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January 2011
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trivialaffair [userpic]
the shoemaker

Title: The Shoemaker
Pairing: Massu x NEWS; quasi-Massu x Yamapi
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 8000+
Summary: AU. Out of all the shoes Massu has made, he remembers only five pairs.

The Shoemaker

The first pair of shoes Massu remembers is a pair of running shoes made of bleached rubber.

Tegoshi is Massu’s first best friend. They have been from the moment Tegoshi and Massu first played together on the plastic swing-set outside of their apartment complex in early summer.

The boy is pretty, with soft features and moles on his cheeks and a nicely round face. Massu takes pride in the fact that his is even rounder.

“My name is Yuya,” the not-as-round-faced boy says. He sticks out a sandy finger toward the swings. “Would you like to play with me?”

“My name is Takahisa,” Massu says. “Sure.”

Massu learns that when boys are young and their thoughts fleeting, becoming best friends is as easy as counting to three. It takes only an hour in the sand before Massu and Tegoshi make the serious decision to be best friends for the rest of their lives and beyond. Then, Mother comes to pick Massu up and Tegoshi’s mother soon after. Together, the four of them walk a bit, Mother holding Massu’s clammy hand and Tegoshi in his mother’s arms, and later the two squeal with delight when they learn that they live only a street away.

Before he leaves, Tegoshi links pinkies with Massu and promises to be at the playground the next day.

And he is.

Their friendship is cemented in that park, with the sandy lot and forest green monkey bars. They meet every day that summer, whether it is for a short ten minutes or for the majority of the day. Neither of them have school, so they are left each day to play to their hearts content.

Tegoshi and Massu become pirates that summer. They turn into police officers and samurais and acrobats. Tegoshi becomes a king and Massu a phoenix. Together they travel distant lands and create new worlds and Massu discovers something new with each passing day, with Tegoshi.

“What does your dad do?” Tegoshi asks one day, when they lie on matted grass and poke ants that skitter by.

“My dad makes shoes,” Massu says proudly.

Tegoshi sits up and turns to Massu. “Really?” he asks excitedly. “That’s so cool!”

Massu scrunches his nose and he grins, “He’s one of the best shoemakers in all of Tokyo.”

“Cool,” Tegoshi smiles, flopping back onto the grass and scratching exposed tummy.

Massu glances at Tegoshi, “What does your dad do?”

Tegoshi’s grin widens. “He says he does people favors,” Tegoshi says.

“What kind of favors?” Massu asks curiously. Tegoshi shrugs.

That night, Massu races down the stairs and climbs into a chair next to Father. Father grins, ruffles Massu’s hair before concentrating on his trade.

Hours later, when a pair of finished sleek red heels sits before them, Father turns and pulls Massu onto his lap. “What can I do for you, sir?” his gruff voice ruffles playfully in Massu’s hair. The warm air tickles his ear and Massu squeals.

“I want to make a pair of shoes,” Massu says.

Father looks at Massu with an amused grin. “Really now. You want to make shoes…for yourself?” Massu shakes his head and Father looks thoughtful. His eyes bear deep into Massu’s. “Takahisa,” Father starts, combing a hand gently through Massu’s silk locks, “Let me tell you a secret.”

Massu’s eyes widen and he shifts closer. Father has never told him shoe secrets before; what a day! Father leans in close and Massu almost forgets to breathe.

“I only make shoes for very special people,” he whispers slowly.

Massu gasps. But then he frowns. “Father,” he says, “you make shoes for strangers all the time. Are they all special?”

“They are when they pay,” Father says seriously. “Takahisa, listen to me. You only make shoes for free for the people you really love. Making shoes takes a lot of work and these shoes that we Masuda’s make don’t belong to just anybody. Do you understand?”

Massu nods.

“Do you love this person enough to make them a pair of Masuda-style shoes?”

Massu thinks about the time they played doctors and Tegoshi sewed on Massu’s detached arm. He thinks that’s proof enough of their love. Massu nods again.

Father chuckles, “Then let’s make a pair of shoes.”

Together with Father, Massu makes his first pair of shoes. Father presses strong calloused hands into Massu’s chubby fingers and teaches him how to use old rubber and shape it to be something precious. Massu doesn’t remember all the details but in the end there is a pair of tiny running shoes with sleek white laces in Massu’s hands, and Massu has never been prouder.

The next day, Tegoshi doesn’t come to the playground. Massu waits with shoebox in hand; he draws pictures in the sandbox, hums ditties to empty air, but eventually it starts to grow dark and there is still no sign of Tegoshi.

When Massu walks past his house to his best friend’s place, his face falls when he arrives at the scene. A car with an overflowing trunk sits on the driveway and Tegoshi’s mother and father flit about with random accessories. He hears a frantic “Leave that behind,” and a high-pitched “How much time do we have?” before he catches sight of Tegoshi, huddled on the porch with knobby knees pulled up to his face.

Massu rushes to his side. “What’s going on?” Massu asks. As he gets closer Tegoshi’s tears stop him in his tracks.

Tegoshi shakes his head violently. “My parents say we have to leave,” he mutters woodenly.

“Leave,” Massu repeats. “Leave where?”

Tegoshi buries his face deeper into his knees and Massu cringes. “I don’t know,” Tegoshi whimpers. “Mom says dad did too many favors for too many bad people,” he whispers.

At that moment, Tegoshi’s mother runs out of the house wild-eyed and out of breath. “Yuya,” she breathes, “Yuya, get in the car, it’s time to go.”

Massu hastily stands up, “But I need to—“

Tegoshi’s mother nearly breaks down. Her voice trembles and she grabs Tegoshi by the hand and pulls him up. “Masuda-kun,” her voice hitches, “tell your parents that we say goodbye.”

Before Massu can say anything else, Tegoshi is pulled into the car and the door slams shut. Massu rushes to the car and barely hears Tegoshi’s words muffled by the metal shell. He screams something and cries and Massu doesn’t understand what is going on, only that it is. Eventually, the car pulls away and Massu only watches as his best friend leaves him at 90 kmph.

Behind him, the shoebox lays unopened and unforgotten on their porch, brand new running shoes with rubber soles and bright white laces, sitting there with nowhere to go.

This is the first pair of shoes that Massu makes, and is the only pair that is never worn.

The second pair of shoes Massu remembers is a pair of black cloth sneakers.

When Massu is twelve, he starts junior high school just like any other boy his age. His uniform is constricting and it itches when he shifts. When he sits in a stuffy auditorium and listens to the principal give a dry speech about their esteemed institution, he turns to the boy next to him and rolls his eyes. The boy stifles his giggles with a hand and nods in agreement. They both turn back to the speaker with a sigh.

An eternity later, the opening assembly is over and boys and girls file to their respective classes. “I’m Masuda,” Massu offers, when he walks into his classroom and recognizes the familiar boy from the earlier assembly.

The boy grins and reaches out a hand as Massu sits behind him, “Kato.”

Becoming friends with Shige isn’t as easy as it was with Tegoshi. It isn’t as easy as playing in the park once and becoming sworn brothers with pinkies wrapped around pinkies.

Instead, Shige and Massu start out slow. They start with talking about the cute girls in their class during lunch time and playing soccer on the unused fields after school. Shige invites Massu to study at his house, and Massu invites Shige over to eat Mother’s gyoza. Sometimes, they go on the rooftop and drink sodas, burping out odd tunes and laughing loudly over nothing at all. They meet other boys in their class and become friends with them too, form a group.

Shige and Massu aren’t exactly popular in school, but they get by alright. Shige is sort of a geek and overly concerned with his grades, his future. Everyone knows that he spends too much time in the library and not enough outside.

On the other hand, Massu is a free spirit. He doesn’t join any teams, any activities, doesn’t put much effort in anything. It’s not that he can’t. He finds he has a good voice after going to karaoke with Shige, can play sports and swim well. So it’s not that he can’t. It’s just that he doesn’t want to enough, doesn’t have the same motivation that Shige has.

Despite their seemingly glaring differences, eventually Shige and Massu become almost indistinguishable from each other. With Shige, there is Massu; with Massu, Shige is always nearby. There aren’t many girls that like them, but the ones that do start to ask them out in pairs, start to assume that if Shige goes to one group date, then Massu will be there too. No questions.

Shige finds it a little disconcerting.

“It’s like we’re married,” Shige says, after two pairs of girls had asked them both out, one right after the other. They sit on the rooftop, sun beating down their faces and soaking into their dark uniforms.

Massu snorts, “You’re the one that’s married. Married to your grades.” Shige flicks a one-yen piece at Massu’s face. He misses.

Shige sighs, “You don’t think it’s odd?”

“Who cares what they think?” Massu asks simply. Shige hums a flat note in response.

Their days are much of the same thing over and over again, and Massu revels in this normalcy, this routine friendship that isn’t going to leave him. One year of friendship turns into two, three. They start applying to high schools and worrying about their futures. Massu thinks about shoes, about making shoes the rest of his life. It seems like a bleak future, and comes with some bad memories, but Massu doesn’t think he has much of a choice. So he doesn’t bother trying too hard in school, and watches as Shige nearly runs himself into the ground and gets into great high schools.

One day, Shige runs into the room with a boisterous laugh. “Massu,” he yells, “Massu, my dad got me a Nintendo for getting into Aoyama Gakuin!”

Massu bolts up. “Seriously?” Massu asks, “AWESOME.”



They ignore the girls behind them muttering things about boys and stupidity, and are gleeful the rest of the school day. Boys around them are jealous so Massu and Shige do their best not to preen too much, and it feels likes ages before the school bell finally rings. They make a dash to Shige’s house, where Shige’s mother greets them with a sigh and holding a pair of ratty tennis shoes.

“Hello, Masuda-kun,” his mother says sweetly, before turning to Shige with a scowl. “Shigeaki,” she barks, “This is ridiculous. We need to get you a new pair of shoes.”

Shige rolls his eyes. “Mom,” he says exasperated, “It’s okay, no one cares.”

I care,” his mother says threateningly. “And I’m your mother. I’m throwing these out.”

“They only have a little tear in them,” Shige says loudly as he walks past her to go upstairs.

Massu pauses before following Shige. “What size is he?” Massu asks.

Shige’s mother glances at him, chuckling. “26.5. His feet are really growing,” she marvels. “Soon nothing’s going to fit.” She shoos Massu upstairs, “Go join Shigeaki. He’s been excited about playing games with you as soon as he got the system.”

Massu grins and bolts up the stairs.

This time, when he gets home, he goes to Father’s workstation before greeting Mother upstairs.

“I want to make a pair of shoes,” Massu declares.

Father looks up before continuing to hammer in the sole of a hiking boot. “I thought you didn’t want to make shoes anymore,” Father says. Massu swallows and Father continues, “Why the change?” Mother’s voice rings feebly from upstairs and they both glance at the doorway. “Go help your mother set the table.”

“I want to make my friend a pair of shoes,” Massu repeats firmly.

Father sighs, puts down his hammer. “You remember what happened the last time you made someone a pair of shoes?”

Massu looks away before crossing his arms stubbornly. “Shige’s not going anywhere,” he says, “his life is really boring.”

Father laughs, looks at him long and hard. “That’s good enough for me.” His eyes soften before he gestures to the door, “Go help your mother.”

Later that night, Father teaches Massu how to cut cloth in exact length and cure it to use for the shoes. He learns the art of shaping rubber soles and his father sits right next to him with a patient smile and guiding hand. This time, Massu does most of the work, and though Father instructs him in every way, Massu feels like these are actually his shoes, and not the work of his father.

When he comes by the Kato household the next day, a Saturday, he is greeted by Shige’s mother with Shige nowhere in sight.

Her eyes widen at the shoebox in Massu’s hands. “Oh my,” she says, “Is that for Shigeaki?” Massu nods, suddenly shy. A flush creeps up his neck and settles in his scalp, hot, itchy, embarrassing. He passes the box to her and she opens it carefully. He opens his mouth to speak, but then Shige’s mother clasps her hands together in happiness. “Oh wow, these are beautiful! Thank your father for me. Shigeaki is going to love these; what a treasure.”

Massu closes his mouth. Swallows, then he scratches his head. He doesn’t bother correcting her, and he makes a split decision. “Could you not tell Shige that this is from me?”

Shige’s mother looks surprised. “Are you sure?” she asks gently. Massu nods and Shige’s mother’s gaze reflects understanding.

The next Monday, Shige comes to school with brand new sneakers, made of black fitted cloth and dark grey shoelaces. They squeak across the floor and Shige takes them off at his locker before shoving them in his locker. Later, when school ends, Shige pulls out his sneakers and throws them against the floor, slipping into them with ease; he glances at Massu and nudges his shoulder, pulls him out of the school and back to his house, where Shige’s mother greets him with a secretive smile.

This happens every day after school, and it becomes a part of their routine just like every other routine of theirs. Shige never realizes and Massu never tells, though sometimes he wonders if he should tell Shige, if it would be worth it.

But then, their routine changes. Shige gets into Aoyama Gakuin junior high school and Massu stays in the local school by their houses. They still meet on weekends and talk about girls and school and nothing at all, but it isn’t quite the same. Their routine isn’t really a routine anymore and sometimes it makes Massu a little sad, feel a little lonely.

The one thing that doesn’t change are Shige’s shoes. Shige continues to wear those black sneaker shoes, now a little more faded and a little more worn than the first day, with pride.

When Shige comes over to Massu’s house in the summer before college, he is wearing bright white sneakers and the white almost blinds Massu’s eyes. Shige talks about planning for Aoyama Gakuin university, of getting a law degree and being someone big. Massu doesn’t plan on going to college. He has known since day one that he is to be his father’s apprentice, that he will eventually take over Father’s shoe shop. Sometimes he thinks he should be a little ashamed, when he talks to Shige who is getting a higher education, but then he thinks of Father’s proud smile, and it calms him down a little.

They sit in his room; Massu lays on his stomach on his bed and Shige flips through some old manga.

“What happened to your old pair of shoes? The black ones?”

The words come out before Massu can process them, and when he does, he nearly groans. Shige flashes him an odd look at the question, before flipping another page. “I outgrew them,” he says. There’s a pause before Shige continues, “But they were really great. I loved them,” Shige mumbles idly as he flips more pages, “Most comfortable shoes I ever had.”

Those simple, unfocused words swell in Massu’s ears and he can’t stop the grin from exploding on his face.

“I’m glad to hear it,” Massu breathes. Shige glances at him and chuckles, before chucking his book at Massu’s thigh.

Shige goes to college and Massu stays at the shop, and Massu never sees those black sneakers again. He doesn’t know if Shige still has them, or shoved them to the back of his closet, or maybe just thrown them out, but Massu doesn’t really mind.

This is the first pair of shoes that Massu sees outgrown and loved before his very eyes.

The third pair of shoes Massu remembers is a pair of boots with the hide dyed dark brown.

Making shoes isn’t a game anymore, isn’t something to do for only his very special people. After high school, Massu officially becomes Father’s apprentice, and he spends the majority of his days learning how to make Father’s shoes. Father pays him a small wage and Mother feeds him and he still lives with them, but it’s different now.

Now, Massu is an employee at Father’s shop. Not just a son, but a shoemaker in progress. Father takes the role of instructor very seriously.

A kind man, Father takes great pride in his work and considers shoemaking his passion, but Massu has never realized how strict Father was about his method of shoemaking. Father takes hours perfecting a design, making the perfect shoe, and all the work Father really puts into shoemaking makes Massu’s head spin and fingers ache. When in the workshop and under a deadline, Massu learns to cower in Father’s presence, and bite his tongue when Father scolds him. Massu has yet to make a pair of shoes with which Father is completely impressed, and though he keeps on trying, it is clear that it takes a lot to satisfy Father’s sharp and distinct taste.

On the day Massu gets his first paycheck, he is completely worn out and extremely frustrated. He had ruined two pairs of shoes earlier and Father had gotten extremely upset with Massu’s poor stitching. So when he arrives at the bank, he is not in the best of moods. He deposits the check and fingers loose cash in his hands, and as he stomps out of the bank, he sees a small Ramen shop across the street.

He doesn’t know why exactly, but moments later he finds himself walking through the doors and he nearly collapses at the strong smell of good ramen wafting in the air. Massu arrives in the early afternoon, at an awkward time where there aren’t many people eating at the shop; behind the counter is a solitary young man with brightly dyed hair.

He glances up when Massu walks in, “Welcome!” Massu nods and lifts himself up next to the counter. The man’s smile is brilliant, slanted eyes curved with the grin. “What can I do for you?”

“Pork ramen,” Massu orders, and the man gets right to work. It doesn’t take long before a steaming bowl of noodles is placed right in front of him and the smell makes Massu weak-kneed and his stomach growl. He digs in and the man smiles happily, leaving the counter to clean up empty tables. When he comes back, he glances curiously the white envelope containing Massu’s paycheck money.

Massu swallows before gesturing at the envelope. “My first paycheck,” he says. He takes another slurp of noodles as the man’s grin splits even wider.

“Congratulations! Then we have to celebrate.” the man cheers. An older woman walks in at that point and the man goes up to her and whispers something in her ear.

Minutes later, the man places a plate of sizzling gyoza next to Massu’s finished bowl. “On the house,” the man says and Massu laughs.

“Gyoza,” Massu sighs happily, “You are like a mind reader.”

The man looks pleased, “You like gyoza? I’m glad.”

Massu scoffs, “Like it? I love the stuff. It’s so bad that Mother knows to make gyoza whenever she wants her way. She knows I’ll say yes, no matter what she asks.” They both laugh and Massu tears into the gyoza with glee.

Next month on payday, he walks to the bank and sees the ramen shop across the street, as he did the first time he had come. He stops. He knows Mother is making steamed fish that night with her secret family recipe, but something compels him to take out a little extra cash and walk into the ramen shop. When he does, the same man behind the counter smiles and eyes light up in recognition.

“Payday?” the man asks, and Massu nods in surprise.

“You have a great memory,” Massu marvels, and the man shrugs embarrassedly. He plops himself next to counter and plays with a empty cup. “Beef ramen, please,” Massu orders.

The man salutes and later, when he hands Massu the bowl, he stays around the counter.

“I’m Koyama,” the man with curved lashes and lithe frame says.

“Charmed,” Massu says around a mouthful of beef, “Masuda.”

When Massu is about to leave and he grabs his jacket, Koyama bows in parting. “Are you coming next payday?” he asks cheerfully.

Even though Massu doesn’t say anything, he already knows the answer is yes.

Masuda learns more about Koyama in those restaurants visits than he ever cared to know. Koyama talks about everything and anything in his life, like the world is going to end in any moment and he needs to tell his story to the world. Massu finds it charming, and a little confusing, but something that ends up being wholly Koyama. Massu learns about Koyama’s cat, about Koyama’s mother, about Koyama’s hobbies and fears, and Massu learns to love this monthly information overload.

About half a year after Massu’s monthly restaurant visits, Koyama whips up two bowls of ramen and sits down next to Massu, spinning a little on the stool beside him. He stops, and he looks at something under Massu’s chair.

“Are those Masuda shoes?” Koyama gasps, and Massu stiffens a little.

“Yeah,” he says, slurping up more ramen.

Koyama lets out a low whistle. “Damn,” he says. “Those must have cost you a fortune.”

Massu shrugs and prepares for the iron the fall. “I’m actually surprised you recognized these,” Massu admits.

Koyama swallows and flushes a little, “Um. This may seem a little gay, but I walk by their store sometimes, and I always stop at the window. They’re worth more than my life. Top of the line. Real craftsmanship, those shoes.”

Massu hums under his breath and together they sit side by side and slurp their frothy ramens. Koyama keeps glancing at his shoes, and then Massu sighs when Koyama chokes.

“Masuda,” he says, once he can breathe. “Masuda. Masuda. MASUDA. When you said you were working for your father, was this—You’re a Masuda?

Massu nods awkwardly. “I’m a Masuda,” he says.

Koyama leans back and sits stunned. “Wow,” he marvels. “That is. Wow.”

That night, he sits in his bed in boxer shorts and thinks about Koyama’s almost theatrical reaction. He hasn’t ever met someone so excited about shoes, about what Massu does, lives, breathes. Usually people don’t really understand, and most people at least judge him for not getting a college education. He’s never gotten such an enthusiastic response to his job, and to be honest, it makes his chest thump.

The worst part is that he’s not even very good, and nowhere near Father’s level. Sometimes, when Father fixes Massu’s mistakes with a frown and Massu sits there and wallows in his failures, Massu thinks he’ll never be able to take over the shop, the family brand. It’s a frustrating thought, and one that often keeps him awake at nights.

This night, he thinks about Koyama, and when Massu gets out of bed, and even though it is late, he finds himself walking downstairs into the empty workshop.

He sits on a stool, looks at hides stretched on a rack, and he sighs. He takes a hide off of one rack and thinks about what he could do with them. Surprisingly, images that are sort of familiar but sort of not form in his mind and he begins to map out a pair of leather shoes.

Massu ends up spending the night and most of the early morning making a pair of boots he didn’t even think he could make. They’re lean and sleek, leather dyed dark brown. Massu scrawls his signature in the soles of the shoes, and then he sits back and he yawns. It’s almost daybreak, so Massu crawls upstairs and quickly falls asleep.

Hours later, when Massu walks downstairs rubbing sleep from his eyes, he glances at the finished boots before sitting down next to Father. Father doesn’t say anything for a long time until Massu lets out a yawn, and then he chuckles.

“You used my best hide,” he says, and Massu cringes.


Father shakes his head and his next words make Massu stop breathing for a second.

“Those are a good pair of boots,” Father admits.

Massu thinks that’s the first time Father has ever told him that, and he breathes a little easier the rest of the day (despite ruining a pair of shoes and almost losing the rubber mold).

On the day before payday, he glances at his finished creation, and suddenly realizes that the boots look familiar because they are. Massu hasn’t seen Koyama’s feet often, usually hidden behind the counter or pattering around the ramen store, but he remembers that Koyama often wears a pair of cloth boots, long and tight fitting. Massu’s boots are quite similar, and it unnerves Massu that he had been inspired by a man he meets only once a month. He had also made the shoes in a size that Koyama could probably wear, a 28, if his memory serves him correctly. Massu has yet to master looking at a shoe and determining the size from a glance alone.

He wonders if it would be creepy giving Koyama a pair of shoes for no reason at all than for the fact that Koyama had inspired them. In the end, he decides why the hell not?

The next day, Massu walks up to the ramen store with a little tremble in his step and shoebox in his hands. He pauses outside the door for a little bit before he takes a deep breath and walks inside.

Massu hands Koyama the box silently and Koyama nearly drops it. “No way,” Koyama whispers in awe. He lifts the lid slowly and barely contains a shriek. Massu grins and Koyama fumbles about in glee. “This is amazing. You are amazing. My god, they are so much more beautiful in real life. These look nothing like the window display!” Pause. “Why don’t they look like the ones in the store?”

He looks at Massu curiously and Massu scratches his shoulder.

“I designed them,” Massu says hesitantly.

Koyama’s jaw drops. “You made this yourself, then?” Massu nods and Koyama’s eyes widen. “You really are a Masuda,” he breathes. “Seriously, these are awesome. You did a fantastic job.”

Massu flushes and shifts on his feet. “I made them a size 28. I hope they fit.”

Koyama giggles, and Masu immediately knows that he mistook the size; Father would be so ashamed. “I’m a size 27, but it’s okay. I’ll wear thick socks.”

When Father realizes Massu’s potential and Koyama nearly bursts into tears when he puts on Massu’s boots for the first time, Massu realizes that this could really work. That this really could be his career. That he isn’t as bad as he thinks.

This is the first pair of shoes that makes him think he has a chance.

The fourth pair of shoes Massu remembers is a pair of tan hiking boots cured in the sun.

After months of consideration, Father decides to move his shop closer to downtown Tokyo, to a more Metropolitan area. Clients have suggested for years that Father move to a more cosmopolitan shopping district so that the shop gets the recognition it deserves, and finally Father agrees to try. So, at 21 years old, Massu moves for the first time in his life. Father and Mother and Massu pack their belongings and move to an apartment right across their new store. There’s a workshop in the back and a display and sales area in the front, and it takes Father and Massu a couple of months setting their shop up and getting used to the new, modern layout.

They don’t really know how to advertise their store even after it opens, so at first they worry about slow business. When drunk, Father admits his reservations about the move and Massu only supports him as he carries him home.

However, their clientele is a loyal group and ends up doing the advertising for their store. Aside from their regulars who had frequently reserved special pairs of shoes, new customers crawl in all the time. They browse Masuda’s latest collections and buy up the available designs or reserve pairs of shoes for the two men to make, and work gets busier as Massu and Father adjust to their new situation.

Eventually, work gets so busy that they cannot handle the load alone. Their first hire is a cute young lady named Kimiko-chan, and Massu tries to ignore his mother’s subtle hints about dating girls, girls like cute little Kimiko-chan. She has a snaggletooth and short cropped hair, and Massu can see how she’d be cute, but to her, that’s all she is. Cute. So he tries not to dwell on that.

He meets the man with the guitar by accident.

It’s a late Thursday night when he does, a sort of dampness fogging the area as Massu runs to the convenience store to buy some toothpaste. He wears baby blue sweatpants and a teal green overcoat with a clip in his hair, but at that time of night, he doesn’t think he’ll see anyone he knows (not that he knows anyone anyway).

It’s on his way back, as he’s passing a small park, when he hears a melodic strumming of an out of tune guitar. He stops and sees a small hunched over man on a park bench, playing a guitar and humming some odd tune. He closes his eyes and lets the music wash over him and soothe his senses, and only opens them once the music stops. The man looks at him and Massu scratches his head.

“You sound a little out of tune,” Massu says shyly, and the man’s eyes flash in surprise.

He strums a little and looks aghast. Tunes a string and strums again. The chord sounds immediately better and the man looks sheepish. “Thanks,” he says, tapping the shell of his guitar. “I wasn’t even paying attention.”

Massu nods, “No problem, your guitar playing sounds really good.”

The man smiles lopsidedly, “Thanks.”

Massu stands silently for a bit before he tilts his head and glances at the half moon. “Do you often play at night, here in the park?”

The man shrugs, “I play wherever and whenever I feel like it.” A pause, “Well, the guy I’m staying with, he has some friends over and I opted out. I’m leaving in a couple days anyway. I don’t see why I need to meet them.”

“Oh,” Massu says. He rocks on his heels awkwardly before sitting on the bench next to the man.

“The name’s Nishikido Ryo,” the man with the guitar propped precariously on his thigh. He reaches out a hand.

Massu shakes it and smiles, “My name is Masuda.”

“Ah,” Nishikido says, “You guys own that, um, that store. Across the street from where my friend lives.”

“He lives there too?” Massu asks.

Nishikido nods, “He’s a grade school friend. Lives on the twelfth floor. What do you sell again? Accessories?”

“Shoes,” Massu says. “We sell shoes.”

Nishikido hums under his breath, “Cool. Shoes are cool.”

Massu laughs, “No they’re not. They’re shoes.”

Nishikido tries to keep a straight face but eventually he laughs too. “You’re right,” he chuckles, “They’re really not. Still, I suppose it’s cool that you have your own family business and don’t have to worry about looking for jobs and stuff. Do you like it?”

“Owning a family business?” Massu asks. He’s about to answer when Nishikido shakes his head.

“No,” he says, “Do you like having to work with shoes all your life?”

Massu opens his mouth, closes it. “I never really thought of it that way,” Massu says honestly, and Nishikido looks at him.

He scoffs, “If you don’t think about life in that way, then how are you thinking about it? Life only comes once, you know.”

Massu sits dumbly and Nishikido cringes. “Ah, sorry,” he mumbles, scratching his inner thigh. “I’m sort of a tactless bitch." Massu shakes his head and Nishikido sighs, “I just. I think about these things a lot, you know?”

He leans back against the park bench. “I’ve never been discontent with this life, at least,” Massu says softly.

Nishikido looks at him for a long time before shrugging, “Well, if you’re happy, then that’s all that matters.”

There’s a long rustling throughout the park and between the two silent men before Massu stands up and brushes off imaginary dust from his sweats, “I should probably get going,” he says.

Nishikido nods and waves a hand, “Maybe I’ll see you around before I leave.”

Massu leaves to the strums of an old guitar and the rhythmic tapping of a worn sneaker.

A couple days later after closing the shop for the day, Massu bumps into Nishikido as he walks outside of the apartment building with a bag and duck taped guitar case.

Massu raises a brow, “That’s all you’re bringing with you?”

Nishikido shrugs, “It’s all I got.” Massu glances at Nishikido’s dirty jeans and tattered faded sneakers, and he glances back at the store. Massu doesn’t know where the offer comes from, but he realizes after he says it that he actually means it.

“You want a pair of shoes for the road?” Nishikido looks confused and Massu shrugs, “Since you’re leaving tomorrow?”

Nishikido pauses before glancing at his old, worn out shoes. “I’ve never been one to refuse kindness,” he says cheekily, and Massu laughs. “Sure.”

Together they walk back to the apartments and Massu opens up the darkened store.

Nishikido whistles low as he browses the shoes. “Damn,” he says, “These are fancy.” His eyes drift to the back selections and he laughs, “You even have high class hiking boots?”

Behind him, Massu shrugs, “Even rich men like that look sometimes. Makes them look rugged.”

“I’ll say.”

Massu hops onto the counter, “So where are you going tomorrow?”

Nishikido shrugs, “I haven’t really decided yet. I may head back to Osaka. Visit my parents or something.” He scratches his arm and chuckles, “I like to consider myself a free spirit, lone wanderer sort of thing. Anyway, I’ve worn out my welcome at my friend’s, so it’s about time I leave.”

Nishikido picks up a particular tanned hiking boot and holds it carefully in his hands. He puts it back slowly and Massu spots the wishful thinking immediately. Massu glances at Nishikido’s feet and grabs the size 27 shoebox.

“Try it,” Massu says.

Nishikido looks impressed. “That is a skill that would be cool to have.”

“It’s pretty useless, actually,” Massu deadpans, and they both chuckle.

He puts them on and his jaw drops in awe. “These fit me perfectly. Amazing,” he says.

“Then take it,” Massu grins.

Later, when they stand outside of the elevator, Nishikido looks sheepish. “I’m sorry for just taking these shoes without giving anything back, and for talking your head off. I tend to do that a lot when with people I like.”

Massu laughs, and they shake firm hands before Massu steps into the elevator. “Have a great trip to wherever you decide to go.”

And then the elevator doors close and he thinks about guitars and traveling and hiking boots.

He never sees Nishikido again.

This is the first pair of shoes that makes him wonder what happiness is.

The fifth pair of shoes Massu remembers is a pair of blue plastic sandals.

Father starts to have health issues a couple of years after Massu meets Ryo. He has coughing fits and heartburn and it’s all very scary, so Massu is forced to take over more and more aspects of the shop with each passing day. When Father isn’t at the doctor, he’s in the back of the shop making shoes at a slow steady slow rate so as not to overburden his body. Kimiko-chan, along with new hires and part-timers, helps Massu with the sales work while Massu churns out shoes as quickly and professionally as he can.

One morning, Massu walks in and sees a young man browsing through the female shoe selection. He walks up with a smile, “May I help you?”

The man turns around and flashes him grateful eyes. “Yes, please,” he says, “I’d like to buy a pair of shoes for my sister.” He glances around. “But none of these…” he trails off, and looks at Massu embarrassedly.

Massu chuckles. “You’re not going to offend me. Those styles aren’t for everyone. Can I offer to personalize a pair for you?” He walks the customer to the counter and pulls out a notepad. “What do you picture your sister wanting? And what’s her size?”

The man scrunches his brow in concentration, “She told me 23 wide. She likes those one-inch heels. Those, um, those pointy shoes? The one with the pointy heels—“

“Stilettos?” Massu smiles.

The man laughs, “Yeah, those. Stilettos. And um, the pointy fronts?”

“You mean pumps?” Massu asks.

“What pump?” the man asks dumbly. “Oh. Is that what they’re called? What a stupid name,” he scoffs, “Anyway, yeah then. Pumps. She likes that style of shoes.”

Massu points to the pumps on the shelf, “I really won’t be offended, but can I ask why you were dissatisfied with that selection? There are some one-inch heels there.”

The customer scowls. “She is too young to be wearing those things. They’re red and bright colors. They look.” He brings his voice down to a whisper, “They’re sexy. Totally inappropriate for Rina.” He stops as he glances at the rough picture Massu is sketching. His eyes widen, “That’s awesome!”

Massu glances at the man and he shrugs, “How does that shape look to you? I don’t know your sister, obviously, but since you don’t want something that daring, I was thinking of a sleek shiny black. Something classy, yet still draws attention.”

The man snorts, “Looks like all the other shoes to me, but I do think Rina would like it.” He looks at Massu appreciatively, “You’re good.”

Massu bows, “That’s part of the job. So what do you say?”

The man raises his hands in defeat and chuckles, “I guess I’ll have to buy it. At least to see what the finished product looks like.”

Massu grins and gestures to Kimiko-chan. “Can you ring this guy up? I’ll be in the back.” He turns back to the man and bows again, “These shoes will be done by Thursday, so feel free to come any time after that to pick them up…” he trails off and the man jolts.

“Oh, I’m Yamashita, thank you very much for doing this.”

Massu shakes his hand and bows, “No, thank you, Yamashita-san. We’re always happy making shoes for our clients.”

A week later, Massu walks out of the workshop for his lunch break and recognizes Yamashita walking out of the store.

“Yamashita-san,” Massu calls out. Yamashita turns and Massu smiles, “Are the shoes to your satisfaction?”

Yamashita grins. “They’re perfect, thank you” he says gratefully. “Really, Rina is going to love them so much. You are some kind of superhero.”

“I’m glad,” Massu says, and he follows Yamashita outside.

Yamashita flashes him a curious glance, “Do you not have any more work?”

“Food,” Massu says simply. “It’s time for a lunch break.”

Yamashita nods understandingly, “Food is important.” His eyes shift downwards and he pauses before he speaks. “Do you—want to grab a bite to eat? My friend cancelled on me earlier so I have no one to eat with.”

Massu is surprised at the offer, and just when he is about to say no, he remembers Mother promising to make gyoza for lunch. He hesitates to decline, and then thinks of the perfect solution. “Um, well, I’m just going to eat at home…” Yamashita’s face falls a little and Massu finishes his sentence quickly, “But Mother’s making gyoza. Would you like to join us?”

His eyes light up, “Can I? I haven’t had homemade gyoza in so long, that would be amazing. Are you sure it’s okay if I intrude?”

“Sure,” Massu says, just as he thinks to himself that inviting a client over that he’s only met twice is probably a very bad idea. He could be a serial killer, could have AIDS, Massu doesn’t know. All he really does know about the guy is that he has sister, and even that could be a lie. But then he remembers Mother’s time-old adage: a hungry man is a welcome man. He sighs and walks Yamashita over to the apartments across the street.

Yamashita stops. “You live here?” Yamashita asks. “I live here too!” Then he makes a sound of understanding, “Actually, that makes sense, since your store is right here and all.”

Massu stares, “You live in this building too?”

Yamashita nods, “Yeah, on the twelth floor. You?”

“Seventh,” Massu says, “Wow, you learn new things every day. Now I have to invite you to eat with us,” he laughs.

Mother is ecstatic.

“It is so nice to have you Yamashita,” she says cheerfully, pouring a mountain of fried gyoza on their plates. “It’s been so long since Takahisa’s had a friend over. Takahisa has been so busy with work these past few years that he hasn’t been able to get out much.”

Mother,” Massu groans, and Yamashita laughs.

“Thank you for having me,” Yamashita says, and Mother beams.

About an hour later, Yamashita walks Massu back to the store. “Thank you so much for inviting me,” he says for the nth time. “I really enjoyed myself.”

Massu smiles, “Of course, Yamashita-san. Of course.”

“We should hang out sometimes,” Yamashita suggests, “Since we’re neighbors and all.”

“Sounds good to me,” Massu says.

Yamashita invites Massu out all the time after that. They go eating and shopping and eating and drinking but mostly eating eating eating. Early on, they learn that for the both of them, eating is beyond a necessity, it is a joy of life that must be celebrated properly. So they do, among other things.

Massu learns a lot about Yamashita throughout the months they meet. He learns that Yamashita works as a bartender at a fancy bar near their apartment complex. He learns Yamashita is a somber man when drunk, a philosopher and a poet. He hates margaritas and changes his hair all the time because he gets random urges to cut his hair.

Yamashita is spontaneous not only with haircuts but with all aspects of life. He often pops up at Massu’s home or workplace at random hours in the day. He flirts with all of their shop’s employees and treats Mother and Father to random gifts. Somehow, he has worked his way into Massu’s life, and has almost become like a constant.

One day, Yamashita pokes his head into the back workshop. “Hello!” he says loudly.

“Hello,” Father says gruffly. He raises a tired hand, “Have you been eating well?”

“Been eating like a horse,” Yamashita says cheerfully. He walks over to Massu and pokes him on the shoulder. “Wake up, I’m here.”

“But I don’t want to move,” Massu groans. “My shoulders are dead.”

“Are they dead enough for food?” Yamashita asks laughingly.

Massu groans and slowly sits up, “Depends. What are we eating today?”

“My mom made salt ramen,” Yamashita says.

“Let’s go.”

When they’re both done and sated, Yamashita follows Massu back into the workshop.

“You’re like a dog,” Massu teases and Yamashita barks. “I don’t know why you like this place so much, there’s nothing to do.”

“Are you kidding?” Yamashita asks. “I think it’s awesome, seeing you in your natural habitat.” Massu punches Yamashita in the bicep and Yamashita winces exaggeratedly.

He sits on a chair next to Massu’s workspace and leans back. He stretches, “Hello there, food coma,” he yawns.

Massu gives Father a ramen bento and Father smiles, “Thank you. Oh, and Takahisa, I think we’re done for the day. There are no new orders in and the shelves are all stocked. If you want, you and Yamashita-kun can do something.”

“Thanks, Father,” Massu says in surprise. He turns back to Yamashita who is lying halfway on his workspace.

Yamashita sighs into his sleeve and Massu jabs his cheek. “Let’s go to the beach,” he mumbles. “Now that you’re actually free.”

Yamashita has been requesting a trip to the beach about a week into their friendship. Apparently it’s one of Yamashita’s favorite places, so it doesn’t surprise Massu at all that he would ask for it again. The only difference with today is that this time, Massu actually has enough time off to go.

Massu laughs. “Okay,” he says.

Yamashita sits up, “Really?”

Massu stands up and grands some fitted foam and plastic. “Yeah,” Massu says, “But first let me do something. I’ll come to your place later and we’ll go from there, okay?”

Yamashita shoots up with a grin, “Awesome. See you then.”

The moment Yamashita leaves, Massu turns to his table and thinks about beaches, about Yamashita. And then, he makes the simplest, and happiest, pair of shoes he’s ever made.

Yamashita opens the door to a warm pair of brand new sandals, midnight blue and soft to the touch.

“Sandals?” Massu says in greeting, and Yamashita punches him.

“Did you seriously just make these for me?” Yamashita asks gleefully, and Massu nods. “This is. Wow. You are—”

Yamashita doesn’t end up finishing his sentence, just looks at Massu warmly.

And then they go to beach.

Massu sees the sandals nearly every day he sees Yamashita, and even when the strap breaks years later and Yamashita tries to fix it with duck tape, Massu still sees the sandals every time he walks through the Yamashita household.

“These are the most precious pair of shoes I have,” Yamashita tells Massu, when asked why he doesn’t get rid of the ratty old pair.

This is the first pair of shoes that stays.

AN: I clearly have no idea how to make shoes, so for all the shoemakers reading this, I sincerely apologize.

Writing for fun is fun. I missed this. This ate my brain this past week but since I was writing for the hell of it, it felt so good :D.

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Part I D:

Okay, now that I'm coherent and no longer studying for my midterms, I shall epic your comment :D And yes, that sentence makes absolutely zero sense grammatically.

God triv, do you know how much I love you? I'm loving you so hard right now. SO FUCKING HARD. ♥ ♥

“My name is Yuya,” the not-as-round-faced boy says. He sticks out a sandy finger toward the swings. “Would you like to play with me?”
YOU LISTEN TO ME, YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO SAY YOU FAIL AT WRITING. NEVER. And I, god, I love your Yuya. I know he's a kid and therefore so much easier to love, but I just, I can't even really describe how much I adore him. And how I adore that he's "Yuya" and not "Tegoshi" or some other cutesy nickname.

Massu learns that when boys are young and their thoughts fleeting, becoming best friends is as easy as counting to three.
God don't you remember that age? When you come back from the playground everyday with a new best friend and new kids to play with? I love that about this fic. You manage to nail all the ages of Massu's life so appropriately.

“My dad makes shoes,” Massu says proudly...Massu scrunches his nose and he grins, “He’s one of the best shoemakers in all of Tokyo.”
I'm not sure but for some reason, I read this line and I'm sad. Sad because Massu as a kid views his dad as the best shoemaker in Tokyo and is happy about it. But Massu as an teen and Massu as an adult no longer thinks that way. He becomes suffocated later on by the normalness of his job and the fact that his future is set in stone. I wonder if Tego's got anything to do with it?

Behind him, the shoebox lays unopened and unforgotten on their porch, brand new running shoes with rubber soles and bright white laces, sitting there with nowhere to go.

Massu looks away before crossing his arms stubbornly. “Shige’s not going anywhere,” he says, “his life is really boring.”
Oh how he grows! Oh poor Massu, he's still hurting from Yuya's disappearance! I like how it starts off sort of with Massu realizing Shige has a need for new shoes and since Massu's family makes shoes, it's like why not do it? And by the end of Shige's section, Massu is proud again of making shoes and he learns that it's different making shoes for those you care about and that the sense of pride at seeing your shoes being loved is what makes being a shoemaker worth it.

Koyama talks about everything and anything in his life, like the world is going to end in any moment and he needs to tell his story to the world.
I love you. I love you. I love you. You are one of the most creative writers around triv, period. You've got this amazing ability of taking a character that has been written to death and just when we're no longer expect anything new, you take that person and you make them more. You make them distinctively yours and you inject life into them.

He meets the man with the guitar by accident.
When I first read this line, I had images of Ryo in the subway strumming his guitar and asking for money. LOL such wild fantasies DD:

Massu glances at Nishikido’s feet and grabs the size 27 shoebox.
Yes I am lame. But I went to convert that into US size and that's a size 8, not too big huh? D: They say the larger a man's feet size...the larger his...anyway :DD

He stretches, “Hello there, food coma,” he yawns.
Can I be best friends with Massu? Huh huh huh can I can I?


My goodness. Triv, every time you write a fic I am totally blown away. Parts of this are so heart-wrenching and so sweet and so amazing and you really are... talented. Massu x NEWS obviously is so much love. And Massu is just generally so much love. And settings like this are so much love. And you are so much love and yeah I don't think you need a hiatus at all you're obviously doing amazingly ♥

Umm third?

WOW, TRIV, this is fantastic. Really, the way you use to describe Massu's relationship with everyone through the pairs of shoes he makes and Massu is so wonderful in general. My heart broke at Tegoshi's story, and i smiled when i read pi's, and WOW, fantastic. :D


OH, RYO. He was staying with Pi, right? OH, RYO. It makes me sad that he never sees Ryo again. They would get along so well.

Oh my god. I want continuation fic, with Massu and Koyama and Pi. Tegoshi and Shige and Ryo are out of the picture already but please?

Also, I think you slipped up and introduced Pi to the readers before he introduced himself to Massu. Though yeah there's no need to pretend, we all know who's next. xD

Oh god MassuPi with a happy ending; I could grow to like this.

Shit, Triv. This might be your best fic ever. It's everything you've ever written, and more. Every word, every line was delightful to read. The ideas. The characterisation. The situations. A bit OOC at points, but it's AU, there's a little bit of license allowed, and you kept well within it. Koyama, Ryo, Tego, Shige, Pi - I felt like you'd reached deep into them, stripped away their glamour and pulled out what could conceivably be their essence, and gave them depth and different histories from RL to make the characters in this fic.

Damn. :/ And you're talking about not writing awesome fic? This is awesome fic. ♥

This fic was too cute and i absolutely loved it!!!! I want a pair of shoes now... lol.

you are awesome, triv, never stop writing, please!!!!

Shoes are always awesome, and thank you!

You are awesome too and lakdmfadf I guess I'll try XP

I want to kidnap you, keep you in a shoebox, and make you write me fic. All the time.

I could totally do that. Except if I had to fit you in a conventional shoebox, you wouldn't be able to write me fic. Ah, troublesome.

This is really Massu/NEWS ahahaha. I love the last line ♥

Fitting me in a shoebox would be quite difficult, but good luck XP

And of course it is! What, you think I was kidding?

::loves on::

I'M HERE!!!!

[why don't you write a 2,000 word omake and call it a 10K fic XD]


(that's okay, i think i'll pass)

...do I? XP

and alsdkfmasdf thank you I'm happy you do. I clearly had no idea what to do with Tegoshi, could you tell? hahaha.

- xplodey_di   Expand  


Triv I love you~~~~ Massu as a shoemaker is love!!! xD

I'm really glad that Yamapi stayed at the end and I knew that Yamapi would last on the list! xDDD

It's sad to see Tego had to leave at the end.. T_T

Write moe fics!!!!!

Er, mentally I am, because when I say to myself "I'm on hiatus so I can write anything and it doesn't matter how much I suck," then I actually write haha.

And thank youuuuuuuuu! :D ILU too.

But. My brain D: It's very fickle :/ But I shall try.

from the first time i read your fic to this piece now, it really astounds me how much you've improved in so little time. thank you for sharing

(sorry i'm not so flaily)

thank you so much. that compliment means the world to me, you don't even know ::squishes::

(it's okay, i still love you XP)

Oh my god, Triv, I love your fail brain for making you write 8000 words.

And of course, you just had to make Tegoshi the bitch. ROFL. XDDD Actually, well, Ryo's a bitch too, he got new shoes from Massu and he never comes back to visit? What a bitch. XD


Boo fail brain D:

Of course I had to you XP You know me.


Oh, each part was so perfect.

The premise of Massu/Yamapi is enough to win me over anyway, but how he met each member was just delightful. I adore the Ryo section. All so goregous. Shoemaker!Massu = ♥

Thank you so much. Your response makes me squee :DDDDDD

I just can't believe I wrote shoemaker Massu and it actually sort of worked hahaha.

adslksjgaldsjlkfsfl!! wow this was just so amazing ♥
the koyama and yamapi parts were just so sweet and awwww~
but i felt soooo sorry for masuda during the tegoshi part ;w; haha
anyway, yea, YOU ARE AMAZING :D :D -loves-

thank you so much! i'm happy you liked the koyama/yamapi parts since those were some of the hardest for me :D


LOVE THIS!!! *cuddles the story* This was so sweet! MassuPi is really starting to grow on me. I just really loved your theme and how you followed it all the way through. LOVE. :D

::cuddles you:: Thank you so much. And hahaha, you know what's weird, Massupi isn't even really a big pairing for me, but for some reason I have the easiest time writing them. Odd hahaha.


*points upward*


...fine. you win this one.

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