Koga shoots Rei a glare, stomping into the Light Music Club room, undaunted by the patient stare that follows him. UNDEAD had already gathered save for him - and truthfully, though he was barely late, part of Rei can’t resist giving him a hard time. Kaoru sighs as he looks up from his phone, regretfully shoving the device in his pocket.
“I actually bother to show up and you weren’t even here - talk about a surprise.” Kaoru’s stare joins Rei’s in fixating on him, and Koga ignores it.
“It’s not my goddamn fault!” Koga snaps back, tone sharp even as he gently grabs his guitar, “That Hidaka kid wanted to talk to me about some shit.”
Rei’s gaze sharpens, a smile curling at the side of his lips.
“Hokuto-kun, hm? My, my, how lovely to see you getting along. What troubles did he have to share with you?” Rei sits back on his coffin, crossing his legs and folding his hands together even as Kaoru sighs.
“He wanted to know how to deal with his weirdo senpai in the Theatre Club.” Koga suddenly laughs, a sharp bark that echoes through the room, “Guess he thought I’m an expert because I put up with your shit all the time, you vampire bastard.”
Rei hums consideringly, eyes narrowing, ignoring Kaoru pulling his phone back out. Adonis waits patiently, arms crossed and leaning against the wall, but his gaze flits between Koga and Rei.
“Hibiki-kun? How curious,” Rei prods, leaning forward slightly, “has there been a problem?” The look Koga gives him is odd, brows furrowed, a hint of genuine concern beneath the rough anger he usually tried to wear.
“He’s your friend, right? Shouldn’t you know?” Koga shrugs, sitting on top of the amplifier he had dragged towards the centre of the room, “That nerdy guy was just worried he was overworking himself, that’s all. Ain’t none of my business.”
Rei’s brows draw together to match the faint concern Koga wears - it’s true he hadn’t seen much of Wataru lately, but their lives had intersected in odd and inconsistent ways this year, so that was not entirely unusual. Still…
“Sa~kuma-san,” Kaoru calls, and Rei snaps his gaze back to him, “don’t get lost in the clouds, okay?” Rei laughs, standing back up from his coffin, inclining his head towards the ever-patient Adonis.
“Sorry, it can be hard to find one’s way back.” Adonis nods back, stretching his arms as he steps forward to the centre of the room, “But our next live is not far off now, is it? Let us ensure that the dark embrace of our performance has not yet loosened its grip~”
Rei laughs again as both Koga and Kaoru rolls their eyes, neither entirely managing to hide the slight spark of amusement. He steps forward, tries to throw himself into practice, drilling familiar moves further and further into his muscles that, these days, were far less cooperative than they were in his youth.
But his mind wanders far away from the Light Music Club room, and he can’t help but dwell on Koga’s words. He knew what Wataru was like - so confident that he could do anything, everything at once, just as much of a perfectionist as Shu, as magical as Natsume and at times as fickle as Kanata, so when he became absorbed in something Rei thought it best to just let him be. The limits of the ordinary had never applied to them, after all, so if Wataru thought he could do ten, a hundred, a thousand things at once, each of them as perfect and awe-inspiring as the next - well, Rei believed in him, of course.
But it’s true that Wataru’s absence lately had left him a little lonely, without the tiny moments that they used to steal with each other, and if even Wataru’s club members were worried about him-
“Hey, vampire bastard! Are you listening?!” Koga’s voice cuts through Rei’s thoughts and he snaps his head back up, meeting the stares of all three of his unit members.
“Ah, forgive me. Now, for this part here - Adonis-kun, just show me that again.”
He draws himself back into their lesson, managing to focus until the end, when the fatigue soaks into his muscles and forces him to sit back on his coffin’s lid (and how frustrating, the weakness that he used to be able to fight when the sun had not yet set, the toll it took on him now).
Rei watches the rest of UNDEAD file out of the room, ignores the glances he receives from each of them - annoyed, concerned and knowing in turn as Koga, Adonis and Kaoru pass by him.
He could use a nap, he thinks, staring longly down at the coffin beneath him. But his thoughts drift back to Wataru automatically, and even if he were to lay within it now he would likely find no rest. Wataru was often stubborn about help that he didn’t ask for - a fault they all shared to an extent, Rei thinks, as they had all felt alone for far longer than they had felt the joy of finding their equals, united as they were under the banner of the Five Oddballs.
Rei hums in the silence of the room, shifting the coffin lid back to reach into the tiny fridge. It’s well-stocked at the moment, and he has no qualms about seizing some cured ham and a tiny can of tomato juice, forcing his unwilling, creaking limbs into action as he stands and wanders out into the halls. This part of the school is relatively quiet, most of the students squirreled away in the practice rooms with their units, although he can hear Shu’s sharp cadence through the door of the handicrafts club room as he passes it.
The theatre club room, though, is empty. Not entirely a surprise - Wataru was ever unpredictable, a bittersweet mix of excitement found in the unknown and the frustration of reaching for something just beyond your grasp.
The familiar voice makes Rei turn from where he had poked his head through the theatre club’s door.
“Ah, Sakasaki-kun,” Rei replies warmly, leaning against the doorframe, “are you looking for Hibiki-kun as well?”
“Hm?” Natsume blinks slowly, tilting his head, “No, I just thought it was unusual to see you down here. Do you need Wataru-nii-san for something? If it is a magician’s work, please allow me to lend you a hand.”
“You’re a very kind child, Sakasaki-kun.” Rei pats Natsume’s head, ignoring the vaguely annoyed flash in his eyes at the action beneath the warmth, “but I just wanted to see how Hibiki-kun was doing. I hear the theatre club is awfully busy right now.”
Natsume nods slowly, understanding drawing his brow together into a frown, though he moves Rei’s hand away from his head.
“I think they’re at the theatre itself right now, last I heard.” Natsume waves his hand vaguely, but Rei thinks he knows what he means.
“Ah, thank you kindly. I’ll go see him right away.” Natsume inclines his head as Rei smiles, a little proudly - what a fine young man their youngest had become, “I hope we can catch you for tea later. It’s been far too long since we have spent much time together.”
“I’m afraid that tea with you and Wataru-nii-san, while enjoyable, always ends up a far more engrossing affair than my schedule allows.” Rei laughs, allowing Natsume to walk by him as Rei turns to move towards the theatre, “Perhaps if you were to say nothing more than what you mean, and if Wataru-nii-san could spend less time on dove tricks.”
“Perhaps I’ll suggest it to him.” Rei says in lieu of farewell, and continues on his way.
The theatre is quite dark when he arrives, though he can see a slight flurry of movement towards the side of the expansive stage. He wanders through the dark, empty seats, like a faithful adherent seeking absolution in an empty church, an empty spotlight where the altar would be.
How odd, Rei thinks, for Wataru to not fill this space - for this tense hush to reign, and to not be noticed as soon as he set foot on Wataru’s hallowed ground.
He slips backstage and is greeted with the furrowed brow of Hokuto, who looks startled yet not surprised at the way Rei materialises out of the shadows.
“Down there, Sakuma-senpai.” He says, waving a hand tiredly, and Rei follows it further in. He finally spots the slightly frazzled looking cascade of blue hair (and how unusual for Wataru to look at all affected, he thinks) bent over a script on a worn-looking couch, seemingly deep in thought and not having noticed his entrance.
“Hibiki-kun~” Rei calls, and Wataru’s head snaps up, a delighted smile transforming his features from the pensive frown they’d been stuck in. Rei can’t help but return the smile in kind - because truly, he was always pleased to see Wataru, no matter the circumstance - but though the expression was perfectly constructed there’s a weariness to Wataru’s presence, a sluggishness that Rei glimpses as Wataru stands to fold him into a very warm hug.
“My dear Rei, you came all the way down here to see me! What a surprise~” Wataru steps back, clasping Rei’s upper arms and peering into his face, “You should have warned me, so I could have had better hospitality ready for you.”
“I’m sure your idea of better hospitality would cause quite some trouble for your juniors, so I think they will appreciate my whimsical decisions.” Rei puts one hand on Wataru’s waist, but the vice grip on his shoulders does not falter.
“Oh? And what does bring you to darken the doorstep of our humble theatre club? Isn’t it a bit early for you to be out and about?”
“The sun has nearly set. You needn’t worry about me, Hibiki-kun.”
“Oh! My, I must have lost track of the time.” Wataru turns, spins away from Rei’s grasps, a flutter of his hand causing a rain of black petals to explode around Rei, “Amazing! Take heed, my beloved juniors! The Demon King of Yumenosaki has come to steal your president away into the night~!”
Rei laughs - he can’t help it, not around Wataru - and reaches out again, pulling Wataru back towards him and stilling the burst of movement. It’s his turn to peer searchingly into Wataru’s face, and the faint signs of exhaustion there are more than he is usually allowed to see. He presses the packet of cured ham and the small can of juice into Wataru’s hands, trying to make his expression stern, brokering no argument.
“When’s the last time you ate, Hibiki-kun? Had much of a break?” Wataru holds onto the items, drawing them back to himself, but there is something bittersweet in the curve of his grateful smile.
“Now, now, a true performer cannot break character until the curtain has closed! The audience must never see the workings - only the finished masterpiece.” Rei frowns, but Wataru remains steadfast.
“And you’ve been quite busy preparing this performance with your juniors, so...I see.” Rei grabs Wataru by the shoulders, steering him back towards the couch he had found him on, and Wataru looks over his shoulder to frown at him.
“Ah, Rei? I really-”
“I must insist, Hibiki-kun.” Rei sits him firmly on the couch, planting himself beside Wataru, the hand on his shoulder moving to sit insistently on his thigh. There’s a slump to Wataru’s shoulders that suggests he wants to give in, and Rei presses closer to him, lowering his voice, “You need to be at your best - for your audience, your juniors and yourself.” Wataru’s eyes wander back up the way Rei came, no doubt with the wandering gazes of the theatre club in mind, and Rei bumps his shoulder again, “It’s just us here. And I don’t count as audience, do I, Wataru?”
Wataru looks back at him, delighted and a little surprised, and Rei takes the opportunity to sprawl all over his lap with an exaggerated whine, one hand thrown over his eyes.
“Oh, I’m afraid my unit activities today have left me just exhausted.” It’s not entirely a lie, though he had intended it to be - the warmth of Wataru’s legs and lavender scent of the shampoo that he’d never changed were nostalgic comforts, and the tiredness he’d set aside to come here came rushing back in an instant, “Have some mercy on these weary bones, would you? Just let me rest here a bit. I’m not as young as I used to be.”
“And yet you have hardly changed at all.” Wataru says, laughing, delight sparkling in his eyes at being cornered so effectively. He peels open the snack Rei had brought him, chewing it thoughtfully, taking small sips of the tomato juice as Rei looks fondly back up at him.
“I think you’ll find there are few who’d agree with you there.” Rei squirms, settling further into his comfortable sprawl, and Wataru hums in response.
“A truly masterful actor is one who draws you in so deeply you forget the actor exists at all.” Wataru says, setting his drink to one side and leaning down, his hair falling like a curtain settling around their tiny stage. His hand comes up to brush the hair out of Rei’s eyes, fingers ghosting against the skin tenderly.
There’s a tap of footsteps as someone comes into view, their voice worn thin as they speak.
“Hibiki-” Hokuto chokes on the words and Rei imagines him turning on his heel, the footsteps receding as fast as they had approached. Wataru shifts, as if to get up and chase after him, but Rei worms his way further onto Wataru’s lap in retaliation, planting himself as firmly as he can.
“A few more minutes won’t kill you. The theatre will be waiting after we’ve rested a bit.” Rei reminds him insistently, and Wataru relaxes again against the couch. He takes another sip of his drink, placing it to the side again and letting his fingers stray into Rei’s hair, fiddling absently with the curled ends that spill across his legs. Wataru is smiling, and Rei feels like it’s a smile he hasn’t seen in a while - and he’d missed it, somehow, even without realising he did. Wataru leans down again, his voice barely above a whisper, like a confession that not even the heavens could hear.
“Thank you for worrying about me, my dear Rei.”