Also if you were wondering where Miyata had got to, douzo.
Back to Chapter 2
3) First Live Concert
The venue for their live was, in a word, tiny.
“It’s intimate,” Yokoo corrected as he shepherded them inside, Kitayama pulling down her hood to look around curiously as they came out onto the stage. Fujigaya stood beside her with his shades still on, slurping a coffee large enough that Yokoo had asked tersely whether he meant to drink it or to drown himself in it.
The pair of them were slow enough that they were nearly run over by Senga and Tamamori elbowing past them to rush out to the edge of the stage and hopping down off of it.
“Tama-chan!” called a voice from back at the soundboard, one of the techs waving wildly and with a grin big enough to be seen easily from a theater-length away. Tamamori immediately slowed his rush to an amble, like he couldn’t care less who was back there, but Senga kept jogging, outpacing him.
“Hi, Miyacchi!” Senga answered happily. “Is Tsuka-chan back there?”
“Yup, he went to check some lights, but he’ll be back in a second.” His answer made Senga cheer. Fujigaya even smiled a little, because Tsukada Ryoichi worked as a staging crew member for a day job, but was also one of the members of Crazy Accel.
“That’s Miyata Toshiya,” Yokoo introduced Miyata to Kitayama. “He’s our usual sound tech.”
“And Tama-chan’s boyfriend,” Fujigaya put in from behind them. Yokoo gave him an unimpressed look, but Fujigaya just shrugged. “What? Miyacchi’ll wear him down sooner or later.”
In fact, Miyata had abandoned his soundboard to meet Senga and Tamamori partway down the aisle. After exchanging a quick hug with Senga, Miyata immediately latched onto Tamamori, who whined but wasn’t struggling that hard as Miyata squeezed him around the waist.
“Uh-huh,” was Kitayama’s only comment. She was still looking around the venue, obviously puzzled by the size of it. “What’s with this venue?” she asked Yokoo. “I thought you guys were popular.”
“Don’t say ‘you guys’ like it doesn’t have anything to do with you,” Fujigaya said, pursing his lips.
“We ran a contest through the website for the live as a special event,” Yokoo explained, as if Fujigaya weren’t even talking behind them. “Better to test you out in front of two hundred fangirls than two thousand.”
“Two hundred girls can trample us to death just as easily,” Tamamori commented as he, Senga, and Miyata reached the front of the stage and had to scramble up onto it.
“Wow, you really do have a girl!” Miyata whistled. “I didn’t think there was any way that Kawai-kun wasn’t bullshitting us.”
“Miyacchi!” Senga scolded, dragging Miyata over by the hand to meet Kitayama properly. Tamamori, still working on climbing up, scowled. “Hiro-chan, this Miyacchi, he does our sound stuff usually.”
“Nice to meet you,” Miyata said, giving Kitayama a polite bow and a friendly smile. Kitayama smiled back, like most people did; Miyata had a way of putting everyone at ease even after they’d just met. “You’re not supposed to fanservice with Tama-chan or anything, right? Because his fans will murder you.”
“I can fanservice with anybody I want!” Tamamori announced, finally getting himself on stage and shouldering Senga away from Miyata’s side. Senga let himself be pushed over with a knowing roll of his eyes. Tamamori punched Miyata in the arm, but Miyata only grinned up at him adoringly, clearly used to the rough treatment.
“I’m just worried for your safety,” Miyata said, teasing but with a touch of earnestness underneath it. “How can we go for our ramen date tomorrow if we have to run you to the emergency room?” He reached over to touch the back of Tamamori’s wrist lightly.
“Again,” said Fujigaya.
“Who said I was going anywhere with you?” Tamamori muttered, yanking his hand away from Miyata’s. When he realized everyone was just staring at him evenly, Tamamori’s cheeks turned pink and he scuttled off to check his stage drums, with one last shove at Miyata’s shoulder for good measure.
Tsukada showed up just then, clutching an armload of extension cords, and shook hands with Kitayama while making the same comment about Kawai’s surprising lack of bullshit that Miyata had.
“Let me know if you need me to move the drums or anything else,” Tsukada said, mostly to Yokoo, running one hand through his bleached-blond hair to push it out of his face. “I just did it the usual way, but I wasn’t sure if you’d need to change the spacing with a fourth member.”
“Tsuka-chan can lift anything,” Senga informed Kitayama, grinning like he was talking about his beloved older brother. Tsukada grinned and ruffled his hair.
“Thank you, it looks good for now, but we might make some adjustments,” Yokoo said. Tsukada gave him a mock salute, and Yokoo turned to the others. “Ready? Let’s get started.”
The run-through went about as smoothly as could be expected, only small problems cropping up here or there of the usual sort to be expected when setting up in a new venue. Eventually they broke for a meal that was too late to be lunch and too early to be dinner, and Yokoo whisked Kitayama away for her appointment with the stylist that he had managed to wrangle.
When they returned, Kitayama’s hair was darker and shorter, her sleek bob from before now a mess of soft spikes, long enough to frame her face at the moment without any product in, but short enough she could gel them up into true spikes if she wanted. It looked much more like a male idol’s haircut, one that was just starting to grow out and had some versatility to it.
“Wow!” said Miyata over the loudspeaker, the first one to speak. “You are definitely not allowed to fanservice with Tama-chan.”
“Shut UP, Miyacchi!” Tamamori hollered back.
“It looks really good,” Senga assured, then laughed. “It really is a Domoto’s haircut, though. I think I might have had that one once!”
“Thanks.” Kitayama reached up to tug at one of the longer pieces hanging in her eyes, looking a bit self-conscious. She tried to tuck it behind her ear from force of habit, but it slipped right back in her eyes again. “I’ll get used to it after a few days.”
“Taisuke has plenty of barrettes, I’m sure, if you need some,” Yokoo commented, nose buried in his phone so that Fujigaya’s mutinous look was entirely lost on him.
“If you don’t mind,” Kitayama said, taking the offer at face value. Her face was bland, unteasing. Fujigaya shrugged and turned to get his bag. He was rifling through it when Kitayama continued. “Just, could they not be pink and sparkly? If that’s at all possible.”
Fujigaya threw the cardboard sleeve of clips at Kitayama’s stupid head.
Nikaido arrived at that moment with their costumes; she took one look at the new and improved Kitayama and punched Senga hard in the arm.
“Why are you hitting me?!” Senga demanded, not that he made any moves to get out of Nikaido’s reach. “How is this my fault? Go hit Yokoo-san!”
“I dare you to try it,” Yokoo said without even looking up. Nikaido looked like she was thinking about it, manager or not.
“You know, I’m starting to see why all of you are terrified of girls,” Kitayama said, and Nikaido gave her a look that plainly said ‘I’ve got my eye on you’ and shoved Kitayama’s garment bag full of costume into her hands. Kitayama eyed it distrustfully. “There’s not a corset or anything in here, is there?”
“Are you nuts?” Nikaido asked, handing over everyone else’s garment bags to their rightful owners. “I don’t want you feeling up Kenpi, but I’m not trying to get you killed. Try that stuff on so I can make any alterations I have to right away,” Nikaido ordered. She raised an eyebrow at Senga. “And you better not lose any of those pieces this time.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Senga promised, scuttling off into the back, Fujigaya and Tamamori following. Kitayama glanced after them, then started off towards the wings in the opposite direction.
“Changing area’s that way,” Nikaido said, intercepting Kitayama and spinning her around by the shoulders.
“Yeah, but I’m about to get naked.” Kitayama twisted her head to raise an eyebrow at Nikaido. “Didn’t you just get done saying--”
“This is band stuff, that’s different.” Nikaido gave Kitayama a shove in the right direction, then dusted her hands off. “Hurry up. I had to guess on your size and the flares are supposed to be as tight to your hips as possible, so don’t throw some kind of model fit if we have to go up a size.”
Fujigaya barely spared Kitayama half a glance before he went back to stripping off his own clothes, and Senga gave Kitayama a distracted smile, busy trying to free Tamamori from his surprisingly stubborn sweater. Kitayama hooked the garment back on the rack next to the others’ and shrugged off her hoodie.
Fujigaya tried not to watch, but he kept catch glances out of the corner of his eye of Kitayama’s pale skin as she tugged her T-shirt off, the black lace of her bra standing out in contrast, the stretch of her arms over her head. Giving himself a mental shake, he turned his back purposefully and focused on getting himself dressed, dragging it out so that Kitayama would be dressed by the time he turned back around.
“Damn,” Senga said, and Fujigaya twisted to look over his shoulder before he could stop himself.
Kitayama was still struggling with the zipper of the pants as Fujigaya turned, but sucked in a deep breath and managed it finally with a quick yank. The silver of her tank top matched the silver of their shirts but was a much closer fit, emphasizing the curve of her figure against the black lining of the jacket when she pulled it on. She smoothed her palms over the lay of the fabric for a second, then looked up for their opinions. “Well?”
“Looks good,” Tamamori agreed, and then they all looked to Fujigaya for his assessment, only Fujigaya was busy trying to clear his head of club Kitayama, of the shimmer of body glitter and red-tipped eyelashes.
He cleared his throat. “It certainly isn’t hiding you,” he managed, making Kitayama raise an eyebrow.
“That’s what you want, right?” she asked.
“Good, they fit!” Nikaido interrupted Fujigaya’s train of thought before he could answer. She nudged Fujigaya out of the way and fussed with the lay of Kitayama’s jacket for a moment. “You aren’t gonna pop right out of there when you dance, are you? One new girl’s enough, we don’t need both of your girls joining the band as well.”
“Should be okay,” Kitayama confirmed, smirking at Fujigaya’s scrunched expression and Tamamori’s look of horror. “About shoes...”
“Oh, should be in the bottom of your bag,” Nikaido said, attention already turned to checking over Tamamori’s costume and then Fujigaya. She tugged at his waistband, raising an eyebrow at the space between it and his skin. “Fujigaya Taisuke, are you eating properly?”
“No,” Senga and Tamamori both ratted him out without even a second’s hesitation.
“We’ve been busy!” Fujigaya brushed Nikaido’s hands off of him, tugging his silver shirt out of his pants so that it hung loose, hiding his actual waist. “Not like you can just drop a new member in and plan a whole live in a week without giving up--”
“I get to wear sneakers?!” Kitayama’s voice interrupted, and all of them turned to see her holding up her silver-sided sneakers with wide eyes.
“That’s what everyone else has,” Nikaido pointed out, looking just as puzzled as the boys.
A huge grin broke out over Kitayama’s face. “Do you know how long it’s been since I could dance on a stage in sneakers instead of spike heels? Nikaido-san, you just made my whole year.”
“You’re just as easy as these guys, aren’t you?” Nikaido asked, but her expression warmed a little. “And it’s Nika-chan.”
Kitayama was already on the floor, tugging on her new sneakers and lacing them up with obvious glee. She hopped up and gave a few test bounces, then dashed out to the stage to try them out. Senga and Tamamori followed once they’d been giving the thumbs-up by Nikaido, leaving only Fujigaya.
“Seriously, these are going to fall right off your hips,” Nikaido tutted at him, not letting him escape the lecture so easily. “I don’t know how you’re fooling Yokoo-san, but you can’t fool costuming-chan. Did you eat lunch during the break?”
“Yes,” Fujigaya bluffed. He sort of had, eating half a bento between answering emails and still trying to fix that damned song.
Nikaido just shook her head. “You can’t lie worth a damn, you know that, right? Thank god you didn’t go solo, you’d be dead.” She took her tape measure from around her neck and looped it around Fujigaya’s waist without any preamble, eyeing the number where the ends met. “I’ve got this number memorized, and I better not see it again, got it?”
“Got it,” Fujigaya murmured, not very comfortable with the number himself, honestly.
When he got out on stage, Kitayama and Senga were practicing the dance they’d worked through with Yara yesterday, both of their faces lit up, Tamamori dragged into the middle much more reluctantly. Kitayama still had too much hip and hair toss, but to compensate Senga was throwing more of his own into it, laughing as Tsukada and Miyata cat-called them from the soundboard.
“Maybe you should all dress up as girls,” Miyata suggested over the intercom, and Tamamori stopped so suddenly to glare that Senga ran into him and bounced off, landing on the floor in a heap and laughing so hard his eyes were squeezed shut.
Yokoo looked over as Fujigaya had approached, rolling a shoulder towards the action in front of them. “She’s fitting in well, considering, don’t you think?”
Still laughing, Kitayama looked back as if sensing Fujigaya’s eyes on her, but as soon as she caught sight of Fujigaya’s serious expression, hers smoothed out to just a small smile. She turned away and helped Senga off the floor.
“It’s not what I think that matters,” Fujigaya shrugged off Yokoo’s question, but when he went to step away, Yokoo put a hand on his shoulder, stopping him.
“It is, though.” Yokoo said, voice serious. Fujigaya looked back at him and his expression was serious as well. “Tomorrow night two hundred fans will be in here, and when we introduce Kitayama-san, every single one of them is going to turn to watch your reaction. I know you aren’t much good at keeping your feelings off your face, but, Taisuke, if you look like you’ve looked all this week, it’s not going to matter how cute or talented Kitayama is, or how much Sunshine needs her.”
“I can’t help my face,” Fujigaya scowled, hating how right Yokoo was, as always. Damn Manager-san.
“Then I guess you’d better help your feelings instead,” Yokoo suggested. He ran his eyes down the line of Fujigaya’s frame. “And have you eaten anything but coffee today?”
Fujigaya went through the rest of the day on auto-pilot, thinking about Yokoo’s words and just what he was going to do about them. Yokoo was right, he had no hope of hiding his real feelings on his face, which was one of the things fans usually mentioned as his charm point. For better or worse, anybody who knew him at all could read him easily, and right now they could surely read that he felt like Kitayama was an annoyance at best, and an outright invader at worst. It wasn’t personal or anything, he’d feel like that about any fourth member they’d gotten only days before; it was just their bad luck that the president had decided their band had to be some sort of marketing testing scheme.
How on earth was he supposed to change his feelings about that in just a few days?
“You’re staring at me an awful lot,” Kitayama remarked as they were nearing the end of the night. She didn’t seem that concerned about it, just curious.
“I’m not used to somebody standing there, just in the corner of my line of sight. It’s distracting,” Fujigaya offered as an excuse, not feeling very much like getting into it.
For a few seconds, Kitayama eyed him evenly, and Fujigaya looked back, keeping his face as neutral as possible.
“Wow, you are a really awful liar, aren’t you?” Kitayama said bluntly, chuckling. “That’s a little adorable. But really, the staring...?”
“I’m trying to quit thinking of you as some invader,” Fujigaya said, because if she wasn’t going to pull any punches, two could play that game. “I’m just trying to keep Sunshine afloat through tomorrow night.”
“Because the fans can read what you feel right off your face.” Kitayama put it together quickly; she was turning out to be smarter than Fujigaya would have at all guessed to look at her. Fujigaya frowned, sick of discovering new and surprising sides of her, none of which made it easy for him to get a handle on her. “Faking it’s totally no good, isn’t it?” Fujigaya nodded ruefully. “I guess I’m in your hands, then.”
Kitayama kept her distance a little after that, which Fujigaya appreciated even if it didn’t exactly help the problem. He watched her bullshit with Senga and help Miyata bully Tamamori, and he had to admit that Yokoo and President Domoto had been right about how easily she was digging out a little spot for herself.
But all the same, she was an invader, putting his band in a dangerous position even if it wasn’t exactly her fault, and he didn’t see any way to stop feeling like that in the next twenty-four hours.
It was after midnight by the time they all got home, and Fujigaya barely stripped off his boots and jeans before falling face-first onto his mattress and just passing out.
He was entirely unimpressed when someone shook him awake a bit later. Groaning, Fujigaya rolled onto his back and peeled his eyes open.
“Kitayama?” he asked, wondering if he was having a pretty fucked-up dream, since Kitayama had fallen asleep in the changing area, on the van, and then as soon as they dumped her on the couch in the living room. “It’s the middle of the fucking--”
“I know how to fix it!” Kitayama interrupted, eyes dark-ringed but lit up with a sort of manic light.
“What? Fuck, go away.” Fujigaya tried to push her hands off as they kept shaking her, rolling away onto his side. “Bug me in the morning.”
“The song, stupid, I know how to fix it!” she insisted, and that made Fujigaya’s eyes pop open. “Quick, where’s your guitar?”
“It’s right--no, shit, it’s at the venue.” Fujigaya sat up, scrubbing at his eyes.
“Mine too.” Kitayama flopped down on the bed next to Fujigaya, groaning, her weight heavier than her slight frame would suggest given by how much the mattress jostled under Fujigaya. She reached over and stuck an earbud into Fujigaya’s ear. “Here, just use this.”
Kitayama stuck the other earbud into her own ear and thumbed at her iPod until the song started, adjusting the volume now that the sound was split between the two of them. It was the track they had recorded the other day, minus the vocals, and Kitayama sang along, voice quiet but clear. Fujigaya sang along half-heartedly, kind of more sick of this song by now than even Kitayama’s face, but then when they reached the trouble spot, Kitayama motioned for Fujigaya to be quiet.
Braced to cringe like usual, Fujigaya felt his jaw drop when Kitayama sailed right from the verse into the chorus like there had never been a problem at all, exactly what Fujigaya had been trying to put on paper for weeks.
“How’d you do that?!” Fujigaya demanded, and Kitayama grinned proudly.
“I told you, I like to listen to things over and over,” she shrugged, trying and failing to be casual about it. “I just kept trying different stuff, it was partly a timing problem too, just not the notes, so when I switched up some of it, it just...” Kitayama waved her hands in the air a little, like Fujigaya’s issues had been solved by some sort of Tetris maneuver.
“Ugh, whatever,” Fujigaya said, rolling his eyes. “Who cares how you did it, do it again so I can learn it. You sure waited until the last minute!”
“You’re welcome,” Kitayama said, taking the compliment buried deeply in there, and then sang through it again when the second chorus started.
She played it over a few times until Fujigaya had gotten the hang of humming along and they could switch over to him doing the main vocals like he was supposed to. It wasn’t all solved, unfortunately, they still had to work out what the backing vocals would be like now that the melody had been changed, and Fujigaya leaned over to grab one of his notepads of blank sheet music to start writing this all down.
“Ken-chan and Tama should go like,” Fujigaya scribbled as quickly as he could, fingers struggling to keep up with the music in his head, “but maybe you should be more like...ah, does that make it more like a duo melody though? Maybe we should split some of these lines if it’s more like that...”
A soft thump beside him made Fujigaya look over, the earbud yanking out of his ear. Kitayama had tipped over onto her side and was already fast asleep on top of the blankets, curled up and breathing evenly.
“What the hell,” Fujigaya groused at the invasion of his bed, but he was afraid if he stopped he’d lose his train of thought.
Ignoring Kitayama’s cute little snores, he went back to scribbling the notes down as quickly as he could make his hand go. When he was finally satisfied, he had to massaged his palm with his other hand, trying to work out the way his fingers were cramping. The sky was lightening up already, and Fujigaya winced at the thought of the long day ahead.
He set the notepad back on the desk and gave Kitayama a cursory shove, but her breathing didn’t even hitch.
“Couldn’t you even have the decency to get under the fucking blankets?” Fujigaya whined when he tried to crawl under them himself and Kitayama’s weight held them pinned so that he could only get a fraction of them. Using the last of his energy to yank the blankets over enough to at least be under them, Fujigaya buried his face in his pillow and passed out.
It felt like only a few minutes later that his phone alarm started shrilling some piece of cheap Korean pop that Senga insisted would wake up anybody. Fujigaya slapped at his phone until he managed to hit either off or sleep, he wasn’t sure which, then rolled over, not willing to admit that he had to crawl out of bed quite yet.
Someone’s breath on his face made his eyes snap open, and found himself nearly brushing noses with Kitayama. He jerked upright with a shriek and tried to back up, only to overbalance himself and tip right over the edge of his bed with a crash, dragging half the sheets off with him. It knocked the wind out of him, so all he could do was lie there and pant as footsteps pounded down the hallway and his bedroom door was flung open.
“Are you okay?!” Senga demanded, running in in just pajama pants and wildly bedheaded; behind him, Tamamori had a towel around his hair and a toothbrush in his mouth. “I heard screaming and...”
Senga paused, taking Fujigaya on the ground, clutching his ass, the mess of the sheets, and Kitayama still snoring in the middle of the destruction, arms and legs flung wide and T-shirt riding up high enough to show off quite the expanse of flat stomach. Tamamori’s eyes got very wide suddenly.
“No!” Fujigaya pointed at them. “NO!”
“Taipi,” Senga said, grinning. “You dog.” Tamamori mumbled something around his toothbrush of which only the words “your pen” and “company ink” were intelligible.
“THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED,” Fujigaya roared. His face was turning bright pink, which wasn’t helping his case any. “I was asleep! She came in here and woke me up!”
“Ooh, carnivorous woman,” Senga elbowed Tamamori, but Tamamori looked down at Kitayama’s spread-eagle sprawl with obvious doubt. “I always thought that was your type.”
“She wanted to work on the song, you asshole,” Fujigaya spat, giving up on rubbing at his ass even though it still hurt like a son of a bitch, because Senga just kept laughing harder and harder. “She fixed it!”
“Oh?” Senga quit teasing suddenly, eyes lighting up. “Really? What’s it sound like?”
“It’s...” For one horrible moment, Fujigaya couldn’t remember at all what the changed melody sounded like. He sat there frozen for the longest heartbeat ever before he remembered he had written it down. Scrambling to his feet, he made a grab for his notepad, sending the pen flying, and heaved a sigh of relief when he saw the notes in front of him. “Here,” he handed it over to Senga for him to see. “I had to change you and Tama’s parts a bit too.”
Senga and Tamamori peered at the notes, each of them humming different bits, and Fujigaya rolled his eyes. He leaned over Kitayama, thinking surely some of the mayhem must have penetrated her thick skull, but she was still out cold.
“Oi, how can you sleep through all this?” Fujigaya demanded sourly, a poor sleeper even at the best of times.
“Tai,” Kitayama mumbled, as if in response.
“What?” Fujigaya demanded, cheeks flushing right back to pink. “Did you just...”
“Taiyaki,” Kitayama continued, then sighed happily. “Chocolate, definitely...no no, all of them...”
“What the fucking fuck,” Fujigaya said, totally through putting up with all of these nuts. “She’s your problem,” he informed Senga and Tamamori, stomping off to his bathroom. “Get her out of my room before I come back out here.”
“Aw, how are we supposed to do that?” Senga complained, but Fujigaya just announced over his shoulder that he really didn’t care, but good luck either waking her up or carrying her fat ass.
When he’d been under the hot water long enough to be nearly sensible, Fujigaya realized that he was humming his new vocal part to himself.
They had no choice but to practice the new arrangement on stage that afternoon, since everything was already set up and they didn’t have any time to spare. Still, even half-practiced and rushed between mic checks, it sounded a hundred times better to Fujigaya’s ear than the old version.
“Wow, adding a second vocalist makes a ton of difference!” Miyata commented over the intercom. Tamamori rolled his eyes when Miyata added, “But don’t worry, Tama-chan! I still love your voice best!”
“It’s because she warmed up with Taipi all night,” Senga commented, darting out of the way when Fujigaya took a swing at him. Kitayama just raised an eyebrow.
“That’s enough of that,” Yokoo said as he strolled out on stage with a clipboard, giving Fujigaya a pointed glance. He shifted his glance over to Senga long enough to make Senga cough. “That as well, Ken-chan.”
“Like you guys wouldn’t be all up on me or Tama-chan if you found Hiro-chan in our rooms in the morning,” Senga muttered rebelliously.
“Sorry, Ken-chan,” Kitayama drawled, fingering at her guitar idly. “You’re a little young for me, though~.”
“And I’m too tall,” Tamamori put in, like he’d actually been thinking about the logistics. He frowned when Kitayama looked over her shoulder to smirk.
“It’s all the same once you’re horizontal,” she informed him with a wink.
“What did I just say?” Yokoo demanded in exasperation. “Costume check is half an hour before showtime. You four have the next hour for a break and to eat, Nika-chan just dropped off the bentos in your changing room. And Taisuke, eat something, or I’m gonna make you eat it.”
Senga snickered. “That’s what--”
Fujigaya tried to obey their manager’s orders, but his stomach was bunched up into knots, and he had barely eaten half of his bento before he felt like he was going to be sick. He hadn’t felt this nervous about a live since he was a trainee, and maybe not even then since he hadn’t had a whole band to worry about back that.
“Eat the rice at least,” Kitayama said, and Fujigaya startled a little because he had forgotten anybody was there. Generally nobody did hang around in the changing room with him; Tamamori was undoubtedly back at the soundboard calling Miyata names, and as to where Senga and Nikaido got off to before shows...it was best not to open any doors without knocking.
“I don’t want any more,” Fujigaya brushed her off. He nudged his bento over, towards Kitayama, away from him. “Take it if you want it.”
“What I want,” Kitayama said, pushing it right back, “is for you not to pass out on stage. Are you always like this or what? I’ve been in your band nearly a week and I’ve seen you eat about a thousand kilocalories combined.”
“It’s not like this week has been entirely normal.” Fujigaya picked his chopsticks back up and picked at the rice. When Kitayama’s stony expression didn’t change, Fujigaya grumbled and ate a purposely overlarge mouthful.
Kitayama did not look impressed when Fujigaya swallowed wrong and ended up needing her to pound him on the back.
“Forget it, starving might be safer,” Kitayama advised, and Fujigaya gave her a dark look as he tried to drink a few swallows of bottled tea in between coughs. “Try to relax a little, geez. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? If they hate me, Domoto will just pull me out and claim it was a stunt, and he’ll probably get away with it. To go back to the way it was before, isn’t that exactly what you want?”
Fujigaya’s mouth tightened, but before he could answer, Kitayama had tucked herself into the corner of the couch, arms folded against her chest and knees pulled up. She was small enough that she wasn’t invading Fujigaya’s space at all, turning herself towards the inside of the couch so that her cheek was pillowed on the back cushion.
“Wake me up for costume check,” she said, eyes already closed.
“With what?” Fujigaya asked, thinking of that morning, of Kitayama spread all across his sheets like she owned them. “A bomb?”
He only got a sleepy murmur from Kitayama, and he turned away, clicking his tongue as she obviously fell right to sleep. If only he could fall asleep so easily, but Fujigaya knew there was no chance of being able to, no matter how badly he could use a nap. He was still a nervous mess, so he spent the break checking his mails on his phone and trying to calm himself down. The mails weren’t quite interesting enough to keep him distracted, aside from one from Kawai.
[Don’t fall off the stage and die! ( ^_^)b]
“Ass,” Fujigaya said to nobody, smiling in spite of himself, and he sent back the reply that Kawai could go fuck his underage schoolgirl manager for all he cared.
The room was silent except for the click of Fujigaya’s thumbs on his phone buttons and Kitayama’s soft, even breathing. It must have been more soothing than he thought, because before Fujigaya realized how much time had passed, Tamamori strolled into the room looking entirely self-satisfied. He was followed shortly by Senga, sneaking in more sheepishly, practically glowing all over and making a beeline for the mirror to try and finger-comb his hair back into some sort of order.
“Wow, you look relaxed!” Senga commented over his shoulder, having apparently caught sight of Fujigaya’s reflection in the mirror.
“He does?” Tamamori asked, tilting his head.
“Well, you know, compared to usual,” Senga clarified, and Tamamori gave a little “Aha.” Senga stretched, baring a stripe of stomach as his T-shirt rode up, and a reasonably questionable bruise. Tamamori reached over to poke it with one finger, making Senga yelp and twist away. He yanked his shirt up farther to see himself and groaned. “I told her no marks!”
“Getting ready?” Yokoo asked, sticking his head in the door, and Senga yanked his shirt down immediately, trying to look innocent. “They just opened the doors a minute ago.”
“Miyacchi says that if a mob rushes the stage, he’ll turn out the lights quick for us,” Tamamori reported. “So we can make a run for it.”
“We should scatter so more of us have a chance of making it to safety,” Senga agreed seriously. “I’m breaking left.”
“Would you two quit that?” Yokoo demanded. “Honestly, is a little optimism too much to ask for?” He glanced down at the source of their current drama, still snoring peacefully. “Or were you just hoping that she’d sleep through the whole thing?”
“I’m not waking her up again today,” Senga said, crossing his arms. “She’s scary.”
Rolling his eyes at the weakness of his kouhai, Fujigaya reached over and pinched Kitayama’s nostrils soundly shut. “See? Was that so--”
Fujigaya wasn’t so smug when Kitayama came awake swinging.
It seemed like no time at all after that that the four of them were standing backstage, Nikaido patting down their costumes a last time, Yokoo pressing fingertips against his headset anxiously as they waited for Miyata to start the intro video. In the tense silence between them, they could hear the crowd, muffled to a murmur by the stage set and curtains dividing them from backstage.
“Hey,” Senga tugged Kitayama’s sleeve, “can’t you be a guy? For just a little bit? Because I definitely want to dance with you more.”
Kitayama blinked for a second, before she gave Senga a small smile. “Thanks, Ken-chan,” she said, instead of answering, and Senga heaved a sigh.
“Ugh, I can’t TAKE IT,” Tamamori blurted, not terribly patient under the best circumstances. “Miyacchi, hurry up and start!”
“This is ridiculous,” Fujigaya announced, and without looking back to see what Yokoo or anybody else was going to do about it, he marched himself out onto the stage. A swirl of screams erupted, moving from the side of the audience who had spotted him first out through the rest of the fans.
“What are you doing?” Miyata’s voice was barely audible in Fujigaya’s earpiece over the ruckus.
“Shut up and dim the house lights,” Fujigaya told him quietly, then reached for the microphone at his usual spot and pulled it off the stand. “How’s everybody doing out there? Ready to start?”
The pitch of screams seemed to make Fujigaya’s back molars buzz, or maybe that was the stream of invectives Yokoo was directing at him over his headpiece. Fujigaya reached up and tugged out his earpiece, taking a deep breath.
“So, maybe you’ve realized the reason for this special event?” he asked, and some members of the crowd called out the right idea, while others just hollered his name for no reason, or Tamamori or Senga’s name. “Ah, some of you figured it out, it’s because Sunshine has a new member. No?” he asked when some audience members gave a loud “EH?!” He put a hand on one hip, tutting at them. “Have you been checking the website properly? Properly, next time, properly!”
Some of the audience laughed, although there was a lot of whispering, and the tension in the room had definitely gone up. He could see the glare of good number of girls checking their phones, lighting up their faces in the dim room as if they all had matching penlights from a previous tour.
“When you meet the new member, you might be a bit shocked,” Fujigaya continued, trying to sound calm and encouraging, even as his throat was drying out and he was wishing desperately that he’d thought this through before coming out to do this on his own. “But I want you to give it a chance, okay? Just trust us for a little bit, and I think you’ll see how valuable this person can be for Sunshine. Can you trust me just for tonight?”
“Yeeeees,” most of the audience chorused automatically, over the whispers and the exchanged glances.
“Here goes nothing,” Fujigaya murmured away from his mic, reaching up to put his earpiece back in. He winced when Yokoo’s abuse picked up mid-sentence, about twice as loud as when he’d stopped listening before. “Kitayama? Come out here. Ken-chan and Tama too.”
The whispers hushed like a switch had been thrown when Kitayama strode out on stage, Senga and Tamamori a few steps behind her. All three of them were hiding their nervousness as best they could, but Fujigaya could read them well enough to see through that. He wondered if any of the fans could as well. He was afraid to look out at them honestly, afraid of what was going to happen when the shocked silence finally broke.
When she got close enough, Fujigaya held out his microphone for Kitayama to take, and she nodded her thanks to him before she turned and faced the audience. She gave them a bright smile, projecting as much self-confidence as she could. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Kitayama Hiromi, and I’m sure I’m not what you were expecting. But if you think you feel surprised, you should have seen these guys’ faces.”
A few audience members laughed, although it was strained, and Fujigaya dared a glance at the audience’s faces. It wasn’t as bad as he had feared, although it wasn’t that encouraging; most of them still looked stunned, and he wondered how much of Kitayama’s words were really getting through.
“But these guys are really amazing, you know?” Kitayama continued. “They’ve been doing their best all week to make me feel welcome, and even though the four of us have been working very hard to show you our best sides tonight, it hasn’t felt like work at all. So I hope we can become good friends, and that we can get our feelings across to you. Please take care of me.”
Kitayama bowed deeply. Fujigaya, Tamamori, and Senga echoed their own “Please take care of us,” and bowed as well. After a second, a smattering of applause broke out, and the four of them straightened up and exchanged glances. Tamamori looked a bit pale, but Senga was smiling, apparently pleased with Kitayama’s self-introduction.
“Let’s start with the new one,” Fujigaya said on impulse, making Tamamori squawk a little, but Senga and Kitayama nodded. “If that doesn’t win them over, there’s not much point in the rest of it.”
The rest of the live passed in a blur, and if the audience wasn’t the most high tension audience ever, they did warm up a little as the set went on. Some girls seemed determined to sulk, Fujigaya could see, but most followed along with their penlights as usual, and after a while he started to see more and more smiles, to hear the usual laughter when Tamamori jumbled all his words trying to talk between songs. Senga started an impromptu dance battle with Kitayama to cover it up, and they even got some catcalls.
“Oi, this is why we always need like thirteen guests for the MCs,” Fujigaya scolded Tamamori off-mic, but it was more resigned than scolding. They were nearing the end of the live, and Fujigaya was mentally debating what they should do since they had done the new song first rather than as the finale. “About the end, let’s--”
“We should do the new one again,” Kitayama put in quickly. “In the spot where we planned it. Most of them probably were too distracted to listen the first time, right? Besides,” Kitayama grinned, a bit sly, “I bet a lot of them didn’t have their recorders on yet, since you marched out here so suddenly. I’m not going to become an vocal sensation overnight if nobody has any proof.”
“Okay, okay,” Fujigaya gave in, shooing off a giggling Senga and Tamamori. “Have it your way. Miyacchi, you have it cued up?” Fujigaya asked into his headset. He paused, rolling his eyes when he heard nothing but Miyata cooing about how cute Tamamori was. “Miyacchi! Knock it off up there!”
“Sorry, sorry!” Miyata apologized, still laughing. Fujigaya glanced to the side just to see Tamamori’s unimpressed expression. “I’m ready, I promise!”
It was the right choice; they got a much better audience response than they had the first time, melting away most of Fujigaya’s worries that everyone would hate the new song and he’d be fired right along with Kitayama. Kitayama seemed pleased as well, and when she caught Fujigaya’s eye by chance, she winked, sending a little ripple of excitement through the girls right in front of her.
When they bowed at the end and said their usual, “We are Sunshine,” Fujigaya found himself really wanting it to be true, and Kitayama’s hand squeezed more tightly around his as if she knew what he was thinking.
Go to Chapter 4