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The Tell-Tale Hat

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Nervous, very nervous! Chinen held his breath and froze in place for a minute, ears straining to hear the sounds of anyone coming. Once he felt like it was safe, he continued to creep across the dressing room towards his goal. His throat felt dry and his hands were sweaty, but he knew he couldn’t quit. This was a vital mission that he couldn’t screw up. Pausing once more to listen for the rest of his bandmates, Chinen finally snatched the hat from Takaki’s haphazard pile of belongings he’d left behind while dance practice was in session. Chinen let out a satisfied cackle once the item was in his grasp.

Success!

He disposed of the hat by stuffing it underneath the dressing room couch, and then he casually returned to dance practice again. No one would ever suspect what had happened.

There were a lot of things Chinen loved about his boyfriend Takaki. His sweet smile and his childish enthusiasm. The way he navigated the busy streets of Tokyo in his car with ease. The goofy look on his face whenever he accidentally botched the dance steps. His ability to switch from dorky and cheerful to dangerous and sexy so fast it almost gave Chinen whiplash. There were so many things that Chinen felt he shouldn’t be greedy, but lately he’d been missing one thing he really loved.

Takaki’s hair.

Chinen wasn’t so vain that he based his love solely on looks, but he would admit that those beautiful strands of dyed-brown hair were a definite plus. But recently Takaki had been obsessed with wearing hats. Anything that covered up his hair from view. Takaki simply thought he was being fashionable, of course, but the downside was that Chinen couldn’t see those lovely locks of hair anymore. So he decided to take matters into his own hands and dispose of the hats himself. Takaki couldn’t wear a hat if he literally didn’t have one.

This went on for a week. Every dance practice or magazine shoot they had, Chinen snuck around very cautiously and snatched up every hat Takaki had worn to the studio and stashed it away somewhere. In cabinets, under the couch, even in his own bag. Takaki became increasingly perplexed by the case of his mysteriously disappearing hats, but he never said anything more than “Chinen, have you seen my hat?” each time.

He suspected nothing.

It was thrilling at first, sneaking around like he was a spy on a top secret mission, and it was wonderful to get to stare at Takaki’s hair in all its sunlit glory. Chinen’s plan was working perfectly.

That is, until one night Takaki showed up at Chinen’s apartment wearing the tackiest, most awful, gaudiest cowboy hat in the history of existence. He didn’t know where Takaki had even found such a monstrosity or why he had actually spent money on it or why he had the audacity to wear it in public while travelling to Chinen’s place.

But Chinen bit his tongue and said it looked nice when Takaki came inside, making himself at home as usual. The wide brim of the brown colored hat brushed against Chinen’s forehead as Takaki leaned forward to give him a quick kiss. Chinen smiled but switched it out for a glare as soon as Takaki had turned his back. Here he was in the privacy and comfort of his own home and there was still a hat—a frightfully ugly hat—blocking his view of Takaki’s beautiful head of hair.

Takaki settled down on the couch, stretching out and rolling his shoulders a bit to loosen them up. Chinen watched him as he then fiddled with the DVD player and got everything set up for the movie they’d planned to watch. Takaki had made no move to take his hat off, so Chinen would just have to resort to desperate measures: flirting.

Okay, so flirting wasn’t really that bad of an option because, really, Chinen needed no excuse to make out with his boyfriend. Before Takaki could even press play on the remote, Chinen had cozied up next to him. His fingers danced along Takaki’s arm, brushing against his suntanned skin until he could catch Takaki’s attention long enough to kiss him. While their lips were occupied, Chinen had a free hand to grab the ugly hat and then fling it across the room. He broke the kiss long enough to giggle quietly so that it looked like he was just playing around, but thankfully Takaki seemed more focused on continuing to kiss him than retrieving his hat. Chinen ran his fingers through Takaki’s hair while he had the chance, messing with the carefully crafted hairstyle with the privilege of knowing no one else could.

Finally, he pulled away so that he could admire his work. Takaki’s brown hair stuck out at odd angles but still looked cute, like he had just rolled out of bed a moment ago or he had been out on a very windy day. Chinen settled down into the couch cushions feeling pleased.

“Weren’t we going to watch a movie?” he asked innocently.

Everything was going according to plan. The movie started with no problems and Takaki didn’t try to retrieve his stupid cowboy hat resting on the floor by the window. After about fifteen minutes of movie time, Takaki excused himself to the bathroom, and Chinen spotted an opportunity to rid the living room of the cowboy hat for good.

Knowing he only had a few minutes, Chinen dashed forward and snatched up the hat. For a split second he wondered where he was going to hide it away, but then a flash of inspiration hit and he ran to the kitchen. Chinen didn’t store much in the cabinets since he didn’t do much cooking, so the hat would be safe tucked away inside one of them. Takaki would never dream of looking for it in there. And with the hat out of view, hopefully Takaki would forget about it completely and Chinen would be free to gaze at the beauty of Takaki’s untarnished hair for the rest of the night. Takaki could be easily distracted, and surely, he wouldn’t miss such an unfashionable hat.

Nothing could go wrong.

Chinen was content as they resumed watching the movie. He snuggled up close to Takaki and got comfortable. Going out for date night was usually fun, but Chinen preferred these simple dates where they just stayed in to enjoy each other’s company. The movie was pretty entertaining and they laughed a lot about it, Chinen’s glance lingering a little longer on his boyfriend every time they turned to speak to each other during it.

But the longer they sat on the couch together, the more Chinen’s thoughts kept straying back to the stupid hat he’d hidden away. Takaki hadn’t mentioned it at all even though it should be obvious it wasn’t on the floor in plain sight anymore. Chinen could admit that it took time for Takaki to notice things on occasion, but surely, he had noticed by now. And of course, he would know Chinen was the one who had stashed it in the kitchen. There was no one else here to make it disappear.

Chinen’s blood ran cold and his heart began to pound in his chest at the thought of getting caught. Takaki had to know it was him. He probably wasn’t saying anything on purpose just to let Chinen feel guilty about what he had done, not only to this hat but to all of the others he’d stolen too in the past week. Maybe he was even mocking Chinen! Maybe every time he laughed at the characters on screen, he was really thinking about how smug Chinen had been earlier! Chinen felt his heart beating faster and faster. By the time the movie’s ending credits started rolling, the only thing Chinen could hear was his erratic beating of his heart.

“I confess!” Chinen blurted out, unable to stand it any longer.

Takaki turned to look at him, head tilted in confusion. A few strands of hair fell across one of his eyes. “You… didn’t like the movie?” He momentarily looked concerned that Chinen wasn’t enjoying their date, which just made Chinen feel even worse.

“No! Wait, I mean yes, I liked the movie,” Chinen answered with a somewhat panicked hand motion. He was so nervous he covered his face with his hands before clarifying with a muffled answer. “I mean, what I wanted to say is that I confess to stealing your hat.” He peeked out between his fingers to see his boyfriend’s reaction.

“Oh,” Takaki shrugged. He glanced over towards where the cowboy hat had been on the floor earlier. “I hadn’t noticed this time. You’ve been stealing all of them lately, so I’ve gotten used to it.”

Chinen uncovered his face and blinked. “You knew?” He thought he had been so careful to cover his tracks each time. Nobody had ever seen him while doing the dirty deed, so he thought he’d been safe. Chinen frowned and leaned into on the couch cushions, hoping they would swallow him up while the guilt was pooling in the pit of his stomach.

“I think by now I know you pretty well,” Takaki answered. He didn’t seem as angered by the situation as Chinen expected him to be, just more disappointed. Takaki regarded him with a serious look. “I knew something was up. I was just waiting for you to tell me.” He leaned towards Chinen to emphasize how important the next thing he said was.

“You know you can talk to me about anything.”

Chinen had to look away for a moment. He could feel his face burning from the embarrassed blush spreading across it. He always liked to consider himself the more mature one, but he certainly hadn’t acted that way lately. “It’s stupid though,” he muttered.

“Stupider than having some sort of personal vendetta against every hat I own?” Takaki laughed a little, the sound making Chinen feel a touch more at ease.

So Chinen took a deep breath and finally told Takaki what he should have told him weeks ago. All about how he missed seeing Takaki’s hair and how he’d hidden away all the hats and how the cowboy hat was the last straw because it was absolutely hideous. Afterwards, Chinen felt more relieved to have finally gotten all of it off his chest. In hindsight, simply asking Takaki to take an occasional break from all the headwear would have been a better (and simpler) idea.

But love made people do stupid things sometimes.

“How about we compromise and I’ll just wear my hats when we’re not hanging out,” Takaki suggested with a forgiving smile. “And you’ll return everything you took?”

Chinen nodded with a happy “of course!” and then reached out to hug Takaki, seeking comfort and reassurance in those arms, to let him know that things were okay again. Chinen was beginning to see that relationships were more than just holding hands and sharing kisses and watching movies together. His obsession had gotten in the way of that until guilt finally put him back on track.

“Can you please never wear the atrociously ugly cowboy hat again though?” Chinen added once he’d gotten comfortable cuddling together on the couch. “It doesn’t suit you at all.”

Takaki let out a laugh that shook his whole body. “I borrowed that one from Hikaru, and I’m pretty sure he wants it back. So you don’t have to worry about that. I didn’t really like it myself.”

The laughter was contagious. Chinen almost questioned why Hikaru owned something so ugly, but then he remembered their bandmate’s fashion sense wasn’t the best. They could return the hat tomorrow and never have to think about it again. But for now, Chinen could focus on other things, better things.

He had the rest of the night to admire each strand of Takaki’s hair.