Rating/Warnings: PG for wire fan-service
Summary: Kawai can tell you how Hashimoto became A.B.C-Z's manager, but it still won't actually explain anything that happens after that.
AN: flailinginlove and I were talking on Twitter about how ABC-Z's stuff is so much less produced than Kisumai's, but that as fans we find that more satisfying. I suggested that maybe Johnny just won't spend the money on giving Ebi a manager and that they're just fending for themselves and she responded:
Fujigaya: God, our managers are being a pain in the ass. They won't let us do ANYTHING we want.
Kawai: *turns to Hasshi* Manager-san, can we have a mid-air, shirtless make out session next butai?
Hasshi: APPROVED. ( ^_^)b
So now I will always associate the emoticon ( ^_^)b with Hasshi-manager, and then I started writing this fic because she demanded I do it. I should also say that in Kawai's version of his debut talk with Johnny, Johnny's response to him started with "naruhodo" (so it's like that), and now I can't hear that word without grinning.
Also, consensus seems to be that we think Kisumai's main manager is a woman, so that's how I wrote it, but if I'm wrong about that, sorry, manager-san.
Take It Up With Management
"So," Fujigaya prompts before Kawai even gets the whole way into the car, "how did your meeting with shachou go?"
"I…" Kawai doesn't meet Fujigaya's eyes as he drops into the seat and fiddles unnecessarily with the seatbelt. "…I can't explain it."
Fujigaya scowls. "What?! You won't tell me what happened? What the hell!"
"No, I'll tell you," Kawai corrects immediately. The seatbelt clicks and, lacking any other obvious distraction, Kawai is forced to meet Fujigaya's gaze. "It's just that it won't explain anything."
~Earlier That Day~
"And so," Kawai finishes, heart pounding in his chest, all his cards on the table, "that's why A.B.C-Z ought to have a DVD debut."
There's a pregnant pause where Johnny eyes Kawai evenly over his desk, like he can see right through Kawai's hot pink T-shirt, and Kawai struggles to keep from pitching himself out the nearest window. Hashimoto, brought along merely as a good luck charm and sitting in the chair next to Kawai, taps his sneakers on the carpet a little but otherwise waits for a response with surprising patience.
Finally, Johnny clears his throat.
"You do make a very convincing case," he says. "And I have to admit that I'd be hard-pressed to name a group as tireless and dedicated as yours, and none nearly so cooperative. Those are qualities I always seek to reward. However—"
Here it comes, Kawai thinks glumly.
"—there are limitations to even this company's resources." Johnny at least has the decency to look a touch apologetic, which Kawai appreciates on some level, even if it's buried under six levels of frustration, and a couple more of well-deserved sulk. "With two major debuts so recent, I'm sure you understand there must be a prioritizing of resources, budgeting constraints, and there's only so much promotional real estate to be had in the media no matter how you wish for more."
Kawai struggles to contain a sigh, and manages to reduce it to a little snort out his nose. He wonders if the news of their most recent rejection will mean Totsuka shaves his head a second time. They can go hat shopping again.
"Of course the real problem," Johnny is still going on for some reason, "is actually manpower. All of the other problems can be worked out with patience and determination, which you boys certainly have plenty of, and as Takizawa-kun knows, costuming on a minimalist budget is all in how you spread around the feathers, isn't it."
"Yes, sir," Kawai says vaguely, hoping that somewhere Takizawa is shivering from the same chill as he is at that moment.
"But a good manager is the essential item, and there's no getting around that." Johnny folds his hands on his desk. "A manager has the whole fate of the group in their hands. They have to be dependable and know how to get the most out of their unit, to balance schedules and different activities, to be able to encourage and to scold at the right moments, to have a steady hand. And there's just no one available at the moment, as busy as things are, no one I trust implicitly. A.B.C-Z has gotten on so long without one, and you’ve done admirably, but for a debut…it just can't be done without a manager."
"The essential item?" Hashimoto repeats, and Kawai blinks, having nearly forgotten he was still sitting there. "The thing we need for a debut?"
"The most important thing," Johnny agrees, nodding.
"Okay," Hashimoto says, like it's all settled. "I'll do it."
"You'll…what now?" Kawai asks, mystified.
"I'll be A.B.C-Z's manager." Hashimoto straightens his spine and meets Johnny's startled gaze directly. "I won't let you down, so you can definitely leave A.B.C-Z's debut to me."
"Ah." Johnny's gaze flicks from Hashimoto back to Kawai, amusement on the surface and something else lurking underneath, but Kawai is too shell-shocked to work it out. "So it's like that. In that case, it'll have to be a DVD debut, won't it? Let's do that."
Kawai's mouth works soundlessly before the meaning of those syllables actually penetrates his brain. In the elevator afterwards, Hashimoto pats his back and soothingly reminds that Kawai isn't the first junior to cry in Johnny-san's office, and he surely won't be the last.
"Oh god, are we fired?!" Tsukada demands when they get a good look at Kawai, red-eyed and still snuffling into his sleeve like a trainee, but then they notice Hashimoto's grin is nearly as wide as he is tall, leaving them stumped.
"Hasshi, what's going on?" Totsuka asks.
"Nope," Hashimoto says.
Totsuka frowns. "Hasshi—"
"Nope," he corrects more immediately. Totsuka studies his expression more closely, but all Hashimoto does is go on grinning.
"A hint, please?" Totsuka finally asks, hands spread wide in surrender.
"Hashimoto-manager," Hashimoto informs them smugly. "It's 'manager-san' from now on~."
"Manager of what, exactly?" Goseki inquires while Tsukada and Totsuka start to laugh.
"Of A.B.C-Z's debut," he breaks the news. Tsukada and Totsuka both choke mid-snicker, Goseki says, "Well, shit," and Kawai starts blubbering all over again.
Totsuka drags Kawai half a dozen steps away, fingers unpleasantly tight around Kawai's wrist, and demands to know what the hell is going on.
"Hasshi just told you," Kawai says. He offers Totsuka a watery smile, but Totsuka isn't laughing.
"Is this a prank? It's not funny," Totsuka says, and Kawai protests that it's not, it's not. It only makes Totsuka's gaze turn even steelier. "Then what is it? What the fuck, Fumito?"
"It just happened, okay?!" Kawai insists, voice teetering on the edge of another meltdown. "Don't yell at me! One minute Johnny-san is giving his standard 'we regret to inform you' speech, and then he says we can't debut since there's no manager, and then Hasshi says he'll do it, you know, leave it all to him, and then suddenly I'm living in bizarro crazytown and we're debuting!"
"Tell me what he said exactly," Totsuka says, obviously struggling to digest the chain of events. "His exact words."
"He said," Kawai has to take a deep breath, trying to remember, "he said, 'So it's like that. it'll have to be a DVD debut, so let's do that.' Like that."
"So it's like that?" Totsuka repeats; Kawai nods. "So it's…fuck, shachou," and then he buries his face in his hands. Kawai reaches out to hug him, resting his cheek against Totsuka's shaking shoulder, knowing just how he feels.
It's only a minute later when strong arms wrap around both of them and squeeze tight enough to make them look up.
"Oi, quit that," Hashimoto orders, face serious and determined. "Manager-san will take care of it, for sure. Trust me."
"It isn't like we have a choice," Totsuka murmurs, but Hashimoto just kisses his forehead soundly, then Kawai's, then orders Tsukada and Goseki to get over here already, dammit, and not to make manager-san ask twice.
~A Week or So Later~
"Debut DVD planning meeting: start!" Hashimoto announces, then looks around the table expectantly at his four groupmates.
They look right back at him. Eventually, Totsuka ventures, "Shouldn't you be telling us your suggestions or plans, as manager?"
"No, you guys tell me what you want to do and then I make it happen," Hashimoto says. He shakes his head at them. "I don't think you guys know what a manager's job is."
"I don't think you know what a manager's job is," Totsuka responds, over the sound of Kawai cracking up.
"I just said."
"Hasshi—" Tsukada starts.
"Don't correct him, idiot!" Goseki whacks the back of Tsukada's head. "Go on, Ryosuke, you're doing fine."
"Okay, okay," Kawai tries to collect himself enough to get them on track, but he can't wipe the grin entirely off, "let's make a list of resources, and then work on a concept, right? Hasshi, did they tell you what we have to work with?"
"We get a soundstage," Hashimoto answers, "for an afternoon. And I'm pretty sure a camera crew."
This time it's Goseki who starts laughing, while Kawai and Totsuka exchange a look.
"Is there…anything else?" Kawai dares to ask. "A budget of some sort, perhaps? Anything?"
"Mmm…but that stuff doesn't matter," Hashimoto waves them off, making all four of them blink. "Like shachou said, the budget and costumes and stuff, it's not the most important thing. There's us, yeah? We're the most important resource."
"That's not exactly what he…" Kawai trails off, feeling everyone's eyes heavy on him. He puts his grin firmly back on. "Manager-san's right, we've got us. The reason we wanted a DVD debut was to show people A.B.C-Z, right? So we don't need anything else."
"Simple is best," Hashimoto nods, looking pleased he gets to use one of his favorite phrases.
"Simple, huh," Tsukada says thoughtfully. "Like wearing streetclothes?"
"Like using juniors for backers," Goseki says. "And being our own staff."
"We'll split it up like a show, like a live," Totsuka agrees, going into responsibility mode. "Gocchi for dance, Tsuka-chan for acrobatics, Fumi for comedy…"
"But what's 'it' supposed to be?" Tsukada wants to know. Kawai snaps his fingers.
"Tottsu just said, like a live!" Kawai looks around expectantly, but nobody seems to follow him. "What makes a live performance different than a recorded one?"
"I can't fast-forward through your MC?" Goseki suggests.
"No, idiot," Kawai rolls his eyes, "it's different because you can't start over, right? A live show is exciting because no matter what happens it has to keep going, nobody yelling 'cut!' or 'take 32' or whatever. This is our chance to show one of our lives to people who've never seen us in person, so let's do it like that."
"A one-take performance?" Tsukada whistles, then grins. "It sounds sort of crazy, for a PV. I like it!"
"But it would have to be one long shot, so the audience would understand it wasn't edited together," Totsuka points out. "It'd take special equipment, for a camera to follow the kind of things we do…will that really be okay? We do need a budget for some things."
All of them turn to Hashimoto, mildly surprised to see him writing down notes about their discussion. After another second or two, he nods to himself, satisfied, and then looks up.
"Manager-san will take care of it," he tells them, serious.
"Please take care of us," they all murmur, and it isn't that they don’t believe Hashimoto will do his best for them, so much as that they know even the prettiest face and batted eyelashes can only go so far where actual money is concerned.
Two days later Hashimoto comes back from a round of meetings to give them the go-ahead, and that's when they realize that maybe Hashimoto's magic doesn't just work on the four of them.
~Later on After That~
"Simple is best" becomes sort of a motto among them, and if their desire to just be themselves happens to coincide with Johnny's desire to spend as little money on them as possible, well, then that’s just one more thing Kawai can rub in Fujigaya's face when they go out drinking.
"Oh, honestly," Fujigaya snaps when he's had enough. "I don't know what you're acting so smug about, when your debut event looked like something a sixth grade class threw together for their cultural festival. All you did was shake a bunch of fangirls' hands and sing a couple songs!"
"Yeah, 'cause your cars were classy." Kawai snorts. "What'd you go to, like a dozen planning meetings? Did you even get to see your fans' faces? To really look?" His expression turns a bit dreamy. "It was really something, you know? I'll never forget it. They were so happy for us. I'm so happy. You're as happy as me, right?"
"I'm not as drunk as you, more's the pity," Fujigaya says, but he shoves at Kawai's shoulder with his own. "Of course I am, for myself and for Kisumai, and that your lazy ass finally caught up to us. And just when are you gonna get yourself a proper manager? Geez."
"We've got one," Kawai says fiercely, "the best manager A.B.C-Z's ever had."
"The only one you've ever had," Fujigaya corrects, and Kawai makes him drink to that.
The longer it goes on, the more Kawai is sure of his feelings on the matter, and Fujigaya's occasional blow-ups about his own managerial situation are not going very far to change Kawai's mind.
"She's driving me crazy," Fujigaya exclaims while they're supposed to be stretching for Shounen Club practice. Kawai's a pretty terrible stretching partner, which is exactly how Fujigaya likes it. "The whole staff is!"
"So melodramatic, Taisuke," Totsuka comments beside them, his own 'stretching' partner working on a muscle knot in Totsuka's lower back and eavesdropping shamelessly.
"You need to actually stretch," Hashimoto comments in vague exasperation, "before any other stuff too." Totsuka makes a non-committal noise.
"You shut up, you get all your news from Kitayama," Fujigaya retorts. "And if he got worked up about something once in a while, maybe I wouldn't have to! It's all fan-service and drama haircuts…now they want to start dicking around with my tour solo! That's going too far, and Dome is not seeing my nipples, and I don't care how many Myojo polls they wave at me!"
"Hmm." Kawai straightens up and looks over his shoulder, back at Hashimoto. "Ne, manager-san, next stage show can we do the wires shirtless?"
Totsuka leans his head back as well. "Wire fan-service?"
"Approved~," Hashimoto answers without a moment's thought, and kisses Totsuka's cheek with a loud smack while Fujigaya gags showily. "Oh, but should we save that for 12 Stars, do you think?"
"Aaah," Kawai and Totsuka both say, looking thoughtful.
"Now you're just teasing, fuck you very much," Fujigaya sniffs at them. "He might be your manager-san, but that's got nothing to do with ours, and we're on different labels besides. It'll take until our tenth anniversary for them to work out another joint concert, if they ever do."
"It's just that Kisumai's been so busy," Hashimoto explains, shrugging a shoulder, "and us too, so I haven't had time to ask properly yet."
"Oh please." Fujigaya rolls his eyes. "Look kid, your cutesy act might work on these idiots," he reaches over to flick Kawai between the eyes, "and maybe they let you guys just do whatever you want, but saying pretty please and tilting your head won't work on our manager or staff for sure, not to even mention staff from both labels."
Kawai's grin doesn't even flicker. "You want to bet?"
~The Next Day~
They assure Fujigaya that they are not teasing him, but all the same Kawai is sure Fujigaya really thinks they are, and so he tags along when Hashimoto shows up at Kis-My-Ft2's location the next afternoon. Kisumai greets them happily enough, despite the surprise, and they chuckle and exchange knowing glances amongst themselves when they learn that Hashimoto's real errand is to introduce himself to Kisumai's manager properly, as A.B.C-Z's manager.
"She's over there," Kitayama points across the area, having to lean around the costume rack to look, while Hashimoto just glances over.
"Conspiring with Myojo staff!" Fujigaya adds, loud enough to probably be heard, but their manager doesn't make any move to acknowledge Fujigaya's accusations.
"Thanks," Hashimoto says, and strolls off, hands tucked in the pockets of his dark blue hoodie.
"This is gonna be hilarious," Nikaido says, leaning around the costume rack with Senga at his shoulder. "Manager-san is going to totally give it to him. Not even Kenpi's looks work on her."
"Aw, no faith in Ebi's manager?" Kawai asks. "He wore his official manager-san meeting hoodie and everything."
Fifteen minutes later, Hashimoto comes strolling back with a satisfied grin.
"All set!" Hashimoto announces, making the whole group blink at him. "We're gonna make an official presentation next week. Your manager is gonna do the PowerPoint! She seems really nice. We've gotta run, though, or we'll be late to our own stuff. See you next week!"
"See ya," Kawai echoes, swallowing laughter as he waves to the still-stunned group and turns to follow Hashimoto out. Across the way, Kisumai's manager is standing exactly where Hashimoto left her, looking like she has no idea what just happened or what she's gotten himself into.
She really doesn't, poor woman, Kawai chuckles to himself, and then is pulled from his thoughts when he has to rescue their precious manager from a revolving door.
~A Week After That~
They have to reschedule twice before they can get some people from either label scheduled in the same timeslot and meeting room as the Jimusho staff. Kis-My-Ft2 just looks resigned each time it gets moved, and even Totsuka voices a few doubts.
"You think it'll really work?" he asks Kawai. "It's not the same as romancing a few costuming ladies or ordering Snowmen back into their pants."
"I trust Manager-san," Kawai says staunchly. Even so, he's holding his breath just as much as the others when Hashimoto emerges from the meeting with Kis-My-Ft2's manager.
"Well?!" Fujigaya demands. Their manager's dazed expression snaps back to normal, and she asks if they couldn't maybe have found something more useful to do, rather than hang around outside this door.
Hashimoto just flashes them a peace sign and an easy grin. "Easy, easy~."
Nikaido and Senga let out whoops that can probably be heard in Okinawa, Tsukada starts hugging anyone he can lay his hands on, Fujigaya and Goseki slap double hi-fives, and Tamamori even tolerates a kiss on the cheek from Miyata (with Kitayama holding him in place so he's an easy target). Kawai muffles laughter when he sneaks a peek back in the meeting room and finds all the label representatives still blinking at each other or their notes.
"How does he do that?" Kisu-manager asks Totsuka, but Totsuka can only laugh and shrug.
"You'll get used to it," he tells her. "But you still won't understand it."
"Planning meetings start in a couple days," Hashimoto is telling them meanwhile, "so make sure and tell us what you want to do, okay?"
That brings Kis-My-Ft2 up short. Senga asks, "What…we want?"
"Sure, like what combis or corner ideas or whatever or," Hashimoto looks puzzled that he has to explain this to Kisumai, "you know, stuff. For the…stage?"
"That's not what our planning meetings are like," Kitayama explains, glancing at their manager every now and again, as if waiting for her to interrupt their mutiny. "They tell us the concept."
"Then they sort out our combis," Nikaido sighs, exchanging wrinkled noses with Senga.
"And then we argue about which of my corner ideas is least objectionable!" Miyata puts in, looking proud of that, for some reason. Tamamori just shakes his head.
"Oi, don't make it sound like that," Yokoo protests, also glancing at their manager with a bit of discomfort. "We get to make lots of decisions too."
"Tama's costuming is proof of that," Nikaido snorts. Tamamori beams like that's a compliment; most of the group glances to the side.
"Yeah, but they're right that it doesn't start that way," Fujigaya points out. "The framework is mostly there already."
"Kisumai's staff sounds busy, ne," is Hashimoto's comment about all of that. "But joint concerts are special, so we have to do lots of interesting stuff, things we can't do any other time."
"He's right." Kawai elbows Fujigaya. "The things we talk about wanting to do together for ages, the staff won't know about any of that, so we've got to pitch our ideas before they figure out what to do with us."
"I have no idea what to do with any of you," Kisu-manager says under her breath as she taps out a message on her phone that she doesn't look entirely thrilled about.
"We'll think about the things we really want, properly," Kitayama says after a short lapse in conversation, "and we'll mail them to Hasshi-kun and Manager-san so they can get an idea what we're thinking and start planning with staff."
"Wire fan-service!" Kawai and Totsuka chorus, making Fujigaya slap a hand to his forehead and Kisu-manager nearly drop her phone.
~Several Planning Meetings Later~
To: Group 2
[Got some things approved this meeting, so I'm passing on the good news ( ^_^)V
Kitayama-kun and Tottsu will be busy writing their duet, so Fujigaya-kun and Yokoo-san will have to pick up the fan-service slack. But Gocchi wants another shadow dance too! Nika-kun and Senga-kun, Kisu-manager-san says to bring some songs to show her tomorrow. She wants details about Senga-kun's dance corner with Tsuka-chan too, so you two come up with something good, okay? And if Yokoo-san wouldn't mind playing guitar for Miyacchi and Tama-chan? We think that would be a nice change of pace after Nika-kun and Fumikyun's impression corner.
And if Kisumai absolutely insists on being girls again, then A.B.C-Z will just have to take you on a group date! Don't worry, we'll show you ladies a good time~
Last thing: I hope you guys don't mind, but I let it slip that "Calling" was my favorite Kisumai song. It has the right kind of party atmosphere, don't you think? It caused a big ruckus, but Hasshi-manager will definitely take care of it, so look forward to it (｀◇´)ゞ Although there might be one or two or five teeeeeny additions… ( ^_^)b
Anything else you guys want?]
~At More or Less the Same Time~
"You know," Kitayama says as they're all reading the mails to themselves, "not to say that I'm not enjoying it, but I really don't understand what is even going on anymore."
Fujigaya shuts his phone with a snap. "Fumito can tell you what happened—"
"—but it won't explain anything," Kawai finishes, laughing. Kitayama, Yokoo, and Totsuka join in, chuckling more quietly, until even Fujigaya gives up and joins in. The five of them are out to do some planning of their own, agreeing unanimously that they can plan just as well, or maybe even better, with drinks in their hands. In the name of planning, Kawai orders another round, and enough snacks to feed SMAP.
"What should we drink to?" Yokoo asks.
"To Hasshi-manager," Totsuka suggests. "May he always be magic and always get his way."
"May his way always be the same as ours!" Kitayama adds.
"And may he get our labels to work out a DVD!" Fujigaya puts in.
"Here, here!" Kawai agrees. "To Hasshi-manager! A.B.C-Z's first and best manager, long may he reign!"
They all laugh, but Kawai notices they're all sure to clink their beers against his directly, and later on when he's good and pink-cheeked, Fujigaya asks if they can't maybe borrow A.B.C-Z's manager, just for a teeny tiny bit?
Kawai just laughs, catching Totsuka's eye with a wink. There's no way A.B.C-Z is giving up their manager, even for a millisecond.