SixTONES, I Still See You (Even If the Light Is Stolen)

Title: Sunbeam [Shintarou/Juri]
Rating/Warnings: NC-17, minor character injury, body swap
Summary: Shintarou wakes up from a concussion in a parallel universe, and Juri feels like the entire universe is hazing him. Both of them have a lot to learn from each other if they want Shintarou to get home again.
AN: Written for Eri for JE United 2016, who wanted ridiculous things that all turn out fine in the end, and maybe some porn. I hope you enjoy this! Title from “IN THE STORM.” I haven’t seen Johnny’s Island so I’m not ultra clear on all the details, but I will say that a ton of people are injured again, just like last year, and I blame basketball. Also, I think my explanation for the name Sexy Zone is a lot more sensible, I’m just saying.

I Still See You (Even If the Light Is Stolen)

Juri saw the exact moment when Shintarou’s flip went all wrong. It was just out of the corner of his eye at first, but by the time he turned his head fully he already knew that Shintarou wasn’t going to land it, he was already gritting his teeth and bracing for the impact. Juri had seen Shintarou wipe out any number of times during any number of tricks, but nothing prepared him for the thick, horrible sound of Shintarou’s back hitting the stage floor flat.

In the fifteen seconds it took Juri to scramble across the stage and drop to his knees beside Shintarou, all he could think was staff told you not to they told you moron why don’t you ever listen we told you not to we told you in a sickening loop. Shintarou’s eyes were closed, but he was breathing, and Juri grabbed one of Shintarou’s hands and squeezed it so tight his own fingers started to tingle.

“Shin?” he begged, his voice catching. Panic was making it hard to breathe, filling up his chest the longer that Shintarou didn’t open his eyes. “Wake up, come on, please.”

“Did he hit his head?” Taiga asked, suddenly at Juri’s shoulder. Jesse and Kouchi were on the other side, hands hovering over Shintarou like they wanted to check for injury but were afraid to touch him. Juri shook his head.

“I didn’t see, I don’t know,” Juri answered. He squeezed Shintarou’s hand with half-numb fingers. “Shin, please.”

The backstage medic arrived just then, an ambulance already called. Juri refused to let go while the medic checked Shintarou over. When the paramedics came in with the gurney, Kouchi had to all but pry Juri away and kept a firm grip on him when Juri struggled, demanding to go along with the ambulance.

“Shh, it’s okay, we’ll follow them, all right?” Kouchi reassured. Angry tears had spilled over Juri’s cheeks as soon as Shintarou was out of sight, and Kouchi rubbed Juri’s back, trying to comfort him. “Let’s go get our stuff, come on.”

Juri didn’t understand it at the time, but for some reason, he kept thinking I shouldn’t have let go, I should have held on over and over.

Shintarou was unconscious until the next morning, and Juri couldn’t remember ever living through a longer night in his entire life. The hospital had eventually sent them home, not that any of them slept; Juri stared at the ceiling for hours and saw that second just before Shintarou’s impact with the ground over and over over. The others had gone back into rehearsals today, but Juri had called off and gone back to the hospital, and the manager answering his call hadn’t had the heart to scold him.

Even once Shintarou was awake, it was still hours before Juri had a chance to see him. Juri spent the time in the waiting room sending and answering a constant stream of messages back and forth to friends and kouhai and senpai. Yes, he’s awake. Nothing’s broken. I haven’t seen him yet. He doesn’t even have a concussion.

“Idiots can’t catch a cold after all,” his mother reassured him over the phone. Juri tried to draw in a deep breath to stop another round of tears and couldn’t.

“Hey,” Shintarou said when Juri was finally allowed into his room. Shintarou looked exhausted and was surrounded by machines, but he held out his arms for a hug. Flopped awkwardly on Shintarou’s chest to avoid the IV line, Juri listened to Shintarou’s heartbeat under his cheek and drew the first full breath he’d taken in twenty-four hours. “Hey, it’s okay. I’m okay.”

“You’re the worst,” Juri said, squeezing his eyes shut. Hot tears were wicked away by Shintarou’s hospital gown. Shintarou’s palm settled on the back of Juri’s head, fingers working through his hair.

“I know,” Shintarou said quietly. “I’m so sorry.”

Eventually Juri calmed enough to sit back up, scrubbing at his face and faintly embarrassed to have melted down in front of Shintarou’s mother. She didn’t seem to mind, though, offering Juri her chair while she went to get herself a coffee. Juri dragged the chair as close as he could to the side of Shintarou’s bed. Without thinking he reached for Shintarou’s hand again, and Shintarou curled their fingers together easily. They chatted quietly about work, how long Shintarou might be out, thank goodness it had happened during rehearsal instead of in front of fans, what to do about their performances, both of them pretending everything was normal even when laughing made Shintarou wince obviously.

“Hey,” Shintarou said suddenly, turning their hands over to look at Juri’s. “You aren’t wearing your ring.”

“My…ring?” Juri asked.

“Yeah, and mine’s missing too.” Shintarou reached up to his neck as if expecting to find a necklace there. “Did they take it off when they brought me in? Does my mom have it?”

Juri blinked. “Shin, what ring? What are you talking about?”

“Our rings, you idiot,” Shintarou laughed, as if Juri were teasing him. He stopped laughing when Juri just stared at him. “Quit fucking around. The rings we got this summer for our five year anniversary?”

Something like lightning flashed through Juri’s chest. “Whose—”

Shintarou’s mother pushed the door open before Juri could ask any more questions, offering to drive Juri home because visiting hours were over. “Sorry, kiddo,” she interrupted when both Juri and Shintarou opened their mouths to protest. “But we have to go. This idiot needs rest anyway.”

“Mo-om,” Shintarou whined. He accepted a last hug from his mother and then from Juri. Juri could have imagined the brush of lips against his cheek as he pulled away, maybe. “I’ll call you later, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Juri agreed unsteadily. Shintarou’s hand was still in his, thumb rubbing idly at the spot where a ring would likely sit. Juri forced himself to let go. “Hurry up and get better. Coming here just to see you sucks.”

Juri went back to work the next day, bombarded on one side by co-workers desperate to hear about Shintarou’s condition, and on the other side by Shintarou himself who was bored out of his mind at the hospital. Fortunately all of his tests and scans had come back clean, so he was being released the next afternoon. Juri hadn’t meant to bring a parade of morons with him over to Shintarou’s house after work, but there was definitely no way to stop at least the rest of the group coming.

“Don’t you boys get him all worked up, and only until dinner,” Morimoto-san scolded them as she led them into the living room. She clearly hadn’t expected any better, Juri saw when he followed her into the kitchen to help get drinks for everyone, given the amount of food she was halfway through preparing. He offered to stay and help, but Morimoto-san shooed him off and told him to go be with his friends.

Shintarou waved Juri over, patting the spot on the floor next to him, already surrounded by SixTONES members like a king in the middle of court.

“I don’t remember anything,” Shintarou was saying, shaking his head. “Everything for a couple hours before that is blank. They said from the shock, so it might come back or…” He let his hand fall, the meaning obvious.

“Wish I could forget it,” Juri said, leaning into Shintarou so their shoulders pressed together.

“Yeah, it made an awful noise,” Jesse put in, like they were dissecting a car crash scene in an action movie. “Like WHAPF.

“I thought a stage light fell and killed you,” Taiga said matter-of-factly, ignoring the way Hokuto elbowed him. “What? Anyway, that’s why staff keeps telling you not to do that.”

“Nn,” Shintarou said noncommittally. He was watching Taiga and Hokuto with a strange expression, but shrugged it off when he realized Juri was looking at him. “They’ll probably spend all tomorrow telling me off.”

“You’re coming in?” Hokuto asked, perking up. Then he raised an eyebrow. “Did they really say that’s all right?”

“He can’t do anything but watch,” his mother said crisply, appearing behind them with a stack of plates. “But he isn’t getting rewarded for scaring five years off my life by getting to skip a bunch of practices, lounging around here like an unemployed slug.”

“I’ve been home one day!” Shintarou protested. “Have some compassion, woman! Anyway I’m benched at least two weeks, so what’s the point of practice when our concerts will be over by then?”

Jesse and Kouchi exchanged a glance. “Island shows go all next month too, remember?”

“Oh, right.” Shintarou shook his head. “Sorry! Things are still a bit…”

“It’s fine,” Jesse assured, and after that Morimoto-san told them to go wash their hands so they could eat already.

Later after the others had gone home, Juri came back from his bath to find Shintarou sitting on his bed in his pajamas, but clearly not ready to sleep.

“Can we talk about something?” he asked Juri. Juri nodded, giving his hair one last rub with the towel before draping it over Shintarou’s desk chair.

“You sound serious,” Juri said. He tried to sit down facing Shintarou, but Shintarou tugged him by the wrist until they were shoulder-to-shoulder up against the headboard. “You’re really okay, right?”

“Yeah, it’s just…” Shintarou frowned. “I have to tell you something, but I don’t think you’ll believe me.”

Juri resisted the urge to grab Shintarou’s hand and link their fingers together. He shouldn’t have indulged yesterday, because now it was all he could think about. “Try me, I guess.”

“It’s…I’m…we aren’t together, right? The two of us. Like dating.”

For a second, Juri couldn’t speak, his chest going hot and then cold. “N-no. No! We’re not—”

“See the thing is, before I woke up in the hospital, we were.” Shintarou chewed on his lower lip, watching Juri’s reaction. “You’ve been my boyfriend for five years, because it’s only a month different than debut anniversary. It’s like I woke up in the wrong dimension, or a different reality, or…”

“What are you talking about?” Juri whispered, heart beating crazily. Boyfriend? Debut? Five years?! “You’re scaring me!”

“How do you think I feel?!” Shintarou snapped, brows knit tight together. “When I woke up and you didn’t have your ring, I thought we broke up and I just didn’t remember it! I was fucking terrified!” Shintarou grabbed one of his pillows to shove into his lap, twisting the corners of it anxiously. “But that’s not it, huh? Stuff’s different here.”

“What other stuff?” Juri asked, needing a minute of distraction from any discussion about the two of them. “Let’s say, just for a minute, that I believe you. You said debut. And earlier you said ‘our concerts.’ You’re debuted?”

“You are too.” Shintarou nudged Juri’s shoulder with his own. “The six of us. That part didn’t change at least. It’s Sexy Zone’s fifth anniversary, so we have concerts and everything.”

“Yeah, but what’s that got to do with…” Juri wrinkled his nose. “You debuted with Sexy Zone?”

“I just said, we both…why are you making that face?” Shintarou tilted his head. “That’s our name, right?”

“No!” Juri burst out laughing; he couldn’t help it. “There’s a Sexy Zone, but it’s like Nakajima and Shori and Marius. We’re SixTONES, like ‘six’ plus ‘tones’ like…oh man, your face right now.” Juri couldn’t stop snickering now that he’d started.

“Marius?!” Shintarou looked aghast. “He’s like sixteen now! When we debuted he must have been…ugh, what the fuck. And that doesn’t even make sense! They named us that because six is sex, like sextuplets or whatever.”

“I’m pretty sure they named you Sexy because sexy, buddy,” Juri snickered, trying to pull himself together before Shintarou’s mother came to yell at them. “We named ourselves, last year. Taiga came up with it.”

“Only last year?” Shintarou asked. “What did they call you all that time before that?”

“Nothing, because we weren’t a group for most of it. Jesse and Hokuto did a lot of solo stuff, you refused to sing for like two years.” Juri smiled, all of the awkward parts fond memories now that they were in the past. Shintarou looked horrified. “Hey, it’s okay. It turned out all right in the end. I mean, debut would be nice, but for now I’m happy we’re a group.”

“But we aren’t…” Shintarou twisted the pillow more tightly. “Sorry, I keep forgetting and reaching to touch you.”

“It’s all right,” Juri assured. He reached over to undo the tight clench of Shintarou’s hand from the pillow and squeezed it in his own. He wasn’t exactly over the need for reassurance himself that Shintarou was right here, that he was all right.

Maybe a little bit insane, but whatever. He worked for Johnny’s after all. If the entry form had a checkbox for ‘basically normal’ probably none of them would be here.

“Do you really not…” Shintarou trailed off. He was staring at his hand in Juri’s. “This is really hard. I can’t even think about what not being with you could be like.”

Juri could. He knew exactly what it had been like because he’d been pushing down how much he loved Shintarou for years at that point, and he’d mostly learned to cope with it. But the look on Shintarou’s face right now was the same look Juri saw on his own face still sometimes, scared and tired and sad. That was the thing that convinced him, at least a little, that maybe somehow his Shintarou had gotten switched with this one. He’d never seen Shintarou look anything like that before, certainly not about him.

“Let’s say,” Juri licked his lips, which felt dry, “that I believe you. Just for now. What do we do?”

“Fuck if I know,” Shintarou answered. “I was hoping it would have just worn off by now. What if I need to hit my head again?”

“NO,” Juri snapped, his vehemence making Shintarou smile. “Don’t even say that, ugh. I—” Juri interrupted himself with a huge yawn and Shintarou apologized sheepishly for keeping him up when he’d been at practice all day.

“Let’s just sleep,” he said, and both of them shuffled under the blankets awkwardly. “Oh, sorry, dammit. I probably…futon…”

“Nah, your bed’s big enough, we don’t bother,” Juri said. “We sleep over too much, it’s a pain.”

“I might touch you this way,” Shintarou said cautiously. “You know, in my sleep. It’s just that we usually. Uh.”

“That’s all right,” Juri said, trying to sound casual and not like all of his skin was prickling with the hope that it might. “I mean, I get it. We touch a lot, honestly.” More than entirely platonic friends would, Juri was sure, but he was equally sure that was entirely his fault and just counted himself lucky that Shintarou had never been freaked out or pushed him away. After so long, though, it had turned into just a normal part of their friendship.

They tried to sleep, but neither of them could. Juri tried everything, counting sheep, going over step counts, thinking through the Island setlist…beside him, he could hear that Shintarou wasn’t asleep either, just trying to stay still. That was the dead-giveaway actually, that Shintarou was neither snoring nor kicking him. Juri rolled onto his side and wasn’t surprised to find Shintarou watching him, enough light to tell once his eyes had adjusted.

“All I’ve done for three days is lie around, what’s your excuse?” Shintarou whispered, making Juri snort a soft laugh. “You have stuff tomorrow, though. Want me to go away so you can jerk off? It’d help.”

Juri went very still. “…No.”

“No, you don’t want to?” Shintarou asked. “Or no, I shouldn’t go away?” Juri’s breath hitched, and Shintarou sat up, jostling the bed with the suddenness of it. “Fuck, sorry. It’s just, you’re right here, and you’re you, and the last time I went three days without kissing you was when Mom dragged me to Hawaii to see Ryutarou for a week. I shouldn’t have asked you that.”

“Stay, I don’t mind,” Juri said in a rush, because he was stupid and exhausted and not over watching Shintarou nearly kill himself. Plus he’d been in love with this moron since he was sixteen and now the whole universe was hazing him by handing him a Shintarou who said he loved Juri too. “Stay, just…just do it.” He rolled over to push himself against Shintarou’s side, breathing too fast from fear that Shintarou would push him off, even faster when Shintarou curled an arm around him to hug him closer.

“That’s not okay, right?” Shintarou’s voice was gentle and deep. If Juri was wrong and this was just regular Shintarou with a brain injury, Juri was going to kill himself. “I don’t want to mess it up for when he comes back.”

“There’s nothing to mess up,” Juri snapped, more harshly than he meant to. “If he wanted me, he’d have said already. Five years ago, apparently.”

“There’s no me who doesn’t want you,” Shintarou assured. Juri made a derisive noise. “And it’s you who told me, anyway. I never would have said anything on my own. You haven’t ever told him, have you?”

It was more than Juri could take, the sudden revelation that he was the coward here, and he couldn’t bear any more. “Shut up. Are we gonna do it or what?” Juri paused, because he was angry, but not an asshole. “Will that guy get mad at you for this?”

“You tell me,” Shintarou answered. He sounded amused at the idea somehow, and it made Juri want to grind his teeth. “If they’re doing it right now, does that make you angry?”

No. The idea of Shintarou kissing another him was mostly just hot, barely different than fantasizing about doing it himself. “No.” Juri gave a small laugh that hurt a little. “Guess I’m just glad some Juri somewhere is getting it.”

“Shh, come here.” Shintarou pulled Juri as close as they could get, kissing Juri’s cheek and then his temple. His familiarity with Juri’s body was obvious from the way his hands unerringly found sensitive spots, and Juri let himself melt into it, sick of thinking about things. Shintarou palmed the back of Juri’s neck, fingertips circling points of warmth, and his other hand dragged a warm trail across the small of Juri’s back that made him gasp. Shintarou kissed him and it was all Juri could do to clutch at his T-shirt and kiss back.

Shintarou didn’t pull back until Juri’s lips were tingling and they were both hard, rocking against each other gently. Juri didn’t want gentle. Juri wanted Shintarou’s hand on his dick right now.

“Tell me if it’s not all right,” Shintarou said. His hand was between them suddenly, tugging at the drawstring of Juri’s pajama pants to undo the bow. “If you want me to stop, say.”

“I don’t want you to—ahh.” Juri’s heart skipped several beats in a row as Shintarou’s hand circled him suddenly, then stroked firmly. He wound arms around Shintarou’s neck for leverage and pushed his hips into the touch without bothering to hold back, lips pressed tight together against the noises trying to spill out of his mouth.

Shintarou’s thumb slid over Juri’s tip, slick with precome, and Juri writhed because oh, that wasn’t even fair.

“Yeah, uh-huh,” Shintarou encouraged, voice low in this throat. His other hand was still against the small of Juri’s back, digging in with more pressure now, and Juri had had no idea this whole time that his lower back was some kind of sex sweet spot. “Come on, yeah.”

Juri fell apart in Shintarou’s hands, the rush of coming making everything sweet for three or four blissful seconds. Other Juri gets to do this all the time, he thought, which killed most of his temporary high before he was even done shivering. Other Juri is a dick.

“What do you want?” Juri asked to distract himself; Shintarou was still hard and grinding lightly against Juri’s thigh.

“Anything,” Shintarou said, sounding out of breath himself. “Or if you don’t want to, that’s fine.”

Juri didn’t bother answering, just shoved Shintarou over, onto his back, because if this was going to be fantasy fulfillment night, then there was one thing in particular that Juri had always wanted to do. He shoved Shintarou’s sweatpants roughly down, just enough to be out of the way. He’d seen Shintarou’s dick any number of times as they changed or got into the bath, but never like this, never flushed and hard and only for him.

He licked Shintarou’s tip, fingers wrapped around the base to hold it steady, and the quiet groan it wrung out of Shintarou curled right around the base of Juri’s spine. Juri wasn’t some innocent virgin, and he had no problems showing Shintarou exactly how good he could be with his mouth. Shintarou was big enough that Juri had to work for it as he slid his mouth further down over him, dragging his lips down as far as he could before pulling back up again to suck messily at his tip. Juri’s jaw started to ache after a bit, but he ignored it, in no rush for this to end.

“Hey,” Shintarou said, touching the top of Juri’s head lightly, but Juri already knew. He could feel how close Shintarou was in the bunched muscles of his thighs under Juri’s palm, the way Shintarou’s breaths were so shallow, so quick. He lifted his head to look Shintarou over before he finished, wanting to remember every detail: the flush spread down Shintarou’s neck and the tightness of his fist in the sheets and the dark of his eyes as he watched his dick sliding through Juri’s fingers. As he watched Juri.

Juri lowered his head to put his mouth back on Shintarou and finished him off without any more fooling around. Shintarou tasted sharp on the back of Juri’s tongue, but Juri kind of liked it. He swallowed, at any rate, because he liked doing that for Shintarou too, and if that made him kind of a freak, well, fuck everybody. When he lifted his head, Shintarou was still watching him, lit up with afterglow and affection. For a second, Juri forgot everything that made this weird and felt instead how good it was to have everything he wanted all at once.

“I love when you do that,” Shintarou whispered, as if it were a thing Juri did all the time. Juri started to shake, feeling amazing and horrible at the same time, and Shintarou hugged him tightly until the worst of it passed. They didn’t talk about it, for which Juri was glad. He rubbed Juri’s back in slow circles until Juri fell asleep on him.

In the morning they went again, Shintarou’s hand wrapped around both of their dicks while Juri thrust against him helplessly, lips and teeth pressing against Shintarou’s shoulder, leaving a scatter of red marks.

“We do it, right?” Juri asked as they were coming down, tangled under the blankets, sticky and too warm. “The whole way, I mean. Who’s on top?”

“Who do you think is?” Shintarou asked. He was tracing the shell of Juri’s ear with his thumb over and over. It felt amazing; it made Juri want to pierce every piece of his skin possible.

“You,” Juri answered, unashamed. That was how he always thought about it, ever since Shintarou had gotten taller, strong enough to pin Juri to the floor when they wrestled.

“Hmm, sometimes,” Shintarou murmured, then laughed at the shiver that ran through Juri.

Shintarou’s mother offered to drive them to work, but Shintarou insisted on taking the train in like usual, fed up with being fussed over. Juri hid a smile behind his sleeve when Shintarou had to stop mid-complaint to ask sheepishly if his mother knew where his wallet was.

Most of the ride in was companionably silent, Shintarou scrolling through his feeds on his phone, Juri stuck on a Puzzles and Dragons dungeon on his own.

“So I’ve been thinking,” Shintarou spoke up eventually. “Maybe i’m supposed to fix stuff. Maybe that’s why I’m still here.”

Juri snorted. “What?”

“Like you!” Shintarou beamed at him, face clearly saying look what a great idea I’m having. “When the other one comes back, you can confess and everything will be fine. See, fixed!”

“Oh yeah?” Juri challenged, raising an eyebrow. “If things are so fixed, genius, then why are you still here?”

“Clearly I haven’t fixed everything yet,” Shintarou scoffed. “Maybe I’m supposed to fix your group, too, huh? I’ll watch until I figure out what you guys are doing wrong, then you can debut and I can go home. Solved!”

Juri was torn between laughing at Shintarou’s idiot plan and being indignant. “There’s nothing wrong with my group, you.” Their station was next, cutting off the conversation. Juri shrugged it off; Shintarou wasn’t going to be allowed to do anything but watch practice for at least a couple weeks anyway, so if that was how he wanted to entertain himself, that was fine by Juri.

Just before they went through the doorway to the practice room, where Juri could hear people laughing and carrying on, Juri stopped Shintarou by putting a hand to his chest.

“Hey, let’s not tell anybody else yet,” Juri said. He was already feeling silly for believing Shintarou’s crazy explanations, and he wasn’t in a hurry to try and explain it to the others, only to be laughed at. “For now. I guess if you’re stuck here a while we might have to eventually but…maybe let’s just pretend things are back to normal for a few days.”

“All right,” Shintarou agreed easily. He reached up to tug on Juri’s hair where the hoodie had flattened it. Juri batted his hand away.

“None of that either!” Juri warned. “We’re touchy but it’s not like that, remember?”

“Sure, sure.” Shintarou held up his hands in surrender. “I can be normal.”

“Like anybody around here can do that,” Juri said under his breath, but he pushed the door open and waved Shintarou inside.

It lasted two seconds.

“Holy SHIT,” Shintarou said, loud enough to make half the room look. “What’s Tai-chan doing in the front?!”

Juri slapped a hand to his forehead. “Kyomocchan!” He hissed to Shintarou. “You can’t call him that! Do you want to die?”

“Eh?” Shintarou asked.

Taiga put a hand on his hip to glare as he and Jesse turned around from their frontman position in front of the mirrors. Jesse was grinning, amused as always by any hint of chaos. “I haven’t missed THAT many practices, fuck you very much,” Taiga snapped, apparently taking Shintarou’s comment to only be about missed rehearsals. “You wanna come up here and fight me for it?”

“He’s got a head injury, just ignore him,” Juri said busily, pushing Shintarou past him. He hissed at Shintarou, “Stop giggling!”

“I can’t!” Shintarou cackled. “He’s so fucking blond, I can’t get over it! Who let him DO that?!”

Rolling his eyes, Juri steered Shintarou towards Kouchi. Kouchi would fuss over the group baby, everyone would forget about his outburst in a minute, and Juri could focus on practice.

“Sou-chan!” Shintarou exclaimed happily, slipping out of Juri’s grip. When Juri turned around, Shintarou was flopped heavily on Sexy Zone’s second youngest member, ruffling his hair. Sou looked like he was reasonably alarmed but trying not to look it.

“H-hi, Shintarou-kun,” Sou said politely. “Are you feeling better?”

“Eh? Since when are you so…” Shintarou caught Juri’s eye and Juri made a tense face. Shintarou loosened his grip enough to be more casual. “Uh, yeah. I’m all right. Sorry for making you guys worry and fill in for me.”

“It’s all right.” Sou offered Shintarou a smile now that he wasn’t being squished half to death. “But I have to go, I came in with Fuma-kun just to visit Shori today.” Sou slipped out from Shintarou’s arm, not noticing Shintarou’s shocked face. Shintarou turned to Juri, mouth open, but no words came out.

“What?” Juri prompted. “And what’s with you and Sou?”

“We had a drama together…well, guess we didn’t, here. That sucks.” Shintarou was still looking slightly shell-shocked. “Kikuchi’s still here?”

Juri nodded. “He ought to be, since he’s debuted…oh right. He’s Sexy Zone. Didn’t I say that?”

“You definitely did not!” Shintarou hissed. “Is he…shit, what’s he even like now? Are he and Hokuto still friends? Is he popular?”

“He’s Fuma, I don’t know, he has a lot of solos? He’s the same as he’s ever been,” Juri tried to shrug off Shintarou’s questions. “Yeah, I guess they’re friends, sure. Hoku was sad when Fuma and Kento left him behind, but he’s got us, he’s fine. Fuma hangs out with like Sanada and…”

“Sanada?!” Shintarou exclaimed. Juri put hands on Shintarou’s shoulders and squeezed hard.

“Listen, I have to practice,” Juri said, looking Shintarou in the eye. “Just sit on the mats and watch and try to answer some of your crazy questions for yourself, okay?” Shintarou bit his lip and nodded, and Juri recognized right away the way that Shintarou tried to make himself look smaller sometimes. More gently, he added, “I’m not mad at you. This is just making me kind of uncomfortable, but it’s fine. Go get Kouchi to hug you for a minute. Sexy Zone’s Kouchi still does that, right?”

“Yeah, of course,” Shintarou said, shoulders relaxing. Juri squeezed his shoulders again and sent him on his way.

“Of course,” Juri repeated to himself, feeling slightly better too. He tried to shake off whatever he was feeling as he came over to Jesse and Taiga, talking by the mirrors.

“Is he really okay?” Taiga asked. “Because ‘Tai-chan?’ What the fuck.”

“I’m not sure,” Juri said, not wanting to lie even if he didn’t tell them the whole truth. “He doesn’t have amnesia or anything, but he remembers things kind of different. He’s probably gonna say more weird stuff. Just try to correct him?”

“Sure, dude.” Jesse eyed Juri as he took a few swallows from his water bottle. “Are you okay? ‘Cause you look just as freaked out as him.”

“Yeah, I just…” Juri glanced over to find Shintarou’s cheek resting on Kouchi’s shoulder, but his eyes on Juri. He gave Juri a slow blink, and Juri looked away. “I’ll be fine.”

Practice was a welcome distraction, the physical exertion clearing Juri’s head. It wasn’t easy to quickly sort out the choreography to cover Shintarou’s absence, and they were still working on fixing the many places where Shintarou being gone had been leaving an obvious hole. It wasn’t like they had the luxury of an off-day to fix it either, so using up all their energy before the 13:00 show would have been even more of a moronic move. They had to settle for mirrors and half-energy choreography and just hope it would be enough.

Juri kept half an eye on Shintarou, glad to see other guys were dropping in and out to say hello to him and to find out about his condition for themselves. Juri had to suppress a smile at Shintarou’s shocked face when Prince came by and Genki dropped down practically in his lap with his usual lack of personal space awareness. Serves him right, Juri thought, going back to his blocking. Ten minutes later Morohoshi descended like a small but noisy firework, as always, and Juri snickered at Kouchi shouting at them to knock it off when Morohoshi’s hug threatened to knock Shintarou right off the mats he was sitting on.

“He has a head injury, you boob!” Kouchi hollered. “No shoving!”

“Yes, mom,” Morohoshi answered, long-suffering. Shintarou slapped at Morohoshi’s grabby hands with question marks practically blinking above his head.

Mostly Shintarou just watched, more and more fidgety as the morning went on. By the time lunch rolled around, Juri flopped down next to Shintarou, feeling like he could tolerate more of Shintarou’s strange questions as he rubbed his towel over his head and cooled down.

“It’s so fucking weird here,” Shintarou hissed before Juri even got comfortable. Juri made a noise to show he was listening, glancing around to make sure nobody was paying any attention to them. “Why does Taiga sound like that?!”

“What’s that supposed to mean? He sounds fine,” Juri said, feeling defensive.

“He sounds fucking awesome,” Shintarou breathed, making Juri frown. “It’s nuts! When did that happen?”

“During Elisabeth, idiot, when he took all those…” Juri chuckled at Shintarou’s blank look. “Voice lessons. Your Taiga didn’t get the musical, huh? Tell me some more about how my group needs to be fixed.”

“Well, you aren’t debuted, for a start,” Shintarou huffed. “And your formation looked pretty fucked. Are you just sticking Hokuto in the back because I’m out? Because replacing him with Jesse makes the height thing weird as shit. And you’re so out-of-sync, it’s—”

“Listen, you,” Juri cut in, patience already gone. “Where Hokuto is has nothing to do with you, since you sure as fuck aren’t in the front ever, and what’s more both of you fucking like it that way, so you can just fuck right off.”

“I…what?” Shintarou took a second to pick up the thread of the conversation, sheepish under Juri’s glare. “Juri? Hey, don’t get mad. I’m sorry?”

“I’m not mad,” Juri snapped, and then took a deep breath and willed it to be true. “It really isn’t you in there, is it? Because you don’t understand anything.”

“I keep telling you I’m not him,” Shintarou pointed out. He clenched and loosened his fists where they were resting on his knees. “And no, I don’t understand. But maybe an outside opinion wouldn’t hurt? Because my group looks like it’s been dancing together for five years, and yours looks like every person is doing a different song that didn’t even start at the same time.”

It hurt Juri a little to say it, but he had to admit, “Yeah, that part. We don’t work on that part enough.”

“I just want to help,” Shintarou said, some hurt still lurking underneath. “I just want to go home.”

“Me too.” Juri swallowed the deep sigh that his chest ached to give. “Let’s go get some food.”

Juri still had two shows to get through that afternoon and evening, and no choice but to keep his head firmly in the game since they were already a man down. He spotted Shintarou watching them from the wings every now and again, but Juri tried mostly to ignore it, focused on just carrying on and getting through it. They brought Shintarou out during the MCs both shows, just to show the fans he wasn’t dead, and Juri enjoyed Shintarou’s flustered confusion when both Watanabe and Iwamoto complained that Shintarou hadn’t come to their dressing rooms to greet them like a proper kouhai.

“After I wrote about you in my Jweb and everything!” Watanabe teased. “Hmph!” Shintarou whined softly, going pink across the nose, but couldn’t exactly argue.

Juri was liquidated from exhaustion by the end of the second show, and it must have shown on his face because the rest of SixTONES all squeezed or patted his shoulders on the way by, easy but near if he wanted them. It was all Juri could do to make it back to their dressing room and sit down, trying not to think about how he had to do this all again tomorrow and the next day and the next day. The others gave him some space, but Shintarou came to sit next to him.

“I’m gonna hug you, if that’s all right,” he asked quietly, Hokuto’s hairdryer covering his words for anyone except for them. Juri nodded and let Shintarou wrap strong arms around him and squeeze tightly. It felt so comforting to lean in there, tucked close against the heat radiating from Shintarou’s skin. “Hey. You looked great out there. I wished I could have been out there with you.”

“Uh-huh.” It wasn’t this Shintarou that Juri wanted on stage with him, but it felt close enough for at least the minute longer he let Shintarou hug him.

Juri crashed the minute he got home, barely managing to strip off his clothes before collapsing into his bed. In the morning he felt like his body was made of lead, but his head was clearer. He thought about what Shintarou had said to him, and by the time he arrived at the theater, he’d decided to at least give him a chance.

“I’m not saying everything you said was true,” Juri warned when he pulled Shintarou aside first thing. “But you were right. About the outside opinion. At first it was enough that we just got to be together, but I guess we’ve been kind of stuck at that stage, so. Please take care of us, I guess.”

“What are you two whispering about over here?” Jesse wanted to know, popping up behind Shintarou suddenly enough to make him jump. Shintarou and Juri exchanged a look, silently working out who was going to tell the others.

“I’ve been watching,” Shintarou blurted first. He was trying for casual a little too hard, it looked like to Juri, but Jesse didn’t seem to think it was strange. “Since I can’t do anything else. It looks…”

“We’re not in sync at all,” Juri cut in, ready to address the problem bluntly. “We’ve been talking about how to fix it.”

“You think it needs fixed?” Jesse asked. He sounded like he was torn between teasing and realizing they were talking about something serious, caught by surprise.

“Yes,” Shintarou said firmly, at the same time as Juri said, “Maybe.” They exchanged another glance, Juri giving Shintarou a narrow look until he dropped his gaze.

“It isn’t up to just us,” Juri reminded. Jesse nodded, chewing on his lower lip. “I’m not saying we need to go full throttle Kpop or whatever. But, just. Maybe not so much 6-member KAT-TUN. yeah? What do you think?”

Jesse frowned. “Geez, we’re in the middle of a thing. Isn’t there enough trouble already?”

“We’re always in the middle of a thing,” Shintarou pointed out. “Exactly when is there not going to be a show or a concert or backing or Shounen Club? We should try right now, when there’s still a bunch of stuff left to do!”

“What’s got you all in a bunch?” Jesse grumbled. He looked exhausted too, Juri noticed suddenly, in a deep way that his usual bouncing around and grin covered up easily. Island had been tough on all of them this year, and they weren’t even halfway through.

“I can’t do anything,” Shintarou ground out in frustration. “I just want to fix it, so that—”

“It isn’t broken,” Juri cut in harshly, afraid that Shintarou was about to shoot off his mouth about debut again in front of Jesse, of all people. “We’re not the same and we don’t do the same shit. We’re called SixTONES because it takes different kinds of notes to make a song, remember?”

It wasn’t fair, because Shintarou didn’t remember, but Shintarou snapped his mouth shut and furrowed his brow, processing that. Juri guessed it would have been better to have explained it properly yesterday, instead of just snapping at Shintarou, but it was too late now.

“Maybe he’s right, sort of,” Jesse said, surprising Juri and Shintarou out of their staring contest. “Just standing next to each other isn’t enough, is that what you mean? And there never is the perfect time to try doing it differently. I think it’s great how we’re all ourselves, but I want to belong too. I mean,” Jesse scratched his head, shrugging helplessly. “It might be better to look more like we belonged together.”

Shintarou grabbed Jesse in a sudden, fierce hug. Jesse’s eyes were wide over Shintarou’s shoulder even as his hands came up to hug Shintarou back, twisting tight in his T-shirt.

Kouchi was amenable to trying if the others wanted, but Hokuto and Taiga were more resistant, surprisingly so in Hokuto’s case.

“I like us the way we are,” he said, brow knit together.

“Right?” Taiga agreed with him. The two of them shared a look which seemed to satisfy them, even though Juri couldn’t read it. “Whatever, though, let’s hurry up and get it over with, whatever you’re going to try.”

“Ehh, when he was in the back, he sure wanted to try different stuff,” Shintarou hissed in an undertone to Juri, who had to pretend his snort was a cough when Taiga turned around to eyeball them.

Shintarou stood in front of them, back against the mirror, and filmed them with his phone. It was easier, he said, when he could replay it, to show them what he meant while they weren’t all trying to watch themselves. Juri had to admit, when they were gathered up to watch, that even on the small screen he could have censored out everyone’s face and still known exactly who was who. Jesse and Taiga standing right next to each other were a study in contrasting styles, Jesse all hips and arms spread wide, Taiga’s movements precise as if keeping his center of gravity perfectly level were the key to his vocals. Kouchi was understated where Hokuto was come-hither glances over his shoulder, and Juri made any hand motion look somehow like a gang sign.

“Okay, maybe it’s…” Hokuto trailed off. “Not optimal. From an outside perspective.”

“I think you and me look great,” Taiga told him casually. “Now, if we had those chains again…” Taiga reached back to brush the back of his hand down Hokuto’s cheek and neck in a brief reminder of their “Rocking Party” duet choreography.

“Behave,” Hokuto brushed him off, but he smiled while he said it, and Taiga straightened up with a small, self-satisfied smile of his own.

Juri had to stifle a laugh at Shintarou’s expression of “What the actual fuck?”

“Yeah, well.” Shintarou cleared his throat. “Sorry to say, but if Jesse and T…Kyomocchan matched up their styles better, the rest wouldn’t be as obvious. Start again? Think about it, though, don’t just do what pleases yourself.”

“Who made you such an expert?” Taiga sighed, overdramatic, as they shuffled back to start position. “As if your style isn’t like ‘this ballad is now my breakdance.'”

“I’ve only known you since fucking forever,” Shintarou retorted, busily resetting the camera function on his phone. “It ought to be good for something. Ready? Wait, no, Hoku and Kouchi spread out just a little, it’ll make it stop looking like you’re trying to hide back there. You guys have the whole stage, you know. Okay, go.”

They made it less than a minute before Shintarou started laughing hard enough that his phone’s footage would obviously be useless.

“What the fuck, asshole?” Juri called as they all fizzled to a stop.

“Sorry!” Shintarou said, but not very sincerely because he was still giggling. “Now it looks like you’re all doing an impression of Jesse…” Shintarou tilted his head. “Actually, do it. Just once. You’re Jesse. All of you.”

“Is he still on drugs?” Hokuto turned to ask Juri. Juri shook his head, amused despite himself.

“Shut up, please!” Shintarou scolded Hokuto. “Close your eyes and think about it. You’re tall and weird and take up all the space because your arms can reach the moon and you think you’re a walking Showa medley and you don’t give a single fuck that you stand out because nothing can stop that happening anyway. Jesse you just do whatever.”

“Welcome to my life,” Jesse replied. “Also, fuck you very much.”

“I’m starting the music over,” Shintarou announced, ignoring Jesse. “Don’t open your eyes until I say go. Go!”

Actually Juri kind of got it, what Shintarou was trying to show them. Not that they should all be like Jesse, which was ridiculous (Juri could tell from even his position that this video was going to be group chat GOLD), but that all of them needed to take up more space, needed to make the whole stage theirs. All of them needed to get over themselves a little bit, thinking whatever they were doing wasn’t just as weird in its own way. At least Jesse owned it. Juri thought about it like that and rolled his shoulders back, throwing his fingertips wider.

“Even that looks better, more relaxed,” Shintarou called over the music. “But spread out more or…yeah, right in the face, ow.”

“Shit!” Juri stopped to make sure he hadn’t broken Kouchi’s nose, the back of his hand still stinging with how hard he’d hit Kouchi’s face. Kouchi waved him off, rubbing his face, and the others stopped too. “That can’t have looked better though.”

“No, it’s shit, but I’m saying…” Shintarou thought for a second. “All of you have some part that’s really you, but none of you have everything. Like I said about Jesse and Taiga, right? What if Jesse did all the hand motions more precisely, sharp like Taiga does, but then Taiga opened up his shoulders more and didn’t hold himself so tightly?” Shintarou hesitated, looking at their faces in turn. “Is that making any sense at all?”

“Yeah, we get it, it’s just annoying,” Taiga said, rolling a shoulder while he rubbed at it with his other hand. He turned towards Jesse. “Face me and we’ll do it a couple times half speed, just us.”

“Try a thing with me too?” Juri asked Kouchi, and Kouchi nodded. They had to use the mirrors though, because facing each other just fucked Juri up into switching stuff to the wrong side, left to right. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Shintarou talking quietly to Hokuto. He still wasn’t allowed to dance, but he did a little of the upper body and arm stuff while standing stationary.

Privately Juri thought that if Shintarou talked Hokuto out of any of the sweet, shy side staff have finally been allowing Hokuto to show in the last year, Juri would murder him.

“Hey, our time’s almost up,” Jesse called from his and Taiga’s huddle. “We should do it for real once or twice.”

They went back to their original formation, Shintarou with his phone at the ready, the rest of them in start position. Juri tried to keep everything in his head that they’d been talking about, plus worrying about high-fiving Kouchi’s face again, and it was a lot, and from his position he couldn’t even tell whether it was helping or not.

“It’s better,” Shintarou encouraged after fifteen or twenty seconds, eyes flicking between the screen and reality. “Juri, ease up a little…Jesse quit slouching, your posture’s like…yeah, better. Hokuto, you can be more direct, not so…” Shintarou shook his head. “I lied, it’s cuter the other way, leave it.”

He’d made a lot of these corrections before, Juri realized, and something about that was funny and endearing, how Shintarou could know all their little habits so well when he still didn’t understand the parts of their history that were nothing like his own.

Sakuma came in just then to tell them to knock it off, to get some food and take a break before the first show started. He’d gotten injured before performances even started, taken out of a lot of the show, and now he was burning off his excess energy by being an AD, more or less, complete with clipboard and roll of marking tape strapped to his hip.

“You guys are serious this week,” Sakuma teased as they grabbed for towels and water bottles and sweatshirts. “Should Snow Man be worried?”

“Only about this overachiever,” Taiga complained, jutting his chin out towards Shintarou as he toweled off his hair. “Hurry up and heal or we might stick this guy in your group, he’s too high energy for us.”

“Ehh, no good, I hear he can’t land a backflip,” Sakuma said, eyes twinkling.

“Too soon, man!” Shintarou protested, but Juri and Jesse laughed, and Sakuma stood on his tiptoes to ruffle Shintarou’s hair in apology.

“Anyway, your group seems like it could use some ringers at the moment,” Kouchi said. “A couple more injuries and we won’t even be able to do a NEWS song between the twelve of us. Can we help you guys with anything? ”

“Hey, you worry about your own selves,” Sakuma said, putting his hand on his hip. For just a second, Sakuma’s expression was serious. “We’re rivals after all, right? Snow Man won’t lose to you!”

“Can I ask you more questions yet?” Shintarou asked when he and Juri were sitting around between shows. Their dressing room was quiet at the moment, just the two of them stretching on the floor and Hokuto studying at the low table with his headphones in. Juri nodded, busy trying to stretch out a persistent ache in his lower back. Shintarou nodded towards Hokuto. “What’s up with him?”

“Hoku?” Juri was on his back, hands locked behind his knee, pulling it towards his chest. “Finals?”

“That’s crazy. Good for him,” Shintarou said, shaking his head. Shintarou looked wistful, a little sad, and it took a second for it to click for Juri.

“Your Hokuto doesn’t go to university, huh?” Juri asked.

“Didn’t even finish high school. It was too much with debut, and…” Shintarou shrugged a shoulder. “Honestly, both of us barely made it either. Hokuto says he doesn’t care, what’s it matter when you have a career, but he does care, really.”

“He got held back a grade,” Juri offered. “Him and Taiga, and they had to transfer into Horikoshi. He’s so smart, but he couldn’t keep up with all the drama work, and I know it just killed him. It’s still hard, since we’ve been busy this year, but he seems happy enough. I think he kind of likes that it’s hard, that it makes him feel like it’s worth doing. I wish he’d loosen up enough to make some friends there, though.”

Before Shintarou answered, Taiga came in, hair damp from the shower and holding two cans of coffee. He gave the two of them a nod on his way past them towards Hokuto, and pressed one of the cans against Hokuto’s cheek, making him jump. Hokuto gave Taiga a thankful smile and took the can, tugging out his earbuds as Taiga flopped down beside him.

“Hey, let’s go,” Juri said, nudging Shintarou with his shoulder. There wasn’t much privacy to be had lately, so if Juri could give Hokuto and Taiga a few minutes of it, then he wanted to. Shintarou got up to follow him out, and just as they were going out the door, Juri glanced back to see Hokuto leaning in to kiss Taiga sweetly. Shintarou’s wide eyes made Juri chuckle as he pulled the door firmly shut and pulled the hairband out of his palm-treed bangs to slip around the handle. “Gross, huh? They’re so slow it’s disgusting. Taiga kissed Hokuto the whole way back at Countdown, but then they didn’t talk about it for weeks. Morons. What?” Juri asked, since Shintarou was still staring at him, mouth parted like he didn’t know what to say. “What’s the matter, did yours get married at Dome or something?”

“During Bakaleya, they didn’t…?” Shintarou’s question trailed off. Juri tugged him along as they talked; they could always go hassle Prince or Watanabe or something.

“Oh, yeah, almost.” Juri remembered the awkwardness of it fondly, because they seemed like such a bad matchup that it was almost cute, Taiga’s sharp tongue and Hokuto’s anxious need for reassurance. “I thought they would, even. But with filming and school, I think they decided on their own it would have been too much. I’m not sure they ever talked about it, really.”

Shintarou didn’t answer at first, and Juri let him be. He didn’t speak up until they were nearly to Snow Man’s rooms, and then Shintarou put a hand on Juri’s arm to stop him.

“When we debuted…” Shintarou paused, as if he didn’t know where to start his story. “There’s so much pressure. It was a big shock, and it feels like there’s nowhere you can turn but inside your group. They hooked up almost right after, and they did like each other, I know it, but it turned out more like they were just using each other to blow off steam. It was all just too much, I guess.”

“Didn’t last?” Juri asked, sympathetic. They saw it around them now and again, juniors fooling around and getting too serious, having a dramatic breakup when it turned into more stress instead of fun.

“They tried to keep it to themselves, but it was pretty ugly. They weren’t close for a long time.” Shintarou reached for Juri’s hand without thinking, and then swung his hand in a useless circle back to his side when he caught himself. “They’re getting better now, though. Took long enough, like you said.”

“I’m glad they waited, then,” Juri said. Wish I hadn’t. “But maybe it’s not too late?”

“For them or you?” Shintarou asked slyly. On impulse, Juri stretched up to grab two fistfuls of Shintarou’s sweatshirt and kiss him squarely on the mouth, just because he could. He slipped away before Shintarou could grab him, cheeks hot but grinning with mischief.

“What do you think?” Juri asked, and then he strolled into Snow Man’s room, leaving Shintarou sputtering in the hallway.

That was the turning point where Shintarou started to think about things differently, Juri was sure. In the next two or three days, Juri caught Shintarou watching quietly more than interrupting, listening in, chewing distractedly on the corner of his thumbnail like he did when he had choreography he couldn’t learn on the first few tries.

“Quit that,” Juri said, reaching up to brush Shintarou’s hand away from his mouth. “Idols can’t have bitten-down nails, stupid. Wanna talk about it?”

“No.” Shintarou heaved a sigh that sounded like it hurt. His put-out expression was cute, Juri always thought, and Juri had been thinking about that kiss in the hallway since it happened. Since he’d been dumb enough to make it happen.

“Want to come home with me later?” he asked. Shintarou raised an eyebrow. “Shh, don’t make it a thing. You miss him, I miss you, it’s fine, right? Irresponsible hookups are practically a tradition during a show run.”

“You aren’t a hookup,” Shintarou protested, frowning harder, but he didn’t push Juri away when Juri took a step forward. Juri slid arms around Shintarou’s waist and pressed his face against Shintarou’s T-shirt, the smell of Shintarou’s deodorant and laundry soap familiar and pleasant. “Yeah. Please take me home.”

It was irresponsible, and Juri knew it, but Juri couldn’t bring himself to care. Long shows did that, stripped away a lot of your layers and good sense until you were made of nothing but the most basic of your needs and wants, your bruises and your craving for chocolate and just to be pressed against somebody that you liked. The heat and thrill of being wanted, being dragged into a corner and kissed senseless, nobody could resist the effects of that when already punch-drunk and high on stage adrenaline, or at least nobody Juri knew. Most of them had given into it at least once in their careers, if the right person asked at the right moment, and if the fantasy only lasted the length of the show, well, the fleeting nature of it was part of the excitement.

Later it would hurt like hell, Juri was sure, and it would be all his own fault. But for the moment all he could think about was what it would be like to have been with Shintarou all this time, to have pulled him into hundreds of corners, to have traded thousands of rushed kisses between stage lights and scaffolding and costume racks. The thought of it made his skin hum for the rest of the day, and every time their hands brushed on the way home Juri shivered like it was a static shock.

He couldn’t get Shintarou into bed fast enough by the time they were finally in his room, his family mercifully already asleep. If his mother had been awake to insist she feed them, Juri would have gone out of his mind. Instead he could push Shintarou up against his door as soon as it was shut, stealing a rough kiss that Shintarou was murmuring some kind of protest into, turning it messy. Juri couldn’t get close enough, wanting the heat of Shintarou’s skin against his own, wanting Shintarou’s hands tight on his hips, his back, everywhere.

“Hey!” Shintarou had to push roughly to get Juri back far enough to talk. “Hey, calm down. Maybe we shouldn’t…”

“Please,” Juri said, hands already sliding up under Shintarou’s layered shirts, making him wince with the cold. Shintarou’s mouth was pinched but his cheeks were already flushed, his chest rising and falling just as unsteadily as Juri’s. “I don’t care, please, I just…want. Don’t tell me no, please?”

“That’s not fair,” Shintarou hissed, looking angry, but that was hot too. Everything about Shintarou just made Juri want him more, and Juri was too exhausted to push it down anymore now that they were right here. Juri pressed close, dragging teeth up the front of Shintarou’s throat, and Shintarou grabbed Juri’s hips, shuddering. “I miss you.”

“I’m right here, come on,” Juri said, even though Shintarou hadn’t been talking to him. It was close enough, for right now, and Juri slipped Shintarou’s grip to throw his clothes to the floor, rushed like he couldn’t stand wearing them a second longer. He flopped into bed, rolling over just in time to see Shintarou’s shirt gone and his hands on the button of his jeans, looking right at Juri.

Juri didn’t look away. Shintarou held his gaze the whole time he undid the button and dragged the zipper down, then pushed everything down his thighs, slow enough that Juri would have screamed with it if he could have gotten any air into his lungs. Shintarou was halfway hard already, all smooth muscles that Juri wanted to put his mouth all over, wanted to slide hands up the backs of his thighs and squeeze the curve of his ass. The self-confident way he stood, letting Juri look all he wanted, was nothing like the Shintarou Juri knew, but the strangeness of it was just as alluring as the flush spreading down his neck, creeping over his collarbones.

“You’re so pretty,” Shintarou said, almost pained, like the truth of it was too deep, and Juri realized that Shintarou wasn’t posing for him, he was just distracted. Juri held out his arms, because if Shintarou didn’t touch him in the next two seconds he was going to die.

“Come HERE,” Juri ordered, as loud as he dared.

Shintarou didn’t make him wait.

Making out always did Juri in, all lips and skin and hands, and Juri loved the way it drove all the thoughts from his head and narrowed his focus just to how good touch felt. With Shintarou it was that times ten, the heat of it just as good as taking a scalding bath when your muscles ached, except the part of Juri that ached was his heart, mostly. Juri rolled onto his back so that Shintarou was over top of him and then whimpered helplessly as Shintarou’s weight pressed him into the mattress. Juri always loved that Shintarou was stronger and bigger than him and that feeling of safety was overwhelming like this, a knot pulled too tight for too long in Juri’s chest. He wrapped arms around Shintarou’s neck to cling, one leg curling around Shintarou’s thigh. He thought about how he would let Shintarou do anything to him, anything.

“It’s okay,” Shintarou promised, dragging kisses across Juri’s jaw and hair, soothing even though he probably didn’t know why exactly Juri needed soothed. “Everything’s fine, I promise.”

“What?” A bubble of amusement popped in Juri’s chest, releasing a fraction of the tension. “Are you kidding me, everything’s fine?”

“Okay, yeah,” Shintarou said, faintly embarrassed. “I just meant, I’ve got you. I want you to feel good, not be so…” Shintarou stroked his thumb over where Juri’s teeth were clenched. Juri forced his jaw to relax, realizing how tightly he was wound up, almost vibrating with tension.

“It feels way too good, is the problem,” Juri grumbled, trying to relax the other parts of himself. His leg stayed firmly curled around Shintarou’s thigh, though. “What’s going to happen when you leave? What’ll happen if you’re stuck?”

“I don’t want to think about it for a while,” Shintarou said, and at least they could agree on that. Juri let Shintarou kiss the thoughts out of his head again, so that he could only focus on Shintarou’s tongue sliding along his lower lip and the tips of his fingers digging into the small of Juri’s back.

“Why does that feel so good?” Juri asked, panting. Shintarou grinned and repeated the touch more deliberately, making Juri arch against his chest. “Fuck, Shin.”

“Let me suck you off this time?” Shintarou asked, and Juri couldn’t nod fast enough. He certainly wanted it way faster than Shintarou, who took his time working his way down Juri’s chest, tugging Juri’s nipple with his teeth, licking along the bottom edge of his ribs. When he nuzzled at Juri’s navel, Juri buried his fingers in Shintarou’s hair hand yanked, needing a grip on something. “I miss this piercing.”

“Ohhh,” Juri gasped, the image of Shintarou tugging a belly ring with his teeth making his cock throb.

Juri forgot about it when Shintarou finally, finally closed his mouth around Juri’s dick, licking at the tip while he stroked Juri base-to-tip with one hand. Shintarou’s hands were straight from hell, Juri thought hazily, strong and callused, so warm. Shintarou slid his mouth down further, and Juri thought he would melt, pushing up until Shintarou had to use both hands to hold his hips down flat to the mattress. When he pulled his mouth off and licked his lower lip, Juri nearly murdered him, glaring down at him, ruffled and on edge.

“Want to finish like this?” Shintarou asked, rubbing his cheek against Juri’s shaft cutely, and Juri nearly came right into his hair from the blunt question. Would have served him right. “Or together?”

“Together,” Juri said, sitting up to pull at Shintarou’s shoulders. “Over top of me, please? I can, oh, I’ll use my hands if you…yeah, like that,” Juri sighed in relief as Shintarou settled on his elbows over top of Juri. Juri could still feel the weight of him this way, their faces within easy kissing distance, but Shintarou had enough of the weight on his elbows and knees that Juri could get both hands between them. It took both of his hands to wrap around their dicks, and the first slide of them against each other took Juri’s breath away. “Shit, wait. I should catch you up.”

“I’m pretty close,” Shintarou admitted, chuckling against Juri’s mouth. Juri made a puzzled noise, because he hadn’t even touched Shintarou before. “You aren’t the only one who likes doing that.”

“That much?” Juri asked, but he really didn’t care what the answer was, already lost to the feeling of rocking his hips so that Shintarou’s dick slid along his own, still spit-slick enough for the first few seconds that it tore a low noise from his throat. “We should have…lube…”

“Just come, that’ll fix it,” Shintarou suggested. Juri shuddered, close anyway even before Shintarou started spouting dirty shit right in his ear. Shintarou kissed Juri deeply, stealing what little air he had, and then turned his head to lick at Juri’s cartilage hoop. “Mm, I love all your piercings.”

“Fuck,” Juri whispered, stretched to the breaking point. He squeezed his eyes shut, hovering on the edge of orgasm until Shintarou snapped his hips and pushed him over. The shock of it spread from the base of Juri’s spine all the way down to his toes, his fingers shaking as he tried to finish stroking himself off against Shintarou clumsily.

“Yeah, oh,” Shintarou breathed, fucking himself forward into Juri’s slack grip more intently. The slickness wouldn’t last, so Juri tried to tighten his grip, but he was basically useless from pleasure and still shivering with aftershocks. Shintarou leaned to the side to get his own hand around them. Juri whined from overstimulation; Shintarou crushed his mouth over Juri’s and finished himself off with rough, fast strokes, making even more of a mess between them than Juri had.

Juri didn’t care. Juri liked the mess almost as much as he liked the desperate kissing that followed, arms back around Shintarou’s neck and come-streaked hand buried in Shintarou’s hair, skin sparking all over from the heat of them rubbing against each other helplessly. Shintarou rolled them over so Juri was sprawled over his chest, and Juri dug his knees into the mattress and rolled his hips like they were going to just keep going until they were both hard again, way too soon, way too much. He pulled away to look down at Shintarou, trying to catch his breath.

He lost it again anyway as soon as Shintarou’s eyes fluttered open, the dark brown of them glassy from lust and focused only on him.

“Was it like that?” Juri asked. He wanted to know all the things that he’d missed by being so afraid. “The first time we did it?”

“Yeah. Well no,” Shintarou amended. “I came so fast you still tease me about it. 2-Minute Morimoto, that’s me.”

“Oh my god,” Juri gasped, burying his face in his hands to muffle his laughter, pushing his forehead against Shintarou’s chest. “Shit, that’s amazing.”

“It wasn’t my fault!” Shintarou protested, his indignation transparently fake. He rolled them onto their sides so he could cuddle Juri closer, an arm over Juri’s shoulders, a knee between Juri’s thighs. “I wanted you so much and I had the worst crush on you. They felt the same, the want and the liking. You told me you liked me too and I thought that you were definitely wrong, because you looked so happy to tell me, and I felt like I was going to die. I thought I was already in love with you.”

“You weren’t?” Juri asked, confused.

“It’s nothing like how I love you now,” Shintarou said gently. It was hard to look him in the eye, this Shintarou who could talk freely about his feelings, but Juri tried anyway. “It used to hurt, at first, like there wasn’t enough space to fit both you and myself inside. Now, you’re the place I can come back to when I’m hurt. You’re home.”

“Jesus fuck, why would you say that?” Juri demanded, tears already welling up. Shintarou pushed Juri’s cheek down against his shoulder, rubbing the back of his neck and kissing his forehead.

“You asked,” Shintarou pointed out, but he sounded guilty. “I bet it’s the same, though. When he’s back, you should ask him. I bet he’ll tell you the same thing.”

“I can’t tell you how much worse that makes it,” Juri said, voice muffled against Shintarou’s shoulder. Whether Shintarou did or didn’t understand him, he didn’t answer. He rubbed slow circles against Juri’s back until both of them were half asleep, and then he rolled Juri over to spoon snugly together.

“Tell me to move if you’re too hot,” Shintarou said. Juri murmured something noncommittal. He wasn’t going to tell Shintarou to move even if he never slept again. Another slow minute passed. They should have turned off the light, but neither of them got up to do it. Eventually Shintarou said, “Maybe I’m still here because it wasn’t just you that needed fixed.”

“What?” Juri asked.

“I’ve been thinking about the group. My group,” Shintarou corrected. “I’ve been thinking about how we weren’t ready when we debuted. When I first saw you guys it was driving me crazy how you seem like you’re taking your time way too slowly, but I think I get it now. Maybe we should have used more of our time. Maybe spending some of that time apart would have been better. We love each other, but during the hard parts we hurt each other a lot sometimes too, you know? It wasn’t just Taiga and Hokuto. ”

“You turned out all right,” Juri said. He ran fingers up Shintarou’s forearm where it was heavy over his chest. “Like you, in particular, you’re a frontman there. You’re confident. Here you didn’t have the group’s support, so it’s a lot harder. You’re getting better, but it didn’t have to be that hard. We could have done better too. I could have…”

“I’m sure you did,” Shintarou told him. “Even if you didn’t tell him the whole thing, he definitely knows, or we wouldn’t still be here.”

“Oh, go to sleep,” Juri said, over all of this talking. “No offense, but if you’re gone in the morning, I won’t cry over it.” Shintarou chuckled, nosing at the back of Juri’s neck, and they were quiet after that.

He was still there in the morning, but oh well, Juri thought. Trying not to die during Island first, relationship reality crisis second.

Basketball was definitely the first crisis.

“I can do it,” Fukazawa insisted, crossing his arms. Iwamoto, Jesse, and Juri all looked down at his knee brace, then back up at him, unimpressed. “I can! Look, it’s fine, it doesn’t hurt that much. We’ve already changed this thing a hundred times! I don’t want to learn it again!”

“Perfect, you’re out, problem solved,” Iwamoto said, turning away to the others to effectively shut Fukazawa out of the conversation. Fukazawa squawked in irritation, but they ignored him.

“Aw, just take it,” Sakuma advised, marking something on his clipboard without looking up. He hated being forbidden to perform more than anyone, but he was well-versed in Iwamoto’s stubborn protective streak. “You can wear my AD headset if you want?”

“Yes, please,” Fukazawa said sulkily.

“We should at least practice the last trick without him,” Iwamoto was saying. They all sighed heavily. It was the one that had the most people and biggest risk of getting hurt, and they’d changed it enough times that at least one of them forgot which version they were doing every time.

“I can do Fukka’s part,” Shintarou spoke up from behind them. Everyone turned to look at him. Shintarou was grinning broadly, wearing practice gear of track pants and a ratty Sexy Zones T-shirt from when they had backed last spring. Juri suppressed a snort. “I just got cleared to come back in.”

“NO,” Juri said loudly. “You cannot rejoin basketball! It’s cursed!”

“Cuuuuuursed,” Fukazawa grumbled, still adjusting his headset.

“Yeah, sorry, Shin-chan,” Iwamoto agreed. “It’s probably not the best idea to put you right back into—”

“Hey, guys,” Watanabe said, jogging up, or doing something that would have been jogging if it weren’t for the exaggerated limp. “So, um, Ryota’s down. He’s definitely out for basketball.”

“What the fuck,” Iwamoto hissed at nobody in particular.

“CUUUUUURSED,” Fukazawa said again. Then, into the headset’s mic, “No, that wasn’t to you, sorry.”

“Were you practicing that barrel flip again?” Iwamoto demanded. “Because I told both of you—”

“No, he.” Watanabe bit his lip, trying valiantly not to laugh. “He might have tripped. Over his own feet. Trying on jeans that Gaya-senpai brought him.” Watanabe gave up and cackled into his hand, the rest of them joining him. “Shh! Okay, okay,” Watanabe shushed them, looking around as if expecting to find Miyadate listening in. “But the official story is that he re-fucked his already fucked knee giving me a mind-blowing blowjob, so you have to say that’s what I told you, all right? Pinky swear.”

Sakuma held up his pinky, still giggling helplessly, and Watanabe shook on it with him.

“Ugh, well, I guess you’re in,” Iwamoto said to Shintarou. Shintarou whooped while Juri groaned. “Unless we all just quit right now. I’m just saying, it’s winter and hibernation is an option!”

They did a run-through with Shintarou included, and it went as smoothly as it ever did. Juri had no choice but to relax about it, because after that there was only forty-five minutes for lunch and warm-ups before the show, not to mention the show itself. At least there was only one show today, Juri told himself. Just one show couldn’t do that much damage.

“You worry too much,” Shintarou told Juri while they were strapping on their mic packs. “Be happy you get to do cool stuff like basketball. Juniors get to do a lot of fun shit, huh?” Shintarou gave a short, nostalgic sigh. “But I guess I’d be sad to give up my Shounen Club screen time and Omake corner.”

“It’s Shori’s Omake corner here,” Juri said, grinning when Shintarou straightened up and demanded to know how Sato fucking Shori had stolen his corner, entirely affronted. Casually making sure no one was watching them, Juri kissed Shintarou’s cheek quickly. “For good luck. Please don’t die.”

“You were trying to get rid of me just last night,” Shintarou pointed out, smile fond.

They almost made it too, almost. The basketball segment went smoothly for the first few strings of tricks, and Juri felt some of his nervous tension dissipate as he got more into the performance. Juri nailed a dunk he’d missed nearly every show and yelled “YEAAAAH” so loud into Jesse’s face as they slapped a double high five that the whole first section laughed.

But then during the last trick, of course, Shintarou fumbled his landing on the mat, stumbling to his knees. Juri was already on the springboard when he saw it happen, too late to stop and distracted by trying to bounce the ball square off the backstop for Jesse behind him and thinking FUCK FUCK FUCK at least fourteen times in the half a second it took for him to crash-land right on top of Shintarou’s panicked face.

Juri definitely hit his head, whether against Shintarou’s head, or the floor or what, he didn’t know. Everything was dark and he couldn’t breathe and his ears were ringing and somebody was shaking him, making everything spin crazily. He had no idea whether it lasted five seconds or five minutes, but when he finally got his lungs to draw in the first breath of air, it burned as if he’d been on the bottom of the pool for longer than was safe.

The ringing in his ears resolved into shouting, Jesse hollering for the medic and Iwamoto on the sound system trying to be heard over the audience, and Shintarou repeating his name over and over. Juri opened his eyes and had to shut them again, the lights dizzying and too bright. He tried again, more cautiously. His head throbbed. “Shin?”

Shintarou was looming over him, eyes wide and panicked. “Juri! Thank fuck, you scared the shit out of me! What am I even doing here? I can’t remember anything since like…I went to do the flip and…”

“Shin?” Juri asked in a whisper, too afraid for a second to hope that it was true. But somehow he knew that it was the real Shintarou looking down at him, blinking in lingering panic and confusion. Juri launched himself up, ignoring the sickening vertigo and the grating pain in his wrist, wrapping his arms tightly around Shintarou’s neck and pulling himself up far enough to kiss Shintarou hard on the mouth.

For a second, Shintarou was frozen, and then his arms wrapped tight around Juri’s waist and he was kissing back. It felt like a miracle to Juri, like a crazy dream. Distantly, he could hear a lot of commotion from everyone else on the stage, but it seemed so much less important than the press of Shintarou’s mouth against his.

Juri pulled back just far enough to tell a stunned Shintarou, “I love you. I should have told you forever ago. We can make up for lost time, right?”

Shintarou grinned like Juri was a miracle too. “Me too. I couldn’t tell you at all.” He kissed Juri again, Juri’s fingers gripping his hair tightly, and they didn’t come up for air until the backstage medic demanded in some exasperation whether he should come back in ten minutes or what.

They had to sit in the wings while the show went on around them, Juri too dizzy to walk. Even when the ambulance came, Juri refused to let go of Shintarou’s hand. He’d learned his lesson that last time, and this time he wasn’t letting go.

They both ended up in the hospital overnight, Shintarou with a real concussion this time, Juri with a sprained wrist and two cracked ribs. The night nurse shooed Juri out of Shintarou’s room twice, but he just waited until she was settled at the desk watching a late night drama and then snuck back over. They pressed together on their sides in Shintarou’s small hospital bed, face to face, talking quietly. Juri didn’t think that Shintarou would believe any of his story about what had happened in the last week, but Shintarou listened to the whole thing without interruption.

“You don’t believe me, right?” Juri asked when he finished. “Who could believe any of that?”

“Something must have happened,” Shintarou answered. He brushed fingers along Juri’s cheekbone and down his jaw. “For you to confess suddenly.”

“Nn. Nothing happened to you really?” Juri asked. “You were gone over a week.” He was somehow disappointed by this; he’d been hoping Shintarou would have some stories about their alternate debuted group, or at least about being forced to be a frontman, the kind they’d all thought he’d be when he was thirteen. He was still wearing the Sexy Zone T-shirt from when they brought him in, and Juri fingered the lettering on the front, trying to picture it for himself.

“I don’t remember anything.” Shintarou’s breath hitched when Juri leaned in to kiss along the edge of his jaw. “Mm. Don’t start anything you can’t finish with a sprained wrist.”

Juri’s dangerous grin was the only warning Shintarou had before Juri shoved him onto his back, barely managing to flip them in the narrow space without rolling one or both of them off the bed and bringing every nurse on the floor running. They would have gotten an eyeful if they had come, because Juri was already sliding down to kneel between Shintarou’s legs.

“I can do a lot better than that,” Juri promised, pushing at Shintarou’s hip until he sat up more, against his pillows.

It was awkward because of the space and Juri being forced to use his non-dominant hand, but it was still good, more than good enough for a first time. Shintarou stared down at Juri, wide-eyed, jaw clenched with the effort of keeping quiet. When he came, he threw his head back against the wall with a dull thunk, that had Juri scrambling up, trying not to cough as he crawled into Shintarou’s lap to run fingers over the back of his head.

“Fuck, I’m so sorry,” he whispered, feeling like a moron. There was a big lump on the back of Shintarou’s head, but it might have been the same one as from before.

“It’s fine,” Shintarou told him, wrapping arms around Juri’s waist and hugging him tightly. He buried his face in the front of Juri’s shirt and inhaled deeply; Juri shivered, trying to ignore how he was still entirely turned on from blowing Shintarou. “I can touch you too, right?”

“N-no,” Juri protested, stuttering because Shintarou was already doing it, slipping his hand into Juri’s pajama pants. “Stop it, I should go get the nurse to give you more icehahhhhh.” Juri had to bite down hard on his lip as Shintarou stroked him firmly up and down once, getting his bearings.

“Don’t talk about sexy nurses when you’re with me,” Shintarou scolded, but when he tilted his face up to look at Juri, his smile was warm, so happy. “I’ve been thinking about doing this for so long, it barely seems real. What you’d feel like in my hand. How warm you’d be. What you’d sound like.”

“Stop it,” Juri hissed, grabbing Shintarou’s shoulders for support, already on edge. Shintarou did not stop it, either whispering idiotic things or jerking Juri off with tight, perfect strokes, and Juri came apart, shuddering and spilling over Shintarou’s hand.

“Wow,” Shintarou teased, giving Juri a last squeeze before gingerly pulling out his messy hand. “Really?”

“Two minute Tanaka, that’s me,” Juri said without thinking, then froze because fuck everything that nickname totally worked both ways. He slithered down to the bed and buried his face in Shintarou’s T-shirt, whining in embarrassment while Shintarou groped for a tissue to wipe himself off. “You can’t tell anybody this story.”

“I’m telling everyone we know,” Shintarou said, hugging Juri tightly, rubbing his cheek against Juri’s hair. “As soon as my hand dries off, I’m texting both our moms.”

“That’s not faiiiiiiiir,” Juri whined, wriggling, but not hard enough to push Shintarou away. “I’ve been waiting like six hundred years to do that with you! Ugh, you’re the worst.”

“I’m concussed, I have an excuse,” Shintarou said. They were both relaxed by then, Shintarou’s heartbeat against Juri’s cheek and the ticking of the wall clock the only sounds. Juri didn’t want to fall asleep, afraid in the morning the entire thing would evaporate, but his eyelids were heavy and kept trying to close. His wrist was starting to hurt again, and Juri wished it smelled only like Shintarou’s deodorant and them and not so much like the hospital in here. He wished he hadn’t waited so long.

But maybe it was all right that he had.

“Hey,” Juri said. Shintarou made a sleepy noise. “You love me?”

“Of course I do.” Shintarou’s voice was steady, his fingers squeezing Juri’s tightly. “I have forever. You’re home.”

Juri’s heart stopped, and then he threw himself onto his elbow for a rough, clinging kiss, and of course that was when the nurse came back and really kicked him out of Shintarou’s room.

“If you put one toe out of your room, I’m calling your mother,” the nurse scolded as she hustled Juri past the nurse’s station.

“She already knows,” Juri grumbled, embarrassed and irritated by the thought of sleeping alone.

“Everybody on the floor knows, honey!” a younger nurse called from the station, making Juri’s cheeks flame as the older nurse hollered over her shoulder to tell her off.

Epilogue

“Shin, please be okay, please…”

Juri’s voice was the first thing Shintarou was aware of, distant and strangely warbley, as if Shintarou were under water. His eyelids felt so heavy, but it seemed important to lift them, to let Juri know he was okay, because Juri sounded terrified.

The next thing he was aware of was a dull pain in the back of his skull, and a sharp one somewhere further down, maybe his butt? When he got his eyes open, the lights made the pain in his head go from dull to roaring. Shintarou had to squeeze his eyes shut again, moaning.

“He’s awake!” Juri yelled. “I think…” Shintarou moaned weakly. “Yeah, he’s awake. Can you hear me? Squeeze my hand.”

Shintarou managed that much, weakly. He peeled his tongue away from the roof of his mouth; that hurt too, as if he’d bitten it. “What happened?”

“I fell on you,” Juri said. Shintarou opened his eyes again, more slowly, squinting at Juri’s guilty, worried expression. Shintarou wanted to hug him, but he still couldn’t move much. “From the rope trick. You tried to catch me, stupid, why would you do that?”

It came back in fragmented pieces. They were on the stage at Yokohama Arena. It was their anniversary concert. Juri’s member color was green and his costume suit had a puff of feathers big enough to seduce a peahen. Shintarou had been holding the rope at the bottom, the twirler for the trick where Juri swung by his wrist. Shintarou had been watching, he always watched Juri closely, so he saw just when the strap had come loose.

His body had moved under Juri’s before his brain had had a chance to catch up, arms already up to catch him, curling in to protect Juri from their crash to the floor.

“Are you okay?” Shintarou asked. Juri’s expression turned angry at the question, like he wanted to grab Shintarou and shake him half to death.

“I’m fine, of course,” he spat. Shintarou slumped back against the floor, relieved. Jesse appeared in Shintarou’s vision, leaning over him to see for himself.

“Medic’s coming,” he said. “I’m sick of seeing that guy’s face, you know? How are you? Is this a hospital trip?”

“Why are you wearing orange?” Shintarou asked, squinting at Jesse’s suit. “Why aren’t you wearing red?”

“Because you’re wearing red, captain,” Jesse reminded, standing up. Shintarou tilted his head with a frown and, oh right, he was red. “Oh yeah, it’s hospital time. Again.”

“This show is fucking cursed,” Juri muttered.

“At least it’s not basketball,” Shintarou said, eyeing the way Juri winced when Shintarou squeezed his hand. Jesse yelled for the medic to just call the ambulance already while Juri peered down at Shintarou narrowly as if trying to x-ray his skull for himself. “Your wrist’s sprained.”

“What do you know?” Juri asked. He switched hands, the metal of his ring digging into Shintarou’s skin when Juri gripped too tightly. Shintarou tried to sit up and Juri pushed him back down, gritting his teeth as he accidentally used his hurt hand again. “Don’t move. I can’t believe we’re going to have our Christmas Eve date in the fucking hospital.”

“It’s still Christmas?” Shintarou asked, not quite back on local time yet. “I didn’t miss it!”

“And I’m dating Scrooge, that’s just perfect.” Juri heaved a sigh. “Fuck, you scared me. My heart’s still racing. If you have a real concussion and can’t perform for DVD filming I am going to literally murder you, do you understand me? I am going to murder you with that shitty inflatable penlight that you think is so cool. Idiot.”

“I missed you,” Shintarou said, the weight of it crushing his chest suddenly. He was back. He was home. “So much.”

“I’m right here,” Juri said, looking more alarmed. “What are you talking about?”

“I’ll tell you later.” Shintarou fought to keep his eyes open, suddenly exhausted, limp with relief. Juri would probably think he’d hallucinated the whole thing, but Shintarou doubted his brain had the power to come up with something as complicated as all that, much less while injured. He squeezed Juri’s hand. “Don’t let go.”

“Of course not,” Juri brushed him off. “Never.”

“Not in any universe?” Shintarou asked. Juri rolled his eyes like he thought Shintarou was teasing, but he said “Never” again, just as firm, and Shintarou believed from experience that it was true. “Oh hey, remind me to tell Hoku and Kyomocchan the thing about the chains.”

“Kyomocchan?” Juri asked, wrinkling his nose. “Fuck, you definitely have a concussion.”

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