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Backstage Passes

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They are backstage, and they are alone, all five of them: Ueda between Kame and Nikishido, Nakamaru between him and Akanishi. Kame has never had a solo show, so he doesn't have anything to contribute about the effects, choosing songs, how much it costs. He's never thought that it was a good enough excuse, to be the youngest in the room. Kame pulls his waterfall cardigan tighter over his chest, and laughs when the others do.

"Ryo-chan, arm-wrestle," Ueda says, stopping the conversation right there, and pointedly pulling Nakamaru over to referee.

"You look good. Tanned. The baseball thing, right?"

Kame wonders why Akanishi's bothering with small talk, if he can't even remember the name of the show, when Akanishi asks: "Guam?"

"I got back a week ago," Kame says, smiling because that's what you do. It's supposed to give him time to feel for what to say next, except that Akanishi's reaching forward, his fingers curling around Kame's bicep, and the touch brings Kame short.

They'd always had that in common. Kame and Jin had both had to learn not to just touch people, and neither had learnt it well. Jin's hand is warm through Kame's cardigan, coming down from the performance high, and the tips of his hair are curling with sweat. They haven't seen each other for six months, but the only thing that feels truly strange to Kame is that he doesn't share that combination of weariness and joy.

But it's different being on stage.

Kame has to say something. In this pause, he can't hear the others behind him, knows they must be watching. It's hard thinking what to say over the chant in his head that reminds Kame not to stare at Jin's face.

"I've put on so much weight."

"Yeah, but it's all muscle, right," Jin says, and he squeezes Kame's arm, as if to prove how he knows. "You look good."

"So do you." Kame doesn't even have to lie. When Jin smiles, he's still the most beautiful man Kame's ever met. Jin was smiling when he walked in, hasn't stopped.

"The show, it was great."

"Thanks for coming. It means a lot."

"To see your triumph?" Kame asks, and if this were Going!, he'd lean forward as he said it. He doesn't.

Jin looks at his feet, looks at Kame's shoulder, and he looks at Kame's chin, but he is still smiling.

"Hey, you should come out with us!" Jin says. "I can introduce you to--"

"We can't," Kame interrupts, twisting to casually slip out of Jin's grip. Only Nikishido's schedule allows for staying in the city tonight.

"Oh. Yeah," Jin says. "Long train ride back to Tokyo, right?"

Kame nods.

"Hey, there's something coming up-- wait, sorry, I can't say," Jin says, and he looks back at his feet.

"I had dinner with Yamashita last night," Kame says, because it's true and he hasn't lost the habit of trying to read Jin's mind.

Yamashita did confirm the rumours, while they waited for the taxi he would insist they share. Kame can't remember most of what happened while they were filming Nobuta, but he's glad he and Yamashita no longer fight.

"He said you're in love."

"She's amazing," Jin says, and he looks up like he can't help wanting to share how happy he feels.

His smile is so beautiful that Kame needs to wrap his cardigan around himself, needs to count backwards from ten instead of thinking about how the heat of Jin's hand on his arm had felt.

"But, uh, we're not dating. She doesn't actually know yet," Jin says. "It's, uh, it's a work thing."

Kame has to think for a moment before he can follow what Jin had meant. "The thing you can't tell me about?"

Jin was the first one Kame told about Nobuta; Jin punched him, but Kame didn't mind. He felt like he deserved it.

"I haven't told my Mom yet. Just-- I'm going to be out of Japan. But it's something amazing, I swear. I couldn't believe it when I got the call. I thought I-- uh, yeah, contracts, you know?"

"You had to grow up, sometime," Kame says, and the way Jin smiles makes him look seventeen.

Ten years ago, they both used to write songs. Kame played baseball. They were friends. They were put in a group together, put in a drama together, and they were more than friends together, some time between then and now, but the important thing for Kame to remember is that they stopped.

Can't you support me for once?

Kame takes photographs because his memory is bad for anything that isn't work. He has photos from the year before the evening it all went wrong. Kame keeps them in a box on the top shelf of his wardrobe. He can't remember any of them happening.

Jin is never smiling in Kame's memories.

Kame can remember pieces of the six months after it went wrong, while Jin was overseas. He remembers looking at the way that his mother stood behind his father, the way she spoke even more softly when he was tired, and Kame remembers that he had thought "I'm tired," and had thought of Jin.

Except that Jin didn't want to be Kame's little wife, and Kame didn't want to be Jin's. Kame's still not sure how that's supposed to work. If it could, for anyone.

Kame had tried to support Jin by making sure that Jin had a group to come back to, and did not notice that that was really about advancing his own career, not until Jin later pointed it out.

Kame can't remember much of what happened while he was filming One Pound Gospel. All Kame can remember of that trip to New York to shoot their calendar is Jin asking why Kame hadn't called even once. Kame remembers lying, and maybe that's the last time he can remember a smile on Jin's face. Whenever Jin's smiling in Kame's memories, Kame knows he did not deserve it.

New York is not when they stopped; it's when they should have.

"What's going on with you?" Jin asks, and his hand is fidgeting with the end of the towel hanging around his neck. "Besides getting a tan and hitting home runs?"

Maybe Yamashita told Jin about Guam. He can't have watched Kame himself if he thinks Kame capable of hitting home runs yet.

But Kame does have secrets that aren't charming stories he can tell Yamashita or his sempai, or Nishioka. Taking Jin's arm as leverage, Kame steps up and close. He whispers that they'd been asked in an interview about secrets they hadn't told the other members. That he hadn't found a charming lie. That he'd said that he was gay.

Ten years ago, Kame had looked at Jin and felt a rush of relief to finally feel for someone what his classmates had claimed to feel for girls since the beginning of middle school. Watching Jin step out onto stage, seeing him for the first time in nearly a year, was like being punched in the gut in such a familiar way, blood pumping fast and hot through Kame's veins.

Kame can't look at the smile on Jin's mouth without wanting to press his lips to it. He lets go, and steps back. Kame is no longer fifteen, no longer nineteen. He no longer confuses lust with love.

"That's..." Jin swears.

"Stupid?" Kame asks.


"Ueda covered it with a stupid joke about being really named Tamura," Kame says. "And manager was talking to the interviewer for a while afterwards. I don't know that they'll run it."

Jin's happy tonight, and he's beautiful. Some of it may be this girl, whoever she is. Maybe Jin's finally getting old enough that girls three years younger want to think about children. Kame is so happy for them both that his chest hurts.

Love means calling. Love means caring. Love means putting your man in front of your career, and Kame's never yet met a man who made him feel like that. He's not waiting for it to happen.

"Talking about me?" Ueda asks from behind him.

"Did you win?" Kame turns smoothly, taking a step further away from Akanishi.

Ueda snorts. "Of course."

Nikishido is not particularly discreetly massaging his wrist. Nakamaru is frowning at something on his phone. Probably the time. It's a relief for Kame to not be the only one to remember things like that.

Akanishi asks for their phone numbers. Nikishido is the only one with Akanishi's current number, so it takes another ten minutes of number swapping before they can leave.

The next day, when Koki and Taguchi ask about the concert, Kame lets Ueda and Nakamaru carry most of the conversation. He didn't remember to bring his camera to Osaka, and he has CM choreography to memorise.