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The Devil's Food

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"My dear friends, would it be imposing upon your busy high-class lives overmuch to suggest that we celebrate with sundaes?" Wataru swivels on his heel to face the rest of them, posing the question so quickly after the curtain falls that Eichi has to pause and replay the words in his mind before he understands them.

Tori had asked fine for help creating an original dance for one of his classes, and after a whirlwind of complex rehearsals that challenged all four of them to climb a steep learning curve, Tori passed the assignment with flying colours. Eichi made the executive decision to incorporate the dance into fine's actual routine, and tonight they performed it together on a true stage for fans for the first time.

"After all, tomorrow we start dance practices again to prepare for the midsummer festival," Wataru points out, and Eichi looks to Tori, surprised to see his eyes are shining.

"A sundae would be a perfect reward for me," he boasts, doing a little twirl. "After all, someone as sweet and delightful as me can't be caught eating something bitter, or sour, or bland -"

He stops abruptly, gaze falling halfheartedly on Wataru. "Uhh, not that I want to do anything Long Hair suggested," he disclaims.

"But it sounds like you do want to, little princess," Wataru raises his eyebrows and Tori grimaces.

"The young master's tastes are troubling as always," Yuzuru sighs. "No matter how lovingly and faithfully I prepare your meals, toiling for hours to ensure your nutrition needs are well met and your meals befitting one of your status, you would gladly trade away my blood and sweat for some cheap ice cream..."

"Who says it has to be cheap?" Eichi chimes in at last before Tori can quip that Yuzuru should spend more time trying to meet his taste needs. "I can cover it, if Wataru knows a place." Eichi beams at him. "As always, you're full of exciting ideas for how our unit can pass the time, Wataru. I think sundaes would be splendid."

Wataru bows. "I am always delighted by my Emperor's low threshold for amusement," he grins at Eichi, and Eichi raises an eyebrow at him. "Bonding activities which are standard routine for other units become magical and grand festivities among the members of Yumenosaki Acadamy's crown jewel - the ever-impressive and incomparable fine, of course!"

"Your talent for giving backhanded compliments is something to behold as well," Eichi intones, but Wataru's smile doesn't budge, which makes Eichi smile back a little for some reason only God can know.

It turns out Wataru does know a place (of course). By now it's quite late at night, and Eichi's heart thuds in his chest as Wataru takes the four of them downtown and into a place with an unassuming frontier - a plain black storefront with characters in white for the title - into a quaint restaurant with pink walls and delicate white metal tables that remind Eichi of Yumenosaki Academy's garden terrace. Art lines the walls - illustrations of ice cream, of course, and colourful lamps hanging from the ceiling illuminate the room without conflicting too sharply with the dark scenery outside.

Basically, it looks fun, and that means Eichi definitely isn't allowed to be here.

"... just my presence at this establishment would be enough to raise my family's ire," he confesses once they've sat down and everyone else has decided what to order. Eichi doesn't know the first thing about sundaes; he's expressly forbidden from eating most desserts, and now the others are looking to him expectantly. "I honestly don't know where to begin with choosing something for myself..."

"This shop does seem high class," Yuzuru comments, poring over the menu. He'd tried to raise concern about Eichi's dessert-banned status during the cab ride here, but Eichi pointedly changed the subject. Yuzuru's smart enough to know when not to press and start looking for alternatives instead. "I'm sure I can find something suitably healthful for you, President."

"There is no need for that, Sir Butler," Wataru chirps, and with a wave of his arm Yuzuru's menu disappears into his sleeve. He raises his hand for the waiter to approach their table, and promptly instructs him to bring over the strawberry special, a matcha ice cream with red bean, and a hot fudge brownie sundae. "For our illustrious leader," he says, pointing his finger toward Eichi as if he's a volunteer in the audience of a magic show.

The waiter nods, scribbling down Wataru's words before marching off.

"The service here is very efficient," Eichi comments, but Tori's eyes are wide.

"A hot fudge brownie sundae?" he asks. "Is - is that really okay for the President?"

"I don't have any food related disorders or allergies," Eichi says defensively. "It's true that it's important to eat well when you're ill, but my family overdoes it with the concern, they honestly do."

If Tori weren't here, he'd complain about how none of it is really about his health anyway and more about image and propriety, but that's not appropriate table discussion for nouveau-riche.

Eichi pauses. "It's true, though, Wataru has made a felon out of me. How exciting, dodging my chauffeur by taking the taxi and then eating in a forbidden ice cream shop~"

Wataru's eyes are wide as if with concern, but they're gleaming. "What would happen if the Emperor were caught committing such a grievous violation?" he asks, then drops his jaw and smacks his hand against his cheek like he's just heard a juicy scandal. "Perhaps we should disguise you, Eichi? For your safety, of course!" 

"Oh? What sort of disguise?" Eichi leans forward toward Wataru too, folding his hands under his chin.

"No way, we can't disguise the President!" Tori exclaims before Wataru can respond, crossing his arms in front of his chest in the shape of a big X. "This is the first time I've ever been seen with him casually in public!"

Eichi tilts his head. "Is it really the first time?"

Wataru nods vigorously. "Indeed, it seems in all our preoccupation with elegance and perfection, we've overlooked one of the most sacred components of teamwork... frivolous outings, of course!"

The words feel strange coming out of Wataru’s mouth. Yuzuru seems to agree, because he frowns, eyebrow quirked skeptically, but doesn’t say anything. 

When after a few moments Wataru’s smile hasn’t faltered, Eichi voices what everyone's thinking. “… I thought you were something of a loner, Wataru? I had no idea you valued ‘team bonding exercises’ so much.”

“Not to mention that you’re fine’s enemy,” Tori narrows his eyes. “You can say whatever you like, Long Hair, but you can’t fool me into getting all buddy buddy with you.”

Eichi feels bad for being irritated. It’s not like it isn’t his own fault Tori hates Wataru this way, but they’ve been working together for nearly five months now - even longer than Tori’s worked with Eichi, since he was in the hospital at the start of the year. He doesn’t deserve to escape reminders of all the awful things he did to Wataru and other innocents last year, but the fact Wataru still has to deal with the consequences of it in his own unit…

He pushes a hair behind his ear. “Tori, I wish you wouldn’t speak to our dear Wataru that way. He’s not fine’s enemy, he’s its greatest weapon.”

“An enemy, a weapon…” Wataru muses, a smile playing on his lips but not quite reaching his eyes, and Eichi instantly regrets his word choice. “So many potential roles to play, for a regular person it would be difficult to choose! But of course, this Wataru Hibiki can play them all, if the audience wishes it. For your wish is my command, and I belong to everyone!”

Why do you always have to say that? Not that Eichi has the right to contradict him, but Wataru’s ‘belong to everyone’ thing is insufferable. 

“And what’s your wish, Hibiki?” Yuzuru asks, rousing Eichi from his annoyed daze and reminding him with startling intensity just how sexy that mole on his cheek is. “If you don’t mind me asking,” he follows up with his usual politesse, and Eichi feels like he could kiss him. 

“Ah, the butler asks intriguing questions,” Wataru beams at Yuzuru.

“You’re right, it is intriguing,” Eichi agrees before Wataru can somehow change the subject. “What role do you want to play, Wataru?”

But Wataru’s eyes are on the waiter returning to their table. What terrible timing … but he can’t linger on the thought when a giant frosted glass shaped like a strawberry is placed in front of him, a bed of chocolate brownies lining the inside and three scoops of French vanilla ice cream piled on top. Chocolate syrup spills paths over the deluxe hills, pooling like molten lava at the bottom of the glass.

He stares at Wataru, eyes wide in astonishment. “I’m meant to eat all of this?” he asks in disbelief.

“This looks so goooooooooood~!” Tori squeals, and Eichi tears his eyes away from his veritable mountain to survey the other boy's order. It looks like something out of a movie, precisely piled strawberries, whipped cream, and a neat slice of waffle sticking out of it like the sail of a ship. Yuzuru’s cup is smaller by comparison, red bean flanking a neat scoop of green, and Wataru …

Hm.

“Where’s yours?” Eichi asks. He finds he can't remember what Wataru ordered for himself. Ah! He must be about to magic something ridiculous from thin air. Eichi scans the shop eagerly, looking for hints around the room as to what it might be…

“As the humble left hand of the Emperor, whose weak appetite for sweets is legendary,” Wataru begins explaining, and Eichi turns back to him quizzically. “I thought I would lend you my services!”

Oh?

“You’re going to share with him?!” Tori screeches.

Eichi can feel red sketching itself across his cheeks, so instead of answering, he sticks his tongue with a spoonful of - ah!

Heaven!

Eichi closes his eyes as the hot thick chocolate mingles with creamy vanilla in his mouth. The juxtaposing temperatures accompany one another like a well-played harmony, with flavours rich and well-rounded, warm brownie melting on his tongue…

He's startled from his trance by the clink of another spoon against his glass. Wataru’s eyes sparkle, and he tosses blue hair casually over his shoulder.

“I take it you like it~?” he asks.

"Mm, Wataru, it's a dish fit for an angel..." Eichi sighs.

"They do call chocolate the devil's food," Wataru grins at him, and Eichi spoons up another bite, settling comfortably in his seat to watch Wataru help himself to his bowl. Somehow, seeing Wataru eat always feels like peeking at the man behind the curtain. Like someone so marvellous and sublime beyond human capacity shouldn’t need to go through the kinds of routine system maintenance everyone else does. 

After a few silent moments of appreciation for the concerts happening in their mouths, Tori speaks up. “You never answered Yuzuru’s question, Long Hair.”

Wataru takes his time sucking on his spoon, then points it at Tori with a wink. “I’m flattered the princess is so curious about me~” he says.

“Hmph,” Tori crosses his arms, but quickly uncrosses them to catch a drop of ice cream melting down the side of his bowl.

“We’re all dying to know, Wataru,” Eichi says in his humblest, most flattering voice. “Indulge us, won’t you?”

“Hmm,” Wataru taps the side of the glass, sending quiet chimes dancing across the table. “I suppose it’s a role I haven’t quite mastered yet, if it truly isn’t clear to you all which I have chosen to play…”

“Haven’t mastered?” Eichi repeats incredulously. “You? Impossible.”

“Even the most talented magicians begin as novices,” Wataru laments, and Tori taps his foot impatiently.

“Can you just spit it out already?”

“I’m not sure my heart can take much more of this suspense, Wataru,” Eichi agrees.

Wataru sighs, then snaps a finger and his hair arranges itself into a pile on its head, twisting itself secure into a bun. 

“Eww,” Tori breathes, and Wataru digs his spoon into one of the brownies, twirling it into the ice cream mountain and then coating it in the hot fudge pool. 

Once it’s disappeared into his mouth, he puts the spoon down. “… Was it not ever so obvious that I’m trying to play the role of a friend?”