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 ~ 3
Notes: ...we are at the last chapter already? o.O Time flies! Well, it must be because I've been very busy these past weeks. But, even though I'm still dead tired, I couldn't go to bed tonight without posting this ;) To those who have been reading Shadows from the start and have supported me with their comments, thank you very much! I am really glad that you enjoyed something I worked on so hard *o* I wasn't really sure about posting it at first, but now I'm happy I did. I hope you like this chapter, whether you are a Sakumoto or a Sakumiya shipper (or both, even better!). And, who knows, I might have something new to post soon :D
The train left Tokyo at 8.33 the following morning. The journey to Kyoto would last a bit longer than two hours. Sho put on his headphones and played some music to relax as he observed the landscape through the window. The small suitcase he had brought with himself was in the luggage compartment. Apart from that, he only had his cell phone, his wallet, the key to his apartment and a bag Jun had given to him before he left home.
“I cancelled the ticket I bought for me. I’m not interested in seeing that man anyway,” he had said the night before.
Sho didn’t like the way he said “that man”. There was something very cold and disdainful in it, as if Nino was one of the worst people in the planet. That “good reason” Jun argued had to be very good if it justified talking about him like that.
And yet, he had prepared something for Sho to give him. It was a medium-sized package, wrapped in bright yellow paper. Sho thought it was a little too flashy to give to an adult, but he knew nothing about Nino’s likes, anyway.
Like many other times during that week, Sho revisited one by one the few memories of Nino he had. He went from the moments in the videos (although they weren’t true memories, they were the only thing he had), through that memory that came back on Christmas, to what happened the last time he actually saw him, around three months before. The shape of his small body fading back among the crowd was always the last image playing on his mind.
It was raining today, too. It was June, after all, so it wasn’t really a coincidence, but it was funny. He observed the thin, diagonal lines the raindrops drew on the glass, over and over again. The faster the train moved, the shorter they became, and the sooner they vanished. The traces they left on the surface changed; they broke and scattered in all directions and it was almost impossible to follow them.
Sho thought of Nino and him, and wondered if there was any line left connecting them.
He arrived at the address Jun had given him at around 11.30, after getting a taxi ride from the station. It was a modern hotel that seemed to have many conference rooms were company meetings were held. Nino was supposed to be staying there for two days, starting from the previous night.
Sho got out of the car after paying to the driver. Fortunately, the rain had stopped for some hours and he didn’t have to take his umbrella out or hurry into the building. Once inside, he went to the reception desk and asked for the restaurant. It was on the second floor, like Jun had told him as well. He would be meeting Nino there at 12.00 for lunch.
He asked for a table and sat there to wait while reading a book he had recently bought. He was almost finished with the first chapter when he noticed someone walking in his direction.
“Hey there, Sho-chan,” he greeted him in a much friendlier tone than the one he used when they talked first over the phone and in their later meeting.
“Hey,” Sho smiled. He felt a gap closing between them. “How are you?”
Nino took out his suit jacket and put it on the back of his chair before sitting down. Then he craned his neck and looked around. Sho did the same. There were people coming in from different entrances. Several meetings had finished at the same time as Nino’s.
“Wasn’t J coming with you?” he asked. “Sorry, I meant Jun.”
“Is that how you called him?” Sho laughed, handing him one of the menus the waiter had brought before.
“Yes, just to tease him,” Nino explained. “To break the ice, you know. I wanted to be good friends with him. We had a lot in common, I think.”
Sho listened to him carefully. He was very pleased with this new attitude he was showing him. Of course, it was much more comfortable to be with him now than with the stiff, mysterious Nino from the other times. Besides, it was nice and refreshing to hear someone talking so casually of the past, for a change.
“He didn’t come, but he gave me this for you,” Sho told him, taking the gift out.
Nino thanked him and took it in his hands.
“Let me guess...” Sho mused, scratching his chin. “Happy Birthday?”
“Right!” Nino nodded, opening the bright wrapping paper. “Wow, how did he get the limited edition? Awesome!”
It was a video game. Sho didn’t know it beforehand, but he wasn’t surprised either. The idea of Nino playing video games made perfect sense in his mind, just like the idea of the earth rotating around the sun or the rivers flowing into the sea. It was shockingly obvious the moment it hit him.
“So did you play games together a lot? You and Jun, I mean.”
“No,” Nino laughed, apparently amused by his question. “But I don’t blame him. He had a good reason not to like me very much.”
Sho’s heart skipped a beat. Nino noticed the change in his expression.
“Come on, haven’t you guessed it already?” he joked, as if it were a game.
Once again, the realization came fast. Sho felt incredibly silly he hadn’t thought of that before. He had been too busy sorting his feelings out and pondering over different aspects of the matter.
Back then, when the five of them (including Nino) used to hang out together, there was a single difference: the fact that Sho was going out with a different person.
“He was jealous of you.”
“Not exactly, but close to that,” Nino replied, making a gesture with his hand.
At that moment, the waiter came and took their orders.
“I don’t get it, then,” Sho muttered after giving it some thought. “If he wasn’t jealous, what happened?”
“Well...” Nino seemed to hesitate, resting his elbows on the table. “We got on just fine, but things got a bit complicated.”
Nino shook his head. He rubbed his face with his hands and sighed. Sho kept his eyes fixed on him, patiently waiting for a proper response.
“You have to be kidding me,” he joked bitterly. “I never thought I’d have to talk about this a second time. The first it time it was hard enough.”
“Was it that bad?”
“It was what got you into that accident.”
Sho fell immediately silent.
“Well, I guess the circumstances also played a little part on it,” Nino thought out loud. “Will you make a promise to me, first of all?”
“When I leave this place,” he made a pause to check his watch, “in, let’s say, fifty-five minutes, please don’t go after me. Do not follow me, for any reason. Okay?”
“Okay...” Sho agreed, a bit alarmed.
“I know you won’t this time, but I want to make sure,” Nino winked.
Their food came and they started having lunch. Sho found himself carefully studying the way Nino ate, how he used his chopsticks, the way he held the rice bowl, with those cute little hands and their chubby fingers. He felt a certain fondness coming from the bottom of his heart, where that enormous stone had fallen days ago. But, this time, it didn’t hurt. He discovered he once loved those hands very much, but, after seeing them again, he might be able to let that ounce of love go.
“I broke up with you that day,” Nino suddenly confessed. “And you couldn’t take it. There were many things at once —things weren’t as good as they used to be between us, my feelings had started to change, and I had been offered that position overseas. I explained everything to you, in every way I could think of, and I apologized a million times, but you wouldn’t listen.”
He stopped eating and frowned.
“The only thing left to do was leaving. I had already accepted to transfer, and I was taking a plane the following week. I trusted that, with me gone far away and no option but to give up, you would eventually move on. I knew you were very stubborn when it came to the things you wanted, but I also knew I could believe in that your wounds would heal.”
Sho imagined himself in that situation, and he didn’t need to remember anything to know how he reacted to Nino’s news back then.
“So I left. The argument happened at your apartment, and I still remember you chasing me downstairs, to the main hall of the building, and out to the street. I ran across the road, and so did you.”
“A car hit me pretty badly, and almost ran over me,” Sho finished the story for him. “That’s all I knew up to now.”
He left his chopsticks down and wiped his mouth with a serviette, slowly assimilating the information he had just received.
“At first I felt terribly guilty,” Nino continued. “I wondered if what I was going to do was really that wrong. But then I understood it wasn’t.”
“You aren’t going to like this part,” Nino affirmed, after pouring some more water into their glasses. “You can say I’m selfish and cowardly, and I won’t complain. In a sense, I was selfish and cowardly indeed.”
Sho invited him to go on anyway with a gesture.
“When the doctors said you didn’t remember anything about the past six years, I thought it was my chance. Well, a chance for both of us to go on. Or rather, a way to finish things the most nicely possible and get a second opportunity. A fresh start.”
“You voluntarily disappeared from my life,” Sho summarized it at the same time his heart sank, “never to come back.”
“Unless you suddenly remembered me,” Nino clarified, “which was very unlikely to happen, after the shock you had.”
“Then I saw you at the airport,” Sho added, “and it happened.”
Nino said nothing. From an outsider’s point of view, what he had done was just like he had said, selfish and cowardly. Taking advantage of his condition to escape as he had planned, without trying to make it up and say goodbye properly to him —that was a low blow. However, if he put himself in Nino’s place, Sho could find it a little bit more understandable.
“We’re forgetting an important part, though,” Nino pointed out, a slight smile playing on his lips. “There was something else that made it possible for me to leave. I hope you forgive me after hearing this, because I’m the only one at fault here.”
“What is it?”
“There was someone who loved you so much I could never be a true match for them,” Nino stated, measuring his words. “Someone who had been there for you even before me, and who would never leave your side, no matter what.”
“Jun,” Sho thought. He unconsciously moved his lips as to pronounce his name.
“I didn’t hesitate to leave everything in his hands,” Nino went on with his explanation. “That man is incredible. He was watching over us so closely, especially for you, he noticed things weren’t working anymore before I knew it myself. And, of course, when he found out what I was going to do, weeks before your accident, he got furious at me. You both have such a temperament,” he laughed, and stopped to drink some water.
When the waiter passed by their table, he asked for the bill.
“Later, he was still sceptical about it. But he was going to take care of you anyway, so we reached a tacit agreement. I left, he stayed,” he concluded.
Sho didn’t know what to say. If things were like that, he had been judging Jun so wrongly. He hadn’t used the right means, but his end was always to spare him the pain. Everything he had told him was true. He was trying to help him, because he loved him.
“I guess he didn’t want you to get hurt again,” Nino spoke again after they brought the bill.
He took his wallet out and made a gesture for Sho not to take out his.
“Let me treat you as a small compensation,” he offered. “I don’t know if you remember of not, but in the almost four years we were a couple, I only treated you four times. Once a year. So this is actually an event.”
Sho couldn’t help laughing.
“Yes. I love money that much,” Nino acknowledged, half-jokingly.
They got up from the table and walked together to the elevator, in silence. Sho had a strange sensation; even though he had just had a quite heavy lunch, he felt much lighter than before. After Nino pressed the button for the first floor, he had the feeling that they were leaving everything behind, like helium-filled balloons slipping out of their hands and flying up to the sky. They would fly so high and so far that they would eventually lose sight of them.
Before they reached the main hall, Nino turned around and hugged him. A bit hesitantly at first, Sho also put his arms around his body. It was then when he realized that the stone in his heart had become barely a bunch of pebbles, and the immense void was now narrow enough to jump over it.
“I’m sorry,” Nino whispered.
Sho shook his head lightly. With this, he would have lost him twice. But this time he was ready to let go. And, when he did so, the immense love he had once felt for him set sail and started to drift away, slowly but steadily, in the waters of his memory, now much calmer and clearer.
It was already dark outside when Sho woke up in his room. After saying goodbye to Nino, he had gone upstairs and laid for a while on the king sized bed, hoping that a short nap would help him take in better the story he had been told.
Nino, the person he had loved for many years, suddenly left his side. He couldn’t accept it, and went after him. He had an accident. When he opened his eyes at the hospital, another person was by his bed. A person who always took care of him without asking for anything in return. A person he didn’t love as much at first, but with whom he had fell in love with somewhere along his way to recovery. A person he owed an apology to.
He imagined what he could be doing at the moment. He pictured Jun in their living room, an open magazine in his hands; he had been trying to read something in an attempt to stop worrying over Sho and Nino and what they were talking about, the thing he had been fighting to avoid all that time, but it was impossible. His eyes just kept going through the same lines, while his mind was unable to disconnect. Although he had chosen not to go in the last moment, he was dying to be there and check the situation himself.
Sho grabbed his cell phone from the bedside table and turned the screen on. There were no unanswered calls. Instead, a message popped up. It was from Aiba.
Please forgive Jun, I’m begging you!
He loves you very much!
Sho didn’t reply. Being scolded by Aiba only confirmed that he had been too hard on Jun.
“I know,” he thought.
He got up and decided to go for a walk and get something to eat for dinner. He saw through the window it was raining again, so he put on a hooded jacket before leaving.
As he stepped out of the room, he found Jun standing in the corridor. He gave Sho a doubtful look and lowered his head. It was the first time he showed him such a scared and insecure face. He had never looked so defeated, not even that time at the hospital.
“How long have you been here?” Sho asked him, not waiting for a response before reaching to grab his suitcase. “Come in.”
Jun followed him inside and closed the door. Sho placed his suitcase next to his and then sat down on the mattress. He patted the covers, inviting Jun to do the same.
“Aiba and Ohno forced me to come,” he justified himself, suggesting that he wasn’t welcome. “Ohno bought the train tickets, and Aiba went home and prepared my suitcase for me. I don’t want to look inside.”
Sho gave him a little smile and pulled at his arm so he would sit.
“I’m glad you’re here,” he said, honestly. “Not here in Kyoto, or in the hotel. Just here, together with me.”
Jun looked as if he hadn’t expected to hear that.
“I’m so sorry, Jun. For talking about things I didn’t know about and jumping to conclusions.”
“You don’t need to be,” Jun shook his head. “I deceived you.”
“That’s right, you did,” Sho agreed, “and I’m still waiting to hear an apology for that. But I was too blind to see anything else. I ended up pushing your feelings aside. I’m very sorry.”
“Don’t say that,” Jun insisted. “I knew how things were. I’m the one to blame, for trying to steal another person’s place. For that and for everything that I’ve done to you, I’m sorry. I’m terribly sorry, Sho.”
“Now we’re even,” Sho laughed. “But you didn’t do anything like that.”
“No, Sho, you don’t know,” Jun said, looking at his hands. “You loved him so, so much I can’t... You looked so happy next to him, so bright and full of energy. I convinced myself that, as long as you were with him, you would be okay. I was ready to give up and move on. And then that jerk—”
“Went and dumped me,” Sho completed his sentence.
“It broke my heart just to think of how you would be after that,” Jun let out a big sigh. “I wanted to fix it for you, somehow.”
“There was nothing you could do.”
“Yes, there was. I could have told you earlier and warned you so you wouldn’t have to go through it for a second time,” Jun continued. “But I was too scared.”
“Scared of what?” Sho asked, placing a hand on his shoulder.
Jun opened his mouth to talk, but closed it again without making any sound. He looked away from Sho and tilted his head backwards, trying to blink back the tears forming in his eyes. Sho put his arms around him and held him tightly. Jun welcomed his embrace. They stayed like that for a while. When Jun finally broke down, he buried his head in the crook of Sho’s neck and sobbed silently, shuddering.
“This is so embarrassing,” he said in a muffled voice.
Sho reached for the tissue box on the bedside table and gave it to him. Jun thanked him and wiped his tears hurriedly, before Sho could see them.
“Even working for a publishing house, I’m not as good with this type of words as you are,” Sho talked when he felt he was calming down, not turning to look at him yet. “But you need to know I love you, Jun.”
Jun lifted his head and gulped.
“And it wouldn’t make any sense to compare it to any other love, or guessing if it’s greater or not,” Sho continued. “I just do. That’s all that matters.”
At the same time he confessed his feelings, he definitely saw everything clear. Jun moved his hand and placed it on top of Sho’s, giving it a light squeeze.
“Only you can help me now,” Sho said, observing him from the corner of his eye. “Make me forget, once again.”
Jun moved closer, gave him a tender smile and leaned in for a kiss.
The smooth surface of the blackboard was cold and dusty. Sho ran the tip of his index finger through it, leaving a clean trace behind. He thought of the many lessons he had learned from the things written on that place. It was the room he had most of his classes at during his years as a university undergraduate.
“You started at 8 am on Mondays,” Jun spoke from behind him, sitting on the teacher’s chair, “and went home past 5 pm most of the days, except for Fridays. That was the day when you used to be less grumpy,” he laughed. Sho gave him a scolding look. “Because Nino would come and pick you up in the afternoon.”
“I see,” Sho nodded.
He stepped down from the platform in front of the blackboard, went to lean on the side of the table and listened.
“I think he was working at some pizza place back then. He would sometimes come straight after his shift was over, so he still had his uniform on. People stared at him, probably wondering what a guy like that was doing in front of the campus. But he never gave a damn about it. He only came for you.”
“Such an interesting guy,” Sho commented, picturing him in his mind.
“Yes, he certainly was,” Jun said. “You told me you were sure he sometimes did it on purpose. To make a difference, you meant.”
“Yes, I believe I would think like that,” Sho agreed. “It suits my idea of Nino.”
He turned around and rested his elbows on the table, rubbing off the dust from his fingers.
“But tell me more about you and me. Did we share any habits?”
Jun smiled shyly.
“My classes were at a different building, and our schedules didn’t match, so we didn’t really see each other around here much,” he explained. “But I sometimes came by to say hello.”
“You went across the campus only to say hello to me?”
“Yes... I only wanted to get a glimpse of you,” Jun admitted, faintly blushing. “Oh, but we also had lunch together once every while. You treated me.”
“Did I?” Sho said, surprised. “What a nice senpai!”
“Yeah, well, but you rarely had any free time to do so,” Jun replied. “Anyway, there was this restaurant around Ebisu. We took the subway and went there together.”
“Ah, the one with the delicious soba!” Sho exclaimed. “It was incredibly tasty.”
“Yes, that one!”
“My stomach just rumbled thinking of it,” Sho confessed. “We should go. Do you think it’s still there?”
“Let’s go check,” Jun stood up, checking his watch. “I think we can make it.”
He headed towards the exit and Sho followed him, placing an arm around his shoulder. They walked once again through the corridor where they met for the first time and Sho impersonated Jun back then, his books slipping from his hands and hitting the floor with a heavy thud. Jun laughed loudly and demanded to be treated to lunch as usual. Sho accepted, on the condition that Jun would tell him more about those times they spent together.
From that day on, Sho was never afraid of looking back.