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Staged

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A reputation is a fragile thing.

They aren’t easy to maintain by any means; tainted by a word, fouled by a rumor, washed away by a vendetta- pray that you have some saving grace against tabloid's petty gossip. Even still, others may never look at you the same way again.

Oikawa knew this. Yamaguchi knew this. Everyone in the business knew this.

“So,” a sickeningly saccharine voice began, “what’ll it be?”

Yamaguchi shook Oikawa’s hand.

* * *

Friday, 2:27 pm

The seven story building was busy in every sense of the word; Yamaguchi checked to make sure that he had the right address. The way that Suga had made this place sound, he thought it would be more… sophisticated? Nothing like the bright oranges and pinks, and frankly gaudy bead curtains. There was a balloon garland bordering the front door… it looked more like a car dealership than anything else (sans cars, of course). In any case, the address was correct, so he made his way through the double doors and stood in line to speak to the lady at the front desk. It was well lit and clean, white walls pasted with posters of various artists- it didn’t look like a sketchy place, at least.
The line was moving forward quickly, but was relatively long, and he found himself looking around, thinking about the conversation he and Suga had had just a few nights before…

* * *

“You’re Yamaguchi, right? You’re really good!”

Yamaguchi shrugged his jacket on, and rubbed the back of his neck modestly.

“Ah? I’m glad you think so! Thank you,”

But before he could continue exiting the backstage, the shorter man stopped him with a hand to Yamaguchi's chest. Yamaguchi got the feeling that this wasn’t just a passing fan offering flattery.

“Yamaguchi-san… where do you see yourself in five years?”

 

The next thirty or so minutes were spent sitting down with the man (who he now knew to be Sugawara Koushi, preferably Suga) at the same place he had just performed at- for free, of course. He never missed an open mic night, and apparently neither did Suga. It was in the job description for Suga to go to various clubs and cafes, any open mic night or talent show he got wind of, to scout out potential partners for his management agency. Coincidentally, Suga happened to attend The Golden Grease Pit’s open mic that night. And he liked what he saw.

Yamaguchi listened to the pitch that Suga threw at him. According to Suga, Yamaguchi was new, he was different- supposedly, his vibe was just what their label needed. Cynically, Yamaguchi thought of how many other people Suga had said those same words to. Suga kept going, saying he was soft, but solid, quiet but unignorable- something about him, apparently, just drew you in.

But Yamaguchi knew that he wasn’t a star. He ran through a seemingly endless list of reasons he wasn’t star material- he just couldn’t be who Suga was looking for. But how could he make Suga understand this?

He couldn’t. Suga was patient and polite, but very persistent, which Yamaguchi supposed came with the job’s territory. Suga had an answer for everything; he didn’t have to start with large crowds. He could be in a duo or even a band if it would make him more comfortable. He could dress any way he liked. Suga insisted that Yamaguchi was absolutely the person he was looking for.

Yamaguchi felt guilty about turning down what he knew so many would- had sacrificed so much for. But he really didn’t feel that what Suga was offering was… him. He really thought that Suga misunderstood.

A pregnant silence grew between the men. He asked if he could think about it, and Suga gave him a card. Yamaguchi was still apprehensive, but he figured he could stand to look into it more before turning Suga down. He wanted to think of some questions to ask, and also subscribed to the idea that you should sleep on big decisions like this.

“Come see me, when you’re ready. The offer will always be open”

* * *

A woman behind him cleared her throat, and he noticed that he was now standing before the lady at the front desk. Snapping out of his abstraction, he had the receptionist buzz him in, and took directions to Suga’s office- 16th floor. It dawned on him, then, that Suga was probably a really important person. He gulped, and scrutinized his outfit in the elevator’s mirrored walls. Maybe he was being too nonchalant about this whole thing.

Before he had time to panic, a group of people got on the elevator with him. Most of them were taller than him, and two of them were bickering. There was a very short boy with bright orange hair, and a very tall man with spiked black hair, styled to be half up half down. The third man, who was bickering with the short one, stilled upon noticing Yamaguchi was there, and the rest fell silent after him. He was beautiful. His hair was chestnut, his skin was clear, his eyes were sparkling. He was tall, and lean, and had an all around gorgeous face. He looked Yamaguchi up and down and said, eyebrow lifted, “Are you lost?”

Yamaguchi stiffened immediately. He knew what that meant. It wasn’t a concerned question, it was a condescending one. The tone, the body language, the look on the man’s face- Yamaguchi felt further cemented in his thought that he shouldn’t be there.

Mr. Gorgeous was shoved by the one with wild black hair. “Oi, don’t be rude”. Spiky-hair shot him an apologetic glance before focusing his attention back to his phone- seemingly a text conversation.

With that, the bickering resumed.

“You aren’t going to beat us this year, Oikawa-san! We’ll win for sure!”

“Oh? And how do you plan on doing that, Chibi-chan? With the band you don’t have and the piss-poor manager you do? I’d like to see you try” Oikawa was smiling, but he looked irritated.

“Yachi said she’d think about it, so she’s probably joining! As soon as we get Tsukishima-san to join, we’ll have a full band!”

“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Come on, Tetsu-chan”

The elevator stopped at the third floor, and with that, Yamaguchi was alone with Chibi-chan.

“Ooooo, he makes me so mad! Like, GWEEEEEH, you know!?” eyes clenched, Chibi-chan jumped up and down in the elevator out of frustration. Yamaguchi thought he was going to have a heart attack. Before he could plead with the boy to stop jumping, Chibi-chan whipped his head up and stopped to look at Yamaguchi.

“Oh. You’re new, aren’t you?”

“Well, not-”

“Well if you weren’t new, you’d totally agree with me. Oikawa’s the worst…” He huffed and stuck his tongue out at the elevator door, insulting any lingering presence Oikawa might have left behind.

He turned to Yamaguchi, “I’m Hinata, by the way! Hinata Shouyo, soon to be number one on the charts, and Battle of the Bands champion!” He stuck his arms out wide in such a confident and passionate pose, that Yamaguchi was afraid he might start jumping again. Thankfully, he lowered his arms and remained on the floor.

“Who are you?”

“I’m, uh... Yamaguchi Tadashi. It’s nice to meet you.” He was only half lying. Despite their first interaction being less than nice (and more than terrifying), he was glad to have a familiar face in his back pocket.

The elevator dinged on the fifth floor, and Hinata-san tightened his grip on his backpack. Huh. Yamaguchi didn’t even notice he was wearing one. It made him look like an elementary schooler.

“This is my stop! Good luck, Yamaguchi-san!”

Hinata’s screechy voice rang out over the whole floor, and all Yamaguchi could do was wave meekly back at him, cringing and raising his shoulders. He pushed the ‘close doors’ button a few times to escape the floor (and the stares of those in what seemed like a waiting room) as soon as possible- but just as the doors were about to close, a hand interrupted.

In walked another Mr. Gorgeous- no, two of them. ‘There must be something in the water here…’ Yamaguchi thought to himself.

One was tall, blonde, and undeniably handsome- glasses framing his face nicely, relaxed posture pulling his suit taut in all the right places… the other, not as tall yet with a larger presence, had straight black hair and deep blue eyes. They also seemed to be bickering, albeit quieter. The water must be causing that, too.

“Look, just join the band” came grunted out of the shorter one, but Blondie wasn’t paying attention. Instead, his eyes were trained on Yamaguchi.

Yamaguchi gulped.

The blonde’s amber eyes looked him up and down, cold but otherwise hard to read. The shorter one realized Blondie was ignoring him, and grabbed Blondie’s shoulder roughly.

“Oi, Shittyshima! Stop ogling and give me an answer already, bastard!”

Shittyshima(?) rolled his eyes, lips pressed into a hard line, and glared at the shorter man.

“I gave you my answer, and my answer was no. Please don’t insinuate that I’m being unprofessional at my place of work- there’s nothing to ogle at here in the first place.”

Ouch. Yamaguchi knew he was plain looking, but it hasn’t been said to his face (more or less) since he was a highschooler. I mean, who does that? How could someone be so rude? He was embarrassed, but also angry, and pointedly refused to look at either of the men, turning his face sharply to the mirrored wall away from them.

“Don’t be fucking rude-”

“Bye”

Blondie got off, and the shorter man trailed after him. Yamaguchi suspected that it wasn’t even the shorter man’s stop.

He made it to the eighth floor before another character came onto the elevator with him. Short and blond and sweaty, she looked like a mess, but at least she wasn’t fighting with anyone. She silently reviewed some papers in her hand, flipping through them in a rushed fashion. They didn’t really talk, until they hit the ninth floor and another man got in. He was definitely good looking, but not a knockout (in his humble opinion) like Blondie or the OG Mr. Gorgeous. Tawny skin and short black hair. He smelled nice, and looked normal enough.

“Hey Yachi” He nodded, stifling a yawn.

The girl (Yachi, apparently) jumped, sending her papers flying.

“I-I-I-Iwaizumi-san! S-sempai! SAMA!” she saluted the man (who looked quite uncomfortable), smacking a clammy hand to her forehead.
He and the man both bent down to pick up the scattered papers as Yachi apologized, and Iwaizumi-san (-sempai? -sama?) assured her that she didn’t have to be so formal, and ‘Iwaizumi-san’ or even just ‘Iwaizumi’ was fine. Yamaguchi figured he must have been important, and thought it was cool that he was still so nice.

As they both returned stacked paper to a bowing and grateful Yachi, Iwaizumi seemed to finally notice that Yamaguchi was there. Yachi got off at the eleventh floor, and the two were alone.

“She’s… not always like that. Well, she’s a nervous person in general, but it’s not usually that bad- I’ll have to check in later, see what’s got her so wound up. I’m Iwaizumi Hajime” he extended a hand to Yamaguchi, and he gratefully took it. In his eyes, Iwaizumi was an absolute angel right now.

“I’m Yamaguchi- Yamaguchi Tadashi. It’s nice to meet you” none of that was a lie.

As they neared the 16th floor, Yamaguchi realized that Iwaizumi was probably going there too, confirming his suspicion that he was an important person.

“Are you going to see Suga-san too?”

Iwaizumi chuckled “Nah, I left something at my desk. I gotta get it before my friend flips out. You’re going to see Suga?”

Yamaguchi felt a strange mix of pride and apprehension when he answered “Yes. Is that bad? I mean, I don’t know why it’d be bad. He’s really nice, I just- I feel like he’s going to eat me alive or something.”

Iwaizumi-sempai chuckled- such a heavenly chuckle- and leaned in towards Yamaguchi, as if about to tell him something scandalous, a treasured secret.

“He just might” was all he whispered, before leaving Yamaguchi in the elevator, stopped on the 16th floor.