title: Little White Lies
pairing: Inoo→Hikaru, Yabu/Inoo
word count: 3,952
author's note: Sometimes I worry that I over-identify with Inoo...
summary: Inoo thinks, there's no harm to a few little white lies, right?
It's mid-January, and it's cold. Cold enough to merit hats for warmth as well as disguise, cold enough that Inoo is wearing a medical mask to keep from getting sick as well as to hide his face. Walking outside is to be avoided at all costs; the wind makes his face and hands dry and chafed, makes his lips crack and bleed in a way that is entirely intolerable. But being on the train is miserable too; the cars are packed with bulkily dressed salarymen, sweating in the heat on the trains, and shivering teenage girls in short shorts and thin tights, faces pressed against the consensation on the train door windows. The air is thick with the moisture from so many bodies in one cramped space, from the heavy breathing and wet coughing that comes with the season. Everyone looks uncomfortable; children sneeze and middle-aged housewives whine to one another from the seats they've carefully gotten themselves at the end of the car.
Inoo wishes he had managed a seat, but it's harder when one is seating for two. He knows that, without a doubt, Hikaru would take the opportunity for a single empty seat, because Hikaru is independent and confident and wouldn't be bothered by a few minutes of separation from his companion when they see one another every day at work. But Inoo, clingy, needy, lonely Inoo, can't bear the thought of being separated, and so despite the fact that a seat would at least guarantee him some separation from the germ-ridden masses, he stands. Besides, they've managed the coveted position between the door and seats; Inoo leans against the side of the priority seating section, back pressed against the cool plastic of the barrier as Hikaru stands beside him, holding the pole to Inoo's right with one hand and casually flipping through the songs on his iPod with the other. Inoo pretends not to watch; it's below him to be so interested in his companion, but he can see the reflection of Hikaru's face in the window, and he can't help but keep looking...
The silence between them doesn't seem to bother Hikaru, who is absorbed in his music with one headphone in his ear, but Inoo feels antsy, as if there is some imposing deadline and he's wasting away his time. It's stupid and he doesn't know what the problem is, he and Hikaru are bandmates, are friends. If Hikaru wants to listen to his music, what's the problem? It's not as if conversation is a necessity, and yet Inoo wants to make conversation so desperately, despite the fact that he has nothing to say.
The air feels even thicker somehow in their part of the train, heavier by the second as Inoo counts down the stops and wracks his brain for conversation starters. He's either uninspired or can't think well under duress-- which is silly considering how well he does on exams and essays at school-- but he keeps coming up blank until some ill-advised impulse causes him to speak despite the fact that he's without any topic of conversation.
"School--" says Inoo, feeling stupider by the second and trying not to show it, "--is going well?"
Hikaru looks up at him as if he's trying to discern if Inoo is really addressing him or talking to himself. After a beat, he nods. "Sure. How about you?" It sounds stupid and forced, as if Hikaru is playing along or waiting for a punchline, and Inoo hates himself in that moment.
"Yeah," he responds, trying to smile-- he has to say something. "Yeah. It's going great," and then the momentum picks up, because Inoo has never had any difficulty talking about himself. It's easy to exaggerate, easy to say the things that should make Hikaru impressed, make Hikaru like him. "Even with work, I've been acing my tests, no problem, and I think I'm going to take the exam for college. All of my grades this term have been perfect 5s, too! The other day, in my history class--"
But that's when Hikaru smiles and nods and puts in his other earphone, and Inoo feels as if his heart has fallen out of his chest and gone crashing to the floor. When Hikaru's stop comes, Inoo, throat tight and face hot, waves at his back and says nothing.
A new school year has just started up, and Inoo is stressed. Despite natural smarts and a decent level of dedication, the burden of university exams is a lot, and the commitment of schoolwork looms on every horizon. He envies the younger members who are still enjoying the freedom of middle school and his peers who aren't even considering college; his own situation seems the hardest out of anyone around him, and he pities himself immensely. He wishes the others would pity him, too, but his attempts to garner sympathy are met with little regard, and so he slowly shrinks back into himself, laughing along with the jokes and stories in hopes of endearing his way back into the group. He feels like an outsider even among BEST at times, and he hates it.
And then they're waiting around the set for the "Dreams Come True" PV, and Inoo is ready to blow off some steam. It's just he, Hikaru, and Daiki at first; Yabu and Yuya filmed prior, and the littler ones are to come in in a few hours. Goofing around with the other two is fun; Hikaru and Daiki are both good-natured, and with just the three of them, it's a comfortable group. But then Daiki is called to film by himself, and suddenly it's just Hikaru and Inoo, and suddenly Inoo feels as if it's inexplicably become much harder to breathe.
He doesn't know why this happens when it's just he and Hikaru, he doesn't know why he suddenly feels as if the pressure of the world is on his shoulders and he has to impress, he has to be perfect, but it squeezes at his heart as Hikaru falls silent, attention elsewhere. It's as if without Daiki around, Inoo is no longer interesting, and the possibility feels like being stabbed in the chest. He hates it, he hates the thought that he might not be good enough for Hikaru. Funny Hikaru, sweet Hikaru, Hikaru with whom Inoo gets along best out of the JUMP members who weren't in JJ Express... the need to impress him, to win him over is blinding, and Inoo finds himself speaking before he knows it.
"Hikaru-kun~" he whines, and Hikaru blinks at him, expectant.
Except Inoo has nothing to say, and so he speaks the first thought on his mind: "I'm so lonely..."
Hikaru cocks an eyebrow. "Is this about school?" he asks slowly after a moment, as if rolling the situation around inside his head. It's adorable when it shows on his face how hard he's contemplating, Inoo thinks to himself, but that's unrelated right now.
"Isn't school fun?" Hikaru asks, and despite the fact that it's not bad, neither here nor there, really, Inoo shakes his head vehemently.
"Not at all!" he replied quickly, doing his best to look sad and pathetic. Anything, really, to hold Hikaru's attention. But complaining about work has never worked before, so he decides to try a new approach. "I don't have any friends..."
It's a little white lie, but when Hikaru spends the rest of the shoot attached to Inoo at the hip, it feels good enough that Inoo doesn't care.
Inoo is almost done school when they get around to filming the PV to "Your Seed;" he's in the home stretch now, he knows, but it's really rough. He's running on empty, it seems, and with no reprieve in sight; after summer vacation is the last half year of school, after that is college. His parents, of course, don't see this as any feat, despite the fact that he's doing a full-time job on the side; to them, it sometimes seems, being an idol is some sort of very time consuming hobby, like obsessive stamp-collecting, or something. Sometimes, Inoo wishes he chose the stamps, but most of the time, he wishes he didn't have all the stress of school. It's not that Inoo doesn't enjoy it, per se, he's always known he's smart and he enjoys learning, but he envies the time all the other boys spend together, the ones at Horikoshi coasting their way through and the younger ones who will be entering Horikoshi soon. With the exception of Keito, who doesn't know enough kanji to get by, Inoo is the only one of them to do real school, and it's rough when he sees them all out together and he alone has to go home to his homework. But then again, his parents forced him into piano lessons as a child, so maybe one day college will pay off, too.
But whether or not college is going to pay off, Inoo sometimes feels like he's getting pushed further and further out of the group, forced apart from them by a huge mound of schoolbooks, commonalities more and more of a stretch with each day. He wants so badly to be liked, to fit in, but it seems somehow impossible when he simply can't spend the same amount of time with the other members as they do with one another. He tries to ignore it, tries to insert himself into the group when he can, but it's hard, and the desperation to try harder sometimes seems to hurt him in the end.
But then the "Your Seed" filming rolls around, and Inoo finds himself somehow out in the proverbial cold yet again. Yabu and Takaki are attached at the hip; maybe it's that they had their own special filming last time or maybe it's that Takaki is one of the people who can stand Yabu's idiotic humour, but at any rate, Inoo tells himself that he doesn't need their company, anyway, because Yabu is a self-centered asshole and Yuya, sweet as he is, can be a little daft at times. And Daiki hangs around with 7 a lot these days, now that he's been in a drama with them, leaving Inoo hanging close to Hikaru. Still, he doesn't mind; in fact, he looks for excuses to spend time with Hikaru this way. Hikaru understands him, after all. Or at least, Inoo likes to tell himself that.
But somehow, while Inoo wasn't paying attention (or perhaps while he was studying), Chinen has somehow wormed his way into Hikaru's life, and when what Inoo expected to be he and Hikaru hanging out turns into he and Hikaru and Chinen hanging out, Inoo is displeased. Where all the others think Chinen is god's gift to the Johnny's world, Inoo is less impressed; Chinen is self-centered and over-confident and spreads rumours like they're going out of style behind that cute, faux-innocent front of his. But Hikaru doesn't see all of that, it seems, Hikaru thinks Chinen is cute and funny like the rest of them, and so Inoo bites his tongue for Hikaru's sake, because he doesn't want to waste this time that they have together, and besides, Hikaru would never listen to Inoo's opinion, anyway.
And it isn't that bad. At least Chinen doesn't seem to be trying to get into Hikaru's pants as hard as Inoo's seen him try for some people, and they joke around, the three of them, when they're not required for the filming. Chinen isn't that grating, and it's true, some of his jokes are sort of funny, but mostly, Inoo is glad to spend time with Hikaru, glad to hear him talk and watch him move and see him smile at the jokes Inoo makes-- that's more than enough, he thinks. But still, Inoo isn't entirely pleased; perhaps he's just paranoid, but it feels like Hikaru laughs at Chinen's jokes much more frequently than he laughs at Inoo's, no matter how hard Inoo tries.
And so, by the end of the filming, Inoo is exhausted. He isn't sure which is more tiring, take after take after take of difficult choreography to be done and redone or constantly vying for Hikaru's attention, but after a combination of both, by the time the filming is done, Inoo thinks he deserves a break. He hurries to change back into his street clothes-- a feat for Inoo, who likes to take his sweet time getting ready, who values every aspect of his appearance and doesn't like to rush any part of his preparations. But it's worth it to be with Hikaru, and so he changes hurriedly and then lays in wait, hoping things will turn out the way he wants.
And sure enough, Hikaru takes his time, joking and chatting with Yabu as he returns the wardrobe pieces to their proper hangers while Chinen is in and out of the dressing room in a few moments. Inoo watches him disappear down the hall before breathing a sigh of relief, and luckily enough, it's a few more moments before Hikaru emerges, smiling at Inoo in a way that makes Inoo feel completely validated in what he's about to do.
"Where's Chinen?" asks Hikaru, "I was going to see if he wanted to grab food with us."
Inoo pauses. It's not that he likes lying, really, but over the past few months, it's proven itself an effective way to get Hikaru's attention, and so, biting his lip and not quite meeting Hikaru's eyes, he shrugs. "He said he had plans," he responds as nonchalantly as possible. "So I guess it's just the two of us."
Hikaru studies him for a moment, and he can't help but feel a little guilty-- where does he get off lying to a person whose opinion he values so highly? But then Hikaru shrugs as well and leads Inoo to a nearby McDonald's where they're together, just the two of them, for a blissful whole hour, and Inoo thinks, there's no harm to a few little white lies, right?
Inoo has always thought that Yabu was kind of obnoxious. During their junior days, he had been jealous of Ya-ya-yah's success; what had they had that he and Daiki and Yuya hadn't had? And Hikaru had always been cool and nice and down to earth about it, but Yabu had strutted around like he was king of the universe, like he was KimuTaku or MatsuJun or something, and sure, maybe he was kind of attractive, but Inoo would have chosen MatsuJun over Yabu any day of the week, if he had had the choice.
And as ludicrous as it had been for an undebuted Junior to be acting like king of the world, soon enough, Yabu is the oldest and most confident member (barring Chinen, but really, it's a little hard to compare) of the newest Johnny's group, and if Inoo had thought the strutting was bad before, it soon becomes nigh on intolerable. Skinny and gangly and just post-pubescent, Yabu looks ridiculous walking around with his chest puffed out the way he does, but clearly, Yabu thinks differently, because he seems to consider himself irresistable. And to make matters worse, nearly as soon as they're grouped together, he gets what he wants; Chinen, the little slut, is in Yabu's bed before Inoo could even blink, and it's disgusting, really, to see the way he hangs off of Yabu. Inoo assumes it's just for the attention; Chinen, after all, is a poison-tongued bitch who, in Inoo's personal opinion, is probably incapable of feelings, but clealy Yabu doesn't see it the same way. Inoo can practically see his ego growing each day, and it made him want to be sick.
Even more infuriating is the fact that Hikaru likes Yabu, always has since Ya-ya-yah, and Inoo doesn't see the appeal in the slightest. But Hikaru seems to see whatever Inoo has missed, because the two are practically best friends, always together, always making plans and hanging out. Hikaru laughs at Yabu's lewd jokes, Hikaru listens to Yabu's awful stories, Hikaru seems to like Yabu more than he likes Inoo, and Inoo can't understand, when he tries so hard, when he clearly appreciates Hikaru more than Yabu…
But Yabu's the big man in the group, and Inoo is the shy, quiet one in the back who tries to be pretty and tries to be funny and tries to be friendly but who is never quite good enough. It frustrates Inoo to no end, but there's nothing he can do but try harder, nothing he can do but cling to time with Hikaru when he can and try to prove that he's nicer than Yabu, that he's less self-centered than Yabu, that he's a better person than Yabu. The comparison hurts when Yabu is a fan favourite, when Yabu and Hikaru's relationship has been the source of many a fan's delight ever since their junior days, when Yabu continues to be a frontman with tons of solo lines in songs, constantly in the front position in dance formations. It feels like Inoo tries and tries and tries and no one recognizes it, not his groupmates, not the staff, not Hikaru, whose opinion, for some reason, continues to weigh heavier on Inoo's consciousness than the others.
But then something strange happens: someone does recognize it, but it's not Hikaru-- it's Yabu. Of all the people in the group, Yabu begins to seek out Inoo, and Inoo is baffled. Certainly, Yabu's fling with Chinen hadn't lasted long past the first few months of Hey! Say! JUMP's existence, but they had parted amicably, as far as Inoo could tell (not that he cared, but gossip was gossip, after all), and Yabu had gone on to plenty of other flings afterwards. After all, his and Hikaru's popularity since Ya-ya-yah had not faded, and there were plenty of juniors still more than willing to provide Yabu's next ego boost. It was still gross, but at least Inoo had to see it less often.
But by the time the Mayonaka no Shadow Boy jacket shooting rolls around, Yabu is clearly vying for Inoo's attention. Inoo isn't exactly sure why; he's gotten a perm recently, but his beauty efforts have never caught the attention of a boy in the past, and this is more than casual attention. Yabu is practically attached to Inoo at the hip, complimenting him and talking to him and throwing his arm ever so casually around Inoo's shoulders, and Inoo can't help it-- he likes it. He likes the attention, he likes being treated like he's special, he likes being treated like he's attractive and desirable, and by the time they're on set for the Mayonaka no Shadow Body PV, Inoo's opinion of Yabu has completely changed. He won't admit it, of course, but now Yabu's preening seems more funny than obnoxious, now he listens patiently when Yabu talks about himself with hopes of more attention in the future, and just maybe it pays off, because Yabu's arms around his waist and his fingers entwined with Inoo's and his constant kisses make being up horrifically early for the filming much more pleasant than it has been in the past. And so, "I love you," Inoo coos to Yabu, because Yabu seems to like it, and if Yabu is pleased, then it means more attention for Inoo, and everyone is happy in the end.
Being with Yabu is almost enough to make Inoo stop fixating on Hikaru, but they still spend time together. Much to Inoo's delight, it seems like being with Yabu is a win-win situation on the Hikaru front, as well; Hikaru spends time with Yabu, so if Inoo is attached to Yabu, Hikaru is spending time with him, as well, and even better, when Inoo isn't with Yabu, Hikaru seems to seek him out more often, too, now that Inoo's free time is more limited. He loves it, and he thinks maybe, just maybe, Hikaru has finally begun to appreciate him this way.
But then, at the filming, while Inoo, Yabu, and Hikaru are passing the time together, Yabu gets called away. "I'll be right back," Yabu promises Inoo with a wink, and, "I love you," Inoo responds, because it's practically second nature by now. It's not until Yabu is out of Inoo's line of sight that he notices Hikaru is looking at him funny, and he blinks. Inoo's never been very good at reading Hikaru, but now, with hs brows knit and his lips pursed, it certainly doesn't seem like he's pleased, and Inoo's stomach drops despite himself.
"Why do you lie to him that way?" Hikaru asks, words careful, tone heavy, and Inoo is immediately on the defensive.
"What are you talking about?" he asks with a forced laugh, but Hikaru doesn't elaborate, only stands up and walks away.
Inoo doesn't know why it matters-- after all, he's seeing Yabu, he gets Yabu's attention now-- but desite it all, he feels like crying.
It's mid-January, and it's cold. Outside, snow is falling, looking picturesque but also rather daunting in front of Inoo's home, and even inside, Inoo has been spending his time bundled up in sweaters, applying chapstick and lotion what feels like every few minutes to keep his delicate skin from chafing in the dry air. Winter is really awful somtimes, and though he normally wouldn't dare venture outside in this weather, Hey! Say! JUMP hasn't been doing very much recently, and despite the fact that the break from work as he finishes up high school should be pleasant, Inoo is beginning to feel restless, to miss his friends. And so, he swallows his best preservative instincts and flips open his phone and scrolls down to Hikaru's entry in his phone book-- he hasn't heard from Yabu in a while, and frankly, he was getting tired of him, anyway.
He stares at the empty message for a while, not sure what to write. He feels rusty, somehow, as if he's forgotten how to communicate with friends, and Hikaru's words to him back in September are still weighing at the back of his mind despite how hard he's tried to forget them. But it's no big deal, he tells himself, just be yourself, because that's what everyone always says to do, right? His worries are probably baseless, anyway-- everyone loves Yabu for being a self-centered asshole, everyone loves Chinen for being a gossip-spreading bitch, so why shouldn't everyone love Inoo just the same, insecurities and weaknesses and all? Thus consoled, he taps out a quick message-- "Hikaru-kun, I'm so cold and all alone! Want to meet up?" It's not quite true; his parents are home also, but that hardly counts, right?
He hits send and waits, feeling fairly optimistic. After all, Hikaru has been spending a lot of time with him recently, and even if Yabu's moved on, Hikaru is all the matters anyway. Hikaru's opinion is all that has ever mattered, really.
It's a few moments before his phone alerts him of Hikaru's response, but Inoo has his phone open to check almost before the cute chime finishes. However, he almost wishes he hadn't; the message makes the pit of his stomach plummet, and he reads it three times before he can let himself believe that his eyes aren't deceiving him.
Hikaru's message simply reads, "How do I know you're not lying?"
And more than the times he was ignored, more than the times he felt brushed aside, more than all the other times he tried and tried and tried to be noticed, to be appreciated, to be recognized, Inoo has never felt quite so helpless before in his life.