"Slow down!" Miyagi shouted, "Shinobu-chin! I… I'm having a bit of trouble walking and this isn't helping!"

The blond scoffed. "Shut it, old man. There's something going on over there and I want to see what it is."

Misaki glanced up at "Hideki's" radiant smile. "Um… Sensei? I hope I didn't just ask too much… I didn't mean to!"

"Ah, Takahashi," Usami's competition breathed, "your charisma is as refreshing as always. You haven't changed a bit." He snagged a glimpse at the simmering violets narrowed at the two, and his grin broadened. "I only write manga on the side, Takahashi-kun. Being a designer has always been my top job. I mean, who else do you think designed Za Kan spring line last year?"

The boy's eyes widened and altered to a glassy state. "Waaa! Are you serious? Sensei, those are my favorite pajamas!"

An irritable throat clearing nudged through their conversation. "I do hate to interrupt your precious reunion, but Takahashi, you're supposed to be on stage now," Usami sneered.

"Ah, right! I'm sorry about that!" Misaki bowed repeatedly and rushed toward the curtains, nearly crashing into Shinobu, who had been eavesdropping.

Ijuuin couldn't help but to smirk at Usami's darkening aura. "I'm surprised a snake like you would have such a sweet boy working for you. If I didn't know any better, he's completely oblivious that you plan to toss him right out once the show has concluded." The man tsked. "So like you. I never expected anything less."

"What the hell are you rambling on about?" the silver-haired growled, "What I do with my company is my own business."

The other designer shrugged. "I'm only stating the obvious, Usami-san." His tongue clicked in disapproval once more. "If you're going to do that, then hand him over to me. At least he'll be taken care of and get the attention he deserves."

"As I just informed you, what I do is my business and mine alone," he hissed, "You are the last idiot I need in deciding my actions." Usami's eyes only narrowed at the grin that refused to diminish from his sight. "However, what I do want to know is, what you find so fascinating about Takahashi."

"Isn't it obvious?" Ijuuin had to shake his head at the question. "I find his personality refreshing. Everything about the kid is alluring, but you're so thickheaded, how would you even notice that?"

Misaki breathed as he whisked back through the curtains. "Whew. That wouldn't have been so tough if there weren't a million lights flashing in front of me!" He paused in prattling to himself when he detected the two designers still engaged in conversation. "Yipes. Better not go over there," he mumbled and fled in the opposite direction.

"Not bad," a voice startled him, causing him to nearly knock the other boy over, "Geez! What the hell are you so jumpy about? Your part is over!"

Shinobu ignored the baffled emerald spheres and lightly chuckled. "So, you're close to the number one guy Usami loathes. You do know you probably pissed him off more than anything." The blond grinned. "I look forward to seeing how this plays out."

"I…" the youth stuttered, "I didn't mean to make him mad! How was I supposed to know my favorite mangaka was his competition?"

"Takahashi-kun," Ijuuin purred as he made his way back toward him, "I regret to say this is goodbye for now, but don't worry, I will definitely be seeing you around. I'll be in the area for the next few days, so why don't you drop by and come play for a bit?"

Misaki visibly blushed. "Ah, sensei… that…" He blinked, realizing the man had already disappeared from sight. "Where did he…"

"Takatsuki!" a familiar voice bellowed before the silver-haired designer headed their way, "You're up next. Get out there and don't make a fool of yourself like last time!"

"You may call it that," Shinobu coolly replied, "but I can't help that I look so great in these pants."

Misaki flinched. The silver-haired was encased in one of the most ruthless moods he had ever seen him in. Was this all his fault? All because of… "Ah, Usami-san? Are you…"

"What?" he barked, "You finished, so no one said you had to stay here. You can leave if you want. I have no more need for you right now."

The boy frowned, watching the designer walk away. "Guess it is my fault…" he whispered to no one but himself, "Maybe I'll just go home…"

.

.

The Devil's Portrait

VII

.

.

Isaka's baby azures glistened as he barged through Usami's office unannounced. It was already noon by the time they returned to the building, after apologizing to the hotel for any… mishaps that may have occurred. The man's brow furrowed when he encountered the vacant desk of the designer.

"Not here again?" he sighed after Aikawa strolled through the doorway, "Don't tell me he's in a bad mood. We won the competition last night, and! I just found out Kino-san will be returning next week."

Aikawa frowned. "Kino-san is coming back? Oh. I had hoped we could…"

"You already knew Akihiko wasn't going to keep the kid," he replied as he seated himself in the whirling chair, "I did tell you not to get attached to him."

"I know that, but-"

They were disrupted by the usual routine of the door violently slamming against the wall. The muffled voice of Sumi echoed from the other side, nose pressed into the wooden surface. Usami scowled, making his way toward his desk before pushing the manager out of his chair.

"Akihiko!" Isaka beamed, hastily returning to full height and leaning an elbow against the desk, "Why so annoyed? We won yesterday!"

But the designer just rudely ignored him. Usami seemed to be submerged in deep thought, despite the unmoving scowl upon his face. There was one perplexing circumstance that had been ticking him off ever since the show last night and his encounter with Ijuuin.

"I'm aware of that," he profoundly rumbled, "That doesn't explain why the hell you're in my office though."

Isaka tapped a slender finger upon his chin. "Ah, that's right! I wanted to tell you Kino-san called this morning to say he would be returning."

"Good for him." Usami's expression didn't alter. "He already should have known the second he called out, that I was done with him. You should have told him not to bother."

Both the manager and Aikawa stared at one another.

"Well," Isaka began, "you do have to let him back or we'll be short of a model."

Usami leaned back in his chair, arms folding over his chest. "We have Takahashi, don't we?"

The manager's brow elevated. "… For now we do, but I thought you were-"

"I'm keeping him," was the simple reply, "I don't want any debate on it. The answer is final. The brat is staying."

A squeal emerged from one portion of the room. "This is wonderful!" Aikawa giggled, "Have you told him that?"

"Why would I need to tell him? He should be downstairs with the others."

The woman flinched. "Not exactly. You see, he didn't come in this morning. I've been trying to call him, but he won't answer." She paused to sigh. "I was thinking of going over to his-"

"Where is the address?" Usami questioned, pushing the pile of papers off his desk and to the floor, "It's around here somewhere, isn't it?"

"You bastard!" she screeched, "Those took me hours to fix! No! It's not there! Geez, you could have just asked me before you made a damn mess!"

Isaka remained motionless as the woman chased Usami out of the room. "Oh, Akihiko. What the hell are you up to now?"


Misaki rolled over when a knock disturbed his slumber. His nose scrunched, one emerald orb gazing wearily at the archway of their small kitchen. Had Toudou forgotten his keys again and ran home to get them before work? That was usually the case, but the blond always preferred the ringing of the bell over knocking.

Sighing, the youth tumbled out of bed. Why did he have to be roused? The dream he was having was so pleasant, one that didn't involve Shinobu telling him he was probably fired. It was after the show concluded last night that the slate-eyed boy informed him that this was the end of his career. Even if Usami hadn't directly spoken of it, his actions said all, and Misaki decided it was in his best interest to just stay home from then on.

"I'm coming," he yawned as he slid into his slippers and trudged toward the door. Misaki fumbled with the chain lock before pulling the door open with another loud yawn. "Really, Toudou, this hobby is becoming so-"

He froze when he was met with violet eyes instead. Eyes that certainly did not belong to his roommate. Misaki's throat grew barren, the words tangling in his throat. Why was the silver-haired designer here? The only assumption he had was the man had come all the way to give him the news. He wasn't friendly as Aikawa was, so the probability of that being the reason was extremely high.

"Takahashi," Usami greeted, his face expressionless. Though, his eyes seemed to be studying the brunette's appearance.

"Ah…" the youth began, feeling quite embarrassed at his bed tousled hair and wrinkled pajamas, "U-Usami-san… Oh, I'm so rude! Please come in!"

The man stepped through the entranceway and removed his shoes. Usami frowned, glancing around the cramped apartment the boy dwelled in. Did people really live in such tacky conditions? He scoffed at the thought and followed the younger into what he assumed was the kitchen.

"I didn't expect company…" Misaki muttered, "Can I get you an-"

"Why didn't you show up this morning?" the designer interrupted in his suave tone, "For that matter, why weren't you present at the meeting after the show concluded?"

The boy flinched, his cheeks morphing into a rosy hue. "Ummm… I had thought that..." What was he supposed to say? Had he misinterpreted Usami's actions? If so, that would mean… "Er… I thought after the conversation with sensei that… you… would feel odd having me there… and…"

"What the hell gave you that idea?" he scowled, "Unless I directly informed you, my actions are worthless. Therefore, you had absolutely no excuse in blowing off both the meeting and this morning."

Misaki flushed and glanced down at his feet. So, both he and Shinobu had been wrong. He felt like an idiot. Now that he had indeed made the mistake, was Usami here to tell him for sure he was let go of?

"Are you even listening?" the sharp tongue cut through his thoughts.

The boy nodded. "I'm sorry. I just thought that since sensei was your enemy and I'm really not qualified for the job… that you were pretty much done with me."

Usami stared at him for a moment, expression as apathetic as usual. "To be entirely honest…" he paused to slightly chuckle, "you weren't completely in the wrong. At first, yes, after the show was through, I was going to drop you. Mainly because you lack the basic skills needed for the job."

Misaki cringed but allowed the man to continue.

"That," the designer took a step toward him so he was able to peer down into the bewildered emeralds, "was my first decision, but something made me change that."

The boy's eyes amplified as he peered above him. Usami was precariously close to him, to a point he could easily detect the heat between them. Misaki inched a step back, only to have the man follow like a chain reaction.

"You see," he continued, "if both my planner and that other idiot designer have an interest in you, that catches my attention. Aikawa seldom takes an interest in any of our models, and Ijuuin…" Usami paused to lowly growl at the name upon his tongue, "…I couldn't care less what he thinks, but if both of them speak of you so highly, I couldn't let a chance like that slip by."

A light smirk twitched to life upon his traditionally frowning lips. "So you see, Takahashi, I'm rather intrigued to learn what those two see in you." His head bent, curving until locks of silver tickled the boy's nape, lips hovering over his ear, "… and I intend to satisfy my curiosity."


End notes: Thank you for the follows, comments and messages (that I have yet to read...). I'm glad you're all enjoying it, just as much as I enjoy writing it (even though I severely lack the time).