"Ready for round two?" Sakuma asked, making Abe groan and curl up into a protective ball. He would have thought Sakuma was teasing him except for how it was Sakuma and his grin was hopeful.
"Round two?" Abe demanded, wishing he had a blanket to hide under. Unfortunately, Watanabe had folded the hotel blankets neatly on one of the chairs, out of harm's way, before they'd gotten started. "This is like round thirty-seven!"
"You don't count each individual act as a round," Sakuma laughed, making the hotel bed bounce a little with his knees. "Unless you started counting at the beginning of the tour, but that seems like it would get complicated fast. Like does it only count if we're all together? Does it count if it's just roommates in the morning? Or like three plus? Or what if just count each combination only once, so you don't count the repeats, that'd bring the number WAY down…" Sakuma paused, tilting his head. "How many combinations do we even have? There's six, so do I like multiply those, or…"
"Stop tormenting me with your failure math," Abe ordered, unable to keep the smile from creeping onto his face. "You know perfectly well that there are fifteen possible pairs in a 6-member group."
"Duh, but what about the threes and fours and fives?" Sakuma asked. He glanced over his shoulder, where Iwamoto was holding down Miyadate's wrists firmly, Fukazawa dragging teasing fingers over his hips, making him squirm. Watanabe was ignoring Miyadate's whines for help with an amused grin. "Hey, does that count as a three or a four? We're super confusing, huh."
Abe just shook his head at Sakuma, amused and fond, and Sakuma grinned back. The quiet moment was interrupted by Watanabe's arrival, sitting down behind Sakuma to hug him from behind.
"Hmm, and what are you two being so quiet over here for?" he asked, setting his chin on Sakuma's shoulder and sliding an arm around his stomach.
"I was getting Abe-chan hot with math," Sakuma said with a straight face. Watanabe snorted a laugh into the curve of Sakuma's neck while Abe protested that he was not, come on!
Either four or four hundred rounds later, Abe was brushing his teeth before bed when his mind wandered back to that conversation. Idly he thought the math through on Sakuma's question of how many combinations there were, decently satisfied he'd done it right by the time he turned the faucet off. Still, it would be easy enough to check, right? Back on his bed, he picked up one of the notebooks he'd brought along to study with his current class notes, and flipped to the back to find a blank page. It would be easy enough to make a list methodically, to make sure he didn't accidentally skip over a possible combination.
"Watcha doin'?" Sakuma asked after Abe had been scratching with the pen for a few minutes. He was on his stomach on the other bed, kicking his feet lazily while he flipped television channels.
"Come see," Abe said without looking up, involved in finishing his task. Sakuma got up and trotted over. "Ah, done."
"Eh? You're such a dweeb!" Sakuma laughed when he tucked himself in against Abe's side and got a good look. "You made a pairings chart! And it's all in neat little rows, aw."
"It was easier," Abe protested. "Once I assigned each of us a letter, it only took a few minutes. All fifty-six possibilities, organized from smallest groups to largest."
"Hmm. Do you think we've done all these?" Sakuma asked, reaching up to brush a fingertip over various spots. "Probably, right?"
"Maybe…" Abe could certainly picture a few right off the top of his head, but others he had to think about. Had he ever seen Miyadate kiss Fukazawa, just the two of them? Or had Abe ever been alone with Watanabe and Iwamoto? "Well, you know, the only way to properly determine something like that is controlled experimentation."
"Ohh, it's so cute when you're all sciencey," Sakuma purred. "Tell me more about how you wanna experiment." He huffed a little breath of surprise when Abe turned his head to kiss Sakuma soundly.
"That's one," Abe said, turning back to his chart and making a neat little checkmark. After a moment of surprise, Sakuma chuckled and leaned his head against Abe's shoulder, murmuring for him to go on. "That happens to be the first pair I wrote down anyway, since you were sitting right next to me when I started. So if I label that with a one, then number all the rest of these…"
There was a minute of comfortable silence as Abe labeled numbers two (AW) through fifty-six (ASWMIF).
"You know," he said, "if we don't count the six groups of five, there's exactly fifty of these."
"Can we skip those?" Sakuma asked. "Leaving out just one person seems mean."
"Agreed," Abe said amiably, drawing a box around that set to isolate them. He crossed out their numbers and re-labeled the last one. "Also I'm checking off number fifty, since that just happened less than half an hour ago."
"Sure, sure. But other than that let's start over from now, okay? What are the rest of the rules?"
Abe thought for a moment, half remembering the steps of the scientific method and half amused that Sakuma was playing along with him. "No anecdotal evidence. That means we have to see it for ourselves, not just get told about it, assuming we aren't in the group ourselves. And no meddling. A scientific observer can't just tell his subjects to hurry up and kiss already. Oh, and I guess we'd better decide on a specific criteria for clarity's sake."
"Kissing, definitely," Sakuma said. "On the mouth and no fly-bys. Has to last longer than three seconds at least. Everything else almost always starts with kissing anyway."
"Agreed," Abe said seriously. After a beat, they both started laughing.
There was a knock at the door and Sakuma hopped up to answer, still chuckling. Fukazawa was on the other side, coming in to see if he could borrow Sakuma's conditioner because he'd forgotten his own and Iwamoto's beauty regimen was questionable at best.
"Thanks," Fukazawa said when Sakuma emerged from the bathroom, brandishing the bottle. He leaned in to kiss Sakuma's cheek in thanks and gave a muffled "Ehh?" of surprise when Sakuma turned his head and caught his lips properly. Sakuma wound his arms around Fukazawa's neck sweetly and kissed him until Fukazawa's eyes fluttered shut.
"No problem," Sakuma answered when he finally let go. He turned to Abe. "Hey, what number was that?"
"Seven," Abe answered, checking it off.
"The hell?" Fukazawa asked, looking between them. "Why am I only getting a seven? Is it out of ten?"
"Fifty," Abe answered absently, and Sakuma bursts into laughter. Fukazawa rolled his eyes at them and called them a pair of weirdos as he left.
It's not that they exactly meant for it to be a secret at first, but somehow it turned into an unspoken agreement that neither Abe nor Sakuma would explain to the others exactly what was going on. Especially after Fukazawa spent the next day cornering Sakuma in progressively more and more ridiculous kissing scenarios, utterly frustrated that Sakuma always said he was still a seven.
"How is Abe-chan one and I'm seven?!" Fukazawa demanded, hands on his hips. "Don't bullshit me, I know all about his kissing. And anyway, how can I be seven when there are only six members in this group?!"
"Shhh, don't take it so hard," Sakuma soothed, leaning up to give Fukazawa a sweet, lingering kiss, only to murmur, "Seven," against Fukazawa's mouth and then burst into giggles when Fukazawa shoved him hard enough to land him on his butt.
"He gave me and Ryota a twenty-seven," Watanabe put in smugly, making Fukazawa groan in exasperation.
It didn't take long to clear most of kisses they could collect for themselves, well ahead of the end-of-tour deadline they'd decided on at the start. Shounentachi was almost immediately following, after all, and adding six more variables would only make the situation endlessly more complicated. Most of the pairs within their own group weren't difficult given their how much time a day they currently saw each other, and a few of the threesomes were also low-hanging fruit, so to speak. Abe collected two of the threesomes just waking up bandmates in the other hotel rooms the next morning.
"Anything with both Ryota and Shota probably took longer to write down than to find," Sakuma had snorted as Abe checked off seventeen, thirty-three, and thirty-four.
The funniest part about the whole thing was how Sakuma, who couldn't have learned a stack of English flashcards in high school if you had glued them to his face, took a surprisingly short amount of time to memorize the numbers Abe had assigned their targets. He had snapped a picture of Abe's original chart the first night and apparently studied it, since it wasn't long at all before his texts to Abe referenced everything by numbers, for instance the super hot twelve he'd snapped a shot of in the dressing room, or the difficulty of the elusive forty-nine.
"It's like a legendary Pokemon," Sakuma complained. The fours were the most trouble, as expected, but forty-nine was the only foursome that neither one of them could directly influence. "And what's worse is, maybe they've already done it a bunch of times without us and we just haven't seen it!"
"The road of the scientist is difficult," Abe commiserated, grinning at Sakuma's grumble of impatience. He was feeling pretty good after witnessing an unexpected but entirely pleasing fourteen that afternoon, clearing both the last of the pairs and all of Fukazawa's combinations (excepting the legendary forty-nine, of course). "Cheer up, you could be studying penguins mating in the Antarctic or something."
"Ah!" Sakuma snapped his fingers. "I'll turn up the air conditioning in their rooms until they have to huddle together for warmth!"
"Let's maybe focus on some of the easier ones instead of giving two-thirds of our unit pneumonia, what do you say?" Abe chuckled. "You still need a thirty-one."
"Ugh, it's hard!" Sakuma flopped against Abe's shoulder. "Shota always shows up and turns it into another forty-four."
"I'll help out and distract him with a good old twenty-three, or just a plain two if he's feeling vanilla," Abe promised. "Teamwork, right?"
"Shota feeling vanilla, that's a good one," Sakuma snorted. "If he hadn't had that cold for a couple days, we'd still be missing most of the teens."
In the end, it wasn't forty-nine that was the hold out (Iwamoto sent Sakuma a video clip of one of those which Abe had to agree counted as proper documentation), but the sleepy post-coital forty-one that Watanabe selfied into the group Line when the three long-distance commuters were spending the night before Fukuoka at Abe's.
"Daisuke says we're reeeeeally cute," Watanabe reported, thumbing at his phone with one hand while still petting Iwamoto's hair with the other.
"Put that thing down, you addict," Miyadate scolded, kissing behind Watanabe's ear in attempt at distraction.
"Eh, then he said 'THAT'S THE LAST ONE.' What's that mean?" Watanabe asked. "Whoa, sticker explosion! Calm down, buddy."
"Gimme that," Abe said, reaching over Iwamoto to grab the phone from Watanabe rather than trying to hunt for his own phone. [Congrats, lab partner. Celebrate tomorrow night?]
[YES] Sakuma replied immediately. [50!!!!!!!!!] [!!!!!!!!!] [!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!]
[the fuck could you guys not blow up my phone at 3:00] Fukazawa interrupted.
[shut it, 7] Sakuma retorted. Chuckling, Abe handed the phone back to Watanabe and relaxed against Iwamoto's back to try and sleep. He'd need all his energy for tomorrow, he had a feeling. The last thing he saw before he drifted off was Miyadate distracting Watanabe from his phone with a perfect ten.
The fifty had to wait until after a long day of frantic concert set-up and their first show in Fukuoka Dome, but fifties were better high on concert adrenaline anyway and always worth the wait. Sakuma in particular was energetic enough to re-collect probably half of his numbers just that night alone, not that Abe was bothering to count.
"Could start over?" Sakuma suggested, eyes sparkling.
"No way!" Abe shoved at Sakuma's shoulder, grunting when Sakuma's weight landed on his chest. "Get out of here, I'm tired!"
"Eh?" Iwamoto asked, looking up at Watanabe, who shrugged. "Start what over?"
"I know what," Miyadate spoke up, making Abe and Sakuma pause in their play fight. He leaned in to smooch Watanabe's cheek loudly, making Watanabe laugh. "Ten, right? I heard Abe-chan."
"Ooh!" Sakuma clapped his hands, sitting up. "Did you really figure it out? Smart!"
"Hmm, I think so." Miyadate grinned. "Like I get it, but not the specific numbers." He leaned over Iwamoto to kiss Abe. "Something low, right? Less than six?"
"Three!" Sakuma exclaimed, delighted.
"Uh-huh, because you started with yourselves," Miyadate nodded. "If I add Shota?"
"Seventeen," Abe answered. "And plus Fukka is forty-seven."
"Those are nice," Sakuma sighed.
"What?" Fukazawa demanded. "Wait, is low better? Or high?"
"Neither, idiot," Abe told him, reaching up to rub a palm soothingly across Fukazawa's cheek. "It's not an excellence rating."
"Then what is it?" Iwamoto wanted to know, looking just as confused as Fukazawa. Watanabe just looked entertained.
"They made a list of how many different combinations of us there were so they could check them off," Miyadate explained, shaking his head. Abe and Sakuma grinned at each other, unrepentant. "And apparently numbered it. Given that it's Abe-chan, it's probably more like a chart."
"It was really easy to follow," Sakuma agreed cheerfully. "Abe-chan's charts are the best, right? So organized!"
"What the actual fuck," Fukazawa groaned. "You made me think I was trapped in the kissing Olympics or some shit!"
"You did that yourself," Sakuma told him. "So for your information, seven is a very nice number in my opinion."
"It ought to be after all the practice," Abe commented in an undertone to Iwamoto, making Fukazawa squawk and tickle him mercilessly.
After that it seemed the perfect time for Sakuma to post his snapshot of Abe's chart into the group chat, since everybody wanted to know their numbers. Abe could only laugh helplessly at the others making demands by number and at Sakuma proudly naming the right answers when they used the chart to quiz him.
Eventually the others struggled back to their own rooms to get at least a few hours' sleep, yawning and stretching. Abe felt quite relaxed right where he was, sprawled across Sakuma's bed, barely thinking at all about how he ought to brush his teeth and make sure his alarm was set, not to mention turn the lights off.
"No chance of a round two, huh?" Sakuma teased, leaning over him.
"Better check your chart," Abe warned, dragging Sakuma down against him to cuddle like a body pillow. "Because if it's you and me, it's always round one, right?"
"Definitely," Sakuma agreed, throwing a possessive arm over Abe's waist to squeeze him back. "Must be all the practice."
Next up is doctoggy!