Pairing(s): Slight Mio/Ritsu if you looked hard enough?
Summary: They practise, they really do. It just isn't enough. Slight Mio/Ritsu.
It was during a train ride back home Mio posed the question:
"Mugi, would you mind if I'd used the keyboard tomorrow?"
Tsumugi blinked in surprise, and looked at Mio who sat on her right. She didn't give an immediate answer, for she wondered the reason behind her request. On the other side of the bassist, Ritsu lifted her head up from the manga she was reading and also looked at Mio.
"…Oh? Not at all," Tsumugi finally answered. "I'd like to try the bass, if that's all right with you."
"Of course it's all right. Um, your own, right? I am left-handed."
"Yes. I'll bring mine tomorrow."
Ritsu raised an eyebrow. "What made you want to try the keyboard?"
"I…" Mio started, squirming in her seat and feeling self-conscious. "…I was bored and just felt like it?" she finished unconvincingly.
"Don't instruments are those irritate you…?"
"But you have to move each finger all crazily and—"
"Stop talking about yourself, Ms. Playing-with-the-counter-during-work."
Ritsu visibly bristled. "That's different! I was only using two keys, and it only had like four keys whilst the piano has like…uh…"
"Most of them have 88 keys," Tsumugi said helpfully.
"See! 88 keys! That's 21 times more than that counter!"
"22," Mio corrected whilst wondering, where did the piano come from?
A high school boy who sat across from the girls felt his eye twitch in irritation for the second time, jammed his canalphones in his ears and turned up the volume on his mp3 player. An aged lady glanced at his way, envious that he had something to block out the noise, then turned to look out of the window—most probably hoping that her selective hearing also worked in situations like these. Their reaction went unnoticed by the three girls.
"But the keyboard I use in the music room has 76," Tsumugi stated. "…And you don't need to use all of them."
"18 times more—"
"19," Mio objected immediately, as if she had been expecting such an answer.
Ritsu pulled a dejected face and puckered her lips. "Puu~"
Mio sighed. "Why are you even complaining?"
"Huh? Oh, I was bored and just felt like—" Ritsu's sentence was cut off by the usual chop on the head. Tsumugi suppressed an audible giggle. Mio looked out of the window—and made a show at personally finding the passing scenery very intriguing.
Ritsu tenderly touched her second bruise of the day, feeling its swelling size. "With that kind of power, you should do the drums more often," she sulked.
Mio slowly turned towards Ritsu, the tone of her incoming question dripping with dangerous potential. "Really…?"
Ritsu's eyes swayed to the manga on her lap. "Of course not."
Mio's jaw clenched.
"Gimme my manga back."
Ritsu turned back to stare at her, and scooted away—almost toppling an elderly senior off his seat whilst doing so. Her arms, which now clutched the manga desperately, was hovering a good metre away from Mio—whose face was turning a scary dark hue, and was sliding along the seat to reach the brunette.
"…W-wait! Noo…!" Ritsu received her third chop on the head. "Itt—I was at a good part!"
The boy raised the volume to maximum. The woman wondered aloud on how her grandchildren were doing.
"Oh…you can actually play, huh?"
"What do you mean by 'you can actually play'?"
"Just what it sounds like—itee!"
"…I was thinking of becoming a composer."
"Yeah, yeah, go ahead and laugh. Go on, laugh!"
"Why would I laugh?"
"Why don't you show me what you'd wrote then. So, you know, I can boast to people that I was one of the first to see Akiyama Mio's great compositions?"
"Huh…?! Hey, you need to learn to show people your work. That's your first step!"
"I know but—oi, don't touch that drawer!"
Ritsu stared at the sky hazily as she waited outside Mio's front door, her eyes following random swooping birds whilst her mind ran blank from boredom. After a few moments, she tilted her head to the side and blinked. She felt like she'd forgotten something…
"Did I keep you waiting?"
Ritsu turned to the voice, her arms propped up behind her head. "Hey Mio, 'bout time you came down."
Mio scratched her cheek sheepishly. "Sorry about that, I…kinda lost track of time."
"Eh? Lost track of time? What were you doing?"
Swinging her school bag over her shoulder, Mio went ahead on their usual way to the station. Ritsu was then made to half-walk and half-skip to catch up, and wonder why her questions were ignored. Deciding that it was the usual cold shoulder, Ritsu shrugged it off and began her daily habit of being the main source of Mio's aggravation.
"Oi, was there a spider in the bathroom and—"
"Gyaa—Don't bring that up again!"
Predictably, Ritsu received another hit. Nursing her head, she pondered after the stalking off Mio: She looks odd today for some reason…
Tilting her head from side to side as she walked, Ritsu began to mentally list reasons on why that was so. At first she'd thought Mio received another growth spurt, but she didn't look as if she did…maybe she ate too many cakes and grew sideways? Nope, her waistline didn't look any wider. Not to mention, her hair was down as usual so that was off the list. Ritsu rubbed her chin in thought, her eyes everywhere but before her, narrowly avoiding electric poles along the way.
On the train she continued to stare at Mio, her frustration continually growing. Mio was glad for this because now she wouldn't be harassed by her friend's eccentric behaviour, but the unbroken eye contact directed at her was getting really unnerving…
Ritsu's stare continued to linger as she sported two bruises. By then, Mio was extremely unnerved. Unnerved changed to concern when Ritsu almost tripped as she stepped off the train. She shook her friend's shoulder roughly as if to shake her from a stupor.
"What is wrong with you today, Ritsu?"
"…Eh? Oh, I'm just wondering why you look so weird today. It's kinda bugging me."
"W-weird…? Still, can you stop looking at me like that? It's kinda freaky."
Ritsu waved it off. "Fine, fine."
Outside their designated station, Tsumugi greeted a good morning to Mio and Ritsu with a bass guitar case on her back.
And that was when Ritsu's brain finally clicked.
Classes at Sakuragaoka High strolled by: Azusa was finishing off her mental theory that school clocks ran relatively slower to real-time; Mio and Nodoka listened to their teacher whilst writing down notes time to time conscientiously; Ritsu tapped on her desk with a couple of pens along with a rhythm only she could hear, annoying her nearby classmates and teacher; Tsumugi half-daydreamed about interactions that intrigue her (as well as many fan boys/girls) and half-listened to her teacher's latest complaints; Ui looked out of the window worriedly, hoping that her sister was all right and what she should cook for dinner tonight; and Yui went on an oneiric journey filled with delicious cakes whilst wondering what kind of sweets she would eat today.
When classes for the day ended, Ritsu immediately dashed off for the music room after her perfunctory bow to the teacher. Tsumugi and Yui also bowed before tagging after her at a much slower pace. The teacher sighed, and made another note to inform Yamanaka Sawako about Tainaka's behaviour in class. The girl needed to be under a leash. But that Yamanaka is really too kind and soft for her own good sometimes, the teacher thought.
During their amble, Yui decided to acknowledge Tsumugi's existence and chirped, "Hey, hey, Mugi-chan. What are we having today?"
Tsumugi smiled enigmatically. "You'll see when we're at the music room."
"D'aww…" Yui pouted. "I hope they're not feeling too lonely up there."
Tsumugi politely held down the full-blown laughter bubbling in her stomach, resorting to only a ladylike giggle. Meanwhile their teacher strode towards the staff room, almost bumping against a certain brunette literally along the way.
"Oh, Yamanaka-san, there you are. I've been meaning to tell you about that Tai—" the teacher interrupted herself when she received an apologetic bow.
"I'm sorry, but I have to make haste to the music room or the girls will be upset. Can you please tell me later?"
Before the teacher could argue, Sawako was gone.
"Those girls have her under a leash, don't they…?" she muttered to herself.
After the obligatory tea break, Azusa picked up her guitar and took a few moments tuning it, Yui watching on in interest. Ritsu dragged herself to the drum set. Mio tentatively moved towards Tsumugi's keyboard, darting her eyes ever so often to the blonde as if checking for any negative emotions such as irritation or scorn lacing her movements. Of course, she didn't find any as Tsumugi hefted her bass guitar's strap over her shoulder happily.
The only person who didn't move, unsurprisingly, was Yamanaka Sawako, who was currently lying lethargically on the couch, looking over her students fuzzily. Her gaze was then attracted by what she held at eye-level, and refocused when her brain registered it was another cake.
Whilst Azusa plugged her and Yui's guitar into their respective amps, Yui looked over at the bassist and belatedly noticed that it wasn't Mio. "Mugi-chan?"
Tsumugi lifted her head, and smiled. "Yes?"
Yui looked over at where the keyboard usually situated in the room. "Why aren't you at—Mio-chan?"
"We're switching for today," Mio explained.
"Oh," Yui said as if in understanding. Her face contradicted it.
Azusa gave Ritsu a questioning look, who shrugged and clapped her sticks together impatiently. "Can we start now?"
"Eh?" Mio and Yui simultaneously yelped. Startled at their shared reaction, they looked at each other and cracked a mutual smile. "Yeah," they acquiesced and got ready.
Ritsu's legs jiggled up and down in excitement, being careful not to hit the pedal as she readied to count down. "Yosh…! One, two, three, four!"
After the first few percussive hits, Yui's head slanted down towards her guitar as she started her intro riff. Beside her, Azusa watched in continued amazement as she waited for her part. The fact that her senior could play so well after a few snacks would never fail to make her lost for words.
When the bass, keyboard and Yui's vocals came to play Ritsu momentary shifted her gaze from the snare drum and hi-hat to Mio, and was surprised that she was playing her part without any difficulty.
"That was great!" Tsumugi remarked. Having helped Mio compose the song they were playing, she'd made only a couple minor mistakes.
Azusa nodded in agreement, however as she turned to face Ritsu it was obvious there was going to be a 'but' thrown in somewhere. "Ritsu-sempai, were you slowing down at some parts?"
Ritsu scratched the back of her head with the end of a drumstick. "Eh? I did?"
Mio gave Ritsu a look and looked as if she was going to comment, but closed her mouth at the last moment.
Yui unconsciously pushed Sawako off the couch ("Hey! What are you—ow!") before flopping herself heavily onto it. "I'm beat," she announced.
Azusa and Tsumugi turned off their amps and unplugged their guitars, readying to pack up and go home. As Azusa was about to help Yui pack hers up, Ui poked her head out shyly from the doorjamb.
"Sorry for the interruption," Ui said with a bow as she entered. Sans her sister, the others gave their respective replies that they didn't mind her at all and that she should really stop being so humble towards them.
"Hey, Ui~!" Yui yelped from the couch.
"Ah, Onee-chan." Hurrying to her, she supported Yui to standing position. "You're going to make your uniform wrinkle if you lie around like that," Ui reprimanded softly.
Zipping up the case, Azusa handed the guitar to Yui before heading out first. "I'll be going now. I'll see you later," she waved.
Tsumugi followed after her, her bass guitar also zipped up and on her back. "Let's do our best tomorrow as well," she said with a smile.
Mio, Ritsu and Yui nodded; Tsumugi left.
After making a huge show that her case was a huge burden to heave over her shoulder, Yui took Ui's hand. "Let's go Ui. See you later, Ricchan, Mio-chan!"
Mio and Ritsu waved.
As the music room began to quieten…
"She forgot to say good bye to me!" Sawako whined from the floor.
Ritsu gawked at her in surprise. "You're still here?!"
"Is that how you speak to your advisor?" Standing up, Sawako sauntered towards the doors. "Ugh, I'm going home. Close and lock the music room when you're done. Here." Rummaging a hand…inside her shirt, she took something out and threw it to the girls carelessly.
Ritsu caught it, saw it was the key for the room, and glared after Sawako's disappearing profile. "Can't believe she's that lazy," she drawled.
"I don't think you're qualified to make such a statement."
"Oh, Mio, you're still here!"
"Don't pretend you didn't notice me."
Ritsu stared at Mio shortly, and then grinned as she promenaded over to her. "Aww, was Mio-chuan feeling lonely?"
"Want another bruise?"
Ritsu hastily dodged as she changed the topic. Her skill in foreseeing any quick movements from Mio was slowly, oh so slowly, growing. "I'm surprised you didn't make any mistakes in today's practice."
Mio harrumphed. "You were too busy hoping that I would that you were making the mistakes."
"I'd only slowed down a few times."
"Since when do you slow down…?"
Ritsu shrugged. "Since now."
"…Anyway, who do you take me for?" Mio turned her nose up with another harrumph. "I've been practising, duh."
"Is that why you'd kept me waiting this morning?"
Mio kept her nose turned up, except now her cheeks were tinged pink.
"Play me something," Ritsu continued.
"I'd just did."
"That was ages ago!" Ritsu gesticulated. She jumped forward and slung her arm across Mio's shoulders for a side hug. "C'mon!"
"O-oi, get off me!"
"Play me something and I'll let you go!"
"How can I play something with you hanging off me?!"
Reluctantly, Ritsu let go and waited. Mio eyed her with one quirked eyebrow.
Ritsu let her own eyebrows float up, trying to look positively (and humorously) encouraging, knowing if she had instead voiced her usual sarcastic comments Mio would be flying out of the room in a huff.
Sighing, Mio hovered her hands over the white and black keys, and took a peek at Ritsu. She found the ridiculous expression was still there, and returned her focus to the keyboard. She sighed again, and played the first few chords with only her left hand, hoping it would throw Ritsu off.
Grimacing inwardly, Mio repeated the chords again—this time, along with the melody. At first the timing was off due to hesitation and reluctance, but soon melted away. And unknowingly to her, her feet tapped against the floor in an eight beat by the second bar.
Ritsu remained silent throughout.
When Mio finished, she willed herself to not look at Ritsu nor speak. She felt self-conscious, as if she could feel amber eyes digging the back of her head. At that thought, she also resisted the urge to scratch the aforementioned area; she did have a habit of fidgeting around when nervous or anxious.
The silence grew, and broke—by a pondering sound emanating near her. Mio tensed.
"See," Ritsu said. "Big hands like yours are good sometimes."
Mio felt like killing her.
But she didn't. Instead, she gave a dark glare. The brunette lagged down in fear.
Mio let out a deep breath. "Let's lock up and go home."
"Do you think we'll make it to Budokan in time?"
"Hey, hey. What's with that heavy tone?"
"We haven't even gotten a record deal yet…"
"A-aa…W-we'll manage it…somehow."
"…You actually don't sound confident."
"Hey, what is that supposed to mean?"
"It's obvious that we won't make it before graduation, isn't it?"
Ritsu opened the Akiyama's front door and stepped into their entranceway without preamble, knowing Mio's parents weren't home at this time nor would they mind her. As she slipped out of her shoes, she belatedly registered a muffled bassline originating from a room upstairs. She blinked, and then grinned.
Tiptoeing up the stairs and across the hallway until she reached Mio's bedroom door, she pressed an ear against it, half-pondering what kind of dramatic entrance she should make today. She was about to jerk the door wide when her brain halted her.
This particular bassline she was hearing: it sounded odd.
Her plan of being a complete menace from beginning to end forgotten, she entered the room like the average human being. Mio, whom she'd expected to be sitting on her bed plucking her bass guitar, was sitting on her study chair, fingers sprayed over black and white keys. Sprayed over—unmoving.
It took a while for Ritsu to realise the bassline had stopped and Mio was looking at her.
"How long were you hanging out there?" Mio asked.
Ritsu's face was blank. "Huh?"
"Outside my room, idiot."
"Oh, not long."
Ritsu walked over to her, her eyes skimming across the electronic instrument in wonder. "You've got a keyboard now," she stated the obvious. "When did you get it?"
"About a fortnight ago, I think?"
Ritsu lowly whistled. "''d never noticed."
Mio slyly faced the other way.
Ritsu's next question was accusatory. "You hid it, didn't you?"
"Noo," was her singsong-esque answer. "Of course not."
"Next thing I know, you'll be owning a drum set."
"I'm considering that, actually."
A prolonged pause settled.
"…C'mon, Ritsu. You know why I'm doing this."
Unexpectedly, their initial light-hearted banter had turned into something deeper. Ritsu grimaced and back-pedalled. "Yeah, I do. I was just kidding, you know I don't mind."
"We're…not going to make it in time, huh?"
Ritsu knew where this was going. They had this conversation before.
"Yes, Mio, we might not be able to get to Budokan before graduation."
Mio met her friend's eyes and tried to withhold the lift of an eyebrow. Ritsu wasn't the type to be blunt in situations like these, she knew.
"But maybe that's not a bad thing," the brunette continued. "I mean, you'll be too nervous and that to focus on your entrance exams, and that'll be no good."
"…That's true…" Mio deliberated, not breaking the eye contact.
"We also need to enjoy our high school life to the full!" Ritsu laughed. "Then we can leave it with no regrets, I mean, look at all the artists we know that dropped out to get to Budokan early."
Finding her friend's eyes still gazed, as if trying to take in the reality of their world, Ritsu continued.
"So we're going to pass high school with flying colours! Kinda like a rainbow!" The brunette spread her arms out in emphasis, as if she was trying to present the aforesaid rainbow down to scale.
Mio, having finally realised what she was doing, turned away resolutely. "And you think I say corny stuff."
"I'm just trying to quote you."
"I wouldn't say something like that! I mean, like a rainbow?" Suddenly, her eyes widened. "Yes, I'd definitely not!"
Ritsu broke into a fit of giggles, and then found herself begging for forgiveness as Mio smacked pillow after pillow at her, unrelenting.
A/N: Yeah, it ends abruptly just like my other fics.
I'm assuming Mio and Ritsu use the train to commute to school, and I'm presuming Tsumugi does the same due to a certain scene in episode 1.
Apologies for skipping the practise session, I'm not particularly well-versed in musicology—especially ones involving guitars. Whoever can name the song I was trying to describe gets an internet cookie (hint: it's [obviously] played in the anime).
I started this fic before episode 11 (yes, I even procrastinate whilst writing fic, got a problem?) aired…and whoa, Ritsu can be a lot more jealous than I'd thought. I personally thought the whole 'drama' was done quite badly relatively (considering it's KyoAni), but I'm going to let it go. It is becoming my most favourite episode due to a certain scene. Bed sick Ritsu is sickenly cute.
I might be writing a sequel. :D