Chapter Four

For everything you've lost

And all you've overcome

I wanna be the one to put it in a song

.

Kurogane didn't just go around staring at the Paper Cranes' lead singer or hang on his every word or anything. He wasn't that pathetic.

He didn't think he was.

But it was entirely possible that he paid more attention to him than he did to anyone else, he was man enough to admit that. He was not yet man enough to admit that he'd missed important cues during concerts before because he'd been too mesmerized by Fai's performance to do his job. But yeah, he knew exactly why chicks threw their panties at the guy. Offstage, he was actually on the quiet side, reserved even. Music made him into someone else. Whether it was singing in front of thousands of people in a packed amphitheatre or just screwing around with a harmonica during a rest stop on the road, something about the music made Fai seem more confident, more happy, more him.

Maybe he didn't like to talk about it, but Kurogane still remembered what it was like. When it was a guitar and a mic and your eyes locked on to someone in the crowd who was there to listen to you. He knew about hours picking out the same three chords, over and over, because creating something was a thrill even when it was tedious. Yeah, Kurogane knew what Fai felt, when he got like that.

But he didn't think it had ever made him look that fucking gorgeous.

So maybe he tended to be listening to and hearing things that weren't his business sometimes, because when Fai was speaking his ears perked up. He could admit that to himself (and once, while drowsily discussing matters of the heart with the kid, admit it to Fuuma).

So it was just a happenstance that he found out that he wasn't the only one ready to call Kamui out on his bullshit.

"Hey, don't look so sad," Fai said, slinging his arm over Subaru's shoulders. They were all helping unload equipment and sort out what belonged to the studio and what belonged to the musicians. Kurogane was in a hurry to get things packed away and get home, because he was sick of being on the road and now that he was finally back he was ready to stop working and just chill out in his apartment for a couple of days. "It's not like we're never going to see each other again. We've got to keep making a living, right?"

"Yeah," Subaru answered with one of his half-smiles that basically were patented tools to break your heart. Kurogane barely even knew the kid and still felt alarmingly protective of him. After everything that had come to light in the aftermath of arresting that fucking psycho Seishirou, even more so. "I know. I'm glad to be home, anyway, I'm not worried about that."

"So what are you worried about?" Fai asked quietly.

"Fuuma," Subaru said plainly.

Fai looked surprised, but Kurogane just felt vindication.

"What about Fuuma?"

Kurogane got busy with handing equipment out to other people so he could stay in one spot for a minute.

"I thought he'd be going home, I mean, he was in school and his family and everything . . . Did you know he's staying here?"

"Yeah, I asked him about it. He said he can't go home, actually, although he didn't say why."

Subaru looked miserable. "Because he lost his scholarship and his parents are too pissed off to let him come home. 'Just because his friends are throwing away their future doesn't mean he should . . .' I asked him about it, too. He said if he can't get back into school, and his options are making his own way in Chicago or doing it in Tampa, he'd rather stay here with the rest of us."

"Yeah?"

"I just . . . don't think Kamui knows that. I don't think he . . . I really think Kamui should have asked him about this stuff. I just— he's my brother and he's great, but sometimes I just— you know?"

"Yeah," Fai said absently, patting Subaru on the head before letting go of him at last. He had noticed Kurogane's eyes on him, and turned to meet his gaze. He knew Kurogane could hear them. "You'd better grab your guitar before one of these idiots puts it with the studio equipment," he told Subaru, who went to do just that.

Kurogane totally didn't straighten up his shoulders and tighten his abs when Fai walked over, because that was so fucking high school and he was over that shit. He totally didn't. And he didn't run his tongue over his teeth and worry about whether or not he'd flossed lately, either. Because why would that be important, exactly? So he definitely didn't.

"What's up?" he asked gruffly, picking up an incredibly heavy piece of equipment but only because it needed moved and not to show off.

"Nothing, just thought since you and Fuuma spend so much time together maybe you'd know if he's going to be okay. Does he have a place to stay? I don't remember where he was living before we left."

"He has a place to stay," Kurogane confirmed, going for another piece of equipment. "He's staying with me."

Fai looked surprised. "Oh. Oh. You guys are . . .?"

"What," Kurogane grunted, and then it struck him and he almost dropped an amp. "Oh fuck no. No! We are not. He's staying with me because he doesn't have a place of his own and I have a spare bedroom."

Fai's eyes clouded a bit. "Yeah, I heard. Sorry, man, that sucks."

"Nah, not really," Kurogane shrugged. How did Fai . . .? Well, as a musician he probably had shopped at the store. Maybe he'd found out straight from the horse's mouth. "We never made it that serious, we always figured we'd move on to other people. Sucks it happened while I was out of town and we couldn't really talk about it, but I'm fine with it."

He was, even though Yukito had given him those godawful sad-puppy eyes when Kurogane had said so to him and Touya. He was completely fine with his boyfriend meeting his soul mate and moving out of their place. They'd never made any promises they weren't planning to keep. Yukito could make sad-puppy eyes all day, but Kurogane wasn't exactly crying himself to sleep.

Still. He was glad Fuuma was moving in for a while. Kurogane had gotten used to someone being around.

"So. Does Kamui seriously just not give a shit?"

Fai grimaced. "I don't know?"

Kurogane snorted.

"I honestly don't. I'm as close to Kamui as anyone can be, but Fuuma is like a nuclear threat. You only bring him out in conversation if you have no choice and are prepared for a dramatic response."

Kurogane snorted again. "Fuck that," he said decisively. He marched over to Kamui, who was helping Sakura get her stuff into her brother's car. "Hey, I gotta talk to you for a second," he said, dragging the kid away from Sakura.

"Whoa, hey, overkill," Kamui squawked, writhing out of his grip. "What the fuck?"

"You're kind of a dick," Kurogane informed him. Seriously, this couldn't be much of a surprise. The kid had to know this about himself.

"What?"

"Do you know, or even care, what Fuuma plans to do with his life now? We probably won't tour again for a couple of years, you know that right?"

Kamui glared at him. "What? He's going back home, isn't he?"

Kurogane really wanted to punch this kid in the mouth sometimes. "No. He isn't. He is currently unemployed and homeless in a city he doesn't know that well."

Kamui looked uncertain, now.

"You know why that is?" Kurogane asked, raising his eyebrows.

"No?"

"It's because of you, kid."

"How is it my fault? Or my problem, for that matter?"

"Fuck, I know you're an asshole but are you that dumb on top of it? What do you mean, how is it your problem? You called him up and said you needed his help. You invited him to move to Chicago and be part of this. You did. I didn't say it's your responsibility to find him a home or job or anything like that. I just wanted to point out that he made a lot of sacrifices to be here. For you."

"I didn't ask him to sacrifice anything," Kamui snarled. "I said we were looking for a guy to run the lights, and he said sit tight he was on his way. He didn't tell me it was a problem, and I never said, 'drop everything in your life for me' so don't lay this on me. And what is your fucking point, anyway? What do you want from me?"

"I want you to make up your goddamn mind," Kurogane shouted, pissed off beyond reason now and getting in the kid's face. Fuuma was a good kid and a hard worker, and Kurogane had been looking after him for a while now. It just burned him up that this kid could mess Fuuma up so much, because he had a lot going for him otherwise. "If you want him, then fucking be man enough to admit it. And if you don't, stop asking him for things and leave him the fuck alone. You know what he wants, and if you're not going to give it to him then stop taking advantage of him. You might be okay with being a selfish asshole, that's your problem. But if it hurts my friends, then it's my problem. So fucking figure it out, yeah?"

Kamui wasn't even pretending to be angry anymore. He was leaning back against one of the buses, looking stricken. Kurogane lost the urge to punch him, because it made the kid look like he was twelve years old when his eyes went all big and wobbly like that.

"Get over yourself," he muttered, and went back to work.

Everyone was staring at them, although most people hadn't heard enough of the conversation or didn't know enough about the situation to put it together. Fuuma had gone inside and hadn't overheard, so Kurogane didn't really give a fuck. The rest of them could think whatever they wanted.

Although he did notice that Fai was staring at him like he'd never seen him before.


(seven months ago)

The show had ended and most of the band was backstage hanging out with the veeps and kids who'd gotten passes. Bottles were being passed around, eager questions were being answered, Sakura was laughing and chatting with some girl who had her pink-cheeked and hesitant—that was weird, what were they talking about—and Kamui had an arm around a woman on either side of him, grinning and letting the two of them slide their hands over his legs and press a drink to his lips.

Kurogane had come in for a second to let Touya know that he'd found the source of the problem he'd had with his keyboard tonight and he'd called ahead to their next destination and found a repair shop. He could barely stand being in the room. That was not his life anymore, he was not the kind of person who enjoyed it anymore. He could honestly say he'd never want that kind of shit back. It made his skin crawl to be in the middle of it.

He couldn't get out of there fast enough. He'd just find Fuuma and a couple of other guys and play poker or something until they were ready to hit the road.

It took a while, but he finally found Fuuma in an alley behind the building, alone and obviously upset. He was shadow-boxing and letting out sharp, angry cries with each swing. Kurogane watched quietly for a moment. Fuuma's face twisted up and suddenly he let out a yell and punched a metal dumpster. The clong echoed around for a few seconds, and in the aftermath while Fuuma was clutching his hand to his stomach and groaning, he finally looked up and saw Kurogane there.

"What?" he snarled.

"Nothing, man, I was just looking for you. What's eating you?"

"Nothing," Fuuma spat out poisonously. "I'm fucking fine."

"Your hand okay?" Kurogane asked calmly.

"What do you think?" Fuuma snarled, looking down at the hand he was clutching against himself with his other hand. "I just dislocated my fucking finger, fuck."

"Give me your hand," Kurogane said patiently. "I'll put it back for you."

"What?" Fuuma panted.

"Just give me your hand."

Fuuma held out his hand, looking nauseated. "Are you really gonna—"

"On the count of five, okay? Take a deep breath. One, two, five—"

"Aaaggghhhh, fuck! Ow ow ow!"

Fuuma held his hand up to his eyes and saw that Kurogane had successfully popped his finger back into place. He blew out a deep breath and his shoulders slumped.

"Thanks."

Kurogane crossed his arms and leaned casually back against the wall of the alley, looking up at the stars he could locate through the smoky night pollution.

"Hey, man, you're allowed to have your own business, but you can talk to me."

Fuuma's eyes were wide and shining back the glare of a streetlight at the mouth of the alley. They'd worked together for a while, but they didn't get into each other's personal baggage. Fuuma looked too surprised by the offer to know what to do with it.

"Might be better to get it off your chest."

It was times like this that Kurogane wished he smoked. This was a perfect moment to light up and offer one to the kid. But there was that whole deal about smoking being really awful for you, so Kurogane didn't. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a guitar pick, flipping it around in his fingers while he waited. Old habits.

"What fucking good would that do?" Fuuma muttered, leaning against the wall face-first and using his uninjured arm to shield his face from the rough surface. "I get it off my chest, but he'll still sleep with that chick that's wrapped around him. It just fucking sucks that no matter what I do, it's no good because I'm not some— some stupid bitch with like, hair— and, and eyelashes and lipstick and fucking tits. What the fuck do you do with tits, anyway? Play the bongos on them? I just don't know anymore, you know? I don't know what I'm doing here. I'm such a fucking idiot. Always been an idiot. Can't help it. But this blows."

Kurogane had honestly assumed the back-and-forth routine with Fuuma teasing and turning everything into innuendo while Kamui snarled and bitched and yelled at him was just some sort of leftover from high school that only made sense if you'd been there. He'd never thought Fuuma was that serious about it. He treated the whole thing like it was a joke, and Kamui delivered such satisfying explosions when teased.

He kept thinking that, until Fuuma lifted his face from the wall and Kurogane saw that he was crying.

"Fuck, sorry," Fuuma muttered, wiping a shaking hand over his wet cheek. He grit his teeth and wouldn't look at Kurogane. "I'm going to the bus to crash, okay? Wake me up if you need me to do anything before we get out of here."

Kurogane couldn't exactly sympathize or say he knew what it felt like. He'd never had a thing for a straight guy, unless you counted being attracted to Fai and all his evasive bullshit. If he had to give an answer for why he hadn't let the kid walk away, hadn't just let it go and never brought it up again, he wouldn't have had a reason. He didn't know. (Every instinct he had was screaming at him that he was an older brother and this was his job but he couldn't face that. So he would have said he didn't know.)

"Hey," he said, following Fuuma around the building and back toward the vehicles. "I said you can talk to me. It's fine."

"What's to talk about?" Fuuma muttered.

"Whatever, man. Maybe talking won't help, but maybe it will. You don't know if you don't try."

"What do you want to know?"

They entered the equipment trailer and starting checking stuff in to make sure it was all accounted for, without saying a word about it. They'd gotten good at working together. Someone else had probably done this already, but it was easier to talk sometimes when you were doing something else.

"Tell me, uh, tell me how you guys met."

"Don't fucking laugh at me for this."

"I won't."

"It was fate."

"Not laughing. Go on."

"There wasn't any reason for the two of us to ever talk to each other, you know? I was a year older than him and played basketball, and if there's one group of kids we didn't talk to, it was the drama geeks. I didn't even know the kid existed. But then my sister tried out for a play and got the part, and got all excited, and then she comes home one day and tells me she's going out with the lead actor. And that was my baby sister, you know? So I wanted to make sure this guy she was seeing was okay. I—"

"Wait. Wait, wait, wait. Kamui was going out with your sister?"

"You said you wouldn't laugh."

"I lied," Kurogane whimpered past the laughter in his chest, actually trying to hold back because Fuuma was upset and all. "I just— It's like an episode on that godawful high school soap opera show that Syaoran and Sakura used to watch when they were like, thirteen."

"Right," Fuuma said bitterly, kicking a discarded soda can out of the back of the trailer and watching it skitter across the blacktop, flashing back a dizzy pattern of reflected light. "Must have been that episode about not judging a book by its cover, right? Maybe the good-looking jock who plays basketball and gets all the ladies is secretly a queer, and maybe the gorgeous kid in the drama department is somehow the straight one. And maybe this guy's sister is a total bitch and cheats on her boyfriend and dumps him for a hippie, and if this was television, he'd have fallen into my arms at the end and I'd have told him how sorry I was that my sister sucks but he'd have it better with me anyway and we'd walk off into the sunset holding hands."

"Dude. She cheated on him?"

"Not like, cheated cheated—I mean, she'd fucking better not have, I'm already pissed at her enough—but yeah, there was this college kid who was studying theatre and was getting credit by volunteering at our school. Kakyo. He was a total psycho, all into dream interpretation and shit. Kotori got this huge ego because she was the starring actress, and Kakyo fed her all this bullshit about how far she could go and how talented she was, and she fell all over herself for him. Dumped Kamui so she could spend even more time getting told how talented she was by that assclown. And he didn't deserve it, okay? He'd been really good to her. And I had wanted to keep an eye on them because I'm the protective type of older brother, so I joined the stupid drama club. I learned how to do the light and effects for the stage, and I ended up really liking it, I kept doing it at the university . . . But yeah, I was hanging around all the time, so I got a front-row seat for all of this. I got to watch him get shut out by the drama department because they idolized Kakyo and they didn't want Kotori on their bad side. It was . . . really shitty for him. He'd been really popular with them and suddenly they turned on him. Kinda shitty for me, too, because there wasn't anything I could do."

"I take it he didn't fall into your arms, then."

"Do you fucking see him in my arms?" Fuuma muttered. "No. There was. There was this other thing going on back then. I can't really tell you about it. It was this thing with Subaru—that part of the plan worked out splendidly, by the way, we got to be friends really easily and I thought I had this great in with Kamui because his brother liked me—but yeah. So I can't talk about it but some things happened. I'd already graduated, I was playing basketball for University of Tampa, but I knew about it. And that's when they left."

"Left?"

"Dropped out of their senior year. Skipped town. Moved to Chicago."

"Oh," Kurogane said. Maybe he should try harder to be in the loop or something, because he'd had no idea about that.

"Long story short, I never got over him. So when he called and said he was in a band and their main tech could use a hand until they got a record deal, I . . . I don't know what I thought was gonna happen. I just didn't want to stay there making nice with my sister and playing ball when I could be in Chicago with him. You know?"

He didn't know, not really. He'd never felt like that about somebody, that somebody might be worth all that. But that didn't really matter that much right now. "Yeah. Not gonna lie, you're in a pretty shitty situation. I doubt there's anything I can do to make it any better for you, but I'll keep an eye out."

"Naw, don't worry about it. About me. I'm fine. Thanks, though."

"No problem."

"Seriously. Thank you. For just, you know, letting me talk. I . . . kinda feel better. I guess."

"Good," Kurogane said, slinging an arm over his shoulders and leading him out of the stuffy trailer that always smelled like motor oil and weed. "Now come on, let's go round up a couple of guys for poker. We're going to be here for a while."


"Aw, come on, seriously," Fuuma muttered, nervously jigging up and down while he shuffled toward the counter, his phone plastered to his ear. "Just pick up already."

The man working the register was smiling pleasantly and seemed to be enjoying himself despite the line being six people deep and growing. The girl calling out orders at the pickup counter seemed harassed and was barking out specifications like they disgusted her.

"Pick up or you're getting plain old boring ass coffee, boss," he told his phone as he hung up. DUDE I JUST NEED TO KNOW WHAT KIND OF COFFEE YOU DRINK he texted.

Fuuma was being a complete tool by not just ordering the aforementioned boring ass coffee, because he knew Kurogane drank it black all the time. But they'd also been on Starbucks runs before in which Kurogane ordered . . . Something. Maybe it was sad that Fuuma had known the guy for almost three years and still didn't know how he liked his coffee, but why would he be paying attention to stuff like that? Now it was coming back to bite him, because he wanted to do something to say thank you and this was about all he could do at the moment.

The person in line behind him had his hands in his pockets, gazing out the window, seeming to be in no hurry. Still, as Fuuma started dialing again, he waved his hand at the guy to gesture him to move forward.

"Go ahead, I'm still trying to figure out my order," he said, indicating his phone. "He's just being an ass, I know he's not busy. Come on, Kurogane, seriously."

The guy smirked the slightest bit as he took the invitation to cut in line, like he thought something was funny.

"Why do people even have phones if they're not going to answer them, right?" Fuuma sighed, giving up and putting his phone away. "What's so funny?" he asked the guy, who was still smirking.

"Nothing. I know somebody named Kurogane, and he never answers his phone either."

Fuuma snorted. "How many antisocial grumpasses named Kurogane can there be? We're probably talking about the same guy." Which wouldn't be that weird, he was at a coffee shop right around the corner from the apartment. It was possible that someone who knew him also frequented this shop.

"Big guy, lots of tats, doesn't talk much?"

"That's the one. Hey, that's funny, what are the chances?"

They were at the counter and the cheerfully crowd-controlling guy was raising his eyebrows to politely interrupt.

"Morning, Adam," the guy drawled, hands still in his pockets. "Usual two caramel machiattos, for one thing. You got a dark roast brewing? Yeah? You got almond milk? Okay. Au lait, dark roast with almond milk. And whatever this dude is having," he added, waving a hand at Fuuma.

Disconcerted, Fuuma took a step back. Maybe the guy knew Kurogane, but Fuuma knew better than to trust people just because they seemed legit. "Uh, no, that's, that's fine, dude no offense but I don't know you—"

"You're a friend of Kurogane's," the guy said patiently, "so it's cool. What are you having?"

Fuuma sheepishly ordered himself a mocha, and tried very hard to pay but was lazily rebuffed. Once the transaction was complete and they'd stepped to the side, Fuuma frowned.

"Uh, thanks, but what the hell. I mean, for one thing, you just paid for my coffee and I don't know you, and for another thing, almond milk? Kurogane drinks that?"

"He's lactose intolerant," the guy said patiently, a smirk still quietly lingering in the corners of his mouth. "Regular milk makes him yak. When you pick it up, stir some cinnamon in there, by the way, he likes cinnamon."

Fuuma was fairly speechless at this point. Who the hell was this guy?

"As for paying, consider it my way of wishing you good luck. If you're going out with Kurogane, you'll need it."

"What," Fuuma muttered. "With . . . Huh?"

The remains of that smirk said it all.

"Oh not a chance in fucking hell," Fuuma said fervently. "Me and Kurogane going out would be . . . Who are you?"

"His ex," the guy grinned. "Hey, when did he get back?"

"Yesterday."

The door blew open and admitted a slender man with pale skin and electrifying eyes, who made a beeline straight for them. Fuuma instinctively took a step back.

"Please tell me you have my coffee," he moaned. "I need caffeine so very, very much."

"It's coming, hold your horses," the guy said, then grabbed one slender hand and pulled the man forward to peck him on the lips.

"Good morning to you, too," the blue-eyed one spluttered, face going pink as he looked over at Fuuma, who was still standing there rather befuddled by it all.

"So anyway. I'm Doumeki, this is my boyfriend Watanuki, and you are . . . not Kurogane's boyfriend?"

Fuuma was not really sure his mind could contain both the reality of Kurogane's ex-boyfriend buying him coffee and the implication that he himself was dating the boss. That was too much weirdness all at the same time.

"I'm Fuuma," he finally said.

Doumeki just nodded. "Yeah, he told me about you, I figured you were Fuuma. I just figured that after being on the road together that long you two were probably banging each other."

"Oh my god, you are disgusting," Watanuki hissed, digging fingers into Doumeki's arm, who didn't even flinch.

Fuuma finally kicked his brain into gear enough to find this funny, because it totally was. "Well, banging isn't the same as dating, you know. There's the occasional friendly bj but— Anyway. The two of us both have our sights set elsewhere, so no. Wow. You're the ex. Huh. He mentioned he had a boyfriend a couple of times, but you're really not what I imagined."

Doumeki just gave him a rather serene look. He was still holding the other guy's hand, like it wasn't totally awkward to be talking about your previous boyfriend's sex life in front of the current boyfriend. He didn't seem bothered by the possibility that Kurogane was dating someone else, either. Maybe Fuuma had been expecting something else, but he could see the appeal of dating someone this confident and chilled out.

"So, yeah, thanks. Dark owlet or whatever it's called, and no regular milk. I'll try to remember that. I better get this back to him before it gets cold."

"You're staying at the apartment?"

"Yeah, for now," Fuuma shrugged. "I was staying with these other guys when I first got to Chicago, but they're not around anymore, so Kurogane said I could stay with him for a while."

"That's good," Doumeki said thoughtfully.

"It is?"

"That somebody's going to be there," Doumeki said, and there was a frown building up between his eyebrows that hadn't reached his mouth yet. His new boyfriend was running a hand up his arm with one of those caring expressions that you only saw on people who were dating. "Hey, let's go to the apartment."

"Right now?" Watanuki said incredulously.

"Yeah," Doumeki answered calmly. "I wanted to introduce you guys, and I need to talk to him. Might as well—unless you guys were planning on friendly bjs this morning," he added with a sudden grin at Fuuma.

Yes yes there is someone else with my sense of humour after all, oh god I love this guy

"Aw, it can wait, we've got all day," Fuuma grinned back. "Sure, I guess. It's just around the corner at— oh, duh, you know that, I'm an idiot, I moved into your room. Anyway. See you guys there in a minute."

"I have to be at work in an hour," Watanuki scolded him as they went out to their cars.

"You don't have to come."

"See, there's love, there's trust, and then there's leaving you alone with a guy you're not actually over."

"I could tell you that you have nothing to worry about, but you'll worry anyway."

"Weird as this seems, we only met six months ago and I don't know you that well yet. Oh god, six months and we've already moved in together and you quit your second job for me. You are the greatest mistake of my life. What am I doing here? My life makes no sense. I am soooo not leaving you alone with your ex."

"Kid'll be there," Doumeki said, gesturing at Fuuma with his coffee cup.

"I am an excellent chaperone," Fuuma said, raising his fist in victory. "I am the reigning champion of cockblocking. The king. I have years of experience. I am an Olympic medalist in cockblocking."

Watanuki just gaped at both of them for a minute. "I am coming with you. At this point, just to see if maybe Kurogane is a sane and rational person. I might leave the two of you alone together and run away with him."

Doumeki's response was growl, then push the guy up against his car and kiss him rather passionately, so Fuuma grimaced and ducked into Kurogane's car and hurried to get back to the apartment to warn him of impending visitors. Which he could have done already if the guy would just answer his—

His phone rang. "Oh, now you feel like answering your phone."

"Don't order me any of those fancy bullshit drinks with all the sugar in them," Kurogane ordered. "Just get me an au lait, but not regular milk, it—"

"It makes you yak," Fuuma said over him. "I know. I even put cinnamon in it."

Kurogane was quiet for a minute as he put the pieces together. "Fuck me, what was Doumeki doing there?"

"Getting coffee, obviously. The better question is what he's going to do when he gets to the apartment."

"He's coming over?"

"On his way right now, with the new guy. Well, if they can peel themselves off each other long enough to get in the car, anyway. Doumeki says he wants to introduce you guys."

Kurogane sighed heavily. "Great."

"Sorry."

"S'fine. I should probably put on some pants."

"Probably," Fuuma grinned. "I'm here, I just pulled in, so crack the door open for me. My hands are gonna be full of coffee."

"Yeah, got it. Pants, pants, ugh, we gotta have a major laundry day here."

"Hanging up now, boss."

Fuuma had barely handed the coffee over to Kurogane—who had managed to locate something semi-clean—before there was a knock on the half-open door.

"Hey," Kurogane called out. He leaned back against the kitchen counter and seemed like he didn't give a fuck about anything when Doumeki and Watanuki walked in. Fuuma knew better. He was flipping a guitar pick around between his fingers. He never did that when he actually didn't give a fuck.

"This is fine," Doumeki said, and flicked the little cardboard sleeve of his coffee cup with such pinpoint accuracy that he knocked the guitar pick out of Kurogane's hand. "Don't get all nervous on me. Kurogane, this is Watanuki."

"Yeah, hi, this isn't terribly awkward at all, it's nice to meet you," Watanuki said, shaking hands with him. "Oh my god, you're huge, please do not hit me."

"It's not that awkward," Kurogane said, actually seeming to relax for some reason. "I mean, unless you want it to be or something. I'm glad to meet you. See for myself what turned this guy into a sappy grinning moron. He practically uses full sentences when he talks about you, it's crazy."

Doumeki didn't change expression in the slightest, but his cheeks got a little flushed. "Yeah, well, you notice he's gorgeous." He shrugged. "Couldn't help myself."

"And I . . . have lost my mind," Watanuki sighed. "I have no idea what I see in this guy."

Kurogane raised his eyebrows. "You don't?"

"Just look at him," Watanuki said dramatically, gesturing at the man in question, who was standing there looking faintly amused. "He's rude and lazy and terrible at communication, and he has a terrible sense of humour and he leaves his disgusting dirty socks all over the house—"

"Tch. I know."

"So clearly I have lost my mind."

That made Kurogane scowl at him. "You could always just give him back if you don't want him."

Fuuma was just being casually observant, making no noise and trying to will himself into nonexistence, wondering if he should have left the room, at least . . . Now he wondered if he should probably stay in case somebody started throwing punches. Because Kurogane looked pissed, and Watanuki was going beet red and Doumeki . . .

Oh. Ouch. He just looked like somebody had punched him already.

"I— I am really sorry," Watanuki said, covering his mouth with one hand, his eyes starting to well up with tears as he looked at Kurogane. "It wasn't— I wasn't trying to— Guitar World is my first management job, and I've been really stressed out and nervous, and Doumeki was really helpful, and we just started talking all the time and . . . I never meant for things to happen like they did. I wasn't trying to take him away from anybody. I, I know I'm not— special," he said bitterly, looking down at the floor. "You must be so angry, because I'm not anything special, and I don't know why—"

Doumeki stepped forward and put a hand on the small of Watanuki's back to steady him. "Don't do that," he said softly, pressing a kiss into his hair. "Kurogane. I know we talked on the phone, but I had something to say in person. Let's go out on the balcony for a second."

Kurogane just nodded and led the way, leaving Watanuki and Fuuma in the kitchen trying not to look at each other and trying to pretend this was not the most miserable morning they'd ever had. Fuuma suddenly remembered that he was holding coffee, which was getting lukewarm and gross. Watanuki's was sitting on the counter.

"Um. Do you want to stick your coffee in the microwave for a second? Mine could use a re-heat."

"Yes, please," Watanuki muttered, his face flushed red with humiliation.

"So this might sound condescending and useless, but I kind of know what it's like," Fuuma said cheerfully as he started rounding up cups of half-finished coffee. At this point, laughing about it was the best way to deal with it. "I've been in love with someone for years, and I met him when he started dating my little sister."

Watanuki let out a soft, disbelieving laugh, not really looking at him.

"I mean, I didn't get as lucky as you did because he won't have anything to do with me, but the point is: I know how fucking awkward it is to feel like you're the one who doesn't belong in the picture."

"Well, that's encouraging," Watanuki muttered.

"No, I don't mean you actually are! I think it's going to be fine. Me and Kurogane talk a lot, and I know he's actually genuinely happy for you guys. He acts like he's a jerk, but secretly he's kind of nice. So I don't think you've got a lot to worry about."

They both glanced out toward the balcony, just in time to see Doumeki wrap his arms around Kurogane. The shocking thing for Fuuma was not that Doumeki had the balls to do that where Watanuki could see him, but that Kurogane leaned into the other man's embrace. In the stunned silence, they managed to catch Doumeki's muted words.

"I didn't mean to fall in love before you did. I'm sorry. I don't want to leave you if you're not okay."

"This was always gonna happen someday. And I am okay," Kurogane responded, pulling out of his arms and straightening up. "Totally fine." He slid open the balcony door and gestured for Doumeki to come back inside ahead of him. "I'm better, at least. Fujitaka wants me to come over for dinner tonight, and believe it or not I think I'm going to," he added as he came in behind Doumeki and shut the door again. "And stop gaping like dying fish," he said to Fuuma and Watanuki, walking right up to Watanuki, who flinched. "Hey, man, I'm happy for you guys. We're cool. Okay?" He was holding out his hand.

"I, um, are you sure?"

"Very sure."

Watanuki shook his hand.

"Yay, everybody's friends, that's so nice," Fuuma said in a chipper voice. "And now your coffee is hot again, so best day ever!" He handed them out. "And don't worry about Kurogane falling in love, anyway, he's got the hots for—"

"Shut the fuck up," Kurogane said, smacking him on the back of the head.

"I would never name any names, but he's blond and pretty and famous," Fuuma crowed, running across the room to avoid getting hit again.

Doumeki was giving Kurogane a look of serious concern. "Dude. I thought that was like, a one-time thing. And you guys were really high. I didn't know you—"

"Whoa, what?" Fuuma said in shock. "You and Fai have already hooked up? And you were high?"

"You're talking about Fai?" Doumeki said, and suddenly started laughing.

"Yeah, dude, who did you think I was . . . Kurogane?"

The guy looked like he was on the verge of a heart attack, his face nearly purple and his hands twitching with the need to strangle someone to death. "Nobody," he said viciously. "We are not talking about anybody at all, and so help me, Doumeki, if you ever bring that shit up again I will—"

"Yeah, yeah, I know, you'll fucking kill me," Doumeki smirked, waving a hand dismissively. "Anyway, he and I gotta get going, or we'll both end up being late for work. When are you coming back, Kurogane? It's been busy, we could use you."

"Ah, I've got to call the boss," Kurogane said. "Next week, probably. Might bring this one with me to start talking about going through the training program."

"You might?" Fuuma said, startled when he realized Kurogane's jabbing thumb was directed at him.

"Why not? You got some other work lined up?"

"No," Fuuma admitted. "I guess being an electrician's better than flipping burgers or something. Sure."

"Cool," Doumeki responded. "See you guys at work, then."

Watanuki could be heard to say, as the two of them went out the door, "Have I mentioned that my life makes no sense?"

Yeah, wonder what that would feel like, Fuuma thought sardonically as he drained the last of his mocha and wondered if it was acceptable to nap right after coffee. Laundry didn't seem that urgent.


(five years ago)

"So not as hard as it looks, right?" Michelle said cheerfully, having just finished showing him how to change the color filter on a spotlight. "It's nice to have an extra pair of hands, though, really. It was just going to be me and Jo running the whole thing, and we would have been so fucked."

Fuuma wasn't looking at the light, he was looking much farther down. He and Michelle were currently standing on the scaffolding behind the wall of the set, playing with a bank of lights that had already been mounted. Fuuma had joined the crew rather late in the game, and most stuff was already built and put into place. They had dress rehearsal in a few days.

"Yeah," he said belatedly. "Glad to be here."

The actors had already finished rehearsals for the day, so Kamui was sitting on the edge of the stage with his guitar in his lap, strumming chords and humming while Kotori leaned against him. He'd occasionally lean over to peck her on the cheek, but he was too focused on his guitar to carry on a conversation, so she seemed happy just to lean against him and listen.

Yeah. Sounded good to him, too. He'd showed up here two days ago ostensibly to join the stage crew and with the private purpose of keeping an eye on Kotori. She'd never had a boyfriend before, so as a big brother he was understandably concerned. He'd thought the guys on the team would stay off his back, since it was only going to be for three weeks and it wasn't like he was sewing the costumes or anything.

It was just that he kept forgetting who he was supposed to be keeping an eye on.

"—fantastical banquet, just so many strange dishes. May I be converted and see with these eyes. I cannot tell; I think not: I will not be sworn—"

"Less angry, more introspective, Kamui!" shouted the drama teacher.

The boy turned around quickly, flicking his head to swing messy hair out of his eyes. "I'm angry because you're making me do Shakespeare," he said, his voice clearly carrying to the back of the room, where Fuuma and Kotori had just walked in. "This is high school, there are four people who are going to be able to follow the dialogue. Why aren't we doing Picasso at the Lapin Agile?"

"Somebody got a bug up their ass, I don't really know," the drama teacher said, voice weary and dragging. They'd had this conversation before, obviously. "If you don't want to play Benedick, I can find someone else."

The boy on stage smirked at that, his meaning obvious: I'd like to see you try. Fuuma's jaw fell loose and his eyes flicked down to make sure the swooping feeling in his stomach hadn't had any unfortunate effects on him, because holy shit. Kamui was. Wow. Fuuma tried to will his heart to get back to his regularly scheduled beating.

"Just keep going, Kamui, we've got a lot to cover today."

"From the top?"

"No, just pick up where you left off, that's fine."

"Right," he sighed, and straightened his shoulders. "I will not be sworn, but love may transform me to an oyster; but I'll take my oath on it, till he have made an oyster of me, he shall never make me such a fool. One woman is fair, yet I am well; another is wise, yet I am well; another virtuous, yet I am well; but till all graces be in one woman, one woman shall not come in my grace."

Kamui glanced to the back of the room and winked. Fuuma's eyes widened and his heart resumed its effort to beat out of his chest. He was winking at—

Kotori giggled and blew Kamui a kiss. Right. Fuck. Obviously. She was standing right next to him and Kamui was winking at his girlfriend. Oh god his baby sister. Was dating this guy. Stop it, Fuuma, just stop staring, just look away.

"Rich she shall be, that's certain," Kamui went on, and finished his dialogue. Monologue. What the hell had Kotori said it was? Whatever it was, Fuuma wasn't even listening to it. There in jeans and a tshirt on a half-built stage with a script that most of his audience wasn't going to be able to follow due to the archaic language . . . Somehow he still looked poised, unselfconscious. He had fucking memorized Shakespeare, and he made it sound good, how was that possible?

He kept telling himself to stop watching and go introduce himself to the stage crew. But he couldn't tear his eyes away.

"Hey, Kamui!" someone shouted from across the room, causing the boy in question, his girlfriend, and the boy on the scaffolding all to look in their direction. "If you're gonna bring your guitar, quit it with that romantic crap and play something good, huh?"

Kamui's grin was sly and fierce. He nudged Kotori off his shoulder to give himself more room to work, and then he started playing. Ten feet above his head, Fuuma chuckled. It was good music alright, although he doubted whoever was shouting had a clue what it was. And Kamui was playing the shit out of it. He tried to lean over the edge of the wall to get a better look at Kamui's flying fingers.

He'd been such a good big brother and gone to all of Kotori's piano recitals when they were kids. She used to play this.

"What the fuck is that?" the asshole asked.

Für Elise . . . Really fast, but it's Für Elise and he's amazing

"Für Elise, fuckwad," Kamui hollered back. "It's Beethoven, not that that probably helps you, moron!"

Kotori giggled and hopped down from the stage to run over to the piano and play with him. Fuuma watched the two of them laughing at each other as she tried to keep up with him, and kind of wished he'd slip off the scaffolding and bash his brains on the floor. This was torture.

"I will hide me in the arbour!" Kamui finished, and immediately bounded off stage, heading to meet Kotori, who was already skipping forward to meet him. "Why, 'tis the fair Beatrice!" he grinned, dropping a light kiss on her.

Kotori giggled and cuddled against him. "Kamui, this is my brother Fuuma. Fuuma, isn't Kamui amazing?"

"Aw, come on, Tori . . ."

Okay, now he was blushing and that just wasn't fair.

"Come on, Fuuma, I want to show you where we keep the extra filters. I still have to show you how to use the programming equipment, too."

Fuuma followed Michelle down and tried to tell himself that he only had to get through another two weeks of this. In two weeks, the play would be over and he could start pretending that he didn't know who this guy was that Kotori kept talking about. Coming here had to be the biggest mistake of his life.

"Yeah," Fuuma said softly, hanging back as they headed to the front and Kamui gave Kotori a hand onto the stage so they could run lines together. "He's . . . perfect."


After shuffling at his laundry before simply rearranging his shoes, reading a single paragraph on the community college's home page before finding himself migrating to Pinterest, and scribbling down only three progressive notes for a song he was trying to write . . . Subaru finally gave up on doing anything productive today. He was hungry, anyway.

The kitchen held no better luck for him. For one thing, the only food they'd left behind while they toured was dry food like pasta or rice, or canned like soup or tuna. It all sounded disgusting. He wanted Mediterranean food. He'd kill somebody for baba ghanoush and lentils right now. He shut the pantry door and sighed uselessly.

Then he flopped down on the couch in the living room. Screw it. He was watching crappy t.v. for the rest of the day. His first day home had been upset by Kurogane shoving his brother up against a wall and yelling at him, and his second day home had been ruined by fucking Kyle. His third day was just being ruined by tedium.

The front door burst open to admit someone—it could be Fai but by the noise was probably Subaru's errant twin, who'd disappeared a while ago.

"Hi," Subaru said, then frowned. "What were you doing?"

Kamui was red-faced and dripping with sweat. "Running," he gasped.

"Well, god, go cool down and stretch out."

"Already did," he said, bent in half and bracing his hands on his thighs. "Over at the park down the road. Jogged the rest of the way."

"Oh," Subaru said, flipping through a few channels and trying to determine how much he cared if Kamui judged him for watching "Law and Order."

"So you think I'm a selfish asshole for not falling in love with that childish moron, too, right?"

Startled, it took Subaru a minute to switch gears. "Uh," he said, attempting to buy himself a moment.

Kamui had pulled his shirt off and was wiping his face and neck with it, and he was glaring at Subaru like he planned to set him on fire in a minute. "Everyone seems to think I'm just being a jerk by not falling all over myself for Fuuma, despite the fact that he acts like a second-grader and the fact that I am not and never have been interested in men. So how come you haven't told me you think I'm an asshole? I'm your brother, you're supposed to tell me these things."

Subaru sighed, but he didn't try to get out of the conversation. He'd been waiting for Kamui to bring it up. He'd expected something more subtle, but he shouldn't have, really. Kamui's defense mode was angry and accusing, even when it didn't need to be, even with him. Subaru was just lucky because Kamui defused a lot quicker with him.

"Sit down," he said mildly.

"No," Kamui snapped. "I don't want to have some kind of heart to heart chat about this. I'm too pissed off. I'm gonna shower."

Subaru sighed again and went back to watching t.v. until Kamui emerged half an hour later in jeans and a tank top, his damp hair curling along his neck. He threw himself down in a chair and glared at Subaru, who muted the television.

"You're mad at me because of what happened yesterday with Kyle."

"Even Fai was angry and you know he never gets mad! You were just going to stand there and let that sack of crap say— say things to you—" he choked off.

Subaru folded his hands quietly between his knees. "I know I've got problems. And I know that I should get more upset when people treat me badly. But unlike you two, I was willing to see if Kyle would clarify what he meant. Not that I'm not happy you kicked his ass," he grinned suddenly, "because I am."

The thwacking noise of Kamui's fist on Kyle's face was entirely too pleasant to remember. Subaru abhorred violence, and somehow this did not bother him at all.

"Good."

"Kamui?"

"Yeah, what."

"I think I might try going to therapy for a while."

"Hunh?"

"I just . . . think I need some help. I've never been very good at thinking well of myself, and I know the lengths I go to, to keep people happy and stay out of their way, I know my boundaries are a little, um."

"Fucked up?"

"Yeah."

"That's Mom and Dad's fault," Kamui said, clenching his fists. "They— they didn't—"

"Have a clue what to do with me?" Subaru finished for him, with a helpless smile.

Their parents could take responsibility for a lot of their problems. His dad had been one of those parents who thought his job was done when he brought home the paycheck for their care. He wasn't exactly the type of dad who got down on the floor to play with their toys or to open his study door for chats. Their mom—oh boy. She was a different story. Controlling and unreasonable and legitimately terrifying to all of the other mothers of the PTA bunch. She had very definite ideas about what her child should do, assuming that child was Kamui. She'd been baffled by Subaru from the first. He was too sweet and too quiet and too submissive, and he made no sense to her. So she'd pretty much ignored him. Like, his entire life. Living in her house did not necessarily mean speaking to her every day.

With Kamui, it was different. He was exactly the sort of kid she'd wanted, and she'd planned out his entire life by the time he was three. He was supposed to do something amazing, although she hadn't seemed to care whether the magazine cover he ended up on was Forbes or Entertainment Weekly. He was her pride and joy and he was going to marry the prettiest girl in the world and give her ten fat happy grandbabies.

Don't question that plan.

Ever.

Subaru beckoned at Kamui until he got up from his seat and came over to join him on the sofa, looking puzzled and amused. "What?"

"We need to talk about something, and you're probably not going to like it. But please, Kamui, please try to listen to me and not get upset."

Kamui raised an eyebrow to point out what a good beginning that was. Subaru chewed at his lip, then decided to hell with it, because they were adults now and they were on their own and they were allowed to just be happy for once, not let anything hang over their heads and fuck it all up anymore, not Mom or Seishirou or anything else.

"I want to talk about what you were like when you were a kid."

Kamui crossed his arms over his chest and leaned away from him. "Why?"

"I just . . . think it's important."

"Fuck. Fine."

The look leveled at him said: do your worst. Subaru wasn't sure Kamui would even be able to hear what he was saying when he was this defensive.

"I don't think I'm the only one who might need a little help right now, to try to figure myself out a little better."

"And what the fuck does that mean, exactly?"

"Kamui," Subaru said softly, trying not to look and sound as wounded as he felt because he wasn't trying to emotionally manipulate him or anything. Apparently he wasn't a good actor, because Kamui shifted uncomfortably and lowered his eyes. "You know I love you more than anything. You're my little brother."

Subaru was seven minutes older. This had been important more often than he cared to admit.

"I know that."

"So don't treat this like I'm attacking you, please. I just want to help you."

"And this means I have to go to therapy and talk about how dumb I was as a kid?"

"It means that you need to start being more honest with yourself, however you can manage to do it," Subaru said as firmly as he could. "You are . . . You're not what I hoped you'd grow up to be."

Kamui crossed his arms even more tightly and hunched over. "So fucking sorry to disappoint. What were you hoping for?" he muttered.

"I hoped you'd be happy," Subaru whispered, and then he had to stop and wipe at his eyes before the tears could start falling. "You're not, and the worst part is that you think you are."

"I am," Kamui protested, eyes on the floor. "Why wouldn't I be?"

Subaru bit his lip and worried it between his teeth. "You don't even remember how badly Mom treated you, do you?"

"She didn't treat me badly, where are you getting that from?" he said, sitting back up and glaring at him. "She was hard on me, but so what? A lot of mothers do that, and it wasn't like I wasn't up for it. I'm an overachiever!"

"Do you remember the first time we watched 'Aladdin,' that Disney movie, when we were little?"

"I guess."

"So you remember saying that you wished you were Princess Jasmine so that Aladdin would take you on carpet rides and you could marry him, because you thought he was handsome?"

"I did not!" Kamui snapped.

Subaru found himself sighing again. This was the hardest conversation he could ever imagine having in his life, harder even than getting grilled by the police about Seishirou. If there was anything that could ever come between him and Kamui, it would probably be this.

Please please please do not fuck this up

"Yeah, you did. And then when they made us draw a picture in class of what we wanted to be when we grew up, I cut pictures out of magazines and made myself the world's most stylish professor. You drew a picture of yourself wearing a dress. You said you wanted to get married and be a wife."

"What the— Subaru, seriously? I did not. I have zero recollection of doing that."

"I kept it," Subaru muttered, and wiped at his eyes again. "You got in trouble and they called Mom and Dad in for a conference. I kept thinking I'd show it to you later to remind you what you really wanted, after they got finished telling you that you couldn't have it. But it . . . There never seemed like a good time to give it back to you. And I had to leave it behind when we left, because it was boxed up in the garage."

They had taken what they could cram into the extremely shitty car that Fuuma had helped them procure. The stuff in the garage had been left behind so that Mom wouldn't catch them out there and ask them what they were doing. They didn't want anyone to try to stop them, so they had kept their leaving a secret until the minute they walked out the door. Mom had been home. Subaru would have thought you'd have to shoot three rounds into her gut to put that expression on her face, watching the last seventeen years of her life walk out the door with a middle finger raised high.

"If you're not going to lift a fucking finger to help your kid, then I guess it's up to me," Kamui snarled. "I'm not waiting for my brother to get raped before I start listening. Fuck all of you."

Subaru had sort of hoped that getting away from Mom would help. Seemed that the damage had been too traumatic for that.

"Kamui, you were so much happier before that. Our babysitter was teaching you how to sew, and the two of you would make cupcakes because you got such a kick out of decorating them . . . And everything was fine until the bullies at school started getting to you."

Subaru had been a lot more clever about hiding it. There was a girl in their class who'd invite him over all the time and it was only there that the fashion magazines and giggling over cute boys came out. Kamui wasn't good about hiding it. He'd been too obliviously happy about his Strawberry Shortcake notebook and the crocheted scarf he was working on during breaks.

"I know that nobody beat you up, but they were just not, you know, friendly. They . . . "

"Tripped me," Kamui said in a dull voice. "Stole my stuff and spit in my food and one kid threw a rock at me during recess once. I remember that."

"That's when the teacher had a conference with Mom and Dad."

"Yeah."

"And that's when Mom banned Disney from our house and grounded you from all t.v. for a month, and she signed you up for karate and guitar lessons. You always tell everyone we did everything together, even guitar lessons . . . But you were just teaching your lessons to me at first, until Mom decided if I was going to learn I should learn from a professional. Remember?"

"Yeah, of course. I mean, I didn't forget any of this stuff. I just never thought it had anything to do with, you know, that."

"You knew," Subaru said gently. "You—you started acting different. You said you didn't like our babysitter anymore and made Mom get us a different one. You started trying to like the same things those kids who bullied you did."

"So what, Subaru? I mean, really, so fucking what? I was kind of girly when we were kids and then I learned how to kick people in the face and stop doing shit that made Mom worry that I was gender-confused. Moral of the story, you have to grow the fuck up sometime."

Subaru kind of wanted to fly to Tampa right now. So he could punch Dad in the face. Not Mom, she was beyond reasoning with. But Dad was the one who just sat there and let her do whatever she wanted and let her make Kamui into whatever she wanted and maybe Subaru didn't really care that he personally got ignored, but if they'd ever gave a fuck about him then things would have been more balanced and Kamui would have felt more free to just screw up sometimes. And maybe Dad could have stopped her from doing this. From making Kamui think that all this was just part of growing up. Dad could have said something, if he'd wanted to. Dad could have said the one thing Subaru always wanted to say, tried to say: leave him alone.

Nobody ever listened to Subaru. Nobody but his twin.

"Kamui . . ." He took a deep breath. "You're allowed to do whatever you want, be whatever you want. That's what growing up is, just accepting yourself for who you are and making a life for yourself instead of running away from it. I don't care if Mom hates it. I don't care about Mom at all. If what you always wanted was to be somebody's wife and crochet for a hobby, then do it. Why should you care if people call you a girl? What do you care about what anybody thinks?"

"I don't," he snapped. His face started to crumple, so he drew his knees up, hugging his legs and hiding his face. "I don't care, right? I never— but come on, just because I was stupid when I was a little kid doesn't mean I still want— are you trying to say that you think I am gay?"

"I didn't say that," Subaru said gently, and then the misery in Kamui's posture was too much, so he scooted forward and put his arms around Kamui's shoulders, resting his head in the crook of Kamui's neck. "I just want you to learn how to separate what Mom said you should want, from what you actually want. I think it's the stupidest idea in the world that you have to be gay or straight or male or female just to like things and have hobbies. It's not fair and it's pathetic. I don't let anybody tell me what I'm allowed to do or like just because I like dick. So fuck them. I don't want you to have to worry about what kind of label they're going to slap on it. I just want you to do what makes you happy."

"I don't really . . . I mean, you notice we're getting kind of famous?" Kamui muttered, grinding his forehead against his knees. "I don't really get that option."

"Then quit," Subaru said brutally. "I'll quit, too, I don't care. I mean, I do, but this is more important to me. You are more important to me."

"I don't want to quit."

"Good, because you don't need to. Like this would be the first time a rock star did something weird?" Subaru teased. "You could play a show totally in drag and I doubt anybody would bat an eye at this point."

"Yes they would."

"They'd get over it."

"I don't want to dress in drag, Subaru."

"Okay. Do you have the first clue what you want?"

"No," he choked.

Subaru tightened his embrace. "That's fine. We'll figure it out. Okay? Can we try to do that?"

Kamui sighed shakily. "I liked trying to pretend I don't remember anything before we moved to Chicago. I would be fine with that. I kinda hate you right now."

"I'm sorry," Subaru said. "Actually, I'm not. If it means you wind up happier, then I'm okay if you hate me."

Kamui shifted himself free of Subaru's arms. "You wouldn't be okay with that at all, you idiot," he mumbled, and turned to give Subaru an embrace in return. "I'll think about it."

"Okay!"

"Don't sound so damn happy!" he scolded. "I said I'd think about it, not that I'd do it!"

"Thinking is good," Subaru grinned. "I'm okay with thinking."

"And don't think this means— means anything," he snarled. "About Fuuma. Because I might go on some fucking journey of self-discovery and find out that I always wanted to be a pretty, pretty princess and maybe I'll start sewing myself dresses, who the fuck knows, maybe I'll even decide I really am bisexual or something . . . But at the end of the day, Fuuma is still an asshole. And I still hate him."

Subaru probably shouldn't push it this far. He did it anyway. After all, he hadn't been the one who'd thought of Fuuma or brought him up. "Nobody ever said you had to fall in love with the guy, Kamui. But he has been an amazing friend, to both of us, and he deserves your gratitude. If he wasn't him then you'd acknowledge it. But he's a man, who's in love with you, and that's a huge threat to who you got told you were supposed to be, so you treat him horribly. He scares you."

"I am not scared of that moron!"

"Good. Then you won't be afraid to thank him for keeping an eye on Seishirou for us, and for moving to Chicago to help the band get started, and for how hard he's worked the last couple of years to make us successful, and—"

"Okay, I get it, I get it. What do you want me to do, help him find a job? I don't even have one of those."

"You could be his friend," Subaru said softly. "I think the poor bastard could live forever if you'd just smile at him for once."

"Hah. That would just encourage him."

"You really think he needs the encouragement?" Subaru asked wryly. "Come on, that's enough horrible emotional talk for one day. I'm exhausted. Let's go grocery shopping and make dinner. I'm hungry."

"Fine."

"We'll see if they sell aprons. You should have a pink apron with hearts all over—"

"Fuck you!" Kamui screeched, chasing him down the hallway. Subaru ran, laughing, and felt like something was shifting, like somehow they were being set free. They'd both been haunted by shadows long enough.