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Singing Lessons for Beginners

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It's an old piano, but a good one. Hidaka finds it in one of the small, little-used rehearsal rooms. He gets twitchy just sitting, and so he prefers to wander around during breaks, sticking his head through office doors and moonwalking down corridors, while the rest of them are eating. Three hot girls, none of whom can sing, but who cares, bleach guy, fish-lips guy, a kid who glares at everybody, and Sueyoshi, who he liked right off. It's damned funny that they're supposed to be the next pop sensation, when you think about it, but it still gives Hidaka a rush, the best kind of high, that he gets to be in the Avex building on legitimate grounds; gets to snoop about in the biggest recording studio in Tokyo, like being six years old and let loose in Santa's workshop on Christmas morning.

He's rusty, and he rests his fingers on the keys for a moment at first, giving the muscle memory time to kick in, before going through a few scales. It's incredibly satisfying, and Hidaka leans close to the piano as he begins to improvise, trying to get his blood humming in tune with the sound. It's all it really takes: feeling the beat inside until you're reverberating with it, and letting it carry you along like a rollercoaster. He tries switching around the chords that lead into the bridge, and the song comes apart at the seams and then melts into something new. When you keep flipping and changing, and still hitting the spot that makes your brain and your bones sing every time, is when it gets good. Hidaka shuts his eyes.

When he opens them again, it's to see fish-lips - Nishijima - staring at him. The other guy's leaning on the piano with one folded hand pillowing his cheek, watching him so intently that his gaze is practically lasering holes in his face. Hidaka plays a few wrong notes and swears, the tune grinding to a halt, and Nishijima's face splits open into a huge, contagious grin.

"Hey, no, c'mon! Why d'you stop?"

Hidaka looks at him. He looks around the room with its clicky-clacky tiled floor. He looks at the door, which he remembers making a loud squeak when he walked through it, then again at Nishijima standing in front of him. That's just frigging scary.

"What are you, a secret agent?"

"Hmmm... maybe..!"

"How'd you sneak up on me so fast?"

"I'm a non-corporeal being consisting of pure energy. I exist outside of the standard space-time continuum."

"Yeah, and I exist in a bubble of derision and sarcasm."

"That too, but I don't like to show off, y'know?"

Hidaka finds himself smirking back. Nishijima looks like a carp and acts like a hyperactive seven year old doped up on ramune and mousse pocky, but something about him sparks Hidaka's intrigue in a way that he hasn't been able to put his finger on yet, both the same as and subtly different to the easy camaraderie he and Sueyoshi have dropped into. He keeps getting the feeling that Nishijima's mounting some kind of challenge that, far from being pissed off about, he's really into, but he can't quite figure out what it is.

"Actually," Nishijima says, "I really didn't want to interrupt you. That was turning into... something kinda amazing."

A glimmer of uncertainty flits across his face, and Hidaka has the same niggling feeling of meanness that he'd get after dropping the stick a puppy brought him on the ground and walking away. He picks out a few bars, then looks up again and lifts an eyebrow.

"You ever play?"

Nishijima shakes his head. "Guitar."

"So come here and sit down." Hidaka gets up from the piano stool.

Nishijima's grin gets even wider, if such a thing is possible. Hidaka wouldn't have thought it was. "Huh?"

"What are you now, a moron? Sit!"

Moving around the piano, Nishijima slides eagerly onto the seat. Hidaka shoves him forward and squishes in behind him, hooking one calf around the stool to stop himself falling off, and causing Nishijima's ass to jam up against the inside of his left leg in a way that feels like all kinds of serious wrong, but it's like a dance routine: no space for anybody who's going to get awkward. He reaches around Nishijima, who's sitting like a display mannequin waiting to be placed, and puts his hands over his, arranging them into the starting position, forcing him to arch his fingers.

"Loosen your wrists," he orders, and as Nishijima shakes his hands out a little, adds, "Make like you're masturbating." A snort of laughter from his student shakes Hidaka's arm.

He takes Nishijima through the scale of C major a few times, then lets him try it himself, enjoying his obvious delight in mastering something new, however small. The guy seems to want to soak up experiences like a sponge, and Hidaka suddenly has the feeling that even if they all really, really suck monkey balls, it's that kind of enthusiasm and that kind of energy that's going to keep them driving ahead; going to set them apart and light them up like something special.

Nishijima slips and misses a note, stumbling, and Hidaka grabs his hand, guiding his fingers back to the right keys. "Don't drop it! You got to keep feeling the rhythm. Let your hands lead."

Nishijima cocks his head, brightly, half-turning, and the movement brings his face so close to Hidaka's that Hidaka feels less like he wants to pull back than that he has to, because there's something overwhelming about it. "Like dancing?" He flattens a palm against his sternum, then against his belly. "When you feel the music here... and here, and you don't have to think about what different parts of your body are doing because it melts them all together?"

Hidaka regards him for a moment. "Maybe you're not such a nutjob after all."

"Nope, definitely am! Just a philosopher at the same time!"

"Don't push it." Hidaka jabs him in the ribs.

Nishijima laughs. He watches intently, still with a soft smile playing around his mouth, as Hidaka wanders his fingers down the keyboard, automatically settling into a melody. "Oh -!" he says, in recognition, after a minute, "Ayumi -" and, quietly at first, so much so that it's hardly more than a vibration against Hidaka's chest, he starts to hum. After a few lines, his lips begin to shape the words of the song, the sound slowly growing in his throat until it's complimenting rather than just trailing the piano.

The future we haven't yet seen... remains here like this. Stay by my side...

The notes drop one by one into the room, the rich, hollow tone warming the air. Sometimes it seems like Hidaka plays and Nishijima follows the lead, then suddenly it's Nishijima's voice taking charge and Hidaka keeping pace with him. Either way, they work pretty good.

The sound of the piano is still filtering out of the room when lunch break ends and the choreographer comes looking for them.