Sho normally pays for dinner (delivered) or coffee (to go). It all seems more legitimate that way. Or it lets him fool himself into believing that he’s someone else for a few hours, chatting and getting to know the person across from him. It all ends up at a hotel (a respectable one) with the money on the dresser (discreetly).
Sho wonders if he’ll ever believe the lie of it all.
Jun wonders why he waited so long to go to a gym with regularity. Yamaguchi-senpai recommended this one, and even though driving there’s been off limits for the past few months, the agency drivers seem to be relieved that he comes here rather than to a crowded restaurant or out with some woman. It’s less for them to have to worry about.
Jun presses the button to increase the treadmill’s speed.
Sho forgets which senpai it was who told him about this particular business. He doesn’t like to think of these women as prostitutes, even though on paper (actual or monetary) they are. He tells himself it’s scratching an itch. The itch of his more primal instincts. It’s only natural to want to find release in some way. He’s paying for silence. For safety. For the ability to leave at the end of the night without obligation.
But there are many kinds of itches, Sho knows. There aren’t just those itches that can be explained away as body chemistry or human nature or whatever they call it. There are itches for companionship, the feel of soft and supple curves under his fingertips. To not just fuck someone, but to at least hold a conversation first. To mean something to that someone.
If he scratches all these itches, he feels that he’s accomplished something. He’s gotten the ones that count at least. Sho knows one itch that’s persistent, an itch that won’t go away. But if he scratches the others, he can distract himself from the one he can’t reach.
Jun likes to test himself sometimes. Sometimes he goes for speed, sometimes for distance. When it’s just himself and his mp3 player and the treadmill, he can discover his own limits. He can hit play and start at a jog and lose himself in the music and the steady uptick of the counter. 1 km. 1.25 km. 1.5 km.
How fast can he get to two? Should he go for five or increase the resistance? He runs on the treadmill with focus and all his energy, like he’s racing with a microphone in his hand and trying to get to the other end of the Tokyo Dome and their stage set-up. But he knows he can’t just run.
He’ll tape up his hands on some nights and while the driver is getting paid to sit in the lobby, Jun tries to punch out his frustration. Running clears his mind and lets him forget - each smack of his fist against the bag reminds him of it anew.
Tonight is Ginza, which Sho knows is stereotypical, but he doesn’t much care. Drinks in a backroom, and she pretends to be interested in what he has to say. He knows most of her replies and stories are made up to keep him happy, satisfied, interested. But there’s a degree of familiarity in the lies, in the way it all seems so rehearsed.
Asako-san (not her real name) plays her role dutifully just as Sho always plays his. Whether it’s for the fans or for the jimusho’s credibility or for the Sakurai Sho he wants to always project to others, Sho’s life is composed of many different versions of himself, different roles. So when he clinks his glass against Asako’s and starts talking about how his movie filming is going, there’s enough arrogance and pride in his tone to keep a grin on her lips. Tonight he's Sakurai Sho the idol, larger than life.
And when they make it to the love hotel, Asako asks if he wants to play doctor with her. Even if she didn’t care, she was at least listening to him. But Sho’s not listening as he brushes the long, hair spray-stiff locks away from Asako’s neck so he can tug down the zipper of her dress.
The trainer stops by to talk just once while Jun is practicing his jabs. He arranges for weight training in a few days, looks away from the bag with a ready smile. And then when the trainer leaves and he’s in this part of the gym by himself he drops the act and lets the blows fall as they may.
He has so many things to be grateful for. To be eternally thankful for. Family, friends, fans. Respect and recognition after so many years of hard work. Arashi is reaching heights he never could have imagined, and they’ll ride it as long as it lasts. As long as the fans will have them. But with so much extra attention comes so much more to think about. Jun’s always prided himself on being careful.
Sweat’s rolling down his face, dribbling down his chin as he lunges at the bag swift and focused. He’s always been careful, locking away and compartmentalizing things that can’t happen. He ignores the possibilities, keeps rolling along on the same track. Like the treadmill and its perpetual loop. But sometimes, he just wants to let it out. His fist hits the bag, shooting an almost pleasureable pain up his forearm.
When it’s over, Asako showers again. Now that the act itself is complete, her need to be someone else and aim only to please has also come to an end. This is always the time when Sho feels the worst, and so he pulls on his clothes hurriedly and leaves the stack of agreed upon bills next to her little handbag on the floor by her bright red shoes.
He’s got on a longer coat and a hat, and he’s always grateful when the seasons start to change. It’s always easier to get away in the fall than in the summer. He leaves the vicinity of the hotels so the cab driver can’t tell Tokyo Sports he picked up a member of super group “A” in a sleazier locale. At home, he washes away Asako the same way she washed him away, letting the hot water of the shower run down his back and circle the drain.
He’d gotten someone to listen to his stories and gotten blown and gotten off. And every time makes him feel lower than the time before. It’s too late, Sho tells himself when he looks at the time on his cell phone as he gets into his own bed alone. It’s too late, Sho tells himself when he remembers that Arashi can’t afford for him to follow his heart.
Jun staggers when he lands a punch on the bag with a little more force than he should have applied. He gets sloppy when he lets his mind wander. He’s not a boxer by trade or even by preference - he just gravitates here when he thinks about things he can’t have. But he has everything, doesn’t he? The greatest job in the world and the greatest people surrounding him to match.
The pain reminds him of everything he stands to lose if he takes that last leap. Of how hard he’s worked since he was sixteen years old. How hard he’s worked to be an idol. And how hard he’s worked to deny how he feels about one of the people he respects the most. He picks at the tape around his hands and heads for the locker room wishing he’d stuck to the treadmill and to forgetfulness.
He treats the agency driver to a meal to thank the man for waiting so patiently. They talk about pending concert dates and what kinds of silly things the group will have to do on one of their variety programs. When the conversation shifts to what the other members are working on individually, Jun calls for the check as politely as he can.
Because after all, Sho knows, it’s impossible. He sets the phone back on his nightstand and turns off the light. Jun could never, would never feel the same way.
Because after all, Jun knows, it’s impossible. He stares out the window as the driver brings him home. Sho could never, would never feel the same way.