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Trippin'

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Yamada knows he’s late, knows that dance practice has already started without him, knows that rushing up the stairs is a waste of energy. But he’s still taking the stairs two at a time, hurtling himself closer and closer to his destination until he finally makes it through the threshold of the practice room. He stops to catch his breath and immediately feels stupid.

No one is dancing yet. The group is instead gathered around Keito, all talking excitedly about something. He sees Keito’s face through the crowd of his bandmates’ bodies. Keito’s face, looking unsure how to handle suddenly being the center of attention but also looking sheepishly pleased at the same time. Yamada feels a weird pang of jealousy mixed in along with the pain in his muscles from rushing to the dance studio.

But all of that just melts away as soon as Keito spots him. “Hi Ryosuke,” he calls out to him, waving happily. Yamada walks over to the group and then uses his tiptoes to peek over Inoo’s shoulder to see what everyone is looking at.

“What’s going on?” he asks.

“Keito got himself some sweet new kicks,” Hikaru explains, pointing down to Keito’s new sneakers.

Keito tentatively lifts one foot in the air so that Yamada can get a better view of his new shoes. They’re normal-looking sneakers, albeit a bit more brightly colored than what Keito usually wears. Nothing too exciting but Yamada thinks to himself that they do look nice on Keito.

“So tell me where you got them,” Yuto interrupts before Yamada can say anything. “I wanna go check the place out.” Yuto never passes up an opportunity to go shoe shopping if he can help it.

Keito explains the whole story about how he’d stumbled across a little shop in Ueno and how they were having an amazing going-out-of-business sale. Keito hadn’t been able to resist buying the shoes at such a good price. But the new shoes were not exactly the right size he needed, so he keeps wearing them in the hopes that he’d be able to break them in and make them more comfortable. As Keito continues answering more of Jump’s questions about the shoes, their choreographer arrives to end all conversation. Yamada takes his position to start dancing, but his eyes stray to watching the reflection of Keito’s shoes in the mirror at the front of the room. He can’t explain it other than he’s not used to seeing the bright colors on Keito’s feet.

Halfway through the first routine, Keito trips. Yamada watches in a mix of amazement and horror as Keito does a weird spin move to try to regain his balance but ultimately ends up on the floor.

“Are you okay?” he asks, leaving his position to help Keito up.

Keito nods. “I’m fine, just trying to get used to these new shoes.” He looks a bit embarrassed because of the interruption.

Dance practice resumes, Keito trips and falls three more times, and finally the choreographer stops everyone. Keito looks afraid that he’s about to get yelled at, and Yamada prepares himself to step in for Keito’s defense. But instead, the choreographer has a strange look in his eyes before he announces that he’s going to make some changes to the routine. He inserts in some new moves inspired by Keito’s tripping and spinning. The group is a bit frustrated at first to have to learn the routine all over again, but even Yamada can agree by the end of practice that the changes had been improvements.

“Sorry I kept interrupting practice,” Keito apologizes once they’re all gathering their stuff to leave.

“Why are you apologizing?” Chinen says, looking incredulous. “That ended up being the most fun dance we’ve had in years.”

“You could be a samba dancer in those shoes,” Yabu tells Keito with a friendly clap on his shoulder. Takaki, beside them, nods in agreement.

Keito scratches the back of his head, not sure how to react to all the sudden compliments and his newfound ability to dance easier with his new shoes. Before they leave, Keito turns to Yamada and asks if he likes his new shoes. As if his opinion matters the most.

“Yeah,” Yamada nods. “They’re not bad.”

***

On their mutual day off—Yamada has so few of them while filming his drama—he and Keito end up wandering around Tokyo, resorting to their usual hobby of café-hopping. Yamada likes spending time with Keito like this, discovering new places together and sampling all the different coffees and pastries each place had to offer.

“Do you think we’ll find another place to stop soon?” Keito asks while they walk down the sidewalk together. “My feet are starting to hurt.” He points down to his bright and shiny new shoes he’s still trying to break in.

“I’m sure there’s gotta be a café nearby,” Yamada answers. He gives Keito’s arm a reassuring pat because he knew that usually helped cheer him up. Keito smiles back at him but it’s strained a little from walking with sore feet. Yamada wonders why Keito insists on continuing to wear uncomfortable shoes.

They turn down a side street and find a little coffee shop tucked away between some clothing stores. The inside is small but is decorated to give off a warm and inviting atmosphere. In the corner, Yamada spots a few dart boards set up on the wall. The place gives off a “hangout” vibe and he’s sure they’re both going to love it.

“This place is pretty cool,” Keito says, settling down in a chair. He looks much more relaxed now that he’s not standing up.

For the next few hours, the two of them sit and talk while they sample the café’s menu. Yamada can’t even keep track of the time because he’s so engrossed in laughing with Keito. These kinds of moments were his favorite.

“Eat the other half of this danish,” Keito demands as he pushes his plate towards Yamada. “It’s really good but I’m too full to finish it.”

As Yamada devours the dessert, Keito looks around the café again. Once his eyes spot the dart boards, he turns back to Yamada with a playful grin. Yamada recognizes that excited look and already knows he’s not going to be able to say no to what Keito’s going to say next.

“Can we play darts?” he asks.

“I thought your feet hurt,” Yamada replies, stalling the inevitable. They’ve played darts before and the end result was usually Keito putting a hole in the wall or breaking something. Playing here will probably end up with them getting banned from ever returning.

Keito shakes his head. “They’re better now.” He even stands up to prove his point, and so Yamada gives in. Whatever makes Keito happy would make him happy too.

But after a few rounds Yamada is winning and Keito can barely manage to hit the edge of the dart board. Keito sighs, looking disappointed in himself, and sets his last dart back down on the table. “We came here to drink coffee. Maybe we should just go back to doing that instead.”

Yamada can’t stand Keito looking so unhappy. He picks the dart up and hands it back. “One last throw for you, okay?”

Keito blinks in confusion at the unexpected gesture and then reluctantly turns around to face the dart board again. In the process, Keito accidentally trips over his own feet and tumbles down to the floor right as he lets the dart fly from his fingers. Yamada watches in awe as the dart sails forward in a perfect arc, landing squarely on the bulls-eye.

“You did it!” he exclaims.

“I did what?” Keito’s voice comes from the floor.

“That was a perfect shot!” Yamada says with a short laugh of surprise. He reaches down to help Keito up from the floor and then points to the dart board. “Nice job.” He thinks Keito looks extra cute as a pleased look spreads across his face. Yamada proudly ruffles Keito’s hair.

“I guess even I can have good luck every now and then,” Keito says with a smile.

***

“Come on Keito, don’t wear shoes in my house,” Yamada complains as he looks over the light trail of dirt left behind on his kitchen floor. Keito pays no attention to him, more focused on finding a spot to dump the heavy grocery bags he’s got in his hands. Yamada watches him flex his hands once they are free again.

“But I’m still breaking them in,” Keito explains. “I’m almost to the point where they don’t hurt my feet anymore.”

Yamada lets out a short laugh. “Just stop wearing them,” he says as he starts taking the groceries out of the bags so they can start on dinner. He thinks Keito is being a little bit ridiculous.

“But I can’t!” Keito shakes his head very seriously. He leans forward to whisper his next few words. “I think they’re magic.”

Now Yamada laughs out loud, letting his voice echo off the walls. “Magic? Please Keito, they’re just shoes.”

“Yeah but all these weird things keep happening,” Keito continues to explain earnestly. “What if something bad happens if I take them off?”

Yamada isn’t going to keep arguing over something so silly. He shrugs as he places all the fresh vegetables on the countertop. “Okay fine, whatever. But you have to sweep up the dirt on the floor before you leave.”

With the matter of Keito’s shoes settled for the moment, the two of them get back to the business of fixing dinner. Yamada had had this evening marked down on his calendar for weeks. Most of the time lately he only had time for a quick meal of take-out, so having a whole free evening where he had time to prepare a decent meal was perfect. Of course, he had invited Keito to join him. He always invited Keito to join him. It just didn’t feel right without him, although Yamada couldn’t figure out exactly why. What he knew for sure was that it was a lot more fun to cook together with Keito. And the food always tasted better, even if neither of them were particularly skilled chefs.

“So what should I do first?” Keito asks now that they have gathered all the necessary ingredients.

Yamada pauses from where he’s setting up the rice cooker to survey the kitchen. “Hmm… maybe you can slice up the potatoes,” he suggests. He hands Keito a knife.

“No problem,” Keito says, but right as he starts to walk over to the countertop, he trips. The knife in his hand flies through the air. Yamada rushes to grab Keito’s arm and pull him back before he lands on the floor. The two of them watch in a mix of awe and horror as the knife collides with a bottle on his kitchen shelf which then falls over and pushes the holder containing all of Yamada’s fancy knives off the shelf. They watch as an array of knives rain down on the potatoes, slicing them all perfectly at once.

Once the clatter of knives settles, there is a deafening silence in the kitchen as he and Keito simply stare at the scene before them. Yamada still has a tight grip on Keito’s arm as if letting him go might make something else weird happen.

“Keito…” Yamada finally speaks. “…I think your shoes might be magic.”

And then the two of them burst out laughing, letting the sound fill up the room with a warm happy feeling.

***

“I’ll go shopping with you,” Keito volunteers as soon as the complaint about shopping alone leaves Yamada’s mouth. “I don’t have a sister so I don’t know if I’ll be much help, but I’m free right now.”

Yamada looks up from his phone. The rest of the group had already left dance practice, leaving just the two of them alone. “Thanks,” he smiles. “Christmas shopping for my sisters is always the worst. They’re so picky.”

“I know,” Keito nods. He hears Yamada complain about this every year. Still, Yamada is glad that someone listens.

It’s not long before they are wandering around the streets of Harajuku, searching for clothing stores that sell stuff his sisters would like. The chill of winter is starting to sink in, so Keito sticks close to Yamada’s arm, trying to warm up as much as possible.

“While we’re at it, maybe I can buy you some new shoes too,” Yamada jokes. He hasn’t seen Keito wear anything other than his new sneakers for weeks.

“Noooo,” Keito whines. “They finally fit right. I’m not breaking in another pair again.” He doesn’t say anything about the shoes being magic because Yamada has already jokingly scolded him three times this week for saying that. Yamada had decided that the kitchen incident had been a really cool (and slightly terrifying) coincidence. They were just shoes. Nothing more.

“Let’s try this place,” Keito suggests, gesturing his head towards the store they were approaching.

Yamada grins. “Are you just saying that because you’re cold?”

“…no,” Keito answers but doesn’t look at Yamada’s face.

“Let’s go,” Yamada laughs as he grabs Keito’s hand and drags him inside. This store is as good as any.

They browse the clothing racks, and Yamada is glad to have someone with him to help decide whether he’s picking out something good or not. Although they keep getting distracted because Keito insists on pulling out the most hideous things he can find and pretending that they’re serious suggestions. Yamada can’t stop laughing.

“Put that away,” he says, rolling his eyes. “You know she’ll never wear anything with that much awful fringe on it. That looks like something we wore in concert before.”

Keito shrugs. “If you say so,” he says playfully. He takes care to hang the ugly shirt back on the rack just right. “Maybe you can just give them both some of our old concert costumes instead.”

Yamada snorts, and then quickly covers his mouth because there are other customers around them in the store. “Yeah. Right. They’ll certainly appreciate that.” He sweeps through another rack of clothing but finds nothing suitable as a decent Christmas present. He thinks maybe they should move on to another place. But right as he is about to suggest that, Keito trips over his own feet. Yamada watches the now-familiar scene of Keito flailing his arms in the air before falling to the floor, this time accidentally grabbing two shirts in the process and taking them down with him.

“You okay?” Yamada asks, reaching out a hand to help Keito up.

“Hey, I think they might like these shirts,” Keito answers, looking more excited about what he’d discovered on his way down to the floor than embarrassed that he’d fallen.

Yamada takes the shirts and gives them a closer look. Keito is right. Hidden amongst all the ugly clothing were two things his sisters probably would like to wear. It was perfect. Somehow Keito’s streak of good luck had helped out again.

After everything is paid for and packaged up, they part ways out on the sidewalk. Keito waves goodbye with a happy smile on his face, and Yamada watches his back as he walks away towards the train station. It takes him a few moments before he realizes that he’s still smiling, still full of all these happy feelings from spending time with Keito. He watches as Keito walks farther and farther away, and suddenly there’s a different feeling washing over him. Yamada doesn’t understand it. Like something had been building up all this time inside and he’d never noticed until now that it was starting to bubble to the surface.

He’s afraid it might be something more than friendship.

Once Keito is finally out of sight, Yamada turns to head home. He needs time to figure everything out.

***

The snow hasn’t stopped falling since the day before and everything is covered in white. Yamada doesn’t want to brave the cold, but he makes a short trip to the convenience store for some snacks anyway. On his way back home, he sees some unfortunate soul who’d fallen face first into the snow. He rushes to help the person back up and is shocked to see that it’s Keito.

“Hi,” Keito says barely audible through chattering teeth.

“Let’s get you home and warmed up and then we’ll talk,” Yamada says. Keito looks pitiful covered in rapidly melting snow soaking into his clothes. Yamada is sure he’ll catch a cold if he stays outside much longer.

Keito’s only capable of shivering instead of nodding.

“Actually,” Yamada stops after two steps forward, reconsidering his plan. “My place is closer. We’ll go there.”

“Sorry,” Keito barely manages to stutter out through chattering teeth.

Yamada laughs good-naturedly because he doesn’t like when Keito feels bad. “It’s no problem. I’m just going home from the convenience store.” He gestures towards the plastic bag in his hand. “How’d you end up face first in the snow anyway?”

Keito wouldn’t look him in the eye and hesitates.

“…I tripped.”

“Again??” By this point, he really should start expecting it. A quick glance down confirms his suspicions. Keito is still wearing his new shoes. “Those are not appropriate shoes for snow. And neither are your clothes.”

“I can’t find my winter jacket,” Keito explains quietly. His lips are starting to look blue.

They arrive quickly at Yamada’s apartment, and Keito audibly sighs in relief when the warmth hits him. He’s still shivering though so Yamada knows he should act quickly.

“Take off your wet clothes and I’ll find you something else to wear.” Yamada’s already thinking of what he’s got in the closet that will fit Keito’s broad shoulders and longer legs. “Wrap up in the blanket on the couch until then.”

When Yamada returns with the clothes in hand, he finds Keito curled up in a ball on the couch with only his head and his feet poking out from underneath the fluffy blanket. Yamada actually thinks it looks kind of cute until he notices that Keito is still wearing his shoes.

“Keito, for the love of all things good, just take those shoes off.” Keito has been focused on nothing but his new shoes for weeks, and Yamada is tired of it. He’s selfish, he’ll admit. He’d rather have Keito all to himself. At least for a little while.

“But what if something bad happens because I’m not wearing them?” Keito argues back, finding his voice now that he’s not freezing to death anymore. “They’re good luck. I’m telling you, the shoes are magic.”

Yamada drops the clothes on Keito’s head and then plops down beside him. “Were your magic shoes good luck when they made you faceplant in the snow ten minutes ago?”

Keito frowns at the logic of the argument as he crawls out from under the blanket. He pouts as he reluctantly takes his shoes off before slipping on a dry pair of sweatpants. Yamada knows Keito is not actually as annoyed as he makes it seem. If he was, he’d probably keep arguing with Yamada until he started crying angry tears.

“Forget about the shoes right now,” Yamada says while he watches Keito tug the new shirt over his head. “I think I have hot chocolate in the kitchen. Do you wanna stay a while and watch a movie?”

Keito gives in. “Only if I’m not a bother and you won’t mind.”

That’s a weird thing for him to say, considering how often he spends time over at Yamada’s place anyway. Yamada’s apartment is basically like Keito’s second home. But during the past week since he’d realized he had fallen in love with Keito, Yamada had kept his distance while he tried to figure out what he should do, how he should act, and how to keep things normal. Keito must be thinking that Yamada is mad at him for some reason.

He needs to set the record straight.

“You’re never a bother. Never. Don’t even think that.” Yamada stares into Keito’s eyes. “You’re always welcome in my house anytime.” That feeling begins bubbling up to the surface again, consuming him like a fire. And that’s when he remembers Keito is probably still freezing. He jumps up from the couch, ready to leave behind these feelings he doesn’t want to deal with. “I’ll get the hot chocolate.”

Once they get focused on watching the movie, things start to feel like they’re normal again. Keito relaxes and Yamada feels more comfortable. So comfortable, in fact, that Yamada only notices near the end of the movie that his hand has been resting comfortably on top of Keito’s hand for a while. Feeling sort of embarrassed, he snatches his hand away with an apology. Keito suddenly looks confused before a sad look crosses over his face.

“Maybe I should go home now,” Keito announces as he stands up. “I’ll return your clothes to you at work.”

Yamada knows he’s made some sort of mistake but he doesn’t exactly know what. All he knows is that he doesn’t want Keito to leave upset like this. “Don’t go,” Yamada says as he springs up to stop him. And then everything is a blur of motion for a few seconds as they both accidentally trip over Keito’s shoes lying forgotten on the floor. Their bodies crash together as Yamada lands on top of Keito, and he’s not able to stop his momentum before his nose and lips collide with Keito’s in some semblance of a rough kiss.

“I’m sorry!” Yamada stutters out, feeling embarrassed for the whole situation. And also strangely pleased because he’d been wondering for a week what it’d be like to kiss Keito. And then he feels weird for enjoying it when it actually sort of hurt.

“Ryosuke, I—” Keito begins but Yamada cuts him off.

“Keito, I love you,” he blurts out, feeling more nervous now than he’s ever felt performing in front of thousands of people. “I’ve been a jerk lately because I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to lose our friendship so I… didn’t say anything. But now I accidentally kissed you and I kinda liked it. So I guess there’s no point in hiding it anymore.”

Keito blinks twice before a genuine smile spreads across his face, followed by happy laughter. “And here I thought you were avoiding me because you had figured out that I love you.”

“Oh so we’re both idiots,” Yamada laughs, brushing a few strands of hair out of Keito’s face. He’s still lying on top of Keito, but as he makes a move to get up, Keito pulls him closer. This second kiss is gentler, softer, and much more pleasant. Yamada almost feels like he’s dreaming except that his heart is beating fast enough to let him know that he’s awake. Yamada thinks he could have just stayed on the floor forever alternating between kissing Keito and staring into his eyes, but after another minute Keito complains that it’s kind of cold down on the floor.

“Okay, fine. Back to the couch,” Yamada giggles as he pushes himself back up. Keito takes a moment to pick up his shoes and place them in a spot where no one would trip over them again.

“My magic shoes strike again,” Keito teases.

Yamada rolls his eyes as he laughs. “You weren’t even wearing them this time.”

“It still counts.” Keito snuggles up next to Yamada on the couch again, looking happy and content with the world. Yamada wraps his arms around Keito, holding him tight. He knows that they’ll be there for each other, to catch themselves when they fall.