[identity profile] stormymood.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] arashi_exchange
A piece of rainbow for [livejournal.com profile] nande_daiyo Part 2





Part Four

Today was Masaki’s free day, and Sho was careful not to wake his boyfriend when he woke up early in the morning. He watched him carefully for a moment and stroke his cheek. Masaki tried the last few days to bring Jun and Ikuta closer to each other without succeeding. Ikuta closed up each time they spoke about relationships. Sho couldn’t understand the way Ikuta behaved at all. It hurt both Jun and, in a way, Masaki because Masaki was always sad whenever one of their friends wasn’t happy.

Sho looked at the alarm and sighed when he saw that he had to get up to get ready. So Sho kissed Masaki’s cheek and climbed out of the bed to go to the bathroom and prepare for work.

Just as he had thought Masaki was up when he entered the kitchen, and Sho grinned thankfully when the smell of freshly cooked eggs and coffee hit him.

“Smells delicious. Thank you. But you could have stayed in bed a little longer,” he mumbled, and Aiba shrugged.

“I will go back to sleep later,” he promised. “I wanted to make you breakfast.”

Sho smiled and thanked his lover. Then he sat at the table to begin his meal. He looked over at Masaki who was watching him thoughtfully.

“Today it’s your turn to work with them, ne?” Masaki asked, and Sho nodded.

“Yes, Ikuta and Jun will accompany me today, why?”

Masaki looked at his coffee deeply in thought and bit at his lips. “Won’t you help?” Masaki looked up once before going back to his coffee and playing with the mug he held in his hands. “Getting them together? Nino promised to help even. Jun-pon likes Toma. He said so himself.”

“That may be the truth but what about Ikuta? If he doesn’t feel the same?”

“I think he might like Jun. At least he looks happy and comfortable by his side. But even if not... I want to try at least to bring them closer. So that Jun will at least confess. Then Toma can give his honest answer, and that would be enough. But Jun-pon is a scaredy-cat so he needs a push.”

Sho sighed at the begging look of his partner. He knew that in the end, he wouldn’t be able to say no, so with a bit of reluctance he nodded. “Okay. What do you have in mind?”

Two hours later Sho found himself in front of Ikuta and Jun, and he bowed deeply in front of the actor who mimicked him.

“Good morning,” Sho greeted and smiled when the other two responded to his greeting. He then stood straight once more and watched them for a moment.

“Today we’ll have a class visiting the zoo. I am responsible for the educational part in this house too, and we’ll make a little show with the elephants to show the children what they can do if treated right and if they are willing,” he explained and brought out different tools to clean the compound around them.

“So it’s even more important to clean the place out than normally. Don’t worry, all the inhabitants are easy going, and if you don’t scare them they won’t do anything,” he said and showed each of them one cage they have to clean. “I hope you got used to this work already, Ikuta? It’s the same as everywhere else.”

Ikuta nodded and grinned brightly. “Jun-san taught me well - I won’t disappoint him or you,” he promised then and saluted Jun before rushing off to his part of the enclosure to clean.
“We’ll meet here once you are done,” Sho shouted quickly. “Then we’ll go outside!”

“Yes, got it!” Ikuta answered, and Jun rolled his eyes with a little smile at the happy voice from the actor.

“One could think he wants to change jobs after this,” Jun mumbled, and Sho laughed.

“A bit,” he allowed after a moment and pointed at Jun’s appointed area.

“I appointed you to Temi. She is a softy, and I talked to her to be on her best behaviour today. So don’t worry. You’ll be fine,” Sho promised.

“Thank you.” Sho waved him away and left to do his work and for a while, the three men did their parts in silence before meeting in the middle again.

Sho checked his watch and looked at the other two.

“We have to hurry up to finish the outside parts and then lead the elephants outside,” he explained and led both of them to the outer compounds. Fast but thoroughly they cleaned everything up, and Sho began to lead the elephants outside. They did as he told them as most of the time and Jun looked at them with respect.

Jun never had as many problems with them as he had with other animals because they were mostly calm and comfortable to be around. But the sheer height they had seemed to make Jun and much other respect them. Even Ikuta took a step back respectfully.

“This is Temi. She is our oldest female here. That’s Moyo. He is two years older. Then that’s Kibo, their son and lastly Yumi,” Sho introduced the four elephants and watched them go around outside. “The class will be here any minute now, and I will show them what elephants eat, how we can play with them and then how they bath. You will supervise the kids with me. Is that okay?”

“Of course,” both men nodded, and Sho smiled a little in thanks. It was always easier to coordinate a group of children if he was not the only one who did it.

Soon the children came inside, followed by Nino who was carrying a fish tank with him with a beautiful coloured fish inside.

“Ohno-kun still ill?” Ikuta asked, and Nino looked up from his tank before nodding.

“Yes, but he is better. I think he’ll be back tomorrow,” Nino answered and shrugged. He smiled and bowed down to the children. “Have fun with the misters here, ne? They will tell you everything they know. Come by the shop before you leave, promise?” he said, and the children nodded happily and waved to him and the fish before leaving.

Sho watched Nino leave with an eye roll. The other had had the last day off and left earlier on the day before that because Ohno came in with a cough and somehow Nino got so worried that they left work together three hours earlier than he normally would. Nino carrying around a little fish glass was normal for them, too, so all was back to normal right now.

Sho concentrated back on the children, Jun and Ikuta when Nino was gone and took a deep breath to be able to do his work. “Good morning. Did you learn a lot already?” he asked, and all children nodded brightly.

“Big brother explained a lot. He said we’ll hear more from you,” one girl answered, and he nodded.

“I will show you how to prepare their food and how to get them to exercise. Since it is warm, we can give them a bath together.”

“Yay!” the children cried out happily while clapping their hands and he laughed a little before bringing them into a big room in the back where they would be able to all sit properly.

For the next hour, he explained to the children and Ikuta what elephants could eat and what not and showed them how to prepare all of it for them. Then the children got to make the food and Jun, Ikuta and Sho wandered around them to check that they didn’t hurt themselves and handled the utensils right. They brought the food out for the elephants and then Sho brought them back to the inside.

“Let’s give them enough time to eat and let’s get lunch for us. Did you all pack bentos?” Sho asked and got an affirmative answer again, so that they headed outside to eat while Jun went to get them a few bentos to eat lunch with the children.

Sho watched Ikuta talking and playing with the children and thought of Masaki’s words about him and Jun. They weren’t that close while working with him. Sho kept them at different ends of his space most of the time. But they exchanged looks without realising it themselves and it was fun to watch somehow. Sho had already promised to help Masaki, and he would do it. Sho just wasn’t sure if it would work.

He sighed a little and thanked Jun when he came back with their lunch and answered the questions of the children about the park and the animals in it.

It didn’t take long for them to finish lunch, mostly because the children were eager and wanted to see the elephants exercise and play with them before their guardians would come to take them back home.

“Let’s head back,” Sho finally said and stood up. He waited till all the children were up and stood in pairs before he led them back to the elephants. He let them inside in the back so that they felt even more like ‘staff’, rather than visitors, and gave them the jackets they owned especially for those groups. The children chattered nervously and excitedly to each other and Sho watched them, a little amused.

He loved doing things like that and showing children how to handle animals. He knew that most of the others did, too. Especially the staff at the petting zoo took the time to explain all the things to look out for with the small animals and pets the children may have at home or would get when they were older. All of them took animal handling and welfare seriously. They had been taught that by their boss and Sho knew that especially Nino had his eyes on every new staff member and would call them out on mistakes or tell his grandfather, who would take care of them.

“Aren’t you scared of them sometimes?” a little boy asked when they entered the big space where the elephants were free to walk around.

Sho looked at him thoughtfully for a moment. “I know what I have to look out for. And if you are nice to them, they are nice to you. So I am not scared of them. But you have to be careful when handling them, that is true,” Sho answered, and the kids nodded earnestly.

They helped to bring all kinds of things – like balls, steps or wood for them to play with – out, and Sho showed them how to put them up precisely. Then he called the elephants and let them play with the balls. He looked after the children so that they won’t get in the way and answered their questions as well as he could.

“Yumi here was rescued from a circus where they didn't treat her well. She can do some nifty tricks if she wants to. But mostly she is too lazy and tired now to do them,” Sho explained the entranced children who watched the elephants exercise and looked back at the animals once. How he wished he could join them, but that was impossible right now.

“She has a trick that she loves to do. She told me so,” he grinned at the disbelieving shouts of the children and winked at them. “So shall we let her do it?” he asked and nodded when the kids shouted “Yes, please” overly loud.

He coughed a little and called Yumi to get her attention. Of course, she already knew what he - or more precisely Masaki - had planned and had agreed to help them.

“Yumi loves to let people ride on them. So let her choose who she wants to have on her back today,” he explained and helped the children to line up with Jun and Ikuta and stepped back.

“Why won’t you join, Sensei?” a boy asked.

“I have to lead her around and make sure nobody falls, ne? And I can ride on her all the time. So it would be unfair,” he explained and was relieved when the children accepted his words. He looked carefully at the elephants and ignored for the moment Jun’s panicked and confused stare.

As planned Yumi stopped in front of the two men and nuzzled first Jun and then Ikuta with her big trunk and even if some children were a little disappointed that they weren’t chosen they were soon joyful again because Sho promised them that they could bathe the elephants in turn.

“Sho! Isn’t that something especially for the kids?” Jun hissed, and Sho shrugged.

“Of course. But I let Yumi choose each time and who gets picked gets the ride. That are the rules. This time, it’s you two.”

“But…” Jun looked at the elephant with clear panic in his eyes. He balled his hands into fists and took a shuddering breath.

“You don’t have to be such a scaredy-cat, Jun. Yumi never hurt anyone. I know you have a bad reputation with animals,” Sho began, and Jun scoffed a little.

He wasn’t scared of anything here. He was aware that the animals didn’t like him but he could work around that and could care for them as he had or wants to. He wouldn’t go near the predators because he learned that his luck with animals didn’t charm these large cats in any way and of course Jun visualised what a fall of an elephant could do to him. Especially if he landed beneath their feet. But at Ikuta’s hopeful look and Sho’s calm one he nodded reluctantly.

“You will do fine. After all, I’m here to check on you,” Sho promised, and Jun nodded again.

“Okay…”

“Good. First I’ll ask Yuriko and Kiko to look after the children while I lead you around,” he said and left them alone for the moment to get the girls. Then he explained the children all they needed to know about bath time and helped Jun and Ikuta onto the back of Yumi.

The kids watched them curiously and Sho smiled encouragingly when both of them sat atop of her. “Ikuta hold onto Jun so that you won’t fall,” he explained, and Ikuta did as Sho told while Jun carefully took hold on the lead around Yumi’s neck.

Sho made a clicking noise and soon Yumi started into a trot, and they wandered around the enclave, much to the joy of the other visitors and of course the children who watched them walking around while taking turns in washing the elephants and getting wet themselves at the same time. At least everybody had fun, and as he had promised Masaki, he got Jun and Ikuta close on the back of an elephant. He just hoped that it made them see what they felt for each other just as Masaki had foreseen.

After almost half an hour he helped Ikuta down, who in turn helped Jun down and held his hands while Jun carefully climbed down. “That was fun. Thanks,” Ikuta said to the elephant and Jun nodded while saying his thanks to her and Sho. Sho could see how glad Jun was to be back on earth now as he was still clinging to Ikuta’s hand, and hid a little smile at that.

“I’m happy that you liked it. You did great old girl. Go to the others and get your refreshing bath, ne?” he asked and watched her leaving them alone. Jun was still a little pale but at the same time, his cheeks were a bit rosy because he had been so close to Ikuta and could feel his heat throughout the whole ride.

Sho watched the children for a moment before he went to join them. Jun and Ikuta looked at each other a bit nervously before joining him, and an hour later it was time to pack up the things and bring the children out of the enclosure.

Ikuta was back to distancing himself from Jun after he had held his hand a few times shortly after the ride and Sho sighed mutely. Sho didn’t know what they could do to help them get closer to each other. He looked down when he felt a hand on his own and blinked.

“Big brother said we should visit the shop before we leave.”

“Ah! You are right. He also told me your parents would be at the gate near the aquarium. At least that what he asked them. Let’s go then, shall we?” The girl agreed cheerfully, and he changed the route to go to the aquarium.

“Oh hello Ohno-kun,” Sho called when he saw the older man behind the desk. “I thought you were still ill?”

Ohno shrugged and rubbed his eyes. “I felt better and wanted to get Nino,” he croaked, and Sho had to smile. Ohno sounded better but still a little hoarse.

“Where is he?”

“In the back, he will come to the front soon,” he answered and looked at the door behind him with worried lines on his forehead. “It seems he caught my cold,” he mumbled. Then Ohno seemed to realise the waiting children in front of him and laughed.

“Oh… Nino told me you were coming. You can all get one ice-cream and a card for free; he said, so choose some, ne?” he asked them and watched them deciding on their treats.

Nino came back also and carefully noted down what the children wanted for later and then smiled when he said goodbye to the kids who left one after the other the shop.

“How was your day?” Nino asked while writing down some things for the second shift that day and Sho shrugged.

“Good. It was fun for them. They were all very curious and well behaved.”

“Yeah. The children were great when I introduced them to the proceedings of the park,” Nino agreed and nodded at Jun and Ikuta. “And what got into them?”

Sho sighed and shrugged. “I don’t know. They rode on Yumi together and now Ikuta is back to ignoring Jun,” he mumbled.

Nino hummed a thoughtful look on his face. “Nah… Can’t change that. Oh-chan can you man the register for a while? I have to accompany the kids to their parents,” he asked and Ohno nodded in answer.

“I will join you when Karina is in,” he promised, and Nino kissed his cheek shortly.

“Thanks. You are a lifesaver!” he declared, and Ohno shoved him away with a laugh. Nino, Jun, Ikuta and Sho herded the children out of the shop and to the exit to wait for their parents or other guardians till each of them had left.

“I have to go. I have a meeting for the movie,” Ikuta said when the last child ran off with her mother and bowed down. “Thank you for today. Looking forward to working with you tomorrow, Nino,” he mumbled and hurried away. Jun looked at his watch, saw that his shift had ended 15 minutes ago and left too. Sho went back with Nino to change and went home feeling a little unsatisfied not to have helped more.

“Sho-chan!” Masaki greeted him when he entered their shared flat and pulled Sho close to him to peck his lips twice.

“How was work?”

“Fun,” he smiled and gave him a little peck on his nose before taking off his shoes and moving into the living room. “I just need a hot bath,” he mumbled and stretched his back.
He thought for a moment before he sighed.

“Ne?” Masaki made a questioning noise and Sho put his forehead against his shoulder.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t help you with your plan. They were distant after the ride even if they seemed to be closer during.”

“Toma distanced himself again?” Masaki asked.

“Uhn,” Sho agreed and sighed deeply.

“I don’t get him,” Masaki mumbled, and Sho kissed his arm softly before backing away again. “I already drew you a bath. It’s still hot. You should go in and relax while I finish our dinner. And don’t worry. We tried our best. Jun-pon should talk to Toma. Perhaps we can convince him tomorrow. Or Nino can.”

Sho smiled at his lover and kissed him once more. “If you say so.”

“Yup.”

Sho laughed and headed to the bathroom to relax and spend the rest of the evening with Masaki.

Part Five

“You are unhappy,” Ohno observed when they were on their way back home.

“Mh? What do you mean?” Nino asked and glanced at Ohno, looking a little confused. It was so rare that Ohno would break their companionable silence that Nino always gave him his full attention when he did.

“Because of Toma and Jun,” Ohno clarified after a few minutes and Nino sighed deeply. His shoulders shrank, and he looked suddenly so much younger and smaller than he was in reality. Ohno laid an arm over his shoulder and pulled him close into his side.

“They reminded me of us when we were younger,” Nino confessed and put his head on Ohno’s shoulder. “When I told you that I liked you, and you ran away rather than telling me your big secret,” he added and looked at him for a moment before looking at the street again.

Ohno was careful not to dislocate Nino as he shrugged a little. He knew that he had been silly at that time. But they were young, and Ohno was scared to hurt Nino with his secret. He hadn’t realised then that he had hurt Nino more with keeping away. And then again with lying to him for months before finally telling the truth because he had to. Nino had trust issues afterwards, and Ohno understood, even if it hurt him.

“He is scared of his heritage,” Ohno tried to explain then, and Nino shrugged.

“He shouldn’t be. It is part of himself,” he mumbled, and Ohno laughed while he pulled him closer for a moment, before he had to let go so they wouldn’t crash onto the floor.

“You know, you cheated when you discovered his secret,” Ohno said, and Nino huffed a little.

“No. You did. Taking a swim while I was cleaning the water tanks of the turtles and then following him because you thought you found a new one and then stalking him while he changed,” Nino said laughing and Ohno pouted at him.

“I did not stalk him! I thought I would help you if I could tell you where the turtle went when you have to check if all are there,” he explained.

Nino sighed and kissed his cheek. “Still, you cheated. I only told you he kinda feels the same as you and Sho and the others I met. You informed me he changes into a turtle,” he reminded him, and Ohno sighed a little. Nino was right after all.

“Okay. I cheated,” he agreed, and Nino grinned a little. He let go of Ohno and took his hand instead, making sure that their fingers were interlaced while he was at it.

“Are you upset because he does hide what he is?” Ohno asked after a while, and Nino shook his head.

“Not really. You do, too and Sho didn’t advertise that he is a skin changer either.”

Ohno watched Nino questioningly and waited for him to continue.

“It’s… I’m unhappy because he is unfair. He only pushes Jun away because he is scared that Jun would hate him because of what he is. And he doesn’t want any complications. That’s not fair. J should be able to decide himself if he wants to take up this challenge. It’s not fair to himself either. Because he thinks he has to hide and keep a distance to everyone. That is silly!”

Ohno smiled softly at Nino who just got angrier with every word he spoke. He stopped, and Nino did too because of it. Nino looked back and tilted his head to his side.

“What is it?” he asked, and Ohno watched him. Ohno loved Nino so much for his easy acceptance and for the fight that was in him whenever he thought something unfair.

Ohno tugged him closer to hug him for a moment. “I love you,” he whispered and smiled when Nino blushed hard.

“Neither is that funny nor does that change the problem,” Nino mumbled, embarrassed, and Ohno let him go to continue walking.

“What shall I do then?”

“Talk to him? Please? Tell him that you know. That you are the same,” he asked carefully and worriedly.

“How should that help?”

“Tell him whatever was told to you when you changed your mind about me?”

Ohno watched Nino’s hopeful face and nodded after a moment. Ohno thought that Nino should ask his grandfather if that was what he wanted. The old man was the one who one day walked up to the house of his grandparents where Ohno lived with his parents and talked to him. Ohno didn’t know even now why Nino’s grandfather knew where to find him, but he did. Apparently when the man found out what made his grandson this upset he left the very same day to their home. Nino’s grandfather did know his grandparents and somehow knew the family secret even if his grandparents promised him they had never told him. It was him who talked sense into Ohno and made him call Nino just a few days afterwards.

It was a decision he never really regretted. Nino was one of the best things that could have happened to his life. But he didn’t tell Nino. Not a thing about what happened then. Not because he didn’t want to but because his grandfather made him promise. And he would never break the trust the man gave him.

Ohno kissed the hand of his lover and smiled. “I promise to try my best,” he said at last and was rewarded with a bright smile and sparkling eyes that even outshined the sun and stars in his mind. He was a little disappointed that he would never be able to draw Nino like that.

Ohno woke early the next morning and watched his lover worriedly.

“You caught my cold, huh?” he asked and put his hand on the hot forehead of his lover. Nino mostly got his illnesses, and he felt bad every time it happened. After all, Nino got ill much easier than him and most illnesses affected his stomach. So he had woken up more than once in the middle of the night with his boyfriend vomiting in the bathroom. Now Nino looked apparently tired and sick.

“You are running a fever, love,” he told him when Nino weakly tried to dislodge his hand to sit up. “You can’t go to work like that. Your grandfather would kill me if he ever found out.” Ohno sighed and thought about what he should do.

“I have to go to work,” Nino disagreed and looked at him with half-open eyes. “Karina can’t help today. Her brother is getting married. I have to help Jun and Toma in the shop,” he added, and Ohno shook his head.

He stroked the sweaty hairs out of his forehead to place a kiss on it. “You will stay in bed. I’ll call your grandfather, and we’ll find a solution. Just don’t move,” he said sternly and left his stubborn boyfriend to call the man in question for his help.

It didn’t take long before he sat beside Nino once more, this time with a wet cloth that he laid on his head. Nino had almost drifted off to sleep again but watched him drowsily.

“Since you don’t want to abandon your beloved shop I will go. I am capable of handling it for a day, more so since Jun and Toma are there to help. I promise not to fall asleep there,” he explained, and Nino lifted his mouth a little at that. “Your mother will come to sit with you. So you won't be alone. Since we all know what kind of a baby you are if left alone while ill,” he joked a little and kissed the cute red nose.

“And if you are a good boy today I will share a warm bath with you when I am back,” he promised, and Nino laughed a little. “I will even scrub your back. So now lay back and try to get some sleep. I will prepare some porridge and something to drink.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

Ohno shook his head and covered Nino once more with the blanket before getting ready and making the promised treats for Nino. Nino woke when Ohno put all things on the bedside table, and Ohno helped him sit up.

He kissed his warm forehead once more. “I have to go, love. I will be back soon. Your mother will be here in about an hour. She has a spare key so you don’t have to stay awake, ne?”

Nino nodded mutely and began to eat the porridge in slow movements.

Ohno watched him a moment more before he sighed and left his sick boyfriend alone to go to work before he was late. He didn’t like leaving him like that, but Nino wanted him to manage the shop and asked him to talk to Toma, too. So Ohno would do just that so that Nino didn’t have to worry about that at least.

“You are late,” Jun said when he arrived and then looked around confused. “And where is Nino? I thought it was his turn this time.”

Ohno sighed and motioned for them to follow him inside.

“Good morning, Nagase-san,” he greeted the older who opened the door for him and went into the shop. He carefully set everything up the way Nino showed him countless of times and only after he was pleased he looked up again.

“Nino is ill. He caught the flu, I think,” he answered and ruffled his hair. “Nino seems to think that being in a relationship also means to share one's illnesses,” Ohno cooed and tried to hide his worry. Nino healed fast, but each illness left him so weak, and he wanted to do nothing else than to hold him till it was gone.

“So I’m replacing him for today. Nobody else was able to,” he explained and bowed a little belatedly. “Looking forward to working with you. Let’s help each other out today, ne?” he asked, and both of them agreed.

Since this was the only place where Jun had never actually worked Ohno explained to both of them carefully what they had to check regularly, where they would find refills for the merchandise and how to manage the cashier. He tried to recall everything Nino told him whenever he was here and watched the other men who listened carefully and nodded whenever they understood something.

“Since it’s the weekend and there are three of us we won’t close the shop like they normally do. We will take turns with the breaks. Here is a little button. If you are alone here and push it once, a bell will ring in the back room to let us know you need someond to help out here because of the mass of people. If you ring it twice, for a bit longer, you will sound an alarm in the front, and a security member will come. You have to use it if anything dangerous happens.”

“Why is it there?” Toma asked curiously, and Ohno shrugged.

“Because mostly only one person is here. It’s a small shop and few customers come in at once. We close earlier than the rest of the park so we don’t have the last minute buyers who remember to buy a souvenir when they leave. So it can be dangerous. We handle money, and not all people are friendly,” he said at last. “The front has buttons like this as well. But nobody has had to use it yet. It’s there just in case,” Ohno said carefully and tried not to scare anyone away.

But Toma just nodded understandingly, and Jun shrugged. He worked with dangerous animals most of the days. So, of course, he was used to the dangers of working in a zoo. It probably wasn’t that surprising that it could be dangerous here too.

“Okay. It’s time to open,” Ohno said after a glance at the big clock on the wall and went to the door to open it fully. He greeted the kois like Nino did each day and fed them before moving behind the counter. “I will manage this first. So you can look around and familiarise yourself with the things we have and where they are. Don’t forget to greet the customers with a smile and be polite,” he said sternly, and Jun nodded with an amused smile.

Ohno watched both of them a moment. He didn’t want to mess this up. Nino loved his little shop and dealing with the different customers. So he wanted to give his best performance today to make him proud of him.

The first hour went by slowly. Only a few elderly customers came in to get a few new postcards and Ohno chatted a bit with them about motives they would like for new ones. He liked talking with them about his artwork and wrote down their wishes. Everyone had a different view of the zoo, and it was interesting to capture all of them as well as he could.

“Thank you and come by again,” he said in the end and put away his notebook at least.

Toma sidled up a little curious and looked at the different cards they sold.

“I thought you had regular photos,” he remarked, and Ohno shook his head.

“We had in the beginning. But it was Nino’s idea to get art students to design the cards here. They get money for each sold card and can display their artwork,” Ohno explained, and Jun clicked his tongue.

“He did it only so that he could work with you,” he said, and Ohno shook his head.

“Not really. I went to art school, and we had projects to do, and he saw the pictures and told me it was a shame that we work for nothing. So he asked the owner,” Ohno answered carefully. “Nino was still in school himself when I made the first postcard for this park. And he would have never known if I would stay here even after school. I could have continued doing something entirely different,” he said.

It was true after all. Nino only wanted to help him making his art widely known. Nino always thought he would start working on a gallery or something like that afterwards. Perhaps even creating illustrations for books or manga. But Ohno decided to stay here. Sometimes he did bigger commissions, and he had already had one art show, but he was lazy. Ohno liked working at his own pace and hated deadlines. With his work for the zoo he had a pretty regular income and together, they had enough to get around.

“They are yours?” Toma asked when he found his signature under a few cards, and Ohno nodded.

“Yes. I work as a freelancer,” he explained and grinned when Toma openly gawked at him.
“They are splendid! Wow… You could do so much more,” he mumbled more to himself and Ohno shrugged.

“Perhaps. But I don’t want to. I like my job as it is,” he said and pointed outside. “Seems like there is a group coming. Jun do you want to manage the register? You are better with numbers than me.”

Jun nodded, and Ohno changed places with Jun to greet their customers and show them around. When the people ebbed away again, he smiled at Jun. “Would you be able to manage alone for a while? Toma and I could take a break then,” Ohno asked and even if Jun watched him a little distrusting, he agreed after a moment.

“Of course. Will you buy lunch?”

“Toma will,” Ohno grinned and tugged the actor with him outside to go to the cafeteria to get their bentos and coffee. The coffee at the kiosk was awful so nobody ever got it or drank it. Only Nino did when he was sleep deprived and even he who loved all kinds of coffee - the blacker, the better actually - looked outright disgusted each time he took a sip. Perhaps he could convince the elder Ninomiya to buy a new machine one of these days. But the old man was as stingy as Nino. Maybe as a birthday present then, he decided with a smile and told Toma what to get to eat while he chose their drinks.

They walked back in silence for a moment before Ohno stopped in his tracks. “Hey Toma, actually I have something to talk to you about,” he said after.

Toma looked at him curiously. “What is it?” he asked carefully, and Ohno smiled encouragingly. He didn’t want to scare Toma away but show him that he only wanted the best for him.

“I know your secret,” he finally said and watched him carefully.

“What are you talking about? I don’t have a secret other than being an actor. And that’s hardly a secret between us anymore,” he said slowly, and Ohno sighed when he saw the panic in Toma’s eyes.

The man beside him looked ready to bold, and Ohno quickly grabbed his wrist.

“I'm not talking about that, Toma.” Ohno watched him calmly and held his wrist carefully in his hand. He didn’t want to hurt him, but Toma shouldn’t run right now. Nino would have his head, and Ohno wanted to stay alive. “I know that you are a… um, what do you call it? Skin-changer? Shape-shifter? Half animal, half man?” he asked curiously.

Toma’s face fell, and Ohno watched him a bit more softly when he realised that Toma was scared now. He didn’t want that.

“I’m sorry if I scared you,” he said quickly and tried another smile that didn’t work. It felt strange on his lips. He remembered how scared he was the first time Nino had seen him like that. Ohno had panicked more than Nino. His boyfriend only was disappointed that he didn’t tell him the truth before. But after all, it’s always scary to share a secret with others. Especially if you didn't do it out of your own free will.

“I am one, too. In fact, my whole family is, and I know of others. So you don’t have to be scared of my reaction,” he promised, and Toma looked at him disbelievingly.

“If so, can you change right now?” he asked, and Ohno laughed a little.

“That would be dangerous. Even without the people here. But you have seen me already in my other form. My family mostly changes into different kinds of fishes. As I can’t hold on to one form when I am ill, I mostly stay at home with my family. Nino took me with him yesterday because I felt better and nobody else could look after me; he doesn’t trust me with staying alone after I almost drowned in the bathtub once when I changed without realising it,” he mumbled sheepishly and laughed a little at the memory. Nino’s nagging after that has been so cute.

“Oh…” Toma said slowly and remembered the fish glass Nino had been carrying around the day before. So that had been Ohno?

“I saw you changing the second day. And I decided to say nothing. But you are making an important friend of ours miserable, and that makes Nino unhappy. So… I can’t stay silent. Do you like Jun?” he asked, finally straightforward, and Toma blushed.

“Why are you interested in that?” he asked.

Ohno shrugged. “Jun is a friend, and he likes you. Everybody can see that. I just don’t know how you feel. Sometimes it looks like you could like him, too, but then you are cold and distant. You can’t make me believe that you never noticed that he has feelings for you. And I think that you should tell him how you feel. Even if you don’t like him that way. It’s cruel to stay silent,” he explained slowly.

“But the way I am…” Toma started, and Ohno lifted his hand to stop him talking that instant.

“Has nothing to do with what you feel. Yes, there might be problems. It’s not all exactly easy, but relationships never are. You made it work so far with your kind of job. I am sure that Jun would understand if you explain everything to him. He is a good man. And he doesn’t have to be scared of you suffocating like Nino has to be.”

Ohno watched him a moment, then sighed. “I can’t tell you what to do or what not to do. But I would be happy if you would just talk to Jun and either tell him you don’t like him that way or try it out. You don’t have to tell him about your secret right away, even if I don’t think Jun would judge, but hiding won’t solve anything and just hurts people around you. Come on. We should head back before Jun kills us because he has too many customers.”

Ohno waited till Toma was ready to follow him and they hurried back. Jun looked a little pissed at them but luckily forgave them quickly when Ohno promised that Jun could have his break right now and handled the counter himself once more.

Ohno watched Toma, who was really out of it now, but somehow they finished their work day without bigger problems. Still, Ohno was glad when their relief came, and he was allowed to head home to his sick lover.

Part Six

Toma sat thoughtfully on a bench directly behind the gates and waited for Jun.

Jun was a bit late today, but Toma thought it was nice to have more time for himself and his thoughts. He had been confused about what to do since his talk with Ohno yesterday. It felt like it should be easy to make a decision, but Toma was still unsure.

Not only didn’t Jun know about the fact that he could change into a turtle, Jun most probably didn’t even know people like him existed. Toma thought that Ohno would have told him if they had spoken to Jun about Ohno’s ability.

Toma was also an actor, a prominent person. He was used to being filmed and having to look out for cameras his whole life. Being in a relationship with another man wasn’t as easy as for others. He would have to hide his relationship status for the time being, and he wasn’t so sure that Jun would be okay with it.

So lost in thoughts he didn’t realise when Jun appeared beside him.

“Sorry I’m late,” Jun said, and Toma shook his head as he stood up.

“It’s fine,” he said and watched him curiously. “What will we do today?”

“Something that you would like to do?” Jun asked instead of answering, and Toma shrugged a bit. The week had been full of new experiences, and he couldn’t think of anything that he wanted to see now.

“Completely honest answer?” he asked then, a little cheekily, and Jun agreed, amused.

“Of course.”

“A day just relaxing sounds great to me. Don’t you think so? You don’t usually work seven days a week, do you?” he asked.

Jun shook his head a bit scandalised. “Of course not. We work five out of seven days. Two free days in a week,” he answered then. “I have most of next week off because of that.”

“I’m sorry that you had to work so much because of me then,” Toma mumbled, feeling uncomfortable, and Jun shrugged lightly.

“I liked it,” he admitted, and Toma watched him curiously as Jun averted his eyes and sighed. “So a free day?” he asked then.

“Would be nice, don’t you think so?” Toma watched as Jun’s eyes lost their joy for a moment before the man sighed deeply.

“Probably. I can ask the owner if we can skip today so that you can go home and rest,” Jun murmured.

Toma blinked confusedly. “What? That wasn’t what I meant! I’m sorry. I just don’t think that I would be good here in the front, and there isn’t an area in the park left I haven’t seen already. And it would compromise the regular staff if we crash other workspaces, won’t it? I thought you could show me around? Just a day as visitors?” Toma explained before Jun could leave.

Jun turned around and watched him for a moment. “Okay?” he said slowly and looked around confused.

“I still have to ask for permission,” he said then, and Toma stood up.

“I will come with you. I’m bored here anyway.”

Jun nodded, and Toma followed the other into the office of Nino’s grandfather.

“Wouldn’t your management say something if you don’t do any work today?” the old man asked Toma who shrugged a little disinterested.

“Don’t know. They left everything up to you anyhow. I think it’s important to experience a zoo as a visitor from time to time. Even if you work there. So that you remember what is important for them. Find out if there are any weaknesses or points you could improve. Is that not right?”

He grinned at Jun’s shocked face since it was something they kept in mind. The old man laughed and nodded.

“That’s true. My grandson preaches that almost each time he is here,” he answered and clapped his hands. “Okay. I will give you both off for today. Look around and try to imagine what visitors would like to improve, other than to be even closer to most animals,” he said, and Jun and Toma bowed as they left the office.

Jun watched Toma sceptically and frowned. “I don’t know if it’s smart to you to walk around like that today. It’s Sunday. There are so many visitors who might recognise you…”

Toma nodded and sighed. “I have a disguise I brought with me. I will wear it, and I think you know of paths we can take that aren’t as crowded as others?”

“Yes… We would have to use side roads and stay clear of special events like feedings and informational lectures,” he mumbled and went to the front to get a guide for the park with all the times of the events written inside.

“Idea number one for improvement: Develop an app where you can choose the different events you will visit so that it reminds you and informs you if two things overlap,” Toma said, and Jun grinned.

“Nino’s already working on something for our website. But I will tell him about the app, too,” he agreed, and Toma grinned brightly before he hid half of his face behind a mask and a hat.

“Let’s go? I will follow you,” Toma promised, and the other agreed before leaving the entrance area. They walked around first in silence before Toma began to ask Jun questions about everything he could see on their way. Jun answered each one of them as well as he could, and Toma listened silently.

It was nice to walk around with Jun, he realised. Toma also liked listening to his voice so he thought of as many questions as he could. And Jun answered them all, even the silliest one he could think off.

They took a break on a big sunchair in the middle of the park around lunchtime, and Jun left Toma alone for a moment to buy them something to eat. Toma laid down on the chair and closed his eyes for a moment to enjoy the warm sun on his face. Soon he heard Jun coming back, and he sat up again.

“Those chairs are comfortable,” he said, and Jun nodded while he sat beside him.

“You are right. They are nice.”

“And big. I think a whole family could lie on one together.” Jun shrugged in an answer and gave him some of the snacks he bought.

“Probably. At least they are designed for exactly that purpose. Eat and drink now,” Jun mumbled, and they kept silent for a moment.

“Do you have official tours here?” Toma asked after a while, though.

“Yes, different kinds. We have a regular tour each day and special tours for various occasions, like tours for children or artists. Each person that visits the park has different reason why they want to be here. They have favourite things to do here, beloved animals and some even favourite zoo keepers. We want to make as many of them happy as we could. Even if that sounds silly.”

“It doesn’t. It sounds nice. You love what you do. All of you.” At least the ones Toma has worked with the last few days all seemed to like really what they did and that made him, as a visitor, happy somehow.

Jun hummed thoughtfully and nodded. “We do. The work isn’t fun sometimes, but we know each other well. The Ninomiyas want us to feel good because that way we do our best here, I think. At least that’s what Nino has told me, and it seems like their plan works. I know that people left because they didn’t like working here but the ones that stayed are happy - at least it looks that way,” Jun laughed a little at his words and rolled his eyes. “I probably sound too sentimental,” he admitted and closed his eyes to lay back with a tired sigh.

“Aaahh… I’m so tired,” he mumbled, and Toma stayed silent to observe the man beside him a little more. Jun did look tired and worn. Most probably because of the many things he had had to do the last week because of Toma. And, Toma thought, probably because of the turmoil his feelings had to be in because of Toma.

Toma didn’t want actually to admit that Jun had a crush on him because he didn’t want to have to deal with his feelings for Jun. It was always easier not to acknowledge that one could have a chance than confronting his fears. Now he couldn’t think of anything else than Jun since he had spoken to Ohno.

He never believed that somebody like him could have a love life. Not with the problems his position and his ability brought. But Ohno had given him hope. Ohno and Nino worked out well after all. He had seen it during the last few days, and he had heard about it more than once from Jun.

Toma sighed a little and laid back when he realised that Ju had dozed off. He should probably wake him, but he enjoyed his closeness and the silence too much for that.

They stayed like that for about an hour till more people came up the path in front of them. Toma sat up reluctantly and proceeded to wake Jun up.

“People are arriving,” he explained when Jun watched him in confusion and pointed in the direction where a group was coming from. Jun rubbed his eyes a moment and then looked at his watch. “Mh… There is a feeding event down there,” he explained and shook his head to wake up fully.

“We should leave. You wanted to visit the kangaroos, huh? They are the other way, and it should be empty at this hour. Come on.”

“Okay.”

Together they left the sun chair and Jun showed him a smaller pathway away from the crowd to get to their destination.

The rest of the day went by faster than Toma had anticipated and they ended up in the little gift shop. Toma looked a little bit confused at Jun, who looked around.

“I think each visit should end in the gift shop so that you can take something with you as a memory. More so if you don’t take a camera with you to take photos,” Jun explained, and Toma looked around.

“You are probably right,” he agreed and wandered around the aisles to find something that would make him remember not only this day but the past week. They were precious memories for him, and he regretted that he didn’t have something else. Especially of Jun and perhaps even his friends. They spent a lot of time together after all.

In the end, he decided on a few cards and a poster of his favourite places in the park and brought it to the register to pay for it.

“Won’t you take something as well?” he asked Jun who looked around for a moment and decided on a bookmark in the end. Toma snatched it away before Jun could protest and looked at him.

“As a thank you for showing me around today,” he explained and paid for all of the things before Jun could protest. He thanked the girl behind the counter and then left the shop with Jun in tow. They left the park afterwards, and Toma gave Jun the bookmark.

“Thank you for your help all this time,” he began nervously and bowed down deeply. “Without you, I would have been totally lost.”

“I think others would have done the same,” Jun murmured.

“Maybe. We don’t and never will know,” Toma agreed, somewhat, and looked at him a little awkwardly.

Jun bowed, too, after a moment. “That was fun to work with you,” he said then and stood straight again.

They watched each other for a moment in which Toma thought of all the things he has learned this week. Toma thought the most he had learned was on Jun. Jun who was loved by his friends and too good a person to be true.

“Perhaps…” Jun began reluctantly and looked down. “We could meet again?” he tried and bit his lips. “The others would like that, too, I think,” he added fast and fought his blush.

Toma thought about the words for a moment and watched Jun squirming around. Again he thought of Ohno’s encouraging words and knew it was time for a decision.

When Jun finally met his eyes after an uncomfortable silence, he managed his brightest smile as he nodded. “Yes… Yes, I would like to meet you again. And perhaps even the others,” he said carefully, trying to emphasise that he meant especially Jun, alone. “We could go for dinner somewhere soon?” he proposed, and Jun nodded happily.

“I would love that,” he agreed and after exchanging their numbers and emails, finally, they left each other to the thoughts of the other.


Date: 2016-09-04 08:42 am (UTC)
lilly0: (Arashi)
From: [personal profile] lilly0
Sorry for snagging the first spot, but this was soooooooooooooo good! I loved the whole setting :D And all the characters, and pairs. And the little secret some of them have ;-) (and I love the conclusion at the end!)

Date: 2016-09-22 11:19 am (UTC)
reveetoile: (Omiya kuscheln)
From: [personal profile] reveetoile
Thank you for your lovely comment :) I'm really happy you liked it as I had really fun writing it

Date: 2016-09-04 03:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] astrangerenters.livejournal.com
I like the hopeful ending for Jun and Toma. I'm pretty sure that Jun is the kind of person who would accept Toma for who he is, whatever form he takes on :)

Date: 2016-09-22 11:19 am (UTC)
reveetoile: (Omiya kuscheln)
From: [personal profile] reveetoile
Yes, he is that kind of person. So Toma has nothing to fear at all :D Thank you for laving a comment.

Date: 2016-09-05 11:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nicefinalbeam.livejournal.com
So many interesting concepts in this fic!! The shapeshifting is wonderful, but also the hesitance to be in a relationship with someone in case they might not understand. It makes sense ♥ I enjoyed the image of Nino carrying around fish!Ohno lol

I love any time that Jun's bad luck with animals is mentioned, but I also love that you hinted that the turtles are okay with him, given what we find out about Toma heh heh.

A nice hopeful ending too :D

Date: 2016-09-22 11:21 am (UTC)
reveetoile: (Omiya kuscheln)
From: [personal profile] reveetoile
I'm happy that you liked it. Thank you for your comment.
The image of Nino carrying around Ohno as a fish was the first that came to my mind somehow. And then I tried to find an animal Jun would be okay with and as far as I know he got pet turtles from Nino one time? So that was why I decided to put him there XD

Date: 2016-09-05 04:46 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Just a quick clarification: I read part one and part two in the first installment and this installment is starting from part four. Is this just a typo or am I missing part three somewhere??

Aaaaaaaah I just want to make sure I don't miss a single word of this wonderful gift

Date: 2016-09-05 05:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nande-daiyo.livejournal.com

Hey I saw the answer. Sorry for commenting again!! But I'm so excited that there is a whole new part. So excited

Date: 2016-09-05 04:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nande-daiyo.livejournal.com

Hey I commented as anon (the app is really kicking my butt) so I'm commenting about this again. The last installment ends on part two and this one starts with four. Am I missing something or is it typo? I just want to make sure I don't miss a single word of this wonderful gift.

Date: 2016-09-05 05:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nande-daiyo.livejournal.com

Just saw that comment!! Thanks so much!!

Date: 2016-09-06 02:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nande-daiyo.livejournal.com
Finally got a chance to finish this beauty.
Author-san did you actually write me a meddling Arashi JunMa extended date to the zoo fic???? Because it seems like you did and you can have the entirety of my soul. My wildest fantasies couldn't have measured up to what you gave me (and the fandom).

I LOVED every single word. Starting from established Ohmiya and Sakuraiba. So tender and caring but they are also themselves somehow. Sho as an elephant has to one of the funniest visuals I've had in a while. Also this fic was so masterful, in the amount of literary tools you used. So much foreshadowing with turtles liking Jun and the motifs of the gate of the changing humans and animals. Toma is such a scared puppy here and its so heartbreaking for him and Jun. AAAHHH MY LITTLE PUPPY PAIR!!

Thank you so much for going out of your comfort zone for me. It made me really happy and I can tell your effort it was worth it 100%

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

PS: Now I just want Jun and Toma to start dating and then turtle!Toma and fish!Ohno to go on playdates as their boyfriends hover LOLOLOLOLOL

Date: 2016-09-22 11:31 am (UTC)
reveetoile: (Omiya kuscheln)
From: [personal profile] reveetoile
I'm so glad that you liked this story. You just can't know how relieved I was when I read your comments :D
I had such fun writing it that I feared that I would completely miss what you might like in the end. Especially because I didn't manage to put Jun and Toma together in the end. They will end up together that's for sure and I'm sure that there would be lots of double dates and Jun just questioning himself why he never realised anything about fish!Ohno since neither Ohno nor Nino are that subtle about it after all XD
I have many ideas left in this universe somehow and wanted to include something more but I didn't have the time yet. So there might be a sequel where they start dating after all.

Thank you again for your lovely comments. They really made my day :D

Date: 2016-09-07 06:47 am (UTC)
yukitsubute: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yukitsubute

That was really cute and such a unique idea, I totally loved that. :)


Thanks for writing this, anon-san

Date: 2016-09-22 11:39 am (UTC)
reveetoile: (Omiya kuscheln)
From: [personal profile] reveetoile
Thank you for the comment :) I'm glad you liked it :D

Date: 2016-09-07 11:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] helenmaldon.livejournal.com
This was really, really adorable!! And I love reading a Junma fic, yay :DD

Date: 2016-09-22 11:40 am (UTC)
reveetoile: (Omiya kuscheln)
From: [personal profile] reveetoile
Thank you for your comment :D It made me really happy
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