There’s a pause as Kaz bounds down the stairs, getting water, drinking a good portion of it and wiping sweat off quicker than even Hyde does, considering the singer had been the first off the stage. “Are they cheering for an encore yet?” He’s antsy to get back out there.
“Relax.” Hyde claps him on the shoulder, grinning. “Why don’t you tell someone an important piece of information?” Kaz stares a little at Hyde, trying to process what the singer could be referring to. Hyde tilts his head, watching the wheels spin until Kaz’s eyes light up and he takes off, leaving Hyde to laugh. “Arly, you know what to do, right?”
“Yeah.” The drummer even looks amused at Kaz’s antics as he dips his hands into ice water. “I will.”
“Encore! Encore! Encore!” The group of Addicts are shouting at the top of their lungs and Ava joins in, feeling at home. It’s a surprising feeling. She doesn’t get long to muse on it however as after enough shouting, the band retakes their places on stage. Hyde speaks quickly, thanking them for coming before the crowd is flung into the encore.
Kaz plays directly in front of her again, seeming unwilling to move from that spot even when Ju-ken teasingly beckons to him to switch places. He tilts the guitar out one more time and she doesn’t hesitate this time, reaching up and out to touch it with a smile on her face. He proceeds to celebrate by jumping off the speaker again and swinging his guitar around his head, almost tripping on the cord for it as he moves. He doesn’t cease playing or trip over his notes however, even as he stumbles slightly.
Ava looks at Kaz with a bit of concern as he hops back up onto the speaker box again before realizing that Hyde and Ju-ken have joined him this time. One well-timed and perfectly executed jump off later, she’s not so worried. She wonders why she might have been.
“Thank you!” Hyde bows low as they finish up, smiling from ear to ear and Kaz copies the movement along with the rest of the band. They smile and wave as they leave the stage. Not even two minutes later, Ava’s group is screaming for another encore. Ava laughs a bit when the shouting starts up. It doesn’t stop until the group is confident that they’re not getting another encore and Kyoko giggles at Ava.
“Can’t hurt trying,” she claims and Ava gives a nod of agreement. She can feel the crowd filtering out from around them.
“Are we going to head out?”
“In a minute, Kyoko might get us good stuff!” Saki states and Ava looks at Kyoko.
“Kyoko’s got an in with one of the staff!” Mitsuko grins, explaining for her friend.
“Don’t call it that. We’re just good friends,” Kyoko scolds and Mitsuko giggles.
“That’s… interesting.” Ava’s thoughts drift back to the lounge room and Kaz, still feeling a blush on her face. It’s well hidden with how worked up the other girls around her are though. They wait a little while before beginning to disperse, Saki looking particularly disappointed.
“And I hoped that I’d get to go backstage again,” Saki complains quietly and Kyoko shrugs, seeming focused on a doorway to the side.
“Sometimes it doesn’t happen.” The door seems to spring open and a staffer looks directly at Kyoko. “Sometimes we get lucky!” Kyoko hurries over and the group follows, Ava reluctantly at the back. They chat back and forth rapidly before Kyoko looks over the group. “Ava! Ava! Come here!” Ava pauses a bit before the group pulls her to the front and Kyoko links an arm through hers. “All right!”
“Aw! Not me!”
“You do it too much Saki!” Kyoko laughs and waves to her friends as she follows the staffer with Ava’s arm tightly in her grip. “You’re going to get a treat!” Kyoko says quietly, voice lilting in excitement. “Maybe he’ll let you play one of the guitars!” Ava smiles a bit, feeling nervous again but the irony of having already played someone’s guitar isn’t lost on her.
“That—That might be cool.” There’s a long silence as they move along until they reach the equipment area, Kyoko moving over to the drum set. There’s a lot else going on, making the two extra people’s presence unnoticed. Ava shifts back and forth, looking nervously around. Memories of getting locked in the room with Kaz are resurfacing quickly.
“Kaz!” Hyde pokes him hard with a foot, the singer leaning out into the hallway, balancing by holding onto the doorframe.
“What?” Kaz mutters, looking frustrated as he packs up his things.
“Your lovebird’s backstage.” Hyde grins and Kaz stares at him before the expression turns suspicious, pausing in putting his things away.
“Don’t screw with me.”
“Honest, I’m not.” Hyde gestures and Kaz gets to his feet, walking over to look out the door. Kaz sucks in a soft breath at seeing Ava, body going stiff. “See?”
“What did you do? How did you do that? Is she brainwashed?”
“Not at all.” Hyde grins. “I’ll answer the other questions later. You should hurry and do something.” There’s a pause before Kaz slips out the door and towards her.
“You owe me,” Arimatsu announces the second Kaz is far enough away.
“Yeah, yeah. I always do.” Hyde brushes it off, leaning out to watch after Kaz.
“Doesn’t make it go away,” Ju-ken states with a laugh.
A soft touch to her shoulder startles Ava, her jumping a little and she starts apologizing for being backstage until she turns around. Kaz stays quiet, looking a little frozen again before he licks his lips. Kyoko and her staffer friend have vanished from sight when Ava attempts to get a bead on the two of them, making her stomach twist into knots and she looks at Kaz.
“I—I’m sorry for earlier.” Kaz manages out through his own nervousness. Ava shifts a little, searching for anything to say in response and finds herself at a loss, offering him a small, uneasy smile instead. “Hyde can be… stubborn,” Kaz adds, stumbling over a couple words. There’s a tense silence and Kaz seems to scramble hard to try and figure out something. “He’s not bad, just frustrating sometimes. I mean you could actually meet him.”
Kaz pauses in thought, having just been shoving words out before realizing that meeting Hyde is the last thing he wants her to do. Hyde has a way of sweeping women, and men, off their feet faster than they could say hello. So the guitarist nervously twists his hands, a finger running over the spot that she brushed so much earlier in the day when she took her CD back from him.
Ava watches him with a dry mouth, swallowing a little hard. As he kept trying to keep and hold her attention, it dawns on her that maybe her self-centered idea of him playing to her earlier wasn’t so self-centered after all. He stumbles a few more times over his words before staring down towards the floor in embarrassment. She tries to remember the last offer before nodding. “A—All right. I just don’t want to be locked in a room again.”
“Really?” Kaz blinks up before the other half of her statement clicks and he shakes his head rapidly. “No, not happening again.” There’s a short pause before she nods slowly again and there’s an awkward silence.
“You’re not… waiting on someone, right?” There’s a nervous tone to his voice that’s hard to miss and Ava looks around for Kyoko once more before shaking her head.
“I think they left me,” Ava claims and Kaz looks around, confused, before refocusing on her.
“Then we should go?” It’s more of a question than he means it to be and Ava gives a nod. There’s another pregnant pause before he delicately takes her arm, leading her back towards the lounge room. Before they reach it, Kyoko stumbles out of the room, giggling loudly, a lace collar pulled out of place and down from around her neck.
“Oh, Ava!” She giggles and waves to her, slipping past her and Kaz. “See you later!” Ava stops in the hallway, staring after Kyoko with a sense of horror. There is blood on Kyoko’s neck, a set of round wounds seeming to be the cause of it and the unbuttoned collar letting it be seen. Kaz pauses in leading Ava, looking to her in confusion.
“What’s the matter?” He follows her gaze to Kyoko, spotting the wound himself and there’s an extremely long silence. Ava slowly turns back to him, looking to her arm in his grip before looking up to his face. He’s gone pale, eyes fixed on Kyoko leaving.
“What happened to her?” Ava manages out in a quiet voice, barely heard above the bustle of everyone cleaning and packing up. Kaz’s eyes move down to her, grip tightening a little on her arm, staying quiet for a bit.
“I’m not sure,” he says. Ava keeps her eyes on his.
“You’re lying.” A quiet keening sound comes from him and he bites at his lip.
“I—I’m not. I’m just not… completely sure.” Ava starts to draw her arm back at the statement, glancing back to see where Kyoko has gone. She seems to have fixed up the collar and is heading towards the door. Ava does a quick calculation, if she pulls free and runs, she can make it out right behind her or even with her. “Please… Please don’t go.” The grip tightens a little more on her arm and Ava turns her attention back to Kaz. He looks frantic.
“Do I have a choice?” Ava presses and there’s a short silence as he looks to how hard he’s gripping her arm before slowly releasing it, hand hovering as Ava draws back a step. His fingers gently brush over her skin one last time.
“Yes. Of course.” The statement looks like it pains him. His hand slowly drops away as he looks at her hopelessly, clenching into the fabric of his pants. Ava glances back towards Kyoko again. The fan club member has almost made it to the door, the collar fixed around her neck, still looking like she’s intoxicated. Ava looks back to Kaz, a glimmer of hope comes onto his face before she turns and flees to chase after Kyoko.
She makes it just before the door can close, looking back to see a despondent look that’s overtaken Kaz’s face. Ava winces internally at seeing it but the door cuts off their view of each other before the expression can reach her face. Kyoko turns to look at her in surprise. “What are you doing out here? I thought you were with Kaz-san.” Ava turns to look at Kyoko.
“You’ve still got blood on your neck. I want an explanation.” As Kyoko blinks in shock, reaching up to dab at the blood that her black collar hadn’t cleaned up, Ava glances back at the door.
Hyde stares when Kaz steps into the room again. He hadn’t expected Kaz to return so demoralized and silent. The guitarist’s eyes scan the room, vacantly passing over Hyde before they land on Arimatsu. The drummer still has a speck of blood on the edge of his mouth but it seems long forgotten with Kaz looking at him. “Why didn’t she button it up?”
“What?” The drummer raises an eyebrow in confusion.
“Your thrall. Her neck was wide open for all to see.” Kaz’s voice sounds even hollower than it did before, eyes drifting away slowly. Hyde stares before moving over and wrapping an arm around his friend. “She saw. She’s gone.” The silence that follows the statement hangs heavy in the room as Hyde guides the guitarist over to one of the couches and pulls him down to sit. Even the sounds seem to muffle themselves against the oppressive silence in the room as everyone else tries to finish packing up.