A/N: Spoilers for the entire anime of Sekaiichi Hatsukoi, especially for Episode 12 of Season 2. This fanfic is based entirely on the anime as I have yet to read the manga. The lovely characters of Sekaiichi Hatsukoi do not belong to me, but to their creators. With that, ENJOY!

Info:

'Uzai…' Loosely translated to, 'You're annoying…'

'Ore no nani wo shitteirun da yo?' Loosely translated to, 'What the heck do you know about me?'

'Kaiwa mo shita koto ne noni suki toka honki de imi wakan ne dakedo.' Loosely translated to, 'We've never even had a conversation, and you say you love me. That makes absolutely no sense to me.'

'Kimoi…' Loosely translated to, 'You're disgusting…'

'To iu ka, maji de kimoin dakedo!' Loosely translated to, 'To be honest, it's really digusting!'

Senpai – loosely translated to 'senior'

Kouhai – loosely translated to 'junior'

'-san' – polite suffix used to show respect for a superior

Say the Words

'I… I…'

Onodera Ritsu stuttered, his breath escaping him in short pants, his heart thumping loudly, echoing in his ears, his mind.

'I… I…'

He, most probably, wasn't aware that his pupils had dilated, dilated so far and wide that they had all but engulfed his eyes, leaving behind a void of darkness.

Turmoil.

Lust.

Fear.

'I… I…'

Ritsu couldn't understand why he could never bring himself to complete the sentence; why the words never seemed to find their way past the choked up ball that always found its way into his throat at the most inopportune of moments. His boss, his lover, Takano Masamune, just looked at him silently, brow wrinkled, eyes dark. Ritsu couldn't place, didn't understand, the look that was painted on his usually calm lover's strong features. The uncertainty made it worse, the ball of nerves sitting heavily in his gut tightening to the point of physical pain.

'I… I…'

Yet, at the same time, he could understand the solid touch of the strong hands around him, the comforting warmth of the large palms cradling the small of his back, caressing him, tenderly holding him. Ritsu's own slender hands tightened, his fingers threatening to tear into the thin cotton of the shirt that Takano-san had carelessly flung on himself in the afterglow of their latest session of love making. He shivered slightly, the thin material of his own shirt, which Takano-san had thrown at him, sliding over his still sensitized skin even as Takano-san's fingers splayed over his back, drawing tender circles underneath the shirt.

Takano-san always held him like this, like Ritsu was the most treasured thing in his possession.

Precious.

And, most loved.

'I love you.'

Ritsu started, jerking back slightly, though not enough to dislodge himself from where he sat wrapped in the other man's arms, as his startled eyes met intense black orbs. The words, the words he meant to say, they had been released, but it wasn't his voice that reached his ears.

It was Takano-san's.

His older lover still looked down at him, gaze just as unreadable, but Ritsu recognized a sliver of emotion that had crept in, recognized it as well as the heat that traveled through his veins, the fire that lit a rosy hue in all the places on his body that he couldn't bring himself to fully name. He gasped, a soft surprised sound escaping him, as Takano-san cupped his face, the palm of his skin cool against Ritsu's crimson cheeks, slightly sticky from the sweat of their exertions.

'Look at me.' His lover's husky demand sent trembles down Ritsu's spine even as Takano-san forced him, firmly tender and never aggressive, to look the other man in the eye. Ritsu had been utterly unaware that his eyes had shifted, his head bowing almost imperceptibly, a completely unconscious gesture, even as his emotions had engulfed him. It wasn't something he had meant to do.

Ritsu stiffened.

But, it was familiar.

It was as if Takano-san read his mind, as if he had sensed the shift in Ritsu's thoughts, as his fingers tightened their hold on Ritsu's chin, preventing the younger man from moving his head at all.

'I love you.'

The eyes that looked at him, Ritsu could see himself reflected in them, and it took all his self-control to stop himself from closing his own eyes.

From closing himself off.

Those eyes. They were loving and intense. They were apologetic but demanding. A little hurt, more than a little terrified, but still hopeful.

Pleading.

'I…'

Mentally, Ritsu shook himself. This silence, this creature always seemed to creep up between him and Takano-san. It dogged their company, clung desperately to a bond it had no place in, its claws tearing into a fragile fabric of a relationship, drawing blood.

Hurting Takano-san.

Always, always hurting Takano-san.

How many times had this happened? How many times had Ritsu pushed Takano-san away? Pushed him away, and yet allowing him in, just a little, a fleeting moment, the second Ritsu feared losing Takano-san, the second he feared that Takano-san would give up on him? The younger man had thought he was over this, that he was over being so volatile, so hurtful to the one he loved, the moment he had admitted it to himself.

That he had admitted and fully accepted that he too loved Takano-san in return.

They were officially a couple now, had been steadily dating for two years in fact. Ritsu still protested, more for the sake of show and pride, and mostly when they were in a public place, and only because he knew that Takano-san still got some amusement from having to wear him down before they got on to more couple stuff. They wouldn't be them if they didn't bicker, and play cat and mouse a little. He was less brusque about it, less distant, initiating just as many casual touches, though heavier, more meaningfully intentional ones were still more of Takano-san's specialty as Ritsu had still been unable to stop the embarrassment that seemed to freeze him in his tracks the moment his mind went its merry way down the gutter.

Despite it all, Ritsu had never been able to say it.

The worst part was, Takano-san had just accepted it, accepted it as part of what their relationship was. Those words fell easily enough from Takano-san's lips, playful when he was teasing, tender when he was in the mood, gruff when it was said as he saw Ritsu off from work or when they ended a call, mumbled when he was partially asleep, impassionate when they were ensconced in throes of passion.

Always sincere. Always loving.

Ritsu tried his hardest to answer to that sincerity, the complete love that was showered upon him. He tried to show it in his actions, tried to gauge his own responses, his own sense of normalcy, based on what Takano-san wanted, needed. He did love Takano-san, with all his heart, with every cell in his body, every fibre in his being, and he wanted, desperately wanted, Takano-san to know that.

But, when it came to putting that desperate want into words, Ritsu always froze. Sometimes Takano-san waited for it, sometimes he didn't, but it tore into Ritsu the acceptance that came with yet another bout of silence.

That damned silence.

Ritsu hated the silence.

Or, more accurately, he inwardly scoffed bitterly, he hated himself for causing it.

Even he himself didn't understand it. Why couldn't he say it? Why couldn't he when he would do everything, when he would do anything, for Takano-san? Compared to some of the things he knew he would do for the other man, sometimes scaring himself at how far he would go, saying three measly words seemed simple enough.

Except that it wasn't.

And, a part of Ritsu, the one part that continued to hold him back, that part of him knew.

Because saying it would mean that it would be real. That there was no going back. That the final barrier, the one closest to Ritsu's heart would finally collapse.

That Onodera Ritsu would really and truly belong only to Takano Masamune.

And, that terrified Ritsu most of all.

The complete trust.

The lack of control.

The power to hurt.

The vulnerability of being defenseless.

Of being hurt.

Of being broken.

It may have been strange that someone who would give his life for his lover was scared of simply telling said lover that he loved him. But for Ritsu, it made sense.

After all, more than actions, Ritsu's entire life had been made out of words.

Ever since his fingers had touched the yellowed paper of worn leather bound books, ever since the scent of ink had taken permanent residence as a cloak that clung to his skin, ever since his eyes had begun devouring the tiny splotches of black across white and his mind began traversing the worlds, experiences, that they could bring, ever since then, Ritsu had understood the power of words.

And, he had understood the power that words could have on him.

Uzai…

Ritsu had known that he was. Who wouldn't be annoyed by such forceful emotions? Such stifling company?

Especially since the company was unwanted.

Unwanted.

Ore no nani wo shitteirun da yo?

He hadn't known much, if anything at all about senpai. He had only known one thing; that he loved him. That, despite all the things Ritsu didn't know, the things he did, such as the books Saga-senpai loved, the way Saga-senpai read those books, the way Saga-senpai simply was whenever Ritsu was looking at him.

He knew that Saga-senpai, and he knew that he loved him.

Kaiwa mo shita koto ne noni suki toka honki de imi wakan ne dakedo.

But, what did Ritsu know? Nothing. After seeing Saga-senpai, being with him in the same school, the same library, hanging out with him day in and day out, what did Ritsu know?

Absolutely nothing.

And now, there was ten years between them.

Ten years…

Ritsu could feel Takano-san start as he jerked out of his lover's hands, blindly pushing himself away, away from it all, until his back hit the wall. Feeling panic start to suffocate him, Ritsu didn't even notice that he had rather roughly batted away his lover's concerned hands.

'Oi-!'

Strong hands firmly grabbed flailing ones, pinning Ritsu against the wall.

'Onodera!'

That name. That's right. He was Onodera now, Onodera Ritsu. Not Oda Ritsu. No longer Oda Ritsu.

It was stupid. He was being stupid. It was ten years ago. They were two completely different people now. Onodera Ritsu and Takano Masamune. Working adults. Boss and subordinate. Partners. Neighbours.

Lovers.

They were not who they were ten years ago.

Uzai…

Takano-san was not Saga Masamune. He was not senpai.

Kimoi…

And, he, he was no longer Oda Ritsu; the innocent, naïve school boy, the kouhai who had worshipped at the feet of his beloved senpai.

To iu ka, maji de kimoin dakedo!

Ritsu had always blamed it on the smile, the supposedly innocent gesture that had brought about a devastating end to something that had meant the world to Ritsu, changing him entirely, remolding him into the person he was today.

But, the smaller part of him, the one he now realized, the part that made up the young innocent school boy called Oda Ritsu, that part knew that that had only been the straw on the camel's back.

The turning point had been those words, words uttered in hurt, words meant to hurt.

The younger editor knew that he was being ridiculous. Rationally, he knew that he shouldn't be holding those words against senpai, against Takano-san. People said the worst things when they were cornered. Heck, he had said some pretty hellish things himself. And, senpai had been hurt, had simply wanted to find release.

But, it had also been the worst possible moment for Ritsu, and the worst possible person for Saga-senpai.

For Ritsu, who had left himself open in his vulnerability, defenseless in his sincere desire to help because he loved, because he had given his all to this one person who made up his entire world.

For Ritsu, who in that heated moment of hurt, with those carelessly uttered words, unintentional yet purposeful, striking where it hurt most, delving into Ritsu's every insecurity and every hidden doubt, it had done harm in ways neither boy had realized.

It had broken him.

And though Ritsu had returned, a part of him had always been waiting, waiting for the right moment, for the right reason, the right excuse to run away and never look back. To run away and forget, forget about how he hated himself because the one he loved most didn't even seem to like the one thing he actually did like about himself.

That he had been willing to give up everything for the one he loved.

That he had only wanted to be accepted, and when he thought he had gained that acceptance, he realized that he had only been an unwanted annoyance.

That though his intentions had been pure, it had disgusted Saga-senpai.

That he had tried to give the best of himself, but it had not been enough.

That was why it had been so easy to leave, to just disappear.

Because what Ritsu could give had not been enough.

Had not been wanted.

So what did it matter if he was no longer there?

'I…'

Ritsu gasped as his words were forcefully stifled, his breath stolen from him as Takano-san flung himself on Ritsu, pulling him into a strong body.

'You don't need to force yourself if you can't say it.'

The words were meant to be comforting, but, despite the fact that they were barely shapes mumbled into the crook of his neck, Ritsu could still make out the underlying anguish. Ritsu's eyes widened. He knew that anguish as well as he knew that back of his own hand. He knew it so well that he could feel his heart throb with it even as his arms wound themselves around Takano-san's body, tightening.

He knew it. He knew it all too well.

Because he too had experience it.

The pain of rejection.

Even though you wanted so badly to be accepted.

The pain of not being enough, of being unwanted.

Even when you had given everything you had, desperate enough to offer up even the worst of yourself when simply the best had not been enough.

Ritsu needed to say it. They had come full circle.

This was their turning point.

'I-I-I love you.'

Soft. Trembling. Barely there.

But, Ritsu had said it, he had finally said it.

And, judging from the way Takano-san had roughly torn away from Ritsu's hold, staring at his lover now, eyes wide as dinner plates, it had reached its goal.

Ritsu had said it.

And, more importantly, Takano-san had heard it.

But, before Ritsu even had the time to process his triumph, Takano-san pulled Ritsu back into his arms, his face buried in Ritsu's neck, tilted so that his lips barely brushed against Ritsu's ear.

'Say it again.'

One heartbeat.

Two heartbeats.

Ritsu stared down at the head of hair in shock. Again? Say it again? How-?

How could he when it had been so hard the first time?

'Takan-?'

'Please, say it again.' Takano-san reached out, cupping his face in his large warm palms, bringing his forehead again Ritsu's, their noses touching, so close that they shared the same breaths.

'I need you to say it again, so this time, it can be different.'

Ritsu's eyes, which had fluttered closed, flew open in surprise. Different?

Ore no nani wo shitteirun da yo?

Takano-san continued, his tone growing more urgent, more desperate. 'You know me. You know me better than anyone else. You are my lover, the one I have chosen. You know me, and you know I love you. I love you. Above anyone else, above even my own life, I love you.'

Kaiwa mo shita koto ne noni suki toka honki de imi wakan ne dakedo.

'It's been ten years. More, if you count the time we've been together. We still have a lot to catch up on, but Onodera, when I met you again, we were back to square one. We didn't get along. We've argued, we've fought, we've bickered, we've even ignored each other, but we still ended up here. Maybe we need to talk more, be more honest with each other, but even now, even when we misunderstand each other, I will never doubt two things. I will never doubt that I love you. I will never doubt that you love me.'

Takano-san took a deep breath, meaning punctuating every word. 'I'm not going to give up on you. I will always be here. I will always be yours.'

Ritsu couldn't breathe, his heart thumping so loudly that he was sure he was going to leap right out of his mouth.

To iu ka, maji de kimoin dakedo!

'I want you Onodera.'

Passion.

Desire.

Devotion.

Love.

'Be mine.'

The heat in Takano-san's voice, the feeling of being so utterly loved and desired, of being wanted, Ritsu could feel the electrifying tangle of emotions roil against his skin. This was the point of no turning back. There was no more hiding, no more running.

'I love you.'

Vulnerable.

Defenseless.

'I love you too.'

And, so utterly safe.

Protected.

Needed.

Desired.

No longer unwanted.

For the first time, in all the times they had joined together as one, that night, Ritsu initiated the contact. Under the lightest touches, the slightest twists, he could feel Takano-san unwinding in careless abandon. For the first time, Ritsu didn't bother to stifle his cries, his wonton expressions as his lover skillfully played him like a well-loved instruments, drawing from him sounds that even he didn't know he could make, reactions that even he didn't know he could give. For the first time, Ritsu kept his eyes opened, not hiding the sinful weakness he had for his lover, and he was rewarded by the sight of two intense orbs looking at him, and only him, in that same weakness and desire.

As he reached his climax, Ritsu unconsciously flung his arms over his face, only to have them be stop in midair by Takano-san's firm hold. 'Don't hide from me,' ordered Takano-san huskily, 'You're mine. I want you.'

'All of you.'

A final thrust.

And, twin voices cried out. Ritsu was falling, falling, his control spiraling out of his grasp. But, this time, for the first time, the adrenaline came without a hint of fear.

'I love you, Onodera Ritsu.'

As lips met lips, Ritsu formed the voiceless words against his lover's kiss. 'I love you too, Takano Masamune.'

Because giving yourself wasn't enough.

You had to be wanted.

Accepted.

Oda Ritsu might not have known what it was like to be given such a precious gift; the power to protect, the strength to be vulnerable.

But, Onodera Ritsu did.

The words of the past would no longer hurt him.

And, Ritsu would no longer allow silence to hurt Takano-san.

Because this was what it truly meant to say the words,

'I love you.'

~END~

END A/N:

Firstly, I would also love to say a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone else who have been so encouraging about this fic,and have supported me through it. The list of these amazing people include (but are not limited to),

Reviewers: mochiusagi, Meandsushiroll, NanaliJoci, LoveThis, pyopyo, Cet'lux, Blood Masks, Iolper girl, A Guest, Evilbunnies101 and FlipsideJJ.

I'm delighted that you enjoyed the story and truly appreciate your reviews and encouragement~ *hearts*

People who have added this story to their Favourites Lists: KawaiiChibi-tan, darknesse13, lyra dethrow writer, Cet'lux, Blood Masks, AnimeAdict202, Raksha Souza, MidnightJinx, LockTheLastOpenDoor1, Free Cake, Iolper girl, TheBookAddict, bla-bl-bl, tieriaISmine, EmoWithASpork, doki0300, Parafet, Soi Kusa, Azy0020, Golden Tinted Haze, HitsugayaLover16, luinlos, FlipsideJJ, GirlinBlue2364, Sasukeluva 4eva, Meandsushiroll, Fudo Masaru-Daichi, HebaAce, okaiskio, Kairichin, Junjou-chan, Jelly-Bean-Jr, iSweetDespair, Rocker-Scene, TheFamouslyUnfamousAuthor, favoritefool, levanter37, changsquawkzhang, Albinoos, TwoFacedPierrot, anime1hinata, eowyn278, OSarubiO, TakanoxOnodera4ever, KawaiiChibi-tan, KiraDarling, NanaliJoci and Steve The Star

People who have added this story to their Stories Alert Lists: anime1hinata and KawaiiChibi-tan

You amazing people have made me feel loved. Really, really thank you! :D

One of my reviewers was kind enough to take the time to leave her opinion on my use of Japanese in this fic. As it was an anonymous review, I have made the decision to re-post it here in order to address the concerns brought up in an appropriate manner. Here is her review,

Penname: Honest Alice

Review: This story had a lot of potential if it wasn't littered with
random Japanese. I understand the affinity towards the Japanese language after
watching anime, but when you write... if there's an English equivalent, use
English. There's no reason to mince languages, it just looks really tacky.

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to leave your opinions. It is definitely something I appreciate. And, I do understand your meaning on the mincing of languages within a story. However, I would also ask that you consider my opinion on the matter. While I usually have reservations about mixing languages like that in a story, this time around, I have chosen to leave the quotes directly as they are in Japanese based on much deliberation rather than just an affinity towards the language. Maybe it does look "really tacky", but this was a stylistic choice that I made because:

(1) I believed that the nuances and emotion in those lines would've been lost in translation. The emotional textures and tones of a conversation, and the character, personality and voice of a character changes according to the way words are used in the Japanese language; this would be lost in translation as there is simply no English equivalent that is able convey these subtle, intangible messages. While my story is in English, it doesn't change the fact that the source material was in Japanese; therefore, I believed that it was essential that I retain the original voice of Takano. The meaning behind the quotes, the emotions they captured, were simply too powerful, too pivotal in establishing the characters and their relationship in the context of a very canon moment within the anime, and it was because of this that I decided to leave them as they were.

(2) I also left the quotes in Japanese because I wanted to re-capture the moment in which these quotes were said; to bring my readers back to that moment in the library when Ritsu had poured his heart out and had felt rejected. Rather than "random Japanese", these actually play the role of written audio cues; I believe that when we experience and remember a moment in the anime, for foreign audiences like myself, we don't just understand it based on the subtitles we read (or the language we understand), but also based on the language that we hear. Especially in my story where the actual plot is so closely intertwined with that moment from the past, it was even more important that I re-capture that very moment, the character's voices, and the undertones that came from their choice of words.

Still, I thank you for your opinion, and hope that this will suffice as an explanation of my creative choices.

Another reviewer also left this review, and I wanted to PM him/her to thank him/her for spotting a typo I made, but since it was an anonymous review, I've decided to reply him/her here,

Penname: TW

Review: Um... not to be rude, but about the Japanese used... Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I think you made some mistakes. I'm not a native speaker, but I believe it's "urusai" not "uzai" and "kouhai" not "kouhaki" (I think you wrote kouhaki at the top and kouhai in the story). I understand why you included the Japanese, but personally I think one should stick to writing things in languages one speaks.

First of, thank you for leaving a comment pointing out a typo error I've made. It is indeed "kouhai" and not "kouhaki", and I do appreciate you pointing it out because the translations are important to the fic. I've corrected it accordingly, and I will be more careful in the future. :D However, "uzai" is correct. It is actually a more casual/rude way and rougher manner of saying "urusai". As for my use of Japanese, I have already explained my choices above, and while I do accept that everyone has a different point of view, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree? xD Still, thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I do appreciate it. *hearts*