Banri slammed the door behind him as he entered room 103. Following his regular every-other-Friday gaming routine, he beelined to the couch. Unlike his regular routine, he tossed a small tray of brownies onto the center coffee table.
"Odd draft pick," Itaru commented as Banri made himself comfortable. "But don't mind if I do~"
"Oi, don't touch my brownies!" Banri quickly spat, moving his sweet snack out of reach.
"Ohhh, touchy tonight." Itaru tossed Banri a controller and slumped down onto his end of the couch. Banri watched Itaru produce a bag of chips, a sly smile on his face. "I have my own rations anyway."
Banri rolled his eyes, like that would convince him to give up one of his brownies. He's been looking forward to this treat the entirety of this hellish week!
"No deal, let's just start," Banri grabbed a brownie and took a bite. Huh. It tasted surprisingly good. Very good, in fact. Banri smirked, proud that his Super Ultra Easy Mode extended into his new, experimental baking adventures too.
As the two gamers bantered and desperately tried to increase their ranks, Banri found himself eating more than intended. The first small brownie was gone. Then a second. An hour later, halfway through his third, Banri scowled.
"'Sup?" Itaru asked, a crackling filling the silence of the loading screen as his hand rifled through his annoyingly loud bag of chips. "You're looking at that brownie like it was the motherfucker who teabagged you last match."
"Man," Banri moaned, his frustration growing, "these edibles ain't shit!"
"Wait, these what? " Itaru deadpanned, his chip bag easily slipping from between his greasy fingers and onto the floor.
"I SAID THESE EDIBLES AIN'T SHIT, ITARU-SAN." Banri groaned in annoyance, but then, suddenly, a determined fire lit behind his eyes. Some weak ass brownies weren't going to mess with Banri Settsu tonight! "Fuck it, I'm eating the whole tray!"
Juza’s stomach growled. Loudly and angrily. Confused and somewhat embarrassed, Juza quickly slapped his hand over his midsection as if that would mean the noise didn’t happen at all.
“You alright, Juza-san?” Tenma looked up from his phone in concern, his eyebrows raising up behind his bangs.
“Uh, yeah,” Juza mumbled, his eyes diverting from Tenma’s worried face to instead focus on the passing shops and scenery as Igawa drove them downtown.
“Seriously, Igawa can pull over if you need it,” Tenma assured. “Or are you just hungry?”
Juza definitely wasn’t hungry. All day, he’d been in and out of the kitchen, stress eating as Omi and the others baked and brought home sweets. After all, it wasn’t like Juza belonged in the fancy places that only seemed to exist in Tenma’s world. How else was he supposed to feel after being asked out to an expensive five-star restaurant? The stress was overwhelming, and he was lucky the sweets kept him together enough to make it into the back of the limo in one piece.
His stomach flipped and growled again. Juza gritted his teeth and clutched his stomach, willing his body to calm down. Maybe he overdid it after all.
Juza blinked and turned his head back to Tenma. “M’fine, don’t worry,” Juza reassured as he awkwardly found Tenma’s hand with his own.
“... Good.” Tenma grabbed Juza’s hand, and looked forward, concentrating seriously on the road in front of them. A faint rosiness bloomed on his cheeks. “I don’t think I’d forgive you if you wimped out of our date after all.”
Juza smiled as Tenma avoided eye contact for the remainder of the car ride.
A few minutes later, Juza climbed out of Tenma’s limo in front of a trendy high-end restaurant that Juza wouldn’t dare to attempt to pronounce out loud.
The world spun.
Suddenly, he was at his seat, handing his menu over to Tsuzuru. A much nicer looking Tsuzuru than normal, with his sharp white shirt, pleated black pants, and neatly parted hair, but still Tsuzuru nonetheless.
“Wait, Tsuzuru-san?” Juza asked incredulously, his hand gripping his menu as if his life depended on it.
“Something wrong, Juza?” Tsuzuru asked, mildly concerned. Or maybe annoyed. Either way, Tsuzuru reached out to take his menu and tugged, the menu now firmly glued to both of their hands. Juza bit his lip in confusion.
“You, uh, work ‘ere?”
Tsuzuru gave the other side of the table a look, and Juza turned to see Tenma frowning. Was it something Juza said? Shit, he didn’t want to ruin their first high-class date. Juza reached to adjust his necktie with his non-melted-to-the-menu hand, only to find his neck bare, the first button of his collared shirt already undone.
“Are you sure you’re okay, Juza-san?” Tenma asked. There was both concern and irritation in his voice, but not quite a 50-50 balance. Juza tilted his head as he looked at Tenma’s words in the air, falling onto a weighted scale. Well, at least there was more concern, but tilting his head to even out the scale in his vision sure was tiring.
“Juza-san.” The scale leveled out, then it was gone.
“M’fine, I already said.” Juza took a deep breath and tugged on the menu. “Lemme just order and -”
“I already have your order,” Tsuzuru said sympathetically. “Maybe college work has been taking its toll? I remember that during my first year, I -”
“Tsuzuru-san.” Tenma sighed.
“R-right! I’ll go put your order in.” Tsuzuru, again, tugged at what was now much more than a menu. It was now a part of Juza, his tether to this world, that he couldn’t be separated from lest he phase out of existence. His life did depend on it.
Juza liked existing. He tightened his grip. “I’ll keep it.”
“Uh, deserts are on a different menu I can bring later? So, I’ll take it.” Tsuzuru tugged with a ferocious might that Juza has never witnessed in his senior before. Juza’s soul surprisingly stayed rooted in his body as the menu slid from his sweaty death grip.
Awed at the display of strength, Juza stood up and began to slow clap. Slowly, enthusiasm and a sense of pride for Tsuzuru began to overwhelm him, his hands steadily gaining momentum, a singular tear coming to his otherwise stoic-face.
This applause seemed lacking. He looked around the restaurant, all eyes mysteriously on him, not Tsuzuru where they should be. In fact, Tsuzuru was nowhere to be found. Embarrassed, Juza sat back down and coughed awkwardly.
“Listen, Juza-san,” Tenma stated, “I’m not sure what’s going on here but… are you high?”
Juza looked down at his feet, firmly planted on the floor. He met Tenma’s serious gaze with his own. “Absolutely not.”
Tenma had the kind, understanding face of a mother. Just not Juza’s own mother. Thankfully. That’d be a bit too weird. “... Are you sure? I won’t be mad. I’m just really confused.”
Juza wasn’t sure. He checked his feet again, still firmly planted on the floor. He met Tenma’s gaze again. “How many floors are in this building?”
Tenma sighed, mumbling something about too much pressure. Maybe Tenma didn’t know what floor they were on either. “Juza,” Tenma’s voice finally reached him, “go wash your face. You need to get it together man.”
“Right. Keep it together,” Juza repeated to himself, only it turned out that Tsuzuru, a fresh basket of rolls in hand, was suddenly directly in front of him making prolonged eye contact. Tenma groaned.
“Am I doing something wrong?” Tsuzuru asked innocently. A bit too innocently, if you were to ask Juza, but it was really none of his business.
“Are ya?” Juza asked, immediately standing up and beelining towards the restroom.
Once there, Juza quickly realized that he was sweating from his entire face. He turned on the water, staring at the cool stream. Juza imagined himself if he was smaller, being able to shower under the faucet. Sakyo was always a stickler for water usage, but a five minute shower under a faucet could be much more satisfying than five minutes in their regular shower, and save even more money.
Of course, all of this was assuming they were all tiny. It wouldn’t do much to shower under a sink faucet as a regular-sized person. Maybe he wouldn’t share this new idea, just in case it became misunderstood. It would only work out if they were tiny. Incredibly so.
Man, sweets would last forever if he was tiny too. Maybe it was something to look into. Juza hated to admit it, but if anybody could figure it out, it’d be Banri. Juza gritted his teeth. Maybe not after all. Juza didn’t need to give Banri any ideas for a fucking Nobel Peace Prize that he wouldn’t even be credited for as a contributor.
How long has this water been flowing? Juza stuck his hand under the water: ice cold. He’d been standing in this bathroom for ages, and as a result used up all the hot water in this potentially-infinite-floored restaurant. Man, people were going to be pissed. Nonchalantly, Juza washed his face, secretly hoping Tenma hadn’t written him off for dead and left him for somebody more handsome and personable.
Juza emerged from the bathroom a new man. A man that was secure in his relationship with his radiantly orange boyfriend who was devotedly still at their table, happily eating bread. Juza confidently strode to the table and sat down.
Tenma didn’t actually look happy up close, in fact he was looking tired. The singular piece of overly-buttered bread seemingly Tenma’s only shackle to reality. Juza flexed his hand, idly wondering what it was like to have a tether, and if having one would keep the windows of the restaurant from dancing and spinning.
“Hey,” Juza said as he sat down like the perfectly normal person that he was.
“Hey, you seem better,” Tenma replied, a relieved smile gracing his incredibly handsome face.
Juza nodded and reached for a roll. “Yeah, ‘m sorry,” Juza replied, equally normally, feeling like a lizard in human skin.
Tenma seemed to take Juza’s lizard-like normalcy as a good sign and relaxed into his usual conversation. Juza nodded and grunted where seemed appropriate as Tenma talked about his newest drama and movie offers, Juza chugging water and discreetly licking butter off his roll in a perfectly human-like manner as he tried to remember what words meant.
Honestly, Juza didn’t care if he remembered what words meant or not. All that mattered was that the gibberish was coming out of Tenma’s mouth, and Tenma looked so happy and he was having so much nice restaurant bread, just like he deserved.
Juza bit into his roll, his feelings for Tenma and his attractively happy bread eating face causing tears to roll down his face.
“... Juza-san?!” Tenma nearly shouted at the display of raw emotion before him. “Are you okay?!”
“T-the bread’s just spicy,” Juza sobbed, “‘s all it is.”
Tenma stood up, placing his two perfect palms perfectly flat against the perfectly sturdy table. “You’re not okay, we’re out of here. We should have left earlier. Tsuzuru-san!”
“I love ya so much,” Juza continued, stuffing the remainder of his roll into his mouth. Tears began to slow down as he tried to swallow, his throat somehow simultaneously narrower and less lizard-like than before. Eventually he managed, reaching out for another roll and gripping it tightly. “I love ya as much as these rolls are spicy.”
“These are sweet hawaiian rolls , Juza-san!” Tenma was suddenly behind him, helping him up from his chair. Tsuzuru was on the other side of him, if that was his real name. Juza eyed Tsuzuru with suspicion. Was he the one that made these sweet rolls spicy?
Tenma handed Supposedly Tsuzuru his card, Supposedly Tsuzuru promising to box up their food and bring it back after his shift in return. Juza thought all of that was a pretty bad decision, but Tenma knew about this fancy stuff better than he did. Juza decided to politely stay quiet, draping his arm protectively over Tenma’s shoulder. Tenma tensed.
“Why are you glaring at Tsuzuru-san? … Nevermind, we’re leaving. Come with me, I’ve got you.”
Then they were in front of Tenma’s limo, a worried looking Igawa rushing over to help Juza get into the car.
“S’fine,” Juza reassured.
“You’re not fine,” Tenma obviously lied.
Igawa awkwardly loitered, unsure of what to do with his hands. Juza wondered if Igawa’s hands felt lizard-like too. Maybe they were birds with how uselessly they were flapping around. Maybe Juza should have brought Igawa a roll out to calm down his bird hands.
“W-what’s going on?” Igawa worried.
“S’okay, I can get in the car,” Juza explained before Tenma could talk, “‘cause I’m not tiny.”
“What.” Tenma blinked his beautiful lilac eyes. Juza wanted to swim in them, but then he’d have to be even tinier than he’d have to be for the faucet shower. That might be a bit too small.
Wait, damnit, the tiny idea was his secret. “D-don’t tell Settsu! It’s my idea, not that asshole’s!” Juza snapped, jerking away from Igawa and Tenma. Then, guilt took over as he looked at Tenma’s empty arms. “I just… ‘m sorry, but Settsu can’t get a Nobel Peace Prize.”
“... Right, let’s get you to bed. Are you sure you can get in on your own, or…?”
Juza crawled into the car, not unlike a lizard, and face planted on the back seat. “I feel like ‘m going to lose my stomach,” Juza mumbled as Tenma sat down next to him. Tenma’s fingers hesitantly scratched at his scalp, wiggling through his skull and massaging his brain.
“If you need to, it’s fine.” Juza looked up to see Tenma looking down at him. “I’ll look after you tonight.”
A brief moment of lucidity told Juza that he was in for a very rough night. Whatever that meant. “... Thanks,” Juza managed to mumble before the sad sound of the asphalt under the moving car quietly sang him to sleep.
“I can’t believe they were just regular fucking brownies, ” Banri seethed as he scrubbed the empty brownie pan in the kitchen sink.
After getting kicked out of room 103 and heading back to his own room, Banri did just what he said he was going to do: he ate the whole tray. Then, he lied on the floor of his room for a few hours, idly playing puzzle games on his phone while he waited for the high to kick in. He knew he put the pot in them before he baked them, so this didn’t make sense!
And then, Banri remembered the flurry of activity in the kitchen earlier today. There were a lot of people baking and bringing home sweets from holiday sales. Somebody must have nicked his brownies when he was distracted, and now some lucky bastard was getting high while he was stuck with a midnight stomach ache.
“When I find out who…” Banri continued to grumble, turning off the water. He snatched a towel and started to dry the tray, only to hear the opening of the fridge behind him.
“Christ!” Banri shouted out of definitely not fear. More like a mild surprise. Even Banri Settsu was vulnerable to surprises on occasion.
Tenma, looking very battle-weary, screamed from what definitely was fright. When wasn’t he scared after all? “Banri-san?!” Tenma exclaimed quietly.
Banri ignored his racing pulse and laughed, careful to keep his voice low. “What’s up?” Banri asked casually once he calmed down.
Tenma did look disastrous. There were dark rings under his eyes, his sweats were haphazardly thrown on, a faint moisture laying across his brow.
Did they break up? Banri recalled the fancy date that kept Hyodo out of his hair all of today. Banri worried it’d be distasteful to ask, so instead he moved to put his tray away.
“Uh, Banri-san,” Tenma started, drawing Banri’s attention. Tenma opened the door to the fridge, grabbing two water bottles in a fluid motion. Then the door shut and it was dark again. “Has. Um. Has Juza-san been… stressed, lately?”
“Hah?” Banri scowled. “Why would I know?”
Tenma frowned. “Cut the shit, please. This is serious.” Tenma stood in the doorway, tired eyes ready to kill if necessary.
Banri could take Tenma, no question about it. Still, behind the annoyance, there was concern, and Banri chose to be a good friend, entirely for Tenma’s sake. “Uh. I mean Hyodo’s just himself, y’know?” Banri grumbled. “Maybe a bit stressed over this date lately. Did he fuck it up after all?”
Shit. So much for being polite.
A quiet snap was heard as Tenma opened a bottle of water. Banri waited for the second one to be offered to him, but instead Tenma set it on the counter as he took a drink of his own. Rude. “So… It’s my fault then…?” Tenma mumbled, barely audible.
“What?” Banri asked. “What’d ya do?”
“U-uh,” Tenma stuttered, obviously unaware he was talking out loud. “Juza-san’s just been… weird today? Not himself.” Tenma bit his lip and grabbed the second water bottle. “I should get back to him. Thanks for listening.” Tenma awkwardly half-bowed and nearly tripped over his own feet on his way out of the kitchen.
What was that about? Banri was a little curious. Okay, maybe he was more than a little curious about why Tenma looked like a disaster and why Hyodo hasn’t shown his ugly mug back in their room yet. Quietly, Banri trailed behind Tenma, just far enough behind to not be noticed.
Banri hid in the stairwell as Tenma opened the door to room 201, an ugly sobbing immediately assaulting his ears. “Hey, I got you some water, drink up,” Banri heard Tenma say in that gross, caring voice he always used with Hyodo when he thought nobody was listening.
“I-I thought the aliens got ya’?” The sobbing ceased. Wait, was that Hyodo?
“N-no, I’m fine…” Tenma reassured as he closed and locked his door behind him.
Banri laughed as he headed back down the stairs. Turning the doorknob to room 104, the gears in Banri’s mind began to click into place.
WAIT, THAT MOTHERFUCKER ATE MY BROWNIES?! I’M GOING TO KICK HIS ASS!