Some days Kame wears a jersey to work and helps out training the juniors. KAT-TUN sneak into the studio and watch from folding chairs, passing around a huge bag of potato chips. The kids think they've come to choose backdancers for their next tour, but they're mostly just there to harass Kame. Jin sits with his chin on his hand and watches as the hair at the back of Kame’s neck grows damp and curly with sweat.
Tackey comes in one afternoon and whistles as he watches Kame running the kids through the HEARTBEAT MEDLEY they’re preparing for the next Shounen Club. He grabs a handful of chips and leans on Jin’s chair.
“It must be hard for them to concentrate with a pretty girl teaching them,” he says cheerfully. Jin is relieved when the snickering of his bandmates drowns out his own automatic murmur of agreement.
“Gross,” Ueda says, nose all screwed up. “That’s still Kamenashi.”
Jin bristles, feeling the heat creeping into his cheeks. Koki is staring at him with a vicious little grin on his stupid face. “Yeah,” Koki says, voice barely even covering his bubbling laughter, “Only a complete pervert would lust after Kame.”
“Absolutely,” Nakamaru agrees obnoxiously. Over his shoulder, Jin sees Kame call a break and wander up to their table, blotting at his face and neck with a towel. He arrives just in time to hear, “If it’s Kamenashi, it’s impossible.”
“What’s impossible?” Kame asks, taking the bottle of water Jin holds out.
“Um,” Nakamaru seems to wimp out at the quizzical look in Kame’s eyes. “Nothing.”
“Nakamaru-kun was just saying how ugly you are.” Taguchi doesn’t look up from his PSP. “He said he wouldn’t touch you with a ten foot pole.”
“I did not!” Nakamaru yelps. Kame’s face has grown stormy, lips pursed and brows hard.
“We all heard it,” Jin says. “I stood up for you.”
“Bullshit!” Nakamaru spits, but Jin’s already continuing, “It’s disgusting how he was objectifying you.”
Nakamaru yells, “Akanishi!” but Kame is already stomping off and calling the kids back to work.
The next afternoon when Kame strolls into the office in a stiff-looking tweed skirt and argyle sweater, Jin has a terrifying moment in which he is sure all Kame's progress has unravelled and the anchorwoman has returned. Then Kame shifts his weight from one hip to the other and the long slit in his skirt is revealed, fabric gaping all the way up his thigh and revealing the trashy garter at the top of his stockings.
He looks at Jin over the top of his stern hornrimmed glasses and says, "This is Nakamaru's type, right?" He turns and frowns at his reflection in the mirror, rubbing a spot of smeared lip gloss away with his thumb. He purses his lips at the mirror then mutters, "I'll show him impossible."
When Nakamaru arrives, Kame is curled up on the couch with an environmentalist magazine open on his knee. “Good morning,” he says absently as Nakamaru unwinds his scarf and flops onto the other arm of the couch with the morning paper. They are silent for a while. Nakamaru does the crossword and only looks up now and then when he seems to feel the weight of Jin’s eyes on the top of his head; Jin can’t stop staring at them like a total psycho.
“Nakamaru,” Kame says after a while, pointing to a page of his magazine covered in lines and squiggles and little cartoons of trees. “Can you explain this to me?”
Nakamaru glances at it and winces. “It’s complicated…” he says hesitantly.
“I bet you’re a good teacher,” Kame says, looking up through his lashes as if anyone could believe he was shy. He scoots along the couch so he’s sitting right next to Nakamaru, breathing in his ear. He spreads the magazine across his lap.
Nakamaru sighs and launches into a long winded, boring explanation about rainforests and the ozone layer and chemicals and dolphins or some shit; Jin’s not following it, he’s too busy watching the way that Kame keeps leaning his face closer and closer to Nakamaru’s, the way he holds eye contact for moments far longer than is really decent.
After a while, Kame giggles and twirls his hair through his pale-pink painted fingertips, murmuring, “You’re so smart, Yucchi!”
Nakamaru sputters and Jin can see pink explosions popping in his cheeks. He wants to storm over and swipe the magazine from their hands and scream at Nakamaru not to be such a pervert, but he doesn’t.
Jin gets why Kame wants revenge. He’s just not sure why he’s being punished, too.
Kame terrorises Nakamaru for most of the day. He keeps hanging all over him and offering him delicious morsels from the bento he brought in. It’s full of treats shaped like adorable animals; Jin stares mournfully as Kame handfeeds Nakamaru smiling onigiri and baby carrots shaped like rabbits. He pokes at his own conbini bento resentfully, scowling at Nakamaru when they make eye contact.
It takes Nakamaru less than an hour to realise something is up and another three to finally burst and moan, “Why are you doing this to me?”
“Doing what?” Kame asks innocently, tugging on Nakamaru’s sleeve. He’s standing so close; they’re all lucky he’s so short now or his mouth would be brushing Nakamaru’s when he spoke.
“Flirting,” Nakamaru hisses between clenched teeth.
“Flirting?” Kame repeats, lips pursed, adorable. Nakamaru nods miserably.
Kame reaches out and shoves Nakamaru until he stumbles and falls on his ass on the couch. “Who’d flirt with you?” he asks, and stalks over to perch on the arm of Jin’s chair. “If it’s Nakamura, it’s impossible.”
Nakamaru splutters. Jin grins smugly and swipes the rest of Kame’s home-made bento from the table.
Jin had thought that after the whole Nakamaru incident, the nightmare was over. He’d endured all that he’d had to endure; Kame would go back to normal and he could pretend like it never happened. It doesn’t work out that way, though; as it turns out, enemies are everywhere. They’re the guys that sometimes try to give Kame their business cards in the fancy bars Kame sometimes drags Jin to; they’re the stage hands that hang around in their sleeveless t-shirts, showing off their muscles and helping Kame lift things; they’re the daisenpai that buy Kame expensive gifts and take him out to do fun stuff like snowboarding and golfing even though they totally ignore the rest of KAT-TUN.
They’re maybe even Jin’s best friend. Pi invites them over to his place for hot pot one night and somehow manages to secure a deal to marry Kame if they’re both still single when they hit 35. Jin sits with his mouth stuffed full of beef feeling as if the devil has been dealing in front of him. Pi keeps calling Kame ‘wifey’ all night and it makes something hysterical rise in the back of Jin’s throat. Pi barely makes it through the night without a black eye.
“Night, hubby,” Kame says when they’re leaving, and presses a merry kiss to Pi’s cheek.
Jin only makes it halfway home before he pulls his car over on the side of the road and says, “Don’t marry Pi.”
Kame’s head rolls to the side and he looks at Jin with those eyes he’s more used to seeing staring out at him from Kame’s softcore porn fashion shoots.
“Are you gonna give me a reason not to?” he taunts.
Jin clenches his jaw. “Yes,” he says firmly.
“Yeah?” Kame asks, the flush rising in his cheeks.
Jin’s not sure at first where to put his hands, how to lean across the console and still manage to look all cool and smooth like Kimura Takuya might in a drama. All that melts away, though, when Kame reaches out and clutches his shoulders, and their lips meet, both tasting of beer and ponzu from their dinner. Kame’s lips are soft and small and his kisses are more aggressive than Jin could ever expect from a Japanese girl; it’s more like the western girls he kissed in America, only not at all. It feels like Kame. That’s all.
“Finally,” Kame murmurs into the still air between their lips. He reaches out and strokes Jin’s cheek. “You’re so slow.”
“You could have made the first move,” Jin points out.
Kame snickers. “Ladies don’t do that kind of thing,” he says, only laughing when Jin looks pointedly down at Kame’s hand reaching further and further up Jin’s thigh.
“I suppose ladies don’t go home on the first date.” The gear shift is sticking into Jin’s hip and his seatbelt is almost choking him to death. 2pac is playing on his radio. Jin supposes he should give himself points for taking this step at all, but he probably could have chosen a more romantic venue.
“Who cares what ladies do,” Kame says. “Take me home.”
They go back to Kame’s place because it’s closer and it doesn’t always inexplicably smell like Cheetos like Jin’s. They ride the elevator to Kame’s floor – the 21st – with an old woman who lives on the 23rd. She seems really interested in the plants Kame has been growing on his balcony. Jin only knows one of his own neighbours, the photographer who lives below him and is always complaining to the concierge about his music.
They walk side by side to Kame’s door. Jin reaches out and strokes Kame’s hair behind his ear as he turns the key in the lock, heart flipping when Kame turns and grins up at him as he backs through the door, hands on Jin’s hips. He kicks the door closed behind them and punches the security code into the alarm.
Kame’s so short he has to yank Jin’s head down to kiss. Jin crowds him up against the wall and lifts him by the hips when the strain gets too much on his neck. Kame laughs and crosses his legs behind Jin’s back, arms wrapping tight around his shoulders. Jin slides his palm up a warm, bare thigh, gasping when his fingers meet the rough lace trim of his underwear. Kame throws his head back against the wall when Jin’s fingers slide beneath. Jin opens his mouth on Kame’s throat and tastes the faded, bittersweet bloom of his perfume.
Using what Jin feels is almost superhuman determination and skill, he manages to get them into Kame’s bedroom and drop him on the endless king sized bed, crawling up between his legs so they can cling together and kiss. Kame giggles when Jin pushes his shirt up around his chest and presses open mouthed kisses to the crest of his rib cage; he’s ticklish around his tummy and he keeps squirming and pressing his fingers into Jin’s shoulders, edging closer to his collarbone. Jin grabs his hands and they struggle, laughing; Jin can’t understand why he was ever afraid of this prospect.
They squirm out of t-shirts. When Jin is naked, Kame stops and stares for a moment, gulping. He reaches out uncertainly and touches Jin.
“What?” Jin says. The look on Kame’s face is making him nervous; he looks a little suspicious, like he’s worried Jin might have gonorrhea. Jin fights the urge to cover himself.
Kame’s face is a bit pale. The grim line of his lips makes Jin’s stomach flip; it’s scary but also a little hot. “It just looks a lot bigger from this angle…” he says eventually.
Jin stares. “Are you messing with me?” he asks at length.
“No!” Kame cries. He’s frowning now, and he reaches out to tug Jin, a little roughly. “It’s so big! And I’m so small…”
Jin closes his eyes and tries to count backwards from twenty. “We can stop,” he says through gritted teeth. He tries to think unsexy thoughts.
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Kame laughs, and pulls Jin’s weight down on his body. “Be gentle with me.”
“Please, I’m Japan’s Most Wanted Lover,” Jin boasts, sucking a grateful kiss against Kame’s clavicle. “I’m gonna rock your world.”
Kame shoves at him in disgust and tries to crawl away. “On second thoughts I’m not so sure I want to do this after all,” he says, but dissolves into happy, laughing kisses when Jin reaches out and drags him back by the hips.
“Leave it to me,” Jin says seriously, smoothing his hands down Kame’s sides. “I got this.”
“Please look after me,” Kame says, and lies back to let Jin work.
“I have to admit,” Kame says later, all wrapped up against Jin’s bare chest. “This isn’t how I ever imagined this happening.”
Jin’s body feels damp and lazy, muscles made of melting caramel. He nuzzles Kame’s hair. “You thought about this happening?”
“Of course,” Kame says, his hot breath burning against Jin’s neck. He rubs his nose against Jin’s Adam’s Apple. “The things I’d do to you…” he purrs into Jin’s ear, causing a sudden, shuddering fever to shiver up Jin’s spine.
“Shit,” Jin chokes, and lets Kame push him over onto his back and climb aboard, trap his hands in fists by Jin’s own ears. Against Jin’s better wisdom, he asks, “Like, what would you do?”
The things Kame whispers in Jin’s ear are filthy enough to make him blush, to make him wrestle his arms free and grip Kame’s hips so hard he can see the bruises forming already.
Kame is kind of a pervert.
Jin begins to lapse into daydreams about Kame’s filthy promises at random times of the day; when he’s in the make up chair or standing in line at the conbini, listening to management drone on and on about projected sales figures or waiting for Josh to finish up his business at the bank. He almost causes a traffic jam when he slips into a hazy fantasy about sucking Kame off when he’s supposed to be waiting for the lights to turn green.
He’s spent years trying not to think about the details of his desire, but now that they’ve discussed it it’s like he can’t stop. It’s not like he’s not into Kame’s tiny, girly body, all warm and cosy curves, but some long repressed part of himself can’t help but start to think of the spare, strong lines of Kame’s male body with lust and a little bit of longing. He thinks about what it would be like to have Kame hold him down with his deceptively strong arms. What it would be like to have his brains fucked out.
More than anything he wants to be with a Kame who is totally comfortable, and totally free.
Jin sees Yamato in the hall one day; he’d almost forgotten about him in all the excitement of finally hooking up with Kame and the hazy, schmoopy days that have followed. The guy looks more like an old man than Jin remembered, with that saggy, starved look about his face. He looks like a man who is waiting to die.
“Are you ever going to pull the trigger?” he asks when he meets Kame in the copy room later.
“I’m never going to pull it,” Kame says, ripping staples from old reports so he can make copies. “I’m just never going to let him forget that I can.”
Kame’s been working with the juniors more and more. Jin sits in on the practices even when the rest of KAT-TUN don’t. Occasionally he helps when Kame’s trying to teach them a hip hop dance and totally making it look like show tunes, but usually he just sits in back and watches, sipping coffee and playing with his iPhone. Sometimes Kame asks impatiently if he has anything better to do, but truthfully, he doesn’t. There’s not all that much for KAT-TUN to do without Kame. The others have been assigned solo projects here and there. Jin’s just supposed to be staying out of trouble.
“You’re good with the kids,” Jin tells Kame one day when the juniors have all filed out and Kame is getting his stuff together to leave.
“I guess,” Kame says. He’s all sweaty and his t-shirt is sticking to him in patches. “It’s not like I’ve got anything better to do.”
Jin frowns and hoists himself up to sit on the bench that runs along one wall. Kame zips up his bag and slings it over his shoulder. He comes to stand between Jin’s legs, hands sliding under Jin’s thighs. He rests his head on Jin’s chest, nuzzling his nose into his t-shirt when he kisses his hair.
“I’m kind of bored,” Kame admits. “It’s fun with the kids, but…”
“You don’t have to keep doing it,” Jin says. “Like… what’s your dream job?”
Jin still hasn’t settled on his own dream job. He still thinks, sometimes, that he was destined to be a world cup soccer champ, or that he should quit being an idol and just be a songwriter, or that he should go overseas and help build houses for orphans, or that he’d like to be a mechanic, or that he could be a politician, or… he changes his mind every other day, half the time to something that he knows he wouldn’t like much if he actually had to do it.
“My dream job?” Kame asks.
“Yeah,” Jin says. “What do you want to do more than anything else?”
Kame looks at him like he’s an idiot. “I want to be KAT-TUN’s Kamenashi,” he says, like it should be obvious. Like that’s the only answer he could ever give.
“You’ll always be that,” Jin says, threading his hands behind Kame’s ears and trying to hold him steady, hold him here.
Kame smiles, a little bitterly. “Will I?”
Jin kisses him, and tries to ignore the guilt bubbling up from the swamp Jin buried it in; I’m sorry, he thinks. I’m sorry.
They’re pretty happy, except for how sad Kame is sometimes. Jin spends almost all his time at Kame’s place. They usually change into pyjamas the second they get home. Jin starts wearing Kame’s hideous velvet dressing gown around. It’s really comfortable and always smells like fabric softener.
“Isn’t there anything good about it?” Jin asks. He’s watching Kame get dressed, sprawled on the loveseat in the centre of Kame’s walk-in wardrobe. Kame’s wearing a pair of his old men’s jeans rolled over at the ends (‘Boyfriend jeans’, he called them, laughing) and a Smiths tour t-shirt, covered in holes and hanging, stretched, from his bony shoulders.
“Good about what?” Kame asks. “If you mean ‘Hey Girl’, then no, it still sucks.”
“Not that,” Jin says. “Shut your face.”
“You mean about the girl thing, again?” He screws up his nose. “I swear you spend more time thinking about it than I do.”
Jin makes a face and picks up a stiletto that lay discarded at his side. He plays with the fancy diamond encrusted strap. “I worry.”
Kame turns back to the wardrobe, but the set of his shoulders is thoughtful; he’s thinking about the question seriously. Finally, he pulls out a pair of dark denim short shorts and says, “The clothes are pretty good.”
“Yeah,” Jin agrees.
“And…” Kame’s face is reluctant. He’s about to say something he’s unsure of; wandering into dangerous territory, maybe, some place he knows to be full of landmines. “You wouldn’t be here with me, if I wasn’t this way. Maybe.”
Jin is silent. He wants to say, “that’s not true”. He doesn’t.
Johnny makes their most senior manager tell them. It is the sort of news he would usually deliver himself, but Jin supposes he can't bear to see the look on Kame's eyes; to be the one to break his heart.
They can't wait for Kame to 'get better' anymore. KAT-TUN will go on tour without him; a five member band. Kamenashi Kazuya will fade into obscurity, like that guy that used to be in SMAP. Or Jimmy Mackey.
"No way," Koki spits, jumping out of his chair, which clatters to the floor. "Go back to the old man and tell him we said to fuck off." He kicks the chair aside and storms out, probably before they can see him sob.
Jin is frozen, eyes on the trembling fingers politely folded in Kame's lap. He's wearing a floral sundress. His face is blank, not carefully, but more like he's fled the building. No-one is home inside his eyes.
Jin did this.
He leans forward, swallowing. "Just a month more," he begs.
Yamaguchi-san looks a bit stricken. His tie is loose and he keeps straightening the papers on the table in front of him. Jin wonders if he looks so weary because he’s upset about what is happening, or if it’s because he knows they won’t take it quietly. He’s been with them since the very beginning. It was him that first told them about Shuuji to Akira. “I’m afraid we can’t¬–“
Jin slumps in his chair, abandoning all pretense of submission. “If Kame goes I go,” he says rudely.
“Akanishi!” Kame snaps reproachfully, reacting at last. The professional idol comes over him almost like demon possession and he bows slightly with his hands in fists on his knees. “I understand, sir,” he says.
“I don’t–” Jin starts, but Kame reaches out and grabs his wrist, nails biting into vulnerable skin. Jin quiets with a shudder. Somewhere at his side, Ueda’s breath is shallow and Nakamaru isn’t breathing at all.
Yamaguchi clears his throat, agitation scraping his vocal chords raw. “Your contract will be revised.” Jin tries to focus on the knot of his tie. He counts the lines where they flow out of the twisted silk. Yamaguchi tightens the knot. Jin wishes he’d pull it so tight he’d choke, then flushes with guilt. Yamaguchi has always been kind to them. Relatively. “You still have a job here.”
Kame says, “Thank you for looking after me.”
Jin drives Kame home; to Jin’s place, this time, because he knows that Kame might not be able to handle walking into his living room and seeing the useless tokens of his achievement on proud display; the gold records and trophies, the long row of glass plaques proclaiming him Best Jeanist. He will never get that fifth plaque and become Eternal Jeanist. Something silly like that shouldn’t matter, but Jin knows. To Kame it does. It’s like a video game. So many achievements that will never be unlocked.
Kame is quiet in the car, choosing to watch buildings that fly by in the outside world rather than curl into his seat and watch Jin like he usually would. Jin covers the hand Kame rests on his knee with his own and tries to drive safely.
The second they’re inside the safety of the front door, Kame turns into Jin’s body and cries.
Jin slips out of bed in the middle of the night, closer really to the first light of day. Kame is sleeping fitfully, face still red and blotchy from his tears. He whines and curls into Jin’s pillow when Jin crawls out of his arms.
Jin finds the monkey’s paw wrapped up in a sweater in the back of the safe where he’d locked it up months ago after waking up from a nightmare about an ancient monkey curse unleashing a plague of death and destruction on his loved ones.
“Please,” he hisses, mangy paw clutched tight in both hands. He bows over it and feels the leathery fingers scraping his bangs against his forehead and tries not to think about how this is a dead thing. About how it has ruined and improved his life. “Please, you sadistic bitch. I really mean it this time.” He swallows. “Put him back the way he was.”
He wakes to wails. He sits up in bed, heart pounding, hand grasping ineffectually at the chest of his own t-shirt, thinking, What the fuck? What the fuck??? For a single terrifying moment he thinks his apartment has been broken into and the piercing scream is his security system warbling for attention, but as his brain finally kicks into function he recognises the deranged cries of a small child.
Kame’s side of the bed is empty.
Dread seizing him, Jin stumbles out of bed and into the living room, where a child sits terrified in the middle of his navy blue rug, tiny hands quaking.
Even in miniature, scrunched up with tears and covered in snot, Jin would recognise that demented little face anywhere.
Kame. In fun size. Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shitshitshitshitshitshit.
The wailing stops and tiny brown eyes stare at him, red rimmed and quivering. Jin sinks into a crouch and cradles his head in his hands. They stare at each other, each with wobbling chins and wildly beating hearts, but for different reasons.
“Kazuya-kun,” Jin says eventually, when it looks like the kid is about to have a panic attack and Jin has managed to get over his own. “Do you know who I am?”
The little head shakes.
“I’m Jin.” He crawls forward and offers the terrified kid his hand, which he just stares at distrustfully. “How old are you?”
Kazuya holds up five fingers.
“Geezer!” Jin jokes. “Are you hungry?”
He shakes his head stubbornly.
“Tell you what,” Jin says. “I’m gonna go make some pancakes, and if you decide you want some, you just come and get some, okay?”
Making the pancakes is comforting. Easy, familiar steps. The only food he’s really good at making; the only food he cooks better than Kame. Focusing on measuring out the flour and cracking the eggs stops him from thinking. Pour in the milk and he doesn’t have to remember that he’s just fucked up Kame’s life even worse than before. Get out the whisk and he doesn’t have to think about where to go from here.
It’s hard to think of a plan that doesn’t start with Step #1, Call Kame, which has been his standard strategy in any crisis since he was 14 years old.
After a few minutes, Kazuya comes in and climbs reluctantly onto a kitchen chair; kneeling on the seat, his head barely peeks over the tabletop. “Where’s my mom?” he asks. “Did you…” he seems to be struggling for the word, small face scrunched and scowling, “kidnap me?”
“Would a kidnapper make you pancakes?” Jin asks in his most non-threatening tone, waving his eggflip around. Kids usually like him but he feels tired and nervous and kind of pissed off, and he doesn’t know how to hide that from Kazuya. He just wants to lock himself in the shower and cry for a while.
“Nii-chan says a kidnapper might give me candy,” Kazuya says.
“I’m not a kidnapper!” Jin snaps, then rubs at his temple with a floury hand. Kazuya’s eyes are as round and huge as Kame’s thin eyes can ever get. Jin feels immensely guilty and tries to calm down and use the soft, warm voice kids respond to. “Pancakes aren’t candy.”
“I want my mom,” Kame says.
“Me too,” Jin mutters under his breath, and starts stacking up pancakes on Kazuya’s plate.
Kazuya seems to eventually decide that Jin isn’t a psychopath – the pancakes must have been good – and starts asking Jin a billion rude questions about why his house is such a mess and why he doesn’t have to go to work like Kazuya’s dad. He seems pretty happy not to have to go to school, and sprawls out on Jin’s floor to watch cartoons without too many complaints.
Jin starts searching every square inch of his apartment for the monkey’s paw, emptying drawers and trashing cupboards, pulling all the cushions off the couch. It’s like it’s just gone; vanished into the depths of hell it must have appeared from. When his apartment looks like a bomb hit it, he collapses in a fit of rage in the bathroom. Then he really does lock himself in the shower and cry, tears of frustration rather than despair, though he’s feeling plenty of that. He presses his face to his knees and sniffles. There are still bruises on his thighs where Kame held him too tightly, less than 48 hours ago.
Eventually the water runs cold and he has to turn off the shower and change back into his clothes, dusty denim feeling claustrophobic on his anxious skin.
Kazuya is still sitting in front of the TV, but it’s playing the midday news and his tiny face is twisted and murderous with boredom. He stares at Jin and says, “Your face looks funny.”
“You’re rude,” Jin replies, collapsing on the couch. He feels like an invertebrate.
“It’s all red,” Kazuya says. He scoots over to Jin on his knees, peering up at his face. He’s adorable, but whenever Jin looks at him he feels terrified. He imagines waiting twenty years for Kame to grow up and love him again. Twenty years for Kame to grow up and only see a sad old man.
Jin swallows and ruffles his hand in Kazuya’s hair. His voice is thick and hoarse, shredded bare with his misery. “Can I have a hug?”
Kazuya’s nose scrunches up and he says, “Yuck,” but he stands up and awkwardly hugs Jin anyway; it is rough and stiff, tense with the rigidity of childhood obligation. He scowls and rubs his cheek when Jin kisses it.
“I’m not a baby,” he says angrily.
Jin smiles faintly. “Ahh,” he says. “You’re a big strong man.”
As he tucks Kazuya into bed that night, drowning in a Donald Duck t-shirt Kame left in Jin’s duffel bag, he tells him a bedtime story. About a jester in love with a Prince, who accidentally turns the prince into a princess and gets him banished from the kingdom. Kazuya listens to his story with drowsy disinterest and says at the end, “The Jester sounds really lame.”
“Yeah,” Jin says, and kisses Kazuya’s temple goodnight. “He’s a total moron.”
The next morning, Jin leaves Kazuya with his own mother, promising that he will one day explain, and goes to the bank to change a stack of 10,000 yen notes into 100 yen coins. The cashier hands him a heavy cloth bag with a ¥ on it. It makes Jin feel like a bank robber.
He takes his bounty to the park, where he sits on a park bench by the wishing fountain all day, throwing in one coin after another and focusing on the shape of Kame’s masculine face, his husky, nasal voice, the rippling line of his back as he strips off his t-shirt and his smoky, manly scent.
He doesn’t bother making a specific wish. It’s obvious what he wants.
Kame is not himself again by morning. Jin makes him more pancakes and takes him to the zoo. Tiny Kazuya has grown more well-behaved after spending a day with Jin’s mother, but he still tugs on Jin’s hand more forcefully than is really necessarily and demands Jin buy him toys from the gift shop. Jin would discipline him, if not for the crippling guilt. He buys Kazuya six different plushies and a pair of miniature binoculars.
They also have a series of Good Fortune stones with runic symbols carved into them. Jin buys them, slips them into his pocket one at a time and wishes all day long.
Jin starts to buy all the lucky paraphernalia he can find. Delicate, brightly coloured prayers from the local temple, rabbit’s feet, four leaf clovers, a tiny jade elephant with its trunk in the air, a horse shoe, a scarab beetle, about a billion different crystals and jewels.
He starts stargazing, waiting for a lucky star.
“Come on,” he murmurs at the night sky. “Give me a break.”
Just as suddenly as it was gone, the monkey’s paw comes back. It’s just there, lying on his coffee table one day, almost innocuous amongst the discarded guitar picks and remote controls. Jin lunges for it, not caring to think about what this might mean. He holds it tight with both hands, almost strangling it.
“Don’t fucking mess with me,” Jin threatens. “You know what to do.”
Jin wakes to a quiet apartment. As he passes the spare room he sees that the bed where Kazuya sleeps is rumpled and empty, blankets kicked to the foot and pillows haphazardly strewn on the floor. There is light in the living room, calling him anxiously forward.
Kame is sitting on the sofa, his naked chest flat and masculine and curling in on itself, hiding the tiny nipples and abdominal muscles Jin remembers. He’s only wearing a sheet, wrapped low around his hips and bunched around skinny, hairy thighs. His legs have grown longer once more, and stubble shades the square line of his jaw.
He’s holding the monkey’s paw in his hand. He doesn’t look up when Jin enters, but shifts slightly, body angling away from Jin. Flinching before Jin even thinks about reaching out to touch him.
“I’m sorry,” Jin starts, but Kame interrupts him, voice deeper and huskier, so heartbreakingly familiar.
“Don’t,” Kame says. “Don’t.”
“Kame,” Jin says, and makes the mistake of moving forward. Kame springs off the sofa, trembling and wild, clutching the sheet at the waist with one fist and the monkey’s paw in the other. He backs up and away from Jin, angry splotches rising in his cheeks.
“DON’T,” he repeats hysterically when Jin goes to speak again. The paw flies out of his hand and hits the wall beside Jin’s head with a crunch. Jin shrieks and covers his mouth with his hand, distraught partly because with Kame’s arm that paw could TOTALLY FUCKING KILL HIM but mostly because of the devastated look on Kame’s face. The betrayal.
“I’m sorry,” he tries again.
There are tears tracking down Kame’s face, rolling silver trails down his blotchy cheeks. “You almost ruined my life, but it’s not even that,” he hisses. “You had to change my DNA to be able to stand the idea of being with me.” He snuffles, wet and hysterical, wrist swiping disgustingly at his nose, “and I would have given anything to be with you.”
“It’s not like that,” Jin pleads, but Kame storms past him and grabs a bunch of Jin’s clothes from the pile of clean laundry heaped on coffee table. He pulls on one of Jin’s hoodies and a pair of sweats, tugging his arm away when Jin grabs it.
“I need—I just need—“ Kame stutters, and then says, “I don’t know, I just need to go home.”
“I love you,” Jin says, but if Kame hears him it doesn’t make a difference. He’s already walking out the door.
At first, Jin decides to give it time, because. Well, Jin’s fucked up a lot in the decade or so they’ve been friends, but this is pretty bad, even by his standards. He keeps pacing the apartment, though, picking up the toys that little Kazuya had been playing with, stacking them in a pile and staring at them, feeling lost and bewildered and alone. He wants to call someone and be comforted, but the only person whose voice would soothe him is probably at home sobbing in his bathtub right now, and that thought just makes Jin sick with anxiety all over again.
He wants to go back in time and wish for money or magic or world fucking peace. He wants to go back and confess like a man.
He only lasts about three hours before he starts calling, over and over.
After a day of waiting, Jin’s entire apartment is spotless, clothes folded and put away, tiles gleaming, floors freshly vacuumed, the Cheetos smell slowly drifting out the open windows. He’s started organising his filing cabinet, full of mysterious papers and forms that he can’t even remember signing. When there’s nothing left to clean or file or sort, he starts calling Kame again. He can’t stop. He’ll probably be arrested for stalking or something, but he can’t stop.
Kame finally answers at about 11pm, when Jin is just about ready to go up to his roof and just jump off. Or loudly threaten to jump off if Kamenashi Kazuya doesn’t talk to him. There are probably paparazzi around the corner already. He’d barely even have to scream.
The voice on the phone is tired and small, and Jin wonders what Kame spent the day doing; sometimes when Kame’s really pissed he’ll go to the batting cages and hit balls for hours. Other times he’ll just drink a lot, lining empty beer bottles up until he pukes and passes out, hopefully in that order.
“I slept all day,” Kame croaks, “but I wouldn’t have answered you anyway.”
“Kame,” Jin says. He slides down the wall until he’s huddled in a ball, one arm wrapped around his knees. He sniffles, wishing Kame was right here in front of him so he could reach out and hold him in place and make him listen, make him see. He has to struggle to breathe.
After a while, Kame says, “All that shit you’re always lecturing me about, being myself and not caring what anyone thinks of me.” His voice is vicious in a way Jin has never heard before. “You’re a fucking hypocrite.”
“I know,” Jin says, and he can’t help it now, tears spill out of him, almost violently extracted. “I know that. I just. I was drunk and stupid and scared and I don’t even really remember it. I don’t know how it happened. I was scared, I guess. And I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” He tries to control his breathing. “I begged that stupid piece of crap to take it back so many times. I tried to take it back right away. I never thought this would actually happen.“
“But for whatever reason, you wanted it to,” Kame says. Jin listens to the sound of his ragged breath. “You can’t just make me into who you want me to be.” He sounds beaten down, defeated. “I am who I am.”
“I know that,” Jin promises. “All I want is you.”
“I’m trying to believe that,” Kame says. “I just don’t know if I can.”
Things are terrible. Tour preparations have begun in earnest – for six people, thank god, management drawing Kame back into the fold almost as if nothing had ever happened – and KAT-TUN spend about twelve hours a day in each other’s back pockets, endlessly repeating dance steps and arguing about whether its too much for them all to come out with light sabers during Ai no COMMAND.
On a professional level, everything between Kame and Jin is normal. Kame has stepped back into the same snappy, anal retentive role he’s always had to occupy to keep Jin on track. Jin is doing his best to be a little more cooperative than usual.
On a personal level, the gulf between them is horrendous. It’s not so much that Kame is rude or hostile; it might be better if he was. As a group of six, they can laugh and mess around. As a pair, they’re nowhere. Kame is like a fortress on emotional lockdown, and for once Jin is one of the commoners locked on the outside, with no clue how to scale the castle walls.
Jin grows more desperate. He’d grown used to spending most of his free time with Kame and it seems impossible now to fill that time; he starts trying to find surrogates to cling on to, but after you factor in Pi and Ryo’s respective workloads and Kusano’s new girlfriend, there’s only really Josh to sustain him, and even Josh starts getting sick of him eventually.
Life without Kame is lonely and miserable. Jin feels like a middle aged divorcee, unable to sleep because he can’t do anything but lie awake and look back on his life with regret.
One day, Jin thinks, fuck it. He can’t get Kame alone for long enough to really talk and Kame has stopped answering his calls most of the time, save a few middle of the night anomalies in which Kame has drunkenly answered the call only to sit almost silently on the other end of the line while Jin speaks. Jin’s tired and lonely and bored, getting to the point where he’d be willing to do just about anything to walk into his apartment and see Kame sitting on the couch cross legged, reading a newspaper and sipping from a cup of coffee.
KAT-TUN has been rehearsing for hours, trying to get to a point where it looks like they’ve at least tried to get their choreography into sync. Everyone is grumpy and sweaty, except Ueda who looks the same as always. They’ve collapsed in a circle on the floor, panting. Kame’s t-shirt is soaked through with sweat. He’s lying on his back, knees up and palms flat on the floor. He’s beautiful.
“I’m in love with Kamenashi,” Jin says.
Kame’s the only one that really responds, body freezing too quiet and too still.
Ueda snorts and turns the page of the stage directions he is looking at. “This is totally new information,” he says, not even bothering to meet Jin’s eyes to make sure the mockery is hitting home.
Kame peels himself off the floor. “Let’s start again from the top.”
In retrospect, Jin’s not sure how he’s arrived at this plan of action. Somewhere, in the haze between 4 and 5 AM when he was certain he’d never sleep another moment in his life, it had seemed like a great idea. Like the only solution. Standing in front of Kame’s door in a floral spandex mini dress, though, Jin starts to realise all the ways that this might backfire.
“Shit,” Kame says the second he opens the door, reaching out and yanking Jin inside by the wrist. “Are you out of your fucking mind?”
“A bit,” Jin says.
Kame stalks into the living room, hair a mess and velvet dressing gown pulled tight across his muscles where it was loose and floppy before. He starts pulling all the blinds closed, hissing, “The paparazzi could have seen you, are you stupid?”
“Let them see me,” Jin says, trembling with his own seriousness. “If that’s what it takes for you to understand that I’m not scared anymore, and that I don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks of me.”
Over Kame’s shoulder, he can see himself in the mirror; electric blue eyeshadow and hot pink lipstick, fake lashes coming unstuck on one eye.
Kame stares at him for a long time. “You’re seriously go out in public like this, just to prove a point to me?”
“I’ll tattoo your name on my forehead if I have to,” Jin replies.
“You look hideous,” Kame says. There’s a smile starting around the edges of his mouth, though. Jin steadies himself in his three inch heels, hands on his hips.
“Shut up,” Jin hisses. “That’s no way to talk about your woman.”
“I like to think I’d find a woman with a little more class,” Kame says, but that’s when he starts laughing, moving towards Jin slightly, hand reaching out to touch the gaudy bejewelled bracelet on Jin’s wrist. “Why do you look SO TERRIBLE?”
“Fuck off, I had to use what I had on hand,” Jin grumbles. “You try putting together a decent ensemble at half past four in the morning.”
“You only had neon lipstick?” Kame says. “Really?”
“FUCK OFF,” Jin repeats more forcefully, “We don’t all keep a MAC cosmetics kit in our man bag.”
Kame’s hand slides down Jin’s wrist and traces the giant gaudy ring on his finger. “You love me,” he says.
“I really love you,” Jin confirms. He cautiously slides his arms around Kame’s shoulders, stooping in his heels for a kiss.
“Go take off the make-up,” Kame says, right before their lips meet. “It’s freaking me out.”
Jin kisses him anyway, laughing as he leaves neon pink smears all over Kame’s stubbly chin.