It was the twenty-seventh of December. Anybody wishing for snow so late at night might have found themselves disappointed, but the low cloud over the city spoke promise for overnight, perhaps for leaving a surprise come the morning. In the meantime though, it was dark and it was cold. When Akihiro breathed out, it left a print of steam against the window; he reached to wipe it away every so often, leaving a smear. He rubbed that clear with the cuff of his jumper before leaning his arms back against the windowsill. He stood by the window with a glass of sake and Shin sat tucked beneath the kotatsu as much as he could manage, leant over the flat surface with his eyes closed.
The twenty-fifth, as well as being Christmas Day, had also been Shin's - Synchro's - big Christmas concert. There had been some consternation on behalf of the administration, wondering if setting such a date was a good idea, but the tickets had sold out as quickly as they ever did, without even the benefit of school being in session to spread the word. Some people might have objected to working on Christmas Day, but Shin didn't mind it. If people were willing to come out to watch him even on a day like that, then surely it was all he could do to play for them...? And he had, and it had gone well. Better than 'well', it had felt like one of the most rewarding concerts he'd played for what felt like a long time. As would it be, too; as much as he didn't like to think about it, the new year would bring a lot of work from the academic side of things, with preparation for university being at the forefront of anybody's mind. (Shin opened one eye, glancing up towards Akihiro.)
For so long, Christmas had been the main thing to concentrate on. Needed to practice, needed to rehearse, needed to prepare. Everything had to be perfect. There was simply no space in the minds of anybody involved to think of anything beyond the twenty-fifth of December, and then it came. Then it went. Then it was over. It was over and it had gone well. What next?
(Shin closed that eye. He didn't want to think about it.)
Abruptly, Akihiro took the glass by the rim and brought it over to the kotatsu, pulling the blanket around his middle and leaning his elbows against the table. He leant his head in his hands and raised his eyebrows momentarily. "So, Nishimura. How d'you think that year went?"
Shin opened both eyes and glanced over at Akihiro, not raising his head from the nested position of his arms. "Nnfn."
"And that's the year in review from Nishimura Shin, huh?" No response. Akihiro took a long drink from his glass, leaving it mostly empty when he set it back on the table.
This seemed to stir Shin into vocalising his feelings, "... You're pretty irresponsible, aren't you?"
"And what's gonna happen? Oh no, god forbid someone drink alcohol in the comfort of their own home. Besides, I've got, what, four months? Four months more or less, then this stuff becomes legal for me. Then it's no fun. Right? And if you're gonna call anyone irresponsible, make it that mother of mine. She was the one who gave it to us, surely it's my duty as a son and your duty as a guest to not turn a gift down...?"
"I don't need to hear you justifying something like that."
"Then don't argue with me." Akihiro finished the glass. The bottle - one of three - sat next to the kotatsu corner closest to Akihiro. He picked up one bottle and found it full, finding the next one to be the one he required. He filled his glass again, looking across at Shin momentarily as he did so. Despite his protests, Shin did seem to be watching awfully closely. Akihiro smirked, "You just need to ask."
"I don't need something like that."
"Yeah, nobody really needs to drink, do they? One of those little things people do to, you know, enjoy themselves? You should try it sometime, it's good."
Shin sat up properly, sighing deeply and pressing his hands against the table. "Fuck it. Go on."
Akihiro hadn't been expecting that; he watched Shin with his eyebrow raised for a few seconds longer than was really necessary, before going to the unused glass that lay next to the sake bottles. He made a small noise of amusement as he filled Shin's glass, "Now I really am being irresponsible. Intoxicating minors." He passed the glass over.
"You're only a year older, and we're barely children, Jinguuji." He took the glass and was quick to try the alcohol, trying (and failing) to hide a look of displeasure with the taste. He set his glass back on the table, closing his eyes again.
Akihiro smirked, filling his glass again. "Looks like it'll be a while before you're used to it. Watch out, you'll be on your back before you know it. Lightweight."
"I think it would only be natural to be inexperienced at this point."
"And in what single situation is inexperience a good thing? I'll be keeping an eye on you."
"You do that, Jinguuji."
To think about it, neither Shin nor Akihiro were precisely sure how exactly they had come to this point. Akihiro would of course have been at his house either way, but he never forgot the novelty that came from having Shin in his house, in his bedroom. Not that it hadn't happened before, but those had been for... other purposes. Stolen moments while Yukari-chan was at school, while Akihiro's mother was at work, when they wanted to make sure that they wouldn't be found. This, on the other hand, was more of a social visit. Akihiro hadn't been expecting it, almost wondering if his mother was tricking him when she came through to the front room, announcing who was waiting on the doorstep for him. Nonetheless, she hadn't been lying and it had been Shin, and time spent together didn't seem to reveal any purpose for Shin's presence. He was as aloof and distant as he always was, but this was still under the setting of Akihiro's bedroom, thus bringing him somewhat closer than he would be normally. He seemed to be enjoying the kotatsu and he was even accepting alcohol, when given. He didn't seem too quick to start conversation, but Akihiro would have been suspicious had he been. That just wasn't Shin's style.
Shin, on the other hand, wasn't sure he could have explained his reasoning to Akihiro even if asked, though he knew it unlikely that Akihiro would. He knew that Akihiro would be surprised enough by his presence alone and that this would work to his advantage. The domestic seemed to be a weakness; even just time spent together was something, but this was something further and the look on Akihiro's face to greet him in the hallway had almost been enough to justify the entire trip over.
That wasn't only it though, and Shin knew it. He knew it, but wouldn't admit it.
For so long, Christmas had been his only goal, his only target. Less for the usual reason and more for the live event, but nonetheless. Now, the focus changed and shifted to the new year, the expectations and the responsibilities, but not yet. Here, now, quietly, they had a period of grace to cushion between one and the other. The focus of Christmas was over, but it wasn't quite time to face the new year, not just yet. Here, in these long dark days between Christmas and New Year's Day, they had silence and they had space. It hadn't snowed, but it had been a cold journey over. Shin felt more used to it being dark than it being light, now. Thinking of summer days from the middle of the year seemed like some far-off dream; had it ever been that warm? Had time ever felt that leisurely? Contemplating such things from the depths of winter felt like some silly reflection. No, had things really been like that...? It was dark, and Shin looked towards the window. In the space of his line of sight between the end of the kotatsu and the view from outside sat Akihiro, and he stared without looking away. Shin continued to look beyond, pretending not to notice. (Such was most of their interaction.)
"... The year, huh..."
"You're going back to that, now?"
"... I don't have to answer your questions if I don't want to. Perhaps I was just contemplating for my own benefit."
"Whatever." Another drink.
Thinking back to the start of the year almost seemed unimaginable, at first. This time last year, the start of this year, Shin had still been a second-year student. Up to the fading days of the spring term, he had still been in his second year. At that time, had the prospect of graduation felt so close? At the end of the year's first quarter, they'd made the subtle step from one to the other. Even during summer, had it seemed anywhere near? Back during summer, even winter didn't seem close by. Those long, lazy days. Those days when Synchro had still been building their fame. Those days when Akihiro's presence in his life had been little more than occasional punctuation. (He did glance towards Akihiro then, catching his line of sight just momentarily. Of course, Akihiro had no idea as to Shin's thoughts, but strung that moment for as long as he could, just on the offchance. Shin was the first to look away.)
Akihiro had been the one to break the silence. Shin looked up with his usual slight curiosity, "What?"
"... Doing anything for the new year?"
There were the usual, inevitable things. They were both aware of those. Akihiro, at least, was looking forward to taking Yukari to the local shrine. He didn't know if Shin's family, with their big western house and distant family style, were the type to participate in such things. Maybe, Akihiro thought, Shin's indecision was genuine. Perhaps he really didn't know if he and his family would be going out, or not. He picked up his glass and stared at the liquid for a few moments, "... We're going to the shrine." Shin didn't reply. "... You can come with us, if you want."
Shin looked up at Akihiro, looked up at him silently for a longer amount of time than was strictly comfortable. He looked back towards the table, still silent. Akihiro acknowledged this in his own way, ignoring the silence and continuing on with that line of thought. "... Do you want to?"
"See how I'm feeling."
Akihiro smiled to himself. Any response was a small, subtle victory. Even moreso for it not to have been outright denial. "... Right."
Leant on one arm, Shin's fingers seemed to be toying with the idea of picking up his glass, but not thoroughly convinced about going through with this plan. He kept his gaze towards the window as he spoke, "... What about any resolutions, Jinguuji?"
"For the new year. Things you want to do more of, things you want to be better at... things you want to do less, things you think you shouldn't do..." For a moment, it seemed like Shin's train of thought had gained some kind of momentum. Catching this moment seemed to break it; Shin faltered, glancing back towards the table. "... That kind of thing."
"... Huh." Akihiro swirled the liquid in his glass, leaning back and looking up at the ceiling in approximation of deep thought. He looked back towards Shin, shrugging lightly. "Hadn't really thought of anything like that. If it's stuff like that, shouldn't it be like... studying more, making sure we get into our universities of choice, making sure we have a good graduation, all that kind of thing?"... He spoke lightly, but Shin didn't seem to take the words in that fashion. Akihiro spoke sense, but also spoke of those things. University. Graduation. Shin ran one finger around the rim of his glass.
That kind of thing.
Akihiro looked to Shin for a few moments afterward, waiting for some kind of response. It seemed unlikely that he'd be getting one; he sighed, instead. "How about you, then? You brought it up in the first place, you got any resolutions...?"
Shin didn't make to move his line of sight, "... Hadn't really thought about it."
Akihiro leant back with a small smile of confusion, "Right, whatever." Trust Shin to bring something like that with no place for it to go. He smiled and took to his glass again; maybe the small amount of alcohol was already starting to affect him. Was he really that susceptible? Akihiro glanced from Shin to his glass and back again, supposing it would be cruel to encourage him and push him out of his comfort zone. Some people just didn't have much experience with alcohol, it wasn't that surprising. Not every household was like the Jinguuji household, after all. Didn't it hurt your throat, sometimes? Waking up, feeling dehydrated, that scratchy croaky feeling... wouldn't be much good for a singer, Akihiro supposed. He smiled to himself; not very rock-and-roll.
"We--..." Shin began to speak, but suddenly decided to cut himself off. Akihiro looked to him with a small sense of curiosity.
"... It--... it's probably... it's probably no good, making resolutions..."
"Oh? I don't know, planning things to make yourself better, can't be any harm in that."
A small smile ghosted over Shin's lips, "... No, I mean... whatever we say we'll do... you really think we'll do it?"
"Depends on how determined we are."
"Easy to say that at this time of year."
"Don't you think though, Jinguuji... saying something like that... even if we make all kinds of thoughts and promises... won't we most likely still be here next year, saying the same sorts of things?"
Akihiro smiled, "... Probably."
In truth, he didn't know how likely that thought was; perhaps the space between twelve months was small indeed and the determination of resolutions for the new year even smaller, but that didn't negate the fact that the year upcoming held milestones for each of them. Early January would mark the beginning of their final months at Seirei, and each week advancing would only take them further. University entrance exams. Planning for the future. If they passed or if they failed, March would still bring their graduation. And then what? Akihiro didn't know. He knew as far as where he wanted to go, and looking towards Shin he had a feeling of where he wanted to go also, but under this context, this circumstance...?
That Shin could even make a throwaway comment like that pleased Akihiro, somewhat. Saying that something like that was 'most likely'. Looking forward to the year ahead and prescribing something so ordinary to it, something that Shin clearly saw as mundane and unexciting... and still picturing that as them together. Being here, being under that context, saying the same things once more. Would they even have that chance? Akihiro didn't know. It'd depend on where they went to university, where they were living during, whether they felt the need to come home during the given holidays or not. Given the time of year those thoughts were perhaps most possible than they might have been at any other time of year, but Akihiro couldn't help but think further on this.
Who would they meet over the course of the year? How would their personal worlds expand and change and grow? After all of that, would they still come back home at the end of the year and still indulge like this?... Maybe. Maybe. Akihiro wasn't sure he was the first person Shin would want to see from Seirei after a year (or more) away at university, but didn't voice this concern or any of his related thoughts. If Shin wanted to say something like that, then that was his business. If he was going to say things like that unprompted, then who was Akihiro to argue?
Saying nothing, he smiled into his glass. He hadn't made any resolutions, but perhaps Shin's words were all that he needed; Akihiro didn't know what it'd take to make it happen, but didn't care. It was a whole year away, after all.
This time next year, we'll be here like this again.