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Akanishi Jin To Return From Hiatus?!
Akanishi Jin (23), a member of idol group KAT-TUN, made his first public appearance yesterday after nearly a year on hiatus, as a surprise guest on NHK BS1's variety program "The Shounen Club". Akanishi's hiatus, for the purpose of overseas language study, was originally estimated to last six months.
Although there was no mention of ending his hiatus or otherwise resuming activities, the appearance almost certainly signifies a step in that direction. Rumor is rife as to the many possible implications. Could this mean the return of KAT-TUN? An anonymous source connected to Johnny's Entertainment, exclusive to this paper, claims that, on the contrary, Akanishi plans on a solo debut.
Certainly KAT-TUN has not appeared or performed together since shortly after Akanishi's departure, instead concentrating on individual activities. Popular front man Kamenashi Kazuya (21) has released two solo singles and an album, all of which debuted at No. 1 on the Oricon charts, followed by a national concert tour, while Tanaka Koki (22) has appeared in a string of highly successful television dramas, winning the 50th Television Drama Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Whether Akanishi's sudden appearance means his return to KAT-TUN or a new step forward in the entertainment sphere, his fans are surely eagerly awaiting any news after his long absence.
Jin tossed the paper onto the growing pile and leaned back in his chair. "That's one more for a solo debut. Oh, and one more for an exclusive source."
"Got it." Yamapi uncapped the red dry erase marker and made two marks in the appropriate columns on the whiteboard where it was propped next to the table. "So that makes four for KAT-TUN, seven for a solo debut, one for a shotgun marriage, and none for TAY*J."
"And five anonymous sources," Jin added. "Johnny needs to screen his employees better." They both snickered.
"Do they actually get tips from people pretending to be jimusho employees or do you think they just make it up?" Jin wondered.
Yamapi snickered again. "They probably get it from the rumor blogs."
"Not that you've been reading them, of course," Terada said dryly from the corner, where he was marking up one of his never-ending stacks of papers.
"Nope," Yamapi agreed glibly, "not me."
"Definitely not," Jin agreed, nodding seriously.
Terada actually snorted in what could pass for a laugh from him. "Is that all of them? I'm ready whenever you are." Although he affected his usual air of martyrdom, he was clearly pleased with the amount of coverage Jin was receiving - and that meant Johnny's probably hadn't even had to pull any strings to get it.
According to Terada, the news had been on Mezamashi that morning, too. Jin and Yamapi hadn't seen it, but they had stopped at a newsstand in the train station and bought one of every gossip tabloid or entertainment paper in stock. At the jimusho, they very seriously explained to Terada that they had important research to conduct and maybe they could postpone dance practice for an hour or so; they had been flatly refused, but the stack of newspapers was waiting in the consulting room when they met there later in the day.
"Yeah, that's the last one," said Jin. He tapped a finger against his lips, examining the board. "Maybe I should go solo after all. You should give the public what they want, right?"
Yamapi threw the marker at him. "You wish. Don't get all vain just because I said you might not drag me down after all."
Jin grinned smugly and gave the pile of newspapers a proprietary pat. "Jealousy doesn't become you, my friend."
Terada cleared his throat. "If you're done...?"
Yamapi took a seat and they turned twin looks of concentration on their manager; Terada just snorted again. "As I sincerely hope you remember, tomorrow is your recording session," he began. Jin perked up. "The plan is for you to show up here at eight. You'll then be taken to the recording studio in separate cars."
"Wow, they're serious about not letting anything slip, aren't they?" said Yamapi.
"There are still five days until the announcement, and now everyone's going to be watching Akanishi-kun," Terada replied, pushing his glasses up his nose. "Once recording is over, you'll still need to work on your choreography, but we'll start briefing you for the press conference on Friday." He consulted his sheaf of papers. "We're going to send out a press release on Thursday night, at the same time the announcement goes up on the website. So if I were you I would stay in that evening."
Jin and Yamapi exchanged a glance and shrugged. Jin thought privately that he wanted to see the notice go up, anyway.
"The press conference will be at ten, so if you can be here by nine, we can go over any last minute questions that might pop up before we take you over there." Terada allowed himself a smile. "It'll be a pretty exciting day, so you don't have to worry about practice. After you come back here we'll just review how it went, and then you're free for the day."
Jin and Yamapi high-fived each other. "Hey, what are our days off this week, anyways?" Yamapi asked.
"Just Wednesday," Terada said apologetically. "PV shooting starts on Monday, so we'll need you to spend Saturday and Sunday perfecting the routine and working out any last-minute changes or adjustments."
Yamapi made a face. "What about next week?"
Terada hesistated. "Actually... since your first public appearance will be that Friday..."
"None, huh?" Yamapi said, resigned.
"I'm afraid so." Terada consulted his schedule. "You do have Tuesday afternoon off, as long as shooting doesn't go over."
Jin thought maybe he should feel more regret at the prospect of weeks of constant activity stretching ahead of him, but the truth was that the thought of back to back TV appearances and performances made his pulse speed up just a little. He would probably think back on this in a few weeks, when he was getting five hours of a sleep a night and hadn't had a day off in weeks, and groan at his foolishness, but for now he could afford to be excited.
"It's, what's it called, the price of fame, right?" he said to Yamapi cheerfully. “We'll just have to deal with it."
"How many times do I have to remind you we're already famous?” Yamapi grumbled, but it was half-hearted at best.
Terada glanced at his watch. "Well, I think that's all for now. You have an appointment right now, don't you?"
Jin nodded. "Voice again. Since recording is tomorrow."
"All right, then I'll see you tomorrow morning. Have a good afternoon, boys." Terada nodded at them, gathered his papers, and left.
Yamapi waited until he was out of earshot to say thoughtfully, "I think he might be getting used to us."
"Don't worry," Jin assured him, "he'll get over it by tomorrow."
Recording went fairly smoothly. Jin finished in four takes, Yamapi in five, and they bowed and politely thanked the recording staff before being whisked back to the jimusho – separately, again. They went home and Jin made dinner for the first time since he'd left America. It turned out well - surprisingly so, as Yamapi made a point of telling him several times, before Jin threatened him with a kitchen knife. Shirota called and they talked about going out, all three of them, before deciding that since it was the middle of the week the clubs would probably be empty. Ryo called and said something that made Yamapi snort with laughter; he refused to tell Jin what it was, so that Jin had to wrestle the phone away from him, only to have Ryo greet him with "Is this the lady of the household speaking?"
Yamapi was rolling on the floor, laughing so hard he was almost crying. Jin thought about kicking him but regretfully decided against it in favor of enlisting his help to think of something good to get Ryo with the next time he saw him.
Tossing on the couch that night, trying to get comfortable, it suddenly struck Jin that he hadn't even thought about finding his own place yet.
He liked living with Yamapi, and if they weren't sick of each other by now, after spending almost all their time together for the past three weeks, it probably wasn't going to happen. But he knew he couldn't freeload forever – and besides, he was getting kind of tired of the couch.
"Go ahead without me," he said to Yamapi the next day, when practice was over. "I've got something to do, but it shouldn't take too long."
"Okay," Yamapi said easily. "Want me to get dinner?"
"Yeah, sure." He waved goodbye, and then when Yamapi had gone, went to a real estate agent's office in Aoyama.
Jin listened to the man's recommendations and took a few flyers and made an appointment for the next day to go look at what seemed like the best of the lot. When he got home, he tossed the flyers carelessly on the couch and didn't think about them again until after dinner, when he looked over from where he was stowing the leftovers in the refrigerator and saw Yamapi leafing through the little packet, brow furrowed.
Yamapi glanced up and caught Jin looking at him. "Weird," he said, "I hadn't even thought about it."
"Yeah, I know," Jin agreed, closing the refrigerator door and coming over. "I just remembered yesterday."
"So are you going to go take or look or something?" Yamapi absentmindedly tapped the pile of papers against the table.
Jin shrugged. "Yeah, I guess. I mean, I'm going to go check that one out tomorrow after work," he said, gesturing at one of the flyers. He grinned. "Don't worry, I'll be back before the announcement." The announcement.
"Jin," Yamapi said slowly, "I'm not going to kick you out or anything. You know that, right?"
"Huh?" Jin blinked at Yamapi, surprised. "Oh. Yeah, I know. I mean, I figured. But I have to find a place eventually, right? And I might as well get it over with before we get busy."
Yamapi nodded slowly. "I guess so," he said.
"Anyway," Jin said, "let's go rent a movie or something. We've only got a couple nights of freedom left."
Yamapi laughed at him. "You're not fooling anyone. You can't wait to be on television again, can you?"
"What? I don't know what you're talking about," said Jin, but his guilty smile betrayed him again.
The next day was mostly briefing on the press conference – what they were supposed to say, what they weren't supposed to say, what the media would probably ask. Terada made them sit on one side of a long table while he fired off questions from the other side, pacing back and forth. ("Yes, working with Akanishi-kun is great. We get along so well we even live together, did you know that?" "Yamashita-kun." "Sorry, sorry! One more time, for real, honest.") As the day wore on Terada, already wound up tighter than a coiled spring, grew edgier and edgier until finally he just waved his hand and told them they were done for the day.
Yamapi went home. Jin went with the agent to see the apartment. The price was reasonable and he liked the look of it; he was signing a contract almost before he realized what was happening. The agent told him he could move in any time after the following day. Jin thought about it; he wasn't exactly eager to leave and the next day was the press conference, anyway. He could wait until Saturday.
"I got an apartment," he announced when he got home.
Yamapi glanced up from where he was sprawled on the floor, leafing through a magazine. "Really?" he said. "That was fast. When are you moving in?"
Jin scratched the back of his head. "I was thinking Saturday? I don't really want to do it right after the press conference."
Yamapi sat up. "Okay," he said decisively, "then tomorrow night we'll celebrate. Both TAY*J's official introduction and the last night of our swinging bachelor pad."
Jin snorted. "Our what?"
Yamapi ignored him. "It'll be great," he said, nodding to himself. "Hey, we better run out and stock up tonight before the news goes public. I bet Terada would kill us if we got caught in a liquor store right after our press conference."
"We're legal," Jin pointed out, but he knew that Yamapi had a point – it wouldn't exactly be good for their image. He went to retrieve his jacket.
The weather was just starting to cool with the onset of fall, and the night air was crisp. Jin and Yamapi hurried back from the store, laden with heavy paper bags, and began what seemed to Jin an interminable wait.
Terada had said the press release would go out at nine, at the same time the website would be updated. At 8:55, Jin and Yamapi were kneeling in front of the low table in the living room, where Yamapi's laptop was open and displaying the Johnny's Entertainment homepage.
"Refresh it again," Jin said, nudging Yamapi.
Yamapi rolled his eyes. "I just did thirty seconds ago! Besides, it's not even nine yet," he said, but he was already clicking the button at the top of the browser.
Jin held his breath as the page loaded again – and let it out in frustration as the display remained exactly the same as the last six times.
"Calm down," Yamapi said, amused, and Jin realized he was tapping a finger incessantly against the table. "It's only a statement."
"I know, it's just – " Jin struggled to put words to the nebulous feeling of anticipation buzzing inside him. "Once it's up there, they can't – " change their minds " - it's official," he finished lamely.
"We're official, you mean? Aw, how sweet," Yamapi said, clasping his hands together and looking soulfully at Jin.
"Idiot," Jin said, laughing in spite of himself. He counted to thirty, slowly, before saying "Refresh it again."
"You know this isn't healthy, right?" Yamapi said, but refreshed the page anyway. It loaded and –
Jin clutched Yamapi's arm. "There it is!"
Yamapi was already double clicking on the little red link under "Notices"; a new window popped up and they both leaned forward.
It was official.
"'As of today, October 11, Johnny's Entertainment is pleased to introduce TAY*J, a new unit comprised of Akanishi Jin and Yamashita Tomohisa,'" Jin read aloud, savoring the sound of the words. He grinned, elbowing Yamapi in the side. "Hey, I'm first."
"Because it's in alphabetical order, idiot," Yamapi said, elbowing Jin back. "Learn Japanese before you go off to study a foreign language."
Jin was not going to be distracted. "'TAY*J's debut single "Electric Shock" is set for release on November 14. A press conference with Akanishi and Yamashita will take place tomorrow morning at ten, after which more details will become available here. Thank you for your interest.'" He sat back, not bothering to hold back a wide grin. There was no way it wasn't happening now.
Yamapi was already typing something into a search engine; a moment later he was at one of the entertainment news blogs they'd come across during their previous search.
"They'll get it from the press release, so it should take around... fifteen minutes?" Yamapi guessed.
It took ten. "DREAM PAIR" read the heading, in katakana, and "Akanishi's Return Confirmed!" "Another one," Jin urged, and they jumped from page to page, poring over articles that all said more or less the same thing. Yamapi made Jin look away while he pulled up a couple of the fan blogs, and when he looked back he was greeted with "WELCOME BACK, JIN!!" scrolling across the screen in enormous blinking rainbow text.
Jin looked over; Yamapi was watching him, grinning almost as widely as he was. "What do you say?" Yamapi prompted.
"When someone welcomes you back. What do you say?"
Oh. Jin looked at the floor, feeling his cheeks flush.
"I'm home," he said.
" – and remember, if – no, when they bring up KAT-TUN – "
" – don't say anything conclusive, he remembers," Yamapi interrupted, giving Terada a reassuring pat on the shoulder. "Don't worry. We'll be fine."
They were huddled together in a tiny room down the hall from where the press conference would take place. Terada was practically vibrating with nervousness as he ran through a stream of last-minute instructions; most of it Jin and Yamapi had heard already, but they nodded obediently anyway.
"We didn't talk about the suspension issue," Terada went on. "I didn't think it would come up, but some of the articles are mentioning it. Try and evade the question, but say no if you have to - "
A staffer poked her head through the door. "They're waiting," she said.
Jin and Yamapi exchanged a glance, then each clapped a hand on one of Terada's shoulders. "Time to go," Yamapi said cheerfully, and they propelled their manager out the door.
They walked through the door into an explosion of flashbulbs. Jin squinted and almost brought an arm up to shield his eyes, but he remembered the number one rule of dealing with photographers – don't cover your face, it makes you look guilty. They made their way down the aisle to the front of the room, where a table waited atop a raised platform, and took their seats. Jin immediately poured himself a drink from the pitcher between them; the flashes continued to go off.
Terada, standing beside them, cleared his throat, suddenly all professionalism. "Thank you for coming today,” he said. "If everyone is ready, we can begin."
A hand immediately shot up near the front. "I'd like to wish both of you congratulations on your impending debut," called a man who looked vaguely familiar to Jin – probably someone who had reported on KAT-TUN before. "And of course, everyone here is pleased to see Akanishi-san again. I'm sure we're all wondering, though, does this mean you'll definitely be leaving KAT-TUN?"
Well, Jin supposed he shouldn't be surprised. He leaned forward to speak into the microphone. "Thank you for your good wishes. Right now, everyone in KAT-TUN is currently busy with individual activities. Kamenashi-kun is working on his new single, Koki-kun is concentrating on his acting career. Think of this as a similar project, separate from KAT-TUN."
He didn't stumble once – possibly because Terada had made him practice the answer until he could recite it in his sleep.
The reporter nodded his thanks. A woman off to the side raised her voice. "In that case, how long is TAY*J expected to be together? The press release gave the impression it would be a permanent group, but now it sounds more like a temporary side project, such as Yamashita-san's previous collaboration...?"
Yamapi took this one. "Right now there are no definite plans outside of our debut," he said, "but we do intend to release more than one single and hopefully tour together. Anything beyond that is currently undecided."
"How do you feel about the prospect of working together?" another man asked.
"Excited!" Yamapi responded immediately, sending a ripple of laughter through the room.
Jin nodded his agreement. "We're both really looking forward to it," he added, and flashed a smile. Flashbulbs popped.
A young woman Jin had never seen before asked the next question. "Akanishi-san," she said, "you were studying in America for the last year, correct?" Jin nodded. "Then – " she smiled widely and he could hear the laugh in her voice " - could you possibly say something for your fans in English?"
Another chuckle went through the room, but Jin was ready for this one, too. "Thank you for your support. I'm very happy to be back in Japan," he said in English, grinning. The reporters murmured in appreciation and broke into applause.
The rest of the press conference went smoothly. Jin was asked whether he'd been in contact with the other members of KAT-TUN since he'd returned, to which he could truthfully answer yes. Yamapi was asked how this would affect his schedule; he replied that since he wasn't taking part in a drama this season he didn't foresee any problems. As the conference wore on they relaxed, joking with each other and smiling winningly at the press, and Jin was honestly surprised when Terada finally stepped forward again to announce that unfortunately they could only take one more question before they had to leave.
"I have a question for Akanishi-san," a sharp-eyed man said, stepping forward. "Now that you plan to resume your career, can you comment on the rumors that your 'hiatus' was in fact a suspension by your agency?"
A low murmur ran through the room. Jin didn't dare look at Terada or Yamapi. His mind raced. What had Terada said? Evade if he could, but flat out deny it if he had to –
He didn't want to deny it. It had happened. He didn't want to lie, to sit there and tell the whole world that he hadn't spent the first two months disbelieving and the third and fourth alternately furious and despondent, and the three after that unable to quite let go of the faint hope that maybe, maybe, and the last four adjusting, if not resigned, starting to actually enjoy his strange new life when suddenly -
A foot bumped against his own, bringing him sharply back to his surroundings.
We'll be fine.
Jin looked out at the blur of inquisitive faces and drew a deep breath.
"Of course there were a lot of rumors going around when I left," he said, nodding slowly. "But everything I said then is true - I've always been interested in foreign languages and I've always wanted to try living in another country. The jimusho was instrumental in providing me with that opportunity. The last year was a very important experience for me. I've learned a lot, and now I'm ready to focus on my career and work as hard as I can."
"Thank you," the reporter said, looking faintly disappointed, as the room applauded.
"Then that will be all for today," Terada said, not betrying even the slightest sign of relief. "Thank you very much for your time and attention." He bowed deeply; Jin and Yamapi followed suit, and then they were being herded back down the aisle, past the popping flashbulbs and out of the building
Inside the waiting car, Terada slumped forward and let his forehead hit the rim of the steering wheel. "Maybe this job is too stressful," he said, voice muffled.
"Good job!" Yamapi said to Jin where they sat in the back seat, looping an arm around his shoulders. "You've gotten pretty smooth, haven't you?"
"Well," said Jin, grinning with relief, "I did say that I never lie, after all."
Terada let out a moan.
"Hey, cheer up," Yamapi said, leaning forward and clapping Terada on the shoulder. "We did fine in the end, didn't we? I think it's time to celebrate."
"I think," Terada said faintly, "I think I'm going to go home. We can talk about how it went tomorrow. You boys just go home and have a good night, all right?"
Jin and Yamapi exchanged a grin.
"We will," said Yamapi.
"Definitely," said Jin.
"I'm sorry I brought it up," said Terada.
"When are you leaving again?" Yamapi asked that night, voice slurred with the effects of alcohol. They had started early, around the time clips from the press conference showed up on the evening news. Now they had passed through the giddy stage and were sprawled loose-limbed on the floor, wrapped in a warm, fuzzy glow of contentment.
"Tomorrow," Jin said, blinking several times in rapid succession. "That's why we're celebrating. Part of why we're celebrating. Remember?"
"Just checking. I thought you might have changed your mind," Yamapi explained.
"Then I'd have to leave tonight," Jin pointed out. "I don’t want to go anywhere tonight."
"Oh. You're right." Yamapi sounded confused. Then he blinked and shook his head. "Wait, no, that's not what I meant. Thought maybe you were staying longer."
"Pi, are you going to miss me?" Jin said gleefully. "Aw." He pushed himself over and flopped on top of Yamapi's chest to give him a hug. "We'll still be friends. Promise."
"Then you can still come visit when you get bored without me," Yamapi generously allowed, patting the top of Jin's head.
"No, you'll get bored without me," Jin corrected. "So bored that you'll actually call me. And then I'll ignore you. It'll be, what do you call it. Revenge."
Yamapi hit the top of his head lightly. "You're a terrible girlfriend."
Jin was suddenly overcome with a fit of giggles and rolled over onto the floor. "Should've said that at the press conference. 'What do you think of Akanishi-kun?'"
Yamapi snickered. "'He's a good singer but a pain in the ass to date.'" That set Jin off again and he lay on his side, shaking helplessly with laughter. When he finally caught his breath again, he turned back over.
Yamapi was sitting up and looking at him intently.
"What?" said Jin.
"I don't know," Yamapi said, but kept looking at him.
"Whaaat?" Jin could tell he was whining.
"Jin," Yamapi said, sounding confused.
"Pi," Jin returned gravely.
There was a long silence. Yamapi eventually shook his head, still frowning. "Never mind. I don't know. I'm tired." He lay back down on his stomach, pillowing his head on his arms, and closed his eyes. "Good night."
"You're going to sleep? Right here?" Jin said dubiously, yawning. He thought there was something a little odd about that, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. Something about sleeping on the floor.
There was no answer. Jin looked over
Yamapi was already fast asleep.
Jin woke to complete darkness. His head was pounding. He rubbed at his eyes and squinted at the television; the LCD display read 3:45.
He sat up and looked around, feeling more clearheaded by the minute. Yamapi was curled in a ball on the floor beside him, head resting on his arms and mouth partway open. Jin leaned over and shook his friend's shoulder.
"Pi," he whispered. "Pi."
There was a faint snore.
"Come on, you have to get up." For some reason, he was still whispering.
Yamapi groaned. "Don't want to."
"You can't sleep on the floor, idiot."
Jin got to his feet and bent over, wincing. He was going to be so sore tomorrow. Today. Whenever.
He gently tugged at Yamapi's arm. "Come on," he said again.
"Go away," Yamapi mumbled, curling up even tighter.
"Come on," Jin repeated, tugging harder. Yamapi tried to pull his arm free, but Jin wouldn't let it go. "It's just a little ways, okay?"
Yamapi finally allowed himself to be pulled to his feet, rubbing at his eyes. "Bully," he grumbled.
"You're the bully," Jin retorted softly. "I'm just too nice to say so."
They stumbled to Yamapi's room, where Yamapi immediately flopped down on the bed and curled up in a ball again. Jin eyed him. He really didn't want to try and wrestle Yamapi under the covers, but if Yamapi caught a cold right before their first appearance...
Jin peered around the dark room, but unsurprisingly there was no sign of an extra blanket. He looked back at Yamapi and sighed.
"Pi," he whispered, shaking Yamapi's shoulder again, "you have to move one more time, okay?"
Yamapi curled his arms over his head. "No."
Fine, then. Let Yamapi catch a cold. He could still shoot the PV just fine and then on Music Station Jin's voice would sound even better in comparison and it would serve him right. Or he could just lip synch again.
Jin paused. On second thought –
He made his way out of the room as quietly as possible, only stumbling over some unidentifiable object once and succeeding in catching the doorframe before he fell. He wasn't so lucky in the other room, where he walked right into the low table, banging his shin painfully and letting out a loud curse. He instinctively clapped a guilty hand over his mouth, but it didn't matter; there wasn't a sound from the bedroom. Jin relaxed.
Somehow, he managed to retrieve the blanket he had been using from under the couch and make it back to Yamapi's room without further incident. Yamapi was still curled tightly on one side of the bed, just as he'd left him. Fine, all the more room for Jin.
Jin crawled up on the bed next to Yamapi, wriggled around, making himself comfortable, and pulled the blanket up over both of them. God, he was tired. Next time he'd just leave Yamapi on the floor and take the bed all for himself, like he should have done in the first place.
At least this was more comfortable than the couch. A lot more comfortable. In fact, Jin could feel himself already starting to drift off -
Yamapi flung an arm out and hit him in the mouth.
Oh, he would pay for that tomorrow.
It took Jin several minutes to wake up the next morning. The softness of the pillow under his cheek lulled him back towards unconsciousness, and it was only when he remembered that he'd recently been sleeping on a couch, not a bed, that he opened his eyes all the way.
The bed was empty. Jin pushed himself up on one elbow and squinted against the bright sunlight; as soon as he saw Yamapi's favorite jacket draped over the back of a chair, he remembered where he was and the memory of the night before abruptly returned.
Some of it, anyway. He vaguely remembered waking up and lugging Yamapi to bed, then collapsing next to him, but not much beside that. Jin sat all the way up and stretched, yawning, then winced and gingerly touched the side of his mouth. It was inexplicably sore.
Overall, however, he felt much better than he should after a late night of drinking. Good, since they had work today. Jin yawned again, then rolled out of bed and shuffled into the kitchen.
"Morning," he greeted Yamapi, who was standing in front of the open refrigerator drinking juice straight from the carton.
Yamapi set the carton down on the counter. "Morning," he said in a voice that was still rough and scratchy, wiping his mouth with the back of one hand. He looked like he was about to say something else, then shook his head and went back to rummaging through the fridge.
Jin mentally shrugged and opened one of the cupboards. He was sure they had something around here that wasn't dinner leftovers. Probably.
They ate in silence; Jin, at least, was still half-sleep. He was just starting to feel completely woken up, thinking that they might want to get going if they didn't want to be late when Yamapi finally spoke. "Sleep well?" he asked.
Jin blinked. "Yeah. I think. No worse than usual. Why?"
"I had a dream that part of the set fell onto the stage and trapped me underneath it and I was slowly being crushed to death," Yamapi said.
"Really? You never told me you had trouble with stage fright," Jin said, surprised.
"And then I woke up and you were sleeping on top of me."
"Hey, if it wasn't for me you'd still have been on the floor," Jin said defensively. "You should be grateful I hauled your lazy ass to bed instead of just taking it all for myself."
Yamapi stared at him. "What?"
"You should be grateful I didn't take the bed and leave you on the floor all night," Jin repeated. He smirked. "Still asleep?"
Yamapi shook his head as if to clear it. "Maybe so." He got up and flicked a finger against Jin's temple. "Come on, we're going to be late."
"Ow," Jin complained, clapping a hand to the spot, but got up anyway.
Terada was in one of the consulting rooms talking rapidly on his cell phone when they got to work. He waved absently at them to take a seat and wrapped up the conversation within a couple minutes – from their side, it mostly consisted of "Maybe," and "You understand we can't promise anything," and "We'll see what we can do."
"That was a representative from Josei Jishin," Terada said after he hung up. "They're late to the game - most of the other magazines made arrangements with us yesterday - but we might be able to fit them in if they make it worth our while." Jin had never seen their manager actually look smug before.
Before either Jin or Yamapi could say anything, Terada's cell went off. "Yes?" he said. “Yes, I am. I see. Just one moment, please, let me check their schedule." He covered with the mouthpiece with one hand and said "Go on to practice, boys. We'll go over your new schedule later today." He returned his attention to the phone. "Ah, here it is. To air right after the CD release, you said? When would taping take place?"
Their session with the choreographer lasted longer than usual; aside from a couple minor adjustments to the routine to learn, the approach of PV shooting as well as the Music Station appearance meant that the slightest hesitation or misstep called for what was, in Jin's opinion, far more intensive work than was necessary on whatever they had messed up. They took a short break to have lunch and recharge, but by the time they were done for the day, Jin was exhausted. He trudged out of the studio and immediately collapsed on a bench in the hallway with a groan.
"Pi," he said plaintively, "I can't feel my legs."
Yamapi slumped down next to him. "I can feel mine," he said. "That's the problem."
Jin let his head fall onto Yamapi's shoulder. “Let's get takeout again," he said. "I don't even want to heat up water today."
"Okay," Yamapi agreed, cheek brushing against Jin's hair as he nodded, then stopped. "Wait. Jin – " he sounded half-incredulous, half-amused " – Jin, you're moving out today."
Jin frowned. "Oh," he said. "You're right."
Jin was saved from having to muster the strength to retaliate by their manager's appearance around the corner. He raised his head quickly. "Oh," Terada said, looking surprised, "you’re done already?"
"Already?" Jin said, voice high with disbelief.
"Your choreographer must think you're doing well," Terada continued implacably. "Good. Since you're done, why don't we go back and discuss your new schedule for the week?"
"Do we have to move?" Yamapi asked. "Can't you just tell us right here?"
"You'll get stiff if you don't move,” Terada said, more cheerful than Jin had ever seen him. "Come on, it’s not too far."
They made it to a consulting room with possibly more groaning and complaining than was strictly necessary, sinking into the hard chairs with exaggerated exclamations of relief while Terada ran through the offers TAY*J had received in the last two days.
PV filming was still Monday and possibly Tuesday, but Wednesday and Thursday were now back to back magazine shoots and interviews. Lotte had called about a commercial featuring their debut song and negotiations were in the works; Terada said that, off the record, they could expect to shoot some time next week.
"Other than that," Terada concluded, "the TV appearances don't start until next week, and several of the music programs will be holding off until after the CD release, so it won't be too overwhelming at first. Just concentrate on things one by one."
"Let me guess - starting tomorrow?" Yamapi said.
Terada smiled approvingly. "Exactly, Yamashita-kun. I'll see you both at eight AM sharp. Have a good night."
Jin blew out his cheeks and sighed as they left. The last thing he wanted to do now was lug all his stuff over to his new apartment, especially since – he groaned softly - he still hadn't renewed his driver's license. He'd have to get one of his parents to drive him back and forth, and then he'd have to do all the heavy lifting himself. Great.
Just then Yamapi's voice broke into his thoughts. "...your parents' place?" Yamapi was saying.
"Sorry, what?" Jin said.
"Want me to help you move your stuff over from your parents'?" Yamapi repeated. He misread Jin's look of surprise and shrugged. "It's just that I know you haven't renewed – "
"Oh, thank you," Jin interrupted fervently.
It took them four trips from Jin's family's house and two from Yamapi's apartment – one to collect most of Jin's belongings and one to go back for the ones he forgot. When they were done, Jin's parents pressed them both into staying for dinner, and by the time Yamapi finally dropped Jin off at his apartment for good, it was almost nine.
"Well," Jin said, scratching at the back of his head. "I guess I'll see you tomorrow."
"Yeah." Yamapi nodded.
There was a long silence.
"Okay. Night," Yamapi said finally, and gave Jin a little wave.
"Night," Jin said, and watched Yamapi drive off.
He busied himself unpacking boxes and putting his things away, some of which he hadn’t seen since before he'd left. There was that shirt he had thought he'd lost in Hawaii, the mp3 player he'd used for exercising, his battered seventh grade English textbook, and - what the hell, the bicycle kit Koki had given him for his twenty-second birthday. Jin burst into laughter and set it carefully in the center of a shelf.
He was secretly grateful when the combination of late night and long day caught up with him and he caught himself yawning. In bed, he reveled in the firmness of the mattress and the wide expanse of sheets all to himself, stretching out his arms and legs as far as possible just because he could. Unsurprisingly, he was asleep within minutes.
It was strange going to work by himself the next morning and greeting Yamapi with a cheerful "Morning" in the entrance of the jimusho building instead. Jin didn't have much time to think about it, though, before they began practice almost immediately.
The day was every bit as long as the previous one, and Jin wondered how they were expected to have any energy left the next day for the PV itself, but at the end of the day the choreographer pronounced them "pretty good, actually," which was about as high praise as they could expect to get.
That didn't make Jin any less tired, though, and he got ready to go more or less on autopilot. He fell into step with Yamapi as they left the building and they walked to the station, boarded the train and staked out their customary spots in the far left corner in comfortable silence, too tired to make conversation.
It wasn't until they had emerged from the underground station and were heading down the sidewalk to the apartment building that Yamapi stopped in his tracks, forcing the pedestrians behind him to stop short to avoid walking straight into him.
Jin halted, too, and looked at Yamapi curiously. "What?"
"Jin," Yamapi said, sounding like he wasn't sure whether or not to laugh, "you're on the way to my apartment."
"Huh?" Jin said, then suddenly got it. "Oh. Oh. Oops."
Yamapi was shaking his head. "I really thought I'd seen even your limits, but apparently – "
"I was tired," Jin defended himself. "I wasn't really thinking – "
"Shut up!" Heads turned in their direction and Jin clapped a hand over his mouth, ducking his head guiltily. Yamapi was laughing at him again, the asshole.
"Fine," he said. "Then I'll just be going home now. 'Bye."
"Well," Yamapi said, not quite managing to sound reluctant, "I suppose if you wanted to stay for dinner you could. Since you're already all the way over here."
"It would save time," Jin allowed.
They picked up takeout bentos on the way back. Neither of them did much after they'd finished eating – Yamapi channel surfed while Jin idly flipped through a magazine – but Jin was still reluctant to leave. Eventually, however, he said halfheartedly, "I guess it's getting kind of late."
"I guess so," Yamapi said, equally unenthusiastic. "Since we have shooting tomorrow."
They said goodbye and Jin went back to his apartment. It was late, but not so late that Jin was tired enough to fall asleep yet. Instead he wandered aimlessly through the rooms, straightening things he'd arranged only the night before. When there was absolutely nothing more he could do, Jin pulled out his cell phone - it had remained silent, but he checked it anyway, just in case he'd somehow missed the beep signaling a new text message.
No new mail. On a whim he dialed Nakamaru, but there was no answer and he hung up without leaving a message. Jin glanced at the clock and regretfully decided against trying any of his other friends. He opened his laptop, but he hadn't signed up for internet service yet, so after a couple minutes of clicking around pointlessly, he gave up and closed the lid. Finally, Jin settled for switching the TV on and watching some crappy late night drama without really taking in what the actors were saying until he fell asleep on the couch.
He woke up the next morning with a painful crick in his neck. What was the point of having a huge bed if he was just going to sleep on the couch anyway, Jin thought to himself, disgusted.
He made it to the jimusho building just on time, barely managing to say hello to Yamapi before they were promptly whisked away to the set. They both dozed in the car, waking to Terada's voice announcing their arrival at the site, where they were immediately taken away to be fussed over by the hair and makeup staff before meeting the director for the first time.
The set was futuristic, all gleaming chrome and sharp edges. Jin and Yamapi listened as the director explained that what he had in mind was more of an overall visual effect than a storyline, meaning that all they had to do was either perform the right dance steps or drape themselves artistically across various pieces of the set.
As such, shooting was almost ridiculously easy. With only two members, there wasn't nearly as much down time as there had been on the set of the KAT-TUN PVs, either; Jin spent the short amount of time he had to himself while Yamapi shot his solo cut pantomiming the plot of last night's drama from just behind the cameras to see how quickly he could get Yamapi to lose it (pretty quickly, all things considered), until he saw Terada approaching purposefully and escaped to the bathroom.
The rest of the filming flew by in a blur of swiveling his hips and looking seductively into the camera and snickering with Yamapi at the unintentionally phallic backdrop. Suddenly the director was saying, "All right, cut! Good work!" and the staff were clapping and they were done.
"Good work, both of you," Terada congratulated them back at the jimusho. "You were mostly – " Jin thought he was stressing the word unnecessarily " – mostly very professional. I was impressed."
Jin also had a sneaking feeling that by "impressed" he meant "surprised".
"So," Yamapi said hopefully, "since we wrapped up filming today, we don't have anything to do tomorrow, right?"
"Well, I was going to have you come in for just an hour or two, but..." Terada trailed off.
Jin widened his eyes in his most imploring expression, and he didn't need to look at Yamapi to know he was doing the same thing. Double strength attack, he thought smugly.
Terada sighed. "All right, all right, take the day off. And enjoy it," he continued, raising his voice over the pair's whoops as they high fived each other enthusiastically, "because it's the last one you'll have for quite awhile."
"We appreciate it," Yamapi assured him. "Really, we do."
Jin nodded. "Just think how much we'd appreciate it if we also got Thursday – never mind," he said hastily, as Terada's eyes narrowed.
"Then I'll see you early Wednesday morning. Now go." Their manager made shooing motions with his hands. Jin and Yamapi obeyed.
"What are you going to do tomorrow?" Yamapi asked idly as they stood waiting for their respective trains to arrive.
"I was thinking of trying to see Koki or Taguchi," Jin said slowly. "I've seen everyone else from – everyone else except them."
Mercifully, Yamapi didn't point out the obvious – that Jin hadn't actually seen Kamenashi. Instead he merely said, "Yeah? Then try to get ahold of Koki tonight. From what I hear, he's pretty busy these days."
Jin nodded silently. They were quiet for a moment, and then suddenly Jin said "Hey, Pi."
Jin opened his mouth, then closed it again. He wasn't sure exactly what it was he wanted to know, just that the niggling unease in the back of his mind wouldn't go away until he got an answer.
"Jin?" Yamapi asked, waving a hand in front of his face. "Hello?"
Get a grip. "Pi," he said quickly, before he could stop himself, "about Kamenashi – "
His voice was drowned out by the loudspeakers. "The train for Tokyo Station is currently arriving. Please remain behind the white line." The train roared into the station, grinding to a stop with a loud hiss, and Jin flashed a hasty smile at Yamapi.
"Never mind. I'll call you tomorrow," he said, and escaped into the train.
Although they hadn't really kept in close contact, he and Koki had traded a few emails over the last year and they'd always gotten along, so Jin wasn't surprised to hear Koki's enthusiastic congratulations or immediate promise to meet for an early lunch the next day. What did surprise him, however, was the genuine happiness in Taguchi's voice when he greeted Jin. He and Taguchi had never quite hit it off, and he was more pleased than he wanted to admit at Taguchi's congratulations on the TAY*J debut.
Eventually, however, Taguchi said he was busy the next day, although he sounded honestly regretful. Busy with what? Jin didn't ask, suddenly aware that he had no idea what Taguchi had been doing – which, in their business, wasn't a good sign.
"That's too bad," Jin said, and meant it. "We're going to pretty busy after tomorrow, so I don't know when..."
"Don't worry," Taguchi said cheerfully, "I'm sure we'll be able to see each other soon. Let me know the next time you're free, okay?"
"All right," Jin agreed.
After hanging up, Jin did his best to occupy himself, replying to several emails on his cell phone he'd put off answering and even considering doing his laundry before deciding he wasn't that desperate.
He made it almost a whole hour before calling Shirota, and was out the door fifteen minutes later.
Jin slept in the next day before dragging himself out of bed in just enough time to get ready to meet Koki for lunch.
They went to a tiny ramen shop they'd used to visit often, and Koki updated Jin on what he'd been doing for the past year, without dwelling too much on who he'd worked with and never once mentioning his award. (Jin had sent him a congratulatory email under the pretext that he didn't have Koki's new phone number; he felt a little guilty now that he hadn't made more of an effort.) Jin spent half of the conversation in stitches; he'd forgotten how funny Koki really was.
The girl minding the counter, someone Jin didn't remember from his previous visits, kept shooting them glances when she thought they weren't looking; Jin didn't know if she was looking at him or Koki until they went to pay and she shoved a napkin at them, blurted "Could you both sign this, please?" and immediately turned dark red.
Jin felt a prick of guilt, wondering if maybe there was a KAT-TUN poster on her wall. He and Koki exchanged a glance and smiled at her as they signed.
"Please - please tell everyone to do their best," she stammered, bowing so low that her straight black hair swung forward to hide her face.
Koki let out a deep breath as they left the store. "You feel guilty about that kind of thing?" he asked Jin.
"A little," Jin said. He did, but -
"Well, I guess your new group's not bad, after all," Koki said, grinning, and clapped him on the shoulder.
Jin smiled. "Yeah," he said. "I guess not."
They parted with promises to meet up again soon and Jin spent the rest of the afternoon at his parents' house like a dutiful son, watching a soccer game with his father and letting Pin chew on his sleeve. He stayed for dinner and then, when he went home, forced himself to wait almost an hour and a half before he called Yamapi.
It took Pi a couple rings to answer. "Jin?" he said over the loud chatter and sudden bursts of laughter in the background. "What's up?"
"Oh – nothing," Jin said, disconcerted. "You're busy, huh?"
"Sorry, I can't hear you," Yamapi said loudly. "What?"
"Nothing, I just thought that – "
"Never mind," Jin said, raising his voice. "See you tomorrow."
He hung up, feeling irrationally put out. It wasn't like he had a monpoly on Pi's attention or anything – well, actually he kind of did, but that didn't mean that he could expect Pi to always be free to do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. It just – hadn't been an issue in a while. He was used to having some idea of what Pi was doing, at least, knowing whether or not he would be around.
He should just call up one of the other guys. Or even get some rest; it would be his last chance for some time, after all.
Jin crossed his arms over his chest. But he didn't want to hang out with someone else. He wanted to see his best friend.
Honestly. Was that so unreasonable?
The next two days passed quickly: hurrying from studio to studio, submitting to the ministrations of a swarm of hair stylists and makeup artists, smiling or smoldering for the cameras as the occasion demanded, trying hard not to repeat themselves or each other in interview after interview. Then it was Thursday afternoon and they were going over the setup for Music Station and Terada was telling them to be sure to get lots of rest and they were going to be performing the next day.
Jin was debating the most subtle way of inviting himself over to Yamapi's as they walked to the station – he was going to go crazy if he had to be alone with his thoughts all evening – when Yamapi rolled his eyes and said, "Jin, do you want to come over tonight?"
Jin started. "Huh? Wait, no – I mean, yes, but – how did you - "
"I can read your thoughts," Yamapi informed him. "They're written right here." He poked Jin in the forehead.
Jin scowled. "Funny." Yamapi had tried that in middle school, and although Jin had laughed at him initially ("Come on, even I wouldn't fall for that, Pi,"), he'd been so serious and wide-eyed and persistent that when he "read off" some of Jin's thoughts with disturbing accuracy Jin had gone wide-eyed and rushed to the boys' bathroom to check, uniform jacket pulled up over his head.
("Let's see... really? You're only pretending to be interested in art club to get a chance to talk to Saki-chan? Jin, that's like lying."
"What? What – what are you talking about?"
"And you wish I would shut up before someone overhears me? Some friend you are. Hey, what's this – you're just glad I didn't see that you think Kouda-sensei is ho - "
"Shut up shut up shut up!")
Yamapi was apparently remembering the same thing, because his mouth was quirking like he was trying not to laugh.
"Never mind," Jin muttered and started walking again.
Yamapi caught up with him and said cheerfully, "So what do you want for dinner?"
"You can read my thoughts, can't you?" Jin said pointedly.
Yamapi shrugged. "Okay." He leaned over to peer at Jin's forehead. "Well, I guess that's okay now I know your cooking won't poison me or anything, but if you screw up, you're going to have to go out and buy something else."
"Stop that," Jin said. Yamapi just laughed at him.
Dinner turned out just fine, if Jin did say so himself. Afterwards, he claimed his usual spot on the couch and they talked idly about who else they'd seen lately and what they'd heard. Jin tried not to look at his watch so he wouldn't know when he had to leave, but he could only ignore the time for so long, and eventually he had to go.
"See you tomorrow. For our performance," Yamapi said with a grin and Jin grinned back at the thought.
"'Night," he said, waving, and left.
Jin went to bed as soon as he got home, with the vague idea that the faster he went to sleep the faster morning would come. There was only one problem.
Jin hadn't been able to bring himself to think about the performance directly. Now, lying awake in the dark, he could think of nothing else. It was worse than the day of the announcement – his heart pounded with excitement and he couldn't seem to stop running through every scenario possible, from the hosts and their fellow artists showering them with praise for a perfect performance to tripping and taking out one or more of the juniors in a scene of complete and utter chaos.
At one AM, Jin got up and made himself a cup of tea. He'd heard that helped you calm down and go to sleep, although he'd never believed it himself; nevertheless, he dutifully drank the entire cup and went back to bed.
At one-thirty, he opened all the windows. The room was stifling and his sheets were hopelessly twisted from constant tossing and turning. He returned to bed and stared fixedly at a point on the ceiling; he just wouldn't look away or even blink until his eyes got tired and closed, and then he'd fall asleep.
At two, he tried counting sheep. After losing track after three hundred twice in a row, he gave up in frustration.
At two-thirty, he realized his problem wasn't that he wasn't tired; he was exhausted. He just couldn't sleep anyway. Jin moaned and turned over, burying his head under a pillow. That would be just great – an all nighter right before TAY*J’s first performance, because he was too wound up. How old was he, twelve? He'd performed – on the same show, even – dozens of times before. He had no reason to be overexcited, so he should just be able to go right to sleep.
At three AM, he gave in and flipped his cell phone open.
It rang and rang without an answer. Jin was just wondering if he'd have to try again when there was a click on the other end of the line.
"'lo?" Yamapi said groggily.
"Pi?" Jin said as quietly as he could.
"Jin? Did something happen?" Yamapi immediately sounded slightly more awake.
"Not really." Jin hesitated. "I can't sleep."
Yamapi groaned. "Are you serious?"
"I've been trying to go to sleep ever since I got back," Jin said rapidly, "and I just can't calm down, I can't stop - thinking."
There was silence from the other end of the line, and Jin wondered if Yamapi had fallen asleep. Then Yamapi let out a sigh that quickly became a yawn and said, "You better hurry."
"Okay,” Jin said. "Be there soon."
He didn't have a car, of course, and the subways had stopped running for the night. Wincing at the thought of the cost, Jin called a taxi and was at Yamapi's within twenty minutes.
He knocked softly, then tried the door; it was unlocked. The lights were off, but Yamapi was slumped at the table, head resting on his arms.
"Pi," Jin said softly. "Pi."
Yamapi started and sat up. "How old do you think you are, anyway," he said in a voice scratchy with sleep, covering a yawn with one hand.
"Sorry," Jin whispered.
Yamapi just shook his head and got up to lock the door. "Can I go back to sleep now?"
"Yeah," Jin said. "Good night." He started for the couch.
Yamapi's voice, from the direction of the bedroom, stopped him. "What are you doing?"
Jin turned. "What?"
"What makes you think you'll be able to sleep on the couch if you can't sleep in your own bed?" Yamapi appeared in the doorway, yawning again, and motioned him over. "Come here."
Yamapi was already in bed, arms wrapped around a pillow, by the time Jin got there, but the covers on the other side of the bed were pulled back. Jin slid in and curled up, turning to face Yamapi.
"Thanks," he whispered.
"Mmm," Yamapi said, without opening his eyes. "Now go to sleep."
So Jin did.