When Sho invites him out for a drink at midnight, Nino knows what's going on. He's not an idiot; he's seen the recent awkwardness that has descended over Sho and Ohno's never-spoken-about-but-always-understood relationship. He doesn't know what happened, but he knows something's wrong and that Sho is turning to him for... well, he doesn't know what Sho wants yet, but it's either advice, comfort, or distraction. He gears himself up for advice, even though he would have picked Jun for the role himself; distraction is always best delivered by Aiba, and Nino isn't exactly known for his comforting skills.
But when Nino opens the door to the bar, it's dark and noisy with the sound of bass-heavy music, flirtatious laughter, and amateur pool games. This is a venue for distraction, not advice; Nino clears his throat and changes gears as he looks for Sho through the hazy atmosphere. He spots Sho at the back of the bar at a small table, sitting alone and playing with his phone with what looks to be his quickly-diminishing third drink in his free hand. Nino sighs and orders another two of whatever Sho is drinking (gin and tonic, he notes as he watches the bartender mix the drinks) and takes them over to the table.
"Sho-chan," Nino says, trying for upbeat but it ends with an obvious 'you poor sap' note. Sho either doesn't hear him or ignores it, grinning and putting his phone in his pocket.
"Nino," he says happily, reaching for the new drink. "Thank you for coming."
"You sounded desperate on the phone," Nino wants to say but doesn't, instead just smiling and taking a seat beside Sho. He really isn't any good at distraction, especially when he knows it's his job; he casts his mind around for something to say but ultimately keeps coming back to the same thing. "So, what are we doing at a dive bar past midnight when we both have a production meeting in the morning?"
Sho's grin downgrades to a smile, one that tells Nino to stop bringing up realities like production meetings. It's a dangerous smile, and it sends a thrill down Nino's spine that he tries to hold back as he sips his drink. "Do I need a reason to invite my favorite group member out for a few drinks on a school night?"
"Favorite?" Nino echoes, keeping his tone curious. "I didn't know you played favorites, Sho." He doesn't add that he knows he shouldn't be the favorite anyway.
"Always. I have a ranking system that changes based on daily conditions. Today, you're at the top." Sho's eyes are sparkling as he speaks, but Nino can see it's just a buzz from the alcohol.
"I'm flattered," Nino replies, dipping his head slightly. Silence stretches between them and Nino takes a long sip of his drink; to make sense of the evening, he's going to have to at least try to catch up with Sho.
Sho smiles and leans in, resting his arm against the back of the booth. The fake leather is worn and dirty, patched here and there and discolored in ways that Nino doesn't really want to think about, but he lets it catch his attention anyway because he doesn't want to know why Sho is getting closer to him. Nino watches the leather instead, the way it stretches and creases under Sho's weight, but lifts his eyes when Sho's hand curves over his wrist.
"You look nervous," Sho says, the smile on his face knowing. "It's just me, Nino."
Nino wants to remind Sho that the last time they got drunk alone, together, past midnight - years and years ago - they'd ended up falling asleep under hotel sheets, underwear around their ankles and hands at inappropriate places; but he's pretty sure Sho remembers. Nino takes another sip of his drink, keeping his eyes steadily on Sho's.
"I'm not nervous." It's only a little bit of a lie. "Just curious."
"Why I'm here, what we're doing," Nino replies, waving his hand flippantly and hunching up his shoulders in a shrug. "You know, very existential."
Sho laughs a little, though it's not the kind of laugh that means anything was funny, just unsettling. "Come on," he says, obviously trying to cajole Nino into playing along. "We're out having a drink, just relax and enjoy it. How about you show me a card trick."
Nino does, because it's easier to do card tricks than speak, and it's even easier to do card tricks when the person watching them is already a little drunk. Sho is enthusiastic and easily amused by each of the tricks Nino shows him, and keeps buying him drinks, which Nino doesn't notice until his slight of hand is so woeful even Sho picks up on it.
"You tricked me!" Nino protests, throwing his cards at Sho. They spill dramatically over him, cascading onto the floor, and Sho laughs, loud and unreserved. Nino can't help but smile a little at the sight, but he crosses his arms to counteract the effect. "While I was showing you card tricks you kept my drink from getting empty so I'd get drunk. That's not fair!"
Sho reigns in his laughter and shrugs, taking a sip of his own drink. "It's not magic, but I'd say I pulled it off."
"Well," Nino says, and then stops to assess how drunk he is. He searches his mind for an answer, but then Sho snorts and Nino frowns at his failed attempt. "Okay, maybe a little drunk."
Sho smiles and puts his drink back on the table, scooping up the cards in his lap and shuffling them into a neat deck, picking up the strays left on the couch. He doesn't bother with the ones on the ground and puts the cards in Nino's hand. "Come on, let's get out of here. We can play Wii until we pass out on the couch."
Nino forgets to be wary as he agrees, shoving the incomplete deck of cards in his pocket and standing. It's only then that he realizes he's quite drunk, because he sways and falls back on the seat almost immediately. Sho laughs and takes his hand, pulling him upright. Nino pitches forward and grabs onto Sho's shirt to make sure he doesn't fall over. "I'd say you're more than a little drunk, Nino-chan," Sho says, pressing a hand to the small of Nino's back that is inexplicably comforting and balancing.
Nino frowns and wishes he was more observant of his blind spots.
At Sho's house, the nerves return to Nino's consciousness, though muted by all the alcohol in his system. He sits in front of the television, squinting at the titles of Sho's Wii games, and has to remind himself what it is making him nervous. He remembers just as Sho returns to the living room with two glasses of water.
"Sho," he starts, and he can tell his system is trying to scare him out of speaking because the hairs on the back of his neck prick up. It doesn't stop him. "Did you invite me out tonight to make out to distract yourself from whatever it is making things awkward with Oh-chan?"
Sho stares at him for a while, still holding out the glass of water. Nino takes it and that seems to jolt Sho back into the moment. "I might have," Sho answers, moving to sit on the couch. "Do you have a problem with that?"
Nino takes a sip of water and shuffles across the hardwood floor to sit in front of Sho. "Philosophically, no. But," Nino's skin prickles with the force of trying to keep him from speaking, "practically, you have to know that I might not want to stop." Another thrill runs up his spine, exhilarating, and Nino smiles.
Sho doesn't say anything for a moment, just takes a sip of his water as he surveys Nino's face. Nino doesn't know what Sho is looking for, and doesn't know whether he's finding it, but after a while he puts the glass of water on the floor and pats the couch beside him. Nino knows what that means, so he puts his own glass of water beside Sho's and climbs onto the couch, looking expectantly at Sho.
"You're making me the other man, aren't you?" Nino says, and Sho rolls his eyes.
"Shut up," he retorts, tugging Nino forward by his wrists, leaning in the next moment to capture his lips in a hard, heated kiss. It's not a 'no', and Nino can't tell whether the way his stomach flips over is in disgust or excitement. Sho lets go of Nino's wrists the next moment, sifting his fingers through the hair at the back of Nino's head and tugging him closer. Before Nino has time to consider his feelings on the matter, his body has reacted favorably, and he's shuffled so far forward he's practically sitting in Sho's lap.
Nino doesn't bother correcting himself and grabs onto Sho's waist for balance as he shifts to straddle Sho's lap.
It's not that Nino doesn't want this. In fact, the real issue lies in how much Nino does want it, drunk or not. He's fooled around with each of them at one point, far back enough in their history that it doesn't matter anymore, but Nino knows that the night with Sho was different. He never acted on it because he thought that Sho would never compromise the bonds Arashi had formed; then Sho went and started fucking Ohno and Nino realized he had missed his chance entirely.
Nino's not stupid enough to think that this is his chance to convince Sho to change who he's with; of course it isn't. This is just distraction for Sho, nothing more, but Nino's drunk. The warning that his heart will hurt in the morning isn't getting through; all he can feel is Sho's tongue swirling with his own, Sho's hands running up and down his thighs, and his heart beating hard and fast inside his chest.
Without warning, Sho changes the moment entirely, grabbing Nino's hips and pushing him back onto the couch, shoulders falling hard against the seat cushions. The kiss breaks and Nino gasps for breath, gearing up to say something indignant when Sho strips his own shirt off and leans down to catch Nino's mouth in another kiss. Nino whimpers, just as Sho's mouth leaves to blaze a hot trail down his neck, teeth lightly scraping across his throbbing jugular vein, making Nino's breath hitch and his eyes open wide to stare aimlessly at the ceiling.
"Fuck, Sho," Nino murmurs as Sho begins unbuttoning his shirt. Nino curses himself for not wearing a t-shirt, but Sho makes surprisingly quick work of it, and his mouth continues its path down his chest. It's nice, Nino thinks, but not what he wants right now, so he whines ungratefully and sits up, reaching for Sho's belt. He unbuckles it easily, swallowing back a quiet moan as it snaps back against Sho's thigh, but gets distracted in a kiss before he can move onto unbuttoning Sho's jeans.
He never gets to, though, as the sound of a door opening changes the mood in a heartbeat. Sho stops breathing for a moment, and Nino's blood runs cold as he looks towards the doorway where, sure enough, their worst case scenario stands, no question of misunderstanding in his eyes. Sho's off the couch in seconds, fumbling with his belt and grabbing his t-shirt and tripping over his words and feet as he strives to say things like "I can explain" and "this isn't what it looks like", useless words that don't trick Ohno. Ohno just looks at Nino, his gaze piercing Nino's heart, cutting Nino to the core before he turns around and leaves the apartment entirely.
"Oh-chan, wait!" Sho calls futilely as he tries to pull on his t-shirt and step into some shoes at the same time. Nino knows there's no point in chasing Ohno, though, and he stands calmly, doing up a couple of buttons before he goes to stand beside Sho.
"He just needs time," Nino mumbles, stepping into his own shoes easily. Sho's shoulders slump and he sits down on the edge of the genkan. There's not much Nino can do for Sho now; it's Sho's mess, and Nino can't get his hands any dirtier than he already has. Nino leans down and presses a kiss to Sho's dropped head. "Next time," he says, a warning mixed with the sadness already descending upon him, "don't use me as a distraction."
Sho looks up at Nino as he pulls away, looking distraught. "I'm sorry," he says earnestly, and Nino realizes it's the first time Sho has considered him in any thinking he might have done about the evening's events. Nino smiles wryly and shrugs on his jacket.
"I'm not the one you have to apologize to." Then, after a pause, as Sho seems to be hit once again with the reality of the situation, "Fix this. Let Ohno have some time, and then fix it."
Sho nods mindlessly, and then nods again seriously when he meets Nino's eyes. "I will."
Nino nods back at Sho, keeping the wry smile on his face until he leaves the apartment. He closes his eyes as the door clicks shut behind him and he sighs, letting the full weight of the evening settle on his shoulders. It would be easy to blame Sho for it all, but Nino knows it takes two to tango, and he was just as aware of the repercussions.
"Was it worth it?" The voice startles Nino out of his reverie. He shrinks back when he sees Ohno standing in front of him.
Nino might have feelings for Sho, but Ohno is something different to him altogether. Ohno has always been able to see right through him, right through any prank he played and any deflection he tried, and it's the reason Nino has always kept him as close as an enemy. He wants to know what Ohno knows about him, because Nino barely knows himself in moments like these; he wants to know what Ohno sees, what answer lies behind his eyes that he won't let himself give. It scares him, excites him, and Nino's voice trembles as he speaks. "I didn't want to hurt you," is what comes out, and it's true, even if it isn't an answer.
Ohno works his jaw, keeping his eyes on Nino relentlessly, and Nino knows it's partly the alcohol but it makes him want to cry. Nino could live knowing that Sho would always think of him as a mistake, but he couldn't live knowing that Ohno has written him off as an opportunistic, cheating piece of scum. Even if he is. "I'm sorry," he says, whispering around a lump in his throat.
Ohno blinks, and for a moment it feels like acceptance. "Don't be sorry for yourself," he says. Nino nods, biting down on his lower lip to keep himself from crying; Ohno deserves to cry, not him.
"I love you," Nino blurts, unthinking. He means it, in ways he doesn't mean it with anyone else, but it's not the right time for the confession.
Ohno rolls his eyes. "Get some rest, Nino," he replies, heading for the stairs. Nino watches Ohno's retreating back for a moment, before his eyes well up so full of tears that he can't see anything. He blinks and silently swipes away tears with his fingertips, sniffing back his emotions as he's done many times before.
A feeling of absolute helplessness engulfs him as he realises that there is nothing he can do to affect the outcome of this mess he's been the pawn in creating, and it's a feeling he knows well. It makes his heart ache, the inevitability of whatever future Sho and Ohno decide to create, but Nino has learned to relinquish control of his future. He'll just go home, pretend nothing ever happened, and wait for tomorrow. In the end, it's all he can do.