The rapid thunk of metal on wood repeated itself in short bursts, the sound traveling throughout the small apartment with ease. Accompanied by the hiss of steam bursting through a closed lid and the sizzle of something being stir-fried, the place was unusually filled with the noise of cooking and gave off a sense of liveliness and an urge to say, "I'm home."
The word felt strange coming off her tongue, but she said it anyways. "I'm home," she called out to the kitchen. Setting her bag down and bending over to remove her shoes, she heard a surprisingly loud reply.
"Welcome home!" a voice cheerfully responded, slightly distant but only because of the small size of the apartment. Soon enough, the sound of footsteps made her look up and abandon the knot on her right shoe that refused to come undone.
"Can I have some help?" she sheepishly asked, gesturing to her shoe. There was a small giggle and a quiet "Un!" before the other person crouched down to challenge the stubborn knot. While her shoelace was being worked on, she could not help but smile at the mop of brown hair, fixed by two familiar ribbons, that bounced in front of her face as her helper grunted in frustration.
"There!" The triumphant cry of victory caused her to chuckle as her foot was finally freed. However, a beeping noise interrupted their moment of celebration. "Ah, no! That's the timer for the cookies!"
Smile widening, she watched as her companion hurriedly stood up and sprinted back to the kitchen, tripping over herself in the process and making her apron untie itself from around her waist. With a yelp, she faceplanted onto the floor. Unbidden laughter erupted from her throat at the pathetic whine her fallen companion released, though she tried her best to stifle it.
"Chihaya, this is not funny!" she pouted, rubbing her nose. Shoulders shaking with mirth, Chihaya finally let the torrent of laughter flow free.
"I'm sorry, Haruka," she apologized, not sounding very sorry at all between her grin and muffled chuckles. The blue-haired girl stepped inside to help her friend up, holding a hand out. Haruka huffed at the offered hand. "Okay then. Are you just going to leave those cookies to bake a little longer?"
At the mention of the cookies, Haruka panicked and picked herself up off the floor to hurry towards the oven. "Ah geez!"
"I think an extra minute or two won't hurt them too much, Haruka," Chihaya smiled, trying to calm her friend down. Instead of having its intended effect, however, the comment sent Haruka into an even larger state of panic.
"An extra minute or two will make them hard!" she explained, back turned as she rushed to save her precious cookies. Chihaya watched her go, amusement dancing in her eyes all the while. Hearing an exclamation of relief from the kitchen, the blue-haired girl chuckled to herself and put away her bag and jacket.
A couple months had flown by and seasons changed since their huge success in the New Year's show. Even though the spotlights and cheering crowd from that stage had long passed, many more came to replace them as 765Pro's success continued to build and take over the idol world. If they thought that their workload then was overloaded, what followed was an enormous chaos of work and traveling. Are We Live?! Revolution! took the top spot in TV Ratings consistently and was still going strong, while Miki's and Haruka's musical was met with international success. Chihaya herself had one too many events to perform at and several more offers to record her own solo albums. Thus everyone was gone again, lost amidst their own busy work schedules and events. However, Haruka's previous worries did not resurface.
She knew 765Pro was stronger than that; they were a family that could not be easily broken.
Their tidal wave of good fortune continued on. With the threat of a lawsuit, President Kuroi gracefully removed himself from hindering 765Pro's move to their new office and admitted that Blackwell Company's alleged bankruptcy was all a ruse. Now Chihaya and her friends were greeted by automatic glass doors and elevators whenever they went to visit headquarters. Unfamiliar calls from secretaries or merely a recognizing nod from a passing janitor plagued the poor idols, but they grew accustomed to the new routines. However, a mere week into the move there arose a problem, a change that was brought along with the relocation: Haruka was now three hours away from home. Their work schedules recently increased to insane loads, commuting everyday was simply foolish and dangerous to her health.
So Chihaya offered her own home forward. The offer stunned the entire office, cutting off the rush of chaos and noise that began as the idols and their producers debated on the issue. Haruka was among them, but she was the first to recover. An ear-splitting smile had erupted across her face, a reaction that was related to more than the opportunity for a new place to stay. For Chihaya, the lonely girl who distanced herself from her own parents and stubbornly refused to give away her privacy, this was a large step. A next level, now that she thought about it, of letting people back into her life.
The minute the offer left her mouth, Chihaya was surprised. The proposal felt natural to her, as if it were her right and duty to support Haruka when she was in need. The same feeling had coursed through her when 765Pro reached out to their ribbon-wearing friend during her time of despair, and she did not fight her instincts. She simply trusted that this was the right thing to do.
And it was. One week into this new rooming arrangement, she couldn't imagine life without Haruka.
"Chihaya, can you help me for a second?" Haruka asked, cutting her train of thoughts off. Catching herself, Chihaya dimmed down the level of her smile and answered with an affirmative. Within a few steps she was watching Haruka bustling around the kitchen, frantically reaching for something here and there, and she allowed herself to view the spectacle with a fond eye for a few moments before stepping in to help the frantic girl.
"What is with all this anyway?" Chihaya asked, taking a particularly large pot filled with water from Haruka's shaking arms and placing it calmly down on the stove as per the ribbon-wearing girl's instruction. Haruka hummed to herself and started to chop up a couple leeks before answering.
"It's our one week anniversary! To celebrate a week of hard work and living together!" Haruka widely beamed at her friend. She even swept her arms around in a wide cheering motion and, in the process, knocked against the tray of cooling cookies. She yelped as the hot metal burned her hand, and the cookies nearly went flying too, if it hadn't been for Chihaya's relatively quick reflexes at the moment, her hand grabbing a towel and steadying the tray in one swift movement.
"Are you alright?" Chihaya asked, concerned, letting go of the towel and turning to grab Haruka's wrist gently to inspect the damage. The skin was red, but it didn't seem terribly injured. Nonetheless, she led Haruka over to the sink and began to douse the damaged area with cold water.
"I think so. It didn't hurt too bad," Haruka nervously laughed, flushing in embarrassment. Her eyes fluttered down to Chihaya's hands gently gripping her own under the freezing water, and her flush reddened. "Um... I'm okay now. I'm sure the water is cold..." Chihaya firmly shook her head.
"Hold on. A couple more seconds and then we'll stop, so bear with it a little more," she softly asked. Haruka felt a smile tug at her lips at Chihaya's misunderstanding of what she had said: to think that Chihaya thought Haruka was complaining about the cold and not concerned for Chihaya's own comfort! In return for the unintentional sweet gesture, Haruka obediently stayed under the cold blast of the sink for a little longer.
"There." She removed Haruka's hand. "How do you feel?"
"Cold." Haruka stuck her tongue out playfully, and Chihaya frowned. "Besides that, I'm fine. I promise." Chihaya's frown deepened. "I promise, Chihaya. I'd tell you if I wasn't."
"Right." And she nodded, more to reassure herself than agreeing with Haruka. "Okay. Then..." The blue-haired girl glanced down at their joined hands, made a small sort of choking noise in realization, and immediately dropped Haruka's hand. "Ah, sorry. I didn't mean to get so... protective..." she trailed off, looking rather adorably shy, or so Haruka thought and giggled.
"I don't mind." Haruka smiled. "Thank you for taking care of me." As always, Haruka's cheer was infectious, and Chihaya found herself half-smiling in return. A rush of relief filled the singer's chest as well, glad that her friend hadn't taken offense to her overprotective actions. When it concerned Haruka, some instinctive part of her roared and took control, and she couldn't help but feel a little embarrassed and frustrated with her inability to reign in that side of herself. She didn't know why that side existed anyway, or why her concern with her friend had grown to that point.
To be honest, she thought it might have to do with the fact that Haruka was her first friend and the first person she had allowed herself to get close to since the accident years ago that changed the person that she was. She owed a lot to Haruka. She'd had playmates in kindergarten and such before, but she never considered them to be classified in the position of "friend".
"Come on. Everything's almost ready, so let's finish up and celebrate!" With her sleeve eagerly tugged, Chihaya surrendered herself to Haruka's command, and the two finished cooking without further incident, set dinner up, and had a nice, semi-quiet evening to themselves. Semi-quiet meaning as loud as you can get with Chihaya's fairly soft demeanor and Haruka's boisterous attitude. They made quite the balanced pair, Chihaya liked to think.
"Are you ready for dessert?"
"Ah." Chihaya jumped slightly from her position at the table and moved to help Haruka clear the leftovers that littered the many dishes from their filling meal. "Yes. Dessert sounds nice." That was assuming she still hard room left, considering the fact that Haruka's food was quite delicious and Chihaya had consumed much more than she originally thought was her limit.
The platter of cookies which Haruka had heroically saved made its way to the table, as well as a large white box pulled from the fridge with a wink and smile from the chef herself. Wide-eyed, Chihaya stared at the box, obviously containing a cake, and turned her confused gaze up at Haruka's beaming expression.
"What is this for?" she asked, moving the cookies to the side to make room for the cake.
"This is a thank you for letting me stay with you." Her green eyes sparkled in the light of the room, and unwillingly, Chihaya felt herself drawn into those bright orbs.
"You didn't need to-"
"But I wanted to."
The blue-haired girl smiled softly and shook her head in mock resignation. "If you want to play that way, then fine. Thank you for the cake." Sensing that she had won, Haruka giggled and opened the white box with care to reveal an even whiter cake that glowed. Cutting such a perfect delicacy felt like a crime, but Chihaya took it upon herself to neatly cut two equal slices out, revealing creamy white insides separated by lines of wonderful white whipping.
"Wow, did you... make this?" Chihaya asked, awed. It was professionally made, yet a part of herself insisted that the cake was molded by Haruka's delicate hands. Even as she thought that, Haruka shook her head.
"My mother knows someone who's a very good baker and owns his own bakery, so I asked a favor," she lightly smiled.
After cutting the cake and a small back-and-forth dispute on who would take the first piece, they dug in.
The night passed with quiet laughter and an atmosphere of peace, and after the dishes were washed, the showers taken, their nightly routine completed, Chihaya laid down on the bed and sighed contentedly at the ceiling.
"Thinking about something?"
Chihaya turned her head and smiled. "Not really. I'm... happy, that's all."
"Happy is always good." With a content expression herself, Haruka crawled under the covers and settled in, shifting a couple times and getting comfortable. A warm hand found Chihaya's, and as they both stared at the ceiling, they silently, unknowingly, pondered the same thing.
Chihaya mentally cursed as she dropped the onion in her hands onto the floor and wiped her eyes with her arm. Taking care of dinner was harder than she thought, and perhaps she had been too eager to volunteer to make it tonight while Haruka did some evening work. As she bent down to pick the half-peeled onion up, a heavy feeling set into her stomach and made her whole body tense with anticipation. She had been floating on air the entire day after last night, but the feeling had faded when she entered her home and only darkness greeted her. Perhaps she was already too used to Haruka's smiling face greeting her upon arrival.
A bitter part of her told her she was weak. The new part of her told her she was getting stronger.
Just when she had finally peeled the onion and dried her eyes, she heard her phone vibrate on the counter. She wiped her hands off quickly and fumbled with the phone for a moment before hitting the tiny receive button on her phone, thinking to herself that she should upgrade sometime. However, all thoughts of trivial matters vanished from her head in the next few exchanged words.
"Chihaya, there's been a situation." The producer's voice came out pained and heavy, and Chihaya began to fear the worst. Was someone hurt? Had something terrible happened to the company? Her heart started to race.
"Producer? What's wrong?" she asked. Loud piercing screams and yelling filled her ears, but the sounds weren't panicked. They were more... ferocious and demanding than scared. The producer seemed to shout back before she heard crackling on the phone as, she assumed, he moved away from the noise. Gradually, the ruckus disappeared, and it was much more silent. "Producer?"
"Listen, Chihaya, before I tell you anything, I want you to promise me that you won't panic. Promise me," he pleaded.
"Just... please be calm. We don't need to make any rash decisions, okay?"
"Okay. I can do that." Her eyebrows furrowed, she waited. Despite what she promised, panic chipped away at her heart.
"I want you to very, very carefully peek outside your apartment complex and tell me if you see cars and people outside."
She checked. "It... doesn't seem as if there are." Hearing that, a sigh of relief fluttered through the receiver.
"Alright, that means we still have time to act."
"I'm sorry about the suspense, but it'll be easier if I take a picture and text it over to you."
With great trepidation, she awaited the telltale vibration of her phone, and when the text finally came, the image that loaded ever-so-slowly shocked her into dropping her phone.
All that was visible, from the top of the image that was gradually appearing, were the heading and first couple sentences:
Idols shacking up together? Romantic dinner in the evening?
Sources say that Kisaragi Chihaya and Amami Haruka, close friends and partners, are more than what the idols let on. For all those internet fans that follow 765 Production carefully, the "shippers" who write about fantastical exploits between idols may have been right on the mark. These people, the ones who cheer on romantic relationships between idols (relationships that may or may not be fictitious), are the ones who so vehemently "ship" HaruChiha...
A/N: I would like to say, first of all, that this has been sitting on my drive... for a good... oh, two years or so.
It's a 2-parter. And the 2nd part hasn't even been started yet. But it'll come along someday.
Excuse any mistakes. This is unbeta'd and I really wanted to just put it out there. It's been far too long. (That last part was for shits and giggles, and if you don't know anything about idols, well... let's just say that an idol group like AKB48 has a following that writes fanfiction about real people ahaha)
(I'm one of them. shhhh)