Amidst the brightest light he'd ever seen, only the slightest silhouette of pale skin was visible. As if there was a fabric of light embracing this mysterious figure, he'd appear and vanish like a fading star. Golden brown hair, silk-like and soft to touch, and emerald eyes. They were too striking in that flood of light. Too striking and clear that it gathered a deep impression in his still hazy mind.
There was a sound of a calm bubbling of water from somewhere. Another soft purring from not so far. An enticing recipe for grabbing more sleep. Everything looked peaceful. Everything felt relaxed. But the more he tried focusing his gaze to that face hidden in the lights, the more he realized that this wasn't a happy dream. The man, that green-eyed young man staring to somewhere far, was crying.
Takano Masamune had been having this dream more frequently. Each time, it was getting more vivid. It was getting more realistic to the point that he was getting goosebumps. Like a glimpse from a reality.
"Seriously...if I am getting any dreams...can't it be with a woman or something?" he gritted deep within him.
The man drew a deep breath as he placed his laptop in hibernating mode. The new recruit for this mayhem of a department should be arriving today. And he, being the chief of the department was tasked to give the poor recruit an overview of his job and his responsibilities.
"I heard he was quite the passionate guy during the interview..." Takano thought, kicking his chair lightly out of the way, leaving his zombie team behind. "I couldn't come to the interview but yeah...give him a week or two and he'd be the walking corpse too, he might even suddenly quit."
The hallway was as usual a picture perfect 'rat-race'. Men without baths for many days. Women who couldn't even be bothered slapping on some make-ups. Shoutings, nonstop phone ringing, drowning aroma of coffee and smoke were swirling in the air. This was a workplace from hell. Marukawa Research team for the Newspaper Entertainment Department, Marukawa Daily E.
Takano had once an experience with this scene before. When he was still in the editing department of the same company's manga section. He had thought that was hell. But he realized that it was just a glimpse. In this department, their deadline was always within the day that it was ridiculous.
"Ohayo Takano-san!" a young man greeted while in the photocopying area. "I heard your new researcher is already there? Be gentle with the newbie Sir!"
"Gentle?" Takano repeated, playing with his sadistic grin. "There is nothing gentle when you're in the entertainment gossip side of Marukawa Daily News."
Walking within his pace, Takano started placing his cigarette in his mouth. He didn't light it yet, it just bobbed up and down as he walked the cramped hallways full of boxes for what god knows for.
Then he saw her. Black long hair, light brown eyes, pale skin and slender figure. Masaya Akiko. The woman he was trying to win. It was such a challenge. She was a girl like no other. Most often than not, women try to win his favor. But it was the opposite with Masaya Akiko. She wasn't an easy-to-get woman, sophisticated and very lady-like. Takano really liked her type.
"Ah, Ohayo Takano-san," the woman Takano highly regards greeted. It was obvious she wasn't wearing any make-up. But her beauty shines like a spell in that dump of a work-area. She looked really out of place. "Don't go smoking first thing in the morning."
Takano smiled. "I'm just making my lips a bit busy. I get bored."
She lightly giggled. "Is that a hint or something? Properly look out to that newbie first before flirting with me, Takano-san."
Hazel-eyes narrowed. Talking to this lazy makes him really invigorated. Direct yet subtly playful. If he would settle down, it be great if it'd be with her.
"Sure I will," he replied. Slowly though, he leaned over the girl just slightly, catching a wiff of a sweet scent. "Anyway, how about lunch later?"
"No way," she replied right away with a grin. She knows how to make her suitors interested. "I have some appointments then. Eat with the newbie instead."
She passed by Takano, the heels of her shoes clicking lightly against the floor. Takano just watched silently the woman as she walked away. She definitely got the looks, body and the personality.
Just before turning into a corner, Masaya Akiko glanced behind her. Her bright brown eyes sparkling.
"Maybe dinner then?"
Takano almost coughed from that out of nowhere invitation. He then raised a hand.
"Count me in."
"Then I'll email you for the place and time," she sweetly said. "See yah."
Once alone, Takano smiled widely. After seven months of this kind of subtle hints about their attraction with each other, it was finally showing signs of paying off.
He turned to the side, facing a huge door. A sign 'meeting room' stuck against the door by only just a scotch tape was visible. He placed his hand over the knob.
He would really be the nice senpai today. Because he was really in such a good mood. However, after pushing the door open, his grin instantly vanished.
"Oh, Takano you jerk," an old man with graying hair said while standing up. "Very considerate of you to make your newbie wait for you alone here huh? Good thing I was here to accompany this pup."
The guy being talked about just smiled. "Thank you for the encouragement and the tips Sir."
"Don't mention it."
Takano regarded the old man. "I'm busy you know that, " he then quietly looked at the rigid young man who stood at the same time the old man did.
"I-I'm Onodera Ritsu, your new researcher starting today," the stammering voice said. He then bowed hastily as if he saw a King and was afraid to be punished. "Please guide me."
Takano narrowed his eyes. He seriously have seen this guy somewhere. The more he thought about it, the more his frown deepened.
"Oi...Takano...don't go glaring at the newbie on his first day..." The old man waived his hand in the air. "Now that my good samaritan deed is over, I'll head back to my office. Takano, I'll leave the rest to you."
Once the old man was gone, with only the two of them left standing in that silent room, the raven cleared his throat, removing his unlighted cigarette off his mouth.
"So...Onodera?" Takano started. "Welcome to our department. And...hmmm...are you used to working on the field?"
"Hai!" this Onodera replied right away. "I was working in a small newspaper company before, so I have experience with running after politicians and the likes."
Takano placed his hands inside his jeans and started heading for the door.
"I'll give you a little tour around here," he said, motioning for the newbie to come follow him. "Anyway, it's good you have experience. But following celebrities is different from following politicians. You also dig a different kind of dirt. Can you stomach that?"
"I-I'll do my best!"
Takano sighed inwardly. Somehow it felt like teaching a baby duck how to swim in a sewer.
As the pair started walking side by side with Takano explaining things from the structure of the department to their specialty, Takano would pay a little stolen glances to the guy beside him. It was bothering him. Very much that this guy looked extremely familiar.
Perhaps because of instinct, Onodera had glanced up, meeting gazes with his superior who was staring at him.
"Nothing," Takano replied, looking ahead. "Anyway...have you been informed of what room will you be staying?"
Onodera Ritsu started rummaging into his pockets. A crampled yellow paper became visible.
"Room 402? Right Wing, fourth floor of the Company housing..." the newbie read aloud.
"..." Takano suddenly got a sour expression on his facial features.
"Uhm...I heard it's the same room as the most difficult employee in this department. I wonder why..."
"Ohh?" Takano remarked with a raised brow. "Difficult? Who told you?"
"I just heard about it...but do you perhaps know him? It'd be good if I would know what he dislikes so that I won't make him bothered or something..."
"Sure I'll tell you," Takano answered while the two of them waited for the elevator. "This building has ten floors. The company housing is located on the seventh floor. Since it says, fourth. That means it's floor ten."
Onodera nodded, taking down notes.
"You're not allowed to bring in women in the room and other outsiders. And regarding about that guy in Room 402, I guess he's one difficult guy to handle."
"He hates sharing room with others, but since the new ones aren't available yet and his room is quite larger than the rest, he had to be stuck with his newbie employee."
Onodera nodded. The elevator door opened and Takano swiftly went inside. Right before Onodera could set a foot inside, the man with brown hair and emerald eyes froze.
"Just got it pieced together?" Takano asked a little sarcastically. "You're slow. You're rooming with me."
"Eh...? Huh? With...with my boss?"
"Just act like you don't exist for the time being and we'll have no problems."
In no time, the newbie had become a part of the team. Everyone felt as though this certain brunette with zeal and eagerness had always been with them. Adaptive, hardworking, nice to be around with. Onodera Ritsu had been accepted without trouble.
"Ne, ne, Ricchan? So how is it rooming with that Evil boss?"
Ritsu looked beside him. The question came from a man whose face was deceiving when it comes to age. He was fun to talk to and always tried to help Ritsu if he couldn't understand something.
"Evil boss..." Ritsu forced a grin as he shuffled through some papers. "Uhm...it's alright. Everything's okay. He treats me like I don't exist."
Kisa Shouta and the person on the other side of the table named Mino exchanged quizzical looks. They didn't know whether to be relieved or feel sorry about that.
All heads turned to the tyrannical voice calling out. Even from the other departments, they knew the only meaning why Takano Masamune was calling out someone's name as if he was calling a dog.
"What on Earth are you still dillydallying there for?!" Takano shouted, throwing a folder on his desk. "That Korean group having a concert in Tokyo Dome already has arrived! YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE WHEN THEY ARRIVED IN THE AIRPORT!"
"Eh?" Ritsu stood out of reflex, shocked and confused. "Uhm...nobody...told me..."
"HUUUUH?" Takano crossed his arms. "You're a freaking researcher, you should be aware about this without noone spoon feeding you! Get your ass moving!"
The brunette started grabbing his belongings from the table, throwing them hastily inside his leather sling bag without care. He really wasn't aware that he's going to be on the field right away.
"What on Earth would the writers write without information?!"
"I'm...I'm sorry! I'm going now!"
Year 2014 was a big success for those Korean Groups having their popularity reaching the youth of Japan. As someone who was not that very interested with Korean groups, Takano was even getting more annoyed to have to write a write-up for it. But a job was a job so he had to gather all the flowering words he could coat his article.
He sent his newbie researcher because that was the easiest out of the jobs currently present. He couldn't let a still newbie run after an actress having an affair with a Yakuza boss yet. Nor could he let that somehow klutzy newbie stalk a popular actor rumored to have schizophrenic tendencies.
"Takano-san...you really don't go easy on anyone huh?" Kisa commented while his hands were busy with his own keyboard. "He's even your roommate..."
"What's that got to do with it?" Takano barked. "Your article is already late Kisa. You have three hours from now."
While Onodera's team mates were busy running word after word with their article in the comfort of their warm office, he was there, standing outside some hotel where the Korean boy group was staying. It felt like a minus degree and he was soon crying from the cold. The other reporters and researchers beside him seemed to not be at all bothered. He felt a little useless somehow. So he tried imagining other things.
After waiting a couple of hours waiting for the press release of the foreign boy group, Onodera Ritsu finally had the time to breath. His feet was aching. And he felt like he ran a mile from trying to get exclusive interviews from the fleeing members of that group.
"Waaah...so the youngsters nowadays are into these kind of artists huh?" Onodera mumbled. He was slumped near a sidewalk, checking the photos he captured in his camera. His cheeks flushed from the cold, his hair in a messy state. "They...look somehow prettier than a girl..."
One by one he checked them. He was looking for a good shot that would go along with the information he gathered. The sun was about to leave him when a car came honking very close to him. He didn't bother about it and continued what he was doing. But the honking just got a tad louder and impatient.
"Onodera. You'll really keep ignoring me?"
The brunette looked up. An irrate face was what he saw in the driver's seat of a darkblue car.
"Takano-san?" Ritsu stood and hurriedly dashed to the car. "I just finished gathering information...so..."
"You can go check your data back in the office. You can't go getting sick just because you're too dedicated. Get in."
As how much closely and tightly knitted they were at work being boss and subordinate that needed constant communication, was as how much they were strangers in their quarter. Both having separate rooms inside, they seldom see each other aside from using the bath or heading out.
That night, Takano was as usual finishing the article out of what Onodera Ritsu had gathered. He also had to check the other articles submitted to him by his other writers. Being a chief-editor has always been what he was doing. But this was more taxing, having to get in time or else their output would just be an old entertainment news losing its flavor.
"What's up with today? Everyone just got a trouble with their own articles...shit..."
He rested his head against the headrest and closed his eyes. Finishing all of them all night drained him of all his energy. The only merit in this was he and the girl he was eyeing had started going out regularly to eat or just talk when there's free time.
So far so good. He was a man that needed other things than money anyway.
Takano Masamune didn't know since when he had been standing there. Just that open windows allowing all the sunlight get in was too bright he couldn't see much. Actually this was abnormally bright. And after having this dream for too many times, he had started realizing that this was just actually a dream and he'd wake up any minute.
"This dream again...over and over..."
As if he was watching a film zooming in an awfully slow manner, the details of the hazy scenario were getting clearer. The calming bubbling of water from somewhere would start filling his sense of hearing. The purring sound. And that. He'd expected that he'd come out any minute. A figure of a man standing. His profile ethereal. Because of the light, because of the haziness, it carried a certain beauty in it.
Takano tried his best to look into that profile. There goes again those tears on the man's cheeks. Freely flowing from a pain that was too deep to describe.
"Why..." Takano started moving his mouth. His own voice sounded different. As if it came from a different man. "Why are you...cryi-"
The man in that dream looked at him directly. The moment he caught glimpse of those emerald eyes looking back at him, he felt shivers running down his spine. He didn't know whether he should laugh or get disgusted.
"Takano-san? Excuse me?"
The eyes of the man in his dreams and the one staring at him now was one and the same.
Takano Masamune had been staring at the green eyes looking down on him. Brown hair, again those eyes, same body built.
"Fuck. Why is he in my dreams?"
The boss scratched the back of his head exasperatedly. Falling asleep on his chair, seeing another guy's face first thing in the morning, what was more, the one in the dreams he'd been having nonstop was something he couldn't really appreciate.
"Why are you here in my room?" Takano asked, looking into his phone. It said six in the morning.
"Sorry...I know you said I should act like I am not here," Ritsu explained, still in his pajamas. "But a woman came earlier and she said I had to give this to you like 'now'."
Being in a foul mood, Takano grabbed the envelope the brunette was holding. He never darted his gaze anywhere from the brunette's face before him. He just kept on staring, trying to find out why on Earth he had this Onodera Ritsu in his dreams way before the latter got accepted in his team.
"Onodera, from now on...even if it's Satan telling you to give me something, never come in my room," Takano said in a low voice. "It creeps me out."
"Uh..." Ritsu looked down, as if worried suddenly by something. "Okay, sorry. I'm going out now."
Since that day, for some reason, whenever Onodera Ritsu had to talk with Takano Masamune, he was either looking down, or somewhere far. He made sure he never made eye contact. As if he was trying to hide something.
This bothered Takano to a great extent.
A little late that day, Ritsu noticed Kisa Shouta and Mino and the rest of their team huddled together. Silently they were talking amongst themselves. He felt his palms suddenly getting sweaty as he approached them. He was scared of what might they be talking that way in such a hushed manner.
"O-ohayo..." Ritsu said, making the others look at him.
"Ricchan! Ohayo!" Kisa greeted back, smiling and frowning one after another the moment he saw Ritsu's pale face. "You okay?"
"Yes! Yes..." Ritsu replied, walking in closer to the circle the team had made. "Uhm...what are you guys talking about?"
Kisa grinned slyly and rested his arm on Onodera's shoulder. "Listen...I heard Takano-san and Masaya-san are officially going out now..."
"Yup...the Evil boss with a face of a King, and the Goddess of the health section of our magazine. Can a couple be any more perfect?"
Ritsu smiled awkwardly, moving back to his chair to get some work done. It was a relief that it wasn't what he was fearing that was being talked about. Still, he didn't feel all that very much happy.
"Their offspring will be surely killers when the time comes!" Kisa laughingly commented which made the others shake their heads.
"Idiot, they just started going out, they're not getting married any sooner being both the workaholics they are."
He wasn't really feeling any better after having a flu tablet for prevention. He'd been out more often because of the many entertainment happenings going on left and right. From the freezing cold in the morning to the much more freezing temperature in the evening, he would be out, running after celebrities.
Ritsu sniffed, tried to tug at his scarf to cover every inch of his neck. He blew hard on his already gloved hands and looked up their ten storey building. He still had to organize his notes so that the writers could understand them with ease.
He walked silently into their building, deciding to use the bathroom first.
When he entered, there was another man taking a leak. He walked to the cubicles instead, feeling like he was about to vomit.
"Oi...did I just see you do that?"
Ritsu looked towards the man who was still doing his thing. He had deep red hair and dark eyes that looked menacing. Ritsu didn't like that look. They were the eyes of a knowing one.
"Oi, oi...don't go acting all innocent after peeping mine."
The brunette knitted his brows and hurriedly decided to use some other toilet. However, the guy blocked his way. Towering over Ritsu, the brunette dared to hold his ground without shrinking back.
"I don't know you. Just what is your deal?"
"Heh...Onodera-san...a friend of mine who works at your previous company told me everything there is to know about you..."
"How you got involved with someone. How you got fired."
Ritsu stepped back a little, losing bit by bit the composure he was trying to hold.
"You even dare looking at a man's penis while they're taking a leak...that's disgusting."
"What are you talking about? I didn't..."
With a mocking smile, the tall man zipped his pants exasperatedly. "I heard you used to give blow-jobs to your superior...I don't really get it...but having a gay in this kind of work is disturbing. HIV is contagious right?"
Second by second, Ritsu was losing his grasp of what they were actually talking about. All he could understand was he was talking with such a shallow man who was slandering him.
"Ne...does your current boss know you're a homo?"
"He doesn't. Wow...I wonder what that Tyrant of a boss would do...rooming with you."
"What about me?"
Ritsu's eyes grew wide. Just behind the redhead was his boss and room mate Takano Masamune looking alternatingly from the brunette to the other guy.
"What are you two talking about?"
"Oh...Takano-san..." the stranger said with so much familiarity. "Remember me?"
Takano Masamune stepped in and tried fixing a few of his hair in front of the mirror. "Of course, chief editor of the Marukawa Sport Magazine," he purposely didn't mention the name. A sincere show of him saying that he couldn't be bothered with the man's real name. "What do you need with my subordinate?"
"I caught your subordinate staring at my thing. So I was telling him not to do that."
Ritsu's lips started quivering. He wanted to say something but everything had been pushed back at his throat.
"Huh? Why would Onodera be interested with that?"
The stranger grinned meaningfully. "Just why ne?"
"Stop it. I didn't stare at anything..." Ritsu whispered so softly that he was clearly going to be misread as doing actually the opposite. "Stop..."
"Takano-san...didn't you know...your roommate is a homo. Better be on guard when the two of you are alone...or he might just jump on you..."
Ritsu glared yet it was obvious that he was soon breaking out in a sob. He just dug his fingers as much as he could into his palms.
"So?" Takano said nonchalantly.
Ritsu stared at his boss with a bewildered face.
"He didn't get hired into my team because of his preferences but the kind of work he could offer us."
Slowly, Takano walked closer to the other chief-editor. He held his gaze and raised his fist as if he was about to punch someone. To the others' surprise, Takano had just grabbed the door and slammed it shut, confining themselves inside the men's restroom.
"This is a personal matter that needs no announcing," Takano hissed. "There's a reason why this is kept hidden and I'd like to keep it hidden as it is. Please," Takano said without the least bit of begging. On the contrary it sounded like a threat. "Don't let this out."
In the fire exit, Takano lighted his second stick and blew a puff of smoke to the dark sky. The taillights of the cars down the road were like a long line of red ants. The traffic was getting crazy, since the heavy snow had started falling earlier that afternoon.
He darted a glance at the brunette two feet away from him and sighed loudly.
"For how long are you planning on sniffing here in this cold? Get it over with."
Ritsu continued in sniffing or sometimes blowing his nose off at a tissue. He was like a child who got caught of stealing or breaking something. And as how everything turned out, Takano had no energy to even act the bossy type after that encounter.
"I'm really sorry..." Ritsu whispered, hiccuping. "I'm sorry..."
"Huh?" Takano asked, turning around and resting his back against the railing. "If you've got something to say, say it to my face. Why the hell are you saying your sorry towards the railing?"
Ritsu looked a little to his side but glanced back in front. "In my last company, they just started making up rumors about me that got way out of hand...I didn't want to cause you the same trouble..."
"Trouble? That?" Takano snorted. "It's not a big deal."
With the two of them listening to the car honking and the subtle talking and sound system that had mingled in the night air, Takano cocked his head to the side realizing something.
"Is this why you're lately not looking at me directly in the eyes?"
"..." Ritsu looked at his boss briefly, looked away and nodded.
"Huh? Are you stupid?"
"B-because...I was told that there is something weird in my eyes...I was afraid that you'd know and you'd take it against me," Ritsu mumbled. "I'm sorry."
"Moron. I've been with different kinds of people. This doesn't bother me at all. Stop with averting your eyes whenever you talk to somebody. Especially to me. That makes you look like you have no confidence at all."
"Listen!" Takano raised his voice though it wasn't the angry kind. "You are working in my team. And you are rooming with me, at least for the time being. Who cares about what that match-head says? Don't worry about him. Worry about what I would write in your evaluation instead. Dimwit."
"..." Ritsu drew a deep breath, exhaling them all out into the cold night as if a heavy burden had been lifted off. "Takano-san...you're really not bothered that I'm...you know...?"
The cold breeze started blowing at them. Takano looked up, his profile highlighted by the shadows and the faint lights coming from down the streets. For a long time he was in silence. And then he threw a very rare genuine smile at the brunette.
"No. I've got my gorgeous girlfriend after all."
After that incident, boss and subordinate had become more casual with each other. The rule of not talking inside their living quater seemed to have lifted somewhere far too as they started talking about recent events as well.
It was a good change of pace. Whenever Takano would bring extra food, for some reason, Ritsu had some matching drinks he also got outside. So in the end, the two of them would munch down in front of the television watching the latest news or trend around the globe.
One night, Takano Masamune went home later than usual. He was holding a basket and he was sweating a lot despite the minus degree outside due to the heavy snow.
Ritsu who was ready preparing to sleep stared wide-eyed at his boss and the somehow new friend he earned.
"T-Takano-san? Why are you drenched in sweat?"
The raven sighed loudly. With one hand he loosen his tie, he let the other hand place the basket covered with a fabric on the center table.
Ritsu stared at it hard. And heard something sweetly cozy and homey. "Meow..."
The brunette's ears perked up. "Meow?" he said.
Takano slumped down the sofa groaning. "I used the stairs all the way up here so I could sneak that fat ball. My mother is going on a trip with her friends and no one's gonna feed him."
Ritsu hurriedly lifted the fabric. What greeted him was a mix of black and grey fur and large drawing eyes. He excitedly reached out to the feline. But the latter was on its battle mode, showing his claws.
"Err...I like animals...but for some reason they hate me..."
Takano, inspite of being tired, ended up laughing at the dejected look of his roommate.
"He'll also be rooming with us for the time being. Please keep it a secret. Pets aren't allowed here."
Ritsu nodded vigorously. Happily, he stood before Takano like a child. "I have two goldfishes in my room, please keep that as a secret as well!"
Takano frowned. "Bastard...you've been keeping them without telling me?"
It was Ritsu's turn to laugh. "Nah...now we both are keeping secrets from the management. So what's this guy's name?"
Takano looked at the ball of fat in the basket lazily stretching his paws. "Sorata."
"Ohhh...Sorata huh?" Ritsu waived a hand towards the feline which just boredly looked at him. "Hi Sorata, I'm Ritsu. I have two goldfishes and they're your neighbors in the next room. They're Gold and Fish."
Takano who was about to stand from the sofa slumped back down with a disbelieving face.
"What the hell was that? Gold and Fish?"
"Wow...you have such a scary naming characteristic. Please consult someone else when naming something or someone alright?"
Ritsu acted like he was offended and shrugged. "Shut up...Takano-san. I got extra pizza earlier, want some? I'll reheat them if you like."
Takano nodded. "Sure. There's coffee beans in my bag from a friend. I'll brew them in exchange..."
This was the best rooming experience, so far as Onodera Ritsu had experience. Something he didn't want to end at all.
Steaming hot cups of coffee in their palms. Pizza on the table. Soft snow outside and a flat-screen TV showing a late night news. It was this peaceful experience that both had started looking forward to after a long hard day at work. They wouldn't talk. They would just watch in silence accompanied by the once in a while sipping of coffee or munching of food.
"Author Usami Akihiko's book is ready for selling within a couple of hours..." the female reporter said, battling the cold and sleepiness. They were outside a huge bookstore and the camera zoomed in an unbelievable long line of fans waiting to get their copies. "The latest work of the celebrated author caused an uproar with the fans when it was disclosed that it has a LGBT themes. Many fans are excited about it. However, the more conservative readers are having doubts about this new work..."
The reporter who was trying her best not to slip from the accumulated snow on the sidewalk started interviewing some fans waiting in line. Their passion and support for the author was unrivaled. They were standing in line in this cold night waiting for tomorrow as if they were waiting for a large scale concert.
"Onodera..." Takano suddenly called, eyes still towards the television.
"Hai?" Ritsu replied, eyes not going anywhere but from the TV as well.
"Will you be buying that author's new book?"
"Yes. I've been following him since he started. Whatever he writes tends to be a very rewarding experience..."
"I know," Takano responded. "I've been following his works too. Get me a copy when you do, alright?"
They were in silence again. The soft sound of the tv and the light rustling of clothes when one were moving or changing positions from their seats. Takano on the sofa. Ritsu on the carpeted floor.
"What comes after the physical connection?"
"Eh?" Ritsu suddenly looked towards Takano, eyes obviously shocked. He didn't expect that such a question would come from this man. "What do you mean?"
Takano looked at Ritsu with a straight face. "It just occurred to me, after that news about Usami's new book. Gay relationships...is that really worth it? I've had a few acquantances who just keep on saying how hard it is to keep their relationships with their partners. It doesn't look as rewarding so why bother?"
Ritsu watched Takano Masamune for quite sometime before gazing back at the TV which was now showing some weird advertisement about baby drinks Mameshiba.
"Hmmm...I guess...it's like any normal straight couple's expectations..." Ritsu said, hugging his knees to his chest. "Someone to grow old with...a partner in happy times and hardships...a companion..."
Takano glanced at the brunette sitting on the floor before sipping his coffee. "Hmmm..."
"Maybe the best way to put it is this..." Ritsu glanced back at Takano with an odd smile. "We also dream of having a relationship the same with a marriage...even though there's no ceremony..."
Even though that next day started gloomy for Ritsu, the heavy pressure at work and the few mistakes he did in which he earned a grave scolding from Takano, it was all thanks to the easy-going companion of his that by the time the sun had set in, he was again having a natural smile on his face.
He had already forgotten the last night that Takano and him had such a deep conversation. He almost as well forgotten that Takano already has a girl. And most of all, forgotten that those two was a well-known pair at Marukawa.
Ritsu knew he was trudging in a danger zone. He was like this car that has lost it breaks and had no choice but to continue dashing into a wall. Even though he knew that the crash would be so devastating.
"The pudding in this place will really kill me..." Ritsu's companion, Haitani Shin grumbled. He scooped the heavenly pleasure to his mouth and exageratedly closed his eyes, almost to tears. "I hate you for randomly picking up this place!"
Ritsu grinned. Haitani Shin was one of the few friends he had in his previous company who stood together with him when all was a mayhem. A true friend and a true source of support. Ritsu focused his much brighter eyes at the other's stomach as if he had x-ray eyes.
"I can see your six-packs disappearing one by one..."
Haitani coughed. "Shut-up and just eat!"
Ritsu shook his head slightly. He looked around once more. The shop they were at wasn't very full. But everyone had this smile on their faces that was equally contagious.
The brunette picked up his spoon, took a scoop of the mouthwatering sin on his plate and was about to bring it to his mouth. But he stopped midway. His hand weakened. The pudding fell down on the blue pastel-colored cover of the table with a silent bounce.
"Ritsu...?" Haitani queried. Ritsu just lost all the color he finally gained in an instant. Ritsu even looked worse. So with deep worry, Haitani turned to look behind him.
With searching eyes, Haitani followed where Ritsu was staring. At first he couldn't understand. Until his pupils dilated he understood everything. He suddenly lost his eagerness to eat in that place.
Haitani Shin had seen that woman once. During an errand to Ritsu's company, the latter told him that the woman with such great beauty was his boss and roommates's girlfriend. And there they were seeing this very woman cuddling and passionately kissing some old guy in this establishment, an hour drive away from Ritsu's current company. The only thing left was a bed and for sure, the hideous couple would surely make out in the open.
Haitani grabbed Ritsu's wrist, pulling the latter back to his senses.
"Ritsu, let's go."
"Forget about it."
"She's cheating on Takano-san..." Ritsu said in a whisper as if he couldn't believe it. Who would in their right mind cheat on Takano-san?
There were very few instances that Haitani showed fierceness, forcefulness and anger. He was always sunny and composed in a jolly way. However, this was one of those rare occasions. Without Ritsu's consent, the taller man pulled the brunette up.
"Come on..." Haitani said in such a low voice. "Let's go before she sees us."
Ritsu stared at the cropped and wild hair before him in silence. The hold on his wrist was tight enough to cut his blood flow. But he didn't say anything. Haitani was mad. He on the other hand was a mess to even care.
It was noisy, cheery and full of life. But Ritsu and Haitani walked in silence for a long while. As if they have entered into an invisible tunnel, they only could hear the whispery gush of the wind in their ears, excluding the bustling happy ambiance from a nearby mall event.
Haitani stopped walking. When he looked behind him, Ritsu was still walking in a snail pace. The brunette almost slammed to him if not for Haitani stopping Ritsu by the shoulder.
"Ritsu...you don't have to ruin this day just because of what we saw you know?"
The brunette just stared at Haitani with pursed lips.
Ritsu didn't have to say a word for Haitani to know. With that, the taller man cursed silently. Haitani could see, his friend was into serious trouble towards this Takano Masamune.
"It's not something we should meddle with...I can tell your boss's a sharp guy. He'd find out on his own..."
Ritsu's large eyes appeared to be an ocean void of life. His nose and ears were bright red. The tips of his fingers contrasting the cream of his milky coat. Just looking at Ritsu made the other even more mad.
"How can I do that? Takano-san's even proud of having her..." Ritsu protested. "Yet...she's chea-"
"Please..." the other said almost begging. Haitani knew it's useless. He knew Ritsu very much. But he still wanted to say it. "Don't do anything reckless just because of what you saw..." It can backfire on you...
He didn't die. But Ritsu knew his heart just stopped beating when out of thin air, while waiting for the elevator to their floor, the man he was afraid to see for the night appeared by his side. He was scared that his mouth would run off on its own. So he bit his lip and stayed in a weird silence.
Takano noticed it too that the moment they got into the elevator alone, he was the one who started the chat.
"How's the day off?"
Ritsu just started fidgeting. He couldn't look at Takano without remembering the hideous girl cheating.
"G-good...I had a great day with a long time friend."
"Oh...then great. Coz we have a big project coming."
Even before Ritsu could reply, Takano raised a bag at the brunette's face. Ritsu stared at it with a dumb expression.
"Want to have some?"
Ritsu nearly strangled himself. He had been talking to Takano so freely until now. But now, he appeared to have suddenly lost the ability to even respond an intelligible reply.
"Actually, this is for Akiko...but she said there's some family matter she needed to attend tonight and these ice cakes will just go to waste."
Green eyes blinked at the bag. That reasoning about Kimeko's family matter, and the reason why he was being given the cakes, didn't sound like a good one in Ritsu's ears but he accepted it anyway.
The elevator finally arrived. With just the two of them inside, Ritsu, not knowing where to dart his eyes, just started peeking at the bag.
"Onodera...you're being awfully formal and quiet tonight. Is something wrong?"
"Eh?" Ritsu forced a laugh while messing up with his hair. "I'm just tired maybe...We walked for a very long time that my legs seem to fall off..."
"Please don't...I can't see myself carrying you in my arms," Takano commented with a laugh.
Ritsu laughed in return too. That remark from Takano hurt though. "I can't see myself being carried by you either...I'd just let Sorata or my goldfishes pull me in the room."
Takano chuckled. "Idiot. I at least can do that."
As that elevator ride seemed to have been very slow that night, Ritsu threw a glance at Takano who was looking at the blinking numbers before them. He couldn't stop it anymore so it spilled from his mouth.
"Uhm, Takano-san...about Masaya-san..."
"Huh? What about her?"
"She..." Ritsu drew a deep breath. His chest tightening that he almost wanted to vomit. The picture of that sophisticated lady, kissing someone else in such passion was clouding his vision that he wanted to cry suddenly. "She..."
"She's b-beautiful...isn't she?"
Takano just smirked. "Of course..."
Ritsu's hold of the bag containing the cake from Takano tightened. He was hurting. That girl had such an awesome man, but she had the nerve to do that behind the man's back. He was starting to think in the scary path.
The "What ifs" territory. What if he told Takano of what he saw now? What if there's a small possibility of earning her place instead? What if...what if...
Ritsu found it hard to breath. He was in serious trouble. Very much.
He had fallen. Deep and without stopping.
The brunette shook his head hastily, earning an observing glance from Takano.
"You sure are weird tonight."
"Ah...hahaha...just your imagination..."
The days passed as normally and peaceful as it always been in room 402. The scenario at work was different though. Takano would yell at the brunette for all the mistakes done. Praise him for a good job too.
Ritsu who finally got overcome by a flu virus called in that he would take the day off. Takano on the other hand had some busines to attend to. Takano even tried checking on the brunette. But the latter wasn't answering his phone.
"Is his cold that bad he's already dying alone?" Takano said aloud as he sped up through the night with the medicine he bought and a scarf he had bought too. The red of the wool would look good against the green of that brunette's eyes. He was looking forward to teasing Ritsu that he would appear like a Christmas decoration.
The moment Takano had inserted his keys and he had opened the main door a little, he heard two familiar voices. They were in anguish. The one in a tearful sound, the other, in a pent up and frustrated anger.
"Stop! I'm begging you!"
Takano dropped the things he had bought on the floor and hurriedly ran towards one of the taboo areas in that quarter. His and Onodera's personal rooms. He went straight to the brunette's.
What Takano saw with his own eyes was something he had never thought even one second.
"T-Takano-san..." Ritsu gasped.
"Masamune..." Akiko sobbed. She looked pitiful. She was trying to pull the ripped off sleeve of her shirt dangling from her shoulder. Her skirt was pushed up towards her waist exposing her long legs. Her hair was in a mess. A few of her shirt buttons were missing, exposing the very glimpses of her breasts.
Takano swallowed hard, not knowing what to make of it.
He stared at his pitiful girlfriend and the brunette standing with scratches on his arms and face. Ritsu's shirt was in a mess too. And he was huffing violently from some tension.
"What...is this?" Takano softly whispered.
"Masamune!" the woman called, jumping off the bed, running to her lover. She buried her face against the man's sturdy chest and sobbed. "That guy there called me...he said you wanted me to come over here even though it's not allowed..."
By the second, Ritsu's face grew paler and paler. He shook his head, denying what was coming from the woman's mouth. But he too was speechless.
"When I knocked, he opened the door and just suddenly dragged me in here...and he started..." the woman started sobbing miserably. Like her honor had been trambled so tragically. "He started ripping off my clothes..."
"..." Ritsu shook his head. His eyes reddening from all the words he was hearing from the 'victim'.
Takano swallowed hard. The messy bed. His crying girl against his chest made him unspeakably dumbfounded.
Without a word, Takano removed his coat, draping it around the fragile woman's shoulders. He cupped the woman's face and wiped the tears with his thumb soothingly.
"It's alright...I'm here now..." Takano whispered so softly as if he was talking to a fragile glass. "Wait for me outside alright?"
The woman nodded pitifully. Her long lashes glimmering from tears. Her fingers shaking as she let go of her man's arms.
Ritsu stepped back. He didn't know where to begin that he only just ended up crying himself.
"Onodera..." Takano said, taking one step at a time leisurely. His face was in the middle of a smile and something else. "Here I thought we are actually getting along pretty well..."
Ritsu only shook his head, speechless, with no one to protect him like that Masaya Akiko had.
"You confessed to me all these shit about being gay and everything..." Takano continued. His voice was frighteningly calm. "Yet you can do this? To my girlfriend no less? Did you just pretend all this time because you...to her...?"
"No...no...that's..." Ritsu's arm brushed to something. The aquarium where he keeps his two goldfishes. They were just calmly swimming, unaware of the shock their keeper was about to take. "She's...she's lying..."
Ritsu had reached the wall. There was no other place to sink into but he kept pushing his back against it. It was because Takano was already at his face. The breath of hatred brushing on his cheeks. And when Takano had already grabbed the other's lapels, Ritsu seemed to have stopped breathing. The green of his eyes just looked at Takano like they were pleading. But it had no effect.
Right then, Ritsu realized that a woman's tears, were very fatal and deceiving. That even a lie could seem to be the truth in one instant.
"Come to think of it, Onodera..." Takano hissed. "You even mentioned that Akiko's really beautiful..."
Ritsu tried to push the guy closing in on him. Where was all his strenght? He couldn't summon them from his sick body and scared heart.
"I swear... Takano-san...I never laid a hand on her..."
"Do you mean to tell me she did all those things on her own?"
Ritsu bit his bottom lip. He caught a glimpse of the woman slightly smiling beside the door.
"She...she..." Ritsu held on the the hand almost strangling him. "She's lying to you...she's cheating on you...I saw it with my eyes!"
Ritsu could feel a burning pain in his chest. There was no getting to Takano what he was trying to say.
"Stop it Onodera. I might just do something terrible right now..."
"I am telling the truth! I didn't tell you right away...because...because..."
Takano laughed out of frustration. He pushed the shaking brunette to the the floor. And on impulse, just because of his anger from being betrayed and feeling that everything's so messed up, Takano grabbed the small aquarium.
Ritsu tried reaching out to his precious companions. But was too late.
Takano had smashed it to the carpeted floor. He had to smash at something. Or else he'd definitely would have killed the brunette before him.
It didn't make much of a sound. But Ritsu's pupils dilated as he watched his gold fishes writhe pathetically for dear life.
Even Sorata, who always tried to pester the gold fishes when there was a chance, only sat on a cabinet, watching silently what was happening. If only Sorata could talk, he would have definitely sided with the brunette.
"..." Ritsu only stared at his pets with glassy eyes.
"..." Takano was huffing. Suddenly aware of what he just had done.
The brunette slowly crawled to where his fishes were. He even ignored a few of the glass that got broken. Even though it was carpeted, the force was much that it still broke in a couple of pieces. Ritsu crawled on them, not sure whether he would get hurt. He was hurt already he could not be in any more pain. He carried the pair of fish in his hands while his tears continued running down his pale cheeks. He then headed to the bathroom and ran the water in the tub.
Takano paused. Felt like something was prickling at him.
The brunette slowly placed Gold and Fish in the tub. But they just remained motionless like a rubber ducky for bathing.
Ritsu sniffed and headed out of the bathroom. He grabbed his coat and walked past Takano without saying anything.
"Takano...he's a gay capable or raping others..." Akiko said in her subtly shaking voice. "He's dangerous..."
Onodera Ritsu just looked quietly at the woman back to Takano Masamune. His silent tears kept on flowing. The look in his green eyes was like he'd accepted defeat already.
"In my last company, they just started making up rumors about me that got way out of hand..."
That made Takano stiffen. But he didn't also make a move at stopping the current object of his annoyance and anger.
And that night, Onodera Ritsu went somewhere no one knew.
After driving Masaya Akiko to her apartment, the woman even coaxed Takano to stay for the night. But the latter refused. He really needed to go back there for some reason. So after calming the still scared woman, and seeing first that she's tucked in bed comfortably, Takano Masamune drove back to the company housing.
At the reception, a couple of workers from different departments were just about to go home. Some of them live so close they didn't need the company housing up the building.
It was past eleven already. The employees' faces were all tired and drained but the moment they saw Takano entering from the wide main entrance, they all beamed and got conscious.
"Takano-san, good evening!" the group of men and women greeted in unison.
"Good evening," Takano replied half-heartedly.
He passed them hurriedly. But one of the women in that group called back to him.
"Takano-san...is Onodera-kun okay?"
Takano walked back to where the group was and forced himself to listen and appear pleasant even though he was drained himself.
"I was with Masaya-san earlier this afternoon. She said you asked her to give him flu medicine so she headed out earlier than the rest of us..."the girl unconsciously scratched her neck out of habit and grinned.
Takano only listened with his subconscious signally a warning.
"Can you give this jelly to him?" the girl continued. "Onodera-kun gave me some when I was nearly dying from my fever the last time..."
"Akiko said I asked her to give Onodera something?" Takano asked.
When he opened the door and got in, he was enveloped with a depressing silence. Takano looked around. The living area was dark so the lights coming from that room to the left was very prominent. The door to Onodera's room was left open.
The man slowly walked towards it. Having calmed down, he personally thought that he must have gone over board. Specially that that girl's story earlier, and his girlfriend's account didn't jive and connect at all.
He roamed his hazel eyes around. The room was in a mess. The carpet was still soaking wet. The shards of the broken aquarium piercing his sight and something deep in him.
From the corner of his eyes, he saw his ball of fat Sorata fumbling into something under the study table of the brunette.
Takano sighed, walked over to the thing his cat was messing with and took it from the protesting feline.
Takano frowned. The phone appeared to be in video capture on pause. Curiously he stopped it. He stood then and sat on the bed. Sorata following and settling down on his owner's lap. Takano smiled a bit, his cat was acting odd for being this clingy. So after running a hand over the fat cat's head, he crossed the line of privacy and pressed the 'play'.
It only lasted for a mere six minutes.
Six minutes that he failed to know before thrashing like a mad man.
Slowly, Takano stood, Sorata jumping off irritably back on the floor.
Without a word, the man hastily walked out of their room and headed to somewhere he knew where Ritsu would definitely be.
The elevator was at its usual speed. But waiting for it seemed so excruciating that Takano just decided to use the stairs.
"Hi Mom!" was the lively opening of the video. An unsteady scene of an obviously sick brunette was grinning in the video while waiving. "Sorry, work is so busy the past days. But you've been nagging me to show you how our living quarters look like...so...you know I get shaky hands so bear with the video quality alright?"
Takano ran his way to that spot where Onodera Ritsu had confessed about him being someone falling with the same sex. If he wasn't there, Takano had no idea where he would search. He probably would die out of anger at himself.
"So...this is our living space," Ritsu lively said, showing the flat screen TV and the sofa. "Me and my boss often times just watch the news here silently. But it's nice. Actually I thought living with my boss would be bad. But he was really nice outside work so everything's fine."
The man could hear the loud sound of his shoes against the steps. A sound of an annoying frustration as he sped down the stairs which was more difficult than he expected.
"That's his room over there and that yawning cat is Sorata. He's a very snobbish cat but he's cute..." Onodera turned to his room. "This is where my room is. It's much smaller than Takano-san's because this was supposed to be a storage room. But I like it this way...easier to clean...I somehow wish I don't have to move out but...I heard the new rooms are soon to be finished..."
Each step down was getting even faster as the gravity was pulling him down. But he forced himself with his balance to where he could feel his roommate was.
"Eh? I think someone's ringing the bell..." said the confused voice of the one taking the video. "Erm...wait a sec!"
The video looked unsteady and was left focused catching the view of the floor. From this point on, only voices were what could be heard. The scene in the video was only the floor and unsteady footsteps.
"Is Masamune in there?"
"Ah...he's in an out of town meeting. He'll be late...can I help you?"
Takano, running after his breath has finally reached the last destination. And his movements started getting slower.
"Good. I have something to talk about," said the woman in such a cold manner.
Without waiting to be invited, the woman seemed to have entered the room. The way the video quality of the floor was shaking meant that Ritsu was suddenly very anxious.
"Wait...that's my room..."
"Onodera-kun. You saw me didn't you?"
"You saw me...you didn't tell Masamune yet?"
Ritsu seemed to have moved into his room too. The video showing a glimpse of his socked feet.
"It's...something Takano-san should find out on his own..."
"Heh...say what...don't tell me your sowing good deeds for him to like you?"
"He mentioned you're gay. See, he trusts me enough to mention this to me. I could smell it in you though from the very beginning..."
"Onodera-san...what shall we do?" the woman who sounded like a stranger to Takano's ears continued. "This is troubling me...that old geezer I was being with was just some sort of my money bank...of course Takano's younger and much better but a beautiful lady like me needs more, don't you think?"
"What...are you saying..."
"I need you to get lost in the picture."
"Actually, I received a mail that he's on his way here. Something about a change of schedule..."
There were sounds of clothes being ripped. It sounded terrible with Ritsu's own gasping.
"If he were to find you on the act of raping me...who do you think he'd believe?"
"Stop that!" Ritsu shouted. He must have thrown the phone at the floor. The end of the sickening show that his so-called sophisticated and good natured woman had portrayed.
Takano inhaled the icy air and slowly moved to the ajar door leading to the open area of the fire exit. It didn't take him long to notice the person he was looking for, gazing out the night sky, bathing in the winter moon light.
Ritsu was still hicupping. The very subtle shaking of his shoulders was very obvious in Takano's eyes. The profile of that face showed puffy red eyes. Still going on crying for how many hours already.
Takano grew quiet as he watched the still unknowing brunette.
There he thought he already knew someone deeply. But that someone turned out to be a total stranger with hobbies and personality he couldn't tolerate. To think he even considered that she might be the one to settle with.
He only saw what he wanted to see. And brought this upon himself.
Such an ugly truth.
Drawing a deep breath, calming first his senses and his screaming lungs, Takano closed his eyes. He didn't know where to start to apologize. But he had to.
So slowly, he pushed the steel door that was a little ajar, pushing it wider so he could get in. The sound of its creaking was a suspense in its own. What face would he see? What scene would befall him?
But the moment he got a better view of Ritsu, he just became...blank.
This scene was very familiar. So familiar he was getting goosebumps from it.
The bright light that was blinding him in his dreams, was an unsually brighter than usual winter moon embracing the brunette like a delicate object. An ethereal scene of his dream that kept on repeating and repeating. That part where Onodera Ritsu would be crying silently while looking somewhere far.
He should have known.
He should have known that that dream was a warning.
A warning of him terribly hurting someone this badly in the future.
Takano slowly walked towards the brunette. Not making too much of a noise, acting as if a wind that would come but won't go.
"I'm surprised you're still alive. It's freezing cold out here..."
Ritsu never moved from his spot and made a failed attempt to wipe his face with his hands. They were already too cold to even follow what he wanted to do.
Watching Ritsu doing that was so hard to look at. It was so pitiful that was stabbing Takano pretty badly.
"Onodera...let's go back..."
The brunette looked briefly at Takano but averted his eyes right away. How many tears he had shed, Takano had no way of counting them. But the fact that his terrible mistake was the cause of all of these, he couldn't stand it one more second.
Glancing one last time at the freezing man, Takano drew a deep breath before grabbing Ritsu into a comforting hug. Ritsu tried to get away but Takano wouldn't let go.
"Onodera...I'm sorry," the taller man whispered in the other's ear. "...it's not enough...but I'm sorry..."
"It's my bad...okay so come back inside where it's warmer..."
Ritsu's raspy breathing, an impending rush of emotion, filled the raven's ears.
"I didn't try assaulting her..." Ritsu said. "I didn't assault anybody...is it just because I'm a man...I'm a gay...it's a given I can do those things?"
"I didn't hurt anybody at all...so why am I always the loser?"
"I always try saying the truth but if it's just a word from a respected woman...no matter...it's annoying! But...but...it's always this way! No one listens to a thing I say..."
"It's alright now..."
"I understand she's your girlfriend...naturally you'd take her side...but it's so...it's so..."
"I know now you're not lying...this is all my fault for not being observing enough..."
Takano ran his hand up and down the other's back. He never have thought he'd even be able to hug a guy this close and long. Really, this day was full of surprises that he wanted to laugh.
"Have you calmed down already?" Takano asked as he withdrew slightly from Ritsu.
"Why are you even here? Don't go comforting a gay like me because it would start rumors again...and it would fire a hope that shouldn't be here."
Takano took hold of the swollen face before him and smiled lightly. "Hope?"
"Let's go inside alright?"
"You killed my goldfish..."
Takano couldn't help but laugh. He grabbed Ritsu's messy head back towards the space of his neck where it perfectly, strangely fit.
"I'm sorry I did that...but they're still swimming happily in the tub when I returned."
Ritsu made no move of protest anymore and stayed there. If this short skin-ship of kindness would be just a fleeting memory, he'd happily take it with him wherever he might end up.
"Yes...alive and swimming."
Ritsu just grew quiet. Crying again on that sturdy shoulder that would never be his. If it meant something, the fishes he thought which were dead being alive, no one dwelled to it anymore. They were too tired to think.
The next few days, Ritsu was struck down with sickness, his terrible flu has worsened. He couldn't almost even move one muscle in his body. He couldn't even remember how he survived those agonizing days.
It was just that the day he returned back to work, everyone was talking about something.
"Ricchan!" Kisa called, pouting. "Jeez...getting sick that long, I thought you're dying already. We wanted to visit you but Takano-san said you're only sleeping all day and all night that we can't disturb you. Take care of your health!"
Ritsu sniffed, still with a runny nose and looked around. The air was somehow different.
"Uhm...what's going on?" Ritsu asked.
"Didn't you know?" Kisa exclaimed. "Takano-san and Masaya-san broke up. What's more, Masaya-san is resigning."
Takano came out from the back, hitting Kisa in the head with a rolled newspaper. "Get on back to work Kisa."
Kisa hurriedly sat back on his chair, snickering.
Takano on the other hand eyed Ritsu for a long time.
"Should you be here? Why don't you go rest more?"
"Uhm..." Ritsu smiled forcefully. "I can't really take off my mind with my accumulated work..."
"Don't worry about that. Kisa and the rest did their share to finish your tasks," Takano said in his usual boss manner. "If one of them gets sick, you have to do your share too."
Ritsu looked at his teammates and felt somewhat very cared for.
Ritsu was like a lump of laundry wrapped in a thick blanket. He was on the floor of the living room again, watching the late night news while sneezing once in a while.
Takano Masamune was busy brewing coffee again at the open kitchen. But at the corner of his eyes, he was only focused on the brown head and the sound of the occasional sneezing filling their room.
"Who was the stupid guy trying to act tough earlier?" Takano couldn't help but blurt out. "Don't go pretending you're all healed up because you just make things more complicated."
Ritsu blew his nose off a tissue and mumbled a soft sorry.
That day, Ritsu was spoiled so much by his team. And even though he was watching the news, he was somehow frightened that all these good fortune was about to end. He could only wait when.
"No coffee for you...but I prepared milk instead."
A pair of hands stuck out from the ball of blankets that was Ritsu, took hold of the white mug being offered to him. Once everything was settled, the two went back to their late night routine. Watching the news silently as if both were stuck in their own worlds.
"The new book of Usami Akihiko-san was a record breaking best-seller...according to the..."
The current news on the television was again an update about the LGBT themed book of this popular author. And though it received so much criticism from the more conservative readers, in the end, the art in the story and how it was told earned the rating and the praise that belonged to it.
"Onodera..." Takano called.
"You didn't get to buy the new book, did you?"
Ritsu looked like he just forgot something big.
"Nah...I can get a copy myself. You still want one?"
"If it's alright..."
Again, the thick silence. Ritsu focused his eyes more into the TV that he almost couldn't see anything at all. The next time Takano called his name, Ritsu new it was over. This bliss was over.
"I heard the new rooms for the new recruits are ready for occupancy."
Ritsu held his mug tightly and nodded.
"Hai...I was told earlier..."
Takano sipped his coffee and exhaled as if he just got released from a burden.
"Why don't you leave this place?"
"Huh?" Ritsu looked up but looked away soon after meeting gazes with Takano. That came faster than what Ritsu was expecting. It'd be bad if he started crying out of nowhere again. But he had come to really love this set-up that leaving was a painful idea.
Without the brunette realizing, Takano had already slided down the floor from the sofa. Just beside Ritsu who was a thinking mess.
"Why don't you leave soon?" Takano repeated.
"Ah...yeah...yeah..." Ritsu nodded. "Of course..."
"Leave this place...and maybe live with me somewhere with a bigger space? What do you say?"
"Hai...hai..." Ritsu nodded, trying hard not to be such a softie. "Hai...I will...huh what?"
Takano turned his head at the confused guy beside him and smirked. "Live with me. In a real house."
"Uhm..." Ritsu had a stupid expression. "Haaiii?"
The raven grabbed the remote beside Ritsu and turned the TV in mute. Distantly as if Takano was seeing something else, he had this very serious look in his eyes. Looking at the TV but not really seeing it.
"I've been thinking lately," Takano started. "Maybe I knew you were coming all along so I couldn't get really seriously involved with emotions to anyone..."
"I don't know what you would really call this, it's my first time too," Takano glanced at Ritsu briefly. "But you know? Seeing you cry in the cold has etched its way in my head that I am starting to get a phobia of it."
Ritsu returned the gaze with his eyes clouding.
The raven let his empty cup down the floor and stared closer to the sniffing ball of blanket beside him.
"You're so unsexy, you're kind of an airhead and on top of that you're a guy. But thinking you'd cry again alone like that makes me tremble in fear..."
"What do you call this craziness huh?"
Ritsu only could manage an unintelligible garble of words as he ended up crying again. But this time, Takano was at least sure it wasn't because Ritsu was in pain or in sadness.
"Yeah," Takano sheepishly smiled. "...it's going to be difficult but let's try it anyway..."
Takano pulled the brunette towards him and allowed him to rest against his shoulder. They had all the time in the world to ponder about many things but that moment they just watched the silent news in the comfort of each other's body heat accompanied by each other's breathing.
"You've been attracted to me for a long while now correct?"
Ritsu frowned, but was too comfortable to move away.
"Not that long...but...yeah..."
Takano smirked. "As for me..."
"As for you...?"
The raven looked into the questioning eyes and looked away. He grabbed the remote and turned the volume back up.
"Nothing. It's a secret."
"What? Do you know how much effort it is for me to admit that?"
Takano just tapped Ritsu on the head playfully and sighed. Them huddled together in that winter night while killing the time they didn't have at work was a precious moment.
And perhaps, Ritsu was still really weak, that after a few minutes, he was already lightly snoring beside Takano Masamune.
Takano lowered the volume again and pulled Ritsu closer to him. Tapping the man's shoulder lightly as if a sign of protection and vow, Takano continued gazing at the blurry television. The sound of water bubbling from the aquarium was calming, making him drowsy too. Even the snobbish Sorata decided to curl up on the brunette's lap.
"I guess...I might have been crazy for you...way before we even met in person..."
The man lightly patted the still pale cheek once and smiled. "Invading me even in my dreams...that's so cunning."
The brunette just went on sleeping, slightly smiling and cuddling for more heat.
"You're gonna take responsibility for this later..." only a kiss on the hair, long and sincere was what Takano planted on Ritsu's head. "For now get better."
Ritsu contentedly inhaled, dreaming the dream he'd been having for so long.
Amidst the brightest light he'd ever seen, only the slightest silhoutte of a sturdy body was visible . As if there was a fabric of light embracing this mysterious figure, he'd appear and vanish like a fading star. Velvet black hair, silk-like and soft to touch, and deep hazel eyes.. They were too striking in that flood of light. Too striking and clear that it drawned a deep impression in his still hazy mind.
No one would admit it directly. But both of them were actually in a string of togetherness that their dreams been somehow connected, way before they had seen each other.
A sign, as what the hopeless romantics would call it. A fate, for the more poetic ones.
But to these two, it simply was 'belongingness'. A strong connection like marriage, without the ceremony.
chapter end notes:
hi everyone! thanks for the time reading! please share your thoughts!
yeah...so this is more into Takano's POV and uhm...i think i was imagining a little bit 'cuter' Ritsu there. hahaha XD as i've noticed, Ritsu would actually be a very normal character without his train of thoughts visible. because all his weirdness happens inside his head in the first place. XD
and..it was funny how i started typing this one shot when the sun had just risen. when i finished, i looked behind me and the sun was again nowhere and the entire land where i am is already asleep. (well i was watching movies and other videos in the middle)lol...and i was dead hungry so i grabbed my holy food that's intant noodles!
ahaha.. i didn't notice it at all because i was having so much fun! and so...i'd come back to RL then and study about my subjects and plan properly my outings!
Belated Happy Chinese New Year!