Rating/Warnings: PG, even though Yamada is pushing it like usual.
Summary: Okamoto just wants them to all get along as a group, but it's tough being new.
AN: for musikologie and swjemz, because they know best of all how Okamoto is totally my favorite, yo.
Better Than BEST Friends
"Flower arranging?" Inoo asked, smirking. "Really, Yabu-chan?"
"Of course," Yabu replied, deadpan. "Why do you think we got rid of Shoon? That whole leather thing was definitely too manly for Ya-Ya-yah's image."
Inoo's smirk turned into a frown, but before he could say anything the director called for BEST to get into position and Chinen went skipping by with an air of purpose.
"Where's he think he's going?" Takaki asked, amused, still twirling the huge yellow ball on one finger.
"He seems to think he's in our group, the little idiot," Arioka answered affectionately as he sauntered over to join them. "Honestly, Yuya, can't you keep your little boyfriend in his proper place?"
"Under us?" Yabu asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Oi!" Takaki scowled and bounced the yellow ball off Arioka's head and then off Yabu's. "Don't talk about Chinen like that!"
"Can we sing about it instead?" Hikaru inquired, and the other four turned to see him with his guitar at the ready. Hikaru strummed a chord with a wide, windmill swing of his arm, eyes squeezed shut. "TAKAKI~ and CHINEN~!"
"OI!" Takaki roared, charging Hikaru with the ball held in front like a battering ram, and they scattered, laughing and still teasing Takaki as they headed towards the green set.
Okamoto tore his gaze away from the scene and eyed his own half of the unit with a sigh.
Ryutarou was quietly reading a book, curled up in a chair by one of the courtesy tables. Chinen was still over trying to infiltrate BEST. Even Yuto and Yamada, who usually seemed close, apparently had had some kind of fight that morning, and were now sulking on opposite sides of the room, Yuto trying to hula hoop and failing miserably, Yamada running Inoo's toy car in little circles with a distant expression.
Okamoto sighed again. So much for member-ai.
The older five made it seem so easy, he thought to himself as he sat in one of the other chairs and snagged a celery stick from the courtesy table. With Hikaru and Yabu it was understandable, but even the others were always hanging out together, joking around and practicing together. Just that morning Hikaru, Arioka, and Inoo had gone on an adventure in the creepy part of the backstage, and returned with spider webs in their hair and seeming even closer, exchanging grins and poking each other even as the stylist scolded them for getting their clothes dusty.
"Ne," he said suddenly, making Ryutarou jump a little, and when Ryutarou looked up, his eyes were wide and nervous. Okamoto suppressed another sigh and wondered if they'd ever get along as a group. "BEST looks really comfortable, don't they?"
Ryutarou turned his head to look at the others, then looked back at Okamoto. Okamoto waited for a response, but all Ryutarou did was blink.
"What I mean is," Okamoto tried again, keeping his voice low and coaxing, "they look like friends, like they like hanging out together. I was thinking, maybe we should try to hang out together a little more? Ne, Ryutarou?"
"But," Ryutarou said slowly, "we're together right now, aren't we?"
"Well," Okamoto blinked, "yes, but, that's…" He struggled for a second to put into words what was lacking; the situation wasn't helped by Inoo hollering "Chinen, get out of our GROUP" across the stage. "That's not what I meant…exactly…"
"What do you mean, then?" Ryutarou tilted his head a little. Okamoto thought for a few seconds, but ended up just shrugging a little. Ryutarou gave him an uncertain smile, then went back to his book.
Just then something ran into Okamoto's foot and looked down to see the toy truck. When he looked up, a stormy-looking Yamada had appeared, looming over Okamoto with his hair hanging over his eyes like that creepy girl from Ringu, and Okamoto yelped, nearly knocking his chair backwards.
"Sorry," Yamada grumbled, reaching down for the truck, but Okamoto grabbed his wrist, suddenly inspired.
"Want to hang out?" he blurted. "Ryutarou and I were just talking about how we should hang out more and get closer as a unit!"
"Eh?" Ryutarou looked up, startled again, and his fingers were tight on the cover of his book as Okamoto talked Yamada into sitting in the chair between them.
"There!" Okamoto said, triumphantly when they were all settled. "It feels closer already, right?"
Ryutarou and Yamada stared at him silently, Ryutarou's mouth pinched with panic as he stole glances as Yamada's black expression. Yamada cracked a knuckle and Ryutarou jumped two inches out of his chair.
So maybe it wasn't exactly as Okamoto had pictured it. But they could work on it!
"Maybe not close enough," he said. "Here."
"What?" Yamada started, but just then Okamoto planted a kick right in the middle of the legs of Yamada's chair, so that it skidded an inch or two, and Yamada tipped practically into Ryutarou's lap, knocking his book to the ground.
"Heh, sorry." Okamoto scratched the back of his head while Yamada righted himself and Ryutarou snatched his book off the ground with a reproving look. "But, ne, Yamada, you and Yuto are close, right?"
Yamada's eyes narrowed. "That's…"
"We should all try to be close like Yamada and Yuto, shouldn't we?" Okamoto continued. "Ryutarou, don't you want to be as close to Yamada as Yuto is?"
Ryutarou and Yamada exchanged a horrified look, and then hopped their chairs so that a few more inches separated them.
Frowning, Okamoto opened his mouth to ask what they were being so weird for, when suddenly Yuto materialized in even more terrifying fashion than Yamada had, looming over Yamada's shoulder and making Ryutarou scramble out of his chair to duck behind Okamoto.
"Just what's going on over here?" he growled, but he obviously was only asking Yamada. Ryutarou shrank even further behind Okamoto.
"Nothing that concerns you," Yamada sniffed, crossing his arms and staring straight ahead. "Not that you care anyway, right? I think you made that pretty clear this morn—"
"We need to talk," Yuto snapped, grabbing Yamada's wrist in a grip that looked a little painful, and yanking him out of his chair. He stomped off, dragging Yamada behind him and ignoring the way Yamada was struggling and cursing.
"I'm gonna go read over there," Ryutarou said after a moment, leaving Okamoto to sit in his chair and try to get his heart to stop pounding furiously.
"What was that about?" Chinen asked suddenly in Okamoto's ear, making him shriek and finally sent his chair toppling over.
"Okay," Okamoto said, determined not to give up yet, "we should definitely eat lunch together!"
"Oh?" Chinen asked. Okamoto had decided to start with Chinen first this time, since if he got Hey! Say!'s most genki member on board, Chinen could probably talk anybody into anything. It seemed to work with the senpai, at any rate.
Unfortunately, Chinen hadn't been particularly genki since he'd been forcibly ejected from the BEST filming that morning, and received a harsh lecture from the director on the way out. Or for the last couple days, actually, mood swings affecting him routinely as the others all started their growth spurts and all Chinen did was lose half of his vocal range. At this particular moment he was letting his cheek squish flat against the tabletop, making pathetic eyes up at Okamoto.
"Yes!" Okamoto sat his bento down firmly next to Chinen's head and gave him the biggest smile he could force on his face. "I'll share with you, if you want. Like friends! Where did everybody else get to?"
Chinen sighed and shoved himself upright to root through Okamoto's lunch. "I dunno. I haven't seen Yuto and Yamada since they made up earlier."
"They made up?" Okamoto's grin turned real from relief. "That's great! How do you know?"
Chinen chuckled mirthlessly as he pulled out Okamoto's cupcake. "Ryutarou got an eyeful of it earlier. Which brings me to my second point: I don't think you're gonna have an easy time finding him for a while either."
"Why?" Okamoto wrinkled his brow as he pulled up a chair. "What are you talking about?"
But just then the director shouted for Okamoto to come over for a second, something about combining his shots with the other members, and Okamoto got back up with a sour expression. He shot a last look over his shoulder, glad to see that at least Chinen was looking more cheerful at any rate.
"Thanks for the cupcake!" Chinen waved with a grin.
"Yuto-kun?" Okamoto asked. He had approached cautiously, but all traces of Yuto's earlier foul mood seem to have evaporated. The only thing wrong with him now was a touch of a limp, but Okamoto figured that was probably from excessive hula-hooping.
At any rate, Yuto was supposed to be the leader of 7, wasn't he? Maybe he would have some good ideas, or at least be able to explain what Chinen was on about and why Ryutarou refused to come out of the bathroom.
"Hm? Oh, Keito-kun," Yuta looked up from his current attempts to hoop and gave Okamoto a smile, apparently relieved for a reason to take a break. "Sorry about earlier."
"Chinen said you and Yamada made up," Okamoto ventured, coming closer. Yuta dropped his eyes to the ground, cheeks turning pink, but nodded. "That's good. We shouldn't fight, ne? Anyway, can I talk to you about something?"
"Sure," Yuto nodded, scooping up a water bottle from the ground and uncapping it. He handed his hoop to Okamoto. "Hold this a second?"
"I was thinking," Okamoto took the hoop and slid it through his hand, making the ball bearing inside jingle, "we should do things together, shouldn't we?"
"We're doing something together right now," Yuto replied, blinking. He took a long sip of his water.
"No, I mean as a group!"
Yuto tilted his head, looking bemused as he capped his bottle and set it back down. "You do know we're filming a PV, right?"
"Yuto-kun!" Okamoto pled. Why didn't anybody understand what he was saying? Okamoto didn't think he was being particularly obtuse, as he stared at Yuto, willing him to see what he meant.
"Maa, relax." Yuto slapped Okamoto on the shoulder, giving him a reassuring smile. "It'll all work out in the end, so don't worry so much. Anyway, I have to learn to hula-hoop in the next forty-five minutes, so I'd better get back to it."
"Work hard, then," Okamoto sighed, handing Yuto back his hoop.
"Well, you've got quite a frown there," Yabu said, appearing beside Okamoto's chair suddenly, and making him yelp and nearly spill off chair for the third time in as many hours.
"Why does everybody keep doing that to me?!" Okamoto demanded, making Yabu chuckled as he pulled up a chair of his own.
"I think it's the face you make when you're startled. Cute, na?" Yabu reached over to ruffle Okamoto's hair, and Okamoto slapped his hand away with a scowl. "Now, is something the matter? 7 seems rather malcontent in general, today."
"Yuto and Yamada had a fight this morning," Okamoto reported dutifully. "They've made up now, but Yuto still can't hula-hoop. Chinen was upset about the director yelling at him this morning, at least until I gave him my cupcake, and Ryutarou won't come out of the bathroom because he saw Yuto and Yamada making up, which, by the way, nobody will explain to me."
Okamoto looked up at Yabu expectantly, and Yabu cleared his throat.
"More than that," Yabu said quickly, "what's bothering Okamoto-kun? You've been a little…high-strung all day."
"Oh. Well." Okamoto chewed his lower lip, but Yabu gave him an encouraging tilt of the head, and Okamoto guessed that one Hey! Say! leader was as good as another. "You guys…BEST, I mean…you get along pretty well, right?"
"Sure," Yabu shrugged. "But 7 does too, don't they? You all like each other well enough, don't you?"
"Yes," Okamoto fidgeted, "but what I mean is…"
Okamoto looked across the room where Hikaru had taken possession of the truck's remote and was cheerfully ramming it into Takaki's feet while Arioka helped him dodge both Takaki, who was grabbing at him for revenge, and Inoo, who was grabbing at him to get his remote back. All of them were laughing so hard that their faces were red, except for Inoo whose face was red from shouting that he was supposed to be on set right now, goddammit.
"You're friends, is what I mean," Okamoto finished, then turned back to look at Yabu pleadingly, hoping that somebody might know what he was talking about. "You do things together, and you're comfortable with other. You're friends."
"Ah," Yabu said, face thoughtful. "I see. You're talking about member-ai, aren't you?"
"Yes!" Okamoto slumped in his chair with relief. "All day, nobody's had any idea what I'm talking about! I just…I just want us to…you know, be a group. This whole thing, it's so sudden, and everybody wants so much from us, all the time!"
"But that's being a jyannis, isn't it?" Yabu asked.
"I guess so," Okamoto replied after thinking for a second. "But what I mean is, it wouldn't be so hard if we were all in it together, you know, like NEWS or Arashi or KA—"
"Don't even finish that sentence," Yabu said blandly, "because if you're going to put KAT-TUN and member-ai in the same sentence, you might as well turn around and punch somebody in the face right now."
"Listen," Yabu assured, wrapping an arm around Okamoto's shoulders. "NEWS is NEWS, and Arashi is Arashi, and Hey! Say! is Hey! Say!, and things just take a little while to work out, you know? Here, look."
Yabu nodded over Okamoto's shoulder, and when he looked, he found Yuto still at it with the hula hoop, but now Yamada and Chinen were there as well.
"Hips, use your hips, you idiot!" Yamada was shouting at him. "Are you a jyannis or aren't you?"
"We can't all be the kind of jyannis that you are." Chinen gave Yamada a shove and reached over to force Yuto to at least hold the hoop in the right spot. "Some of us got in on talent. Try it now."
"It's funny how he tries to sound like he isn't your sort," Yuto commented idly as he gave the hoop a dutiful whirl, and Chinen gave him a shove as well, ruining the attempt before Yuto even got started.
"Aha!" Yabu poked Okamoto in the cheek. "A smile after all! See, it'll all work out. Besides," Yabu eyed Okamoto pointedly, "isn't the real problem something like 'Okamoto-kun is feeling lonely?'"
Okamoto dropped his gaze to stare at his shoes, because now that Yabu mentioned it, that was exactly what he felt. Along with a good dose of embarrassment for being read so easily. But he certainly wasn't prepared for Yabu to let go of him, and then punch him in the shoulder, hard.
"Ow!" Okamoto clutched at his shoulder, giving Yabu a hurt look. "What did you—"
"Oi," Ryutarou snapped, appearing at Okamoto's elbow and making him give yet another shriek. "Don't bully Keito!"
"Ry-ryutarou?" Okamoto asked, eyes widening as Ryutarou stepped in between Okamoto and Yabu.
"I'm not bullying him," Yabu said, ruffling Ryutarou's hair and making him scowl. "I'm teaching him about member-ai. Unless you think Yuto-kun and Yamada-kun would be better at it?"
Ryutarou scowled harder and also blushed bright red, and Okamoto was on the verge of asking yet again just what was going on when Yabu was called by the director. He stood up and pushed Ryutarou down into his chair instead.
"I know it's tough to be new, Okamoto-kun…" he started.
"Keito-kun!" Ryutarou interrupted, making Okamoto blink at him some more.
"Keito-kun," Yabu corrected himself indulgently. "But it worked out okay for Ohno and for Tegoshi, and it'll work out for you too, okay?"
"Un." Okamoto nodded. "Thank you, senpai."
"Yabu's fine." Yabu gave both of their heads a last ruffle and sauntered off, leaving Okamoto and Ryutarou staring at each other.
"So," Okamoto started, "About Yuto and Yamada…"
"HEY!" Chinen popped up behind Okamoto, who at this point had given up all hope of not developing a fatal heart condition before age fifteen. "Was somebody talking about Ohno a minute ago?"
Okamoto looked up to find Yuto and Yamada had tagged along with Chinen, and were all peering at him and Ryutarou.
"What's going on?" Yamada wanted to know.
"Yabu-kun said that Keito-kun was lonely," Ryutarou explained, and Okamoto felt a rush of embarrassment again.
"EH?" Chinen and Yamada chorused.
"But," Yuto spoke up, "that's silly. There's ten of us, how can you be lonely?"
"I can't go five feet without tripping over somebody," Yamada complained, then proved his point by accidentally stepping on Ryutarou's foot and getting kicked back in the shin.
"It was silly," Okamoto spoke up, shyly raising his eyes from the ground to offer a shaky smile to his bandmates. "I'm sorry I've been weird all day. I…just wanted everybody to get along, like them."
He pointed at the members of BEST, who unfortunately were all modeling pieces of Yabu's flower arrangement at the particular moment when they looked.
"Well," Okamoto sighed, "maybe not just like them."
"It sounds like," Chinen's eyes sparkled, "Keito-kun needs a group hug."
"No!" Okamoto protested, trying to scramble out of his chair, but he was quickly caught. "I really don't! I feel much better!"
"Member-ai~!" Chinen chirped, and somehow Okamoto found himself squished tightly in the middle of his four bandmates. And he had to admit, after he gave up struggling, that it did feel pretty good.
At least until somebody pinched his ass.
"Whoops," Yamada said when Okamoto yelped. "I thought that was Yuto's."
"OH GOD," exclaimed Okamoto, because suddenly he understood everything.