aeslis: (Howl's Moving Castle ★ Kiss)
aeslis ([personal profile] aeslis) wrote in [community profile] aesthetic2010-01-08 10:02 pm
Entry tags:

Once Turned Upside-Down (the Pursuit of Knowledge)

Once Turned Upside-Down (the Pursuit of Knowledge)
Pairing: Matsumiya
Word Count: ~7000
Summary: One day Jun starts to wonder about Nino.
A/N: This fic was written for [livejournal.com profile] xxkonokisekixx in the JE-Holiday fic exchange. Lots of love to [personal profile] tsubomi and [personal profile] aide for beta and general support! I still maintain that I intend to write a sequel, because I feel like this story is not yet finished, but with all the things I want to write I can't promise it'll be anytime soon.




It's a morning like any other morning, and Aiba has on his mask. It's not helping his allergies much, but the sniffles are reduced even if his eyes are red and swollen. Jun watches him furtively from over the top of his book. Aiba's trying to remember their choreography, and his arms are swinging around in ungainly ways.

"Left," Jun says, and Aiba looks up, startled. He retries the move with a turn to the left, sniffs again, and then sighs his way down into the couch, kicking his feet up onto the coffee table.

"It's been so long since we've had to do choreography," he moans, toes wriggling within his purple socks. His words are somewhat muted, and Jun sympathises. He hates having a stuffed nose.

"Your favorite thing ever, isn't it?" Jun says, sitting up straighter and tossing his book aside. He's already read five chapters waiting for his turn to do their interview. "Keep trying."

Like a weak fish, Aiba tries to do the arm choreography again, though it looks ridiculous from his collapsed position on the couch, and he adds a personal flair to the end that almost makes Jun smile. Aiba is a trooper. Jun can tell from the circles under his eyes that he probably feels like he's been hit by a bus, but he doesn't let it affect anyone else.

"Here," Jun says, and passes him off a packet of tea that he's been carrying around in his bag. It's one of his favorites for when he's sick, and usually helps clear up a runny nose, though he's not sure how effective it'll be with hay fever.

Aiba's eyes twinkle. "You're bored, aren't you?" he says, pushing himself into a better sitting position to examine the packet. "Thanks."

"Am I that obvious?" Jun says.

Aiba makes an atrocious sound as he sniffles again, and then clears his throat. "You're an open book," he says, and goes to get hot water and a cup.

Jun is bored. He taps his feet, fiddles with the pages of his book, and checks his phone. When he can't think of anything else to keep him occupied, he gives up and goes to listen in on Nino's interview.

It's right next door, and when he walks in Nino is hunched at the table. His fingers are walking through a new card trick, and Jun's started to wonder if Nino even knows half the time what his hands are doing while he's thinking about other things.

"--and then drive her home," Nino is saying. Jun pulls out the chair next to Nino, the legs moving silently against the carpet, and makes himself at home.

It's not the first time any of them have listened in on each other's interviews. Jun finds them interesting.

"All right," says Suzuki-san, their interviewer, nodding a welcome to Jun. He checks his papers, and then says, "You forgot your girlfriend's birthday, and she's angry. What do you do to make it up to her?"

Nino shrugs, shifting through his cards as if he's looking for something. "Apologise. That's really all I can do, isn't it? I'm at fault, though. If it was that important to her, I shouldn't have forgotten. But trying to make it up to her can end up seeming like too little, too late, so I'd probably try to take a day to do whatever she wants."

"Just like you," Jun says, finding a comfortable way to lounge in his chair and take up lots of space doing it.

"Really?" Nino asks, looking up. He's wearing one of his tilty, knowing smiles. "Is that a compliment, Jun-kun?"

Suzuki-san interrupts before Jun can answer. He must have an appointment to keep, Jun thinks. "Which would you rather do: spend money on a rental car or take public transport and splurge on a nice hotel?"

Nino has to think about that one. "Really, either one. Both could be fun, couldn't they? With a rental car you can go more places, there are more opportunities. But I don't want to fill up the gas tank. But to have a nice hotel to stay is fun, too. You get better buffet breakfasts."

Jun doesn't say anything this time, but he's noticed it's a habit of Nino's to not discount either opportunity. It's always been one of Nino's strengths to be adaptable and open-minded, and Jun admires him for it.

"If you were a girl, which member would you date?" Suzuki-san even has the grace to look apologetic, and Jun presses his lips together on a smile. Suzuki-san by himself has probably asked them this exact question at least five times over the course of their career.

Nino's fingers curl around his deck of cards, all neatly packed into a rectangle. He looks at Suzuki with a sardonic eye, and then drapes himself over Jun without warning. His cards dig into Jun's collarbone, right through his shirt. "Jun-kun, of course," he says with a distinctly throaty tone that Jun has never heard him use outside of dramas. Jun isn't sure why Nino's free fingers are creeping through the space between his buttons, either. "Who wouldn't want Jun-kun, after all, with this mouth?"

"Hey," Jun says, belatedly.

It doesn't stop Nino's sneaky fingers, but it does make Nino look up at him, and Jun almost regrets saying anything at all. He's seen Nino use this look too many times for it to work but somehow it does. He's uncomfortably aware that his heart has started beating hard, and that Nino's lips are curved in a bow, even though he's waggling his eyebrows in the stupidest of ways. "There's no camera to preen for, stop being gross," Jun says, and tries to shake him off.

Nino takes a hint and retreats to his own chair, gaily shuffling his cards again, ready for more questions.

Jun can't seem to get back to normal quite as easily. The moment keeps replaying in Jun's mind: Nino's low voice, Nino's wily fingers, the heat of Nino's body where their shoulders were pressed together. It's as if Nino has flicked a switch on in Jun's brain, and he can't find a way to turn it off.

Without even knowing it, Nino had turned Jun's perfectly normal day completely upside down.

*


Jun is a thinker. People have called him serious, but to him it's just natural. Everything deserves consideration and the best possible effort. Especially when it comes to Arashi.

Today he saves his thoughts until he gets home. He does all his chores on auto-pilot: switching on the heater; opening up the refrigerator to store away his bean sprouts and seltzer; tying up his grocery bags and storing them under the sink.

It's when he finally takes a breath and pours himself a glass of deep red wine that he relaxes, and lets himself think. Nino's touch has fired something in him that he'd thought he'd gotten away from.

The memories start creeping forward from the back of his mind like black ghosts. Ten years ago, he thinks. "Ten years," he muses aloud with a grimace, swirling his wine gently. Has he not changed so much in ten years?

He remembers. The image is fuzzy around the edges like a photograph taken in low light, but there are certain points that stay true and sharp: Moriyama's dark hair and Yoshida's open fly, and the sinking feeling that he had stepped around a corner that he shouldn't have. The clean, brown walls of the bathroom stall he'd hidden in as he'd promised not to tell, not ever, and the worried whispers and squeak of shoes against linoleum as his senpai had beaten a hasty, embarrassed retreat.

He'd kept his promise. He'd had too much to think about, and no one to tell it to.

Jun starts cutting garlic, each chop tight and frustrated. The smell curls around him. The act of cooking is familiar enough that it should be soothing, but today it's not enough to soften the discomfort of his memories. "Pathetic," he tells himself. "Why does this have to come up now?"

There's no good reason for it. Nino's flirted pointlessly with him before, just like he's flirted with Ohno, and to a lesser extent, Sho. It doesn't mean anything and it never has. He's never expected it to, from any of them.

He can't say he's never wanted it to.

He remembers looking at Sho, back when Moriyama's and Yoshida's tryst was still fresh and new in his mind, a possibility that he'd never expected but couldn't ignore. It had been like a splash in the face as realization struck to dawning horror: he looked at Sho, and he wondered.

"I was young though," Jun reminds himself. He's not embarrassed about it anymore, mostly because Sho had never found out. None of them had. Jun hadn't wanted the confusion and the embarrassment. Arashi was what he had been striving towards for years, and he wasn't about to sabotage it before it even got started.

Jun sips at his wine, sighing as he stirs spinach into the frying pan. "Ah, salt," he murmurs, poking through his spice rack.

He doesn't wonder about Sho anymore. He knows where Sho's preferences lie, and it's not with men. As for the rest, he's never considered the possibility that any of them might be gay, not even Nino. Maybe he should have, considering Nino's inability not to touch people (especially when it comes to Leader and his ass).

But Nino's always dated girls. Jun knows, because even though he's never met them, Nino asks him for advice on places to eat and always reports back afterwards. It happens at least once a month when Nino's got a girlfriend. Aiba usually knows who she is; he talks to Nino about sex more than Jun does, because Jun doesn't talk about sex with any of them.

It's still too dangerous, after all these years.

Or maybe, he thinks, it's just turned into too much of a habit. But the cold feeling doesn't leave his chest when he thinks about telling them. If even one of them looked at him differently afterwards, he wouldn't be able to take it.

"I just put salt in you," Jun complains to his spinach, which is still too bland. He's talking to himself more than he usually does; enough to notice. There's no reason to question Nino. He's thinking too much, and it needs to stop, because knows what that can do to friendships.

There's too much to lose if he doesn't.

*


Jun's drama filming keeps him busy for the better part of a week. He gets up early in the mornings, brushes his teeth and promises himself he'll buy a new tube of toothpaste before he runs out, and is whisked off to the set where he's surrounded by enough bright lights and expectations that he has no time to focus on anything else.

When Tuesday comes with the shoot for the cover of their new single, Jun feels refreshed. He's the first one there, and the first one to get a look at their costumes up close and personal. They're leopard print, and his in particular is a long, luxurious jacket that's fake to the touch. He gets into it anyway, shrugging it over his shoulders by the time Aiba wanders into the room in a pair of overalls that have a hole on the knee. Jun can see plaid purple socks underneath.

"Morning, Mattsun," Aiba says, his eyes squinting as he tries not to yawn. "You look..." He stops, thinks, then finally smiles. "Territorial."

"You get the leopard pants, so I wouldn't talk," Jun informs him, straightening his collar to keep it from poking into his chin.

"I do? They finally gave me something exciting!" Now Aiba's fully awake, rooting through the clothes marked with his name tag, giggling and making little sounds of happiness as he sticks his fingers into the pockets.

Sho is the next one to arrive, looking bemused and ambushed, like he often does in the mornings. He's sucking down a cup of coffee by the time Ohno and Nino show up. They squeeze themselves through the doorway at the same time with completely inappropriate giggles, Ohno's hand low on Nino's back as if he's about to shove him.

Something in Jun's mind itches. He watches them from the corner of his eye.

But nothing happens. Nino peels off from Ohno and closes in on Sho, asking for coffee for himself, which Sho pours robotically.

Ohno rubs at forever-sleepy eyes. "Good morning, Matsujun. Aiba-chan. Oh, Jun." He seems to see what's in front of him for the first time, gradually focusing on Jun's jacket, looking it up and down with wary interest. "Leopard print, huh."

"You weren't listening during the meeting again, were you?" Jun sighs with affectionate tolerance.

Ohno has the grace to look a bit sheepish, though he's smiling. "I'm not a very good idol, am I?"

"Leader, look," Aiba says, emerging from the costume rack with a pair of mostly-leather pants that have leopard stripes down the sides. He holds them out to Ohno to take. "We almost match! We're a team!"

Jun has long grown used to everyone changing in front of each other, and the nakedness that results from it. He hardly thinks about it unless he gets a flash of something when he hadn't been expecting it, and even then there's no sexual heat involved before he averts his eyes. It's too familiar for that.

But his eyes wandering over to Nino, taking note of the sweep of one clavicle peeking from his open-collared shirt, is not so usual. He tells himself it's only because he's grown conscious of Nino--he wouldn't look twice otherwise.

But the itch is back in the corner of his mind, and it's bothering him. He looks to Nino again, just a glance.

Nino is wrapping his own piece of leopard around his neck: he was assigned a scarf, which is long enough to trip over if not looped properly. Nino always gets the scarves, because they look good on him. Jun can pull one off if the stylist wants him to, but they suit Nino better than anyone, accentuating his youth and adding softness to his face.

Nino doesn't really care what he wears. He knows enough about fashion to dress himself well, but if he doesn't have to think about it, he never will. He takes what he's given and puts it on without complaint, and for all intents and purposes seems to forget about it until he has to take it off again.

He can't be gay, Jun thinks.

But not everyone who's gay cares about fashion, insists that frustratingly intrusive itch.

He squashes the thought down. He has other things to do, like work, so he takes his leave and heads straight for the set, leaving Nino behind him.

When he gets there, his thoughts reroute perfectly. The director wants to talk to him about lighting and where each member should sit, and Jun takes a while to look over the bold black-and-white set, walking around it and sizing it up from every angle. It's simple enough, with five futuristic stools of different heights and a subtly patterned background. Jun has the sadistic desire to put Sho on the tallest one.

He's not quite that cruel, though. "What about putting Sho-kun here in the middle?" Jun says, pointing unnecessarily towards the stool in question. "With the amount of print I have on this jacket, I'd do better at one end."

The director nods, his mind already building on Jun's suggestions. "Can't put all the louder costumes together or the balance will be off. Sakurai-kun is in the dress shirt, isn't he? Someone subtle will need to sit between you."

"Nino would work," Jun finds himself saying. And it's entirely true, but it doesn't stop him from wondering how much of it is professional idea and how much is his brain's own confused selfishness. "Or Leader," he adds quickly.

"Ninomiya-kun," says the director, stroking at his chin and staring at the set, envisioning everything as if it's all before him. Jun looks, too, and sees in his mind's eye images of them superimposed over the set. It looks right, with Nino beside him. "We'll go with that," decides the director, breaking into Jun's thoughts.

Jun doesn't know if he's relieved.

The shoot goes just like every other shoot. They make serious faces for the camera and pull off silly ones when they get a moment to slouch. Jun can hear Aiba's froggy voice on the other end, but not well enough to make out what he's saying. Whatever it is, it makes Sho laugh, high and clear, showing off his teeth as he spins back and forth on his stool.

To Jun's right, Nino is drumming his hands idly against the underside of his seat, muted sounds that don't sound like anything in particular to Jun, but probably correlate with whatever song is running through Nino's head. He only knows that it's not the single they're posing for.

When the photographer signals and flashes some of the lights, everything settles. From the corner of his eye, Jun sees Nino pull one leg up tight. He looks cramped and awkward, but at the same time, comfortable in that way that only Nino can.

The lights fire, and Jun straightens, putting on his proud, regal face. This time even the lights can't stop him from thinking about all the ways he's seen Nino sit before. He's like a little kid, all his legs tucking up in clumsy ways, loose and comfortable with himself and his body. It makes him seem more youthful, and somehow, less masculine.

Jun isn't prepared for the weird, protective thump he feels.

When he gets back to the green room, it only gets worse. He holds the door open for Sho and walks in on his heels, just in time to get a good look at Ohno and Nino on the couch.

"What are you guys doing?" says Sho, who is always one for laughter first.

What they're doing is not immediately clear, that's for sure. They look like one merged being made up of black, leopard print, and leather, and Nino's hands appear to be in Ohno's back pockets, though his arms are hidden under the feathery darkness of Ohno's stole. Nino's mouth is right up at Ohno's ear, but with the way their heads are tilted Jun can't see most of his face. He's whispering something, and Ohno is listening, his eyes tilted towards nothing and his hands curled around Nino's upper arms as if to keep him from getting away.

Jun sees it all in fragments of seconds, and looks away, the first word off his lips automatic: "Gross." It shouldn't even be worth commenting on, at this point. It's nothing they haven't seen before.

But now all it does is make Jun wonder harder, and as he peels off each piece of his costume, he realizes that ignoring it all isn't going to work. He has to know, one way or the other, so he can put this invasive, unnecessary curiosity to rest.

*


The first thing he thinks of doing is asking Ohno, because to Jun's mind Nino's partner in gay crime is the most likely to know. He ends up having to wait, because their schedules don't bring them together for another week.

When he gets to the ready room for their video shooting early one afternoon, Ohno is in the middle of the couch reading the latest issue of his fishing magazine. Jun mentally rejoices at finding him alone.

"Hey Leader," he greets him, pulling off his hat and plunking it onto Ohno's head. It slips down into his face, interrupting his reading. "Just the man I wanted to see."

"I hope it doesn't have anything to do with the fact that you're stripping," Ohno says mildly, tipping Jun's hat back for an accidentally rakish look. "I'm not that kinda guy."

Jun stops in the middle of unbelting his jacket and takes a moment to stare at Ohno. What a coincidence that Ohno would take the conversation right where he wanted it. "We shouldn't tell your boyfriend that, then," he says, finally getting himself free of his jacket. The greenroom is warmer than he would have liked.

"Nino?" Ohno turns a page, more interested in his magazine than in Jun. "It doesn't seem to bother him, does it."

"Hey, Leader," Jun says, and notes with a touch of chagrin that his voice has softened to sound private and secretive. He doesn't like that; it's far better to be casual. "Leader, stop looking at that. Can I ask you something? About Nino."

Ohno looks up, confused. "Why don't you ask Nino?"

"I can't," Jun says, willing Ohno to understand. "It's too private, and potentially embarrassing."

Ohno's lips purse. "What is it?"

The words don't come out easily. Jun's more nervous about this than he should be by any right. "Just... do you ever think... Nino has, or could have, feelings towards guys?"

Ohno's expression doesn't even flicker. He scratches at his chin, as relaxed as Jun's ever seen him. "I haven't thought about it."

"If you think about it now?" Jun prompts, feeling a bit more stupid, and starting to feel irritable about feeling stupid.

But Ohno just shrugs. "I can't make any guesses. It's not like I would know any better than you do." He fixes a look on Jun, surprisingly gentle. "That really is the kind of thing you'd have to ask him."

Jun grimaces, but Ohno is right. He'd just rather that Nino not ever know he'd been curious in the first place. "Yeah, I know. Thanks, Leader."

When the rest of the members arrive, it's even harder to look at Nino in a way that feels natural, so he doesn't. He feels Nino's eyes on him, but when he turns around, Nino's not looking his way at all.

His mind is playing tricks on him, and it only makes him feel worse. He wishes this were easy, and that Nino would give off signals he could be sure of.

*


The halls of the hotel are empty. As soon as Jun closes the door, the sound of revelry and Aiba's drunken singing is cut off. He looks at the room key in his hand, feeling strange and light-headed. It's not his.

The number marked on it leads him three doors down, and when the light flashes green, he lets himself in to shades of darkness. He twists the light switch, bringing the room into focus.

He's not an intruder, not really. Nino had asked, after all, and it had just been convenient timing, since Jun wanted something from his own room as well.

Nino's suitcase is open on the bed, rolled socks tumbled out against the coverlet. All his things have been ruffled through and left in a state of disarray, and Jun picks carefully, looking for Nino's recharge cable.

It's the perfect opportunity, says that traitorous itch.

Before he thinks about it, he's looking for more than Nino's cable. Maybe, he thinks, he'll find some telltale porn stowed away under Nino's jeans. Or there might be something else, something more significant. His ears grow warm with guilt, and he stops, closing up his fists. He knows what he's doing, and he knows he's making excuses by telling himself that it's okay, that Nino has given him permission to look through his things.

If you're going to look, you need to fess up to the fact that you're invading Nino's privacy.

So he does. He admits it to himself, giving that little itch the satisfaction, and starts looking in earnest. He peeks into the side pocket of the suitcase, which is empty, and into the plastic convenience-store bag that houses Nino's toiletries. Aside from mousse and shampoo, there's nothing. There aren't even condoms rolled up in Nino's socks (Sho's favorite hiding place, which Jun unfortunately discovered upon borrowing a pair six tours ago).

He finds nothing, nothing but the cable. Carefully, he rearranges Nino's things back into place, disappointment warring with discomfort at what he's done. "What the hell am I doing?" he mutters to himself, rubbing at his temples. Nino would never invade his privacy like this, and that knowledge makes Jun feel heavy.

He switches off the light, and turns his back on the room.

Something's got to give.

*


Knowing the right thing to do doesn't mean Jun wants to do it. He's still telling himself this a week and a half later when he's finally worked up the courage but having a hard time keeping ahold of it. It's another hotel, bright and grand with six elevators that whoosh up and down and light up with gold. The five of them get into one together and ride all the way up to floor 26, too talked out from their conference to do anything more than lean against each other and the walls.

"I need a nap," Aiba declares as the doors ding open.

"I was thinking the same," Sho says, his voice a low rumble, throwing his arm around Ohno and leading him from the elevator.

Jun's shoes are pinching at his toes. He can't think why he packed such a new, untested pair--it's just another discomfort he doesn't need. "Nino," he says as they straggle down the hall, letting the rest wander ahead. "Got a few minutes?"

"What's up?" Nino says, looking up in the middle of searching for his key. He takes one look at Jun's posture and seems to understand, because he lets them both into his hotel room without another word, only a glance of invitation. Jun feels like he's walking into a black hole.

Nino's suitcase is open; it's a different bed, but the same suitcase that yawns at him. Jun purposely turns his back on it and sits at the foot of the bed, watching Nino hang up his coat.

Nino starts undoing his tie, working his fingers into the knot, his chin tucked down and his world narrowed. Jun watches the line of his shoulders, and imagines he can see Nino's spine and the dip of the small of his back through his starched shirt. It's hot, and Jun's mind is full of things it shouldn't be.

He's good at holding in his thoughts and pretending to be something he's not. But when Nino looks up, their eyes catching iris to iris, he can't hold himself in anymore. "So, are you gay?"

Nino's hands pause in the mild yellow light. "What's with you lately?"

I don't even know, Jun thinks, at a loss for an answer. His tongue feels clumsy and thick, and his shoes are still pinching his heels. He laughs, short and self-deprecating. "I'm going crazy, or something," he says, mostly to himself. "Forget I asked."

Nino just looks at him and hangs up his tie. They both know that questions like that don't get forgotten. But Nino is just as good as he is at pretending one thing when reality is another.

"I've had girlfriends, you know," Nino answers him unexpectedly, and yet still manages to avoid the question entirely.

"I remember," Jun says. He's frustrated, but he can't pinpoint what he's frustrated at: Nino for being purposely ambiguous, or himself. "But maybe you've had boyfriends too, or boys, or hell, I don't know what." Jun's chest is painfully tight under his immaculately buttoned shirt, and his legs itch to move. He gets up and starts to walk despite the fact that there's nowhere to go. "We don't tell each other these things."

"So then why do you want to know? Does it matter all of a sudden?" Nino is leaning against the room's small desk, hands curled around the edge of it.

"Yes. It matters," Jun says. When he looks at Nino, Nino's face is smooth as porcelain. "I'm gay."

It feels wonderful and horrible at the same time. There's no one Jun would trust more with his secrets, but there's also no one he needs to keep this from more than Nino. Despite still being fully suited, Jun feels more exposed in this small room with Nino's eyes pinning him down than he ever has before.

"I know," Nino says.

A fist clenches around Jun's heart. He stares at Nino, who looks exactly the same as ever, and yet the world around him seems to have shifted and rearranged into something foreign. "No you didn't," Jun says, dumbly.

There's an apology in Nino's dark, secretive eyes that see the world, and see too much. "I hadn't thought about it. Me, I mean," he says honestly, and Jun is thankful for his smooth diversion. "I'm happy right now, so there hasn't been a reason, you know?"

"Right," Jun says. He takes a deeper breath, one that fills his lungs and pushes against his ribs. "Right."

There's an opening in this one moment. If Jun turns around and walks away, it will close, and neither of them will ever know. So he walks forward instead, until he's toe to toe with Nino, and takes that one, impossible leap, kissing Nino on the mouth as soft as soft can be. Nino smells like Sho's cologne, and his lips part.

But he doesn't kiss Jun back. Jun knew he wouldn't.

"I'm sorry, Jun," he says, his eyelashes forming shadows in his eyes.

It's lucky, Jun thinks wildly, that he didn't expect anything else. "No," he says, standing up straight. He can see the distance between them for the first time, cut clear. "What are you apologizing about? It's me." He's reciting lines; his mouth is disconnected from his mind. "I should be the sorry one."

Nino doesn't have anything else to offer him. He should go. His feet work, taking him to the door. He wants a cigarette more than he ever has before.

Nino's voice stops him: "Jun-kun," he says, and when Jun looks over his shoulder Nino is still right there, a picture against the desk, his jacket hung up neatly behind him with his tie strung around the hanger. "Tomorrow will be okay."

Jun can't do anything but nod.

*


Nino is right. The next day, nothing has changed. Nino shares a rueful smile with him in the van when Sho tips over snoring, and Jun is relieved to realize that neither of them hastens to look away.

Better yet, the itch is gone. Jun could be happier, but he knows better than to ask for more than this.

It's not until six months later that Jun realizes Nino hasn't asked him once to recommend a new restaurant, and wonders briefly if Nino might have broken up with his girlfriend. But when he asks Aiba, Aiba says no.

*


The dim lights in the bar are made dimmer by smoke, and no small part of it is their own. Nino, tucked on a tiny stool, is on this fifth cigarette of the hour, a glass half-full in his other hand. He's in skinny black trousers with a necklace that dips right between his collarbones to hide inside his shirt, and Jun has been trying not to admire him all night.

"Matsujun, your shot," Aiba calls over the din. Jun can't see his face well; the light catches on Aiba's bangs, leaving the rest of him in shadow.

Jun's had enough cosmopolitans to feel loose and a little light-headed. The pool table isn't favoring him right now; all his stripes are bunched in a corner, the rest scattered in all the wrong places. "You suck, Masaki," he says.

"Stop whining and shoot," Nino says.

Jun does. He misses of course, but his balls fan out over the green of the table in a way he can accept. While Aiba chalks up for his shot, Jun wanders closer to Nino, accepting a cigarette wordlessly. "What are you drinking?"

"Tea," Nino says, tilting the glass towards himself. There's more ice now than drink.

"Those are dangerous," Jun murmurs. Nino's had a couple. "I don't want to be taking care of you in the bathroom again. Your mouth is dirty."

Nino laughs, the corners of his eyes crinkling. "You worry about yourself. I saw you sucking down those cosmos. Girl drinks."

"Long Island iced teas aren't any manlier," Jun retorts. Aiba sinks the four in one swift crack, and the cue ball spins dizzily against the side. "Crap."

"You're getting your ass handed to you," Nino says. Jun doesn't need to look to hear Nino's sneaky smile.

Jun doesn't win that round, and has to sit out during the next while Nino and Aiba battle it out. He goes through three more cosmos and a kamikaze before Aiba sinks the eight ball in a rebound shot off of Nino's twelve. "When the hell did you get so good, Masaki?" Jun says, stirring his swizzle stick.

Aiba shrugs, sheepish. "Shimura-san takes me out sometimes. When we're not playing golf."

"Does he beat you?" Jun says.

"What kind of question is that?" Nino quips, holding out his cue for Jun. "Of course he does, are you kidding?"

Jun is careful putting down his glass. It seems very important to make sure it's aligned properly with the edge of the table. Light reflects off the lip, making him blink. "I have to use the bathroom," he says.

He weaves his way there, pushing aside strangers, and waits in a miserably long line for a stall. Everything around him seems to get more abstract by the moment, faces mixing with fluorescent lights, the walls and their splashes of colour far away, and he realizes that he's gotten far drunker than he intended to.

Getting back to Aiba and Nino seems to take no time at all; he's gliding as he walks, hardly aware of his legs.

They take one look at him, and then at each other. "Let's get a taxi," Nino says.

"Taxi?" Jun says. They start gathering stuff up, and Aiba gets Jun's after sliding into his aviator jacket. "I can carry it," Jun protests, but Aiba's already got his bag over one shoulder, and slides his hands into his pockets to show Jun he won't be able to get it back without a fight.

Nino loops an arm through Jun's elbow. "C'mon," he says.

Jun looks at him, trying to figure out what seems wrong. "You're not drunk," he realizes.

"I told you it was tea," Nino says.

"Why?" Jun can't fathom this; he's seen Nino drink before, and knows that he likes to, sometimes too much.

"Lots of reasons," Nino says. "But mostly because of you."

In light of his drunkenness, he's glad that it's Nino taking him home. Nino is just as reliable as Sho in his own way, and he's statue solid under Jun's unpredictable posture. "You're short," Jun says.

"And you're drunk," Nino says, "all the way down to your breath. When we get you home, you're brushing your teeth. Immediately."

"I didn't drink that much," Jun protests, though he can't deny the way his feet stutter over each other as they walk towards the taxi stop.

Aiba and Nino are talking. He hears them as if through water, and Aiba's smile seems strangely far away. Then Aiba grips his shoulder, fingers strong through his shirt: "Don't puke on anyone's shoes, Jun-kun," he says, handing Jun's bag to Nino.

The taxi ride is a relief. With the window down and fresh air against his face, Jun's senses wake up and his brain starts to work again. Nino is sitting beside him, and their fingers are linked on the pristine white seat. Jun doesn't remember doing that.

The stoplights change and the taxi maneuvers the maze that is Tokyo, bringing them closer to Jun's home. Jun thinks: it's been one year since he put his foot in his mouth, and this is the first time Nino has come to his apartment since. He's glad, and promises himself he won't be stupid.

The familiar rise of Jun's apartment building comes into view, and Nino pays the driver before Jun can find his wallet. Jun feels well enough now to get himself out of the car without mishap, although he wobbles into the elevator and Nino has to catch him before he presses the button for the wrong floor. But he doesn't need Nino to remind him to keep his voice down, and he finds his keys without issue.

"Teeth," Nino reminds him promptly upon entering.

Jun was already on his way; the inside of his mouth feels muddy, his face grimy. He leaves Nino at the front door, teetering into the bathroom, trying to mentally stomp down on every niggling, improper thought along the way. He doesn't know if Nino would forgive him twice, even if it was a drunken mistake.

The splash of water on his face helps wake him up even more, enough so that when he looks in the mirror, he knows what he's seeing. "You're over it," he says to himself, glad that the door is closed. He half believes it. After running his fingers through his hair, he wipes his face on a new towel and heads back, leaving the light on for Nino to take his turn.

"I'll get the futon ready. Go ahead and use the bathroom," he says. "There are extra toothbrushes under the sink."

Nino turns off the television and picks himself up from the couch, and when Jun has his closet door open and is tugging out the bright blue folds of bedding, Nino is there at his elbow. "Jun-kun, I don't need that."

"Where are you going to sleep?" Jun grunts, almost backing over Nino. He doesn't remember his futon being this monstrous. Maybe it's just his lack of balance.

Nino's fingers press through the fabric of his shirt, low against his spine, and when Jun turns his head in surprise, Nino's curvy lips are almost against his shoulder. "I was wondering if I could sleep with you," Nino says.

Jun stares.

"Are you hitting on me?" he says, and then thinks, So much for not letting the alcohol talk.

"Did it really take you this long to figure it out?" Nino says. He's laughing, but only with his eyes. Jun looks at him harder, trying to see around his own hopes and fears to find Nino's, and realizes they're right there, written on his face for Jun to find.

Jun wants to kiss him.

Instead he drops the futon. "I'll clean this up tomorrow," he says, and then doesn't know what to say next.

Luckily, Nino does. "Lend me some pajamas?"

Jun spends the next five minutes while waiting for Nino to finish in the bathroom nervously straightening his sheets and rearranging the things on his bed-side vanity. A pair of sweat pants is lying on the bed beside a t-shirt Aiba brought back from South Africa that Jun never wears. Nino smiles when he sees it: "Foisting this off on me, are you?"

"I could find you something--"

"It's fine," Nino says, and pulls his shirt off. Jun stops talking.

For every glance he's stolen and everything he's noticed about his friends in the past, Jun has never given himself a chance to just look. Nino must know he's staring, because Jun isn't even pretending to be subtle, but it doesn't seem to matter. Jun watches Nino's shoulder blades move under his skin, and sweeps his eyes down the ladder of his ribcage before Nino disappears into his shirt, popping his arms through the sleeves.

He's a little more polite when Nino changes his pants, but not much.

"You'd better not stand there all night," Nino says, crawling onto Jun's bed and yanking down his carefully straight covers. "I didn't intend to sleep in here alone."

Jun doesn't ask questions like, "Are you sure?" or "Why?" because he knows Nino. Nino wouldn't be here, covers drawn up to his waist, eyes heavy on Jun, without having made the decision. Why doesn't matter.

Nino is here, and that's all Jun wants, and all he's wanted.

Jun turns out the light, and climbs into bed.
aide: (Default)

[personal profile] aide 2010-01-08 01:27 pm (UTC)(link)
Yeah, totally needs a sequel. Closuuuurrre.

(Anonymous) 2010-01-09 01:58 am (UTC)(link)
i totally loved it!
i especially loved the part when matsujun tells nino he's gay, and nino goes like i know.
*squeals*
i really want to know what happense next please post a sequel..

(Anonymous) 2010-01-09 02:41 am (UTC)(link)
It would be nice if this was continued, but somehow your ending works for me.
It leaves everything open to many possibilities.
I'm glad Jun was able to get Nino in the end.
primroseshows: (nino; AAA; black and white)

[personal profile] primroseshows 2010-01-15 05:09 am (UTC)(link)
OH GOD WHERE IS THE SEQUEL WHY DID YOU STOP THERE WHERE IS MY CLOSURE
primroseshows: (nino; AAA; black and white)

[personal profile] primroseshows 2010-01-15 05:34 am (UTC)(link)
Okay ps. I have a lot to say about this so this might take me a long comment and I will not be able to say everything I thought of while I was reading, like, "AAAH! I NEED TO SPAZ ABOUT THIS!!" but I will do my best!

Firstly, I really enjoyed this so much. It's extremely realistic and you've written Jun so believably that I kind of want to cry. Your Nino characterization too was incredible. It's good to the point that this fic was more like a characterization manifesto to me than a holiday gift-fic. Like, I can't even wrap my head around all the details you put into EVERY SINGLE LINE, from Nino's answers to the interviewer's questions (SOB I CAN TOTALLY IMAGINE HIM SAYING EXACTLY THOSE THINGS), to Jun talking to himself at home, to the way Ohno and Nino enter at the same time through a door, to the way Nino sits in a chair and uses scarves, to Jun's trust of Nino keeping his secrets, to Nino knowing Jun was gay (OF COURSE HE DOES OMG NINO!).

I don't know if you did a lot of research for this fic, but a lot of subtle lines (lines insignificant to the plot) popped out to me, like, "Oh! I totally remember Jun mentioning this!" And, "omg, HAHA that is something EXACTLY Nino would do!" You are so amazing! How are you so brilliant! So, yes, the characterization blew me away here.

Also something else that blew me away is your word choice. I always go on and on about how good you are with your adjectives and stuff, but like, I CAN'T NOT TALK ABOUT IT! I can't list every line I loved (um, ALL OF THEM?) but here are some prime examples:

Jun starts cutting garlic, each chop tight and frustrated.
and
The image is fuzzy around the edges like a photograph taken in low light, but there are certain points that stay true and sharp:
and THIS ENTIRE PARAGRAPH HOLY SHIT:
Sho is the next one to arrive, looking bemused and ambushed, like he often does in the mornings. He's sucking down a cup of coffee by the time Ohno and Nino show up. They squeeze themselves through the doorway at the same time with completely inappropriate giggles, Ohno's hand low on Nino's back as if he's about to shove him.

omg dying ilusm this is so perfect

I also really liked the way that you didn't rush into this. At first I was thinking that omg Jun and Nino are going to get together within 7,000 words even though Jun doesn't even know if Nino's gay at the beginning? NOT that I doubted you, of course, and I never will, but still I was very pleasantly surprised at the year-long interim in between Jun's kiss and Nino's reaction. Again, points for realisticness and also omg heartbreak for Jun, holding it in for all that time and asking Aiba about Nino's gf. ;__;

Also I enjoyed all the member love going on here: Jun feeling free to just listen in to other people's interviews, Jun automatically getting the futon out for Nino (omg loling at Jun dropping the futon and then automatically saying that he'll clean it up tomorrow ♥), and Ohno's no-big-reaction to Jun's personal questions, and AIBA AND NINO PLAYING POOL, OMG MY HEART. Also I really liked Sho pouring coffee for Nino too, fml I am so Nino-biased this is not funny.

THIS LINE KILLED ME, TOO: There's no one Jun would trust more with his secrets, but there's also no one he needs to keep this from more than Nino. Also the fact that Nino answered "Are you gay?" with "I've had gf's." If I could formulate and print out your fic somehow into a face shape, I am 100% certain that the face would look exactly like Nino.

AND one last thing, I really loved the ending, with Nino taking initiative and Jun staring. I loved your last line too, but OMG I need to know more about what made Nino change his mind (about being gay and about wanting Jun). Though even if you just leave the fic here, I still think that's more than great because the whole fic is about Jun's feelings anyway, not Nino's.

Okay I'm going to shut up now. You're amazing I love this end of story! SCREAM.

(Anonymous) 2011-07-13 04:41 am (UTC)(link)
WOW!!
Just wow!

You wrote it so imaginary n imaginative. I love it.
Although I was baffled of Nino's reason. I mean, I read it over n over trying to find the missing reason, but I can't find it, no, my mind can't operate it with this little hint >_< I need to know why he turned him down while I know he also shared the feeling.

Sequel would be appropriate, coz somehow it does have the feeling of there's something missing there.
A closure, of how they will work it out.