Ever since Kobayashi had joined the Boys' Detective Club, Hanasaki had kept a watchful eye on him. Hanging out with Kobayashi was always fun. The way that Kobayashi "tch'ed" at everything never failed to amuse Hanasaki. Kobayashi was also pleasant in his own, special way. Actually, most people would probably find Kobayashi's attitude unpleasant. He was too cynical and apathetic. He never cared about anyone else and the only reason he ever did anything was so that the Club would buy him food to eat.
Hanasaki found Kobayashi's attitude to be strangely alluring. He knew that ultimately, what Kobayashi wanted was to be able to die. Given Kobayashi's special power, it was such a strange wish to have. Kobayashi's immortality gave him unlimited potential. Dying would just waste the possibilities that were open to him – if he actually cared about something.
Regardless, Hanasaki loved being around Kobayashi. He loved spending his days with Kobayashi, talking to him, solving mysteries with him, coming up with ways to kill him – even in the face of such a grim task, Hanasaki smiled. Somehow, whether or not they could ever succeed in that endeavour didn't really matter. Hanasaki just wanted to help Kobayashi. He wanted to see Kobayashi smile. He wanted Kobayashi to be happy.
"Were you really serious about your promise that you'd find a way to kill me?" Kobayashi asked.
"Of course!" Hanasaki replied, grinning. "You can count on me!"
"Really? I'm starting to find that hard to believe. All I'm doing every day is solving crimes from petty criminals with you. I don't see how I'm getting any closer to offing myself."
"I'll find a way, I promise!"
"Tch." Kobayashi turned his face away. "You've been saying that for a while now."
"You trust me, right?" Hanasaki tried to look at Kobayashi's eyes. "I don't go back on my promises. I'll really find a way for you to die."
"I really mean it!"
"Yeah, okay, I believe you. But, just to let you know, that's the only reason I'm staying with you. I hope you don't disappoint me."
"And you stay here for the food, right?"
"Fine. That too."
Hanasaki realized that he liked Kobayashi so much that the first thing he thought of when he opened his eyes in the morning was Kobayashi's face. More than anything, he wanted to see Kobayashi's lingering frown transform into a genuine smile. The only problem was, Kobayashi could never be happy, not until he found a way to die. And, if Kobayashi really did die, then his face wouldn't be smiling anymore. There wouldn't be a true, sincere face left to smile.
As each day passed, the weight of this realization made Hanasaki feel gloomier and gloomier. Nobody could see that, though. Instead of expressing his honest feelings, Hanasaki kept smiling. He laughed louder and more often, even when his heart would rather cry. He smiled and grinned more than ever before. People around him were starting to tell him that he seemed a little too happy. But Hanasaki knew that he had to put up this bright facade for Kobayashi's sake. He needed Kobayashi to think that he was still the same old Hanasaki as before, the Hanasaki who was eager to keep his promise of finding a way to kill him.
If Kobayashi figured out his true feelings, then Kobayashi might leave him.
But, one day, while Hanasaki sat alone on the couches in the living room of the Boys' Detective Club, the door opened and Kobayashi entered the room.
Immediately, Hanasaki put on his brightest smile. At this point, though, even Kobayashi seemed to realize that something was off.
"Do you really have to smile like that?" Kobayashi asked.
"Why not?" Hanasaki replied, his voice slightly on edge. "Is there anything wrong with smiling so much? You should smile a bit more, Kobayashi!"
Kobayashi narrowed his eyes. "You know, Hanasaki, you haven't exactly been yourself lately."
"What are you talking about?"
"It's like you're trying to give the impression that you're constantly happy or something. Akechi noticed it, too. He told me to talk to you about it."
"Come on. Why would I want people to think that I'm happy all the time?" Hanasaki felt his face burning up. "I'm just naturally this happy!"
Kobayashi walked towards Hanasaki, standing close enough that if Hanasaki moved forward, he would probably enter the range of Kobayashi's barrier. The look on Kobayashi's face was all Hanasaki needed to know that Kobayashi wasn't at all convinced by his explanation.
"If something's wrong, you should tell me," Kobayashi said.
"Huh? When did you become the type of person who'd care about someone else?"
"Akechi told me to ask you about why you've been fake-smiling so much lately. Also, I still need you to keep your promise. If you're not feeling your best, then you can't exactly work well on finding a way to kill me, can you?"
Hanasaki felt his smile quivering. He didn't want to reveal to Kobayashi how much he liked him. But, being the target of Kobayashi's piercing words and beautiful, haughty stare, Hanasaki felt his resolve melting away.
At that moment, Hanasaki just wanted to reach up and touch Kobayashi's face.
"I guess I've been feeling a little...tired," Hanasaki said at last. "We've been solving a lot of crimes lately, right?"
"What are you talking about? We're not being contacted for help anymore than usual!"
"I just feel tired, okay?"
Kobayashi's stare pierced deeper. A few strands of hair fell in front of Kobayashi's eyes. Hanasaki wanted to part Kobayashi's hair, lean in towards his face, and kiss him on the lips.
He really did love Kobayashi.
"So you want me to tell Akechi that you're just tired?"
"I don't want you to tell Akechi anything, okay?" Hanasaki's usual smile transformed into a deep set frown. "You know what? Just don't tell him anything."
"Then what am I supposed to say?"
"I don't know!"
Kobayashi looked frustrated, but also seemed mildly amused by Hanasaki's belligerence. To Hanasaki's surprise, a twisted smile came over Kobayashi's face.
"So, you're tired, right?" Kobayashi whispered. "From what, exactly?"
Hanasaki closed his eyes. "My back is aching. My shoulders hurt. I have a headache, and my arms are just too weary to-"
His eyes burst open when he felt two hands land on his shoulders, squeezing him.
"What are you doing, exactly?"
"Relax. Don't move." There was a mischievous tone in Kobayashi's voice. "While I'm this close to you, if you move even an inch, my barrier's going to activate and you're going to get thrown across the room. You said your shoulders hurt, right? Well, my shoulders used to hurt a lot, too, back when I had to sleep in cramped spaces every night. So I learned to give myself massages."
"You're giving me a massage?"
"Why not? If it'll make you feel better so that you stop smiling so creepily all the time, I'll do it."
Hanasaki stared up at the ceiling, remaining silent.
He had to admit, Kobayashi's fingers digging tightly into his shoulders felt really good. Maybe he had been feeling a bit of pain in his shoulders. His eyes rolled up, as far as possible, so that he could see Kobayashi's face as Kobayashi massaged him. A tense feeling grew in his chest as he realized how close Kobayashi was to him.
He had almost never been this close to Kobayashi before. And Kobayashi's face was so pretty.
"Where else did you say you were feeling pain?"
"Uh...I have a headache," Hanasaki replied. "Can you rub my temples a little bit?"
Kobayashi moved his fingers up onto the sides of Hanasaki's head, sifting through his brown hair until they reached his temples. Slowly, gently, Kobayashi began rubbing them. The feeling was heavenly. Hanasaki closed his eyes, wishing that Kobayashi could do this forever. He didn't want to speak or move. He simply wanted to feel Kobayashi's touch against his skin.
But it ended too quickly when Kobayashi stopped and said: "Where next?"
"I guess my back also hurts a little," Hanasaki said.
"Sorry, but I'm not a chiropractor, so I can't deal with that for you."
"But you can massage my shoulders and my temples?"
"That's easy enough for me to do to myself!"
"Okay, but I'm not so old that I need a professional chiropractor. Let me roll over. Can you just pummel my back for a little bit?"
"Hit me! Or my back, at least. Should be fun, right?"
Kobayashi took several steps back, and Hanasaki turned his body around so that he was lying on his front.
"I hope you don't start treating me like your personal massager just because I decided to massage you this once," Kobayashi said.
"Don't worry! I won't."
"You're sounding awfully refreshed already."
"Can you start hitting me?"
Kobayashi raised his fist and slammed it down onto Hanasaki's back. Hanasaki's head jerked up in response, and he could already feel the vibrations in the air from Kobayashi's barrier being about to activate. But Hanasaki moved just slightly enough that the barrier didn't immediately become triggered.
"Not so hard!" Hanasaki said. "Punch me more lightly."
"I thought you deserved that."
"Can you maybe not hit me with the full force of your fist from now on?"
"I guess I can try not to."
Kobayashi punched Hanasaki's back several more times, a few of them hard enough to make Hanasaki flinch. But they weren't as hard as his first punch. After a few punches, Hanasaki began to feel relaxed. He closed his eyes and softened his breathing. Somehow, being punched over and over again by Kobayashi was the most pleasant sensation in the world. It was like slowly being beaten into submission...
Why did he tend to get thoughts like this for Kobayashi?
"Feeling better?" Kobayashi asked a few minutes later.
"Yeah, a lot better."
The punches stopped coming. Kobayashi backed off and stretched out his arms. "In that case, I'm done. I hope you enjoyed Kobayashi's Massage Service. Do you feel better now?"
"Come on!" Hanasaki tried to look hurt. "Can't you let me have your Service for a little bit longer?"
"Nope! I'm going to report back to Akechi and tell him that you were just really tired, and that I helped fixed you up. Should be sufficient for the time being, anyway."
"Actually, tell me the truth. Do you really feel better right now?"
Hanasaki lowered his eyes. "I think so."
There was a long, awkward moment of silence between them. Hanasaki felt himself being scrutinized by Kobayashi's cold, pretty red eyes. The way Kobayashi looked at him was so serious, so austere. But, in a way, Hanasaki liked being stared at like that. At least, with those eyes, Kobayashi wasn't unfeeling. Even if his gaze was cold, it was at least honest. Not like Hanasaki's own insincere smiles. Kobayashi was genuine in his coldness.
It was so endearing.
"Then, I'm going to go."
As Kobayashi walked away, Hanasaki felt a painful yearning returning to his heart. He realized that he would probably never be able to have Kobayashi so close to him again. He would never be able to reach up and touch Kobayashi's face, to stroke his cheeks, to caress and hold him in his arms. He could never do any of that, not as long as Kobayashi had that barrier. And if he found a way to destroy that barrier...
As Kobayashi left the room, Hanasaki stared longingly at where he had stood.