[identity profile] stormymood.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] arashi_exchange
A piece of rainbow for [livejournal.com profile] shardaunei Part 4

He was playing cards with Aiba and Ohno, and it was a struggle to keep his eyes open. One last round, Aiba kept insisting each time he lost. Just one last round.

Ohno was about to set down his cards and give up when the telephone in the kitchen started to ring. Despite being tired, Aiba popped out of his seat like a coiled spring, rushing to the device where it was attached to the wall, managing to silence the noise just as it rang a second time. It was almost midnight. Who in their right mind would telephone now? Even Jun tended to keep things quiet when he arrived home late.

“Pinetree Manor,” Aiba answered in hushed tones, sounding more polite than he probably wanted to be as he spoke into the device. Suddenly his fingers tightened around the earphone. “Nino?”

Sho and Ohno perked up, setting their cards down and trying to listen in. They watched Aiba run through a wide range of emotions. Shock, confusion, and then his face became serious.

“What time are you bringing him? Can he make it up the stairs?”

“Jun-san?” Ohno mouthed, blinking his sleepy eyes, and Sho nodded, though he thought it was rather obvious that Nino was calling about Jun. Fear grabbed hold of Sho tightly, making goosebumps rise on his skin. What the hell had happened?

“You’re sure?” Aiba asked. “It’s no trouble to bring things down to the study…I see. I see. Awake? Sho-san and Oh-chan and me, we’re playing cards. I see. Okay sure. Just pull up to the front, it’ll be easier to get him inside from there so he doesn’t have to go through the kitchen and the…yeah, in the front. I’ll park the damn car in the garage once we get him in here. Okay. Alright, drive carefully. Okay. Okay, soon then.”

Aiba hung up, turning to look at each of them with a frown. “Apparently Jun-san was hurt in Tokyo. He’s going to be okay, Nino said, but he’s sprained his ankle rather badly so he couldn’t drive home. Nino took a train into Tokyo last night, and he’s driving Jun here in the convertible. They’ve been driving most of the day, he said, and he was calling me from a pay telephone in town, that they’re on their way here. Nino will stay over, so Oh-chan, I’m sorry, but could Haru-chan possibly…?”

Ohno nodded easily, getting to his feet and cracking his neck a little. “I’ll help her so we don’t have to wake the other girls. We’ll put him in the bigger guest room, he’ll want to brag to his friends later.”

Aiba tried not to smile as Ohno headed off to wake his wife. Sho looked at Aiba expectantly.

“Did Nino say how he got hurt?”

Aiba shook his head. “No, he didn’t. Nino and I will get him up to the master suite. I hate to say this, but perhaps it’s best if you went to your room. The more people fussing over Jun-san, the more likely it’ll cause a stir in the house. He is probably embarrassed enough about having to call Nino all the way to Tokyo to help him.”

“Nino’s been driving all day, are you sure…”

“Sho-kun,” Aiba insisted. “This is a matter for the staff. And I can handle it.”

A bit stunned by Aiba’s forceful tone, Sho wondered just how injured Jun was. He clearly hadn’t broken anything or caused himself serious harm if he’d be able to get up the stairs with only Nino and Aiba to help him.

It hadn’t been an auto accident, or Nino would have never been able to make the drive from Tokyo to Nagano in Jun’s car. Jun’s reckless driving hadn’t gotten him killed yet, and Sho shuddered at the thought. What had happened? He could only pray that Jun’s anger and obvious self-loathing after the incident with Keita hadn’t pushed him off the edge. He didn’t want to imagine Jun putting himself in harm’s way on purpose. Maybe it was just a bad accident, a circumstance beyond Jun’s control.

As concerned as he was for Jun, as desperate as he was to see him and hear him say he was fine, Sho reluctantly headed up to his rooms alone, changing for bed. He paced for a while, amazed by how quiet the house could be sometimes. Even though Ohno and Haru had been preparing the guest room for Nino across the hall, he hadn’t heard a sound from them.

Eventually, Sho gave up on listening at the door like some creep. Jun was alive, and Jun would be fine, and that ought to be enough. And if he was injured, Sho thought rather selfishly, he couldn’t quite run away from the other problems in his life. Namely Keita.

He was tossing and turning in bed a short time later, unable to find a comfortable position in his worry. He heard whispers outside his door, a creaking floorboard, and then the sound of the door opening at the end of the hall.

Whether he wanted to be or not, Jun was home again.

It was the talk of the kitchen table come morning, even though Aiba was too polite and proper to offer an eyewitness account. The maids and footmen, confident since they knew the master of the house was not perched at death’s door, tried to trick Aiba into offering other details. “Will he be able to drive again?” “He has such a handsome face…he didn’t hurt his face, did he, Aiba-kun?”

Aiba said nothing, only that Jun had asked for privacy. Aiba alone would bring up Jun’s meal trays for the time being, would run a bath for him. Haru-san seemed a little annoyed that cleaning the master’s suite would be delayed until Jun felt like having visitors again, but otherwise the discussion was closed.

Sho proceeded with his lessons for the next few days. Keita had been told that Jun had returned, but that he’d been hurt and was staying in his room until he felt better. Mao didn’t see any reason to lie to the child, and Sho agreed. On the fourth day, Keita had a proposal after doing some math problems.

“Can we make a card for Uncle Jun? A get well card?”

Mao nodded. “Of course we can. So long as Sho-sensei is not put in charge of the drawings on the front of the card.”

Sho pretended to be offended, putting his hands on his hips and seeing Keita crack up. “Why can’t I do it? I want him to get well too!”

“I don’t know, Sensei,” Keita teased him, “if he sees what you draw he might feel worse!”

They all had a good laugh together about that, and Sho was growing used to being the butt of jokes in the classroom, at least jokes about his artistic talents (or lack thereof).

Keita was eager to get started on the card, and he spent an hour alone just drawing a picture of a car similar to Jun’s with a little help from one of the photographs Jun had given him. When Keita drew his uncle standing next to the car just like he was in the picture, Keita chose to draw a smile on his face rather than the ‘too cool to look happy’ face Jun was actually making.

Mao offered her own teasing tips, telling Keita to perhaps make Jun’s eyebrows a little thicker. “He’ll know that was your idea,” Sho pointed out, and Mao only winked at him.

When the card was complete, the three of them signed it, and then Keita thought it would be better if everyone did. Holding the card in his hands, Mao wheeled him through the house, making sure every member of the Pinetree Manor staff added their signature and best wishes.

They found Aiba last, Keita holding the card and the pencil out. “Aiba-san, will you please sign this for Uncle Jun?”

The butler paused, midway through polishing some candlesticks in the dining room, though nobody had eaten in the room for more than two weeks now. He took the card promptly, nodding at the sight of it. “Did you draw this yourself, Keita-kun?”

“I did. Do you think he’ll like it?”

“He certainly will,” Aiba replied, adding his signature to one of the few available spots remaining.

“I was going to deliver it personally this evening,” Sho interrupted, resting a hand on the top of Keita’s wheelchair. “On Keita’s behalf.”

Aiba closed the card, and Sho could see him mask his irritation as quickly as he could, since Keita was in the room. Jun still didn’t want visitors, but after four days, Sho thought it was ridiculous that he’d had no message or apology for his nephew now that he was home. It was a weak excuse, using the kind intentions of Keita’s card as a way to confront him, but Sho didn’t much care. Let Aiba be miffed for a little while at Sho for disobeying, for being rude. If Jun got angry, Sho would take the blame.

“Very well,” Aiba said before plastering on a smile again and handing the card and pencil back. “It really is a nice design. I’m sure your uncle misses his car since he’s been hurt, and this should cheer him right up.”

Keita beamed from ear to ear. “Thank you, Aiba-san!”

Mao patted Keita’s shoulder. “You should probably rest now. Let’s have Sho-san deliver it tonight.”

Keita handed the card over, and Sho took it. When Mao turned the wheelchair, pushing it away, Aiba gave Sho a dirty look but said nothing, moving back to his cleaning duties.

Aiba wasn’t the type to hold a grudge for long, but his loyalty to Jun was stronger than any friendly feelings he had for Sho. He returned with the empty dinner tray later that evening, finding Sho in the kitchen losing another round of cards.

“Sho-san, a moment?”

Sho set his down, raising his hands in surrender and letting the footmen battle out the rest of the game. “Gentlemen, it’s been fun.”

He followed Aiba into the dining room. “I told him you were going to stop by. At least so you don’t surprise him.”

Sho grinned. “I’m not going to barge in there, you know. I was going to knock.”

“And if he told you to go away even if you knocked?”

He said nothing, earning a dismissive nod from Aiba.

“That’s how he thought you’d react,” Aiba grumbled. “Go on then.”

Sho headed upstairs, taking Keita’s card from his desk and moving to the end of the hall and the master’s suite where he knocked very properly.

“If you must,” came Jun’s irritated voice from inside.

He opened the door and closed it behind him, finding the sitting room empty. For the first time, Sho ventured a little further inside, torn between irritation and anxiety. Irritation with Jun for his behavior, anxiety about his feelings for him despite that. Ever since that day in the restaurant, thinking about what Ninomiya had said and what he’d implied…Sho wasn’t quite sure what to think about Jun anymore. Aside from desperately wanting to see him again.

Despite a few days of indolence, his bedroom was still fairly tidy. He found Jun sitting upright in bed, pillows behind his back as he set aside a motoring magazine he’d been reading. He was currently on top of his blankets, dressed in a rather indulgent set of purple silk pajamas, barefoot. Most of his right foot and ankle were tightly bandaged, a pair of crutches leaned against the nightstand beside the bed in case he had to get up.

In addition to the sprained ankle Sho had heard about, Jun’s hands had also been cut up, his left hand mostly wrapped while there were two splints indicating broken or badly sprained fingers on his right and dominant hand. No wonder he hadn’t been able to drive.

“Aiba-kun said you were hellbent on disturbing me,” Jun said, not looking as annoyed as Sho thought he would be.

Sho brought Keita’s card out from behind his back, walking up to Jun’s bed and holding it out. Jun took it with his wrapped-up left hand, examining the drawing on the front. He pointed to the picture of himself standing beside the car. “That’s rude, you know,” Jun whined. “My eyebrows aren’t that…they’re just not.”

“Mao-san would never have instructed him to draw them that way,” Sho said innocently, clasping his hands behind his back and trying to keep calm even with Jun so close.

“Grab that chair. I don’t like you hovering like that.”

Sho nodded, moving to the corner and pulling the chair from Jun’s desk over. He had a seat, trying to keep his leg from shaking. Jun continued to look at Keita’s drawing, the enormous message of “Uncle Jun! Feel better!” written across the top. He opened the card, and Sho thought there was genuine surprise in Jun’s face when he saw that everyone, not just Keita, had signed it. Did he think nobody else in the house gave a damn about him? He was their employer, sure, but nobody wished him ill. Despite his frequent absences, they respected Jun and wished for his happiness.

“It was Keita’s idea from start to finish.”

“How is he?”

Sho was astonished that Jun could ask that so simply after driving away in a flash, running off to Tokyo instead of staying behind to apologize to Keita for his poor conduct.

“Doing very well. We spend almost three hours every day with lessons and then he has free time to draw or play with the train.”

Jun set the card down on his lap, looking at Sho curiously. “You let him play with it?”

“Of course,” Sho replied, hoping he didn’t sound as condescending as he felt like being. “He’s quite good with it now, keeping it steady, adjusting the speed.”

“I see.”

“Not sure how much Aiba has told you, but it only took him a few days to come around again. He’s a resilient boy, and once we chatted a bit more about his responsibilities, he’s been very eager to play with the train. He’s even coming up with a story about it, about the conductor who works at the imaginary station in the model. He’s creative in so many ways, Matsumoto-san. You should be very proud of him.”

“It would be easier if you simply yelled at me, Sho-san.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Jun’s eyes were weary, and Sho wondered if he was taking any medication to manage his pain. There were no bottles within arm’s reach on his nightstand.

“You expect a lot from me, and I envy you for it.”

“Envy? What?”

He chuckled bitterly. “It was always hard to measure up in this house. My brother was ten years older than me. Smart and a good student, a hard worker, never temperamental. Father adored him. But I wasn’t much more than the aberration that killed his wife. No matter what I did, I could never be my brother. Eventually I stopped trying altogether. I honestly don’t know what was going through Atsushi’s head when he thought I’d be more suitable as Keita’s guardian than Natsuko’s family.”

Sho couldn’t imagine such a life, being ignored and disliked by your own parent. Though Matsumoto Jun was a grown man, it was clear that the scars of his childhood remained to this day.

“You shouldn’t speak like that. Just because your father felt that way doesn’t mean it’s the truth.”

“Sho-san, there’s nobody else I can speak to like this,” Jun admitted, laughing again. “Come now, I’m injured. Won’t you allow me my self-pity for just a little while longer?”

“I’d rather you make a firm commitment to honoring the task your brother left you.”

Jun raised an eyebrow, amused, so Sho continued.

“You may not believe it, since it seems you’ve devoted considerable time to doubting yourself and what you can do and what value you have, but Keita cares about you. He was worried about you after that day, worried that he had upset you and driven you away when all he really wants is for you to be a part of his life. Go to him, meet with him. Come to lessons. Be present for him.”

“I believe, Sensei, that I hired you to be Keita’s instructor, not mine.”

“I am speaking as Keita’s instructor, and what my student needs is family. Not just a nurse, not just a house full of staff, not just someone to teach him his multiplication tables, but family.”

“I’m not good with children.”

“Keita isn’t children. Keita is simply Keita. A smart boy who is stuck here in this house with only his wondrous imagination and the staff that his absent uncle has hired for him. Several weeks ago, he didn’t even speak. Now he does. He’s been through something unimaginable, but look at how he’s grown. Think of what more he could do if he had family cheering him on. Not just the man who hires people to help, but the man who sits by his side, encouraging him every day. His mother and father, well, I can’t speak to how they treated him, but I know that boy needs and wants you near him. Don’t let one rotten experience color your whole perspective.” Sho met his eyes. “Don’t run from him again. Please.”

The room was quiet for a few moments, the air heavy. Jun looked at the card again, turning it over in his injured hands.

“You’re right. You and I both know you’re right. My god, every little chat we have, you find some way to have the more compelling argument.” Jun smiled gently, looking down. “I can’t promise every day. You know I can’t.”

“Will you come tomorrow?”

“Aggressive, aren’t you?”

Sho felt his face grow hot. “You’ve made it clear that I should be myself around you, at least when it’s just the two of us talking. And I will always advocate in favor of my students.”

“What’s the lesson tomorrow?”

“Weather permitting, we were going to sit in the garden. Ohno-kun has put together a little wooden ramp so we can push the wheelchair outside. We’re having a geography lesson, and being able to see the mountains instead of being stuck inside will change up Keita’s routine a bit.”

“I’ll try harder,” Jun vowed. “There are many things I give all my effort to, but I’ll admit that when it comes to Keita I’ve…I’ve been utterly remiss.”

“Better late than never.”

“I at least have to drop in to thank him for the card.”

“It would be the polite thing to do. From one man to another.”

Jun grinned. “I won’t even yell at him for the eyebrow exaggeration.”


Jun set the card on the nightstand, began shifting as best he could to get under his blankets. He would probably be too proud to ask for Sho’s help, so he didn’t offer.

“Sho-san, I was right to hire you.”

He got to his feet, nearly dropping the chair in his nervousness as he carried it back. “It’s a joy to teach him.”

“Good night, Sensei.”

“Good night.”

Sho was almost to the sitting room when Jun called out to him.

“You aren’t even going to ask what happened to me?”

He turned around, seeing Jun gingerly settling his glasses on the nightstand with the uninjured fingers available to him, his expression unreadable. Sho licked his lips, his heart pounding. He’d wanted to know for days what had happened. But he’d pushed Jun hard tonight, urging him to be more present for Keita. He’d been intrusive enough.

“If you ever wish to confide in me, I’ll listen. About anything at all.” He rested his palm on the archway between rooms. “You aren’t without friends here, Matsumoto-san.”

He couldn’t tell if Jun was blushing, but his voice was nervous.

“I’ll remember that.”

With a warm coat and thicker blankets, taking Keita out to the garden for lessons was a success. Keita’s chair could manage the dirt paths that led through the shrubs and bushes that Ohno tended with care, and there was a patio and a table outside where they could have lessons. They stayed outside for only half an hour to start and over the next few days, once Keita was used to it, they stayed a little longer.

Jun came the first day on his crutches, thanking Keita personally for the card he’d made. He’d then sat at the table, watching with an amused look as Sho gave a short lesson about Japan’s mountains.

He came almost every day for a week, even though it probably wasn’t that easy to maneuver around with his injured ankle and bandaged hands. Jun even started to participate, raising his hand and shouting things like “I know the answer! I know it, pick me!” as a way of getting Keita to compete with him a little, to offer his own answers instead of shyly waiting for Sho to prod some sort of response from him.

Sho liked seeing how the amount of interaction between uncle and nephew increased as the days went by. Most days now Jun followed Mao back into the house when she pushed Keita inside, heading into Keita’s room to continue talking. Sho didn’t want to believe that this change was entirely his doing, but it really was wonderful to see Jun finally take a more active interest in Keita’s studies and hobbies alike. And for Keita, he finally got to spend time with the person who’d been charged with caring for him, protecting him. They were awkward strangers no more.

On a rainy day the following week, they all stayed inside. Jun was finally able to ditch his crutches, relying instead on an old but elegant walking stick that one of the footmen had found in the attic, part of the Matsumoto family’s junk that nobody had ever felt like throwing out. The bandaging on his left hand was gone, several small but healing cuts dotting his skin. His broken fingers on his right hand would take a few more weeks to heal, but he was well on his way back to his old self.

As the rain pelted the windows, Keita did a reading from his now-completed tale about the conductor in the village of the model train. The adults sat politely while Keita read eagerly from his handwritten pages. They all learned that the conductor was named Morimoto-san, that he and his wife had fourteen children, and that his favorite food was fried rice with pork. And of course, Morimoto-san had a loyal dog, a terrier named Niji.

Keita was just finishing up when there was a knock at the door. It was Ninomiya, inclining his head in apology for interrupting. He greeted Keita with a wave and a friendly smile, and Keita waved hello in reply. Nino gestured in Jun’s direction. “I’m sorry to interrupt school, but Jun-san and I have a meeting today.”

Nino had come to the house a few times since the injured Jun had returned, letting Aiba pick him up so he could come meet Jun without having to make him leave the estate. Where Sho expected Jun to get up and leave for their meeting, instead he waved Nino over to the sofa.

“Keita’s almost done with his story. Let’s let him finish first.”

Nino agreed, and Sho had to hide a smile at the look of sheer happiness that crossed Keita’s face when he realized that Jun was putting him first. He read through the last page of his story with such enthusiasm that Mao had to turn away, hiding a tear or two from the men on the sofa. How far he’d come, Sho thought happily.

When Keita was finished, they applauded for him, and Sho allowed Keita some free drawing time. Jun and Nino headed off for the study while Mao took Sho aside.

“I think Jun-san can finally see what a difference he’s making,” Mao said, watching over Keita fondly as he traced some bugs from one of the encyclopedia volumes.

“It won’t last forever,” Sho admitted. “At some point he’ll have business to attend to in Tokyo. I think as soon as he’s able to drive again that he’ll go. But this time I think…I don’t know, I just think he’ll act differently.”

“You mean he’ll actually tell us when he’s returning?”

“That would be a revelation, wouldn’t it?” Sho teased, hearing Mao’s gentle chuckle.

Nino and Jun’s meeting carried on into the evening, the two of them continuing to work on estate business through dinner, which they shared in the dining room. They were still in there when Sho was heading for his room, ready to have a bath and relax for the evening.

“Sho-san,” Jun called out as he walked by, and he halted in his tracks, peering into the dining room to see that Nino was packing up his briefcase.

“Ah, did you have any questions for me?” Sho asked, poking his head in and gesturing to the papers Nino was putting in his case. “Aiba drove me into town the other day so I could get some new crayons and drawing paper. I gave Aiba the receipts.”

“Got them, thanks,” Nino said.

Jun waved him over. “Come here.”

He walked up to the table nervously, seeing a slight twinkle in Nino’s eyes as he came closer to Jun. Sho hoped he hadn’t said anything to Jun. It had been a long ride in the car from Tokyo, after all.

“I had a proposal and I was running it by Nino,” Jun explained. “It’s Keita’s birthday in a few weeks, and I was thinking we could turn his story into a proper book. The one about the conductor. We could have a professional illustrator do some artwork, have the whole thing typeset and printed up.” There was a nervous look in Jun’s eyes, as though he feared Sho would find his idea stupid. “Do you think Keita would like something like that? I thought we could take some photographs of the model in the library to help the illustrator with the little details, and then you still have the story that he wrote. I thought perhaps you could rewrite it, just so it’s easier for them to read at the printer’s than a child’s handwriting?”

Sho couldn’t keep from smiling. “A keepsake he could treasure. I’ll help any way I can.”

Jun looked away with a dismissive, embarrassed wave of his hand. “It was just an idea…”

“A good one,” Sho said honestly, and he saw Nino turn away, rolling his eyes when Jun’s ears turned pink in response.

“Well, that’s settled. When the two of you have everything ready, I’ll coordinate with a publisher. I have some contacts at the local newspaper who know people in the book sphere. It will be no trouble at all,” Nino said, rising to his feet. Jun moved to grab his walking stick, but Nino waved him off. “Oh, don’t trouble yourself, J. Aiba-kun will get me back to town. I’ll telephone you tomorrow.”

Soon enough Nino left them alone, and Jun leaned back in his seat.

“You really think it’s a good idea? You don’t think he’ll be mad that someone else did the artwork?”

“I think seeing something he wrote turned into something so professional will impress him. It’s a terrific idea, Jun, truly.”

Jun’s eyes widened, and Sho realized the error he’d just made. He took a step back, breathing unsteadily. He’d called him only by his name. Who the hell did he think he was? He inclined his head.

“I’m sorry, Jun-san, for speaking to you so improperly.”

Jun shook his head. “It’s alright…I…” Sho looked up, spied Jun getting out of the chair, steadying himself with a hand on the dining room table. “I…I don’t have a problem with…”

Aiba called into the room, and they both jolted in surprise. “I’m driving Ninomiya-san back to town!”

“Very good,” Jun replied, voice straining. He turned back to Sho. “Let’s go to the library, figure out what we’ll need pictures of.”

Sho followed him obediently, feeling ashamed of how casually he’d spoken. Even if Jun had asked him not to be too formal with him, there was no excuse for addressing him that way.

Jun’s walking stick tapped out a steady rhythm as he moved to the library, opening the door and turning on one of the table lamps. Sho followed him inside, shutting the door so they wouldn’t disturb Keita who was already in bed.

“I’ll take notes,” Sho decided, busying himself by his trunk of teaching supplies, finding a pencil and a small notepad. Jun was already at the model train, running his fingers along the smooth metal track.

Sho approached, flipping open the notepad to a blank page. He started babbling, still embarrassed. At least there was a task at hand to concentrate on. “We’ve got the little conductor figurine, we’ll definitely need pictures of him so the illustrator knows what the uniform looks like. I can’t wait to see what could be done about Morimoto-san’s fourteen children. Can you even imagine that, having to provide for fourteen…”

Before he could take a breath, Jun was turning, reaching for the lapel of Sho’s tweed jacket and tugging him forward. He dropped his pencil on the table, hearing it roll away and onto the floor once Jun kissed him.

It was soft, an exploring brush of Jun’s mouth against his own. Sho didn’t react at first, wondering if he was imagining things. Jun pulled away, but only to slip off his glasses, set them down on the table. This time when he reached for Sho, he slipped his hand around the back of Sho’s neck, pulling him closer. And this time Sho knew it was coming, tilting his head to meet Jun properly.

Panic. Panic was probably the first thing he felt. What were they doing? Well, he certainly knew what they were doing…but why here? Why now? And anyone might come by and…

“Well then,” Jun whispered, shyly kissing the corner of his mouth in hesitation. “Have I assumed too much?”

“It’s more the location that troubles me,” he admitted quietly, body tingling from head to toe from a simple kiss. Then again, it had been quite some time since anyone had kissed him and even longer since anyone had been so surprising and forceful about it. “If we were discovered in here…”

Jun’s fingers stroked along the back of his neck. “You haven’t slugged me yet.”

“I have no wish to do so,” he mumbled, shutting his eyes and exhaling nervously.

“I kissed you,” Jun said, his voice wickedly warm. “Most men would take offense.”

“We have similar inclinations.” He gasped sharply when Jun started to kiss along his jaw, slow but possessive. “That being said, I never really believed you would feel the same as I do.”

“And how do you feel, Sho-san?” Jun inquired, following his question by setting his walking stick on top of the model table, holding onto Sho for leverage as he balanced his weight on his uninjured leg.

This time Sho kissed him first, putting everything he had and everything he felt into the press of his lips against Jun’s. When Jun’s fingers moved upward, sliding through his hair to touch and explore, he slipped his own hand behind Jun’s back, amazed by the firm heat of his body through his cotton dress shirt. Pulling Jun a little closer but not enough to put him off balance, Sho deepened their kiss, slipping his tongue in Jun’s mouth and receiving a pleased little hum in return.

It was dangerous what they were doing, behaving so improperly in a room that any staff member might enter at any moment. But the fear of that, the thrill of possibly having to break apart in a hurry, only seemed to make them more daring. Now that they’d gotten started, Sho wondered how they’d manage to stop.

Jun didn’t seem to mind Sho’s clumsiness, returning his somewhat sloppy and reckless kisses with little tugs at his hair, soft murmurs of enjoyment. How long had Jun wanted to kiss him? Sho wondered if it was as long as his own wait had been.

Jun finally leaned back, hand slipping down to rest on Sho’s shoulder. His face was flushed and eager, as though his body hadn’t quite caught up with his mind. “I suppose…I suppose we really ought to figure out those pictures.”

Sho stepped back, already missing the closer connection. “Beyond that, what are we going to do?”


Sho rolled his eyes. “This.”

He could see a hunger in Jun’s eyes. His father had disowned him, kicked him out of this very same house, thinking him a deviant. But here he was in a library full of books the man had bought to appear more educated than he was. Here he was in that man’s house kissing another man without shame. Was Jun only acting to spite his dead father, kissing Sho because he’d somehow figured out that the overture wouldn’t be rejected instantly?

Or did it actually mean something?

“Are you in the right frame of mind for a serious conversation like that?” Jun asked him with a quiet little laugh. He lifted his uninjured fingers, stroking along Sho’s face, almost as though he couldn’t believe what they’d just done despite initiating it. “Because I’m certainly not.”

“Shall we forget it happened?” Sho mumbled.

Jun’s fingers slid down beneath his chin, forcing Sho to look him in the eye. “I don’t plan to. I’m rather happy that you didn’t punch me, so that made it all the more worth it, knowing you wanted it just as badly as I did.” Jun’s thumb was brushing along Sho’s lip now, teasing. “And you did want it badly.”

He nodded, taking the walking stick from the table and holding it out. Jun sighed in disappointment, accepting it so that Sho could step back further, stopping before they did anything else that might get them caught.

“You’re my employer.”

“I know.”

“It’s inappropriate.”

Jun nodded. “I know that, too.”

Sho crossed his arms, unsure of what to do. There was no going back to how things had been before. That was utterly impossible. Was it out of line, what he and Jun had just done? Yes, absolutely. And still he wanted to kiss Jun again. But without shame and without fear.

“You’re right,” Sho admitted. “I wanted it. Still want it, perhaps I always will.”

“How romantic,” Jun teased him, putting his glasses back on and hobbling to the other end of the table, picking up one of the small trees from the model and twisting it between his fingers.

“And perhaps it’s more damaging to keep those feelings bottled up than to let them out. Inappropriate or no.” He cleared his throat, met Jun’s gaze with firm resolve. “So don’t kiss me in here.”

Jun struggled not to laugh. “What?”

“This is my classroom, this is where Keita is taught. I won’t do anything in this room or in any rooms that are open to the staff. I will not compromise my professional time with personal matters. If we…if we see a need to…”

Jun put a hand over his heart. “I promise, I promise. Never here.”

“I know you didn’t want the serious conversation,” Sho mumbled, “but if this…if this isn’t an isolated incident, then let’s at least abide by that rule for now. The rest I suppose we’ll have to…play by ear.”

“Sho, if this is going to make you uncomfortable, we don’t have to…”

He shut his eyes, laughing despite himself. “Don’t change your mind when I’ve already thrown logic and propriety out the window in favor of this. I can’t change the way I feel, so I won’t, alright? And my god, when you say my name, I can’t think of anything else but how badly I want you…”

He heard a little knock against the table, seeing Jun had tapped it with his knuckles.

“Then let’s get back to our project for Keita,” Jun said, looking as though he wanted to do nothing but pick up where they left off.

“And we’ll keep the rest quiet,” Sho agreed, wondering just when they’d be able to steal another moment like this.

The two of them both would have to be extremely careful from now on.

It wasn’t the most romantic of plans, but at least Sho knew they wouldn’t cross the line anywhere they might get caught. In closing off the library, his classroom, Sho would be able to maintain the authority he had there. At least in the library Sho would only be Keita’s instructor, the position he was paid for.

When he wasn’t teaching, he decided, that time was his to use as he wished. It was what Jun had said from the very beginning.

It was foolish to embark on something with Jun. Every single reasonable cell in his body told him so repeatedly as the days carried on. But for so many years, Sho had governed himself with reason, and it had made him lonely. He held off on pursuing anyone for ages, fearing that word would get back to his employer.

He didn’t exactly have to worry about his employer discovering his secret this time.

With Keita’s lessons running longer each day, Sho wasn’t as idle as he’d been before. He now spent several hours a day teaching and at least an hour or two planning ahead for future lessons. Keita still had the occasional complaint, asking if he might draw instead of doing this lesson or that, but his participation was better than ever, and Sho had to continue developing lessons that would be both informative and adaptable to whichever mood Keita found himself in that day.

Jun attended fewer lessons, if only to keep away from temptation, Sho presumed. He busied himself around the house because he still couldn’t drive away. He kept finding things for Aiba to do, including coordinating the sale of things that weren’t needed by the Matsumoto family any longer. Jun was up and down the stairs despite the trouble his ankle was still giving him, hunting around in old bureaus of clothes, in piles of discarded items in the attic. Jun worked with Aiba to have items sold directly or sent to an auction, all proceeds no matter how small going toward house repairs and Keita’s trust.

But night time…night time was theirs.

Sho kept to the same routine he’d always had, so as not to tip off the staff. He dined with them in the kitchen while Jun continued taking his meals in the dining room. After dinner, Sho had his bath as usual and then retired to bed. It was only when Mao’s bedroom door closed, the only other member of staff residing in the family wing of the house, that they took a moment to indulge themselves.

It was easier for Sho to go to Jun’s rooms since he could best hear when Mao was in her room for the night or if she’d gone downstairs to combat one of Keita’s fits of pain. And it was not uncommon for Jun to stay up late, the light under his door visible to any member of staff far down the corridor if they left their rooms to use the washroom or indulge in a late night snack.

Jun kept the door to his bedroom closed for now, if only to set a boundary. There was so much they didn’t know about each other and where they might have spent their stolen moments entirely on the physical, instead they mostly talked.

Jun would pour them alcohol, and they’d sit beside each other on the sofa, exchanging bits and pieces of their lives before knowing one another. Sho spoke about his time in university, pursuing his degree, and then pursuing a career outside of academia. He told Jun about his parents, his siblings. His first unrequited love, a university classmate who had been very overt about sleeping with women.

He spoke about the cities he’d worked in, the children he’d taught. He spoke about the parents who’d employed him, the bits and pieces of the last 10 years of his life, everything that had somehow added up to him now working at Pinetree Manor. Sho had never thought his life was too interesting or out of the ordinary, but Jun seemed to like that about him. He asked a lot about Sho’s parents, obviously curious about what a life with a mother might be like, a life where a father didn’t hate you might be like.

It took Sho about a week or so to realize that Jun was likely encouraging him to talk more as a way to deflect attention from himself. Jun’s life, at least the pieces of it that he’d told Sho, mostly ended with his life at boarding school. He’d explained about his father’s decision to disown him. “More paperwork than he’d anticipated,” had been Jun’s only real comment on it.

Sho decided that if Jun wanted to know everything about him, then Jun had to trust in him just as much. Whatever Jun’s life had been, Sho wouldn’t judge him for it. A teenager cast from his home, it must have been horrible. And yet Jun had survived.

He went to Jun’s rooms as usual one evening, determined to put things on even footing. The light under the door was visible, a signal that Sho was free to enter. Once inside, he found Jun standing at the window, staring out into the dark with a glass in hand.

He turned at the soft click of the closing door, smiling. “Snow already,” Jun said quietly, pointing outside.

Sho joined him, seeing small flakes blowing around. It had been summer when he’d come to Pinetree Manor, and it would soon be winter. The estate was closer to the mountains and often was blanketed in snow. The roads would be harder to navigate, and Haru-san and the cook were already working to stock up on food in the event that the road wasn’t cleared enough for a delivery from town.

Ohno’s garden and the green lawns would vanish for a while, and already the house was growing chillier. They’d have to monitor Keita very closely, ensure that he was kept warm. It would be his first winter in his changed condition.

As he watched the snow make its arrival known, he thought of the story Jun had told him the other day, of how much fun he and his brother used to have. Atsushi being ten years older, he sometimes pampered his little brother, tugging him around on a sled or helping him build a snowman. Even though their father had been horrible to Jun, cold and distant, his brother had loved him.

Jun set his drink down on a side table, moving to stand behind Sho, wrapping his arms around his middle and resting his chin on his shoulder. Jun had made a teasing complaint before that the sharp angles of Sho’s shoulders made such a thing difficult, but he kept trying anyway. Sho was still growing accustomed to the affection Jun showed him, face reddening at the closeness.

“How are you feeling?” Sho asked, running his finger along the splint still on Jun’s right hand.

“I have an appointment in town in three days to make sure it’s healed. Can probably just tape it after that.”

Jun’s explanation was that he’d tripped at a friend’s house after a night of drinking, twisting his ankle and nearly breaking it as he fell, trying to brace himself with his hands, which had resulted in the cuts and broken fingers. He’d finally ditched the walking stick. He still favored his right leg, but with persistent walks around the house and grounds daily, he was almost back to his old self.

“Won’t you tell me about your friend? The one where you fell and did this to yourself, I mean.”

He felt the warm tickle of Jun’s laughter against his neck. “You’ve met him. Well, you’ve met his body of work. His family owns a bakery in Tokyo.”

Sho remembered the blue cake box, that night Jun had returned with three of them. That night that should have been more obvious to Sho, should have hinted that perhaps Jun was attracted to him. Otherwise who would steal him away at midnight just to eat cake?

“Ikuta Toma,” Jun said. “A real pain in the ass.”

“You’d say such a thing about your friend?”

“If you met him, you’d agree with me,” Jun laughed. “He was in Kitagawa Troupe with me, always forgetting his damn script pages.”

“Is that the name of the acting troupe you were in?”

Jun’s voice was a little more hesitant. “Yes.”

Sho turned in Jun’s arms so he could look at him, grinning. “You haven’t told me much else about that. Didn’t Nino mention some stage name of yours?”

“Miyama Hiroto. Our director gave me the name when I said I didn’t wish to use my real name,” Jun explained. “It would have embarrassed my father if I had, but I was all out of sorts back then. I didn’t feel like doing anything that might get back to him and put him in a rage. If I had a new name, I could be famous on my own merits. I wasn’t the disinherited son of some country aristocrat. I could forge a new path.”

“And did you?”

Jun sighed. “We were always in debt, spending most of the income on fees to translate and put on western plays. Our director had ambitions of us touring the plays overseas, to go to the countries the plays came from and show them what the Japanese could do. We could barely afford the rent on our theater, so sometimes on weeknights the place was rented out for burlesque-type shows.”

“Was it enjoyable at least?”

Jun’s gaze seemed faraway, his attention elsewhere. “Hmm?”

Sho stroked his arm. “Was it enjoyable, I asked?”

“At times,” Jun said. “I stayed until we officially disbanded anyway. I think I spent more time cleaning the theater than acting on the stage.”

“What was it like being on the stage? Acting?”

Jun ignored him, leaning forward for a kiss. Sho allowed it, shutting his eyes. And this time he saw it for what it was - Jun didn’t want to answer his question. He didn’t doubt that Jun wanted to kiss him, but a pattern was emerging. The last several nights, he’d been so caught up in the newness of it, the way it felt to act on the feelings he’d bottled up for weeks. Unlike anyone Sho had ever known, he felt wanted by Jun. He felt desired. A kiss from Jun wasn’t a means to an end, a prelude to some rushed and unsatisfying encounter. It was confirmation that what they had could grow unhurriedly, if the slow and teasing way Jun kissed him, stroked his face, held onto him was any indication.

But Jun was still hiding something, and using the magnetic attraction they had for one another as a means of distraction. It all centered around his business in Tokyo. Tonight Sho had prodded around his acting troupe. On previous nights, he’d inquired innocently if Jun knew when he’d be called away to the capital again or if he already had plans to do so when he was fully healed.

In all instances, Jun had never told him he didn’t wish to discuss it. He never told Sho to back off. Instead he simply changed the topic or pushed Sho back against his sofa cushions, kissing him senseless until Sho was too far lost in it to care that he hadn’t actually gotten an answer.

This time, he couldn’t really allow it. He’d rather be told it wasn’t his business than to be strung along with physical distractions.

By now, Jun had turned them so Sho’s back was to the wall, pinning him there and kissing along his neck while his hands moved down to cup his backside through his trousers, squeezing. The other night Jun had plainly admitted to being fond of his ass.

“Jun,” he murmured, struggling to maintain his composure. “Jun, listen…”

“No,” came a teasing response followed by a hot slide of Jun’s tongue at his pulse.

“Why won’t you talk to me?” He groaned when Jun brought himself closer, and Sho could feel the hard length of him brush against his own erection. “Jun, why don’t you trust me?”

Jun stopped, stepping away with alarm in his face.


Sho took a breath, desperate to regain his composure. If he hadn’t protested, he wondered how far Jun would have gone to avoid Sho’s questions this time. “I asked why you don’t trust me…”

“Of course I trust…”

“You’d rather kiss me than talk.”

Jun sighed. “What more is there to talk about?” He ran his fingers down Sho’s chest, teasing against fabric as he traced down from his neck to his belt. “I want you, and I’m trying to take it slow to prove I’m serious, that you mean more to me than…”

“I understand that,” he interrupted again, seeing irritation in Jun’s eyes because of it. “What I don’t understand is why you feel the need to stay closed off. I want to know you, all of you. I want to be someone you can confide in…about anything at all. I’ve never had anyone like that in my life, not until now. Not until you. I feel like I can tell you anything, and by god, I have. Why won’t you do the same?”

“And when you know everything, all of me, then what?” Jun asked, voice unsteady. “Will you still be unsatisfied?”

He’d touched a nerve.

“I only wish to be on the same footing. When you heal, I have no doubt that you’ll disappear again, to Tokyo. Will you even say where you’re going? What you’re doing there? When you’ll come back? If you’re seeing friends, then just say it. But if you’re living another life there, if I’m just an easy distraction here and you’ve got someone else there that you go and see, someone you’re betraying right here and right now with me…”

“There’s nobody else. There’s nobody in Tokyo,” Jun swore.

“You’re gone for days at a time, weeks even. The staff ignore how strange that is, and they usually just keep quiet. But one time I overheard the maids gossiping that you’ve got a mistress and a love child and that she calls you when she runs out of money and that’s why you always leave in a rush…”

Jun reached for him, a steadying hand on his shoulder. “Sho…Sho, stop. It’s not like that. You of all people should know I wouldn’t have a mistress.”

He’d known all this time that Jun’s disappearances bothered him. For weeks, months, he’d thought of Jun as irresponsible, running off on a whim. For weeks, months, Sho had convinced himself that he was concerned only with how Jun’s absences were affecting Keita. But it was his own ugly jealousy that was at fault.

He shut his eyes, ashamed of himself. Why did he feel so entitled to every dark secret Jun might be keeping?

“Forgive me. I’m being unfair,” he whispered a few moments later.

“I…there are things I cannot tell you. I simply cannot.”

He opened his eyes, looking up and seeing sorrow in Jun’s. “Ever?”

“I…I don’t know,” Jun admitted. “Perhaps someday. But whatever you do, never doubt what I feel for you. Trust me on that account even if you don’t trust me in any other way.”


“It’s late, and you have school tomorrow.” Jun brushed a kiss to his cheek. “Sensei.”

Part Five


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AMNOS/Arashi fanfiction exchange

May 2017

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