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roses are red, violets are blue

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They used to do this when they were younger, the both of them. Zukki started it, usually.

"If the world ended tomorrow," he'd say — over a late dinner or post-filming drinks or in the middle of another interminable day of rehearsals — "What crazy thing would you do right now?"

"Join a circus troupe," Araki would reply, "as a lion tamer. You can be the lion."

Or,

"Ride off into the sunset with the princess of my youth."

Or, once,

"Pick up the next hottie that looks at me, because I refuse to die a virgin."

That one had made Zukki's eyes go comically wide. Before he started laughing. "God, you almost had me there!"

"Are you questioning my virtue, Suzuki-san?"

"Um, what virtue?"

"I am pure as the driven snow."

"Yeah, if maybe like half of Tokyo had driven over said snow." From anyone else, Araki might have been offended. But Zukki's grinning at him. "If you can't get any, then there's no hope for humanity."

It'd been fun, and flattering, the way most things are when you're a twenty-something with the world before you.

Now, Araki refills his glass and says, "I'd have another drink."

"What?" Zukki laughs at him. "Boring!"

Boring isn't bad. And Zukki could never be either. Not that he's going to say that out loud. Even if the world actually ended tomorrow.

He lifts his glass in a mock toast, and Zukki mirrors him, smiling.

"But seriously," Zukki says, later. "I can't believe you have nothing better to do than go drinking with me."

"It's my monthly community service quota."

"Harsh."

"The truth hurts."

"Yeah, well, good thing we're actors."

The role of a lifetime. The best friend. The coward who wouldn't confess a truth, even at the end of all things. Araki empties the rest of the wine into Zukki's glass.

"What about you," he asks. "If the world ended—" He checks the clock, "—in two minutes and thirty-three seconds?"

"Honestly? I have no idea."

"Who's boring now?"

"I don't really think about these things. It hurts my head." Zukki snickers at Araki's snort. "Yeah, yeah, I've heard it all. Between this kind of bullying and actual work, who has time to worry about the apocalypse?"

"Humor me."

"Fine," says Zukki, easy and warm, the way he always does. "I'd stay up way past my bedtime and have another drink with my best friend."

Araki looks at him. Still smiling. Still here.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

The second hand ticks past twelve. Midnight, come and gone.

"All right," says Araki. "Next round's on me."