On a talk show in December, the host asked them one question:
“If you didn’t work together, do you think all of you would still be friends?”
“First of all,” said Aomine, promptly shattering all illusions about camaraderie and fraternal bonds, to the despair of millions of girls across Japan, “who the hell said these guys were my friends?”
“I would never hang out with these guys if the agency didn’t pay me,” said Kise, proudly hooking an arm around Kuroko’s shoulder. “Except maybe Kurokocchi.”
“I would never hang out with Kise-kun,” said Kuroko, but his voice was drowned out by the women screaming in the audience.
“Oh, fuck you,” said Aomine. Momoi made frantic motions at the editing team to censor it out later. “I wouldn’t hang out with you either. Or Midorima.”
“Excuse me,” said Midorima, deeply offended that Aomine would be the first to voice out his dissatisfaction. Aomine.
“I’m blessed to have comedians in my band,” said Akashi, serenely, pinching Murasakibara awake. “Otherwise I’d be very disappointed if any of them sincerely felt this way. Right, Ryouta?”
“Right,” said Kise, and shut up.
The worst part about being in a boy band, Aomine decided, was having to live with boys all the damn time.
Curfew was at 10, except if they had a taping or an event. No girls allowed inside the apartment except for Momoi, and only because she was their manager. When someone showed up piss drunk from a party (i.e. Kise), janken decided who would pull back his hair as he hugged the toilet and bemoaned his life. More importantly, no porn allowed.
“Don’t we have alone time,” said Aomine, dismayed over the schedule tacked above the bathroom mirror.
“What alone time,” said Momoi, “if you have enough energy to wank off (which is just disgusting, Dai-chan, disgusting), then put it to working on your dancing. Your timing was off at the last performance!”
“I’m a boy,” said Aomine, resting his head against the surface of the medicine cabinet, “I have needs.”
“I’ll consider it as executive time and dock it off your pay,” said Momoi.
“You should just get off when everyone is asleep,” said Kise. Then, at everyone else’s hunted expressions, he added, “Not that I do that on a semi-weekly basis. Nope.”
“Manager, may we switch sleeping arrangements,” said Kuroko.
“Ew, Kise, our beds are beside yours,” said Aomine. “Eugh.”
“I wonder when this band will stop oversharing things,” said Akashi, to his toothbrush. “I also wonder when everyone will get out of the bathroom while I’m using it.”
“Oops,” said Momoi, watching the rest of the boys trip over each other in an effort to vacate the bathroom, “sorry about that.”
On paper the Miracles were the poster boys for success. Oricon charts featured them so much that all the teenage boys in the nation hated their faces, and ticket sales for performances were sold out by the end of the month even with the steep prices. Fans complained bitterly over the costs of merchandise and still proceeded to outbid each other at ebay for that elusive “towel signed by all five members at the concert in Tokyo dome!!!” or the “box of Pepperoo from At-chan” after he conveniently forgot it in a dressing room. The agency churned out more posters, more re-packaged albums, more keychains, more useless paraphernalia, and Momoi weptwith joy over their bonuses and despaired that it barely covered maintenance costs.
Like, say, keeping the fridge well-stocked.
“Alright,” said Midorima, “I give up. Which of you cretins stole my shiruko?”
“I DIDN’T DO IT,” said Aomine, kicking the can under the sofa. “It was probably Murasakibara.” Murasakibara gave him the evil eye and flipped him off.
“I think we’d know if it were Atsushi,” said Akashi. “He always throws his trash in the garbage —”
“—and misses,” said Midorima.
“And misses,” said Akashi.
“We’re out of butterscotch bars,” said Kise, poking his head out of the fridge. “What am I supposed to bribe the stylists with now?”
“I hope you’re not using sweets to get the better outfits, Ryouta,” said Akashi.
“Um,” said Kise, and backed away from the kitchen, ostensibly to search for Kuroko.
“We just went shopping the other day,” said Momoi, knee-deep in balance sheets and jabbing at her calculator with the impatience of a woman surrounded by half a dozen five year olds. “What happened?”
“Does this mean we’re eating out today?” Murasakibara asked, suddenly coming alive.
“I vote for naked sushi,” said Aomine.
“You’re fifteen,” Akashi, Midorima and Momoi all intoned.
“Sushi sounds good,” said Murasakibara. “I want unagi.”
“What about my shiruko,” Midorima griped, watching Aomine and Murasakibara troop out of the kitchen and into their rooms to retrieve their jackets.
“This is why I keep telling upper management to buy you guys a damn vending machine,” Momoi sighed.
Aomine and Kise’s general inappropriate behavior aside, the band mostly stayed out of the limelight when it came to scandals. Mostly. Momoi was good at damage control, but even she had her momentary lapses, and trying to induce good behavior in Aomine and Kise was like trying to wean Murasakibara off food. It just didn’t happen.
The last time Kise’s name became a headliner for the tabloids, though, Momoi brought out the big guns.
“A strip club, Ryouta-kun,” said Kise’s mother, with her handkerchief poised over her eyes. “What would your father say.”
Do you do this to punish me, Momoicchi, Kise mouthed over his mother’s shoulder as he stroked her back in what he hoped was a consoling manner as she burst into tears.
Yes, Momoi signed back, and pushed Aomine into his room where his own mother was waiting.
They didn’t have wifi in their apartment for this reason:
Member rankings, and the fans that came with it.
After Kise’s stint in a drama series, his popularity shot through the roof. If anyone didn’t know the Miracles then, Kise was their gateway to the world of idols and synchronized dancing. Kise was Matsumoto Jun.
Of course, after the initial infatuation with Kise wore down, the fans had other members to look forward to. Midorima was straight-laced, no-nonsense, and had a deep voice that made teenage girls want to strip out of their underwear and make love to it (the forum posts were very graphic. Midorima was two parts appalled and one small, tiny part flattered). Aomine was a jerk, but he was the token straight man in press cons and game shows, and he was the one the stylists conveniently forgot to prepare shirts for. Murasakibara knew all the best dating spots in interviews (a consequence of having a thorough knowledge of food joints) and appealed to the women that wanted to mother him and run a comb through his hair. Akashi had presence and got fans by virtue of being the leader.
Kuroko was the perennial last placer, with a fanbase composed of older women that thought he was terribly cute and unfairly overlooked in favor of the more overpowering members, but no one wanted Kuroko’s fans either because they perpetually wrote fantasies about Kuroko in seedy situations that everyone in the band made disgusted faces at (bar Kise and Momoi, because). There were doujinshi. Momoi had copies. Five of them.
“Damn it, Kise,” Aomine yelled in outrage as he made the mistake of opening a zip file on Kise’s laptop, “stop downloading these things where I can see them!”
“Stop using my laptop,” said Kise, yanking it away and quickly going through the password-protected folders. He knew he forgot to hide one.
“Akashi, Kise’s preying on Tetsu again,” Aomine called out. He manhandled the laptop away from Kise and ran to Akashi’s room.
“Kise-kun should just die,” said Kuroko, turning a page and crossing his legs.
“It’s my personal business,” Kise said, following Aomine. “No one is allowed to judge me. I got them from Momoicchi.”
“Female lingerie? Really, Ryouta?” Akashi said.
Kuroko locked the door and made a vow to padlock his underwear drawer.
After one month of experimenting with social media, the agency made Kise delete his blog.
“I have ten memos from the board,” says Akashi. “Please stop posting half-naked pictures of yourself, Ryouta.”
“Yeah, Kise, your mom doesn’t really want to see your pictures,” Aomine sneered.
“What about all my followers,” Kise protested.
“They’ll live,” said Akashi, and he didn’t stop lurking over Kise’s shoulder until Kise gave in and shut the blog down. “You too, Tetsuya.”
“I have nothing on my blog,” said Kuroko.
“I meant, your other blog,” said Akashi, without missing a beat. “The one you use to read questionable stories about the romantic entanglements of everyone else.”
“Oh,” said Kuroko, “I apologize for making you feel uncomfortable.”
“What other blog,” said Aomine, blinking.
Akashi thought of Seijuurou/Daiki, NC-17, PWP pre-first album era backstage blowjob fic and didn’t say a word.
As far as Murasakibara was concerned, game shows were really stupid.
He hated taping in front of a live TV audience most, where he couldn’t suck on a sweet and everyone could catch him not paying attention at all. He wasn’t as bad as Aomine (at least, not yet) who frequently skipped tapings in favor of sleeping in, but work was work and Akashi always told him to look like he was at least a little interested in whatever the hell the host was saying.
Besides, Murasakibara hated crossdressing for the fans.
“Murasakibaracchi looks like a boy trying to pass off as a girl,” Kise said, in between heaving gulps of air.
“Ryouta-kun looks fantastic, though,” said the host, clapping her hands and cooing over how well the tafetta skirt clung to Kise’s hips, and how real the blonde wig looked on him. Murasakibara frowned and itched to yank off the ribbons in his hair. In the corner, Kuroko tried to hide from the cameras and glared balefully at everyone else.
“Five more minutes, Atsushi,” said Akashi, plastering a smile on his face and curtseying in front of the camera, decked out in lace. “Just five more minutes.”
Not even a gift bag was going to improve Murasakibara’s mood for the rest of the night.
On more serious press conferences, Akashi and Midorima were the ones the agency pushed to the frontlines, Akashi more than Midorima because Midorima frequently got in trouble with the press for having an attitude that pissed everyone else off.
Also because Midorima took every opportunity to take a shot at Aomine and Kise whenever he could. Too bad his plans backfired on him all the time.
“I’ve noticed Shintarou-kun likes to bring up Daiki-kun and Ryouta-kun a lot,” said the interviewer, tapping her pen against her notepad. “Does that mean you’re closest to them?”
”No,” said Midorima, horrified.
”Everyone is very close,” said Akashi, his game face on, “but Midorima has a special fondness for Daiki and Ryouta.”
Somewhere in a break room at the agency, Kise and Aomine were gagging.
The internet exploded with OT3 fic, fanvids and ship manifestos as a result.
Arguments were pack and parcel with the band. Aomine didn’t get along with Midorima and Akashi. Akashi didn’t like Aomine’s work ethic. Midorima hated everyone. Murasakibara didn’t really care.
Privately, Momoi thought that if they were Korean, they’d be the first to be on Intimate Note, but since they weren’t, the variety shows settled with filming their lives off-stage.
Too bad their non-idol lives were pretty boring.
“Okay, so what the hell do we do now?” Aomine said, already forgetting about the camera installed in the corner of the room.
“We should go to a karaoke place,” said Kise, banging the coffee table with his very expensive, very fragile phone. “Karaoke!”
“Kise-kun, we have vocal practice everyday,” said Kuroko. “No one wants to hear you sing Moonlight Densetsu for the seventh time this month.”
“Not after that last talk show,” Aomine adds, making a face. “It’s disgusting how many girls get fooled by your face.”
“This face brings in more fans, so be grateful, asshole,” said Kise, sulking and making pained faces at Kuroko, who merely went back to skimming the news.
“You’re not even that great a singer,” said Aomine. “Even Midorima is better than you.”
Midorima kicked him under the table and went back to checking out the stock market.
“I wanna go to a cafe,” said Murasakibara, poking at his plate, scraped clean by his fork, and glaring at it as if its existence offended him on some deep, instinctive level. “I want macaroons.”
“We don’t have the manager’s credit card, Atsushi,” said Akashi, patiently sipping his tea. “Why don’t we just stay in?”
“There’s no beer,” said Aomine.
“There are wholesome games to enjoy,” said Akashi, “like igo, for one.”
“Do you have any games from this century,” said Aomine, disparaging. “And still no beer.”
“We could play basketball,” said Kuroko, hopefully. Everyone else rolled their eyes.
“Tetsu,” Aomine groaned, “if I wanted to play basketball, I wouldn’t have quit school to become an idol, okay.”
“Yes, because you became an idol to meet gravure models,” said Midorima, scathing as ever when his input was least asked for. Bastard. “And where has that gotten you?”
“This is why your ranking sucks,” said Aomine.
“Do we even have money to go out,” said Kuroko, still smarting over being denied a game.
“I think I have 500 yen in my pockets,” said Kise. “Oops. Make that 300.”
“We’re idols, why the hell don’t we have money,” said Aomine, dismayed.
“After the strip club incident, management deemed it necessary to withhold funds from all of us,” said Akashi, the lightness of his tone at odds with the displeased expression on his face. “I hope you remember how inconvenienced the rest of us are by your mistakes.” Then, to the camera, Akashi said, “Kindly cut this footage out, Momoi-san.”
“You’re a terrible person,” Murasakibara chimed in, still grieving the cut on his disposable income.
“Whatever,” said Aomine. “Hey Kise, let’s go find some girls at Shibuya.”
“We can pretend to be hosts to get money,” said Kise, brightly. ‘Then we can have fun!”
“Beer,” said Aomine.
“And karaoke,” Kise haggled.
Akashi wondered why he couldn’t have gotten more obedient members in his band. He thought about this everyday.
Sometimes it was worse than petty arguments, than small, repairable fights that broke out in the middle of the hallway. Things like insecurity and spite were normal enough in the industry, but it didn’t mean it felt right.
When Aomine and Midorima competed over solos, sometimes they went without speaking for weeks. When they weren’t waging a war over appropriating parts of the songs, Kise complained about schedules and publicity. Concepts became more about fads, about what looked good and what would sell, and if the critics pointed out that Miracles were a sellout, then what good were idols for, anyway? What valuable meaning did they have?
Filming a backstage special for the third album, Kuroko said to the portable video camera:
“Sometimes I feel jealous of the other members, of how talented they are at what we do. It is a little disconcerting to realize that other people with less interest in music are more skilled no matter how hard you practice, but…”
The battery died. The light blinked red, twice, and then disappeared. Like it knew the moment was too private, the confession too early for articulation, too far from the ideal image.
Kuroko never voiced it again.
Because sometimes, even after the hours of fatigue and the self-loathing that came with it, when, before a live performance, at the tail end of the show, Kuroko felt like they were still okay, like the brief moments of shared fraternity would make everything better. Murasakibara held him in his arms, aloft, as Kise gave a tearful speech before the fans, and the entire world careened — all Kuroko could hear was laughter, even through all the screaming.
“Oh god, are we having a moment,” said Aomine, draping himself over Murasakibara’s back. “Tetsu, let’s just go before Kise starts crying all over us.”
“Daiki, be nice,” Akashi said, but without much heat. He held his mic tightly in his hand, and touched Aomine’s arm.
“This is why we get mistaken for gay all the time,” said Aomine, but he was smiling.
“Speak for yourself,” said Midorima, moving past Aomine to stand in place.
“I’m still not voluntarily spending time with you, just so you know,” said Aomine, slinging an arm over Midorima’s shoulder just to annoy him.
“The sentiment is mutual,” said Midorima. The screaming rose in volume, again. If they only knew.
“Do try not to rip each other’s throats until after we go backstage, you two,” said Akashi.
“That’s impossible,” said Aomine. “That’s like asking Kise not to be a girl. Speaking of which.”
“I really love you guys,” Kise wailed into his microphone. The camera zoomed in on his face, the projector on the side of the stage barely showing exactly how red the corners of his eyes were, how smudged his eyeliner was, and Aomine covered his face with his palm, sweaty and shaking from excess energy.
As far as public declarations of love went, they were never lacking in any.
At home, when the rest of them were asleep, Kuroko wondered, still, why those moments were so fleeting, so quick to vanish when the cameras were off and all they had to offer was something more real.
It was work, that was all. Just work.
(Sometime in June after their fourth year in the industry, the Miracles disbanded. Kuroko quit the band first, and then Aomine, and then Kise, and then, and then…
Looking at their faces on screen, at Aomine, Murasakibara and Kuroko swooping in to poke fun at a sobbing Kise at a concert, at Midorima’s rare conversations with Aomine that had no bite, at Akashi’s expression, soft at the edges and fond, the press had no answer, nor the fans.
It just happened.)