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Niki has a problem.

 

Well, perhaps he has multiple. He hasn’t decided yet what he’s going to make for dinner in just a few hours — maybe the quiche that the vice president shared with him about a week ago? — but that’s not the biggest of his concerns. 

 

(Shocking! He loves food! Loves eating! Just what could be bigger to take over his mind the way food does, but much more!!) 

 

His current, most important problem is tall and human-shaped, holds an infatuation with him and gambling, mostly gambling, likes not telling people plans… It also has red hair that looks like a mess all the time, but is surprisingly soft and smooth to the touch, as well as bright blue eyes that remind Niki of— Wait! What is he thinking? No! 

 

If it wasn’t obvious, his most important problem is the one and only Rinne Amagi

 

Sure, it isn’t as if this is not true most of the time, since Rinne is a freeloader that leeches off of him for food, shelter, and money when he burns through his gambling stash at the parlors. He’s also extremely overbearing, especially when it comes to publicly saying the things he would like to do to Niki, some much more indecent than others, followed by declaring that he wants to marry him. 

 

But he hasn’t been doing any of that recently. Not even the marriage part! That’s like… what’s the word… It's iconic of Rinne!

 

Niki isn’t exactly sure when it began, but it’s probably been days, and he’s going to die if he ever says it out loud, but he’s concerned.  

 

What if Rinne is sick? Very sick, like that friend of Fushimi-san, Tenshi-san or something. Niki doesn’t want to entertain that idea, he doesn’t enjoy it.  

 

(Or worse, what if Rinne’s planning something? Like the way he was so willing to make all the damage Crazy:B caused fall only on himself. What if he’s planning on leaving again?

 

Without telling anyone this time.

 

 …

 

The idea makes his stomach hurt). 

 

Niki probably needs to get to the bottom of this. Preferably before he starts to lose his appetite and all he feels is worry instead. 

 

Or maybe before he starts getting even more distracted during practices, since he did just miss his cue and entered late to his solo during Ariadne, the song they’re rehearing. Kohaku gives him a look that has him smiling sheepishly at him, and HiMERU just rolls his eyes when Niki turns towards him. Rinne isn’t even looking at him, frowning at the floor. 

 

He almost wants to mimic that expression, and he does end up doing that when Rinne calls for a break half an hour later. The rest of the group takes this in stride, Kohaku goes to the side and sits down to gulp his water down, while HiMERU leans against the wall and does something with his phone — probably scrolling through reddit or something similar — and Rinne tosses him a water bottle that he barely catches, as well as his backpack. 

 

“Rinne-kun—”

 

Rinne laughs, waving a hand in front of his face. “Aren’t ya gonna be late for work, Niki-kyun? Go,  go, wouldn’t wanna get ya fired or somethin’.”

 

“Since when have you—” But the redhead interrupts him again, pushing at his backpack and making Niki take a step back. 

 

“Ah, sorry Niki. Don’t have time for a chat, gotta go meet Vice Prez Snakeyboy for some shit or other. Ya know how it is.”  He doesn’t even let Niki protest against that, and he’s gone before Niki reaches out to grab onto his sleeve and make him talk. 

 

So he stands around like a dumbass, lips parted and brows furrowed in complete incredulity until Kohaku mutters something that sounds suspiciously like “idiots” and Himeru sighs and nudges him towards the door. 

 

“Have a good day at work, Shiina.”

 

“Mmm.” He says, very helpfully. “Thank you, Himeru-kun. Kohaku-chan.” He doesn’t even know what he’s thanking them for, but it feels fitting as he walks away from the dance room, his body on autopilot because his head is too busy running the last two hours in his head. It’s hard, because he can’t make sense of what Rinne is doing and what he’s supposed to think about it. He feels like a machine about to short-circuit. 

 

He’s also hungry. 

 

Café cinnamon isn’t far away now, so it’s not like he’s going to starve to death or go into a frenzy for food if he waits another minute, but Niki still stops walking. There’s a chocolate bar in his backpack, and he really wants to taste it before the sun melts it or something — he’s really just hungry, but he likes justifying the way he taps into the last of his emergency stash. 

 

What he doesn’t expect is the amount of snacks that are inside the bag when he opens it. So he closes it, blinks, and opens it again — sure enough, they are still there. Not an illusion? They feel solid to the touch, and there’s a lot of variety in their shape, size and color as well as, well, just what the snack is. There’s the chocolate bar he wanted to eat, as well as a similar one with nuts, there’s a bag of cookies, some gummies. They’re all snacks he has enjoyed in the past and buys frequently... but Niki hadn’t gone on a snack run this week. 

 

So where did these come from? It’s so strange— Wait. 

 

No it’s not. 

 

Rinne had handed him over his bag before, hadn’t he?

 

“Stupid Rinne-kun.” He mumbles, rolling his eyes as he grabs the chocolate. “So dumb. Cruel. How dare he mess with my stuff.” Still, he can’t stop the corners of his mouth from rising as he smiles due to more than just the rich, delicious taste of the candy. 

 

Things will be just fine. Rinne’s probably giving him these as some sort of apology for ignoring him, he’ll be back to normal soon.

 


 

As if! 

 

If anything, things just seem to get worse! Niki doesn’t understand it at all! 

 

He goes from seeing Rinne all day, all the time, having him around 24/7 to barely seeing him, spotting him occasionally in the dorms or in the common rooms only to have Rinne walk in a different direction and then he simply doesn’t see him at all! Only when they’re practicing routines for the upcoming SS!

 

So Niki is lost. He doesn’t know what to do about this. 

 

Trying to corner Rinne is a no go, because the redhead is faster than him and stronger when he tries, so it would just end up in Niki getting exhausted chasing a man around the ES buildings. Plan A scrapped. 

 

Asking someone for help… The Vice President is too busy with Eden stuff, and something regarding a childhood frenemy of his, or something. Kohaku would say no. HiMERU would say no but drier.  Anzu’s job might be to deal with units but she isn’t a counselor… Ugh! All the other people Niki can think of are no-goers either! Mayo might have heard something, but he wouldn’t know how to fix Niki’s issue with Rinne, and Hakaze went through a shit ton of internal conflict when they did that magazine date ad, but it’s not like hearing how he solved that would help Niki either! 

 

So… Plan B scrapped. 

 

Plan C… Plan C… Just what is Plan C…? Maybe… Niki paces around the hallway he’s in, hoping that will kickstart his brain into remembering or making the new plan. Maybe— 

 

“Shiina-san.” A voice calls out from behind him, and he turns around to look at Rinne… but smaller, and much more innocent looking— Hiiro. He likes Hiiro, which is why Niki doesn’t hesitate to smile and abandon his dead brain cells to pay attention to the unit leader.

 

“Yeah, Otouto-san? You okay?” He tilts his head at the redhead, pressing a finger against his cheek as he uses his living brain cells. What did Rinne say his brother’s favorite food was? Something absolutely delicious. But… Ah! “Are you hungry? I was thinking of going to the kitchen to make some… Omurice.” 

 

Hiiro’s eyes light up, expression changing from a frown to a small smile, and Niki almost wants to high five himself for nailing this. But he’s not that ridiculous — not that anyone would judge him, with Hibiki-san around — so he just grins instead when Hiiro nods. 

 

“Yes! I love Omurice! I can help make it, Shiina-san!” Wow, an Amagi who willingly offers to help, Niki never thought he’d see the day. “And… perhaps that would be a better place to talk.” Hiiro’s tone drops the enthusiasm he had, and it makes Niki dread whatever he has to talk to him about. Whatever could be so important that he had to discuss it with him and also look sad about it?

 

...Oh. 

 

No no no. Niki is not thinking about the worst. He is not. In fact, he will simply choose to not think at all as they both walk over to the kitchen. His brain is empty as he gets the eggs and passes them to Hiiro, while he takes care of the rice. His head remains blank until— 

 

“Shiina-san… Do you know if there’s something wrong with my brother?” Hiiro asks.

 

Many things! 

 

Many! So, so, so many things. Like stealing his emergency food one day, tugging on his ponytail the other, sneaking his hands below his shirt when they’re ice cold and making Niki yell… and then turning around and not doing anything like that, despite the conflicting evidence of his backpack magically getting filled with his favorite snacks and then somehow managing to arrive early at work for the past four days and just— Ugh!

 

But Niki does not say this, he doesn’t want Hiiro to think that Rinne is a heathen. Even if he’d take it in stride because he holds unconditional love for his brother, since he too left their home. 

“Hmm… Why?” 

 

“Because he looks upset, sad. It sort of reminds me of how he looked when… those days before he left home.” He sighs, crossing his arms over his chest. “I asked him if I needed to beat up someone like Saegusa-san or HiMERU-san or maybe someone else that complained about him but he laughed! And then told me to focus on Alkaloid instead of worrying about him when he was okay, unless we wanted to get eaten in our SS…”

 

“But!” Hiiro slams his hands against the counter, startling Niki and seemingly noticing because he mumbles an apology. “But even I could tell he looked even more sad! Like he didn’t expect anyone to… notice? I don’t really know.” He shakes his head, turning to face him again with a glint in his eyes. “But you would, right? You’re super important to my brother, and you’re always together so you must know him better than me!” 

 

Niki resists the urge to purse his lips at that, but he must still have made some sort of weird expression, because Hiiro frowns up at him… and Niki can’t bring himself to lie. “He hasn’t really been talking to me lately, your brother, I mean… but! I… probably can figure something out! I don’t want him to be sad,” even if he deserves it for being so complicated, “so I’ll try my hardest to solve whatever’s going on, okay?” 

 

There’s a beat of silence as Hiiro looks at him, eyes widening briefly before he nods. And he proceeds to pat his arm with enough force and enthusiasm to make Niki stumble a little. “Okay, Shiina-san! I believe in you and Nii-san! ...And the love you carry between you! Amen!” 

 

Am— what? He laughs, reaching out to ruffle Hiiro’s hair with his hand instead of really pondering on the meaning of his words. He doesn’t even bother denying it. 

 

(Maybe he doesn’t want to anymore). 

 

“Yeah yeah, leave it to me!” The enthusiasm in his voice is unique. “Now let’s focus on the cooking so we can enjoy a delicious meal, yes yes.” 

 

He’ll try to talk to Rinne tonight. 

 


 

And he couldn’t! …This is starting to seem more like a log of Niki’s failures and troubles! 

 

Although, this time he has nothing to blame but his own forgetfulness. 

 

Really! They’ve been practicing for the SS for a week or less and yet he forgot he had supposed to have been packing slowly for the trip to the place until Yuuta asked him if he wasn’t taking anything with him… right when he was about to leave to go pound his fist on Rinne’s door until they talked. 

 

So he spent the night packing up everything he thought he needed, crying a little when he remembered the order he had to keep and putting a whole bag of cookies back into a drawer, and sleeping at some point. The next morning he meets the rest of Crazy:B in front of the dorm, sluggishly mumbling out a hello before someone takes his luggage and he spends most of the ride to the station leaning his weight against Kohaku. 

 

ES made the executive decision to make them go on train to Osaka, because of “comfort” or something, Niki is betting they just didn’t want to take the chances with Kohaku and airport security. So right for that. 

 

Rinne’s asleep in a seat by the time Niki comes back from buying a super-last minute snack. Something for which HiMERU cursed him, since they had to run back so the train wouldn’t leave them… But! It’s his own fault for accompanying him in the first place. 

 

In any case, he just wordlessly takes a seat next to Rinne, idly staring at the landscape beyond the window as he eats his mochi and also occasionally glancing at Rinne himself. 

 

He looks so peaceful when he sleeps, long eyelashes brushing over his cheeks and the way his chest rises up and down slowly making his hair flutter around his face in a way that makes him look… angelic, maybe. Pretty, for sure. Even when it gets even messier with the way it keeps rubbing against the window. 

 

He’s going to wake up uncomfortable if that keeps happening. It’s the only reason why Niki moves Rinne until he’s leaning against him, his fingers inevitably reaching up to card through strands of vibrant red. And he keeps doing that until he inevitably falls asleep. 

 

Niki can swear that he feels someone gently massaging his scalp just before he wakes up. Familiar fingers running through his hair. 

 

That sensation lingers on him even after they arrive at the ES designated hotel, and during their meal, and practice, and by the time he crawls into a random bed that the others haven’t taken and Rinne proclaims loudly he’s going to test how much Lady Luck favors him in Osaka. 

 

It’s still there when he wakes up to the sound of the door opening and he hears the unmistakable pair of footsteps coming towards him, before they stop and move somewhere else instead. 

 

Stupid .

 

He considers making the move himself, but he falls asleep.

 


 

The next day starts off terrible because Niki’s forced to eat bacon and eggs, all the while staring longingly at HiMERU’s pancakes and Kohaku’s waffles. Fancy hotel food must taste so good — even if Niki’s sure he could and would do better — he’s so jealous. 

 

Then there’s practice, and that part is very fun because Niki finally nails the dance move that he has been struggling with for a while, and he keeps doing that until Rinne calls it for the day, shoving a backpack into his arms as he dismisses them all. He leaves not even a second later, mumbling something about having a chat with some of the local idols, and Niki knows better now, he won’t follow. 

 

He desperately wants to! But he won’t! 

 

But nobody said anything against taking a walk around the city! He would like to explore, and if he runs into Rinne in a place where the other can’t run away like a coward then that’s gonna be great! Even better because HiMERU tags along after he tells him, word by word, that he ‘doesn’t trust Niki to go around in a city he doesn’t know the exact layout of and also that he will ensure he keeps weird food out of his mouth’... so with him around, that’s two people to tackle Rinne if he does show up. 

 

But that probably won’t happen, so he can’t help but sigh.

 

“Shiina, you’ve done that thrice for the past five minutes. HiMERU finds it…” The man crosses his arms over his chest. “...worrying. If you fall ill, it will be troublesome.” 

 

“Awww! HiMERU-kun you care! You kinda said it weirdly but you care!”

 

“No, HiMERU does n—”

 

Niki interrupts him by waving a hand. “Anyway! Uh…guh... I’m not sick. I think at least!” His friend (are they friends? They should be,) gives him a withering look that makes him laugh. “But… Um… Well. I was wondering if I could run something with you?” 

 

A beat of silence, and then HiMERU sighs before he keeps walking. “Go ahead.”

 

“Yahoo!” He can’t help but yell as he rushes over towards his unit mate, who only gives him a curious glance as they continue walking. “‘Kay, so… You have two people. These are A and B, right? So they’ve always been together, and they’ve stuck together even though A is a little bit of a bitch to B sometimes, taking money and eating food and telling B they were a criminal when they really, really weren’t and just wanted to save face. Not that B is much better, since they’re very picky and kinda whiny and…!” 

 

“Anyway!” He takes a deep breath. “Person B is now concerned though because Person A has always been all over them! But now Person A is not doing that! Therefore—”

 

A hand wraps around his arm and he stumbles as his companion tugs him out of the way before he walks straight into a pole. Niki grimaces, that would have hurt. 

 

“Shiina.” HiMERU is sighing and shaking his head at him when he turns around to see him. “HiMERU thinks that you should talk to this Person A if this is bothering you so much.” 

 

“But… I never said this was about me, HiMERU-kun.”

 

The man gives him a look, the same one he got that one day when he called him out on eating some dog food, and he can only sigh. “I’ll try… but he’s been avoiding me! All the time!” He whines, and then watches as the blue haired man arches an eyebrow at his despair, tilting his head with a hum. There’s a glint in golden eyes that wasn’t there before. 

 

“Shiina… do you know how for the SS event each unit and the members of it have different orders they have to carry out?” HiMERU pauses, and Niki nods. “HiMERU thinks that they consist of things that people normally do. For example, you eat… a lot. HiMERU has noticed you have not been doing that recently, even staring at other people’s dishes from afar.”

 

“Yeah, it’s because of my order but…” Niki trails off, fingers idly playing with the strands of his hair as he stares. “I don’t get it.”

 

“Amagi’s whole behavior must be related to his order, Shiina.” His unit member deadpans. “He might have just started carrying it out early.”

 

“Oh… Oh!” 

 

Niki is a fool. The biggest. Very, very stupid. 

 

But! He’s also not at fault here! Not one hundred percent! How dare Rinne Amagi put him through so much anguish during the past week! 

 

He scoffs, clenching his fingers into fists at his side. “I’m going to… I’m going to hit him!” And that’s all he says before he starts walking away, and then backtracks quickly to grab HiMERU’s hand with both of his. “Thank you, HiMERU-kun! You’re so smart!” 

 

Niki runs off before the man can say anything about that, but he swears he hears his unit mate laugh in the distance. 

 

.

 

Rinne is not at the hotel when he looks for him, nor the room full of mirrors they were assigned for practice, which means that Niki can’t find him. Again!

 

It’s a little disheartening, really… but maybe it’s also for the best. Mostly because Niki has no idea what he was going to do besides punching Rinne in the gut for being an ass. Now he has time to ponder as he stares at the entrance of the hotel. 

 

He can think about what he’s going to say to the redhead. It’s probably going to be something very simple. Niki’s going to grab him by the collar of his shirt, bring him down a little so that they’re looking eye to eye at the same level, and he can tell him immediately that he needs to stop ignoring him. And that he’s missed him. Too much. And that— 

 

“Niki-han?” Comes from his right, and Niki stops thinking about a hypothetical situation to look at his other unit member. Who is frowning like someone just spit in his coffee. 

 

He smiles, “Kohaku-chan! What’s up?”

 

“I was gonna ask ya that instead. Ya look troubled.”

 

“Aaahhhhh…. Do I? Nah, it’s nothing!” 

 

“Thought I was gonna ask ya that instead. Ya look troubled.” 

 

Kohaku only tilts his head at him, “Ya sure? I don’t wanna have to worry ‘bout two adults.” 

 

He can’t help but laugh, reaching out to mess with pink strands despite the other’s protest. “It’s so cute that you’re worrying, Kohaku-chan! Shows you care! But yeah yeah I’m supeeer peach— wait, back up a second. Two? Who?”

 

The teen looks away, as if embarrassed by the slip up he just made. “It’s…. Madara-han the absolute bastard has been suspicious. I guess I… whatever. Am taking a walk.”

 

“Ah, wait! I’ll come with you.” 

 

Kohaku ends up stopping by a stall to get himself some food, and even offers to pay Niki some, which makes him want to cry. Mostly because he has to refuse the offer so that the chances of getting caught and ruining Crazy:B’s qualification for the SS are null. He still ends up hanging off Kohaku’s back, whining that the food will come out from Rinne’s wallet when this is better. Kohaku mentions their other unit mates offhandedly, and Niki smiles when they both agree that HiMERU is being less closed off recently. 

 

And then Kohaku gets distracted by something in his phone, and he’s still holding his food, and the air is starting to pick up — so Niki just sees a terrible misfortune waiting to happen. “Kohaku-chan,” he says. “If you don’t hurry up and eat, your takoyaki’s gonna get cold, and that’d be such a waste!” 

 

“Oh, you’re right.” The teen puts his phone away, idly scratching his cheek. “People who waste food are itchin’ for divine punishment.”

 

Niki snorts, taken aback by the harshness in Kohaku’s tone. “I think it’s fine, as long as you don’t throw the food away without even eating a bite of it~ But, as a chef, I want people to enjoy food when it’s at it’s yummiest. I always do my best to calculate how I can get my customers to savor it most. It’s what I would want if I was the one eatin’.” And he gestures towards the side with his hands, as if Kohaku understands that. 

 

He probably doesn’t, because he just stares. “Ya don’t really inspire much faith as an idol, Niki-han.” And he feels like one of those anime characters with an arrow with words landing in his head. “But the things ya say as a chef hit real hard… ya sure ya didn’t choose the wrong profession?” 

 

“I’ve been telling you guys that this whooole time!” He claps, excited that someone finally said that to him. “That being said though… I can be both an idol and a chef. It takes a whole lot more work to juggle both careers but it also means more money and more yummy food! I realized that taking up something new doesn’t mean you have to throw away what you’ve been holding onto.” 

 

Kohaku stares at him again. “That’s obvious, ain’t it? What’re you actin’ all high and mighty for?” 

 

“Yup, it is! Which is why even I can understand that, even if I’m a big dummy dumb dumb.” Kohaku snickers, and Niki notices the way his eyes drift to his phone before he looks back at him. Which is why he decides to comment on it, “Kohaku-chan. You’ve been staring at that video of your partner for a while now… what’s he doing?”

 

The teen shrugs. “Beats me. I heard Madara-han’s been doin’ a buncha different stuff in Shikoku, though.” 

 

“Hm… I dunno the specifics, but he’s your friend now, right? So you can’t help but worry?”

 

He can’t help but giggle at the way Kohaku grimaces, laughing harder when he says, “...Well I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care.” 

 

“You always treasure your bonds with people, Kohaku-chan. Like, even if the creation of our unit was a total coincidence you love us like we’re your family. That makes me pretty happy.” And as if to prove that, he smiles. Kohaku does too, and that gives him the motivation to keep going with the train of words he’s more or less thinking of. “Until Rinne-kun came into my life, I was on my own most of the time. So I really longed to experience that kinda love that I was starved of.” 

 

And he might have been trying to give it to me.

 

“But now, my life’s so rowdy I’m almost sick of it! Every day is such a blast, and I think I’ve been feeling fuller lately ♪“ And he laughs, shaking his head from side to side even as Kohaku tilts his head in confusion. 

 

“What’re ya tryin’ t’say?” 

 

“If you’re hungry, you should just say so. And you should eat the things you want to. There’s nothing to be ashamed of at all.” His unit mate looks even more lost, so Niki comes up with another way to describe what he wants to. “If you’re worried about your partner, you should go and check on him. If you wanna ask something, just ask. I’ll figure out a way to cover up for you. So don’t worry! Go ahead and do whatever you’d like. 

 

“It isn’t like us at all to hold ourselves back. Would we really be Crazy:B if we followed the rules and obediently stayed put in our region?” He finds himself reaching out to mess with Kohaku’s hair, poking his cheeks until the other one is shrugging him off and trying to hide a smile behind his hand. “Let’s stay true to ourselves and enjoy life — there’s no need to deny ourselves of anything. C’mon, you need to have fun and be happy!” 

 

That seems to get through to Kohaku, if the way he stares at his phone again is anything to go by and… 

 

Well. It gets through himself as well. Maybe he should let his mouth run off without his brain double checking things more often! (Not that it really did that a lot to begin with). 

 

He grins, raising his hands into the air. “That’s exactly what I’m gonna do! Be happy! They can’t hold me back with these stupid rules! I’m gonna eat takoyaki and…!” 

 

“I was startin’ t’feel a lil’ moved, but it turns out you were talkin’ bout food the whole time!” His friend laughs again, his hands going to his hips as if he’s some sort of disapproving mom or something. 

 

“Well, yeah!” And not exactly. “I can’t take it anymore! They’re just gonna fine us a little if we go against shit and there’s no way that’s gonna be enough to stop me from doing the things I want to~! Anyway, bye bye Kohaku-chan, have fun~!” And much like he did to HiMERU only half an hour ago, he runs off before the teen can say something. 

 

He’s going to talk to Rinne, he just has to. Maybe he’ll punch him first, but they have to talk. Niki has to convince him he doesn’t have to… No, no. He has to convince him that Niki doesn’t want him to distance himself. Not now, perhaps not ever.

 

Ugh. He’s so stupid! He should have known he’d never be willing to lose Rinne when he downright offered to go back to his hometown with him! How did he ever trick himself into thinking that it was because the opportunity of being taken care of forever and having prestige was too good? God. 

 

At least he can fix that now.

 

Or maybe he can’t. Maybe he isn’t good enough for Rinne, if he’s been lying to himself for years. Maybe Rinne’s acting on his order more seriously because he has realized this and— No! Bad Niki! No! 

 

Meeting him was fate, he’s extremely sure of it now, and he would rather starve than let his insecurities get in the way of fate and its course, of what he can fix and what he can get back.

 

He really, so desperately, wants Rinne and his jokes to come back. He wants the teasing, the flirting,.. all of it. Lingering touches over his back or his neck as Rinne adjusts the choker he wears or the small tug on his hair when the redhead wanted to get his attention and was being a bastard about it. Even simpler things, like the brushing of their hands when they handed each other stuff in the kitchen or sitting next to each other for lunch. 

 

He wants it all. He’s greedy and a fool but he’s too set on this, now he just has to show as much to the man he… really really really wants to slap, but also the man he really loves. 

 

Niki makes one stop at a jewelry store and a takoyaki stall nearby before he reaches the hotel. 

 

The takoyaki tastes like heaven, by the way. 

 

.

 

Lady Luck seems to be on Niki’s side this time, because as soon as he walks into the lobby he spots a familiar mop of hair heading towards the elevators and Niki’s body moves faster before he can properly think about it. He also drops his takoyaki on accident as he runs, which is literally the worst thing that could happen ever— but at the same time, sometimes things are more important. 

 

The chef barely makes it into the elevator, practically squeezing in between the doors as they’re about to close, and this doesn’t go unnoticed. 

 

“Niki-kyun?! The fuck ya think yer doin’? Ye could have gotten hurt!” Rinne yells, hands hovering over Niki’s shoulders as he arches a brow. “What would I do without…” He trails off, taking a step back to lean against the elevator walls and pulling himself away from Niki. 

 

“Fuckin… Coward.” He mumbles, leaning down to regain the breath he lost just now. He’s never running like he’s in a cliché airport scene, not again. “You’re such an idiot, Rinne-kun.” 

 

“Hey! That ain’t—” Niki puts a finger against Rinne’s lips and it’s super effective in shutting the man up. 

 

“No, it's your turn to stay silent and listen, and you’re gonna listen well . You hear me?” Rinne gulps, but he nods and Niki’s satisfied enough with that to get his finger away from the redhead’s lips. “Good! Cuz you’ve been ignoring me for too long and I’ve been tryin’ to listen but it kinda feels like shit to do just that and—'' He shakes his head, “maybe not in an elevator.” 

 

So Niki takes Rinne’s hand with both of his for good measure, and stares at him while the other looks away, silently, for the rest of the short ride… and for however long it takes to drag Rinne to their assigned room, locking the door behind them both. (Sorry, HiMERU and Kohaku, but Niki would take their annoyance over the redhead booking it again). 

 

He wastes no time in shoving Rinne against the wall, slamming his hands on either side of him and staring him up. “Why the fuck have you been ignoring me for so long!?” He yells, grimacing at the way that comes out of his own mouth — an expression that Rinne mimics. Sheesh, he should tone it down even if he’s emotional. “Is it because of the order? Is it because of more than that?”

 

The redhead parts his lips to retort something, but Niki doesn’t let him. “No no no, you listen. Since when have we as Crazy:B, ya know, the one unit that was meant to be under Vice Prez’ thumb until we said fuck that, we do as we wish… since when have we been known to follow the higher-ups like we’re dogs on leashes? We ain’t salarymen, chipping away at work everyday, we don’t wear suits either! We’re supposed to reassure people that don’t wanna live that way.” 

 

He shoves a finger against Rinne’s shoulder, and another against his stomach, because he’s reconsidered the whole punching in the gut thing. “You! You following that kinda shit as our leader is absolute trash!” A few years ago it wouldn’t have been, Niki realizes. They practically did everything they were asked to to stay in the industry. But those were different times. “...It’s so unlike you too! We were supposed to stop being that way when we formed this unit, Rinne-kun, we make our own path now… so stop!” 

 

“Niki…” Rinne’s brows furrow and he bites down on his lower lip, shaking his head. “For once I didn’t wanna get us in trouble. Ya know, this even is fuckin’ important and such, cuz of the full management support when ya win, and yer enjoyin’ idol work more, which is…” He trails off, laughing in a way that Niki can only describe as bittersweet. “It’s so good. So good cuz I get to see you happy and I don’t wanna ruin that. Not our chances to win and have fun and to be happy .”

 

Holy shit. “Are you serious?” He jams his finger against Rinne’s stomach again, then presses it against his chest. “You’re so fucking stupid. So am I! But you’re more! Rinne-kun, you make me happy.” He chuckles, suddenly overcome with a wave of nervousness. “You make me laugh, you make me feel… good! And you’ve done a lot to make me feel precious too! Like the live and cooking competition, remember?“

 

“So I’m telling you to listen to your own words. We’re here to have fun and be happy but all you’ve been for a while is sad and miserable, and that makes me feel like that too because I miss you. I want my happiness back, and the only way to get it is with you.” 

 

Rinne’s breath hitches and he can see his eyes shining before the redhead looks away, mouth pressed into a thin line. He doesn’t believe him. 

 

God, and Niki thought he was bad enough to deal with. 

 

“Do you remember what I did when we got our first paycheck?” Niki asks, hands moving until he can interlace his fingers behind Rinne’s neck, but all he does is tug on red strands until the man’s looking at him. 

 

He tries to look away again, but Niki takes his chin with one of his hands to keep his gaze in place. He needs to see it— that Rinne remembers, “Ya bought… a shit ton of food. So much that some of it wouldn’t fuckin’ fit in our fridge.” 

 

“Yeah, yeah, but you enjoyed every single dish I made for the next two weeks. What else did I get, though?” 

 

“…Ya bought a plate. A pink bowl with white polka dots.”

 

He nods, looking to the side as memories come flooding back in — Rinne’s complaining but the big smile on his face, a whole banquet set in ceramic and paper plates — and then he frowns. “I don’t think I ever told you why.”

 

“Ya said ya didn’t want me touchin’ your plate again. That I shud have my own shit.” Rinne laughs — empty sound, sort of. He doesn’t like that. 

 

“I mean the real reason,” he blurts out, turning back to see Rinne tilting his head at him, surprise lacing his features. “I mean… Ugh. Well! I… I don’t know, Rinne-kun, ya know I’m not exactly the brightest person ever but I thought… back then I thought that you could use something to help you feel like you belonged.” 

 

Niki’s met with silence as Rinne narrows his eyes at him, and he takes the chance to let his hands drift from Rinne’s face to hold onto the edges of his jacket instead. “I already thought you did. Belonged. You begged my neighbors for help and stuck around with me after that despite my constant whining for food and my complaining of your attitude or like the way I chewed your hair once—” At this, Rinne snorts and it feels genuine enough that Niki can’t help his own smile. “—but you were always looking so... conflicted about it. I thought maybe having a representation of it like something matching would make you feel better.” 

 

The redhead’s lips part, and he only hears the first syllable of his name before he shuts Rinne up by putting his hand over his mouth. It’s wet almost instantly because the man licks his palm, and then a look of embarrassment crosses Rinne’s face, so Niki rolls his eyes. “Let me finish. Idiot. Dumbass. Stupid Rinne.” 

 

“Anyway,” he sighs. “Even though I’m super dumb, I thought something similar could work this time. So I went ahead and bought this.” 

 

He hesitates, but lets go of the redhead in favor of reaching into his pocket to pull out a pair of rings that he slides over his left thumb and his right index — the same place where Rinne has his own jewelry — slowly enough for the man to see. For good measure, Niki waves his hands over the man’s face. “Maybe this is enough to prove that I wanna stay with you. For good! All the time…! No matter how long it might have taken me to realize that.” 

 

Neither of them say anything for a while, enough time that Niki worries he might have been too forward or literally everyone was wrong and he himself was wrong and Rinne did realize that Niki wasn’t good en— a warm hand presses against his cheek, and he leans on instinct against the touch, grounding himself in the moment. 

 

Rinne looks so much different than ten minutes ago, there’s still some shine in his eyes, but they’re glimmering in a way that makes Niki think of the sky. The sky is beautiful, just like the redhead when he smiles in a way he has rarely seen before, corners of his mouth pulled upwards and eyes squinting with genuine fondness. 

 

“You…. Yer a terrible person, Niki.” He mumbles, and Niki hisses and scrunches up his nose when a pair of fingers pinch his cheek. “You kept me waiting! So cruel! I was almost growin’ bored! ‘Course I had to put up this little challenge, and now you’ve passed with flying colors!” 

 

He’s a terrible liar, but Niki can indulge him. “Well I’m here now, bastar idi— Owww! Owowowow! Okay I get it! Enough insulting your intellect for today, now stop pinching me!” He pouts as soon as Rinne stops, hands going up to protect his face from any more rough treatment. Though the other’s a little busy chuckling to do anything to him, and he takes the opportunity to admire the wide grin that hasn’t left his face in the past minute, the way his eyes look so gentle and his shoulders don’t look stiff anymore— and Niki lets himself feel fondness towards the shit-eating look. 

 

Down bad

 

He is so… God. “Anyway! Now that you’ve had your fun and your challenge, where’s my reward for passing? I want… actually, I’ll just do it myself.” His fingers hold the collar of Rinne’s jacket tight, pulling him down until their noses almost bump against each other, and in one quick motion, his lips collide with Rinne’s. 

 

There are three things that go over Niki’s head in that moment:

 

  1. Someone ate pizza recently, or that’s what Niki can taste when he absentmindedly licks Rinne’s lower lip,
  2. He should have done this ages ago,
  3. He really should have done this a long time ago, because it’s nice and it feels like nothing he has ever done before. Nothing that he could compare it to and think of it at the same level, 
  4. An extra thing: He’s absolutely hopeless, and with the way Rinne smiles against him? So is he. 

 

He can feel Rinne’s fingers in his hair, running through grey strands and toying with his hair tie before they move to cup his cheeks. He tilts his head, parting his lips when he feels Rinne’s own tongue against them and — Wow, yeah, this is much better, makes him feel like there’s nothing else around them, like the world revolves around their actions alone and it begins and ends with a kiss, of all things. 

 

Rinne’s hands trail down to his shoulders— and then there’s a knock on the door, followed by Kohaku’s voice, effectively breaking the moment as Rinne pushes him back. Niki almost wants to pout, but he looks Rinne up and down instead, trying to get the picture of him slightly out of breath, cheeks dusted pink and eyes narrowed as he notices Niki’s gaze… trying to get that all ingrained in his head. 

 

The redhead shakes his head when Niki steps forward again, and he swears he knows how to take such an obvious hint, and he knows things were never going to go much further than a kiss or several, but that can’t stop him from leaning in further to hopefully get one more peck, just a simple one, really— only to fail when he’s swiftly interrupted by Rinne pressing his palm against his mouth. “Not until marriage, Niki.”

 

...What!?

 

He frowns, lets Rinne feel the way he pouts before he pulls back, “You ass. We’re practically engaged! Isn’t that enough?” 

 

Another knock on the door prevents Rinne from responding, “Rinne-han? Niki-han? Can ya open up or do I gotta pick the lock? Kinda in a hurry.” 

 

Sheesh, no patience at all!  (As if Niki hadn’t just been doing the same). 

 

He takes Rinne’s hand in his to give it a quick squeeze before he moves farther away, yelling a “Going Kohaku-chan! Sorry!” as he opens the door of their room. 

 

Kohaku moves in quickly, taking a bag and shoving a few clothes inside quickly before he pauses, looking up at Niki, and then looking at Rinne, and back and forth. 

 

“Congrats on not being idiots anymore.” He says finally, “Though ye should try to look less like you were… roughhousing .” 

 

Rinne bursts out laughing. 

 

HiMERU walks in a few minutes later, staring at his phone before his gaze wanders around the room and lingers particularly on him and Rinne, who are not seated five feet apart and instead next to each other. His eyes move down, and he smirks as he places his chin between his fingers like he does when he figures out riddles and puzzles.  

 

“I hope you enjoyed hitting him, Shiina. Or should I say, hitting on him?” 

 

“Seriously? Merumeru, that was a terrible joke! Go back to clown school!” 

 

HiMERU gasps, and he proceeds to launch into a debate with Rinne that just makes Niki laugh. 

 

He’s very glad they’re all happy now, though. 

 


 

The SS goes off without a hitch, and their performance is better than ever — really, they find themselves smiling even when someone from management politely comes to tell them that they have to pay a fine after Niki got caught eating okonomiyaki in 4k before the live show. Not his fault there was no other good food closeby! (There was. A lot). 

 

Still, they deal with that swiftly and they’re hopping onto a train ride back to Tokyo by the time the sun starts to set. The dorms are emptier, with only a few other units back after their qualifying rounds finished. 

 

It’s why Niki’s dorm has one less person laying in their respective bed, and Hiiro seems to be peacefully asleep while he… is not. He wishes he could remain laying down and just let whoever the god or goddess of sleep is to carry him off to dreamland, or something, but his mind is occupied by sky blue and rose red and a shining smile. 

 

Ooooh how Niki hates Rinne. He hates him so much for making him unable to stop thinking about him even if it’s only been some hours since they’ve last seen each other. Niki’s not a Victorian maiden to be suffering through this! 

 

But he still misses him… his boyfriend, fiance, love of his life, fucking leech that happens to be very handsome. He wants to see him. 

 

He really really wants to go see him, so he steps out of bed and makes his way out of his dorm as quietly as he can. He does the same for the hallway, and then the stairs — though he seems to fail there because he can hear shuffling around the vents, might have woken Mayoi up — until he’s finally in front of Rinne’s door.  

 

He knocks on the door as softly as he can. He doesn’t want to wake up Rinne’s roommates if they are around, but he also doesn’t want Rinne to not hear him — if he is awake. He should be awake. Rinne always goes to sleep late during the weekends, this one shouldn’t be an exception. 

 

And if he is asleep, Niki might just spam his phone with messages so he wakes up and lets him in. Though, that plan goes out of the window when he hears soft footsteps coming from inside the room, and the door opens to the person he was looking for. 

 

Rinne’s hair is getting a little long, or at least enough for him to have pulled some strands into a low ponytail with a hair tie that Niki is almost one hundred percent sure is his. It’s kinda too dark for him to be super sure. 

 

It is, however, not dark enough for Niki to miss the way Rinne looks more alert than when he opened the door, eyes wide in surprise for a moment before his expression shifts into a lazy grin, eyes narrowed but full of clear fondness. Stupidly cheesy. “Watcha doing here?”

 

“Sleeping.” Niki says without waiting a beat, chuckling at the way Rinne chokes on nothing but air, taken aback by his words. “You gonna let me in or am I gonna camp out here?”

 

All that snark gets him is a small smile and an eye roll, “Sheesh, so impatient, Niki-kyun. Thought that was supposed to be my role, but do come in and freeload on my humble abode.” The man does a small bow, and Niki smiles against the better part of himself. Really, he should be embarrassed (and he is, just a little) at how he’s so endeared over behavior that he’s seen more than one time. It’s not unusual for Rinne to exaggerate, in fact, it’s something that makes him… well, him. 

 

...Still. “Serves you right. Revenge for all those years of you doing the same.”

 

Rinne laughs — sound soft and muffled since they’re supposed to be quiet—, closing the door as Niki walks in, placing a hand on the small of his back as they move side by side. The change of tone doesn’t take him by surprise as much as it would have three or four months… no, years ago. Nor does the way Rinne’s expression changes into a pair of furrowed brows. “Ya okay?” 

 

He can be so tender about things when it comes to Niki, can’t he? So kind about the woes and problems of the people that he cares about. It kinda pisses him off, because he’s angry that he let all of this fly right over his head for too long. 

 

Instead of letting that show, Niki makes sure his eyes are meeting Rinne’s as he reaches up to trail a finger over the edge of his jaw, “I’m alright,” trailing lower and lower until he can take Rinne’s hand on his own. “I just missed you.”

 

Aaaaand his boyfriend appears to have lost all rational thought. He looks like his head is empty, it’s hilarious. “Let’s go to sleep.” Niki mumbles, tugging the redhead by the hand towards his bed. 

 

He ends up laying down with Rinne in his arms, his back pressed towards Niki’s chest and his head leaning against his shoulder. It’s usually the other way around, a habit long formed when they had to share one bed in his dingy apartment, and Niki was much shorter so it was easier — but he knows Rinne prefers it this way, and Niki enjoys it too. It’s very comfortable, all he feels is warmth and an incredible surge of affection and… 

 

He leans over to press his lips against the redheads’ nape, and then his shoulder, butterfly kisses grazing bare skin — and back towards his neck. He barely gets to hear the way Rinne takes a sharp breath when he whispers, “I love you” next to his ear. 

 

Niki feels fingers tracing the back of his hand, resting neatly over Rinne’s abdomen, and he flips it so that he can interlace their fingers together instead. Rinne squeezes, and the edges of his eyes crinkle as he smiles, or that’s what Niki can see from his limited point of view, at least. “Say it again, Niki.”

 

“I love you, Rinne.”

 

“I love ya more.” 

 

Niki chuckles, leaning over to kiss his cheek, and then his lips when Rinne turns to see him. His thumb traces patterns with no meaning over Rinne’s hand as he settles down again. 

 

He sleeps soundly, getting one of the most peaceful dreams he’s had in a while. 

 

 

“I won’t lose!”

 

Niki wakes up to a yell from a sort of high pitched voice, followed by some very insistent shushing from the man at his side, who — to his delight — is still laying with Niki’s arms wrapped around him. Niki can’t help but move a little closer, seeking warmth as he gently lays his head on Rinne’s shoulder, prompting the redhead to release a soft sigh. 

 

“Hiyori-chan, you’ll wake him up.” Rinne says, keeping his tone perfectly even as he snuggles back against him, his fingers tracing idle patterns on Niki’s arm. Rinne knows he’s awake, he’s just being a little shit to his roommate. 

 

It does seem to work, since Tomoe lowers his volume to whisper yell instead. “I cannot believe you, Rinne-senpai! You complained a lot when Jun-kun slept over the other day! You even said it was because we were not married and should save that for after, but here you are!” A pause. “I see now it was just a ploy, huh! You wanted the great Hiyori to back off so you and your paramour could get the spotlight? Well, I say no. I will not lose!” 

 

Rinne tries to — his shoulders shake without him making a sound —  but he can’t hold back the laughter that falls from his lips, and Niki hides a smile against his shoulder. Another laugh comes from somewhere in the room, and he just has to assume that’s Rinne’s other roommate. Or maybe one of Tomoe’s boyfriends. 

 

“Come on, Ohisama-san, let’s let Chief-san and Chef-san ‘sleep’♪” Says Rinne’s second roommate, definitely. There’s a ruffle of fabric, and the sound of steps as they presumably move towards the door. “I am sure you will get ‘time’ to declare ‘war’ later~” 

 

“Hmph! Temporary truce only because Kanata-kun asked so nicely! But as soon as your paramour is awake, Rinne-senpai, the match is on!” 

 

“Yes, yes… ‘Bye bye’ now♪” 

 

Niki hears the door open and close, and his eyes flutter open as soon as he feels Rinne turning around to face him. “Good morning,” he mumbles, leaning up to press a chaste kiss against Rinne’s lips. 

 

The man rolls his eyes, but his smile does not disappear. “Mornin’, Niki-kyun. Did you sleep well?” 

 

“Hmm… yeah. The best. But…” He frowns, pressing his lips in a thin line. Rinne imitates him. “Nothing bad. I want—” As if to cure his boyfriend’s increasing concern, Niki’s stomach growls, loud. “—food. ‘M hungry.” 

 

Rinne laughs, “Yeah, yeah, shud have seen this coming.” His hands come up to squeeze Niki’s cheeks, and the whine he lets out is swallowed by Rinne’s own mouth. The kiss doesn’t last long at all, but it doesn’t matter. “Breakfast is my treat this time, okay? I’ll make it special. Meet me in the lobby.” 

 

Niki nods frantically, pushing the covers off him so he can go back to his room and change before Rinne changes his mind and decides that he prefers using Niki’s wallet. 

 

 

They eat in the garden by the dorms, the sun shining brightly above them and providing them more warmth to keep off the chill that their jackets can’t. The food is delicious, but Niki’s smile is due to more than just that. Maybe it’s the combination of the atmosphere and the company, maybe it’s just the company, who knows. 

 

They talk for a long time, about everything and anything, so enraptured in their conversation that they barely notice the way their faces start to ache from so much smiling, or the ache in their abdomens from laughter, like they’re a pair of teenagers in the early stages of flirting with each other. 

 

Rinne lays his head in Niki’s lap at some point, and it’s as he stares down at him and his hand reaches to play and mess with red strands that he realizes that he can’t ever let himself be stupid enough to let this go. He loves Rinne too much.

 

Has loved Rinne, for a long, long time.