Group/Pairing: Arashi – Nino/Jun
Word count: ~3,500
Summary: Nino takes Jun on one last trip to Hong Kong.
Notes: Originaly posted here for jentfic_remix. This story really struck a chord with me and I wanted to write it from Nino’s point of view since we have no idea what was going through his head. There was so much I wanted to do with it! I hope that I managed to keep the tone and pace of the original.
Original Story: On Love, In Sadness by mrsatterthwaite
You should also take a look at the fic littlealex wrote for me. It's absolute ♥!
Have you ever wanted something so much but not been sure exactly what it is you want? It’s frustrating and tormenting because you’ve got this hole inside you somewhere behind and to the left of your belly button aching to be filled but you don’t know what to feed it.
I used to feel full. A drama every couple of seasons, maybe a play if the right role came along and I got lucky. A couple of singles a year that I was actually proud to have my name associated with and summer concerts that seemed so intimate compared to the sprawl of the dome venues we do now. I had an easy non-relationship that met all my sexual and emotional needs as they came and went. It was enough. Until it wasn’t.
We were getting more work both as individuals and as a group: more shows, more recordings, more specials and less time for ourselves and each other. But I was still hungry. I thought, maybe the lack of free time would keep the hunger to a dull ache that I could easily forget about. But the satisfaction of a great performance or hitting that high note or mastering a complicated riff change wasn’t filling the void anymore. More work meant more money in the bank, more recognition, more clout but it wasn’t doing anything.
Jun was there with me through all of it and it was enough for him. And he was truly happy with the way things were unfolding for us. He was working as hard as he always had, so secure and grounded after all these years, finally getting roles he wanted to do, taking photos he would be proud to show people after his idols years were long over. He was doing exactly what he wanted and it showed in every line of his body and smile on his face. And he was happy with me, even when I wasn’t.
I thought, maybe I need more of this—the sneaking into my house and my bed with the key I’d had cut for him so long ago that I couldn’t remember when or why. He’d come straight from a night shoot and tiptoe through my house so as not to wake my mother and grandparents, not that they weren’t used to it but it was only polite. He’d crawl under the covers and just hold me, curl around me and sigh into my shoulder before dropping off to sleep. I’d wake up to tender kisses and his fingers on my skin and I’d think—this should be enough.
It should have been. I know so many people who would kill to have to what I had but I couldn't help wonder if maybe, just maybe, there wasn't something more out there for me. I'd forgotten what the thrill of the first time felt like.
“Let’s go somewhere,” I said one bright wintry morning. It was going to be the kind of day where the sun makes cold air feel crisp and fresh with the promise of snow. Jun had come over near dawn and turned off the heater in my room because he'd always said I’m hot enough for the both of us.
“Like a trip?” Jun asked. I remember it clearly: he was so excited, the question itself sounded like an agreement to go anywhere; it wouldn’t have mattered if I had suggested going to the Gobi Desert, he would have said yes.
“Let’s go to Hong Kong. I’m sick of this cold, wet winter.” I’m sick of waking up everyday to the same jobs and routines that never deviate from the designated path. Please keep all arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times.
“Hong Kong! You’ll love it. The food is amazing and there’s so much to see. Oh, and the tailors, they are like alchemists.” He was so excited and I wasn't sure why then, but it just broke my heart.
“Great. That sounds just great.”
I let Jun take care of the flights and hotel and itineraries because that’s what he does best. He’s a planner. He makes plans for everything: he writes lists in his agenda of things he needs to pick up at the store and people he needs to call back and what he’s going to eat for dinner on Tuesday next week. He would make a great assistant to someone if he ever found himself out of idol work.
Jun plans out our week in Hong Kong in great detail but not quite so much that he's logged all our time down to the second—we get enough of that on a daily basis. But there is somewhere to go and something to see every day. He's even printed out a guide to the best in Cantonese cuisine to be found in Hong Kong, Kowloon and Macau. During the flight, he asks me which ones I want to try the most and I can't help thinking, it doesn't really matter, does it?
I know that Jun also makes Plans. He makes Plans with an imposing capital P that imply embarrassing family gatherings and vacations and grand romantic gestures; long-term plans that very intimately involve and revolve around me. It’s not that I don’t want to be a part of his Plans—it’s nice to feel included—but it’s overwhelming sometimes. It feels like he's trying to turn what we have into something it's not supposed to be. It makes it hard to tell him that I have plans of my own because not all of them include him.
Jun takes us to Ocean Park on our first day. It's the Monday just before Christmas but it's still busy—all the schools are closed for winter holidays so the park is teeming with teenagers and families with small children. And they all have plans too. What ride are we going to go on next? What are we going to eat for dinner? What homework do I have to do tomorrow? What is Santa going to give me for Christmas?
Jun leads us to the Space Wheel, a giant spinning contraption like a merry-go-round that goes vertical. I can't even handle the gentle sway of the ocean but I make no complaints. I’d hoped the vacuous empty pit in my stomach would have been left on the tarmac at Haneda Airport but it followed me all the way across the East China Sea. I hope maybe the trajectory of the ride will dislodge it and launch it into the harbour where it will stop gnawing at me.
I sit in front of Jun on the Space Wheel, his hands resting on the curve of my waist. He's talking about how we should navigate the rest of the park to avoid line-ups and waiting time and I am thinking about the script that is waiting to be learned in my backpack in our hotel room. The one that's part of my plan that Jun doesn't know about.
“I have to go away for a while,” I blurt out. It has nothing and everything to do with the next couple of hours; I just need him to stop planning, just for right now, just so the moments can come as they are.
“How long is ‘a while’?”
“A few months, maybe.” A few months, most definitely, but I don't say that. I don’t think I can.
“I’m filming a movie.” I can't give him the whole reason: that I'm itching and nothing in Japan is soothing it. I've tried all the remedies, store-bought and homemade and nothing is working. I can see his reflection in the chrome piping of the cage we're locked in; he's frowning.
“Nino, I know how long it takes to film a movie. ‘Few’ is a gross understatement.”
“I guess so, huh?”
I lean back against Jun's chest in an attempt to calm with physical contact—it’s as much to make me feel better as it is to comfort him. I watch the last few people get ushered hastily into empty seats on the ride by the park staff. Stranger next to stranger sit in silence.
“When do you leave?” he asks me.
“Next Tuesday.” Two days after we get back from Hong Kong.
“Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“I wanted you to enjoy the trip.” That much, at least, is true.
That morning back in Tokyo with Jun in my bed, I’d just wanted to get away, to clear my head, to have some time and space away from real life to think and see if a small change of scenery wasn’t what I needed. And I did sincerely want him to enjoy it with me. I wanted to give him something he could always remember me by that couldn’t be pawned off in the end. It wasn't often we had these kinds of chances; but an opportunity to go and work in a foreign country with some of the world's greatest in cinema was even rarer.
Jun’s hands slide around by middle, holding me tighter. His chin digs into my shoulder and I know he doesn't like what I’ve said. The decision is out of his hands and he feels helpless. Things are going to happen whether he wants them to or not. I wonder what he’d say if he knew that I’d go even if I wasn't under contract.
“I understand,” he murmurs against my jaw and all I can think is, no, you really don't.
It’s Christmas Eve and Jun has a table reserved for us at one of the best restaurants on Victoria Peak. Dinner is probably delicious but I can only taste the bitterness of guilt on my tongue. Conversation is pleasant enough, but it is all insubstantial chatter: he keeps asking about the movie and co-stars and where I’ll be going and what I want to do my second time in the States. They are all just empty words for him to fill the space that will be created when I leave.
Hong Kong is laid out before us, the lights of the city blanketing the ground and it almost feels normal, like I’m just a regular nobody on a trip with my partner. It’s almost romantic, looking down on life from the summit, if it weren’t for lines I’ve written for myself to say to Jun running through my head on repeat. I’d always scoffed at that phrase people say about letting go, if it was meant to be. People only say that when their loves stop loving them and their relationships fall through their fingers like grains of salt, no matter how hard they try to hold on. It just sounds so naïve. But now, it feels like it was written for us.
I just don’t want to make it feel like some kind of pathetic consolation. We board the tram and Jun’s hand is warm in my own and I feel unworthy. It isn’t that I don’t love him; if I didn’t, it wouldn’t be so hard to say what I have to say. If I didn’t love him, it wouldn’t hurt. But just because it hurts, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. I can’t get the words to sound right when the world outside the window is tilting farther than it has a right to and everything is moving in reverse.
“You’ll call every day, right?” Jun asks, putting his arm around my shoulders as we make our descent. He pulls me close and it’s nothing he hasn’t done before—been doing all night—but it’s too much. “Maybe you can come home if you get some time off, or I could visi—”
“I think we should take a break,” I say suddenly. I feel the words bubbling up like a wave of nausea as I turn to look at Jun. “From each other, you know?”
And as soon as the words fall off my tongue and I see his face, I can’t stop. Everything starts coming up to the surface.
“I don’t want to do the long distance thing. I don’t want to spend every night wishing I was somewhere else.” I don’t want to squander this chance for a new experience regretting what I’ve left behind.
“Nino, you’ll be filming. When you’re not on set, you’ll probably be sleeping, or begging for it. You won’t have time to be moping.” His tone is petulant, like I’d somehow imagined.
“Won’t that bother you though?”
“I’ll be too busy or tired to call, to miss you.”
“You’ll miss me.” Jun says it like it’s a universal truth.
And it’s only then as the tram jerks to a stop at the bottom of the Peak that I realize, maybe I won’t. Maybe I will get there and find what it is I need and I won’t miss any of it at all.
It jars me more than the lurch of the vehicle and I have to take a few moments to rearrange my thoughts as we walk to the metro station. Jun is silent beside me and he fidgets like he wants to take my hand but doesn’t out of spite.
“A year is a long time, Jun. Things change, people change…” I lean against the wall of the subway car, suddenly tired.
“Oh, so now it’s a year? What happened to ‘a few months’? What are you saying? That you want to forget me?” Jun’s cheeks turn pink with anger and it irritates me. I can’t even have an adult conversation about possibility and chance without him getting defensive and making it all about him.
“I just don’t see the point of staying together if we’re going to do is be lonely and miserable anyway,” I reply. Can’t he see that it’s better this way? Isn’t it better to take a break than trying to force it too much too far, only to have it turn sour in the end? “If nothing changes, then maybe we can just pick up and start over again.” It’s as close to that scarily appropriate saying as I can get.
“That doesn’t make sense! Why would it change in the first place? Why should it?”
“I don’t know,” I say even though I know exactly why. Maybe I won’t want to work in Japan anymore. Maybe I’ll meet someone and get swept up in that stomach-dropping excitement of seeing their name flash on my phone for the first time. Maybe I’ll gain weight. What will happen when I come back and I’m not like how you remember me? Would you really be happy if I wasn’t the same as I am now? As I always have been? We’ve known each other since we were teenagers and grew up together but what’s going to happen when we grow up apart? I don’t want to spend the entire year missing you only to have you break up with me when I get back. I sigh. “I’m just saying, I can’t promise that I’ll stay the same, and it won’t be fair to either of us if you’re trying to hold on to something that doesn’t exist anymore.”
“I think you’re putting too much thought into this,” Jun says with an air of finality as we arrive at the stop near our hotel. “Just because a person goes through new experiences, it doesn’t mean they’ll become a completely new person. You’ll still be you, and I’ll still be me, so why can’t we stay together?”
We enter the lobby and his sincerity, the fierce look in his eyes, the passion that I see too rarely is there and I think, maybe. Maybe I could hang on and miss him and crave him while I’m away if it means I can come home to this.
I push the button for our floor and look at Jun’s reflection in the shiny brass of the elevator doors. “So you’re saying, no matter what happens, no matter what kind of person I become, whatever I do, your feelings for me won’t change?”
“How much can a person change—?” The elevator bell dings gratingly as we arrive at our floor, and it sounds too much like an altar bell struck in prayer for the dead.
“Yes,” I correct him as I walk out of the elevator without looking back. “You were supposed to say ‘yes’, Jun.”
When Jun was planning our trip to Hong Kong, Sho asked if we were going to see the Buddha. I have never been one for religion and Jun only slightly more than me. He hadn’t written it into our itinerary but then, on our last day he said he wanted to go. He said he wanted some time alone. I couldn’t blame him.
I remembered Sho talking about the Buddha and why people went there. I couldn’t really see the point: it was just a giant bronze statue, just like ones we had in Japan. But for all the tourists, the presence of the monastery and the drone of the monks and the toll of their bells was supposed to give it an ethereal quality, Sho’d said, and something about that benevolent face and his hands, his vows to end all your suffering and grant you happiness.
I don’t know what else to say to Jun. I’d said all I could, all that Jun would hear. Since Christmas Eve he’s been too quiet. I am going to live my life and it is up to Jun to decide how to live his. He needs to make the choice to let go by himself—I can’t make it for him.
I wake up in the hotel room alone, Jun already gone on his pilgrimage, his bag already packed and waiting by the door like some kind of a sign. The curtains are open and I can see a miserable grey sky, the worst since we’d arrived. He had left his camera on the bedside table; he probably didn’t want to get it wet and there probably wouldn’t be much to see, if the view from the hotel window was anything to go by. I click through all the pictures we’d taken over the last few days: the ones at the beginning are so cheerful, full of silly faces and poses with amusing signage and landmarks. As the week progresses in the photographs, there are fewer smiles and less of us. But there are more pictures of me. Pictures I didn’t know Jun had taken. He’d been watching me the whole time, just like he always had. It is a way I hardly ever see myself. I feel guilty again seeing how tangibly he loves me. I really hope I will come back exactly the same, for him.
The sky has cleared by the time we meet for lunch on our last day in Hong Kong. One of the hotel staff had recommended a quaint little Turkish restaurant, a treasure only the locals knew about. I can see the weight of the last few days bearing down on Jun’s shoulders as he walks down the street to meet me. I’d never planned for our holiday to end this way.
This time, I do all the talking. I ask about the view from the mountain and the landscape, the statues and the monks and try and imagine what it was like. I try and imagine Kamakura but even I know that’s a pale comparison. Jun doesn’t look at me, he just picks at his food.
So this is what it’s like to break someone’s heart.
“Let’s do it your way,” Jun says suddenly in the middle of dessert. He holds his breath and leans against the teal wall where the paint is starting to flake off, like the layers of my baklava. Jun had ordered only coffee.
“I’ll wait for you,” he says, looking at his drink, at the black gold in the tiny espresso cup, thick and rich. “We can end it now or tomorrow or when you go through airport security. When you come back through customs, I’ll be waiting, and we can pick up where we left off.”
I don’t know what to say so I say nothing. Part of me never expected him to make the choice to let go, to sit back and see how things turn out, to give up control and leave everything to chance. It’s not like him at all. And as he says these things to me, I can see the tension draining from his body, making him lighter and more relaxed. He’s the one changing, not me.
I pay for lunch and I am the one to reach for Jun’s hand as we leave. He looks startled, slightly scared, like this is the end, right now, and he doesn’t know what to do. I squeeze his fingers because it feels right. If I am strong maybe he can be too.
I turn and wait for Jun to move, to respond to my touch, to show me what he’s feeling. His face is serene like the Buddha on the mountain, like the one in Kamakura, like he’s finally figured out the secret to escaping what it is that’s hurting him most. And then he smiles.