title: sweet victory
pairings: Hokuto and Yugo-centric; Jesse/Yugo in passing and Hokuto/Fuma if you squint
word count: 1,922
author's note: For some reason, I always get excited for stupid Myojo rankings and then I always am disappointed in the long run.
summary: Hokuto is beginning to wonder what's up when Jesse finally speaks: "It's… it's about the ranking. It's just that… Kouchi only won one category."
Victory is sweet, Hokuto thinks as he stands before the cameras in the Myojo studios, dressed to the nines and clutching a giant bouquet to his chest, the traditional bouquet given to the winner of the Junior you want to be your boyfriend category in the yearly Myojo Johnny's Junior ranking. Sure, the whole thing is a little tacky, but sometimes, Johnny's is tacky, and Hokuto knows that being a good idol means taking every aspect of the job seriously, even the less appealing ones. And this, no matter how ridiculous and frivolous, is a sign that it's all paying off, all of Hokuto's hard work, all of his blood and sweat and tears that he's poured into his dramas and concerts and photoshoots. More than victorious, really, he's proud, proud of himself and how far he's brought himself in the past year; losing B.I.Shadow hurt, certainly, but he hasn't let it stop him, hasn't let himself fade into obscurity, and no matter how silly the feat, no matter how small the win, it feels good to know that how hard he's poured his soul into his work is really resulting in something.
And so, it's with a smile on his face that he steps out of the studio, bowing and thanking the photographers before turning towards the dressing rooms to change. He's lost in his own thoughts, about how he can't wait to see how the photos came out and how he's going to text Fuma all about the categories that he won once he gets back to his phone and how he can't wait to hear what his friends won, too, and so he almost doesn't notice Jesse approaching from the opposite direction, his mouth drawn tight, his brows furrowed in concern. He slows as he nears Hokuto, thought, drawing Hokuto out of his thoughts, and so Hokuto blinks at him, unsure whether he should address Jesse or wait for his friend speak first. When Jesse only looks at him, however, hovering nervously to the side and biting his lip, Hokuto quirks a brow. "What's up?" he asks, unable to read Jesse's expression.
Jesse swallows, glancing to the side, and Hokuto can't understand what's gotten him so worked up. After all, he's certain Jesse has done well in the rankings, as well, and he's about to say as much when Jesse blurts in a quick, hushed tone, "It's… it's about Kouchi…"
Hokuto blinks again, and then he can't help but glance over his shoulder, as well. If it's about Kouchi then he supposes that explains the nervousness; Jesse is always nervous when he talks about anything relationship related, and while Jesse is a sweet guy and Hokuto is happy that Kouchi has such a nice, well-meaning boyfriend, he'd be the first to admit that Jesse is a bit awkward. "Oh, what's up, then?" he asks, offering a bit of a smile; he's glad that Jesse has come to him. After all, Hokuto is something of an expert when it comes to romance, and he's more than happy to give advice, especially to a friend who's dating an even closer friend.
Jesse shifts, glancing through an open doorway to his left and looking for a moment at whatever shoot is happening inside before turning back to Hokuto. Hokuto is beginning to wonder if he ought to suggest they go somewhere more private-- clearly this topic is making Jesse incredibly nervous, whatever it is-- when Jesse finally speaks. "It's… it's about the ranking. It's just that… Kouchi only won one category."
Hokuto doesn't exactly remember how he responded-- if there's one thing that makes him emotional, it's the people to whom he's loyal, the people he loves, and so his response to Jesse is already out of his mind the moment it's out of his mouth. What matters is Kouchi-- because how could it be that Kouchi only won one category when kids who don't work half as hard have won four or five? It must be some sort of awful mistake, it must be an oversight on the part of the staff or… or something, Hokuto isn't sure, but if he knows one thing, it's that he has to find a way to fix this, and he has to help Kouchi, because Kouchi is in exactly the same position as him and is working just as hard as him and everything that's been unfair to Hokuto over the past year has been equally as unfair for Kouchi, and this is even more unfair, if this had happened to Hokuto…
He finds himself in the dressing room, eventually. It's vacant except for Kouchi-- everyone is off getting their photos taken, it seems, everyone but Kouchi, neglected Kouchi, forsaken Kouchi, and it feels like a punch to Hokuto's gut. Certainly, B.I.Shadow's breakup had been hardest on Hokuto, who was always the sort to put all of his eggs in one basket, to stake his heart and soul and everything in his group, but that wasn't to say that Kouchi wasn't also hurt, didn't also suffer when they both lost everything, and Hokuto knows for a fact that Kouchi has been working just as hard as he has over the past year to move forward from the whole incident. So to see Kouchi's efforts go unrewarded, especially when Hokuto's have been to an almost ridiculous degree, when Hokuto's face will be plastered all over the front and first few pages of the magazine and Kouchi will probably only have one small article in the back… it's awful to think about, and Hokuto is overwhelmed with indignant, righteous anger, because this isn't fair, Kouchi doesn't deserve this.
For his part, Kouchi doesn't seem too distressed, sitting at the mirror with his school books open in front of him, his phone in his hands as he seemingly takes a break from studying to send someone a message. There's a bit of a lingering smile on his face, perhaps from the contents of the text or perhaps for some reason altogether, but, Hokuto thinks, it must only be a momentary distraction. Kouchi has always been good at hiding the hurt, after all, at covering up his losses by immersing himself in friends and fun things, and so, Hokuto thinks, his own rage on Kouchi's behalf bubbling up inside of him, he has to do something, though what, he isn't sure.
He's trying to think of something to say-- despite the fact that he's come all the way here like a man on a mission, he isn't exactly sure what his mission is, and so he falters for a moment-- when Kouchi glances up at him and his grin widens. "Hey, congrats, Mr. Popular," he teases, setting his phone aside. "Speaking of being popular, Fuma wants to know if you want to grab dinner after this. He's going to try to drag Kento away from his adoring fans, too, what do you say?"
The ease with which he talks, with which he congratulates Hokuto and asks about dinner plans catches Hokuto off guard, and he stammers for a moment. "Uh-- yeah, sounds good but--" But that's not the point, the point right now is Kouchi, and Hokuto isn't going to let Kouchi's calm front get him. After all, it's not healthy for him to hide from his problems all the time, Hokuto thinks, and he wants to be there for his friend, and so he presses ahead despite the fact that he's still not entirely sure what he intends to say. "But-- the ranking--" he starts, and Kouchi blinks at him, because that wasn't exactly the smoothest transition, but, Hokuto thinks, this is important and it doesn't really matter. "You-- there must be some mistake! We… I'll go with you-- we should go talk to the staff…! Or…"
Admittedly, he's making a bit of a garbled mess out of what he's trying to say, and he's not sure if Kouchi will be able to follow him or understand what he's trying to say, but if there's one thing he's not expecting, it's for Kouchi to laugh. But that's what Kouchi does, his eyes scrunching and his lips curling up in a smile, and Hokuto's words slow as his brain tried to catch up with what's happening. But he doesn't understand, because what reason could Kouchi have to laugh right now, when he's been slighted, when Hokuto's stomach is flipping and his chest feels tight at the injustice of it all for Kouchi's sake? He splutters, and Kouchi shakes his head, rising from where he sits and putting a hand on Hokuto's shoulder. "It's okay."
"W-what?" Hokuto asks, blinking and trying again to make sense of what's happening, but it's no use. He sounds ineloquent, but he just doesn't know what to make of Kouchi's response-- perhaps this is some intense form of escapism? Or perhaps Kouchi is trying to avoid the topic at all? But whatever it is, Hokuto is at a loss, and he looks back at Kouchi, desperately trying to figure out what he's trying to say.
But Kouchi only shrugs, patting Hokuto once on the shoulder before letting his arm fall back to his side as he shrugs. "I guess it might have been nice to win one or two more categories. But it doesn't really matter in the end. And I'm happy for you."
Of course Kouchi would be selfless at a time like this, Hokuto thinks, their little group's banchou, the others call him, and while he'll always just be Kouchi to Hokuto, he can't help but agree. Kouchi is too much a people person, too much a friend to worry about himself at times like these, but Hokuto is his friend, too, and this is just too much of an outrage, he thinks, to let pass. "Thanks--" he replies, because he doesn't want to be rude, "But-- but what about you?"
Kouchi laughs again, and "What about me?" he replies. "No offense to the fans, but I already have a boyfriend. Or do you think I ought to be vying for the affection of more fourteen year old girls? Not very romantic of you~" Kouchi has always teased Hokuto about his romanticism and idealism, but now, Hokuto doesn't know what to make of it. Because, well, Kouchi does have a point, but that's not what being an idol is about, right? Being an idol is about being sexy, and making girls want to have you as their boyfriend…. isn't it?
But Kouchi only smiles and shakes his head at Hokuto's dumbfounded expression, sitting back down and motioning for Hokuto to sit in the open chair beside him. "I won a bunch of categories in the ranking done by other Juniors," he commented, nodding to the list typed by staff that's been taped to the mirror. "Not that these things really matter, but… that's enough for me."
And Hokuto can only stare at him for a long moment before he begins to smile too, just a little, despite everything. Maybe winning the top category is a great victory for him, maybe all of his hard work is paying off, but maybe, just maybe, Kouchi's efforts have been paying off to their own little victories, too. And sure, victory is sweet, but, as Kouchi continues and offers to pay for Hokuto's dinner in congratulations for his number one spot, slapping him on the back and grinning all the while, Hokuto thinks, maybe there's something sweeter than winning, after all.