Two Becomes One
"Hey, Ritsu...don't cry over such a simple matter," Takano said. "Do you have any idea how unsightly your face is right now?"
Green eyes, puffy and swelling looked away. Actually, the brunette hadn't said a thing. He remained mute to everything. He ignored everything else and wallowed to self-pity.
"Come on Ritsu...?" Takano scolded, shaking his head. "Enough already!"
Just as Takano was about to caress the head that perfectly fitted his palm, Ritsu stood. The brunette stormed out the living room and slammed the door shut right before Takano could get in.
Left with a dumb silence in the hallway, Takano twisted on his heel, rested his back against the wall and slid down on the floor. Legs stretched out, eyes towards the ceiling, Takano closed his eyes. Actually, he exactly knew why Ritsu was acting like this. A series of events started running behind his lids in an unexplainably fast and overlapping manner.
It only happened in televisions. That kind of thing. Innocent people. Bank. And then bank robbers.
Takano accompanied Ritsu to the nearest bank from Marukawa earlier that morning. Despite the brunette's protests, Takano went along, wanting to get the most out of Ritu's time. Ritsu had just decided to open another savings account that time.
"Hey Ritsu, let's eat breakfast after this."
"Go eat on your own, Takano-san!"
The taller of the two only grinned. Blatantly stating that okay or not, he'd drag the brunette along anyway with him after this bank transaction.
"So, what are you wearing suits for today anyway?" Takano asked as he ran an eye up and down his conscious muse. "The banker will just think you're cosplaying or something. What with that dumb face..."
"You don't stop do you Takano-san?" Ritsu barked, trying to walk faster than he already was doing. But Takano just increased his pace, matching Ritsu's. They looked like middle schoolers in the streets trying to see who's fastest.
"Well," Takano mockingly smiled. "I love seeing you pissed for some reason."
"Seriously go have that head of yours checked!"
Takano inched closer, leaning a bit to his companion's shoulder in broad day light. "Oh, if they check it, they'd see that it's full of you..."
Ritsu stared in disbelief. He was the one getting embarassed from all these. But Takano only laughed it off while shaking his head.
"I..." Ritsu whispered with all annoyance. "...hate you like that."
"Your hate is spelled as 'love' though."
"Don't go putting your own interpretations to other's feelings."
"Huh? Well, you're too slow to admit...So I'm just gonna put my own subtitles to your monologues..."
"Monologues? When did I?!"
"Like always?" Takano replied sarcastically. "I've always been watching you, how can I not notice your dumb face when you go talking on your own, idiot."
Takano walked a little farther ahead, loving how the day started. You don't get to fool with your stubborn loved one like this everyday after all.
Ritsu on the other hand resigned himself that it would be another tiring day. But it wasn't that bad much either. The brunette could tell, the man in front of him was having fun. That was enough for him to smile, although his lips didn't show much.
Ritsu was busy talking with the bank representative. Takano was idly sitting on the seat across Ritsu when he noticed three guys enter the bank all at once. It happened in a split second that Takano could not even utter a warning. All his body did was to move and grab Ritsu, pulling the latter down the floor.
A series of gunshots filled the bank. Strong, loud, ear-splitting cries and screams. And after that, an even more ear-splitting sound came. Dead silence.
Takano and Ritsu who were both cheek to cheek on the floor remained motionless. Takano had his hand over Ritsu's head, pressing the brunette down because he knew, Ritsu was an airhead.
"Hey you bank teller there, open the vault." That order came from a brutish voice, raspy and sounded like it came from the depths of hell itself. "You don't want huh?"
Ritsu was shaking. Everyone was. Where were the police? Why weren't they coming?
It was the longest two minutes. Longest two minutes indeed.
The Marukawa Editing Department's Emerald team was in their midnoon break. Everyone was either slumped on their table to sneak a few minutes of nap or someone was just sipping coffee in silence.
Kisa Shouta who was the one sipping coffee pressed the 'enter key' of his laptop. His eyes focused and somewhat disbelieving.
"I still can't believe that two of persons I know would be involved in a manga-like thing like this..." Kisa mumbled. "It's just unbelievable..."
"Kisa, don't be insensitive. It's not a funny matter," Hatori cut in, opening his eyes from his failed attempt for a nap.
"Anyway, two minutes for actually robbing a bank and all that is still...it really does take a person's curiosity...it means it was planned thoroughly," Mino who was flipping through a finalized manuscript commented. "I'm glad they're all caught."
The three then darted their eyes at Ritsu who had been staring at his manuscripts with so much intensity.
"Even so...Ricchan, that incident must be shocking...but please take a break already...you haven't eaten lunch yet right?"
Hatori looked down. "No one can blame him...it's a near-death experience after all..."
Takano who was seated at the farthest side of the table smirked. "He's still shaking up like a leaf because he realized that he's such a coward. He's actually hugging me, I almost died from being choked by him."
The editing team remained quiet.
The editor-in-chief sighed and stood. When he did, a pen that was on his table fell off straight to Onodera's feet. But the brunette did nothing. Ritsu was clearly upset that Takano could not find anymore the strenght to tease and annoy the brunette.
"Oi...pick it up at least. How many times do I have to tell you it's an accident. You're safe, we're here. Pick it up," Takano ordered. Gallantly he leaned closer to Ritsu, ignoring his teammates. "...or shall I shove that somewhere else nice and tight?"
The brunette flinched and obeyed the order. Picking the pen, he then threw it together with his messy stuff on the table.
"Good boy, good boy. Now let's eat together," Takano smiled at the remaining members who already had eaten. "I'll just accompany this idiot, take care of things while we're in the cafeteria."
The cafeteria was bustling with people. They would once in a while glance at the pair who came. After that bank robbing incident, a weird rumor started spreading out. No matter how much Ritsu or the other said that they were just there only because they met along the way, some were suspicious.
Questions like, why were they together? Why were they captured in the camera hugging each other? And eventually people started piecing puzzles together. Like why Takano was always pestering the brunette. Why the brunette seemed so conscious of the other?
It was an annoying cycle of speculating that people have already forgotten about the bank robbery. And instead, they feasted on the rumor of the two men actually 'dating'.
"Don't mind them," Takano mumbled, walking as if nothing was out of the ordinary.
"Why did it turn out like this?" Ritsu whispered.
"Simply put, it's the dirty side of humans my dear Ritsu," Takano grumbled, yawning. "Well, don't you think it's like we're in an 'us against the world' scenario'?"
The brunette gritted his teeth and held his head high. What's the point anyway? They've started into the conclusion that he was having relationship with another guy, no less than with his boss at that, what's the point of hiding at this time?
Takano patted Ritsu on the back. "That's the spirit."
"Takano-san..." Ritsu whispered. "I..."
"I...I won't hold my head down anymore for this..."
The raven gave Ritsu a long look before smiling himself. "Yup. You're more charming when you're feisty like that."
Two weeks after the incident, Ritsu remained quieter than usual. But at least he was able to deliver proper work results, able to hold conversations and smile.
At the sidelines, the Emerald Team was getting worried. The most was Takano who could only sigh in frustration and worry. He decided he couldn't leave Ritsu alone like this. That bank robbery was more than a robbery after all. If this continues, Ritsu, his beloved might do something irrational.
"Oi..." Takano called to Ritsu who just had successfully inserted his key into the slot after about six times of failed attempts. "What about dinner? Don't tell me you're gonna sleep on an empty stomach?"
Ritsu looked behind him, smiling a little. "I will take a bath first, then buy something from the convenience store."
"Huh? Convenience store again-you don't learn do you?"
Ritsu, tired and stressed pushed open the door like a zombie. The usual fight that he puts up everytime the raven enters into his flat was nowhere. In fact, Ritsu seemed to be waiting for Takano to get in.
"Ohh..." Takano raised a brow. "You sure you want me to get in? Well bathing is fine but I have other things in mind."
The brunette dropped his bag on the genkan and dragged his feet towards the living room. Takano followed suit.
Clothes, clean and dirty were scattered on the floor. Bags, bed sheets, papers were also present, taking what little space Takano could set his feet on.
"Oi Ritsu, do something about this room of a garbage dump will you?"
The brunette who was standing in the middle of his messy living room, his back facing Takano, giggled slightly. "If you got complaints, why not clean it up?"
Ritsu then turned around, accusingly staring at the tall man standing before him.
"If you got complaints with my eating patterns, cook them! If you're worried about my health, clean this mess like you always do!" Ritsu shouted, almost hysterically. "If you're so worried about me, why leave me?!"
Ritsu fell on the sofa behind him and stared vacantly into space. "Where are you? Takano-san? Where..."
Taking small steps towards his beloved, Takano then bent one of his knees. "I'm here..."
"Where are you?" Ritsu gritted, his hands covering his entire face. "I'm tired of pretending that you're still here..."
"Here..." Takano gave a sad smile. "...I'm right in front of you."
Ritsu just kept on sobbing. No matter how much he called Takano, no one answered.
And no matter how much Takano replied, no one could hear him.
"Hey you bank teller there, open the vault."
Takano looked up and thought he just swallowed a boulder. A high calliber riffle was being pressed against the brown-head he was trying his best to protect.
"Wait a minute!" Takano dared intervene. "This guy isn't working in this ban-"
"Bullshit!" the guy in stark black, almost like he was a shadow that took form spat. "He's wearing the same color, isn't he?"
The pumping in Takano's heart was too much to bear. It felt like protesting at the small space his ribs could provide. His senses suddenly intensified. He could hear sobs from somewhere, he could feel cries of help from behind the desks. And when he looked at the riffle forcefully pressed against Ritsu, he was paralyzed.
"Get up!" one of the other guys shouted.
The shaking brunette could only follow what has been said. He stood, slowly, trying to lenghten his life. When he glanced around fearfully, he saw then that the color of his suit, matched the men's in the bank. No one could tell the difference at all. It was a sick joke.
"I...am...not..." Ritsu choked. "I..."
Takano looked up. His eyes wide, his pupils dilated. He looked left and right. Two men at the entrance. One guy standing preying on Ritsu. Takano was scared. He was really scared.
"Then we can just go over to the other teller then..." the man menacingly whispered as he pressed on the trigger.
The gunshot echoed so loudly that Ritsu thought he's gone deaf. He thought, could it be that the gunshot was so strong he was thrown off balance so much he actually was thrown under a table?
But when Ritsu opened his eyes, he saw blood pooling just before him. But it wasn't from him. That didn't come from him. He knew.
"You didn't have to act like the hero..." Ritsu whispered. "That was for me..."
"But I can't just stand and watch...can I?"
Takano started stroking the soft hair he liked to touch. The round head that fitted perfectly in his palm. He did this to comfort Ritsu. To ease a bit of that heaviness. But Ritsu only felt a little chill from his air-conditioner.
"You're so freaking unfair..."
"If I'd known that that was the last day I'd ever gonna see your annoying smiles..." Ritsu hiccuped. "I would have smiled back at you openly..."
The man smiled. "I would definitely be speechless if you did and would feel embarrassed instead. That would be funny," Takano's hands went down, holding Ritsu's shoulders. "Ne...stop crying already? It saddens me you know?"
"Takano-san..." Ritsu cried.
But when Takano tried wiping the tears away, nothing happened, nothing changed. He had no more the hold of the real world.
"Please...Ritsu. It was an accident, alright? I would have done it still had the circumstances been different."
"I wasn't able to even say that one thing you always nag me about...how can I say it now?"
"What do I do now?"
"I haven't told you how much...how much..." Ritsu hugged himself into a ball. And Takano could only helplessly stare. "I haven't told you yet..."
Takano watched Ritsu cry like he had never seen before. For some reason, he felt something on his cheeks too that he needed no confirming. Tears. Well, it wasn't like he wanted to end like this either.
"I haven't told you yet..."
Hands reached out, encircling round the brunette's trembling form.
"You don't have to...you actually gave the most embarrassing confession in history actually. Too bad I can't anymore tease you for it..."
"Hey Sir!" a nurse called, taking Ritsu's arm, stopping him. "Only the family is allowed inside..."
The brunette was at a loss. He looked like a madman with blood all over him, with his pale complexion and his shaking shoulders, he looked like he'd pass out himself.
Ritsu looked down on the hand he was still holding. A cold hand that belonged to a man lying on a bed wheeled into the emergency room.
"Shut up..." Ritsu whispered. "I'm going in...he needs to know I'm here..."
"But sir!" the woman exasperatedly tugged at Ritsu. "You can't...family-"
"Family!?" Ritsu shot back. "I am more than a family! I'm his partner alright? I'm his lover do you understand?!" Ritsu screamed that the others present in the white hallway turned their eyes at him. "That man dying over there is my life and you're telling me to step back?!"
The nurse gave an understanding smile. She looked like she felt pain too. But she held her ground and gently took Ritsu's hand off Takano's.
"Sir...let the doctors do their jobs..."
"But-" Ritsu protested, about to cry and fall.
"I'm sure Sir...he knows you're here."
Ritsu kept shaking in Takano's arms. Takano kept on hugging the man, but Ritsu was unaware.
"That was the best confession...more daring than the shoujou mangas..."
Ritsu just sobbed. He sobbed and cried like he will never stop.
"Cry it all out tonight...yes...just let it all out..."
"Tonight's the first time you cried again after that...must have been hard on you..."
"Ne, Ritsu...I don't regret anything."
"You bastard..." Ritsu whispered. "Bastard, insensitive, moron Takano-san...bastard..."
"Hai...hai...everything is spelled as 'l-o-v-e' though. I know..."
So long, Ritsu just cried until he could let no more tears out. But he still cried. He cried until he grew tired of it. He cried until his eyes could no longer remain opened. He cried until he felt his entire energy had been sapped away.
Ritsu lay on his back. Eyes staring at the dim ceiling. Takano stroked the swollen face with a finger. Gently like a brush of breath. Ritsu just sighed.
"Look at your face...you're like a puffer-fish..."
Takano darted his gaze at the sleepy mutterings of the brunette.
"M-Masamune...I miss you..." Ritsu mumbled. "What do I do now? I miss you so much...Masamune...take me with you..."
Takano stood back. His hand over his chest. And the tears he thought was over came out without restraint.
"No can do, idiot..." Takano replied, seeing Ritsu finally close his eyes surrendering to sleep.
When Takano looked down towards where he was standing after a long time that passed, he realized what was under his feet. A paper. Something that he had written before when he was still alive after he cleaned Ritsu's room once. He crouched down and looked at it.
The man slowly smiled. He can't stay here much after all. This must be why he had written these things before. Without having an idea that time, he had created some sort of a written prank on Ritsu. And Ritsu must have missed it, being the unorganized man he was. Ritsu had mixed it in with the trash and mess all over his floor.
"Ritsu," Takano whispered against the brunette's ear. "Ritsu..."
The brunette opened his eyes suddenly. He turned to his side and saw a piece of crumpled paper that seemed to just have fallen there. And a gush of wind came to him. A warm, familiar scent.
Ritsu sat. Eyes painful from all the crying he did. Unsure, he bent and picked the paper. Takano's writing was there.
The brunette carefully read it.
"Honey, your husband is going on a long trip and I didn't want to disturb your sleep. So let me remind you some things while I am away."
Ritsu clasped his hand over his mouth. Not to stiffle just another round of crying. He wasn't just crying. He was laughing. He was laughing and crying.
"1. Stop with the convenience store food.
2. Don't wait until you can't see the floor before you clean up the mess.
3. Don't push yourself too much.
4. Relax. You're doing great the way you are.
5. I love you.
6. I love you.
7. I love you.
8. I love you.
9. I love you.
10. You're my life.
chapter end notes:
thank you for the time reading. please share your thoughts.