Genre: General, I guess? I'm about as romantic as that rock over there.
Summary: Jun met Nino at a very young age. For many years afterwards, he would walk a very fine line of regret for that.
Notes: This fic is for my dearest alexiela, who requested Matsumiya for her help_japan prompt, and was kind enough to let me do whatever else I wanted with the story. It's been a long time since I got her request and I thought a good way to apologize for the delay would be to write a fic with porn. So basically my whole idea for this fic was to have heavy Nino/Jun antagonism ultimately culminate into Nino/Jun angry sex. Clearly, I overestimated my own sense of cheesiness, and disappointingly, no angry sex can be found within. There is sex though! whooooo
Anyways I hope you like it alexiela!! ♥
POST-POSTING EDIT: Guys I have a lot of mistakes in my fics sometimes because I'm not only clueless about much of Japan's day-to-day culture but I'm also way too lazy to research it thoroughly. There's a part in this story about Nino and Jun's coming of age ceremony, and the kind aeslis explained to me that what I wrote wasn't really accurate. Can't go back and fix it now, since it'd change much of the conversation, but here's me copy and pasting her notes instead, because, um, yeah. Lazy.
"There's a part in the fic where Matsujun says, "Why do I have to share a coming of age ceremony with you?" and he and Nino throw around reasons. Well, it's because every year, everyone who turns twenty that year shares the same ceremony on the same day. I believe it's January 20th or something thereabouts; it's a national holiday. The girls all wear kimono and you'll see groups of them walking around the streets. The ceremonies are given at different places because of course you can't fit all of Japan's 20-year-olds into one venue, but it'd figure that Jun and Nino would be at the same place for security and publicity reasons. Sooooo that is why."
So now you know, guys! Same as me :) Continue on.
Easy As Backflip
When Matsumoto Jun was twelve years old, he got accepted into Johnny's Juniors without having passed a single audition. At the time, he remembered thinking that it meant something, to be accepted based on his looks alone -- off a grainy passport-photo-sized snapshot, no less. It meant something that Johnny Kitagawa-san himself had phoned Jun to congratulate his success. That the call had come only weeks after Jun sent in his application. All these things, they meant that Jun was important. Special.
Jun was walking straight into the competitive, cut-throat, bets-all-in business of idoldom, and he was already one step ahead of other new recruits. Everyone wanted to debut, but those who had a nice face were more likely to be chosen, and Jun had solid proof that he had the nicest face of them all. These were plain facts. Ability could be honed, but there was an irrefutable advantage in being naturally gifted. And with his looks, Jun knew he was destined for great things.
In their first meeting together, Jun's manager told him in no uncertain terms that if Jun worked hard, then he would debut -- "You may even think of it as a certainty, Jun-kun," Jun recalled him saying. "It's only a matter of timing."
At twelve years old and on top of the world, Jun had to admit that he liked that certainty. He liked having his future revealed to him like a wondrous paradise with its doors wide open for him, bright and shining and consuming. What he had wanted, now Jun would get. Easy. It was practically fate – nothing could go wrong.
Jun stood by himself on his pedestal, rising higher every day, and he was happy for it.
Then, when Matsumoto Jun was still twelve years old, he met a boy named Ninomiya Kazunari, and got his breath unintentionally knocked out of him by a poorly landed backflip and a pair of scuffed up sneakers. Ninomiya Kazunari had apologized quickly, pulled Jun back on his feet, then made an underhanded remark about Jun's height -- specifically, Jun's lack of it, and returned to his own spot in the training room. Jun had spent the rest of practise seething about the remark, then failing again and again as he attempted handstand after handstand; meanwhile, Ninomiya Kazunari had perfected his backflip after five tries and didn't once glance back at Jun at all.
When Jun turned sixty, seventy, even eighty years old, and indulged in a rare bout of reminiscing about his long-past Junior days, he will remember little of his giddy excitement after getting accepted into the illustrious Johnny's Entertainment, also little of his naive determination to be the best of the best in the entire agency. Too many years would have passed, and time has a way of wearing down those pure, nascent emotions of childhood. He wouldn’t remember how he felt, the first time he stepped foot into the downtown Tokyo JE building, having done it one too many times since. However, he would remember that first time he met Nino. The look on Nino's face as he'd said, "Ah, sorry, sorry, my fault," and the feeling of his cool hand clasping Jun's. The quirk of his smile as he'd laughed, "Lucky you weren't taller or I would've landed on your crotch." The fluid way he'd turned around and walked away from Jun. Jun would remember how he felt then: humiliation and embarrassment, yes, but mostly anger. Directed at Nino.
As far as life-changing moments in one's history go, this one of his Jun would keep with him till the grave.
Jun wasn't homicidal by any means; the mental list that he painstakingly kept, entitled "Ways to Kill Ninomiya Kazunari", was simply a cheap, easy method of stress relief.
1. Get some poison and slip it into one of those stupid Pocari Sweat drinks Nino likes when his back is turned. (Making sure Aiba or Toma don't get a sip of it first.)
2. Trick Nino into practising a dance routine on the tallest rehearsal stage in the building and trip him when he's doing a backflip so he falls off.
3. Steal Nino's Gameboy and hurl it from the Rainbow Bridge during a thunderstorm. At night. Tied to an anchor. Nino would dive in after it and never come up again.
There were about twelve items on the list and counting, and Jun had only known Nino for about three months. Jun added to it whenever Nino did something particularly irritating, like upstage Jun again with his fancy schmancy acrobatics, or add a "chan" suffix to Jun's name, or pinch Jun's cheeks. If he had done something only mildly irritating, like patting Jun on the head while calling him that ridiculous nickname Aiba had coined, then Jun would only refine the items already on the list. It was really relaxing.
Obviously none of those ideas would ever be carried out. It wasn't like Jun could easily get his hands on poison, and a fall from that huge stage in Gym B probably wasn't enough to kill a person -- maybe it’d give a concussion, max. Plus, one of the most irritating things about Nino (and this was saying something) was that the guy wasn't a total idiot; he'd probably figure things out right before Jun could implement the killing blow. Oh, and yes, right, something had to be said for how Jun didn't actually want Nino to die. He just liked imagining it.
Jun was thirteen years old and had begun to understand the meaning of the German word schadenfreude.
Jun didn't blame himself. Ninomiya Kazunari was infuriating. Infuriating and enraging and annoying all mushed together into a 40kg lump. Just Jun's luck to be stuck in a Junior's mini-group with him. Out of the over fifty boys in Juniors, what were Jun's chances of being put in Ninomiya's group? So what if they were the same age and joined the agency around the same time -- that was the blunt end of the things that they had in common. For whatever insane reason, their managers had thought that he, Nino, Aiba and Toma had a good chemistry between them (which they didn't) and thus would be glad to work together at all hours of the day (which they also didn't).
This wasn't to say that Nino, Aiba, and Toma didn't get along like seaweed and rice. Jun was the odd one out of their little foursome, obviously by his own choice. He'd already found that hanging around Aiba for extended periods of time made a person sincerely question the concept of sanity (did Aiba have it? Did Jun have it, for humouring Aiba? Did anyone have it, for allowing a person like Aiba to grow into being? What was sanity, anyway?). Having Toma as a buffer worked in Jun's favour, because Toma was really good-natured and was often game for anything Aiba suggested, but Toma was also sort of a clown and laughed at literally everything. It got tiresome. And of course, there was Nino, who was a category on his own: he humoured Aiba by insulting him, he made Toma laugh by insulting Aiba, and evidently this made him their Best Friend Ever. Nino wasn't Jun's friend though; whether this was due to Jun's own choice or Nino's, Jun wasn't sure.
What Jun was sure of: he was the only one who recognized how any friendship forged in Johnny's was, underneath all the makeup and glitter, just a business partnership. Make me look good and I'll return the favour, and maybe we can rope in a few dozen fangirls in the process, lured in by the temptation of ambiguously defined physical affection between young males. What separated Jun from the majority of other Johnny's was that he was here to become the best idol ever, not to have a part-time job. Kids like Aiba and Toma were here to have fun -- Jun was here to succeed. He was serious about it and wasn’t afraid of showing it. So what if his dedication kept him a few steps away from the others in his group.
“Wow, Matsujun. You don’t get red at all,” Aiba said in awe, stepping right into Jun’s upside-down face.
Jun flicked him on the nose.
"Okay! Ten! Done," their trainer whistled, waving for Jun to get off the chin bar. Finally.
"Is it my turn?" Aiba called, as Jun swung himself upright and jumped down.
"Go for it," Jun said, running his fingers through his hair -- not that he needed to, his hair was always pretty perfect.
"Great! Toma, do you have the stopwatch?"
"I thought we were doing crunches," Jun said.
"Yeah, yeah," Aiba agreed, pulling himself over the bar easily. "Ten in a row, right? But I want to measure how long I can hold my breath upside down while doing them. Do you think it'll make me redder than usual? I want to see if people can really be purple, like in cartoons."
"Maybe I should have brought a camera too," Toma teased, but Aiba clapped a hand to his mouth like it was the best suggestion he'd ever heard.
"Aiba!" their trainer shouted. "Hurry up! No fooling around!"
Jun sighed and went to get his water bottle.
Nino was sitting on the floor not too far away, thumbing at his blocky Gameboy. He hadn't done a single chin-up or crunch -- he hadn't even approached the bar, really. Their new trainer had seen him sitting on the ground playing games and had barked at him to "do a row backflips, if he was so confident in his own flexibility," and, much to the trainer's surprise (and Jun's chagrin), Nino had done a neat set of five in a row, keeping in a mostly straight line and only taking the tiniest of steps back when he'd landed.
So he'd been allowed to play games, while Jun had suffered through ten upside down crunches, with the trainer clapping his hands to make Jun reach up higher than he thought was physically possible for his body. Hence the needed stress relief exercise: Ninocide therapy.
Nino looked up at him as Jun walked past.
"Nice abs," Nino quipped lightly. Jun couldn't help bristling at the comment.
"Don't mock," he snapped. "You know I don't have abs yet, and plus, how would you have seen, anyway? You were staring at your game the entire time."
"I could hear you grunting and groaning though. Way to milk it."
"Shut up," Jun said, mortified. "I didn't make that much noise. And it was hard exercise, not that you'd know."
"Would you make a fish take swimming lessons?" asked Nino flatly. Jun rolled his eyes.
This was the most frustrating thing about being on a team with Nino. Nino was good at things. If he wasn't good, then he got good, fast, with seemingly very little effort. This had been something that had disturbed Jun when he'd realized: that there were people in the world who could just perform naturally. People besides Jun.
What people like Nino were making Jun realize was that for all of Jun's talents, there were others who had better ones. Take gymnastics, for example. Jun, unhappily, found that he sucked at them, and each time he fell down, off-balance, the humiliation of failure hit him as hard as a punch to the face (and one time he actually had landed on his face, which was the worst thing ever -- what if Jun had done some permanent damage? Horrifying). Jun tried so hard, and Nino not at all. And yet Jun still couldn't master a backflip, where Nino could do them like his body was actually more comfortable twisting backwards.
Jun had seen the approval in their new trainer's eyes as Nino had landed on his feet, before. It was a disgusting how often that exact same expression was aimed at Nino. Sure, Jun got it too -- everyone was invariably impressed that he was an elite -- but Nino actually performed for his, so Jun couldn't help but feel that the other boy deserved the praise more. And while Jun could deal with lacking in ability in dance and singing and other things, he couldn't take feeling belittled by something he had no control over. Jun hadn't even thought it possible to be resentful, jealous, humbled and ashamed all at once.
The guy could even play guitar. Jun couldn't even pick up a guitar without the height jokes flowing.
"That's quite a glare you've got going there, Jun-kun. You'll wrinkle before you're fifteen, at this rate."
Why, Jun thought, of all people who could be put in Jun's group -- did it have to be Nino?
"Matsumoto-kun," their director called to him, as everyone was exiting the stage. "Remember to work on your expressions of fear. Don't force it too much or you'll look too stiff. Too little and you won't look genuine."
"Yes sir, thank you," Jun replied, managing to sound just as stiff as he was warned about. He walked backstage with a burning face.
In the locker rooms, most of the other boys had already loped off to the showers; Nino and Aiba were squabbling over something about their shared locker while Toma rolled his eyes and said that he would go on ahead. Jun went straight to his own locker and tugged open the combination lock with vicious force; the metal door bounced off its neighbour, clanging loudly.
Nino and Aiba went silent.
"You okay, Matsujun?" Aiba asked, voice hesitant.
"I'm fine," Jun said shortly.
"'Cause if you weren't or anything, it'd be okay, you could--"
"I'm okay, Aiba-kun."
"Oh. Well, great then," Aiba said, and Jun heard his footsteps patter away in the directions of the showers.
Much to Jun's great dismay, Nino's didn't follow.
"Are you going to try to make me feel better, too?" Jun asked testily, turning around to see Nino lying down on the narrow bench, body stretched down its length, hands pillowing his head. His eyes were closed.
"Feel better about what?" he said.
"Come off it," Jun said. "I know you know I sucked out there. The whole rehearsal was awful. I don't fit the role at all."
"You never looked like much of a Teddy to me either," Nino returned, cracking open one eye briefly.
Jun frowned down at him. "Oh, and I guess that means you're a brilliant Chris?"
This time, Nino opened both eyes. "Could be better," he said casually. "But the director told me that I was doing fine. Nice of him, wasn't it?"
God, Jun could kill him on the spot. As if Jun could forget how their director had complimented Nino not once, but twice today, on his portrayal of Chris in their stageplay of Stand By Me. "Fluid emotional output," he'd said, and Nino had bowed in thanks. And what comments did Jun receive during rehearsal? "I'm not feeling it, Matsumoto-kun! Your emotions are too exaggerated!"
It wasn't fair. Jun was trying his best. What his pride hadn't been able to let him say in response to the director's parting shot was that Jun had been practising. Non-stop, in fact, ever since he got his copy of the script. He'd watched the American movie four times (three times with subtitles and once without), had memorized not only his own lines but everyone else's as well, and had spent long, embarrassing hours locked in his room with his sister's makeup mirror, contorting his face in ways to make his expressions as realistic as possible. All this effort, and it barely showed. Even Aiba and Toma, while not receiving absurd amounts of praise, didn't get as much criticism as Jun did.
Fourteen years old and Jun was starting to realize that a pretty face might only get him so far.
What the hell was Nino doing that was getting him results?
"You're actually quite doggy-looking," he heard himself say, abruptly. He was still staring absently at Nino on the bench.
Nino immediately sat up, glaring. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"I'm just saying," Jun said defensively, "that you've got a weird face. I didn't mean it as an insult or anything, it just came out. Don't worry about it."
For a long, strained moment, Nino just stared at him, looking unimpressed but not particularly offended. Then he said knowingly, "Oh, I get it."
"You're pissed off from today so you're pushing your frustration onto me."
"What -- no, I'm not."
"Do you regularly make fun of people's natural appearances then? Cause it's kind of douchey."
Jun's jaw tightened. "You are completely bonkers. I'm not being any kind of douche. You're the douche. How many times did you make fun of Aiba today?"
"It doesn't count if he gets back at me."
"Which he doesn't."
"Did you not see him stuff all of my wasabi peas into his mouth at lunch today?"
It would have been hard to miss, what with all the muffled, agonized screaming and soggy peas being sprayed everywhere in time with Aiba's hacking coughs.
"So what?" Jun said. "They might be your favourite snack, but Aiba's the one who suffered from them."
"That's his own doing though," Nino shrugged. "And it's not my fault either, that the director told you to get your butt in gear, and you're upset about it."
Jun clenched his fists; of course Nino overheard. "That's not what I'm upset about," he lied, then, realizing just how unconvincing he sounded, plowed on, "And anyway -- anyway, I don't want your pseudo-psychoanalysis. So shove off."
Nino's laughter was loud and unrepentant. "Using big words like that seems wrong with such a cute face. This is the fourth time you’ve insulted me this week. Just what is it about me that bothers you so much? It can't just be my stunning good looks."
"You're kind of mean, if you haven't noticed," Jun muttered, turning towards the showers. He didn't make two steps before hands were lightly gripping his shoulders and stalling him mid-stride. Jun jerked around only to see Nino was right there, crowding into his space, wearing a weirdly blank expression that Jun, if he didn't know better, might say was faked.
"I'm mean to everyone," Nino corrected, "but they're just jokes. It's not like I'm out to purposely hurt your feelings."
Jun couldn't help the flush that started to work up his neck. Nino was standing so close, why was he so close? Jun wanted takes a step back, but Nino's hands were still holding onto his shoulders, anchoring him somehow with minimal pressure. Jun's own hands felt like dead weights, hanging uselessly from his arms. "Let go," he griped, even though he didn't make the effort to push Nino away.
Nino hummed thoughtfully. "I think there's something about me in particular that you don't like, Matsumoto-san. I kiiiind of want to know what it is, but I don't know if it's worth the effort to figure out."
"Well I kind of want you to leave me alone," Jun said.
"Is that all?" Nino asked blithely, and took one large footstep forward, face advancing, and for a split second, Jun's entire mind screamed WAIT, NO, NOT LIKE THIS -- but just as quickly, Nino pulled back. He let go of Jun and dropped back onto the bench, unpausing his game. With his head bowed over his console, Jun wasn't sure if Nino was smirking or not. But his own heart was beating like crazy: a mad, shaky mess in Jun's suddenly hollow chest.
"That was a really good scared face you made just then," Nino mentioned, almost kindly, eyes still on his game. "See. You can do it."
Jun huffed, an exhalation of equal parts disbelief and relief, and all but ran to the showers.
Valentine's Day was somewhat of a joke to Jun. He appreciated the romanticism of the holiday, of course, and he liked the oh-so-carefully premeditated gestures of affection that were offered to him year after year (he'd always been a popular kid), and he for sure loved the various gifts from his female classmates, but... Jun got a lot of them. A lot. And after a few years of getting so many Valentines that his locker practically spewed out a landslide of pink and white trimmed cards upon opening, could Jun help it if he saw the occasion as a little tiring? All the cards and boxes of chocolate were a pain to clean up and organize, even though their sentiments were appreciated. And he really wasn't that much of a sweet tooth. But today was different: he was going to Juniors after school. It was new. It was a fresh place in which to measure up.
Matsumoto Jun was fifteen years old and the girls adored him. Of course he wanted other boys to be jealous.
This year's gift totals:
23 that morning.
35 by noon.
61 when school was over.
Then 2 more, given in person right by his locker, both of which Jun thanked the girls for sincerely.
When they'd left, Jun stuffed everything -- cards, chocolates, keychains, stuffed animals -- into his duffel bag and tried not to break his back as he headed to Juniors practise. There. That was another year done. 63 was quite impressive, really. His best turnout yet. Although that was to be expected since he'd joined Johnny's this year. Jun sat on the train, satisfied with life, nibbling on a few pieces of dark chocolate, and wondered if Ami-chan had given him anything. Ami-chan was a polite but silly girl in the classroom beside Jun's, and he noticed her, sometimes, during assemblies and lunch hour. There was something about her smile that was very sweet. Jun liked seeing her laugh. She did it without covering her mouth, as if she wanted to broadcast her happiness to the whole world. Her smile was very gummy; Jun found it mesmerizing.
Juniors practice, today, was a battlefield of show-and-tell. Older kids like Takki-san and Tsubasa-san weren't bothering to participate in the proceedings, but the younger ones, those close to Jun's age range, were all clustered together in the break room, showing off their fanciest cards and presents to the other boys with smug smiles and needy egos. Jun recognized the scene -- it happened at school, too, except he stopped participating in them there. And after realizing that Jun's records were unbeatable, the other boys had stopped asking about them.
Here at Johnny's though, flaunting a bit was a part of the job. As soon as Jun walked into the room, Toma called out to him.
"What's your total, Matsujun?"
"Your present total, man! How many girls gave you cards and stuff?"
Jun pretended to count in his head for a moment. "Over sixty, I think. Maybe seventy?" He took off his duffel bag and let it flump onto the ground.
Everyone gaped. Toma let out a low, impressed whistle.
"I guess we have a winner."
Jun pressed down his emerging grin. "Really? I thought you senpais would have for sure gotten more than that, easily." Then, catching Nino's eye, he couldn't resist adding, "Not even Nino-kun?"
One of Nino's bony shoulders rose and lowered with the slightest movement. "I got two, and one was from my mom," he said bluntly. "I'm not popular at all, I guess."
"Oh," Jun said dumbly. "But. Oh." His mood deflated faster than a balloon under an elephant. God, way for the guy to suck the fun out of everything. He'd just wanted one little public verbal match with Nino where he came out on top and finally, when the situation presented itself, Nino shot down the whole thing by being brutally honest and apathetic. Now Jun felt bad about bringing it up.
Later, in the practise gym, Jun, under some weird sense of guilt, tried to be nice to him, complimenting Nino on his routines and asking if he wanted someone to help spot him for the tougher flips. Jun's cheeks started to hurt from all the forced smiles he was giving. Feeling sorry for Nino was more exhausting than hating him.
"What are you doing?" Nino asked suspiciously, after catching Jun staring at him for the umpteenth time and Jun wasn't able to turn away fast enough. "Are you, like -- no, I have no idea. What are you doing?"
"I'm not doing anything," Jun said, defensive. "Really, I'm not."
"Okay, then that. Stop that," Nino said.
"I just said I'm not doing anything!"
"I don't care! Do something else! Stop staring at me!" He skidded away to start an apparently urgent conversation with Aiba. Jun watched them just long enough to hear Aiba shout, "THERE ISN'T ANYTHING ON YOUR FACE I SWEAR WHY WON'T YOU BELIEVE ME," and decided that Nino was just too stupid to recognize kindness when he got it.
Practise finished; Jun stayed longer to perfect his cartwheels (he still couldn't manage a backflip yet, to his chagrin). When he eventually made his weary way back to the locker rooms, Nino was still there, clicking furiously on his Gameboy. Next to him on the bench lay a small package of chocolates in red tin foil.
A flare of irritation rose up in Jun at the sight of the other boy. He'd only been trying to be considerate by giving compliments -- were they so hard to take? Nino had two bags of chocolates to Jun's sixty-three. He was being magnanimous. Nino was the one who couldn't be a good sport about things.
So before he quite knew what he was doing, Jun strode over, snatched up one of the chocolates (handmade -- but shoddily), and popped it in his mouth.
And promptly spat it back out into his palm.
Nino scowled at him. "Oi! Those are mine!"
"That's so salty!" Jun ran to the water fountain and began gurgling.
"You have plenty of your own chocolate and you come and steal one of mine? What kind of person are you, anyway?"
"That tasted horrible," Jun said.
Nino frowned for a second, looking livid, then he burst out laughing.
"Not that funny," grumbled Jun. "Do you not have tastebuds or something?"
Nino's lips quirked awkwardly. "You know, I don't even like candy. But this girl went through all the trouble to make these chocolates for me, then she comes to me at school and tells me that she really tried her best, but accidentally put in salt instead of sugar, and once she realized it was too late to make another batch." He picked up another oddly shaped chocolate and took a small bite. "I mean, it could taste worse."
"Just because you accepted the chocolates doesn't mean you have to eat them all," Jun said, aghast.
Nino had already turned his attention back to his video game. "Is that right," he said, as if half-listening. Not like Jun was fooled.
"I didn't think you would even care about Valentine's Day."
"I don't, really. Love is stupid."
"Love isn't stupid," Jun sputtered. "Love is -- it's complicated, but it's definitely not stupid."
Nino's button mashing on his game became slightly more frenzied as he said, "Love is stupid because it's a lot of energy for not a lot of happiness. If I'd compare love to games, I would pick games, every time."
Jun paused. He knew that Nino's parents were divorced; everyone did, since the day Nino cried on camera after they're aired the segment about an estranged father reuniting with his son. Jun's parents had had a "talk" with him over dinner about it. "Be kind to Ninomiya-kun", they'd said. "He's not as privileged as you. He could use your sympathy."
"Have you met Nino?" Jun had replied in disbelief, and wasn't allowed to watch TV for a week.
"So you're going to let yourself grow old and crippled, with just your dumb video games to keep you company?" Jun asked.
"Video games are very mentally stimulating," Nino said.
Jun sighed. "You're a very sad person. Did this girl not know you at all or something? Anyone with half a brain would obviously get you a game as a gift. But she gave you candy instead? And she claims to like you?"
"No, you're right, I don't think she knew me very well," Nino replied, which had an implication so open-ended that Jun had no idea how to respond.
He thought of that horrible salty taste, though, when he ate two more boxes of dark chocolate that evening. As for the others, some of the higher quality stuff he gave to his mother and sister, but the rest he had to throw out. Ami-chan got him white, unfortunately, so that had to go. The trash bin in his room looked like an over-spilling volcano with pink and white magma. As Jun was tying up the plastic garbage bag, he thought of Nino. Had Nino finished that whole set of salty chocolates by now? Why was that guy so weird? If Jun had given Nino something, it definitely would have been some game. Nino would actually enjoy that gift, rather than just tolerate it out of some misguided -- well, not chivalry. Nino didn't do chivalry. Nino did contrary.
Such a weird guy. Jun actually felt kind of apologetic towards the girl who liked him; that person had no idea what she was dealing with.
When Jun was sixteen years old, he was called into the office of Johnny Kitagawa and informed that he had been selected this year to debut in group with four other Juniors.
When Jun stepped out of that office, feeling like a shaken up pop can, he found Sakurai Sho sitting on one of the chairs in the large hall outside, staring at an economics textbook in his lap. He wasn't reading it; the book wasn't open. He was just looking at it, his fingers absently tracing the title characters.
Jun was mentally going through possible things to say without sounding like an idiot, when Sho saved him the trouble by lifting up his head and speaking first.
"Matsumoto-kun got called too, huh?" he said, giving Jun a hesitant smile that Jun felt himself returning.
"Yes," Jun said. "It wasn't -- I mean." What should he reveal? He didn't know why Sho had to see Johnny-san. It didn't necessarily have to be the same reason as Jun.
"I was actually called in yesterday," Sho revealed. "I'm just here waiting for Nino-kun."
Jun tensed, couldn't help it. "Nino?" he asked. "He was contacted too?"
"Yesterday, yes," Sho sighed, unzipping his backpack and slipping his textbook inside. "But he's coming back today. I think Johnny-san is trying to convince him again."
"He is," said Nino's voice, and Jun turned to see him trudging up the stairs, a truly ugly brown-furred bag slung over his shoulder. "I guess I should be flattered or something, huh, Sho-san."
Sho's frown was a little disappointed, but his tone was all relief. "I'm glad you bothered to show up."
"Come on, give me some credit."
"From your phone call, I wasn't sure."
Nino sucked in his lips. "Well, I came, so." His gaze slid to Jun. "What's up with Jun-kun? Is he following you around?"
Before Jun could hash out something nasty to say in response, Sho answered for him. "He got called too."
"Oh?" Nino said, eyes widening a bit at Jun. "Hm."
"I'm going to debut," Jun blurted out.
Nino was silent for two stretched seconds. Then he smiled. "Congratulations then, Matsujun. You've worked hard. You really deserve it, you know."
"Ah," Jun stuttered, taken back at Nino's calm reaction. Not that he'd expected Nino to be jealous or anything, but -- some sort of shock wouldn't be amiss. That, Jun would at least know how to handle. Nino being gentle always threw Jun for a loop. He ignored the pit of warmth in the base of his stomach and said stoically, "Thank you. I hope you'll get to debut too, one day."
"Except Nino turned down his offer," Sho said abruptly, and Nino shushed him quickly, reaching out to hit his shoulder.
"Shut up!" he said, at the same time Jun said, "You what?"
"What?" Sho looked angry. "You did."
"It's not important."
"How can it not be important?" Sho snapped. "What else were you hoping to accomplish, all these years in the company, if you didn't want to debut? Don't you know how many people would love to be in your place? I told you this yesterday, but I can't believe that you're just going to give up this opportunity when--"
"Shut up, really," Nino said again, harsher. "I don't need another lecture right now. It's my life to do what I want with it -- at least I'm not signing up for who-knows-what just to show my parents--"
"I'm going to punch you in the face if you finish that sentence," Sho interrupted, taking a step forward.
"You started it," Nino said sullenly, eyes darting away.
Sho's fists unclenched and he let out a long breath. "Nino," he said, more quietly. "For once in your life, think of your future."
"That's not how I work," Nino replied, as petulant as a toddler. He clicked his tongue. "This stupid debuting business coming out of nowhere--"
"Look, Johnny-san called you back here today; that means something, it means he really wants you to join the group. Nino, seriously, if you--"
"I can't even sing, Sho."
"Neither can I. Or Jun-kun, for that matter," Sho added, shooting Jun an apologetic look. "No offense."
But Jun was too distracted to be insulted. Nino (and Sho too, it seemed) had gotten an offer to debut yesterday, and he had apparently turned it down, and Johnny-san had called him back to -- what? Renegotiate? This was completely unbelievable; Nino was completely unbelievable. Jun couldn't wrap his head around the balls of this guy. Debuting was the one and only wish of joining JE -- Sho was right, what on earth was Nino doing here, all this time, if he hadn't wanted to debut? Didn't he know how much he was insulting the other Juniors if he turned down this chance? It was like Nino was spitting on their hopes and dreams.
"--it was just a job to earn some cash for games," Nino was saying to Sho, but Jun had heard enough.
"Oi," he jumped in. He grabbed Nino's shoulder and shook it. "Stop being a total idiot! This isn't just some part-time job you're being given here. This is being famous." At Nino's continued unimpressed expression, he hastily tacked on, "And rich. Famous and rich. But it's not really about that, anyway, if you don't want it to be. But debuting would be like -- it's like -- haven't you wanted to do everything you could? Don't you want to accomplish things? Don't you want to be better?"
Nino’s gaze was blank.
This was insufferable. Jun could no more explain to Nino (Nino, so lazy and so lackadaisical, so uncaring of his own talents) the ambition that fuelled Jun's blood than explain to a blind person what it was like to see a rainbow.
"You're being asked to debut twice, Nino," Sho said, piggybacking onto Jun's argument. "Think of all the others who aren't being asked at all, and think of how hard everyone's trying to be in your position. This isn't something that you can take for granted."
"Good thing I'm not, then," Nino shot back, but he wasn't looking at Sho.
He was looking at Jun, eyes narrowed, like Jun had just said something incredibly ambiguous and Nino was trying to figure out if he'd been mocked or not.
"The three of us would be together, I'm assuming," Sho continued, one last-ditch effort to make Nino change his mind. "It wouldn't be so bad."
Jun hesitated. Putting aside Sakurai Sho's strangely incomprehensible friendship with Nino, Jun wasn't sure at all that it wouldn't be so bad. The last few years in Juniors had taught Jun a lot, including how seamlessly he and Nino could work if they put their minds to it, as well as how rare such periods of cooperation were between the two of them because they couldn't leave off sniping at each other long enough to give a crap. Possibly the two of them in a group together would turn into an unmitigated disaster. Stuck with Nino? For years? Why was Jun trying to convince him to accept again? He wanted to do well with his new group, not doom himself to a lifetime of aggravation.
"Ninomiya-kun," a female voice called out, as the door to Johnny's office opened. "Kitagawa-san will see you now. Please come this way."
"All right." Nino nodded and with one last cursory assessment of Jun and Sho, walked off, without saying another word.
Sho walked back to his seat and collapsed in it, covering his face with a tired hand. Jun found himself following suit, sitting beside Sho slowly, careful, as if Sho could blow up at any second.
"I just really don't get that guy sometimes," Sho muttered.
"That'll probably make him happy to hear," Jun joked. "He seems to thrive off getting people irritated."
"It's like -- he's being so selfish, but at the same time, he's not, because he thinks it would be unfair to debut since he doesn't want it as much as anyone else. It's very frustrating to deal with."
"And you, Sho-san?" Jun asked, because conversations involving Nino and frustration were doomed to last indefinitely. "You want to debut, right?"
Sho's face was two parts put out and one part resigned. "I do, sure, but it's more like I really don't not want to debut. I could related to what you were talking about, before, about accomplishing things. We're being given a very unique opportunity to do something great, and I want to be able to say that I was a part of it. It's a complicated issue, for me, but..." He trailed off.
"But it could be good, honestly. And Nino being in the group would make it better. I really believe that."
"It won't be easy," Jun said -- not so much to warn Sho about it, but to remind Sho that Nino didn't like things being hard.
"No, but. I don't think Nino belongs in Juniors," was Sho's terse reply.
Sho spared him an amused glance. "Hey. If nothing else, I suppose we'll be together, then, Jun-kun? That's something to be thankful for. Congratulations, by the way.”
Jun flushed. "Thanks. You too.”
They sat in silence for the next five minutes until the office doors slid open again and Nino walked out, face sombre. His whole crooked posture screamed that he'd just had to make a very unpleasant compromise and Jun immediately knew what Nino's answer had been. Evidently, so did Sho, because he jumped up, eyes bright and exultant.
"I knew you would!" he shouted. "Thank God, Nino, you really had me worried there." The first statement was an obvious lie, but the second one was just as obviously not, so Jun didn't call him out on it, and neither did Nino.
No, Nino let out a very small, gummy smile, and said, "Shut up," rather fondly.
Jun surprised himself by smiling too.
"You're supposed to knock before coming in, for fuck's sake!" Jun snarled at the closed (and now locked) bathroom door, feeling as if he could combust on the very spot. He didn't usually use vulgarity to express himself, but this situation really called for it. Really, really called for it.
"I said I was sorry, geez!" Nino's thin voice came back, muffled from the other side of the wall. "Why are you being such a girl about this? So I saw your dick, big whoop! I've seen worse in the showers at school!"
Jun's flush, if possible, grew even worse at the thought of Nino showering, staring unabashedly at the other boys washing themselves. This was beyond mortifying. Why had he ever thought it would be a good idea to jerk off a little before bedtime? And why wasn't Nino still in Ohno and Sho's hotel room, hogging their TV, like he usually did after dinner? Why did Nino have to feel so laid-back about everything, just waltzing in a bathroom with a closed door, and assuming no one was using it? Why hadn't Jun died of embarrassment yet?
"It's not that! It was just -- it was a private moment, okay!" he shouted. "God, shut up about it! I don't want to talk about this anymore!"
"So you were jerking off," Nino replied. "Whatever. I've caught Aiba doing it plenty of times. If you're worried about my reaction, I'll tell you that I'm not as impressed with your efforts as I was with Aiba. That guy gets really into it."
"THIS ISN'T MAKING ME FEEL BETTER," Jun screeched.
"Would it make you feel better if you saw me naked too?"
"Alright, fine," Nino grumbled, his voice diminishing.
Except when Jun finally accepted that the bathroom tiles would not, no matter how much he prayed, rise up and swallow him whole, he exited the room to find Nino sitting cross-legged on his single bed, body facing Jun. He was playing his Gameboy, yes, but he'd been waiting for Jun to come out.
Jun's mouth opened to holler and Nino blithely cut right in. "Who were you thinking about while you were doing it?" His dark eyes flit up for half a second before quickly returning to his game.
Jun's voice died in his throat. "Wh--" he tried again. "What?"
"I asked, who were you thinking about while you were masturbating?"
He was asking this in the same curious, innocent tone Jun had heard him ask Ohno to explain whatever weird chimera Ohno was drawing that day.
"I'm not telling you that!" Jun sputtered, wondering if it was a good idea to lock himself into the bathroom again. Surely Nino would have to sleep sometime. Jun would just wait it out, and then kill him. Yes, fine, that worked nicely. He pivoted on his foot but stopped in his tracks when Nino spoke up.
"It's just that I thought I heard my name. That's why I went in without knocking, anyway. I thought you'd tripped on a bar of soap or something."
Oh no. No. Anything but this, Jun thought.
It wasn't that he'd been picturing Nino, not really. It was just -- he apparently had this weakness for gummy smiles, and since Ami-chan was now long out of the picture, the next most convenient displayer of such gums was one Ninomiya Kazunari. It really didn't help that Nino's gummy smiles were about as rare as a blue moon; Nino laughed often and unreservedly, but Jun could tell they were mostly display laughs: those done for show. His true laughs came much less easily and for some reason whenever they made an appearance, they seemed to be hard-wired to a tiny little electrode stuck in the centre of Jun's chest -- there was no other explanation for why they made him jump so much.
But! Regardless! He hadn't been picturing Nino. In fact, Jun had been picturing Sho -- strong, intelligent Sho with his broad sloping shoulders and full pink lips. Images involving Nino, that brat, had just snuck up on Jun, totally unaware, just like many other interactions involving Nino.
One second Jun was thinking about the deep, raspy voice Sho used for his raps and the next he was hearing Nino's high-pitched, trilly little giggle, and imagining that sound muffled by having Jun's cock as far down Nino's throat as it could go. The only thing hotter than Nino's gummy smile slowly disappearing as his lips wrapped around Jun was apparently Nino's mouth being too occupied by Jun to speak or snark or make any coherent noises. Jun'd probably been tugging at his cock a little harsher than he usually would as a result, but he had to admit the fantasy was intense.
In retrospect Jun couldn't believe that he'd thought he was straight for as long as he did. Seventeen years old and this was how he'd decided to deal with his homosexual revelation: perverted daydreams about his stupid, idiotic bandmates. Pretty much the definition of desperation.
It wasn't his fault. Jun was around them all the time. He was practically starting to know their faces better than his own. He would die before admitting that he wasn't the most attractive out of the five of them, but none of them were especially lacking in the looks department. Even Nino with his average, cute face had its own little charm, Jun supposed. But maybe it was true that familiarity bred attachment, because Nino was practically his go-to fantasy these days. Clearly though, it wasn't about emotional attraction. It was just convenience.
Totally creepy and shameful convenience, granted, but for reasons that would remain unexplored, it got Jun off really, really fast. And that was a useful thing, when you had people knocking at your door 24/7 demanding you to get out of bed and in the van so you could get to your next schedule on time, even if it was cruelty-o'clock in the morning.
But how could he explain this all to Nino without sounding like a crazy person?
He couldn't. He really, really couldn't. Even justifying it to himself sounded insane.
Because Jun wasn't attracted to Nino at all and was angry at him more often than not, but Jun was at the age where anger could be diffused by non-verbal means and everything could be a sexual object if he tried hard enough. And the problem was that he didn't have to try at all, with Nino, even though Jun wasn't attracted to Nino a¬t all -- Jun just was a bit of an S and he just had a bit of a humiliation kink apparently so even though it was kind of hot thinking of Nino's usual sharp-cornered mouth melting into something softer as he placed it all over Jun's body it didn't mean anything because -- fuck.
"You know what," Nino said loudly, just as Jun was about to force a noise out of his throat that hopefully would form a recognizable word, "I think I misheard. My bad."
Hesitantly, Jun turned back around.
Nino's attention was purely on his game. He didn't look bothered at all -- rather too unbothered, if Jun was reading things correctly. Which he might not be. Because, obviously, he was not in the right mind today.
"Are you done with the washroom, then?" Nino went on, and without waiting for an answer, tossed his Gameboy onto his bed and went into the bathroom, locking the door behind him. There was the sound of clothes flumping onto something, then the creak of a faucet, then running water, which continued.
When Nino came out, towel-clad and sighing slightly, Jun had already ensconced himself in his thick hotel blankets and was pretending to be asleep. He listened, rapt, as Nino changed into his night clothes and buried himself in his own bed. Nino turned the light out: click. Then silence, the dark, thick silence that can only come after a long day of work, leaving a body so, so tired and thankful for the coming oblivion.
But Jun didn't sleep.
“I’m going to die,” Aiba said morosely. “I’m going to die at nineteen and it’s going to be the saddest death ever. My brother is going to take over my room and my parrot is going to forget about me and my mom will throw out all my mould jars and it’ll be terrible.”
It was 3:13am in the morning on yet another late night shoot. The temperature was currently negative freezing-your-dick-off below, and Jun had forgotten what it was like to feel his fingers. In a few minutes, the camera crew would be finished setting up and Jun would have to smile and laugh as if his lips weren’t numb with cold and his sense of humour had not been slaughtered by lack of sleep. At least the makeup would help him look like he still had blood circulating in his face.
“Can I have your manga?” Nino asked Aiba.
“Nooo -- I’m leaving it all to Oh-chan.”
“Oh. Thanks Aiba-chan,” said Ohno.
“Hmph,” Nino said. “What about your games then? Give me those.”
“Those are for Sho-chan, duh. You can have Chunsan.”
“I don’t want your stupid bird!”
“Okay then Matsujun can have Chunsan, and you can have my underwear. I know how much you love wearing it.”
“Shut up! That was one time!”
“Twice! No, three times!!”
“Guys,” Sho said weakly. “Let’s just get through tonight with our sanity intact, please?”
“Aiba-kun, Ohno-kun, Sakurai-kun!” their director called. “Come on! Stand here, please.”
The three of them trudged over slowly, which left Jun alone with Nino.
They’d been on location for over fifteen hours. Patience had long since been worn thin and unlike Aiba, Jun was in no mood to humour any jokes Nino might make. All Jun wanted was to go home, lie down, and close his eyes for a few years. He was at that stage where he was dreading anything -- anything at all -- that came out of Nino’s mouth, because there was no way that it wasn’t going to annoy him.
A secret, tiny part inside Jun was leaping, though. Nino had been exceptionally tiresome lately. The long days combined with the cold weather had whittled away what little tact the guy usually held and sometimes the only thing that kept Jun from pushing Nino right onto his flat butt was the fact that it’d make the wardrobe department angry at him. It wasn’t like Nino had been purposely aiming to piss off Jun, but Jun was so tired; it made him more snappish, more sensitive to Nino’s remarks than he knew was good for him.
So that tiny part inside of him was leaping: all Jun needed was an excuse. He was already at his limit. More than being tired, he was angry at being tired and angry and being angry. Throwing a tantrum out of stress was a completely childish thing to do, yes, but it was looking more appealing by the second. If Nino hit Jun’s buttons one more time, then Jun would react. That’s all there was to it.
Nino opened his mouth.
“What was it that you once told me about getting rich and famous?”
Jun whirled around and punched him in the shoulder, as hard as he could. Nino stumbled back, shock written clear across his face.
“Woah, what the hell is your problem?” he spat.
“You,” Jun hissed, which was true. Right now, his problem was Nino. It wasn’t only Nino, but Jun needed to focus his anger on something or he was going to explode and Nino was here, being his perfectly obnoxious self, so right now Jun’s problem was Nino.
“I wasn’t being serious. Calm down.”
“I am calm,” Jun said fiercely, and even he knew what a lie this was.
“Sorry, geez,” Nino muttered, turning away, his lips pressed together in a thin white line.
In the ensuing silence, Jun closed his eyes and tried to clear his mind. The only way that he was getting through tonight in once piece would be to not think of anything at all. If he thought of the work, or the time, or how hungry he was -- he was going to break, he could feel it.
Because Nino was fucking right. Riches and fame? Fat chance. What Jun had said all those years ago to Sho had come true, tenfold. It hadn't been easy, and it wasn’t getting easier.
The first year was nothing short of brutal on both body and mind: about one hour's sleep per night, the five of them (with Aiba, and Ohno, the last ones added to their crew of misfits) being tossed into increasingly ludicrous scenarios, as if everything they filmed were a punishment game in disguise. Filming only late at night, in basements, on street corners, the harsh glare of the fluorescent camera lights highlighting the premature bags under their eyes.
And still it felt like no one knew their name. Jun wanted Arashi to become big, something bigger than any other idol group to come before them -- and he'd thought it was possible, maybe, because he was in this group. But no. Debuting didn't equal automatic success. Effort didn't equal results.
Without knowing it, the pressure of the job had caused Jun to regress back to his old ways: imaginary murders. His repertoire expanded though, now he pictured ways to kill the directors, the producers, the interviewers, the photographers, even the drivers who chauffeured them from location to location (most of these deaths involved explosive car crashes in which no one would be left alive, not even Jun), anyone who pushed Jun harder and harder while giving him less and less space to breathe.
And Nino, of course. Always Nino.
This wasn't the future that Jun had pictured. After that first amazing concert in Hawaii, it felt to Jun that the five of them were secreted away to locations particularly chosen for their lack of interest or lack of natural light. Jun's old vision of the future featured stadiums full of screaming fans, piles of endorsements, a hip new wardrobe, their choice of any number of catchy songs, featuring on news segments -- legitimate news segments, talking about their popularity and how Arashi were redefining the common definition of "idol groups." Although they did get slapped in magazines and newspapers often, the magazines were owned by JE and the newspapers only mentioned their debut as an announcement, without commentary.
Jun was working as hard as he could. When would it start paying off? Would it, ever? Or was Arashi fated to be one of those failed Johnny's groups who came in with a roar and died out with a whisper, forever lost in the annals of boy-group history?
He'd passed his seventeenth birthday hopeful about Arashi's potential. He'd passed his eighteenth scared that they were already stagnating.
He could literally feel Nino’s concrete gaze on him.
Had he not been so frustrated about everything in existence, ever, Jun would probably have tried to decipher the look Nino was giving him: not quite anger, not quite curiousity – just a quiet consideration, as if Nino were a predator wondering if Jun was prey.
Had Jun not been so frustrated about everything, he probably would have flushed. This was the kind of attention that Nino was so disinclined to give out to most of the world and that Jun would never admit to wanting. His wanking habit over his bandmates had petered out, but Jun’s exact feelings towards Nino stayed blurry under the surface, like churning water beneath a sheet of ice.
“What,” Jun snarled. “Stop staring at me.”
“Do you know that I have an easier time picturing you angry at me than you happy with me,” Nino said abruptly, as if he’d just realized the thought himself.
Jun clamped his teeth down together. “That’s because I hate you,” he gritted out. He knew he would regret saying that tomorrow, when he was more sensible, but right now, he took some sort of vindictive pleasure in the way that Nino’s eyes slit and his upper lip curled in an expression of disgust.
“Like I care,” Nino returned, and they stood in silence until it was time for their turn at the camera.
The next day, after getting a few hours of sleep, Jun apologized to Nino for hitting him. He didn’t apologize for saying he hated him, though.
“You’d better be,” Nino said waspishly, but then as Jun was about to turn away, added hastily, "I probably would have hit me too. At least you can punch pretty well for an idol."
It was enough to startle a laugh out of Jun. "Should I thank you?"
Nino raised himself to his full height and his eyes held onto Jun's, oddly sombre. He clapped Jun once on the shoulder and nodded. "Keep up the good work, Matsumoto-san," he deadpanned.
Jun said he would.