at him, right? Public life of a rock star might be getting to him. Not everyone can stand having their life be public knowledge - their every movement recorded, and every word analyzed."
Shuichi frowned. "You'd think if that were the problem it would have shown up before now."
"Maybe it took time to hit him."
Shuichi thought about it for a moment before answering decisively. "No. Fujisaki grew up related to Tohma - he knew what he was getting into. There's something else. Something I saw in his eyes. I should know what's wrong."
"Idiot." Yuki growled. "How can you? And you can't fix people, anyway, so why worry?"
"Because I can help them." Shuichi argued. "At the very least I can help the people I care about...Yuki?" Shuichi paused when the older man came up, trapping him in the doorway.
"Sometimes...you remind me why I like having you around when you don't even mean to..." Yuki told him, leaning down to capture his lips with his own. Shuichi wrapped his arms around his neck, Suguru temporarily forgotten.
Suguru wandered through a park, watching as the setting sun cast everything into strange colors. Sitting down on a bench he opened up his music folder. Inside was the tabloid from before. Opening it to the article he gazed at the pictures of his cousin and him inside - each with their own bands, before turning to the written words on the page.
'When Nittle Grasper blazed onto the music scene, there was no doubting its three members were all stars in the making. After the initial break up keyboardist Tohma Seguchi created his own production company, forging a musical empire.
'When now rival band Bad Luck took the country by storm, it's keyboardist - Suguru Fujisaki - was credited with the group's music remixes. Fujisaki, not so coincidentally, turned out be Seguchi's cousin. Nothing like a blood relative to help get one foot in the door.
'Bad Luck began as a high school band made up of classmates Hiroshi Nakano and Shuichi Shindo. The two were signed by N-G Studios then-newest producer Sakano after graduation, and continued performing as a duo even during the start of the band's career. One has to question the late addition of Suguru to the mix. What prompted the band's line-up change? Fujisaki's supposed musical talents or his relation to the head of the production company?'
Slamming the folder shut, Suguru collapsed back onto the bench. 'I've got to get a grip.'
"Trouble in Paradise?" A familiar voice asked.
Sitting up Suguru found himself looking at Ryuichi Sakuma. Though the singer, like him, was disguised in a hat and sunglasses he had no doubt of his identity. He'd known the music business all his life. At this point sunglasses and hats were easy to see around. Even if he'd had any doubts the question settled the matter. Paradise was the name of the single Bad Luck was supposed to have recorded that morning. "Sakuma-san...I didn't see you there." He lowered his gaze. Unfortunately that left him looking at the music folder. His grip on it tightened.
"You look like you could use a friendly ear." Ryuichi was not in his playful mood. His face was serious, and his eyes held the intent, mature look that was usually reserved for performances.
"I want to be alone." The words came out before he had time to think about how rude they were.
"I didn't say anything about what you wanted." Came the reply.
Suguru's grip on the folder tightened even more. "Oh, so you expect me to talk to you? Why? So you can go back and tell Tohma everything I said?"
Ryuichi frowned. "What? You think Noriko and I are Tohma's spies? Or his puppets, maybe? That we couldn't possibly go out of our way for someone unless it was for him in some way?"
"I didn't mean it like that."
"Then what did you mean?"
"I don't know...maybe I did." Suguru's shoulders slumped. "I just can't face Tohma right now."
"Nobody said you had to." Ryuichi sat down on the opposite side of the bench. "But everyone is worried about you."
"More like furious with me."
"Why would you think that?" When the only reply he got was Suguru folding his mouth into a thin line, the older singer sighed again. "It's alright if you don't want to talk to me. But be sure to talk to somebody." He stood, giving the silent keyboardist a sad smile. "Because you need to, even if you don't want to." When he still received no response he shook his head and walked away.
Suguru didn't realize he was crying until a tear splashd on one of his hands which was still clenching the music folder.
"Yes. I understand. He's not at the family home either?" Tohma frowned. "Not that I know of. Please keep me informed, K." He hung up the phone.
"He's not at his apartment or any of the larger hotels?" Mika asked from behind him. They were in their house and night had fallen.
"No. I have no idea where else he would go." Tohma sat down, resting his chin on his steepled fingers.
"He's not a child, or an amateur. He can look after himself." Mika perched herself on the arm of his chair.
"I shouldn't have encouraged his interest in the business." He sat back.
"Somehow, I think he would have become involved with it whether you encouraged him or not. It's what he wanted." She frowned. "And what does that have to do with this?"
"Whatever's bothering him is industry related."
"You don't know that."
Tohma sighed. "But I do. Because that's all Suguru makes time for in his life."
What hit me the most after my encounter with Ryuichi was that I had nowhere to go to. Even if I wanted to tell someone what was wrong, I couldn't - because I had no one to run to.
My life, my world, was centered around my music. Nothing else existed to me - and so I didn't have anyone in my life seperate from it. And everyone connected to it had been present for my outburst.
I rented a new place, and even bought a new keyboard since the two I owned were at either N-G Studios or my apartment. And I didn't feel like I could face either place.
In a nearly empty apartment, Suguru had set up a keyboard and was trying to play a song. He would stop only to start over, then scratch something out on a sheet of music. Eventually he scrunched the paper up and tossed it to the floor on a growing pile, only to start over. A few minutes later he stopped again, slamming his hands down on the keyboard and lowering his head on top of them.
"Good morning." Shuichi's greeting to the secretary at the N-G Studios front desk was subdued. His mood was somber as he reached the elevator to find Hiro waiting for him. "Hey." He greeted his friend.
"Hey." Hiro returned.
"Any sign of Fujisaki?"
"I haven't seen him. I was waiting for you."
Shuichi nodded as they entered the elevator. "Do you think he's alright?"
"I don't know. I've never really seen him freak out like that before."
"...Do you think he'll show?" Hiro asked after a pause in the conversation.
"...Let's look on the positive side." Shuichi offered a smile. "Maybe he got whatever's bothering him out of his system. And he'll come in today with the remix."
Shuichi's optimism was catching, and Hiro managed a smile. "Did you finish the final song?"
"Nope!" Shuichi replied cheerily. Hiro sighed.
Exiting the elevator they entered the practice room. K and Sakano was there, but Suguru wasn't. "Not here yet?" Hiro asked.
K didn't reply, only tapped his gun against his hand.
"Why don't you two warm up?" Sakano suggested, looking worried. But then, he usually did.
Exchanging a glance Hiro and Shuichi took their usual positions when the door opened again. Everyone turned, and was met by the sight of Suguru, holding his music folder, entering slowly. Before anyone could say anything K pointed his gun at him.
"K!" Sakano wailed his complaint, but was ignored.
"You wasted a whole day yesterday." K told Suguru. The keyboardist bit his lip, but didn't reply. "I'm waiting for an explanation."
"I don't have any...and I don't have the remix either." Suguru told him.
K cocked his gun. "Why not?"
"...I came to tell you that I'm quitting Bad Luck and N-G Studios."
To Be Continued...
More to come! Review? Pretty please?