Chapter 1: A Door Closes, But the Ground Opens


Chizu closed the door behind her with a definite click. From his bed, Ryu looked up with a frown, which cleared when he saw who it was who entered his room.

Chizu locked the door. It made Ryu's eyebrows climb, but he said nothing, and he didn't move from where he was lying down on his bed, his book untouched. Something was bothering Chizu and she would say it in her own time.

And Chizu…she realizes this. That Ryu has said nothing and has an air of expectation because he sensed her mood. Sensed that she has been disturbed. More than usual these days. And for a moment, conflicting emotions rise. She is both resentful and grateful. That Ryu knew—knows her so well.

Chizu brought a hand to her stomach, trying to still the persistent butterflies.

"I thought that you didn't want to come over, anymore," Ryu said, unsmiling.

If it had been anybody else in Chizu's shoes, they might have thought Ryu was being hostile. Or that he was angry, lacking in expression as he was. But Chizu knew that that wasn't true. Ryu's expressions, they were just different. But Chizu could tell. She could tell when he was angry or sad or happy. Just like now, she could tell that he was a little bit nervous.

Serves him right, Chizu thought mulishly. She was trying to keep herself from bolting. Being angry with him helped. "Well, maybe that's because you don't invite me, anymore," she retorted.

Ryu's eyebrows rose a hairline, "I never knew you needed an invitation."

Chizu started to walk to the bed with deliberate determination. Stalking, almost.

Alarmed, Ryu pushed off from his stomach, to sit up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. He watched her warily, and with a little trepidation, the same way a trapped hunter might be watching an incoming lioness.

"Maybe," Chizu ground out, "it's because some stupid idiot has made things different for me." She takes a couple more steps and stops in front of Ryu, almost between his legs.

"I never said you should stop coming into my room," Ryu said pointedly, looking up at her.

And as Chizu stared directly into Ryu's eyes, she felt her heart constrict. Damn him, the bastard! How in the hell had Ryu managed to turn her world upside down with three little words? How could he churn her up so? Damn the Sanada brothers, in fact. She cried over Tooru and now, she was getting all messed up over Ryu. She shook her head, as if clearing cobwebs in her brain. And she reached out and tipped Ryu's head back with a finger under his jaw.

"You know," Chizu said quietly, "I turned you down because I was afraid of losing you. I've always been by your side, and you've always been by mine. You're my childhood friend and you're the idiot who's picked me up time and time again."

Ryu nodded, "Okay, and so what does this have to do—"

"Shut up!" growled Chizu as she slapped at Ryu's shoulder. Ryu fell silent, eyebrows still raised. Chizu took a moment, gathering herself. "Now, you're a stranger."

Ryu's eyes widened. He opened his mouth. But never managed to speak as Chizu's hands started to lightly touch his cheek.

"You're a stranger now." Chizu repeated. "You have the same eyes," she said, touching his eyelids. "The same nose, and the same mouth," her hands travelling to each part of his face as she said the word. "But it's different, too. Those eyes, that mouth, they all turn me inside out now." And with a quickness that surprised Ryu, she bent down and kissed him.

It was not really a kiss. More like a quick peck. A teasing touch of lips to lips. That's all it was. But Ryu's eyes darkened. And even as Chizu was retreating, Ryu's hands came up and held her, splaying out on the sides of her face.

Her lips were quivering, her eyes big as Ryu slowly touched his lips to hers again.

He knew the exact moment that she gave in. When his mouth caught her upper lip, his teeth nipping and his tongue shyly touching her lip. All of her turned soft, her shoulders dropping, a sigh releasing. Her body just came into his arms, stumbling against him, both of them falling back into the bed.

And there was no more space, no more gap between them, as she lay on top of him, as his tongue slipped inside her mouth and they kissed. They learned to kiss one another, learned to feel each other in a way they never had before. His hands roamed her back. Chizu's own hands were still, clutching at Ryu's shoulders, as she drowned. In feeling. In sensation.

She broke the kiss, her eyes wide, as she looked down at Ryu. And Ryu, be was breathing a little hard, like he'd run around the baseball field one too many times. "How…?" she implored, falling silent as she could not find the words for everything that she was feeling.

Ryu caressed the side of her face, satisfaction surging at how Chizu, as dazed as she was, responded to him. She turned her face into his hand. He spoke, his voice low, "Don't be afraid of this, Chizu."

"Ryu, how can I not be afraid of this? Of getting so stirred up? I came in here because I was tired of feeling nervous around you, of becoming so self-conscious, of having my stomach all tied up in knots. I just wanted that to stop. And I don't know how to make that stop. And if we can't go back to the way we were, then, I…and now, I did this, and I don't know if I made a mistake. Don't tell me not to be afraid, Ryu." She gripped his face, exhaling, as if trying to get a hold of herself. "I…want you."

A shudder ran through Ryu, and his arm tightened across her waist, his eyes closing as he touched his forehead to hers. "Don't say things like that," he said, his voice ragged. "I'm a guy, too, Chizu."

Cautiously, like a fawn, Chizu kissed him again.

Ryu, understanding what she needed, allowed her to taste him, to try on this side of her, as she explored with her tongue, as she trailed butterfly kisses on his chin and neck.

Ryu's hands were fisting in the back of her shirt.

"Do you know," she began casually, murmuring, "that you taste sweet?"

He said nothing, trying to bite back his groan.

"I normally don't like sweet things, but I like kissing you, I think. Ryu, what is that against my leg?"

Ryu began to laugh, the sound rusty in his throat.

The sound of steps in the hallway made them scramble apart, right before the knock sounded. As Ryu got up and soundlessly opened the door, his father came into the room and waved them down to have dinner before his part-timer left for the day.

Trying for nonchalance, both Chizu and Ryu merely nodded. Chizu called out that they'd follow in a minute. And Ryu's father left, closing the door after him.

And with the click of the door, Ryu and Chizu looked at each other. Wordlessly, Ryu opened the door again and Chizu got up and started to leave. She was almost out of the door before she realized that Ryu had not moved.

"What?" She turned back with a frown.

"What does this mean to you, Chizu?" Ryu asked, his voice still quiet.

As if his world hasn't been shaken apart, Chizu thinks resentfully. And it made her sound defensive. "What does what mean?"

Ryu only looks at her. And Chizu throws up her hands in frustration. "I don't know," she admits. "I wasn't really thinking."

Ryu doesn't say anything, but Chizu could feel his temper rising.

"No," Chizu said, holding up her hand, "From the start, you've been the one who's had the time to get used to this. Who's so damn easy, so damn calm about this. Give me time. Give me time for this," she said, gesturing wildly at the space between them. "Even if you say to me, let our old relationship end, and let something new begin, I'm still afraid, Ryu."

"You had all this fear and you came anyway," Ryu said.

Chizu blew out a breath, still frustrated. "I…couldn't take it anymore. When you look at me, I become embarrassed, my palms sweat. And then, I started…" and she muttered something under her breath.

"What was that?" Ryu asked sharply.

"I don't know!" Chizu yelled. She stared at him, "I…" she looked down, unable to maintain the eye contact, "And maybe even when you're not looking, I…look at you now, too."

Ryu looked confused.

Chizu hastily said, blushing, "Baseball practice. You were so…cool. Even when you weren't looking at me, I was getting churned up. And I, ugh…I just wanted to do something. Anything."

It was a good thing she was looking down, or she would have snarled at the expression that spread over Ryu's face. Or maybe, she would have kissed him again.

"O-kay." Ryu said. "Why don't we just go down to dinner first. And we'll take this a day at a time."

Chizu nodded jerkily.

They both came out of Ryu's room. As the door closed behind, Chizu thought how with that click, she felt like one of those girls in a tricky house in a movie, where the ground opened up underneath the feet, and you fell to god-knows-what. And now, she was falling.


End of Chapter 1: A Door Closes But the Ground Opens.