Rating/Warnings: G except for Goseki.
Summary: Totsuka knows better than to get excited. Hashimoto knows more than Totsuka thinks.
AN: Thanks to snowqueenofhoth and diamondsjack for looking this over. Sadly, they'll be the only two people to read this. It's gen, I promise, don't be frightened.
With a patience born of long experience, Totsuka Shota knew better than to either get too excited or too panicked every time Johnny Kitagawa showed up at some practice for an announcement.
His bandmates were not so contained.
"Please not Fujigaya first," Goseki started, and Kawai got in on the second repetition, "please not Fujigaya first, please not Fujigaya first!" Their whispers were just loud enough that Fujigaya was sure to hear it, but it was the fierce glare that Senga sent their way that made both of them break down into giggles.
On Totsuka's other side, Tsukada and Shoon exchanged wary looks, while on the far side of them, TOP3 jostled each other and anybody else nearby for a good view. It was funny, Totsuka thought, how the younger kids fought to be noticed, while most of the juniors in his age group felt that new attention rarely boded well for them or their units.
"Hashimoto-kun!" Johnny called, his smile paternal and encouraging. "Would you come here a moment?"
"What did you do?" Totsuka heard Sanada hiss, and Totsuka felt a pang of sympathy for the trio, who had experience in such things.
"Nothing!" Hashimoto hissed back, but there was no time to argue further because Johnny-sachou was waiting, and Hashimoto trotted over to him.
"Ah, bad luck," Kawai commented. "Hasshi-kun's so young and innocent! It's always the cute ones."
"Not so innocent," Goseki corrected mildly, and Totsuka shushed him. Then Johnny called for everyone's attention, and Totsuka felt a shiver work its way down his spine in spite of himself.
Which was ridiculous, he scolded himself, because A.B.C. was A.B.C., had always been A.B.C., and would always be—
"Starting today, Hashimoto-kun will be working with A.B.C., or," Johnny continued before the first shock had any chance to clear, "A.B.C.-Z as they'll now be called."
Distantly, through the dull buzzing that was filling his ears, Totsuka heard Kawai whisper, panicky, to Goseki, "He changed our name? What's that mean, he's never changed our name before! Even when they added—"
"SHH," Goseki cut him off sharply, and Kawai fell silent. Totsuka was still frozen, but he felt Tsukada shift closer. It was all Totsuka could do to just keep staring straight ahead at Hashimoto, whose expression was just as shocked as Totsuka felt.
"Well?" Johnny was still beaming in that paternal way down at Hashimoto, and he gave Hashimoto's shoulder a little push. "Go on, then."
Hashimoto lurched forward, nearly tripping over his own feet before he got everything working, and came to a stop in front of the center of A.B.C.(-Z)'s little knot, right in front of Totsuka. Hashimoto was taller than Totsuka already, but still gave the sense that he was staring up at them from a lengthy distance, face a wretched mix of fading surprise and uncertainty.
Totsuka shook himself and smiled at Hashimoto, hoping that Hashimoto had at least the brains to realize that he ought to smile too, and spoke just as Hashimoto was opening his mouth to undoubtedly apologize. "Please take care of us, Hashimoto-kun."
It broke a little of the tension in the room, a few people laughing out loud, and a little more when Hashimoto answered automatically, "Yes! I mean," Hashimoto scrambled as his brain caught up, blushing, "please take care of me, senpai."
The others seemed to snap out of it finally, saying all the right things about working hard together and getting along, and even Shoon congratulated Hashimoto, after giving Sanada a sharp elbow to force him into doing the same.
"Wonderful, wonderful," Johnny finished up, as if everything had gone exactly as he'd expected, and, Totsuka couldn't help but think, it probably had. "Well, there's still Summary performances to finish up, so everyone work hard today, all right?"
And you had to hand it to the man, Totsuka said to himself, that he had a way with timing. Because nothing really would change until Summary ended, and by then they'd all be enough used to the idea that nobody in their right mind would make a scene. Give people enough activity to keep them furiously busy, keep them preoccupied, and they'd accept just about any upheaval. It surely wasn't the first time they'd been taught that lesson in the last couple years.
Hashimoto was still staring at Totsuka.
"Hashimoto-kun?" Totsuka asked, voice carefully even.
"Oh god," Hashimoto said, low and panicked, and Totsuka wondered as an aside whether Hashimoto was aware exactly how well he and Kawai were going to get on, "oh god, oh god, Totsuka-senpai, I'm so sorry, I—"
"Relax, relax!" Totsuka cut in quickly, lest Hashimoto hyperventilate and faint, because he certainly wasn't going to catch him and Goseki would be crushed. "Don't worry about it yet, okay? It's still Summary, right?"
"Okay," Hashimoto agreed meekly. Totsuka smiled at him again, and Hashimoto gave him one in return. It was a small smile, but enough that Totsuka wondered what in the hell someone as attractive as Hashimoto Ryosuke was doing within fifty meters of his unit.
He supposed they'd find out soon enough.
Hashimoto showed up to their first official practice as A.B.C.-Z and the first thing out of his mouth was another stream of apologies, as though Totsuka had only pushed the pause button on the conversation from the day of the announcement.
Goseki stepped forward to get involved before Totsuka could do anything, and Totsuka tried not to wince too obviously.
"You're here, right?" he asked sharply, and Hashimoto shut his mouth with a snap and nodded. "You going to work as hard as you can and do your best?" Hashimoto nodded again. "Then what are you apologizing for?"
"I…" Hashimoto struggled in the face of this logic, then just gave in to Goseki, as all inevitably must. "Nothing, senpai."
"Good, then let's get going already," Goseki said, and Totsuka had to struggle not to laugh because usually Goseki was the last one still lazing regally about. "Fumito, get over here and let's see what this kid can do. Tsuka-chan, you too."
They spent most of the first day just figuring out Hashimoto's limits and what he could do, although the answer, acrobatically, was not much.
"You can only bend that far?" Kawai asked, sounding disappointed on more than one level, and Totsuka gave him a warning glare. Hashimoto just nodded balefully.
"It'll just be the first thing we have to work on," Goseki drawled, smile sharp, and Totsuka and Tsukada exchanged glances when Hashimoto just beamed up at Goseki innocently and chirped to please take care of him.
Hashimoto did seem to get on with the other members right away, discovering quickly that Kawai was the one to go to for idiocy and wrestling, and Tsukada was the one to go to for stretching and helpful instructions. Totsuka didn't like to think too hard on exactly what Hashimoto was learning from Goseki, but they were apparently developing some sort of rapport, at least.
Totsuka didn't approach Hashimoto right away, despite the shy and hopeful smiles Hashimoto had taken to offering him, both to let the reality of the practices sink in for the kid and to decide himself whether Hashimoto was worth it. Kawai, already having declared that Hashimoto was the coolest pet ever, called Totsuka heartless, but Totsuka only reminded him exactly how many fifth members they'd been through.
"It's not like I'm telling you to be cruel!" Totsuka had protested. "I'm just saying maybe it would be better if we didn't get attached just yet."
But Totsuka's resolve to keep his distance only lasted a few days. Coming back from the vending machine, he found Hashimoto sitting glumly by himself off to the side of the large practice room. He was tempted to continue on his way to Kis-My-Ft2's dressing room like he'd been planning, but a second glance at the miserable hunch of Hashimoto's shoulders had Totsuka changing his course mid-stream.
He really was too much of a soft touch, he grumbled to himself.
"Hi, Hashimoto-kun," Totsuka said as he approached. "Doing all right?"
Hashimoto startled a little, but then slid over on the pile of mats he was sitting on to make room. "Hi, Totsuka-senpai. Everything hurts." He offered Totsuka a smile, but all it really did was make him look even more wretched.
Totsuka sighed, his resolve taking a critical hit.
"You know," Totsuka said after a moment, "you can call me Tottsu."
"Sure, Totsuka-senpai," Hashimoto answered on auto-pilot, eyes focused on something across the room. Totsuka leaned forward and followed Hashimoto's gaze across the room, where Sanada and Nozawa were getting lectured by Yara. "I won't get to play with them anymore, huh?"
"Don't be silly," Totsuka scolded, but gently. "You can see them all you want, after work and during breaks. But if you mean performing with them, I don't think so, no."
Hashimoto didn't say anything, but his shoulders slumped a little more.
"You didn't have to work very hard to be good with them, right?" Totsuka prodded. Hashimoto startled a little, looking guilty, then nodded. "You were the best one without trying, and now you'll be the worst one even when you try your hardest. That's what it feels like, right?"
"Yeah." Hashimoto looked up at Totsuka, not sure whether Totsuka was making fun of him or not, his face plainly threatening mutiny if Totsuka was. Totsuka wasn't, and Hashimoto deflated a little.
"But it's a good chance, though," Totsuka said. "For you, right?" Only if Hashimoto could actually do it, Totsuka was thinking, but he was careful not to let any of that show on his face.
"For me," Hashimoto burst out with, as if he'd been holding it in, "but you guys have to teach me everything over and over and you should be working on your stuff for your concert—"
"You're in the concert too," Totsuka reminded, vaguely bemused at Hashimoto's vehemence, "so it's your stuff too."
"—and I'm holding everybody else back and it's too hard and I'll never learn even the old stuff in time much less anything new and we'll all look like morons and—"
Totsuka patiently waited for Hashimoto to run out of steam. When Hashimoto did, he took one long, shuddering breath, and seemed less frantic, if still depressed.
"It's just that I really like A.B.C.-senpai," Hashimoto finished, finally raising his huge, sad brown eyes to Totsuka, "and now I've broken it."
The rest of Totsuka's determination not to get too attached to their Z evaporated like Koyama-kun's willpower in front of the Fresh Juniors.
"What on earth are you talking about?" Totsuka asked. "First of all, nothing's broken. We're all still here. A.B.C. has been around since you were in primary school, and it'll take a lot more than you to break it. And either way, it's not like any of this is your fault."
But to Totsuka's surprise, Hashimoto only looked even more distressed.
"You don't understand," Hashimoto said, shaking his head, "he asked me. When he pulled me aside he asked me if I wanted to play with you and I said yes because I didn't think and now it's all my fault…"
"He wasn't really asking you," Totsuka interrupted gently. "It wasn't like you could have said no. So it has nothing to do with you, you know?"
Hashimoto blinked a few times, as though he hadn't thought about it properly before despite plainly having dwelt on it for days. "You mean I'm not reprehensible?"
"No," Totsuka smothered a snicker, "and you aren't responsible either, which is what you meant, I think. You really are a junior high student, aren't you?"
"Sorry," Hashimoto agreed.
"Quit it, no more apologies." Totsuka raised an eyebrow until Hashimoto nodded. "Besides, don't get the wrong idea. This is A.B.C.'s chance too. Even if you did break it, it'd be good."
"What?" Hashimoto frowned. "That's definitely wrong!"
"It's not," Totsuka assured. "A.B.C. doesn't change much, so we've all gotten comfortable, like you in TOP3. Everybody knows what to expect from us so…ah, how do I explain? When you get a new member, you can do unexpected things. It'd be good if Hashimoto-kun wasn't the only member to level up, right?"
"It'd be good if Hashimoto-kun was complacent," Hashimoto grumbled, and this time Totsuka didn't try to hold back the laugh.
"Competent," he corrected. "But there are things you're good at, right?"
"Well," Hashimoto rubbed at his nose, "I sing and stuff."
"And you're cute." Hashimoto's cheeks turned pink and Totsuka chuckled again. "Are you telling me that A.B.C. couldn't use another couple level's worth of either singing talent or good looks?"
Hashimoto kept his mouth firmly shut, and Totsuka was glad that the kid was at least smart enough to have learned that lesson about senpai and questions with no good answers.
Finally, after a few seconds, Hashimoto gave Totsuka a sidelong glance and asked, "Totsuka-senpai thinks I'm cute?"
"Tottsu," Totsuka said, "thinks you are cute."
"Hasshi," Hashimoto announced, then leaned into Totsuka suddenly and wrapped arms around Totsuka's chest in a tight hug, made awkward by Hashimoto's height, and it took Totsuka a few seconds to figure out that Hashimoto was telling him to use his nickname as well.
So much for professional distance, Totsuka sighed to himself, and then he draped his arm over Hashimoto's shoulders.
When the hug went on for several seconds longer than was normal, and then several seconds after that, Totsuka cleared his throat. "So is there anything else you're worried about?"
"Well," Hashimoto pulled away slowly, as if reluctant, "not really. Fujigaya said he'd do things to me if I made us look like morons, but I think he was teasing. Maybe." Hashimoto chewed on his lip a little. "They have to check the prop closets for trapped people at least every couple days, right?"
"Oh, did he?" Totsuka stood up from the dance mats. "Let's go tell Kawai-kun and Goseki-kun about Fujigaya, hm? And then we'll see if they think he's kidding. That's the sort of thing you should let your senpai take care of, you know."
"Really?" Hashimoto asked as he hopped up too, eyes sparkling with newfound power.
"Of course," Totsuka answered immediately. "You're in A.B.C.," Totsuka only hesitated for a fraction of a second, "-Z now, and we definitely can't let Kisumai push us around."
Hashimoto beamed like the sun, and all the air rushed out of Totsuka's lungs as he was grabbed and crushed against Hashimoto's side in another tight hug.
"I DID IT," Hashimoto exclaimed on their two-thousandth try of the back flip, and for a second all five of them forgot what time it was and how close the concerts were and how they hadn't worked on Vanilla at all yet in the face of Hashimoto's brilliant grin.
"It was really good," Tsukada said finally, breaking the spell, "so next let's work on you staying on your feet once you've landed."
"Oh right," Hashimoto said, a touch put out, but he took Tsukada's hand willingly to let Tsukada pull him off the floor, where he'd landed flat on his back. Once up, though, he turned immediately to Totsuka. "You saw, right, Tottsu? You saw?"
"It was a good flip," Totsuka assured. "Soon we won't have to spot you any more."
Hashimoto made a breathless noise of pleasure and grabbed Totsuka for a hug, something Totsuka had gotten quite used to recently.
"Yosh!" Hashimoto exclaimed, releasing Totsuka to fist-pump like a Toku action hero. "I'm totally reneged to try again!"
After Hashimoto had trotted back over to Tsukada to continue, Goseki lounging off to the side in a supervisory capacity, Kawai clicked his tongue in thoroughly fake annoyance.
"Why's he like you so much?" Kawai wanted to know, crossing his arms. "You didn't even want him at first."
"Shh," Totsuka reprimanded, keeping one eye on Hashimoto to make sure he hadn't overheard. "Don't worry, Fumito, Hasshi likes you plenty. He told me he'd definitely go on a date with you if you were a girl. So, you know, when things are like normal."
"HEY!" Kawai punched Totsuka in the shoulder and started a girly slapfight which only broke up when Hashimoto called their names.
"Watch me!" Hashimoto demanded, and they did of course, Totsuka only wondering vaguely if it was a bad sign that Hashimoto had trained them up in so short a time.
"At least your flexibility's coming along nicely," Goseki drawled from the side.
It was a conversation they'd had plenty of times (minus that bit with Goseki which Totsuka was still trying very hard not to think about) and Totsuka didn't think much more about it until their lunch break, when Hashimoto plonked himself down next to Totsuka, who was digging around in his bag for his lost deodorant.
"Hi, Tottsu!" Hashimoto greeted him enthusiastically as though they hadn't been practicing together until five minutes ago. "Want to go to the combini with me?"
"Forgot your wallet again?"
Hashimoto grinned. "Yup."
"Sure, Hasshi," Totsuka agreed, and Hashimoto gave a little cheer. "Just give me a minute, okay?"
"Okay. Ne, Tottsu?" Tottsu hummed in response for Hashimoto to go on. "You like me, right?"
"What? Of course I do." Totsuka looked up from his bag with a frown.
"Good," Hashimoto said before Totsuka could say anything else. "Because I like Tottsu a lot, and I want Tottsu to like me too."
"Hasshi," Totsuka asked, feeling guilty, "were you listening to Kawai and me talking earlier? Because you shouldn't really listen to Kawai, he's just..."
"No, it's okay that you didn't want me before," Hashimoto assured, patting Totsuka's arm like all of them did to him, "since you like me now."
"It's not that I didn't like you," Totsuka started, flushing guiltily.
"I'm not moronic," Hashimoto said, but even though Totsuka turned even pinker there wasn't any accusation in Hashimoto's voice, "but even though you definitely didn't want me to, you still told me it was fine if I broke your unit. You were really nice to me even though you didn't have to be and probably didn't want to be, and that's why I think Tottsu is great and it's okay if you didn't like me as much as I liked you at first. And also, if you're looking for your deodorant, Kawai-kun took it out of your bag to spray Kitayama-kun in the face for locking me in a dressing room."
"You see a lot of stuff, huh?" Totsuka finally said after a moment to digest that. Hashimoto just grinned in response as Totsuka packed all of his things neatly back into his bag. By the time he was zipping it up, he felt ready to admit the truth out loud. "Kawai was telling the truth. In the beginning, I wasn't exactly thrilled about you. I wasn't sure if it was just for a little while, or if you could keep up or if you'd fit in. But you did and you do, and here we are." Totsuka ran out of things to say and finally looked up to see Hashimoto's reaction.
"You feel better, right?" Hashimoto asked.
"Yes," Totsuka blinked, realizing it was true, like he'd let out a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding. "Yes, I do. Now let's go get lunch before Kitayama comes in here and tries to make me eat my own deodorant."
Hashimoto tugged both of them to their feet, and for once Totsuka grabbed him for a hug first, pulling Hashimoto tight against his side and held him there a few seconds too long, until Hashimoto started to squirm and his stomach growled.
"You'll buy me coffee milk, right?" Hashimoto wanted to know as they headed out, Totsuka pausing at the door to make sure the hallway was clear of pranksters before deciding it was safe to proceed. "Tsuka-chan won't let me because he says it'll stunt my growth."
"I hope it does," Totsuka answered seriously, making Hashimoto laugh. "I'll buy you a dozen."
"It won't make me shrink or anything though," Hashimoto warned, "so don't get too excited."
"I won't," Totsuka answered, tilting his head back to return Hashimoto's adoring grin. He had lots of experience with that, after all.