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Keito looks at the selection of bakery cupcakes in front of him, ignoring Yamada’s impatient foot-tapping beside him. There are way too many choices for him to examine, each looking more sugary and savory than the last, and Keito is absolutely determined to pick the perfect batch.

“Come on Keito, the point of buying cupcakes is that it would take less time than making them,” Yamada complains in a huff. He switches his bag of party supplies from one hand to the other, making a big show to demonstrate how tired he is, even though Keito knows he’s exaggerating. “How awkward is it going to be if Chinen shows up to the party before we do? Who’s going to yell surprise?”

“You know Yuto will yell loud enough for all of us,” Keito answers, still more focused on the cupcakes than Yamada’s voice. There are tiny chocolate ones in the corner, looking small and unassuming. Certainly not right for Chinen whose personality is twice the size of his stature. In the middle are some with strawberries on top that Yamada has been secretly eyeing, but Keito knows he should pick something that everyone would enjoy. To his left is a batch of rich red velvet ones with the scent of cream cheese frosting wafting up from them. Tempting for sure, but Keito just has a feeling they aren’t right for this occasion.

His eyes finally land on a batch with bright pink icing complete with rainbow sprinkles on top. They’re the most eye-catching of the bunch, and probably what he would have noticed first had he not been intentionally examining each batch one by one. These cupcakes are probably meant to allure teenage girls but Keito is sure Chinen will like them the best out of all the options. They’re beautiful and bright, just like the guy in question.

Yamada at least stops complaining once they’ve made their purchase and head back to Keito’s apartment for some last minute decorating. Everything is almost ready for their little surprise birthday party, though Keito’s mind is a little distracted while Yamada fusses over hanging up a few extra streamers.

As always when Chinen is involved, there are butterflies doing summersaults in Keito’s stomach. He’s gotten pretty used to them, having harbored this crush on his bandmate for over a year now.

It started off so simply. He loved the sound of Chinen’s laugh, and when he came to that realization, he also realized he loved making Chinen laugh. From quiet chuckles to full-on belly laughs, anything was enough to make Keito’s heart beat faster. Once Keito was hooked on Chinen’s laugh, it wasn’t long before he fell in love with the rest of him. His looks, his personality. All of it. Keito just wants to be close with him, wants to be the only one who can make Chinen laugh the most.

But he’s never been brave enough to confess. It’s so easy to talk himself out of saying those words, so easy to pick the suffering from unrequited love over rejection. At least unrequited love is a suffering he’s familiar with. At this point, he’s just resigned himself to the fact that Chinen will never be interested, although that doesn’t make the feelings go away.

He still wants to make Chinen laugh and hold him close and kiss him senseless.

Keito gets whacked in the face with a party hat Yamada had thrown, shaking him away from his thoughts. He watches Yamada tumble down from the couch he’d apparently climbed to the top of a few minutes ago in order to secure the last colorful streamer.

“They’ll be here any time now,” Yamada says, looking ridiculously serious while putting on his own polka-dotted party hat. “Should we turn the lights off or would that be creepy?”

Keito puts a silly striped hat on his head. “Lights on is fine,” he answers.

He wants to be able to clearly see the look on Chinen’s face when they surprise him. The way his face will light up once he realizes that it’s a party for him, and the way that his cheeks will probably turn a little pink at the unexpected attention. Keito wants to memorize every second of it like a photo memento only meant for himself. Something he’ll lock away and treasure when he can.

Keito takes a deep breath and hopes his stomach butterflies will settle down soon so he can enjoy eating the cupcakes at least. He wonders, not for the first time, whether confessing his feelings would help him finally move on. Just get it off his chest, let the rejection sink in, and then he can focus on getting over the heartbreak.

He can’t live like this forever.

But before he lets that train of thought take over, the front door clicks open signaling that Yuto had finally arrived with their guest of honor. Keito takes another deep breath and puts a smile on his face.

***

Chinen was already suspicious right from the moment Yuto showed up on his doorstep and claimed with a sincerely goofy smile that he was going to kidnap him. Considering that Chinen didn’t really have anything better to do—it was his day off and he’d already beaten the video game he was playing—he went along with it. He’d half-expected Keito to call him to hang out like he often did, but he hadn’t today, so Chinen figured Yuto would have to be an acceptable substitute.

But now that Yuto has led them to Keito’s apartment and somehow has a key to it too, Chinen is doubly suspicious. Yuto’s flimsy “we’re gonna scare the crap outta Keito” excuse wasn’t fooling him of course. But he rolls along with it all anyway, just because he seriously has no idea what the real plan is.

Out of all the scenarios he’d imagined would happen when they opened the door, a loud yell of “SURPRISE!” was not one of them.

The shout feels like it’s coming at him from all angles, but it takes only half a moment for everything to click into place. Keito and Yamada are standing in front of him wearing party hats and Yuto is grinning from ear to ear. The whole apartment is covered in gaudy party decorations, with colors so bright they wouldn’t look out of place in the company’s costume department.

Considering how close his birthday was, he should have known it was a surprise party. Over in the corner, Keito looks a little nervous about his reaction. That makes Chinen smile. Kind Keito, always worrying to make sure everyone else is happy. He’ll have to ask later how long Keito had been planning this.

“I want a party hat too!” Yuto exclaims with his usual level of enthusiasm and bolts forward to try to snatch Yamada’s off his head.

“No you jerk, don’t touch my hair! Get your own hat,” Yamada shrieks in panic and runs away, looking for small spaces in the apartment where the long limbs of Yuto can’t reach.

“Happy early birthday,” Keito says quietly to him amidst the chaos of their friends. He gestures to the decorations, as if Chinen could miss them. “I hope you like the party and everything. I really want you to have a good time.”

Chinen doesn’t hesitate to wrap Keito in a hug, enjoying the warm feeling Keito always seems to exude even in the dead of winter. “Thanks,” he says. “This is really nice of you to do for me.” They had celebrated each other’s birthdays in the past, but no one had tried a surprise party before. Usually it was just dinner out with the four of them, talking about life like any other time. Having a party for himself this time just felt a bit more special.

“We all worked together,” Keito says humbly, looking a bit sheepish as he scratches the back of his head. “But I did put most of the streamers up on the ceiling because Ryosuke wasn’t tall enough to reach.”

“Who’s calling me short?!” Yamada calls out from the other side of the room where he’s currently got Yuto in a headlock as they continue fighting over who gets to wear the party hat.

Chinen laughs at the absurdity of his friends and decides that the party is now officially underway. The four of them spend the next few hours talking and laughing and eating all the snacks that they’d prepared. His favorites are the pink cupcakes, noting the pleased look on Keito’s face when he says he likes them. Chinen feels so grateful to have these guys as his friends that he almost gets a little teary-eyed when they start handing him presents. (But he doesn’t actually get teary-eyed because he has a reputation to uphold.)

Before he even realizes it, hours have passed and Yamada and Yuto both decide to head home.

“You don’t have to help me clean up,” Keito says, shooing Yamada out the door when he inevitably changes his mind about leaving. “It’s fine. I’ll do it tomorrow. You need sleep for work later.”

Grumbling, Yamada finally leaves, so now it’s just Chinen left in Keito’s apartment.

He figures he should head home soon, but he’s not quite ready to leave yet. Hanging out with Keito is one of his favorite things, and it’s much quieter now than when all four of them are together. Keito’s gentleness always makes him feel comfortable. In their crazy world of being in the public eye all the time, Chinen cherishes the little things that make him feel comfortable.

Flopping down on the couch, Chinen picks up another pink cupcake to eat, using that an excuse to stay for another few minutes. Keito grabs one too and then plops down beside him. He sinks into the well-worn cushions like he’s ready for them to just swallow him whole.

It looks like Keito’s mind is somewhere else while he munches on his snack and stares at the wall, like he’s thinking hard about something important. Either that or he’s just working up the courage to say something.

Chinen isn’t sure whether he should ask about it or not, so he continues to eat his cupcake in silence, savoring each sugary bite. He devours it quickly and then uses a napkin to wipe the sticky icing leftover on his fingers. He’d hate to leave fingerprints on something and give Keito extra stuff to clean later.

“Chii, I’ve got something I need to tell you,” Keito says suddenly.

He glances over to see Keito, having devoured his cupcake, gazing at him with a serious look on his face, the same look Chinen sees on his face whenever he’s trying to memorize difficult choreography.

The only problem is the smudge of pink icing clinging to Keito’s upper lip that he apparently hadn’t noticed was there. It makes Chinen want to ruin the serious moment by laughing at how cute it looks.

“This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time,” Keito continues.

Chinen tries to subtly point to the pink icing so he could at least talk without looking silly. “Keito, you’ve got—”

“Let me finish please,” Keito interrupts before Chinen can say anything. He seems like he might lose his nerve to speak at any moment, so Chinen drops the issue. Whatever it is, it’s important to Keito. He couldn’t deny his friend when he needed to talk about something. The guy had always been there for him during tough times, so Chinen would do the same for him.

“The truth is that I really like you,” Keito blurts out, the words spilling like a flood he’d been holding back for a while. “I’ve always been too scared to tell you.”

Chinen blinks. He had not been expecting a love confession. Especially a love confession addressed to him.

“I just really need to get this off my chest and tell you,” Keito continues to explain. He looks so nervous that Chinen’s afraid he’s going to forget to breathe in the middle of his speech.

Chinen doesn’t interrupt as Keito explains everything, but his mind is still stuck on the idea of Keito liking him. They’d been friends since the group debuted; they’d practically grown up together side by side since then. Looking back, maybe it was only natural for romantic feelings to develop in the wake of all that.

“I just want to see you be happy,” Keito continues earnestly. Despite his nervousness, his eyes shine bright when he speaks. Like Chinen is the most important thing in the world to him.

Chinen feels a pang of guilt for not noticing Keito’s feelings before. He’d been so good at hiding them, Chinen had just thought Keito was merely doting on him like the rest of the group did. Sometimes he misses the obvious things right in front of him.

He tries to picture for a moment what dating Keito would be like. It wasn’t an idea he was exactly opposed to. Maybe it wouldn’t be that much different from their usual hangouts, except they’d hold hands and snuggle closer to each other on the couch while watching movies.

And, of course, kiss.

Chinen’s eyes wander to Keito’s lips. That stupid bit of pink icing is still there, unnoticed by Keito as he keeps speaking. In true Keito fashion, he’s moved on to apologizing for his feelings and apologizing for telling Chinen about them, and apologizing for basically everything, and saying some nonsense about ruining his birthday. It’s clear that he expects Chinen to reject him when he’s done with this confession.

Keito’s given up before anything even started.

But then Chinen has a sudden idea. A terribly devious idea, but one that would definitely leave little doubt about what his answer is going to be.

Just as Keito is saying “go ahead and reject me so I can move on,” Chinen leans forward and kisses Keito gently, trying not to laugh as he feels the icing on his own lips now too. He can feel Keito freeze up in shock before relaxing in the unexpected moment.

“You’re sweet,” Chinen teases as he pulls away, licking his lips. He laughs a little as Keito reaches up to touch his own lips—looking shellshocked like he wasn’t sure the kiss just happened—and then blushes a bright red when he wipes the remnants of the icing off his face.

“So you…” Keito begins but trails off, not knowing how to deal with this turn of events outside of his expectations.

Chinen wants to laugh more because all of Keito’s reactions are adorable, but he knows he needs to be serious for a moment. “I’m sorry that I didn’t know you were suffering all this time,” he begins, “I’m sorry I didn’t notice your feelings before. I’m… kind of an idiot when it comes to stuff like this.”

Keito shakes his head to disagree with that, but Chinen keeps talking.

“But I think I kinda like you too, and wouldn’t mind trying this dating thing,” Chinen continues with a smile.

Keito’s eyes light up with hope and happiness, making Chinen feel all warm and fuzzy inside. He wonders if that’s how Keito has been feeling all this time. Whatever it is, Chinen definitely wants to explore it.

“I wouldn’t say no to another kiss either,” Chinen adds. “Although I’d prefer a less sticky one this time.”

Keito’s face flushes with embarrassment but he laughs a little. He looks so much happier now that he’s not full of nerves about confessing. “So I didn’t ruin your birthday party?” he asks hopefully.

“Of course not!” Chinen laughs, leaning forward to kiss Keito again. “In fact, I think this year I’ve got the sweetest present of all.”

He isn’t talking about the cupcakes.