A simple nod and a click sends the frame shifting to a black-haired male youth, his tan hands digging into his duffel bag placed on the sunlit glowing white-sheeted bed.
"So, Touji Suzahara of the drumline section, how does it feel like to get into the finals?"
Swinging the duffel bag to his shoulders, he flaunts his pearly whites to the frame. "It took us four years to get back in the finals—at 8th place!—and its one of the greatest moments of my life!"
Ever since the exhausting wait for awards last night, the number eight became a huge deal not only to Touji but also their whole band. Their screams and cries reaped through the bleachers after the stadium's PA system resonated their high school's name as one of the top 10 finalists.
"I gotta admit though that championship trophy was pretty tight."
"The robot? Meh. It looks like a toy to me."
"I mean seriously, it's mechanic—and it marches too!—like, I could totally sell that shit on eBay and pay a season of my band fees."
A rigid knock batters the wood, spinning the frame into an awful blur, and at the opened door, the clarinet player Hikari Horaki appeared, her usual brunette hair tied into two pigtails. "We're leaving in fifteen minutes! Your stuff should be ready by now."
The frame zooms in on her face, making a blur, as she glances at the video camera held by Kensuke Aida, the band's pit captain. "Will you be forcing everyone to give those silly interviews again?" She asked.
"Yep and its your turn!" Kensuke twisted his camera's lenses to adjust the blur. "Hikari Horaki, what are your thoughts on being the drum major of the band's most historical year?"
"Er, I have to go." Hikari turned her back, and before Kensuke could even protest, her tyrant voice echoed that made him jump in surprise. "Hey! Why is that garment bag still in here?" Hikari was marching away from the door, pointing an accusing finger to her other bandmates staying at the next door room. "That should have been in the truck yesterday!"
"As you can see, she's one hell of a drum major." Narrated Kensuke.
"Oi Aida, have you seen my other drumstick?"
Touji's voice rung from the bathroom, and as he exited, his widened eyes met Kensuke's, eyes blinking.
"You do this every damn year." And yet Kensuke puts up with it since he considers Touji as his best friend.
With a bit of teamwork, the two scoured the room—under the bed and behind cabinets— the missing drumstick, and despite being the one who wears glasses, Kensuke found it shoved between the nasty couch. They waste no time in gathering their things and leaving the room to continue Kensuke's vlog interviews.
Outside, the cold December wind blasted a tingle of pinewood and smoke into their lungs. The parking lot stood below them where groups of band kids buzzed around the buses like bees swarming a hive. Turning to the right, they journeyed to the rows of doors while harassing each fellow band kid with Kensuke's camera and Touji's pseudo microphone—his drumsticks—and even went far enough to pull out a paragraph from the quiet trombone player Rei Ayanami.
"What's with your shenanigans again?" Behind Rei, Touji flinched on the sight of an auburn-haired girl whose elbows leaned on the metal railings that stretched across and passed every door's.
"Oh Asuka, we're doing interviews for the end of the season. Mind doing some?" Kensuke moves his camera to Asuka Langley, enabling Rei to ghost out from the frame.
"Sure!" she crosses her arms to her chest and smugs at them.
"Here's my question." Touji started, thrusting his pseudo-microphone to her face and a grin quivering on his lips. "Is it true that trumpets are the big egotists?" A devilish grin took its form on his lip while Kensuke pushed his round glasses up his nose, his wide eyes staring at Touji.
Her confident smug morphed into a scowl and twitched her eyebrows. "Is it true that the drumline captain fucked the whole colorguard team?"
Kensuke hastily points his camera to Touji. "That's a third-degree burn right there!" And it was indeed a massive insult to Touji, for he froze with a distraught look on his face which carved a smirk on Asuka's face—another victory of hers. Hikari came out of their shared room with her bags, and Asuka made her final act: turning her back to Touji and leaving him speechless.
"GET IN THE FUCKING BAND BUS, SHINJI!" Asuka pushes Shinji Ikari into the bus, arching his back to that doubled agony he received from her vigor strength combined with her hard trumpet case that she carries everywhere.
"Asuka, you don't have to force him like that." Hikari tried to stay on the side—colliding with their fights is too risky—and she's supposedly Asuka's bus seatmate. Inside the bus, the bus driver, Ryoji Kaji, places his palm on his face, shaking his head in distaste as he watches the same pair of band kids shout at each other's faces on every bus trip that the bus has to sit around and wait for them.
"I don't wanna be sitting next to some crackheads the whole damn trip!" Asuka exclaimed, her hands pushing harder on Shinji's back.
Shinji plants his feet deeper on the bus steps and his hands grips harder on the bus' door frame. "Me either, so I'm not switching seats with you!"
"What's going on in here?"
Like second nature, they ceased their movements and turned their heads to that voice—the same voice that burned into their subconscious from all the practices they did the past few months that screamed on every marching misstep. The band director Misato Katsuragi, her purple hair rustling with the wind the framed her furrowed brows.
"Nothing." Hikari beamed, pulling Shinji and Asuka's shoulder. "Y'know Shinji and Asuka being the usual trouble." She shoved them inside to avoid another argument that could snowball to Misato's headache which Hikari tries to avoid, like the plague, as the responsible drum major she is.
Still, Asuka persisted in her plan, and when making her way to Shinji's seat, Kaworu Nagisa looked up from his book, unsurprised when Asuka almost elbowed him. She stuck her tongue out to Shinji, striking a victory pose to him with her crossed arms and goaded eyes. Shinji thought that at least he wasn't seating to the furthest back row seat that's reputed with just pure sniffed cocaine of crackhead energy, but it also means that he won't be sitting next to Kaworu.
"I'll still sit with you, Shinji-kun." Interrupting him, Kaworu stands up from his aisle seat and holds on to Shinji's wrist. "If it makes you feel better." Shinji held his breath, for Kaworu had his lips stretched to its corners .
Asuka shooed them away; she mused that the back row could maybe do them some good slapping on their stupid faces that if she tried attempting, she won't stand their stupidity and only cause a concussion on them.
The two teen males made their way to the aisles leading to the unholy realm of the band bus where extreme scenarios occur that could snatch their innocence away.
"We welcome the newest members of the back crew! The flute section's….Shinji Ikari and my drumline section's...Kaworu Nagisa!" Using a rolled sheet of paper against his mouth, Touji delivered Kaworu and Shinji's initiation. Shinji was squished in the middle of the furthest back row seat along with Kaworu who seemed awed on finally witnessing the realms of the back of the band bus.
"We're not supposed to be here." Shinji's supposed switched seat with Asuka was in the middle rows but, unsurprisingly, they found out that someone came first and took it because they also wanted to avoid digging their own graves and partake in the rituals at the back..
"Too late. Do you know the famous saying about the back of the band bus?" Kensuke comes closer to Shinji, seeing his vague reflection on his friend's glass spectacles. Bearing no idea in mind, the unaware Shinji shook his head. But Kaworu who is curious as a cat, leaned his chest on Shinji's back to get closer to hear what Kensuke had to say. His heart starts to flicker in wild beats yet his body tensed up, stubborn enough to not listen to his heart.
"What?" Kaworu's breath warmed Shinji's left check and blood came rushing on his face.
"Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." Kensuke whispered and his dramatic demeanor made Kaworu throw a hand on his mouth, leaving Shinji's back. He dropped his tense shoulders, relieved and dabbled with disappointment. But in just brief seconds, a giggle came reeling him back to his previous state. With parted lips and smitten eyes, he gazed at the giggling Kaworu like there were tiny fireworks, erupting around him.
"Ok everyone!" Band Director Misato boomed from the bus' PA system. She held a small microphone. "As always, keep your mouth zipped please—especially the back row—until we reached the freeway."
"We gotcha, BD!" Touji yelled in response, cupping his hands around his mouth.
The bus touched down the freeway as it signaled the back row's triumph on no longer keeping their mouth shut.
"Oh god." Hikari exclaimed, and her seatmate, Asuka, had her hands pressed on her ears, for the back row's racket still clamored to the front. She stood up, digging her fingers on the rows of headrest and placing a mighty steps on the aisle.
"Will you ever shut your traps for just one trip?" She grimaces, and the back row set their eyes on her.
"Asuka, you're just in time for the best part!" Kensuke said, completely ignoring Asuka's real purpose of venturing at the back. Two males stuck out on the middle furthest back row seat, and a grin spread in her lips. The back crew dubbed to smoke out the band's hormonal desires and venture deep into its meaning are finally doing it to them which comes in tormenting Shinji, thus she's willing to stay.
"No Asuka, get away from here!" protested Touji who sat on the row after Kaworu and Shinji. She disobeyed and proceeded to take a seat from across Touji. He scoffed at her persistence, and relaxed his breath to focus on the main event.
"So Kaworu and Shinji, is there something you haven't been telling us?" Touji wiggles his eyebrows, smiling wide from ear to ear as the rest of the back crew shushes their friends.
Shinji squirms on his seat while Kaworu tilts his head and says: "Is there something to tell?"
Touji unrolls the paper on his hands. "Yes, because we have a whole goddamn list that needs a lot of explaining" And he begins his lists. "The bus rides from football games. You often sleep on each other, and we even have cute pictures of you two." Kensuke presents his camera that shows a dim picture of a knocked-out Shinji resting his head on Kaworu' shoulder whose head pressed on the bus window.
"K-kensuke!" Shinji jumps from his seat and tries to reach out for the camera though Kensuke draws it back.
"Football games can be pretty tiring." Kaworu innocently scratches his grey locks.
"You're blushing so hard right now, Shinji!" Kensuke teased.
Asuka rolled her eyes; tormenting Shinji can sometimes demand her to sacrifice some of her brain cells. She grabs the paper from Touji's grasps, and raising an eyebrow, she halts for a second to look at the paper but immediately caught up.
"You always zip each other's uniforms. No one else other than you two." Asuka cringed on the memory where she offered numerous times on doing Shinji's uniform back zipper just to play a prank on him via putting an ice cube she found in the band's cooler on his back. Though, the convenient Kaworu always seems to stop her.
"I saw you being so touchy with Shinji. ON. YOUR. TENORS." Touji added and Shinji was turning so much into a pink muddle; he badly wanted to be swallowed on his spot. Things that he probably doesn't give a second thought on doing were being used to question his consciousness, and he stares at Kaworu who seems to remain calm in these situations.
"What's wrong with teaching him to play tenors?" Again, said the oblivious Kaworu as he turned to Shinji whose hands were trying to cover his reddened face. He reminisces Kaworu's delicate fingers wrap around his wrists as Kaworu guides it to do its magic on the tenor drums. The concerned kaworu activated, saying: "are you okay, Shinji-kun?"
Groans were heard from the back crew as Asuka thought: 'How stupid can they get?' Though she can't take it anymore, she finds it always amusing to see the embarrassed Shinji. Moreover, Touji and Kensuke were also laughing along with it.
Finally, Shinji decided to snatch the paper—the so-called list—from Asuka, and upon retrieving it, he relaxed his hold onto the paper. "There's not a list here.." His voice trails off, glaring at the paper that shows numerous lines of the musical staff with jotted sprawled notes on it.
"Ehhhh~ it's our show's music." Kaworu glanced at their marching band's sheet music with amused eyes.
At long last, Asuka snapped. "Dammit! What we're tryna say is are you two dating or what?"
Every back row band kid held their heads up as they anticipated the concluding of a long-held identity crisis while some emitted reactions such as "or, is this just a giant unknown case of 'No homo'?" and "It's okay! We support you!" Suddenly, it went silent.
"N-no, we aren't dating or anything. We're….just..." Shinji paused and turned to Kaworu, his lips pressed into a thin line as he looked down on his shoes. The back row plummeted because of another anticlimactic event that is evident in the aftermath awkward atmosphere between two certain individuals and Asuka's stomping departure from the back row. Moving on fast, the back row chattered about their near-death experience with the bed bugs found in the motel's folding couch from last night.
After two hours of wheeling on the freeway, band kids temporarily parted their butts' numbing relationship with bus seats, for the bus has reached a pit stop. Like ducks touching down a lake, their mob went spilling into the store that got food chain workers running around their booths. Band kids also hauled other travelers to loudly tap their feet over the long lines tailing the restrooms. Even with their hundred population exhausting the store, it was the bread and butter of pit stop businesses. Like always, the ones from the back were last to leave the bus until Shinji and Kaworu remained.
"Kaworu," Shinji called and Kaworu hummed in response. "About earlier... It's- I... didn't mean it like-" He paused as he raised his head to look at Kaworu.
"What is it?" Kaworu thrusts his hands pockets, feeling jumpy.
Taking a deep breath, Shinji confessed. "What I mean is...I like you." He retracted his sight to the ground as if rejection was written on Kaworu's face though Shinji feels that a burden has been finally lifted off from his shoulder.
No words came out of Kaworu, but only smiled from ear to ear as he took a step forward.
"A-and it's totally ok if you don't see me that way."
"I like you too, Shinji."
"I said I like you too." His fingers reached out to intertwine with Shinji's.
At the front bus' steps, the percussionist captains' heads peered. "Yooo..Touji, gimme 20 bucks. Shinji confessed first."
Special shoutout to my beta reader hippopotamus-hq (tumblr)! Giving you lots of love!
Some of these events are loosely based on my experiences, and my band kid heart had so much fun writing this. By sharing this, I hope the readers enjoyed it as well.
Comment if you are a band kid!
Also, let me know if the story is a bit confusing due to some references on marching band logistics, and I'll gladly write footnotes to it.
All feedback is always appreciated!