Title: The Way of Things
Universe: Gokusen 2
Theme/Topic: donation fic!
Rating: PG-13
Character/Pairing/s: HayatoxRyu, (TsuchiyaxOFC in the background and some light mentions of HayatoxOFC and RyuxOFC, as well as appearances by Take and Hyuuga and mentions of Taku and Yankumi)
Spoilers/Warnings: Future fic, so vague spoilers (sort of) for the end of the series. Also, OFCs. So yeah.
Word Count: 11,150
Summary: This is Hayato and Ryu's story.
Dedication: For solo_'s help_japan auction fic! Thank you again for your generosity and your patience with me, and I hope you enjoy the story, despite how out of practice I am with the series! Special thanks to hilaryscribbles for the beta and the encouragement. 3
A/N: I have not read/watched/thought of Gokusen 2 in many years, so forgive me if the details are fudged or in most cases, completely wrong. Hopefully they won't be so glaring as to render this unreadable.
Disclaimer: No harm or infringement intended.

Tsuchiya isn't a particularly grand philosopher or observer of the human condition or anything, but he thinks he knows enough about people by now to realize that in the grand scheme of things, life follows a certain universal kind of flow, like how all rivers lead to the ocean or something like that. He'd either read that line in a book or heard it on TV somewhere back when he was younger; he doesn't remember where or what had brought it about, exactly, but it had stuck with him through the years all the same. Back when he was younger, he liked to think that he would be part of something bigger than himself one day, no matter how insignificant his parents, or his teachers, or the people who saw him walking down the street and judged him because of his hair or his friends or his aura, thought he was.

His river is the kind that had a rocky beginning, endured a stabilizing middle, and has since smoothed out, looking for all the world like it will flow inevitably towards a happy ending. His is the kind of story you see on TV dramas during primetime slots and in manga series about school kids growing up and becoming reasonable adults. His is the kind of life they don't make Hollywood action movies about, but that some foreign directors will create heartwarming slice-of-life sagas from, in the hopes of winning critical acclaim and eventually, Oscars.

Tsuchiya's story goes like this.

After he graduates, through a series of random twists and turns and a lot of what can only be called good luck, he gets an entry level job in the mailroom of a company that makes ad campaigns for medium-level grocery store chains and gas stations. He gets on well with everyone when he starts his job because he's easygoing and is good at making jokes, and when he tries hard at something, it's just like Yankumi always said, he can do whatever it is that anyone asks him.

The secretaries at the company like him because he's tall and good-looking and doesn't mind pausing in his daily routine to help them get promotional items down from high storage shelves or help them pick up the new sample boxes and carry them down the halls to the closets where the office workers are busy sorting out offers from competing companies who are trying to get the next campaign's lucrative merchandising contracts. It is because of this attitude and this helpfulness that Tsuchiya ends up moving up the ranks slowly and steadily over the next few years, until one day, seemingly after just a blink of his eyes, he is freshly twenty and already standing next to Sanada-san, the manager for new accounts, working as Sanada-san's assistant. Three years pass just like that and suddenly he is not simply that good-looking tall guy who smiles a lot down in the mailroom anymore. Now he is Tsuchiya-san— or Hikaru-kun, or, in some of the elder office ladies cases, Tsu-kun—who is Sanada-san's very important assistant.

He meets Chiyo-chan because of this promotion, and like in the storylines of primetime TV dramas and coming-of-age manga series and a select few near-Oscar-worthy slice-of-life movies, he falls in love with a girl who is way too good for him. Her father also happens to be the owner of one of the small grocery chains Tsuchiya and Sanada-san are trying to land a contract with, and the old man doesn't like Tsuchiya right off the bat; Tsuchiya can tell because he's gotten that same disapproving look from other fathers whose daughters he's liked way too many times in the past. Except this time he actually cares what this old man thinks, because Chiyo-chan might be the prettiest, most wonderful girl he's ever met, and she loves her dad and doesn't want him to worry about her. So Tsuchiya works hard over the next couple of years to prove he's the kind of guy who deserves a girl like Chiyo-chan, even though she is obviously way too good for him.

Chiyo-chan's mother comes around first, and then, with his wife and his daughter both urging him to make nice, Tsuchiya is allowed to spend a weekend learning the ins and outs of the old man's grocery business, and comes up with some promotional ideas that he thinks will really work for the next campaign. By Sunday night of that weekend, when he and Chiyo-chan's father are at a sushi restaurant getting drunk and laughing together, Tsuchiya knows that everything is going to work out just like it does on TV.

Tsuchiya gets promoted to Sanada-san's job after Sanada-san becomes marketing president, and when he gets the raise and the corner office, the first thing he does is put a payment down on a decent house in a decent neighborhood not far from Chiyo-chan's family home. He picks the one he remembers her admiring on one of their walks one weekend, and looks up instructions on the internet on how to build a garden in it just like the one Chiyo-chan tells him she wants in the yard of her dream home one day. Then, hoping that everything is in order, he goes to buy a ring—simple but sparkling, like Chiyo-chan— and asks Chiyo-chan to marry him on the patio of the cheap Chinese restaurant he took her to on their first date.

She says yes.

They have a spring wedding because she loves the sakura, and everyone is there looking their best. Hayato arrives last, fashionably tousled; he hasn't changed at all from high school as he flirts with some of Chiyo-chan's coworkers in an entirely shameless and confident manner. Ryu shows up first, and is neat and proper and thoughtful as he offers Chiyo-chan's mother a handkerchief and some encouraging words during the speeches, Ryu completely unruffled by a strange woman's tears like he hasn't changed from high school either. Take's hair is still ridiculous, Hyuuga is starting to lose his, and Yankumi looks exactly the same somehow, like the asses of all the students she kicks over the years helps keep her young. Tsuchiya introduces Chiyo-chan to her at the reception, which prompts his crazy homeroom teacher to grab him in a headlock despite their height differences and knuckle his temple with a sly look on her face. "You did pretty well for yourself, Tsuchiya!" she crows, and Tsuchiya rolls his eyes but doesn't disagree.

Koume-chan is born a year later, and Tsuchiya is so stupidly in awe of her that the guys have to take him aside on one of their poker nights to very pointedly tell him that they had a meeting, and have decided that from here on out, he has fifteen minutes grace each time he wants to talk about or show off pictures of his daughter, but after that fifteen minutes is up, they will start throwing things at his head. Tsuchiya thinks that is completely unfair because Koume-chan is the most amazing thing in the world, more amazing than the results of the week's baseball games or the new whatever-idol PV that came out or the fact that Take actually got a date with a real girl who isn't a lesbian this time.

"There's only so much doting-dad we can take until we want to vomit everywhere," Hyuuga mutters, running a hand through his thinning hair and making a face.

"You're just jealous," Tsuchiya sniffs, and deals the cards.

The others start throwing things at his head on principle after that, at least until Ryu quietly complains about having to vacuum the carpet afterwards, and the five of them settle down to play.

It is in moments like these when Tsuchiya can take the time to feel satisfied with how his life is going thus far; he thinks about how normal and straightforward and quietly simple a story it is and how that suits him just fine. He has a wife who loves him (though she talks about hating him a lot more recently, probably because she's pregnant and hormones do that to women apparently), a daughter who is the smartest, most beautiful kid that ever walked the earth, and a bunch of friends who he can only hope will get to the same place he's at in their lives sometime soon, because Tsuchiya loves them and wants them all to be as happy as he is.

And he is pretty sure that there is nothing in this world that could make anyone happier than having someone who loves them, a good family, loyal friends, and prospects in the future that only keep getting better with time.

There's a reason, he thinks , that so many people choose to live their lives out this way, in quiet, contentment with the normal comings and goings of the world. Even if it doesn't feel particularly big or grand or fascinatingly dramatic.

Normal suits Tsuchiya just fine.

Later, normal will suit Hyuuga and Take and even Yankumi just fine too, because like Tsuchiya has been saying all along, there's a certain universality to all of this for a reason.

Of course, there are always anomalies too.

And that is where Hayato and Ryu come in, unsurprisingly, because Tsuchiya has known them both practically forever, and as such, he knows them well enough by now to realize that Hayato and Ryu have never really done normal. They probably never will.

In any case, Hayato and Ryu's story goes like this.

After fighting so hard against his father to stay in Japan and study, Ryu attends Meiji University the fall after they graduate from high school, intent on minoring in psychology and majoring in criminology. It is the compromise he reaches with his parents that leads to this, because Ryu has always been the one amongst them most likely to compromise.

Hayato, after fighting so hard at Ryu's side to help keep his friend in Japan, decides on a whim that summer that he would like to learn English, and spends the summer doing odd jobs with horrible hours in order to save up so he can buy a one-way ticket to America. He has no other plans beyond that, but he thinks it will be a grand adventure, and when he tells everyone as such, Tsuchiya, who had just started working for his ad company, smacks Hayato upside the head inexplicably, while Ryu just makes a face that would be categorized as inexpressive to those who don't know him before telling Hayato to please have a more detailed plan for his future.

Hyuuga is all for the adventure, except he can't go with Hayato because his mom got him a job at a fancy restaurant and he's already started training and she will kill him if he flakes out on this opportunity by moving to America. He also doesn't speak particularly good English, so there's that.

Take says some guy in Harajuku scouted him to be a model or something, and he might check that out; Tsuchiya and Ryu warn him that it might be a scam, but Take says if something is fishy he'll tell Yankumi about it, and the others give up on being worried about him after that because if Take has Yankumi on call, the guy that scouted their friend better be legit for his own sake more than Take's.

It feels a lot like splitting up at that point, but Hayato gives them this crooked kind of smile before he turns to head to his next shift at the Lawson's. "It's the modern age," he tells them confidently. "You're all a phone call away."

They all suppose that's true enough. Ryu is the only one with the presence of mind to say, "You'd better learn to do the time conversion before you say that. Some of us will have work and school to think about."

Hayato waves lazily over his shoulder in response, but doesn't turn around as he disappears down the street. He somehow manages to make his convenience store uniform look glamorous when he slouches just so as he walks, drawing the appreciative eye of more than one lady and looking like he knows it.

Tsuchiya shakes his head at Hayato's casual grace, whistling a little to himself. "I guess some things never change," he says, and snatches Hyuuga's drink when his friend isn't looking. He finishes it.

"Hey!" Hyuuga yelps. He scowls and slugs Tsuchiya in the arm.

Ryu just looks contemplative, brows severe, as he says, "No, I guess some things don't."

That autumn, Ryu starts school and Take doesn't become a model in the end so much as a budding stylist when he shows some of the people at the agency he auditions at that he has a remarkable and somewhat otherworldly ability to wield his many combs. Hyuuga starts work right away and is pretty happy, at least when he's boasting about getting thousands of yen in tips every night at his new job and how some of the customers are people you see on TV every once in a while, though he can't name any names specifically. Hayato calls and e-mails as promised, mostly with nonsensical English phrases he has since learned after becoming a waiter in a Japanese/French fusion bistro called the Blue Marlin somewhere in West Los Angeles.

And so the first year after high school passes, and they finally get to see Hayato around Christmastime again, when he returns from the states with a tan and a broad smile and lots of designer clothes that he bought more cheaply in the US than he could have over here.

He stays at Ryu's place—as time goes by they all realize that he only stays at Ryu's place when he's in Japan—and the two of them will invariably have a quarrel during each of Hayato's stays that will lead to shouting, wrestling on the floor, and bruised and bloody jaws at the end of the night. Tsuchiya always wonders why Hayato doesn't just go home to his old man and his brother to spend the time, but Hayato says it's oppressive there, and his brother is busy studying so that he'll be able to get into a good college and make something of himself one day. Tsuchiya isn't sure, but he thinks Hayato is equal parts proud and sad when he mentions how well Taku is doing, maybe proud because the kid is working so hard, and sad because he thinks the kid feels like Hayato is an embarrassment as a big brother somehow, gallivanting around the globe without any particular goal in sight. Tsuchiya always offers his couch to Hayato after those knock-down, drag out fights at Ryu's place, but Hayato only ever shrugs in response and never takes him up on the offer. He doesn't at Christmas, or when he visits for Golden Week, and definitely not over the second summer since they graduated, when Hayato's dad gets in an accident and their friend is finally obliged to come back from his overseas adventures for good, in order to help take care of his hobbled parent and make sure that Taku doesn't run himself into the ground from trying to keep up his work and feed himself and make sure his dad doesn't drive him crazy from being home with nothing to do all day.

"So you moving in with your old man?" Take asks brightly, the afternoon after Hayato's plane lands at Narita. Hayato, jet-lagged and grumpy, gives Take a look like he's crazy.

"What are you, stupid? We'd kill each other inside a week," Hayato snorts sleepily around his coffee, even though it's barely past two.

"You need a couch?" Tsuchiya offers, perfunctorily. He's absently going over the accounts for a small chain of stores called Green Thumb Groceries that his new boss, a fast-paced sempai by the name of Sanada-san, wants on his desk by tomorrow morning. "I got a new one that doesn't suck as much as the first one," he adds, because it's true; he can buy his own furniture after his latest raise, new furniture even. Either way, it's a couch they didn't have to haul to his apartment from his single, older uncle's house, so there are no mysterious bachelor stains on it that Tsuchiya can't explain. It's green.

"Nah," Hayato intones, but doesn't explain why. The others know anyway. He'll be at Ryu's apartment, loafing off their college buddy's funds because Ryu got a ton of scholarships. For all the traveling and adventures and foreign exploits Hayato has had over these last two and a half years, he always seems to end up back in the same place when it comes to Ryu, like that's the one part of his home that he can't quite stand to grow up or apart from.

The three of them finish their coffee and then Tsuchiya has to go back to work; he leaves Take to take Hayato around in the hopes of helping their friend find a job. A guy with passable English skills should do pretty well in the touristy areas, Take supposes, and they wave at Tsuchiya as he jogs across the street and heads back up to his office.

Ryu meets a girl three months after Hayato moves in with him permanently.

Tsuchiya knows it's nothing serious yet, mostly because Ryu would say so if it was, and he hasn't yet. Hayato has plenty to say about it though, and according to him, this girl of Ryu's—Naoko-chan—is a heinous bitch.

"She and I don't get along at all," Hayato grumps over evening beers with Tsuchiya after Tsuchiya is done with work for the day and wondering why he can't get the Green Thumb Grocery girl out of his head.

"Have you even tried to get along with her?" Tsuchiya intones, warily. "You can pretty much get along with anyone if you try, Hayato, I've seen it."

Hayato manages a grin at that, flattered, before his face falls again, when he's reminded of Naoko-chan. "She came right up to me when Ryu brought her home the first night and was all sweet and charming and oh Ryu's told me so much about you! and it was awful."

"Isn't that just what someone does when they meet their boyfriend's friends?" Tsuchiya grunts, puzzled.

Hayato looks wildly indignant at the prospect. "She's not his girlfriend! They've gone out like, three times. And I know she was totally trying to play me because that's exactly what I say when I meet a girl's friends!"

Tsuchiya gives Hayato a blank stare. "Well she might become his girlfriend soon, considering how much time they spend at school together, so you might as well try to get along with her."

Hayato is all incredulity at this sensible, if dark outlook. "Dude, you suck," he mutters, before making eye contact with one of the waitresses at the bar. He waves at her to refill his drink, and when she comes with a fresh glass, Tsuchiya sees the vaguely glassy-eyed way his friend games on her, that charm of his turned way up again as he flirts and asks her what her name is.

She's not particularly beautiful, not what Tsuchiya had considered Hayato's type in the past anyway, and when his friend ducks out on him early at the end of the girl's shift, hasty and overly gratified, Tsuchiya can't help but think something fishy is going on here.

Tsuchiya later finds out that Hayato brings the waitress back to his and Ryu's apartment and has loud obnoxious sex with her even though Ryu is supposed to be studying for a midterm that he and Naoko-chan have together first thing in the morning.

Sometimes Hayato acts like a kid. That hasn't changed about him, at least.

Naoko-chan, as it turns out, is not a heinous bitch. She is smart and funny and charming, and the way she talks is a lot like the way Hayato talks, Tsuchiya thinks, in that she is ingenuous and somewhat blunt, but not in a way that purposefully means anyone any harm. Tsuchiya doesn't spend too much time thinking about that though, because he is sitting next to a resplendent Chiyo-chan right now, on a strangely comfortable double date with Ryu and Naoko-chan.

"I don't think Yabuki-kun likes me," Naoko-chan admits as she pokes at her pasta, frowning. "I might have done something to offend him. Either that or he's a jerk."

Tsuchiya and Ryu share a look. "He's kind of a jerk," they both admit, after a moment. "But it takes some time for him to let you in," Ryu amends, after a moment of thought.

"Hmmm," Naoko-chan answers, but sounds unconvinced.

Chiyo-chan is just confused. "Hayato always seems sweet to me," she says, sweetly.

"He told me you remind him of an anime character he always wanted as a little sister," Tsuchiya points out, with a shrug. "That might have something to do with it."

Chiyo-chan bursts out into laughter then, full and honest, and Tsuchiya is way too busy staring at how the light hits her eyes to completely notice the slightly troubled, contemplative look on Ryu's face.

Ryu and Naoko-chan date for years. They graduate from Meiji together, Ryu with his degree in criminology and his minor in psychology and Naoko-chan with her degree in sociology. She wants to be a lawyer; he wants to be a cop. It seems like a match made in heaven. She applies to law school at Aoyama as Ryu enters the police academy, and somewhere in the muddle, Hayato, with Take's help, lands a job on a TV drama set, working with the lighting crew and managing the aesthetic of the stage.

Tsuchiya doesn't mean to bring it up, but at his bachelor party, a week before he's going to get married, he grins at Ryu from over the glass of beer he's been nursing slowly over the last hour—he refuses to get shitfaced and do anything embarrassing that might get him in trouble with either Chiyo-chan or her exacting father—and asks his friend, "So when are you going to ask Naoko-chan to marry you?"

Hayato chokes on his beer. "Never!" Hayato exclaims, before Ryu can answer. "You aren't supposed to marry man-eaters!"

Ryu glares then, having been surprised by the question a moment ago, and trust Hayato to be the one amongst all of them that is capable of irritating Ryu into actions he normally wouldn't take. "Soon," Ryu answers vaguely, still glaring at Hayato. "But she's busy with school still, and with my schedule at the academy, not to mention my income, it's not practical for us to be thinking about that kind of thing right now."

Hyuuga, now the manager of the restaurant they are in for the party, just tsks. "Can't make them wait too long, you know. Apparently it makes them think you don't really love them." Pause. Then, hastily, "Not that I'm talking about me. It's just… I've seen way too many guys get dumped at this restaurant because they're too slow."

Hayato snorts in laughter at that, because Hyuuga would be the one who waited too long, while Ryu just looks momentarily stricken, like he'd never considered that.

Take, bored with the melancholy, turns back to Tsuchiya and asks, "Who knew you'd be the most responsible adult out of all of us, huh?"

That earns the smallest member cuffs upside the head from both Hayato and Hyuuga, and laughing, Tsuchiya pours everyone more beer and decides to regale them of a tale when he had been in Chiyo-chan's apartment, ready to surprise her on their one year anniversary, when she walked in with her parents and her brothers all at the same time.

The guys end up spending the next few hours guffawing to him about what an idiot he is, conveying their incredulity at how such a smart girl as his fiancée had managed to get tangled up with a moron like him.

"I am pretty hot," Tsuchiya reminds them, and earns a couple of beer nuts to the face for his troubles.

He spends the night nursing beers, fending off Hayato's suggestion that they go to a hostess club, and admittedly, not noticing the slightly thoughtful turn of Ryu's disposition for the remainder of the party.

To be fair, he's the one who is going to get married.

Life goes on after Tsuchiya's wedding; Hayato bitches about Taku needing so much money for college and has to take out loans and cut back on his beer and cigarettes. According to Ryu, the bills are so astronomical that Hayato wouldn't even have food to eat except that Ryu always buys more than he needs accidentally, somehow. Hayato does the responsible thing and gets two more jobs so to offset the costs so that his friends barely ever see him anymore. Tsuchiya misses him, but figures that this is a thing that happens when you're an adult and growing up means a lot of not doing what you want to do so much as what you have to do.

After the third or fourth wedding of former or current classmates, Chiyo-chan tells her husband that she thinks Naoko-chan is worried Ryu doesn't actually love her, that he keeps her around because she's convenient and familiar since he doesn't know what he really wants. Tsuchiya jokes that he'd thought Naoko-chan had a sociology degree, not a psychology one. Chiyo-chan gives him this look, this vaguely disapproving, slightly disappointed expression that has him groveling like an idiot for her forgiveness at his bad taste a second later. He's kind of whipped.

"He's not like that," Tsuchiya tells his wife after she's roundly forgiven him for being insensitive. "Ryu's just always been the kind of guy who lives inside his own head," he adds, when she gives him a look. "He has to figure things out on his own, you know, take his own knocks." Pause. "He also kind of sucks at communicating."

"Well, he'd better start living and communicating in reality sometime soon," she points out, as the two of them spend a Saturday morning painting the walls of their new home, "because Naoko-chan's smart, and pretty, and goes to school with a lot of handsome lawyers."

"Ryu has a gun," Tsuchiya reminds her with a smirk, and she flicks paint at him.

But even when he teases, Tsuchiya is one of those rare young beasts that actually listens to his wife, and so the next time he sees Ryu, he cautiously asks him how things are going at home.

"Hayato and I got into a fight about the things he can and cannot put in the garbage disposal," Ryu admits, sounding weary.

Tsuchiya blinks. "Er, I meant with Naoko-chan, actually."

Ryu blinks back, like he hadn't expected Naoko-chan and home to be synonymous, and after a minute, shrugs. "Our anniversary dinner is Sunday night," he says. "This fancy Italian place she likes. I don't really like Italian food."

Tsuchiya shrugs. "The things we do for love, right?" he murmurs, in understanding. Chiyo-chan loves Korean dramas and they watch an episode of one every night before bed together. Tsuchiya can't stand them.

Ryu grunts then, and Tsuchiya pushes the point. "So, you think it's time, or what? It's been years, Ryu."

Ryu stares at him. "Time for what?" he asks, then frowns. "I can't tell Hayato to move out, he couldn't afford rent anywhere on his own with all his money going in to help Taku at school." Ryu looks at Tsuchiya like he's a giant jerk.

Tsuchiya sputters and wonders when he became the bad guy here. "No, not that! This has nothing to do with Hayato," he says firmly, which just makes Ryu relax in his seat, though he looks confused again. Tsuchiya nearly rolls his eyes. For a cop, Ryu sure can be dense sometimes.

"Oh. Well, then what do you think it's time for?" Ryu asks then, casually. Tsuchiya notices how that fierce look had gone from his eye as suddenly as it had manifested and wonders why he's getting a weird feeling about all of this.

"To you know, move on to the next stage of your life."

Ryu just keeps staring, because apparently hints mean nothing to him, and Tsuchiya is going to have to be blunt. It's like high school all over again.

"I'm still talking about Naoko-chan," Tsuchiya intones, eventually. "Girls will only wait so long before they realize they're too good for us, you know that, right?"

Ryu deflates a little as he realizes where the conversation is headed. "Yeah. So I keep hearing. You sound like my parents."

Tsuchiya grins. "I'm the responsible one out of all of us, remember?"

Ryu scowls, but after some very deliberate thought, turns back to Tsuchiya and asks, "Maybe I'll go ring shopping on Saturday. Any suggestions?"

Tsuchiya has a couple, actually.

Tsuchiya crows to Hyuuga and Take later that night that he'd finally lit a fire under Ryu's ass, and when the other two hear it, they share this strange, knowing look with one another before Hyuuga sighs and says, "I dunno, man, I don't think those two should get married."

Tsuchiya nearly spits his beer all over Take. "What? Why not? It's been years."

Hyuuga, with the long-suffering knowledge of a person whose livelihood depends on a certain ability to listen to and gauge people on at least a surface level, just shrugs noncommittally. "Just feels like something's missing, I guess." He frowns for a moment, like he wants to elaborate, but that's all he really has. Fine, something's missing, but no one can tell what, and that is not a convincing argument at all, as far as Tsuchiya is concerned. After a minute, Hyuuga just shrugs again and looks kind of confused. Whether it's with himself or about Ryu and Naoko-chan, no one can tell.

"Or, maybe there's just too much of something else," Take adds in a vague, stylist's sort of way, like he's doing one of those fashion columns he sometimes contributes to for Seventeen magazine when he's bored or needs the extra cash. "Their balance is off."

"They've been dating forever!" Tsuchiya protests. "Don't you think it's kind of weird that Ryu and Hayato have rings together but Ryu and his long term girlfriend don't?"

"Not really," Take says, while Hyuuga just gets that odd, thoughtful look on his face again, like he's so close to some sort of inexplicable epiphany but not quite there yet.

Tsuchiya ignores him, because he knows if he waits for him to figure out whatever it is that's bothering him about Ryu's personal life, they'll be sitting here forever. "I thought you guys liked Naoko-chan," Tsuchiya presses, lowering his voice a little. He eyes them both carefully for an honest reaction, because if they don't actually like her, things might get complicated from here on out.

"Oh yeah, love her to death," Take hastily answers, holding up his hands in a gesture of surrender. "She's like the perfect combination of Sailor Mars, Maki-chan, and Catwoman."

Hyuuga and Tsuchiya give him these weird looks, but he just shrugs and munches on a nut from the tray on top of the bar.

"I just think it's off," Hyuuga repeats vaguely, and goes to close out a register. "Plus Hayato fucking hates her, so think about how miserable he'll be when Ryu kicks him out of the apartment so Naoko-chan can move in with him. We'll never hear the end of it."

Tsuchiya shrugs. "He has to grow up sometime. And if he needs a couch, Chiyo-chan is okay to lend him ours until he can get back on his feet again."

Take snorts. "You really don't understand anything, do you?"

"The air's thinner all the way up there," Hyuuga grunts to Take with a knowing look. "Bad for the brain, I think."

Take giggles at this while Tsuchiya glares down at them both and tells them to go to hell.

Regardless of what's going to happen, Ryu is proposing to Naoko-chan this weekend at their anniversary dinner, and he tells them so, despite whatever reservations they may feel on the issue. Ryu is their friend as much as Hayato is, and they should want him to be happy.

"No one's arguing with that," Take answers with an odd glint in his eye, and Tsuchiya is too annoyed with him to ask him what he means.

On the night of their anniversary dinner that Sunday, Ryu has a velvet box in his pocket and a plan that he'd passed off to the cook of the restaurant tonight, involving a cake that no longer says "Happy Anniversary, Ryu," as Naoko had ordered it (she thought she was being sneaky, but Ryu has police training after all, and had found her notes). Instead, the cake now says, "Naoko, will you marry me?" and when it comes out, he's going to get down on one knee and ask her to become his wife.

His hands are jittery at the thought, have been shaking all day so that he could barely hold a pen, let alone his gun. He wonders if Tsuchiya had felt the same kind of thick, suffocating combination of dread and fear when he'd been planning to propose to Chiyo-chan.

Somehow, he doesn't think so, but then again, everyone does things differently.

He gets out of work early that day, goes home to shower and change, and on his way to the train station, stops to buy a bouquet of flowers as well, which is his traditional gift to Naoko-chan on anniversaries, because he likes their simplicity and the fact that they are something bright and beautiful in an ephemeral sort of way, like sakura and first love.

Then, when he is just outside the restaurant, his cell phone rings.

He frowns and hopes it's not work; there is a drug investigation his unit is currently taking point on, but nothing had changed in the last few weeks so he doubts it might have changed in the last two hours.

He's right. It's not work, it's Hayato.

He frowns and answers, despite the fact that common sense says he should let it go to voicemail.

"Hello?" he asks.

"Hey, Ryu," Hayato murmurs, and sounds drunk, or like he has the flu. "You busy?"

"Yes," Ryu answers, with a strange knot starting to twist in his stomach. Maybe this is what they call a detective's gut instinct. "What's the matter?"

"I'm just a little…indisposed," Hayato manages after a moment, and says "indisposed" with this sort of ironic flair, because it's word he'd only just learned from watching a ridiculous television drama on Tuesday nights about rich people.

Ryu sighs. "Are you drunk?"

"No," Hayato admits, and there's an edge to his voice then. He swallows. "Look, if you could, I'm at the 7-11 a few blocks from the café."

Ryu sighs at the vagueness of these terms, but has known Hayato long enough to know that he means the 7-11 two blocks from the butler café where he works on weekend evenings and some holidays because he's popular amongst the women there.

Before Ryu can answer, Hayato hangs up, leaving him standing in front of the restaurant where Naoko-chan is waiting for him. He has her flowers in his arms and her ring in his pocket and a special cake awaiting his signal from the waiters.

He also has a choice to make.

He sighs, and this time, when he puts his hand in his pocket, where the velvet box is, there's no shaking or dread. Just a wry, somewhat ironic pang in his heart.

He supposes he's secretly known what his choice would always be, ever since they were kids, and probably until they're both dead.

Five minutes later, the flowers are in the trash and Ryu hails a cab to take him in the direction of Ginza.

He finds Hayato not at the 7-11 precisely, but in the alleyway behind it, beat up and dirty like they used to get whenever they'd involve themselves in those ridiculous turf scuffles back in high school, except this time Hayato doesn't look like he gave nearly as much as he got.

Alarmed, Ryu forgets his stewing irritation from earlier and sprints to Hayato's side, propping him up and demanding what happened.

"Just a reminder," Hayato croaks, "about being behind on your loan payments."

Ryu nearly flies into a rage upon hearing that Hayato borrowed from the yakuza of all people, but stops himself when he realizes that their rosy vision of Yankumi's Ooedo Group might have deceived Hayato into believing that all yakuza were as peace-loving and friendly.

Sighing, Ryu helps Hayato to his feet and asks, "Do you want me to call an ambulance? The police?"

Hayato manages a bloody, pained grin. "I already called the police."

Ryu rolls his eyes and supposes that if Hayato is capable of making jokes still, he can't be as bad off as he looks.

Ryu really hopes so, anyway.

Later, Hayato is sitting shirtless on the living room couch and Ryu is taking a cotton ball with disinfectant to the many scrapes and scratches there, presumably from having been shoved up against the rough brick wall of the alleyway while being pummeled. Hayato hisses and complains and calls him all sorts of abusive names every time the disinfectant bubbles into one of the wounds, and Ryu ignores him in order to make sure he gets all of them.

Naoko-chan had broken up with him earlier, three hours after their dinner date had been set for. She'd entered the apartment very calmly, if grimly, and handed him a wrapped box with a card that said "Happy Anniversary, Ryu!" on it.

He'd apologized to her, because he really had been sorry, for more than just standing her up tonight.

She'd smiled a little at that, told him she knew, and added that she ate that entire cake by herself earlier, and felt a little better for having done it. She'd pressed the wrapped box into his hands and told him to take the present as a goodbye gift instead of anything else.

He'd wanted to tell her he wouldn't accept a goodbye gift from her, or that he loved her, or that he'd try harder from now on—something like that, like all the guys did in love stories on TV—but before he could, the sound of Hayato tripping on something in his room in an effort to be quiet while the couple talked ruined the moment irreparably, particularly when Hayato had yelped and cursed out loud in English.

Ryu winced. Naoko shook her head.

"I'm sorry," Ryu managed instead, again.

She'd smirked at that. "It's only half your fault," she'd told him around a smile that didn't reach her eyes. From the way her makeup had been smudged Ryu hadn't needed his detective training to figure out that she'd gotten all of her crying out earlier, at the restaurant, probably over the cake. It would be very much like her to do something like that. "I should have figured out some things myself before I let it get this far," she'd admitted, self-deprecatingly. "But I guess I just hoped. It's the way of idealistic young lawyers, I guess."

Ryu's lip had curled upward then, and in that moment, he'd remembered why he'd liked her so much in the first place. "Yeah."

Some more muffled cursing from Hayato's room had made her laugh, and shaking her head, she reached up to kiss his cheek. "Bye, Ryu."

"Bye," he'd echoed, and saw her to the door. She left without looking backwards, and he'd let her go without trying to stop her.

And now there's just a velvet box in his pocket with a ring in it he'd never meant to give her. He thinks his parents are going to be pissed at him.

"Goddammit, Ryu, fucking stop stabbing me with the tweezers!" Hayato complains, when Ryu's thoughts make his motions clumsy.

Ryu, smiling for no reason he can fathom, happily jabs the tweezers and the cotton ball into a particularly large scrape and watches Hayato squirm and yelp beneath his ministrations.

"You're going to have to sleep on your stomach tonight," Ryu informs him, probably needlessly.

"Yeah," Hayato breathes, as Ryu finishes with the disinfectant and whips out the bandages. He starts placing them on the smaller cuts, planning to use gauze and antibacterial cream for the bigger ones. Hayato relaxes under his hands at the first cool touch of ointment, and for a while, lets Ryu work on him in a comfortable, familiar silence.

Eventually, Hayato takes a deep breath, and sits up, catching Ryu's hand in his. Ryu's eyebrows dart up and he feels the pace of his breathing increase, inexplicably.

Hayato's eyes are bright in the dim light of the apartment. "I uh…I just wanted to say sorry," he says after a beat, and Ryu's pulse flutters under Hayato's fingers, where he's caught him by the wrist. "For fucking things up between you and Naoko-chan."

Ryu looks right back into Hayato's eyes and for a second it's inexplicably hard to draw air. But then he looks away, back down at his lap, and snorts. "Liar," he says. "You're not sorry at all."

Hayato scowls at him, but the way he sighs after that tells Ryu he'd caught him red-handed.

"Hey, but this means you're free again now, right?" he manages next, voice rough. "I'll take you out partying sometime soon. We'll find something to distract you from the pain of being dumped, maybe find you a girl who isn't a man-eater."

Ryu doesn't answer; he just finishes with the last of the bandages and tells Hayato to go to sleep. They'll deal with his idiotic problem of taking out loans from criminals in the morning.

Hayato reluctantly complies, and Ryu sits alone in the lamplight of the living room for a little while longer, before he takes the velvet box out of his pocket and dumps it in the trash.

He doesn't ever open Naoko-chan's last present to him, but he keeps the wrapped box in the drawer of his desk from then on, as a reminder of what an ass he can be when it comes to Hayato, and how it probably means he's ruined for life and the only one who actually knows it.

True to his word, Hayato manages to drag Ryu and the others out to a very exclusive party spot a few weekends later, once Take and Hyuuga and Tsuchiya all surmise that a proper mourning period has been observed since the break up. It is a rare chance for all of them to be out together again, after how busy their lives have gotten lately.

Tsuchiya is the surprise hit of the evening; Hyuuga theorizes that it's because he's the married man and women always want what they can't have. Take is slightly more reasonable in assuming the girls are more than pleased to look at the hundreds and hundreds of pictures of Tsuchiya's adorable daughter on his cell phone that he's proudly showing off because girls love cute babies a lot. They love men who love cute babies even more. Tsuchiya just doesn't notice that they're flirting with him because in his heart, he really wants to be at home with his family, except that Chiyo-chan had insisted he go out with the boys so that she could invite Naoko-chan over and they could have a proper girl's night adoring Koume and eating cartons of ice cream between them.

"And this is me taking Koume-chan back from the hospital!" Tsuchiya crows on the next photo, eliciting a bunch of oohs and aahs from his admiring throng. "Look, she's smiling!"

"A regular lovestruck idiot," Take breathes, while Hayato is out on the dance floor, romancing a couple of United Airlines stewardesses with his conversational English and his fabulous hair. Ryu is, theoretically, with him, because Hayato is supposed to be making this a bro-night and hooking Ryu up with a rebound, or something ridiculous like that.

Tsuchiya just has no idea why he's here too; it's not like he's benefiting from any of this, and the slideshow of Koume's exploits in her first month of life is simply making him wonder what he's missing while he's away and Chiyo-chan and Naoko-chan are busy eating ice cream and cooing over the baby.

It must show on his face, because Hyuuga affects a stern expression and points accusatorily at Tsuchiya, who has girls on either arm asking how many babies he plans on having and if he really is the manager of a company even though he looks so young.

Tsuchiya makes a face back at Hyuuga and thinks that whatever, he's here even if he doesn't want to be, and he's reprising his role of wingman in a way, he supposes, when he filters out girls who suck in place of girls with decent personalities who can properly adore the bright and beautiful thing his infant daughter is. He says as much to Take, who just smirks at him and says, "Adjust your filter bro."

He points over Tsuchiya's shoulder to the bar, where Ryu is in deep conversation with a well-dressed man with fabulous hair and an aura that Hayato might one day claim, ten years from now and a million dollars richer.

Tsuchiya's eyes nearly fall out of his head while Hyuuga makes a startled burbling noise not unlike what the others imagine listening to a chubby animal drown might be like.

"No way!" Hyuuga exclaims when he's recovered the ability for verbal communication, "They're just shooting the shit, talking about how much tail there is," he hisses, while the three of them are unable to take their eyes off of Ryu.

It is at that precise moment when Ryu bends his head down, the mysterious man with the air of a billion dollars leans in close, and whispers something in Ryu's ear.

"Way," Take chirrups, sounding way too cheerful about this, pleased with himself like he's always known, or suspected, or that he'd figured it out first and had kept it a secret because he's an ass.

Ryu chuckles in the meantime, looking flushed and breathlessly exuberant as the mystery man reaches out and subtly brushes the back of his hand against Ryu's arm. Tsuchiya wonders if he's going to have to go in and defend Ryu's honor or something, if this guy decides to get too fresh. He hopes the guy isn't actually as rich as he looks and that he doesn't have any scary big foreign bodyguards or anything. He loves Ryu, but he has a family, dammit, and can't be expected to die with his daughter so young.

It is while they are staring like this that Hayato bounces back to the table, a stewardess on either arm. He grins, pauses to look away from his latest conquests, and asks, "What the hell are you three idiots staring at? You chased away all your girls!"

That doesn't stop them from staring however, and not quite knowing what to say for some inexplicable reason, like the three of them had been caught in the middle of committing a crime that would make Hayato very, very mad at them.

But before any of them can say anything, Hayato follows their sight lines and sees what they see, and for some reason, Take winces.

"What the fuck?" Hayato mutters suddenly, going from surprised to furious in a second, and he gracelessly disentangles himself from the stunned stewardesses before marching right up towards Ryu at the bar.

"Shit," Take mutters, and looks helplessly at Tsuchiya.

"What is going on?" Tsuchiya demands, just as bewildered as the two foreign women standing behind their table. "Is there going to be a fight? Am I supposed to back Hayato or pull him away?"

"Why is he so pissed?" Hyuuga adds, though not before bowing sheepishly in apology to the stewardesses and offering to buy them each a drink in broken English he must have picked up from the restaurant's diverse clientele.

Take looks at both of them with this pitying expression and shakes his head. "Never mind," he mutters. "We should probably just wait here. This might actually be good."

Tsuchiya can't believe that he gave up a quiet night at home with his family for this.

The last thing Ryu expects when Hayato and the others drag him out to a too-loud club with too many people in it is to find himself sitting at the bar being hit on by a man ten years older than he is and probably way out of his league. He finds he doesn't dislike it, though it makes him nervous, and there's a hum under his skin he feels that he hadn't felt with Naoko-chan, the kind of rumbling, building energy he has only ever experienced when fighting with Hayato before, over the stupidest little things.

He wonders if that means anything, but the man leans in close to speak into his ear, asking him what he does for a living, where he's from, and if he comes here often.

Ryu opens his mouth to answer, but before he can, a shadow eclipses the light from the dance floor over him and he looks up at once to see the white, furious face of Hayato.

"This is not allowed!" Hayato declares, voice gravelly from having spent the entire evening shouting above the music. "You're not allowed to flirt with guys, Ryu, so we're leaving now."

Ryu's eyebrows dart up in surprise, and his first instinct is to be enraged, not only because Hayato can presume to judge him like that, but also because he's willing to do it in front of dozens of strangers in a public place as well. However, unlike Hayato, Ryu doesn't want to make a scene—more so than Hayato already has anyway—and he hadn't really wanted to encourage the handsome man's advances anyway, as flattering and thrilling as they'd been.

"We're leaving!" Hayato reiterates fervently, when Ryu fails to respond right away.

"Hey now," the handsome man begins, standing up from his barstool and going nose to nose with Hayato. "I don't think I like your tone, kid."

"And I don't like your cheesy suit, grandpa," Hayato fires back, not backing down. He stands up to his full height, squares his shoulders and looks ridiculous, like a chicken getting ready to fight with a hawk. Ryu quickly stands up too, and elbows his way in-between the both of them.

"Okay, we're going," he says to Hayato, though he can't quite keep a rumbling of irritation from his voice. "Stop making an idiot of yourself."

Hayato sputters, fury instantly turning away from Ryu's errant suitor back onto Ryu, where it should be. "What? I'm not…I…"

"Let's go," Ryu repeats, voice like ice. He wraps his hand around Hayato's wrist, and in a surprising show of strength, manages to yank his larger friend away from the bar, leaving the handsome man to stand there all by himself, looking kind of foolish. Ryu smiles apologetically at him, and bows, and pushes Hayato towards the door.

Back at their table, Take, Tsuchiya, and Hyuuga get up as if to follow, though Hyuuga makes a few desperate motions that say he has to close out his tab and that it will probably ruin the drama of their exit if they have to wait for him.

Ryu waves the three of them off, gives Take a look that he hopes communicates his desire that this be a private confrontation, and continues to pull Hayato towards the exit.

When they finally elbow their way outside, Hayato has recovered himself somewhat, and yanks his hand out of Ryu's grip.

"What the hell man?" he demands, furious again. The cool night air is clearly not enough to make him stop and think. "Since when are you into guys?"

Ryu bristles at the tone of incredulity there, but Hayato doesn't seem to notice, the alcohol and the adrenaline in his system making him deaf and blind to anything but his own disbelief.

"This isn't right," he tells Ryu plainly, with the kind of conviction that he usually saves for statements involving how obvious a choice he is for Koume's godfather and his utter disgust at seeing Ryu skip meals because he's just too tired after work to eat. "Nothing about this is right."

Ryu goes from angry to hurt, and taking a step back from Hayato, tells his friend, flatly, "I don't see whether it's any of your business if I'm interested in a guy or not."

Hayato's response is to fly even more off the handle than he already has, and when he reaches out to grab Ryu by either shoulder Ryu manages, very admirably, not to flinch or strike out instinctively in self-defense. He schools his features to stay cool, and tells himself that no matter how impassioned Hayato might be against homosexuality, they are still friends, and Hayato wouldn't go so far as to punch him for this (hopefully; Ryu's not sure if this counts in Hayato's book as another betrayal or not).

In the meantime, Hayato ends up kind of just fisting the sleeves of Ryu's jacket tightly enough that it will leave wrinkles. "It is my business," he insists, with this strange, vaguely wild look in his eye, "because if I'd known you were okay with this I would have kissed you years ago!"

Ryu stops.

Hayato doesn't.

"This is such bullshit!" he rails, full of righteous indignation, "You know how hard it is for me to control myself, but because I didn't want you to get all weird with how I felt, I held back, man! And then the minute you break up with the heinous bitch and hit the market again you'll flirt with whatever good looking guy you see first? I am way better looking than that old man was! He was losing his hair! I bet he's bald inside five years! And fat! Who wears all white suits anymore anyway? This isn't Miami."

And now Hayato actually looks on the verge of punching him, and when Ryu plays back all of the things Hayato had said to him since they'd come outside, he finally understands what, exactly, Hayato had been so adamant about, and the hurt from those words fades in a rush of feeling, and Ryu can't help it when he feels himself start to smile, when the bubble of laughter that's building in his chest finally bursts forth in a great, disbelieving chuckle that freezes Hayato mid-rant.

Hayato looks incredulous. "You're laughing at me?" he demands, and has no idea that Ryu isn't laughing at him at all, he's laughing at them, because they are so stupid despite how hard they'd fought to graduate from high school and how far they've come into the world as adults since then. "How the hell can you laugh at this, you moron?" His feelings sound hurt.

It is in moments like these when Hayato makes Ryu feel young again, like a high school kid still trying to come to terms with the fact that he's got a crush on his purportedly straight best friend and not knowing what to do with it, trying his hardest to ignore it for years and years and years.

Hayato is still sputtering when Ryu—in an admittedly dirty move—flips his hands onto the outsides of Hayato's elbows and turns them inward, forcing Hayato's hands off of his shoulders. Hayato may be bigger, but Ryu's the one who spent years training at the police academy.

"Ow, Ryu, what the h-"

Before Hayato can finish, Ryu wordlessly steps forward, grabs Hayato by the lapel of his gray sport coat, and kisses him.

And that is how Tsuchiya, Take, and Hyuuga find them twenty minutes later, after the bastards ignore all their worried text messages and the three of them think they're going to go outside and find two dead bodies lying in the alleyway.

What they get instead is an eyeful of Hayato being pushed up against the wall of the club with Ryu's fingers tangled in his ridiculous hair and a number of fresh looking hickies starting to develop under his jaw and along his throat.

"Oh god, what the hell, guys?" Hyuuga complains disbelievingly when he sees, while Take bursts out into relieved, incredulous laughter and Tsuchiya just can't believe he left home for this shit.

"I'm going home," he declares in disgust, after Ryu and Hayato pause long enough to give them sheepish looks. Ryu even apologizes for not realizing that his phone had been ringing. "I can't believe I gave up Koume for you morons when you didn't need any of us here at all," he mutters, and to Ryu's relief, is more annoyed at being dragged from home than horrified at seeing two grown men go like it like horny seventeen-year-olds in a dingy club alleyway like they do in the movies.

"Jesus Christ, this explains so much about everything," Hyuuga says with a dawning look of realization on his face, like that last piece of the puzzle he'd been very slowly figuring out over the last few months is finally, finally sliding into place. He runs a hand through his thinning hair in exasperation while Take just sparkles mirth from the sidelines, somehow saying a million things at once by not deigning to say anything at all.

The three of them go home and no one offers to drive Ryu or Hayato on the way, which proves that there are no real hard feelings because it's like their silent blessing to go off together and do whatever it is two men who have been stupidly in love with each other since probably middle school do when they're alone. It works out in the end anyway because neither Ryu nor Hayato are in any condition to be in the vicinity of their friends on the way home and they know it; they end up hailing a taxi back to their apartment instead.

During the entire ride back to their apartment it feels like they're kids again, Ryu thinks, their hands shyly brushing in the back of the cab down where the driver can't see through the rearview, sly looks and random bursts of laughter, a breathless, heady sort of anticipation. They barely manage to pay the poor cabbie before they fling themselves out of the car and into the apartment building, fumbling with their keys into the lobby, accidentally slamming the buttons for the wrong floor in the elevator because they can't take their eyes off of each other. There's a wordless kind of joy in those moments, a kind of long, drawn out anticipation that makes Ryu think he can't be angry for the delay, for the years lost when they could have been doing this the whole time. Everything in their lives up until now had been building up to this somehow, the years and years and years of something just shy of this finally exploding outward in the middle of an alleyway in a swank Tokyo nightclub when both of them least expected it.

As Hayato curses and drops his keys trying to unlock the door, Ryu grins and supposes that between the two of them, this is the only way it could have happened.

They do manage to make it inside a moment later, just barely a step into the threshold before Hayato spins and pins Ryu to the door, and Ryu laughs at that, because this is ridiculous, because they should be, by all definitions of the word, too damn old for stupid adolescent shit like this. But even still, even knowing better, they don't manage to make it to either of their rooms at all, just to the stupid, lumpy living room couch that had managed to migrate from Ryu's first college apartment to this one with them against all odds. Somehow, in all the chaos of trying to remove clothes without keeping their mouths off of each other, in between coordinating whose hips need to go up and whose leg needs to go where, they end up falling off the couch anyway, and fumble around together like hopeless virgins on the cold hardwood floor, huffing disbelieving puffs of laughter into each other's mouths as they find a way to make it work—somehow— in an awkward, frantic slide of warm bodies that, for all their combined experience, should be unacceptable, but actually ends up leaving both of them shivering, gasping messes on the floor of their living room early on a Saturday night.

When they're done, Hayato mouths some nonsense words into Ryu's bare shoulder and won't get off of him, wrapped all around him like a squid with his ridiculous limbs and his ridiculous floppy hair. Ryu breathes into Hayato's hair and closes his eyes, feeling easy in a way that he hasn't since his father had looked him in the eye and told him he didn't have to go America—that he didn't have to leave this all behind—after all.

They end up falling asleep a little while later just like that, too lazy to move or clean up or care, and in the early morning hours, when they wake up sore and sticky and freezing, they both decide they aren't as young as they used to be and their backs are no good for sleeping on floors anymore.

"My room should be our room," Hayato declares imperiously as they pad towards his door at some god-awful time in the am, their bare arms brushing in the hallway, "I have the better mattress."

Ryu doesn't know how Hayato knows that but doesn't say yea or nay either way; he just pushes Hayato into his room and shuts the door behind them.

As far as most people are concerned, they'll meet and get to know one another, go on dates and trips and adventures together. From there they'll probably fall in love, eventually get married, and move in together. They'll start a life together after that, probably, where one of them can't be separated from the other without feeling strange. That's usually the way of things, the natural order.

So when Hayato calls Tsuchiya one afternoon while he's got Koume all to himself because Chiyo-chan is out with friends, the last thing Tsuchiya expects to hear from his friend is, "Tsucchi, you need to help me! Where should I take Ryu for dinner tonight? He hates Italian food and the only nice places I know are Italian. Is there a good movie out?"

Tsuchiya, balancing Koume on his lap while she chews happily on his old fan, snorts incredulously. "Seriously?" he demands, and sometimes wonders what the hell is wrong with his friends.

"Seriously!" Hayato repeats, before adding, "Stop using that asshat tone with me, you asshat. I really need your help here."

Tsuchiya can't help it; he bursts out laughing.

"It's not fucking funny!"

"It's fu—" he trails off abruptly when Koume gurgles happily in his lap, reminding him to mind himself. "It's freaking hilarious, you idiot," he corrects, and bounces his daughter on his knee until she squeals with laughter. His fan, a little soggy and going droopy from all the baby spit and general baby love, is clutched tightly in one of her tiny fists. He thinks she'll be a menace with it one day.

"What? Why?" Hayato sounds very close to sulking. Rolling his eyes, Tsuchiya adjust the phone against his shoulder so he can shift Koume against his chest, where she looks perfectly happy to slap the fan against the buttons of his shirt.

"Because, only you and Ryu would move in together, fall in love, date other people, have sex with one another immediately after a fight, and then decide you finally like each other enough to start dating," Tsuchiya explains matter-of-factly, and with no small amount of amusement coloring his tone. "You two have always been weird."

"You shut your ugly face," Hayato shoots back, but sounds more embarrassed than angry when he does. "That's just how we do things, okay?" he adds, with a sniff.

Tsuchiya grins. "Yeah, well, I guess that considering it's the two of you, this really is the only way it could have gone."

Hayato makes a few more undignified sounds from the other end, and after taking great pleasure in hearing them, Tsuchiya eventually takes pity on his friend and suggests Hayato take Ryu to his and Chiyo-chan's favorite Chinese restaurant, the kitschy, slightly run down one where they'd had their first date and later, where he'd proposed to her. He's feeling generous enough to share that place with Hayato right now, and thinks that it should provide a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere for two people who are familiar enough with one another at this point in their lives that they don't need fancy restaurants or big gestures to be content.

He also suggests Hayato maybe spring for flowers for Ryu as well, while he's at it. To be fair, Tsuchiya can't help it, and he would be remiss in his duty as a friend if he didn't tease at least a little.

Hayato roundly tells him to go to hell, but makes Tsuchiya look up the address to the Chinese restaurant anyway, and in the end, the idiot sounds so stupidly grateful for Tsuchiya's help— and excited in a way that Tsuchiya has never heard Hayato sound when it comes to doing things for any of his dates before—that Tsuchiya supposes it doesn't matter what sort of convoluted, complicated, pothole-ridden road Hayato might have taken to get himself here, as long as he ended up exactly where he is now every time, with that note in his voice that says he's really happy, that his life is on its way to complete, and that everything is exactly as it should be when it hadn't been before.

Tsuchiya has always known that Hayato and Ryu are the kind of people who insist on doing things their own way anyway, however against the odds, backwards, upside-down and idiotic their own way might be.

In retrospect, the only sure thing about it all is that they'd invariably end up doing it their own way together.

Though if it's all the same, Tsuchiya is glad he didn't do it their way too, if only for all the headaches it saved him.

Secure and content in his arms, Koume blows an impressive series of spit bubbles that seem to agree with her daddy completely.