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Cracking the Code

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 “And you came to me for help?” Azuma asked.

 Tsuzuru ran his fingers through his hair.

 “I wrote this role to challenge myself,” he confessed. “It’s something super different. Maybe I’m my own worst enemy because…” His gaze drifted downwards to his lap, where his hands flopped upon. They were still. Tsuzuru sighed. 

 “Because it really is the exact opposite of who I am as a person,” he said at last. “Completely and utterly different.”

 Azuma’s eyebrows raised in sympathy as he poured another cup of tea.

 “Chamomile,” he said softly, pushing it over. “It’ll help you relax.”

 “Thank you.”

 “Tell me more about what you envision for Tana,” Azuma said.

 “Tana’s…” Tsuzuru pursed his lips as he thought. He traced the pad of an index finger over the lip of his cup. “It’s hard to explain, exactly. There’s the theme of yearning, for sure, of constantly looking up to the sky of the planet and wanting to see more. But also, being wanted by everything. Tana’s the amalgamation of desire and dreaming. Losing yourself in a story, constantly asking yourself what more you could want, the—”

 His cheeks suddenly flared with heat and he clamped his mouth shut.

 “Go on,” Azuma encouraged him, looking awfully amused.

 Tsuzuru cleared his throat.

 “It’s about craving and coveting,” he said. “Tana, but also everyone who… like, witnesses Tana. You know?”

 “We all know very much about want, Tsuzuru,” Azuma said, that odd smile of his not budging even one bit. “Some of us are just better at encapsulating it on the daily.”

 Tsuzuru squared his shoulders. “I want to do well. It’s a burden I’m placing on myself to test my limits and, well, out of all of the people in the company, I think you’re the closest to what I’ve described. Which is why I’m asking you for tips. Or—Or whatever you can offer.”

 Azuma laughed as he leaned back in his chair. “I should be flattered after such kind words, shouldn’t I?”

 “If you’d like to be.”

 “It’s rare to see you be so openly adorable,” Azuma added.

 Tsuzuru’s face soured. “Okay, now you’re just teasing me.”

 “Can I be blamed?”


 Azuma got to his feet, beckoning Tsuzuru to do the same. “Alright. I’ll lay bare some of the trade secrets, but only because you asked me in such a cute way.”

 “Don’t know what I did that was cute, but alright,” the playwright muttered under his breath.

 “Let me say this as well.” A finger poked at Tsuzuru’s chest. “No questioning my methods. This is, after all, my territory. Wouldn’t you say?”

 Tsuzuru furrowed his brow, but then nodded slowly. “Got it.”

 “Fantastic. Go to sleep.”

 “I’m not—"

 Azuma shook his head. “Ah ah. What did I just say?”

 Tsuzuru hesitated.

 “But—?” he tried again.


 He gave up. “Alright. Good night, Azuma.”

 “We’ll begin in the afternoon,” Azuma said with a slightly concerning glint in his eye.

 Huh. Tsuzuru hoped he wasn’t making a mistake.

 “This doesn’t seem necessary,” Tsuzuru said after brief consideration.

 Azuma hushed him, lighting another candle.

 “Being a comforting presence isn’t solely about pleasing others, Tsuzuru,” the ageless beauty of MANKAI Company crooned. He reached for the bowl of cucumber slices and placed one on each of Tsuzuru’s eyes. “It’s about pleasing yourself first. Healing the inside of your soul so entirely, it simply cannot help but be cherished by others.”

 The playwright tried not to slouch in the pedicure recliner and scowl. “Where's the line between gluttonous sloth and beauty though?”

 “The line that separates Hisoka and myself. So, as it should go, the bit of hallway between Room 205 and 206,” Azuma said with well-meaning humor edged around his words.

 Tsuzuru lifted up a cucumber. “Are you calling Hisoka a gluttonous sloth?”

 “From the bottom of my heart, and with such tender adoration.”

  “Huh.” He ate the cucumber slice and closed his eyes again. Azuma replaced it.

 He suddenly broke the quiet with a soft, huffing chuckle. Tsuzuru moved to remove the cucumber again before a hand touched his to chide it.

 “Why are you laughing?” he asked.

 Azuma hummed. “I suppose I’m not giving Hisoka enough credit. For as sleepy and adorable as he is every moment of his life, he certainly attracts everyone around him to pamper him as much as they can. In fact, I wonder if we could take a leaf out of his book for you.”

 “…Ah?” Cronch.

 “Stop eating the cucumber slices, Tsuzuru. They’re meant to hydrate you.”

 Tsuzuru stopped eating them.

 “Nap time” was something Tsuzuru was never going to get used to.

 If he hadn’t shoehorned it into his planner and then requested Azuma to lock away his phone and laptop for an hour or two, there was a chance he would have forgone it entirely. But Tana was an easy going, drowsy, peaceful character. It was necessary to know where to come from at the very least.

 Azuma handed him a scented candle in exchange for his electronics.

 “This one is particularly good for relaxing tenseness,” he said.

 Tsuzuru raised an eyebrow at the light purple wax. He gave it a sniff, and then nodded. “Thank you.”

 “No need to mention it.”

 He lit it, placed it on the floor, and turned the lights off. Drew the shades. He couldn’t remember a time in the last month he’d hit the bed before 1 AM, much less four in the afternoon. But c'est la vie.

 Tsuzuru lay flat on his stomach in his bed, the side of his head on the pillow, and closed his eyes.

 Sleep obviously didn’t come easily. He wasn’t the type for it. But still, it was nice to have peace and quiet, and to let his mind drift off. The heavy lavender cloud that slowly filled the room was also… nice. Relaxing.

 Tsuzuru sighed and rolled over, looking up at the ceiling.

 This sucked. How did Hisoka do this all the time?

 Maybe counting sheep would help. No, no it wouldn’t. He’d tried it before and all he could do was then think about wool, and then how much sweaters cost, and then debate with his own consciousness about the ethicality of “cheap fashion” anyways. Was he a good person for wanting lower prices when that usually meant others less fortunate than him would be exploited?

 Perhaps stop thinking, an oddly Azuma-esque voice in his head said.

 Alright, then. Maybe not sheep. Maybe… Maybe Tsuzuru just needed to go to the happy place in his mind. So he daydreamed of a nice picnic with his family. Having enough put away into his savings account where he could tell his parents, yes, with full confidence, that they could take a day off and join them. He’d learned a thing or two about cooking nice-looking things from Omi. He was sure his brothers would love a walnut salad with light dressing, even Noboru who hated vegetables with a burning passion.

 Soon, the rapid turmoil of thought that was his default turned into a quieter drone. His eyelids drooped, and while Tsuzuru was still fairly certain sleep was out of his grasp, the cloudiness in his brain was interesting. New. He closed his eyes once more.

 Time passed.

 How much? He wasn’t positive. 

 Light besides the one from the candle suddenly flooded the room.

 “Tsuuuuzuuuuuu,” a familiar voice dragged out. “Are you in here?”

 Tsuzuru lifted a hand. “Mhm.”

 He heard light but swift footsteps that betrayed the owner even moreso than his voice. The ladder leading up to his bed squeaked as someone put their weight upon it.

 “Are you taking a nap?” Misumi asked curiously. “That’s different."

 Tsuzuru cracked open an eyelid. This was normally where he’d ask what Ikaruga wanted, wasn’t it? Probably with an undertone of irritation? The lavender candle had been a good idea—the stickiness of indulgence in the air made him stop before the reflex.

 Instead, he smiled warmly and held out his hand.

 “I am. Do you want to join me?” he asked.

 Misumi stared at him with wide eyes. His eyes slid over to the door, as something tense and wary settled on his brow.

 “No,” Misumi said, very careful and slow with his delivery. “Sorry. I’ll leave you alone.”

 He descended the ladder with one swell hop and ran out of the room like something was chasing him. Tsuzuru stared at the quick exit and, although confused, couldn’t help but want to laugh a little. What was that about?

 Ah, whatever. He still had a few minutes left until he had to be responsible again. Tsuzuru lay back down on the pillow and closed his eyes, wondering if this role study would have him picking up some lazy habits. What a shame if it did.

 “Don’t you ever get tired of it?” Tsuzuru asked as he strained under Homare’s weight.

 Azuma chuckled, opening the door to his dorm. “Hardly. I thrive on it, in fact.”

 He took a graceful seat on his couch and then held his arms out.

 “Thank you for helping him,” he murmured. “I’ll take it from here.”

 Tsuzuru unceremoniously dropped the wine-sloshed Homare onto the couch, where the poet let out a soft sob and snuggled deeper into Azuma’s embrace.

 “I simply cannot fathom it,” Homare blubbered. “Why are orcas endangered? They are so regal and powerful… Kings of the sea! And yet, the pestilent greed of man hath ruined their abode. Why is the world like this, Azuma?”

 “Yes, yes, Homare, it’s so sad,” Azuma whispered, rubbing his back. “Let it all out.”

 “The p-poor orcas!” Homare wailed.

 Tsuzuru made a face. Azuma caught it, and only offered a mysterious quirk of the corners of his lips in return.

 “It’s as though I'm telling someone that no matter how cold or lonely the world may make them feel, I will be there to offer them respite,” Azuma told him, slowly running his palm over Homare’s back. His golden eyes narrowed ever so slightly. “It’s about pulling them from one plane of reality right snug into the one that exists between your arms, and can only exist there. Do you understand, Tsuzuru?”

 Tsuzuru hesitated.

 …Did he?

 “It’ll come with time,” Azuma said, words nearly dancing with the mirth they held. He scooted over, gently coaxing Homare to do the same. “Why don’t you try comforting our poor, sweet, ever so hard working genius with me?”

 Wow, there were so many things in the world Tsuzuru would prefer doing. But like always, he sucked it up and did what was told of him.

 He patted Homare’s shoulder. “There, there, Arisugawa. Corporate greed is slaughtering a lot of the environment besides orcas. Take peace in the fact that we’re ants in comparison to the hellish monster capitalism has spawned and there’s nothing to be done."

 Homare’s chest wracked with cries.

 Azuma closed his eyes. “We’ll… work on that."

 “What did I do?”

 “You’re fully capable of doing so, I guarantee it.”

 “I know I could, maybe. It—It just feels so disingenuous. I don’t have anything I want to ask for."

 Azuma leaned in close to the shell of his ear. A shiver ran down Tsuzuru’s spine as his cool breath hit.

 “Sometimes, it’s not about actually needing something,” Azuma told him softly, “but rather providing someone with an opportunity to care for you.”

 Interesting proposal.

 Azuma patted his shoulder. “You’ve got this. Be a little courageous.”

 Alright. Fine.

 Tsuzuru set his jaw and crossed the kitchen to stand close to Omi.

 “Have you decided on what we’ll have for dinner tonight?” he asked, struggling to keep his voice in that exact spot between quiet and playful. Good grief, he was going to get a frog in his throat by doing this. How did Azuma manage it all the time?

 Omi turned and gave him a smile. “Nothing set in stone yet. Do you have a preference?”

 “Has anyone given their own yet?”

 “Itaru mentioned something about a stew. Figured it wouldn’t hurt.”

 Tsuzuru tried to stop himself from fidgeting. Instead, he kept his limbs slack and whimsical, leaned his hip on the edge of the countertop. “What a shame. I would have liked something a little more filling for the night. Feels like it would be a good evening for something fried.”

 And if Azuma was saying something like this, there’d be a little playful… hm. What? Something like this, perhaps?

 He glanced up at Omi shyly through hooded lids. “What do you reckon, Omi?”

 The autumn troupe member looked at a strange loss for words. Then he shook his head, rousing himself from the stupor. “Of course, Tsuzuru. You don’t ask for things often, I’d be more than happy to put together whatever you’d want for dinner. Do fried chicken cutlets sound okay?”

 Tsuzuru leaned on Omi’s arm and smiled warmly. “More than okay. Thank you so much.”

 “Right. Yes. Yeah. Of course.” Omi looked very hard at his cutting board, as though refusing to perceive anything else.

 Tsuzuru drew away, bit by bit, until he was shuffled back to Azuma’s side. His eyes widened as he processed what had just happened.

 “You’re kidding,” he said flatly. “That’s all it takes?”

 Azuma laughed, only once but high and clear. He held out a palm. “Welcome to the world you so desperately sought, Tana.”

 Tsuzuru shook it, still in disbelief.

 Surely not.

 Surely that couldn’t be it.

 …This would need more experimenting. 

 He clenched his teeth hard.

 Cringe culture is dead. Cringe culture is dead. And you know what? Most of the company is out tonight. If you’re going to do this without Azuma holding your hand through every single step, you’re going to have to do it now.

 He repeated this over and over in his head, before hyping himself up enough to reach forward and place his hand on Omi’s forearm.

 “Thank you so much for the dinner,” Tsuzuru said, words barely above a whisper. Soft and slow. “You’re always so well-intentioned and kind, aren’t you, Omi?”

 Azuma suddenly ducked, hiding the bottom half of his face behind his hand.

 “Excuse me,” he said thickly, standing up. “I need a moment it seems.”

 But they all heard the way he trembled with laughter as he disappeared down a hallway. Tsuzuru refused to let it mess with him.

 “You really do deserve everything good, Omi,” he continued, letting his pinky and stray and trace a circle on Omi’s wrist.

 Omi’s face was neutral except for maybe a confused flicker in his gaze. But Tsuzuru felt a tendon in his wrist tighten.

 Omi forced himself to smile back. “Of course, Tsuzuru. Anything for you.” 

 He gave him first helping of the large pile, placing a ginormous cutlet, golden and crisp, onto his plate.

 “Let me know if you want seconds,” Omi told him. “I’ll sneak you an extra helping of dessert too if you’d like it. Don’t tell anyone.”

 Tsuzuru splayed his fingers on his chest, face innocently mocking insult. “I’d never. You know that.”

 Omi laughed. “I really do.” He hesitated for a second and then pulled away like he didn’t quite want to.

 Tsuzuru, in his mind, flipped the table and screeched.

 He’d done it. He’d CRACKED THE CODE. This? This he could get used to, maybe. Didn’t he deserve nice things too? Like, damn, if a flutter of his eyelashes and a gooey grin was all it took to be fed and tended to, then SIGN him up. No wonder Azuma lived this life. He grinned down at his dinner, a clear reward for his endeavor.

 And then Itaru placed his handheld down with a sigh.

 “Alright, enough’s enough,” he said simply. “Can everyone give us and Tsuzuru a second alone?”

 Goddddd damn it.

 The rest of the table cleared. Tsuzuru saw Banri smack Omi in his rib, asking “What the hell was that?” only to have Omi reply “I’m… not sure.”

 Then, it was just him, across from Itaru and Chikage.

 This felt awfully like he was getting scolded by his parents. Which wasn’t fair at all, he’d been the voice of reason more often than those two combined.

 “That was a very entertaining show you put on for us, Tsuzuru,” Chikage said lightheartedly, an overly innocent look on his face.

 Oh god, Tsuzuru could already feel the embarrassment nipping at his heels. Messing with people in the other troupes was one thing, but he worked with these guys, and a single flaw in the facade would have him raked over the coals in humiliation for weeks. Maybe it wasn’t worth it. Maybe he should just—

 Wait a second, no! He thought to himself, slightly peeved. If acting the way Azuma usually did was enough to get the others to pander a little, then by all means, the two eldest of his troupe should be the ones spoiling him anyways. Not like these two self-serving jerks ever did! (Okay, no, they did a lot, but Tsuzuru would ignore that logical quip in the back of his consciousness for now).

 Tsuzuru leaned on his elbows, tucking his hands beneath his jaw, and smirked a little at the two.

 “I don’t—”

 Itaru held up a hand to stop him. “I wouldn’t even bother if I were you. I mean. Come on. It’s us."

 Ah, fuck. He was right.

 Tsuzuru sat back with a more familiar scowl. “Fine.”

 “Listen, it’s not you,” Itaru said with a slight shit-eating sneer. He unclipped the barrette keeping his bangs up and let them flop into his eyes. “Remember? Looking good, being pretty, and oozing charm so my life is as easy as it can get might as well be my job description."

 “And my job quite is. Hm. Literally to keep up false appearances,” Chikage added.

 “Your job is what.”

 “Oh? I said nothing.”

 Tsuzuru stared at him and then shook his head. “I’m just trying out an archetype for the upcoming character.”

 Itaru snorted. “We’ve all done the role studies. What you’re doing is a little bit more siiiiinister.”

 “I wouldn’t… use the word sinister.”

 “Sinister doesn’t necessarily mean bad,” Chikage said politely.

 “Wait, yes it does?”

 Chikage continued like no one had spoken. “By all means, Tsuzuru. If you’ve finally decided to take it upon yourself to explore other methods of self-presentation that doesn’t rely wholly on logic or straightforwardness, have fun in doing so. Although.” He took a moment to glance at Itaru, and then thought of Citron, who was seemingly incapable of walking through the shopping district without having women swoon at his very existence. “One has to wonder if this is now a rite of passage for the Spring Troupe.”

 “Sakuya’s already on the road to leave nothing but a trail of broken, pining hearts in his path,” Itaru noted.

 “Without a question, we all know this.” Chikage turned back to Tsuzuru with that same calm, disinterested expression. “Let us know if there’s anything we can do to help.”

 Tsuzuru’s cheeks burned. He forced himself to nod.

 “Alright,” he said through gritted teeth. “What was the point of this confrontation in the first place if all you were going to say was that?”

 Itaru chuckled and poked the playwright in the forehead. “To let you know that no matter what you act like, we’ll at least see through the shtick.”

 “Oh, okay. So you're making fun of me."

 “Absolutely,” Chikage said with no remorse whatsoever. “Carry on and enjoy yourself. It’s been some time since we’ve had something fun in the company, after all."

 Azuma walked to Guy’s closet and opened it.

 “Guy, I hope you wouldn’t mind,” he called up to his roommate.

 Guy sat up on his elbows, rubbing his eyes. “Of course. Feel free.”

 “Thank you.”

 He went back to sleep immediately. Tsuzuru was envious.

 “Ahh, here it is.” Azuma turned around with a t-shirt in his hands. “It’s like Guy’s shirt says, Tsuzuru. You have to be so stunningly confident in your own ability to be wanted. You have to carry yourself with a depth that would have even the creatures of the ocean tremble. All while carrying the air of something you can’t be quite sure is from this world.”

 Tsuzuru scowled. “Please tell me you’re not trying to assign a deeper meaning to a shirt that says ‘Women Want Me, Fish Fear Me.’”

 “It’s Guy’s favorite. And I’m of the opinion he looks very dashing in it.”

 “You are ridiculously biased.”

 Azuma sighed and glanced up at the loft bed. “Perhaps I am. Can you blame me?”

 Tsuzuru didn’t know what to say. So he didn’t say anything at all.

 “Come with me,” Azuma said, putting the shirt back. “I believe my little surprise has arrived.”

 “Your what?”

 He received no answer. Instead, he had his wrist clasped with the barest amount of pressure, and was pulled down the dark hallway, down the stairs, towards his room.

 “Let’s be soft to make sure we don’t wake Masumi,” Azuma whispered to him, very fond.

 “Masumi would sleep through an earthquake. Actually, I’m pretty sure he has.”

 “Oh, I see.”

 Azuma opened Tsuzuru’s door and stepped inside. 

 Tsuzuru stopped in the doorway.

 “What have you done,” he asked, not tearing his eyes from the blanket covered thing against his room’s wall. That had most certainly not been there a few hours ago.

 “No need to sound so terrified. However, I do urge you to brace yourself.” Azuma put his hands on his new protégé's shoulders. “Tsuzuru, I cannot stress this enough. Out of all of the tricks of the trade I have taught you, this one will be by far the most critical.”


 Azuma slipped the blanket off and revealed the small red couch that hid beneath it.

 “It’s called a chaise,” Azuma said after a few seconds of Tsuzuru’s silence passed by.

 “I knew that,” he lied.

 “It’s yours,” Azuma continued.

 “No, it’s not?”

 Azuma laughed softly. He patted the pretty red, plush seat. “It’s a gift from me to you. Consider it thanks for having been so accommodating of my rules for the past few days.”

 Tsuzuru stared at it. He looked at Azuma with the sort of expression you’d expect from someone who had just witnessed an atrocity. “Azuma, I can’t accept this. This is so—”

 Luxurious? Guilt stirring? Against his brand? His very antithesis put in the shape of something to sit on?

 Azuma held up a palm to stop him in his tracks.

 “I have quite a lot more saved up than I let on,” he said simply. Then he hid a part of his mouth behind a knuckle, although not enough to completely mask the grin. “And besides. It’s hardly fair of you to let everyone else spoil you for once but claim I’m not allowed the same privilege. Wouldn’t you say?”

 “What?” Tsuzuru blurted out.

 Azuma patted his head. “You’ve been awfully cute in more ways than one recently. Accept the chaise, Tsuzuru. Consider it a graduation gift.”

 Tsuzuru looked back at the fine velvet and ivory-colored wood. He shuddered. It looked so awfully out of place when right next to his scratched, beaten up desk.

 “I haven’t bought a piece of furniture that wasn’t from a second hand store my entire life,” he muttered, suffering. “You’re really going to make me accept this?”

 Azuma stuck his lower lip out in teasing. “It would hurt me so deeply if you didn’t, after all.”

 “What am I even supposed to do with this?”

 The smile disappeared completely from Azuma’s face.

 He stepped closer, until they were only a few inches apart, and raised a finger into the air.

 “Like I said,” Azuma said in a low, serious voice. “What I am about to teach you is perhaps the most integral part of being desired. The Inviting Lounge. The one thing no person on this planet can resist."

 Oh, boy.

 “Hey, have either of you guys seen Tsuzuroon?” Kazunari asked, poking his head into the kitchen.

 Omi choked slightly. He pointed towards the hall.

 “He should be in his room,” Omi said weakly. “Be, er, careful, Kazunari.”

 Kazunari made a face. “Careful? Why?”

 Misumi was strangely not meeting his eyes. “Hmmmm… Tsuzu’s been a little weird lately.”

 “You can say that again,” Omi murmured.


 Kazunari shrugged it off and went skipping down the hall. How fun. He’d be able to bother Tsuzuru while one-on-one a little today, something that had very quickly become a favorite past time. He threw open the door and grinned.

 “Tsuzuroooooon…!” he began loudly, only to have his voice patter off when he saw how dim the room was.

 But not completely. There were a handful of white candles placed in small dishes around the floor, illuminating the inside a strange and cozy orange. And there, in the center of it all, like some kind of barely tangible vision, was a figure laying delicately across a loveseat. With one knee pulled sensually towards his chest, and with elbows bent, poised outwards, by his head.

 It was a delicate pose of pure inviting.

 Tsuzuru cast a bored, drowsy glance at Kazunari, one eye cracked open to stay narrowed and detached. 

 Kazunari froze in his tracks.

 “Did you need something from me?” Tsuzuru asked, raising himself on his elbows. The line of his back arched ever so slightly.

 “I…” Kazunari blinked a few times and then looked back down at his portfolio. He scratched his head. His mouth felt incomprehensibly dry in that one moment. “Thought… you’d take a look at the next batch of posters.”

 Tsuzuru held out a hand and beckoned. “Alright. Bring it, then.”

 Kazunari was rooted to his spot.

 Tsuzuru dipped his chin a bit. He chuckled. 

 "I don’t bite,” he said, voice husky from the nap. “Come closer, why don’t you?"

 Kazunari, instead, took a step back until his shoulder blades made contact with the door. “Whaaaaaat’s going on?”

 “Don’t be silly, Kazunari.”

 Kazunari glanced at the door, then to Tsuzuru, and cautiously closed the distance. “Okay, but a part of me thinks you’ve gotten abducted and replaced by an alien, so if you start talking about the mothership I am leaving. I’ve watched enough of the movies, man." 

 Tsuzuru laughed again, soft and high. Relaxed. He swung his legs off the edge to sit up properly, patting the space beside him. “Here you are.”

 Kazunari sat, concern palpable. Then it smoothed over.

 “Ohhhhh, this is, like, role preparation, right?” Kazunari bobbed his head. “Got it, got it. No idea why that flew out of my head. So… is your character supposed to be all relaxed and go-with-the-flow?”

 “There are a handful of other descriptive terms I’d use,” Tsuzuru murmured, drawing closer.

 He was desirable. Difficult to grasp. Easy going, wanted, gentle but alluring

 Tana was wise and barely within the dimension, happy and secure in the wonders his home planet had to offer. Coddled and adored by the plants themselves. Things presented themselves to him on a silver platter and he gladly indulged.

 Kazunari touched his hat to make sure it was still on his head. Tsuzuru drew closer, practically draping himself over one knee to look at the portfolio. Hands tucked underneath his torso. There was a softness on Tsuzuru's face, deeply uncharacteristic of how he looked usually—Where had the hard grimace and worry gone?

 “Turn the page,” Tsuzuru said slowly.

 Kazunari almost laughed. An anxious shake was running through his limbs. “W-What? You’ve got hands, you can flip the photo yourself.”

 Tsuzuru’s eyes flashed up at Kazunari through thick lashes.

 “Why would I when you’re here to do it for me?” he said simply. Drawled.

 Kazunari opened and closed his mouth. 

 He suddenly bolted to his feet and burst out laughing hysterically.

 “Whoaaaa!” he yelped, waving the folder in the air. “You’re getting into this a lot more deeply than your other ones! That’s so great, Tsuzuroon, OMG, like you’re going to be so great in the play. Totes congrats! Keep up the great work, homeslice, keep it shaking and never quit Cranking, that’s what I say!”

 He looked at his bare wrist.

 “Ah, jeez, wow, look at that time!” Kazunari continued to ramble, nearly stumbling as he attempted a spin. “Gotta get running, I’ll e-mail you these, actually, look them in your own time! See ya, fam, keep it funky and fresh, you know the drill, haha—!”


 Kazunari slapped a hand to his nose and groaned loudly. He blinked harshly, trying to get his eyes to focus after having hit the door face-first so hard, and then grappled at the doorknob.

 “Bye byeeeee!” he sang, the end cracking with a touch of hysteria, before he slammed the door shut so hard, the candlelight flickered.

 Tsuzuru watched him go.

 He took in a deep breath.

 “YES,” he whispered to himself, pumping his fist. “YES. I DID IT. THE CODE.”

 Tsuzuru shot up to a proper seat on the chaise and drummed the floor with his feet, jubilating silently. He had Tana in the bag. He’d finally overcome his greatest fear when it came to character roles for himself. He’d DONE IT.

 He got to his feet to do a dance, and then realized he’d been waiting in that pose for someone to come by for so long, he’d lost all feeling in his legs.

 Fuck, he thought as he crashed to the ground.

 “Too soon,” Tsuzuru groaned, right as the door opened.

 “I saw Kazunari walk by, I suppose you’ve done a job well—” Azuma stopped in the middle of his sentence to look down on Tsuzuru writhing on the floor.

 “I swear to god I was doing better than this a few seconds ago,” he groaned.

 Azuma slapped a hand over his mouth but it was too late, even for his infamous poker face. He burst out laughing, hunched over and clutching his knees.

 “Oh my,” he managed, wiping a tear from his eye. He straightened up once more and crossed his arms, looking down on Tsuzuru fondly. “It appears you have more work cut out for you?”

 Tsuzuru finally got up enough to haul his ass onto the chaise. He huffed. “So it does."