in the end we turn to dust

The doorbell rings at midnight. He is watching TV, languid, after another day of half-hearted lectures, rigorous weight training ('Why must you be one of those damned kids who can't gain muscle,' his trainer grumbling, and he, zoning out by thinking of Karupin), and finally at home, his home, ignoring his old man's phone calls while browsing in the fridge, contemplating beer but choosing an orange instead. He stares out at the LED screen, not seeing the serves, the backhands, flipping through the channels as an automatic gesture, when the buzz is sounded.

He sits up, instinctively welcoming a good distraction. Yet he narrows his eyes a second later and looks at the clock. Midnight. It's a time when one is asleep or drunk, and he is known to have few friends who would burst in the dead of the night without premature warnings. Momoshiro? He frowns but stands up; if the person is to his dislike he could always slam back the door. His feet pad softly against the wooden floor, in his hand an orange peel gone stiff.

Keigo is at his entrance, very rigid. Ryoma blinks, and Keigo stands tranquil, allowing himself to be examined with utter calm. He surmises that Keigo is drunk, or in desperate need of help, or both. He tries a greeting. "Er."

"Evening," Keigo says briskly, although it hardly is. He doesn't shove his way through but very pointedly looks over at Ryoma's shoulder. "If I may?"

Ryoma tries to step aside, but all he does is move from one foot to the next. "Erm."

Keigo waits another beat for a possible explanation of elaboration of his mumbled sounds, and when no words come forth, he raises an eyebrow. "Is there something to your inconvenience inside your flat?" he inquires.

Keigo's words are brittle and it unnerves him; he wonders how to explain that to someone who looks clearly distressed. And distressed Keigo looks: his eyes are set hard and his lips are pressed tightly together to gain a sense of composure, yet his arms are fluid and his torso is purposefully reigned back.

"No," he answers, his reply curt as he doesn't know how to convey his thoughts in any other way. He successes in shuffling aside, and Keigo enters, and that's when he notices a small suitcase Keigo is carrying. He bites his lips and tries a question. "Running away from home, are we?"

Keigo doesn't meet his eyes as he takes another step, falters and straightens up. He tries to reach out for a hand to help, but Keigo neatly steps aside and walks the rest of the way in perfect coordination. He doesn't reply until he reaches the living room.

"Yes, something along those lines." He turns to look around, his eyes still glazed and set. "You do have a guest room here, in this flat, yes?" His voice is disdainful and almost pious; Ryoma could snort at the hypocrisy if he could. Instead he gives a little frown and marches over to where Keigo is standing, a bit lost in his small habitation that Keigo has never set foot on. Strange, now that he thinks about it.

"My bed's big enough," he says.

Keigo's eyes turn to him now, and a frown mirrors his own.

"Somewhere private," he stresses, and the accent and pointed voice ticks him off.

"It isn't a hotel, you know," he snipes.

"Yes, under different circumstances, I daresay I would have gone to a bloody hotel," Keigo snaps, and Ryoma is taken aback, "Or god knows, out of this bloody country. As luck would have it—" He stops, pressing his lips. His face turns a pallid grey, and it dawns on Ryoma.

"You are drunk," he accuses, almost with triumph, because he was right, and then there is no time to lose; he takes Keigo's hand and shrugging the suitcase out of his grasp, steers the rigid body towards the bathroom and toilet.

Keigo retches and he politely looks away.

After a few dry heaves (and Ryoma thumps his back for a through cleansing) Keigo refuses to look up and resists Ryoma's vain efforts to make him stand. His wheedling only gives him a swift kick from the side.

"Fuck," Ryoma swears, and stands up, his hands empty and looking down at the crown of Keigo's head, "You can have the fucking bedroom. I'll sleep on the sofa, you insufferable bastard."

He turns off the light of the bathroom and marches off.


When morning comes, his bedroom curtains are not there to shun him from the bright rays of sunlight, and he is forced to curse the existence of Atobe Keigo as he sits up, dazed. The smell of coffee wafts through the air, and he looks around. Keigo is sitting in the kitchen table, his hands on a coffee pot. In front of him are scrambled eggs and a crisp toast.

Their eyes meet.

"Good morning," Keigo says, not as rigid and formal as last night. Ryoma scowls in reply and deigns to answer. He stands up to walk over to the bathroom and washes his face.

When he joins Keigo at the small table, the first thing Keigo does is push the plate towards him. "Eat," he says, "then we'll talk."

Lovely. Ryoma rolls his eyes and pushes back the offered plate. "My house," he says, "my rules. Besides, you're not winning the most hospitable guest of the year right now."

Keigo narrows his eyes but soon regains composure. "I was a bit drunk. Surely you knew that."

"And when you get drunk, do you usually treat your boyfriends like servants?"

"I—" Keigo stops and frowns. "I was in a bad state of mind."

"Very justifiable. So justifiable, in fact—"

"Oh, do shut up," Keigo says tiredly, "I'm not in the mood. Here." He shoves a newspaper at Ryoma, and before he could snipe back what mood, do you think I'm doing this nagging bit for my own enjoyment?, he reads the front headlines, the article, the next page, and the page after that. When he finishes, he is almost afraid to look up.

"Well," he manages, and falls into silence.

The headlines glare at him: Atobe Kenji, the new Atobe Company Executive. Below is a picture of an angled man, his serious eyes penetrating the camera. The late Atobe Keisuke is aligned next to the new executive, and Keigo's father already looks grey and deceased despite his polite smile in the black-and-white picture. Underneath the caption, the name reads: Atobe Keisuke, dead, aged 63.

At first he is tempted to console that Keigo was too young to be an executive of such a large company anyway. Then he reads on further, and the words and his appetite are lost on him, and no sounds come forth.

"Of course," Keigo breaks in, long after Ryoma had folded over the newspaper and the words and put them aside, "Mother still has her London retreat. That's one thing that wasn't on the inheritance, so the lawyers didn't get a hold of that."

Ryoma tries to speak, but coughs instead.

"Otherwise, all out bank accounts are frozen," Keigo goes on, "The house, the resorts, the money—"

"Yeah. I got it," Ryoma interrupts, and looks away, "I read it, anyhow."

Keigo shrugs lightly. "Just in case you suspect my motives are not quite so dire," he says.

"So you came—"

"Yes, here."

"As soon as—"

"Yes, as soon as the verdict fell."


"But it can be overturned. Which is why I'm not mourning my losses as mother undoubtedly is."

"Would you stop cutting me off," Ryoma snaps.

Keigo blinks at him, and thins his lips. "I'm sorry," he says, and it's the sentence that Ryoma had tried out to wheedle out of him before the whole newspaper, the whole incident really, that it makes him bark out a hollow laugh.

"So," he says. "So."

"Yes, so really." Keigo sniffs and cradles his cup of coffee. How he found everything when his kitchen was in clear disarray, Ryoma would never know. "I didn't have any choice in this. And these property cases, inheritances, they could go on forever." A significant pause falls on them. "And I'm hardly an ideal housemate," Keigo concludes.

Ryoma snorts. "You're hardly a passable boyfriend," he says, and rubs his eyes. "We'll need some supplies. And a new bed."

Keigo looks at him, befuddled. "A bed?"

"Yeah, since you were so against sleeping next to me. For god knows what reasons why."

Keigo bites his lips and looks abashed. "Are you really hung up about the racket I made last night?" he persists, tapping on the newspaper. "Even after you read this?"

"Especially because I read it, " Ryoma corrects him, "You should have been crying into my arms." The notion is completely hilarious even to his ears that he can't help but sprout a smirk.

"Don't be daft," Keigo says dryly, but his face is no longer tight.

"Don't be a bore," Ryoma quips back, and before Keigo could fall back into mindless routine, he grabs Keigo's hand and squeezes tightly. Keigo grimaces but doesn't wiggle free. "And I'm sorry about your father." It is an awkward sentiment, one that doesn't convey anything in and out of itself, but he hopes Keigo will accept the sincerity behind what others would have called callous.

Keigo tries to smile, but the pale shadow makes his face into a mask of tragedy. "Yes, well," he says, and looks down.


The first thing that Ryoma maintains is that Keigo was to focus his life and soul in winning the fucking case.

"I could cook," Keigo says, "Look what I cooked for you."

In other circumstances and alternate universes where evil uncles would not strip their nephews of their rightful inheritance, Ryoma would have smirked and shoved Keigo to do all the cooking, cleaning and shopping to boot while he lounged and stroked his cat. Yet this is a world where life isn't fair. Ryoma sighs and looks pointedly at the boxes of paper flowing out around his cramped apartment.

"You need to read and assemble these in two months time," he says, "Cooking is hardly going to fit into your schedule."

Keigo pursues his lips. "You do realize that I can't pay the rent?" he presses on. "Or pay for the food?"

"I realize that you'll be an insufferable parasite," Ryoma deadpans, "And I hope you can shut up about that."

Keigo obeys.

When Keigo is busy with organizing and shoving away his piles of legal bullshit, Ryoma goes into his bank account. They'll survive for several months, he concludes, if Keigo doesn't insist in basking in the regular luxuries he so often indulges in. Ryoma sneaks a glance at Keigo, suddenly unsure. He had never seen Keigo eat anything remotely plain. Everything, even the simplest dishes of the Japanese cuisines, had been decorated and spiced with aesthetical mastery. He taps his fingers on the desk while Keigo heaves and sorts out papers and files filled with words Ryoma doesn't care to place himself with.

"What do you want to have for lunch?" Better to ask directly than to conjecture failed guesses.

Keigo barely looks at Ryoma as he answers, "Anything you're having."

"Yees," Ryoma persists, "But what do you want?"

Keigo sighs and straightens up. "You never ask for my preference of food," he states flatly, "Is this going to be a constant occurrence?"

"No," Ryoma says, "Just. I'm trying to think up a shopping list. First night, guest of honor, blah blah blah."

"You feel sorry for me." The words come out sharper than Ryoma expected Keigo to be capable of. "How very boring."

"I always feel sorry for you," Ryoma points out.

"That's not giving out an answer."

"Are you going to be bitchy every time I do something nice?" Ryoma shuts off his laptop and frowns. "Fine. I'll just buy some ramen and whiskey and watch you get choked with MSG."

Keigo glares at him and Ryoma glares right back. After a moment, Keigo looks away and runs a hand over his hair.

"Rice would do," he says wearily, "And fish. Any kind of fish, I really don't mind anything."

"That's what I like," Ryoma retorts, and grabs his wallet as he walks out the door, "Whatever. You can starve and eat paper, for all I care." He slams the door in his wake, but in the end he still buys a pound of beef and manages to cook the damn meat.

Or, he tries to.

The meat is a bit starched on the edges, as Ryoma frowns and adjusts the stove. He feels Keigo's eyes shift from time to time, but he doesn't let that faze him. He has lived alone and survived, Keigo never did.

"Are you sure you don't need my help?" Keigo asks dubiously.

"I don't," Ryoma snaps. "Shut up, go be a wall."

"I didn't know cooking aggravated you so."

"It doesn't aggravate me. I don't cook, that's all."

"I feel adored," Keigo mutters, audible enough for Ryoma to hear.

In the end, the meat is a bit tough, and they both pick at the food with forks Ryoma hastily rummaged in his neglected cabinet.

"We should have ordered in," he says.

Keigo sighs. "No, this is…this is good. Adequate."

"Wonderful," Ryoma challenges.

"Wonderful," Keigo repeats dutifully. He scrunches his nose at a particular black edge, but cuts it off silently. Ryoma pities him, and opens up the fridge to salvage some bread that has not molded.

"We could go shopping tomorrow," Keigo says, determining that looking into the contents of Ryoma's fridge would be better for his overall mental state of mind.

"I will," Ryoma concludes, "You will stay here and sort out your crap."

"I should think I'll need a bit of fresh air after everything."

Ryoma frowns at him. Keigo raises an eyebrow. "Problem?"

"Yeah," Ryoma says, "You're a front page media sensation. If a reporter sees us together your case is going to go spiral."

Keigo doesn't respond to that, but he pokes the meat harder. Passive-aggressive measures, Ryoma thinks.

"I suppose you're right," he mutters, but he grits the words out.

"Pains you, doesn't it," Ryoma says dryly, but he pauses. "If you want, I could pick up something, that. You know, you'd want. Or something." When Keigo stays silent, Ryoma kicks him from under the table. Keigo still doesn't look up.

"Monkey king," he snaps, "talk to me."

Keigo's eyes, when they meet his, are an abyss of weariness and fatigue. His lips dip and curve downwards.

"I don't need anything," he says. His voice is strained like a taunt thread. "Thank you."

Ryoma quickly looks down to his own plate. He feels he violated something.


A/N: I'll be updating this as well as my other story! Reviews and criticism are always welcome!