Prompt: 056 ~ No Regrets June 2011©
Fandom: Antic Cafe
Focus: Kanon x Bou
Word Count: 2,443
Bou was leaving.
The cute, preciously effeminate, and utterly astounding guitarist that Antic Café’s members, their staff, and their fans had come to love so dearly; the man that they had all come to admire and adore was leaving.
Bou was really leaving.
They’d been talking about it for months now.
The staff knew, the fans knew, everyone knew. No one knew why, but everyone knew that Bou was leaving. Everyone knew exactly when the end was coming, when it was here.
Even now, as An Café was preparing for the very last song of their very last live with the little blonde guitarist, everyone knew what was coming. Kanon was still trying to figure out why though, why the person who was most responsible for bringing nyappy energy in to balance out Miku’s craziness would leave. Even as he slid his bass on and felt Teruki’s hand fall comfortingly onto his not-quite-shaking shoulder, Kanon was still desperately trying to figure out why.
“We’ve got one more go,” the drummer murmured, squeezing Kanon’s shoulder gently. “Let’s give it all we’ve got.”
Kanon nodded without looking at his friend, his hands busy with the tiny final adjustments to his bass’s tuning. He knew it was more than that, but admitting it, even to himself, was more than he could take. It was pathetic; he was Kanon, after all! An Café’s straight-faced and emotionless dork of a bassist. He wasn’t supposed to care this much.
“Sano-kun,” Miku’s voice crooned, surprisingly soft for the vocalist, “Play well! Don’t mess up!” The words were familiar, Miku’s usual teasing before lives. They were usually playful and made an opening for Kanon to kick the crazy vocalist soundly in the rear, but this time the somber tone made them both keep still and quiet.
After a moment, Kanon nodded and went back to his tuning. As Miku collected himself, giving his head a sharp shake and walking off, Kanon tried to force himself to stay locked away in his stage persona. Kanon was simply losing a bandmate, it happened all the time in this business. Kanon didn’t have to acknowledge that while a bassist was losing his guitarist, Shinya Sano was also losing his best friend. If he was just Kanon, he didn’t have to face the fact that Bou meant everything to him, that it wasn’t just the band that was at risk of falling apart when Bou slipped out of his world.
Just then, Bou punched his shoulder. It was part of their routine during lives. The impact and the exertion itself helped to keep their muscles flooded with endorphins, kept the blood flowing and the muscles from cramping. Kanon punched him back. The routine, the simple oh-so-typical feel of it made things feel like business as usual. It lifted Kanon’s mood for the barest of moments before the gloom of reality settled into the backstage preparations again, dragging them into a heavy and painful silence.
Kanon’s question came after the second longest pause in his life as it had been entangled with the guitarist’s. The only one worse had followed on the heels of Bou’s initial announcement that he’d decided to withdraw from the band. Since that night, a group outing for ice-cream to celebrate something or other of little importance, everything had been different.
For starters, Kanon was sure that he would never be able to eat strawberry ice cream again; but more than that, the band had been rocked to its core and Kanon’s world had ceased to make sense. Bou had finished his ice cream quickly, as usual, and then he’d stolen a bite of Kanon’s before making his announcement, giving the bassist a kiss on the cheek and walking out into the night without another word. No hint of an explanation, nothing.
The next day’s practice session had accomplished next to nothing, exploding in arguments and insecurities and confusion. Everyone wanted to know why and Bou wouldn’t explain.
He simply couldn’t explain it, Bou had tried. The others didn’t really see his feeble attempts to find the right words as a valid try, but he had tried. He just couldn’t do it, and he’d finally settled on the explanation that didn’t explain anything: It was just what he needed to do at this point in his life.
They had six months.
There’d already been an album slated for release and a national tour planned. Arrangements were quickly made to add more stops to the tour, to make the finale a bigger spectacle, to make the DVD chronicle more complete and in-depth, and more focused on Bou.
Once the tour started and the official press releases were made, the fans were clamoring to know why. Bou silenced them after only a few heartfelt speeches. They were resigned to bear with his decision. The bandmates he would be leaving behind were forced to settle for his lackluster reasoning, but Kanon wouldn’t just let it go. He couldn’t.
As Kanon stared out onto the stage, past the lights and out to the dark and shifting mass that was the audience, he had to try asking again. “Why?”
Bou sighed, heavy and tight and emotional and impossible. He leaned his shoulder into Kanon’s, but his gaze was on something far beyond the audience in front of them. It was somewhere near the line that separated reality from everything else.
“I just can’t do it anymore.”
Kanon was mad. He deserved to know, to make Bou explain himself. After all they’d been through together . . . Not a soul on this earth knew Bou better than Kanon did; knew him or what he’d done or what he’d been through. Kanon felt betrayed that Bou wouldn’t trust him with the full reasoning, like by passively not telling Bou was actively deceiving him.
“I just . . . I . . . I feel like I’m lying to myself, to everyone.”
With a shuddering outlet of breath that wasn’t contained or solid enough to be a sigh, Bou let Kanon in; like he’d been trying not to for so many long and painful months of practice and questions and heartbreak. “I don’t even know.” It would be so much easier to leave if Kanon thought he was resolved to go, but the truth of it was, Bou had no idea what he was doing. He didn’t know why any more than anyone else did.
Bou didn’t think he could bear trying to stand up to Kanon’s attempts of convincing him to stay. It had been hard enough to pretend he was fully set on leaving when Kanon had thought there was nothing that could make him waiver. With the bassist aware that Bou didn’t know why he was leaving, that Bou didn’t even want to leave . . . “I just can’t do it anymore, all of it. It’s just got to stop.”
To Bou’s surprise, Kanon accepted his answer without renewing his attempts to pull the guitarist back into An Café’s fold. Kanon could accept this answer, more so than anything else Bou had given, because even though it wasn’t much, it was as much as Bou was capable of giving. Bou was letting him see the wounds he’d been hiding, the tears in his psyche and sanity that he’d been able to push aside for so long. Bou wasn’t just trying to explain why; he was trying to explain why he couldn’t explain.
And Kanon understood.
In the confusion and the pain and the chaos of finally having people to love, of loving and being loved, Bou couldn’t even tell who he was, who everyone loved . . . he couldn’t tell much of anything. Leaving the band was the only thing he could see as a solution.
And Kanon understood.
Bou was leaving.
“What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where will you go?”
“I don’t know.”
“Take your phone.”
“I never answer it.”
“Take it anyway.”
Bou almost laughed as Kanon gently shoved him sideways.
As the guitarist regained his balance and came back to lean into Kanon’s shoulder the bassist asked, “Will I ever see you again?”
The world around them kept moving despite the gravity of the question that froze everything in the private little universe they shared.
“I don’t know.”
A techie called for them to take their places. The grand finale was about to start.
Their last encore.
Their last song.
Bou punched Kanon’s arm again, too lightly for it to have been part of the routine. Kanon’s blinked down at him blankly. A moment of absolutely nothing passed. Then the guitarist took a deep breath before bouncing onto his toes to crush his lips to Kanon’s.
Breaking away, he smiled through the beginnings of tears.
“One last kiss, one last song. No regrets.”
Bou’s smile widened as he fought even hard to keep from caving in and crying outright. Kanon nodded in return and together they sauntered onstage. They took up their positions as Miku was talking to the fans, his voice worn and strained in a way that hurt to hear.
“Kizuna, together forever. Nothing could be more appropriate.” He swallowed hard. “Arigatou, mina-san, for being here with us tonight. It’s time for Bou’s last song!” At this, Miku had to face away from the crowd, away from Bou, from Kanon. He could only focus on Teruki, whose face was strong and supportive, even as it was teary.
The song started up dismally, and progressed tragically. Everyone made mistakes that would have shamed them into never again leaving their apartments in any other context. Even Teruki found himself completely lost over a few beats. Miku stumbled over his words, dropping a few lines altogether and giving all he had not to simply give up entirely. Kanon was able to mostly keep his cool, but only because of his steadfast determination to look anywhere but Bou’s side of the stage. The guitar solo was the most pathetically sloppy thing Bou had ever played, he hadn’t even been so imprecise when he’d only just picked up a guitar for the first time in his life. It was awful, but at least he was standing for it.
He fell to his knees twice as the song continued.
He couldn’t look at anyone. Not the fans, not the staff, not the crew. Not sweet Teruki, or his buddy Miku, and especially not Kanon. Bou’s fingering was way off by any standard, but it was in the ball-park enough to make the song recognizable, and most of his timing was accurate enough. It sounded just barely decent, even considering the circumstances, but at least he was playing.
Bou felt worst of all for Miku, he had to sing through the same tightness and tears that were burning Bou’s throat like acid and causing his fingers to move numbly, slipping and sliding over the frets. Miku was doing spectacularly as far as Bou was concerned. He hardly dropped more than a line or two per verse, and then only the ones with the most poignant and painful of sentiments.
Miku gave Bou a pat on the head as he always did during lives. There were no kisses or giggles or spasms of tickling, but more than any contrived act of fanservice, that little pat on the head spoke volumes of the story that was their deep and complicated and eternally important relationship. It was just a little motion of not-quite-approval, of acceptance, amnesty, absolution, affection.
It was enough.
At the end of the song, Miku just gave up. He didn’t quite collapse, but he laid down on stage staring up blankly at the lights with his feet towards Teruki as he just gave up.
Bou walked in tight circles, trying to do something to make the feelings settle. Something, anything to make himself feel better, feel less. He gave Teruki a weak smile as the drummer dismounted from his set. Teruki returned it with a sympathetic nod before going over to try and comfort Kanon.
The bassist had seen professionally to his instrument. Then he’d simply curled up and pressed his head to his knees, trying not to think about anything. It was over. It was really over.
It was over, and Bou was leaving.
Teruki’s hand on his back could do nothing to soothe him. The fans had never seen their strong, emotionless Kanon like this. They’d never seen him cry; they’d hardly ever even seen him smile. It was awful, his image was shattered, but none of it mattered because Bou was leaving.
When Kanon was at last able to look up, his eyes found Bou’s instantaneously.
Bou was a wreck. His pretty face all swollen with tears, his make-up running like a river down his cheeks, swept into black smears by the guitarist’s attempts to stem the tide with his hands. Even so, Bou smiled when Kanon met his eyes. Their gazes locked, a moment of eternity passed between them.
Kanon watched Bou take a deep breath that heaved his shoulders like a sob. Then the Antic Café guitarist lifted his instrument over his head and unplugged it from the amps. Gingerly, he set it down in its stand, it was his favorite after all and it wouldn’t do to damage it. Kanon had bought it for him years ago, when Antic Café had made their first big break.
His fingers brushed over the neck once more, lingering in the sweet residue of memories.
Then Bou flashed a smile at Miku and Teruki and walked off stage. He grabbed the case containing the guitar he always carried with him but never used for lives or practice or anything. It was the old roughed up one that he’d taught himself to play on long before Antic Café was even an idea. He slid the strap over his head letting the familiar weight settle into place.
Bou didn’t pause to wash the salt stained make up from his face. He didn’t take the time to change out of his stage clothes, or even wipe his running nose. He brushed his hair out of his eyes with sharp determination. Then he walked off stage out to the warm summer’s night, and out of Antic Café, without so much as a glance over his shoulder.
Meanwhile, Kanon was still onstage; sitting, defeated, as Teruki helped Miku to his feet.
The bassist took a deep, dizzying breath and pulled himself up. For just a moment, he stared into the splotch of blackness that Bou had disappeared into.
It was over and Bou was gone.
Kanon half-smiled painfully as he turned away.