Goddamn. I realized yersterday how terrifyingly angsty last chapter was. This doesn't really make up for it, but I promise more is on the way. Sorry for the wait!

•••••••

Kukai is the kind of person who falls asleep quickly but can barely wake up in the morning without some outside help. (As he is a growing teenage boy, that is to be expected.)

Thus, on the Sunday after That Awful Video Chat (as he had ominously titled it) with Utau, the dreaming Kukai barely registers the sound of people running around downstairs, laughing and talking.

(This is when Yaya bulldozes past his door with her little baby hands, shrieking, "Wake up, Kukai!")

(...and well, Kukai's awake now.)

"Could you please explain what's going on?" Kukai asks, voice a little gravelly as it tends to be when he wakes up. He shoves his hands through his hair, attempting to make it at least somewhat neater.

Yaya makes a disappointed face at him as more of their friends - Amu, Tadase, Rima, Nagihiko - walk in. "Yaya can't believe that Kukai forgot about his own birthday! It's your sweet sixteen, too," She huffs.

Oh, right, that. Kukai is crap with dates. (As he is a growing teenage boy, that is to be expected.)

Amu, looking somewhat bored and annoyed, adds, "We had a whole big surprise planned for you, dummy."

Kukai smiles at that. Even Amu, with her "cool n' spicy" attitude, came to wish him well.

However, the biggest surprise of the morning is when Kukai goes downstairs to find Ikuto chatting with his four older brothers in the kitchen. Ikuto should be in Europe, looking for his father! Not to mention that Kukai's brothers are not allowed to talk to (and/or embarrass Kukai in front of) his friends. Sadly, this rule is one they break repeatedly, and with great pleasure. But what in the world is Ikuto doing here?

Today, Kukai thinks, is going to be an interesting birthday (to say the least).

•••••••••

When Kukai announces himself - which is more like Yaya announcing she has someone else to bother - all his brothers gather round to squeeze him into a bear hug.

Kaidou gives him a noogie and teases, "Now you can drive places! I mean, not like a shorty like you could see above the wheel, but..."

Unkai and the others chuckle at this. Kukai punches Kaidou in the arm, but rolls his eyes. "You guys are just the most supportive people I've ever met," he says, grinning with amiable sarcasm. Kaidou winks at him; all of his brothers give him affectionate nudges and smart remarks as they pass the birthday boy.

Kukai walks over to Ikuto, who nods in greeting. "You didn't come back to Japan just for my birthday, right?" He asks. Kukai and Ikuto aren't particularly close, and why the older boy would traverse two continents to be at his sweet sixteen is a mystery to Kukai.

Ikuto shakes his head and chuckles. "Actually, when Amu invited me about a month ago, I wasn't planning on coming...but when I was revisiting Paris - maybe a week and a half ago? - I saw Utau, and we caught up. She misses you a lot, so I figured I'd visit Utau's special boy."

(Ikuto doesn't mention the details: Utau kept stealing glances at the couples who were putting locks on the links of the fence by the Seine, to symbolize that their love will last forever.)

Kukai's chest swells at Utau's special boy. "I see," he says, and grins. "That's cool."

(Ikuto notes that Utau had the same happy, fulfilled change in attitude once her boy was mentioned. He doesn't say a word.)

Kukai can hear his brothers calling for him and Ikuto to join the others for breakfast. "There are waffles, Kukai! Waffles! Don't deny any of your guests of that!" Unkai yells. The newly sixteen year old boy laughs, and yells back, "Alright, alright, we're coming!"

Before he can start moving, though, Ikuto grabs his arm. Tightly. And he whispers, somehow menacingly, in Kukai's ear, "The thing is, you piece of shit, that I called Utau yesterday - and I don't know what the fuck you did, but you need to fix it. Or I will end you."

Then Kukai's arm is released; Ikuto saunters away to breakfast, and Utau's special boy is left thankful he hasn't eaten yet. He feels like puking, curling up into a ball, or digging a hole to bury his head in out of shame. Probably the puking, Kukai says bitterly to himself, if you dwell on this any longer...

•••••••••

Kukai flops onto the couch after one of the coolest birthdays ever. The day has been a whirlwind of activity. After breakfast, they had gone into the city for shopping. They visited the Royal Garden and had lunch there (thanks to Tsukasa letting Tadase have a set of keys), then, they went back to Kukai's to pack themselves a picnic dinner, and they eat it at the park (where, coincidentally, he first met Utau).

Kukai drifts into a pleasant half-sleep, sifting through the memories of the day, when Ikuto's voice cuts through his carefree haze.

"I don't know what the fuck you did, but you need to fix it."

(He might not say it, but he misses her so much right now.)

(Christ. He's such a coward. He tries to pretend that he hadn't ruined what they had; then again, he probably wasn't even worth her time.)

Too easily, too quickly, the puking feeling is back, except it's more of a general icky feeling that makes Kukai want to shake off his own skin if only to escape his stupid mistakes.

He does the next best thing and cries himself to sleep.