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This wouldn't be so bad, Jin tried to reassure himself as Ryo headed for their usual private room, Little Jin and Kazu following in his wake, blinking owlishly in the dim lights and sending curious glances at the walls of the corridor that reverberated slightly with the force of the dance music playing on the other side. He trailed along behind them, making sure that neither one escaped nor wandered away, and dragged his feet along the lush carpet, still hesitating.

Little Jin had spilled everything and now Jin knew how to send them back. That piece of information was a fair trade, he thought. Surely it would excuse the fact that he was disobeying orders. And what was the worse that could happen, anyway?... He cringed. Okay, so maybe that wasn't the best way to think. He had honestly hoped that Little Jin and Kazu would have been rejected from entering the club, being as underage as they were, but Ryo had signaled something to the bouncer and all was forgotten. The perks of being rich and famous, Jin sighed. That or the bouncer really believed Little Jin and Kazu, despite their heights, were old enough. It could happen; he had let Ryo in without a pause, after all.

They had arrived at their room now and Jin thought, whatever; the kids would meet with Pi and then he would tell Kame everything -with a few edits here and there- and Little Jin and Kazu would be back where they belonged by the end of tomorrow. There was nothing to panic about; Pi could always be trusted. The only problem was, Jin realized a bit too late as they all filed into the room, that Pi wasn't alone.

"Yo, man! You finally came down here," Josh called from the large table that took up an entire corner of the room, the red couches along the walls folding around it like a large booth. Pi waved alongside him.

Knowing everything had just gone to hell, Jin whipped around to Ryo and whispered furiously, "Why is he here?! This was supposed to be confidential!"

"It's not like I knew he'd be here," Ryo shrugged. "Pi probably called him over after I went to fetch you. And he's part of the troop so just chill out, Bakanishi. He's not going to tell anyone."

But Jin knew Josh. Keeping his mouth shut was never his forte. Maybe he could shuffle the kids out before anyone really noticed, Jin thought and was about to do just that when Josh shouted, "Hey! Who are the squirts? And since when did they allow kids in here? I thought this place was pretty exclusive."

Big mouth. Jin groaned and then noticed Pi was now sitting alert and upright, staring at Little Jin and Kazu with an expression Jin had worn a couple days ago. His eyes flickered up to Jin.

"Jin... Is that who I think it is?"

"You guessed it! They're my knew trainees," Jin answered quickly. He forced a strained smile and quirked his head in Josh's direction and when Pi nodded, he knew that the other didn't believe him at all but had agreed to play along. And this was why Jin loved Pi most of all. No matter what, Pi would always have his back.

Ryo walked over and sat himself next to Josh, and Jin, finding it awkward to be the only one standing, followed his lead and moved to slide next to Pi - only to be beaten by Little Jin who dragged Kazu after him. Mourning the loss of his agility -too many American burgers had him feeling wobbly and big now- he sat down next to Kazu and gave him a light pat on the back. Unlike Little Jin who was beaming up at Pi, Kazu was shutting down, looking tense and nervous and as if he wanted to get away as soon as possible. Jin could sympathise.

"YamaPi?" Little Jin asked brightly, the bubbling excitement evident in how high his voice was getting. Jin wished he had his fedora with him; he needed something to shield himself from the embarrassment. Pi didn't poke fun at him this time though, and instead smiled fondly down at Little Jin.

"That's me! Who are you?"

"I'm Little Jin!" Little Jin answered before Jin could stop him. Across the table, Josh broke out into a laugh.

"You're naming your trainees after yourself? Dude, that is so lame. Who's this guy, then? Little Aquaneesha?"

"That's a stupid name!" Little Jin said, shooting Josh an angry look. "His name's Kazu."

"Kazu? Why does that sound familiar...?"

Jin floundered to come up with something when Pi came to his rescue. "It's a really common Japanese name," Pi said with a shrug and then grabbed a bottle and a crystal glass from the center of the table and poured himself a drink. Jin sent him a thankful look and did the same. It would give him something to do with his hands until this entire nightmare was over.

"What?" Pi asked when Little Jin kept staring at his face. Why was he such a creepy kid, Jin whined to himself as Little Jin reached out a hand and poked Pi's cheekbone without an ounce of hesitation.

"What happened to your cheeks? They're all gone now."

"I'm a handsome guy now, don't you think?" Pi replied with a good-humoured wink and Little Jin grinned.

"All my friends are! Especially Kame! Have you seen him? He's so--"

Jin reached over Kazu and slapped a hand over his teenage mouth before Little Jin could humiliate them both to the point of no return. But the damage was already done.

"Kame? As in Kamenashi? The one who took over Jin's group?" Josh asked and then laughed, "That guy is so gay. Good thing you're rid of him now, huh? No more stupid AkaKa--"

"SHUT UP!" Little Jin had managed to rip Jin's hand away from his mouth and was now glaring at Josh with a furious frown. Jin couldn't blame him. His own sudden burst of anger had made his hand slip in the first place.

A little more than a week ago, Jin would have laughed along, would have agreed that washing his hands of KAT-TUN and Kame had been a blessing. Now though... Hearing an insult against Kame with Kazu stiffening next to him, Jin couldn't control the flare of rage that burned in response. And it felt familiar, this anger on Kame's behalf. It wasn't strange or new, but the way it returned at full force, so sudden and swift, surprised him nevertheless.

But this was Josh, he reminded himself, and Josh was his friend too. Josh didn't know about him and Kame and he couldn't expect him to, not when Jin hadn't told him anything and was feeling confused about them himself. The most important thing at this moment, though, was to keep everything quiet.

"Calm down," he whispered to Little Jin and Little Jin paid him no attention, still glaring ahead. But he didn't say anything more and that was enough. Josh, however, couldn't take a hint.

"Shut up?" he asked incredulously and then glanced at Jin. "You need to teach your trainees to watch themselves."

"No," Little Jin shot back, "Big Jin needs to find smarter groupies and ditch stupid ones like you."

"Hey, just chill out for a moment you g--" Jin began but Josh interrupted him with a scoff.

"Groupie?! You better watch your mouth, kid. You won't be getting anywhere like that."

"We're going to become stars," Little Jin said with a proud smirk that disappeared as soon as Josh began to laugh.

"Stars?" he snorted and then leaned forward onto the table with his elbows, evaluating Little Jin and Jin hoped that he would overlook the strong resemblance. Jin ducked his head down anyway to make it less obvious. "Why don't you learn a little respect first before you begin to talk so big? And you're not going anywhere looking like that, especially not your friend," -beside him, Jin felt Kazu stiffen and lean back and he curled his fists, willing Josh to shut up and not say anything more- "he's so fugly, it's hilarious."

There was a small movement against his side as Jin felt Kazu flinch. It was slight but it was there - and that was it. He whipped his head up, ready to tell Josh to shut his fucking mouth because Kazu was going to be ten times more gorgeous than he could ever be, when the table trembled, the glasses rattling on the surface, and his drink fell into his lap, soaking his jeans.

"What the hell?" Ryo shouted just as he saw Little Jin jump across the table and launch himself at Josh with swinging arms.

There were yelps and shouts and the sounds of glass breaking as everyone scrambled to separate the two and Jin did nothing, just sat frozen in horror as he watched everything come apart until Pi finally managed to rip his raging teenage self away.

"Get them out of here!" Pi yelled as Ryo tried to hold back Josh who was now swearing at the top of his lungs, a streak of red dribbling down his nose. Snapping back to his senses, Jin grabbed Kazu and tugged him out of the room and into the corridor, pieces of broken glass crunching underfoot.

Pi appeared soon after, manhandling his screaming teenage self out the door.

-

"What the hell is wrong with you?!" Jin shouted, not bothering to tone down his volume though they were still standing in the corridor. The walls down here were soundproof, anyway. "You can't just attack people like that!"

"What's wrong with me? What's wrong with you?" Little Jin shouted back, looking at him with disgust. "That jerk was making fun of Kame and Kazu and you just sat there!"

"Josh is our friend!"

Entwining his fingers with Kazu and tugging him forward, Little Jin gave him an acid look and bellowed, "KAZU'S OUR BEST FRIEND!"

For a long moment, all Jin could do was stare - stare at his young, angry face. Round eyes that strangely widened in fury instead of narrowing, as if the force of his anger was too large that it had to be aimed everywhere, couldn't be narrowed into one focus. Lips that were usually teased for being full and girlish pressing together and thinning into an upset line, disappointment creasing the corners. His insides filling with ice, Jin looked downward at the clasped hands, long lean fingers entwined with shorter, stubbier ones in a grip so tight it looked painful, the skin turning white in places, yet neither of the hands loosened their grip. Swallowing, Jin looked back up, following the smaller hand up to Kazu's face - and the ice melted.

His features soft and a small smile that lit up his entire face, Kazu was gazing adoringly up at Little Jin, his eyes wide with reverence and something more, trying to take in as much of his best friend as possible with each blink. With the ice now melted, an ocean of freezing water sloshed in his stomach as Jin recalled that look - that same adoring look that had made Jin feel as if he was soaring, flying high with the knowledge that Kame saw something in Jin which no one else did. That he saw something amazing.

The Kame of now would never look at him like that again, Jin thought and had to swallow down a lump before he could say, "Things change."

"Then change them back," Little Jin replied simply. "I'm not talking to you until you do."

"We're sending you back soon, so that doesn't matter anyway," Jin reminded him.

"So Kame knows about them?" Pi asked and Jin jumped, forgetting that Pi had been standing beside him all along. "How did this all happen, anyway? Kame must have freaked out."

"Get Ryo to fill you in, it's a long story," he sighed. "I'm going to take them back. Say sorry to Josh for me, 'k? Tell him I'll treat him for a month or something."

"A month?! How come you never treat me to make up for your screw-ups," Pi whined and when Jin ignored him, turned to Little Jin. "Don't grow up to be a cheapskate like him, okay?"

"I won't! I don't want to be like him at all," Little Jin said adamantly and frowned in his direction. Jin snorted in response to hide the fact that the words, as childish as they were, still stung. He had tried his best and falling short of his own standards hurt more than he had expected.

"Nah, you're not all that bad. You're still Bakanishi, and I like you, at least," Pi said with a grin and ruffled Little Jin's hair. Little Jin batted his hand away with a squawking laugh and when Pi moved to pat Kazu's head instead, Kazu flinched and moved away. It made Jin childishly happy. "Ah, right! We aren't friends yet, are we?"

"You guys hate each other," Little Jin answered helpfully. He didn't look the least bit upset over that fact, either.

Pi threw his head back and laughed. "Not hate, not hate," he said with a giggle and smiled down at Kazu, whispering, "Don't tell me I told you this, but I was just jealous. All my friends were starting to like you."

"R-really?" Kazu asked hesitantly, but a pleased smile was already beginning to bloom across his face. In contrast, Little Jin was watching the exchange with a pout. "You really don't hate me?"

"Not at all! You're going to be my Shuuji someday, y'know?" And this time, when Pi reached his hand out, Kazu brought his head forward like an eager puppy and giggled as Pi mussed his hair. He was much too easily pleased, Jin thought darkly. But he eased up when Little Jin grabbed at Pi's hand and pulled it away like a good best friend should.

"You're messing his hair up," Little Jin explained at Pi's questioning face and at Kazu's unimpressed look, shouted, "What?! He is!"

"You really haven't changed at all, Bakanishi," Pi laughed as he glanced back at him.

"Shut up."

-

On hindsight, Jin thought, flinching under Kame's deep scowl, maybe it would have been better if he had returned to his own apartment tonight. The thought of Kame's large, comfy bed and their usual routine had brought him here automatically, though. He hadn't even considered going back to his place, but with the way Kame was glaring at him now, his own apartment seemed much more welcoming.

"What. Happened."

"I punched the Josh jerk in the face! Like Hayato!" Little Jin said victoriously and demonstrated by punching the air like a boxer. Ueda would probably shake his head in disgust at the flimsy swings.

"Josh...?" Kame asked, and leaned down to grab Little Jin's chin and examine his face. Jin rolled his eyes as Little Jin went instantly still and limp at the touch. When a frown tugged down at Kame's lips, Jin peered closer too, wondering what was wrong and feeling slightly nervous that Little Jin was having another nosebleed. Seeing the damage, he leaned back with a wince.

There was no hint of red, but there was a circle of dull purple beginning to take shape just underneath Little Jin's left eye. The dim lights of the club and the car ride home had hidden the blooming bruise, but now under the bright lights of Kame's kitchen, it was stark and obvious against Little Jin's cheek. Definitely not a wise idea to come here, Jin thought again and pondered on the idea of running away before Kame transformed into Rampage-kun. Judging by the angle of his frown and furrowed eyebrows, though, that was already too late.

"He's Big Jin's groupie," Little Jin answered once he'd recovered and Kame moved away to pull an ice pack from the freezer. "He was saying all this crap about you and Kazu and Big Jin wasn't doing anything, so I showed him. Nobody messes with my friends!"

If Little Jin was going to reveal everything, he could have at least done so without making Jin look like a complete ass. But maybe that was too much to expect. Kame grabbed a towel from the dishwasher and wrapped it around the ice pack, tying the loose ends with a rubber band he pulled from one of the drawers. He didn't meet Jin's eyes the entire time, but Jin didn't need to see them to know he was furious. The stiff shoulders and clenched jaws... Things were about to get bad.

"And this Josh person gave you the bruise?"

"It was an accident!" Jin answered but Kame ignored him, looking at Little Jin instead.

"Yeah, I'm alright, though," Little Jin grinned. "I got him back worse. Right in the nose! I would have given him a black eye, too, if Ryo and Pi hadn't pulled us apart."

"Ryo... and Pi?" Kame asked slowly and Jin knew with a strong certainty that he was screwed.

"Kame, I can explain," he began but was ignored again.

"Where did this happen?"

Jin squeezed his eyes shut and tried to send mental waves to Little Jin, pleading him to lie, to say they had never left the apartment. They were both one and the same, right? They had a connection. Telepathy should work. It had to; Jin's life was at stake.

"Big Jin took us to a club. It was really cool!"

Jin was going to die. Of manslaughter. Kame was going to murder him.

"Kame..." he tried feebly but Kame moved right passed him, handing the towel-wrapped ice pack to Kazu who looked at it in confusion.

"Make sure he keeps this on his face for a while, until the swelling stops," Kame instructed and Jin felt vindicated when Kame ignored Little Jin's indignant shout of, "I can do it myself!"

"Okay," Kazu replied and with a sharp nod, Kame turned and swiftly walked down the hallway and into his room.

"Aren't you going to follow him?" Little Jin asked after a moment when Jin refused to budge and walk to his doom, even though he knew that Kame had left his bedroom door open as a cue.

"I thought you wanted us to be friends again," Jin said, watching Kazu pat his cheek gently with the ice pack. "Why would you tell him all that?"

It was Kazu who answered him. "Friends don't lie," was all he said.

-

"Er... Kame?" Jin said as he shuffled into the room soon after, feeling even more awkward with his pants still wet from the spilled drink, but knowing that keeping Kame waiting was only going to make everything worse. "I know you're mad but I can ex--"

"You broke the order and took them to a club," Kame hissed. He was standing near the bed with his arms folded across his chest, everything about his posture tense with the effort to pack in the rage Jin knew was brimming underneath. "You couldn't last a week without a big, selfish display, could you?"

"What the hell does that mean?" Jin said, immediately bristling. "I'm the one who has to babysit them everyday when we agreed to take turns. You're the one who backed out on the deal, Kame. I'm the one locked in here while you go out and play with your stupid baseball bat."

He knew that was unfair, knew that baseball was part of Kame's work, but if Kame was going to toss unfair accusations at him, then Jin didn't see why he couldn't do the same.

"Locked in here?" Kame echoed. "Then explain to me, Akanishi, just how you managed to get them into a club while you were locked away."

"I was going to explain!" Jin shouted, so frustrated he almost stomped his foot. Trying to calm himself down, he gritted out, "Little Jin wanted to see Pi. I only took him to the club because Pi was there and he promised to tell me where they bought the stone if I did. I didn't know Josh would be there."

"They already promised to tell us that. You could have waited just a few more days," Kame narrowed his eyes, "but, no. You just had to rush in. Just had to break orders. Who cares if you were seen with a kid that looks just like you? Who cares about all the rumours the agency will have to quiet down because of you? Who cares if your friend attacks them? Or if they get kidnapped?"

"Nobody saw them!" Jin screamed, now more than angry. This was so typical of Kame. Harping over rules and orders and always thinking about the agency and people that didn't matter, ignoring the people that did. "They were in a private room. And I trust my friends not to tell anyone or take pictures. And they didn't get kidnapped!"

Kame snorted. "Oh yes, because they've never done that before. Because you've never had a private picture leak out, right?"

"What the hell is it to you if I have?"

Kame's face clouded over for a moment, his mouth twitching as if trying to bite his tongue, to hold something back. But then his gaze sharpened as his face cleared and Jin braced himself for whatever he was about to say.

"All this just so you wouldn't have to look after them for a few more days..." Kame shook his head in disgust. "You're right, Akanishi. Whether your face is pasted all over Friday or not shouldn't matter to me. You're not part of KAT-TUN anymore so your selfish screw ups won't affect the group anymore either." Kame averted his eyes as he quietly added, "It's why we're doing better without you."

And Kame had always played to win, Jin thought as something pierced at his side - a thorn, he thought absently. Kame knew how to land a low blow and never held back his punches so this shouldn't have come as a surprise. And it didn't, not really. Jin had been wondering this for a while, was aware of what he had brought to the group, both the good and the bad. He had been expecting Kame, or one of the members, to say something along those lines in the dressing room, would have been prepared to laugh it off because he had moved on.

So, no. He wasn't surprised by the words. What he was surprised by was their timing and the hurt that came along with them. If he had heard that from Kamenashi, it would have been okay; he would have been bruised, but he'd be okay. But Kamenashi was Kame now and hearing a more or less, 'good riddance' from Kame hurt, like his stomach had been slashed open and all the ice cubes had spilled out across Kame's bedroom floor, taking the cold away but leaving him empty and bleeding. And if there was one thing that had always been true about Jin, it was that he didn't take pain very well. When he was hurt, he lashed back.

"You call the flop in sales and those stupid singles 'doing better'? Good thing I left that sinking ship, then," Jin spat, his anger and hurt adding more acid to his words than he knew was necessary, but another thing about Jin was that he could never hold himself back when he was on a roll. He was on a roll right now. "KAT-TUN is nothing without me. And I'm the one who made you as popular as you are now and you know it. If I hadn't taken pity on you when you were the ugly duckling, hadn't let you follow me around and let Takki call us AkaKame, you'd never be here. You're nothing special, Kamenashi, so don't go around throwing your weight."

Jin had to stop right there because Kame's arms had fallen limply to his sides and with the face he was making, it looked as if he had given up the battle, had surrendered and dropped his shield, ready to die at whatever Jin threw at him next. And just the idea of Kame surrendering was so incredibly wrong, Kame who couldn't even stand losing a hula hoop contest to a toddler, who always had to have the last say. In all the time he had known him, Kame only gave up for two reasons: to indulge Jin when he was having a stubborn fit, or when he was terribly hurt and too choked up to respond. At the moment, Jin didn't think the first condition would apply very well.

When Kame opened his mouth, his lips wobbling a bit as he did so, and closed it again without saying a word, Jin just wanted to hit him. Hit him so that Kame would hit him back and, going by his new muscles, hopefully knock Jin out so he wouldn't have to feel like sewer scum, like his insides were being scoured by steel wool, leaving him raw and aching.

When Kame turned to the nightstand and grabbed his wallet, Jin thought he was going to throw that at him instead, probably to avoid making any physical contact because Jin was a disgusting piece of sewer scum. And Jin was okay with that. Being pelted with a wallet may not knock him out, but Jin would try his best. And considering it was Kame's wallet, hopefully it had enough cards in it to cause some pain.

But whether it would or not, Jin wouldn't find out because Kame had no intention to throw it at all. Wallet in hand, and without a word or a glance, Kame brushed right past him and soon enough, Jin heard the front door slam shut. In the echoing silence that followed, a small sniffle made it to his ears and feeling his heart sink, he slowly turned around, already knowing what he would see.

Kazu was looking at him with watery eyes, his small shoulders shuddering at odd intervals with the sniffles he was trying to control. When he caught Jin's eyes, he blinked furiously and then, giving up just as Kame had done, walked out of sight before Jin could say anything.

"I hate you," Little Jin said angrily before he followed after Kazu.

At that moment, Jin couldn't help but hate himself, too.

-

Kame, I'm so, so sorry.

I didn't mean it! You know me. I'm Bakanishi.

Kame, I'm begging here. Just answer your phone already.

Little Jin destroyed your other couch too. He's going to ruin your bed if you don't get here soon.

Kaaaaaaaameeeeeeee. I'm an asshole and I swear I didn't mean it.

Everybody's worried about you. Little Jin's about to cry.

I miss your coffee. You make the best kind.

KAT-TUN is the best group ever!

Jin typed out another message, hesitated, erased it and typed it again, this time hitting send before he lost his nerve.

You're the best thing that's ever happened to me.

And with that, he pocketed his phone again and began his wait, clutching at Kame's pillow as he leaned back against the headboard of the bed frame; he didn't care if he was acting like a stalker. Hopefully Kame would answer today. It had been two days since he had walked out and Jin had now sent him over two hundred texts and had attempted fifty calls. He hadn't received a single response in either form. His phone bill was going to be huge, but Jin could care less.

He was more worried over the fact that Kame was known to do insane things and the last time Jin had seen him, he had been on the verge of a breakdown. He wasn't worried that Kame had gone off somewhere to hurt himself, because Kame didn't work that way. He was still Kamenashi Kazuya, impervious to the common cold, sleep deprivation and inhumane work hours. He was always going to pull through.

He knew this, but Jin was still worried because a silence this long didn't bode so well. Kame had ignored him before -heck, they've had a silent war that lasted half a year- but never had he left Jin with full access to his apartment and all his things, like he didn't care what happened. Except he did care, Jin reminded himself. On the first day, someone had knocked at the door and Jin, thinking that it was Kame, had swung open the door, blurting a lengthy apology to Koki's face.

"What did you do now, Akanishi?" Koki had asked scathingly. "Kame called me over, asked me to take care of the kids. He said to kick you out of--"

"We don't need you!" Jin had shouted and slammed the door on his face, panicking at the idea of Kame trying to replace him with Koki. The thought of Koki taking Jin's space on his bed and drinking Kame's homemade coffee made him want to puke and claw someone's eyes out.

Thinking back on it now, that probably wasn't the best course of action to take to make Koki hate him less. Cheering himself on, Jin pulled out his phone again.

I'm sorry about the other day. I hope your nose is okay.

He received a swift reply in just two minutes.

Fuck you, Akanishi.

Well, Jin thought, that was progress. At least Koki had bothered to reply. Digging his chin into the pillow, Jin typed another message.

Your dogs are really cute. Momo, too.

This time there was only a few seconds delay.

I know.

Jin smiled into the pillow, suddenly missing his old bandmates with a fierce longing. Maybe if everything with Kame came out alright, he'd get Maru to plan a reunion of some sort. And Jin could make him pay for everything, because Maru still owed him.

His phone buzzed again, this time with a call, and Jin quickly cut Eminen off mid-way in his rap as he read the display and realized the call was from Kame.

"Kame? Are you okay? Where are you?" he spoke quickly, trying to calm himself down but then remembering something else he had to say. "I'm so, so sorry. I was just being a jerk. I didn't mean any of it! Believe me!" Kame didn't respond for a few moments and Jin peered at his phone, confirming that the line was still connected. Kame...?"

"I'm at Okinawa. I found the man who sold the wishing stone," Kame said evenly. Jin could hear the sound of waves in the background. "Take the first plane and get the kids over here. I know how to send them back."

The phone beeped, signaling that Kame had hung up and Jin stared at it for a few moments, a hundred thoughts flittering through his mind, before he rolled off the bed and ran into the living room where Little Jin was lying on the floor, his head on Kazu's lap as Kazu plopped an ice pack on his face. The little drama queen had been overacting ever since the fight, moaning about the pain and how horrible the bruise looked, stealing Kazu away whenever Jin got near and tried to apologise.

"Ouch! Kazu, be gentle," Little Jin moaned. "I defended your honour, remember? You can't be mean to me."

"Yeah, you did. But I'm not a girl, Jin," Kazu giggled and added, "and I never told you to jump across the table like a moron. You're too hot-headed."

"Hey!" Little Jin sat up suddenly and was about to retort when Jin ran into the living room. "What do you want?" Little Jin hissed at him.

Jin eyed the way they were sitting too close, naturally leaning into each other as Little Jin moved his shoulder forward, trying to protect Kazu as if Jin was a raging bull and was going to charge at him. He wished they would always be like this.

"Change your clothes. Kame called. We're going to Okinawa."

-

As discreetly as he could manage, Jin glanced sideways at Kame as he drove them to the town that held the market of odd little stalls. Kame was looking clean and healthy and unharmed and a knot of anxiety loosened in his chest. He hadn't spoken much but the times that he had, the words were curt and clipped but not angry and spiteful, so Jin took that as a good sign. A sign that they could move forward and past this, that not all the bridges had been burnt just yet.

Still, he had to make sure.

Coughing to clear the desperation from his throat, he asked, "So... Did you get my texts? You didn't answer any of them."

"I did. And I was busy," Kame shrugged and Jin turned to squint at him, trying to decipher if that was the truth or not. Kame was wearing sunglasses that took up half his face, though, so that made the effort pointless. But it was entirely possible Kame had deleted each and every one of his messages without a single glance. He had done that before. (And so had Jin, but that wasn't important.)

"I'm sorry about what I said. I didn't m--"

"It's okay," Kame said casually and Jin gaped. That was such a bold-faced lie -Kame was petty enough to take revenge over a freaking soda spill- and Jin wondered if he should bother to point it out, but Kame continued, "I was jerk. You were a jerk. It cancels out, so we're even. Let's just send them back so we can go on our ways."

So the bridges had already been burnt. Feeling his chest tighten up, Jin sat back, facing the road ahead once more, the intense sunlight making the pavement hazy and hard to see. He glanced at the sideview mirror instead and saw his own, younger face staring back at him. There was an unhappy frown that might as well have been a reflection of his own, but above that were the eyes, round and pleading, asking Jin to please, change things back.

Jin blinked and looked away because he just didn't know how.

-

Kame parked near the edge of town and they piled out of the car in search of the man with the wishing stones. Even though he had heard everything from Little Jin, had heard how to get there, Jin still had no clue where to turn, which street to take. Kame did, though, and so they all followed after. It was strange, Jin couldn't help but think, how Kame managed to weave through the maze of streets with determination and assurance in each step he took. He hadn't been here before -or ever since Kazu's time- and Jin wondered how he had figured out where to look all of a sudden.

Not that it really mattered. Not now. Not when they were about to send Little Jin and Kazu back, to cleave the only connection they had left to each other. Jin had broken the first by leaving KAT-TUN and now Kame was going to break the last by shooing away the past. But it had to be done, Jin reminded himself. It was the only way. He couldn't live in Kame's apartment forever and Little Jin and Kazu had people who were scrambling to search for them in their own time, too. As much as he didn't want them to, they had to return.

Jin nearly tripped over his feet as Kame turned a sharp corner and Jin moved to follow. The street was lined with stalls, colourful cubes squished together along both sides of the wide footpath. The street was busy like the rest of the town and Jin understood why Kame wasn't panicking about Little Jin and Kazu being spotted. With this many people bustling around, more concerned with their shopping and getting home on time, nobody would bother to stop and squint at two teenagers and wonder if they looked like so-and-so.

"This is the place!" Jin heard Kazu whisper just as Kame stopped in front of a decrepit stall with a cardboard sign reading, Wishing Stones. He surveyed the display of stones that looked like normal, everyday stones, the kind you found littered everywhere. There was one annoyingly rolling around in Jin's shoe, even.

"This is it?" he asked, slightly disappointed. He had been expecting something a bit more... flashy? "Are you sure this is the right place?"

When Little Jin and Kazu nodded obediently, Kame turned back to the stall.

"Hello? Is anyone there?" he called out and a split-second later, an old man sprung up from behind the display shelf. Jin shrieked and jumped back, clutching at his chest as his heart nearly popped out. Taking a moment to calm himself, he then noticed everyone staring at him.

"I really do scream like a girl," Little Jin said, scrunching his nose as if Jin had stepped on dog poop and was suddenly repulsive. Beside him, Kazu was failing spectacularly at trying to muffle his quaking laughter into the palms of his hands. He may as well have not tried at all.

When Jin noticed Kame giving him a look, he snapped, "Shut up! That was scary, okay!" before Kame could say anything. He glanced at the old man, ready to snap at him, too, when he noticed he was being examined by a pair of old, creased eyes.

"Well, well..." the man said and a toothy smile began to grow on his wrinkled face. Something crawled up Jin's spine and he shivered. There was something about that smile that didn't sit well with him. Something oddly familiar, too, but as hard as he tried to flip through his memories, even as he skimmed all the pages, he still came up with nothing.

"Do you remember us? We bought a wishing stone from you about ten years ago," Kame said and gestured at Kazu and Little Jin who, respectively, straightened with a bright smile and folded his arms with a scoff. Apparently Little Jin didn't like him either and that made Jin feel better, less alone among the smiles Kazu and Kame were directing at the man.

The old man looked between them and then returned Kame's smile with another toothy grin. "Kame," he said, surveying him from top to bottom. "How well you have grown, little lad."

Jin suddenly hated the man with a burning intensity.

"Thank you, but I'm not so little anymore," Kame replied with a warm laugh and Jin snorted. As if Kame even remembered the old guy. "We came here to get another stone, something to--"

"--reverse?" the man finished for him and Kame nodded. "Just a moment, lads!"

With a speed that opposed his age, the old man ducked back down from where he had popped up. When Jin tried to lean over and see what the man was rummaging through, Kame elbowed him in the side and he moved back with a pout. Of course Kame would bully him and make friends with a total stranger. And a creepy one at that, too. Kame always attracted the creeps. As they waited, Jin heard Kazu shush Little Jin as he said, "He hasn't even changed his clothes! I bet you he stinks." Jin nodded his head in agreement. Something did smell funny.

"Here they are!" The man sprung up again but this time Jin was ready and only took a single startled step back. He opened both his palms and a single, round stone lay in each. One was polished black, the other white. They both had the pattern of a turtle shell etched into their surface.

"We've seen that one! That's the one we bought!" Little Jin said, pointing at the black one. He looked at the man suspiciously. "How many of those do you have, anyway?"

"How many wishes do you have, young lad?" the man questioned in return and then faced back to Kame. "Hold the black stone tightly in your hand and make any wish... Then throw it into the Okinawa sea with all your might and when the stone returns to the shore... your wish will come true."

Jin listened closely, enraptured by all the possibilities but Kame moved on soon enough, completely unfazed.

"And what about the white one? What does that do?" Kame asked.

"The white stone reverses a wish. Like an eraser, it wipes away all that was born from a previous wish. Hold this tightly in your palm and wish that your first wish had never been made... throw it into the Okinawa sea with all your might and when the stone sinks to the ocean floor... your wish will come true."

Something twisted in Jin's chest.

"Why can't we just wish to send them back with the black stone? Why do we have to use the white one?" he asked desperately. He didn't want everything to be wiped away. Not the memory of Kame rolling along his bed, throwing his head back carelessly with barking laughter. Or the way he had smiled at him as Jin bandaged his hands. Or the feeling of waking up every morning with a warm cup of coffee ready for him and knowing that Kame had made it just for him. Jin would never be ready to give that away. Those were his memories to keep and obsess over once Kame stopped talking to him again.

"Wishes are tricky things," the man explained, looking at Jin sadly though there was a twinkle in his eyes that signaled a hint of mischief. "When they overlap and intersect, they get even trickier. Best not to make things too messy."

Jin didn't mind. He'd go for messier if it meant he could keep all his memories of the last two weeks. Of course, there were some he wanted to erase permanently -a lot of those featured Little Jin- but he couldn't be picky. He'd rather keep them all than be left with none.

"We'll take the white stone, then," Kame said and pulled out his wallet but Jin grabbed at his hand before he could hand over the bill.

"Let's get the black one instead."

Kame looked at him as if he was insane - and maybe he was. He wouldn't deny he felt a little insane at the prospect of something wiping his mind.

"You're joking, right?" Kame asked incredulously. "I'd rather not make things more complicated, thanks."

He yanked his hand back and Jin grabbed at it again. "But our memories..." he said feebly, willing Kame to understand how important they were to him. Kame had to feel something, too. He had been happy around Jin for a while. Had smiled and laughed like the old times and they had been friends. Those memories might not be worth as much to him as they were to Jin, but Jin knew Kame. Kame was a sentimentalist who kept things like a ratty old T-shirt with Tsubasa's name scribbled all over it. If he couldn't toss that aside, then he should hardly be able to go through with this.

"Our memories were nothing special," Kame said shortly, though he averted his eyes as he said so, and Jin finally let him go. Maybe he didn't know Kame all that well, in the end. And was there a point in clinging to a stranger he once knew?

Yes, was the immediate answer and Jin hated himself for it, for how desperate it sounded but he couldn't help it. It was worth it because it was Kame and Kame was always worth it. Because Kame never let him down unless Jin let him down first.

"Thank you. Please keep the change," Kame said as he handed the bill and collected the white stone. He gestured at them to get going and as Little Jin and Kazu moved to follow, Jin hesitated, lingering near the stall until he finally turned and said, "I want to buy the black stone!"

-

The wind was blowing stronger at the beach, carrying the smell of the sea from the waves and up across the shore. Jin took a deep, shaky breath. This was it. He was about to lose everything now.

"Go on, make the wish," Kame said as they stood near the shore and watched Little Jin roll the white stone around in his palm, Kazu looking on anxiously. They were in the same clothes they had arrived in, just as Jin had ordered, in case someone noticed their new clothes when they returned and questions were raised. How pointless it all was now, when everything was going to be reversed in the end, anyway.

"I... I want to say goodbye first," Little Jin replied, toeing the sand in shy circles and for the first time, Jin wanted to hug him and not shove him off a cliff.

"Don't be like me, okay," he said as steadily as he could manage and Little Jin snapped his head up.

"I didn't mean that!" Little Jin shouted. "I mean, I meant it for some things, but I still want to be like you! I want to travel to America and sing songs in English. I'll make my dreams come true just like you did!"

Jin winced as he remembered just what he had done to KAT-TUN to live his American dream.

"Make your dreams come true, kid, but don't do it the way I did," Jin advised, even though he knew nothing he said would be remembered. "I hurt a lot of people, people who were close to me and watched my back - and I shouldn't have. There were other ways, but I... It's not an excuse, but I couldn't think of any other way." He looked at Little Jin squarely in the eyes. "You're different, though. Younger. Don't take the people around you for granted, okay? And find a better way, one that doesn't hurt anyone. You're Bakanishi, but you're smart enough to do it."

Little Jin nodded slowly, drinking in his words and Jin smiled. The brat was finally treating him with the respect he deserved. He was a good kid though, Jin knew. Annoying and temperamental and extremely selfish, but he had a huge, caring heart too and although those qualities clashed at times, it was the latter that came out shining through the most. Or so Jin hoped. He'd have to work on that himself, for now.

Jin turned to Kazu next and that's when his heart really clenched. Kazu ducked his head down nervously and Jin recalled his words with a pang.

If I hadn't taken pity on you when you were the ugly duckling, hadn't let you follow me around and let Takki call us AkaKame, you'd never be here.

That was a memory he'd happily have erased.

Aware that Kame was standing just behind him, Jin spoke loud and clear, talking to both Kazus. "I know what I said hurt you but I didn't mean it. Not a single fucking word. And I'm sorry. If I could take it back, I would. But I can't so I'm just going to say this," -here, Jin paused to take another deep breath- "You were never ugly to me and I never took pity on you. When I first saw you at the audition in your dad's lame track pants, I thought wow, this guy has guts. And if you followed me around, I followed you right back. I once had a fight with Pi because I called you my best friend and he got all whiney and jealous. Er... that might be why he hated you back then," -Jin laughed sheepishly and scratched his nose before continuing- "When Takki called us AkaKame and I said it was stupid, I didn't mean that, either. I was happy because I thought it meant nobody could steal you from me. I thought it meant we'd be friends forever."

"Jin, I know what you're doing and you can stop now. I forgive you already," Kame interrupted quietly and Jin ignored him. Let him taste what that felt like, he thought petulantly. But really, he was on a roll now and when he was on a roll... He couldn't be stopped until he finished all he had to say.

"And when I said you weren't special and couldn't make it without me? Utter shit," Jin said, scowling at the memory. Of all the stupid things he could have said... He couldn't wrap his mind around how Kame -or Kazu, for that matter- could have taken it seriously. He made sure Kazu was looking back at him before he continued. "I told you once that you would outshine everyone and I'm not sure if you believed me or not, but I meant it. I knew that from the start and you can ask Little Jin if you don't believe me. You're amazing, Kazu, and you're going to grow up to be amazing. There's living proof of that standing just behind me."

"That living proof is going to kick your ass if you don't shut up now," Kame said but there was no ire in his voice. Jin risked a glance back and grinned so wide he felt like his face was going to break in two. It wasn't often one got to see Kamenashi Kazuya get flustered and red in the face, but oh man was it a sight to see. Feeling a burst of delight that lightened the weight of what was to come, he turned back in time to see Little Jin wipe away Kazu's wet face.

"What the hell? I've said the same things to you tons of times before and you never believed me," he whispered with an immense pout and Jin grinned.

"It's because he likes me better," he chirped, ignoring how Kame tsk-ed and called him a child at his back.

"He does not! Kazu doesn't like hobos who sing about pervy stuff! Tell him, Kazu."

Kazu looked up at him, eyes still a bit glassy but a beautiful, real smile already in place. "Thank you," he said and Jin wanted to squeeze him tight, and he only refrained from doing so because he knew for a fact that Little Jin would try to strangle him if he did. Instead, Jin thought of Shuuji to Akira and KAT-TUN's debut and the year that followed, all the hardships that would erode at their friendship, and said, hoping that they would somehow remember, "There will be times where I act like a total jerk but just know that it's not because of you. Never because I hate you. In those times I need you to bring me back and I know you'll be busy but try, okay? Both of you. Try to stay friends because you're the best I've got."

"You mean the best we've both got," Kame corrected and breezed by Jin to kneel in front of Little Jin. "You're quite a handful, you know? But you're a good kid. Not half as stupid as others say you are, but you'll show them." He then turned to Kazu and said, "Don't give up on your baseball dream."

"That's it?" Jin asked when Kame moved back. He had given them an entire speech, had poured his heart out in the open and Kame had barely said anything. So not fair.

Kame shrugged. "It's not as if they'll remember anything. And besides, you already know what you mean to me," he said, his gaze directed at Little Jin. And suddenly Jin wanted to walk over and shake his teenage shoulders and yell 'Tell me everything!' because really, he had no clue. He'd find out soon enough, though, he thought and palmed the black stone that was tucked away in the pocket of his jeans.

"You should make the wish now," Kame said and Little Jin nodded, tugging Kazu to his side. He clutched the stone to his chest for a moment and squeezed his eyes shut in concentration. And then the stone went flying into the sea, dunking down in a splash.

"What now?" Jin asked Kame when nothing happened.

"We wait."

-

Ten minutes later, Jin turned to tell Kame that something was wrong with the stone and the old guy had swindled them after all.

"They're gone, Jin. They disappeared five minutes ago," Kame replied and Jin whipped around, doing a full scan of the beach. No Little Jin or Kazu in sight. They really were gone, Jin realized with a dull ache.

But something didn't make sense.

"But I still remember everything... Do you think the memories take a while to go away?" A large part of him hoped that wasn't true, wishing instead that the stone was half defective and they would get to keep their memories after all.

"Maaaybe," Kame said with a strange smile, as if he knew something Jin didn't and was waiting for him to realize it, too. It made him feel more stupid than anything else. "You're really worried about that, aren't you?"

"Of course I am! And what aren't you telling me, Kame? I know you know something! Teeeell me!"

When Kame just laughed and laughed, Jin had enough and, without thinking, pounced. They landed in a heap of sand and Kame finally stopped laughing when Jin had him pinned down.

"Tell me."

Kame blinked the bangs out of his eyes and looked up with an impish smile. "You misunderstood. He wasn't talking about our memories, but the memories of the ones who made the wish. We're not going to be forgetting anything any time soon."

Jin gaped, completely dumbstruck. All that panic, all the embarrassing things he had said...

"But how can you be so sure?" he asked, tightening his grip when Kame tried to get up. And then something else clicked into place. "And how did you find out where the wishing stones were, anyway? What have you been hiding from me, Kame?"

"Only if you promise not to get mad."

Jin sputtered. The nerve of him! How could he-- When Jin was obviously-- This was so unfair!

"If you don't tell me, I'll never let you up."

Kame snorted. "Jin, I could throw you off in an instant. I'm not Kazu's size anymore."

And Jin knew he was right. He could feel the strong, wide shoulder under his grip, the muscles shifting and-- Jin was going to stop that train of thought right this second.

"Alright, fine," he spat because Kame was pure evil and there was no way he could win against a devil. "I promise I won't get mad. Now tell me!"

Kame licked his lips nervously and if he thought that would distract him, then he was really... really... Jin shook his head. He was wrong.

"Around the fourth day after they arrived, Kazu told me everything. I mean, where to find the stones and such. He told me not to let Little Jin know... Jin, are you okay?"

No. No he was not. Small, innocent Kazu had deceived them all and Jin had had no clue, hadn't suspected a thing. If sweet little Kazu could lie to his face like that, then Jin had no hope for the rest of the world.

"Why... why didn't you just tell me that then? Why did you wait to send them back?"

He watched, now thoroughly confused as Kame's face slowly reddened again and his eyes flickered up to Jin's forehead.

"Kazu asked me not to. He said Little Jin would be mad at him for telling me." But that couldn't be it, or at least all of it. Kame was ruthless when he was determined to do something. Something like angering a teenager wouldn't have stopped him at all if he really wanted Little Jin and Kazu to leave... Jin took a sharp intake, finally putting two and two together. He bore into Kame, willing him to confess and after a few moments, Kame finally cracked. "Alright, alright! Get your face away, you creep!"

Jin let himself be shoved away and Kame sat up, wringing the sand from his hair in an obvious attempt to distract himself as he spoke. "I didn't do anything because I didn't want to. We were getting along pretty well and I thought..."

"What?" Jin prodded.

"I thought we could be friends again," Kame shrugged helplessly and finally gave up on his hair. There were still grains of stands sprinkled amongst the brown tendrils and some of the strands curled out in odd places and odd directions - and Jin thought he looked perfect.

"We are friends," Jin said emphatically, peering into Kame's face as the sea breeze pushed his hair into his face.

"Well, after your lovely speech, I can't turn you down, can I?" Kame grinned back and Jin felt himself going red in an instant.

"Argh!" he shouted, throwing a fistfull of sand aimlessly. "I can't believe I said all that! I thought you wouldn't remember!"

"Not my fault. I tried to stop you but you just wouldn't listen," Kame laughed and then began to brush the sand off his clothes as he stood up. Jin stood and did the same. "Let's get going now? It's about to get chilly real soon."

"I'll meet you at the car," Jin said, remembering that he still had something to do. "I just want to look at the waves for just a few more minutes," he explained when Kame gave him a questioning look and whether it was satisfactory or not, Kame nodded, somehow realizing that Jin needed a little space and headed back up the beach to his car with a parting, "Don't take too long."

When he was far enough and still had his back turned, Jin quickly pulled out the black wishing stone from his pocket. He clutched it to his chest and closed his eyes in the same way Little Jin had done, and made his wish.

Make us AkaKame again.

-

Jin unglued his eyes as he slowly came to, his back hurting and a heavy weight lying across his stomach. Lifting himself up, his head still in a haze, he realized he was lying in the middle of the old road that he and Kazu had just been walking along. Kazu! Jin rolled the boy who was lying on him around and lightly smacked at his face, trying to jostle him awake.

"Kazu! Oi, Kazu! Wake up already!"

Smacksmacksmack.

"Kaaazu!"

Smacksmacksm-

"Ow! Jin, stop it already! I'm awake, okay."

Kazu ungratefully pushed him away without a thank you. And then he looked around them and asked, "Why are we sitting in the middle of the road?"

"I don't know," Jin shrugged and then thought of something in a stroke of brilliance. "Ah, wait! I know! It's the heat. It has to be the heat! We probably fainted. Dehydration and all, y'know," he said, feeling proud of himself. "I told you we should have stayed in the shade."

"Yeah? Well I told you we should have gone to Hokkaido," Kazu shot back and Jin groaned loud and long. Kazu was never going to give that up, ever. They'd grow to be old and toothless and Kazu would still yank his cane away and watch him fall, just because Jin hadn't chosen Hokkaido like he had wanted. Kazu was such a petty grudge-holder.

But Jin wasn't in the mood to argue right now. He was feeling sweaty and achy and he just wanted to go home. "We already talked about this," Jin said as he got up and pulled Kazu into a stand. "Let's just get back to the staff. They're probably waiting for us."

"You're the one who started it," Kazu muttered and Jin shoved him.

When they arrived back in town, they realized they had been gone longer than they had thought by at least an hour. They tried to explain that they had fainted but the staff all gave them skeptical looks and in the end, he and Kazu had to stand silently as the director gave them a stern lecture about the importance of time and how it correlated to money and profit and boring adult stuff that they could care less about. Once that was over, it was back to the streets and Jin was getting sick of asking random people if they knew Imai Tsubasa or not. But thanks to their faint, or whatever else had happened, that activity was cut short.

Eventually, night arrived and he and Kazu found themselves back at the beach.

"Kazu? Can you sleep?" he whispered as he watched the walls of their flimsy built tent tremble as the wind battered them from the outside. But it was neither the howling of the wind nor the crash of the waves that were keeping him awake. It was something else. Something that had been nagging at him since he had woken up on the road.

"No," Kazu answered and Jin turned over onto his side to face him. Kazu was already turned towards him and Jin could tell just by looking at his creased forehead that the same thing was gnawing at him, too.

"Kazu, when we grow up... We're always going to be friends, right?"

He heard Kazu take a wavery breath. "I want to be," Kazu said with hesitation and his eyes darted over Jin's face as if looking for the same desire in him. Jin didn't even know why he bothered to look. He had thought he'd made the fact that he would stick by Kazu's side for all eternity pretty clear. But Kazu was slow sometimes so Jin forgave him and stuck out his pinky between their sleeping blankets.

"Friends forever?"

With a delighted giggle, Kazu locked a smaller pinky around his.

"Friends forever," he repeated with a smile and Jin returned it with a crooked one of his own.

Finally at peace, he fell asleep just like that, with his pinky still latched onto Kazu's, a physical symbol of their bond that they had promised would never break. The next morning, a camera poked them awake and Jin learned that Takki wasn't a sicko sadist after all - and then he and Kazu proceeded to have the best day of their lives.

-

2011, February 22nd

The usual, crippling heat of the day dissipated as night fell. The Okinawa sea that had sparkled under the sunlight now shifted dark and ominous under the silvery beams of the moon. All was silent, with no one risking a midnight trip to the beach. All was silent but for the rush of oncoming waves that constantly beat against the shore, leaving their tracks in the forms of lost sticks and seashells as they retreated back, pulled away by an invisible hand like a sheet of cloth.

Sticks, seashells and stones.

-

Somewhere in the heart of Tokyo, someone made a midnight call.

"Happy Birthday."

"Jin? It just turned twelve a minute ago," Kame said with a pleased laugh. "You're such a stalker."

"It's an important day! You just turned a quarter of a century, old man," Jin replied, ignoring the fact that he was two years older. "And I'm the stalker?! Don't think I don't know about you and Kimutaku. I listen to the radio, too, y'know. And I can't believe you did that! You asked around for his phone number even! And you've never done that for me. What makes him--"

"Happy Birthday."

"It doesn't count if it's not my birthday, Kame."

"Oh, I didn't know that," Kame said innocently. "But since it is now officially my birthday, why don't you treat me to something?"

"What? Right now?" Jin asked, slightly surprised. "But all the restaurants are closed at this time."

"Not the conbini near my place."

"You want to go to a conbini for your birthday?"

"Don't be an elitist, Jin. Conbinis are wonderful. I'll meet you there," Kame sang and then hung up.

It was going to be a long night.

At the conbini, Kame grabbed a pile of magazines that featured Jin on the cover or somewhere within the pages and Jin stumbled, nearly walking into a pyramid of diapers. Kame made it up to him by filling their basket with jars of olives and in return, Jin tossed in a dozen packets of squid. They were never going to be able to finish it all, but it was worth it just to see Kame smile. As Kame perused the aisle shelving the drinks, Jin searched for an appropriate birthday gift - well, as appropriate he could find in a convenience store. He accidentally walked through an aisle holding condoms and, his face flaming, sprinted away to the opposite side of the store. It's where he found the rack of keychains and one in particular caught his eye.

It was in the shape of a skull and once squeezed, a pink light blinked from the inside, dying the skull a shade of magenta for a few moments until the blinking stopped. It was made for Kame, Jin thought and took it directly to the cashier. When he finally gave it to him as they exited the conbini, Kame pulled out his keys on the spot and clipped the keychain on without a thought. It made Jin feel something amazing.

When Kame asked him to come up to his apartment for a birthday toast, he couldn't refuse. They shared a drink on the new couch Kame had bought and talked about unimportant things, like how Kame's neighbour was a sweet old lady who always forgot his name, and important things like how Jin was planning to prepare for his debut album. Kame was happy and laughing and something bubbled inside Jin, like a jostled soda can that was ready to burst, and before he knew it, he had leaned forward. But it was okay, because instead of pushing him away, Kame leaned back.

Jin ended up staying over for the night.

The next morning, he woke up alone and it was a familiar feeling. He had done this before, many times, but on a completely different occasion. He rolled onto Kame's side of the bed and buried his face into his pillow, only resurfacing once he could keep the smile splitting his face in check. Already missing the warmth of the bed sheets, he got up and picked his pants off the floor, pulling them on and lazily leaving the buttons undone, and then strolled to the kitchen.

The face splitting smile returned when he saw the coffee mug waiting for him at the counter, placed on a turtle-shaped coaster that he had bought Kame a few weeks ago. He walked over and plopped himself onto the kitchen stool, reading the note that leaned against the handle of the mug as he lifted it to his lips.

Thank you for the birthday present. It was a pleasure to unwrap.

And he couldn't resist grinning into the ceramic rim, his insides warming before he even managed to take a sip.

(A mouthful of coffee later, he noticed another note, one that stuck to the coaster and was previously hidden underneath the mug.

You really do have a perky behind.

Jin choked.)


-end-

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