: Of Ups and DownsPairing
: AU, romance, dramaRating
: PG13Word Count
: It feels like it’s been ages since I wrote something. ;; This one took a while
mostly because it is so hard to write nakame actually being angry at each other ;;Summary
: Nakamaru loses his heart in an elevator.
Nakamaru nearly slips on the waxed linoleum as he tries to stuff his feet into his shoes and knot his tie at the same time. His toast grows cold in his toaster as he rushes out the door, shooting a glance down at his wristwatch.
The elevator will be making its way down any minute now. It takes Nakamaru more effort than he admits to restrain himself from sprinting down the hall. Instead, he lengthens his strides in the manner of a brusque salary worker eager to start his shift.
The elevator doors are a silver-grey and show a watery reflection of his face. Nakamaru presses on the button with the down arrow and smoothes his fringe as waits for the familiar ding
The elevator doors slide open.
“Good morning!” Nakamaru rushes and feels silly because he hasn’t stepped inside yet.
Kame is talking into his cell phone but gives him a wave with his free hand. His face lights up with a smile the second he meets Nakamaru’s eyes.
Nakamaru steps inside and the elevator seals shut. He watches Kame from the mirrors that make up the square walls, listening to the smooth lilt of his voice as he negotiates, the huff of a laugh that is all perfunctory yet necessary to wade through the real world.
It’s a long phone call. The numbers light up as they pass each floor and a minute later, there’s another ding
and Nakamaru opens his mouth to say—what? See you next morning? Have a nice day?
Kame is walking towards the entrance of the complex before Nakamaru can decide.
“Are you getting off?” a woman asks hesitantly and Nakamaru nods, bowing in apology as he steps out.
He looks at his watch again and sighs. It’s not like he’s in any rush.
He’s not expected at work until another hour after.
Kame lives on the 12th floor of the complex. Nakamaru lives on the 8th. The ride down takes exactly sixty seconds barring no interruptions.
Nakamaru doesn’t know when he started wishing it would last longer.
Nakamaru remembers when Kame first moved into the complex months ago. He remembers the smell more than anything. One morning he had stepped inside the elevator and blinked at the overwhelming scent of vanilla assailing him.
At first, he had thought the fragrance was a residue of a previous passenger; probably Sawajiri-san who lived on the floor above. Nakamaru had bumped into her quite often, not being able to stop himself from sweating whenever she sidled close in her plunging necklines. Ueda was constantly telling him that he had scored but Nakamaru was just as befuddled by everything as he was. He was never aiming for the hoop on that side of the court to begin with.
Nakamaru had scratched at his nose, thrown off by the smell but finding it far from unpleasant; it was different from the usual floral and citrus at least. It reminded him of crepes. The rustle of newspapers brought his glance to the side. The newspaper was raised and blocked all but the passenger’s tuft of brown hair. And his ridiculous, gold-studded shoes.
Nakamaru found himself tilting his head at them in wonder, boggled by the contrast of the business slacks and smart briefcase seated just next to the shoes. He can’t quite remember but he thinks he might have let out one incredulous sound or another because when he looked up, he was being watched by a pair of sharp eyes over the edge of the front page.
Nakamaru had the pleasure of seeing himself go red in the many angles of his face being reflected back at him.
“S-sorry,” he had stammered. Back then he couldn’t quite tell if the angle of Kame’s eyebrows meant that they were steeped in anger or carefully arranged to give such an effect. He found himself looking down at his own shoes, suddenly ashamed of their black, conservative simplicity.
Another rustle signaled that the newspaper was being folded.
“You should be,” the man said, calm and flat. “They’re designer.”
They arrived on the ground floor and Nakamaru was still too mortified to look up. He watched the gold-studded shoes until the haughty clack of their heels disappeared from view.
Nakamaru had noticed the pattern in the following instances when he ran into the new face who had the clerks at the front desk of the complex tittering behind their painted fingertips. Kamenashi-san
they whispered to each other before dissolving into breathy sighs.
It was a face Nakamaru had yet to see but did his best to avoid all the same. The usual ‘duck and scan the elevator before entering’ strategy worked well until one night Nakamaru returned from a quick walk to the local combini and was about to ride up, only to stumble back when an arm was shoved between the elevator doors.
Nakamaru winced for the injured party until the doors slid open and he came face to face with the pair of accusatory eyes he had been running from. They widened slightly, just like his own.
Nakamaru stepped to the side, giving the man who he knew went by Kamenashi ample room to enter. There was a window of opportunity when the elevator stalled and Nakamaru could have made an escape; at the time, however, he was too distracted to notice.
The man was wearing runners this time. Just the ordinary kind; black with a white Addidas logo and matching track pants to go with a matching top. The sculptured hair Nakamaru had glimpsed before was plastered to his forehead in messy, sweat-soaked curls. Nakamaru was more fascinated by his face and the peculiar way he pursed his lips as he massaged his shoulder.
It must have hurt.
Nakamaru searched inside his combini bag.
“Here,” he said, holding out a plastic-wrapped sesame bun. When Kamenashi’s gaze slid to him, Nakamaru shrugged in a stiff, mechanical way that he liked to imagine was nonchalant. “I bought extra.”
The brown eyes narrowed momentarily before relaxing.
“Sorry, I don’t eat snacks at this time.”
Oh. Nakamaru nodded silently, a little more profusely than necessary. Of course.
Before his arm could wilt and retreat to his side, the bun was snatched from his hand.
“I’ll have it for breakfast instead. Thanks.” A small, amused smile, too soft to be a grin.
“Un, yeah. Sure. You’re welcome—I mean,” Nakamaru scratched at his nape, “don’t mention it.”
It had felt like the longest elevator ride of Nakamaru’s life, so much so that he was surprised when it ended.
It was when he was walking down the corridor to his room that it dawned on him that he could still smell vanilla.
One of the downfalls of living in a large apartment complex was that the elevator was more often crowded than not. Hopping on from the 8th floor wasn’t as bad of a squeeze as hopping on from the 5th, but the lack of personal space still made Nakamaru itch uncomfortably. Of course, when he had errands to run and money to win back from Ueda, there was no other way around it unless he wanted to torture his calves by taking the stairs. He had his moment but Nakamaru was never that
much of a masochist.
Nakamaru squeezed into what little space Tabata-san’s wide girth allowed and tried not to sneeze as the fur of her coat tickled his nose. On his other side, Ishida-san gave him a bemused smile. Ishida-san was a tall, lanky man who always wore his hair sleeked back. He was always cordial when they met but there was a certain greasiness to his mannerisms that made Nakamaru decline his casual invitations for dinner on a regular basis.
His nerves already strained, Nakamaru nearly released a squawk when he felt a hand slide along his back to poke at his waist. He turned, ready to spit venom at Ishida, when he sniffed the air and turned the other way—and saw Kamenashi grinning at him.Hello
he mouthed at Nakamaru with an awkward wave, his hand squished to his side by a balding man of Tabata-san’s size. Granted, Nakamaru knew he was taller but Kamenashi looked especially small from where he was sandwiched. It made Nakamaru smile despite himself and he bowed his head in greeting.
Tabata-san noticed and Nakamaru felt a tad guilty when her eyes landed on Kamenashi and she began crooning and pinching his cheek in motherly adoration.
“Well aren’t you just the thing
Kamenashi’s eyes widened in alarm and Nakamaru quickly looked away, chuckling into his fist until Ishida-san’s oily voice slipped into the fray.
“You’re right about that, Tabata-san. Allow me to show you around later? We can have a good time.”
The leer in his proposal could have gone over Tabata-san’s head but Nakamaru heard it clearly and knew that Kamenashi did too. Nakamaru had wondered himself about Kamenashi but… He listened closely, waiting to hear what the response would be.
“I’ll look forward to it.”
It could have been a polite social gesture. It could also have been a promise.
Nakamaru spent the remaining seconds of the ride looking back at his frown.
They collided again days later. Ueda had dropped him off after one of their late night bonding sessions over ramen and when he had arrived at the elevators, he had found Kamenashi waiting outside too.
“Oh,” Kamenashi said, turning at his approach and greeting him with an easy smile. “Hey. It seems like we bump into each other a lot, huh?”
“I guess so…” Nakamaru trailed off, his eyes catching the glint of an earring. Kamenashi wasn’t returning from a late night jog this time around, he observed. He wore jeans slashed at the knee and thigh and a black shirt that was loose but made of a thin material that clung to him all the same. His hair was tucked back into a small ponytail.
He looked… good
. Good enough to make Nakamaru cough and look away with his neck growing warm.
As they got in the elevator, Nakamaru wished he was wearing something other than a ratty old t-shirt with a soy sauce stain on the front and a pair of flip flops.
Kamenashi broke the silence. “Had a good time? You smell good. Kind of like… ramen? Standing next to you is making me hungry.”
Kamenashi’s smile was too wide and bright to leave him any room to feel offended. Nakamaru scratched the back of his ankle with his other foot and tried not to let on how self-conscious Kamenashi was making him, what with his point-on observations and looking like a street model.
“Good. I ate out with a friend.” Before the silence could return, Nakamaru quickly added, “So… has Ishida-san shown you around yet?”
“How did you guess?” Kamenashi returned with surprise and Nakamaru blinked.
“Huh? I just overheard from that time with Tabata-san…”
“Don’t remind me,” Kamenashi laughed and tilted his head to the side. “I’m off to meet Ishida-san just now.”
Oh, Nakamaru thought, so this is how Kamenashi dresses for a date. The ramen sat heavily in his stomach and even though he had gotten Ueda to pay this time, he wished he hadn’t eaten so much.
Nakamaru considered warning Kamenashi of Ishida’s oily hair and his oily words and his oilier hands, but their time was up when Kamenashi pushed the button to get off on the 7th floor.
“I’m sure we’ll see each other again,” Kamenashi said and Nakamaru returned it with a stilted nod.
Kamenashi got off and returned a split second before the doors could close, this time using his foot to block and push them back. Nakamaru quickly punched the hold button and waited, confused by the sudden buzz under his skin.
“I made a note to get your name this time but I forgot,” Kamenashi smiled sheepishly and held out a hand. “I’m Kame.”
Nakamaru felt warm again, like he had drunk a bowl of miso soup just seconds ago even though it had been hours.
Kame’s hand felt just as warm. It was rough and small, Nakamaru’s longer fingers encasing it easily.
“Nakamaru Yuichi.” They let go. “Ishida is a prick by the way.”
Kame’s eyebrows raised into his fringe before he let out a scratchy laugh. “Thanks for the heads up.”
When the elevator had begun to rise with its sole passenger, Nakamaru had wondered if Kame knew about him just as he knew about Kame. When Nakamaru forgot to get off and passed his floor, he silently berated himself for expecting anything in the first place.Don’t do this to yourself, Nakamaru.
Still, the buzz doesn’t stop.
They met again two days after. Nakamaru had decided on an early start in order to spoil himself with breakfast from his favourite bistro just across the street of the complex, and when the elevator doors slid open, he found Kame perusing another newspaper. He was back in a suit and tie again, no ridiculous gold-studded shoes on his feet.
Instead, they were replaced with a pair that had silver rhinestones along the edges.
Nakamaru hid his smile behind a fist as he stepped inside.
“How did it go?” It took Kame a moment to register that he was no longer alone and when he looked up at Nakamaru, his face was screwed up in a pleased sort of surprise that made Nakamaru’s day.
“You called it. He’s a prick,” Kame answered with a puff of laughter and a shake of his head. He returned to his paper momentarily before his gaze darted sideways again. It was an inquisitive look that asked more than the question that followed. “How did you find out…?”
Ah. So Kame was still figuring him out.
“First-hand experience.” Judging by Kame’s thoughtful pause, that solved it.
“Sounds rough,” he returned a moment later.
Nakamaru gave grin that was part wince and part I’m-over-it. “I’d rather forget, honestly.”
Kame’s smile was impish and sweet. “Me too.”
Nakamaru watched him return to his paper and with a small shuffle and a raise of his neck, he was able to steal a peek. It was flipped to the sports section.
“You like baseball?” The question slipped out before Nakamaru could shuffle back and at least pretend
it was a lucky guess instead of looking like a snooping creep.
Kame didn’t seem to mind or even notice the fact that Nakamaru was standing closer to him than he had been two seconds ago. He was beaming.
This close, the scent of vanilla was strong enough to make him a little heady. Avoiding Kame’s bright, squinting eyes, Nakamaru spoke to one of Kame’s many reflections instead.
“I like soccer.”
And they arrived at the ground floor.
Maybe that was it—the moment he began wishing, despite his fear of heights, that they lived in one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers—the kind that pierced the sky and seemed to extend into space—instead of an average apartment complex with an elevator ride that went by too fast.
From then on, it didn’t take long for the back of his mind to catch onto Kame’s timings and formulate a pattern. Kame worked in the shadows of showbiz as the manager of a rookie talent trying to make it big. Often, he would be arranging one thing or another over his phone, calling in favours from the big wigs one day and issuing veiled warnings to media mongers the next.
No matter what the obstacle of the day was, he was always in the elevator by a quarter past seven, sharp and ready with his coiffed hair and questionably fashionable outfit. Nakamaru joined him no later than a quarter and forty seconds past seven.
It was a good time. Hardly anyone jumped on so early in the morning which meant they had the elevator compartment all to themselves.
It made Nakamaru smile when thinking about it as he drove to work. Like a secret tree house built just for them—only they were two grown men sharing an elevator for the span of a minute.
And, of course, people did things in tree houses which people did not do in elevators.
When Nakamaru checked the rear view mirror, he could see the flush rising to his cheeks.
Some days Kame would run late and Nakamaru would press the elevator button and be met with an empty compartment.
On those days, Nakamaru would duck down in the corridor to pull apart the knot of his laces and tie them again, or check the pockets of his suit jacket to re-confirm he had his keys.
When he pressed the button again, Kame would be there, a tad messy with his tie askew and his hair falling over his eyes but making Nakamaru sneak a long look all the same.
“You’re late too?” Kame laughs incredulously while adjusting his tie.
Nakamaru nods even though he’s never later. In fact, he’s always early.
Kame moves onto arranging his hair. Nakamaru can see his brows furrow together as he tries to get the curls into place. Their eyes meet through the mirror and it’s too late for Nakamaru to look away.
“It’s Taguchi’s first appearance on a variety show today and of course my hair has to be like,” Kame waves a frustrated hand at his hair, “this
“Are you nervous?” Nakamaru has seen posters of Taguchi at the subway station. He has a fresh face and a cool style and maybe if Nakamaru had seen him months ago, before he had been captured by another face, he would have remembered more details.
As it is, Nakamaru can recall the vague impression of a talent who he thinks will make it, if not from his own charisma, then because Kame is good at his job.
“Very. Taguchi’s a cute kid and has his looks working for him, but if he squeezes in one of his dumb puns I swear to god I’ll—”
Nakamaru smiles. “You’ll what?”
Kame pauses in thought before bursting into laughter. “I’ll steal the footage and hire a look-alike to do the talking.”
“How sinister,” Nakamaru says and they share a grin through the mirror.
When Kame turns around, he faces him squarely and gestures at his hair. “Well? Do I look more or less presentable? Be honest with me.”
Kame looks like he always does. Kame could roll out of a dumpster or return from a weekend spent in the mountains and Nakamaru would still think the same.
There’s a stray curl of hair by Kame’s temple that he can’t stop from reaching out and tucking behind his ear. When Kame blinks up at him, he retracts his hand quickly and lets it land awkwardly by his side, the softness of Kame’s hair lingering on his fingertips.
“I—” he clears his throat, “you need a haircut.”
Nakamaru doesn’t know if the pause is real or a consequence of his embarrassment lengthening the moment, but it feels like Kame takes a few seconds to respond and when he does, it’s with a tiny snort.
“You’re ridiculous, Nakamura,” Kame says just as the elevator opens to reveal the lobby and he turns to head out.
Worried that he had caused offense—because insulting the man’s designer shoes wasn’t enough, Nakamaru had to go and share his opinion on his hair too, and why did he even open
his mouth around Kame—Nakamaru jumps to correct him.
,” Kame throws him a slanted smile over his shoulder, his eyes dancing above. “I know. It was a joke. Remember to tune in at five if you can. I’ll see you later, Na-ka-ma-ru
Nakamaru knows he’s being played with and he can’t even mind it.
Nakamaru is exhausted after battling rush hour on his way home from work. As soon as he arrives at his apartment, he kicks off his shoes and turns on the TV, flicking through the channels until he finds him.
Taguchi looks better in motion than he did in the rectangular stillness of the subway posters, and there’s only one moment where a joke trips out of his endlessly smiling lips. It’s not a funny one but Nakamaru realises quickly that the delivery is all that matters and since Taguchi is, undoubtedly, a good looking package, the moment that could have been a disaster is smoothed over by laughter.
By the end of it, Nakamaru knows that Kame must be beaming in pride somewhere along the edges of the studio.
And, for some reason he knows all too well, he catches himself smiling too.
It’s stupid and dangerous.
And yet, despite himself, Nakamaru wonders if venturing outside the five by six foot compartment of the elevator would be too much to ask.
The conversation began with a casual observation on Kame’s part.
“Your skin always looks so soft.”
Nakamaru scratched his nose, aware that Kame’s gaze was following his hands. It was odd. Nakamaru was more accustomed to people paying more attention to his nose.
“I use lotion.”
“Ah, me too. I love bath salts.”
From there they arrived on a heated discussion about bath towels and Kame is in the midst of educating him on his impressive collection when Nakamaru’s phone buzzes with a call. It’s Ueda; Nakamaru had tried and failed to get in touch with him earlier.
A tiny, apologetic nod at Kame, and he answers, already smiling at the murderous edge to the groggy voice on the other end. He had seen the hangover coming.
“I left my jacket at your place last night. Bring it over when you feel more or less alive.”
He ends the calling knowing that he’ll be taking the train to work today since he left his keys in his jacket and Ueda doesn’t sound like he’ll be crawling out of his bed within the next century or so.
Nakamaru pockets his phone and something curious happens when he looks up.
He Kame catches looking back—but only for a second before his eyes skitter away.
Nakamaru can still see his frown and the flat line of his lips from his profile.
“I… sorry,” he says, confused because it was a five second call and Kame had excused himself for calls that had lasted the duration of the entire ride.
Kame bobs his head a little and the silence makes Nakamaru’s shoulders droop.
They’re passing the second floor when Nakamaru hears his own words and finds himself staring at his own round, disbelieving eyes in the mirror.
“It was a friend,” he blurts out anyway. “I’ve known him for years. He’s a good friend.”
He swivels around to see Kame’s eyebrows furrow and smooth over and furrow once more.
“Oh… okay. That’s nice.”
They land on the ground floor and the elevator opens with a ding
Nakamaru moves on autopilot, holding Kame back with a grip at his wrist. He presses the button with his other hand and the elevator closes, hovering as Nakamaru licks his lips and tries to feel the ground beneath him.
Kame is gaping at him, which Nakamaru supposes is the kinder reaction when a man you meet for only a sliver of a fraction in a day detains you in an enclosed space.
“I—I’d like to meet you. I mean, outside. Or—or inside,” Nakamaru takes a deep breath. “I really want to talk to you outside this elevator. Really. I-if… you want to…?”
Nakamaru’s heart is beating so frantically that he can hear his pulse in his ears. It’s so loud that he doesn’t quite hear Kame’s answer the first time.
He hears the laugh though, sees the delighted smile and the happy squint of his eyes that come with it. Somehow, it makes it worse, like his chest will explode any second.
“Dinner. Tomorrow night. Meet me in the lobby at seven.” Kame eases his hand from his slack grip. “It’s a date.”
When Ueda finally shows up with his jacket tossed over his shoulder, he stares at Nakamaru and makes a face.
“You look gross.”
Nakamaru grabs his jacket and shoves him out the door.
He’s been grinning all day.
At 4:23pm, Nakamaru returns home from work, tosses his briefcase on the couch, and heads for the shower.
At 4:40pm, he stands in front of his closet wearing a towel around his waist and the haunted look of a man who realises he owns too much argyle. Thirty minutes later, Nakamaru is still deciding whether he should go with a soft blue shirt or a sophisticated grey.
At 5:10pm, Ueda calls him a girl and hangs up when Nakamaru asks, “Blue or grey?”
Nakamaru decides on grey.
Ten minutes later, he’s combing his hair and running back to his closet when he realises he forgot to choose the pants. He wears the blue shirt in the end since it goes nicer with his denim jeans. He looks himself in the mirror and thinks Ueda would approve of his taste—and then spends five minutes trying not
to think what Kame would think of it. At least he’d be stain free this time which had to be a plus.
The following half hour he spends on his laptop, looking up restaurants and reviews, trying to find a balance between fancy, discreet, and affordable. Nakamaru has never been one to crave fine wine and caviar but he’s not about to botch this by taking Kame to a ramen stand either. By the end of his search, he can name the top ten five star restaurants in town—which is handy knowledge if Kame ever wants to talk
about them since Nakamaru would have to forfeit a month’s cheque to actually dine there.
He does find a quaint BBQ house three blocks down that looks appealing. It has an outdoor seating area with meshwork chairs and lanterns nested in the crook of surrounding tree branches. He has a strong inkling that Kame would find it charming. Nakamaru memorises the directions just in case.
After another long look over in the mirror and a second comb through his hair, Nakamaru gets on the elevator and arrives at the lobby at a quarter till seven. He’s already jittery, only it feels more fluttery, like he might fly away with his next step instead of hitting his sole on the tiled floor.
He’s wiping his hands on his jeans when something soft and sweet collides against his side. It’s not the vanilla sweet that he’s been waiting for.
“You’re looking extra good tonight,” Sawajiri says with a velvet croon. She has her arms slipped around Nakamaru’s elbow before he can politely pull away. “Seeing someone?”
“Actually, yes, I am. Sorry,” he adds because apologising has always been his default mode of operation in uncomfortable situations. He shuffles in an attempt to extricate himself but Sawajiri follows, her breasts pushing up against his arm insistently.
Sawajiri puckers her lips at him in a pout that any other man would find irresistible.
“That’s unfair you know. I had my eyes on you first.”
Nakamaru laughs awkwardly, sweat beginning to build up around his collar. “Sorry.”
“Are you playing hard to get with me, Nakamaru?”
“No!” Nakamaru sputters and gives a strained smile when Sawajiri blinks wide eyes at him. “I’m sorry if I gave you that impression. I just. I’m. I have a date.”
“So you said…” Sawajiri’s eyelashes are long and sweeping and would probably send Ueda over the moon. Nakamaru just wants to step away. “Who is she?”
Nakamaru’s mouth is dry and he takes a moment to swallow. There are so many ways to answer the question but the simplest, most honest one comes to mind first.
“Someone who I want to see every day, even if it’s just for a minute.”
He takes a relieved breath when Sawajiri’s arms unwind from their grip. Quickly, he steps back to give a polite distance befitting a casual acquaintance.
“That… is surprisingly romantic of you,” Sawajiri says, like she’s seeing him for the first time. Her shimmering baby pink lips lift into a smile. “Have a good time then. I hope you get some action in return for being so sweet.”
Nakamaru waves Sawajiri goodnight with the full knowledge that his ears are glowing red. He throws a glance at the oval clock mounted above the reception desk to find that it’s ten past seven. He figures that it’s fortunate Kame is running late because it will give him time to cool down somewhat and at least give him the illusion that he’s completely put together.
His first date with Kame and he’s as cool as a cucumber left out in the sun.
At half past 7pm, Nakamaru is swivelling around at the elevator’s every ding, only to look away because it’s never Kame.
At 7:40pm, Nakamaru asks the clerk at the reception desk if the clock is accurate and receives a snippy, “Just check your phone.” Nakamaru does and confirms that it is.
He tries to convince himself that Kame is running very late instead of having forgotten about him entirely. He tries to shove away the whisper that Kame would have called and left a message for him at the desk if something had gotten in the way.
He skims his reflection in the lobby’s glass door and tries, in vain, to convince himself that Kame is missing out.
At 8pm, Nakamaru rides the elevator up to the 12th floor and sees Ishida walk out from Kame’s flat.
Nakamaru stares at his shoes, everything inside him dropping as the elevator descends.
He had warned himself, hadn’t he?
It’s a quarter past seven in the morning and Kame is in the elevator. Probably.
Nakamaru sits in his apartment and bites down on his toast.
He watches the clock and doesn’t leave until another half hour after.
Nakamaru hasn’t smelled vanilla in days so he doesn’t blame himself when the first whiff makes him freeze. Kame joins them just before the elevator closes. There are just four of them and Nakamaru knows he’s been spotted from the way Kame’s eyes widen momentarily.
Neither of them say hello.
There’s only so much space in the elevator but Nakamaru notes how Kame takes the far end. Something ugly and angry curls inside Nakamaru but he trains himself to look ahead. It’s only sixty seconds after all.
He wishes it was shorter.
The elevator empties on the 3rd floor until it’s just them.
He bites his tongue and hopes the silence chokes them both.
There’s only one instance in which Nakamaru absolutely refuses to get on.
He steps back into the corridor and lets the doors erase Ishida’s existence from view, opting to wait for the next as his fingernails dig crescents into his palms.
He wishes he was the bigger, better person despite the fact that Kame seems to prefer the douchebag type.
Nakamaru doesn’t kid himself into believing that he isn’t mad, or confused, or hurt. He doesn’t kid himself of anything anymore.
Whenever they run into each other, it’s in random blips where nothing is said and Nakamaru could at least pretend
to be fine with it except that Kame giving him
the cold shoulder makes no sense. Unless that’s just how Kame is. Maybe he is
the type to bait for fun and toss his gullible catch back into the ocean.
It rankles Nakamaru that he wasn’t thrown far enough and was instead left to dry on the shore, flopping about like an idiot. Blue or grey when Kame was getting cozy with Ishida.
He hopes the beer he carries in the bag swinging by his side is enough to chase the bitterness away.
He walks into the complex and jogs to the elevator, sliding a foot inside before the doors can close. When they spring back open, Nakamaru wants to throw his head back and laugh.
“Are you getting on or not?”
It’s the first time Kame has addressed him in weeks. Nakamaru tightens his jaw and steps inside.
It infuriates him that he still can’t help but sneak a side glance. It doesn’t matter though, not really. He can appreciate Kame in his work out gear without going beyond the surface. It’s what most normal people did, didn’t they? Nakamaru just had to go and get his heart involved.
He’d been the definition of a lovestruck fool to the point that it makes him cringe just remembering it.
What’s even more enraging is that, even after knowing all this, he hasn’t changed.
He’s trying so hard to ignore the fact that Kame is standing right
there that he doesn’t notice the elevator has stopped moving until Kame points it out.
“I think it’s jammed.”
He watches Kame push the buttons at random with panic rising at the back of his throat.
“Don’t!” Kame looks at him with lifted brows. “You might make it worse.”“How?”
Nakamaru shoos away the image of the elevator plummeting down the shaft.
“Did you press the alarm button?”
“Yes. Nothing happened. Am I allowed to press it again or will I kill us both?” Kame asks, voice thick with sarcasm.
Nakamaru nods tersely.
He dives a hand into his shorts before he remembers he left his phone to charge in his apartment since he’d thought he’d be back in a jiffy and wouldn’t need it. Shit—
“Do you have your phone?” they ask each other at the same time.
Kame frowns. “I can’t jog with my phone in my pocket. What about yours?”
Nakamaru shrugs, finding the whole scenario morbidly funny. “In my apartment. I only went out to grab some beer.”
They stare each other with the dawning realisation that they are screwed for the unforeseeable future.
Kame is the first to look away, his damp hair falling over his eyes. “Of all people…” It’s probably meant to go unheard but considering it’s just the two of them, Nakamaru hears it with a sting.
He’s about to say something he’ll regret when there’s a crackle overhead and he jolts, his neck snapping back to the speaker installed above.“This is the maintenance team speaking. Is anyone there?”
The relief that pours out of him freezes and cracks when the faceless voice explains that there’s been a malfunction and that they’ll basically have to hang tight until the maintenance team figures out what went wrong. Oh! And that they shouldn’t hold any concerns for their safety because they are in good hands and mishaps
like these happen at least once a year. Oopsie daisy.
“Is there any
estimate of how long it will take?” Kame asks and the desperation in his voice surprises Nakamaru and he doesn’t know why. Busy Kamenashi clearly has other places to be. Other dates to show up for.“I’m sorry but at this point we can’t really say. The entire system has to be rebooted. Please do not panic if you experience intermittent black outs. We will try to keep you updated as we work on the matter. We thank you for your patience.”
There’s another crackle as the speaker turns off.
“What are you doing?” Kame asks with a pinched face as Nakamaru folds himself to the floor, legs crossed and his back against a cool mirror. He thinks it’s pretty obvious so he doesn’t bother answering; instead, he digs into his bag and pulls out a can of Asahi.
“The floor is filthy.”
Nakamaru shrugs and the can opens with a loud pssssk
, the beer frothing out from the mouth. He takes a long, slow slip. Unfortunately, the smell of the alcohol isn’t strong enough to ward away the vanilla but it helps ease Nakamaru’s nerves.
“I can’t believe this—” Kame mutters to himself and cuts off when he catches Nakamaru’s watchful gaze.
Nakamaru hides his smirk behind the can as Kame sits down opposite to him, their knees just a few feet away. He thinks Kame sees it anyway because Kame looks away and starts messing with his hair, tucking the damp strands back and behind his ears and generally ignoring Nakamaru’s existence. He’s good at it too. Then again, it’s not like he hasn’t had practice.
The elevator grows musty with the smell of their sweat and it’s not half as gross as Nakamaru would expect it to be. With the aircon off, it’s just very warm.
When he opens his next can, he catches Kame throwing a probing look at his bag.
“Want one? I bought six.”
Kame’s face tightens instantly. “No thanks.”
Nakamaru’s next sip goes down with more difficulty. Ishida could probably do better. “Sorry it’s not some fancy wine.”
Kame’s eyes narrow dangerously but nothing else is said. Nakamaru rolls the beer in his mouth and wonders at how he had fallen for such a jerk in the first place. He could let it go if Kame could—Kame who became prickly and tense the moment Nakamaru came into view. It wasn’t a matter of Kame simply ignoring him but a matter of… who knows what.
Several minutes later, when Kame is still peeking forlornly at his beer, Nakamaru snorts and thrusts one at him.
“I said I don’t—”
“You say a lot of stuff you don’t mean,” Nakamaru interrupts and nudges at his hand. “Take it. It’ll make this more bearable, trust me.”
Kame stares at him with his characteristic pinched face, like he’s about to snap back, but it smoothes over into something blank and withdrawn, his frown loosening into a thin line that gives away nothing. It’s both freaky and admirable and Nakamaru wonders if this is what made Kame fit for the showbiz game.
“Thanks,” Kame says, quiet but not soft. Their fingers brush for a tenth of a second and Nakamaru loathes himself for the skip in his pulse. They pull back, transaction complete, as if nothing had happened. Back into their watch-me-ignore-you bubbles until Kame pokes at them with, “Asahi’s okay. I like Kirin better.”You have bad taste,
Nakamaru wants to say but then Ishida’s name would follow and everything would explode.
He shrugs. “Beer is beer.”
Kame seems to like Asahi more than he lets on because he manages to empty the can in a few short minutes, wiping at his mouth with the back of his hand until his lips are a raw, glistening pink. They’re cute and curvy and Nakamaru knows he shouldn’t even as he opens his third beer.
“Can I…?” Kame asks and Nakamaru nudges the bag with his knee. It doesn’t really go anywhere.
He doesn’t realise what that will mean until Kame is on his hands and knees, crawling towards him. Kame doesn’t move back even when he’s swigging down his second can like water, his thigh bumping against Nakamaru’s knee. He has his head thrown back, the long expanse of his neck and the width of his collar bones exposed. One of the straps of his sleeveless top hangs in the precarious position of drooping off his shoulder.
Nakamaru knows he’s staring.
He blames the alcohol for dulling his reaction and not allowing him to look away in time, before Kame can catch him.
“Sorry,” Nakamaru says, his tongue feeling thick and clunky like it doesn’t belong inside his mouth. Maybe he should try and see if it fits well inside Kame’s—Nakamaru blinks. Kame is giving him a very strange look. “Did I say that out loud? Sorry. I think. I think I’m drunk.”
“What? You’re weird,” Kame says pointedly even though he’s no better. It could be his vision but Nakamaru is pretty sure Kame is swaying, his face splotchy with red and pink even though he’s only had two cans.
Two cans. Toucan. Nakamaru can hear himself laughing, high and loony.
weird,” he throws back creatively.
He doesn’t expect Kame to puff up at that but he does; Kame the lush is just a pinker version of the usual prickly Kamenashi. The angry fold of his arms across his chest is an odd contrast to his ballooning cheeks. If Nakamaru had another can in him, he’d probably try to poke them and see if they’d pop like a piñata.
The empty Asahi can drops from Kame’s hand and hits the floor of the elevator.
“Why? Because I like guys?”
There’s a soft clank as the can rolls and hits the wall on the other side.
“I like girls too. Guys and boobs and skirts and Kirin. I like Taguchi’s hair.”
Nakamaru stares, too drunk to put anything together. He has an inkling that even if he were sober, Kame wouldn’t be making much sense anyway. Kame is an idiot with gross, idiotic taste.
“You like Ishida.”
Just hearing the name makes a slow burn sizzle in his belly, never mind that he’s the one to bring it up.
Kame makes a face one would make when coming across surprise road kill. “Ishida sucks
—or well. I guess? Might not be his thing, y’know? Never gave him a try. He sucks though.”
Nakamaru straightens up, the walls tilting to the side as he lifts his head and pokes Kame in the chest with the tip of his finger.
“You liar. I saw you. And him. I saw
you.” The delivery would have been heavier if he didn’t end it with a burp. Instead of looking ashamed, Kame has the nerve to look angry.
“Don’t touch me!” Kame smacks his hand away and his cheeks puff out again. “I’m not a girl.”
,” Nakamaru slurs. “Drunkdrunkdrunk.”
“Shut up!” Kame shoves at him and movement makes his top slide half off his torso, and suddenly there is too much flushed skin in Nakamaru’s personal space. He catches a bud of pink and ends up staring at the tininess of Kame’s nipple in fascination. It’s really very tiny, like a sundried raisin. Very pinchable. Maybe Kame is the type who likes that. Maybe he makes a sound when—
Nakamaru is suddenly too hot but there’s a pile of warm, angry Kame between him and the last can of beer.
“I’m not a girl,” Kame repeats even though Nakamaru will never be drunk enough to make that mistake, despite Kame’s curves and his pretty eyes and soft hair. “You like girls but you look at me. Like that. Like right now.” Kame swallows. “You always look at me like you want me but I’m not a girl.”
There’s this weird bursting sensation in his ears and along his skin, like every cell glued together to make Nakamaru Yuichi is popping. Bubble wrap under Kame’s heavy gaze.
He wants. He wants so much his teeth ache. Kame and his stupid, ridiculous shoes and his dumb baseball crush. It feels like Nakamaru has wanted him for years when it’s only been months.
He has no idea where the part about girls came from.
Without warning, the elevator floods with darkness.
Nakamaru can’t see anything, not his own feet or his own nose. He lets Kame’s tiny gasp of surprise guide him, his searching hands bumping into knees and elbows, skimming over soft fabric and even softer skin. He runs his hand up a slope of heated flesh and finds the back of Kame’s neck. It’s damp and scalding. The alcohol and the dark don’t help with his coordination but he thinks he’s got it. He’s got Kame.
On his first try, he ends up making out with Kame’s chin, the prickle of his baby stubble chafing his lips. He’s glad it’s dark, glad he has enough alcohol in him to keep him going. Kame’s laugh is hot against his nose and tells him where to aim next.
They meet soft and slippery and Nakamaru’s tongue feels less clunky now. He’s sweating everywhere but he’s wanted this for too long. Everything about Kame is sweet and hot and makes his heart throb.
When Nakamaru opens his eyes, the lights are on, illuminating everything in harsh, stark lines; the reality of the elevator comes back into focus with an unwelcome jolt. Kame’s eyelashes are shorter than Sawijiri’s but also thicker.
Nakamaru pulls back and folds into himself before they sweep open.
When they do, a crackle sounds. “We apologise for that brief black out. Things are well under way and we’ll have the elevator moving in no time. Thank you again for your patience. Please let us know if there is an emergency.”
Nakamaru clears his throat with difficulty, Kame’s eyes boring into his. “W-we’re good, thanks.”
Another crackle and silence.
“I like girls but not…” Nakamaru scratches at his knee, his fingernail leaving white lines across his dry skin, “not like that.”
When he looks up, Kame is very still. Nakamaru isn’t even sure if he’s breathing until he lets out a sharp woosh
of breath followed by, “You fucker
It’s not quite the reaction he’d been expecting and he sits up, annoyed and aching. “What did I even—”
Kame is on him in an instant and Nakamaru distantly wonders at his agility even when piss drunk. Everything about Kamenashi was unfair somehow. Like now, when he could make Nakamaru dizzy just by his sheer proximity.
“I waited for you for months
,” Kame hisses and punches at his shoulder. It’s a sloppy punch, like a dog trying to rile up a chew toy. It still hurts a bit though, because Kame is a psycho baseball freak. “You suck. I waited and you—you messed up. Everything
. You stupid… stupid… takoyaki head
He spits it out like it’s some terrible curse. Nakamaru has been called worse by Ueda alone.
Another punch and Nakamaru catches his hand, throwing Kame off guard.
“I waited for you longer. Every fucking morning. You stood me up.” He knows he’s gripping too tight by Kame’s flinch and it takes him a moment to breathe and exhale before he loosens it; he doesn’t let go, though. He could get drunk off Kame alone but something about the kiss sobered him up and he wants his closure if nothing else.
He has to speak slowly for the words to come out in the proper order and proper volume.
“If you weren’t sleeping with Ishida while I was waiting for you in the lobby, what were you doing?”
“Are you stupid?” Kame tries to tug back his hand. Nakamaru holds on.
“Yeah, I guess so. Tell me.”
Kame pauses and looks at him closely. His expression is blank again. Nakamaru can smell the alcohol on his breath and knows his must be the same. “He came onto me. Real smooth talker. Real macho. Kinda… kinda hot. I brought him over.” This isn’t a good idea. Nakamaru doesn’t want to know this. He can’t—he can’t look at Kame with those images of him and—ohgod—
“I popped open some wine. Vintage. Taguchi got it for me. Got us both a glass…” Kame talks over him and Nakamaru is a moment away from shoving him back when a lopsided smirk cuts across his features, “…and then I told him to fuck off for good.”
Nakamaru feels his jaw drop a bit.
Kame is beaming at the memory. “Told him I wasn’t into assholes.”
That. That made sense. Of course Kame wasn’t into assholes like Ishida. He was too good for them. Smarter. Better all around. Nakamaru could feel his face doing something loopy and victorious, like a child witnessing his tormentor slip in a puddle of mud in front of the school steps.
“That’s good. That you told him straight up.” He’s not fooling either of them.
Kame is scowling again. “’m not into guys who don’t—don’t know what they want.”
When Kame tries to yank back this time, the force of it makes him stumble and land right into Nakamaru’s lap. They sit for a moment, just like that—hot, panting, disheveled, drunkdrunkdrunk—not knowing what to do next.
“—a girl. I know.” Kame is heavy and makes his legs numb. Nakamaru could care less. He’s drunk enough to say it. “Hey… I don’t start work until nine.”
Kame’s eyebrows scrunch together and Nakamaru waits for him to get it, his heart drumming nervously as he wets his lips and tries not to look like a pathetic stalker.
He knows when Kame’s caught on when he hears the soft, “…oh
“Yeah.” Nakamaru fidgets and stops shortly because that’s not a good idea when he has Kame in his lap.
“You’re really into me.” Kame’s eyes are squinting at him in thought, a pleased smile inching across his face, and Nakamaru feels his face burn at how true it is. His hands find Kame’s waist and squeeze. Nakamaru brings their foreheads together and closes his eyes.
The smell of vanilla is overwhelming.
“I’m so so
Around them, the world begins to move.
Nakamaru wakes up with a splitting headache that has him paralysed in bed for a good ten minutes. It turns out to be a really
good ten minutes because the memories come back to him in embarrassing, heart squeezing pieces. He ends up stuffing his face into his pillow for most of it before he remembers that the elevator will pass by at a quarter past seven.
In the next second, he’s rolling out of bed, stubbing his toe on the leg of his dresser, and hopping to the washroom on one foot. It’s insane, he thinks, looking at his frothing mouth in the mirror as he toothbrushes. He had spent hours held hostage by the elevator just last night and he can’t wait to get back in.
Kame will be waiting.
What if Kame doesn’t remember?
Nakamaru’s shoe drops from his hand. He couldn’t have—could he? What if it was all just the alcohol doing the talking? It was possible. Kame was weird and violent and all sorts of touchy when drunk. It could all have been a mistake. It could have been nothing.
Or it could have been more.
Nakamaru shakes his head and jams his foot into his shoe, forgoing the laces. The clock ticks and he knows what he wants. He’s always known.
He hurls himself out the door, slamming it shut behind him, and takes two sprinting steps before he halts and trips over his feet, managing to catch himself just barely.
Kame is standing in the middle of the corridor, neck bent as he checks his watch. He must have seen Nakamaru from his periphery because he turns to look at him slowly, with a small wave and a smile as fragile as eggshells.
“Hi. Sorry if this is… weird. I didn’t know which room was yours.” Kame shifts and offers a more forceful smile. He’s wearing his gold-studded shoes again. “You’re right on the dot. It’s pretty… pretty amazing.”
Nakamaru wants to scoop him up in his arms. Instead, he settles for the fireworks going off in his chest and moves towards Kame with a grin that must be dopey because it makes Kame at ease, his smile now reaching his eyes.
“Good morning. Rough night?” he asks, feeling daring and outside himself. He’s insane.
Kame laughs, gritty and high. “I’ve had worse… but I’ve rarely had better.” It’s Nakamaru’s turn to shift, embarrassed but still grinning. “You’re not due for an hour, right?”
“I’m so into you I remembered everything.” Kame looks up at him like he means it. “Let’s take the stairs this time?”