Pairing(s): Ohno/Nino (Taka/Yuuji)
Disclaimer: I do not own Ohno, Nino or Ohmiya SK. :D?
Word count: 5000
Summary: Yuuji runs away from home only to end up right back where he started.
Warning:The geography student in me is crying. ;___;
Author's Notes: Spot the Arashi cameos! Wrote this on my ipod in Starbucks so it’s pretty indulgent ahaha. :D;;
Beta`d by coffee_hanjan! Thank you very much!
With a certain sort of smarts, Yuuji finds out one is perfectly capable of traveling the world without a single yen to his name. At fifteen he drops out of school to support his family's dying factory. At seventeen the plot of land the factory once stood on is sold, just enough money for his mother to run off and start a new life.
Yuuji doesn't feel particularly bad about it. His mother always was a blunt person and if she thought her son could survive perfectly well on his own, there’s no point babying him any longer. So Yuuji packs his bag with the bare necessities and disappears the next day.
Japan takes exactly eight months three weeks and six days to travel. It's an expensive country to leave.
Yuuji starts in Chiba, two prefectures away from home. The urge to run is undeniable, somewhere so foreign he could lose himself in, a clean slate. Chiba is as far as his salvaged coins will take him, but for now, broke and alone with his chest bursting at the seams, it is far enough.
The beaches are dull and the streets empty and boring but one friendly restaurant owner decides to take him in. He starts as a waiter, serving up hot steaming dishes of Chinese food and clearing tables as Owner's wife complains about a son that never returns home now that he's vaguely rich and somewhat famous despite the fact that Yuuji catches her on the phone with him, encouraging and supportive.
When his son returns, dark circles around his eyes and near collapsing at the front desk in his exhaustion, Yuuji finds out just how 'somewhat' famous he is.
"Aiba Masaki," the boy introduces himself as, but there’s no way Yuuji wouldn't know that.
Aiba pulls him aside the next day. He's got this serious, protective look on his face; it isn't hard to figure out this stranger living with his parents doesn't actually have a home of his own. But Yuuji is good with people, sly tongue and charming smile, and he's got nothing to hide anyway. Aiba's convinced he's a good person when he discovers Yuuji's concept of bare necessities consists of two pairs of underwear, one change of clothes and a toothbrush (no toothpaste) lining his guitar case.
Yuuji learns that Aiba is a good person too, just really really stressed. On Yuuji's last night, they talk for hours on the porch of the restaurant they helped close up. Aiba tells him of talent agencies and the band mates he loves so much he's afraid to let down. Yuuji tells him of his mother's proud stories and how his parents have never been happier that Aiba was finally chasing a dream. Yuuji lets Aiba lean on his shoulder as he slowly but surely chases each of Aiba's demons away.
("I wasn't even supposed to be in Arashi," Aiba confesses sadly. "I was just a last minute addition."
Yuuji shrugs and the action makes Aiba's head bob up and down. "But now that you're in," he says with not a waver in his voice, "shouldn't you make the best of this chance you've been given?"
Aiba turns to him and gives a brilliant grin.)
When he leaves, Aiba is crying just a bit, but he promises to visit should he ever drift back again.
In Tokyo, Yuuji learns the inner workings of Japan's night life, busking at bars on makeshift stages of rotting wood and cardboard crates, balancing trays of neon coloured drinks on the palm of each hand as he weaves through crowds of tipsy teenagers. The people here are, unfortunately, a lot less open to taking in strangers.
The first time Yuuji sleeps with a boy, he is chubby cheeked and more than slightly drunk, but cute in his spaced out, giggly sort of manner. Most importantly, he pays for their room and Yuuji, after three nights of sleeping on park benches, is irrationally grateful.
The boy is gone the next morning, with money left on the night stand. The hotel's boss finds him spread out on his back, naked because the towel is lying between him and the sticky sheets, hair still damp from his shower. One look tells the boss everything she needs to know and reluctantly, she allows Yuuji to sweet talk her into letting him work in exchange for a place to crash.
Yuuji discovers the backstage of love hotels, dimly lit surveillance rooms to make sure the number of people leaving matches the number of people that came in in the first place. At first he watches every person who comes in, from nervous students to old geezers he often has to avert his eyes from. Eventually he learns to keep track even as he mashes away at his gameboy, one hand marking scraps of paper, then checking them off again when they leave. The customers become as faceless as he is and Yuuji finds some strange sort of peace here.
In the cluttered break room of these hotels is where Yuuji spends his last solid months in Japan. It's a perfect place for drifters like him to hide away in, no ID needed and no closing hours either so employees could sleep in between shifts, whether it's ass am in the morning or night. A good way of earning tips, Yuuji discovers, is to accept bribes and turn a blind eye when neither partners are girls.
By the time Yuuji collects enough cash for plane tickets, there is this terrible urge to go far far away.
Then he hears Singapore sells extremely cheap one way tickets to anywhere in the world.
Yuuji doesn't even have to leave the airport. Tucked away in one corner is a tiny little girl tapping away at her laptop. The music leaking from her headphones is distinctively Japanese. Her name is something uncomplicated but tricky to the Japanese tongue, and Yuuji realises with a start that from here on in, language might be a problem. English is universal; he bullies the girl into teaching him how to enunciate.
Luckily enough, the girl is bored and open to manipulation. After much dramatic gesturing and what he hopes are puppy-eyed, pleading expressions, Yuuji manages to coerce her into purchasing a one way ticket to some obscure Arab country, still in Asia but from what he can make of the girl's doodling, so far removed from Japan or Singapore that it'd be an adventure. The only problem with super cheap website tickets is that they require sending to a Singaporean address. The girl is less tiny than he thinks, weeks away from eighteen and living alone near the airport.
In total his ticket costs Yuuji fifty dollars, a week's worth of chores, Aiba's autographed CD and his email address with the promise that he send her pictures every month.
Yuuji kisses her before boarding the plane, both knowing that he will never contact her again.
He's already forgotten what she looks like halfway through the plane ride, until lunch is served and he thinks he may have permanently damaged his taste buds. When he digs through his bag, his sweets are missing and all that remains is a small piece of notebook paper, "don't forget me already, asshole!" but he can't read English and it is returned to the bottom of his backpack.
Afghanistan is ridiculously dusty. There is an impossible sort of haze even in the airport. Everything is foreign, the people and the food all so completely unfamiliar that Yuuji finds a thrill deep in his stomach.
Now his adventure truly begins, never spending too long in each town, only long enough to walk the miles to the next bus stop or train station, sleeping on padded chairs at stations whenever he gets the chance. The signs and road maps are in a language he’s never seen before, a series of curves and dots he doesn’t understand, so he takes his chances, randomly pointing out stations or simply repeating what the customer in front of him had said. Yuuji doesn't stay in one place for long, avoiding anywhere with political dispute, just keeps moving forward.
Paying for tickets is easy too; no one questions when he stands outside the whole day, guitar and only his voice as he seduces the crowd with foreign songs of foreign lands, sometimes a few worldwide famous songs in broken broken English that no one understands, not even he himself, but it’s enjoyable anyway. Money earned is then taken straight inside for the cheapest ticket on sale and sometimes he gets discounts from the conductors who have been watching him outside the entire day.
Train rides are long and jerky, nothing like Japan where there is air conditioning but never a seat available. There is little between each stop, only long stretches of barren sand. Yuuji learns to pick the seats in the last carriage next to open windows. The air let in, hot and dusty, is nowhere near cooling but allows for some circulation that Yuuji is eternally grateful for.
Two months it takes him to reach some hot, desert-like place called Uzbekistan and Yuuji suspects his ass has molded into the shape of metal train seats.
Once out of the station he drapes a white sheet across his head and shoulders, tucking his hair in and fastidiously coiling it around his neck. The first days had seen him with terrible sunburns and he learns his lessons (especially the painful ones) fast.
His legs are aching but he perseveres through the half hour journey past rustic buildings and the occasional miniature sand dune to some open air bazaar, so large and sprawling that he doesn't see where it starts nor ends. There are as many stalls as the eyes can see, plastic draped over wooden frames posing as stalls. Everything, it seems, is on sale here.
A young dark skinned boy running around in only a worn pair of shorts trades his two long red and blue feathers for the paper anklet an old woman gave Yuuji four days and two countries back. Yuuji doesn't know what to do with them but he has a feeling they'd come in handy later so he sticks them proudly out of his bag.
Next is the task of finding food. Yuuji doesn't tan so much as turn a bright red before peeling, and he's a great deal more slender than the stocky-built natives, so he sticks out like a sore thumb. They try to swindle this strange tourist more than normal but thankfully Yuuji is smarter than that.
Halfway through trying to trade a metal spoon for some fruit - Yuuji hears Japanese.
His head whips towards the voice so fast Yuuji knows he's going to feel the whiplash later but never mind that now. His legs are moving automatically, weaving through the crowd with a sense of urgency he hasn't experienced for years. When he finally thinks to stop, now hopelessly lost, he finds himself in front of a tiny bleached door hidden in an architecture marvel. Yuuji pauses, out of breath.
It's how the shop owner finds him, stock still in front of his shop, one hand half raised and clutching at cutlery, mouth agape. For a moment the young man stands side by side with Yuuji, staring up at the signboard he'd painted months ago. Then he blinks at Yuuji.
Yuuji turns around and stares back. Behind the armful of paper bagged groceries, Yuuji spies a short black hair and a dark skinned face, tanned, with a distinctive Asian slant to his eyes wide with curiosity, the small line of his mouth. Almost familiar, this man; Yuuji finds himself short of breath.
"Hello." Yuuji is the first one to speak, savoring the smooth, again-familiar way Japanese syllables
"Hi." The man tilts his head curiously at the spoon in his hand. "Are you hungry?"
And this is how Yuuji meets Taka. Taka's story is a lot simpler than Yuuji's, but it takes a while to find out -
"My sister married an Australian, see," Taka tries to explain but his cheeks are even more puffy with bread
Yuuji blinks at him. "This isn't Australia."
- because Taka's horribly vague when talking but Yuuji discovers eventually how his sister had married an archeologist, how the family had gone along with the flow and followed the newlywed couple to his newest archaeological site. Taka found himself with little to occupy his time and thus the bread shop had been built.
Taka's family is a totally different story, entirely separated from Taka's mild demeanor and overwhelming to say the least. Taka's mother is the single most persuasive woman that Yuuji has ever met, bearing down on him like a huge, terrifying whirlwind of motherly instincts that swallows him up into the family once she finds out Yuuji's been drifting aimlessly. Ohno's sister mostly just sits there and laughs at him.
After Yuuji is bullied into dinner, he is then bullied into playing them some music, some sort of disjointed melody, a roughly strung together mash up of old Japanese classics and the native songs he's picked up on long train rides with the radio blaring overhead.
Yuuji catches Taka watching him quietly, eyes bright.
Finally they escape. Taka takes Yuuji's hand, sneaking away from his family up the stairs to his room. It's small but homely, walls plastered with pencil sketches and torn out recipes that Yuuji has to admire even in the dim light.
"Careful," Taka says, shifting Yuuji closer to the wall with two hands at his hips. "You'll step on our beds."
But he does anyway; when the futons are rolled out ("Are those fishes?" Yuuji points at the childish print with a grin and Taka elbows his giggling away), wall to wall, there is hardly anywhere to stand. Socks and outer layer of dusty clothes heaped into a corner, Yuuji hands Taka his guitar case to keep atop his small cupboard.
Instead of putting it away, Taka passes it back to Yuuji again.
"Can I hear more?"
Yuuji smiles, already unzipping his case. "Only if you sing with me."
They run through a few classic songs. Taka's voice is clear and bright, Yuuji can't look away from the expressions on his usual calm face, fingers automatic over his guitar strings for the songs he knows so well.
A small pause after the last note falls.
Taka says, "ah," a small sort of epiphany behind his half-lidded eyes. "We sound good together."
Something like time stopping, Yuuji finds his mouth dry so all he can do is nod shyly back.
Nights are fun because nights are no longer huddling on park benches or dodging station masters trying to escape the midnight chill. Instead he finds himself propped up on his elbows on a comfortable mattress, telling story after story to Taka who is warm at his side, sprawled on his back.
The futons are so close to each other but Yuuji is still surprised when he awakes and finds Taka's face so close to his. They're curling into each other, almost, at the very edge of their own futons, Yuuji's hands between them tangled up in his blanket like it's the only thing stopping him from reaching out.
He doesn't move, doesn't want to fully wake.
Yuuji knows he's the type who is everyone's friend but has none of his own. Yuuji knows he has never needed them and never been lonely so why -
Taka's eyelashes flutter above his round cheeks, slow to wake. "Good morning," he murmurs, a drowsy hum as he sees Yuuji, light smile playing on his lips.
Maybe Yuuji just hadn't known what he was missing.
Yuuji ends up staying longer than he’d ever had in this one place.
This isn't the first time Yuuji's been taken in by a family, and admittedly it's been a long while since the last, but Yuuji's never felt the want to stay before. He doesn't know if it's because they're Japanese or because Taka sometimes bakes milk buns with the leftover flour that Yuuji hasn't eaten in months now, or maybe even because Taka sits with him in companionable silence as they watch the customers shuffling in for their traditional breads.
Because Yuuji sits with him in the bakery every day, more often than not Taka-san's cheeks are stuffed with bread, muffling his already accented words. It's sort of flat, maybe, curious little dips and curves in odd places, and a sort of daydreamer quality that Yuuji suspects is less the Uzbekistan influence than the man himself.
Without knowing, Yuuji finds himself mimicking back to him this weird intoned Japanese, perhaps already so unfamiliar to the original language that he is willing to take Taka as right. Taka catches on and he grins, exaggeration seeping into his tone. It's a bit off, a bit different, so Yuuji copies that instead.
By the time his sister finds them, their words are so horribly mangled that nothing is comprehensible; she rolls her eyes and slaps them upside their heads, Yuuji too, new acquaintance or not, "what have you done to my brother?!"
"Alien~~ I replaced him with an alien," Yuuji gurgles with their now patented accent, "So I can keep the real one all to myself!"
Taka puffs out his cheeks and goes cross eyed when his sister gives him a Look. It is lost in a giant puff of air as he bursts out laughing at Yuuji who is fluttering his eyelashes dramatically and trying unsuccessfully with a piece of naan.
The days pass like that, disarmingly easy and careless. First three then five then a whole week gone, but they treat him with as much generosity as the first day. Yuuji starts to wander how long he can push his invitation.
But there is this itch beneath his skin; it's been two years since he's started travelling, long enough for wanderlust to settle deep in his bones. A mild internal struggle, to leave once again on some vague sort of adventure, or to stay with this chubby-cheeked baker as long as he'll have him.
Yuuji packs, and then he unpacks to make room because Taka's just bought them strips of vibrant cloth to match their red and blue feathers. He pulls off Taka's borrowed t-shirt, tugs on his own grubby one and then finds out Taka's found him silver robes to match the gold ones he'd been wearing the first day they met.
After another week of procrastination and missed opportunities, Taka's mother figures it out first.
She corners him one day when Taka's out on an emergency shopping trip and Yuuji is mournfully chewing on naan, under the strict instructions to stay put, I'll be right back!.
"Don't think I don't see what you're doing," she says, raising a challenging eyebrow as she sits down next to him. Yuuji blinks, very slowly, and offers up his naan. She rolls her eyes at him, same exasperation as her daughter. "Not that! You're thinking of whisking my son away from us, aren't you?"
Yuuji swallows thickly before going, "eh?"
Taka's mother slaps a palm to her forehead. "Oh great, now I've put ideas into his head."
That she did. Yuuji's never one for thinking over things too long, so when he's curled up in their futons (so close they may as well be one, but it's more comfortable like this anyway) waiting for Taka to return from the bathroom, he starts to plan all sorts of convincing arguments, speeches and big dramatic words – that all fly out off his head when Taka emerges, damp from his shower, t-shirt flung across his shoulder.
"Your mum thinks we're going to elope," Yuuji tells the plaster ceiling. His cheeks are pink from his inefficiency with intimate moments.
Taka flops down, squishing him to the mattress. "I'll go anywhere Yuuji goes," he says, perfectly honest if not for his accent.
Yuuji stuffs his grin into Taka's neck and pretends his heart isn't hopeful.
Yuuji doesn’t usually plan, leaning more towards wanderlust-driven traveling than worrying about things like flight plans and ticket costs, but Taka seems the type who likes to know where he’s going. So he plans carefully, calculating finances with a stingy streak he never knew he had and plots against the most detailed map he can find, because as much as he’s enjoyed living from hand to mouth, he doubts Taka would adjust as quickly.
At first Taka’s eyes are wide when confronted with his mastermind plans scribbled onto notebook paper – Yuuji can read with worry the thoughts running through his head, eh, seriously? blatant in his expression, and for a moment his heart does a little panicked flip flop – but then Taka’s face lights up, all of Uzbekistan’s bright sunlight channeled into that dazzling grin. Overwhelming; so much so that Yuuji almost misses over the pounding in his chest when Taka says yes.
The fireworks and hearts and flowers never start besides the swelling of his heart, but after years living grounded in reality, Yuuji never expects them. Instead he braces himself as Taka’s mother explodes with concern and joy while Taka’s sister regards the two of them with a suspicious twinkle in her eyes. It’s a fight to the finish, an epic battle, but in the end Yuuji wins Taka’s hand.
Even after they board the train, Yuuji doesn’t let go. Taka smiles and laces their fingers together, squeezing tight.
Traveling now is a curious blend of the familiar and something so excitingly new and breathtaking. Taka holds his hand as they work their way through the crowded station, eyes wide at all the new sights, at the new people. So so so much better like this, Taka sits with him on the teeth-rattling train rides, and squishes with him in the tiny shoebox sized hotel rooms not when they’re short on cash, but when they scrape together enough to afford a place to stay indoors. Performing is less embarrassing and more profitable now that he has a partner, whether in singing or, when their throats are sore, donning the shiny metallic robes and acting like idiots with their play pretend accents, in guise of comedic acts.
The Yuuji Taka duo becomes pretty popular.
They take the long way back to Japan, puttering across the coast of China because Taka takes to fishing on all the tiny fishing villages, before Yuuji gets irrationally annoyed at all the profound faced surfers with exceptionally thick eyebrows who seem to take a liking to Taka, and although there was only one in reality…
“Yuuji is so cute when he’s jealous!” Taka whoops, poking at his cheek until Yuuji’s teeth snap over his fingers threateningly.
Yuuji sulks and Taka giggles and their island hopping continues without a hitch.
With all that hot tropical sun, Taka tans a nice even bronze; it isn't fair, Yuuji grumbles, squeezing his eye shut so Taka can apply cream to the itchy red patches on his face. Of course after his two years of traveling, learning up little tricks and cheats to busk for money and food, Taka picks it up in less than a week, especially talented in the art of convincing strangers to do his bidding. It has something to do with that face, Yuuji thinks as he tries to keep staring at a minimum, something about the way Taka uses his round face and pouty lips to the fullest.
Like on that young man with the funny fringe they meet on Deserted Island Number Two, conned into giving them shelter from the sweltering heat, and helping Yuuji charge his DS. Taka wins him over easily with bright charming smiles and sweet hand holding until the man fidgets and mumbles and sighs, fine, you can stay until my idiot boyfriend gets back.
How Yuuji ends up alone with this Ninomiya-san he has no idea. Maybe Yuuji shouldn’t have started playing while his DS charged. Maybe Ninomiya shouldn’t have let slip his boyfriend had gone fishing. Regardless, when Yuuji next looks up with a scowl, Taka has disappeared.
“What.” Yuuji raises an eyebrow a little despairingly because if Taka is going to seduce their way into a stranger’s place, he should at least stay and make sure aforementioned stranger wasn’t a murderer or something.
“He – he left,” says Ninomiya, words haltering because all his concentration’s channeled to his own DS, adamant to win the next round as well. “Fishing. Boyfriends. Both gone.”
Well, that’s not surprising; Yuuji sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose exasperatedly until his DS pings in alarm.
“Why do I do put up with him,” he mutters under his breath sullenly, not really expecting an answer as he goes back to his DS and slashes a screen full of monsters to pixilated dust with one flick of his stylus. The way Ninomiya is glued to his screen like that, Yuuji figures he can take him if the skinny man tries anything.
“I know right,” Ninomiya replies, jabbing at his DS viciously. “A fisherman of all people, I had to fall for…”
Yuuji doesn’t exactly understand what this stranger is talking about but there is a strange sort of connection between the two. Ninomiya must feel it too because even though there is this dark, terrifying aura around him when Taka returns without his fisherman boyfriend, he is nice enough to point them in the direction of the nearest ferry off the island, and even pushes a few crumpled notes into Yuuji’s grateful hands.
“You ever return to Japan again,” Ninomiya says before they leave, “give me a call, got it?”
Yuuji grins and wriggles his pinky in promise.
Finally, finally they book two economy class tickets back home, because Taka feels homesick.
Yuuji thinks it's funny, Taka's longing for home in a country he hasn’t visited in years – when he says so, Taka only smiles with a gleam in his eye – but wherever Taka wants to go, Yuuji knows he will follow.
Taka says he wants to go back to Japan again, and Yuuji finds himself plotting the fastest route their finances can allow. Taka says he wants to settle down there, and Yuuji with a skip in his step, starts searching for all his old contacts. He finds a few familiar names in his ratty black book, the couple in Chiba who might not mind loaning them a place to crash if they helped at the restaurant, the boss of that love hotel with the fantasy theme if they really got desperate enough, and, Aiba. Aiba babbles on about showbiz and stockings and bazookas, with vague promises to help them out before Yuuji’s dollar runs out and the public payphone cuts him off. Aiba’s inconsistency and over-enthusiasm aside, Yuuji decisively considers his help enlisted. It makes the jitter of returning to his homeland calm just a bit more. Just enough, Yuuji declares, for now.
So Yuuji finds himself squashed between Taka, who’s sleeping peacefully against the window or cushioned against Yuuji’s shoulder, and a businessman who is oddly pretty and utterly incapable of performing simple tasks. When he opens his packet of peanuts, it is a nutty explosion so large Yuuji has to pick the pieces out of his hair. And then, somehow, he starts laughing to himself, albeit sheepishly, until he sees Yuuji staring at him with wide, incredulous eyes.
“Ah, my apologies,” he says, words clear and precise and embarrassed.
The trip is smooth after that.
Smoother than Yuuji had expected actually; the clumsy businessman proves himself apt in other areas, specifically, economics and financial matters. He doesn't have a business card, which should arouse suspicion but this - Yuuji squints at the scribbled on napkin - Sakurai-san seems trustworthy enough. It's another contact to his growing list and unlike Aiba, this man seems more dependable, perhaps even able to offer actual advice when they touch down in Japan, without a cent and with nowhere to go.
Yuuji gets off the plane feeling refreshed. He attempts to stretch, tossing his arms back and laughing as Taka's bewildered expression when his hand - still caught in Yuuji's - gets yanked up into the air.
It's a twin moment of wonderment for the both of them as they step into Narita airport; Yuuji hadn't expected to return until years from now (preferably when he'd grown tall and rugged, charming with years of experience and grand adventures but now, who's he kidding?) and Taka, well Taka had just been fascinated by the shiny store lights studding the airport corridors. But mostly, it's the warmth between their hands, tightly linked together, as they stand in front of the huge map of Japan in Narita airport, completely at a loss as to where to go next.
“Maybe we should have thought this through,” Yuuji muses.
“Ah,” Taka agrees, rather unconcernedly.
Yuuji shoots him a look. “Here, use the magic finger.” He holds up one short finger and waggles it in Taka's face.
For a moment Taka stares at it with a dazed look before it brightens into a careless smile, and Yuuji would say something but then Taka slips behind him, arm snaking past his waist to take his hand from behind.
“Close your eyes too, Yuuji.” Before he complies, Yuuji twists around to see Taka’s face scrunched in concentration, eyes shut. “And no cheating!”
“Why would I?” But he closes his eyes anyway, and lets Taka guide his hand.
When they open their eyes, Yuuji's finger is pressed lightly against the plastic panel and he has to squint around Taka's hand to see where it's landed.
Taka digs his chin into Yuuji's shoulder, squinting. "Well?"
It doesn't matter where they end up, he thinks, something like joy and love and contentment building up in his chest. Yuuji grins at the weight against his back, and knows that wherever they go, they will belong.
"Ohmiya, it is!"