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Wrench open the hatch and let it flood

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The soft glow of evening light splashes yellow over Kanata’s features like the New Year’s sun cresting the peak of Mount Fuji. The wooden columns and barriers of the restaurant urge them closer together, intimate and secretive, but Souma needs no encouragement to reach for Kanata’s hand as soon as it’s free once more.

“That movement, just now – how you pour your tea…” Souma chuckles, distantly indulging of his own current ridiculousness. “Even if you were wearing a floor-length kimono sleeve ‘tis no doubt it would have emerged unscathed. Mayhap I was wrong, earlier; ‘tis not merely through a bamboo screen you appear a princess.”

Kanata giggles, and Souma understands, because those bubbles keep rising in him as well like the sips of sake he is allowed each Moon-Viewing Festival. “Nooooo,” he replies in a sing-song voice and with fox-like eyes, “I am not a princess! You are the ‘prince,’ here, with all your princely charmy words~”

Souma snorts, nose lightly scrunched. “I am only gifting my honoured companion that which he deserves,” he murmurs intently, and it feels only right to finish off such a verbal flourish by taking Kanata’s hand and pressing his lips to his knuckles.

All his years of struggling to delight audiences with ‘fanservice’ have been worth it for this moment. A Kanata blush is rare indeed, and Souma has never felt more powerful. “Geeez,” Kanata grumbles good-naturedly, “you should be saving ‘that’ sort of talk for the ‘audience!’ Imagine how ‘jealous’ all those good girls and boys would be feeling right now…!”

Souma shakes his head. “I shall spare no effort for their sake, as I am sure you know. But they are of no concern to me at all in this moment. The one to whom I am most devoted remains you alone, Shinkai-dono…”

He pauses for effect, and though he may be repeating himself, he cannot resist the urge to kiss at Kanata’s hand once more, a touch light enough to leave pristine a non-existent glove. Glancing up, eyes intent on Kanata alone, he says softly: “The beautiful boy who never fails to make me smile.”

Kanata ducks his head.

This, too, is strange and exhilarating; Kanata’s pout seems almost somewhat coy. “You shouldn’t ‘make fun’ of me,” he murmurs, eyes upturned and sparkling. “I really, really meant it…!”

“So did I,” Souma whispers. “When you told me on stage, I was instantaneously paralysed, transfixed; I wished at the time that I could have spoken aloud my response, but my lips could not budge an inch. But ‘tis as true for me as I now know it is for you. Though to you I may often seem to be flustered, or shocked, or overly pushy…” Kanata giggles, turning his hand to thread their fingers. “...when I am with you, to the core of my being, my soul is smiling eternal.”

Kanata stares at him then; perhaps in wonder, but also, Souma thinks, in contentment. That he has no words at present is fine by Souma; it is a treasure alone to gaze into his verdant eyes from so close a distance.

“, uhh…” There comes a clearing of a throat from behind Kanata. “The soy sauce bottle is kinda behind your elbow, so…”

Midori is staring in horror; Souma can’t quite hear his mumbling from across the table but it sounds an awful lot like “how on earth are you interrupting them oh my god this is so awkward.”

But Kanata pays him no mind so neither does Souma. “Here you go, my darling Tetora~” and the elegant swish as he passes the bottle back has Souma sighing wistfully all over again.

However, now that he can see the world around him once more – a table already laden with Okinawan appetisers aplenty, and the comforting presence of each of the two’s closest companions surrounding them – Souma remembers one or two other duties.

“Ah – come to think of it, Kiryuu-dono!” Kuro jumps, which is odd because Souma is sure he had already been watching him. “Before we entered this establishment, you had been in the process of saying something to me, had you not?” Souma chuckles. “I apologise sincerely for the delay in my response; you see, the moment I laid my eyes on Shinkai-dono once more this evening, all other thoughts immediately fled from me like hawks on the wind!”

“Er,” Kuro says. “...nah. It’s cool.”

“Nay, I insist!” Souma’s grin broadens. “While I may have just moments ago pledged my undying loyalty to Shinkai-dono, that does not in any way lessen the strength of my respect and duty towards yourself and Hasumi-dono!”

Keito is frowning but Keito is always frowning so as far as Souma is concerned, the world is operating exactly as it is intended. In fact, that very steadiness and consistency threatens to thrust forth a whole new wave of gratitude that they are all here together and Souma is just so very happy.

“No, seriously,” Kuro says with a vehement shake of his head. “I think I was just tryna’ say that ya looked, uh. Happy. Which…” He chuckles dryly. “Obviously, right?”

Souma beams.

“So, like… ya can pretend we’re not here, or whatever. S’fine. You’re good.”

Under his breath, Keito grumbles, “but we will definitely be having a talk when we get to the hotel tonight…”

“Hm?” Souma blinks, joyful haze receding by a handspan. “Is there some problem which I ought to…?”

But before he can continue, Chiaki’s booming laughter almost bowls them all over.

“I don’t think there’s anything so urgent we’d need to pull them away from each other right now, though, right?” His enthusiasm is dazzling and Souma has never appreciated him more. “I know that I couldn’t bear to separate those two from each other right now! I say we leave them to it!”

“I don’t.” Midori is staring at the table. “Or could I leave, at least? I think there’s some leftover energy bars I could eat for dinner…”

“Absolutely not!” Chiaki claps a hand on Midori’s shoulder. “This is a perfect opportunity to view true companionship and happiness, right in front of you!”

Kuro chuckles dryly. “Is that what it is, huh…”

But Shinobu is nodding rapidly. “Yes, this demonstration of pure affection and friendship is nearly bringing me to tears de gozaru! Ah, but I hope that I am not interfering with your privacy by staring so intently, de gozaru?!”

“Not at all~” Kanata replies with a reassuring pat to his head, and Souma feels for a moment like a proud co-father.

“Indeed! Observe all you wish, my dear Sengoku!” Kanata’s hand held tightly in his, Souma’s voice reaches (intentionally, for once) to the farthest corners of the restaurant. “’Tis my dearest wish and greatest hope that all may know that I, Kanzaki Souma, do adore Shinkai Kanata!”

“We are talking,” Keito mutters fiercely. “Afterwards. A lot.

But Kanata ignores him. Resting his other cheek on his hand, he looks up at Souma through his eyelashes, close enough that Souma can feel his breath.

“Soooo,” he purrs, “what would you tell ‘the world’ about me, exactly…?”

Souma puffs with pride. “Why, of all your greatest and most dearly beloved traits, my wonderful Shinkai-dono! I could scarcely name them all, but come, pray allow me to count the ways…”

Nobody interrupts them again for the rest of the night. But Souma can feel their presence, and this peace on earth between Ryuuseitai and Akatsuki – resolved, in full, at last – forms the clouds beneath which he and Kanata dance.

(He tells Keito those exact words later that night. Keito’s sigh doesn’t quite seem the same as Souma’s.)