Ritsu shows up at his window somewhere between midnight and one in the morning. Shou hears the knock on his window before he sees him, but he sees him eventually. Ritsu’s floating outside in a tee-shirt and a pair of pajama pants with a bookbag slung haphazardly over his shoulder. His hair is defying far more laws of gravity than the rest of him, and it’s almost criminally adorable. Sleep is still in Shou’s eyes, but he blinks it out, waves at Ritsu through the glass, and laughs when his sigh makes it fog up so that Shou can barely see his face at all. He debates keeping Ritsu lingering out there, but he can’t remember a single time that Ritsu has shown up at his place like this and he’s too curious to lock him out. Too curious, and too…lovesick, Shou guesses is the right word, as embarrassing as that is. He doesn’t linger on it, though. He just opens the window.
Ritsu climbs through and drops his powers with a small hint of a dramatic flourish. It’s freezing out there, the February wind that Ritsu’s arrived on chilling Shou to the core, and he slams the window shut as quickly as possible. He can’t imagine how cold Ritsu must be, but Ritsu refuses to shiver and Shou isn’t going to insult him by asking if the wind’s gotten to him, not when it’s already pierced through Shou like a knife.
“You know, I didn’t take you for the breaking in type.” He says, giving Ritsu a grin because Ritsu is the breaking in type beneath all of that honors student glory, and Shou sort of adores him for it. “I always thought that was more my gig.”
“It’s not breaking in when you opened the window.” Ritsu counters, and okay, true, but it’s still fun to tease him about it. “Besides, compared to the ceiling stunt, this is a perfectly orthodox and borderline pleasant way to enter a house.”
“One time! I came in through the ceiling one time!”
“Yes. One time. And you landed on my brother. Do you know the conversation that happened after that? Do you?” Ritsu’s face looks comically dismayed as he recalls whatever surely hysterical comment his brother made in some deadpan during a conversation Shou wasn’t privy to, and he wishes that he could crack open Ritsu’s skull and have a look at the memory himself, see whatever he saw and remember his memories like Shou remembers his own. He has an odd desire—has had it for god knows how many months now—to understand Ritsu inside and out, to know him all the way through, and even one more snippet of information in the ever-shifting kaleidoscope puzzle of Ritsu Kageyama is to die for, even if it’s something silly like one comment made by his brother in one conversation that was probably overthought and analyzed to death without Shou adding his input into it.
“I don’t, but I’m begging you to tell me.” Shou really would love to hear the story, but Ritsu sits down on the bed, puts his bookbag down next to him, and simply says “No,” and the bags under his eyes tell Shou not to push it.
Shou sits down next to Ritsu, very tempted to sling an arm around his shoulder, but he holds back. “Any special occasion for the visit?”
“I got stuck on a problem, and I figured a change of scenery would help me solve it.” Ritsu says, turning towards his bookbag and pulling out a certifiably gigantic stack of papers. “It’s a good study habit.”
Shou snorts at that, because while he might not be the authority on anything relating to school, he knows that working at somewhere around one in the morning while consisting on what is almost certainly just black coffee and pure determination (Ritsu’s eyes go a little flat when he’s only had coffee, and they’re flat like that now) is not a good study habit. It’s clearly an excuse, and Shou finds it adorable that Ritsu still sometimes feels the need to make excuses, pretending as if he couldn’t just say “Because I want to,” and Shou would go along. Shou’s dragged Ritsu into more trouble than he can properly list off, but he knows the reality is that he’s wrapped around Ritsu’s pinkie finger, and Shou thinks he might be there for forever. To his own horror, he doesn’t mind.
After a year or so of hanging around Ritsu, Shou’s seen him study countless times. He has no interest in school personally, despite his social worker hounding him about attending one for next year, but he has a lot of interest in Ritsu studying. He’s never been one for silence or just sitting, but Ritsu is fun to watch when he works. He makes faces when he’s stuck, sometimes angry and sometimes almost hopelessly lost, and then the pieces will connect and the fog will clear and his whole face will burst into a small, satisfied smile and the whole process of it makes Shou feel like he did when his father blew up the top of the Culture Tower and he fell forty stories to the ground, except he never quite hits the pavement here. He doesn’t even know what hitting the pavement here would look like, anyways.
Shou always finds things to do while Ritsu studies. Sometimes he’ll talk, sometimes he’ll draw, sometimes he’ll find something cool to fiddle with, but tonight, he plays video games. His Mintendo is the newest model and can normally hold his attention for hours, but he keeps looking at Ritsu’s face in between levels, and he starts to worry because that stuck face doesn’t go away. In fact, it gets worse, and one thirty in the morning, his breathing starts to sound a little funny, like he’s trying not to panic.
“Whatcha workin’ on?” Shou asks, putting the Mintendo down.
“Student council budget.” Ritsu doesn’t look away from the paper. “Tokugawa told me he’s going with whatever I come up with, and it’s due on Friday and the whole thing is...”
He doesn’t finish the statement. He just lets it hang in the air. Shou moves so that he’s facing Ritsu and takes a good, long look at his face. He looks like he feels like shit. “What’s the problem with it?”
“Mainly trying to figure out which requests to fulfil. Art Club wants more money for their field trip, Model UN wants to get a better hotel for their regional conference, the Band wants a new timpani, Photography Club wants new cameras, Drama wants to rent out a whole theater for their next production, and Body Improvement Club…Body Improvement Club….” Ritsu stops because his breathing goes really funny when the words cross his lips. He takes a deep, slow breath, holds it, and lets it out. His shoulders are hunched almost all the way up to his ears and he bends over the papers. “Body Improvement Club wants new equipment, but their requests are half of our budget. Shigeo is the vice president this year, so of course I want to give it to them, especially since he’s been stressed about Teru-san. He’s acting funny, apparently. But then I’ll get accused of playing favorites, of being a nepotist, of denying clubs that haven’t had new things for years and deserve them by now, and it’s selfish of me because the only reason I want to give it to them is so that Shigeo won’t be more stressed, and I don’t want him to be stressed because I don’t want another incident. And I know he said that it’s over, the whole one hundred percent thing. I know. But I worry and my parents worry and they’re already upset with me for getting a B on that last math test, which I didn’t study for because I was too busy stressing about the fact that Shigeo is stressing, and so if I deny this request, they’ll probably be upset with me again and then he’ll explode again and it’ll all be my fault again and my shoulders are still bugging me even though I didn’t do anything to them and—”
“Ritsu.” Shou interrupts him, snatching the papers and turning them over so that he can’t look at the numbers anymore. Hearing him talk is making Shou’s chest hurt in a way he’s not used to, like he’s having heartburn in his whole soul. Ritsu might as well be taking a hammer to him, with how much his pain hurts Shou. It’s agonizing. “You need to chill. Badly.”
“No shit.” Ritsu laughs, but it’s panicked and humorless. “I’m being stupid.”
“I don’t think you’re being stupid. I just think you’re stressing out over a lot of stuff that isn’t going to be a problem.”
Ritsu raises his eyebrows at him, but Shou doesn’t concede his point. Instead, he just keeps talking.
“So, if I’m hearing you right, here are your problems: You have to have a budget thing due for Friday, and you want to give stuff to your brother’s club, but it’s too expensive and you’re scared he’s going to have one of those blowy-up things if you don’t. Plus, you think your parents will be mad at you if you don’t, and they’re already upset with you for getting a not-perfect score on your math test. And your shoulders hurt. Did I get everything there?”
Ritsu thinks about it for a moment, and then nods. “Yeah, that’s just about everything.”
“Just about everything?” Shou echoes, not wanting just about everything, but everything in its entirety.
“There’s one more thing, but it’s too stupid to worry about it.” This time, it’s Shou’s turn to raise his eyebrows, and Ritsu sighs. Ritsu concedes. “I can’t study for shit if I’m anywhere but my desk. I only came here because I wanted to see you, and I feel pathetic for it. I shouldn’t want to bother you with this sort of thing.”
Shou gets up at those words. He gets off the bed entirely, and he’s happy that his back is to Ritsu because he’s sure whatever face he’s making would tear his heart into shreds. Then he sits behind him, cracks his knuckles, and speaks. “Well, let’s start with the shoulders. That we can fix right now. I’m actually a decent masseuse, believe it or not.”
He waits for Ritsu to snark at him, but he doesn’t. He just rolls his shoulders back and lets Shou start to work. Even now, no longer hunched, Shou can feel the tension he keeps in his shoulders, can feel the knots in his muscles that come from a fourteen-year-old trying to hold up the whole sky. He wants to weep for Ritsu, but he’ll opt for taking pieces of the sky instead, for helping to relieve some of the awful pressure that he’s put on himself.
Ritsu sighs in relief when Shou works out one of the knots entirely, and the noise makes all of the blood in his body rush to his face. That sort of noise should be illegal, honestly. It’s bad enough that he can feel the warmth of his skin through the shirt, bad enough that the blades of Ritsu’s shoulders are centimeters away from his chest, bad enough that Ritsu is literally sitting between Shou’s legs. The noise is not helping Shou keep his own cool, but he also doesn’t want to hear anything but that sigh for the rest of his life.
“I don’t think you’re being pathetic.” Shou says, deciding to start working on the next problem. “I mean, how many times have I showed up at your place just because I want to see you? Probably, like, a million. I’m actually kind of flattered that you want to be near me, to be perfectly honest.”
“Really?” Ritsu sounds disbelieving, but there’s hope in his voice. Enough hope that he relaxes more when Shou says “Yes.”
Another small silence falls, and then Shou continues. “And your parents aren’t going to be pissed at you. You’re just trying to do your job, and if they do get mad, they’re stupid. But they don’t seem like the type to get mad about that kind of stuff.”
“They aren’t.” Ritsu confirms. “I was just overthinking it.”
“You tend to do that.” Shou agrees, and that tempts a laugh out of Ritsu. For a second, Shou forgets how to breathe because it knocks all of the wind straight out of him. “And I don’t know him as well as you do, but I don’t think your brother is going to do that one hundred percent thing. He hasn’t in a few months, right?”
“So it’s probably already done! And if it isn’t, you actually doing your job isn’t going to be what sets it off. He’d be proud of you, I think. Probably say something like ‘That’s my brother, going out and doing his duty to the school because he’s a fucking legend and the best person to ever exist’ and then brag for a couple of years.” Shou isn’t going to admit that he knows this because sometimes, he’ll text Mob just to talk about Ritsu and how great he is. That’s just way too embarrassing.
“I don’t think he would word it exactly like that.” He says, letting out a snicker.
“But he’d be more proud than mad, yeah?”
“Yeah.” Ritsu mutters.
“And if the one hundred percent thing does happen, you’ve handled it before. You’ve survived it before, and this time, you have someone you can call if it happens. You can call anytime, and I’ll be there.” Shou knows that his words are sappy and cliche, but he thinks they’ve become a cliche because they’re right.
“You can’t beat him in a fight, you know.” Ritsu tells him, and Shou nods at that
“I know. Calming him down would be Reigen’s problem. I would just be there for you.”
Ritsu tilts his head to the side, and the gesture brings so much fondness to the surface that Shou thinks he might actually die because of it. “Thank you.”
“No problem.” Shou’s voice comes out strained. Strangled. Thick. Fighting to escape through all of the feeling in his chest and just barely succeeding. “So now all we have left is the budget stuff, right? How much of it do you already have done?”
“Seventy-five percent, more or less. The smaller requests were easy to greenlight. The issue is juggling the bigger ones.”
“Right! Let’s do that, then. I think I’ve gotten all of the tension I can out of these shoulders of yours, and I’m down to budget some bullshit.” Shou is energized now, ready to buckle down and work and help out. It’s silly, but he really hopes that Ritsu doesn’t move. He likes sitting with him like this, even if it might not be the most practical.
“You don’t have to do my student council stuff, Suzuki.” Ritsu says, his tone empty in the way it gets when he’s having too many emotions to express at once.
“I can do it by myself.”
“You don’t have to help me.”
“...So why are you offering?”
“Because I want to help you.” Shou says. “Just because you can do it by yourself doesn’t mean you should have to.”
Ritsu says nothing to that. He doesn’t move an inch. All Shou can see is the back of his head, black hair sticking out in all directions. He wants to touch it, to run his fingers through his hair and over his scalp. He want to touch every single inch of Ritsu’s skin himself, wants to learn where the little imperfections are and where exactly he’s ticklish and whatever else there is to learn about someone else’s skin. He wants to have it entirely memorized.
Shou moves his hands away from Ritsu’s shoulders and impulsively pulls him into a hug. Ritsu tenses up and then relaxes entirely and Shou tries not to feel like he’s been given a gift as he hooks his chin over Ritsu’s shoulder. “Let me help you.” He says into the empty air.
Ritsu says nothing.
Shou readjusts. He moves so that he can turn his head and presses his lips to Ritsu’s temple. “Let me help you.” He says again, his lips less than a centimeter away from the skin.
Again, nothing, but he doesn’t think it’s the offer that has him out of words. All he wants is to see Ritsu’s face, but he’s committed to the angle and is fairly certain that he’ll die if he lets go of Ritsu now, so Shou just moves his lips down and kisses his cheek. Skin shouldn’t be allowed to be that soft, he thinks. It shouldn’t be that soft and unkissed at that same time. “I want to help you.”
“Okay.” Ritsu sounds breathless, like he ran two marathons in a row. Shou has no clue if kissing him was a good idea or not, but Ritsu doesn’t sound like he’s disgusted by it or he didn’t like it. He just sounds...Shocked, Shou thinks is the best word for it. Ritsu levitates the papers with his powers so that he can see them without having to hold them. Shou shifts so that his chin is resting on the top of his head, and it’s somewhat awkward because Ritsu is still a few centimeters taller than him, but he’s slumped over enough that it works.
It’s a mess of pencils and auras, their little setup, but over the course of an hour, Shou learns a lot about budgets and numbers and those in charge of various clubs at Salt Mid. Ritsu has an opinion on all of them, and Shou’s in stitches as Ritsu recites stories about his classmates in a perfect deadpan between making decisions about who ought to get what. He looks at Ritsu’s handwriting, somewhat sloppier than usual due to the fact that he’s fighting exhaustion and not actually holding the pencil, but it’s still recognizably Ritsu’s. Shou thinks he could recognize that writing from the sun.
When he isn’t making suggestions, Shou draws on the papers. Flowers bloom between the Art Club and Body Improvement Club requests. A sketchy portrait of his hamsters sit atop of a pile of camera costs. A few vaguely connected triangles encircle Ritsu’s written comments about the price of timpanis. Either he must actually be improving or Ritsu’s so tired that he can’t see right, but he actually compliments Shou’s drawings, and Shou tries not to be flattered. He tries, and he fails.
Somewhere close to three, Ritsu’s writing trails off and then all of the papers drop at once. His breathing is slow and even, and Shou realizes that Ritsu’s fallen asleep with his head on his chest. He’s glad that Ritsu’s unconscious because Shou is fairly certain that his heart is beating out of his chest and if he were awake, Ritsu would hear it. He wonders if he’s having a heart attack, but no. Shou knows that it’s just affection thrumming against his ribs.
Shou levitates the papers again and finishes the budget off while Ritsu sleeps. On an impulse, he doodles a heart in the bottom corner of the page before falling asleep himself.
When he wakes up, it’s nine o’clock in the morning. Ritsu is long gone along with most of his papers, but the one with the heart remains. The one with the heart remains, and one more heart is drawn next to it.
Shou knows who put it there. Half asleep and heart full of February wind, he could still recognize that handwriting from the sun.