Hey! Say! JUMPPairing:
Yabu Kota/Okamoto KeitoRating:
"You know if you stay out too late the werewolves will get you,” he whispers.Notes:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY VALEEEEEEEE
. Still can't believe I got this out on time. Apologizes if it doesn't make any sense??? But I loved the little idea you threw at me, and I wanted to make this idea work. I hope your birthday is super special today <3333
Each minute feels like an eternity. Each movement of the clock ticks by. Its hand stops, as if thinking it wants to move, before taking a careful step forward. The more he watches the clock, the more he feels his nerves begin to set aflame. He feels it seep through his blood, his need to run, to be free, but there’s ten minutes. A mere ten minutes more until he can escape.
His tables have been taken care of, their bills left on the tabletop for the customers to bring them to the register. The next shift has come in, claiming any new customers as their own as the host sits them in his former section of the restaurant. He’s checked with the manager. There’s nothing left to do. Only watch the clock tick, tick, tick until his time to clock out finally arrives.
“Yabu-chan,” Hikaru whines, the sound strange to Yabu’s own ears. “You’re good with difficult customers. Help me out here.”
He checks the clock. Seven minutes.
“The dude is annoying,” Hikaru continues. He pulls himself onto the counter, ignoring the dirty looks he receives from the cooks. “You know how some customers won’t talk, just point to what they want on the menu? The guy won’t even do that. He just sits there and I want to strangle him.”
“And do you remember what happened last time you tried to do that?” Yabu asks.
Hikaru rolls his eyes. “That was Inoo, and I was technically off the clock then.”
“Same thing,” Yabu says, fiddling with his bag. “Have you tried talking to him like a normal person?”
Hikaru doesn’t respond.
“Have you only snapped at the guy?”
“That’s not important,” Hikaru says. “The point is, is that the guy is annoying.” He shifts on the counter, getting closer to Yabu. “You love me, right?”
“Like a brother,” Yabu says. He can see where this conversation is going from a mile away.
“And, as a brother from another mother, you would take over this table for me, right?” Hikaru says, batting his eyelashes a few times.
“I don’t love you that much,” Yabu snorts with laughter.
“I’ll give you ten thousand yen to take it from me.”
He wants to laugh, but holds back. He can remember all of the times when they were kids, playing along the riverbank, when Hikaru would offer him ten thousand yen to do something for Hikaru’s enjoyment. What it was to be kids and not have to worry about bills that stack up, coming time after time in the mail.
“Pay up now or no deal,” Yabu says.
Hikaru huffs. “Didn’t think you’d actually say that. I don’t have that much cash on me.” He pulls his wallet out of his back pocket. “How about two thousand? Will that work?"
“You’re lucky I love you so much,” Yabu says, holding out his hand, and Hikaru deposits the paper bills into it.
“You’re the best, Yabu-chan.” He kisses Yabu’s cheek before hopping off the counter. “Buy me dinner later?”
“Not a chance,” Yabu laughs and pockets the money.
Hikaru’s customer is nestled in the back of the restaurant. There are a few customers seated around him, but most are near the front of the house. He’s dressed darkly, a heavy leather jacket still wrapped around his person, eyes downcast, for one reason or another, and his hair is long, curtaining around his face making it difficult to read his expression.
He finds himself pausing, looking at the soul before him, his hands resting his in lap. A string tugs at his mind, urging him to find Hikaru and give him his money back. Something isn’t right about this boy.
“How are you this evening?” he finally says, mouth fighting to form those few words.
The other boy doesn’t move, and Yabu can barely see a hair on his head fall, bowing before the might of gravity. The setting sun’s rays bounce around the restaurant, casting the fluorescent glow into a sea of orange.
“Have you decided what you wanted to eat?” Yabu asks.
The menu sits unopened in what Yabu guesses is the spot the host placed in when he seated the boy.
He looks around the restaurant, and, not seeing his manager in sight, slips into the booth.
“You know if you stay out too late the werewolves will get you,” he whispers.
The man jerks his head up, brown eyes going wide. “You believe in werewolves?”
Yabu’s mouth drops open. He had only meant it as a silly comment, something to try and get the other male to open up, but those eyes, those beautiful eyes searching his soul hold him in his spot. They’re too honest, too trusting, as if the world has yet its burden onto him, and yet there is a weariness to his companion. His age shines through although his mind cannot comprehend all that this man has seen.
“I’m a literature student,” Yabu says. “I believe in whatever realities authors can convince me are true."
“Oh,” the other man says, leaning against the booth seat once more. “I see. You’re one of those practical people.”
“And that means I’m boring, right?” Yabu asks.
“No, no, no,” the other man’s face flushes. “That’s not what I meant. I just- I didn’t think you would-ah, how can I put it?”
“It’s alright, don’t worry,” Yabu laughs, and the tension in the other man’s neck seems to relax at the sound. “I know what you mean. I’m Yabu, by the way.”
“Keito,” he bows his head slightly.
“So what are you thinking about Keito?” Yabu asks, leaning forward onto the table. “You’ve been causing quite the commotion for my colleague. I’ve heard you’ve been ignoring him.”
“I didn’t mean to,” Keito casts his eyes down once more. “I’ve…I just have a lot on my mind. That’s all.”
The panic is ebbing away, allowing a more comfortable feeling to settle in its place. This kid isn’t dangerous, just confused. He’s trying to find his place in the world, like many are. Yabu settles into the booth. He won’t be moving until he gets to the bottom of this.
“Let’s discuss it over coffee,” Yabu motions for Hikaru to come over. “My treat.”
“I can’t let you do that.”
“I insist,” Yabu says, trying to hold off a laugh from how Hikaru is glaring at him from across the restaurant. “You’re plainly distressed over something. I’ve found discussing it can often lead to a reasonable solution.”
Yabu places their orders, two coffees and an order of fried chicken for Keito, and convinces Hikaru to clock him out. He mixes two creams into his own cup, blowing on it before taking a small sip, the liquid burning his tongue.
When Yabu’s mug is half empty, Keito finally speaks.
“It’s my dad,” he says. “He…he has a vision for me that I don’t want to follow.” He shifts in his seat. “He wants me to take over the family business, but it’s not something I want to follow into.”
“What do you guys do for a living?” Yabu asks.
“I can’t say,” Keito said. “It’s…a trade secret. I’ll get in trouble, but he built this…this company from the ground up. He put this blood, sweat, and tears into it, and everyone there respects him. They understand the passion he has and everyone would follow him to the grave.” His hands play with the opened sugar packets. “My dad is the epitome of a natural born leader. He could lead an army with the skill and tenacity he has, and I…I’m just Keito.”
“Well, then ‘just Keito,’ I think you have a negative imagine of yourself you need to get rid of,” Yabu says, fiddling with his mug. “I’m guessing you’ve lived your life comparing yourself to your father, right?”
“It’s hard not to,” Keito says. “He’s perfect in every sense of the word. He knows everything about anything, and he’s been trying to groom me since I was young to be like him. I…I just can’t live up to his expectations."
“It’s because you’re an entirely different person compared to your father,” Yabu says “You have your own likes and dislikes and, just because you’re his son doesn’t mean you’re a carbon copy of his personality.” He picks up his spoon and stirs his cream into his coffee a little more. “Tell me, what are some things you’re good at?”
Keito shrugs. “Nothing really."
“Really?” Yabu says, dropping his jaw and widening his eyes. He knows he looks silly, but he can see the mask Keito wears crack just a little. “Not one thing? There’s nothing you even enjoy doing in your free time?”
“I mean, I like playing my guitar,” Keito says, tugging at the edges of his jacket. “I’ve composed a few songs. They’re not anything good, but I enjoyed it.” He reaches for his mug and takes a sip. “And I really like math. In elementary school I was always quickest with my times tables.”
“Ohhhh.” Yabu smiles. “That’s something you’re good at then!”
“But it’s not anything special.”
“It doesn’t have to be huge to be special,” Yabu says. “I love soccer, and I play every Saturday in my university’s intramural league. My record for juggling the ball is about fifty times. Some of the guys I play with can get up to one hundred. Does that make my record any less special?”
“I guess not,” Keito mutters.
“Of course not,” Yabu says. “To me it’s an accomplishment, and it’s something I’m proud of because it’s special to me. Eventually I’ll grow and become better until my record is fifty-one.” He smiles into his cup. “And I’m sure your father couldn’t do his multiplication tables as quick as you could."
"Keito nods along, a smile tugging at his lips. A member of the wait staff places a plate of fried chicken before him.
“I know it’s easy for me to sit here and say don’t let your father’s accomplishments block how you view yourself, but it’s difficult,” Yabu continues. He wants to reach over, brush Keito’s hand, give him so physical contact to reinforce his words, but the other man is holding one of the chicken legs with both of them. “There will always be someone two steps ahead of you, and someone above them, but deep down you have talents and traits you should be proud of. Slowly but surely you’ll come to love those parts, and the ones you want to cut away.”
“You’re very optimistic,” Keito says. He’s halfway through one of the legs, eyes searching for the nearest waiter, water glass empty.
“Only for strangers sitting alone in restaurants contemplating the meaning of life.”
Keito chokes on his food. “You can’t be serious.”
“It’s a joke, Keito,” Yabu says. He finishes the rest of his coffee. “A fairly bad one at that. Maybe I should ask my friend for better material?”
Keito nods along again, putting the bone, picked clean, on the plate.
An idea pops into Yabu’s head, and he puts it into action before his mind can second guess itself. He takes his pen from his apron and grabs a napkin, scribbling a number he knows by heart onto it before handing it over to Keito.
“What’s this?” he asks.
“My phone number,” Yabu says. “If you ever need any help or just want to talk, that is. I’ve always got an open ear.” He looks deep into his cup, the coffee grounds settled like a thick stew at the bottom. “Bottling all of your emotions will never lead to anything good.”
Days turn into weeks, and Yabu throws himself into work for his thesis. The nights he doesn’t spend working he’s in the library, combing through the stacks of books for the single novel he needs to help prove a part of his paper. Several sections of his paper he’s put on hold, waiting for certain books to be returned so he can search through the contents, pulling the sentences he needs for finishing touches to his research.
A free weekend emerges and he snatches it up before work or school can lay claim to it. He needs a few days to relax to let his mind rest, and, most importantly, shop for his niece’s birthday. With how little time he’s been able to spend with her, he needs to make it up with a small apology present.
The streets of his little town are quiet this morning, old ladies on their balconies to hang their laundry, kids zooming past on their bicycles to play in the local parks. A few times he’s had to press himself close to the bushes lining the side streets, but he doesn’t mind. Kids will be kids, and it’s not like they’re doing it to spite him. He hasn’t seen any cars all morning, but he still looks both ways before crossing the streets. He hands itch to whisk his iPod out of his front pocket, but he’s saving it for the train ride into Tokyo.
The closer he gets to the station, the more people emerge from their homes. Housewives gossiping on the street near the recycle collection sites, and kids dig small holes in the dirt. He crosses a wooden bridge over a small stream, the wood creaking under his sneakers with every step. People go about their day like any other as the buildings grow higher and higher, reaching towards the open blue sky.
He sees a familiar leather jacket exit the convenience store across the street from the train station. A little voice in the back of his head whispers to him, urging him to run forward, to catch up. He doesn’t realize how far he’s gone until his fingers brush the edge of Keito’s jacket.
“Good morning,” he says. “Ah how have you been?”
“Pretty good,” Keito says. He opens the plastic bag and shows the content. “Just getting myself a soda and going home.”
“Not really,” Keito scratches the back of his head. “All of my…my friends are busy today, so I was just going to play some games or something.”
A bright idea. He knows what to do. “Then why don’t you come with me?” Yabu asks. Keito opens his mouth, to turn him down, to deny him, Yabu isn’t sure. He won’t let Keito live in a hole today. “It’ll be fun, and I could use some company.”
It takes Keito a while to respond, as if he’s fighting with himself in the deep confines of his mind. It’s only when he nods in agreement does Yabu realize he was holding his breath.
They take a local train to where it intersects with one of the private railways where they stand side by side, waiting for the express train to Shinjuku to arrive. He keeps a careful eye on Keito, especially when a swarm of people crowds the train in Kyodo. Keito keeps close, his jacket brushing Yabu’s skin as they follow the flow of traffic when they finally arrive.
There’s more people than he remembers, crowds dancing in every which direction as Yabu scans the signs for the metro line they need. His hand seeks out Keito’s, wrapping it in a warm embrace as they skirt through the middle, fighting their way to the steps they need.
His hand feels warm in Yabu’s, so soft yet rough edges. It’s a comfortable weight he doesn’t want to let go of, but he knows that at some point Keito will want the use of his hands back.
When they take the steps up to Ikebukuro, the wide expanses of the city rise before them. People crowd the corners, anxiously waiting to cross into a wonderland of stores and cafes that line the streets. When the green hits the crosswalk, a fountain of people explode, criss crossing each other to reach the train station or the beauty before them.
Yabu doesn’t waste any time. He’s looked it up beforehand, asked his sister what series and shops she frequents the most, and he has the route planned in his head. He keeps a hand wrapped around Keito’s, pulling him through the crowds to a small side street to the next major shopping area, locating the building quickly.
“What are we looking for?” Keito asks once they’ve climbed four flights of stairs.
“Hold on,” Yabu says, combing through the rows and rows of merchandise. “I’ll know it when I see it.”
He finds it where a crowd of girls are, giggling and pointing out all of the handsome male characters in the series. It’s a silly little phone game that’s popular these days, where the player collects special cards for their collection. He picks out her favorites, the purple haired foreigner and the red headed first year, before bringing everything to the counter to pay for the key chains.
“You didn’t need my help,” Keito mutters as Yabu pays.
“I needed the company,” Yabu says, accepting the change from the cashier. “I’ve spent so much time alone it’s nice to have someone to talk to.”
They’re back out onto the streets before Yabu knows it. He glances around, trying to remember which direction he needs to head in for the next shop when something catching the corner of his eye.
Keito’s attention is zeroed in on a game center across the street, the front of the store riddled with UFO catchers filled with prizes from stuffed animals to small key chains and buttons. One of the ones in the front has stuffed dogs in it, and a Chihuahua is front and center.
“Do you want to play?” Yabu asks, nudging him.
He drags Keito across the crowded street, weaving in and out of the foreigners and tourists riddling the street. He pulls his wallet out of his back pocket as they go.
“Stop,” Keito says, trying to pull his hand free, but Yabu’s had a vice grip on him. “I don’t want it.”
“And I want it for you,” Yabu says, slipping a 500 yen coin into the machine and getting six plays from it. “Besides, these things are fun.”
It takes 3,000 yen before Yabu finally tips the dog over the edge, rushing to collect it from the bottom of the machine. The fur is soft under his fingertips, difficult to let go of, but it’s not for him.
“For you,” Yabu says, handing the stuffed animal over.
“You didn’t have to do that,” Keito says.
“I know,” he says. “I wanted to.”
When it’s finally in Keito’s hands, a toothy grin spreading across his face, Yabu’s heart warms in his chest.
He can’t begin to count the days he sees Keito, an ever present member of his life. When he gets off of work, Keito is there, sitting beside his apartment door waiting for him. Even when all Yabu does is sit at his desk, working on his thesis, Keito stays, curled up on his bed snoozing until Yabu finishes for the evening, head perking up whenever Yabu puts down his pen.
“You know wolves weren’t meant to be solitary creatures,” Keito says one Sunday, rain pattering against the windowpane.
Yabu had given up for the day, choosing the curl up on his bed with Keito instead of spending another moment locked behind his desk. One day off wouldn’t hurt.
“They’re supposed to find a place to belong,” Keito says, hand brushing Yabu’s arm, “and they build a life from there.” He breathes out, breath tickling Yabu’s skin. “But some can’t find their home and they wander trying to find it.”
“Eventually they’re find it,” Yabu says, taking hold of one of Keito’s hands, his skin warmer than he expects, “and build a mighty empire from the ground up.”
“Now that’s silly,” Keito says, a smile rising from the depth of his pouty mouth.
“Nothing is silly,” Yabu says, nuzzling closer to him. “The only thing that is, is the amount of homework my professors think is doable each night.”
Keito snorts with laughter, and Yabu’s soul is filled with the urge to kiss him. To see how those lips taste, how they meld against his mouth. To hear how their heartbeats would match the falling rain before crescendoing to a height their bodies would rush to catch up with. He wants to hear the sweet song of Keito’s voice echoing around those four walls, a song for Yabu’s ears only.
He knows better. Knows that in this moment it would only scare Keito away, make his visits less frequent until he disappeared from Yabu’s life entirely. He needs to be free, to be allowed to express himself and escape from whatever reality his father is locking him into.
They haven’t spoken about it since the day they met, but Yabu can see how it wears on Keito. How Keito only spends the night when he looks particularly rough, eyes dark and bags under his eyes, trying to escape from whatever horror waits for him.
He wants to do something, anything, but he doesn’t want to pressure Keito into telling him the details. The confidence he’s seen Keito build, how he stands a little taller, a little straighter…Yabu can’t bear to be the one to tear that down. He sits, and he waits, watching the little details of Keito’s face, how the emotion burst from his face when he smiles.
He settles for what he can, little hugs and moments of affection. He only hopes Keito’s heart warms up slowly but surely.
Winter descends rapidly into the city, blanketing it in an icy chill. More often than not, Yabu finds himself returning to the school library more often for research. One night a week he carves out specifically for Keito. To see him, hug him, breathe in his scent to make sure his senses haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be around him.
He wraps his jacket closer around his body, trying to fight the chill the best he can. He recounts the path in his head once more, remembering the path to the family restaurant Keito picked out for dinner. Something about craving gyuudon, and it was the best place he’s tried so far.
Yabu turns down a small alley, hoping it's the short cut he remembers. His fingers feel like icicles the longer he’s outside, and he hopes Keito’s warmth will be enough to melt them.
Yabu’s shoulder is grabbed and he’s shoved against a wall, knife nearly nicking the side of his throat. His assailant growls something in his ear, but Yabu’s can’t quite hear it. His mind is already turning, trying to find a way out.
He sees someone passing by the alley, and he opens his mouth to shout but the knife draws closer to his throat. He needs something else. Something quick. A kick should do the trick, giving him enough time to-
The knife is gone, dropped to the paved earth as whoever had attacked him runs in the direction Yabu came, haunted screams filling the air. When he looks over to what his attacker saw before he fled, Yabu’s voice catches in his throat.
A wolf, no, a dire wolf. The pure size of the brown beast fills the alleyway, its teeth barred. He maintained eye contact with it, never moving, never breathing.
Wolves….werewolves…they didn’t exist. They couldn’t exist. Yet he could tell the creature in front of him was intelligent. Its eyes were trained on him, never blinking.
There was something in its eyes that pulled at Yabu, the warm brown pulling him in, deeper and deeper until it ran, and Yabu followed after it. He knew that emotion. Knew it well, for he had seen it slowly disappear in the weeks he had become friend’s with Keito.
Keito isn’t at the restaurant when Yabu finally makes it there. No matter how many times he tries to call Keit, it goes straight to voicemail.
It’s a few weeks before Keito picks up his phone, voice hardly getting out the words that they can meet. He can hardly the remember the amount of calls it took, sneaking away during breaks at work to dial the number his heart remembers, trying to hear that familiar voice on the other line.
They meet at Yabu’s apartment, their usual spot, Yabu ushering in the younger boy to his living room so they can talk.
“So you know now?” Keito asks, his focus on the wood flooring.
“And you still want to see me?”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Yabu reaches out for Keito’s hand but he draws away.
“Because I’m a monster,” he says. “I’m a freak of nature that shouldn’t exist, and yet I do. Not to mention I’m a failure,” he continues, hands clasping together, “I couldn’t lead a pack of children even if I tried, and yet I’m expected to when my father passes the leadership to me.” He can see the tears threatening to break in Keito’s eyes. “I’m not made for this. I shouldn’t be trusted with-”
He silences Keito in the only way his mind can think of: a kiss. Soft and sweet, pulling him back to memories of rainy Sundays and restaurant dates. How a single smile could light up a room, and how he longed to see it even after it passed them by.
“I thought I told you,” Yabu whispers, running a hand through Keito’s hair, “that you’re special. You’re one of the most special people I’ve had the please of meeting. I love you for your faults and your blessing,” he places a chastise kiss to Keito’s forehead. “I love you and the wolf within you.”
The light from Keito’s smile is brilliant, filling the room with an energy that Yabu’s eyes can hardly handle, but he pushes on. He wants to see it, to be bathed in that light. For as long as he needs to, for better or worse, he wants to continue seeking that sunshine. Keito deserved the world, and he would give it to him on a silver platter for as long as he lived.