stencilled: (nakame is precious)
[personal profile] stencilled


A light sense of nervous foreboding was washing over him, but Nakamaru managed a smile anyway at the way Kame scrolled the window of the passenger seat up and down, up and down, watching the glass disappear and reappear with awe.

"This is fun! Your car is so nice, Yucchi," Kame nearly shouted in excitement, patting at the spongy beige of the car seat and anything within reach.

"Tell that to Koki," Nakamaru snorted. He had bought the car from a family friend before moving to the city and while it was old, but not old enough to be considered a classic, it drove well and sturdy. Koki could make fun of it as much as he wanted, but Nakamaru always preferred the reliable over the flashy. Nevermind that he couldn't afford the flashy.

"Koki?" Kame asked as Nakmaru pulled out of the underground driveway beneath the apartment complex, his eyes carefully trained on the road while his attention alerted to the drop in Kame's voice.

"He's a close friend. You'll meet him when we get there."

It was a risk, but he figured the best way to protect his secret was to go for the offensive. Koki wouldn't be expecting it and if it all went well, there was a good chance that introducing Kame on his own terms would put his friend's suspicions at ease. That, and Kame was incessantly asking to see his his workplace, although he didn't sound all that eager at the moment.

"How close?"

"Hm?" Nakmaru asked, bringing the car to a stop at a red light.

"You and Koki. How close? I know you're not lovers but..."

"What?!" Nakamaru choked, his grip on the steering wheel slipping slightly. He was incredibly thankful that the green light hadn't flashed yet, what with the visions Kame had sent him nearly blinding his eyes. "What?!" he repeated.

"I'm just asking." Nakamaru glanced to the side to see Kame watching him petulantly.

The light turned green.

"We're friends," Nakamaru said firmly, pressing softly on the gas pedal and moving forward and into the morning traffic. "Friends only. He's my best friend, actually. He's the first person I met when I moved here and he helped me get my job. We're work buddies, too."

"Oh," Kame said and after a pause, replied with a chipper voice, "That's great!"

Nakamaru shot another glance at him.

Well, that was weird. But it was Kame after all.

"You remember what I told you, right?" They had spent hours going over what was suitable to say in a brief introduction and what was forbidden to say at any cost. No star talk about how fascinating humans were and oh what a lovely time he was having here on Earth. Nothing about bubble baths or Nakamaru's teenage phase, either. The goal was to provide Koki with as little ammo to tease Nakamaru with later, which he undoubtedly would. "You remember the rules?" Nakamaru asked.

Kame let out a long, exaggerated moan.

"Yeeeeeeeeeeessss. I won't say anything about your snoring or your cartoon underwear or your singing in the bathroom, even though I really like Yucchi's voice."

Nakamaru laughed, more flattered than he was letting on.

"Good."

His office was only half an hour away minus the traffic but of course, it always took longer. The rest of the drive past mostly in silence, with Kame's oohs and ahhs breaking through every now and then as he gazed at the world whipping about them, begging Yucchi to pause and see what he found so amazing. Look, Yucchi, look!

It was when Nakamaru entered the highway that Kame released a loud huff of displeasure.

"What?" Nakamaru asked.

"Yucchi drives so slowly."

"I do not," Nakamaru sputtered in offense. He had always prided himself in being a good driver.

"Look," Kame said, pointing at his window. "All the cars are beating you! You can't let them. Drive faster, Yucchi!"

"Kame, this isn't a racetrack. These are real cars."

"We're losing!" Kame yelled, completely unfazed and watching a red semi truck pull ahead of them with an appalled face, his hands squeezing his seatbelt in an angry grip.

Nakamaru watched his eyes narrow before letting his head fall back against the headrest with a resigned sigh. A few more minutes and Kame gave a loud cheer as Nakamaru pressed harder on the gas, zipping past the truck and earning a dazzling grin. At least Nakamaru had made sure to stay within the limit.

-

"Kame, Koki." Nakamaru stood in between the two, feeling the same awkwardness he felt back in elementary shcool when he introduced his parents to his teacher. "Koki, this is Kame, an old friend from university. He's passing through and staying over at my place for a couple weeks."

Koki looked Kame up and down and Nakamaru felt his back stiffen.

"Hey there," Koki said at last and offered his hand, a sincere smile spreading across his face. "So you're the one who's been taking care of Yucchi over here. Thanks for that."

Kame laughed. "It's no trouble at all. It's nice to meet you, Koki."

Kame grasped his hand at once and they shook, smiling at each other sweetly before letting go. Nakamaru released a sigh of relief. They were standing near Nakamaru's desk and everything seemed to be going as well as could be. And then the questions started.

"So how long have you two known each other?" Koki asked, his eyes darting between them.

Nakamaru was prepared. "I think it's been five years now. I was his senior at school. I left before he graduated."

"Oh, cool." Koki turned his attention to Kame. "And what did you major in? Hopefully you're not an accounting bore like Yucchi."

"Major?" Kame asked and Nakamaru quickly plowed forward before his confusion could shine through.

"Astronomy."

Koki's eyebrows lifted and disappeared under his bangs. "Astronomy, well that's something new. Where do you work?"

"He doesn't have a job yet," Nakamaru answered in Kame's place again. "I'm trying to help him find a job."

"I thought he was just passing through...?" Koki's eyes narrowed in suspicion and Nakamaru backpedaled as fast as he could, grasping for imaginary puzzle pieces and trying to fit them into an image that seemed plausible.

"H-he is. But he's grown to like the city, right, Kame?"

"Yes!" Kame piped up. "I like it very much. The sunsets here are beautiful."

Koki snorted a laugh. "What? You don't have sunsets where you're from?"

Nakamaru forced out a hearty laugh and slung his arm over Koki's shoulders.

"See, Kame? Didn't I tell you about how funny this guy was?"

He continued laughing until several odd looks were sent his way and thankfully the topic was dropped.

-

"So what's the real deal?" Koki asked once Nakamaru had sent Kame to sit in one of the chairs lining the wall that were often used by waiting clients. Kame had insisted on staying the entire day to watch Nakamaru work and while Nakamaru didn't understand why anyone would want to inflict such boredom on themselves, he agreed, relieved to keep Kame in sight. "He doesn't seem like someone you'd associate with."

"Why not?" Nakamaru asked, watching Koki watch Kame with keen interest that went beyond suspicion - and felt an uncomfortable jolt in his stomach. Koki with his blond hair and strangely foreign looks and his eccentric tastes had fit perfectly next to Kame.

"He's too cool for you."

"And what does that say about you?"

"Shows that I have a big heart," Koki returned with a grin and Nakamaru swatted at his shoulder. "Seriously, though," Koki continued. "He looks like he walked off a runway, or out of a movie. He looks like a star."

He's a star alright, Nakamaru said to himself dryly.

He turned to look at Kame himself and felt that uncomfortable jolt return with a bite of possessiveness, the urge to take Kame back home mounting with every whisper and glance thrown Kame's way while he sat oblivious and perfect, waving at Nakamaru happily when he caught his gaze. Nakamaru may be in denial but he wasn't blind or deaf.

They had spent hours shopping for clothes for Kame last weekend, Kame flirting with the mirrors and charming the shop attendants that stood by holding a bundle of jeans and tshirts patterened with skulls (Nakamaru had no idea where that preference sprung from but he found it cute, the way Kame would instantly jump at anything with the emblem), tittering at the spontaneous fashion show Kame was putting on. For someone who loved to be naked, Kame had a surprising fetish for clothes - and not just any clothes. To the misfortune of Nakamaru's wallet, anything that had caught Kame's fancy had been on the higher end of his price range.

The outcome was entirely worth it, however.

Today, Kame had chosen to wear his favourite pair jeans which obviously meant they were ripped to pieces and showed as much skin as possible without being offensive. He wore flipflops and a light, open vest over a black tshirt that flashed a pink, jeweled skull and exposed the toned muscles of his arms. His wrists and neck were wrapped in stylish beads that Nakamaru could never imagine himself wearing without looking like some sort of hippy. His hair was back in a ponytail, his brown bangs tucked behind his ear, showing off the cut of his face.

The shy giggles and the murmurs; the interested glances and starry-eyed stares.

Nakamaru could understand.

Even in human form, Kame resembled a rockstar, a filmstar, a superstar.

Always a star.

"He's kinda shiny," Koki muttered and Nakamaru snapped out of his thoughts, catching Koki glancing down at his palm and then back up at Kame, his brows furrowed. The hand that had clasped Kame's in a handshake earlier shimmered, the crevices of Koki's palm lined with stardust. Nakamaru gulped and thought fast.

"Yeah, he likes to roll in glitter."

Koki gave him a bizarre look. "Why?"

Nakamaru shrugged, faking nonchalance. "He likes art. It's his hobby or something."

"Really?" Koki asked with fervor and it was only then that Nakamaru remembered that Koki was fairly inclined to the arts as well. "He really is too cool for you."

"Shut up." Nakamaru swatted at him again.

"You two look pretty tight, though," Koki observed, noticing the way Nakamaru's eyes kept darting to check on Kame. "You guys having fun at home? It's good that you're not always alone anymore."

Nakamaru flushed and denied uselessly, "No. We're not. It's not like that. He just showed up suddenly and now I'm sort of stuck with him."

The words were true; the sentiments false. He was glad Kame was too far away to hear.

"Hey, I won't mind taking him off your hands. He looks like a nice guy and I have a spare room," Koki offered and Nakamaru froze. He knew Koki was trying to help, trying to do him a friendly favour, but he also detected an undertone of something else and the mere thought of it - Nakamaru squeezed his pen so tight he could feel his fingernails digging painful grooves into his palm.

"He's allergic to fur," Nakamaru replied, thinking of Koki's pets, his voice completely neutral.

"Oh, that's too bad."

And that topic too was dropped.

-

The evening traffic was worse than the morning traffic but thankfully, spending a dull day at the office had drained Kame entirely and he was sitting quietly in his seat, staring out the window and letting Nakamaru drive in peace.

"You didn't have fun today?" he teased and heard Kame swivel his head towards him, his hair rustling against the head rest.

"It was fun," he said, his words slow but honest. "Yucchi's sexy when he's working."

Nakamaru kept his eyes on the road and his hands firm on the steering wheel, pretending not hear.

"It's true," Kame pushed forward heedlessly. "You get this focused look and you bite at the end of your pen sometimes, did you know that?"

"Kame," Nakamaru warned with his ears pratically glowing, "you can tease me all you want once we're home."

"But I'm not teasing."

Oh.

Nakamaru didn't know how to reply to that so he didn't, a blanket of silence falling over them as the roads slipped under. It was around sunset when they arrived home. The parking lot was shadowed but golden rays still managed to creep their way inside the car. Nakamaru unlocked his seatbelt and waited for Kame to do the same.

"Kame?" he asked when Kame didn't move and just stared at him in thought, looking beautiful and unreal.

"Yucchi, who am I?"

Nakamaru tilted his head, perplexed but willing to indulge.

"You're Kame," he answered with a smile and Kame shook his head without breaking eye contact.

"No, I mean," - a dab at his lower lip - "Koki is your best friend so... who am I?"

Under Kame's hopeful, expectant gaze, Nakamaru felt his pulse chase, his thoughts stammering to offer explanations he couldn't voice because it wasn't... it wasn't... Kame was a star.

"You're my star," he said softly. "My good luck charm."

Kame's eyes were stitched to him, unnervingly transfixed and all Nakmaru could think was how they shined light, toffee brown in the dying sunlight.

"Is... is that all?"

His mouth felt numb even as everything inside him was racing out of control. He couldn't say it. And because he couldn't say it, Nakamaru kept silent - because friend sounded hollow, insignificant compared to what Kame truly was to him, and he didn't want to lie, couldn't lie while looking straight into Kame's eyes.

Nakamaru turned his head and broke the connection, refusing to lie even then.

-

He had bought more candles when Kame had insisted that bubble baths weren't right without them and Nakamaru watched them flicker as he soaked. He had to agree that they did add an additional soothing effect, even if all they did was distract by casting intricate patterns along the walls.

There was a knock at the bathroom door.

"Can I come in?" Kame asked, and Nakamaru snorted a yes that clearly meant nothing because Kame was already poking his head inside.

"What is it? If you need to use the toilet I can leave, I'll only take a second to--"

"No," Kame shook his head, "stay. It's nothing urgent. I was just wondering if you needed anything...?"

Nakamaru blinked.

"Er, no... I'm fine, thanks. Have plenty of bubbles, see?" He scooped up some foam as proof.

"Ah, that's good!" Kame said. "It looks fun..."

Nakamaru watched Kame stand in the middle of the candlelit bathroom in his turtle pajamas, fiddling with the hem of his tanktop as he eyed the bubbles like a child eyed candy.

"Kame, do you want to take a bubble bath?" he asked with a indulgent smile.

Kame's eyes snapped to his face. "Really?! Can I?"

Nakamaru laughed. "Why not?"

The next moment, soapy water went splasing everywhere, dousing a couple of nearby candle flames as Kame bounded into the bathtub, his clothes now thoroughly soaking yet his smile not the slightest bit dampened.

So, this was why, Nakamaru thought dully.

"Th-this wasn't really what I had in mind," Nakamaru sputtered, wiping the foam off his face and quickly collecting his limbs and bringing them to his body on the opposite side of the tub, which wasn't very far considering how small it was; he was surprised Kame managed to fit in at all. He settled when it was only their knees making contact. Kame's were clothed but the touch still felt strangely intimate.

"Ahh~ It's so warm," Kame crooned, leaning his head back against the tiled wall. "It feels good."

"Your clothes are all wet now."

Kame shrugged and closed his eyes in bliss, releasing a delighted hum as he dipped lower into the bath that now shined golden with stardust. He looked at peace, happy and relaxed, and Nakamaru wondered why he hadn't done this sooner. Granted, Kame wasn't exactly human and didn't have the same needs, but Nakamaru should have at least offered - offered Kame to try the food he'd been making with his own hands, or offered a book off Nakamaru's shelve that he could read to pass the time. It had been weeks and Nakamaru had never asked Kame to help himself.

His chest clenched at the sudden thought of Kame not feeling welcomed.

"Kame. Kame," he called, trying to keep the urgency out of his voice, and Kame slowly turned to look at him with a hazy gaze. "Are you happy?"

Kame giggled and Nakamaru could feel his toes wriggle against his, now probably equally pruned.

"I've never been happier."

That didn't mean all that much, Nakamaru thought with guilt pressing down on his conscience. Kame had only been here for less than half a year and during that time, nothing had compared to the frivolous joy of a bubble bath. Had he really been that bad of a host?

"Is... is there anything you want?" Nakamaru insisted, leaning forward slightly so that Kame could understand his sincerity. "Anything that will make you even more happier? Just ask and I'll try. I can't promise anything, but I'll try."

Kame stilled, his eyes now alert, and quirked his head to the side.

"Anything?"

"Anything," Nakamaru repeated. When Kame lowered his eyes, a flick of tongue wetting his lip and the candlelight casting a soft glow on his shy smile, the alarm bells signaled in Nakamaru's head. Not good, not good. Maybe he should have thought his offer through because if Kame wanted... Nakamaru swallowed thickly when Kame's eyes lifted straight at him - and he knew. He knew by the electric current that began from the tips of their touching toes and zipped all along his skin and straight to his heart, sending it pounding like a gavel and dispersing any arguments rationality could put forth.

He knew by the want tugging at his gut that he wouldn't refuse.

"I... I've always wanted to go to the sea," Kame whispered at last.

And everything inside him shuddered to a stop.

The sea.

There were no beds by the sea. There's always the seabed, Nakamaru's inner geek helpfully supplied and Nakamaru told himself to shut up.

"The sea?" he asked, just in case he had heard wrong. This was Kame. Kame who walked around naked and had no sense of personal space, or at least paid no heed to Nakamaru's. The car incident was just a couple days ago... He could not have mixed up the signals that badly.

"Un," Kame confirmed with a tiny bob. "From up there, the seas were just blue patches. They looked dark and mysterious and I've always wanted to see them up close. And on tv, they look so pretty and fun. Like giant bubble baths!"

Giant bubble baths.

Nakamaru was a first class moron.

He curled into a silent ball of mortification and felt dirty despite the fact he had been soaking in the bath for almost an hour now. This was the second time he wanted to drown himself in bubbles.

"Yucchi...?" he heard Kame ask. "I-it's okay if we can't go. Really, I don't--"

"No," Nakamaru quickly interjected, snapping his head back up to see Kame watching him with a worried frown. The beach wasn't too far and while it was not what he had been expecting, it was much easier to manage. "I'll take you there someday. I promise."

"Really?! But if it's too much..."

"I want to."

Kame's smile was breathtaking.

"I love Yucchi," he said and before Nakamaru could process the sudden declaration, he found his face full of suds.

"Kame!"

Another splash launched at his face and Nakamaru quickly shielded his eyes from the sting.

"Yucchi looks like an old man," Kame snickered, pointing at the tufts of bubbles clinging to his eyebrows and lips, and with the way Nakamaru was folded up in the cramped bathtub, his body certainly felt like an old man's.

With a sudden swish of his arm, Nakamaru sent a wave of suds flying back and laughed at the dollop of soap that stuck to Kame's nose.

He could still be a child at heart.

-

When Nakamaru was called to the boss's office, he didn't know what to expect, but the sight of Kitagawa smiling warmly at him made him question if he had stepped into the right room.

"You've been with us for a while, Nakamaru-san. It's a wonder you haven't grown tired of us yet," he spoke with a hard kindness, the kind only a business man like Kitagawa could deliver. Nakamaru was about to lie through his teeth and deny it when Kitagawa continued, "Things have been bumpy in the past but I've seen a marked improvement in you work, Nakamaru-san. I would like to offer you a promotion, should you wish to accept it."

Nakamaru couldn't believe it.

-

After relaying the news to Koki, he still couldn't believe it. Three years working at the botton rung, and then the problems with Inohara, and now finally. Finally.

"We have to celebrate!" Koki said with a beaming, proud smile, thumping Nakamaru on the back. "You deserve it, Yucchi. Let's hit the bar tonight, yeah?"

Nakamaru hesitated. "How... how about we celebrate tomorrow?"

Tonight, he wanted to say thank you to Kame.

-

Kame had engulfed him in a fullbody hug the second Nakamaru had told him, smiling into Nakamaru's neck and whispering that he always knew Nakamaru was better than what everyone said, had more potential than anyone could see. They had stood there at the entrance, Nakamaru hugging Kame back and grinning into his hair, whispering that Kame was just a tad too biased while Kame laughed in denial, his vanilla scent both grounding him and making his heart soar.

A long, quiet moment and they had slowly pulled apart, Nakamaru going to fetch the drinks to celebrate while Kame insisted that they use the balcony and toast as if they were the kings of the world.

Hours later, and here they still were, Nakamaru lying on his back and staring up at the stars with a strong sense of deja vu. It was discomfitting, how he had felt then and how he felt now, the state of his mind and life completely polarised. Back then, Kame was still hanging in the sky, the brightest star that had caught his eye.

"What's it like?" he asked, his throat scratching from too many drinks thanks to Kame's challenge. Kame had drank much more than him yet didn't appear half as affected. It was unfair. Very unfair, but Nakamaru let it go because Kame looked flushed and cute, hiccuping after a few minutes or so with an embarrassed giggle. "What's it like to be up so high? Isn't it scary?"

"Nnn," Kame denied from where he sat right next to him, trying to twirl their shot glasses into makeshift tops. He was wearing a black tanktop that exposed a sliver of his waist as he leaned forward and his hair was loose, soft and shifting with the breeze.

"I don't like heights," Nakamaru confessed and wondered what would have happened if he was born a star. Would he trip and stumble and refuse to look down? "Are the other stars your family? Did you have friends up there?"

Giving up on the glasses, Kame flopped down next to him, his head settling on Nakamaru's chest and his hair grazing his chin. Nakamaru hoped he made a comfortable pillow.

"No... I. I couldn't see any of them from up there," Kame answered, his tone thoughtful, and Nakamaru could feel his warm breath through his thin cotton tshirt. "It was... It was too bright to see anything around me. This is the first time I'm seeing the rest of them. I didn't know there were so many."

Nakamaru moved his fingers to Kame's hair and stroked gently, Kame returning the gesture with a soft nuzzle against his belly.

Kame, blinded by his own shine.

It sounded lonely.

"You were the brightest, you know?" Nakamaru whispered. "So bright I couldn't look away."

He felt a huff of air at Kame's laugh. "Yucchi is shiny too."

"I'm not. I'm just... I'm just me. I was mean to you when we were first met."

Kame rubbed his stomach with a no, his head shifting under Nakamaru's fingers.

"You're kind, Yucchi."

"As kind as a cactus," Nakamaru snorted, weaving his fingers in again and scratching lightly at Kame's scalp in a silent apology.

"Even cacti bloom, Yucchi."

"How do you know?"

His fingers fell from Kame's hair as Kame moved to look at him straight in the eyes. They were so close and the moon was shining and Nakamaru may have been a little drunk, but he swore that every pore on Kame's skin shone like a miniature strobe light... Okay, he may have been a lot drunk, but it was all the same. Kame was blinding yet he couldn't tear his eyes away.

Kame was looking at him in that way again.

That way that made Nakamaru feel as if he was the center of the universe, precious and loved.

"I've been watching you for a long time, Yucchi," Kame whispered, darting his eyes to the side as if this was a great and wonderful secret. "You love your balcony. I've always been watching you."

Nakamaru's heart thundered in his chest.

There were approximately seven billion people on this planet and out of all of them - out of the entire seven billion, it was him. Plain old reliable Nakamaru who's greatest talent was being average.

It was him that caught Kame's eye, who Kame chose to see.

Nakamaru dug his hand down into Kame's hair once more and pulled him down, not caring, not caring at all, just feeling his heart explode as their lips collided in a kiss.

A supernova.

-

Nakamaru had let practicality govern most of his life; he played by the rules or he didn't play at all. It didn't make him happy, but it was the only way he knew how to live and it kept him safe. He stuck to routines and what was acceptable. Tied all the knots until the strings that composed his life were taught. Until he had trapped himself in a cage of his own making, worried that if he cut one strand, he'd lose it all.

Kame released a soft moan against his lips and with his body igniting, he felt himself come undone for the first time. Undone, but held together under Kame's weight.

His entire existence thrummed with happiness and Nakamaru Yuichi came to life at last.

-

"You smell like vanilla."

"I do?"

Nakamaru leaned closer, burying his nose into Kame's hair and taking a deep, luxurious breath.

"You do."

"Do you like it?" Kame asked, turning his head from where it laid cushioned by Nakamaru's shoulder and trying to get a whiff himself. They were still out on the balcony and the cool night air was welcomed against their flushed skin.

"Mmm." Nakamaru took another sniff. "I love it."

Kame smiled impishly. "Do you know what you smell like?"

"No," Nakamaru replied, suddenly curious. He didn't think he had a smell besides his usual aftershave or ramen. "What?"

He gasped out a laugh when Kame's cold nose suddenly tickled his neck, his lips rubbing against his collarbones. Nakamaru wondered if he should tell Kame. Tell him that every touch fogged his mind and made his heart skip erratically.

"Yucchi smells like bubbles."

"Bubbles?"

"Bubbles," Kame laughed and settled back against Nakamaru's shoulder, his forehead touching his chin. "Squeaky clean, Yucchi."

"Vanilla cookie, Kame," Nakamaru teased back, his hand finding the exposed sliver of skin just above the edge of Kame's pajama pants and tickling. Kame squirmed against him, throwing his head back as he laughed helplessly and Nakamaru eventually slowed his tickling into slow strokes, Kame sighing with every caress.

It was perfect; Kame, this moment, them. Perfect from every angle.

Nakamaru gazed up at the endless, dark sky and wondered how he could have gotten so lucky when the odds were one out of seven billion.

"Thank you, Kame," he whispered into the air. "Thank you for everything."

"I haven't done anything yet," Kame whispered back and planted a soft kiss just under his jaw.

Nakamaru squeezed him close.

"What are you going to do once you've granted my wish?" he asked, already imagining moving to another apartment. A larger one fit for two people and maybe even closer to the beach. With his savings plus his promotion and accompanying raise, he would be able to manage it without too much hassle.

Kame hummed against his neck. "I'll return."

Nakamaru froze, the hand that had been stroking Kame's bare arm now stilling.

"Return? Return where?"

"Hmm? To the sky," Kame mumbled absently. "Once I've fulfilled a wish, I fly back up and wait for the next one."

The ringing in his ears returned, magnified a hundred - a thousand fold.

"Y-you've dropped down before? For a different wish?" For someone else?

"No, Yucchi's the first," Kame spoke quietly and wrapped his arm around Nakamaru's chest. "You're the only one who saw me. I want to make you happy."

To make him happy.

So he could grant his wish and - and -

No.

He squeezed Kame's arm and turned to press his lips near his eye, right on the mole that he often found himself staring at, and felt everything around and inside him shatter into stardust.

Tonight was the happiest night of his life.

He wanted to toss it into oblivion.

-

Nakamaru found it morbidly fascinating, how easy it was to deconstruct happiness. One tug or a gentle jolt, and the entire house of cards that had taken hours, days, to make collapsed into nothing.

-

He sidled past Kame in the kitchen and went for the cabinet, ignoring the plate of omelet waiting for him on the counter.

"Yucchi?" Kame asked, pointing at the granola bar in his hand. "I made your breakfast. Aren't you hungry?"

"Not really, no."

He head foregone the clothes Kame had laid out for him and had instead dressed himself in his regular work ensemble, a navy blue blazer and a matching plain tie. The clothes hadn't been ironed and showed patches of wrinkles, but it was fine. Nakamaru didn't want to look good; he didn't want to feel good.

"Oh," Kame said and looked down at the cooling plate before glancing up with a smile. "Yucchi must be tired of omelets, right? Can we go shopping after? I watched a cooking show earlier and I think I know how to make pasta."

Nakamaru chewed on his bar. "I think I'll be tired, sorry. I'll stop by the conbini when I have time."

"Okay!" Kame chirped and Nakamaru left before he could give into the urge to kiss him.

-

He was the last one to leave the office. Koki had left two hours ago, slapping his back with a grin, surprised by how seriously Nakamaru was taking on his new position. It wasn't all that special though, Nakamaru told himself. Sure, he had been moved to a larger desk and his salary had increased, but it was still the same old, same old. Nothing to be too happy about.

The apartment door opened for him as usual. He had forgotten that Kame didn't need to sleep.

"You're late again," Kame said and Nakamaru shrugged out of his jacket.

"How do you know when I've arrived? You open the door before I can even knock."

Kame winked at him with a cheeky smile. "It's my Yucchi sense."

Nakamaru forced down the corners of his lips and looked away.

-

"Hey, you okay, buddy?" Koki asked during lunch break. The summer was ending and the wind was growing cool but not cool enough to warrant wearing a jacket outside.

"Why wouldn't I be?"

Koki looked at him sharply and flicked his fingers one by one. "You've stopped eating lunch, you work overtime almost everyday, you're wearing argyle again, you look like your cat died, and we haven't gone out for ages."

"I don't have a cat," Nakamaru pointed out and Koki promptly kicked his leg.

"No shit, jackass," Koki snapped and Nakamaru rubbed his sore calf. He knew that whenever Koki resorted to abuse and namecalling that he was deeply worried. It was his friend's way of hiding just how much he cared and Nakamaru was amused by how it always backfired. "You were doing so good for a while there. What happened? You used to be such a smile freak to the point that even Taguchi was weirded out, but recently... Did you fight with Kame? Is he moving out?"

Not if Nakamaru could help it, no.

No.

"You're reading too much into everything," Nakamaru replied with a shrug. "I'm fine, really. Kame's fine too. We're both fine."

"Then let's go out tonight," Koki insisted. "It'll be like old times. You can get pissed and start stripping in front of everyone again."

Nakamaru caught himself before he laughed at the memory.

"Yeah, no thanks," he declined and pushed forward with an excuse when Koki frowned, "I have something planned with Kame already."

Thankfully, Koki appeared to accept that with little malice.

"You and your dates," Koki groaned and then shot him a tiny smile. "I hope he's making you happy, Yucchi. Tell him to share though, yeah?"

And Nakamaru couldn't help but laugh at that. After work, he had taken to strolling at the park to wile away the time so that when he arrived home, he could fall to bed without much talk. No bubble baths, no dinner, no tv, no video games, no lying outside on the balcony with Kame in his arms and his heart beating out of his chest.

It didn't matter that all he thought about as he sat on the park bench was Kame's smile or his turtle pajamas or the way his hair fell across his face when he cooked or how soft his skin felt under Nakamaru's hand or the way Nakamaru's skin burned under his. It was a diluted happiness he couldn't push away no matter how hard he tried, and it changed nothing.

The fact remained: Koki had been seeing more of him than Kame had for days.

-

The days passed with Nakamaru undoing the magic Kame had casted and reverting his life back to its miserable state. It was painful, but he was ready to pay this price over and over for what it would grant him. And not even Kame, Kame who was looking at him with sad, pleading eyes that cut at his insides, could make him think otherwise.

"Yucchi... did something happen?"

Kame had somehow manhandled him onto the couch when he was making his way to the bedroom and they had sat there for a few heavy, tense minutes, Nakamaru staring at the tv - at the floor, the table, the lamp; anything but Kame - while Kame stared at him. Like old times, Nakamaru thought quietly.

Kame's hand landed on his shoulder and Nakamaru shuddered, leaning away from the first touch in weeks.

"D-did I do something wrong?" Kame asked slowly and there was a small whine in his voice that had Nakamaru feeling as if he was shoving away a lost puppy. "Yucchi," a pause and Nakamaru new Kame was anxiously wetting his lips, "Yucchi, tell me what I did and I'll fix--"

"You didn't do anything wrong," Nakamaru snapped, the most honest words he had spoken to Kame in a while. "Just... just let it go, okay."

He stood up from the couch and walked around, making a beeline to his bedroom where he could then lock the door and spend another sleepless night like a love struck teenage girl, just staring at the ceiling while his heart pined with a dull stacatto, a failed lullaby.

A tug on his sleeve stopped him midstep.

"Kame," he said sternly, not daring to look back into those dejected eyes and have everything fall apart.

"Something's wrong. Something's making you upset," Kame said, his voice steadily growing louder, firmer. "Tell me, Yucchi."

"I don't have to tell you anything. Drop it." Nakamaru tried to yank back his arm but Kame had moved to grip his wrist, his short fingers encircling it tightly. "Let go, Kame."

"No. You're just going to run away from me again," Kame refused and Nakamaru could hear the accusations lacing the words, the open hurt.

"I mean it, Kame. Let go!"

Another futile yank.

And another.

With the next, something inside Nakamaru snapped.

"Let go!"

His yell echoed throughout the small apartment, ringing inside his ears, and no, no - this wasn't how it was supposed to be. The walls looked down at him with silent judgement, unfamiliar with this side of their soft-spoken occupant, and he felt Kame flinch, his grip faltering before tightening once more.

"Y-you." Kame's voice was scratchy, hesitant and hurt, and Nakamaru wanted to rip out his lungs because he didn't mean it and please, Kame, don't think of me that way. "You have to tell me so that I can make you happy, Yucchi. Am I not making you happy?"

And even if it was lightyears - galaxies away from the truth, he had to mean it.

He had to mean it or he'd have nothing.

"You're not," he whispered, the words spilling from his lips like broken glass. "You're ruining everything."

A beat of silence -

- and Kame finally let him go.

His arm fell to his side, his wrist feeling strangely bare.

Kame was mute and even through his mind rebelled against it, Nakamaru had to turn and see if Kame was okay, know that he didn't take Nakamaru's words to heart because Yucchi was silly and stupid and he had to know what he meant to him, had to see through the barefaced lie.

One pearly teardrop and Nakamaru drowned.

-

"You look like shit," Koki observed with a grimace.

"Thanks for that."

He felt like shit, too. If Koki - if anyone had seen the way Kame's face had silently crumpled in on itself last night...

Feeling like shit was simply grazing the top of the Kill Me Now barrel, really. The only thing that had stopped him from committing seppuku on a ball point pen when he had rolled out of bed this morning, guilt crushing his shoulders and his eyes stinging from the lack of sleep, was the fact that Kame had seemed okay.

Kame had made him toast this morning, stubbornly sticking to his breakfast making ritual even though Nakamaru had long stopped eating it. Today, however, he had munched on his toast with little fuss, not wanting to fight ever again and sneaking glances at Kame's face. He was back in Nakamaru's apron with his hair pulled away from his face and he looked perfect - which was usual for Kame so that was good. It was good. Everything was good.

Kame had even walked him to the door and whispered a goodbye.

"No really, what the hell happened to you?" Koki asked, pointing to what were probably the hideous bags under his eyes. "Did Kame keep you up all night?"

It was both funny and heartbreaking because it was true.

"Screw off," he grumbled and sealed his eyes with his palms, trying to knead away the image of Kame's broken face.

-

Nakamaru walked down the hallway of the apartment complex with a plastic shopper swinging in his hand. He had dropped by the grocery store on his way back and had spent several minutes walking back and forth along an aisle displaying colourful bouquets before giving in and buying a box of pasta noodles instead. As a kind, forgiveness seeking bribe, he figured Kame would appreciate this more in the end.

When he arrived at his door and stood there stupidly for a minute or so without it opening for him as usual, he felt a chill run over the length of his body. The key trembled in his hand as he unlocked it himself.

It was okay, he thought and tried to calm himself. This had happened before. Kame was probably soaking in the bath or engulfed in a video game or a baseball match. Nakamaru wouldn't jump to terrible conclusions like the way he had last time. Everything had been fine during the morning.

"Kame?" he called as he stepped inside and the door clicked behind him. "I'm home."

Silence.

"I brought you something."

Silence, still.

The living room and kitchen were empty, the remote lying untouched on the coffee table and the sink completely dry. Nakamaru let the bag fall to the floor, the plastic rustling in the hush, and walked to his bedroom, his feet carrying him so fast that he might as well have been running. Racing through time because everything was blurring.

"Kame," he choked out, staring at the bed, his sheets made and his pillows fluffed.

Empty.

He rushed to the bathroom, wishing with all he had that he'd see Kame blowing away at bubbles with that beguiling smile of his that stole Nakamaru's heart every time, wishing that Kame would look up and say to him welcome home, Yucchi because there was no one else. He had no one else -

- empty.

No candles, no bubbles, no Kame.

Just a pair of baby blue turtle pajamas that sat folded neatly by the sink.

No.

Nakamaru tasted salt and watched his reflection come apart like a house of cards.

-

Every night, he camped out on his balcony and stared up at the sky, searching for his lost star.

There were hundreds that studded the sky but the brightest one was always missing.

Sometimes he laughed at himself, at the soaring of his heart when he saw a flash and mistook a plane for a shooting star. The laugh jammed in his throat and released into a warbled cry.

-

No amount of stargazing and wishing brought Kame back.

Sometimes, Nakamaru would be eating and remember the wonky ketchup smiley face Kame would draw on his omelet and all the food in his mouth would turn to ash. Sometimes, he'd spend the entire day in bed, curled up in turtle pajamas that were no longer his. Sometimes, when everyone had left the office hours ago, he'd think of his lonely apartment and cry. Sometimes, his eyes would search everywhere, seeing traces of stardust that were never there. Sometimes, he'd catch himself standing outside his apartment door, waiting for Kame to swing it open with a welcome home.

It never opened.

Sometimes, he'd think of his life months ago and conclude that love and happiness were the things of fairytales, not meant for people like him.

Life was like a soap bubble, he figured, delicate and beautiful, enchanting... but move to grab it and everything...

... everything would burst into nothing.

-

"Nakamaru-san, you are probably wondering why I called to see you," Kitagawa spoke and Nakamaru slowly bobbed his head. He was curious but at this point in his bleak life, if he lost his job, he honestly wouldn't care much. "Rest assured that you are in good standing. I have to say I am a bit surprised by your keen dedication to this office. I have been hearing that you've been working late into the night for the past month."

"It's no trouble, sir." Nakamaru gave a short bow and could see the pity hidden inside the wrinkled folds of Kitagawa's smile.

"I don't doubt that it is, Nakamaru-san, but I believe that's just the businessman inside me talking." Kitagawa spun the pen bridging his hands and watched Nakamaru cautiously from under his square frames. "I think it would be best, Nakamaru-san, that you took a little break. You'll be paid of course and we'll be more than happy to have you back, but get some rest first. The health of our employees comes first."

The health of our employees... So having Inohara rip him to pieces day by day was fine, but allowing Nakamaru to escape from the confines of his empty apartment so that he wouldn't go out of his mind with longing was not.

Nakamaru left the office without a word of thank you.

-

"You can't blame them. You've been looking kinda sickly, Yucchi."

Nakamaru downed another glass and poured another shot before Koki could yank away the bottle.

"I don't know what happened between you and Kame or why he left but it'll be okay. It'll be--"

"You," Nakamaru snapped and his words slurred together. "You can't say that."

You can't know what it's like to chase away your biggest happiness.

Koki looked at him with a deep frown and Nakamaru wanted to smear it away into nothing. He was tired of all the pity and worried glances; he didn't need hand-holding or babysitting or a time-out in a fucking corner. What he needed ran away from him and now he needed nothing at all.

"Fuck it all," Nakamaru shouted in a toast, raising his shot glass and watching the alcohol glimmer like stardust in the dim lights of the pub. Koki ripped the glass away from him before he could get it to his lips. "Let go!"

Let go!

The slide of a lonely tear down the curve of Kame's cheek.

Nakamaru felt his eyes prickle and his chest clench so tightly he feared - he wished his heart would stop. He teetered on his stool and let Koki scoop him up, burying his stinging eyes in the fabric of his shoulder.

"I. I didn't mean it," he said thickly, the words wrenching from a deep ache he carried around everywhere. "I didn't want him to let go. Why did he let go, Koki? He was supposed to make me happy. He let me g-"

He choked on his words and Koki held him tight, patting his back soothingly.

"Let's get away for a while, okay?"

-

At Nakamaru's request, Koki had driven them to a small town near the beach, far from the city lights so that the sky could be seen entirely. They booked a reservation at a bed-and-breakfast that did fairly well considering the sparse population of the town. Inside the rose-patterned wallpaper of his room, Koki's just adjacent to his, he finally let himself breathe, the ghosts leaving him with every exhale.

They walked through town, taking in the tourist attractions while Koki flirted with the townspeople. Standing back and watching Koki sweettalk a tiny grannie returning with her groceries, Nakamaru was reminded that his friend and Kame were very similar. If Kame were here, he'd probably try to goad out a secret recipe from the lady for Nakamaru to try la--

Nakamaru tore his eyes away. Kame wasn't here.

There was no point pretending otherwise.

"You're thinking about him, aren't you?" Koki said after waving the grannie goodbye. "It's been a month, Yucchi. He's not coming b--"

"I know," Nakamaru interrupted. "Let's head down this way."

He knew Kame wasn't coming back; he just had yet to accept it.

-

After the first few days of watching over Nakamaru like a protective mother bear who desperately needed to bubblewrap her cub, Koki finally adjusted to the fact that yes, Nakamaru was feeling much better and no, Nakamaru wasn't about to do anything stupid, and spent the rest of the days out and about.

Nakamaru only saw glimpses of him somedays. Koki and he were best friends but their extracurriculars were vastly different. While Nakamaru was reading a novel he had bought at the local bookstore, Koki was probably off somewhere hunting for kappas or UFOs or whatever supernatural myth had caught his current fancy.

The new environment and fresh, seaside air were doing good things for Nakamaru. He wouldn't say he was happy, but he was feeling better on the whole. He could settle for this, he thought. He didn't need a reason to smile or his heart beating frantically in the thrill of a kiss to live. There was more to life than love; in fact, he had been living that life just several months ago.

And before he returned to his apartment and slipped back into his monotonous life, he had to let go, just as Kame had. He couldn't move forward while his heart was tethered to the past. And so what if it hurt? So what if his heart tore apart in the proccess?

He'd tug so hard and fast that the pain wouldn't last for more than a split second, even if it meant that he ached for the rest of his life.

It was better to live without hope then live with it and have it crushed every day.

-

The night before they planned to return to the city, Nakamaru laid in the foreign bed of the inn, eyes wide open and not being able to sleep. He silently rolled out and donned his clothes and slippers, tiptoeing down the hall and hearing Koki's wheezing snores as he passed by his door.

The autumn air was crisp, crawling under his tshirt and raising goosebumps along his skin as he walked down the empty streets, following the smell of seasalt and sun fried seaweed. The shops were closed and there were only a few streetlights every dozen meters or so but Nakamaru was comforted by the darkness. He had never been afraid of the dark as he had been of heights.

The streets eventually sloped down to the beach, the pavement disappearing under white sand, and Nakamaru took off his slippers to feel the grains prickle his feet. He seated himself down on a patch just outside the range of the incoming tide and stared out at the sea, its dark blue bleeding into the sky's so that they appeared one in the same, a giant wall of beckoning darkness.

All this time since they had arrived and this was the first time Nakamaru had visited the beach, the biggest attraction the town had to offer. Until tonight, he hadn't wanted to see it, not after failing to keep his promise to Kame whose one desire had been to visit the sea. And with that thought, he let the floodgates of his mind open for the last time. This would be the last time he would allow himself to think if Kame was here...

If Kame was here, he would be a brat and try to drag Nakamaru into the water. Nakamaru would protest that they'd get wet and catch a cold and Kame would wink and tell him to take off his clothes if he was so worried.

If Kame was here, he would dig his feet into the sand and look up at Nakamaru with a pout, asking where all the turtles had gone. Nakamaru would tell him that there was a turtle sitting right in front of him and then smile to himself when Kame would blink, completely clueless.

If Kame was here, he would huddle shoulder-to-shoulder, leg-to-leg, against Nakamaru, laying his head on his shoulder and holding his hand tight, and Nakamaru would no longer feel cold.

If Kame was here, he would tell Nakamaru that the sea was beautiful and scary but he wasn't scared. Nakamaru would ask him why and Kame would answer with a coy smile that nothing seemed scary when he was with Nakamaru. Nakamaru would kiss him.

If Kame was here, his mind thought with an audible cry, if Kame was here, Nakamaru wouldn't be feeling his heart shattering against the weight of his ribs, wouldn't feel pierced in the chest with every breath he took. If Kame was here, Nakamaru would ask him why he had left without a word, without a trace of stardust Nakamaru could and would have followed.

If Kame was here, he thought as a hid his wet face in his folded arms, Nakamaru would be happy.

Finally, truly, incurably happy.

-

Eventually his breathing calmed down and his body stopped quaking. He kept his face pressed against his forearms and tried to piece himself together again, gathering all his broken wishes and sticking them together with cheap scotchtape. The sea breeze played with his hair, tousling and dancing with the black strands like invisible fingers...

"Yucchi."

Nakamaru clamped his eyes shut even as the imaginary voice flooded his ears and made him tremble.

"Yucchi."

The wind continued to weave through his hear, tugging gently, persistently, fingers threading and rubing gently at his scalp.

There was a flood of ice, freezing his veins and the streaks across his face, followed by an overflowing surge of warmth, erupting like a volcano and burning his insides, fresh tears spilling like lava. He felt paralysed from the heat-shock.

"Yucchi."

He swatted the hand away from his hair, a broken part of him still expecting to hit nothing but air - but there was contact. Flesh and skin.

Kame.

He stumbled forward into the sand and hastily brought himself to his feet, whipping around as the pent up anguish leaked past his lips.

"So now you decide to--" Oh. The sudden flush that spread throughout his body was not entirely due to anger. "Why aren't you wearing anything?"

"Sorry, I couldn't find anything to wear," Kame answered and Nakamaru couldn't look away, his eyes greedily taking everything in, skimming Kame's body for any wounds or bruises. He looked the same, identical to the day Nakamaru had found him - and the morning of the day he had left.

"W-where did you go?" he asked and the entire moment felt surreal. The moonlight shone down on them and Kame, all that stardusted skin... "If you're trying to distract me or something, it's not going to work, okay," he snapped, and clung desperately to his hurt, the only thing keeping him back from tackling Kame into the sand and pummeling his chest; the only thing that kept his furious tears at bay and the desperate plea to never leave him again locked in his throat.
It wasn't. It wasn't fair.


"Yucchi doesn't have to look," Kame replied with a pout. As if he could, as if he had a choice. Nakamaru wanted to shout at him, shove him away and envelope him at once.

Kame took a step forward and Nakamaru shuffled back.

This dance, they had danced it before.

"Y-you can't just do this," he cried, his throat bobbing painfully. "You can't just leave me like that, like - like you didn't even care about me in the first place. You can't just come back like this."

Another step in their dance.

"Naked?"

That stupid, wonderful smile.

"Stop it, Kame," Nakamaru warned as he drew closer, because Kame was always leading this dance since their first encounter. It wasn't fair. "You were supposed to make me happy."

The accusation spilled out and the sea rumbled, splashing the shore and soaking their feet. When the tide pulled back, it tugged Kame's smile with it. Nakamaru watched his lips wobble and no, no. Kame couldn't. Not when it was Nakamaru who - all those days, alone and abandoned and Kame wasn't allowed to - it wasn't fair.

"I was making you miserable," Kame confessed softly, echoing his own words, and that was it.

"Then you should have stayed until I was happy!" he shouted, his vision blurring and all the regret and sorrow he had been holding pouring out of him and leaving him drained. Drained but not hollow because there was still so much. So much love. "You promised," he choked out, laying himself bare. "You weren't supposed to leave."

Fingers brushed his bangs aside.

"Yucchi..."

Nakamaru shivered and pulled back, holding on, still holding on.

"You can't just come and go like this."

"Yucchi..."

He grabbed the hand this time, before it could touch and send him up in flames. Kame's hand was always so small in his, Nakamaru's fingers wrapping around and squeezing the rough knuckles with ease.

"You're not a shooting star," he whispered urgently because he had to make Kame understand. "You're my star."

Kame's eyes were dark and infinite, staring right back into his as he nodded and planted a soft kiss on their folded hands, Nakamaru's entire body lurching at the touch but refusing to back away.

"I am."

"I wished on you so you're mine," he insisted and gasped quietly as he felt Kame's breath flutter against his face.

"You did, I am."

Nakamaru clenched their hands with a fierce squeeze, needing the pain to keep this moment alive, because he was so close, so close to losing it all again.

"Promise you won't leave," he begged with a strangled cry that was swiftly swallowed by Kame's lips.

He let Kame pull him close and clutched at his shoulders, his eyes closed and his entire being giving into the sensation of Kame's warmth, of being alive. He pressed forward, again and again, just tasting and never breathing, memorising - feeling his heart tear apart in equal joy and sorrow and wondering if this was how it would always be, if the only happiness he was allowed to taste was bittersweet. Wondered if he was never allowed to be completely happy for the perpetual fear that it would all slip away.

He wrenched back with a sob, so happy that he thought Kame would float away again, back up and out of his reach.

"Stay," he pleaded, clucthing at Kame until his fingers ached with the rest of him. "I want to make a new wish. I want you to stay with me."

Kame leaned forward to kiss his wet cheek and Nakamaru felt the words as he spoke.

"I want to make Yucchi happy forever."

A wild sound released from his throat and was drowned by the waves. "But you're a star."

It was only when a pair of hands gripped him tight that Nakamaru realised he was quaking with tiny, hiccuping spasms. Their hands were still wrapped together and Kame's free hand slowly followed the length of his arm, smoothing his prickling flesh with his warm touch, until that one too was tightly clasped.

The wind was now whipping tenaciously and all Nakamaru could feel was the patch of warmth on his fingers where Kame's breath touched, all he could see was Kame's face, stark and clear even as his hair whipped around like a cyclone, glowing under the beacon of the moon. The brightest star Nakmaru had ever seen.

"I am," Kame whispered onto his skin, his honest eyes never leaving his, "but I fell for you, Yucchi."

-

The sound of flipflops slapping against the pavement in a hurried frenzy had Nakamaru whipping his head back to see Koki running towards him - them - with a scowl and a fist waving in the air.

"Don't even think about drowning yourself, you bastard!" Koki screamed and all Nakamaru could think was ohmygodwhynowkillmeplease. Usually, the sight of your closest friend running at you to confirm your wellbeing was supposed to warm your heart; Nakamaru, however, had the strongest urge to throw Koki into the waves. "I've been looking all over for you! Take my eyes off you for a second and--"

Nakamaru watched Koki stumble to stop a couple feet away and whimpered.

"--Kame?"

Koki's eyes darted between them, widening in a horror that could not be more deeply felt than Nakamaru's. Nakamaru hadn't come out here to drown himself, but he wanted to now. He was ready to embrace the engulfing waves willingly.

"It's not," he choked out and Koki interjected with flailing arms.

"No, no! It's my bad, really," Koki coughed and the silver moonlight highlighted his red face which was now probably identical to Nakamaru's. "I'll just leave you two..."

"It's not what it looks like," Nakamaru cried. Kame had just appeared out of nowhere... naked... and they had kissed... once or twice... thrice. That was all, though. Really.

Nakamaru was never going to live this down.

"Nope, nope! Don't have to explain anything," Koki insisted and tilted his head to look at Kame with a little wave. "Nice to see you back, Kame. Reeeaaally nice."

Nakamaru sputtered, taking personal offense at Koki's leer, and shuffled to the side to hide Kame from view. It was... It was an invasion of Kame's privacy is what it was. Even if they were standing out in the open at a public beach.

Koki raised his brows at him with a smirk that insinuated a hundred of perverse and false things and Nakamaru bristled with an embarrassed flush.

"It's rude to stare," he yelled.

Koki snickered and began to walk back. "Whatever you say, Yucchi. You two finish with your love making and I'll see back at the inn."

"We're not - we're not doing that!" Nakamaru screeched at his back.

"Enjoy your niiiiight~" Koki sang, undeterred, and waved over his shoulder.

As soon as his small frame had transformed into a distant dot, Nakamaru swivelled around and began to unzip his pants, rolling them down his legs to expose the palm-tree covered swim shorts he wore underneath. When he glanced up, he caught Kame looking down at him with dark eyes and felt his throat dry.

"Yucchi... are we really-" A pause as a pleased smile bloomed, languid and luring. "You've changed."

Nakamaru nearly combusted and tossed the pants at Kame's face before he could step closer.

"Put them on!"

-

The words were crawling across the paper with no meaning as Kame continued to stare at him and Nakamaru felt another wash of deja vu. Since Kame's return, everything felt like a deja vu, as if Nakamaru was wading through a dream. There were differences though, differences that he looked out for to keep him grounded and remind him that this was real.

Like now, for example.

They were sitting on the couch again, Nakamaru now reaching the end of Takahashi's story as the soldier returned from the war and into the arms of his loved ones. His socked feet were perched on the coffee table thanks to the fact that Kame had taken over the couch, his fluffy head laying on Nakamaru's lap and Nakamaru's fingers absently stroking his hair.

"Stop staring at my sexy nose," Nakamaru sighed at last and moved his hand under Kame's wooly sweater, tickling the slight pudge of his stomach. Kame squirmed and flailed and finally stilled into a bundle of exhausted giggles, staring up at Nakamaru in a soft yet intent gaze. It was Nakamaru's turn to squirm; he still hadn't gotten used to that look yet, no matter if he received it daily. "What?" he asked, lifting Kame's bangs back off his forehead. He'd have to get a haircut soon.

"Nothing," Kame hummed with a sweet, impish smile and Nakamaru leaned down to peck at it with his own. When he moved up, Kame was still staring at him. "You're... shiny. Very, very shiny."

Nakamaru laughed and flicked his nose. "You're the star, Kame."

Kame grabbed his hand before he could pull it away and brought it to his chest, the thud and warmth of his heart leaking through the wool to warm Nakamaru's fingertips.

"I'm not a star anymore," Kame said with a wink, and Nakamaru didn't need to feel his heartbeat to know that it was true.

Kame ate now, devouring pasta and rice or whatever else they had for dinner. Well, not whatever, exactly; Kame would pick tomatoes and green peppers and pickled pums out of his plate and deposit them into Nakamaru's with a look of childish disgust that made Nakamaru laugh. Kame slept, too, tugging at the blankets and sprawling all across their bed. Sometimes, Nakamaru would watch him sleep soundly in the morning, watching his eyes flutter with dreams and mourning the fact that Kame didn't snore and so Nakamaru couldn't tease him back. Kame was also no longer immune to alcohol, to Koki's great pleasure and Nakamaru's horror. One too many drinks and Kame would flush pink, grabbing and kissing at anything within his reach. Nakamaru made sure to glue himself to his side during those times.

But even with all of that, even with all his human vulnerabilities, to Nakamaru...

"You're always a star," he whispered.

Kame shook his head and returned, "Yucchi's the star."

"You're the only one who thinks that," Nakamaru laughed with a snort and suddenly found his head tugged down, his nose grazing Kame's and their breaths mingling. He saw his shining reflection in those sharp, familiar eyes that he woke up to each morning.

"I'm the only one who's right," Kame whispered firmly and poured his truth past Nakamaru's lips, down his throat and to his heart. Like always, Kame made a believer out of him. When they pulled apart, Kame was glowing like a wish come true, just as he always was and Nakamaru quietly made a note to invest in another pair of sunglasses soon.

The curtains were drawn away from the balcony doors and the rare winter sunlight seeped inside and painted everything stardust gold.

This, Nakamaru thought as he leaned down for another kiss, was happiness.



.end
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