madara takes a deep breath as fingers hover over the black and white keys of the vocal room’s piano. his mind is blank. he shuts his eyes, waiting for a melody to pop into his mind, waiting to be able to press down and play— but the silent seconds pass and nothing comes, so with a sigh, madara lets his hands fall to his sides.
green eyes flicker to the clock on the wall. he has less than twenty minutes left to use the practice room, and he’d used his time wisely up until now. surely, it wouldn’t be too much of a loss if he let himself rest in the quiet of the private space before his time ran out and another unit came to occupy the room.
but no matter how he tried to justify it in his mind, the thought of stopping now left a bitter taste in his mouth. after being disowned and cut off from his parents, so many of his resources were removed from his grasp. and though new dimension was still a growing agency, it was full of eager, fresh faces, trying their best to make it in this industry. he couldn’t afford to be dawdling during the little time he had to practice.
so madara lifts his hands above the keys once more. his eyes flutter shut. he inhales—
the moment of stillness is gone in a second. madara’s eyes shoot open at the sudden sound of the doorknob turning, at the slow shuffle of feet entering the practice room. once again, his hands fall to his side as he glances at the clock only to find that his time still isn’t up yet. so madara twists his body to see who his unexpected visitor is.
the moment that madara lays his eyes on the figure, there’s no mistaking him, even when his back is turned to shut the door. madara would recognize that blue hair anywhere, round like the bell of a jellyfish, stray hair sticking up and curved over. this visitor turned out to be more unexpected than he had imagined.
the boy at the door turns around to face him, droplets of water dripping from his hair as he spins. the startled expression on his face lasts only a second before it’s replaced by one reminiscent to irritation. with his lips curled in a pout and his eyebrows scrunched up, kanata replies, “oh… it’s the ‘rogue.’”
he takes a few steps forward, leaving a trail of water behind him. “what are you doing here?”
madara laughs, spinning his body around on the piano bench to face kanata properly. “shouldn’t i be asking you that? what’s brought you all the way to newdi? did you miss your mama that badly, kanata-saaan ~ ?” he sings, only to be met with a scowl.
“i am here to meet nacchan. i have something to ‘discuss’ with him… i was told his unit’s ‘practice’ finishes in a few minutes, so i was hoping to ‘catch’ him before he left.”
“nope! i’m preeetty sure switch’s scheduled to use the practice room after me. you’re an hour early.”
it falls silent then, quiet enough for madara to hear the droplets of water hit the floor as they fall from kanata’s clothes. it’s been so long since he’d last seen his childhood friend. sure, they didn’t get to interact much in the previous year, considering how much he traveled and the fact that they were in separate classes, but school still brought them together every day. madara could peek out the window and spot the other boy relaxing in the fountain. madara would see his smile from afar and know peace.
but now, they’re in separate agencies, seperate buildings, busy with their own schedules now that they’re working adults. chances like these are rare. he doesn’t want to mess this up.
“well if nacchan is not here, then i will ‘come back’ later—”
“my practice time ends soon!” madara interjects before the other can even step back toward the door. kanata only blinks at him. “which means natsume-san and the others will arrive in a few minutes to take over the practice room. instead of meeting after their practice, you can just talk to him before they start. it’d be a waste for you to leave only to come back an hour later, don’t you think?”
kanata purses his lips at this, considering. then, he nods his head. “that is ‘true’… i had to leave the ‘pond’ for this. i would like to ‘return’ soon, so it would be a ‘waste’ to come back here again, wouldn’t it?”
“that’s right! well, i was just finishing up anyway, so—”
“hmm? don’t you still have some ‘time’ left, rogue? you can ‘continue.’ pretend i am not here.”
madara laughs again in response, but it dwindles as he turns back around on his seat to face the piano once again. what had been an opportunity to catch up with his old friend had somehow converted into him feeling like he’s a student taking lessons, with kanata watching over him as a strict instructor. he couldn’t not play now, but there’s no way he can concentrate with the shuffling of kanata’s feet on the other side of the room, with the sound of his own heart thumping in his chest. he can feel kanata’s wide eyes staring into the back of his head, waiting.
the sound of footsteps grows louder, and madara turns his head to find kanata sliding onto the piano bench beside him.
“kanata-san…?” madara blinks. kanata huffs in reply.
“if you will not ‘practice’ on your own, then…” kanata turns his gaze away from madara and down to the piano. “why don’t you ‘play’ something for me?”
this suggestion transports madara to the past— a distant, faded memory of himself performing for the other boy. back when he’d sing for his friend with all his heart, when kanata’s usual blank face would stare at him with awe in his eyes. to bring such an expression to his companion’s face lit a fire inside madara, encouraging him to work harder, to shine brighter, so that he could see that twinkle in kanata’s eyes again.
madara’s fingers hover over the keys. they press down before his brain even registers what song he’s playing.
the sound of the piano is loud enough to hide the soft inhale that kanata takes as the melody sinks in. it’s a song he’s played countless of times, not on the stage— but in private moments like these. it’s one that is close to his heart.
“…your ‘solo song.’”
the music stops abruptly once kanata speaks. madara chuckles, “silly kanata-san! almost all of mam’s songs are solos, you knooow ~”
kanata shakes his head at this. “no. it is ‘your’ solo song.”
silence falls over them once again, and madara finds himself swallowing a lump in his throat. he hadn’t been expecting the other boy to actually recognize the tune.
“haha! kanata-saaan ~” madara fights those feelings and instead shines a catlike grin down at him, fluttering his lashes for extra effect. “i didn’t know you listen to my album! i’m flattered ~ !”
kanata shoves him. his shoulder is cold and moist where it meets madara’s arm, and madara’s dramatic cries of pain are ignored.
“i do ‘not,’” kanata argues, but his cheeks are puffed out like a pufferfish and madara finds it makes him far less convincing. “it ‘plays’ in the speakers… so i ‘hear’ it without wanting to.”
“they play my album in the starmaker building?” madara’s smirk only grows wider.
this time, kanata chops him on the head.
“uwaaah! kanata-san, that huuurts ~” madara whines. but the scowl on his old friend’s face can’t mask the faint blush that dusts his cheeks.
“too much ‘talking.’ not enough ‘singing,’” kanata says with a huff. his face is still a little pink. “your practice time will be ‘over’ soon, and you have not even gotten to the ‘first verse.’”
ah, he’s expected to sing now, too. how silly of him to feel embarrassed to perform for an audience of one. but with this audience… with this song…
“alright, alright! no need to keep scolding me! i’ll start again from the top.” madara laughs it off, hoping his nerves go unnoticed by his companion. he clears his throat and slowly begins to sing.
“these feelings of wanting to see your smile…
they will continue to be nostalgic, unchanging, and flow with the shifting season.
no matter how far you are…
i know that you will always give me a painful amount of warmth to light up my heart.
i wonder if you haven’t noticed? i want to watch over you.
even during times when we’re fooling around – this feeling…”
kanata’s eyes are locked on madara’s lips, watching as the words flow from his mouth. it’s different than hearing a studio recording, than hearing it play through his headphones when he’s all alone. he can hear the emotion in his old friend’s voice, the intent put into every word.
he watches as madara’s expression twists painfully at the mention of an unfulfilled parting, the little smile on his lips as he lists all the names he was called by the subject of the song— meddlesome, busybody— and kanata can’t help the way the corners of his lips tug into a small smile as well.
such familiar choice in words…
madara’s focus is still on his fingers as he plays, but kanata’s gaze hasn’t shifted from the other’s face even as the song starts to come to an end. the mention of a coincidence— no, of a fateful, important meeting— of being born in the world at the same time… ah, there’s a strange feeling in his chest now. kanata feels floaty. he feels warm.
“‘we met again’– i’m happy with just that…
the warmth from the gentle smile you gave me will never change.
basking in the sunlight filtered through the rustling trees swaying in the wind,
even if the distance between us widens…”
madara releases a soft exhale, smile bittersweet as he sings the final line.
“i will continue to watch over you, even from afar… my precious person.”
the music slowly fades out, and with the press of a final key, he turns to face his childhood friend. the moment madara tilts his head, he locks eyes with kanata, and realizes the other hasn’t looked away this entire time.
the laugh he lets out sounds more self-conscious than he’d hoped, but he smiles at kanata nonetheless. “well?”
kanata blinks at him. he stares. and if madara hadn’t felt self-conscious before, he certainly was feeling it now. but he’s known kanata long enough to know that the gears in his mind were turning, that he’d speak when he was ready. there was no need to push right now.
and just as madara thought, after a few seconds of silence, kanata spoke.
“when we were asked to record ‘solo songs,’ most people sang about the things that were ‘important’ to them. mine is about the ‘sea.’ chiaki’s is about being a ‘hero’…” kanata explains his thoughts slowly. his eyebrows are furrowed, and madara wishes he could smoothen it out. “…why did you make your song about ‘someone else’?”
it was a fair question. he could have chosen any other subject— from his desire to travel the world to his love of festivals and the liveliest atmospheres. those were all things he held dear, after all. but when it came to something important to him… there was no mistaking what his first choice would be.
“haha ~ weren’t you listening, kanata-san? i said it in the song. it’s because… they are my most precious person.”
madara turns his body a bit more to face his old friend more clearly. it makes their shoulders bump again, but this time, neither of them make an effort to scoot aside. kanata’s arm feels cold against the thin fabric of his shirt. the contact burns nonetheless.
“mama,” kanata calls, sea green eyes staring into him, and really— such a name shouldn’t make his heart skip a beat, but every time kanata refers to him as anything other than that awful nickname ‘rogue,’ madara is filled with uncontainable joy. it feels like a step in the right direction. then kanata asks, “who is the song ‘about’?”
madara knew the question was coming, but it didn’t stop the sinking feeling in his stomach as soon as the words were said aloud. it didn’t stop the heat from rising to his cheeks. he laughs— really, it’s all he can do at this point— but it fades into silence when kanata only leans closer, insisting.
after a few seconds, madara sighs. “i reeeally don’t think you need to ask me that!” he glances down at the keys of the piano, at his fingers, then back at kanata staring at him curiously. “i think you already know.”
kanata only blinks. his expression is unwavering, and it reminds madara of long ago, when the other boy would come to him to inquire about the littlest things. but unlike their childhood, the kanata sitting beside him no longer has that innocent and lost look in his eyes. now, he’s determined to get an answer.
if his expression wasn’t enough to confirm this, the cold hand that grabbed at the fabric of his sleeve did. kanata leans in again, and madara’s heart skips another beat at their close proximity.
his eyes glance down at kanata’s lips. and kanata whispers, “…i want to ‘hear’ you ‘say’ it.”
madara freezes. it’s hard to try and laugh this one off, not when kanata is so intent on getting an answer out of him. his song was able to convey his thoughts in the most eloquent manner, to share his innermost feelings on this person.
he’d practically confessed it all just now. he’d confessed it to that person’s face.
but admitting who those words were for to the person those words were for was a much more difficult task than he’d expected.
there was no way out of this situation now. so despite the shakiness of his breath, despite the pounding of his heart in his chest, madara opens his mouth to respond.
suddenly, the sound of a distinct voice came into earshot, and madara turned to look at the door again. three figures in white and green practice suits came into view through the window of the door. his scheduled time was up.
“i… think it’s time for me to go! haha!”
madara practically jumps from his seat at the piano bench, leaving a startled and irritated kanata with his hand still outstretched where it had been holding onto his sleeve. there’s a pang in his heart, knowing that frown on his old friend’s face is his fault, but he swallows the feeling down. surely, he’s brought this kind of expression to kanata’s face plenty of times in the past. one more disappointment wouldn’t change much.
but before he can make his elusive escape, he feels a hand grab his, and madara finds that kanata has stood up, too.
the contact is enough to make his cheeks feel warm, but he shouldn’t be doing this. madara swallows.
“kanata-san…? natsume-san is waiting, you know! i shouldn’t waste their precious practice ti—“ kanata glares at him and madara immediately shuts his mouth.
“it was ‘nice,’ you know…” the harsh expression on kanata’s face shifts into a tender smile as he murmurs, “to… ‘see you again.’”
and this time, a truly genuine laugh falls from madara’s lips.
“yeah.” madara squeezes his hand, beaming the brightest smile. “you too.”