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I Found Paradise In You

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      I found everything about love the moment I laid eyes on you. Love isn't always so forward, you know~? In fact,  it lay hidden beneath the surface of everything I thought I knew about you. Ibara Saegusa.  

 

      Soulmates, you called us. The very word irritated me, grated on my nerves and made me embrace the idea that I would be nothing more than the tool I am in every little scheme you try to make out of the life you lead. We had an understanding that I was to use you and you would use me to climb to the top of the garbage pile that towered before us. 

 

      It was cut plain and simple, like the beginnings of a contract I signed without hesitation. I would do anything to escape the existence I lived in as a non special-- anything . Anything to find a way to extract my revenge for the one responsible for ruining my life. You plucked me so freely from hell just so I could make another deal-- not with the devil, but a snake this time.  

 

      My heart and soul was to be yours and we both didn't have a clue what that meant, what could happen. I fell right into it and pulled you right on in with me. Bet you didn’t expect to pay the price by enlisting yourself in emotions, huh? Neither did I, but here we are. 

 

      So, Ibara Saegusa, when you ask me what do I mean when I say I love you... 

 

      My answer will always fall from my lips with as much complexity as your very existence because it means more than any description can grant justice to it.

 

      I can only remind you of the beginning and try to translate how I feel with any physical contact and breath that I can think to give. Will that ever be enough for you to understand, or are you always going to look at me and ask: Jun, why do I feel so disgustingly content around you? Like i’ve committed some sort of crime. Guilty as charged, I guess? And my punishment is patience

 

I want to be annoyed by it, if only because you always act like I’m too stupid to figure you out, but I can’t be. You’ve got to know by now that I’ll always wait with my hand held out for you to take no matter what you do, right? You gotta, because that’s the first thing you grab when you think I’m not paying you enough attention, you know~? 

 

      It’s disgusting. And it gets worse, Ibara. Love. It's every time my eyes gravitate to yours as soon as you enter the room. You have me mesmerized without even calling my name and before I know it I'm lost in it. Your gaze does more than that, too... it comes with a certain pull and all I want to do is be by your side. You rob me of every breath just saying my name and I can't stand it because you can’t be that goddamn dense to know you can get away with anything if you just keep saying. Jun . Big sexy . Puppy . You gotta stop calling me that damn nickname. I’m starting to get used to it and it’s so terrible that I like it! 

 

      You don't even know what it does to me to hear your voice, let alone have you say my name. It makes me feel far more important than I've ever been to anyone before in my life, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. How did you do it? How did you cast such a spell on me when earlier in the year I wanted nothing to do with you? Is this your poison strategy? Whatever . Can’t be because you never planned for this either, but you’ll act like you did all along before much longer~... 

 

          Stop being so damn fake , I said. 
          Keep giving me lies and you'll never get anywhere with me, Saegusa-san.
          Is this guy seriously trying to rip off some kind of cartoon villain? What a loser
          Why me? Why do you have to talk to me like that? Goddamn , I'm so unlucky~....

 

         .....

 

      I used to whine like that all the time. You were worse to me than Ohii-san ever could be. Still, I was wrong about being unlucky, but don't even think of a second I didn't know what you were up to. We're a lot more alike than even I want to admit and I know why you called me a soulmate back then. We're two sides of the same coin in one way... in the way we were willing to use each other for our own gain. My name and status as a nonspecial for your ‘backup plans’ and, in return, I got a chance to be among the elite so long as I played my part and behaved. Yes sir, Saegusa-san. Salute~. That’s fine, though. I didn’t care what you did with me because I had a chance to reach for a star I never thought I could close my fingers around in a lifetime. So. I readily took whatever scrap was thrown my way and didn’t care what the world thought of me for it. Anything for...  

 

      A chance. A gamble. A prediction. A failsafe. 

 

      You're fucking lucky you directed Hiyori at me and not one of your other candidates. You picked wisely and for it I vowed never to let it get to my head because I knew the part I had to play and who could replace me just as easily if I couldn't do what you wanted. I never underestimate anyone, Ibara, not even with you sugar coating everything that was to be in my favor. We just never expected to be anything other than tools for each other, huh? That goes for all of us. Eden. It was a paradise in name only-- we were just mostly faking it and humoring what it would be like to trust each other… well, until SS happened.   

 

      So, if you're ever worried about me finding out and being angry about it? Worry no more. I let go of that the moment I found home in Eden, and later when I found home in you. I'm glad I had something driving me enough to put up with your bullshit. Honestly, I thought for a time there that you'd replace me, and maybe you were ready to until we all became valuable to each other. Drop the excuse that your business statistics and Cospro's fuck-up kept me in your cross hairs-- you have a heart and we all know it, Ibara. 

 

      You didn't expect it to happen any sooner than we did, and you even started to open up to us. Haha, you started to care and that just made your ass itch , now didn't it? So, I gotta ask you... when did you change your plan to benefit both of us? No, all of us? Whenever it was, I’m honored. 

 

      C'mon, my torture tactics can't be that good-- tickles can’t honestly defeat someone like you. Don’t tell me it was all in my invitations to show you the world around you? Honestly, when you accepted and said you were ‘ onto my schemes ’ I had to hold in my laughter. I realized then that no one had ever tried to befriend you in such a way, and if they had you bullied them right out of it with. So, after I took you to that art show-- you know the one we made fun of and then ran into that shitty cafe in the middle of it all? I decided I wanted to keep trying to get you to come out with me. I didn’t realize then what my curiosity towards you meant. A crush to me, maybe. Disgusting is what you’d call brand it as. 

 

      But I kept doing it. And you kept showing up. Asking me questions, challenging me to try sweets to try with you and carrying on about-- what do you call it-- the most stupid conversations you’ve ever participated in. FYI, it’s called a normal conversation , dumbass.  I can’t believe you’d never tried to participate in it before. Without any ambitions behind it. I gotta say, it was nice seeing some of who you were. I’ll take it over that fake personality of yours any day. 

 

      Really, who the hell goes: ‘Salute~?’ with such a practiced plastic smile? Keh~, you’re making my teeth rot just thinking about it. So much that I really did feel sorry for Trickstar when they had to meet that, you know??? In the end, I guess I felt badly for you, because it was another plan that failed. You never did recruit them. You had to enlist the help of that other emperor now that I think about it, huh? 

 

      But your plans seem endless. What are you, some kind of business Medusa? For every plan that fails five more come to fruition~ . Fufufu~. Seriously, a goddamn cartoon villain in every way. I can’t believe I fell in love with that, and to think that I find it endearing and even charming right now. I must be crazy. 

 

      I knew I was in love because I was joking with you, worrying about you, and getting emotional when your own company ruined everything you worked on for SS. The first thought in my head wasn’t: shit, what am I gonna do now? These guys are all washed up now . It was: Ohii-san, we need to get back and see what we can do for Ibara, right~? 

 

      I stood up for you too before we knew Yuuki-san talked Trickstar down from thinking you initiated it, but everything started to make sense then. You, us, Eden… we needed to stay together so the realities of the idol world wouldn’t consume us like it tried to consume Akehoshi-san that day. I might not get everything like you do, or know how it all works exactly, but I knew I didn’t want to end up like that, or like my father. I also didn’t want you to end up like that either because of my name, either. I got to thinking and wondering how many times you must have shut down any rumors about that Sazanami child before the flame could ever consume the air around it. It made me think we were all unified in wanting a different future for the world around us, and even though I was so damn mad we lost, you kept us all going. Your plans just started and I want more than ever now to make sure you achieve your goal. 

 

      Hell, you even enlisted Seiya-sensei in all of this and made me start to change from a brat into something, dare I say, better. I was still really angry, I still really wanted to sink my fangs into that bastard Jin Sagami , but I also wanted to help, too. I hate that you drug out how I used to feel about Jin... out for the world to see. The signed poster I kept on my wall by my bed… you knew I waited for hours in line for that, didn’t you? You knew I saw him as a hero before I saw him as my worst enemy, right? 

 

      I wanna know how you knew all that. You can’t even understand love, but you understood that about me so damn easily. What, got someone you see that way too? You gotta. You’re just not talking about it yet. Jerk . And after I played along too, got so damn mad that people thought it was cute that I was such a BIG fan to get fired up from being up on stage with him. Goddamn, you suck for that, really suck for that y’know~? I didn’t want to see you for days after that because you looked way too happy, Ibara when your plan worked out flawlessly. 

 

      You never thought he’d apologize, did ya? After all, we’re not the type of people to believe in that kinda crap. An apology-- and for it to be meant over forced and beaten outta ya-- what a concept, right? I never knew someone could ever really be sorry, most of all the guy I wanted to hate most. Keh~, it took the wind right outta my sails, and I’d like to think I calmed down a lot after it. 

 

      If anything, it made me focus on you more. It’s really not fair at all, you know? I got rid of one nuisance and got attracted to another~... It was real confusing, too. I didn’t know why I’d get so excited when you text me, and equally how disappointed I was when it was just an update to our schedules. You did seem to be doing that more lately, or was that just me? 

 

      Huh, now that I think about it, you showed up a lot more at Reimei for your inspections on Eve, and didn’t you even get cross with me when I spoke with Nagi-senpai more than you at practice~...? That was a real confusing time, especially when I got more fans after facing off against THE Jin Sagami. You kept making a point of stressing your words on how the poll rates far exceeded your expectations, but, to me, you just sounded angry-- maybe even afraid. What, were you scared I was going to leave you behind or something? Have some damn faith in me, already~... it was like talking to some angry girl that would never forgive me over something way out of my control, you know? 

 

      I felt bad just being happy about it because you started to be real hard on me with that fake ass smile of yours.I thought we were over that. I tried to play along, even picked up on those mannerisms of yours trying to be a ‘ good boy ’ as you liked to mock me with, but that went about as well as I expected. I finally caught a break. I got you to go train with me, remember? I’ve never met someone so damn determined to best me at everything I did. You wasted no time in kicking my ass, but instead of rising to any taunt or snide remark you made, I just found myself marveling at how capable you honestly were. Your venom is harmless when the one you’re trying to bite is immune to it, y’know. 

 

      You told me about it, too. Remember staying up in the hills of Shuuetsu just talking about it? I found out more about what you meant during SS-- when you told us a summary of your upbringing. A military camp as a kid. And I thought I had it bad. Instead of dodging a parents temper and doing whatever I could not to be beaten down, you had to do whatever you could to survive in ways I can’t even imagine. That’s the first night I wanted to hold your hand, but I backed out of it. Too much, too soon… but I wanted to comfort you somehow. Maybe having you be better at me and having more to teach me did that all on its own though?

 

      I felt closer to you after that night, even if you started to joke that these little occurrences were ‘ gross ’ and  ‘ disgusting ’. I couldn’t help but agree, but honestly, I was too scared you’d withdraw if I didn’t play along. How you saw me-- no, how you saw us was starting to become important to me. It all became second nature. I’d jump at any chance just to be around you for five minutes, and maybe you were feeling the same way because it seemed easier to get you to come out and step away from your work for just a moment. 

 

      I remember that too. It was after you got sick and collapsed after practice for one of our upcoming shows. You kept pushing yourself and pushing yourself... until your body couldn’t take it anymore. You had us all worried sick, but you wouldn’t have it any other way and kept pretending like you could get through anything.

 

      I’m surprised that I got you back to your room and looked after ya for several days without too much trouble. That’s the first time I actually did hold your hand. I was so worried, I didn’t even realize what I was doing, and neither did you. That’s also the first time I’ve ever been flipped over onto the ground for trying to comfort someone. Thanks for the knee in my back and the humiliation-- that hurt for days and you were so fucking heavy, do you know how long it took me to get your unconcious ass offa me? Damn! So annoying~.... just like everything else. Getting you to eat, getting you to take your damn medicine and to rest without popping open that damn tablet? It was like fighting with a little brat, but I’m glad you started to listen? Even if I had to take your glasses to keep you offa that damn tablet of yours. No wonder you’re so blind~... 

 

    …

 

      I’m avoiding the topic, but that’s around the time I realized I had a crush on you. You asked me about what hand holding was all about and why I had tried it while you were sick. I still remember your death grip, loosening it and trying to mimic me. Was real cute, watching you be genuine and trying real hard to understand it with me. It seemed to put you at ease and maybe even comforted you. You kept looking to hold my hand wherever we went after all that, but I’ll be damned if you didn’t try to make any excuse as to why you were doing it so I wouldn’t get too happy about it. I bet it looked like we were trying to copy Ohii-san and Nagi-senpai if they ever caught on. I dunno if they ever saw-- you were really self conscious about who saw that side of you, but that made me like you more. You kept wanting to practice it ‘to fool the rest of the world’, but really I think you just liked it as much as I did and didn’t want to admit it. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna tell anyone or hold it against ya. Your secrets have always been safe with me, Ibara.  

 

      I’m just...happy every time I think of it, ok? My chest felt warm, like when you’ve taken a sip of a hot drink, and every time I squeezed your hand my stomach felt like a bunch of butterflies were swirling inside it like some kinda funnel. I couldn’t really figure out why it was happening, but it felt wrong when I had to let go… even if we spent the night on your couch that night. You were resting against me and while that felt nice, it wasn’t the same. I just missed the feeling of having your hand held in my own. There’s just something special about it. Always will be. 

 

     I’d like to think that was a sign. You let me in and the rest is history. 

 

      It gave me the courage I needed to ask you out. I want to say that, but Nagi-senpai pushed us into it all along. I was dragging my feet and he doesn’t know anything about being smooth or when to ask these questions. He asked because I took you to the fair.  We won each other two stupid dolls-- Pompompurin and some kind of shiba breed of dog carrying a strawberry in its mouth-- and remember how dumb we looked crammed in that bucket of the ferris wheel? Us with two plushies meant for girls. You even joked that we must be on a date since I gifted you such a silly thing. Funny, you still have that thing sitting on your desk. 

 

      Don’t think I haven’t seen it before you cram it into your desk drawer, either. You loved it but you can’t be honest about it. Don’t worry, I couldn’t be honest about anything either at that time. I couldn’t even be man enough to say it was one or kiss you. It took Nagi-senpai asking about all that when we were talking about it so casually. 

 

      " Jun. Have you been taking Ibara out to places?"

 

       " Your Excellency!!! Hahaha! N-now's not the time and place to discuss these matters!!!"

     

      You didn’t even let me answer. I’ve never seen you stutter and stumble over your own words so much and try to change the damn subject. You got real loud and obnoxious, too.  It would have been funny if I wasn’t so shocked and scared. You were right there and I had to answer him with you listening. He wouldn’t take silence OR your panicked excuses. We were both in the spotlight and you hated it and had no intentions about shutting the hell up. 

 

      So, you know what we did at the exact same time? In unison without even looking at you or away from each other.

 

       Shut up, Ibara.”

     

       And you fell silent,  went as white as a sheet. What a triumph. As cool as it was to have the room filled with silence with you existing in it, I suddenly realized the attention was alllllll on me. Nagi-senpai expected me to answer his question and you were honed in on me with all your silent threads. Guess what? I’m not telepathic and I had a question to answer.

 

      “ Jun. Do you like Ibara in a positive way?”

 

      And wouldn’t you know it. You just didn’t know when to shut up. I can’t believe you, Ibara.

 

      “Hahahahahaha, your excellency!!! I think it's really quiet obvious now if you--!”

 

        Shut up, Ibara.”

   

       I’ll never get away with that ever again so I have no regrets demanding it a second time. It was really satisfying just to see you shut your mouth, smile and saluutttee~

 

      Why was I so sure that I liked you again? Jokes aside,I knew I liked you, but I was conflicted too. I wanted to give you all the time in the world to realize how you felt. I wanted to help you understand what it was to feel the same things I felt. I told myself over and over again that as long as you ended up happy, I wouldn’t care who it was with. Just so long as you got to experience it like I did. 

 

      You deserved it, in my opinion. But the risk was so high. You could shut me out forever if I said yes and if I said no? I think that would have hurt you even if you didn’t like me that way. For all those steps we took forward, it would have been for nothing… 

 

      I couldn’t do that to you, but I wasn’t going to drag you out in the open like that either. Now if you would just shut up !

 

      “We are apart of a grou-” blah blah blah, bullshit. We’re right. You’re wrong…


      “Shut up.” Thank you Nagi-senpai. 

 

      “Ok. Shutting up now!” I can still hear the click of your boots as you decided to stand at attention. Why do I like you again?

 

      “Thank you. Now, Jun.” 

 

      “Yeah. I like him in a ‘ positive way ’, though I’m not exactly sure what that word means to you exactly, so ya might wanna elaborate~???”

 

      “Can I say something?” Seriously, Ibara!!  

 

      “No.” Nagi-senpai and I said in unison all over again. Damn, we make a really good team when it comes to denying your every want and need, huh Ibara~?

 

      “Alrighty!!” You even give us the salute, but I doubt it’s the last we’ve heard of you with your inability to shut up and all.

 

      “Jun, I was wondering if you like Ibara in a way that is considered more than friendship.”

 

      “HAHAHA, YOUR EXCELLENCY, I MUST ADVISE THAT THE CONVERSATION GOES SOMEWHERE ELSE--”

 

      Nagisa only has to shoot you a look this time, but just to be sure, “I'm talking to Jun.”

 

      “Isn’t that somethin’ that’s my business n’not yours?” I realized too late that I was being too blunt, but maybe that’s what worked out best in the end. “Why’re you so damn curious, anyways~?” 

 

      “Ah. I apologize if I overstepped my boundaries. Ibara has been acting odd lately.”

 

      “No, I’m not--” We’ve given up on trying to tell you what you already know.

 

      “That’s good then~, I guess? Reason why I’ve been askin’ him out? I just like bein’ around him. Im doin’ it because I want to and hope he’s goin’ because he wants to, y’know?? That’s about all I’m gonna say about it, Nagi-senpai.”

 

      “I see. I'm glad he has a friend like you, Jun.”

 

       Out of all the things we’ve been through together...that memory is one I’m never going to forget. You dismissed us right after that and ran away like a damn coward. I called after you, chased you all the way to your room, got the door slammed in my face with a ‘goodnight, Jun!’ and spent an hour convincing you to let me in. I knew if I didn’t that would be the last time I ever got to call you a friend. It would be the last time I got a chance to be anything more than a tool for you. 

 

      I confessed to you behind closed doors after getting you to sit down on your couch and, holding your hand in mine, we came to an understanding. I liked you. I wanted to be with you, but you weren’t sure what it was you felt. You wanted to try this dating thing with me and if it didn’t work, then we would act like none of it ever happened. I could live with that… right?  

 

      “You’re so lame, Sazanami-san. I’m afraid I still don’t know what love is, or how to define it in my own eyes, but... I believe I understand ‘like’ at the very leas t. If like is how you feel, then I can accept that.”

 

      I still had to be patient. Fine. I could live with that. I didn’t even think about sealing the deal with a kiss because I had several ideas about how I would end up being thrown through the window for daring to get that close to you. 

 

      You really surprised me by being the one to initiate it all. I was just happy getting to hold your hand, happy to get a chance with you, you know? I can still close my eyes and be taken back there. 

 

    “What? Tell ya a couple of trade secrets and you get mouthy? Jesus….Right now, I know I like you. I understand that much. Can’t say I know what love is either, but I wonder if you’re interested in see in’ where this goes? If there’s a chance or if all of it really is stupid n’pointless to ya. I’d like t’know I tried, y’know~?.”

 

      “‘This’... What a way with words, Sazanami-san, fufu. But yes, I figured. Perhaps I can learn. ‘For the things you truly can’t understand with the simplicity of words, have an experience of it’ as they say! So. Is this the part in those books where I say your name before kissing you?”

 

                                                      Jun~?

 

      You said my first name for the first time and shared my first kiss with me. That made me so damn happy, feel so, so special. 

 

      You’ve been saying it ever since, but it’s always been just as special as the first time because it means a lot when it comes from you. I’m smiling just thinking about it, and now that you’re stirring at my side I guess it’s time to stop living in the past, huh? We’ve come a long way since then. From,

       

          I think I like you.
        Let’s give it a try.  

 

   To, 

         I love you.
        I can’t live without you by my side, 
        Ibara Saegusa. 

 

       That part’s for another time. You’re waking up and you’ve got my undivided attention.

 

      You can’t see a damn thing as you stretch out beside me in our bed, but I lean down and do what I always do. One kiss after another-- against your forehead, the palm of your hand as you push my face away…