A/N: This is something I've been working on for a while: fifty sentences about Rita and Ryuunosuke, based on fifty word prompts.
There's something underneath that fake smile, of course, but it isn't like he cares enough to wonder what.
Ryuunosuke notices the absence of the red coat at the entrance as soon as he steps down from the last stair, and it leaves him with an odd feeling.
Mashiro would paint this better, she thinks staring at her half-finished forest on the canvas, but she'll keep going anyway: there are more people to disappoint now.
"There was no need to be so rude," Aoyama calls after him crossly, as he storms back to his room, cheeks flaming as he tries to burn the memory of that laughter from his mind.
It's no secret that he has always hated liars, but Rita's kind of sincerity... is a lot harder to deal with.
He's skipping school again so Rita drags him down to cook with her (maybe school would have been the safer choice).
He wants to forget the warmth of her hand that day on stage, but even if he could the memory of everyone's piled in their circle is all the more persistent.
I'm not bitter, she thinks furiously; since the boy behind her seems to be able to read her mind so well he had damn well better hear that too.
Everyone crowding around to watch over his shoulder as he finishes the final adjustment to Nyaboron: this is what he remembers when Rita pulls his hand into the circle.
He's used to motivating himself, he doesn't need anyone else's encouragement... but reading over the words of support in her emails isn't unpleasant.
The crushed groceries tucked safely under one arm, he leans down to pick up Sorata's, Nanami's and Mashiro's discarded bags, and wonders if he has deserved to be left behind once again.
"Are you really alright with letting this happen?" - before his phone rings, the voice is persistent in his head, and sounds suspiciously, uncomfortably, familiar.
When he complains to Sorata about how many emails Rita has sent him, Ryuunosuke isn't expecting Mashiro to produce proof of ten times that amount and turn it into a competition, of all things.
With everyone else at school, she feels out of place; the locked door she leans against is an all too clear reminder that not everyone welcomes her here.
"Perhaps the next time you mock me like that," she says softly, her lips achingly close to his, "I won't let you off so lightly."
When her flight arrives early and cuts through the school day, Rita greets Ryuunosuke and the others outside the school gate.
None of them have the banner they were going to hold for her at the airport on hand, and it is a group effort to stop Misaki from driving them all home to get it and back to carry out the greeting as planned.
Rita seems to find his appreciation of tomatoes considerably more endearing than Nanami does, or at least enough that she isn't the one who keeps trying to confiscate them from him during class.
All three of them left him but Mashiro stayed with her; she wouldn't (couldn't) blame him if he resented her for that.
Jetlagged again, she falls asleep in Ryuunosuke's room instead of staying up to watch the sunset with the others (he doesn't seem to mind too much).
Sorata's disappointment he had expected, in part, but he isn't prepared for Rita and her quiet understanding.
He wouldn't ever say it, of course, but he would have been fine to skip dinner and continue their video chat – she did say she wanted him to eat better, though.
"Maybe Rita's on her way again," Jin says from the window as he watches the growing storm outside, and has the nerve to smirk when Ryuunosuke looks up from his laptop with a start.
"I have absolutely no interest in joining your hypothetical group trip to England," Ryuunosuke lies, as Sorata folds his arms over and raises an eyebrow.
Even after everything, Mashiro takes hold of Rita's hand with a smile; for some reason all he can see is the three people who wouldn't do the same for him.
Misaki, unsurprisingly, turns out to be the one responsible for supplying Rita with endless photographs of Ryuunosuke interacting with the building's cats.
"Nanami's very organized," Rita sounds impressed as she looks over his shoulder at the grocery list; unfortunately when she links their arms together he forgets its entire contents.
After the first year, the space between them keeps on lessening and neither of them are quite sure what to make of it.
Rita isn't even playing the game with them anymore – she's been curled up asleep on Sorata's bed for the last hour – but he'd be lying if he said he wasn't glad she'd suggested it.
Try harder – they were Ryuunosuke's words, but she hears them in her own voice instead and stabs at the canvas with her brush.
"Not a hologram this time either," Rita assures him, her hands in his in an instant.
She grips her pencil so hard that it hurts – good, she could use a distraction – Ryuunosuke turns to look at her, eyes widening, as it clatters to the floor.
Rita is the fourth person he's brought to tears like that, but the first who gave him another chance.
"If you're drawing me again-" the sound of a pencil pauses "-then stop it."
"I work late, the light from my screen will keep you awake," even as he speaks she shifts beside him, smiling, and he knows she doesn't care.
By the second Valentine's day, Ryuunosuke is better prepared – although, the circumstances are a little different this time.
"You and Rita are pretty good for each other actually, now I think about it," Chihiro says out of the blue one morning; Ryuunosuke forgets why he came downstairs and hastily retreats back to his room without a response.
She waits for permission to take hold of his hand – she has made him uncomfortable too many times, and will not do it again.
The show had happened months back now, but Rita still made a habit of attaching sketches of Nyaboron to her emails occasionally, almost as if she was trying to prove something.
It is bad enough that Misaki's words make his eyes start watering, Rita's hand on his shoulder makes it worse – though maybe it isn't in an entirely bad way.
They are more used to each other now, maybe even close to comfortable.
He's faked some things too, though – how else would he have made it through each day of class with those three?
"You're both enormously stubborn,"Sorata says loudly, when Ryuunosuke asks him what he and Rita could possibly have in common, though he doesn't seem to realize that those words describe him too.
He helps carry Rita carry her paints, but only, only because none of the others would let him forget it if he didn't.
As he turns back to his desk, he watches Rita smiling in the reflection of each dark screen.
The rain always brings back their worst moment, but this time she doesn't shout, he doesn't provoke her; she kisses him under the street lights and doesn't run.
Nanami scolds and fusses over them both for losing the umbrella and getting their uniforms soaked through.
Rita's sleep schedule might be the healthier one, but the time when she sleeps in his room instead of Mashiro's and Ryuunosuke is up early enough to see her hair messily splayed out over her pillow, it feels like he has the more rewarding one.
Rita feels something almost like pride as she finishes her painting with a flourish; in the same moment, Ryuunosuke leans back in his chair at Sakurasou's table, surrounded by his friends, with an expression that might just be a smile.