They still have their contests. One-upping the other, for just a week, a couple days - or, most likely, a single round - still holds that triumph, that winning feeling.

There's less "fuck everyone" attitude from her, and more confidence from him.

She starts to confide in him what's on her mind and he stops being scared of fucking them up.

Later, it's not always be some all-you-can-eat competition; they might watch a movie (...under the pretense of seeing "who would fall asleep first".) The one flaw in that contest was that they'd always end up staying awake for the whole thing, curled around each other, sneaking kisses.

They might take walks at night (...to see "who would get scared first")...resulting with a couple that steadfastly held hands and whispered about the stars to each other.

Alternatively, he might tell her he had an errand to run; "sorry, I'm not going to able it today...walk home without me, I'll make it up to you!" In actuality, he'd have hidden himself along the route to her house, and as she would walk by, he'd jump out of his hiding place and tickle her until she shrieked.

("Oh my god! Kukai! You can't sneak up on me like that!")

She'd punch him on the arm and growl, "you're such an annoying little kid!". Then she'd storm off into the dark, and that really did scare him. But she'd come back, after he had called out after her and run around searching, she'd come back. Utau would smirk and giggle just a touch. ("Guess I won this round, kid.")

(He'd get fussy. "You could have been anywhere! Kidnapped, lost in the city - Utau, what if you'd died?")

She would roll her eyes at his exaggeration, but then she would see that his clothes and hair were windblown from running, and that his breathing was just a bit labored. He was still worried (and such a drama queen) about losing her even though she was right there, and she would call him a kid again (heart thumping, because he was such a dumb kid to care about her so much). He'd say, wryly, "Thanks so much for apologizing," but smile goofily when he succeeded in tickling her again.

She would begin to wonder if he had forgotten about his own "rule of three". But, when they would be a block or so from her house, he'd lead her into a shadowed corner and declare, "You owe me a kiss now, because you called me a kid three times again." She would laugh as he pouted, then kiss his pout away. She would kiss him all over: his forehead, his chin, ears, cheeks, nose - but most fervently, she'd kiss his mouth. And oh, how he would kiss her back.

•••••••••

For them, it's always a competition - in the same way that they're always a team, the way they always help each other, and, most importantly, the way they always love each other.

•••••••••

He had a wonderful dream, once, where she went home with him (Whose home? He didn't really know. Not his, not with his pesky brothers).

Yes, he had had a dream where she went home with him - like that, where they had kissed -

and touched -

and -

and.

(One day, his mother notes that they've run out of tissues rather quickly. Kukai makes no comment.)

•••••••••

She had a dream like that too - and she nearly wrote it down in her dream diary. But her face turned red and she grew hot and uncomfortable just thinking about what she had dreamt. She threw her pen and diary down, and smothered herself in pillows, fuming at herself.

(She absolutely didn't think of snaking her hands down where the sun doesn't shine, and her brain absolutely wasn't crawling with shiny fantasies of them, together)

Next time they meet, though, she just can't help the extra bite in the kisses she gives him. She just wants. He looks pleasantly surprised, but when he asks her if anything was amiss, she just says that it was work. Yes, "work has just been stressful."

She keeps telling herself, don't do anything that will scare him off.

•••••••••

You can't really call the way they settle into their own pace as settling as much as it is growing together or, well, "still figuring it out". Love is funny like that.

•••••••••

She has to leave to go on tour. The closest she'll ever be to home, to him, is on the other side of the Asian continent.

"I'm gonna miss you," he murmurs, hands on her hips, drawing circles around her pelvic bones with his thumbs.

"You're such a kid," she replies haughtily, twisting her fingers in his unruly hair. His thumb draws a heart around her pelvic bone, presses a little firmer now. Idiot. "You know as well as I do that we'll text or email or video chat or send goddamn snail mail, so there's no way we could miss each other at all, dummy."

He gives her a crooked grin,

and kisses away her disapproval that he hadn't looked on the logical, realistic side of things.

And, despite herself,

she smiles, (little by little)

and kisses him back, because -

Well, because she can.

•••••••••

Kukai kind of feels like laughing. Or throwing his fist in the air, because he had been right after all - she misses him. Of course, Kukai misses her too. So, he had been right! Which, while it was pretty good, being victoriously correct...it also sucked.

Kukai sits on his bed, toweling his hair dry, having already propped his laptop on the bed. His girlfriend's face glares at him from the screen.

"Don't look so smug, Kukai. Just because I admitted I missed you doesn't mean I want you here!" She splutters, crossing her arms.

He smiles and thanks whatever spirit he's supposed to that she'll be home in a week, so they won't have to go without the other much longer.

He blows her a kiss. "I miss you, too, Idol-chan." Then he makes a silly face at her, but her brow is still furrowed. "What are you mad about? Europe can't be that bad." Giving up on his now soaked towel, Kukai tosses it on the floor.

She rolls her eyes. "I'm not mad. I've been to Europe before and it's not that great, either. Anyway...your shirt has a gross stain on it, and I've been trying to figure out what it is." Kukai glances at his top, spying the aforementioned stain. "Gah, you're right," he chuckles.

So he takes off his shirt, simple and easy, and searches for another.

Even grainy and washed with a weird gray film by that stupid webcam, Kukai's shirtless form is still Kukai shirtless.

Utau's eyes open wide because she's shocked, she really is (El completely took her side after the fact; Il just laughed at her) but Kukai happens to look over his shoulder at her staring (at those golden planes of a back, dear lord) and he yelps, blush starting and steadily deepening, as he quickly ducks out of the webcam's view.

There's silence on both ends. Utau feels like dying. Why did she have to stare like that? Oh, god. Why did you have to scare him? Say something, say something. Say anything!

"Um," she starts. "So, um, where did that stain on your shirt come from, anyway?" Better than nothing, she grimaces to herself.

"Oh, uh, yeah - I think it's from when I went out with the Guardians...I, we, we went to that old cafe. We saw Shion there, and I spilled the ketchup I was pouring...apparently on my shirt, too." He laughs nervously (hands fumbling to get his new shirt on. He's not shaking, he swears).

Still out of view.

"I had no idea she had come back! Our last email had been probably two months before, and she had to leave that evening..."

Utau frowns. "Have I met Shion? I don't think I remember her."

There's a pause. Kukai clears his throat. (Nope. No shakiness whatsoever.)

Still out of view.

"Shion was my childhood friend. She went to study piano in Europe a couple years ago, actually."

Well, both of them know that "childhood friend" isn't all there is to it. Kukai doesn't want to say anything. Utau isn't stupid. The silence is just short of deafening.

Still, she has to go do an interview and he has to go start his homework. They both say goodbye rather amicably, but Utau has to pretend that it's okay that at the end, he still hadn't come back into the webcam's view.