Yuto straddles Yamada beneath him, knees at either side of his hips. He giggles, impatient as he peers down through his camera. He waits though, hand still and steady, for the magic he knows is bubbling underneath the surface to show itself. They share a single heated moment, Yamada penetrating right through the lens of his camera before the corner of those eyes crinkle and a soft, genuine laugh trickles out.
It starts like this.
It starts with a tight fist in his hair to pull him down and cold, strawberry flavored chapstick laden lips pressed harshly against his own. Yuto’s at a loss, frozen in shock as his camera hangs forgotten around his neck. The whole room has stilled, all eyes glued on the two of them.
Something bubbles in Yuto’s chest but before he can gather his wits to do something, anything, Yamada breaks the kiss, mouth curling into a smirk. “Yuto-kun,” he practically sings, hand sliding out of Yuto’s hair. “Relax. It’s a joke. Thought I’d see if I could loosen you up a bit. Get you to relax or something.”
All-consuming anger rushes to the surface as he finally catches on. He shoves Yamada away from him, satisfied to see Yamada stumble a bit before bursting out, “Is everything a joke to you?” He has no doubt he’s causing a scene, knows it would have been easier to take the out Yamada had created, to pretend he isn’t bothered and play it off as a joke between bandmates because who the hell knows what’s going on between the two of them anymore.
Yamada grins and answers, “Yes,” without missing a beat.
All energy drains out of him and he deflates immediately, throwing his head back, eyes squeezed shut while he takes in one long breath through his nose and let’s it out as evenly as possible to calm his nerves and gather himself together. When he’s confident he won’t unravel into a melt down, he turns to the rest of the staff, empty-eyed and plastered smile, and thanks them for their hard work, an implied dismissal that on any other day would have put him on the receiving end of a scolding. Today, though, they probably just want to leave before another argument or fight erupts.
At this point he figured screw it because there are enough shots. There has to be something in there they can use.
Honestly, it had been a trying day from the get go, his stomach tense and in knots from the moment he arrived on scene. He wonders who came up with the bright idea to have it just be them that day, Yamada modeling and Yuto his photographer with no one else to ease the tension between the two of them. Truth be told it’s not like his relationship with the rest of the team is at a good place either, but at least it’s better than whatever is going on between him and Yamada.
For a long while now he’s felt isolated, cut off from the rest of the group and Yamada especially, and that’s probably why the staff asked him to contribute something to their calendar in the first place. He’s read the fan letters, one after another telling him how his expression has changed. Some of the staff have been with him for so long now, day in and day out, it’s impossible to think that if the fans noticed, they wouldn’t. So he has no doubt they worry about him, can see it in the etched lines of their foreheads.
The blame is on him, really. They wanted to do something to cheer him up, probably make him feel like he’s got something to contribute to the group but all it does is make him worried, feeling insecurity creep in as he wonders where he stands.
Another deep breath to help calm him down enough in hopes of unclenching the muscles in his stomach, an unpleasant ache he had carried with him all day. Mid breath, he is interrupted.
“You ready to go? Chinen and Keito said they’re on their way already.” Yamada’s already in his normal clothes, red beanie and sunglasses on as his disguise.
“Yep.” Yuto fakes his enthusiasm. He contemplates not joining the three of them after all, knows it’s probably better to just go home and unwind but then what would that make him? A coward? Someone who says one thing and does another, running away with his tail between his legs? No, he refuses to be that kind of person. So, he slings his bag over his shoulder and turns to Yamada. “Let’s go.”
They walk together side by side, silence taunting them. Yuto is acutely aware, has always been, of the distance separating the two of them, both physical and not. Before, perhaps he could have done something to help close that gap but now it seems no matter how hard he tries, there’s nothing he can do. It’s just there, a gaping hole that used to frustrate him but now he pretends he doesn’t care it exists.
Touching his lips absently, Yuto tries to remember the kiss the best he can. It had happened so fast -- one moment he was giving Yamada directions, camera in one hand, and the next Yamada’s fingers were tangled in his hair and tugging him down to press their lips together. It was over before he could process anything beyond the absolute shock and horror coursing through him but now he remembers those words - it’s a joke - and it makes him feel sad and angry and hurt and fed up and numb and so much he doesn’t know where to start.
Everyone else likes to tease each other, lightly joking on the side or playing pranks before concerts and photoshoots and filming to have some fun even when Yuto disagrees and reprimands because it’s times like that when they should take their work seriously, that much he gets. Usually he does his best to ignore it but this time it’s gone too far.
It’s enough already, has been more than enough for quite some time now. He’s ready to give up and be done with it because what’s the point in trying to force friendships anymore? You can’t force something that’s not there. Maybe it was possible before the arguments and the actual physical fights and heated words aimed specifically to hurt because they knew each other better than anyone else, knew each other’s insecurities and flaws and hopes and dreams. But now everything just feels so final, so unchangeable.
Back when Yamada had just joined Johnny’s, Yuto had thought the two of them would go on to take the world together, Yamada encouraging and supporting him. Fourteen and stupid, he had dragged the boy everywhere, singing, “Yama-chan! Yama-chan!” just so he could see the pink rise on Yamada’s cheek.
He’d been so naive then, unaware of the oncoming change. With Tantei Gakuen Q and Yamada’s shocking rise in popularity, the seeds of insecurity planted itself in the recesses of his mind for the first time and from there something ugly started growing, bitter and jealous, something near enough to hate. Maybe that’s why he can’t laugh it off when they pull a prank or make a joke about him. Somewhere deep inside he knows that’s what they think about him, incompetent and replaceable and that hurts, especially when Yamada finally takes Yuto’s place away from him.
If Yuto could have been honest with himself, he would have realized that at fourteen and young and stupid he’d been half in love with Yamada already, wanting the boy to follow him anywhere and everywhere so that he would always be by Yuto’s side, forever inherently implied. Now there’s just bitter memories and shattered bonds lying waste between him and everyone else.
The sight of Keito and Chinen waiting when they arrive shakes him out of his thoughts. “Yo!” he says in greeting, again faking enthusiasm and energy he doesn’t feel, never seems to feel anymore. Do they even want him there? Maybe it was just out of courtesy or pity or something that had them extend him an invitation.
“Sorry for making you guys wait,” Yamada says as he’s opening the door.
They all stumble inside Yamada’s tiny apartment, Yuto trailing behind everyone else. They settle themselves around the living room and Keito asks, “You you two eat already?”
“-’m not really hungry,” Yamada says.
“Me neither,” Yuto echoes.
“Okay! Let’s get started then!”
Yuto has no objections there. They plug in the playstation to fill in the silence, to have something to do, and break out the booze just the four of them. They hardly ever do this, but sometimes their lives become too much. Sometimes they want to be dumb teenagers who do stupid things like hang out playing video games and getting drunk.
And sometimes Yuto just wants to forget the strain between him and the rest of the world.
Would they rather do this with other people? Probably. Most likely. But that’s a slippery slope that leads right to a demotion and none of them are willing to make that mistake. Even if they weren’t really close, they could trust each other with this. No other people means no leaked pictures and well, it’s just best practice to be safe after all.
So once in a very long while they do this together. To forget or remember or have fun or anything, who knows. Yuto only knows about himself, and all he wants right now is to forget and pretend he’s okay, even if it’s just for a little while.
He downs his drinks, missing looks of concern thrown his way by Chinen and Keito, and soon he has a pretty good buzz going. The room spins a little, but he feels warm and fuzzy, and at the moment it’s good enough. The rest of the night he continues drinking enough to ride the line between tipsy and drunk so he doesn’t make a fool of himself by spilling his guts.
Around two a.m. Chinen and Keito pass out sprawled practically on top of each other. Out cold, his mind supplies for him, knowing they’ll wake up with cricks in their necks and a pretty bad hangover the next morning. Yuto entertains the thought of straightening them out, but that would mean getting up and he feels content and lazy exactly where he’s at so he does nothing, Yamada warm against him, the side of his head resting against Yuto’s arm.
It feels good and perhaps it’s because he’d been thinking about it earlier in the night, memories of how they were when they were kids - riding the train home together and sharing candy and playing games - surfaces, and it makes him yearn a little for what could have been.
Yamada makes a noise and Yuto turns his attention to Yamada who peers up at him, eyes glazed over but there’s something there just below the surface and it starts a slow burn in Yuto’s gut. It makes him want things, things he’s never thought about before. The urge to brush Yamada’s bangs away from his eyes and kiss him is overwhelming and, half drunk and inhibitions lowered, he thinks, “What the hell” and dives right in.
It starts slow and hesitant because he doesn’t understand what he’s doing or what he even wants. Even so, when Yamada does nothing but tense next him, he just thinks, Well, whatever. It’s not like there is anything to lose.
Yuto starts to pull away but something finally ignites in Yamada and suddenly he’s kissing Yuto back, open-mouthed and eager, hungry almost. It’s sloppy and wet but so, so hot it makes him feel like he’s burning from the inside out. They turn into a frenzy of devouring lips and desperate hands seeking for skin, tearing away at each other’s clothes, hips thrusting together in tandem. He snakes a hand between them, quickly undoing Yamada’s pants and sliding right in between skin and boxers. His grip on Yamada is tight and he gives an experimental tug. In reply, Yamada’s nails bite into his back and his legs wantonly opens wider to accept Yuto between him.
Another experimental tug, one after another when he grows more confident until he’s finally jerking Yamada off, pace and grip straddling between the line of pleasurable and too rough. Yamada, who is often so unreadable, writhes underneath him, emotions now on full display, lets out the prettiest cries muffled into Yuto’s neck.
His world zooms in to focus on nothing but this, on nothing but Yamada’s hot breaths against the side of his neck, a “please” thrown in here and there, and the hot, hard cock in his hand. Yamada keens as he starts getting closer, and chants, “Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck,” harshly into his ear over and over again as his come spills all over Yuto’s fingers.
Yuto pushes himself off and away, taking the sight in front of him. Yamada’s sprawled open, welcoming Yuto in but his eyes are closed and his breathing evens out, signaling that he’s falling asleep. Yuto untangles himself from the other boy and just sits at the other end of the couch, jeans uncomfortably tight but the urge to take care of himself doesn’t come.
Instead he’s just there, legs crossed, elbows on his knees, chin propped in his hands. He sobered up enough now to try processing what just happened and can admit, without a doubt, that it felt amazing. There’s still the low burn of lust and desire in the pit of his stomach and remembering the heavy weight and feel of Yamada in his hand makes the burn spread.
But it doesn’t mean anything beyond that, does it? It’s just a bit of harmless fun and no one’s going to get hurt from this, right? They’ll probably just continue being the way they’ve always been.
By the time the first light of dawn seeps in through the window, Yuto realizes he’s spent the the night just sitting there just watching Yamada while thinking about nothing and feeling numb to everything else. Yamada begins to stir and that jerks him back to reality. He quickly stands up to collect his shirt from the ground, pulls it on and, as quietly as possible, starts to collect what little he brought over.
“Too early,” Yamada mumbles out after throwing an arm across his face.
“Sorry,” he replies, voice low.
It seems to all come back to Yamada when he springs to sit up and their eyes meet. There’s an awkward silence that seems to last forever until Yamada breaks it with a stilted, “Hey.”
A beat passes.
“Hey,” he echoes, dragging out the end of the word. Yuto doesn’t know where to go from there so he breaks contact first and begins mumbling things like “Should really get home,” and “Hadn’t planned on staying the night.”
All Yamada does is watch him.
He quickly gathers the rest of his stuff before practically running to the door.
“Ugh,” he hears him as he’s putting on his shoes, the voice distinctively Chinen’s and very, very hungover. “Please, please, please be quiet.”
Yuto doesn’t say anything and neither does Yamada. Instead Yuto finishes lacing his shoes and begins to leave but, for whatever reason, guilt probably, he throws a wayward glance back and what he sees surprises him enough to stop with the door half open. Yamada hasn’t moved, not really, but something like regret flits across his face. He doesn’t know what to do with that information, doesn’t know what he feels as his chest tightens so, like a coward, he runs away, tail hanging between his legs.
As expected, weeks pass by and they don’t talk about it, not even a nod of acknowledgement when everyone meets up again. Outwardly, his life seems to be moving along pretty much the same way it had always been before, ever the same, unchanging. Inside, however, Yuto is a tangled mess, tense and strung tight and ready to snap.
Everything - his insecurities and his doubts, the regret on Yamada’s face morning, the memories and past feelings that just won’t go away - is collapsing into a singularity and it feels like he’s at the center and on the verge of becoming a black hole but he doesn’t know how to stop it from happening.
Then one day, on their hundredth straight hour of work, Hikaru cracks a joke at his expense. He doesn’t register most of it, thinks he should be offended at the others laughing along but it’s been a long day and he’s already at his end. He thinks, enough, and just smiles along. No sarcasm or hurt or anger, no striking back. He just smiles and goes along with them and it feels like he’s hit an epiphany because he senses the change within himself, can finally breathe easy again after who knows how long. Mentally and physically, he just lets go and the rush of relief that floods through him makes him think, thank god.
Slowly he realizes all those times, all the teasing, it wasn’t anything personal or some kind of attack on him. It clicks, finally, that it’s just how the group is, it’s how they keep themselves from going crazy during long days and busy work schedules. All along he’d been the one to build walls separating him from the rest of them because he’d only cared about himself, about how he felt and never once thought about how they too must have felt, and how they cope with their own stress and tiredness.
It becomes easier, after that, to mend whatever was broken between him and the rest of the group and for the first time in years it seems like things are going to be okay, that he’s going to be able to make everything okay again. One by one, staff members tell him he looks better, that his expression has improved but it really hits home when he reads the same words from fans, the ones who stuck by him all these years. After reading their words of encouragement and happiness he is both overwhelmed with gratitude and completely humbled all in one breath.
With everyone, Yamada being the exception, it feels like they’re real friends now. Friends who understand each other, accept each other’s flaws but still seek each others’ company. Friends who can confide their hopes and fears and thoughts and dreams and follow each other to the end of the line. Maybe it’s never been about who gets to the be the center, the one who’s propping the group up. Maybe it’s always been about being surrounded by people who genuinely care about you, who root for you to succeed and are happy when you do. Maybe that’s the secret to being happy in this business.
He might not be there with Yamada yet, but he’d like to get there someday, and at least they’re civil. They can laugh and hang out and enjoy being around each other comfortably, and maybe sometimes, sometimes when Yamada looks at him a certain way, like he’s mesmerized and trying to figure Yuto out, it brings back memories of that night, of Yamada still half clothed but open and bare in front of him.
Truth be told he thinks more about that night than he probably should or would like to admit. He remembers the way Yamada had held on to him, nails biting into skin, and the desperation as his voice hitches while Yuto was jerking him off. It makes Yuto feel hot and bothered and itching to reach out and touch. Most nights, alone in his bed, he’ll reach inside his pants to bring himself off with the image of Yamada spread out underneath him. Hand covered in his own come, he’ll feel guilty and swear that that was the last time except it never is because deep down, though he won’t admit it, he years for Yamada.
It’s early November when his phone chimes with a group text from Yamada saying, “Everyone, I’m sorry but this time I will be doing it alone.” The jealousy and rivalry never really goes away - probably never will - but he’s realizing it doesn’t have to be or turn into something terrible. It took a while but he knows now, understands that pre-debut, from the moment he entered the company, he’d been well-taken care of. Everything had been handed to him so easily and he never really had to try that hard, not with others like Kame looking after him. Yamada too, at some point, must have looked at him and felt envious of - maybe even defeated by - how easy his path seemed to be while everyone else struggled to stand out.
A burst of sincerity and he writes out, “I completely understand. Work hard and I’ll root for you to be number one! Good luck!” and sends it off. It’s not nearly enough to fix the distance between them but it feels like a new start.
The first time he’s alone with Yamada again he doesn’t expect to be pushed up against a wall and kissed senseless, firms lips against his and a tongue working into his mouth. Yamada doesn’t pause, doesn’t hesitate, just keeps kissing him until they’re both out of breath and panting against each other. He drops to his knees in front of Yuto, hands undoing the belt and popping the button, making Yuto’s breath hitch in anticipation, fingers itching to tangle themselves with Yamada’s hair, but Yamada stops and looks up at him instead, eyes heavy with lust but still requesting permission to continue. Yuto twitches in his pants, knows Yamada can feel it but still he does nothing except wait for a yes, one he finally receives when Yuto slides his fingers into Yamada’s hair.
The time it takes Yamada to slide down both his boxers and his jeans to expose Yuto is painstakingly slow but when he’s finally free, Yamada doesn’t waste any time mouthing along the length while his hands keep Yuto’s hips trapped flushed against the wall. Yuto groans in relief when Yamada finally takes the head into his mouth, gently testing, teasing, unsure of himself. It’s only after Yuto hisses, head thumping against the wall as it nears unbearable, that Yamada finally starts to really suck, swallowing him down as much as he can, fast and unrelenting and reveling in the cries he’s drawing out from Yuto. He doesn’t think, is too far gone, when his hand tightens and he jerks Yamada forward, trying to drive himself deeper into that tight heat. A choked sob yanks him back to reality and he lets go the instant Yamada backs off to pull his mouth completely away.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” he chants, half crying, half begging “Don’t stop, please. Please, Yamada.”
“Okay… it’s okay,” Yamada breathes against the dip in his pelvis. “Just… don’t move okay?”
“Yes yes yes yes yes,” he agrees, thinks, anything you want, anything and then he’s back in that tight, wet heat and his whole life has come to focus on that one point.
Yamada flicks his tongue into the slit, smiling when he years Yuto’s gutted cry. He looks up at Yuto through his lashes, lips glistening and wrapped so prettily around Yuto, a look of determination in his eyes. He opens his mouth wider then swallows Yuto down once, torturously slow, throat closing in around his whole length then again and again and again until Yuto is sure that this - Yamada on his knees and his cock sliding down Yamada’s throat - is what heaven must be.
“Oh fuck,” Yuto whines as his balls begin to tighten. “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Yamada, st- stop! I’m going to-” But he keeps going, eyes narrowed in determination, ignoring Yuto’s warning so Yuto takes it upon himself to tighten his grip on Yamada’s hair and yanks him off as gently as he can. Come splatters across his swollen red lips but Yuto doesn’t care as he drops down to his knees as well, fingers still entangled Yamada’s hair, and plunders his mouth as tongue and come work its way inside.
“Idiot,” he says when he breaks the kiss, pressing their foreheads together. “You definitely would have choked and it would have hurt.”
Yamada doesn’t answer, doesn’t even try or seem to care when he leans in to attack again, frenzied and desperate as he bites along Yuto’s broad shoulder, nails drag along his back while he shifts their weight until Yuto is on top of him again. Through the haze Yuto realizes Yamada hasn’t come yet, hasn’t even touched himself as he focused solely on Yuto, and that warms something inside him, making his heart flutter in its cage. A thumb brushes against Yamada’s bottom lip before it’s sucked inside.
Yuto watches, enraptured, saying, “Tell me what you want me to do.”
“Anything,” Yamada replies, voice strained. “Everything. God, I just- I just need you.”
Yuto bites his bottom lip, nervous, unsure, but lifts Yamada’s hips up and then his jeans and briefs are tugged off. One hand, too dry, wraps around Yamada.
“I’ve never done this before,” he says.
“Don’t worry. It’ll feel good either way,” Yamada replies, low and impatient like he’ll die if he has to wait any longer.
“Okay.” He takes a deep breath to try and calm his nerves and boost his courage, thinks, I can do this before taking the tip into his mouth and giving it a tentative swipe with his tongue while Yamada starts keening. Encouraged, one hand wrapped around the base, Yuto moves forward, sinking down until his mouth meets his hand and gives a gentle suck, cheeks hollowing, and Yamada’s hands shoot up to grip hair.
“Fuck, please stop teasing me.”
Yuto can’t help but smile around him, recognizes that’s exactly what he was doing, intended or not, and tries to say sorry through his eyes except Yamada isn’t looking, has his eyes squeezed shut, trying to reign himself in, so he apologizes the only way he can: he goes down and down and down, sets a fast rhythm that has spit covering his hands in a matter of minutes and Yamada is moaning, hands clenching into fists.
After, when they’re a heap on the floor and reveling in the afterglow of sex, Yamada’s fingers gently carding through his hair, he says, “I can’t stop thinking about you,” low and pained, as if it hurts to admit it out loud, as if he’s ashamed and can’t believe it’s Yuto of all people on his mind. Yuto doesn’t answer, doesn’t know how, doesn’t know anything other than the hot flash of hurt and anger he feels at those words so he lets out an uncommitted low hum against Yamada’s abs and pushes himself onto his knees. He tucks himself away and readjusts his clothes while Yamada sits up and looks on, face unreadable as Yuto is shuffling to his feet.
Finally, after they’re both on their feet, he asks, “What’s wrong?”
Yuto puts on his best smile. “Nothing.”
Yamada reaches out to catch his arm as he turns to leave. “Then why are you being like this?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” His voice wavers, giving away his lie but he’s not going to give an inch.
Yamada opens his mouth to protest, to push the topic harder but seems to think the better of it, knows when he can’t win so he sighs and accepts his defeat. Instead he invades Yuto’s space, stands on the tips of his toes and kisses his cheek, leaving Yuto stunned once again.
“I have to go film a show but I’ll talk to you later, okay?”
He nods, still dazed, but Yamada beans at him - bright and genuine because of Yuto’s answer - before he leaves and that gets Yuto heart fluttering and singing, making him feel like he’s floating, and he thinks I’m so fucking screwed, but no. No, really. He can do this. It's not going to mean anything.
It becomes their new pattern. No matter what, no matter when, Yamada calls and he answers. Yamada asks him to come over and he goes. Time after time, without fail, he goes even when he knows they will inevitably tumble into bed naked and bare, heat and lust overpowering as they claw their way to the finish line before Yamada mumbles an apology against his skin, gets out of bed, and says, “I only had a few hours free today.”
When he’s awake he grins through the disappointment he won’t acknowledge, making sure to never let Yamada see. When he’s sleeping he wakes up feeling cold and alone in an empty bed. Yamada never asks him to leave, never even bothers waking him up. He just leaves a key on his night stand with a smiley face on a post-it note underneath.
The first time it happened he had stared at the thing for what felt like hours not believing his eyes nor the feel of metal between his fingers. It must have been some kind of joke Yamada was pulling because though they had never talked about what they were doing, no specifics or rules established, he understood that they weren’t something to be taken seriously. It was just two guys getting each other off when they managed to get a few hours of freedom. Casual. Nothing more, nothing less.
So, the key? The answer dawned on him as he let himself out. The door had to be locked and Yamada had been too kind to rouse him. This was the only other solution. He hadn’t realized hope had built up in his chest until he felt it squashed into nothingness. The next time they met again he hands Yamada his keys back, positive he saw a flash of a confusion on that pretty face before it disappeared. He didn’t push or ask about it. Felt too much like a coward to say anything, really.
It becomes another part of their pattern. Yamada calls, he answers. Yamada asks him to come over, he goes and they fuck before Yamada mumbles apologies while kissing him and leaving again. Yamada leaves his apartment key for Yuto and Yuto gives it back each and every time.
Except sometimes Yamada calls him over when he has a full day off and they don’t do anything but lounge around and goof off in his apartment while the tv runs in the background. He usually falls asleep there, warm and comfortable on Yamada’s couch, feet propped up on the other’s lap. The first time it happened he woke up in the middle of the night confused and wondering how he’d gotten into Yamada’s bed with the other boy sleeping soundly next to him. The thought that he should leave, shouldn’t spend the night crossed his mind, but it was three in the morning and Yamada’s sleeping face convinced him enough to stay.
That too, becomes part of their pattern until, like everything else between them, it inevitably escalates to the point where his mom asks him who he’s spending the most of his nights with.
Yuto squares his shoulders and tells her he’s not a little kid anymore, he doesn’t have to tell her anything, to which she replies with a raised eyebrow before he kicks her out of his room knowing that she was not going to let the subject drop.
That night, when he’s lying in his own bed staring at the ceiling, lonely and tired but his brain refusing to shut down, he wonders what the hell he was doing with Yamada. It had been so easy in the beginning the beginning to think it was only a bit of harmless fun. No commitments, no messy feelings. Just two people looking for release together. Now, in the dead of night, his mother’s words won’t leave him alone. He had been spending an awful lot of time with Yamada lately and more often than not he’d spend the night. If he hadn’t known better he’d say they were dating. But he does know better, knows that’s not what Yamada is looking for because if it was he’d have done something. Yamada might be shy but he’s not the type of person to let anything get between him and what he wants.
So really, his mom is just crazy and now she’s got him thinking crazy thoughts as well. Thoughts like maybe they really are dating, maybe Yamada really does like him and wants something more. He ignores the way his chest tightens painfully. He forces his eyes shut and refuses to do any more thinking, especially about his own feelings.
Things start slotting into place when JUMP finally gathers together again before promotions for their latest single starts to rehearse and record the song. After not seeing the others for so long Yuto had felt a bit apprehensive, worried that everything he’d worked so hard for with the other members previously had faded and he would be right back to where he was before, left out and alone, feeling pathetic and depressed. He shouldn’t have doubted though, because they’re good people. If anything, they look at him as if he’s the one who changed from the last time they all saw each other. Once in awhile he’d catch one of them throwing a weird look his way, questions in their eyes before they shake their head in dismissal or wanting to stay ignorant, he’s not sure which.
It’s Chinen who sets things in motion when he stands next to Yuto and casually says, “Yutti, I can’t help but notice that you and Yama-chan are practically falling over each other today.”
“Huh?” He doesn’t know where Chinen is going with this, doesn’t even understand what he’s talking about because everything had been so normal that day.
“I just don’t want anyone to get hurt,” Chinen continues. “You look at him like he’s hung the moon and like he’s breaking your heart into a million pieces at the same time. We all know how much you’ve always loved Yama-chan-”
He cuts Chinen off. “What? Love? What do you mean I’ve ‘always loved Yama-chan’?”
Chinen looks taken aback. “Seriously, you’re still not passed denial yet?”
“Wait. Hold on. Just give me a moment.” He’s on the verge of hyperventilating. Was this another one of their jokes? Let’s see how much we can freak Yuto out? No, it can’t be. They wouldn’t do something like this. So Chinen was serious? Everyone thinks he’s in love with Yamada?
He plays back everything: ten years old and feeling triumphant when Yamada agreed to walk home with him, fourteen and wanting Yamada to follow him anywhere, wanting to shake him and say, “You worry too much Yama-chan. You’re perfect just the way your are,” fifteen and the jealousy and rivalry and the betrayal, that first night when they were drunk and dumb, and everything else that followed. All the times they just lounged around in Yamada’s apartment doing nothing and the way he’d felt at peace when he’d wake up in the morning next to Yamada, gazing at his face, the curve of his cheekbones and line of Yamada’s jaw, strong and well-defined. The hurt and disappointment he’d felt upon realizing Yamada doesn’t want anything more than just casual sex with a friend. Fuck. Fuck! He’d been so fucking stupid!
It all makes sense now.
Chinen sees the moment he has his epiphany and claps his shoulder once, chuckling at him. “With how idiotic you two are with each other, it’s a miracle I could help you with anything.”
“Help with what?” Yamada’s voice chimes in from behind, making both Yuto and Chinen jump.
Chinen opens his mouth to answer but Yuto elbows him in the shoulder and quickly replies, “Nothing!”
Yamada eyes him suspiciously, head tilted to one side, choosing to stay completely silent as he looks at Yuto because knows Yuto can’t stand awkward silences, knows that if he waits long enough Yuto will cave.
Thank god for Chinen who takes one glance at him, sees the pleading in his eyes, and says, “Your birthday is coming up so Yutti was asking if we’d like to plan something together with him to celebrate and I told him he should just ask you what you want to do.”
Or maybe not. He’s halfway to cursing Chinen when Yamada turns to him, face glowing, mouth parted in a wide grin and, solely focused on Yuto, asks “Really?”
When Yamada looks like that, eagerness and barely contained hope on display, how could Yuto deny him anything? So he nods along, stutters out a, “yeah,” and watches as Yamada’s face manages to light up even more. His heart thumps painfully in his chest as it goes a mile a minute but it’s worth it to see Yamada beaming at him.
“Let’s just hang out at my place,” Yamada says.
“You sure?” Yuto asks. “You only turn twenty once so we should do something special.”
“As long as you’re there, that’s all I really need. Plus, you and Chinen will still be underage so it would be unfair to you two.”
“That doesn’t matter. It’s your birthday so we should do what you want.”
“Yuto, that’s what I want.”
Yamada is stubborn and the furrow that appears on his brows means he’s made up his mind. No matter what Yuto says he’s not going to change it so Yuto puts on a smile and nods his head. If it’s what Yamada wants then by all the gods that’s what they’ll do. Yamada opens his mouth to say something but is interrupted when a staff member calls his name. He gives Yuto one last smile before he’s running off again.
Chinen’s hand latches onto his shoulder again as they both watch Yamada leave. “I’m going to let you in on a secret.”
“Okay…?” He turns his head to look at Chinen but Chinen keeps his stare straight on ahead, serious expression on his face.
“Yama-chan’s pretty much been waiting on you this whole time.” He walks away and doesn’t look back.
He wants to chase after Chinen and ask a million questions. It’s clear that Chinen knows more than he lets on, and probably more than he’s willing to share out of respect for someone else’s privacy, but he wants answers, mainly to the question of whether or not Yamada loves him back. He stops himself though, when he realizes the person he should be asking is Yamada himself.
No more cowardly acts. No more running away. He’s ready to face Yamada head on.
Or so he tells himself each day that passes by. It doesn’t matter though because they’ve got time now. He’s finally got all the time in the world so what’s another day? He doesn’t need words to prove how he feels about Yamada and maybe Yamada doesn’t need words either. He never seems unhappy or discontent so maybe he’s known all along how much Yuto really cared. When he thinks about it, they’ve spent all these years together, half their lifetime, side by side, growing together. There isn’t anything about him that Yamada doesn’t already know.
It starts gradually with Yuto spending more and more time at Yamada’s place and helping Yamada cook and clean and do housework and sharing their meals and their evenings doing nothing and Yamada’s shirts and his accessories and toothbrush until slowly his own closet, his whole room really, migrates from his parents’ house into Yamada’s home.
The first time Yamada has to leave before he does he doesn’t return the key, just slides it onto the ring with rest of his keys and secretly kisses him in a hidden corner backstage before their concert, Yamada hoisted against the wall, legs wrapped tightly around Yuto’s waist and holding onto each other until they break away laughing when they hear frantic screams of, “Where in the hell are Nakajima and Yamada! We’re starting in two minutes!”
During the concert he drops his drumstick and wants to kick himself over his own stupidity. Yamada only smiles discreetly his way and hands it back when nobody’s watching. His chest tightens and warmth spreads through his body, and for the rest of the show he’s on high gear. He doesn’t understand the full extent of why until the next time it happens again.
He remembers confronting Hikaru afterwards, asking, “When my drumstick landed near you, why didn’t you pick up my drumstick and give it back to me?”
Hikaru had looked surprised but calmly answered, “Everyone would have seen, right? Then you would have looked uncool in front of the fans.” He cracks up when Yuto’s face twists into shock as he realizes Hikaru was right. If the fans had seen that side of him he would definitely have been more annoyed.
Yuto gave his best smile in apology. “Sorry. And... thanks.”
Hikaru shrugged it off as no big deal and it probably wasn’t for him but it meant a lot to Yuto to have someone looking out for him too.
As he finishes backing up his bag he sneaks a glance at Yamada - already done and waiting for him - and overwhelming affection floods his system. He thinks back to Hikaru’s words, contemplating them, and can’t help but wonder how there are sides to him that Yamada understands better than he does himself most of the time.
“Yama-chan,” he begins when they’re sitting in bed, mindlessly watching a variety show on their hotel television to unwind. “Thank you. For being kind and considerate. I take a lot of things for granted without knowing it, and I realize that you’re someone I’ve always taken for granted. From now on I’ll try my hardest to show you that I appreciate you.”
The confusion fades from Yamada’s face as Yuto’s works sink in and a blush slowly spreads across his cheeks. “You say the sappiest things!”
He chuckles while cuffing an arm around Yamada’s neck. “Only because it’s Yama-chan.”
Yamada tenses underneath him and the mood shifts, the air becoming thick. He unwraps Yuto’s arm and he starts to panic, wondering what he’d done to upset Yamada.
“Ryosuke.” A smile that doesn’t reach his eyes appears. “My name. It’s Ryosuke.”
Yes, how could he have forgotten? Yamada had his own doubts and insecurities too, his own internal demons he must have fought. But now Yuto finally gets it. So many signs - that first kiss played off as a joke and “I can’t stop thinking about you,” rife with pain and the calls and the invitations to come over, always initiated by Yamada, and the never waking Yuto up or ask him to leave and that damn key - little things that he had unknowingly brushed off or explained away had been Yamada putting himself on the line, steadfastly waiting for Yuto to reciprocate and never knowing if it it meant more than just convenience to Yuto because Yuto was an idiot and never told Yamada how he felt.
He throws himself flat against the bed and groans as he pushes his palms into his eyes. “Fucking idiot,” he mutters to himself before reaching out and tugging Yamada down next to him, both pairs now glued to the ceiling with their hands twined together.
“Ryosuke. I love you.”
No dressing it up with pretty words or stumbling around the issue. Just the truth because that’s what Yamada deserves.
Yamada’s breath catches, barely audible but Yuto caught it. Too long passes - the disbelief still evident on his face - and Yuto doesn’t think Yamada will say it back but -
“I love you too.”
He squeezes Yamada’s hand and holds on with everything he’s got.
Yamada squeezes back and doesn’t let go.
Chinen’s twentieth birthday gathering and he’s the most drunk out of the four. They watch as the youngest member of their group points to the two of them with bleary eyes and slurs out, “You two! You know, we’re all so glad that you two finally got together after years and years of angst and pining, but can you stop being so lovey-dovey? At first we were all just glad you idiots finally figured it out but now it’s just sickening! How long are you going to put us through this?”
Yamada’s halfway to drunk too so he brushes it off and instead says, “Actually, I hated Yutti for a while.”
“What?!” Keito and Chinen exclaim together.
“Well, I hated Yama-chan too.”
They swivel their heads towards him. “Lies!”
“No, it’s true. It was really intense for a while and I had to go talk to Yabu about it.”
“Me too!” Yamada chimes in, bright and cheerful while leaning against Yuto. “Although I had no idea you did the same thing.”
“Ugh, you two are sickening.” Chinen downs another drink.
Later, when they’re walking home together - even he can admit he’s moved in permanently - worry begins to settle in his stomach while he goes over the evening again. How long are they going to make it if they never communicate while expecting the other person to just know? Isn’t communication and talking things through together part of what makes any relationship work?
He stops in his tracks and after a few steps Yamada does too, turning back towards him with a question in his eyes.
“What is it?”
Yuto closes the distance between them again, fingers curling onto Yamada’s shoulder as he attempts to convey as much through his eyes as possible. “Ryosuke, about before… I want you to know I don’t hate you now. I don’t think I hated you then either. Maybe just really strongly disliked or something. I do still get jealous sometimes and the rivalry does flare up like, ‘Why only him?’ but it’s not something terrible. If anything it pushes me to work harder because I see how hard you do work. I just really need you to know that.”
Yuto waiting for any acknowledgement but Yamada remains shocked by Yuto’s honesty for some time. When Yamada takes one of his hands, twining them together as he resumes their walk back home, he doesn't say anything until half a block passes.
“I get it, you know. Sometimes I feel the same way too. You have a natural talent for everything you set your mind to and things come easily for you. Drums. Acting. Photography. The way you always manage to pull through and win at the last minute. It’s infuriating because there’s just so much you’re capable of doing and sometimes I look at you and I still feel like you’re leagues away and I can never catch up.”
“But you and I together… that means everything to me and I’m not letting something as petty as competitiveness ruin that again.”
Yuto stops again, unable to help himself and tugs him back into a hug, resting his chin on Yamada’s head as he slowly wraps his arms around him.
“Don’t get me wrong. There are definitely things you do that annoy me.” His words are muffled in Yuto’s coat.
Yuto chuckles into his hair. “I know. Same for you.”
“And there is definitely one thing I hate about you.”
He pulls back and tilts his head up to look at Yuto. “This.”
“This?” His nose scrunches up in confusion.
“Yeah. We were the same height right? But suddenly you shot up and before I knew it you were Yabu’s height!”
Yuto pulls Yamada flush against him again and shakes with barely contained laughter. “You’re too cute.”
Yamada pushes him away, hides his pout, and starts walking away. Yuto runs to catch up until they’re together again, side by side, shoulders brushing as they share a smile.
“Ryosuke,” he begins after they’ve walked another block in silence. “I think it would be good if our communication was better. Like when we’re upset with each other or when we feel hurt or even really mundane things so we’ll always be on the same page going in the same direction.”
It takes a second for Yamada to nod tentatively then steel himself for the jump, putting himself on the line again.
“I’d like that. Maybe it’s stupid and unrealistic - we’re so young and everything - but Yuto I’ve been thinking that maybe I might just- you know- I want to spend my life with you.”
Affection and love spreads itself inside Yuto chest as Yamada stumbles through the words and the corners of his mouth slightly upturns to form a small smile. He keeps it to himself.
Yuto straddles Yamada beneath him, knees at either side of his hips. He giggles, impatient as he peers down through his camera. He waits though, hand still and steady, for the magic he knows is bubbling underneath the surface to show itself. They share a single heated moment, Yamada penetrating right through the lens of his camera before the corner of those eyes crinkle and a soft, genuine laugh trickles out.
Yamada turns his face away, suddenly shy, and the shutter of Yuto’s camera clicks. “You have enough already!” he exclaims, embarrassed.
“Not at all!” Yuto breaks out in fits of laughter when Yamada retaliates by tickling his sides.
He’s out of breath and begging for reprieve when Yamada finally stops. His camera is pushed to the side and a hand slides up his chest and along the long line of his neck before it reaches the back of his head. The kiss from Yamada that follows is soft and tender, caring, trying to convey, “I’m still so in love with you,” through touch alone.
He hears it.
Here’s the thing.