Disclaimer: Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi does not belong to me. It belongs Nakamura Shungiku and her affiliates.
For the third time that week, Takano Masamune found himself standing in front of Ritsu's door, a finger on the doorbell.
He stood there like that, wondering what he was doing there. There was no point in coming here for a while at any rate, not with Ritsu being away right then. It was not as if anyone would open the door even if he rang it. He checked his watch, it read 2AM. With a final sigh of resignation, he went to open his own door. He had work to get to the next day after all.
You have zero new messages.
Ritsu's phone read when he opened it on the fifth day of his official leave. He could feel a small frown make its way to his forehead. Why was Takano not texting him anymore? Was he sick? Hurt? Lying on the side of the road after collapsing from work?
Or maybe it was just because Ritsu had never bothered to reply to the previous ones he was sent.
He could feel a small weight settle down on his heart. He had wanted to; of course he had wanted to. But he couldn't. No, he wouldn't. Not with his mother bending over his shoulder every few minutes to see what he was doing with it. Her curiosity over Ritsu's
'new lover' was driving him crazy.
"Ritsu? There you are! Hurry up, or everyone will start before us!" Speak of the devil.
Ritsu could feel various eyes on him as he walked into the reception room. He felt awkward and completely out of place. He had never been close to his cousins, and being forced to attend practically a strangers' wedding while unknown girls giggled at him every time they thought he was not looking was wearing him down. At this point, even Yokozawa's cooking classes sounded like heaven to him.
"I still don't understand why you couldn't just bring her along." His mother whispered as they walked next to each other. She wanted to introduce him to someone, probably another one of his father's new associates.
Ritsu laughed nervously, he could feel himself choking at the thought of bringing Takano along to this delightful gathering. His mother would probably faint on the spot. Even as he thought that, his hands made their way to his pocket, touching his cell phone.
Send something already.
"Masamune?" Hmm? Takano did not look up from the piece he was proofreading, "Masamune?" He was sure someone was calling him, but that could wait. He had more important things to do.
A sudden large thump on his desk startled him. Papers scattered everywhere and cold, sticky coffee landed on his pants. He could feel his irritation soar, and he turned up to glare at the person who had disturbed him. This would not go unrewarded.
An equally icy glare greeted him back, "Masamune." Yokozawa Takafumi was inches from his face, staring at him like he had committed murder or something of the sort.
Behind him, Hatori looked slightly relieved and Kisa was almost waving at him. His glare extended to them as well.
Yokozawa extended his hands, poking Takano's forehead, "You have too many lines here."
"Huh?" Takano sounded as tired as looked, and he brushed his hand over his forehead, "What are you doing here?"
"I was specially asked for." He paused to briefly look at Hatori, "When was the last time you got any sleep?"
Takano looked at his friend; he was not unaccustomed to that look. He had seen it throughout his time in College, "Last night, I think."
Yokozawa gave him a long, hard look before glancing around the room. There was something missing. He had been getting that feeling for a while, but after looking at Takano's state, he thought he had a general idea, "Where's Onodera?"
"On leave. He should be back next Monday."
Yokozawa whisked out his phone and started typing rapidly in it, "Takano will be taking the day off early today. I'll collect him around eight."
And with that, he left the room, still typing something frantically into his phone.
"Eight is early?" Kisa said just loudly enough for the people still in the room to hear.
Hatori walked over to Takano's desk and started picked up a large pile of papers. Takano looked like he was about to protest, but Hatori walked off before he could say anything. He deposited half of it on Kisa's desk, and handled the other half himself. Mino looked like he wanted to help too, but he was already slightly over-worked, having promised to take care of Ritsu's share of the work for that week previously.
Takano snorted, it was an obvious attempt to hide a smile. He got up; he needed to clean his pants. Yokozawa would pay for the cleaning bill, he would make sure of that.
Ritsu could feel something in his pocket vibrate. He quickly reached for the phone, excusing himself from the group of elderly gentlemen, all curious about his strange choice of work. They never knew Ritsu loved Manga so much! Did that mean his company would focus on that soon? Quite a change from their usual tradition. Ritsu's father seemed to find it a little difficult to explain how they were still going to focus largely on literature, and his son was doing his work just as a 'hobby'.
The words 'his company' and 'hobby' had irritated him quite a bit. And the thought that his 'new girlfriend' had sent him a text was quite pleasing.
He strode into the nearest washroom and flipped open the phone. His heart skipped a beat, his face turned blue, and he could feel his legs grow weak. There, in front of him, was a aeries of four text messages. All from the same sender: Yokozawa Takafumi.
He cautiously opened the first of the five texts, wondering what earth shattering calamity could have possessed the man to indulge in a one sided conversation with him. Even back when they were not on 'pleasant' terms, he never contacted Ritsu via messages.
The contents of the messages were simple. Did he know what was wrong with Takano? He seemed ill, like he was not taking care of himself. The text was harmless in itself, but Ritsu could feel the accusations as if the ghost of Yokozawa's wrath had climbed through the phone, grabbed on to his throat, and was now dancing out of tune on his head.
The rest of them were… Ritsu blinked. What? "I can't be home tonight, so please have dinner ahead of me?"
Oh. That was… Probably not for him. Ritsu blushed slightly, he had no idea Yokozawa had that side to him, though now that he thought about it, it did seem like something he would say. Or not! This was not the image of Yokozawa he wanted to see! He shook his head rapidly to get rid of that image. But he was glad Yokozawa was serious about someone. He would never admit it out loud, but it made him feel better; both for himself and for the man.
He opened the third text, not knowing what to expect, "That wasn't for you." Ritsu felt amused, of course it was not. Quickly, he opened the fourth one, "Come home soon." He raised an eyebrow. That was slightly… contradictory? Was that for him? Had Takano taken the phone and sent him a text? Yokozawa would never send something like that – it was Takano. He was sure of it.
He wanted to go home. If he could, he would leave that stupid hall right then. The last four days had been hell. The same old load – those expectations, those looks of condescension, the need to 'live up to the family name'; they had come crashing down on him harder than he had expected.
He was not quite sure of what to think about Yokozawa's texts either. He had never seen this side of the man before. He flipped his phone shut and walked out into the reception hall. 'Just two more days.' He kept whispering it under his breath like it was a mantra.
"Ritsu!" A harsh voice cut through from nearby and he saw his mother walking towards him. Every instinct in his body told him to leave this room behind and run. Why could not they have picked a place in Tokyo to hold this wedding anyway? What was so special about a remote village in the middle of nowhere?
"There's someone who wants to meet you." His mother smiled at him as she dragged him into a new sea of faces – just how many people were attending this wedding?
After another hour Ritsu could feel his head start to spin. He wished An could have come. Then he could have avoided everyone else and just talked with her instead. She was fun to hang around with, and most importantly, she knew what she could expect from him.
Every time his mother took him to meet a new girl, he felt like he was disappointing her. And that made him angry. He did not care about these women. He wanted to go back home. He wanted to see -he took a sharp intake of breath- he wanted to see Takano. He even missed working like his life depended on it.
And this latest girl was slightly pushy, "Ne – give me your number!"
His mother was practically beaming; he could feel the subconscious message creeping into his head. 'Give her the number. Give her the number.'
Ritsu smiled pleasantly, "I can't. I just have my office number with me right now. I don't really remember my personal number." A blatant lie. Anyone could tell he did not want any part in this.
The girl looked slightly disappointed, but his mother was persistent, "Nonsense! Give her your office number then." She smiled at him, a dominating smile.
Ritsu could feel himself at a loss for what to say, he wanted to protest, but he took out his phone slowly and clasped on to it tightly, angry. His freedom was slipping away, again.
"Well?" His mother inquired pleasantly. He could see that the girl looked uncomfortable too, she smiled at him apologetically.
His mother stretched out her hand, as if asking for the phone. Before he realized what he was doing, he handed it over. And then quite suddenly, it hit him, and he wished he had just had a heart attack. His mother was staring at the phone with one eyebrow raised, trying to comprehend what the message meant.
The girl had taken the momentary confusion to slink away into the crowd. And in that sea of people, Ritsu suddenly felt deaf. Of course he had forgotten to close his message box before slipping his phone shut, and of course he had saved Yokozawa's name as 'Yokozawa Takafumi.' And there was no way a woman could be named Takafumi. This would get very interesting.
"Is this Yokozawa-san a friend?" His mother inquired, unsure of how to interpret the text.
"Well… not exactly…." Ritsu started, thinking of how they had more of a 'I'm definitely your boss and you work for me" relationship, though why Yokozawa still thought that, he had no idea.
"So, is he your…?" His mother was blushing now, not sure how to finish the sentence. At heart, she had always been rather conventional.
"Is he my?" Ritsu was curious about what she was thinking now.
"Ritsu, when you said you 'loved someone', did you not mean…?" She was still trying to figure out how to finish the sentence. It was not an easy topic to breach; especially when her only son was the heir to a rather large publication house.
His mother took a sharp breath, looked him straight in the eyes and asked, "Is this person you love, a man?"
Ritsu stumbled over his own two feet. It was an act he was quite unused to since his high school days. He stumbled, he fell and he hit his head. Trust his mother to be that direct with him. He looked at her, a pleading look in his eyes. She did not answer. She simply handed him back the phone and walked away. For the rest of the night, she did not try to introduce him to any new girls.
Someone was knocking on his door. Ritsu groaned as he touched his head. It was throbbing. Drinking himself to sleep was not a good idea, but with how his mother had been avoiding him for the rest of the night, he could think of nothing better than to have something that would help him forget it all.
"Ritsu?" The knock came again; from the voice on the other side he could tell that it was his mother.
He slowly dragged himself across the room and opened the door. His mother was dressed impeccably, as always. Except her eyes. She had far too much make up on for this time of the morning, he was sure she had not slept a wink.
She looked at him, "Were you drinking?"
He nodded, almost ready to close the door out of impulse. He held himself back at the last minute – this person on the other side of the door was not Takano. She looked quite taken aback at his obvious annoyance as well.
"I…" She fumbled where she stood, "I wanted to apologize." She said after finally gathering her bearings.
"Hmm?" Ritsu could feel his eyes widen in surprise.
"I wanted to apologize that you didn't think you could tell me, that you were… involved with a man."
Ritsu could feel his stomach hurting, a lot. Either he was having a bad dream, or…. He was having a bad dream.
"Have you told father?" He asked.
She shook her head, "I don't want to until I'm sure you've made up your mind."
There were so many things that he wanted to tell her, the most important one being, 'What if I already have?'
"I'll support you." His mother continued, "I can't understand yet, but…"
Ritsu smiled at her, surprised at her attempts to salvage their relationship, "You never needed my permission did you?" She asked him.
Ritsu shook his head no.
He felt bad; he could see that his mother was not happy with his decision to be with Takano. He was not sure how far Takano wanted to go with him either, all he knew was that for that one moment, he knew there was no one else he could picture himself with.
His mother looked at him with a determined look on her face, "I want to meet him, then. I'll reserve my judgment till I do. But I must meet with him."
Ritsu kept smiling and shaking his head until it finally hit him, "Wait. Meet who?"
And with that, all semblance of consciousness left his body.
Onodera Ritsu was convinced that life hated him.
Of all the people that his mother could have mistaken his secret lover for, it had to be the one person who possibly hated him the most. He was not sure how he was going to explain this to Takano, it was all a simple misunderstanding at any rate. His mother had turned red when he had explained the story to her and she had sent him hurtling back home. She was far too domestic for her own good. One phone conversation with Yokozawa over how 'sick' Takano was had convinced her that Ritsu needed to return. Ritsu was not sure if 'lovesickness' of this sort was a real disease. She was quite impressed with Yokozawa, claiming that Ritsu should be careful before 'that charming man' took his love away. She liked that he was tending to the sick, weak Takano.
Ritsu had shrugged it off, he knew Yokozawa better now to know that he would not. At least he prayed for that, it was difficult to completely forget his previous animosity towards him. Either way, she still wanted to meet Yokozawa.
He lugged his suitcase out of the elevator, glad to be back home. But there was one place he had to check before he went inside his apartment. He stopped in front of Takano's apartment and rang the bell. He could hear shuffling noises coming from the inside. Finally the door opened. Yokozawa stood on the other side of the door. He moved aside to let Ritsu into the apartment. The latter went inside, suitcase and all, being careful to avert any form of eye contact with the man.
Inside, Takano was sitting in front of his sofa, a cup of coffee in front of him, "Takano-san?"
The man turned to look at Ritsu. It took him a few seconds, but he finally smiled. Ritsu could tell what was wrong; it was about those texts that were never returned. How many had he received? Thirty? Forty?
"Ah – Takano-san, we need to talk." He tried to smile pleasantly and seated himself in front of the man.
An awkward silence filled the air. Eventually, it was Yokozawa who broke it, "I need to get going now."
"Wait!" Ritsu spoke out before he could stop himself, "I need to talk to you too."
"Why?" Takano finally spoke
Yokozawa looked equally confused, "Me?"
"Just, please sit down." Ritsu tried to not sound quite so nervous, but he really had no idea how to explain the situation. He was thankful Yokozawa had not brought up his mother's strange phone call from earlier that morning.
Yokozawa closed the door to the apartment and came to sit next to Takano. The latter quickly picked up his cup of coffee and placed it on the floor as far away from Yokozawa as he could. Ritsu inhaled deeply and began the story.
Ritsu turned red under the stare from the two men in front of him. Takano look insanely amused, all traces of his previous depression had gone away. Yokozawa looked bewildered – he was not quite sure how he fitted into the whole problem, except for the part where he had picked up the wrong call at the wrong time.
"Your mother wants to meet me?" Yokozawa asked to confirm what he had heard, "Why?"
Ritsu nodded his head, trying his best not to look at the pair, "She thinks you're charming." He mumbled. He could hear Yokozawa cough. How he wished he could sink into the floor right about now.
"We should arrange a meeting together." Takano proposed.
"Eh? What?" Ritsu and Yokozawa shouted at the same time. Takano was just a little too happy with the situation, Ritsu felt.
"I'm not very good with parents." Takano looked to Yokozawa, "You know that."
"Yes, well." Yokozawa was beginning to back down, Ritsu could feel it.
"And since none of my parents will bother with what I do, you might as well come." He smiled again.
Ritsu sighed as he went to fix himself a cup of coffee. Takano was capable, very capable indeed.
For the first time in a week Ritsu slept peacefully. He dreamt of nice things, his childhood, his favorite books, his dreams, and his favorite scent.
He woke just once during that night. Something soft had been tickling his nose. When he opened his eyes, he saw that it was Takano's hair. He brushed through it lightly while wondering why he felt peaceful. He was not attached to this man; he had learnt a long time ago that believing in something wholeheartedly was painful. If only his heart listened to him once in a while.
And with that, he went to sleep.
"Takano-san! We'll be late for work!" Shouted Ritsu as he clamored about the place trying to find something clean that might fit him. The clothes he had taken for the wedding were all dirty, and he had not bothered to do any more laundry before that.
"Hmm." Groaned Takano, quite peaceful where he lay.
"Don't 'hmm' me. Get up!" Said Ritsu as he tried to pry the comforter off of Takano. The man struggled to keep it on him. He was acting like a big baby, again. Ritsu had noticed this before, but whenever it came down to it Takano seemed to prefer extra attention. He had been perfectly capable of getting to work on time by himself before he insisted that Ritsu spend almost every night at his place. Though admittedly, he had come in all of his own accord the night before.
"Breakfast! It's going to burn." Ritsu felt himself stiffen as he let go of the comforter and went hurtling towards the kitchen.
"Breakfast in bed?" Takano mumbled before he smiled to himself. He was not sure whether he should be happy that Ritsu was cooking for him, or sad that he was the one doing the cooking. He appreciated the effort though. He tugged the comforter over his head to block out the sunlight. He would wait for a little longer before letting Ritsu know it was Sunday. It would serve him right for not replying to his texts. Within minutes, he was asleep.
"No, you can't come." Yokozawa stared at Kirishima. The latter casually looked back, "Why not?"
Yokozawa blushed," I'm going there as…."
"Mama Takano." Kirishima finished.
Yokozawa almost dropped his glass of water. This was not any sort of thing he wanted to talk about over breakfast, "No, no! This isn't a… marriage arrangement!" He had never imagined a day would come when he would have to utter something quite so ridiculous.
"I know." Kirishima smiled. "But I'm coming too."
"Me too!" The third member at their table piped up.
Yokozawa decided that the conversation should end there. The less he spoke about this, the better. Why he even bothered to tell Kirishima at all, he would never understand.
But there were some stories that were just too bizarre to keep to oneself.
A/N: Hope you enjoyed the chapter! I know it's a bit different from what I've written before. It honestly came out completely different from what I had originally planned! But, I did have fun writing it. I didn't want to make Mama Onodera seem like a bad person, and I hope she turned out to be a little likable. I wonder if she'll feature more in this story?
Also, I'm thankful for Kirishima. :) He makes for very interesting 'extras'.
Do R&R. And thank you for encouraging me to keep writing this story. I did not want to give up on it, and honestly, I felt intimidated by a few previous chapters and always worry about how I can surpass them. I suppose that is my problem. Either way, enough of my rambling! Thank you again for reading this!