Setting: Some time during the first 24 episodes

Pairings: Yuki+Towa, Santa+Yuki for this chapter

Note from the Author: Warning: Possible yaoi. Other than that, this is my first kaikan fic.

Chapter One

He was half-hoping that his father did not mean what he had said the day Yuki left the Noh conference for the band competition. He wished everything had not happened, from being stripped of his very name to being banned from their household. But the refusal of his father to talk to him on the phone before the band began the journey back home brought him back to the harsh reality he had been trying for weeks to avoid. He had told his bandmates especially Towa that he will still be needing a place to stay after the tour; if the fates ever decide to totally turn their backs on him by not having found a place after all that has happened (which seemed to be the case), then his friends might share their place.

Yuki chose to sit at the back to avoid the attention. As the van rolled out of the parking lot and left for their final destination, he gazed out the window and at the clouds lazily drifting high above blue skies. He found it ironic to be craving for Noh practices, since he had detested having to attend to those ever since he was small. Yet it was only during those practices could he let his mind slip away, without worrying about committing a mistake in front of his father (the thought of him depressed the guitarist more), having mastered the part. It was during these times when Yuki set his mind free, dreaming of his band reaching dizzying heights.

So sad for such a dream to be squashed the minute the judges announced their final decision. Many people said being a first runner-up is good enough, considering how many contestants joined and how tough the competition was. What they do not know is the feeling of being only second best - you will never be satisfied, knowing you are so close to the top.

Everytime the others question what might have gone wrong, Yuki felt a stab in his chest, feeling responsible for their failure. If it were not for him, they would have been more confident and more practiced before entering the competition proper. Having barely made it and lifting his bandmates spirits upon his return did not cut it; he will always wonder if they would have won had he decided between the Noh conference and the competition earlier or to put it bluntly, between his father or the band.

He released a deep sigh - he failed both anyway. He diverted his attention to his friends for a while, not taking his eyes off the window. Yuka was saying something about gaining something from the tour - friends, experience and a lot of fun among other things. While it sounded encouraging, it was not far from steering them away from the truth. "We didn't get what we really went there for." Yuki countered softly.

"...Aa. D-demo, we wouldn't have any regrets since we know we tried." Yuka replied less confidently.

Yuki ignored Santa's glance from the rearview mirror. Yuki knew Santa didn't like others ruining people's light spirits, but they have to know where they stand, and they were nowhere near the victory they wanted. If their last gig fails as well, they would be nothing but starving artists who would rely on day jobs unless they give up on their dream - a dream he started, they followed and failed altogether.

Despite their misfortune, the others didn't seem to be losing hope, as he noted Yuka's light tone when she spoke to her and Atsuro's mother on the phone, announcing their return from the tour. Yuki let a small smile grace his lips at the news of a small dinner at their house. He was glad that everything was fine between Atsuro and his dad again. He remembered Atsuro having arguments with his own dad, choosing between the band and his education; but they have reached an agreement now. Yuki's smile faded - his father would never agree to compromise.

He could almost hear his voice now.

Their tradition, with the former heir of the household passing the art of Noh from generation to generation, along with it the responsibility to keep their tradition alive. It was what defined Toudou Yukifumi. Acceptance of this fate guaranteed him the luxuries of what an heir deserved - fame, fortune, a bright future, everything anyone could hope for except for freedom and happiness.

Now, he was banned from the household, released of his responsibility as its heir and no longer a son of his parents. He was nothing more but a struggling artist, and he had nothing more but his passion for music, his freedom, his happiness, and a few bills to live through a few days. He was no longer the silent, obedient son of an aristocrat that people used to know. Now, he was simply Yuki.

YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

Yuki's problem was no secret. In fact, even before Yuki spelled it out for them, Santa had already known that his friend had been thrown out and will be needing all the help he could get - support, money, and of course a temporary place to stay. Santa was eager to help; only he was taken aback when it was Towa whom the tall raven-haired guitarist approached first and asked the blond a favor that Santa would have gladly done for him, which was why Santa was feeling a tad bit jealous of the silent bassist.

The tour occupied them for a while that Santa almost forgot about it. The 'jealousy' that he felt towards the blond bassist was overshadowed by defeat. In those few weeks, the only thing that preoccupied him was their loss, had thought about the reasons on and off the road, and when they were lucky, during a gig. It was when he spent some of his nights in the van with Yuki while thinking of home that he would remember - Yuki had nothing to go back to, not even a house.

He thought he did not even have to approach Yuki to offer his help, expecting the other man to ask him instead. He would have been glad to take him under his wing for a while.

Why didn't he ask me? Santa frowned as he pulled over beside their favorite diner. He glanced over his rear view mirror and caught sight of Yuki and Towa's solemn faces as they boarded off the van. Yuki had known Santa long before he met the blond...Or have they met even before Climb? which was impossible because Santa would have known...wouldn't I?

He blew a few damp locks out of his face and got out of his van to see his friends off. He put on a cheerful face as he faced the siblings, Atsuro and Yuka. "So, we'll be seeing each other at the concert, ne? Don't party too hard."

"Demo, aren't you guys going tonight?" Yuka pouted.

"I'm sure we'll have to fix our things when we get back home, in my case maybe even patch the roof. It's going to rain a lot since it looks like there's a storm comin'." Santa laughed, scratching the back of his head. He did not really felt like going, having to put on a silly grin on his face all night. What he really wanted to do was to sit at home and sulk. Why he was taking it too personaly was beyond him, perhaps Yuki might have his own reasons why he preferred to ask their bassist instead of approaching him. Maybe he thought asking me would be too much, or maybe he was thinking I have problems of my own that adding his would only aggravate my situation more.

Only thinking about it was annoying him. With his brows tiwtching, he could not help but frown. Is my place not big enough for him?

"...like there is. We just have to pray it wouldn't fall on us during the concert." Atsuro shrugged, glancing at each of them, lastly at Santa who had just caught the end of the redhead's comment.

"I'm off." Sakuya said shortly before restarting his bike anddriving off.

Santa snorted. "The guy didn't even bother to get off his bike to have a little chit-chat." Like there would be any more anyway; with the look on Atsuro and Yuka's faces, they seemed more than eager to get home and give their parents a hug. As for Towa and Yuki...on second thought, he did not feel like seeing all of them off. "I won't be keeping you any longer. I'll go on ahead. See ya." He climbed on the driver seat of his van and closed the door.

He was right about Atsuro and Yuka; their excitement reflected in their smiles and their voices as they waited for Santa to pull out of the curb. Santa felt a small smile grace his lips as he bent down a little to turn the key in the ignition. He would have gone to dinner with them, but then he would remember the rest, the three other members of the band who would most likely be absent - Sakuya would make up an excuse not to go so he could enjoy the confines of his little room to himself, which is something he had surely missed having been away for a few weeks. Yuki would have to fix his things and Towa would have to accompany him.

Santa's gaze fell on the temperature gauge, trying to erase the frown on his lips before facing his friends again. He knew Yuki would notice because he had known Santa for quite a while that he had learned to tell the difference between a fake and a genuine smile; and even though Towa said little, Santa knew the blond was equally observant he could almost swear the guy could read his mind.

"Are you sure you couldn't drop by for just a few minutes?" Atsuro asked, his voice having to fight it off with the other voices inside Santa's head.

"Aa. I'd have love to, though." Santa managed a smile before sparing each one a glance. "Bye then." He waved before the van lurched forward, his last gaze falling upon Yuki who, despite being a master of deceiving people into thinking he was fine, couldn't even wave back at him.

He doesn't need a fight with me right now, Santa sighed, leaning against the head rest and gazing at the road ahead. Yuki has a lot on his mind, the last thing the man needed was a pointless argument with him.

I'm not all arguments, Yuki. I'm your friend, and I can do everything that friends do right down to the cheesiest ones. Santa scowled inwardly as he shifted his gears and sped down the road.

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

If there was one thing that Santa got correctly, it was Towa's uncanny ability to read people's faces and from their expressions, their surface thoughts. Take Yuki for example. On the outside, the man radiated authority, balance, and stability. In a sense, Atsuro had been right at having said that Yuki was the one that kept them together. The man had to be drawing strength from a bottomless pit somewhere - no one else could deal with four stubborn men without going hay wire besides Yuki.

Yet underneath the facade, Towa was able to see a different side of him - submissive, imbalanced, and instable, the complete opposite. Submissive because Yuki endured his father at having dominated over his time, his decisions, in fact, his entire life. He would bow to any of their bandmates' whims given that they were reasonable.

Imbalanced because Towa knew the man had to be having second thoughts about leaving his family and having to face uncertainty. Up until now there was still a part of Yuki wishing he hadn't left; after all, Yuki was not the type to hate his father for living his life. Another part of Yuki would have been glad about his decision, if not for the guilt trying to swallow him whole from failing his father.

Hence, his instability. Towa was only counting the hours until he would finally see the gutarist's mask shatter. Part of him waited in anticipation, part of him dreaded it. Seeing Yuki break down was like seeing Lucifer as a whole fall apart.

Reading people was Towa's gift, as well as his curse. He was reminded of that now, the moment he saw Santa's face when the man temporarily unboarded his van to bid them goodbye. Compared to Yuki , the drummer was easier to read - Santa was an open book; what you see is what you get, as the saying goes. And even though the drummer was painstakingly hiding his frown, his smile was too tight, his eyes were unsteady and he was scratching the back of his head. The last one was a dead giveaway.

Plus a few very obvious hints - for one, Santa never refused a party.

Changing his mind about seeing them off was another.

Something was bothering the man, although Towa could not put his finger on it. Apparently, Towa was not kept in the dark for long - thanks to his gift. Or curse. Or whatever it was called.

Santa's last gaze fell upon Yuki before the van rolled away. The blond had already seen that look on the drummer's face - it was hurt, similar to the one he had seen the first time he met both Santa and Yuki; it was when Santa said something about betrayal. It was only later when Towa found out that Santa's girlfriend left him for another bandmate.

The look he gave Towa was different.

"Damn, I think Santa might have jinxed us." Atsuro frowned, staring at thick, dark clouds overhead.

"Don't say that. Anyway, it doesn't look like it's going to fall." Was Yuka's reply.

Yuki looked up and observed the clouds slowly going west - towards them. "I smell rain."

"Not you too, Yuki!"

Towa let the light banter slip past him as he stared at the blank space in front of him, which was where Santa had been a while ago. He swore he had seen that expression before -

"Not one of you are coming? Mom prepared lots of food for us!"

"...tempura, steamed lobster, lots of sake-"

"Stop it, you guys are making me hungry."

"What I would give to have you guys over at our house!"

"Oi, Atsuro. You're making me-"

Jealous.

Towa's eyes widened at the word.

"Towa?"

The bassist slightly jumped at the hand that suddenly tapped his shoulder. Recovering quickly and regaining his composure, he turned and faced a slightly concerned Yuki.

"Are you all right?"

He nodded and smiled. "It does look like it's going to rain, but it's also humid. Maybe we better get going."

Yuki pursed his lips grimly then turned to the siblings. "We'd better go, and you should too. I'm not kidding when I said it's going to rain."

"Since when did you become a weatherman?" Atsuro snickered as he ushered her sister toward the opposite way.

"Bye!" Yuki shooed them off with finality.

Towa smiled at the two before turning away to walk in companiable silence with Yuki. The advantage of which is the lack of need of conversation. The downside of which is being alone with your thoughts.

Perhaps jealousy was too strong a word to describe what he had seen. What would you call it then? Towa's jaw clenched. He clamped at the word and at his subconscious' mouth with an imaginary hand. A small throb in his head promised a migraine that might annoy him for the rest of the day if he did not stop thinking and get to the nearest air-conditioned room already.

He was relieved that his condo was not a mirage he was seeing but the real thing as they climbed up the steps toward his unit. The blond released a sigh he was unaware of holding as he mechanically dropped his bags in the corner of the room. "I have a spare futon and some pillows in the cabinet in the room for you to sleep on."

"You're the one who needs rest."

Come to think of it, that's the understatement of the year. During the entire tour, Towa had never slept well. From the looks of it, neither did the older man. "Maybe you need it more than I do."

Yuki laughed. "You go ahead. I think I'll unpack first."

Maybe it was best to leave Yuki to his own devices and sleep off his headache. Towa nodded and made the man promise to wake him an hour before supper so that he could prepare something for them.

After having closed his door, he trudged in the dark and savoured the cool air. With the assurance that his knees had bumped into his bed he unceremoniously dropped himself on the soft mattress. The moment his head hit the pillows he was instantly asleep.

TTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT

tbc