Summary: Too much is left unspoken for Keita's comfort.
Original story: Sounds Like by mousapelli
After enough years as a pop idol, Keita stopped having a near-panic attack every time management summoned him. Sure, there were the times they said things like "You're touching your bandmates too much. Tone it down." Or "Your dancing needs work. You're going to have to come in every day at seven a.m. for individual practice until you improve." Or "You need to update your style. What do you think of this?" at which point they'd show Keita a hideous photograph, and Keita would have to smile and nod and say he'd always wanted hair that looked as though it had lost a battle with a weedwhacker...only not in those words.
But there were also the times when they said things like, "You're going to have your own sexy photoshoot," or "You've all done a good job lately. Why don't we send you on a vacation to Hawaii?"
Or, as they did today, "How do you feel about producing a solo album?"
Keita blinked stupidly, feeling a rush of noise in his head that was so loud he wasn't sure if he'd just heard what he thought he'd heard.
"Keita?" Yamada-san prompted.
"Uh-huh?" he said vaguely.
Fujiwara-san chuckled a little. "Gentlemen, I think we can take that as a 'yes.' Congratulations, Keita. I'm sure you'll do a fine job."
"Yes," Keita said, nodding. "Or, rather, I'll do my best."
"Of course you will," Yamada-san said and pushed a copy of his new schedule across the table to him. Keita tumbled out of the door half an hour later feeling more dazed and happy than he had since the day they'd told him that he and Ryohei and Ryuichi were going to debut officially, that management thought they'd be together a very long time.
His elation lasted the entire train ride home and until he was standing in front of Ryohei and Ryuichi, at which point Keita told them his news and Ryohei repeated the words "Solo album" in a tone of deep betrayal.
Keita felt himself crumple. He'd already said yes, he couldn't back out now, but if Ryohei and Ryuichi were going to hate him for it...
"Oh, hey!" Ryuichi said. "A solo album!" He nudged Ryohei in a rather painfully obvious manner, but it made Ryohei smile and nod grudgingly, murmuring his own approval, so Keita could forgive his lack of stealth.
He let them give him congratulatory hugs and a few kisses and hung around long enough that it wouldn't look like a retreat when he grabbed his writing notebook and left the room. Ryohei would come around eventually--he hoped--but, for now, it made Keita jittery to watch his stiff smiles and the suspicious look in his eyes whenever they landed on Keita.
A couple of weeks later, Keita wished he could have been as prescient as Ryohei apparently had been. Not that he knew the exact reason for Ryohei's wariness, except to be pretty sure that it wasn't due to jealousy: w-inds. had gotten past those sorts of problems sometime in their third year together. But Keita had thought that his solo album wouldn't really change anything, and instead everything had changed.
The first change was that he was tired all the time. That he'd expected, though he hadn't anticipated the extent of it. He knew what it was like to produce an album, after all. It turned out, however, that he didn't know what it was like to produce a solo album while still fulfilling his obligations to w-inds. Twice the work ended up feeling like ten times the work, just because he never had a moment to rest and had to keep pushing himself through his pain and exhaustion. More than that, in his work for the solo album, he had to be "on" all the time; he couldn't catch a breather, literal or figurative, while Ryohei or Ryuichi took center stage, and his back-up musicians were no help.
The second change was his back-up. They were okay guys, but just being thrown together for a few weeks of practices and recording wasn't enough to make them friends. Almost more than the work of recording and performances and appearances, it was tiring to work with people to whom Keita always had to be polite and professional. They talked a little during their breaks, got to know each other better, but they didn't really have fun.
The third change was that Keita kind of stopped having fun, period. Even when he was working with Ryohei and Ryuichi, he was too tired to play around or just to laugh and joke and tease them for their moments of fail. They didn't push him when all he wanted to do was sit down and rest, but he could see their frustration and disappointment. In his better moments, he knew that they were feeling that way about the situation, not about him. As the weeks went on, though, those moments came fewer and farther between.
Keita woke up shivering, not certain if it were the cold or the murmur of voices that had woken him. He pulled his jacket up tighter around his shoulders and resolved to start wearing a coat to work; the weather wasn't quite cool enough to justify it, but the more tired he became, the more he felt that he couldn't get warm.
A snatch of singing prompted him to crack his eyes open. Ryohei and Ryuichi were harmonizing softly on the other side of the room, heads close together. They sounded good, but Keita always thought that. He thought of asking them to sing louder, but even that seemed like too much effort at the moment. Instead, he let his eyes drop shut and listened to the quiet rise and fall of their voices as he drifted between waking and sleep.
It was stupid to feel left out when he was the reason that the three of them were so rarely together. Nevertheless, the third time in a week that Keita stumbled home after midnight to find Ryuichi and Ryohei curled together in bed so tightly that he couldn't tell which limbs belonged to whom, he felt a stab of pain underneath his breastbone. He went into the kitchen and found a plate of curried rice sitting in the refrigerator with strange red lines on it that might have been intended to represent his name, written in hot sauce. He heated it up and managed to finish a third of the plate before giving up, feeling too tired and sick to his stomach to finish.
A small part of him considered sleeping on the sofa, but that would be petty, and it would deprive him more than it would punish Ryohei and Ryuichi. Considering his schedule, they might not even realize that he'd never come to bed with them. So Keita brushed his teeth and changed into his pajamas before sliding into bed beside Ryuichi.
Ryuichi murmured something in his sleep with the dip of the mattress, but didn't wake up or acknowledge Keita at all. Even when Keita crept closer and put an arm around his waist, he just slept on. Keita bit his lip and pretended not to care for long enough that he finally fell asleep, as well.
Doing interviews without his band was a dangerous thing. The interviewers all expected him to be mature and intelligent, which was a lot harder to manage when you didn't have anyone to come to your rescue if you spaced out on a question or were just asked something that didn't have a good answer. Keita started to cringe every time he got another message that he'd be promoting his album on one talk show or another.
It was even worse because his voice had developed a faint rasp that the interviewers seemed to think was sexy. It just terrified Keita that he was going to ruin his vocal cords, and he'd never sing again after a big blowout in his early twenties.
After yet another impossibly long day, Keita caught the train home and found Ryohei and Ryuichi laughing on the sofa as though nothing were wrong in their worlds, while Keita was dying and they didn't even notice. He stumbled forward and dropped onto the sofa between them, and they let him, so maybe things weren't entirely ruined yet. They didn't touch him, though. Keita thought that usually they touched him more. Maybe they were too busy touching each other now, and not even knowing that he was being paranoid from extreme sleep deprivation kept him from considering the thought for long, lonely minutes, feeling farther away from Ryohei and Ryuichi than ever.
He let his head fall against the back of the sofa and closed his eyes. His eyelids were burning, but that was just tiredness, he thought. He wasn't about to embarrass himself by crying in front of his bandmates quite yet.
One of them was channelsurfing--he didn't open his eyes to check who--and settled on an entertainment station that was playing an interview with Yamapi. Ryohei and Ryuichi chuckled at something he said, but Keita wasn't paying enough attention to know why. And then his own voice came on, sounding too high and breathy like it always sounded outside the reverberations of his own head, and he winced.
The reporter got to the bit where she asked how his solo album was going, and Keita muttered, "Solo album," to himself with all the pain and loathing that a six week semi-separation from his friends and bandmates entailed: six weeks of catnaps on studio couches rather than long, lazy afternoons lying in bed together, six weeks of wearing increasingly heavy makeup to hide the shadows under his eyes, six weeks of no sex.
Almost before he'd finished saying the words, the sofa cushions shifted a little, and Keita frowned in half-unconscious recognition before Ryohei and Ryuichi pounced on him, the former attacking his mouth with kisses while the latter pulled open his pants. His tiredness was a blunt pressure at the back of his head and a disturbing languor in his limbs--not to mention that he wasn't sure why they had both decided to accost him now of all times--but if they were willing to do all the work, he wasn't going to argue. Ryuichi slid his mouth over Keita's cock, slowly coaxing him to hardness, and Keita placed one hand carefully in Ryuichi's hair, lifted the other to cup Ryohei's cheek, and held on to them both.