Written for my Tetsu's roleplayer for her birthday. If anything seems unexplained, it was probably written in a roleplay and forgotten to add here. ^^; My apologies. Please enjoy!
Beloved wife and mother
1970 - 1993
The gravestone was etched simply, standing to the left of two others that were still left blank. The grave was adorned with flowers and a few lit sticks of incense, and kneeling before it were two teenage boys, heads bowed in prayer.
When Tetsuya finished his respectful offering, he looked up quietly to gaze upon the still features of red-haired boy he called his brother. It was always easy to tell when Kasanoda was thinking or concentrating, because his unconscious expressions always gave him away. But right now, his face wasn't dark with pain or depression, or even twisted with sorrow...it was merely calm, with the occasional twitch of his lips, like he was speaking inwardly, but the slight downward pull of his eyebrows told Tetsuya that there was some sort of emotion behind it.
He figured it was probably something along the lines of regret. This was his first time visiting the grave of his friend's mother, but he'd already known that the woman had died in childbirth and had never gotten to see or hold the baby she had carried for nearly nine months. Kasanoda didn't speak about it much, but it didn't seem like a terribly sore subject when he did. For Tetsuya, who'd been raised by his mother and aunt, it felt sad that the redhead had never known the same comforts. When he'd asked if he ever missed not having a mother, the response he had gotten was one he should have expected. "I guess, but...it's not somethin' I've thought about too much. It's probably like...it's hard to miss somethin' you've never had. I mean, I really woulda liked to have her, growin' up, but I'm not sure what it woulda been like."
Still, as he examined Kasanoda's face, he couldn't help but wonder if there was a certain longing there.
As the Young Lord looked up from his prayer, Tetsuya offered him a small smile, and it was returned. They sat in silence for a moment, and the ponytailed teen took note of the one word on the gravestone that seemed to stand out to him. "Beloved…" he murmured, really more to himself than anything else. He hadn't exactly meant to say it out loud, but the young man beside him seemed to understand.
"Yeah. From what I've heard, Dad really did love her...after all, he coulda remarried and saved the grave for someone else, 'cos they'd only been married a few years."
That was something Tetsuya had wanted to bring up. It seemed like a lot of the graves in this plot of land were together in threes, and in this particular bunch, the only one that had been used was for Ritsu's mother.
"What do you mean by that, Young Lord? Is it something special...?"
The redhead nodded. "Uh-huh. Our family has this tradition where the head of the family is buried between his wife on his right and his most trusted friend on the left." He pointed to the two blank gravestones. "This is where my dad and his chosen friend are gonna be buried when they die."
As Tetsuya took this in, he looked around to the surrounding graves, and assumed that other family members from the past were scattered in the area. His own family didn't have such a tradition, so it was a new idea to him. After he thought about it for a moment, though, he began to realize that it wasn't something he really liked. What if the family head died before getting married or getting very close to one of his men? Would it be dishonorable or considered an extra tragedy to be buried beside a blank gravestone or two?
"Do you have the three set up for you yet?" he asked, managing to keep the distaste for the idea from his voice.
In reply, Kasanoda stood and led him to a nearby set of three, all blank. "This is where I'm goin' when I...well, go."
It was sobering, to imagine his friend being lowered to the ground here. Frowning, he set his jaw. Tetsuya was determined to make sure he'd never have to see that sight, even if it meant giving his own life to prevent it.
Lost in these dark thoughts, the long-haired boy was almost surprised when he was pulled from them by Kasanoda's deep voice. "Hey, Tetsuya...would you wanna be buried to my left?"
Eyes wide, his mouth fell open for a moment before he could say anything. "Y-You would want...?"
Kasanoda looked down, suddenly self-conscious of the offer. "Well, I-I mean...if I die young or somethin', I don't want you endin' up here...go start your own family, whatever you wanna do." Blushing slightly, he shrugged and scratched the back of his head. "But, y'know...if we end up stayin' brothers 'til we're old, I don't think I could find a better friend than you, s-so..."
Tetsuya almost couldn't speak. And what could he say? He honestly couldn't think of a greater honor than being considered that important to the yakuza heir standing before him. And though he didn't feel that he completely deserved it, he wouldn't dare cheapen the offer by saying something like that. That would be like saying that the Young Lord didn't know what he was doing…and the guy usually thought long and hard on these things.
Straining to keep the emotion from his voice, Tetsuya nodded, his smile feeling weak. "Of course. I can think of nowhere else I'd rather be, in life or death, than by your side, Young Lord."
Kasanoda's face lit up like a forest fire at the answer. Incredibly pleased, and yet unable to react like any normal person should, he mumbled, "Y'don't really…h-have to say it quite like that…"
But Tetsuya understood what he meant. It had taken a while to get used to, but now he prided himself in knowing what the redhead really felt beneath the exterior he'd been upholding for far too long. Placing a hand on Kasanoda's shoulder, he smiled gently. "I know, but it's the truth." But, to spare the young man from another embarrassed response, he continued, "Anyway, we should get going soon. Dinner will probably be finished by the time we get back."
And by dinner, the ponytailed boy meant 'the Young Lord's surprise party', and 'the cakes that the guys ordered'. It truly would be a surprise, too, considering that it would be Kasanoda's first real birthday party ever. Now that things were more comfortable between him and his subordinates, a celebration was definitely called for.
And nothing made Tetsuya happier than when Ritsu was.
"No son of mine is gonna sleep around with other men!"
It was nearly a year later when Kazuki, Oyabun of the Kasanoda-gumi, called in Ritsu and his branch of the family to account for what had been going on without his knowledge. It had pained the old man to have to do it, especially to the boy he'd had such high hopes for, but he couldn't permit his son's unspeakable behavior to continue.
"It's not like I go out an' do it with just anyone!" Ritsu's face was red with embarrassment and shame, but he absolutely wouldn't show weakness in front of his father. "It's only because it's Tetsuya!"
The two of them had been 'together' for almost five months now. He never would have guessed that he might ever actually be attracted to another male, unlike most of the students that attended his high school seemed to think…but after he fell for his best friend, it simply couldn't be helped.
Both Kasanoda men matched each other's volume in shouted responses.
"No? Then what was it I heard about that Fujioka kid, huh? Explain that to me!"
To his own credit, the heir kept from visibly flinching at the mention of the well-known crush he'd had on Haruhi, but the secret that the girl kept was something he'd promised to never reveal. Even if he did, it might make matters worse in the fact that Kazuki might push him back in her direction in hopes of setting him straight.
"That's a misunderstanding. I can swear to you that nothin' ever happened between me an' Fujioka, so you can leave him outta this. Tetsuya's the only one I want!"
Hearing that last sentence was sickening. "Then I'll sever his ties with us permanently! I never woulda sworn him in, had I known he'd corrupt you like this! Shoulda seen it comin', from a Sendou." The elder Kasanoda spat.
Still on his knees from addressing his father, the redhead drove his fist into the floor, glaring back up at him with a terrifying expression of anger. "You shut up about Tetsuya!"
Kazuki was a bit shocked that Ritsu would defy him so harshly, but another part of him was inwardly proud that the boy he raised could stand against a powerful yakuza boss like himself and make such a declaration. There was honor in that kind of courage and determination, even if he didn't agree with the subject matter. And the man had to admit that he'd be much more disgusted with the situation if his son had wept at his feet and begged for forgiveness like a coward.
But at the same time, this was something he couldn't let go, and even if it created a rift between them, he'd force whatever means necessary to set Ritsu back on the path that was intended for him.
"This is somethin' I won't allow. You're not stupid, you know how this looks. It's wrong, it's gonna get you killed one day, and so I'm not gonna let this go." Sitting back stiffly in his seat, the man rubbed his temple in exhaustion over the situation. He'd never wanted, and certainly hadn't expected, to have this argument with his son and he had no idea why the boy would choose to do something like this. "If girls ain't lookin' your way 'cos of your scary face, there's no need to be chasin' the first guy that will! I can easily set you up, if there's nothin' else-"
"How many times do I have to say it?" Ritsu shouted, standing to his feet, "He's the only one I want! I love him, dammit!"
The tension in the room doubled at the Young Lord's confession…and it grew as silent as a room holding well over 50 men could. The redhead himself was feeling sick enough to heave his insides, but he stood his ground with a stony expression, awaiting whatever punishment his father could deal out.
Tetsuya's eyes burned a hole in the floor by his knees, though his vision was beginning to blur. As happy as he was to hear those words so proudly declared, he knew that Kazuki wouldn't appreciate it nearly as he did. In fact, he was almost surprised that the old man hadn't ejected them both from the family immediately or gone into a righteous rage…it was what his own father would've done.
He wanted to disappear. No, scratch that. He wanted to take Ritsu with him and disappear, just the two of them. But that wouldn't happen. Even if neither of them particularly cared for this line of business, the men that sat behind them were what really tied them to this world. They couldn't let down family…especially when they still backed up the both of them, even now.
Because of this fierce loyalty, from both sides of this confrontation lay a mounting aggression and unrest. If it came to a fight, a clash between father and son, the line would be drawn and the brothers of both households would stand behind their head, regardless of what each man felt personally about the relationship between Ritsu and Tetsuya. It was a matter of honor, loyalty and brotherhood, and everyone in the room was ready to stand up to their oaths.
But a fight wasn't what Kazuki wanted to provoke. He'd teach his son a lesson if he had to, but unnecessary bloodshed within the family wasn't something he was willing to have on his hands.
"Then if you feel so strongly about it, are you willin' to sever yourself from my protection?" The man glowered back. "I may not be able to stop you, but I will not have somethin' like this staining my household's reputation. You insist on havin' your way in this, and you're on your own."
While it would sound like a reasonable option to any outsider, it really was no option at all. With Ritsu's smaller branch operating as its own separate clan, there were plenty of other, bigger groups that wouldn't hesitate in crushing them out of revenge or desire for territory. Or even just to prove a point to the powerful, elder Kasanoda, who'd given them grief over the years. If Kazuki removed his support at this point, his son's house would fall in mere days.
Ritsu knew this, and stood silent. If he didn't back down now, it would spell the end of more than just the lifestyle he enjoyed now, and he would be a fool to let that happen. But at the same time, it would mean never seeing Tetsuya again, and his heart was ripping open at the thought. What else could he do?
Tetsuya was equally as torn, but a desperate thought was striking its way through his mind. Something he'd hoped he'd never have to do. And once it did, he knew what course of action he had to take, even if it made him shake with dread. But he had to act quickly, before an answer was given.
Pushing his weakness aside, the young man stood suddenly - to the unwavering interest of everyone present - and turned to one of the brothers behind him and took his knife. Before the man could protest, Tetsuya whirled around to face the Oyabun of the yakuza family he'd dedicated himself to, and looked him in the eye.
Before he could mentally talk himself out of it, he threw himself to his knees and brought the razor-edged weapon down over the small finger on his left hand, slicing it off completely.
There was a second or two of shock where the pain didn't register, and he stared almost hollowly at the severed appendage…and when it came crashing down, Tetsuya bit his lip hard to keep from vocalizing the stabbing pangs that assaulted him. He almost didn't hear the shouts and gasps from the voices in the room, as focused as he was, and he dizzily stood again to throw the finger at Kazuki's feet.
"Please accept this as an apology…" Tetsuya managed to utter, "…and overlook this offense for now."
The boy couldn't bring himself to take in the look of speechless horror that had plastered itself over his lover's rough features, choosing instead to look hard into the face of the man to which he'd just performed a yubitsume - an old, traditional yakuza act of finger cutting for forgiveness.
The elder Kasanoda held his defiant gaze. People's eyes didn't usually hold such fire after a yubitsume was committed. This was terribly troubling…if this Tetsuya had been born a woman, he would've given his blessing in an instant. The instant action and passionate loyalty was something he could respect, and he was almost glad that his son had found someone so willing to do something like this for him…if only it weren't for this reason. Even if he did somehow find a tolerance for the union of two males, it still wouldn't alter the fact that it would only cause trouble in this world of yakuza, and that was something that would never change.
Still, he couldn't refuse Tetsuya's offering, and that's what troubled him the most.
After a long sigh, Kazuki sank back in his seat. "For now, I'll say nothin' about what you two do, as long as you keep it to yourselves. I don't want to hear about you gettin' caught in the act out where anyone can see you. You have until Ritsu completes his four years of university and he steps into a full role of leadership."
With that said, he stood and dismissed the group, turning away to leave the room and clear his hands of the situation for the time being.
It was no more than a second after that when Ritsu was at Tetsuya's side with an arm around his back, steering him towards the exit and shouting for someone to get Jinzo, the man in their household with the most medical knowledge. Tetsuya wouldn't recall much from the next few hours, except that it hurt like hell…and for the years afterwards, he'd have to deal with gripping a gun with one less finger. But it would be something that he'd never regret, and though the price he paid for a few more years with his lover was painful, it was a purchase he'd make over and over again, if given the chance.
But from that moment on, their days together were numbered, and that hurt much worse than losing any number of fingers.
Leaning back, Kasanda rested his head on the back of his chair, sighing and rubbing his eyes. He definitely needed a break.
This last semester had been rough. Not simply because the classes had been difficult, but because he'd been hitting it hard. The redhead had requested all his assignments, projects and papers ahead of the set schedule so he could finish everything he needed to do almost a month before university graduation.
Kasanoda wasn't naturally an overachiever in academics…he just wanted an uninterrupted final month with Tetsuya.
The silence in his room grew heavier when he realized once again that their deadline was nearing so quickly. It seemed like the last four years had nearly blown by, and at the same time, so much had happened. Celebrations, tragedies, quiet moments of happiness, arguments…the number of their household had increased, though a few men had retired from the business. Kazeya's death had been the hardest. And Tetsuya's father had died last year as well…the Sendous hadn't been much of a problem since, with their corrupted internal affairs and heirs fighting each other for dominance, but it was likely that they'd soon be a threat once more.
But had it really been that long since he'd been an unsure, embarrassed teen, confessing to Tetsuya for the first time? Kasanoda could remember it easily, though so much had changed since then. He almost chuckled at the bittersweet memories of all those sleepless nights he'd spent worrying over his feelings for Tetsuya, but his heart ached when he realized that he still did that sometimes. Maybe he hadn't really changed that much over time…or at least beneath the surface.
The man stared upwards, though the ceiling wasn't of great interest to him, and put a hand to his head, pushing his fingers slowly through his hair unconsciously; just another habit that had mellowed out, yet still remained. He wished for the fleeting, the intangible…the one thing that was constantly slipping away.
He wished they had more time.
When the door opened behind him, the one he loved entered the room, stepping quietly to where the redhead sat and placed his hands on the man's broad shoulders, then pressed a soft kiss to his forehead. Ha, it was almost funny that Tetsuya could still make his heart jump after all this time.
But when their eyes met, Kasanoda found something he always dreaded seeing…that sad smile that never hid his sorrow like he wanted it to, because his eyes gave him away.
"You okay?" His deep voice rumbled softly, though he knew the answer. The sadness they shared was all too familiar.
"No." Tetsuya answered honestly. His hands slid down Ritsu's chest and he brought his head to rest next to his lover's, craning his neck a little so he could brush his lips over his throat. "…I miss you already, you know." he murmured.
That sharp pang of helplessness shot through him again for what seemed like the thousandth time. It wasn't over yet, damn it! Not yet… "Yeah, I know. But don't. I'm still here."
A moment later Tetsuya was straddling his lap, pulling the tie from Kasanoda's hair. It had grown longer, and he now kept it tied back low at the back of his neck. Tetsuya's was actually a bit shorter now…he'd gotten it cut at one point, because the length was beginning to get to him, but he'd left it past his shoulders so Ritsu could still brush it like he still loved to do.
Large hands travelled up Tetsuya's back. He wasn't as slender as he used to be, and he'd grown a few inches. His body was now the one of a man, but Kasanoda didn't mind it. He himself had grown as well, and Tetsuya still fit perfectly in his arms. That's all that mattered.
Kasanoda's lips hovered over his skin, up Tetsuya's jawline until his mouth closed lightly over his ear, teeth clinking past the metal earrings that the man still wore. When the former Sendou cupped Ritsu's face with a hand, the redhead took it in his own, pulling back to kiss the place where a finger should've been…it was another habit he'd picked up, something that he hardly realized he did anymore. It had started as a silent thank you for the sacrifice that had been made, and it still meant that, but now it was just something that felt normal.
Though Tetsuya rarely mentioned it, he never ceased to be touched by the small gesture. After they'd come home from that dreadful meeting with Kazuki, he could tell that Ritsu had to bite back apology upon apology for letting this happen, but he was glad that it had never once escaped him. It was the last thing he wanted to hear. Instead, the redhead had replaced the apologies with words and acts of gratitude, and this one that had lasted the years was the one he treasured the most.
Tetsuya slipped his free hand beneath Kasanoda's shirt, and that was enough of a hint. The man found a decent grip on him and stood, carrying him across the room to the bed. That was something else he loved…that Ritsu would continue to carry him around like this, like he was no burden at all, when he had put on some muscle and definitely had some weight to him. It was sweet.
And it would be sorely missed.
Tetsuya had been thinking too much lately. Thinking about having to leave and never again get to experience these joys, these comforts…never again touching, or being held, or even getting to lay next to the man that meant more to him than his own life. He hated this situation, and he was beginning to feel desperate. But what could be done? His last-ditch effort had been made years ago, and Kazuki had made up his mind. There was nothing left he could give or do to buy any more time. After this, Kasanoda would work full time as a yakuza lord, and many eyes would be on him, scrutinizing and anticipating what kind of man this Ritsu Kasanoda would prove himself to be. He had a rough road ahead, and Tetsuya wanted more than anything to be there for him. It wasn't right that he couldn't do at least that.
Once Kasanoda sat back down, his hands were free to travel upwards beneath the fabric that covered Tetsuya's chest and planted slow kisses on his collarbone. The man leaned forward, sending the redhead to his back on the bed. Their bed. After all, they'd been sharing a room for years now. After the news had gotten out, even the brothers thought the two of them should sleep in the same bed, if that was the sort of thing they were gonna do during the day anyway. The guys had managed to keep a good humor about it…some of them had even taken up the joke of calling Tetsuya 'Ane-san', telling him that it only fit, with him being the boss' "wife" and all, and speaking to him mockingly in the respectful speech that the title deserved. It wasn't his favorite joke, but he took it in stride, though with some exasperation…and now he'd rather hear it every day than never again.
The soft touches and kisses that the red haired man gave were now practiced and almost predictable. Kasanoda would occasionally do something out of the ordinary, just to surprise him, but for the most part he usually fell into certain habits and routines that Tetsuya came to expect. But he never grew bored if it. Actually, he found the consistency almost comforting. If his lover could enjoy these simple actions time and time again, then he wouldn't have to worry about Ritsu ever becoming dissatisfied. Their relationship was so comfortable, so much a part of their everyday lives that he wondered how either of them would cope once they would no longer had each other.
But…Tetsuya had imagined it. And the image of his beloved redhead eventually moving on, being happily married to some perfect woman that he deserved and blissfully holding his children in his arms…it hurt. As much as he wanted Kasanoda to be happy and live his life as fully as possible, the thought of no longer being in the picture hurt with an ache he couldn't describe. It was more than just jealousy, regret, or even loneliness…it was becoming a void inside of him, and when his thoughts lingered too long, it began to suck the life out of him. It was a pain in his chest, it hurt to breathe.
When Tetsuya could take it no longer, a sorrowful groan escaped him and the stinging tears that he cursed for emerging began to fall, Kasanoda sat up against the headboard of the bed and took the man's face in his hands, lifting it to his own worriedly.
"Tetsuya…" Dammit. Now he wanted to cry. "Don't…look, it'll be alright…"
Those words of comfort tasted like ash in Tetsuya's mouth. It wasn't true, and it was too hard to pretend that they were. "No, it won't." There were things he'd been holding back, and it felt like they were about to emerge. "I hate this. I hate it. More than I've ever hated anything."
Choking down the sobs was painful, but he fought them. "I don't want to leave. I don't want to leave you, the guys, the house…everything I love is being taken away, and I hate it."
Kasanoda fell silent. The one he cared about most was justifiably miserable, and there was little he could do about it. If just letting it out could help, he would be fine with letting Tetsuya cry and he'd sit with him until he was finished, but this was different. Nothing either of them could do would help.
Tetsuya's fist clenched against the bed's comforter, eyes burning and attempting to focus on anything but Kasanoda's face. He felt something horrible rising, and he wasn't sure if he could bite it back…and moments later, it spilled forth. "Ritsu, years from now, will you still want me buried by your side?"
Their dreams and plans from their youth felt like only fantasies now. When Kasanoda was finally laid to rest, he would, by that time, have had new loved ones to fill the graves beside his own. Wouldn't he? Tetsuya hadn't meant to ever guilt Ritsu with those words, even if he had turned them over in his mind countless times. He wanted to kick himself. What he was doing wasn't fair to the other, especially when they were both hurting.
But when an answer came unexpectedly, Tetsuya froze in shock.
"No, I don't."
That…what? No…even if that was what he expected in the long run, how could he just say that? Just like that? Had Kasanoda really just simply accepted everything now? Wasn't it hard at all to admit?
Troubled by Tetsuya's reaction, Ritsu's frown deepened and he took hold of his shoulders. "I-I don't mean it like that!" Shit. That old stammering always decided to show up at the worst times. "I don't want you buried there, b-but…that's only 'cos I'm not gonna be either!"
When the look of shock turned into one of confusion, he continued. "I talked to the old man this morning. It nearly killed him to admit it, but after he's ready to retire and I take over, he really has no say in what I do. So when that happens, wherever you are, I'm gonna find you…'cos I'm pretty sure I'm not gettin' over you." It wasn't the most romantic way to say I'll never stop loving you, but it was Kasanoda, and as always he was sincere. "And I don't wanna end up in that graveyard, so I'm hopin' you'll wanna get cremated like me an' tossed out somewhere. Like the ocean or some mountain. I dunno, I didn't really have a place picked out or anything, I just…" he trailed off, realizing that he was rambling nervously. "A…Anyway…I'm only sayin' that I'm not gonna follow tradition here for longer than I have to, and once I have the authority, I'm gonna set things right. But…Dad's likely to hold on for as long as he can, so we won't see each other for a long time, but I'll work hard to maybe speed things up, and uh…it's not forever, so I want you to wait for me."
Tears renewed, Tetsuya stared in disbelief, almost unable to comprehend what had just been said. "But…you'll catch so much hell from the other clans…"
"Screw 'um." Kasanoda's expression was resolute, and still a bit flushed from the explanation. "Before any of this happens, I'll see to it that we get even more powerful, and I'll be sure to turn into a man no one wants to mess with. Then no one can say shit about what I do."
The hope that Tetsuya thought was lost now shone once more. It was distant, but it was there, and now he had something to run towards after everything went dark. Burying his face in the redhead's chest and staining his shirt with relief, the ponytailed young man shook with an odd mixture of sobbing and laughter.
"If it's waiting you want me to do, I'll wait as long as it takes," His voice was muffled and cracked with emotion, but obviously grateful for this change of plans. "After all, I'll never belong to anyone but you."
Unable to contain himself, Ritsu turned the both of them over, pinning Tetsuya to the bed with kisses.
"Good. 'Cos I'll never want anyone else."
After their final month together, and after their regretful "see you"s - they refused to say goodbye - it would be another eight years before the two would see each other in person again.
They kept contact through letters and telephone, but both agreed before long that too-frequent communication was more painful than it was worth. It kept them constantly on each other's mind, and more than being just a distraction, it made the longing worse if it felt that they were physically closer than they were.
So what they wrote, over time, became more like updates rather than love letters. It was lonely, but neither of them stopped wishing for the company of the man they loved.
Tetsuya worked a few different jobs here and there, sharing apartments with other guys who worked to stay afloat. He made a few good friends over the years, but always passed up the chances to settle down or stay in one place for too long. He had somewhere to return to, he just had to wait.
Kasanoda did everything he could, short of making dirty, underhanded deals and premeditated murder, to gain power and influence. He quickly earned a reputation of ambition and honorable justice, punishing those who sought to do harm or operate harshly and unfairly. He made many risky moves and as a result, received all the more enemies. But at the same time, other yakuza groups with like-minded ideals and respect for many of his decisions came looking for alliances.
Ritsu's line of work left him almost constantly exhausted. On especially stressful nights, he would lie alone in bed, wondering if Tetsuya's back ever felt as cold as his chest did when the ache for close comfort struck the hardest.
And of course, it did. Tetsuya always followed the news religiously, keeping up on whatever new bits of information that were released to the public and even saving the newspaper pages with articles on the red haired man. Whenever he had to move somewhere else with light luggage, he always chose to bring those over any other luxuries that could be replaced. The only things he clung tighter to were his scarf and his letters.
So when Kazuki finally decided that Ritsu was fully capable to handle everything on his own, he was able to step down into retirement with confidence. The old man never did completely accept that his son was so set on another male, and so adamant in refusing to marry, but he was proud nonetheless. If the circumstances had been different, he might have even given his blessing on the two, but as a yakuza-bred man, pride and common sense wouldn't allow it…and as a father, he still worried about their welfare and the outcome, though he'd be hard-pressed to admit it in so many words.
A week after it had been declared and the transition settled, Ritsu sat down to write. He would've liked to call, but he hadn't gotten the number for Tetsuya's current place of residence…in fact, he wasn't even sure the address he had at the moment would work. He'd only received one response from the address, and in that letter it had sounded like the man would likely be moving around soon. It was a bit frustrating, knowing that he'd probably have to wait even longer, so Kasanoda meant to send a letter anyway, in hopes that Tetsuya still lived there.
But he was only a few sentences in when panicked knocking came crashing down on his door.
"Oyabun, Oyabun! Come quickly!"
Frowning deeply, Kasanoda dropped his pen and stood, at the door in an instant. "What is it?"
Two of the newer members of the family, a pair of well-meaning, if a bit high strung, young men waited in the hallway, looking distraught. "There's a suspicious package on the lawn! We signed for it, and we were gonna bring it in, but we think it might be a bomb or something!"
Shit. This was exactly what he needed.
"Why do ya think that?" He demanded, striding with apprehension towards the entrance of the main house that he now called home. If it were dangerous, he'd have to let everyone know-
"It says it was sent by a Sendou!"
Kasanoda stopped in his tracks for just a moment, blinking at the men in surprise. "Hold on…which one?"
They looked at each other nervously. "Well, we'd never heard of him before, but it was a guy named Tetsuya…"
Well, that made all the difference. Continuing his rush to the door, the redhead left the two behind, replying over his shoulder, "If you've stirred up some kinda panic around the house, call it off. It ain't a bomb."
He found the small package, sitting on the grass where the boys had left it, and pulled out his knife to make short work of the cardboard exterior. When he pulled out what the box held, he found that he now gripped the handle of an umbrella. The man couldn't help but grin as he turned it over in his hand, and when he did a folded note dropped to the ground. Kasanoda bent to pick it up and eagerly opened it, eyes scanning the warm, familiar handwriting.
I hope you haven't been running around in the rain without one of these. You worry me enough without getting sick. As casual as the opener was, it still felt intimate. If there's still an empty place by your side, and your new household is ready, let me know. The return address works. The message was short and simple, and the closing line even more so. -Yours.
Ritsu had almost forgotten that they'd agreed upon a confirmation. After all, it was important for Tetsuya not to arrive at a bad time, if his transition into leadership hadn't gone smoothly…or if any plans had changed. But Kasanoda had always refused that scenario, as much as his father would've liked otherwise.
It only took a few minutes to scrawl his response, Get over here. I miss you. -Yours and fold it in with a scarf of his own, to package it up and send it back to the address that was given.
The two new brothers of the Kasanoda family were perplexed. Was it some kind of secret code? An umbrella and a scarf? Did it mean that, metaphorically, there would be rough weather ahead? Would they have to prepare for a clash? In the next few days, all the newest members would learn from the older ones from Ritsu's branch what it meant when several of them grinned and got rowdy, shouting things like, "Well, hot damn, Tetsuya's comin' back! Who knew either of 'em had it in 'um!"
Things were a bit awkward and jumbled for those who didn't yet know of Kasanoda's personal history, but none wanted to question it. Some even hoped it was just a sort of joke that was played on newbies, but they'd all eventually get used to the idea. They all respected and trusted their leader, even if they weren't sure about this particular subject.
Kasanoda himself actually found that he was terribly nervous. How much had Tetsuya changed since they'd seen each other last? How much had he changed? How much would still be the same? It wasn't until he realized he'd been pacing around his room that he had to smile to himself. If he still felt like this, all worried and worked up like he used to get when he was younger, maybe Tetsuya did too.
When the man showed up on this doorstep, all doubts were erased from his mind. Tetsuya was definitely a bit older, and it looked like he hadn't cut his hair since they'd seen each other last…it was long again, and it had darkened slightly with age, as his own had. The next thing that stood out was a light scar on his jawline. Where had that come from? He'd have to ask about it later…and explain how he'd got his own.
But despite the changes, Ritsu was overjoyed to find that his heart still leapt at the sight of his lover, and it seemed that was the case for Tetsuya too, because after their short, silent pause to assess the other, they pulled into a crushing embrace, caring little for the fact that they were still in the doorway and in clear view of anyone who might be looking.
They'd each moved along their rocky paths in life, and the one that lay before them was no smoother…but it would be far easier to continue on, now that they could travel hand in hand.
"You're sure we can make this work here, Ritsu?" the long haired man asked, laughing weakly. "It's not gonna be easy…"
Kasanoda gave him his odd, crooked grin. "Tetsuya…this place doesn't even have a proper garden yet. We've got a lot of work to do."