"Stop pacing, it's driving me nuts," a nasal voice spoke from behind a martial arts magazine.
"I can't help it," the flame-haired youth said irritably. "I've gotta do something. I...I want to see him again."
Tamahome raised an eyebrow, questioning his friend as he lowered his reading material. "Him?" Not that he had to ask, he knew exactly who the other was talking about. He didn't think it was possible, but Tasuki was actually stuck on someone. And a boy at that! The teal-haired singer almost laughed at the thought. But then, the situation seemed to have made his partner less...grouchy lately, and he was not about to jeopardize that. The youth was usually a cheerful, playful person, but after Tamahome and Miaka's engagement was announced he became more and more moody and started drinking more. This new affection could only be a good thing. Although...it wouldn't hurt to tease a little bit. "Him who?"
"You know," Tasuki said like his bandmate was some kind of idiot, "Chichiri!"
"Oh, him," the other smirked.
Finally stopping his pacing, the idol sat down on a nearby couch and gazed out the window. He couldn't help but be reminded of the boy he'd only just met even more at seeing the clear sky, like a blue freedom. He definitely associated the color blue with the masked teen. "I can't explain it.... I've never felt like this before."
"So why don't you call him?"
The red head rolled to face the other side of the room, looking at Tamahome with an 'are you stupid?' expression. "I don't have his phone number."
"Ah, I see," the other smirked. "Oh, what's this?" He took a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and chucked it at his friend, hitting him square in the nose. "A piece of paper seems to have fallen out of my pocket."
"Ya didn't have to hit me with it!"
"Next time I'll have Nuriko throw it at you," he joked.
Tasuki flashed a smile, then turned his attention to the paper he held. Unfolding it revealed seven numbers written in child-like handwriting. "What's this?"
"It's Chiriko's number," his smile went unseen to the amber eyes that widened in realization. "Miaka and I promised we'd take him to the zoo sometime." He knew the other youth wasn't paying any attention to him, but he continued anyway, "it was Miaka's idea, really, with the way she loves kids, but I figured it'd be fun. So we exchanged phone numbers and-" He stopped when the other stood and headed out of the sitting room, having decided what to say when he got a hold of the blue-haired teen. "Hey, where are you going? You don't just get up and leave when someone is talking to you," he joked.
The fiery star halted in the doorway and looked at his partner and friend. The other smirked, waiting for some smart-ass remark. "Tama...thanks." With a fanged grin he was gone, leaving behind a stunned Tamahome.
It was almost a relief to the teen when the phone started ringing. He'd been studying hard for the past two hours, and felt as if his brain had started to fry from over-usage. The break, however short, was quite welcome.
"Moshi moshi?" he spoke into the receiver.
...And got no response.
"Hello?" A little more loudly.
"Hey..." the voice on the other end spoke up. And what a beautifully familiar voice it was! "...It's Tasuki."
The boy's one good eye almost popped out of his head, then narrowed after the initial moment of shock. "This is a joke, right? Suboshi, if that's you I'm going to-"
"It's not a joke," the voice - Tasuki - interrupted. "Chiriko gave Tamahome his number and he gave it to me and I called him and got yer number and..." he took a second to breathe, "...and now I'm calling ya."
Chichiri's eye widened; this was real! "I...I'm sorry...I never thought...." 'Never dreamed' he added to himself.
"So I was...ya know, just kinda bored and thought...well...would ya like to hang or somethin'?"
He looked over at the mountain of books and homework that covered his desk. Sure it was the weekend, but he'd planned on spending the free days getting caught up in class. On the other hand...a day with Tasuki didn't come but once in a lifetime, and it would be really dumb to pass it up!
"I'm free," he smiled into the phone.
A short while later found the two sitting at a pleasant outdoor café, Tasuki drinking some kind of juice concoction and Chichiri a bottle of iced green tea. They immensely enjoyed each other's company, and talked about everything under the sun, but also spent some moments in comfortable silence. Both of their hearts felt a calmness from the other's presence.
"How are the others doing?" the blue-haired teen questioned.
"Pretty good," said with a smile. "Tama and Miaka are really busy with their weddin' plans."  It was odd, but thinking about it didn't bother him as much when in the other's company. Like the loneliness he usually felt when considering his bandmate's engagement was somehow lifted. "Her and Nuriko actually went dress shopping together today," he laughed. "Speaking of Nuriko...." his look became a bit sly, "he really has a thing for that long-haired friend of yers."
"Yeah. All day long it's Hotohori this, and Hotohori that. Real annoyin'."
Chichiri smiled. "I've been seeing him quite a bit and, I'm sorry to say, but I don't think he even remembers who Nuriko is."
"Oh?" Tasuki's heart contracted at the 'seeing him quite a bit' part, and he could feel a certain green-eyed monster creep up on him. "I think they'd make a cute couple, both bein' so conscious about their looks an' all."
He wanted to believe, could have sworn, maybe it was just him, but did Tasuki actually sound jealous? About him spending time with Hotohori? Couldn't be....
'What is it about him? Why am I so drawn to him? Could it be his kindness? His friendliness? The way he can be so playful, like a fox, while still maintaining an air of maturity? Or is it the way he continues to smile even though he is so full of pain? ...I probably shouldn't even be here....'
And yet, there he was.
The noble youth looked at the small house where his blue-haired friend lived alone. In the time they'd been spending together, Hotohori had learned that the same accident that scarred him, though he wouldn't ever say what it was, also took away his whole family and two of his best friends, everyone who was important to him. He got enough money from the government to be able to live on his own and, aside from the few friends he kept close, he lived a bit like a hermit, only going out when necessary or when he suffered from the occasional bout of restlessness.
He approached the front door and knocked gently. The teen always seemed to know when someone was there, so anyone who visited him often enough knew there was no point in banging loudly on the door. Actually, his sense was so keen they probably didn't have to knock at all, but it was the polite thing to do. When it became obvious that no one was home, Hotohori sighed and stared at the door a minute more, as if willing the smiling boy to appear.
The youth turned around, to the sound of the voice. Guess it worked, there he was. With a pop idol next to him, giving the unexpected visitor a look.
"What are you doing here?"
"I...was just stopping by to say hi," he said with a slight pause. "But if you're busy I'll go."
"No," Chichiri gestured towards his door, "stay. We were just hanging out."
"Actually, I've gotta get goin' anyway," Tasuki suddenly spoke up. "Rehearsal an' all."
"Oh...." The blue-haired boy hoped he didn't sound as down and he thought he did, that would be giving too much away. Though he was cheered a bit when the other pulled him into a brief hug.
"I'll see ya later," he said as he released the shorter teen. With a slight wave to Hotohori, the fiery youth left, while a mahogany eye watched through a mask.
After a moment, the remaining friend's voice spoke, "I didn't know you two were seeing each other."
"It's not like that," a blush crept over Chichiri's face...not that the other could see it through the mask, and he was grateful for that. "He called me just today, and we decided to go out. ...That's all."
"Oh," said softly, then a bit louder "well I think it's great that you get to spend time with someone you admire so much."
"Mm," he nodded, smiling wide.
They went inside the small house and Chichiri brewed his favorite green tea, putting the kettle and two of his nicest tea cups, as well as a few cookies, on a tray to carry into the sitting room where his friend waited. He felt maybe it was a little formal, but something about the longhaired youth made him want to be a little more polite than usual. He just couldn't place what it was....
As he placed the tray on the coffee table in front of his friend, his slim wrist was caught in a tight grip. He looked up, shocked, to meet Hotohori's too serious eyes. "Wha-?"
"Chichiri, I...." the other stammered. "I have to tell you...I can't help...." His grip became more firm as his resolve did. "I need to tell you how I feel."
"I can't hold it in any more! I...I think I love you."
The masked teen pulled away, not forcefully, but with enough strength to remove himself from the other's grip. "Hotohori...I'm sorry...I...."
"Don't be sorry," golden eyes looked away. "I don't expect you to feel the same. We hardly even know each other, but I can't go on pretending there's nothing there." His face held a mixture of all the strange emotions, unknown feelings, which were running through him. When Chichiri's hand covered his, he looked back up into the smiling face.
"I understand," he began. "I know what it's like to have profound feelings for someone...out of reach. You're my friend; I wish I could return your feelings and make you happy. But I won't lie to you, that would just hurt both of us in the end."
Hotohori took the other's hand and held it to his cheek, closing his eyes as he felt the soft skin against his own. "It would mean the world to me...if we could at least remain friends."
With a true smile, Chichiri caressed the other's flawless face, then pulled his hand away gently. "Of course!" his high, cheerful voice came back. "We'll always be friends! And, ya know," he continued as he began pouring the tea and distributing the cookies, "I don't know if you remember Nuriko, but it seems he really has a thing for you."
"Oh, yeah?" Hotohori laughed. "He's the really pretty one, right?"
They spent the rest of the day talking and laughing, not mentioning the confession again, but feeling a bit closer to one another knowing they had a friendship full of complete trust.
"The nerve of that boy!" The golden haired Emperor stormed throughout the palace, "after all we've done for him, he has the gall to run away! I thought we raised him better than that!"
"My Lord, please calm down." The Empress, Queen Soi, followed behind her husband, making a feeble attempt to calm his temper. Though she too was upset at the Prince's actions, she knew an enraged Nakago spelled trouble for everyone. More than trouble...it was downright dangerous. "I'm sure he'll come back."
"He shall be punished!" he continued on, ignoring his companion's words. "I'll make him an example to anyone who even considers disobeying me."
"But he is your son!"
"He is not my son!!" the Emperor roared. "He is a traitor, and his punishment shall be death!!!"
His words sounded throughout the palace, echoing to a deafening silence. The Queen held her tongue, not saying anything lest his Lord's temper be turned on her. She'd never seen him this angry before, and knew there was now no way to save her son. He had spoken.
After a deathly silent moment, the icy Emperor grabbed the nearest guard and growled into his face, "bring me Ashitare."
to be continued....
 Oh, yeah...so busy Tamahome has time to sit around reading magazines. ^^*
Anou...I know this part is kinda short. Especially compared to the previous one.... ^^* But...uh...in the middle of the chapter I ended up losing my notebook. Now I have little (aka: no) idea what's supposed to happen next.... Looks like I'll be winging it from here on out....