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Breath, then next one, light

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'Kou!' there's a call behind him, just as he exits the studio. Recently, it has become a regular (and, frankly speaking, pleasant) occurrence.

He didn't expect to become friends with other juniors, but he was definitely not complaining. Ryota and Ken were kind and fun to be with, so.

'You're done for the day?' Kensuke asks, pushing dark blue fringe away from his forehead, and Kouki nods.

'I got permission to get off early.' he says, and Ryota ohs, red eyes blinking as he considers Kouki.

'It's about that cousin of yours you've mentioned the other time?' he asks and Kouki blinks. 'I can't imagine other reason you would seek to excuse yourself.'

'Yeah, it's about him. Kaoru,' he hesitates; did they really wanted to know, or were they just asking out of politeness? Well, Ryota looked at him with real attentiveness, so, 'he recently got...not well, but. His state stabilized enough to have visitors from outside. We haven't seen each other in a while, and we're in low season, as juniors, so-'

'Kou.' Kensuke interrupts him with a smile. 'Stop. We get it. You don't have to excuse yourself to us. Right?'

'Well, different to certain someone, I doubt Kouki could actually ditch the important practices for no reason.' Ryota shrugs, Kensuke whines, and Kouki smiles. 'Plus, it's as you've said, junors don't have that much jobs. Even if you still get more than all of us combined.'

'It wasn't a jab!' Kensuke quickly adds in face of Kouki opening his mouth, ready to apologize. 'Ryo wanted to say you're responsible. And that we will catch up to you soon anyway!'

Kouki blinks.

'Actually, aren't the two of you on about equal ground with me? Jobs-wise?'

The duo huffs.

'Maybe together. And even then, I doubt it, but.' Ryota says with a sigh, and Kensuke chuckles.

'Yeah. Anyway!' he turns back to confused Kouki. 'You should probably go. Say hi to your cousin from us! And then, make us some of the stuff you will take to him!'

'Ken!' Ryota admonishes, appaled, but Kouki chuckles. For some reason, it felt amazing that Kensuke looked forward to trying his cooking so much...

'You've got it.' he promises, and other junior cheers. Ryota huffs with a small "don't spoil him too much", but Kouki can see the other idol hopeful doesn't mean it. 'Then, I'll see you... ah, next group practice is the day after tomorrow, right? I'll see you then.'

'Have a safe trip!' the duo choruses once more, before they split.

Kouki muses, over these past few months they were slowly getting to know each other, Ryota and Kensuke grew into strong and comforting presence in his life.

He wouldn't mind for them to stay together, even after they debut... but, that was dependent on their agency, huh. Plus, it wasn't sure that they would want to debut together. Ryota was a brilliant person, and Kensuke had an unmatched talent in dance and easy-going personality. Mixed together, they would probably be a hit, even just as a duo...

Kouki shakes his head before moving in the direction of the closest store.

He needs to forget about the job for the time being, he has a little cousin to visit, and that means, he needs to figure out something fun to look at, delicious and light on the stomach at the same time. He got his aunt to share what the doctor has told her about Kaoru's diet, so at least he had these guidelines to follow, not to mention, surely nurses will check on his gift before he will be let into Kaoru's room, like always, so. He probably shpuld also make a small gift for the hospital workers, as a thank you for alway taking care of his cousin, right? And then, something that he will like... Not that Kaoru would complain about anything he gets to eat that isn't hospital food (and even about that, the most the boy would say is that it was "bland"), but.

Kouki wanted to see him smile.

*

Kaoru wonders if the day was bright, or if it was just that his body was finally managing to draw in enough oxygen for his vision not to darken with each and every bigger movement he makes.

Maybe it was a mix of both.

Still, the doctors warn him not to move too much, and that means, Kaoru is once again stuck in bed, staring in the same position, through the same window, until the same nurses won't bring the same bland meals-

'Kaoru?'

He snaps his head to the door - bad move, really, but the person standing there is shining with his own inner light, so Kaoru smiles, lets the dark spots be burned away by that gentle brightness.

'Kou-niisan.' he says - his voice sound weak, but that was to be expected, they took oxygen mask off just yesterday. At least the bruise marks on his face faded already. 'Welcome!'

'I'm intruding.' the teenager says, entering the white hospital room - Kaoru doesn't like to think of it as his room, even if he spends better part of the year in it... 'How are you feeling?'

'I'm good for now.' he answers, and Kouki nods, not asking for him to specify what good means or how long for now will last. 'I didn't know you would come...'

'I know. I'm really sorry I couldn't get an off day earlier.' Kouki apologises, setting a light brown basket on night table, before leaning over the bed to hug him briefly, and Kaoru feels like a little bit of his cousin's light has entered him as well.

'It's okay.' he says. 'Even if you managed to get some last week, I wasn't in a state to really speak. Now is much better.'

He adds in the face of the worried blue - the only things they shared as cousins were those bright blue eyes; Kaoru's dark hair and sickly complexion couldn't compare to Kouki's golden... well, hair as well, but, really. All about his cousin, from his name to his face, was shining, in Kaoru's eyes.

It was why he started drawing in the first place, to show what the people saw in Kouki, because for all his maturity (well, he was five years older, after all...), his cousin was still perplexed as to why others considered him special.

Well, that was also special about him.

Kaoru finds himself smiling weakly to his thoughts, and receiving a gentle pat in response.

‘You’re smiling.’ Kouki notes. ‘Did something good happened?’

‘You’re here.’

And Kouki chuckles.

‘I’m glad I’m not a bother.’ he answers, sitting down on the chair. ‘How have you been? We’ve got updates from auntie, but I want to hear your version.’

They shouldn’t be this close, technically. The age gap was too big, and Kaoru’s illness made him absent from most of the family meets, especially since, well. Kouki's mother married a man bound to reach high position in a national bank, while her sister and Kaoru's mother choose your regular salaryman, making families of their fathers look at each other weirdly (it didn't stop their mothers from being vulcans of energy, and changing into squealing teenagers the moment they've met, though). Still, somehow, somewhat, he and Kouki managed to forge that tentative connection that only grew with time. By now, Kaoru thought, although he didn’t have an actual brother, his cousin might have as well been one.

He recaps what he remembers from the past few weeks, before asking Kouki to tell him about his life. His older cousin’s voice could be really soothing, especially when he fondly recalled juniors in the agency he’s managed to befriend, the new plants he got into his apartament, the photoshoot he took part in, and the new recipe he’s mastered...

Kaoru’s stomach grumbles, and he lays a hand on it, embarrassed, while Kouki chuckles.

‘That was mean of me, sorry.’ he says, reaching for the basket. ‘I should have offered it before talking, right?’

‘Eh?’ Kaoru blinks. Could it be-

‘I’ve managed to talk to your doctor before coming in, and he said it will be ok.’ Kouki confirms, pulling out containers and paper plates. ‘How do you feel about a small indoor picnic?’

Kaoru’s answering smile is blinding.