Note: Thank you so much for all the feedback! Sorry it took a second to get this chapter out, real life sucked me in a little too much, and I'm excited to start this again! POV changes halfway through, so don't be too confused. I wanted to wait for the next chapter to start another POV but it just didn't work out that way. Reviews are def appreciated :) Enjoy!
Saying tossing and turning kept me up was an understatement. I was trying so hard to keep my shit together, knowing today it was going to be even harder, but I'd be lying to say my pillow wasn't soaked with tears. My family… meant everything to me. I'd never had to face this kind of tragedy, and the knots in my stomach and the constant transition between numb and feeling like I'd walked into an oncoming train was making me sick. Sick enough, that I even threw up. A few times.
I didn't even need my alarm. I got myself out of bed and turned it off before it sounded. I walked like a zombie to the kitchen and, at 5 o'clock, made my coffee for the day. I packed a small bag, I had no idea how long I'd end up spending at home. I knew my sisters and mom would need me. I needed them too.
Would Takano-san understand?
He said he loved me, and even a cruel boss would comprehend a death like this in the family. I almost wished I had stayed with him last night, even if it was just to get out of my own head.
A crash sounded from the ground and I'd dropped the mug out of my shaking hands before I even tried to pour my coffee.
I crouched down and tried to steady myself enough to pick up the pieces, but the strength in my knees gave out and I fell backwards onto the floor.
The thud took my breath from my lungs.
I didn't have the will to move.
My eyes just stared at the ceiling and I cursed out loud when the tears came back to my eyes and blurred my vision.
If I could get through today, it would be a miracle…
I finally managed to gather my things, wrap my jacket around me and grab the door. Needless to say, the moment I swung the door open my keys went flying outside onto the hallway floor. I tried to keep myself from swearing, but before I could reach (possibly even topple) down, another door along side of me opened, and a hand rested on my back.
Over my shoulder was Takano-san. And then, just as quickly, he snatched up the keys and handed them to me.
I mumbled a thank you, trying not to meet his eyes. I didn't want to talk to anyone right now. I wanted to be on my way and get to the rest of my family.
Before I could walk away, Takano lightly took my wrist into his hand and pulled me into his arms.
And just… held me.
"Ritsu," he whispered against the top of my head, "Call me later. Good luck."
For the first time, I managed a deep, steadying breath and tried to keep myself from relaxing in his arms. I didn't want to deal with what awaited me when I saw my family. I couldn't sink into him, and depend on him, I needed to go.
"I…" I swallowed, "I don't know when I'll be able to return to work…"
"Take as much time as you need."
God. His words made me want to turn around, and just let him hold me. I don't know if I would have this craving when I had my wits about me, but I couldn't shake this desire.
No. I needed to be strong.
"Thank you," I walked away, and felt his eyes on my back.
He didn't walk back into his apartment until after he saw the elevator close around me. This was going to be the longest train ride of my life.
The stop and go of the train meshed together with ride, and after a foggy mess inside my own head, I found myself at the doorsteps to my sister's home, where mom had told me she was spending the night. It was still early, and I hoped she was still sleeping and not in the same numb, yet devastated state I was in. Our family was so close, we were so happy and I had never denied being very blessed. It burned all over again when my mom answered the door, eyes puffy with tears still clinging in them.
I rushed forward and wrapped my arms around her the second her weak voice mumbled, "Ritsu…"
We stood in the doorway for what seemed like forever, and I could feel warmth slowly soaking my shoulder where her forehead rested. I didn't move from that spot until I saw my sister quietly walk up behind her. I pulled my mom into the house and shut the door behind us, and gathered up the other girl in my arms.
I needed to be the strong one right now.
I repeated it over and over in my head.
I already had the time to gather myself, and for these two… they needed a rock.
I knew I could try to keep it together long enough for them, at least.
"Ricchan, I made tea," my sister was the first to let go, and then mom soon after her, "Let's go to the kitchen."
I followed without a word, and scooted the chair across the wood floor to sit down, which ironically had been the loudest sound in the house since I arrived. I sat with my hands in my lap until the tea was placed in front of me, then I asked, "so… what do we do from here?" and lifted it to my lips. How else could I have phrased that?
"I've already contacted someone about the wake at the temple we used to take you to when you two were little. Afterwards, we'll have him cremated… then we will have to go over his will and legal issues," she shakily lifted her cup up as well.
"Mom, you didn't have to do that, I know it's my responsibility," I was surprised at how quickly the arrangement were going, and wished I had been here sooner too…
"I already began making calls to close family last night, and hopefully after contacting the rest of our family and friends, we'll be able to do it tomorrow," my sister said.
"Aa…" my thoughts were cut short as I heard a car skid to a stop, a door slam and then someone 'attempting' to be quiet entering the house.
Mom was facing the doorway, so I heard her say, "An-chan," before I could even turn around.
When I did, she crossed my line of vision and ran up to mom to fling herself into a hug, "I got here as soon as I could!"
"I know, I know. Ricchan only got here moments ago," An quickly moved to my sister, and then stared at me a few moments before another launch took place.
She didn't say anything, but wrap her arms around my neck tightly, then slowly slid into the chair next to me.
"I'll bring you some tea."
"It's times like this I'm glad someone smiled upon us and gave us enough money for a burial in the family grave," mom said to me and An. "I like that we'll be able to go and visit him."
I was thankful as well. The space left in Japan was so limited, but we had a little plot of land that had been blocked off for forever. It would have been impossible to decide a place to scatter his ashes anyway.
"I like that too," I replied. I didn't know what to say. I was starting to nod off. Apparently not sleeping for a second last night, and all the stress and not sleeping from work was getting to me…
"Ricchan!" I felt my head fall into a set of forearms instead of a hard table, and An propped me up as quickly as I had fallen.
"You need to rest, " my mom placed a hand on my shoulder.
"You can take the guest room," my sister suggested, "We have to keep making calls and running… errands… anyway."
"Are you sure?" I couldn't hold back a yawn and clamped my hand over my mouth.
"Yes, we're sure. We've already discussed the plans and just need to get to work. An-chan, do you want to help Ricchan to the room?"
"Of course!" She got to her feet and gently pulled me to my own, "Come on, you look terrible."
She led me down the hall by my hand and it just reminded me how apart of the family she really was, navigating flawlessly through the halls as if it were her own home. An must be taking this hard too. When we arrived, she pulled back the covers for me and I felt as though I was a little kid. I didn't even care. Exhaustion was overcoming me, and I quietly asked when my head hit the pillow, "Thank you. What are you going to do?"
"See what I can do to help your mom and sister. The rest of my family will be coming tomorrow and I'll get a hotel later tonight so I don't impose too badly."
"I'm sure…" I stopped for a second with another unavoidable yawn, "If we go back to my house you can stay there. It's so big, and is going to feel so empty."
She gave me a kind smile and whispered, "Sweet dreams," and pressed a kiss to my forehead as I closed my eyes.
When she walked out, I could only hear the soft, light footsteps… a part of me wished they had been confident and direct, and the kiss had been warmer…
… like Takano-san…
"Takano-san, you look distracted… Takano-saaaan?"
"Kisa… stop being annoying," Hatori whispered to the other editor, and it took up until this moment for Takano to snap out of his daze.
When he did, he simply glared at Kisa before shuffling his papers together and getting up to get a drink. From behind, the others were gossiping about where Ritsu was, because Takano hadn't decided to let them in on the events. He had merely implied that he may have been sick, and that's why he hadn't come in that morning. As far as the rest of the staff knew, Ritsu was on his way.
Takano fed a coin into the machine and glanced at the clock on the wall. It was after 1 o'clock.
Would it have been appropriate to call the man now?
Did he arrive safely? Was he with his family? Was he all right?
He grit his teeth. Takano Masamune did not like to have no control in situations. This was a prime example. He pulled out his phone and looked at the screen. He had no problems calling or texting Onodera in the past as much as he pleased, but was it really his place to take the initiative right now? Maybe he didn't want to talk to anyone. Maybe the only people who could have possibly consoled him right now were those in his family.
Even so, he was still staring at the phone.
"Fuck." He stuffed it back in his pocket and turned on himself.
He knew he wasn't going to get anything accomplished until he talked to the other man, but for once he needed to not give in to impulse and do the right thing. He pressed the tab to his soda down, and the rest of the staff glanced up when it made a hissing noise and he walked back into the room.
He shot a glare to all of them and snapped out, "Get back to work!"
I jumped up from bed and looked around the room, and reality immediately hit me again. How long had I been asleep? I glanced at my watch and was startled to find out it was after 5.
"Shit!" I swore and threw back the covers, jumping from the bed.
I quickly walked outside, but couldn't hear any voice throughout the house. That's when my eyes locked onto a note on the table.
Ricchan, we're picking up family from the airport then going back to mom's house. Be there at 10.
I cursed again in my head, they should have woken me up, I could have gone with them and helped! Now what? Call a cab to get back to my mom's house? I still had another five hours to spare… another five hours alone before I could be around my family again. Too bad I had caught up on sleep, I knew another nap was out of the question.
I shuffled around the kitchen and reached for my phone.
Takano-san hadn't made contact with me yet…
I'm a little surprised, considering that as soon as the morning comes, I get a wake up text, harassed at work, and then more calls to come over later at night if he hadn't managed to force me, or force his way in to one of our apartments. There wasn't a single time in the day we weren't talking. This bothered me. But what was there to say? I hadn't been much help since I came home, but there wasn't much I coulddo. All the women around me were strong and took the initiative; I knew I would only get in their way.
Well, the cab it was.
When I slipped my key into the door to my house, the cold was overwhelming. I could see that my mom left in a rush, and hadn't been back to tidy it up. There was a newspaper spread across the floor, and the TV was still on. I walked over to the windows to shut them, and then got to my knees to pick up the papers. At least I could help with cleaning. I looked for things to do, empty the dishwasher, fold laundry (a rare occurrence in my life) and made up the guest rooms. An would undoubtedly be staying here tonight, and depending on the family who they were picking up, they might be as well. At least the house was big, and we had three spare rooms. Four, if we counted mine, because I'd have no problem sleeping on the couch if the rooms were full.
It was the last place I wanted to be… but before I knew what I was doing I was opening the door to my dad's office. I took a deep breath and closed it behind me.
Nothing would ever be the same.
I glanced at his desk: unfinished documents, a new contract he was drawing up, and something I knew quite well: a manuscript.
All of which were now frozen in time, never to be picked up again.
God, I didn't want to cry, but I could feel it start again.
I didn't bother cleaning this up, I wanted to leave it exactly as hehad. Even so, a cabinet that was barely open begged my attention. I walked over and peeked in before I shut it. And something caught my eye.
I looked around, almost feeling guilty, but then decided to say fuck it and pulled it out.
I carried it to the kitchen and pulled out a glass which I quickly dumped an absurd amount of whiskey (dad's favorite) in. My hands wrapped around it and I threw my head back and felt the burn wash down my throat. I looked down at the glass, then the bottle, and just decided to pick up the bottle.
No one else would drink it, I might as well.
When 11 o'clock rolled around, a vibrating noise snapped Takano out of his daze.
Finally!He thought, and read the text.
If yur nt still at work callem.
He was puzzled for a second, but the moment it clicked the number was dialed and it was ringing.
"Onodera… how are you doing?" Takano leaned back in his chair and breathed a sigh of relief just to hear the man's voice.
"Been better… how was work?"
What was with the small talk? Was this just to get away from what was happening at home?
"Good. Hatori actually got his author's manuscript in early, so that's a breath of fresh air."
"Is that sooo… good fer him."
Takano raised an eyebrow, "Onodera… I know that voice. Are you drunk?" it wasn't so much a question as it was a statement.
"No. Maybe… it's possible…" Takano could tell he was trying very hard to keep his words together and coherent, but it was causing him to talk much more slowly and sound like he was mentally handicapped.
"Ritsu," Takano stood up and began pacing in his apartment, "Seriously. Are you doing all right?"
"Takano-san… the funeral tomorrow is gonna be a huuuge ceremony, they're not keepin it within the family… they're invitin' people from the company an…"
His voice was quiet, almost inaudible, "I… wouldn't hate it if you came…" there was a loud hiccup, "… at all."
God, he had wanted to hear that.
"What time's the funeral?"
"Like ten, I think… but I think it might be earlier… I dunno…"
"I'll drive out tonight. I can leave right now."
"Takano-san! Don't do that! It's too late!"
"Traffic won't be as bad right now, and I'll get there much faster than with rush hour in the morning," he reasoned, and that left Ritsu quiet for a moment. Takano continued, "And I can just get a hotel when I get there."
"You can," another hiccup, "Stay here… everyone went to my sisters cuz mom doesn't wanna be here, an I said I could jus stay here tonight becuz they ran outta room an maybe if people show up here before the cer'mony… an even though I said it's ok I don't wanna be alone…"
"I'm leaving right now. Text me the address and I'll be there soon." Right before he could hang up, he heard Ritsu almost yell:
"Takano-san! Please… be careful."
A soft smile spread across his face and he nodded, "I will. See you soon."
End of part