Notes: for the 24 Hour Valentine's Day Challenge. :) eta: to all the akame fans on my flist, who are kind enough to keep me around even though i talk about pin a lot. ♥
Jin tugs Kame aside before practice. "Kame," he says breathlessly, "look!" He holds his schoolbag open wide and Kame peers in, half-expecting a science project that's taken on a life of its own or a litter of kittens Jin's found in a box on the street.
What he sees are chocolates – boxes and boxes of chocolates. Kame gapes, as Jin bounces forward on the balls of his feet. "All these girls in my school," he's saying quickly, words tumbling over each other, "I don't even know some of them, one said she saw me on TV, this other one said she always looked for me in her magazines – " He breaks off, speechless in the face of such bounty, or possibly short of breath.
"Wow," Kame says, properly impressed. He received more chocolate at school than he ever had before, but he thinks that's probably because he's in junior high now, where girls care a lot more about Valentine's Day and that kind of thing. It's only been four months since he joined Johnny's, after all, and he hasn't been as active as Jin, probably because he still cares more about baseball practice than dance class.
"Do you think you can eat them all yourself?" he asks dubiously, knowing very well that Jin would be willing to try.
"Well..." Jin looks in the bag again, clearly torn. Kame can tell it's going to be like giving up one of his own limbs to admit he can't do it.
Suddenly Jin's eyes widen. "Hey," he says, darting a furtive glance across the studio, "do you think Yamashita-kun would want some? I could just tell him I have a lot of extra, that would be pretty friendly, right?" He takes a step forward, stops and pivots back around. "Wait, wait, I bet he gets a lot himself, he's really popular, I bet everyone gives him chocolate, I bet people on the subway give him chocolate, that won't work – "
Jin has been fascinated with Yamashita-kun since the moment he joined. At first Kame, hurt and a little jealous, thought meanly that Jin only wanted to be friends with the popular kid so he would be more popular. Now it's transparently clear that that isn't the case; Jin is merely another of Yamashita's many devoted fans. Kame doesn't understand why. Jin is just as cool as Yamashita, and a lot nicer and friendlier and funnier and -
"Hey, Kame," Jin says, poking Kame in the shoulder. "Kame? What do you say?"
Kame has no idea what the question was. He tries to look attentive and ventures "Yes?"
Jin beams back with the force of a high-powered spotlight, so it must be the right answer. "Awesome," he says, and drops his voice to a (loud) whisper. "Meet you out back in ten." He scampers away with his loot, leaving Kame feeling rather dazed – par for the course, with Jin.
What Kame has agreed to, it seems, is to skip practice to sit out in the back and eat Jin's chocolate. Jin generously gives him first pick of each box, until he accidentally takes the one Jin is eyeing, and after that has to wait his turn.
They eat five and half boxes between them before Kame's stomach rebels. Jin looks relieved to have Kame say shakily that he think's he's had enough, and by the time they part at the subway station they're both looking decidedly queasy.
Kame is sick all evening. His mother gives him cold tea and two little tablets and doesn't even scold him when in the throes of misery he admits the cause of his illness. He doesn't sleep very well and is still feeling a little fragile when he leaves for school the next day.
At practice they get a dressing down in front of the whole dance class for skipping. Kame stares straight ahead, cheeks burning, until he catches Jin's eye in the mirrors lining the opposite wall. Jin, looking fresh and healthy and completely unrepentant, gives him the Jin version of a secretive smile (that is, not secretive at all) and flashes him a surreptitious thumbs up.
Kame gives him a tiny smile back, and the warmth spreads from his cheeks to the tips of his toes.
Jin talks about girls all the time now. At rehearsals, during break, on the way to practice, at lunch, he discusses girls he knows, girls on the street, actresses, singers, models – anything, it seems, without a Y chromosome. It's worst when he gets on the subject of the girls he's actually "messed around with", although his loudness and excess enthusiasm makes Kame a little suspicious as to the truth of his stories.
But it doesn't matter if he's done all the things he says he has or not – the point is, Kame doesn't want to hear about Jin and girls, real, imaginary, or otherwise. He doesn't want to hear about Jin and anyone. He's almost sixteen, old enough to know why, and old enough to know it's impossible.
Sometimes he wonders if anyone else knows. When he lies awake at night, replaying a mental tape of the day the over and over again, squirming over every stupid thing he said or did, it seems like there are a thousand ways in which he's giving himself away, no matter how hard he tries. But so far, he seems, miraculously, to be safe, and resolves every day to gain more control over his words and actions.
Kame's not looking forward to Valentine's Day. To his immense gratitude, they have the day off, and Kame doesn't have to listen to Jin and Koki compare their haul of chocolates and dissect the girls who supplied them, from hair color to cup size. He's going to spend Valentine's Day with Ran-chan instead, he decides. She probably loves him the most anyway.
His cell phone rings mid-afternoon, while he and Ran-chan are in the middle of a nap, curled up under the kotatsu.
He answers without looking at the display, rubbing sleep from his eyes. "Hello?"
Suddenly he's wide awake. "Jin? What's wrong?"
"Huh?" Jin says. "Nothing's wrong, what do you mean?"
Kame's nerves are awake, but his brain is still sluggish and he can't think of a single thing to say to gloss over what he meant: that if Jin was calling him that particular day, instead of with a girl, or several girls, something must be wrong. "Nothing," he finally says lamely. "Sorry, I just woke up."
"So you're not busy?" Jin says hopefully.
"No," he says slowly, sure that he's missed something. Surely Jin can't be meaning he himself is free on Valentine's Day.
"Want to hang out?"
"You're not busy?" Kame says carefully and Jin bursts into laughter.
"Why would I call you if I was busy? Stupid."
Kame hates the fact that the insult makes a pleasant thrill run through him. From Jin, stupid is practically an endearment.
"So?" Jin prompts.
"What about Yamapi?" Kame blurts and wants to hit himself in the face. Yamapi is filming Long Love Letter, of course. Why does talking to Jin completely destroy the careful self-control he works so hard at?
"If you don’t want to," Jin starts to say, wounded, and Kame says over him, "Where should I meet you?"
They meet in Aoyama and go shopping. Kame was there three days ago, but he keeps his mouth shut. Jin says he's looking for a particular jacket, but his description is vague at best and although they poke around several shops he doesn't seem to find what he's looking for. Eventually they abandon the shops in favor of food – or rather, Jin pesters Kame, who is frowning over several similar (yet appreciably different) pairs of sunglasses, until Kame gives in and they find a soba shop nearby.
Jin hasn't mentioned girls a single time all afternoon.
When Kame was younger, he'd poke and prod at a loose tooth until it bled. Prompted by a similar urge, he says, "Shouldn't you be with a girl today? With, um – " he searches his memory for a name, "Saki-chan?"
Jin looks very uncomfortable. He plays with his chopsticks, avoiding Kame's eyes, and mumbles, "I didn't feel like it."
Kame lets it go. He probably shouldn't feel as stupidly happy as he does - and yet.
Instead he says, "Want to come back to my house and say hi to Ran-chan?" and Jin's eyes light up and he nods.
They're shooting on Valentine's Day, unsurprisingly. Kame misses his train and shows up later than usual – although still early. One of the assistants tells him Akanishi-kun's already in dressing room, if Kamenashi-kun could go straight there, please.
Jin gives Kame a smile when he comes in. Kame smiles back hesitantly and ignores the traitorous butterflies in his stomach.
"Guess we're hanging out on Valentine's Day again," Jin says, and Kame, who has just stopped himself from saying the same thing, smiles just a little wider.
It hasn't been this easy, this comfortable for a while now. Sometimes Kame wonders what would have happened if they hadn't been assigned to work together on this, if they hadn't been dropped together into unfamiliar surroundings with the pressure of a good portion of a show's success resting on their shoulders. Kame doesn't wonder too hard, though, because he's pretty sure he knows the answer and he prefers reality.
He promises himself, once again, that he'll try not to be so hard on Jin (as long as it's not at the expense of the group, a voice in the back of his head whispers). It's worth it to keep this tentative return to their old friendship from dying away.
Kame is almost nineteen now, and he doesn't dare to consider what could happen if everything goes right.
"Guess so," he says, and they unpack in companionable silence.
Everyone is in a good mood that day. All the boys are wound up on sugar and adrenaline and excitement; there's twice as much horsing around as any other day and the director and the rest of the staff only laugh indulgently. Nakama-san has brought in chocolates for all her "students", good chocolates, and Kame tucks his away to save for later while Jin absentmindedly devours his over the course of the day. Kame can't hold back a laugh at Jin's puzzled face when he reaches for the box and finds it empty, and Jin, after a minute, actually laughs with him.
It's a good day. They break up early, and Kame and Jin walk back to the station together, still laughing.
"Well," Kame says, reluctant, when it's time to split up for different platforms, "have a good evening. Don't eat too much chocolate, all right?"
Jin smiles a little. He looks like he's only paying half attention to what Kame is saying.
"Jin?" Kame ventures.
Jin's hesitating. There's something in his face that Kame can't place, something that makes him stand very still and his heart pound double time.
Just as Kame is wondering what would happen if he suggested they go somewhere together, if he asked if Jin wanted to come back to his house tonight, Jin's shoulders fall.
"Nothing," he says, waving it off. Nothing important. "See you tomorrow?"
"Yeah," Kame says, unable to quantify his disappointment. "Tomorrow."
It takes him a long time to fall asleep that night.
They're debuting in a month. Kame's days are a whirlwind of promotions and rehearsals and shoots and recordings and he doesn't even realize it's Valentine's Day until the makeup girl at their first shoot of the day presents them all with little chocolates.
He stares blankly at the shiny red box for just a split second before mustering up an appropriate smile. He tells her thank you, sincerely, thank you, they really appreciate her help, and leaves her with a big smile
He forgets again in the space of a minute, looking for his favorite hairbrush in preparation for submitting himself to the whims of the hairdresser. It's nowhere to be found.
When he dashes back to the dressing room to check, Jin's there.
He's lounging on one of the benches, headphones in and magazine open. There are dark circles under his eyes. Kame bites back the reprimand on the tip of his tongue: that time's running short, that Jin should be getting ready with everyone else. Instead he goes straight to his bag, rummages around until his fingers close around the handle, and leaves quickly, expression schooled to blankness.
He needn't have bothered. Jin doesn't even look up.
Kame keeps a careful list of everyone who gives him chocolate, so he'll remember for White Day, and takes them all home for his mother. He gets home two and half hours after Valentine's Day is officially over and falls immediately into a dreamless sleep. Tomorrow, he'll do it all over again.
Kame doesn't see Jin this year because Jin is in Los Angeles, and he might be staying there.
This year they mostly have the day off. There's a brief meeting about the upcoming album, timed to coincide with the new school year and fresh starts and new beginnings and every other well-worn cliche that Kame will be able to pretend to be sincere about later. Today, they're tired. Kame's tired.
Jin bumps into him on their way out. "Sorry," Kame says automatically, because for a while it was always his fault, with Jin.
Jin gives him a lopsided smile. "Hey," he says.
They're friends again now, in a way. They go out to eat sometimes, they have plenty to talk about during downtime on the set, they work together on lyrics. Sometimes Kame looks at Jin and is overwhelmed with the blinding desire to see what Jin would look like with his head thrown back against Kame's sheets and he has to dig his nails into his palms until it hurts, and sometimes he looks at Jin and remembers the happy-go-lucky boy who was his friend and wants to cry. Mostly he looks at Jin and wants to see him smile again, the way he used to.
They're going the same way. Kame doesn't say anything to break the amiable silence, but he notices the red-wrapped package under Jin's arm and can't help wondering who it came from.
"Plans tonight?" Jin asks suddenly. Kame, startled, looks over and in spite of himself his heartbeat speeds up, just a little, when he meets Jin's dark eyes.
"Me?" he says without thinking and then laughs at himself, at how surprised he sounds. "No, unless you count a date with Ran-chan."
Jin laughs, a real laugh. Encouraged, Kame nods at the package. "What about you? Valentine chocolate?"
"What?" Jin says. He looks down. "Oh. No. I mean, it's from one of the staff. I was going to give it to – "
He breaks off, suddenly, and stops still. Kame stops, too, and turns.
Jin is looking at him. There's something in his face that Kame can't place.
"Kame," he says slowly, and then more firmly, "Kame." He holds out the box with a funny, hesitant smile. "Want to share?"
Kame has to swallow before he can answer.
"Sure," he says, and the warmth spreads from his cheeks to the tips of his toes.