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Compensation

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Shu can hardly guess what time it is when he’s finished; all he knows is that it’s dark out and that his fingers ache terribly. Ah, he’s overdone it again. When he rises from his chair he takes care to stretch, massaging muscles that had grown cold and stiff in all the hours that he had kept the same posture. It seems he needs to work harder to remember to take regular breaks… 

He looks down at his work. Honestly, his craftsmanship is wasted on outfits like these. A casual style, garish colors, no artistry to be seen—Amagi should get down on his knees and prostrate himself in gratitude for Shu deigning to put his hands anywhere near these atrocities. 

He sighs and goes about the task of putting each piece on their proper hangers, treating them delicately despite his distaste. He’ll hang them up here in the Craftmonster activity room and finally head back to his dorm to rest. With any luck this will be a night where Kiryuu does not snore, and Shu can at least catch a few hours of sleep before— 

“YO SHU-KUN, MARCOOOO~!”

The door opens with a bang and Shu hops, startled. 

“There you are! Rinne-chan was looking allllll over for you.” Amagi mimes wiping a tear from his eye and then drops the act just as fast as he put it on, slinging an arm around Shu with his usual overfamiliarity. “You’re supposed t’say ‘polo,’ by the way.”

“If you wanted to know where I was you could have simply contacted me, rather than yelling at the top of your lungs and scaring me half to death,” Shu grumbles, his hand falling from where it had been over his heart.

Instead of responding Amagi snags the phone from the table Shu had been working on and dangles it in front of him with raised eyebrows. A slew of missed text messages cover the screen. “Y’know, when I taught ya how to change your notif sound I didn’t think you’d turn it all the way off.”

“Tch!” Shu snatches his phone back. “Every ‘ding’ sound on this planet is like an ice pick to the brain. If it was so urgent you should have called.”

Amagi slaps Shu’s shoulder heartily and laughs when he grunts. “Nah, nah, not urgent at all. Just wanted to bug ya.” He takes a longer look at the table and whistles, impressed. “Oh damn, didja finish everything already? Things are down to the wire, but y’could’ve snuck some time in tomorrow before the live instead of stayin’ up so late. I’m touched ☆”

“It wasn’t for your sake.” Shu’s nose scrunches as he catches a whiff of smoke from Amagi’s clothing. “I merely refuse to stand on the same stage with a shoddy-looking unit. Next time plan your moves more carefully. And for heaven’s sake, if you’re going to frequent unsavory places at least have the decency to change into something else afterwards. The stench of cigarettes is horrific.”

“Aw, it’s not that bad, izzit?” Amagi nuzzles in close, cackling as he smears the scent all over Shu’s own clothing. He only clings tighter the more Shu struggles. “Don’t scoot away from me or poor Rinne-chan’ll be lonely~”

“Non! Stop that this instant!” 

Amagi lets go at the exact moment that Shu jerks away again, sending Shu staggering backwards until he smacks against the nearest wall. Amagi just laughs again at Shu’s venomous glare and grabs his hand. “My bad, my bad. Hey lemme show you some thanks for workin’ so hard.”

Shu just blinks as Amagi tugs him out of the room and into the hallway, too curious to kick up a fuss about the manhandling. “Hmph. Unnecessary. I wasn’t expecting any sort of repayment.” 

“Then I guess I’m just doing it ‘cause I’m such a good guy. Kyahahahaha!” They round a corner until they hit a dead-end. Nearly hidden in the shadows is… a vending machine. Amagi slaps it fondly, making the lights in the display, which Shu had thought to be dead, flicker. “Pretty sure this is the oldest thing in the building. Think it might be vintage?”

“It looks more like something salvaged from a scrap heap.” Although admittedly gadgetry is not Shu’s forte. “I’m surprised that detestable Tenshouin allowed it, considering how unduly obsessed he is with making everything as modern as possible.”

Amagi shrugs. “Best drinks in the house though. C’mon, pick something.”

“Pick…?” Shu falls silent for a moment, eyes narrowing. “A beverage from a vending machine ? This is my recompense? All my prodigious skill measures up to—” He checks the price stickers plastered on the corners of the giant plastic buttons. “—300 yen in your estimation?!”

Amagi’s own laugh takes him by surprise and he hunches a bit, snickering into his fist. “Don’t take it so serious. Just try it.” He pokes Shu’s side as he inserts coins into the slot. “C’mon, hurry it up.”

Shu bats Amagi’s hand away as it tries to attack his side again. “If I must...” He squints again at the buttons, but it’s difficult to make out what each item is without the backlighting. 

Amagi groans. “You don’t needa take a billion years, just close your eyes and take a stab! Live a little!”

Shu ignores him and thoroughly inspects each label before settling on a sparkling lemonade that looks quite similar to something he used to get at Yumenosaki. Pick at random? Ha! As if Shu would ever do such a thing. He smugly presses the button.

rumble rumble ker-THUNK

Sparkling lemonade is not what comes out. Shu retrieves the can with a sense of trepidation. It’s vibrantly red and looks to be the kind of overpowered soda that Shu despises. He frowns down at it while Amagi chooses his own drink, the man waving his arm about before slapping a random button. When Amagi curses his own bad luck under his breath seconds later Shu huffs in amusement. Serves him right. 

“You took me to a broken vending machine,” Shu accuses lightly. “Not only do you value my skills at a mere 300 yen, it’s 300 yen of something I don’t even want. Do I have to teach you what proper appreciation looks like?”

“Sexy,” Amagi says like it’s an automatic response, still turning his own can around in his hand like it’s some puzzle he has to crack. He looks up and his jaw drops. “Holy SHIT. Is that a real unopened can of Mountain Dew Aurora?!” 

Shu looks at the can’s text again. “That is what it says, yes.”

Amagi would look like he had clasped his hands in prayer were there not a beverage sandwiched in between them. “The rumor I heard from that purple weirdo is true,” he says reverently. “This is a legendary gacha vending machine.”

“...You knew it was broken.”

“Gyahahaha! It’s not broken. It’s the perfect gamble! I did tell you to pick with your gut and not your head, Shu-kun~”

Shu pinches the bridge of his nose. “Give me that,” he snaps, taking Amagi’s can and shoving his own at him. “I have no use for this so you may as well have it.” He pops the top of the one he’s now holding and takes a sip—much better—and tries to ignore how bright Amagi’s face is. He wouldn’t have looked happier if Shu had given him the Holy Grail itself.

“Man,” Amagi says, “and I was totally gonna suck your dick for this.”

Carbonated water sprays out of Shu’s nose. 

“These things are suuuuper rare. Do you even know how much an empty one goes for online?” he continues, cracking his open and swigging it. “Now I get to have my cake and drink it too.”

Shu coughs and sputters for a solid half minute before he can get a handle on himself. He scowls at Amagi who, unfortunately, looks far too blissed out by his victory to even notice. Although looking at the design on that soda can Shu has to pause. Aren’t the style of those graphics rather old…? “Amagi. When exactly is the expiration date on that thing?”

Amagi pauses, ponders, and then shrugs, unbothered. “Dunno. I mean, it was made in the 80s, but who cares?”

Shu very slowly and very evenly sets his open can out of the way on top of the vending machine. 

Then he charges him.

“You! Spit that out right now!” he scolds, making a grab for the can. Amagi’s hand jerks out of the way at the last second, red soda sloshing out of the opening and splatting on the floor. “What are you thinking ingesting something over thirty years old?!”

“Woah there, Mr. Scarecrow—GYA!” Amagi wheezes when Shu collides with him in his second attempt to snatch the can from his grasp. “Damn, you’ve got some force in ya!”

“You’re going to make yourself ill , you absolute nitwit!”

“Hey, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—”

“—don’t come crying to me if you land yourself in a hospital for ruining your organs on the day of your live—!”

“—got an iron stomach. Betcha I’ve eaten a lot worse—”

“—that is not an excuse to keep consuming harmful things!” 

They grapple at a stalemate at first, Amagi taking great joy in this impromptu game of keep-away, but for better or for worse Shu’s zealous nature gives him the edge and the can goes flying out of Amagi’s hand. It plummets to the floor and spins, spraying its neon red contents all over the carpet. Shu stares aghast while Amagi howls with laughter. 

“That’s going to leave a stain .” Shu’s distress grows as Amagi goes over to the toppled can and picks it up, taking the last swig out of there like nothing ever happened. “And you! Did I not just tell you that—wmph!”

Amagi’s lips cover Shu’s mid-sentence, a mouthful of soda with a concerningly thick texture flooding onto his tongue. It’s sickly sweet and tastes as if something horrible was done to a strawberry. 

“Nnghmph!”

Shu’s first instinct is to spit it out, but Amagi doesn’t give him the chance, intent on kissing him for so long that he has no choice but to swallow it, and then even longer still after that. When Amagi finally breaks it Shu’s left panting. And somewhat nauseous. 

“See, it ain’t so bad!” Amagi slings an arm around him again as Shu wrestles the handkerchief out of his pocket, frantically rubbing all traces of that horrible liquid away from around his mouth. “Thought it would be a real shame for you to win the big one and never even get to try it!”

“You’re a menace, and your taste is atrocious.”

Amagi snorts and rescues Shu’s forgotten drink from the top of the vending machine. “Says the guy who drinks this shit? ‘A hint of lime?’ The hell’s that supposed to mean?” He takes a sip without asking and pulls an impolite face, tongue lolling out. “Blehhhhh. A hint? This stuff was maybe made in the same room as a lime. If I'm bein’ real nice about it.”

Shu crosses his arms. “It’s meant to be refreshing! I wouldn’t expect you to understand the subtleties of a refined palate.”

“Oh Itsuki-sama, how admirable! Would you like me to hold a lime next to you while you take your next meal or would that be too much flavor?” Amagi says, batting his lashes.

“Quiet you.” Shu sighs, deflating and letting himself lean into Amagi’s side as the exhaustion finally catches up to him. He massages his own temple. This is what he gets for letting himself get worked up right after working so late. “I hope you know I’ll be blaming the state of the carpet on you.”

“Yeah, that’s fair.”

Shu watches as Amagi takes a second sip of his drink and makes another grotesque face at it. Shu huffs. “For heaven’s sake, stop drinking it if you dislike it so much.”

“I can’t! I think I’m, like, fascinated by how shitty this is.”

“You drink third-rate beer. You have no right to criticize me.”

For a while Amagi doesn’t respond, and Shu accepts that as the natural end to their conversation. It’s strangely peaceful. The arm around Shu is relaxed instead of overbearing, and for once Amagi isn’t loudly running his mouth, instead occupied by the can in his hand as if it contains the answers to all of life’s mysteries. 

Eventually Amagi leans in close and Shu braces himself for god-knows-what, but in the end Amagi just presses his wistful smile into Shu’s hair. “Yeah, well. Looks like we both have bad taste.”

Shu doesn’t bother denying it this time.