Disclaimer: I do not own Hana Yori Dango.

Chapter 32: A New Gig

What started out with brunch ended up becoming a whole day affair. Tsukasa took Tsukushi to a quaint out-of-the-way café located in one of downtown Tokyo's small side streets. They still had the whole day ahead of them afterwards, and since they wanted to spend more time together, they decided to go to an amusement park a few miles outside the city, where they spent the whole day trying out the rides, having fun, and simply enjoying each other's company.

After going on their nth ride on the roller coaster, and after Tsukasa had won her a ridiculous number of stuffed toys at the many game booths scattered around the park, they decided to finally call it a day and head back home. Just as they were leaving the amusement park, Akira sent both of them identical messages on their cellphones. "Have been trying to reach you the whole afternoon but your phone was out of reach. Got some big news for the band. Let's all meet up at Fat Boy Slim's at the marina for dinner at 8."

It was already 7:30, so they decided to head straight to the marina since there wasn't any time to stop at Tsukushi's house to freshen up. With hands entwined, they walked from the parking lot towards the restaurant in an easy pace, enjoying the way the salty sea breeze blew into their hair. As they approached the restaurant's doors, Tsukasa's tight grip on her hand slackened noticeably, prompting Tsukushi to look up at him questioningly. "What's wrong?" she asked when he finally let go of her hand as they prepared to go in.

"I wasn't sure you're okay with letting the others know about us yet," he replied, looking at her with an understanding smile. "Which is fine by me, really. I don't mind if you're just not ready to acknowledge me as your boyfriend yet in public."

Tsukushi was touched by his concern. She turned to him and brought up her hand to gently touch his cheek, then surprised him by planting a quick kiss on his lips. "Thank you for being so considerate. But I'm proud to be your girlfriend, and I sure as hell don't plan to keep it a secret."

Tsukasa looked extremely pleased, but at the same time he was still unsure. "You do know that once Jiro and Akira get wind of this, they'll never shut up?"

"I think I can handle them," she winked up at him. "C'mon, let's go in. We're already fifteen minutes late," she reminded him as she tugged him by the wrist towards the entrance. Once they were inside, she told him to go on ahead and look for their friends while she made a quick trip to the ladies' room to freshen up.

When she finally found them at a table beside one of the picture windows, she took her seat at the space Tsukasa saved for her, and easily slipped her hand into the one he had laying atop the table. The easy, comfortable chatter they had going immediately halted, with three pairs of eyebrows rising simultaneously.

"What?!" Tsukushi asked impatiently as she looked at the questioning faces of Akira, Soujiro and Rui. Tsukasa meanwhile was trying to suppress the laugh that threatened to spill out of his mouth. Their bandmates' reaction was expected, of course, but that didn't make it any less funny. Jiro and Akira had their mouths agape, their jaws almost dropping down to the tabletop. Rui, who wasn't as slow on the uptake as the double D, quickly put on a knowing smile after the initial shock of seeing Tsukushi so openly show her affection towards Tsukasa. It was about time!

When he finally found his voice, Akira spoke. "Well, well. It seems like I'm not the only one with the big news to share tonight. Tsukushi, I never thought I'd live to see this day. And you," he said as he turned to look at Tsukasa, "You're the man!" Getting up from his chair, he went round to Tsukasa and gave him a big, friendly slap on the back which almost sent the other man diving face down onto his soup bowl. But Tsukasa was far too happy tonight to get mad at having his back almost broken by his over-enthusiastic friend. By now, even Soujiro had risen from his chair and joined Akira in congratulating him.

Rui, on the other hand, quietly turned to Tsukushi and gently squeezed her shoulder. "I'm glad you decided to give him a chance," he said simply.

"So am I, Rui. So am I," she replied with a contented smile.

When the two playboys had settled down back into their seats, Jiro grinned widely at the new couple. "So tell us how this came to be. We want details!" Akira seconded this with a vigorous nod.

"Oh, will you give it a rest!" Tsukushi looked at the two exasperatedly. "Tsukasa and I are together now. That's all you need to know. Get. Used. To. It," she gritted out through clenched teeth, with a stern look thrown towards their direction, indicating she wasn't gonna say any more. "Anyway, why'd you call us for dinner? You said you had some big news about the band?" she queried, hoping the change of subject would finally swing their attention from her new status as one half of a couple.

Akira was put off by her abrupt dismissal of the topic at hand, but another warning glare from her told him he better not push his luck. He couldn't wait 'til she excused herself again to go to the ladies' room so he and Soujiro could grill Tsukasa at length. "Fine," he muttered. "Here's the deal. Last night, while we were waiting for you guys at the hotel lobby, this dude -- he was one of the wedding guests -- came up to us and congratulated us on a job well done. Get this. He owns this new club uptown, maybe you've heard of it. Segue?"

"Heard of it? Hell yeah!" Tsukasa exclaimed. "Ever since they had their soft opening two weeks ago, that club has been in the papers as THE place to be."

"You said it. Anyway, as I said, that guy who approached us last night owns the place. And he was so impressed with our performance at the wedding that he asked us if we'd be willing to play there twice a week, Fridays and Saturdays. They're having their grand opening two Saturdays from now, and they still haven't got a live band to play on weekends. If we want the gig, it's ours!"

"Wow, that is big news!" Tsukushi excitedly said.

"And the timing couldn't be more perfect," Rui piped in. "As you all know, our three-month run at Frenzy is ending this Friday. Much as the manager wanted to renew our contract, his hands were tied because the owner's brother has a band and they're taking over the weekend slot."

"And that's not all," Jiro beamed. "You wouldn't believe how much this guy is willing to pay us!" Tsukasa let out a loud whistle when Jiro told them the figure. Tsukushi's eyes widened in pleasure. With that much money, the band could afford to be more selective in choosing what other gigs they could accept on other nights of the week. They no longer had to work their butts off accepting gigs left and right. But probably even more important was the fact that now, they would have a regular venue with a very influential clientele. Though Segue has been open for only a couple of weeks now, it was already known as a regular hang-out for celebrities and other movers and shakers of the entertainment world. This just could be their ticket to the record deal they had all been dreaming of.

"I would've signed the band on last night, but of course I had to get the consensus of everyone in the group. So, what say you?" Akira looked at Tsukasa and Tsukushi expectantly.

"Are you kidding? Hell, you should've signed us on already when you had the chance! What if he changes his mind?" Tsukushi asked with a worried frown.

"How long does he want to sign us on for?" Tsukasa was in business mode now.

"Six months, with the option to renew."

"We're on. How soon can we meet with this guy?"

"I had a feeling you'd say yes," Akira grinned. "So I told him we're going to check the club out this Saturday. Maybe play a set or two, just to get a feel for the place. Oh, and don't worry about him changing his mind. He assured us the gig is ours if we want it. He doesn't want anyone else. So really, it's all just up to us."

On that note, they all settled to enjoy their dinner. Everyone was in high spirits, especially Tsukushi. What more could she ask for? She was in love with a wonderful guy who loved her in return, she had a job she loved, and wonderful friends she adored. A far cry from the life she had only a few months ago. Things were looking up indeed.

A/N: Am terribly sorry for the extended absence. Have been very busy and also had writer's block. Hope there are still some people left reading this. Let me know you're still there, will ya? Would love to hear from you on the comments board. Pardon the grammar and typo errors, haven't edited this yet.

Thanks to Sailor Angie, Invisible Rain, jeanna, naixil, KyouFan17, len, polabear, XxSwtDreamerxX1, cherub girl, xib, distantorigin, sid, and Makotojs for reading the last chapter. Big hugs and kisses to you all! Mwah!