It was supposed to be snow falling. But as the car sped off along the road, droplets of cold rain hit the windshield instead. The rythmic sound of the wiper not really sounding good in Ijuuin's ears. It was a recipe for him to almost fall asleep.

The man exhaled after stepping on the break the moment he saw the traffic lights turned red. Slowly, Ijuuin rummaged into his messy bag in between him and Minase, hurriedly grabbed a menthol candy and popped it inside his mouth.

He seriously couldn't fall asleep while driving, could he? Not when there were two teenagers riding along with him.

Glancing a short one through the back mirror, Ijuuin caught a sight of the brunette with a far away stare through the window. Both the teens were in their own worlds with their mp3 players and earphones popped into their ears.

"Sure he did mellow up a bit...but..."

Ijuuin once more stepped on the accelarator deep in thought.

Thinking about the events earlier that morning. Well he finally managed to make Io admit he wanted to not stay the same way. The man was satisfied with that. What was bothering him though was the teen suddenly clinging to him.

It didn't feel malicious or anything, not at all. But it felt not right as well.

Ijuuin's brows started frowning a little. Truth be told, he wanted to push Io away the moment the teen had encircled his arms around his wait. He wanted to push Io away but if he did, it would make everything for the brunette awkward and that would make them come back to square one, wouldn't it? Why he wanted to push Io away was something he didn't know either. He didn't want to think about it as well since he already have a lot to think about.

"For now, it's okay he acknowledges that I am willing to help him."

Ijuuin made a left turn, sucking on his candy.

"It's been a while since I saw Misaki...right?" the man thought, suddenly seeing Usami and right there, his mood just gotten into a dim state. "Working with that man...honestly..."

Erasing Usami inside his head, leaving Misaki and that teen's bright and innocent smile, pure and honest, intact inside his mind while driving, Ijuuin felt much better.

Misaki was after all, his first ever real love. Or the first person he really wanted to be with. But not all first loves work fine with everybody. Ijuuin was the crystal clear proof of that.

"Hmmm?" Ijuuin glanced at the back mirror once more. He heard Io mutter something.

Io was still looking out the window absorbed with what he was listening to.

Ijuuin threw his glance back up ahead but his ears were directed at Io. The brunette was singing. But the singing he was doing was like the way during the Sonate Competition and his audition. Way out of tune, flat notes and messy vibratos.

"What on Earth..." Ijuuin wasn't bothered at all by Io's singing. He already knew that it was something he'd have to work on with Io. What bothered him was the lyrics that were coming out of Io's mouth while having a straight face as if it were nothing.

"Push up to my body...sink your teeth into my flesh...

Hold me up against the wall...

Give it time begging me some more...Make me feel I like it rough...

Hold my arms above my head and push my face into the bed

Cause I will scream baby make me a mute..."

"What the hell is that song...?" It was the first time ever Ijuuin heard such an outrageous and blunt lyrics that Misaki's face in his mind started vanishing away. Replaced by Io's unkept and sometimes dirty way of acting. He couldn't help, he had to admit, comparing Misaki and Io at some point. They were so different. So much different he didn't want to look at it anymore.

"You push your hand upon my neck

And feel the pulse beep beep beep beep.

It's like a trigger get me ready to shoot.

Wanna wrestle with me baby here's a sneak little peak,

You can dominate the gang coz I'm tough...

"I don't play around that often, when I do I'm a freak.

so you better believe I like rough."

"Is that a favorite song?" Ijuuin cut in, with a forced smile. Sure he was no saint, but that song...was completely out of his league.

Minase seemed to be more nervous on his seat he didn't bother to chime in. Io on the other hand seemed to have heard Ijuuin right away and pulled one of his earphones down.

"No...not much...but it sounds sexy."

"Ah...I see..." Ijuuin replied as he was looking at the side mirror, preparing to enter the underground parking lot of the Sonate building. "That has some...straightforward lyrics."

Io grinned. "Yeah I know."

"And you're not embarassed singing it aloud?"

"Why should I?" the teen asked with a serious face. "It's a nice song."

The darkhaired man frowned at the almost full parking lot that he had to circle the area once more to check. He maneuvered the car at the farthest corner of the lot and stared at the blank wall first.

"It isn't really surprising that he's much more liberated than the others I think..." Ijuuin thought as he started turning off the engine. "But it's what makes the others...think poorly of him."

"We're here. Get your stuff and IDs. No wandering, and..." Ijuuin turned from the driver's seat to the back seat to emphasize something. "Be respectful."

"Hai...hai...sounds like my grandfather...why is it just me with the 'respecful thing'?" the brunette asked before opening the door to his side.

"You know what I mean Io, behave."

As the trio were walking towards the elevator, Io walked beside Minase, seemingly enjoying the tense situation the blonde was in.

"You don't have to be so nervous's just Misaki and well yeah for Akihiko-san, I can understand."

The blonde's face was in disbelief as he eyed Io. Ijuuin on the other hand who was walking behind the two watched them silently.

"You were just told to be respectful, why address such a man in his first name?"

Io shrugged. "Why? We were kinda close, even before all that Sonate stuff and me being impostor came, he allowed me to call him 'A-ki-hi-ko'," Io said emphasizing each of the syllables.

Ijuuin opened his mouth to say something. But he closed them in the end. He was close to agreeing with Minase for a second. However, it was something he shouldn't meddle with.

"Ah...mou..." Minase sighed, giving up on Io.

"Besides, this is like a schooltrip to me," Io continued. "I don't have anything to do with the Newyear's special, but I was dragged here by Ijuuin."

"-sensei," Minase added.

"Whatever...Ijuuin is more like it."

"We're in the working world right show some respect to Ijuuin-sensei Io," Minase countered, sounding less tense, and more irritated.

"You're forgetting something Minase," the brunette mumbled slowing down. "I am one good actor. I've deceived a lot right?"

Ijuuin made his huge steps to reach the two and stood in between them. He patted the blonde encouragingly.

"There's nothing to be nervous meeting Usami-san and Takahashi-kun, Minase. Takahashi, despite the winner of Sonate is still a beginner just like you. Just be the confident you as always."

Minase nodded fervently.

When Ijuuin looked to Io's side, he saw how 'blank' Io's face was. Devoid of any expression. Or maybe trying hard not to show anything. He knew Io was feeling inferior to Misaki at some point, but he wanted Io to gain back again that confidence he had. The Io who sang in the crowd with that scratched up voice to admit who he really was.

He just didn't know if Io's trying hard not to show anything on his face was also because of Usami Akihiko. Ijuuin could still remember how Io cried when Usami arrived at the Sonate Competition, confessing to the entire world their feelings. Maybe deep inside, it was something Io wanted for himself. Ijuuin didn't want to step on a landmine just when the brunette was already being open with him. So he ended up tugging again at his scarf around the teen's neck.

"Be observant," said Ijuuin as Io gave him a wide-eyed look. "That's all you have to do there."

"I'm no newbie!" Io hissed at Ijuuin and hurriedly looked ahead. "It's just..." Io looked at Ijuuin again as if unsure but like earlier, the teen tore gazes with Ijuuin and looked ahead once more. "Nothing."

Once they got inside the elevator all for themselves, Ijuuin stood silently, watching the blinking yellow lights of the floors they were passing by. When he lowered his dark eyes without any apparent reason and looked at the closed opening, Io's reflection, icy and blurry was what he saw.

The teen was looking at the back of his head. Ijuuin wondered if Io wasn't aware that he could see him. Despite the unclear image of the brunette and the unclear profile of Minase checking his mails in his phone anxiously, there was one thing hard to overlook.

Io was looking at him as if the boy was accusing him of something.

"Why are you giving me that look?" Ijuuin asked, as if talking with the Io reflected by the icy, walls.

"You were the one who taught Misaki for the Sonate right? I bet you're excited to see your precious student..." the voice was somehow edgy.

Minase abruptly turned at Ijuuin, eyes wide, mouth half-open. "Ah...I almost forgot about that...he should be under your supervision sensei...then I wouldn't be with this dirtymouthed Io." Minase gave Io a mocking smile. "...ah but things happened..." Minase trailed off. "That great composer and the Sonate winner having a relationship...I wonder...why is everyone seems to be..."

The blonde was lost for words. He always wanted picking up fights and word-battles with Io but he still chose his words carefully with his opinions.

"Gay?" Io leered.

Ijuuin couldn't help but smile. Io always had that sort of annoying yet charming way of irritating Minase.

"No...I think sexuallity doesn't have anything to do with's just that...nowadays...seems like they're dominating every, theater...arts?" Minase waived his hand shooing Io's face like one would do to a fly.

Ijuuin just listened to them. It was somehow enjoyable to watch this two converse even if their start was nothing more of trying to harass the other. They seem to end up talking towards a deeper topic. But unfortunately, even though Io seemed the type who can carry on a decent talk, he have this magnificent talent to turn something into a senseless one.

"Maybe you're just left-out with the trend?" Io nonchalantly commented, brushing his fingers on his hair. "It's never too late."

"God...sensei..." Minase exasperatedly sighed. "...I'm not dealing with this one,"

The sound of a sharp note filled the small space. A signal that they already were on their specified floor. Io hurriedly walked past Minase and Ijuuin, not even allowing the darkhaired man who was the nearest to the opening get out first. An extremely rude manner.

It earned another scowl from Minase.

"Ijuuin-sensei...I'd go crazy dealing with that walking personality-disorder..." Minase whined as the both exited the elevator.

The older man smiled first before looking at Io's back.

"But you've forgotten your nervousness...haven't you?"

Minase was about to contradict what the man just said. But when he did a small search within himself, he wasn't really nervous anymore. Not sure if it was really what was Io's intent from the beginning, Minase just sighed.

The blonde suddenly looked up, eyeing the older man as if he would like to say more but decided to just be of few words.

"'re fond of Io aren't you?"

For a moment, Ijuuin just looked back at Minase's deep, blue eyes. He was numbed by shock that he found it impossible to react.

That sort of thing never really crossed his head. Fondness? As far as he was concerned, he just saw Io like how he used to when he was younger. Nothing else. What Minase came up with sort of came up as a shock.

"Ah! Ijuuin-san!"

The voice called out, and when Minase and Ijuuin looked at the direction, a brunette, tired looking yet still oozing with energy was coming to their way.

"It's nice to see you again!" wearing still the simple clothes Ijuuin could remember from Misaki, no one would know that this teen was actually a millionaire already.

"Mi-Takahashi...kun..." there were times that Ijuuin could still not get past with that 'formality'. Unlike the old days, he just couldn't anymore call the brunette in the casual way. As much as he'd like to remain that way, the day he accepted Misaki's refusal, he decided to start making a barrier, slowly and thinly at first. Still, looking at Misaki, there were regrets of why not pursuing.

What held him back?

Takahashi Misaki, the very first Sonate Grandwinner who took the trophy despite many oppositions and destructive rumors smiled. He had bags under his eyes, pen markings on his palms. Yet the happiness on his face just by seeing the man who in all literal sense pushed him forward to where he was at the moment was very obvious. The boy grabbed Ijuuin's both hands and held them in gratitude.

"I'm glad you're looking fine!"

"You look good too. How's the new life?" Ijuuin asked, smiling gently.

"Oi, you have just been talking on the phone a few days ago..." an icy voice broke the almost tear-jerking reunion. "...what's this drama?"

Lavender eyes straight at Ijuuin's and Misaki's clasped hands, it felt like he was trying to burn a hole on the darkhaired man's hand. But Misaki ignored his sensei and lover and continued shaking Ijuuin's hand.

"I'm really looking forward to working with you again!"

Usami stepped in, grabbed Misaki by the shoulder and glared at Ijuuin. "Work? Then let's get started."

"Oh my god..." Minase gulped. The air felt awkward for him. He just saw two guys get that chummy. Somehow, despite him not going in that way, he felt there was something with the two that felt more romantic than straight couples he knew.

"Usagi-san! What are you-can you stop acting like a child!" the brunette screeched, giving Usagi a punch in the gut to which Usami seemed to didn't mind at all.

Ijuuin watched the two with a smile. A smile that felt like something was pulling the corners of his lips. It felt forced and annoying.

"Uwah...this is Usami Akihiko-san..." Minase whispered to himself, gawking at the popular composer. When he looked at Misaki, he felt that they would already get along despite not knowing each other at all. Such was the air the brunette was giving off. Minase couldn't help frowning deep within him. "Yeah...unlike some brunette I know..."

"L-let go!" Misaki finally freed himself from the chain of Usami's arms and walked before Minase.

" probably must be Minase-kun right?"

"Hi, I'm Minase Daisuke, nice to meet you, Takahashi-kun."

While the two teens were getting to know each other, Usami Akihiko, a complete mess himself as if he just went and made an allnighter meeting a deadline walked over Ijuuin. Same height, same fake smiles, they tried to at least be more comfortable around each other. The long scars of fighting over one person still there. Healing, but was taking really long time to finally close up.

"You watch where your hands are going," Usami mumbled, looking at his Misaki happily greeting the blonde.

"Oh...Yare yare..." Ijuuin mumbled back. "Aren't we the extremely possesive type?"

"I'm just telling you I won't tolerate anything more than a handshake. If you so much brushed his hair, there'd be something flying out of this building."

From the corners of his eyes, Ijuuin looked at Usami for a meer second and withdrew them once more. He could never really remember Usami Akihiko as this talkative. Even when they were in the music school, even in Sonate meetings, Usami Akihiko has always been a man of few words to others. He didn't know perhaps to Misaki he was different, but right now, Usami was talking to him a lot. Despite them all threats, Usami was still talking. A change perhaps brought upon by a bright light they both saw. Only thing was, that ray of light chose to go with the man beside him and not to him.

"Don't worry..." Ijuuin patted Usami on the shoulder once. "I only have pure intentions."

As Ijuuin let the two have more time to talk as the day was just beginning anyway, he noticed something a little weird. Normally, there should be a noisy one in the midst of them getting attention. But that moment, Io was nowhere to be seen.

Ijuuin just didn't notice that the teen he was looking for was not far from them. The more unruly brunette hid himself the moment he saw Takahashi Misaki get out of one of the rooms. He watched the heartwrenching reunion with pursed lips. Watched how much Ijuuin gazed at Misaki gently.

"There's nothing really I could do when you still have that face when you look at him...sensei..." Io sighed turning away.

"I didn't know you smoke."

Blowing a puff of white smoke other than his breath, Io darted his eyes at the figure that emerged from the door he came from. He was at a smoking room that seemed being seldom used. What with all the better smoking rooms with TVs on the other side. Him, opening the window wide open made the entire room chilly.

"A-Akihiko-san?" Io breathed out, standing straight. He had been resting his chin on top of his overlapping arms on the window frame and he had never thought that it would be Usami Akihiko seeing him there. "Why are you here?"

The man walked over to where the teen was and exhaled. Io watched the composer get his lighter and with gracefulness a long time smoker could only achieve, lighted his own cigarette.

"Smoking is bad for your health, you know?" Usami reminded.

Io smiled sheepishly. "Look who's talking? Besides, I only smoke a few times a month. Could you believe I was a chimney before?"

Usami smiled back. "That's a funny sight to look at for sure. Anyway...It surprised me that you are actually having some sort of apprenticeship under Ijuuin."

The boy looked out the window, dragging a long one from his almost halfway cigarette. "Yeah...Some changes of priorities and some thinking led me to the conclusion that I can't stay as wayward as I am."

"That is nice to know...from that short period of time, Misaki and you have matured in many ways," Usami then lowered his head a little to Io. And when the other turned to face him, it looked like Usami was trying to read something on Io's face. "I saw you earlier. Hiding the moment you saw Misaki. What's that about?"

Io bit his bottom lip first. He felt a little sad and grateful and happy that this man was being nice to him. Despite the not so good things he had done with Usami in the past. It felt good. It felt lonely as well.

"Eh?" Io stared back, not even blinking. "Eh...that? Uhm..." Inch by inch, Io lowered his gaze at the older man's collar instead. His lashes fluttering. "I just felt...ashamed."

"Ashamed?" Usami repeated, finally standing back properly.

"You know...I was a real pain for Misaki back in ZONE. Causing a lot of problems for him and acting high and mighty. And I'd be a hypocrite if I said that my pride wasn't hurt in the situation I am in. He's all at the top now...and me? Barely hanging on..."

Ijuuin threw his leather bag on one of the long dark sofas of the music room. It was considerably more spacious than the previous ones he'd used. More sophisticated feel floated inside it. Shining red floor and dragons in gold covered the walls despite the paddings.

Anywhere he looked, it didn't feel like a music room at all. More like a King's salon which was why he hated working in the Sonate building.

On the other hand, Minase was looking so thrilled as Misaki sort of was giving him a little tour.

"This is awesome..."

"All the music equipments here have been replaced just recently as well..." Misaki explained. "The Sonate President is really all-out supporting this project saying we have to get all the best. But in truth, I was already happy with the old ones..."

"Waste of money...over luxury..." Ijuuin exhaled.

Just as he was about to pull out some documents he brought with him; music sheets, notes he'd taken down he'd like to talk with Usami and some more edited versions of his part for the song, he looked around.

Somehow, he'd been grown to watching over what ridiculous thing Shizuku Ishi might be doing that the absence of him, felt a little disturbing. He had grown to all the whining and side comments of the teen whenever he asked Io to do something. So this 'peaceful' sort of environment felt not right.

"Has anybody saw Io?"

"Io's here?!" Misaki exclaimed, a little surprised. "How come I didn't-"

"I brought him with us to observe," Ijuuin explained. He then looked at the closed door of the room. "... but he just vanished on his own and still hasn't returned."

Ijuuin looked at his wrist watch before heading towards the door. "We still have thirty minutes before starting so just relax first. I'll go for the missing punk."

The man rolled his darkblue long sleeves up to his elbows as he was walking. He had been walking around the 12th floor to no avail. Many people had greeted him 'goodmornings' to which he only gave a slight nod as a reply.

He went on walking, wondering where that punk who did whatever he wanted went. It never crossed his mind to go towards the smoking area of that floor. That was why when he finally decided to take that route, he got surprised to see the stick of cigarette burning in Io's hand.

The brunette had his back on him, standing by the window and allowing the chilly air to circle around the room. And beside Io was the man who also just disappeared right after they went into the music room.


The glass sliding doors slightly left opened made Ijuuin feel the cold and smell the scent of cigarettes. Sound of voices that seemed from a distant land was carried by the chilly wind.

"It's all over now. Don't brood over it," Usami soothingly said, ruffling the brunette's hair who seemed to be sniffing. "And I'm have something great in you. Don't hurry it up. It's better taking it slowly. That would be good for me too."

There were already things that Usami and Io had talked about. Stuff that Io had confessed to Usami he would never dare tell Ijuuin. At least not just yet.

When the teen lifted his face to look at the man, Ijuuin found himself almost taking one step inside. He was so sure that those were tears on Io's eyes. Why would Io cry in a place like that with Usami? As far as Ijuuin had learned about Io, the teen was the sort who was the type to never cry in front of just about anybody unless he couldn't keep it anymore.

"Hehe-Thank you Akihiko-san. I've done bad things to you as well but you still treat me kindly..."

"Idiot...Forgiveness are only given to those who ask...and you said sorry before right? That's enough."

The teen wiped his face with his sleeves and jokingly poked Usami on the man's side with his finger. "Don't be so kind, don't forget I liked you before! I might steal you from Misaki again!" Io jested, having his face all bright red, as if he didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

"That straightforwardness of yours..." Usami muttered, ruffling Io's hair once more.

"Shizuku Ishi."

That made Io almost jump out of his skin. He abruptly turned behind him and right away saw Ijuuin standing just outside the sliding doors. What really made him nervous was there were only a few number of times that his current 'sensei' called him by his real name. And those were when the man was not in a good mood or when he had overstepped on something.

"Ijuuin..." Io whispered, making Usami raise a brow. Seeing more in between the lines.

"Disappearing without notice, are you really taking for granted my words of behaving?"

The brunette hurriedly stubbed his already dying cigarette stick to the nearest cigarette bin he could find and ran towards the darkhaired man.

"I just went for a smoke..." Io grumbled. " don't have to look so pissed."

"I'm not pissed. Just tell me where you would go specially that I was the one who brought you here."

"Alright...alright..." Io replied, raising one hand in apology. "I'm sorry..."

The brunette who smelled of cigarettes now turned to waive at Usami. "Thank you Akihiko-san...feel much better now."


And like the teen he was, Io could still be really sarcastic. As if him clinging ti Ijuuin that morning didn't happen. "I'm going to the men's room sensei. I'd be back after six or seven minutes or so. You know...taking a p-"

"Do you have to enumerate everything?" Ijuuin asked feeling a little annoyed which was not so like him.

Io walked away with a pout. Leaving Usami and Ijuuin alone.

Usami remained on where he was, cigarette smoke swirling around him. He had rested his elbows on the window pane, facing Ijuuin by the door. He looked like he was enjoying the look on Ijuuin's face.

"I would appreciate it that you do not take my student all of a sudden smoking."

Usami exhaled, his lips forming into a self-satisfied smile.

The silence that prevailed between the two was heavy. And after a couple of seconds, Usami finally decided to come out of the smoking room. Purposely pausing the moment he passed the other composer.

"That is some possessiveness there, Ijuuin."

chapter end notes:

hello. i'm sorry for the long wait.^^ stuff and stuff and pile of them just won't stop coming to me! why?

┐(´ー`)┌ ワカンナイ! anyway...i loved this chapter for something i couldn't explain. really.^^perhaps i just missed all of them. what with not being able to update for ages! graaaaah!(/ _ ; )

to Lina(guest):

thank you so much. it's been so long since i updated ne? for your last message, thank you very much.^^ i am also happy about Io's development...though it's taking long since i dont want to rush it. also ijuuin's much as possible i don't want to rush that too.

again thanks for the support.^^

to everyone"

*sniff* thank you for the kind words and encouragement.(T . T) i'm truly grateful


ps. the song Io was singing in the car...FLESH BY simon curtis , i had an experience singing that to myself in a public place as well...LoL.