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12 June 2011 @ 11:26 am
je_otherworlds From a Gold-Gilded Book (part I)  
Title: From a Gold-Gilded Book
Groups/Pairings: Jin/Tegoshi, KAT-TUN, Yamapi, and some Juniors.
Rating: M
Warnings: Death, violence, swearing.
Summary: Once upon a time there was a DJ called Jin Akanishi who witnessed a murder.
Notes: Thank you myxstorie for being so generous with the prompts! I had such a blast deciding what to write so I really hope you enjoy it! If you squint really hard, it might look like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Hopefully. Thank you also to my awesome beta chasing_spring for all her hard work and putting up with my last-minute freak outs (and lack of hyphens)! ♥

There was a perfectly serviceable two-storey house nestled contently on the awkwardly angled dead-end of the quiet suburban street, with a letter box that oversaw more raucous action than building blocks in a home of a two-year-old child. It wore a coat of gleaming slate shingles and was trimmed white on robin's egg blue. Inside lived five individuals of varying degrees of affability (so claimed the neighbours who had come to know their garbage routines), who possessed between them a kaleidoscope of fashion questionability, and whose personalities clashed against one another like marbles shaken inside a jar. Each morning they woke up courtesy of the communal alarm that thundered through the house, and each morning they breakfasted in animated cheer around the rectangular-shaped table with five sets of crockery and five sets of cutlery, and a vase of flowers placed neatly in the remaining seat.

A fourteen inch television sat plump and indulgent atop the kitchen counter top and regaled them with wondrous tales of exquisite foreign paintings from the 18th century arriving by air to be available for public viewing at the national art gallery, treated them to quasi-educational children's cartoons revolving around morally impaired animals, and flashed images of escaped mass-murdering gang leaders who looked impeccable in three-piece suits. This thin slice of plasma screen and reinforced plastic was their shared proof that the lives they led were perfect and untouchable.

However, if you were to ever ask each housemate (perhaps over a glass of wine and a plate of aromatic salmon in an expensive restaurant, or even tucked in the greasy corner of an all-night Turkish pide shop with a serving of thick cut chips and generous amounts of chicken salt) how they felt about the vase sitting at the head of their table, they would have all answered thusly: that sometimes, especially when the buttery yellow morning sun was languidly stretching its limbs across the sky, it often felt as though the vase was merely a placeholder of something more beautiful to come.


The patent problem with digging out a career path that started with amateur bedroom DJ and ended with master DJ revered in all nightclubs, Jin thought, was that while the quality of bathroom facilities of each workplace improved proportionately to the number of zeros before the decimal point on his nightly cheque, his office was inherently a place of wanton debauchery, criminal intrigue and things that ought to be kept, bound and gagged, in the dark.

As his fingers curled protectively around a half-empty packet of smokes while on his way to a quick back alley break, he managed to discern the sound of a muffled scream not quite smothered by the thudding bass beat blasted from concealed speakers or the high pitched whine of loves both lost and found resonating in the glitter-filled, laser light-striped nightclub in the after-midnight party district.

He turned and stared, pupils dilated wide.

If there was one scenario he never wanted to haphazardly stumble across, it was the hulking figure of a suited man slicing gaping open the white fleshy throat of an ordinary printed T-shirt-wearing, red-rimmed-eyed teenager. And if there were words he wanted to bar from entering his auditory canals using maximum border security control measures, they were definitely: "And let that be a lesson to anyone else thinking of backing out of this deal! Koyama, go make sure there aren't any witnesses."

(Granted, the name "Koyama" had never featured in his daytime contemplations of worse case scenarios ever. He'd been expecting something harder like Deathmonger or Skullcrusher.)

As if the sight of thick, viscous arterial blood pulsing out onto vomit-stained carpet wasn't enough to compel him to retreat into the sanctuary of heaving, drunken bodies on the dance floor, it was the way said suited man dragged up another sobbing teenager from a seemingly endless pile of them tacked chaotically against a wall and started brandishing his knife around that had Jin scarpering from the backrooms and back into the gorgeous multi-coloured world of cheaply-produced remixed tracks and swaying clubbers.

While bearing witness to one ruthless murder was already predicted to be a series of nightmares, bearing witness to two would undoubtedly act as the ticket to the mental health ward of his local government-funded hospital. And with the length of waiting lists, he'd most likely have already clawed the images out from his brain with his bare fingers by the time a health professional made any mental state examinations.

Unfortunately, the last words he heard exploding from that wretched room were:

"And fetch the CCTV footage to make sure!"


The suited man found little joy in being interrupted during lunch, especially by the persistently cajoling ring tone of his landline. His venison steak was already as tough as rope and twice as difficult to eat without necessitating additional distractions. The closest new recruit plucked the phone from its gilded stand and answered.

"Sir, it's for you," stammered the boy, all of fifteen and trembling as he held out the receiver.

"Of course it's for me, you idiot child Matsumura," said the suited man softly. "They've called my house, haven't they?" He cleared his throat and dragged the embroidered napkin across his pursed lips before raising the phone to his ear. "Yes?"

"We're reviewing the CCTV from yesterday. Turns out there was a witness – a man at the club saw the entire thing. I'm sending it through now," said his lackey on the other end, voice distorted from hesitation. Another boy hurriedly slid a laptop before him and opened the email, revealing within a grainy twenty-second loop of a man staggering down the corridor and halting at a door left ajar. "I don't think he'll talk--"

The suited man collected a glinting bread knife into his grasp and stared at it, considering. "What you think is of no consequence," he hissed, stabbing the table twice and gouging out splinters of wood. Years of meticulous planning had pitched him forth into this moment where he could finally eat meals of his own choosing, sleep at his leisure and live without fear of prison security guards' reprisals. To have everything gashed apart was impermissible.

"Find him and make sure he won't talk. Ever. As a matter of fact, get Yamapi onto it. That miserable whelp isn't still cavorting with those musical theatre types, is he?"

"I- I don't know, sir."

Grunting his discontent, the suited man flung the phone away and turned back to his meal, finding his tongue suddenly dry and heavy.

"Get it done."


Yamapi harboured a propensity for drinking more than was strictly required for total intoxication, and when his world had dissolved into little more than the twinkling bubbles of joy and delight that came as a by-product of this intoxication, he was wont to blissfully swallow sweets from strangers. That wasn't to say he wasn't also a fucking amazing hitman with a perfect sense of when to lure and when to strike. It simply meant that asking him to work on weekends was like using a wet towel to dry oneself off – it sort of, maybe, kind of got the job done but left you with a sense of exasperation that clothes became impossible to pull on.

He had joined the Association at the tender age of eleven after watching too many gangster movies, and then hearing whispers of a particular club that catered to the violent tendencies of adolescent boys and taught them things such as weapon-handling and how to wield a knife accurately so that one stab is enough to kill a man. It was a natural progression of sorts, from wanting to be an ultra cool assassin to actually being an ultra cool assassin – apparently putting your mind to something did pay off in the end. It was rather like how when he needed a bit of cash to pay for groceries there was always magically enough stored on his card to make the purchase, or how when he was feeling quite bored by his cohorts prancing about the theatre stage in mythical animal costumes he would receive a telephone call from his good friend and fellow hired gun Koyama, who would inform him of a job that needed to be done.

Everything that was useless information was summarily shoved behind the barricade of his mind (with the sign "other non-assignment things" tacked on crookedly) leaving only the important facts: Kill the DJ who played at the Club Eternal on Wednesdays.

Luckily for him, it was a Wednesday.

Doubly luckily for him, he had been planning on sucking the marrow out of nightlife anyway.

So he stood inside Eternal with a cocktail in one hand, and the other hand resting on the waistband of his ripped jeans, exactly three and a half inches away from the gun that was obscured from view by his jacket with the LEDs that flickered pink. The job was still going to be there after an hour of partying, after all – he might as well dress the part.

The mob on the dance floor were thrashing about with arms held high in the air and the pungent mix of cheap perfume and body odour struck a nostalgic chord within his memory of another time, much similar to this, in a nightclub called Yellow Gold. Even the music was similar. Too bad that time had ended with him shivering and vomiting in the backseat of a taxicab with the driver screaming obscenities at him. How was he supposed to know those weren't M&Ms?

He waded his way to the front, where the DJ was slumped against the turntable with his oversized hoodie draped over a mess of dark, sweaty hair, and an enormous pair of blacker than death sunglasses. So that was his target. All there was for him to do now was to wait (preferably in the company of some young nubile ladies), drink (solely for the purposes of blending in), and corner the pathetic wretch as he goes for a piss and blast the brains out of him. Too easy.

His opportunity came at 3am when the crowd was beginning to sag under the weight of sweat-ridden clothes and wilting from alcohol-induced dehydration. DJ Jak flipped on a pre-recorded track that he knew would go on for at least seventeen minutes and signalled his break to the barman. Yamapi sashayed past the staff only sign after him and practically wept with joy when he saw the DJ pull out a packet of cigarettes and head out the backdoor.

The backdoor didn't shut entirely when Yamapi closed it but that was all right.

"Jak? DJ Jak?" he approached the man from behind, hand resting against his waistband.

The man shrugged with one shoulder, insouciance radiating off him in almost palpable waves. "Yeah?"

"Time to meet your maker." Gun out, safety off, cocked and ready to go.

The DJ whirled around at the sound and swiped off his sunglasses to reveal wide eyes filled with knowing and dread. His hood fell back and the lone street lamp sputtered momentary gasps of light onto his face.

Yamapi froze. No wonder the music was so similar.

"You!" the DJ suddenly snapped, his sunglasses clattering onto the rain-slicked cobblestones and fear making the leap to anger within a blink of the eye. "I saved your miserable life!"

Mortified, Yamapi huffed a small laugh and waved about his gun. "A-ha. So you did. Thanks for that, by the way. And thanks for paying the taxi driver in advance, although he kicked me out halfway when I mentioned that I didn't have enough to cover the cleaning surcharge."

Even hampered by the haziness of recreational drugs and far too many beers, Yamapi could drag out the memory of a DJ deserting his turntables to crash onto the floor next to his limp, prone body and shake life into him. The shaking failed to produce much of a response beyond a worsening of his headache to levels reached only by Octomom at bathtime. He fuzzily recalled greasy fingers shoved down his throat and then retching all over the poor bastard while on the filthy tiled floor of Yellow Gold's toilet.

In the blurry mess of images he preferred to consider well and truly dumped into the "do not relive" bin, he remembers the grim look on the face of the DJ who thrust him into the backseat of a taxi and told him he never wanted to see him again.

"Shit, man," started Yamapi, then paused with a contrite twitch. "I probably owe you now or something." At the DJ's pointed raised eyebrow, he lowered the gun. "Look, you've gotta run. There's CCTV footage of you at the club yesterday – I mean, the footage has been destroyed, obviously, and nothing happened at the club yesterday – but my boss…"

"Wants me dead, huh? You work that for psycho?"

If ever there was a question he hated being asked. "All right. I owe you. So I'm telling you now – get the hell out of here. Fucking disappear because I never want to see you again."

A pinched frown overcame the DJ's face. "Look, I don't give a shit about your boss and his deals, so just-"

When Yamapi raised his gun again, shouting "What the fuck is your problem you stupid fuck, I'm going to fucking shoot your--" the DJ finally spun around and raced down the alleyway.

Yamapi picked up the sunglasses that had been left behind and pocketed them for evidence with a sense of trepidation. "He's dead," he chanted to himself. "He's dead."

If he said it enough times, it might just sound convincing.


Jin halted before the blue house, noting the twitching curtains and glinting eyes that stared out unblinkingly through the gaps of gloominess within. In his mind whirled the booming instructions of the witness protection officer and tucked neatly in his back pocket was a hastily purchased wallet containing: his new official identification, a handful of crumpled notes, a new debit bank card, government health care card, Starbucks loyalty card (only two more stamps to go) and a thatch of old receipts because no one ever trusted a man with a thin wallet.

The local constabulary had thrust into his hand a crinkled a piece of paper with an address scrawled in sloppy, looping handwriting like drunk snakes waltzing. The address on the paper matched his location and for that gratitude floated through his veins.

A brass knocker was clamped to the heart of the white painted door, begging to be lifted, and Jin failed to find any reason to deny it this gratification. He let it fall, once, twice, and the door creaked open.

There was a man standing in the doorway, hands and face stained with the redness of blood.

The man stared and stared, hair wild and tangled and feet bare. Then a monstrous grin split open his face, eyes pinched and crinkled at the corners with glee. He lurched forward unsteadily with arms splayed open, his long thin legs staggering over the threshold, and ensnared a fistful of Jin's shirt.

"Welcome!" screeched the man.

With his heart hammering so adamantly against his ribcage, Jin could only let out a whimper. This giant of a man, all limbs and teeth, was so far from his idea of a perfect housemate that he took a step back only to note with horror that there was still a vice-like grip secured onto the front of his shirt. Thanking the flurry of creative impulses that had spurred him onto embarking a career involving inebriated girls clambering for a piece of him on a nightly basis, Jin twisted his body out from under the outstretched clutches of the maniac.

"I must have the wrong address," Jin wheezed, a hand automatically flattening his shirt. Crinkled beyond repair.

A solemn frown tugged unrelentingly on the man's lips. "Aren't you the Djinn?"

"Look, just Jin is fine." What had been a moment of a terror-driven attempt at coolness seemed simply silly in the brightness of day (though he was still content to stitch the label dream-maker onto his image). "But no thanks, anyway."

From behind the tall man snuck another figure, humanoid-shaped but covered in glowing eyes from top to bottom that clicked against one another as the figure moved. The inside of the house was encased in a gloomy darkness that was difficult to see past. Only vague outlines of shapes (presumably furniture or tortured skeletons) were made semi-visible. The figure was cast entirely in shadow but Jin could see eyes bursting from the seams of the ripped shirt, eyes in the caramel-yellow hair, eyes amassing in a choke around the throat.

"Come in," commanded the figure.

The tall, blood-covered man stepped around Jin with the silent athleticism of a cat and shoved him head-first into the house, locking it behind him. He then turned to the figure.

"Can't we open the blinds and let some natural light in, Koki? It's so dark in here I can barely see a thing!"

Without waiting for a reply, the tall man gripped the edge of the curtains and whipped them open. Shaft after glorious shaft of light spilled into the room like a sacred moment of epiphany and the room dazzled under its brightness.

Such a contrast it made from Jin's first impressions. The walls were delicately dressed in green and golden striped wallpaper, festooned with great slabs of paintings encased in gilded frames (landscapes of impossibly idyllic countryside lifestyles, portraits of handsome but severe women in detailed gowns, the obligatory bowl of fruit arranged to resemble something inappropriate, and so on) with matching furniture that occupied almost every available space. To the left was a drawing room with no less than four settees slouched on the Persian rug, plus a chaise longue that lay obediently alongside the window banquet. To the right was a magnificently curved staircase that opened onto the second floor landing in an outburst of iridescent marble.

Jin looked back at the two homeowners and gasped. Not blood but paint that smeared the tall man's face and dried, cracked, on his fingers and lodged underneath his fingernails. Not eyeballs but crystals smoothed and polished (if anyone asked him later, Jin would resolutely deny that he had ever considered such embellishments to be anything other than frivolous jewellery) that hung in chains and loops around the figure's neck and hair.

"Sorry, this is what happens when you let Kame decide on the decorations," said the tall man apologetically (but smugly pleased that his paintings bedecked the halls). "I'm Taguchi and this is Koki."

The man entirely swamped with crystals nodded, all the semi-precious stones that garlanded his body clicking plastic-like with every motion.

"Sorry," Taguchi started again. "That we can't all be here to greet you – we all work crazy hours but Nakamaru should be knocking off soon. Um, I'll show you the room. There are five of us who live here so it can get pretty noisy at times, plus with all the dogs."

"Eleven of them," added crystal guru Koki. "But Ueda takes his to work during the day."

Jin trailed behind the two in a daze for the next hour, peering into eccentrically decorated rooms that screamed individuality from each threshold. Koki and Taguchi piled an assortment of facts and gossip into his head, most of which Jin found to be useless information that now took up space previously reserved for important tidbits such as what he was supposed to do now that there was a murderer on his tail. Oblivious to Jin's predicament (and it was a most grave situation that could not simply be brushed away by a hearty meal at the pub and a "cheer up, mate!"), the two romped down the halls and spluttered evidence after evidence that yes, this was indeed a house with all the necessary facilities a house usually came with and that these facilities (such as a sturdy dining room table or an old but perfectly operational washing machine) were entirely functional. Except the hand-held electric mixer, Koki mentioned in a hushed voice while Taguchi nodded sadly. No one had been able to find the detachable beaters since the Great Spring Clean of 2009.

They heard the front door ease open and someone call, "I'm home!"

"Nakamaru," hollered Koki, even though the house wasn't exactly of large enough proportions to demand hollering. "Come and meet our new housemate!"

Jin started, his eyes glimmering with panicked confusion. "But I haven't agreed--"

"Oh hey!" shouted a thin man dressed in a truly despicable argyle sweater vest. "Glad you've decided to stay! We've had a couple of people come to take a look at the place but they tend to get creeped out by Kame's underground fishtanks of slimy multiple-eyed wriggly things. They're harmless though. Apparently. I've never gone near them but I'm sure you'll be fine."

Koki coughed. "We er, didn't get to that part of the tour."

Nakamaru forced a laugh so hard that it sounded like he was hacking his lungs out. "Well surprise! We can help you move in now. Where are you staying? I'll get the car."

So that was how Jin found himself living with this collection of people and dogs (at last count, Jin was able to reach a total of fourteen canines dwelling in the already overcrowded house but he never was sure, especially since Ueda was always bringing random animals home from work).

Peaceful was so far from the most appropriate word to describe their living situation as Egypt was to Argentina but it felt right. The vase that had once preened under the attention of the morning sun at the breakfast table had been relegated to perking up the marble counter top instead and had stood there stoically for weeks until someone remembered to change the increasingly fetid water. Plates shone unsoaked in the sink and coffee-stained cups were recklessly abandoned in the otherwise pristine house, but these things, the other housemates murmured comfortingly to themselves, could be changed much like how Kamenashi no longer glistened the floorboards with sea water after a day paddling with the seals or how Koki how confined his evening mystic rituals of incense and lambs' bones to the backyard and not in the common bathtub.

Jin, with his unwavering quest for musical perfection, adorned the hallways and rooms with clunking bass moans and shimmering theremin bleats during the day in alliance with his turn table, and gathered these fragments of dance track bliss into his pockets when he left for work at the local nightclubs in the evening.


The new recruits flocked around the desktop computer, eyes feasting on the screen and ears glutinously indulging in the pulsating music racing out of the speakers. It wasn't often that they received recreational time and so suddenly having it shyly shuddering in the middle of their palms, the recruits were unsure of how to care for it. While the older recruits, those on the knife-blade's edge of leaping over to be a fully-fledged hitman, wanted to collar it for themselves and direct its path, the younger ones knew no such technique and preferred to simply nurture it with gentle hands and be rewarded with whatever was foisted upon them.

Such as the delights of Youtube.

God, it was amazing – no, don't click that, check this one out! My brother showed me last week and it will totally blow your mind. Move over, I can't see! You don't need to see! Turn it up, Totsuka, turn it up!

"Ah, there you all are," said the suited man, rounding the corner to stand in the doorway. He appeared pleased about something; a faint crook of a smile dented an otherwise expressionless face. "Now, who wants to help Tamamori with the shipment? Priceless 18th century landscapes don't carry themselves you know, counterfeit or not."

The recruits leapt to their feet to crowd around the suited man, computer left forgotten. "Sure boss, I can do that! Not a problem!" they chirped, their hands only two strands of self-restraint away from clasping to beg. Everybody knew that it was important to appear eager. Besides, Tamamori was doing real work now. He was a proper con artist.

"Yes, all right, settle down. Settle!"

The recruits hushed into silence and the room was still except for the thud-thud-hiss still streaming from the speakers. The smile on the suited man's face slipped away and was replaced by the slightest of frowns. "What's this?" he raised an eyebrow.

One of the older boys dashed across the room, his hands grabbling at the computer mouse. "Oh, it's nothing—"

Out wiv shaz and Tim @ luvjuice club 12.04.11

The suit man's gaze flew down the screen to the comments, most so poorly spelt that it was beneath him to translate into coherent sentences.

dis iz wickid!!1! luv dj inn sooo much!

How repugnant. The youth of today. This was entertainment for his budding group of gang members? He scrolled back up to the video footage taken by mobile phone. Lights shone directly into the lens every now and then, blanking out the screen with white but then it sharpened, focused, zoomed in on the hooded slouching figure before the dancefloor and running expert fingers across some sort of a rotating disc.

Whoever was capturing the video then screamed for the DJ to look up, and graciously (although with an air of indifference like he knew he was far too good to do what others told him and this one time was an exception because he was an amazing musical God) he obliged.

The suited man paled then rapidly turned a sickening shade of red.

"No! It can't be," he hissed under his breath, then whirled around with his eyes flashing.

"Now listen to me very carefully," he said in the softest of voices, anger writhing behind his gaze. "I don't care how and I don't care when, but I want you to kill this man. Whoever does so will be entitled to a little … treat."

Turning his back on the crowd, he pulled out his mobile phone and dialled.

"Get Yamapi immediately. Make sure the invitation seems friendly."


Jin no longer felt the prickling sensation of being watched every time he looked out the window (however still waited until either Taguchi or Koki needed to do the grocery shopping before asking to tag along) but found his pathetic handful of hours in bed wracked with blood-filled nightmares of gashed throats and glossy knives, and pointed guns and make sure there aren't any witnesses thrumming over and over.

"Maybe you should think about sleeping pills," Kamenashi mentioned over breakfast one morning, licking icing sugar off his fingers as he devoured a slice of French toast. "You really don't look so well."

In spite of this, Jin still glanced into the silver chrome reflection of the toaster and sighed at the dark circles that mottled underneath his eyes. Breakfast with Kamenashi present was usually something to look forward to. All Jin had to do was ask him about dolphins or stingrays or some other vaguely aquatic creature and the other man became so absorbed in talking about his one true passion that he no longer cared if Jin stole food off his plate.

"Maybe," he repeated, gaze flickering automatically to the television in search of some distraction.

"Following an anonymous tip off from a member of the public, security surrounding the Trois Verités Simples exhibition at the national art gallery has been tightened. On loan from the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, the exhibition has already attracted over two hundred thousand visitors since its opening earlier this month," the television crooned.

Jin turned back to his morning coffee and the other housemates followed suit, with the exception of Taguchi whose attention was still fixated on the little screen. When the news report flipped to a commercial break, he whistled in appreciation.

"They say the collection is worth €12 million you know," Taguchi started dreamily. "It'd be amazing if my paintings were worth that much one day."

"Dead artists make more than living ones," Koki deadpanned. "I can help you with that."

Nakamaru exchanged a glance with Kamenashi before leaning across the table. "Hey Jin? I think Kame's right … maybe you should see someone about the insomnia. You haven't really slept well since moving in."

Ignoring him, Taguchi pressed on. "You know, if you combined the total value of artwork being sold on the black market, it'd be worth twice as much as artwork hanging in private collections and six times as much as artwork available for public viewing?"

"I'm telling you, all you need is a dream catcher and some crystals—" Koki began but Ueda cut him off.

"Human beings are animals," he intoned. "And animals need sufficient sleep in order to be able to function to their maximum potential. If you don't get enough, it'll cause a hormonal imbalance in your body and you'll start losing basic survival drives."

"In short," said Nakamaru, twisting in his seat. "Get some help. Or – you know – we can … talk. About it. The nightmares, I mean."

Jin looked around the table and narrowed his attention back to the television. "All right," he finally said. "I'll get it sorted. It's my day off anyway"

For the remainder of the morning, he crammed in a couple more hours of restless sleep, and spent the afternoon folded up in his room with his headphones on and his digital music editor program churning out snippets of melody. He rubbed his eyes and yawned, looking at his watch which read 4:13PM. The longer he dragged this out, the more questions the rest of his housemates were bound to pile upon him – this realization settled into the pit of his belly and refused to be dislodged. With an annoyed sigh, he went to the pharmacy armed with a mouth full of protests and returned with a brown paper bag and yellow capsules that seemed to shimmer inside their delicate foil packs.


Broken bones in his fingers, with the splinter ends embedded into his nerves and sending bullets of pain all the way up to his skull. Yamapi staggered the few remaining steps up to the front door, shivering in the midnight cold. Blood oozed out of the lacerations on his legs every time he shifted. He gasped, rested his head against the wooden door, and tried to wrap the blood-stained jacket around his body in a bid to look presentable. He knew it was useless; looking sickly pale in the face, covered in cold sweat and with green bruises stamped across his collarbone and disappearing down the front of his shirt, anyone could see that he was decidedly not all right.

He collided into the doorbell with the back of his hand and waited. His ribs squealed in pain with every shallow breath.

After an eternity of half-whispered prayers, the front door opened.

"Yamapi? What the hell—oh, what… uh. Co—come in."

Pushing off on his legs, another barely clotted wound split open and another round of clear fluid dribbled out – but Yamapi was grateful. The house was warm inside.

He pitched himself over the threshold and collapsed onto the tiles, limbs splayed akimbo.

"I thought, maybe, I could crash— just for the night," he slurred, eyes already shut but throat tugging for more air. "And maybe, tomorrow…maybe we could carpool to rehearsal together?"

"Just – yeah, sure. Is that a boot print?"

Yamapi rolled onto his stomach, ready to retch. "Oh hey – and can I … borrow. That thing. Your heron costume? The woodlands audition…"

And then all was black.


Jin woke up in the middle of the night, knowing instinctively that something was wrong.

His skin was covered in sticky layers of sweat that clung to his arms, his stomach, and all across his face. Trapped inside his ribcage, his heart crashed frantically against the sides and spluttered blood, falteringly. His chest felt heavy, as though a bus was bearing down upon him and making it hard to breathe. No matter how many breaths he dragged in, he needed more, more air and fast. He gasped, panted, and struggled to sit up in bed but the sudden shift created a strong wave of nausea.

Even through the dim blurriness the room seemed to spin, tilting in all directions with a quickening tempo. Disorientation scraped its way into his mind and he tried to clutch at his head – anything to make the spinning stop – but found his body too exhausted to move.

Somehow, through the thick fog of the endless black abyss where he spiralled further and further down into the centre, seeming to somersault even has his body lay still, he heard the bedroom door open. The sound thundered between his ears; every brush of the carpet fibres echoed through his skull, the squeak of the door handle like the screeching of tires across hot asphalt.

"Jin?" someone said to him, but his eyes were squeezed tightly shut and he couldn't for the life of him scrabble his way out of the haziness to figure out who was speaking. "LA Ink is on; did you want to—Jin?"

The lights flicked on, hot and white and blinding.

Moaning, Jin tried again to scramble up. The sheets rubbed roughly against his skin and every movement was struck with a deep ache in his muscles. He seized at what he imagined to be the side of the bed but tumbled head-first off the edge and crumpled onto the floor. His heart was still hammering vigorously, so fast that he could barely distinguish between the beats. His stomach burned.

"Oh, oh," said the person at the room, pitching forward and dropping to his knees beside Jin. Cold hands propped up his face and shook him, sending another deep surge of nausea wracking through his body. "What have you taken? Jin?"

Trembling, Jin opened his mouth but could only whimper. A tide of convulsions in his stomach seared through the stupor and he fell on top of the person. He vaguely registered the smell of dogs and antiseptic, which tipped him over the edge; a flood of vomit burst from his mouth – acrid, pungent, and making his insides reflexively shudder.

"All right, I'm getting an ambulance," said the person urgently.

Charging up every fragment of strength left in his body, Jin clutched onto the other person. "No," he groaned. "Stay."

His body was still heaving up dribbles of vomit that brandished the foul, bitter smell dense into the air but almost immediately he could feel all his muscles relaxing and his breathing returning to something vaguely resembling normal. He still gulped in desperate, short breaths but the dizziness was clearing. His chest no longer felt bruised against the force of his heart.

"Stay," he murmured again, and he eventually felt the other person start to relax too. His senses began to return. Ueda, of course.

Jin wasn't certain how long he spent on the floor with his head cradled in Ueda's lap and saliva running down his cheeks, but the falling sensation gradually eased away. "I'm all right," he said finally. His voice was hoarse and his throat was scratchy. The inside of his mouth still tasted tart and sour from the vomit. "Thanks."

Ueda carefully brushed Jin's hair away from his eyes. The expression on his face was surprisingly soft. "Are you certain? I can still take you to the hospital, just to make sure."

Jin shook his head and allowed Ueda to haul him back to bed. All the blankets were soaked through and cold. Ueda disappeared from the room, only to return a moment later with a warm cloth and began to clean Jin's face methodically. When that was done, Ueda wiped down the rest of his body and changed him into fresh clothes with a clinical efficiency that Jin gratefully accepted. There was no fumbling, no tangles or flinches; just steady, calm hands that smoothed away the goosebumps across his skin, and deceptively strong arms that carried him out the door and towards Ueda's room.

"No," Jin whined pathetically. Ueda had already done so much for him; it wouldn't be right for Jin to also take his bed. "I … I want to watch LA Ink," he whispered, and Ueda carried him to the couch in the living room where the television was still on with the sound turned down.

During the commercial break, Ueda finally asked him what he'd taken.

"It was only half a sleeping tablet," murmured Jin. "I guess I just had a bad reaction to it, that's all."

Ueda made a noise of disbelief.

"Really, I'm fine. Just an allergic reaction or something. The pharmacist who recommended it mentioned that some people get bad side effects." Jin huffed a rueful laugh, "That'll teach me not to trust grad students. The kid looked barely old enough to drive."

Not wanting to meet Ueda's incredulous frown, Jin focused on the television inside. A news bulletin was now playing. Even if the volume was down low, Jin could make out the tinny-sounding words coming from the news anchor.

"Police have arrested a man believed to be involved in the escape of convicted gang leader—"

"Huh, they still haven't caught him," Ueda muttered darkly.

"—remains a fugitive in the country but police yesterday received an anonymous tip-off regarding his possible whereabouts."

Jin's heart stopped for a beat, and then flustered. The photograph was of poor quality, in black and white and so grainy that it was impossible to distinguish the folds of the three-piece suit, but Jin recognized the man instantly. He froze, every inch of his body tensed.

"What's wrong?" asked Ueda, glancing between Jin and the television screen.

"N-nothing," Jin replied. Closing his eyes as the news anchor moved onto another item, Jin slowly let out the breath he'd been holding. "I'm just tired, that's all," he whispered.

Not long after, he drifted off to sleep.

The follow day, Ueda decided to give the pharmacist a piece of his mind. He marched to the little store next to the local cinema and slammed his fist onto the counter top. "I demand to see the pharmacist – the one doing his grad year who looks like a child."

"Oh!" gasped the frightened woman at the sales counter, leaping a step back. "I'm sorry sir, Mister Nakayama handed in his resignation yesterday."

Ueda placed both hands onto the counter top and leaned forward, eyes narrowing. "Tell me where he is or I'll sue you for breaching duty of care."

"We tried to ring his mobile but his number has been disconnected, and the address that he gave on his resume doesn't exist. The police are already looking into the classified drugs theft." The woman sighed and tugged at her hair, distractedly. Failing to meet his gaze, she admitted, "I'm sorry but for all intents and purposes, he's disappeared."


On the high street in the city, where dolled-up girls flounced by with small dogs poking out of branded carry bags and harried businessmen threw away hundreds upon thousands in jewellery stores to appease both their wives and mistresses, was a menswear store that boasted the finest selection of ties in the region. Silk ties fluttered tantalizingly with gentle prompting from the perfectly controlled air conditioning system that puffed wisps of cool air into the boutique store. It was decorated like a private parlour in a mansion belonging to some eccentric aristocrat with thick drapes over the walls and ornate rococo curls climbing the walls and all over the furniture. Everything was white and gold, crystal and marble. The everyday man's reaction upon seeing the room would undoubtedly be something like "Wow, this is beautiful" followed by "I'll bet only wankers shop here."

Kamenashi, however, would not have considered himself one of those wankers but he was also too far past the mould of an everyday man to have realized the full implications of stepping in the store.

It was a rare occasion for Kamenashi to have his Saturday schedule entirely composed of a startlingly white, blank sheaf of paper, and to celebrate he decided to indulge in a spot of shopping. Technically there was little need for a man of his chosen career to stock his wardrobes with the finest imported linen, but the staff handbook at work merely stated that clothing had to be "appropriate, comfortable and loose-fitting"; expensive suits could be appropriate, comfortable and loose-fitting too.

He stepped into the store, glancing quickly at Jin and then busying himself with the wire display of shoes. Being the considerate housemate that Kamenashi liked to image himself to be, he had succumbed to Jin's emphatic insistence that the newest member of their little Mad House family felt fine and didn't need to be babied.

Kamenashi despised shopping with others but Jin had looked so pitiable camped out in front of his bedroom door that Kamenashi had relented. Fine. He could do with a second opinion; the international conference coming up was the highlight of every marine conservationist's calendar, after all, and if he managed to stand out then hopefully they could get a grant for the Piglet Squid study.

Thankfully, there was a well-groomed young man standing still as a mannequin to aid him. His little gleaming golden nameplate read Goseki.

Jin failed to understand the imperative to possess correctly patterned shirts that accentuated the cross-hatching texture of skin, so instead embarked upon a leisurely stroll about the length of the store. It could be argued that this promenade along a shoreline of pinstriped suit jackets was one of the low points of his day, for not only did the frocks fail to inform him of their material worth (and he was too afraid of the answer to ask the question), they also lured him deeper into the rear of the store where embroidered shirts gestured towards the spectacular array of ties.

The problem was not the ties themselves.

The problem arose only when Jin slid his fingers around the slivers of silk and draped them about his neck with bored curiosity but no intention of purchase, for this propelled the store attendant to soar across the floor and seize both ends of the tie with gloved hands.

This guy takes his job as custodian of the couture far too seriously was Jin's first thought until his blood ran cold with realization. "K-Kame…" he gasped, fingers fastened around the strip of flesh where tie met neck. The store attendant tightened his grip, twisted the fabric several times over and closed the gap at the back of his neck, his hands steady and vice-like. Jin elbowed him hard but only managed to catch the store attendant at the side of his ribs.

The store attendant grunted briefly in pain then kicked Jin to the floor, digging in his knee into the dip between Jin's shoulder blades while his hands wrapped around the ends of the tie with greater purchase. Jin's face was turning bright purple.

Kicking with his heel to try and dislodge the store attendant, Jin managed to catch the other man on the shin and wriggled free a few paces, his hands automatically clawing at the tie. "Kame!" he hollered, throat stinging as though sliced into slivers.

Thankfully, Kamenashi chose that moment to finally glance away from the glimmering array of cuff-links housed in a spotlight glass display box, raced over and was able to hold down the store attendant while Jin tussled the scrap of fabric off his neck.

The store attendant snarled, his hand swiping out at Kamenashi then lunged for Jin again, who thankfully was more prepared this time. Jin ducked, and when the store attendant came tearing past, he kicked with all his might. The store attendant crashed into the shelves, sending a cascade of clothes and hangers tumbling to the floor. Blood started to wend slowly across the floorboards. The store attendant lay still.

"Is he…?"

Kamenashi crouched down next to the figure and gingerly felt for a pulse. It was faint but palpable. "Unconscious, I think," Kamenashi said quietly.

Jin laughed feebly. "Next time, I'll keep my hands strictly off the merchandise."


"Why did a store attendant just try to kill you? And how exactly do the police know you?"

Jin, buried behind a fortress of cushions on the couch, pursed his lips. The housemates were gathered around him with varying degrees of suspicion etched into their faces, making up a whole motorway of frown lines.

"Those sleeping pills," Ueda prompted. "It wasn't just a mild allergic reaction, was it?"

There were two options before him.

The first: he could laugh off the incident as a childhood grudge. He'd roll his eyes and blow out a huge puff of exasperated air, then mention how he once nicked off with the kid's soccer ball when they were at school together and apparently the little runt was so traumatized by the event that he felt the need to see Jin came to justice. Nakamaru, who understood the passion of the world game, would inevitably nod sagely and the whole thing would be swept away from memory. Perhaps in five years time, someone would bring it up again and they'd have a good chortle over it. "Remember that time you almost died?" they'd laugh over a couple of beers and a barbeque in someone's backyard.

The second: he could do the decent thing and come clean. It would only be a matter of time before they started to target his friends and to have them left dangling in ignorance was cowardly and foolish.

He shucked out a cigarette from the crumpled packet and lit up. Ueda could pop a blood vessel over it at a more convenient time.

Jin took a drag and turned to look at them. "I'm on witness protection," he said, after a long pause. "You know that escaped gang leader who's been on the news? Let's just say I saw something I shouldn't have seen and now he's after me. I should've told you guys about it sooner instead of putting you all in danger like this. I'm sorry."

For a moment, no-one dared to move a muscle.

Then Kamenashi spoke up. "So it was an attempt on your life."

Jin nodded.

"How can you be so calm about it?" asked Koki, incredulously.

"Fucked if I know," Jin replied tiredly. He sucked in a couple more drags then put the cigarette out. "All I know is that this is the third time he's tried – and failed – and the police are still trying to find him." He rubbed at the ring of bruises that still shone bright purple on his neck. "If he gets caught, I'm the lead witness. So that's why…you know, everything."

"You should've told us sooner," said Taguchi quietly. Seriousness didn't suit his face; Jin hated that naïve smile as much as anyone but this alternative would soon be replacing his nightmares. "I mean, are there people spying on the house? Is there surveillance out on us?"

"I'm sorry, I'll move out."

"Shut up Taguchi," snapped Koki. "Nobody cares what you have to say."

"No, you shut up," Taguchi stood up and moved in front of Jin, his mouth set in a firm line. "I don't want Jin to leave; I want to make sure that it's still safe for him to live here. You moved in here what, two months ago? Who knows how long it took them to find you here but we can guess that they've known as far back as the sleeping pills." He crouched down in front of Jin, his eyes hard with determination. "We're going to have to guess that they already know where you live and your usual habits, and all our habits too, so if we want to be smarter than them…"

Nakamaru caught on and nodded slowly. "Then we need to start changing things up. Make it harder for them to get at you."

For the next five hours, they bickered and whinged, threatened to throw punches and shot each other sarcastic glances, but never once did they say that it was too difficult. A chart was summarily drawn up detailing who was going to drive Jin in to work on which days (a rotating roster between all five of them) and who would pick him up (Koki, whose witching hour mystic line was open all night). Ueda promised to ask for more late shifts so Jin wouldn't have to be alone during the day time and Taguchi offered to do more of his artwork indoors, an offer that was politely rejected.

"You're more than just a housemate, Jin," said Kamenashi earnestly. "You're a friend, and we protect our friends."


As much as Jin appreciated all the hard effort that went into surreptitiously babysitting a full-grown man who was wont to have selfish and frivolous desires such as fast food at five o'clock in the morning, the constant hovering and concerned looks that were heaped on top of him throughout the day (and most of the night) was beginning to get on his nerves. If he had to put up with Taguchi's cheerful chatter reminding him not to worry and therefore causing him to remember that he had something to be worried about, Jin knew that he was going to punch a hole through someone's face. And it didn't have to be Taguchi's.

"Look, I just – need a break," he said finally, after having noticed that his hairline was beginning to prematurely recede.

"Sure, where would you like to go?" asked Ueda. "I can call in sick tomorrow and we'll make it a long weekend in the mountains."

Jin sighed, frustrated. The past week had been a honey-slow procession of "Hey, I'll give you a lift!"s and having to share the filthy old couch in the living room (even at ridiculous hours of the day like 4:29AM, which wasn't even a proper time for humans to be awake) and his grocery list mysteriously disappearing only to be replaced by a cardboard box crammed with food sitting outside his bedroom door. Nakamaru even bookmarked fashion brand websites with online catalogues on Jin's laptop for him.

He waited until Kamenashi had left for the three-day conference on the impact of temperature on the aggression of dominant otters around the Amazonian basin, before creeping along the hallway and peering over the banisters to glimpse the front door. Ueda's sensible shoes (in other words, shoes so ugly that even Ötzi the Iceman would have refused them) were missing therefore it was safe to deduce that he was at the clinic. Taguchi had locked himself up in the studio out in the backyard, which had green smoke leaking out from underneath the door. And Nakamaru was, of course, safely tucked behind a desk in a glass-lined fourteenth-floor office in the middle of the central business district working over-time and (Jin imagined) probably drinking black coffee and staring into a computer screen filled with obscenely long numbers.


He'd been worked to the bare bones of his fingertips every damned night for the past week in order to bundle together enough under-the-table money for a business meeting with a top record producer, and the last thing he wanted was to mope in his pokey little room (all right, so it was actually quite a well-furnished and bright room with a sneaky view of the sprawling backyard). Hence the impossibly pathetic decision to hit the clubs. But he told himself that it was strictly for the purposes of drinking and hitting on women. That was all.

Summoning up every ounce of stealth that had coiled tight in his very being, Jin tiptoed past Koki's closed bedroom door next to the main entrance of the house and tried not to be intimidated by the rat's skull that was pinned there as a protection talisman against sickness of the flesh.

"Jin, isn't it your day off?" came a voice from within.


"I need a drink, man," moaned Jin. "I need women. I can't just stay in this house all day; it's going to drive me mad. I'm almost tempted to slit my own throat for entertainment."

"No," said the door.

"Come with?"

The door remained stoically silent.

"You know, the best clairvoyants I've ever met are ones who know how to have a good time, especially in nightclubs," Jin began, edging his way closer to the cheerful Welcome mat. "Apparently alcohol is the best lubricant for entry into the astral plane."

"Don't you dare—"

"Besides, girls love all that fortune telling shit, don't they?" Jin snapped.

The door swung open. Bright-eyed, Koki poked his head around the frame. "Do they really?"

Deliriously grateful that all talk of murderers had vanished the moment they had set foot into a newly opened nightclub that boasted half-priced entry before 12 o'clock (which was sort of embarrassing but his eagerness to just get out had been too much to contain), Jin felt himself gradually able to relax his shoulders and soak up each soul-stroking shimmering strobe light that flickered his way.

He finished off his fourth beer, his mind momentarily laden with surprise that it had lasted only a handful of minutes. But watching Koki snake around the dance floor like a shaman in the midst of a demonic ritual with girls entwining their Biosculpted fingernails through his beaded chains of quartz, Jin had to laugh – the life he had carefully constructed around him appeared to be sturdier and happier than his previous existence living in the basement of a self-service launderette, even if it meant having to endure Ueda's pokerfaced lectures about healthy eating.

Things … could have been worse.

He sidled up to the crowded bar, employing great use of his elbows to edge away other patrons who were too drunk to notice they'd lost their spot in the queue. Two bartenders serviced this half of the ring-shaped bar: one, a perky woman in her thirties wearing an obscure rock band singlet top who shamelessly flirted with all the men; and the other was a sullen, sulky wisp of a girl with an indiscriminate glare and wearing far too many layers of boyish clothing. Even her hair was cropped short and prickly. Jin thought she was taking this whole androgynous look way too far.

"Can I help you?" said the girl, crossing her arms across her non-existent chest. She might as well have asked How about you do me a favour and go to hell already?

In the struggle between mature respect and juvenile petulance, Jin found himself falling onto the side of the latter. He liked to think of it as a challenge of sort. Like, how long would it take for him to crack a smile on this girl's face? Or: How much was his ego willing to bet shards of dignity on his undeniable attractiveness? "I'm tired of the same old drinks – I'm the adventurous type, you see, and I'd like something that would fit well with my personality. I was hoping you could help me with that," leaning forward until his fedora almost tipped over his eyes, Jin threw her his best half-shy, half-cocky smile. Utter failsafe, that one.

She raked her eyes over him, lips twisting into a frown. It suited her painted face. "You look the Bacardi type," she sneered.

Oh, ouch.

Jin sucked in a breath between his teeth and cleared his throat. "My favourite," he rasped, wondering if it was still early enough to back out. "Um, apple please."

On the mirror reflection of the glass refrigerator panels, Jin could see the girl struggling not to roll her eyes. She grabbed a bottle of the garishly green poison and flicked off the cap with dizzying speed, appeared to hesitate over the feasibility of smashing it into Jin's face, then whirled around slammed it down on the bar top. Jin paid her innocently and took an enormous swig. It really wasn't fit for human consumption but hell, he was young and stupid and perfectly willing to exploit that image regardless of how flimsily it stood.

Expertly manoeuvring against the tangle of frenzied dancing, he located a high table blissfully empty of other patrons and immediately staked his claim over it by plonking his elbows into the puddle of spilt beer that roamed the shiny silver top. Koki catapulted out of the surging crowd and crashed into Jin, looking somewhat abashed.

"Honestly, what kind of married woman dances like that?" mumbled Koki. He peered at Jin's drink and immediately choked. "That. You. The Bacardi is evil."

"Yeah, well, everyone knows that," Jin grumbled, cradling the bottle in his arms to protect it from Koki's venomous glare. "Cut it out. This baby's 14% alcohol and that's all that matters." To prove his point, he went to finish off the rest when Koki's hand shot out and clenched around his wrist.

"No, really," Koki said, his voice stern. "It's giving off a dark aura. Don't drink it. Jin. Fucking stop it – Jin, listen to me—"

Jin yanked his arm away and sucked down the remainder of the bottle, dodging Koki's fists. "Seriously, chill the fuck out, Koki! There are plenty more hot chicks willing to dance with you."

"You idiot! You utter idiot!" Koki screamed, so loud that the other patrons tossed him bewildered and slightly concerned looks. A few of the girls skittered away from their table.

"Shit man, I'm sorry I didn't get you a drink too!" Jin groaned, slinking off the table. "Fine, what do you want?" Seeing all the scantily dressed girls twirling around and around on the dancefloor was beginning to thump ripples of nausea into him anyway. A couple of boys in cheap printed shirts reeled into him and Jin staggered, his arm automatically reaching out to clutch at Koki's arm. "Fucking kids," he grumbled, tottering a few paces before managing to upright himself again.

Pressing against his temple with the heel of his hand, he swayed on his feet and started towards the bar again. His stomach thudded. Since when did his gut have a beat?

Koki hastily slipped his arm around Jin's waist and started to yank him towards the exit. He was muttering something under his breath that Jin though might have been Latin.

"Are you cursing me?" Jin said, his voice louder than he'd intended for it to be. "Koki, stop it. I've got a headache. Fucking – it's hot in here, isn't it?" He wobbled precariously with Koki still shoving him towards the waiting queue outside. "So fucking hot, I think I'm going to die, maybe some fresh air would be good."

"Yeah, some fresh air," Koki growled tersely, smacking some party-goers out of the way with a fist full of studded rings. "And then a hospital."

Jin jerked back, confused, and promptly teetered back into a crowd of girls who squealed and shoved him away. "Why?" he stuttered, even as the vision before him went hazy and the background music of men bemoaning the allure of hot chicks tangled together. An itch started to bubble in his throat and he coughed, startled when the coughing wouldn't stop. Beginning to wheeze, Jin suddenly understood why Koki was staring at him so furiously like that. He floundered, clutching at the top of his chest, and saw a kaleidoscope of pinpricks of coloured light crashing into his skull.

"I- I can't—" Jin rasped but sound failed to come out, thinking oh fuck, not again. He sank onto the floor, chest heaving with the effort of breath and his hands shaking. His throat was closing up; he could feel it swell and squeeze against itself and his brain went into panic mode. He shot out an arm and grasped at the shining crystals that clattered to and fro before him, but his grip was weak and they slipped out through his trembling fingers.

The colours left and were replaced by muted grey. Muffled in the background, he could hear shouting.


"…Jin? Jin! Wake up, the ambulance is on its way. Stay awake, do you hear me? I beg you most venerable spirits, have mercy upon this wayward child…"

Something hard and cold was pressed into his hand but he couldn't grip it properly.

"Why is there a crys—get that the fuck away from him," snarled someone. "I'll start compressions."


"…twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight …"


Wet lips were pressed up against his mouth and hot air scrambled into his lungs.

He spluttered, gasped, then melted back into unconsciousness.

katmillia on August 14th, 2011 12:25 am (UTC)

Okay, first of all, Snow White? This is fucking amazing, holy crap, this is the best modern tale version of this thing ever, I'm not kidding, everything about this is just golden. ♥ Holy crap. And then, okay, I'm going to try to do this in sections, AND IT PROBABLY WON'T WORK SO JUST BEAR WITH ME lmao lmao lmao

Yamapi. Oh my god Yamapi didn't kill him and let him go and Jin's on witness protection, and they beat the shit out of Yamapi I can't even. Oh god my heart just- oh man. It is all over the place.

AND KAT-TUN'S HOUSE. KAT-TUN'S HOUSE omg the you are our friend, that was where I was like, practically crying in happiness because this is so beautiful, and then when KOKI HAS THE CRYSTAL OVER HIM IN THE AMBULANCE okay then I started dying, but moreover, this is just asdfjaskdjfkasd coherence has failed, I am sorry. asjdfkajsdf I have to keep reading BUT I JUST WANTED YOU TO KNOW THAT I AM. CAUSE YOU NEED THIS INFORMATION.

I'll admit; I came here because of Jin/Tegoshi, and it isn't even here yet, and I'm already pretty much force-feeding this link onto absolutely everyone I am friends with on twitter. I don't care how it ends. The writing, the pacing, the dialogue, the story- this this this this this. ♥ A bagillion hearts.

Y'know, halfway through. ONWARD!!!


i'm not even sorry :)))) ♥