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the stillness of real love

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"So, my sister is getting married."

The words don't match the tone. Massu's whispering conspiratorially, like he's trying to talk Shige into robbing a bank, and Shige is understandably confused.

"Oh, yeah?" he replies, lowering his voice as well. Maybe there's some sort of surprise involved.

"I'm singing at the wedding," Massu goes on, sounding like he's talking about giving a eulogy.

Shige smiles bigger than usual in an attempt to brighten the mood. "That'll be nice."

"Yeah, I suppose."

Massu looks seriously distracted, and Shige considers the possibility that Massu doesn't approve of his sister's choice of spouse. Last he knew, Masuda Shouko had been seeing the same person for a couple years now, and Massu had always spoken fondly of him.

"Will you come with me?"

Shige shakes his head out of his thoughts. "Come where?"

"To the wedding," Massu says clearly. "As my plus one."

"Sure?" Shige agrees, feeling more lost as this conversation progresses. "Tell me the date, and I'll have my manager keep it open—hey, wait, you're not trying to set me up, are you?"

Suddenly, everything clicks together: the secrecy, the strange invitation, the fact that Massu hasn't smiled once through this entire exchange. Massu's a horrible liar, and the only reason he would even attempt it would be for the other person's own good.

The accusation pulls a short laugh from the other idol, almost a scoff. "I am most definitely not setting you up. Trust me."

"Why me, then?" Shige demands. "Don't you usually take Nakamaru to these things? Even if he's busy, Tegoshi and Kei would undoubtedly be better wedding companions than I would. What other reason would you have to bring me, if not to introduce me to someone?"

"Nakamaru refuses to go to anymore family events with me," Massu reports. "Tegoshi and Koyama would have too much fun with it. Shige, it has to be you!"

Shige huffs. "I don't believe you."

"Okay." Massu takes a deep breath, holding it for so long that Shige exhales for him. "It started off as a joke, right? Because I brought Yuichi every time, my parents and sister thought we were dating, and I never really corrected them. It got them off of my back about finding someone, you know? He thought it was hilarious...until he didn't."

Shige doesn't know what to say, so he just nods to show he's listening.

"If I don't bring someone, I'm going to be the one set up with every unrelated male guest that could possibly swing that way, because my entire family already thinks that I do."

"Do you?" Shige challenges.

Massu looks a little like a fish out of water as he stares at Shige like he could telepathically answer that way. "Sort of?"

"Sort of," Shige repeats incredulously. "We'll come back to this later. I'm assuming that by accompanying you, I'll be taking on the role of your new boyfriend?"

"No, no, no," Massu says quickly, waving his hands. "You won't have to do anything different. I won't even have to lie. They will see us together and assume."

Shige folds his arms. "What if someone asks me?"

"Tell the truth." Massu rolls his eyes. "Not being together makes them want us together even more."

It's the same logic their fans have, Shige has to admit. Remembering their jobs has Shige looking at this from another angle. "What if someone sees us together? Better yet, what if someone actually believes we are dating and sells us out?"

"Yuichi and I haven't ended up in the tabloids yet," Massu says pointedly. "My family keeps to themselves anyway. We're unapologetic gossips amongst other Masudas, but that's where it stays."

Shige sighs. "I don't know, Taka. I have my reputation to think of too."

"Is being seen with me in formalwear really the worst thing to happen to your reputation?" Massu asks knowingly.

"I still think you should take Kei," Shige tells him. "He lives for this kind of shit."

"That's exactly why I don't want to take him," Massu replies. "He'd make a production out of it and embarrass me. You won't do that. You'll just be you, and it'll be fine."

Shige opens his mouth to push for Tegoshi and immediately closes it. Nope, definitely not that one. Fake dating aside, Tegoshi's a nightmare to take anywhere let alone someplace he has to dress up and behave. Shige has secondhand embarrassment just thinking about all the whining and inappropriate comments.

"It has to be me," he repeats what Massu had said earlier, and Massu looks hopeful. "Okay, I'll go, but there better be really good catering."

"Excuse me, this is a Masuda wedding," Massu says, and Shige laughs. "Only the tastiest food for my sister."

"Okay, okay. I believe you. " A grin spreads on Shige's face. "Now, about that whole sort-of-gay thing."

Massu looks around like someone might have heard them. "Not here!"

"Relax, me too," Shige tells him. "I'm surprised you didn't already know. I'm not exactly good at pretending to be into women."

"I always thought you were just being respectful," Massu says with a shrug. "It's not like that anyway. I like women just fine. I'm just more comfortable with men."

"Huh." Shige nods. "Okay."

There's that blinding Massu smile. "Thanks, Shige. I really owe you one."

"It's fine," Shige assures him, in brighter spirits now that he knows the truth. "When's the wedding?"

"Tomorrow."

Shige stares at him as he pulls out his phone to check his schedule. "You are very lucky that I am free on such short notice. What am I supposed to wear?"

"I'm sure we can figure something out."

*

The wedding is out in the countryside. Shige offers to drive so that Massu can drink, and Massu admits that his family has blocked off a section of rooms at a nearby resort with the assumption that he and his plus one would want to stay overnight.

"If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were trying to get me into bed," Shige teases, and Massu bursts out laughing.

"That would be very disappointing for you," Massu eventually gets out.

"I don't know," Shige jokes. "If you don't steal the covers or kick in your sleep, you'd be the most pleasant sleeping companion I've had lately."

Massu looks like he wants to ask, then seems to think better of it. "I don't do either of those things, but I have been known to snore when I've been drinking."

"Kei could saw logs with the volume of his snoring," Shige tells him. "The depth, too. He vibrates the whole bed!"

A glance to the side shows a thoughtful expression on Massu's face. "Did you two ever date?"

"Oh, god, no." Shige makes a face so unflattering that Massu cracks up again. "Are you kidding me? We would murder each other. Besides, we pretty much already date for work. Kind of kills any desire to be like that in our private time."

"I know what you mean," Massu says, and he absolutely does. "Tegoshi's such a pain in the ass, I have no idea how he gets so many girls. Every time I turn around, there's a new one, and the old ones stick around too!"

"He does relate well to women," Shige admits. "Though it's my understanding that they don't usually like dating someone who is prettier than them."

"He claims it's because he's good in bed." Massu rolls his eyes. "Those girls must like to do all of the work."

"Wouldn't know," Shige says with a shrug. "And I never, ever plan on finding out."

"How'd you know?" Massu asks suddenly, and it takes Shige a second to backtrack.

"That I was gay?" Shige clarifies, and Massu nods. "I figured it out when I looked at all of the pretty boys in Johnny's the same way they looked at girls."

Massu nods. "Did you come out right away?"

"Not exactly." Shige smiles as he thinks back to his teenage years. "Kusano and I would sneak off a lot to make out, and one time, Kei found us. I didn't tell my parents until I had my first proper boyfriend in university."

"I remember that, vaguely," Massu says. "Didn't know it was a guy, obviously, but it was around the same time as our first reformation and you were all stupid lovesick."

"Yeah." Shige leans back in the driver's seat, sighing at the nostalgia. "Ah, to be young, dumb, and in love again."

"Remind me to toast to that later," Massu jokes.

"Have you ever been in love?" Shige asks. It's sudden, but so was Massu's inquiry about his sexuality.

"I don't know," Massu answers. "I thought so, but they would always claim I wasn't affectionate enough, attentive enough, sexual enough...eventually, I stopped trying."

"That's so sad," Shige tells him, offering him a sympathetic look. "I feel like we need alcohol before we continue this conversation."

"Definitely," Massu agrees. "We're almost there."

Shige looks at the GPS on his phone and follows the directions to a beautiful old-fashioned resort. He's momentarily worried that they're dressed too modernly, then remembers whose plus one he is. There are two things Masuda Takahisa always gets right—food and fashion.

Sure enough, only the scenery is traditional Japanese; the other guests are wearing suits and gowns, hair flowing and jewelry shining, and Shige almost feels underdressed. He's wearing the same ensemble as Massu though, and Massu looks sharp. Maybe it's just that Shige doesn't get to see him in formalwear too often, at least seriously and not as part of a performance costume.

"Taka!" someone declares, and Shige vaguely recognizes Massu's mother making their way toward him. "And Kato-kun, dear, you have grown up so nicely."

"Mom, he's thirty years old," Massu points out. "He's been grown for a long time."

"Well, I haven't seen him in a long time." Massu-mama pulls Shige into a hug, and Shige's momentarily dazed by the bosom pressing against his chest. He hasn't quite figured out how to hug people with cleavage without making that kind of contact. "I'm so glad it's you. You're my favorite."

Shige tries not to look too amused. "Thank you, Masuda-san."

"Mom, shouldn't you be fussing over Shouko?" Massu asks, pointedly guiding her away from Shige. "Your only daughter is getting married today, you know."

"Oh, hush, you." She fixes him with a look that wipes the expression right off his face. "At the rate you're going, this might be the only wedding I'll get."

"Wow," Shige hisses as she walks away. "No pressure."

"Right?" Massu laughs. "Can't imagine I'd be able to keep anyone around once I introduced them to her anyway."

"At least I'm her favorite," Shige teases, and Massu rolls his eyes.

"May as well get all the introductions out of the way," is all Massu says.

Shige spends the next twenty minutes meeting damn near everyone in Massu's family before they're all hoarded into the chapel. One of Massu's uncles had read Shige's books and spoke very highly of them, so Shige's feeling on top of the world when he takes his seat in the front row next to Massu.

The ceremony is Western style, where the entire wedding party and flower child walk up the aisle before the bride. Massu's dad looks just as sharp as Massu does as he escorts his daughter up the aisle, bowing low at her soon-to-be spouse before letting go of her hand and taking his seat next to his wife.

"Her dress is gorgeous," Shige whispers.

"Thank you," Massu replies. "I designed it."

Shige's eyebrows rise in surprise, but he doesn't speak further. The service begins, and Shige settles in to celebrate the love between this man and this woman. The heteronormative speech grates his ass a little, but it's not Shouko's fault that she's straight. Shige mentally adds 'go to a gay wedding' to his list of things to do next year and feels better, even if he'll have to leave the country for it.

Predictably, Massu's mom is crying before the couple even gets to their vows, but his dad has teared up too. Massu himself is clear-eyed but solemn, like watching his sister get married is something to be sad about. Shige nudges him and offers a questioning look, and he just shakes his head. Something else to talk about later over drinks, then.

Soon, Massu's new brother-in-law is instructed to kiss the bride and everyone applauds. The wedding party begins the elaborate exit formation and Shige's glad that he's in the front row with the rest of the family. They're the first people in the reception area, and somehow Massu beats Shige to the bar.

"How many before you can't drive?" Massu asks, gesturing to Shige's bottle with his own.

"Isn't it okay to stay over?" is Shige's answer, and Massu grins like everything about this day is infinitely better just because Shige's there.

And maybe it is. They applaud as the newlyweds are introduced for the first time as spouses, and then Massu stands up to make his way to the front. Now Shige's the one watching as Massu takes the microphone from the deejay, dedicates his song to his precious sister and the new addition to their family, and the beginning notes of Forever Mine start to play through the speakers for the couple's first dance.

Of course, it would be this song. Shige smiles as he remembers concert rehearsals and Massu worrying that the fans wouldn’t enjoy him just standing there and singing without dancing. He remembers meetings when they were putting the album together, how elated Massu was that he would get to cover one of his favorite ballads. Massu may be into EDM and American pop, but he's a sucker for old Japanese love songs and this was one of his favorites.

"I like you much better than that other guy," someone says, and Shige tears his eyes away from Massu singing from his soul to focus on the small girl who had helped herself to Massu's empty seat.

"Thanks," Shige replies. What else could he say? She couldn't be more than ten years old.

"My cousin deserves someone who looks at him like he's the world," she goes on. "That other guy never looked at him like that."

Shige looks away as he figures out what she's implying. "Is that so?"

She just smiles. "You listen to him sing all the time for work and you still can't take your eyes off of him right now. I may not know much, but I know love when I see it."

"How old are you even?" Shige asks, ignoring the escalated pounding of his heart.

"Nine," she answers. "I've had two boyfriends already. And one girlfriend."

Shige feels pleased despite himself. "Right on."

She doesn't say anything else, so Shige returns to appreciating Massu's personal performance. When the song is over, she's gone.

Shige applauds along with everyone else, and Massu looks surprised when Shouko pulls him into a hug. Apparently, he and Shige hadn't been the only ones who made it to the bar.

When Massu returns to the table, Shige takes great pride in relaying his conversation with Massu's cousin.

"Ah, Reiko-chan," Massu says, shaking his head. "Her favorite is Tegoshi, so her opinion is invalid."

Shige laughs out loud.

The food is served then, and it's delicious. As expected, Massu's parents had gone all out for high end sushi and other Japanese delicacies. Shige hasn't eaten this well in ages, and he regularly goes out for sushi with Koyama. He's not nearly as much of a foodie as Massu is, but he's acquired a bit of a palette after so many years of cooking for himself and trying out new recipes. Right now, his palette is deeply impressed.

Tasty food usually puts Massu in a good mood, and he continues their earlier conversation without prompting. Massu had wanted to date when he was younger, but quickly found that he wasn't compatible with the women who were interested in him. Shige relates to that a lot, being in the same line of work and resorting to the same narrow pool of dating prospects—only with a different gender.

"I never considered it with another man until my family assumed Yuichi and I were like that," he volunteers, tossing back his second beer and grinning happily. "Obviously, not with Yuichi—" he makes a face equivalent to Shige's feelings on dating Koyama "—but I thought that might be why I wasn't getting anywhere with women. Except that men seem to be even more demanding in relationships, particularly when it comes to sex, and that's a huge turnoff for me."

Shige nods. He can't even be offended on behalf of gay men everywhere because Massu's absolutely right. "So, if there was a guy who was more chill about it, would you date him?"

"Maybe." Massu shrugs. "I can't say for sure without knowing him personally."

"Of course." Shige tries not to frown. He doesn't know if he'd be able to have a relationship without that kind of physical intimacy, but he supposes he's not the one trying to date Massu. "There have to be more people like you out there, right? I mean, logically it's impossible that you're the only one who doesn't want to do those things."

"It's not that I won't do it ever," Massu emphasizes. "I just don't like having things demanded of me, you know? It's like, we can only be in a relationship if I treat them this way and we do these things all the time. I'm not interested in that kind of limited behavior."

"That, my friend, is why I'm single," Shige says. He doesn't feel that drunk, but the alcohol is definitely coursing through his veins, leaving him much more open to discussing his personal business than earlier in the car. "Gay sex is messy anyway."

Massu bursts out laughing, and Shige grins over his (third?) beer. "All sex is messy," he corrects. "Honestly, I'm fine with being alone. I have so many people in my life that I don't need things like romance."

Shige nods. "I hear you."

"Sometimes, I miss the closeness," Massu admits, gazing forlornly at the front of the hall that had been set aside for dancing. "It's not worth all of the hassle though."

Shige follows his line of sight and watches the couples sway from side to side, frowning at all the male-female combinations as an upbeat pop song fades into a slow jam. "Let's dance."

"What?"

"Dance with me," Shige repeats, more forcefully this time, and Massu stares at him like he'd just suggested they massacre his entire family. "Everyone already thinks we're together anyway. May as well take advantage of it and gay up the scene."

Massu considers this for a few seconds before tossing back the rest of his beer. "Okay."

Shige stands up and extends his hand like a proper gentleman, and Massu's smile shines even more brightly as he accepts it. "I'll even let you lead," Shige teases, "since you're clearly the better dancer of the two of us."

"Not gonna argue with you there," Massu replies as he allows himself to be escorted to the dance floor.

Slow dancing is simple and complicated at the same time. There's no choreography to remember, but there's also no direction. At least with Massu leading, Shige can relax and follow the movements guided by the hands that rest on his waist. It's easy for Shige to wrap his arms around Massu's shoulders and sway, enjoying the pleasant warmth that spreads throughout him as they move to the music.

They're a comfortable distance apart, close enough for Shige to lean his head against Massu's and feel the slightly shorter man breathe. Massu has to have the strongest diaphragm in Japan with all of the deep breathing he does, Shige relaxing even more by proxy, and he's partially in a trance when he hears Massu speak softly.

"This is my first time."

"Dancing with a man?" Shige guesses.

"Dancing with anyone."

"Not even in high school?" Shige asks, amazed.

Massu scoffs. "That hardly counts."

"Well." Shige smiles and squeezes Massu's shoulders in a quick hug. "I'm honored to be your first."

Massu returns the gesture on Shige's waist, but he doesn't let up when Shige does. Instead, Shige finds Massu's head on his shoulder, their bodies pressed more closely together as Massu's hands slide up his back. Shige's body adapts without thinking, taking a deep breath of his own as he holds Massu close to him like he's something precious. Right now, he is.

The first song ends and blends into another, and Shige's grateful that it's also a slow tempo. He doesn't want this to end yet, whatever it is. He's tipsy, well on his way to being drunk, but his actions right now aren't entirely from the alcohol. Massu's important to him and Shige cares about him a lot, happy that he can provide this type of comfort for him. It's not like Shige isn't getting anything out of it himself; Massu hadn't been the only one who has been craving this kind of closeness.

If anything, the alcohol helps Shige accept it instead of overanalyzing it.

He's pulled out of his thoughts by quiet laughter, and Shige makes a quizzical noise to see what's so funny. "What Koyama said," Massu says, the depth of his voice vibrating most of Shige's chest. "About you smelling manly. I was just thinking that you smell nice, and I remembered that whole discussion."

"He's ridiculous," Shige mutters. "Makes it sound like I'm out in the forest chopping wood or something."

Massu laughs again. "I'm pretty sure women can do that too."

"They undoubtedly do it better than me."

They fall into amiable silence again, and Shige inhales the faint scent of Massu's cologne. It's a different kind than the one he usually wears at work and Shige's entranced now that most of his senses are stimulated. He could stay like this all night, never mind that they're surrounded by Massu's entire family, never mind that they're not actually together like that. Right now, all Shige wants to do is be close to Massu, and Massu doesn't seem too keen on letting go of Shige either.

The next song is more upbeat, and Shige feels like he's waking from a dream as Massu pulls away, seeming as reluctant to part as Shige is. Massu's smile makes everything better, and they stop at the bar for another round on the way back to their table.

"That was nice," Massu says, looking thoughtful as they return to their seats.

"Yeah," Shige agrees, feeling the familiar strain in his face muscles from when he's grinned for too long. "Yeah, it was."

He'll worry about what that means later.

*

Beer hangovers are much more preferred over wine or hard liquor, but they're not pleasant by any means. Shige's already cringing at the first hint of consciousness, when his brain is struggling to wake up amidst the pounding.

Stretching only subdues the aching for a few seconds, bringing it back full force as Shige tries to process what had blocked his arm extension on the left side. A second attempt earns an annoyed whine and a shift in the weight next to him, sending a thousand worst-case scenarios to the front of Shige's tired mind that all dissolve when his vision focuses.

"Oh, thank fuck it's you," Shige groans, his voice coming out about two octaves lower than usual.

Massu lets out a short laugh. "Often wake up in bed with strange men?"

"Not lately," Shige replies.

"I can't tell whether you're proud or bitter about that."

"Me neither."

Shige wakes up more now that he's talking, and the events leading up to this moment start to piece together in his memory. After their slow dance, they'd kept drinking and mingling with some of Massu's older relatives (Reiko-chan hadn't made another appearance, thankfully), eventually retreating to one of the previously booked rooms that naturally only had one bed. Shige remembers revisiting the joke he'd made earlier about Massu being his most pleasant sleeping companion, then he'd apparently managed to get most of the way out of his suit before passing out.

"We should head back," Massu speaks Shige's thoughts, not that either one is making any effort to move. "We have work later."

"Yeah," Shige agrees, still working out the logistics of turning over.

Another hour has them stuffed into last night's clothes and on the road back to Tokyo. Shige has a triple shot expresso and a handful of ibuprofen while Massu sleeps it off, the passenger seat leaned all the way back for maximum comfort. Shige's only a little jealous, periodically stealing glances at the one who doesn't have to be conscious right now, but he has to admit that it's better than having Massu awake and struggling to make conversation.

Any other time, they could sit in silence together without it being awkward, but Shige's brain is running purely on caffeine and even more aware of what he'd been trying to ignore last night, what soars through every vein and nerve now that's sober. He had really enjoyed being close to Massu, and not just while they were dancing. Ordinarily a touchy person while drunk (though not nearly as much as Tegoshi), he'd played up the physical contact a bit in front of Massu's family, a sling of an arm here, pat of a hand there, and it wasn't entirely for show.

Shige didn't think he actually had feelings for Massu, but what the hell does he know?

At any rate, if Massu were awake, Shige would very likely try to get it off his mind and see what Massu thought about it. He certainly hadn't been the only one participating, after all. With as weak as he is right now, it's easy to recall Massu's arms around him, holding him close as they danced. Shige finds himself smiling at the memory, fighting to keep his eyes focused on the road instead of what's behind them.

Massu hops right out of the car when Shige pulls up in front of his building, all grins and thank-yous before he disappears. Shige has just enough time to shower at his own place before meeting up with the other NEWS members, and just like that his life falls back into chaotic normal.

"How was the wedding?" Koyama asks during a break.

Shige's not at all surprised that Koyama had found out about it. He's probably been hacking into Shige's Google calendar for years now. "It was nice. Shouko-san's dress was really pretty. Massu said he designed it."

Koyama nods as Shige goes on to describe everything he can remember about the venue, food, ambiance, whatever. Koyama eats it up, and by the time Shige finishes, the other two have arrived. Tegoshi offers a one-syllable greeting without looking up from his phone, but Massu holds Shige's eyes for a beat and grins.

Shige's not proud of the jolt that courses through his body, because it's not entirely platonic and it doesn't even make sense. He'd just seen Massu a couple hours ago; there's no logical reason why he should be reacting this way. It all makes his brain hurt, which brings back the incessant throbbing in his head.

"Wild night?" Koyama teases, and Shige rolls his eyes. "Did something happen between you and Massu?"

Tegoshi snorts at that. "Him too? It's so rough being the only straight person in this group."

"Yeah, you're so oppressed," Shige says sarcastically, but Tegoshi just nods like he'd been serious. "Nothing happened. I'm just hungover."

That's when Massu approaches, eyeing Shige in concern. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," Shige replies, the pain seeming to dull a little from the pleasant voice. "I drank too much last night."

Massu laughs. "Yeah, you did. Be sure and get some rest tonight, okay? Let me know if there's anything I can do."

Behind him, Tegoshi is making very crude gestures alluding to exactly what he thinks Massu is offering, and Shige tries not to let it show on his face as he flashes Massu his best smile. "Thanks, Taka."

Koyama frowns like Massu had taken away his one job by offering to care for Shige, but it's quickly replaced by his usual face as he pats Shige on the shoulder. "I'm glad you and Massu are spending more time together."

"Me too," Shige replies, and it's absolute truth.

As ordered, he goes straight home after they're done and crawls into bed. The next day has him feeling a million times better, but it's nonstop meetings and appearances. The day after that is more of the same. Shige's grateful for it, because more work means more success, with the added bonus of leaving him too busy to pay much attention to his thoughts. If it doesn't have to do with NEWS, writing, or his growing acting career, it doesn't get top priority in his brain.

It's almost two weeks before he has another day off, and naturally everyone else is busy. Well, everyone he would want to spend time with anyway. The problem with all the members doing their own thing in addition to NEWS is that their schedules don't always align. He hasn't been out with Koyama in so long that he actually misses him, and they work together several times a week. Being as it's a Tuesday, his friends outside of the entertainment industry have to work, and Kanjani8 have been doing so much lately that Shige's had to keep tabs on Ryo and Maruyama through Jweb like a fanperson.

Tegoshi's free, but Shige's not that hard up for company.

If Shige's being honest with himself, there's only one person he wants to spend his rare free time with anyway. Not that he wouldn't jump at the chance to meet up with Koyama if the latter suddenly became available, but that's definitely not who has been on his mind for the past couple weeks, simmering like a pot on a back burner just waiting for an opportunity to increase the heat.

Cooking analogies seem appropriate in this instance anyway. Shige laughs out loud at himself. He's at home, so he's the only one around to witness his insanity, having slept half of the day and forced himself to catch up on household chores. He may be famous enough to have a manager who does his laundry now, but she won't clean his toilet.

He ventures outside and picks up some groceries. He window shops in the stores that line the main roads. He calls his parents and accidentally delights them by sharing the news of Massu's sister's wedding. No, he hasn't found a nice man with whom to settle down yet; no, he hasn't changed his mind about not wanting to get married and give them grandchildren. It's still not legal, Mom and Keep fighting for love, Shigeaki! He supposes he should be grateful to have accepting parents in such a conservative country, but it's still disheartening to feel like everything he's accomplished in his life isn't worth anything unless he has someone to share it with.

He'll argue until he's blue in the face that he already has people to share it with, just like Massu had said when they touched on this topic at the wedding, but it's not enough for the generation whose only focus was building a family.

It's inhumanely cold outside, but Shige walks around anyway, appreciating the leftover holiday decorations and bright lights even in the middle of the day. Negative fifteen degrees is too much for even the most dedicated fanperson, not that he would be recognized anyway with all of his outerwear. He feels a bit like Baymax from Big Hero 6 as he waddles through the city, ducking into the first coffee shop he sees to warm up.

Once his brain defrosts, he realizes that he's in Massu's neighborhood, and of course his feet would carry him here. On a whim, he shoots Massu a message to see if the other man has a minute to meet up, despite already knowing that he had work today. That's a Google calendar they all share.

I'm actually almost done! is the immediate reply, and Shige lights up along with his phone. I can be there in thirty minutes.

Shige has no problem waiting, settling into a comfy loveseat with his coffee that has a more human amount of expresso in it. The shop is nice, set up to look more like a lodge complete with a real fireplace. He's not the only patron, but the few others are likely too old to care that NEWS' Kato Shigeaki exposes his face not far away from them. That's one benefit to having a day off in the middle of the work/school week.

Massu shuffles in a while later, just as bundled up as Shige had been, and Shige feels like someone had put another log on the fire. He watches as Massu contemplates the menu while unravelling his scarf and eventually places an order. It's a quick fill—probably hot tea or something much less involved than Shige's americano—and then that bright smile is heading his way, plopping right next to him on the loveseat instead of taking one of the other chairs.

Secretly, Shige had hoped that this is what would happen, immediately berating himself for such an immature thought. If you want someone to sit next to you, tell them! his brain chides him. No one is a mind reader! Looks like Shige won this round, even if arguing with oneself still results in losing.

"What have you been up to?" Shige asks, like he didn't just see Massu yesterday, and Massu understandably gives him a strange look. "I mean today, what did you have going on today?"

"Costume stuff, nothing exciting," Massu answers, staring at Shige in a way that Shige can't decipher. It's even more effective so close up. "You've been really weird with me lately, Shige. I don't know if you're still creeped out by what happened at the wedding, but it's honestly fine."

Shige blinks. "What?"

"It didn't mean anything, so you can stop acting like I'm some stranger with a crush." Massu frowns, and Shige's whole world darkens. "I'm sorry I even made you go."

"Did something happen?" Shige asks, his heart pounding in his ears as he revisits his memory of the event. He hadn't thought he blacked out? "All I remember is that we danced together. I didn't do anything to you in my sleep, did I?"

"No," Massu answers, and Shige heaves a sigh of relief so large that Massu seems to forego any bitterness he'd intended and switches back to comforting friend. "It's nothing like that. The dancing was...really intimate, I know. We had both been drinking and I felt really lonely and I'm sorry. It won't happen again."

"That's not what I want at all," Shige says, speaking the thoughts that have been begging to come out since the morning after. "I really enjoyed being that close to you, and if I've been acting strangely at all, it's because I haven't had a chance to talk to you about it."

"Oh." Massu abruptly shifts his gaze from Shige's face, settling into the cushion with his drink. "I misunderstood. Badly."

"It's my fault for not saying anything," Shige insists. "I didn't want to do it in a message, and we've both been busy—"

"We're here now," Massu cuts him off, his tone sounding more...excited? "We can talk about it now."

"Okay," Shige agrees. "I haven't put my thoughts together yet, but the basis is that I liked the way it felt to be like that with you. Even the next morning, even right now, I'm still thinking about how good it felt and...how much I want to do it again."

"Me too," Massu says, and Shige lets out a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding. "Do you have those kinds of feelings for me though?"

"I don't think so," Shige answers, and it's as far as he's gotten in his thinking anyway. "We don't need feelings in order to do that, do we? Friends cuddle all the time. Hell, Tegoshi's been cuddling with me for fourteen years, and I can't stand him most of the time."

Massu snorts. "Same."

"So, it's okay, right?" Shige looks to Massu for permission, like everything will be fine if Massu says it is.

"We should establish some boundaries," Massu replies, and if Shige had let himself consider this possibility before now, he would have expected this reaction. "What are your limits? I don't really have any, except for the obvious ones. I'm actually really touchy with people this way, so you need to give me lines so that I don't cross them."

"You being the one to say that is throwing me for a loop," Shige teases, and Massu elbows him. "Aren't you the one who's always accused of not being affectionate enough?"

"With people I don't know well, yeah," Massu says. "I'm much more comfortable with you, and besides, you're not trying to sleep with me. At least not in the biblical sense."

Shige laughs out loud. "I suppose I'm not. We've already done that anyway."

"I'd be open to doing it again," Massu says. "Maybe not trashed this time."

"Yeah, okay." Shige smiles at the thought of snuggling Massu as they sleep now that he's allowed to want it. "This feels weird to talk about so openly."

"I don't imagine many people are as upfront as we are," Massu tells him. "We both have the kind of personality where if we want something, we go after it. Anything else is just unnecessary angsting, isn't it?"

"It definitely is." Shige looks down at the small sliver of space between them, where Massu's hand is relaxing on his knee. "How about handholding?"

"Maybe not here?" Massu replies, and Shige rolls his eyes. Of course. "But yeah," Massu goes on, stretching out the word like he's processing it in real time. "I'd like that a lot, actually."

"Just to be clear," Shige starts, addressing the place his mind naturally went after being granted blanket permission to be close to Massu however he wants. "No kissing or sensual touching, right? Clothes on, family friendly, good old-fashioned platonic cuddling between friends who aren't interested in having relationships with other people to satisfy their urge for physical contact."

Massu nods. "Okay."

"Got it." Shige glances over at the big clock that hangs over the fireplace and considers his schedule for tomorrow. "Do you have time now, or..?"

"Now is good," Massu says, immediately getting to his feet and reapplying all of his layers, and Shige hides a smile at how much Massu wants his closeness again—how much they both want it.

The area is so desolate that Massu had found a parking spot a block away, and they drive the short distance to Massu's place in silence. It's not awkward until they get inside and unravel again, each taking a turn in the bathroom before standing in the middle of Massu's living room, surveying the layout.

"Since you're lefthanded, would it be better for me to be on your left side?" Massu breaks the ice.

"I don't think it matters," Shige replies. "Do you need people on your right side?"

"I wouldn't know," Massu says with a short laugh. "I don't do this often."

They end up sitting that way anyway, Shige draping his left arm around Massu's broad shoulders, and everything else is natural. Massu takes a deep breath that Shige mimics without trying, the pair of them settling back onto Massu's couch and refamiliarizing themselves with the closeness. Shige expected it to be much more subdued than when they were drinking, but if anything it's stronger, like some kind of magic spell that intensifies his senses when they touch.

"What's so funny?" Massu asks, his quiet voice piercing the otherwise silent room, and Shige belatedly realizes that his shoulders had been shaking in noiseless laughter.

"Magic," he shares. "Coming together like this, it feels like someone cast a spell on us."

Massu chuckles softly, the vibrations tickling Shige's collarbone. "It does kind of feel like that. Will you hold my hand now?"

Shige looks down to where Massu has his palm up in obvious invitation, inwardly scolding himself for not noticing. "Yeah, of course."

Watching their fingers lace together is almost as entrancing as actually doing it. Shige doesn't think he's held hands with anyone who wasn't the other NEWS members in years, never mind that Massu is one of them. This is different than that, for personal enjoyment instead of for work, and it almost bothers Shige how easily he can disassociate the two. Every time they touch as idols is for professional reasons, even if it's emotional like at the end of a concert tour, and right now is because they both want to have that steady, comforting contact.

"What are you thinking about?" he asks, purely to pull his attention from his own thoughts.

"I'm wondering if we should watch a movie or put on some music or talk or something," Massu answers, blurting out the words like he'd been waiting for the opportunity to say them. "I'm really comfortable and I don't want to stop doing this, but I'm also kind of bored."

Shige laughs at that. "Sorry to be such a boring cuddle buddy."

"You know I don't mean it like that," Massu says, and Shige does. "Seriously though, I'm going to fall asleep if we keep sitting here doing nothing."

"I'll take that as a compliment," Shige tells him, giving his shoulders a squeeze. "I know how hard it is for you to sleep around other people if you're not completely relaxed...or drunk."

"You definitely relax me," Massu mumbles, and the way he words it has Shige's pulse rising. "Maybe if we switch positions, I'll be sitting up straight and more likely to stay awake."

"We can absolutely do that," Shige offers, letting go of Massu's hand to relocate their arms. Now Shige's the one under Massu's arm, and it feels so nice that he moans softly, not even bothered at sounding so desperate for this kind of contact. "I like this better."

"I'm okay with doing it this way." Massu's speaking into his hair now, the low timbres tingling his scalp. "I imagine there's not a set way to do it between men like there is with men and women."

Shige sighs. "Women can hold men too. It's a social stigma that men are the ones to comfort women, implying that it's weak or 'unmanly' to want to be held."

"Easy there, soapbox," Massu jokes, and Shige laughs. "What I mean is that there's probably not one guy in a pair of men who prefers doing the holding as opposed to being held. They would switch off, right?"

"It could happen either way," Shige explains. "There are men who like holding, men who like being held, and men who are fine with it either way. Just like with any other couple, they would have to find someone they're compatible with that way."

Massu makes an affirmative noise. "I don't know which one I am yet."

"I'm this one," Shige says, unapologetically snuggling closer to Massu, and Massu's return squeeze lights up his life. "I used to be ashamed about it, worried about being seen as 'the girl', but then I learned that it's not only women who can be protected like this. Unless gay men just aren't going to cuddle with each other, someone has to be the little spoon."

"You feel protected?" Massu asks, and Shige nods. "I guess I didn't think about it that way. When you were doing it to me, it just felt comfortable. Same as when we were dancing, even though I was leading."

"We don't have to experience everything the same way," Shige tells him, reaching for his hand again. "As long as we both feel good, it's okay to have different thoughts about it."

"You're right," Massu says, loosely brushing Shige's knuckle with his thumb, and Shige's sufficiently enchanted. "Do you mind if I put on the TV though?"

"Not at all."

Shige tunes out the news reports; it must be around five o'clock. He only pays attention to the TV when Koyama's reporting, otherwise social media is a much more reliable conduit for current events. Massu seems content just having background noise, relaxing even more into their embrace as today's headlines blur into nothing. Massu's fingers absently play with the long sleeve of Shige's shirt and Shige thinks he might never need to date again, satisfying his every intimacy craving right here on Massu's couch, and the thought doesn't scare him as much as it should.

The next thing he knows, there are dramatic voices throwing around one liners coming from the TV, and Massu's shaking them both with low laughter as Shige blinks open his eyes. "Did I fall asleep?"

"You sure did," Massu says, sounding amused. "I was going to wake you up, but your brow kept furrowing and it was cute."

"Shut up," Shige grumbles, and Massu cackles until Shige tries to stretch and hisses at a sharp pain in his side. "Ow."

"Where?" Massu immediately shifts into healer mode, his hands batting Shige's out of the way to find the hypertensed muscle. He dips under Shige's shirt to get a better feel for it, his warm skin against Shige's doing more for the pain than the deep pressure he applies. "I know it hurts, but it'll feel better in a minute."

"If I had a hundred yen for every time I heard that from a guy..." Shige jokes, and Massu laughs, shaking his head as he focuses on working out Shige's angry muscle. "I wouldn't actually have that much money," Shige admits.

"Does it really hurt?" Massu asks, and Shige's glad that Massu's sitting behind him and can't see how large his eyes are right now.

"My side, or..?"

"Gay sex," Massu says bluntly, and Shige swallows hard.

"Sometimes," he answers. He doesn't know how to elaborate without going into detail, but Massu did ask. "There's a lot of preparation involved, and some guys are impatient, but luckily I haven't encountered many like that."

"Preparation like..." Massu prompts.

"Fingers," Shige says, feeling his face heat up. His side is still aching, but Massu's touch is more sensual now. Shige thinks about asking him to stop, remembering their boundaries, but it's not like it's anywhere indecent. Besides, it feels nice. "Kind of like what you do with girls, only in another place."

"You say that like I do it a lot," Massu says. "I've only been with one girl, and it was a very long time ago. I had to drink to get in the mood."

Shige frowns. "That's messed up. I'm sorry, but it is."

"And I'm sorry, but sex is gross," Massu goes on. "I don't know how anyone can be turned on with all of those fluids everywhere. I don't even like deep kissing. I can do it if I want to, but I have to really want to, and alcohol makes it easier to overlook all the gross stuff."

"Okay," Shige says gently, recognizing the defensive tone and steering the conversation back to Massu's original question. "It hurts if you don't prep well enough, is the point I was trying to make. That applies to everyone, actually, not just men."

"I see. Does your side feel better?"

Shige considers lying to keep Massu's hands on him, but given the other man's plummeted mood right now, that wouldn't be very ethical of him. "Yeah. It's a little sore, but not stabbing anymore."

"It'll be sore for a while," Massu tells him. "You should do more stretches, especially if you plan on sitting in the same place for a long period of time."

"Okay," Shige agrees, taking the opportunity to look down at his phone. "It's getting late. Can I have a ride home? I didn't drive today."

"You don't have to leave," Massu says, and it's so unexpected that Shige swivels his head around to stare at him. "I mean, we were talking about it earlier, right? And we're both going to the same place tomorrow."

Shige must have an unflattering look on his face, because Massu cringes and he rushes to speak. "I want to, I do. Just not tonight. We can make plans for another night."

"Okay," Massu agrees, and there's that bright smile again. "I'm sorry I got weird. I keep forgetting that we're not actually trying to be something together. You don't care one bit whether I put out or not, and I really like that."

The blatant admission has Shige's insides doing interesting things, and it's not all unpleasant. "Is it really that easy to forget?"

"What we're doing is the same stuff I do with dating partners, so yeah." Massu shrugs. "I just have to remind myself that it's you and there's no pressure and I'm going to be seeing you tomorrow at work. As far as I'm concerned, the bond we have as NEWS is more important than any romantic connection."

Shige thinks about that as Massu drives him home. He'd automatically grabbed for Massu's hand over the console, figuring it's dark enough that nobody could see inside the car, and Massu taps his thumb in time with the EDM bumping through the speakers. Massu puts his full focus in everything he does and driving is no different, except that he's only using one hand to turn the wheel and set the signals.

"Thanks for today," Massu says as he pulls up in front of Shige's building. "Along with everything else, it was nice to hear from you. Even if it was just because everyone else was busy."

Shige can't even protest, because it's true. "I'll probably be inviting you more often now."

"I look forward to it."

Massu squeezes his hand, and Shige reluctantly lets go. He thinks about giving Massu a hug goodbye, but that would involve leaning across the console and Shige doesn't think his angry muscle would approve of that. It's content for now, but he'll need a warm bath before he tries twisting his body again.

"See you tomorrow," is all he says, and Massu offers a wave as he gets out of the car.

Once inside the safety of his home, Shige gives himself a hard look in the mirror while the tub fills up. "What are you doing to yourself, Kato?" he demands out loud, scoffing as he takes in his sparkling eyes and dopey smile. "It's Massu. You can't fall for him. He's off limits."

He nods as he relaxes in the bath, satisfied with his self-pep talk, but warm water leads to warm feelings and the sensations of Massu's embrace resurface as though the other man were here in the tub with him. That's definitely crossing a boundary, but it feels good to think about now, Massu's skin against his as they soak together, those fingers on his bare arm instead of separated by fabric.

It's too late, his brain nags at him later when he's trying to go to sleep. We've already fallen.

Fuck.

*

It's strangely easy for Shige to weave periodic snuggle sessions and an unobtainable crush into his schedule. The first month, they compare Google calendars and pick out two or three tentative dates where they're both free. They don't have any of the same days off, but they don't need an entire day—just a few hours at night and maybe a late morning.

"You know, we could probably have our managers do this," Massu mentions after a lot of swiping and failed attempts. "I have mine make sure that Tegoshi has to work whenever I'm off."

"I never thought about that," Shige admits. "Kei would probably be upset that I didn't have our managers give us more time together."

"Have you told him yet?" Massu asks, and Shige blinks. "Not that there's really anything to tell, but you know how he is when he's left out of this kind of stuff."

"I haven't even seen him outside of work in weeks," Shige says sadly. "We're all so busy, and he has his cat now. I guess it's up to me to invite him over to my place, and I just...haven't."

"Don't prioritize me over him," Massu teases. "I'm not trying to invoke the wrath of a jealous Koyama."

"Maybe I will ask my manager to team up with his," Shige thinks out loud. "You suggested it for you and me, but thanks for the idea anyway."

"You should tell him before he finds out the hard way," Massu says. "Or are we going to sneak into each other's hotel rooms when we're on tour?"

"I don't think that's necessary," Shige replies. "I'll talk to him. In the meantime, next Monday looks good for both of us. Two Fridays after that will be a long day of dancing, but neither one of us has anything to do until Saturday afternoon."

"It's not like we're going anywhere," Massu adds. "It's okay if we're exhausted if the only effort I have to make is to lift my arm."

Shige laughs. "You could sleep over? If you want."

"I'd prefer if it was at my place," Massu tells him. "I have better breakfast food than you."

Naturally, that is the only reason. "Okay, then. The last Wednesday of the month is another possibility. Maybe leave that open, just in case one of the others doesn't work out?"

"Sounds good to me." Massu grins. "It feels like we're working on a secret project together or something."

"It's a shame that we're not," Shige says. "It'd be an excuse to spend more time together."

Massu hums noncommittally and Shige settles back against his chest. They're at Shige's place today, stretched out on Shige's couch with Massu hugging him from behind. It's much more comfortable for long periods of time than sitting side by side, even if they both have to turn their necks to see the TV. Maybe Shige will rearrange his furniture.

"Tegoshi thinks were screwing," Massu volunteers, and Shige chokes on his laughter. "I find it amusing to lead him on, but if it bothers you I'll shut it down."

"No, it's funny," Shige assures him. "We can play it up to mess with him. After I tell Kei what's really going on."

"You just want to touch me in front of them," Massu teases him.

"So what if I do?" Shige challenges. "You like it."

"I do, but you don't do it very much. When I'm the one holding you like this, you aren't actively making contact with me."

"Really?" Shige asks guiltily, looking down at where his hands are clasped on top of Massu's. "How should I be touching you?"

"I'm not actually sure," Massu replies. "I just know that sometimes I feel lonely even with you here like this."

"I think you might like being held too," Shige says. "Here, switch places with me. We'll try it this way tonight."

Massu relocates without protest, and Shige scoots back toward the arm of the couch. His hands drop to Massu's waist and Shige urges him back, wrapping his arms around Massu's firm middle until they're back to chest. Massu breathes deeply, making himself comfortable in Shige's embrace, and Shige closes his eyes to all the sensations that hit him at once—the soft sound of Massu's breath, the weight of his body, and the lingering remnants of his cologne.

"You're twitching," Massu points out, and Shige fails at trying to stop his full-body shudders. "Are you okay?"

"Perfect," Shige answers. "It's just a lot all at once and my nerves are kind of overloaded, but it's okay. It feels good."

"Okay," Massu says slowly, hesitating as he leans back to rest his head on Shige's shoulder. "Your heartbeat is really fast too."

"I'm fine," Shige insists. "Everything's fine."

They're quiet for a bit, Massu scrolling through his phone while Shige struggles to regain his composure after being hit with such a rush of feeling. It's been a while since he had a crush, but he doesn't remember them being so debilitating. Then again, he's never had an arranged cuddle buddy agreement with one before.

"I definitely like this better," Massu finally says. "Can we do it this way sometimes?"

"Yeah, definitely," Shige agrees. He still hasn't managed to open his eyes.

Massu starts squirming, and Shige's about to ask if something is wrong when Massu sits straight up and arches his back, reaching a hand back to press along his lower spine.

"Sorry," he says. "My back has been bothering me again, and I haven't been able to make a massage appointment."

"I can get it," Shige offers, placing his hands so that his thumbs are on either side of Massu's spine. "Let me know if I'm going too hard."

"How much yen would you have for every time you said that one?" Massu asks as he leans forward from the force, and Shige laughs out loud.

"I can assure you I have never said that before in my life," Shige tells him. "At least not in that context."

Massu's snickers turn into a low groan when Shige digs his fingers into the muscles, quickly finding the sore area. "You are really good at this."

"Used to do it for Ryo," Shige says, his words coming out strained from the force of his actions. "He had the back of an eighty-year-old man at twenty-five."

"Ah, that's right."

Shige tries to move fluidly up and down Massu's spine, but the fabric of Massu's shirt keeps getting in the way. "Is it okay to take off your shirt?" he finally asks.

"Yeah, sure," and Massu reaches back to grab it by the collar, pulling it over his head in one swift move. Shige wasn't prepared for the expanse of skin exposed before his eyes, but his hands automatically move back into position while the rest of him is mesmerized.

"Much better," he mutters, moving all over Massu's back without any barriers. "Is the pressure still good?"

"You could go harder," Massu says, and neither one of them makes a joke this time. Instead, Shige throws his body weight into his actions, really grinding his fingers and thumbs into Massu's muscles. His hands might be sore tomorrow, but right now he's focused on making Massu feel good this way. It's almost like he's pleasuring the other man, only there's nothing sexual about it.

"Ah, okay, that's good." Massu hisses and Shige halts all movement, fearing that he'd used too much force. The next second has Massu flopping back against him, sighing happily as he snuggles back against Shige's body that automatically embraces him in return. "Thank you so much. You might be better than the people I actually pay for that."

"It's no problem at all," Shige assures him, squeezing Massu's waist as he rests his chin on Massu's bare shoulder. All the skin to skin contact is driving him crazy. "I'll do that for you anytime."

"This is so great, isn't it?" Massu slides his hands up and down Shige's arms, and it takes Shige even higher. "We can make each other feel good like this, and there's no pressure to be something more. Like friends with benefits."

"Friends with benefits," Shige repeats.

"I know it's usually used in a sexual way, but we can reclaim it." Massu exhales roughly, like he'd just finished catching his breath after Shige's massage, and Shige feels like the best 'friend' on the planet. "These kinds of benefits are better anyway, in my opinion."

Shige can't find it within himself to argue.

*

"Friends with benefits," Koyama repeats, looking like Shige had just told him that aliens had knocked on his door in search of intelligent life and fashion. "That doesn't mean what you think it means."

"I know what it means!" Shige exclaims, elbowing Koyama as they sit on his couch. It feels weird to sit so far away from someone after being so close to Massu. "Our benefits are different. Not everything is about sex, you know."

Koyama stares at him. "With Massu?"

"He's actually really great," Shige says, like he needs to talk up any of the members with this one. "We're both good at saying what we want, so we talk about it and try out different things until we're comfortable."

"Uh-huh." Koyama still looks unimpressed. "How long have you had feelings for him?"

"I don't have feel—"

"Don't lie to me, Shige," Koyama says sternly, and Shige gulps. "I have known you since you were fourteen years old, and you always have this pinkish tint on your face when you talk about someone you like."

"Really?" Shige asks, jumping up to examine himself critically in a mirror. "Well, damn. You're right."

"Does he know?" Koyama asks, his voice softening.

"Of course not," Shige tells him, slumping against his side when he returns to the sofa. Now that everything's out in the open, Koyama can comfort him. "We couldn't be together like that anyway. Neither one of us wants a relationship. The way it is now is perfect."

Koyama's fingers thread through his hair, and Shige calms down. "You're really satisfied with only cuddling and middle-school touching?"

Shige swats at him. "Don't call it that. And yes. I'm spending the night at his house next week, and we're both excited about sleeping together. Literally sleeping."

"That's so adorable," Koyama cooes. "Maybe I'll have a sleepover with Tego-chan too. We can video chat."

"Pass," Shige grumbles, and Koyama laughs. "It's really great, Kei. Be happy for me."

"I am happy for you," Koyama insists, "but Shige, what will happen when he finds someone he wants to be with?"

Shige frowns. "What?"

"You may be chronically single, but he's not," Koyama explains. "Especially now that he's open to the idea of being with men, do you really think someone's not gonna come along and steal him away?"

"He doesn't feel comfortable around strangers," Shige says.

Koyama squeezes his shoulder. "People don't stay strangers forever."

"Whatever, that's in the distant future." Shige reaches for Koyama's hand and places it pointedly back in his hair. "This isn't a forever thing anyway."

"Whatever you say, Shige."

"Be nice to me," Shige demands, "or I'll tell my manager not to give us anymore time off together."

An undignified squeak tears from his lungs as Koyama wraps both arms around him and pulls him into a suffocating hug. "I'm so happy that Shige did that for me!"

"It was Massu's idea," Shige admits. "He suggested we do that with ours, but I thought it would be better with you."

"Oh, Shige," Koyama says sadly, and Shige frowns at dampening Koyama's mood until he speaks again. "Love exists in all different forms, you know? It's not all romance and sex."

"What are you even talking about?" Shige asks.

"Even if you insist on just being friends, you need to be honest with each other about your feelings."

Shige narrows his eyes. "You are in no position to give love advice."

"Maybe not, but I am in a position to give Shige advice." Koyama grabs him by the shoulders and stares right into his face. "I think his feelings align with yours, and even if they're not conventional, they still need to be cherished and most importantly shared. Holding back those kind of strong feelings is good for no one."

Shige knows that Koyama is right, but he's also stubborn. "Whatever."

"I love you, Shige," Koyama says pointedly, and Shige rolls his eyes.

"Love you too."

"See how easy that was? Now say it to Massu the next time you have one of your cuddle dates."

Shige sighs. "It's not the same, Kei! I don't love you the same way I love—"

He cuts himself off, eyes widening along with Koyama's grin.

"I hate you," he mutters. "This is going to be a big mess, and it's going to ruin the group."

"Let me worry about the group," Koyama tells him gently. "You worry about Shige and Shige's precious heart."

Shige doesn't have it in himself to argue anymore. He'd almost just spoken aloud what he'd been trying to suppress for weeks now, ever since Massu's too-grown-for-her-own-good cousin had first put the idea in his head. He can't entirely blame her, but it feels good to place the responsibility of his misfortune onto someone else, because everything that has happened since has been one-hundred-percent his fault.

"Love sucks," Shige mutters, and this time he doesn't fight when Koyama coddles him.

*

All things considered, Shige has made a valiant effort. When he looks back on this later, he'll be proud of himself for lasting this long, suffering this much before reaching his breaking point, like prolonged misery is something to brag about.

'Playing it up' for Tegoshi was the worst thing he could have done. Koyama felt similarly, but thankfully he'd kept his big mouth shut for once. Instead, Shige gave into his urges to steal glances and hold gazes a little too long, lean on Massu or sling his arm around Massu's waist when they were just standing around. In one memorable lapse of judgment, he'd announced to everyone that he was sleeping over at Massu's that night.

The only good thing to come out of all of this is that Tegoshi seemed sufficiently bothered by all the physical contact and flirting that didn't involve him. For someone so adamant about being straight, he sure was fixated on getting attention from other men.

Shige actually makes it to the middle of the night. They'd gotten to Massu's place late, took turns in the bath, and heated up some leftovers before trudging their tired selves to bed. Shige was halfway asleep before his head had even hit the pillow, but he was very aware of Massu pressing up behind him. Arms encircled his waist and Shige was out, pulled under by the combination of exhaustion, comfort, and Massu's soft breaths on his neck.

So, when he wakes up after a couple hours of solid sleep for seemingly no reason, it's too much. He's wrapped in a tight embrace, Massu's hand resting in front of his chest, and Shige absently grabs it with his. Massu shifts behind him, but his breathing doesn’t change. He's so close that Shige can feel hair on the back of his neck that isn't his, eyelashes fluttering along the top of his spine. It's so intimate and real and he knows right away why he'd woken up, why his heart is threatening to beat out of his chest, and why he feels like he's about to burst into tears from all the emotional pressure weighing him down inside.

It's too much, and it's not enough. Shige doesn't even know what he wants from Massu, because he's already getting a hell of a lot. Aside from the cuddling and physical intimacy, they talk about everything. Deep, thoughtful conversations and light-hearted ones. They don't message that much, but neither one of them really does that with anyone. Once, when their plans had gotten thwarted by extra work, Shige had called Massu on the phone just to hear his voice. They'd talked for a bit, but it wasn't the same as when Shige feels that voice through his skin.

"Shige, what's wrong?" the aforementioned voice breaks through his internal pity party, low and thick with sleep. "You're shaking. Are you having a bad dream?"

"I need to go," Shige says, but he doesn't put much effort into his struggling. "I can't stay here, I'm sorry."

"What? Wait. What are you talking about?"

It's almost comical how much Massu tries (and fails) to wake up properly, leaning up on his elbow just to crash back down. Shige feels bad for doing this in the middle of the night, but what's done is done and if he's actually going to leave the comfort of this warm bed and the warm person in it, he at the very least owes that person an explanation why.

"I got attached," he finally says, his voice cracking like he's a teenager again. "I'm sorry, Taka. I can't do this anymore."

"Attached to what?" Massu asks, calm and serene like Shige's not a ballistic mess in his arms. "This? Me?"

"Both."

Massu doesn't say anything for a long time, so long that Shige thinks he might have fallen back asleep, but then his embrace is tighter and Massu's breath is hitched somewhere in Shige's hair.

"If that's the case, then wouldn't leaving be the last thing you want to do?"

Shige's eyes fly open. He'd teared up anyway, blurring his vision, but he doesn't need to see. He'd admitted to crossing their emotional boundaries and Massu is acting like it's not a big deal, like it's okay and they'll work it out like it's just an uncomfortable cuddling position.

"Do you understand me?" Shige asks, because he's not going to get his hopes up only to be let down. "I tried not to fall for you, I swear I did. I want this to be casual as much as you do, but being so close to you...feeling you all around me...I fell. I'm sorry."

"Don't ever apologize for your feelings," Massu says firmly, making no effort to let him go or even loosen his grip. "Even at our age, feelings are important. If you feel something, you should say it before it hurts."

"I didn't think you wanted to hear it."

Massu takes a breath. "I might not have. Even now, I'm anxious about what you want from me, how things are going to change, but I still want to give it proper consideration. Because it's you, and you're comfortable, and I never want to see you like this again."

Shige tries to compose himself, but his first attempt at deep breathing leaves him choking on the sobs that force their way out. Somehow Massu spins him all the way around, hugging him close and letting Shige cry on his shoulder, stroking his hair much like Koyama would do. Shige hugs back for some sense of control, using what little energy he has to squeeze Massu's shoulders like the other man would disappear otherwise.

"I'm so sorry," he gets out. "I ruined everything."

"No, you didn't," Massu says firmly, leaning back enough to press his forehead against Shige's. "I feel it too, okay? You weren't being that intimate with yourself, after all. I knew when I first danced with you that I thought of you as more than a friend, but you didn't seem to feel the same. Even when you approached me about doing this, you were adamant about boundaries and I wanted to respect them."

"Hold on," Shige says, pulling back to look at Massu's face the best he can manage in the dark. "The boundaries were for you. Because you had all of those bad experiences with other people."

In one swift motion, Massu rolls over to the other side of the bed to retrieve a box of tissues and returns. "For the record, I thought about drying your tears myself, but I'd probably poke your eye out or something."

Shige laughs in spite of himself. "It's fine. Thank you."

He wipes his eyes and blows his nose, feeling a little better now that his face isn't hot and sticky. His eyes hurt, but that's to be expected. Hopefully, he won't have to keep them open much longer.

"It's true that I have had bad experiences," Massu goes on, and Shige lays his head back on the pillow as he listens. "But I told you, right? I don't have any boundaries with you. You're the one that decided on them."

"Because I thought that's what you wanted!" Shige exclaims, feeling lost now that everything he's understood to be true for the past month has been wrong. "Did you want me to have feelings for you? To be attracted to you in that way?"

"If you had said so in the beginning, we could have talked about it then," Massu answers, and Shige feels a little like throwing him across the room. He wouldn't, probably couldn't, but the aggravation is there. "It doesn't matter now anyway. Tell me how you feel, right here, right now."

"I love you," Shige says outright, and Massu inhales sharply. "I've grown to love you after spending so much time with you, so close to you. I don't need things like romance and sex either, because it's you and what we already have is so perfect. It just made me sad to lie here with you with all of my feelings locked inside, and dammit Kei was right and I'm mad about that too."

Massu laughs out loud. "He has his moments."

"So, what happens now?" Shige asks, still nervous but not shaking anymore. "Do I leave and never look back?"

"Do you want to leave?" Massu asks.

"No."

"I don't want you to leave either."

Shige lifts a hand to Massu's face, tracing his jaw from his chin up to his ear, then pushes his bangs out of his eyes. "I don't want anything to change, Taka. I just want to be able to feel this way without hating myself."

Massu leans into the touch, smiling as he brings his own hand up to lace fingers with Shige's. "I'm open to seeing what happens."

"Boundaries?" Shige asks. "We're on a different level now, so we should reevaluate our limits."

"I already told you, I don't have any." Massu scoots closer, his other hand lifting to cup Shige's cheek. "I really want to kiss you though."

"We can add that," Shige says, his eyes slipping shut as he leans in. "We can definitely add that."

Massu's lips are dry and soft as they press firmly against Shige's and don't actually stay still. They break apart only to come back together, over and over again, so much that what's left of Shige's mind spins right out of his head. He pulls Massu back into his arms and Massu's hand rests on the small of his back, applying just enough pressure to make itself known, and Shige forgets to breathe from the surplus of emotions soaring through him, abruptly pulling away with a choked gasp.

"I love you too," Massu says softly, and Shige thinks he might never breathe properly again. "I'm so glad you feel the same. Can we go back to sleep now?"

Shige laughs, stealing one more kiss before curling up to Massu's chest. "Yes, yes we can."

Massu's arms tighten around him again and he's out, succumbing to the closeness and lingering exhaustion and everything he's been denying himself this whole time, and for once, he's at peace.

*

"So, you're dating."

Tegoshi eyes them both contemplatively, and Shige feels like he's coming out to his parents all over again.

"Not exactly," Massu answers. "We're exploring a more intimate connection with each other."

Tegoshi's face lights up. "Oh, you're sex friends."

"No," both Shige and Massu reply. Shige looks helplessly to Koyama. "Kei, help us out here?"

"I don't actually know what you two are doing together," Koyama tells him, and Shige sighs. Such betrayal. "If you're not dating, and you're not just messing around, what else is there?"

"Co-existing with feelings," Shige tries, smiling when Massu nods in approval.

Tegoshi stares at him. "I don't understand."

"You don't have to," Massu says gently. "It's between Shige and me anyway. We're being upfront with you both so that we're not sneaking around and being dishonest."

"What, are you gonna make out in front of us or something?" Tegoshi teases.

Massu makes a disgusted face that has Shige laughing. "Of course not."

"Do you want to share hotel rooms on tour?" Koyama asks, still looking lost at why they had called an actual members-only meeting to discuss this. "You can just do that without making it a big thing."

"That's not it at all," Shige says, starting to get annoyed. "We just thought you both should know."

"Now we know." Tegoshi's eyes dart around the room, and Shige knows that they've reached the end of that one's attention span. "Is there anything else?"

Shige glances over at Massu, who shrugs. "I don't think so."

"For the record, I'm happy for you both," says Koyama, a smile spreading on his face. "I look forward to seeing your newfound love blossom and grow."

"Don't be gross," Shige tells him, and both Koyama and Massu laugh.

Tegoshi's already looking at his phone, but Shige would prefer that to anymore probing questions. As it is, he feels like it would have been better to say nothing and keep blowing off their teasing than to try and explain the truth. Both he and Massu are already wary of making things so official when the entire point of their companionship is the exact opposite.

They had talked for hours since that morning when Shige had confessed, trying to figure out what they wanted from each other, and everything beyond a casual cuddle buddy felt like too much pressure—to both of them. Massu's feelings were just as strong as Shige's, more cemented since he'd had them longer, so it wasn't a matter of that. It was the concept of acting upon them that terrified Shige and turned Massu off.

"Maybe if we came up with a list?" Shige suggests, figuratively grasping at straws to find some way to be together without being together. "We can write out the things we want to do with each other and address any concerns related to each one. It can be interactive, so we can add to and edit it if anything changes."

"You and your lists," Massu jokes, elbowing Shige gently in the ribs. He's the little spoon today. "I say we just do what feels right and if we're not on the same page, we stop and talk about it."

"Because that philosophy has worked out so well for us already," Shige replies sarcastically, poking him back, and Massu leans back enough for Shige to see his pointed eyeroll. "Why is this so complicated? Why can't we just be without analyzing every single detail?"

"So, let's just be," Massu says. "If you want to see me, tell me. If you want to touch me, ask me. If you feel something, say it. It's really quite simple, isn't it? We're the ones making it complicated."

"What I really want to know, is what's your endgame?" Shige asks, hiding his face in Massu's hair like that will make the words less shameful to say. "What's Masuda Takahisa's 'happy ending'?"

"Honestly?" Massu replies, and Shige nods. "I want a long career with a variety of activities. I want to have fun personally and professionally. I want NEWS to celebrate milestone anniversaries until we're old men dancing with our canes. I want to watch the world grow and evolve, influencing it however I can. I want to keep learning and loving until my last breath, so that when that day ultimately comes, I'll be satisfied with the life I led."

Shige inhales sharply. "This is counterproductive to everything you just said, but I think I love you even more now."

Massu laughs. "That's why we're here, isn't it? I know the basis of my feelings for you is because you want those things too. The specifics may be different, but it's not the traditional 'marriage and family' values I've had shoved down my throat my entire life. With you, I don't have to abandon my passions or rearrange my priorities. You're already a part of them."

"Stop saying romantic things or I'm gonna cry again," Shige warns, mostly joking. (Mostly.)

"That's not romantic!" Massu protests. "I am literally saying that my job and personal goals are more important than you."

"It's romantic to me," Shige says, and Massu sighs. "I couldn't live with myself if anyone gave up anything for me. You have your own independence and agency, and that's what I find so attractive."

"I guess that's why we work so well." Massu leans back into Shige's embrace, smiling when Shige presses a kiss to his cheek. "Even if we're the only ones who understand it."

"You know what my endgame is?" Shige asks, and Massu makes an inquiring noise. "This, right here. Sitting here with you, so comfortable that nothing else matters but you and me, bonding over how much we hate being with other people."

Massu bursts out laughing, shaking them both from the force of it. "You're not wrong."

"The only thing I'm worried about is missing you when we can't be like this," Shige admits. "So far, we've been really lucky that we can find time to be together, but it won't always be that way. I don't want to come to resent being busy and doing the things I love on my own because I can't be with you. My brain knows better, but my heart doesn't."

"I think it's okay in that context," Massu says slowly, playing with Shige's fingers that have settled on his belly. "I'd probably be upset if you didn't miss me if we went a long time without seeing each other. When Tegoshi and I have our comeback as Tegomasu, for example. I'll be extra bothered at seeing his face every day, so I'll probably miss you even more."

Shige laughs softly. "Kei and I always come and see you guys at least once."

"See? It'll be fine." Massu turns with his whole body, curling up on his side on top of Shige. Shige adjusts, wrapping one arm around Massu's back while the other one stretches out under Massu's light touch. "You have goosebumps. Are you cold?"

"Feels nice," Shige gets out, snuggling closer as Massu's fingers trail lightly up and down the inside of Shige's arm. "You're starting to turn me on though."

"Oh?" Massu replies, sounding interested. "I wonder if I could do that now."

"Do what?" Shige asks, his traitorous voice breaking at the implication.

"Sex," Massu answers bluntly, and Shige tenses beneath him. "Do you not want to?"

"I..." Shige swallows as everything he'd been forbidding himself to think about floods the front of his mind now that it's actually being asked of him. "I thought you weren't into that, so I wouldn't let myself look at you that way."

"That's nice." Massu leans up to press a kiss to his lips, and Shige's body is so confused right now. "Thank you for respecting me, but if it's okay with you, I'd like you to consider it now."

Shige does. He remembers how Massu's muscles felt under his hands, how it feels when Massu touches him, and he goes from zero to hot in two seconds, choking on his air at the rush of sensations that course through him. Now, the weight on top of him feels different, and Shige squirms as his mind catches up with his body, envisioning all of the things they could do right here on the couch without moving.

"Uh oh," says Massu, leaning up on his elbows to peer down at Shige's face. "What door did I just open?"

Shige laughs. Even that feels good, the tingles lingering long after he's done. "One that wants to do things that you think are gross."

The way Massu wrinkles his nose is adorable, along with how frustrated he looks at his conundrum. "It's not all gross," he amends. "I have a shower anyway."

Shige feels his eyebrows rise into his hairline. "You want to mess around in the shower?"

"Not if you don't want to," Massu says, and Shige almost laughs at Massu being the one to say it. "You're sweating."

"You're on top of me," Shige gets out, gasping as his mental images get more graphic now that there's a shower involved. "Talking about sex. In the shower."

"Can you even do that in the shower?" Massu asks, making another cute face of confusion. "It's so small. And slippery. Seems like it'd be really dangerous."

"Not all sex is penetrative," Shige tells him. "There are loads of other things we can do besides that."

"Like what?"

Shige stares at him. "You're seriously going to make me tell you? Do you get off on teasing or something?"

"I don't think so." Massu contemplates Shige's reaction and pulls back. "Should I stop?"

"No," Shige says firmly, because that's one thing he's certain of. "As long as you're okay with it, so am I."

Massu exhales audibly, like he's still fighting with himself over whether he actually wants to do this or not. "I want to see if it's different with you."

"No pressure," Shige jokes.

"None at all," Massu says seriously, and Shige can't bring himself to try and explain what he'd meant. "So, tell me. What else is there?"

Now Shige's the one exhaling, willing himself to calm down enough to speak the words. "We can use our hands, or our mouths, or grind against each other..."

"Isn't that foreplay?" Massu asks curiously. "Is that enough on its own?"

"It is for me," Shige answers. "I'm honestly happy with anything that feels good for both of us. If we touch each other like that and make each other feel good, then it's sex."

Massu nods. "Got it. So, do you want to?"

"Yes," Shige says pointedly, and Massu gives him a nervous smile. "Should we go in the shower?"

"I think, for the first time, that would be best," Massu replies, and Shige prides himself on not scrambling to his feet fast enough to knock Massu completely off his lap.

Shige didn't realize how hard he was until he tried to walk, managing an awkward shuffle behind Massu who looks enticing even in his around-the-house clothes. They walk into the bathroom and Massu turns to face him, eyes unfamiliarly dark, and Shige steps forward to close the distance between them.

He kisses Massu slowly, comfortingly, soothing the anxiety they both have about taking this step together. His hands cup both sides of Massu's jaw, moving down his collarbone and both sides before resting on the hem of his shirt. Tentatively, he gives the fabric a tug, and Massu lifts his arms in blatant invitation. Their mouths part briefly while Shige takes off the garment, and he leans back in only to be urged back when Massu does the same thing to him.

Hands on his skin and Shige's lips lower to Massu's neck, eliciting a faint moan that has Shige hooking his thumbs in Massu's waistband and pulling them closer together. Their lower halves make contact and now Shige's the one moaning, getting friction from the front of Massu's sweatpants that quickly hardens to match him.

"I should have turned on the water first," Massu says, already sounding breathless, and Shige feels amazing knowing that he's seducing the other man so well.

"You can still do that," Shige points out, and Massu whines beautifully as he reluctantly tears himself away from Shige's chest.

Shige doesn't let him go very far, pressing against him the instant he turns around, kissing the back of his neck as he leans down to turn the taps. This position is very tempting but Shige avoids grinding against him like this, lest he get the wrong idea. The last thing he wants to do is ruin the mood by making a motion intended for penetrative sex.

Once the water's running, Massu straightens up and leans back into Shige's embrace, moaning openly as Shige's hands explore all the new skin now that he's allowed to. "I like this very much," Massu says, swaying as he loses his balance, and Shige tightens his grip.

"I can touch you like this," Shige tells him, speaking into Massu's neck and grinning at the shiver he gets in return. "With my hand, while holding you from behind."

"Then I can't reach you," Massu contests, sounding sad about it.

"We don't have to do it at the same time," Shige says, and Massu seems to accept that. "Ready to lose the rest of your clothes?"

"Yeah," Massu answers, and he actively steps out of his sweatpants without much guidance from Shige. Shige kicks off his own pants and peeks over Massu's shoulder, stealing a glance at the hard cock that juts out from his body, long and lean and perfect. Shige's body shudders at the sight, wanting it in any possible way, and he prides himself on not immediately reaching down to touch him. That's something he's going to have to ask for.

"How long does it take the water to heat up?" Shige asks, the impatience showing in his voice, but Massu seems just as ready to get on with it as he reaches out an arm to test the temperature.

"It's good now," Massu says. "Do I go in first?"

"I don't think it matters," Shige answers, and Massu shrugs.

They make it into the shower with minimal slipping, laughing as Shige gets water right in his face as they situate themselves. It's easiest to stand facing away from the spray, the water hitting them both as Shige pulls Massu back against his chest and returns his hands to Massu's skin, now wet and trembling.

"Are you cold?" Shige asks. "I can give you more water."

"Not cold," Massu replies. "Really turned on. Will you touch me now?"

Shige thought he would never ask. He lowers a hand to wrap around Massu's cock, hissing at the choked moan he gets. It feels hot and heavy on his palm and he strokes slowly, gauging what Massu likes by the involuntary jerks and gasps, his lips never leaving Massu's neck and shoulders.

"Shige," Massu groans, and Shige preens as he tightens his grip and flicks his wrist. "Oh, just like that."

"I like it this way too," Shige tells him, rubbing his own erection into the base of Massu's spine as a gentle reminder. "The best thing about having the same parts is already knowing how to please them."

Massu's hands latch onto Shige's thighs, surprising Shige by pulling them even closer, Shige's cock sliding easily along Massu's wet skin. "You're so hard, Shige. Let me feel it."

He didn't have to tell Shige twice. Shige uses his free hand to hold Massu's waist and grinds slowly, groaning out loud at the friction he's replicating with his hand. "Keep that up and I'll finish just like this," he warns.

"It's okay if you do," Massu tells him. "We're in the shower—it'll wash right off."

Shige laughs at Massu's blatant misunderstanding, but he doesn't stop moving. The water running down his body feels like tiny fingers touching him all over and it's so good. He opens his eyes to watch the droplets on Massu's chest, noticing how erect Massu's nipples are despite the warmth of the water.

He slides his free hand up Massu's front and drags his fingers past one of Massu's nipples, nearly falling over from the force of Massu's full body jolt. "Do you like that?"

"Yes," Massu answers, his voice laced with moans, which get louder when Shige flicks the hard bud with his fingers. "Oh, Shige, I'm close."

"Come for me," Shige growls, not recognizing his own voice as he quickens his pace. He's not that far away himself, struggling to keep them both upright and maintain his rhythm with all of the stimulation threatening to take him over.

Massu's next groan is sinfully low, and Shige can feel Massu's orgasm everywhere they make contact. He seems to lose his composure along with his balance and Shige pauses his own efforts, focusing on holding Massu as he comes down.

"That was amazing," Massu breathes out, and Shige can't stop grinning. "Your turn?"

"If you want," Shige replies, surprised yet again when Massu spins around in his hold. That familiar smiling face is flushed and gasping for air and Shige leans in to kiss him, struggling to keep from deepening it with the force of his passion.

A hand wraps around his cock and he whines against Massu's lips, tearing his mouth away before he can't hold back his tongue anymore. Massu seems keen on kissing his neck anyway, backing him up against the cold tile wall that helps to calm down Shige's overheated body. His hips push up into Massu's touch on their own, hands clutching onto Massu's back for some semblance of grounding as Massu quickly figures out the best way to touch him to turn him into a quivering mess of limbs.

"Taka," he gets out, and Massu makes a questioning noise into his skin. "Feels good."

"Sometimes I like this too," Massu tells him, and Shige's eyes roll back into his head as Massu pulls back his foreskin and thumbs the sensitive tip. "Not too much though."

"Don't stop," Shige hisses, his whole body shaking from the touch. "I'm almost there."

Massu hums happily, pressing his forehead against Shige's collarbone as he focuses on maintaining his speed. Shige arches and comes so hard that he almost blacks out, barely registering how he slumps in Massu's arms, lips searching for whatever skin they can find.

"I felt it," Massu says, and Shige struggles to pay attention. "It was different than the water, but not bad. I don't mind it if I'm the one making you come."

Shige doesn't even know what to say to that, so he just nods and manages some sort of standing position. "I need to get out or I'm going to fall on my face."

"Okay," Massu replies. "I'm going to wash, since I'm already in here."

The prospect of staying and helping is tempting, but Shige tells himself there will be more opportunities for shower fun when his brain hadn't just shot out of his dick. He manages to step out of the shower without killing himself, grabbing the towel that Massu puts out for him. Drying off is like being touched all over again, and Shige feels like he's never going to come down from this orgasm, his entire body still sensitive.

His clothes feel uncomfortable to put back on, but sadly this isn't an overnight visit and there aren't any other options. He makes it as far as Massu's bed before face-planting, stretching out enough to feel a rush of pleasure all over again.

The bed dips with Massu's weight a little while later, a hand gently rubbing his back. "I really liked doing that with you."

"Me too," Shige says, flopping his head to one side so he isn't speaking into the blankets.

"I see what you mean about sex being more than just penetrative," Massu goes on, and Shige makes a noise of agreement. "I don't think we're sex friends now though."

"Definitely not." Shige uses all of his energy to turn onto his side, reaching for Massu to pull him closer. "I still love you, whether we ever do that again or not."

Massu kisses him. "I love you for giving me the choice."

Shige's very glad that he's allowed to miss Massu when they can't be together, because he's pretty sure he already does.

*

Breaking the sexual barrier is less dramatic than Shige expects. It takes a while to tame his body into not reacting that way every time they see each other, but if Massu finds it bothersome that Shige is now openly sexually attracted to him, he doesn't express it. If anything, he seems to be amused that his dancing and appearance elicits such a strong feeling from Shige. He may even be doing it on purpose.

They don't do it every time they get together. Massu draws the line at scheduling sex, so it depends on their respective moods and how much effort they want to make. In a rare turn of events, Massu shows up at Shige's one night and jumps him, barely giving Shige a change to shift gears before they're heatedly grinding together. It doesn't take much for Shige to talk him into a blowjob, and Massu's fingers feel nice in his hair as he sucks Massu's cock in and out.

"You really enjoy doing that," Massu says after he comes, hooded eyes intently watching Shige swallow between his legs.

If it were anyone else, Shige might feel a little degraded, but not with this one. Shige just grins, resting his head on Massu's inner thigh above where his pants and underwear had been haphazardly shoved down. "It's something I like to do, yes," he finally admits.

"Can I..." Massu asks, pausing to find his words. "Will you kiss me, so I can see what it tastes like?"

"Okay." Shige leans up on his arms, taking in Massu's sated face from up close before pressing their mouths together. Massu's lips part instantly, licking his way into Shige's mouth, and it's so different than how they've been kissing that Shige gets even more aroused. Sucking off Massu had already made him hard, but the unexpected deep kissing has him really hot.

"Interesting," Massu reports, taking the opportunity to hop back into his pants, and Shige leans his forehead against Massu's shoulder to calm down. "Are you okay?"

"You're driving me crazy," Shige gets out. "Please touch me before I come in my pants like a teenager."

"That bad?" Massu asks, and Shige pointedly rocks against his leg. "Oh, Shige, I'm sorry. I didn't realize that doing things to me was so pleasurable for you."

Massu's making his way into Shige's pants as he speaks, shuddering at the low groan Shige lets out when his hands make contact with flesh. "I'll try not to get any on you," Shige says distractedly, hips rocking desperately into Massu's touch.

"I want to try it," Massu says firmly, and it takes Shige a second to figure out what that means. "Is there a way to do it without kneeling on the floor?"

"Yeah," Shige answers, focusing on the logistics of this instead of the reality that Massu's actually about to put Shige's cock in his mouth. "I'll lie on the couch and you can kneel between my legs."

"I like that much better," Massu agrees, and Shige scrambles to accommodate the aforementioned position. "Should I build up to it, or just go for it?"

"Whatever is easier for you," Shige tells him, opening his eyes to focus on Massu regarding him contemplatively like he's making a game plan in his head. "Come down here and kiss me again."

Massu stretches out on top of him and follows orders, pressing his lips to Shige's a few times before branching out across his face and down his throat. Shige arches to give him more access, his shirt quickly yanked over his head to provide even more space for Massu to get used to the idea of touching Shige like this. And he does, dragging his lips along Shige's collarbone and sternum while his hand slowly pumps Shige's length.

It's already so much that Shige moans out loud when Massu licks a nipple, flicking it a few times before moving to the other one. The cool air continues to stimulate the sensitive bud and Shige's not proud of the whimpers that spill from him, how hard his fingers dig into Massu's shoulders for some sort of tension release.

Massu continues down his chest to the flesh of his belly, kissing along his waistline before dipping even lower, bumping his chin with the wet head of Shige's cock. He pauses to wipe his chin with his hand, and Shige's about to apologize when he sees Massu's tongue dart out to taste the small smear and his body temperature shoots through the roof.

A noise of contentment is the only warning Shige gets before that tongue is licking his tip, pulling another low noise from his lungs, and it takes all of his power not to thrust upwards. Massu's hands carefully push down Shige's clothes before one returns to his length, imitating what Shige had done to him with precision. It takes him a few cycles to actually take it in his mouth, but Shige's so worked up that anything feels good as long as Massu's touching him.

Shige reaches down to gently sift his fingers through Massu's hair and Massu comes to life, sucking the length past his lips and matching the rhythm of his hand. It's so hot and wet and Massu's tongue keeps flicking along the underside, bringing Shige to the brink despite his best efforts to hold back, and Shige realizes all too late that he hadn't given Massu any other options besides what he'd done.

"You don't have to swallow it," he manages to say. "I won't be offended if you pull off or spit it out."

Massu makes a noise that Shige can't decipher because the vibrations push him over the edge, and he barely manages to gasp out a warning before his body is wracked by orgasm, Massu's mouth staying on him the entire time. Shige struggles to focus through his heaving breaths, prying open his eyes in time to see Massu forcibly swallow, his face so unflattering that Shige can't stop from laughing out loud.

"I might spit it out next time," Massu tells him. "I like that it doesn't make a mess, but it doesn't taste very good."

"I'm sorry," Shige says, still laughing. "It felt really good though."

"I'm glad." Massu stretches out on top of Shige, settling into a comfortable embrace. "I really want to go brush my teeth now."

Shige laughs harder, and this time Massu laughs with him. "Go ahead."

He takes the opportunity to relax while Massu's away, fixing his pants and reluctantly pulling back on his shirt as he catches his breath and enjoys the post-orgasmic bliss. He doesn't bother to open his eyes when he hears Massu returning, his arms automatically extending as Massu crawls back on top of him. Their next kiss is minty fresh, and Shige sighs happily under the comfortable weight with familiar lips pressing to his.

"Thanks for adapting to my weird sex habits," Massu says suddenly. "I can't even compare you to my exes anymore, because they weren't nearly as understanding and I'm really just glad that we're doing this even if it's unconventional."

"Me too," Shige agrees, wrapping his arms around Massu to give him a tight squeeze. "I'm happy with whatever you want to give me, whether it's snuggling or fucking."

Massu's next noise is one of discontent. "I really don't think I'll be able to do that last one."

"And that's fine," Shige assures him. "I don't need that. I don't even really crave it. Having you make me come any way is good enough for me. Hell, you could probably just lie here and kiss me while I jerk off and I'd still be happy."

"There's an idea," Massu says, squirming a little as he presumably imagines Shige touching himself. "I wouldn't mind trying that another time."

"Would you do the same for me?" Shige asks, his own mind infiltrated by thoughts of watching Massu like that, and Massu grunts his agreement. "See, you found other things we can do that I hadn't even considered."

"I think about it when you're not around," Massu tells him, and Shige's already sensitive body tingles even more. "I didn't do it that much before, but now that we're doing it I find myself revisiting past encounters nearly every night while I'm in the shower."

"That's so hot," Shige hisses, and Massu moans softly from the depth of his voice.

"I feel bad though," Massu goes on, and Shige struggles to yank his mind out of the gutter. "We are both firmly against having a purely sexual thing, but it's heading that way."

"I think it's okay if we do other things too," Shige thinks out loud. "It's not like we just get off together and that's it. Personally, I don't mind one bit that you think about me like that. Since you're not a very sexual person, it just means even more that you feel that way toward me so often. Does that make sense?"

"Sort of," Massu answers, and Shige can feel the frown on his collarbone. "I guess I just don't want you to expect it from me every time we get together, even though it's become something I want from you. That doesn't make any sense, but it's how I feel."

"No, I get it." Shige nudges Massu's head with his, pressing his lips to Massu's face when he looks up. "I don't expect it from you, I promise. You actually surprised me today! But that doesn't mean I'll anticipate it for next time, or any time after that. Being with you is first and foremost about our closeness like this and the feelings we've developed from it. Anything sexual is just an enhancer."

Massu seems to accept that and burrows into Shige's arms, both of their breaths still slowing down from their respective orgasms. Shige's hand mindlessly strokes Massu's arm and Massu sighs softly, shuddering under the touch.

"Again?" Shige teases, and Massu's resulting groan sounds both turned on and annoyed.

"Let's take a shower this time."

*

The spring tour comes and goes, and Shige gets used to this updated version of his life where he is an idol by day and lover by night. He can't even be bothered by using that terminology, because that's exactly what they are, in the actual definition even. It's almost comforting to have a name for it, and it doesn't scare him one bit because they've already long since agreed to this part. They love each other, mentally, physically, and sexually, so they are lovers.

Telling Koyama and Tegoshi becomes more of a hindrance than a help when they spend the entire tour wondering if Shige and Massu are still together. Apparently, they don't act like lovers while working, which neither one of them finds a problem with. Tegoshi isn't nearly as concerned as Koyama, but the oldest member brings it up so much that Shige wants to challenge him to wake them up one morning to see for himself how together they really are.

The real problem comes when the tour is over, and Shige no longer has an excuse to spend every night snuggled in a hotel bed with Massu. It's the first time he's considered escalating their relationship into some kind of living arrangement, and he's so freaked out that he hides out in his apartment for a week, writing things he'll never show another living soul to get it out of his system.

"Is it the living together or the commitment that scares you?" Massu asks when Shige finally tells him about it, seeming unbothered at Shige's thoughts taking that kind of turn.

"Aren't they the same thing?" Shige asks, his nerves diluted under Massu's tight embrace. "Neither one is something you can really decide to stop doing and still maintain the same level of closeness."

"Says you," Massu scoffs. "I love the idea of temporary cohabitation. It's like a vacation, right? We could spend one week a month together, or alternate weekends, or both. Obviously, we'd have to adhere to each other's schedules, and respect each other's alone time when we want it, but we're both similar in that way. If you wanted to spend a night writing, for instance, I'd probably just put on my headphones or catch up on my fashion reading."

Shige stares at him. "You're really okay with this?"

"I really am." Massu grins. "We can give it a trial run, if you want? I enjoyed sharing a hotel room with you very much, even if you're a little messy."

"Everyone is messy compared to you," Shige teases, sticking out his tongue like the thirty-year-old adult he is, and his eyes widen when Massu retaliates by sucking it right into his mouth.

It's the first time they've kissed like this outside of sex, and even that doesn't happen very much. Massu had said he wasn't into it and Shige had taken that as law, but now Massu's the one coiling their tongues together with his hands on either side of Shige's face. Shige loses himself in the sensations, each lick intensifying the already pleasurable kiss, and somewhere in the back of his mind Shige wonders if this wasn't all just a really long conditioning process to get him used to separating sexual urges from physical intimacy. Even with such a deep kiss, he feels absolutely no arousal.

Massu looks sheepish when he pulls back and wipes his mouth. "Turns out I like kissing like that sometimes too. Seems that most of the things I was against in the beginning are okay in moderation."

"Please kiss me like that anytime," Shige tells him seriously, and Massu laughs. "So, we're really going to shack up part time?"

"We both want to, so I think we should give it a try. "Massu reaches up to poke Shige's temple. "Stop assuming everything we do is going to be like other couples you know or hear about. We're different, so what we do together will be different too."

"Is it really though?" Shige asks Koyama a few days later when they pick fruit with his niece and nephews. Their schedules hadn't lined up since the tour ended, so Koyama had invited him along on a family outing. "Sharing space is sharing space no matter what feelings are involved."

"Honestly, at this point you two could probably get married and it wouldn't change a thing," Koyama says. "I don't know what to tell you anymore. Tegoshi and I have even given up betting on when you'd get sick of each other."

"Thank you for your faith," Shige teases him, then frowns because Koyama's frowning. "What's wrong?"

"I don't know. Nothing." Koyama sighs hard enough to blow his bangs out of his face, and it would be comical if he wasn't uncharacteristically upset. "I'm jealous."

"Of what?" Shige asks carefully. "You haven't been harboring feelings for me all these years, have you?"

"Ew, no." Koyama shoves him, and they both laugh. "I'm jealous because I haven't found anyone I connect with nearly as much as you've connected with Massu. You were already bonded as NEWS members, and then you took a chance on being more, and it worked. All of your fears of commitment aside, do you realize how amazing it is that you even made it this far?"

Shige stares at him. "If I fuck it up by doing too much, doesn't it defeat the purpose?"

"You're putting way too much thought into this," Koyama chides him.

"I'm a writer!" Shige exclaims defensively. "Thinking is what I do!"

"Maybe relax and just let things happen naturally," Koyama tells him. "The temporary living arrangement sounds great for you. You can get used to the idea of being in each other's space and see if you want to actually live together full-time."

"See, that's it. That's not the goal here." Shige scrutinizes a particularly ripe peach and decides to eat it right off the tree. He hears Massu in his mind harping about pesticides, but if the animals who visit this orchard haven't died yet, neither will he. "Neither one of us wants to give up our independence like that."

Koyama sighs. "You both are impossible. How you've made it to this point, I have no idea."

"Excellent communication," Shige says proudly. "And it helps that we can't stay away from each other."

"You say that like you actually do anything when you get together." Koyama's halfway through an eyeroll when he drops his basket and stares at Shige's face. "Are you finally doing it?!"

Haru looks over in interest, but the other two are preoccupied with their own baskets. "There are things we do, yes," Shige answers vaguely, enjoying how Koyama's hanging on his every word. "Not that it's any of your business."

Koyama looks more impressed than anything else. "I didn't think Massu was even like that. I had written him off as asexual ages ago."

Shige shrugs. "He doesn't use that label, so I don't use it for him. Inevitably, we enjoy each other's company very much, but our schedules don't permit us much more than two or three nights a month. You know how hard it is for us to find time to hang out, right? Imagine if we actually wanted to be close to each other."

Koyama makes a face. "Do I have to?"

"You know what I mean," Shige says, tossing a rotten peach at him. "We shared a bed nearly every night we were on tour, Kei. Going from that to basically nothing is brutal."

"You know, Tegoshi suggested awhile back that you two were just pulling one over on us and weren't really doing anything together." Koyama shakes his head. "With all the bullshit you're feeding me right now, I'm no longer certain that this isn't actually some kind of longitudinal prank."

"Honestly, you both are ridiculous." Shige smacks him with the whole basket this time. "Just because you smother everyone you love doesn't mean everyone else has to."

"At least I have relationship goals," Koyama replies, and it only stings a little. "Nobody who dates me will have any doubt in their mind where we're going."

Shige sighs. "You got me there."

"Have you even told your parents yet?" Koyama asks, but there's no malice in his voice. "I know Massu's family is the entire reason this shitshow is still in theaters, but what about yours?"

"I haven't told them," Shige admits, "but only because they'd be disappointed that it's not a traditional relationship. If I'm not getting married and having babies, it doesn't count as anything real to them, and forgive me for not wanting to listen to anyone else invalidate how Taka and I have chosen to exist together."

"Shige, they're your parents," Koyama emphasizes. "They're the only family you have. Even if they don't take it seriously, don't you owe it to Massu to tell them how important he is to you?"

"Don't put those kinds of ideas in my head," Shige says firmly. "He doesn't want that. We're not having that kind of relationship. Let it go, Kei."

"Okay, okay." Koyama offers Shige a perfect peach as a truce, and Shige accepts it. "For what it's worth, I think this part-time living arrangement might be beneficial for both of you. Think of it like being glorified roommates."

That has Shige laughing. "I can see the chore wheel already."

"Good luck," Koyama says, clapping him on the back as they catch up with the kids. "You're going to need it."

*

It takes three straight days of Massu in his space for Shige to think that this was a bad idea. "I think we should stick to weekends," he says after the second time he snaps at Massu for breathing while he's trying to write. "Or a couple days in the middle of the week. No longer."

"Fair enough," Massu says, looking indifferent as he puts down his magazine. "I'm relieved, are you?"

Shige tears his attention away from his document. "What?"

"I've been stressing over how to plan our meals," Massu tells him, and Shige almost laughs out loud. "When we were on tour, we already ate together. Now, there's no way to time it right without micromanaging your schedule, which I definitely don't want to do. I think you're right—two days in a row is a good limit."

"Yeah." Shige takes a breath and instantly feels better. "I guess I am relieved. I still want to be close to you, but I need a break to recover from having someone in my space for so long. Even if it's you."

"I'm not offended," Massu tells him, taking advantage of Shige's paused typing to reach for his hand. "I like it better when we put aside time specifically to spend with each other. Maybe we could just incorporate more sleepovers into our schedules, since that's the main thing we missed when we stopped touring?"

"Sounds good to me." Shige squeezes Massu's hand and leans over for a quick kiss. "Do you mind going home tonight? I really want to finish this scene before I lose the mood."

"Not at all." Massu finishes packing the bag he'd brought with him three days ago, and Shige stands up to hug him goodbye when he goes to leave. "Thank you for being honest with me."

"I'd probably be getting on your nerves if we were at your place too," Shige tells him.

Massu nods and pulls him into a kiss that momentarily displaces his soul. Shige definitely hasn't gotten sick of that, but sadly they can't just kiss and cuddle all the time.

"See you in a couple days," Massu tells him, and then he's gone.

Shige relaxes now that he can focus on writing without any distractions. By the time he's done, three hours have gone by, and he starts to feel guilty for just kicking Massu out without making any effort to compromise. Shige could have closed himself in his bedroom and worked. He could have even worn noise-cancelling headphones so that they could still sit close together. Shige didn't mind the warm contact while he was writing one bit.

I'm really sorry I gave up so easily, he messages after a few minutes of self-loathing. Are you mad?

His phone rings in response. "I'm not mad," Massu says clearly, his cheerful voice pulling Shige out of his dark place. "I was frustrated as I drove home, more about the situation than specifically with you, but then I saw my apartment for the first time in three days and felt much better. I didn't realize how tense I'd gotten simply from being out of control of my surroundings. It was different on tour because we both still had our own rooms—we only slept together."

"And worked together," Shige adds with a laugh. "How is it that we can be in the same group and regularly share a bed and it's not too much until we try to share living space?"

"Our souls may be intertwined, but they're still individual entities," Massu tells him. "If we try to fuse them together, they repel."

Shige smiles. "That's strangely romantic."

"I love how skewed your idea of romance is."

They chat for a little while longer, making plans for Shige to come by later in the week when they miss each other again, and Shige feels much better about his life. He revels in his quiet space, stretching his body and his mind without rushing, and when he returns to the present moment, everything is beautiful.

I love you, he sends to Massu (and Koyama as an afterthought).

I love you too, they both reply, each followed by a different series of emojis.

Where's my love? Tegoshi sends ten minutes later, complete with every frowny face in the library.

Shige doesn't reply.

*

Ever since he turned seventeen, Shige has shared his birthday celebrations with Massu. Their birthdays are only seven days apart, and even with only four members now, it's easier for everyone to get together once in such a short span of time.

This year is no different. They go out for dinner and congregate at Tegoshi's place so that they're not drunk in public. It had to be Tegoshi's, because Shige and Massu blatantly refused to have their homes trashed by these heathens and Shige is allergic to Koyama's cat. Tegoshi pretends to be put out about it, but it's been this way for the past two member birthdays, including his own.

Emma loves the company anyway. Shige likes Emma more than he likes Tegoshi, happily volunteering his lap for the puppy from the minute he arrives. It's his birthday—he certainly doesn't plan on getting up to help with anything.

Koyama and Tegoshi manage to light the candles on the cake without setting the building on fire, and true to tradition, Massu blows them all out before Shige can even get one. This year, however, Massu pulls Shige into a kiss right after, and Shige makes it until Koyama and Tegoshi's catcalls get unbearable before reluctantly pulling away.

"Are you going to eat the cake off of each other too?" Tegoshi asks, waggling his eyebrows suggestively, and Shige's confident that both he and Massu are displaying the same level of disgust on their faces.

"Speaking of your special brand of member love," Koyama begins, and Shige thinks literally nothing good can follow that. "Tego and I put together a surprise that we think you'll both really like."

"No," says Shige.

"Don't worry," Tegoshi tells him. "Kei-chan wouldn't let me do what I initially wanted to."

Shige hopes that he never, ever finds out what that was. While he's cleansing images from his mind that will keep him from getting it up in the unforeseeable future, Koyama brandishes a microphone from Tegoshi's elaborate entertainment center.

"Karaoke!" Koyama declares, gesturing to the new addition to the sleek black devices. "You two can't really dance together anywhere, right? At least, not until someone else in Massu's family gets married."

Shige glances at Massu to gauge his reaction, and he can't quite read it. He's staring at Koyama in disbelief, which could go either way. This entire time, Shige hadn't really thought about dancing again, because what he was getting seemed so much better.

"You probably dance to the stereo," Tegoshi goes on, using his idol voice like he'd rehearsed this ahead of time. "But that's not the same, right? This way, you can sing to each other, or we can sing and you can make out, whatever."

"We haven't danced since the wedding," Massu says out loud, turning toward Shige with an apologetic look. "Using the stereo didn't even cross my mind."

"Me neither," Shige admits, and they both laugh.

"You two are the worst boyfriends ever," Tegoshi tells them, and Shige wrinkles his nose at the term. "I'll start while you two pick a song."

It's just like singing karaoke with Tegoshi any other time, where he hogs the microphone and loudly sings along even when it's not his turn. The four of them haven't been out together in years, and Shige feels nostalgic as they go through the instrumental CDs Koyama had picked up for the occasion. There's a decent selection of genres—pop songs for the decades, old love songs, and rock classics.

Tegoshi wails through one of each before Shige finds the one he's looking for, pointing it out to Massu who actually blushes from the request. "You want me to sing that for you?"

"Will you?" Shige asks, feeling shy for the first time in a long while. He blames Tegoshi and Koyama watching them like helicopter parents. "I know it's overly romantic, but it sounded so nice at the wedding and I love how much you love singing it."

"Okay," Massu agrees, handing the disc to Koyama. "I don't know if I can dance with you while I sing it though."

"Just hold me," Shige says outright, and Massu nods.

They end up swaying on the couch as Massu launches into his Neverland solo. Shige snuggles close, prying eyes be damned. The lyrics sound even better reverberated through Massu's chest in the most intimate form of surround sound, and Shige makes it until the first chorus before his heart explodes out of his eyes.

Massu squeezes him and pulls back enough to look at his face, and it would be seriously embarrassing if they hadn't already put away a fair amount of alcohol. Right now, Massu is serenading him and it's beautiful, even if Shige can't actually see Massu's face through the tears that form. Unlike the last time he cried in front of Massu, these are happy tears, and Massu doesn't come anywhere close to poking him in the eye when he swipes his thumb along Shige's skin, effectively wiping them away.

"From now on, you're mine, you're mine," Massu sings, his own voice choking up. "And forever mine."

It ends far too soon, but Shige looks pleased to see that Koyama's eyes are also glossy as he clings to Tegoshi on the floor. Tegoshi's ignoring them, undoubtedly making a queue of songs to sing himself, and it actually comforts Shige to see how much they don't care that he's a blubbering mess in Massu's lap. They set this up so that Shige and Massu could have this much needed time together without worrying about cameras or karaoke room videos, and it's so thoughtful that Shige's heart feels even bigger, his love for his group intensifying his love for Massu.

Shige kisses Massu all the way through Tegoshi's rendition of TOKIO's Love You Only, the familiar vibrato a strangely nice accompaniment to the closeness. Koyama nags them to dance for the next song, which is the first of a long string of KinKi Kids ballads he plans to demolish with Tegoshi, and Shige struggles to stand upright with all of the emotions determined to knock him down.

They melt into each other's arms, Massu leading just like the last time, and Shige doesn't hesitate to pull him close, resting his head on Massu's shoulder as they move to a beat they've heard a million times before.

"Do you have choreography running through your mind too?" Massu asks, and Shige laughs as he nods. "It's been fifteen years since I backdanced for them and I bet I could still do all the moves."

"That muscle memory is forever," Shige agrees. "It's nice to just appreciate the music now though."

"Yeah." Massu leans his head against Shige's. "I didn't know that this is what I wanted for my birthday until I got it."

"We can do this more often," Shige tells him. "You have a really nice sound system."

"I like singing too." Massu sighs. "Looks like we'll have to start putting up with Tegoshi more."

"Just steal his keys and we'll come over when he's not home."

"You say that like I don't already have a spare."

Shige laughs again, squeezing Massu's shoulder blades as he presses as close as he can. Koyama and Tegoshi reach a particularly climactic part of the song and it actually sounds good, caressing Shige's ear canals and taking him even higher. It's been months and he still doesn't think he'll ever get used to the feeling of Massu holding him so tightly, the spicy scent of Massu's cologne enticing his senses, the soft sounds of comfort Massu emits with each deep breath, lost in his own trance while Shige waxes philosophical in his own head.

Their unconventional relationship may not be going anywhere, but Shige's content with staying right where he is.