Rating/Warnings: PG for...well, they all seem to change a lot. idk.
Summary: Takaki, Sanada, Kamei, Shoon, Koyama, and Nozawa all tell Hasshi things he doesn't really want to hear.
AN: Thanks to chiharu for the JJ Express help, and also for procreational who loves the jrs as much as I do.
The Highest Form of Flattery
“Like who?” Takaki laughs, then looks down and notices Hasshi hanging around. He scrunches Hasshi’s hair. “Hasshi-kun’s much more like Akanishi-kun than I am.”
It makes Hasshi beam for the rest of the day, both the attention from Takaki and the comparison to one of his favorite senpai. It doesn’t escape Takaki’s notice, since Takaki often dotes on J.J. Express’s youngest member, and it becomes sort of an in-joke between them. Whenever Hasshi seems down, Takaki casually mentions that he bets Akanishi-kun wouldn’t frown like that, or if Hasshi struggles with a dance, Takaki will suppose out loud that even Akanishi-kun must have off days, making Hasshi narrow his eyes and redouble his efforts.
When they find out Takaki and Arioka are leaving not just for now but for good, and that they’re taking Inoo with them, Hasshi tries to keep his face happy for them, his voice even as he congratulates them.
Takaki sees right through it, of course, and pulls Hasshi aside, putting his body between Hasshi and the others so that nobody else will see the tears already welling up in Hasshi’s eyes. Hasshi hugs Takaki tight, like he used to when he was much smaller, and buries his face in Takaki’s shirt.
“I don’t want you to go,” he mumbles. It’s only part of the hurt, but it seems like the most important at this particular moment.
“I know.” Takaki lets Hasshi cling a moment longer, then puts firm hands on his shoulders to push him back. “I bet Akanishi-kun wouldn’t cry like a trainee in front of his unit, though.”
Hasshi opens his mouth to retort that that’s because Akanishi-kun still has a unit, but then he sees the fear and the sadness in Takaki’s eyes, sees how hard Takaki is working to keep his gentle smile in place for them, for him, and Hasshi shuts his mouth again.
He uses the cuffs of his long-sleeved T-shirt to wipe his eyes, then he gives Takaki his best cocky Akanishi smile, and Takaki ruffles his hair affectionately. It’s the same smile he gives Takaki every time they pass in the hallway in the following weeks, the smile that gets Takaki to smile back through the exhaustion lining his face. It still hurts, but the hurt doesn’t help anything, so he practices his Akanishi-grin in the mirror until it’s perfect, and he starts giving the smile to others too, to Kamei and Asaka and Fukka.
It gets easier each time he does it.
Kamei isn’t particularly amused by the little game they’re playing, him and Hasshi and Sanada, but he doesn’t seem to want to put up a fight about it either. Much.
“I just don’t see why I have to be Kame-kun,” he grumbles while they’re stretching, and Hasshi thinks that his real objection is just that Kamei doesn’t like “Seishun Amigo” and isn’t thrilled about it being their song on Shounen Club for this filming.
“Because Sanada’s cool like Yamapi-kun,” Hasshi responds, “and I’m…”
“Akanishi-kun,” Kamei interrupts wearily. “We know, we know.”
Hasshi doesn’t mind, grinning back at Kamei’s resigned face. Sanada doesn’t seem to mind either, although occasionally he comments mildly that it’s a little disturbing how happy the Jimusho is to jam them into molds that have worked well for them in the past.
Hasshi just shrugs. It’s fun, doing Akanishi-kun’s dances and singing his songs. KAT-TUN has the coolest songs anyway, Hasshi thinks, and they sound good doing them, so what’s the harm?
They look good doing them too, if the audience response at Shounen Club filmings is any indication, and it eases the knot in Hasshi’s chest a little more each time it happens. Popularity means they’ll get to keep doing it, get to stay together, won’t get left behind.
Hasshi tries not to think about that so much. It’s easier, now that JUMP aren’t regular members of the Shounen Club cast anymore.
“Why do you like it so much?” Kamei finally demands at the end of a long practice, testy after being told off by the choreographer for calling Kame-kun’s moves girly affectations. “Don’t you ever just want to be yourself?”
“It’s easier,” Hasshi answers, and he means that it’s easier to watch a bunch of Akanishi clips and imitate what he sees than to figure out who he even is these days, that it’s easier to keep his mouth shut and let the Jimusho do what they want with him.
He doesn’t want to get into all that with Kamei, though, so Hasshi just adds, “Plus, Akanishi-kun is really cool, ne?” and gives him the big Akanishi grin, knowing that it will make Kamei turn away with an indulgent “Tcht” so they can both finish changing.
Yamashita Shoon and Hasshi aren’t friends, exactly, the age gap is far too wide for that. But Hasshi likes Shoon-kun, because he treats him like a little brother, because Shoon was one of the first to recognize Hasshi’s Akanishi impression for what it was, and because Shoon understands about being left behind, about keeping your smile on no matter what.
They don’t talk about it, not in so many words, but sometimes when Hasshi is feeling down, Shoon lets Hasshi sit next to him quietly. Sometimes they chat about KAT-TUN’s newest single or the episode of Yukan Club that was on television last night.
After Kamei leaves, Hasshi spends a lot of time with Shoon.
“Don’t you think Sanada-kun is wondering where you are?” Shoon asks gently when Hasshi shows up for the third day running to the room where Shoon is helping teach the tiniest juniors the opening dance to this month’s Shounen Club.
Hasshi shakes his head. “We haven’t got our medley assignment yet.”
“Ah.” Shoon helps someone who barely comes up to Hasshi’s waist turn his smock around the right way. “I heard you had vocal practice with Nozawa-kun this week.”
“He’s nice,” Hasshi nods, sorting out another junior he’s never seen before. “He’s quiet, but he’s got a good voice.”
“Guess he won’t be your new Kame then,” Shoon remarks, making Hasshi splutter a giggle at the casual impudence of the statement.
“I’m not sure who he’ll be,” Hasshi admits, and another thing he likes about Shoon is that he doesn’t ever question how easily Hasshi lets himself be shaped into Akanishi’s footsteps.
Shoon sends off the last of the juniors with a sigh of relief, then turns to give Hasshi a gentle smile that reminds him of Takaki, even though Shoon has to tilt his head up to do it.
“Maybe,” he says, “he’ll be your Nozawa. A Nozawa would probably go well with a Sanada and a Hashimoto, don’t you think?”
Unsure how to respond, Hasshi defaults to the pout that serves him well with most senpai. “Akanishi-kun’s more popular, yo.”
“Hasshi-kun’s pretty popular too these days, I hear,” Shoon replies, and then he turns back to the juniors and gets back to business before Hasshi can answer. Hasshi stays to help out, and although the juniors keep them busy, Shoon gives Hasshi an encouraging smile every time he catches his eye.
It’s a little different than the smile Shoon gives the juniors who negotiate their costumes without help and the ones that are still tripping over their own feet. The smile Shoon gives Hasshi has a touch of empathy in it, and it’s wider when Hasshi forgets to smile coyly and instead laughs his own laugh.
Hasshi doesn’t come by the next day, and so doesn’t see Shoon’s smile at its widest.
When Koyama runs through the August medley assignments, everyone chuckles at Hasshi’s “WOOHOO” of glee that it will be nothing but KAT-TUN, except for Shige-kun who mainly seems confused.
“You really like Akanishi-kun, huh?” Shige asks, looking Hasshi up and down from his haircut to the shirt tied around his waist.
“Yup!” Hasshi chirps, too thoroughly pleased with his assignment of “Signal” to notice the way Koyama is eyeing him as well.
He’s surprised when Koyama asks if he wants to do the Heisei Post segment with Shige-kun, but any chance to stand out is good, and Hasshi accepts right away, of course. He’s even more surprised when one of the letters has to do with him alone, surprised enough that he has a hard time keeping his cool expression on, and the “Really?” slips out of his mouth without him being able to stop it.
He gets fan mail, sure, but it’s a different story to be spotlighted on camera like that. It buoys him up through the medley, makes today’s filming seem like fun instead of work, makes it easy to joke around with the others and smile blindingly when the camera’s on him. For today, for right now, there’s no place and nobody else that Hasshi would rather be.
But for all the glitter of it, Hasshi isn’t near as much of a flake as he acts, and he knows who picks out those letters.
“Koyama-kun?” Hasshi asks Koyama afterwards, catching him as he’s helping some staff pack away mics and headsets. “Can I ask you something?”
“Sure, Hasshi-kun.” Koyama straightens up and dusts his hands off, smiling at Hasshi. “What’s up?”
“Why’d you pick that letter?” Hasshi chews his lip, wondering if he sounds ungrateful, but Koyama’s smile just softens a little.
“I just didn’t want Hasshi-kun to forget,” Koyama says, “that Akanishi-kun is all well and good, but around here, we think Hashimoto-kun is cool too.”
Hasshi fiddles with the hem of his shirt. “You know, people keep telling me things like that. But it’s going okay like this, you know?”
“But it felt better, right?” Koyama asks, putting a hand on Hasshi’s shoulder. “When the letter had your name in it?”
Hasshi chews his lip harder, not sure about anything except that he wishes he were small enough to get a hug from Koyama again, rather than of a height with the man.
“Hasshi-kun is growing up, ne?” Koyama continues when Hasshi doesn’t answer. “And I think you’re just about old enough to start seeing that it’s good to admire your senpai, but sooner or later it’s important to figure out what’s worth paying attention to about yourself. Even though that’s much harder. Okay?”
“Okay, Koyama-kun,” Hasshi answers, even though he doesn’t really understand it all yet, but Koyama is the sort of person you want to agree with just so he’ll give you his warmest, most encouraging smile.
Fortunately for Hasshi, Koyama is also the sort of person who doesn’t mind hugging you when you need it no matter how tall you get.
It’s not that Hasshi doesn’t appreciate Nozawa’s effort, or even that he doesn’t realize that Nozawa is totally right 99% of the time when he tries to talk Hasshi out of something, but Hasshi is just not in the mood for it when Nozawa starts in on him about the Akanishi thing too, right in the middle of Summary.
“You don’t even know what you’re asking me to do!” he snaps, too exhausted to be anything but terribly blunt. “You didn’t even know me before they started telling me to do Akanishi-kun’s stuff! You weren’t here when they took Takaki and Dai-chan and Inoo-chan away! You weren’t here when Asaka left, and you’re only here now because they took Taku away too!”
Hasshi barely even knows what he’s talking about any more, half-dressed and shouting at Nozawa in the dressing room, everybody else edging away and pretending not to hear. But now that he’s got going, he can’t stop, like he’s been holding it in all this time, since Takaki asked him to.
“So maybe I don’t really want to be Hashimoto-kun so much, okay?!” he goes on. “Because Akanishi-kun is cool and popular and has a unit, whereas Hashimoto-kun loses all his friends and cries like a little kid! Half the time I don’t even know who Hashimoto-kun is any more,” Hasshi’s voice cracks, “and the only thing I’m totally sure of is that not infrequently, being Hashimoto-kun SUCKS.”
Hasshi falls silent, chest heaving unevenly, feeling close to tears and already embarrassed by his outburst. Nozawa, though, is still standing right next to him, watching him calmly.
“I’m here now,” he says, apparently not offended at all. “And all I’m saying is that they’ve already got an Akanishi-kun, and he seems like a lot of trouble, so I don’t really see what they’d want with another one. And in case you’ve missed the last dozen Summary performances, Hashimoto-kun has a unit again.”
And then Nozawa goes on changing like nothing’s happened, and after closing his dangling jaw, Hasshi does the same, although he does grumble for form’s sake that nothing’s guaranteed just because they introduce you that way during a summer concert.
“You seem happier,” Sanada comments as they’re walking out to catch their rides home, and then because he’s well-versed in the ways of his possibly-unit at this point, asks, “What did Nozawa say to you?”
Hasshi does feel lighter, less like he’s going to split his own skin than he has in a long time, but he doesn’t feel like explaining at all, so instead he just gives Sanada a big smile without worrying whose smile it looks like, and informs him sweetly, “Your perm doesn’t look anything like Yamapi-kun’s.”