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what it means to live.

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Fold, crease, pinch. Fold, crease, pinch. Shift, shift. Fold, crease, pinch.

Make sure all the corners and edges align, press firmly in order to leave an imprint on the delicate paper, flip it over and make sure you do the same to the other side.

The art of making paper cranes was a craft to be honored. To create something so complicated and beautiful from a simple beginning was nothing short of magical, though it took diligence and patience in order to truly see the majesty come forth and --

“Ahh, this is so boring…!”

Dice hated every single second of it.

It’s a fuzzy memory now - from a time that he doesn’t look back on often, and so he can’t even remember the owner of the gentle voice that laughs at his complaints when his big mouth affixes into a small frown.

“Now, now, the sooner you learn the better… you know how the custom goes - if you fold 1,000 paper cranes, then they will lead you to your soulmate,” the person says, and Dice can’t remember much about them, aside from the warmth he felt when they were near. A hand pressed over his small one, encouraging him to press just a little more carefully against the brightly colored paper in his hand.

“I’ve definitely made 1,000 by now!” he declared, pouting as he wondered why his time after school was dedicated to this rather than more time to play.

Looking back on it - he had to have been in kindergarten at the time, so he was probably closer to 14 than 1,000 paper cranes but 5-year-old Dice never claimed to know how to count.

“You’ll know when you’ve done it.” He’s assured by his companion, sincerity and wisdom blending in a simple sentence.

“Ughh, it’s so boooring,” Dice declares again, but his hands don’t stop working. It’s hard to say what drove him back then - maybe just some childish, innocent hope that he’d earn some praise if he kept going.

All he wanted to do was chase after that gentle voice, those encouraging hands, that warm feeling.

He didn’t care about who his soulmate was.

Tiny brows furrowed as he looked at the bumpy, slanted paper bird that rested in the palm of his hand.

He just really hoped that his soulmate wasn’t as dull as the task it took to summon them.

 


 

Over a decade later, and to say that things have changed would be an understatement.

If you asked Dice what he’s lost over the years - he’d laugh and say with perhaps too much enthusiasm, ‘Way too much to count!’

But at some point he knew he’d abandoned everything familiar, ran away from that gentleness without thinking to look back. There was no warmth here, only the slight chill of the Shibuya streets as the evening unfurled overhead. His jacket had been lost in his most recent set of wagers, but even as he lacked the shelter over his head or knowledge of where he’d be spending his night, he’d say that the fire in his chest that’d been ignited from a thrilling round of gambling was more than enough to keep him warm.

It was just a small matter to get his chilly fingers to cooperate with the same sentiment.

Fold, crease, pinch.

The flyer he’d taken down from a nearby wall - of an event that’d long passed, that required money to attend that Dice didn’t have - was slowly taking shape in his calloused fingers, the familiar shadow of a wing being formed with only the streetlamp overhead for a guiding light.

But he’d done this so many times that even without the light, he’d know which step he was on.

Shibuya was busy at all times of day, which is why he didn’t even look up at the sound of footsteps headed in his direction. Probably someone with something to do, people to meet -

“Mm, what’s this? You have a hobby that isn’t losing track of all your earthly possessions in grand sweeps?”

Or someone who came to meet him.

Dice’s eyes flicked up to meet Gentaro’s, the other man looking over him as if he was some kind of study, a mystery to be unpacked - rather than just a gambler who lost both a match and his jacket, folding a paper crane under Shibuya’s nighttime glow. Still, Gentaro’s lips curled up a the very end, his amusement in his subject painfully evident.

Though as Dice looked over Gentaro’s person, what he found more interesting was - “Oi, is that my jacket?!”

The amused glow in the novelist’s eyes only increased as he brought his hands up to the green item that draped his shoulders - already big on Dice, even bigger on his more narrow shoulders - and he quipped, “No, I don’t believe so. Certainly I found this in a discount bin on my way over….”

“Two sentences in and a lie already?! That’s a 50/50 chance of lie!” Dice whined.

Well, those odds were his favorite, technically.

“It was four since I found you, if you’d like to get technical,” Gentaro hummed. “Though I suppose I’ve been caught. Yes, that was a lie. Imagine my curiosity when on my walk over to our intended destination for the night and I find a gambler, not the one I know, sporting this warm garment on a rather cold night…”

“Tch, right? He was wearing it already when he took the last of my cash,” Dice grumbled, “But he ended the game since he said he didn’t have any use for my shirt or pants. He backed out real early!”

“Is that how you interpret a strategic retreat…” Gentaro mused aloud, before offering a smile. “Well, I naturally assumed that you would be out here somewhere, sans jacket, so I felt like taking it back.”

“Ahn? How?” Dice’s brow furrowed as he looked back at the paper in his hands, flipping the tail of the crane from where it was resting. “He won it fair and square, you know? Sucks ass, but that’s what the dice decided.”

“Well… it’s not that hard to pretend to be psychic,” Gentaro’s expression only continued to glow as he recounted his adventure of the past half hour. “Something like ‘that garment will surely only bring you calamity, those who wear it only meet misfortune’. With a well-placed, completely out of the blue guess that he won it off the back of a street mutt with a fire in his eyes, and that he might not know that the owner before was fished out of a nearby river… he readily parted with it to a completely unrelated stranger on the street.”

Switching to the tone normally belonging to the type of housewife you’d find musing over the price of celery in the grocery: “It’s amazing what kids will believe these days if you just give them a little bit of a scare.”

Dice tried to suppress the shudder that ran down his spine: “Th… that was a lie too, wasn’t it?”

Gentaro’s lips parted in a full, dazzling and haunting smile, eyes sparkling with devilish delight.

“Was it?”

Truly a phantom.

And Dice lost the battle against that electric tingle taking an express trip down his back.

“Ah… ahah, thanks... I think,” he managed, just barely. Then he shook his head even as his fingers shaped the head of the crane, “Just give me a second? I’m almost done here….”

Dice didn’t haven’t to look up to take a guess that the expression on Gentaro’s face was back to calculating, contemplative like when he was watching people on the street, making characters out of strangers he’d never met.

“To fold a thousand paper cranes and they’ll lead you to your soulmate…” he reflected quietly, shifting with a passing wind, fingers curling into Dice’s jacket and pulling it more against him reflexively. Or maybe he was rubbing it in that he hadn’t given it back yet. “I didn’t think you the type to believe in such a thing.”

“Hah! Yeah, I guess it’s not really my style, huh?” Dice laughed even as he pulled the wings of the crane apart. “I’m not really into the whole ‘finding my soulmate’ business either, but a while back I started folding one for every loss - why not, you know? Letting fate decide who my soul’s tied to, I’m kinda curious to see what I end up with. Even if I lose a match, maybe I’ll win big in the soulmate game.”

“You would see it as a game…” Gentaro sighed, summing up the whole of a person in a sentence without so much as blinking. “How many have you folded then?”

Dice looked over the crane in his hand. His lines had gotten crisper with practice and age, the birds he made no longer a lumpy figment of a crane. This one was all bright colors, bold fonts, and dazzling effects - a very Shibuya bird, if he had to say so himself.

He rose from his squat, moving to place the Shibuya Crane on a nearby bench, wedged between slots so it wouldn’t fly away, as he answered Gentaro’s question with unwavering confidence:

“Fuck if I know.”

“.... Pardon?”

Once he was sure his new paper friend wasn’t falling over, he turned back over to Gentaro and raised his arms in a careless shrug.

“I fold when I lose - so I’ve probably folded a couple… uhh, hundred?”

Apparently even a decade made no difference in Dice’s ability to count cranes.

Gentaro’s brow furrowed as even he seemed to need to take a moment to process this information. “So you… don’t know how close you are to 1,000 - or if you’ve even passed it?”

“How many times do you think I lose…”

“Often - perhaps two to four times daily, on average.”

Dice did not care to mention that Shibuya flyer bird was his 3rd of the day.

“Well - what’s the point of keeping track?” he argued, just for the sake of arguing. “There’s no rule that says that I’m not gonna meet ‘em before I make the 1,000 anyway, right? I don’t really know or get how it works… but if it’s my soulmate, I’ll probably know!”

Gentaro looked at him for a long moment - an expression that Dice couldn’t quite place. Evaluating, with a strand of interest, before folding into the usual look of mild exhaustion. “You say that with such confidence…”

“It’s just another roll of the dice anyway,” he replied with confidence, with a grin tugging at his lips even as he hooked his thumbs into the belt loops of his jeans.

Another breeze passed, carrying a chill with it and Gentaro - in a refreshingly human moment - seemed to shudder faintly with the temperature drop, face ducking into the fur trim of Dice’s jacket.

It was a moment that Dice caught - distracting him briefly from his own response to the cold, and -

Shit, it was kinda endearing.

But knowing the plans that waited ahead of them, he still reached his hands out to the lapels of his jacket even as they were wrapped around Gentaro’s shoulders and grinned. “You know, even though this looks good on you…”

He trailed off, gambling on any kindness that Gentaro might have in his heart -

Yet ever contrary, Gentaro’s expression flattened into something wry, his lips turning into a slightly meaner smile, “It does, doesn’t it? Maybe I’ll keep my winnings against two hopeless, superstitious gamblers.”

“Aw come on, we’ll be out for a few more hours at least…!” he whined. “And no way Ramuda’s gonna lend me money for any clothes that ain’t super pink and decorated with cupcakes.”

“Oh, but don’t you know, Dice?” Gentaro’s voice took on another feminine tilt, this time sounding like one of Ramuda’s fans, “That’s the height of fashion these days!”

“Eh? Is it?” he startled, suddenly very worried for the current state of Shibuya’s dress code.

“Ah, that was a lie,” Gentaro sighed even as he brushed off Dice’s hands from his jacket, lifting the item off with his own hands - and carelessly revealing that he wore another coat underneath. “Now take this, I was getting rather warm.”

“You already had one?!” Dice complained even as he took his coat back all too readily, reveling in the warmth that it brought as he slipped his arms back into it.

“Of course, if our plans stretch into the evening, it only makes sense to check the temperature,” Gentaro lectured easily even as he reached up to idly adjust the ends of his hair. He glanced back to Dice with an easy smile, “But you’re welcome, for my kindness in thinking ahead for you.”

The collar of Dice’s jacket still smelled faintly floral - was it from the guy who took it from him? Gentaro? The drifting scent of a nearby garden? - and he wrestled with his frustration for being lied to about ten times in just as many minutes.

But Gentaro canted his head to the side and - shit, objectively speaking, the guy was gorgeous and Dice wasn’t thirsty or anything, he just had eyes - raised a brow in his direction like he was expecting a response.

And Dice felt all the embers of his irritation drift away with another breeze, and he sighed. “Thaaaaank you, Gentaro.” First, a long, drawn out reply. A second passed. Then, a brief snort and a smile: “... I appreciate it.”

“Think nothing of it… well, aside from that you’re buying my dinner tonight.”

“Ha?!”

“A lie, of course,” Gentaro hummed pleasantly even as he began to walk ahead, looking over his shoulder and encouraging Dice to follow along. “Now come, Ramuda is probably getting impatient by now.”

Dice glanced back to the crane that wedged in the slots of the bench and wondered if maybe it was better company for the rest of the night… but he knew he’d pick an adventure ahead of serenity every time, and his feet urged him forward to follow Gentaro not a second later.

“Alright, alright, I’m comin’!”

 


 

groupchat:
Trash But Make It Fashion

from: ramuda amemura 7:28 PM
what’s taaaaaaaaking so long? ( ´•̥̥̥ω•̥̥̥` )
hurry hurry (; ̄Д ̄) the festival’s already in full swing
I’m gonna be a suuuuper old man with gray hair and wrinkles before you two get here!
and it’s f-f-f-f-f-freezing!
。・゚゚*(>д<)*゚゚・。

from: gentaro yumeno 7:29 PM
I heard that having alcohol is a remedy for both boredom and low temperature.
Perhaps you can occupy yourself with that?

from: dice arisugawa 7:29 PM
i didn’t know we were getting plastered tonight!
hell yeah that sounds way more fun!!

from: ramuda amemura 7:30 PM
wowowow (◕▽◕✿) Dice is so energetic….
how about this - I’ll wait for you two and we’ll all get drinks and enjoy the festival together!
first one to drink so much they have to get cut off will pick up the tab!
ヾ(*ゝω・*)ノ

from: dice arisugawa 7:31 PM
DOWN.
Gentaro don’t back outta this one!!!

from: gentaro yumeno 7:31 PM
You’re not leaving me much choice…
However, Dice seems like all too willing a sponge for this.
Ramuda, let’s pay for his head start so it’s fair.
Three shots, perhaps?

from: ramuda amemura 7:32 PM
(.`・﹏・´.) gentaro’s sooooooo mean
but okie dokie (★ゝз・)ノ~*

from: dice arisugawa 7:32 PM
hah! i’ll win even with the handicap
bring it!!!!

from: ramuda amemura 7:33 PM
LMAO!! 。゚(TヮT)゚。 that’s so Dice™

from: gentaro yumeno 7:33 PM
Truly.

from: dice arisugawa 7:34 PM
why do i feel like i’m being made fun of right now

from: ramuda amemura 7:34 PM
(ᅌᴗᅌ✿)

 


 

Wandering the streets of Shibuya faintly buzzed and with a faint melody escaping underneath his breath was hardly a new experience for Dice - but there was something a little different about having company this time around.

“You know this wasn’t necessary in the slightest…” Gentaro sighed from where he was at Dice’s side, some of his weight leaning against the man but otherwise his steps were remarkably measured and even. It’d be hard to guess that he’d had quite a bit to drink, and Dice supposed that was just another lie being weaved right before his eyes.

“Ah, that’s a lie!” Dice responded a little too excitedly, his laugh carrying through the air as he let his arm around Gentaro’s waist adjust a little more comfortably. “I got it, right?”

“Mm, what’s this? You somehow get even louder when you’ve had something to drink…” Gentaro mused faintly, eyes flicking from the path in front of them to Dice’s face as he turned slightly to face him. “But no, it wasn’t a lie. I could’ve brought myself home just fine…”

“I mean I guess?” Dice made no play at hiding his own doubt. “But you’re my friend, so…”

He turned his face to meet Gentaro’s, inquisitive expression meeting the other’s own look of faint surprise - or that’s what Dice thought he saw, but it disappeared before he could be sure.

He had a sentence to finish, so he tried to think about what he was saying. He really did. But somewhere between the warm haze of alcohol and the way that their steps had stopped so they could face each other, he found it a little too hard to think about - anything.

Anything besides the way that - since they weren’t a bunch of sloppy drunks falling over each other in the middle of the street - but instead each had an arm around each other, conversation stalled in the space between their mouths, they probably looked more like a pair of lovers than teammates.

And his second spare thought was that Gentaro, despite spending the evening around a bunch of food stalls and other people, still somehow managed to smell like flowers. Something subtle and sweet.

Man, maybe he was getting kinda thirsty after all, where was his brain even at -

And Gentaro said something.

Dice totally missed it.

He knew from the way that the novelist’s brows furrowed in frustration even as his lips curled into a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes - and he tried again, “Dice?”

“Sorry, what?” Dice’s own brows furrowed in response, and he’s sure it didn’t look nearly as pretty on him as it did on his friend. It took him some time to catch up to his own thoughts and next he sighed out his defeat: “Man, I am super drunk.”

“Yes, I’d gathered that,” Gentaro quipped before glancing off to the side - to the building they stood by, and continued, “Which is why I believe it’s very fortunate that we’ve made it to my residence.”

“Oh shit - really?” Dice linked as he backed up from where he was standing next to Gentaro, just enough for the other man to retrieve his keys before they both made the journey up the stairs to get to Gentaro’s apartment.

The other pulled away from him entirely to open the door and Dice couldn’t help but think it was kind of a bummer to lose the warmth, but at least took the opportunity to stretch and yawn.

“See?” Gentaro looked like the picture of smugness as he was granted entrance into his apartment with the click of a latch, and he glanced back to Dice. “I was perfectly capable of returning home.”

To which Dice could only laugh faintly, shoving his hands back in his jacket pockets. “Whatever you say, man. You have a good night, okay?”

He had a park bench and a longass sleep with his name on it somewhere -

“I’m sure I will, but I don’t see where you got the impression that you were being granted permission to leave, Dice.”

Dice squinted, turning the words over in his head and trying to find the fib -

“... again, smaller words this time.”

“Come inside, remove your shoes at the door, and I’ll get a blanket from the closet for you,” Gentaro explained with a sigh, as if this was an obvious order of events that Dice had simply not picked up on.

“Really?” Dice’s chest warmed as he walked in after Gentaro, and he knew that this feeling wasn’t from the alcohol. “Really really? You’ll let me crash here? No lie?”

The brunette looked over his shoulder then, his eyes crystal clear despite the amount he’d had to drink earlier and he answered with a soft certainty:

“Do you remember what you’d said to me earlier when I asked why you insisted on bringing me home? I am only lying now as much as you were then.”

Dice paused, and remembered his unfinished thought from earlier.

“That you’re my friend?” He repeated the words again, without pretense or hesitation. His lips relaxed into a grin and he knew the answer immediately.

Given his love for everything based on luck, uncertainty, and the unknown, it was maybe a little surprising how happy he was to confirm this unflinching certainty that he carried in his chest. A confident nod, the flickers of a fire burning in his eyes, and his sincere feelings laid bare:

“No way that’s a lie.”

Gentaro’s eyes were rarely cold - a little distant, a little hard to read maybe - but the expression that bloomed on his face still held a warmth that Dice wasn’t familiar with. It was softer, less guarded. He decided he liked it.

“... mm.” The novelist nodded in understanding, his response a little slower. “I thought you’d say something like that.”

“... Hey, Gentaro,” Dice started to say, not quite sure what was going to say, but only that he had something that he wanted to continue, a point he wanted to make, and his feet moved forward without permission to bring him closer to his friend -

But Gentaro had already moved on, walking back to what Dice could only guess might be a closet. Yet it seemed that despite his grace on the streets earlier, like he’d barely taken even a sip of alcohol, now that he didn’t have Dice to support him, Gentaro’s steps were a little less sure.

A hand stretched out to the doorknob of the closet just as his feet didn’t quite clear stepping over the edge of the carpet and apparently that modest combination was enough to steal away the remainders of Gentaro’s balance.

Down he went -

Until he landed right in Dice’s arms.

The way that he blinked up at him in a mixture of confusion and wonder was also pretty endearing.

“... yeah, I think I should’ve taken that bet about you being able to get back here on your own in one piece,” Dice couldn’t help the jab, grin sharp at the prospect of being able to win against the liar for once. “I could’ve cashed in at least three sushi dinners that w-hmmph.”

Gentaro missed his initial attempt to cover Dice’s mouth, giving him more of a pat on the cheek, but it took little effort to slide his palm over the gambler’s lips in the next second.

“The room is already spinning. Your smugness is only making it more suffocating,” he sighed and shut his eyes.

Dice rolled his eyes.

Then he let his arm slip underneath Gentaro’s legs and lifted.

The brief noise of surprise that escaped Gentaro - alcohol truly did wonders for his defenses - honestly made every lie of the night worth it. The gambler was certain that Gentaro could feel the grin that broke out on Dice’s face underneath his palm, given the soured expression that the man wore even as he pulled his hand away.

“Dice, put me down,” the protest began even though he apparently wasn’t quite to the point of demeaning himself by trying to petulantly wiggle his way out of his hold.

“You got it, chief,” Dice obeyed - only once they made it over to the couch so he could set Gentaro down on the cushions. “Blankets behind that door?”

“No,” Gentaro sighed. “That one leads to my personal dungeon, where I planned on locking you up for your gambling crimes and your reign of terror against my peace of mind.”

Dice paused.

Gentaro’s expression lifted minutely.

“Yes, behind that door.”

With a mock salute, Dice went to go retrieve the items that he needed for the night - but to be honest, it was more out of Gentaro’s initiative to get him anything rather than his own need. He knew for a fact that he’d been through way worse, and even so much as a pillow underneath his head was a luxurious gift.

As he was reaching up to one of the higher shelves to retrieve a pillow, he heard some movement from behind him and huffed, “If you’re expecting me to fling the pillow to cushion your fall again -”

“It’s not really fitting for a host to let the guest do all the work, is it?” Gentaro sighed, “The kitchen has counters I can use for balance if you’re so worried. I believe some tea would be best for both of us, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Mm, I guess,” Dice mused, even though part of his luck was that he’d definitely never had a hangover in his life. He came back out to the living room with the pillow and blanket tucked in his arms, and even if he protested more against Gentaro’s shuffling, the other had already made it to the next room over.

“If you’re so worried - can I ask you a favor?” Gentaro’s voice carried from the kitchen.

“It’s your place, technically you can ask me anything you want.”

“I wonder how I can make you regret that…” Gentaro mumbled just loudly enough to be audible, and Dice is sure that his face crumpled reflexively. “But for now - can you retrieve my laptop and my reading glasses from my study?”

“Huh? It’s not bedtime?” Dice questioned, following Gentaro’s voice to the kitchen and poking his head in.

“I assure you there is nothing in this life more sobering than reading emails from my editor,” Gentaro explained easily even as he moved through the kitchen, fingers trailing along the countertop as he went. “But I suppose I can venture to get them myself once I finish preparing some tea…”

“Nah, I got it,” Dice sighed, recognizing that even tipsy Gentaro liked giving him grey hairs at the young age of 20. “Which way?”

Gentaro’s instructions were simple - down the hall, door on your right - and Dice went along easily enough. He marveled quietly at Gentaro’s living space as he went, a simple place with a touch of elegance. Not extravagant, but a quiet type of refined dignity… it suited him a lot.

Dice wasn’t sure when they got close enough that he could make calls like that - but he didn’t plan on taking it back either.

When he made it to the study, it was much of the same neutral colors and framed calligraphy on the walls. Yet this room held the addition of something familiar: a screen of stringed paper cranes that hung artfully to cover the expanse of one wall.

It wasn’t what he came in for - but given their conversation earlier on the topic, Dice was pretty sure he couldn’t be blamed for his curiosity.

He wandered over to origami pieces, realizing as he was closer that the dark imprints that stained each crane weren’t from patterned origami paper, but rather they were words. Reaching a hand out to carefully hold a string, he recognized fragments of sentences on each wing, pieces of stories that were folded into something else entirely. Each and every single crane was the same - one of Gentaro’s tales woven into something else.

Stepping back, Dice let his eyes wander over the screen and he thought to himself, ‘Is this what a thousand looks like?’

Each of his cranes were left behind wherever he made them - little sentries on park benches, water fountains, windowsills - he’d never seen a full collection before.

He wondered why he felt so excited.

“Dice?” Gentaro’s voice drifted in from elsewhere in the apartment, “Did you get lost?”

“Oh - uh, no, I got it!” Dice called back before wandering over to Gentaro’s desk, picking up the laptop and a sleek eyeglasses case that sat there.

To his credit, he only glanced back at the wall of cranes once before he turned off the lights and shut the door behind him.

By the time that he made it back to the living room, Gentaro had set a tray of tea on the coffee table, himself settled against the back of the couch, eyes closed. Dice thought he looked more like a portrait than a person then, and even when one green eye opened as his footsteps approached, he couldn’t come up with a better response than, “Yo.”

“Mm, good evening,” Gentaro played along easily before gesturing for the open spot on the couch next to him. “Got a bit distracted? I hope you didn’t uncover any of my secrets while I left you be…”

“Nah, though I guess I did run into a surprise?” Dice mused as he handed Gentaro’s items over to him, taking the seat and a cup of tea easily. “How come all your cranes got words on ‘em?”

“Ah, so that’s what caught your eye.” He put the picture together all too easily as he slid his reading glasses over the bridge of his nose. “Consider them the fallen soldiers of stories with no beginning or end, or those that did not survive the battle of the editing room.”

“Really? All those?”

“Is it a compliment that you think that every word I write must be pristine?”

Dice shrugged, getting comfortable with this since apparently they weren’t headed to bed just yet. “I mean I’d listen to everything you wanna say.”

Gentaro’s fingers paused for a second over his keyboard, before resuming their typing.

“... you would, and I suppose that is why you are not my publishing agent.”  His answer came, half a beat later. “Well it’s not unlike your gambles, and your crane for each loss - I suppose that I too wanted to make something out of my failures.”

“Or your not-successes-yet,” Dice offered helpfully.

“I wonder if it’s that attitude that makes you such a dangerous opponent, not knowing when to give up…” Gentaro hummed, but Dice figured that too was a compliment.

“Do you know if you made a thousand yet?” he questioned instead, his own curiosity overtaking control of his tongue.

“Mm, I have,” Gentaro answered easily. Then with the slightest clearing of his throat, he continued in the voice of an aged gentleman: “I folded 1,000 paper cranes some time ago. We’ve been married for fifty-seven years…”

Dice had been proven to not be good at math but, “No way you’re even old enough for that!”

“I am glad that you can recognize that much,” Gentaro smiled against the blue light from his computer screen, eyes flickering over the words on the page. It seemed that going back to his craft, immersing himself in his work was doing well in terms of getting him to sober up rather quickly. “But yes, that was a lie - except for where it wasn’t.”

“What’s that mean…” Dice grumbled, wondering why now it felt like he was definitely the drunker one between the two of them.

Gentaro’s response was easy, unconcerned: “I’ve known who my soulmate was since I was ten years old. The cranes merely confirmed it for me.”

And Dice wasn’t really sure what he expected.

But it wasn’t that.

“Seriously?” He squinted, as if trying to parse out the lie… but Gentaro glanced over at him and raised a brow - and made no attempt to amend his words. “Well shit… congrats, guess I never figured that out.”

“It’s not as if you exactly had a great number of opportunities to,” Gentaro shrugged easily before returning back to his email.

Dice shifted against the couch, turning so he could get more of Gentaro in his field of vision - and maybe the polite thing would be to move to a different chair and knock out for some sleep. Or at least maybe he wouldn’t bother a man at work any more than he already had so he can resume what he was doing.

But no one ever claimed that Dice was any kind of prince of politeness so -

“What’s it like?”

Gentaro’s hands paused again. “Knowing who my soulmate is…? Mm… I suppose you wouldn’t be very fond of the feeling - but it’s a sort of… stability. A safety to be found in another person. It’s… calming.”

Oh.

Dice’s nose wrinkled.

“Shit, I hope mine doesn’t make me feel that way.”

“Yes, I rather guessed that.” Gentaro glanced toward Dice to give him a more withering smile. “Dare I ask what your hopes entail?”

“Mm, I hadn’t thought ahead that far…” Dice complained even as he let his head rest against the back of the couch, his eyes sliding shut as he tried to envision it.

Soulmates weren’t always clean cut, as far as he’d heard. A lot of them ended up feeling romantically toward each other, sure, since plenty of people were chasing after that fairytale - but there were another handful that ended up just meeting their lifelong best friends. Some people even got to have a fated rival type of situation, and Dice couldn’t deny that that sounded like the most fun of the lot.

But for some reason when he thought of what he wanted out of someone who his heart was tied to -

He thought of those moments where his heart was racing faster in his chest, throbbing so intensely against his ribcage that it threatened to escape.

He thought of standing on the ledge of a building, feeling untouchable so high up, invincible like nothing in the world could ever hurt him.

He thought of a warm place, a gentle smile, and praise that he wanted to chase after.

Ah... he hadn’t thought of having a home in a long, long time.

“... Something loud, I guess,” he answered so late that he’s sure Gentaro thought he must’ve already fallen asleep. Heavy eyelids were pried open as he found the novelist looking back at him, still listening intently. “Something exciting. Someone who - if I jump off the deep end, they’re not waiting at the bottom to catch me, but they’re going all in with me.

“I’m not looking for a safety net - I want the free fall.”

Maybe it was the alcohol, maybe it was the sappy talk - but Gentaro’s smile in response to Dice’s words made something in his chest ache.

“Then I hope your soulmate gives you the ride of your life.”

 


 

Morning broke before Dice’s dreams even stood a chance.

It was funny how he couldn’t even remember at what point in the night his eyes shut for the last time, or when he’d removed his jacket, or how he got the blanket to cover him and the space on the couch to stretch out - but apparently he did.

There were only the soft sounds of movement in the kitchen and the sun’s rays seeping in through the blinds, but he had a feeling it was about time for him to get up.

“Man, what time is it even…” he grumbled to himself even as he lazily scratched his head upon entering the kitchen.

Gentaro, already dressed for the day, didn’t even look up from his efforts to set the table, setting chopsticks down to complete two seats ready for breakfast. “3 PM. I was getting tired of waiting for you for lunch, so it’s very lucky indeed that you rose in time to join me.”

Dice jolted like ice cold water had been splashed down his back, “Ha?! Then you should’ve woken me up, I could’ve--”

“A lie, of course,” Gentaro interrupted casually, smiling like the cat that got the cream. “It’s just past 9. So not abhorrently late in the day, all things considered.”

“You… even this early in the morning, you got the energy for that, huh?” Dice sighed.

“Why of course, it’s what keeps me young and energized - now take a seat, I only have some time before I must leave for the day.”

“Mm? Got shit to do?” Dice questioned even as he sat down, his eyes lighting up as he looked over the spread that Gentaro had prepared.

As it so happened, Gentaro did in fact have shit to do. However it seemed like it was primarily novel shit, which meant that Dice not only wasn’t required to go with him, there might’ve been just a few subtle hints that he shouldn’t come along - hints like ‘find something else to do with your time that doesn’t involve losing your jacket again, alright?’

But growling over those taunts aside, it was a really difficult thing for Dice to stay even so much as grouchy this morning.

In the warm light of the kitchen, sitting at a spot across from someone that he knew to be a good friend, he thought that maybe it’d be a nice idea if ‘home’ could be a feeling, rather than a place.

Gentaro had prepared food for Fling Posse before and proven himself the most adept chef out of the three, even though his tastes often were a bit more traditional rather than avant garde. Dice was so caught up in eating that he could barely get sentences out between shoveling rice and fish into his mouth -

“Man, I really owe you!” was one such sentence. “This shit’s delicious - your soulmate’s really lucky if they get to eat this all the time. Hey, are we gonna meet ‘em eventually?”

Gentaro tilted his head to the side, marginally surprised. “Ah, so you remembered our talk… then I suppose in order: you may owe me if you’re that eager. My soulmate may occasionally eat my cooking, but I imagine it’s gotten old to him by now. And I have no intention of introducing you to him, no.”

Dice tried to speak around a mouthful of salmon.

Gentaro’s brow furrowed.

Dice tried again after swallowing: “Why not?”

“Ah - well, you see, he hates rap and gamblers in particular.”

“No way!” A beat. “Wait--”

“Oh, you were quicker than I thought you’d be on that one,” Gentaro praised before taking a sip of his morning tea. “Rather, you seem to be convinced that you should meet him because he and I are soulmates.”

“Yeah, I mean, Ramuda’s gotta meet him too--”

“But that’s not true either.”

The last time that Dice’s eyes spun this much in a whirlwind of information, he was in front of the world’s fastest slot machine.

“You gotta stop doing this, or at least make it more of a lunch thing. I just woke up, man,” he complained.

“But I haven't lied yet,” Gentaro responded easily, as if he was delivering more of a clinical examination. His voice was gently detached as he went on, “You see, he is my soulmate. But I don’t believe that I’m his.”

It was a fortunate thing that Dice had inhaled all his food and cleaned off his plate - because he’s pretty sure that any bite he took from then on would taste pretty fucking foul.

“What?”

The calm of the morning felt wrong against the news that Gentaro delivered easily - but he probably had more time to wrestle with it than Dice, right? If he’s known that he’s had his soulmate for so long…

Gentaro’s eyes held no suffering, merely an acceptance. “I hope that you don’t make a big deal out of something you don’t need to again.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dice grumbled immediately.

Because the last time he got pissed on Gentaro’s behalf, it was because someone was fucking with his emotions - and that was unforgivable. Dice’s anger there was called for, because he didn’t even count as a person if he was gonna roll over and let his friend get messed with.

Only now his opponent wasn’t really some flippant, flowery host with a personality problem - it was fate itself.

“How can that even happen?” He asked, even though he knew the answer.

More often than not, soulmate stories were successes. Soulmates were pairs, and they found each other with the help of the cranes whenever someone completed 1,000. Maybe it wasn’t the ultimate goal of anyone’s life to find their soulmate, but it was woven into the fabric of their society and couldn’t be pulled out easily.

But sometimes you got people who didn’t quite fit in the equation.

People who lost their soulmates early. People who didn’t have a soulmate at all. People who had a soulmate, but something in their matching got fucked up and the object of their affections didn’t reach back.

The chance was small but - it was there.

“I doubt you’re actually asking me to explain it to you,” Gentaro sighed, “but you’re the one who assumed that I was someone’s soulmate too. I thought it better to clear it up, and now that it’s clear and you’re needlessly worked up over it, you still can’t meet him because you might try to do something reckless like tell him.”

“... so he doesn’t know?” Dice questioned, the words leaving his tongue even as he knew he didn’t want the answer.

“He doesn’t.”

Dice is sure the expression on his face had dipped somewhere into the genre of ‘pitiful’ as Gentaro merely raised a brow.

“Shall I tell you that it’s all a lie?”

It was a kindness, in a way - but the way he said it made it clear to Dice that everything he’d been told was the truth, and to think that it’s a lie was just a faulty bandaid.

“... Nah.” He ran a hand through his hair, even as his scowl deepened. “I don’t need that kinda pity.”

“And neither do I,” Gentaro replied easily, taking another sip of his tea.

… well, that was one way to make a point.

Dice’s eyes searched through Gentaro’s face for any sign of disgruntlement, like maybe there was a tension that he wasn’t acknowledging, because there had to be something there - after the shit hand he’d been dealt.

But he couldn’t find any.

Rather, it seemed like the other man had simply come to peace with the fact that the guarantee that everyone else in the world had - that there was someone else out there just for you - was one that he didn’t get to receive.

Gentaro always had so much kindness in reserve, even when the world expected him to have none at all.

“I expect you’ll want to leave sometime today, so whenever you do, the spare key is in the bottom envelope hanging off the plant outside the door. Just lock up behind you,” Gentaro explained as he stood from the table.

“Ah, I’ll take care of the dishes,” Dice told him immediately, a conversation filler as he tried to find the words that he wanted to convey before he lost the chance.

Dice turned from where he sat, looking up at the novelist even as he moved to leave the room. “Gentaro?”

Gentaro paused and canted his head to the side.

“Yes, Dice.”

“I’m never gonna pity you, because I don’t think that’d make a lot of sense. That’s not the kind of person you are.” He gave up on trying to find the right words, and instead gave the ones he had on hand - in his heart. “... but you’re too good for some unrequited bullshit, alright? Soulmate or not, anyone who doesn’t want you is a fucking idiot.”

Gentaro paused, eyebrows raising at the declaration.

The voice that escaped his mouth was that belonging to a school girl as he pressed a hand to his cheek: “A confession? Oh, the plot thickens! What am I ever to do….?”

“Don’t tempt me to take it back!” Dice snarled.

The same hand that rose to his face curled in front of his lips as his shoulders shook with soft laughter. The light in Gentaro’s eyes returned for the first time since before he explained his soulmate situation, and that was all that Dice could’ve asked for.

“Well, I’m off for today then,” Gentaro chimed in easily, like falling into step with their usual rhythm was as easy as breathing.

“Yeah, yeah, take care.” God, he wished there was more food - being pissy in the morning was just making him hungry again.

“Mm… oh and, thank you, Dice.” Gentaro threw the words over his shoulder. “... for washing the dishes, of course.”

… tch.

A grin spread on Dice’s face before he could even make a pale attempt at stopping it, a more sincere goodbye leaving his lips. “Anytime. Have a good day.”

The door closed softly behind its owner, leaving Dice alone in the apartment. Even as he busied himself with doing what he’d promised, cleaning up after being so well taken care of this morning, he caught himself looking outside the window and following Gentaro’s silhouette as he walked down a busy street.

He stood out, partially thanks to his clothes, but also because Dice was pretty sure he was just that kind of person.

Head-turningly remarkable, the kind of person that you want to keep your eyes on as long as possible, because you never know when they might disappear when you so much as blink.

He really deserved better from - everything, honestly.

That feeling burrowed in Dice’s chest, made a home in his ribcage, and matched the pulse of his heart.

“Ah… I get it,” he breathed out to himself. “Before I noticed, you just started to mean a lot to me.”

 


 

“So he just let you stay over too, huh….” Ramuda hummed even as he continued to flit and flutter around Dice like some kind of manic bumble bee, buzzing his commentary as he went. “How fun! It’s like we’re sharing custody of a dog or something!!”

“I’m not some kinda mangy mutt you found off the--hgahh!”

“Whoopsie!” The gremlin giggled, voice dripping with sugar. “Sorry…! Buuuut you also shouldn’t move around that much, or else you might lose an eye?!”

“What’re you trying to stitch by my face, huh?!” Dice growled, even though he wasn’t sure if stitching actually had anything to do with this process - but in the interest of not getting stabbed with another needle, he forced himself to stay still as Ramuda fastened another one against the cloth resting against his skin.

Apparently Dice’s business for the day not only didn’t involve losing any clothes - but he had been roped into putting some more on.

After Ramuda had confirmed that Dice took advantage of Gentaro’s shower too - which was fucking rude, he didn’t go out of his way to smell rank alright - the other had insisted that he come down to his studio.

They played an entire half a game of Go Fish until Ramuda gave up on any pretense of wanting to bet in a game of cards meant for children.

Dice was pretty sure he just didn’t like that he was losing.

“Maybe if you talk too much, we’ll have to stitch your lips…” Ramuda voiced some idle thoughts aloud, and Dice didn’t like how he didn’t sound like he was kidding. Especially when he followed up with: “Oh, but we need you to rap!”

Fling Posse’s leader sure was… something.

“Is that all I’m worth, huh…” Dice huffed and crossed his arms - jolting as he felt the stab of another pin against his chest. This one entirely his fault. “Yow! Ramuda you owe me!”

“Okay, okaaaay, I guess - even though half the holes you’re stabbing into yourself are your fault,” he sighed, waving a hand. “Out of the kindness of my heart, I’ll feed you.”

“Hell yeah!” Dice whooped, clenching his hand into a fist - and then realizing that this sure was a prime opportunity to pay a debt with another debt. “Hey, think you can treat Gentaro too?”

“What’s this? Looking out for someone else? What’d you drink last night, Dice? Dice and Gentaro sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S--”

“Oh shut up, man.” He couldn’t even resist rolling his eyes at that one. “I owe him - but you know if I got to cash in on something good and you weren’t paying it, I’d invite you too.”

For some reason, in the second that Ramuda glanced at him, Dice felt like he was under a microscope lens, being picked apart.

It passed quickly as the other broke into a beaming smile that’d put a rainbow to shame.

“That’s our Dice!! A hopeless addict but actually decent! Talk about gap moe!”

“What language are you even speaking?!” Dice bit back - even as he felt a flush crawling up his neck. ‘Actually decent’ wasn’t even a fucking compliment, so why did it feel kinda nice to be acknowledged? Man, his sense of camaraderie was so skewed after spending just a few months with these clowns who roasted each other everyday.

“Ahaha, I’m just saaaaying!” Ramuda hummed a happy little note as he helped pull the garment off of Dice’s shoulders, handing it off to one of his assistants. “But it is nice to see the two of you getting along… I had a feeling but you sure did surpass even my expectations. You’re easy to get along with, but Gentaro’s kind of a puzzle, you know?”

Dice paused, chewing on the words that Ramuda used to describe their other teammate, and found himself shrugging.

“Maybe he’s a pain in the ass, but at least he knows what he’s about - and it’s not like he’s ever boring. It’s hard to get in his head… but I don’t have to know the details to know he’s a good guy.”

“And that’s why you’re making me pay for your date?”

“It’s not a date, you little--”

“Ahaha, it’s a joke, it’s a joke! Aahh, don’t get mad!” Ramuda play-cowered - but even Dice didn’t buy that. It was more instinct than logic that told him that Ramuda was a force to be reckoned with, probably. Like he secretly knew kung-fu, or assassinated 8 people as a secret agent before turning to the life of fashion. “I’ll help you…!”

“Jeeze, can’t you just agree without being so damn annoying…” Dice sighed out even as he moved to retrieve his jacket. “Ah, thanks, I guess…”

Though he was thoroughly beaten to the punch as Ramuda swiped his coat before Dice even got close.

Yeah, secret agent theory was getting stronger.

“Not so fast!” he sang as he held the coat in his hands, eyes raking over it in evaluation. “I’ll help you… but with some of my own terms, okie dokie?”

The gambler’s eyes narrowed.

“... Just nothing super stupid, alright.”

“Whaaaat? Why would I ever.

 


 

Dice had been called stupid plenty of times in his life, but this was probably the first time that he ever felt stupid.

Super stupid.

Sure, Ramuda had agreed to his request of payment via dinner - but with conditions. And Dice, who was basically that one cartoon with flies coming out of his wallet made real, wasn’t exactly in the place to argue them.

So with a grin that almost broke his petite, angelic face, Ramuda had set the following requirements for the evening:

1 ) Dinner would be bought for Dice and Gentaro both. “I’m suuuuuper busy today all of a sudden!” Ramuda answered carelessly as he twirled a lock of cotton candy hair around his finger. “So you two can eat without me - try not to get too lonely!”

2 ) Dice would have to get back into Gentaro’s house - and when Dice explained that now he knew where the spare key was, he tried not to think too hard about the way Ramuda’s expression seemed to fall at the easy solution.

3 ) Dice had to keep wearing the get-up that Ramuda had put him in, and Ramuda got to do his hair too.

“You’re making kind of a big deal about this?” Dice questioned even as he winced, Ramuda’s hands doing their best to tame the blue mane that the gambler called a hairstyle.

“Yep!” Ramuda answered, popping the ‘p’. “You’ll thank me later?”

“For what?”

“Oneeeee-chan!” Ramuda raised his hand in the air as he called for the nearest stylist. “I need hair gel!”

And Dice never got his answer.

Ramuda was so fucking weird sometimes - but that’s what made him interesting.

At the very least, none of his requirements were any worse than ‘weird’, so that’s why Dice went along with them. He felt stuffy like this, wearing a shirt with not just one or two but a whole front of buttons, made out of some nice soft fabric that he was pretty sure they made pillows out of. Coupled with a pair of slacks and a vest with some floral shit down the front panels, his hair pulled back into a braid, with his bangs styled and slicked, and he thought it was fair for him to spend a solid minute wondering if they called it a ‘monkey suit’ because he was gonna go fucking bananas if he had to wear this for more than a few hours.

The only saving grace was the fact that the food smelled fucking delicious, now if only Gentaro would hurry up and get his ass--

“Oh..?” A soft voice followed the sound of the front door opening and Dice could already imagine the way that Gentaro probably briefly contemplated activating his Hypnosis Mic--

And aiming to avoid a world of pain, Dice called, “Oi, just me! You said I could owe you if I wanted to, right?”

“Dice?”

Gentaro’s voice sounded incredulous, and Dice wasn’t sure if it was just the initial disorienting feeling of finding someone else in your home, or if he was more confused that Dice somehow already managed to figure out a way to pay back his vague debt.

His teammate wandered into the kitchen.

And paused.

Looked him up and down - and Dice squinted incredulously in return. Was he being sized up or checked out? Fuck, had it really been that long since he cleaned up...

A second later, Gentaro gave his verdict:

“Hmm, decidedly not Dice.”

“Ha?” Dice complained, hands coming up in irritation. “The fuck’s that supposed to mean?! You know it’s still me in here!”

A wisp of mirth flicked through Gentaro’s green eyes, his lips parting in an easy smile. “Or I suppose that a normal person would try to clean up their mouth along with their appearance… so it’s you after all. My, what a treat.”

His voice shifted in pitch, turning to the sickeningly sweet tone that Dice last heard on the streets of Chuoku: “Dice-samaaaa! You’re soooooo hot!

Flashes of heat climbed their way up Dice’s neck as he reeled back. “Hey, quit fucking with me - you think I wanted to do this?!”

“Oh, so it was Ramuda then?” Gentaro guessed without so much as missing a beat, even as he finally moved to place his belongings down, entering the kitchen. His eyes ran down Dice again and the gambler wasn’t sure why this second time around felt especially like he was being picked apart. “And your attempt to make things up to me isn’t just giving me yourself? What a shame, I rather liked that idea.”

Dice ran out of words, which just so happened to be an especially bad position to be in when trying to keep up with a published author. Still, the most he could do was a strangled noise of protest.

He thinks it was protest.

He was aiming for protest.

“Just kidding,” Gentaro hummed, canting his head to the side and giving Dice the most unfair side glance known to fucking man.

“You….” Dice tested the words on his tongue, like he needed to make sure that his mouth was still working. “How come I went to all this effort for you when you’re just gonna roast me like that, huh?”

“Just think of how poetic it would be if we were having an actual roast,” Gentaro hummed before glancing over to the table, realizing that it was set once he actually stepped closer. Rather than a roast, he found large spread of sushi - delivered right to his home.

Dice was pretty proud of himself for not snacking on more than three (3) nigiri while he was waiting too.

“You did this…?” Gentaro asked even as he sat down, gesturing to the open seat for Dice to sit down and join him.

“Nah, some fancy chef that Ramuda likes did,” Dice gave up the truth within seconds. “Just brought it over here and set it all out.”

Gentaro blinked before glancing in the direction of the trash can - where he could still see the containers that the sushi had certainly arrived in peeking out. Dice didn’t think to try any harder to hide them. He just took the food and put them on new plates and called it gourmet.

The novelist looked back at him, expression still perplexed.

Dice shrugged.

For some reason, Gentaro found that funny.

In the time they’d known each other, Dice had gotten better at being able to tell when Gentaro found something entertaining. He couldn’t count the number of times the other’s eyes would light up when he enjoyed a private joke to himself at another’s expense. But there were smaller tells - including the way that Gentaro would occasionally lift a book or whatever paper he was holding up to his lips to hide the way the edges probably twitched up. Dice wasn’t sure, because he’d never gotten a peek at the expression that would lie beneath-

Up until now, when Gentaro raised a hand, fingers delicately curled inward, to cover his mouth and didn’t quite make it in time. It was the first time Dice ever got a glimpse of that peek-a-boo smile.

And it made him break out into a grin too.

“In any case,” Gentaro spoke a moment later, “even if your effort was not quite to the extent that I might’ve first thought, it would still be a shame if it went to waste. Shall we…?”

“Hell yeah, I’m starved!” Dice picked up his chopsticks at an inhuman speed.

“Really? I could’ve sworn some pieces were missing…”

Dice answered around a mouthful of rice: “Imagining things.”

Dinner without Ramuda was a little different - and it was something that Dice noticed as time went on. There were less random interjections without their third party member, which meant that yeah - it was a little less annoying, but also that it gave him more time to listen to Gentaro. Dice recounted some of his weird day experiencing the ins and outs of the fashion district, but he just as easily found himself hanging off of the novelist’s every word.

Eventually the other found it so strange that he had to comment on it, “You’re a better listener than I thought you’d be.”

“Is that a compliment or an insult…” Dice grumbled even as he picked up another piece of sushi, tossing it into the air and leaning back to catch it in his mouth.

That was also the nice thing about dinner without Ramuda.

Their leader totally would’ve tried to snatch it before it got to land on Dice’s waiting tongue.

“Perhaps it’s both?” Gentaro offered.

“That still kinda pissed me off…” Dice sighed even as he waves his chopsticks around as he spoke, illustrating his point. “I like stories.”

“Do you? I’ve never seen you read anything.”

“I said I like stories, not that I like books. Think someone used to tell me a lot of ‘em,” Dice explained, apparently careless even if he was talking to a novelist. “And when you tell stories, you do voices and shit? I can’t tell if you’re lying, but I don’t really care either way since the stories don’t affect me.”

Gentaro tilted his head. “That’s a surprising disregard for the truth. I didn’t think you had it in you.”

“Yeah, well, you look happier when you’re making shit up anyway.”

Like a guy who’d just gone bust on blackjack, Gentaro’s expression faltered.

“... do I?”

“I mean… I can’t really tell, because I don’t always know when you’re making shit up,” Dice admitted first even as he popped a piece of ginger into his mouth. “But when you trick someone, you look happy? To be honest, I think it’s pretty mean too.”

Green eyes narrowed ever so slightly, like the professional liar was getting ready to defend his craft -

Until Dice continued with a shrug, “But I never said it’s a bad thing. We all get a little mean - at least your way is mostly harmless, and decently fun.”

Like a cat that had been appeased, Gentaro appeared silent for a few moments before he set his chopsticks down and questioned, “And you aren’t displeased with that? That you’re friends with a mean liar?”

It seemed like a surprisingly honest question from him.

So Dice answered back: “‘Course not. I knew you were a liar when I decided you were my friend. Doesn’t change anything.”

Not the way that he could let Gentaro get away with telling a lie or five, if it meant that he ended up happier for it.

Not the warm feeling that had settled around the two of them as Dice got to make himself a guest in Gentaro’s home for the second night in a row, taking in the simple pleasure of someone else’s company - someone who wanted him around too.

Gentaro still sighed. “You’re so hopeless… Well, I suppose if you’re happy…”

Now that wasn’t even up for debate.

Dice laughed, fearless and certain.

“Of course I’m happy. Aren’t you?”

The other man met his gaze for the span of two heartbeats before letting his eyelids shut.

“... Yes,” he sighed out, almost too soft to be heard. “I suppose I am.”

 


groupchat:
compulsive liars not so anonymous

from: ramuda amemura 11:08 AM
pack your bags, fling posse!! (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧
we’re going on something that starts with A and ends in dventure!
(◠‿◠✿) i guess dice doesn’t have bags to pack?
sooooo meet us at the station! ヾ(*ゝω・*)ノ

from: gentaro yumeno 11:10 AM
I wonder what it is that you’re scheming…

from: ramuda amemura 11:11 AM
scheming? me? Σ(°△°|||)︴
yumeno-sensei your choice in words is a little….

from: gentaro yumeno 11:12 AM
I’m aware. Very well, I’ll meet you at the station.

from: ramuda amemura 11:12 AM
yayyyy!! ♡ ~('▽^人) we get to play today!
see you there, dice? (๑˃ᴗ˂)ﻭ

from: ramuda amemura 11:33 AM
Dai-su? (─‿‿─)♡

from: ramuda amemura 12:09 PM
let me try my Super Ultimate Dice Summoning Trick! (`・ω・´)ゞ
there’s a suuuuper cool casino where we’re going!
high rollers only! (๑•̀ㅂ•́)و✧ be there or be a weenie!

from: gentaro yumeno 12:10 PM
… I have a theory. One moment.

from: gentaro yumeno 12:31 PM
Yes, as I thought, he bet his phone in a game of poker.
We’ll win it back in the next hand.

from: ramuda amemura 12:34 PM
(」°ロ°)」gentaro’s Dice Senses grow stronger with every passing day!

from: gentaro yumeno 12:54 PM
He’s agreed to come along.

from: dice arisugawa 12:59 PM
oh fuck we’re going to a casino?

from: ramuda amemura 1:02 PM
as a great author of our time once said…
that was a lie. (ꈍ ꒳ ꈍ✿)

from: dice arisugawa 1:02 PM
FUCK OFF!!!!

 


 

Apparently the field trip that Ramuda had in mind wasn’t just not in Shibuya - it wasn’t even in Tokyo. It was over an hour’s fucking train ride, and if he wasn’t promising a lavish dinner on top of paying Dice’s fare, then he would’ve been shit out of luck on convincing him to come along.

It also helped that Gentaro bribed him with a game of cards to pass the time -

But it was only once Dice’s feet were on the train that he realized that Gentaro had pulled this exact same lie on him before. The memory pulled a scowl on his lips as he was about to complain about being duped with the same fib twice, at least be creative…!

And he was stopped in his tracks as Gentaro pulled a beautiful blue pack of cards - Bicycle brand, a good staple, Dice respected that - from his bag, an amused gleam in his eyes.

“Did you doubt me? I could be hurt,” he hummed even as he leaned back neatly in his chair.

“Bullshit - you’re not,” Dice barked back easily even as his fingers shuffled the cards familiarly, as if he was greeting old friends.

“Hah!” Ramuda chimed in even as he peered way too close over Dice’s shoulder to watch his hands fold and flip the deck with practiced ease. “He’s got you there for once, Gentaro! So what’s the score - Dice: 1…. Gentaro: 56?”

“Hey!”

“Mm, well I suppose he was bound to try catching up at some point.”

“And Ramuda: 113!”

“What the fuck.”

It was nothing short of a miracle that they were asked to shut up only four (4) times on the whole trip over.

And their winnings by the end of the ride weren’t important - what were debts between friends, after all?

(It surely had nothing to do with the fact that Dice nearly parted with his liver by the time they pulled into the station, or how Ramuda assured him that if he wanted to sell his eye, he could ‘toooootally design some fashion-forward eyepatches’.)

By the time they made it to their destination, Dice had enough sitting for at least the next couple hours. Even as they shuffled out of the car, he started mapping out a plan in his head to sniff out and make it to the nearest gambling ring -

Only to be entirely slammed by the smell of a thousand different flowers.

“Ramuda, where the hell are we and why?” he asked immediately, blinking his eyes to try to adjust to the pops of pastel color, trying to distinguish where one floral cloud ended and another began.

“Not quite the words I would’ve used,” Gentaro added, even as he crossed his arms and surveyed the site before them, “but I do echo the sentiment behind them.”

“Ashikaga Flower Park!” Ramuda answered both of them, winking conspiratorially even though he was most certainly the only one who was even vaguely aware of this big plot. “I’ve got a photoshoot here - and I thought that it would be a great opportunity to take you all along too! It’s B-E-A-utiful, isn’t it? You’re welcome!”

“Ha?” Dice questioned even as he shoved his hands in his pockets. “What kind of shit excuse is that?”

Gentaro appeared contemplative, his expression flitting between Ramuda, the location in front of them, Dice, and then back to Ramuda again.

“Hiding things again, are you… Well, I suppose it’s not as though we can just go back on the train and waste even more time,” Gentaro sighed. “Lead the way, so at the very least the mystery will begun to unravel itself.”

“Yay, Gentaro thinks I had a great idea!”

“Not in the slightest.”

And yet, despite the protest, Dice was not even remotely surprised to find that the both of them followed Ramuda into the park. At the end of the day, he was their leader - and the three of them were always more prone to going on adventures with each other than not.

Today wasn’t about to be different.

Apparently Ramuda really was here for work. As soon as they all entered, he was met by some harried looking guy with a clipboard, another lady with incredibly long nails that tapped against her phone as she ended up at Ramuda’s side already chattering away, and somehow even more assistants showed up and disappeared in small hoards.

Man, talk about an entourage.

For a split second, Dice was pretty sure he saw Ramuda glance over at him, and so -

Reflexively, he stuck his tongue out.

And he could only laugh when Ramuda briefly did the same - before lapsing right back into business mode.

The day that they stopped playing would probably be the day that the sun imploded.

Gentaro seemed to be analyzing the situation in front of them, his green eyes taking in way more information than Dice ever bothered to look for. Without a doubt he was puzzling out whatever Ramuda had left unsaid, pulling truths from where they hid, and maybe weaving a lie in here and there just to entertain himself.

So it left Dice and - the flowers.

… which, if he were to be honest, wasn’t as boring as he thought it would be.

Some clusters of flowers looked like cotton candy, making him lick his lips at the thought of finding a snack; others were pops of vibrant color that he’d only seen at casinos before, but never on something in nature; and he found himself stopping to look at one kind in particular, apparently in full bloom and sweeping across the whole park.

Lavender carpeted over the walkway, dusting every inch of the ground, and Dice’s eyes flicked up to where they’d come from: the strings of flowers that dangled from the trees. With each breeze they all shifted, rippling like the waves of the ocean, bringing a calming fragrance with them.

“Wisterias.”

Apparently Gentaro had swiveled his attention from Ramuda onto Dice at some point - and offered the name of the flower.

To be fair, he was right to do so - Dice didn’t care to learn about anything that didn’t involve gambling. Flower names included. Yet something was familiar about this tree, and Dice couldn’t place what it was until just then.

“You know you smell the same as these?”

“Excuse me? What are you, a dog?”

Dice shrugged. “I’m just saying.”

Maybe it wasn’t the exact thing - but shampoos probably didn’t come in wisteria flavor, right? Still, it was a familiar floral scent, and Dice was sure enough of that.

“You know a lot about flowers?” he asked, even if he wouldn’t be surprised if the answer was yes. Gentaro was just the kind of guy who knew a lot about everything, whether the subject matter was the people around him or the different kinds of clouds in the sky.

Maybe it was a writer thing.

“Not extensively,” Gentaro admitted, which probably meant that he still knew more than Dice. “But we didn’t have a great number of plants where I grew up - or at least not a variety. So I suppose once I moved to the city, I thought it important to learn about what I didn’t get the chance to know.”

“Huh… I guess that makes sense.” Dice paused. “... did you run out of Lie Juice?”

Gentaro offered up a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Well if you’re so eager to be lied to…”

“Shut up, you know that’s not what I meant!” Dice complained.

“I do know a few more things about the wisteria…” Gentaro offered. “They’re the specialty of Ashikaga Flower Park at this time of year - which is likely why Ramuda asked us to join him. He wanted to see you, and probably assumed childishly that I would get lonely without either of you… which is wrong.”

A pout played across Dice’s lips before he could stop it.

“Maybe it’s a little not wrong.”

“It’s very wrong.”

“Jeeze…"

“And I suppose his photoshoot is probably very dramatic indeed,” the author continued as his gaze drifted up to the flowers again. “After all, wisteria in flower language mean an unmistakable lust, a longing that twines around and around, that can only stretch and never be broken.”

“Seriously?” Dice questioned, even as he found himself looking away from the screens of flowers to glance back at Gentaro.

The other’s mouth was curled into a smile, his eyes twinkling with something between amusement and interest. Fingers curled neatly beneath his chin, the backdrop of millions of flowers played second fiddle behind him, and a lazy breeze that danced through his hair and fluttered around his traditional clothes. It made him look like someone who stepped right out of time, but somehow found a place to belong right here anyway.

(An unmistakable lust, a longing - the words flashed through Dice’s mind like a lightning strike.)

The serial liar, and every single emotion that he inspired in Dice, was such a pain in the ass.

“Of course,” he answered.

 


 

Ramuda’s mouth twitched.

“The wisterias mean what?

“Oh fucking hell, he lied again.”

“Ahahaha, he got you with that? That’s not even believable - what part of cascading, gentle flowers says lust? Oh man, that pretty face really makes it unfair for anyone to stand up against him, huh?” Ramuda laughed even as he clutched his chest. “Be careful, Dice! Or don’t - that was suuuper funny!”

“I’ll drop whatever the hell this is right here and now!” Dice threatened, even as he carried a couple of trunks in his arms, full of… he had no idea. Whatever Ramuda used for fashion shoots? Clothes? Clothes seemed like a decent guess. Maybe some snakes, because those sounded more fun.

“No you won’t,” Ramuda called him out in a happy little sing-song.

And he was right.

Seeing as it turned out that the reason Dice was brought along for the trip at all was to be a pack mule, someone who could grab supplies from the assistant’s van while the rest of them worked on getting everything ready.

Dinner, he reminded himself. Dinner was riding on this.

It was just extra shitty that Gentaro had apparently seen this coming, disappearing conveniently just as Ramuda came rushing up to ask Dice to help out with the first load of equipment.

Dice was really starting to think that he was Phantom not because he was spooky or unnerving, far from it really, but because he was the goddamn championof ghosting.

“So what do they mean anyway?” Dice grumbled petulantly, since if he was done getting duped, he at least wanted to know what the truth was.

“Welllllll - a lot of different things,” Ramuda started explaining even as they reached their destination and he started to unpack the trunks that Dice brought over. Apparently there was just a bunch of stuff for lighting? Even though the sun was still up, the closest star to Earth wasn’t good enough for Ramuda. Dice didn’t get fashion. “Beauty, love, immortality, long life, endurance, harmony…”

“A flower can say that much?” Dice questioned, brow furrowing. He stared at the wisteria trees around them. Maybe he lacked imagination, but the vibe he was getting from them was more ‘flower waterfall’ than ‘harmony’ - but that’s why he wasn’t an artist.

“Uh-huh, that’s what hanakotoba is all about,” the fashion designer explained, and it was times like these that Dice really got to understand why Ramuda was at the top of his game despite being a pink puffball demon. “But the angle we’re going for today is wisdom.”

“Wisdom, huh…” Dice parroted even as he glanced back at the trees. “... yeah, I’m thinking if Gentaro was a flower, he’d probably be one of these.”

“Ooh, is his poetry rubbing off on you?” Ramuda grinned. “Hey Dice, hey Dice, what flower would I be?”

Dice opened his mouth.

“You can’t say rose or daisy!”

“Fuck.”

Those were the only flowers he knew - even though if you told him to pick a daisy out of a bouquet there was only about a 20/80 chance he could do it.

(He’d try anyway, because those odds sounded like fun.)

“Ahaha, it’s okay, that’s not something you need to be an expert on,” Ramuda giggled. “You’re free to go for now anyway - don’t get lost, or we’ll leave you behind for dinner!”

“Slavedriver!”

“Uh-huh! ♥”

No longer trusting his well-being with Cotton Candy Satan, Dice took the opportunity to wander away before he got saddled with anymore work. He wasn’t really sure where his feet were taking him - the general Anywhere direction was enough - but he wasn’t sure if even he would be able to find a place to gamble in a pretty, pastel, pristine park like this.

“Oh, there you are!”

God, he was starting to hate those words.

Dice turned slowly in the direction of a familiar voice - and he found Gentaro, to his own pleasant surprise… and a girl?

She was cute - it was the first thing Dice noticed - and that’s why it made it all the more confusing that she’d still volunteer to spend her time around the human headache named Gentaro, except -

“Gentaro,” said Gentaro, “I have someone to introduce you to.”

Dice’s brain stalled, and he couldn’t come up with a better response than “Huh?”

And that would seal his fucking fate right there.

“Oh Yumeno-sensei, I’m such a fan of your work,” the girl said, voice laced with both earnestness and hope as she laid eyes on Dice, definitely Dice, not Gentaro. “I submitted my poetry to your publisher and won the signed copy of your latest novel - it’s amazing, I brought with me today…!”

With deft fingers, she unclasped her bag and pulled out what was definitely a copy of Gentaro’s latest book, opening the page to Gentaro’s curling script with a small note made out to Eri.

So uh, this must be Eri.

“Uh… listen, you’ve got…” Dice started to explain, brow furrowing as he slumped through the awkward process of reclaiming his identity.

“I know that you get embarrassed easily,” Gentaro interrupted gently, smile both dazzling and fake as hell. “But she was just so excited to meet you that I couldn’t tell her no. She recognized me from the author’s photo… but I’m afraid I let it slip that you simply had me take the picture for you to spare your shy self.”

‘Shy’ being a word to describe Dice was Gentaro’s most ambitious lie to date.

“You…” Dice’s voice was low, even as his gaze locked onto Gentaro.

The author’s facade wasn’t even so much as wrinkled, his eyebrows raising in the perfect picture of innocence.

“I won’t tell anyone, don’t worry! Your friend, Dice-san, was really clear about that,” Eri assured, eyes bright and smile sincere. How could someone so pure be a fan of someone so twisted? Dice-san. “But I just had one question - if I could have even a little bit of your time…”

The thing is that she was so nice, so openly nice and Dice couldn’t say he dealt with that a lot. He knew the truth was more important, that it’d be best if she got the facts straight before they all got caught in the web of lies that Gentaro wove, but the thought of bursting her bubble was hard.

So he hesitated - and apparently both Gentaro and Gentaro’s fans had one thing in common and that was swooping in at the first sign of weakness.

“How do you come up with your stories?” she asked, and then seemed to realize the breadth of her question as she laughed. “I mean… I know it’s such a vague question. But the settings, the scenarios, all of them have so much creativity. Do you draw your inspiration from somewhere? Is that why you’ve come here?”

“Er, no…” Dice answered the easiest one first. “Nah, coming here was uh, definitely just… luck?”

If he could call it that.

Eri seemed to still be waiting for her answer.

The gambler’s eyes flicked between her face, then Gentaro who still seemed incredibly amused by the scenario he’d puppeteered, to the book that Eri held in her hands - before letting his eyelids fall forward entirely.

(In his mind’s eye, he saw a slot machine.)

There was an obvious way out of this.

But the hurt that could come of it - Eri realizing that her idol had certainly lied to her, because that’s just what he did even if it wasn’t malicious - made it unappealing indeed.

(So Dice reached out and slammed down that lever, feeling the safety harness retreating as the slots started to whir, his heartbeat picking up as he took a chance, a gamble, an attempt to smooth all this out with a bluff of his own.

There had to be a way for him to come out on top.)

“Yumeno Gentaro….” Dice started even as his eyes met Eri’s, and he only proceeded when he was sure that his honesty could meet hers, “Yumeno Gentaro is the type of person who can see a little bit more than most people - not ‘cause of being born with it, but with practice. Looking for ways to make even the most boring situations interesting…. Always keep people on their toes, even in situations where other people get lax - push the limit, and that’s where you’ll find your inspiration.

“S’kinda like always trying to make a gamble, because you don’t know if your subject is gonna be worth it… but making it worth it. Changing the lens until it’s juuust right - and putting a little magic into shi- uh, stuff that could be boring… Does that make sense?”

Eri’s eyes sparkled.

(The first 7 slotted into place with a click.)

“Working not with already fantastic things… but making fantasy where you can, I get it! That’s beautiful, thank you…!” She beamed, and Dice felt the vice grip in his heart ease, even if it did nothing for the tempo. “You’re really amazing, Yumeno-sensei… Thank you!”

To say that Dice felt weird about accepting praise technically not for him was an understatement.

It was only after she left, writing spirit apparently reenergized, that Gentaro turned to Dice and canted his head to the side, inquisitive. His expression seemed a little guarded - like a door half-closed.

“And where did that come from? I was so sure that you’d be burning up from being put in that situation.”

“Oh yeah, you’re not off the hook,” Dice responded first, grumbling irritably. Though… thinking about the bullet dodged, he glanced back over to Gentaro and sighed. “But you know, I’m not like you? Obviously. So all I had to work with was the truth, and what’s in front of me. That’s just the kind of person you come across as, even if you’re a lying pain in the ass too.”

Gentaro blinked, stunned. His walls fell.

(The middle 7 slotted into place with a click. The last slot continued to spin, spin, spin.)

“Is that so…”

The words left his lips as if they were merely trying to fill the silence, not wanting it to stretch without his permission for too long. Still, he continued to stare at Dice, expression unguarded for a few more fragile moments, for a few more fatefully long seconds.

Gentaro’s hand rose to his mouth as a makeshift shield, like it wanted to provide a barrier between the author’s mirth and the rest of the world.

But it was too slow.

“Aha…”

The first notes of Gentaro’s laughter struck Dice like a clap of thunder.

(The last 7 slowly, certainly, finally came home.

Jackpot.)

“Hahaha!” Gentaro laughed. The sound of it was filled with joy, with unrestrained amusement, even as his elegant demeanor cracked to show the childish rays of light that struggled from within. His shoulders shook like small earthquakes, rattling Dice’s ribcage in a way he couldn’t explain. “What an evaluation of my character… ahaha!”

Dice’s heart hammered in his chest, slammed against his throat, threatened to escape from his lips to be laid bare between them.

He wanted to chase that sound - he wanted to hear that laugh every damn day.

“Come on.” He tried to complain, but found his happiness had hijacked the keys to his mouth. His lips broke out into a grin, his own laugh escaping him to mingle in the air with Gentaro’s. “I didn’t say anything that funny!”

“Didn’t you?” Gentaro quipped back easily, even as he started to piece his composure back together. Dice wished that he wouldn’t. Green eyes met violet in defiance, challenging Dice’s claim without hesitation. “Mm… I suppose you wouldn’t find it very entertaining.”

A rebuttal nearly escaped Dice’s throat before Gentaro continued.

“Though I will say - as someone who weaves lies for a living, I find it difficult to believe in very much at all,” Gentaro explained. He reached up to push his hair behind his ear, fingers lingering even as he met Dice’s eyes. “But you -

“You are the type of person who is very easy to believe in.”

His expression softened, and Dice’s fingers itched to find out if it’d be just as pliable underneath his touch. If that look was just a trick of the light, another lie, more smoke and mirrors….

Or if it was something that he could hold in his hands, that he could reach out and catch underneath his fingertips, to steal this moment and tuck it in his jacket, right by his dice.

Right next to where his heart roared rebelliously in his chest.

 


 

Today on Dice’s List of Discoveries: Fashion people knew how to fucking party.

Or maybe it was just the people that Ramuda hung out with?

He wasn’t sure when the normal (read: boring) socializing stopped and the drinking began, but it must’ve been somewhere between the click clack of incredibly decorated fake nails, the shot glasses on fire, and the champagne tower that - though Dice wouldn’t ever admit it to that shitty host from Shinjuku - was actually pretty sick.

Dice knew that rap battles would probably put his health on the line when he joined Fling Posse, but he didn’t realized he’d signed his liver up for a war too.

After dinner, Ramuda gave a very energetic wave before saying he’d go back to his hotel room to start working on the photos they got and Dice wondered what the fuck was up with his teammates and their tendency to return to their real jobs after drinking. Though he guessed if Ramuda was a rose-colored stumbling mess when he went to work, that’d explained why his office always looked like a rainbow vomited in it: messy and vibrant.

So with a motion that was a little too familiar by now, he snaked an arm around Gentaro’s waist, automatically assuming that he’d provide some assistance to take him back to his room - and the novelist turned to him with a gently amused smile and appraising eyes.

“Oh? Are we going to your place or mine?”

“Cut the shit. I already told you - we’re friends so of course I’m gonna lend you a hand before you faceplant,” Dice grumbled. The alcohol must’ve been hitting him all at once then - his face sure was warm.

But judging by the way that Gentaro seemed to lean into him today, he’d had a lot to drink too.

Right?

Yet as they made it to the elevator of the hotel, Dice’s free hand reaching out for the button, his press was intercepted by Gentaro’s fingers curling over his wrist.

When he glanced over to the other, it was the first time he realized that their faces sure were close like this, huh. Still, the lingering alcohol made his reaction slow and his brow furrowed in confusion first.

Gentaro apparently found that funny, a smile blooming across his face.

“I heard a rumor.” He spoke in a whisper, as if he was telling a secret even though the elevator had the grand audience of two. Dice still leaned in anyway. “There’s a meteor shower tonight, and a garden on this rooftop. Shall we go investigate?”

Dice thought for about 0.2 seconds how early they’d have to get up the next day to take the train back to Shibuya - and then he remembered he didn’t fucking care.

A grin tugged at the edge of his lips even as he tilted his head. “Are you bullshitting again?”

Gentaro lifted his chin in challenge. “Does it even matter to you if I am?”

“Ha!” Dice barked out a laugh, the sound escaping his lips like a criminal on the run. His finger slammed into the button for the top floor. “Of course not.”

He was starting to realize he’d take the gamble on one of Gentaro’s lies any day.

Gentaro probably thought he was pretty sneaky, with the way that he turned his face into Dice’s shoulder as if he was simply using him for support - but the gambler felt the imprint of a smile against his jacket.

If he held Gentaro closer against him, would that leave an imprint too?

As they left the elevator and passed through the doors that led them to the rooftop, Dice couldn’t say whether it was that curiosity or the cold that got his grip to tighten anyway.

When the brunette spoke again, it was with the croak of an elderly man: “Now, now, young man, any tighter and I’ll crack.”

“Ah, my bad,” Dice mumbled as he let his grip slack - about a fraction. He stuck out his tongue at Gentaro as he taunted. “You’re just the kind of guy that invites a little rough treatment, I guess.”

Maybe it’s just because Dice’s eyes were adjusting to the darkness - but he wondered if he was imagining the passing flick of dark curiosity in Gentaro’s eyes before the other looked away entirely, seeing their surroundings for the first time.

While it seemed like a stretch to call the rooftop decorations a garden after they’d spent all day surrounded by flowers, it did seem to have a few flower beds and benches stretched out underneath the night sky.

“When’s your meteor shower supposed to start?” Dice asked even as they shuffled through the darkness in step, making their way to one of the seats.

“One hour,” Gentaro answered easily before his face turned upward, toward the moon. “Or perhaps one week. Who can say?”

“I’m not staying up here for a week.”

He’d either a ) miss out on all that gambling or b ) gamble with Gentaro and really lose a kidney.

“Then perhaps I can entice you to stay for an hour,” the novelist hummed. “Shall we play a game?”

“Fuck yeah.”

“Ah, how easy.”

“Gotta know what I’m about,” Dice responded confidently, smirk curling across his face. “What’re we playing? You still got those cards? Blackjack? I got my dice - Cho-han’s easy even if we’re tipsy. Or there’s always craps. Poker?”

“Now now, I’m not interested in drunkenly gambling in a game I’m not proficient at. That hardly makes anything interesting,” Gentaro scolded. “Let’s play… two lies and a truth.”

Dice squinted.

“You mean two truths and a lie?”

Starlight really did illegal things for Gentaro’s smiles - Dice felt like he was getting robbed and they hadn’t even fucking started playing yet.

“You can play that - and I’ll play mine.”

“How do I know that you’re not lying already?” Dice frowned as he puzzled it over in his head. “And you’re actually playing three lies and no truths, or three truths and no lies, or like - a lie and a half.”

“As interesting as it sounds to make up a lie and a half…” Dice felt bad for giving the suggestion. “Well, I suppose there’s no way for you to know for sure. Do you not want to play?”

That sounded like bait if Dice ever heard it - of course Gentaro would want to play a game where even the rules themselves were pretty unclear. Sounded like an express lane to striking out and yet -

“Fuck it, what’ve you got?”

Something about it still sounded like fun.

Green eyes lit up at the challenge being accepted and Gentaro at least had the mind to ask, “Do you not want to set a wager first?”

It took Dice’s last braincell to not bet half a million on the spot for a game that was rigged against him, against someone who might not even keep his word about his bets.

“A favor - loser does whatever the winner wants. Easy?”

“Ha…” The amused noise left Gentaro’s lips even as a hand came up to tuck some of his hair behind his ear. “How fittingly… dangerous. Very well. Then I accept.”

“Nice.” Dice nodded his approval - and he felt his system sobering up in the night air, but getting drunker on the rush of a game. “Lay it on me, then. Two lies and a truth.”

Maybe it’s just because other people would’ve needed to take a second to think - and so Gentaro mimed the same motions even though his lies were often as easy as breathing. Eventually, he laid his metaphorical cards on the table:

“I was born in a snowy town. It was in my hometown that I met my soulmate. His favorite flowers are cherry blossoms.”

Of course he’d find a way to weave a story even into a game - and if he was playing by his own rules, it was a mostly false story. But if he wasn’t, then anything was possible in those three sentences. Dice’s brow furrowed and he wrestled with it, trying to imagine Gentaro in his youth, walking in a dusty white landscape with the person that fate said he belonged with.

Then whenever the two of them made it to Shibuya, they’d watch the cherry blossoms that they never got to see before, and Gentaro would hold his feelings in his heart, his words in his mouth, a cleverly placed book or paper preventing their escape.

… fuck.

“... it’s all true, huh.”

He watched Gentaro’s expression closely.

Yet it seemed that the time out on the rooftop had restored his sobriety, and his smile was perfectly sculpted onto his lips, impassive and unmoving until he delivered his answer:

“Alas, you’re wrong.”

“Shit, really? I was so sure!” Dice groaned, falling back against the bench and sending his glare up to the stars - which still weren’t moving. Meteor shower in a week then. “What was the true part?”

“Ah, ah, that wasn’t in the agreement,” Gentaro hummed, clearly having fun. Well, there went Dice’s chance to try to weasel the truth out of him. “Now yours - two truths and a lie.”

“Alright, alright…”

And since Dice was a normal person, unlike Gentaro, he actually took a very real and genuine second to think about his answer.

“Once I won a car in a game of hangman.”

That was true. Probably the weirdest fucking game he’d ever turned into a gamble, but the payoff was great. Also the game that he found out ‘gazebo’ was a word, but taking the risk on a Z was worth it.

He lost the car within 12 hours, of course.

“Riou-san’s cooking is the greatest I’ve ever had.”

That was the lie - not because Riou’s cooking wasn’t a godsend, especially when you haven’t had anything to munch on for 38 hours, but it wasn’t the greatest. The guy really could make some interesting shit, though.

His brain stalled on his last truth.

Fuck, he should’ve taken an extra second.

Instead, he turned toward Gentaro - and found the other man looking back at him, expression curious. Like he was trying to puzzle him out, and hadn’t really managed it. Dice decided that he wasn’t against it.

He wasn’t against the fact that he still had his arm around Gentaro’s waist either.

Or the fact that Gentaro hadn’t pulled away.

Dice’s truth ran away with him.

“I really wanna kiss you.”

They were close enough that Dice could pinpoint the exact second where Gentaro’s breath stuttered.

It would’ve taken an act of god for Dice to tear his eyes away in that second, daring Gentaro to call his last statement a lie and see what hell it’d bring. He wondered if maybe Gentaro finally felt some of the thrill that shot through Dice’s veins with every game. Yet even as he seemed to process Dice’s words, he kept their gazes locked, as if searching for any ounce of hesitation in the gambler’s gaze.

He wouldn’t find any.

“... Dice.” Gentaro breathed out his name like it was another secret. “If this is about pity -”

“It’s not,” Dice interrupted. His fingers dug into the fabric of Gentaro’s clothes, not out of a frenzied lust to remove them - but rather the sincere desire to just get him to stay. “Told you already, didn’t I? You’re not that kind of person - and neither am I.”

Leave it to truth to stabilize a liar.

Moonlight danced in Gentaro’s eyes and when he spoke again, it was with confidence and purpose: “When I win, you’ll be playing another game and taking another wager with me. I decide the circumstances. That’s what I want you to do.”

‘When’, huh.

If Dice’s heart wasn’t already slamming against his chest, he’s sure that’s where it would’ve skipped a damn beat.

An addict’s smirk spilled across his lips. “You’re on.”

“Riou Mason Busujima’s cooking is said to contain rats,” Gentaro said like it was a fact.

Which - no way, that was a lie, right.

Dice snapped out of the moment - for just a fucking second - to protest.

“Hold on -”

“So even with your questionable tastes, I doubt that you’d consider it the greatest you’ve ever had - especially since I’ve cooked for you. Am I right that was your lie?”

“Yeah, but -”

Gentaro’s hand clasped over Dice’s mouth again, palm against his lips to silence him effectively and immediately.

“Then I do believe that I’ve won, and so you must do as I ask.” Gentaro shifted forward - but instead of Dice’s hold around his middle loosening, his arm automatically curled with the movement, pulling him closer. The novelist smiled like he didn’t seem to mind.

Dice couldn’t speak, so he jutted his chin upward in a quick motion. ‘Get on with it.’

The space between them was rapidly disappearing as Gentaro leaned in, gaze inviting and full of mischief. The gambler’s eyes dipped to his lips even as his words dripped with promise:

“Prove that you want me - and I’m certain that I can make you come undone first.”

A smirk tore into Dice’s lips as his hand clasped around Gentaro’s wrist, wrenching his hand from his mouth - he didn’t think that he could go another damn second without slamming their lips together.

Gentaro matched Dice’s intensity as his free hand reached up to trace the curve of Dice’s jaw, as if committing him to memory -

There weren’t any shooting stars in the sky, but Dice swore that he found fireworks mapping across his skin, saw the sun and moon bursting behind his eyes as he traced starlight out of Gentaro’s hair, experienced the all-consuming heat that came from falling fast and hard from the atmosphere.

When he pulled back from the kiss, wishing that he didn’t have to, he marveled in the way that their warm breath intermingled in the cool of the evening.

And in the space between their lips, stealing just a second back before they let themselves fall into whatever the hell this was, he murmured:

“Bet.”

 


 

“... but what you were saying about Riou-san’s cooking wasn’t true, right.”

No answer.

No way Gentaro could’ve fallen asleep that fast.

Dice’s brow furrowed as he crawled over, rustling the bed sheets with the movement, hovering over to examine Gentaro’s face. His nose scrunched up in disbelief as he noticed the way that the other looked serene, peaceful in the moonlight -

Ah. The corner of his lips twitched.

“Ass,” Dice laughed out even as he leaned down to press a kiss to the corner of Gentaro’s mouth, as if a little pressure would be all it took to keep the other smiling for as long as possible. He let his weight rest on him, insistent on getting his answer.

“Please don’t remind me that I let you kiss me when you’ve eaten rats and god knows what else,” Gentaro sighed even as he moved, pressing his shoulder back against Dice until the other eased up and gave him just barely enough space to lay on his back.

Dice stared.

Food was food at the end of the day, and Riou’s cooking was pretty tasty if he made it out of rodents, it almost made it more impressive but…

No way.

“You’re lying,” he spoke his prayers into the universe and hoped he was right.

Gentaro gave him a withering glance, his exasperation clear as day even in the bare illumination of the hotel room.

“Am I?”

“.... yeah, I’m gonna say you’re lying,” Dice sighed even as he leaned down for another kiss - only to be stopped when Gentaro’s fingers pressed against his lips.

“Affectionate, aren’t you?” Gentaro questioned, his gaze pensive. “I do hope you haven’t gotten the wrong idea here, Dice.”

The gambler didn’t bother to suppress the urge to open his mouth and let his teeth nip at the fingers that pressed at his mouth, if only for the sake of argument. “We fucked and it was good? What’s there to get wrong about that?”

A moment passed between them - and Gentaro seemed to relax, his fingers making a new path, tracing along the curve of Dice’s jaw again before tangling into his hair and pulling him down to claim that kiss he’d wanted earlier.

To be honest, it was probably supposed to be a little bit more complicated. Gentaro’s soulmate was someone else, even if the feelings weren’t returned - and Dice hadn’t asked whether that bond was romantic or platonic. Dice hadn’t even the slightest clue who his own soulmate was, and while it wasn’t necessarily taboo to fall into other relationships before finding your soulmate, some romantics were all for waiting and being patient for their one and only.

Dice didn’t care about that.

He figured his soulmate wouldn’t either.

Besides, this wasn’t a relationship.

It was kissing until they were both breathless, touching until every single inch of skin was mapped out underneath curious fingertips, gambling and lying and pushing each other to the edge of the universe and back again.

It was warm, and fun, and Dice chased after both with reckless abandon.

“Hey,” he tried to speak, but found the words trapped between kisses, soft and urgent in the same second. “By the way - do you, uh - got….”

Gentaro pulled away, and even though it effectively managed to accomplish what Dice wanted so it’d be easier for them to speak, he still felt put out by it.

“Do I ‘got’....?” Gentaro raised a brow.

“Any scraps of paper?” Dice lifted himself off of the brunette, slow and not quite willingly, stretching languidly as he tilted his head. “You fucking got me twice tonight. If all you’ve got is a book or something, don’t sweat it, though.”

“I’m impressed that you remembered…” Gentaro answered before yawning behind strategically placed, curling fingertips. His free hand gestured toward where he kept his bag, left on the bedside table on Dice’s side. “There ought to be scraps of paper in there. Don’t mind it if you find something with notes on it - if it’s worth anything, it’s already in my laptop.”

“Gotcha, thanks,” Dice replied as he reached over. He didn’t care to dig too much through Gentaro’s stuff, so he pulled out the first two scraps he could find, getting himself settled sitting against the headboard.

When he glanced over to Gentaro, he found the other watching him with curious eyes. “Shall we turn on the light?”

“Nah, s’fine, I’ve made more than one of these just from cigarette light alone.”

“Light one of those and you’re going back to your own room,” Gentaro mumbled almost inelegantly (but not quite) as he let his face press into a pillow. His face was half-obscured into the fluff, one eye opening just to gaze at Dice. “That’s not a lie.”

Dice felt another chill run down his spine - and this one wasn’t fun at all.

“Okay, okay, roger that.” A pause. “Uh… g’night?”

Like a cat, Gentaro managed one slow, thoughtful blink up at Dice before letting the rest of his breath escape him in a sigh. His shoulders relaxed and he responded softly: “Good night, Dice.”

“Night….” Dice murmured in response, as if twice the good night meant that Gentaro would have extra good dreams. His fingers were already pressing through the papers in his hands, smoothing out the wrinkles, thumbs brushing them out to the corner as his eyes glanced over the words that were scribbled on them.

Though ‘scribbled’ wasn’t quite the right word - Gentaro’s strokes were elegant even on his scraps, apparently.

But what if it isn't you that I’m meant to find?

… a throwaway line, probably, but Dice still read it over. Maybe it had something to do with Gentaro’s next novel, or a character arc that he’d come up with while they were on the train. Practically since the day they’d met, Dice knew that his odds of being able to understand Gentaro were slim to none - but that didn’t stop him from trying.

In the quiet of the hotel room, there were only the sounds of paper being creased in familiar steps - fold, crease, pinch, shift, shift - and the way that Gentaro’s breathing evened out as Dice actually believed he fell asleep this time.

… It wasn’t bad.

It’s not that Dice really minded being on the streets, or more accurately - that he cared a lot about having a roof over his head. It was more convenient, sure, but he’d take excitement over convenient anyday. It’s why he gambled, and why he recklessly pursued the life he wanted to live.

But -

But ‘home’ was something else. It was something he’d left, something he didn’t care to go back to, but… something he wasn’t against finding again. He thought he’d felt scraps of it - at dinner tables even when he was stuck in a monkey suit, on train rides filled with such uproaring laughter than their joy spilled out messily into other people’s lives, in fast beating hearts and promises and half-baked truths that crumbled at his fingertips.

Maybe it wasn’t the smartest place to find home - in people who could waltz out of his life just as easily as they cartwheeled in….

He never claimed to be smart, or safe.

Maybe for him, it wasn’t about who he was meant to find - but the people who found him by some happy chance, some luck gone awry, and that path in life being just as good as fate. Hell, maybe even better.

He found himself smiling down at the crane.

“One down…” he hummed to himself, yawning faintly. Gentaro made dreamland look so good and Dice was ready to get a one-way ticket to snoozetown to catch up ASAP.

The second scrap was a little bigger and Dice thought the words on it sounded a bit like a rap -

Today the tale was twisted on its head
From the words of a young man in a white, clean bed.
For finding my soulmate was meant to be a joke-
Yet it is on those words that I still choke.
So my heart is for ransom, dead or alive,
even though it’s you I wanted, since age five plus five.

A smug little smirk pulled at Dice’s lips as he caught the familiar name in it. He glanced over to Gentaro’s sleeping form and waved the paper in his direction as he softly taunted, “I should charge you royalties for this, you know…”

He was the only one awake. It was okay to laugh at his own joke.

The creases were second-nature at this point, well-ingrained into his system. Sure, he never counted how many cranes he actually folded, but the general ‘a lot’ sentiment was enough for him. Whenever he folded a thousand, he felt like he’d know.

His fingers pinched down the head of the crane, pulled the base open so it could stand on its own, and moved to let it sit next to its friend on the nightstand. Not wasting a single second, he burrowed himself in the blankets and curled himself around where Gentaro was sleeping - even the single room had a queen size bed but he didn’t give a fuck.

If Gentaro stirred it was only for a second and no more than that, accepting this fate of having Dice wrap his arms around his waist and bury his face in the crook of his neck, inhaling against the other’s skin and -

Suddenly, he knew.

Like revealing a hand of cards, he knew.

Like matching up every number for the lottery, he knew.

Even as he tried to open his eyes, he only saw the waterfall of wisteria flowers, the gentle unfurling of laughter, the seizing of his heart as the realization hit him all at once:

‘It’s you.’

Dice pulled away, if only because he wasn’t sure if the thunderous beating of his heart against Gentaro’s back would be enough to wake him up and -

‘Oh god fucking dammit, it’s you.’

As if hoping that the cranes would hold some answer, Dice’s gaze was pinned on them, but they didn’t erase or explain the way that he smelled flowers in the air, from the intensity that he felt the same emotions he’d had just earlier in the day.

No, nothing changed.

Arisugawa Dice’s soulmate was none other than Yumeno Gentaro.

And Yumeno Gentaro’s soulmate was not Arisugawa Dice.

Which meant - he was royally fucking fucked.

 


 

Dice couldn’t afford healthcare.

Luckily, he knew a guy.

“... does Ramuda know that you’re here?”

“Nope,” Dice responded, popping the ‘p’ carelessly even as he helped himself to a seat in Jakurai’s office. He was preoccupied with unwrapping a lollipop he took from the receptionist’s desk - there were two spares in his jacket pocket too. One for Ramuda and one for Gentaro. “Why?”

“... Mm, he really did pick interesting teammates,” Jakurai mused softly. “Is there a reason why you’re here today? Are you feeling ill?”

“Right to business. Time is money, huh? I mean, not that I have anything to pay you with,” Dice admitted, brow furrowing. “You sure that’s a good business model, man? I mean, maybe I’m not supposed to but I respect you - stick it to the system, it’s broken anyway, but - “

“I didn’t think that you’d seek to give me advice, given that last I heard you called me the ‘quack of Shinjuku’.”

Gentaro said that Jakurai had the patience of a saint - and honestly, he was right. Jakurai’s voice was about three times more perplexed than actually annoyed.

He probably had more patience in his pinky finger than all of Fling Posse combined.

“Yeah,” Dice admitted far too casually. Then he paused and shrugged. “But I didn’t mean anything by it. Battles are battles, y’know?”

“... I do,” Jakurai accepted his answer remarkably quickly. “Now, my original question, if you would? Are you suffering from any ailments?”

“Oh right. That.”

“That?”

The corner of Dice’s lips sunk down into a scowl.

‘That’ was the fact that he couldn’t even really enjoy a sleep after a good lay because his nose was filled with the lingering scent of wisterias, and he was preoccupied with the fact that Gentaro’s hair smelled good too. His heartbeat never really managed to calm down either. Even if it felt normal enough the next day and each day after - he kept thinking of weird things, like how it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try to hold onto Gentaro’s hand, or how he wanted to kiss him again but this time in public.

Some pretty gay shit.

He said as much, practically word for word.

Jakurai’s expression flattened.

Yet as per a doctor’s professionalism, he pressed on: “And when did this begin?”

“Well, the whole seeing stuff with the flower garden and everything was right after I folded two more paper cranes,” Dice explained.

“So you made your thousand.”

“I dunno, I guess?”

Jakura paused, expression still flat, though concern danced through his eyes for half a second.

“... What do you mean ‘you guess’?”

“I’ve never counted - didn’t really care before. Thought I’d know when I made it. How do people even keep track? Tallies? Is there an app?”

“... ah, and do you believe that your own method worked out for you?”

Dice squinted.

“Sounds like a trick question to me, Doc.”

With one hand, Jakurai reached up to briefly press the bridge of his nose. “... Have you ever spoken to someone, right after they’ve folded their thousandth crane, and the typical experience that they go through?”

“Nah,” Dice answered truthfully. “But the cranes tell you who your soulmate is, right? I thought maybe they just started talking or something.”

“... I see.”

Dice could’ve sworn that Jakurai mumbled something about Ramuda and ‘interesting’ again.

But the doctor continued: “The most common experience, whether the soulmate match that someone has is mutual or not, is that after someone folds their thousandth crane, they say that the soul stirs and inspires you with the intrinsic, irrevocable knowledge of who your soulmate is - or at least a very strong hint. Do you know how hypnosis mics work?”

“Yeah, you fuck people up via rap,” Dice answered confidently - he’s sure he nailed that one.

Jakura didn’t seem impressed.

“Oh right, my bad,” Dice amended, “Everyone but you fucks people up through rap.”

You know, because of the healing thing.

“... I suppose - but in regards to the brain chemicals, is more what I was suggesting,” Jakurai spoke even more slowly, as if that would be able to get the words to stick. Dice leaned in. “The way that it affects chemical synapses in the brain and alters functioning. Similarly, people who finish folding their cranes will find that the signal is sent through the olfactory nerve, which runs in conjunction with the amygdala and the hippocampus--

Dice held up his hands. “... I gotta be real with you, Doc, we’re going to need to go with Science 101 for an explanation here if you want it to stick.”

It felt like it would’ve been extra rude if he fell asleep in the Doctor’s office in the middle of his diagnosis.

Jakura frowned momentarily, as if re-evaluating his words, and then tried again.

“Smell is the closest link to memory, and it’s said that folding a thousand cranes will activate the part of your soul that remembers where the other half is - or some other romantic sentiment. People will experience a smell that either reminds them of their soulmate, or they will recognize their soulmate from the smell if they are meeting their soulmate after. Some say the cranes will even bring them to the exact moment when they truly fell in love.”

Instinctively, Dice wrinkled his nose.

“... Science is kinda funky.”

Jakurai simply stared at him, folding his hands in his lap. Apparently he lacked an elegant response to that.

“So what’re you saying?” Dice tucked his hands in his pockets. He wasn’t a total buffoon - he was pretty sure he got the gist.

He just… had to make sure.

“I am saying, Arisugawa Dice of Fling Posse,” Jakurai spoke with gravity and certainty, “You are not ill. You are just in love.”

There it was.

Having the word ‘love’ applied to his emotions got something to swing a little dangerously in Dice’s ribcage, like he was somewhere between flying and falling. His hand curled against the fabric of his shirt, over his chest.

“... Doctor’s professional opinion, huh,” Dice spoke softly, knowing damn well he wouldn’t be able to afford a second shot.

“That is correct,” Jakurai answered, before taking a moment. Dice felt like he was being appraised again. “... but you should still hold onto your humanity, for it is a very precious thing. These feelings that you hold… they are typical, and wonderful, and ought to be cherished. You will be well.”

The words coming from the man that could heal the country in a single verse were weighty, and yet they sat comfortably on Dice’s shoulders. Ramuda didn’t like this guy, but Dice didn’t think he was that bad.

He snorted faintly and cocked his head to the side.

“You know, I don’t think you get paid enough?”

“That’s kind of you to say.” Those are the words that came out of Jakurai’s mouth.

Yet Dice could read his eyes as saying: ‘Oh trust me, I know.’

 


 

“So the Doc said that I’m probably in love - which, you know, sorta saw it coming but having it confirmed by someone else really sets it in place. Like damn, that guy with a bad personality is my soulmate.”

“How mean!”

“Yeah, but it’s not like a bad personality means he’s a bad guy - don’t get the two confused or anything! I’ll have to kick your ass if you do. Doesn’t change the fact that he’s got a soulmate of his own either, some guy who definitely isn’t me.”

“Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh.”

“But I don’t really care, so I figure that’s alright? I mean, playing second fiddle forever is kinda ass but I’m not the type of person to overthink things… He wants me in at least some capacity, anyway, so maybe that’s enough?”

“Hmmmmm, that’s hard. Really, really, super duper hard? Yikes!”

“Hifumi…” The salaryman exited the convenience store, deadeyeing the two sitting on the curb enraptured in conversation. “How much longer are you gonna let him ramble on like this?”

“Doppyon!” The blond gave an exaggerated pout even as he made grabby hands at the plastic bag in ‘Doppyon’s’ hands. “Be nice, he sounds like he’s had a really rough time - you’d know about that too, right? Commiserate a little! But not too much, you always go overboard.”

“Doppyon…” Dice repeatedly thoughtfully as he held out a hand expectantly to Hifumi.

Wordlessly, Hifumi placed not one, but two plastic-wrapped rice balls in his waiting palm.

Dice knew at that moment that the stupid host from Shinjuku was actually a god among men, so long as he kept his fashion opinions to himself.

“Don’t call me that - and don’t give him that!” Doppo protested immediately. “Hifumi, I already said you can’t feed every stray cat - that doesn’t mean you can move on to stray people!”

“Oh Doppo, you missed it because you went inside - thaaaanks, by the way - but can you believe that he hasn’t had anything to eat all day? Tragedy, just absolutely pitiful! Dice, tell him,” Hifumi gestured to Doppo before using the same hand to pat the seat down next to him on the concrete. “Tell him - what did you have to eat today?”

Around a mouthful of rice and salmon, Dice answered: “A lollipop.”

“It’s 7 PM,” Doppo muttered.

“That’s my point! But oh - was it the ones from Sensei’s office? I always like cherry the most, personally, even if none of them really taste like what they’re supposed to - makes me feel like 7 again, you know?” Hifumi talked too much, but he was a pretty decent listener and a generous soul so apparently that was the karmic balance he was awarded from the world.

Dice had intended on finding his way back to Shibuya eventually, but Shinjuku had a pretty decent gambling scene if you knew where to look. It was only after getting a decent rush and losing his wallet that Dice had managed to catch eyes with the Matenrou duo from across the street -

And before he knew it, he found himself asking what automatically came to mind: “Hey, you two’re soulmates, right?”

The incredulousness of the salaryman’s ‘What?!’ was only outmatched by the intensity of the host’s ‘Yeah! You can tell right away too, huh!!’

Like all salarymen, his presence didn’t mean shit to anyone around - but apparently even with the weird personality switch suit jacket off, the host was some kind of big shot. He looked between Dice, the gamblers, and wordlessly slipped off a fancy-looking brooch on his jacket to trade back for Dice’s wallet.

“You’d do that for someone you battled? You didn't even lose. What’s the catch?” Dice was wary - people who apologized a lot and people who did random favors were typically looking for a way to get others in their debt, and he wasn't about to be some Matenrou dog.

“Wellllll, I was kind of a big giant jerk to your friend on accident?” The host - Hifumi, as Dice eventually remembered - stuck out his tongue and tapped his knuckles on his own head, stealing a little away from his apology. Still, Dice couldn’t doubt the earnestness of someone who gave up their own shit for a stranger. “So it’s not the same as repaying him, but I thought if I bailed out his friend we’d even it out an itty bitty bit?”

The salaryman - Doppo, Hifumi had to remind him - was in a world of his own, mumbling something about ‘over a hundred thousand yen’ and ‘just like that, he doesn’t even know how hard I’d have to slave away to even make enough to be in the presence of that kind of jewelry’.

Paper pushers were fucking weird.

Dice wasn’t the type to hold grudges. So long as they didn’t fuck with Gentaro anymore, accident or not, he didn’t think he’d have many issues with these Matenrou guys. Their leader seemed like a good guy, so hopefully they were pretty decent too.

So he ended up following the two to their next destination - which was picking up dinner, and shamelessly taking up Hifumi on the offer of a little snack for the road since he’d have to go back to Shibuya eventually.

“A-ny-way!” Hifumi’s voice fluctuated even as he gestured around with the ramune bottle that Doppo had gotten him from the convenience store. Dice couldn’t help but think that his energy was a lot like Ramuda’s, but somehow even more sincerely juvenile. “Now with that backstory, I totally get it. No wonder you got fate on the mind! You pinpointed that me and Doppo are soulmates super easily, huh?”

“But we’re not,” Doppo finally spoke up from where he was nursing a cup of coffee that Dice didn’t think was actually doing anything for him.

“We are!”

“Not.”

“Doppooooooo.”

“I’ve folded maybe twelve cranes in my life, Hifumi,” Doppo bit back, fingers tightening around the coffee cup. “Do you think I’d have time to change that with my job? Imagine if they caught me using paper for that - even though they tell me that I waste paper already. Even though I’m just trying to do my job, it’s my fault. Everything I do is a waste.”

Dice continued to chew on his rice ball, watching the two of them. Hifumi was already talking again, but he wasn’t listening. Eventually, he asked: “So how do you know you’re soulmates then?”

“Well I’ve had my cranes done since I was 8!” Hifumi announced proudly, even though as far as Dice could remember all the cranes he made as a baby all looked like shit. More like stumbling penguins. Did those even count? Apparently they did. “And Doppo’s my soulmate - I’m sure of it. He hasn’t checked yet, but I know I’m his, too. It’s alright. I don’t need some pretty paper to tell me what I already know.”

That kind of extremely blind, extremely certain sort of outlook…

“... Yeah, I can get that.” Dice smirked even as he tossed his plastic wrap in the nearest trash can like he was shooting hoops.

“I’m surrounded by tunnel vision maniacs…” Doppo mourned quietly. “Can you not encourage him? You’re in a sad situation too, right? Your soulmate doesn’t match up with you - don’t condemn him to the same fate….”

“Oi, don’t sound so fucking sad about it.” Dice’s nose wrinkled. “S’not that bad. It’s not some horrible tragedy?”

But maybe that’s how Doppo talked about everything.

“He’s right - I agree with him!” Hifumi chimed in happily before getting sidetracked entirely. “Oopsie, that reminds me we’re out of saran wrap at home, I’m gonna get some before we go, Doppo. Don’t leave me behind or I’ll cry, I’ll really cry!”

Dice didn’t know Doppo that well, but the look on the other man’s face made it look like he was seriously thinking about it.

The blond left them and it was almost eerie how much quieter it got in a matter of seconds. There was only the vague sound of shuffling as Doppo put his drink down on the curb and pulled out a pack of cigarettes from the first grocery bag he’d gotten.

Dice’s eyes lit up as he reached out and abandoned any ounce of shame he’d known in his entire life. “Share, share!”

“Do I look like Hifumi to you….” Doppo gave him a withering look even as he placed a cigarette between his lips.

“C’mon, I got a light. You had a shit day, I had a slightly less shit day, might as well share right?” Dice offered even as he fished the promised lighter out of his pocket, as if to prove that he didn’t gamble it off.

A long, long suffering sigh left Doppo even as he pulled out another cigarette to hand to Dice. “Just - please don’t manhandle me again.”

“Huh?”

“When we met in Chuoku….” Doppo’s brow furrowed, apparently incredulous that Dice couldn’t pull the memory off the top of his head.

“Oh. Right.” He gave the exhausted salaryman a light. “Yeah, I mean - you really pissed me off back then. I really don’t get guys like you. And you’re trying to talk your soulmate out of being loyal to you? Who does that?”

“I guess I do….” Doppo admitted quietly - though Dice thinks he saw some semblance of the fire that the man had when rapping as he spoke up again. “But I know Hifumi more than anyone, alright? And if you keep telling him that I’m his soulmate, he’ll really stick to it…”

… yeah, these Matenrou guys weren’t that bad. They defended their friends, and that counted for something in Dice’s book.

Still, some things between him and this corporate slave really didn’t click.

Dice took a long drag of his cigarette and on the exhale he asked, almost spelling it with smoke, “Is that a bad thing?”

“... well how do you feel?” Doppo gave a tired, vague gesture of his hand. “You know for sure that your soulmate has someone else as his soulmate. Doesn’t that make you feel kinda… I dunno. Second best?”

“I mean… kinda.” Dice spat out the words. Admitting it truly left a bitterness on his tongue. “But then I think - I’m pretty all or nothing, you know?”

“Dead or Alive…” Doppo murmured.

Dice snapped his fingers and pointed at him in confirmation. Exactly that.

“So if my options are…. Give Gentaro all of me, and accept all of him even with his weirdness…. Or not have him at all?”

Dice laughed, the sound clear and confident.

“That’s not even a choice. That’s like saying ‘alright buddy, you can only have a slice of the moon, or your sky’s empty for fucking ever. What’ll it be?’”

Doppo stared at him and for once Dice could read some life in those dead eyes, something caught between wonder and apprehension. “You know, not a lot of people can live like you.”

“That’s because none of you wanna fucking try,” Dice sniped back in half a second, his smile sharp.

Doppo shrugged - and settled for continuing to smoke. It was probably easier than trying to re-evaluate his entire life. Well, his loss.

“... Hifumi’s not like you either. He gets lonely really easily,” he said eventually. “He might really be missing out on a chance to get to find someone if you keep encouraging him. So… don’t get his hopes up too high on me, please?”

Dice thought about his next words for all of 0.37 seconds.

“Look man, you’re not really my type of person,” he started. “Even normally - I don’t know what would put someone up to saying that you’re their soulmate very willingly. I just don’t get it.”

“... yes. I’ve gathered.”

“Since you’re pretty uptight? And I don’t get your way of life at all - why would you keep being at a job that stresses you out so bad? You really gotta reevaluate, man.”

“I don’t remember asking….”

“Being your soulmate sounds super exhausting, like some kind of superhuman feat - but I mean, you’ve probably got good traits too though….”

“‘P-Probably’....”

Dice snorted as he put out his cigarette. “But to be honest - ”

Somehow Doppo’s expression looked so flat that you’d think a steamroller just fucked him up. “You weren’t being honest already?”

“I don’t think there’s a single lie in the way he looks at you.”

Slumped shoulders stiffened at that and Doppo’s expression became glued onto the concrete - maybe it’s because he was looking down so often that he missed the way that his best friend stared at him like he was the fucker who put the stars in the sky.

Dice laughed. Had he been that fucking blind too?

“So you know what? I think you’re pretty fuckin’ lucky, you shitty salaryman.”

 


 

After deciding that Matenrou weren’t all that bad - or really very bad at all, compared to the compulsive liar, compulsive gambler, and compulsive… Ramuda that made up Fling Posse - Dice eventually found his way back to Shibuya. The lights and lamp posts welcomed him back like old friends, even though he wasn’t quite ready to find a bench to call his bed for the night.

It was still a weird thing -

Existing through the world knowing that he was in love.

Mostly because it didn’t feel like anything was that different at all.

He still turned his head at the sound of the clatter of dice, the rapid slaps of a card deck being shuffled, and knew that he’d bet the jacket off his back again if it meant that someone would be willing to put down cold hard cash in exchange.

Knowing his soulmate didn’t change a damn thing - and he couldn’t have been more relieved.

Violet eyes flicked up to the sky as if they’d help him remember who it was that taught him how to fold cranes in the first place. Is this what they would’ve wanted for him?

Back then, in a place called home, he wanted only for them to be proud of him.

And now, grown and far away from a place he’d more than willingly abandoned in the name of a good time…

It’s not like he felt an inch of regret over it, but maybe a little bit of that nostalgic warmth wouldn’t be so bad, from time to time.

“Dice?”

Slamming back to earth from his thoughts, he blinked a few times as his gaze locked with--

“Gentaro?”

“No, I’m Ichiro Yamada and--”

“Oh, cut the crap.”

The smile that curled on Gentaro’s lips was playful and painfully familiar, and Dice knew that the annoyance in his voice was easily tempered out by the mirroring grin on his own face.

“Well, I would be concerned if I had to introduce myself to you again, all things considered.” His eyes appraised Dice, as if taking stock of what he may or may not have lost in the gambles that led him here. “Are you looking for money?”

“Huh? What do you take me for…” Dice grumbled as his nose wrinkles. “Nah, what’d give you that idea?”

With an elegant hand, Gentaro gestured to his right.

They were in front of his apartment building.

“... oh.” Dice breathed out, blinking his eyes a few times - as if he was experiencing a mirage in the middle of Shibuya. Eventually he glanced back to Gentaro and huffed out the truth: “My feet just took me here, I guess.”

Apparently that took Gentaro off-guard, but only for a fraction of a second. His expression softened into one of light humor as he turned to enter the building on his own two feet this time. “They have minds of their own do they…”

Taking on the voice that could only be described as sugary sweet, his voice rang out like a chime: “Welcome home, Dai-su! ♥”

It was damn embarrassing - how even when Dice knew for a fact that Gentaro was just fucking with him, he felt his heartbeat stutter in his chest at those words coming from the novelist’s mouth.

He took it back. Being in love was fucking inconvenient.

“H-Hey, what’re you..!” he floundered, trying to find words to cover up his far too raw emotion.

“Just come inside,” Gentaro tossed over his shoulder. “Ramuda is covered in deadlines, so he likely hasn’t eaten yet either. Why not invite him over? Fling Posse hardly operates on a regular schedule, after all.”

… and then he said shit like that, as if he reached into Dice’s chest and pulled out exactly was he was feeling, and knew just the medicine to keep it from aching again. How couldn’t he fall for someone like that?

“Seriously?” Dice questioned even as he followed after, toeing off his shoes and blinking.

“I could make it a lie, if you’d like.”

“Nah, I’ll call him.”

Eyebrows raised in fond amusement, Gentaro nodded before moving to the kitchen to begin preparing their dinner.

And it felt like not even ten minutes later, Ramuda barged in through the door, all bright colors and loud complaints about people that Dice had never met. The three of them crowded in the kitchen even though they were barely any help to Gentaro’s dinner preparations at all, taking up both physical space and air space as their volume immediately flew out of control - but that wasn’t a strange occurrence for them at all.

No, it felt very much like everything was falling into place.

Gathered around Gentaro’s dinner table, Dice and Ramuda’s voices slammed in cacophony as they took potshots at each other. Gentaro joined in if only to get a chance to poke and prod at either of them, and only once their topic drifted away toward other people were they free of their friendly fire. Ramuda and Gentaro swapped impressions of Matenrou as Dice brought up that he visited Shinjuku earlier, and honestly it was awful and rude, it was fucking hilarious, it -

It warmed his chest as their hearts spoke to each other in the language of laughter and barbed words.

Shit, it’d be the lie of the century to say that this little place that they’d carved out together was perfect by any means.

But calling this place home didn’t feel untruthful at all.

 


 

“Hey Ramuda.”

Dice paused before he continued his sentence, looking over his shoulder to confirm that Gentaro was still out of earshot. He looked over the other shoulder too, just to be sure. His hands paused mid-scrub of the dish in his hands, and he looked back to the leader of Fling Posse with a conspiratorial grin.

“I’ve got a secret.”

“Hmmm?” Ramuda hummed sweetly even as his own well-manicured hands took care to wipe Gentaro’s dishes dry. “What’s that? You have something to tell all of Shibuya?”

“Wait -”

“Hold on, hold on, I’ll go get my phone!”

“That’s not what I -”

“Pauuuuse, Dice! I gotta tweet this out to the world!”

“Ramuda!” Dice hissed. “I won’t tell ya if you’re gonna keep acting like that, you know?!”

“Ahahaha, scary!” Ramuda laughed, bright and annoying as shit. He stuck his tongue out at Dice, who naturally returned the favor, and settled for sighing dramatically. “Okay, okayyy. Out of the kindness of my heart, I’ll carry your deep dark secret with me. So c’mon, what is it?”

Feeling like he aged a thousand years in ten seconds, Dice let out a heavy breath. “You know, you make it really hard to want to tell you shit…”

“Hold onto the next plate, I thiiiink I left my phone on the table --”

“Okay, okay, I’ll spill already!” The gambler growled out, every nerve on fire. Gentaro went to take care of some author shit, but who knew when he’d come back? And Dice wasn’t big on planning, but he was even less excited at the prospect of being needled by both of his asshole teammates at once. “I figured out who my soulmate is.”

“Oohhh?” Ramuda’s pitch rose like an elevator, interest peaking. “Is it Gentaro?”

“No, it’s-” Dice swallowed his correction down as his brain caught up with what Ramuda had guessed, “What? How the hell’d you guess that?!”

“I’ve had a guess siiiiiince the festival?” Ramuda smiled angelically, as if he hadn’t ripped Dice’s soul out of his body and hung it out to dry in the middle of a rainstorm. “Anyway, what’s your secret?”

Dice was still going through every single stage of grief, which left him pretty incapable of answering Ramuda’s question.

“Dice…” Ramuda’s tone had swung into downright pitying. “You know for things to be secret, they have to be like, a little more subtle than a neon sign? Just a little bit! An itsy bitsy bit!”

“Shut the fuck up!” The hiss ripped itself out of Dice’s throat. “You’ve really known that long? No way! I didn’t even know that long!”

“Well, T-B-H,” Ramuda hummed as he slid the cloth in his hand around the rim of another plate, “it’s not suuuuper surprising that you’re the last one to know that you’re in love. But it is super funny - congrats, though!”

“No way!” Dice scrambled for purchase, feeling like he’d been tossed off the edge of a cliff and the only person that could help him find solid ground was Ramuda. So in essence, he was doomed. “Gentaro doesn’t know, does he?”

“It’s pretty hard to miss….” Ramuda answered thoughtfully.

Dice felt his heart crash and tumble down his ribcage, falling into the pit of his stomach.

“But!” The fashion designer added a second later, after he got a good look at Dice’s face. “That guy really likes living in the plane between the truth and fantasy… so maybe he’s a little blind too? So I guess there’s a chance the element of surprise is still yours.”

“You think?” Dice frowned into the sudsy water where his hands were submerged. “I’m still not sure how I’m gonna tell him, but I gotta do it.”

“Ahaha, that’s so simple! That’s super Dice!” Ramuda giggled happily, even as he reached over to flick some of the water upward at Dice’s face, making him splutter like a dog that’d been spritzed. “Okay, do it! Do you want to get dressed up again for it?”

“Do you think I should?” Dice frowned in thought even as he shook his head to try to get the soap suds off his nose. “I dunno if that sounds like my style…”

“You have a style?” Ramuda snorted, though it lacked venom as far as Dice could tell. “What’re you gonna do? Challenge him to a game of roulette and then say something about how you’re gonna bet your hearts?”

A beat.

“That wasn’t a suggestion.”

“But that sounds like fun.

“I mean…” Ramuda paused, as if weighing his options. When he spoke again, it was if he was testing the words on his tongue. “Oooookay. Let’s say you do that. Might as well go all out for it, right? We’ll get you dressed in a nice suit so even Lady Luck won’t be able to turn you down, much less Gentaro!”

“You just like making me your mannequin, huh?” Dice muttered even as he admitted that this sounded like a pretty dope idea, as far as confessions went.

As per always, he asked himself - what did he have to lose?

The answer?

Not as much as he had to gain.

“Cool, let’s do it like that then!” He grinned as he turned over to Ramuda. “Tomorrow? Let’s do it tomorrow!”

“Super fearless, without a single thought for failure…” Ramuda hummed softly to himself before mirroring the wide smile on Dice’s face. “That’s what I like about you, Dice! With our powers combined, Gentaro won’t stand a chance!”

“Hell yeah!”

Sealing the deal, the two shared a sudsy fistbump in the kitchen light.

 


 

“Thanks a bunch for dinner!” Ramuda chirped happily as he skipped out Gentaro’s apartment door. Apparently he had a bunch of files and proofs calling his name back at the office so that guy really was working at every single hour - sort of. Dice wondered if he could be on a normal schedule if he didn't fuck around and flirt the rest of the time. He still gave them a happy wave, more energized than when he arrived, “See ya later, bye bye!”

“Later!” Dice waved back from where he was hanging by the doorway.

Gentaro was at his side, humming in thought behind gently curled fingers, “Have you ever seen Ramuda actually sleep?”

“Huh? Sure I…” Dice began, before his brows wrinkled as he couldn’t quite pull up any memories to back up his claim. “... I mean, he has to, right?”

“I have a theory that he’s on a different plane of existence from us,” the brunette explained with deadly seriousness. “Perhaps he’s ascended, or… descended?”

“What, like Satan? Bubblegum pop pink satin Satan?”

“I don’t suppose you’ve ever seen Ramuda and Satan in the same room before.”

“Of course I have, we all just had dinner together.” Dice stuck out his tongue in the same second that he shoved his hands in his coat pockets. “You’ll wanna apply some ice on that burn, you still got some in the fridge, right?”

Yet despite the sick diss he just received, Gentaro’s expression only seemed… delighted.

“We’re rubbing off on you, it seems. How fun.”

“Eugh, what a gross thought,” Dice bit back, even though a laugh followed at the heels of his words. “Anyway, thanks for tonight, Gentaro. Catch you tomorrow, maybe?”

Fling Posse really didn’t operate on any kind of schedule for seeing each other - but Dice hadn’t forgotten his deal with Ramuda. How could he? It was gonna be the fucking confession of the century.

And the sooner that Dice could rip out these butterflies that were making a mess of his stomach, free them to carry his feelings out to reality, the better.

Yet before he could move an inch out the door, he found his feet cemented in place by the look of mild confusion that passed through Gentaro’s eyes. An eyebrow raised as the novelist asked, “Oh? Then you aren’t going to stay the night?”

It was Dice’s tiny lizard brain that answered for him as he smirked. “Hooking up was that good, huh?”

A sly smile pulled at the edge of Gentaro’s lips, and the look coaxed Dice into shutting the front door before he took a single step outside.

“As true as we both know that to be…” Gentaro breathed out as he leaned in, an invisible force pulling Dice to mirror the action until their lips were just centimeters apart -

“I have an appointment early in the morning tomorrow,” the author finished his sentence as he turned at the last possible second, slipping right past Dice to head to the closet where he kept blankets and pillows. “So it’d be best if we didn’t.”

Dice had nearly fallen over when the metaphorical rug was pulled out from under him.

“Damn fucking tease,” he gritted out through his teeth. He couldn’t tell if he was more frustrated with Gentaro for toying with him or himself for somehow still finding that as hot as hell.

“Mm, yes,” Gentaro’s voice carried the tone of a laugh. “That sounds correct. But I hope that you will take my couch as your consolation prize in our little game.”

To be honest, Dice knew distantly that being given a place to stay for the night was more than enough. It wasn’t long ago at all that being able to crash on Gentaro’s couch for the night was already way more than he ever thought he could ask for, even from his friend. Once, it’d been good enough for him.

Those days were long gone.

He snaked his arms around Gentaro’s middle and physically pulled him away from the closet before his fingertips could find purchase against the plush of a pillow.

Dice.” Nice. He sounded irritated now. “What’re you-”

“Don’t remember a lot of books, but I remember one about giving a mouse a cookie… Sound familiar?” Dice met Gentaro’s frown with a shameless grin. He gave the other enough room to turn around in his arms, bringing them nose to nose. “C’mon, if you’re already giving me a place to stay for the night, let me into your bed too. Not like we haven’t shared before.”

“That’s not…” Gentaro looked tired, as if he was about to explain something to a kindergartener. He really seemed like the type of guy who would be shit with kids. Still, his fingers curled around Dice’s forearms, like he was interested in keeping only this exact amount of distance between them. No more, no less. “To what end? I already told you that we can’t tonight.”

“Because I wanna?”

“Then absolutely not.”

“Fine, fine. I’ll trade you. An answer for an answer.”

Normally something that simple wouldn’t be a gamble - but given Gentaro’s penchant for half-truths and untruths, Dice already knew the odds weren’t in his favor.

“... fine.” A sigh. “But only because you have all the grace and patience of a bulldozer once you’ve found something you wish to pursue. Answer my question first.”

That requirement was something that Dice already saw coming, and it’s why he didn’t even hesitate to answer:

“I wanna stay next to you.”

He felt Gentaro’s fingertips dig into his arms before he said a word - and Dice let himself believe that was the liar’s way of saying he wanted the same thing too. Maybe his hands revealed the truth that his lips couldn’t quite wrap around.

They relaxed in the next second.

Green eyes stared directly at Dice and Gentaro didn’t grace his answer with a response.

“Your question then?”

Dice had a thousand different questions for Gentaro at any point in time - why do you lie so often, have you always wanted to be a writer, are you happy with the direction your life has gone, does everyday make you feel alive, do you have anyone in your life that makes you feel like you’ve been shoved out of an airplane and you don’t even mind - but in this second he only had one.

“You know you’re my soulmate, don’t you?”

(He really should’ve known better than to try to make a plan. Dice never followed plans.)

This time those honest hands tried to push Dice away.

“Is this some gambling addict’s trick?” Gentaro aimed for the same airy lightness that he used to address everything in life, but Dice could only say that he aimed for it. In reality, he fell just short. “To make your question into a bluff? I would say that’s clever, but --”

“Gentaro.” Dice pulled him closer, until Gentaro’s hands had to fall on his chest, had to feel the way that his heart was beating too fast, too sincere under his fingertips. The novelist’s eyes widened. “C’mon, you owe me an answer.”

Gaze glancing up to meet his own, it appeared for once that the storyteller had run out of words - just in time to be confronted with the reality before him.

When he spoke again, he somehow still managed to dodge the question.

“... How can you expect me to believe something like that?” His brow furrowed in what Dice could only try to identify as frustration, maybe confusion. “You’re aware of how impossible those odds are, don’t you? What that means?

“For the fates to, not just once but twice, give me someone that isn’t truly mine to have?”

It was for just the flash of a second - but Dice thought he saw it. A small boy with trembling truths resting on the very tip of his tongue, lost out in curtains of snow.

“Who says?”

The simplicity of his defiance seemed to pull Gentaro out of his swirling, overly complicated thoughts.

“I know, alright? I know that I’m not your soulmate.” Dice took every fact into his own hands, holding them up to Gentaro to prove that his feelings weren’t born out of lies. “Maybe, just maybe... at first, it was a little lame of me to think - I was stupid, and I still wanted it to be me anyway.”

“Dice--”

He shook his head - he wasn’t done yet.

“And I’m not gonna fake it and say this whole thing isn’t dumb as shit - but it’s not really for my sake, but because it means there’s someone out there not realizing you only got eyes for him.”

Gentaro pressed his lips into a thin line.

“But I’m not selfless enough to give him any more time to figure it out anyway. Not when I wanna have you.”

Fingers curled into the fabric of Dice’s shirt, clutching quietly. Gentaro’s head slowly fell forward, resting his forehead on Dice’s shoulder, like a puppet cut from its strings.

Dice wondered what face he was making, and exercised every single inch of self-control he had to refrain from peering at his expression. He only hoped that the next time he saw Gentaro’s face, it wouldn’t be covered by some mask.

“... you realize it’s not that simple, right?” Gentaro asked slowly, as if nervous that with every question, every reminder, he got closer to Dice coming to his senses. “It can’t be that simple. Not when you’re trying to play against fate, and destiny, and--”

“Hold on, I can grab you a thesaurus.”

“Dice.” The glare he received was scathing - but at least it was genuine. “Is truly everything a game to you?”

The laugh that escaped Dice’s chest was loud, and he thought the noise of it carried every ounce of confidence, recklessness, and sincerity that he’d built over the course of the past twenty years.

“Only everything that makes life worth living.”

He thought he saw a shooting star run across Gentaro’s eyes - the first falling light of pure, brilliant madness.

“So what’re you so scared of? So what if it isn’t easy? What would the fun in that be?” Dice grinned. “You think you might walk out on me? Don’t know if you got what it takes to love me? Alright - then I’ll wager, against everything, that we can make this work. And we’ll make it look way fucking better than everyone that took the easy road.”

“That’s quite a boast….” Gentaro taunted - but maybe only a fraction of his heart was in it. Dice couldn’t believe his words, not when he wore a smile that could make all of Tokyo fall in love if he just flashed it in their direction. “I suppose you’re asking me to take the fall with you, then?”

It was more than just a fall, maybe something closer to an all out dive. Their jumping point would be at the edge of the fucking universe, in a realm that not even destiny could touch.

Dice never felt more alive.

One of his hands came to claim one of Gentaro’s, interlacing their fingers and folding them together - steady and certain.

“Come on, liar liar, we can make something out of nothing, cranes out of failures. I’ll take my chance and test my luck against fate every single day, so long as you think we’d make an interesting story to tell.” Dice leaned forward, pressing their foreheads together as he goaded Gentaro more like an opponent than a partner. “But it’s not something I can do without you.”

Gentaro was silent, and Dice thought that they could fit a million small eternities into the seconds it took for him to continue.

When he spoke, it was with a soft note of amusement, with the tune of a storyteller.

“... you know, it can be said that luck and fate are two sides belonging to the same coin. But I suppose if it takes a gambler to flip it, then it should fittingly fall into the hands of a liar to declare its result…. I wonder which side it’ll land on?” Gentaro asked, without asking much of anything at all. Dice already knew that the answer would never come.

“Alright, I’ll take your bet, Arisugawa Dice. In a war against the whims of fate, I’ll choose you. I’ll choose you each day that you continue to choose me.”

A beat.

“And that is not a lie.”

Dice didn’t doubt Gentaro, not at all, but he didn’t think that he could be blamed for wanting to seal his words with a kiss anyway.

Pulling the other flush against him, Dice pressed their lips together like he would be able to taste the promise on Gentaro’s tongue if searched long enough. If not that, maybe he would be able to find the sweetness of forever, the spiked taste of defiance, the flavor of what it meant to love and be loved in return.

The liar’s honest hands curled into Dice’s hair, dragging him ever closer, and he felt like Gentaro was searching for the exact same thing.

The secrets that they could only find in each other.

Each kiss ended too soon and every breath felt frivolous, even as the air grew increasingly scarce in Dice’s lungs. It didn’t stop him from chasing after Gentaro’s lips, led blindly when the other took steps back to guide them back to the bedroom.

At some point Dice processed hands lifting the bottom of the hem of his shirt, and his brain finally caught up - not that it stopped him from assisting, stripping his shirt off and tossing it carelessly into the hall.

“Wait, I thought you said you had something tomorrow,” he tried to protest, tried to help Gentaro be responsible, even as his head ducked to press a kiss to his lover’s neck. A second, a third, a brush of teeth.

Gentaro managed a delighted, gasping laugh as his fingers tightened in Dice’s hair, keeping him right where he was.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained, isn’t it?” The risky statement leaving the novelist’s lips did illegal things to Dice’s heart. Their mouths met again a second later. “My, I’m making one gamble one after another… Maybe you’re rubbing off on me too.”

 


 

groupchat:
days since last naked dice incident: 8

from: dice arisugawa 4:17 AM
hey no need for the suit
accidentally told him after you left
worked out tho

from: ramuda amemura 4:19 AM
(≖ Δ ≖ ✿) this message is TMI.
and by that I mean suuuuper congrats (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧ wow, amazing, so happy for you!!
but don’t text me at 4 am like ever again, okie dokie? (ʘ‿ʘ✿)

from: dice arisugawa 4:20 AM
blaze it

from: ramuda amemura 4:20 AM
lmao (─‿‿─) ok that one can stay

from: gentaro yumeno 4:21 AM
Seeing the two of you act like middle schoolers in the middle of the night reminds me of splendid memories of youth.
Ah-
That’s a lie.

If my phone doesn’t stop lighting up, thus making it impossible to sleep,
I am moving to Ikebukuro in the morning.
That is not a lie.

 

gentaro yumeno changed the groupchat name to days since last naked dice incident: 0 10:10 AM

from: dice arisugawa 10:10 AM
YO

from: ramuda amemura 10:10 AM
GROSS!!!  ⁽⁽(੭ꐦ •̀Д•́ )੭*⁾⁾ TMI!!!!!!

from: gentaro yumeno 10:11 AM
In the words of a great fashion designer of our time:
(ᅌᴗᅌ✿)

 


 

Gentaro’s meteor shower wasn’t just an hour, or a week late - it took fucking months.

(“That’s what I said,” he hummed lightly behind a cup of tea as a radio in some cafe announced the event. The expression that Dice wore was far more scathing than his drink.

“Bullshit,” Dice sighed even as he idly flipped a coin in his hand over and over again.

Gentaro’s hand flicked out to catch the piece before it fell back into Dice’s palm. He turned it over in the light, letting it catch the rays from the window next to them. A smile played wistfully against his lips and Dice wanted to catch the curve with his own.

“Heads, I knew. Tails, I’m making it all up.”

It just wasn’t fucking fair.

Somehow Dice got more into him every single day.)

Like true millennials, they were thinking of just finding some way to watch the show from a livestream, flipping through the internet to see what could give them the clearest picture. It was then that Ramuda appeared in a pastel whirlwind, announcing that he was once again escaping both work and onee-sans that wanted his attention too much - so instead of going on a date, he was third-wheeling! Thank him for his thoughtfulness!!

They did not thank him for his sacrifice, but did express their gratitude when he said he rented a car to get them out of Tokyo. After all, there was no way that they’d be able to see the falling stars if they stayed in the heart of the city.

(“Light pollution,” Ramuda explained from the driver’s seat.

“No way that’s a thing.” Dice wrinkled his nose. They pulled a lot of fast shit on him, but that one sounded super fake.

He was a little less sure when Ramuda laughed, apparently finding something very funny.

“That one’s yours, Gentaro!”

The novelist didn’t even look up from his book. His tone was as flat as the road in front of them. “Don’t remind me.”

“Oi.”)

Apparently Ramuda had gotten the info about a prime stargazing spot from his contact in Ikebukuro and it took a drive, but he swore it was worth it.

“Or maybe he’s kidnapping us to look at flowers again,” Gentaro mused aloud.

“I’m so fucking tired of flowers.”

“You ever think about how good of a vase your mouth would be, Dice?” Ramuda questioned, tone innocent despite the question he posed. “Maybe then your words will be as pretty as Gentaro’s!”

“Is it too late to turn this car around?” Dice had made his comfortable at some point during the trip, sprawled over the entirety of the backseat since he had the whole space to himself. The ceiling didn’t give him a lot of clues about how far they were, but it was perfect for staring blankly while he questioned the state of his life if these fuckers were who he called friends.

“Now Dice,” Gentaro started, tone sweet as sin which meant that he was totally gonna pull Dice’s leg at some point. Unfortunately just because Dice had gotten more familiar with the traps, that didn’t stop him from tumbling into them. He listened closely anyway. “Be a little more - oh, is that the ocean?”

Maybe he risked whiplash with how quickly he sat up and squeezed himself in the space between the driver’s seat and shotgun, but Dice couldn’t help his excitement. “What--”

Ramuda slowed as he pulled up right next to another car - red as hell and definitely nowhere close to the ocean.

“Ahahaha, good one!” Ramuda gave his praise as he moved to hop out of the vehicle. “Let’s see - yep, yep, this is Ichiro’s car. We’re at the right place!”

“I would suppose that the brothers would be interested in a bit of sight-seeing…” Gentaro hummed.

In the space between Ramuda’s door shutting and Gentaro getting out of the car, the novelist leaned over and left a quick peck on Dice’s cheek. It’s not like he was apologizing for lying - he never did - but every now and then he’d give the smallest grain of affection imaginable to keep Dice’s temper from getting too flared.

… and yeah, it worked.

He didn’t really care if they were going to the ocean anymore.

“How’d you know it’s Ichiro’s, Ramuda?” Dice questioned as the three of them walked toward a path that’d definitely seen better days, but their leader headed toward it with spritely steps.

But before they got too far, Ramuda pointed back to the front of the red car - “Guess!”

If Dice had to hazard a guess, bet some money on it, and think he had a chance of winning - he figured that Ramuda was probably referring to the anime lady sitting on the dashboard of the car.

Nice.

He was still laughing when he caught up with the rest of Fling Posse. That sure as hell wasn’t the sight that they came to see today, but it was pretty fucking good on its own.

“Ah, there you are,” Gentaro greeted him as they continued to climb up the path. “For a bit, I only heard the wind carrying your laugh - did you truly find that child’s toy so entertaining?”

“Everyone’s got their hobbies, I guess.” Dice snorted as their steps fell into sync. “Hey Ramuda, we there yet?”

“I’m gonna leave you out here and make you hitchhike back, Dai-su!”

“... He doesn’t mean that.” A beat. A glance over to his boyfriend who wouldn’t - fuck, he might be up for leaving Dice behind too if it meant a good laugh. There was no one he could trust here. Forget Matenrou, Fling Posse was the real den of wolves. “Does he mean that?”

Voice dropping in pitch to resemble that of a fussy, straight-laced scientist, Gentaro hummed ominously before continuing: “The studies on the creature known as Ramuda have shown--”

“Gentaro!”

“Are you two fliiiiirting? Right here, in front of little old lonely me?” Ramuda pouted. At least his footsteps stopped at some kind of clearing up ahead. “Mean! How truly mean!”

“Hadn’t someone marched into my home, saying that he was volunteering to be a third-wheel…. I wonder if that was a lie?” Gentaro questioned.

The two of them continued to press at each other, applying pressure to annoy and irritate, but Dice wasn’t really listening. How could they keep talking shit when there was a whole sky full of stars overhead? It’d been a while since he’d seen so many - even the last time they left Tokyo and he snuck out to that rooftop with Gentaro, that night didn’t have the same expanse of twinkling lights in the sky.

“Holy shit. That’s actually pretty cool,” he muttered to himself as he craned his neck all the way up to get a faceful of what he thought was the Milky Way.

“What’d I tell you? Ichiro knew what he was talking about - oh, I think I see him over there…!” Ramuda leaned over, like that’d help him get a closer look.

Gentaro opened his mouth to say something.

Their impromptu hike had taken them up pretty high though, and a chilly wind interrupted his thoughts as he shuddered.

“Huh? What the hell happened to always being one step ahead?” Dice taunted.

“Need I remind you that we were hardly given any time to grab extra layers before we were told ‘get in losers, we’re going stargazing?’” Gentaro’s nose wrinkled in distaste, though he was left otherwise without defense.

“Your clothes look like they’d be warm anyway!” Ramuda pouted, apparently refusing to take even a fraction of the blame for this.

“I’m actually cold-blooded--” The lie had only just barely left Gentaro’s lips before he was interrupted by a familiar green coat being draped over his shoulders. “What - Dice?”

“Look, it’s bad news all around if you turn into a popsicle.” He shrugged, stuffing his hands into his jean pockets. They’d shared a bed enough nights that Dice knew which of them was meant to be a space heater in another life. “I’ll be alright, so don’t make a fuss.”

Brows furrowing like he was already trying to come up with a response - an argument or a lie, it could’ve been either - Gentaro settled for a simple question, probably just looking for ammo to use in a later argument. “Why?”

A huge, heaving sigh shook Dice’s frame when it left his body. He couldn’t believe he had to explain it and started walking, like he was gonna leave them both behind. “Because even when you’re being a shit, I love you. So deal, alright?”

He braced for it - some taunt, some tease, some condescending remark on how he was a big sap in a punk’s body - and the worst part was that Dice was pretty sure that the onslaught could’ve come from either Gentaro or Ramuda. Maybe both.

… except it didn’t come.

The dread settled in, making a home next to the stretch of silence.

In a slow, agonizing second, he spared a glance at Gentaro’s face--

Only to find his expression remarkably unguarded, like his walls had come crashing down and repairs were taking a while. Surprise read clear on his face for once, emotion genuine, and his fingers were already curled into the material of Dice’s jacket around his shoulders.

Eventually, the question in Gentaro’s eyes finally translated onto his lips: “... and that is how you choose to say that for the first time?”

Confusion swept over Dice.

Say what for the first time?

Maybe it wasn’t always the nicest thing to say, but the truth of the matter was that there were moments that he told Gentaro that he was being a shit - and every time it was because he deserved it, because it was true. Gentaro was occasionally a cagey asshole, but he was Dice’s cagey asshole.

But seeing as that was a two-part sentence--

“... what?” His brow furrowed. “No way. That definitely wasn’t the first time I said I love you.”

Impossible - considering how many times he was sure he felt it.

Gentaro’s fingers tightened in the cloth of Dice’s jacket.

“Uhhhhh, yeah it was.” Ramuda made sure that he was absolutely impossible to forget or ignore. He wore the expression of someone who’d witnessed the most grotesque display of his fucking life. “And it was G-R-O-S-S!”

Dice immediately growled, as if the aggression would win in a fight against the heat that was starting to curl up his neck, “No one asked--”

“Groooooosss!!!” Ramuda exclaimed again, turning on his heel and running toward the shadows in the distance. “Ichirooo! Ichiro, save meee!”

Though his distressed display was ruined a little bit as he stopped mid-step to turn back to his teammates and say with utmost seriousness: “You have twenty minutes.”

--until he would come back to terrorize them, probably.

Dice and Gentaro had gotten around to sharing a lot of things with each other - but they never really had to deal with inviting a silence between them. Yet the quiet stretched on for another beat, a second, third--

“Fuck.” Dice rubbed the back of his neck. “I really never said it before?”

At least what interrupted the silence next was Dice’s favorite sound in the world: Gentaro’s laughter, disbelieving and free as the novelist pulled the borrowed coat closer around his shoulders. It took him some time to accept it, even though he’d taken the very same article of clothing for himself a few times before. Maybe he was still learning how to let himself be taken care of.

“I’m more impressed that you didn’t realize at all.” Gentaro’s eyes were fond, the familiarity of them making any embarrassment that Dice had left dissipate into thin air. Shit could never be that awkward between the two of them. “Normally people agonize over how to say it the first time - rather than just assuming that it was a known fact.”

“Tch, if anything I’m more pissed at myself.” Violet eyes found their ways to the stars again, admiring their light before falling back to Gentaro’s face.

Eyebrows lifted, curious. “Oh? Dare I ask why?”

A hand reached out in the dusk toward Dice, and the gambler wove their fingers together without question.

“I mean… To be honest, I don’t know when it happened - when I realized I love you.” Even from just that phrase, he felt Gentaro’s fingers tense. So Dice made sure to squeeze them tighter. “It wasn’t like the whole deal of finding out you’re my soulmate - no weird flower smells or hallucinations. I’d just be finishing up gambling or walking to your place or just minding my own business -

“And then there it’d be. The fact that I love you. Clear as day. Even now, I don’t think it’s that surprising,” he breathed out a laugh. Maybe he should’ve made a bigger deal out of it? “But now I’m thinking - man, can’t believe I’ve gone that many days without telling you. It sorta feels like loving you is something that I just did, like it’s something my soul’s always known how to do.”

Immediately, he was met with the fervent press of lips to his. Instinctively, he leaned in, electricity sparking down his spine. He wasn’t sure what he said, or what he did, but if Gentaro was kissing him then that probably meant that it wasn’t that bad.

Yet as he leaned in to steal a second kiss right at the heels of the first, he felt a whisper against his lips:

“I was lying.”

Goddammit. Some part of him wanted to ignore that, take it as another day that ended in Y, and move on.

But his undying curiosity demanded, even through the haze--

“Huh? About what now?”

Something in Gentaro’s gaze pinned him to where he stood. Moonlight reflected in his eyes, and it was the first time Dice noticed that a full moon was out tonight.

“You’re my soulmate.”

Dice’s heart crashed into his ribcage at a hundred miles an hour. He was sure it’d be bruised in the morning.

“Ha?” He asked, full of eloquence. “What do you mean? You knew all this time? But all the shit you said about--”

The novelist stole the words out of his mouth with a kiss, and Dice wondered if that’s how all his stories were woven together. Gentaro shook his head.

“No, that’s not quite right… Rather - in my defense, I thought I was telling the truth at the time. I truly believed that someone else was my soulmate.” The words fell from Gentaro’s lips, but they didn’t sound entirely confident, as if he was still creating the story as he went along, or still putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Dice wasn’t sure which it was.

But he knew this: he didn’t really care either.

“Because this felt impossible,” Gentaro sighed, hand coming up to tuck a stray lock of hair behind his ear - but Dice’s fingers beat him to it. He liked the way the little gesture distracted Gentaro into a smile, even as he kept speaking. “But after reviewing the facts, it would appear that I was wrong.”

Somehow, Dice felt like he was on the ledge of something again. Teetering right at the edge, looking down and still not sure where or how he was gonna land, but knowing in his veins that the journey would be worth it.

He grinned and he’s sure that the excitement colored every word he spoke. “Oh yeah? What facts?”

It felt like the split second before he checked his second card in a game of Blackjack, like the piece of eternity that was carved out before he could see what number the dice rolled on, like the moment where gravity made its last attempt to hold on before letting go--

Gentaro pressed another kiss to Dice’s lips.

“That I love you too.”

In the very corner of his eye, Dice thought he saw a light streak across the sky.

“And… you’re not going to say it’s a lie?”

“No… I don’t want it to be.”

Gentaro spoke softly.

(And if Dice thought back on it, he might’ve filed away this memory as the first time Gentaro openly admitted to wanting or not wanting something - to being selfish in the name of his own happiness.)

“Then it’s not a lie,” Dice laughed in the intermingled space between their mouths before closing the distance again. His body thrummed with energy and electricity and sparks of light as he pulled away from the kiss and yelled out to anyone who could hear, “You hear that?! He loves me and it’s not a lie!!”

“Oh. My. Gosh. Congraaaaats!!” sang out another voice from the trees before a blond head of hair popped out. “Oh wait - Jakurai-sensei, is this it? Did we go the right way? See, Doppo-chin, trust me a little bit more! Your loyal Hifumin will never lead you astray - and we found a pair of lovebirds too!”

Gentaro immediately tensed in Dice’s hold - apparently he hadn’t visited Shinjuku since the last time they ran into Matenrou - but the gambler just waved one hand in greeting. “Oh shit, it’s a party now.”

Doppo’s face paled. He looked kinda like a zombie under the moonlight. Hopefully there wouldn’t be any eaten brains tonight. “Please don’t say party, he’ll--”

“I brought champaaaaagne!” Hifumi sang as he danced ahead of his group, “Oh, is that Buster Bros over there? And you know, crazy thing, we passed a tent on the way up here? Wonder if Mad Trigger Crew’s doing some weird family bonding survival training hybrid - I’ll go look for them next!!”

“Hifumi, it’s dark, don’t run, you’ll trip…!” Doppo moved the fastest that Dice had ever seen him go, running to catch up with his friend before he fucked himself up while still sober.

“You know, a secret location becomes considerably less secret if a certain rapper will tell anyone who asks….” Gentaro mused.

“That too is in Ichiro’s nature.” A deep, rumbling voice came from another shadow, menacing until Jakurai stepped into the moonlit clearing. Dice could’ve sworn that he heard Ramuda make a hurling sound from where he was standing. “If you’ll excuse us.”

“Later, Doc.” Dice shot him a fingergun with his free hand. “Chased my humanity and shit like you suggested.”

Maybe it was just a trick of the light, but Dice could’ve sworn he saw a curve of a smile pull at the doctor’s lips. “... Mm. It suits you.”

“Ah… I can’t believe that Dice-san has gotten so friendly with the enemy that he’ll be abandoning us and joining Matenrou….” Gentaro broke Dice’s calm as he lamented, voice whining as he tried to pull out of his hold.

“Wh-What?!” Dice panicked, his arm around Gentaro’s waist tightening. “No way, don’t tell Ramuda that, he’ll actually leave me here to die!”

“Good thing I was lying then,” Gentaro hummed before leaning into Dice’s side entirely and pressing a quick kiss to the corner of his mouth again. “Though speaking of our leader, we’d best join him before he tries to pluck a star out of the sky to use as a fiery weapon against his enemy….”

They really weren’t a moment too early to separate Ramuda and Jakurai.

It helped that that was the moment when the sky decided to begin its show, streaks of light beginning to dance across the black canvas of space. The other teams startled to attention as they tried to trace the streaks with their fingertips, marveling and yelling at each other to make a wish.

“Ah, if Ramuda were to make a wish… I wonder what it would be,” Gentaro mused out loud.

Maybe it was their leader’s single blessing of the day that he didn’t point out how the novelist had neatly folded himself into Dice’s side.

(Didn’t stop him from taking a picture and posting it on Instagram with an obscene number of emojis, filters and stickers, as they would later discover.)

“Haaaa? I bet if you really think about it, then it’ll be obvious!” Ramuda sang, encouraging the two of them to guess.

A beat passed.

“World domination,” the duo said in unison.

“A thousand more days just like this!” Ramuda tried to speak over them. “Wait - hey!”

Dice laughed, loud and unrestrained. “Nah, I think we’re right.”

“Ugh, I’m being bullied by my own team!” Pink Satan whined, but didn’t actually deny their suggestion at all. “What about you, Gentaro? What’d you wish for?”

“Myself…? Hmm…” He seemed deep in thought. Dice listened closely. He had a habit of gambling away his winnings before he actually got to keep any, but maybe he could stand to save a little if there was something Gentaro wanted that money could buy. “A dog, I suppose.”

Dice blinked.

“Eh?”

“Huh?” Ramuda questioned at the same time. “Dice isn’t enough?”

Dice rammed his boot into the rock that Ramuda was sitting on, nudging it forward just enough that he had to fight to regain his balance before he ate shit. Every little rebellion mattered.

“Oh, a good point, Ramuda,” Gentaro admitted and Dice couldn’t think of an equivalent punishment for his boyfriend. Shoving him over felt a little too mean. “Or well, it would be if I wasn’t lying.”

“Oh come on!” For once, Dice thought that Ramuda’s whining was warranted. Though he also couldn’t help but notice that meant that two members of Fling Posse didn’t give real answers to what they’d wish for. “C’mon Dice, you can give us a real answer.”

“Huh? No way, wishes are for chumps,” he sneered.

And maybe this is why he hung out with them.

“Seriously?” Ramuda gave Dice a look that combined disbelief and judgment in unholy matrimony. “Don’t you think that you of all people could stand to have a few wishes granted?”

“I’m not some charity case, alright!” he growled back, before scoffing. “I mean, I won’t say no to some cash to burn--”

“Uh-huh.”

But I’m not interested in having the stars do all the work for me! I’d rather test my luck with luck and chance anyday before I ask the heavens for help,” he explained. Against his side, he could feel Gentaro’s shoulders shaking with laughter. He didn’t think it was endearing.

(Fuck, that was a lie.)

“And?” Gentaro asked, his head falling against Dice’s shoulder. “How has that worked out for you?”

“Right?” Ramuda added in curiously, like he still needed to be convinced of Dice’s answer. “We found you fighting with a duck for a couple yen last week.”

Dice’s nose wrinkled. Ducks were fucking assholes - but luckily, Ramuda and Gentaro weren’t asking for his opinion on ducks.

No, if he was really being asked about how he felt, leaving the majority of his life choices up to luck --

When luck and crossing paths with Ramuda completely not according to plan was what brought him to Fling Posse in the first place, even if they were all a bunch of assholes who only liked one thing more than causing trouble - and that was having fun.

When he’d been convinced that fate and destiny had fucked him and Gentaro both over, but taking the risk of making it work anyway introduced him to a warmth in his chest that not even a cold night like this could extinguish.

When then and there, he knew he didn’t want to be anywhere else, when he could watch stars scatter across the skies and prove that sometimes even the heavens could be moved - with the people who he knew he’d cross the universe for.

“Tch. I made it this far, didn’t I?” He declared more than he asked, turning his nose up to the skies defiantly. “And I wouldn’t trade you bastards for anything.”

This was his home now, after all - one that he didn’t plan on leaving anytime soon.