Disclaimers: The same as in the previous chapters.

Author's Notes: So here we have Shuichi talking to Hiro about Ryuichi. The chapter is on the short side but I didn't think we needed to go over everything that has been happening in the fic up to this point. As for the game that Shuichi is holding, just think of it being some super expensive, not-yet-released-to-mass-market piece and leave it at that.

He had time to take a shower and wiggle on some pajama bottoms that were probably Tohma's at one time since he had a hard time picturing Ryuichi in something with baby ducks on them. Another search through Ryuichi's cupboards did not turn up anything to eat, so he went into the family room, turned on the television and flipped through a few stations. Nothing was really on so he turned it to a daytime drama and laid back against the beanbags and pillows, trying to sort out his thoughts.

Once upon a time, he had wanted the dream – a family filled with children and a loving wife. Maybe it would have been made if he stuck to his parents' plans and went into med school, but he almost thought it would happen anyways with Akaya. It seemed like they were working to something good but then her family stepped in with their ideals and somehow, he and her drifted from those first fumblings and cute dates to sometimes talking to nothing. And now he was sitting in the apartment of a person he never expected would have an interest in him, trying to figure out if this was going to be another failure or something wonderful.

The doorbell went off like a tinkling of broken glass and Hiro jumped to his feet unsure of what the sound was until it was repeated. Running a hand through his hair, he went to answer the door, blinking at the sight of a pizza box shoved under his nose. He took a step back and the box moved aside, showing him Shuichi's concern face under the fall of bright pink hair.

"So where's the jerk?" he said as Hiro took the pizza from him.

"With the rest of his band," Hiro replied and waited for the singer to slip off his shoes before handing the pizza back. "Thanks for coming, Shuichi. I'm starving!"

"He didn't feed you before he molested you?"

Hiro heaved a sigh and smacked him lightly on top of his head. "Idiot. It's not like that!"

"Hey! How am I suppose to know? You sounded like you were all broken up and was having a hard time!"

Rolling his eyes, Hiro took the pizza box away from him and headed for the kitchen. Shuichi stopped his protests to follow. Hiro dug out some seasoning after a minute of banging around and fetched them both beers before diving into the food. Thankfully it kept Shuichi from asking him much, although he did frown at the open space of Ryuichi's apartment and how plain everything was save for the family room.

"What does he do in here?" he asked, pulling a piece of cheese off the edge of the last piece of pizza.

"I really don't know. It's like he has this separate face for the public in that space and keeps the rest hidden." Hiro cut the piece in half and Shuichi grabbed the smaller piece of the two pieces.

"Sort of the way he is in everything," he replied, speaking half to himself.

Hiro didn't reply. Instead he chewed on the crust, his eyes drifting to the wall of pictures and wondering the odd remark about keeping his daughter's pictures some where else. But why would he do that, if the pictures were his way of keeping his memories straight?


Shaking his head, he looked over at Shuichi. The singer was leaning forward, frowning at him. "What happened?"

Hiro took a deep breath and told him everything. From when it all started to last night, only leaving out information about Hikari. Shuichi stayed quiet, only nodding or making faces at parts of the story. When Hiro ran out of things to say, Shuichi remained quiet, frowning and staring off at the pictures on the wall. Hiro toyed with his lukewarm beer and waited for the verdict.

"Do you like him?"

Hiro jerked and looked wide-eyed at Shuichi. He couldn't see his expression completely but he knew that he was being serious. "Well. . . he's like nothing I had thought he would be like."

"But do you like him?"

Frowning, Hiro put the beer down and thought about it. He had never really given himself time to really think about how he would feel if he didn't see the older singer from day-to-day, or at least hear his voice. He never thought long about it, only thought about all the games and the teases and the way he would say something and then turn around and not say anything.

"Yeah. . ." he replied, feeling his stomach clench in response. "I think I do."

Shuichi leaned over and smacked him across the back of the head. "Then stop being an idiot!"

"I. . . what?"

Shuichi poked his finger against his side, frowning. "You told me once to go after what I really wanted, remember? When I first met Yuki and I couldn't decide whether I should act on something so strange and yet it felt so right to find love with a guy. Now it's my turn to tell you to go after him."

"But," Hiro said, feeling like a boat had just thrown him into a cold lake. "It's Sakuma-san!"

"So? Does that name make him any better than you or me?"

"Shuichi, he tried to hurt you," he said slowly, hoping he didn't have to spell it out. His friend frown and poked him again in response.

"So? Big deal. If he couldn't handle the competition then maybe he shouldn't have set it up in the first place."

Hiro continued to stare at Shuichi. The singer stared straight back him, and then heaved a sigh.

"Look, he's a jerk. He's got this ego the size of the ocean and he acts a lot like he's been spoilt and expects everyone to agree with him," Shuichi said. "But under that is this guy who's been alone for a very long time. The only people around him are friends who really don't have the time for him like they used to and people that are paid to keep him happy. If he really cares for you and you can make him happy, he might become a better person."

"Shuichi. . ."

"And if he tosses you aside, I will hurt him so badly he wouldn't even remember what Kumagoro's name is!"

He couldn't help it; Hiro laughed and ruffled Shuichi's hair at the threat. Of all the things he could have said, that reassured that his best friend understood where he was coming from and had accepted that things have gotten a little more intense than they should have. He was good with it even if it meant that things would change between them.

"So did you see what kind of games he has?"

Hiro shook his head. Shuichi frowned and hopped off his chair, diving to the television and the number of games stacked up around it. After a moment of studying, he screamed and tipped the pile over, picking up the bottom-most game and hugging it tight against his chest.

"I can't believe that he has it! Hiro! We need to play this!"

"I'm not so sure. . ."

Shuichi glared at him over the game and Hiro sighed and looked at the huge television. Well Ryuichi did say to help himself.

"Fine. Let me clean up."

At Shuichi's cheer, he smiled. Despite how awful it had been to tell him about Ryuichi and growing attracting between him and the singer, it was nice to know that Shuichi would still be his friend and care for him. And that he would be there if this did end up a mess and his needed someone to lean against before rebuilding his life again.