Yamapi, Kame, (Jin)
Abandoned fic fragment.
The red flare of a burning cigarette disappears under the tapered point of a leather shoe. Yamapi twists his foot, prolonging the act of stubbing out as long as he can. This is not where he wants to be. Not tonight. Tonight, he had wanted to be at home sitting in front of the TV - movie, perhaps; he knows too many of the personalities behind the faces to be able to enjoy watching conventional channels anymore.
All he has to do is put in an appearance. He takes the invitation out of jacket pocket, a matte black card with a name picked out in gloss. There is no title or description; there is no need. Kamenashi has long surpassed the point when he needs more than his name to attract attention. Flipping the invitation over to confirm the time and place one last time, he finally steps out of the alley and crosses the street to head towards the gallery. The window is frosted. He can't see inside, but he can see people-shaped shadows moving around. The door opens just as he reaches for it.
"Ah! Atanshion! " Tanaka Koki's crow's feet radiate outwards from his eyes, creases that deepen with pleasure.
"Your hair," Yamapi says, the first thing that comes to mind, reaching up to touch the shaved head. Old jokes wear thin over time.
"Ah. For a drama," he says, running a hand over his almost hairless scalp. "I still haven't persuaded her to let me keep it when I'm done."
Yamapi bows to the woman holding Koki's arm. "Tanaka-san."
"We need to get going. The last time we had a Junior babysitting for longer than a couple of hours he cleared out the fridge and started on the liquor cabinet."
"As much as I'd like to say we were different back then…"
"…Yeah. We weren't," Yamapi says, smiling.
"He's a good kid, but if we leave him there for a few more hours I'm sure he'll start looking for my stash of porn," laughs Koki. The woman makes an appalled sound and blushes, but she must be used to this by now because she's fighting a smile.
"Really? Aren't you worried he'll find it?"
"Nah. It's on the really high shelves. He can't reach it. "
Yamapi is struck by a moment of irritation at being kept in the doorway. Duck in, duck out. He has always been stubborn in resisting changes to his plans. "Any familiar faces in there?"
Koki casts a look back from where he came and rubs a hand on his head. "Apart from the obvious, some. And some absent."
Koki nods. There's an awkward moment that goes on longer than it should. Koki never did fully forgive Jin, but he never transferred his grievances to Yamapi either. He would not have been the first.
"Listen, we should meet up sometime, for old times' sake," Koki says, breaking the stalemate. "You can tell me how you've been doing, and I can bore you with the wad of snapshots in my wallet."
Yamapi smiles, inclines his head, enough to let Koki think he has given an answer, but not committing to anything. He is an expert at this gesture; he has had years of practice. "Juniors are crafty, Koki-kun," he says, patting Koki's shoulder as he passes by him to enter the building. "He'll look for a stepladder first. You'd better drive fast."
The interior of the gallery is just like he pictured it, all blank, white walls and bright, white lights. It reminds Yamapi of a shoot, and he has been to enough of those to know.
He surveys the guests long before he pays attention to the photography hanging on the walls; he is a people person and always will be. The turnout is good - very good - not that he expected otherwise. The variety surprises him. There is a certain type of person who follows the career of an idol. He is pleased to see faces he does not recognise amongst those gathered. Yamapi ranks them in order of importance using the only social scale he trusts: his own. Family. Friend. Colleague. Other.
He spots a brother – those looks are unmistakable – looking bored, no doubt here out of duty. Yamapi empathises.
Idols age well. They look youthful despite the long hours and years. Tatsuya is talking animatedly to a kouhai under a monochrome tree meter and a half to a side. Yamapi knows the face and of his talent for impressions, but he doesn't remember his name. Other figures from Yamapi's past and present are dotted around. Shige nods to him but doesn't approach, to Yamapi's relief; he hasn't spoken to Shige in… five months at least, he thinks. Where Shige is, Koyama is not far behind, so Yamapi slides out of view behind a curtain of people.
Industry gossips – the idol industry – watch the people as attentively as he. He can feel their eyes on him, an intrusive itch between his shoulder blades. He has never liked unknown watchers. There are industry types of another kind, too – collectors and critics, he assumes. Those in the know in this world, who's attention is split between the walls and each other. They range from fashionably rugged to razor-sharp suited. He wonders if those with 20-20 vision buy plain lenses to fit in the frames that seem to come as standard, as much a part of their uniform as carefully chosen jewelry is to idols. This business matches the idols' for vanity.
Yamapi turns his attention to the walls. He knows a little: a picture depends on aperture and exposure; an opening and a timespan. Beyond that he goes by aesthetics. Appreciation of the process doesn’t interest him. The photographs span years. He pauses briefly in front of cityscapes, trees, objects, but he only stops for the pictures of people. Yamapi wonders how Kame managed to fit in his hobby around his career – although he supposes he should consider this to be another facet of Kame's career now. Kame always was an expert at fitting in ridiculously high volumes of work in at once. He seems to thrive on it. Yamapi feels he should know by now not to be surprised by what a determined Kame can achieve, not the least of which being how on earth he secured permission to sell a collection of photographs that includes faces of Johnny's creations. Manufactured idols turned fine art. He bets this crowd loves the irony. He bets World Famous Johnny-san loves it, too. Yamapi has always known his generation is special.
He isn't really paying attention until he sees a portrait of himself. Only recently has Yamapi rid himself of the slight lag of recognition of his own reflection, having always known his own face as it really is; having watched it change over the years on the glossy surface of paper rather than a mirror. He is not used to seeing pictures where he looks normal rather than making his trademark pouting face or bored disinterest with variable degrees of intensity.
Next, a series of three catch his eye.
In the first Kame is barely in the shot, half his face missing. From the angle and blurring, Yamapi assumes this is a photo taken at arm's length. It isn't staged; it would fit in any teenager's album. Kame must be 15 or so, mouth stretched wide in a grin that bares all his teeth. Jin's grin is easier, natural, his eyes crinkled at the edges.
Below that, Jin is laughing at something off-frame, hair damp and costume loosened, most likely taken backstage somewhere. Yamapi wonders what was so funny. It looks like a belly laugh. He sees it a little less often these days. There is a fuzzy shape at the bottom corner of the frame. A thumb, undoubtedly Kame's. A careless mistake, so unlike Kame. Yamapi finds he likes this picture, doesn't question if because of the mistake or the subject matter.
The third is a studio shot. Jin stands alone, his vibrancy muted both in color and mood, sloping shoulders resigned as he looks through a window suspended in mid air. Yamapi wonders what direction he was given. Not knowing how Kame works, his mind supplies a monologue borrowed from countless photographers. "Turn away slightly. Look sad. Sadder. That's right. Now look through the window. There's a whole world outside. That's great. Hold that." He realises Jin isn't looking through the glass at all. He can make out Kame's reflection, face half obscured by a camera.
Yamapi steps back to look at the three together. There are no red dots next to the numbered plaques. When he asks, he is told they are not for sale. Misjudgements, the programme informs him. At first glance named perhaps for Kame's failed attempts frame himself, but Yamapi wonders if Kame means misjudgements of another kind, because the more he looks at the three together, the more this looks to him like the cenotaph to a friendship.
Yamapi stands and turns towards the voice while bringing his wine glass behind his back smoothly and setting it on the table. It's been years since he crossed the threshold to drink legally, but his first instinct is still to hide anything that could reflect badly on him.
"You came. I didn't know if you were even in town."
"I came." Yamapi doesn't elaborate. He hadn't wanted to come tonight and they both know it. An appearance out of duty to a half-baked friendship with Kame, to the Jimusho, to Jin - because it's never about just the two of them when it comes to him and Kame - has turned into three hours of waiting around inconspicuously until Kame has time for him.
"Did you like it?" Yamapi has been observing Kame for years now. He knows when his interest is genuine and when it is polite. This is the first time tonight Kame looks curious. It throws him. He nods.
"I didn't expect to see myself."
Kame shrugs. "Do you mind?"
Does he mind? Yamapi has worked hard to retain some semblance of separation between him and work. He has kept people at a distance to keep a kernel untarnished that is his and his only. He has been careful – maybe too careful – not to let people in he can't trust absolutely. Does he mind? Of course he does. But where and when his image is printed and displayed has never been in his control.
"Not at all." Kame's narrowed eyes tell Yamapi he sees through his answer. Yamapi doesn't care. Kame always could see through right him, and right now, he is angry.
"I didn't realise you weren't told. I assumed your manager would have-"
Years before, Kame and Yamapi had had an opening; a limited window of time in which they were exposed to each other without Jimusho peers getting in the way. A drama season plus, more accurately measured in weeks than months. In the end, the picture of friendship they presented to the media and fans failed to properly develop.
"It doesn't matter." Yamapi learned long ago there are some things he can't change. He tries not to let them irritate him. He doesn't always succeed.
Kame blinks, visibly attempts to relax. Yamapi knows this indicates the opposite; Kame is uneasy. "You never agree to pose for me when I ask." His tone is soft.
Yamapi doesn’t look away. "You know how it goes." It gets busy, he means. There are reasons for not spending time with you, he means.