gay chicken - Adverb_slu*t - Twisted-Wonderland (Video Game) [Archive of Our Own] (2024)

Chapter 1: #WhatHappensInIgnihydeStaysInIgnihyde

Chapter Text

Azul spun the concert ticket in his hand. Limited edition foil wrapping, premium seating, and a functional backstage pass for only the biggest concert in Twisted Wonderland, all in one teeny slip of paper. Such a precious treasure, and yet, he had no interest in the idol group that was performing. Of course, he could sell the ticket—the amount that it would go for was ludicrous.

However, as he considered the two upperclassmen, one ensconced in brilliant blue flames and the other with hair an … interesting shade of carrot, seated in front of him in History of Magic just then, he realized that there really was no price on good entertainment.

“Ah, Idia, just the person I was looking for!” Azul crooned as Idia made to walk out the door after Board Game Club.

Idia raised an eyebrow, really hoping that whatever Azul wanted, he would make it quick. His favorite game, Some Game 13, had just added a new level cap for its playable characters, and he was desperate to get back to his room to farm the mats he needed to level up. “Are you glitching or something? We just played, like, six rounds of Some Board Game together. I beat you in every single game. Ring a bell?”

Azul sniffed in annoyance and adjusted his glasses. “Right. Well, in any case, have you heard of the popular idol group, Some Idol Group?”

Feeling his heart skip a beat, Idia couldn’t help but raise the other eyebrow. “M—maybe, why?” He knew he had to be careful around Azul, but oh gods, just the mention of Some Idol Group was enough to make him all kinds of excited. Heck, he was pretty sure that at this point, he liked them better than his usual go-to favorite idol group, Precipice Moirai, a.k.a. PREMO.

“Well, as it just so happens, I have on my person,” he pulled something metallic and pink from his pocket, “a ticket to their next concert.”

Okay, Idia could drop the act now. “No freaking way. How’d you manage that? That concert’s been sold out for months.” His eyes widened when he considered the color of the ticket Azul had just revealed. Pink.Pink Some Idol Group tickets weren’t even sold on regular ticket sites and stands. There only ever was one per concert, and not only did it boast backstage access and the best seats possible, but the ticket also acted as an extremely rare collectible! If you had two of them, you were entitled to trade them in for, like, a ridiculous amount of autographed Some Idol Group merch and were given the opportunity to hang out with the group members—in a not-backstage-before-a-concert kinda way, of course. “What’d you do, sell Mostro Lounge to get it?”

Azul tittered politely. “Never mind that. In any case, I just wanted to let you know that I myself have no intention of using this ticket.”

“W—what?” Idia could feel the color drain from his face. Azul had the pink ticket to a Some Idol Group concert and didn’t even plan on going? “Why not?”

He realized that that was a stupid question. Knowing Azul, he probably was going to sell it for an exorbitant amount of money. But then again, why would he even bother telling Idia? To make himself feel better after losing all those games of Some Board Game by gloating that he had the one thing Idia wanted most in the world? No, yeah, he got that. Understandable. Or maybe he wanted Idia to make an offer on the ticket?

“Well, you see, I don’t prefer this particular idol group. They’re a bit flashy for my taste.” Seeing that Idia was about to argue this statement, Azul continued, “However, I do have a proposition for you.” LOLOLOL Idia wasn’t stupid. Making deals with Azul was the most obvious trap ever. And yet, the degenerate fanboy part of him watched intently as Azul fanned the ticket in front of his face. “Cater, you can come out now.”

“Ughhh, Azul,” moaned a voice from the hallway. “Why’d you gotta go say it like that? Now it sounds like I’m just some guy waiting creepily in the hall.” Cater turned to Idia. “I wasn’t B-T-W, I was waiting normally in the hall because he,” he pointed to Azul, “asked me to. Not sure why, but I’m used to underclassmen houswardens being a bit bossy and thinking they’re all that.”

Idia could not help the audible groan that rumbled from his throat. Why, why, why had Azul invited Cater Diamond here? The guy talked a mile-a-minute and ranked way too high on Idia’s personal “School Extrovert Tierlist” to be of any kind of interest. It was exhausting just being near him, and, gods, he was worse than even that loud little Scarabia housewarden.

“Tsk, tsk, Idia, let’s keep the moans of passion outside the classroom, please,” Azul said, a tiny smirk blossoming on his face. He knew very much that Idia’s groan had been out of anything besides passion, but it was very hard to resist the opportunity to tease such an easy target.

Idia’s entire being felt inflamed, and he hated hated hated how pink the tips of his hair became just then. He was going to kill Azul.

Cater himself looked as if he was trying to stifle a laugh, but he seemed to swallow it when he glanced at what Azul held in his hand. His eyes widened to the size of teacup saucers. “O-M-G, no way, you weren’t kidding about getting your hands on one of those Some Idol Group tickets, were you?”

Azul fanned himself with the ticket once again, and both Idia and Cater cringed at his irreverent handling of such a prize. “No, I wasn’t. As I was just saying to Idia, Cater, I have a proposition.”

“L-M-A-O, um, full offense, Azul, but with your track record, you seriously can’t expect—”

Let me finish,” Azul insisted. Privately, Idia was glad that someone else saw Azul for the background-character-who-turns-out-to-be-some-mastermind-with-ulterior-motives that he was. “If you two would stop interrupting me, I promise I’ll make this quick. If I recall correctly, Cater, you said that you were in a bit of a hurry?”

Cater nodded. “Yeppers. I was O-M-W to a date with Rosalia before you caught up with me.”

Rosalia? Rosalia the portrait? Idia had to grin. Gods, Cater Diamond was even lamer than him! 2D waifus were one thing, but 2.5D ones were just plain sad!

Even Azul’s calm façade broke then, and he began to shake with peals of raucous laughter. “You—you’re dating a portrait?”

“Facts.” Cater crossed his arms and gave a self-satisfied smile. “Oh, and Azul—how’s Jamil, bee-tee-dubs?”

This time it was Idia’s turn to double over in laughter as Azul, who did not appreciate the fact that everyone at NRC seemed to know of his failed attempts to woo the Scarabia vice-housewarden, became as still as a statue and straightened up immediately. It was like someone had flipped a switch as Azul pushed up his glasses, steepled his fingers, and suddenly looked ready to get down to business. Idia instinctively stopped laughing at his glare. “Anyways, as I was saying: I have a proposition.” Holding the Some Idol Group ticket up between two fingers, he continued, “Seeing as I know both of you are ‘mega-huge fans’ of this particular group, I’m prepared to deliver this ticket as a prize to whichever one of you wins my game.”

What?” Idia spat. He thought that it would be next to impossible to get that ticket off Azul’s hands, but, gods, a game? He could cheese this thing, no sweat.

Cater’s voice was incredulous as he said, “A game?”

“Yes, we are in Board Game Club, after all,” replied Azul.

Idia felt it was important to point out that it was technically after Board Game Club’s usual meeting time, but he doubted that that would have mattered.

“Um, sorry, Azul, but I didn’t delay my date with poor Rosalia to play some game.” Cater turned to walk out the door.

“Are you sure? Not even for a pink ticket to a Some Idol Group concert?”

Idia’s spine tingled at the words. What he wouldn’t give to be able to snatch the ticket right out of Azul’s hands. Gods, not only was Some Idol Group his absolute favorite group, half of the singers were also VAs in the best anime of all time: Some Anime! Oh, and not to mention thatSome Idol Groups stage presence and the prospect of seeing them live was unlike anything else! He was usually a KEKW-I’ll-Just-Livestream-It-At-Home kinda guy, but he would definitely make an exception and leave the comfort of his room for the best idol group in existence.

Cater seemed to share the same impression as Idia as he slowly pivoted back into the room and considered Azul. “And that’s, like, a legit pink ticket, then?”

“Of course,” sniffed Azul. “How cruel that you’d ever consider me as someone who would distribute counterfeit merchandise.” Idia and Cater scoffed in unison. They quickly glanced in each other’s direction, turning away as they met the other's eyes. “So, what say you? Will you play?”

Cater gave a long-suffering sigh. “I guess if it’s for Some Idol Group, then sure, yeah—wait!”

Idia could see the gears turning in Cater’s head and finished his sentence for him. “What’s the game?”

“Ah, yes, I suppose you would like to know that before agreeing,” Azul said breezily, although he looked a little miffed. “The game is …” he paused here, for usually Floyd would have started a drumroll, but upon realizing that the Leech twins weren’t there, he pointed at both Cater and Idia and continued, “you two must pretend that you’re dating! The first one to deny the other ‘boyfriend privileges’ loses!”

“So how does this work?” Cater muttered as the two of them walked out of the Board Game Club’s meeting room a few minutes later. “We just … I dunno, try to get the other to say, ‘you’re not my boyfriend’ as we pretend otherwise, and then the one who didn’t chicken out wins?” He snickered. “That sounds easy enough. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Idia, but everyone knows you scare easily,” he cracked his fingers gamely, “so T-B-H, I think Azul might as well give me the ticket, like, right now.”

Idia swallowed hard, a scion of anxiety slicing through him. His throat felt parchmentlike, and he realized he was doing a great job of proving Cater’s “you scare easily” comment true. This whole scheme involved several things that everyone usually left to manga protags, like talking to people, namely extroverts like Cater Diamond, and interacting with normies, also like Cater Diamond. It was as if someone had just set his life to “nightmare mode.”

But the ticket! It didn’t matter how many bots he created to win giveaways, how early he set his alarm to get in line, or how thoroughly he scoured the depths of the internet; there was no way he would ever get apink ticket to a Some Idol Group concert. To be honest, he had half a mind to demand how Azul had gotten his grubby little mollusc tentacles on it.

“Y—yeah, well, don’t be too sure,” Idia countered lamely. “I’ve played enough dating sims to know exactly how to um … be such a perfect boyfriend that … you’re going to be forced to tap out first.” Gods, trash talk was so much harder when it wasn’t spewed in voice chat or typed out in a Discord channel. He wasn’t even exactly sure of what he had just said.

“Oh, yeah? Well, how about we make this whole boyfriend-thing Magicam-official?” Cater whipped out his phone suddenly, his mouth closed into a thin line that evidenced a suppressed smile.

Idia scooted about fifty feet in the other direction. No way, no way was he going to be an absolute sheep and post his face on Magicam! Especially since Cater had, like, a million followers, and everyone would see him and look at him and judge him and gods, think he was Cater Diamond’s boyfriend and and and!

“Come on, Idia, that’s what couples do—post pictures of each other all over social media,” Cater crooned, and Idia was about to insist that they were not a couple and didn’t have to do stuff like that, but then he heard Cater mutter “Backoutbackoutbackout” under his breath, and suddenly he realized exactly what that wily nomophobe was doing.

As Cater’s phone loaded the Magicam app, Idia asked, slightly petrified, “W—what about R—Rosalia? Wouldn’t she be, um, mad if she saw us like that?” He didn’t know how to get out of this situation with any finesse, but maybe reminding Cater that he was kind of seeing someone else would do it!

“She doesn’t have Magicam, so it’ll probs be okay,” said Cater. He narrowed his eyes. “Why’d’ya ask?”

Idia only knew that there was one thing that mattered then. It wasn’t his absolute distaste for attention, and it wasn’t his apathy for causing a scene. The only thought that propelled him was I have to get that ticket as he sped through the halls of NRC at full throttle (which for him, was the average person’s jogging speed), Cater hot on his heels as he tried to remember where the west wing—Rosalia’s wing—was. Students yelped and dove out of the way, and a slew of whispers followed his wake, and oh, gods, he knew he was going to regret this later.

As soon as he neared the alcove where the portrait was, Cater had caught up to him, apparently following on his skateboard so he wasn’t anywhere near as sweaty and disheveled as Idia.

“So … um, Idia, whatcha doin’ there?” asked Cater cautiously, a bead of sweat dripping down his face, which was stamped with an ominous sort of smile. He reminded Idia of the sweat-smile emoji, only, um, if the sweat-smile emoji was also a final boss that he had just aggro’d.

Idia cleared his throat, hoping his voice was loud enough to carry to Rosalia’s frame. What could he say that would embarrass Cater around his date the most? “Umm … y—yeah! C—Cater, y—you can be player one and I can be player two, and …” he had no idea where he was going with this, “… and—and together we can … fast-forward to the good … ending in the … 18+ NSFW version of the … game …?” What?! What was he saying? What game? What did that even mean? Gods, this was so humiliating! But—but he couldn’t take this “L” and lose the ticket, he couldn’t! Evenif there appeared to be a small crowd that formed at his words.

“Would you keep it down?” hissed Cater. “I-C-Y-F, I’m kinda supposed to be going on a date with her.” He shrugged. “Well, as much of a date as you can have with a portrait.” There was an enraged shriek from Rosalia’s direction and Cater cringed. “Usually she’s cute when she’s mad. This time I’ll bet she’s anything but. Thanks a bunch.”

“Bow out and I’ll tell that portrait girl that I … I was talking to …” he held up his phone to show off a sticker of Character F from Some Anime, “um … her.” Would admitting to talking to a waifu sticker absolutely tank his already negative social cred? Duh, but what else was he supposed to do? He was kind of impressed with himself, actually. The levels of mortification he was willing to endure for a concert ticket!

Cater’s eyes widened, and Idia saw something that looked like a flash of respect. “Ooooh, you’re good! But nice try!” He raced toward Rosalia’s portrait, calling, “No, no, Rosalia, wait—he’s not my boyf—ugh!”

This left Idia standing amidst the onlookers, who stared at him incredulously. Lucky for Idia, he was an expert at navigating these kinds of social situations, so he gave an effeminate shriek, flipped on his hood, and scuttled over to the Hall of Mirrors.

“Brother, listen to what Cater Diamond just posted on his Magicam story!” Ortho said, his eyes sparkling gleefully as he scrolled through his phone. Idia had already relayed to him everything that had happened that day, and the little robot had spent the rest of the afternoon stalking Cater’s Magicam page. “‘Going to hang out in @gloomurai666’s room! who knowsss what might happen 😏😏❤️❤️ #WhatHappensInIgnihydeStaysInIgnihyde. #(JKIllUpdateWithDeetsLater).’” His eyebrows shot up. “And he’s posted a picture of himself making a funny winky face right outside our dorm room! Did you know he was coming?”

Idia’s fingers had never hit “pause” onSome Game 13 so fast. “What? Of course not!” He felt his face redden. “He can’t come in here! I’m literally two hours away from grinding all the mats I need to get my main to level 9129102!”

Ortho looked thoughtful. “I see. Cater really seems to be taking Azul’s game seriously, if he’s willing to falsify a Magicam post to make it look like there’s something going on between you two. Or I assume he’s lying, because it’s been a whole thirty seconds since he’s made the post about being outside our room, and I don’t hear any knocking.” He hovered toward the door, swung it open, and peered down the corridor. “Cater! You’re not supposed to skateboard in the halls!”

As Idia unpaused his game, he heard Cater’s voice, which sounded muffled as if he were at the end of the hall, calling, “Whoopsie, sorry, baby bro Shroud. Just needed to make a quick getaway, ‘cause, well, you know, I kinda don’t have a reason for being here other than snapping a pic for the ’cam.”

“There’s no need to make a getaway. And besides, here, I can give you a reason to stay: you can hang out with my brother,” Ortho replied, apparently not hearing Idia’s very loud whispers of “whatareyoudoingwhatareyoudoingwhatareyoudoingorthoshutup.”

“Ummm, yeah, sure, that’ll probs be a blast.” A sigh. “Well, Riddle’s already scheduled to lecture me if I go back to the dorm, so I guess I can stick around for a bit.” The screech of Cater’s skateboard wheels as he boarded back toward the open door was loud enough for Idia to hear through his headphones.

Ortho!” Idia growled. His game was paused again, but his glare was in full force. How could his little brother do this to him? Did he not understand the importance of the grind? Did he not care about getting Idia’s main to level 9129102? Did he not realize that Idia needed a good week-and-a-half to recover from the sheer embarrassment after what had occurred earlier that day by Rosalia’s portrait? And another year after that because of Cater’s most recent Magicam post? “Are you trying to 1HKO me? I don’t have time to socialize with normies!”

Suddenly, Ortho pulled off Idia’s headphones and crouched by his ear. “Shhh! He’ll hear you! And listen to what I’m thinking: the more time you spend with Cater, the higher the chances are of him tapping out of Azul’s game!”

“Because I’m just so good at being romantic and charming and boyfriendlike?” Idia deadpanned.

“Listen, brother! My scanners have done preliminary diagnostics on the chances of you winning this game, and the odds go up around 54.92% the more time you spend with Cater. I’m thinking that the longer you hang out with him, the more you’ll learn what makes him tick, so it’ll be easier to take him down! Or, you know, freak him out so much that he’ll say that you’re not his boyfriend.” Ortho punctuated this speech with a joyful backflip.

Idia considered this for a moment. “Hm … the old ‘overwhelmed them with sustained DPS’ tactic. Interesting, interesting.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully before slamming back on his headphones and returning to his holoscreen monitor. “Yeah, no thanks—not even if the prize for winning Azul’s stupid game was a one-of-a-kind, incredibly rare keychain of the MC from the light novel ‘The Good Thing about Being Reincarnated as a Hilichurl Is That I only Need to Eat Sunsettias to Become Stronger!’”

Idia didn’t even know he had programmed Ortho’s voice to be that low and insinuating, but it most certainly was as he sung, “But consider, brother, what it’d be like to beat that smug little smile off Azul’s face. And remember how much you love winning? Think of how exhilarating it was to kick xXMegaraXx’s butt in Some Game 5 yesterday! And more importantly, think of Some Idol Group, think of what it would be like to get a premium seat to one of their concerts!”

A flicker of determination sparked inside Idia just then. Perhaps he could wait to level up his characters. Just a few minutes, of course, since, well, the dungeons he needed to get level-up mats only opened for a little while longer. “Ortho, do me a favor. Print me out a picture of that ticket and leave it on my desk.” If he was going to have to endure Cater Diamond, he was going to need a constant, visual reminder as to what it was all for.

Wow, the lighting in here is actually trash,” Cater said, squinting as he entered the room a minute later and set his skateboard down. “Note to self: next time, bring a selfie ring light.”

Idia’s eyes shot open. Wait—wait, there would be no next time! He could not afford to have people barging in here all the time and interrupting his gaming! Ooooh, that sounded pathetic. Um … he could not afford to have people barging in here all the time and interrupting his, his, his manga reading! That wasn’t any better. Anime watching?

“So, whatcha doin?’” Cater asked, swigging from a glass bottle of tea and comfortably situating himself on Idia’s bed. “Programming?”

Programming! Yes, he couldn’t have people barging in here all the time and interrupting his programming! Before he could answer, Ortho, who was fiddling with Cater’s skateboard, asked, “Hey, do you mind if I go try this out in the hall? I wanna see if my hovering can keep up with it at top speeds.”

“K-K, but didn’t you say not to skateboard in the h—”

“Thanks, bye!” And so, Ortho vanished into the corridor.

This left Idia all alone with his … boyfriend. Gods, he hadn’t had luck this bad since he had to shell out over seven thousand thaumarks for just a single copy of his favorite card in That One Gacha Game.

Idia stared at his screen, desperately wishing that he was some kind of, he didn’t know … dirt, or something. Since Ortho kept their room meticulously clean, that would mean that he would be anywhere but here.

He glanced at Cater from the corner of his eye. The Heartslabyul student was looking at him with a curious air, although his fingers scrolled mindlessly through his phone. Idia did not know why, but his heart thumped very loudly when he noticed Cater's gaze, and, hoping to appear as if he had something to do, he started keysmashing vigorously. He had no idea what he was typing, but at least it helped him channel his nervous energy somewhere else.

Just before Idia was about to mutter, “So, this was fun, but I’m kind of busy RN,” Cater put down his phone, poked Idia in the shoulder, and smiling sheepishly said, “Sooo, I guess you saw my Magicam post?”

Heat flooded Idia’s face. “N—no, but Ortho may have … speedran me through what it said.” He keysmashed even faster now.

“‘Kay, well, I just wanna say sorry about that. Not my finest moment, but then again,” his gaze, which had been placid and thoughtful, turned into some emotion where accusation belied amusem*nt, “that whole Rosalia stunt wasn’t yours. F-Y-I, if you’re late to a date with a painting and then she suspects you’re ‘cheating’ on her with someone else, you can’t just walk away from the frame! Otherwise, she’ll yell even more! Louder, too!” Idia couldn’t help but snicker at this, which spurred Cater to do the same and say, “L-O-L, you think that’s funny, huh? Well, you try that with me, and you can bet your butt that I’ll defo do the same thing!” He didn’t seem to notice that Idia went stock-still at this comment and the tips of his hair began to flush pink. Cater stopped laughing after a moment and sighed. “This game’s not a whole lot of fun, huh? I mean, it seems like we’re just, I dunno, taking turns humiliating and harassing each other.”

Oh, good! It seemed that extroversion and excess social media hadn’t evaporated all of Cater’s brain cells, because Idia had to agree. He had surprised himself with the lengths he had gone to today to make Cater so embarrassed that he would say “you’re not my boyfriend” or something, but how long could he keep that up? He did scare easily when it came to social situations, and he couldn’t imagine doing what he had done today ever again. Gods, he wondered what everyone who had heard about the incident was saying about him. Nope, nope, he wasn’t going to think about that. That was one of the reasons he had been playing Some Game 13 before Cater had come in, anyway. Gaming was an excellent way to decompress his mind after the day’s embarrassment.

“Y—yeah,” Idia admitted, “my public humiliation skill’s kinda on cooldown. It’s … it’s gonna be a while before I can use it again.” A while? He wanted to say “never,” but somehow, mortifying situations seemed to find him without him even trying.

Cater blinked twice. “N-G-L, I have no idea what that means, but I’m gonna take that as you agree, ‘kay? Sooo, can I make an update to Azul’s little game’s rules?” When Idia peeped out something that was supposed to be consent, he continued, “How about uh … we promise that we don’t, you know, try to be too mean-spirited about this? Like, agree to, you know, not do things that result in forcing the other to do humiliating stuff in public—well, let’s not say public, but, like, around a lot of people—so they’ll have to back out of the game to save face. Totally not saying this because Trey just texted me a whole speech about the unethicalness, or whatever, of that Magicam post, B-T-W. This is actually from,” he pointed to the heart on his Heartslabyul dorm uniform, “the heart.” He wrinkled his nose. “Wow, that was way cringier than I thought it’d be.”

Idia considered this. Not the cringe, of course, but everything before it. Avoiding embarrassment in front of a crowd would be, oh, he didn’t know, the most A1 thing ever? “I … I, yeah, I guess I can swing that.”

Cater held out his hand to shake, and Idia reached for it disconcertedly. His palms were slightly sweaty just then, and he would rather have sent out an email or something to confirm this agreement. Cater’s gaze was expectant, however, and Idia surrendered to the fact that it probably would be less awkward if he just shook. As soon as he took Cater’s hand, something electric pulsed through him, and his eyelids fluttered open suddenly. What was that? Cater apparently had felt it too, if his gasp was anything to go by.

Neither of them said anything, though, and they cleared their throats as if nothing had happened. The next moment between them passed in a silent, rigid kind of manner, before Cater coughed and stuttered that he had to “bounce” and walked out the door.

Idia watched him go, feeling a pang of, he didn’t know, … something … as he left. It went away as he turned back to his desk, where, just as he had instructed, Ortho had left out a paper on which was printed a picture of the Some Idol Group ticket. He rubbed his still-tingling palm absently as he stared at the image. That ticket was what everything was for, after all.

Chapter 2: kindofalmostsorta

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

If you ever decided to walk down the halls of Ignihyde, ignore the sign outside of Idia’s room that warned “Extroverts, despawn immediately; introverts, you should know better,” and stand outside of his door, you would hear a wide variety of things over the course of a single day.

Sometimes, you would hear the loud clacking of keyboard keys as Idia hunched over his desk and typed out rapid replies in a forum or diligently programmed something for class or his own interest. Other times, you would hear the sound of OSTs, game soundtracks, or the upbeat rhythm of idol music. Then there would, of course, be occasions where you’d hear anime or videogame dialogue, or maybe the flipping of pages as Idia raced through a volume of manga. If he was in a mood to flex his electrical engineering skills, you might even hear the faint, occasional sizzling of a soldering iron. There are moments, even, where you’d hear voices—the low mutterings of Idia as he talked himself through difficult game rotations, spewed both pleasantries and insults in voice chat, or talked to Ortho as the two brothers played some new TCG Idia had picked up.

There wouldn’t be very many times where you would hear the sound that rumbled out of Idia’s room today: a low, hollow, thumping noise, almost as if someone were slamming their head repeatedly against a desk in frustration. Well, there was no “almost” here, because that was exactly what was happening. The head? Idia’s. The desk? Also Idia’s. The frustration? Still Idia’s.

Ortho stood by him, administering both words of comfort and admonishment, saying things like: “Maybe you can find somewhere else to stream it” and “Brother, if you don’t cut that out, you’re going to bruise.”

But it was no use. Idia was distraught. What else was he supposed to be? Seriously, what other way was anyone supposed to react when an anime—Another Anime, in his case—they wanted to watch was switched from its regular streaming platform to a different one?

The story went as follows: On most occasions, Another Anime would never interest him. It was your typical, dime-a-dozen isekai with a splash of reverse-harem shenanigans. However, it also happened to be the anime of the season and Idia, being a certified Weeb™, was obligated to watch it if he wanted to hold any weight in the anime community. The problem? His usual anime streaming platform always boasted all the latest and greatest, but for some reason, Another Anime’s streaming rights were bought and maintained exclusively by a different platform, DizzneeMinus (sometimes written as Dizznee–). Idia did not own a subscription to DizzneeMinus. It was a site overrun by an alarming percentage of, he shuddered at this, normies.

He could torrent Another Anime, of course, but that was best left as a last resort. And he could always create a DizzneeMinus free trial account, but those only lasted a week, and then he’d have to set up an alarm to cancel the subscription so he wouldn’t be charged for it. It was too much of a hassle.

And so there he sat, banging his head against his desk, because clearly that was the most productive thing to do.

“Oh, I know!” Ortho said suddenly, well after Idia’s forehead had turned red from the repeated force. He held Idia’s face in place to stop him from moving. “Remember last week when Cater Diamond was sick?”

“No.” Idia was woefully ignorant of anything extrovert-related, even when that extrovert was his “boyfriend.”

“Well, I remember seeing on his Magicam story, an image of him huddled on his bed, a bowl of soup on his pillow, and his laptop open to an animated movie. His caption read ‘No #MetflixAndChill For Me 😭 #JustDizzneeMinusAndSinus.’” When Idia maintained his blank and uninterested stare, Ortho elaborated, “He must have a DizzneeMinus subscription! And since you’re his ‘boyfriend,’ maybe he’ll let you use it!”

“He’s not my boyf—” Idia stopped short and returned to banging his head against the table. “Anyways, no thanks. I’d rather lose to the same boss over and over again and be forced to watch the same exact, taunting cutscene so many times that I have it memorized than ask Cater Diamond to share his DizzneeMinus account with me.”

“Come on, brother, I’m sure he’ll say ‘yes!’ I mean, what kind of thing would that be to deny you of? You’re supposed to be his ‘boyfriend!’”

Idia groaned. “Stop saying that!” Another groan. He didn’t want to dignify Ortho’s suggestion by even considering it, but his stupid brain couldn’t help in doing so. Borrowing Cater’s DizzneeMinus account would be an easy way to watch Another Anime. And, he realized with a devious smile, if Cater didn’t want to share his account, Idia could always force him to with the “boyfriend” card. If Cater still denied him, Idia would be looking at one pink Some Idol Group concert ticket in no time. Oh, no, this was excellent. There was no way he could lose here. He could feel the proverbial light of RNGesus shining down where he stood like a great big spotlight.

He would do it. He would ask his “boyfriend,” Cater Diamond, to share his DizzneeMinus account with him. Besides, since Cater wasn’t here right now, the only way to ask him was through some kind of digital interface, and as that manner of speaking suited Idia, his anxiety in asking lessened considerably.

Now, how to go about doing so? He didn’t know Cater’s Discord username, his phone number, or any of his other social media handles, so he supposed he would just have to suffer through talking to him via Magicam DMs.

Ortho watched eagerly from behind his shoulder as Idia opened the app on his tablet, searched up Cater’s Magicam account name, and began typing. His first message was “hello bf of mine. whats ur dizznee– UN and pass? i kinda need to borrow it.” Doubting that he played the boyfriend angle well enough, he cringed and swallowed all his self-loathing as he added “❤️❤️.”

As usual, Cater was online and replied quickly (while Ortho stifled a giggle at Idia’s message) with “why lmao 😬.”

Idia sighed. He doubted Cater would know anything about anime, but then again, maybe confusing him was the right answer here. “yk the anime ‘another anime?’ i wanna watch it and its on there.”

“Add more hearts!” Ortho encouraged, so Idia let go of the last shred of his self-respect and added, “🥺❤️.” Well. Maybe this was a lost cause, because what good would it be if he managed to get the account deets if he was going to die of humiliation in the meantime?!

“ohhhhhhhh oki well see here’s the thing,” Cater responded, “i only have one screen available on this acc and im kinda already watching Another Anime rn on it soooo.”

Dumbfounded, Idia blinked at his tablet. Now that he remembered it, sometime somewhere he had heard that Cater occasionally watched anime. Not a lot of it, mind you, but he wasn’t completely immune to weeb culture. Idia couldn’t help the thought that’s kinda cool, NGL that bloomed in his mind upon realizing this information. Admittedly, the fact that Cater was watching Another Anime wasn’t particularly impressive, since Idia had heard that the show was a great gateway anime for those new to the genre; for seasoned isekai vets like him, the plot was said to be a little shallow, but still!

Before his thoughts could continue in this vein, Ortho pointed excitedly at the screen, where it showed that Cater had begun typing again.

“unless ……… wait a min 😏 (ugh feelsbadman that i have to unironically use the smirking emoji but newayz),” Cater began, and Idia felt his heart drop to his stomach. He did not like that smirky face, and he was very sure that it had to do with this whole “boyfriend” competition they had going on. “HOW ABOUT we—2 bfs i mean—watch Another Anime together??? Ykw? I’ll come over RN, we can snuggle under a blanket and enjoy the gentle comedy and fab character designs of Another Anime together!”

Idia went firetruck red. What the—? Why would—? Snuggle under a blanket? The only time snuggling was acceptable was when the snuggler was Idia and the snugglee was a fluffy kitty or, heck, even a waifu or husbando body pillow! The! Only! Time!

“He reallyis dedicated to Azul’s game,” Ortho noted once again as he peered at Idia’s tablet. “You’d have to be to have the confidence to say something like that.”

Right! Idia knew that! That’s why Cater had said what he did. He knew that, he swore. And yet, his face remained on fire. Gods, with the fervor of his insistence and the fierceness of his blush, he could put even the most pathetic of tsundere characters to shame.

“Y—yeah,” Idia said, not knowing why his voice had come out in a stutter—he was only talking to his brother, after all. He stared at Cater’s message and tried to regain his bearings. This was no time to blush as if he were the romantic interest in some basic shōjo manga—this was the time to play defense! He had the best gear at his disposal, too: his genius mind! Of course, said genius mind kind of felt as if it had melted into a puddle of goo, but he could make it work. Besides, the fact that he was blushing meant nothing—wait, no, it just meant that he was caught off guard! Which was what Cater was trying to do, anyways …

Idia cracked his knuckles. Okay, clearly Cater was just saying things to get him to ragequit Azul’s game. That was fair—Idia had been doing the same thing. So, all he had to do was … continue to do exactly what he had been doing before to try and unnerve Cater. “sure great idea come over” was the best reply he could come up with.

“Wow, brother! You’re just as into the game as Cater is!” said Ortho as his eyes widened when he saw what Idia had typed. He scanned the room around them. “Should I start getting cleaned up for when he arrives?”

“He’s not coming,” Idia insisted, his gaze scrutinizing as he watched the icon of Cater typing continue to glow for one minute, two minutes, three minutes. “He’s just bluffing, you’ll see, NW.”

Four minutes of typing later, Cater’s message finally blipped onto the screen. “KK! ill b there in 10! 😇😇😇😇😇😇😇😇😇😇😇”

Idia didn’t know what he hated more: those passive aggressive angel emojis or the fact that Cater had actually called his bluff and was coming! To! His! Room! And he only had ten minutes to prepare! He knew death was inevitable, but, gods, did it have to come so soon?

Ortho, for his part, was taking the news wonderfully and had immediately begun sprucing up Idia’s room by pushing the more suspect of his anime figurines under the bed, bringing the respectable ones to the front of his display case, cleaning up snack crumbs, and straightening up his posters and manga collection. On the other hand, Idia was sitting frozen on his chair, acting as if it was his sworn duty to imitate an ancient Greek frieze. An animated ancient Greek frieze, actually, as his mouth was opening and closing soundlessly in horror.

He was overcome with the urge to scroll through his and Cater’s messages again. Surely there was something he could say to revert this. Something that would make it so that Cater would not be barging into his bedroom to … snuggle? Something so that he could have both things—Cater’s DizzneeMinus account and Cater tapping out of Azul’s game—at the same time?

“Come on, Idia, look alive!” Ortho encouraged. “Sure, Cater will be here any minute, but think of it this way: you’ll still get to watch Another Anime!”

“While snuggling,” Idia added. He gagged.

Ortho rolled his eyes. “I really don’t think you need to worry about that. Cater isn’t completely without self-awareness, and I’m sure he only said that to make you nervous.”

Well, it worked!” He didn’t think he needed to apologize for how ridiculously high-pitched his voice had gotten just then, because his anxiety was so so so so warranted. When he had first read Cater’s message, he had begun blushing furiously. Upon realizing that “snuggling” was actually a possibility, Idia wanted to spontaneously combust. But maybe Ortho was right. Cater wasn’t Headmage Crowley. He did have an iota, at least, of self-awareness. Yeah … “snuggling” must’ve just been a bluff.

This didn’t really appease Idia as much as he thought it would, because there still was the prospect of social interaction to suffer through, and he wasn’t sure his social battery had enough juice for that.

“Wow, did you get sunburned or something?” Cater asked a few minutes later in greeting as Ortho let him into the room. He continued to survey Idia’s crimson face and pink-tinged hair. “L-O-L, what am I saying, you don’t go outside.”

“T—that’s ‘cause there a—are people outside,” Idia retorted. What kind of greeting was “did you get sunburned or something?” If you were going to barge into someone’s room, you might as well start with “Wow, you’re so brave for letting me into your private space,” or something!

Cater laughed and looked around. “Dude, this place is way cleaner than last time. Guess my warning was well-used. Oh! So that’s where I left my tea.” He reached out toward Idia’s shelf, where he had forgotten his bottled tea the day before. “Blech, not that it was any good. Vending machine tea is, like, super super mid.”

Who drank tea from a vending machine? Didn’t Cater know that there was way cooler stuff sold in there? Like collectibles? Chips? Energy drinks? Other easy-grab snackables? Full meals, even?

Whatever, this much small talk was getting nowhere. The whole point of this side quest was so that Idia could watch Another Anime. It was imperative that he start the quest chain ASAP.

“I’m going on a hover,” Ortho announced before Idia could get the anime-watching kickstarted. “I already watched the Another Anime trailer, and it doesn’t sound like my type of show.”

“But Ortho—” Idia started. Was his little brother going to abandon him with Cater again?!

Yes. Yes, he was, because he interrupted Idia with, “Okay, bye!” and flew out the door.

“Y’know what I just realized?” Cater said, staring at Ortho’s retreating figure thoughtfully. “He never gave me back my skateboard.” He waved a hand. “Whatevs, I’ll get it back later. Let’s start watching. I’m already on episode two, but I-D-M rewatching the first one.”

Idia didn’t say anything as he opened the DizzneeMinus website on his PC, which prompted Cater to input his account information. After he was logged on, Idia navigated to the Another Anime icon, clicked it, and leaned back in his chair to watch. Cater sat behind him on the bed, and Idia adjusted one of the holoscreen monitors so that it was visible from both the angles at which they were sitting.

He liked this arrangement. With Cater sitting on his bed, and him on his gaming chair, there was no danger of snuggling. Just two guys sitting five feet apart watching anime. Okay, it was more like three feet, but the point still stood. There was nothing weird going on. Everything was chill. He could enjoy Another Anime in peace.

Except that he wasn’t. The show had no redeeming qualities, he discovered, plot and character development-wise. Just from the first episode, Idia could tell who the endgame love interest was, so there was no point in dragging out the reverse-harem aspect, and he already could see the beginnings of unnecessary plot armor that would no doubt save the MC from multiple world-ending disasters.

And don’t get him started on the main villain! Apparently, in the show, seers had promised that he was going to be overthrown by a certain future hero, so the “villain” was doing everything he could to stop the hero from succeeding! How was that a bad thing? It was totally understandable! I mean, wouldn’t you have done the same? Sure, the villain had his henchmen kidnap the future hero as a baby from his parents and tried to have it killed in order to prevent the seers’ prophecy from coming true, but still!

In any case, Idia had to admit that Cater was right in one aspect, though—the character designs were fire, and the animation? It was on an entirely different level. The 2D parts were gorgeous, and the CGI was added tastefully and with a level of unparalleled finesse.

But Idia still couldn’t focus on even that, because he was hyperaware of Cater sitting next to him. This wasn’t because the Heartslabyul student was being any kind of disruption, no. From the corner of Idia’s eye, he could see that Cater’s gaze was glued to the monitor, and he was sitting incredibly still and being even more silent. His cheeks slightly puffed outwards, and his mouth was flattened into a straight line as his pupils followed the on-screen characters rapturously. He looked as if he was desperate to comment something, but Idia realized that he was probably holding himself back, rightly assuming that Idia was someone who didn’t appreciate interruptions when he was watching anime.

Okay, he had to admit it: he was kinda touched by the thought.

But still, it was weird seeing Cater Diamond sitting so quietly and still without a phone or skateboard in hand, and it was all Idia could do not to stare. He was almost creeped out, but, strangely enough, he couldn’t actually bring himself to be. Quiet Cater was an anomaly, a glitch in the Twisted Wonderland system, and although Idia appreciated the silence then, he kindofalmostsorta missed the incessant chatter.

Wow. Character development.He never thought he’d think that way about anyone, actually.

They watched three episodes in this fashion, and each one was more grueling than the last. Idia could not believe that this was the anime of the season. Three garbage episodes in a twelve-episode season was a lot, and, seriously, now the only thing that remained in the show’s favor was the animation. Even the character designs that he had once praised weren’t consistent in quality, since the protagonist seemed to get some kind of armor upgrade every single episode. And of course, each one came with its own two-minute-long transformation sequence. He could just die.

He kept a close watch on Cater as they cycled through these episodes, and each time he looked increasingly ready to burst from all the words that he was leaving unsaid. Even more shocking still, Idia noticed that Cater actually seemed to be enjoying Another Anime. Although he was respectfully quiet, his eyes widened during exciting scenes, he smiled through the transformation sequences, nodded along to the canned dialogue, and appeared genuinely distraught when the wow-I-totally-didn’t-see-that-coming betrayal arc took place.

It was Cater, however, that requested that the third episode be the last, because he had to head off to a Pop Music Club meeting soon. He was generous enough to keep his DizzneeMinus account logged in onto Idia’s device, so that if Idia wanted to continue watching without him, he could. Idia had to swallow a snicker. As if that would ever happen! TBH, if Cater hadn’t been so engrossed, he probably would’ve dropped Another Anime after the first episode. But, uh, how was he supposed to interrupt a guy who was trying so hard not to interrupt him?

Ortho apparently had returned Cater’s skateboard sometime during their viewing session, and it now sat against the wall. Idia watched Cater expertly pop its tail, the board springing into his hands. Cater grinned, said “No, but highkey, we should do this again. Bye-e-e-e-e Idia!” in salutation, gave a backwards wave, and was gone.

Idia slumped back in his chair, staring at his computer monitors. So. No snuggling had occurred. Heck, Cater hadn’t even mentioned it! He had indeed been bluffing, and Idia was so relieved at the fact. They had just spent the whole afternoon together, and Azul’s stupid game hadn’t even been brought up once. And it had been almost … pleasant.

Well, whatever. Cater Diamond remained the most top-tier of extroverts and just his fake boyfriend. It really didn’t matter whether or not Idia almost found him pleasant—it didn’t matter that he almost (seriously, only “almost”) was okay with having his solitude invaded if Cater Diamond was the one invading it.

He booted up his favorite MMORPG and adjusted his seat. It was going to be a long night, and he had games to play.

The next morning, which was Saturday, Idia awoke to the sound of rustling. He supposed Ortho was doing … uh, something, so he didn’t stir, but a moment later, he heard the foreign sound of someone’s phone notifications going off. His eyes flew open, and his mouth soon followed suit as he took in what was before him.

He let out a very shrill eep, and after blubbering like an idiot for a solid minute, Idia finally calmed himself enough to wipe the drool off his chin and say, “I—I … what are you—a—are you going through my wardrobe?”

Cater popped his head out from behind a wardrobe door. “Yeah, but not without permission,” he replied innocently.

Idia blinked at him groggily before whipping toward Ortho, who was hovering around the room, looking busy and pretending to be very much unaware of the glare his brother was shooting at him.

“He wanted to see if he could borrow one of your hoodies!” Ortho explained, finally turning to Idia after pointedly ignoring him. “Since I thought you’d be okay with that, I let him.”

“M—my hoodies?” Idia said. Nonononono. Why would anyone want to borrow his hoodies? Borrowing in-game gear like armor and stuff was fine, but uhhh, IRL clothes? Especially since hoodies were kind of Idia’s go-to outfit of choice?! Don’t hate—they were unobtrusive and low-profile, not to mention that the pockets lended well to carrying all sorts of things! Like his devices and snacks!

“Yeah,” went Cater, who was again buried in his wardrobe. “I mean, I feel that, as your boyfriend, I should probs be wearing your hoodies, y’know? As, like, symbolism and stuff?”

Idia’s eyes narrowed. The way that Cater had emphasized the word “boyfriend” made it very clear that he had Azul’s game in mind. Ahhh, by saying that Cater, Idia’s “boyfriend,” wasn’t allowed to borrow his hoodie—a classic boyfriend move—Idia would be forfeiting the ticket. That was maddeningly genius, but it wasn’t going to work.

Idia defeatedly slumped back into his bed and tried to suffocate himself with a pillow as Cater cackled and went back to searching.

A few moments later, he suddenly emerged from Idia’s wardrobe, a navy-blue hoodie in hand. “Sooo, I’m not gonna ask about the blue schoolgirl-skirt-thing—”

“I—uh, I” was all Idia could stutter. His skin had gone a brilliant shade of cherry, and his hair was starting to creep into pink. No way was he ever going to admit to his Seafarer Moon cosplay era! How had Cater even found that?!

Ortho’s eyes sparkled as he stared at the hoodie in Cater’s hands. “Put it on! Put it on!”

Both Idia’s and Cater’s eyes bulged at this—Idia’s in horror and Cater’s in shock. “Um … okay, I guess? I highkey just asked for it to see if Idia’d freak out. I mean, I thought he’d stop me before I got this far, but …” he beamed, although there was something devious about it, “sure, I will.”

A scream flew out of Idia’s lips, although it was muffled, because, well, you know, he still had a pillow over his face. This could not be happening. That was it. He had to—he had to do something! He sprang up to sit on his bed, only to be greeted with a sight that made his heart skip a beat.

Idia had seen this scene play out a million times across pretty much every form of media, and he despised how accurately it fit his current situation. Person B wears Person A’s hoodie. Person B looks amazing in it, and Person A has an aneurysm from seeing them because ohgodstheylooksogood. If Idia were a cartoon, his nose would’ve started bleeding like a faucet right about then. Or maybe his eyes would’ve turn into bright pink hearts—it would really depend on the genre of cartoon, he realized.

Cater wasn’t much shorter than Idia, but as the hoodie was oversized, he was practically drowning in fabric. His hands only grazed the ends of the sleeves and all that could be seen poking out of them were the tips of his fingers, and the body part of the hoodie seemed to swallow him.

As Cater examined his appearance in his phone’s camera, Idia sat there short-circuiting. What, what, what was happening? Why was his brain refusing to focus on the fact that he needed to get his hoodie off Cater, and instead was concentrating on how good Cater looked in it?

“Ugh, Idia, what do you do—keep snacks in here?” Cater asked, not noticing Idia’s blush as he scooped Dorito crumbs out of the hoodie pocket.

“O—of course!” That was one of the main use cases for any pocket, period!

Cater grimaced and picked out more crumbs. “You know, I have half a mind to wash this, but then it’d probably end up smelling like laundry detergent, and not, like, y’know, good like it does now, ‘cause R-N, it kinda smells like yo—” Just then, Cater stopped short and his eyes flew open. He looked remarkably similar to how videogame sprites did whenever they were suddenly betrayed by their emotions. As Ortho and Idia stared at him curiously, he hastily removed the hoodie, dropped it onto the bed, muttered something that sounded like, “SoAnywayIpromisedTreyI’dGetHimSomethingDon’tAskMeWhatItIsB-CIDon’tKnowOkayBye,” and sprinted out of the room. He didn’t even stay long enough for the final word to extend for a whole three beats as it usually did.

Idia went to retrieve the hoodie and brush his teeth, feeling very very confused at Cater's reaction.

A whiff of something that smelled vaguely like playing cards and black tea wafted from the fabric now. He couldn’t place the scent and shrugged as he put it on.

It wasn’t until a couple of minutes later, when his mouth brimmed over with suds and a toothbrush hung out of his mouth, did he realize what he was smelling. Upon this realization, he, too, threw off the hoodie and cast it to the floor.

Yep, yep, okay, most definitely. He had somehow screwed himself into the bad ending of, oh, he didn’t know—life?! He stared at the navy-blue fabric on the ground. That didn’t really answer the million-dollar question, though: why the heck did Cater Diamond smell so good?!

Notes:

Yes, yes, the villain plot Idia was lamenting over is just Hades' storyline from Hercules lol

Chapter 3: In Which Cater and Idia Are Immature Teenage Boys

Notes:

Some Things to Note Before You Start Reading!

  1. Okay, so before you come at me for a certain part in this chapter—you'll know it when you read it, lol—just remember that Cater and Idia are eighteen years old! They're immature and kind of dumb! They say stupid things and make stupid jokes! And, well, just keep the title of this chapter in mind when you read this one.
  2. I realized that I had committed the ultimate crime in writing, like, fifty thousand words about gamer Hades without making a reference to the game Hades, so I rectified that in this chapter.
  3. In my other Idia/Cater story, so I'll dance with Cinderella, I had a chapter entitled "THE AUTHOR CANNOT DRAW, SORRY." You will see why it's titled that in this chapter. I apologize in advance for subjecting you to my atrocities.

Chapter Text

Cater didn’t come over for several days after that. Which was good. It was normal. Totally normal. And after he had color-safe bleached his hoodie, Idia, too, was perfectly normal. Yes, in case you were wondering, he always did get excited seeing the four of diamonds whenever he shuffled a deck of cards in Board Game Club, and yes, he always did drink vending machine tea when he was thirsty! And despite whatever you may have heard, he always had been on skateboarding TwistTok—this was not a new interest whatsoever! Yepyepyep, he was behaving perfectly normally.

One night, after completing a dungeon in his favorite roguelike videogame, Pluto, Idia was feeling snackish. Bottled tea was an excellent thirst-quencher when Mountain Dew and energy drinks were unavailable, but it was no match for the munchies. Luckily, Idia was well-acquainted with the school store vending machine, and so, as Ortho recharged peacefully in his station, Idia made his way over to it.

Hmm, but what should he get? The DIY sushi candy kit that came with tools to mold your sushi roll into the shape of a cat’s head was out of stock last time he had checked, and he was sure that the sour gummy worms were also cleaned out. And because life was just that unfair, the Hatsune-Miku-themed jellybeans would probably be gone, too!

These horrible visions plagued Idia’s mind as he neared the vending machine. Unfortunately, he forgot to do a quick stealth check before making his way over to it and didn’t notice that there was already someone standing in line at the machine. He was spotted before he could bolt. This was particularly tragic because the person who had noticed him was Cater Diamond.

Both he and Cater were faintly pink as Cater greeted, “Hey, Idia. Fancy seeing you here at …” he glanced at his phone screen, “one in the morning. Wait, that’s not fancy at all, since you give me major night owl vibes. Super on brand, methinks. Whatcha up to?”

“Just … y’know, gaming.” Idia had half a mind to turn back and forgo the snacks. Conversation and money were too far a price to pay for whatever leftovers were in the vending machine. But wait! From where he was standing, he could see a single box of teal jellybeans through the vending machine’s glass window. Okay, so maybe he would stay.

Cater sighed. “Well, that’s more fun than me, I guess. I’ve got a Potionology written exam tomorrow and I know nothing. And Riddle’s sooo gonna be mad if I do bad on it, so I’m pulling the ultimate all-nighter to see how much material I can absorb in a few hours. Which is why,” he tapped the vending machine, “I’m waiting for that bottle of caffeinated tea to dispense. And—hey!” Both he and Idia watched in horror as the last box of Miku jellybeans dropped into the pickup port. Cater squinted at the machine labels. “Um, F-Y-I, this is totally not what I ordered. My fault, probably—must’ve misclicked—since the tea I wanted is at spot A7 and these jellybeans are A8. Guess I’ll just have to pay again. Here, you like Vocaloid, right? Take ‘em.” He tossed the box to Idia and turned to feed more thaumarks into the machine.

Idia managed to miss the box completely and it dropped to the floor. After he picked it up, he spent a solid forty seconds staring, his eyes wide, at Cater as if he had just given him the most precious object in all of Twisted Wonderland, before he realized he probably looked really stupid and muttered, “Oh, uh, th—thanks.”

He was about to turn to leave when the vending machine dispensed something else and Cater began to speak again. Speak was a strong word, actually. Whatever came out of his mouth just then sounded more like a very very pained groan. “Great, and this one isn’t even caffeinated. How am I supposed to have the energy to stay up late if there’s no caffeine?”

Idia wanted to point out that maybe if Cater had paid more attention in Potionology, he would know that caffeine would only make him feel less tired, not give him more energy. However, what he actually said was, “I—if you want, I can help you study. You probably won’t have to stay up late, then, since I’m pretty much a top-tier genius and can speedrun you through whatever you need.”

What?! Where had that come from? Yes, he was a genius, everyone knew that, but since when did he offer to help extroverts for no reason?! Never, that’s when! At that moment, Idia seriously wished he was the robot, and not Ortho. Because, if he were a robot, he could easily assess what the heck his problem was and fix it ASAP. But, since he wasn’t, he was left wondering how his mouth and mind could possess such a disconnect.

Despite feeling overcome with the need to backtrack and rescind what he had just offered, Idia couldn’t help but feel a bit flattered as Cater’s eyes widened, and he snapped his fingers. “Wait, seriously? No cap? N-G-L, this is probably the most surprised I’ve been, like, ever. This is perfect! We’ll meet in your room, ‘kay, but give me a sec to run back to Heartslabyul to get my notes.”

As Cater sped to the Hall of Mirrors, Idia was left there standing with his jellybeans and blinking wildly in confusion. Again, what had just happened? Moreover, how could he have let it happen? This would be the third time Cater Diamond had hung out in his room. That already was a startling statistic, but it was nothing compared to the fact that this was the first time Idia had volunteered to hang out with him.

Even more harrowing? Idia hadn’t even thought of Azul’s game when he had enlisted to help. He had had no ulterior motives! And he wasn’t even planning on finding a way to turn this whole encounter into something that involved the game.

What was wrong with him?!

Maybe he should just make a break for it before Cater returned with his notes. Yeah, yeah, he could do that. He could ragequit this round of socialization. Well, not ragequit ragequit, because he wasn’t mad. More like … nervousquit? Oh, totally, yeah, he could nervousquit. And he was going to!

He was poised to run over to the Hall of Mirrors himself before something in him prickled in defiance. The feeling grew more and more barbarous, more and more uncomfortable until it reached a point where he could ignore it no longer. Idia sighed and squeezed his box of jellybeans. Okay, fine. There was a part of him that wasn’t totally ready to ditch Cater. It was the same part that knew that his nervousquitting wasn’t entirely because of his social anxiety—the same part that controlled how fast his heart beat and how red his face became around Cater.

“Whoa, dude, Idia, no one’s going to take those from you,” a voice said suddenly. A second later, Cater reappeared, his eyebrows raised at Idia’s box of jellybeans, which he had yet to stop squeezing.

Idia unclenched immediately and surveyed Cater, who now held an unassuming red notebook in his hand. Interesting. Archaic, even. With how technologically-savvy Cater was, Idia half-expected that he would take his notes on a computer, as he did. “So … so you really want to study then?” Wow, the way his voice had just gotten higher made him sound like a prepubescent Fury.

“For sure!” Cater flipped through his notebook. “I mean, you said you’re a genius, and I totes believe ya, since anyone who built Ortho must be, y’know, kinda smart. Don’t get me wrong—I know that Potionology and … um, techy-science stuff aren’t the same thing, but hey!” He made a pair of finger guns. “I’m sure you helping me out would be leagues better than me sitting around by myself trying to memorize all these Potionology terms.”

He gulped. Great. Run a ready check. Idia Shroud really was about to help Cater Diamond study for an exam.

They walked to the Hall of Mirrors in silence, mainly because Idia was internally freaking out and Cater was busy poring over his notebook. When Idia finally opened the door to his room, he really wished the first thing they weren’t greeted with were several empty bottles of tea. And fruit snack wrappers. Man, he really did live like a slob when Ortho wasn’t powered on.

Speaking of Ortho, Cater’s eyes widened when he saw the little robot upright in his charging station. “Whoa, sorry, didn’t realize your brother would be sleeping.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “Should we go somewhere else?”

“Nah, don’t worry about it. He’s only recharging, and he won’t reawaken until he’s all done.” Wow! No stuttering that time! Maybe he was starting to get the hang of this whole talking-to-people thing. “A—anyways,” damn it, “what parts do you want help with?”

Cater slumped onto Idia’s bed and considered his notebook. “Um … good question …” He continued to page through his notes, making annoyed faces as he went.

Idia watched him, wondering if there was any way to make this whole process easier for the both of them. “Wh— … how about you let me look at your notes and see if there are any gaps I can fill in?” Ooooh, yes, kudos to him for that SSS-tier idea. Perusing through notes was an excellent way to make good on his offer to help and to minimize social interaction.

“K-K,” Cater consented, handing Idia the notebook. “But don’t judge me too harshly when you see what’s in there.” His sweat-smile emoji impersonation returned in full force.

His senses suddenly shifting into high-alert mode, Idia sat down in his chair, took the book cautiously, and began to flip through it. It was then that he understood what Cater meant about “judging him too harshly.” There were many topic headers depicting various Potionology units and a couple of notes bulleted under each section, but for the most part, Cater’s notes were staggeringly threadbare. Well, except for the first page, which was heavily decorated with washi tape and stickers. Raising an eyebrow, he shoved the offending sheet in Cater’s direction.

“See, that was from the beginning of the year, when I tried to do bullet journaling with my notes, you know, to ✨ inspire ✨ me to actually look over them after class. I kinda dropped it when I realized that all the bullet journaling inspo on Magicam features a bunch of cutesy stuff, and, eh, that’s not really my thing.” Cater shrugged.

Idia blinked at him and flipped to another page completely devoid of Potionology content. “Yeah … yeah, but that doesn’t explain the doodles.”

Cater scooted over to where Idia sat, once again flooding his senses with the smell of playing cards and black tea. It was all he could do not to bury his face in his hands and drop to the floor like a traumatized, pining MC from a dating sim. “L-M-A-O, okay, admittedly, those aren’t my best work, but here, here, look. That’s Vil,” he pointed to a nondescript stick figure that didn’t look anything like Vil, “and that’s me.”

Idia was no stranger to visual analysis—being an avid manga reader and all—and he couldn’t ignore the strange poking sensation that plagued him when he noticed how close stick-figure-Vil and stick-figure-Cater were standing.

However, the feeling somewhat subsided when he noticed the other doodle drawn in the corner of the page. He was even a little bit flattered by it, really, for Cater’s drawings were exclusively done in plain black ballpoint pen, and all of the little figures looked nearly identical. He clearly hadn’t put much effort into adding details to all except the corner one. Cater had seemed to go the extra mile with that drawing, somehow procuring a blue highlighter and pen to add a certain standout attribute to the otherwise featureless stick figure.

“Is that … is that supposed to be me?” Idia asked, pointing to the doodle in question. The poorly-drawn mane of blue hair was the most obvious cue ever, but he had to ask. They examined the drawing together.

gay chicken - Adverb_slu*t - Twisted-Wonderland (Video Game) [Archive of Our Own] (1)

“Yepyep! I was super bored one day listening to the lecture, and I thought of you, so, yeah! Had to dig through my pencil case for the right pens and stuff, but I think this one turned out pretty okay!”

The more Idia looked at it, the more concerned he became, because despite the appreciation he had for the extra … time and effort … Cater had put into his doodle of him, he had included something on Idia’s … person that he was sure that his IRL self didn’t have. He felt his left eye twitch, and he didn’t know if he wanted to burst out laughing, be hideously offended, or bury his face in his pillow as he stared at the doodle. “I—I … uh, I just didn’t realize I had so much … ‘plot.’”

Cater looked at him curiously. “W-D-Y-M, ‘plot?’”

“Yo—you know. ‘Plot.’ ‘Oppai.’” Cater still stared at him blankly. Idia’s face was turning crimson-er by the minute, and he wished he had said nothing at all. Gods, what was a non-weeby way to say this? He pointed to the comically round … protrusions … on his doodle-self’s chest area. “‘Badonkadonks.’ ‘Honkers.’ ‘Mommy milkers.’” He closed his eyes, because that somehow would make this situation less embarrassing. “‘Boobies.’”

Cater grinned, his eyes glimmering with mischief. “Yeah, I knew what you meant when you said ‘plot.’ I lowkey just wanted to hear you try to explain yourself.” He cackled at Idia’s horrified sputtering and continued, “And besides, those aren’t your …” Cater snickered, “‘badonkadonks.’ Those are your headphones! They’re hanging around your neck, see?”

What? “My headphones?! In what world are those supposed to be headphones?!” Didn’t Cater know anything about, oh, perspective? Headphones, when viewed from the front and when wrapped around a neck, would have the earpads facing each other, not the chest! And if Idia’s headphones were that big, he was pretty sure his skull would’ve been crushed by now. Note to self: when he was done helping Cater in Potionology, he was going to give him a long lesson in basic drawing principles.

Um … not that he was looking for any more reasons to have Cater hang out with him.

Anyways

“These are totally headphones!” Cater insisted. He grabbed the notebook back from Idia and began turning it in various angles. “You know, I mean … if you look at them like …,” he frowned and tried a different point of view, “this.”

As much as Idia longed to argue, he felt as if he couldn’t say much. The fact that Cater had even drawn him at all was something he couldn’t help but fixate on. What had he said? “‘And I thought of you?’” Cater thought of him when he wasn’t around? Like the way Idia did of him every time he had his hoodie on even after he had bleached it? He didn’t know what to do with that information except to let it repeat in his head so many times that he blushed, hoped to the gods that his hair wasn’t turning pink, and turned back to his computer monitors to hide his face.

Oh, gods, he needed words. Words to bring the subject back to something safer. Art and doodles should’ve been an okay topic, but now it was tainted! Tainted with people thinking of other people and of … well, he wasn’t going to lie, that doodle of Vil and Cater was going to loom in his nightmares, no doubt. “S—so, if you want, I can pull up my notes and … and write down a walkthrough of the sections you need. Unless … unless you want me to just email you my notes so you can study from them?”

“Normally, I’d be like ‘for sure, send that email!’ But I literally would get so distracted if I had to study from a computer, so nah, I-Y-D-M, I’d prefer if they were handwritten.”

And so, thirty minutes passed in which Idia did the most primitive thing ever: transcribe all his notes from his computer into Cater’s notebook. It totally didn’t help that every few moments, Cater would look over his shoulder, say some cursory words of encouragement, and then go back to scrolling through his Magicam feed. For anyone else, Idia probably would’ve started complaining and muttering profanities to himself, but … he kind of didn’t mind this time? He didn’t know why. Maybe it was because every time Cater materialized by his shoulder and whispered a vote of thanks or a cheery motivational quote ripped straight from an online moodboard, Idia felt strangely light, like a swarm of butterflies had flown into his throat and were propelling him straight into the clouds.

Ooooh, no, even better! It was like the euphoria he felt when he got an extremely rare drop from a super hard boss he’d just defeated! See? Who said he couldn’t be poetic?

“Hey, Idia,” Cater asked, just as Idia was about to let him know he was finished, both mentally from thinking so much and physically with the notes. He turned his phone’s screen so that it faced them both. A meme was plastered across it. “Do you get this?”

Squinting at the meme, Idia was impressed. To understand it, you would have to be chronically online for several years, at least, and you would need to have an intimate knowledge of five other memes. Idia tried to explain all the background parts, but Cater stopped him and insisted, “No, no, I know all that. Do you get the geeky stuff?”

Oh. Yeah, now that he looked at it, to have a fuller understanding of the meme, you would have to know the basics of quadratic probing and hash functions.

After Idia explained, Cater nodded. “Ooooh, gotcha. Sorry for the question when you’re already busy helping me. It’s just that somehow my Magicam feed is now a bunch of programming stuff—whichhasnothingtodowithoyouB-T-W—” Idia had now turned back to his monitors and didn’t notice Cater’s vermillion face at these words— “and I was just curious.”

Idia assured him it was “all good,” because he wasn’t sure what else to say. His brain was still reeling from, well … everything. And in any case, he was kind of impressed with Cater’s knowledge of the dankest of memes. He’d kind of assumed that he’d consider himself too cool to be privy to that kind of lore.

“Idia, seriously, you’re the best for doing this. I sooo owe you one,” Cater said, beaming as he finally handed him a notebook now full of Potionology notes. “No, but actually. If you ever need anything, just L-M-K, because I am now your guy.”

“I—it’s … it’s no big deal.” Idia sank back in his chair as Cater flipped through the new notes. Turning back to his still-open round of Pluto, he resumed the game, and tried to relax. It was difficult, though, because he was highly aware that Cater was still in the room. Idia was so distracted that he managed to lose all three of his lives in the same dungeon, and to make matters more humiliating, he had lost all his HP to easily-avoidable environmental traps instead of enemy attacks! Concentrating on anything clearly was a lost cause, so he quit the game and opened his Hatsune Miku jellybeans. As he munched, his gaze flitted over again to the printout of Azul’s ticket on his desk.

Almost choking on a peach-flavored jellybean, Idia realized that he really had done it. He’d just spent an entire forty-five minutes helping Cater with something that was entirely inconsequential to himself without even thinking of the Some Idol Group ticket.

That was so messed up!

He watched Cater flip from page to page of his notebook, his eyes wide as he took in the detail Idia had used to describe certain Potionology terms. Admittedly, Idia’s own notes weren’t nearly as comprehensive—being a genius and all, he didn’t feel the need to write everything down. But as Cater had in his doodle of him, Idia had gone the extra mile in adding more effort in the notes he had written. It was a fair game, he thought.

Cater suddenly put down the notes and kicked himself off the bed. Looking at Idia so square in the eye that Idia immediately returned to his sworn duty of avoiding eye contact and staring at the ground, Cater said, “Okay, you know what? What you did for me today is kinda huge, no doubt. And I-K I just said I owe you one, so here: why don’t Idrumroll please …” Idia made an effort to drumroll, and he watched with bated breath, “… teach you how to skateboard? It’s not a skill I’d pass on to just anyone, and besides, learning how to board would defo make you, like, twenty percent cooler.”

Idia’s open jaw snapped shut. Had he been hoping that Cater would repay him for helping him study by giving him the ticket? Kinda! Getting it that night hadn’t been his original intention, but it definitely would’ve been a nice gesture!

Seeing Idia’s expression, Cater grinned. “You didn’t really think I’d say I’d give you the ticket, did you? C’mon Idia, I know I’m extra awesome, but not that much!”

Slumping down in his chair, Idia feebly replied, “But I don’t … wanna learn how to skateboard.” That was the easier thing to address rather than his crushed dreams. And either way, it was true. That level of physical activity was far too taxing for someone like him, and not to mention, skateboarding was by far one of the most normie sports there was. He may have played every single game in the Tony Hawk’s game series, but that didn’t mean he wanted to actually learn how to skateboard IRL!

Okay, fine. Had skateboarding in the games been a lot of fun? Yes. Had he thought that the moves looked really cool? Yes. But, still, learning how to actually do them would require a level of discipline and training he sooo was not interested in putting in!

Idia’s indecision was smeared across his face, so Cater mimicked another pair of finger guns and said, his voice dripping with insinuation, “It’ll be fuuun, I promise. And I totally wouldn’t take you somewhere crowded like a skate park, or something. If the Basketball Club’s not using it, we could go to the Gymnasium.” He folded his hands into some kind of pleading motion. “Come onnn, help a guy out! It’ll be a favor to both you and me! Well, mostly me, obvi, ‘cause it’d absolve me of my debt for these notes.”

This new information regarding location mollified Idia a bit. Sort of. And the prospect of learning how to skateboard was tantalizing. His entire week was free, too, since he’d already speedran through his anime and manga rec list. And Cater’s eyes were so pleading then as he shuffled closer and closer to Idia.

Playing cards and black tea, playing cards and black tea thumped in his mind, and he was shocked that the entire dorm couldn’t hear how loud his heart was beating just then. The only time he’d ever been this obnoxious was when he’d ended up in one of the good endings in Some Super Sappy Romantic Visual Novel.

Idia didn’t really want to say “fine. You can teach me.” But upon looking at Cater, he sighed and said it anyway. He supposed he could indulge this normie just this once.

Chapter 4: Embarrassing Encounter

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

After Idia’s consent to be taught the ancient and hallowed art of skateboarding, a date and time for the lesson had been fixed, and before long, it arrived.

Aaand Idia had yet to make it to his and Cater’s predetermined destination—the NRC Gymnasium—because he was too busy arguing with his brother as to how much skateboarding gear he was supposed to wear. Which, in his opinion, was none, because there was nothing badass about walking around covered in various types of padding. The only exception as to who could pull that off, of course, was the Michelin Man, but come on, what was Idia to him?

Just then, Ortho hovered several feet into the air so that he nearly knocked into the ceiling of their bedroom. His yellow eyes blazed and his glare was fierce. “Brother! You have to wear a helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads!”

Idia sniffed indignantly at Ortho’s emphasis on the word “you” and he countered, “Does a helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads make me look as cool as the final boss in Some Game 14?”

“They’ll … make you look like a very safe and responsible housewarden.”

“Then no.”

Idia adjusted his helmet as he neared the Gymnasium a few minutes later. Gods, he looked so stupid with it on (the only kind of helmet he could be reconciled into wearing was one that could turn him invisible!), but Ortho had finally convinced him with a very passionate tirade that went as such: “Idia! Not wearing a helmet while skateboarding is a safety hazard! I know you might not care, but you’re my brother, and I do not want to be mopping up your brains when you inevitably bash your head into a wall!”

Thanks for the vote of confidence, little brother.

Ortho was right to worry, however, for Idia was also sure that today’s lesson would very well end with him on the receiving end of many bruises and scrapes. As always, he was dressed in long pants—no one wanted to see his pasty legs—but he was sure that with his athletic prowess, he’d have the knees torn up in no time (he had convinced Ortho to forgo the elbow and knee pads), what with all the falling off skateboards that was bound to ensue.

Perhaps the worry migrated from his brain to his face, because Cater, who was already at the Gymnasium and juggling a pair of skateboards, grinned good-naturedly. “You don’t have to look so scared Idia. It’s not like I’m gonna teach you how to ollie on the first day!”

Ooooh, if Idia was remembering his Tony Hawk correctly, learning how to do an ollie would be cool. But! He had no plans on sitting for more than one lesson of skateboarding; that would have to be enough to mollify Cater and make him no longer feel indebted to him. Nevertheless, Cater’s statement brought on a fresh wave of trepidation, and Idia had to ask, “T—then what are you gonna teach me?”

“Well, I mean, we’ll start with the basics, obvi.” Cater dropped both boards onto the ground. One was a deep red and the other a navy blue, and he slid the blue one to Idia with his foot. Not realizing he was supposed to stop it, Idia watched the board slide toward him, and it crashed hard against his ankle. “Aaaand the first tip I’ll start with is to not stand still like a tree, ‘cause trees aren’t very agile and you kinda need to be if you’re gonna skateboard.”

Right! Idia knew that. As he rubbed his leg, where he could already feel a bruise forming, he grimaced and said, “Got it. What next?”

“Okay, bet, let’s see!” He glanced down at Idia’s sneakers. “Hm, guess those shoes’ll have to do since I’m p’ sure I forgot to advise you on footwear beforehand. You kinda wanna get shoes that have flat bottoms.” He waved his own shoe in the air to show off the level soles and then grinned wickedly. “Though I guess you and your gaming chair already know all about flat bottoms.” Laughing as Idia sputtered, scandalized, he continued, “Okokok, soz, soz, let’s get back to the lesson. Anyway, looks like all there’s left to do is to get you on the board!” Rolling the red skateboard closer to himself, Cater nodded. “Just watch how I’m stepping on and copy my actions. Stand with your feet slanted.”

Watching carefully as Cater easily hopped onto the board, feet angled and balance perfectly maintained, Idia attempted to mimic him. The first time he tried, he brought his foot down too hard on one side and the skateboard skidded out from underneath him. The second attempt was no better, but on the third, he managed to get both feet planted on the board. This would’ve been a moment worth celebrating, if he hadn’t began to feel himself wobble precariously immediately afterwards.

He would’ve crashed to the ground, if Cater hadn’t leaped off his own skateboard and grabbed his hands to steady him. Idia turned violently red, but Cater laughed and reassured him, “N-W, my guy, it’s actually kinda difficult finding your footing for the first time. I make it look easy only ‘cause I have excellent balance.”

That was hardly reassuring.

Idia felt his face grow hotter, and his heart started pounding when he realized that Cater’s fingers, in an effort to help him regain his steadiness, were intertwined with his own. He almost felt his legs give way, but he managed to realign himself just in time. Wow, he was pathetic. Holding hands with a boy was all it took for him to faint like someone with an iron deficiency? “What—what am I supposed to do now?”

Cater was still clutching his hands and drew closer. “Hm, just do what I told you before and try to angle your feet on the board—that’ll help you out, y’know, balance-wise.”

His fingers still laced with Cater’s, Idia slowly tried to make microadjustments by shuffling his feet until he could stand up straight and so that he was no longer only leaning on Cater for support.

When Cater felt Idia’s weight shift from him, he nodded and loosened his grip. “You’ve got it?”

“I’ve got it.” Probably.

“You’ve got it?” Cater repeated, carefully pulling his hands away and backing toward a wall. He still kept close in case Idia suddenly lost his balance.

Although he felt a tad shaky, Idia forced himself to summon +1,000 Courage and reiterated, “I’ve got it.” And he did. He was standing on a skateboard. Okay, considering his arms were stretched out away from his body so as to help him balance, he was T-posing on a skateboard. But still!

“Nice!” Cater gave a whoop of encouragement. “Onto the fun part: actually skating! He ran toward where he had left his skateboard. “Like before, it’s easier if I show you.” He began his demonstration, narrating as he went. “When you want to push off, you’re gonna wanna turn your front foot so it’s kinda parallel to the board, and then use your back foot to do the actual pushing. Make sure once you’re moving to bring your feet back to the slightly angled position you’re in now.”

At this, he gestured toward Idia, who had yet to move from where he stood, lest he lose his newly-gained balance. “And then when you wanna stop,” Cater let his foot graze the shiny Gymnasium floor before he planted it firmly onto the ground and his board slid to a halt, “do that. Normally, I’d be like, ‘hardwood floors aren’t ideal for beginners who haven’t learned to brake yet,’ but it’ll probably be N-B-D, as long as you don’t go too fast. Sooo, don’t do that.”

That was a lot of information to take in at once, and Idia couldn’t help but wonder if there was some kind of online walkthrough he could look up to streamline the whole process.

Apparently, to Cater Diamond, Idia Shroud was an open book, and he perceptively said, “Here, I’ll go through it again. Afterwards, I’ll stand over there,” he pointed to a wall opposite them, “and you can practice skating over to me, ‘kay?”

Idia nodded, and after Cater’s second attempt at the lesson, he finally decided to try pushing off and skating. As he had said before, Cater went to go stand by the wall and motioned Idia to skate toward him. Taking a deep breath, Idia adjusted his helmet, counted to six, rearranged his feet as instructed, braced his back leg, and pushed.

The speed at which he shot off was highly reminiscent of a ruminating tortoise.

How anticlimactic.

He supposed he hadn’t put very much force behind his push and as such, his acceleration was near nonexistent. It was kind of pathetic, he thought, as he rolled, painfully slowly, in Cater’s direction, and it most definitely did not feel like a videogame.

Cater watched him, looking amused as he absentmindedly fingered his earring. “You can push your leg again while moving, y’know, if you feel like you’re slowing down—which you are.” He snickered. “Come on, Idia, are you even moving now?”

Idia flushed. Oh. He hadn’t realized that the wheels on his skateboard had stopped rolling. Once again, he pressed his foot into the ground and pushed off. This time, he used more force, and his board moved faster.

“Whooo! That’s more like it!” cheered Cater as Idia trundled toward him at a respectable speed. A vibration sounded from his pocket, and he quickly held up a hand. “Gimme a sec. You can keep moseying toward me, but I’ve gotta respond to Kalim real quick.”

That was fine by him. Idia could feel himself decelerating, and before he came to a natural stop, he pushed his back leg into the ground to move faster. He was even more forceful this time, perhaps a little too forceful.

He now felt a burst of speed and before he knew it, he was careening toward Cater, his arms windmilling wildly as he tried his very best not to fall off. The bottom of his sneaker scraped against the ground as he tried to brake, but no matter how much pressure he sent, the hardwood floor of the Gymnasium was far too slippery and he was going far too fast. Any control he had over where he skated was gone.

Cater was still typing away on his phone, and Idia was right on track to collide with him. White dread coursed through him like poison, but what could he do? He tried to steer himself into the wall (as if crashing into it would be better!), but to no avail; they had yet to cover how to properly turn on a skateboard.

He had no choice but to screech, “W—watch out!”

Cater looked up instantly, but he didn’t get a chance to dodge out of the way, and his usually-beaming mouth dropped open in horror as Idia barreled toward him.

Idia shut his eyes as he sped closer and closer to Cater and to the wall, and moments before he felt himself slam into both body and concrete, he held out his arms and stretched out one of his legs, miraculously not losing his balance. This was evidently a smart thing to do, for instead of his entire person colliding with Cater, Idia’s arms braced against the wall around him, while his outstretched leg buckled as he used it as a brake. The rest of his body and the skateboard shuddered as they abruptly stopped inches away from Cater.

He ventured one eye open. Cater was still gaping at him.

Oh gods, what had he done?

Almost fulfilled Ortho’s prophecy about him bashing his head into a wall, that’s what! And not only that, he’d almost seriously injured Cater. Okay, that was it! He was never doing anything athletic ever again!

His throat felt dry, and a thousand stuttery apologies were on his tongue as he opened the other eye. But no words came out of his mouth when he realized what kind of position he was in.

As they were standing, Idia had Cater pinned against the wall. His arms were still propped around him and his leg was still stretched out onto the cement.

Oh.

Gods.

He had seen this scene play out in only every romance anime and manga ever.

Kabedon.

He knew right then that there wouldn’t have been a single strand of his hair that wasn’t bright red, and he could feel from the burn of his skin that his face wasn’t far off. His heart was thumping even louder than before, and judging from how close they were, he was sure Cater could hear it. The scent of black tea and playing cards blossomed under his nose, and although his throat was devoid of a single drop of moisture, he swallowed hard, and it hurt.

Idia would’ve backed away immediately if he hadn’t noticed that Cater’s face, too, was such a bright shade of crimson that the diamond on his cheek looked invisible. His gaping mouth had shut, and now he looked rattled in a way that didn’t insinuate he had almost been crushed into smithereens. In fact, he looked … flustered. Delighted, almost. His green eyes belied nothing short of a pleased sort of agitation and burgeoning anticipation.

His palms suddenly slick with sweat, Idia almost felt his arms slide out from under him, but he braced himself against the wall even harder. Unfortunately, this pressed him more into Cater, and suddenly their torsos were actually touching.

Cater only heightened their physical contact as he strained himself on his tiptoes and leaned close, his lips brushing against Idia’s ear as he whispered, “Y’know, Idia—no cap—you smell a lot like pomegranate energy drinks and TCG cards.” His voice was lower and more husky than Idia had ever heard it, and he felt his entire body convulse with a relishing shiver.

“Y—yeah, well, you … you,” Idia’s voice dropped several octaves as well, which was shocking because usually when he was this nervous, he had a tendency to become incredibly shrill, “smell like playing cards and black tea.”

Every iota of thought vanished from Idia’s mind as Cater leaned back against the wall and turned to look curiously into his face, not bothering to move the arms that trapped him. Expectancy wafted through the air like … well, his mind was too cloudy to think of a proper simile, but Idia knew was that if Cater was looking at him like that, then they were probably very close to an extremely climactic scene in (SFW!) shōjo manga—a scene that usually involved lips crashing onto lips.

Lucky for him, Idia was keenly aware that real life never did actually echo manga. He was definitely just imagining things—like the look in Cater’s eyes and the color in his cheeks—and Idia really really really needed to get out of the Gymnasium and fast because he didn’t think he had it in him to deal with an Embarrassing Encounter today. And even if he wasn’t just being delusional, he had to get going anyway becausebecausebecause, but for some reason, his legs refused to move.

The only thing present in that moment were Idia’s eyes, which widened as Cater’s inquisitive gaze turned into something like realization and he slowly, slowly craned his neck and leaned closer, closer. This time, he didn’t stop at Idia’s ear, and Idia didn’t move as Cater tilted his head so that their faces were only centimeters from each other.

Idia gulped as Cater’s warm breath and familiar scent mingled with his own. This was the moment to press “esc”—this was the time for him to remember that he was usually highly uncomfortable with this kind of thing, and to remember Azul’s game and think Cater was just toying with him, even if his eyes, which were half-lidded now, said otherwise.

This was the time for a lot of things, but all Idia did was close his eyes and feel that all was right in the world as Cater’s lips met his.

Notes:

Just to let you guys know—@DatBoredPencil1 on Twitter drew this actually amazing art that was inspired by the ending of this chapter! So cool!!!

(Here is their Tumblr link to to the art as well!)

Chapter 5: You're Not My Boyfriend

Notes:

It's over! I apologize for the shortness of this chapter, but I knew I wanted this to be five chapters long, and I felt like a bit after them kissing was the perfect place to end it. I'm worried the boys sound a bit OOC, but I wasn't sure how either of them would react in a confession-type scene, so this was my best shot. 😔 On that encouraging note, hope you enjoy, and thanks a bunch for reading this far!

Chapter Text

They didn’t pull away for several seconds, and when they finally came up for air, Idia felt very very very lightheaded. Gods, if he were an anime character, he’d be walking around with a wiggly line for a mouth and with stars circling his head. It took a whole minute for him to regain his bearings enough to realize how he was still standing above Cater. Idia sidled away from him at lightning speed. Unceremoniously, he sat down on the floor and propped his head between his legs.

What had just happened? This was so unlike him! Idia Shroud didn’t go around kissing people! Underworld, who the heck would want to kiss him in the first place?! There was a reason why he had to use a vtuber avatar whenever he was streaming Some Game 13—he hadn’t exactly rolled a 10 in the Appearance stat! Or the Charisma stat, unlike some people.

Shakily, he glanced at the panting Heartslabyul student who still hadn’t moved from next to him. Oh, gods, was Cater repulsed? Well, he should be. This was kind of his fault, anyway. He’d been the one to initiate all the—the kissing!

For his part, Idia felt as if his shoes were floating several inches off the ground. His heart hadn’t stopped racing and and and oh, man, he was so totally pleased. Sure, he’d been dealt the gloomiest lot in life, but for the first time in what felt like forever, he had to actually fight to keep his mouth from splitting open into a grin.

Again, he stole a look at Cater. Idia had no idea what he was thinking. Now his hands were curled over his mouth and his eyebrows were furrowed. His green eyes appeared focused, and they maintained this look before he suddenly swiveled toward Idia. He ran a hand through his hair. “Okay, you’ve gotta say something.”

“I—I—what?” Idia stuttered. And he really meant it. What?

“I mean, like,” Cater flushed, “shouldn’t you be all, like, ‘whoa, T-O, Diamond, random kissing encounters aren’t gonna fly here. This isn’t an otome game.’”

Idia blinked at him. Did he really sound like that? “I—no. I … you know …” Hm … how would he say this in a way that was not totally embarrassing? “The random kissing encounter was … nice.” That was not how! If his face and hair weren’t already cherry, they most definitely would be now.

Cater’s eyes lit up. “Wait—you’re serious?” When Idia’s only response was to bury his head in his hands, groan, and nod, he grinned. “Thank the Queen, O-M-G. Okay, okay, then I’ll say it.”

“Say … say what?” Idia managed to lift his head up a few inches so he could shoot Cater an inquisitive look. Was Cater going to go off on a dehumanizing tirade against Idia’s nonexistent kissing skills? Because if he was, Idia really wished the sleek hardwood floor of the Gymnasium would swallow him up then and there. No, well, if he were really wishing for something, he’d wish he was a videogame character who had fast-travel unlocked, so he could teleport to his bedroom and scream into his pillow. Oh, and he would also wish he were wearing a really badass cape that would blow gently in the wind as he screamed (it would just be cooler that way).

Cater took a deep breath. “You’re not my boyfriend.”

It was as if someone had taken all of Idia’s insides, turned them into glass, and then smashed them hard against the wall. There was nothing in him now; he felt hollow, incorporeal, like he was some stupid shade of the Underworld. The euphoria he had felt only minutes ago—just a faraway memory. There was no reason to feel this way, he knew, because what Cater had said was simply a fact. It was nothing new, nothing unexpected. And if anything, Idia should have felt his heart race and his excitement bubble over, for with those words, Cater had lost Azul’s game.

And yet, Idia couldn’t muster even a sliver of elation, not even when he considered the prospect of finally getting his hands on a pink Some Idol Group ticket.

He tried to, of course. Channeling the happiness he had felt when he had snagged his most-wanted character in a single multi in That One Gacha Game, Idia attempted a smile. His mouth did not cooperate and the best he could manage was a grimace. “K—knew I’d get to you eventually, haha.” His voice sounded empty, so he added what he hoped was a gleeful “KEKW.”

Cater beamed, but Idia had seen him smile enough times to know that there was something off. The corners of his mouth weren’t as upturned, and there was something disconsolate about his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, I-K, I-K, you totally did.” He surveyed Idia for a moment, and Idia tried to maintain a triumphant expression; he failed miserably. For some reason, seeing Idia’s frown caused Cater’s face to blossom into a real smile. Was he some kind of sad*st who reveled in other people’s misery or something? “Whoa, calm down, Idia. Try not to show all your excitement at once. This is a huge ‘W’ for you.”

It definitely didn’t feel like a “W.” Did he win Azul’s game? Yeah. Had he really been all that excited to hear those words come out of Cater’s mouth? Um, no. He wasn’t even sure why. Not once did he even consider himself Cater’s boyfriend! And yet, gods, hearing the words made him feel not just as if he’d reached the bad ending, no—he felt as if he’d reached the worst ending possible. But still! Pink ticket! Yay.

He raised himself off the ground, deciding he might as well go find Azul to receive his prize. But before he took a single step, he had to ask: “Uh, so, what … what made you chicken out and give up?”

Cater’s smile turned sheepish as he fingered his earring. “Yeah, well, after our little ‘smooch session,’” he snickered, “I kinda—hmm, okay, this is gonna sound so cringe, but … I was all, like, ‘Hey! I just kissed Idia Shroud, and the whole thing didn’t even feel weird!’” The diamond on his cheek was lost again in his blush. “I mean, I actually kinda liked it? And, y’know, hanging out with you the past few weeks was a blast and a half. And I—yeah.” He was rambling in a way that was very un-Cater-like.

Idia tried to process what he was saying. “So you didn’t chicken out?”

“Facts. I just … I mean …” Idia had never seen a person besides himself struggle so much to get a sentence out. “You like Some Idol Group, right? And you’d be happy if you got that ticket, right? Well, knowing that, how could I not chicken out, y’know? Guess it took us kissing for me to figure that out.”

Feeling as if he were short-circuiting, Idia’s spirits rose ever so slightly. Wait, so Cater had purposely lost the game so Idia could win? That was … wow. That was indeed a big “W.” So he hadn’t thought Idia was so repugnant that he no longer wanted to even play pretend anymore. A smile, pointy-toothed and highly-reminiscent of the King of the Underworld’s but otherwise very genuine, grew instinctively on Idia’s face.

“I highkey gotta say something, though,” Cater began. He looked so intently at Idia that Idia could feel the tips of his hair creep pink. “I know you’re not my boyfriend, but … do you wanna be? I mean, I know that that’s a lot so, lemme rephrase: wanna hang out? Go on a date? DizzneeMinus and sinus?”

“Sure, but we’re not—uh, we’re not watching Another Anime, again,” Idia said, his heart feeling light. It really was like a swarm of butterflies had flown into his throat and were propelling him straight into the clouds. “You’ll like One Supplex Man much better. And it’s on DizzneeMinus.”

And although the two of them weren’t holding hands, their shoulders were close together, and instead of heading to Mostro Lounge in the Octavinelle dorm, where they knew Azul and the pink Some Idol Group ticket was, they veered off toward the Ignihyde mirror, sharing both bashful smiles and the feeling that all was right in the world.

gay chicken - Adverb_slu*t - Twisted-Wonderland (Video Game) [Archive of Our Own] (2024)
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