Handle With Care by Anna Clair
Summary: Suddenly Jun's mind drew a blank as he paused to look at Inoue Mao and nothing came to his mind.

Oh god what was Inoue Mao to him? No word, no role fit cookie-cutter perfect on her presence in his life. Inoue Mao was not his sister, she was not his niece, she was not his cousin, she was not his neighbour and she was most definitely not his girlfriend or even friend for that matter.

And yet he couldn't imagine his life without her presence. So she was something, and he supposed he did in some way feel like she was his. That thought he could come to terms with in his mind. Inoue Mao was his.
Categories: Japanese Entertainment Characters: Arashi: Matsumoto Jun, Inoue Mao, Oguri Shun
Genres: Angst, Drama, Humor, Romance
Story Type: One-Shot
Warnings: Sexual References, Vulgar Language
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 9224 Read: 109 Published: Dec 30, 2016 Updated: Feb 18, 2017

1. 1, 2, 3...These Are Our Memories by Anna Clair

1, 2, 3...These Are Our Memories by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
LOL I'm going to start a series called 'ex-boyfriend tries to interrupt wedding scene and this is how it turns out'. Seriously am I obsessed with this plotline or what?


“Hi,”

It was her wedding day. She's not surprised he's here, standing before her like it hadn't been a million seconds since the last time her blurry vision had pieced an image of him together in her mind.

It was always an important moment in her life when magically Matsumoto Jun decided that he’d like to pull her back in.

It’s been a cycle of on and off for a few years now. It’s pathetic. Really, she’s not even lying. What the hell was he doing here? “Uhm…you weren’t invited.”

He smirked up at her. Arrogantly, like a smarmy little-

You know she could come up with a lot of names for him but she’d rather not because she didn’t need to. She was better than that. She was better than him! She knew that now! “I know, for a girl who kept planning our wedding isn’t that a little rude? I made sure I was free today on purpose you know.”

“You know fantasies I had as a child because you were the perfect big brother figure don’t really count now. I mean even your parents hate you. Why wouldn’t I?”

“Oh god Mao-chi, do you really want me to get into this again?” He always said her name without an honorific because she was beneath him. It didn’t matter that she deserved a shred of respect as a general human being with whom he had no relationship anymore. At least according to Mao. “Let’s be honest, hating me just makes you love me all the more.”

Even as he said it, part of her guts twisted knowing that he wasn’t entirely false in his assessment. Like some sick masochist she had grown up loving to hate him, and vice versa. “Listen Jun, I’m standing here in my bathroom getting ready to put on my wedding dress and somehow you’ve gotten in here…now I knew I was over budget with the dress so I didn’t hire a bodyguard but seriously I don’t even know how my mother let you up here.“

Then he said the words that made her blood run cold in her body as she glowered. “Because everyone in your family knows that you’re just trying to scare -“

It was insane how in the end, everything came back to this. “This is not some joke Jun. This is not some prank I’m trying to pull! I really want to marry Okada Juinichi, Jun. This is happening…and nothing you say is going to stop it. Yeah…once upon a time I loved you…but that’s not who I am anymore. Not like that. That’s sure as hell not what’s happening here, right now.” She barged past him and out towards her bedroom. Thank god she hadn’t taken her bathrobe off- not like she needed a reminder of the first time he saw her naked.

Yet as unwilling as she was to think of Matsumoto Jun and her memories with the man who had been present for more than half her life, her mind wandered like his evil accomplice to the man who she still found hard to cut off from her heart.

------------

“You’re not that under-developed Mao-“

“Are you kidding me?! The moment you saw me you shrieked ‘WOW’ and when I asked why, you said you’d never seen a 15 year old that flat before! Thanks for the emotional scars Jun, thanks a lot! Why don’t you just go stay in your bleeding campus house, with your idiotic beer friends-“

“Hey!” Jun exclaimed laughing as he ruffled the younger girl’s hair. “They’re real friends! Sometimes…”

“As real as those girlfriends your mom says you have three of at any given time.” When Mao looked up at him carefully, she was hoping to see his look of indignation. All these years her infatuation with Matsumoto Jun hadn’t yet worn off and she sort of hoped that his mom was wrong and that secretly even though Jun knew he was possibly one of the most beautiful men on earth, he didn’t think any one girl worthy enough to be the sole right to his body.

Yeah… that was a long explanation for saying Mao was absurdly possessive of a guy who basically saw her like three times a year. “Mao-Mao…please do I look like that sort of guy?”

She was happy to reply with all her rosy eyed dreams of how pure college Jun was. Ha! Fat chance. “Of course not- you’re-!”

“That’s right! I have at least five on rotation. That old lady is always underestimating me.” He snickered loudly as her heart deflated and she scowled in her seat. Of course, why would he even think of being- well anything less than he was since birth? A magnetic force so unavoidable, he ought to walk around with a warning sign that read ‘Object will electrify you if you step too close to him’. “Mao-chi?”

“Yes?” She answered irritably when she saw the smile on his face, god how could he look so proud of himself?

“Let’s go buy you a bra!”

Sometimes she really hated Matsumoto Jun…. but most of the time it just made her love him more.

------------

“Remember when we bought your first bra together and your mom made you return it?” Somehow the story had ended up verbalizing between the two of them and as much as she knew she shouldn’t be enjoying this conversation- she was. Somehow in this closet, it made perfect sense for them to relive their relationship as she got ready not only for her wedding, but the inevitable truth that she was really walking away from him.

“Of course she did, you were a sick little pervert! It was lacy and shit! I was 15!” Mao snickered despite herself as she remembered her mother's horrified expression.

“Hey! I resent that title! I didn’t take a second look then! Not until you let me later! From what I remember you were definitely of age and consenting then” Jun shrieked laughing. “God it was funny though. You know for the longest time I thought you were always going to be an underdeveloped child. It’s nice to see you look almost indecent in that robe right now.”

Ah, there it was.

The old familiar Jun mechanic, he'd say that one magnetic line that was meant to make your knees quiver and your resolve falter as you stared ever so deeply into the dark brown pools of Matsumoto Jun’s eyes.

Too bad it didn’t work on her anymore. Yeah, it totally didn’t. She gulped cringing as she felt her heart pump just the slightest bit harder.

Oh well, she’d gotten better. In the past, with just that she’d have thrown herself at his feet. At least now, all she had to deal with was a slightly off kilter heartbeat which could easily be attributed to the espresso shots she’d had this morning even if she knew better. “Yeah, well, stop looking. I was meant to be in here alone.”

--------------

Oguri Shun took a gulp of air as he watched the girl in front of him. Her eyes were shutting close, god this was the sign. They’d been dating three months now but to no avail had Mao ever shut her eyes for this long before.

This was the signal right? He placed a hand on his heart.

It was now or never. He was going to go in for the kill, maybe even get some tongue in there if he was lucky! He pushed his head closer to hers and just as he-

“Well well well…she leaves you alone to go on a business trip and you invite your boyfriend over.”

The spell was broken. The hope for tongue for the pubescent boy was lost.

Inoue Mao’s eyes shot open as she turned to look at the man who was standing in the doorway laughing at the fury in her gaze.

Matsumoto Jun had just completely butchered her first kiss…and quite possibly her first everything. Mao was the type to go big or go home, she’d rather get it all done in one shot while the old lady was away and she had somewhere safe to well- god she hated thinking this word “ deflower.

No one was supposed to be here! She was seventeen and she was old enough to take care of herself alone here! What on earth was her mother thinking?! How on earth could she do this to her?! This was so embarrassing she could go die. “I-uhm-we-weren’t-“ Shun stuttered as Jun cackled loudly in the poor boy’s face. Shun had been shy about the physical aspect of their relationship the whole time! Every time she held his hand he would giggle nervously. He obviously wasn’t confident enough to do these things around others, hell, she’d had to practically force him to get him into her house and now here was all sense of his self-confidence being shot down the drain by man-player extraordinaire.

“Dude…dude.” Jun spoke directly to Shun, completely bypassing the evil stares of doom present in his-

Suddenly Jun's mind drew a blank as he paused to look at Inoue Mao and nothing came to his mind.

Oh god what was Inoue Mao to him? No word, no role fit cookie-cutter perfect on her presence in his life. Inoue Mao was not his sister, she was not his niece, she was not his cousin, she was not his neighbour and she was most definitely not his girlfriend or even friend for that matter.

And yet he couldn't imagine his life without her presence. So she was something, and he supposed to he did in some way feel like she was his. That thought he could come to terms with in his mind. Inoue Mao was his.

So Matsumoto Jun decided he was justified in protecting what was his by ignoring whatever looks she was giving him so he could send this little boy who had thought himself worthy enough of her packing home. “I TOTALLY get it…you’re young, you're horny but- this is Mao okay?” He pointed at Mao and shook his head distastefully. “Really? Mao? Come on, you better get lost before I call the police on you for statutory rape. I can do that. I can totally make them believe it too, I don’t even need her to agree. My friend's a cop- ”

Shun was out of the house so quickly that there was a cartoonish trail of smoke behind him as Jun took his place laughing loudly. He popped open the can of beer in his hand and took a very loud and, might Mao add, very irritating, slurp of the liquid from within.

He turned to offer Mao a ‘it’s-okay-you-don’t-have-to-be-so-grateful-I-saved-you-from-a-teenage-boy’ smile but the girl was looking at him as he was the devil himself. He cleared his throat. Did she realize that was the totally wrong expression? She needed to kiss his feet, bring her hands together and bow in a 90 degree angle, and even then he thought that was a little light from the worst experience he’d just saved her from.

Jun realized that in his mind, a conclusion unavoidable now due to his actions had been formulated.

Inoue Mao should be with someone who could take care of her.

“Excuse me?” He finally said, 30 seconds after he realized she wasn’t getting the message. “I did you a favour here…”

“No, you didn’t.” She huffed loudly and pulling the sofa cushion out from behind her back she hit his arm with it so roughly he almost spilled his beer.

He was indignant now, as she expected Matsumoto Jun to be. He always thought he was looking out for her when it couldn’t be farther from the truth. She was certain he was born here on this earth as the antagonist to her story. He was always fucking up her life. “What? Mao seriously…if you’re settling for something like-“

“Fuck you.” The mischievousness that was so omnipresent in his eyes seemed to vanish in milliseconds.

His face was stony, his mouth set in a frown, he turned his figure towards her threateningly and for a moment Mao was scared till she remembered that this was Matsumoto Jun and he was quite possibly the worst person she had ever known in her life but-

He was Matsumoto Jun.

He was the kid who saved spiders when she was the one screaming in her bedroom. He was the one who laughed then as he caressed her hair, he was the one who spent 45 minutes straight peering into her ears when she was certain that a spider had gotten in just to make sure she felt safe.

He wasn’t going to hurt her. “What did you just say to me?” Mao didn’t answer him. She didn’t let any of her fear show either. If he was going to stare at her this furiously she was going to glare right back with even more force. He may be all of the things she said, but he was also- god he was- he was- “Inoue-“

“Fuck you.” He pinched her arm so quickly she almost caught herself yelping but held herself back.

“Yah, how the hell do you think you can say that to me?” No way was she going to give him the satisfaction. “Do you know how much older than you I am? Do you have any shred of respect for your sen-“

“How could you just barge in and talk to my boyfriend like that?” She shrieked back.

“How could your boyfriend be such a spineless little twerp!” He hollered back, just as passionately which for a second threw her completely off because she had never in her life seen Matsumoto Jun lose his cool. “Kid didn’t even know who I was and he ran out of here like a little cockroach. Don’t you think your standards need to improve Inoue Mao?” When he finished his tirade she had to hand it to him. He made a point. She would have liked for Shun to have stood up to Matsumoto Jun. God knew Shun was taller than the guy…and yet Shun hadn’t.

“Yeah well…” She didn’t know quite how to respond though. Watching her face contort trying its hardest to spew out a reasonable retort, Matsumoto Jun let out an even more obnoxious laugh. “Shut up Matsumoto.” She groaned loudly.

She hated when he was right. She hated when he made her feel like he was always doing the right thing too.

“I’ll let you get away with that but you have to break up with him Mao.” He said it so casually though. It didn’t mean anything to him…and yet he was allowed to dictate how she ran her life. This was a guy who showed up in her life maybe once or twice a year and she allowed him to tell her how to run her life.

She was always happy to see him. Who wouldn’t be? His smile was only slightly less perfectly formed than the sentences that left his mouth when he was excitedly telling her about his new passion. Whatever it was that semester- Napoleon, the Sistine Chapel, the war for Oil. To be honest, she didn’t give two shits what it was leaving his mouth so long as it was directed at her and she could respond back with equal fervor or at least listen to him so the lights in his eyes always twinkled brightly.

She’d learned a long time ago that she probably liked him…and yeah her dating Shun was a wonderfully devious way she had come up with in her own mind to get herself out of this daze of following Matsumoto Jun’s every word to a T.

His very presence here tonight, banishing Shun from her life had just thrown all her efforts down the drain. “God the way you were acting you’d think it was your first kiss ever or something I ruined.” He snickered leaning forward to get the remote, his eyes sidling over to her, catching the way her gaze fell to the floor in shame. “No shit.”

“What?” She squeaked loudly. She hadn’t said anything! How could he have figured that out? She was supposed to be calm and cool and collected.

Calm, cool, collected. Calm, cool, collected.

If she kept repeating it, she’d feel it right? Shit, why wasn’t she already feeling it? “Was it really?”

“Well…no…it wasn’t.” Because you ruined it, it could have been! She added silently in her mind.

“Because I ruined it?” Her jaw dropped as she glanced at him tilting her head in awe. How the hell was that possible?! Had he just read her mind? “Wow…no wonder you were pissed.” He held his hand up apologetically.

“Did you just technically apologize to me?” She felt a dorky smile float onto her face.

“Well…if it was your first I can see where all the profanity and teenage angst was coming from but don’t worry Meow. There’ll be other chances…but now you really have to break up with him. Seriously.”

She narrowed her gaze. Why was he being so insistent? Shun was perfect, intelligent, rich, good-looking and semi-funny, she’d made sure of it herself. “Why?”

“Because that boy is going to fuck it up.”

Her heart crashed in her chest. Why should he even care? But that wasn’t the question she had guts to ask, so she settled for something not as clear. “How will he fuck it up? Seems pretty fool-proof to me.” She groaned exaggeratedly trying to hide how her palms were sweating as she covered her face with her hands.

He snickered arrogantly, putting on his usual airs of wisdom. Like he knew anything better than she did. “Teenage boys don’t know how to kiss Mao. They're all drool and slobber where they should be nibble, tug and tease.” He took another swig of his beer. “I do, though. Know, I mean.”

Her eyes opened wide. Jun was looking straight at her. “Jun…did my mom actually send you here to take care of me while she’s gone?”

He was silent, shrugging. “Would you kick me out if she didn’t?” He questioned back his face betraying no emotion to Mao’s knowledge as she tried her hardest to understand what he meant by his words.

Was he teasing her right now? Was he enjoying this? She’d always kind of known Jun would have to be aware in some way how she felt around him because what self-respecting girl would follow everything a guy said unless she liked him?

An unhealthy amount of time passed as the air between them grew stale, and then Jun turned to face her completely as he put his beer down on the side table and walked up towards her. “What do you say Mao? Want to?”

She should have feigned not knowing what he was talking about but her brain was already there. It had been since he’d uttered the words ‘I do’. “We’re practically related.”

“The key word in that phrase being 'practically'.” He sidled up closer to her, were his eyes drooping on purpose? She saw his pupils fall from her nose to her mouth before he glanced up at her eyes again slowly. “It’d be okay.”

“Would it?”

“I think it would.” He smirked. She backed up into arm of the couch. His arm came down over her. She was a little bit trapped. For all intents and purposes, physically she couldn't move but she knew the moment she said something Jun would back off. The key was knowing now- was this just another one of his pranks? “You’re blushing, “ Oh, was she? “It’s kind of cute how you’re always blushing around me. How am I supposed to let some little seventeen year old boy mess that up, Mao? My sweet, angry, little Mao. ” When he exhaled this close to her, the breath from his lips left a soft layer of air on her skin that she could distinctly feel as separate from herself. “Want to?”

“I-“ She coughed and turned away from him. “If I say yes?” If he could answer her question with a question she could play that game too.

“I’d tell you that-“ He leaned closer to her ear. His chin fell on her left shoulder and she was all too aware of how hot her body was starting to feel.

“Tell me what?”

If he’d interrupted her kiss with Shun to kiss her himself maybe she’d forgive him. Maybe she’d let herself imagine that this inane infatuation she had with Matsumoto Jun, her neighbour, could actually go somewhere for once. “You’re an absolute sicko Mao! We’re practically related!” He shrieked out laughing backing up off her with no warning, leaving her feeling like a bucket of ice cold water had just been dropped from the heavens on to her heart.

Matsumoto Jun did not appear to realize how his little prank had played out in her mind. He leaned away from her, still laughing his guts out. She wanted to take that beer can he was picking up right now and pour it on his head.

She was Inoue Mao though, Inoue Mao could feel these things but she couldn’t actually do them. So she let him laugh his heart out, gave him a disgusted look and sat herself up so she could crawl off the couch and away from him. She might go die in a hole too, if she had some time later. “I’m going upstairs to my room, feel free to let yourself out.” She clapped her hands together straightening her sailor fuku uniform as she skipped towards the stairs. She had to look unaffected but god was it hard. She was pretty sure her knees were quivering as she walked away from him.

“Hey Mao-“ She paused for a second at the middle of the stairwell. Matsumoto Jun was a jester, he enjoyed laughing and shrieking like a fool but the mind that lay underneath his pretty little head was calculating and conniving. She knew that more than anyone. So she took every word he said with a grain of salt. “Did you really think I was serious?”

If she wanted to survive being around Matsumoto Jun she’d have to learn how to play his games. She wasn’t fourteen anymore, and he wasn’t going to make a fool of her as easily as he would like.

“Fuck you Jun.”

He was silent again until he cracked up in laughs so loud she wanted to run across the room and scream at him and ask if he really had a heart.

She didn’t need to though. She already knew the answer to that question.

If he did have a heart, she was sure as hell sure that Matsumoto Jun was never going to let her into it.

----------------

Mao scoffed as she looked through her closet mindlessly. “You know your wedding dress is right there…it has its own pedestal and everything.” He gestured his hands towards the very obvious long flowing white gown that was hanging right in front of her. “Feel the need to tire your options out before you put it on?” He shoved his way in front of her making her hands stop fluttering against the other fabrics.

They were too close together. She placed some distance between them as she scoffed. “Dresses and humans aren’t the same thing Jun…you aren’t even in consideration anymore.”

“How sad. For you I mean.”

“If that helps you sleep at night.” She smirked wiggling her finger as she went over to her dress and unzipped the plastic from it. “You were my cup of tea Jun,” She turned to look at him arrogantly. “I drink coffee now.”

The silence between them was deafening until he cackled loudly and bowed. When he raised his head, he clapped sarcastically. “And how long have you been working on that line?”

“The better part of three months, actually.” She remarked honestly. It was something she’d thought about often. What would she say to him now? What could she say to him? And here they were having this conversation and she hadn’t yet managed to mention anything she’d wanted to say. None of her truly bitter words were honest now that she was talking to him again…she knew that. She didn't want him to go live with a vat of pigs, or drown in cockroaches - because she really cared for him. Even now. “I also spent all of five minutes wondering whether you’d be man enough to show your face here.”

“Of course I would…my Meow is getting married.” He ruffled her hair and backed up when he saw her dangerously glance up at him. Right, her hair was probably off-limits, but it was a strange sensation to feel now. No part of Mao had ever been off-limits to him before even when he himself would limit how much he would touch her. “I couldn’t not be here. Even if you don’t want me to whisk you away from the aisle, the least I could do is watch you walk down it.”

She scoffed. “If only all my other ex-boyfriends were so possessive of me.”

“Ah but you see Mao, all your other ex-boyfriends don’t love you the way I do and always will.” For a second, Mao froze when she looked at him because for the first time it felt like she was allowed to see what was inside his heart.

She almost let out a sob but managed to control the waterfall of emotion that was threatening to spill all over their cordial conversation. “And they never will.”

--------------------

“Mao?” Jun rubbed the back of his head painfully. The 22 year old on his doorstep looked like a complete mess. She was coughing, her hair was in at least five different directions, she was wearing a frown, and the straps of her dress were half on half off.

“Take responsibility!” She shrieked loudly from the hallway and he was forced to wake up rather quickly.

It was 2AM on a Tuesday night and he’d much rather be sleeping considering he was usually up at 6AM but his little demoness would have none of it.

He quickly brought her inside as she rubbed her head more. “Take responsibility for what?” He yawned in between making her glare at him even more intensely.

“For the fact you’re a dick.”

She was just standing there staring at him, huffing and puffing like the great big wolf in the three little piggies. “You know I think I’ve mentioned this before but I really don’t appreciate when the tiny ones use profanity.”

Now she was angry, he saw her make weak little fists in her hands as she came up to him and started patting his chest. If he was being perfectly honest, it felt more like a massage and less like battery and assault but he didn't have the heart to tell her the truth. So he faked a flinch or two. “Matsumoto Jun, I’ve never kissed a guy. And I’m too fucking scared to and guess why? I’m too fucking scared you’ll pop up and yell at him and-“

“Well, this is easy to solve." He pretended to shake off a droplet of sweat. "Nothing to fear Mao dear, I think you’re quite old enough to be making those decisions on your own now-“

“I know that dumbass. Psht, like I’d let you control that." He thought he was being pretty clear about hating the way she swore around him. She was really getting too comfortable for someone who was 6 years his junior. "My decision is you. I want you.”

Had he been drinking something at this very moment it would have squirted outside of his mouth. Never had someone been so brazenly open with him in words. His heart lurched as the words played in his mind. “You have got to have been drinking.” He could only thank god for the small kindness.

“Of course I’ve been drinking! Do you think I’d be here like this in front of you otherwise?!” She hollered painfully. He looked at her carefully now because the longer she stayed here the more he realized this wasn’t just something that happened at the spur of the moment on a drunken adventure. This was probably the reason she was stumbling over herself, wailing like an absolute idiot.

She looked like she wanted to cry from whatever immeasurable pain he’d caused her by ignoring her feelings for him but wasn’t it hilarious all he wanted to do was laugh?

Mao had always been the type of child who threw tantrums secretly, gave up her desserts to her siblings only to seethe inside, and send toys to charity only to cry herself to sleep at night about their loss. She never knew how to ask for what she wanted.

If she'd told him before that she’d end up like this on his doorstep one day, he would have kissed her a long time ago.

Jun had kissed many girls, too many one could even say. Thinking back on it, she was pretty much the only girl he hadn’t kissed who he’d openly had an opportunity to...twice now if he counted today’s little adventure. “So why are you here again…?” He mumbled lazily doing nothing to calm the frantic bustling soul in his living room as she paced in no clear pattern.

Deciding to be kind he wrapped his hands around her shoulders and started pushing her around. She was pliant, yielding, and all too willing to go wherever the hell he was going to take her. It was too bad she was really the only thing he couldn’t totally fuck up whenever wanted to because- she was Inoue Mao.

She was his.

Hell the reason she probably liked him so much was because he treated her like Inoue Mao, precious and something to be treasured. “I’m here because you have to take responsibility! You have to take responsibility for being so utterly fucking charming that I’m not over you and it’s been seven years of this messed up feeling that’s choking my throat and I’m DONE.”

“Wow, I was only counting five.” He ushered her over to his bathroom and turned his cold water tap on. He started collecting the freezing water in the palm of his hand and splashing it softly on her face. He felt her steady in his hands, good she was waking up. Maybe if he cleaned her up a bit she’d stop this nonsense and go straight to bed regretting she ever brought this up.

She made a sound of discontent when the cold water hit her skin but otherwise she was rather orderly in his hands.

Then again when had she ever not done something he expected of her. “Can you be serious for once?”

“And here I was thinking that I was the perfect simulation of your favourite Marauder.”

Her eyes flickered dangerously and Jun had to seriously fight to hold himself back from a snicker. Generally, it was the younger person in a friendship that was immature…but with Mao, he had to be immature. Especially when she made those disappointed expressions that made his heart swell just a little because it reminded him that this was a girl that no matter what would always be affected by the way he treated her. The same could not be said for the countless girlfriends with whom it had not worked out, lately it being more his fault than theirs. “This is not the time, Jun.”

“I thought you liked Harry Potter!” He chastised her as he grabbed the napkin from the rack behind the door and sat her down on the covered toilet bowl.

“I DO! But that’s not the point. The point is I need you to kiss me and you're still avoiding my request." Slowly he dabbed her dripping face dry, trying his best to ignore the small little knot that had formed in his throat as he looked at her. He reached for her hand to level himself as he leaned forward to get to the water that had rolled down her neck. Then he looked at her.

Really looked at her.

He was envious he realized slowly, he was envious of the water droplets as they easily kissed and caressed her face, leaving a trail of marks for him to stare at. Why was he so afraid anyways of taking a step that the little Meow-chi was so ready to take?

He gulped slowly smiling back at her. He needed to stop touching her so he let go of her hand in his and leaned away from her putting the towel back on the rack. “Well, this escalated rather quickly.”

“It’s been escalating for the past seven years.” She was aggravated again. He could only look down at the poor white tile of his cheap bathroom.

“Hey now!" He joked because there was no way in hell he was taking the words of a drunk girl at 2AM in the morning seriously. "I’ve only been counting five…can this really not wait two more years?”

“I’m throwing myself at you for gods sakes. Just be thankful and take it!”

“See my mom always said that if I didn’t like a gift I got I could always return it by saying ‘thanks but no thanks’.” He watched her face fall and realized he might have been just a little bit too blunt with that joke because it wasn’t true. He did want Mao...but her lower lip was quivering like she’d believed the opposite was true. “Mao-“ The wells that were her eyes filled up with salt water before he knew what was happening. “I was only kidding Meow.” He leaned forward to pull her head into his chest reflexively as she broke down in real tears this time. Not like the ones in his living room or at his door where he could see through the anger to the conniving plan she’d hatched.
No these ones were the ones that made her sad, sad beyond measure and that was something he couldn’t handle. “Meow come now don’t cry! I was only joking!”

“You just don’t get it you sick little man. Do you know how pathetic I sound to my friends? Isn’t it sad?” She wailed again, and he smiled. At least she was feeling better.

Should he tell her the truth? She might cry again…oh but what the hell. In the end really, it was him who should be crying about this sorry truth. “It is sad. Why do you still like me anyways? I’m not that special. I honestly thought you were over this years ago…Mao, I’m not worth your attention.” He bopped her nose affectionately and leaned forward to kiss her nose but before he knew what had happened the girl resting against his chest pushed her head up roughly and quickly. Pecking his lips without his permission…and inevitably changing everything that would ever conspire between the two of them for the rest of their lives.

“Don’t you think I get to decide whether you’re special or not?” She sputtered out laughing incredulously as if she thought this was the real joke but right now he was serious. He was a bit of a loser.

He was 28, stuck in a job with little to no prospects, which was kind of the reason his last three girlfriends had broken up with him.

‘What do you even want Jun?’

And he never had an answer for them. It seemed that his silence was enough proof that he would never want them.

‘Don’t you have any dreams?’

He didn’t. No ambitions either. He liked living life as it came. A guy like him was ill suited for Inoue Mao, who would probably be ridiculously accepted into medical school the moment she applied because she was just that amazing a girl. She’d go save lives, join a million and one commitees and be president in half and just do really well.

She was an over achiever and she needed to be with someone like her. Not him.

He should know. He’d seen her grow up before his eyes. So watching her become infuriated with him, being able to make her serious stance falter and become childish in front of him, he took pride in that. There was no one else in the world who could shake her heart so much that she’d change the very core of her being just in front of him.

“You’re funny.” She muttered out finally after a second of silence. “You’re like really funny.”

That was it? He could handle that. He ruffled her hair. “I can introduce you to funnier guys. One lives right across the apartment, Jin- you’d love him!” She really wouldn’t and he wouldn’t dare give his Mao up to Jin but for now Jin’s name was the only one who entered his mind.

Mao would have none of it, and part of him was thankful for it. She insisted pushily breaking every barrier he put in front of her. “You’re really attractive too.” If he was being honest, he was happy because with every word she stepped a little closer to him...and even if he couldn't admit it. It was what he wanted.

At that he had to blush a little. Even he wasn’t immune to uninhibited compliments. “You’ll get over that after sometime if we actually started screwing around. It wears off trust me.” She looked a bit desolate for a second as if she wasn’t quite sure what she could come up with that he couldn’t counter. It seemed that the man she had desired to have for so long had been spending his time coming up with the perfect response to her feelings. “If that’s it Meow-“ He was running his hand across her cheek when she let out a soft breath, sighing as she shut her eyes reveling in the sensation.

God how good it felt to be touched by him even just the slightest bit. Was it her imagination or were his fingers shuddering against her skin? “No I have one more,”

He paused peering at her, his eyes looked like they were begging her for something that he couldn’t break down. Something, anything he could use as an excuse when the world asked them- why would you ruin what you already have? Why would you make things awkward for your families? “You make me really happy Jun.” The look of incredulity in his face made her embarrassed so she shut her eyes closed and elaborated. “So happy, I have trouble breathing.”

There was only silence upon them again. She slowly winked one eye open. He was just looking at her, blinking. She laughed nervously. He cracked a small smile and for a second Mao felt her heart swell in her chest.

And then he placed a small kiss to her forehead. Just as quickly her heart shattered into a million pieces and yet almost immediately it jumped back up and restored itself. She felt like one of those horribly heroines in those Asian dramas her mom watched.

She just couldn’t give up. It was impossible. He could kick her and strike her down and she wouldn’t leave his side.

“Why?” She was asking him why he was rejecting her. She was easy. She was the perfect option for him to rebound from his last serious relationship. Why would he say no?

Without warning, he scooped her up in his arms like she was a new bride in his house and she squealed from the sheer surprise from the fact the ground was no longer under her feet. She wasn't sure what to make of it...was this a rejection? It didn't really feel like it anymore. It didn't feel like anything. It felt like he was avoiding her question...as usual."Jun, what are you doing?"

"I could unwrap my unexpected present tonight right now…but then only one of us would be enjoying the process and I don’t quite think that’s fair to you.” He set her down on the bed and leaned a little bit closer to her face.

She didn’t quite understand what he meant by that so as she stared back, innocently gazing up at him Matsumoto Jun could only smirk. He sat down beside her. “Your wish is my command Mao, but for now sleep well.”

She shook her head stubbornly. “Why?”

It was obvious now that no answer but the obvious would put this girl to rest and so Jun turned over on his side and pulled her into his arms and kissed her for the second time that night. This kiss was different, it was slow, languid, dripping with desperation from her end but Jun calmed her as she reached for his hair and pulled her hands around his waist.

Then he separated from her and pressed his nose to hers.

"Tomorrow morning we're probably going to be doing a lot more of that...at least if you still think you want to be my girlfriend.” It was what she had asked for all night long and now that he was actually doing it Mao could barely stay conscious throughout it. The only reason she'd been so hyper was because she'd been so anxious about his response. “Still sure you want this?”

She felt her body tingle as she cuddled into a position she’d imagined herself in too many times. “I do.”
-------------------------

“So how do you love me Jun?”

“Like a precious jewel to be guarded carefully, Mao.” Which is why he could never forgive the idea that he was the one who raised his force to hurt her heart. He was standing on the other side of her doorway as she slipped into her dress. “Can I come in now?”

“Why not? I’m having trouble with this zip and it’s not anything you haven’t seen before.” She scoffed turning around holding her dress up with her hands and unlocking the door. In seconds Matsumoto Jun had her up against a wall, quick and deft he had her breathing a little bit too hard as their chests were pressed into each other. “I asked you to help me put my dress on Jun…”

“Is it unfortunate that I’d rather see you take it off?” She laughed. She had to. It was too funny…that was the reason they’d broken up after all.

“You know we were supposed to be perfect.” Mao sighed as she looked up at him letting her hand fall to her side. Thankfully her dress hadn’t quite slipped off her, it managed to cling onto her figure…probably because of all the cake tasting she’d done last week.

“Were we?” He mused backing up a bit off her. She was thankful…she was strong sure but like all humans even she had a tendency to let herself fantasize about the past and unfortunately Jun had just been too big a part of hers. How could she not be tempted just a little to falter on these last steps to her future? “You put too much pressure on me in your mind.”

“I put pressure on you?”

“You were disappointed Mao…when I wasn’t this idol older guy you knew and I was just the man who was in love with you. I disappointed you. That’s why I never let myself date you before because I knew I wasn't what you wanted or needed…but you were so damn insistent and I'd denied myself from you for so long.” He laughed a little at himself. “I was always going to be a fuck up and you were always going to be something. Fuck-ups and somethings just don’t go together Mao.”

“Well you’re not a fuck up now are you?”

“No and that’s all because of you.” Her eyes flashed dangerously. She was ready to mouth back off at him but something registered in the back of her head. "You made me something too. You made me want to be better than myself."

----------

“What did you do today?”

“Not much you know the normal.” He smiled at her softly as he came over to her and kissed the top of her head. “What did you do today?”

“We dissected a homo sapien! It was kind of awesome.”

“You can say homo sapien but I know you’re still talking about a guy.” Jun shuddered immediately shifting off his girlfriend. “Shower?”

“Baby…I’m going to be cutting up a lot of homo sapiens in the future. You better get used to this.” She tackled him to their bed giggling. “Besides I already showered in anticipation of something else.” Her lips landed on his and he wondered how they’d managed to be with each other for three whole years already. He was 31. Mao was already 24.

He should be asking her to marry him right about now. She should be saying yes. He felt her hands tickle their way down his chest and she smiled into their kiss. She was happy…he was too but he knew it didn’t make sense. It never had and it scared him because things that didn’t make sense usually didn’t last.

How long would it be until Mao figured that out?

Not to mention he’d been lying to her for the past month. “I just lost my job.” He muttered out feeling her fingers still at his belt. “That’s a lie…I lost my job a month ago.” If he had to pinpoint a moment where he thought their relationship could break apart, it would probably be this moment. This was the moment when Mao would realize herself that there was no reason for her to stay with him. Not only was he an unambitious person who only passively loved her but he now had no income either. There was no girl on earth who could stand for that right?

Mao seemed like she didn’t care though. If anything she just looked worried for him and that scared him more.

“Jun when-“

“I just didn’t want to tell you.”

--------------

If he had to pinpoint where there relationship had gone wrong…it was probably that moment.

Now that he looked back on it of course Mao the girl that she was wouldn’t give up on him until that point. That phrase had been a reaffirmation of everything she had believed was no longer true.

That Matsumoto Jun saw her as a child, someone to toy with, someone to cradle when he felt like it.

It was the ultimate betrayal which had resulted in a shriek fest like he’d never witnessed before or since that night. They screamed so loudly they forgot what they were yelling about. He made a move to stop the screaming and ended up pushing her, when he realized what had happened he stopped himself-

But she didn’t stop herself from leaving. Probably the better option…and yet she became his fantasy the moment she walked out of the door. She was the catalyst in his growth.

Suddenly his purpose was finding a purpose. He left his house, vanished from sight. Found his way back through the darkest of alleys and the highest of mountain peaks. He became an entrepreneur, he struggled to make money, then lost it all, then made it back again and then he realized that money didn’t matter the people around you did “

And that was when he realized he had to get her back.
------------------------------
“I’ll be right back,” Mao leaned over and pressed a kiss to Junichi’s lips barely controlling herself from getting up and walking away from his mouth when his tongue teased the edge of her lips. She couldn’t help but blush at the promise he’d left unsaid as she covered her mouth with her hand and walked towards the washroom to the back.

The heat coursing through her right now was no joke, she ran her hands through her bangs, skipping all the way to the washroom. She washed her hands and tapped her face. Fixed the bun on top of her head and walked out again.

They’d been out five times but Junichi had proven himself more and more interesting with each date that passed. Not to mention both of them could barely keep their hands off each other in a way that she hadn’t felt in a very very long time.

Of course she thought about him, after all to her Matsumoto Jun was the love of her life. It was because of him she preferred older guys, but since meeting Junichi she had to say she thought about him less an less...and it was freeing. She felt a swing come back into her hips, Junichi found her body attractive, found her brain enticing and treated her like an adult.

Her relationship with Jun had just-it had never been those things. With Jun their affection was childlike, they laughed so much in bed that she’d never thought she would be happier than she was with him in those moments, and when he held her close as she fell asleep in his arms she felt safer than she ever had because she knew Jun would always take care of her.

She felt her steps slow down as she approached the table. She tucked her hair behind her ear and sat down beside Junichi. Looking at him now her smile faltered, yes she wanted to be an equal but she also wanted to be taken care of but had she put too much pressure on him?

Obviously she appeared disturbed because her new boyfriend reached over the table to hold her hand. “Everything okay?”

But wouldn’t it be selfish to use her emotions against her again? Wouldn’t it be selfish for him to make her do what he wanted her to? He already knew he could. Quivering like a feather on her dress, he’d barely held himself back from her in her dressing room.

He was watching her now as she danced away with Okada Junichi, all smiles and laughs. The right gestures made at the right people. She mostly ignored his presence. He allowed himself to drink a little.

Then before he knew what time it was it was 1AM and surely past the hour unwelcome guests like him should be present but he couldn't tear his eyes away from his nightmare as he saw his Mao in a white dress in the arms of another man.

He stood outside their large outdoor tent ready to leave when he caught sight of a flurry of white behind him.

“So that’s it? You come, you drink, you dance you leave?”

He nodded. “That’s it Mao.” He tilted his head towards her and made a move to walk away again when she ran out in front of him and stood. She was looking at him disappointedly. She expected some sort of grand gesture from him.

He had one prepared.

It was a box wrapped up in a ribbon, in the box there was a letter folded into the shape of a heart. A promise.

Mao had always wanted to be his equal. She had always wanted to know everything she could about him. See he’d always known he could unravel Inoue Mao’s heart but he’d never really let her touch his. So he’d decided as best he could to try and lay out his feelings for her in words. Maybe she’d understand him then.

Now she probably never would. “I’m sorry, I victimized you.” If he couldn’t have her back, the least he could do was apologize to her.

He was mildly shocked to hear an apology back. “I’m sorry, I idolized you.” That disappointed gaze vanished from her eyes and she held her hand forward. “As much as I wished you wouldn’t come today. I’m glad you did.”

“That’s the funny thing about not inviting people to your wedding.” He joked. “They tend to show up anyways.”

“Without a gift.” She teased but not for long because his face soured.

“I had a gift…” He watched her eyebrows furrow. “Just be thankful you don’t have to unwrap it.”

Would they have made it a second time around?

Jun would like to think so.

So he took a leap of faith, hoping Mao wouldn’t punch his face out as he leaned forward to press a chaste kiss to her forehead. Then he slipped his hands off her shoulders and walked away from her.

He was never going to see her again. He’d make sure of that.

Inoue Mao watched Matsumoto Jun walk out of her life. A small 15 year old inside of her screamed to chase after him but the wiser 24 year old reminded her that he was the man who had never considered her an equal to him. And so her 28 year old self kept her feet glued to the pavement.

She turned around to see a small box lying in the grass around them and picked it up. There was a ribbon sealing its contents.

She held onto the curve of the ribbon, ready to unravel it when she heard her new husband’s voice call out to her from inside. “Mao!”

Some couples were made to be together, some couples were made to break apart.

Some couples were never meant to be at all.

Inoue Mao wasn't sure what kind of couple she was meant to be with Matsumoto Jun at all as she slowly lifted the ribbon off the box to read the words carefully in his fancy script writing.

Handle with Care
End Notes:
LOL guys, the temptation to get them together was too damn high...but the story felt more beautiful this way. So I forsaked my OTP.

Hope you all enjoyed it :)!
This story is published on Asian Fan Fiction at http://www.asianfanfiction.com/viewstory.php?sid=2587