“I’m not saying it’s bad ,” said Goro, which was the truth, technically, only because he would never deign to call something bad when he could call it a boring, overrated mess instead. Which he had, several times already, and intermission had only just started. Ren had been planning on getting them another round of drinks, but he also wanted to stick around to see just how absurd Goro and Makoto’s debate would get. “I’m just saying that while it may have been groundbreaking at the time, it’s nothing special by today’s standards.”
“How dare you,” said Makoto. “Phantom is a classic and I won’t hear another word against it.”
“And unfortunately for us all, we still have another act to suffer through,” Goro said. “I haven’t even gotten started on all the words I want to say against it. But you did ask what we all thought.” Makoto crossed her arms and let out a huffy breath.
“Fight nicely,” said Haru, sipping on her drink sweetly, one hand resting on Makoto’s arm as if to restrain her. Ren thought that Makoto and Goro had probably both chilled out enough since high school to not start a fistfight in a theatre, but it had still definitely been a mistake to let them sit next to each other. Not because he was worried about them hurting each other, but because now that they were friends they could be absolutely insufferable if you got them both riled up at the same time. They’d started hanging out in college, where they’d bonded over a shared love of name-dropping their assigned readings in casual conversation and a shared disgust for the bureaucracy of academia. This trip had been a collective Phantom Thieves gift to both of them, as a congratulations for getting through law school and as one last vacation before they started jobs that wouldn’t give them nearly enough time off.
“Oh, I’ll be nice ,” said Makoto venomously. “I don’t have anything to prove because I know I’m right. And anyway, if you hate this show so much, why did you come with us? You should’ve gone to the basketball game with everyone else.”
“Believe me, I considered it,” Goro said, “but my morbid curiosity got the best of me. And I do enjoy some of the music, even if I think the staging is a bit lacking, some of the songs are disappointing and forgettable, and the plot and characters aren’t strong enough to carry a show with this kind of runtime, no matter how good the performers are. I can’t believe we’re only in New York for a week and we’re wasting an entire evening on a show that thinks it’s okay for people to just stand in one place for an entire song. Well, I suppose that’s what we get for seeing an Andrew Lloyd Webber.”
Makoto put a hand to her forehead, like this conversation was giving her a headache. Goro could have that effect on people. “Don’t tell me you’re one of those Sondheim fans,” she said, like it was a horribly offensive insult.
“So what if I am?” Goro said innocently. “At least his stuff is interesting.”
“Ugh, you would say that,” Makoto said. “It’s cynical and edgy for the sake of being edgy, it shouldn’t surprise me that you’re into that.”
“At least something happens,” he said, “and even if you don’t like it because you have bad taste, you’re still not bored. I’m surprised more of the audience here isn’t asleep.”
“Once again, you really didn’t have to come with us,” said Makoto. “I personally am having a great time. And do you know how hard it was for Haru to get us these seats?”
“Honestly, I mostly did it for you,” said Haru, kissing Makoto on the cheek, “and because I was also curious, since this is the original staging and all that, but I think I agree that it could’ve used an update sometime in the last thirty years.”
Makoto gasped, staring at her wife with a feigned look of abject betrayal. “Haru! Darling! How could you turn on me like this?” she said, breaking into laughter halfway through, and Goro was laughing too, and he looked so unguarded and happy and beautiful that Ren had to take a moment to remember how to breathe.
Haru, now rubbing Makoto’s arm soothingly, said, “It’s nothing personal, dear. I just prefer shows with a bit more motion, and ideally more interesting dancing. And even if the music isn’t quite as iconic, I do prefer the Takarazuka version of Phantom.”
“I can respect that,” said Makoto. “I do enjoy the costuming and the dancing.”
“And the beautiful women,” Haru said.
“And the beautiful women,” Makoto agreed. “Any show can be improved by casting a beautiful woman in a traditionally male lead role.”
“Yet you still argue that Phantom of the Opera is good despite the frankly regressive gender norms being perpetuated.”
“Why do I even bother,” she said, leaning over him to address Ren. “What about you? Do you have any bad opinions about musicals that you want to share?”
“I’m enjoying myself,” said Ren mildly, as all three of them stared at him expectantly. “And all of my opinions are excellent.”
“Yeah, then why won’t you share them, coward?” Goro said. “Stop being a centrist and pick a petty theatre hill to die on like the rest of us.”
“I thought Wicked was pretty neat,” he said, smirking as Goro rolled his eyes and Makoto started massaging her temples like he was giving her an even bigger headache than Goro. Haru was biting her lip to keep herself from laughing.
“You and the rest of the world,” said Makoto. “Even Goro liked that one, I saw him crying during the last song.”
“You keep your mouth shut,” Goro said, brandishing his empty cup at her threateningly. “You’ve already cried twice tonight already.”
“Whatever,” Makoto said, crossing her arms. “It’s not a competition over who thinks they’re too good to cry about musicals.”
“Sorry for not being emotionally moved by a story this boring,” he said. “No amount of candles or electric guitar will make this resonate with me on any level.”
“I love the implication that you relate more deeply to Wicked,” said Haru, because she also thought it was funny to distract Goro by making him rant about something completely tangential that he had unexpectedly strong opinions about.
“Wait, babe,” said Ren just as Goro opened his mouth, cutting off whatever lecture he was about to give on narrative or political allegories or queer subtext, “you’re telling me that you don’t see anything relatable in constantly wearing a mask and yelling about how the world hates you?”
“Shut up,” he said, “and stop calling me out like this. I want a divorce.” He sighed with all the weariness of a long-suffering jilted spouse in a overproduced heterosexual drama, and Makoto and Haru burst into laughter.
“We’re not married,” Ren pointed out, and if it weren’t for the dim lights of the theater he would swear that Goro was blushing.
“Yet. I’m preemptively divorcing you just in case.”
“Wait, you wanna get married?”
“I’m not opposed to the idea but please don’t consider this a proposal.” Goro was staring at the empty stage as though something very interesting were happening on it, and he was definitely blushing. “I refuse to be the kind of man who gets engaged during the intermission of Phantom of the Opera.”
“Yeah, I think if we did that we’d be legally obligated to include the music in the ceremony somehow. Or at least the reception. Maybe our first dance?”
“Bold of you to assume you’d get a first dance if you insisted on that.”
“And maybe wear that costume.”
“Absolutely not,” he said, forcefully, just a hint of a growl in his voice, and Ren ruffled his hair fondly.
“Unfortunate,” he said. “I do like a man in a mask.”
“Is that so.”
“Yeah, there’s something sexy about the mystery of it all.” He raised his eyebrows suggestively. “I’m sure you know what I mean.”
“I can’t believe you’re fishing for compliments like this,” Goro said. “You know perfectly well how I felt about Joker.”
Ren did remember, very well, and he held his gaze for a moment, in what Goro probably meant to be a glare but came across more like bedroom eyes, until he said, “I think this is a conversation we should finish later.”
The beat stretched a moment longer, full of promise that sent a shiver down Ren’s spine, until Haru leaned in conspiratorially and said, “I was just telling Mako-chan the other day that I miss her Queen outfit and wouldn’t mind if she dressed more like that from time to time.”
“I can’t believe we’ve become those people who peaked in high school, reminiscing about the good old days when we were internationally wanted criminals,” said Makoto, not acknowledging Haru’s words directly even though the tips of her ears were red.
“Just because Ryuji’s not here doesn’t mean you have to be the one to shout about what we did in high school for everyone to hear,” said Goro, pinching the bridge of his nose as though it was his turn to get a headache from their shenanigans.
“I doubt most people here could even understand us anyway,” Haru said, “and if they did they wouldn’t believe us. I’m sure it’s fine”
“For criminals,” Goro said, “you are all shockingly bad at opsec.”
“Now who’s revealing our secrets in public,” Ren said.
“You’re right that no one’s actually eavesdropping,” said Goro with a practiced careless shrug. “If they were they would’ve reacted to us shittalking the play they all paid such disgusting prices to see.”
“Yes, these ticket prices are a bit extreme, aren’t they?” said Haru.
“Unfortunately, that’s how Broadway is,” Makoto said. “At least it’s not as bad as Hamilton, even Haru couldn’t get us tickets to that.”
Goro was about to respond, probably to share some opinion about Hamilton, but as he opened his mouth the lights when down and Haru hissed, “If you talk during the overture I will murder all of you.” He slipped his hand into Ren’s instead, and Ren rested his head on his shoulder as he turned his attention toward the stage, already looking forward to drifting off to sleep that night to the sound of Goro’s voice as he rambled, increasingly less coherent the closer he got to falling asleep himself, about everything he was sure to dislike about the second act.