If martyrdom had a face, it would be his. Onodera Ritsu was sitting at his usual work spot. Crammed with piles of paper work, accounting stuff to do and memos to distribute, he just worked on them silently. He worked on them while his eyes weren't really focused on them.
The brown head was in a sort of bow and from a good distance, it would only seem that he was having a really serious bout with the accounting figures that wouldn't tally. However, in reality the man there was just trying to sneak a few glances here and there, trying to observe without even being noticed.
"Ah right, Takano-san...want to go for a drink tonight with the girls?"
"Eh...we just went for a drink the other day right?" the low yet soothing voice asked, hinting playfulness in them.
"Aww, the other day and today are different! Come on..."
Three ladies from the same department had made a human barricade around the section chief. They just went on and on about the hints of them being interested with the man because the man himself was obviously accepting all of the flirting like it was his hobby.
One petite and really sweet-looking lady brushed her finger tips over the man's broad shoulder, acting all so natural.
"It's not really a problem isn't it Takano-san?" she murmured with just the right hint of modesty and seducing. "You're single anyway."
Onodera Ritsu lifted his gaze straight to the group at the end of the long table. He wasn't so sure what kind of face he was making but one by one, the girls and Takano Masamune started looking back at his direction.
"Onodera," the section chief called mildly. "Want to tag along?"
The man's conscious green eyes wandered from the hazel eyes towards the disapproving glints in the women's before Ritsu shook his head slightly.
"The tallying is taking long...so I'd probably finish really late," Ritsu answered in a somewhat faster than usual manner. "Thanks for inviting me."
"Sorry ladies," the section chief then said apologetically. "If my newbie is having a hard time with the tallying and made mistakes it would also be my responsibility. So I'd have to stay back too. Next time then?"
The women were somehow disappointed, but when the section chief smiles like that, there's no way they could refuse.
"Takano-san, you and Onodera-kun get along so well huh?" one of the girls remarked. "He's just new around here. That's fishy..."
The bunch bursted laughing. And Onodera at the side could only force a smile as if he was enjoying such a delicate matter.
"We're practically joined at the hip," Takano mumbled before bringing a cup of coffee to his lips. "The accounting report is essential to the next board meeting so I can't just really leave everything to him."
"That sounds like you're in a forced relationship!" the others commented. It was really just a casual remark, no hidden meaning, but there was an obvious shift on the brunette's shoulder like something just heavy started dangling on them. "That's getting quite popular nowadays right? Men to men relationships I mean. Since America legalized that same sex marriage they sprung up like mushrooms...people who you wouldn't even think to be one suddenly is!"
"Haha, I know right? Honestly my grandparents flipped while watching it in the news."
"Well yeah but who cares? I don't really see a problem with that. They're humans and entitled to their own rights," the tallest girl commented, thoughtful with her words as some other workers started sitting back before their work tables.
"What about you Takano-san? It's rare for us to get into a topic like this..."
The section-chief smiled casually, pretending to massage his clean-shaven chin as he pondered on what to say.
"I guess I'm fine with homosexuals or lesbians or whatever they call it. So long as I am not their target or something."
The girls laughed. Their cheery giggles mingling with the office clock chiming that break time was over. Every single ladies flocking the section-chief went back to their own tables, Takano too went back to what he was reading. And in a matter of minutes, the entire area was filled with keyboard sounds, phone ringing and the thick air of 'work' and 'competence'.
"I guess I'm fine with homosexuals or lesbians or whatever they call it. So long as I am not their target or something."
Those words still dominated Ritsu's thoughts though. The worse part was they were getting louder and more real instead of the other way around. He just went on pressing on his calculator. All but number zero was reflected on the screen, signing another screwed up calculating.
It had become a habit of Ritsu to sit in that small chair. A cup of coffee in his hands while his feet were tucked under him. And then he would often stare at that wide wall for hours without moving.
It would seem like a mural. But it wasn't. More of a messy collage, photos in black and white were stuck against the wall. The more Ritsu looks at them, the more stupid it gets. Only a cruel man could do those things and there he was forcing himself into that cruel man's life.
Ritsu took a sip of his coffee, his gaze still at the photos. They were all girls. Pretty, delicate, something that one would like to treasure. Beside those girls was always the same smiling man. Smiling like he was really having a great time, smiling like some prince beside his princess.
"Who're these?" Ritsu had asked the first time he was allowed into that apartment. "It's the same background...were these taken in this room too?"
"Them? Well...they're my exes."
That time, Ritsu didn't know whether it was a joke or not. There were so many photos of the girls there, covering the entire wall. It would take more or less a hundred 8R photos to fill that space. And this man's saying they're his exes?
"I take pictures of the persons I've been with. A sort of a remembrance."
Ritsu there found himself stuck for words. When he voiced it out, they came out shaking. "And they all agreed?"
"Well sure. They're the ones who wanted to go out with me. And I told them I am not meant for a long time relationship."
That tall man who was in the act of removing his coat pinned his gaze at his own collage. He looked sincere as he gazed at it with appreciation.
Ritsu forced himself to look back at that collage of pain by the wall. All the photos were in black and white so it was hard to notice. Amidst the sweet smiles the girls had, Ritsu could imagine tearful eyes. Those girls didn't want to let go at all. One of those girls was his friend after all and he already knew this from the very start.
Takano Masamune only stayed with one the longest for one month. In that time, he was the best partner, friend and confidant anyone could wish for. But it would always end soon right after the women had already fallen so hard. There was always this hope among these women that maybe, just maybe, they could turn the man around and make him settle with them for good.
But it only appeared they were all mistaken.
"'Let's take a picture'," Ritsu mumbled. "Do you say that instead because it's more subtle than 'let's break up'?"
"You take these right before sending them away, don't you?"
The hazel eyes which were pinned at the wall darted to the emerald eyes looking at him. A shrug came with Takano's indiscernible smile. "I guess so. You're quite sharp."
"Isn't that a little...too much?"
"I have always made myself clear that I don't do long-time relationships. They agreed. That's just how it is."
"Is this how you told the previous girl too? Like how you're telling me?"
"Yes. So now that you know how I do it, do you still want to continue on spouting you like me and you want to go out with me? I am kinda curious since you're the first guy who approached me upfront. But I don't want any hassles when it's about to end."
That time, Ritsu knew only a helpless, stupid idiot would say yes. But perhaps maybe he really was one.
"One day...I'd be one of them," Ritsu thought blankly, tasting the instant coffee granules that didn't dissolve completely.
"You really like staring at that collage," Takano Masamune said while in the process of giving Ritsu his second bowl of rice. "What do you get from it? My previous girlfriends hated looking at it."
Ritsu shrugged as he accepted his bowl. He pretended to cheerily pick on a piece of steamed chicken before glancing at his boyfriend across him.
"Takano-san, do you really mean what you said earlier?"
" The 'I guess I'm fine with homosexuals or lesbians or whatever they call it. So long as I am not their target or something'."
"You really did memorize that huh? I'm impressed," Takano picked up an omelette with his chopsticks before eyeing the brunette before him. "But that's just a normal response of a straight guy don't you think?"
Ritsu nodded, his face as if unperturbed yet he could feel some churning in his stomach he wanted to hurl.
"I guess so. But we're going out now...although temporarily. What you said earlier kinda sting. I'm not made of wood but even trees get bruises."
Takano had to look at the other for a long while. It was the first time he heard such a complain. And he found Ritsu's train of thoughts amusing. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Don't sulk anymore, that's too cute. Okay?"
The brunette frowned. He started focusing his gaze at the food that Takano cooked for the two of them even though it was already very late. The pieces of chicken and beef that the man actually diced for Ritsu so he could pick them and eat them with ease.
Suddenly, Ritsu was struck with the strong urge to cry. He really wanted to so he pretended that he just bit his tongue.
"Stupid. Chew slowly no one's hurrying you," Takano said with a concerned frown. "Here's a tissue. Is it bleeding?"
Ritsu wanted to hate him. He hated him. He loved him. He hated him.
Who could not hate Takano for being such a confident bastard who knew he would never be out of people who were crazy about him to choose from? Man or woman they were drawn to him like fireflies in a dazzling, fickle candle light.
Who could also not love him for being this thoughtful and caring in that relationship bound in an hourglass? The sand was emptying like a suspenseful, pretty and twisted dream.
In the softness of the light the bedside lamp was giving, Ritsu would often stay awake. His head propped on one of his hands, he would just watch the slight rise and fall of his beloved's chest. He would listen to the breathing like it was a song made only for him. The eyelashes which were unexpectedly long, the lips which were really addicting. Staring at Takano Masamune was a pleasure he'd wanted to engrave in his mind.
"Are you planning on drilling a hole on my face?" the lips which were slightly parted moved, and the hoarse to sleep voice rang strongly to Ritsu's ears.
"...?!" Ritsu abruptly sat straight, staring in disbelief at the other who just started opening his sleepy eyes. "I...I thought you were asleep?"
"I was asleep," Takano replied, yawning a little. "But your stares probably sucked me out of my weirdly exciting dream."
Ritsu cocked his head to the side, the strands of his hair falling softly to the side of his face. "Exciting? Like how?"
Takano pursed his lips. Then to the brunette's surprise, the man buried his face against the pillow like a child would in embarrassment.
"No, you don't want to know. Just go to sleep."
Ritsu started getting suspicious. He started shaking the man by the arm. "That's no fair. Why are you trying to hide it? Hey, don't sleep!"
The brunette kept on tugging at the man, almost about getting pissed from being ignored. That was when it felt like everything had been turned over. Takano grabbed the other on both shoulders, pushing him down the bed instead. Ritsu thought he would see the ceiling. But it was Takano's face he saw and the man's body lingering above his.
"You really wanna know?"
"Spit it out," Ritsu demanded.
The brunette's frown was weirdly endearing that Takano ended up in a slight chuckle before speaking.
"In my dream..." Takano slyly smiled. "I was raping you."
"..." It took a couple of seconds before a reaction registered on Ritsu's face. "And raping me is exciting?"
Takano laughed. He laughed while suddenly dropping down his weight on Ritsu. "I don't know. That's why I said it's weird."
Although it was really weird for the man to be having such a dream, Ritsu was probably weirder to be even feeling a slight joy in what he heard. He couldn't even help it that his fingers started weaving through the other's dark and soft hair. Gently, soothingly like it was a precious gem in his fingertips.
Lifting his face off the brunette's neck, Takano searched and pinned the emerald eyes which were darker that time with his. Quiet for a long time, he took hold of Ritsu's hand messing his hair and pinned it down as well.
"Ne, Takano-san," Ritsu started when the raven still didn't speak, returning the hot gaze. "Will you miss me?"
"When this is over, when you find this tiring, will there be a time that you'd stop and think of me probably? Like 'Oh where could that idiot homosexual I dated for a month be?' or something..."
The man on top just honestly gazed back. Murmuring softly a gentle yet double sided word. "Maybe."
Ritsu smiled a little. It was the kind of answer which was so like the raven.
"Why do you like me in the first place?" Takano asked. Something that he didn't use to bother with before. "What is so likeable in a fellow man? I don't get it."
Ritsu closed his eyes. The reminder a bit heavier which made him tired all of a sudden.
"Because you're cruel."
"You're curious on how gays think so you entertained me. But you still treat me fairly...I can even feel respect and genuine concern...you really treat me gently it's like a fantasy."
Opening his eyes, Ritsu instead turned to the side. He turned towards the closed window, not meeting with Takano's gaze as if he was trying to run away all suddenly.
"I seem to always fall for the cruel guys," Ritsu mumbled. "Those who would dump me right after I start thinking that the relationship could work. You're maybe a little crueler compared to them though."
"Because you already set the expectations from the start, because you told me we'd eventually break up in a month...I keep on still hanging when or even clinging to the hope that you might actually really fall for me."
When the two found their gazes locked again, Takano's was uncertain. It was Ritsu's cue that what he was hoping for was a punch to the moon.
"But always...it's always better with a girl right?"
In the mornings, Takano found himself to be the one waking up an hour earlier. The guy he was currently being with can't do a thing in the kitchen. He couldn't even do his own laundry and would seriously munch on junk food if left alone.
"What am I doing..."
The raven scratched the back of his head as he waited for the soup to thicken. He looked at the ceiling, foot tapping against the floor.
Two weeks of being together and everything was different. It was a given since it's a man he's being chummy with and everything. But it was something he couldn't place. Girls always cooked for him. They did all the house chores while he sit and wait to be served. And now he was the one being slaved while some brunette was still dozing off on his own bed.
He found it funny he could only shake his head.
"Sure it's interesting..." he stared hard at the blue flame. "But the emotions..."
When he saw the soup bubbling into the thickness he preferred, he turned the stove off. For him the situation was really like that soup he just made. It gets hot and would eventually cool down. It's always delicious when eaten hot. But something to be left or thrown when already cold. His expiration dates were drastically shorter than the ones in the grocery shelves. At least they last for months or years. His was extremely short-lived.
After preparing the table, the raven went back to the bedroom. He was expecting to see a man still buried deep under the blankets. That day Ritsu was glued in front of the seldom used flat screen TV. Even Takano could forget he had such a thing in his room.
"Oi...we'll be late. Let's eat already."
When Ritsu didn't reply, Takano turned his gaze to the idiot box. Every second passing by was the same as the frown building on his forehead.
"It's what, seven in the morning?" Takano commented as he sat at the end of the bed. "What the heck is that show?"
Still wrapping himself with the blankets, the brunette slightly smiled. "A friend told me to see this...so..."
Takano frowned even deeper. The guy in the television was beating up another guy. The one doing the beating was bigger and muscular. Compared to the other who was only left whimpering on the cold floor.
"What, is that guy some loan shark beating that skinny dude who failed to pay up?"
Ritsu almost smiled, shaking his head understandably. Of course that was how Takano would conclude. "No...he's...beating his boyfriend. They're a gay couple."
"Huh?" incredulously, Takano glared back at the TV. What a way to start the day, he started getting pissed. "Turn it off already. Media is often exaggerated, it's bullshit to watch stuff like that for breakfast."
Already at the door, Takano turned back at the brunette who hadn't made an inch of a move from where he was sitting. The green eyes remained locked at the flat screen like he was watching something else.
"You know what..." Ritsu started with a weird smile. "The movies can't capture even a fourth of what's happening in reality."
"...?" Takano raised his gaze at the violent scene on the screen.
"My previous man...he used to beat me too whenever he's in a bad mood."
Disturbed to the ends of his wits, Takano went back inside the room and grabbed the remote from the brunette's hands. He turned it off hastily and sat back on the bed beside Ritsu.
Without uttering anything, without saying any sweet-sounding speeches, Takano just sat there. He sat there holding the brunette's hand until he could feel the shaking disappear.
The third week and the days after that inevitably came. The strange thing was it felt really, abnormally faster than the rest of the days of the previous months. Takano was staring at the small calendar on top of the silver-colored refrigerator, wondering if there was weird with the calendar or it was him being weird.
Quiet was that Sunday afternoon. The calm and warm rays of the about to set sun were passing through the gaps of the blinds. Sparkling particles were visible as they danced slowly in the air. Perhaps he was too absorbed in watching them that by the time realized it, the kitchen had been reduced to a dark space.
"Dinner...what should I make..." Takano faced the fridge and pondered on the things remaining inside. He'd been all alone that day. Ritsu said he had someplace to go. He regretted it a bit that he didn't ask what time the brunette would be coming home. He didn't even ask where he was going. "..."
Once in a while, Takano would still end up craning his neck at the calendar. Mostly barely keeping what he was frying in the pan from burning.
Abruptly turning to the sound of the voice, Takano was caught off-guard. He didn't even hear the sound of the doors opening or even the sound of footsteps. Just how much was he spacing out today?
The green eyes wandered from the raven towards the calendar. It was as if both were being drawn to it helplessly.
"I'm so hungry!" Ritsu declared.
But when dinner time came, the brunette hardly touched anything. And both males knew the reason why.
The next day that came, Takano found himself alone on the bed. He didn't know what came to him and although still groggy, he went out of bed and walked around his flat. The living room was still dark. The kitchen too and the other room for guests.
The sudden silence was painful in the ears.
Half naked, Takano headed for the bathroom. The door was left ajar. A minimal amount of light from the inside was exploding in a straight vertical line. It gave off an impression of something big or surprising inside.
But when the raven peered, he saw Ritsu instead. In a suit. Probably his best one.
"Argh...I don't get how to fix this hair..." Takano heard the brunette complain. Ritsu sounded like he was getting frustrated with his own hair. But he continued tweaking here and there, and ended up just letting his hair lose. "You just don't follow me, you guys..."
Ritsu spun around to look at the door. When he saw Takano grinning at him, an undeniable flush of red from neck to cheeks appeared on his fair skin.
"What-if you're there you could have said a thing..." Ritsu frowned, unconsciously lifting his hand to his hair. "You scared me."
"What's with the suit?" the raven inquired, crossing his arms to his chest. "Looks good...but weird."
Ritsu glanced at his reflection by the mirror. He straightened his tie and brushed his fingers through his hair once more.
"I don't want to lose to those girls."
"I am so bad with my pictures being taken you see..." Ritsu voiced out, every word getting a tad softer. "But I want this one to be perfect."
It was barely six in the morning. The sun was just peeking from the skyline. The road and most establishments still asleep.
As Takano was setting the timer in his equipment, he was not staring at the options but at the camera screen itself. The focus was that brunette who silently sat on the chair. It was that chair Ritsu always used when staring at the collage while drinking coffee.
Ritsu was definitely staring at Takano. From the camera, Takano could see it.
"Why so early?" Takano mumbled, fixing the timer. He looked like he was talking to the camera. It was the first time he didn't have to initiate this and it felt odd. Honestly that was really very convenient. Yet at the same time, he felt something was amiss.
The brunette slightly pursed his lips. For someone who was smiling, his eyes were tragically red that it was making Takano uncomfortable.
"It's Monday today right?" Ritsu started, his voice soft. "Everything will be back to normal in the office."
Barefoot, Takano walked towards Ritsu after setting the timer. The cold floor somehow was shooting off straight to his spine and his chest felt odd.
In the quiet of the morning, in the stillness of that room, both males could hear the beeping sound the timer was making.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
A flash of light momentarily filled in that small room and the next moment, Takano found himself staring at the man on the chair. Except that the very man on that chair wasn't sitting properly anymore. Ritsu was facing the other side opposite of Takano. Meekly wiping off traces of weakness men often didn't want to show.
"Thank you for the whole month," Ritsu mumbled, not looking up at all. "The whole month felt like a day with you."
"I'll...I'll head to the office first okay?"
It felt unreal for Takano. He felt strange that this was ending so fast even though it was supposed to be like this anyway. One month. Thirty days. The curtain for playing the guy going out with another guy closing. He was always into girls, that he made clear. Clearer was the point that this was temporary and Ritsu was not making a fuss and was being a man in doing what the deal was. But that time, watching Ritsu obviously swallow his sobs made Takano blank. Perhaps half of his soul was still asleep and it wasn't keeping up with this abrupt turn of events.
Facing the raven once more, it was a somehow stiff smile, calculated and unnatural that Ritsu bestowed. It was that kind of a business smile that Takano was so used to seeing Ritsu do while at work.
"Takano-san. Good bye."
When the raven arrived to the office two hours later after Ritsu, there was a commotion and every one in their section was restless.
With no prior notice, with no warning, the brunette had resigned.
Most of them were overlapping. One with a curly hair. One with long straight one. The one on the farthest left was wearing glasses. And the one at the lowest right had her hair in a braid.
Yet all of them had been bound by one denominator. All of their photos were in black and white. And all the while, that single photo was in stark vivid colors that no matter where Takano look, his eyes would always, always, be drawn back to it.
In his jeans and shirt, Takano Masamune went into that room. His wall of his collage used to feel like some sort of a trophy. It was supposed to be like that. Yet that last photo at the bottom right, with the only male in it was destroying the feel of it.
"Your way of returning back to normal...is totally disappearing like vapor?" Takano smirked. "Like the very start where we don't know each other?"
He took slow careful steps. Every effort, a wild seething anger starting to surface. He wasn't angry with the man in the photo though.
The brunette in the photo was smiling. A very small smile like any minute he'd break into tears. Yet he held on and still smiled sweetly while the raven standing at the back had a very complicated expression. Neither smiling nor frowning, instead of looking at the camera, that very picture of Takano was looking at the man on the chair instead.
He couldn't say a thing that time. He wasn't sure. He didn't know. By the time the heat of summer had declined and the increasing chill was already enough to chill him to bones, was the time he understood why.
It was his pesky 'male-pride' that made him not utter anything. It was that kind of attachment that he thought would fade eventually. It was always the case. At least that was how it's always been.
For a man who always calculated things for his convenience and benefit, Ritsu had become a figure giving him all errors. His curiosity that started this in the first place had never been quenched. If anything, it made the interest grow worse.
He narrowed his eyes at the woman at the upper right of the brunette's photo. She had very ample breasts the kind Takano found touching satisfying. Those breasts Ritsu obviously didn't posses. Yet every time he slides his hands down the brunette's chest, a slight bolt would run through Takano's fingertips. Perhaps because his hands were closer to the other's heart.
He could feel every beating, every thumping, every rush of blood in Ritsu's veins.
The girl on the upper left of Ritsu's photo had a very sweet voice that goes a tad higher in pitch when he goes down on her. By nature Ritsu's wasn't sweet nor suggestive. Yet he finds pleasure in hearing him suppress every escape of his own voice from his mouth.
A kind of a melody he was craving. A kind that he would often hear even when he was alone.
The man drew a deep breath as his eyes wandered from the green eyes in the picture down to the brunette's lips.
Takano liked kissing Ritsu. Though weird for a man saying he was straight, that he wouldn't deny. He would often brush them, touch them with his thumb when the man was asleep. Because unlike all the women he'd dated, there was not a trace, scent or taste of lipstick. Not the stickiness of lip balm. Not the shimmer of gloss.
Takano only tasted warmth in them. Real and raw.
All the women in that wall, they had all cried and made a scene when it was times up. Begging. Crying. Cursing. Then begging again. They agreed and they all want to escape from that. Yet Ritsu agreed and vanished on his own accord.
"You've messed the things and beliefs I've lived with for twenty-eight years."Takano whispered as he turned towards the door, his hand feeling the light switch to turn it off. "Congratulations..."
Heading to the genkan, the man grabbed his coat and wore his boots. Snow outside was pretty strong but who cares? His keys sending off a sweet chime as he inserted them in his pockets, the entire flat grew dim behind and everything went still.
It was almost the fifth month. His eighteenth week.
Searching for the one cause of this anxiety. The reason for this unexplainable sting. This nagging feeling. Loss. Longing. Guilt. Regret. Reminiscing.
It was only then this man who only played, this man who never believed in relationships for long, felt and understood what a real heartache was.
It was his 134th night of searching.
And 134 times he failed.
There was a man throwing up on the sidewalk. A couple of youngsters burning their lungs with cigarettes on the other side. The wet road which was gradually being filled with snow was a depressing sight. Pure was the snow that was falling from the sky. Yet the moment they hit the earth, their soiled and dark transformation was inevitable.
Takano Masamune stood by the fire hydrant, just in front of his car he parked on the side of the road. His breath dancing before his eyes. His chest heaving under his thick clothing.
It was surprising that no one knew much about Ritsu. It felt as though he was a fictitious character. Thus finding him wasn't easy. He couldn't count anymore how many times he'd driven around here, prefecture by prefecture. Threading into a territory he wasn't familiar with just because he thought he might be somewhere around here.
He lifted his tired eyes towards the dark sky. It looked gloomy. And even while the sounds of party music from a far, drunken banters of some from a distance mingled into a lively night life, he couldn'd ride at all with them.
"I swear if I find you..." Takano gritted as he readied himself going back home. It was three in the morning. Another futile attempt it seemed. "...you'll pay for making me run around like a dog..."
So he said. Yet whenever he sees someone who resembles the person he was searching for, he'd burst running, hopeful, indeed like someone who lost his mind.
And this time it was no different.
Just as he was about to open the car door, he turned to glance at the establishment behind him. No particular reason as if he was throwing a sweeping glance to the area as he would be driving to a different district the next night.
The bells hanging by the door shook violently. The wooden door with a rustic feel blasted open. And straight out the door was a man with muddy brown hair and anxious green eyes. Those orbs were straightly looking at Takano's direction but there was no recognition.
That 'Ritsu' just walked passed the raven in extreme hurry and Takano was there pinned on his spot, unable to move. Funny Takano was searching nonstop, yet when he was so sure the person himself was already before him, his nerves just froze.
"Damn you slut come back here!"
It was only then that Takano noticed this. A tall red-head was chasing Ritsu. And such was the menace the man had on that face. The nightly shadows only intensified the grim air around that stranger. A few people from the establishment also started following behind. As if expecting a scene out of nowhere and Takano could only watch as if he didn't belong at all in this time frame.
"Lovers' spat?" Takano heard from somewhere.
"Maybe...?" a whisper in the air replied.
The sound of footsteps were loud. It made everything around that area halt as it called others' attention.
The red-head was silent while taking huge strides. His face looked every bit angry. The air around him dangerous that most people drew a step or two backwards.
The man's outstretch hand finally caught the brunette's arm. He yanked him, pulled him, and drew the brunette's face closer to his. The veins of the hand raised in the air was very prominent. It exhibited great strength, real power.
The gravity of the situation finally sunk into the raven's mind. Yet was too late.
Everything took place right before Takano's eyes. A loud slapping sound stilled the already quiet surroundings. The hazel eyes watched Ritsu's body, unable to fight the pull of gravity fall to the ground. Ritsu was on the wet asphalt. Head bowed. Pitifully shaking. Silently massaging the place where that violent sound had been made.
"What?" the red-head finally said, sounding mighty and unconcerned. "Crying now?"
The others watching felt sorry. But that was all there was to it.
"Don't make such a big fuss. You're a guy," the red head continued. "A mere slap won't kill you."
A shadow from behind lurched forward. Something was racing from that shadow's toes straight to his head. When he saw the brunette look up slightly. Blood on the man's lips, Takano snapped. He yanked the red-head towards him, flipping him to face forward, gracing the bastard man a vicious glare showing intense madness. And then he boxed the man square on the face with strength that just came naturally from within him.
In a split second, that same man who had slapped Ritsu was on the same ground, groveling from intense pain.
Ritsu could only watch with wide confused eyes at what just happened.
"Argh..." the red-had groaned, suddenly panicking at the wetness he could feel around his mouth. "Damn it my nose..."
Takano's knuckles hurt like hell. It was as though he punched a wall. But satisfying it was, the feeling when he knew he had inflicted much more pain.
"FUCK?!" the man growled, trying to stand but the rattle to his head must have been bigger he was staggering. "WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?!"
"You're a man," the raven then gave a cold smile. "A mere punch won't kill you."
It happened in a sort of a trance. By the time Takano had slammed on the car breaks, they were already in his mansion's parking lot.
For a very quiet long while, Takano just stared ahead. Towards the blank grey wall of the parking lot where a few reminders were posted. His hands still tightly gripping the stirring wheel. His breathing tense that taking in oxygen into his lungs felt disturbingly painful.
There on the left side, a man gingerly sitting on the passenger seat pursed his lips. The sting of the previous slap had gone by and only a slight numbness remained. He clutched the seatbelt with both his hands, swallowing the silence and the tense air circling inside the car.
When Takano grabbed and dragged him earlier towards the car, Ritsu was still in a daze. And Takano had been awfully quiet. Whether he was angry, or pissed, or what, there was no way telling. There was just an unspoken command in the way Takano moved around. In the way he looked at Ritsu. And in the way the raven wouldn't let go of Ritsu's wrist. They left the latter with no other option to just follow behind. Just follow all the way from the parking lot to the familiar floor until the familiar flat.
In utter silence, Takano pushed the other man to sit on the bed. Without a word he left. And the distinct sound of cabinets being opened, sound of running water, deep sighing from a far finally made it sink into Ritsu's head that he was back. And he was with Takano Masamune again.
If Ritsu wasn't so used to this kind of development, he would have been the giddy, happy idiot. Yet he wasn't. It only caused too much pain to become hopeful. Expecting something in return always backfired to him a million times heavier so much so that if it happens again with Takano, he'd have no idea where he'd pick himself up.
So in the end, Ritsu just sat there, blank.
The raven went back inside the room with a prominent frown. It was as though he had become this coiled spring about to break lose. Although he was carrying a stainless basin and a towel, there was no 'comforting' air around the man.
Takano sat near Ritsu, the basin their boundary. As Takano dipped the towel into the basin full of ice cubes, his mouth remained pursed. The raven's jaws tense.
Taking Ritsu's chin without warning, Takano turned the man's head to the left, making the swollen area facing him. And dabbing the towel against the skin with traces of fingers, Takano grunted, being flooded with irritation.
"Who the hell's that?" the question came out of nowhere. Takano's mouth barely moved, it took Ritsu a few seconds to realize it was directed at him pointedly.
"Ah..." Ritsu winced. The cold towel made him realize how hot his cheek really was. "We were just talking about nothing in particular...but when he got drunk he told me I resemble the guy whom his girlfriend cheated him with. He got so angry so I tried to leave."
Ritsu tried to smile the stupidity of it away. "And...it turned out like how you saw it..."
Glaring at Ritsu for mere seconds, Takano looked at the ceiling after, loudly sighing.
"So...uhm..." the brunette moved a little on the bed, sending it creaking loudly in the silence. "I'm surprised you're there...I mean, it's a place you didn't like going to right?"
Takano grumbled something incoherent before finally looking straight at Ritsu's eyes. Ritsu looked back, unable to contain the obvious annoyance in the other's eyes.
"What are you so angry about Takano-san?"
The raven frowned before pressing the heel of his hand to his forehead. "There I was thinking how much I'd treasure you if I ever find you again. And you pop out of nowhere getting slapped by some bastard right before my eyes. You think it's funny?"
Takano had said them all in one hoarse breath. Every bit of tone sending chills to the both of them.
Staring back at Ritsu with a heated gaze, bordering between anger, and something less explainable, Takano reached out, cupping ever so gently the face of the man who was perplexedly staring at him. The raven sighed as he brushed his thumb to the still swollen skin. Takano wasn't so surprised at the pins and needles that were rushing through his entire body. He had been seeking this.
"Don't act like this Takano-san..." the brunette whispered in uncertainty. "Don't look at me like that. Don't look like you're..." Ritsu paused, seemingly in more pain from the gentle caress than the slap earlier. "It will make things complicated..."
"What complicated...?" Takano replied, his breath grazing hotly at Ritsu's lips at the sudden proximity.
"This..." Ritsu said almost like he was being choked. "We already broke up cleanly...don't do anymore than this...things that would raise hope...things that would make me expect..."
Drawing a few inches away, Takano's expression was devastatingly soft, exceedingly gentle as if he was gazing at something he could only see. At something he could only appreciate.
"Why are you so scared of me now?"
"Because!" that came a little louder from Ritsu. Wanting to move away yet still kept in place by Takano's hands, he could only look down instead. "Because...if what I think is right...and you suddenly change your mind like everyone else...I'd never be able to recover..."
"What if you miss the companionship a woman can give? What if you desired a child? What if...this is just again a continuation of your curiostiy? I don't want a short-time relationship...Where would that leave me?" Ritsu questioned with tired honesty. "Don't make things complicated Takano-san please..."
With the brightness from the outside slowly seeping into the room, the thick curtain unable to stop the flood of the morning sun, Takano tugged on the brunette's shoulder, pulling him close. A closeness where both of them could feel each other's heat. Each other's heart violently beating from within their bodies.
Takano pressed his lips on the other's hair, lingering there as a flood of emotions came surging to him.
"It's already very complicated..." the raven murmured almost like pleading.
"Gamble on me Ritsu..."
"You'll never lose..."
It had been nothing but a senseless collage. A display to cover the entire wall of that small room. However while standing before it, taking the photos in the wall a picture as a whole, Takano was dumbstruck.
He ran a hand through his hair, unable to stop the ghost of a smile about to loosen from his mouth.
The raven might have been thoroughly absorbed of what realization came to him that he failed to notice the other presence in the room lingering at the door.
Turning to the sound of the voice, the raven lifted a hand, motioning for Ritsu to come inside as well. As the brunette stood beside him, barefoot, hair messy and a bit lethargic, Takano felt himself swell with an unexplainable warmth in his chest. He couldn't stop himself from bringing his hands around the other's waist, bringing both of their bodies even closer.
"You've been staring at the collage for a long while now..." Ritsu commented as he brought his eyes to their own which was the only colored one in there. The man thought there was no meaning in it and just dismissed it as nothing. What was more important was the goofy smile that Takano was giving. "What's wrong?"
"Hmm..." Takano narrowed his eyes, as if in deep, serious thought. "I was just thinking, maybe I should take these photos off. And change them with a new found hobby."
The brunette stared back at the wall. "A new found hobby?"
"Yup. Maybe I should start sticking your naked photos instead."
Ritsu was too shocked to even react. His still flushed face growing a tad redder from what he heard. Out of nowhere, Takano laughed out loud. The kind which was so natural, rarely being heard from the man.
"You should have seen your face."
"W-what the...don't joke things like that!" Ritsu scowled, trying to break free from the arm which was securing him in place. "That's really..."
"Aww...I was just messing with you sweetheart."
Ritsu stiffened, beet red. "Don't call me that..."
"Then what? You don't like sweetheart? You liked being called 'honey'? 'Baby'?"
Ritsu felt goosebumps running on his skin, really scandalized at the names he was being given.
"That's not funny," Ritsu mumbled, still not recovering. "It's disgusting."
Takano forced himself to swallow his laughter. He couldn't get enough of teasing the other for some reason now.
The more Ritsu tried to break free, the tighter the hand around his waist just became. The satisfied sigh that Takano gave made the other grow still though. And unable to escape, Ritsu decided to stay silently, eyes gliding from one photo to another.
As what Takano had admitted before, this thing was some sort of a trophy. Yet now with the brunette's photo stuck at the end of those rows, it was something different altogether.
Takano didn't want to sound so poetic early in the morning. And he probably would want to keep it to himself. The collection of photos right before their eyes now seemed to be his search captured into stillness. He might have really been unconsciously looking for that one who would be his turning point from the very beginning.
The raven had once again rested his face on the comfort and calming scent of the brunette's hair. Hugging the other a day's worth.
"You're suffocating me..."
"Just a little more..." the raven whined.
The collage on Takano's wall turned out to be a tale of his almost endless search.
And the last photo was the ending story.
chapter end notes:
pls check my profile for update thingies XD
anyway, i was idly typing on my laptop while waiting for something. and it ended like this. ideas for oneshots come and go so when I get one, i really need to type them down no matter what. hahaha
thank you for your time reading and please share your thoughts. hope you enjoyed it.