Ahh, another one-shot. Well, this idea popped into my head the other day when I was at Wegman's. They have model train tracks suspended from the ceiling over the back of the store, and the model train went by and this idea came to me.
I don't speak Japanese: I used a translator to find the closest literal translation that I could for what I needed them to say. So if my grammar's wrong, sorry. I don't care. It's a fanfiction, lol.
Jet Grind for once. This has no real relevance to any of my other stories, except that it vaguely explains a little more about the Corn/Gum relationship I usually touch on in my other fics. The main purpose of this fic is to give you a little insight into Slate (Soda)'s mind for once. Reviews are appreciated!
A JGR fanfiction by Bagatelle
I'm no poet. Never had any sort of way with words, never liked talking to anybody very much, 'cause the shit I say always sounds blunt and pointless to me, and the shit that other people say just pisses me off. I guess I like the idea of poetry, even though I can't make any of my own, 'cause words can be beautiful, if they're said the right way at the right time. I admire written words, which is why I like graffiti so much: people writing their poetry on walls in neon paint and scathing markers. That shit is beautiful. And I'm good at painting, so I pick my favorite words and blast them out in greens and reds and yellows over brick and sheet metal.
Tab is the real poet. The only one I've ever known, the only one I've ever admired to this extent. Knowing him for as long as I have, I've always found him to be brilliant in conversation, and his graffiti always stuns me into silence with its simplistic beauty. He's taken it upon himself to write in Japanese, since we live here in shitty ol' Tokyo, to allow the people of the city to read his work. It's kind of annoying, to me, since my reading's not so good, but he'll read it to me if I ask him, and sometimes if I'm skating with someone other than him, they'll read it out loud as we pass by.
Each one is like a song without melody: like some whispered breath of secret knowledge that was meant for no one and everyone to hear at the same time.
For some reason, nobody else is ever as impressed with his work as I am. Beat has laughed at him, before, over the shit he's written, and that kind of crap pisses me off even more. No one's ever laughed at the bullshit tags that Beat makes, just 'cause he's our leader, I'll bet, and everyone's too afraid to. Whatever. I'd rather hang out with Tab than with any of those other losers, and they all know it just as well as I do. So I guess they don't care about what I think, since I'm the best friend of the level-headed genius who won't look anybody in the eye but me, anymore.
Fuck 'em. Fuck 'em all.
…Tab and I spend a few hours in Benten-cho on some nameless day of boredom, fucking up the Noise Tanks' graffiti and hassling pedestrians into twilight. By then I'm tired, so we take a break beside an abandoned boxcar near the train tracks. It's dark and sounds echo in the niche we're in, and he pulls a beat-up gray backpack out from under the car, conjuring two bottles of water from it. He hands me one and I drink it gladly, ignoring him when he gets up and starts lazily skating around the train tracks. I see him pass by the opening of my niche three or four times, and eventually the unmistakable sounds of him tagging reverberate in to me. I ditch my warm water and heave myself up, edging around the corner to watch him flail and jump to make a tag on the boxcar. His lips are pursed in concentration.
I fold my arms. "…It's getting late," I say for some reason, and he doesn't stop jiving around. I've never really realized how funny it is to watch someone tag: it's almost like he's trying to reach for something just over his head, but he can't get it for some reason. His hat flops around, and his jumpsuit stretches and wrinkles with his body, like some unreal mass of cartoon waves in a sky-blue sea. He finally hesitates and looks over at me, pulling his hat up a little so that he can actually see me. He smirks. His eyes are just as blue as his jumpsuit.
"So what?" he asks, his voice a weird, sharp trill that never finished puberty and doesn't seem to plan on doing so, even though he's already eighteen and a half. I know he doesn't care about being late back to the garage, and I don't really care too much, either. I scratch my nose. For some reason, I suddenly realize, I was trying to make conversation. He turns back to his tag, but he's still talking to me, as casual as he ever is when we're alone. "…The stars look awesome tonight." That makes me look up. The sky is dim purple, clouds covering the atmosphere, light pollution fogging any openings in the clouds. There's not a star in sight. I look back down to argue with him, but he signs his tag with a flourish and steps back, beckoning me over. I go, frowning, to see what he's done. It's weird, I guess: blue and green figures in a sort of yin-yang action pose on an explosive yellow background, surrounded by sloppy white stars outlined in thin fragments of black. Stylized kanji circles the yellow in a broken wave pattern, and I can make out some of the words but not all of them. I glance at him.
"What does it say?" I ask. He looks serious.
"Ie naiyou za ukiyo…omaesan soshite watashi hiroimono ai tomodomoni," he murmurs, his tongue fitting so perfectly around the words. When he speaks in Japanese, his voice is smoother, calmer, less shrill and more controlled. "…Despite this harsh world…you and I find love…together." I'm quiet for a minute or so, looking at his tag thoughtfully. It doesn't look like his usual work. It's too…my mind can't place a word for it. He's still staring at it when I look back down at him.
"…That's beautiful, man," I say quietly. He sighs through his nose and drops his paint can, leaning back to sit down on the train tracks. I sit next to him, and we both spend a little more time admiring his tag before he breaks the silence again.
"…It's for Gum," he says, in a weird, almost defensive way. I look over at him, my eyebrows furrowed, confused. He doesn't say anything else, but his jaw is tense, like he's clenching his teeth to keep something inside. Like he's waiting for me to lash out at him.
"What?" I ask.
"The tag. It's for Gum. That's me…and her."
I don't really know what I should even say to that. He's dedicating it to Gum. Oh. I get it, and it makes twisted sense, but at the same time, I can't help but think to myself: how fucked up. Something so romantic doesn't seem like it should belong to a girl whose eyes wander as much as hers do. And thinking about that, I feel a little nervous, to be hearing such intimate words from my best friend. He looks over at me, pulling his hat back again so that his blue eyes shine darkly through his bangs. "…Slate…?" he asks softly. I nod at him.
He's frowning deeply, like he's just remembered something, and there's a weird quiet between us for a few seconds. Then he shakes his head quickly, re-organizing his thoughts. "…I'm your best friend, right?"
"Tab…you're my only friend."
"…Would you tell me…if you knew something…that could hurt me…?"
The question sort of shocks me in a bizarre way. For a moment, I wonder if he just read my mind about Gum's eyes wandering, but then I fill up with a stinging sadness, 'cause I know I've got to tell him whatever I'm suspecting, now. I look hard at him, knowing that he'll probably pull the you just don't like her card out on me, like he usually does. "…Of course I would," I murmur, "if I thought you would listen to me."
He looks hurt, but nods, 'cause he has to agree with what I'm saying. He knows as well as I do how stubborn he can be, especially about her. I have a feeling that he's seen it in recent weeks, though: the way Gum's eyes follow Garam…the way she laughs at Yoyo's lame-ass jokes…the way she holds herself just a little differently whenever Beat's in the room. Most importantly, he has to have noticed how detached she is when he kisses her, and how she's been spending less and less time sharing his bed with him. He grips the train tracks and shudders. "…Do you think…she loves me anymore…?" he asks me, his voice empty, anguished, longing. I swallow a lump that's suddenly grown in my throat.
"…No…man…" I grit my teeth. "...She was just playing you…the whole time…"
His face is red, but he looks back up at his tag, staring like an empty shell at the intimate way that the blue and green figures are intertwined. Him and Gum. I've never seen them that close in my life, but I can tell by the way that he's looking at his tag that they must've been, at one point or another. And he must miss it desperately. It makes me sick inside, thinking about how hurt he is. Thinking about how deeply she's cut him, and how much she doesn't even fucking care. After all he went through to get her out of that hellhole of an orphanage…
I'm scowling. Rightfully. He trembles and shakes his head.
"…I don't want…to let her go," he says quietly: so quietly that I have to strain to hear it. The heartache in his voice is something I'm not familiar with. I've never had my heart broken—not in that way, anyway—so I have no idea what it feels like. But I can judge the overwhelming magnitude of his pain just from the look on his face, and I decide right here and now that I never, ever want to feel that sort of agony if it's at all avoidable. I've never liked girls, and they've never liked me, so I don't really see how that'll be too big of a problem, but I have to shake off thoughts like that for right now, 'cause this isn't about me. Tab's face is in his hand, and I wonder for a second if he's crying. "…I know you don't like her…you've never liked her…but…ngh…"
"Hey, man…" what would be a cliché thing to say? "…There will be others, you know? Other girls. Don't worry about it. You're awesome. Got a real way with panties like that."
He grunts in a half-laughing, half-angry way. He knows what I mean. He could have any girl he wanted, if he would only use his charm on them. His issue is that he's too nervous to make a move. Not convinced that he's that good, yet. He still thinks he's ugly. Still thinks girls won't be impressed by how smart he is. If he'd look them in the eye and ramble off a little poetry, though, they'd fall over themselves to suck his dick. I've never had a desire for that sort of thing, but my instincts tell me that if Beat or Yoyo knew that about him, they'd be jealous beyond explanation. Beat's only claim to fame are his "good looks"…and as far as I'm aware, Yoyo has yet to get laid. Tab seems not to be assuaged by my reassurance, unfortunately, and he looks up at me with piercing eyes, his mouth pursed into a thin line to keep his mouth from trembling. He's a pathetic sight, but I do feel leagues of sorrow for him. At least he's trying to be strong. It's less hard for me, that way.
"…You've never fucked a girl, have you?" he asks, solemn. My mouth twitches behind my jacket collar.
"No," I reply, as simply as I can.
"…It wasn't what I thought it would be," he continues, his brow obviously furrowed under his hat. "…The first time, especially, I mean. Girls' bodies are…weird. Different. I don't even know why she turns me on. Why anything does." He's thinking hard about this, and I feel a little uncomfortable. "…I guess it's from thinking about getting off, but…I don't know. You get excited and you want to cum, I guess. It was like she was supposed to do that for me. Fuckin' weird."
"Nnnhhn," I mumble, staring down at my skates. He looks over at me and notices that my face is going red, and he seems to forget how sad he is for a second when he laughs at me.
"You embarrassed, man?" he asks teasingly.
I've never thought about any of it, I want to say. Never even thought about myself having sex. And as of right now, I never plan on fucking a girl. If one of them can be like Gum is…well…the rest of them probably aren't much better. Every girl I've ever met has been a bitch, anyway. And it's not like anyone will ever want to get me off. There's something repulsive about me that I have yet to completely understand, but I get that it's there, and that it seems to scare off everyone but Tab, here. He's smiling at me.
"…Have you ever wanted to do it with anybody before?" he asks me childishly. I blink at him. I forget, sometimes, that he's only a year older than I am. Still, though, I manage to scowl at him.
"No," I growl. He seems amused.
"Not once?" he asks. "C'mon…you can tell me…!"
"Never," I say darkly, in a way that should let him know that I'm dead serious about my answer. He's quiet for a little bit, contemplating.
I have to decide whether or not to answer him, and I end up figuring that he's not gonna say anything to anybody, either way. "Girls aren't attractive to me," I grunt, kicking at the empty water bottle that he left on the ground.
There's another silence, and the ground rumbles viciously for a short while before a train rockets around a corner and barrels along the opposite rails. As it disappears again, Tab has pulled his hat up his face and is looking me straight in the eye.
"…Are you serious?" he asks me, and his voice holds a strange mixture of both concern and surprise. I nod, slowly.
"I'd have nothing to do with girls if I didn't have to," I tell him, and I guess I sound cold but I don't really care at all. He's my best bro, he can know this. "…I don't care. I don't even wanna get laid. Fuck it. There's more important shit going on in life."
He's still gawking at me, like he can't believe what he's hearing. "…You don't like tits?" he asks, and it's obvious that all thoughts of his inevitable breakup with Gum have left his mind. I sigh loudly.
"No, Tab. I don't like tits. They're in the way and girls just use them to manipulate you if you do like them."
"…Christ on a cracker," he mutters. "Why…why don't you like girls?"
I grind my teeth. "'Cause they're all bitches, and sluts, and liars and freaks, and they all think they're too good for me," I hiss. "…In fact…everybody thinks they're too good for me. Except for you. You're the only person who's ever…I mean…you've never…pushed me away."
He's looking at me with a blend of curiosity, sadness, confusion, and amazement swirling in his eyes, and I can't help but to look back, even though it makes me feel beyond awkward. "Oh," he says, his voice completely noncommittal. "I…so…I mean…are you…?" he trails off miserably, his face pink. I know what he's trying to ask me, though. It's not that hard to figure it out.
"…I don't know," I answer honestly. "…I don't think about sex, or relationships, or any of that crap. I have no idea if I'm ever going to be interested in anyone, or whether, if I am, they're gonna be a chick or a guy. I have no fucking idea."
"…Oh," he says finally, and he looks back at his tag, like he's really thinking hard about something, now. He sighs heavily. "Well…what if I painted over that green and made it orange? It's not like Gum will ever see this…or care about it...even if she does see it…" I look at him, wide-eyed.
"…Would you feel flattered by that? Or…disgusted, or what?" he asks. He's goddamn serious. I'm out of focus for a second or two.
"…W-well…well first I'd be kinda freaked out," I answer, still eyeing him weirdly. "…Second…I…well…I guess don't know what I'd feel."
"Ah," Tab says quietly. He looks into my face for a long minute before he gets up and skates back over to the niche, to grab more paint out of his elderly knapsack. Before I realize what's happening, he has painted over the green form of Gum and has replaced it with an orange lump that's supposed to represent me. I stare at it. It's weird, to see the blue and orange meshed together like that. He watches me carefully as I examine the "new" tag, remembering what the words mean.
Despite this harsh world, you and I find love together.
Me and Tab. Tab and Slate. The shy, charming poet and the tall, ugly dumbass. It doesn't seem right, to me. I shake my head. Nothing. He seems oddly disappointed, and he runs his finger over the spot where my head is supposed to be, dragging paint three times to make my ponytails. He lets me look at that while he sits down beside me and huffs. I feel kind of bad. I just can't envision anything, though. I can't make myself think about kissing him, or…anything. I mean, I've never kissed anyone in my life before. I don't even know what that feels like. Hell, all but three of the people I've known throughout my entire life have never even seen my mouth.
Tab stares up at his tag, now, and chuckles a little. "I wonder if that will catch Gum's attention," he says, maybe more to himself than to me, but I can appreciate the irony of it all. If she gets the symbolism, she'll think right away that it's some passionate confession of love from Tab to me, never knowing that it's actually her, under that second layer of paint. I wonder if she'd confront him about it, and I can't help but let out a little grunt of laughter, myself. Tab sighs. "…You know…Slate…you're not…a bad guy. I'm sorry girls don't like you…that…they aren't nice to you and everything. You would deserve the nicest girl in the world, if you were interested in her…"
"Thanks," I sigh, shaking my head. "…You…you deserve better than Gum. 'Cause you're…probably the nicest guy I or anybody else could ever hope to meet. And I hope you realize that."
He doesn't answer me, but I guess it's okay. Either way, shit between him and her is going to end, soon. I can feel it. He's fixated on the tag while I'm talking, but after I've finished, he looks over at me suddenly, slowly, a very serious expression on his face.
"…Slate…" he murmurs. I look down at him.
He seems nervous, out of nowhere. He keeps looking at me, in a weird, almost mesmerizing way, when I feel big, cold fingers slide loosely into my hand and close around it. My hand closes instinctively around his, and I look down at it a fraction of a second later, baffled by the situation. He's resting his thumb on my knuckles, and it feels heavy…but I like it there. My hand starts to shake, barely noticeable, in his. And all of a sudden, when I glance back up at his face, he looks different to me, and there's a weird, comforting warmth in my chest. His eyes seem brighter, his skin less filthy, his nose straight, yet a little scarred from loss of skin. Stray dark hairs dangle in his face from under his hat. And I'm fixated on them, lost in my own little world, when his other hand reaches shakily up and touches the side of my face, cupping my cheek in a way that I'm sure he's touched Gum before. His eyes close, his fingers pulling my collar down just so. God, and he…
It's over before I even register it. My eyes were open the whole time, so I saw him lean forward. I felt him, barely-there pressure, and now, I have no idea how I feel. My heart is pounding, echoing through my mind like one of Yoyo's annoying techno songs with too much bass. He's looking up at me. And before I can think of anything to say, he sidles forward and caresses my mouth again, with courage, now, a little more pressure…only this time, I can feel how soft it is, and how warm his lips are. He stays for three seconds, and when he's pulling back, I feel his teeth touch my bottom lip, and I shudder.
Oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god
He pulls his hand over my face, and his fingers lift off from my chin, pulled firm by serious effort from my clenched teeth. He lowers his head and looks carefully back at his own tag, like he's horribly, inexplicably afraid of something. He doesn't look at me when he speaks again, but his voice is quiet…meek…distantly trembling.
"…Now…?" he asks, and I'm gaping at him, only half-comprehending what's just happened. I shield my eyes with both hands, like the sun is glaring into them, and I stare at my knees, fighting to regain control of my thudding head. I lick my lips. He just…
"…I…" I stammer, startled by how weak my voice is. "…Th-that…I mean, I…w-wow…" I have no idea what to say. What can I say? What do you say when the only person you care about…kisses you, out of nowhere? And…like that…like you're…his lover…he mutters something in Japanese under his breath before he glances firmly back over at me, like he's expecting me to have an answer. My eyes are watering. I'm…afraid. Did I like it…?
"I'm…sorry," he mumbles, and he truly sounds it. "I…I went too far, right? Shit…Slate…I'm sorry, I didn't mean…we…we don't have to talk about this again if you don't want…I…yeah…sh-shit…I actually kissed you…"
He's as surprised as I am. I stare over at him, my eyes bugging, my heart in my throat. Vestiges of that soothing warmth are still flitting around in my chest. "…Tab…" I breathe. We look at each other, scared, confused, uncertain. His lips are parted slightly, and for the first time in my life, I get the impression of something sexual in the way that he's breathing, the way he's looking at me. He's leaning back a little, to give me space. Like he intruded somewhere he shouldn't have, a minute ago. His jumpsuit is tight on his chest, and it's weird to care enough to notice the lean muscles under the zipper. He looks terrified when I reach up and touch his shoulder, like I've just threatened to kill him. "…It's okay…I'm not pissed at you…"
A part of me is screaming that I should be thanking him. His eyes are burning.
"…I…I'm not…like that…Slate," he mutters, and it doesn't really seem like he's saying the words. "...I love Gum, I…I don't…I mean, I…I do, but—"
"I get it," I say. And I guess I do. Heat of the moment, or some bullshit, right? He looks relieved, but for an instant I see guilt and pain grimace over his expression. Like he's sorry, but for a different reason. Like he's sorry he wasn't leading me on. Wasn't he, though? I indulge myself and move my hand up to his neck, feeling the muscle, and the very edge of his jaw. His Adam's apple trembles when he swallows, hard, and I wonder if Gum ever made him this nervous. There's nobody here. Nobody who can even come close to us…for miles. "…You don't have to be so freaked out. I wouldn't hurt you."
"Yeah," he says, like he knows what I mean. I feel him relax, and then he does this weird thing where he sort of nuzzles my hand with his face, pulling his hat down before he gets clumsily to his feet. He's looking up at the starless night sky when he says something else. "…So…what's your decision?" he asks, albeit in the most awkward tone he's ever used with me. I half-understand what he means by that.
"In regards to…?"
"Guys, instead of girls. Did you…figure something out?"
I slow down, stop, think, watching him stretch over me. He's not a very tall guy, Tab…but then again, I'm six-two, so everybody's short in comparison to me. His hair is a mess, under his hat, and he's probably aching for a shower. There's a grease spot on his chin, and his fingers are paint-stained, grime under his fingernails and holes in his jumpsuit. I can see the black shirt he wears under it through a pretty bad run in his side, and his boxers are bunching in his left leg. This is men, instead of women, I think to myself. Maybe I should be in love with the only person who really gives a shit about me. Maybe it shouldn't be so weird to suddenly want to feel his lips again, full and tender, on mine, or on my face, my neck, my chest. Even though, up until now, I've always called him my brother.
But he changed the dedication of his tag…to me.
I can't think of loving a woman. I can't think of loving another man. I can't think of anyone but him, now.
"…Yeah," I say quietly, almost relieved by how un-embarrassed I sound. "Yeah, I did."
No what, no why. He holds out a hand and helps me to my feet, and the two of us stare at his tag for a minute or so more, admiring our misshapen likenesses, examining the way we're coiled so passionately around one another. You and I find love together, I think, and all of it, out of the blue, seems to make perfect sense to me. My hand finds a can of paint in my pocket, and, slowly, I spray my own message under the tag.
"…Sure-to ai no ko-n," he reads, quietly, sadly, taken aback. Slate loves Corn. His nickname from so long ago. The one his mother gave him. It's bold, I know, and my ears are red when he glances at me. "…Soshite…ko-n ai no sure-to. Itsudemo," he murmurs, in response to my words. My face flushes, and he smiles. Maybe it's not the same for him…but…still…I smile back.
"…Itsudemo," I agree.