pairing: Yaotome Hikaru/Inoo Kei
warning: somewhat unhealthy mentality towards relationships
word count: 3,933
author's note: This is another installment of idolverse. It's the next in timeline after もっとみてよ、みつめてよ and Common Sense, so it's meant to be read third.
summary: "Think of me as a friend… an admirer, really, then," Hikaru responds evenly, and before the words have even fully left his mouth, Inoo believes.
Inoo's hands are shaking as he leans against the door of the Chuo-Sobu line at eleven-fifty on Tuesday morning, no matter how hard he tries to stop them. In one hand, he clutches the strap of his shoulder bag with white-knuckled intensity, as if his life depends on it; with the other hand, he does his best to hold his phone steady as he flips through his blog comments, watching the text pass before his eyes without reading any of it. He hopes desperately that he looks nonchalant; he feels as if everyone on the train can tell just how nervous, just how much in anticipation he is, but from behind his mask and under the brim of his hat, he tells himself, there's no way anyone knows. A huge crowd gets off and on at Shinjuku; he's just another person in their midst, and besides, he has more important things to worry about. After all, the next stop is Yoyogi, and his mind is already there, already on the clandestine meeting that is (probably) about to happen there. His heart pounds in his chest at the thought; he doesn't know what it is about Hikaru (or whatever his name really is) that makes him so worked up, but there's no denying that right now he's more anxious than he feels like he's ever been before.
It feels like decades and a blink of an eye at the same time before the doors are opening and the train announcer is announcing Yoyogi (please change here for the Yamanote Line and the Oedo Subway Line), and he stumbles off the train in a daze, glancing around the platform like a glassy-eyed tourist before finding his way to the stairs down towards the station exit. He swipes out and heads towards the park with his head in a fog; he can't remember any of it even though it's only a few moments ago as he makes his way down the path. He doesn't really know what's making him like this-- of course, he knows deep down that he's really essentially breaking the rules, meeting a fan outside of demachi or a fan event; he knows the gravity of the situation, but even then, he's reassured himself that just being in the same park at the same time can't be construed as that bad, and so he's not sure what's making him act as if he's feverish or else insane.
But he doesn't have much time to contemplate it, because suddenly, there Hikaru is in front of him, and Inoo feels like a character out of a drama as his heart lurches at the sight. It seems as if dramatic building music would suit the situation, but instead, there's only the sound of other people passing them in the park, completely oblivious to the fact that Inoo feels like his world is starting and ending at the same time. Hikaru, for his part, looks completely nonchalant, doing something on his phone with a vaguely amused smirk on his lips, his eyes lowered such that he's not meeting Inoo's gaze. Perhaps he hasn't seen Inoo at all, or perhaps he has; Hikaru seems eerily omniscient when it comes to Inoo's life, his heart, and just the thought is enough to make Inoo even more tense than he already is. He doesn't know what to do; he can't approach Hikaru, not really, not when Hikaru is a fan and it's in his contract not to approach anyone like him outside of work, and so, after a moment of frozen panic, he walks towards the bench where Hikaru sits… and then keeps walking past.
He doesn't know if he's made the right decision, doesn't know what that even is… heck, he doesn't really even know what he's doing, but he only has to waver in indecision for a moment before he senses movement behind him, and, as he rounds a curve in the path, can see Hikaru has stood up and is now following him in his peripheral vision. The knowledge makes Inoo's stomach flipflop, though whether in a good way or a bad way, he can't tell, but he tries to act casual, act as if he hasn't seen, because he doesn't know what else to do. He walks another few meters, but Hikaru simply follows, without any word or indication that he's planning to approach Inoo, and eventually, the tension and the buildup of it gets to be too much, and finally, Inoo stops, instead turning to face Hikaru, his heart beating out of his chest.
He isn't sure what he's expecting but all Hikaru does is smile his enigmatic smile and wave, and Inoo isn't sure if this is the beginning or the end.
They end up going to get Indian food together in a run-down little hole-in-the-wall place a few blocks from Shinjuku station. It's a bit seedy and dimly lit, but the odd setup and tables pushed into cramped corners actually works out ideally for someone like Inoo, who's dealt with his fair share of sketchy locales and would be willing to deal with more still in order to protect his identity. Still, it's an unknown place with an unknown companion, which leaves him a little tense as he perches on the end of his seat, trying to focus on the items on the menu, not how grimy the plastic booklet feels in his hands, or the nervous, paranoid sensation that everyone's watching him, or the bubbling feeling that he's getting from proximity to Hikaru even still.
Hikaru, for his part, seems completely at home in the setting, making congenial conversation with the store owner before flipping open his menu with a flourish. "If you need help deciding, let me know," he offers, glancing up to give Inoo a lopsided grin, and Inoo doesn't know what it is about Hikaru that makes him feel as if butterflies have permanently moved into his chest.
He lets Hikaru order for him, because he doesn't eat Indian very often (doesn't eat out very often, on his budget), and because he couldn't really think straight at the moment even if they were at McDonald's. When Hikaru raises his hand nonchalantly and effortlessly, a waiter responds so immediately that Inoo is awed; when Hikaru reads the menu, he doesn't get tripped up by the difficult Indian words and food names. Despite his unbrushed hair and stubbly upper lip and completely disheveled appearance, there's just something about Hikaru that resonates with Inoo in ways that he doesn't understand, something that draws out feelings in his heart that his mind can't seem to fully comprehend. Hikaru rattles off the set menu options to the waiter with a practiced confidence that, for reasons he doesn't really understand, takes Inoo's breath away.
Once they're left in relative solitude again, Hikaru turns that smile back to Inoo, and it's hard to breathe, hard to focus on anything but the penetrating gaze of his eyes. It's as if Hikaru is more of a person than Inoo has ever met in his life; nothing about him seems superficial, everything is mysterious and deep and under the surface. His toothy, uneven smile is a black hole, promising secrets and hidden truths beyond, and Inoo is helpless, is slowly but surely being dragged in.
"So, tell me about yourself," Hikaru says after a moment, leaning over the table to put his elbow on the table and resting his face against his palm. He never breaks eye contact with Inoo, and Inoo feels as if he's been cast under a spell, as if he's frozen in place by that gaze.
"I…" he struggles, his mind a mess of what's going on and what are you doing here and this is a fan! but also this guy clearly cares about you as a person, and it's all he can do to finally manage, "E-everything about me is in my bio…" Which isn't a lie, really; their bios, by and large, are based in fact, leaving out details more than altering them.
But Hikaru shakes his head, reaching out with his free hand and placing his palm on top of Inoo's, his long fingers curling around Inoo's delicate, slender ones. Inoo's heart leaps into his throat, and his hand feels as if it's the only part of his body, as if the feeling of Hikaru's hand on his own is the only sensation his nerves will pick up, but then he's sent reeling again a moment later when Hikaru speaks.
"I don't mean you as an idol. I want to know about the real you," Hikaru says with a seriousness that almost scares Inoo, and in that moment, Inoo knows that he's completely lost in Hikaru's gravity.
He goes back three Tuesdays later without even a shadow of hesitation. He feels so strongly that he needs to see Hikaru again that it's almost scary, but he can't bring himself to care. He doesn't know what it says about him that having someone be truly interested in him as a person, not just his image or his looks or the character he pretends to be onstage, has made him so crazy; perhaps he's desperate, or perhaps he's lonely after a life of not being very popular or very good at making friends, after a middle school and high school career mainly of bullying and exclusion and a college experience up until now with only one or two friends (outside of Daiki and Keito, of course), but whatever the reason, he really doesn't care. Unlike all of his previous friendships and relationships, where Inoo had done all the seeking, all the pursuit, Hikaru makes him feel special, makes him feel wanted, and he can't give up that feeling, not yet.
Besides, he's convinced himself, Hikaru seems more trustworthy than the average fan, at the very least. When Inoo had asked more about him, Hikaru had disclosed that his name really was Hikaru ("Yaotome Hikaru, but no one calls me by my last name, so Hikaru is fine, really,") and told Inoo a little bit about his work and his hobbies, and really, it had felt pretty much like a normal first meeting between normal people. Hikaru hadn't asked for his contact information, or taken photos of him, or done anything to indicate that he was planning on stalking Inoo or engaging in any other sort of unsavoury fan behaviour, and so, despite the fact that really, technically, this is going against his contract in a big way, he can't bring himself to believe that he's doing anything wrong.
Despite the fact that he's done this once before already, he feels almost as nervous the second time around-- what if he gets caught? What if Hikaru isn't there? What if… well, anything could go wrong, it seems, and even if that's being overdramatic, Inoo can't help the fact that his heart is beating out of his chest yet again as he approaches the park. But sure enough, Hikaru is there, smiling that same heart-stopping smile as Inoo comes nearer-- even if he wanted to stop now he couldn't help himself. Hikaru's smile completely captivates him, makes him want to tell Hikaru anything he wants to know… but it's fine, really, because even if Hikaru is a fan, he isn't that sort of fan… right?
Hikaru brings him to a Chinese restaurant this time, making casual conversation along the way, and it's a little easier to relax, a little easier to feel comfortable, to forget about the idol-fan context. Hikaru is witty and funny, telling interesting stories and making jokes that Inoo would never have expected but somehow make him laugh until his sides hurt, and he laughs, too, when Inoo tries to be at least somewhat witty and funny in return. It feels good, it feels mutual, it feels as if they really click together, and the sensation warms Inoo more than the heating of the little Chinese place as they step inside and out of the December chill.
The conversation continues after they're seated and Hikaru has ordered for them; Inoo can't even read half the kanji on the menu despite having studied Chinese in college, and he's more than happy to trust in Hikaru. The way he says the words when he orders sounds almost like poetry and Inoo feels as if he could listen to those meaningless syllables forever… but then the conversation picks up again, and Hikaru's words are just as transfixing. Inoo tells him about school, about his family, about his childhood experiences; he talks as if he's known Hikaru all his life. Somehow, it's easy; everything he says, Hikaru responds as if it's the most interesting thing he's ever heard, which is more than pretty much anyone else done for him… well, ever.
But an hour later, Inoo realizes abruptly, Hikaru is still a fan, and no matter how uncreepy he seems, no matter how truly interested in Inoo as a person he is, it doesn't change the fact that Inoo continues to see him in the audience fairly regularly and at demachi, as well. And so, as the beginning of rehearsal looms sooner and sooner, finally, he manages softly… "I need to go… and… you know, I really shouldn't be meeting with a fan…"
He's worried that Hikaru will be angry, or that he'll be offended, or hurt, or that he won't want to see Inoo anymore after that, but he only smiles again, that same smile, and Inoo is melting even before Hikaru takes his hand between his own.
"Think of me as a friend… an admirer, really, then," he responds evenly, as if he'd never really been a fan in that sense even to begin with, and before the words have even fully left Hikaru's mouth, Inoo believes.
He continues to see Hikaru over the next six months-- he doesn't see the harm so long as he's careful, and he can't stop, not now. After all, Hikaru isn't like other fans, Hikaru cares about Inoo, wants to hear about his life, his experiences, his feelings, with no ulterior motive, for no reason other than that he cares about Inoo. Their dates have increased in frequency over the months, first to at least twice a month, then at least three times, until it became a consistent weekly meeting, every Tuesday at lunch time. Like normal friends do, not at all like an idol and a fan, he tells himself over and over again, though, by the end of six months, he more or less believes it.
After all, Hikaru might still come to his shows, might still wave to him at demachi, but isn't it normal for one friend to want to support another in his endeavors? Hikaru has never shown any signs of any other sort of normal fan behaviour, doesn't send Inoo creepy letters or post comments on his blog about how one day they're going to get married, or something, so there's no reason to suspect anything out of the ordinary. In fact, Hikaru not only cares about him as a person more than any fan, but he also cares about Inoo as a person more than pretty much anyone else in Inoo's life besides Keito, Daiki, and his immediate family, and honestly, even if he were in the front row of every performance, that would be enough to win Inoo's trust.
And so they go on this way, chatting and eating together, learning about one another's lives and interests and personalities. Hikaru is a little mysterious, a little vague when it comes to the details of his life, but, Inoo has come to learn, that's just how he is. And so he doesn't feel uncomfortable telling Hikaru about his day to day experiences and his hopes and dreams for the future, doesn't worry telling him stories about Keito and Daiki, about rehearsal and filmings, things that the public isn't supposed to know. Because Hikaru is trustworthy, Hikaru is his friend, and he goes so far out of his way for Inoo that Inoo would honestly feel bad keeping things from him.
After all, when Hikaru goes out of his way to do nice things for Inoo, how could he possibly be anything but kind? He takes time out of his busy schedule to meet, he always picks quiet and secluded places to protect Inoo's privacy, and even though this has been going on for months and the amount certainly has added up to some ungodly sum, like clockwork, he pays for Inoo's meal every week. "Are you sure you're okay with treating me…?" Inoo had asked at first, hesitant and embarrassed about his inability to afford this sort of food for himself, but, "Of course," Hikaru had responded, that same smile stealing Inoo's breath and his heart all over again, "I want to treat you," and that had been the end of that. How could Inoo deny Hikaru anything when Hikaru was so generous, so caring towards him?
But he doesn't want to anyway, doesn't want to keep anything from Hikaru. Hikaru is what he's wanted all is life, really, what he'd always searched for and never found in his lonely high school years and his few college boyfriends who'd always lost interest in him after a few dates. He doesn't know what it is about him that drives people away, but while being an idol is fun and fulfilling, no number of fans could possibly fill the hole in his heart that, he's come to realize, is perfectly Hikaru-shaped. And as they get closer, all the things that had always bothered him about Hikaru start to fall away; Hikaru's disheveled appearance begins to seem endearing to him, his wrinkled, plaid shirts and ill-fitting pants a quirk of his character, and on the rare occasions when Hikaru has shaved within the past day or so before their meeting, something about his face just seems a little empty.
It feels good, to care about someone for who they are and to have them care about him for who he is in return, not for who he pretends to be, who he's presented as onstage but for everything about him, good and bad and in-between. And so, as the weeks go on, he finds himself spending more and more of his free time thinking about Hikaru, wondering what he's doing, where he is, what he's thinking about. He still has Hikaru's phone number, and more than once, he's tempted to use it, but it really is against the rules for him to be giving out his contact information to anyone besides his family and people from work, and so, despite the fact that Hikaru really isn't a fan, he refrains, instead allowing his mind, his heart to revolve around Hikaru, as if Hikaru were his personal sun. Sure, it's not perfect, but Inoo won't let being an idol come between him and the closest non-work friend he's had possibly in his entire life.
By late June, Hikaru has become such a fixture in Inoo's life that he can barely remember what things were like before their weekly meetings started. Certainly he must have been desperately lonely, he thinks, because he can't imagine how things would possibly be if the amount of time and energy he spends on Hikaru, either being with him or thinking about him, was left unused. He doesn't recall being extremely unhappy before last fall, but he can't even conceive of returning to that sort of life, without the person who understands him, who cares about him the most in the whole world, who occupies so much of his consciousness, so much of his mind, so much of his heart.
And really, his feelings for Hikaru are reaching sort of a dangerous high, he thinks as he lies in bed at night wondering if Hikaru is still at his work or if he's out drinking with friends or if maybe, just maybe, he's also lying in bed thinking about Inoo, too. It's bad, he knows, to let himself get this way, when it's totally against the rules for him to be even thinking about this sort of feeling, when it would put not only his but also Daiki and Keito's careers on the line, when Hikaru probably doesn't think of him that way, is just a friend…
Only, Hikaru had said admirer, said that he was Inoo's admirer, and even now, the words ring in Inoo's ears so loudly that he thinks Hikaru might be right be his side. He dreams about them at night, wakes up yearning to hear Hikaru say them again in the morning, and it really is bad, but he's already so lost to the mysterious pull of Hikaru's aura, his attention, his smile that there's really nothing he can do. Sure, it's a little pathetic that he spends a lot of his time pining away on one-sided feelings for a friend, it's a little embarrassing to think that he's behaving like a high school kid or a character from a manga, but he can't help it. When he thinks about Hikaru, his heart does somersaults in his chest over and over, as if he's floating in space and can't hold himself down.
But he's not hurting anyone as long as he keeps the feelings to himself, he thinks, and so he goes on, hiding his feelings, his friendship, his… everything to do with Hikaru, really-- he feels guilty for keeping it all from Daiki and Keito, but he just know they wouldn't understand, and he can't give Hikaru up, he just can't. Maybe it says something about the way he feels about Hikaru that he feels like he has to keep him a secret, but he doesn't want to face it, doesn't want to think about anything unpleasant when it comes to Hikaru. Hikaru brings light into his life no matter how stressed or unhappy he is, and he's willing to do anything to keep that in his life. Perhaps it's selfish, but he doesn't care; he's happy just to spend Tuesdays with Hikaru, and Hikaru seems happy too, and no matter what else Inoo is feeling under the surface, that's what matters, right?
And so they go on this way, meeting once a week and sharing conversation and stories and exotic foods, and Inoo thinks that things couldn't get much better… that is, until the Tuesday before his birthday rolls around, and Hikaru blows away all of his expectations all over again. Or rather, Inoo wasn't really expecting anything-- sure, his birthday is in his profile, but Hikaru already pays for his meals and occasionally his transportation to and from out-of-the-way restaurants, as well, and really, that's all that Inoo could ask for, for Hikaru to facilitate them spending time together. But on the Tuesday before Inoo's birthday, Inoo finds Hikaru in the park with a sly grin on his lips, and once he brings Inoo to a somehow both chic and run-down little cafe down a side street in Ebisu, he presses a box into Inoo's palm, his grin only growing.
"Happy birthday, Ino-chan," Hikaru says quietly as Inoo opens the box to reveal a little gold pendant on a chain, and as he looks back up into Hikaru's eyes in shock, his breath caught in his throat and his heart leaping out of his chest more than ever, he knows that Hikaru is his sun, and without a doubt, life would be impossible without him.