stencilled: (nakame is precious)
[personal profile] stencilled
Title: Like A Diamond In The Sky
Pairing: NaKame
Rating: PG13
Wordcount: 21.8K
Genre: Fluff/Romance/Angst/AU
Note: A belated birthday present to Joobie. ♥♥♥ I wanted to make this a surprise fic but I realised there was no way I was going to finish it on time and I couldn't think of an excuse to explain my ninja turtle ways during the hols so. No surprise for you just me being an insufferable tease :( In truth, I've been wanting to write you this fic for a year now (ever since the Dentist Skits ♥) but I decided to save it for your bday and ofc I missed the day fhjskdk *insert rage at self here* I hope you had a wonderful birthday and continue to have a wonderful year, Joo! #oppadance ♥ Apologies in advance for any typos or mistakes; please let me know if you spot any! I will be incredibly grateful. m(_ _)m

Summary: Nakamaru about Kame: Stars are different! - Making Of NMP, 2010



His fingers clacked across the keyboard in a worried frenzy as he winced at the stream of threats and cusses that leaked into his ear.

"I'm sorry, Inohara-san, but I don't have the details of your transaction anywhere in the database," he said and had to shuffle the phone to his other ear once the threats increased in volume and outrage. "No, there's no need to get my superiors involved. I'll try to search again and get back to you later. No, I'm not trying to delay your payment." And yes, I know how to do my fucking job. "I'll contact you as soon as everything's been sorted. Yes, I apologise. Have a good day. No, I wasn't being sarcastic."

The phone beeped dissmisively to signal the end of the call and he slowly locked it in its cradle. He stared at the square white walls of his cubicle with his ears ringing. He could feel piteous gazes being thrown at him, curious eyes peeking over the walls to witness the aftermath of his humiliation. Inohara had a voice that carried, even over the phone and this wasn't the first time he's called with a unmerited complaint. Somehow, it was always Nakamaru who always received them.

He felt a hand drop onto his shoulder and squeeze lightly.

"Hey, you okay, Yucchi?" Koki asked. "We all know that Inohara is a complete bastard."

Nakamaru kept his tongue still. He couldn't afford to pile anything against himself. But he shrugged and gave Koki a tight, reassuring nod. It seemed to be enough.

"I'll treat you to dinner later, okay?" Koki said with a wink and returned to his work, disappearing back to his own desk. Nakamaru sighed and mentally counted the remaining bills in his wallet. Koki was a good friend, but his treats usually end up as Nakamaru's treat. Which was odd, Nakamaru thought almost bitterly, because Koki at least was part of the advertising team and was getting paid by a job that didn't crush his spirit on a daily basis.

Nakamaru was stapling a file of documents when he was called to the boss's office. His ears were ringing as he entered.

They were still ringing when he left.

-

He knew he'd had too much when his hand wobbled as he poured and the sake almost spilled onto his balcony floor. He chuckled at himself. That would be the perfect way to end another miserable day, hanging over the streets, drenched in alcohol.

"Kanpai," he said to his solitude and emptied the glass, smacking his lips in forced cheer. He could feel all the food he had eaten with Koki slosh with the sake as he collapsed onto his back. He breathed in the quiet and the warm summer air slipped inside and expanded his lungs without being asked.

The night sky was so deep and vast and Nakamaru wished it would fall down and engulf him, hide him in some corner of the universe, away from his dull life and the burning of his throat. Some people believed that after death on earth, souls trascended to the sky, that each star represented a person who had once lived.

He wouldn't mind being a star, one of the many that decorated the sky. His apartment was away from the busy, expensive lights of the city so he could always see them, little studs on a velvet blanket. On nights like these, the stars were the only companions he had and as sad as the truth was, he was far too honest with himself to pretend otherwise.

His eyelids were beginning to droop when he spotted a star in the center of the sky, twinkling bright and strong.

"Trying to outshine the rest, are you?" he asked and the smile on his lips made his words slur. There was a sudden light gust of wind that danced with the strands of his bangs for a moment and he released a tired sigh that bordered on desperation.

"I... I just want to be... happy."

He didn't think that was too much to ask.

His eyes fell shut just as the star flickered.

-

The clock struck to a quarter past eleven and Nakamaru dropped his pen with a curse.

There went the last train that would get him home.

At least all the data had been sorted into the system, he thought and tried not to calculate how long it would take him to walk to his apartment. He sorted the documents sprawled over his miniature desk into alphabetical folders and filed them away into equally miniature drawers. Inohara's file remained on his desk with a bright neon post-it on which Nakamaru, in a very poor moment of judgement, had written in neat capital letters of urgency: DO ME. He'd regretted it afterwards, when he had read Koki's scribbly only if you say plz just underneath.

Gathering his things and setting them in order for tomorrow morning, Nakamaru grabbed his briefcase and locked the office door behind him. He loosened his tie as he walked down the steps of the building and onto the empty streets, the moonlight making ghostly patterns on the sidewalk. So this is where being a good, proper civilian with a proper degree lead him. To working overtime at a soul-sucking job and walking home to a tiny apartment that would greet him with silence.

Nakamaru launched a kick at the asphalt - and almost stumbled as the ground shook under his feet.

"S-sorry!" he stuttered and almost bowed to the asphalt before he caught himself. He had just categorised the momentary trembling as a mini earthquake when the acrid smell of smoke reached his nose. He glanced up to see plumes of grey unfurling from the clump of forest on the opposite side of the street when his eyes caught a hold of something strange.

Across the sky was a streak of gold, as if a child had smeared glitter on a black canvas.

As if something had fallen out of the sky.

Nakamaru gulped. Normally he would be running in the other direction as fast as his legs could carry him, but his body was moving without his own accord, bewitched entirely by a tugging curiousity. This must be what the characters in horror films felt before they followed the eerie figure and ended up hacked to pieces, Nakamaru thought hysterically as he- disappeared amongst the trees.

It was dark in the forest and every few steps or so, he found himself tripping over knots of roots. The smell of smoke was heavy but there were no crackling flames in sight and he could now cross out being burnt to a crisp from the list of possible outcomes of this midnight venture.

A few minutes of wandering like a blind man lead him to a sudden clearing, ragged around the edges by fallen trees that stood tall only an hour ago. The ground dipped into a depression and Nakamaru had watched enough sci-fi movies to know that a pod of some sort must be lying in the center of all the rubble.

Praying that whatever extraterrestrial life had landed did not hold a vendetta against humans, Nakamaru crept out of the shadows of the trees. The dirt was soft under his polished shoes and as the moonlight filtered into the clearing, he froze, his heart beating erratically under his blazer.

There was no pod.

No swollen-headed alien.

Instead, lying in the bowl of earth was a naked woman.

Her hair was long and brown, hiding all but the curve of a cheek and a sealed eye. Her skin glimmered in a halo of light as if every inch of it was embedded with diamonds.

Nakamaru figured that the chance of a naked woman hacking him to pieces was pretty slim on the probability scale.

As soon as he took a step forward, her eye flickered open, wide yet sharp, and Nakamaru took a sharp inhale when she sat up. Her hair fell over her bare shoulders and the angle of her chin was both strong and soft.

Unlike her chest, Nakamaru thought with a blink. It was flat and smooth and maybe there was a size smaller than an A-cup.

She locked him in a piercing stare that had Nakamaru feeling as if he was the naked one and distantly, he wondered what she was doing lying in the forest in the middle of the night. There were no wounds on her body and she didn't seem to be bothered at all by her bare skin. She just sat there, staring at him.

And then she moved to get up.

With a full frontal view, Nakamaru discovered that she was in fact a he.

He fought the urge to gouge out his eyes with a stick lying just next to his shoe.

"You're Nakamaru Yuichi," the man said, lifting an arm to point at him as if they weren't the only people in the clearing.

I'm an idiot, Nakamaru's mind corrected for him before it caught up with the man's words and ran into a panicked overdrive. There were enough Nakamarus out there to be confused with Nakamuras but as far as he knew, there was only one Nakamaru Yuichi in this city.

Only one Nakamaru Yuichi, Nakamaru slowly realised as he patted his breastpocket, who didn't remove his office name tag before following the unknown into a secluded forest. If his stupidity resulted in him being hacked to pieces by a nudist who happened to have excellent vision, then it would be well deserved.

"Nakamaru," the man said again, this time with a bright smile. Nakamaru wondered if he was high. He had heard of forest streakers; people who were somewhat akin to skinny-dippers except they ran around naked in the woods in hopes of becoming one with nature. He had heard they weren't dangerous and this man with his feminine features and wide smile didn't look dangerous.

Nakamaru took a step back as the man moved forward, just in case.

"I'm sorry I disturbed whatever you were, er, up to. I'll just be on my way," Nakamaru said with a strained smile of his own and a little wave. People tended to respond well to happiness, as fake as it was.

"You called me," the man said, somehow managing to move closer with every step even as Nakamaru worked his legs in reverse. This did not bode well. If the man decided follow him, he certainly could, especially since Nakamaru had enabled stalking behaviour by displaying his full name to the world.

"No, I was just taking a midnight stroll to, um, clear my thoughts. I didn't mean to interrupt your nap so," Nakamaru turned back to the trees and increased his pace, "I'll be heading home now."

A twig snapped underfoot and -

"You hate your life."

Nakamaru froze.

He wondered what gave it away. His battered briefcase or the outdated shoes he polished daily to look brand new. Or the fact that he was returning from work in the middle of the night and didn't mind risking his life to go on a foolish expedition. The fact that he had nothing to lose.

Without a second glance, Nakamaru ripped through the forest and back to the open streets, his feet peddling him home.

He had never before made such an effort to prove another wrong.

-

It had only been half an hour since he arrived home wheezing and aching and tossing himself into the bathroom to wash up, and now he was collapsed onto his sofa, sipping at a water bottle and trying to calm his still racing heart. He was wiping at his mouth when he heard a tapping, and immediately attributed it to the tv.

Only the tv was closed, a black cube displaying his wide-eyed reflection.

The tapping was coming from the curtained balcony doors and he decided to ignore it, thinking it was some lost bird or errant squirrel. When the tapping continued for several minutes and echoed throughout his silent apartment, the nape of his neck began to prickle with warning. He capped his bottle and set it on the table before silently moving to the balcony doors.

The tapping grew louder but his green curtains remained still and he held his breath as he gently pulled them apart.

There was no bird.

No squirrel.

There was, however, a naked man smiling at him like a lunatic.

The naked man.

The breath he had been holding escaped in splinttering cry and he stumbled back, his legs knocking into the coffee table and sending his body to the floor along with the water bottle and tv remote.

"Ohmygodohmygod," he chanted as he reached for the cordless phone and clutched it to his chest. The forest streaker had stalked him. And since the heart attack hadn't killed him, he was now going to be hacked into pieces and stored away in his own fridge.

There was a knock against the glass and he looked up to see the man point to himself and then to his apartment and back to himself again. The forest-streaker-soon-to-be-murderer wanted in. Nakamaru was not having any of it.

Not even if his neighbours saw and came to nasty conclusions. Not even if he ran into Ueda in the elevator the next morning and was forever taunted by snide remarks about his sex life and oh, I didn't know you were into exhibition, Yuichi, didn't know you liked the kinkier side of things...

Nakamaru grabbed a lamp and scrambled to unlock the door. Anything but the slow and painful death of his pride and reputation.

"Get inside," he hissed urgently, making sure to wave the lamp in a threatening manner as he did so. The man didn't seem fazed by it all and breezed inside. Nakamaru watched him from the corner of his eye as he slid the glass door shut and swung the curtains over. And then it was just him and the naked forest-streaker.

Nakamaru tried not to notice the naked but it was more... naked now. He hadn't felt so in the forest, shrouded by the trees and nightfall;
under the moonlight, the bareness was natural. Ethereal but natural. Under the harsh lights of his apartment, though, the bareness was emphasized, the pale skin that managed to glimmer even now out of place among the wooden floors and organised shelves and all the glinting steel appliances. It was beautiful but it didn't belong. It didn't belong because it was beautiful.

It was distracting.

"Why did you follow me? What do you want? Who are you?" he questioned with narrowed eyes that he tried to keep trained above the neck. How did you get onto my balcony when my apartment is on the third floor?

"I want to make you happy," the man answered. "I'm your star."

Definitely high. The man was definitely high.

"If you want to make me happy... how about leaving and never coming back?" Nakamaru tried. He had no clue as to how to deal with a drugged up forest-streaker, but maybe going along with the hallucinations would work.

"I can't." The man shook his head, his hair shifting in at least five shades of brown. "I can't leave until I grant your wish."

"My wish?"

The man nodded and replied with a serious nod, "Your wish. You wished on me when you were out on your balcony. I'm here to make your life happier."

Nakamaru stared. The man had been stalking him before this night's encounter.

He tightened his clutch on the base of his wooden lamp. "I think you should leave now. I'm happy, see?" Another strained smile, Nakamaru was good at those. "I don't want to have to call the police..."

He left the threat hanging in hopes that the man would understand the levity of the situation and quietly agree; instead, the man seated his bare bottom on the couch and Nakamaru nearly cried.

"W-what are you doing? Out! I said, out!"

The man sent him a sharp look that bordered on impatience and while Nakamaru wanted to snort at the irony, in reality, he stood frozen and flabbergasted.

"I told you, I can't leave. Stop trying to push me away and just let me make you happy."

"Right," Nakamaru echoed, "because you're my star. Do you really expect me to believe that?"

"It's the truth."

"Prove it, then." Nakamaru moved to stand in front of the couch and choked when he saw the man sitting with his legs spread wide, completely at ease with his nakedness in a stranger's apartment. Nakamaru hesitated before grabbing a cushion and tossing it at the man's lap. What was a cushion when he'd have to burn the entire couch seat anyway. "Let me guess, stars don't wear clothes?" he mocked.

"We wouldn't shine if we did," the man returned, absently patting at the soft fabric of the cushion placed strategically in his lap. Nakamaru had enough of the charade.

"Either prove it or I'm calling the police," he repeated. It was nearing 2am and he had work the next day at eight. If he called the police, things wouldn't be wrapped up until four at the earliest.

The man looked at him with an unnerving gaze that dug under his skin and made the hairs on the back of his hand prickle.

"Your name is Nakamaru Yuichi and you hate your life. Yesterday night, at sixteen seconds past eleven, you wished upon a star."

Nakamaru blinked. He was expecting something better than that - except, no. No he wasn't. There would be no fireworks or flying into the sky because this was all a drug induced fantasy.

"That proves nothing. Any stalker could figure that out easily," Nakamaru sighed. "I really don't want to do this but-" He broke off when he saw the man scratching at his forearm in concentration, as if trying to peel off his skin. Maybe trying to prove he wasn't made of flesh and bone. "Whoa, whoa. Hold on there. There's no need to go that--"

"Here."

A fist was held out towards him and Nakamaru, after a moment's confusion, stretched out his palm underneath. A fine stream of warm sand poured into the cup of his hand. Bringing it closer for inspection, he discovered it wasn't sand at all. It was, it was... He didn't know what it was.

"Stardust," the man offered with a hint of a smile.

For a moment, Nakamaru wondered if stardust was code for the latest drug trending on the streets, but dimissed the idea soon after because he would have heard about something like this. In his hand was powdered gold, grains that shimmered like glitter but were so fine they moved like liquid. He stirred the powder with his pinky and the grains dissolved like salt in water, painting his fingertip in a dusky gold that glimmered under the white lights of his apartment. He had seen this before. Today, just hours ago.

A streak of gold across the sky.

The ground shaking, the smoke.

His wish, the inexplicable desire to follow.

A man lying naked in the forest.

Stardust.

"Do you believe me now?" the man asked and Nakamaru could detect an undertone of teasing in his voice. If this was a prank, it was truly an excellent one.

Because Nakamaru believed.

-

The lamp now placed back on the side table and his heart now at ease knowing that he wasn't going to be murdered by a lunatic anytime soon, Nakamaru sat opposite to his guest and wondered what he was going to do with the naked star sprawled over his couch. His mind still stumbled to wrap itself around such a fantastical reality, but it was getting there. Slowly.

"So...," Nakamaru began, feeling dangerously wide awake. It wasn't every day that he took a midnight stroll into the forest and had a star follow him home. He was still debating whether to classify this as misfortune or, well. His life. "Since you're a star and have supernatural powers, can't you just... wave your wand and get on with it? I mean, for granting my wish."

The starman shot him a look.

"I'm a star," he emphasized, "not a fairy. Some stars work with fairies, but not all of them."

So Ueda was right; fairies existed.

Right.

Baby steps, Nakamaru, baby steps.

"Oh, okay. Sorry," Nakamaru added just in case because the starman was looking slightly peeved. "So how do stars grant wishes, then? By sprinkling some stardust? Is there a spell?"

"I'm not a sorceror, either," the starman laughed, clapping his hands in joy in a way that made Nakamaru feel he was deeply entertaining. He would have been more flattered if he had in fact been joking.

"Well, what now, then? You're here now. When will you start? How long until my wish is granted?"

The starman beamed at him with eyes squinting in mischief. "I've already started. Just relax and live. All you have to do is let me in and keep me close. One day, you'll open your eyes and your life will be happier, the sun will be warmer, your laugh will be merrier--"

"W-wait, one day?" Nakamaru interrupted in panic. "What does that mean? Let you in... y-you're going to live here?"

"One day means one day. One day soon because I work fast," the starman winked before he caught the rest of his words and frowned. "Of course. How can I make you happy if I'm not with you? Nakamaru Yuichi is a bit slow, ne?"

Nakamaru Yuichi is a bit screwed, more like.

Misfortune it is, Nakamaru groaned inwardly before releasing a very outward yelp.

"Keep it there!" he ordered and shoved the cushion back onto the starman's lap. That was not the kind of wand he wanted to see.

"But it's itchy," the starman whined, fiddling with the corners and Nakamaru ordered him to sit and wait before running to his bedroom in search for something for the starman to wear. He reached deep into his closet and pulled out the first thing that came in hand: baby blue pajama pants printed with green overturned cartoon turtles. A birthday present from his little sister during his last year of highschool. Nakamaru grabbed a white tanktop as well and made for the living room. The outfit wasn't exactly fit for a star, but nothing Nakamaru owned could fit under that category anyway.

"Here," he said, tossing the clothes next to the starman who had obediantly sat still. "Put them on."

He watched the starman poke at a turtle with distaste. "But I like being like this. I told you, I can't shine with clothes on."

"All the more reason to wear them," Nakamaru replied. The last thing he wanted was to attract attention to the fact that he had taken in a very shiny starman who was shedding stardust all over his couch. "If you're going to live here, then you have to follow the rules."

"Rules?" the starman asked with a... was that a pout? He had only ever been pouted at by his sister before, never a man. Koki did not count.

"Rules," Nakamaru confirmed with a slight cough. "Rule Number One: wear clothes at all times."

"All times? Even when-"

"Yes, all times," Nakamaru answered quickly, feeling the tips of his ears heat. He blamed all the exposed skin for his fumbling thoughts and moved his gaze to the kitchen that was sectioned into a corner of the living room while the starman dressed himself. "Rule Number Two: you don't leave the apartment without me."

He fought the temptation to look when he heard muffled groans interspersed amongst the rustling of soft cotton.

"Rule Number Three: you avoid talking to anyone but if anyone asks, you're an old friend from university visiting town for a couple days." Nakamaru paused in thought. "You don't have a name, do you?"

"Nope." The reply was clear and when Nakamaru heard the rustling come to a stop, he turned to see the starman standing in his old white tank and pajama bottoms, his hair impossibly ruffled and eyes downturned. He had worn the tanktop both inside out and backwards and Nakamaru grinned as he watched him flick playfully at the laundry tag just under his chin.

"How about I call you Kame?" Nakamaru said, pointing to the toppled turtles encasing the starman's legs.

The starman looked down at himself. "They're cute," he said with a smile and nodded in agreement.

Nakamaru had to admit that cute did fit Kame pretty well.

-

The alarm clock blared to life and Nakamaru whimpered into his pillow, blindly reaching out to stop the beeping from murdering his ears. His eyelids were caked with sleep and refused to open, still lingering on an absurd dream about falling stars that somehow felt so real. Work, he reminded himself, work. No one was coming to grant his wish and living in reality cost money. He needed his job.

Squinting open his eyes and wincing at the sting, he got up, knocking his shoulder against the wall, and made his way to the kitchen. The sight of a man cooking in his kitchen wearing an apron, and nothing but an apron had him wide awake in an instant.

He clutched weakly at the doorframe of his bedroom. "Ohmygodohmygod."

The man turned around with a smile that matched the one adorning the apron and Nakamaru was suddenly grateful that he had opted for one of the longer ones. He'd had enough flashing for one morning.

"Goodmorning, Yuichi," Kame said, waving a spatula in the air to bid him hello and it all came flowing back. Kame. Here to make his life better by searing his eyes. It wasn't just a dream.

"Oh god," Nakamaru whimpered, his body ready to droop to the floor before his eyes caught movement and he jumped to an alert stance. "No! No turning around. Where are your clothes?! You need clothes. Everyone needs clothes!"

Kame forze mid-swivel and plucked at the apron. "But I am wearing clothes."

"T-that's... There's been a change in the rules! Rule Number One: wear pants at all times," Nakamaru said quickly. "Now put your pants on, Kame."

"But I'm making you breakfast," Kame returned and pointed to the fry pan sizzling on the stove. Whatever it was, it smelled good.

Very good.

"I'm going to wash up and change," he answered carefully feeling his stomach rumble, "and when I get back, I want you back in those pajamas."

Nakamaru turned his back to the kitchen when Kame nodded.

The splash of cool water was much welcomed and as Nakamaru met his dripping reflection, he wondered if maybe he should be more concerned about Kame than he was. He wondered if the fact that he was willing to bet happiness on a shooting star was a sign that he was really at rock bottom, grasping at straws in desperation. Maybe he had gone insane.

-

"You like it," Kame said and it was more of an observation than a question. There could be no doubt left with the way Nakamaru was wolfing down his omelet. An omelet that tasted divine in comparison to his usual breakfast which had consisted of a granola bar and a cup of coffee.

"S'good," he mumbled through a mouthful of fluffy egg and watched Kame beam down at him. Thankfully, he was clothed again. "Aren't you going to eat?"

Kame shook his head and Nakamaru wondered how his hair was so perfect. "I don't need to eat."

"Because you're a star," Nakamaru finished and thought for a moment as he took a sip of freshly brewed coffee. "So you don't sleep either?"

"I can, but I don't need too," Kame answered, drumming his fingers on the counter and nudging Nakamaru to take another bite by poking his plate. "I won't collapse if I don't."

"What did you do all night, then?" Nakamaru looked over to the couch to spot any signs of what Kame might have been up to. He didn't find anything; the room was oddly spotless. "You... you were cleaning?"

Kame shrugged in the face of his awe. "It was fun. I could hear you snoring the entire time," Kame said with a grin and Nakamaru sputtered, accidently spitting bits of omelet.

"I don't snore." Or at least he didn't think so. He didn't have sleepovers so no one had been around to let him know.

"You do. It was cute." Kame smiled. "It sounded like you were having a really good dream."

After yesterday's nightmarish evening, a good dream was owed to him, Nakamaru supposed. He finished the remainder of his breakfast in thoughtful silence, feeling Kame's watchful eyes on him the entire time. His ears were most likely flaming.

The clock was ticking.

"I have to go to work," he said slowly. "You remember Rule Number Two, right? No leaving the house without me."

"But you can always take me with you." And there was that pout again.

"No," Nakamaru said firmly. He eyed Kame and his perfect hair and pajama-clad body, his beautiful face and his stardust coated skin. There was just no way. He'd attract too much attention, too many questions to which Nakamaru only had flimsy lies because the truth was too ridiculous to mention. Even Koki, who was always enchanted by anything supernatural, would have a hard time believing.

"I can't make you happy if--"

"I'm letting you stay in my apartment, that should be enough," Nakamaru interrupted and Kame sealed his lips in a tight line. Nakamaru didn't think it was the trick of the light when he saw a flash in his eyes, quick like dying flames.

"Fine," Kame said after a moment. "But the more you resist letting me in, the longer it will take to grant your wish."

If it meant his private life would be kept private and he wouldn't be made more of a clown at his office than he already was, then that was fine by Nakamaru.

"Don't leave or do anything... extreme before I get back," Nakamaru warned one last time before leaving his apartment in the hands of a complete stranger. A sick ball of worry gnawed at his insides and it wasn't until he stepped into his office that he realised he had forgotten to thank Kame for breakfast.

-

The entire time at work, anxiety clawed at his mind and Nakamaru couldn't help throwing frequent glances over his shoulder, thinking that Kame had followed him. He had been stalked before and Kame didn't look very pleased at being ordered to stay home. But Kame was here to make his life better, right? Disobeying his orders wouldn't make Nakamaru happy at all.

"That psyched to leave, huh?" Koki laughed, watching Nakamaru glance at the door once more. "You alright after last night?"

"L-last night?" Koki's eyes widened just a bit and Nakamaru coughed to cover his abrupt squawk. It was silly; there was no way Koki could know about Kame. Koki was probably referring to his early departure during his dinner treat. "I mean, oh... yeah, I'm fine. Just had a headache."

"If you say so. You just seem a bit... jumpy," Koki said, eyeing his fiddling fingers. Nakamaru set his pen down.

"I don't know what you-" Nakamaru cut himself off when the phone rang and after an apologetic nod at Koki, he moved to answer it. It was Inohara-san. Excellent.

And here he had thought he'd be seeing some improvement in his life.

-

His apartment door swung open just as Nakamaru was reaching for the doorknob, key in hand.

"Welcome home," Kame said, just inches from his face and Nakamaru side-stepped and shuffled inside before anyone could see.

"Uh, thanks," Nakamaru replied stiffly as the door silently swung shut behind him. He wasn't used to someone greeting his return or unlocking the door for him. It was weird.

"Did you have a good day?"

Nakamaru snorted and was about to give a biting reply when he felt his jacket being tugged off his shoulders. He glanced behind him to see Kame pulling at his sleeves.

"I can take it off myself," Nakamaru muttered and tried to pull away, which only helped Kame's endeavour. Kame flashed him a wink and while he turned to hang his jacket in the small closet near the doorway, Nakamaru did a quick inspection of his apartment. He didn't know what he had been expecting, but there were no obvious signs of destruction. Everything was in place and very... clean.

"What did you do all day?"

Kame looked the same as he had in the morning.

"I didn't go out if that's what you're wondering," Kame answered and Nakamaru moved aside before his hands could reach for his tie. Nakamaru was more than capable of undressing himself. He didn't know what he needed to be happy, but it certainly was not a butler. Kame let him go with a frown. "I watched tv and did some cleaning."

Well that was good. Safe.

"What did you watch?" Nakamaru asked to fill in the silence as he fiddled with his watch. He wondered what kind of entertainment appealed to a celestial body turned human.

"Some cooking, some news. Sports." After a brief pause, Kame released a frustrated 'tch' and grabbed at Nakamaru's wrist, taking off his watch with an effortless flick and pulling him towards the bedroom. "I have a surprise for you."

Kame was smaller than him but there was a hidden strength in his short frame and Nakamaru was forced to follow until they arrived at his bathroom.

"Surprise!" Kame grinned, the glow of candlelights making his smile and his entire body shine golden.

The bathtub was full and topped with fluffy foam and the smell was so strong that they might as well have been standing in a field of flowers. On the counter, the rim of the bathtub, the lid of the toilet, the floor - all were littered with the tiny wax candles Nakamaru had stored away for emergency blackouts, each lighted by an orange flame.

Nakamaru stood staring in the doorway, momentarily stunned.

"I would have played some music too but I couldn't find your radio," Kame said. "Do you want me to sing for you instead?"

"N-no, that's okay."

He still hadn't said his thank you for breakfast or the cleaning and now this. Nakamaru hadn't taken a bubble bath for years.

"Go on, then." Kame nudged his shoulder with his own. "It's supposed to be relaxing."

Nakamaru nodded silently. When Kame didn't move to leave and continued to stare at him, he blinked.

"Um," he began intelligently. "I need you to leave if I'm going to take a bath."

Kame tilted his head. "But you need to be scrubbed."

Nakamaru pushed him out and locked the bathroom door without a word.

"Take your time," Kame yelled from the other side and Nakamaru grinned. Of course he would.

-

He realised he was in a dilemma when he stepped out of the bath, the bubbles in the bathtub now sparse and his skin pink and clean with warmth, and had no clothes to wear but the work clothes he had taken off. Way to think ahead, Yuichi, he scolded himself as he wrapped a towel around his dripping midriff and hoped Kame was off watching tv.

Stepping out of the bathroom reaffirmed that he had no luck whatsoever.

"Rule Number One: wear pants at all times," Kame said with a smug grin from where he sat perched on the corner of Nakamaru's bed, eyeing his bare legs.

"That only applies to you," Nakamaru returned. At least he could pass off the redness of his cheeks as a result of being in the bath for too long. "Now go do something. I need to change and no, I don't need your help, thanks."

"Nakamaru is so shy," Kame snickered, but thankfully heeded his request and left the bedroom with little fuss. Nakamaru walked over to close the door just in case and heard Kame laugh again.

On the bed, he found clothes already laid out for him.

-

"How do you know how to cook so well?" Nakamaru asked after a bite of the fried rice Kame had made for dinner. "Or clean? Or make bubblebaths? How do you know all this human stuff? I mean, you're a star."

"What do you think stars do all the time, always up so high?" Kame returned with a smile. "We look down."

"Don't you ever get bored?"

"The Earth and it's inhabitants are very interesting."

Nakamaru chewed on that thought along with another spoonful of rice.

"So... since you can see everything... do you know if aliens exist? Are there marshians on Mars or something?"

Kame laughed in his face.

-

After dinner, Kame insisted on washing the dishes so Nakamaru stood by the counter, awkwardly playing with the dish towel while waiting for Kame to hand him a wet plate. He wanted to say something but he didn't know what; he was used to the comfort of silence. When the last of the cutlery had been washed and stored away, Nakamaru headed for the couch.

Kame followed after.

"What are you going to watch?" he asked as Nakamaru turned on the tv.

"The news."

The couch dipped slightly under Kame's weight and Nakamaru shifted to the far corner, leaning against the arm rest.

"Oh, that's interesting," Kame said and the ensuing moments were filled with the crisp sounds of a news reporter relaying information about a series of car thefts. "I've always wanted to drive a car."

"You don't have a license," Nakamaru murmured back and made a mental note to keep his car keys away from Kame.

"You can always drive me."

Nakamaru gave a noncommittal grunt. Only the tv was talking now and Nakamaru forcefully kept his eyes glued to the screen even as he understood nothing, his mind abuzz with the awareness that he wasn't alone, that this wasn't just another evening spent relaxing in his living room.

He startled when something soft tickled the edge of his jaw, accompanied by the sweet smell of vanilla.

"W-what are you doing?" he sputtered, jerking his shoulder away and watching Kame lift his head in another pout.

"I'm just trying to make us cosy," Kame mumbled. "There's no need to be like that."

Cosy. Nakamaru didn't want to be cosy. He didn't do cosy.

"Well, there's no need to do that, either," he returned, hunching his shoulders to his body. It proved superfluous, however, because Kame thankfully kept his distance.

Nakamaru managed to focus on the tv for a few more minutes until a string of advertisements began and he finally gave up. He handed the remote to Kame and bid him goodnight even though it was only eight.

"Oh, you must be really tired," Kame said, accepting the remote and watching him with wide eyes and a tight jaw. "Sweet dreams, then."

Laying in his bed and staring at the ceiling of his bedroom, Nakamaru was sure that being made a stranger in his own apartment wouldn't make his life happier. Fortunately, he was still tired from yesterday's poor sleep that he submerged into slumber without anymore thought.

-

The following days went much the same: he ate breakfast, he hated his job, he had a bath, ate dinner and escaped from Kame's presence as soon as he could. He was getting more sleep and his body felt better but he still wasn't... happy. The routine was broken by an exceptionally bad day at work.

"Oh shit," he heard Koki whisper and Nakamaru glanced over his shoulder to see what had instilled such dread. He blanched as he saw a redfaced Inohara enter the office and head straight for him, the anger rolling off his business suit and cutting a swath through the mindless chatter and phonecalls and filing of papers.

Nakamaru gulped audibly and Koki sent him a sympathising frown. "Don't let him get to you, Yucchi."

Nakamaru would have choked out a laugh if his throat wasn't clogged with horror. If only he could run away; Inohara wouldn't have a chance at getting to him then.

"Nakamaru-san," Inohara said, his voice booming in the sudden hush, and Nakamaru snapped out of his chair like a spring. It was more out of a need to not let Inohara tower over him than a sign of respect.

"Inohara-san," Nakamaru returned with a perfunctory bow. He knew what was coming. The files were still on his desk.

"I still haven't received my receipt," Inohara hissed and Nakamaru held his gaze at the man's wobbly chin, not being able to meet his eyes and risk being burnt to a crisp. "Do you happen to know why that is, Nakamaru-san?"

"Y-yes, Inohara-san. I've looked through the database again and I still did not find your transaction."

"Are you calling me a liar?" Inohara snarled and Nakamaru shook his head vigorously.

"No, sir, of course not," he assured, "but I can't make a receipt for you if I don't have proof of your purchase."

Nakamaru watched Inohara's neck splotch with red.

"Proof? Call in Akanishi. He's the one who took my order."

"I'm sorry, sir. Akanishi-san left our company some time ago. I couldn't manage to reach him."

"Couldn't manage?" Inohara sneered and Nakamaru finally dared to lift his gaze. Inohara's eyes were mere slits of disdain, staring as if they could see all the mistakes Nakamaru had ever made in his life and judged him unworthy of existing. "I didn't realise this company hired such incompitance. What are you doing here if you're completely useless, boy?"

Nakamaru bit his tongue.

Even he didn't know.

-

"Welcome home."

Again, the door swung open before he could even reached for his keys.

He walked past Kame and went straight for the bathroom without a word. They had run out of candles, but the bubbles were still there.

Nakamaru held himself under the water for a few minutes, wondering what it would be like to drown, burried under millions of soap bubbles.

Another minute and he surfaced, drinking moutfuls of air that burned all the way down like sake.

A coward's life for him.

-

He could feel Kame's eyes trained on him, inspecting his every move and the seal of his lips. He wasn't surprised when Kame released a pentup sigh of frustration. He'd had enough of himself, too.

"Something bad happened," Kame stated and Nakamaru figured that one didn't need to have supernatural powers to arrive at that conclusion. He kept his face lowered to his plate when he felt the table creak as Kame leaned forward to peer at him. "It was at work, wasn't it? Somebody made you upset."

Upset. Like he was some child who had merely been told off by the playground bully for not being able to reach the monkey bars.

"Tell me," Kame insisted softly. "Take me with you and let me talk to whoever's bothering you."

Nakamaru snorted. Inohara versus Kame, the showdown of the century. What would Kame do any way? He hadn't done much overall. He was more of a housekeeper than a knight in shining armor.

"Tell me what happened and I'll help you," Kame continued and Nakamaru slid his hand off the table when he saw Kame's smaller one reach for it.

"How?" Nakamaru questioned, looking at Kame at last. "You were supposed to be helping me already, weren't you?"

"What makes you happy?"

"If I knew that, you wouldn't be here," Nakamaru snapped. He watched Kame's eyes go from soft to hard and back to soft in an instant, a flick of tongue dabbing at his lips.

Kame let out a sharp tsk followed by a heavy sigh.

"Nakamaru is so prickly today," and before Nakamaru could open his mouth to prove just how much, Kame continued. "What do you like doing?"

The question was so abrupt and frank that it caught him off guard. He sat there dumbly for a moment before he felt an impatient gaze boring into his skull.

"Playing video games?" he answered with a shrug and Kame beamed.

"See, that wasn't too hard, was it?" Kame teased. Nakamaru threw his napkin at him.

-

"The buttons aren't working," Kame growled with a curse as his green car drove into the wall of the racetrack.

This was his eleventh car crash.

"Where did you learn to swear like that?" Nakamaru laughed as his purple car zoomed past and onto the finish line. Another win.

"Here, of course. I promised not to leave, remember? The people on tv say it all the time," Kame muttered distractedly, his thumbs hammering at the control. Nakamaru would have taken it away from him to prevent the buttons from jamming if he wasn't so amused. Well, that and the fact that he'd have to wrestle it out of Kame's death grip if he tried. "One more time!" Kame shouted.

"What? You've already lost eleven times, Kame. Just admit you don't know how to drive."

Kame's head snapped to him in a vicious glare, his hair somehow in accordance with his anger and poofing out like a mane.

"The buttons aren't working," he gritted out once more and even though Nakamaru found the entire situation hilarious, he knew better than to argue for the quality of his console.

"Alright, let's trade controls, then."

Kame gave him a serious nod and Nakamaru tried not to laugh as they exchanged. He hadn't realised it, but Kame was a child, even if he was milleniums older than him. It seemed as if even stars weren't immune to the magic lure of video games.

"Good luck," Nakamaru said with a grin as the countdown to the race played on the screen.

"You too," Kame returned stiffly.

They had managed to make it past three laps, driving neck to neck around a corner, when Kame's car swerved out of control and crashed. Nakamaru was rolling on the floor faster than Kame could shout a curse.

"The button wouldn't work!" Kame cried and Nakamaru inwardly begged him to stop because ouch, it hurt. His cheeks had never ached so bad. "Yucchi, we have to play one more time. Just one more time!"

Nakamaru couldn't hear him over the sound of his own laughter and a distant part of him wondered if this was what insanity entailed. A pair of hands planted onto his shoulders and brought his rolling to a stop. Kame's face hovered above him, his eyebrows drawn tight and his lips curved down. A tendril of hair reached down to tickle Nakamaru's nose and Nakamaru gasped another giggle, breathing in the scent.

"One more time, Yucchi," Kame demanded.

"Yucchi?"

Kame nodded. "Yucchi."

"... Okay."

-

Nakamaru didn't remember about Inohara until the next day.

After breakfast, Kame had him forgetting all about it once more.

Maybe that was Kame's magic. To grant him happiness by erasing his sadness.

-

"Okay, what's up," Koki said, scrunching his wrapper into a ball and tossing it into the garbage bin. They always held their lunch break outside when the weather was pleasant enough. The escape from the white walls and the inky smell of freshly printed papers was more needed than welcomed. Nakamaru was glad it was summer.

"What do you mean?" Nakamaru returned, swiping at the crumbs clinging to his lips.

Koki pointed at the sandwhich in his hand. "That, for one. It's lunch time and you're actually eating."

Nakamaru swallowed, the bite of the sandwhich Kame had made for him going down easily.

"I wouldn't be standing here if I didn't eat," he reasoned, eyeing a huddle of pigeons pecking at an empty bag of potato chips.

"And what made you suddenly so concerned about your health? When I've been telling you for ages?" Koki questioned. Nakamaru could feel his inquisitive gaze on him and he knew that Koki knew. Not knew knew, of course, but the suspicion was there and if Nakamaru didn't end it right now, it would only grow stronger. He loved Koki in the most platonic way possible, but at the moment, he wished his friend wasn't so tenaciously loyal.

"I had a check up at the doctor's," he lied.

"Oh, you mean you managed to leave your apartment without me dragging you out?"

Nakamaru glanced at him with narrowed eyes and took a vicious bite our of his sandwhich. Koki laughed at him as he chewed.

"Okay," Koki said slowly and Nakamaru stilled at the way Koki was eyeing him, examining him from head to foot. "Who's been dressing you, then?"

"What?" Nakamaru squawked.

"For once you don't look like you've rolled out of bed and put on yesterday's clothes."

"I change my clothes all the time!" Nakamaru was a huge fan of clothes. He believed people should wear them at all times.

"Could have fooled me," Koki grinned. "But this is good. You look good, Yucchi."

Nakamaru paused to look down at himself. The black slacks and white collared shirt Kame had pulled out were crisply ironed and smelled clean for sure, but they felt a little too tight for Nakamaru's taste. He tugged lightly at his silver striped tie and coughed. "Thanks."

"It's not just the clothes, though. You look different," Koki said thoughtfully and Nakamaru felt sweat prickle along the edges of his forehead under Koki's stare. "You've been smiling more... Have you gotten laid?"

Nakamaru choked.

"No, really. Someone burned your argyle, didn't they? I need to know who so I can thank them."

Nakamaru turned and left.

"I know you're hiding something," Koki called at his back and Nakamaru was too concerned with the state of his burning face to be bothered.

-

Another snicker. Nakamaru kept his eyes focused on the page, little black words telling a riveting story about Takahashi, a bruised and conflicted soldier of war. Nakamaru had read the same sentence thrice and had no idea what was going on.

It was the weekend and he was lying on the couch reading a book by his favourite author while Kame lounged around being a general pain. His snickers cut in every few minutes or so and Nakamaru wouldn't have found them so distracting if knew they weren't aimed at him.

This time the snicker was more of a giggle and Nakamaru's lips twitched at the sound without his accord. He groaned at himself and gave in, his sense of foreboding not being strong enough to keep his eyes focused on the book, not against Kame's laugh.

"What?" he groaned out.

He lowered his book to shield his chest when he caught Kame leering at him.

"What?" he chimed again, his voice hitting a higher pitch then he would have liked.

Kame's eye flickered up briefly and he replied with a curling grin, "Yucchi's sexy."

Nakamaru sputtered, flailing his limbs as his body teetered, sputtered some more, and when Kame sent him a wink, finally toppled off the couch in a steaming heap.

"I found something yesterday," Kame singsonged as Nakamaru gathered himself together. He remained seated on the floor, however, preferring to hide behind the low coffee table.

"What?" Nakamaru asked with growing dread. He didn't own anything sexy - even the mere thought made his ears heat - and Kame didn't know how to work the computer. There was nothing he could have possibly found, he assured himself as he watched Kame bounce into his bedroom and after a few moments, come bouncing back out with a square, baby blue book, proving him entirely wrong. "H-how did you find that?!" Nakamaru cried accusingly.

Kame shrugged. "I found it in your sock drawer. Yucchi's so sexy~!"

"I am not!" He wasn't doing himself any favours but couldn't not deny. Nakamaru did the geeky game addict, the skeptical hermit, the hopeless salaryman, the guy next door. He did not do sexy.

Kame ignored him and plopped himself down next to Nakamaru, flipping open the photo album. The picture of his late teenager self made Nakamaru regret not burning the album when he had the chance.

"Sexy," Kame said again, pointing a stubby finger at his bare chest.

"It was a phase," Nakamaru moaned. "Every teenager goes through a phase."

For some it was piercings or tattoos, gothic makeup or ear-drum destroying music. For Nakamaru, it was leaving his shirt open at all costs; thinking back on it now, he couldn't understand why his teenage self found buttons so offensive. Or why his mom chose to preserve the most shameful period of his life in hundreds of glossy photos. Nakamaru recalled his mom saying something about watching her boy grow into a man and he clenched his eyes shut, thumping his forehead against his folded knees.

"I like Yucchi's smile," Kame said with a small hum and Nakamaru peeked up to see him stroking his pixel nose with fondness. "Yucchi's nose is cute."

Nakamaru hid his face behind knees and felt his heart squeeze painfully.

"It's big and ugly," he croaked.

"Yucchi's stupid."

Nakmaru let out a breathy laugh. "What would you know? You're a star."

"Exactly. I know more than you think," Kame chirped. "Nakamaru Yuichi is more than meets the eye."

That caught Nakamaru's attention. He lifted his head, curious to know what he look like to an outsider, someone out of this world.

"How so?"

Kame looked at him dead on, his smile melting into something serious and firm.

"You're kind, Yucchi, and you don't show it, but you're strong." Kame reached out a hand and for once, Nakamaru didn't move away. Gentle fingers combed his hair, brushing his bangs aside. "You might not believe it yourself, but you are. Trust me." Kame paused to give a quirky smile. "And I like your face."

His skin was flushed and his hands were clammy. Kame was looking at him as if he was something precious and Nakamaru didn't understand. He couldn't understand, but it was Kame and... Kame always made a believer out of him somehow.

He coughed to clear the hot coil constricting his throat and it came out as a slight wheeze.

"I figured," he managed to get out. Another wink and the hand left his hair, moving to flip to another skinny torso in the album.

Nakamaru watched Kame from the corner of his eyes, Kame's expressions morphing like putty from pleasant shock to thoughtfulness to a smile, not daring to say that he quite liked Kame's face, too.

-

The next time Inohara entered the office, Nakamaru didn't flinch, at least not outwardly. Inohara had asked to be switched over to Taguchi who worked on the same floor as Nakamaru, and while it stung, he was ultimately relieved. Taguchi was a good colleague, quick and efficient, even if his puns kept everyone at arm's length.

He met Inohara's eyes head on when the aged man paused on his way to Junno's desk. The hush spread like wildfire as it always did; besides the printers jamming or a rare laugh at Junno's joke, Nakamaru's humiliation was one of the few entertainments at the office.

"Still here, boy?"

"It appears I am."

"I'm surprised they haven't tossed you out."

"With all due respect, sir," Nakamaru replied, his voice strong and his ears ringing again, but this time with Kame's words. "I believe you're wrong about me."

"Oh, you think I'm wrong? Well why not enlighten me, Nakamaru-san," Inohara jeered, but Nakamaru kept his shoulders straight and his head held high. Not this time.

Not ever again.

He was better than that.

"If I were really so incompetent, I wouldn't be standing before you now, would I?" Nakamaru returned and continued even as Inohara's face began to redden like a primitive torch, "and I would appreciate it if you would kindly allow me to do my job in peace. Like you, I'm a busy man, Inohara-san."

Never before had the silence in the office been so screamingly loud.

Inohara coughed and Nakamaru knew that he was taken aback.

"Watch yourself, boy," Inohara sneered at last and turned his back to him in a dismissive gesture that fell flat.

It was only when Inohara disappeared down the corridor and the silence finally broke with a single clap that spilled over like dominos into a full blown applaud, that Nakamaru allowed himself to feel just a little smug. Even with Koki's weight along his back, his friend's arm wrapping around his neck in an ecstatic headlock, he had never felt lighter. This was it.

He had won.

-

Sometimes, he'd catch himself tapping his pen in a jaunty, mindless rythm at the office. Sometimes, he'd catch the upward curve of his lips as he passed a mirror and tried to force them back down in vain. Sometimes, he'd glance at his watch and wonder if Kame was busy watching that baseball match he'd been following for days. Sometimes, he'd catch himself thinking about the way Kame's feet kicked the air in glee and the way his eyes disappeared entirely when he finally managed to get his car across the finish line at last.

These sometimes were growing more frequent day by day to the point that they were no longer sometimes. Kame strolled the halls of his mind like he owned the place and Nakamaru couldn't complain.

Life looked brighter, as if everything was coated by Kame's stardust.

-

Nakamaru blinked when his apartment door remained stubbornly shut. He pulled out the keys he hadn't used for weeks from his pocket and entered with a curious frown. This was the first time Kame hadn't welcomed him at the door. His stomach tightened in automatic worry.

"I'm home," he called, catching his tongue too late. The words he had never once spoken in his apartment rolled out into the humid air like secret scrolls. Nakamaru wiped at his forehead; the summer was reaching its peak.

"Yuch... chi..." he heard Kame groan and his heart skipped a beat. Without thought, he let his briefcase drop to the floor and followed after, hoping with everything he had that Kame was okay.

He found Kame lying on the floor, right next to the open glass door of the balcony. He laid there shirtless, with the pajama pants Nakamaru had given him a month ago rolled up to his knees, a makeshit paper fan lying at his side.

"Yucchi, you're home," Kame said from the floor, looking up at him with hope. "It's too hot. Make it stop, Yucchi. I'm melting."

Nakamaru heaved a large breath, forcing his heart to steady, and then smacked his own forehead. Way too jump to the worst conclusions.

"Yuuuuuucchiiiii," Kame whined, dragging his attention back. The hair framing Kame's face was darkened by sweat, curling across his forehead in fancy swirls that remained still when a sluggish breeze wafted inside. His chest was bare, glistening under the sunlight and Nakamaru was suddenly reminded of that night, now long ago, when he had found Kame lying in the forest. Entirely naked and breathtakingly beautiful.


He watched a drop of sweat slide down Kame's pale chest, dipping down his stomach to pool in his bellybutton. As if drawn by a magent, Nakamaru's eyes continued the trail, spotting a mole on exposed hipbones that bracketed curvy hips and lower... to a shadow of dark curls that disappeared underneath blue cotton.

"Yucchi?"

Nakamaru forze, snapping his eyes back up in mortification.

"You're hot," he explained, and then silently begged the lords to drop down a knife so he could chop his tongue off. "I. I mean it's hot. It's hot because it's summer and the AC is broken."

Kame nodded at him woefully and Nakamaru tried not to glance down at his nipples, even if they were fascinatingly small.

He had to get out of there.

"I... let me get the fan," he mumbled and rushed off, taking a detour in the bathroom to splash cold water on his face and hopefully cleanse his thoughts. This was not good, not good at all. He pressed his forehead against the cool surface of the mirror and closed his eyes, trying to force out the vision of Kame's curvy lips, pink and perky and beaded with sweat.

"Here," he said, back in the living room now and handing Kame a glass of icy water while his other hand held a medium-sized fan. Kame gave him a delighted thank you and Nakamaru turned to connect the fan as he sipped, grateful for the distraction.

"Ahhhhhh~" Nakamaru almost whimpered when Kame moaned in pleasure - moaned, his mind unhelpfully emphasized - as the blades began to turn, a thick breeze hitting his heated skin. A small part of Nakamaru wondered if Kame was doing this on purpose. "It feels so goooood."

It had to be on purpose.

Nakamaru had taken off his jacket and tie and was now sitting in just his slacks and unbottoned shirt, and yet his undershit was already beginning to soak through. He felt uncomfortably sticky and he had only arrived at the apartment thirty minutes ago. He could understand why Kame had taken off his top and didn't scold him for it. A hidden part of Nakamaru didn't mind because the view wasn't bad at all but mostly, he felt guilty for keeping Kame trapped in this oven for so long.

A strange noise broke through his thoughts and Nakamaru turned to see Kame facing the fan with his mouth oscillating between an 'O' and an 'o'.

"What are you doing?" he asked, laughing at the noise. "You sound like an alien."

"Oooahhhoohahhh~ Oooahhhoohahhh~" Kame continued and Nakamaru watched his bangs flutter around his eyes. He had gathered his hair into a small ponytail, exposing his long neck and the curve of his shoulders. Nakamaru sat there for a long moment, just staring at the vibration of Kame's throat and counting the many moles decorating his skin. A map of constellations wrapping a star.

He blinked when the noises stopped.

"You try too, Yucchi. It's fun," Kame said with a wink and started up with the alien noises once more. Nakamaru felt his lips twitch and finally open into a stream of sound. As their alien voices blurred together into one, Kame flashed him a huge smile and he shrugged. They could be childish together, this once.

Many minutes later and Nakamaru collapsed on his back, his mouth feeling wobbly and tired but his smile still strong.

"Kame... I can see your stardust," he observed in awe. The balcony door was still open, the evening bringing with it a cooler breeze. The sun was beginning to sink and the sky was set ablaze in purples and reds and vibrant orange. In the glow, Nakamaru could see a cloud of gold dust enveloping Kame and hovering in the air, peeling away from his skin as the fan blew it off. It was magical. Kame in the center of a sandstorm of shimmering gold. It served as a good reminder.

Kame was a star, beyond his reach.

Kame moved to lay down beside him and frowned. "Sorry, it does that sometimes. I'll dust the apartment again once you're asleep."

Nakamaru turned to lay on his side, resting his head on his outstretched arm.

"So that's why you're constantly cleaning?" he asked. "It's okay. I don't mind at all. I think it's pretty."

"Yucchi's sweet."

A comfortable silence fell between them and it was after a few minutes of staring at the curved bump of Kame's nose, looking both fragile and proud before a backdrop of sunset skies, and wondering if it had broken when he had fallen from space that Nakamaru realised that Kame was still frowning. He watched Kame gaze out the balcony forlornly and felt his chest clench.

"What's wrong?" he asked, voice quiet with worry.

There was a moment's hesitation before Kame's tongue swept at his lips, a nervous habit Nakamaru had long since recognized, and confessed, "I want to go outside."

If he was honest with himself, Nakamaru had been expecting such a desire to be voiced much earlier. Not that Kame didn't try to bribe and wheedle permission to accompany Nakamaru out daily, but this was the first time it sounded like a plea. Nakamaru hated himself for taking advantage of Kame's compliance long enough to let melancholy seep into his voice, so quiet and desperate.

He thought about the risks, all that he could possibly lose: his job, his reputation, his mediocre life. And then he thought about Kame, alone and cooped up in his small apartment day after day with noting to do but clean and cook and watch tv; Kame who was used to the wide open universe now squeezed inside the walls of a box.

"Okay," he promised and Kame reached out to squeeze his hand, sending him a grateful smile that his lit up his face in a glow more spellbinding than the sunset.

"Ah, I forgot," Kame said suddenly and before Nakamaru knew it, he was kissed on the nose. "Welcome home, Yucchi."


( Part Two )
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