Title: Shadows of you
Pairings: Matsumoto Jun x Sakurai Sho, Sakurai Sho x Ninomiya Kazunari
Genre: AU, angst, romance
Summary: After losing part of his memories in an accident, Sho must decide whether to move on with his new life or to try and follow some threads leading to his forgotten years.
Other chapters: 1 ~ 3 ~ 4
Notes: Ugh, I'm sorry this is so late! I was quite busy with work this week and it got me really exhausted every day ;___; That's also why, even though I have read all of your comments, I haven't replied to them yet (but I will right after this). In any case, thank you very much for your support (*hugs them all*), and I hope you enjoy this chapter as well! Things are going to get more complicated from this point... *wink*
“You’re still wondering about Nino?” Jun asked, the day Sho finally talked to him about it in the kitchen. It was already March.
Sho nodded. He wanted to say that he didn’t do it on purpose, that this time he really tried not to care about it anymore but couldn’t help it —he needed to see Nino again personally and judge the situation for himself. Instead, he just gulped his words and watched Jun’s reaction.
“I see,” he replied, turning the stove off and stirring the soup. “Well, now that you’ve heard about him you should be fine.”
Sho was more surprised than relieved when he first heard that. He had even prepared arguments to convince his boyfriend in case he would completely oppose it. But, actually, Jun was very understanding. He even encouraged him to meet Nino.
“I think Ohno is still in touch with him…” he said, motioning Sho to take out some plates and get the table ready for both. “We can go to his place tomorrow night and ask if he knows anything.”
According to Ohno, Nino was working in New York. He did come back to Japan occasionally, but never for too long, usually a day or two at most. They sometimes phoned each other. Sho felt relieved to know that at least those two were on good terms.
After listening to Sho, he took out his phone and a small card from his wallet. He dialed a long string of numbers and handed it over to Sho. On the screen he could read Nino’s full name: Ninomiya Kazunari. Once again, it perfectly matched with the face in his limited memories, if Sho wasn’t only used to make that association.
“It's around breakfast time there, so I suppose he'll get it,” Ohno told him.
There was a pause in which Sho noticed his hands were slightly shaking. He couldn’t explain exactly why, because there was nothing to get nervous about. He simply hoped Jun wouldn’t notice and insist on him giving up. Luckily, Ohno stood up in the right moment.
“Let’s leave him alone,” he asked Jun.
Jun didn't listen to him right away. He only got up after Sho gave him the best reassuring look he had. Before following Ohno, he placed his hand on his boyfriend’s shoulder and squeezed it softly, brushing his cheek lightly as he lifted it. Sho smiled at him.
Once on his own, Sho took a deep breath and moved his finger to press the call button.
The tones he could hear after some seconds were the only thing that separated him from Ninomiya Kazunari, months ago a mere shadow, a drop in the black pool of his missing memories, and later the reason for him to be, deep down, distrusting his friends and even his boyfriend’s words.
What would he say to Sho’s proposition? Would he want to see him? Would he even listen to him in the first place? If he di—
Someone picked up. Sho heard noise at some crowded street. Cars and people.
“Nino,” he called him, realizing at that same moment he had actually, not only mentally, pronounced that name uncountable times.
No answer. Breathing.
“Who's this?” a very familiar voice, yet oddly unheard for him, asked. “You’re not Ohno-san.”
Sho’s words came out all at once.
“I’m sorry. My name is Sakurai Sho,” he introduced himself, feeling completely stupid the following second. “Well, I guess you’d remember me better than I remember you,” he laughed uncomfortably. “The thing is I’ve forgotten about a lot of things that happened in the last seven or eight years… But last summer I saw you at the airport, and, um, well, I didn’t know who you were until Jun, Matsumoto Jun, told me—“
“Did you... Do you remember everything?”
From his choice of words, he had known about his condition before Sho told him. He probably learned about it through his conversations with Ohno, so it didn’t really come as unexpected. What did, though, was the anxiousness in his voice; Nino suddenly seemed very concerned about the issue, perhaps even too much.
“No. Only a few memories. In fact, just one,” Sho answered with the truth. “And the general information they told me. About how you were a friend who worked with Ohno and would hang out with us occasionally,” he spoke quickly and gulped before going on. “But… I feel there’s something missing. So I thought I’d ask you directly.”
A sigh. The sound of people and cars again. Sho waited.
Nino’s sentence was genuinely cryptic.
“Well, let’s say I wasn’t quite a friend.”
A thousand questions popped into Sho’s mind, but that wasn’t either the right moment or the right means to ask further. So he pushed them away and went straight to the point.
“When are you coming to Japan?”
“Most probably next week,” Nino replied after some seconds.
Sho cleared his throat. “Could we meet then? I really need to talk to you.”
“Alright,” Nino agreed right away, without even checking any schedule. “Listen, I’ve got to hang up. I'll call you when I'm there. You've kept the same number, right?”
Sho made an affirmative sound.
Nino's voice and the sounds of New York turned into empty tones again. With each one of them, his mysterious words lingered in the air.
They talked again the following Tuesday, three days later. Sho didn't usually answer calls from private numbers, but that time he made an exception just in case.
It was incredible how easily he could tell it was Nino, given it was only the second time for him.
“Hello. How are—“
“Is tomorrow at 4 pm fine?”
Sho frowned. Nino’s voice was different; compared to the last time it was cold, almost mechanical. It made him feel slightly uncomfortable.
“Um... yes. Yes, that's okay,” Sho said, mentally placing their appointment in the gap he had between leaving work and getting home. “Where?”
“I'll be waiting for you at the usual place. I have something to do half an hour after that, so please don't be late.”
Actually, that was the time Sho had as well. If their meeting lasted any longer than that, he would have to wait fifteen extra minutes for the next train. He wondered if Nino knew about his habits or it was a mere coincidence.
“Okay, don't worry. I'll be there on time.”
Just as in the previous call, Nino hanged up first after saying “goodbye”. Sho felt as though it was something he wasn’t used to. But why should he be used to anything related to someone who had been “not quite a friend”, anyway? He didn’t even know about that usual place he mentioned, to begin with.
“Is there any place where Nino and I would always meet, like a usual spot or something?” he asked Jun while they were having dinner.
“It must be the park next to the station,” Jun replied after giving it some thought. “Why? Are you meeting there?”
Jun made a pause and looked at him across the table. However, nothing changed in his expression; there was no tension like weeks ago. There was just silence and a light nod, as in a confirmation.
“Okay. Will you be home for dinner?”
Sho decided it was a good sign. Whatever happened that afternoon, whether Nino was nice or not, or good or bad memories were unveiled in that encounter, wouldn’t really matter afterwards. Things would be exactly the same. In the end, he was only peeking at the creatures living in the dark waters, not trying to catch them or to jump into the bottom. Once he’d seen through the waves, he’d go back to the shore.
He was twenty minutes early, but Nino was already waiting for him at the park. It felt strangely natural to walk towards him like that, easily finding him among the crowd and heading straight to where he was standing, as if Sho and he were opposite poles attracted by magnetism. Although, in his daily life, déjà vu was a constant sensation, this time it was alarmingly stronger than usual.
Images came to his mind, soft and vague, like a distant mist. He could see Nino wearing different clothes, the scenery changing with the season; a crooked smile was always on his face as his eyes searched in his direction. He yelled at him, “you're late!”, and Sho heard himself complaining that he wasn’t. He just knew he never was. Or almost never.
He stopped before crossing the road and shook his head lightly, enough to push those images away. He forced his mind back to the present. Nino wasn’t his friend anymore, just someone he used to know. Sho focused on that and looked across the street at him. He was staring at his cell phone in a light grey suit that looked weird on him in a way Sho couldn’t explain.
Nino only lifted his head when he was in front of him.
“Don’t think you know me,” he stated without a previous greeting. “Because you don’t.”
Sho blinked, taken aback by his frankness and, at the same time, the inscrutable expression on his face.
There was something heavy in the air. Even though it had been sunny all day, the sky suddenly looked as if it was going to rain. He frowned at the dark clouds coming, unable to understand how Nino went so directly to the point without him saying a word.
“You’re right,” Sho said with a faint smile. “I don’t anymore. But I wonder if I once did.”
“Why do you want to know?”
This time too, Sho was intrigued by his use of words. It was like going through a labyrinth and having to choose a path. He could either bump against a wall, or move to the next intersection.
“I don’t know,” he answered honestly. “Curiosity, perhaps…” He stopped. “In any case, I plan things to stay the way they are, so don’t worry.”
Nino’s lips broke into a smile.
“Well, I’m afraid I can’t give you any useful information,” he sighed. “You know everything already. We just happened to have friends in common, and I sometimes came by. We had fun. That’s it. I’m sorry I can’t help you.”
There it was, the wall, already.
“There must be something,” he insisted, feeling that the man in front of him was keeping something to himself. “Please. You called me ‘Sho-chan’, right?”
For the first time, Nino looked right into his eyes. Sho stared back at him, hoping to read something more than tiredness and indifference in those features he had remembered so faithfully.
There was thunder in the distance.
“Could be,” he muttered, taking out a cigarette from his pocket. “But it’s nothing worth remembering.”
Again, someone was taking the decision for him. Sho gulped, ready to insist some more; however, something else distracted him. Nino brought the cigarette to his mouth and lighted it up, the flame coloring his face yellowish for an instant and making his eyelashes darker with their shadow. Sho stared at his lips as he puffed on it. Smoke came out between his teeth and rose into the air between them, disappearing right away.
The moment he thought that smoke had been in Nino’s lungs, Sho felt thoroughly disgusted. Even though he hadn’t consciously meant to do it, his hand moved automatically and hit Nino’s, making the cigarette fall to the ground before he could bring it back to his mouth.
“Sorry…” he apologized, observing his hand as if it weren’t a part of his body.
“You’re the same as usual,” Nino said, putting out the cigarette.
“When I quit smoking, I made you stop as well,” Sho came to realization as he pronounced those words.
“And I never stopped, so what?” Nino said, giving him a wary look.
It was Sho’s opportunity to talk to him and finally clear all his doubts, but, rather than curiosity, what lead him to what he did in that moment was a mere instinct. The instinct to take that man’s thin, small body somewhere and take care of it —the instinct to protect Nino from anything that might be harmful to him.
It was almost like a reflex, the same pattern as when he moved his hand before; he touched Nino’s shoulder and pressed it softly as he leaned forward, his head tilting a bit to the side. Just like his voice when he heard it over the phone, it felt incredibly familiar. Even though his mind couldn’t recall having kissed him before, his body did remember.
That scared him; he immediately moved away from Nino, realizing what he had just done.
“I’ve told you,” Nino whispered. “You’re better off without knowing. Please don’t do this.”
Sho covered his mouth with his hand, incapable of hiding his shock.
Rain started to fall practically at the same time Ninomiya Kazunari, the man whose lips tasted like cigarettes and yesterday and perhaps love, walked away, leaving a completely lost Sakurai Sho behind.
Thanks for reading!