[identity profile] stormymood.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] arashi_exchange
A piece of rainbow for [livejournal.com profile] rainbow_teatime Part 3


Afterwards, things between Sho and Nino became pretty good. Sho would even call them friends by the status they reached just a few days later. Nino still wouldn’t tell Sho who was the responsible for his bruised face (since Sho threatened to have a serious word with that person, probably Nino was worried that Sho would be beaten up too or something) but they almost immediately arranged another meeting to study English. Once they met in a café near school, in which Sho treated Nino to a sundae. At first, Nino didn’t want to accept it, he even almost became angry at Sho, saying that he could afford some stupid ice cream by himself, but Sho insisted that he should just take it as a "sign of their friendship" - which Nino found embarrassing and stupid. Nino had grumbled but accepted in the end nevertheless.

Some other times, even after the English test, which turned out quite well for Nino by the way, they met in Nino’s apartment. All those times, Sho never met Nino’s mother, who seemed to live up to her name and not care much about her son or his guests, but one afternoon, surprisingly, she came home while Sho was still there, studying with Nino.

Surprised by the sound of keys rustling at the entrance door, Nino stood up from the living room table and walked into the small corridor to open the door. Sho heard a high-pitched voice that for some reason he immediately disliked, probably due to the fake sound, when a woman spoke.

"I’m back, surprise! Oh you have a guest?" she added. Probably, she saw Sho’s shoes in the entrance area.

"Mom... you’re early," Nino replied, sounding a bit nervous. "I thought you’re on late shift today? And I told you that someone from school would come over, why are you surprised?"

The woman giggled childishly and then, Sho could hear a crash, followed by an "Ooops" and a "Watch out" from Nino. Sho wasn’t sure if he was imagining things because of the rumours Ohno told him about Nino’s mother, but he seriously wondered if the woman was drunk. Early, considering that it was only about 6 pm.

Just a few seconds later, Nino guided the woman into the living room. She looked just like Nino, Sho thought immediately when he saw her face. The same eyes, the same small nose, the same beautiful thin lips. Her hair was light brown though - bleached, most likely - and fell over her shoulder in curls. She was wearing makeup to hide her age, so it was hard to guess how old she really was, and a simple golden necklace with a ring as a pendant around her neck. Her yellow blouse exposed a bit too much, same for her navy blue-white striped skirt that she was wearing over nude coloured tights.

"I’ll get you some water, Mom," Nino murmured and helped his mother to sit down at the living room table.

The boy sent a quick apologetic look towards Sho who just nodded slightly, unsure about how to react to the whole situation. Then, he stood up again and went into the kitchen to fill a glass with fresh water that he brought to his mother, settling down next to her.

"Nice to meet you, pretty boy," Nino’s mother said to Sho with a smile on her face as she placed her elbows on the low table. "What’s your name?"

"Sakurai Sho. Nice to meet you," the boy replied, lowering his head politely. "I’m sorry for barging into your home... I’m a friend of Nino..."

"Such a polite boy is a friend of my useless son," the woman chuckled in her high-pitched voice, irritating Sho who cringed at the word "useless" that she used to describe Nino. "Sorry if I’m laughing, it’s just..." Suddenly, she frowned. "Wait... Sakurai... doesn’t that ring a bell? Perhaps... are you related to the Sakurai hospital?"

Sho nodded. "Yes, my father is the director of the hospital."

"I knew it!" Nino’s mother cheered, applauding herself before she turned to her son with a slightly disgusted look. "Oh my... Kazunari, what did you do to make such a highborn student befriend you, blackmail him?"

Sho threw a quick look towards Nino, whose face had completely sunken. When the woman started poking her son at his side, Nino begged her in a low voice to stop, just to receive an even heavier poke. Sho took a deep breath.

"No! He didn’t do anything!" he said, determined.

"Hah...," the woman turned to face Sho again. At least, she stopped poking Nino now. "So what business might a rich boy like you have with my son then?" she asked, eyeing Sho suspiciously. Her face turned into an evil grin as she leaned a bit further over the table, coming close enough to Sho that he now could smell a slight scent of alcohol coming from her breath. "Don’t tell me he’s trying to make you fall for him so that you pull him out of his poor life? Away from me? Say, are you interested in small good-for-nothing boys like him, Sakurai-kun?"

"Mom, please, would you stop talking such stuff?" Nino hissed, putting his hands on his mother’s shoulder to pull her back. "Sakurai, I’m sorry, don’t listen to her..."

Sho didn’t care about what that woman said. In his eyes she was a horrible person, the rumours he heard about her, the suspicion he had almost confirmed by himself that she didn’t care about her son... and now she was talking about Nino like he was an illness, it made Sho feel like throwing up.

"In fact, I just happened to offer to help him with his English," he said in a calm voice. The last thing he wanted to do was to make the woman angry or discuss anything with her.

"Why would my son need your help with English?" Nino’s mother chuckled.

"I told you I’m bad in English," Nino explained shortly.

"Who cares?" she arched an eyebrow, looking at her son. "You won’t go to university anyway, right? And who needs English in Japan? You don’t need English, Kazunari. It’s a waste of time to study it."

Sho swallowed. He didn't know if she meant it, but for some reason the woman’s intonation had sounded like it was also a waste of time for Nino to spend time with Sho and that hurt. And what was that about Nino and university? What did she mean? Was it Nino’s own choice not to go there, like he tried to make Sho believe, or was it something she decided for her son?

"He’s actually quite good!" Sho chimed in. "Once I explained some of the basics to him he caught up really fast, I think it’s not a waste of time for him to deepen his knowledge. English can be very useful nowadays, depending on what job Nino might choose!"

The woman tsked, rolling her eyes at her son. "So the teachers were not enough to get a bit English into my useless son’s brain?" She lifted her hand and Nino seemed to back off a little before she ruffled through his pitch black hair, messing it up even more than it usually was. "It needs a rich boy to make you understand this crap? Awesome... Great, Kazunari, congratulations." Her voice was dripping from sarcasm and Sho bitterly realized from whom Nino seemed to have inherited this.

"Please Mom, stop that... we’ve already finished, OK? Sorry Sakurai but... take your stuff and come, please," Nino finally requested, obviously having enough of his mother’s talk in front of the other student.

The boy stood up and waited for Sho, who hurriedly packed his bag and followed Nino. Polite as he was brought up, he bowed in front of the woman to bid her farewell (even if somehow he felt terrified by the thought of leaving Nino alone with her). Nino hurried into the corridor, Sho following him.

"Where are you going?" they could hear Nino’s mother yelling from the living room while they were putting on their shoes.

"I’m going to bring Sakurai-kun to the bus-stop," Nino replied, loud enough for her to hear.

"Take down the trash with you, will you?"

Nino sighed but then he jumped up and ran into the kitchen to grab two plastic bags. "...Sure."

"Did you cook already?" the woman asked, her voice lower than her chatty sing-song voice from before.

"No...," Nino hesitated. "Since we were studying and I thought you would come later..."

"Cook something when you’re back. Something good this time!" The woman sighed deeply.

"Yes..."

"Now hurry! And bring some cigarettes with you, you stole my last package after all…"

"I didn't steal it," Nino tried to argue, but the woman just make a "Shoo" noise and the boy seemed to give up. "Yes," he said and came back to the entrance area quickly, pushing the door open and showing Sho the way outside.

They more or less rushed downstairs, Nino not even bothering to wait for the elevator he had called to their floor. Sho didn’t say anything, following his friend in silence, but he could feel the other boy’s tension. Outside, Nino quickly deposited the trash at the designated area and then, they went to the nearby bus-stop. Not sure if it was their luck or bad luck, Sho noticed that the bus must have left just a few minutes before, the next one would be following in another few. Enough for him, to say a few things to Nino, that was if the boy would stay and wait with him and not run back immediately. Apparently, Nino had calculated with waiting for the bus together with Sho, but he looked a bit nervous. For a moment, they exchanged a look but Nino quickly averted his eyes. Maybe he wanted to say something, however, the boy stood silent and so, Sho took the chance.

"Your mother said some very mean things up there... is she always like that?" Sho started, not completely sure where this was heading. However, they had to talk about this, he was convinced about that.

"I’m sorry you had to witness that," Nino started. "I told her not to come home early today, usually she never comes home early anyway, she surely was just curious about you and then she...," he paused, taking a breath. "I’m sorry she said such strange things to you..."

Sho shook his head, understanding. "Don’t worry, I don’t mind what she said. I just want to tell you that you shouldn’t believe her." Sho came a step closer, lifting his hand to put it onto Nino’s arm. They locked eyes. "You’re not a good-for-nothing. You’re not useless, what a terrible thing for a parent to tell their son!"

Nino’s eyes seemed to become watery, when he pursed his lips and averted his look again. "Well, I guess, she must be right..."

"No, she’s wrong!" Sho slightly shook his friend. "Listen, Nino, you’re a precious person like everybody else and if she as a mother can’t see that, she’s disqualified as a parent."

Desperate, Nino sighed. "Maybe I’m disqualified as a son and that’s why -"

"No. Nino, no, stop that, that’s crap!" the other boy said, determined. "Look at me, Nino!" The younger boy looked into Sho’s eyes again and he looked so weak that Sho couldn’t help but pull him into a hug. Nino didn’t move, so Sho pressed him even closer, his heart pounding, overflowing from the anger he felt towards Nino’s mother, as well as the affection he felt for the boy in his arms. It hurt, to see him hurt. So much. "Children deserve to be loved by their parents, no matter what. Just... don’t believe the shit she’s talking, promise me."

After a second of hesitation, Sho could feel how Nino lifted his arms and finally put them onto Sho’s back, returning the hug, even if only slightly and hesitating. Sho’s heart was about to burst. "Promise, Nino...," he whispered.

"I’ll try...," Nino replied, murmuring into Sho’s embrace.

"OK...," Sho sighed. He probably had to be satisfied with this for now. He knew that he might have to talk to Nino about this whole topic again.

They parted, both acting a bit strange after the hug, embarrassed, however, Nino still stayed, waiting together with Sho without saying a further word, until the next bus finally arrived. When Sho was about to hop onto the bus, he turned to Nino again.

"One last thing," he started.

"Hm?" Nino looked at him, wondering.

"Whenever you need something... you can come to me, OK?" Sho said, seriously. "Call me whenever you need me. I mean it!"

Even when the bus driver hurried Sho to finally get on, and pushed a button to close the door, Sho didn’t avert his eyes from Nino, who was just standing there, looking at Sho. Just when the bus started driving, Nino seemed to say something. Sho wasn’t sure if he interpreted it correctly, he had never been really good at lip reading, but he hoped he got Nino’s message correctly.

"I will."

+ + +



"Why do you want to ask Nino if he’d like to come with us to the camp?!" Jun asked Sho during lunch break a few days later, his eyebrows knitted. To be honest, Sho wasn’t surprised by his friend’s adverse reaction to his idea.

"Why not?" the older student asked, stubbornly. He had already made up his mind to ask Nino to join them, it wasn’t like he was asking Jun for permission.

"Does he look like someone who has fun camping? And I bet he doesn’t even have the money for the bus ride and everything," the younger student continued.

"I don’t even know if he would agree but... I don’t want him to be all alone over the holidays, OK?" Sho countered.

Jun sighed. "Well, whatever. Try ask him. I bet an ice cream on him not coming along with us."

"Bet!" Sho reached out his hand and Jun shook it before Sho jumped up, enthusiastically.

"Wait, where are you going?" Jun asked confused when he realized that Sho was about to leave. It was still at least 20 minutes before the next classes.

Sho grinned. "Searching for Nino, what else?"

"I think I saw him on the roof top," Ohno chimed in with a tired voice.

"Thanks, Satoshi!" Sho said and then he was off, not even caring about what Jun might have to say further.

Indeed, he found Nino up there, in the same spot in which they recently met when the two boys reconciled. Nino was sitting there with a cigarette in his hand and a half eaten lunch box next to him, his eyes closed and as always, he was listening to music. Sho didn’t hesitate, jumped to the boy, took the cigarette from him to stab it out on the floor and pulled off his headphones. Surprised, Nino had already parted his lips to protest, but when Sho flashed him his widest smile, it seemed like Nino went numb.

"Listen, Nino…," the older student started when he settled down next to him.

Nino adjusted his headphones around his neck in a more comfortable position. "Hm?"

Excitedly, Sho waited until the boy paid his full attention to him again and when they locked eyes, he burst out, "Would you like to join us for summer camp?"

"What?" Nino chuckled with a mixture of amusement and surprise. When Sho just looked at him with high expectations, Nino shook his head to make his point clearer. "No, definitely not."

"Why not?" Sho pouted. "We had so much fun last time... there are boys from every class, only one teacher to keep an eye on us - just in case - it’s great! We’re free to decide how to spend our days, go for walks in the nearby forest, fishing by the river -"

"Playing music around a campfire and singing country songs?" Nino sarcastically completed Sho’s description.

"Well," Sho tilted his head. "Usually the teacher brings a guitar and if we’re lucky enough to have someone around who can play..."

Nino sighed. "Come on, Sho," he said, causing a slight shiver to run over the other student’s back. It was only since their embrace - of which they didn’t talk about by the way - that Nino had switched from calling Sho "Sakurai" or giving him embarrassing names, to simply "Sho". Sho liked it. At lot. "I’m not the type for such gatherings, OK? Just... go with your friends and have fun, like last year..."

"You are my friend now too, Nino," Sho insisted. Even if they didn’t talk about what happened that evening after Sho met Nino’s mother, even if Nino still didn’t want to join Sho and his friends during lunch breaks, for Sho, things were clear. Their friendship might still be in the fledgling stage, but he was proud of their progress.

"Sho, no. I don’t want to, OK?" the younger student repeated.

But Sho was stubborn. "I know we’re not going to talk about money. Or your mother. But let’s be honest. Is it because it's too expensive? Or do you think you can't leave your mother alone for a few days?"

Nino sighed.

"Nino…," Sho continued. "She's not at home most of the time anyway, right? And I would imagine that during holidays you might prefer not to be home all day long. It will be the perfect chance to get away for a while… it may even be relaxing." Plus, the less Nino was exposed to that woman’s stupid comments, the better...

"Relaxing?" Nino frowned, challenging the other boy. "With a bunch of other guys that I don't have anything in common with?"

"They aren't so bad, you know? You used to be friends with Ohno, didn't you?" Sho countered.

"That's been years ago… we were kids…," Nino murmured.

"I think he didn't change much."

"Maybe I did..."

"I’m sure he wants to be your friend too, once again. He invited you to his party after all, didn’t he?" the older student pointed out, not missing the wave of gratefulness that ran through his body at that moment. Thinking back, he hadn’t expected to say this one day, but if he and Nino didn’t meet there at the party, they probably wouldn’t be here together now either.

"I think he was just polite... old times and such."

Sho didn’t give up. "Aiba is joining as well."

"I know."

"So?"

"So?" Nino mirrored the other boy.

Sho sighed deeply. "Oh come on Nino, it will be fun! You can use a little fun, believe me."

"No, thanks," the boy repeated again.

"I can pay your fees, if it's really the money!"

"You will not pay my fees, Sakurai." Ouch... back to family name basis?

"I mean... You can pay me back?" Sho tried again.

"I said no! You just want me to come along because you'd miss me like hell, aren’t you?" Nino asked, his voice drowned in sarcasm.

Sho hesitated for a moment before he replied. "Maybe…," even if he wasn't ready to admit how much honesty was lying in this word.

"Stop joking!" Irritated, Nino averted his eyes (was this a blush on his cheeks?) and reached for his headphones to put them back on.

+ + +

"I guess, you owe me some ice cream, Sho," Jun said, when a bunch of boys met in front of school to get ready for summer camp two weeks later.

The bus was already waiting for them to get on. The last few heavier pieces of luggage (like a grill, the teacher’s guitar, the tents and some other stuff they might use at their destination were already stored in the storage space down below, and some boys already took their seats in the bus, chatting cheerfully. Sho was still standing outside together with Jun, Aiba and two other boys who were talking about basketball, while Ohno had already settled inside to row of seats for him and Sho.

Sho had almost given up. Almost. He sighed. Well, what did he expect after Nino’s reaction to his suggestion the other day? They hadn’t even talked about the summer camp again, except the one time when Sho pushed a piece of paper into Nino’s hands which showed the details about the trip. Nino had looked at it and stuffed it into his bag, sighing, telling Sho again that he did not have any intention to join. So why would he change his mind now? He wouldn’t come, Sho thought, sighing. He ignored Jun’s comment though, simply turning to get onto the bus. Jun, Aiba and the rest followed him inside and the bus closed its door. The teacher gave the bunch of noisy boys some advices and told them to take their seats before the start of the bus ride. Of course, most of them weren't seated yet, chatting with their friends or searching stuff in their backpacks.

"Did we forget someone?" Aiba suddenly asked, pointing out of the window at a black-haired boy dressed in casual clothes who was approaching the bus, riding a bicycle, hopping off and then seemed to hesitate about what to do next. "It’s Nino! Sho-kun, I thought he wouldn’t come?"

Sho, who had just settled right next to Ohno, who had already taken a nap and now seemed to wake up, jumped up from his seat, his heart skipping a beat at the sound of Nino’s name. He threw a look out of the window, recognizing the boy immediately, and rushed through the narrow corridor of the bus.

"Please, open the door!" he asked the bus driver, getting around the teacher who looked at him, confused.

The door flew open; Sho jumped down the couple of steps, and ran towards Nino, who was still standing there with his bicycle at his hands. The boy averted his eyes when Sho reached him, looking at him with surprise.

"Nino, what are you doing here, I thought you don’t want to-," Sho started, but Nino interrupted him.

"I - I just wanted to say bye...," the boy murmured, but Sho could feel that something was off.

The student pointed at Nino’s backpack that the boy was carrying. "This is quite a fully packed backpack for just coming around to say bye, isn’t it?" he asked.

"Uhm...," Nino blushed slightly.

"You want to come along, right?" Sho smiled at his friend. "I’m happy you came, Nino!"

"I guess it's not a good idea though," the other boy murmured. "I didn't pay any fees and…"

Sho reached his hand to pat Nino’s shoulder. "It's OK, just come with us, it's fine, I'll talk to the teacher about the money issue and we’ll take care of that afterwards."

Nino locked eyes with Sho, who still couldn’t stop smiling from happiness.

"OK," Nino gave in. "Thanks, Sho."

They hurried back onto the bus, where the teacher was already standing in front, ready to scold them for the ruckus, but Sho was smooth with his explanation and thankfully, the teacher eventually accepted the request of taking Nino with them. The bus driver opened the storage room again to pack Nino’s bicycle away and then - finally - everyone was on the bus.

Some boys looked at Nino, suspiciously, some of them whispered to each other. Jun glared at the boy, who tried to ignore it, as he followed Sho back to his row.

"Nino," Ohno nodded at him with a smile.

"Oh-chan..." Nino replied with a nod.

And as always, that was kind of everything the two guys exchanged in communication. Aiba was overly happy to see his friend joining them and immediately pulled him into the bus row opposite to Ohno. Nino's eyes met Sho's when the student settled on the seat next to Ohno whose head had snapped aside again, ready for the next nap.

Aiba had already ripped open several packages of sweets and snacks, trying to get Nino to eat some, who refused. The cheerful guy pouted slightly but he then handed some over to Sho, who took them gladly. Jun, who had been in the front of the bus up to now, chatting with some classmates, finally approached them too, and when he saw Aiba and Nino having taken his row, he glared at them.

"This is my seat," he grumped at Nino, who looked at him wondering before Sho chimed in.

"I didn't know your name is written on it," Nino grumped back and Jun took a deep breath, the anger showing in his furrowed eyebrows.

"Come on, Jun, don’t be silly," Sho said. "You can take the next row. And... I think you owe me an ice cream now."

Sho knew that it might not have been the nicest thing to say to Jun at the moment, knowing that his friend still had some issues with Sho becoming close to Nino, but he couldn’t help it. And if his friendship with Jun really was worth something, they would eventually get over it. Huffing, the younger student gave in and took the row behind Aiba and Nino, to at least have Sho in sight. When Aiba turned around to offer Jun snacks, the boy took some and shortly after was nibbling on a chocolate bar which seemed to improve his mood at least a little bit.

The bus ride took about four hours and brought them out of town and up into the mountains to a camping site they had rented for a week. It was around midday when they arrived and a bunch of - now pretty hungry - students jumped off the bus. After unloading the storage space and checking the list of participants for the camp – Nino's name added in handwriting to the bottom list -, the teacher talked again to the bus driver, making sure that he would pick them up next week, same time, same place.

The weather was gorgeous, white castles of clouds towering in the azure blue sky and the green of the trees surrounding the camping area giving off a refreshing feeling. The temperature up here was pleasant, not as hot as in the city and the fresh breeze waving through the leaves felt awesome. The sounds of nature were enchanting... or would be, if there wasn’t a canon of grumpy boys’ voices like right now, demanding something "real" to eat, as if they didn’t munch away a ton of snacks during the past few hours.

"Boys, you know exactly how this works," the teacher said, his hands on his hips and a strict look on his face. "You’ll be divided into groups, some of you will put up the tents, some will go find some wood for the fire and some will be in charge for cooking. Any volunteers?"

Aiba and a handful other guys immediately lifted their hands, volunteering for the tents, to Sho’s relief, who didn’t even want to remember the disastrous attempt of building a tent, he and Jun had last year. Those things were definitely more complicated than expected! Jun, Maruyama, Sho and a shy boy called Kato from first grade that Sho didn’t know, were grouped for going to pick up wood and to Sho’s surprise, Nino volunteered for cooking. Well, probably it wasn’t that surprising, Sho had quickly learned that Nino was a really good cook, but he had partly hoped that they would share the same task. Considering how bad he was at cooking though, Sho assumed that it wouldn’t be any good to switch teams now. Therefore, he nudged Ohno - whom he knew could cook, if he wanted - and nodded into Nino’s direction. The older student then teamed up with Nino and two other guys. Sho felt better now, knowing that Ohno would watch over Nino and take care of him if needed.

Since Maruyama quickly took the new first grader, who apparently had never joined a summer camp before, under his care as they went out to collect some wood, Jun and Sho were quickly left behind. While Sho tried to chat a bit with his friend, he felt that the mood between them was... problematic. As so often recently, Jun only provided short answers, and didn’t really want to talk, obviously, which was very uncommon for him. In the end, Sho lost his patience.

"Jun... I can see that you’re in a terrible mood. What’s wrong?" Sho asked, coming to a halt in front of his friend and turning around to confront him.

Apparently, that was enough to make Jun explode. The boy dropped all the wooden sticks he had collected so far and buried his face in his hands. "What’s wrong... What’s wrong?! You even have to ask?!" he burst, yelling at Sho who widened his eyes in surprise. "It’s wrong that you brought Nino here with us, it wasn’t supposed to be like this!"

Sho sighed. So it was this old topic again. He shouldn’t even be surprised. "Is this because you lost a bet or because you just can’t bring yourself to try liking him? I told you he’s not such a bad guy as everyone says, he’s actually -"

"He’s everything you talk about or think about, I know! He’s everywhere when it comes to you, Nino here, Nino there, I have enough of it!" Jun exclaimed and he sounded deadly serious.

Sho took a deep breath, trying not to start yelling in response. "I’m very sorry that I’m talking about one of my friends!"

"He’s not just your friend," the younger student continued. "You’re obviously in love with that guy, head over heels, and it changes everything and it makes me feel so sick!"

"What?!" Sho asked, surprised.

Jun rolled his eyes, before he continued growling. "Seriously, Sho, you’re even too stupid to realize it, give me a break!"

The older student blushed, being called "stupid" by Jun was definitely not how he imagined this conversation and how could he just assume things? "Whatever my feelings for Nino might be, why does it make you so bitchy?!"

"You don’t get it, do you?" Jun asked, desperately. He ran his fingers through his slightly curly hair. His voice had finally lowered, but the content of his words didn’t become better. "You do not understand a thing and I’m sick of it. I’m not talking to you anymore..."

With that, the boy turned around; aiming to walk back the path, they had taken into the forest, not caring about the dropped wood or the confused look on Sho’s face.

"Jun, come on!" the student tried to hold back his friend while he was bending down to pick up the wood. "We’re supposed to be here to have fun together!"

For a last time, Jun turned around, snapping at Sho. "You have your Nino so go have fun with him and leave me alone!"

Sho stayed behind, dumbfounded. He remembered the talk with Ohno a couple of weeks ago, what his friend said about Jun being jealous of Sho’s "new friend". However, Sho hadn’t expected what this jealousy would turn Jun into. He didn’t like it, and he wondered if there was something he could do about it. He had tried to explain Jun that things wouldn’t change... but was that true?

Sho thought about Jun’s accusation that he was in love with Nino. His heart had started beating faster when Jun had voiced those words... Sho had to admit that he himself hadn’t thought things through to that point yet. What were his feelings for Nino? Didn’t he just want to befriend him?

While Sho collected the left pieces of wood and slowly strolled back to the camp again, he was lost in thoughts, thoughts about Nino, trying to figure things out. He wanted to be with him. As much as he could. He was casually thinking about their kiss on the party, about the time when Nino leaned his head against Sho’s shoulder, or their embrace and he thought about it once more right now. It made his heart beating faster. It made him want to repeat it, hug him again, kiss him again, and if Sho was completely honest to himself, this wasn’t the first time he had such thoughts.

Yeah, probably, Jun was right and Sho was in love with Nino. But should he feel guilty about it? And what did it have to do with Jun? Did he have a problem with sharing his best friend? Did he fear that in case Sho and Nino became a thing, Sho wouldn’t care about him anymore? That was simply bullshit... Further, there was no guarantee that Nino would accept a confession - if Sho would ever be courageous enough to make one - so Jun’s fear was probably without grounds, anyway...

+ + +

When Sho returned to the camp, he wasn’t surprised that their teacher approached him, asking him what happened between him and Jun. Apparently, the younger student had been so mad at Sho, that he had requested to be transferred to another tent, different from the first distribution which had been set during the bus ride. According to the initial plan, Jun was to share a tent with Ohno, Sho and - of course to his disliking - Nino. Usually, there were three boys per tent, while the teacher had his own tent and being given the choice to either share his sleeping space with his teacher or Sho and his friends, Nino had decided for the latter. Now, Jun was walking up to Aiba, probably asking him - knowing that Aiba usually couldn’t say no if people asked him for something in a nice manner - if he could share his and his friends’ tent.

"I’m not going to ask what happened," Ohno simply said, when Sho approached him and dropped the collected firewood for the campfire in the evening.

"Better that way," Sho sighed. When he caught Nino’s confused look, he forced himself to smile at the boy. "How’s cooking going?"

Their teacher had returned to his position behind the small gas grill he had brought along on which some meat and sausages were sizzling, while Nino and Ohno seemed to be responsible for the vegetables and salad.

"It’s OK," Nino said, shrugging.

"OK, he says, Sho, seriously, you have to try his salad dressing, it’s heavenly," Ohno said, making Sho smile - sincerely this time.

After a festive meal in the afternoon, the boys were free to do what they wanted, with exception that they wouldn’t do anything illegal or forbidden, and that they would be back at the camp around 9 pm for a small dinner. Aiba and some of his friends immediately took the chance to change into their swimming wear and jumped into the mountain river nearby. Their cheerful screams could be heard in the radius of about a kilometre, Sho was convinced of that. Jun had joined Aiba and his group - it might be just to avoid Sho and Nino – and Ohno had pulled out a fishing rod and some equipment and took Kato with him to a nice spot he discovered last year, when he realized that the young boy was obviously interested in fishing too.

Sho and Nino, accompanied by Maruyama, who seemed to have swallowed a book judging by the amount of words that were spilling out of his mouth, had chosen to take a walk through the nearby forest and - Sho’s idea - collect some berries for dessert. To be honest, for the whole walk Sho couldn’t help but wish that he was alone with Nino. It was hard to ignore Maruyama and his 1.000 syllables, and he wasn’t able to talk to Nino as freely as he wanted to. Anyway, whenever Sho and Nino accidentally bumped into each other while walking along the forest path, or when their hands touched when Sho offered Nino his help to climb over some rocks, his heart beat sped up a little bit and warmth spread through his body. The more Sho thought about it, the clearer his conclusion became. Yes, he liked Nino. More than just a friend.

A couple of hours later, when everyone was back at the camping place, dinner was served and the cheerful voices of the other boys could be heard from the campfire, Nino had decided to stay away and watch the scene a bit from the outside. Probably, Sho thought, since Nino wasn’t used to being part of a group, he felt a bit overwhelmed by everything, needing some time for himself. Well, they had more than enough time to bring Nino closer to the others, this was only the first evening of a whole week. However, of course, Sho couldn’t resist standing up from the circle of friends that was laughing over a couple of old camping stories that their teacher was telling them, and search for Nino.

In the end, Sho found the boy in their tent, rummaging through his backpack. The dim light of a small lamp hanging from the middle of the tent’s ceiling lit the space up, just enough to see what was inside of Nino’s bag. The student was about to curse, when Sho entered, pulling the zipper of the tent close behind him in order not to let in any mosquitoes or other horrible creatures.

"What’s wrong, Nino?" he asked.

Nino turned around, looking at Sho. "Ah... I can’t find my toothbrush..."

"Are you sure you brought one along?" Sho pointed at the other boy’s backpack.

"Very sure," Nino nodded. "I explicitly bought a new one for this...," he added, murmuring.

"Hm... well if you can’t find it, want to take one of mine?" Sho offered. "My mom gave me like extra three new ones, just in case I lose them."

"Sounds like it wouldn’t be the first time," Nino chuckled.

Sho laughed. "Well, she knows me too well, I guess."

He pulled his toiletry bag out of his backpack and reached inside to search for a spare toothbrush for Nino, handing him a brand new one. Nino accepted it gratefully, and the two of them went to the river together to brush their teeth, next to each other sitting there by the gurgling of the water, which drowned their own. While Sho was still splashing water on his face afterwards, enjoying the cool liquid on his warm skin, Nino’s eyes were glued to his cell phone screen. He flipped the phone close, wanting to put it away, but then he seemed to reconsider, pulled it in front of him again and flipped it back open, continuing to stare at the screen.

"Are you waiting for a call?" Sho asked when he came to sit next to Nino who had taken place on top of a rock covered with moss.

"Uhm... just checking...," Nino murmured, pushing his phone back into his trousers' pocket.

"Your mother?" Sho guessed. "Did she call?"

Nino shook his head. "She didn’t. But I wouldn’t be surprised if she does... I only left some food and a letter telling her that I’ve gone for camping for a whole week."

"You didn’t talk to her about it?" Sho asked, slightly shocked.

"She wouldn’t have allowed it," Nino replied, his voice sounding a bit desperate.

Sho sighed. "You told her I offered to pay for you?" Just in case this was the problem...

Of course, it wasn’t. "Sho... just as much as I don’t like it if you paid the fees for me, she wouldn’t like it either. She has... still some pride left."

"So... you basically ran away?"

Nino looked at Sho, confused and insecure. "Did I run away?"

The older student didn’t really know how to react to that. He reached out his hand and put it on top of Nino’s thigh. "It will be OK..."

"I don’t know... if she doesn’t call... maybe she doesn’t care?"

"Maybe she’s still out and didn’t see your message yet," Sho said. "It’s possible, right?"

"True..."

"Now stop worrying for now. Would you like to join us at the campfire?" Sho asked, flashing Nino a smile with his now perfectly white teeth. "Ohno told me that you played the guitar in middle school..."

"Oh that traitor," Nino murmured. "Forget it, I’m not going to play!"

"Why not? It doesn’t have to be much just a bit... you know...," Sho made a gesture of pretending to hold a guitar, strumming invisible strings.

Nino sighed. "You want to sing country songs so badly?" he added in a teasing tone.

"I like country songs," Sho admitted and maybe for the first time ever, he earned a sincere laugh from Nino and it sounded beautiful to his ears.

+ + +

It took Sho three days to convince Nino to try and play the guitar for them when they met around the campfire like the previous evenings as a tradition. Sho started singing a song, joined by Ohno. Nino was sitting next to him, clamping the guitar in his hands, nervously. Only after they finished the first verse and Sho smiled at him again, Nino slowly started playing, at first slowly, then it increased, once Nino got accustomed to the feeling of holding a guitar in his hands again and had gotten into the rhythm of the song. He had told Sho that it had been quite a while since he last held an instrument in his hands, since middle school, to be exact, and even then Nino had only been able to practise in school. Soon, his playing got more refined and it showed that he knew quite well what he was doing, playing along to a couple of songs until a round of applause went off – by everyone but Jun who was still not talking to neither Sho nor Nino - and Nino hurriedly pressed the guitar back into their beaming teacher’s hand.

"That was amazing, Ninomiya-kun!" the teacher said, smiling.

Nino only shook his head, embarrassed. Sho already knew him well enough to know that Nino seemed to have trouble to accept praise, to which he wasn't used obviously, but deep inside he must be happy. He had seen that behaviour during their English studies and now it wasn't that different.

The younger boy stood up, and headed off towards the river, probably to splash some fresh water onto his face to calm down his nerves. Sho smiled when he saw the other students' perplex faces. First, it must be a surprise for everyone to see troublemaker Nino playing the guitar, voluntarily, second, they saw him actually embarrassed. Here, he seemed to be completely different from school.

It was only then, when Sho realized that usually Nino only showed this side to him. Others usually knew him to be grumpy and snarky, if he was even willing to talk. But since the two of them got to know each other better, Sho had slowly but surely discovered Nino's real face. An insecure and shy person who seemed to have trouble showing his kindness, probably, because he never really learned how to do that, and hid behind a "stronger" appearance than he actually was. Opening up and trusting people were probably his first few steps into the right direction and Sho was somehow a little proud about the fact that he was the first person Nino showed this side of him to.

The student then stood up too, intending to follow Nino and say a few words to him, while the teacher tried playing the guitar, getting scolded and teased by the remaining students that he was doing a lame job compared to Nino.

As expected, Sho found the boy by the river, washing his face and breathing in and out deeply. Sho stepped next to him and bent down too to touch the cool water, letting it run through his opened fingers. He turned to Nino, smiled at him and then suggested that they go for a walk. Not too far away, since it was late already, but just a bit further away from the hustle and bustle.

"You did great," Sho said as they were walking next to each other, slowly.

"It's embarrassing, let's never ever talk about it again, please," Nino replied, his head lowered and his hands stuffed into his pockets.

They just arrived the edge of the forest behind the area where they had built the tents. When Sho stopped and leaned his back against a huge tree, Nino did the same and from the shadows of the falling night, they watched the scenery together. The sounds of nature were embracing them. The campfire was still in sight, but the people sitting around it were just small dark silhouettes. Joyful laughter was reaching their ears from afar, far away enough to give them the sense of privacy.

"I have to admit, when we first met, I didn't expect you to be the shy type," Sho suddenly started.

A bit surprised, Nino looked at him, before he literally shied away again. "Well…, I usually try not to be, but in front of you, faking is hard," the boy said honestly.

Sho's heart jumped. He appreciated it a lot that Nino was sharing his thoughts with him. He was really opening up to him more and more. "You're like a different person."

"You ripped my guard down," Nino said after taking a deep breath. He turned his face and they locked eyes. "This is the real me… are you disappointed?"

"That you're not as much of a dick as you pretended to be?" Sho chuckled. "Definitely not. I like the real you." He smiled.

"Good…," was everything, Nino said before he averted his eyes and they fell silent for a while.

"What about your mother, did she call you in the meantime?" Sho cut the silence after a few minutes. He hadn't seen the boy talking on the phone those past few days, but it wasn't like they were glued together 24 hours a day so it was still possible that Nino spoke to his mum.

The boy shook his head though. "No, she didn't. She left a bunch of messages though… not so pleasant ones…"

Sho cringed. After hearing from Nino that he hadn't really spoken about the camp with his mother, he had already feared that there will be consequences for the boy. "What did she…"

Nino shook his head again. He obviously didn't want to say and Sho had to accept it. However, he said something different, in a whisper, even if it was unlikely that anyone but Sho could hear him anyway. "Sometimes I wished I didn't have to go back into that apartment…"

After looking at the boy for a moment, Sho instinctively reached his hand out to find Nino's, which wasn't too far away and with a fast beating heart, he slowly took it in his own. The younger student seemed surprised at first by the touch, but he didn't fight against it. When Sho slightly pressed his hand and warmth was spreading between them, the boy answered, pressing Sho's hand with his own slightly shaking hand, tightly. Sho released a deep breath, relieved and happy that the other boy accepted his gesture.

"You know… this might not be something that will cheer you up, and the reasons are nothing compared to your problems… but sometimes, I feel the same about my home," Sho said, more to distract Nino from his probably highly depressing thoughts than to talk about his own sorrows. But even he had to agree, that he felt the urge of trusting them to someone too, especially when that someone was as important to him as Nino.

"How come?" Nino asked in a low voice. "I thought you have everything you wish for. Friends, family, a huge house, good grades, money…"

"To be honest...," Sho took a deep breath and looked at Nino. He pressed his hand a little harder. "I've never told this to anyone before but… I don’t want to become a doctor."

"Hm...," Nino nodded his head. "I thought so, to be honest."

"Did you?" the other boy replied but deep inside, he knew that Nino would know, or at least suspect something. Back then when he visited him for the first time and they were talking about university (well, having a fight about that topic to be exact) he already had the feeling that Nino was able to look through his pretence. "Well... I’m a bad liar I guess. But my family still believes I will become a doctor. I just can’t tell them..."

"What do you want to become?" Nino asked, pressing Sho's hand.

"I think, I would like to become a teacher," Sho said, seriously, immediately earning a cute chuckle from Nino. "Hey, what’s so funny about that?"

"Oh, I’m sorry. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not funny, it’s just... I thought that it would fit you very well. And I mean that in a good way," the boy explained.

Sho looked at him. The dim light from the far away campfire and the stars high up in the night sky created a small sparkle in Nino's eyes. "Really?"

"Really," Nino nodded, smiling. "You helped me a lot in English. It wouldn't have been possible if you didn't have teaching skills," he said before making a small pause as if he wanted to add something more. "Maybe you should just try talking to them. I’m sure, they will listen to you and understand your wishes."

For a few seconds, Sho didn't say anything, surprised to hear the other trying to cheer him up. He appreciated it, a lot, but still, there were some heavy doubts on his mind. "They will probably disinherit me...," the student murmured.

"Oh come on, it can’t be that bad!" Nino replied, and Sho could swear he rolled his eyes for a second. "Don’t you think they will accept your choice? Teacher is an honourable job after all, isn’t it? Maybe you won’t earn as much as a doctor, but it’s important work too and-"

Nino wasn't able to finish his sentence. Sho interrupted him. Not with words, but with a kiss. A very unexpected kiss – for both of them -, a light kiss, a sweet kiss, a muting kiss, but Sho's feelings of love and gratefulness for that boy in front of him became so strong, he wasn't able to hold back anymore. So Sho took a step forward, turned around quickly and leaned forward to meet Nino's lips with his own, making the other freeze and stop talking in the middle of his cheering for Sho.

The student's heart stopped beating for a moment and then, when it started beating again, it felt like drums were shaking up his whole body. It felt good. So good. Addictive. He remembered the scene from Ohno's party, the way Nino had muted him in a very similar way, even if he might have had completely different motives and feelings than what Sho was feeling right now. Probably still had… It was nothing compared to that kiss back then. It was so much better, it tasted so much better too, Sho thought, a bit surprised, when he noticed the difference to the smoky kiss that tasted like alcohol from the last time. Slowly but surely, Sho slipped from his daze back into reality, realizing what he just did.

Nervously, Sho drew back, his lips immediately missing the soft touch of Nino's. He searched the boy's eyes in the darkness, seeing the distant light reflecting on Nino's white skin, a short sparkle in his eyes. Still, Nino didn't say a word and just kept staring at Sho. Their hands were still connected between them, the grip tightened with the tension between them.

"What… was that?" Nino finally asked after what had felt like an eternity, in a weak voice.

Sho swallowed, his lips feeling dry, and his heart still pounding like crazy in his chest. "You… you were talking so much, I needed to shut you up," he referred to what Nino had said months ago, trying to joke in order to hide his nervousness.

Nino chuckled, a bit insecure, he must recognize Sho’s hint on their first kiss. "And why do you look surprised now?"

"I expected the kiss to taste like smoke… like the last time…," Sho admitted.

"I didn't smoke."

"Because of the camp?" Sho asked. "Now that you mention it, I didn't see you –"

"I decided to quit," Nino cut him.

"Really?! That's awesome!" the older boy replied, joyfully. Maybe, his scolding was finally bearing fruits. Or Nino, by himself, had just realized how dangerous it was.

"It's nothing awesome, stop that," Nino shied away.

Sho smiled. "Then… let's not talk about it for now. Or about jobs..."

"You have something else in mind?"

"Well… actually yes, but it has nothing to do with talking…," Sho admitted, taking a step closer to Nino.

He didn't know if he had to ask if the boy would be okay with him kissing him again, but if Nino didn't like it, he would show him or he would have probably slapped him already, right? Sho just had to try, to risk it again. So he took another step forward, his free hand reaching up to brush his fingertips against Nino's cheek. His smooth skin almost felt like silk. Sho heard Nino inhaling strongly and held his breath, but the boy didn't turn away. The older student leaned his forehead against Nino's, the boy was now flat against the tree behind him, starting to breathe again. Sho could feel Nino's free hand shyly searching its way onto Sho's hip as if he was searching for something to hold onto. The tension between them was almost unbearable, it was breath taking, electrifying. They were so close and Sho wasn't sure, how long he would be able to take it.

Unexpectedly, it was Nino who dared to move first, pushing his face slightly up, his nose brushing against Sho's in a sensitive gesture. Goosebumps were covering Sho's whole body when Nino took another deep breath and then pushed a little further and their lips met again, this time firmer, and they started kissing again. Softly, testing, then quickly becoming more passionate, giving in to their hunger. Sho's hand slipped to Nino's nape, the touch caused the younger to sigh into their kiss, and pulled him closer. Sho couldn't believe his luck, his heart overflowing from joy. There he was with the boy he had fallen in love with, the first boy he had ever fallen in love with, and they were kissing! Again! And it was the best thing that Sho had ever done in his entire life.

The boys parted lips when they ran out of breath. When Sho leaned his forehead against Nino's again, he wondered if the other boy's knees were feeling as weak as his. He wondered about so many things, to be honest, question after question were popping up his mind. He had to find answers.

"Nino?" Sho whispered into the silence between them.

"Hm?"

"Are you my boyfriend now?" the student burst before he even realized how stupid the question sounded.

"Are you saying that you really want to be in a relationship with me?" Nino asked, surprised.

Sho let his hand slide down Nino's shoulder and arm until he reached his hand to hold it. Holding both of his hands now, Sho continued. "Well… I want to be with you. I'd like to do this again, I mean, only if you want it too, of course… and if yes, I'd like to name this thing between us."

For a few seconds, Nino didn't reply and Sho's heart was almost killing him, fearing rejection.

"Have you ever been in a relationship?" Nino asked when he finally talked again.

"No… not really," Sho admitted, honestly. "You?"

"Relationship, not really, I guess…," Nino murmured. "But I met someone for a few times."

"A guy?" Sho couldn't help but ask. Nino nodded. "Tell me more about it."

"What can I tell you…," Nino sighed before he started, obviously insecure about what he was about to share. Probably, it wasn't that easy to explain. "He lived in the same apartment complex. It was during my last year of middle school when we started meeting regularly. He was in the last year of high school. We never really talked about it but I think, we both felt kind of lonely and so…"

"Were the two of you in love?" the other student asked.

Nino tilted his head, thinking. "Hm… I wonder… I don't think he was."

Sho swallowed, feeling his heart pounding hard. "And you?"

Nino pursed his lips. "Well, let's say I had a crush on him or I wouldn't have agreed… But it didn't last. He's a university student now, I didn't see him since his graduation. I don't even know where he moved to and I don't care."

Probably, Nino would be hitting him for asking the next question but somehow, Sho just couldn't hold back his curiosity. "Did you… kiss and such?"

"You mean if we had sex?" Nino arched an eyebrow, obviously recognising the other's curiosity immediately.

"Did you?"

Nino nodded. "Once."

Sho would be lying if he said he wasn't surprised. Counting back… Nino was only about 14 years old, right? Much too young for an experience like this, Sho thought, but then, he didn't know the circumstances, he didn't know about Nino and that guy's feelings and motives at that time. He could just hope that that guy didn't force himself onto Nino, that would be horrible…

However, Sho probably shouldn't ask such detailed questions, so he kept it simple. "Wow… How was it?"

"…Weird," Nino replied after a short pause. He looked embarrassed. "What… why is this talk suddenly? Can we stop?!"

"Did it hurt?" Sho burst out one more question.

"It did," Nino lowered his head. "But… it's supposed to become better the more often…," clenching Sho's hands tightly, Nino looked up again. He was obviously embarrassed now. "Why are we talking about this, Sho?"

"Sorry," the older student murmured. "I'm just curious, I guess. About you and about your experiences… "

For a few seconds they didn't say anything, the insecurity about how things between them would go on from now between them. Further, Nino hadn't answered Sho's question about their "status" after all… Then, suddenly, Nino spoke up again.

"You'd like to do it? With me?" he asked.

Sho stared at him, surprised. He hadn't expected this kind of question, to be honest. Searching for the right words to reply, he started stuttering. "Well… someday, probably… of course, only if you want too…" The boy knew they didn't really have to talk about this now. It didn't matter. They were young, they had time. That meant, if Nino would finally accept…

"Probably, I will want it one day…," Nino replied and Sho's heart stopped beating for a moment. "I mean, if we're in a relationship, sooner or later…"

Sho inhaled strongly. "So you agree to being my boyfriend?" he asked, just to confirm that he didn't misunderstand the situation.

"I guess, yes. But… let's take it slow, OK?" Nino replied and Sho's heart bloomed.

Beaming, he sent the younger boy a soft chuckle. "Says the one who kissed me first."

"I thought that kiss on Ohno's balcony didn't count?" Nino pouted cutely, averting his eyes.

"Of course it counted. It was a kiss from you after all," Sho replied and Nino smiled.

"I'm serious…," the younger boy then whispered.

"Good then, because I am too," Sho smiled, leaning closer again. "And don't worry, we don't need to rush."

When they kissed for the third time that evening, Sho's heart was ready to burst from happiness. In his almost 18 years of living, he had never before felt something like that. It was just incredible. His hands clumsily all over Nino, not really knowing where he should touch or hold him in order to have him in the tightest embrace possible, the two of them shifted positions a bit, still kissing fiercely, only breaking apart when they were running out of breath, just to catch new one before continuing.

"Sho?"

Only, when they suddenly heard a familiar voice coming from behind them, the two boys parted and turned around quickly. Jun was standing there in the half darkness, close to one of the tents, carrying a torch and staring at them, shocked.

"Jun…," Sho said, immediately realizing how bad that current situation was looking.

His hand was still sneaked around Nino's waist, Nino's hands buried in the fabric of his shirt. Instinctively feeling that something was wrong, Nino loosened his grip and stepped away from Sho, who slightly cursed. Just a few days ago he and Jun had a fight because his friend had assumed him that Sho was in love with Nino and was probably scared to lose his best friend. Now this scene was most likely not one that would show Jun that things would stay as they were. Sho knew that this scene instead might trigger his friend to believe that Sho would move away from him even further, even if he didn't intend to do so of course… This was too complicated to deal with right now, Sho thought.

Before Sho could explain the situation though, Jun had already turned and started to walk away, quickly. OK, so obviously, talking wasn't an option right now, the older student assumed. For a moment, he fought with himself, considering if he should follow Jun, but on the other hand, he didn't want to risk another fight so maybe it was better to let things sit for a moment and talk tomorrow.

"Don't you want to go after him?" Nino asked just when Sho had decided against it.

He shook his head. "Let's leave him be for now. I'll talk to him tomorrow. Shall we go back to the campfire?" he then suggested.



Follow the link for part 4

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