title: no matter
pairing: Jinguji Yuta→Sato Shori; Jinguji Yuta/Nakamura Reia; Sato Shori→Nakajima Kento
word count: 3,739
author's note: I actually started writing this back before Jinguji's and Shori's birthdays… whoops. I really just like Jinguji and Shori's first meeting story, and wanted to build something off of that.
summary: Shori matters to Jinguji, matters more than anything, no matter how much he tries to deny it to himself.
Jinguji first meets Sato Shori on his thirteenth birthday. They're standing together at the back of an expansive rehearsal hall, crammed in amongst a hundred other boys, each one of them with a number pinned to the front of his shirt. The atmosphere is practically nauseating with tense nervousness; Jinguji himself is confident of his abilities, but somehow, being forced in so close with dozens of other fidgeting, worrying kids is setting him on edge, and he's spent the first half of the audition trying to keep his calm. He thinks he's doing pretty well so far; he's definitely among the most talented boys (if not the most talented boy) here, and he's sure that the auditioners will recognize that. Already, he can envision his name in lights, once he debuts, once he's a star, once he's making singles that are selling hundreds of thousands of copies… but he knows he can't get ahead of himself, can't let his guard down and fail to show his best in this audition, and so he sets his jaw into his coolest expression and waits his turn to show his stuff as other boys stumble through the choreography in front of him.
He doesn't pay much mind to anyone else in the audition, is far to focused on showing his personal best, on achieving his personal goals, but while he waits for his number to be called, he can't help but notice the boy standing next to him. Their numbers are next to one another, thirty-seven and thirty-eight, and so Jinguji's been standing next to him this whole time, and he'd seen the boy coming in just before him, giving his papers and his name to the receptionist and taking his number-- Jinguji can remember thinking disparagingly that there was no hope for a boy like that, a boy with flat, uninteresting black hair and a plain face and such a waifish figure, but he hadn't thought much beyond mentally asserting his own superiority. But now, despite how uninteresting the boy seems, no matter how bland his features are and how much Jinguji thinks he ought to fade into the crowd… somehow, he doesn't. Somehow, Jinguji is drawn to look at him, to glance in his direction every few moments as they stand wordlessly side by side waiting for their turn to determine their fates.
Maybe it's because he doesn't fidget like the other kids, doesn't show any outwards signs of nervousness, his gaze held steadily on the group of six boys dancing for the audition panel, no shifting of his weight, no eyes darting back and forth, no fingering of the hems of his clothing the way so many of their compatriots are, and Jinguji is a little surprised to see someone so calm, especially someone who couldn't look less like an idol if he tried. It puts Jinguji a little on edge, because he's confident but still knows just how much is at stake, and somehow, seeing this boy just stand there with no expression and no movement, so serious, so unruffled by the weight of the situation makes him feel a little off balance. Or maybe it's because the of the look in his eyes, which Jinguji can't quite read, serious and determined but yet also somehow excited-- nothing like the other boys around them, who range anywhere from gleeful to on the verge of tears, but whose feelings are all nonetheless completely transparent to Jinguji. He doesn't know what to make of this boy who he can't read and can't understand but to whom he is somehow drawn nonetheless, inexplicably.
Soon enough, though, their numbers are called, and Jinguji does his best to push the boy from his mind-- what's important right now is showing what he can do, getting into the agency that will certainly fulfill his wildest dreams, and so with that determination, he pushes forward. Still, he can't help but watch the boy beside him out of the corner of his eye, and once they've finished and asked to move off to the side to wait again, he finds his mind on the boy again despite himself. He wasn't very good at dancing, wasn't very good at singing either, and, Jinguji thinks, it's for the best-- being next to someone crappy makes him look all the better, right? But somehow, the thought does't sit well with him, twists around in his stomach as the boy beside him continues to look small and unassuming but unruffled nonetheless until finally, five audition groups later, somehow, he and the boy are both called back to dance again.
After the fact, Jinguji doesn't really remember the rest of the audition. It's all sort of a blur from the time he and the boy are standing together off to the side to the end, when they're being called back into the room after everyone's been dismissed, Jinguji and the boy and a few others, an unimpressive-looking boy who's visibly shaking and a kid with an admittedly cute face (even if he's not as good looking as Jinguji), and a baby who can't be more than ten years old, and being congratulated on passing the audition. Even despite how confident he'd been, even despite how sure he was that he'd shown the other boys up, to know that he's passed feels like a blow to the head that sends Jinguji reeling, overwhelmed with happiness and relief but somehow too much in shock to even comprehend it. He feels dizzy and looks around for something to hold onto (he can't let himself look weak in front of the others!) when suddenly, the boy beside him catches his eye. Tears are streaming down his cheeks, but on his lips is the biggest, brightest, most beautiful smile Jinguji has ever seen, and in that moment, Jinguji suddenly feels steady again.
"I'm Sato Shori," the boy says after they're out of the room, smiling at Jinguji like the sun, hand outstretched. "You can call me Shori."
"Jinguji Yuta," Jinguji replies, flipping his bangs out of his eyes and trying to seem as cool as possible in the face of his utterly uncool companion. But somehow, when he takes Shori's hand, it feels like everything else falls away.
Jinguji spends the entire day with Shori on his fourteenth birthday. It's a Sunday, but since they have a photoshoot all day, there's no real time for a party or anything like that, and Jinguji feels slighted. Despite the fact that he tells himself-- and anyone else who will listen-- that he's a grown up who's more than happy to work on his birthday, because that's just how dedicated and responsible and professional he is, it leaves a bad aftertaste with him not to be the center of attention on the one day of the year that's supposed to be his day, the one day of the year that's supposed to be about him and only him.
Except, he has to remind himself, it's not, not anymore, not since last year. Today is Shori's birthday, too, as Shori had been amazed to discover last year, eyes shining bright with excitement and wonder. We have the same birthday, he'd gushed when Jinguji had mentioned that he was turning thirteen on the day of the audition, We met and we got into Johnny's on our birthday, and ever since that day, they'd had some magical connection to Shori. At first, Jinguji had found it annoying-- not only did he had to share his special day with someone, but it was this weird, introverted, quiet, awkward kid who'd somehow managed to get into Johnny's at the same time as him despite not being nearly as good as him at anything, but now… somehow, this year, it doesn't seem quite so bad. After all, after a year of "friendship," Shori had gushed about their upcoming birthday for weeks, telling Jinguji how magical and wonderful it was going to be and how they had both grown and experienced so much in one year, and even if Jinguji thought Shori was a little loopy about all that seasonal, temporal stuff, he couldn't help but think that, if Shori was going to wax eloquent about how talented and amazing and handsome Jinguji had become in the past year, he didn't mind sharing a birthday with him so much.
What he does mind, however, is the fact that, despite Jinguji's objective superiority in every area of being an idol, in the next two weeks, Shori is going to debut, and Jinguji isn't. It's the sole sticking factor in their burgeoning friendship, because no matter how much Shori compliments Jinguji, no matter how much he smiles at him or holds his hand or says stupid things that make Jinguji's stomach flip over inside of him like I'm so glad we're best friends, Jinchan, it just isn't fair that Jinguji has been passed up for him. And even if Jinguji does find his eyes glued to the TV every time Shori appeared to promote his new group, even if Jinguji has to admit that Shori was somehow dazzling to watch every time he performed with his new bandmates, and even if Jinguji can't ignore the way Shori's smile, shining bright under the stage lights or in the flash of a camera, makes his heart beat a little fast in his chest, somehow, it only makes it all the worse. Because maybe Jinguji does like Shori a little bit, in all his lameness and stupidity, maybe Jinguji can't help but buy into all that bound-by-fate gibberish that Shori's always spouting, (just a little bit!), and it makes it all the worse, to think that in some tiny way, there might be something just right about meeting on their birthday, and on the day they both began new lives as Johnny's Juniors only to have that all torn away less than a year later. And so being around Shori becomes at once beautiful and painful, because as much as maybe Jinguji likes Shori a lot more than he wants to admit, none of his feelings are going to change the fact that Shori is leaving him behind.
But for better or for worse, like it or not, Jinguji spends his fourteenth birthday at the duet and Myojo studios with Shori, side by side as they get their hair and makeup done and then pose for photos and then wait. There's always a lot of waiting involved in photoshoots to be spent in various ways; the other kids Jinguji's been grouped with float around him like stars, the kid who cries a lot from Jinguji's audition burrowed in the corner with piles of high school entrance exam study books and that vacant-looking guy who's also named Yuta spinning around aimlessly in a spinny chair and the awkward one with the big nose pestering everyone who will talk to him for even a few moments, but Jinguji pays them little mind. Shori shines brighter than all of them, after all, and like the sun, his gravity pulls Jinguji in whether or not he likes it, keeps him in a close radius, his actions revolving around Shori as if he's tied down by a string.
It's because Shori makes him look good, Jinguji tells himself, because being friends with a practically-debuted Johnny's is impressive, and also because Shori's so dorky and weird that Jinguji definitely looks cool in comparison, but the reasons fall out of his mind almost as soon as he justifies them to himself. There's something so quietly powerful, so unassumingly deep about Shori's presence that makes even Jinguji forget about his own vanity when they spend time together. And so he spends the day by Shori's side, listening to Shori's stories about his new groupmates and reading his stupid poetry and telling Shori about how he's going to be missing out once he's debuted, about how Jinguji is going to be put into the most awesome of Junior units, like, the next Ya-ya-yah or something, and he's going to get super famous before they even know it. Shori nods along and smiles, which is good, because Jinguji isn't sure he believes it himself.
And so Jinguji spends his fourteenth birthday in the most unassuming of ways, and before he knows it, they're being thanked for their hard work and sent home. He really ought to be disappointed, he thinks as he walks with Shori to the train station, that he had to spend his special day sitting around reading Shori's dumb haikus about changing seasons, but somehow, he can only find it in him to be disappointed that now, the day is over and they have to go their separate ways. It's stupid, Shori's stupid, he's being stupid, but he can't help it, making a face to himself as they approach the point where they're going to have to split ways, Shori to the JR lines and Jinguji to the subway.
But before he has a chance to bid his friend goodbye, he suddenly feels Shori's hand on his shoulder, and is startled out of his thoughts. "Are you okay, Jinchan?" Shori asks, blinking at him in a way that makes Jinguji feel his face flush red before he even has an chance to attempt to stop it.
"W-what?" he stammers, frowning. "Of course I'm okay!" And okay, maybe he had been lost in thought, but it didn't mean that something was wrong with him!
Shori tilts his head to one side, but says nothing for a moment before offering Jinguji a smile. "You were making a face," he explains, and Jinguji is about to exclaim that he was not making a face, his face is fine just the way it is, okay, when Shori continues, and Jinguji shuts his mouth.
"Anyway, happy birthday, Jin," Shori says, holding out a package to Jinguji, his smile only growing. "I'm glad we could spend our special day together."
Jinguji is already home, Shori long gone, by the time he regains his composure, but even an hour later, when he unwraps the gift, it feels like Shori's words are still ringing in his ears. Beneath the wrapping paper is a wooden frame, clearly decorated by hand with paint and markers, with a photo of Shori and Jinguji inside. There's a stupid haiku written down the side, Unlike falling leaves scattered by the autumn wind, this is forever.
And no matter how lame this birthday was, no matter how uncool it was to spend the day he should have been partying at work with Shori, in that moment, Jinguji knows he wouldn't have traded today for the world.
For the first time in two years, Jinguji's fifteenth birthday is completely devoid of Shori. It's not like it's a big deal or something; it's an average Tuesday, and he's sure that Shori spends the day at school like any normal day. It's a normal day for Jinguji, too, and just because it's Shori's birthday as well doesn't mean Jinguji has to spend the whole day thinking about him, he tells himself, fooling around with his friends at school during breaks and at lunch, but somehow, his heart isn't really in it. He's bitter towards Tanaka Juri and Kyomoto Taiga and Matsumura Hokuto, who can do both at once.
Sexy Zone is having photoshoots for the upcoming Johnny's World goods, for the pamphlet and photosets and clearfiles, while the Juniors are rehearsing for Shounen Club after school. Jinguji meets up with the other kids his age at the train station and walks to the rehearsal hall with them; it's the same kids over whom he's mentally asserted his superiority for the past two years, but now that Sexy Zone is a full-blown debuted group, he finds himself without any other choice as they boisterously make a stop at Dotour and then Lawson before finally arriving at their destination. Jinguji likes to be loud and in a large group, likes to be the center of attention of his new friends. It makes him an easy target for the paparazzi (something he takes secret pleasure in), but more than that, it's easier to be noisy with these kids, with whom he's only made friends since Shori has completely left him behind. It covers up the fact that really, Jinguji doesn't have anything to talk about.
But even if he's had to adjust now that he can no longer rely on Shori and Shori alone for companionship, he has an image to maintain, and so partway through the last year, when they'd been merged into the same group despite their widely different backgrounds, Jinguji had asked out Nakamura Reia, from the former Snow Prince Gasshoudan. After all, everyone knew Reia was cute and popular and best friends with Morimoto Shintaro, and they looked good together, Jinguji thought, the ideal Johnny's couple. It doesn't really matter that he hadn't known Reia for that long; clearly, Jinguji was cool enough to have any boyfriend he wanted, and what was important was that Reia helped his image. They've been together for more than half a year now, practically a lifetime in comparison to anything else Jinguji's ever been even close to able to call a relationship, and things are good between them; Jinguji takes Reia to coffee and fast food after rehearsals and home to his place on weekends, and Reia hangs off of him at all the right times. It feels good when people look at them, when the other kids their age watch with envy, but somehow, it all feels a little off, somehow. No one ever stared when he spent time with Shori, but somehow, Jinguji didn't care.
But Shori's a thing of the past now, and so Jinguji kisses Reia in the bathroom at rehearsal and goes to the arcade with the rest of their group, the rest of Sexy Boyz, maybe, sometimes, or else to McDonald's or Denny's or Starbucks and tries not to think about it. It's not like he's in love with Shori, or wants to date Shori, or anything like that. Shori's just his doofy friend, and Jinguji's just bitter that despite Jinguji's clear superiority, Shori debuted without him. That's all there is to it.
Besides, it's pretty clear that Shori doesn't even care about him anymore; he spends all his time these days making googly eyes at stupid Nakajima like he's the only one in the room. It makes Jinguji sick; Nakajima is a stupid, egotistical, stuck-up asshole who thinks he's the best at everything when in reality, he's mediocre looking and mediocre at dancing and mediocre at singing at best. Jinguji doesn't understand what Shori sees in him, especially when Nakajima flirts with everyone and anyone, and clearly has no regard to whether or not he's hurting someone; he's even had the gall to flirt with Reia, something Jinguji's still grumbling about to this day, even if it had happened five months earlier. He even thinks he's better looking than Jinguji, something so clearly false it's laughable, and it makes Jinguji livid to think that Shori has chosen that asshole over him… or, something like that. It would make him angry if he had wanted to date Shori. Which he didn't.
But even though he definitely has no desire to date Shori (and not that it would matter, anyway, since Shori clearly has no desire to date him), it doesn't mean he wants his best friend (he can't stop thinking of Shori that way, even as they see less and less of one another) dating a complete asshole, and so he goes out of his way to inform Shori of Nakajima's numerous and grave shortcomings every time he sees him. Unfortunately, anymore, that's not that often, and so Jinguji is left to stew and pout as Shori grows further and further from him and closer and closer to Nakajima. It makes him want to punch things, but the fact that he feels that strongly about it scares him, and so he tries not to think about it.
And especially today, of all days, he's not going to let that stupid shit get him down, because it's his birthday, and so he goes to rehearsal with his friends and then to Lotteria with Reia afterwards despite the fact that they both have curfews and it's a school night. After all, Jinguji doesn't care, he doesn't care about anything, he's way too cool for that.
But then his phone rings, right in the middle of the story he's telling Reia about how he totally showed up all the kids in sports clubs while playing basketball in gym class, the LED and ringtone informing him that it's a call from Shori. Jinguji can feel Reia's eyes on him, eyebrows raised in that look that he has (one of his only shortcomings; Jinguji sometimes thinks Reia can read his mind), but he can't help it, he can't even remember what he was saying, and stops dead, answering the call on the second ring.
"Happy birthday," Shori says on the other end of the line after Jinguji greets him, and Jinguji can tell by the sound of his voice that he's smiling, can practically see his face at the other end of the line…
"Happy birthday," he manages back, his throat tight and his mouth dry. It's stupid, because it's just his best friend calling to wish him a happy birthday, and yet somehow, to Jinguji, it feels as if the world has stopped. He doesn't know what to say, but "I… I was busy, so I hadn't had a chance to call--" is somehow what's falling out of his mouth, excuses, because despite the fact that Shori is his best friend, he hadn't even thought about contacting him today.
"Oh, that's okay," Shori replies calmly, his voice melodic as ever. "I don't mind."
Jinguji opens his mouth to answer, but his voice is gone. It might not matter to Shori, but it matters to him, matters more than anything, and it makes his head spin, his heart squeeze tight in his chest, no matter how much he tries to deny it to himself.
Before Jinguji can find his voice, Shori speaks again. "I just wanted to let you know that I care. Because you're my best friend. And today is our special day."
And somehow, suddenly, when Shori says those words, nothing else matters.