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Nama Chocolate

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     The sound of muffled buzzing is incessant. Ramuda fishes an empty lollipop stick out of his mouth and finishes reading yet another card, tossing it to the side, where it lands on an abandoned heap. The lollipop stick is thrown expertly into the small trash can. He sighs and flops down on his plush yellow couch, digging his vibrating phone out of his pocket. It's been blowing up since even before midnight, especially after his livestream. The Twitter notifications have been nonstop, and the influx of fancams and heart emojis is a constant stream that’s impossible to keep up with; #happybirthdayramuda is trending. Ramuda smiles at a few of the newer notifications. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t like all the attention. As if the avalanche of sweet messages and well wishes weren’t enough, there's also the chocolate. Stacks upon stacks of Valentine's chocolate that conveniently doubled as a birthday gift, delivered throughout the day by nervous ladies and equally shy delivery men. 

      A new knock at the door is unexpected, but not completely out of the realm of possibility. Ramuda is an idol, almost a household name in Shibuya, and his studio isn’t exactly inconspicuous. Probably more chocolate being delivered; there's some space in front of the couch that hasn't been covered yet, and the thought almost makes Ramuda laugh as he hastily returns his phone to his cardigan. 

      “Haha! Coming!” He calls buoyantly, practicing a perfect smile before bouncing off of the sofa and lightly skipping his way to the door. He makes sure to grab his microphone off of the cluttered coffee table on the way, stuffing it in his other pocket. 

      When Ramuda whips open the door, his empty pleasantries die on his tongue. Gentaro and Dice are standing outside. Ah, that’s right, they texted him earlier didn’t they? Ramuda was so busy checking on all of his notifications and reading the notes from fans that he forgot to actually open it. Ramuda can feel how his own eyes widen minutely despite himself, so he changes his expression into something more comfortable. He feigns childlike surprise, gasping dramatically. 

      “Did you two come to wish lil’ ol’ me a happy birthday?” 

      “Actually, truth be told, we had no idea,” Gentaro shrugs casually, "We happened to pay you a visit by chance.” 

      “Aw, you really forgot? No way!” Ramuda whines, crossing his arms, looking utterly convinced to the point of parody. Dice looks back and forth between the two of them, nudging Gentaro's arm hesitantly. 

      “What are you talking about, man? It’s posted all over, we couldn’t miss it if we tried.” 

      “I suppose you’re right. That was a lie, after all.” Gentaro smiles pointedly behind a raised sleeve, prompting an exaggerated eye roll from Dice. 

     “Yay! So you totes remembered!” Ramuda's wide grin reappears just as quickly as it left. 

      “Yes, I suppose we did.” Gentaro smiles, not just pointed anymore. Ramuda eagerly grabs Gentaro’s sleeve and tugs him through the doorway, with Dice following suit. Dice freezes at the sight of piles upon piles of sparkling pink and red packaging littering Ramuda’s living room. 

     “Shit dude, is this all Valentine’s chocolate?” Ramuda hums an affirmative response, picking up one of the boxes and playfully tossing it to Dice. Gentaro flicks one of the taller, more precarious looking stacks, and the boxes tumble onto the coffee table. 

     “Yup! Feel free to have as much as you want! I’m sure I’ll get more.” Ramuda urges. Dice doesn't hesitate after being given permission, and the box in his hand is readily open and its contents being devoured. Gentaro picks up one of the buried birthday cards and looks it over. 

     “Well Ramuda, it is your birthday after all. Do you have any plans?” Gentaro asks, glancing from the paper card to Ramuda’s face, meeting his eyes. 

     Ramuda puffs out his cheeks and pokes one in a faux-thoughtful gesture. Plans… He already did his livestream. They could always start another one, but this isn’t peak internet traffic time, so they wouldn’t get as many viewers, and he’d feel bad for the ladies who would have to miss it. They could go out to eat, but he knows they’d attract a crowd no matter where they go. Ramuda is spending a birthday with his teammates for the first time, he doesn’t want to share. Plans. He looks at the boxes of chocolates and candies scattered around the room. The cutesy cards covering the floor and the furniture. They’re all addressed to him, they have his name written on them clearly in artificially cute handwriting, but he can’t help but feel like they aren’t, somehow. He basks in the glow of his fans, they adore him, and he adores them. But all of these gifts are addressed to Ramuda Amemura, idol and fashion designer, darling of Shibuya, who always smiles and is always cute. He’s never gotten chocolate from anyone who knows him. 

     “Hm, Ramuda?” Gentaro prompts after one too many beats of silence. Ramuda realizes that he’s been staring. Even Dice has paused, a candy lifted halfway to his mouth. 

     “Let’s make chocolate!” Ramuda cheers, grinning brightly and breaking his own rare moment of quiet. 

     “More Valentine’s chocolate? Hell yeah!” Dice’s voice is partially muffled by the candy he is already back to consuming. Gentaro seems significantly less desirous. He delicately raises an eyebrow at the suggestion. 

     “Make chocolate. For whom?”

     “For us!” Ramuda points to his two teammates and then makes a circle motion with his hands. Dice nods energetically. 

     “How hard can it be? People make Valentine’s chocolate all the time, right?” Dice sets the now empty candy box on the arm of the couch. Gentaro’s gaze flickers between the three of them, and down at his own figure. 

     “All the time, meaning one day a year. We’re not exactly… prepared, are we?” 

     “Don’t worry, we have these!” Ramuda excitedly leaves his teammates’ sides to run to the kitchen. The two of them step carefully through the maze of heart shaped boxes. It appears that even under the decorative sweets, there is a layer of scrapped fabric and abandoned scribbles.

     “Here!” Ramuda opens a kitchen drawer and pulls out three yellow aprons, complete with the Fling Posse logo embroidered on the front pocket. 

     “Ramuda, if I did not know any better, I would think that you planned this.” Gentaro hums, tone listless in contrast to his measuring eyes. 

     “No way! I made these just in case we ever had to do anything messy.” Ramuda thrusts the aprons at his teammates, who exchange hesitant glances before taking them in hand. 

     “You made these?” Dice appraises it in his hands before obediently putting it on. 

     “Yup! Do you like them? Do you? Do you?” Ramuda makes the hand signal for a twirl and Dice readily obliges, awkwardly spinning around with his arms out like Ramuda has had him do in the past. Gentaro eyes the apron warily. It’s not going to cover his sleeves. 

     “Messy like what?” He asks dubiously. 

     “Like this, silly!” Ramuda says, like it’s obvious. Gentaro sighs, long-suffering and fond.

     “I should have the right stuff in here somewhere!” Ramuda opens his arms to the garishly painted kitchen. Dice takes the initiative, keeping his eyes on Ramuda’s face as he steps past him to open a cupboard, only looking away to check what’s inside. Ramuda hoists himself up on the counter, kicking his feet and watching Dice intently as he rummages through the pastel cabinets in search of materials. There is a squirming feeling in Ramuda’s stomach at the sight of Dice taking stock of Ramuda’s ill prepared kitchen, but he’s made his decision. He’s making chocolate with his friends. They’re not going to say anything. They’re not going to think of him any differently. Ramuda taps a rhythm onto the side of the counter with his heels. 

     “Holy hell, man. How much chocolate do you have?” Dice asks, prompting a surprised giggle from Ramuda. Dice shuffles assorted sweets around the cupboard, grabbing various bars. The bars are tossed unceremoniously onto the empty counter space. Ramuda grabs one and begins unwrapping, and Gentaro does the same. They work in tandem, Dice placing bars on the counter, Ramuda and Gentaro unwrapping, until there is a decently sized pile of bare chocolate bricks. 

     “So how do we… you know?” Dice gestures from the bars on the counter, to the packages strewn around the apartment, back to the unwrapped bars. All three of their gazes come to rest on the bricks of chocolate. Ramuda breaks the stillness by jumping down from the counter and thrusting a triumphant finger into the air. 

     “I know.” Ramuda crows. His teammates watch as he dashes to the freezer, ripping it open and pulling out the ice cube tray. He sets it on the counter next to the chocolate, chest puffed out confidently. “We put it in here! Like a mold!” 

     “Do we… break it up?” Dice ventures. Ramuda nods vigorously and weakly paws at Dice until he moves out of the way of the drawer Ramuda wants to open. Inside are several knives. Ramuda quickly grabs one and offers it to Dice, who accepts it, albeit tentatively. 

     “You can do the honors, kay?” Ramuda assures. Dice nods and hacks at the chocolate, expression focused with his tongue between his lips, clearly trying to make the shavings as small as possible in order to fit in the mold. Ramuda dutifully picks up the miniscule pieces and deposits them into the ice cube tray. Gentaro watches, content, for a few minutes. 

     “We have to melt it.” Gentaro interrupts finally. Dice and Ramuda exchange bewildered glances while Gentaro begins where Dice left off a moment ago, opening and closing nearly bare cupboards until he finds a collection of pots and pans. The pan Gentaro has settled on is pristine, not a single scratch or burn mark. The stove is perfectly clean, almost brand new. Ramuda can count the amount of times he’s used it on one hand. There was never any point. Gentaro walks purposefully toward the fridge and Ramuda moves away from his position next to Dice, meeting Gentaro in front of the refrigerator door, Ramuda’s hand moves to the handle a little too quickly. 

     “Huh? Whatcha looking for?” He asks sweetly, too sweetly, and he immediately internally curses himself when Gentaro takes a friendly step back. 

     “Ah, my apologies. Ramuda, do you have any milk?” 

     “Milk? I only have strawberry, I’m sowwy.” 

     “That should work, right? What’s the difference?” Dice points out from where he stands at the counter, chopping sloppily yet enthusiastically at the bars of chocolate with the knife, occasionally tossing bits into his mouth. Gentaro shakes his head, smiling. 

     “Yes, strawberry should work fine.”

     Ramuda opens the refrigerator just long enough to grab the milk and then closes it again. The only other things in the fridge are a few leftover dorayaki, a couple crepes from the place down the street, and a bottle of beer that he hasn’t gotten to yet. It paints a picture that Ramuda doesn’t necessarily like. The kitchen feels like a dollhouse, not how it should. How has he never noticed?

     “Yo, Ramuda,” Dice gestures to Ramuda with the hand not holding the knife. Ramuda pauses, but inevitably approaches, leaving the carton of milk on the counter. Dice hands him a hunk of chocolate, “You should eat some before we melt it, it’s super sweet. You too, Gentaro!” Dice tosses a piece of chocolate to Gentaro, who only manages to drop it to the ground after several seconds of struggle. Dice and Ramuda snicker good-naturedly before Dice smiles apologetically and holds another piece out for Gentaro to take from his hand. Gentaro clearly tries his best to look displeased, but Ramuda can see the mirth in his eyes and the twitch of his lips when he accepts the chocolate. 

     Gentaro, mouth full of chocolate, amiably moves to hold out the empty pan to Dice, who adds the pile of chocolate bits, and then to Ramuda, who snatches the carton and pours in the remaining strawberry milk. 

     “Do we have anything to stir with?” Gentaro asks, looking down at the milk and chocolate over the stove. Ramuda opens the cupboard next to the stove, the one Gentaro took the pan from. He proudly presents Gentaro with a pink whisk. Gentaro stirs the mixture gently until the chocolate starts to dissolve in the pan. When it’s done, Dice takes the whisk from Gentaro. 

     Dice uses the whisk to scrape out the melted chocolate and begins to plop it messily into the mold, winging the whisk through the air. Chocolate instantly splatters onto the surrounding area, including the front of Gentaro’s apron, and the front of Gentaro’s face. 

     "Shit, man! I’m so-” Dice is interrupted by a line of chocolate spattering his own face, intruding into his open mouth. Gentaro, looking decidedly smug, has his fingers covered in it. 

     “Real mature, dude.” Dice grins through the mess. He sticks the whisk in what’s left of the mixture and flings it rapidly toward Gentaro. Gentaro dodges expertly, seemingly having expected a retaliation. Both of them freeze at the sound of raucous laughter. It’s deep and loud, and Ramuda is bent over with the force of it. When he straightens, there’s chocolate dripping down his neck, on his cheek, and in his hair. Ramuda plucks the chocolate covered whisk out of Dice’s stunned hand and moves to the drawer next to the one containing the knives, pulling it open in a grand gesture. Inside are even more varieties of candy, as well as sprinkles, icing, and assorted silverware. His voice is still breathy. 

     “We can add these!” 

     By the end, none of them make it out unscathed. Dice hands the sprinkle covered, precariously filled ice cube tray to Gentaro, who hands it to Ramuda in turn. Ramuda places it gently into the fridge. After the fridge is closed, Ramuda claps his hands together, delighted. 

     “Let’s take a selfie! For all the ladies!” Ramuda grabs his phone, clearing the notifications before opening the camera app. He hasn’t even noticed that it’s been going off. He gestures for his teammates to get in the frame and they dutifully obey, moving into a selfie position that they’ve been in many times before. Dice and Gentaro are a solid, warm presence to Ramuda’s left and his right. Dice’s left hand wraps around Ramuda’s wrist in an attempt to move it into a better position to lick the whisk. His right arm is around Ramuda’s shoulders. Gentaro rests his right hand on Dice’s arm. His other hand is occupied trying to wipe some of the remaining chocolatey goop on Dice’s shoulder while Dice is distracted by the whisk. 

     “You guys have chocolate all over you!” Ramuda laughs, again, genuinely. He moves quickly, giving Dice a chaste kiss on his cheek, right over a sugary smear, then repeating the action with Gentaro with an overdramatic “mwah”.  

     “H-Hey! Is that gonna be in the picture?” Dice asks indignantly. 

     “It’s a video!” Ramuda chirps, hitting the share button and running back into the living room before Dice can snatch his phone. The ladies are going to love this. It’s time he gave them a piece of himself.