A/N: Quick AN here: I'm not 100% on the spelling of Erika's nickname for Walker, so if you think it's wrong, then it might be, because I just went by ear.
The moment Masaomi suggested he come to Ikebukuro, Mikado's mind had been made up. He feigned uncertainty, not wanting to seem too eager, but truthfully Mikado would have done anything to get close to his best friend once again. Because while they might have been good friends, Mikado found himself harbouring other, deeper feelings for the other boy, despite the distance that had so clearly developed between them.
Ryugamine Mikado was not an idiot.
With something near fifty per cent of their conversations in the last two years revolving around girls in one way or another it wasn't hard to tell what went on in Masaomi's head. His friend was quite obviously straight, and Mikado wasn't about to fool himself into believing that his presence might miraculously change his mind.
After all, Mikado was nothing special.
Still, he naively believed that being around Masaomi was all he needed.
Yes, Ikebukuro was interesting; it seemed to be a place where ordinary didn't exist. It should have been incredible. Instead, Mikado was weighed down by an immense sense of melancholy. Belatedly he had realised what a bad idea it was to bring himself into close proximity to Masaomi.
If hearing him talk about girls was painful, it was nothing compared to watching him flirt with and ogle everything in a skirt as they wandered the streets after school. His heart would clench painfully and he would force a smile to hide the pain.
Masaomi never noticed his discomfort. Not even when he stopped trying to hide it. Anri noticed, but she assumed he found Masaomi's behaviour vulgar and childish. No-one would ever have guessed he was irrationally annoyed that his secret love was flirting with other people.
It was worse when he flirted with Anri. Masaomi had somehow gotten it into his head that Mikado had a crush on her, and would make a show of flirting, as though trying to elicit a reaction from him. The reactions he did receive only made him try harder.
Mikado didn't think he could deal with it for much longer.
The Dollars were a good distraction, sometimes. He'd follow the discussion boards, and hunt down what was true and what was false in what everyone on the streets was saying about his gang. Mikado wasn't sure when he started thinking of it as his gang, but he had, and he was trying to be a more responsible leader.
His regular chatroom was pretty good as well – he could even use it on his phone while Masaomi was off doing his thing. Except Kanra kept sending him these little hints through private messaging, like they knew what was happening, even though that knowledge should have been known only to himself. Whenever Kanra logged on, he quickly logged out.
Unfortunately, nothing could keep his thoughts from Masaomi for long.
Mikado's heart ached during his every waking hour.
"Why did I come here?"
The question plagued him constantly.
Sometimes he thought it would be easier to simply go home, but that would be running away, and he'd sworn to stop doing that when he jumped back in with the Dollars. He had responsibilities here now, and he wouldn't abandon them.
Mikado stopped hanging out with Masaomi after school. It confused and worried his friend, but he had reached his limit. Seeing him at break-times was almost too much.
He was hardly going to tell the truth about it, so he said nothing at all. Masaomi could think whatever he liked – he'd never be right. Mikado had hidden it all so well from his friends that it might as well not be happening.
Only it was.
Distancing himself was really the only solution he could come up with for while he worked to expel Masaomi from the fractured pieces of his heart. It wasn't fair that Mikado's subconscious clung so desperately to Masaomi, even after all the pain he had suffered because of him.
He wondered if he wasn't meant to be happy.
Since that first day in Ikebukuro Mikado had only ever seen Masaomi's odd group of friends in passing. They had never exchanged words.
So it was a shock when, wandering aimlessly through the streets one afternoon, he was accosted by the eccentric duo of Erika and Walker. They were all smiles and hyperactivity, just as he remembered.
Briefly he wondered if Masaomi had sent them out to hunt him down, but when they didn't start calling people he allowed himself to relax, dismissing the idea. They didn't much seem the type to follow orders anyway.
"Hey hey, it's the guy with the manga name!"
Mikado cracked a smile at Walker – unknowingly the first time he had smiled sincerely in weeks. They could tell the difference. They always could.
"Why so doom and gloom?" Erika asked, leaning in uncomfortably close and scrutinising his face. "Someone steal your favourite manga?" Though she made it seem like the most terrible thing in the world, Mikado could see that she knew it was something bigger than that.
"You should hang out with us for a while. It'll definitely be more interesting than whatever you're not doing at the moment."
Walker's argument was pretty hard to refute, but Mikado wasn't trying very hard. He already felt a bit better. Maybe complete isolation hadn't been the best idea.
"I'm sure it will be."
Hanging out with Walker and Erika became a common occurrence, but they never asked him what had happened between him and Masaomi. Mikado had come to realise that they were both very insightful, observational people. There was a chance they already knew, but were waiting for him to bring it up himself instead of harassing him about it. If that was true, and Erika's behaviour made it seem likely, then he was glad. They knew and hadn't shunned him.
"He doesn't know, does he?" Walker asked on one of the rare – but becoming less so – occasions that it was just the two of them. "He doesn't know why you've been avoiding him all this time."
Mikado looked away from Walker's knowing gaze, which seemed confirmation enough for him.
"He thinks you've joined a gang."
Mikado snorted in amusement, thinking of the Dollars, and muttered "Well that's not really a recent thing."
"So you're in the Dollars too then? You don't really strike me as a Yellow Scarves or Blue Squares sort of guy."
"You could say that." He didn't expand on the thought.
To be perfectly honest he barely thought about Masaomi at all anymore. His heart still ached a little, but it was a dull ache now, and he didn't think it would ever go away completely. He was as over it as he was going to get, but he didn't want to give up his time with Walker. He didn't want to go back to Masaomi and Anri. They didn't care enough to notice when something was wrong.
"I don't anymore, you know," Mikado told him, looking down at his hands. "Love him, that is."
Walker stared at him with a shockingly unreadable expression.
"Just like that?"
Mikado frowned at him.
"Just like that? Don't you dare berate me Walker! It took me two months here, spending hours upon hours with him in person, suffering all the while, to realise that what I had been in love with for so many years was the idea of being in love with him. And it took me until about three weeks ago to come to terms with that and to crush those feelings into as many pieces as I possibly could. So don't act like you have some right to judge me when you don't have a clue."
He wasn't normally quick to anger, but Mikado had just snapped.
Leaping to his feet he grabbed his bag and stormed off, forcing himself not to look back.
Because it was Walker who was judging him. Walker, who Mikado had warmed up to. Walker, who had, until that point, been healing his heart without either of them realising.
Mikado managed to avoid Erika and Walker for all of two weeks – it had been too easy, he should have known something was up – until he was all of a sudden kidnapped off the street by Erika and Kadota, who had commandeered Saburo's van for the occasion.
Erika looked furious, and it didn't take long for him to discover why.
"Whatever you've done to Yumacchi, you're going to go and apologise for. He hasn't left his place since the last time you two hung out, and he won't even talk to me."
"Hold on, what I did? What about what he did?"
Erika paused in her rant, a strange look on her face.
"It doesn't matter who did what, you two need to talk."
Mikado didn't have any say in the matter after that. He was kicked out of the van in some area of Ikebukuro he'd never been to before, pointed in the direction of a door, and given a good shove.
Erika glared at him and Kadota shrugged helplessly, as though saying "what she wants, she gets. What are you going to do about it?"
Sighing heavily Mikado walked up to the indicated door and knocked.
"Go away Erika, I don't want to talk to you."
Part of him wanted to turn tail and run. He was still mad. What right did Walker have to judge him anyway? But at the same time he had missed having Walker around. Everything seemed a bit duller without him there to liven things up.
He took a deep breath.
"It's not Erika," he called back, trying to convince himself that his voice had not just wavered. He was too nervous for this.
Mikado was about to up and leave, vow be damned, when the door swung open.
Walker looked... awful.
He hadn't really believed her when she said it, but he could see the truth in it now when Erika had said he hadn't left in two weeks. What on Earth could have convinced him to lock himself away like that?
"What happened to you?!" Mikado exclaimed, unable to censor himself like he normally would in his shock.
Walker glared briefly in the direction of Saburo's van, but his eyes held a slight glimmer of hope when they focussed back on the teen.
"I've been... thinking about my mistakes."
Walker lightly grabbed his wrist and pulled him inside, shutting the door. Mikado allowed it, stunned into silence. Everything was falling into place – the time, Erika's anger. It was his fault.
"I shouldn't have said what I did. It was uncalled for. Completely out of line."
Mikado merely blinked owlishly at the apology. It didn't really matter anymore, in the face of Walker's depressed state. This was terrifying. Walker wasn't made for dark emotions.
"I was just... angry. Angry that you were being so flippant about accomplishing what I've been trying to do for months."
Reaching out Mikado rested his hand on Walker's shoulder. The man was taller than him, but not by much.
"Who are you trying to forget?"
Walker tensed and shook his head, but didn't move away from Mikado's hand.
"It doesn't matter."
"Please, don't make me tell you," Walker begged.
Biting his lip Mikado glanced around the hallway, gathering his courage. He would get to the bottom of it one way or another, because he cared.
It wasn't really a sudden realisation. Walker had occupied his thoughts for a while now. That's why his words had hurt so much.
"Fine then. At least tell me why."
"It..." Walker sighed, shoulders slumping. "It's not right. I'm too old."
"You are not old!" Mikado protested, resisting the urge to grab both his shoulders and shake some sense into him. Walker cracked a tired half-smile.
"He can't see me past his own pain," he muttered, but Mikado still heard him. It took a moment for him to process the statement.
It was him.
Walker was in love with him; plain boring broken Mikado.
He didn't realise he was shaking until Walker steered him to a seat and forced him to sit.
"I'll leave you alone now. Door's still unlocked."
Walker thought he was freaking out because the idea scared him.
"Don't leave," he whispered towards Walker's retreating form. Miraculously his plea was heard.
"Mikado, please, I'm trying not to force my presence on you."
"How is it forcing if I ask for it?"
Walker was the one without a viable response this time. Reluctantly he retraced his steps, hovering awkwardly about a metre away.
"Walker, I've never not seen you. Everything just seems better when you're around," Mikado explained earnestly, staring into shadowed eyes. "I meant what I said. You're not old. Never." Getting to his feet he stood in front of Walker, staring him down, forcing him to meet his gaze. "You love me," he stated, and he could see Walker's resistance crumbling.
"Yes." The whisper so quiet it was almost non-existent.
"Then do something about it."
Where the sudden aggression and assertiveness came from, Mikado wasn't entirely sure, but he was glad for it, because otherwise Walker would have slipped through his fingers.
And then it didn't matter, because they were kissing, and Mikado closed his eyes and went with the flow. It was his first kiss, but he certainly wasn't complaining.
"Was that so hard?" Mikado breathed softly as he tried to calm his racing heart once they parted.
"I guess not."
Walker grinned, and everything was okay again.
Erika had one serious BL-radar, because she was all over them once Mikado coaxed Walker outside. At least it was better than listening to her Shizaya conspiracies. Only marginally, mind.
Seeing Walker happy again was all that really matter to Kadota and Saburo, although Kadota did ask in passing if Mikado was okay too, and was rewarded with a much more honest smile than anything he had previously seen adorning the teen's face.
Obviously they were good for each other.
Eventually Walker convinced Mikado to start spending time with Masaomi again.
Kida was so glad to see him that he didn't even question the reasons behind his lengthy absence.
It still hurt, just a bit, being around Masaomi, but Walker started up a habit of 'randomly' bumping into them in the streets, and that was all it really took to be okay with everything.
Moving to Ikebukuro was once again the best decision he'd ever made. It had allowed him to finally put behind him a hopeless crush, and it had given him Walker.
He often wondered how he'd lived his life without the colour and excitement Walker brought into it. Everything was boring without him.
Ikebukuro didn't do ordinary, and with his rag-tag group of friends, Mikado could proudly say that he didn't either.