Summary: Senga needs more excitement in his university life (au).
AN: Written for the quick March exchange for dancerdreams2. It just turned out sort of cute, but I hope you like it anyway.
I'm Not Gonna Taiko a Love Song
Senga found it hard to believe that he was even thinking it, but somehow university was a little anti-climactic. His high school days had been so full of cram school and exams and his part-time job; now that he'd been accepted into a good public university with a savings cushion, his classes alone weren't nearly enough to fill his time. That was how he found himself standing in front of the bulletin board in the library, looking at the confetti-colored scatter of club and activity advertisements.
"Taiko?" Nikaido, Senga's best friend and roommate asked when Senga brought the flyer home. "Are you crazy?"
"Aw, come on, come with me," Senga wheedled. "It'll be fun! Plus I won't know anybody there so you have to come too."
Nikaido eyed Senga balefully. "It's all well and good for you, college boy, but some of us have a job. Taiko sounds exhausting!"
"Pleeeeeeeease?" Senga asked. That was how Nikaido ended up hovering nervously at Senga's shoulder as they came into the taiko studio, the regular members already warming up.
"Um, hello?" Senga said, feeling unusually shy. Usually he was more self-confident, but everyone else seemed older than him and Nikaido, and one of the guys was looking them over, entirely unimpressed.
"Showing up late isn't the best way to make a first impression," he said.
"Ah, sorry!" Senga apologized immediately, ducking his head in a bow. "We got lost…"
"Don't lecture, Watta," one of the others said, the one with quite the perm gathered in a hot pink scrunchie. "We wouldn't need to advertise for new members all the time if you didn't scare all the new guys off with that face."
"Don't worry about them," one of the other guys said as Senga and Nikaido kept glancing back and forth between the bickering of the first two. "I'm Miyata. Have you guys ever done taiko before?"
"Not exactly," Senga said, suddenly eyeing how pronounced Miyata's arm muscles were under his garish anime T-shirt. Nikaido was giving Senga such a dirty look that Senga could practically feel his gaze burning the back of his neck.
As it turned out they weren't the latest people to practice. Ten minutes later, another guy strolled in and shuffled to the back where Senga and Nikaido were trying to be unintrusive while the regulars decided what to do with them.
"See, we weren't the latest people," Nikaido said, like that was some big triumph, and Senga gave him a dirty look before turning to the other new guy. He had a bit of a baby face and was even shorter than them by a centimeter or two, and he seemed a lot less intimidating to make friends with than those other guys.
"Hi," Senga introduced himself. "I'm Senga, and that's Nikaido. We were late too!"
"It's Kitayama," the new guys said, amiably enough. Senga chattered at him cheerfully while they stretched, feeling much more relaxed now that they weren't the only new people. He told Kitayama about his first college classes and their apartment, about Nikaido's new job.
"Ah, sorry, Kitayama-kun!" Senga cut himself off suddenly. "I didn't mean to keep talking about myself. Did you see the flyer on the bulletin board on campus too?" Senga pointed at the university sweatshirt tied around Kitayama's waist. "Do you go there too?"
Kitayama chuckled. "Kind of. I'm an assistant professor."
"You're….what?" Senga tilted his head. Behind him, Nikaido started laughing.
"Oi, Kitamitsu, get your butt up here and start practice!" Fujigaya hollered.
"Oh nooooo," Senga whined, thoroughly embarrassed. "I thought you were the same age as us! I was talking to you so familiarly! I'm so sorry, Kitayama-sen…" Senga trailed off, unsure whether to finish with 'senpai' or 'sensei.'
"It's fine, and Kitayama-kun's fine too," Kitayama said to them, clapping Senga on the shoulder hard enough to make him grunt. "More important thing is, how's your rhythm?"
Taiko was hard work, but it was fun too. Senga's arms felt like rubber after their first practice, and he was sore for days afterwards. The other guys weren't nearly so scary after Senga and Nikaido proved they weren't going to flake out after a practice or two. After a couple weeks, Senga was looking forward to practice immensely, having a great time now that he'd learned some of the skills and pieces of routines and could actually participate.
"Suuuure," Nikaido said when they were on their way home from one practice. "It's definitely taiko that you like so much."
"What?" Senga asked, occupied trying to fish out his train card without spilling his bag all over the station's floor.
"Oh come on," Nikaido gave Senga a shove, making him squawk. Nikaido switched his voice up an octave. "Oh, Kitayama-kun, can I practice with you? Wow, you're so talented~! And such nice arm muscles!"
"I never said any of that!" Senga snapped, cheeks heating up as he shoved Nikaido back. Nikaido just laughed. "Shut up!"
"Hey, it's cool with me if you want that short weirdo," Nikaido shrugged. "You might even get what you want, he certainly watches you enough."
"What?!" Senga froze, then groaned when his bag's strap slipped off his shoulder and really did spill all over. "Uuuugh, Nika! Stop being an asshole and help me!"
While Senga could maybe admit to having just the tiiiiiniest crush on Kitayama, who always seemed confident and strong and probably never spilled all of his bag's crap on the ground at the train station, he didn't think there was anything to do about it. The age gap sure wasn't nothing, and with Kitayama being an assistant professor at Senga's university…well, he wasn't Senga's professor, so maybe that didn't matter as much…
Senga shook off those thoughts as best he could. A crush was fine, but Senga was having a lot of fun at taiko and didn't want to mess it up by making Kitayama think he was just some dumb lovesick kid. And if Senga thought he caught Kitayama's eyes on him more than once at next practice, he tried his best to ignore that too. He was doing fine just the way things were.
At least until Kitayama announced casually that he'd signed them up to perform at a university event in a few weekends. The others seemed pleased and excited, but Senga looked up at Kitayama with horror.
"A few weeks?!" he demanded. Beside him Nikaido looked equally distressed. They hadn't yet had a single practice where Nikaido didn't send one of his sticks flying through the air. Last week he'd nearly got Yokoo right in the face and Yokoo had lectured him for nearly ten minutes on proper hand position and grip (it would have been a lot shorter but Nikaido couldn't stop snickering every time Yokoo said 'your stick').
"You'll be fine," Kitayama assured breezily. "Come on, back to work, slackers."
"That's rich coming from you," Fujigaya sniffed.
After practice, Senga lingered behind to ask Kitayama for some extra help. Nikaido had work early the next morning so he didn't stay despite needing just as much help himself, most likely. Instead it was just Kitayama and Senga after everyone else had packed up and gone. Suddenly Senga felt nervous, heart tripping over itself a little, Nikaido's words coming back to him when he looked up and found Kitayama's eyes focused squarely on him.
"W-what?" Senga asked, flushing pink. Stupid cheeks!
"Well, you want help practicing, right?" Kitayama asked, looking bemused. "Shouldn't I be watching you then?"
"Oh, right." Senga felt twice as flustered, especially when Kitayama chuckled out loud. "Don't laugh!"
"It's not your drumming I'm laughing at," Kitayama informed him. "You're just really cute. If you didn't actually need the practice, I'd think this was some shojou manga set-up for you to confess to me." Kitayama paused a beat, while Senga stared very hard down at his drum. "Is it?"
"No!" Senga blurted, wishing the floor would just swallow him already. Or maybe he could melt a hole through it with his face, if it got any hotter. "N-no. I just…um…"
Senga trailed off as Kitayama came around the edge of his drum and stood just a little too close. When Senga looked up, Kitayama's gaze was warm and definitely interested. Seemed like, just this once, Nikaido had known what he was talking about after all.
"Are you sure?" Kitayama asked. "Because if it were, that would be okay. Like I said, you're really cute."
"Kitayama-kun?" Senga started to ask, but was interrupted by Kitayama's lips against his, just as warm and interested as his eyes had been. Like all the rest of him, Kitayama's kiss was confident and firm, and Senga took about half a second to melt into it, eyes fluttering shut.
By the time Kitayama pulled away, Senga's world had shifted several degrees on its axis, and he had to blink a few times before Kitayama's face would come into focus.
"If you impress me at this performance, I might even accept your confession," Kitayama told him, making Senga feel both indignant and pleased all at once. He hadn't confessed yet at all! "I shouldn't be telling a student that, I guess, but work is work and taiko is taiko. A gap that big might be hard to close though…"
"I can do it!" Senga all but shouted in Kitayama's face, making him laugh again. "I'll practice as much as I have to, you'll see!"
"Hmm, okay then." Kitayama clapped his hands together, like it was all settled. He winked, and Senga felt right then like he could do anything Kitayama asked him to. "Then please take care of me."
True to his word, Senga practiced until he had callused tougher than Yokoo's and arm muscles that were almost as big as Miyata's. He bullied Nikaido into practicing late with him too, or if Nikaido had to work, he started in on Fujigaya or Tamamori. Aside from the progress itself, Senga felt a burst of pride in his chest every time Kitayama came to the studio and found Senga already working with one of the others, giving Senga a nod of approval.
Of course, that might have also been because it was notoriously hard to get Fujigaya or Tamamori to practice extra, but whatever.
When the day of the performance rolled around, Senga was so nervous he was practically shaking as the got dressed.
"Would you calm down?!" Nikaido finally demanded. "As if it's you and not me that's going to probably lose a stick into the audience and give somebody a concussion!" He'd gotten a little better about that, but Kitayama was still threatening to put Nikaido's sticks on wrist straps as if they were Wiimotes.
"Easy, both of you," Kitayama said, looking relaxed himself. It was only the way he kept ruffling up his hair in the back that let Senga know he was a bit on edge himself. "Taisuke's already throwing a fit over there, no more high-strung members allowed. And you, you remember your promise, right?"
"Yes," Senga answered, nerves immediately tripling. He could think of sixteen ways easily he could ruin the performance and then Kitayama would never hear his confession, right? "I swear I won't screw up anything, I'll do it all perfectly, and I'll—"
"Forget about it," Kitayama interrupted, making Senga's heart stop a second. But Kitayama was grinning, that warm smile again, relaxed and reassuring. "I'll definitely listen to your confession no matter what happens, so just have fun, okay?"
All of the tension in Senga's chest popped like a bubble, leaving him grinning too. "Yes! I will. Hey…" Senga gave Kitayama a shyer smile. "Can I get a kiss for good luck?"
Chuckling, Kitayama leaned in to kiss Senga's cheek, both of them ignoring Nikaido and Fujigaya's whooping like elementary students.
"Gross," Tamamori announced, then whined when Miyata wrapped an arm around his shoulders and said he'd listen to Tamamori's confession any time.
"Would all of you jerks break it up so we can go on stage?" Yokoo demanded, apparently having some stage nerves himself. "Or else I can just shove all of you off it!"
Grinning from ear to ear, Senga squared his shoulders and got ready to march out with his friends, feeling like a real part of the group. It was true what Kitayama had said: work was work, and taiko was taiko.