Edited in 2017 (as in I added some stuff for better flow and characterization because it looked like I rushed it the first time)
Ryou was glad to go to school. It was suffocating, how close an eye his father kept on him. Just this morning, he had spent a good ten minutes watching Ryou over his coffee cup. He seemed to be looking for something. Ryou guessed it was marks left by Mariku or signs of distress. The only thing causing him distress right then was his father and the fretting.
"You know," the man had started. "I bet you could easily find a better partner if you just put yourself out there."
Ryou had stared, mouth open, ready to tell his father off for implying that he should break up with Mariku. He had known getting angry would get him nowhere, so instead all he had said was, "Mariku is a good partner." Granted, he knew that point could be debated, and his father had looked ready to, but it had seemed like the man hadn't wanted to argue, either.
"I'm not saying that's not true." He had clearly wanted to. "But you're young, you have options. You don't know when this thing with Mariku is going to end."
"I'm hoping it doesn't," he had admitted, quietly. He had wanted to just leave at that point but his father's shocked look had stopped him. He had basically said that he wanted to stay with Mariku for the rest of his life.
"Uh, right, it's just..." his father had paused, thinking his words over. "I got a call, early this morning, from work. They want me to go to the Tokyo headquarters for a couple of weeks, and I'd feel better if I knew you're safe."
How the matter of forever had been glanced over had surprised Ryou but he had let it drop. "I am safe." More or less. "If it makes you feel better, I can stay at Yuugi's during the weekends." Probably, he would have to check with Mariku. They would need to schedule. "I'll be fine."
His father hadn't looked satisfied. By that point they both had had to leave and now, as Ryou sat in class, listening to the teacher lecture, he had other things than what his father had said on his mind. He wondered if Mariku felt the same sense of commitment towards him. He wouldn't ask, too scared to hear the answer. Exams would start soon and he needed to focus on school. He couldn't spend the day thinking about a hypothetical future for Mariku and him. He hoped there was one.
The teacher handed out work sheets. It gave Ryou something else to concentrate on.
Mariku glanced up the apartment building. It looked cleaner and more inviting than the one he lived in now. He knew an apartment in the sixth floor was up for rent. With two rooms and a kitchen, it was a whole room and half a kitchen bigger than his current one, and with the new income, affordable. He knew Ryou would like it, too.
Speaking of, his phone rang.
"Hi, um, can you talk?" Ryou said from the other end.
"Sure. What's on your mind?" He could put off checking out the apartment for a few minutes. Ryou sounded wound up, which made Mariku tense up, too. Something had happened.
"It's just, my dad is kind of driving me crazy," Ryou admitted, in a hushed voice, like he was afraid someone could overhear him.
"How so?" He walked to where he had parked his motorcycle, leaned against it.
"He keeps a really close eye on me, like he's watching me for, I don't know, a sign that I'm not ok. And just this morning, he hinted that I should find someone else."
"I don't see how this is news, your father never approved of us." He felt a surge of anger but kept it out of his voice the best he could. He wasn't angry with Ryou, quite the opposite, but the old man was testing his resolve.
"I know, but I thought it was getting better, you know? Like he was making an effort."
Mariku knew that he had slipped up while having dinner at Ryou's. He had gotten too angry, showed it too clearly. He had felt the old urge to maim, to harm. Being with Ryou had mellowed him out somewhat but it was still there, waiting to surface.
"I shouldn't have lost my temper with him. Sorry." Just the mention of his father had gotten his blood boiling. Maybe he just hated fathers in general.
"Oh no, it's fine. I thought you did great, all things considered," Ryou reassured. "I know family is a touchy subject for you, he shouldn't have pried like that."
His sweet, understanding Ryou. Mariku almost felt himself softening around the edges. "True, he shouldn't have. Doesn't change the fact that I made things harder for you."
Ryou sighed. "Don't beat yourself up about it. I'll just have to spend more time at your place." He sounded more chipper by the end of the sentence. "Besides, he's leaving for a while again so it won't be a problem for long."
Mariku smirked. That was excellent news. "No wonder he mentioned us breaking up. He doesn't want to leave you to my clutches while he's away." Granted, it was a justified fear, just not for the reasons the old man assumed.
"Exactly," Ryou agreed. "I promised him I'd spend time with Yuugi, too, but I don't know how much of that I'll be doing."
"You're welcome to my place, too. You know, in case you get lonely."
"Oh, I know."
Mariku licked his lip, grinning to himself. It looked like things were working out his way. "Will I see you later?"
"Yeah, I just need to stop by home first, get some things, maybe eat something."
He wanted to see Ryou now. "I'll make you something."
Ryou finished his phone call before entering the house. As he was opening the door, he heard a familiar voice calling his name. He turned and spotted Yuugi bouncing up the walkway.
"Hey," he said, hesitant. Had he made plans with Yuugi and then forgotten? He searched his memory but couldn't find anything.
"Hey," Yuugi greeted once he had made his way over. "So, I realize this is a bit odd, but your dad called me and asked me to look out for you for the next few weeks, starting now," he explained, giving an apologetic smile. "I didn't know what was up so I decided to check up on you. Is there something wrong?"
Ryou resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Not at Yuugi, but at his father's meddling. He sighed, annoyed. "Apparently. Come on in for a bit, since you're here." There was no way he was going to explain anything while standing outside. Yuugi followed him.
Giving himself some time to gather his thoughts, Ryou started grabbing things to take with him to Mariku's.
"So, uh, my dad's worried that when he leaves for Tokyo, Mariku's going to, I don't know, hurt me." He tried to keep it casual but from the look on Yuugi's face he saw that he was unsuccessful.
"Is that a legit concern?" Yuugi asked, frowning. "Do you think there's a chance that your dad's right?"
"No," Ryou replied. "I guess the reason he called you is that I sort of promised to hang out with you while he's away, to put his mind at ease that I'm not spending every waking moment with Mariku." He threw his arms up to convey his incredulity at the whole situation. "Who, according to my father, is a dangerous psychopath or something." Which, might be true. Ryou wasn't familiar with personality disorders.
Yuugi raised an eyebrow but didn't comment.
"It's not that I don't want to spend time with you," Ryou said, packing a couple more school books. "I just don't like it being enforced like this." Like he couldn't make his own decisions.
"I get it," Yuugi said. "But we are going to see each other every once in a while, right?"
Ryou paused his angry packing to smile at Yuugi. "Of course we are. It's not like Mariku's just going to whisk me away the moment no one's keeping an eye on me."
Ryou's things had been steadily finding their way to Mariku's place. First it had been just some underwear and a couple of shirts, a pair of jeans. Then, Mariku had started offering to wash his dirty clothes so he wouldn't have to bring them home and Ryou kept forgetting that he had them. Before he knew it, about half his wardrobe was crammed into a couple of drawers in the corner of Mariku's apartment. To be fair, he had spent a lot of time there.
After coming over, they had shared a meal and he had settled on the couch to do homework. Mariku was reading next to him. It was nice.
"Did you see where I put my biology book? I know I brought it with me," Ryou asked, looking around.
"I think you threw it on the bed," Mariku said without taking his eyes off his book.
Ryou got up, dug through the covers. "Oh! Found it." He brought the book with him, flipping through the pages to find the right spot. His eyes flicked to Mariku, who turned a page, still in concentration. Ryou didn't want to break the quiet but a thought occurred to him.
"Hey, do you ever think about going back to school?" he asked.
Mariku lifted his gaze from the book, thought a moment. "Sometimes. If I manage save up some, I could go to the community college."
"What would you study?" Ryou abandoned biology for a bit. This was more interesting.
"I don't know." Mariku frowned. "My parents wanted me to go to law school, so that was my goal since the beginning of high school. I never really thought about what I wanted to do since doing that wouldn't have been an option, anyway."
The admission made Ryou sad. Where he wasn't in best terms with his father at the moment, he knew the man would never pressure him into choosing a career. Of course every parent wanted their child to be successful, and him doing something prestigious would make his father proud. Still, the decision was ultimately his.
"Well, now you can do whatever you want." Ryou smiled even though Mariku couldn't see it, so concentrated on the opposite wall.
"I suppose I can." He snapped out of it after a while, but for a moment, he had looked so lost. Ryou wanted to hold him but he knew contact would end the conversation.
Mariku glanced at Ryou's discarded book. "Shouldn't you be doing homework? Or maybe you should've stayed at home for that."
"Some of my school stuff's here anyway so I might as well come over for homework," he joked. Sometimes the study sessions ended up being more "study sessions" but no one but them needed to know about that.
"I thought you kept coming over because you liked it here," Mariku said, his tone so carefully neutral that for a moment Ryou thought he was being serious. He looked up from his work to see the wry smile on Mariku's face and relaxed.
"Nah, it's just that my stuff is here," Ryou said. "It's like I half live here already. And honestly, right now here's better than at home." He smiled but it dropped when Mariku started looking serious. He turned to Ryou, sitting sideways with his knee bent on the couch.
"Why not fully live here, then," he said. His eyes were focused on Ryou's face, searching for a reaction.
Ryou stared. It took a while for the words to register and when they did, his eyes widened. "Uh..." He looked around for something to hone in on besides Mariku's intense stare. Before he could escape the situation, maybe by physically removing himself from it to take refuge in the bathroom, he felt strong hands pulling him closer and turning him to face Mariku. The hands stayed on his hips and he had no choice but to meet Mariku's eyes once again.
"Don't run," Mariku's stare went down a notch in intensity. "At least tell me what you think, first."
Ryou breathed in, placing his hands on Mariku's arms for support. He felt shaky. "I-I just um... I'm surprised, I guess it's kind of sudden?"
"It's not sudden," Mariku stated.
"It's not?" It felt sudden. Despite how he had been spending more and more time at the new apartment, now that it was less dangerous for him to walk there alone. He had even managed to strike up a conversation with an elderly woman living on the street floor. Mariku's previous neighbors had scared him, and not in the good way.
"You've been steadily bringing your things over here, you spend most of your free time here," Mariku pressed, echoing Ryou's thoughts. "You said yourself, just now, that you feel better here than you do at home. Or were you lying?"
Ryou shook his head. He knew how much Mariku hated lying. "No, I... All those things are true."
Mariku pulled him closer, hands firm but not yet bruising. "So you should move in," he said, slowly.
Not knowing what else to say, Ryou said, "I guess."
Mariku pushed him down and kissed his doubts away.
New, edited a/n: This fic will always have a special place in my heart. As I was going through it for nostalgia and editing purposes, several things made me go "wtf younger me!?" and I guess the distance of time allowed me to see it from the outside. There's some things I'd do differently today, some where I see my relative inexperience as a writer and a person. But. I'm glad I wrote it. It gave me an outlet for some things I couldn't have addressed otherwise, and that's not something I can measure in review or hit counts (though the review count and the fanart still blows me away. I mean, holy bejeezus, you guys are amazing).