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 ~ 2 ~ 4
Notes: Once again, I'm very late posting, I'm sorry ): But I have some good news! There's only one more chapter left, and next week I might post it on or before Thursday since I'm going on a trip to London over the weekend. So hopefully you won't have to wait as much to see how the story ends :3 Please keep reading to the end and let me know what you think!
One Sunday morning, months later, Sho remembered something else.
June was the less busy month at the office, so his boss let some of his employees take a week off. That included Sho. He still had to work on some reports from home, but he would be free most of the time.
The first thing he decided to do was to sleep as much as he could, as a compensation for the deprivation he had accumulated in the first half of the year. He had gone to bed early the previous night, and wasn’t sure of the time it was when he woke up and found Jun lying next to him. He was profoundly asleep. Sho’s lips curved into a smile and he rolled over to gaze at him. It was such an unusual sight, since Jun always managed to be up first.
After a while, without even noticing, he fell half asleep and his mind slowly drifted away.
He was looking out a window, in a building that looked like a college faculty. There was another building right in front of it, with a structure so similar it was like looking through a mirror. Behind it, the sun was setting. A gentle breeze, blowing across the yard that separated the buildings, ruffled his hair.
He just stood there, contemplating something in the distance, until a sound at the end of the corridor broke his concentration. He turned his head and saw a guy in his first or second year kneeling among a pile of books he had just dropped.
Sho walked towards him with the intention of helping him, but he had already picked up everything when he arrived. He looked anxiously at his watch.
“Shit, I’m late…” he muttered under his breath. Then he looked at Sho, and stared at him with his big, curious eyes for a couple of seconds before reacting. “Excuse me… do you happen to know where class 2-11 is?"
Sho checked the number on the nearest door and answered promptly, “that’s right upstairs.”
“Thank you,” the boy smiled.
“What a nice smile,” Sho thought, and stopped him before he went up the stairs. "Hey, um, sorry... what was your name?"
“Matsumoto Jun,” was his answer.
Sho opened his eyes and found that same smile right in front of him, a hand softly running through his hair.
“Jun,” he whispered, lifting his hand to touch his boyfriend’s face and trace the shape of his lips with his thumb, “you’re still here.”
“You were talking in your sleep," he pointed out, “though I didn't get what you were saying."
“It was you,” Sho replied. Jun made a questioning sound. “At university, when we met. Class 2-11.”
“Oh, didn’t you remember?” Jun asked in a disappointed tone. “I’m so sad you forgot about that too.”
“I’m sorry,” Sho apologized, “I wish I hadn’t."
Jun leaned forward and kissed Sho.
“It’s fine now.”
With memories like this one, it was.
However, it was already too late to turn his back to the rest. Without even looking, he knew the black sea was rough, and the tide was getting high.
Those four letters were written using a thick, black marker on the CD Sho was holding in his hands. The surface was all white, with no marks except for that name. He found it inside a plastic case while searching for an album in Jun’s collection. From the moment he saw it, he knew it didn’t belong to his boyfriend, though. He just felt that wasn’t the place where it was supposed to be.
If Jun had been around, he would probably have put it back in its place, hidden in the space between the shelf and the wall. Then, he would have tried hard to forget about its existence, just as he had done with what happened that rainy afternoon. And, as time went by, maybe, he would have succeeded —at both things.
But Jun was away at work. He wasn’t coming back until that evening, which meant Sho would be all day on his own. His initial plan, apart from taking care of a report he was asked to prepare, was to stay home and start thinking about Jun’s birthday present.
It was still over two months ahead, but this was the perfect moment to do something. After pondering for a while, he came up with the idea of making a remix using some of his favorite songs. That’s why he went to look at his CDs. And, also, how he ended up with that one in his hands.
He left it on the desk in front of him and turned the chair around.
“It would be as simple as throwing it away,” he thought. “Jun wouldn’t mind, I’m sure. And I will never know what it is. That’s all. Easy.”
He buried his face in his hands and sighed.
“You’re better off without knowing. Please don’t do this.”
Those words had never left him even since he heard them. Something inside of him was willing to follow that advice, to do what everybody seemed to want him to do. It would be the best choice. Jun’s change of mood when his first memory came, Aiba’s and Ohno’s troubled expressions, and Nino’s tired words... all of them would be relieved if he gave up.
Even so, there was another thing that pushed him to know more. It was an impulse from his heart, rather than a rational idea, a feeling that was born after his brief meeting with Nino. There was something bigger in that story, something that he would be burying deeper into his soul and that might hurt him even more in the future if he let it grow roots. He couldn’t go on with that doubt.
“I’m sorry,” he thought, as a silent apology to everybody.
He took the CD out of its case and reproduced it on his laptop.
A video popped up on the screen. At first it was totally black; slowly, a photo of Nino faded in, together with a text, “we'll miss you”. There was music in the background. Some more pictures of him appeared, at parties, at home, in a restaurant, always with that enigmatic look in his eyes that pierced through Sho.
He gulped and hesitated for a second, right when the slideshow ended, the music volume lowered gradually and a video clip started. He froze and watched it closely, his finger still on the extract button.
“Hi! This is Sakurai Sho,” a younger version of him waved to the camera. Then he turned it over, "And this handsome guy here is Nino. Ninomiya Kazunari. Say hello!"
There were at a restaurant with wooden tables and benches, surrounded by palm trees and other leafy plants, and the sound of waves in the distance. It was summer, clearly. It had to be filmed during some vacation.
“Don’t film me while I'm eating," Nino grunted. “I don’t like that.”
Sho laughed behind the camera and went to sit next to Nino, putting his hand around his shoulders. Now Nino's face was really close to the screen.
“This guy's a bit grumpy today,” he commented, “but now we’re going to the beach and he's gonna have a serious blast.”
“Oh really?” Nino said, not caring anymore about the camera and cramming his mouth with food. He looked away and snorted.
Sho turned the camera over again and filmed both of them. He was checking out his reflection in the camera lens and fixing the sunglasses on his head when Nino jumped and gave him a kiss on the cheek, startling him. He laughed.
A new clip started. This time he could also spot Aiba, Ohno, and even Jun. They were all in a ferry. This time it was Nino filming him. Sho was leaning on the rail.
Sho ignored him. Nino screamed his name several times more, without getting any response but a deadpan expression.
He then zoomed in Sho's face, gazing at the sea. The camera swayed lightly while he struggled not to laugh, until he couldn’t help giggling.
“Hey! Don’t touch me there!” he yelled; the camera shook violently and showed Ohno coming to them.
“What are you doing again?” he asked.
“Are you jealous or what?" Nino said, and then his hand could be seen going after Ohno’s butt.
Other vids were filmed at Aiba’s birthday, a day they went together to the cinema, and a night they spent at a rented house in the mountains.
The last one was filmed by Jun at Sho's 28th birthday. That was some months before the accident.
Aiba was laughing, sitting around a table next to Ohno. It seemed to be Sho’s former apartment. They were having an interesting conversation about the penguins Aiba was helping to raise at the zoo and how he wanted to give one to Sho as a present but he couldn't, so instead he sent him a picture with a birthday message. He hadn’t finished yet with his explanation when the birthday boy called the camera over to where he was.
Nino and Sho were on the couch together, with no space between them. Jun didn’t talk much; he just said something like “the lovely couple” and then sat in front of them, still recording.
“Gentlemen,” the Sho on the screen started his speech, "please listen to me.”
“Oh, there he goes, he’s drunk again!” Nino laughed at his side, patted his stomach, and then let him go on.
“First,” he made a long pause to drink some beer from the can he was holding, "I want to say that I love you all."
Jun chuckled a bit.
“BUT” he shouted, “—oops, sorry, too loud— there’s one of you I love the most.”
Nino rolled his eyes, but still looked amused.
“Nino!” he grabbed his chin and looked into his eyes. The camera tilted a bit. “Nino…”
Aiba and Ohno went all “Kuu~” at the background.
“I love you.”
Nino could only hold it for half a second before bursting into laughter, burying his face in the crook of his elbow and bending over as Sho grinned, completely satisfied with his public confession.
“You’re so stupid!”
In front of the screen, Sho’s eyes were brimming with tears. He wiped them off as soon as he noticed, and no more came out. His hands were trembling. His full body was trembling. He was too shocked to give any other reaction.
It was like looking at other person’s memories, like a very well made movie in which he played the role of one of the main characters. A character that had his same face, his same name and even the same friends, but that wasn’t really him. The Sho on the screen was a different man. He felt like a different man.
He spent the whole afternoon watching it over and over again. He became very familiar with the images shown, but couldn’t find their matches in his damaged memory. But what he did find was a powerful current of mixed feelings, flowing directly from the dark waters he had just dived into.
At one point, he paused the video and tried to figure his emotions out. He closed his eyes, leaned back on the chair and took a deep breath. There were three waves generating the current. The first one was the same confusion he had felt ever since that day at the airport, perhaps more intense than ever before. The next one was something between nostalgia and sadness. Nostalgia because those moments, as common and unimportant they could look to anyone else, they were precious to him. He was happy to live them again, even though it was through short videos, but sad to think it would never be like that anymore.
The last and strongest wave was love. The love that, through all those years, he had felt for Nino. It was like an extraordinarily heavy stone falling to the bottom of his heart and sweeping everything else away. Like a sudden punch in the ribs, tearing him apart. Nothing else came back with it; only the overwhelming weight of the love he had experienced while Nino was still by his side. At the same time an enormous void was filled, a new aching one was left.
Because that was also gone, and everything was already over.
He resumed the video and observed Nino’s face, listened to his voice raise when he complained. He hadn’t changed at all, unlike the rest. The one in those videos was the same man he had seen months ago in the street, the one he had wanted to protect, the one he had kissed. He had almost convinced himself that it had been a mistake, but now he wasn’t that sure about it. Things might be finished between them, but the feelings, at least on his part, were undoubtedly alive.
“I’m home,” a voice and the sound of keys being left on the counter brought him back to reality.
As he heard some steps coming from behind, he stood up, then slowly turned around to see Jun’s eyes darting from the messy pile of CDs on the floor to the screen, before finally fixing on him. Sho clenched his fists and looked away. Jun blinked and just stood there, like a statue, a white bag that probably contained their dinner hanging from his right hand. None of them spoke.
It dawned on Sho all at once. Jun had always known everything, from the start. He had taken the decision not to let him know. And, what was worse, he had probably taken that decision for Aiba, for Ohno and maybe for Nino as well. Not even when Sho demanded to know he gave him the truth. What he gave him instead was a bunch of lies, all of which he had practically swallowed.
Sho started to cry silently. He let the tears run down his cheeks, not paying attention to them, and walked up to Jun. In front of him, it was hard to hold the rage and breathe at the same time. In a weak, hoarse voice, he pronounced the only word he felt capable of saying before completely breaking down.
“Because I love you,” Jun said almost immediately, not able to hide a note of desperation.
Sho smiled bitterly and left. The room was filled with the sound of laughter from the video still playing on the laptop.
In the next few days, they didn’t speak to each other. They also tried to avoid being in the same place, as much as it was possible living in the same house.
Sho spent most of the time in his room, working, reading books or listening to music. He had been planning some activities to make the most of his short holidays, but after what happened he didn’t feel like going out anymore. He had a lot to process, things to find a place for in his half-devastated, messy shelf of past experiences, and it was best to do that between some walls.
Meanwhile, Jun started sleeping voluntarily on the sofa, where he sat for hours every day after coming home from work, without trying to approach him in any way. Sho had no idea of what he expected to happen just like that, and he couldn’t care less. Whether he was hiding his suffering under a mask of perfect indifference or didn’t really feel sorry for what he had done, it didn’t matter. Sho wasn’t angry at him anymore; instead, what he began to feel for him was an intense disappointment.
“We’re going on a trip tomorrow,” Jun suddenly announced one morning, two days before Sho had to go back to work officially.
Sho lifted his head and stared at him over the pages of his recently delivered daily newspaper. Jun looked restless, as though he hadn’t slept all night, but there was also a flash of determination in his eyes Sho had never seen before. Even so, he simply cleared his throat, reached to grab a toast from his plate and went back to the article he was reading.
“Fine, don’t say anything,” Jun added, “but be ready to go at 7 o’clock in the morning.”
“What if I don’t want to go?” Sho finally replied, closing his newspaper and folding it on the table.
“It isn’t an offer you can take or not,” Jun said, in an upset tone. “It is already arranged like that.”
“Oh, wow, it’s wonderfully easy living around you,” Sho smiled wryly. “You’re quite talented at orchestrating other people’s lives, aren’t you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Yes, of course,” Sho affirmed, sitting back on his chair. His pent-up frustration rushed to his head like a barely controlled electric discharge, and the words that didn’t come out last time burst from his mouth. “This was the perfect opportunity to show how exceptionally good you are at it. You knew this person who had an accident and lost his memory, so you thought, ‘hey, why don’t I make up a new story for the poor man?’ How funny, building someone else’s life however you like it to be.”
“It’s not like that, and you know it,” Jun defended himself.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Sho went on. “What am I supposed to think, then? What other parts of my life you want me to ignore? Tell me, what other fake stories did I believe?”
“Sho, I never told you any lies before this,” Jun sighed, arms crossed over his chest.
“And now you expect me to trust you,” Sho answered in a shaky voice. “Damn it, I was so stupid from the beginning. I don’t know why I leaned so much on you. It might even be my fault for being so naive.”
“Calm down,” Jun asked him in a soft voice. “I assure you there is a good reason—”
“I don’t care!” Sho snapped at him, almost yelling. “I had the right to know from the start! You took it away from me!”
“You don’t know how wrong you are!” Jun raised his tone as well, arching his eyebrows. “I only wanted to help you!”
“Covering all up with lies, that’s it! That’s how you helped me?”
“If that’s how you want to see it, then yes!”
At this point, they were both standing up, staring intently at each other. Sho was leaning over the table, his hand resting on the place where he had punched it seconds ago. Both of Jun’s hands were clasping the edge at the opposite side of the table, a measure taken to hold his rage.
“You don’t even have the intention to apologize, do you?” Sho told him, practically in a whisper.
“No,” Jun muttered briefly, before adding in an authoritative tone: “Not until you’re able to understand.”
“Seriously, Jun...” Sho spoke tiredly. He spent some seconds looking for the right words to describe his thoughts. “I don’t know why you do this.”
Jun let himself fall back to his chair as Sho stormed out of the kitchen. He covered his face with his hands and threw his head back until it touched the wall behind.
Sho wouldn’t realize how hurtful his words had been until later.
Thanks for reading!