Chapter 1: Saitou Takumi/Aoyagi Ruito
for nikki <3
February 14th, 20XX
From down the hall comes a gleeful shriek of laughter. "Chocolates! I knew it! Doori has a girlfriend."
The resulting chorus of ooh's is utterly gratuitous.
A thump, a laughing yelp, and Doori's voice. "I do not have a girlfriend, and you don't know shit."
"I'm older than half of you!" is Doori's idea of a parting shot as he ducks into the dressing room. The door slams on the sound of laughter, fading.
Ruito flips a page in his script. "Old enough to be dating already?"
"Shut up." Doori tosses the box of chocolates at him. "You so owe me. So much."
Ruito tucks the box into his bag, along with his script. "Let me know when you get a boyfriend and I'll be sure to return the favor."
"So are you like, actually dating him? Like. Actually?"
"No, I just get homemade presents from hot guys all the time. Like, just walking down the street. It's a real problem, being this cute."
"Oh, come on! Tell me!"
"You'll understand when you're older." Ruito ignores the pout that gets him; it might work on, like, Kei-chan, but Ruito is immune. He shoulders his bag. "Thanks for letting me stash the chocolates in your locker. Later."
"Don't get cooties," Doori calls after him. Because he's a child.
Ruito checks his phone. One new message, from Saitou Takumi:
It's a date. See you at 9.
February 14th, 20XX
"Wait. Ruito has a boyfriend?!"
Kazuki peers over Takuya's shoulder, at his phone and the mess of a keymash masquerading as a text. The sender is — who else — Aiba.
"Aiba still talks to Ruito?"
"Doori texted him. Or maybe Minami. There's definitely something about Minami."
"I don't even want to know."
Kazuki finishes setting the table. Two bowls of rice, a homey array of favorite dishes. Nothing fancy. He thinks about the candles sitting in a drawer, wanting use.
Takuya is still curled on the couch, texting.
Kazuki says, "Food's getting cold."
Takuya wanders toward the table, eyes still glued to his phone. "How does Ruito even have the time to be dating?"
"Real questions." Kazuki pulls the chair back for him. "I can barely get you alone for five minutes. Even when you're here."
Takuya pauses, midway through sitting down.
He jumps back up, runs to the other side of the room. Puts his phone down. Comes back. There's a hint of color on his cheeks.
And now Kazuki's the one who feels like an idiot. "Don't be."
Takuya glances at his face. Darts forward, arms wrapping around his middle. A beat — his heartbeat, one, two. Kazuki hugs him back.
"Thanks for making dinner," Takuya says, voice muffled against his shirt.
Kazuki breathes out. "My pleasure."
Across the room, his phone buzzes. And buzzes. And buzzes again. Kazuki sighs.
"You should probably check on Aiba."
Another buzz, for emphasis.
"Nah." Takuya smiles at him, takes his hand. "It can wait."
February 14th, 20XX
"KAZUKI IS DATING SOMEONE?!"
The shout carries clear through the studio's supposedly soundproof walls.
At least there's no one around, this late. And today of all days. Kouji opens the studio door. Kenta is sitting cross-legged on the piano bench, fingers flying over the keyboard on his phone.
"It'd be more surprising if he wasn't, right?"
Kenta stares at him.
"I mean," Kouji adds. "It's Kazuki-san."
"Yeah, but," Kenta practically splutters. "I'm his best friend. How did Ruito find out before me?!"
Best friends, Kouji thinks, is a subjective term. Out loud, he says, "Maybe Ruito has nothing better to do." He hands Kenta the coffee he'd asked for, along with his change from the vending machine.
Kenta accepts both, with a garbled sound that might be the verbal equivalent of whatever he's typing on his phone.
Kouji drinks his own tea. He doesn't actually know if Ruito has better things to do, these days, than spread gossip. These days, Kenta's the only person who still talks to him.
He checks the time.
"Wanna get dinner?"
Kenta blinks. Looks up from his phone. Looks at him.
Kouji shrugs. "It's late. We need to eat."
"Yeah, but it's..." Kenta trails off. Then he smiles. "Okay, well. Gimme a sec. Let's meet at the bus stop?"
Kouji hums an agreement.
He'd said nothing false, after all. Dinner is a thing.
Twenty minutes later, Kenta shows up to the bus stop with a bouquet of flowers — and Kouji seriously considers making a run for it. He's in shape. He's an athlete (or was). He can outrun Kenta.
He's not sure how he's supposed to outrun the way Kenta grins at him, face flushed from his madcap dash to whatever convenience store that'd sold him those carnations.
"Here," says Kenta.
Kouji takes the flowers. He tries to think of a punch line.
"Does this mean you're paying for dinner?"
"Of course," Kenta says easily — too easily — like always. "It's a date."
Valentine's Day, 2011
Jin comes over while Seiru's rehearsing their theme song and Yuuta's killing the time doing stretches. His forehead is pressed to his ankles. He finishes the ten count and sits up.
Jin waves down at him. "Good work."
He grins and makes a v-sign. "Happy Valentine's Day."
Jin smiles back. It makes his eyes all crinkly and nice. "Happy Valentine's Day, partner." He takes a seat against the wall next to Yuuta and nudges him gently in the side. "Got lots of chocolate this year?"
His smile shows he's teasing but not in a way that's mean or embarrassing or over the top. Jin's always so nice. Yuuta scratches the back of his neck, trying not to smile. "Well…"
He technically hasn't gotten any yet, but his manager texted him a picture of the pile waiting at the office. It's kind of embarrassing and kind of nice. Hee.
Jin laughs. "Ooh, I get it. What an ikemen. Don't steal all our fans, okay?"
"Not as much as you, probably," Yuuta says, a little shy like he always gets over this kind of thing. Besides, it's true. Jin's so talented, and nice, and handsome, he must get piles of Valentine's chocolate. Hills. Mountains. Ride the gust of wind blowing down from the mountains…
He notices, melody humming along in the back of his mind, that Jin's blushing, which definitely counts as an achievement. Hee. Jin sees him grinning and swats his knee. "Hey, you. Don't embarrass your teammates."
"Mmhm, mmhm." He can't help the laugh--giggle--that slips out. He's just in a really good mood today. It makes him say, "Hey, did you bring your guitar today?"
Jin looks at him questioningly. "I did…"
Yuuta smiles, scrunching his nose. "Let's practice together later."
Jin smiles back at him. "That sounds fun. Let's."
Yuuta settles back against the wall, humming to himself.
He really likes Valentine's Day.
There's a rabbit on his dressing table. Next to his curling iron, right in front of the mirror. A rabbit.
Not an actual live animal, of course, but a little figurine. Made of wood, he discovers when he picks it up. It fits in his palm.
"From an admirer?" asks a voice.
Kimeru glances up to see Kazuki. He didn't even hear the man enter. He puts the figurine down. "Maybe someone forgot it here. Who'd get me a rabbit?"
"Ren-chan. For both."
Kimeru laughs. Kazuki grins as well.
"What did I do?" Yagami asks, entering the room and a conversation midway through. As usual.
Kimeru holds up the rabbit. "One of your friends?"
Yagami blinks. Kimeru expects him to make a defensive comment about his pet rabbit, or maybe coo at how cute the carving is.
Instead, Yagami Ren laughs. "That's for you. From Eiji-san."
Kazuki raises both eyebrows.
"Excuse me?" Kimeru hears himself ask.
"I saw him sneaking out of here earlier. He was leaving that on your table." Yagami smiles at his own reflection in the mirror. "Pretty cute."
Kimeru can't tell if he's talking about the rabbit, or.
"Praising yourself again?" Kazuki quips. Bless the man. Yagami makes a face at him.
"You got me a rabbit?"
"Ah, you saw it!" Takigawa Eiji sounds entirely too pleased with himself.
Kimeru bites the inside of his mouth. He is not laughing. He is being incredulous right now. "Of course I saw it! It was right there. Kind of hard to miss."
"I meant to get two, but the place only had one. I couldn't find one that matched. It's too bad."
"Why would I need two rabbits?"
"Because one rabbit gets lonely."
"That's a myth."
"It's not! Ask Ren-chan. He'd know."
"From personal experience, maybe."
"Never mind." A pause. "You seriously got me a rabbit. Me. Do I look like a rabbit kind of person to you?"
"I thought you'd like it," Takigawa says, as if that's reason enough.
For him, maybe.
Kimeru gives up the losing battle with trying not to smile. He turns toward the corner, though there's no one else in the dressing room to overhear him on the phone.
"Yeah, well." The smile is probably bleeding into his voice, too. "Thanks. I think."
"You're welcome." He can hear Takigawa smiling, as well. "Happy Valentine's Day!"
And before Kimeru can voice an appropriate splutter, Takigawa hangs up on him.
On his dressing table, the rabbit sits patiently.
Sometime later, a second rabbit mysteriously appears on his dressing table. Kimeru puts it in the corner by the mirror, with the first. They sit there, unobtrusive, little wooden noses just barely touching.
Valentine's Day, 2014
Hideya bursts out of the practice space door, waving as if Yusuke would somehow miss the sight of six feet of lanky, bubbly excitement. He's wearing a fuzzy scarf. The tails flap behind him as he jogs over.
Yusuke wants to tie it up and tuck the ends in Hideya's jacket. It's the worst.
Hideya's breath puffs in the chilly air. "Sorry, Shinnosuke-san wanted to talk to me. Did I make you wait?"
"Not long," says Yusuke, which isn't untrue. He had plenty of email to catch up on. "What did you want?"
Hideya's face glows. "There's that new waffle cafe in Aoyama, right, with the hedgehogs in the window, I went there with Mario and Ikkei-san and had the waffles with lychee jelly and coconut cream, I think I told you? Well, they have a Valentine's Day special just for today! Waffle parfait with three kinds of berries and whipped cream and strawberry ice cream and white chocolate syrup."
Yusuke's teeth ache just listening to this. "Sounds ideal," he says. "You and glucose, the perfect romance."
Hideya plows right over him. "Buuuut…"
There's always a but. Somehow knowing that never manages to stop Yusuke.
"But because it's a Valentine's Day special, it's only valid if you order for two people."
Yusuke knew it. He knew it. The word "couple" hangs in the air.
Hideya looks at him hopefully. "So? Wanna go?"
Sometimes he can't tell if Hideya does this on purpose or not. Most of the time, actually. Is he really this ingenuous? He can't be. But he's Hideya, he also can't be capable of this much duplicity. Catch 22.
Hideya's looking at him with liquid, expectant eyes.
"You're paying my dental bills," Yusuke says.
Hideya's whole face lights up. The kind of metaphors that spring to mind should be illegal. Illegal to good taste. "Yay! This is going to be sooo amazing, I bet even you'll like it, I promise, Mario said…" Somehow they're already walking toward the station.
Yusuke feels obligated to point out, "I only make these kinds of sacrifices for my friends, you know."
Hideya smiles down at him. "Whatever you say, Yata-chan."
Chapter 7: Kuroba Mario/Yamamoto Ikkei
Chapter by acchikocchi
for riselie* <3
*your ship name
Valentine's Day, 20??
Ikkei opens the door. Mario's standing on the other side. "Hello, stranger."
"Hi," Mario says. He's holding one arm behind his back. "Are you going to invite me in?"
"Maybe," Ikkei says. "It's Valentine's Day, you know, I might have a date."
Mario tries to look sad but it's not really working. "That's too bad," he says. "I brought you something."
Ikkei's not stupid. "You didn't," he says, but he's already smiling helplessly, resisting the urge to cover his face with his hands.
Mario's grinning. He produces the box, wrapped in gold paper, with a flourish.
It's ridiculous the effect this has on him, the fluttery twisty churning in his stomach. Which is how Mario always makes him feel: like he's the lead character in a shoujo manga.
"You came all the way over for this?" he says, trying not to sound as—as romanced as he feels. It's a losing effort.
"Of course." Mario's voice slips into that register, the one he only seems to use for Ikkei, so teasing but so fond. "All the pretty girls get chocolates on Valentine's Day."
His face is so hot, he must be bright red, this can't be attractive.
"Ugh, come here." He tugs Mario forward by the elbow. Slides his arms around Mario's neck.
It's really good chocolate.
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."
"Ride off into the sunset with the princess of my youth."
"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."
"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?"
"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.
The second hand ticks past twelve. Midnight, come and gone.
"All right," says Araki. "Next round's on me."