Word Count: approx 12,000 words (in two parts)
Pairing/Focus: Aimiya, Junba
Warnings: Moody and angsty Nino appears in this story.
Summary: Aiba has made too many wrong choices of boyfriends so Nino encourages him to go out with the best choice in Nino’s opinion – Matsumoto Jun. The Problem is Jun is not the one Aiba truly wants.
Notes: Written for murrponchan in ninoexchange.
[It is weeks past the New York trip when Aiba comes to Nino with a life-changing statement.]
It is weeks past the New York trip when Aiba comes to Nino with a life-changing statement.
“Jun asked me to move in with him.”
They are alone in the green room. Nino is certain Aiba has made sure they are alone before telling him this. At first, Nino does not reply. He only turns and stares at Aiba pensively. Nino knows it would come to this one day but it still surprises him. In truth, there is nothing that can prepare him for what havoc he is feeling inside his gut now.
After a long uncomfortable silence, Nino collects himself and responds.
“That’s…umm… good news.” His voice comes out dry. He clears his throat before continues, “I am happy for you, Aiba.” Nino tries to sound as cheery and sincere as possible. He is not sure if his face betrays him.
Aiba’s smile continues. Yet, for a very brief second, Nino swears he sees a flicker of worry and sadness in that innocent pair of eyes. That is before Aiba throws himself on Nino and almost squeezes the life out of Nino’s much smaller frame.
“Thank you Nino. I will try my best.” Aiba’s voice is muffled by overwhelming emotions. “You will be happy, right?” Nino is so occupied with the voice of Aiba breathing into his nape to realize how strange Aiba’s final words are.
After Aiba tells him that he is going to try moving in with Jun, Nino has braced himself for the inevitable change. Moving in is the next giant step in a relationship. For Nino, the change that happens to Aiba is clear.
Aiba is in love.
Aiba is happy.
Aiba is going to move on.
Nino holds his breath upon realizing the fact.
Nino should be happy that his plan succeeds. Finally, Aiba has a long, stable relationship with a dependable good man.
How come he feels like someone has just ripped his heart out?
When the Pandora’s Box is open, Nino is forced to live with his own demon.
Nino is unhappy.
When Nino is unhappy, he fixes it the same way he always does. He retreats back into his own private world.
“You are so quiet.” Sho probably notices that the amount of conversation Nino has made during the taping today has been to the minimum. And if he’s paying attention as much as Nino does, he would also notice that Aiba talks too much and Ohno only speaks one sentence throughout the recording. Nino pretends to be glued to his game and ignores Sho’s comment. He is not looking at his bandmate yet he still can hear Sho’s long, heavy sigh.
“Nino, you know we are here, right? If there is anything you need…” Sho expresses his concern and worry in the only way he knows. But what can Nino say? How is he going to explain to Sho what is going on inside his head and inside his heart right now?
Nino should have said something. Maybe he should thank Sho for being there for emotional support. But Nino does not. He remains quiet. His eyes fixates on his portable game console while his fingers press buttons incessantly.
Even with all the help he knows he can get, even with all the people he knows he can rely on, Nino has made the decision. He is going to go through with this, alone.
And Nino fixes the problem in the only way he knows how. He believes he has problems because he interacts with people. He hates himself because of the way he reacts to human interactions. Hence, the solution, in Nino’s mind, is to get away from people as much as possible. In that way, he wouldn’t have to deal with the problem. In that way, he wouldn’t act out badly and hurt everyone. Then, maybe he would be better, maybe he would feel better. So, Nino spends more time at home. He rarely attends any social events unless he really has to. He still goes to work, he still functions normally, yet he quietly shuts himself in.
It’s not overly obvious to those working with them. But for Arashi, every member can feel it. Nino tries not to look and not to care about Aiba and Jun. Somehow the two seem to be purely professional when they are with the others too. Nino thinks they do that for his benefit, because they are worried about him. And that makes Nino hate himself even more, then he retreats away from the world even more.
The vicious cycle continues. Nino knows that eventually something is going to break.
He just does not realize it would be Aiba.
One night, Aiba comes knocking his door and cries his heart out. Aiba has been in a fight with Jun. They have never fought before. Aiba does not tell Nino what it is that they fight over. Aiba does not want to talk about it and Nino does not want to ask. Nino is afraid it’s because of him. So what Nino does is to tug Aiba in his bed and comforts him in the same way he always does every time Aiba comes crying with him.
“Sleep, Masaki. You will feel better in the morning.” Nino tells his friend softly. He is sitting on the side of his bed while Aiba is wrapped inside a large comfy blanket. His hand is running through Aiba’s hair gently. Outside, the cold wind is blowing and Nino can feel the chill even inside his room. It looks like winter is coming early this year.
Aiba turns on his side away from Nino. Probably Aiba needs some alone time. Nino lowers his face down so close to Aiba’s ear when he whispers, “I will be outside if you need me.” Aiba only murmurs something inaudible yet his slow nod tells Nino he is listening. Nino’s hand moves gently in Aiba’s hair a while longer before he steps aside and leaves the bedroom.
Nino is about to call Jun to let him know that Aiba is at his home when Jun calls first. Nino knows he probably should not butt in their relationship. Whatever they fight over, it is their personal life. But Nino cannot help himself. It is Aiba after all.
“What is this about, Jun?” Nino tries his best not to sound accusing. Although Nino is worried about Aiba, Jun is his friend too.
“Funny you should ask that.” Jun’s tone is not amused. Nino waits for the explanation but none comes. Instead, Jun asks. “Can you look after him tonight? I am going to your place tomorrow morning, if that’s okay with you.” Nino murmurs in agreement and hangs up the phone.
Outside, the sound of wind blowing is getting louder. Nino does not need to look out the window. He knows a storm is coming.
Jun comes to meet Aiba the next morning like he promises. Nino does not know what they talk about. He leaves them in his apartment while he makes a trip to a neighborhood grocery store. He spends quite some time there before coming home with only a carton of milk and a ready-made meal. Nino expects that by the time he gets back, both Aiba and Jun would be gone.
Nino finds out that Jun is but Aiba isn’t.
Aiba spends the rest of the weekend at Nino’s. He passes most of the time by sitting quietly next to Nino on the sofa while Nino concentrates on clearing stage after stage of his game. Once in a while, Aiba would lean on Nino, tilting his head a bit until it rests on Nino’s small shoulder. It is an awkward position but neither of them says anything about it. And even though that position has restricted Nino’s movement and caused him to fail unnecessarily in his game quite a few times, Nino does not say anything. He does not ask Aiba to move. He does not want Aiba to move.
It is late at night but Nino and Aiba still remain where they have been on the sofa. Aiba’s soft hair brushes his skin and Aiba’s breathing rings softly in Nino’s ear. There is only a dim light from the television illuminates the room.
“Nino.” Aiba’s voice breaks the relative monotonicity in the room.
“What is it, Masaki?” Nino mumbles.
“Are we going to be okay?” Aiba asks. His voice is so soft and so quiet Nino hardly hears the question clearly. Nino does not reply right away. Instead, Nino turns his head slightly and places a light kiss on top of Aiba’s hair. Nino’s lips linger on Aiba’s smooth hair for a little while. A million thoughts run through Nino’s mind at that moment. The same exact moment that the guy at his side moves. Nino is back from his thought in time to see Aiba moving in on him.
Then, Aiba’s lips place on top of Nino’s.
They remain connected, both are absorbed into the moment. Until slowly, Aiba pulls away but just for a little. Their faces are still close enough for Nino to still feel Aiba’s breath on his cheek. Aiba’s eyes shine in dim light. It looks like tears are welling up in those round eyes.
“I love you.” Aiba’s voice is barely audible but its meaning echoed strongly. Nino suddenly feels like his body has dropped from the top of Tokyo Tower. Aiba’s hand reaches for Nino’s waist. The warm hand goes under his shirt and lingers on Nino’s soft skin. Nino’s hand suddenly grabs Aiba’s wrist, stopping him from advancing. This cannot be happening. Before Nino can stop himself, he blurts out.
“Stop, Masaki.” Nino wishes he hadn’t said that so harshly. Nino’s frightened eyes meet with Aiba’s sad ones. Tears roll down Aiba’s cheeks as he nods. Nino has to turn away when he adds, “I can’t. Not like this.”
“I know, Nino.” Aiba tries to smile but it pierces Nino’s heart. “I know.” Aiba repeats as if to reassure Nino that everything is okay.
It is almost dawn and the two of them are still on the couch. Aiba is sleeping with his head resting on Nino’s lap. Yet, Nino is wide awake. He sits propped up. One hand caresses the sleeping man’s soft brown hair. Nino’s mind keeps running in circle. Of course, Nino knows that Aiba loves him. Aiba has said it so many times. Yet, Nino pretends he does not understand the meaning of Aiba’s frequent admission. But the truth is Nino knows that Aiba has been in love with him.
But Nino decides never to do anything with such knowledge. He does not want to discuss it with Aiba. He does not want to acknowledge it. So that’s exactly what Nino has been doing. He has been avoiding the issue and pretending he does not know.
Nino hopes that if he keeps ignoring Aiba, one day Aiba would find someone else. Someone who is ready to give Aiba happiness. Someone who is not broken like Nino.
If Aiba keeps looking, he will eventually know that there are better fish in the sea.
To everyone else, Aiba and Jun’s romantic relationship ends quite abruptly and unexpectedly.
While Nino gets so little information of the break-up from Aiba, the information he gets from Jun is even less. As much as Jun is careful about his private life while he is dating Aiba, Jun remains discrete and secretive after the break up. Both of them remain professional. It does not look like anything has happened between them and both Aiba and Jun look perfectly well every moment they are with staff and in front of the audience.
But they are Arashi and they know each other better than everyone else. To members, the break up clearly affects Aiba and Jun. For the first week, they hardly make eye contact. Both of them are hurt. Good thing this is Aiba and Jun – the two persons who care about others more than themselves. So they make more efforts for the sake of the others. Things quickly return to normal, or as close as normal as possible in Nino’s opinion, given the strangeness of the situation. Sho has always been so graceful and understanding since the beginning and he remains quite so after the break up. He gives them space when they need and helps smooth things out when it’s required – on and off screen. Ohno has always been Arashi’s much-needed emotional supporter. He does not talk much but his gentle smiles and random encouraging statements are there at the right time. Nino is certain Aiba and Jun are grateful for the both of them.
But what has Nino been doing during this time? Well, Nino cannot think of anything particularly constructive. He acts like he has always done – like nothing really happens. The banter with Aiba continues and his kind but snarky remarks on Jun go on. By the time the concert tour ends, things seem to go back to the way they are.
Well, almost everything. Except those occasional strange, knowing glares Jun gives him once in a while and the carefully disguised forlorn look Aiba has when he thinks no one is looking.
No one is accusing Nino of anything. But why is Nino feeling like he’s the bad guy in this?
Things between Aiba and Jun come to a peaceful closure on Aiba’s birthday.
It is the last day of their concert tour of the year. So naturally, there is a surprise for Aiba’s birthday celebration during the concert. Nonetheless, the members decide to spend some time celebrating Aiba’s birthday in their unique and private way a little before that.
Starting from the morning, they all take turn congratulating Aiba and wishing him healthy and happy years to come. Ohno and Sho have given Aiba their respective birthday gifts. Even Jun has done it. In the dressing room before their last concert, Jun gives Aiba his gift – a fashionable knitted sweater. Aiba smiles happily and gives Jun a bear hug in front of everyone. It is the first real hug the two have after their relationship ends.
That is when everyone knows Aiba and Jun would be okay. Arashi would be okay.
Jun and Aiba are fine. Ohno and Sho looks relieved.
There is only Nino that still feels that tickling feeling inside his chest when he sees Aiba and Jun hugging.
Everyone else would be okay. Nino is certain. For himself, Nino isn’t quite sure.
But as long as everyone else is fine, Nino can live with that.
It is already a few days after New Year. The busiest time of the year for Arashi has passed. Their concert tour has just ended. And they have spent almost a week during the New Year on a crazy TV show schedule. Now everything is over.
Nino spends the first of his free days in almost a month at home. His eyes are fixated on the television screen. His mind tries so hard to concentrate on the game he is playing. Nino doesn’t want to think about anything else. And his games never fail to provide him the safe sanctuary he has always needed.
Nino especially needs it now. A distraction. Without the unbelievably busy work schedule like in the past month, Nino’s mind wanders to places he does not want it to. Nino does not want to think about what happened before the work frenzy begins. Nino does not want to think about that night when he and Aiba kissed. He does not want to think about the past few weeks of slightly awkward air among Arashi members while Aiba and Jun have tried their best to mend their relationship and recover their friendship. So he buries himself in games and more games.
On his kitchen table, a gift-wrapped box has been sitting there, untouched, for the past three weeks. It is Aiba’s birthday gift. Nino has bought it weeks before Aiba’s birthday. The gift he carefully chose but is too afraid to give to Aiba. Nino hardly ever does that anyway - giving Aiba his gift on his birthday. It would look too obvious. It would look like he tries too hard. So for him, it would always be either days before or days after. For this year, maybe a few days after they come back to work, Nino would give Aiba the gift. He would apologize half-heartedly for giving the gift so late, blame their busy schedule, and pretend that he has just remembered to buy Aiba the gift days after his birthday passes.
Nino knows that despite the lateness Aiba would look overly happy. He would thank Nino with a crushing hug and say “thank you” with that bright smile of his. Nino would slap him on the head for embarrassing him, even if there is no one around. Aiba would laugh like he is the happiest person on earth.
It is the laugh Nino craves so much. It is the reason why Aiba’s gift for this year is still on the kitchen table even though Nino wants to throw it away and pretend he forgot about it so many times. But given everything that’s happened in the past several months, Nino cannot say he deserves that kind of treatment – that kind of happiness - from Aiba.
The “Game Over” appears on his huge TV screen and it brings Nino back to his present. He lets out a deep long sign before throwing the game controller aside. This is useless.
Then the doorbell rings.
When Nino opens the door, he is genuinely surprised to see Jun standing at his doorstep.
“My doorman is letting everyone in nowadays, isn’t he? I am going to have a serious talk with him tomorrow.” Nino says in pretend annoyance, yet he steps aside to let Jun walk inside his apartment.
“Don’t be so snarky, Nino.” Jun makes his way inside Nino’s living room and heads straight toward the kitchen. Nino notices he is carrying a large bag. “You did not show up at my house party yesterday and you didn’t pick up any calls. They were worried.” Jun says casually while unpacking food from the heating bag. He carefully rearranges steak and side dishes onto plates.
Nino doesn’t tell Jun that he didn’t forget the party invitation. He just decided not to go. But then, Jun probably knows that already.
Nino isn’t exactly hungry but he hasn’t eaten anything proper in the last two days. More importantly, he is not going to say no to expensive beef when it is offered to him for free. So he wastes no time when Jun offers him the plate.
“You shouldn’t simply disappear. Retreating into your own world is not going to solve anything.” Jun starts as Nino digs into the food. Jun also wastes no time. He hits right to the point way too quickly. Nino grunts. Jun should at least give him some quiet time to enjoy his meal.
“This is how I like to spend my days off. I thought you knew.” Nino replies, intentionally avoiding the question. Jun snorts, not minding any of Nino’s reaction.
“The present on the table in your kitchen. It’s Aiba’s birthday present, isn’t it?” Jun nods his face in the direction of Nino’s kitchen. Nino’s lack of answer probably confirms it for Jun. “The receipt in the bag said you bought it three weeks ago. Way before Aiba’s birthday. You still haven’t given it to him.” Of course, Jun would notice it. Jun is always good with details. Nino just stares at Jun. Sometimes it is better not to tread on some specific topic he does not want to talk about in the first place.
Jun looks at Nino’s unusual quietness and sighs. Although Nino is normally full of witty remarks, trying to pry Nino’s mouth open when Nino does not want to can be extremely hard.
Knowing it is not the right time yet, Jun stays quiet. He sits on the sofa next to Nino and pushes a can of beer in the other man’s direction. Nino takes it and starts drinking. Jun lets Nino finish the rest of his food in peace while he flips through channels on Nino’s cable TV.
As Nino slowly goes over his food, his mind wanders away. Nino knows he has to talk to Jun. He owns the man that much. Jun has made the first step by visiting him, alone, hence giving him an opportunity to say things that need to be said. It’s Nino’s turn to clear things up with Jun.
Over an hour passes and all the food is gone. It’s the longest Nino has ever spent eating something alone. Nino still sits rather quietly on his sofa with Jun patiently waiting, observing him, in an armchair close by. Jun is polite enough not to stare directly at Nino’s face for the past hour but his occasional glances in Nino’s direction tells Nino that Jun certainly has something to say. Nino can tell Jun is not leaving his apartment until he gets to say what he has in mind.
“I know it’s you who played matchmaker for Aiba and me.” Jun gives up waiting for Nino to start. He brings them back to the real reason for his visit as soon as he sees Nino looks comfortable enough for the discussion. “I want to thank you for that.”
It is certainly not what Nino expects. He did not think he will get a “thank you” from Jun. He definitely does not deserve a “thank you” given everything that happened.
Jun lets his back fall into the comfort of the armchair. “You may not know it but the truth is I have always liked Aiba. A lot.” Words come out of him so casually. Jun looks relaxed. “Thanks for allowing me to be with him, even just for a little while.”
Nino looks at Jun in confusion. Doesn’t Jun say “allow”?
Jun meets his eyes and chuckles.
“I know Nino. We all know.” Jun gives Nino an understanding smile. “Aiba is in love with you. He has always been.” There is a hint of sadness in the last statement. Jun shakes his head a little to clear his thoughts. “But you are not ready for him. So Aiba looks for love somewhere else instead.”
Nino’s whole body becomes rigid. He wants to deny, to scream, and to yell at Jun for talking all the nonsense. But he cannot. Of course, he can’t. What Jun is saying is true.
“But Aiba isn’t looking for just anyone. He has found what he is looking for a long time ago.” Jun pauses. He looks straight into Nino’s eyes as he finishes, “It’s you, Nino.”
There is no words in exchange between them for what Nino feels like an eternity. Jun has said what he is here for. Nino knows it is his turn. Despite being the witty one in Arashi, at the moment like this Nino finds that words are hard to come by. He thinks and thinks again, carefully trying to rearrange his thoughts and feelings into the right words. Finally, he speaks, although he sounds so weak and uncertain.
“He will get hurt if we are together. I am not the right type for him. Aiba will realize that.”
Nino admits he puts himself in this scenario so many times before. The what-if that involves him and Aiba going out. Nothing that ever plays in his mind ends well. “Sooner or later, I am going to hurt him. I am going to disappoint him.”
All love leads to heartache. Every relationship leads to broken hearts. No one is staying with you forever. Same sentences keep playing in Nino’s mind. They are always there in the back of his mind, dominating his every thought and action.
“I don’t want to hurt him.” Nino whispers.
The thought of Nino hurting Aiba either intentionally or unintentionally is unbearable for Nino. Yet, he knows it is unavoidable if he goes out with Aiba. He won’t be able to help it. He is going to hurt Aiba, again and again. It is the possibility Nino cannot live with.
Jun looks at him with an unreadable expression for almost one full minute. Jun is thinking about what Nino says and about how he can convey his thoughts at that point. Jun wonders whether it is his place to say such a thing. Finally, he makes up his mind. Jun decides Nino needs a push.
“You say you don’t want to hurt him. But you are, Nino. You are hurting him by pushing him to someone else.” Jun says emphatically. He leaves out the part where the others also get hurt. There is no need to rub salt in the wound. Nino already knows. They all have been hurt by Nino’s avoidance and indecision.
“Aiba is not going to be able to get on with his life, you know.” Jun continues. “He keeps looking for something he is not going to find. Not unless you give it to him.” Jun’s tone is solemn. Jun never blames Nino outright for his and Aiba’s failed relationship. All he talks about is what would make Aiba happy. As long as Aiba still has his heart fixed on Nino, being with Jun, or anyone else, is not going to make Aiba happy. But Jun also knows he cannot force someone into a relationship. In the end, we cannot get everything we want.
“Aiba probably denies this but I believe he is still waiting. If you don’t ever want to have a relationship with him, you should make it very clear to him, Nino. Tell him there is no hope. So Aiba can move on. So we can move on.” Jun’s final words are strong and forceful. He is pushing, challenging Nino with the decision Nino hopes he would never have to make.
Are they going to stay the same or are they going to move on?
It is time Nino decides.
After talking to Jun, Nino slowly and reluctantly packs his bag. He knows it has to come to this someday. He should talk sincerely and openly to Aiba. Jun is right. Nino’s reluctance to move in either direction would cause Aiba to remain unclear about his life. Aiba would be unable to move on. As Jun suggests, Nino probably should clear things up with Aiba. He should let Aiba know that he should no longer wait for something that will never happen.
They are friends and that’s it.
Standing in front of Aiba’s apartment, Nino knocks on the door weakly. Nino may look confident and secured most of the time but right now his heart is beating so fast. There is a burning inside him that Nino isn’t sure what it is.
Soon, Nino can hear Aiba’s voice coming toward the door. Aiba is talking. Is there someone else here too? Nino wants to bail right at that moment but the door is open faster than he can disappear.
Aiba’s face lightens up as soon as he sees it is Nino at his doorstep. He quickly excuses himself off the phone and lets Nino inside his room.
“It’s Sho. He is wondering if I want to go hiking with him tomorrow.” Aiba states informatively. There is no need for Aiba to let Nino know who he is talking to on the phone. Nino would never ask. Yet, that simple declaration of plain fact makes Nino feel better. It is like Aiba worries Nino would think it’s someone else. Aiba cares about Nino’s feelings.
Then Nino realizes. This is exactly the kind of thoughts he should not be having. He needs to let Aiba be. Aiba should get on with his life and his personal relationships. Aiba should not be concerned with what Nino would think of it.
Almost right after he makes his way to the sofa, Nino takes the present out of his bag and hands it to Aiba. .
“It’s late. Sorry.” Nino mumbles.
“No. No. This is perfect. It can be my birthday and New Year present at the same time.” Aiba throws his arms around Nino and gives him a squeeze of his life. “Thank you, Nino.” Aiba mumbles into Nino’s nape, “I am so happy.” Aiba’s words are a little shaky.
Nino is about to move away when he realizes he cannot. Aiba is holding on to him firmly. “Please, can we stay like this…just for a bit longer?” Aiba’s voice is so quiet Nino can hardly hear what he says. Aiba is not letting him from the hug anyway. They remain like that for what Nino feels like eternity. A flood of emotions rushes through him. Jun’s words play over in his mind.
Are they going to stay the same or are they going to move on?
It is time Nino makes a decision.
Nino lets out a heavy sigh. This is too difficult.
Nino gently pushes Aiba away from him but he still holds both of Aiba’s arms. “I am sorry, Masaki.” Nino rests his gaze towards the background. The only thing he certainly is not looking at right now is Aiba’s pleading eyes. “I am sorry.” Nino repeats. “Between us. It is not going to happen.” Even Nino feels that his voice is so weak it lacks conviction. But it is as best as Nino can manage under his circumstance.
There is a spark in Aiba’s eyes. His facial expression does not change but his eyes say it all for him. Aiba’s heart has just been broken. And with it, Nino’s heart.
Eventually, Aiba finds his voice. He whispers so quietly, “Don’t you love me?”
“Of course, I do.” Nino replies truthfully. His voice is soft and sincere. He forgets that for his purposes a lie would probably be better. But Nino does not want to lie. He does not want to pretend. Not right now. “You know I love you.”
“So what’s the problem?” The look Aiba gives Nino is so honest. Aiba is truly confused. Nino has to gather himself a bit before he can answer the words that he has carefully prepared before he came here.
“I am an anti-social pessimistic loner, Masaki. You deserve someone better.” Nino has played this scene in his mind so many times. He turns away from Aiba, like he has pictured it. “We are better off as friends, trust me.” Nino is about to turn and walks away when Aiba’s clear voice stops him.
“No, you are wrong.” Aiba says it so simply and matter-of-factly. “I don’t deserve anyone better. There is no one better.” Aiba moves forward and takes Nino’s hand in his. He squeezes it slightly. “And no matter what you say or do, one thing will never change, Nino.” Aiba’s smile is so gentle and so loving Nino forgets to breathe, “I will always love you Nino. Only you. That will not change no matter what happens in our lives, no matter what happens between us.”
Aiba slowly lets go of Nino’s hand, allowing Nino to step away, but Nino does not. Nino cannot. Aiba still stares into Nino’s frightened eyes as he continues, “You can walk away from all we have today and disappear, and I will still be here, Nino. Even when you don’t love me anymore, I will still love you.” Aiba’s smile saddens a bit as he looks past Nino to the door. “I know you don’t want a relationship. You want me to be happy with someone else.” Aiba’s voice gradually weakens. “If you want me to try being happy with someone else, I will do it – for you. But don’t expect me to be in love with someone else, Nino, because I never will.”
Nino is frozen in place. He doesn’t move. He doesn’t turn. He remains absolutely still.
Aiba waits for Nino’s response patiently but only silence is Nino’s reply. Eventually, Aiba’s head drops dejectedly. His posture slumps. Aiba stands silently for a bit longer then he chuckles. A smile returns to his face and Aiba turns back to his usual cheery self. The serious yet sincere Aiba has retreated back deep inside the cheerful exterior once again.
“Anyway, thanks for the present, Nino.” Aiba beams. He turns and about to reach for the present now resting on the table in the living room when Nino’s hand snatches his arm, stopping him from moving away. Aiba looks at Nino in surprise.
“Are you sure, what you’ve said?” Nino asks in almost a whisper. Aiba’s eyes are full of surprise at first, then they turns into strong determination.
“Every single word of it.” Aiba replies firmly.
“Then, let’s try it.” Nino’s voice is strong and firm. Nino’s expression changes. Nino has found his confidence. It may go against his better judgement but his heart tells him this is the right thing to do. One more look at Aiba and Nino knows.
Aiba looks at Nino questioningly. He does not want to assume. So, Nino makes it clear.
“Let’s try ‘us’. If you are not going to change your mind, there is only one thing left for us to do.” Nino lowers himself on one knee, he takes Aiba’s both hands in his and squeezes them firmly. He looks up to Aiba’s bewildered face as he says each word carefully,
“Aiba Masaki. Would you consider going out with me?” Nino’s eyes are so full of determination while tears form in Aiba’s brightened eyes.
“I would love that.” Aiba replies before he lowers himself next to Nino. They merge into one as their lips reach each other’s.
As they part for air, Nino whispers, “It’s going to be difficult, you know. Being with me.”
Aiba smiles softly and reassuringly before he replies, “Don’t worry, Nino. I am going be with you every step of the way.”