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Hardly Romantic

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Aiba's first kiss is with a girl at school.

She's a girl from Aiba's class, but Aiba doesn't know her that well. She's been giving him valentines chocolates and Christmas cards for years, and while Aiba thinks she's nice enough, he's never been particularly attracted to her, not in a kissing sort of way. She's good at baseball and English and is friends with the girl whose desk is directly in front of Aiba's but beyond that, she's a mystery to Aiba, and he's never really cared to investigate. It's fun to play sports with her after school, sure, if it just so happens to work out that way, but it's fun to play sports with pretty much anyone who plays fair, and so Aiba never really thought about her as anything but a friendly acquaintance until one day, before they get into the school building, the girl calls his name and pulls him aside and kisses him, right then and there.

It's not like it's bad, really; her lips press against his for a moment before she draws back, red in the face and explanations on her tongue, but Aiba feels awkward and out of place. He hates making people feel unhappy, but what is he supposed to say when she confesses just how deeply she loves him and Aiba can't even remember her first name?

She cries when Aiba turns her down and calls him a plethora of unpleasant names that leave Aiba in a state of shock for the rest of the day. He understands that she must be hurt, but when he tries to apologize, she begins to cry again and this time, one of her friends chews him out, and so he hides for the rest of the day, trying not to meet anyone's eyes for fear of further retribution.

The entire thing blows over completely within a week's time, and two months later, she starts going out with another boy in Aiba's class. Aiba is glad for her and glad that he doesn't have to endure any more shouting, but the memory of the kiss lingers with him despite how hard he tries to forget it, and it's a little unfair, he thinks, that his first kiss should have been something so incredibly unpleasant when it's something that people will ask about for years to come. He feels cheated, really, but in the long run, there's really nothing he can do about it...

...

Nino's first kiss is in his bedroom on his bed, but it's not really as exciting as that sounds. He and Aiba are playing videos games-- Mario Kart, this time, the new one for the Nintendo 64-- like they often do, and there's nothing really out of the ordinary about it. Nino is winning, of course, Nino is always winning, Aiba thinks, even when he's not. There are times when Aiba nudges out ahead, times when he takes the lead and gets excited that maybe this one time, he'll take the victory, but in the end, it must be a part of some strategy, because Nino always comes out on top in the end, a smug smirk on his lips. Aiba knows it's not really a fair comparison when Nino spends all his free time doing this and Aiba only plays when he's with Nino, but Aiba's never really been that competitive anyway, and if winning makes Nino happy, Aiba doesn't really need or want to take that from him.

They don't talk all that much when they play video games, because Nino's always concentrating and he's not that much of a talker, anyway, and Aiba doesn't mind doing what Nino likes. Sometimes, Aiba will make comments about things that happen in the game, things that have happened in the day, things relevant to their mutual friends, and sometimes Nino won't answer. Aiba isn't really sure if he's heard and doesn't care or if he's concentrating so hard that he doesn't hear at all, but Aiba doesn't let it bother him, lets it roll off his shoulders the way Aiba tries to face everything. Life is too short to get hung up, he thinks, and besides, most of the time, Nino does answer with a short word or two, or at least a grunt of acknowledgement. And usually, that's it.

But sometimes, the comment is interesting enough, or perhaps Nino is good enough at the game that they're playing that he doesn't have to concentrate as hard, and then when Aiba answers Nino's answer, a conversation actually starts, actually goes somewhere. And as much as Aiba enjoys playing games with Nino, play games and talking with Nino is even better because Aiba has always been the sort of person who wants everything at once, who believes that no second spent with friends should go to waste. So when conversations start, Aiba is always the happiest, always tries to keep them going as long as possible.

The day of Nino's first kiss is one of those days where they get talking, because as they're racing, Aiba makes a comment about Peach, which leads to a conversation about girls, which leads to kissing. Since his first kiss, Aiba has had some experience with kissing here or there with other friends among the Johnny's Juniors, and he's come to realize that he likes it quite a bit. Kissing can be fun, Aiba comments to Nino, when done with the right person, but, to his surprise, Nino professes to be strictly against kissing. Why, Aiba wants to know, because he can't understand how something so simple and physical and affectionate with another person could ever be bad, but Nino says over and over that he just doesn't like it. Aiba is absolutely baffled, and continues to question him, however, until Nino finally comes out and says that it's not that he's really that strongly against kissing, it's just that he's never done it before.

Aiba is even more surprised by this, and stares at Nino in shock for a moment before he remembers that they're playing a game and turns his gaze back to the screen before Nino beats him even more miserably than Aiba's already been losing. But even as he tries to concentrate on the game, he can't help but stew on the fact that Nino is missing out on one of the best things ever, and so, before they even finish their game, Aiba is leaning over to catch Nino's lips in a kiss.

It's a plus, he thinks, that he's done this before, because first kisses are probably better when one of you knows what you're doing. And clearly, since it's a first kiss, Nino has no experience, which means that it's Aiba's responsibility to make it as good as possible. And so he tries; he doesn't press too hard but he isn't too yielding, either, matching his lips to Nino's, which are moist and warm and soft, much softer than Nino's usual attitude. Kissing Nino is nice, Aiba thinks, because Nino is his friend and he trusts Nino implicitly and he wants Nino to like it too, and so when he pulls back, he smiles a little, asking, how was it?

Nino looks at him breathlessly for a moment, usually pale cheeks tinted pink with a blush, but then he scowls, turning back to the TV screen. You made me lose, he accuses, pouting magnificently, and they don't talk about the kiss anymore.

But when Aiba kisses Nino again the next time he's at Nino's house, Nino doesn't complain.

...

Toma's first kiss is in the bathroom at a dance studio full of Johnny's Juniors, but it's not nearly as risque as that sounds.  A few minutes earlier, Toma had retreated from the studio to the bathroom red-faced and teary-eyed, and when he doesn't emerge in the next ten minutes, Aiba is the one to go after him.  He wonders if the others have noticed anything, but he can't really fault them; Nino isn't a people person and Jun is so ambitious that practically nothing can break his concentration in dance class.  But Aiba can't ever not be aware of the people that he loves, and so he follows Toma into the bathroom, where he finds the boy hunched over the sink.

Toma is the youngest of them, Aiba knows, and it's sometimes hard for him to remember, but at times like these, Aiba almost feels bad for him.  It's awesome that he's come as far as the rest of them at such a young age, but at the same time, he's not at the same emotional or physical level that the rest of them have reached, and sometimes, it shows.  Aiba has been aware over the past few dance classes that Toma has been receiving a lot of critique-- he falls behind, his movements aren't sharp enough, he doesn't have enough energy.  But Toma is barely thirteen, and his muscles aren't as mature, and his attention span isn't as long, and Aiba feels bad for him despite the fact that the dance instructor is probably right.  He's said nothing thus far, but he's not exactly surprised, either, that they've reached a breaking point.

He feels a little guilty for not acting earlier, too, but it's just so hard to know what's right.  Nino and Jun are both so focused that critique only makes them stronger, albeit in different ways, and Aiba doesn't want to assume anything of Toma.  But now that Toma's here crying in the bathroom outside of dance class, Aiba thinks, preventative measures probably would have been best.  If he could rewind, go back and remind Toma that Aiba knew he was amazing and that they were all going to get famous together... be he can't do that, and so, with a sigh, he moves forward.

When Toma notices him there, he tries to pretend he hasn't been crying, sniffing and wiping at his eyes with the backs of his hands, but Aiba only smiles, moving closer.  He's so much taller than Toma these days; Toma's not particularly small for his age, but Aiba has been growing and growing and growing, and he towers over most of the other Juniors.  Dropping to his knees-- he feelings intimidating at his height-- and looking up at Toma, he reaches up to gently brush away the tears staining Toma's face.  Toma looks down at him for a moment weakly, and its at times like these when he really seems young, when Aiba wants to take him in and protect him.  Aiba's never really been protective, per se; he has too much trust in others for that, but when Toma looks vulnerable, Aiba can't help it.  He wants to hold his hand, wants to bolster him up forever, because Toma is brave, he thinks, for being here as it is, and he deserves any help Aiba can give him.

You okay? he asks with a bit of a smile, and Toma nods very deliberately, but Aiba doesn't fail to notice the defiant tear rolling down his cheek even as he tries to prove that he's fine.  Aiba shakes his head, standing again and wrapping his arms around the small of Toma's back, and says, It's okay to cry, you know, and after looking up at him wide eyed for a moment, that's exactly what Toma does.  Aiba holds onto him tight and Toma cries into Aiba's shoulder for a good few minutes, and Aiba feels warm and comfortable strong, strong enough to support to Toma for as long as Toma needs him, and it's a good feeling, somehow, one that Aiba isn't sure he's ever felt before.

But this isn't about him, it's about Toma, and when Aiba feels Toma's tears slowing, he draws back slightly, cupping Toma's face in one hand and thumbing away the tears lingering on his face. He feels like he should say something, but he doesn't know what, and so he only offers Toma a smile, and when Toma smiles back up at him, eyes wide and cheeks stained with tear, and all of a sudden, Aiba feels like he's going to cry, too. But he doesn't, despite the tightness in his throat, despite the wetness at the corners of his eyes and the burning in his cheeks, and instead, before he's entirely sure what he's doing, he's leaning in and brushing a kiss to Toma's lips, like it's the totally natural thing to do in a situation like this.

And it feels natural, honestly, it feels right and comfortable even though it's probably entirely weird, and before the first kiss is really completely done, Aiba leans back in for a second more decisive one, his lips pressing firmly against Toma's before he draws back. Toma's face is pink and his breaths are coming in short gasps and and his eyes are wide as he looks up at Aiba, and for a moment Aiba worries that he's done the wrong thing, that he's made it all worse. But then Toma's lips curl up into a smile and he giggles, sniffing back the last remnants of his tears before giving Aiba another hug.

Thanks, is all he says before pulling away with one last grin and darting back to class, but it feels to Aiba as if he's said so much more.

...

Jun's first kiss is in front of a train station at dusk, in the midst of a huge crowd of people, surrounded by salarymen out for a drink after work, young housewives concluding a day of shopping, high school kids with huge athletic bags of tennis racquets, soccer gear, archery bows. It's at the tail end of a long afternoon; after Saturday dance class, Aiba had asked all of MAIN out to coffee and then karaoke, but Nino had had a family obligation and Toma had chores, and so it's been just Aiba and Jun all afternoon, and to Aiba, it's been amazing. It's not that he actively likes Jun more than his other friends at Johnny's, really, it's just that somehow, when it's just he and Jun, it feels different somehow, it gives Aiba this warm, bubbly feeling in his stomach that he doesn't quite understand. And so the afternoon has gone by in seconds, seemingly, and now here they are at the train station, and Aiba doesn't want to say goodbye.

He's never really one hundred percent sure with Jun, but it seems like he doesn't want to part ways, either. His eyes aren't quite meeting Aiba's, flicking from people passing by to the yellow textured strip of pavement beneath them in the entrance to the ticket machines. His hands are shoved in his pockets, and he looks cool, Aiba thinks, cooler than most people seem to think of him. But most people don't seem to think of Jun the way Aiba does, most people can't see past the seriousness of his disposition, the strictness of his dedication to work. Most people don't seem to notice the beauty of his expression when he really smiles, the ring to his laughter when he really lets go, but, Aiba thinks, in the end, it's their loss. And so he nudges Jun in the arm to get Jun's attention and when Jun's eyes snap back to him with a bit of a blush, Aiba offers him a grin. Let's do it again sometime, yeah? he asks, and Jun nods quickly, a quick grin logging up his face, and Aiba knows it's weird, but god, he really is beautiful, he thinks, in his own right, somehow.

But it's really getting late now, and so See ya, Aiba says, turning to head into the station. It's a shame that he lives so far away, he thinks, and has to head home so early to make curfew, because Jun lives in Tokyo and Aiba would kill for just a few more moments together, just the two of them...

But before Aiba can really turn, he feels Jun's hand on his arm, and he stops, startled. What's up, he opens his mouth to say, but before he can say anything, he's turning almost head first into Jun, who, it seems, has overshot Aiba's reaction, and then, somehow, his lips are smashed into Jun's for a brief second before Jun stumbles back, eyes wide, face red.

By the way he's responding, it seems like it was an accident, and Aiba is surprised at how his heart falls at that realization, as he's trying to formulate an apology, Jun is cutting him off. No, Jun says, I wanted-- But his blush gets deeper at that, and he swallows and tries again. I wanted to say that I had a really... really good time, he finally gets out, a sheepish grin growing on his lips depute the intensity of his blush, and Aiba's heart practically leaps all the way out of his chest. He's never actively thought about it this way, really, though he can't honestly say he's never wanted to kiss Jun, he's never really associated kissing with this feeling that's tugging on his heart and making it impossible for him not to smile, but somehow, with Jun it feels all right, and Aiba has never been one to argue with what comes naturally.

Come back with me, he says, grabbing Jun's hand, and Jun says What about your parents, what about my parents, but Aiba's never been one to worry about the details. Jun clearly has trouble, frowning at Aiba's shrug in response, but he boards the Sobu line towards Chiba all the same, hand still interlocked with Aiba's as the train pulls away from the station. And when Aiba smiles at him, excitement bubbling in his chest, Jun smiles right back, squeezing Aiba's fingers just a little, and in Aiba has never felt anything quite this right.

Jun's first kiss is in the front of a train station at dusk, awkward and brief and hardly romantic, but his second kiss on the floor of Aiba's bedroom more than makes up for it in pretty much every way. The second is quickly followed by the third, the fourth, the fifth, and even after Aiba loses count, like he's long since lost count in his own experience, he can't stop, he can't get enough. There's something about kissing Jun that's not the same as kissing others, something underneath the surface on which Aiba can't quite put his finger. It's not more fun, not more exciting, not intense than any given kiss that he's shared with the countless girls from school and boys from work that he's kissed in the past, but it's still somehow better. Perfect.

When they finally run out of breath and the kisses make way for giggles as they lay curled up against one another at the foot of Aiba's bed, Jun snuggles slightly into the crook of Aiba's neck and asks, When was your first kiss?

And somehow, without thinking about it at all, Aiba rests his head against Jun's and responds with all honesty into Jun's hair, None of them really counted before you.