Bastard. Rotten. Useless piece of shit. There were other under-the-belt names that people have come up with. Names that didn't bother him until that day. Until that day, when all future vanished before his eyes and time started ticking rather fastly for him.
He was a rich kid, born in a family that owns a publishing house. No wonder he had gold spoons and plates and others that came with it. Being an only child, he was pampered to death. No insect could even get to rest on his skin. Everyone was at his feet ready for his call.
And since his world has always been like this, a world where he was the sun and the others were nothing but unimportant decorations, he was beyond description of an angel with invisible horns.
Onodera Ritsu, the good, mild-mannered heir at home and at school, was the epitome of rich-kid gone insane when out of his parents' sight.
He had messed up many hearts, messed up relationships and families from middle school to highschool. He did them with no particular reason, which made him be hated even more. He did mellow down a bit after clingling to an upperclassman. Yet he went back to his previous rotten state.
Ten years of staying out of contact from everyone's view, for reasons he thought would be solved easily, he came back with an hour glass losing its sand instead.
He was a twenty-five year old young man desperate to fixing things he had broken. At least before his time stops, he wanted to make amends, as hard and useless as it may seem for others.
All eyes were wide. Silent gasps and hushed murmurings filled the family restaurant all too suddenly. In the middle was a slim figure of a young male bathing in iced tea. His face bordering between shock and confusion.
As the honey-colored crystal liquid dripped down from the side of his face to his chin, Onodera Ritsu just gave a sincere bow to the person standing just across him. The other was taller, older and obviously enraged at the sight of the brunette before him.
"You got the nerve...you bastard."
"I'm sorry..." Ritsu mumbled, still in his humble bow that others started thinking if he already had broken his back and couldn't straighten up anymore. "Sensei...forgive me..."
"Sensei...?" the man gritted his teeth, not caring about the other customers around them. "Who are you calling 'sensei'?"
The man Ritsu just called 'sensei' was Onodera Ritsu's homeroom teacher back in high school. A closet gay who did nothing but look after his students professionally. But since Ritsu accidentally learned of this, he had blackmailed the teacher for grades, exeptions of assignments and stuff. And the immature rascal hadn't been contented with that. He had accused the teacher of sexual harassment. The rest was a story Ritsu didn't even mind knowing about.
Seemingly unable to contain his rage, this 'sensei' grabbed the other by the lapels and spat on the younger male's face.
"Because of you...the right to be called 'sensei' has been removed from me..." he hissed, almost to tears. "I could not get a new teaching position at other schools because of the pretty lie you said...it followed me like a curse now you dare say 'sorry'?" the man then pushed Ritsu away with all force the young man scrambled to the floor. "Your sorry could never bring me back the honor and respect I deserve! You disappear and then shows up after ten years acting the little angel?! Don't make me puke!"
Ritsu started standing up, swallowing the building up thickness in his throat.
"I'm really sorry...sensei..."
The brunette went out the family restaurant with his head bowed and shoulders shaking. He was patting his face dry with his handkerchief, but the dry pavement of that summer afternoon had little dots of rain-like silent tears from Ritsu who knew that saying sorry and being forgiven was never an easy thing.
"Nii-san! Another bottle of Sake here!"
The chattings of workers from all kinds of offices combined with the sizzling sound of meat being burned on their tables was a day to day view in that izakaya. It smelled of smoke, alcohol and the complaints of the customers about their bosses were the main topic. Laughters, sometimes hootings, and sometimes cheering up were the side dishes.
At the middle-most table from the side of the bamboo walls were a group of bachelors silently drinking their own tiredness from a long day at work. They seldom get together like this, but then, the sound of cold sake with beef and other munchies for free was hard to decline.
"What is this for anyway? We're all males...you could've at least invited some pretty ladies to accompany us," said a stern looking male after sipping his sake to the bottom of his cup.
"Nah...this isn't about us finding wives...this is about our number one enemy back in high school," a giddy, telecommunications office worker named Tateyama replied. He had large eyes behind thick eyeglasses that made him look like an alien from some manga. "Besides, I'm paying...so just listen up."
The other three men around that table looked at each others faces. If their friend was talking about a number one enemy back then, they could only think of one; Onodera Ritsu.
"Now you're listening," Tateyama gave a satisfied grin as he placed his cup down the table with a loud thud. "I heard he's back in Japan."
"Ha? That bitch is back in town?"
Another male gave a scowl, as if he just remembered the smell of rotten eggs. "That freaking bitch was the fucking reason my girlfriend and I broke up then. What is that prince of hell doing here in Tokyo?"
The other with curly hair popped a slice of meat in his mouth and shrugged. "To scatter his poison what else? He's living in a world different than ours. His head's messed up, I think living in the States had messed him more."
"Tsk Tsk..." Tateyama said while waiving a finger before his high school friends. "There's a news about him bigger and louder than the Hiroshima bombs dude!"
The three men looked interested, contrary to the other male with darkhair busy chewing on his own food, his hazel eyes watching the smoke go up and disappear above their heads. How could he even surround himself with males who loved to gossip?
"Hey...Takano..." Tateyama called. "Takano! Are you listening?"
The man giving off a 'piss off' air around him darted his eyes to the man calling him without even moving his head. It made his eyes an imaginary piercing hawk-like view from that angle.
"I am not interested."
"Haha...I see...you got played by that homosexual prick before didn't you?" Tateyama asked while laughing thinking this wasn't a delicate topic. "Man...that high school time we were all still immature kids that could be swayed very easily...I think Onodera clung to you like glue, confessing and stuff...sure made a scene back then...but he dumped you right?"
"Tateyama..." the others warned. "Stop it."
The host of the drinking session cleared his throat and shifted on his seat. "Anyway..." he darted his eyes away from Takano who started glaring daggers at him and drank another shot. "I heard that Onodera's going around asking for forgiveness."
"Yeah! Someone saw him. He's saying 'sorry' to the people he had done bad before. I doubt his list would even end," Tateyama commented which earned some nods of agreeing.
"But...why so suddenly?"
Tateyama rolled his eyes. "I heard their company is near bankruptcy. Talk about karma...maybe he was thinking asking forgiveness will reverse the effect? A lot probably have cursed him."
"Or maybe he's terminally ill?"
The group fell into an awkward silence before bursting in laughter.
"Are we weaving an anime or manga story here?" Tateyama chuckled, munching on a huge piece of beef, still laughing like a maniac.
The succeeding hours remained with the rest of the working adults of that table reminiscing how Onodera Ritsu, in one way or another had made them look stupid. Thinking back, the brunette was such a smooth-talker that led them to all sorts of trouble with the rich boy getting away scot-free.
While the others continued on talking about Ritsu, their own problems at work and family, there was only one man there that kept on drinking one shot after another while trying to forcefully close a wound. A wound that suddenly got pried open just by hearing that person's name.
In that table, Takano Masamune probably was the only man who had the strongest hatred and anger in his depths. Ritsu was asking for forgiveness now? Fuck that.
A few worried looks was thrown at the spot of their officer in charge of that office. His table was a mayhem, his face a lot of the female workers adored couldn't even be described. The continious sound of fax machine behind him seem to annoy the man even more.
He removed his long legs resting at the edge of his table and glared at his monitor.
"We've had this same problem before with the delivery! Do you fucking know how much we lose with every second of waiting here?!" the man shouted at the phone. "I even called last night to make sure there's no problem. So what the hell is this 'the package must have been placed to a different van in a different route' shit?!"
"We're sorry Takano-san...we have a lot of rookies in our team and someone must have..."
Takano Masamune gave a humorless laugh that made the nearest person next to him cringe. "Now you're blaming the 'rookies'? Am I hearing you correctly? Why did you let the rookies handle this important delivery then?!"
"S-sorry...we'll make sure to make up for the inconveniences..."
"This is the last time we'll be using your services Miyama-san. Thank you very much."
The sound of thunder could have been more gentle than Takano's slamming of the phone down to its receiver. The crazy office was filled with a tense air everyone seemed to be holding their breaths. Their OIC was in a bad mood since that morning. It was like working with a ticking time bomb.
"Uhm...T-Takano-san...I need you to sign this..." said a meek voice of a woman who didn't know where to look. She handed the folder looking at the floor. She looked like a frightened squirrel in Takano's eyes the man drew an annoyed breath.
"I'll look into it first. Thanks."
At the last word, the young woman seemed to have felt freedom she hurriedly bowed and walked away with her cheeks burning in embarassment. On the contrary, Takano started busying his lips with an unlit cigarette while boredly turning the pages of the documents with candle-like fingers.
"Release of five tons of cement..." Takano read silently, not realizing the voice of someone calling him. He only lifted his gaze when a hand started knocking loudly on his table.
"Aren't we the busy man, Takano-san?"
The OIC closed the folder and gave a 'what' look at the other male before him. Both of them and this smiling man named 'Mino' were classmates back in high school. It just so happened that the two ended up working for the same company although in different departments.
"You seem to be the slacking one," Takano replied.
Mino brushed his hair off his eyes and leaned closer, showing a picture of a chubby baby to the other man.
"Tonight's Ao's first birthday and my wife wants to have you with us. Wanna come?"
Takano smiled a bit. Mino and him wasn't the best of buddies but he was there at the man's wedding and even have to give the couple a ride when Mino's wife started having her contractions. In the end he ended up as a god-father for the cute baby boy.
"I still have tons of things to finish. But I'll try."
Mino-san straightened up and looked around as he tucked his treasured photo back in his wallet. "Oh...I invited Onodera too."
The darkhaired man's smile froze on his face.
"I accidentally ran into him the other day...we had a long talk..."
Unconsciously, Takano started flipping once more to the folder he had closed, his hands very slightly trembling. "You talked? Didn't he bully you big time back then?"
Mino laughed and scratched his chin. "Well...I was a fatty back then...if not for his continious bullying of me having too much fat, I wouldn't even bother trying to change myself. It's all thanks to him that I am this slim and happy married man."
The other gave Mino a disgusted look before shaking his head. "You sure changed fast. You were cursing him before."
The lighthaired man gave a sigh, his eyes reminiscent. "It's true I hated him. But when we saw each other again, I could really feel his sincere apology. It's all in the past anyway...besides we were just kids back then..."
"So he's really running around with an aplogy placard on his forehead...?"
"He wasn't the rich prick we knew back then...he's like a different person Takano...so...if he approaches you and says sorry...just kindly accept it, will you?"
Takano slammed the folder shut and looked up heatedly at Mino. "You know me Mino. 'Sorries'? 'Apologies'? They're not in my vocabulary. If they'd regret doing the things they were doing, why do it in the first place?"
Mino's eyes looked disappointed but if he had any more things to say, he chose to close his mouth. He rested his arms behind his head and smiled like a teenager.
"Well...please come to my son's birthday party okay? He's expecting you."
"He's a baby you know?"
Mino shrugged and walked away.
Left alone with his still undone work, his clock saying 4 in the afternoon and his irritation growing even worse, Takano buried his forehead on the back of his clasped hands. Just thinking about how he looked so stupid back then sent his body in a convulsion of anger. It was that same Onodera Ritsu that rendered him unable to accept apologies for the slightest mistakes. Such a word was a meaningless thing for him.
There were different colored balloons tied at the wooden chairs. A big half-eaten round cake with a car drawing was at the center of the table. Seaweed soup and other finger foods were there as well. A mellow, relaxing song was playing in the background. The birthday celebrant peacefully sleeping in his crib not far from the table.
"Ao-chan must be tired from all the playing he did..." the scholarly looking woman whispered. She was the woman Mino married. She works as a curator at a local museum and though she couldn't be labelled pretty, she had a certain charm that made her look attractive.
She was wearing a plain apron, her hair tied in a tight bun. She gave the other two remaining adults on the table a nod before leaving the table. The other few guests have already left a long time ago.
"I'll take Ao in the bedroom...will you two be okay?"
Mino smiled. "Sure dear...it's just Takano anyway."
"What it's just Takano are you saying?" Takano said, sipping sake to push down the foods he had eaten.
The woman chuckled merrily and left the two men alone. That was when Mino started looking at his watch worriedly.
"He said he's on his way...did he get lost or something?"
"Onodera. I told you I invited him too right? It's late but he hasn't contacted me yet."
Takano's brows started creasing as he mindlessly poured alcohol to his cup like it was water. After a couple of minutes of Mino staring at his phone, the doorbell then broke the silent night.
Hurriedly, Mino stood from his seat and went to the door to answer. From where Takano was sitting, he could here frantic apologies of getting lost in the way, and an embarassed 'this is my small gift for Ao-chan, thanks for inviting me'".
The footsteps started growing louder until the steps stopped altogether. Takano hadn't lifted his eyes even though he could sense the two men standing just before him with the table in the midst of them.
"Have a seat, have a seat! I'll go take a new plate!"
Just as fast as he was ushered into the dining area, he was left alone with a man who seemed to be not in the good mood for pleasantries. Onodera Ritsu gently let himself comfortable on the chair, only staring at the half-eaten cake at the center of the table.
The darkhaired man just poured another round of drink into his cup and gulped it down as if he heard nothing.
"It's been a while...how...how have you been?"
Silence. That was what Takano's reply with no attempt of breaking the ice between them.
A bit embarassed at being ignored, Ritsu looked around the small yet clean dining room with a hint of envy in his eyes. The two men didn't talk, did not even exchange looks. Clearly the other wasn't acknowledging Ritsu's presence.
"Hey...why are you two so silent?" Mino asked, placing the plate before Ritsu. "Here...have some cake."
Ritsu nodded while meekly putting a small slice of cake on his plate. Mino never removed his gaze from Ritsu which made the other uncomfortable.
"Onodera...aren't you feeling stuffy in that jacket? It's the peak of summer after all."
"Ah..." Ritsu shook his head. "I'm okay...I feel comfortable this way."
"Hmmm..." Mino worriedly looked at Ritsu and the annoyed man across him. "If you say so...anyway...are you working now? Tell us something about living in a foreign land."
Ritsu politely obliged. How he spent his days going to different places, taking different photos and talking to different people. He had so many stories about how he was culture-shocked when he first set foot in the west but it only took getting used to like everything else. All his calculated stories didn't make Takano join in the conversation. And it made Ritsu feel suffocated for some reason.
The whole 'birthday celebration' ended without the baby, the 'celebration' wasn't there anymore for Takano Masamune, though he didn't say anything impolite, wasn't all that accomodating as well. Mino's wife fell asleep beside her child so Mino was the one left to clean after the dishes.
"I'm going then Mino-san," Ritsu said smiling. "Thanks for everything..."
"Eh..." Mino looked at Takano's back as the man started heading for the door without so much as a goodbye. "You didn't come here by car right? Takano, give Onodera a lift will you?"
"Ha? N-no it's okay!" Ritsu said frantically as he made sure that his jacket was sipped from bottom to top. "I can walk..."
"What are you saying? There's someone with a car and both of your places head to the same direction, why not make use of it?"
Mino eyed Takano who turned back with a blank face. "You will give our friend a ride right?"
The brunette smiled a bit as he slowly walked behind the darkhaired man. Reaching the silent summer night and its dry breeze, Takano hurriedly hopped in, not even telling the other to get inside. Ritsu just assumed the man was waiting for him when the car just remained idle for a long while.
"Senpai...just the bus stop will do..."
"Senpai?" Takano repeated coldly. "Are you seriously going to act that everything's fucking okay between us? Have you got some amnesia or something?"
The car in the middle of the parking lot was dark. Only its headlights were on as a sign that there were people inside it. From the outside, they could be mistaken as ghosts of the past haunting each other.
"I...if you didn't want I could just get out," Ritsu hurriedly reached for the car door, but was met by an unmistakable clicking of the doors locking. When he tugged at the door, he ended up lifting his eyes questioningly to the man on the driver's seat. "Takano-san...I'm..."
"Don't play dumb on me," Takano whispered still not making any movements. "You purposely went to that birthday so you could see me didn't you? You are after all going on about saying sorries to the people you have made a fool of."
"That..." Ritsu's eyes a shade of dirty grass flickered. "I didn't...I was just really..."
"So? Let's cut the chase, you'll definitely come to me anyway."
Shaking, Ritsu clasped his fingers together to stop the uncontrollable movements. He drew a deep breath and watched the dark profile before him, trying to read Masamune to no avail.
"I didn't want to say sorry like this senp-"
"STOP CALLING ME SENPAI WILL YOU?!" the man spat at Ritsu's face. After that, a deafening silence enveloped them. So thick and heavy yet Ritsu knew the extent of Takano's anger wasn't just that. "You have the nerve to even show your face in front of me with that 'sorry' face of yours."
Takano started chuckling. This entire laughter not from amusement or happiness kept going on until the man had to rest his head against the stirring wheel. His shoulder shaking as he kept on laughing. While Ritsu just sat there with his heart violently drumming against his ribs painfully.
"God...you really said it..." Takano said in between his demented laughter. "Right in the middle of my family falling apart, right when everything suddenly seemed crumbling down...and right when I was completely all over for you...you just left me with a fucking grin...?"
Ritsu bit his bottom lip.
"You're really one of a kind. I even disclosed myself as being a freak for you...and you left me hanging in the air alone. Now you go and say sorry? My family fell apart completely after that!"
A hand grabbed Ritsu's lapels abruptly. The back of his head forcefully being pressed against the car window.
"Sorry. Is that the best you got?" Takano whispered, his hot breath with the scent of sake brushing on Ritsu's cheek.
"I may have been a jerk and an immature brat in the past senpai...but I never...never intended to..."
"SAVE IT!" Takano even moved closer, to the point that their eyelashes were almost touching each others. A face of a beast and a pair of desperate eyes of pleading met. "I could feel nothing but anger towards you so much I feel like exploding..."
There was an involuntary jolt that came from Ritsu, feeling a hand playfully playing with the strands of his brown hair.
"You want me to forgive you?"
Ritsu nodded ever so slightly. His eyes blurred by a hot feverish sensation.
"You work for it."
Ritsu closed his eyes and gritted his teeth trying to ignore what he was feeling when Takano's hand brushes over his earlobe occasionally as he toyed with his ear.
He knew the moment he left, he had nothing to expect. He knew he was a bitch and obviously, he'd stay like that to the one person he truthfully didn't want to mess with.
He'd reap what he had sown.
Perhaps it was Takano Masamune's little immaturity that he had come up with this little revenge. Without explanations, without a word, he'd drag the brunette every night to some place where he could show himself flirting in the open. Whether to show Ritsu that him going back and appearing into the man's life wasn't of any effect or something else, Takano couldn't be bothered. He was very satisfied to see the pained look in his kohai's eyes every once in a while.
The flickering colors of the lights dizzied Ritsu. But he just followed around silently like a loyal dog to his master. That night, after office hours, Takano had called him and had told him to accompany him to some goukoun. It wasn't the normal and formal place like most goukouns he knew.
"Oh...you have someone with you?"
Takano paid the shorter male with him a brief glance before resting his arm around the waist of the voluptious woman. "Yeah. He's my bodyguard."
The woman laughed. Her sweet voice mingled with the hypnotizing beat of the music. ''It looks the other way around to me..."
One tall man, and one desirable woman blended with the rest of the people swaying on the floor. Sometimes they were drenched in the shade of red, sometimes green, sometimes a mixture of all colors they were hard to look at.
Takano would occasionally brush his lips against the woman's ear which would earn a flirtatious pat on his sturdy chest. The green eyes, silently sitting at a lonely stool would just look at them dance away into a different dimension.
Ritsu wouldn't ask why he was being dragged around. He just did as he was told. Being asked to buy Takano this, order that and carry this, he politely did. He wouldn't even complain. And the most thing that annoyed Takano was there were some points when the brunette seemed to be even enjoying the whole set-up. Even when Takano would leave with a woman or a man and completely leaving Ritsu to go home on his own, he got no word of complaint from the brunette.
"Is he doing this on purpose?" Takano said under his breath. "Cause it's either that, or he's a freaking masochist."
Blinking curiously at his face, the face of the woman smothered with make-up and a sickening smell of fragrance was what Takano greeted him from his thoughts. He forced a smile that the woman read as flirting.
"You know what Takano-san, you've been looking at that direction for a whole while now...is something the matter?"
Takano didn't give an answer and instead just finished the song before sitting back at their table.
When the two came back, a lot has been already drinking the heat away while eyeing possible partners for the night. Be it woman, man or both didn't matter as long as it was a no-strings attached thing. The table was full of finger foods and different kinds of drinks. People that Takano only knew by face were around it, chatting and talking in hushed voices.
"Aren't you drinking?" one baby-faced man asked as he handed Ritsu a glass of burboun.
The woman snaking on Takano's arm leaned forward, showing an ample amount of curves to Ritsu.
"I thought since you came with Takano-san, you'd be game with anything. Seems like you are a lightweight..."
Others started laughing. The strangers started patting him playfully on the arm urging him to drink. When Ritsu saw a glimpse of an irritated Takano, the brunette looked back at the glass of drink before him.
"Hey...are you going to make me lose face here?" Takano asked. "I brought you with me after all, might as well not be a party-pooper..."
"But..." Ritsu tried to reason out. But it seemed like there wasn't another option.
"Have you forgotten that for you to get it, you have to earn it? I've been so kind to introduce you to the people who offered me comfort when you discarded me...don't give me that face."
"Where is it? Where..."
If he could turn everything upside down inside that car, he would have done it. He had flipped the car carpet, reclined the car seats too many times and even had looked at the trunk and at the small spaces of the car no one would normally look into.
Sweaty, face contorted in pain, Ritsu stopped his search all at once. Little gasps of panick escaped his lips as he started turning into a ball at the back seat. He rubbed his forehead against the leather seat while clutching his stomach with both his arms tightly.
He couldn't cry out in pain even if he badly wanted to. As if needles were poking at his abdomen, they pricked slowly in and out, sending a burning sensation hotter than being burned literally. He just bended and bended into a fetal position, wishing the pain goes away before Takano Masamune sees him in such a pathetic state.
The summer night seemed so long and the stars flickered beautifully in the sky. He lifted his gaze just a bit and saw them like a sleeping pill. Off he drifted to sleep, giving him a bit of freedom from the binding pain that was more vivid than most realities he knew.
"Tsk...I gave him my keys because he said he forgot something..." Takano hissed, stomping the soles of his shoes as he made his way into the middle of where he had parked his car. The area was deserted save from the occasional car honking from somewhere, and some indistinc laughter from drunk youth passing by.
Takano inserted a hand inside his pocket and inhaled the polluted and warm air of the capital and sighed.
"Does it take forever to take what he has forgotten?"
As soon as he reached his car, he didn't have to check that the person inside was asleep. Hell the car door was open inviting enough for a thief or a murderer. Takano was ready grabbing the man lying on his car seat awake, however, his attention was grabbed by something else.
A sound of a ring tone begging to be found rang into the darkhaired man's ears. Perhaps Onodera was really a lightweight to pass out after just having a glass of alcohol. The man couldn't even be awakened by his own phone call.
"Tsk...what am I doing...really?"
Takano bended and reached for the bulge at Ritsu's side. Carefully, he inserted a hand inside the tight pocket and grabbed the screaming phone out. The hazel eyes glinted by the LCD light, he read the name of the caller.
"Kusama Hiroki...?" Takano read aloud, throwing a distateful glance at the sleeping brunette. "He has someone to call him even when it is this late?"
The man swiped the phone to take the call though he didn't have any intention of answering.
"Onodera-san? Thank goodness!" said the somewhat young and relieved voice in the other line. "I didn't notice right away since I am having the night shift...but I just noticed your painkillers and medicine pouch on my table. You must have forgotten them during your check-up earlier...Anyway you're scheduled for an appointment tomorrow too so you can just get it then... I was just worried you may be searching for it nonstop..."
Takano just stood there listening to the worried voice of the man who didn't get any reply.
"Hey...Onodera-san? Are you okay? Hello?"
That was a Sunday afternoon. When he had nothing to do but ponder about the things he did, the things that took place and the event that would happen, he felt so tired. When he searched his soul why he was doing what he was doing, Takano Masamune ended up feeling more stupid than he did years ago.
He was half-naked, the irritation brought upon by the humid air of summer was too much. Even his airconditioner was of no use to the scorching heat he was feeling from his atmosphere down to his core.
He was walking around and around his flat. Barefooted, he allowed himself be in a trance-like state. Until his doorbell rang quite a few times.
Without bothering to cover himself, he answered the door. Questioning eyes greeted him. The color the same as the trees at the nearby park sucked him in. It made him silent for a few seconds before stepping aside to let his visitor inside his place.
"I bought what you told me to..." Ritsu said while removing his shoes.
"Kitchen's that way."
With just a simple nod, the brunette headed to the kitchen. Takano just watched the shorter figure move about his house. He followed Ritsu with his gaze. And suddenly, he had to look the other way, for his eyes started to water.
Never had he expected that the call he answered that humid Thursday night would rattle him so much.
"Uhm...hello? Why aren't you answering?"
The words 'appointment', 'painkillers', 'medicine', were the only things that remained in Takano's head as he watched the guy on his back seat snooze. They were words that only made sense in movies, in dramas or in books that he have read.
"Ah..." there was a sudden knowing chuckle on the otherline that made Takano step back a little. "Let me guess...I am talking to Ritsu's ghost, Takano-san, am I not?"
The man in the other line didn't even give Takano the chance to talk this time, for he answered his own question himself.
"I am, right?" a rythmic tapping of something could be heard at the same time a chair seemed to have been dragged from somewhere. "I think I just strummed on a curious string...hey...if you wanna know something spectacular, why not go to Ritsu's appointment tomorrow...?"
Takano's face adorned by the night shadows just grew dimmer.
"But...I'd like for you to stay as a ghost..."
Friday morning, hot and humid just like any other day at the peak of the summer season, Takano did the impossible. He followed Ritsu.
The so-called rich kid that everyone knew to be a prick just used the local train system. The Ritsu he knew back then was the kid with so many masks. He had forgotten whether the real Ritsu was the sweet one he knew or the one who dumped him, or the one who did all those bullying and trouble. He didn't know yet he still loved that frail brunette ten years ago. So much that the wound was something no one could measure up. Wasn't that why he was even trying to show Ritsu he had moved on and didn't care anymore?
Anyway, that day, Takano just followed while Ritsu walked a good distance and once in a while rested under the shades of huge trees. Takano felt like some idiot while tailing a brunette who had no inkling he was being followed.
Annoyed at the same time amazed, Takano realized Ritsu could be robbed or hurt without even knowing. Nevertheless, despite his own white shirt clinging to his sculpted body due to sweat, he still followed Ritsu.
It was nothing out of the ordinary. White buildings, white walls and white-wearing people greeted his eyes. Even in that early morning, the hospital seemed to be pretty packed. The smell of sickness made Takano wrinkle his nose as he watched from a good distance Ritsu taking a left turn.
Once he reached that left turn, Takano thought he was transported to a different place. Much calmer and silent ambiance filled the area. The hallways were wider, and the people he saw were fewer.
Attempting to follow Ritsu without being noticed, Takano stood beside a coffee vendo machine. From his point, Ritsu then greeted a very tall darkhaired man with a kind smile. The giant looked young but had strong hands that patted the other on the shoulders firmly. The next thing Takano knew, the two were already walking away, towards a back-to-back bench situated at an empty children's playground.
The doctor and patient sat without talking for a long while. As if both were resting and gathering their thoughts. Takano then sat quietly behind the two, nonchalantly flipping at a health brochure he grabbed at the entrance.
"You're being quite busy aren't you? Don't over do it...besides, forgetting your medicine pouch is very careless you know?" the doctor scolded in a friendly way as he handed the brunette a small, leather pouch.
"Sorry," Ritsu replied. "Kusama-sensei...I'll be more careful."
"You should," Kusama Hiroki replied as he crossed his long legs more comfortably. "By the way...that list of yours, still not done?"
Takano glared at the brochures without actually seeing anything.
"Tsk...Onodera-san, you never cared if people actually forgave you as long as you did your best to sincerely relay your apology...why the effort with this last name in your list?"
Ritsu forced a laugh, slipping a hand in his medicine pouch and opening a small notebook with names of people he had already apologized to. The last name remained unchecked. Takano Masamune.
"The entire time I stayed in the hospital...I tried listing the names of people I have toyed with...some I could not even remember...but Takano-san...his answer is really important to me..."
Hiroki ruffled the back of his head and sighed. "Say he forgives you finally, after following everything he's making you do...what's next? Bye bye then? You'll die in peace is that it?"
Some of the brochures Takano was holding fell silently on the floor. He didn't even bother picking them up.
"I guess so," Ritsu replied.
"Look here Onodera...you could still have that tumor removed in your abdomen...you've been fighting it for ten years...why give up now?"
Ritsu gave a small smile as he looked at the slightly moving swings because of the dry wind that brushed to their faces.
"It's because I've been fighting it for ten years that I should give up..." the brunette rested a hand on his abdomen shortly. "All those ten years, I've had surgery year after year but it's a recurrent cancer... the tumor keeps on coming back...I am pretty much tired of it..."
"You make it sound so unimportant..." Hiroki replied, looking troubled himself. "Onodera...what if this last surgery is the last you have to undergo? Give it a try..."
"That's exactly the same thing the surgeon in America said at my fifth operation. The sixth, seventh up to now, they all said things differently but had the same meaning...I feel sorry for my parents too."
"As long as you have the means to have surgery, whether it's the eleventh or the twentieth, just go and do it! So you don't want to take another surgery, giving up competely and then you came up with that silly list, running around people asking them to forgive you?" Hiroki asked almost sarcastically. "Don't be an annoying shoujou manga heroine..."
"Because I really think I'd end up in hell, that's why I need to do this..." Ritsu mumbled. "I was such a selfish person at a young age...and the simple stomach aches, I thought they were nothing yet it came to this..."
Kusama Hiroki inserted a pen inside the breast pocket of his white coat and stood. He stood before Ritsu yet he was eyeing the frozen man sitting at the opposite side of their bench.
"The reason you left that Takano dude ten years ago was because you got diagnosed with gastric cancer right? You ran away before...why do it again?"
Hiroki turned his back, ready to leave. "Settle this thing with that guy you couldn't forget. He's right behind you."
Ritsu stared at the broad back of his doctor leaving. The crunching of some dried leaves that had gathered filled the sudden tense atmosphere. He just fixed his green eyes at an empty playground after minutes of silence.
As if the bench he was sitting on was set on fire, Ritsu hurriedly stood, the open pouch on his lap landing on the ground, numerous tablets and bottles falling out, rolling to all directions. The brunette's reflexes were slow. He crouched, picking his items one by one in a hurry. He didn't even mind the pair of brown leather shoes beside him. He just kept on picking his medicine while holding his breath.
Ritsu's hand reaching the brown bottle under the bench froze.
"What's that...just now?" Takano's voice sounded distant. The scorching heat of his anger radiating already just by the timber of his voice. "Tell me what the fuck was that?!"
The brunette on the ground fixed his gaze at the scattered pills on the ground. Why does he even bother picking them up?
"It's just as you heard. I'm dying. So just accept my sorry...then I could finally be peaceful..."
Takano chuckled forcefully, not knowing where to dart the itching in his knuckles.
"Ten years ago, you left because of this?" the darkhaired man asked incredulously. "Because of this?"
Ritsu wiped the wetness on his cheek with his hands and stood. He turned his back, not wanting to see the face Takano was making.
A distant sound of a digital clock filled the hallways reaching the manmade playground and mini park at the center. A few kids had gathered playing at the sand box, their giddy laughter sounded so out of place.
"Look at me."
Wanting to leave in a hurry, Ritsu decided leaving his scattered medicine on the ground and took a huge step away. Only he was pulled back securely in place, by Takano's strong grip on his arm. It was even painful.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
Ritsu still tried not making eye contact. Neck craning to the farthest it could go, Ritsu stood just allowing the fingers of the man he left ten years ago dig into his flesh.
"If you are this...this seriously ill...you could have informed me so-"
"How could I tell you?" Ritsu softly asked, looking to the bench they were seated before. "Hi senpai I have cancer in my abdomen, the tumor keeps on growing and growing."
A sweat trickled down from Takano's brow bone to his jaw, his eyes a color of bright honey under the sun. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. He started gripping the brunette on both shoulders, too strong even his arms were shaking.
"Instead of leaving me like a fucking bubble, you should have told me what's going on with your life!"
"How?" Ritsu, slowly darted his reddening eyes at his angry senpai. The green of his eyes looked like that of a transparent lake's. "How could I tell you something like that when your parents are in the middle of a divorce? How could I just bring it up when you just learned that your father isn't your real father? How could I break it to you when everything's so messed up in your life that time?"
The veins inside Takano's head started throbbing.
"You were already in so much pain..." Ritsu continued, shaking his head. "I didn't want to add to it."
Searching hazel eyes bore into Ritsu. The children at the playground gave them questioning looks, thinking of a fight between adults.
"I left without saying anything because I thought I'm going to be healthy again soon...but I was wrong."
With such strenght, Ritsu started removing Takano's grip on his shoulders.
"So please just accept my sorry for everything... and let this idiotic dying fool rest in peace..."
Dumbfounded, Ritsu stared at the darkhaired man who suddenly bended to pick up a bottle near his feet. He grabbed it and handed it to Ritsu without a word. When Ritsu didn't give a sign of reaching to it, Takano grabbed a thin wrist from Ritsu's side and forced the small bottle in the brunette's palm.
An impatient sucking of breath came from Takano, and then he hissed. "I will never forgive you."
The sound of sake bottles clattering echoed through the kitchen. As Ritsu stuffed bottle after bottle into the fridge, a heavy gaze drilled a hole at the back of his head. The brunette ignored it, set to finish the task that was given to him under the scorching heat of the summer sun just to make his life even harder.
Takano must really hate him. After all, even after knowing that he was seriously sick, the man wouldn't even forgive him. If anything, Takano just made him more and more like his maid and servant in one.
"Okay...done..." Ritsu mumbled. He stood up, fixed the crease on his cream colored pants and turned at the doorframe. "Takano-san, I'm going."
The darkhaired man just stood there quitely staring at Ritsu. Occupying half the space of the door, Takano crossed his arm over his sweating skin. Ritsu looked away, gathered his bag and headed to the only exit of this suffocating heat.
"I didn't force you into doing this," Takano started, using his arm to completely seal the narrow space of the door. It made Ritsu step back, eyeing Takano with a perplexed look. "Is my accepting your apology that important?"
Ritsu didn't even open his mouth. He just raised a hand, trying to remove Takano's arm blocking the way. However, Takano grabbed that weak arm with his other free hand, pulling the brunette closer to his face.
"You know I always stay with my words...I won't forgive you."
"Yet you still stick to me like this?"
Feeling that Takano's grip on him was finally loosening, it was Ritsu's cue to hurriedly get away. Stepping forward, passing by Takano without even looking, it was too late for the brunette to realize what he did was a wrong move.
A bare foot from Takano intentionally moved forward, putting the brunette off balance. Hands reaching for support, Ritsu ended up grabbing to Takano instead. And what followed was an idescribable air of awkwardness.
"Do you know why I can't forgive you? Because I fucking don't want you to 'rest in peace'..."Takano said, making Ritsu stand properly. A long pause lingered in the midst of their awkwardness before Takano gave a somewhat hurt look in his eyes. "If that's the only thing that could make you struggle to stay...so be it."
Ritsu felt his hands sliding down the chest where he was holding, the sheen of sweat slippery and dangerous.
"You left for me? Why can't you come back for me?"
"It just so happened that I'm sick, Takano-san. Whether we get together or not, will not make a difference..."
It shocked Ritsu beyond words upon feeling hands gently cupping his distorted face. The same hands that Takano used ten years ago lingered back on his skin like a sweet dream. His breath hitched, and he struggled to get away.
"Ritsu...I don't want to see you leave me twice. Please..."
Those words were transparent confessions...that Takano had never even been able to actually 'hate' Ritsu all these years. His waivering words, his thundering pulse as he tried to gently cage Ritsu in his arms, his slight trembling, they were nothing short of pleading and begging.
For a future so foggy, for a present so unsteady, for feelings as one, Onodera Ritsu gave in.
Such gentleness, it couldn't possibly exist in this world. Yet every button leaving its slot, exposing skin bit by bit rendering much anticipation, sent Ritsu's eyes to a blurr. His chest was aching so much at the same time he felt the tips of very warm fingers caress his bare shoulders.
Past his blurry eyes, Ritsu couldn't tell what face Takano was making. He was only sure of one thing, Takano was trembling as much as he did. Drenched with the midnoon sun rays, the yellowish lights peering from the blinds, they said silently everything worth of ten years gap.
A stail scent filled that space. Combination of sweat, shallow and short breaths, bodily fluids, body heat, it was a scent of passion at its peak. It was impossible to put exactly into words what 'euphoria' could be. Everyone could experience this differently. But right there, right that very moment, both knew that there would be no other existing being who could burn their souls more than this. It was beyond insanity. And there was no other choice but to indulge themselves without knowing when would be the next time. Or if there would even be a next time.
Both sitting on the bed, facing each other with only their bare skins, they allowed a very long stretch of time just watching the other. Ritsu could only fix his gaze at Takano's shoulder blades, anything below he couldn't bring himself to look. Takano gave a small smile, absorbing even the gentle appearing of Ritsu's ribs against his skin as he drew deep breaths in.
"You're really thin..." Takano stated in a hoarse voice, feeling the sensation of the ribs that was caging his beloved's heart with the palm of his hands.
"I never could gain weight...because of..." Ritsu let the words trail off, knowing Takano completely understood.
Those gentle hands found their way up to Ritsu's back. In a way without being too forceful yet still had the intent, Takano pulled Ritsu forward, letting their chests come in contact. Ritsu could only bury his face at the space between the darkhaired man's shoulder and neck. He didn't know what to feel whether shame or he had completely lost the ability to discern such things.
When a hand firmly grabbed his legs wide, resting on both Takano's legs, Ritsu closed his eyes. He was being propped up, being prepared for that connection. He craved for it yet feared it.
Although it was only Takano doing the leading, Ritsu didn't make it so hard and even opened up with everything Takano gently demanded. When Takano urged for a kiss, he opened his mouth, gave his soul through his lips. When Takano looked him in the eyes, he looked back, biting down tears and sobs about to escape his lips.
In that position where they could both feel their hearts in rythm, Ritsu held on tightly, circling his thin arms around the other's shoulders firmly.
What seemed like forever waiting at the brunette's entrance started slowly advancing in. So slow, very deep, as if Takano was engraving every bit of his feelings deeper and deeper within Ritsu's sick body.
Ritsu whimpered, easing at the discomfort, but never did he say anything about stopping. They just clung to each other, licking each other's tears, receiving each other's warmth, making their bodies in a flesh of one, the happiness was only for a fleeting moment and there was no satisfaction.
The body was satisfied but Takano's heart was empty as a shell.
The lenght of time they were entangled for the first time in ten years was long yet short. Naked on top of his disheveled sheets, Takano hadn't moved a muscle from that afternoon till the Monday that came the next day. For the first time without actually getting sick, Takano didn't come to work.
Takano just lied on his bed on his side, his pillow unmistakably wet from the glimmering in his eyes. Ritsu left sometime when he was still sleeping. The idiot left when Takano was so sure he wrapped himself like a rope around Ritsu. His heart left him, for the second time even when he already asked Ritsu not to.
The afternoon ray vanished, shadows crawled in. That was when tears streamed down Takano's face and sobs escaped his lips. Sobs that nobody has ever heard filled his room where Ritsu's scent still lingered.
A year and two months passed by in a series of problems at work and hearing useless gossips from the people around him. He had cried his eyes out that afternoon and was back to living his life like he used to do.
Nobody could guess that he had this gaping hole in his chest as he went on with his day to day living. Onodera Ritsu has ceased contact since then. Some said he went back overseas. Some said the brunette has been involved with bad people. The most outrageous thing Takano heard that led him sleepless for nights was Ritsu being dead.
He was so scared about that because out of all the crazy things flying about Ritsu, that was the only thing that was most likely to happen.
It was a shock when Takano looked at his wrist watch. He only said 'okay', 'good work' to the many people who greeted him upon going home. He didn't realize that he was actually the only soul in that office. The other corners were dark. His only companion was his shadow.
He reached for the back of his neck as he started looking up. Another tiring day. Another boring day. He closed his eyes, groaning at the stuck vein somewhere in his system.
If there would be no news about Ritsu after all these months...the darkhaired man stood, frowning at his own train of thoughts. He cut them off before he hurt himself.
Silently, he went out, turned off the lights and dragged his feet home. He was afraid, this way of living would soon consume him into a living corpse.
Even in the dark, his grin couldn't be hidden. Standing by a tree, phone in hand, the radiation from his phone made him look like a ghost from afar. However, most nurses and fellow doctors became used to this freaky smile on Kusami Hiroki every night shift.
He looked up, summer season this year was about to end and he could finally feel a bit of the promising colder Autumn he wanted. He sighed, putting his phone back into his pocket.
Hiroki left his tree and went back to the blinding white hallways. His hands clasped behind him, he had a very genuine smile that most kid patients liked about him.
"I told you...that's going to be the last surgery you'll ever take..." he mumbled. The sent email to him emphasizing that the possibility of the tumor coming back this time was 0. He felt full inside. Eleven surgeries per year of his friend with almost giving up...this was nothing short of a miracle.
He rubbed the side of his eyes sheepishly, obviously in a good mood. "I don't have to guess where he'll run to the moment his plane arrives..." he shook his head. "Right, right...Make up for the lost times...idiot couple."
The brown and silver hallway was quite. It was nothing of the ordinary how he was the only person walking in it. He had been a workaholic, going home while everyone was already asleep, going to work when everyone was already in their desks. This routine was as normal as it could ever be.
He listened to his shoes squeaking against the well-cleaned floors, his keys sending a jingling sound as he fished for it from his bag.
Busy putting it in the slot, a sudden presence of someone prickled at his skin.
"Hi, I'm new here," said a funny highpitched voice as if he was being strangled. "I'll be in your care..."
Takano, grumpy from exaustion had not the least bit of mood for greeting a new neighbor. He continued inserting his keys, however, for a reason he couldn't place, he just couldn't insert it properly.
"Actually...I'll live with you," said a more relaxed, normal voice.
Takano glanced at the pair of brown, dusty shoes a little behind him. His field of vision unsteady as his head and chest throbbed. If this was a dream his brain has made up, he had to hold on to it to keep it. Touch it to make it real.
Like in a trance, he reached to the smiling face before him, his fingers trembling. The tips of his fingers pressed lightly on the soft, warm and more healthy looking skin and the green eyes just smiled even more in assurance.
Slowly, still unbelieving, Takano took a step foward, a little step that brought him so much closer to the face he couldn't forget. To the face that played in his mind every waking and every sleeping time he got.
"Ritsu...?" Takano choked.
Misty-eyed, Ritsu nodded fervently.
The keys in Takano's hand fell from his grasp, grabbing the other in a gentle yet crushing embrace. As if the metal keys fell in slow motion, their clanking against the marble floors produced a sweet sound. A cheer for having fought this far and finally taste this reward called 'love'.
chapter end notes:
yahoooooooooo. it's been a while since i wrote for this couple ne? and also...i totally enjoyed playing with their circumstances...hohoho...school is very busy...*whines* i couldn't even get a decent time where i could just sit and surf the net arghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
hmmm...has anybody noticed how i VERY VERY SELDOM use 'I LOVE YOU' in my stories be in oneshot or the series? i enjoy looking for other ways in saying it ever since. XD
ps. i didn't kill ritsu...yey! XD i missed writing in this mood. XD fan fiction world you really relieve my stress!
ps2. i made a cover art for this one shot and it turned out to be a personal favorite...XD please check it out and perhaps, leave a message in my tumblr about your thoughts? ja neeeeeeeeeeeeee~