Word Count: ~2000
Summary: Aiba gets a book in the mail and gets a little emotional. Jun frets.
Notes: I seem to spout endless amounts of fluff when I'm in the middle of writing something big (and by big I mean it is ~13000! No, I did not put in an extra zero, I swear). Anyway, I have been on a The Little Prince kick lately (I have loved the book for years and years but for some reason my mind is totally flailing over it now) and this is the result of that. There is no need to have read the book in order to read this, but if you haven't read it then WHY NOT!? WHY NOT. That is all I have to say. Also, lots of thanks to aeslis, who got online at the right moment and gave me a quick but wonderful beta! :D
'But in herself alone [my rose] is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or ever sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.' – The Little Prince
Aiba gets the book in the mail. The package arrives sometime before his birthday and he knows that given the time frame, his parents must have planned this months in advance. Thinking of that makes his heart swell already to a dangerous size, even before he has torn apart the generic brown wrapping paper.
When he finally does, with grabby hands and excitable fingers, the only thing staring up at him is a thin book. The cover is blue and there are stars littering the background, and there is a piece of pink paper taped over the title. It says To our son: you are getting older, grayer, and wiser. And you're only 26! We love you! The last part is written in English and Aiba stumbles a little over the words, but when he says it out loud he understands completely.
Presents make Aiba feel like the most important person in the world, and he can feel the tears backed up somewhere near his lungs, inching higher every time he re-reads his parents' message. He considers calling them to tell them thank you, to protest about his turning gray (but not his turning old) and to say, to sob, maybe, I love you too! You're the best!
But he sits down with the book instead. Ten minutes, he tells himself, just ten minutes to see what it's about. He opens it up to the first page and there's an almost childish drawing of a little blonde boy in funny green clothes being pulled up into the sky by a flock of tiny, lilac birds. The picture makes him smile.
The Little Prince, reads the title page. Aiba snuggles into the oversized chair.
Ten minutes quickly becomes an hour and by the time Aiba is finished reading the last page, there are teardrops on his hands and on the book's pages. He can't even bring himself to close the book, but this is expected: Aiba is an emotional person. He is, in simple terms, a crybaby. Everyone tells him so.
"Okay, calm down," he whispers to himself, and wipes the tears away from his face. "It's just a little prince, just a little prince and his rose…" But thinking of that just makes his lips wobble again.
Aiba calls his parents. His mother picks up and he gives her a hurried hello, then blubs on about emotions and roses and journeys to faraway planets. Aiba-mama laughs: Well, you are our little prince, Masaki. And not only ours, but to so many other people you are a rose!
"Like who?" Aiba sniffles. He's still curled up on the chair and he has a puffy comforter over him; it feels like he's being hugged.
"Ah, well," his mother says, and he hears her laugh again. He misses her so much--when is the next time he's going home, he wonders? "You should know, Masaki."
He won't let her hang up for a little bit, and they talk about how many customers the restaurant is getting and when Arashi's next tour is and if Aiba is tired. And of course he is tired, he is tired all the time--they seem to get busier with each minute that passes--but he doesn't want his mother to worry (even though, if she ever finds out that he has lied to her about this, she will run around the house with a slipper aimed at Aiba's head).
"I'm fine," Aiba says cheerily. "I'll be home maybe next weekend."
"I'll let your brother know," his mother says. "I'm going to hang up now, okay?"
Aiba lets her go (but not before thanking her another dozen times), and as he's putting the phone back on the charger the door swings open. Usually when Jun comes home, Aiba is up and out of his chair, offering to massage his feet and make tea and turn on the television--not because he feels like he has to, but because he wants to. Today, though, he's filled with dreamy thoughts of outer space and the desert. He doesn't get up.
"Hi, Matsujun," Aiba says quietly. "How was your drama filming?"
Jun just stares. He looks silly, standing there in the entranceway with his shoes off and his tie not hanging right. "…Fine," he says finally. "It was...fine. Are you okay?"
Aiba guesses he is. This isn't enough of an answer for Jun, though, because he doesn't even go into the kitchen like he always does when he gets home--he skips that entirely and sits down on the arm of Aiba's chair.
"You're too quiet," Jun mumbles, and pulls the blanket away from Aiba's face. "And you're red. Do you feel okay? Any fever?"
He's got his hand on Aiba's forehead and it makes Aiba laugh, the way Jun is mothering him, like he is a two-year-old and needs sugary drinks and hourly doses of medicine. He wants to tell Jun that he's red because he's been crying, because he's stupidly emotional and is in love with a book intended for small children.
Aiba tilts his head into Jun's hand and sighs heavily. "MatsuJun," he says, "if you were a prince, would I be your rose?"
Jun freezes and lets his hand fall. "What?" he asks, squinting at Aiba. "If I were a--if you--excuse me?"
"I mean," Aiba says, and he's on the verge of crying again, "listen! My family sent me this book for my birthday--it's on the table there, you can read it, too, oh Jun, please read it--and there's this little prince in it. And he's in love with a rose; he's so in love with her that he wants to protect her from the caterpillars and the wind so that she won't die!"
He buries himself in the recesses of the comforter, so far in that only his eyes peek over the top. He says, voice muffled, "I just wanted to know if I was your rose."
Jun picks up the book and turns it around in his hand. Aiba wants to say, please don't drop it, please don't but he knows that Jun never would, he is too careful for that and it even shows in the way he turns the pages.
"What did you think this was?" he says, laughing a little when he sees the picture of an elephant inside of a boa constrictor.
"An elephant inside a boa constrictor!" Aiba chirps. He points to the drawing on the page. "That's it's stomach, see?"
"Oh," Jun says, slightly embarrassed. "I thought it was a hat."
"That means you're a real adult," Aiba says, and makes room for Jun on the sofa chair. There's not much space, even when Aiba sticks himself to the corner, but he figures Jun can fit (he does, though just barely).
Aiba knows Jun has a list of things to do--he hasn't even taken off his work clothes yet, and Aiba smells sweat and smoke and bar-smell on him, even in his hair. Jun is a busy person by nature and Aiba expects him at any moment to put down The Little Prince and say, "I need to make dinner" or "I need to take a shower" or "This is dumb." But he just sits there reading quietly, and Aiba ends up throwing half of the comforter over Jun's knees.
Jun is a slow reader--Aiba watches his eyes move across the page and he notices that Jun re-reads sentences, sometimes, and stares at pictures a little longer than Aiba does. It's a good thing that Jun is concentrating so hard, but on the other hand it makes Aiba sleepy to see him so focused. Now that Jun is next to him, Aiba feels like he is in bed. He's sure it wouldn't hurt for him to take a small nap, and anyway, Jun is warm and his hair is soft and his shoulder is solid and comforting. If he just rested his head there and closed his eyes...
"Matsujun," Aiba whispers sleepily, "wake me up, okay?"
He finds Jun's hand under the covers and twines their fingers together. Jun's rings get in the way a little, but Aiba doesn't mind that much.
When he wakes up it feels like not much time has passed, but Jun is no longer on the chair with him. Aiba looks around and finds Jun in the kitchen in different clothes. He is cooking dinner.
"Did you finish the book?" Aiba asks groggily. He rubs his eyes with one hand and then stretches so far that his knees knock into the table. "Matsujun, did you?"
"Yeah," Jun answers. "Dinner's ready. Can you set the table?"
"Of course," Aiba answers, and gets up a little unsteadily. He's been sitting on the couch for most of the day and this is the first time he has been up in so many hours; his legs feel like jelly. Somehow he makes it to the kitchen, to the cabinet where the plates and cups are.
It's Tuesday, and this means that they should be having the blue plates with the red cups. Aiba looks into the shelves and locates the colors somewhere near the back. He reaches in, moves things around, and prepares to pull out two glasses when he feels Jun's hand yank his elbow.
Aiba lets out a surprised yelp when Jun pulls him out of the cabinet and leans him up against the side of the fridge. He's being rough, and Aiba is about to say but I just woke up until Jun runs his hand up the length of Aiba's back and stops at the base of his neck, fingernails digging gently into the skin there.
Aiba's chest is tingling. "Jun," he breathes--his lips are already parted--and Jun brushes his lips against Aiba's before he kisses him softly. His other hand is on Aiba's belly, pressing firmly, passing warmth between their bodies.
When Jun pulls away he returns to the dinner preparations as if nothing has happened. Aiba, meanwhile, has to peel himself off the fridge with an almost ridiculous amount of effort.
"Matsujun!" Aiba laughs. He's suddenly giddy and some sort realization washes through his body; he feels like jumping up and down. "You are a prince! Who kisses people like that? In the kitchen?"
"Princes," Jun answers curtly. But he's smiling, and Aiba laughs again--his mother was right about him being a rose. "Princes who have really, really noisy roses in their homes, roses that won't shut up even after you kiss them."
"But I'm your rose, Matsujun," Aiba says. He's pushing his luck, he knows, but he doesn't think it matters right now.
"You are," Jun agrees. "Sadly."
Aiba knows, though, that Jun is not all that sad about it. He's proved right later on, when they are in bed and re-reading The Little Prince (in between kisses, some long and some short and some that go on for entire chapters, because Jun skips the parts he doesn't like).
The next morning, when Jun leaves for work and Aiba is still rolling around in bed for another hour, kicking the covers to the floor, he calls his mother again to thank her for everything. She knows better than to ask why, but the next weekend, when Aiba shows up at home holding a bunch of roses with a handwritten card of thanks from both him and Jun, it's a pretty easy guess.
footnote numero uno: picture of an elephant in a boa constrictor. (second image.)