“I need a beta,” Poe says. It’s a regular Saturday afternoon—Poe’s brainstorming for a new book idea, Ranpo is lazing on his couch, and Karl is feasting on some unfortunate apples.
Ranpo clears his throat. “I’m an alpha. That okay with you?”
There is a brief moment of silence that, to Ranpo, seems to stretch on and on for ages. When Poe finally speaks again, he sounds innocently confused. “I meant a beta reader. What’s an alpha reader, Ranpo-kun?”
Ranpo buries his head in his hands.
It started with Dazai being infuriatingly perceptive, as did most things.
It was a perfectly normal day at the office. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and Ranpo was very busy making airplanes out of the paperwork he had to do that day. He also happened to be whining about being bored and lonely and cold, although that last one was mostly a token complaint he’d gotten used to saying to convince Poe to sit with him on the couch, but that’s beside the point. The point is, Dazai had given him one of those Looks, like he was mentally dissecting Ranpo and figuring out which particular weakness he could strike at next.
As a side note, that Look is very similar to the look Dazai gives people when he’s mentally undressing them. Ranpo still doesn’t quite know which one he prefers being on the receiving end of.
But in any case, Ranpo had whined, and whined, and whined some more, until Poe had finally responded to his texts and said he was on his way to the office. That, of course, meant Ranpo had shut up fairly quickly, and apparently Dazai had picked up on that, because he said, “Who are you talking to, Ranpo-san?” with a grin Ranpo wanted to kick off his face.
“I’m reading porn,” Ranpo said, mostly on reflex.
“No, you’re not. You don’t get all smiley and blushy when you read porn.”
“Fine. You got me. I’m reading cute porn.”
Dazai rolled his eyes. “Just tell me. Us,” he amended, when he looked around the office. Ranpo did the same, and had to physically fight the urge to blanch when he realized most of the other Agency members were paying close attention to their conversation. Perhaps he should have toned down on the complaints, to make their absence less obvious.
“Ugh. Here I am, minding my own business, reading cute innocent porn—” (Yosano looked unconvinced, but she never looks 100 percent convinced about anything anyway) “—and here you all are, on my case about it! What do you expect me to do in this office, work? I could get you all sued for harassment.”
The office door creaked open at the exact moment Ranpo stopped talking—Ranpo had calculated that, of course, even if basic mathematics has always been a bother. “Um. Ranpo-kun?”
“Poe-kun! My savior!” Ranpo made an all-encompassing gesture he hoped Poe would understand. “They’re harassing me. Get me out of this place.”
Poe looked confused, as usual. It was adorable, as usual. “Oh. Uh, alright. Wait, are you even allowed to leave the office early? It’s not your lunch break, is it?”
“It is not,” Kunikida confirmed. He didn’t seem to have heard the past five minutes’ worth of conversation at all, something Ranpo supposes is some kind of coping mechanism for him. After all, if the guy has to listen to everything that came out of Dazai’s mouth, he has to have a coping mechanism or five. “Sit down, Ranpo-san. You can leave in another three hours.”
“Three. Hours. You know the kind of things I can do in three whole hours of my life? Sleep, eat—”
“I can stay,” Poe said, before Ranpo could rattle off a list of reasons as to Why Kunikida Sucked. “If that will convince you to do your paperwork, Ranpo-kun. I can show you the manuscript when you’re done.”
Ranpo huffed. “What am I, a trained slave?”
“No. You’re not trained.”
“So I am a slave.”
Poe just smiled that smile that always makes Ranpo’s stomach feel like jelly and his legs go weak. “A corporate one, maybe.”
And, just—God. It was like Poe had no idea what he did to Ranpo whenever he smiled like that. Or laughed, or spoke, or breathed in his general vicinity. How does he stand being so beautiful, Ranpo wonders, every damn day since he’d first met him. How does he stand being so beautiful and not knowing it and covering up that beautiful face with beautiful hair. It was absolutely frustrating.
Ranpo had tried telling him that, of course, but the message probably got lost in translation all the time somehow, because Poe always stared at him in confusion and said something like, “What,” or, “You’re not making sense,” or, “Are you feeling alright, Ranpo-kun,” or, “What,” with just slightly more inflection than the first variation. In hindsight, that may be because Ranpo can’t find it in himself to say it outright—no, it’s because he knows Poe is smart enough to figure things out, even if Ranpo doesn’t say it outright. They’re equals, after all, that’s how a rivalry works.
Probably. Ranpo’s never really had an equal before, much less a rival.
This time, Ranpo just turned away and said, “Whatever.” And then, as an afterthought, “I’d rather be your slave.” He wasn’t even surprised when he snuck a glance back and saw Poe looking perfectly unruffled, the way he always did when Ranpo said something he didn’t understand.
When Kunikida led Poe to where they kept some books around, Dazai jumped off of the couch and was at Ranpo’s side in a blink. “So, Ranpo-san, I shall deduce you were texting Poe-san before he arrived, weren’t you?” he asked; then, not bothering to give Ranpo time to answer, “Our Ranpo-san has a crush! Aren’t I right?”
“You’re annoying, that’s what.”
“You didn’t say I was wrong!” Dazai looked positively gleeful. “I knew it! Not that you were very subtle, Ranpo-san.”
Ranpo tried to level him with a shut-up-and-sit-down look, which was hard when he had to look up to make eye contact. “I’m subtle,” he protested, knowing very well he wasn’t.
“You know very well you aren’t,” Yosano pointed out. Ranpo had no idea how she had heard them, considering she was at the other side of the room, but it wasn’t like Dazai was trying to be very quiet.
“Fine. I’m not subtle. Poe-kun’s just dense.”
“Definitely,” Dazai agreed. “If anyone said they were happy to be my slave, I would’ve already prepared the ropes.”
Ranpo blinked. “I… What?”
“The ropes, Ranpo-san.”
“Poe-kun isn’t into that.”
“How would you know? Have you asked him?”
Ranpo pictured Poe being into bondage, and had to shut his brain down for a few seconds to prevent any unwanted accidents. Dazai was unashamedly staring at his crotch, and Ranpo had to raise his voice to get the other man’s attention away. “No,” he said, trying to sound perfectly dignified and not at all suddenly horny, “and I don’t plan to. Well. Directly, anyway.”
Dazai frowned. “Then how will you make any progress? If you keep going on like this, Poe-san’s never going to get it, and you’re going to end up lonely and bitter forever.”
“No I’m not,” Ranpo grumbled, except he probably would. There was something special about Poe, and how well he understood Ranpo, better than almost anyone else—with Poe, Ranpo didn’t have to worry about being different, about being the odd one out, about being weird and freakish and alone, because Poe was someone like him. He saw things the way Ranpo did, understood them just the same, and the last time Ranpo had had someone like that in his life, they’d died.
He tried not to let those thoughts show on his face, which wasn’t hard—he’d had plenty of practice since he’d met Poe.
“Hmm.” Dazai crossed his arms and looked thoughtful for a moment before his face lit up with what Ranpo recognized as his I-have-a-brilliant-idea expression. It was not an expression Ranpo wanted to be familiar with, but there he was. “I have a brilliant idea!”
From across the room, Atsushi shuddered, like he’d suddenly gotten a very bad feeling about things.
Usually, Ranpo was smart enough to retreat whenever he heard those five terrible words from Dazai’s mouth, especially when he was at the receiving end—the guy was great for pranks, but it wasn’t like Ranpo wanted to be pranked himself. This time, though… Ranpo went over the past few weeks he’d spent pathetically pining after Poe—all the subtle hints he’d tried to drop rapidly becoming more and more obvious when he realized Poe wasn’t getting any of them, all the times Ranpo had let his touch linger on Poe’s wrist for a second longer than necessary and Poe had just given him a confused look, all the times Ranpo had tried to ask if Poe was into men and all Poe had said was that he was only concerned about his characters’ sexualities and not his… that last one was by far the most ridiculous thing Ranpo had ever heard come out of Poe’s mouth.
For the first time, he couldn’t solve a mystery—is Poe-kun just oblivious or does he really not like me the way I like him—and of course it had to involve the person he wanted to figure out the most.
“Fine,” Ranpo said. “Let’s hear it.”
Dazai beamed. Ranpo wondered if, in a different office room, Kunikida felt a shiver go down his spine as well.
And here he is now, having thoroughly embarrassed himself with, of all things, an Omegaverse pick-up line. Probably one of the worst pick-up lines to ever exist. ‘Poe-san should know about it,’ my ass, Ranpo thinks darkly; ‘He’s a writer, he knows all about that sort of thing,’ my ass! Ever since Dazai had told him to say that, claiming Poe would be instantly head-over-heels for him, Ranpo hadn’t been able to have one peaceful moment without intruding thoughts of Poe as an Omega—and then Poe hadn’t even understood it.
Ranpo groans and lies back down on Poe’s couch, at the same time Poe comes back in from his bedroom. “Is something wrong?” Poe asks, though he sounds distracted. “I have cookies if you’re hungry.”
“Yes! To both of those.” Ranpo hops off and heads into the kitchen, where a box of cookies is waiting at its usual spot atop the counter. Poe bakes for him really often, and Ranpo would love to think that’s his way of flirting, but he can never really tell with Poe. “Something is very wrong, Poe-kun. Very wrong. It’s the biggest problem you’ll ever hear about.”
“Is that so.” Ranpo can hear the clicking of a keyboard from behind him; true enough, when he returns to the living room, Poe is sitting by his work desk, laptop open on a document. “What should the conflict be for this story,” he mumbles to himself.
So it’s a new book. Ranpo settles back on the couch, and after a few seconds of needling and pestering and complaining about the cold, he gets Poe to sit next to him. Considering how many times this has happened and how Poe almost never protests anymore, Ranpo at least knows Poe doesn’t dislike being physically close to him—and considering how Poe jerks away from literally everyone else, Ranpo will take this as a victory, however small. “You see,” Ranpo starts, trying to sound as miserable as possible (which isn’t hard), “there’s this person—”
“I got it!”
Ranpo blinks. “You… what?” He got it? Does he get me? Does he finally understand? Will I finally get to stop being so pathetic—
“A conflict,” Poe cheerily clarifies. Normally, Ranpo likes to watch his fingers move on the keyboard—and then imagine them doing other things—but right now, their rapid movement just feel like a betrayal. “My agent said fans on social media are curious about how I would write something that isn’t a mystery novel, so she suggested one in the adventure and romance genres. How about a classic enemies-to-lovers storyline where Character B was secretly pining after Character A for years? That sounds good, doesn’t it?”
Ranpo shoves a cookie in his mouth to put off replying for a few seconds—Poe doesn’t seem to mind, if the endearing glow on his face says anything. He always looks so happy whenever he writes—Ranpo supposes that’s because he must never have had much time to write what he wanted, when he had been in the Guild.
“How’d you think of that from just ‘a person?’” Ranpo eventually asks. The full line had been ‘There’s this person who’s wearing too many clothes for my liking, and I was hoping you could help me with that,’ but he doubts he’ll be able to use it now that the opportunity has gone.
Poe hums. “It was the way you said it. All miserable. Like how Character B might try to tell Character A about their feelings without being too direct.” He pauses, then turns to look at Ranpo with a worried expression. “What was your problem, by the way?”
Ranpo sighs. “Oh, nothing. It’s solved now.” He knows better than to distract Poe when he’s in one of his rare good writing moods—he hates seeing Poe getting frustrated because he can’t find the right words.
Poe tilts his head. “If you say so.”
He gets back to typing, and Ranpo leans against his shoulder and gets back to watching Poe type. It’s not exactly what Ranpo wants, but for now, he eats another cookie and decides it’s good enough.
“It didn’t work?” Dazai looks disappointed.
Ranpo grabs a paper airplane and throws it at him. It swoops through the air and knocks against Dazai’s forehead, to unfortunately little effect. “Of course it didn’t work! Why did I even think it would work? This is all your fault. Now I’m even more pathetic.”
“You also definitely came out hornier,” Yosano points out.
“Ugh. That too. Not exactly a good thing.”
Dazai leans against the backrest of his chair. “I was sure it would work on someone like Poe-san. He looks like the kind of person who consumes that sort of content, after all.”
Ranpo hopes he isn’t currently bright red. “I told you, Poe-kun isn’t into that. And I already asked! Indirectly! If he didn’t get that stupid line, there’s no way he reads stuff like that!”
“Or he’s playing dumb because he’s embarrassed.” Dazai clicks his tongue and shakes his head. “Tell him he shouldn’t be. We’ve all read at least one Omegaverse work. The genre is practically a classic.”
“I haven’t! What is it?”
“Nothing, Kenji. Don’t ask Kunikida-kun either.”
Yosano drops into the seat beside Ranpo and flicks his forehead. Normally Ranpo would scowl, but this time all he does is slump onto her lap. “I’m going to die lonely and bitter, Yosano-san. I’ll give you the honor of being the one to manage the playlist at my funeral.”
“Don’t be silly,” Yosano says. “Dazai can have the honor of doing that.”
“Can’t you reassure me? I don’t want to die lonely and bitter!”
“The way things are going, it’s the only future you’re going to have. Look—Poe-san seems…” She looks contemplative for a moment. “Reserved. Introverted. Basically a stranger to social interaction. So it’s no surprise he wouldn’t really understand you if you don’t speak frankly.”
“But—” Ranpo sighs and swallows the rest of his words down. But I can’t, he wants to say. He can’t, because whenever he thinks about just coming out and being blunt with Poe, saying I like you or Go on a date with me, his throat locks up and his tongue sticks to the roof of his mouth like it’s been Superglued there. It’s not that he’s a coward, it’s not that he’s scared, it’s just that he thinks of all the times Poe hadn’t understood him, when Poe’s one of the few people who can understand him, and shouldn’t that mean something, that Poe doesn’t want to understand what Ranpo needs him to?
Okay, maybe he’s a little scared. Maybe he’s a little scared that Poe doesn’t like him back after all, and that he’ll want to stop being Ranpo’s friend if Ranpo confesses, and he’ll start avoiding Ranpo until they stop seeing each other altogether and Ranpo’s never going to see Poe smile when he gets a great idea for his next book ever again. Maybe he’s a little scared he’s going to be left alone, again, with no one to understand him the way he wants to be understood.
Fine. He’s terrified.
“But that’s no fun,” he ends up saying. It’s lame, but it’ll do. “And I wanna see Poe-kun’s face when he finally gets one of them. He’ll probably get all red and stuff.”
Yosano shakes her head. “You need to get your priorities straight, Ranpo-san.”
“Can’t get my priorities straight if I’m not straight myself. Everyone in this office should understand that.”
“Nevertheless, you must persevere in the face of hardships!” Dazai grins. “I still have more pick-up lines I am all too willing to offer! They’ve worked multiple times in the past.”
Ranpo squints at him. “I distinctly remember you getting a dislocated shoulder when you tried to use one on—”
“Anyway,” Dazai continues, perfectly unruffled, “just keep at it, Ranpo-san. I’m sure things will work out. And if they don’t, you can always just ask him the old-fashioned way by memorizing his schedule and walking in when he’s in the middle of something.”
“Something,” Dazai repeats, winking, “that he might need your help with.”
Ranpo’s glad he’s currently lying down on his stomach. He closes his eyes, counts from one to ten, and thinks of the least sexiest things he can come up with in an effort to drive out the mental image of Poe… in the middle of something Ranpo would be all too happy to help him with. “I don’t think he does that during the day, you know.”
“So? Just break into his house at night.”
“I want him to like me, not to call the cops on me!”
“Oh, Ranpo-san. It’s when they call the cops on you that you know they’re absolutely smitten.”
“I’m guessing that was another case of one of your pick-up lines working well.”
“You are, as always, correct.”
Even when Kunikida kicks Dazai into doing his paperwork, and Yosano leaves to check up on what medical supplies she needs to restock on, Ranpo can’t get the thought out of his head. It’s unhealthy and creepy and he should really stop thinking about it during work hours, but it’s that or make more paper airplanes, which he’s had enough of for quite a while. Maybe paper cranes, then. With a sigh, he gets back to his desk and starts folding—but then the office door opens, and all thoughts of paper cranes fly out of his head. “Poe-kun!”
Poe smiles and makes his way over to sit beside Ranpo. He’s carrying his laptop bag again, which unfortunately means Ranpo won’t get to annoy him if he gets into the writing zone. “Sorry I’m a little late. Had some errands to take care of.”
“It’s okay. You’re here now.” An idea pops in his mind—Ranpo can almost hear Dazai’s voice saying I have a brilliant idea! and wonders just how bad his life has come that he has a mini-Dazai in his head. “But I do have a question. A very important question.”
“Hm?” Poe’s already flipping his laptop open, so Ranpo has very minimal time before Poe tunes out everything else. “Go on.”
Ranpo leans forward, propping his chin up on the edge of his palm and letting a lazy smirk dangle off his face. “What time do you get off,” he purrs, “and can I watch?”
Poe doesn’t even look at him from his screen. “That’s my line.”
If Ranpo’s heart hadn’t suddenly decided to bounce up into his throat, he probably would have registered Dazai tripping over a potted plant from the next table over. “Wh—”
“Or it would be, if I didn’t know you get off work at 6pm,” Poe continues. Then he decides to look at Ranpo. “If you’re asking me when I stop writing, it’s whenever I get tired. Also, why would you watch me fall asleep?”
Ranpo buries his face in his hands. “Nothing. No reason. I totally don’t want to see that at all.”
Poe smiles. “I get it! Do you think Character B would like to see Character A asleep? Because it’s a bit like finally seeing the other person without any facades or guards on, just themselves, at peace and feeling home—ah, they could share a bed!”
So Character B is getting more action than I am, huh, Ranpo thinks. He grabs another paper airplane and throws it at where Dazai is very obviously stifling laughter.
“Please stop wasting paper,” Kunikida says, but he sounds defeated.
Poe frowns. “Ranpo-kun, you promised you’d do some paperwork if I came, didn’t you?”
“Ugh. A terrible deal made in the heat of the moment.”
Poe doesn’t reply, and at first Ranpo thinks he’s busy writing, but the absence of keyboard clicking makes him turn to look. Poe’s bent over his laptop, and he’s staring at his lap and worrying on his lower lip—Ranpo drags his eyes away from Poe’s mouth. Right, that had been a bit of a heated moment; the first time Poe had visited the office, one of the clerks had given Poe an odd look, and that naturally led to some whispers, and then even more suspicious glances.
Ranpo had hated it, seeing Poe grow uncomfortable under the unwanted attention—at the end of the day, Poe had mumbled something about how he probably shouldn’t visit anymore, and Ranpo had furiously declared he would do his paperwork as long as Poe was in the office. That had stopped the clerks—Kunikida looked close to tears of joy.
Of course, he hasn’t actually held his end of the promise up, but no one’s called him out on it yet, so.
“I mean, why didn’t I just make it so that you could do my paperwork? That would be much more productive for everyone involved.”
Poe laughs, and his troubled expression fades away. “No, thank you. Not when I don’t exactly benefit from that arrangement.”
I have a brilliant idea! “That’s right. You’re the real paperwork here.”
Poe blinks. “What do you mean?”
“Because I’m not doing you,” Ranpo says, enunciating each word, “but I definitely should be.”
A full second of silence passes until Poe speaks again. His expression remains the exact same. “I… don’t understand.”
Ranpo stands up and grabs his coat. “I’m leaving.”
“Oh, but it’s barely 4pm… well, alright.”
It’s not a long walk to Poe’s apartment, and Ranpo fills it up with mindless chatter, doing his best to stop thinking about how he had completely and utterly failed twice in the span of what couldn’t have been more than ten minutes, and also how Dazai is probably still laughing his guts out back in the office. Halfway to the apartment, the skies darken and a light drizzle starts to fall around them, as if mirroring Ranpo’s lonely and bitter future.
Ranpo has a bad feeling about said lonely and bitter future when the drizzle escalates into a heavy downpour fairly quickly. Before he can comment on that, there’s a sudden weight on his head and shoulders, and he yelps a little when his vision gets obscured by something black. “Poe-kun?”
“Sorry! I didn’t bring an umbrella,” Poe frets, hand reaching down to pull on his wrist, “so come on—you’ll get sick, Ranpo-kun—” And then he’s tugging Ranpo down the rain-slicked streets to his apartment.
Ranpo nearly slips twice, mostly because the unexpected skin-on-skin contact has his stomach doing backflips, but when they miraculously arrive at the apartment, he’s almost perfectly dry—thanks to Poe’s very big and very oversized coat, which Poe had unceremoniously thrown onto him. Poe, meanwhile, looks like a stray cat caught in a storm, which would be more cute and funny if Ranpo’s eyes don’t immediately lock onto the water dripping tantalizingly down the long line of Poe’s throat.
Ranpo coughs and shrugs Poe’s coat off his shoulders, holding it out to its owner, both of them dripping wet. “Look, now you’re gonna get sick. I’ve got my own coat, you know, you didn’t have to.”
Poe smiles shyly, and it’s so sickeningly adorable that Ranpo has to cough again just to clear his head. “I know. I wanted to.”
Why does Poe always have to say things and do stuff that make Ranpo want to die happy? Is that just his job? Shouldn’t that be illegal? Who allowed that?
“You should still take a shower,” Poe’s saying, “just to be safe. I know how terrible you get when you’re sick.”
“You take a shower first. You’re making a puddle on the floor. Or,” Ranpo says, pretending to sound contemplative, “want to save water by showering together?”
Poe wriggles out of his wet jacket. “My shower isn’t big enough. Your clothes aren’t that soaked through, are they? Because I don’t think any of mine will fit you. Anyway, they should dry quickly enough if I put them by the heater…”
Ranpo fleetingly considers just stripping right then and there—maybe that would give Poe something of a hint—but he decides he isn’t quite that desperate. Yet. “Fine,” he sighs.
Poe smiles again, and Ranpo finds himself returning it. This, at least, is nice—even if he can’t touch Poe the way he wants to, even if he can’t kiss him wherever and whenever he likes, even if he can’t have everything—he at least has this, and Ranpo decides that it’s better than nothing.
When Poe cuts them watermelon slices on a hot summer day and Ranpo isn’t busy staring at how good he looks with his hair in a ponytail again, Ranpo casually asks, “If I were a watermelon, would you spit or swallow my seed?”
“Swallow,” Poe says, without so much as a second thought. Ranpo hastily crosses his legs until Poe continues with, “I don’t even know how to spit watermelon seeds, and I read somewhere that they’re actually quite safe and nutritious to eat, so there’s no point wasting effort to pick them out, right? Oh, do you think Character B likes watermelons? Or fruits in general? What if they get their arm injured, and Character A has to spoon-feed them? That sounds like such a cash-grab scene, but I can imagine it already…”
Ranpo spits a seed on the plate in front of him, probably looking murderous the whole while.
“If I flip a coin, what are my chances of getting head?”
“50 percent.” Poe gives him a hurt look. “A-Are you making fun of me?”
“Wh—No! It was a joke!”
“I… What’s the punchline?” Poe looks close to tears.
Ranpo shakes his head. “Nothing! Never mind. What does Character B do for a living again, Poe-kun? He’s a mercenary, right?”
Poe brightens. “Yes! He works for a secret underground society, and he’s been paid to kill Character A, who wronged him years ago, so he’s planning to twist Character A’s mind and manipulate him into killing all the friends who trust him unconditionally… but Character B realizes what he’s feeling isn’t hate, it’s love, and…”
Ranpo tosses the coin in his hands, and tries not to sigh when it comes up tails.
Another hot day treats Ranpo to a sight of Poe tying his hair, and the pale skin on the nape of his neck is so tempting that Ranpo can’t help but say, “You know how your hair would look really good, Poe-kun? On my lap—”
Poe whips around, hair falling around his shoulders, and gasps, “Do you think Character A would like it if Character B tied his hair in a ponytail? He would! He’d go absolutely crazy! Then when they finally kiss after 47 chapters and 125,000 words, he could accidentally let slip that he thinks Character B’s ponytail is attractive and—”
“You know, if I were you, I’d have sex with me,” Ranpo grumbles from the couch.
Poe hums. “That’s a very Character-A thing to say.”
listen. im going to die lonely and bitter. if u cared about me at all u’d give me something other than shitty pick-up lines that DO NOT WORK.
oh ranpo-san, pessimistic as always! just believe in yourself, things will work out! ＼(＾▽＾)／
dazai its been 2 MONTHS
I LITERALLY TOLD HIM TO HAVE SEX WITH ME AND HE JUST
tHaTs A vErY cHaRaCtEr A tHiNg To SaY
I HAVE A CRUSH ON THE STUPIDEST PERSON IN THE WORLD!!!!!!!!! ୧((#Φ益Φ#))୨
Dazai doesn’t reply for a while, which probably means Kunikida caught him texting during work hours—Ranpo sighs and tosses his phone somewhere behind him, knowing it’ll land exactly at the other end of the couch. “Poe-kun…”
“Are you cold?” Poe’s already getting up from his desk and sitting next to him. This time, he’s the one who leans closer, his side pressing against Ranpo’s shoulder, and Ranpo feels his heart flit and flutter around in his ribcage, cheesy as that sounds. What can he say—he likes being the only person Poe voluntarily touches. “I’m almost done with the book, by the way. I know it’s not your type of thing, but do you still want to give it a read?”
Ranpo huffs. “It’s romance. ”
Poe laughs. “I thought you’d say that. It’s fine, then.”
“Silly. Of course I’ll read it. It’s not like I’ve got anything better to do.” Ranpo snuggles in closer until his head is resting on Poe’s chest. This is, by far, his favorite position, not counting the imaginary ones he’s conjured in his head. “That was fast. Only two months? You write quick for a slow burn.”
“There’s less to think about—less to take into consideration, I mean, but there are still a lot of problems I have to tackle, and how to make the romance convincing, things like that, but it’s still less intricate than a murder mystery. And anyway, I’m fond of the characters,” Poe adds, smiling that annoyingly adorable smile. “Character development really is fun to write.”
It’s probably stupid to be jealous of fictional characters, right? It definitely is. “Yeah, I know, you’re all Character-A this and Character-B that. Do they even have names?”
“Of course they do, but I know you’d forget them if I told you.”
“Eh, you know me well.”
“I’ve been having trouble with the ending, though,” Poe remarks, now thoughtful. “I mean, Character B was pining for Character A for six years, which—don’t you think it’s sort of obsessive? Others might find it a little creepy, right? And when they meet again, Character B straight up tries to kill Character A and his friends, so wouldn’t some people call that abusive and toxic or something? Like, maybe their whole romance has been forced and contrived from the start, and Character B doesn’t actually deserve a happy ending because of all the wrongs he’s done…”
He trails off there and angles his head down a bit, possibly in an effort to look down at Ranpo—Ranpo can tell, because he can feel Poe’s chin resting on the top of his head, and he’s so terribly comfortable, he could fall asleep like this, like he’s done multiple times in the past. “What do you think, Ranpo-kun?” Poe asks. His voice is softer, and somehow more unsure. “Because—I know Character B’s made a number of mistakes. But he’s been trying his best to be a better person, and…”
“Just give him a happy ending, Poe-kun,” Ranpo sighs. He wants to bury his face in Poe’s chest and let the rest of the world fade out around them. “I mean, come on, you worked so hard. Hell, Character B worked so hard, he deserves to be happy. And your readers will be pissed if they had to go through 120,000 words of mutual pining and get a sad ending.”
“Oh,” Poe says. He sounds—lighter, somehow, as if relieved. “Okay. That makes sense.”
There’s a pause, filled only by the rhythmic clicking of keyboard keys—Ranpo yawns and shifts until he’s essentially on Poe’s lap. Poe obviously doesn’t mind, if the way he lifts his laptop and readjusts it for Ranpo is any indication, and Ranpo basks in the coziness of the position for a short while until Poe speaks again. “Ranpo-kun?”
“Could you give me a happy ending, too?”
The words don’t register in Ranpo’s head for a second, because he’s just too comfortable to really process much at the moment—but when his brain catches up to his ears, he nearly headbutts Poe in the chin. “What?”
Poe calmly moves his head to the side. “I said, could you—”
“I heard what you said. What do you—” Ranpo is seconds away from tearing his hair out. He adjusts himself so that he’s facing Poe instead, though this means he’s now way too close to Poe’s face, his knees on either side of Poe’s thighs. Under more favorable, less confusing circumstances, Ranpo’s sure he would be greatly enjoying this position. “What do you mean? What are you…”
“I mean what I mean.” Poe closes his laptop and sets it aside. The tips of his ears are red, and his hands stutter in the air for a moment before settling on Ranpo’s waist to hold him steady—Ranpo’s breath rattles in his throat, and so does Poe’s. “I-I thought you of all people would understand, Ranpo-kun.”
“You…” Ranpo stares at him, watches the way his cute little blush spreads to his cheeks and the bridge of his nose. “You mean. You mean you understood all those dumb pick-up lines?”
Poe smiles crookedly. “I always understand you.”
God, he should be jailed for being so adorable. “Then… why… Wait, so you do like me back?”
“I think that should be obvious by now.”
“Why… But… All those times…” It’s humiliating, to be reduced to a speechless mess like this, considering Ranpo’s never run out of words before, but he supposes that it’s only fitting the one person who could render him incapable of coherent thought is the one person who understands him best. “Why’d you play dumb?”
Poe giggles. Ranpo hates how his heart melts at the sight. “I thought it was cute.”
“I made an Omegaverse joke,” Ranpo weakly protests.
“Exactly. Quite the alpha you are, all flustered like this.”
“I’m not flustered,” Ranpo huffs. “And if you’re implying I’m an omega, then you’re wrong. In what world are omegas capable of deductive reasoning? Honestly, Poe-kun. And I can’t believe you weren’t embarrassed at all! I was ready to die lonely and bitter after I said that!”
“It was hard controlling myself, you know, I always had to go to the next room over and stare at the wall for a few seconds to compose myself—but, just, you were so cute when you said them,” Poe laughs, “that I thought I wanted to hear more from you, and see how much longer you could wait before you started getting really obvious… but what I want to say is… well.” He smiles, and in that moment, with the afternoon sunlight coming in through the windows to light his face up, Poe looks so painfully beautiful that Ranpo feels himself falling in love all over again. “I like you, Ranpo-kun. A lot. And I’d really like it if you were the Character A to my B.”
“That is so unbelievably cheesy,” Ranpo says. “I want to kiss you anyway.”
“See,” Poe sighs, “you should have just said that from the start.”