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JE - RESET - Akame

Title: RESET
Pairing: Akanishi Jin / Kamenashi Kazuya (though mostly gen with mentions of the rest of KAT-TUN, Yamapi, and Ryo.)
Rating: PG (for language)
Author Notes: I wrote this ages ago for je_ficgames and completely forgot to post it here, so here it is! Thanks to two people (you know who you are!) who put up with me basically pasting this entire fic into a chat window for suggestions and opinions. Couldn’t have finished this monster without you ♥ Also, on a general note, I apologize for being so shit at replying to comments! They always make me so happy ♥






Jin moves to Los Angeles the summer he turns fifteen. His Dad is being relocated; this job is an amazing opportunity for him, and so they pack up all their things and head to California. Jin is thrilled and scared all at once — up until a few days ago America had just been this awesome but terrifying wonderland far, far away, a place he dreamed of but never actually thought he would be visiting anytime soon. But no, now he is going there. He’s going to live there.

They move to Monterey Park, just east of Los Angeles, and though Jin doesn’t know anyone at first, he quickly makes new friends. The Akanishis aren’t the only Japanese family, not on their street and certainly not in the area.

The first time he ventures out of the house and to the nearby park, Jin meets Yamashita Tomohisa, another Japanese boy who’d just recently moved to the States. Tomohisa is one year younger than Jin and introduces himself as ‘Yamapi’, some nickname made out of his last name and the word ‘pink’ that this older kid had given him. Yamapi lives just two streets over, and Jin decides on the third day of heated Nintendo battles at the Akanishi house that Yamapi is his best friend, forever.

Yamapi and Jin spend almost every day together, gaming, surfing and studying English, when they really can’t think of anything else to do. Jin always ends up looking at the section for bad language, and by the time they get to roleplay practice he has all the swear words and insults down.

“Hello, Mr. Akanishi,” Yamapi says confidently, just like the textbook suggests. “What is your hobby?”

“Fuck off, you stupid bitch,” Jin replies easily.

Sometimes Yamapi brings this other kid over, Ryo, and the three of them just sit at the beach for hours and hours and stare at girls with bleach blonde hair and boob jobs.

Jin thinks for the longest time that Ryo is his younger brother Reio’s age, until one day Ryo eyes this amazing BMW convertible in the parking lot and announces that this is the car he is going to drive next year.

“WHAT,” Jin screams, eyes wide. “Kids get their driver’s license at thirteen here?”

It takes Jin a few moments to understand why Ryo is trying to kill him with his eyes, and Yamapi is laughing so hard, he’s choking on the popsicle he just bought.

*

Eventually summer break ends and the three of them have to face a new challenge: school. Jin and Yamapi enroll at Mark Keppel High School, while Ryo, who lives a bit further away, is sent off to Alhambra High. Yamapi’s enraged about this at first — he’s heard terrible stories about how half of the students in that school are drug dealers and criminals — but when Ryo comes home one day and can’t shut up about this older kid, Yokoyama Yuu, who pranked the teachers into thinking a movie was being filmed at their school, no one worries too much about Ryo anymore.

Jin’s Mom insists he join at least one school club; extracurricular activities look good on college applications, after all. Jin can’t really see himself going to college, though, and so he doesn’t spend too much time thinking about it and just joins the school’s Japanese Cultural Club.

He feels a bit abandoned at first; Yamapi prefers physical activity and joins the football team. Jin had argued with him for ages, but once Yamapi makes a decision he won’t budge, no matter how much Jin begs.

*

When Jin walks into his first club meeting, there are five other kids waiting for him, all of them Japanese. It’s an odd group, Jin thinks as his eyes sweep over them; at first glance they seem like completely different people.

“Yo, wazzup,” the one on the far right says to him in English, then adds in Japanese, “I’m Koki, aka the JOKER.” He has a buzz cut, a ring on almost every finger and a huge, heavy-looking gold necklace around his neck. Jin would think he was some rapper thug, if not for the fact that Koki is also a good few inches shorter than him and has a collection of sewing utensils in his lap.

“I’m Nakamaru Yuichi,” the next one says politely and bows. “Nice to meet you and welcome to the club.”

“Hello new friend!” the third one beams. His hair is an atrocious shade of bleached blond and his smile is downright blinding. “Iriguchi deguchi Taguchi desu!”

The fourth one doesn’t say anything but just smiles at him serenely. Is that a butterfly sticker on his cheek?! Jin doesn’t want to stare, though, somehow the peaceful smile scares him a little.

“That’s Ueda,” the last one of the group says. “I’m Kamenashi, nice to meet you. Let’s work hard on this club and have fun!”

“Sup, I’m Jin.” Jin salutes them, mainly because he can’t think of anything cool to do. He flops down on one of the chairs and leans back, crossing his arms behind his head. “So, when is our first break? I’m really hungry, we should get some Japanese food! Since this is the Japanese Cultural Club and all.”

“Um,” Kamenashi says, look a little uncertain.

There’s a moment of silence, and they all just stare at Jin. It’s a little unnerving but not much; he kind of likes the attention. Jin decides that the one called Koki will probably be fun to hang out with, he seems like the type to know almost as many English slang words as Jin. Nakamaru and Taguchi seem great to make fun of (Jin has known them for all but five minutes, but somehow especially Nakamaru screams ‘natural born butt of jokes’ to him), and Ueda — well, somehow Jin is convinced it might prove advantageous to be his friend. It wouldn’t even surprise him if Ueda turned out to be from a wealthy Yakuza family.

And then there’s that last kid, the scrawny one with the slightly crooked nose and a nervous expression on his face.

“Kamenashi,” Jin says thoughtfully.

“Yes?” Kamenashi replies, still looking a bit anxious.

“KAME!” Jin suddenly bursts out. “I’ll call you Kame! Turtles are awesome, anyway.”

Jin beams at Kame, face stretched into a wide grin; Kame’s face suddenly relaxes and he too breaks into a happy smile.

“Okay,” he agrees. “Okay, that’s cool.”

“Hey,” Nakamaru says. “What’s my nickname?”

“You don’t need one,” Jin laughs. “Nakamura is fine.”

Kame dissolves into a series of giggles then, slapping his hand on his knees in hysterical laughter at the sight of Nakamaru’s outraged face. He laughs and laughs and laughs, and Jin thinks it’s the happiest thing he’s ever seen.

*

Somehow Jin fits in easily with the group. No one else joins the Japanese Cultural Club and so it’s just the six of them. They hang out in Little Tokyo a lot, after school. Jin loves America but he’s still grateful he can just go and buy Japanese magazines, sing Mr Children songs at karaoke and stuff his face with delicious Japanese food. Seeing little girls in colorful Yukata at festivals always makes him a little nostalgic; he remembers his own childhood, growing up in Tokyo, begging his Mom to please, please get him that action figure that Ishida-kun already had the week before.

It’s moments like these when he realizes he’s really lucky to have found close Japanese friends here, friends who help him never forget where he came from.

A month into the school year, Taguchi decides that the six of them need a name, something besides just ‘members of the Japanese Cultural Club’. They all agree to think about it for a week, but when they get together for an official meeting the next Thursday, the suggestions leave much to be desired.

“What about ‘NEWS’?” Nakamaru suggests. “We can deliver the latest information about our home country to the whole school!”

“Nah, what about ‘Arashi’,” Koki says, flashing them a peace sign. “Taking the hearts of girls by storm!”

“I got it, I got it,” Taguchi boasts, smiling proudly. “KAT-TUN. Formed by the initials of our first names!”

“That’s not even a word,” Ueda says.

“Is too!” Taguchi argues. “It sounds like ‘cartoon’! And as we all know manga is one of Japan’s most popular exports!”

“I don’t know,” Kame says slowly.

“TOTALLY LAME,” Jin complains loudly.

Somehow the name sticks.

*

Jin doesn’t really see it coming, but he becomes friends with Kame almost as naturally as he had with Yamapi. It’s a bit weird, they’re really different people; Kame is pretty serious about school, whereas Jin doesn’t really give a fuck whether he passes maths class or not. He often stays up all night playing Street Fighter 2 and ends up sleeping through his first three classes and Kame gets angry when Jin demands to have Kame’s homework so he can copy it, but he can’t stay angry at Jin for long and he always gives up his homework after a disarming Jin smile or two.

Kame and Jin start to hang out a lot, even out of school. They go for long drives to beaches all over California, and spend long afternoons trying the different Ramen shops in Little Tokyo, discussing for hours upon hours which one’s the best (Jin insists that Orochon Ramen over on Onizuka street is definitely the most delicious, but Kame claims Daikokuya on E 1st has way better noodles), but they never reach an agreement.

One time when they’re at the Santa Monica Pier, Jin spots this old African American lady selling silver rings for just $4 a pair. The rings sparkle attractively in the warm afternoon sunlight and Jin whines and whines until Kame finally agrees on them getting a set of pinky rings, even though Kame thinks pair rings are for couples and not best friends, and really, the rings aren’t even that nice. Jin won’t let it go, though, not until Kame finally gives in. And pays.

When Jin proudly shows off his new pinky ring at the next KAT-TUN meeting and makes Kame put his on display as well, he’s met with less enthusiasm and envy that he’d hoped for.

“That’s — nice,” Ueda says slowly.

“Kind of gay,” Koki comments with a laugh. “So since you’re wearing pair rings, are you now officially a couple?”

“NO,” Jin screams, maybe a bit too loudly. “Nothing disgusting like that!”

Kame just shrugs.

*

Things would be pretty damn perfect, at least for Jin, if only there wasn’t this dumb animosity between Yamapi and Kame. Yamapi is still Jin’s best friend and Kame is his best —- well, he’s Kame. And Jin really wants them to get along. It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy going out alone with either of them, that’s completely fine, but sometimes, when Jin’s Mom makes Maccha ice cream in way too large amounts, Jin wishes he could just invite both of them over, without Kame watching his every word, eyes nervously darting around, and a sour look permanently painted onto Yamapi’s face. Ryo’s usually there too, constantly mocking everyone (though mostly Jin); Jin’s still surprised Ryo’s got that much confidence — he’s short and has a large nose and tans in a really weird way — but he never says anything, because Ryo can be kind of creepy and Jin’s positive he doesn’t want to enrage him. Even though he is a midget.

Jin’s not quite sure what happened between Yamapi and Kame; one day they’d been friendly acquaintances on the verge of becoming friends, and the next they’d been mortal enemies. Well, according to Yamapi at least.

“He’s just not the kind of person I want to be friends with,” Yamapi had told him in a sulky voice when Jin wouldn’t stop asking. “He’s rude, I hate him.”

Kame on the other hand had just wrinkled his forehead in confusion and given him a small shrug. “I don’t know why Yamashita doesn’t like me,” he’d said. “I think he’s okay.”

Jin tries and tries to make Yamapi forgive Kame for whatever unforgivable thing he’d done, but Yamapi can be stubborn, extraordinarily so, and refuses to let this stupid grudge go. He insists Kame had insulted him and therefore doesn’t deserve to be his friend.

*

One day, a few weeks into their junior year, Yamapi and Kame are paired up in chemistry class for a science project. Jin usually skips chemistry class whenever he can, but he’s worried Yamapi’s going to punch Kame in the face or kick him in the shins or something and so Jin shows up to class for the first time in a few months and takes a seat next to this tiny guy Kevin Cho, anxiously watching Kame and Yamapi from behind.

They ignore each other the first few days, quietly working on their own assignments. Both of them are strangely serious about school; even Yamapi who does like to party it up with Jin gets annoyed when his grades drop. And then principal Kitagawa comes in one day and announces that the team with the best project would get to present it at the L.A. Science Fair the next year.

The strangest thing happens; both Yamapi and Kame are suddenly really into this whole chemistry project thing. Both of them start cancelling on plans Jin made, really fucking awesome plans that include the beach and hot chicks and illegal booze. Jin’s miffed about it, but figures it’s just about school, until one day he overhears them talking in the hallway.

“Are you okay, working on the project that much?” Kame asks, fiddling with his locker combination. “I mean, you’ve got football practice too, right?”

“You mean a stupid footballer like me can’t handle some academic stress?!” Yamapi asks, eyes flaring.

“What.” Kame sounds more confused then annoyed. “What do you mean ‘stupid footballer’? I certainly meant no such thing!”

“DID TOO,” Yamapi hisses. “Just like that other time when you said you prefer baseball over football because it’s less — what did you call it? ‘Barbaric’? You think you’re above football?!”

“THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANT AT ALL!” Kame’s voice sounds downright horrified now and his cheek have gone red. “I just meant I’m kind of weak and I would probably die if I ever tried to play football.” He pauses. “I always thought you must be pretty strong to take all that tackling and shoving.”

“Oh,” Yamapi says, all his anger and outrage suddenly gone. Just like that. “Oh. Guess I misunderstood you.”

“Yeah,” Kame says and laughs nervously.

Jin watches in completely unreasonable jealousy how Yamapi breaks into a smile and slaps Kame’s back, hard. “Come on, Kame, let’s grab some burgers and discuss our project at my place!”

And then Kame giggles and follows Yamapi down the hallway.

That traitor.

*

Jin’s not jealous, because that would just be stupid. Kame is Kame and Yamapi is his best friend and really, hadn’t he tried everything to get them to hang out just a few weeks ago? He should be happy that everyone gets along now; Koki had even gotten over the fact that Yamapi’d started dating Koki’s ex, Lisa, right after they’d broken up.

He doesn’t mind Yamapi hanging out with Koki again, but somehow, whenever he sees him with Kame, he gets this dumb feeling in his stomach like he’s eaten just one burger too much, like he’s about to throw up.

He feels especially nauseous when Yamapi and Kame start calling each other ‘amigo’.

It’s stupid, but Jin can’t help it. All this time when Yamapi had hated Kame, Jin had felt like the glue holding everything together, like the one piece that made the puzzle complete. Now he just feels like this dumb sidekick who’s shit at chemistry and tags along with the smart kids, watching from the side lines in envy as his friends win first price at every science fair in the country. Like he’s waiting to be patted on the head.

None of this had actually happened, of course, but that’s how it plays out in Jin’s head.

He feels stupid and useless and abandoned.

He misses the days when Yamapi had still called him Bakanishi, and avoided Kame like the plague.

He wishes he had a time machine.

*

Jin finds the brochure on the notice board; it’s tucked in between a call for the school musical (Grease this year) and the schedule for football games. SEMESTER ABROAD IN JAPAN, it reads in big red letters. Somehow Jin thinks it’s a sign.

It’s not easy convincing Principal Kitagawa to let him go; Jin’s grades are shit and his attendance is even worse. But the principal is from Japan too, and so when Jin starts talking about how he wants to be more in touch with his roots, how he’d only been back in Japan once since they moved to L.A., Kitagawa finally gives in and signs all the necessary papers.

He doesn’t tell anyone at first — he doesn’t know how, or what to tell them. He doesn’t even really understand why he’s going in the first place. He waits and waits, until one day the school board announces proudly, for the whole student body to hear, that Jin Akanishi is going to study abroad at a renowned high school in Tokyo for six months.

Jin hovers in front of the Japanese Cultural Club meeting room for a long time that day, nervously fingering the old KAT-TUN sign taped to the door. One of the T’s is almost invisible, and Jin has to laugh a little as he recalls Koki furiously trying to scatch it off because he hadn’t liked the name.

When he finally goes inside, no one’s really meeting his eyes and Kame looks really tired.

“Look, guys—” Jin starts, but he doesn’t get the chance to explain.

“YOU BITCH,” Koki yells suddenly. “JUST FUCK OFF AND GOOD RIDDANCE.”

*

Yamapi bitches about Jin not telling him earlier but he takes it better than Jin would have imagined.

“You’ve always been an idiot,” Yamapi says simply and hands Jin half of his curry bread.

“I think it’ll be good for me,” Jin says. “I think this will be an amazing opportunity.”

“Sure, whatever,” Yamapi replies. “How did Kame take it?”

Truth is, Kame hadn’t really said much at all. He hadn’t yelled at him like Koki and he hadn’t given him some prissy remark about how he’s ‘overestimating himself’ (like Ueda) either. He’d just quietly nodded and avoided Jin’s eyes and finally told him, “Good luck.”

*

When Jin leaves for Tokyo, Koki has calmed down a bit and Ueda is speaking to him again. Kame is polite and acts like he’s fine, but Jin can tell by the bags under his eyes that he’s been worrying more than he lets on. Jin would like to pretend that he doesn’t understand why — it’s only a few months, after all, and it’s not like they’re married or anything. He’d be back before anyone could even notice he’s gone — but he knows that he fucked up. That he’d quite possible destroyed something good, something he could never fix.

Jin’s never been one to admit he’s wrong, though. He’s certainly not going to pull out of a brand-new adventure that he’s already been praised for. No, he’s going to make things right when he comes back.

And so Jin leaves without a big goodbye party. He stops by Yamapi’s house on the day he leaves, gives him a quick hug; in the cab to the airport he texts his fellow KAT-TUN members.

Junno is the only one who writes back. “Maybe you can improve your Japanese v(^ ^)v,” the message reads.

Jin wonders what Kame is doing.

*

Being back in Tokyo is weird, at first. He’s gotten used to the big, endless highways, to generous portions at restaurants, to people on the street being downright rude. The polite Japanese language unnerves him a little, he’s terrified of the crowded morning trains, and he curses every morning when he remembers he has to wear a fucking school uniform.

The other boys in his class are really into this new manga that Jin hasn’t heard of and he feels like a stranger in his own land; until he learns there are two other American exchange students at the school, both seniors.

Josh and Jesse are from California too, from some rich kid school in Orange County, and they’re not the crowd Jin would usually hang with. But he’s desperate to just be a little American, and the two of them adopt him easily enough; his ability to speak Japanese is useful and gets them into places foreigners usually can’t go, and Jin proves to be super helpful in helping them pick up girls.

Jin talks about Kame a lot at first; Kame and Yamapi, but mostly just Kame. He talks about that camping trip they once took, about Kame’s obsession with baseball, about how Kame has the most ridiculously funny laugh. He talks about how he’s kind of worried about their friendship, how things might be different when he comes back.

“Gay,” Jesse drawls. “You need to get over breaking up with your little girlfriend at home, bro.”

“Yeah, seems super gay,” Josh agrees. “Especially that one picture where you’re wearing matching clothes. That YamaP dude seems cool, though.”

Jin stops wearing his pinky ring after that.

*

He emails Yamapi once in a while, maybe once every two weeks. Usually it’s a picture of what he’d eaten for dinner, or a picture of a cute dog he’d seen at a park. The dogs particularly always make him a little sad; it reminds him of how he and Kame had gone out to get dogs once, but both Jin’s and Kame’s Mom had not allowed it, and so they’d had to leave the two adorable dogs at the pet store.

Jin still remembers Kame pressing his hand against the glass, eyes sad. “I hope you find a nice owner, Ran-chan,” he’d said quietly.

It always takes Yamapi a few days to reply and he always replies the same way. The weather is nice, I ate curry for lunch, I saw the cutest child with pigtails today. It’s really great to be positive and to appreciate what the world has to offer! Something along those lines.

Yamapi tells him about how he’s been scouted by college football couches, how he’d quite possibly get a great scholarship if he kept his level up throughout senior year. How he’s thinking about going pro.

He also tells him about the KAT-TUN club, and their plans of starting a Japanese Goods Shop in Little Tokyo together. Supposedly Ueda’s family is willing to fund their project (YAKUZA, Jin thinks to himself triumphantly), and Koki’s going to donate some of his better needlework to sell. Jin thinks the whole idea is a bit ridiculous, but at the same time he’s unreasonably mad that he’s not part of it, that no one had even asked him.

It doesn’t really occur to him that it had been him who’d just left without even properly saying goodbye; really, they should have come by his place to say goodbye. It’s him who is off in a far away land all by himself, after all. He’s the hero in this story.

He sends a text to Kame once, in the middle of the night, when Josh had scored some beer from the kombini and he’d gotten drunk off just one can. Kame never replies, but Jin doesn’t remember what he’d written anyway. He doesn’t remember deleting his whole message folder either, so maybe everything just had been a strange dream. Jin thinks it doesn’t really matter either way.

*

Time passes quickly, and soon it’s time for Jin to go back to Japan, to go back home. He’s not sure what to expect, exactly, but he’s definitely surprised to find Ueda and Nakamaru waiting for him at the airport. He wonders briefly if Yamapi had told them about his flight.

Nakamaru waves at him from across the arrival hall. “Akanishi!!” he yells, and Jin is kind of embarrassed and doesn’t know why.

“Yo,” he says when he comes closer. “Sup guys.”

“Do they not have hair dressers in Japan anymore?” Ueda asks, giving Jin a slightly amused once-over. “You look like a samurai hobo.”

*

It’s kind of easy to fall back into his old patterns, easier than Jin had imagined. Kame forgives him gracefully even though Jin never really says he’s sorry, and on Jin’s first day back at school Kame never leaves his side, always the reassuring presence Jin needs, because he’s feeling nervous, no, downright terrified about being back.

Koki is a tougher nut to crack; he seems to have not forgotten Jin’s sudden departure and things are a bit awkward between them for a few weeks, but eventually even Koki can’t stay mad at Jin. Not when Jin and Ueda are loudly mocking Nakamaru for going ‘Dutch’ and always splitting the bill when eating out.

Jin calls him ‘the flying Dutchman’ for a week.

“That doesn’t even make sense!” Nakamaru complains. “You don’t even know what that means!”

“Oh, Nakamura,” Kame says and shares a happy laugh with Jin. “Stop worrying about your nicknames and get a better wig!”

*

Things are good for a while; Jin even bullies KAT-TUN into letting him participate in their shop endeavours. Actually it’s more like Jin whining constantly until they others can’t take it anymore and put Jin at the counter, even though Nakamaru doesn’t believe Jin can sell anything to anyone.

“SHUT UP,” Jin rages. “I can be the best salesman ever if I want to!”

It’s true too, Jin’s easy smile and lovable idiocy somehow manage to coax customers into buying anything at all - Japanese curry roux, Junno’s sloppy calligraphy and even this pair of really ugly sneakers Koki hand-painted.

But Jin’s attention span is that of a 5-year-old; four out of the five afternoons a week Jin is late, and half the time he starts playing with the action figures he’s supposed to sell. One time Jin scares off these two teenaged girls who would definitely have bought the shoujo manga on display by suddenly jumping out in a ridiculous Pikachu costume.

“I CHOOSE YOU!!!” he screams at the top of his lungs.

The girls shriek and run out, knocking over the display of tiny Hello Kitty figurines Junno had carefully arranged in a little tower.

Jin is forbidden from interacting with the customers from that day — entirely unfair in Jin’s opinion, and he is still the best salesman ever — and so he just sits on a fold-up chair in the corner and watches the others work.

Mostly he watches Kame; somehow Kame has changed in the few months Jin had been gone. He seems grown-up, more confident and independent. Jin can’t really decide if he likes it or not. The thing is, he does like how Kame seems happier with himself, how he’s filled out a little and can stand up for himself, even to some of the douches on the football team (not Yamapi, of course). But Jin also kind of misses force-feeding Kame, and always having him by his side. It kind of feels like Kame doesn’t need Jin anymore, like Jin leaving had been a good thing for Kame; Jin likes being needed, but now he just feels kind of useless.

In the half year Jin had spent in Tokyo, Kame has somehow managed to convince his parents to let him buy a dog, after all. It’s not Ran-chan, but the one he’d gotten is pretty cute too. Jelly-chan. Kame’s still pretty broken up over not getting Ran-chan.

“I could have gotten both,” he says to Jin one day, eyes wistful. “I could have gotten them both, Ran and Jelly, and then their names together would have spelled lingerie.”

Jin agrees that that would have been pretty damn awesome.

The next day though, he drags Yamapi out to the same pet store so they can get dogs too, and Jin buys the same one he’d been eyeing when he’d come with Kame; he names it Pin, after Yamapi and Jin, mainly because he’s inexplicably annoyed about Kame getting a dog without him. It doesn’t occur to him that he’s doing the same thing now.

*

Things change when Jesse and Josh come back from Japan. They’ve graduated high school and seek Jin out after classes on a Tuesday afternoon; Jin’s just walking out the main building with his arm around Kame’s shoulders when he spots them. He quickly drops the arm.

“YO, AKANISHI,” Josh screams and fist-bumps Jin.

“Sup,” Jin says, awkwardly avoiding Kame’s eyes.

“Who’s this?” Jesse asks, smacking Kame’s shoulder. Jin hears Kame wince. “Is this your special friend? The one who bought you the pair rings?”


Josh and Jesse snicker and Kame purses his lips and gives Jin a long look, expression unreadable. “I’ll see you later,” he finally says, then nods ever so slightly to Jin’s friends. “Nice to meet you.”

“WOW,” Jesse says, laughing like an idiot. “You weren’t kidding. He really is super gay.”

A wave of guilt suddenly washes over Jin, and he stares at Kame’s back, watching him slowly walk away.

It would be fine though. He’d talk to him tomorrow.

*

Jin doesn’t talk to Kame tomorrow. Or the day after. He talks to him on Thursday, at the meeting, but only briefly, and only about this new sales promotion thing they’re planning for the shop. Something not limited to Little Tokyo, but including the whole Los Angeles Area. Jin’s not sure he has the time to participate.

The thing is, Josh and Jesse have started this dope new Hip Hop / RnB crew and he can be part of it. They’re even willing to let him take lead vocals; Jin’s voice is actually pretty awesome and if he’s honest with himself, he has dreamed of being a star since he was a five.

Back when they’d still lived in Tokyo, he had actually applied to this huge agency in Japan, Johnny’s, and gotten as far as an audition. But he hadn’t passed, and he’d decided to forget about his stupid dream. He still remembers how thrilled he’d been at first, because his audition number had been Number 1, how he’d had vivid images of him being chosen for a hot new group, how they’d sell millions of records. But a lot of the kids at the audition had been good, and Jin had gotten tired quickly, and so nothing had come out of it. He’d stared at his number plate for a while after auditions were over, not knowing what to do with it; he’d almost asked this old guy sitting in the corner, but he had stared at him with watchful eyes and it had creeped Jin out, and so he’d just left the number plate on the chair.

Now, though, his dreams could finally come true. Jin tells himself that’s the reason he starts hanging out more with Josh and Jesse and less with the KAT-TUN club members; the reality is though, he doesn’t know how to talk with Kame anymore. Every time he’s with Kame now, he thinks about how Jesse had called them gay, how Josh had jokingly called Jin’s semester abroad a break up.

He thinks about camping with Kame, and taking long drives, and matching outfits, and among all the worrying about someone perceiving them as gay, he somehow forgets how fun it had always been, and that he’d been the driving force behind most of it. He’d convinced Kame to get pair rings, he’d gotten the matching outfit without even asking, he’d made Kame miss half a day of classes when he’d kidnapped him so they could drive down to San Diego.

But no, it’s definitely Kame’s fault.

Him and that stupid shop and the stupid KAT-TUN club.

*

Jin quits the club halfway through senior year, and resigns from his benched position as a sales clerk. He never says in so many words that he’s quitting; basically he just disappears, doesn’t show up for meetings anymore, and eventually sends everyone an email, just talking about how it had been fun, and thank you for everything, and it’s definitely not because he doesn’t like them anymore.

He just wants to go in a different direction.

He wants to be a star.

After that, he doesn’t really talk to any of them, but he hears through the grapevine that Kame is telling the shop customers about Jin’s first gig at a club in L.A., telling them to please support their former ‘charisma shop assistant’ on his way to making his dream come true.

It makes Jin feel guilty, but not enough, and he’s too busy with writing songs and preparing for his soon-to-be stardom. No time for worries, apologies and regrets.

*

The career of PAPARATS, Jin’s new group, takes off like a rocket. They start performing at small, intimate clubs in and around Los Angeles, but by the time Jin graduates high school they already have a huge local following and a record company picks them up, signing them for a single and an album — option for more if successful. The first single, Yellow Gold is a pretty big hit, at least in California, and before Jin can even realize his luck, he’s scheduled to perform in Club Nokia, in front of over 2000 people.

Being semi-famous has lots of advantages, most of all certain privileges when going out. Yamapi who’d gone and become a professional football player has been getting both Jin and Ryo into the VIP areas of the hottest L.A. Clubs for a while, but now Jin can finally return the favor, and add in some champagne.

Ryo, who’d quit high school and had been job-hopping for a year — currently he’s working at some tanning salon down-town (“You should see the chicks who come in there,” Ryo frequently brags. “They’ve got the most amazing fake boobs!”)— doesn’t seem to mind his role as a social climber, freeloading off Yamapi, but Jin likes being on top of the social ladder, likes when it’s his name for once that gets them past the red velvet ropes.

*

Jin has to be in the recording studio almost every day, and it gets tiring really quickly. Sometimes, when he doesn’t manage to get up in time and their producer angrily calls him, Jin pretends that his phone’s breaking up and spends the day just sitting at the beach, thinking. Mostly he thinks about what Kame’s doing. He doesn’t have the guts to call him, though.

He’s heard, from Yamapi and from Ryo, that the small Japanese goods shop had become something of an overnight sensation. Word of mouth is still the most powerful advertising tool, and apparently people had liked the little corner shop. So much, in fact, that it was overflowing with customers, and the now graduated KAT-TUN club has, with the help of Ueda’s well-connected family, started to open several branches throughout California. Even in San Francisco. And they’d rented office spaces.

Not that he’d admit it, but Jin’s dying to take a look. Especially since Yamapi had told him that sometimes they’re wearing suits. He can’t imagine any of them as CEOs.

Well, except maybe Nakamaru.

*

Days turn into weeks and weeks into months, and the album is finally almost ready to be released. The Club Nokia shows a while back and been a huge success and with the release of the album PAPARATS is ready to step out of their Californian comfort zone and go national. Their label has arranged a US tour for them, New York, Houston, Chicago, Las Vegas, then back to L.A. Jin should happy, no thrilled.

And he is, really, at least sometimes, when he’s not woken up by fans arguing outside his front door, when random girls don’t grab his arm in his favorite club and he can’t even get his own drinks.

Jin goes out clubbing more than ever, sometimes with Yamapi, sometimes with Ryo, but mostly just with the guys. Josh and Jesse have been his friends for a while now, but somehow, ever since they’d also become colleagues in a way, Jin has started to notice things he’d failed to notice before.

Like this one time, when Jin had invited the two of them home for the first time, and Jin’s Mom had skipped her favorite Korean TV show to make Maccha ice cream for them, and Josh takes one look at it, makes a face and asks if he can just have regular vanilla.

Later that same week, the three of them are at some bar, and Jin notices Jesse’s hair looks kind of funny.

“Dude,” he jokes, punching Jesse’s shoulder lightly. “I think your wig’s coming off.”

Jin smiles fondly as he remembers how often he’d said that to Nakamaru and how Nakamaru had always, always giving him the satisfaction of saying, “IT’S NOT A WIG, OKAY.”

Jesse, however, doesn’t. “Ha-ha,” he says flatly. “Was that supposed to be funny? You really need to work on your sense of humor, Akanishi.”

“Yeah,” Josh agrees, and pats Jin’s shoulder condescendingly. “Better up your ante, you’re playing with the big kids now.”

*

It’s just little things, really, and Jin knows he shouldn’t worry about it, but all those tiny, little things keep adding up to this mountain of FUCK THIS SHIT, and for the first time since he’s gotten on this roller coaster of fame and success, Jin wonders if he’s made the biggest fucking mistake of his life.

They perform at a small club that night, a preview of the album for the most important people in the industry. Jin sings about bitches lying to him, about dancing and pulling his hoodie up, about giving sweet chicks his love juice. Then he sings about changing one’s life, about being beautiful and suddenly all he sees is Kame.

Kame’s happy smile the first time they’d gone to the beach together, Kame’s little frown when they’d been out for Yakiniku and Jin had stolen a particularly delicious meat off his plate, and most of all Kame’s knee-slapping laugh whenever Jin made a joke. Any joke. Even lame jokes about last names and wigs and ghost ships.

He skips the after party that night, even though Keri Hilson and Zac Efron were supposed to show up, and sits on his front step all night, smoking a whole pack of cigarettes.

The decision comes easier than expected.

*

When Jin walks into the shop it’s nothing like he remembered. They have an actual display window now, and proper shelves and there are employees with shirts that say KAT-TUN - Japanese goods and rarities. There’s still a tower of Hello Kitty figurines, but there are also these super rare edition of popular mangas in glass cabinets, and cosplay articles, and a wide selection of beautiful calligraphy wall paintings, way beyond Taguchi’s skills.

And then there’s this other giant display. PAPARATS, it reads on top. There are only a few CDs left. ‘NEW ALBUM OUT SOON’ is written underneath.

It takes only a minute for someone to recognize Jin, and some teenaged girl releases a high-pitched scream. Within seconds a few others join in and Jin flees to the counter, where the guy wearing the KAT-TUN t-shirt just blinks at him owlishly.

Then Kame comes running from the back of the store.

*


Kame takes him to the back room and for a few moments they just stand there.

“So,” Kame says, finally.

“So,” Jin repeats. “You might want to take that display down.”

Kame looks vaguely alarmed. “What, why? What happened?!”

“Well,” Jin says, pulling his hoodie deeper into his face. “I kind of —- well, I quit.”

“You what?!” Kame’s reaction is not what Jin had expected, but his expectations might have not been very realistic. Maybe. Maybe it had been too much to assume that Kame would break into a happy smile and welcome him back into the nest with open arms.

Then again, Kame’s supposed to be, well, Kame. Jin feels a little cheated.

“DON’T YELL AT ME OKAY,” Jin argues, and somehow he suddenly feels like he’s teleported back to when they we still juniors and Kame was reprimanding Jin about skipping class every single day. “It kind of sucked, okay? There were all these weird girls outside my house all the time and they scared my Mom. And Jesse — he’s weird about the wig thing! And him and Josh are like Ryo only like, Ryo laughs about my jokes, you know?” Jin realizes he’s not really making any sense. “It just really sucked.”

Kame’s anger is suddenly gone, only his red cheeks give away that he’s even been agitated at all; he sits down on one of the chairs and releases a long breath. “Oh, Jin.”

They are silent for a long time, and Jin starts to wonder if maybe Kame won’t welcome him back right now, if maybe Kame wasn’t going to welcome him back ever. It’s a terrifying thought.

“I’m sorry I never emailed you,” he tries.

Kame looks up and rolls his eyes, a slight, almost invisible smile playing on his lips. “It’s better getting no email than getting that one you sent me during your semester abroad.”

“What,” Jin replies. “I don’t remember…”

“Right,” Kame says curtly. “Let me refresh your memory: HEY KAME ARE YOU GAY FOR ME?”

Jin’s eyes widen; that couldn’t be true, there’s no way he would have — suddenly he recalls the beer, and that joint Josh had brought that he’d sworn to never mention to anyone. Yes, he realizes, he would have.

Kame’s still staring at him and Jin doesn’t really know how to respond to them, so he does what he does best; he turns it into a joke. Only his voice is kind of shaky and high-pitched and it really doesn’t sound like a joke at all. “WELL ARE YOU?”

There’s a pause, and that’s the moment Kame’s supposed to answer. But he doesn’t. He sighs and looks down at his shoes.

“BECAUSE YOU SEE,” Jin rambles on. “I think I kind of am. I mean, not for me. For you. The other night I was performing and I was singing this line that goes ‘I can make you beautiful’ and like, I kept thinking about your smile. That’s kind of weird, right? RIGHT?”

“Jin,” Kame starts.

Someone clears his throat suddenly and Jin turns around to see Koki standing in the doorway and sour expression on his face.

“What’s going on?” he asks, looking at Kame but not Jin.

“It’s fine,” Kame says.

“NOTHING,” Jin screams. “THIS IS NOT WHAT YOU THINK.”

*

Koki ends up calling the rest of the guys and all of them, including Jin, sit down in some meeting room. There’s this huge round table and the chairs look expensive and Jin feels kind of out of place. But only a little. Mostly he feels reassured by the guys being around him, even if half of them are staring daggers at him.

“So,” Nakamaru starts. “What seems to be the problem here?”

He sounds all business-like and it annoys Jin; he can’t resist taking a jibe at Nakamaru. “Well, Mr. Nakamaru. Before we start our meeting, would you be so kind and take off that wig? It’s a little distracting.”

Kame disguises a snicker as a cough, and Jin grins, satisfied. He’s still got it. He’s still the master of jokes.

“Akanishi was about to assault Kame,” Koki claims, ruining the whole happy mood Jin has created.

“DID NOT,” Jin shrieks. “I WOULD NEVER.”

“Assault with what? A salt shaker?” Junno attempts, uncertainly.

Please,” Ueda says and leans back into his chair. “You realize that this is the same guy who left his Prom date alone inside a haunted house because he decided to run, like the little chicken he is?”

“Guys,” Kame says, holding his hands up. “Nothing’s wrong. Jin and I were just talking.”

Nakamaru clears his throat. “Talking about what?”

“Well,” Kame says slowly. “About Jin coming back.”

There’s a pause, Ueda blinks and even Junno can’t think of an appropriate joke. “Coming back where?” Nakamaru finally asks.

“Coming back to the shop,” Kame clarifies. “Coming back to us.”

Jin’s head whips around and he stares at Kame, completely dumbfounded. How — why. He hadn’t even asked. He hadn’t explained. He hadn’t even apologized yet.

Everyone starts talking at once then, Koki loudly complaining about how he’d never accept a traitor back into their circles, Nakamaru wondering what would even possess Jin to come back to them, Ueda noting that surely no rap superstar would want to become a shop assistant, of all things? Their voices blend together to a loud, terrifying indecipherable wall of sound and Jin’s on the verge of just running out, when Kame holds up a hand again.

“Guys,” he repeats. “Guys.”

For a moment no one says anything; everyone just stares at Jin and Jin twists his fingers together uncomfortably.

Then Ueda points at the door. Jin blanches.

“Well, Mr. Akanishi,” Ueda says. “You can start by cleaning the hallway.”

“And tomorrow,” Koki adds, jerking his thumb towards a huge fluffy Doraemon costume hanging on a rack in the corner. “Tomorrow you’ll hand out flyers wearing that.”

There is no hesitation, no whining, not even a grumble, and Jin smiles and pushes back his hoodie for the first time in weeks. “Got it.”

When Kame shares a little smile with him, a secretive one, just for the two of them, Jin realizes that out of all the things he’d broken apart in the past few years, breaking up his ridiculous hip hop crew had quite possibly been the first good decision he’d ever made on his own.

First thing tomorrow, he decides, he’d go to that old pet store on the corner of 3rd and track down the owner of Ran-chan.

Right after worming his way out of the Doraemon thing.

Comments

Am I the first one to comment?

Well I really loved your fic^^

Will you write a sequel? Will you? Please~
Its a nice friendship fics and bit akame.
i like how you took real events and changed the perspective on it. i really enjoyed reading this fic. the akame relationship is still an open issue...does this mean that there will be a sequel?
Awawawawawawaw.....jin finally back and realize he's missing them all...
thank u^^
ahhh~~~
such a nice fic...

nice fic!!!what a beautiful friendship those guys have!!!!^_^
I have the most ridiculous smile on my face right now, after reading this.

Loved it - sweet and beautiful. I really loved the interactions between Kame and Jin. I also really liked the Johnny's audition, with the creepy old man in the corner that you just know was Johnny, haha.

^___^
“WHAT,” Jin screams, eyes wide. “Kids get their driver’s license at thirteen here?”
It takes Jin a few moments to understand why Ryo is trying to kill him with his eyes

hach, so schön aus dem leben gegriffen xDDD
midget~
ich bin fasziniert davon, wie viele "hints" du da reingebaut hast Oo
von der audition bis zur namensfindung usw.
sehr witzig xD
so cute, funny, and great
thank you for sharing
This is just so awesome... I don't even know where to start.
I love the little details you used, the 'amigo' between Pi and Kame, the JE audition... and how everyone was in character despite the different setting. It made me grin so hard I realised my cheeks hurt after I finished reading &hearts

Edited at 2010-11-08 02:50 pm (UTC)
i love it..
thanx for sharing..
Um rereading and this is STILL one of my favorite stories that came out of that exchange. God DAMN, why is this exactly what I needed to read right now? ♥
Definitely what I need to read right now. Love it.
wow
that was just brilliant
n lovely
n romantic
n shit realistic (especially Jin's indecisiveness)
just perfect in short
I think this fic needs more love & recogntion ♥