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(You Play Me) Like A Fiddle

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If Ren had to be true to himself, being twenty sucked so far. Not that his teenage years had been really smooth—the whole getting accused of something he didn’t do, finding out about a parallel world with strange powers, narrowly avoiding death and ending up shooting a god in the face had kind of messed up with what should have been easy years of stressful exam conditions and trying to find a high school soulmate.

Now it was all said and done and they’d all made it to various Tokyo universities, that was when the « easy years » happened.
Except they weren’t so easy.
Stressful exams conditions couldn’t compete with being erased from reality.
And what was trying to find a soulmate when you had harnessed powers from creating bonds so strong with people that they’d become unbreakable vows?

So what if Ren enjoyed the thrill? Maybe he liked to live dangerously after all.
Truth be told, Ren was bored to hell by uni life. At most, he frowned at the inconvenience of the load of homework and the forced social interactions.

That was why, when the whole team met up and they found out by accident that they were actually all into music (how had they never discussed this before? They were probably too busy trying to process everything that was happening to them, and then trying to get back to their usual life), Ren had felt excited for the first time in forever at the idea of battling again.
It was only a music contest, a battle of bands, but it was Skull, Fox and him against Panther, Noir, Queen and Oracle. It was being not only friends but teammatesall over again, all in tune together for the first time in forever, not just idly chatting or hanging out together, but creating something with higher stakes.

To be honest, even he was surprised at how competitive he ended up being about it. It was like Joker was right here, just underneath, sneering at him.
The girls were going down.

It was so frustrating, though.
Their band wasn’t doing well enough, and Ren knew he was at fault, and he hated this. At this rate, the girls would win their stupid bet--and this was not what they had planned.

Ryuji was an amazing drummer, his rambunctious energy wonderfully channeled through his sticks. Yusuke, it turned out, was a really good bassist, his long fingers dancing effortlessly along the neck of his bass guitar. And damn, did he slap (literally—the strings stood no chance).

Ren had only picked up the guitar again (after a few more-or-less convincing years of learning it in middle school) at uni. He was good, he knew, but he wasn’t good enough, and they lacked a singer.
Or more like, he was the singer. Which ended up being quite a problem.

Ren could pride himself in his smooth, deep voice, but it lacked the impact for their kind of music. It was just too quiet, not angry enough. No matter how hard he tried to muster up his inner Joker, the voice just didn’t carry through.
He was an amazing speaker. A wonderful frontman. A charismatic leader.
He just was not a good singer.

Ryuji couldn’t sing and play at the same time. Yusuke’s voice was wonderful, but he was desperately off-tune when he tried to sing.

Walking around the corridors of the music faculty, guitar in hand, trying to find an empty room to rehearse in, Ren gritted his teeth.
The girls had an unfair advantage. They were four. Their band was complete. Meanwhile, they lacked someone, something—a secret weapon that could maybe replace the voice.

As if on cue, his thoughts were suddenly broken by the emerging of a slow tune rising from a closed room, bypassing the soundproof walls. The melody was haunting, like a siren song luring him in the room.
Baffled at the sound resonating within him, he stayed behind the door, his guitar at his side. He didn’t dare knock, just letting the tune unroll and die slowly on a final drawn out note.
When the sound stopped, he let out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding.

He needed this. His band needed this. They didn’t need a voice, they needed something unexpected, complementary.
A violin would be perfect.
It wouldn’t be cheating if they recruited someone else, right? The girls were four after all. It would be only evening out the odds.

Ren took a deep breath and finally knocked before opening the door to take a peek.
The sight almost made him drop his guitar.
On the small platform before rows of chair, a familiar figure was holding a delicate violin in deft fingers.

Goro Akechi didn’t seem to notice him, only focusing on balancing the violin on his shoulder, his head tilted to maintain it in the right position, his hair falling before his face—and it was so much longer now, how long had it been since he last saw the young man before him?

It had been a struggle to get Goro Akechi out of the cell of the Velvet Room. He’d been locked deep in the strange room, hidden further from all the closer corridors that led to the others’ cells.
When Futaba had picked up his signal, she’d almost fallen from Necronomicon in surprise. The whole team was uncertain, but Ren wouldn’t have left without opening the cell.
Goro Akechi was alive.
Freeing him from this cell, barely breathing but alive, only served to put him in another, way more concrete, cell. Goro Akechi ended up in prison for years.
Ren had visited him a few times, only to meet a closed face, a ghost of the Detective Prince, until he’d been kindly asked to never come again.
He’d been informed by Sae when Akechi was released, and had tried to extend various invitations to the former detective, to no avail.

He didn’t even know Akechi was at uni now, at the same uni as him.
Let alone that Akechi played the violin.
Let alone that he played the violin amazingly well.

Ren fully pushed the door and creeped in as silently as he could. Akechi, not noticing him, went on with another, faster tune.
Ren just stood and watched, dumbfounded, as the former detective (newfound violinst?)’s fingers ran on the neck in a mesmerizing dance.
Of course it wasn’t enough that Akechi had an amazing hold on the facade he showed. He was also talented. 

Ren coughed. Akechi jumped and abruptly stopped playing, lifting his head and his eyes widening like a deer caught in the lights.

“What the hell are you doing here, Amamiya?”
“Hello to you too.  Long time no see.”
“Don’t mock me with frivolities. What do you want?”

Your unexpected new talent.
Ren shushed the voice in the head, shrugged and pointed at the violin.

“I just heard someone play and got curious, and it turns out it’s you of all people. So… You’re clever, strong and charismatic, and now you can play the violin? Is there even anything you’re not good at?”
“You mean, besides being socially acceptable?”
“Oh, please, spare me the sass. I tried to visit you. We tried to invite you, so many times. You never showed up.”
“Don’t make me laugh. As if having me would have done any good to your little group.”

Ren didn’t even try to repress his tired sigh.

“Akechi. We’ve been over this. You were in this with us. You watched the world end and you fought a god with us. You helped me avoid prison by taking the blame for the Phantom Thieves.”
“I killed people.”
“And you went to prison. And you discussed it with Futaba and Haru—no, they haven’t told me what you said, I just know that Haru was the first one to suggest we invite you.”
“Okumura is way too pure-hearted . It’s a wonder how she hasn’t been eaten by sharks yet.”

Ren thought of the last time he saw Haru—behind a drum set, headbanging so violently she looked about to snap her neck—and he thought that maybe he had an idea on how she managed to avoid the sharks.

“Haru can take a lot more than what you give her credit for, trust me. If she asked to see you, it means she wanted to see you. She was crestfallen when you didn’t show up.”
“Well, too bad. Now, do you mind? I have to rehearse.”

Ren walked through the room and went to sit front row, laying his guitar on the side of the chair, and crossed his arms.

“I don’t mind, please do.”

Akechi sighed and shook his head, but resumed his position.
When he raised his bow, Ren held his breath.

The melody started slow, the bow biting on many strings at once, drawing out tired, tortured sounds. Ren winced, but Akechi went on, unfazed, clearly knowing what he was doing.
Then the young man’s fingers started to run on the neck, faster and faster, until Ren could barely process the sounds that got out of the instrument. Up and down the scales went, so fast that it was disorienting.

Ren lost his footing after a few minutes—how long was this piece? How could Akechi hold such a rhythm for so long?

The tune became more soothing after a while, slow again, almost lamenting, only to pick up even faster than before. Chin firmly set on the chin-rest on his shoulder, he looked like he was dancing with the instrument, his long hair falling dramatically over the stern face that was so typical of violin players.

When Akechi finally lowered his bow after a final drawn-out thrill and raised a daring eyebrow at Ren, the other boy just stared at him in disbelief.

“Violinists are such show-offs.”
“Oh, please, do you want to talk about guitar players?”

Akechi pointed to the guitar case with his bow. Ren shrugged.

“Where did you learn?”

The violinist let out a dark chuckle.

“Picture being in your preteen years with no one wanting you, trying to get loved. Playing the violin made me such a good boy, you know? I had to be perfect, because I was unwanted. But tell me, Amamiya… have you ever been near someone who just started playing the violin?”

Akechi twisted the bow and applied too much pressure.
The violin shrieked. Ren gritted his teeth. Akechi didn’t even bother trying to hide his grin.

“And this, Amamiya, is how you play perfect pleasant boy while having a rebellion streak. No one could tell me to stop because playing the violin is so noble and this kid won’t get better if he doesn’t practice. Everybody hated me already—at least they had a good reason to do so. Sometimes you have to be a little creative to make it through hardships, I suppose. I gave up on it for a while, and picked it up again during music therapy session while incarcerated. It was surprisingly soothing.”

Akechi let his fingers run on the neck of the violin again, lightly plucking at the strings.

“I worked so hard, too. I wanted to be perfect. This song you just heard is Bach’s Chaconne. It’s one of the hardest pieces ever written for the instrument, but also an amazing study piece. I played it day and night. It kept me sane, somehow, though my cell neighbours probably couldn’t say as much. They had to force delimited playing hours on me after a while, though.”

He chuckled, and Ren just watched him in wonder.
His eyes went from Akechi’s hand holding the bow, the violin he still held close to his chin, to the violinist’s surprisingly openly smiling face.

Something had changed, indeed. Probably for the best, if the glint in Akechi’s eyes was to be believed.
This look was good for the former detective, he thought. He kind of wanted Akechi to keep it, he wanted Akechi to…

“Play something for me.”

The words fell from his mouth before he had the time to process them. Akechi raised an eyebrow.

“I believe this is already what I just did, Amamiya? Aren’t you a little greedy?”

Ren toyed with a strand of hair, embarrassed at having blurted out his inner request.

“No, I mean… Play something not to show off, just… play something you enjoy?”

Akechi sneered.

“What if I actually enjoyed technicality and difficult pieces?”
“Yeah, no, I… Look, as you pointed out, guitarists are show-offs too and I do enjoy my share of shredding from time to time, but… some songs you play with your heart, you know?”

Ren let go of his hair and met Akechi’s gaze.

“Please play something like this and I promise I’ll play something afterwards. It’s a trade.”

The other’s eyes narrowed.

“Bold of you to assume I want you to play too.”
“Akechi. You’ve been eyeing my guitar since I got in the room. Come on.”

The former detective’s shoulder drooped and he let out a sigh, eyeing Ren as if leveling him. His gaze lost his focus, and he pensively muttered:

“Play with my heart, uh…”

Then, as if his mind was set, he straightened his back.

“Alright. I think… this is one of my favorite. It’s meant to be played along with an orchestra, so the violin part itself may feel a little empty, but it should be enough."

Akechi met Ren’s eyes with a determined face and gave him a snarky smile.

“For you, le Poeme de Chausson, op.25.”

He straightened the violin on his shoulder, his chin on the chin-rest as if hugging it, then locked his gaze locked on Ren’s eyes before raising his bow and solemnly lowering it on the strings.

The sound was richer, rounder than the previous melody. The notes were slow, like a lament, but sometimes the tempo suddenly picked up, and Ren felt his heart jump every time. Akechi paused a few times, likely listening to an invisible orchestra, before heading back into the music, his body moving more freely, his hair covering almost all of his face—almost hiding the fact that he had closed his eyes while playing, the picture of focus and freedom at once.

It was a piercing tune, a screeching lament that seemed to go straight to his heart, the first thrills he’d really felt for a long time. It was a bow on strings, and deft fingers playing it, and Ren was enthralled.

A high-pitched note and a final chord later, Akechi stood there, eyes still closed, holding his violin close to himself. His arm made a graceful circular arc to lower the bow in line with his leg.
Ren watched him and, not trusting himself to say anything, awkwardly started clapping.
The spell broke. Akechi’s eyes snapped open, and he promptly moved to the side of the room where his violin case was laying.

“I have to go. My classes should be starting soon. I’m sorry, Amamiya, but it seems like I won’t be able to listen to your guitar concerto just today.”

Without meeting Ren’s eyes again, he quickly cleaned the instrument, put it away and closed the case, then headed straight to the door.

Ren was still sitting, dumbfounded, when the door closed and he frowned at the sudden, unexpected rush.
Akechi was good.
He also seemed genuinely embarrassed, which wasn’t something he often showed before—then again, what did Ren know about Goro Akechi now? It had been years.

Sighing, Ren took out his guitar and heartlessly started rehearsing.
He didn’t even get to ask him what he was studying there, let alone if he wanted to join his band.

Surely such a good violinist wouldn’t hurt their chances against the girls’ band.

*

Ren pondered on messaging Akechi for a few days. What would he say? “You were really good, play in my band?”

How awkward could it get, when the other blatantly refused to meet him? Not that he even got to cross paths with him again in the last days. That had really been a chance encounter, and if Ren was trying to recreate it by hanging around the same room, his guitar case on his shoulder, all the following days at around the same time for a week, well, would anyone judge him for it?

It took one week more for him to hear the violin sounds come up from the room again. He did a double take, not expecting the low, scorching tune that resonated within him.

He knew the song this time. It was gypsy jazz—he had learnt it on the guitar actually.
He didn’t even bother trying to be discreet while entering the room this time, only waiting for the song to end before pushing the door and meeting Akechi’s eyes straight on.

“Les Yeux Noirs. I remember this song. I didn’t think you could play jazz with a violin.”
“There’s a lot you can play with a violin, Amamiya. It’s not only classical. What are you doing here?”

Looking for you, like I have for a week, but if I tell you that you’re going to just run away again.
Ren shrugged and put his guitar case on a desk, opening it.

“It looked like a nice place to rehearse. You can’t chase me away. I need it too.”

He took his guitar out and sit on the chair behind the desk, plucking at the strings.

“I believe I owe you a song, too. But maybe I can just try Les Yeux Noirs too.”

Akechi sent him a curious look, then simply sat in front of him and nodded.

“Let’s hear this.”

Ren quickly tuned the guitar, before taking a deep breath.
I can do this.

He played the introduction, then dived straight into the music, clumsily fumbling with the tricky lyrics about black eyes and forbidden love. He tried to salvage it by switching from singing to playing the sung part on the guitar, but when he stopped, Akechi was watching him with a dubious look on his face.

“Your French is awful and your voice is way less powerful than when you speak.”
“Thank you.”
“Seriously, Amamiya, what is wrong with you? Is it because you don’t know the meaning of what you sing?”

Ren sighed.

"Just twist the blade, will you? At least I can play and sing at the same time.”
“You say this like I can’t do it too.”
“Well, can you?”

Akechi’s face turned into a frustrated frown.

“I don’t have any piece I can think of on which I can do that. But since you’ve got your guitar, maybe we can try something else. Can you follow a chord grid?”

Ren chuckled.

“I would be a pretty poor guitarist if I couldn’t.”

Akechi nodded while typing on his phone, before turning it to Ren and setting it on the desk in front of him.

“Alright. There, then.”

Ren glanced at the phone, the meaning of what was happening slowly dawning on him.
Play with him. First step to getting him in the band.
Focus, Ren.

Minor Swing, uh? Alright, let’s try this.”

Akechi nodded again and stood, picking up his violin and setting it in place.

“Ready?”

Ren nodded, and Akechi opened with a quick-paced tune. Ren fumbled a bit, but tried to pick the melody by ear to replay it on the guitar. The look he got from the violinist in exchange for his effort was surprised but appreciative.

Then Akechi tapped four times with his bow and Ren knew it was his cue. He started strumming, and sure enough, the other boy picked up the pace and started playing.

Ren hadn’t expected playing with a violinist to be so exhilarating.

He kept strumming, and the violin sang along, and Akechi’s eyes trailed on him, and he knew exactly what he had to do, and the piece was both cheerful and melancholic, and it threw him back to that time when he advised his former nemesis around on a battleground…
With less supernatural presence, and more music.

“Focus. Your turn.”

Akechi counted to four again, then started playing long, flat notes. There was a small moment during which Ren hesitated, before he took in what was happening and launched into a simple but efficient solo along with the chords Akechi was playing.

They went on like this, trading solos back and forth for a while, before Ren stopped strumming after one of Akechi’s solos and tried to replicate the melody again.
Akechi smiled appreciatively, and played the melody one last time, drawing out the final note.

Ren was beaming.

“Thank you. I did play some gypsy jazz back in my hometown, but it’s the first time I get to duet like this. It’s a nice experience.”

Akechi’s face betrayed the suppressed satisfaction behind his gleaming eyes.

“This was interesting indeed. Thank you.”

Come on, it’s the right time, ask him. Join my band. Join my band.

“Will you play something for me again?”

Oh well, close enough, dumbass.

 Akechi gauged him, clearly surprised at the sudden request.

“You don’t want another duet?”
“No, I just… Uh. I mean, I will be happy to play with you again, but for now please just play with your heart.”

Akechi nodded and straightened his position once more.
This time, Ren recognized the drawn out melody of the first motion of the bow on the strings. When Akechi’s eyes closed, he was ready.
The piece sounded even more heartful than the previous time, Akechi’s face growing more agitated when the pace picked up, his eyebrows betraying emotions Ren was not used to witnessing on the Pleasant Boy.
It was like watching him transform. There had to be some kind of magic in the music.

The spell broke before the end of the song this time, though. An alarm rang, and it took a while for Ren to recognize the one he had set so he wouldn’t be late to his actual band rehearsal. He swore loudly while promptly shushing his phone and putting the guitar away.
Akechi didn’t complete the song before he was at the door.

“I’m so sorry, I... have to go. But I want to play with you again. I will be there again. Let’s play together.”

Still not play with my band, but getting closer and closer. His cheeks burning, he let the door close behind him without chancing a look at the other boy.
Le Poeme de Chausson, uh.

*

It became a habit before he knew it. Just passing by the room more often than not, trying to hear a familiar tune…

“You have to stop stalking me,” said Akechi while lowering his bow after Ren entered the room once more. The other boy smiled wickedly.

“It’s kind of hard not to take notice of you, though.”
“You could just ignore it.”
“What if I enjoyed it? I told you I wanted to play with you again.”

Their eyes met. Ren chanced a daring smirk.

"Will you play for me?”

The stream of notes when the bow first met the strings was so familiar it was soothing.
Ren had stopped trying to pinpoint the origins of the warmth it evoked in him, simply allowing himself to stay fascinated at Akechi’s smooth motions, his fingers running on the neck, his focused face living the melody as the song unrolled under his hands.

So maybe Ren was staring.
He still hadn’t figured out a way to ask Akechi in the band.
So maybe Ren’s chin had fallen in his hand as he allowed himself to get lost in the music, so much that he probably looked like an unfocused enamored school girl.
It took Akechi snapping his fingers in front of him, bow and violin in the other hand, for him to get back to focus. He jumped.

“You look lost. Is it the violin? Do you want to try?”
“I, uh…”

Embarrassed at having gotten caught so easily, Ren clumsily stood.
Try the violin?

If I can play the violin it’s one more asset for the band.
But Akechi is the asset I want.
For the band.
The asset I want for the band.
Hell, Ren, focus.

“Be careful with it. It’s precious—it’s the first thing I got when I was out of prison.”

Ren nodded and picked up the instrument with reverence. He tried to mimic Akechi’s position, but found that the pose hurt his neck and that the bow wasn’t as easy to hold as he thought.
Where was smooth Joker when he needed him?

“Please don’t judge me, but I have no idea what I’m doing.”
“It shows. Don’t be so stiff.”

Easier said than done when you have just been told the instrument you were trying to figure out how to play was precious.

“I just don’t want to mess up?”
“Then relax. Loosen your grip on the bow, and your neck is too tilted. Hold the violin with the chin… No, not like this. Wait.”

When pale hands lay on his neck and hand, Ren felt his whole body shudder.

It was obvious with the violin playing, but he had never really noticed the fact so much before—Akechi had stopped wearing his gloves since they had found him back in the cell of the Velvet Room.Ren was not entirely sure about why Akechi’s hand correcting the pose of his wrist felt so warm.
Skin to skin was a bit jarring. He was used to contact with the other former Thieves, but Akechi was a new one.
He would have liked some more time to mentally prepare, but there he was, trying to relax his grip on the bow as advised, all the while Akechi was standing very close and setting his neck in the right position with his bare fingers.

“There. Give it a try?”

Ren almost jumped at how close Akechi’s voice was to his ears. He repressed the reflex, though, and raised the bow to lower it on the strings.

It was fine, he was fine.
Guitars had strings.
Violins had strings too.
It couldn’t be so different, right?

His jaw tightened and Akechi blatantly winced at the screech the violin made when he tried to get a sound of it.
He promptly stopped and lowered his hand.

“Okay, uh… To quote Futaba, I think my proficiency stat is too low for this. Do you… Do you want to try the guitar instead?”

The smile he got in answer was self-deprecative.

“It’s no use. I already tried when I was a teen and—I can’t play the guitar. Strumming is—somehow it doesn’t go well along with me. However…”

Akechi picked the violin from Ren’s hands, who gratefully let it go, relieved that no disaster had fallen upon the instrument while it was in his hands.

“…you asked me a while ago if I could sing while playing. If you don’t mind getting your guitar and reading some more chord grids, then I suppose I found the fitting song.”

Ren nodded, curious to see what the violinist would come up to, and got his guitar out of its case before picking the phone Akechi was holding out.

He raised an eyebrow at the title.

Drunken Sailor? After jazz music, folk music?”

“I told you violin was a more versatile instrument than you’d think. Let me demonstrate. Let me start and then please pick up at the second verse. It's easy chords.”

Ren complied and let Akechi open the song on a very fast-paced song, completely different to anything he had played before. Then Akechi’s voice rang out in the room, loud and clear, with a grainy quality that fitted the song way better than any velvety voice would have.

Oh no.

After the first verse, Akechi alternated between playing the violin and singing, until the two mixed. Ren started strumming, painfully followed the pace that was going faster and faster and—how did Akechi manage to play so fast on a violin while singing? Violinists weren’t meant to sing, for all…

Hell.

Tell him.
I need you in my band.
The deadline for our contest is close and I want to play with you.
I need you in my band.
Join my band.

Ren didn’t say anything. They completed the song, and Ren almost didn’t hear Akechi thank him before he put his violin away and headed for the exit.

When the door closed after Akechi, Ren let his head meet the desk he was sitting at.

F uck.

*

The latest rehearsal had been abysmal. Ren’s mood was set on the lowest low when he finally whipped out his phone and dared message Akechi for the first time in forever.

Will you play for me today?

Straight to the point, but the lack of answer he got in return left a sour taste in Ren’s mouth.
He couldn’t say it was unexpected. He should probably have chosen better words. Despite his running into Akechi and asking him to play growing more common, the former detective still behaved like a wild animal sometimes, carefully avoiding him when he was hanging out with others, and running away from the room as soon as music wasn’t the main topic they discussed.

Ren had grown accustomed to a more withdrawn Akechi when he visited him during his incarceration, but this was yet a new facet. The former thief didn’t know what to think—he just knew that he had a deadline looming, still no progress in his music, and a tendency to listen to a lot more of violin lately than he ever did in his life before.
Even new-experiences-in-art driven Yusuke was starting to complain about his newfound tastes.
He still hadn’t told Ryuji and Yusuke about Akechi, though. He first needed to convince the violinist.

This time, though, he hoped he would manage. He’d done his research. He would be able to ask him to join his band.
To ask him…

When he passed by the room that had become his usual landmark in the building by now, his heart jumped in his chest.
A siren-like song from behind the door lured him inside.
He started to know the first notes by heart.

“So you don’t answer my message, and you start playing for me without me actually being here?”
“If you go on this way, Amamiya, I’ll really have to complain about your stalking to someone.”

Ren didn’t even try to suppress his amused smile as he took a sit in front of the other.

“Does it really feel like you’re stalked, when you’re baiting me?”

Akechi’s eyes narrowed, but Ren didn’t let himself be deterred as he went on.

“You know, you’ve been playing this song awfully often.”
“You do often ask to play for you awfully often too.”
“I wasn’t here this time, though.”
“You still asked.”
“But you didn’t answer. Or maybe, you didn’t know how to answer, so you just hoped I would pass by?”

Ren wondered whether he should try to tone it down, seeing as Akechi seemed just about to bolt out of the room.
Don’t tone it down.
Ask him.
It’s way about time.
He will say yes. He wants to, he just doesn’t know how. He will say yes.
Come on.
Please join my band.

“I found out something interesting a few days ago, Akechi. Do you know the first name the Poeme de Chausson was given?”

Akechi tensed.

“It’s called Ode à l’amour triomphant—Ode to the Triumphant Love, and it was inspired by a Russian short story in which a violin tune cast a spell on star-crossed lovers.”
“So?”

Ask him.

“Akechi… is this song for me?”

Ren was still not used to seeing so many emotions pass by at once on Akechi’s face. It was like witnessing a gradient going from embarrassment to anger to uncertainty, before it finally fell on a dark, self-deprecating toothy grin.

“What if?”

Akechi’s eyes were gleaming.

“We’re not star-crossed anymore, Akechi. We meet. We play together. There’s no life at stake. You don’t have to run.”

Ren got closer to the violinist, and against all odds, Akechi didn’t bolt, instead standing his ground and keeping his eyes firmly set on him.

“I’m not running.”
“You’re avoiding us.”
“You just said we met and played together. I would be terrible at avoiding you.”
“That’s only because I’ve been doing my best to meet you here.”
“So you admit to stalking me in the end?”
“Stop trying to outsmart me.”
“I don’t have to try. You’re just playing yourself.”

They were standing awfully close, almost waltzing in their banter, all in three times like the waltz Akechi liked to play sometimes in their meetings.
Step, close, snark.
Step, bite, push.
Step, stare, stop.

Ren could almost hear the melody in his head.

Step.
(If he took one more step they would just collide by now.)

Speak.
“I’m not playing myself. You are playing me.

Smile.

“So what?”

As it turned out, the former detective would always have a centimeter over the former thief. Close as they were, Ren had to look just a bit higher to meet the amused eyes of the other boy—looking more alive than he ever did years before, a thin layer of mischief hidden behind his still prim and proper look.

I need you in my band.

“Akechi…”

Play with me.

Ren’s lips didn’t have the time to shape the words—they were sealed to another mouth, and the roar of his heartbeat was the best note to conclude this music-less song.
He let himself melt into the result of week—months—how long exactly, hadn't it always been here after all—of pent-up banter and waltzing around.

They were so going to lose the music contest to the girls’, and at this precise moment, Ren couldn’t find it in him to feel the least bothered by it anymore.