Chapter 1: Nakajima Yuto
First impressions are important, so the moment Yuto walked into those huge double doors and into the Sharehouse, he put on his biggest smile and readied himself to charm everyone inside.
Unfortunately, there were only two people waiting for him: Mirai Shida and Suzuka Ohgo.
Yuto froze in the middle of the room, his smile falling off.
“Hey!” Mirai grinned at him, standing up and clapping a hand on his back. “Long time no see, big shot!”
Suzuka was much quieter when she stood, but her presence was as powerful as always. “It’s been a while,” she agreed.
Yuto forced the smile back on his face. “Hey, guys.”
He wanted the best first impression on whoever would be living with him in the Sharehouse, but these were two people he met long ago. They knew him already, from inside and out.
They were his ex-girlfriends from high school.
As soon as Sharehouse Special was greenlighted, Yuto was immediately chosen as the first housemate. He was, as Daiki (his manager) explained, the ‘face of the show’. Being an award-winning actor, he was well-known enough in Japan and all over the world that his appearance in the new TV show would bring in the ratings. He only had to be bubbly and nice, and it would be the perfect start to the franchise.
Of course, that was what they told him.
He knew it would not be that easy. This was showbusiness, and drama was its currency.
“I didn’t expect you to agree to this,” Yuto said quietly, sitting beside Suzuka. Mirai was upstairs, touring the facilities and preemptively checking where her room would be. She has always been a go-getter.
Suzuka smiled at him, seemingly amused by that. “Mirai convinced me,” she said, and that was enough explanation.
“Ah,” he said. “How are you?”
She laughed. “I’m fine. Not as busy as you, but I get by.”
“Last I’ve heard, you were nominated for best screenplay,” he said, raising an eyebrow. “Sounds pretty good to me.”
“Well, I’m doing very well,” she agreed. “But I haven’t gotten a Hollywood film deal, so you still win?”
He shrugged. “It’s not a competition.”
She tilted her head ever so slightly, looking at him with discerning eyes. “It isn’t?”
Before he could reply to that, they heard Ninomiya’s voice echo from outside, introducing the next housemate.
Yuri Chinen was one of the other housemates chosen. He was a gold-medalist in the Olympics for gymnastics, and he came from a long line of Olympians. When he arrived, everyone was endeared by how cute he was. He was small but energetic, and he had the most refreshing smile in the house. He felt like a younger brother they had to protect.
They could not have been more wrong.
Chinen was a menace .
Chinen and Mirai formed an unholy connection the moment they realized how powerful the other was. Yuto watched, wary but captivated, as the two single handedly planned their first house party. Juggling all their schedules and deciding which contacts would be best for the party amenities, those two worked in perfect sync.
“Why aren’t you free on Saturday until 5?” Chinen looked down at his clipboard. It was neon pink. Mirai’s was baby blue. “Do you have a date?”
“I don’t,” Yuto said. “I have work. I gave you my schedule.” Everyone gave Chinen their calendar, since planning the party was hinged mostly on them being in the house at the same time despite their conflicting work schedules.
“Just asking,” Chinen said with a smile. “You’re an actor. You hide a lot of things.”
“Not to you, I don’t.”
Chinen laughed, surprised and amused. “Aww,” he cooed. “Am I your favorite?”
Yuto pretended to think, looking at the ceiling. “Of course,” he said, after a beat. Chinen was hands-down the most interesting person inside this house, which was a feat given what kind of people lived here.
The smile Chinen gave him was smaller but much more genuine. “Cute,” he said, trying to be dismissive despite the true appreciation in his eyes. “But I know about the ex-girlfriends, so I’m not sure about that.”
“How… do you know that?” Yuto asked. His fans did not know, because he was a private person and he never shared anything that had a chance of ruining his career. (It had been about four years since his last girlfriend tried to expose him, and he had never dated after that.) The show hadn’t tried to milk that particular controversy either. He thought perhaps they were waiting for the perfect moment to drop it on them.
Chinen patted him on the shoulder. “I know everything, Yuto-kun. Everything .”
There was shouting.
The Sharehouse was supposed to be about friendship and learning about other people’s lifestyles, not about fighting over petty things. This was not the way things should be.
Yuto watched as Mirai threw a DVD at Kamiki’s head, and then ran off to her room and locked it behind her. “What happened?” he asked. Kamiki stood frozen in the middle of the hallway, while Umika and Haruna watched everything with delighted expressions. Chinen was lounging on the stairs, whistling to himself.
“Chinen-kun asked us what we thought of Shida-chan’s new play,” Haruna answered.
“Kamiki-kun said he hasn’t gone to watch because he’s been busy,” Umika added. “But he already bought a DVD of your drama and her play released a DVD at the same time, so…”
“I didn’t know ,” Kamiki explained, frowning like a kicked puppy. “Why is she so angry?”
“You promised her you’d watch as soon as you could,” Chinen piped up. “To forget and even talk to her about Yuto-kun’s drama… ouch .” He put a dramatic hand on his chest, like he personally felt what Mirai did. Kamiki whimpered pitifully. “The betrayal .”
Yuto narrowed his eyes at Chinen. “How do you know all of this?”
“How do you not know that?” Chinen shot back, which was not an answer. Turning towards Kamiki with a grin, he said, “Let her cool down. I bought a cake. You could share it with her later.”
Staring at Chinen like he was an angel sent to save him, Kamiki smiled widely and nodded. “Thanks, Chii!”
Yuto could hear Haruna and Umika snickering as they walked away.
“Chaotic evil,” Ryosuke muttered, lying on the sofa in the middle of the living room. He watched as Chinen did a backflip and then three perfect spins. “That’s what you are.”
Yuto didn’t know what those words meant exactly but it sounded right. He nodded in blind agreement. Chinen felt like some kind of crossroads demon who could give you everything you want, but for a price.
Chinen pouted. “Yama-chan, your geek is showing,” he said. “And I’m not evil .”
“So you agree that you are chaotic,” Ryosuke said, smiling a bit. He looked better when he did that. He almost always frowned at everyone as if he did not understand them, or why he was even here, so the moments when he smiled were always precious to Yuto.
“We all need a little chaos in our lives,” Chinen said with that twinkle in his eyes.
Yuto pushed down the instinct to shiver and hide. He had a role to play here. “The Sharehouse would be boring without you, Chii,” he said instead.
Ryosuke was a social media celebrity whose claim to fame was a series of video game playthroughs, and a nerdy twitter feed. He never showed his face on camera, using voice-overs instead of the usual live blog approach. He also joined international gaming tournaments, wearing hoodies that obscured his face when he did so. Getting most of his money from winning games and posting videos, he was practically a shut-in.
He came into the Sharehouse wearing a loose brown hoodie, sweatpants, and flip flops.
In a sea of celebrities who looked like they came out of a magazine, Ryosuke stood out.
Yuto was fascinated.
“Makeover. Let’s do it.”
Mirai had both hands on her hips, a calculating look on her face. It was the look she gave Yuto every time she wanted something from him. Even now, years after they broke up, it still makes him want to give her anything she asks for.
At her side, Umika pouted and stepped closer to the cowering Ryosuke. He was hiding behind the pool table as if that would save him from their scary housemates. “We won’t hurt you,” she said, false-sweet. “Come on, Yamada-kun. Don’t you want to look like a model?”
Ryosuke shook his head. “I’m fine here,” he said. His posture was clearly defensive, standing on the balls of his feet, ready to run anytime. “Why don’t you play with Chinen?”
Mirai laughed. “Why would we give Chinen a makeover?”
“You have so much potential, Yamada-kun,” Umika said. Her voice was as warm as the expression on her face. It was as fake as anything in this house. “We just want what’s best for you. There’s so much beauty hiding under that messy hair.”
Yuto had a role to play as the smiling bubbly optimist of the house. If there was a narrative for this, he’d be the good friend, trying to push Ryosuke towards his best self. He’d smile widely and agree with them. He’d drag Ryosuke towards the couch and let them have their way with him. He’d be on their side, because being beautiful was important, and reaching your highest potential was the kind of hallmark quote they expected from him.
“Hey, come on,” Yuto said, looking at the two. “He said he doesn’t want to. Why don’t you play with me instead? I’d love a makeover.” He flashed them his most charming smile.
It was a good compromise. He’d act needy and playful, and they would leave Ryosuke alone. The viewers would see Yuto as flirting with the girls, instead of protective of the other boy. They would never suspect Yuto of wanting Ryosuke all to himself. They’d never see this as the selfishness it really was.
Umika sighed disappointedly. “I guess if you really want to change your image, I could do something.”
Mirai stared at him for a few seconds, and when she smiled, it was with sudden understanding. “Oh,” she said. “I’d love to play.”
“Are you…” Ryosuke looked around to check if anyone was near, and then looked up at the camera on one corner of the ceiling. It was following their movements, as usual. That didn’t mean it’ll be included in the show, though, so they were all learning to ignore them. “Are you hiding from Shida-chan?”
“I’m not!” Yuto whisper-shouted, peeking from behind the large loveseat at the corner of the room. “I’m, uh, playing hide-and-seek.”
Ryosuke looked at him with the most deadpan expression Yuto has ever seen on anyone. It was pretty impressive. “Right,” he said. He sat down on the loveseat and opened up his laptop, not deigning to reply.
“What are you doing?” Yuto asked from his corner. It was something of a blind spot, and he knew Daiki would be angry with him for hiding here, but he was tired . And also terrified of his ex-girlfriends. He was allowing himself this tiny moment of rest.
“I’m checking my e-mail,” Ryosuke said, clicking away. “I know this is like a vacation house for all of you, but I work from home, so.”
“You’re working?” Yuto stood up and leaned his arms on the backrest so he could see the screen better. “Are you playing games?”
Ryosuke raised his head to look at him upside down, narrowing his eyes. “Do you even know what I actually do?”
Yuto nodded immediately, enthusiastically. He had been waiting to reveal this since he first saw Ryosuke walk through the main doors that first day. “I watch your youtube videos,” he admitted. “I love them!” He’s been a subscriber for years. He never had time to play the games his brother did, but watching the videos gave him enough idea that he could talk about them to his brother. More than that, the videos were fun and calming, which made them perfect to watch during his taping breaks.
Ryosuke blinked. “What?”
“My brother found your videos and showed me,” he added. “I’ve been sending links of it to my friends.” He laughed, remembering Suda’s reaction when he spammed him links one time Suda mentioned a game he bought. “They’re annoyed by how excited I get when I see you update.”
“That’s…” Ryosuke continued gaping, seemingly bewildered by the concept. “You won the Japan Academy Prize for Best Actor last year.”
“And you watch my stupid youtube videos?”
“They’re not stupid .” Yuto felt a bit offended by that. Ryosuke’s videos were high-quality and his comments were a mixture of awkward but adorable free talk, and smart critique on the games. He was passionate about his work and nothing about that was stupid.
“I-” Ryosuke dropped his head down, breathing deeply. “I can’t believe this.” His ears turned red. It was adorable.
Yuto didn’t know everyone chosen for the Sharehouse, of course. While Suzuka and Mirai were high school classmates and ex-girlfriends, and Ryosuke was a secret obsession, the others were strangers to him. Chinen easily befriended Yuto and the whole room when he came in, despite not knowing anyone.
On the other hand, Ryunosuke Kamiki, a famous voice actor and variety show host, was already on first-name basis with most of the others even before he came in. He knew a few of them either from working together in animated shows (Mirai and Umika) or interviewing them for his variety show (Suzuka and Chinen). He knew most of the people inside, and he was friendly with those he didn’t know.
Yuto liked him immediately.
“You’re my favorite ,” Ryosuke said, looking up at Kamiki like he was the reason the sun shone in the morning. Yuto felt a little miffed. He thought he was Ryosuke’s favorite.
Kamiki grinned and sat down on the floor in front of the gaming room couch (which was a dark red in contrast with their light blue sectional sofa in the living room). He fiddled with the wires on the game console he brought from home. It was an old type that Yuto didn’t recognize, but Ryosuke had swooned as soon as he saw it.
“It’s nothing,” Kamiki said. “It was gathering dust at home and you said you wanted to play with one, so…”
Ryosuke slid down from the couch to sit beside Kamiki. He took one of the controllers and looked up to see Yuto watching from the doorway. “Hey!” He smiled, eyes bright and excited. “Want to play with us?”
There were only two controllers, so Yuto shook his head. “I’ll watch,” he said, strolling over to sit on the couch behind them.
“If you’re sure,” Ryosuke said. He leaned his back on Yuto’s leg as he focused on the screen.
Minutes later, as Yuto watched Ryosuke explain the mechanics of the game and how the console was different from modern ones, he wanted to thank Kamiki too. This was just like watching the videos, but better . Yuto leaned his head on the backrest of the couch, and let their trash-talking and laughter lull him to sleep.
“I can wash the dishes,” Kamiki said, eyeing the pile of plates and pots on the sink. “Don’t worry about it. You have work today, right?”
Yuto did. He had a photoshoot this noon and a movie taping at night. He stayed up late yesterday reading through his script too. He was exhausted. “Are you sure?”
“I’m sure!” Kamiki smiled widely and nodded. “It’s just a few-”
“You shut your mouth,” Mirai interjected, swooping in and placing her whole hand on his face. “He’s been washing dishes every meal like a martyr. He needs an intervention.”
Yuto’s eyes widened. “Every meal? Wasn’t Umika-chan supposed to do it last night?” They had a chore chart on the fridge, but with their busy schedules, it wasn’t followed as properly as they expected. Ryosuke has been doing the vacuum cleaning for a whole week, as far as he knew. Since he was the only one who never left the house, they let him do it.
“She had nail art done for their PV,” Mirai said, sighing. “The expensive one. Mikki saw it when she was filling the sink with water and he almost had an aneurysm.”
Kamiki pulled her hand off his face. “It’s really expensive,” he argued. “It would be a waste.”
“Maybe he likes washing the dishes?” Yuto asked Mirai, raising an eyebrow.
Mirai paused, narrowing her eyes. “Do you?”
“I don’t particularly hate it?” Kamiki answered, shrugging.
Before they could figure out what to do, Suzuka walked into the kitchen and glanced at the three of them. Her gaze stopped on Kamiki and, with a sigh, she said, “He was up all night reading lines for me. I don’t even know how he’s already awake.”
Mirai glared at Kamiki. Suzuka ignored them to get her salad from the fridge. She was going to talk at a seminar today so she didn’t have time for breakfast, and she especially didn’t have time for this. She walked out after kissing Mirai on the cheek and nodding at the two boys.
“Is there anyone else who could do it?” Yuto asked.
“Well, Yamada-kun is always-”
“ Mirai ,” Yuto intoned warningly. Ryosuke already did too many chores for them; they all knew that. Just because he worked from home didn’t mean he wasn’t tired, too.
Mirai smiled brightly, and then giggled as if she couldn’t help it. “Right,” she said, slapping a hand on his arm. “Right, right. I’m sorry. I’m gonna try and convince Ryu-chan to come out of his room.”
“Ryutaro’s tired ,” Kamiki complained. “I can do this.”
“ You’re tired, asshole,” Mirai reprimanded.
Later, Ryutaro grumbled about his tired arms, but after one glance at Kamiki, he rolled his eyes and pushed all of them out of the kitchen.
Ryutaro Morimoto was the youngest housemate. He used to be in an idol group, and then a band, and then he tried going solo. In the end, he became a jaded 21 years old boy with a passion for dance and nothing else in this messy business. He didn’t like celebrities much, but being a choreographer meant he had to work with all kinds of people.
He was sharp, blunt, and unafraid to make enemies.
In a way, that was a role, too.
“You all suck at this,” Ryutaro said, scowling at the mirrored wall in front of them. They were supposed to learn all the steps to Hoshino Gen’s Koi as part of their learn each others’ craft segment. They’ve already done voice acting and Olympian training the past weeks, so now they’re moving on to dance. Unfortunately, only Chinen and Umika were good at it. “How are you this bad? This isn’t even that hard.”
Yuto pouted. “We’ve only been practicing for an hour,” he said. He’s never had to learn how to dance for any of his roles, and despite this dance being simple in comparison to Ryutaro’s other routines, it was still a whole unfamiliar song.
“An hour of my life I can never get back,” Ryutaro grumbled.
“You need to be more patient,” Chinen chided, going over to put an arm around his shoulders. “They’ll get it.”
“You were ready to murder Yuto last week when he couldn’t do a full bar rotation,” Ryutaro reminded him. The thought must have been amusing though, because he became calmer, the tension in his expression bleeding out. Chinen had that effect on people. “Don’t talk to me about patience.”
Chinen leaned close, sniggering. “You can’t blame me. You’d think all those muscles had some purpose , right?”
“I’m right here,” Yuto said, crossing his arms. “I can hear you loud and clear.”
Chinen widened his eyes innocently. “I’m sorry, Yutti. That was too harsh. Forgive me?” He exaggerated a pout and head tilt that would make anyone melt. Looking at his expression, Ryutaro laughed, open and loud in a way he wouldn’t have done when he first arrived here.
Yuto grimaced. Chinen was terrifying in his own cute way. “I’ll always forgive you,” he said. There wasn’t anything he had to forgive.
“I know.” Chinen laughed. “You love me.”
It was a Wednesday when he came home from a shoot, bone-tired and in urgent need of sleep, and heard the faint sound of a familiar beat. Despite his exhaustion, he followed the sound to the practice room.
Inside was Ryutaro, sitting down with his back leaning on one of the off-white walls, and Ryosuke, who seemed to be practicing the moves they learned. He was still clumsy with the steps, unsure where to place his hands and when to move, missing some by a half beat, but he was clearly improving. Sweat trickled down his forehead and down his arms, making it clear how long he has been at it. Ryutaro watched him in silence, only giving pointers every now and then.
Ryosuke was supposed to be the shut-in with no care about his looks or any of the things they were learning. He was supposed to be this guy who only cared about the 2D, or at least that’s the narrative the show was obviously pushing forward. Yuto heard conversations outside. He knew.
They didn’t know about this side, about Ryosuke having so much passion in his body it felt like it would burst, about the way his eyes narrowed in concentration whenever someone was teaching, about the way he asked them how he could be better. Ryosuke was able to do a double backflip last week, and it was all because of this.
Ryosuke was here as the lazy gamer, but Yuto saw the blazing heart hiding inside him.
“Holy…” Haruna sat beside him on the practice room, watching in awe as Ryosuke danced the first part of their choreography flawlessly.
He faltered by the chorus, dropping down on the floor in exhaustion. He was shining, and without his hoodie, his smile was clear for everyone to see. Ryutaro said something too quiet to be overheard, and Ryosuke laughed loudly, throwing his head back as he did. The younger boy looked pleased.
Yuto wondered if more people would like Ryosuke now, if they would see what he saw everyday in this house. He felt a strange twinge of possessiveness. He didn’t want to share, but this was their job, and he had no right to be jealous of their viewers.
“I know, right?” Yuto shook his head in disbelief. “I bet everyone thinks he was secretly a dance genius all along.”
Haruna laughed. “They’d think he was hiding this?” She rolled her eyes. “As if Yamada-kun would do something like that.”
“It’s an interesting theory,” Yuto said, shrugging.
“The truth is almost always more interesting,” she said, and by the look in her eyes, she wasn’t just talking about the dance. “Especially in this case.”
“People will believe what they want to believe,” he said with a smile. “We’re not here to sell the truth.”
She turned her attention back to Ryosuke, who was practicing with Ryutaro again. “I’m not here to sell anything,” she said. “You take your job way too seriously.”
“Says the girl wearing full makeup at home,” he retorted.
She glanced at him, a keen smile on her cherry-red lips. “Touché.”
Haruna Kawaguchi was a top model. She was voted #1 in Seventeen before she graduated, and she has been featured in the covers of international magazines since then. She was tall and lean, and her long black hair always looked flawless. Any kind of fashion worked for her. Her eyes were piercing and her lips could go from a sweet smile to a razor-sharp smirk in a split second.
Everyone was in love with her.
Including Daiki. And, if his vlogs were anything to judge by, Ryosuke too.
“Have you talked to Haruna-chan?” Yuto asked, walking over to the loveseat Ryosuke had claimed as his own.
Ryosuke raised an eyebrow. “In the whole month we’ve been here? Of course I have, Yuto-kun. I’ve talked to everyone. I’m not actually a shut-in. You know that, right?”
“Of course I know that,” Yuto said, waving a hand as if to put that idea aside. “I was just wondering about something.”
Ryosuke narrowed his eyes. “About what?”
“Have you told her you have the biggest crush on her?” he asked, morbid curiosity taking over.
Pausing his game, he turned towards Yuto with a blank expression. “Who said I have a crush on her?”
“Your vlogs?” He forced a grin. “I thought you’d have made a move by now~”
“Oh.” He grimaced. “I forgot you watched my videos. I think I erased that conversation from my mind. Too surreal.”
“Well, did you tell her?” Yuto pressed on, poking Ryosuke on the side teasingly.
“I admired her,” Ryosuke clarified. “Objectively. In a way a person appreciates art.” He hummed, looking down at the laptop screen. “I’ve been following her career since she was in Seventeen.”
“Yeah, but-” Yuto frowned. “Isn’t that what a crush is?”
“I guess,” Ryosuke said with a shrug. “But I know her now, and we’re friends. She’s not really how I imagined she’d be.”
Yuto turned thoughtful. “Were you disappointed?”
Ryosuke laughed, shaking his head. “On the contrary,” he answered, “you’re all better people than I thought you’d be. You’re…” A smile, small and soft and warm. “ Real .”
When Yuto came home from an overnight shoot, Haruna was on Ryosuke’s loveseat, wearing his hoodie and using his laptop. Yuto stared for a whole minute, bewildered and unsure how to react.
“What?” He didn’t know what else to say.
She looked up, eyes narrowed. “Sshhh.” She shushed him, placing a finger on her light pink lips. She wasn’t wearing much makeup. “I’m incognito.”
He moved closer, sitting down on his usual spot on the floor. “What does that mean?”
“Ryosuke’s sleeping on my bed under my blanket and I’m wearing his hoodie,” she said. “What do you think?”
He frowned and stared at her. “I don’t… know what to think?” He was tired. Cut him some slack.
She rolled her eyes, a disappointed sigh escaping her lips. “We’re pretending to be each other,” she said, voice low. “Isolated, this shot looks like you’re talking to Yamada-kun, so they’ll only notice something different if they’re focusing on us.” She paused. “And since I’m explaining it to you, they won’t use this one either. Not really my image, you know?”
“Smart,” he said, whistling in appreciation. “When exactly did you plan this?” He would have noticed if they were colluding like this, wouldn’t he? He was out of the house often because of tapings, but Haruna was out just as much.
She grinned, all teeth. She looked younger than she usually did, expression filled with playful glee instead of her usual mature coldness. “We’re playing the same game right now,” she said, purposefully not identifying which game. “I messaged him.”
His eyes widened. Their phones were being watched, and their calls were, too. Most of their social accounts were included in that package. Games, though… Only Ryosuke used it often, and he played too many games to follow. It was a discreet way to talk without the staff obsessively reading through their conversations.
“That’s genius,” he said, after an awed silence.
“Thanks,” she said. “I try my best.”
Everyone outside thought of Haruna as beautiful and perfect and cold, but seeing that smile on her face made him realize she was so much more.
Umika Kawashima was the second most famous celebrity inside the Sharehouse. Being the unofficial center of 9nine, and having gotten more and more acting roles, she was widely known in Japan and around the world. She was chosen as the female ‘face of the show’, alongside Yuto.
At first, she acted all cute and bubbly around them, knowing her part in this as well as Yuto did. But as weeks passed by, it was clear how exhausting the ruse became.
By the fifth week, when she was in charge of teaching them her skills, she freely scowled and reprimanded them. She was still cute, but there was an edge to it.
She grew tired of pretending.
“You lost the draw,” Umika said, tapping her finger on the granite kitchen counter impatiently. Her nails were pastel pink. Kamiki painted them yesterday while they were all napping in the living room. “It’s not my fault you’re unlucky.”
Ryosuke narrowed his eyes. “How do I know it wasn’t rigged?”
Yuto is of the opinion that it was definitely rigged. Umika would do what was best for the show, and what was best for the show was having Ryosuke do this. Not to mention, Mirai and Umika had been working towards this from the start. It was a satisfying way to end the makeover plotline.
Umika raised an eyebrow. “How can you prove it was?”
“You’re all starting to sound like Chinen,” Ryosuke muttered. He glanced at the side where the wedding gown was hanging up and still wrapped in plastic. “What does this have to do with being an idol?”
“I do embarrassing stuff all the time to please the fans,” Umika explained in a whisper. Raising her voice to normal volume, she added, “Doing everything to make your fans happy despite of how silly it feels is the whole essence of being an idol, Yamada-kun.”
Ryosuke scrunched up his nose. “Why would anyone want to see me in a wedding dress?”
Umika smiled, and it would be innocent and childish to anyone looking but Yuto knew what that smile meant. She threw a look at Yuto, smile widening. “I wonder why,” she said.
Ryosuke was disturbingly beautiful dressed in a wedding gown, as it turned out.
“Are you proud?” Yuto asked Umika, picking up his camera and taking pictures from afar. Ryosuke would hate to pose for pictures later, but he had no choice.
“So proud,” Umika answered, self-satisfied. “We did good.”
“You did,” Yuto agreed. Ryosuke objected to everything but they were able to put him in a stunning white gown, long silk white gloves and a satin veil. Haruna whispered something threatening earlier until Ryosuke allowed them to apply some light makeup. “He looks great.”
“No thanks to you,” she said, shooting him a narrow-eyed look. “You were guarding him this entire time, like a hawk. We could have done a makeover sooner.”
Yuto smiled innocently. “Where’s the fun in that?”
Umika hummed in thought as she watched Ryutaro try to flip up Ryosuke’s skirt. Mirai was shooing the younger man off, and Kamiki was trying to direct Ryosuke around for the photoshoot later. Suzuka was sitting on a bench at the side, typing away at her laptop, glancing up every now and then with a smile. Chielu was on the phone, ignoring all of them in favor of talking to her manager about her schedule. Haruna was still inside, putting on a tuxedo for her part.
“I would have rigged it for you, you know?” Umika spoke up after a while. “If I thought it would help. I’d have given you the tuxedo.”
“This is more interesting, though,” Yuto said, and he meant it too. “Haruna wearing a tuxedo… the whole of Japan thanks you.” He already sent Daiki a message about it and he was sure Daiki would send Umika a fruit basket as thanks, if he didn’t already. (Umika had this weird thing where she wasn’t that friendly to anyone, but she immediately clicked with Yuto’s manager. Yuto thought maybe it was because Daiki was the nicest person on earth.)
Umika laughed. “I know,” she agreed. After a beat of silence, she added, “It would have been fun to see you and Yamada-kun pose together though.”
“Maybe,” he said with a casual shrug. “There wouldn’t be a point to that, though. No one would enjoy that.”
“Oh, Yuto,” she sighed, shaking her head.
She slapped a hand on his back before moving towards the others. “You’re exhausting,” she said as she left him alone.
Haruna and Umika were sitting at the dining table, staring Chielu down. Yuto and Suzuka sat on the kitchen counter, refusing to go anywhere near those three. Mirai and Chinen were standing at the side of the table, close but not close enough to be part of the argument.
“We want to watch,” Haruna said, earnestly. “Why can’t we?”
Umika put on her most pitiful expression. “We just want to support you.”
“Bull,” Chielu said with a grimace. “I don’t want you guys anywhere near the bar.”
“We’ll pay!” Umika said. “We’re customers .”
“It’s a fan event,” Chielu said dismissively. “It’s closed for anyone outside the fan’s club.”
“B-but…” Umika looked down, biting her lower lip. “We want to see you perform live, and this is the only day we can all go together.”
“Nothing I can do,” Chielu said. She was smiling, though. It was obvious she did not want any of them near her performance. Yuto understood the feeling. All nine of them, with their mess of fashion and popularity, would only bring chaos and embarrassment. Chielu dodged a bullet there.
But, well, chaos was the keyword here.
Where there was the possibility of chaos, Chinen would be right there.
“ How? ” Ryosuke stared down at the band shirt on his lap. It was his exact size, like every shirt Chinen had thrown at each of them. It was a modified band shirt, with the band’s name in front, and #SharehouseSolidarity at the back. “We only agreed to go yesterday. And Chielu said it was fan’s club members only.”
Chinen laughed. “I’m part of the fan’s club,” he said. “I’m part of all your fan’s club.” Yuto should have expected that much. They all knew now never to underestimate Chinen’s preparations. He was ready for anything.
“I don’t have one,” Ryosuke said.
“Oh, Yama-chan,” Mirai cooed. “That’s cute.”
“He doesn’t know,” Chinen said fondly. “It is the cutest .”
“What?” Ryosuke stared at them in confusion. “No one even knew what I looked like exactly until I joined this show.” He always wore hoodies and masks when in front of the camera, and most of his videos were simple voice-overs. That was one reason why Yuto was floored the first time he saw Ryosuke. He never expected that face from those videos.
“You had a fan’s club even before that,” Yuto confirmed. “It only had gamers at first, until Sharehouse.” He had wondered if he should join it, before, but there were disadvantages to being a world-renowned movie actor so he was never able to. He thought maybe Raiya was, though.
“Yep. And then your popularity boomed,” Chinen concluded.
“It’s the face,” Mirai said.
“And your everything,” Yuto absently added as he put on the shirt. It felt tighter than his usual shirts, which was probably planned too. Chinen’s idea of fanservice mostly meant embarrassment for Yuto. “You’re all kinds of amazing and people are starting to notice.”
A long silence.
Realizing what he said, he hastily added, “Yama-chan’s very talented. I bet you’re stealing all my fans away.” He pouted dramatically. “You’re the prince of sharehouse now. I’ve been dethroned.”
Ryosuke threw his shirt at Yuto and rolled his eyes. “As if,” he grumbled.
At their side, Yuto saw the way Mirai sighed in disappointment and the way Chinen grumbled under his breath. Oh well. He knew there was no way to please everyone.
Hana Cindy Rachel, more popularly known as Chielu, was the vocalist of a famous rock band. They mostly did bar tours around Japan and outside the country, so it was more of a niche than the other celebrities in the house. Chielu liked it that way. She loved her fans, and loved playing music, but she could never play songs she hated or act cute with fans who wanted something from her she couldn’t give.
She was down to earth and she gave no fuck.
Yuto admired her for it. There was a time, long ago, when he dreamed of not caring about the spotlight, of being able to say anything he wanted without fear of being shunned, but that was history now.
Chielu spotted them during the intermission, in the middle of a heartfelt speech about being grateful for the fans’ support. Her face went through different expressions: from surprise, to confusion, to amusement.
Ultimately, she looked fond as she paused and added, “And thank you to my family who came here to support me.” She raised both fists up and shouted, “SHAREHOUSE SOLIDARITY!!!”
They all shouted back and cheered.
Later, to everyone’s surprise, Chielu invited them all to the stage and dedicated her last song to her ‘second family’. The fans ate up that little peek at her softness, but the Sharehouse housemates knew that this was for them .
“It’s almost time,” Chinen said as soon as he walked into Yuto’s room. He flopped down on the bed, splaying his arms wide on it. He stared up at the ceiling. “Your relationship drama is coming. I can feel it.”
“I am not in a relationship,” he said. He knew what Chinen was talking about, and he felt the same way, but he’d rather not talk about it.
“It’s such a shame, too,” Chinen continued, ignoring him. “You know what would be a great ending to this show? Chielu’s concert. Chielu’s whole arc of not caring about us, and then dedicating a song for us. That’s the shit.”
Yuto laughed as he sat down on the edge of the bed. “And you planned it so well, too!”
“I did!” Chinen agreed, not even attempting to deny it. “I knew it would never be a last-arc type of thing, so I guess I’m fine with this.”
“You should write a book,” Yuto offered. “Your plans wouldn’t be interrupted there.”
“You’re kidding but we’re having the screenplay writing session the week after this,” Chinen said, glancing at him with a wry smile. “I might end up with a bestseller, Yutti.”
“I don’t doubt that.” He really, really didn’t.
Yuto has had four relationships in his entire life, two of which were in high school. He dated Suzuka on his first year in Horikoshi, and then he dated Mirai on his last year. The two used to be best friends, before then. Relationship drama made their friendship fraught, and Yuto still felt guilty about that. He never had the chance to make it up to them, though.
Suzuka went on to become a screenplay writer, studying in Los Angeles and leaving Japan with no regrets.
Mirai became a theater actress and toured Japan the whole year.
He went to Berlin to film a movie directly after graduation, where he met his first boyfriend.
Four years after graduation, he went to one of Suzuka’s plays, and saw that Mirai was the main actress.
The story was about best friends who conspired to murder the man who broke their hearts. The play ended with the two protagonists hugging with tears in their eyes as they stood above the man’s corpse. It was haunting and beautiful.
Yuto walked out of the theater without greeting the two.
To Yuto’s horror, the script chosen for their Theater Acting Workshop was Suzuka’s Best Friends . Furthermore, as the only real actor in the group, he was the default choice for the leading man who would be murdered in the end. Mirai announced it with a sharp smile and amusement in her eyes.
Mirai sat down beside him on the swimming pool, soaking her feet in the water. She chose this vantage point for the same reason he did: it was away from the rehearsal but it had a perfect view of everything happening. They could see Suzuka, Haruna and Ryosuke deep in conversation about the script lying in between them. To their right, on the makeshift stage, were Ryutaro and Kamiki re-enacting an action scene with prop guns in their hands. The two haven’t noticed Chinen and Umika lying in wait to ambush them from behind the curtain. Chielu sat with her guitar on the edge of the stage, strumming a low melody that fits the scene.
“Okay,” Mirai said, angling herself to face Yuto instead of the other housemates. “I gotta ask.”
Yuto blinked and moved back a bit to give her space to move. “What?”
“When you read the script, it looked like you knew the play,” she said. “So? You’ve seen it?”
“Uh,” Yuto floundered, glancing at the stage, then at the pool, before settling back at her. “Yeah? I watched in the theater once.”
She narrowed her eyes. “And you didn’t even say hi?”
“Well. It didn’t feel right, so…”
“So you do think the play is about you?” Mirai asked, leaning closer.
Yuto frowned. “I… don’t want to comment?”
“I don’t want a cop-out answer, Mr. Hollywood Superstar,” she said, not backing down. “It’s just us. Tell me the truth.”
“Just us and a million viewers?” He scooched back awkwardly, not taking her eyes off Mirai. There was a big chance she would get tired of his evasion and just push him down the pool. This was the deep-end.
Mirai rolled her eyes and sat back, giving him his much needed space. “I don’t know why I ever dated you,” she said. As far as he knew, this was the first confirmation she gave about their past relationship.
“We were young and stupid?” He asked lightly.
“That’s true,” she said, laughing. Quietly, she added, “I almost lost my best friend because of you.”
“I’m glad you didn’t.” He didn’t want to talk about this here, but he was also glad to have the chance to finally say this. “I was glad, when I saw you were acting in Suzuka’s play. I’ve always felt guilty about what happened.”
She looked at the other side of the pool, to where Suzuka was now being pulled by Kamiki to join their action scene. “We were young and stupid,” she repeated his words back at him. “I think that whole experience did shape the play Suzuka wrote, since she contacted me while she was writing it. But it’s more a hypothetical exaggeration?” She smiled. “We’ve never hated you, and you’re way nicer than that asshole in the play.”
“I never cheated on you.” The man in the play was an asshole who played with their hearts, and Yuto had always been worried that Suzuka wrote the character based on him.
“Yeah,” she agreed. “We were teenagers. It felt like a bigger deal back then than it was when me and Suzu looked back on it. We’re all adults now.”
He sighed, relieved that Mirai thought that way and it looked like Suzuka did too. They have been interacting normally in the Sharehouse this whole time, but there was always some awkwardness in Yuto’s part that he couldn’t shake off. Now, he felt like he could be more at ease around them.
“Did you actually think we wanted to murder you together?” It was a light-hearted question, and Mirai’s smile showed that his answer will bring immense joy to her no matter what. Chinen will definitely hear about this and the two of them will use it for their own evil plans.
“It may have passed my mind,” Yuto said honestly. “To be fair, the play was terrifying.”
“Don’t worry,” Mirai said, patting him on the back condescendingly. “I never imagined your face when I was killing that asshole.”
“Thanks,” he said drily. “Much appreciated.”
Two days before their play, Mirai announced that Ryosuke will step into Yuto’s role instead. Ryosuke was supposed to be just an understudy, but Yuto’s busy schedule had him practicing with the cast more than Yuto ever did. It was the logical choice. Mirai had always been serious about her job, about having perfection on stage. She would never let Yuto half-ass this.
“Sorry,” Ryosuke said, sitting beside him on the couch. “Didn’t expect her to do that, to be honest. We all know you can pull off the role even without much rehearsal.” He placed his arm on the back of the couch, casually squeezing Yuto’s shoulder. “I’m not sure I can do the role justice.”
Yuto shook his head. “I’m sure you’ll do fine,” he said. “I saw you reading lines yesterday with Kamiki. You were really good.”
Ryosuke snorted in disbelief. “Yeah, sure. As if I can be anywhere near your levels.”
“You say that as if you’ve never acted before,” Yuto said, frowning. “But you’ve been doing skits for your video channel since you showed your face here.”
“Those aren’t the same,” Ryosuke said. “Those are just…”
“You’re good at it,” Yuto insisted. “Have more confidence in yourself.” Through the weeks they have been here, Ryosuke’s tenacity and focus became clear to everyone in the house. If he put his mind to it, then anything was possible. With the way Mirai sang him praises, Yuto knew Ryosuke showed promise. Mirai never lied to flatter people. She was always blunt about skill. (Once, during high school, Mirai told him: “your eyes are dead sometimes when you act. You should fix that.”)
Ryosuke slumped, head resting on Yuto’s shoulder. “I wish it were easy,” he muttered.
“Having confidence,” Ryosuke explained, not looking up. He stared down at the carpet on the floor. His lips was turned down on a frown and his eyebrows were furrowed. “You’re all so… talented and bright. It’s intimidating.”
Yuto felt fondness warm his chest as he looked down at the top of Ryosuke’s head. “Didn’t you say we were all… What was it? Better than you’ve ever imagined?”
“Shut up.” Ryosuke pinched his side. “That was about living together with you guys. This is about your stupid star powers and how I’m literally a shut-in with no special talent.”
“Yama-chan,” Yuto said, voice unusually serious. “I’m offended on behalf of your whole fan’s club. You have so much talent! You write scripts for your skits and you edit your videos! You’re a one-man production team!”
“You think too highly of my videos.”
Yuto moved back so Ryosuke would have no choice but to fall or look up. He placed a hand on Ryosuke’s arm, staring him in the eyes. “You were chosen to be in this house for a reason. You have millions of subscribers, Yama-chan.”
Ryosuke closed his eyes and sighed again, hunching in on himself. “Sorry,” he said, after a brief moment of silence. “I know that. I just-” He frowned. “It’s hard to remember that when I’m an understudy for an Academy winner.”
“Not an understudy,” Yuto reminded him. “You’re the main actor now.”
“Ugh,” Ryosuke groaned. “Fuck.”
“You can do it,” Yuto said. “You practice too hard to not be great.”
Ryosuke smiled then, finally. He went back to his earlier position with his arm on the back of the couch and his head on Yuto’s shoulder. “Thanks, Yuto.”
To the surprise of no one else but Ryosuke, the play went well and Ryosuke did a phenomenal job.
Yuto gave him a thumbs up and mouthed I told you so as soon as the curtains fell on the stage.
With a huge breathless smile, Ryosuke laughed and hugged Yuto.
It was after the play, when they were having their celebration party, that Mirai and Chinen cornered him at the kitchen. He was getting some snacks for Ryosuke and was hoping to escape before this, but he had no such luck.
“Yutti!!!” Chinen barged into the kitchen, clinging to his arm. He looked slightly drunk. “I have something to say!”
Yuto tried to back away, but the kitchen counter was behind him, and Mirai was at Chinen’s side to box him in. “What is it?”
“You’re a pretty swell guy, you know?” Chinen said earnestly, holding on to his shoulders and staring right at him with wide eyes. “Work is important, but you gotta-” He did a shimmying motion with his hips that sent Mirai giggling. “You know?”
“I… don’t wanna know,” Yuto said, plastering his back on the counter’s edge. Maybe he could phase through it with sheer will and escape this.
Chinen sighed, dropping his forehead on Yuto’s chest. “Your crush is suffocating this whole operation. Let your wings spread, Yutti.”
Mirai nodded. “Fly, Yutti.”
“Spread your wings,” Chinen repeated as he stepped back. He nodded once, decisively. “Just do it.”
“Take off that mask, babe,” Mirai said, patting Yuto’s cheek fondly. “You’re the only one left.”
Ryosuke found him a few minutes later. He pulled himself up on the counter and watched him with wary eyes. “What’s up?” he asked.
“Chii’s drunk,” Yuto said, shrugging.
“Everyone except you is drunk,” Ryosuke shot back.
“You’re not drunk, though.”
Ryosuke raised an eyebrow. “That’s because, unlike all of you, I’m not partying. Because I’m working .” He crossed his arms. “Which you told me you’d help with, about an hour ago.” He looked so disappointed, perched there, looking down at Yuto.
Yuto pouted. “I was distracted ,” he whined. “I wasn’t drinking or anything! Chii and Mirai just ambushed me.”
“I’m not paying you to help me,” Ryosuke said with a sigh. “It’s fine if you party and drink, Yuto-kun. I know you want to.” He jumped down from the counter. In a soft voice, he added, “Have fun, okay? It’s rare for you to have a break, after all.”
Watching Ryosuke’s back disappear down the doorway, all Yuto thought about was how playing a game and helping Ryosuke with his video was 100% better than anything the party could offer.
“Everything starts with an idea,” Suzuka said, pacing in front of their temporary classroom. Their huge yard, where the stage for the play was set-up last week, was transformed into an outside classroom with fancy tables and comfortable chairs. She liked the idea of a comfortable and pleasant environment that would help light up the creativity in each of them.
Yuto stared down at his blank piece of paper; then glanced at Chinen’s, which was being filled slowly with words. Chinen had so many ideas, all the time. Yuto wasn’t sure why he had never tried this before.
At the next table over, Ryosuke was also writing with a determined furrow in between his eyebrows. Haruna was writing much slower, looking elegant even in this situation. Chielu had a few lines on her paper but she seemed to be having a problem as she stared at the sky, head tilted up and eyes squinting as if the answer was in the clouds.
“It’s best to free your mind and write down anything that comes to you. It might not seem interesting at first, but those ideas might end up being better than you can ever imagine. Never discount the range of your creativity.”
Yuto stared at his blank paper.
It continued being blank, like his mind right now.
“There’s no need for great ideas yet,” Suzuka continued. “Sometimes, the best ideas come from the strangest places.”
“Find what you know , what your truth is.”
Yuto stared .
Nothing. His mind was still blank.
It had been a long time since the truth was asked of him.
His first idea was scratched immediately after Ryosuke read it.
“This is Ahsoka Tano’s story,” he said, scowling at Yuto in disapproval. “Don’t rip off Star Wars like this, Yuto-kun. Have some shame.”
Yuto pouted. “ How did you figure that out?” It was an obscure reference that he knew Suzuka and the others wouldn’t get.
“I’ve played approximately a million Star Wars games. I know more about that franchise than any of you do.”
That probably wasn’t supposed to be as hot as Yuto thought it was. Ugh.
His second idea was very graciously rejected by Kamiki, who had read it because he was helping Suzuka decide on which of their homeworks deserved to pass.
“This is a shoujo manga plot,” he said, putting a hand on Yuto’s shoulder. “It’s a famous one, Yuto-kun.”
Yuto crossed his arms. Suzuka didn’t read manga, and most of the others only read Shounen Jump. The only one who read shoujo manga on a daily basis was Haruna, but she would never tattle because she was the coolest . “Are you sure it is? Maybe it’s just similar,” he protested.
Kamiki took out his phone and opened his manga-reading app. “It’s here.”
Yuto stared at it. “Why do you have a hundred shoujo manga titles in there?”
“I’m a connoisseur of the arts,” Kamiki replied, pretending to fix his nonexistent glasses like the dork that he was.
His third and last idea was, luckily, not thrown down the drain; but Chinen was adamant that he make it more interesting.
“It’s fine ,” he said with a drawl. “But it’s boring! Yuto-kun, why is it so boring ?”
“You can’t just decide that from a one-paragraph idea,” he complained.
Chinen leveled him with an unimpressed glare. “If I were a producer, I would not choose this.”
“Good thing I’m not trying to be an actual writer?” Yuto widened his eyes innocently.
“You’re not trying at all ,” Chinen said, disappointment dripping from his tone. “Yuto-kun, prince of the Sharehouse, don’t you have any romance left in that beautiful leading man body of yours?”
Yuto laughed at his wording. “Seriously?”
Chinen rolled up the paper and hit him on the head with it. “I’m very serious.”
“I’m an actor ,” he whined. “I react to the script, not write it. This just isn’t my forte.”
“You’re still hiding,” Chinen said, quieter now. He pointed to Yuto’s chest, tapping it two times. “We want to see this. We’ve seen tiny bits of it, but you’re still…” He sighed. “I know you can see what Suzuka wants from you.”
“What if I don’t want to?”
There was silence as Chinen watched him closely, as if parsing everything in his head. “I’ll support you,” he said firmly. “No matter what you choose, I will. I promise.” Then, with a small smile, he added, “But a word of advice from your favorite housemate? This is the time to take the mask off. You won’t get a better starting point than here. We’ve waited weeks now, Yuto-kun. It’s time.”
Two days before the deadline of their homework, Suzuka approached him at the dining room where he was slumped on the table with the damn paper in front of him.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, eyes soft and lips pursed in worry. She had always been the kind one, the sensitive one, the one who saw through his shit and gently took his hand. “I did say you can write down anything .”
“Tell that to Chinen,” Yuto grumbled.
Suzuka laughed and sat down on the chair beside him. “Have you seen his? It’s about a superhero.” She rest her elbow on the table, leaned her cheek on her palm and kept her gaze on him. “It’s about a boy who’s been broken down so many times but got up and found his dream.”
“So it’s about him?” Yuto knew that despite Chinen’s success, he had also been through so much. He had injuries after injuries and was once disqualified because of a faulty decision from his doctor. Chinen was one of the strongest people Yuto knew. Even without powers, he was a superhero.
Smiling knowingly, Suzuka said, “No, it’s not.”
Yuto blinked. “What?”
“I haven’t asked, and I doubt he’ll confirm it, but I’m pretty sure it’s about Ryu,” Suzuka explained, fondness in her voice. “He’s been vocal about the media’s spin on Ryu’s career. I think this is his way of fighting that.”
The ‘spin’ was that Ryutaro was cynical and angry and settled on being a choreographer instead of fighting for his dreams. They said he had potential, but was not patient or humble enough to claw his way up the entertainment business. They spoke as if he wasn’t the choreographer most artists wanted to collaborate with, as if his YouTube account didn’t have millions of subscribers. Yuto got angry just thinking about it, and Chinen had ranted about it any time Ryutaro wasn’t in the room.
“That’s just like him,” Yuto said, shaking his head. Of course Chinen would write a script like that instead of something about his own career. Chinen could have easily written an Olympics-centric story that would help his career and find him more sponsors, but instead, he did this.
“Yeah,” Suzuka agreed. “He found what he wanted to show, and he stuck with it.” Giving him a patented Knowing Look™, she added, “He wants you to breathe easier, you know? He’s worried about you.”
“I’m fine, though,” Yuto said with a sigh. “I don’t need you all worrying about me.”
Suzuka raised an eyebrow. “Remember what I said on the first day we were here?”
Yuto didn’t remember much from that day. It was filled with so much introductions and they were all trying to adapt to their new home. That whole day was fuzzy.
“I said your career is so successful that you won our breakup, and you said it wasn’t a competition,” she reminded him.
“Oh,” he said, memories becoming clearer at her words. He’d wondered what she meant by that but he was too awkward to ask for clarification. “You said it was. A competition.”
She shrugged. “It’s not, really, but a side of me still thinks it is. Though I think I’ve changed my mind about who won.” She smiled. “With the way you’re acting, it feels like I’m winning.”
“What?” He frowned.
“I found Mirai again, and we’re closer than ever,” she said. “I write what I want to write, and my friends support me whatever path I take. I might not have a Hollywood film under my belt, but…” She sat up straighter. “I’ve always thought you did what you wanted to do. It was one of your charms that attracted me to you... You’ve changed.”
“I grew up,” he said. “I know what’s important now.” His family was important, and so was his career. His fans’ perception of him was important. Daiki was important. Yuto would never do anything to risk all the hardwork they’ve done. It has been years since he last had a romantic relationship, and that was fine. He was fine.
Suzuka watched him for a beat before she nodded. “Okay,” she said. “As long as you’re happy with your choice, then… I’ll always support you. You know that, right?”
He smiled. “I know.”
She pushed her chair back and stood up. “I’m not asking you to bare your heart,” she said. “One thing. I’m asking for one little peek. Can you do it?”
“I’ll try?” It might end up boring Chinen to death, but he’ll only give what was safe to give. That was always the plan.
“Do, or do not. There is no try,” she said, with a playful smile.
Oh, yeah. This was exactly why he was in love with her. “Why did we break up again?”
“Work,” she said, waving her hand dismissively. “We’re both workaholics. And then you dated my best friend, so...”
Yuto groaned. That was an oversimplified way of looking at it, but it was true.
She laughed. “Go to sleep if you’re not writing anything. I’m sure you have a packed schedule tomorrow too.” She patted him on the head lightly. “Good night, ex.”
In the end, Chinen’s three-page script was chosen to be reenacted by his actors of choice, as reward for being the best one in the house. Haruna won second-place and got hers illustrated and displayed on the Sharehouse website. Mirai won third-place, and she gave Ryosuke the rights to use it for one of his videos.
Yuto was too busy with work to finish his. Or at least, that was the excuse he gave when Suzuka asked for it.
“What are we doing for your week?” Yuto asked, placing a cup of hot chocolate on the dinner table in front of Ryosuke. Yuto had arrived just a few minutes ago from a shoot, and found Ryosuke writing plans in his favorite notebook.
“It’s a surprise,” Ryosuke said, closing his notebook and hugging it close as if protecting it from Yuto’s nosiness. “You can probably guess it.”
Yuto grinned. “Are we going to play games?” He put both hands together, pouting too for added effect. “I’ve been so tired, Yama-chan. I deserve to play games the whole week.”
Ryosuke scrunched up his nose, smiling at Yuto’s ridiculousness. “Sorry,” he said. “I could do that, but it makes more sense to focus on the social media aspect? You all don’t really need to learn about gaming.”
“Noooo,” Yuto moaned dramatically. “Please, Yama-chan, you’re my only hope.”
Ryosuke patted him on the head. “We can still play games anyway?”
“Right now?!” Yuto perked up. “You bought the new Lego game, right?”
Ryosuke laughed and nodded, standing up and taking Yuto’s hand. “Let’s go.”
Yuto held on to Ryosuke’s hand, happily following after.
The plan, in the end, was for the group to take over the Sharehouse’s official social media accounts and get the targeted increase in followers/retweets/reblogs.
It seemed to be an easy task.
Yuto personally didn’t handle any of his social media accounts, having been forbidden from ‘ruining his own image’ by the management, but he thought it was simple enough. People talked about their lives there, right? And posted pictures of themselves? That was easy.
Except he apparently wasn’t interesting enough.
One of the asks in their tumblr said: “I didn’t realize how bland Nakajima was until you put him in a house full of actual interesting human beings. Damn, talk about just a pretty face.”
It was one of the few hate messages they received, and Ryosuke specifically told them to ignore those. “Don’t feed the trolls,” he’d said, but Yuto couldn’t help but get hurt by the messages. He knew he hasn’t been appearing as much and even his relationship with his ex-girlfriends fell flat in comparison to Chinen’s devotion to Ryutaro’s career or Umika’s newfound best friendship with Mirai.
Yuto had been trying so hard not to be anyone the audience would hate that he ended up being no one instead. He had failed to show who he was because of his fear of disappointing them.
Perhaps, Chinen wasn’t far off when he said the masks needed to come off.
About an hour of scrolling through the questions they received on twitter, one specific tweet thread caught his attention.
The Wife @mrsnakajima - 50 mins
I know you assholes like fighting over Shida and Ohgo for Yuto’s future wife, but have you ever seen Yuto looking at Yamada
The Wife @mrsnakajima - 48 mins
Here’s an actual thread of screencaps of Yuto staring forlornly at Yamada Ryosuke’s perfect face. You’re welcome.
Yuto looked at the pictures she posted, studying each one carefully. He really did look forlornly at the other man, as if he was pining or something. He was so obvious. He wondered why it didn’t have many retweets, but figured it out soon enough when he saw the replies from fans arguing about how in love Suzuka and Yuto still were. They’re a will they won’t they romcom, apparently.
A completely reckless and irresponsible idea then popped in his mind. He knew it wasn’t a good idea, but he was also tired of being the good actor who never did anything controversial. He figured he should do something to make Chinen proud of him.
#ShareHouseSolidarity @ShareHouseOfficial - 2 mins
@mrsnakajima Wow!!!! That’s a long thread!
The Wife @mrsnakajima - 1 min
Okay, who in @ShareHouseOfficial noticed me? Is it Yuto? Tell me! Is this confirmation!
Taking in a deep breath, he quote tweeted the thread and wrote what would no doubt win for most retweets this week.
#ShareHouseSolidarity @ShareHouseOfficial - right now
Is Chinen really a good friend if he didn’t tell me my crush was this obvious? I’m disappointed.
“I can’t believe you pulled me into that,” Chinen said, storming into the kitchen a few minutes later. “It’s not my fault your crush is that obvious. You are not subtle.”
“That’s your issue?” Yuto asked. “I thought you’d be more proud of me.”
Chinen snorted but he walked over and hugged Yuto from the back, squeezing him tight. “Oh I am definitely proud,” he said. “It took you so long and you chose the worst way to join us in the fun table, but…”
“It’s so dramatic, Yuto,” Chinen chided. “I know you’re an actor, but did you really have to start a twitter fandom war?”
Yuto laughed. “I did that?”
“You didn’t read the replies?”
He didn’t. He was scared of his fans’ reactions, and he didn’t want to read any homophobic comments that were sure to appear. He didn’t even check his phone yet because he was scared of Daiki’s inevitable call.
Chinen rolled his eyes. “Figured,” he muttered, taking out his phone and tapping on the buttons. “I’ll screen them for you because I’m a great friend.”
“Yeah, you are,” Yuto agreed earnestly.
“Okay so… there were some really annoying comments about your past relationships, and I’m not sure who this is but someone used the official twitter to reply to every single one with the bi flag and the words bisexual people exist.”
“That isn’t you?” It sounded like something Chinen would do. “Oh, maybe Mirai?” They were two peas in a pod, after all.
Chinen nodded thoughtfully. “I think so.”
“I can’t believe she didn’t put her name,” Yuto mused. “That would have been…”
“Funnier,” Chinen finished. “And would add so much oil to the fire.” He laughed. “Maybe she was being cautious.”
“Saying bisexual people exist is being cautious?”
Chinen shrugged. “Shida Mirai’s mind is a mystery.”
“As if you’re any better.”
“Maybe,” Chinen conceded. “But I’m not the one who basically confessed to a crush without ever actually confessing to the person I like.”
“Didn’t realize it sooner, huh?”
“I was… preoccupied.”
Chinen patted him on the arm. “He’s in the game room finishing a video. I don’t think he’s seen it yet.”
Ryosuke had already seen it.
He was sitting on the couch with his phone on the low table in front of him. His head was buried in his arms where it leaned on his knees. He looked small and vulnerable in a way he hadn’t been in a while. Yuto felt guilty for making him feel this way, especially after the others had spent so long trying to boost his confidence.
Ryosuke did not raise his head. Instead, he made a pitiful strangled noise and tried to bury himself deeper into his arms.
“I’m sorry,” Yuto said, walking until he was right in front of the couch. He kneeled at the foot of it and placed one hand on Ryosuke’s arm.
“For what?” Ryosuke asked, his voice muffled.
“I should have talked to you before I tweeted that,” he said.
Ryosuke finally looked up. His cheeks were burning red but his eyes looked sharp as he studied Yuto’s expression.
“It would be a trending topic, so I guess you won this week,” he said lightly.
“I didn’t do that to win,” Yuto said. “I did it because that was what I really thought.”
“You don’t have to lie,” Ryosuke said quietly, maybe low enough not to be heard by the microphones. “I do understand how fanservice work, you know? I survived Umika’s week too.”
“I’m not lying.”
“I don’t think I can believe you,” Ryosuke said honestly.
Yuto thought back to Ryosuke’s first week here and how unglamorous he was compared to everyone else. He thought about Ryosuke’s efforts to learn every week and how that endeared him not only to the people inside this house but also to everyone else watching. One of the tweets called Ryosuke a revelation. Yuto agreed with that with his whole heart.
“Then,” Yuto said, “should we get out of here?”
Ryosuke blinked. “What?”
“Without the cameras. Let’s talk.” Yuto nodded to himself. This made sense. If Ryosuke thought this was all for the cameras, then Yuto would do it where no one else could see. He’d feel better being honest outside of people’s scrutiny, too.
“I—” Ryosuke stared at him in shock. “Really?”
“Really.” Yuto smiled as he stood up. “I’ve been meaning to ask you on a date, anyway.”
Ryosuke turned even redder.
Chinen, Ryutaro, and Shida were waiting for them in the living room when they came in that night.
“You’re finally home,” Ryutaro said, unimpressed. “Didn’t even leave a note or anything, huh?”
“Sorry,” Ryosuke said contritely. Yuto just smiled at them, unrepentant. He was too happy right now to think about what he looked like or what they thought of his actions.
“Did you have fun?” Shida asked at the same time Chinen said, “You tell me if he doesn’t treat you right, Yama-chan. I’ve got your back.”
“Hey!” Yuto said. “I thought I was your favorite too!”
Chinen raised an eyebrow. “Definitely not. Yama-chan’s everyone’s favorite.”
Ryutaro nodded. “If we didn’t know you were pining for each other, I’m sure this whole show would have been a harem for Yamada-kun instead.”
When Yuto looked at his side, he saw Ryosuke hiding his reddened face in his hands.
“Huh,” Yuto said. “I understand why.” He didn’t know they were as fond of the other boy as he was, though. He was too preoccupied with his own crush that he didn’t notice how the others acted around Ryosuke. “Do I have competition?”
Shida rolled her eyes. “We’re just happy you’ve gotten over yourselves.”
Yuto laughed. He was happy about that, too. Ryosuke inside the house was already fun to be with and made Yuto’s heart clench like he was a teenager with his first crush, but eating out with Ryosuke outside showed an even more carefree version that made that crush worse. No matter how long they’ve been here in the Sharehouse, Ryosuke would always be a little timid when in the vicinity of cameras. Being free of those restraints showed Yuto a whole new side to appreciate.
“As fun as this is,” Yuto said, “I promised Yama-chan I’d help him film a video for his channel, so…”
“Wow,” Chinen said, crossing his arms. “After we manned the twitter to monitor the war you started, this is how you repay us?”
“I’ll make it up to you,” Yuto said, putting his hands together in a plea. “I promise.”
“Me, too,” Ryosuke offered.
“Yama-chan’s fine,” Chinen said with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Yutti should be making it up to you, too.”
“I will!” Yuto agreed. No matter the results, that tweet would still make trouble for everyone for sure. Ryosuke may be used to the attention but he had never been in the center of this kind of rumor before. Yuto needed to be there to support him through this.
Ryosuke took his hand and laced their fingers together. He smiled bashfully at the others and tugged at Yuto.
“I better make him start with that, then,” he said.
Yuto ended up paying for their groceries for the whole week while everyone piled their cart with expensive snacks they usually did not care about. He also bought them pizza for their movie night that weekend.
That was the easy part.
The difficult part was dealing with the outside world. Daiki was understanding, and so was his agency, but the media lingered around the Sharehouse and his workplace like vultures waiting for scraps.
As a weird punishment/reward for his actions, he was forced to stay in the Sharehouse for longer than usual as his other projects stalled in the face of this controversy.
“That sucks,” Ryosuke said when Yuto told him why he hasn't left yet for the day during breakfast. “Nothing’s canceled though, right?” He looked guilty as if any of this was his fault.
“No, no, nothing’s canceled!” Yuto shook his head immediately. “We’re just waiting for the heat to die down. I’m pretty sure the Sharehouse staff are making a whole episode about how I got a crush on you.”
As expected, Ryosuke blushed and ducked his head. “I don’t think that’s possible.”
“Oh, yeah,” Yuto agreed. “One episode’s not enough.”
Ryosuke hit him on the arm, clearly too embarrassed to say anything more.
“Don’t worry about anything, okay?” Yuto said, nudging Ryosuke to make him look up. “You always tell me I work too much, anyway. A break would be nice.”
“And this way, you’ll have time to focus on Chielu’s week.”
Yuto brightened up. It had been a while since he last played the drums, but he still remembered how fun it was. With little to do this week, he would be able to participate in band practice as long as he wanted. He might even win the spot to play in the mini-concert they would put on at the end of the week.
“Woo!” Shida waved a #SharehouseSolidarity banner from where she was sitting at the side. “Yuto-kun’s so cool!”
“So cool!” Haruna echoed with more genuine enthusiasm. “Everyone’s so cool!”
“Is the groupie act part of this week’s exercise?” Ryutaro asked out loud, eyeing the two with a grimace. He clearly did not want to be involved in what they had going on.
“No,” Chielu said with a quiet laugh. “It wouldn’t suit you, anyway.”
Ryutaro shrugged. “I am a fan, though. You sound good. Yama-chan, too.”
“Are you sure you’re not my competition?” Yuto asked, narrowing his eyes.
“You think there’s a competition?” Chinen said, stepping out of the house with a tray of drinks and snacks for everyone. He placed it on a table beside the band. “After you spent the last week making videos with both of you making heart-eyes at each other?”
“We weren’t—” Ryosuke started but Yuto interjected with, “I guess not.”
Ryosuke turned towards Yuto with a glare, abandoning his mic stand. “I was not making heart-eyes at you!” Ryosuke argued.
“I was, though,” Yuto offered cheekily.
Chinen laughed at Ryosuke’s expression which was a cross between annoyance and embarrassment.
“I really like this new and improved Yuto-kun,” Haruna offered from where she’d drifted in towards the table of food. She munched on a sandwich. “You’re way more interesting.”
“Thanks,” Yuto said. “Does that mean you found me boring before?”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” Haruna said.
“It was fun to watch you suffer a little, too,” Umika explained.
“Your sadistic side is showing,” Chinen said.
“I know,” Umika said brightly. “I’ve been told we’re all showing our true selves now.”
Yuto watched in amusement as Chinen visibly shivered in fear at Umika’s smirk.
In the end, despite how secretly worried Yuto was about his situation, the mini-concert was filled with people who supported Yuto and his openness. He saw rainbow and bisexual flags being waved around, and a few posters showing their support for his decision.
“This is really cool of you guys,” Chinen said earnestly when he opened the show. “I’m so proud of all of us.” He grinned back at Yuto who was already sitting behind his drums. “And of course, I’m proud of our dear prince, Yuto Nakajima.”
Yuto stood up and waved a hand on cue.
“But,” Chinen continued, “let’s not forget the true front act of this show, Ryosuke Yamada and Chielu!”
The crowd erupted in applause as the vocalists of their Sharehouse band came out to the stage and bowed hand in hand. The spotlight looked good on Ryosuke.
“Why are you all so gloomy?” Kamiki asked when he walked into the living room to see Yuto slumped on the couch with Ryosuke staring at the ceiling from where he was sitting on the ground. Suzuka and Shida were sitting side by side on the loveseat, eyes closed with their heads leaning together. Chinen was on the bean bag, frowning as he wrote down on his clipboard.
“The show’s about to end,” Chielu answered from the kitchen. “They just realized this is our last week here.”
“How did you not notice?” Kamiki said, blinking at them all. “Arashi-san announced it last week after the concert.”
“We were distracted by how good our band was,” Shida complained.
“Maybe we could stay together as a band,” Yuto said, perking up. “That way, we don’t have to separate.”
“Only half of us are in the band,” Shida said. “I could be your manager, though.”
“I already have a band,” Chielu said, walking in. She brought a huge chips-filled bowl with her. “Sorry, but I like them better.”
“That’s fair,” Chinen said. “I also would like to win another Gold medal rather than follow Yuto-kun.”
“You’re hurting me,” Yuto moaned dramatically, hugging Ryosuke’s arm and hiding his face on Ryosuke’s shoulder. “This is bullying.”
“It’s not like we can’t meet outside,” Kamiki said diplomatically. “We’ll still be friends.”
“I’m going on a world tour after this,” Chielu said.
“I’m going to LA,” Suzuka said.
“Training in China,” Shida added.
“Oh, hey!” Chinen said, smiling at Shida. “I’m going to Beijing.”
“Let’s coordinate our plane schedules,” Shida said, grinning back.
“You’re all leaving me,” Yuto whined. Then, he paused and straightened up. “Oh, wait, I have a movie taping in Iceland soon.” He frowned. “I’m leaving too.”
“Oh, great,” Ryosuke said, deadpan. “You’re all leaving the country as soon as this is over.”
“Haruna-chan, Umika-chan, and Ryu-chan are all still going to be here,” Chinen said.
“And me,” Kamiki added. “Plus, we can groupchat and videochat. Yama-chan taught us all about internet relationships, didn’t he?”
“I guess,” Yuto conceded. “But I’ll miss you all.”
He had no idea what would happen from now on, but he knew for sure that he would do his best to keep these people in his life.
Ryosuke found him in the game room later that night. Without a sound, he sat on the couch beside Yuto and leaned his head on Yuto’s shoulder.
“I’ll miss you,” Ryosuke said.
“I’ll call you enough times that you won’t have time to miss me.”
“That sounds annoying,” he said, but Ryosuke was laughing in amusement. “I’ll hang up on you.”
“Noooo, you won’t because you’ll miss me so much.”
“You know, if I wanted to see you, I could just watch your movies with Ryutaro and Haruna-chan,” Ryosuke teased. “I won’t miss you at all. I’ll have all the company I need.”
Yuto scowled. “I know you’re trying to make me jealous.”
“Is it working?”
“Maybe,” Yuto said, angling his head so he could press a quick kiss on top of Ryosuke’s head without any of the cameras seeing clearly. “You could come with me to Iceland.”
“That’s sweet,” Ryosuke said indulgently. “But that’s a pretty big step for people who aren’t even properly dating yet.”
“That’s true,” Yuto agreed, pushing down the urge to nuzzle closer. “Chinen would raise hell if I don’t woo you properly.”
Ryosuke laughed. “How are you going to woo me from the other side of the world?”
“I’ve been reliably informed that internet relationships are real and valid,” Yuto said, echoing words Ryosuke used on his week teaching them all about social media. “I’ll spam your live streams with confessions.”
“Please don’t,” Ryosuke said. His smile was so big that his eyes crinkled at the side.
Yuto went back to his original position leaning on Ryosuke’s side. They were quiet for a long time, enjoying each other’s presence as they wait for their final day in this house.
Yuto watched, fascinated, as Chinen and Yamada hugged with tears in their eyes. Ryutaro and Umika were teary-eyed as well, wiping their cheeks furiously as if they did not want anyone to see what happened. He knew how they felt, but he didn’t have the time to cry when all of these amazing and frankly terrifying people he knew were showing this kind of weakness. They were letting themselves be vulnerable because they loved the other housemates so much that they could not hide it behind media-ready smiles.
“How about a group hug?” Kamiki said out loud, getting everyone’s attention.
“Really?” Ryutaro asked, wrinkling his nose even as he stepped forward and put one arm around Shida’s shoulder.
Chinen and Yamada let go of each other and went towards the others, spreading their arms as well. Yuto slotted himself on Yamada’s other side. Suzuka stepped to his left.
Together, they formed a circle.
“Sharehouse Solidarity!” Chinen shouted.
“Sharehouse Solidarity!” They echoed.
It was the last episode of Sharehouse Special, but the bond they shared would never end.
Chapter 3: The Aftershow
surprise!!!!!! this chapter is very on-brand for our friendship
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Ep #00: Meet Your Hosts
The scene starts on a wide-shot of the house from above, the crane moving closer as the camera shows off the façade of the Sharehouse. It is a fairly huge house, wide enough to accommodate plenty of rooms, with two-stories and a large balcony right in the middle of the second floor. The walls are painted a fancy-looking beige with dark red accents for the railings and the windows. It’s a modern house, hidden in the shadows of the tall trees surrounding it. In front of the house is a black limousine.
[Just on the edge of Tokyo, there is a house for the stars], the text on the bottom of the screen says.
A jaunty tune starts up as the camera zooms in on the door of the limousine. It opens to reveal a man wearing a black suit with yellow linings and a yellow bowtie. He steps out of the car and four more people follow him, all of them with matching suits except with different colors: green, blue, red, and violet. They smile and wave as they line up outside the car.
The music fades away as the man with the yellow bowtie says, “Good evening, everyone! Today marks the start of the most awaited show this season! I am your primary host, Ninomiya Kazunari.” He gestures towards the house and the camera zooms out. “And welcome to the Sharehouse!”
“What are we, chopped liver?” The man with the red tie asks, rolling his eyes. “I am Sakurai Sho, your… guest, I guess? What am I here?” He looks around as if asking the staff for help.
Nino laughs loudly. “This is my show now, bye.”
“Oi!” The man in violet raises a hand in front of him, a look of vague annoyance on his face.
“Sorry, J,” Nino apologizes with an unrepentant grin.
With a long-suffering sigh, J introduces himself with: “I am Matsumoto Jun, your showbiz insider.”
“I am Aiba Masaki, your spy,” Aiba says, doing finger-guns at the camera.
“I am Ohno Satoshi, your leader,” Ohno says while raising one hand as if someone’s taking attendance.
“Wait!” Sho steps forward, looking around. “Why do you all have titles?!”
Nino cannot stop giggling at the side. “This is Sakurai Sho, the uptight neighbor you don’t want to interact with.”
“Hey!” Sho gasps in fake affront. “I’m at least the neighborhood committee chairman, right?”
At that, Nino, Ohno and Aiba bursts into fresh laughter.
“Everyone’s already changed the channel,” Jun mutters, eyeing his groupmates. “No one’s going to watch this show now.”
With overdramatic panic, Sho looks straight at the camera and says, “Don’t worry, everyone! Nino will be your main host, and we’re all going to behave.” He places a hand on his chest. “I swear.”
“The four of us will be your panel for the After Show,” Jun explains. “And Nino will be your main host for the Sharehouse Special.”
“As I said,” Nino says with a mischievous grin. “This is my show, and you’re just guests. I’m the main man around here.”
Aiba slaps him on the arm. “Then do your job, main-man!”
The camera zooms in on Nino again. “Well, then. Let’s start off by introducing our housemates!”
Ep #01: First Night
“Can’t sleep?” Chinen walks down the stairs, clutching a pillow in his arms. He’s wearing light pink silk pajamas, and his eyes are half-lidded from exhaustion. His hair is a mess. “If you fall asleep there, your back will hurt tomorrow, you know?”
Ryosuke looks up from where he’s watching a movie on the large flat-screen TV taking up most of the living room wall. “I know,” he says. “But it’s hard to sleep. I’m not used to being…” He shrugs. “It’ll take some getting used to, this place.”
Chinen nods in understanding before plopping down on the couch beside Ryosuke. “I know,” he says. “I’m used to sleeping in other places, but those are hotels. This feels different.”
“It’s like… it’s trying too hard to be home,” Ryosuke says, frowning. “My room has an EXO poster.”
“You don’t like it?” Chinen asks, raising an eyebrow.
“No,” Ryosuke says. “I mean, I have the exact same poster in my room. But instead of making it feel like mine, it just feels weird.”
“I get it. Mine has an Arashi poster and the desk has my books from home. I think my sister let them steal it from my apartment.”
Ryosuke hunches in on himself. “And all the cameras… I feel self-conscious. What if they catch me snoring?”
Chinen places his pillow on Ryosuke’s lap and plops down like this is something they do, as if they didn’t just meet earlier this evening. “Don’t worry,” he says. After a few moments of silence, he yawns. “I’m going to sleep now.” He closes his eyes and burrows in like a tiny kitten.
“Here?” Ryosuke asks, eyes wide. “I thought-”
“Ssshhh.” Chinen pats his knee and says, “It’s gonna be fine. Wake me up when you’re going to your room.”
There’s a long silence as Ryosuke alternates between looking at the screen and at Chinen’s face. A moment later, he relaxes on the couch and mutters, “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” Chinen mumbles.
♡ ♡ ♡
The scene goes back to the studio, where Aiba is actively cooing at the screen beside him. Nino stands on one side of the screen, while the other four are sitting on bar stools on the other side. The screen is paused on the image of Chinen sleeping on Yamada’s lap as Yamada dozes off with his head leaning on the backrest.
“What a great way to start a friendship!” Aiba says, clapping his hands like an overexcited seal. “I’m rooting for them!”
“YamaChii starting strong,” Jun says, nodding in appreciation. “That’s one thing we’ll definitely be watching for.”
Nino nods. “So far, we’ve seen Nakajima-kun interact with Ohgo-chan and Shida-chan, and they all seem to know each other from before. And Kamiki-kun obviously knows most of the housemates. Umika-chan easily befriended everyone as soon as she came in. Yamada-kun and Chinen-kun are our wildcards.”
“Yeah,” Jun agrees. “Gamer and Olympian. They don’t usually interact with other celebrities.”
“Okay, but can we talk about how Chinen-kun has an Arashi poster in his room?” Aiba asks, grinning widely at Nino.
“Let's talk about that, yes,” Nino says with a chuckle.
Jun rolls his eyes and faces the camera. “I just want to be the first to say this: for those who don’t know, we’ve personally met Chinen Yuri.” He points to Ohno. “He loves this guy for some reason, but I’ve hung out with him before.”
“What do you mean for some reason?” Ohno asks, feigning offense. Jun pats him on the back but doesn’t reply.
“He was a guest in VS Arashi with the other Olympians!” Aiba adds. “Chinen-kun still holds the record for Pinball Runner.”
“If he liked me so much, why did he win?” Ohno mutters under his breath. Jun puts his arm around Ohno’s shoulder and laughs quietly.
“I met him at the Olympics first,” Sho shares. “He’s a really good kid. Smart, too.”
“A good kid, huh,” Nino says, crossing his arms and nodding to himself. “We’ll see, we’ll see.”
“That’s ominous,” Aiba points out.
“Well, they’ll just have to watch, right?” Nino looks right at the camera and smiles. “Next up, we’ll look at more of the events that happened on their first day in the Sharehouse! Right after this commercial break!”
Ep #19: Living Room Salon
“This next video is one of my favorite things,” Nino says, motioning towards the screen beside him. It is frozen on a picture of Umika and Ryutaro lying on their backs on the huge sectional sofa, the tops of their heads touching, with Kamiki and Haruna sitting on the floor beside them. Kamiki cradles Umika’s hand on a pillow on his lap, putting nail polish on it carefully. Haruna is mixing something in a plastic bowl.
“Kawaguchi-chan started it, right?” Jun asks, smiling at the picture. “About two weeks in?”
Nino nods. “With Shida-chan and Ohgo-chan,” he confirms. “They’ve done it now every time someone is stressed in the living room.”
“The first time we saw this, it was a massage party. Was it episode 5?” Aiba muses. He narrows his eyes at the bowl and asks, “What’s that?”
“This is why we’re showing this particular footage,” Nino explains. “Let’s see, shall we?”
♡ ♡ ♡
Kamiki hums Doraemon’s theme song as he paints Umika’s nails, smiling to himself. The nail polish is pastel pink, and there’s a whole array of nail polish and nail care tools at his side. Umika is sleeping quietly with a peaceful expression on her face.
Haruna mixes a white goop on the plastic bowl as she explains the process to a frowning Ryutaro. “Don’t worry,” she says, patting him on the arm. He’s tense all over. “This feels really good, I promise. We’ll apply this to your face, and then you can nap for a bit and then I’ll wake you up so we can remove it after 45 minutes.”
“What if you forget?” Ryutaro side-eyes her suspiciously.
“I won’t!” Haruna laughs. “We’ll watch TV and set a timer.”
Ryutaro sighs and nods a bit. “Fine,” he concedes. “Promise to wake me up?”
“Umi’s going to have this on her, too,” Kamiki says. “So she’ll make sure we won’t mess up.”
Haruna pouts. “Do you trust Umika-chan more than me?” She looks at the two.
“Well…” Kamiki flounders.
“Kawashima-san will murder us if we leave her with the facemask too long,” Ryutaro answers. “It’s her only scary trait.”
“I have many scary traits,” Umika answers, blinking her eyes awake. She yawns and stretches her other arm.
“Yes, you do,” Ryutaro allows. “See, she felt we were badmouthing her and woke up from heavy sleep. That’s inhuman.”
Umika bops her head to the side, headbutting Ryutaro lightly. “That’s true, but.”
Ryutaro grins. “Anyway,” he says, “are you putting on this thing or not? Put it on Kawashima-san first before me.” He says the last statement to Haruna.
“We’re doing it at the same time,” Umika says, sitting up. Kamiki lets go of her hand but waves his hand as if readying to snatch it back if she ruins her nails in any way. “Kamiki-kun will put some on me, and Haruna will put them on you.”
“Are you sure you trust Kamiki to put this on you?” He looks down at the concoction warily.
Umika shrugs. “He does my nails perfectly. I trust him to do this.”
Kamiki puts a hand on his chest dramatically, eyes wide in joy. “You trust me?!”
Shaking her head in exasperation, Haruna elbows Kamiki so she could kneel. “Once I put this on, you go take that nap, okay?” She raises an eyebrow at Ryutaro, lips pursed in a thin line.
“Yes, mom,” Ryutaro mumbles, but there’s a small smile on his lips.
The scene speeds up as they put the facemasks on the two, and then Haruna puts some on Kamiki and Kamiki puts some on Haruna. Ryutaro does close his eyes and seems to go to sleep. Umika sits up and watches TV with the other two.
30 minutes later, the text on the bottom of the screen reads as the speed goes back to normal.
The three look up in unison at the sound of the door opening, and seconds later, Yuto and Chielu walk in. Upon seeing them, with their white facemasks and the only bright light in the room being the TV behind them, Yuto shrieks and runs back towards the door.
Chielu stares at them, wide-eyed, and then walks off towards the stairs without another word.
♡ ♡ ♡
The show cuts to the studio again, where Arashi are doubled over in laughter and the TV is replaying Yuto’s shriek on a loop.
Ep #06: Backstory
“This is a bit different,” Nino starts, scrunching up his nose at the audience. “We’ve got… Well, an intruder, basically.”
“I’m a guest!” Chinen protests from where he was seated on the other side of the screen. Only Aiba is present, the other seats notably empty. Chinen is sitting on the blue bar stool.
“Everyone, let’s welcome: our very own Gold-medalist and Chaotic Evil Prince, Chinen Yuri!” Aiba does jazz hands at Chinen’s direction and smiles widely when Chinen laughs at his introduction.
“I can’t believe that stuck,” Chinen says, pouting. “I’m not evil.”
“But everyone needs a little chaos in their lives, right?” Aiba asks immediately, grinning wide.
“That clip is the single most played video in our YouTube account. Did you know that?” Nino asks as the screen shows the said video. It has millions of views and likes. “You’re quite the fan-favorite, Chinen-kun.”
Chinen blinks, looking at the audience then at the camera before finally looking at Nino with wide, innocent eyes. “I am?”
Nino narrows his eyes. “Are you sure you didn’t plan this?”
“What?!” Chinen laughs, waving a hand in front of him. “I’m not some evil mastermind, Ninomiya-san.”
“Uh-huh,” Nino says, doubt clear in his tone. “Like how you didn’t plan to bump into Sho at the Sochi Olympics.”
Chinen groans. “Are we really doing this here?”
Aiba looks at the two, gaze going back and forth. He looks towards the back and a staff member hands him a bag of popcorn. He munches on some.
Nino grins, not taking his eyes off Chinen. “Oh, yes. We’re definitely doing this here.” He gestures to the screen where an old picture of Chinen and Sho is being shown. They are smiling at the camera, Chinen’s cheeks pink and Sho’s laugh lines clear on his face. “You met Sho-chan five years ago when you bumped him on your way to your team’s dinner. A few weeks later, you end up in VS Arashi. Coincidence?” He dramatically points towards Chinen the way they do in detective dramas. “I think not!”
“These conspiracy theories are unbecoming, Ninomiya-san,” Chinen chides. “Are you sure your old age isn’t affecting your judgement?”
“Oooooh!” Aiba gasps and stares at Nino avidly, as if waiting for the next serve in a tennis match. “He said you’re old!”
“I heard,” Nino says, scowling. “Why are you even here, Macchan?”
“I heard Chinen-chan was guesting so I came here as fast as I can!” Aiba gives them both a thumbs up, and Chinen high-fives him. They huddle closer as Chinen takes some popcorn from the bag.
Nino frowns harder at the two. He sighs. “Okay, let’s move on.” The screen at his side changes to a picture of Chinen doing a handstand in front of the practice room. “This week, you were in charge of making your housemates go through training. How was that like?”
Chinen chews on the popcorn for a moment, glancing at the screen. “It’s very different,” he says. “Training has been part of my life for as long as I remember, but that’s not the case for them. It’s… frustrating, at first.”
“We did see you lose your patience for the first time.”
“I’ve been doing my exercises every morning since I came in the house, so I’ve never strayed from that mindset. Ryutaro started joining me a few days in, and Yama-chan joins me when he wakes up early. Suzuka-chan likes to jog in the afternoon with me. I forgot not all of us had that kind of time.” Chinen grimaces. “I might have been too hard on them.”
“Nakajima-kun, right?” Nino shares a look with Chinen, identical frowns on their faces. “His schedule is nuts.”
“Yeah,” Chinen agrees. “For us athletes, we have other jobs to support ourselves but our passion is with the sport. The job is to keep us afloat when we don’t have sponsors. I forgot that some people have jobs they actually like.”
“So you got angry.”
“So I got angry.” Chinen nods. “Yuto was late to one training session and I should have known he was tired, but…” He shrugs. “I messed up.”
Nino’s expression turns soft for a second, almost fond, as he says, “But you made up, so you’re fine, right?”
“I guess,” Chinen says, but he doesn’t sound like it. His shoulders slump like he is weighed down by what happened.
“Yamada-kun was able to do a double backflip earlier because of you, and Yuto-kun did a full bar rotation, right?” Nino pushes on. “You did the best you could, and the results were good.”
Chinen smiles a bit, tilting his head at Nino. “Are you trying to cheer me up, senpai?”
Aiba starts giggling at the side, clutching on the popcorn on his lap. Nino throws a glare at him. “Brat,” he starts, “don’t call me senpai.”
“Oh? You’re not denying it, then?” Chinen smiles wider, his posture loosening up.
“I was being a good person,” Nino says haughtily. “Something you should learn to do more.”
Chinen laughs at that. “I guess you should teach me about that, then.”
Nino sneers, “Maybe I will.”
Aiba laughs harder.
Ep #21: The Prank
“Oh, man,” Nino starts, already grinning from ear to ear. “We’ve got a special treat for all of you today.”
“This one’s really special,” Sho agrees.
“We’ve got a guest from abroad,” Jun adds.
Nino nods. “I know you’re all curious, so let’s cut to the footage, shall we?”
♡ ♡ ♡
The front door opens to reveal Umika, Suzuka, and Kamiki walking into the house, giggling to themselves. They tiptoe to the living room, looking around the corners. Kamiki rushes back to the front door and says, “Come in! We’re clear!”
EXO’s Park Chanyeol walks in, and the scene freezes. Cartoon confetti pops around the side of the screen as a text box appears on the bottom. It says: [Park Chanyeol is a member of the Korean group EXO who are touring the world right now. He was a guest on Kamiki’s variety show where he was recruited to appear here.]
A flashback of the said “recruitment” is then shown:
“I’m in another show called Sharehouse Special. Do you know that?” Kamiki is backstage with Umika and Chanyeol. “We want you to come home with us to surprise our friends.”
Chanyeol blinks down at him, seemingly confused. “I know,” he says slowly. “But. We have a concert.” He frowns and mutters a few Korean words.
Umika bites her lip, narrows her eyes, then takes out her phone. “Let’s have Suzuka explain everything. I think she knows fluent English. He understands that better, I think.”
“Oh yeah, she studied abroad,” Kamiki said.
“Mr. Park,” Umika tells him in stilted English, “our friend would like to talk to you.”
The flashback ends with a black screen and white text that says: [Ohgo Suzuka is fluent in English and she is very convincing.]
The scene goes back to Chanyeol coming into the house with a sheepish smile. He follows after Kamiki, hunching his shoulders as if to make himself smaller. The attention seems to be embarrassing for him. He scrunches up his nose when he stops by the others.
Before anyone could say anything, a door down the hall opens and Yamada’s voice reverberates from the game room. “Welcome home,” he greets. He walks in and freezes the moment he sees their guest. “Uhhh…” Wide eyes stare unblinkingly at Chanyeol. “What?”
“What?” Umika echoes, blinking innocently at him. “We’re home.”
“We’re home,” Kamiki says. He elbows Chanyeol, who mumbles, “We’re home” shyly.
“This is not your home,” Yamada says almost robotically like his brain is having a hard time processing this.
“That’s mean,” Umika says. She frowns disapprovingly. “Is that any way to talk to our housemate?”
“Yeah,” Kamiki agrees. “Why are you looking at Yuto like he’s a ghost?”
“That’s not Yuto!” Yamada exclaims hysterically. “That’s-- That’s!”
“I’m?” Chanyeol asks, smiling slightly at Yamada.
“Oh my god,” Yamada whimpers, turning red. He turns his back on them and breathes deeply. “I’m sleep deprived,” he tells himself. “I’m going back to sleep.”
The moment he’s gone, Kamiki, Suzuka, and Umika burst into giggles. They raise their hands and Chanyeol happily gave them double-high fives.
Later, after a montage of Chanyeol going to the game room and meeting Yamada properly (with Yamada blushing and effusing praises at the idol), the five hung out while playing a game Chanyeol was interested in. Yamada happily taught him how to play it, with Suzuka translating some things when Yamada had a hard time getting through.
“I’m home,” Yuto calls out as he walks directly to the game room as usual.
“Hm?” Yamada says, looking up with an innocent expression on his face. “Are you lost?”
“What?” Yuto asks, taking in the occupants of the room. He looks shocked to see them here and gets even more surprised when he sees their guest.
“Are you a guest?” Umika clarifies. “We already have a tall superstar here.” She gestures to the other man, who is blushing at her words. “We don’t really need two.”
Yuto pouts. “Hey!”
Yamada is obviously trying hard not to laugh. “He’s taller.”
“I think he’s cuter too,” Suzuka offers. She turns to Chanyeol and says in English, “You’re taller than him and cuter too. You win.”
Chanyeol laughs in embarrassment, shaking his head. “No, no,” he says.
“So you think Yuto-kun is cute?” Umika asks, smiling wide. She leans to Yamada’s side and says, “That’s like your dream come true. A tall sandwich.”
Yamada turns red to the roots of his hair. “Umika Kawashima,” he scolds.
“What? I’m just saying the truth.”
“I am a guest,” Chanyeol says in Japanese, trying to diffuse the situation. “This is a prank.”
“That’s true,” Kamiki says. “But if you don’t act fast, I’m afraid Yamada-kun would kidnap Chanyeol and make him stay here with us.”
“He has a crush,” Suzuka explains.
Yuto rushes forward and hugs Ryosuke to his side. “No taking!” he tells Chanyeol in English. “Mine. You get your own.”
Chanyeol smiles and shakes his head, waving his hands in front of him as well. “Don’t worry,” he says. “I have my own.”
he has his own wink wink