It might have been weird, but Jun wished he was working. Or sleeping. Or at a date. Or in the middle the sea with Ohno.
Anywhere but surrounded by four drunken guys he knew well enough to realize it was exactly that time of the night when they ganged up on him. And Toma was down already, snoring loudly on Yamapi's lap, so there was no chance anybody would get a sudden fit of compassion.
'A game. I wanna play a game,' Jin slurred.
Pi squinted. 'What kind of game?'
'Hm. So…' Jin looked around the table and pointed at nobody in special – but Jun knew it was all about him. It always was. 'If you were dating a member of the company…'
The table erupted in giggles. Jin rolled his eyes. 'This is important! Let's scrap dating. If you had to fuck another Johnny, who would it be?'
Nishikido stirred his glass of beer and then stared at it. 'Massu.'
Yamapi nodded. 'Totally. Massu.'
Jin opened his eyes wide. 'Me too! Guys, you're so awesome!'
Jun lift up his head from the table. 'Massu? You guys would fuck Massu? Dude's straight.'
Jin started to draw on the table with an imaginary pencil. 'Exactly! So are we! So it'd be perfect. Like… he'd be understanding and shit. And he'd remember to use lube. He'd be gentle!'
'I just think he's cuter than the rest,' Ryo said with a shrug.
'I just don't see it. There are way hotter guys in the Jimusho.'
Yamapi started to laugh and patted Jun. 'Don't you guys see it? We've hurt his feelings!'
Jin crawled towards Jun and sat right beside him. 'Oh, of course… look, Jun, you're hot. But you're my gay friend. I can't risk it.'
'Plus you probably don't take off your rings and they look painful,' Ryo quipped.
Jun frowned. He did take off his rings. Unless the other party didn't mind. 'But even if he's nice and all, isn't he too nice?'
'So if nice is not your type, what are you into then? Angry bastards? Manipulative assholes? I know several of those.' said Jin, leaning towards Jun's ear.
'I bet he says Tegoshi, then.' Ryo laughed way too loud at his own joke. Tegoshi's chick magnet status was well-known and widely wondered about in the company, but it still wasn't that good of a joke.
'Nah, he probably likes them manlier! Manly but fashionable. And sophisticated.'
The worst part, thought Jun, was that Yamapi's assessment wasn't that far off from the truth.
'Oh, maybe somebody from V6?' Ryo made a pause. 'Maybe everybody from V6!'
Jin pointed at Jun. 'So, who would it be? And past dalliances don't count. Only new ones.'
'There are no past dalliances. And I simply wouldn't. It's just a recipe for disaster.'
'Hypothetically.' Wow, Yamapi had at least picked up some words at college.
'I don't know. I don't think about co-workers that way.'
'That's a boldfaced lie! Complete bullshit. I mean, I think that way about everybody!' said Jin, just before guzzling more beer.
'Why doesn't that surprise me?'
Jin pointedly ignored the comment and went on his little tirade. 'So you like guys, work with hot guys and have never ever considered fucking one of them?'
Jun shrugged. 'Most of those hot guys are straight. It's better not to even contemplate it.'
'Then the gay ones! Joushima? Miyake? Kame?' said Jin.
'Miyake is hot, I can give you that.' Jun considered the possibilities. Joushima was… well, Joushima. But Kame… 'So Kame is gay?'
Jun didn't need to see Jin's cocky smile - he could feel the smugness emanate from Jin's voice. 'He's single, in case you're interested. And probably needing to get laid as much as you do.'
Jun huffed. He hated comments about whether or not he had had sex lately. They were invasive and it reminded him that, in fact, he did need to get laid. 'Well, he's so obvious that I thought maybe he was actually straight but just very stupid.'
Ryo hit the table with his glass. 'Because nobody would ever think you are gay, I suppose. You're a paragon of manliness.'
'I'm manlier than Kame, anyway.'
Jin stroked his chin. 'I don't know, he does shaver commercials. Those are manly commercials.'
'He shaves?' Yamapi asked. Jun had to admit he was curious too. He hadn't exactly spent much time ogling at Kame – really, really -, but he had been always surprised by his lack of facial hair. But if he had asked, Jin would have gotten all kind of weird ideas and Jin's weird ideas were always bad for Jun.
'He's hairier than you'd think. Just very adamant about not having a beard.'
Toma held up his head from Yamapi's lap and stared at the guys littered around his living room. 'Who has a beard?'
'Kame.' Jin replied matter-of-factly. 'So, Toma, would you rather fuck Massu or Jun?'
Toma thought about it for a few minutes. 'I'm sorry, Jun, but I'd go for Massu. He's cuter and you have weird fetishes.'
'You wouldn't stand a chance with Massu, though. He looks straight,' Jun said.
'You know what they say, Jun. Never judge a book by his cover. And Massu would run away from you, just like you run away from girls.'
'Shut up, Ryo. Nobody would do that. I'm everybody's exception.'
'I bet you can't get into Massu's pants,' Jin said, grinning wildly.
Jun smirked. 'And I bet I can.'
The next morning, when Jun woke up, Toma was drooling all over his stomach and Pi kept rubbing against him, still asleep. The blankets were on the floor and Jin was nowhere to be seen, but he was sure they hadn't killed him – they had tried once and Jin had proved to be a sneaky drunk. He pushed both Toma and Pi and got out of bed. Weekend hangovers sucked, but midweek ones were even worse. He half-remembered his schedule and wasn't exactly sure of how he was going to survive through the day. Probably liberal amounts of coffee and releasing frustration at bandmates.
His manager showed up just one minute after he had finished changing clothes. They were Toma's, because Jun's not only were wrinkled and reeking of tobacco, but they also were covered with some sticky, purple substance. Jin had named his 'cocktail' something like 'Funky Blanket Matter' or 'Frisky Market Chatter' and Jun had decided to forget what it was made of. He darted out of the house, leaving behind dirty laundry and freshly made coffee.
He slept the whole drive to work and when the car stopped and his eyes automatically opened, the morning light crushed every hope for a hangover-less day.
'Never again,' he muttered.
He got to Arashi's dressing room in a daze, dragging his feet through the building out of habit. He knew that when he got there, there would be ready coffee, Sho would be reading newspapers, Nino would be invading people's personal spaces and Ohno would be dozing off. Aiba was always the wildcard, though.
'Morning,' he said after he opened the door.
The usual chorus of voices answered, but there was somebody else. He took off his sunglasses and glanced around the room. He found the intruder leaning against a corner, with a 'New Kid in School' attitude.
'Good morning, Matsumoto-senpai.'
'Kamenashi? What are you doing here?
'Paying a visit to my senpais. We just finished taking some pictures nearby, so...' Kame fidgeted. He nervously glanced at Nino. 'Sorry, senpai, I have to go. I'll see you another day.'
Kame darted out of the room. Jun crossed the room, sat down on one of their comfy sofas – success had its perks – and frowned. 'What was he doing here?'
Sho gave Jun a cup of coffee. 'No idea. He showed up with some coffee and then stood in a corner. It was weird. Have we gotten so old kouhais feel the need to pay their respects?'
Jun drank the coffee. It was black with no sugar. 'This is delicious. Kame brought it?' Sho nodded and Jun hummed with approval. 'And you're the old one. I'm a teenager and Nino is twelve.'
Aiba laughed. 'And Oh-chan is the grandpa!'
Sho rolled his eyes. 'So Aiba is the kid and I'm the responsible adult. Explains a lot.'
Nino sat on Jun's lap and put his arms around Jun's neck. 'What the fuck have you gotten into? Nishikido called me yesterday, Jun. Said something about a bet.'
Jun sat upright, trying to get rid of Nino. 'I can't believe he remembers that.'
'I promised him I'd make you keep your part of the bargain.' Nino smirked and pushed Jun's nose tip. 'Do you realize that if you lose, you'll have to steal one of Nakai's hats?'
Jun sank in the couch. 'So. Does any of you have Massu's number?'
Jun checked his zipper again. There was no worst first impression than an open zipper, in his opinion – except maybe see-through outfits. Then he combed his hair with his fingers and practiced some smirks in the mirror. Lonely bathrooms were the sanctuaries of modern urban males. Or at least the sanctuaries of modern urban males who worked 25 hours a day and were constantly surrounded by a swarm. He leaned on the mirror and enjoyed the coolness of the mirror. The silence was welcomed as well.
When somebody opened the door, he jumped and tried to lean on the sink in the coolest way imaginable.
If Kamenashi's grin was any indication, it didn't work.
'Matsumoto-senpai,' Kame said, walking towards him.
'What's with the sudden respect? Am in SMAP or what?'
'You're old enough. I can already see the wrinkles.'
Pointing at them was unnecessary, though. He rolled his eyes. 'See? That's the Kame I know. Before you ask, I'm fine, thank you.'
'You're not fine at all. You're nervous. I can tell.'
Jun suddenly realized his shoelaces were undone and bent down to tie them. 'I'm not. Not at all. I'm just getting ready to woo Massu.' he replied from the floor.
'So you're going along with that stupid bet?'
'Of course I am. I'm a man of my word.'
'But they're not. Really, do you even like Massu?'
'That's utterly irrelevant.' Jun said trying not to sound bitter, before striding towards the door.
Kame held out a hand. 'Eh? But I wanted to ask you about…'
Jun turned back and rolled his eyes in the most visible way he could manage. 'Send me a text! You have my number, don't you?'
'Actually… never mind.'
Jun rolled his eyes again and hurried down the hallway towards the studio where Ryo had told him NEWS was taking some photos for a magazine – they did work, after all. It was his chance to make his move. Or else he'd be in Nakai's hands and Nakai's hands were soiled with the blood of a thousand juniors.
He entered the studio and spotted Massu sitting on a chair. He was wearing some kind of polka-dotted poncho and ugly, ugly boots. Maybe he shared stylists with Nino.
Jun approached him and tried to be as natural as possible.
'Matsumoto-kun?' Massu was smiling, but it was a confused smile, not an 'I have been struck by the beauty of a preternatural being' smile.
'Yes, the same one!' Jun laughed. 'How have you been doing? We haven't talked much lately, haven't we?'
'Hm, Matsumoto-kun, we've never talked,' Massu said.
'That is true, and we should fix that, shouldn't we?' He had sounded confident, hadn't he? It was a winning line. Nobody could resist it. 'I was wondering if…'
'So how are you, then? I guess you're working a lot, aren't you? Must be hard.'
'Eh, yes, I am. But that's not why I came here.'
'Didn't you want to talk?'
That's why Jun didn't like nice, sensible guys. They made sense. Jun hated that. 'Well, yes, but not about work.'
'Then about what?'
The other problem with actually nice guys – not fakely polite ones – was that they were honest. And how could he reply to a sincere, sensible comment? 'Eh. I heard you like food.'
Massu's phone rang. 'Oh, sorry, got to catch this! Can we talk later?'
Massu couldn't run fast enough, Yamapi and Ryo could barely contain their laughter and Jun couldn't even look dignified.
If your songs mostly consist of 'Work hard, work hard, work harder!', those words start to lose meaning after a while. Jun knew that and that's why he always listened to depressing songs when he was in a sad mood. Arashi-style poppy joy just rubbed salt in his wounds.
And he was wounded. His pride was covered in blisters and his self-confidence had been beaten to a pulp by a guy with a voice way too deep for his face. He was like an animal seeking for a refuge away from predators – namely, Pi and Nishikido who were already texting him with 'hilarious' jokes. He turned off his phone and the music. He knew the studio and the rooftop was a good alternative. He had spent a great deal of his puberty hiding in rooftops, trying to learn how to smoke and look cool while doing it. He did look cool, but addiction had been too steep a price.
The door opened and closed, but Jun didn't look at it. Probably just an employee.
He turned back and saw Kame. Whatever he wanted, it wasn't as important as sulking. 'What the fuck do you want?'
'Hey, I was just worried. You passed right next to me and I talked to you and you ignored me and…'
'Does being ignored annoy you that much?' Jun sneered and felt a little guilty of doing so. Arashi members or his friends knew that behind the sneering bastard was a rather smart and charming man (if he might say that himself), but Kame didn't know him too well. He sat on the floor, back against the wall that was all that separated the rooftop from the air.
Kame got closer and sat besides him. 'You're an ungrateful asshole, you know? I don't even know why I care.'
'You care because I'm hot. Want a cigarette?'
'You're so hot Masuda barely remembers your name. And how nice of you,' Kame answered and took a cigarette. 'Do you have a lighter?'
'Here.' He lit Kame's cigarette. Kame knew how to smoke in a cool way as well and in close proximity, he had to admit he wasn't the only hot guy in the rooftop. He wondered if he was really gay, like Jin had said, and then stopped right on the tracks. That way lay madness. 'So what did you want to ask me?'
Kame's eyes widened. 'Don't worry, I've already asked Nino.'
'Oh. That's cool then.' Jun closed his eyes and breathed in deeply. 'Look at the time. I must go.'
Kame laughed. 'You're shit at ending conversations, you know? You get all awkward.'
Jun put out his cigarette and stood up. 'Just so you know, I might get charmingly vulnerable, but I'm never awkward.'
He could hear Kame's laughter all the way down the stairs.
He got used to hear Kame's laughter soon enough, because somehow Arashi had gained a sixth member. Kame's presence in the dressing room was already routine, as was his coffee.
'So where do you get this coffee, anyway?' Jun asked. They were the only two people left in the dressing room, because Sho had gotten a sudden phone call, Nino had gone to the bathroom and Aiba had gone to look for ice tea. He had no idea where Ohno was.
'It's a secret. If I told you, you wouldn't let me come anymore,' Kame replied. He was curled up on a sofa. He had just finished recording some variety show appearance. Jun almost felt sorry for him, because he looked terrible – but still hot.
'Hey, if you want to bask in our greatness, be my guest.'
Kame nodded and closed his eyes. 'Yes, yes, Your Majesty.'
'You can't fall asleep here. Having lunch with us is intrusive enough, don't you think?'
'I'm not falling asleep, I'm just resting my eyes.'
'Just like the other day you weren't going to have lunch with us and somehow I ended up having lunch with the whole of KAT-TUN?' Jun said, but Kame was already sound asleep.
Jun stood up, took Sho's jacket and covered Kame with it. 'We shouldn't even let you crash in here,' he murmured.
Since NEWS didn't have any regular programs, which meant that there was not much chance of casually running into them in a TV studio, Jun got lucky a few weeks later. NEWS had a new single out and that meant promotions. In stations Jun worked for.
'You're still at it?' Sho asked when Jun told him about his plans. They were alone in their dressing room, or at least as good as alone, because Nino had fallen asleep the second he sat down and Aiba and Ohno had followed suit. 'I though you had given up.'
Jun tried on a white jacket. 'Why should I? I never give up. That way I never lose.'
'Are you sure? You don't want to stay here and eat some of those chocolates Kame sent us?' Sho temptingly waved the box with a creepy smile.
'You look like a pervert. And I don't get the kid. Why send us chocolate? Did I miss something? Is it Valentine's?'
'He's just trying to be nice and make a good impression.'
Jun took off the jacket and threw it on the couch. It looked awful on him. 'Or maybe he wants to fatten all of us. To move up in the company.'
Sho started to fold the jacket. 'That's just paranoid, Jun. And you should stop treating him like that. He gets really scared whenever you enter the room.'
Jun tried on Aiba's jacket. It looked like it had been dug out out of a 70s dumpster and then Ohno had attempted to make some patchwork with it. It looked Massu-like enough, so Jun tried it on. 'It's not my fault if I'm intimidating.'
Sho started eating the chocolates. 'Whatever, Jun, I'll enjoy the chocolates for you. Or do you want to give them to Massu?'
Jun huffed. 'I'm not that cheesy. I mean, you can't get into a guy's pants with chocolates. It never works.'
'Wearing Aiba's lucky jacket won't work either. In fact, why don't you switch targets to Tegoshi? He seems easier.'
'Because Tegoshi likes chicks and because they won't let me. I mean, I tried, but they do know their bandmates' names.'
'Okay, okay, you go and be a champion, then.'
Jun decided not to address the sarcasm in Sho's voice and left the dressing room without saying good bye, but not before putting on his lucky sunglasses. He needed all the luck he could get.
He almost didn't catch Massu. 'Hey, Masuda!' he said, grabbing him by the shoulder.
The same confused smile. Again. 'Oh… hi.'
Not promising. At all. 'Hey, we didn't get to talk the other day.'
Massu bowed slightly. Were they really that old already? Maybe Kame was right about the wrinkles… 'Hm, no, we didn't. I'm sorry about that.'
Jun took off his sunglasses. 'Oh, don't worry! I was just wondering if… you still liked food.'
Massu nodded. 'Like everybody else, I suppose.'
'Oh, yes, we all like food. Even if we can't actually eat.'
Not eating jokes? For Johnny's, that was like talking about the weather. Jun felt ridiculous. What was next? 'Don't you hate those silly outfits they made us wear? My manager is a real pain in the ass? Massu's eyes searched the room. Probably for an emergency door, thought Jun. 'Oh, sorry, the manager wants to go already. It's his daughter's birthday and wants to return home early.' Massu left with another quick bow and Jun just stared at the distance for a few seconds.
Emergency doors, emergency managers – almost the same thing.
'But I just want your number…' he muttered.
Maybe it was better if he avoided Arashi's dressing room for a while. They could be evil when they wanted to.
He took a slight detour and ended up at Kame's dressing room. He was a polite senpai, after all, and he had to thank him for the chocolates. He knocked on the door, but nobody answered.
He stood there, like an idiot, until an station employee tapped on his shoulder. 'Matsumoto-san, are you looking for somebody?'
'Kamenashi had told me to come. But apparently he's not here.'
He left so fast it burnt the floor, but the way back to the dressing room felt like the world had lost its colours. He could see himself hung by the ankles as a warning for all of those who messed with the Greatest of Them All (Even If He Was Balding, Yes, Now Shut Up, Smartass), as Nakai drunkenly called himself. He was never going to go out drinking with those guys never again. They hated him and set him up to fail.
He slammed the door open and almost ran towards Sho. 'I failed. Again.'
'Why did you doubt that?' a cheery voice said. Jun pierced Kame with his patented stink eye, but it didn't seem to faze Kame. Scared, my ass, Jun thought.
'This is not a hotel for KAT-TUN members, now go away.'
Kame was sitting next to Nino so he just rolled his eyes and went back to his conversation with him.
Jun strode towards them and then stopped centimetres away from the couch. He folded his arms and curled his lip. Nino and Kame just kept talking, but he could see the youngest one glance towards him. He could also see Nino's hand on Kame's knee 'I told you to go away, Kamenashi. I need to discuss some important matters with Arashi.'
Nino laughed and patted Jun's thigh. 'Your pride is not important. It'll recover.'
Kame, instead, just got up. 'I see I'm not wanted.' He shot a glance at Nino and then faced Jun.
Jun waited for a witty response or at least for a bitchy one – Kame had an encyclopaedia of those and Jun had yet to hear them all -, but all he got was an icy glare and then the silence of his bandmates.
Sho sighed. 'Way to be an asshole.'
Jun held up his arms in desperation. 'I'm in a crisis here, guys!'
Aiba nodded. 'We know, we know. But don't worry! We'll resurrect you when Nakai kills you.'
The thing with Aiba, Jun thought, was that you never knew if he meant it.
Jun didn't feel guilty for snapping at Kame at first. If you played with fire, you got burnt. But as the days passed and the now familiar presence was conspicuously absent (he even stopped sending that awesome coffee and Jun had liked that coffee), Jun started to change his mind. Having Kame around had been fun. Normally, they were in opposite sides of everything but it had been a welcome change. After all their years together, Arashi never indulged his taste for good arguments and carefully crafted bitchiness. Sho calmed him down, Ohno smiled at him, Aiba derailed the conversations and Nino just mocked him. Kame took all the baits, hook, line and sinker.
Besides, the quiet judgement of Arashi was a force to be reckoned with. The disapproving looks were like being buried in lead. Judgemental lead.
'Okay, okay. I'll apologize,' he said one night after a concert. The rest were all asleep in the van. Only Nino opened his eyes and rummaged through his pockets. He held out his cell to Jun.
'About fucking time. Here's his number. You never asked him for it, didn't you?'
Jun took the cell. 'I didn't see the need.'
'So he's not the only turtle then,' said Nino before closing his eyes again. 'Put the phone where it belongs when you're done, will you?'
Jun nodded and started typing on his own phone.
'Sorry. I'll let you visit us again. We all need entertainment sometimes.'
He sent the text and waited. He gave Kame two minutes tops before answering.
He had to wait until they were almost in Tokyo.
Your apologies suck. But I guess I'll come around sometimes, I can tell you miss me.
By the way, you're still an asshole.
Jun didn't even deign to reply.
Jun rested his hand on the doorknob and hoped that routine would be finally restored. He wanted to find his bandmates chatting happily and Kame's coffee on the table. If Fate was feeling generous, he wanted to find Kame as well.
Fate was feeling generous, but also a little mocking because he only found Kame with a cup of coffee but no bandmates to be seen.
That was dangerous.
Kame stared at him from above the cup. 'Hi.'
He sounded angry still. Jun strode across the room and took a cup of coffee for himself. 'I'm sorry,' he muttered.
He could feel Kame's eyes pierce holes on his back. 'Two apologies? And one was even real? This is a first for you, isn't it?'
Jun sipped his coffee. It still tasted great. He glanced at Kame. 'How did you manage to arrive before us?'
Kame shrugged. 'I have nothing better to do with my time.'
Jun turned back to face Kame and smiled. 'I figured. I have no idea why you keep showing up.'
The confused frown was cute, Jun thought, if a little forced. 'Really? You don't?'
'I have some theories but… why do you do it, then? I mean, if you need any kind of help… I know things have been hard for you.'
Kame started to laugh and patted Jun's shoulder. 'Don't worry. I just like you guys... but I'll keep your offer in mind. You don't get that from Matsumoto Jun, Super Idol, every day.'
'The Super Idol is Aiba, not me.'
Kame laughed again and Jun was grateful Aiba showed up then and asked why was Jun trying to steal his title, because trying to steal bandmates' boyfriends was worse.
Bets weren't good for Jun, especially when other people insisted on reminding him of his pending fate. He had almost no time left, according to Ryo. He didn't remember agreeing on a deadline and he didn't trust Ryo, but Jin and Pi had supported Ryo's judgement over Jun's and now he had one week.
Luckily, NEWS had a concert before that and Jun had hatched a fail-proof plan.
He looked amazing, even better than normal. Even Kame had praised the jeans he was wearing and he had spent most of the afternoon accessorizing and most of the evening combing his hair. He looked amazing and more importantly, he looked effortless.
So he waited backstage, because he didn't want to be spotted with a silly bunch of flowers in first row. Everybody liked flowers, didn't they?
The group members started to come out one by one and Jun stood there with the blankest face he could manage. 'Hm. Congratulations.'
There were only two instances he had felt more awkward than that. Both had involved goats.
Massu cleared his throat. 'Good night, Matsumoto-kun. And good night, guys. I'll see on Wednesday.'
Jun's mouth fell open. 'You're leaving?'
'Yes, I have plans already and I'm beat.'
'But I was wondering if…'
Massu left him hanging. Jun clutched the flowers and went red.
Koyama giggled and took the flowers. 'Thanks, Matsumoto! They're really pretty.'
'I guess. Good concert.'
He started to leave. At least he had the car and he could drive around until the humiliation died down.
'Hey, Jun, let's go out!' Ryo screamed while he ran towards him.
'So you can mock me? No, thanks.'
'For what? For being a good friend and coming to see us? No problem there, buddy,' Pi added and Ryo nodded.
'But I lost the bet.'
Ryo laughed. 'What bet?'
'The bet that I…' Ryo's eyebrows went up and Jun shut up. 'Then, yeah, let's go out,' Jun said, forgetting all about how terribly things went when they got drunk.
'Amazing! We'll get so drunk they'll kick us out again!'
Maybe it wasn't such a good idea after all.
By the time Jun was singing 70s US hits, he had forgotten all about the bet.
'Karaoke booths are the best, aren't they, Ryo?' he said, sitting down besides him. Ryo was half-asleep and clutching Jun's flowers. Yamapi was lying on the floor, humming an ABBA song with a dumb smile on his lips.
'Yes, yes, they are,' he muttered.
'My jeans are also the best. Kame said they really suited me, but I know he meant my ass looks astounding when I'm wearing them.'
Ryo laughed. 'How do you know that?'
'He kept staring at it, even if he has a crush on Nino. So it must mean my ass looks amazing in them.'
'A crush on Nino? Why do you think that?' Ryo asked.
'They always talk. And stuff. And Nino touches him a lot.'
Ryo hit Jun's head with the flowers. 'Nino touches everybody.'
'But Kame gets really nervous. Like schoolgirl nervous. Totally annoying.'
Ryo leaned towards Jun. 'Everybody gets nervous when Nino does the touching thing. Just because you're used to it doesn't mean it's not creepy.'
'And he looks at me like… I don't know, maybe he thinks I have a crush on Nino as well, because I always catch him staring at me. Always. And he snaps at me all the time. I'm mean, but he crosses the line. It's like he comes visiting to argue with me.'
'Isn't arguing part of your mating process?'
'Why do you say that? I don't enjoy arguing at all.'
'Really, Jun, you're playing dumb, aren't you?'
Jun blinked. 'He doesn't have a crush on Nino?'
Ryo let the flowers fall to the floor. 'No, he doesn't. Come on, you don't know?'
'Is it Aiba?'
Yamapi stood up. 'Crap, he doesn't know. He really doesn't know.'
'What should I know?' he tried to say, but he was getting drowsy.
'That Kame's still gay and single,' Pi said.
'Why should I care?' He was vaguely aware of Ryo fiddling with his phone and of
Yamapi breaking into a knowing smile. He knew he was supposed to ask again, but he was tired for that.
The rest of the night was a blur. The only moment that looked sharp in his mind was when Nino arrived with Kame at some ungodly hour. He waved at Nino and stuck his tongue out at Kame. Kame sat down next to him, to his surprise, while Nino tried to move Yamapi away from a waitress.
'Hi, Kamenashi-kun. How are you feeling today?'
'Better than you, at least.'
'You look tired.'
'I am tired.'
Jun could hardly stay awake at that point, but Pi's remark was still clear in his mind. 'Hey, are you still single?'
Kame nodded. 'Why do you ask?'
'Because then nobody will mind if I do this,' Jun said before resting his head on Kame's lap. He closed his eyes. 'And are you still gay?'
Kame waited a minute before answering. 'Yes. Why do you care?'
Jun felt Kame's fingers combing through his hair and smiled. 'Because I do.'
Next morning, he woke up alone in his apartment. He remembered walking to a taxi and Kame giving him a note and a smile. Nino was a lucky bastard.
He checked his pocket and found the note carefully folded.
It read Need to talk to you. Coffee next Friday? and some address. Jun read the note a thousand times and then sent a text to Kame. Of course he could. They could talk about anything.
'Hey, we could even skip the talking,' Jun said to himself and then cursed Nino again.
The café was empty. The only employee – probably the owner – was a weird looking woman who Jun swore wore an eye patch. Still, Kame was at the back of the place.
They sat and stared at each other for a few minutes.
'Thanks for coming,' Kame said. His smile was brighter than a clear summer day and was Jun comparing stuff to the sun? He winced. Comparing people to bright summer days or the warm spring sun was always a bad omen.
'No problem. It was important. I mean, we have to talk about it.'
Kame nodded, but Jun could pick up some mild surprise. 'I'm surprised you finally realized it. Took you long enough.'
Jun gulped. Letting people down gently had never been his forte, especially when it was in place of somebody else. 'Look, you shouldn't get your hopes up.'
Kame looked straight at him and went pale. 'But…'
'It's better to quit while you're ahead, Kame. I know it's hard to meet guys who are in the business, but fantasies were never good for anybody. Trust me, it's for your own sake.'
'But… I thought. I really thought. It was obvious that I'm not the only one that...'
'Nino's never obvious.'
'Who the fuck cares about Nino?'
'You do, obviously, and he's my friend and I feel like it's my duty to tell you that…'
Kame grabbed Jun's arm. 'Wait. Just wait. Let me get this straight. You think I'm into Nino?'
Jun nodded. 'Eh. Yes? You're always talking to him. And touching him. And you came together the other night.'
Kame started to laugh. Jun was dumbfounded. Something had gone horribly wrong. 'And that's why I asked him to have coffee with me.'
'You did? And he said yes? Did he pay? Because if he paid, then I don't know what to think.'
'Jun. Don't you get it? Really?'
'But if you don't like him, then why do you two talk so much?'
'We have a friend in common. Well, friend…'
Jun blinked. And then he went red. 'Oh, fuck my life.' He hid his face in his hands. 'It's me, isn't it?'
'Hey, if it annoys you that much, I can back off.' Kame sounded angry. But Jun knew him well enough to realize it was hurt instead.
'It doesn't annoy me. It doesn't annoy me at all,' he said, peeking through his hands.
Kame's scowl quickly became a grin. 'So I wasn't crazy after all. Has anybody ever told you you are the king of mixed messages?'
Jun snorted. 'Because you're so straightforward!'
'I gave you chocolates.'
And they had been delicious, even if Jun had only been able to taste one little tiny part. 'You gave Arashi chocolates.'
'No, I didn't. They were only for you. I even made a card.'
On one hand, he wanted to kill Sho. On the other, Kame's actions were too cute to care about anything other than 'This is going to be the best date ever'.
He had spent his entire ride to work planning his vengeance against Sho, but he had to scrap all his plans the moment he opened the door. Ohno stared at him and then his eyes went wide. He left the notepad on his knees and then pointed at Jun. 'You got laid last night.'
Jun stopped cold. 'What are you on this time, Ohno?' he barked.
Aiba ran towards him and touched his forehead. Then he smelled his hair. 'Yeah, definitely. Smells like a man who got laid.'
He gently pushed Aiba away. 'Stop with the non-sense. I smell of shampoo and shower gel. And I'm not humming or doing anything like that. Why do you think I got laid?'
Nino snorted and folded his arms to his chest. 'Normal people do that. Whenever you get laid, you bark. And I guess it was really angry sex, so you're even angrier than usual.'
'Sho, tell them to stop.'
Sho didn't even look at him. 'Why should I? It's obvious they're right.'
'What is it for you, then? Did you read it in your newspapers?'
'No, I read it from that hickey on your neck, which the make-up department is going to bitch about the whole morning. Next time, ask him to be more professional.'
Jun tried not to laugh. 'Why didn't you bastards tell me?'
Nino threw Ohno's jacket at him. 'Because it was obvious and you were chasing Massu. Massu. And by the way, you owe me.'
Jun threw Ohno's jacket back at Nino. 'I don't owe you anything.'
'Yes, you do, because if it hadn't been for me, Kame would have quit this ridiculous chase two days into it.'
'That's why you two talked so much?'
Ohno grabbed his jacket and pointed at Jun. 'Well, we had to explain to him that you're a weird person, Jun. And don't believe Nino, we were all rooting for you.'
Jun rolled his eyes. 'You just like Kame's food.'
Sho carefully folded his newspaper and rested it upon his knees. 'I'd say we were more concerned about your general well-being and sanity, but the coffee did play a big part.'
Jun wondered, for a second, when exactly had he crossed over to Dorama Land but then he decided it wasn't really important.
'So, next time, avoid the neck, please. I hate wearing turtlenecks.'
'Then you avoid my arms. The guys laughed at me for a week.'
Jun shrugged. 'They're pretty.'
Kame reached out from his side of the table and hit Jun's head. 'But it's too hot for long sleeves and we can't Photoshop live footage.'
Jun grabbed Kame's hand. 'Yeah, yeah, I understand. I'll only bite private places from now on.'
'Oh, shut up. I don't want to kill you in a restaurant.'
'You mean kiss you, surely. Why would you kill me when I'm the perfect boyfriend?'
Then Jun saw a familiar figure enter the restaurant. Massu still liked weird clothing, but this time he was joined by somebody whose clothes were so normal they looked out of place. They were chatting and they went straight to a table in the back.
'Jun, what are you looking at?'
'I just saw Massu came in.'
Kame let go of Jun's hand. 'Hey, are you trying to make me jealous? Because it's not
Jun grabbed Kame's hand again. 'No, it's just weird. He's with one of your bandmates. And…'
Kame turned back. 'Oh, yes, they're close.'
Jun frowned. 'That's not close. That's nuzzling necks.'
'Well, they're really close.'
Jun wished he could frown even more, because they didn't look like friends. At all.
'Well, maybe. Nakamaru actually recommended this place to me. He said it was very private.'
Jun knew that smile. Jun knew that look. 'You knew and you let me… you're a bastard.'
Kame leaned over to Jun and pressed his forehead against his. 'And you love me that way, don't you?'