Stronger than Fear

"Ritsu." A warm hand tousled his brown hair, ran down his shoulder blades to hold him close.

"Saga-senpai…"

"Onodera!" A book slammed on the desk only an inch from Onodera's face.

"Uwa! What the hell?" he yelled at the dark haired man standing over him.

"Wake up, work isn't done for the day yet," Takano barked.

"Sorry."

As usual, four hours later, only Takano and Onodera remained in the office.

"You know when you fell asleep earlier, you said my former name," Takano said as they stepped in the elevator.

"Uh! I did?"

He smiled. "Don't worry. No one knows that name but you and I, not even Yokozawa."

They walked to the train station. "Anyway, why don't we eat dinner at my place tonight? We need to talk."

Onodera looked at him suspiciously. "Why do I get the feeling it isn't a good idea?"

They stepped onto the last train.

"Nothing weird or bad will happen. I just want to talk. Besides, I already got food."

So here he sat at Takano's table across from him. A sub sandwich sat unwrapped on a plate along with a soda.

"No drinking tonight. You get drunk and forget everything. I need you to remember tonight."

The sandwich, Onodera's tongue remembered its taste even after 10 years.

Takano watched him curiously.

"You remember it, don't you?" he questioned. "Our first date."

Onodera stopped. He wanted to leave, before the situation left his hands.

"Takano, I should go -"

"Ritsu…we can't avoid it forever," Takano pointed out. "Tell me, why did you fall in love with me back then." He lay his head on his arms folded over the table. His soft brown eyes watched Onodera curiously.

"Ritsu…"

That voice….some part of Onodera wanted to hear it again, calling his name.

"I never jerked you around, Ritsu. I couldn't, I loved you. I still do, even after ten years," Takano admitted.

'My heart…why won't it calm down? Can he hear it?' Onodera worried

"Even if it's true…why? Why me? You could have anyone."

"You made me care again," Takano said. He took a deep breath and leaned back in his chair, folding his hands behind his head. "My parents fought constantly. I blamed myself and everyone around me, so by the time I met you, I hated everyone and myself. At first, you too." He looked over at Onodera to see his reaction. "I thought to break your will, I was so blinded by fear and hate. I couldn't understand why you cared so much." He paused again, watching Onodera's expressions change.

"After that first night you stayed over, I realized you made the stress and pain lighter and before I knew it I'd fallen in love. I was so ready to give up on everything, until you came into the picture."

A long minute of silence hung between them. Onodera said the first thing that struggled off his shocked tongue.

"Y-your lying…you have to be."

Suddenly strong arms pulled Onodera from his seat, against Takano's chest.

"Taka-"

"Do I sound like I'm lying?" he murmured against Onodera's shoulder.

His heart's beating so fast. I can feel it pounding through me, or is that mine?

"No," Onodera admitted.

"You're afraid, I understand. Afraid of what will happen if you fall in love with me again, afraid of being hurt again." Takano spoke quietly, as if calming a child.

"Can you forgive me, Ritsu? Can we face the fears of the past that hold us back?"

His voice…velvet, pleading….beautiful.

Onodera turned his face into Takano's shoulder and raised his arms to wrap around him. "Yes…Senpai."

Takano's arms tightened slightly. He buried his face in Ritsu's neck. "Ritsu, my little stalker…and savior."