C H I L D   S T A R S

Nobody knew where Kame got the baby. He just showed up to practice with it one day, looking harassed and dragging a diaper bag behind him. When they start to question him he just stares at them with wide eyes and says he doesn’t know, and no-one really knows what to say to that.

Everyone assumes his excuse must be good, because he’d been dragged into Johnny’s office for hours and made it out alive.

-

Jin comes back when the baby is three months old. Kame has named him Akio, shining man, and he has fat little cheeks and wispy black hair and a perpetually grumpy demeanor. Jin stares nonplussed into the bassinette his first day back, taking in the chubby little fists and blotchy skin. “Is this seriously your baby?” he says, unable to even grasp the concept.

“Yes,” Kame says, adjusting the baby’s pillows, gently tugging at his blanket. “I suppose so.”

Akio starts to cry and Kame picks him up, pressing his pale, tired face to the baby’s rosy cheek. He coos and pets at his hair and looks like somebody’s father, or maybe somebody’s mother. He looks gentle.

Jin laughs and touches the hair at the base of the kid’s neck, feels the warm and buttery skin. “You always wanted to be a dad.”

-

As the kid gets older he is always around. He likes Jin, likes grabbing fistfuls of Jin’s fluffy hair and yanking, likes poking his cheeks, likes being carried around on his shoulders. When Jin holds him, he stops crying. Kame always seems torn between relief and irritation, eyes narrowing in envy when the baby laughs and gibbers and grabs clumsily at Jin’s face.

“He likes you so much,” Kame says wistfully. Kame always seems kind of worried that the baby doesn’t like him much, which is ridiculous. The baby gets fussy whenever Kame leaves the room, little face growing mutinously red and tiny fists waving. Once Kame left him with Pi and Jin while he was in a meeting and Akio sat there throwing toys at Shige and Massu every time they tried to approach. He’s a pretty awesome baby.

“Bubububububububububububububub,” Jin says to the baby, clutching him around his middle and swinging him around. His body feels like water balloons all over.

“He must recognize you as his intellectual equal,” Kame remarks snidely.

“Your daddy is so mean to me!!” Jin coos. Akio laughs hysterically and throws his stuffed penguin in Kame’s general direction. “It must be because he needs to get laid,” he adds helpfully.

“Shut up, Jin.” Kame throws himself onto the sofa and starts folding Akio’s socks. He’s not quite twenty two and a guy but lately he acts like Jin’s aunt did when she was going through menopause.

“Seriously, Kame. I don’t think I’ve even seen you look at a girl since I got home.”

“I’m just not interested right now.”

Jin shifts uncomfortably. He’s not good at serious emotional discussions but he feels like he has to try, because everyone else is acting like it’s completely normal that Kame doesn’t date and doesn’t flirt and has a baby. “Is this about Akio-chan’s mother?” he asks carefully.

“What?” There’s a growing pile of socks on the sofa now, little balls stacking up like a fortress. “There’s no-one,” he said. “There’s no-one I’m interested in that I can have.”

“You’re Kamenashi Kazuya,” Jin says dumbly. “Who the hell can’t you have?”

Kame’s laugh is bitter. “You’d be surprised,” he says, throwing the newest cotton missile and sending the fortress tumbling to the floor.

-

Jin begins to feel weirdly possessive of Akio. When he arrives at practice and finds Koki hovering over the baby’s high chair making stupid faces, he doesn’t quite manage to fight down the surge of anger he feels. He shoves Koki out of the way. “Go away,” he says, leaning down to press a kiss to the baby’s soft hair. “Your ugly face is going to give him nightmares.”

He doesn’t know why, but he feels like Akio is his in the same way that Kame has always been his. He’s never been able to justify that feeling either.

-

Jin dreams that he’s sitting in the bath with a little boy with blond hair and blue eyes that he keeps referring to as Bruce. The little boy calls him Papa in a thick American accent, and at the end of the dream when Jin washes the shampoo from his hair it turns the blond hair black and he sees Akio, a tiny little version of Kame staring up at him. “Papa,” Akio says again, and bursts into tears.

He wakes up alone in his apartment and for a minute is confused; in the dream his home was strewn with toys and clothes and the vague sense of someone making coffee in the kitchen. Here it’s just white walls turned blue-black in the three am darkness and the only toys strewn about are his own.

He tries to sleep, but he feels too lonely.

-

Somehow, the paparazzi get hold of photos of Kame with Akio. They speculate about whether he is the baby of a former girlfriend or illicit affair; some tabloids suggest that he is the child of a hostess at a bar that Kame allegedly frequented in the time before his birth. Some girls come forward claiming to be the mother, pretty girls, ugly girls, but Jin can’t see Akio in any of their faces.

Jin is enraged. “He’s just a baby,” he spits over the phone to Pi. “Why can’t they just leave him alone?”

“He’s not just a baby,” Pi laughs. “He’s Kamenashi Kazuya’s baby, and no-one knows where he comes from. It sucks but it’s not really that surprising. Kame’s been ready for this for months.”

The truth is that Kame’s not ready though, Jin can tell. He can see it in the tight line of Kame’s jaw as he ducks his head to pass the photographers, in Kame’s increasingly snappy demands during practice. Everyone always thinks Kamenashi is ready for everything, but Jin knows: Kame is freaking the fuck out.

-

“Hey Jin,” Nakamaru says one day, staring at the new portraits of Akio in a bunny suit Kame had just had taken. “Sometimes, Akio kind of looks like you.”

Jin stares at the infant squirming in his arms. To him, Akio looks just like Kame, but sometimes he kind of acts like Jin. It’s not surprising, considering how much he monopolises the baby’s attention, but for a second he sees the kid’s stupid smile and it’s like a nagging thought at the edge of his brain.

“Shut up, Nakamaru,” Kame says sharply, suddenly. “They look nothing alike.”

-

“Why do you have that,” Ryo asks in disgust, as if he despises babies and can’t stand the sight of Akio’s cute little face. The second Jin sits down, though, Ryo starts tickling the baby and trying to pull him out of Jin’s arms. Ryo pretends to be tough but really he’s like this big soft girl who is dying to gossip about movie stars and play with make up. Jin tries to help him maintain his dignity but he probably wouldn’t like Ryo much if he really were the person he pretends to be.

“Kame has a meeting,” Jin explains. “Akio, chill out,” he says, because the kid is squirming so much he’s going to hurt himself.

“And you have to look after the kid?” Ryo scoffs and crosses his arms lazily like he’s this total genius and Jin is a fucking moron. “What are you, his girlfriend?”

“No,” Jin says, but feels his face flushing blood red. “Shut up.”

“What the fuck,” Ryo laughs. “What the fuck, Jin. Why are you blushing?”

“I DON’T KNOW,” Jin yells, and now even Akio is looking at him like he’s an idiot.

-

Akio’s first word is his own name. His second is Otou-san, only he can’t pronounce it properly so it comes out as a kind of garbled OTOSO, OTOSO. His third word is Pop-pop, which he hollers inexplicably every time he sees Jin’s face.

-

“Kame,” Jin says seriously one day. This is the first time they have been alone in a long time, no bandmates, no mangers, no Akio. He is staying with his grandma for the weekend while KAT-TUN film their new PV outside the city. Kame and Jin are sitting barefoot on the grass lawn outside their hotel, jeans rolled up at the ankles and legs indolently splayed for the cameras. Jin’s eyes are on Kame, on the graceful swoop of his hair over his forehead. “Where did he come from?”

Kame is quiet, pulling up tufts of grass and twisting bright green blades between his fingers. “He’s a miracle,” he says finally. “I wished upon a star.”

“I’m serious, Kame.”

He turns to observe Jin with his small brown eyes and arching eyebrows. “I mean it,” he says blankly. “That’s where he came from.”
“Who is his mother?” Jin persists, even though he’s thrown for a minute. Even though that explanation is insane it’s the only explanation Kame has offered up so far, and he seems so serious.

“Jin,” Kame sighs, and his mouth is twisted and tense now, like Jin is making him sad. “Don’t you know?”

“What?”

The sun above their heads is blindingly bright even though it’s really cold outside. Jin wants sunglasses to escape the sun and the way that Kame is looking at him.

“Can’t you feel it when you look at him?”

“Feel what?” Jin asks, as if he has no idea what Kame is talking about. What Jin feels when he looks at Akio is fierce but he doesn’t know what it is. He wants Kame to explain it to him, but Kame just gets up and storms away in disgust.

-

Jin has soft, moist dreams of Kame wrapped up in flannel sheets, Kame’s hands sliding firm and fast along his stomach and down his thighs, of gasping and twisting fingers. “Kame,” he murmurs in the dream, and Kame replies, “Shut up, you’ll wake the baby.”

-

Kame is avoiding Jin, but that’s okay, because Jin is avoiding Kame. Whenever he thinks about his dream he feels a hot flush down his spine and starts to stutter, and he doesn’t need to look like an idiot in front of Kame when he hasn’t decided what that dream meant yet. If it means that Jin is attracted to him then Jin is going to want to look suave and attractive in front of him at some point, like James Bond. If the dream was just some kind of anomaly then Jin just never wants him to know about it, and Kame will know something is wrong the second Jin refuses to meet his eyes.

After a couple of days, though, he starts to feel a desperate loss; he misses Kame and he misses Akio, and everyone else seems annoying.

-

Kame calls him in tears after four days. At first Jin thinks he’s upset about the fight they haven’t had, but he should have known better. Kame would never, ever cry in front of him about that, would never do something as embarrassing as calling Jin to beg.

“I’m at the hospital,” he says through a thick throat. “Akio is sick.”

Jin has never felt more terrified in his life.

-

“KAME,” he shrieks as he runs into the private waiting room the hospital staff had arranged. “KAME,” he shrieks again. “YOU JUST NEED TO STAY CALM. EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY.”

Kame is sitting slumped in his seat with messy hair and a flannel shirt. “God why did I call you,” he says. “I could have called anyone and I called you. You. The least together person in the universe.”

“KAME,” Jin shrieks again. The blood is rushing in his ears and then there are fresh tears rolling down Kame’s face, so Jin crouches in front of him and wraps his arms around him and tries to be quiet this time, tries to whisper like he would if Akio were crying. “It’ll be okay, it’ll be okay. I promise it’ll be okay.”

“Jin,” Kame sobs and buries his face in Jin’s neck. “Jin.”

It’s a really long night.

-

Jin is right and everything is okay. Akio’s fever drops and they can take him home the next day, and it’s almost like nothing happened at all. When he takes them back to Kame’s apartment, though, he finds it difficult to leave, the memory of that phone call and Akio’s pale face lingering. He ends up sleeping in his boxers on Kame’s leather couch, huddled under a throw rug and always waiting for the sound of Akio’s tears. He ends up staying for a week.

-

Kame has always been kind of uptight and anal retentive but Jin finds he’s got even worse since becoming a father. He knows Kame has a cleaning lady come through this place a couple times a week but Kame still seems to disinfect the kitchen and bathroom almost every day while Akio watches in bemusement from his high chair. When Jin stumbles out of bed Kame has gathered his hair up on top of his head and is scrubbing down the kitchen bench with some kind of child-safe antibacterial cleaner, pink rubber gloves stretching halfway up his arms.

“Hey,” Jin mumbles blearily.

“POP POP,” Akio hollers and stretches his arms out in supplication.

“BUBUB” Jin shouts back and pulls the kid out of his chair. “Are you cleaning again?” he asks. Kame shoots him a look; of course he’s cleaning.“Why?”

Kame’s washcloth scrubs more furiously over the tiles. “I need to get rid of the germs or he’ll get sick again.”

“Kame,” Jin says. “It’s not your fault he got sick. My mum says babies get sick all the time!”

“I DON’T WANT HIM TO GET SICK ALL THE TIME!” Kame shouts, and Akio starts crying. Kame looks at him in horror and pulls off his rubber gloves. “Sorry, sorry, Akio-chan, sorry, it’s okay. I’m sorry.”

“You’re hopeless,” Jin says, passing the baby over to Kame. “Stop being such an obsessive compulsive freak and play with your kid.”

“Are you leaving?” Kame asks, tension sending his voice a few octaves higher than Jin is used to hearing it.

“Um,” Jin says. “I guess not?”

He should probably go home at some point, but when he thinks about it his apartment is just this empty lonely place with nothing to do, and Kame’s place is full of awesome toys.

-

When Akio is a little more than a year old, Kame decides he needs to get a nanny. Jin stares at him with undisguised horror.

“What?” he says, clutching the little boy’s stuffed bear to his chest. “Why?”

“I can’t keep bringing him to work,” Kame sighs. “Everyone is really good about it but he’s distracting. He can walk now. And he spends too much time with you and now he’s a total brat, too.”

Behind him Jin can hear Akio singing nonsense sounds and bashing his building blocks together. “HE’S AN ANGEL,” Jin insists. “A boy needs to be with his mother.”

“I’m not his mother,” Kame snaps, but his eyes are bright and guilty and his shoulders are drawn up around his neck.

“No, you’re a monster,” Jin says angrily, scooping Akio up off the floor. “We’re going out.”

-

Jin insists on sitting in on the interviews, a surly and unreasonable presence at Kame’s calm and businesslike side. Kame has a list of serious adult prerequisites like first aid training and references and a certain number of years of experience, but Jin just needs to find someone Akio will like. Kame asks whether the applicants know CPR; Jin makes them sing the soundtrack to The Lion King.

Kame makes a shortlist of six people to introduce to Akio. Jin only likes two of them, an old woman with laugh lines spreading out from her eyes who brought a plate of cookies to her interview, and a young guy with broad shoulders and a friendly smile. Something about the guy’s handsome eyes and big hands makes Jin uneasy, though, so he’s leaning towards the grandma.

Kame likes one of the other applicants, a young girl with wide eyes and a pink cardigan who looks like she’s stepped off the set of a children’s tv show. When Kame had first let her into the apartment she’d gasped and stared at him with open mouthed surprise; a fan, probably, though she recovered well. Jin doesn’t know why he doesn’t like her but it’s something to do with the gentle cadence of her voice and Kame’s warm smile.

Akio’s choice is obvious. He clings happily to this twenty something nerdy guy that Kame only brought into the second round because his references were so good; the guy has thick glasses and curly hair that hovers in a shapeless cloud over his head. He’s probably cut under all that hair and glasses (Jin knows from his years at Johnny’s that almost anyone can be cute with the right hair) but he seems kind of boring and normal in a way that Jin has had little prior experience with. He’s almost offended at Akio’s sudden and vehement affection for the guy.

Kame irons out details like salary and benefits while Jin sits glaring at this new intruder with thinly veiled hostility. His neatly pressed trousers and tie look strange in this apartment, next to Kame’s torn jeans and tight sweater. His name is Suzuki-san and he keeps looking at Jin and smiling nervously as if he hopes they might one day be friends.

“Akio,” Jin calls, seeing the baby making his way over to Suzuki-san with this favourite toy. Jin bought him that toy. That little traitor. “Akio-chan!”

Akio collapses on to his butt and stares at Jin with his huge brown eyes, like Jin’s being kind of stupid. “Come here,” he says, and holds out his arms. Kame is looking at him kind of strangely over the top of his glasses, but when Jin makes an obnoxious face at him Kame just rolls his eyes and goes back to the papers he is looking over. Akio stares at him for a minute before finally crawling over and tugging at the hem of Jin’s jeans, insisting on being picked up and cuddled.

As Jin lifts the kid into his arms he grins at stupid Suzuki-san over his head. In the end, Akio always likes him best.

-

Jin has slept with boys before, but he’s never loved one. He isn’t sure if it is different to loving a girl, if he is supposed to want different things. He tries to imagine treating Kame like he has always treated his girlfriends, and the thought sends a tremor of embarrassment through him. If Jin called Kame baby and tried to do manly things for him Kame would probably just think he was an idiot. He doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do instead, just that he’s started wanting something more from Kame, some mysterious extra beyond sex or friendship.

What it all comes down to, he decides, is that when he goes home at the end of the day, he wants Kame to be there.

-

Jin thinks Suzuki-san is gay. Well he doesn’t think, he knows, in that way he has always known just by looking at someone, just by the way they look at him. This time it’s the way he looks at Kame when he thinks nobody is watching, eyes sliding down the line of Kame’s back as he stands slicing mushrooms in the kitchen, over the bare skin of his arms in his pyjamas. It makes him angry.

Jin tells Kame, in case he wants to know, just the gay part, not that Suzuki has a thing for him. He doesn’t want to give Kame any ideas.

“So?” Kame says. He looks annoyed. “What business is it of yours?”

Kame gets all huffy then and makes Jin go home without eating dinner, even though he’s making Jin’s favourite. He says it’s because he’s tired, but Jin knows when Kame is really angry, and Kame is seriously, seriously angry.

He calls Kame before he goes to bed and says, “Are you into him or something?” but Kame just hangs up on him.

-

Now that Akio doesn’t come to work very often Jin feels like he never sees him. Kame spends a lot of time trying to point out that this is blatantly false, that Jin somehow manages to see him three or four times a week, but Jin can’t help but feel like he’s missing out on something every day that passes without seeing him. Akio is doing all these cool new things like running and jumping and learning new words. Jin feels like one day he’ll show up to visit and Akio will be suddenly full grown, full grown and going out partying with his unsuitable friends.

Jin drunkenly tells Pi all this one night, spread out in sweat pants on his friend’s living room floor. They’ve been drinking cans of beer for hours and Jin’s body feels heavy and wet like a used towel.

“No offense, Jin,” Pi says, staring at the ceiling, “but you’re kind of weird about that baby.”

-

“Kame?” Jin asks one day while they eat their lunch out of cheap convenience store bento boxes. Nakamaru and Koki are loudly practicing their new single’s intro across the room and Junno is asleep on the couch. Ueda disappeared hours ago; Jin thinks he has gone to get his hair cut.

“Hmm?” Kame says. He’s not really paying attention to Jin, he’s looking over the week’s schedule and shoveling rice into his mouth absentmindedly.

“Do you think you could ever be with a guy?” Jin feels awkward and tries to act casual, pushing his food around with his chopsticks.

Kame stops what he’s doing and stares at him. “Yes.”

“Oh,” Jin says. “Are you gay?”

“Yes,” Kame says finally, carefully.

“Oh.” Jin says. “Oh.”

-

“Pervert,” Jin hisses when Suzuki bakes cupcakes and brings one to Kame on his lunch break. Suzuki stares at him with wide, terrified eyes and slowly holds out one with pink icing and star shaped sprinkles squished haphazardly over the surface.

“Akio decorated this one for you,” he says shakily.

It is the best thing Jin has ever tasted.

-

Jin ends up telling Yamapi because he has to tell somebody, and Pi is the only person he knows who can and will keep a secret. They’re playing video games and Jin is distracted, so he keeps losing. “Kame’s gay,” he blurts when his racecar careens out of control and bursts into flames for the third time.

Yamapi laughs, his Ferrari sliding smoothly over the finish line. “What the hell, Jin.”

“He is!” Jin insists. “He told me! Don’t tell anybody. YOU HAVE TO PROMISE NOT TO TELL ANYBODY.”

“I know he is,” Yamapi says. “Did you seriously not know?”

“What?” Jin’s stomach feels funny and he can feel himself getting angry the way he does when he’s confused, which is a lot.

“Everybody knows.”

What?!” Jin squawks. “How??”

“I don’t know,” Pi shrugs. “It’s not like he came out to me or anything, but it’s not like he didn’t. I just knew and he knew I knew.”

“Since when?”

“Since always.”

Jin feels like someone has forced him to go to an arthouse cinema and sit through one of those long European movies about monkeys falling in love with housewives and the eternal struggle for salvation that Kame sometimes likes to watch to make himself seem smart. He has a million questions and doesn’t know what to ask first, doesn’t know if he’ll like the answers. “Is that why you never liked him?” he asks finally, angrily.

Pi looks annoyed and shoves him in the arm so Jin topples out of his beanbag and onto the floor. The popcorn they’d been eating spills everywhere. “I never liked him because he’s an uptight pain in the ass! What the fuck is wrong with you!?”

“He is not!” Jin protests, even though he totally is.

“HE IS AND YOU KNOW IT,” Yamapi yells.

“IT’S ONLY OKAY FOR ME TO SAY THAT,” Jin yells back. “YOU TAKE IT BACK.”

“HE’S MY FRIEND TOO, I’LL SAY WHATEVER I WANT.” Yamapi starts throwing cushions in the general direction of Jin’s head, but he doesn’t have very good aim and most of them bounce off his chest or miss him by a mile. “KAME IS A LOSER,” Pi yells. “KAME IS A PATHETIC NERD.”

“YOU SHUT UP,” Jin hollers. He launches himself onto Yamapi’s chair, presses his hands against Pi’s cheeks, over his mouth to make him shut up. Pi croaks out, “plus he’s ugly!”

“HE’S BEAUTIFUL,” Jin howls and flushes pink from embarrassment. They stop and stare at one another, Yamapi’s face going slack and blank.

“Oh my god,” Pi breathes. “Oh my god.

“I hate you.” Jin stomps back to his bean bag. “Shut up.”

“You’re pathetic.” Pi picks up his controller and starts setting them up for a new game, choosing a red Honda this time. Jin feels like he might die if he looks directly at his friend’s face right now.

“Why do you think I’m the only one that didn’t know?” he asks after a while. Yamapi is on his third lap and Jin is only on his second, car wobbling and clumsy around the corners.

“Well Jin,” Pi says patronizingly. “Sometimes you’re not a very good listener…”

“Shut the fuck up,” Jin says, and promptly crashes his car.

-

Jin takes Akio to the zoo on his day off. Kame looks kind of worried about it like Jin is going to stumble and drop him in the lion’s enclosure or something, but in the end he just programs a million different emergency numbers into Jin’s mobile and sends them on their way with a terse smile. Jin used to come to the zoo with his father when he was a kid, on the rare days his father had off from work. When Akio screams in delight and points out the monkeys with one hand twisted in Jin’s hair, he wonders if this is the joy his father felt, if he looked at Jin’s tiny hands and saw his future stretched out ahead of him, and actually felt okay about it for once. It’ll be okay to grow grey and balding and near sighted, because Akio will still be there young and alive and beautiful, and maybe Kame will be there too.

When Jin buys him a stuffed zebra at the gift store, the woman there smiles at him and says, “You have a beautiful son.”

-

Jin has elaborate daydreams about asking Kame to marry him and legally adopting Akio. He doesn’t know if that’s legal in Japan but he doesn’t care. They’ll use Kame’s carefully invested savings and buy a house on a big block of land, some place by the sea. They’ll have a daughter, a little sister for Akio. Her name will be Hoshi or Keiko and she’ll grow up to be a surgeon. Akio will be a fireman. Kame will kiss Jin’s cheek and tell him he loves him and bake things for him, and give him blowjobs, and they’ll be really happy.

They’re pretty stupid daydreams.

-

Jin throws a tantrum when Kame announces he’s looking for a bigger place so that he can take on Suzuki as a live in worker. Kame is mostly incredulous and confused but Jin is enraged and they end up screaming at one another and Jin storms out of work. “I hope you and your boyfriend are really happy together,” he spits as he slams out the door.

Kame calls him later when Jin has had time to cool down and start feeling like an idiot. An angry, jealous idiot. He’s lying at home in the dark listening to a cd of angsty music Ueda leant him when Kame’s ring tone jangles into the still, lonely air. He considers ignoring it and letting Kame dwell in guilt and anguish for a while but the thought that Akio might be sick or injured makes him pick up the phone.

“I’d never get involved with someone who works for me,” Kame says, like the thought is ludicrous. Jin doesn’t want fear of scandal to be Kame’s reason for not hooking up with Suzuki; he wants Kame’s reason to be more along the lines of ‘I would never sleep with him or anyone else because I’m madly in love with you and think you’re incredible, Jin.’

Jin huffs.

“What’s wrong, Jin?” Kame asks. “You’ve been so weird lately.”

He is silent for a long time, unsure if he has the courage to say the things that have been sitting sulkily in his heart for months now. “I just want to be the most important person to Akio,” he pouts. “Other than you.”

“You are,” Kame laughs.

Jin’s heart gallops and he imagines a bucking bronco inside of him, like he’s seen in old American movies about the Wild West. “I want to be the most important person to you, too.”

He can’t hear Kame breathing, can’t really hear anything over the blood rushing in his ears, and then Kame murmurs, “You are,” and Jin thinks he’s going to cry.

-

They go out on a date at three in the morning, when they’re less likely to run into fans or be spotted by paparazzi. They go to a quiet all night café in the suburbs, popstar hair hidden under thick wool hats and eyes disguised behind reading glasses like Clark Kent. Kame looks like a total dork in his glasses, like he should be here trying to help Jin with his math homework. Their feet tangle beneath the table and Jin nervously puts his hand on Kame’s thigh. It is warm and bony through the denim.

“Are you sure about this?” Kame had asked when Jin had nervously arranged this date. “I don’t want to do it if you’re not sure about it, Jin.”

“Why wouldn’t I be sure?”

“You’re into girls, Jin,” Kame said, like it hurt. “You like boys and you’ll fuck boys, but you only fall in love with girls.” He gazed at Jin with wide brown eyes and looked too young to be somebody’s lover, somebody’s father. “I’m not going to do this if it’s not love,” he said.

Jin had grabbed Kame’s arm and tugged desperately on the sleeve. “It is,” he’d promised. “I swear.”

When he thinks about it on that first date, ankle cradled against Kame’s, huddled over their steaming bowls of noodles, he realizes that Kame had always been his first love, first at fourteen and then again and again as they got older and changed, grew apart and back together again, when Kame smiled at him or laughed at him or screamed at him. Kame is his first love over and over again.

Jin insists on paying for their supper.

-

They fall into a comfortable pattern where Jin is more or less living at Kame’s apartment with Akio and Suzuki but pretending not to when anyone asks about it, because they are silly and awkward and in love, and you’re not supposed to live with people you’ve only been dating for two weeks. Jin says it doesn’t count because they’ve loved each other for ten years, but Kame insists that he has to keep his own apartment. Jin keeps it but it’s just a place full of stuff now, home is Kame’s three bedroom place with its thick brown rug in the living room, with Akio’s brightly painted room and scattered toys, with Kame’s shitty shower that is never hot or strong enough. Home is getting up at the morning and chatting awkwardly with Suzuki in the kitchen over coffee while Kame curls his hair.

Jin likes to read Akio stories before bed, only most of the time the stories are pretty boring so he has to make extra bits up, bits with robots and mad inventors and dancing elephants. Kame scolds him for sabotaging the development of Akio’s reading skills but he always has a smile on his face when he listens to the stories, always kisses Jin and tells the baby that Pop Pop is a genius.

Jin waits to get tired of bathing Akio and putting him to bed and falling asleep on Kame’s shoulder every night, waits to get the urge to go clubbing or to karaoke, but it never happens, not really. Sometimes he wants to take Kame away somewhere so they can be really alone, but in the end he’d rather be here than anywhere else on earth.

One night they’re standing over a sleeping Akio and Jin smoothes a thick black lock of hair away from his brow, touches his pudgy little cheek. “He’s so funny looking,” Jin murmurs.

“Of course he is,” Kame says. “He’s yours.” He’s looking at Jin with that expression he gets sometimes, the one that wants Jin to understand him without him having to say anything dramatic or crazy. “He’s yours.”

“Of course he’s mine,” Jin replies. “You’re mine too.”

Later they crawl into bed together and make out like teenagers and fall asleep like old people, Jin’s face pressed up close to Kame’s chest. He dreams of taking Hoshi-chan and Akio to the circus, of losing them in the crowd but then finding them again, of Kame yelling at him and hitting him and carrying Akio on his shoulders.

It’s a good dream.

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