A bag plopped down on the makeup counter in front of Kyo and it didn’t take more than a cursory glance for him to recognize it as Shinya’s.
He didn’t bother looking up at his bandmate as he kept rifling through his own bag for his sweatshirt. “What’s up?”
“You won’t come out with us?”
Kyo sighed. He’d already been through it with Kaoru. It was a rare thing for him to feel like going out after a live, even under the best circumstances, but tonight he was really in no mood at all to be social. He just wanted to get back to the hotel for some peace and quiet.
It wasn’t that the concert itself had gone badly. But it was a combination of other things that had left him utterly drained of whatever limited tolerance he normally held for interacting politely with other people.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea, Shin,” Kyo said. He finally found the sweatshirt he was looking for, and pulled it out of the bag. He shook it out, still not looking directly at Shinya’s face for fear of being guilted into something.
“You never join us for anything,” Shinya said. “We’re your band, but you treat us like mere coworkers instead of like friends.”
“I don’t know what you expect,” Kyo said, pulling the sweatshirt on. “We do work together.”
“And with how long we’ve been making music, that’s all you think about us?” Shinya said.
Kyo reluctantly met his eyes. “Of course not. You know how close I feel to all of you.” He didn’t know why Shinya would want to pick now of all times to hash out something like this. He never came to hang out after shows usually; it wasn’t like this was anything special.
“You take a lot more time for members of your other band.”
Kyo gave him a look. “It’s not fair to try and pit my bands against each other.”
“I’m not,” Shinya said, shrugging. “It was just an observation.”
“I’ll come out another time.”
“But we’re all going,” Shinya said. “How long has it been since we all got together like that? But Kaoru is actually on board, Toshiya, Die—”
“Yeah, all the more reason for me to skip it,” Kyo said. He zipped his bag. “Have you even asked Die if he thinks I should go? I doubt he wants me there.”
Shinya rolled his eyes. “You’re just being dramatic. He doesn’t care.”
Kyo raised a skeptical eyebrow. Die was, to put it simply, one of the reasons his mood was especially poor this evening. He wasn’t entirely sure what he’d done to deserve it, but Die was pissed at him, and somehow it hurt more when Die was mad at him than when anyone else was.
It had started during soundcheck, with Die making some snarky, muttered comment about how Kyo never bothered to rehearse properly.
Honestly, it had completely caught Kyo off-guard; he’d never known that Die had taken some issue with Kyo’s level of preparedness for concerts. He’d been unsure whether he was meant to respond or not. Was this something that had just started bothering Die in the moment, or was there a grudge there that had been held for some time?
Kyo hadn’t really gotten the chance to address it, and Toshiya had tried to reassure him back in the dressing room, “Don’t mind Die. He’s just jealous that it seems so easy for you to nail live after live. He puts so much work into his performance, you know?”
Kyo had frowned at that. “It’s not like I don’t put work into mine.”
“I know,” Toshiya had said quickly. “And I’m sure on some level Die knows that, too. He’s just being moody. You know how he gets.”
It hadn’t done much to comfort Kyo. Much as he’d tried to listen to what Toshiya had said, to not take Die’s grumbling to heart, the soundcheck incident hadn’t been the end of it. By the time they went onstage it seemed that yes, Die was in a bad mood, and after the third passing comment that was a direct criticism of Kyo specifically, Kyo had started finding it difficult to continue biting his tongue. Keeping his distance seemed like the best way to avoid a blow-up. He didn’t want to be fighting with Die, especially not when they were on tour, and tagging along on his post-show wind-down just sounded like a bad idea. Since whatever Die’s bad mood was seemed to pretty obviously be centered around something Kyo had done, it was probably smarter to give him his space.
“I think, for once in your life, you are incorrect,” Kyo told Shinya. “Die would care if I crashed, and he wouldn’t be happy about it. Or have you missed the way he’s been acting towards me all day?”
“You shouldn’t take it so personally,” Shinya said, picking up his bag.
“No? It sure feels pretty personal.”
“Well, since when are you one to let one negative attitude keep you from doing something?” Shinya challenged him. “That doesn’t sound like the Kyo I know. Suck it up and come prove you’re our friend.”
Somewhere in his gut, Kyo still felt like it was unwise, but it was true that he didn’t want to end up punishing Shinya, who seemed like he really wanted him there, just because Die wouldn’t say outright what his problem was.
And really, it wasn’t even like he didn’t like spending time with Die. He didn’t want to make him angrier with his presence, but it had been a while since they got to just hand out. And Kyo liked Die. He liked him rather a lot, if he was being honest about it. Sure, he respected him as a musician and a colleague, but he valued him as a friend as well, and if on some days he felt like being really honest, he could also admit that there was the potential to care for Die as even more than that.
Nothing would ever come of it, but Kyo wasn’t ashamed to acknowledge his attraction to Die—who wouldn’t be attracted to him? And more importantly, he liked being around Die. Or at least he did when Die wasn’t passive-aggressively trying to tear him a new asshole.
“Ugh. Fine,” Kyo said with a sigh. He picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder. “I will come, for you. Just don’t expect a birthday present next year.”
Shinya knew not to take him too seriously and just smiled as he led the way out of the dressing room.
They almost collided with Toshiya in the hall, and he offered up an, “Otsukaresama” before joining them in heading for the venue’s exit, towards the parking lot and the waiting van.
“We dropping Kyo back at the hotel on the way?” Toshiya asked.
Shinya shook his head. “Nah, he’s coming with us.”
“What!” Toshiya snapped his head round to look at Kyo properly. “What, cold day in Hell?”
“You’re asking me?” Kyo raised his eyebrows.
“Know someone better I should ask?” Toshiya teased, and Kyo just laughed and flipped him off.
They were already in the parking lot when a voice behind them caused them to stop walking, and Kyo had to physically restrain himself from groaning when he saw the woman who had acted as liaison for the venue chasing after them. They stopped and waited for her.
“Otsukaresama desu!” she said and bowed as she reached them, slightly out of breath. They responded in kind, and she held up a jacket she was carrying, a slightly ugly denim thing, faded, with loose threads here and there. “I’m so glad I caught you. Someone left behind this jacket!”
“That’s not ours,” Toshiya said plainly.
“I thought it might be Shinya-san’s,” the woman said, pushing it towards him. “After all, you’re always so fashionable, and it’s a nice jacket.”
Kyo looked dubiously at the garment in question, and almost laughed. It was so far removed from anything remotely like Shinya’s fashion sense that the suggestion was ludicrous, and on top of that, it was quite obviously too large to ever fit the rail-thin drummer.
Shinya gave her a polite smile. “Thank you very much, but it’s not mine.”
“We can ask around if anyone on the crew left something,” Toshiya suggested.
“Oh, if you like,” the woman said dismissively. “I was just worried it was one of yours—I wouldn’t want Shinya-san to catch cold!”
Kyo pressed his tongue against his teeth, willing himself not to make some remark. He greatly disliked this lady. He tuned her out as she went chattering on about how lovely the band had been, how they were welcome back anytime and so forth. To Kyo there were few things more despicable than people who kissed up to the band members but treated their crew and technicians disrespectfully, and that was exactly this woman’s MO.
He pulled out his phone, messing around on Twitter while he waited for her to stop talking. He supposed he could have just gone ahead to the van, but felt strangely worried about encountering Die and having to be the one to break the news to him that he was joining them in going out. It was Shinya’s idea; he could be the one to bear the brunt of Die’s ire. Die would probably be least angry with Shinya anyway; he’d always seemed to have something of a soft spot for him. Perhaps that was just something Shinya brought out of people.
Thankfully, she only went on another couple minutes before she was bowing again, apologizing for keeping them standing out in the cold, and they were able to complete their trek to the van.
Die didn’t comment on Kyo’s presence, and Kyo couldn’t tell whether that was a relief or a disappointment. To some degree, he would have liked for Die to say something, maybe to even be happy, but he also knew better than to hope for that.
The place where the van dropped them off was almost more of a family-style restaurant than a bar, but Kyo guessed it didn’t matter too much as long as they served beer, and they certainly did.
“I’m starving,” Toshiya said as soon as they were seated, and dragged the menu away away from Kyo next to him. He started picking out some shareable appetizers. “Kyo, you must be hungry, too. Have you even had anything today?”
Kyo shrugged. “I could eat. And I’ll have a hot coffee.” He ignored the audible snort from Die, or at least tried to.
“For the most part, tonight went well,” Kaoru said, once the server had taken their drink orders, having made it a solid five minutes before bringing up their performance. “Although, Die, I’m not sure what happened at the beginning of—”
“I know, I know,” Die cut him off. “That was just a stupid fuck-up, it shouldn’t happen again.”
“I didn’t even notice anything,” Toshiya said.
Kyo opened his mouth and then had the wisdom to close it before anything came out. He had noticed Die’s mistake, but that didn’t mean he needed to go announcing that. It hadn’t been anything big; he’d noticed, but he hadn’t thought anything of it. It had seemed obvious that it had been no more than a careless slip-up.
“It’s not like we were planning on releasing that one on DVD or anything, right?” Die said.
Their drinks arrived then and there was a pause as Toshiya put in his extensive food order, and thanked the server.
Once she was gone, Kaoru shrugged. “No, it’s not… Still, maybe we should run that transition a few times before our next show.”
“If you want.”
“The next venue is a little more familiar,” Shinya said. “I don’t think they’d mind us starting soundcheck a tiny bit earlier if need be.”
“Oh!” Toshiya said, abruptly enough that Kyo jumped. “That reminds me.” He was grinning wickedly, leaning forward to look at Shinya on Kyo’s other side. “Shinyaaaa, ‘bout to get some!”
Kaoru raised an eyebrow.
“Wait, what?” Die said. “Did I miss some action?”
“The action hasn’t taken place yet,” Toshiya said. “But she practically shoved her phone number down your throat, huh?”
Kyo turned to Shinya, too, and found him looking down at the table bashfully. “Who was this? A fan, or…?”
“A fan, sure,” Toshiya laughed. “So concerned for Shinya-san’s cold arms.”
“While he sits there in his pea coat?” Kaoru looked mildly amused.
“Right? And picturing you in that denim jacket she held up…” Toshiya started laughing again and Shinya lifted a hand to cover his own quiet chuckle as well.
“Hold on,” Kyo said, his brow creased. “You don’t mean the liaison from the venue??”
“Eh? Matsuda-san?” Kaoru said in surprise.
“Yes, that’s her name!” Toshiya slammed a hand on the table. “I was trying to remember!”
“Ohh, yeah,” Die said, a smile taking over his face. “She’s cute! And now that you mention it, wasn’t she the same one who was hovering outside the dressing room, kept offering you drinks?”
“Dude, I say go for it,” Die said, reaching across the table to push at Shinya’s shoulder.
“I hope you’re not thinking of quitting your life as a rockstar and settling down,” Kaoru teased.
Kyo was just glowering at his coffee. Of all the people to take an interest in Shinya. He deserved someone infinitely better, and Kyo couldn’t understand why they were even wasting the time joking about it.
“I don’t know,” Shinya said, still smiling demurely.
“She was so into you, though!” Toshiya said. “You’re at least going to call her, right?”
“God, I hope not,” Kyo said, without meaning to. All at once, everyone’s eyes were on him. He’d been trying so hard to keep it to himself, but he couldn’t just stay quiet when they were making suggestions like that.
“Kyo…?” Toshiya said warily.
“I mean, seriously, she is just a trash person,” Kyo said. He didn’t seem able to stop himself now that he’d started. “I don’t know if you saw the way she was speaking to Kuroo earlier, but anyone who thinks—”
“Kyo,” Kaoru interrupted, in his gentle but firm way. “She was completely professional when I spoke to her. And she likes Shinya.”
“Yeah, be nice,” Toshiya said, nudging him with his elbow.
“But Shinya never said he liked her back, right?” Kyo turned to Shinya again, but he was just frowning, looking away. “Right? I would at least hope Shinya has more sense than to like someone like her. She’s the worst kind of person, I swear, if you’d heard the stuff this bitch was saying—”
That was Die. And for the first time since they’d arrived, he was looking at Kyo with his full attention, glaring daggers right through to his soul.
“What?” Kyo said back, not shying away from the eye contact, no matter how threatening it was.
No one spoke for a minute, and Kyo used the silence to think and process. He replayed Toshiya’s words in his mind: Be nice. That was why Die was looking at him so hatefully now; because he wasn’t being nice.
But this wasn’t the time for that. Shinya was his friend and he wasn’t going to encourage him to pursue someone he thought was morally reprehensible. So what if she liked him? Countless others certainly liked Shinya just as much, and wouldn’t act the way that she did. And what, he was supposed to just look the other way?
Kyo wasn’t remotely interested in that kind of picking and choosing when it was convenient to stand by whatever one believed in, and maybe he didn’t believe in much, but he trusted himself, and he trusted his instincts to know when someone was or wasn’t decent. He wouldn’t ignore that for the sake of politeness.
At length, what came out of Kyo’s mouth was, “I’m not going to not be who I am, just to be nice.”
The table went quiet again. Die was just staring off somewhere past Kyo’s shoulder, a thoughtful look on his face. “Huh,” he said slowly. “I’m trying to think of a reason why I would even waste my time in the same room as someone who’s not nice…” He pursed his lips, shook his head. “I can’t think of one.” He didn’t look back at Kyo as he took a sip of his drink.
Kyo didn’t think he’d ever experienced such an uncomfortable silence. Their bandmates were looking between them but no one seemed brave enough to say anything, least of all Kyo himself.
There were all kinds of things he should have said.
Because we work together? Because we’ve been friends half our lives?
Or he should have apologized, and taken it back—but he couldn’t. Even now, he really didn’t believe he was wrong, and he didn’t think he should have to change his feelings about something just to be more agreeable.
He was more tempted to roll his eyes, tell Die, You know what I meant—there’s a difference between being a Nice Person and Being “Nice.”
That was the point, wasn’t it? Die was conflating the two. Kyo was more than willing to be the former, but he wasn’t going to sacrifice his beliefs to do the latter. And who was Die to ask it of him, anyway?
He didn’t drink his coffee, and no one spoke, until finally Die stood up, and headed for the front counter to pay, basically forcing everyone else to follow him or else just let him walk out.
Kyo kind of wished they’d just let him walk out.