R o b o t s

“Let’s play a game,” Kame says one day when they are stuck alone together on a photoshoot and the awkward silence is growing stifling and sticky around them. Jin is wearing a pair of black jeans and a white shirt so thin he thinks his grandmother would disapprove; Kame looks smooth and mature in a grey blazer that makes his shoulders seem impossibly straight and his neck impossibly long. Lately Jin always feels like a child next to Kame, even though he is two years his friend’s senior. He feels like a child now, Kame suggesting a game to placate his growing boredom.

“What game?” Jin asks, tugging at the cuff of his jeans.

Kame leans his head back against the wall and makes a thinking face, one finger against his chin. Jin doesn’t like the way that Kame almost always looks serious lately. Kame isn’t supposed to be serious; he’s supposed to be the only person who is almost as silly as Jin. He just wants Kame to make dumb faces with him and stop caring about work. The Kame that everyone thinks is so sexy is killing Jin’s Kazu-chan bit by bit. Part of Jin wants him dead, and part of Jin just wants him. He feels kind of traitorous for that second part.

“We could play mind reader,” Kame says. When they were kids they’d play mind reader on the tour bus, asking each other questions until they could guess what the other was thinking. Really it didn’t start out as a game, Jin was just bored and being annoying. Kame was always a lot better at it than Jin, who could never quite stop himself from being completely transparent.

“Okay, I guess,” Jin says, though the prospect makes him somewhat nervous. A while ago they had a really stupid fight that Kame pretends not to remember. It was about ramen and ice cubes and the newspaper, but really it was probably about Yamapi. Jin pretends not to have realised that, because then he’d have to admit that everything is all his fault. He wonders if he can apologise in his head loudly enough for Kame to hear. Every day makes that seem less likely. Jin considers writing a letter, but he’s never been very good at that.

Every morning Jin reads Kame’s mind instead of actually talking to him. When they talk he can’t find what he wants in Kazuya’s words, the blank morning pleasantries, good, fine, good morning. Instead he sits quietly on the other side of the room and imagines Kame talking to him the way he used to, the idle chatter and boring stories and Kame’s terrible jokes. As the stylist’s hands slide into his hair he imagines he can hear Kame’s thoughts; imagines that Kame is thinking, Jin is awesome or Pi is a stupid, ugly dumbface who should stop calling me. Sometimes when he’s especially tired or cranky he imagines stupid, sappy things he is too embarrassed to even articulate in complete sentences, even to himself. Every day he holds on to the hope that Kame is really thinking these things; every day Kame walks out onto the stage beside him and the explosion of the speakers and the vibrating bass intercepts even the fantasy of telepathy.

“I’ll start,” Kame says, staring at Jin with dark, solid eyes, and Jin feels a sudden bloom of hot panic across his cheeks.

“No!” he blurts, hands fisting in the denim he’s been fussing with. “I don’t want to play any more. You always win.”

“It’s a pity.” Kame looks down at his hands, the awkward uncertainty Jin keeps seeing in drama after drama smudging the smooth lines of his features. “I really wanted to know what you were thinking.”

“You shouldn’t read my mind,” Jin says. “It’s too embarrassing.”

“Okay,” Kame replies, and looks away from Jin, his feathers smoothed back into place, thick and glossy and impenetrable, and Jin blurts, “I’ll give you five guesses!!”

Kame’s gaze slides back toward him, smiling slightly. “Is it an animal?”

“No,” Jin says. “I’m not 12.”

“We played this game six months ago and you were thinking about robots,” Kame replies, rolling his eyes.

“Shut up,” Jin squawks, and shoves him. “THOSE WERE REALLY COOL ROBOTS.”

Kame is laughing, and Jin can see the goofy kid he knows in the spasms of his facial muscles and his quaking, shuddering shoulders. “Are you thinking about robots?”

“NO!” Jin shouts. “Well, not only robots.”

“I bet I know,” Kame says. His eyes are suddenly startlingly serious when they meet Jin’s, the adult Kame all over again. Well, an adult Kame. Kame has more personalities than anyone Jin knows, little brother and big brother and big sister and mother. It would be frightening were it not occasionally so useful.

“Oh?” Jin asks. This seems momentous. In his head his heartbeat is a drumbeat, leading up to the climax of the scene.

“You’re thinking about how you’re finally going to forgive me,” Kame says, not looking at Jin anymore, his short fingers twisting in his lap, knuckles rubbing over the rough denim of his jeans, “because you know that you’re my best friend and I’m really sorry. And because you’re sorry too.”

The drumbeat explodes in his ears, so loud and fast it becomes like white noise. His mouth hangs open and makes it hard to speak. He would probably cry, were he not so manly.

“You always were really good at this game,” he says finally, and reaches out blindly to tug at Kame’s sleeve.

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