"Please...fall in love with me I'm begging you..."
Second to None
Ritsu glanced at the small clock on the bedside table. The ticking sound it made was loud to his ears. He had to look harder to catch the time. It said two in the morning. He blinked at it and then he sighed.
With his slim fingers, he grabbed the white sheets over half of his naked body and pulled his knees closer to his chest. Half of his face was hidden by the shadows created from the dim lightings of the room. The yellowish tint of the lampshade glimmering in his green eyes, colored with sadness.
He wasn't alone in that room. Beside him, beside him on that huge bed was a man sleeping so soundly. The soft sound of his breathing, calm and steady, was supposed to be a melody to Ritsu's soul. But it wasn't. Not when Ritsu knew that despite him being the one on that bed, he still could be labelled as an outsider.
Ritsu glanced at the sleeping face beside him. Sweaty hair was plastered on that smooth forehead. The man's thin lips were slightly parted, and the glistening on the man's chest and sculpted stomach was a sign that not long ago, they were engaged in a deep and steamy intimacy.
The green-eyed man lifted a hand and raised it above the man's lips and nose. Just close enough for Ritsu to feel the warm breath coming from the love of his life.
It made Ritsu smile a little. From the way he gazed at Takano Masamune, he was clearly in love with the man. So in love he was crazy about it. But that small smile on his face faded when Ritsu's eyes darted back to where the clock was.
His huge eyes went from the picture frame to Takano's sleeping face then back to the frame. Ritsu pulled his hand back and gazed at the picture still prominently having its throne not just on that bed side table but in Takano Masamune's life. Just looking at it made Ritsu's chest churn in a sickening pain.
The frame was made of red wood. Plain and simple yet it housed a scene that Ritsu couldn't break through.
A woman so beautiful was in a white, lose dress. She had the most beautiful smile Ritsu had seen. Long, brown and wavy hair, emerald eyes that seemed so expressive, and a body so slender and delicate. Beside her was a handsome man with a huge smile on his face. His dark hair seemed so soft from the way it was flowing in the picture. The man's hazel-colored eyes were brimming with joy as he smiled so openly. Ritsu even had to wonder if the man in the picture and the man in the bed beside him was really one and the same. For as long as Ritsu could remember, Takano never smiled like that with anybody else...or even to him.
Takano was resting his hand gently on the woman's belly. She was seven months pregnant.
It was a picture perfect photo of a not-long-ago expectant mother and an excited would-be father. A picture that remained as just a dream.
Ritsu looked away from the photo and brushed Takano's hair off his forehead gently.
"Senpai..." Ritsu mouthed, his eyes cloudy and warm.
Takano just gave a grunt in his sleep and faced the other side of the bed, turning his back at Ritsu unknowingly.
"...Please fall in love with me...I'm begging you..."
Helpless, Ritsu stared into the night. He knew the situation was more than pathetic. But there was nothing he could do. He finally got into Takano's life but a relationship with no heart was just as empty.
"They're never coming back...it's me who's here..."
It was lunchbreak. He wasn't introverted but somehow he always ended up eating in one corner of the break room. His convenience store bento lay untouched before him. His green eyes fixed at the unmoving artificial plant set to make the blank cream colored wall a little lively.
"Oi...You could try blinking..."
Ritsu snapped from his self-demeaning thoughts he always had the past days and blinked at the man who sat across him. It was Haitani Shin. A guy from a different department of a company they were working at. Ritsu couldn't even remember how they became friends.
"Ah...Haitani-san..." Ritsu smiled, but failed.
The other man frowned and set his homemade lunchbox on the table with a clutter. "How many times have I told you stop with the formal name and be more casual with me? We're friends you know."
Without so much eagerness despite being hungry, Ritsu grabbed his chopsticks and played with the tempura that long lost its crispness.
"God...ever since you got involved with that guy, you lost all that brightness in you. What the hell? When you're inlove shouldn't you be all sparkly and happy and bouncy...you look like you're on the verge of death."
Haitani Shin said all those stuff on purpose. Everytime he did that, usually, the brunette would give him a scowl, defend himself and that bastard of a man Takano Masamune and at least, the life would come back to Ritsu's face. Haitani waited. But Ritsu just kept on toying with the tail of the tempura it got on Haitani's nerves.
Emerald eyes looked around the break room. He waited until two women left their table close from them. Made sure that even if he said something weird, no one would get to hear it other than the man before him.
"We...did it last night..." Ritsu started, smiling faintly.
Haitani flinched and slumped in his chair. Lowering his voice to the point of whispering, the man scratched the side of his neck. "What the hell is this report...anyway...why the long face? You were crazy about him anyway."
"Shin...how can someone look so devasted during sex?"
Haitani's expression from an annoyed one changed into that of someone who's a good listener. He straightened his back and placed his hands on the table, ignoring his food.
"When he you know...inside...he looked so..." Ritsu had started tapping his fingers on the table with no sound. As if wanting to redirect some thoughts to others or else he'd burst. "...he looked so sad. Like he's about to cry..."
Ritsu looked down, his eyeslashes glistening. "Actually I understand perfectly why...it's just hard to accept. Because I can't be pregnant obviously. Eventually, he'd look for a woman he could build a family with. Someone to take his fiance's and child's place."
The other man ruffled his own hair in an impatient manner and scowling, he sighed. Haitani wasn't really pleased with what he was hearing.
"...I could never give him the family he wanted. I can't take his fiance's place. I can't give him a child. I can't do anything."
Shin threw his handkerchief before Ritsu and looked away.
"Ritsu. A family is a place where love is. It's obvious you're trying your best to give him that family. You've been giving that fucked up man more than what a normal person could give. If he couldn't appreciate that, it's his loss."
Ritsu took the handkerchief and hid his face in it. "He's still broken hearted from his fiance's and unborn child's death...it's already a miracle he accepted me, you can't talk badly about him..."
"HA?!" Haitani scowled on his seat. "Ritsu, I understand that!" the man grumbled under his breath, looking on both sides to see if there would be anyone who'd hear. "But his problem is his living in his mourning and doesn't care that he's already hurting someone else. It's been a year and ten months to be fucking exact! Don't you realize you're just the 'convenient guy' where he releases his frustrations? There should be a limit to how deep one can sink you know. God you annoy me with your stupidity..."
If not for Ritsu's pitiful look, Haitani would have thought he was alone in the table, talking to air. He didn't get a single response. He knew what he said was true, but maybe, he went overboard.
"Ne, Ritsu...maybe you were so stubborn in your past life..." Haitani started once more, grinning like an idiot. "You must have been chased by someone endlessly so now, in this life, you're the one doing the chasing," he whistled. "Your karma."
The man across the table scowled. "Thank you very much. You're very comforting, Haitani-san."
Haitani laughed. "I'm just kidding...you see, you looking so lifeless doesn't suit you. I mean, I'm starting to feel low myself just looking at you. Cheer up a bit okay?"
Ritsu gave a small smile. He knew Haitani didn't mean any harm. The man had been nothing but kind to him. He didn't know when they became friends and strangely, he couldn't even remember when the both of them had started to talk about problems he would normally keep to himself.
"I'll just wait," Ritsu mumbled, finally taking a bite of his cold lunch. "I've waited long enough. A few more months or years aren't a big deal!" the brunette ate with vigor.
But Haitani could see past through his friend's facade.
"Yup. That's the spirit of Christmas there," Haitani remarked.
Green eyes darted at the green plant he was staring at earlier. Ritsu was utterly surprised that it had been a Christmas tree all along.
"Christmas..." Ritsu thought as he chewed. "Senpai's birthday too..."
As the both of them filled their empty stomachs, they drowned themselves in calmer silence.
December 24th. December 24th. December 24th.
Ritsu left the bed with his head filled of nothing but that date. He wanted to stay longer under the comforts of his futon, next to Takano Masamune who went home late that night. But it was a too important day to miss. Two things to celebrate. Too much things to be done.
"Coffee or chocolate?" Ritsu asked himself, placing his hand to turn the knob. He threw a glance at Takano still sleeping and the brunette smiled. The kind of someone who had been defeated.
"It's just me..." he gently closed the door and headed to the kitchen. "...getting all excited about this day."
The water wasn't even boiling yet when a groggy looking man emerged from the door. Ritsu gaped at Takano who went directly to the fridge to get some water to drink.
"Good morning, Takano-san," Ritsu greeted, hurriedly grabbing a new cup for Takano. "You look -"
"Tired," Takano cut in before gulping his water down. "We had a few drinks last night."
Ritsu poured the water carefully to the two matching mugs he had bought not long ago. He bought them when Takano finally let him in his house. A sort of a live-in thing where only one person seemed to be too happy.
"Takano-san...uhm..." a little nervous, Ritsu pushed the steaming cup of chocolate drink to Takano. "I'm wondering if you could go home early tonight?"
The tall darkhaired man pulled a chair for himself and sat. His eyes as cold as the Christmas day as he watched the smoke float and disappear.
"I'm visiting Himeno today."
Ritsu felt a pang of pain in his chest.
Tanaka Himeno. The woman Takano Masamune couldn't forget. The woman who carried the unborn child of Takano. The woman who'd definitely make a good wife and mother. She who died after slipping in the bathroom and hitting her head so hard against the tub. The bathroom a few feet away from where Takano and Ritsu were sitting.
"Calm down...you're used to this..." Ritsu chanted in his mind, his fingers on his lap digging into his trousers.
It didn't seem that Takano Masamune was planning to forget. But if Ritsu gave up, he knew, they wouldn't head anywhere.
Clearing his throat, Ritsu forced a laugh out of his suddenly dry mouth. "I could go with you...then we could prepare later for Christmas and your bir-"
"Ha?" Takano had a smile on his face. "And what, show you to Himeno?"
Ritsu grew silent.
"If you really want to visit her, you could at some other time. Not now though. I still have things to settle."
"I see," was Ritsu's short reply.
They drank in silence. But honestly, Ritsu's drink was stuck in his throat. He was afraid if he swallowed it down, he'd burst out sobbing.
"Anyway...I'm dropping at Marukawa today then visit Himeno. I might get home late."
The other man nodded while stirring his drink. "I will wait. It's Christmas and your birthday so we have to prepare something."
Takano eyed Ritsu for a while as he sipped his drink leasurely. "I'll try to go home early."
Hearing this, Ritsu lifted his gaze right at Takano, still unbelieving. When Takano just looked back without saying anything, the brunette hurriedly stood, leaving the other alone.
"I...I have to go buy stuff!" Ritsu shouted, his hurried footsteps fading. "See you later!"
The continuous sound of the fax machine, the phone rings and shuffles of paper replaced the Christmas carols inside the Emerald's section of the fourth floor.
There were still some hardcore workaholics like Takano Masamune, who despite the holiday season just had to make sure that work was done and complete.
Takano glanced at the calendar on his table while tapping a pen at the edge of his table. Another hardcore workaholic in the name of Hatori glanced at the Chief-editor. His attention was caught not by the tapping of the pen though, but by the vibration of Takano's phone on top of a manuscript.
"Takano-san, your phone has been vibrating since this morning," the man with a stern look on his face commented. "Must be important."
"It's okay," Takano breathed out, still looking at the calendar.
Hatori shrugged his shoulders and went back to work. Thanks to a certain awesome mangaka who broke the deadline, he had to burn eyebrows finishing the checking before he could rush out and celebrate the season.
The other man, Takano, grabbed the phone and was welcomed by 16 mails. All sent by Ritsu.
"There's a choir here right now. They're awesome."
"Takano-san, I'll prepare pasta tonight. Something different than the traditional."
"Takano-san, please drive carefully."
Swiping to 'home', Takano ignored the rest of the messages. It had become a habit of Ritsu to send him mails about almost anything under the sun. He couldn't bring to tell Ritsu to stop. It was nice in its own way. But sometimes, reading all of them that sometimes wouldn't make sense could be tiring.
Takano stood and grabbed his bag. "Hatori, I'll go first. Gotta buy flowers."
"Oh..." Hatori looked at Takano then back at the his work. "Going to visit Tanaka-san?"
Hatori watched the man's back until he could no longer see him. Sighing, he turned his gaze at the small picture frame of Tanaka Himeno displayed on top of Takano's table and then resumed editing.
The whole day flew by in an instant. Before everybody noticed it, the sun had already left, allowing everyone to enjoy the Christmas displays.
Takano Masamune sure did take his time. It was about eight thirty when he reached his apartment. The scent of food lingered in his nose while he slowly took his shoes off.
He had his bag in one hand, the man walked towards the kitchen.
"I knew it," he sighed.
The table wasn't fixed yet. There was something boiling in the pan. Unlit candles littered the center of the table. And pages of a cook book lay open on top of the kitchen top.
He turned to the stove and turned the fire off.
Walking slowly, he went out of the kitchen, towards the living room. There was no one.
Quietly, Takano decided to head for his room. From the narrow hallway he could see that the door to his room was open. The yellowish tint of the side table glimmered into the dark.
The man was ready asking Ritsu why the hell he left the stove on if he was in the room, but Takano found his mouth half-open instead, all lectures left unsaid.
It appeared that Ritsu was multitasking cooking, preparing the table and cleaning. Takano could tell since there was the vacuum sitting by the doorway. However, Ritsu was on the edge of the bed near the bed side table.
"What do I do?" the brunette whispered. He looked like he was trying to piece something together to no avail. "He'd be mad for sure..."
Raising a brow, hazel eyes left the worried profile and darted at the thing the man was holding.
The red wooden picture frame housing a scene from the past that Takano cherished so much glimmered strangely. Its glass was broken, the picture behind looking a bit distorted.
Ritsu gasped. "Ah crap...the soup-"
The instant green eyes saw an expressionless man standing by the door frame, Ritsu's grip on the picture frame he accidentally broke tightened. It was all because Takano was staring at it so hard.
"Uhm..." stammering like a child, Ritsu lifted the frame on the same level as his chest. "T-this...I didn't mean to..."
Takano left his spot. Ritsu didn't even notice how Takano was already standing before him.
The taller man pulled the broken frame out of Ritsu's hand. His hazel eyes fixed at the picture. Ritsu on the other hand couldn't tell or read what was going on with the other's mind.
"I was trying to fix the bed sheets..." Ritsu explained nervously. "...and I knocked it accidentally...I'm sorry."
There was an unusual sense about the way Takano lifted his gaze from the picture to Ritsu's apologetic face. It made Ritsu scared.
"I...I'll replace the frame!" Ritsu assured, smiling awkwardly. "I'll-"
"Onodera, let's talk."
Takano sat by the edge of the bed. He let his bag by his side, the broken frame with his and his ex-wife's picture on his lap. Ritsu openly stared at the darkhaired man's form. He was so sure that this probably might be the end of his one-sided dream. It was never real to begin with in the first place.
Still, the fright from hearing the dreaded words was blocking Ritsu's airway the brunette thought he might suffocate.
"You left it boiling, I turned the fire off."
"I'm sorry..." Ritsu slowly sat beside Takano. A distance of one foot remained in between them. That distance was short at a glance, but felt so far too. Honestly, why could he not do anything properly? He tries his best but the result always ended badly.
Unsure of what to do, the brunette just sat there with his eyes at the left rag on the floor. He was waiting for Takano to say anything. To say something, just so the feeling like he swallowed something big would go away.
The whole world was counting hours for Christmas, but there they were, sitting in silence that felt so gloomy worse than a wake.
Perhaps only people who'd been afraid enough to hear something that was so sure to come would understand. He couldn't hold it in anymore. Silently, the tears Ritsu didn't want to show streamed down his face.
"Onodera?" Takano asked, shifting his weight on the bed, trying to look at Ritsu's profile more clearly. "I haven't said anything yet. Why are you crying?"
"I'm not crying!" the other grumbled, though both knew the truth. Ritsu turned the other way to hide his messy face, still sniffing. "What do you want to talk about?"
There was nothing that escaped those hazel eyes as he watched Ritsu rub his face. The brunette's ears were red. His shoulders shaking a little. The shallow breathing rang through Takano's ears.
"Do you..." Takano asked softly. "...really like me that much?"
"What the hell are you asking me?!" Ritsu hissed, face still on the other direction. Takano still had the same hostile look on his face. "I'm even already stooping so low as it is...I've even come to the point that I don't care anymore if I am just the second, or third or fourth in your list...why do you have to ask?"
Takano took his bag and searched for something in it. When his long fingers felt what he was looking for, he threw another glance at Ritsu who still had his back at him.
"Look at me," Takano urged.
Ritsu didn't budge. He could feel it coming. That dreaded words. He have always seen it on movies or dramas. Breaking up on Christmas day must be the trend. A trend that his mind couldn't comprehend.
"Tsk..." Takano pulled out the thing from his bag. Gently he placed it on Ritsu's lap.
The brunette's red eyes slowly looked down. He couldn't almost feel the weight of what Takano gave him. He picked it up with unsure fingers and darted his eyes to the darkhaired man questioningly.
"You finally looked at me properly..."
Still holding what Takano gave him, Ritsu though he didn't want to, started crying even more.
He arrived at the cemetery at three in the afternoon. There were some others who seemed to have chosen celebrating the Christmas in there as well. As for Takano, he just stood in front of the Haka, a bouquet of red tulips in his hands.
Takano stared hard at the stone where the name of the woman he married was etched. The cold breeze would go gentle, then blow harder. The longer Takano stood there, the faster time seemed to fly by.
"Hi there..." the man finally said something, after two hours of just standing there in the cold. "Merry Christmas I guess. I miss your hot pot you know."
There wasn't any reply or sound save from the sound of the plastic surrounding the red tulips Takano was carrying.
He stepped closer and looked at the tulips.
"These?" Takano asked, eyes reddening. "I'm sorry. These aren't for you...Himeno..."
There was a whistling sound. The trees rustling. The temperature going lower. It seemed like finally, snow would be arriving.
Takano knelt on one knee and drew a deep breath. "Actually he wanted to come with me today...I told him no, because I wanted to talk to you first."
He chuckled a little.
"I went with the flow at first. I didn't think it's possible I could harbor these feelings towards him..."
He reached out to the stone as if caressing it.
"If you saw him all these months, working so hard to get along with the messed up me...you'd understand why..." he paused, fixing the ribbon a bit. "I have been so cold to him. I probably have hurt him countless times because I don't know what to do..." he sighed. "...I was just afraid I guess...to admit that I love him to the extent that I can't even think."
Takano stood looking at the darkening sky.
"He's very special to me Himeno...so..."
"Believe me..." Takano said calmly. "I think that's what it means..."
Ritsu's shaking shoulders, his puffy face, his sobs, Takano just absorbed them all. Takano has forgotten for how long they remained just like that. Waiting for Ritsu to calm down, waiting until he could finally say it.
"I know I've been a jerk..." that deep voice coming from Takano was very gentle. As gentle as his voice was his hand started reaching for the brunette's hand. "But..."
Such an unmanly sight greeted Takano when Ritsu lifted his face once more, searching into Takano's eyes. There wasn't anymore the undecided look, or the ever so slight glint of hardness in those hazel hues.
"Believe me, I'm sorry for not realizing your worth sooner."
"Believe me, I'm sorry for the many times I have made you cry even during the times when I can't see it."
"Believe me, I'm very grateful you didn't give up on me."
It was just a single gift of flowers. Just simple uncoated words. Just real words proving that anything could happen.
Ritsu looked at the other man's face despite him not seeing anything. The scene beforehim was just a moving colors as his tears played on the light.
"It's not yet my birthday..." Ritsu mumbled.
"Haven't you given me more than enough?"
It was always Ritsu clinging. It was always Ritsu making ways for them. It was always Ritsu who gave his best to maintain this unfair set-up. So when Takano brushed the traces of those warm tears away from Ritsu's face, Ritsu was just simply feeling so much emotions, words weren't enough to describe them.
"Oh one more thing," Takano's shadow covered Ritsu's face as the man grew nearer. There lips were already touching, but the only thing Ritsu could feel was the other's warm breath.
There wasn't any merry sounds of Christmas, or the appetizing aromas of food, or the fancy gift exchanges. But this was the greatest gift Ritsu ever received. The words he had been waiting for a long time.
"I love you..." whispering the words ever so softly, Takano finally brushed his lips on Ritsu. It wasn't deep. It wasn't rough. It was short and it was sweet. It was more of a first kiss confessing dedication.
Takano's birthday passed, Christmas passed, they all let it pass before their eyes as they just sat on the bed watching a few fireworks through their window. As for Takano, he found it more enjoyable and more fascinating to watch the colors of the fireworks play in Ritsu's eyes.
Ritsu on the other hand has yet to realize this. Not that Takano have any intention of breaking this to the man.
"Senpai..." Ritsu mouthed, his eyes cloudy and warm.
Takano just gave a grunt in his sleep and faced the other side of the bed, turning his back at Ritsu unknowingly.
"...Please fall in love with me...I'm begging you..."
Takano has always been awake.
chapter end notes:
yey! after 100 years, i finally was able to write another oneshot for them. as you have read, it was ritsu running after takano. simply because i love it when it's the uke doing the work of making the seme fall in love with them.
also...maybe i just want to say...that hard work pays off. hohohohohho
ps. thanks for the time and reading^^please your thoughts!