Sequel, roughly, to 'Still I'm With You'. Inoran and J, on a particular night, with particular feelings. Italics are Inoran's thoughts. Text between starred lines is J's thoughts. (Also, Jun = J, i...
I've been trying to tell you for year and years, you know. Each smile I reserve for you, each time I shoulder up next to you in the lives...I think you've guessed what I want to say, but you can't bear to say it, either.
Another letter ripped and tattered, thrown into a garbage bin before the thoughts had even been completed. Just another evening alone at home, nothing to do. Waiting.
For what? A phone call? Probably. Jun had always been inhumanly good at knowing when he could really use some friendly company and a beer. But never had he shown any indication that he knew when Inoran could have used a close embrace, just a quick expression of 'I care about you, and you matter to me, and to the world.' He had always stayed just those few feet away, cracked another joke, took another drink. He'd just blink, as though he were thinking something, something very important, and then he'd look away.
The phone did ring. It was indeed Jun, calling to say he was bored out of his skull and did Ino mind if he dropped by? He could bring a video or something. Yes, that was fine, bring whatever you'd like. No, I think everyone else is busy tonight. Sure, let's get drunk together (half-hearted laughter). Fun. See you.
The conversation was almost mechanical, yet as he hung up the phone, Inoran could just begin to feel his heartrate speeding up. Something about the chance to see J alone again, just the two of them, threatened his self-composure. It had been a long while. Despite that, he tried to reason, it would likely be just another night of beer and television and falling asleep (on J's shoulder, a little voice inside him twittered, don't forget that. Don't forget that time Sugi walked in on the two of you sleeping like that and started laughing. He threw sly comments and rumors that persisted for weeks, and J seemed so angry. Don't get your hopes up. You coward.) on the couch. Inoran sat, lost in thought, until the doorbell rang, and Jun walked in, all blond hair and tall, tattooed and pierced, almost American masculinity, holding two bags of fast food, enough beer to last Inoran a week on his own, and two movies.
Inoran remembered to smile and greet him as he paused to unlace his boots, but J knew that there was something going on behind his warm brown eyes. He had that distant look again, that look that meant that he'd been thinking about something he didn't want to be thinking about. He resolved not to worry about it, that Ino would probably work it out on his own.
"I don't feel like drinking yet. It's still pretty early. How about some tea?"
J tossed the tapes on the couch, his coat on a chair (he walks in and it's like he's just coming home from work. Home, his home, not my home, like I'm his roommate or something. Or something), and the beer in the fridge.
"Tea's good. What's up?"
"Nothing much, I just felt like talking for a bit before getting smashed."
Inoran quirked a smile from behind his hair. J smiled back.
"So...what's been up with you recently?"
"...Dumped the chick I was seeing. She was just too clingy."
"Yeah...I know how that can go."
Silence was trying to retake its throne. Inoran could feel it tightening a fist around his neck.
"I..uh...had a relationship like that."
"Yeah, I remember. That model. He was a real piece of trash. Thank god that never got publicity."
Jun has always understood the way it is. The way I am. That I just fall for whoever I fall for, and sometimes it's a guy. I wonder if he ever wonders why none of them seem to last....
"No shit. He was cute, though."
"He was a big bleached-blond bimbo."
"Yeah, that too. Didn't dump him because of that, though."
The scream of the teakettle killed the conversation for a moment. A few preparations later, Inoran sat across from J at the table, passing an open package of biscuits back and forth.
"How about you, Ino? Anything going on in your life? Writing anything new?"
"Let's not talk work. I don't wanna think about it."
"Yeah, it's getting pretty...yeah. Um...seen any good movies?"
What's wrong with me? Why can't I relax? I just have to think of him as a friend, a co-worker, a...friend. My oldest friend. Why is it suddenly so hard to just talk with him. Why does this mindless chitchat just grate on my nerves?
J. Jun. I want to go stand behind his chair and wrap my arms around his shoulders, incline my head until it rests gently on his, feel his hands tighten on my arms, just a comforting squeeze. I know that I'd feel so much better if I could just--
"Inoran, are you feeling okay?"
I was silent too long. His hand is on my forehead. Shake it off. I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm fine.
"...Been having trouble sleeping recently."
"That explains the dark circles under your eyes. Come on, tell me what's up, Ino. What's keeping you up nights?"
Can't tell you. I wish I could. This goes beyond any problems the band has been having, even those troubles make this seem so unimportant.
"Nothing big. You know, work, some of my coworkers."
He laughs. Good. I can give him that wry, conspiratorial grin now. He'll feel reassured.
"I think I know who you mean."
You have no idea. I hope.
"I think the tea's ready."
Convenient distraction. Inoran fidgeted just a little too much, however, and after watching him almost drop the kettle three times, J walked over and placed a hand over the cups.
"Quit. You'll burn yourself. Let's just have a beer and watch a movie. I even brought you anime."
Flushed cheeks. Anger, or a blush. Even I can't tell, but I nod ruefully and follow him to the couch like a good little...what? I'm not fooling anyone, not him, and not myself. Better just to drink myself into a stupor so deep I can't think.
The beer slowly worked its alcoholic alchemy, and Inoran's nerves subsided, though he couldn't pay attention to the film at all because he was constantly distracted by the warmth of the body at his side. Finally it ended, and in the silence after it had rewound, but before the next tape was put on, J glanced at him, eyebrows furled.
The lights are dim, and I can't really clearly make out his expression. I could trace the lines of his lips, though....
He only calls me that when it's something that goes beyond the band, and well into personal space.
He -never- calls me that.
"Seriously, what's up? You've been on a razor's edge all evening. Am I troubling you? Did you want to be alone this evening?"
No. That's not it. Not even close. Can I drop him a hint, do you think? Can I tell him in a secret code, so I don't have to say anything out loud, but he still understands what I want to say? No, what I need to say, or I'm going to go insane thinking about it. It's been too long already.
If I lower my eyes, just enough...peer out at him sideways. I know he reacts to this with girls...what am I thinking? ...Girls? Has he ever shown any interest in any male? Much less...much less...
"...No. Then....what's wrong? There's got to be something bothering you. You're never this twitchy."
"...It's noth...It's probably just stress. Things have been a little weird lately. I've been feeling a little under the weather, what with that cold last month and..."
Leaving things unspoken, that's what I'm good at. Of course, this is something I want to talk about even less than my feelings about...
"That's true, I guess. We ought to take a trip to a hot spring sometime soon. I bet a soak would do wonders for you."
"Yeah. It's been a while since I did that."
"Me, too. Hey...want a backrub? I guarantee I'm not good at it, but if you're really that stressed, it can't hurt, right?"
....Yes! No! It will hurt a -lot-, and not for the reasons you would think. But...if it's you touching me, it's worth it. Worth the risk. If I do something horribly wrong, I still get a backrub out of it, right? I hope...
"Uh...(just enough hesitancy to make it still feel innocent)...Sure."
Inoran took off his shirt and tossed it over the back of the couch, then turned his back to J. There was a moment in which the air seemed to leave the room, then warm hands touched his shoulders. Inoran almost jumped. J chuckled.
"You weren't kidding, were you. Stressed like nobody's business. Christ, feel those muscles."
Thump, thump. A fist on my shoulderblades, then gentle rubbing down my back, up to my shoulders again. Down. Thumb pressing into the stiff tension on either side of my spine. It hurts, but I want to melt into it. I want to...
J stopped, his hands resting on Inoran's shoulders. Inoran's pulse was racing--he could feel it under his fingertips, each heartbeat blending in with the next.
I freeze, but he doesn't take his hands away. What now? Did you get the message, Jun? Are you finally admitting to yourself that you can read me like an open book?
J tugged gently on his shoulders, and Inoran leaned back, slowly, dream-like, into J's arms. J took a deep, shuddery breath, and folded the smaller body into a gentle embrace. Inoran dropped his head down, face red, so J couldn't see the grateful tears that were pricking his eyes, but settled into the hug as though he had meant to be there all along.
His voice is soft, but tremulous. It's like high school all over again. That painful first date, hiding in a corner and hoping no-one will see you kissing that girl (or boy). I can't help it. The tension floods out of me in a series of shivers. He holds me tightly, but with a sense of fragility. This is more than I'd ever hoped for, and yet, it feels incomplete. I...want...what do I want?
His lips brush across the back of my neck, and I tilt my head to allow it. The sensation is strange, though he's scarcely the first to do it. I can't say I was expecting it, not from him. It's not bad, though. Just...unexpected, and it touches off a tiny match in the pit of my stomach, a flame of hope and fear that I thought I'd managed to put out forever the first time I saw him holding a girl.
J lifted one hand up to turn Ino's face to his. Inoran's eyes were wide, a little watery, but very happy. J gave him a tiny smile, then drew him into a closer embrace, and kissed him, first a light touch of lips to lips, then with more passion as Inoran didn't push him away.
I was right...smoke and tears....
His hair is like silk under my fingers, as though it's become finer with the bleaching rather than coarser as mine has. His bare skin...it's strange. I never really thought beyond the kiss. Just that one kiss would have kept me happy for...perhaps forever. And now with him practically in my lap, shirtless, heart pounding like a bird's, I can't imagine having settled for anything less than the whole package. Inoran.
He never knew--no, -I- never knew--how important he was to me.
But still, I can't help but wonder what it means to him. And what this will mean for us?