Ya-Ya-yah, A Squid In the Hand

Title: A Squid In the Hand [Ya-Ya-yah]
Rating/Warnings: PG for unlucky bag charms.
Summary: Reon makes Shoon a present, and the present makes Shoon miserable.
AN: For bloodybrilliant, who had the original conversation with me where we decided that Shoon absolutely needed to own one of these.

A Squid in the Hand

Yamashita Shoon was sitting at his table, eating some of his mother’s leftover wheat soba and thinking about how much he really liked his brand-new, grown-up, university student messenger bag, when Reon came bouncing through the door, home from school.

“What are you doing home so early?” Shoon asked, looking from Reon to the clock after a momentary panic that he’d been staring at his bag for hours and was now really, really late for dance practice.

“It’s Saturday!” Reon laughed, thumping his own bag down at the table. Shoon shrugged; he lost track of the days sometimes since he’d graduated, one day of practice and study blending in seamlessly with the one after it and the one after that. “Anyway, I have a present for you!”

“A present for me?” Shoon tilted his head. “What for?”

“Because you’re my big brother, big brother.” Reon rolled his eyes as though it were the most obvious thing in the whole world, then unzipped his backpack and pulled out a floppy package, wrapped in newspaper, and dropped it in Shoon’s hands.

Shoon glanced from the package to Reon, who grinned at him encouragingly and then stole the bowl of noodles. Shoon slid his thumb under the tape and peeled the newspaper back.

It was…Shoon wasn’t sure exactly what it was. It was made of yarn, bright blue and green, had a sort of mushroom-shaped head with two big googly eyes, and had six thick braids dangling off Shoon’s palm, two longer than the other four.

“Um,” he said. “It’s…” And then suddenly he realized exactly what it was. “A squid?”

“Yup!” Reon slurped a noodle, still grinning. “I made it in crafts club!”

“Thank you, little brother,” Shoon said, touched despite the bizarre nature of the gift, and he reached over to ruffle Reon’s hair, making his grin ratchet up two notches brighter.

“It’s even better!” he exclaimed, which Shoon didn’t exactly like the sound of. “It’s not just a squid,” Reon reached over and pulled up a little hook stuck to the top of the squid’s head which Shoon hadn’t noticed, “it’s a bag charm!”

“What?” Shoon asked, grin frozen in place. Reon took the squid and attached it proudly to Shoon’s brand-new, grown-up messenger bag, which was certainly much less grown-up now that it had a blue and green yarn squid dangling nearly the whole length of it. “Reon…”

“You were so happy about getting a grown-up bag when you came home yesterday,” Reon continued, fussing with the braids to make them lay straight. “So I thought I’d make you something new to put on it, so you wouldn’t have to use your old bag charms from high school.”

Shoon opened and closed his mouth and took another look on the squid. It gazed up at him googily. Then Shoon turned to Reon’s hopeful face and smiled. “It’s a really great bag charm,” he said.

******

“It’s a terrible bag charm!” Hikaru hooted when Shoon sat his bag down on the table at the Jimusho. Yabu was sitting beside him, clutching his stomach while he laughed.

“Reon made it for me!” Shoon protested, cheeks still bright pink from all the schoolgirls on the train pointing at him and taking pictures with their phones. “I have to use it or it’ll hurt his feelings!”

Hikaru just laughed harder; Yabu graduated to pounding on the table.

“Do you…like squid?” Taiyo asked, obviously trying to be generous as he flicked gazes from the squid to Shoon’s pink cheeks to their collapsed bandmates.

“I…don’t not like them.” Shoon waved his hands in useless little circles. “I eat them sometimes!”

“He even made two of the tentacles longer than the other ones,” Taiyo commented. “It’s an anatomically correct yarn squid.”

“ANATOMICALLY CORRECT!” Yabu howled, rolling off his chair with a thud. Hikaru had his eyes squeezed shut and was wheezing for air.

“Reon knows what he’s doing,” Shoon said stiffly. “Look, are we going to practice or what?”

“Right!” Yabu hopped up, wiped the tears off his cheeks, and then was all business as he slapped Hikaru across the back of his head. “Come on, we’re going to be late.”

Shoon turned to go, caught his foot on the leg of the table, and went down in a painful tangle of limbs.

“Are you okay?!” Taiyo was leaning over him when Shoon blinked the stars away. Yabu and Hikaru were hovering near the door, hesitating in case bandmate hysterics were needed.

“Ow,” Shoon said, sitting up with a groan. He checked his arms and flexed his ankles. “I think I’m okay, just bruised.”

“Ha, good thing you’re getting it all out of your system before dance practice!” Hikaru said, coming back over to help Taiyo haul Shoon to his feet.

Shoon wondered why that sounded so ominous.

*****

“I’m on my way home now!” Shoon yelled into his cell phone, glancing around the train platform to make sure he wasn’t disturbing anybody. His train was late, but every time his mother tried to say something, a train on the other side would whoosh in or out, drowning out all the sound. “I got out of practice late! What?” Another train sped in, and Shoon gave up. “Look, I’ll talk to you when I’m home!”

He clicked the phone shut and tried to jam it in his bag without looking, but his hand bounced off the yarn squid, and his phone clattered to the pavement, the battery falling off.

“Terrific,” Shoon grumbled as he bent to scoop up the pieces, because that was just how everything else had been going all day. Dance practice had been horrible, even putting aside Shoon’s bruises. He just couldn’t seem to do anything right, or even keep the moves in his head for more than three seconds. He’d been reprimanded by the coach, they’d gone long, and by the time they’d finished even Taiyo had stopped trying to say supportive things and had only given him a reproachful glance on his way out the door.

The battery refused to click back into the phone and Shoon just dropped both pieces into his pocket in disgust. He’d have to have his father look at it, and probably get a lecture about looking after his things.

He was just standing there in his train line, sulking silently to himself, when suddenly the chatter of two girls behind him caught his attention.

“…it’s him, I’m telling you, it’s him!”

“Oh my god, I think you’re right!”

Shoon hunched his shoulders and prayed for the train to arrive or that it was actually Jin-senpai standing further down the platform, something, anything.

But he wasn’t exactly surprised when someone tapped his shoulder and he reluctantly turned around to find two girls, one with a dye job even less believable than Koki-senpai’s, staring at him. The poorly-dyed girl had an expression of triumph as she examined Shoon’s face.

“Excuse me,” she said, “but you’re Yamashita Shoon-kun, right?”

Just then, miraculously, Shoon’s train finally slid into the station, making Shoon heave a sigh of relief and flash the girls the fakest smile he owned.

“Sorry, you’ve got the wrong Yamashita!” he said, then dashed onto the train and hoped that these girls were not going in the same direction as him. He took a seat and furtively glanced out the window; the girls were still on the platform. Shoon allowed himself a sigh of relief.

“Finally,” he muttered to himself, “something going right!”

It was just then that he caught a snatch of conversation from across the aisle and looked up to find two more girls, in uniforms suspiciously similar to the original two, glancing from the one girl’s cell to Shoon, back and forth.

“It’s got to be,” the first girl hissed, “lookit his bag!”

Shoon looked down at his bag and glared at the squid with utter loathing.

“Quick, call Keiko,” the second girl said. “Tell her to get everybody to the station right away!”

******

“I’m home,” Shoon called grumpily as he came into the house and yanked the door shut behind him.

“Welcome ba—” Shoon’s mother stopped as she came around the corner and stared at him. “What on earth happened to you?!”

“I was spotted on the train,” Shoon answered, glaring down at the spot where a button was now missing from his coat. His shirt was askew, his sunglasses were long gone, and he only had one shoe.

He toed his remaining shoe off and looked up to find not only his mother staring, but Reon poking his head around the corner.

“Thank goodness they didn’t hurt your squid!” he exclaimed when Shoon caught his eye.

“Thank goodness,” Shoon echoed, teeth clenched.

“Why don’t you go sit down, and I’ll reheat something for you,” Shoon’s mother said, patting him on the shoulder, and he trudged past her and into the living room to just give his father the phone and get it over with.

It took a half hour of prodding and a bowl of warmed curry for Shoon to actually relate the story, only caving because it looked like the only way to avoid the lecture for the phone. He was sitting on the couch between his father and Reon, reluctantly mumbling his story over his second bowl of food.

“What I don’t understand,” his father said in the end, “is what they’d want with your shoe.”

“Shoonie has very beautiful and delicate feet!” his mother reported from her perch on the couch arm. “He gets that from my side of the family, you know…”

Shoon’s father snorted; Reon looked down at his own feet and gave a little sigh. Shoon just shoveled more curry in his mouth. When he finished, his mother took his empty bowl and suggested that Shoon go take a hot bath and get to bed, since he looked like he needed some rest.

Reon tagged along, Shoon holding the bathroom door open for him in answer to the unspoken request, and neither one said anything until they were both in the tub, chest-deep in hot water.

“Ne,” Reon poked Shoon’s leg with his toe, “you really do like your present, right?”

“Of course I do,” Shoon answered, tilting his head back to stare at the ceiling instead of Reon’s happy grin and wincing when he banged the lump on the back of his head against the wall.

*****

“Shoon? Shoon!”

Shoon snorted awake, groaning at the ache in his head, and blinked a few times before he properly recognized his mother leaning over him.

And then he remembered that his cell phone was also supposed to be his alarm clock and used a word that made his mother’s eyes narrow with promises for later.

He arrived at the train platform just as the train was pulling up, breathless from dashing down the station stairs, hair jammed hastily under a wool hat, coat unbuttonable, and generally feeling as though he’d been mixed in Ohno-senpai’s blender and then shot out of a cannon.

He was less than pleased when his attempt at dozing on the train was foiled by a whisper of “Hey, that’s totally him!” from across the aisle.

“What happened to you?!” Taiyo gasped when Shoon finally showed up at their practice session, looking disheveled and murderous. “You were supposed to meet us at the station this morning! I called you!”

“Woke up late,” he grunted, dropping his bag on the table so that the whole thing rattled. “Broke my phone. Got spotted on the train.”

“Why didn’t you wear a hat?” Yabu inquired, looking at Shoon’s wild hair.

Exactly as wild, in fact, as if someone had yanked a very staticky hat off some already unstyled hair. Shoon gave Yabu a glare so fierce that he actually backed up a step, bumping into Hikaru.

“They didn’t get the squid though,” Taiyo said, examining the pristine yarn charm on Shoon’s bag. “Lucky!” And then he gave an “Eep!” when Shoon swung his glare over to him.

Voice practice went just about as well as dance practice had the night before, and the senpai medley they were supposed to be doing next week sounded a lot more like a senpai car accident. Shoon knew he’d hit rock bottom when the voice instructor told Taiyo he was really sounding much better.

The manager took one look at their expressions when they returned, handed them the company credit card, and told them to take an hour for lunch and come back looking like people that somebody might actually want to photograph for any magazine other than Emo Monthly.

“I left my bag in the studio,” Shoon said wretchedly, but Yabu commanded him to leave it and pushed him out the door, the borrowed credit card tight in his hand.

They walked to a nearby noodle place, Shoon twitching every time a bird so much as chirped, but nothing happened. Nobody spotted them, he didn’t trip over his own feet, nobody told him he sounded like a congested police siren for a whole twenty minutes.

“See?” Hikaru said, bumping Shoon’s shoulder as the noodles arrived. “Things are definitely looking up!”

Shoon was starting to believe him by the end of their lunch hour, and was almost back to his old self, laughing at Hikaru’s completely fake American accent, by the time they swung by the voice studio to retrieve Shoon’s bag on the way to their photo shoot.

He promptly tripped up the concrete stairs in the stairwell, ripping his jeans and scraping his knees.

“Are you okay?!” Taiyo gasped, and Shoon growled because he was really getting sick of that question. Taiyo moved to help him up, and Yabu grabbed his shoulder.

“I don’t think you should touch him,” Yabu said. “He might be contagious.”

“Don’t be retarded,” Hikaru rolled his eyes, offering Shoon a hand up. Just as Shoon stood, the door behind Hikaru swung open suddenly, slamming into him from behind and nearly sending both of them tumbling down twenty flights of concrete steps.

Hikaru yanked his hand out of Shoon’s like he’d been burnt, Shoon’s jaw dropped, and the tiny trainee who’d shoved the door open yelled a terrified apology before fleeing in the other direction and letting the door swing shut again.

No one touched Shoon the rest of the way up the stairs. He trudged along several steps behind the other three, knees aching dully and bag bumping against some of his bruises from yesterday, glaring at the yarn squid for being so blue and cheerful and apparently indestructible.

“Oh, is grunge in again?” the wardrobe girl asked when they arrived in the right place, eyeing Shoon’s ripped jeans with distaste. “I thought that wasn’t due back for another decade and a half.”

“I’m a trend-setter,” Shoon snarled as she dropped a bundle of clothes into his hands, making Yabu and Hikaru snicker. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Taiyo shake out the clothing in his hand, heart sinking when it unfurled to reveal a teddy-bear-printed yukata.

“Again?” Yabu groaned, and Shoon wholeheartedly agreed, looking at his own print of pink flowers. “Didn’t we just do the yukata shoot? And it’s almost winter!”

“You’re the ones who want a more adult image,” the girl said, voice cold, and then flounced off to find the box with the uchiwa.

“Because I feel soooo adult,” Hikaru grumbled, looking down at his beachball-covered torso. “Like, totally, for sure, dude.”

There was nothing for it, however, so the four Ya-Ya-Yah members shed their street clothes and dutifully pulled on their yukata. Shoon was just helping Taiyo tie his closed properly when the girl returned and began handing out uchiwa.

Yabu’s was blue, Hikaru’s was gold, and Taiyo’s was white. Shoon got a red ping-pong paddle.

“I’m sorry!” The girl apologized, bowing with the empty box as Shoon gaped at her. “JJ Express is also doing the yukata shoot today, and there are just too many of them! There aren’t enough uchiwa to go around, I’m afraid. But this is pretty close, so please do your best.”

“He’ll work hard,” Yabu assured, slapping his hand over Shoon’s mouth as Shoon took a deep breath to tell her exactly what she could do with her ping-pong paddle and her JJ Express, and then Yabu hustled Shoon off to the side, Hikaru and Taiyo trailing along.

Shoon bit down on Yabu’s hand as soon as they were out of earshot, and then snapped that he hoped he was not just contagious, but terminal.

*****

“Again?” Shoon’s mother asked in disbelief.

“It’s okay.” Shoon kicked off his remaining sneaker—at least it was the other foot this time—and dusted some glitter off his leg with a frown. “Tomorrow I’ll just wear both shoes I’m missing the mate too, and then some fangirl will have a matched set no matter which foot they get.”

His mother peered at him more closely. “Didn’t you have a jacket this morning?”

“I’m not hungry or anything,” Shoon said, pretending not to hear her. “I’ll just go up and get ready for bed and come down later if I want a snack.”

Once upstairs in his room, Shoon set his bag down on his bed and stared at it, hands on his hips. The squid stared back, left eye googling just a little, tentacles just as pristine as they had been when Shoon had opened the package despite repeated fan attacks.

Shoon had a theory. It was all the squid’s fault.

He reached down to unhook the squid from his bag and then held it up to peer at it closely. There was nothing suspicious about it, although it was a little creepy how the eyes seemed to google back up at him no matter which way he turned it.

Still though, Shoon shook himself, things simply could not continue as they had for the last two days. He’d just put the squid up on his bookshelf. It was still a gift from Reon, but this way Shoon could display it without having to carry the bad luck all over the place with him.

He was just draping its tentacles over the edge of the shelf when his door opened. Shoon looked over his shoulder to find Reon standing in the doorway with two mugs, quickly covering up his hurt look with a smile.

Underneath his “Oh shit” reaction, Shoon thought that Reon must be doing well in the Jimusho if he’d already learned to get his stage face up so quickly.

“Ne,” Reon said, coming in and handing Shoon one of the mugs, then nodding up to the shelf, “tired of him already, big brother?”

“No!” Shoon said immediately. He took a sip from the mug to give himself a second to think, then nearly groaned aloud at how good the chai felt as it warmed his chest. “I just…my new bag isn’t quite big enough to hold everything I need, so I’ll have to switch back to the old one for a bit, and I didn’t want to forget to switch your present over.”

Shoon and Reon blinked at each other for a second, and Shoon had the sinking suspicion that his face looked just as startled as Reon’s.

Reon dropped his gaze, trying to hide his smile behind a long sip from his mug, and Shoon heaved a little internal sigh. He hoped his old bag hadn’t gotten too dusty under his bed.

******

When Yabu, Hikaru, and Taiyo arrived at the Jimusho after school the next day, they found Shoon already in their ready room, sitting in a folding chair and glaring at the table, where his bag with the squid attached was sitting. Shoon’s clothes were damp, his hair starting to dry in weird spikes, and the twisted remains of an umbrella were on the floor.

“Is that your old bag?” Hikaru asked. “What happened to your…” He trailed off when Shoon held up a hand for silence.

“It’s the squid,” he said. “The squid is out to get me.”

“Okay, Shoon,” Yabu made soothing hand motions, “I know we’ve been working very hard lately, but…”

“THE SQUID IS RUINING MY LIFE!” Shoon bellowed, making Taiyo give a little scream and hop back. “It’s like some horrible sort of bad luck charm!”

“But it looks so cheerful,” Hikaru said, reaching over to tug on one of the tentacles braids, but Shoon’s hand shot out to lock around Hikaru’s wrist in an iron grip.

“It’s enjoying my pain,” he answered. Hikaru tugged his hand loose and rubbed at his wrist, looking reproachful.

“Shoon, it’s a bag charm,” Yabu said after a moment, shaking off the nervous grip that Taiyo had on his arm. “It’s not doing anything to you. If you don’t like it, get rid of it!”

“But Reon made it for me!” Shoon let his head sink down until his cheek was resting on the table. “He’s my little brother! If I stop using it, it’ll hurt his feelings.”

“You could tell him you’re worried about fangirls getting it,” Taiyo suggested, looking hopefully at Shoon’s sad and exhausted (and also a tiny bit bruised from that morning) expression. “Or that you don’t want it to get dirty, or…”

“Or that it’s trying to kill you,” Hikaru broke in. “I always feel that honesty is the best policy with family members.”

“Which is why you told your mother exactly what happened to your last mp3 player.” Yabu raised his eyebrow, and Hikaru blushed and shoved his hands in his pockets.

Taiyo turned back to Shoon. “Maybe it’s all just a coincidence. Maybe you’re just having an awkward stage!”

“That’s you, Taiyo,” Yabu put in, making Taiyo look at his shoes. “Look, it doesn’t matter. Unless you want to go on losing shoes and being photographed with ping-pong paddles, I can only see one solution.”

All four members turned to glare at Shoon’s bag.

“The squid has to go.”

*****

Out in the hallway, Shoon rubbing his forehead because he’d tripped over his own feet and the trashcan and bonked his head on the edge of the door, Ya-Ya-Yah was debating whether it was more dangerous to try the stairs or the elevator, when Inoo Kei shuffled around the corner.

He looked just about as happy as Shoon, hair sticking up wildly, shirt mis-buttoned, mouth bunched up like he was trying to keep from bursting into tears at any moment. He didn’t even seem to notice them as he trudged down the hallway, staring at his shoes, until he practically tripped over Shoon, and Taiyo grabbed both of their shoulders to steady them.

“Oh,” Inoo finally looked up, then back down at the ground, “hi, Shoon-kun.”

“Hi,” Shoon greeted back, just as glum. The he shook himself just enough to look Inoo over. “You look like you’re having a rough week too.”

“It’s been horrible,” Inoo burst out, like he’d been waiting for somebody to ask. “I’m late everywhere, I can’t do anything right, the coaches keep yelling at me, and my band is treating me like I’m contagious…” Inoo cut off and rubbed the cuff of his shirt over his eyes with a little sniffle. Then, like he was trying to find something else to talk about, he glanced down at Shoon’s bag. “Hey, I really like your bag charm.”

“You…do?” Shoon looked down at the squid, dangling yarnily, and back at Inoo with a skeptical expression.

“Yeah, I think squid are the cutest.” Inoo reached over to tug one of the tentacle braids, and Shoon had a brilliant idea.

“Here,” he said, unhooking the squid from his own bag and pressed it into Inoo’s hands. “Reon made it for me, but…maybe he’ll bring you good luck. You look like you need it more than me.”

“Sho-shoon!” Inoo stuttered, but before he could say anything else, Arioka Daiki came tearing around the corner and ran up to Inoo, bowing deeply.

“I’m so sorry, Inoo-kun!” he apologized, out of breath. “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings!”

“Arioka-kun?” Inoo’s fingers curled tighter around the yarn squid, and a tiny smile finally worked its way onto Inoo’s face. “It’s okay…”

“I know you’re having a bad week,” Arioka continued, straightening up and giving Inoo a hesitant smile. “But don’t worry, I’m sure it’s just an awkward stage.”

“No, that’s…” Yabu started, before Hikaru elbowed him sharp enough to make him cut off with an “Oof!”

Inoo turned around and gave Shoon a big hug and an even bigger smile. “Thanks, Shoon-kun! It looks like the squid is good luck after all!”

“I don’t get it,” Taiyo said as Arioka and Inoo trotted back down the hall together, Inoo giggling at some story Arioka was telling with flails of his hands. “Why did the squid bring good luck to Inoo when all it’s done all week is cause you trouble?”

“I told him it was good luck. Maybe it’s the power of suggestion?” Shoon shrugged. “You know, I don’t really like squid…”

“So what are you going to tell Reon?” Yabu wanted to know, and Shoon frowned.

“Just tell him the truth!” Hikaru insisted, and this time Shoon realized that he was probably right.

*****

“So I gave the squid to Inoo-kun,” Shoon finished explaining to Reon, both of them sitting on Reon’s bed. “He really likes squid, and he was having an awkward…a terrible week. Are you mad?”

Reon sat quietly for a few seconds, plucking some fuzz off of his bedspread. Shoon tried not to wriggle and to look sad about the loss of the squid, even though all of his afternoon practices had gone perfectly and he had made it home from the train without losing so much as a gum wrapper.

Finally, Reon looked up and smiled, and Shoon let out a sigh of relief.

“It’s okay,” he said. “You wouldn’t be big brother if you didn’t try to take care of everyone. It’s just like you to give away your present to make Inoo-senpai happy.”

“I knew you’d understand!” Shoon wrapped an arm around Reon’s shoulders to hug him tightly, feeling like he hadn’t grinned so much in a month.

“Besides, the crafts club met again today,” Reon announced, wriggling out from under Shoon’s arm to grab his backpack off the floor. “So I have another present for you!”

Shoon’s smile froze in place as Reon dropped yet another squashy package into his hands. “That’s just like you, little brother…”

This time the googly eyes were even bigger, and all the yarn braids were all the same length.

“It’s an octopus!” Reon informed Shoon proudly. “Because more legs are even better, ne, big brother?”

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