Kaito cares about Ryouga.
In fact, he probably cares about that idiot more than most other people in the world. Haruto being the exception, of course. And he likes to think that he knows him best, even after all these years, just as Ryouga probably knows him best. He remembers what it was like to watch him throw rocks at pigeons in the park, angrily ranting about how Yuma didn’t get it. He also remembers having cans thrown at him when he went over to the apartment he shared with Rio to try and comfort him in the aftermath of it all.
But, he cares about Yuma too. He’s been like a little brother to him for years, practically since the day that they met. He remembers thinking “how stupid do you have to be to pick a fight with the infamous “Shark”’s crew” through the panic, as he limped to the hospital with a half-conscious boy leaning against him. Yuma didn’t offer up an explanation, only smiled brightly and thanked him when Kaito brought him his homework at the hospital. Two weeks later, Kaito found his beat up body lying on the streets again.
Even back then, he’d felt responsible for them both. Yuma, because he just wouldn’t learn to mind his own business. Ryouga, because he felt like he owed it to his childhood friend not to just give up on him. In the end, after the fifth or sixth time he’d found Yuma with a bruised eye or a split lip, he’d went to confront Ryouga only to find Yuma at his house chatting away like they were old friends. Ryouga had only smirked, at the time, and made a remark about Yuma being Kaito’s lost pet. Kaito had rolled his eyes and shot back something rude, but he could tell even then that that was kind of the beginning.
Kaito knew how much Ryouga loved (loves) Yuma. He saw how hard Ryouga tried to keep it together those first few weeks after Yuma had left. He tells himself that that’s why he never brought up that Yuma hadn’t quite left completely without a trace. He was too preoccupied with making sure Ryouga was okay. He’d always meant to tell him, but the opportunity never presented itself.
And besides, Yuma had technically been Kaito’s friend first.
When Kaito walks into the coffee shop, he feels Yuma’s presence before he sees the blur of spiky hair bouncing towards him.
“Oof,” Kaito barely has time to brace himself before impact.
“Kaito! Hi!” The familiar voice greets him without pulling away, “I missed you so much! I thought about calling before my flight but I was so busy packing, you know how that goes. Anyways, isn’t this better? I was going to come see you later today but here you are!”
Kaito tries to shoot Ryouga an apologetic look over Yuma’s shoulder, but he’s too busy staring at the back of Yuma’s head. It takes a few more seconds for Yuma to finally peel himself off of Kaito but when he does he’s back to excitedly spouting words again, this time with hand gestures as well.
“So what are you doing here? Don’t you usually get your coffee from Starbucks? How have you been since the last time we talked? I remember you said something about applying to grad school, have you heard back yet?”
Kaito put a hand over Yuma’s mouth to get him to stop asking questions long enough for him to answer. “I’m actually trying to ween myself off coffee, but this place has great chai lattes and um actually,” He shifts his eyes, focusing on something behind Yuma, “I’m here with Ryouga.”
Yuma seems surprised, though Kaito can’t really imagine why. He watches Yuma’s smile come back before he turns around to greet Ryouga. Kaito can’t watch this, so he goes to make his order: large chai latte with soy milk, no whipped cream. As waits for his order at the counter, he tunes into Yuma and Ryouga’s awkward small talk.
“Hey, Sha- Ryouga!” There’s a too long pause, the name sounds foreign coming from Yuma, “Long time no see, huh?”
Ryouga grunts and Kaito can feel the guilt growing in the pit of his stomach.
When Ryouga offers no other response, Yuma continues, “Um I have to go see some other people but I’ll see you around, okay? Say bye to Kaito for me!”
Kaito turns in time to see Yuma walking out the door and the look on Ryouga’s face. He’s kind of sick of seeing the people he cares about hurt. Especially if they’re the ones hurting each other. He fully expects it when Ryouga turns around and punches him in the arm; he probably deserves a lot worse.
Ryouga's not stupid, he knows something is going on.
Ever since he and Kaito ran into Yuma at that damn coffee shop, Kotori and Rio have been having hushed conversations that he knows has to be about Yuma. There's no other topic that would make them stop whenever he comes close enough to overhear, and really, both of them are pretty shitty liars. Whatever, if they want to talk to him or about him that's fine. He doesn't care. He's got things to do, people to see, and he totally didn't have an irrational urge to punch Kaito in the face when Yuma full body hugged him or anything. He just doesn't like that they're keeping secrets from him is all.
But then they start throwing him vaguely pitying looks too, and he just can't stand it anymore.
"Just tell me already," he finally demands of Rio, after he throws open her bedroom door one night.
Rio shakes her head, and doesn't quite look him in the eye, "Ani, what are you even talking about?"
Ryouga just rolls his eyes. God, he hates his sister sometimes, "Whatever you and Kotori and Kaito and everyone else in this damn city haven't been telling me. If it's about him, whatever, I won't care."
Rio raises her eyebrow at him and Ryouga has to fight down the urge to snarl at her.
"Really?" Rio asks, halfway between skeptical and amused.
Ryouga sort of shrugs and crosses his arms over his chest, "Really.”
Rio just keep staring at him with the same annoying expression.
“He's not… Anymore-- I mean, he's just…” Ryouga wants to punch himself in the face for how he’s stuttering, “Whatever! I'm over it, so just tell me already."
"I can really tell you're over it," Rio says dryly, and Ryouga can feel his fists clenching. But then Rio shrugs and says, "Well whatever, I guess you were going to find out eventually anyways. He's got a new boyfriend."
"Is that all?" There's sort of a stabbing pain in his heart and he ignores it, because it's not like he's jealous or anything. He shrugs again, trying to act like everything is fine. Which it is, "Good for him."
Rio eyes him warily and that stabbing feeling is back. There must be more, "Really?"
Ryouga never realized how much he hates that word until this moment, "Can you please stop saying that!"
Rio holds up her hands in defeat, "Jeez, sorry. We should have told you sooner, I guess. But we weren't sure how you'd handle it. I mean, I think it's pretty sketchy, but whatever."
"What's sketchy?" Ryouga asks before he can stop himself. He never actually claimed he didn’t still care about him, after all. So it's fine.
Rio winces visibly.
"I didn't mean to say that." She sighs, looking kind of resigned, "The guy, I guess they’ve only known each other for a month? I don't have all the details or anything. Yuma and I have just been talking a little since his return, and yeah..."
"A month?" Ryouga asks incredulously, "He really does trust too easily."
"Like I said, I don't know the whole story or anything," Rio shrugs before giving him a hard look, "But it's not like it's a big deal, right? They’re both consenting adults and it’s not like you care. You made that pretty clear when you didn’t even e-mail him once after he left."
Ryouga frowns, "He didn’t e-mail me either."
Rio just clicks her tongue and turns back to the flashing tab on her computer screen.
"Whatever," He can feel himself getting angry and whether it's at Rio for being so obnoxiously right all the time or at Yuma for not even saying bye before he left or himself for being upset at all, he's not really sure. He hopes it's the first one, because he really shouldn't feel either of the other two things, "But really, only a month?"
Rio shrugs again, not bothering to turn from her computer screen, "Not everyone waits fives years to make a move."
“Shut up, Rio,” He fumes angrily, feeling the colour rise in his cheeks, “It’s not like you wouldn’t feel the same if I went out and did the same thing.”
Rio swivels around in her chair this time to give him that look, “And that’s all this is about, right? The fact that you think Yuma is making a mistake?”
Ryouga really hates Rio right now, “What else would it be about?”
Rio stares at him, unblinking. Eventually she’ll get too bored or annoyed to continue, she always does. Why can’t she just be on his side and let this go? Ryouga stares back, clenching and unclenching his jaw.
And sure enough. “Ryouga, just admit it,” She sighs and looks just past his shoulder, “It’s fine.”
“Admit what?” He feels caught off guard and defenseless, suddenly.
“Fine you know what? Don’t admit it. Just sit around brooding and refreshing his Facebook page ten times an hour or whatever. I can’t keep having this conversation right now,” Rio turns around and waves at him with her hand. The conversation is over.
Ryouga closes the door behind him, mumbling angrily to himself as he stalks back to his room. Rio laughs in the other room and he winces at the sound, scrubbing his hands over his face as he sinks into his bed.
He knows that Rio is right. Yeah, he’s kind of worried that Yuma doesn’t know what he’s gotten himself into with this guy. But yeah, okay, if he’s honest he can admit it to himself.
Which is really fucking annoying and he’d like it to stop. It’s been almost two years. He’s over it. He’s moved on. So what the fuck is he still doing getting jealous at the thought of him with another guy?
He misses him.
Ryouga digs his phone out of his pocket and scrolls through his messages until he gets to Yuma’s name. Does he even use the same number anymore? Probably not. He reads the last few messages they sent to each other, everything seemed okay.
yuma: had lots of fun tonight! thanks for taking me out to that fancy restaurant!
ryouga: glad you liked it
yuma: k im gonna go to bed now!
ryouga: me too good night
Angrily, he clicks off his phone and shoves it under his pillow. He’s not willing the entertain the idea that he might not be quite as over this as he thought he was, so he grabs his keys and shouts to Rio as he passes by her room, “I’m going out, don’t wait up!”
There’s someone he knows who’s more than willing to help distract him.
When rumours of Alit and Yuma’s relationship hit him, Vector’s not happy about it.
He tells people he’s happy for them, because he knows that if he doesn’t, they’ll tell him that he should be happy that his friends are happy. What they don’t understand is that he doesn’t want them to be happy, he wants them to be happy with him. Afterall, what good are friends if they just up and leave whenever they want to?
That’s the one thing that Vector’s always known to be true about relationships, but other people don’t seem understand.
Durbe tries to placate him, saying things about how they’re still his friends. That’s not the first time he’s heard those words before. He almost clocks him in the face, right there. Mizael just stands in the corner smirking to himself. For all that Vector says about him, he’s pretty sure Mizael’s the smartest one of them. That or he’s learned his lesson from the time Vector gave him a black eye for the same speech. It was beautiful, it started out dark purple and slowly faded for weeks until it became the ugliest yellow-green colour. He should have taken pictures.
Mizael pulls Durbe away before Vector can do something stupid like break his glasses or his nose. Whatever. The last thing he needs to do is lose his job, he’s already on his last warning.
Vector downs a shot of tequila off Durbe’s serving tray before pouring a new one into the same glass. He should have known Yuma was going to be a problem when he showed up looking for a job at the pub and charmed everyone with his pretty eyes and easy smile. He should have known better than to let him be friends with his friends. He says as much when he shows up at Alit’s door later that night, slightly tipsier than he means to be.
He’s only a little bit surprised when Don K. tells him that he’ll need to cover Alit and Yuma’s shifts at the bar until they can find a replacement.
Mihael’s pretty sure that everyone falls a little bit in love with Yuma.
There’s just something about him. About the way that he looks at people, making them feel special and warm with that dimpled smile of his. About the way that he fills up a room with his personality, but not in the way that makes him seem full of himself or like he’s trying to upstage everyone. He watches Yuma now, giving some tourists animated directions to the best steakhouse in town, and realizes that it’s kind of like Yuma’s the sun and everyone else is just drawn into his orbit. It’s impossible to resist, but no one really wants to anyways. Not when being around him just feels so right.
Thinking about it that much makes Mihael feel kind of gross and sappy, but it’s just one of those things about Yuma that can’t be helped.
It's sort of hard to remember, but there was a time when he didn't exactly like Yuma. Well, that's not true. He didn't know Yuma, and all he had to go on was the way that everyone would kind of clam up whenever his name was mentioned, especially around Ryouga. And then there was the way that Thomas would get this tight lipped frown and roll his eyes, like he wished Yuma didn't exist. And really, maybe even more now, Mihael gets why Thomas felt that way. He wishes that his brother could see what Mihael sees in him, but the reality is that Thomas wanted someone who really wanted Yuma and that makes it pretty much impossible. Which kind of sucks for Mihael because more than anything, he just wants everyone to get along.
But once Yuma got back in town, started hanging around the coffee house that Mihael worked at and they got to know each other better, he realized why Ryouga had never gotten completely over Yuma. Because really, how do you get over someone who just absorbs you like that?
Somewhere along the way, Mihael starts to notice that Yuma talks about Ryouga a lot. Somehow, every conversation they have starts to lead back to Shark or how Shark’s doing or if he’s seen Shark lately. Something about the way Yuma bites his lip nervously or shift uncomfortably in his seat when he asks makes him seem guilty, like he knows he shouldn’t be asking but can’t help himself anyways. Mihael wonders if he should say something about how much he knows, if it’s even his place.
Mihael doesn’t know what he wants exactly. It’s not like he has a crush on Yuma exactly. He just loves being around him and sometimes he wishes he could be more like him. And if he notices how cute Yuma is, it’s just because he’s really cute. No one can deny that, and if they do then clearly they don’t have eyes. No, he doesn’t have a crush on Yuma, he tells himself, if he did he’d know what he wants.
It’s not until the first time Thomas storms into his room, with a look of betrayal on his face, that Mihael realizes that the reason he doesn’t know what he wants is because what he wants will always be secondary to what his brother wants. Mihael would do anything to make Thomas happy, but he’s not sure what Thomas wants is what will make him happy. There’s no way that Ryouga could really make him happy. Ryouga doesn’t care about Thomas, not really. But Thomas is sure that this is what he wants.
He waffles over this for weeks trying to decide what to do. He could tell Yuma what he knows about his brother and Ryouga’s relationship (if he could even call it that). He’s sure that that would change what Yuma thinks of Ryouga. That would probably make Thomas happy, if just for a little while. But when Yuma shows up for their lunch-date, flushed and saying something about how Shark accepted his invitation to a high school gathering of sorts, he can’t bring himself to break his heart.
Mihael lies awake in bed at night wondering why he couldn’t just do something to make Thomas happy, he’s always been able to before. Maybe he does have a crush. No, that’s not quite right either. Maybe it's not exactly a crush, maybe it's something else, maybe it's just the way that Yuma makes everyone feel. Yes, he thinks to himself. That has to be it.
As he falls asleep, he comforts himself with that thought.
Everyone falls a little bit in love with Yuma, and Mihael can't help but do the same.
Alit knows that he’s never had all of Yuma.
From the beginning, he had known that there was a part of him that was back with Ryouga in Heartland City. He wasn’t even sure if Yuma was aware of it, but it was obvious in everything he said and did. Ryouga had given Yuma his heart before Alit had even met him and even though Yuma didn’t know, Alit suspected he’d given Ryouga his heart too.
Alit wants to hate Ryouga.
Because all he wants to do is be the person that Yuma want to spend time with, wholeheartedly. And it’s not that he thinks Yuma would rather be elsewhere, when he’s with him, It’s just that when he sees Ryouga his whole face lights up in a way Alit’s never seen before. But when he sees how happy Yuma can be just being around Ryouga, he can’t bring himself to really hate him.
It’s not like Alit doesn’t try to make it work, but it’s hard to fix something that’s not really broken. They don’t fight, they rarely even argue. For all intents and purposes they could be soulmates. They like all the same things and enjoy spending time together. And when Yuma tells him he loves him, Alit doesn’t doubt that he means it. But he’ll never mean it the same way he meant it with Ryouga.
Alit doesn’t bring any of this up with Yuma, not because he’s delusional enough to think that he can keep him forever if he doesn’t clue him in. But because it’s something he thinks he’ll have to figure out for himself. And if he gets to keep Yuma for just a little bit longer, well that’s not bad either.
In the end, Alit knows before Yuma that their relationship is over.
He knows when Ryouga accepts Yuma’s invitation over to their apartment, for one of their bi-weekly dinner parties. He knows when catches Ryouga staring at Yuma, all mooney, when he thinks no one else is looking. He’s okay with it. Really, he is. Sometimes things just happen, and he doesn’t regret any of it.
When Yuma cuddles up to him that night, beaming and babbling about how nice it is just to be friends with Shark again, Alit says all the right things at all the right times. That’s he’s proud of them for getting past everything, and of course he’s happy for him. He knows how much he’s missed Shark.
It’s the truth, but it’s still a little sad. Yuma practically glows with how happy and relieved he is that Ryouga still wants to be friends with him. Alit’s already lost him and Yuma doesn’t even know it yet.
He kind of wishes he didn’t know it either.
Ryouga can’t wait to see Yuma.
The entire ride to Yuma’s family’s house all he can do is think about him. If he’s honest with himself, all he’s been able to do for the past eight months is think about Yuma. If he’s really honest with himself, all he’s been able to do since he he was fourteen and first met Yuma is think about Yuma. It’s ridiculous how much time he spends just sitting around in his room wondering if Yuma is thinking about him too. Back then, he would have bet everything he owned on “no”.
Ryouga really hopes he’s not wrong about what’s going on. He’s pretty sure that Yuma knows how he feels about him. He’s done everything but say the words. Then again, it’s Yuma and he didn’t know for the first five years, even after everyone else knew. But really, the words between them had never been their problem. Yuma always had extra to fill the spaces where Ryouga didn’t have enough. Their problem had been what they wanted, and what they didn’t want. Maybe their problem had been that they were too young, they didn’t know what they wanted. Well, Yuma didn’t. Ryouga did, still does. Ryouga’s not kidding himself, he knows that probably hasn’t changed. But he thinks that he’s grown up enough for that to be okay.
He’s willing to be patient if it means that gets to have Yuma, because he wants him more than anything in the world.
He finally pulls up on Yuma’s driveway and almost trips over his own bike in his hurry to get to the door. He rings the doorbell and waits, wiping his sweaty palms on the back of jeans. He fidgets with his jacket, trying not to look as scattered and disheveled as he feels even though he thinks his heart is about the fall out of his chest.
The door opens and Yuma is standing on the other side, shy smile on his face. Ryouga’s pretty sure his heart stops. There’s nothing too special about the way Yuma looks, he’s had the same hair style since he was thirteen and he’s still wearing that same vest (maybe in a larger size). Ryouga can’t help but think that he’s never looked better.
“Hi,” Yuma says a little shyly as he reaches out to hug him.
Ryouga pulls him closer, and presses his face into his neck. Yuma is warm, probably from spending time in the sun, and being a good person, Ryouga thinks. He smells exactly like he remembers, and it’s all he can do not to kiss him right on the doorsteps of his childhood home.
“Hey,” He says once they pull apart.
They stand there, grinning dumbly at each other for what seems like forever.
“C’mon!” Yuma laughs, and Ryouga suddenly finds their fingers laced together, “Don’t you wanna come in?”
Ryouga follows him into the house.
He’s pretty sure he’d follow him anywhere.
And Another Time Yuma Made A Friend For Life
Astral still hears from Yuma from time to time.
A phone call here, an e-mail there and Skype sessions when they both had the time for it. They’ve been friends for nearly five years now and haven’t spent more than a month in the same country at the same time. He’s surprised that they’ve kept it up so long.
They’d met almost half a decade ago, at Heartland Airport both leaving for the first time, heading to the same destination after spending their entire lives in the same city. They’d never met before then, never even heard of each other before. Yuma had called it destiny, Astral didn’t believe it at the time. Yuma told Astral that his parents had spent their honeymoon in Barcelona, always meant to take him and his sister there before they died. Astral didn’t tell him that he was going there to meet his birth mother. He had no memories of her, he’d only been 10 months old when he was adopted. Astral nodded politely, sure that he’d never see this strangely enthusiastic boy again once they boarded the plane.
But lo and behold, they’d been seated next to each other on the plane and Astral ended up teaching Yuma some basic phrases in Spanish. Things he might need to tour the city: Where’s the nearest bathroom, Where can I get something to eat, I don’t understand Spanish. Astral didn’t like many people, but he couldn’t help but like Yuma. Maybe it was the way he was so determined to learn an entire language in seven hours, or maybe it was really destiny like Yuma kept suggesting.
They’d ended up spending two weeks being tourists together in the colourful city before Yuma was off to his next destination. Astral stayed to spend time with his birth mother. He was sure that he’d never hear from Yuma again, but one weeks later, there was a post-card from Paris and then another one from Berlin the week after. They kept in touch while Yuma travelled throughout Europe, finally ending up in Rome.
Hearing about Yuma’s adventures was always interesting, whether it be his travels or his personal life. Astral often worries about the people he meets taking advantage of him, but Yuma seems to handle himself well enough, even if he does ask him for advice at every turn. Reading Yuma’s latest e-mail, with pictures attached of a purple haired man tending to their sunflowers, he considers the last line:
You should come visit sometime! We have a guest bedroom and everything!
Smiling he types out a quick reply:
Does next month work for you?