Rating/Warnings: G for JE happy endings.
Summary: Taiyo and Shoon are getting a little worried about Yabu's mood lately.
AN: Well, I'm not giving up until something official happens. YA-YA-YAH ITSUMADEMO, YO.
Itsumademo (Until Whenever)
Hikaru was on the verge of proving that he could indeed get two whole packages of banana Hi-Chews in his mouth at once when Yabu came in the door of the practice room, familiar Shounen Club answer boards in one hand and a package of thick markers in the other.
"Okay," he said just as Shoon shoved the last three Hi-Chews into his own mouth to hide the evidence and Hikaru tried to look as innocent as a chipmunk, "this week's theme is 'Working Together,' and I have some special instructions from Koyama-kun."
"Special instructions?" Taiyo asked, darting glances towards Hikaru. The innocent look wasn't going particularly well for him, since he couldn't quite breathe around the fist-sized glob of candy he was trying to chew.
Yabu rolled his eyes and sat the boards down on the table. "Hikaru, just spit it out already. Banana isn't going to work any better than grape or lychee."
Hikaru mumbled something, his pout all in his eyes since his lips were occupied.
"He says banana's his favorite," Shoon translated, swallowing his own mouthful.
"I think breathing should be your favorite instead," Yabu informed Hikaru, looming over him, and Hikaru slunk out of his chair to spit the candy into the trash bin.
"What about these instructions?" Taiyo still wanted to know. "Last time we had special instructions, I ended up on a tricycle."
"I'm getting to that." Yabu sat down in the last empty chair at the table just as Hikaru sat back down in his. "Our assignment is for everybody to write down their favorite memory of being in the group. There are several conditions."
"Conditions?" Taiyo asked.
"Taiyo-kun, for instance," Yabu folded his hands in front of him, "is not allowed to use the word 'pants' on stage. And Hikaru-kun is not allowed to say anything in any retarded accents."
"Awwww," Hikaru whined, snatching up one of the markers and uncapping it and recapping it repeatedly. "Who made these rules? These don't sound like Koyama-kun's rules."
"And Shoon-kun," Yabu began handing out the boards, "is not allowed to tell any stories where we all look like insufferable dorks."
"I'd like to know what story you think I'm going to tell then," Shoon grumbled, looking away when Yabu's glare focused more directly upon him.
"What aren't you allowed to do, Yabu-kun?" Taiyo wanted to know, looking down at his own blank board.
"Have a band who talks about our dorky underwear in a retarded accent on national television," Yabu answered, sitting down with his own board and picking up a black marker.
"These are totally not Koyama-kun's rules!" Hikaru protested, leaning over to read what Yabu was writing.
Yabu slid his chair back, pulling his board with him, against his chest. "Don't peek, it's supposed to be a surprise. We aren't supposed to know what the others write until we present it."
"We can't practice with each other?" Taiyo looked immediately anxious. "Ne, Yabu-kun, you know what happens when I don't practice what I say first. I can work with just one person, right?"
"No," Yabu said. "You can't. No sharing. And no cheating!" Yabu lifted his marker and jabbed Hikaru right in the middle of the forehead with it because he was trying to read over Yabu's shoulder again. It left a big, markered dot. "I'm going to go work in one of the solo practice rooms. See you at dance practice in an hour."
Hikaru jerked backwards with an indignant squawk, slapping both hands over his marked forehead, and Yabu stood up and gave them a curt nod before leaving the way he'd come.
"Well, I guess we'd better get started," Shoon said after a second of awkward silence, sliding his chair over a few inches so that he was equidistant between Hikaru and Taiyo and neither was close enough to read his board. Taiyo gave him a hurt look, and Shoon smiled encouragingly. "It'll be fine, don't worry."
Shoon busied himself with his marker and his board, but after five or so minutes, he was still the only one working. Hikaru was still just uncapping and recapping his marker, and Taiyo was chewing on his lower lip and staring at his blank board.
"Hey," Shoon said, giving Taiyo a light kick under the table. It wasn't hard, since Taiyo's legs stretched most of the way over to the other side.
"Hm?" Taiyo looked up, as if startled out of his thoughts. Then he looked back down. "Shoon?"
"Yeah?" Shoon tossed aside his red marker for a blue one.
Taiyo ran his tongue over his abused lower lip. "Do you think Yabu seems weird lately?"
"What?" Shoon looked up with a puzzled frown. "What do you mean?"
"He seems…"Taiyo shrugged. "I don't know, impatient with us. Like just now, he didn't want to stay and work with us, and he even was mean to Hikaru-kun. Plus, I think these markers are permanent."
"What?" Hikaru's eyes went wide, and he skimmed his marker frantically for pertinent information. "We're filming tomorrow, it can't be permanent!"
"Mmm," Shoon looked at the door and back to Taiyo's worried face again. "I think that's just Yabu, don't you, Hikaru-kun?"
"OH NO!" Hikaru bellowed, hopping out of his chair so fast that it clattered to the ground. "It IS permanent! I've got to find Jun-senpai!"
"Jun-senpai?!" Taiyo looked like he was about to dive under the table to hide.
"He'll either have nail polish remover, or kill me!" Hikaru shouted on his way out the door. "Either way it'll solve my problem. Later!"
"Everyone seems energetic today, na?" Shoon asked, smile not dimming even when Taiyo gave him a completely incredulous expression.
A few more minutes passed, in which Taiyo still accomplished nothing, but Shoon put the finishing touches on his board and sat back to examine his for errors.
"There, done!" Shoon gave a satisfied nod and then flipped his board over so Taiyo couldn't cheat. "You'd better get something done, you know. We've got practices for the rest of today and filming tomorrow."
"It's just that," Taiyo continued as though he was still finishing his thought from earlier, "I get worried sometimes."
"About Yabu?" Shoon asked, propping his chin on his hand.
"And Hikaru." Taiyo dropped his marker and fiddled with the edges of his sleeves. "They're so good these days…like maybe, we're holding them back? Hikaru doesn't seem to mind. But Yabu…"
"Yabu doesn't mind." Shoon reassured, reaching over to pat Taiyo's hand. "Leaders are supposed to push us forward, aren't they? Come on, let's get yours done so we're not late to practice."
"You didn't help him cheat did you?" was the first thing Yabu said when Shoon and Taiyo arrived at practice, breathless from their dash up the stairs so they would be on time.
"Of course not!" Shoon retorted, a little hurt by Yabu's tone. Yabu raised an eyebrow, and Shoon added more truthfully, "Taiyo wouldn't let me help…"
"I don't always need help!" Taiyo protested, giving Shoon a 'see what I mean?' look.
"Taiyo, dance practice is not really someplace you should be shouting that," Yabu said dismissively, then turned around. "Where's Hikaru?"
Hikaru burst through the door at that moment, looking traumatized and still markered.
"Sort of," Hikaru answered when Shoon asked if he'd found Jun-senpai, and, "I don't want to talk about it."
"Good, cause we should be dancing right now," Yabu interrupted, grabbing Shoon and Hikaru shoulders and shoving them over towards the coach. "Since some of us don't really want to get fired."
"Okay, maybe you have a point," Shoon admitted when Taiyo called him later that night because he'd forgotten to write down the practice schedule again. "Yabu does seem a bit on edge lately."
"A bit?" Taiyo asked. "He made three trainees cry today!"
"Uchi doesn't count," Shoon protested. "Everything makes him cry."
"Shoon! Be serious!" Taiyo pled. "Maybe Yabu's…sick of us. Maybe he's tired of Ya-Ya-Yah."
"That's not true!" Shoon said immediately, but something about it made him squirm, and he thought about how exasperated Yabu had looked when they'd had to run the same dance steps nearly a dozen times before all four of them could do it without slamming into each other.
Yabu'd had it right the first time, of course. Like always.
"I wouldn't blame him," Taiyo said quietly. There was a soft jingling noise from the other end of the line, and Shoon imagined Taiyo toying with his phone charms like he did when he was nervous on the phone. "He's better than us, you know he is."
"That doesn't mean anything," Shoon argued.
"I couldn't catch up to Yabu no matter how hard I tried." Taiyo's was quiet, but sure. "Could you?"
Shoon decided that was a question he should try not to think about. "That doesn't matter. Taiyo? It doesn't matter," Shoon said again, louder. "We're Ya-Ya-Yah. Yabu too. We're all different, at our own pace. You can't have a band if everybody's all the same, can you?"
"Being all the same isn't the same as all good," Taiyo replied softly.
Hours later, as Shoon stared at the ceiling over his bed, it was the resignation in Taiyo's voice that made it hardest to sleep.
"Okay, what gives?" Yabu asked the next morning, crossing his arms and staring his bandmates down. "Everybody looks like their hamster died."
Vaguely, Shoon wondered how anybody dressed in pink and gold satin could look so angry. Then again, Hikaru and Taiyo weren't really looking much happier. Hikaru was staring forlornly at the ground, forehead rather pink but still markered.
"My mother even tried industrial adhesive remover," Hikaru had explained this morning to Shoon. "Don't get that in your eyes, by the way."
Taiyo just stood, clutching his marker board to his chest and staring at his feet. He looked very much indeed like his hamster had died, and the hamster's name had been Ya-Ya-Yah.
"We can't go on like this," Yabu said, and Shoon felt a little shiver run down his spine.
"You're right!" he said, too loud, making Hikaru and Taiyo jump and Yabu raise an eyebrow. "We know you're really frustrated because you want to run ahead. Taiyo and I have been talking…we love Ya-Ya-Yah, and we've been working hard, but if we're holding you and Hikaru-kun back, then…then Ya-Ya-Yah's no good like that!"
Shoon felt like he'd let out a breath he'd been holding too long, and when he looked up, he found Taiyo, Hikaru, and Yabu all staring at him with open mouths.
Yabu spoke first. "I meant that we can't go on-stage looking like this."
"Oh," Shoon said quietly, cheeks turning bright pink.
"You've…" Yabu looked from Shoon to Taiyo, "you've been talking about it?"
Taiyo refused to pull his gaze up off the floor, but nodded. His knuckles were turning white around the edges the edges of his board.
"Shoon…" Hikaru started, reaching out to put a hand on Shoon's shoulder, but Shoon shook his head and Hikaru let it drop. He looked to Yabu instead. "Are you really tired of being Ya-Ya-Yah?"
"I…" Yabu blushed as well and looked away, and Shoon felt his stomach twist. "Look, just let me tell my memory first, okay?"
The others nodded. About to turn away, Yabu hesitated, then reached over to brush fingers through the front of Hikaru's hair, combing his bangs down over his forehead to hide the marker dot.
Then a stagehand called the five-minute mark and there was no choice but to report to their places.
Shoon's face hurt from the smile he'd had glued in place since filming had started. It was feeling faker by the minute as he sat in between Hikaru and Yabu, holding his marker board with its dorky story and wondering what he would do without Ya-Ya-Yah.
"Ne, Yabu-kun, you asked to go first, didn't you?" Nakamaru-kun was asking, tearing Shoon's thoughts back to the present.
A drop of sweat rolled down Shoon's neck, and it wasn't from the stage lights.
"Yes!" Yabu answered, then turned his board around with a flourish when the pre-recorded fanfare warbled. "Here it is!"
His drawing was of a single stick figure with a microphone, labeled "Yabu-kun." Down below, the text read something about "Arashi no Carnival" and being alone on stage.
Shoon felt a jolt of anger straighten his back and all the words blurred together. Was Yabu really going to answer a prompt about his favorite group memory by saying he'd rather be alone?
Apparently Koyama-kun was equally surprised. "Eh?! Yabu-kun, did you get the right prompt?"
"Yes, yes," Yabu laughed along with the audience, and Shoon caught Taiyo's eye on the other side of Yabu, looking just as shocked as Shoon felt. "But, you know, the first time I had to do my new solo, I hadn't practiced enough and I had a bad case of stage fright!"
"Is that right?" Nakamaru-kun asked, still looking skeptical. Shoon couldn't blame him.
"My throat went dry, and I thought, 'I can't do this, for sure!'" Yabu continued. Hikaru gave a quiet snort that Shoon was pretty sure only he was close enough to hear. "But then, I closed my eyes and imagined that the rest of Ya-Ya-Yah was with me, dancing next to me. And then my feeling was 'All right, let's go!'"
"Ah, I'm starting to understand!" Koyama-kun said, and then to everyone's surprise, Yabu whipped a marker out of the pockets of his pink jacket and began scribbling on his board.
When he held it back up, there were three other stick figures beside his, one way taller than the others, one with a marker dot in the middle of its forehead, and one with a triangular, stick-figure skirt.
The audience screeched their approval, and Koyama-kun nearly fell off the bench laughing.
"Ne, when you're in a band, you're never alone, are you?" Yabu said, and Nakamaru-kun answered with a "That's so." Shoon found himself nodding too. "So my favorite memory of Ya-Ya-Yah is how, even though we have to do things alone sometimes, the other members are always with me. We're still Ya-Ya-Yah, yo!"
"Yes, yes, very interesting!" Koyama-kun tried to move the show along around his own laughter and the audience squealing. "Shoon-kun, you're next!"
Shoon found he had to swallow more than once for the lump in his throat to let him tell his own silly story about going for a drive with Ya-Ya-Yah and then needing the other members to get out of the car to help him parallel park.
When the bustle of filming was over, as well as the chaos of putting away costumes and changing back into street clothes, the four members of Ya-Ya-Yah found themselves sneaking glances at each other.
"So…" Taiyo finally broke the awkward silence, "you're not frustrated with us?"
"Of course not!" Yabu said, expression one of utter exasperation, and Hikaru and Shoon exchanged a glance before bursting into laughter. After a second, Taiyo joined in. Yabu just looked sour.
"It's just," Shoon put a hand on Yabu's shoulder, "you have been looking unhappy lately. And we can't keep up with you most of the time."
"And you markered me in the head!" Hikaru put in.
"Look, none of that matters!" Yabu exclaimed, shoving his hands in his pockets. "We're all working hard, right? Of course it's frustrating, not knowing what will happen to us or if we'll all stay together or if we'll be good enough. But that's being a junior, isn't it? If we do it all together, it's fine!"
Shoon, Taiyo, and Hikaru blinked at each other, and Yabu sighed.
"Maybe I don't say…" Yabu looked pained, "you know, things, out loud. But I'm still Ya-Ya-Yah's Yabu, all right? Till whenever."
"Yabu…" Shoon started, lump back in his throat, but before he could say anything Taiyo had grabbed all three of them in a tight hug, and Shoon's breath left his lungs in a rush of relieved laughter.
"Till whenever!" Hikaru exclaimed, getting his arms around Shoon and Taiyo's waists to squeeze them just as tight.
Shoon tilted his head back to grin up at Taiyo, eyes crinkled up with laughter, and Taiyo repeated, "Till whenever."
"You aren't doing it right, you morons," Yabu informed them, planting a hand in the middle of Taiyo's chest and pushing them all apart. "It's a cheer, isn't it? Geez, this is what you guys all need a leader for."
And as Yabu yanked all their hands into the middle, one on top of each other, and ordered Hikaru to start the cheer right, Shoon found that he had a new favorite memory of Ya-Ya-Yah.