Black Alleyways and Bleak Hearts Five

Heading out of my bedroom and into the study, I grabbed my portfolios and what all I would need for work today. Checking the mirror in the hall, I hoped Towa didn't mind my somewhat casual attire. After this morning's ordeal I wanted something thick between myself and the outside world which had cough hobos cough somewhat undesirable effects on me.

I found my dressiest jeans, which were a dove grey with pale pinstripes and a frilly button-up hoping that they would be accepted as well as my normal attire.

Just thinking about this morning made my insides churn with suppressed rage, and what was even worse was that it made me come up with a great idea for the name. Stupid hobo. Speaking of the hobo, he was sitting on my couch watching TV as I passed him in the living room. Motioning a small goodbye I gave him a disbelieving look as he turned off the TV and made to follow me out the door.

"We're going to miss the train if we don't leave Orca-chan." Izumi-san said with a pleasant smile. He was enjoying ruining my life- I just knew it. Those special moments watching fat guys throw themselves at each other meant nothing now.

Sighing with all the air in my lungs, I trudged out the door, deciding to give him the silent treatment. It worked. Halfway to the train station Izumi-san's off-and-on monologue cut off abruptly and he frowned, waving a hand in front of my face. "Earth to Orca-chan, your hobo is calling."

I allowed the small smile to come out, because I knew it would only worsen if I didn't let it, but Izumi-san's pleased face still irked me. I didn't want to bring him an ounce of pleasure.

"There we go, for a minute there I thought you'd reverted back to the android."

Mumbling under my breath I passed Izumi-san and quickly took the steps up the platform. He seemed to understand my comment and gave a thoughtfully displeased look at my back, which I only noticed because of the railway mirror that hung on the post at the top of the stairs. Apparently, "You should have thought about that before you pulled that stunt this morning," was an eye opener.

The train was moderately full. I didn't have a place to sit, but we weren't all packed in there like sardines, which suited me fine. I probably wouldn't have been able to take it if I had to be pressed up against Izumi-san the terrorist hobo again. Getting to the office was easy when I made it to the train on time, and by the time I made it up to the eighth floor I was rearing and ready for a tough day. I couldn't control the fact that Izumi-san was staying with me (unless I wanted to commit career suicide and live with my parents) but I sure as hell could throw myself into work and forget about him.

As Izumi-san walked around the office, I got set up, giving the warm cup of coffee at my desk an appreciative glance. Nawa-kun saw I was in a busy whirlwind of action and simply waved from his partial desk. I smiled in return and logged onto my computer. I was busy organizing my papers and getting my lunch into a safe place as well, but the awkward position of being bent at the waist, shoving your bags under your desk with your foot, hand on the mouse trying to wake your computer up and distractedly pushing your papers here and there in a meager attempt for organization wasn't all that new to me.

That is until Izumi-san came up behind me, startling me and making me very angry when his hands rested on my hips and his body got a little too close to mine. He knew that everyone was watching him, a newcomer to the office, and a somewhat attractive one at that. Drawing this kind of attention to me at work was not what he wanted to do right now. Or ever if he was smart. I raised my stapler over his fingers and began my decent, but pulled back accordingly when he released me.

"Go bother someone else." I hissed.

"Where am I supposed to go?"

Rounding on him subtly, I opened my mouth to tell him exactly where he could go when Towa appeared out of his office and waved over to us. His "Can I see you two for a moment?" ruined the bold proclamation I was about to give.

Following behind the hobo I gave the office a reassuring smile, in return I got their "knowing" glances. Sure they knew what was going on; I was being harassed by a frickin' hobo! Not like it was obvious or anything.

Caught up in my little world, I absentmindedly sat down in front of Towa's desk and waited for him to begin. If he expected me to sit here with the hobo long, my plans of ignoring him all day would have to be postponed. Just when I had thought of the perfect way to do it!

Towa cleared his throat, probably to conceal a smile. "Good morning you two, how are things?"

Looking from one of us to the other, Towa took in Izumi-san's proud smirk and my fierce scowl and let out that laugh he'd been holding in. "Things are going well I take it?"

"No! Do you know what he-" I pulled myself back at my sudden outburst and sank back down into my chair. Both of them were giving me amused glances and it annoyed me to no end. Why was Towa on his side?

"Yes Towa, we're doing fine this morning. Thank you for asking." Izumi-san's polite tone made me twitch.

"That's good to hear, I wanted an update before I gave you both the news."

My head shot up and we both said at the same time, "What news?"

Towa smiled and pulled something off his desk. It was a large manila envelope with our supporting company's name on it. "We've just gotten a grant, a rather large one at that. With this we'll be able to produce more overseas in the US."

I groaned, catching both Towa and Izumi-san's attention. More work meant more pressure on Izumi-san to inspire me, and I didn't think I can take much more of his form of creativeness. Ignoring my interruption, Towa went on. "Since Akemi is our best English translator, this means a lot of the editing will be pushed on to her. Izumi, I'll need you to make sure this doesn't hold her manga back. Please ask to see what she's working on, and Akemi please share your progress with Izumi."

Looking miserably at the bookshelf to my right, away from Izumi-san and Towa as well, I mumbled my understanding, waiting for this to be over so I could out work myself into oblivion. Even though my concentration was on the many ways to rid oneself of hobos, I could hear Towa's sigh loud and clear. Good, maybe he can feel as bad as I do!

Immediately I felt guilty. Towa had been good to me over the years, no better than good; he was the best friend I could ever have. Without him I never would have escaped the obligations of my family. I had always held onto the belief that if I could ever repay him, I would, a thousand times over, and now, when he asks something of me- and something for my own sake- I can't even make it a day without giving in to thoughts of suicide and murder.

My inner ranting was observed with amused and affectionate glances from the two men in the room. Deciding once and for all that I'd give this a go, for Towa, I put on my determined face and sat up straight, prepared to take notes. This of course, made an enormously pleased smile erupt on Towa's face, and a devilish grin come from Izumi-san.

Though Towa knew what I was going to say, I said it anyway, a determined affirmation that I would make this situation with Izumi-san the hobo/ muse work. "All right Towa, I'll do it. Put me to work."