Dissonance of Attraction

dissonance-of-attraction-title-01

Concept: Himi | Art: Romax | Edit: Himi

It seems that whenever Kagami’s plans with someone else falls through, he calls Kise to see if he can fill in. Although Kise enjoys his time with Kagami, he’s tired of being Plan B. But when an opportunity to voice his dissatisfaction turns into a screaming match, will Kise try to make himself heard or will he give up on the idea of ever being Kagami’s first choice?


Act I: Counterpoint

Scene I

The briskness of winter had already been left behind, but April mornings still greeted Japan with a chill in the air. This was perfect sleeping weather for Kise and Saturdays into Sundays were the best times to indulge in the experience. The heat turned off and him buried under all manner of sheets and blankets and comforters–it was the only way to do it. On this particular Sunday, although his alarm was always set for 11 AM, he found himself peeking out from the warmth to answer the phone at quarter to some ungodly hour. A voice that resonated with the timbre of annoyance bade him good morning. His eyes opened not as though his slumber had just been interrupted, but rather as if his body had had its fill and was just itching to take on the day. The conversation was brief: a question, an answer, and a salutation, but it left him all abuzz. He scrambled back into his cozy sanctuary, shoved his head under his pillow, and screamed; although the affect was only temporary, it seemed to be the best way to settle his nerves. The hum that vibrated through him faded, and with it, the alacrity with which he’d managed the call. A few deep breaths and one long satisfied sigh later and Kise was back to sleep.

Scene II

If there was a limit to how much time a person could spend picking out an outfit, Kise didn’t know anything about it.

His phone was still in his hand when his alarm went off. With his eyes half-closed, he looked at his history to make sure the call he remembered wasn’t a dream. It wasn’t. He stretched himself out from under his fabric shelter, hit play on his MP3 dock, and spent 45 minutes picturing the clothes in his closet before he actually got out of bed to look at them. Such leisure was only afforded to the impossibly wealthy and the incredibly lazy–Kise was most certainly not the former. The next hour passed while he was engaged in the troublesome task of choosing a color. Two hours for selecting a shirt, 20 minutes on jeans–because it was definitely a denim kind of day–and another hour and 15 on footwear and a jacket. Kise forewent the accessories because he didn’t want to hear anymore nagging from Kagami about him being so flashy. And, of course, a shower. All told, it was about four hours and change–too much of which was spent eyeing a suit he bought sometime ago that he’d been anxiously waiting for an occasion to debut and stopping to sing along with a shuffled playlist featuring the cast recordings of Rent in various languages. And for all the fuss, Kise looked like he’d only spent two minutes getting dressed. Perfect.

Not that any of it mattered. As much as he would have liked it to be, it wasn’t a date or anything. How could it be when he was just a substitute? It had been nearly a year since the first one, and like most of the not-dates he went on with Kagami, this day’s had Kuroko’s last-minute cancellation to thank for its instance. Kise was certain that the first few times Kuroko suggested Kagami ask him because it was the kind of thing he’d be interested in, but since Kagami had pretty much gotten out of the habit of mentioning it and he wasn’t sure he should question it, Kise could only wonder if all of the other times were due to Kuroko’s suggestion or if Kagami ever considered him on his own. Though he would have settled for the latter, what he really wanted was to ditch the mantle of Plan B altogether. The thought both saddened and delighted him.

Scene III

In the pitch of the theater, Kise and Kagami leaned into each other as they whispered about where they’d seen the lead actress before. It was a matinee for a Canadian film with English dialogue and French subtitles, so, other than them, only a teen-aged couple, two 30-something women and a foreigner were in attendance, huddled in their far corners of the cinema. Their hushed tones weren’t exactly necessary, but the habit of courtesy prevailed–Kise didn’t mind the closeness either.

These days, Kise stayed behind with Kagami as the theater cleared out and until the last credit rolled. He learned quickly after the first time he saw a movie with Kagami–he almost panicked when his eyes adjusted in the light of the lobby and saw that Kagami wasn’t with him.

This theater’s lobby was the size of a postage stamp, so when Kise stepped into it from the darkness and stretched, he practically filled the space. Just as his fists hit the apex of their reach, an uninhibited squeal escaped him and he recoiled. Kise whipped his head around to see who poked him in his side. The picture of innocence, Kagami threw a question over his shoulder as he walked by.

“What’d you think?”

Kise, still crouched, protecting his sides, glared at Kagami with the burn of betrayal in his eyes–not that he was ever really quiet, but he could not believe he made him make a sound like that in public.

Kagami turned to him, but instead of the heat in Kise’s eyes, it was the flame on his cheeks that elicited a reaction; he snickered, “what?”

Slowly, he rose to 3/4 of his height with his arms still wrapped around himself, just in case. Kise rolled his eyes at Kagami and cautiously sidestepped his way out of the theater to clear himself of Kagami’s grasp. It was going to get awkward if he couldn’t stop dwelling on the fact that that was the first time Kagami touched him in such a deliberately non-perfunctory way. He did not want to follow up the squeal with a scream, so he tried to think of another way to calm down. Then again, maybe that day was the day that he would fall apart in front of Kagami, because something more along the lines of an “eek” freed itself from his throat when Kagami came up behind him and spoke directly into his ear.

“So?”

Kise tried to turn around, but it ended up being more of a drunken swivel–weebles come to mind. He knew distress was painted across his face, but he hoped that Kagami–who he assumed spent all of zero minutes looking at his face–wouldn’t notice. To aid in the cover-up he stumbled into the conversation. “‘S-So…?'”

“The movie…what did you think of it,” Kagami reiterated.

“Oh, yeah…,” Kise thought for a moment, “if it wasn’t for the French, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it; I still can’t follow spoken English too well. I’m still confused about the ending, BUT it was really interesting, darker than I thought it would be. It kind of reminded me of Sixth Sense, you know? Like how he was always trying to open that door, and it turned out that something was in the way all that time. In this, all the time you’re thinking that the guy with the tractor and the guy behind the counter are the same guy, but you never think about the fact that, while everyone else is always moving around, he’s always behind the counter. Then, right before the girl speaks, they finally show him from the other side and you know there’s no way they could be the same person.”

“Yeah,” Kagami agreed, not bothering to contain his excitement. “And it was real slow, too–the scene wasn’t about him, so I almost missed it! Then, immediately my mind raced back to the beginning to review each scene. The ending, though…I’m a little,” his hands gestured to signify the uncertainty he felt, “on it, too. But for it to be that boy…he really was there all the time.”

“You mean, girl…or woman, actually, right?”

“No, well, man, maybe, because the grandmother and the kid on the bike both said, ‘he would never be able…to…have…a…’,” Kagami’s words trialed off.

“…Child,” finished, Kise.

They looked at each other and their faces opened up as they regarded the ending with their sudden awareness. Kise was the first to breach the awe.

“Oh noooooo…?”

OhYeah,” Kagami said as he nodded emphatically slow.

“Shut. Up. I can’t believe it! That is so–”

“Awesome!” Kagami returned the favor. “Now I’m hungry.”

“It always comes back to food with you.”

“What do you want to eat?”

Kise’s index finger tapped his lips in thought. “Mmmmmaybe….”

“Or you could come back to my place?”

“Oh, I don’t want to impose…” Not that he even meant that, but he was surprised how quickly it come out.

“What?! Who are you trying to fool? You do nothing but impose.”

Kise scoffed incredulously. “Who called me at 6 AM?”

“I had to catch you before you made plans.” Kagami said it like it was the most common of common knowledge.

“Eh?!” Every time Kise had to put business before pleasure came to mind and he regretted each one. “What if I already had plans?”

“Come on…you never have plans. I can only remember a handful of times that you turned me down.”

Ouch… Good ol’ Plan B. If it was for that assumption that he’d always been invited, Kise would rather not. To him, there was a difference between being the chosen 2nd choice and the available one. He had to postpone the breakdown that would be his way of dealing with this unanticipated blow to his…to his everything. Moreover, he certainly could not endure the interim at Kagami’s place. “Ah, you know, there’s a Caribbean burger joint a few blocks from here; I’ve been wanting to try it. You game?”

Kagami wiped at the imaginary drool suspended from the corner of his mouth.

Kise laughed, “I’ll take that as a ‘yes’.”

Entr’acte

Verse I

April’s morning chill gave way for the warm breezes of May. Work kept Kise late at the studio and work took Kise out of town–he was grateful for it. Being busy made it nearly impossible to accept an invitation from Kagami and easier not to dwell on what he might have missed out on. Being called on twice in one month was something he never expected, but even the double edged shock of that got obscured by his obligations. His calendar was a Tetris screen of flights, interviews, teleconferences, and high profile engagements–except for one day at the end of May and three consecutive days in June, he wouldn’t be able to come up for air until August. He hoped that would be enough time for out of sight, out of mind to kick in.

Verse II

The day had been unproductive and he ended up leaving early to escape the chaos of the studio to concentrate on some last minute tweaks to the upcoming gala. It was Kise’s belief that the marketing manager–his partner on the current project–had a twisted sense of humor. Why else would he ask him–a stylist, well it read Image Consultant on is business card…him, of all people, to plan the seating arrangements for this event? Fashion, sports, and entertainment; the limelight, packed arenas, and the red carpet–that’s what Kise knew, that’s where his connections were the strongest, made him indispensable, irreplaceable. But this event was a who’s who of the international business scene–old money, business moguls, and politicians–an assortment whose only carpet reference was probably the bagging kind–his knowledge was cursory, at best. Nevertheless, fresh from the shower, Kise pushed his still damp hair away from his face with his favorite headband and got to work.

The gala commenced without a hitch, though it was noticeably noisier than others Kise had attended with the same crowd. His partner attributed it to Kise’s table grouping mastery. Whatever it was, it was a good thing, because their team got a bonus and the company was awarded a quarterly contract. With that out of the way, Kise looked forward to his one day off in May. The only thing on the agenda for that day was sleep.

Verse III

With how things had been going, Kise considered getting off by 8 PM an early day. Twenty minutes on the train and a five-minute walk from the station and he’d be home sweet home. He closed his door behind him and undressed on his way to the bathroom. A nice long soak would be fantastic, but he didn’t think he could stay awake long enough, so a hot shower would have to do. He made quick work of his hygiene routine, got himself off, and then washed again. But before he got out, he allowed himself a few minutes to linger as the water pelted his shoulders and rushed down his back–he could feel his body unraveling. After drying off, he grabbed a pair of boxer-briefs, but put them back in favor of some loose basketball shorts.

He still hadn’t gotten used to his new bed frame and mattress, neither of which squeaked or groaned under his weight–it was the oddest thing. Kise laid back on the bed and, without any further ado, fell asleep. The sleep was good; he was too deep into it to fully comprehend that, but it was so good. What wasn’t good was the ringing of the phone he forgot to turn off. Half awake, he mumbled into it, but before he knew it, he was sleep again.

The sunlight warmed Kise’s left side; he rolled toward the window to get the full effect. His head was clear and his body felt light and when he opened his eyes, he was fully awake. At the thought of doing nothing all day, a smile broke across his face.

The afternoon came and the afternoon went and Kise passed the time flipping through game shows, cooking shows, and a marathon of something he might have remembered from his childhood. Around 5, he ordered in and looked in the freezer to see what he could eat while he waited. Kuroko’s eel flavored ice cream was still in there from the last time he was over and if it wasn’t blocking his banana flavored ice pop, he wouldn’t have touched it. Kise grabbed an oven mitt and a pair of tongs and tossed the gag-inducing pint into the depths of his freezer. With that wretched horror now behind a closed door, Kise enjoyed the icy sweetness that filled his mouth. It hit the spot, but also made him anxious for the savory and spicy food that would be arriving soon.

Satisfied with his roti and his kang kung belacan, Kise rubbed his full belly and sank into the sofa while the second act of the Cuban production of Rent played out on his TV. He hummed his way through “Take Me or Leave Me” and chimed in with the lyrics he knew. When 8 rolled around, he went out for a walk and returned with a box of mochi to accompany the sake he got as a part of his team’s bonus. At half past 9, his day was done; he turned everything off and prepared for bed. He took the evening up on the long soak he passed on the previous night and streamed the Chicago Bulls 1993 Championship game on his tablet.

Amazing. A whole day to himself; no clients, no bosses, no emails, no phones. Kise thought it was a success, but something suddenly nagged at him. His mind searched for a moment, but nothing came. He shrugged his shoulders for the sake of no one and looked for his phone so that he could set his alarm. As soon as he touched it, it occurred to him that he had spoke to someone in the wee hours, but who? There were only two people who lacked the courtesy to call during normal human hours: his boss and Kagami. His boss was a workaholic, but even she would let things go while she was on her honeymoon. Kise turned on his phone. Three texts from Kagami and one from Kuroko.

“Whatever it is, it can wait.”

He set his alarm and went to bed.

Act II: Cacophony

Scene I

June was turning out to be a pretty good month–all of Kise’s clients–the pain in the asses that they were–had praised him for his work, all of his proposals for the 4th quarter had been approved, and the month was already halfway over. He reviewed his weekly to-do list to make sure he didn’t overlook anything; it was only Tuesday, but it was his Friday. This year as well, he was keeping up his tradition of not working on his birthday. He didn’t make any plans, but he also took off the two days after. He announced to the office that morning that he would set fire to anyone who kept him from leaving at 5 o’clock on the dot and that, to be safe, they should just stay away from his office anytime after 4. They knew he was serious because he said it after he had his 8AM strawberry-peach smoothie which always put him in the best of moods.

At half past 4, the associate manager from PR poked his head into Kise’s office. Kise heard a hush fall over the studio. From where he sat, Kise could see the rest of the floor direct their attention to them. He opened up his right bottom drawer and pulled out a butane wand. The AM chirped or hiccupped–it was a weird sound–as he stood in the doorway watching Kise’s fingers fiddle with the incendiary device’s trigger. Suddenly the kid bound into the room as if he was pushed and his face became a kaleidoscope of colors and emotions as he ungracefully stopped himself from crashing into the edge of Kise’s glass desk. He teetered with his arms stiffly extended in front of him, somehow bracing himself against an invisible wall. Kise looked past the guy whose face had settled somewhere between fear and terror to the marketing manager whose offending arm was only now being drawn back to his side and whose sly grin avowed noncommittal responsibility for the trouble ahead.

“What are you up to” Kise asked; the words were merely a courtesy since the set of his facial features clearly conveyed the same question. With no answer forthcoming, he turned his attention back to the AM who would not look at him squarely. Kise’s smile was warm and charming but his eyes were filled with impatience and annoyance. He stood up, plucked the interoffice envelope from the AM’s trembling fist, and tapped him on the head with it. “I know you’re probably trying to figure out between faceplanting on my desk or getting your fingerprints on it, which would be worse, but I assure you, that if this envelope contains anything that even looks like hard work, you won’t have time to come to a conclusion before I light you up.” He terminated his warning with a wave of the wand a wink.

He was often said to be terrifyingly charming and charmingly terrifying, so unless it was said right after his 8AM pick-me-up, the studio staff was never quite sure about the level of commitment Kise had to his threats. In the name of self-preservation, they generally erred on the side of caution. The marketing manager, suddenly feeling bad for his dupe, caught the AM by his collar and pulled him back from the brink of certain death. Kise eyed them as he unlaced the string that figure-eighted the envelope closed. His fingers quickly hit the cool metal of a binder clip, so he tugged it out. It bound a stack of about 40 pages that were fronted by a sheet of marled red 243 g/m2 linen card stock–the studio’s standard cover for rush revision requests. Kise threw it down on his desk, aimed the lighter at them, and pulled its trigger.

“Whoa!” The marketing manager tried to stifle his laugh as he stepped in front of the AM. “Just look at it. We only need you sign off on it.”

The AM, feeling braver in the shadow of his benefactor, peeking over the other guy’s shoulder, chimed in, “please? It’ll only take a minute.”

Kise rolled his eyes and released the trigger before setting the wand down. He sat back in his chair and picked up the proposal featuring the name of a heretofore approved project. “This was perfect, you know, some of my best work all year. What the hell is wrong with it?!”

“Just a minor change,” said Kise’s boss who had just stepped in.

Kise peered over the proposal and gave her a salty look. He flipped the cover and two pages to the table of contents to see which page the changes would be on: page 9. Page 9 was the venue agreement–if there were any changes to that, there was no way it could be considered minor. He took a deep breath and flipped another eight pages. He was fixed to deliver some especially colorful expletives when instead of finding a listing and map for a new expo center, he found a seating map for Theatre Creation and a pair of e-tickets for the return of the English production of Rent. Crimson blossomed all over. It was a limited engagement that because of assumed scheduling conflicts, Kise hadn’t bothered trying to get tickets. Then, by the time he knew he would be free, they were sold out for the entire run. He slid down in his chair and tried to hide himself under the document. Already practically undone, he fell completely to the floor upon hearing the studio’s wish for him in concert: “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”

Scene II

Kise danced around his kitchen, still giddy from the unexpected gift the studio gave him. His phone was on the kitchen counter and every few turns, he would stop to stare at it. He wanted to make a call, but he wasn’t sure what he should say. His last conversation with Kagami was apparently not a good one. The only thing he knew of it was Kagami’s texts asking why he hung up on him and what he meant by “third choice.” Two weeks had passed since then and he had actually forgotten all about it until he decided that he wanted to invite Kagami to see Rent with him.

Having to answer for that forgotten phone call or Kagami declining his invitation–both were likely to happen if he called him. There wasn’t much to be done for a call he didn’t remember, but if there was even the slightest possibility that Kagami would say “yes” to Rent, he didn’t want to miss out on it. He grabbed his phone, took a deep breath, cleared his throat, and hovered over the speed dial. In his moment of hesitation he decided that texting would save him from biting his tongue out of nervousness while trying to put words together to speak in coherent sentences.

¦¦¦¦ see Rent with me on the 19th? ¦¦¦¦

A response came quickly.

¦¦¦¦ the musical? ¦¦¦¦

¦¦¦¦ yeah ¦¦¦¦

¦¦¦¦ what time? ¦¦¦¦

Kise nearly dropped his phone. His hands trembled as he tried to respond. Should he scream now or wait until the conversation was over? Somehow, he managed to hold off.

¦¦¦¦ be at Theatre Creation by 7:45 ¦¦¦¦

¦¦¦¦ suit and tie? ¦¦¦¦

The thought. Just the thought of Kagami in a suit broke something inside of him–that image would be tucked away for his shower later. He typed “God, yess!” but reconsidered.

¦¦¦¦ yes, please ¦¦¦¦

He didn’t actually need a suit, but what could it hurt?

¦¦¦¦ you catching the train, right? i’m gonna drive. i’ll drive you home. ¦¦¦¦

¦¦¦¦ yes. thank you. see you then! ¦¦¦¦

¦¦¦¦ see you. ¦¦¦¦

Kise ran into his bedroom, dove onto his bed, shoved his head under his pillow–lest his neighbors complain–and screamed loud and long. After his voice petered out, he threw in a few kicks and some arm flailing for good measure. Now out of breath, he rolled onto his back, and giggled to himself while his eyes stole a glance at his closet.

Scene III

It didn’t take long for Kise to pick out his outfit for the show because he’d planned it long ago. A medium gray suit with a two-button jacket, a deep rose damask tie that matched his pocket square and jacket lining. This was not an outfit for hanging out; he’d dubbed it his “night on the town with Kagamicchi” suit. Finally having a chance to wear it only made the night that much more awesome.

Scene IV

Kise had been surprised a few times by Kagami’s interests, but he never would have thought they’d include musicals, and yet, the guy in a tailored dark gray suit, warm yellow tie and kerchief, and amber cuff links sitting to his left looked like he was genuinely enjoying himself. He tried stealing a few glances at Kagami until he was caught just before intermission.

“What?”

“What?” Kise fought back the blush he could feel creeping.

“Nothing, you keep looking at me.”

“W-Well, you’re a handsome man, so…”

Kagami’s face twisted in disbelief.

“Okay…so I was checking to see if you were suffering through this.”

Kagami snickered. “Nah. It’s good. Plus–”

“But, you are a handsome man,” Kise interrupted. “I wasn’t lying about that.”

Kagami narrowed his eyes.

“What, you don’t think so?”

“I’m alright, but it’s weird having someone that looks like you say that.”

“Eh? Wha–”

People were returning to their seats, scooting by them one by one. Not one to be had so freely, their conversation hung in suspension. They looked at each other. Should they drop it? Kise really wanted to know what Kagami meant by that, but depending on his answer, things could get a little weird. But time waits for no man; intermission concluded, the house lights dimmed, and Act II began–the question in limbo between them.

Scene V

There was definitely a little more pep in Kise’s step as they walked to Kagami’s car.

“That good?”

“OHMYGOD, Kagamicchi! It was the best! I had to stop myself from running up on the stage and singing with them!” Kise jumped about as the thrill surged in him.

Kagami laughed.

“Oh! Um…you looked like you were, but did you, um, enjoy it?”

“Yeah, it was good.”

“Really?”

“I was surprised because you sing those songs a lot and I never knew what they were.”

Kise’s ears burned with embarrassment.

“And it was nice seeing you really enjoy something.”

“Huh? I enjoy myself when we hang out.”

Kagami cleared his throat. “I-I thought so too, but the last time I invited you out, you got really mad and hung up on me.”

Kise froze and for a second he thought his heart stopped, but it was just finding a new rhythm–albeit a quicker, more frantic one.

“What was up with that anyway?”

Kise bowed his head and his eyes darted back and forth as he tried to push down the dread that was rising in him. “I…uh…don’t remember…?”

“You don’t remember?”

“I was half asleep and I…uh…don’t know what I said. I don’t even know what you said.” They turned the corner toward the parking lot. When they got to the car, Kise tried to escape. “The station is only two blocks from here. You’re in the other direction, so I can–”

Even after being invited out, Kagami had still been worried about their exchange and to find out that Kise had forgotten it…he wasn’t very successful at keeping his indignation out of his voice. “Just get in the car.”

“Really, I–”

“Kise, just get in the damn car!”

“Don’t yell at me! What are you even mad about?!”

An exasperated sigh left Kagami before he could stop it. Though he hadn’t told Kise, he’d made reservations for dinner, but he wanted to get to the bottom of the issue before they went any further and Kise trying to runaway was mucking up his plans. “Sorry, I… Can you please get in the car?”

He was suddenly very confused, but Kise obliged.

They pulled off in silence. Kise settled into his seat as the city lights popped and blurred in his periphery. He flinched just the tiniest bit when Kagami sighed.

“I called you that day and asked if you had any plans for yesterday and you, well, you did sound kind of drunk, but I guess you were sleep, but anyway, you said that on that day of all days you refused to be an afterthought and wished me better luck with my third choice.”

It was too dark to see even with the street lights rolling through every six meters or so, but Kise went pale; the blood drained with such a rush, he could feel it–he wondered if Kagami could tell. Kise bit his bottom lip, but that was hardly a comfort for how horrible he felt. How could he? How could he have said that? It was definitely how he felt, but to actually say it to Kagami was another thing entirely. Food that he hadn’t eaten felt like it was coming up.

“What did you mean by ‘afterthought’?”

Kise took a deep breath. It was really a now or never kind of situation, probably the first one in his life that didn’t take place on the court. Not of the end of the world variety, but it would definitely be the end of something if he didn’t speak up. He exhaled. “I don’t like being your second choice…your…Plan B.”

“The hell does that mean,” Kagami asked, his voice remaining relatively calm.

“Every time we go out, I only get invited because someone else cancelled on you.”

“Not even!”

Kise turned in his seat. “Are you trying to tell me that you don’t call me when Kurokocchi cancels on you?!”

“No! I mean, yes, but–”

“You do!”

“I don’t! There’ve been at least three times that I asked you first, but you–!”

“When?! When?! And where was I for these?!”

“You turned me down!”

“I would never turn you down if I kn–!”

“You did! At least three times!”

“You know how shitty it makes me feel that the guy I like only thinks of me when his plans fail?! Why would I ever turn down first choice?!”

“You di–! Wait, come again?!” Kagami stared at Kise.

Kise put his head in his hands. He said it. Out loud. And Kagami heard it.

“The guy–”

They swerved. “Hey! The road! Eyes on the road,” Kise cautioned frantically.

Kagami refocused. It would suck if he died after hearing that.

“I was so worried about asking you to go with me tonight. Whether or not you could survive a musical aside, I was scared that hanging out with me because it was me wouldn’t appeal to you and if you said you weren’t interested in musicals, I’d never get over not knowing if that was the whole truth or if it was really me that you were turning down.”

“Fuck you!”

“W-What?!” Kise choked.

“You heard me! Fuck. You. I don’t give a damn if you don’t remember turning me down, but you did and ev–!”

“What?!”

“Every time was a time that I didn’t mention that someone cancelled on me!”

“What?!”

“Even worst than that… Do you know that today is the first time you’ve ever asked me out?!”

“What?!”

“Would you stop yelling ‘What? What? What?’ like a broken record?!”

“It’s not–!”

“Yes, it’s the first time!”

“Why didn’t you say anything?!”

“The hell was I supposed to say?!”

“U-uh…”

Kagami’s glare was full of fire. “…Well?!”

They swerved again. “Hey, hey, hey! Watch where you’re going!”

“Shit!”

“Wait! Where are you going?!”

“Reservations!”

“What?!”

“For your birthday!”

“For my–! …What…?”

“What ‘What’?! You keep saying that! What don’t you understand?!”

“For my…birthday?”

“Yes, for your birthday!”

“Y-You know my birthday?”

“I asked Kuroko!”

“Why are you still yelling?!”

“What?! …Oh..what?”

Kise looked at him.

“Shut up,” Kagami snapped.

Panting heavy with frustration and displaced excitement, the sound of their breaths filled the space between them. As they quieted down, Kise could hear their hearts thumping out the rhythm of exhaustion and nervous expectation. He worked to find a calm he hadn’t had all day.

“Kagamicchi…you’re…taking me out for my…birthday?”

“Yes. And it would have been on your birthday if you hadn’t turned me down.”

“But–”

“And what’s all this about ‘the guy I like’? You like me?” The fever of resent was still coursing through Kagami, so his delivery was harsher than he intended, but still calmer than a few moments past.

And Kise hoped that maybe Kagami would let that slide.

“Kise?”

Kise made a sound that was something like a gasp but less the shock and only a hint of the panic.

“What was that?”

Kise found his voice again–it still came out more breath than sound. “…es.”

“What are you saying?! I can’t hear you!”

“YES! I like you! I like you, okay?!”

“Okay! I like you, too!”

“What?!”

“Don’t start that again!”

The car veered to the right, turned off the street, and slowed to a stop.

“Why did you stop?!”

“We’re here!”

“Where–! …What?”

Kagami groaned; his brow furrowed at Kise–this was getting ridiculous. He let himself breathe for a minute. “The restaurant. We’re here.” He turned off the car and got out.

Kise looked around as he exited the car. “This is… We’re in,” his head and hands gestured questioningly, “…Ginza?”

“Yeah.”

“But…that’s like, 10 minutes from the theater. We were driving for like, 20 minutes.”

“I didn’t want to argue at dinner,” Kagami huffed.

“What?”

That word again. “I–!” Kagami caught himself and made an effort to regain his composure, lowering his voice in the process. “…I didn’t want to argue during your birthday dinner, so I kept driving until we were done.”

“But we were just yelling at each other before we got out the car.”

“But the important stuff was already said, so…”

“Important stuff…,” Kise repeated the phrase. The words moved in his mouth as if his was tongue was inspecting their forms in search of the latch to unlock their meaning.

Kagami walked around to Kise’s side. He shoved his hands in his pockets and took a deep breath. “Kise, I like you.”

“Are we dating now?” Kise’s tone was hopeful with not so subtle notes of relief.

“D-Don’t just jump ahead!”

“Wha–?!”

Kagami covered Kise’s mouth.

Kise was startled, but he wasn’t about to be distracted from the topic at hand. He folded his arms across his chest and started to speak “If we’re not–”

Kagami removed his hand.

Kise cleared his throat. “If we’re not, then there’s no need to continue this conversation.”

“Before we get to that, don’t you think you should say something to me first? Without yelling it?”

“Wh–.” Kise stopped himself. “Oh! Ha! Right,” he giggled. A little too much. If he didn’t get a hold of himself, his nervous laughter was going to get out of hand. “Okay, okay,” he breathed. “Kagamicchi, I like you.”

And as if they couldn’t get it out fast enough, they asked, almost in sync, “will you go out with me?”

Faster than a blink, Kagami’s countenance had taken on the look of someone whose place was just jumped in line. Meanwhile, Kise was revisited by the giggling he staved off just moments before.

“It’s not funny! You’re not supposed to say it!”

“Eh,” Kise managed between giggles. “Why not?”

“Because I wanted to! I had a plan, damnit!” The force Kagami meant to be behind those words were diluted by the unbelievably happy smile on Kise’s face.

Unfazed, Kise moved closer to Kagami. “Kagamicchi, what does it matter? The answer’s still the same.”

With his arms now folded across his chest and his face more suited for a disgruntled customer, Kagami grumbled, “and that answer is…?”

Kise leaned in and pulled Kagami’s lips out of their pout with his own. His hands found their way to Kagami’s face and held it has he pressed deeper into the kiss.

Kagami relaxed his arms–melted, really–and gathered Kise in them, seeming to have forgotten that they were still in a public parking lot. But it was dark out, so they could take their chances.

Kise drew back slowly from the kiss and smiled, feeling quite satisfied with himself.

However, Kagami also had no plans of letting the conversation get derailed. “Your answer?”

“What do you think that was,” Kise shot back.

“The word. I want to hear the word.”

Kise snickered. “Of course the answer is ‘yes’.”

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