Matsumoto Jun/Shibutani Subaru (sort of), Matsumoto Jun/Ninomiya Kazunari (friendship)Rating:
October 16th, 2014Word Count:
In which Jun throws himself into work after a bad break up, Nino worries, and Subaru makes tea.Notes:
I owe so much to my betas and and some friends/colleagues/sales reps! for general handholding or just calming me down, so thank you to everyone ♥ This was originally written for the JE Otherworlds challenge.After Hours
Jun felt like there was a certain sense of peace when it's two in the morning and he was the only person left in the office. He liked to switch off the main lights if he was the only person around, as he had ample light streaming from the hallways. Still, Sho had called him creepy more than once.
He shook his head. Better not to think about Sho. Not when he was trying to get the Fall catalogue done on time.
He leaned closer to his laptop, typing out capsule after capsule, thinking he'd go back and edit any mistakes in the morning. And of course, exact revenge on the new intern that just quit, leaving him with twice the work when they were already behind in the first place.
Jun wasn't required to be in until nine that morning, which didn't mean much when he had left the office at three. As he passed by the front desk, Aiba gave him a look, of the if-you-don't-take-better-care-of-yoursel
f-I'll-stage-an-intervention sort, but Jun ignored him. He knew that Sho had been lingering at the front desk more often than usual ever since Aiba was transferred.
There were things that were inevitable, Jun believed. Nishikido and Yamashita were going to leave early on Friday no matter what kind of deadline they were on, and how far behind their work was. Quarterly sales meetings were always going to end with some sort of epic shouting match between Nakai-san and Nagase, until Satoshi would say something to distract them and have Nakai trying to get at him instead. And Sho - proper, "definitely going places" Sakurai Sho - was always going to get dumped by Jun because it's tiring how he was oh-so-careful about keeping their relationship secret, like he was ashamed for anyone to know about Jun, and then have it all threaten to fall apart anyway because he would meet Aiba.
Jun didn't realize he was punching the elevator button to his floor a little too aggressively, until he saw the two interns behind him stepping back. He pretended not to notice; he knew he'd been snappish and especially impatient with his own interns lately. Once the catalogue's done, he was sure he'd catch hell from Takeuchi-san for scaring them off.
When he got to his desk, he noticed that this laptop wasn't shut all the way, which wasn't how he always left it. Did he forget to save his work before going back? Before his panic fully set in, he found the scrap of paper underneath the laptop. He pulled at it, and read the scribbled note.Saved your work. Please take better care of yourself, Matsumoto-san.x
He called Nino.
"This had better be important, J. I'm working."
He knew for a fact that this was code for I-need-both-hands-for-my-DS. "Kimura-san had said something about installing those CCTVs in the security room, I think."
"He wouldn't dare," Nino replied, dismissive. "But let's pretend you've actually given me some sort of warning in time for me to blackmail him and save my job; what do you want?"
"Has anyone been at my desk this morning?"
. Knew you'd notice that your laptop's a bit skewed."
Jun was beginning to get annoyed. "Nino, if it was you -"
"Do you seriously think I'd make the effort to go all the way down to your floor, just to freak you out?"
Nino was somewhat claustrophobic and avoided using the elevator when he could. Since the security room was at the highest floor of the building, Jun had no idea how Nino got to work every day.
"I see your point." He paused. "Does this mean that you saw who did it?"
"Of course I did. Just because I don't look like I'm doing my job, it doesn't mean that I'm actually not doing it."
Jun waited for Nino to continue, but he didn't. "So - who was it?" he asked irritably.
"Oh. It was the janitor - the one with the longish hair that usually works on the fourth floor. He was cleaning your desk and accidentally knocked one of the stack of books over the laptop."
Jun looked at the books, but they were in exactly the same order he'd left them. "Uh huh."
"Okay, so he didn't. He just did something on your laptop, and was real careful about cleaning your desk. Happy?"
"What was that? I didn't -"
Jun hung up.x
"Drinks for everybody tonight!"
Jun rolled his chair back, reaching for the drawer behind him as Tanaka and Ai-chan rushed to the entrance where Nishikido and Maruyama were crowing about something or another. They had probably reached their sales target early again, judging from the way Maruyama's goofy face, and his arms flapping like - Jun didn't know what. Another inevitable thing, he thought, feeling unreasonably angry and ashamed of it at the same time. He glanced at the calendar squeezed between the two stack of books on his desk, before pulling a headphone out of the drawer, plugging it to his laptop and putting it on without playing any music.
Just as he went back to his file, there was a tap on his shoulder.
He glanced up again, pulling the headphone back a little.
"I know you're not listening to anything."
"It's to keep the noise out."
"That's what earplugs are for."
"That's - never mind." He shook his head. "Did you need something?"
Yasuda grinned. "Come out with us tonight. We're celebrating Kato-sensei's new book."
"I still have work to do." Jun hoped he looked apologetic enough; an ex had told him once that most of the time he looked angry or cold when he wasn't trying to be, and he'd been self-conscious about it ever since. "Plus, it's your celebration. I'm just the catalogue guy."
"So? I'm just the design guy; Ohno's just the illustrator; Ryo and Maru were just the sales reps pushing for the bookstores' support; Sakurai's just the editor -"
Jun froze, and his gaze on Yasuda sharpened, but the other man went on like nothing happened.
"-and dozens of others just did what they did, including you, Mr. Catalogue Guy. You know what Maru told me the other day? A bookseller told him that she swears by our catalogue, that you never highlight dud titles 'just because', and your capsules -"
"That's not true," Jun said quietly. Of course there were times when he was told to promote or sell a title he didn't like. "But thank you."x
At precisely 10:13pm, he realised that he could no longer ignore the fact that his headache was making it impossible to concentrate on any of the text he was proofing that night. He took the elevator down to the staff lounge, taking his half-eaten bento with him. He figured that he might as well reheat it to have it with coffee.
He paused when he reached the lounge. Usually when it was late, there would be at least a few people from other departments hanging out or just avoiding work. But there was only one other person there, and he was wiping down the counter.
The janitor with the longish hair, Nino had said.
The janitor didn't look up, nodding instead towards the coffee machine. "Freshly brewed," he said. "I was beginning to think no one's working late today, though."
Was it even the janitor's job to make coffee? Where was Yonehara-san? Jun moved cautiously toward the cabinet clearly marked 'Productions', and took out a mug.
"Yonehara's had an emergency," the janitor explained. "Her kid's sick."
"It's not like anyone asked me to fill in for her or anything."
Jun was biting his lips. At first he thought that it was just his nervousness around strangers, but then he realised that he was really trying not to smile, because the janitor sounded defensive
. "It was you that wrote that note, wasn't it?"
The janitor gave him a blank look. "You should be more careful about saving your work."
"How'd you know my name?" Jun studied the other man's face. "You're very familiar."
The janitor still looked blank. "I've been working here for a year."
Jun nodded. "No, I know, it's - never mind. My brain's not quite switched on this evening." He finally poured coffee into his mug. "Do you want some?"
The guy sounded so much like Nino at that moment that Jun gave him a suspicious look. But no - he was holding out the rag in his hands for Jun to see.
"That makes one of us," Jun murmured. "I'm not getting anything done tonight. Don't know how I'm going to get the catalogue to print in time."
"You will." Jun turned to the man again, wondering if he was being made fun of, but then the man shrugged and added, "you're feeling better now, aren't you?"
Jun found that he was.x
"Yes, what does His Royal Highness want today?"
If it had been anyone else, Jun would have been taken aback. But since it was Nino, Jun expected the jab.
"I know his name, thankyouverymuch," he said.
"Why'd you have to dump him, anyway? You've been crushing on him for years in college. You joined this company because of him!"
"That's not true."
"Yeah? Then -"
"Too much," Jun agreed. "And too soon. Anyway, he's happier now - I think."
"He isn't really with Aiba, you know."
"Not my business."
"They're just friends, and I know because Aiba's my friend -"
"You have friends?"
"Sorry." Except that Jun wasn't, really. At least now Nino was off the subject of Sho. Before Nino could get back to it, he said, "the janitor."
"What makes you think I know the janitor's name?"
"You know everyone in the building, don't you?"
"Maybe," Nino deflected. "Why'd you dump Sho?"
Jun hung up.x
When he was finally done with editing the last capsule, what he felt was fatigue, not relief. Experience had taught him that there might be a flash of euphoria in the next couple of hours, but then he'd remember that it was just the beginning. The proofs would go to Yasuda's department, and after they were done with layout, Jun would have to go through them again. By the time it went to print, Jun would be starting prep work for the next catalogue.
It never ended, and sometimes he wondered if it even mattered. It wasn't as if he was actually working on books.
He sighed, hoping to expel that last thought with his breath. We're a team
, he reminded himself. each with our own role to play.
It wasn't that he resented his work, exactly. It was just that sometimes he wondered if there ought to be more to him than this. Whatever 'this' was.
"Thanks for your hard work."
He blinked, irritated with himself for startling so easily. It was just the janitor, sitting at the counter with Yonehara-san serving him tea.
"You're off work, and still hanging out here?" he asked.
"Just having tea before heading out."
Jun took a seat next to the janitor. They drank in silence, and stayed for a long time.x
"Do you think -" Jun stopped, and shook. "Never mind."
"No, it's just... it's stupid, never mind."
The other man didn't press. Jun still didn't know his name, but they've been hanging out at the staff lounge for almost a month, and the more time passed, the more awkward he felt about asking.
Not that Jun was a stranger to awkward.
Still. He had tried to work himself up to asking the question a couple of times, but always gave up.
"Do you ever wonder if there's something in this world that you're meant
to do - you know, that we all have some sort of purpose?"
"So - it's my purpose to practice the custodial arts?"
"Oh. I guess not." Jun looked away. It was weird, he thought, that he only knew of the other man as 'the janitor', and yet he would find himself forgetting who the man was.
The man shrugged. "It's not that bad a thing to believe in. I'm not saying that everyone does
have a purpose, but for some, just the act of believing that everything they do serves a greater purpose... it makes them feel better, so I guess that's okay."
"Hm." It wasn't quite what Jun was thinking about, but the man had a point. Perhaps Jun wasn't satisfied only because he believed that he should have a greater purpose, rather than the other way around.
"But I think it's also important not to lose sight of the fact that things and people - and purposes - can change, and changes all the time. And when that happens, instead of feeling down, or staying the same, maybe it's better to move onwards, y'know? Maybe that one step forward is all it takes to change."
Jun turned to him, almost expecting for him to say more, but he didn't. So Jun turned back to the plate of unfinished sandwich before him. Change
, he thought. He wondered if that's what he wanted, if that was enough.x
"Have I changed?"
"'Course you have," Nino replied. "I've known you for years, and since then you've gotten even grouchier and boring. Which is weird, because I usually find grouchy people interesting."
Jun wondered why, of all his childhood friends, Nino was the only one that he still talked to regularly. The obvious answer was that they worked in the same company, of course - but really, there was hardly any reason for them to meet, or talk to each other. They hadn't even been particularly close as kids. Jun couldn't say if they were close now.
"Am I really?" he asked. He didn't expect a straight answer from Nino. But Nino had a tendency to offer honesty when Jun least expected it.
"No." Nino paused. "I mean, I was worried for a second, with the whole Sakurai thing. You were working too hard, and you haven't been particularly kind when dealing with mistakes from your department. I know how you feel about getting all the details perfect, but - I don't know how to put it, usually you're more... encouraging? These days you just seem angry all the time, and it isn't you."
"I'm not angry," Jun remarked, surprised at Nino's words.
"I know that. And I guess I should say you seemed
angry. Restless, maybe. Impatient."
It didn't sound quite like Nino, which Jun took to mean that Nino must have been thinking about how to tell him these things.
He was surprised to find that he was touched.
"I see." It's all that he managed to say. "I've got to go."
"You've changed," Nino continued, as if Jun hasn't said anything. "You're a bit softer around the edges now. Also. His name is Shibutani Subaru."
This time, Nino hung up on him. Jun didn't mind, because he finally remembered.x
Subaru remembered the first time he met Jun, even if the other man didn't. It was three years ago. Jun was dating Subaru's roommate at the time - a bad match, if there ever was one. It wasn't that Kazuya was a bad sort. He and Jun were just too much alike. At least, that was how Subaru thought about it now. Back then, he didn't think much of Jun at all. Jun had only come over to pick Kazuya up once or twice, and Subaru's first impression was of a man that thought too much of himself.
It surprised him to see Jun again now, and find him a completely different person.
Jun didn't remember this, either: Subaru was covering for Yonehara-san - as he did every now and then - on the day Jun broke up with Sakurai. He wasn't eavesdropping on their conversation - he really couldn't hear a thing, but he could easily guess what was going on from how they were acting. After Sho had left, instead of leaving or going home, Jun went back to his office. He didn't emerge again until a few hours later, looking somewhat worse for wear.
Jun hadn't looked at him even once that day. But it was all right; he hadn't needed to ask. He didn't have to say anything, either. Subaru just put the kettle on, and raided the pantry's cabinets for Yonehara-san's secret stash of herb teas. x
"Rushing another deadline?" Subaru asked, watching the way Jun sat next to him, like the weight of the world was on his shoulders. It's just a catalogue
, he wanted to say, but he knew that Jun wouldn't take the words as the comfort he meant it as. He had to admire it, in a way - to Jun, it wasn't
just a catalogue.
Jun just nodded in acknowledgement. "Two of our big titles got pushed back."
Subaru could almost see it, the mad rush in Jun's head trying to get the next season's selections organised. If the titles Jun had to take out were going to be the company's next bestsellers, now Jun would have to go through their lists with the rest of Productions and Sales to find good replacements. He smiled.
"You like your job."
Jun huffed. "Of course I do. Why else would I be doing it?"
They didn't talk much after, and Jun had to go back to work anyway, but Subaru saw the hint of a smile on Jun's face as he brought his mug up to his lips.x
Subaru found that he looked forward to that specific time when Jun's department was the busiest. He knew that Jun hardly took breaks before, and he still didn't take enough now - but Subaru timed his own breaks to Jun's anyway. If he was working on a different shift, he'd make sure he was on duty at the staff lounge.
So it didn't come as too
much of a surprise when he was cornered by Sakurai on his way for break one evening.
When Sakurai called him by name, he stopped and gave the other man a considering look. Here was another man who wasn't quite what he appeared to be on first impression, Subaru thought. He had always thought of Sakurai as the elite type - Yonehara-san said that the women either adored him or thought he was stuck up, and while he didn't have the kind of effortless grace of some of the guys Subaru knew in the art department, Sakurai did always seem the reliable sort, like someone who was always in control of the situation.
That same Sakurai was now looking at him with a peculiar expression. Subaru couldn't quite place that look - he didn't know Sakurai well enough to decipher his expressions. But it disarmed him, momentarily.
He tried to give Sakurai the usual blank look he used whenever he felt wary.
"If you've made a mess in your office that you need cleaning up, Sakurai-san, I'm afraid you'll have to call someone else. I'm on my break now."
"You've been hanging around Jun a lot lately."
This startled him. He hadn't expected Sakurai to be that direct, either. He gave a small nod, and a brief shrug to accompany it. "We're friends," he said. Even if he didn't really know if they were.
"Did he tell you -" Sakurai stopped himself, looking somewhat distressed. Subaru was about to tell the other man that what Jun told him or didn't tell him was none of his business, but then Sakurai's expression cleared up, and continued talking. "Sorry. I mean to ask, how is he doing, lately?"
Subaru considered - both the answer to the question, and whether he should answer it. After a while, he nodded again, saying, "better."
Sakurai's smile was humourless, but Subaru thought it was genuine. "That's good."x
"What happened between you and Sakurai, anyway?"
Subaru decided to throw caution in the air and just ask, that evening. Jun didn't tense up upon hearing the name like he used to, but he took his time answering.
"I guess it just didn't work out." Subaru looked at him, surprised not just by Jun's frankness, but also by how easily the words came. Jun gave him a smile that struck him as similar as the one he'd seen on Sho. "I liked him for a long time, you know? It's easy to be disappointed when you've looked up to someone for too long." His eyes caught Subaru's, and held it. "Someone once told me that instead of just holding on to the past and being stuck, perhaps just taking one step forwards could change everything."x
"Hey, so apparently we need to talk."
"I was out with Aiba yesterday, who went drinking with Oh-chan last week, and he said that Oh-chan said you outdid yourself. I guess he was referring to your last draft?"
Jun wasn't sure he followed, but if both Aiba and Satoshi were involved, it probably wasn't a good thing, no matter what it sounded like. "Mm," he said, hoping he sounded neutral enough.
"So I checked the cameras and it looked like you hardly went home."
"Nino, don't be ridiculous. Of course I went home." To change and wash up, Jun thought, but it counted, didn't it? "Speaking of going home, I've always wondered how -"
"Guess who else Aiba said was worried about you?"
He wondered if he really sounded like that, or if Nino was just bad at mimicking him - or, of course, Nino was just being particularly annoying. Probably the last one, he decided.
"Look, I don't want to talk about it, okay? But I'm over it. I can tell you that much."
Nino paused, and when he spoke, he sounded quiet, and calm - and sort of tender, although it made Jun squirm internally when he thought about it, so he just as quickly tried to forget. "Are you really, though?"
"Yeah," he replied, then waited for a beat. "No." Another beat. "I think I'm starting to be. Okay, I mean."
"That Shibutani guy?"
"Just friends, Nino." Jun said it like he'd said it a million times, with a weary sigh and a I-can't-believe-you're-asking-me-this-ag
ain tone, although Nino hadn't asked him before. No one had.
He'd just become really used to telling himself that, he realised.x
Jun didn't know how he could have forgotten Subaru, because Subaru wasn't an easy person to forget. He hadn't dated Kazuya for very long, and only visited his flat a couple of times, but he remembered things. Like the beaten up guitar that rested against the fraying blue sofa, the decidedly deadpan way Subaru answered to Jun's overtures of friendship, the way Kazuya just brushed off Jun's complaints that his roommate was kind of a jerk. Subaru's hair was longer then, Jun remembered now - scragglier, as if to match his unshaved look.
Kazuya had once told him that he came off as a snob even when he didn't mean to. At the time, Jun had just argued that coming from someone that didn't even bother texting back to confirm their dates, Kazuya had no right to say anything. Now, looking back, Jun realised that Kazuya was right - he had probably been an ass to Subaru as well.
What a funny thing life was, he thought, that now Subaru's presence made him feel more at ease.x
Sho came to his office at the perfect time - the interns had left for the day, Ai-chan was on leave, and Ueda was out on an errand. Seeing Sho walk towards him, Jun made a mental note to check if Nino had anything to do with Sho's perfect timing.
"Yasuda told me that our last budget request have been accepted, so there's no use coming here to complain," he said, pleased with how he managed to sound completely unruffled by Sho's presence.
Sho just looked thoughtful. "You guys are more similar than I thought."
"What are you talking about?"
"Look," Sho said, pulling Ai-chan's chair out and sitting down. "Can we talk?"x
It was a long talk - longer than the conversations they'd had when they were dating, which made Jun wonder if it would have made any difference. The thought didn't make him feel wistful about might-have-beens, even if he could acknowledge that it might be just a little bit sad. They talked about Aiba (Sho affirmed Nino's conviction that they were just friends, although Jun wasn't quite convinced); about Subaru (there wasn't much to say, Jun insisted, although the words came with a pang that made him re-examine his feelings); about why they broke up and what they were to each other now (still complicated, as far as Jun was concerned); and even about work (Sho did come to complain about the new budget request, after all). By the end of it, Jun was feeling a sort of emptiness that he knew would give way to relief once he was done processing it all, but for the most part, he was just drained.
What was it about things that were past, he wondered, that made one feel sad? Even when he didn't wish for things to be back the way they were. Even when things were all right they way they were now.
Jun wasn't expecting Subaru to be waiting for him at the break room when he finally got there, but he was.
He sat down, thinking about what to say, while feeling too tired to say anything.
He didn't need to. Subaru had put the kettle on - Jun wondered where Yonehara-san was, since she wasn't even on leave that day - to brew some of Yonehara's herbal tea.
There was something reassuring about the sight of Subaru's back, the sound of the cabinets and water gurgling in the kettle and the spoon stirring. It didn't seem to matter that they had yet to define what they were, because Jun had the feeling that it wasn't something that needed defining, it just was
They drank in silence, and Jun marveled at how that was enough, somehow. They didn't have to say anything. He knew, and knew that Subaru knew, that they had both taken a step forward, in a way. end