Genres: Angst, Romance, Eventual Fluff
Summary: "I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning how to sail my ship." -- Louisa May Alcott
"He's acting strange. I guess this was one way of avoiding the room," Sho continued his serious discussion with Aiba over dinner. It wasn't his usual method of seeking out advice, especially when the two of them were known to go through meals with very little conversation and far too many servings, but if there was anyone in Arashi he trusted fully... it was Masaki.
"You can give him space if you want, we do it all the time," Aiba responded with a casual shrug of his shoulders.
It wasn't a sign of disinterest, Sho knew, mostly because Aiba was also busy twirling his noodles around his chopsticks with no intention of lifting them up, his focus entirely on Sho's words. It was more that he didn't know what to say, and Sho could appreciate that. It was hard to form an opinion without more information. Information that Sho was too nervous to divulge.
"It's... I'm not used to him giving me so much attention. It's like when we were juniors."
"And? Was it really so bad then?" Aiba questioned, slight irritation in his voice.
Fair enough. Sho knew that he'd given a poor impression of himself years ago, never clearing up misunderstandings, letting things become tense between himself and Jun. It was hard to really say who loved Arashi the most, but in Sho's mind, it was Jun who loved their work most, and Aiba who loved the group most. For everything it was, all of the time, and that included a friendship with Jun, who'd been hurt by Sho with no apology.
It was hard to apologize for something you'd not meant to happen, but it didn't mean he hadn't felt the guilt. Every day until Jun gave up completely, when guilt turned to disappointment.
"It wasn't bad at all," Sho admitted, carefully setting down his drink. "Actually, I really need to... tell you something."
Aiba's mood was instantly lifted by the prospect of being told something important. Despite his sometimes eager-to-please personality, he was excellent at keeping secrets. It made Sho wonder, occasionally, all the things Aiba knew that no one knew he knew.
"I don't know what he told you," Sho continued, because of course Jun must have said something back then, "But I never exactly... got a chance to reject him."
"What, you think he's still going after you because you didn't spell it out for him? Trust me, he's given up. He said you weren't into guys no matter what. You told him that at least."
"But I didn't say I didn't like guys."
"You might not have said that exactly, but he gave up, so you don't have to rub it in. It's been a long time, Sho-chan. I'm sure he's just being friendly," Aiba argued, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.
Sho knew it was his own fault that he was perceived this way, but he could honestly claim he'd never actually said he wouldn't be interested in a guy. It would be stupid, considering he'd liked Jun at the time. He'd never said anything that was definite. He'd really just been trying to... well, he'd been a coward. Plain and simple.
"Aiba, you don't understand," Sho tried again. It was more and more difficult to just spit it out as time passed, and he knew before long he'd give up entirely. He didn't want to give up. He really wanted...
"I don't want you to tell me he's given up, I know he has, it's over. But I didn't want to reject him. I just didn't stop him when he left thinking ... no one knew about me and I thought it might be better for everyone in the long run if it stayed that way because of fans and obligations and my parents, for another thing, and I'm sorry I didn't tell you, but Masaki. Aiba, it's different than you think, so don't... worry like that."
It was the epitome of an awkward silence, the most awkward Sho had ever felt in his life. He knew Aiba's eyes were on him, but he could only stare as high as the table setting. It was an effective way of revealing a truth, in spite of its obvious flaws. At least he didn't have to hide from Aiba. Silence was better than the other reactions he'd imagined.
"I thought... maybe, when Nino was around sometimes, but then with Jun... ehhhh. Why now, though?" Aiba's voice was gentle, hushed.
"You knew about Nino?" Sho noticed first, relaxing though Aiba was more collected than expected, "Ah, embarrassing. Don't tell Ohno."
Sho slowly slid down his chair in relief. As Aiba began to giggle, Sho knew he'd been right in his choice of confidant. Unfortunately, Aiba knowing wasn't the same as Jun knowing, a fact that Aiba himself seemed to notice after a few more minutes of laughter.
"Shouldn't you be telling Jun all this? You don't still...?"
Sho shook his head, then nodded, then shook his head again. It was complicated, surely. At this point, there was probably no reason to bring the subject up. It would embarrass them both, for various reasons, potentially hurt Jun more because of 'what could have been' if Sho had only been brave enough to reach out.
"We haven't spoken seriously about anything but work in years. Even before he, you know," Sho added, reminded of that first group meeting. Looking back, he should have known, even then that the possibility was there. It was always there.
For all of the damage, he was to blame.
He's never acted this way before, but it feels as natural as his behavior can be, given the circumstances. He wants to keep the conversation going, but he's not sure he's ever been this angry before, at least not at Sho, and the only way to express it safely is through complete calm. He can tell it's getting to the older boy, the way Sho's eyes actually focus on his own, a rare occurrence. It's enough to make Jun feel weaker, stronger, and angrier all at once.
"The thing I don't understand," Jun speaks up, changing the subject matter suddenly, and maybe it's not the fair way to mention it... but he almost doesn't care, "if this is how you've always felt, why didn't you just quit?"
"Sorry?" Sho asks, immediately breaking eye contact in favor of staring at Jun's shoulder.
Jun's not sure what makes him tug on Sho's arm, the fact that he's pretending not to know what has him so upset, or the fact that he's probably not sorry at all. It's most likely because it's not the best place to get into an argument. He doesn't want to cause a scene in someone else's hotel room, even if Ohno isn't the type to be aware of what's happening around him. Not to mention Jun's sudden lack of faith in the other members, because if Sho admits to everything, what's to stop Ohno and Nino from coming clean as well? Jun can hardly handle Sho's startling confession, he doesn't need his entire world to crumble around his ears.
He's not even sure they realize it's his entire world, and if they do... it's hard to grasp what that means for him.
"You're too intelligent for Arashi? Too intelligent? Do I have to name everything that pisses me off about that comment or do I give you a chance to explain yourself?" Jun finally spits as they enter the hall, eyebrow raised and stance ready. Ready for slouching or stomping off, whichever becomes more appropriate.
"Woah, wait a minute... when did I say this?" Sho asks, genuinely confused and hand light on Jun's wrist.
It's embarrassing and infuriating, it's a thousand different emotions now because Jun simply can't stop himself from getting worked up. It takes too much control to remain cool on the outside, he has no way of battling the nerves within.
"We share a hotel room."
"I hadn't fallen entirely asleep when you got that phone call," Jun elaborates, hoping it makes things clear enough. Unintentional eavesdropping was better than the reality, that he couldn't sleep without knowing Sho was okay. Though that particular problem he seemed to have with everyone, a constant worry that someone would become uncomfortable, and here he was - facing his fears head on.
It takes Sho a minute, but he seems to understand, scratching nervously under his nose for a moment before responding.
"What if I said I thought it was true? Would you agree or disagree?"
It's an evil question to ask the person in love with you, Jun thinks, even if you're unaware of that affection. It doesn't matter that he's angry, that's he's afraid Sho's going to leave, because he's also Sho's biggest fan, and as such... he can believe it. That maybe, in a band controlled by upper management, in a profession that currently requires talent and not necessarily academics, maybe... Sho is too smart for this. In Jun's mind, Sho can do anything, and that's hard to take.
Jun doesn't like to need anyone more than they need him. Shouldn't it... why couldn't it be the other way around?
"I don't know," is what he says, followed by, "you seem like a failure to me."
It doesn't come out the way he means it, if he means it... whatever he means. He's expecting shock, perhaps hurt, but not laughter. Not for Sho to treat this like a joke when clearly there's a problem and -
"Exactly! I am, sometimes, at least I'm not perfect. Right? But people think I am, and that's boring. Like I'm too intelligent for Arashi, so I have to show them I'm not," Sho is agreeing with him, but not necessarily, a confusing direction for the conversation overall. Jun thinks he must look like an idiot, his mouth so wide and useless, but...
"I've just been thinking, talking it over with people, and... we should make sure we don't lose our audience. Now that we're on television, seriously on television, we have a higher risk of losing momentum. We need a system, and we need... to do this. Every night. With them," Sho continues to ramble, nodding his head towards the door that separates them from Ohno's room, where the others are eating dinner and reviewing concert footage.
"You're not quitting? You're... planning to stay," Jun says without needing to, surprised by this turn of events. It had never crossed his mind that his suspicions were so far off the mark. Relief is secondary to the derailment of his entire train of thought. It all makes sense, somehow. "We have to be ourselves."
"We have to be bigger than ourselves. Us with flourish. Us with style! You should be good at that," Sho compliments with a wide grin, returning to the room before Jun can process it all fully.
His whole body feels warm, his blush is in his fingers and toes, and Sho's not going anywhere.
Sho thinks he has style.
Jun honestly didn't think he was being that obvious, regardless of Sho's ability to read his moods, just as all of Arashi could, just as he could for each of them. It was incredibly convenient that they'd been paired together in a room, but he'd not even gotten a chance to take advantage of it yet. The look on Sho's face, pretending to read an internet news site, mumbling to himself... Jun was having trouble figuring it all out.
A compliment outside of work, a genuine smile, he hadn't thought these things were foreign to them now. But apparently they were, because Sho was clearly unsettled.
"How was dinner?" he asked, hoping it was a way to make a breakthrough without pushing too hard. The worst way to get a person to open up was by asking them to open up. He'd learned that much, at least. Especially because he was terrible with it himself.
"Fine," Sho answered simply, but not evasively, as far as Jun could tell.
"Then you and Aiba had a good time? You're back early."
He could kick himself for his inability to make small talk, or his similarities with a housewife, or both. It wasn't as easy as he thought it was going to be, approaching this subject, though he shouldn't have thought it easy to begin with. It had never been easy, it had been everything but easy, and now it was farther away than that. It was all feeling and no understanding. He'd not really talked with Sho in months, hadn't shared anything in years.
He loved Sho for everything he said and everything he did... with everybody else.
"I ate too much, of course. Aiba was tired of me complaining, and I was tired of Aiba rejoicing, and we were both tired from the flight, so we decided to head back," Sho explained, a smile slowly tugging at his lips.
Jun had always liked Sho's ability to turn exhaustion into amusement. It had helped them all at some point or another, even if they accused him of being annoying.
"I have something for stomachaches somewhere. Different kinds of herbal teas. Mint and ginger both work, but I don't get stomach problems enough for any sort of preference. This isn't a suite, we don't have a kitchen, but I'm sure I could find a microwave or something, maybe call up room service for some heated water? Maybe more Western medicine? I might have tablets-"
"Jun," Sho interrupted quietly, shaking his head, "my stomach doesn't hurt. It's just full."
At least he felt like an idiot, rambling about cures for an ailment Sho didn't actually have, trying to buy time so he'd not have to delve into anything just yet. Maybe he wouldn't tonight. Maybe he needed more time. Maybe this was a bad idea all together.
"I never tried that wine thing again, you know. I bet you'd be curious about it too. This metal thing that's supposed to age a glass of wine by ten years. They showed me on Oshareism," Jun changed the subject, but Sho didn't seem to mind.
"Did it work?"
"Well, not exactly. I couldn't tell, that's why I'm mentioning it. Because maybe you'd want to try with me. You're good with food, I guess. Not reactions, but..."
Jun couldn't remember the last time he'd made Sho laugh, but it felt good watching him now. More relaxed and attentive, a carefree look in his eyes. Jun had always thought that maybe, just maybe, he'd ruined the ease between them. That confessing had been a bad decision not because he'd been rejected, but because it had cost him everything he'd already had. It was easy to take it for granted then, it was almost euphoric now.
"When I appeared, actually, they made me draw Totoro again. And do the gag, the swan gag, and showed the picture of me skydiving? No, not just a picture, the whole video! Embarrassing me as much as possible, it was ridiculous," Sho told him, pulling off his shirt and preparing himself for bed.
"I embarrassed myself," Jun admitted with a sheepish smile, perhaps acting more bashful than needed to make an excuse for his eyes on the floor. By the time he'd looked up again, Sho had tossed the blanket aside to climb into bed and was shimmying under the sheets.
"That sounds like a lie," he protested with a chuckle, stretching his arms above his head. He was surprisingly welcoming as Jun sat down beside him, giving the edge of the bed a playful pat, and Jun was heavy in his exhale.
"They just assumed I was always this popular guy, couldn't be turned down. So I had to tell them about my unrequited love of 3 years," Jun explained as carefully as possible. He didn't want to make things uncomfortable. He didn't really want to take the conversation this way so soon. If he was going to be a man about it, if he was going to really go after this again, he could wait and try to seduce. He could be romantic or aggressive, he could kiss Sho at random, he could risk everything... later. With a plan.
But if he scared him away now?
"That," Sho's voice trembled, and Jun couldn't help but look, "... might be a lie too."
AN: Ah, so stressed lately, but hopefully this will do. HAPPY OTP DAY, statr!