Title: Tell Me It's Madness
Author: Risa
Fandom: .hack//G.U.
Pairings: Haseo/Endrance implied
Rating: T - on the safe side for mentions of sexuality.
Disclaimer: I'd say G.U. would be mine if HasEn was canon, but they kinda ARE, so. Maybe the lack of making out should clue you all in.
Summary: It was strange to feel this level of attraction for someone over the Internet, particularly one of the same sex.

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I feel the magic all around you
It's bringing me to my knees
Like I wanna be
I've got to be chained to you

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In most of his seventeen years Ryou Misaki hadn't entertained the thought of being homosexual. It just wasn't something he deemed worth thinking about, not to mention that sort of thing went unspoken in high school. Also, his parents never had a thing to say about it. The most of it he had ever even been exposed to was in literature, and a few video games. Even then, he thought little of it. He thought little of sexuality in general until girls left and right started asking him out.

Now, it wasn't that he disliked girls by any stretch of the word, but he had at least five girls profess their undying love for him. It wasn't so bad, save for one minor detail. He hardly knew any of those girls. In fact, he had never even exchanged so much as a hello with some of them, and here they claimed that they were hopelessly in love? Of course he turned them down! He was polite and blasé about it, which sometimes lead to tears, and sometimes lead to understanding. He preferred the latter. Seeing a girl cry was nerve-wracking.

With his luck the last girl to pay him any heed was the class crush. Every guy wanted a piece of Kaida Minako. She was pretty, had a great personality, her parents had money, and she was also a shoe-in for class president, not that Ryou cared about such things. He was mostly a book worm and a gamer. OK, maybe he was thick glasses and 300 pounds short of the stereotype, but he thought his silent and reserved nature was hint enough that he wasn't really one of the cool people.

But Miss Kaida stopped him in the hallway one afternoon and handed him her phone number, informing him that he was her new boyfriend. Just who the hell did she think she was, anyway? Well, she did mean that in a joking way. Part of her appeal was her sense of humor, apparently. Ryou, however, was not impressed. He handed her back the number and said, "No thanks."

That was when he became the first guy to ever turn down Kaida Minako. She herself gave him no grief, but some of her male admirers were less than thrilled by Ryou's negligence. The first week he was labeled the heartbreaker. The next? The faggot. He didn't care what anyone thought of him, at all. Never had, though something about being called "the faggot" was kind of annoying. After all, how does one deduce a man's sexuality based on one particular girl he didn't like? He didn't know her, he didn't particularly care for her personality, or her stuck up sense of humor. If nothing else his rejection must have knocked her down a few pegs, but he was at rock bottom, which wasn't too far from where he assumed he was in the first place.

Still, it was a pretty lonely way to trudge through life. By nature he was a loner, and used to it. It wasn't like he didn't try to get along with others. In fact, just at lunch the other day some other gamers were talking about some MMO called 'The World', which had always intrigued Ryou, though he never bothered to go out and purchase his own copy of it. He figured he had enough on his plate in real life as it was, though he supposed a retreat into a different world every so often couldn't be so bad. He bit and bought the game with his allowance, setting it right up and creating his new character Haseo just before dinner. It was pretty cool.

At least until Haseo realized that the people in 'The World' were every bit as nasty as they were in real life. In fact, they were worse. Haseo had been to his share of forums, and saw plenty of n00b-bashing; however, killing off a n00b in a game he had barely begun to play for the sheer pleasure? The laughs? How did anyone even get through this damn game, anyway? Lying on the ground with depleted HP, Haseo was trying to recall where he had left the receipt for this game. That was, until a man named Ovan rescued him from the PKs who had gotten their filthy hands on him.

From there, Haseo's life began to change drastically.

Although he found himself interested in Ovan and his Twilight Brigade, Haseo was even more drawn his second in command, Shino. Unlike most girls, Shino put a certain amount of effort into trying to understand Haseo. She seemed to know how to get inside his mind, and where she may have pushed like most girls, she did not shove. She merely made a point to make her presence known, to make herself known to him. He was drawn to her, and each day he spent in 'The World' he spent with Shino. He felt that he had a place to belong by her side, and for the first time he was appreciated for more than just his good looks and this cool attitude he apparently had, or whatever.

He certainly wouldn't have minded being Shino's boyfriend. He gave her his number and everything, and told her exactly how she made him feel. It felt good to be that comfortable around another person, though he wasn't sure what to make of it. It seemed like a crush, he'd certainly never felt anything like it. He had never trusted and cared for another person so completely.

And then? That bastard Tri-Edge took her from him. Took her away before Haseo could meet her face-to-face, and hopefully become a man who meant as much to her as Ovan did. That bastard was nowhere to be found, though, and Haseo was gradually going mad with grief. He wasn't strong enough to save her, but someday he would, and he would do anything to do it, too. He took his rage out on Player Killers, using them as buffers to jack up his level. Before he knew it he was at Level 133, which wasn't far from maxing out. Whoever this Tri-Edge was surely wouldn't stand a chance.

Of course, he had been as foolish as to underestimate his opponent, and was brought back down to Level 1 by that crazy Data Drain technique. By then, Operation Save Shino seemed pretty grim. He spent no less than eight months leveling up, and making an enemy of every PK imaginable. If he was found back at Level 1, he was doomed.

Which was how he ended up in groups like Canard, and G.U., to protect himself. At least, that's how it was at first. Since Shino had fallen into a coma Haseo completely forgot what he had been missing in his life in the first place. Friendship. True friendship. At first, he didn't want anyone filling in the void that Shino had left behind. Shino was the only person in 'The World' he considered a real friend. Everyone else was just background noise, and a pain in the ass.

That was, until he got to know them. He got to know them because they were so determined to get to know him. Silabus, Gaspard, and Atoli didn't know how to leave him the hell alone no matter how hard he pushed them away. Pi, Kuhn, and Yata were all convinced that they had Haseo underneath their thumbs, but gradually they pissed him off less and less. Then there was Alkaid, who had that kind of bold, demanding attitude that got on his nerves, but once he got to know her she was pretty nice. It killed him when she, too, fell into a coma. Another reason he hated getting so close to others, he was afraid of the hurt that came with losing them. Ryou Misaki was a boy of very little tears, but as with Shino he'd spent the night crying for Alkaid. Boys don't cry. Right. Hearing those words echo in his head only made it worse, not that he'd ever give up.

This particular loss brought him to perhaps the most unexpected friendship he ever thought he'd have. The former Demon Palace Emperor Endrance was rumored to be one of the strongest players in 'The World', but he seemed so weak and depressed when Haseo stumbled upon him. He was spouting all kinds of nonsense about being unneeded and AIDA having nothing to do with him, despite being a fellow Epitaph User. After all he had been through Haseo felt as though he ought to be the one curled into a ball of ice sulking, but he wasn't. Despite his sadness and anger he was doing everything he could to set things right. He'd be damned if he let an ally like Endrance slip away so easily.

So Haseo requested Endrance's help. He meant his words with all of his heart, willing to do anything to bring Shino and Alkaid back. Friendship wasn't the most familiar concept to him until he knew what it meant to have a friend, and have her ripped away from him. Twice! He wouldn't stand for it anymore. What's more, he needed help keeping Atoli, Silabus, and the rest protected as well. He and the rest of G.U. couldn't do everything by themselves.

Who knew that being needed would have such a strong impact on Endrance? Although he was late, not two minutes into becoming official allies had Haseo owed Endrance his life. The former emperor was a powerful fighter, and swore loyalty to Haseo as though he was royalty, and Endrance was his official body guard. It was nice to have such a strong ally pledge such allegiance to him, but the price for that was unnerving.

Although Haseo had a fair share of lady admirers, he never had a male one. It felt weird to him, which he chocked up to being wrong at first. After all, it seemed natural for guys to like girls, and vice versa. Well, Haseo never really had a real crush on any girls, except for maybe Shino. She spent six of the eight months he'd known her in a coma, though, and he really couldn't say that he felt much differently for the rest of his friends than he felt for Shino. He was afraid of realizing that. In a way, he wanted to like Shino. He wanted to be her special someone, and to feel more strongly for her than anyone. As time went on, he'd developed those same feelings for Atoli, Silabus, Gaspard, and Alkaid, and realized that maybe, just maybe he was drawn to the friendship she offered, and not the romance he thought he wanted.

It was confusing. He hadn't even thought of trying to get a girlfriend until he'd started playing 'The World', which was kind of pathetic for a boy his age. He mostly focused on his studies, and then went home to play some games. Then he discovered that there were girls in games like 'The World' so it seemed pretty ideal to him. Even so, he wasn't attracted to any of them in that way, perhaps not even Shino. Not anymore, in any case. That didn't take away from Haseo's desire to save her in the slightest, though. She was one of the first real friends he had in a very long time. He owed her everything.

He was overwhelmed with strange thoughts, especially after Endrance had acquired his member address. Every so often Haseo would receive an e-mail from Endrance, and each one left Haseo hot and bothered. He pretended to be indifferent toward Endrance's advances at first. He hoped that would kill two birds with one stone. On one hand, Haseo was so not looking for a boyfriend. No boy in his school with half a brain cell would even contemplate that. On the other hand, Haseo didn't see what the big deal about homosexuality was. You felt how you felt and that's how you felt, and Haseo accepted that. He wanted to be a friend to Endrance, just not a boyfriend. That sounded acceptable enough.

Endrance picked up on that easily enough, but he still made no secret of how he felt about Haseo. He accepted a fate of unrequited love so easily that it felt almost painful to Haseo at times. How could Haseo just being around and putting up with it possibly be enough? Endrance's words were no bullshit, either. He was even crazy enough to go undercover just to stab Sakaki in the back when he thought he had Haseo cornered. It was a stupid move, to go in by himself. Well, OK, so he had Saku by his side, too, but Saku didn't know what his true intentions were. That just went to show how highly Endrance regarded her. It seems he only had room in his heart for Haseo, and he didn't just spout a bunch of superficial nonsense. He acted on his words. He showed his loyalty and his love.

Haseo had to admit; at that point he was flattered. He still wasn't looking for a boyfriend, but Endrance was certainly someone he could confide in. At that point Haseo chose to take Endrance on more quests and adventures with him, knowing that it would please him. They took down quite a few black-listed PKs together, exchanged many e-mails, and Haseo even sent Endrance one of his rare greeting cards. Normally he'd send them to Gaspard, seeing as Gaspard loved to collect them, but one evening Endrance seemed a bit down, so Haseo thought to cheer him up.

The emails that followed that one had Haseo's heart racing again. At the end of that exchange he pulled off his M2D, and headed outside for some fresh air. It was well past midnight and chilly, but it was the weekend and he needed the exercise. He also needed some place away from 'The World' and away from his home to think.

At first, he didn't know what there was to think about. Endrance had told Haseo a million times that he was in love with him, and never was Haseo inclined to return those feelings. Endrance even made it clear that Haseo didn't have to return those feelings. He would be content with friendship, maybe just mere acknowledgement. How could that possibly be enough, though? What's more, why did Haseo feel as though he were depriving Endrance of something? He never felt guilty for not requiting any girl's feelings. After all, he felt how he felt. And he felt it was a crime to lead a girl in love on. After all, it's best to be honest about that sort of thing from the start, that way the girl can get over it faster.

He had never outright told Endrance that he didn't feel the same. It seemed pointless, seeing as Endrance already guessed that Haseo did not requite his feelings. Still, that guess, that assumption was not enough to make him forget it and move on. Endrance was very much determined to love Haseo with all of his heart, and to give Haseo everything he had. Really, it was too much. Haseo didn't bargain for this much when he asked Endrance for his help.

He had to give Endrance some kind of real answer beyond the usual "thanks." Though as the days went by that answer was meandering into more of a yes than a no. Being liked by another guy was a brand new experience to him, one he had never exercised much thought in. At least not until he met Endrance. He chose write it off as wrong at first, but just because it felt different didn't necessarily mean it felt wrong. If it didn't feel wrong, then could it really be so bad? So Endrance made him feel all kinds of things. Sometimes he felt hot, sometimes his stomach would tie in knots, sometimes he'd break out in goose bumps, and his heart would race.

And sometimes, just sometimes he would imagine for a moment being together with Endrance, being the person he adored so. They would be pressed together torso to torso kissing each other deeply, and Haseo's groin would tighten and he'd be hotter than ever, and it took just those few moments of fantasy to really get under his skin. He particularly felt it when he re-read Endrance's e-mail about heartbeats. He could always hear their hearts beating in unison amidst the kissing, the scattering of clothes.

But it was just a fantasy, and nothing Haseo was ready to pursue. It was strange to feel this level of attraction for someone over the Internet, particularly one of the same sex. He would have been all over Endrance by now if Endrance were a woman… right? He couldn't imagine Endrance as a woman no matter how hard he tried, though. That would only make things too convenient. Nope, Haseo, rather Ryou Misaki, was caught up in quite a raunchy crush. A crush on a guy who was in love with him, no less, and he had no clue what to do about it.

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Tell me it's madness
I barely know you

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A/N: Random lyrics are from the song "Chained to You" by Savage Garden. Ahhh. And maybe I'll write a get together companion piece for this soon. Or I'll write an unrelated get together. Whatever. Comments and crit? Let's see it!