Chapter 1: The butchering of the merch
It began…well, it began as you might expect:
In a hole in the ground, there lifted a bassist. Not a nasty, dirty wet hole. It was the weight section of the gym, which just happened to be located underground.
Toshiya liked the gym for its relative privacy. He just assumed, that fellow gym bros who paid the membership fee weren’t going to bother him. He liked the 24/7 accessibility which left him room in his schedule for other activities, and he liked the results he saw from working out regularly.
And he wasn’t alone in liking those. Granted, it taken Shinya a while to fully notice, but when he finally did…
It was likely, that everyone was to blame a little, about the fact that the merch-customizing got a little out of hand during that summer tour. Kaoru called it the “Unnecessary butchering of perfectly good products”, but he was too busy to stop them. That was point number one, why Toshiya took to cutting sleeves off of tour shirts every evening of the tour: Kaoru was unavailable and so was Die.
Kaoru had gotten himself probably the thickest book about guitars in existence, describing the development of the instrument through history and different cultures and while he deemed it necessary to share the most interesting parts or pictures with Die, he seemed to think that Toshiya just played too few strings to be included.
So, after a few nights of unsuccessfully attempting to join the conversation, the bassist gave up and decided to customize another tour shirt. Soon after, Shinya joined him, asking to borrow his scissors to customize himself another tour shirt as well. They were both bored out of their skulls.
Toshiya glanced over at Kyo, and there was reason number two: Kyo was unavailable as well. Shinya had tried to squeeze his problem out of him, but it was like trying to juice a dried up fig.
“It’s a matter of the heart and therefor private”, Kyo had said, retreating deeper into his oversized gucci hoodie and hiding the screen of his phone, which had been in his hands nonstop ever since the tour had started.
And thus, it became sort of a thing, to meet up during the long wait after sound checking, while the fans filed into the halls, share scissors and a pile of merch and get to butchering for the encore.
“I’ve been thinking: If you cut along the side seam you could tie the ends into a knot. Would make for a new look”, Shinya said, on the seventh concert, scissors in hand, tapping the tip of the scissors against his plush lips as he examined Toshiya, who was studying his image in the mirror.
“Hm.”, the bassist let out a thoughtful sound, then shrugged. “Why not. I feel like I could go deeper on the sides anyway. Would you?” He held up an arm to give access to his side.
Shinya nodded, stepping forward with his scissors and starting to cut up the side seam with medical precision. Behind them, Kyo was hissing at his phone. It sounded something like “Why would you break my heart like this?”, and usually, Shinya would have given this more attention, but something had him distracted.
“I’ve never really looked at you naked before”, he stated, voice level and casual as though he was stating the third day of cloudy weather on the news report. Toshiya gave him a mildly confused look.
“I’m not naked now”, he said, looking down as if to make sure his clothes hadn’t magically vanished.
“No”, Shinya agreed calmly, tying a small knot with the edges of fabric his cut had created. “But I got a pretty good view right now, and the rest I can fill in with my imagination.” He took one last glance at the exposed skin, as if to memorize the way the muscles carved their lines under it, then he stepped over and cut up the other side of the shirt.
“So you’re fantasizing about my naked body now?”, Toshiya teased with a toothy grin and a baiting glance at the drummer, who smiled without looking up.
“Certainly worth fantasizing about”, he replied and the corners of Toshiya’s mouth drew up even further.
“Thanks!”, He turned his gaze back into the mirror, and found himself grinning back at him like an idiot and possibly flexing a little, just to show off his work some more. He knew he had achieved quite the figure, but it felt pretty good having it acknowledged, even more so by someone with possibly the highest aesthetic standards in any of Toshiya’s friends and acquaintances.
During the encore, wearing his customized shirt, that occasionally flashed a nipple from the sides, when the movement was right, Toshiya got a whole lot more acknowledgement from the crowd, but he did also venture to the drums, hopping on the narrow front of the pedestal to play a few chords there and enjoying the feeling of “Team Rhythm”-unison.
After the live, Shinya nodded him a “Thanks for the visit”, and they packed up and all went their separate ways. And that was that.
Except it wasn’t, really.
“So which one is the biceps?”
“Huh?”, The staff was just setting up and while Toshiya had heaved some of the gear on stage himself, Shinya was watching from next to his pedestal. Kyo had slumped into a seat in the second row, but instead of watching the stage setup from the spectator’s view, he was on his phone again, muttering to himself.
Die and Kaoru were on the far end of the stage, laughing about some inside joke, that they never cared to explain to anyone.
“Which muscle exactly is the biceps”, Shinya more stated than asked, as Toshiya straightened up with a quizzical look on his face. “I know its somewhere on the front of the arm, but there seem to be more than I was aware.” He gestured vaguely at Toshiya’s arm, who looked down at it as if he, too, was noticing his muscles for the first time. But after a split second of wonder at the question, his face brightened.
“This one”, he flexed, pointing at the outline of the biceps brachii muscle. “It’s called biceps because it consists of two parts: the long head and the short head.” Shinya pushed off the container he was leaning on, housing one part of his golden drumset and got closer, looking interested. Toshiya beamed at him. The only one mildly interested in building muscle was Kyo and god knew he wasn’t the most talkative about the details. It was nice having one of his closest colleagues take an interest in it, albeit the least one he’d expected it from.
“And what exercises do you do to train them?”, Shinya asked, lifting a hand and placing it tentatively on the part of Toshiya’s arm he had indicated before. His fingers were cold, but Toshiya smiled at the touch. “Oh you know, all kinds of stuff. Best known isolated exercise would be simple curls I guess.”
He caught the puzzled look on the drummer’s face and overlooked the fact that it was near impossible, that Shinya had no idea what curls were. The man might look like an underfed princess, who’d never heard of exercise, but he certainly wasn’t. But that didn’t cross Toshiya’s mind, when he started doing curls with no weight in hand, flexing hard to show the muscles working, when the younger man had removed his hand to watch.
Toshiya had somehow expected some sort of “aha” moment, indicating that he could stop, but since none came, he found himself continuing to “dry curl” for a few reps, then switching the position of his hands. “There are different kinds of curls of course. This would be the hammer curl. It doesn’t actually target the biceps but the brachialis, which brings out the bulk in the arms.”
“I see”, Shinya said slowly, still watching his bandmate demonstrate the exercise.
“You can do those with an incline or decline on a bench too – it helps to switch things up.” He smiled and stopped curling, eyeing Shinya with an interest, whose gaze had followed his arm to the resting position, too. “Are you thinking about starting to bulk up?” He was ready to offer his help, eager even, and his heart fell a little, when Shinya replied a swift and firm: “No.”
“Oh”, Toshiya couldn’t help but let his disappointment show. A workout buddy who shared at least some of his interests would have been something.
“But it’s nice watching you do those exercises”, Shinya said, seemingly unaware of his bassist’s disappointment or maybe he actually wanted to cheer him up. If so, it worked because Toshiya smiled again, showing off his teeth he’d suffered so hard to straighten out. “You can join me at the gym some time, watch me at it”, he joked and turned to his beer, took a long sip and then looked around to see where else he could help, deeming the banter on muscles finished.
“When can I join you at the gym?”
Toshiya blinked. Was Shinya trying to tease him back? He looked dead serious, but when did he ever not look dead serious? Confused, Toshiya actually mentally checked his schedule. “I guess I’ll be getting a session in back in Tokyo, before the tour final.”
“I’ll be free in the afternoon”, Shinya replied, and they looked at each other for a moment, silently. Then, Toshiya heard himself say “I’ll pick you up at two.”
And that was that.
Except it wasn’t.
Chapter 3: Dum Spiro Spare me the excuses
Toshiya found himself sitting in his car, parked across the street of the building Shinya lived in. He could see the infamous balcony that had earned the drummer a lawsuit for illegally building on it from his car. His thumb hovered over the “send” button, as he went over what he was about to do in his head.
What exactly was he about to do?
There were three options:
- He was about to honor a planned meeting with a colleague.
- He was about to fall victim to an intricate prank.
- He was being an idiot for not being able to tell between joke and reality.
Technically, he had set a time and date with Shinya, for a visit at the gym. Until the moment he’d arrived and typed out the ‘I’m here, across the street’, he hadn’t even given this a second thought. He had remembered: the day before the final, 2 pm, Shinya’s house, and so he had packed his gym bag, jumped in the car and go.
Now however, he gave it a second thought.
And a third.
Pranks weren’t as common anymore as they’d used to be, and most of the time, Shinya was on the receiving end of any jokes, pranks and general harassment, but the man could retaliate. And boy, when he did…
But he hadn’t done anything to warrant retaliation, that he was sure of. They’d had a particularly good dynamic during this tour, especially given how there hadn’t been any dynamic with the others, with their vocalist married to his cellphone and their guitarists married to a book about guitars.
Granted, Shinya could be cruel, but he wasn’t outright mean. He wouldn’t trick him into thinking they were going to meet up only to laugh at him. At least Toshiya was 87% sure, he wouldn’t.
But the possibility that strongly remained was, that he had just misunderstood something. Maybe the whole thing had been just in the moment and Shinya had never expected to actually be picked up at two o’clock on their one day off before the final after a sweaty, way too hot summer tour.
>>Drums<< You’re late
Toshiya gawked at the screen.
>>Drums<< I hate when people are late what’s the hold up
So, he hadn’t misunderstood?
>>Drums<< Don’t blame the traffic
They actually were going to the gym, together?
>>Drums<< You owe me a beer.
<< I’m here.
<<I’ll get you a protein shake.
>>Drums<< They better have almond milk.
A minute later, Shinya was at the passenger’s door and got into the car. He had his hair in a little ponytail, shorter parts pinned back neatly.
Toshiya realized, that he hadn’t seen the other with his hair up in a while, and while the varying shades of pearly grey or ash blond framing his face suited him, it was refreshing to get a chance to see his features unobstructed by soft curtains of hair. He looked kinda feminine and soft, but his expression was rather icy. He hadn’t joked about meeting up, and he had certainly not joked about hating when people were late…
“They do have almond milk”, Toshiya beamed, despite the stony face he was greeted with, turning his phone screen to Shinya to indicate what he was referring to. The drummer looked at the screen, then an ably trimmed eyebrow rose up.
“You got me saved as ‘drums’? Really?” He asked and Toshiya blinked.
“Oh” He turned his phone around again, checking the screen. “Suppose I do…”
“Wanna change it?” He threw his phone into the other’s lap and restarted his car. Shinya watched him for a moment, then he picked up the phone and started typing. Checking the back mirror for traffic before backing out of his parking slot, the bassist found his reflection grinning brightly back at him.
Never mind the frown and the sarcasm. Turned out, meeting Shinya in private between concerts was fun, even just 2 minutes in.
And that was that.
Except, of course, it wasn’t.
Chapter 4: Behind a vacant cable row machine
What did Shinya change his name to in Toshiya's contacts?
Does Kyo have a secret lover?
None of these questions get answered in this chapter..
They arrived at the gym after some nagging from the passenger’s seat, stating how the traffic wasn’t so bad, which meant whatever lesser reason Toshiya had had to be late was clearly invalid as well. The bassist laughed it off, rather enjoying what he assumed was only half-serious berating from the blonde, and since he wasn’t planning on divulging his minutes of insecurity after arriving (almost) on time, there was no honest excuse he could give anyway.
“I’m sorry, okay?”, he finally said with a smile, as he parked and opened his seatbelt. Shinya gave a huff, causing a chuckle to leave Toshiya’s throat. He wasn’t always in on the whole ‘pester Shinya for fun’ game, that his band mates engaged in ever so happily, but he certainly saw the appeal. The drummer had a funny way of reacting, almost adorable, even.
He got out of the car, and grabbed his gymbag from the backseat, taking another look at Shinya, who still frowned.
“I’ll make it worth your while”, he promised and thought he caught the tiniest twitch of a smile on the younger’s lips, before he turned to open the door and get out of the car.
They arrived at the reception and Toshiya explained to the young woman, that he had brought his colleague to watch, rather than train himself.
“I can pay a fee”, Shinya threw in, shrugging, but the receptionist shook her head. “It’s okay, it’s your first time here and you’re in experienced company, so feel free to take a look around today.”
She handed him a key for a locker and Toshiya showed him, how to use it to pass the automated doors beyond the reception. Barely out of earshot of the receptionist, he turned to Shinya with a bright smile.
“I’m experienced company”, he repeated proudly, only to almost trip from his half sideways walk he’d fallen into to fully face his drummer.
“You are also an idiot”, Shinya replied calmly and without much expression on his smooth features, but upon entering the changing rooms, there was a small smile on his lips.
Toshiya opened his regular locker, taking out his gym shoes he kept there and starting to change, while Shinya looked for his locker number, that was in the next row and a little smaller than the premium membership’s permanent lockers. When the bassist ventured over to check on him, Shinya had already changed into grey Yoga pants and a white T-Shirt and was producing a fabric bag from his Louis Vuitton, that contained some light and clean trainers.
“You look sporty”, Toshiya said, “Are you gonna join me for a good sweat after all?”
“Absolutely not. I just don’t want to look like an idiot in there.”
“Don’t worry, you look fine. Kinda like an enthusiastic mom who came to her son’s football game.”
“You better work on your compliments and score some goals then, son.”
Toshiya laughed and Shinya rolled his eyes, smiling. He put on his trainers and they left the changing room together.
“Hot mom?”, Toshiya offered, on their way to the stairs that led to the weight section.
“Forget it. That train has passed.”
Toshiya was enjoying himself greatly. He was showing Shinya around and having his undivided attention made him feel kind of important. Like ‘experienced company’, which was nice. He did a little warm-up and after that, the banter continued, while he started his exercises with Shinya watching him, handing him his towel or water bottle when needed. Soon, the drummer had learned how to change the amount of weight on the machines and Toshiya noticed he seemed almost excited about asking if he could do 5kg more. More excited than his usual, level-headed self, anyway, which was about 10% as excited as Toshiya got over having someone say things like “That looks hard” and “This is probably as much as I weigh” and “I never knew you could do things like this”.
It was, admittedly, a rather uncoordinated workout session and pretty far from his regular regime, since he traded focus on body areas and repetitions for variety, wanting to show Shinya every machine and every free weighted exercise he could think of.
Shinya acted as a kind of personal hype man all along, but he did try some machines himself.
“I’m mostly doing light exercise at home with my personal trainer”, he explained, asking over and over, if he was doing things right and Toshiya was happy to correct him if necessary and praise, where possible. He was delighted to be asked for advice, especially from Shinya, who rarely ever asked for anything from anyone, much less the bassist.
Helping with bench presses, holding the weight with ease, that Shinya struggled with was a special lot of fun, although he tried not to feel too superior to the blonde, making sure the ego push wouldn’t sweep him off his feet.
It wasn’t until they got to the squat rack, that Shinya showed more expertise himself.
“You’re arching your back too much. Try to keep it straight”, he advised, and Toshiya corrected his pose, throwing an expectant side glance.
“Better?” Shinya nodded, but after three more reps he stepped closer, putting his hand on the small of Toshiya’s back, to remind him of keeping good form. Toshiya was as delighted with the help as he was with explaining everything to the drummer, but he felt the suspicion creep up on him, that if Shinya knew what a good squat looked like, he probably knew what curls were… possibly a good deal more. It made him wonder, why the shorter man let him teach things he knew, when he was usually a rather sore loser, hardly admitting when he messed up during practice or on stage, which arguably didn’t happen often.
After the workout, they both got down on mats in the stretching area and Shinya showed his merciless side again, pushing Toshiya deeper into stretches wherever he could, eyes twinkling rather happily when the black-haired started whining about the pain.
In turn, Shinya did a few dynamic stretches as a warmup, then proceeded to static stretches, proving that he had the upper hand in one discipline after all, and enduring the rather careful aid Toshiya gave him in deepening his stretches.
Once through with that, they took the stairs upwards again and Toshiya showed his companion the sauna, the cardio floor, the classes floor and finally the bar, where they ordered protein shakes. Vanilla with almond milk for Shinya and a regular cookies and cream flavored for Toshiya, who paid as promised.
They sat down in comfortably cushioned lounge chairs, watching people enter and leave and soon engaged in playful mockery of the gym goers, trying to fit them into categories like ‘skips leg day every day’, ‘is only here for the hot yoga teacher’, ‘comes here every two months to feel like the membership fee is paying off’.
Altogether, Toshiya couldn’t remember when he’d last had so much fun at the gym – and if he was honest, he couldn’t remember when he’d last had so much fun with Shinya either. They weren’t particularly close, which felt like a shame now, that he was remembered, that they could have a lot of fun together. Still, Toshiya doubted whether they wouldn’t run out of topics for casual talk soon if they met like this more often and decided not to force anything just because of his sudden exhilaration about their time together.
“You mind if I drive you home like this? I prefer showering at home, to be honest.” Toshiya asked, after they had finished their shakes.
“You’re rather sweaty, but I’m not even as disgusted as I should be.”
“Oh. Thanks, I guess?”
“By the way”, Toshiya asked as they made their way through the heavier traffic, “What have you got me saved as in your contacts?” He had just remembered, their conversation on the way here and made a mental note to check what Shinya had changed his name to at home.
“I don’t kiss and tell”, Shinya said simply, not even looking at Toshiya, whose eyes left the street for a brief moment to glance at the drummer by his side.
“You do know this makes me more curious, right?”
“I do”, Shinya said and smirked to himself, still looking ahead on the street.
Toshiya gave a huff and focused back on the traffic.
“Toshimasa? Toshiya (B)? Bass T? Basser from another Mother?”
“You’re never gonna guess it, trust me. You might persuade me to tell you though.”
“Okay, what do I have to do?”
“Tomorrow? I could whisper ‘Play faster’ into Kaoru’s ear after every song. I could step on Kyo’s mic cable or make him trip…”
“What kind of suggestions are those even?”
“I don’t know, I’m living your fantasy, I can move around on stage, do everything you secretly want to do.”
“Like ripping your shirt so half your chest is bare?”
“It was an accident!”
“Come on, tell me.” They had arrived in front of Shinya’s house already. “I can lock the doors until you tell me”, the bassist offered, and Shinya turned to face him, blinking once, very slowly.
“Don’t agonize me or I’ll change your name to ‘Bass’ and you’ll never know what it was before.”
“I showed you Snatch-grip barbell high pulls!”
“You were late!”
“I bought you a shake!”
“See you tomorrow, Toshiya.”
“Fine. See you tomorrow.” He let his bandmate leave, but after the door had snapped shut, he lowered the window and called after the drummer: “Tell me tomorrow?!”, but all he got in response was a wave of a hand over the shoulder.
And that was that.
Except, of course, it wasn’t gonna be.
Chapter 5: Sadism and tail wagging
Not what I meant to proceed to, but I figured we need to answer at least one question real quick.
Later that day, Toshiya remembered to check his phone. And low and behold, there was a message up on the screen from no-one other than…
<<Seraph who hates waiting>> Thanks for the invitation. I had fun.
At the sight of the name and the content of the text, Toshiya’s lips split into such a wide grin, that he actually spilled part of his sip of beer onto himself, which made him snort with laughter, while trying not to spit any more out. Coughing and feeling the burning prickle of beer up his nose, he put down the can and got up to clean himself up, throwing the shirt off before it started stinking like stale beer and putting on what used to be a tour shirt and was now a muscle shirt instead.
Once cleaned up, he returned to the couch, grabbed his phone and got to answering, feeling quite elated again, as he read the short message a second time.
>> Me too! And sorry for making you wait. Wasn’t my intention.
He put the phone away in exchange for the beer, looking at the ceiling with content pulsing through his veins. Maybe he did overdo it a bit on the happiness side. All he’d done was spend a fun afternoon with someone. It wasn’t like that never happened. He had his friends, had his fun afternoons… Only, he hadn’t had one so unexpected in a while. And not with Shinya. And him and his friends were so used to having fun together that nobody cared to say ‘thanks I had fun’ anymore. That was reason enough to be a bit giddy about it, right?
And just as though to add a delicious cherry on top, his phone buzzed after a surprisingly short while, and once again, the rather obnoxious title Shinya had given himself flashed up on the screen. Toshiya hadn’t expected much of an answer, but of course, he was delighted to get one and so soon.
<<Seraph who hates waiting>> I might give you another chance to be on time.
All thought about being too giddy for the occasion vanished into thin air. Thin, delight filled air. Maybe he was just easily entertained, but even the mental image as himself as a dog, wagging his tail just because someone called his name, couldn’t keep him from grinning to himself.
So what if he got more out of this than the situation logically offered. Life was too short not to be overexcitable.
>> Now that’s very kind of you, I didn’t know you to be so merciful
<<Seraph who hates waiting>> I am not a monster
>> Of course not. An angel, even, judging from how someone saved you in my contacts.
<<Seraph who hates waiting>> And quite appropriately so.
>> Speaking of contacts
<<Seraph who hates waiting>> I’m not telling you
>> Give me a hint at least
<<Seraph who hates waiting>> You’ll never guess it, even with a hint.
>> You are a monster after all
<<Seraph who hates waiting>> Can’t you take a little suspense?
>> Tell me
<<Seraph who hates waiting>> You’re the kind of savage who reads the last page of a book first
>> And you’re the kind of savage who gets a man interested and then abandons him in cold water.
<<Seraph who hates waiting>> I’m an angel teaching you the virtue of patience
<<Seraph who hates waiting>> And did you mean ‘in cold blood’
>> I said what I meant. Sadist.
<<Seraph who hates waiting>> Insults will not lead to results
>> You leave me no choice
<<Seraph who is also a sadist>> There’s always a choice
>> This is getting deep
>>What’s my name?
<<Seraph who is also a sadist>> Go to bed, Toshiya.
>> Send me a screenshot real quick
<<Seraph who is also a sadist>> Sweet dreams.
>> Good night, angel.
<<Seraph who is also a sadist>> Good night, ###########
>> Omg that’s a long name
>> Kana, Kanji or Romaji?
>> Numbers or emoji included?
>> Any spaces in there?
>> Give me something to work with here
<<Seraph who is also a sadist>> It’s kind of a pun and that’s all I’m saying.
<<Seraph who is also a sadist>> See you tomorrow.
>> THE SUSPENSE
And that was that.
For that day, at least.
Chapter 6: Clever Shirtoff
The title pun diesn't really work does it...
Lemme just put it out there that to me personally, the most attractive thing about Toshiya is that he's a darn good bass player.
With that being said: This chapter is Shinya's POV
“Hey, Angel, you feelin’ sore today?”, were Toshiya’s first words, when he entered, and Shinya’s lips twitched as he tried to keep himself from breaking into a too wide smile. From the corner of his eyes, he could see that Die had looked up with a mildly disturbed expression, that was most amusing to behold.
“No, but it was you doing most of the work, so…” He saw Die’s face break into outright bewilderment, before his eyes darted to Toshiya, back to Shinya and then, seeking help or some sort of reaction, to Kaoru, who hadn’t even looked up from the book, he and his fellow guitarist were once again huddled over together.
Toshiya, too, seemed to have noticed their bandmate’s look, but he too smiled at Die, then at Shinya, who caught his eyes and wheezed quietly, lifting his hands to cover his face a little. It was easy to see, what was going on: Toshiya was delighted by the fact that they had sort of an insider that the others weren’t in on. And Die… was probably really disturbed about the suggestive nature of the short exchange. He wasn’t sure if the bassist himself had even caught on to that. The man was probably just happy they had a fun thing to talk about. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong. But Shinya also wasn’t mad if things sounded a little…dubious.
Something to work on.
“So”, he said, still smiling, “are you feeling okay?”
“Perfectly fine”, Toshiya said with mounting motivation, “Yesterday was just what I needed. I’m all energized!” He lifted one arm, flexing and tapping his biceps. Shinya could have screamed with laughter, at the sight of Die’s jaw actually dropping a little. He was now rapidly looking back and forth and even elbowing Kaoru a little, who still hadn’t caught on. Of course, he didn’t scream or laugh. In fact, he probably just blushed a little, which wasn’t exactly according to plan, but he could feel his face warming up a little, just from seeing the bassist so happy and pumped and… tapping his biceps.
“I’m glad to hear that”, Shinya said, putting on a softer voice than usual and they exchanged another smile.
Toshiya got himself a drink and after a minute or two, Kaoru finally looked up, closing his book.
“Let’s get going then?”, he suggested, and Die looked at him with silent judgement for what exactly nobody could tell, but probably simply for not sharing his reaction to how Toshiya had greeted Shinya. It was quite hilarious.
“We’re starting without vocals?”, he asked, instead of voicing any of his other thoughts.
“Vocals is going to be late”, Kaoru shrugged, and Shinya rolled his eyes.
“Does anybody know what’s going on with ‘vocals’ recently?”
“Why?”, Kaoru asked, looking surprised. Granted, Kyo coming in later wasn’t anything new or necessarily to worry about, but the lad had been acting a bit out of sorts during the whole tour and Shinya had given up trying to find out in favor of… enjoying more entertaining sights. He threw a side glance to Toshiya, who was regrettably well covered in clothes.
“I think he’s got a bitchy girlfriend”, Die offered, getting up too. Kaoru frowned, his lips forming his infamous little pout.
“Yes, bitchy girlfriends are everyone’s biggest problems, how could I forget”, Shinya replied, sarcasm blazing and Die shrugged.
“You asked. Stupid questions get stupid answers.”
Shinya gave him his slow-blink of death and followed their leader and bassist to the stage for some sound-checking.
Kyo arrived when they were just about finished with the setup and did his little sound check with sunglasses on and a hand deep in his pocket. Nothing to worry about, Shinya thought, and his eyes wandered to the right instead, wondering when Toshiya was going to take of the button up shirt he was loosely wearing over what probably was a muscle shirt.
Please let it be a muscle shirt…
The blonde left the stage once everything was set up on his part and since it was still early for hair and makeup, he took a seat on a sofa by a small table, checking his pet camera at home via the app to see if everything was alright.
“Hey”, a voice said and looking up, he saw Kyo standing there, cigarette in mouth. “I kinda need some advice.”
“Step into my office”, Shinya replied with an air of professionalism and put his phone down, sliding sideways on the couch to offer more room and the smaller man took a seat, shoulders drooping.
They sat in silence for a while, Shinya waiting patiently, although he noticed that a certain bassist was circling the perimeters kind of aimlessly and it would have been nice to have room on the sofa to give him an aim and also maybe find a reason for him to take of that bothersome shirt.
“It’s just… if there’s someone you like. And they seem to like you, too. But whenever you try to, y’know, get closer, they pull away. What do you do?”
Oh dear, Shinya thought, I hate when Die’s remotely right.
“Confront them, I’d say. Confess, tell them you felt like they might feel the same.”
“I did, but then they said no so I started over and we ended up in the same conversation and that has happened like 5 times already.”
“Ouch. How about accepting they’re playing with you and moving on?”
“No. I know I can get this. I just need to find out how…”
“Okay Romeo”, Shinya said, getting up and cutting the conversation short. He had seen Toshiya sit down for Makeup and the seat next to him screamed his name more than Kyo’s probably self-inflicted heartbreak. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you”, he added, and the vocalist nodded and sighed deeply, leaning back on the couch and pulling out his phone again.
Kaoru was slow-shuffling toward the empty seat next to their bassist, but Shinya beat him to it with ease and parked his butt, smiling at Toshiya.
“Getting makeup done in that shirt?”, he asked and Toshiya’s head perked up immediately, reminding him of his pets when they heard the food bowls making some noise.
“Yup”, the black haired said, popping the ‘p’. “I can change into the stage outfit with makeup on no problem.
“Hm. You might want to be careful with that shirt though. I have a similar one and the fabric doesn’t take makeup and powder stains too well.”
“Oh”, Toshiya said, sitting upright and slipping out of the shirt after a worried glance at it. “Thanks man”, he muttered.
“No problem”, Shinya beamed and then sighed contently. A muscle shirt. God bless. He’d buy postcards with this view on them.
And while he was marveling at his luck and manipulative expertise, Toshiya looked all clueless and happy. He had a very nice profile, too, Shinya noticed and added to his self-praise what a good taste he had. His straight nose and the soft curve into his forehead seemed almost flawless and the natural little pout of his lips when he smiled and the way the corners of his mouth curled up into his cheeks was just adorable.
Age had done him well. That, or he, Shinya, had really overlooked what a handsome man Toshiya was, and Shinya didn’t like to admit he overlooked anything, so he went with the age theory.
He turned to the mirror, continuing to watch Toshiya, and didn’t bat an eyelash, when the older one looked up and noticed, grinning at him through the mirror.
Shinya smiled back calmly, and that was that.
For now, anyway.
Chapter 7: We all stink
The last live has come and an old friend arrives.
I'm sorry I lost the keeping-things-short-vibe here. It's long and nothing happens but I hope that's ok.
I'm also sorry for making Die sound a little like a whiny princess. He's a lobster and I love him.
The concert was a blast. The fans went wild and wilder, the instruments were tuned to peak sound and the lights and effects were handled with precision. The crowd roared and squealed, when Toshiya let his deep V-neck tunic slip over his shoulder once, showing off his chest and knowing, that he would be the focus on the video walls right now, he threw his most mysterious, stern look into the depth of the hall and all the while he was smiling to himself on the inside.
It wasn’t like he necessarily needed to hear he was handsome to feel good, but every time someone yelled his name over the general noise of the crowd, every time loud screams let him know that he was sexy, he just felt like they were telling him “Well done, thank you for doing your best. We appreciate your effort.”
Somewhere in the back of his head, he was dimly aware, that some fans might have phrased it more along the lines of ‘You’re hawt lemme have ur bebes’, but he could ignore that and bathe in the blissful, purposefully naïve feeling of simply being appreciated.
Kaoru next to him was having a good time too, seeming energetic and not too slow, except maybe during his solo in Riyuu, which dragged on so very adagio, that Toshiya would have thrown a cautions glance over the shoulder to make sure he knew when to duck, in case Shinya threw a drumstick at Kaoru, but for one thing, he was too professional and busy posing to turn, and for another, their drummer had enough self-restraint. Or so he hoped.
Kyo went all out. The frustration he threw at the crowd was like a constant projectile vomit of sounds. Impressive, dramatic, dark and melodious. Toshiya didn’t know half of the newer song’s lyrics or hadn’t quite grasped them even if he had read them, but he could still feel the songs deeply and he thought that Kyo could probably have conveyed his emotions even if he’d been singing in Klingon…. which sometimes he sounded like he was, anyway. The thought made him grin and he wondered if that last part had sounded like Shinya’s sneering voice in his head, because he’d spend so much time talking to him during this tour.
Things went quite perfectly until the encore, when Die came over to his side, switching places with Kaoru. Parts of the crowd broke into renewed waves of extasy and Toshiya didn’t step back fast enough, as Die flipped his long mane of ginger hair in one elegant, flowing movement. Some strands hit him across the face, whipping at his eyes and catching in his mouth. The black haired spat and blinked stupidly, while stumbling a step back and Kyo, who’d caught the incident by pure chance, wheezed into the microphone, before cackling along with the fans who’d noticed what had happened. Die looked around, laughing and the three of them had a small fit of the giggles along with the crowd, while Kaoru and Shinya just kept playing.
Toshiya thought, that the accident might make the cut to the DVD just because of Die’s laugh. People were crazy about it and he could certainly see why. He vaguely wondered when he’d last seen their drummer laugh whole-heartedly and without restraint like Die often did. Maybe drunk back in the states, a few years ago. Then again, maybe he himself rarely laughed like Die either and he certainly didn’t look so good while doing it. Kind of unfair, how some people could look gorgeous in the most candid moments and others just didn’t. Then again, there was something to be said for shy or well-measured smiles. Like the ones Shinya had given him while bench-pressing another 5kg more.
The next song was more energetic, and Toshiya decided to put his smile-pondering aside for later and enjoy the last moments on stage with full concentration on the music, that was pulsing through his veins.
When the last song was played and it was time to say goodbye to the crowd, the tour, and the feeling of being alive, more than anywhere else, he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to cry or laugh, and maybe he did a bit of both, grinning with watering eyes at the hundreds of faces beneath him, as he threw picks and water bottles, a half drunken beer, a towel…basically whatever he could grab… at the crying and yelling people.
Kaoru was still busy gathering his picks to start feeding the fish, when Kyo was long gone, Die was playing with his side of the crowd, after having thrown all he had, and the infamous box was free, so Toshiya hopped lightly onto what was a steep climb for the small vocalist and lifted his arms in a wide embrace.
Cheers erupted, echoed louder as he lifted his hands higher, encouragingly. The noise grew louder still and a little higher suddenly, and Toshiya flinched in surprise, when something soft brushed against the underside of his arm. Shinya had ducked under his arm, stepping next to him onto the box, fitting on the edge easily, despite the wide stance Toshiya had taken. It didn’t feel at all, like he was trying to steal his limelight and Toshiya smiled and sank his arm lightly around the drummer’s shoulder, as he had basically snuck himself there anyway. He felt bony and surprisingly cool and dry, compared to the heat and sweat Toshiya had worked up.
Shinya started to aim his first drumstick and Toshiya let him go, so he could throw freely. He didn’t quite know where to put his hand afterwards, other than letting it awkwardly hang by his side, his broad shoulder brushing against Shinya now, as he wasn’t ready to leave the centerstage yet. Shinya aimed again, huffing and shrugging apologetically, as his stick fell rather short into the front rows, while the back was shouting themselves hoarse. He elbowed Toshiya in the ribs and handed him one more battered looking drumstick, pointing to the far back of the crowd.
“What, you want me to throw it?”, Toshiya asked rather stupidly, and Shinya rolled his eyes at him.
“No, I want you to lick it and do a little dance”, he replied, sarcasm dripping from his plush lips like honey from a beehive. His words were nearly drowned by the enthusiasm that greeted his gesture of asking Toshiya for help, who aimed, grinning and internally praying he wasn’t gonna stab someone’s eye out with this thing. He threw more carefully and managed not to hit the ceiling, a spotlight or anyone’s eye as far as he could tell and he smiled at the way Shinya did a little bow in his direction as a thanks, then greeted the crowd once more, saying goodbye, as Kaoru slowly shuffled closer, looking pleased and one quarter asleep.
Toshiya hopped down, making room for the leader, and Shinya followed, using his shoulder to secure himself while climbing down. Out of reflex, Toshiya’s hand went to where Shinya clasped his shoulder, holding on to it lightly, to make sure he didn’t slip on his sweaty skin.
The drummer left the stage before him, but upon being passed by him, he saw that Shinya, too, looked very pleased, rather than just his ever neutral, measured self.
“Afterparty”, someone shouted mere seconds – or so it felt – after Toshiya had buried his sweaty face in a towel and allowed the exhaustion that had been held back by adrenaline to slowly make its way into his limbs. Looking up, he saw Boo walking toward them, arms wide and catching Kaoru in one arm and Die in the other. Both guitarists looked like Christmas had come early.
“I got us the whole VIP Lounge, all night, so who’s coming?” Some of the staff cheered and Toshiya kicked himself back up from where he’d been sitting and nodded too.
“Shinya?”, Boo asked, and Toshiya’s eyes followed those of the VJ, spotting Shinya with crossed legs and a bottle of water, looking like he’d just done a light jog at the most. Hot football mom, he thought, smirking to himself.
“I didn’t plan on going out today”, the blonde drawled, pursing his lips as Kaoru muttered a “Come on, just one drink.”
“Or two”, Toshiya interjected, and Shinya threw him a long, weirdly calculating glance, then nodded.
“Fine, I’m coming”, he agreed with a shrug and Toshiya punched his fist in the air in triumph, feeling rather proud for seemingly having been the deciding factor here, but nobody seemed to want to voice how special that made him.
“Kyo-chan?”, Boo asked instead, his wide face and beady eyes filled with hope. Kyo gave a melodramatic sigh.
“Dunno… Can’t promise I’ll be good company, but I guess it might do me good…” If Kaoru and Die had looked like kids on Christmas in face of a surprise party with Boo, it was nothing to Boo’s face as Kyo agreed to join them. He looked like he was ready to kick both guitarists out of his arms and hug Kyo instead, but he was probably aware of how inappropriate that would’ve been, so he just beamed and nodded, at a loss for words.
“We’ll cheer y’up little man”, Toshiya hummed, who stood closest to Kyo and patted his shoulder.
“Indeed”, Shinya agreed, who had very suddenly and very mysteriously appeared between him and the vocalist. Toshiya wondered if he felt like he needed to mark his position as Kyo’s foremost friend. It didn’t bother him per se, but he rather felt like it was unnecessary. It wasn’t like he wanted to play Kyo’s babysitter or take anything else from the drummer, that he had the privilege to share with the vocal every now and then.
“Okay, just give me time to freshen up, I can’t go out like that”, Die said, running a hand through his silky hair to detangle it and not finding much to detangle.
“You look gorgeous as always”, Boo said honestly and Kaoru leaned forward a little, to peak past the now wide with muscles VJ. “Yeah, look’n fine, dude”, he said with a shrug and relaxed back into Boo’s arm, who still clutched the two musicians to his sides like he never wanted to let them go, even though his eyes were on Kyo.
Toshiya tried not to roll his eyes at the round of ‘You’re beautiful, Die’, but shrugged it off with a “Plus, we all stink.”
“Speak for yourself”, Shinya said pointedly and even wrinkled his nose at him, in what Toshiya could only hope was mock disgust. “What happened between the two of you anyway?”, Shinya asked with a stern tone, his eyes darting between Die and Toshiya. He sounded rather like a strict football mom now. Like they’d done something on purpose to disrupt the show.
“Nothing happened between us”, Die said, rather irritably and Toshiya felt the sudden urge to say something somehow mediating, but Kyo beat him to it by cackling rather madly.
“Die made him chew on his split ends”, he announced, clearly enjoying the memory.
“I don’t have split ends”, Die spat and Toshiya shrugged, as he caught Shinya’s eye.
They did freshen up after all, Toshiya in the lead, as he didn’t stay for the bickering or the reenactment of his stupid face when he’d been whipped with hair, that Kyo and Boo pulled off for Kaoru and Shinya.
He showered quickly, without washing his hair and was ready to go about ten minutes later. He’d already packed up and was only looking for his glasses, that he’d forgotten in the showers, when he heard Die saying, “I really don’t have split ends, look.”
“I know you don’t”, Kaoru said soothingly, letting out a sigh as Die stepped closer, holding up a strand of his hair.
“No, look”, he insisted childishly and Toshiya, having found his glasses, turned to leave. “Wait”, Die demanded, pointing an accusing brush-tip of hair at him. “Did you think I have split ends?”
This time, Toshiya did roll his eyes, albeit rather fondly. “They didn’t taste split”, he reassured, “just like a whole lot of hair product.” Kaoru gave his signature chuckle while pulling an oversized sweater over his head despite the night still being young and warm.
Out in the hallway, a blow-dryer was whirring, and Toshiya found Kyo, who’d apparently showered fully, getting his hair blow-dried by Boo who looked estatic, while Shinya looked on critically and Nora looked on, wheezing and choking on her laughter.
As Boo turned off the blow-dryer and lowered it, Toshiya saw why.
“You look…”, began Shinya, but Boo shook his head frantically behind Kyo’s back, looking terrified.
“Like an exploded hamster?”, Toshiya supplied very quietly, leaning in to Shinya so only he could hear and the drummer, apparently not having noticed his arrival, winced and shuddered.
“Don’t sneak up on me like that.”
“I didn’t sneak. There was a blow-dryer blaring.”
“It was still a sneak attack, don’t deny it.” The bassist chuckled and wondered, why they were still talking in an almost whisper, like they were sharing some intimate secret and he decided, that should the situation allow it, he was going to sit next to the drummer tonight, just in case they needed to exchange more secret accuses and or names for Kyo’s hairstyle, because Shinya now leaned in even closer and muttered: “I think I once saw a cat cough up something similar” and Toshiya wheezed and laughed.
And we all know that wasn't it. Or was it?
Chapter 8: Say my name, say my name
Boo was as wonderful a host off camera, as he was on camera. He made sure everyone got a safe ride to the bar he’d chosen, made sure everyone got in through the backdoor alright and he welcomed them all again, as if they hadn’t just talked backstage and some of them the whole way to the bar.
He was a ray of sunshine amidst the team who’d been slowly leaning toward exhaustion at the end of the tour and his vigour and joy was infectious, spreading through the vip lounge like a warming fire. The VJ was exceptionally good at making everyone feel welcome and special, too. Though Kaoru might easily be his most frequent contact and Kyo his most prized icon, he talked to everyone as though he was nothing but thrilled for them to be here, from the band, to Inoue, to the newest staff member who’d just joined this tour as a roadie. Everyone was a special guest, although Boo did make sure he had the whole band on one table, his table. But that was perfectly fine.
And, as the situation allowed it, Toshiya did find himself next to Shinya, who sat stiff and kind of uncomfortable at first, but relaxed just as much as everyone else did, while Boo bustled around, making sure everyone got their favourite drink, was comfortable and had a bowl of snacks within reach and, if necessary, an ashtray.
Then he began a round of toasts and again, Toshiya liked how he chose to praise the staff first, after thanking everyone for coming, mentioning details of that night that most people wouldn’t have noticed, and the bassist was sure that some of the incidents he reproduced had happened on concerts across the country. Kaoru had probably told him about those things and the heroic repair of a broken effector received a round of applause just as the just as heroic shopping at a seven eleven after a caterer had not shown up and everyone had been hungry and thirsty.
After Boo had started the round of toasts, Kaoru got up, acting the leader as he thanked the management, the label, the staff and by the time the toasts got to thanking the band, Toshiya was already on his second drink just from drinking to everyone mentioned.
“Thanks Kyo, for singing with a sore throat again and for not making me do backing vocals when I was hungover.” Everyone laughed and applauded Kyo, and Boo added a whole little speech about the vocalist’s genius to which everyone had to agree and even the gloomy little man lightened up and laughed along with them, when Boo added a thanks to the tailors who allowed Kyo to squat without ripping his pants around the bottom.
“Thanks Shinya, for only missing beats about three times…”
“I did NOT”, the drummer sneered, but he didn’t look too offended.
“…and thanks for putting up with my slow pace again.”
“Hear, hear”, the blonde said, raising his glass first and with a murmur of agreement, the others did as well, Toshiya chortling into his beer a little.
“Thanks Toshiya, for not knocking me over on stage this tour”, Kaoru continued, “And for always having my back up on stage.” The bassist beamed at this and he found, that it had been a great idea of Boo to invite them out. They wouldn’t have been sitting here getting compliments from the one and only Japanese el mariachi without him. A simple ‘well done guys’ during the debriefing would’ve been all.
“Thanks Masaru”, he finished, patting his fellow guitarist, who was sitting next to him, smiling all teeth, “For, you know, being an awesome guitarist, dragging my drunk ass back to the hotel…”
“I want to hear that story!”, Boo burst out immediately and after another round of cheering and toasting and drinking, the Vip Lounge slowly fell into smaller groups of chatter, Die recounting to Boo how Kaoru had slipped up one night, getting drunk out of his skull and Kyo supplying how when he’d met Kaoru next morning and all the man had done had been shaking his head, whispering “Beer, beer…”
Toshiya listened to the story unfolding on the other side of the table and checked his watch. Just with toasts and general celebration of everyone present, over an hour had passed and before he knew it, he was on his third large beer and next to him, Shinya had been brought a second white wine spritzer without asking for one. The bassist noticed, how the blonde took out his phone, probably to check his pet camera, and, torn between curiosity and the decency not to pry into the drummer’s private space, Toshiya only chanced a small side glance on the screen, before realization hit him. This was his chance!
Carefully, moving slowly and presumably silently, he took out his own phone, kept it low next to his thigh to avoid the flashing screen from alarming his prey, and opened his contacts.
Seraph who is also a sadist.
His heartbeat sped up a tad as he looked over to see Shinya’s screen, knowing any second now his contact name would pop up as an incoming call, but… The drummer was too fast. His phone vibrated and within the small instant it took for his phone to display the incoming caller, he had turned it around and out of sight, hissing at Toshiya like an angry cat.
“You’re a stalker!”, he accused, looking at Toshiya with narrowed eyes but twitching lips, evidently amused by the attack and fighting not to show it.
“It’s my right to know”, Toshiya defended himself, waving his own phone. “I let you choose your own contact name, letting me at least know mine is nothing but fair!”
“You offered to let me change my name in your phone”, Shinya reminded him, “We never agreed it was a mutual arrangement.”
“It’s basic courtesy! I’m not saying I wanna change my contact name, I just wanna know.”
“It’s basic courtesy not to save people as ‘drums’, which you did for what, 20 years?”
“I did save you as Die’s crush in the first weeks.”
“Oh did you!”, Shinya exclaimed, looking exasperated. “And you think that makes it better?”
“I think it doesn’t matter. I think you owe me a name.”
“Your parents gave you a decent one, don’t get greedy.”
“You teased me with it like you want me to know”, Toshiya whined, knowing that he wouldn’t have pursued the topic this insistently, if he hadn’t been starting to feel the alcohol already.
“I didn’t tease like I want you to know, I tease like you’ll never ever know.”
Toshiya gave the moan of a tortured man and had half a mind to give up, but the beer was speaking to him, and Shinya’s phone sat invitingly loose in his hand. With a quick grasp, he tried to snatch it from him, but again, the drummer was too quick for him, turning in his seat to show him his cold shoulder and holding the phone out of reach.
“No!”, he said calmly, but decidedly, sounding much like he was trying to tell a dog to hop off the bed, but Toshiya was not that easily deterred.
“Show me. I’ll show you whatever you want to see, too!”
“I can just wait for the next tour and watch you in the shower”, the drummer shrugged.
“But – huh?”
“I’m not showing you my phone, Toshi.” The fleeting moment of confused surprise and the feeling of having misheard or misunderstood something dissipated into the general playfulness of the conversation, but the vague taste of confusion lingered underneath.
“You don’t have to, if you just tell me.”
“I don’t believe you!”
“Why would I not save you under your own name?”
“Because you’re creative and brilliant and kind of a jerk – what’s my name?” He made another snatch at the phone, but once again, Shinya saved it and he grasped only thin air. Either Shinya was way nimbler than a man who allegedly never heard of biceps curls should be, or he, Toshiya, was more drunk than he liked to think. Either way, he was ready for desperate measures, turning and sneaking his arms around Shinya easily, his hand now coming from both sides to try and get a hold of the phone. The drummer was squirming and trying to keep the phone out of reach, but Toshiya took both his wrists and pulled them closer, having the blonde in a rather weird embrace now. Still, the blonde was squirming, fighting, pressing against his chest and trying to break his wrists free.
“I’m not showing you”, he repeated in a strained voice, but there was the hint of a chuckle in it, that told Toshiya he had not yet crossed a line. Years of harassment had prepared the blonde for being manhandled by his bassist, who now shamelessly used his physical advantage to bring the phone into view and reach, trying to pry it out of Shinyas fingers. The screen had gone dark and Toshiya realized that even if he got it from the younger’s claws he wouldn’t be able to unlock it.
“Alright, come on now…” He said, grinning at the maddened little hiss Shinya gave him, as he took his free hand and lead it to the tightly clasped phone, pressing a fingertip to the fingerprint sensor. He felt the blonde struggling against the movement, but he seemed to tire easily and finally gave up with a little laugh, when Toshiya repeatedly lead his fingertip to the sensor and nothing happened.
“That’s so not how it works”, he sneered, but Toshiya now had pretty much full control over his victim and just chose his thumb instead, pressing that onto the sensor, while holding Shinya’s hand, that clasped the phone to keep it steady. His hand fit easily around the cold, brittle-fingered one of the other and struggle though he might, after two misses, Toshiya finally unlocked the phone. Shinya let out a little groan of agony and sank defeated against him, head against his shoulder, body weakened against his chest.
“Let’s see then.”, Toshiya hummed, welcoming the feeling of victory, mixed with a nervous prickle of anticipation. Of course, it didn’t really matter what his name in anyone’s contact list was, but Shinya had teased him into wanting to know so badly, that he was almost scared to finally reveal the secret to himself. Because it was funnier, he lifted Shinya’s finger and used it to tap the screen to open the missed calls.
“Beesurashu..” He squinted at the screen, then it hit him. “Bassurashka? As in Bass and Cheburashka?”
“Yeah”, Shinya said quietly and Toshiya would have liked to look at him, to confirm that this wasn’t a really weird joke, but with the drummer now rather comfortably nestling against his chest, while he held his hands and with that him in his arms, he couldn’t get a look at his face.
“Um…I feel honored, I guess. Unless it’s because you think I have giant ears, then I suppose I feel self-conscious about my ears from now on.” He let go of the hand he was holding and guiding, but when Shinya didn’t sit back upright immediately, Toshiya rested his palms on the other’s legs.
“Your ears are fine”, Shinya informed him and locked his phone again. Toshiya just stared stupidly at the dark screen, where a second ago, Bassurashka had been written.
His instrument, his profession. And Shinya’s beloved Chebu.
And that was it.
And it was a bit special.