Group/Pairing: Arashi, Aiba/Jun
Notes: I really enjoy writing in Aiba's POV, so I thought I'd take the scenario into this direction. :) I hope you enjoy!
Link to Original Story: Would You Mind If I Stay?
Link to Original Writer: reversemirror
1. Aiba was halfway to the train station when the sky opened up on him, growling with thunder and billowing sleek sheets of rain into his face.
"Oh shit," he cursed, fumbling frantically at the side of his knapsack for his umbrella. His script!
The fleeting storm gave a last ferocious roar and then bled away into droplets, leaving Aiba standing desolately under the orange glow of a streetlight. Rainwater dribbled from his shoelaces on to the pavement.
"Great," he said. He lifted his arms away from his body with a squelch and stomped his foot, rebelliously, into a puddle. Five seconds later, as if admonishing him for acting like a child, a chill breeze swept from across the street, lifting the fine hairs on his cheek and passing straight through his wet clothes.
The traffic light on the intersection changed from red to blue, the color tumbling inside the clinging raindrops. The blue crept through the dark and landed in the water on the ground; the reflection yearned upwards until Aiba kicked at it, sending it splattering away.
"Great," he said again.
He stood there and tried to think of the good things about this. At least he wouldn't smell like a bar any more - his clothes were as good as washed. And maybe all the usual goop had made its way out of his hair. That was very good, too.
And he had a script in his backpack, because he had a lead role.
He had a lead role.
Aiba tipped his head back and smelled ozone in the air. The dark city street rustled wetly around him. A car passed by and steadily became a matchbox toy in the distance, climbing the hills like a little firefly.
Aiba stood at the intersection for perhaps five seconds more, dripping philosophically, and then he squeezed the edge of his sleeve to strain the water and turned on his heel towards the train station.
2. His apartment wasn't really the place for celebration right now, although Aiba had always tried to cultivate the sense of warmness by plopping down many potted plants.
(They always died, turning brown in increments that Aiba didn't notice because he wasn't home that often.)
"I'm home!" Aiba called out.
Predictably, the empty room didn't answer. Despite his best effort Aiba wilted a bit as he squelched across his clean wood floor and tossed down his backpack, taking the script out of it like a precious treasure. Then he stripped out of his wet clothes and perched on the edge of his couch in his boxers, curling his toes against the simple carpet under his coffee table.
It was very silent.
Honestly, Aiba thought he was being stupid. He would officially announce it in maybe two days and they would all clap him on the back, make plans to go to a yakiniku joint with him even when everyone knew that everyone going at one time wasn't really a possibility at all, but they would promise. It was their own kindness, and Aiba loved them for it.
He tried to love harder, sometimes, to crush out the disappointment and that familiar feeling of breathlessness.
Everyone had their own personal lives beyond work, after all, and it was like water flowing through in between Aiba's fingers. Occasionally he caught a droplet and saw inside, but water wasn't something you should be able to catch. They could still complete each other's sentences, all five of them - and wasn't that enough?
Besides, Aiba had already celebrated with his manager. It wasn't good to get greedy.
With a blink, he realized that his hair had dried. There were a lot of things he could do right now, like turn on the TV. Or maybe he could make something to eat, and while it was cooking he could take care of his slowly toppling totem pole of laundry. Life was about to get very busy and if he left these things until later he'd never do them properly, probably not for three months until the drama was over.
Any second now.
Instead, Aiba stood up like a sleepwalker.
He plodded to his closet and picked out clothes absentmindedly, shrugging a suede jacket on to his shoulders. The thought came to him to switch off the lights and he extinguished them with a flick of his finger.
Another thought came to him that he should probably call ahead. He placed the script back into his backpack, hiding it away like a precious stone, and rummaged in a pocket for his phone. It wasn't there.
Aiba only had a brief moment of panic before he realized that he'd left it with his manager. That was okay, maybe that was best. If he had the chance to call ahead now he wouldn't allow himself to do it.
He shifted the backpack into place with a shrug, setting his shoulders like going into battle.
Some time later, maybe forty-five minutes or so, Aiba stood in front of Jun's apartment building, his suede jacket polka-dotted with raindrops, thinking that he really was as much of an idiot as everyone always said he was.
3. "I'm wet," Aiba said, and stuck out his sleeve in demonstration.
Jun slowly folded his arms, still standing in the dimly lit doorway. His dark eyes were heavy with surprise under his furrowed brows. Above all there was that sense of Matsujun at work - processing out the situation by dissecting it and then cleanly, efficiently deciding how to deal with it.
Aiba felt better already. His shoulders lost tension.
"That's not a turn-on for me, sorry," Jun said finally, moving aside.
"I was going to call ahead, but I left my phone at the bar with my manager. Sorry!"
He stepped inside. Jun's apartment never really changed much. It was always half-heartedly clean, as if the occupant dearly wished for it to be spotless but couldn't spare the time. On top of that Jun was a sentimental pack-rat with piles of old clothes, the same pair of boots in five different colors, and an endless amount of old scripts stuffed in the nooks and crannies of overburdened bookshelves.
"Do you need to go get it?"
Instead of dripping in the living room, Aiba decided to drip on Jun's sofa instead. "Nope," he replied shortly, and left it at that.
"Ah," Jun said. He was tilting his head and peering over his glasses, already holding a blue fluffy towel in his hands. "Shower? I don't want you to catch a cold. I have left-over curry..."
"Okay," Aiba replied, slipping his jacket off. "Thanks, Macchan."
He wished Jun wasn't being so cautious.
4. The hot water sluiced over Aiba's head as he tilted his face into it, letting it tap his cheeks and run down his nose. He felt heated up like some outside being had reached inside him and closed a warm fist around his heart. That presence had led him here, he knew, a brand of self-preservation beyond all else.
I don't have to be like that, he thought. I can be myself, because I'm awesome and invincible Super Idol Aiba-chan.
He thought of puppies rolling into his hands, sunflowers reaching towards the sun, the crinkling sound of newspapers being folded, the smell of the sea, Nino's bedhead, Jun's smile--
Aiba closed his eyes and breathed in the steam.
5. The best kept secret of Arashi for the last eight years was Aiba's panic attacks.
The first official meeting after Aiba's release from the hospital and small period of rest had a sullen air. Aiba was sure it was almost entirely because of him, but he couldn't help it. He scowled.
Aiba had always been a happy child and he was having trouble swallowing this new feeling of utter despondency. He knew in his head that he was upset and he knew that he had to get over it. He was 19 and he was almost an adult. It wasn't the time to be like this, especially when he'd already held them all back.
He didn't want to hold them back anymore. He was afraid of that, and he just wanted to work.
Except everyone was trying to coddle him, and he couldn't stand it. Aiba sat with his fists clenched in his lap and listened to words fly around the room. Cancelled appearance, and reworked choreography.
If possible, let's keep Aiba-kun off his feet.
The words felt more like heavy ribbons of metal across his chest, making him feel worse and worse. And it was getting harder and harder to breathe. Aiba clutched at his chest, terrified, with the absurd thought that his lung had given out again, so soon, or maybe it was the other one, to make a matched pair--
Aiba gasped and wheezed, trying to hold on to air, the paralyzing fear all around him.
Not again, not again--
6. "Masaki?" Jun knocked firmly before sliding the door open to deposit some sweats for Aiba to wear on the laundry basket. "Hurry up already. You're so slow. There's curry," he said, and slid the door shut with a stern click, there's curry so you better run towards it as fast as usual, idiot.
That was more like it.
Aiba shook his wet hair like a dog, grinning at how it left little wet patches on the walls. He slipped into the sweats and padded towards the living room and the smell of curry. He saw Jun first as the other fiddled with the remote for the air conditioner, prodding it and then finally tossing it down.
Aiba's curry had been put on his favorite plate, the one with the little yellow flowers on it.
" 'Sanks," Aiba garbled, already spooning it into his mouth. "Uwaa, food cooked by Matsujun. My heart just went 'kyun'! Maybe this is how girls feel? Kyun, kyun!" He thought for a second to grab at his heart, but that was never the best movement to do in front of the other four.
"Kyun, kyun, Matsujun-- it rhymes--"
Jun's nose was flushing pink across the bridge. "Stop joking around and eat!"
"I'm eating, I'm eating!"
The curry disappeared at a good pace, and Jun reached out idly. Aiba blinked at the sudden warmth of Jun's skin against his own as Jun fidgeted with the sleeve of his own hoodie around Aiba's wrist. "...you look like you're feeling better than when you came in."
"I am," Aiba admitted. "I got a role," he added abruptly. "An acting thing."
It felt good saying it like that, a bit like quickly peeling a band-aid off the skin so the pain only lasted a snap of a second. Comprehension washed quickly across Jun's face and landed in the creases by his eyes.
"It's a drama. I haven't done one in a long time, and I thought that it'd be okay."
Jun's thin fingers clasped Aiba's wrist. "Yeah. I'd heard things."
Jun nodded. Aiba thought Jun probably had a lot of questions - generally Jun had a lot of questions about everything, and was more ferocious than anyone about getting answers - have you really discussed this with your manager? When'll it be announced? Is it okay? Are you okay?
"I'm fine," Aiba said, although Jun hadn't asked.
Maybe it was an effort towards consoling himself as well. He was fine. He'd made it here.
7. Nino charged into Aiba's room with about as much subtlety as a raging rhino.
"What were you thinking!" he yelled shrilly. His voice cracked as it went high-pitched. "You're so stupid!"
"Masa, Ninomiya-kun's here," his mom called from downstairs, sounding wry.
Aiba ducked the messenger bag Nino had just walloped at his head. "Thanks! I got it!"
Nino finally sat down on Aiba's bed, breathing hard. He looked like he'd rushed here, if yelling at the driver of the company van to go faster meant rushing. His makeup was haphazardly rubbed off with a smudge of darker foundation still clinging to his pale neck.
Aiba giggled awkwardly to force down the feeling of guilt.
"Don't you laugh," Nino said tightly, jabbing his finger in Aiba's direction "You can't just... you can't... you can't take a variety show like that! Why would you even--"
"I like animals!" Aiba argued.
Nino had stood up and was pacing the room. "You can like animals while filming with us. It doesn't have to be on some other show, with some other staff. Look, have you forgotten you have random panic attacks? This isn't funny!"
"I remember every day," Aiba said, crossing his arms. "I've had some small projects here and there--"
"--and then you look like you've been through the wringer whenever we film together again, stop trying to prove you can do stuff like that already--"
"Why can't I try to prove myself?! You guys all can! This is my job!"
Nino opened his mouth, closed it, and then sat down on the floor. After a moment's hesitation Aiba joined him, their knees touching.
"You never tell us when you're feeling bad," Nino said slowly. "We have to be able to see you to tell. You spend all your time worrying about us and not enough worrying about your dumb head."
Aiba picked at the hole in his sock. "I don't want to..."
"It's not whining," Nino asserted firmly. "And even if it was, did you think we'd get angry with you?"
They weren't looking at each other, because you couldn't look at each other for this kind of conversation. His dirty sock was a lovely visage. Aiba hoped Nino was getting the same enjoyment out of staring at Aiba's stack of old magazines.
"No," Aiba said quietly. "But Nino, I have to try. It's a comedy show and Shimura-san is really nice. They wouldn't let anything happen to me, you know."
"You just want to give me stress issues, don't you?"
Nino stood up abruptly, reaching over to grab and shrug on his bag. "Okay, do what you want. But if you end up in the hospital again, moron, I won't visit you!"
He stomped out the way he'd come. Aiba stared after him, hearing him stomp through the back alleyway of the restaurant and then almost trip over one of the dogs.
8. The thing was, he really was fine now. Aiba could recognize the sign of an attack coming now, and he knew when he needed to sit alone with his head between his knees or when he needed to come to someone he loved. Doing stressful things like a new drama or another stageplay made the attacks come more often. The feeling of being unable to breathe was always terrifying.
But there were always people looking out for him.
Aiba usually sang with his hand over his chest, because that way he could feel his heart still beating for them.
They were sitting on the sofa now, Aiba's toes poking at Jun's thighs. His new script lay on the cushion between them, looking slightly soggy around the edges.
"You're a dad?" Jun asked. "We're getting old, if you're picking up roles like this." He sounded amused.
"I'm a young dad," Aiba corrected, pulling a face. "And it's based off some manga. I read it, it's cute."
Jun picked it up to flip through it. "Who's in the cast?"
"Just me so far. The director seemed kinda alarmed, I think."
Aiba scratched at his chin. "Well, I'm not you or Leader or Nino-chan or Sho-kun, you know."
The force of Jun's eyes rolling could have moved mountains.
"Come here," he said, and Aiba immediately flopped into Jun's open arms. Jun offering physical comfort was a rare gift. "Shut up. You'll be great."
"I know." Jun sounded mulish. "And if you feel bad, don't you dare keep it to yourself. If Kazu doesn't get to you first, I will."
Aiba laughed silently into Jun's chest, tightening his hold around Jun's waist. They fell into a calm silence, the room still smelling pleasantly of curry. Jun himself smelled clean and like candles. Aiba breathed in deep, taking joy in the fact that he could.
"Can I read my script with you?"
"And stay the night?"
Jun's eyes narrowed. "That's a bit much."
But he let Aiba lean back against his chest as they read through the script, snickering at their attempts to draw out a little girl's voice. And when the script came to an end and Aiba was finally completely relaxed, limp and sleepy, Jun kissed him.