I think that you know me well enough, Watson, to understand that I am by no means a nervous man. At the same time, it is stupidity rather than courage to refuse to recognize danger when it is close upon you.- Sherlock Holmes, The Final Problem
When Danger Is Close Upon You
The new year kicked Emerald into high gear, and when Ritsu and Masamune went back to work, it seemed everything had gone relatively back to normal. Kisa still tried to grill Ritsu for details about their relationship, Hatori still had angry-sounding calls with Yoshikawa Chiharu, and Mino continued to sit there in his seat, smiling like the psychopath everyone in Marukawa believed him to be. Masamune was still professional at work, keeping his hands to himself when anybody was looking and calling him by his last name when he was chewing him out for something or another.
The only thing that really seemed to change was the fact that Ritsu was getting constant calls from his mother. When he'd look at his cell phone at the end of the day, he'd see missed calls from her phone, but when he tried to call her back, he'd only get her voice mail. They were playing an ongoing game of Phone Tag and Ritsu was, frankly, baffled as to why. And, after a few weeks of it, he was rather tired of it.
The morning after Marukawa's New Year party, in the third week of January, Ritsu woke up to a knocking on his door. He grumbled to himself and pushed Masamune's arms away. The previous night was, to be honest, a blur to him. It wasn't because he was drunk because he wasn't; Masamune hadn't let him consume a single drop of alcohol during the party for a variety of reasons. It was more that it was all a rather lusty haze after they got off the elevator on the twelfth floor of their apartment building. The dull aching in his backside told him all he needed to know.
The knocking continued, and Ritsu looked blearily around his room, realizing that the only clothes within reach were the various suit parts from his and Masamune's ensembles for the party the previous night. Masamune's plain black tie was draped over the lamp. Deciding to ignore it, he pulled a pair of cotton pants and a t-shirt from his laundry pile and pulled them on with his boxers.
He slowly made his way through the apartment, getting increasingly annoyed with the knocking at his door. He had a scowl on his face by the time he reached the end of his genkan, but it quickly melted when he opened his door and saw his mother standing there, with his father looking only slightly awkward behind her.
"Good morning, Mother!" Ritsu bowed and quickly got out of the way so his parents could go inside. "I'm sorry! If I knew you were coming I would've gotten up earlier and made something to eat."
"Ritsu, it's almost ten in the morning. What in the world were you still doing in bed?" Onodera-mama slipped her shoes off and carefully stepped into the main room. She didn't look like she entirely approved of the filthy state of her son's apartment, but she wasn't going to say anything out loud.
Ritsu ducked his head and went into the kitchen to at least make some tea. "I'm sorry, Mother. Last night was Marukawa's New Year party, and I guess it took more out of me than I thought." A quick glance thrown at his bedroom showed Masamune sitting up in bed, stark-naked and confused as a newborn baby. Ritsu nearly collided with the wall in his attempt to close the door without it looking suspicious. Onodera-papa sat down on the couch, which was probably the only part of the living room that wasn't covered in papers and trash and just let his wife cover it.
"Actually, your father and I," at this she gave her husband a firm look, which he decided to ignore, "Came over to remind you of my birthday. It's coming up in a few weeks and I expect you to be there."
Ritsu nodded so much that he actually had to grab his head and stop it from moving any more. "Of course, Mother. Just let me know when you plan to have your party and I'll be there."
The entire room went silent as Ritsu's bedroom door slowly opened despite him leaning on it. There was Masamune, dressed back in his dress pants and white shirt, looking like he had slept in them despite Ritsu knowing he hadn't actually slept in anything. He rubbed at his eyes before observing the room full of people staring at him. "…did I miss something?"
Onodera-mama looked like she was gathering whatever shreds of sanity she had left when she took a deep breath and signaled towards the kitchen. "Ritsu? There was actually something else I'd like to talk to you about."
"Of course, Mother." Ritsu ran after his mother, grateful to at least put that much distance away from the awkward situation. When he looked back, he saw Masamune sitting down on his couch beside his father. They seemed to be talking about something, but Ritsu already had his attention split between filling his teapot and listening to his mother, so he didn't really listen.
"I'm not sure if I mentioned this to you before, but your cousins were asking a very interesting question after the fireworks on New Years," Onodera-mama said, folding her arms over chest.
"Oh?" Ritsu found giving little hints that he was actually listening helped his mother get to the point faster.
"They were asking what hime-hajime is."
At that, Ritsu lost his grip on the handle of his kettle and it went clanking onto the stove. Fortunately it was metal, so it didn't break. It did make a horrible banging sound that startled Masamune and Onodera-papa over in the living room, though.
"Wh-why would they ask something like that?" Ritsu laughed as he placed the kettle properly on the stove and lit the burner.
"They said they heard "Masa-chan" ask you about it." Onodera-mama rose her eyebrows at this when Ritsu blushed. "You aren't going to deny it?"
"W-well he did mention it but it's not like we-" He cut himself off before it could get any more awkward. "I mean, I'm sure you know what hime-hajime is, and you didn't have to answer them when they asked about it."
Onodera-mama sighed and unfolded her arms, which made her look infinitely less confrontational. "Ritsu, I know what it's like to be in a new relationship and be so happy just being with that person, but you have to think of the children."
Masamune said something in the background, and even though Ritsu didn't catch what it was, he heard the snort of laughter from his father and glared at them both.
"Takano-san is, of course, invited to come as well if he'd like, but I'd appreciate it if we didn't have more problems like this."
Ritsu groaned at that, finally at least somewhere near the threshold of his tolerance for his mother's antics. "We never even kissed in front of them."
"Which I will regret until the day I die," Masamune said helpfully as he picked up a book from one of the piles by the couch and started flipping through it. Ritsu glared at him, but he completely missed it.
Onodera-mama looked like she didn't quite approve of that comment. "Ritsu, you aren't in high school anymore. You can't just remove yourself from a situation when you think you can't deal with it anymore."
"I couldn't back then, either!" Ritsu said. Behind him, the water was starting to boil, but he paid no attention. "Ten years I couldn't forget about Masamune, and all it took was one job transfer and there he was again. It's like the universe was thinking about the best ways to completely screw up my life!"
The entire room went silent at that, all eyes on Ritsu. Even Masamune looked shocked at that, and he was rapidly blinking, as if that would allow him to process what had just happened that much quicker. Ritsu finally seemed realize what he had said, because he waved his hands in the air. "I mean, I'm happy now! But… it also took me a while to get there, is all. And…" He averted his eyes from his mother's face. "I'd like to enjoy it."
Masamune stood up and left the apartment, saying he had to get ready for work. Now that Ritsu was alone with his parents, he hung his head and went about tea preparations.
"He was the reason you so suddenly wanted to transfer?" Onodera-mama asked, her voice holding none of the icy tinge she'd had before. When Ritsu nodded weakly, she sighed and took the kettle from him. She didn't know where everything was, but it seemed she was willing to take a guess.
"Um, anyway." Ritsu stared down at his table for lack of anything else to do. "I should probably get ready for work as well. Masamune and I usually ride the train together." He flinched when he realized he had brought Masamune up. He hadn't thought through that distraction very well.
"Do you want to talk about it?" His mother's eyes twinkled a little as she found some mugs and the teabags right behind them.
"Not really. We've both moved past what happened. High school isn't that important in the long-run anyway, right?"
His father laughed at that, standing up from the couch. "You wouldn't know it with how much your mother brings out our old yearbook."
"I'll have you know that I am still in contact with many of my high school friends," Onodera-mama said, sounding indignant. Ritsu breathed a sigh of relief as his parents took light jabs at each other. This he could deal with.
Half an hour later, his mother and father were leaving and Ritsu was ready for work, so he decided to escort them down. Just as he locked his door, the one beside him opened, and he turned to see Masamune, his briefcase slung over his shoulder.
"Going to work?"
"Yes." Ritsu nodded, and all four of them started down the hall together. As they waited for the elevator to reach their floor, Ritsu felt his free hand being taken, and he looked down to see Masamune twining his fingers around his own. That made him smile, at least briefly.