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arcade fantasy

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An other crumpled sheet ends up in the bin.

Minghao sighs and rubs his face in annoyance. He's been sitting here for hours and hasn't been able to find one single idea. The sounds never match up but mix in a distordant and awful noise. The only time he thought he found something, he realized it was similar to something already existing. Very similar to a familiar melody. The arcade tape they always play on Friday evenings, on Friday evenings when he meets Junhui.

Maybe that is the most disturbing detail to his concentration today. Junhui. He can't focus on making music when the only thing he wants to hear right now is his laugh. He can't focus on finding an original idea when his mind is already full of Junhui. He shakes his head, hits the table with his fist. He thinks too much. Too much about someone who probably doesn't care. Junhui has never seemed to care about anything. That's in fact one of the things he most likes about him, but that's also the biggest problem, the biggest hurdle on his way. This, and the fact he doesn't have a single clue of how to deal with all of that. Grumbling, Minghao hides his face in the hollow of his crossed arms. An other thing so unclear for someone usually so tidy like him. What is that? The fact he hasn't been able to focus on anything for weeks, the fact the only solution he found to somehow avoid it being to not go to the arcade? The fact he can't look at Junhui without feeling himself blush? The fact he actually likes feeling so vulnerable under Junhui's innocent look?

"Hao, a call for you!"

Hopefully, it can maybe pull him out of this never-ending helix of inner questions. He gets up and leaves his tiny studio -initially his bedroom but sleeping has also seemed to be an option recently, and hurtles down the stairs. Mingyu is waiting, hand hanging with the phone, annoyance obvious even in his posture. "Who is it?", Minghao asks, slightly puffing, in the hope of some distraction. A smirk unexpectedly stretches his roommate's lips as he hands him the receiver. "Your weirdo gamer."

"He's not my anything!", Minghao can retort before loosing control on his heart and having to face Mingyu's amusement as he leaves the hallway. "H-hello?" There's a lot of noise, on the other end of the line. It could be easy to think there's no one, but Minghao recognizes the slight breathing near the handset. After a few seconds filled in with peow peow, laughs, screams and  music, Junhui's hushed voice finally makes contact. "Hi, could you come? People are looking weird at me." Minghao chuckles, leans on the wall and stares at a stain on the carpet. "Are you swearing again? I told you to keep it in your head though." He hears Junhui clearing his throat, probably eyeing the people around him. His breathing approaches again and he whispers even lower this time : "Please, there's these scary guys. They came with their motor bikes. Plus, I remember you have a revenge to take on Street Fighter." This time, he immediately knows Junhui is grinning widely. He knows how to talk. Minghao nods, forgetting Junhui can't see it, rubs his foot on the stain for a second and gently taps the phone. "Okay... Don't move I'll be there in 15."

Minghao hangs up and stares at the void, still not realizing how fast his heart is beating. He shakes his head, catches his leather jacket on the sofa backrest, pats his pocket to be sure his keys are in there, and passes his head through the kitchen door frame. "I'm going to the arcade, gotta save this dumbass. Don't wait for me for dinner!". When he reaches the parking lot, he's praying for his hands to stop shaking.

What he doesn't know is nobody was looking weird at Junhui and the bad guys didn't come for weeks.

~

Nothing changed, it's just you, he won't notice, just act naturally, stop fiddling your keys, smile, be normal, be normal Minghao, be normal.

His steps are too long, his boots too heavy, his breathing too jerky and he runs his hand way too much in his hair when looking for Junhui in the arcade. But all his doubts vanish when he finds him focusing on the pinball machine, tongue slightly sticking out, eyes only two thin lines as he squints and follows the ball. Minghao just stands next to the machine with no word, looking at the game, blessing who is to bless for the slight slowdown of his heartbeats. Not looking away from the metallic ball, Junhui startles him when he talks. "Your hair grew. And you always tie it usually." Minghao almost chokes on his saliva, instinctively raises a hand to touch the streaks tickling his nape. He nods, leans forward to rest his elbows on the plexiglass. He tries to hold the blood from invading his cheeks and ears and gives up when he understands it's useless.

"I... I lost my rubber band." That's a lie. He spent precisely three minutes and twenty-seven seconds looking at himself in the rearview mirror and arrange his hair because he told Junhui he would arrive in fifteen minutes but drove too fast. Junhui nods, and Minghao notices the wire hanging from his ear, linked to a small box in his pocket. "What are you listening to?", he can't help but ask. Junhui lets out a tiny growl as he misses the ball and closes his eyes for a second. The machine buzzes because of his defeat and the usual soundtrack starts again. Junhui straightens up and takes his walkman out to waves it under Minghao's nose. "That's your tape, your forgot it last time." His eyes widen, he takes the walkman to be sure Junhui is telling the truth, feels the panic climbing on his limbs. But before he can say anything or run away, a bright smile stretches Junhui's lips, the kind of one that makes Minghao's heart skips a beat, the kind of one that makes him forget everything. "I love it, you're making progress, that's really cool." In a finger snap, he feels his whole face burning and flies away to the Street Fighter machine. Minghao tries to calm his heart by tightening the fabric of his sweater, just above its location, but the rhythm only increases when Junhui catches up on him and puts a hand on his shoulder. He closes his eyes and focuses on walking on a straight line. Kinda hard.

As much as he misses seeing it, once sitting in front of each other, separated by the machine, Minghao is relieved to not be able to see Junhui's mischievous smile. It would disturb him way too much. "You've been away for a long time." His heart skips a beat, his hand slips on the joystick. He hears the noticeable ringing of the coin falling in the slit, focuses on the screen. "Yeah, I've been quite busy with work." He can't see but would bet Junhui is nodding, already focused on choosing his character for the play. But against expectations, he leans to the side, hair tilting and brushing his shoulder, a thin line marking his forehead. "I missed you. You should've told me." Crap. The fire again, in his cheeks, in his ears, everywhere. He's sure he's looking so red he could easily be mistaken for a tomatoe. Minghao smiles as well as he can, and Junhui goes back to his place.

I missed you. He plays really badly today. It seems like his concentration really is lost somewhere far away, probably with his composure and inspiration. They form a nice group, mocking him for being so whipped.

"Hao? Hao the game is over, what are you thinking about? You're rarely so distracted." He startles when Junhui's voice appears just next to his ear. He's leaning on his shoulder, looking at the blank screen Minghao has been staring at for who knows how long. Junhui's breathing is warming up his skin, his hand melts on his arm. "Sorry", mumbles Minghao with shame. He's lost, doesn't know how to act nor how to deal with his growing unclear feelings. A rush of bravery makes him catch Junhui's hand and stand up to drag him to the dance machine. Dancing will definitely help him. Or at least change his ideas for a few minutes. Junhui follows, tightening his hand, giggling at Minghao's determination. Junhui's palm is soft and warm. And it's cold when they break apart.

Minghao chooses a song, not noticing Junhui's bright smile, and he starts the game as soon as the first notes resonate.

She Drives Me Crazy, by Fine Young Cannibals.

Maybe he puts so much energy in the choreography because it enables him to let his doubts out for a moment. For three and a half minutes, his mind is set free, only his body is functionnal, following the music, spinning, brushing the dance floor. Minghao is panting when the score displays on the screen. There's a zero on Junhui's side. Minghao turns to him, still breathing heavily, sweat running along his temple and back. He stares at Junhui, who doesn't seem out of breath at all. Leaning on the barrier, there's something in his eyes Minghao can't put a word on. Before he can ask him why he didn't dance, Junhui crosses his arms on his chest and chuckles, an eyebrow raised up as he says :

"I'm surprised of this choice, it's unusual from you.

-I'm in the mood, huffs Minghao, surprised of his own words. Why didn't you dance?

-I prefer to watch you. Who is she?" Junhui, him, doesn't seem surprised at all. But could he be upset? He frowns and leaves the dance machine, walking with no real goal, letting Minghao alone. He jogs to catch up on him, naturally raises a hand to catch him by the shoulder.

"Who? What do you mean?" The frown on Junhui's forehead deepens, a kid shoves him and makes him take a step to Minghao. They're close, Minghao can smell his perfume. But before he can recognize it, Junhui brushes the air with a hand, freeing himself and going back on his way. "She, the girl that is driving you crazy. You said you were in the mood of the song, right? Who's driving you crazy? Is that why you've been away for so long?" Minghao stops in the middle of the arcade, suddenly drowning in the mix of different musics, deafened by his own heartbeats. Junhui continues on walking, not noticing his absence. People shove him, his head aches from the noise, it's too hot in there. Minghao still hasn't fully recovered his breath, his heart is beating too fast, there's too many people, the music is too loud, the machines too noisy. His head spins.

Junhui finally stops, looks around him for Minghao. From accross the room, he turns and their looks meet, disbelief painted in his starry eyes. Minghao's hands are shaking again. He doesn't know how to interpret Junhui's reaction, doesn't know how to deal with his own actions. He'd like to walk to Junhui, he'd like to run away, he doesn't know. Junhui walks to him, takes down the distance, makes the crowd disappear. When they're close enough, but still not really facing each other, Minghao whispers "It's you", perfectly knowing Junhui can't hear. The words leave his mouth naturally, slide on his lips with a sweet taste.

He reaches for his hand when Junhui ends up in front of him, takes it and stick their eyes. He's terrified. Will he be able to let the words out? Junhui looks down on their linked hands but doesn't take his back. Is he even tightening Minghao's one? He looks up, waiting for something. He should talk. Minghao should talk. Tell what he's had in mind for weeks. Say what has been weighing on his heart. Declare what has been making him unable to act smartly for all this time. He's little by little getting lost in Junhui's eyes. It's comfortable, it's peasant. He always knew the excited and a bit childish Junhui was just a facade for the calm and peaceful boy he really is. His eyes are the proof of it. He could contemplate them for hours.

But they're standing in the middle of the arcade, he's hushing and Junhui looks more and more confused as the seconds pass. Minghao becomes aware of his crazy heartbeats again, remembers what they're doing, remembers what Junhui told him not even five minutes ago. "I... it's you. The song. I, hum, yeah." His voice cracks, looses in the uproar, takes shelter under the dirty carpet. But Junhui's eyes widen, he clutches his fingers and smiles. That's weird. Minghao didn't think he could feel these sensations in his stomach. Knots, tying and untying so fast he can't be aware of when they're tied or not. A storm, a hurricane, a devastating tsunami when Junhui drags him to the exit.

Can a heart explode? Overheat? When they're outside, far from the music that is nothing but a muffled sound now, Minghao has to lean against the wall or else he's sure his legs will give up on him. Junhui lets go of his hand, an oxygen puff inflates his lungs as he dares to look at him in the eyes. There's still thousands of questions in his eyes, and Minghao still can't say anything. The wall is his shelter but his jail at the same time. He's trapped between it and Junhui, unable to escape and never come back because of shame or embarrassment. Junhui takes a step toward him, Minghao sticks even more to the hard surface. "What did you mean Hao?" Here they are. The oxygen he's been gifted a handle of seconds earlier is already teared off him, letting him aghast, gasping for air.

But then, just when he thought he messed everything up, Junhui hums to the song.

I can't stop the way I feel. Things you do don't seem real. Tell me what you've got in mind, cause we're running out of time.

It's sweet coming from him. Minghao would like to fall asleep with a lullaby like that every night. Minghao would like to listen to Junhui sing every night to fall asleep. Every day, in fact. Always.

Xu Minghao is good with sounds, melodies, music. Not words. And Junhui is taking pleasure in that fact. A smile stretches his lips as he sees him struggle. Minghao may be good at music, but Junhui is even better at games. And Minghao doesn't like it. The corners of his lips fall down as he whispers, as low as the first time he said "it's you" : "Please you know what I meant." It's so frustrating he could cry. Not knowing what Junhui is thinking, not knowing if what he did was a terrible mistake or a step forward. Forward what, he doesn't know. Just like he doesn't know anything about everything turning around Junhui.

When Junhui looks down, Minghao thinks the game is over. He thinks he lost, he thinks Junhui will leave him. But Junhui turns out to not be his enemy. He's an ally. Much more, in fact. He gently takes his hand again, caresses the back of it, traces a line above his rings. Minghao doesn't know if he shivers because of the contact or the fresh night air, but he'd prefer it to be the fact that Junhui is holding his hand. Junhui looks up again, smiles with a fondness that could make Minghao melt on the spot. "I know. I'm sorry for driving you crazy, Hao", he says, tenderness dripping from his lips.

All the pressure seems to be removed from Minghao's shoulders and heart when he smiles so sincerely and widely it almost hurts. He clutches Junhui's fingers, catches his second hand to intertwine their fingers, leans his head against the wall in relief. Did he ever smile so brightly before ? He closes his eyes, enjoys the fact he did it, the breeze on his hair, Junhui's hands in his, Junhui's chuckling. He startles a bit when Junhui takes a hand back and slides it on his nape, fiddling his hair. Minghao opens his eyes again and realizes they're much closer than he thought.

When their lips meet, everything interlocks, the sounds, the tastes, the sensations, the scents. Junhui's mouth is sweet, tastes like bubblegum, melts like cotton candy, his hair is soft when Minghao raises a hand to stroke it. Everything is perfect.

A bit panting, Minghao whispers "I've got an idea" when they break apart.