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The three of us were always one

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The two three of us were always one: five six several times Pi forgot the words and that one time with beer! Jin lost at wrestling (ha ha no) he had help.


An Amigoverse story


2008, 5 August, 21:03

So here he was, encore time on a stage that wasn't even his, Kame grinning in front of him and Jin up to no good on his left, and a Dome full of fans screaming around them.

Go this way with this loon, or that way with that idiot, wave your glowy little dagger and act like a dork. Tomo was pretty sure the two of them were fucking with him. But hey, he was game. He waved enthusiastically along to Real Face, he always liked that song in karaoke – until Kame stuck the mic under his nose like a total brat, and Tomo blanked on the lyrics like he hadn't in years.

Jin found it hilarious, of course. And so did Kame, and presumably so would the gazillion fans who'd be seeing it on DVD. Okay, so he could let them. Out of all the ways to not know the words, this was maybe the funniest one.

Tomo wasn't sure how it had turned out like this, when his promo was long over. He wasn't desperate for the spotlight in someone else's show. But Jin had said he'd never speak to him again if he missed his scorching hot solo, and Kame paraded his horrible hair around with a fierceness Tomo hadn't seen in a long time. And somehow that had translated into this, where Jin dragged him around on a cart and stuck to him like glue, and Kame kept giving them funny winks with his fugly eyepatch, and then they sailed a pirate ship together.

It was kind of cute, the way they kept bringing it round to their stupid pirates. Tomo had never been a fan himself but getting to be with them for the ride was pretty damn awesome.

 

1999, September

Tomo slowed down a bit as he got to the entrance, unsure of himself. He didn't want to be rude. But then he rang the bell like every Tuesday. His mom helped out at the stationery shop on the corner on Tuesdays and he'd gotten used to not having to be at home then.

He didn't see Jin around anyway. Maybe Jin had better things to do.

Jin's mom liked him just the same and put a plate out for him and asked him how school was even if he and Jin were definitely not friends anymore.

When Jin got in, Tomo mumbled some obligatory hello because he didn't want to offend Jin's mom, and Jin mumbled something back before viciously spooning up the curry rice.

He excused himself while Jin was still stuffing his face. He needed to study, so Jin's mom just patted him on the head and told him she had snacks for later.

He hoped Jin would stay downstairs for a long time, that was the only reason he couldn't concentrate well and kept listening out. It was more peaceful by himself, even if Jin wasn't going to talk and distract him anyway. Maybe Jin would watch something stupid on TV.

But it wasn't long, maybe fifteen minutes or so, and he heard some mention of homework; Tomo could tell by the familiar sounds just where Jin was in his process of coming up to his room. He got a pencil out and started making scribbles in the margins. He was doing serious work here.

Jin sniffed snootily when he finally got in. Tomo grunted vaguely.

Jin started playing on his Nintendo. Tomo had to read a text for language class, wicked difficult and really boring too, but he tried not to slack off anymore. It was hard enough to make up for all the dancing practice. Though it was also hard to concentrate with those annoying noises Jin made whenever he blew up a car.

At some point the second handset got right in his reach on the bed. Just lying there, and because he was way better than Jin at this anyway, he picked it up.

They were at level twelve, and Tomo's favourite character was still free.

"I'm not talking to you," Jin said, looking haughty, which meant he looked like a girl.

"I'm not talking to you either," Tomo stated for the record. He could kick Jin's ass without talking to him.

They not-talked their way through three levels, by the end of which Jin was fuming because he kept losing and tried not to complain about it like he usually did. In that way, Not Talking was pretty satisfactory.

When Jin returned from the bathroom, where he'd retreated in disgust, he glowered at Tomo.

"My mom says there's dinner," he said. "This doesn't count as talking."

*~*~*

They didn't talk at school and they didn't talk at home. The Nintendo worked okay, and sometimes Tomo didn't go home with Jin either. He had other friends, too, and he had tests and stuff coming up. At practice, they stayed out of each other's way. Jin seemed happy enough goofing around elsewhere.

Tomo didn't know what was so great about that Kazu kid.

He did know he wanted to do well with the dancing and work on his singing because the senpai were so encouraging, and he wanted to do well in the exams, because soon it would count for senior high, and his mom had been sad when he'd done so badly last year. Sometimes he still studied at Jin's because it was quieter, and Jin didn't have a grandma around to make his mom upset and stressed.

Sometimes Jin got so bored that after half an hour's silent huffing and puffing, he even studied, too. They both did pretty well in the midterms.

*~*~*

"You're a stinkhead," Jin said one day when Tomo had a flat and they pushed their bikes home from school, so suddenly Tomo didn't realise Jin meant him.

Jin wasn't looking at him. "What does it even matter whether I called him first or you first or whatever? He has stupid baseball all the time anyway!"

Tomo kicked at the ground, and thought about this. He was still Officially Not Talking to Jin and if he just held out now it would drive Jin crazy forever that he'd lost. But admittedly talking to Jin was fun for longer than Not Talking to Jin. The last three months hadn't been much fun.

"That's kind of the point, dumbass," he said eventually. "I'm not... you can't just call me only when that guy has baseball! That sucks."

Jin stopped with the bike. "What are you, my girlfriend?"

"I keep thinking he's your girlfriend," Tomo snapped back.

Jin surprised him by not blowing up full-scale, but kind of sinking in on himself.

When Jin sulked, his whole face consisted of nothing but eyes and mouth. "He's really cool," Jin said. "I mean, not cool. He's pretty much a dork. But he's funny. He's not like you think."

"I think he's a kid," Tomo said. An annoying one too. Always thinking he was so smart and so good at everything. But he didn't add that because Jin was making that meaning-it face that made nearly everybody pull their punches.

"So are you, from my point of view," Jin said.

They started pushing their bikes again.

"You know I'm really your senpai?" Tomo said, just because that was never not awesome.

"Shut up," Jin said. Though they both knew he didn't mean it, not for three stupid months.

 

2001, February

"I hate you!" Jin was yelling, his hair soggy and limp around his face. "I hate you both! You are idiots."

Tomo ignored him. This was serious, this was... this was business. Serious stuff. Serious... shit. That he needed to deal with.

"Well," Kamenashi said. Tough voice, that. Well, they'd see. Tomo wasn't made of sugar and he'd just about had enough.

They were in coats, because it was cold and the ground was slippery and leafy and it all felt kind of depressing. They'd agreed on the time, only... it was hard, going from Kamenashi's bitchy comments and the boiling anger inside to action.

"Yeah, well," Tomo said. "You can still apologize."

Kamenashi laughed. It was his irritating show laugh that drove Tomo nuts, drove all the times they'd spent giggling in train compartments and teasing Jin over girls from his mind. "Yeah, sure, because you're a big senpai, I'm so scared of you."

"Just, stop, you morons!" Jin was yelling at the margins, but they ignored him.

"At least I'm not some scrappy little wannabe who's always sucking up to people," Tomo shot back, though the words felt ugly and he wasn't used to getting so loud.

"Maybe you should watch, learn something," Kamenashi said, and he looked so stupid with his huge eyebrows and his fake smirk and his angry cheeks. Tomo hated him. "Maybe people would like you more."

People. Jin. This guy who acted like he was Jin's fucking puppy and then it was Jin this and Kazu that and they were so so tight sharing their umbrella and of course he let Jin have the top bunk and Jin's ideas were always the bestest best, and nobody even cared that Tomo knew full well Jin didn't even want the top bunk.

"I don't need people to like me when they're the sort of people who fall for that shit," Tomo said, burning somewhere, he didn't even care if that was Jin, if Jin heard.

"Good for you," Kamenashi said. "Why don't you go home then and leave us alone?"

Tomo punched him.

He'd never thrown a punch in his life, and it was the most awful, crushing feeling in his hand. For a moment he just stood there, staring at Kamenashi stumbling backwards.

Distantly he could hear Jin shrieking.

He hit a kid. A colleague. A junior. It was... weird.

Kamenashi hurled himself at him like a big sack of poky bones and painful kicks, and Tomo stopped thinking, tried to hold him off, hit him again, tried to get on top of him as they landed on the wet leaves. Jin was yelling somewhere, threatening he'd never speak to either one of them again, but Tomo didn't care, Tomo wasn't the one to back down this time, make nice, put up with Kamenashi's crap and maybe he wasn't big but he was still bigger, and he didn't even care that Kamenashi got him in the stomach and the chest and the face, he was not backing down.

Until Kamenashi gave a real sort of whimper, and suddenly everything froze. Tomo's shins hurt, and there was blood coming from Kamenashi's nose, and Kamenashi's hands were clenched in Tomo's coat but he'd gone still too.

"I can't believe you!" Jin. "Are you like twelve?" A shove to his shoulder. Tomo didn't resist, pulled back, let Jin pull him up.

Jin dragged Kamenashi up with the same rough grip. "You are fucking bleeding, oh my god, I cannot believe you. Are you out of your fucking minds?" Jin had the wild eyes of their horror story nights, and his voice was hiccupy.

"He started it," Kamenashi said in a mumbly voice, hiding his nose with his sleeve.

"Yeah, right," Tomo said, but he felt awful. He couldn't even muster a proper reply. "But, hey. Jin can take you home now. Right?"

Jin stared back at him like he was honestly afraid of something, but he didn't know what to say.

That made two of them.

*~*~*

The days that followed sucked worse than even the worst of the AkaKame love-love show.

At school they looked at Tomo's bruised face like he was seriously impressive, manly even, despite the fact that he was a Johnny. At the agency tales of Kamenashi's swollen nose and duels in the park were flying around, and sooner or later everyone had their own take on their fight and what it was really about.

Jin hadn't spoken to him in days. He hadn't even seen Kazu. Not that he was, like, worried about the bastard.

His ribs still hurt. The brat was vicious.

He slunk his way through class and tried to help his mom more at home. At work he should have been excited, getting to practice for Shounen Club, but he just felt embarrassed.

He tried not to sulk at everyone, because it was his fault. He was the senpai. Kazuya was younger and Jin basically needed protection from himself half the time, so it was up to Tomo to be reasonable and responsible. But he wasn't much better at not sulking than he'd been at being responsible.

From what Tomo could tell, Jin wasn't hanging around Kazuya either. It should have cheered him up some, but somehow it didn't.

In between songs he sat down at the other end of the wall from Jin and tried to look like he didn't care. But Jin had always been around. Jin was, in fact, so all-encompassingly and inescapably around when you were with him that it was hard to remember they hadn't known each other since forever.

He knew he should apologize. That would be reasonable. Responsible. They couldn't ignore each other forever, they were colleagues. But he didn't really know what for, when the only thing that made him worse than Kamenashi was that he should have known better. He didn't know what to say and worse, he didn't know what Jin would say, whether Jin even cared or had already decided they were done, and they would never fight again or figure out who sat with whom on the bus when Kamenashi was there.

When he went to get himself some tea, at the vending machine which happened to be at Jin's side of the practice room, Jin's face looked scrunched up and angry like a deflated football.

Their eyes met briefly. For a moment Tomo wanted to say it, Sorry, just so it wouldn't feel like this anymore. But he didn't know what would come after.

 

2005, October

They were on the roof, and everything was very depressing with Shuuji, and Kamenashi looking like he carried the weight of the world on his bony shoulders.

It had been a long day and they were trailing behind, and Tomo felt his brain wander off in that useless way, thinking about dinner and cool drinks instead of the things he should be thinking about, things like... his line, and as he was staring at Kamenashi he could feel the choke coming on.

Okay, that happened. Annoying but it happened, to everybody, even the adults, and Shuuji blinked once and whispered, "You must have had a reason," to him because Shuuji-kun knew everybody's lines.

They got it done at the end and Tomo stopped blushing under his make-up. There was a wait where they got to look at some dailies, and both Tomo and Kame were quite happy with how their scenic moping had turned out.

Kame smiled at him, an actual Kamenashi grin, until Tomo's phone buzzed.

Jin was sending him lots of e-mails these days. Kame always got sort of nervous when Tomo checked his mail during breaks, and for all that he was a good actor, watching him pretend not to care was pretty sad.

"He'll get over it," Tomo said when they were packing up their stuff, Shuuji looking ready to fall over with the near all-nighter they'd pulled last night. At least today they just got to go home. Tomo was tired too, and hungry, though he tried not to notice because he was hungry a lot these days.

"Yeah," Kame said, and it sounded not at all convinced. "Once we've sold our millionth single." Even the smile Tomo thought he heard in that sounded sad.

"We're not that far off. Then you can bop him over the head with the gold CD, see if you can shake up his baka brain."

There was a pause, and then Kame said, "Yeah," again, and then they finished up in silence, only interrupted by the yawns Kame couldn't suppress.

"You boys want to come along for ice cream with us?" Natsuki-san said to them as they walked through the lobby with their bags. "My treat. Ukaji-san and Takahashi-san are coming too."

Before Tomo could even open his mouth, Kame was giving a little bounce, all "Oh that's so kind," and "Yes of course, we'd be delighted," as if he hadn't just been half-comatose and barely able to tie the laces on his trainers.

Sometimes, Tomo thought, Shuuji came too easy to him, or something.

Tomo sighed and said the right things and went along too. Kamenashi wasn't wrong, it was an opportunity. With the seniors and all.

Kamenashi had a banana split. Tomo wasn't sure if he watched his weight at all, or just got whittled down to a stick from work. Tomo went with sorbet and pretended to like it.

They talked to the seniors about their acting experience, listened to their anecdotes and laughed at the right places, and Kame mentioned he liked photography and listened very respectfully to advice about filter lenses which even Tomo knew already, from wiki-ing it before his last short vacation.

He'd been such a fucking know-it-all when they were kids, always meddling in stuff and thinking it was cute or funny. Tomo didn't know where the brat had gone. Maybe Kamenashi lost it along with those fifteen pounds.

Tomo's cell buzzed again, almost inaudibly, but Kame flinched anyway. This sucked and had to stop. Maybe he'd have a word with Jin. Only he didn't know what he could say. He didn't even get half this situation, the half that didn't seem to be about debuts at all.

Fighting 4 One Piece GET! Jin's mail said. PS2 night Sat?

Tomo found himself trying to look bored, like this was just some work thing or maybe Johnny. Sure, he typed back, but busy now, leave me alone.

The ping came back almost immediately.

U hate me, everybody hates me T_T.

Tomo watched for a minute while Shuuji shared an imitation of a frog with the world and seemed to be having the time of his life, if you didn't know him the way Tomo did.

His thumb hovered over the keys of his cell, but in the end he just turned it off and put it away.

 

2006, 26 May

He slunk home after the show, trying to look nobody in the face. When he had his head down, his mouth behind a scarf that made him sweat in May, people never recognised him on the train.

He was the world's worst poser, and now everybody knew. It kept replaying in his head, like drama flashbacks, only worse.

He'd never even wanted the playback. It didn't feel fair, but then you didn't get anything just for realising something wasn't fair.

Tomo had plans, had someone to be. He'd even gotten a great song for it.

His hand was curled around his phone, but doing nothing. Phone meant friends.

He should maybe call his mom and apologize.

He had mail from Aya-chan, thanking him for their date on Thursday. But tonight wasn't a night he wanted to call her.

Nothing from Jin. But Jin didn't watch shows like Music Station when nobody made him.

Nothing from Toma, maybe he hadn't watched either. Or maybe he didn't know what to say.

His apartment felt lonely and, worse, a waste of money. It had been a stupid risk from the start, with NEWS on hold. Better things to do with so much money.

"I really messed up today," he wrote in the end, to Kame, because Kame understood how serious it was.

He called Johnny then, to apologize to him. "YOU, big impact, wasn't it?" Johnny said, laughing, and he said Tomo was still a favourite, and everybody had to learn.

Johnny was a funny old guy. You never knew if he'd save you or put an end to your career. Welcome to his life.

"Don't worry too much, it'll be all right!" Kame wrote back. "You'll get to do it better next time, it matters more that you tried your best."

That wasn't really true, but it meant something anyway, from someone who wouldn't sleep either.

*~*~*

"Forgetting the lyrics," Tomo said. "Is the official version now." Jin had bought them burgers for lunch and they'd found a quiet corner, though Tomo wasn't really hungry; wasn't sure about burgers, if he shouldn't watch himself better.

Jin shrugged. "You know that's how it works. It's always some stupid lie."

"Yeah, but... " What's the point? "I fucked up. Everybody saw. And now they'll think I'm not even prepared to admit to it."

"You didn't fuck up!" Jin burst out. "They made you dance to fucking playback, it's not your fault, and if they say that, you're an idiot for believing it. You're human, shit happens."

Jin was prickly these days. The debut taking its toll, Tomo figured. Being told what to do all the time, all those early freedoms gone.

"That's what my sister said," Tomo said. "That I was only human. I gotta say, I was disappointed."

That made Jin grin. "You wanted to be Inuyasha?"

"Hey, why do things halfway? Kougaiji at least." His burger had gone grossly cold but he made himself eat at least half, it being a burger of good intentions and everything.

"What did your mom say?"

"She said I was a terrible disgrace, and she'd make me wash my own socks for the next three months for penance." She'd been joking, though. It was a relief.

*~*~*

They made him go back. He got to go back. He was ready too, for all the forgetting the lyrics blah blah and the senpai support, and doing well wasn't hard when he was ready.

He wasn't quite ready for the squeal of the fans, and then Shuuji hopping on stage and turning Tomo's sexy dance into the dorky Seishun Amigo one, but it felt amazing.

"I'm glad I was nearby," Kame said awkwardly when they were sitting at the back, pretending to be fascinated by the next song. "It's harder alone."

Tomo just nodded. Of all of them, Kame would know.

 

2006, 11 November

"Hey," Tomo said before Kame could disappear into his shroud of I'm busy. "You did well."

"Thank you," Kame said. "You too." Busy and professional. Fake, was the ugly word Tomo had used when they were younger. Only Kame also got fluttery and nervous underneath, like it was just him against the stage.

"No, really, that's a good song for you," Tomo added.

Kame smiled smoothly, as smooth as he'd been on the Best Artist stage. "Thanks. And congratulations on your sales."

They changed into their regular clothes. Kame picked the bench close to him, maybe by chance, maybe because he knew Tomo didn't have Ryo or any of the others with him. But the conversation stayed like that, nice show yours too, nervous about the countdown yes sure, predictable and professional, and so it got quiet.

Kame straightened up, skinny with his famed jeans look, and he'd never looked more like someone in a miserable office job, at the end of a miserable office day.

"Do you want to go for a drink?" Tomo said.

He didn't know why Kame looked so taken aback. Somebody else might have been offended by the way he seemed to need to think about it carefully first, but Tomo remembered Shuuji and could tell it was just… Kame being his stupid stressed-out self. He waited.

"Yes," Kame said like he was trying out the words. "That would be nice."

*~*~*

He didn't seem to find it so nice when they were sitting at a little table in a dim little bar where nobody would ever expect to find two idols. Kame had suggested the place so it wasn't like the ambience could worry him.

More like he didn't know what to say.

"So, the song," Tomo picked up where they'd left off. "You picked that?"

Kame nodded. "I thought a ballad went well with the drama. And this one… it's a good range for me."

That sounded like far too positive a statement for him to look so unhappy saying it.

"Yeah, it's... " Different now. "You sound really good."

"Thank you." Nice weather we're having.

Kame picked at his food. "How is your family?"

This sucked, and for a moment Tomo was unsure, that terrible breeze in his heart when he cared about somebody and realised they just found him a nuisance.

But this was Kame. Who in a mood like this was worse than Tomo about feeling he was a nuisance, and Kame had come to Music Station for him, and if something had gone horribly wrong this year, it wasn't for Tomo.

So he talked about his family, and then Kame asked him about his dog too, and dogs was always good, they should bring them next time.

Jin asked him about Kame. Usually after five minutes of random bullshit. Bad bullshit, too, because the last time Tomo had fallen for the Jin version of sneaky had been in second year of junior high when it had taken him a while to realise they always ended up playing what Jin wanted to play.

One day he'd just tell Jin to skip it.

Kame never asked. Maybe he thought Tomo was under an oath of silence, or maybe he just didn't want to know. Guys in the agency had snarled about emo marital spats, when they were close one moment and then Jin was blankfaced at practice and Kame acted like a robot.

And then Jin had left.

Tomo had wondered sometimes if the ring thing was true. Kame wasn't wearing it now.

Kame switched to water after the first beer, and the way he refused to let Tomo talk him into any other kind of booze made Tomo wonder if he was afraid of something.

He didn't know how to ask, though.

"Byakkotai'll be coming out soon," Kame said, out of the blue, and Tomo realized they'd been silent for a while.

"Yeah. Mid-January. We're pretty much done filming."

Kame nodded. "Koki keeps me… informed. He's pretty excited about it."

"It's fun, filming with him." Tomo had barely emptied his glass when Kame topped it up for him again. "Well, you'd know."

"Yeah." A thoughtful nod, and more silence, and Tomo wondered if he was going to get depressed about ratings now.

But when he talked again, it wasn't about that. "I always thought playing Samurai would be cool. I like… you know. The old stories."

It sounded like random conversation and felt like pitfalls all around.

"I was never that into it, to be honest," Tomo admitted. The drama was just a fluke. Jin used to drive him nuts with his tales about Nobunaga, and there were those six weeks in 2004 when he was determined to learn kendo from some manga… oh. "But anyway," he added quickly, "the Byakkotai aren't really that old. I mean, that's not even two hundred years ago."

"Yeah," Kame said. "I guess. But…" He shrugged as if he felt bad for liking them anyway. Or as if he didn't want to explain. Or as if it wasn't that important. Who knew.

But definitely as if the topic was closed.

Then he topped up Tomo's beer again.

I miss him too, Tomo wanted to say, and that he wished one of them would pick up the fucking phone.

Jin claimed the timezones made it difficult when Tomo confronted him about it, as if Jin had the slightest problem calling him in the middle of the night when he did the math wrong.

In the end they talked about sports, where Tomo didn't care all that much about anything, but at least Kame managed to string together some words about Japan in the Baseball Intercontinental Cup, and he told Tomo shyly that he'd gone out drinking with Matchy-san but then didn't say much else on that either. Maybe he didn't want to sound like he was name-dropping.

"So, see you in six weeks if not before," Tomo said at the end, when Kame got into the first taxi.

It got him a fragile smile that didn't reach Kame's eyes. "Yeah." There was a moment's pause, and Kame added. "Thanks. For… well. Tonight."

Thanks for nothing, Tomo thought to himself, but he didn't say it, just made sure that his own smile was extra bright.

He still wished he'd known what to say to make it better, whatever 'it' was.

 

2007, August

The song was Tsunami, the place was karaoke, the band was his friends, he was Yamashita Tomohisa, and this thing was on.

"... my heart... la la la... "

"Oh my god, you are so drunk," Jin giggled hysterically.

He was not drunk. The lyrics were just tiny. Was what it was. What he was. What he was not... was off key, like Kusano, who took over waving his beer bottle around, and Jin sang along with the hoarse sound he got when he'd had too many beers. Talk about drunk.

"Ha," Tomo said, stretching out on the couch and trying to push Ryo off it at the end. "You guys suck."

"Fuck off, Yamashita," Ryo said. "Go cuddle someone else."

"Ryo-chaaaan!" Tomo stretched further, tried to tickle the retreating Ryo with his fingertips. "What happened to our member-ai?"

"Member-ai isn't manly," Ryo said in the tone of somebody who had pondered this through several shots of tequila. "I'm gonna join KAT-TUN."

"Exchange the pure brotherly love of your NEWS team for getting groped by Kamenashi?" Kusano tossed back one of his own. "You think a piece of that will make you manly?"

"Kame gropes Juniors to help them get noticed by the fans," Tomo felt the need to point out. He witnessed a dressing room spat once between a few Kis-My-Ft2 members over who got the most Kamenashi-time.

"He doesn't grope Jin," Ryo said. "I'm just gonna get me some of that Akanishi magic, I'll be fine."

"So what's his excuse with the rest of his band?"

"Why should he need an excuse?" Jin, sounding a bit sharper than he normally did on a couple of beers and some shots and karaoke goodwill towards the world. "You think they couldn't stop him if they wanted?"

"Guess they want to be noticed, too," Ryo said philosophically.

"It's fan service, ever heard of it?" Jin downed another tequila like it had personally offended him.

"That sounds funny, coming from you," Ryo said.

"Fuck you," Jin sniffed, "why don't you worry about your own stupid bands?"

Ryo gave Tomo a what-the-fuck kind of stare, but Tomo let his face go blank, his nice buzz turning into an uncomfortable drag on his brain. "So pick some other music," he said to everyone in general, waving his beer around without drinking. "Something for the functionally illiterate." He hiccupped, accidentally but fittingly.

Ryo gave a world-weary sigh, and Kusano started flipping through the list at a speed that would be nausea-inducing if Tomo hadn't just sobered up some.

"Speaking for yourself, huh?" Jin said.

"I know my limits. Me no speak no Japan."

In the end Tomo and Ryo did Venus, with Kusano taking great pride in failing his way through the choreography, and Jin smiling dorky smiles prompted by absolutely nothing.

*~*~*

"Oh my god, did you see his hair?" Jin was sniggering drunkenly. "Why did nobody stop him?"

They were in the street, the others off in their respective directions, and they'd said they'd share a cab. For now they were walking. To somewhere, Tomo assumed.

He had to concede the point about Kusano's unfortunate style choices. "He's in a normal job now," he said. "He can do what he wants, sort of." Even go back to hair that had been fugly on fifteen-year-olds.

"Freedom's bad for him," Jin concluded.

Freedom. Easier for some than for others. Jin looked better than before. Even his secrets didn't seem so unhappy anymore.

A cab passed them by, but neither of them raised a hand. Jin had his shoulders pulled up and stopped mocking people's hair, just walked occasionally bumping into him with his familiar lack of coordination.

"I'm glad you're back," Tomo said, sticking his hands in his pockets.

Jin gave him a squinty grin; not as smug as it could have been. "Miss me?" he asked, and elbowed Tomo gently.

"I'm just used to having your jerkface around."

"You like my sparkling wit and endearing personality," Jin said, and it made Tomo think of bad connections and people being too stupid to deal with timezones, and yeah.

Maybe he'd thought a moment too long, because Jin looked weird now, like the booze made him too serious. So Tomo elbowed him back. That helped.

"I think Kame's glad too," he said.

Jin didn't start; didn't bluster. Just kept walking, a smile spreading half inside that scarf. "Pretty glad, yeah," he said, in a voice Tomo hadn't heard in a long time.

Tomo waited. Half a block, with that smile and too much strange history.

"I have to be in by eleven tomorrow," Jin said eventually, with a beginning whine.

"Nine," Tomo countered, laughing at Jin's horrified stare. "I win."

 

2008, 5 August, 22:54

"I love you guys." Jin spread his arms out over the back of the couch. Tomo squinted over his beer. Jin's neck was stretched back, his eyes turned up to plain white plaster as if staring at an infinite sky beyond.

"Your spiders will be so moved," Tomo said. "They're, like. Crying. I can hear them."

"Fuck off."

Tomo thumped his chest with a desperate expression of pain, then had another swig of beer.

Jin sighed and returned his focus to melting all over the sofa. "I love touring."

Kame, sitting slightly more like a person in the armchair, snorted. "You like the booze after the touring," he pointed out. They were on for their final show tomorrow and Jin wasn't getting more than three beers, but he was making the most of them.

"It's all one," Jin said philosophically, then ruined it by grinning. "I love beer."

It made Tomo laugh harder than it probably should, since he wasn't drunk here, and also hadn't run around on stage for three hours.

This little party had been Jin's idea, who claimed that perhaps Kame had the cleaner windows but nobody gave a fuck about windows and everybody gave lots of fucks about the content of the fridge, and the space of the couch, so they were at Jin's. It had been a while since it had been the three of them together, and just the three of them, where the banter was mellower somehow and even the pauses were easy.

"I'm jealous, though," Jin sighed, blinking fuzzily. Tomo and Kame exchanged a glance, and Tomo knew they were both not taking it seriously. When Jin was really jealous he didn't announce it, just moped around and acted like an ass. "You get to go on a helicopter."

"Hey, half of that is studio," Tomo said.

"Yeah, half," Jin said tragically.

"You should take him to helicopter sky some time," Kame said, and Tomo grinned when Jin scowled. He'd never live that down. "Sneak him in, like."

"You don't want to come, too?" Tomo asked.

"Nah," Kame said. "Still don't exactly like heights. Also he passes better as a nurse."

"Hmmm," Tomo said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. He could still remember teasing Jin about the pink uniform, before Jin had gotten terminally embarrassed about these things all on his own. "It's the nice legs, right?"

"Hello! I am sitting right here!"

He could also still remember when Kame wouldn't have sent the two of them off together without spinning some silly take on it in his head.

Now Kame was grinning at him. "They're acceptable. Not too hairy. Even better if you shave them." He ignored Jin's spluttering. "He's a very sound sleeper. As you know."

Tomo nodded solemnly. They'd both know all about that, and even if Tomo had known for longer that wasn't something that mattered now.

Tomo was never quite sure how much had changed just after the last Countdown, and how much had been changing before. Kame still sometimes looked like he was taking his first free breath, surprised that nothing twinged or stung on the exhale.

"I hate you," Jin said darkly. "I hate you both."

"I thought you lo-o-oved us," Tomo objected.

"Nope. Changed my mind. I'm gonna shack up with Nakamaru and find myself a new best friend."

"Awww, saaad," Kame said with his duck mouth, and right there it was, so easy now and still surprising, if you'd known them for this long. They probably didn't even know how it felt like the harmonies on a song finally come right.

Tomo sighed theatrically. "My heart breaks, dude. But good luck finding someone who'll put up with you."

Jin surprised him by breaking into a real smile. "Yeah, okay. Fair point. Guess I have to stick with you two losers." He blushed more than he'd blushed over the nurse dress and went on quickly. "And anyway, it's only fair, when I gave you a ride on my pirate ship and all."

"Yeah, he's very particular about who gets a ride on his pirate ship," Kame said, with the brattiness back.

"Classy like none of these hos," Jin shot back, and then he stage-whispered to Tomo, "He never told me he wanted me to have more... guests."

Kame all but slithered out of the armchair to prod Jin's thigh with a socked toe. "At this rate you won't be able to tempt any, anyway." He then tilted his head at... oh, Tomo's empty bottle.

"Don't squirm like that," Jin mentioned, "that's not classy."

"I'll get my own, I think I can find the fridge," Tomo said. "Anyone else?"

It was amazing how fast Jin could move sometimes.

"No no no, wait." The cap flew off the beer and the cold bottle was pressed into Tomo's hand. "Let nobody say I don't take good care of my cabin boy."

Tomo leaned back and looked up at him. "I'm your cabin boy now?"

Kame raised his freaky eyebrows. "He's your cabin boy and you're serving him beer? Man, you're doing it wrong."

"And fuck you, too," Jin said with great dignity.

It was just a moment's delay. "I think that would be kind of rude now," Kame said then, his ears a little red, and when he met Tomo's eyes he was grinning too, like they'd both been unsure he'd really say it.

"Don't let me cramp your style," Tomo said, feeling silly and daring at the same time, and he liked the hint of relief in Kame's smile.

"Anyway, you're just jealous," Jin announced, apparently still stuck on the insult to his pirating credentials. "I'm so sorry I stole your Akira away." Jin leaned forward and made a regretful face at Kame, which looked pretty drunk to Tomo still. "But he came willingly. Maybe you need to get some tattoos for him to fondle and he'll come back to you."

"Um, Jin," Tomo pointed out. "You don't have any tattoos either."

"I could have got one recently?" Jin tried.

"You'd have been calling me to whine about the great pain for a week."

Jin fumbled behind him and whomped Tomo with the cushion.

"Hey, hey!" Kame was saying while Tomo was holding his beer up for safety and giggling in his corner. "No flogging yet, he's new!"

"You have to train them when they're young," Jin said, which gave Tomo just enough time to snatch the cushion away from him.

"Ha!" He whomped Jin back, but only once. "Watch out, or I'll get my glowy little dagger."

"All the better to poke our tattoos with?" Jin smirked.

"Will you stop it with the tattoos?" Kame said, pulling his legs up comfortably. "He'll have to find something else to poke with his little, glowy... " He gave Tomo a sidelong look. "Are you sure about that, by the way?"

Jin burst into helpless giggles.

Tomo shook his head sadly.

"Maybe you guys should switch to water."

"Evasion," Jin giggled, and Kame nodded.

Tomo felt no need to evade anything at all. "Well, we know what Kame's dagger is poking," he said, and took a long and delicious sip from his beer.

"Who," Jin protested, waving his bottle in the air. "I'm not a thing."

"Whom," Kame said, and Jin and Tomo rolled their eyes at him simultaneously.

Tomo turned to Jin. "Does it glow?"

Jin put a finger on the side of his nose and made a cunning face. "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."

"And then I would have to kill you," Kame remarked pleasantly.

"That would be sad," Tomo said, though he's touched. "A pirate ship decimated by... wow, it'll be a ghost ship."

It stopped Jin with a typical Jin face that set Tomo off again, but Kame sat up straighter.

"Well, it's not going to happen on my ship."

Jin wiggled his finger in his ear. "For a moment, my hearing went funny and I thought I heard you say it was your ship."

"You already have a cabin boy. It's only fair that I should get to captain the ship."

"I'm getting the cabin boy because I'm the captain, you idiot," Jin explained. "That's how it works. Besides, he's only got a very little dagger so he hardly counts."

Tomo was glad the cushion was still in reach. And that Jin was focusing on Kame and not expecting the attack.

Whomp. "First you abduct me—" Whomp. "—and then you insult my dagger—" Whomp.

"You said yourself—" Jin squeaked as he slid to the floor.

"—and then you say I don't even count—" Whomp, and then Jin had hold of the cushion and pulled and Tomo didn't let go in time. "Fuck."

"Ooof."

"Are you ok—" Whomp, and Tomo hadn't even seen that. "Hey!"

Jin was giggling under him and not letting the under him part stop him from hitting the cushion upside Tomo's head, and this was not. on.

He vaguely saw Kame jump at the fringes and rescuing bottles before he re-grabbed the cushion, and ha ha, much better angle there, not that easy to move with a whole Yamapi on top of you, was it?

Jin squirmed ineffectively and gasped, "Get your moobs outta my face," while flailing at the cushion like he was hoping Tomo might just let go.

"That is your face?" Tomo's chest was pressing on Jin's right shoulder, keeping him firmly pinned there at least. He'd have to watch the legs, though, Jin had some sneaky moves and he was stronger.

"I know you," Jin was panting, "like to look for," out of breath the little sucker, "people's tattoos but—" He bucked up hard but Tomo was ready and ignored the return of the tattoos, though he heard Kame laugh and somehow that made it more fun, and he timed it just right for the next time Jin heaved, and he pulled.

The cushion was his, and he got a good thump in but it made his weight wobble and next thing he knew Jin had— fuck, entirely too long legs, and way too much leverage there and Jin was grinning like a smug bastard when Tomo's back hit the carpet.

"Ooof." This time it was Tomo. "How much do they let you eat these days?"

Jin laughed triumphantly, and flailing around for the cushion on top of Tomo didn't make him any lighter. Tomo kept him from catching it by hitting it over his head, repeatedly and fast. Jin's hair was wild with static and he scrabbled up, for Tomo's arms, to try and hold them down, while Tomo tried to throw him off, and there was a confused moment when the cushion snapped back and landed somewhere beyond his head.

Jin lunged, and Tomo got out from under and grabbed his waist and held on, pulled back, and when Jin's t-shirt slid up to expose skin he remembered tickling years ago. Jin squealed like a baby seal. Tomo laughed.

"Let go, let me—" It was ear-piercing, and just made Tomo laugh harder, but then Jin caught on and twisted and poked Tomo in the stomach, the ribs, when Tomo wasn't even ticklish; got his shirt up and that tickled something different— just the slide, and Tomo needed to get this in hand here, he had to—

He went for the collarbone, and Jin just curled.

"Low," he yelped, "you are so low," and clamped around Tomo like he was some clamp— type— thing, and things were getting a little stuffy here and Tomo got on top again, where he could breathe better.

"Give," he wheezed out, only Jin's twitching was kind of distracting as he scrambled up for the cushion, and Jin was moving and there were parts of Jin that were— moving too and okay, hadn't even noticed, la la la, there was the cushion, and Jin was still laughing and Tomo tried to squirm out of Jin's clutch and his own hips— shit.

Shit.

Okay, wait. Get up.

But he wasn't getting up because Jin was wrapped around his legs and was giggling and declaring Tomo a loser, and Tomo felt like someone had dipped him in a tank full of hot sticky molasses, and the guy watching from the outside was...

He met Kame's eyes. They were dark, and he'd never looked less like Shuuji.

Jin was the last to fall silent, the last to... notice. He went still down there, and it didn't get any cooler when he flushed too.

"Uh," he said, and bit his lip. "Whoops?" The look he gave Tomo reminded him of a puppy who'd done bad things to the carpet. A puppy with a very red face. "Um. You. Um. Okay?" Don't freak, that was, in Bakanishi.

Tomo laughed a little helplessly. I won't freak if you won't freak. And okay, that would be helpful anyway because he didn't know what he was supposed to freak out about first. He looked at Kame again. If nobody freaks.

Kame was still watching them, and he was kind of hard to read. It wasn't his quiet-freaking face, though. It was a quiet quite-different face.

"Okay, so," Jin said, and it occurred to Tomo that he could probably get off Jin now, even though his erection had wilted so much it was no longer really relevant. "Let's all... let's all have a beer, okay?"

Kame didn't even point out that Jin had had his allotted three. Tomo would have felt safer with water but wanted the beer anyway.

"Are you okay?" Kame asked while Jin cleared away the old bottles, and Tomo nodded. It was like a big cold dose of relief, just, Kame. Being cool.

"It was just... the fighting, it happens I guess." To fourteen-year-olds. "It didn't mean anything." Except for that moment before his brain kicked in and it felt really good. He wasn't going to say that. It didn't mean anything either.

Kame studied him, and nodded slowly. "Sorry for... staring," he said. "Didn't mean to freak you out."

"Well." Tomo turned his need to squirm into a little laugh. "I guess you had reason to... well."

Kame pursed his lips, like he'd had a sip of wine. Then he stilled again and seemed to decide something in his head. "Yeah. I mean, it looked good. You two."

Wait, what?

"We're hot," Jin said, coming back with the beers and sitting down on the floor between Tomo, and Kame in his armchair. "Course it looks good. Right?" He was so cool, he could maybe fool his granny, if his granny was having a gullible day. He passed the beers around, and Tomo only looked at him because he had done undoubtedly worse, and he could always go to Jin, and suddenly he could breathe easier.

 "You're okay, right?" Jin was asking; asking Kame, serious and soft, and Kame quirked his mouth and prodded Jin's knee, and, okay.

Okayness generally established.

"I'm so glad you had fun too," Tomo said to Kame, because he was okay, too, though his grin was probably not entirely camera-ready.

"Not nice if anybody's left out," Kame replied, with a long drink from his beer.

"No, that would be sad," Tomo said. And Jin was... actually patting Kame's ankle, but he stayed sitting on the floor and apparently didn't care how dorky it was. He looked a mess, too.

Tomo had seen Jin sweaty and dishevelled a million times, and mostly just tried not to let him steal any shower stuff. Only now Tomo felt guilty like they had just... they had only rolled around, for god's sake.

So now Tomo was getting boners rolling around with Jin, and holy fuck, maybe this was what happened when you hung out in their weird intense drama love across continents sulkface and anorexia sphere for too long.

"Hey." Shuuji. Kame. "It's not... it doesn't mean you're... "

"Gay?" Jin said. "You know, that's what he kept telling me and then he started sticking his—"

Kame kicked him in the shoulder, and Jin fell over rather too far, sort of bouncing gently against Tomo before pulling himself up again.

It hadn't... tingled or anything. It was just normal. Almost normal.

Jin was checking for normal too.

"Safer we stopped, though," he said, "cause you were almost winning," which was something he only said when he really loved you a lot, and, okay, so they did gay rolling around now. What the hell. He had certainly done gayer in his life.

"I'm going to take a taxi," he announced, then caught the sharp look between the two of them and went, "Not right this second, you idiots. I'm just saying. I won't take the subway, I want more booze." His beer was... okay, now it was empty.

"Sorry to say you gotta go get your own," Jin said regretfully. "As you see, my subordinates get uppity when they see me fetching and carrying for a cabin boy. Even a cute one like you."

"Aww," Tomo said, made big eyes, and stayed put. Until Jin caved, as he'd known he would. He shared a little grin with Kame.

Jin brought back a beer, the Johnny Walker Gold, and the Maui Rum Rina had brought him back from Hawaii. "Pick," he said.

"Wow," Tomo blinked. "I must have been good."

"You wanted booze," Jin said with waggling eyebrows. "We promise we won't take advantage of you."

"Speak for yourself, " Kame said, still fiddling with his own beer. It must be getting warm, like the room.

"Hey, he's my cabin boy, I get dibs."

"You had dibs," Kame said seriously.

"That doesn't count! That was nothing, we were just rolling around. It didn't even glow."

Right, Johnny Walker it had to be.

Jin watched him slosh a good little... slosh into his glass.

"Kame," he said slowly. "I think he wants to be taken advantage of."

"Anaesthetic," Tomo said. God, that tasted good. "I've heard all your pick-up lines, man, and they suck. Gotta get through the Akanishi seduction somehow, right?"

"My seduction is excellent!" Jin insisted, and the puppy look was kind of hilarious now. "But, um, I could let Kame try? He doesn't suck. Or, well, only in the good way." He did the eyebrow thing again and it was still mostly hilarious, but the whisky made Tomo feel a little prickly and a little sweaty.

"Hey, don't go pimping me out just like that," Kame protested. Tomo thought he was a little red in the face. "And what if it works, what are you going to do then?"

Jin was grinning rather evilly by now. "Aww, come on. You would so give Tomo a ride on our pirate ship."

"Hm," Kame said, definitely flushed now but smiling. "But he's no... sailor. He's a..."

"Helicopterskyflier," Tomo supplied helpfully, not entirely able to suppress the giggles at the way this code thing was getting bigger and bigger.

Kame nodded. "Landlubber."

"Skylubber," Jin said.

"Carshrimp," Tomo added, and Jin said, "What?"

"Tasty," Kame said, "but elusive."

They looked at each other while Jin was still spluttering. Tomo felt a weird flush to go with Kame's, and he could see that Kame saw, and... oh, bloody hell. He couldn't decide if this was weirder than sitting on top of Jin with an erection, or just a logical progression.

Then Jin thumped him on the shoulder. "Hey. Are you making plans without me?"

Yes, we're blushing in code, Tomo wanted to say, but then suddenly it seemed a bit much.

"Would we ever make plans without you?" was what he said instead, and got surprised by Jin's mushy smile.

Though what Jin said was, "You're afraid I'll come after you with an ice pick?" He sounded more pleased and soppy than anybody talking about ice picks had any right to be, and what the hell, Tomo was not getting soppy feelings now too.

"Not afraid. I have a dagger, remember?"

Jin's eyes flicked downward only for a moment, and then he was blushing too. "I thought you said it was only a little one."

"Maybe I lied," Tomo said. "Weren't you paying attention?"

Jin laughed. Okay, this conversation was getting pretty... something, and that was a pretty gay boat they were in and he couldn't even tell anymore who was pushing it most.

He thought about sailors, didn't giggle hysterically and didn't say that out loud, either.

"Plans, huh," Kame said, and then he looked caught, and Tomo nodded and downed the rest of his whisky in one.

"Yeah. So. Um." Since he was the one with the luxury of the hard booze and thus a better excuse, and everything. "What."

And then they were both looking at him, and shit, he should have had at least one more because his insides were flipping and flopping all over the place and he definitely hadn't had enough to keep them in order. Because yeah, what. What was he even asking? What kind of guy even asked? Asking implied being interested in an answer.

Then they looked at each other, and boy, that had to be complicated too, and suddenly Tomo was laughing. "I mean, okay, we're kinda drunk, so I guess we're just talking crap. Except if we're talking non-crap. Because we're drunk."

"We're... drunk," Kame said. And looked at Jin, with a look Tomo'd rarely seen on Kame because this was caution without any of his frazzled insecurities. Just Kame not being the captain of the ship. Quietly leaving the decision of what sort of crap if any this was up to Jin.

Jin laughed and it sounded nervous. "We kind of got a bit enthusiastic, huh?" From his look, the we seemed to be all three of them. "Um. We're... well, I don't feel that drunk, I'd like to be much drunker, but let's say I'm not sober. And Kame's not sober. And you, Mister—" Tomo had a long index finger stabbed at him. "You are more drunk than either of us, and much as I'm envious and would like to punish you accordingly, I shouldn't let you make stupid decisions right now."

Tomo was nodding his way through the monologue. Drunk, check. Not so drunk, check. Not so sober. Check. Stupid decisions. Well.

"It was nice, though," Jin said. "I mean. Could be nice." Then he let go of a deep breath and blushed furiously, and Tomo dropped his eyes. Okay, this was... clear.

He thought for a moment, and then he nodded. "Yeah, I... same here." And told himself at least he didn't blush as badly as Jin. "Only maybe..."

Kame was red to his ears, but he had his adult face on. "We should think," he finished for Tomo. "Yeah."

Tomo nodded again. "And you guys need to..."

"All of us," Jin insisted.

Yeah, fair point. All of them. Even cabin boys.

*~*~*

When it was time to leave, after another drink and an in-depth discussion of how best to care for a grown-out perm and why Ryo wouldn't have a chance with Toda Erika, they saw him to the door. Tomo was much relieved, because he had obviously never been in this apartment before and would inevitably pick the wrong room out of Jin's three and get eaten by a giant crab. Since he was so drunk and non composted something.

"You don't have to be up too early tomorrow, right?" Kame asked, watching Tomo put on his shoes with concern.

"I called you a cab," Jin said, as if Tomo hadn't been present for that phone call.

They were hovering. It was a little endearing.

"I'll be fine tomorrow," he said. "And I'll find my cab." He only wobbled a little, balancing on one foot.

"We could, um. Come along and keep you company," Jin said. "So you don't get bored in the car."

"You have a concert tomorrow," Tomo replied, shooting him a look to get off the strange ideas. "I think it's time for you to hit the sack, I know how you get when you don't get your beauty sleep."

"Okay," Jin said. "I was just thinking, it's a long ride..."

"It's twenty-five minutes, you baby," Tomo said. "And I'm not feeling rejected."

It brought them all up short. And then they were standing there, Kame with a guilty smile and Jin shifting nervously from foot to foot.

Okay, maybe some of it was the booze, maybe he wouldn't have been quite so blunt. But, hey, sometimes blunt was helpful.

"You think, I think, everybody thinks." He grinned at Jin. "There are how-to manuals on the internet, Kame can show you the search engine."

Jin looked adorable biting back the fuck you.

He also looked like he could do with a hug, but they never did that just because they'd hung out boozing and it would feel weird now. So Tomo offered their special handshake instead, and was reassured that some constants remained eternal when Kame rolled his eyes.

"Good luck with the concert tomorrow," Tomo said. "Don't fall off the stage." And then he was in the elevator and Jin and Kame were in their apartment, discussing... him, and them, and that them was the last Tomo had ever expected.

He had e-mail from Jin's phone before the cab was around the second corner. You forgot your glowy dagger, it said. And a little awkwardly, Sleep well.

Keep it for me, he e-mailed back. I trust you with my dagger. Just remember to share. And then he leaned his head back and was just sort of, maybe, smiling his head off.

~

End