A/N: First of all, I want to dedicate this fic to my best friend HookedOnMitchelMusso, she's always supporting me and I don't know what I'd do without her... Happy birthday, girl! You know I love you (shuuuup) XD I hope you like this :3
Well, now the disclaimer... I don't own Sekaiichi Hatsukoi, nor the songs used in this fic, which are: Romeo and Juliet by The Killers (which is also a cover from Dire Straits, but personally, I prefer The Killers version), Never Stop by Safetysuit and May I by Trading Yesterday. Anyways, I hope you enjoy:) Please R&R!
The last of the Sakura petals
Juliet, when we made love you used to cry
I said, "I love you like the stars above, I love you till I die."
Ritsu sat in his desk at Emerald's department, fidgeting nervously. He could already feel the heat, the blush making its way to his face and the erratic beating of his heart. He frowned stubbornly. Why? Why did he always feel like that whenever he was thinking of Takano-san?
Oh, how much he hated it. He hated him. This man, why did he always have to make his life impossible?!
He glared at him, and it would've been perfect if Takano hadn't raised his eyes in that exact same moment to meet with Ritsu's. It only made his blush deepen and he looked down, trying to calm himself and focus in his work.
But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't think of anything else. And no matter how much he didn't want to admit it, the reason why he was so impatient was because Takano's birthday was approaching, and he had nothing to give him. He wasn't supposed to care, anyway, but he did. He awfully did.
He sighed in defeat and forced himself to read the manuscript he was checking. He should really keep his mind in his work, now more than ever.
Suddenly, someone burst in the department loudly. Ritsu looked at the obviously rushed figure, noticing it was his friend, Kisa Shouta, who had just arrived.
"Good morning!" Kisa greeted as he entered running and sat down in his place. The tension in the department was noticeable as the end of the cycle was approaching, so no one really paid attention to him.
"Morning," Takano answered not looking at him, too absorbed in a draft he was examining.
"Good morning," Ritsu greeted back.
"Kisa-san, you're late," Mino pointed out blatantly, smiling as always.
"I know, and I'm really sorry! But there was just so much traffic today at Mitsuhashi Street, it was crazy!"
Ritsu's eyes widened at the mention of Mitsuhashi Street, and suddenly he found himself interested in the conversation. Mitsuhashi Street was where his high school was: Mitsuhashi High School, the place where he had met Takano.
"Ah, I know. It's due to the new school building they're planning to make, right? There's been a lot of commotion about it."
A new school building? Ritsu haven't heard anything about it. Anyway, what was wrong with that? What was the commotion about? Somehow, he felt like it concerned him. After all, it had been his high school. It had been the place where he'd spent so many memories, both good and bad and…
"Yeah," Kisa replied. "I heard the students have been making protest campaigns and—"
"Excuse me," Ritsu couldn't restrain himself from speaking, "What are you talking about?"
"Oh, Ricchan, don't you know?" Kisa asked him gently. "They're planning to expand Mitsuhashi High School by constructing a new building, but it's caused so much trouble with the students, teachers and other people because they're trying to cut down the Sakura trees around it."
"What?!" Ritsu roared involuntarily. "Why would they do that?!"
"I don't know, but I think it's unfair. I don't think they should cut those trees down."
"Yeah. Neither do I," Mino added, and despite the seriousness of the matter, he was still smiling. "Those trees are beautiful and an important part of nature."
Kisa nodded energetically and turned to look at Ritsu, who was looking at the floor, suddenly gloomy. Those trees were beautiful and important, just like Mino had said, but there were other reasons why Ritsu cared about them…
"And what do you think, Ricchan?"
He shook his head. He knew he shouldn't be feeling like that, but it still meant something to him. The Sakura trees… The Sakura petals… Even now, he could remember Takano and him talking in the library, surrounded by them. They were a link to his past and it hurt so much to finally let go…
"I think we should get back to work."
The day is done and your smile has gone away.
Staring at the old high school building was hard for him. There was a knot in his stomach and throat, and he could feel his heart pounding frenetically in his ribcage, so hard that it hurt. He swallowed hardly, and asked himself why he'd come there in the first place, because it brought so many memories and the wound was still fresh; but the reasons didn't really matter; after all, he'd ended up going there anyway.
The wind was blowing and the sky was gray, and it was evident that soon was going to snow. Ritsu was trembling despite his bulky clothes; however, he didn't seem to notice —or maybe he just didn't care. He was far too busy dealing with his feelings to mind.
He remembered himself ten years ago, full of innocence and love. He remembered those times when he was just a naïve teenager who had just fallen in its spell.
He remembered observing that person secretly, reading all the books he read, and the first time they talked. He remembered their conversations, and how their only witnesses had been the books and the Sakura petals that seeped in through the windows and floated freely around them…
Before he could help it, he was already crying. Tears were falling down his cheeks and on the ground, and he sobbed and tried to calm himself.
But… Why? Why did it hurt so much? Why did all the good memories have to fade away? Why did.. Takano-san…
When you gonna realize it was just that the time was wrong, Juliet?
Ritsu hiccupped as he raised his hands to his eyes and rubbed them to wipe the tears away. He was being stupid. This was pitiful. No, he wouldn't cry anymore, he wasn't supposed to cry, because it wasn't supposed to ache…
He sighed, he'd been out in the cold for a good while and it wasn't good for him. Besides, he was really tired… It had been a tough day, full of emotions he wanted to bury and forget. He needed to go home now, before it got dark and started snowing. He was about to leave, when…
"Onodera?" A voice asked from behind, and Ritsu froze because he knew exactly who it was.
"T-Takano-san!" He stammered, turning around to look at him. He could already feel himself flushing brightly, and he mentally cursed himself for that but there was nothing he could do about it. He could only hope that he wouldn't notice he'd been crying recently. "What are you doing here?!"
"I overheard what you were talking with Kisa and Mino this morning, and I wanted to see it with my own eyes," Takano broke the eye contact between them to look at his surroundings, and it seemed as if he was lost in some deep, sweet thought. Ritsu tossed his head somewhere else, sensing that it was a private moment for him to watch. A new sadness invaded him by thinking that this may be the last time he saw the trees, and he stared down at his feet.
"These trees… I can't believe they're gonna cut them down."
Takano met Ritsu's eyes again. He sighed.
"You know.. This place is really important to me. It carries so many memories," he admitted fearlessly. That was one of the reasons Ritsu hated him sometimes, how could he talk about his feelings so openly? He envied him, detested him and yet…
"And what're you doing here, Onodera?" Takano asked, though the answer was obvious. Ritsu cared about this place too, and he knew it well. Still, he'd never give up until he got a formal confession out of him.
The brown-haired male blushed again. He didn't want to talk with Takano about this. It hurt so much, and he wasn't supposed to feel that way, for God's sake, it had been ten years already! He needed to move on! He needed to tell him to go away, to disappear from his life forever, he didn't need him! He didn't want to see him again!
"It's none of your business," he answered rudely, his bangs covering his eyes. Takano didn't flinch at the retort. Instead, he gave a few steps forward so he would be closer.
"Hey! What do you think you're doing?!" Ritsu reproached, giving some steps backwards in order to avoid him when he noticed his intentions. But Takano was already too close, and Ritsu closed his eyes tightly. He knew Takano was shameless, and he knew that his blush was betraying him again. He was expecting to feel some lips on his, but instead, the only thing he felt was a soft caress on his cheek. He opened his eyes, startled.
Takano's hand fell limp at his side, a little concerned. Ritsu's skin was very cold and he was looking paler than always, except for his pink cheeks and nose —probably due to embarrassment, but mostly to the cold. Takano was pretty sure he was about to get sick. He grabbed Ritsu's wrist, and said:
"Come on. Let's go home."
"Huh?!" Ritsu tried to move away, but Takano was strong. "Let me go! I don't wanna go with you! Let me go!"
The black-haired male stopped and turned, placing his hands on Ritsu's shoulders. "Seriously, you're trembling. Just how much time have you been here?"
Ritsu averted Takano's eyes and stuttered. He hadn't even noticed he was shivering from the cold or how much time had passed since he'd arrived. It couldn't be that much, right? An hour, an hour and a half, maybe? And yet, his body was already suffering the consequences.
"I… Well.. I don't know, but I can go home on my own! I don't need your stupid help!"
"Don't be ridiculous," Takano rolled his brown eyes, starting to lose his patience. "For God's sake, Onodera, we live in the same building, and you don't have a car."
"Even so, I'd rather freeze to death than go with you," Ritsu answered spitefully.
"That may be your wish, but I won't let you here."
"What makes you think you can decide for me?!"
"Come on," Takano's expression turned stern and threatening, his eyes cold. There was a frown on his face. Ritsu gulped, clearly intimidated. "Don't make me cause a scene here."
Ritsu's face turned redder than a poppy. What did he mean with 'scene'? Well, whatever it was, he was sure he didn't want to know. He looked sideways and noticed there was still a few people at the school: some students coming from the library and some teachers that were just leaving. He certainly didn't want to call their attention.
Takano looked like he was enjoying it, a smirk on his face. That sick bastard! He always made Ritsu boil with rage! He always cornered him in a situation where he couldn't do anything. But one day, one day he'd tell him everything he thought about him, just not now. It was not the time or the place. So, Ritsu took a deep breath and mumbled obstinately:
"Fine. Let's go."
The trip back home was silent.
Takano was busy driving and Ritsu stared blankly at the window, still shaken by all the mixed feelings inside of him: there was anger, impotence and weariness; and even if he didn't want to admit it, there was sadness too. He glared at Takano, everything was his fault, it always was…
Takano felt the heavy look upon him and he gave Ritsu a short glance before focusing back on the road. "Don't look at me like that. I did it for your own sake."
"Yeah, right," he hissed, turning to look at the window again. He didn't feel like fighting. The lights of the city and the car's motion were calming and Ritsu was starting to get drowsy. Now that he thought about it, he'd been feeling listless for a good while, but he couldn't allow himself to fall sleep in Takano's car. He wanted to arrive home soon so he could have a good rest. He needed it: it had been an intense day at work and at the school.
He closed his eyes. Only a minute, he thought, it'll be only a minute.
He was floating.
He didn't know how or why, but Ritsu felt like he was floating. He trembled. He was freezing, and he tried to remember where he was, but his thoughts were a mess and his head was starting to ache. Slowly, he opened his eyes. His vision was blurry. He blinked a few times and waited, and then he felt how he was placed on another surface.
When his vision was clear again the first thing he saw was Takano, indecipherable brown eyes on him. Surprised, he sat up quickly, but his body headed directly to the floor. He was lucky Takano reacted fast, for he caught him right before he collapsed.
Ritsu's legs felt weak and his hands wouldn't stop trembling. His stomach churned and his eyelids were heavy. The black-haired male shook him gently, noticing his cheeks were an intense pink. He'd been right; Ritsu was definitely going to get sick. He was already feverish.
Ritsu opened his eyes and found himself between Takano's arms and on the floor. He gave a start, but he hadn't enough strength to struggle.
"Takano-san, let me go," he demanded quietly.
"Where are we?"
"We're in my apartment. You fell asleep in my car."
"I see," Ritsu shifted, trying to move and stand up in his own. His head was spinning, but he didn't want to stay at Takano's place. "Sorry. I got dizzy all of a sudden, but I feel better now."
Takano exhaled, a little bit relieved that Ritsu was safe. He'd given him a good fright.
"No, you don't. You're sick," he pointed out so he would stop fighting to move. It was obvious he didn't have the energy to.
"I'm not," Ritsu denied. He was probably terribly embarrassed, but the dye in his face did not give him away this once. It could be well attributed to the fever. He did one last attempt to move away before Takano raised him in his arms, carrying him bridal style.
Ritsu tried to squirm once more, but it was so weak it barely bothered Takano. "H-Hey.. I can stand up on my own.."
Takano raised an eyebrow. Typicall of Ritsu, he was unbelievable. He could barely even move and he was trying to convince him to let him go. He sighed.
"You're always so stubborn."
Ritsu exhaled slowly, but didn't reply. His mind was hazy and he couldn't think of anything coherent. His body had lost its will to fight Takano's efforts. Fragments of the day travelled through his mind chaotically: the Sakura trees' matter, Takano's birthday present, the end of the cycle…
They reached a bedroom and Takano placed him on the bed and covered him with the blankets. Ritsu's body thanked the softness of the mattress and instinctively, he made himself comfortable. Before drifting away to sleep completely, Ritsu had one last lucid moment. His eyes fluttered open and his dazed gaze met Takano's. No matter how bad he felt, he couldn't fall sleep. Not here, at least. Also, what about work? He had so much to do!
"Takano-san.. I need to go home…"
In response, Takano's eyes turned comforting and soft. Almost paternal, but different. No, he wouldn't let him go away. He wanted him to stay there, to protect him and make sure he recovered soon. He would take care of him. He patted his head compassionately and whispered:
"You just sleep. I'll take care of everything."
May I be your shield,
When no one can be found
May I lay you down?
The following days were a blur in Ritsu's mind. He opened his eyes every once in a while, but he didn't know whether he was dreaming or not. Reality and his subconscious were so perfectly blended it was hard to notice anymore.
The first time he woke up, he didn't notice when he'd been changed into some pajamas or when Takano had placed a cool towel on his forehead.
One of many times, he awoke because he felt terribly hungry. He didn't feel like eating, but his stomach said otherwise. He remembered Takano being all the time next to him, helping him whenever he needed to get up —to go to the bathroom, to eat, to shower… Takano helped him with every little thing and Ritsu had no other option but to let it be.
Another time, finally, Ritsu awoke. This time though, he was completely conscious. The curtains were closed and he couldn't figure out whether it was day or night or how much time he'd been sleeping, and that disturbed him. His throat ached and his head did too, and his limbs were wobbly and weak. His mouth was dry, but he did feel a little better. At least now he was certain he'd be able to stand up on his own. However, he didn't even get to sit up, because…
"Good morning, Sleeping Beauty."
Ritsu gave a start in the bed when Takano entered the room and turned the lights on. He was carrying a tray with food, water and other stuff like medicines and a thermometer. He placed it on the night-stand and leaned towards Ritsu, resting his hand on his forehead to see if he still had fever. "How are you feeling?"
Ritsu averted his eyes and blushed.
"How much time have I been sleeping?"
Takano withdrew his hand calmly. The fever had finally gone away.
"Two days?!" Ritsu shouted, sitting up in the bed and getting dizzy for doing it all of a sudden. "What day is it?!"
"Shh…" Takano hushed him, pushing him tenderly to make him lie down on the bed. "Don't push yourself too hard. It's December 24th."
Ritsu's eyes widened. What?! It was Takano's birthday already, and there he was, taking care of him, when he should be celebrating and having a good time!
He felt terribly remorseful for that. He sat up in the bed again, more carefully this time. He looked at Takano and then looked away, too ashamed of himself for being so selfish. The least he could do was congratulate him and thank him for everything, no matter how much he hated to do it.
"C-Congratulations," he mumbled between clenched teeth.
Takano raised an eyebrow and a smirk tugged at his lips. He let it grow.
"So you remembered, huh?"
Ritsu fidgeted nervously, thinking of something to say. Anything would be good, but his mind was blank. Nonetheless, Takano cut his effort for him.
"Rest a little more. You still look tired," he said as he turned to leave, but before he could, Ritsu's grip stopped him.
"Takano-san.." Ritsu whispered, his fists clenched on Takano's shirt, head resting against his back. Takano tossed his head, impressed. Ritsu tried to speak again, but the words seemed to fail him whenever Takano was close, and he despised it. He frowned. Takano, however, softened his expression and gave a sincere hint of smile as he undid Ritsu's grip and turned around to look at him.
"Now that I remember.. I've got something for you," he announced. Ritsu blinked, having no idea of what could it be nor why Takano was telling him something like that all of a sudden. He felt a pang of guilt again; after all, the birthday one was Takano: he was supposed to be getting the presents, not giving them! And the worst part of everything, was that Ritsu didn't even get to get him something.
Takano grabbed Ritsu's wrist and exposed the palm of his hand. He smiled as he placed something there and closed the hand right away. Ritsu's eyebrows creased, he couldn't feel anything. Did Takano even put something there, or was he just trying to mock him?
He sat up in the bed, fist clenched. Blinking a few more times and glancing intermittently at him and then at his hand, he finally opened it. An involuntary gasp escaped his lips at what he saw.
In the middle of his palm rested a tiny, soft and pink petal. It was a little mistreated and its edges were slightly brownish and withered, but it was still beautiful. Ritsu looked up at Takano with bright green eyes filled with intense emotion, as if waiting for an explanation.
"I caught it the day I found you at school, right before I saw you. I put it in my pocket because I wanted to have a memory of those times. It's probably one of the last Sakura petals, so I want you to have it."
And as the mirror says we're older
I will not look the other way.
Ritsu opened his mouth to speak, but no sound came out. He was completely dumbfounded and speechless. There was a lump in his throat that wouldn't let him utter a coherent word.
"Onodera Ritsu," Takano said, falling on one knee and lifting Ritsu's chin with his fingers to force eye contact. Ritsu's cheeks were pink, but Takano was pretty sure it wasn't due to the fever. "I don't care if everything disappears. The trees, the school, Marukawa, the world itself. As long as you're near me, I'll always have one last petal of hope."
I'll never stop trying
I'll never stop watching as you leave
I'll never get used to you.
Takano smiled as he touched the petal softly and then closed Ritsu's hand in a fist again and kissed it.
A sob escaped Ritsu's throat as tears started to fall slowly down his face. He tried to restrain himself, but he couldn't. All of his worries and the emotional burden that had been overwhelming him the last few days were finally coming to the surface and he needed to let it out.
"I-I…" He furrowed his eyebrows. He would probably hate himself later, but at that moment he just wanted Takano to stay. The past didn't matter anymore, for he never felt alone whenever he was near.
"I hate you. You always make my life impossible, and yet, I don't want you to stop… T-Takano-san…"
At that point, he was already crying hopelessly. Like that boy again, so madly in love and so transparent with his true feelings, he wanted to be comforted. He wanted to feel Takano's warmth. He'd missed him so much, no matter how much he'd hurt him, whether accidentally of on purpose, but he just needed him now.
Takano couldn't do anything but stare. Ritsu caught him, tangling his arms tightly around him and hiding his face in his shoulder. His hands lay limp at his sides, too surprised to do anything. Ritsu was sobbing, and he was definitely not letting go this time.
"Senpai!" He cried.
Slowly, Ritsu felt Takano's hands starting to embrace him tenderly when he uttered that word. Ritsu was still the same, so different and so alike to that boy he'd fell in love with, that boy he couldn't forget in ten years, and he didn't want to, no matter how much time still passed.
"Ritsu… I'll always be here for you."
Ritsu felt how he kissed his head, and despite he couldn't see him, he was pretty sure that Takano was smiling, and he liked it.
They stayed like that for a good while, until Takano felt the embrace around his neck beginning to lose its strength, and Ritsu's breathing went calmer and peaceful.
He'd fallen asleep in his arms.
Takano smiled again, and he lay the brown-haired male on the bed so he could rest well. He placed a goodnight kiss on his lips before he exited the room and closed the door behind him. And when the night arrived, he didn't hesitate to go and sleep next to him.
And even though those Sakura trees that once had witnessed their love blooming so many years ago were going to fall into oblivion, his feelings towards Onodera Ritsu wouldn't disappear so easily.
He just hoped that this time he would remember in the morning.
May I hold you as you fall to sleep,
When the world is closing in and you can't breathe.
That night, Takano got the best birthday present he could ever get.
He'd never felt so loved.
You are my life, my love, my only
And that's the one thing that won't change.
And exactly a month later, it was announced that the Sakura trees were not being cut down.
A love-struck Romeo sings the streets a serenade
Says something like, "You and me babe, how about it?"