Title: An art in its own right
Rating: shallow R
Original Story: your every little trembling line by waxrose
A/N: Beta’d by the lovely tiusan . *hugs* Thanks!
It is an utter surprise when on Ohno’s birthday, his neighbor comes over and hands him a brochure of the local art school. She tells him happy birthday and that she paid for an art course for him. Ohno is baffled; he doesn’t even know her that well, he just met her a few times in the hallway. It is Ohno’s mother who later reminds him he helped providing her with autographs from various members of Johnny’s for her apparently multitudinous amount of nieces. Upon hearing that, he vaguely recalls his mother asking him for the autographs; he didn’t keep track of what further happened to them.
As it turns out the course focuses on sceneries, landscapes and other things Ohno regarded as background until now. Far too classic for his taste, too many rules one has to follow; also, he dislikes the display of nature and peace as he’s a child of the city. He attends the course nevertheless and compromises by picturing back streets instead of alleys and street cafés instead of hunting parties. The teacher is bewildered but helps him anyway, with proportions, tips on where and how to add details and how to play with the lighting. Ohno is the youngest among the participants by far, granting him a pet-of-the-course role he willingly accepts.
They are to draw various sketches, each of them focusing on the topic of the current lesson, and in the end choose one or two to actually finish. Ohno hasn’t got much experience with oil-based paint, but he figures now’s the time to learn.
Ohno’s last sketch, the one he wants to make a painting from, is a messy bedroom. It’s not his own, of course – his is rather boring and unspectacular. He once saw a movie in which the main character lived in some kind of a depot, and the picture never left him. He draws his own version of the setting, a sketch at first, contrasting the sharp angles of the room with the softer edges of the furnishing, widely swung lines of curtains and bed covers.
He shows his sketch to his teacher, even though he’s not yet happy with it.
“I can’t get the difference right,” he mumbles.
The teacher is used to Ohno’s short sentences and problems in expressing what exactly his problem is. “By difference, you mean the contrast between the impersonality of the building and the soul imprinting on it?”
“Yes,” says Ohno, equally used to his teacher’s flowery wording. “I can’t add more plants or curtains or carpets. I don’t want the room to be cramped. I thought making it a little messy was a good idea,” he points at a t-shirt flung over a chair and more clothes and books on the ground, “but it’s not enough. It looks kind of deserted. Like no one’s coming back.”
“Hm, I see what you mean.” The teacher looks at the sketch for a moment before speaking again. “What about the light?”
“It’s early morning. Maybe not that early. There’s only the light coming in through the windows, no lamps. It’s a clear light, not too yellowish.”
“Ah, so the light emphasizes the lifelessness. I see your problem. Hm.”
They both look at the draft for another few seconds, pondering in silence.
“For you, what has the most life, the most soul in it?”
Ohno only needs a short moment to think. “Aiba.”
“I see. Then, add him.”
“Oh,” says Ohno and nods. “Okay.”
It doesn’t take him long to discover that it’s pretty hard to draw Aiba from his memory, especially when he wants him to have a certain air, so when he sees him next, Ohno asks his band mate whether he would be okay with modeling for him. Aiba is surprised and demands to know basically everything there is to know about the matter and possibly more before he agrees.
A few days later Ohno accompanies Aiba home after work. Ohno would have preferred to do this in the morning to capture the real thing but Aiba blatantly refused to rise early on a day off. Ohno brings a DVD to make up for the missed chance of morning calmness, a movie he hopes will make Aiba have the right vibe for the scene. Aiba is surprised; though of course he knows basically everything about modeling, he hasn’t done much art modeling. He always thought art models were expected to sit still and concentrate on… well, Aiba wasn’t sure what they were supposed to concentrate on, but he thought they would focus on the art somehow. That he’s not only allowed, but specifically asked to watch a movie makes him a lot happier about the perspective of staying still for so long.
It takes Aiba twenty minutes to relax and stop casting nervous glances to where Ohno’s sitting on a loveseat with his sketchbook in his hands, and five more minutes until he’s fallen asleep. That isn’t precisely what Ohno had planned for but will do; Aiba looks just as relaxed and just as being home as he wants him to, so he flops a page of his drawing pad and starts anew. He’s not good with faces, it always takes him a long time to draw them, yet since Aiba will not be the main focus but simply a part of the whole picture his face isn’t that crucial; it would be too small to be detailed anyway. What’s important is Aiba’s pose, so he drafts him, leaning into the backrest of the couch, his head sunk to the side creating a double chin, the way his hands are in his lap and how he has stretched out his legs with his ankles crossed. It looks peaceful.
When he’s finished, Ohno closes his sketchbook and fishes for his bag. He remembers placing it somewhere next to his feet, but despite feeling around everywhere he can’t find it. Apparently the rustling of cloth wakes Aiba, who turns around to look at Ohno sleepily the very moment his fingers graze over the familiar material of his backpack.
“Sorry, I fell asleep.”
“Are you finished?”
Ohno nods as he stuffs his sketchbook into the bag. “I’ll take my leave.”
“You can stay a little longer.”
Ohno looks up, startled. Aiba pats the couch next to where he’s more lying than sitting. Ohno obediently trots over and flops into the couch and the cushions and Aiba, who explains his request without further prompting.
“It’s quiet in here, sometimes.”
Ohno knows what the warm figure next to him means, so he nods again.
“You have been drawing me while I slept?”
The film is near its end. Ohno brought a love story; he knows Aiba doesn’t watch those normally, that he’s bored by them, but that was what he wanted after all. There’s some pretty scenery on the screen, an autumn wood, painted in orange and red and yellow with leaves fluttering through the air. In the background, violins are playing what Ohno deems a rather boring melody. The female lead appears, huddling into her coat.
“It was nice, somehow.”
“Being watched while sleeping. I mean, when I’m sleeping, of course I can’t know if you watch me or not. But it was nice. Like…” Aiba abruptly stops.
Ohno wonders whether he should ask Aiba what he wanted to say, but then thinks he’d better not. They have a good atmosphere now, and he knows that Aiba is usually very aware of the mood around him. He doesn’t want to spoil it, so he just squeezes his arm between Aiba and the backrest, pulling him closer. Aiba willingly hugs him back and places his head on Ohno’s shoulder. Aiba’s hair smells like hairspray when Ohno nuzzles into it, but Aiba has brushed it, so it’s soft against his lips, tickling his cheeks. Aiba hugs him harder and mumbles something into Ohno’s shirt neither of them understands. When the ending credits start rolling over the screen they’re fast asleep.
Ohno thinks the picture turns out quite well, as do his teacher and his neighbor. He gives it to her, because he wants to thank her; Ohno still doesn’t really feel like he earned his birthday present, and this deems him a good way to pay her back.
Aiba doesn’t get a chance to look at it. He says it doesn’t matter, and if Ohno would leave the drafts he made that night to him? Ohno smiles, nods and hands him a bunch of papers. The prettiest of the pictures now has found its place in Aiba’s hall, framed, right between pictures of his family and a photo taken when Arashi and their managers celebrated his birthday. The drawing is a bit out of place among the photos, but Aiba doesn’t seem to care.
For his next birthday, Ohno’s mother gifts him another art course, portraits this time. Ohno is surprised and at the same time not. It turns out to be with the same teacher as last year’s course, and some of the participants from then are also there. Ohno enjoys it. Though they probably do know he’s an idol, they don’t mention it and treat him like they’d treat any other young man joining their, well, rather old circle.
In response to the course, Ohno finds himself measuring faces all the time. Instead of just sitting and thinking about nothing, he’s now watching people and analyzes their features. The shape of their heads, the way their hair falls, how long their nose is and if it’s a snubbed or a hooked one, how wide they smile and where wrinkles appear when they concentrate. It’s a strange new look at the world.
Ohno practices a lot. They have heaps of free time at work, half-hours they spend sitting in corners waiting for something to be finished or revised. During these times he always has his scrapbook with him. He has drawn people before, but those were either copies from photos or they turned out Afro-American which, he thinks, tells a lot. He finds it tricky to get the proportions right when the subject of his attempts moves; the barest adjustment of the head is enough to confuse him. Even the most familiar faces are surprisingly hard to do: his mother looked bloated on his first try, it took him a lot of time to get his manager’s eyes right and Jun turns out a caricature even on the fourth attempt. Upon showing his unsatisfying works to his teacher, the elderly man just says that it really is a matter of routine and that he should keep trying. Maybe he could ask that friend of his to model for him, so Ohno could take his time?
After this particular lesson, since he would be alone tonight anyway and doesn’t really want to cook, Ohno joins the group who regularly goes to get something to eat and maybe fetch a drink or two after the art lessons for the first time. They talk about various things but mostly, and entirely unsurprisingly, about art and things related to. Though Ohno concentrates mainly on his bowl of Ramen, he listens half-heartedly to the chatter around the table.
“My husband said it felt strange to model,” Iida tells everyone. “He said it was embarrassing to be looked at so closely. Rather intimate.”
“But I didn’t think it was that embarrassing.” Yamashita has been their course model for the day because their actual model had called in sick on short notice. “Well, of course it was strange to be at the focus of everyone, but I wouldn’t call it intimate.”
Ishino taps his index finger to his chin in wonder. “Maybe that’s because there were many people? Iida was alone with her husband, right?”
“Ah, true, true.”
“Ohno has done a lot of modeling, right? What do you think?”
Ohno finishes slurping the load of noodles on his chopsticks and swallows before answering. “Only for photos.”
“Yes, that’s different of course.” Yamashita nods.
“Also there are many people around, huh? Like in our course.”
Ohno makes an agreeing noise. “Often more.”
“I think I understand Iida’s husband. When you’re a model and someone is watching you so closely and it’s just the two of you, it must feel very intimate.”
“It might depend on a lot of things,” Iida wonders. “If you’re close to your model, for example. Yamashita’s not been painted by his wife today but by a third party.”
Yamashita laughs. “If my wife stared at me for more than an hour, that’d be scary.”
“Well, my sister once fell asleep while modeling,” Ishino states dryly. “So I guess it also depends on how late your model stayed out the night before.”
Ohno doesn’t join the following laughter; instead he stops chewing and starts thinking. Ishino’s words make him recall how he drew Aiba and that his friend reacted strongly to being watched. It also reminds him of his plan to ask Jun to model and how aware of eyes on himself Jun is, anytime, anywhere.
Interesting, Ohno thinks and starts slurping noodles again.
A few days later, Jun shoves a certain, very familiar-looking scrapbook into Ohno’s face.
“Have you been drawing me?” he demands to know.
“Oh,” says Ohno. “Well. Yes.”
“There’s three skittles of me in here, and not one of them looks decent.”
“I have more at home.”
“Are those better?”
“I’m not good at portraits. Still learning. And you’re hard to draw. Your face changes so much.”
Jun looks at him for a moment. “You’ve been trying hard, huh?”
Ohno shrugs. “It’s not easy to do this in between breaks and such. I’m not used to a model that’s moving. I’d have a better chance if you stayed still, you know.”
Jun doesn’t reply to that, then sighs and carefully puts the block on the table. “Okay. How about you come over tomorrow after work and try again? You’ll have your peace there.”
“Really? That’d be great. Thanks.” Ohno’s smile is as wide as it can be.
Ohno brings wine. He doesn’t know a thing about wine, but this one was pretty expensive so he figures it should be good. Jun, after reading the etiquette and sampling in the kitchen, pours both of them a glass he brings into the living room where Ohno has already scattered his art stuff on the table.
“So,” Jun asks upon placing the glasses in safe distance from the table edge, “what am I supposed to do?”
“You sit over there.” Ohno points at the other side of the table. “You can watch TV.”
“What is the theme of the drawing?”
“No theme. Just relax and try not to squirm too much.”
Jun shrugs and puts on some black-and-white Beatles movie before sitting down where Ohno told him to. “Your call.”
For the most part Ohno ignores the ridiculously hurried English chatter coming from the speakers, barely noticing when it changes from dialogue to songs. Instead he focuses on Jun. Jun still does shift around, his mimic following the action on the screen, but the movements keep within a limit so Ohno doesn’t complain. This is already far better than attempting to draw Jun while he’s bustling around at work.
Jun is leaning forward, elbows on the table, arms crossed on the desktop. From time to time he would take a sip of the shimmering red wine, refilling it when it’s empty. At one point he asks whether it’d be okay to change position for a short while, and when Ohno permits it, Jun leans back until he is more lying than sitting, shoulders and head against the front of his sleek white couch. From where he sits at the table across Ohno he can see both the TV and his friend without needing to move his head; they’re almost in one line of sight.
Ohno concentrates on his sketch, his glass standing abandoned where Jun left it. His gaze is on his paper or Jun’s face, his hand is moving in big and, as time passes, gradually smaller motions. He shifts from time to time, tiny adjustments barely distinguishable from his drawing gestures. Exchanging the pencil for an eraser. Scratching his shoulder.
The movie is finished before Ohno is, but Jun doesn’t get up to change the DVD; his only reaction is lifting the remote to turn off the TV. He keeps gazing at the screen, or maybe it’s Ohno, that’s hard to tell. If Ohno even noticed the English chattering stopped he doesn’t show it. Without the background noise time ceases to exist, is not scientifically measurable anymore; it is merely determined by the quiet scratching of pen on paper.
“Done,” Ohno says simply.
Jun pats on the floor next to him. “Show me.” His voice is a tiny bit rough from the long silence.
Ohno crawls around the table until he’s right next to Jun and hands him the sketchbook. Ohno thinks he did well, not perfect, not yet, but noticeably better than before. There’s still something off with the picture, but one only notices when looking at it too long; it’s nothing like a caricature anymore. He sits down properly while Jun considers his work, right next to him.
“It’s good,” Jun finally states.
“Have you decided on what to do with it?”
“Hmm.” Ohno leans his head back. “You decide.”
“I?” Carefully, the sketchbook is put on the ground on Jun’s other side. “Then, would you give it to me?”
“Hm.” Ohno nods.
“And don’t tell the others about this, okay?”
Ohno nods again.
There’s a brief pause before Jun leans over a little and presses a kiss onto Ohno’s temple. It’s short, swift, and would have the same significance like a nudge with an elbow or a knee, could be an expression of gratitude, if it wasn’t for Jun keeping his face where it is. Ohno can feel his hair move where Jun’s nose parts it, can feel warm breath wafting over his cheek. He turns his head and kisses Jun back, on the lips, because they’re right in front of him.
They kiss a lot that night. Jun doesn’t ask Ohno to stay; Ohno doesn’t ask if he may. At one point they’re lying down; as more time passes, Jun’s shirt is unbuttoned and Ohno’s gone. More kisses and touches, warmth, flavors; a hint of longing, a dash of want; friendship, closeness. They fall asleep on the floor next to the couch.
It is awkward the next morning. Jun needs a few days until he acts normal around Ohno again; Ohno either isn’t affected as much or he’s better at hiding it.
At the end of the course, a few weeks later, when Ohno’s teacher compliments him for his progress, Ohno tells him that the tip of sticking to the same model until it worked out helped a lot. Upon hearing that, his teacher asks if he could take a look, but Ohno answers he doesn’t have the drawing anymore.
Ohno left the drawing with Jun. Jun never tells him what he does with it.
As his next birthday nears, Ohno’s mother suggests Ohno should decide for himself what kind of course he wants as a present. Ohno obediently skims through the current prospect of the local art school and finally settles on a figure drawing class. His mother’s reaction is a raised eyebrow, which prompts him to explain that while his portraits are a lot more realistic now and do not always end up like black people anymore, he still has his problems with bodies. Ohno’s mother shrugs and hands him a hand-written gift certificate on his birthday.
A few days after the course began with a slide show of pictures showing classic examples of nudes, a change of clothes in the dressing room is all Ohno needs to draw the connection to Sho.
His band mate half sitting, half lying down, like an ancient Greek sculpture, full of beauty and might. Long limbs, perfect proportions: Ohno can picture it effortless.
His perspective shifts: where he admired Sho’s muscles before, he now sees them on display for him to look at. He ponders different settings, following the latest lesson they had. Standing, sitting, lying? Kneeling, bending, arching, stretching? Back or front, turning away, looking where? A piece of cloth, draped over him? Would a ribbon be too feminine? There are thousands of possibilities and Ohno seems to try each and every one of them in his head. They have to fit Sho, as that is the most important part. They have to compliment his character, and the pose shouldn’t be hard to hold long enough for Ohno to draw it. It’s tricky and sometimes he feels like the whole thing is too big for his head, but he doesn’t let go.
The thought of painting Sho is inevitably followed by thoughts about the consequences of painting him. What a mere draft did to Aiba, and a portrait to Jun – Ohno has enough fancy to imagine what might happen when he does an act of his, in some way shyest, band mate. The prospect is strangely pleasant. Ohno is clear about wanting to draw Sho and wanting the aftermath – he only has to figure out how to bring that to his model-to-be.
They actually discuss that in the art course, how one asks someone to model nude. It’s a different teacher this time and the mean age dropped considerably as well; where he was the youngest by far before, he’s now merely one of the younger ones. Ohno doesn’t like the atmosphere as much; the people in the nudity course seem, strange as it sounds, more uptight than the old folks in the portrait one. Still, Iida is there again and they stick together. They must make a curious picture, the idol (oh yes, they recognized him at once and treat him accordingly) and the middle-aged woman, whispering and giggling when comparing their works.
Upon being asked, their teacher tells them that convincing someone to model entirely naked was an art in its own right and that there wasn’t any way that was better than another; it depended too much on the person. They exchange experiences afterwards, talking about successful and failed attempts, but there isn’t much material as there aren’t many artists among them who even dared to ask friends or spouses to model. The usefulness of that lesson was rather limited.
In the end Ohno simply asks. He does his best to keep it easy, to make no big deal out of it. “You know how I’m doing this nude art course? Would you model for me?”
Sho agrees, albeit reluctantly. Ohno tries anything he can come up with to make him comfortable: he lets Sho choose the day and time; he makes muffins and gives them to Sho the next time they see each other; he even offers to invite Aiba to their session, because, he argues, Aiba can make anyone feel better. Sho thankfully accepts the pastries and settles for a Thursday when he has the house all to himself, but resolutely refuses any involvement on Aiba’s part, and while none of Ohno’s attempts make Sho look forward to stripping in front of Ohno, at least it tones down his discomfiture enough to keep him from backing out.
Thursday is sunny. The side facing the garden in the living room of the Sakurai mansion is completely made of glass, so the room is filled with afternoon light, which Ohno very much approves of. It’s warm, very warm, since Sho obviously turned the thermostat up.
Apart from his art supplies, Ohno has brought nothing but a woolen blanket this time. He wants Sho to lie on it like a certain statue he diligently chose among the ones his teacher presented to them. He tells Sho how to pose, guides his limbs where he can’t get his ideas through with words. The touches are deliberate and careful, reassuring and calming, yet very real, given the rather exceptional situation.
“Would it be okay to turn on the TV?” Sho asks, a little tense. “Or maybe listen to music?”
“No. I don’t want you to be distracted.”
Ohno can feel the attention he gets when he looks at Sho, from both the real and the one forming on his sketch book. The way Ohno and Sho are completely concentrated on the other fills the air, dominates the room. Ohno focuses on the drawing in his hands; Sho focuses on the roses in the cultivated flower bed right in front of the windows.
“There,” Ohno says once he’s done. He keeps his gaze on the picture, rather liking how it turned out.
“I didn't think it would take so long. Ah, that feels good.” Sho makes a row of humming and moaning noises as he stretches. Ohno’s focus still lingers on the finished drawing.
“Sho is very interesting to watch. There's a lot to think about.”
“Uh. That's... good to hear. Can I see it?”
“Yeah, absolutely.” Ohno pats the couch next to him and Sho shuffles over, reaching for his bathrobe and draping it over his shoulders in passing.
While Sho looks at the drawing, Ohno looks at Sho. A model’s reaction to his image, that much he knows, is never predictable. While Aiba and Jun liked theirs Sho might feel intimidated by, as he put it before, “the fact that I was naked and you stared at me imprinted on paper”. Ohno doesn’t really think it likely; still, he is glad when he sees Sho’s fascination with the picture.
“Thanks, Leader.” Ohno is barely able to suppress his amusement about how much Sho’s reaction resembles Jun’s; the only difference is that after kissing his cheek Sho, in contrast to Jun, retreats.
“I've wanted to draw you for awhile.” Ohno leans back and relaxes against Sho's side. “It took me forever to figure out how to convince you. But Sho-chan is better if you approach him directly after all, huh.”
“For the most part,” Sho admits. He slings an arm around Ohno, pulling him closer. “Thank you. A lot. I didn't want to do this, but you really put a lot of work into it. I don't know if I deserve it, but it feels...nice to be thought of like that.”
Ohno turns sideways in Sho's cuddle, reaching arms around to hold him tightly and slipping one arm beneath Sho's bathrobe, hands cool against Sho's warm skin. He tucks his head under Sho's chin. “You're welcome. It's a good drawing. I was right, you're a perfect model. Everyone will think it's really hot.”
“No one is ever going to see it,” Sho reminds him sternly, “Ever.”
“Except me,” Ohno smiles, before stretching up to kiss Sho.
Ohno finds his advance responded eagerly, more kisses are exchanged and clothes, where present, removed. They know what they’re doing and where it is leading, and they want it that way. Ohno has waited long enough to enjoy every moment, and Sho, though a little overwhelmed by the outcome of the accumulated tension, gratefully takes what his friend offers. It’s truly fortunate that Ohno is not Leader for nothing.
Later, as they’re lying sleepily on the couch after the heat gave way to dulcet warmth, Sho only manages to rouse Ohno by promising ramen, an offer willingly accepted. Ohno can sense Sho is still not perfectly fine with the thought of having been a nude model, so he tells him he did better than Jun. It’s only when Sho jerks his head around that Ohno remembers he promised not to tell anyone. It takes a lot of shoulder patting, a little alcohol and an enormous amount of words, including ones like “never showing anyone” and “never ask anything from you again”, to calm a slightly traumatized Sho down.
When all of Arashi are told the news of Ohno's public art exhibit, Jun congratulates him, throws an arm around his shoulders and ruffles his hair, Aiba asks whether he would be able to get a look at the bedroom picture there, Sho instantly turns pale and Nino asks suspiciously what all the fuss is about.