title: もっとみてよ、みつめてよ [Look at me more, gaze at me]
pairing: Yaotome Hikaru/Inoo Kei
word count: 3,375
author's note: I really love Oh! Idol after seeing it performed in the s3art tour, and… well, you know me. XD; For reference, demachi is when fans wait outside the theatre for idols to leave. It's prohibited for some groups, very strict for others, but looser for smaller, less-well-known groups, as far as I know. I'm not really an Akihabara-type idol fan so this might not be the most accurate, but suspend your disbelief, please.
summary: Photos aren't strictly prohibited at their demachi because they simply don't have the manpower to enforce it, but they are against the rules on paper, and besides, Inoo hates seeing unflattering paparazzi photos of himself pop up on twitter (and who can blame him for searching??) or in Harajuku. He can afford to lose one fan, he thinks, if it's an asshole who takes photos of him without his consent. AU in which Daiki, Inoo, and Keito are a small-time idol group in Akihabara.
The crisp chill of the first few weeks of fall is particularly apparent in the little poorly-insulated theatre down a side-street off the main path in Akihabara, away from the brilliant lights and huge billboards advertising new anime movies and popular idol groups. In comparison to the dazzling smiles of familiar faces to anyone who watches Music Station or, for that matter, any television program with commercials, in stark contrast with the shimmering decorations and shining new fixtures that define the theatres associated with those idol groups lucky enough to have won the love of millions and become mainstream, the little theatre, clumped in amongst snack bars and run down old shops closed for the night, is barely distinguishable from the other storefronts around it. Aside from the small stand-up sign propped up outside the door listing weekly show times and the lit name placard above the door, paint peeling and lights flickering but mostly functional all the same, there's almost no way to tell from the outside that the theatre is in use at all, and that, in fact, there might be a show going on right now.
But on the stage, at the very least, under the bright lights and with the combined body heat of about three-hundred people crammed into a small space, the autumn chill is, for the duration of the show, forgotten, even in the shorts and thin tops that comprise quite a few of the costumes for tonight's show, even during the fast changes in the wings required of an idol. Or at least, an aspiring idol; Inoo isn't quite sure if doing small livehouse shows 5 days a week for barely enough money to pay the rent and scrape together one or two meals a day at most really counts as idol work, especially when their little group is completely unknown to most of the world besides maybe a thousand devoted otaku fans who will pay to see them day after day and the ever-rotating audience of passers-by who stop in for the novelty of seeing boys in a space usually reserved for girls and behaving in a way usually reserved for girls and are often never seen again. It's an odd existence, to be sure, and Inoo isn't exactly sure how he ended up here, but somehow, he likes it, likes seeing the fans' faces (many of which he recognizes from regular visits) light up when he comes onstage, likes learning new dances and songs even if the lyrics are a little weird sometimes, likes messing around with the two best friends he never imagined having but loves more than practically anyone. It's not a great life by pretty much anyone's standard, but it suits Inoo, and it keeps him grinning even as they leave the stage after the last encore of the day.
"Tonight was a good crowd," Keito remarks with a smile, shrugging off his sequined suit jacket as they finally heave a communal sigh of relief, gulping water and wiping away the remaining sweat in the chill of the under-heated dressing room.
"Yeah, I heard we sold out," Daiki adds, turning on the little kerosene heater in the center of the room before fiddling with the clasp on his shorts. Inoo doesn't envy the fact that Daiki is the resident "cute one" in their group; while probably nice in the summer, having to wear shorts year-round can't possibly be fun. Of course, Keito probably has it easiest as the "manly ikemen," but, Inoo thinks as he unties his sateen cravat, despite a few extra accessories and over-the-top touches, he likes being "the pretty one" the best. He fancies that he has the most fans, or at least the best fans, who send him gifts in the mail and give him letters expressing their love and devotion after each show.
The thought makes him smile, and he strips out of his costume with renewed vigor despite his exhaustion. "Sold out means lots of people waiting for demachi, so hurry up, slowpokes!" he replies with a grin, throwing his blouse at Daiki just to watch him splutter. While they have varying opinions of demachi (Inoo is pretty sure Keito is actually terrified of it, every single day), getting changed also means getting out of the frigid dressing room, which is a plus.
As usual, Inoo preens as he walks through the backstage door, there are tons of fans waiting for him, and he basks in the attention as much as possible (sometimes it's a bit difficult, what with the sweaty hands and heavy breathing), but near the end of the line, a guy catches his attention. He isn't sure what's so surprising about him-- maybe it's the fact that he looks in his early twenties, on the youngish end of the spectrum, or maybe it's something in his eyes, the striking gaze he has fixed on Inoo, or maybe it's the fact that, unlike most of his demachi crowd, Inoo has never seen this man before. He pauses a moment, somehow struck and unsure what to do, but the guy doesn't have anything in his hand, no letter or gift; rather, his hands are stuffed in the pockets of his jeans, almost hidden in his loose plaid shirt. He doesn't speak, either, no usual "Good job" or anything of the like, and Inoo is about to pass him by when suddenly, before he knows what's happening, the guy grins big at him and pulls his phone out of his pocket, crying , "Say cheese!" before snapping a photo.
Offended, Inoo does the first thing his instincts tell him to do without thinking-- he slaps the guy's hands and stalks off. Photos aren't strictly prohibited at their demachi because they simply don't have the manpower to enforce it, but they are against the rules on paper, and besides, Inoo hates seeing unflattering paparazzi photos of himself pop up on twitter (and who can blame him for searching??) or in Harajuku. He can afford to lose one fan, he thinks, if it's an asshole who takes photos of him without his consent, and so he stalks off into the night, hoping Daiki will make sure Keito makes it out alive for today.
In the cold of his tiny studio apartment, Inoo checks twitter six times over the course of the evening and the next morning before work, but no photos appear. Just before he heads out to the theatre, he checks one last time, but upon finding nothing, he finally sets out, satisfied. Maybe the guy actually got caught and the photos got deleted by the staff, he thinks gleefully as he gets on the train, and not even the minuscule size of the container of hundred-yen pasta in his bag for dinner before the show can get him down.
When he arrives at rehearsal, dressed in sweats and a windbreaker to combat the still frigid air of the theatre, Daiki spends all morning heckling him for running off the evening before and leaving Daiki to deal with that one stalker guy who always tries to ask for his phone number, but Inoo is still high on his victory over the weird guy who took his photo. He's not really sure why he's so hung up on it, but for whatever reason, he can still see the guy's expression, the look in his eyes as he stared back at Inoo. He can't put his finger on what it was-- it wasn't lust, not like Inoo has seen it before, nor was it really admiration, nor obsession. It almost looked… pensive, as if the guy were studying Inoo like a textbook, but that makes no sense, and so Inoo tries to shake the thought, apologizing to Daiki as best he can with a grin on his face.
They're rehearsing a new number today-- ticket sales, as well as the sales of their one indie mini-album, have been up, and the management for their little group, Aioi-tai, are starting to get their hopes up for some sort of major debut in the next year. Daiki tells them not to get their hopes up-- the market is over-saturated by idols right now, and even if they're sort of different and unique, they also sort of fill a niche market, which means that this all might come to nothing. Still, Inoo likes to be positive-- especially when he's giving up everything for this, his time and physical health and any chance at dating-- and the promise of success on the horizon, combined with his lack of twitter infamy, gets him in high spirits for the day.
And besides, even though rehearsal all day and then a show in the evening is exhausting, even though the theatre and dressing room are freezing, even though he doesn't make enough to eat anywhere near properly (even with what his parents chip in from time to time; Keito is lucky like him, with a dad already in showbiz, but it's worse, he knows, for Daiki, who has to work a second job during his time off), Inoo really does love his work, loves performing for the fans, loves being up on stage. And so, no matter how tired he is, he can't help but smile as he runs out onto the stage to greet the crowd, silly as that may seem.
It's not until two-thirds of the way through the show, however, that he notices a familiar face amongst the crowd. Or rather, there are plenty of familiar faces; the theatre's capacity is tiny, and Inoo recognizes most of his own fans, as well as some of Keito's and Daiki's. But right before the last spurt, Inoo notices someone standing about halfway back from the stage, dead center, and before he even notices the phone in the guy's hand, he recognizes the face from last night. It makes his stomach flop inside of him and his heart leap into his throat, because he swears he's never seen this guy before and yet now he's appeared two days in a row. Inoo is usually thrilled to get new repeat fans, but for some reason, something about this guy just puts him on edge.
It's only a split second later that he notices the phone aimed at him, and he's sure he somehow manages to make the most unflattering face in all of humanity (not to mention in Japan, not to mention for an idol) as he sees the flash go off. Of course cameras aren't allowed inside the theatre, but in the dead center of the packed standing area, there's no real way for the staff to see every person, not to mention get to anyone who's breaking the rules. It's a total injustice, Inoo thinks, fuming as he fumbles his way through the last third of the show-- his performance has been totally thrown off by this asshole, and no one is even going to do anything about it! But there's not really much he can do either, and so he does his best to grit his teeth and bear it. He'll be able to complain to Daiki and Keito as soon as he's offstage, anyway, which won't exactly fix things, but, he thinks, it'll probably help.
Inoo is convinced that when he checks twitter the next morning, his heinous mid-performance alarmed face is going to be all over the place, but he's surprised to find only reports of the previous night's shows when he searches his own name. It's a little sad to see how few results come up, but he tries to look on the bright side, since that means no horrifying photos, either. Still, it also makes the whole thing even more perplexing, since what's the point of taking unflattering paparazzi photos if you're not going to share them?
Honestly, Inoo doesn't really understand why he's so hung up on the whole thing; being an idol means that people do douchey things to or about you all the time, and at least this guy didn't try to grope him or anything. Besides, Inoo tries to console himself, the guy was totally ugly, with weird teeth and bad hair and hideous fashion and the worst moustache Inoo has ever seen, but no matter how ugly and stupid he might be, it continues to grate on him to think that some idiot got away with taking photos of him not only once but twice.
But life goes on, and so must Inoo, and he's at least slightly cheered when the guy isn't at the next show, or the one after. In fact, he manages to go one whole week without seeing him, and the whole thing is all but completely cleared from his mind when the management announces at the end of the week that they'll be doing a handshake event the following weekend. After all, handshake events are totally different from shows, require the best smile and the best courtesy and generally the best demeanor possible, and the challenge of it all, of winning over the fans' hearts even further, takes up all of Inoo's mind for the next week. It's a welcome distraction, and even if Daiki and Keito tease him once or twice about his overzealous photographer, the whole incident slowly fades out from Inoo's mind altogether.
By the time the day of the handshake event arrives, Inoo is in much better spirits than he'd been the week previous, especially when, after some bickering in the morning, Daiki and Keito concede that Inoo's line is in fact the longest one there, though, Daiki insists, only by one or two people. They're even allowed to dress mostly casually for the event, which means that Inoo can fight off the chill with a jacket over his Aioi-tai T-shirt, and the fact that they don't exactly have that many fans means the whole thing goes a lot more leisurely than the handshake events of more well-known idol groups. They're allotted 90 seconds to talk to each fan and shake hands before the staff move the line along, which is plenty, really, to make things seem comfortably unhurried but short enough that nothing gets too awkward.
And besides, even if, sure, some fans say some pretty weird things, or are so awe-struck that they can't really get out anything of substance, but really, Inoo can't complain about a long line of fans telling him he's beautiful and talented and that they'll support him forever. Besides, it's nice to put names to the faces he sees so often, nice to see the way that people really light up when their idol acknowledges them and calls them by name. It's stuff like that that makes Inoo love his job, shitty conditions and all, because yeah, maybe he could have been making a lot more being the scholar his parents wanted him to be, but he doubts he could have been making so many people smile, so many people happy, even just for a little while, and to Inoo, that's far more important.
It's getting close to the end of the event, the lines down to their last hundred people or so, and Inoo is beginning to go into autopilot, basking in the sense of accomplishment that always comes along with meeting fans face to face, when suddenly, he sees him. He's not sure how he's been oblivious this whole time, but now, with seemingly no warning, the next person in line is that guy, the one with the phone, the one who took the photos, the bane of Inoo's existence for the past weeks. Inoo manages to keep a smile on his face as the fan in front of him finishes his sentence and then is moved along by the staff, but he can't help but fall into a look of guarded distrust when the guy comes face to face with him.
"And what's your name," he asks, following the normal script, but it sounds stiff and he knows it. Still, he can't exactly bring himself to care when this guy is clearly a jackass, and it gets on his nerves even more when the guy grins.
"Hikaru," he says simply, revealing the worst set of teeth that Inoo has ever seen. "This is for you."
It's only then that Inoo realizes that the guy is holding not a phone but an A4-sized envelope, and he accepts, mostly because he has no other choice, when the guy-- Hikaru-- holds it out to him.
"Go ahead and open it up," Hikaru bids, still grinning his stupid toothy grin, and Inoo grits his teeth but does as told, because whether or not he likes it, it's his job. However, when he pulls a letter and several full-sized drawings of him from the envelope, he can't help but gape, his annoyance falling away into sheer surprise.
"What…?" he asks, and that's far too rude for addressing a fan, he knows, but he's breathless as he flips through the pages. There are cute manga-esque illustrations of him dancing and singing and doing various other things, as well as more naturalistic sketches of his face, his silhouette, his… everything, it seems like. He finds himself speechless as he looks through all the pages before glancing back up at Hikaru, utterly stunned.
But now Hikaru's grin has melted into a warmer smile, and he shrugs. "Lots of people see you as a perfect idol, but I guess that seemed sort of lonely to me. I'd much rather see you as a person. So I guess I'm not really so much of a fan as an admirer."
It's too much for Inoo's brain to process right now, and somehow, rather than wow, that's amazing or I'm really flattered or anything he really ought to say, all that falls from his lips is, "But… the photos… demachi… and?"
Hikaru laughs sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck. "I needed better reference photos," he explains, shrugging. "Sorry about that."
Inoo is still scrambling to think of something else to say, the envelope and its contents still in his hands, when Hikaru glances at the staff member behind him before flashing Inoo another grin. "Good luck… and see you around," he says before disappearing out of Inoo's line of sight just as suddenly as he appeared and, Inoo realizes belatedly, without even getting a handshake.
The rest of the event goes by in a daze as Inoo struggles to comprehend what has just happened, and when finally, they close up for the day, he lingers in his stall even as he hears Daiki and Keito heading for the dressing room, staring at the pictures. He flips through them one more time, admiring the alarming detail with which they've been completed, from the mole on Inoo's neck to the way his hair has been flipping out unevenly at the ends as he saves up for a haircut, and while some of it seems a little unflattering, at the same time, Inoo can't help but marvel at just how much this guy seems to… well, like him.
He's almost forgotten about the letter when he gets back to it beneath the stack of drawings, and even though the management is probably going to come looking for him soon, he can't help but glance over it. Hikaru, it's signed simply, no last name, and Inoo is about to stuff it back in the envelope as he marvels over the bizarre uniqueness of this whole situation when another row of small text at the bottom of the page catches his eye: If you ever get lonely, I'm a good conversationalist, and a row of numbers, eleven digits that can't possible be anything but a phone number.
Inoo stares a moment longer, his cheeks hot for reasons he can't even begin to understand, before shoving the papers back into the envelope and tucking it into his bag with a grin that he can't quite fight back. It's strictly against the rules for him to contact fans in any way, of course, but, well… being an idol can get a little lonely sometimes, and he supposes that if Hikaru has gotten away with breaking the rules up until now… maybe, just once, Inoo can, too.