I'm thankful for the views/favs/follows/reviews/everything that I've gotten. A longer chapter for y'all - but just so you know, school is a thing that takes up way too much of my time, so we'll just have to see when the next chapter is up...sorry I'm so inconsistent :/

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"Prague - thank you so much! This show has been one of the best! You're all amazing...stay safe and good night!"

Utau waves one last goodbye to the legions of fans, who roar a hearty good night back at their idol. She's been in the business for years, but shows like this one - electric, wild, blurry yet crystal clear - never, ever get old.

Once she gets backstage, Utau gets tossed a cool towel, which she uses to wipe off the sweat dripping from her hairline. The idol nods and smiles at her bustling backstage crew, trying to acknowledge everyone's hard work. Then, she slips away to her dressing room.

Unlike the past couple days, Utau does not slump onto a couch and ache for her boy, (doesn't think about how he couldn't look her in the eyes: stilloutofviewstilloutofviewstilloutofview) but instead coolly cleans up her makeup and gets changed. I am Utau Hoshina, she thinks to herself, I am an idol. I am a shining star. What people think of me is not my problem. If they think I'm scary or weird they're the ones missing out. Fuck them.

Fuck everyone.

•••••••••

While the bus speeds down another European highway, Utau sits on the couch in the lounge, listlessly running her delicate hands through her long, golden locks.

A fuzzy memory of Kukau kissing her hair and calling her Rapunzel rises out of her haze. She remembers asking him who he would be, in relation. He had laughed and replied, "Whoever you want me to be, princess." Another kiss to her forehead: "In my opinion, you never know who the one is going to be."

Her heart hurts. (Even if he were a little goblin or a lizard, he'd be the one for her.)

(These little slumps, numbingly slow but so overwhelming - they get so old, so fast.)

But what about him? What did he know about the one? What did he think of her?

Then her small and tender thoughts are crushed by the solid steel growing in her heart:

What people think of me is not my problem. If they think I'm scary or weird they're the ones missing out. Fuck them.

Fuck him.

•••••••••

It's all very lovely to find that you have fallen in love, but it's also the most terrifying thing to happen, ever.

•••••••••

Il cracks open her egg. She usually is bright and energetic at this hour, ready to pick on El or pester Utau but she can barely open her eyes.

"...El?" She croaks quietly. "Are you awake?"

El makes a small groan. "I'm so tired, Il. Wait until later, won't you?"

"But El. Why are we so tired? What was..." she yawns. "...so different about last night...than any other...night…?"

A pause. "...You're right…" El says some other things but it's almost as if her tongue is too numbed by sleep to speak. Il's brain is too blurry to comprehend anymore.

Somewhere outside the two of them hear the signature click of Sanjou's heels heading to the room where Utau and her Charas sleep. They hear voices murmuring, blending together until it's all just ambient noise swirling in their heads.

Sleep is nice. Sleep is good. The two Guardian Characters sink into the dreamlessness.

•••••••••

Kukai, laying on his bed listlessly, stares at his ceiling. Turning to his bedside table, he sees the framed picture of Utau and himself. He took the picture himself; his arm stretches out of the picture and the angle is awkward, but the sunshine in her hair and in her smile more than makes up for his goofy face. Kukai remembers when he first got it framed. His brothers cooed at it, giggling, but their mom cradled it in her hands and just looked at it quietly, smiling softly. Then she told him that they ought to invite her over for dinner again, so they did. Kukai never realized how nice it was to hold hands under the table before, but now he misses her hand in his like a ghost limb.

Doesn't matter anymore. She's not even talking to me. And she shouldn't. I'm such an idiot, he thinks, I'm worthless. From there he decides coherent thought is too much work and just thinks in ughs.

(These little slumps, numbingly slow but so overwhelming - they get so old, so fast.)

Without him noticing, Kaidou opens up his door and leans on the doorframe, shaking his head at Kukai, unshowered and lifeless looking. "Good god, little brother. You're newly sixteen for three days and this is what happens? What's got you so down?"

(Kukai just groans at him.)

Kaidou snorts and says, "I'm going to sit on your feet until you sit up and talk to me, you know," and does just that. When Kukai finally sits up, he punches Kaidou in the shoulder but Kaidou just laughs and adjusts to sit next to Kukai, arm slung over his little brother's shoulder.

Kukai sighs and leans on Kaidou. "I'm just a fuck-up sometimes," he mutters. With a questioning look from his brother, Kukai explains That Awful Video Chat: "...I think she was just looking for something to make small talk out of. But then again, my shirt was dirty and I was embarrassed so I just went and got changed - "

Kaidou interrupts him. "Little brother, I know your infinite shyness and Mom's rules about girls doesn't allow you to go very far with your girl but - "

"She's not a goal that I'm supposed to accomplish, alright - " Kukai almost growls.

"But you guys have been together for a long, long time and is giving her a glimpse of your deltoids that big a deal? Haven't you two been swimming together before at least? This is the equivalent of you freaking out over her, like wearing shorts or something."

Kukai blushes, shakes his head and his head drops a little. (Doesn't think about her wearing that teeny-tiny pair of pajama shorts, hair mussed and half-asleep in his arms, during one of their scary movie "contests".)

"She's always on tour in the summer, like right now," he coughs. Shrugs. (Tries to slow his breathing down, tries to stop thinking ImissyouImissyouIfuckedupI'msorry)

Kaidou hhmmphs.

Clearing his throat, Kukai continues: "Besides, I just...it's...displaying a certain kind of...oh, you know. I don't want the first time I...show her my...body...to be over video chat. I want it to be special. And now I'm just fucking up our whole relationship, you know? One wrong thing after another - "

"Good god, little brother. You know that this could all be very easily fixed if you just talked to her, right?"

Kukai hhmmphs. Kaidou is right, and Kukai knew that from the start - but what he felt was fear. What he's feeling at the moment still is fear. And doubt. And a voice that keeps telling him that he's a stupid, stupid bum who doesn't even deserve Utau -

"...well, that's actually an exaggeration. Things can't be fixed one time over with a sweet apology. You've just got to work things through with her. And I know she's not a goal to accomplish to you, and she ought not to be, but remember this, little brother: the only time you can score a goal is when you work towards it." Kaidou pats his little brother's back consolingly one last time before he leaves.

He leans on the doorway and says, quietly "Don't let this get you down."

••••••••

Sanjou looks into Utau's room. The scene looks peaceful, but Sanjou knows its not.

She knew so a couple days ago when Utau finished video chatting her boyfriend. Usually, she would be sunny and friendly, but the show that Friday seemed like the ones of an Utau of the past. Sarcastic. Distant.

Then, at least, Il and El would try to cheer her up. Now they're silently asleep in their eggs. Sanjou's glad that they don't have anything to do today, not even an interview. Utau needs her day off.

Sanjou sits by Utau, who is curled up under her covers. The calculated shuffle away makes her chuckle: does Utau really think that Sanjou can be fooled?

She gently rubs Utau's tense shoulders and begins, "I remembers what it's like to deny your heart of love. It's not quite a broken heart. In fact, I think it's worse, because over time, a broken heart heals. But if the heart denies itself, it will wither away."

(She thinks of Yuu back home. Her chest feels a little fuller.)

Utau stills and peeks out from underneath the blankets. "I'm not denying my heart," she insists. "I'm strengthening it."

"Starvation doesn't make you stronger, Utau-chan." And with that, Sanjou kisses Utau's forehead, and leaves.

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