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yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
does anyone else have plans tonight? sold my last red velvet ticket 11:09 PM - 8 April 2019 2 6

hot dog niisan
@daddylonglegs
@p1aymak3r Thought you and loverboy were goin dancing..? 11:12 PM - 8 April 2019 1 2

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
@daddylonglegs change of plans 11:13 PM - 8 April 2019 1

Yusaku withdrew his trembling thumbs from his phone, ogling the way they shivered—the way his fear caught the light and played shadows across his palm. The jittering of his fingers told a terrible shadow puppet show of the last few hours. No, he hadn’t ingested a single thing since Ryoken lifted up from the coffee shop, all sharp angles and strangely jagged words and left him out to bleed. Thankfully in the time between, he’d had some time to dry and the next step was to slap a bandaid over it.

Were he to take Ryoken at his word (as he has always been wont to do, even in cases where Ryoken has been his per usual theatrical self), today brought the end of them both: his number, erased from Ryoken’s phone and his Twitter, muted and likely soft-blocked. He hasn’t bothered to check, not finding the appeal in letting the final shoe drop too soon. At least let him shift some of his personal belongings out of the way first, or at least his panini.

Yeah, he’s really not going to finish the thing now. It’s gone stone cold and every time Yusaku makes a pick at it, turning the soggy bread over in his grasp, he feels just as ruined and wet behind the eyes. It had to be in a Starbucks of all places, in order to, and Yusaku quotes, “be in a place of neutrality, so that conversation conducive to their material realities and not their feelings could be realized.”

Fucker sure seemed more than pleased to nurse his own mounting anxiety with every sip of his iced caramel macchiato if you ask Yusaku. No one is, but he knows Ryoken well—too well he supposes.

Biting his lip, Yusaku winces. Ouch. Yeah, this hurts. This hurts much more than he can bring himself to express in the open but it’s in the little things, like how Ryoken’s favorite order had become his staple go-to morning wake-up call, or the startling realization that now he will know exactly what to order for another human being who wants nothing to do with him from henceforth: the small, lived-in moments that make Yusaku remember that he spent three years of his life with Ryoken Kogami, memorizing the smile he makes out of the side of his mouth like a ghost escaping its tomb, like the child in him escaping his chains.

But, he digresses. In the past month, he’d fucked around on the dark web and scored himself a few tickets to see Red Velvet, iconic KPOP sensation that he’d no doubt stan if he listened to anything but ambient noise playlists on Spotify and Troye Sivan.

Oh, well, and Depeche Mode but didn’t everyone? Like, before moving in with Kusanagi, he listened to Depeche Mode.

Anyways, the point being that he sold the last of those tickets, scoring himself some spending money for the weekend and speaking of Kusanagi…

Yusaku frowns down at his timeline, taking notice at the lonesome like that Kusanagi leaves on his reply, ostensibly sensing the deeper meaning behind it though perhaps not pressing for details just yet. If memory serves, he’s at the hospital with his little brother. Not really the time to dump all this onto his roommate if he can help it. In truth, Yusaku had become quite adept at bottling things up until fairly recently. Kusanagi and Ryoken both had their ways of prying the truth out of him: Kusanagi more like a gentle tug and Ryoken much more akin to a crowbar to a crate of perishables in danger of going bad within the next five seconds, but regardless, it used to be something of an easy task—keeping his feelings to himself.

Such a shame that he presently wished he could blab it all away, open his mouth and let the hurt fall out just for a little, just like what the regular people did. Remember venting? Yusaku’s getting those feelings again, like he wants to talk about his emotions and that was a very scary prospect.

Still, maybe one of his many mutuals on Twitter who he doesn’t know well or care about beyond a superficial semblance of kinship will agree to listen to him prattle on. Tapping his notifications, he squints down at the reply from a high school friend he seldom speaks to.

ʚ blue angel. ɞ
@sapphiresaint
@p1aymak3r what the hell. i would’ve went. 11:29 PM - 8 April 2019 1

Regarding the reply strangely, Yusaku wonders to himself how his high school acquaintance got verified on Twitter and he closes out of the Twitter mobile app.

Once he’s outside the coffee shop, the blessing of a twenty-four hour thing that it is, he reopens the app because that’s how he functions as a human being and he’s greeted to a DM from none other than Kusanagi asking him if he needs a ride home. This would in fact be the perfect opportunity for him to let himself get taken care of, and yet the night time air is calling his name. It isn’t simply because he’s reluctant to let anyone else see him so close to this side of weepy, though that’s part of it.

Yusaku just… wishes that he could become a phantom for a while, haunt the areas where he should be but otherwise be absent for as long as need be, until he feels like himself again. He thinks this to himself on the way home, shivering gently in the crisp Spring air. Allergies tickle at his nose and he buries both clammy hands of his into his jean jacket pockets, pretending that he’s got something of a fashion sense without Ryoken watching over his every purchase and closet perusal.

For God’s sakes, he’s in black slacks with a blue jean jacket. That’s like, a cardinal sin of fashion, isn’t it? Must be the real reason Ryoken decided on what apparently was a whim to break things off. What did he even mean by half of the things that he’d said? To Yusaku’s understanding, Ryoken held no ill will toward him and Yusaku had not done anything to earn his scorn. He was simply… afraid. But it wasn’t for Yusaku to say, no. He’d taken great offense to that word.

Perhaps just overwhelmed. Ryoken tends to overthink things much more than Yusaku does. Yusaku finds himself going in circles in his head by the time he passes by the great big bodega just a mile from the apartment, glowing with a faulty neon closed sign that merely reads lose in cryptic red jelly font. Where it didn’t make sense to him to break up with someone you had nothing but good chemistry with, evidently this scared Ryoken off.

Commitment issues, maybe? That seems so cheesy though, if Yusaku is honest, having not encountered feelings like these and only heard tell of them through romcoms and other various love literature: the idea that despite wanting someone with all your heart, the idea of being pinned down forever is such a deterrent that it ends up driving a wedge between you.

That must be it.

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
might just put on some romcoms and have a self care night 12:02 AM - 9 April 2019 1 3

hot dog niisan
@daddylonglegs
@p1aymak3r Is this really how you’re coping? 12:05 AM - 9 April 2019 1 1

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
@daddylonglegs shut up. put the ugly truth with katherine heigl on 12:05 AM - 9 April 2019 1

Within seconds, Yusaku’s in the door with his bag on the floor. Kusanagi’s questions are on him like white on rice.

“Yusaku, what happened?” he asks with a modicum more urgency than any of his Twitter interactions would describe; it almost throws Yusaku for a loop actually.

Pocketing his phone for the longest stretch of time since he became single, Yusaku plops his body down into one of their stools and digs each elbow into the countertop. It’s then that he spills it all.

“He said he didn’t want this arrangement to be forever,” he says and Kusanagi is not seated across from him but right beside him, fist at the ready and hand upon his shoulder as though any minute Yusaku’s going to make his way into the wrestling ring and face off against his ex.

“Why’d he say that? Is there something you did wrong?”

“No,” Yusaku clarifies bizarrely, a look of equal confusion blooming across both of their faces, evidenced by the notching between their brows. “He simply said… if he stayed with me then he would be with me forever.”

Blinking, Kusanagi gestures blankly. “And, that’s a problem… because?”

“I guess, he didn’t want me forever.”

“That makes no fucking sense,” cusses Kusanagi, his arm reaching around to backet Yusaku by the shoulders, squeezing him tight. “I’m so sorry, Yusaku. You did nothing wrong. I just need you to know that, especially if he isn’t willing to tell you whatever it is. It’s not fair of him to treat you like that.”

The words fall emptily at his sides, Yusaku failing to feel the reassurance as he should. All that occurs to him is how honest Ryoken had appeared and how guiltless for it all he’d seemed. No part of him doubts that Ryoken has strong love for him. All it boils down to was whether those feelings are good or wanted and those were the questions that Ryoken had most definitely answered.

Again, ouch. Yusaku doesn’t know how to react when being loved isn’t good enough—when simply going through the motions with honesty isn’t the correct answer.

As if sensing the hesitancy and despondency, Kusanagi shuffles Yusaku in his grip and grins something big and sleazy.

“C’mon, Yusaku. Sulking at home won’t help it go away. There’s a whole sea of guys out there that can help you forget all about ol’ albino.”

Picking apart the shine in Kusanagi’s smile, Yusaku can tell there’s something sinister afoot. His nose wrinkles at the thought but he brings himself to ask nonetheless: “you’re not saying we should club hop, are you?”

“Nooo,” Kusanagi chuckles. “Just the one. Just the one club.”

God, that sounds so ridiculous. It’s the night that he’s just been dumped by his boyfriend of three years and his roommate’s remedy is to find a new fish.

His heart hurts and he laughs in turn. All he can do is laugh, trying to think of how terribly this could go: a tipsy man on the mend, somehow at the bar thinking he can see a stranger’s real face for the first time and not an eclipse of Ryoken’s own when he flirts with them. Impossible.

And yet…

Some part of Yusaku knows what Ryoken said, that he still loved him, that this was a (not) hard (enough) decision and that it hurt him to do so, and thusly, some part of him can make the connection that perchance rebounding so early could wound him.

Yusaku checks to see if Ryoken soft-blocked him. He did.

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
tw for drunk tweeting for the rest of the night. mute me if need be 12:40 AM - 9 April 2019 2

Maybe the warning was a bit much. Yusaku does not get drunk. At most Yusaku will get mildly buzzed and even under that occasion, he isn’t one to brag or even grace the timeline with his presence.

Tonight is a different beast. What Ryoken doesn’t know won’t hurt him. If he thinks that tonight is a celebration, well, Yusaku wasn’t posting it for him. The two weren’t even following one another anymore. Shrugging to himself, Yusaku congratulates himself on his fifth shot and how accustomed to the burn he’s become, fingers only brushing faintly with the chaser at his side this time around. With both eyes closed, Yusaku trails his tongue across his lips with a strange delicacy, remarking to himself that when allowed to fully surrender himself to the fizzy pop of inebriation, everything feels so much more electric.

Huh, so this is why people drink, Yusaku notes to himself weakly.

Kusanagi’s laughter at his side, has it always been so boisterous? This song echoing over the stereos, has it always pulsed in his very veins? God, he feels good.

“You look relaxed for the first time in your life,” jeers Kusanagi, elbowing Yusaku as he knocks back another of his whiskeys. “Don’t go and make a habit of this now, though. A drink’s only good for once and awhile.”

Yeah, probably, but Yusaku doesn’t want to hear that from Shoichi “bottle in one hand, chili dog in the other” Kusanagi. If his options were to amputate one arm or to quit having a beer before bed, Kusanagi would need to learn how to pop caps off with his teeth and quick.

Yusaku’s sipping water now. He has to be sober enough to make these kinds of thoughts known to the world. It’s a part of the party culture, isn’t it?

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
if kusangi had to quit his nightly beer or get hiss hand cut off, id have to teach him to open bottles with his teeth 1:21 AM - 9 April 2019 1 2

ʚ blue angel. ɞ
@sapphiresaint
@p1aymak3r hey fujiki what does this mean. 1:22 AM - 9 April 2019 1 1

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
@sapphiresaint bc he n eeds 2 han ds to open beer 1:24 AM - 9 April 2019 1 1

ʚ blue angel. ɞ
@sapphiresaint
@p1aymak3r ok cool thanks for the clarification. 1:24 AM - 9 April 2019 1

Oh dear, he really didn’t notice any of those typos until they’d made their way onto the Internet. Strange how this loss of control feels somewhat welcome to Yusaku. He imbibes his water with contentment, pleased with his current state of loosey-goosey. Better not get any worse than this, he tells himself. Here’s a good stopping point.

As these thoughts cross Yusaku’s mind, Kusanagi’s hands are warm at his back and are haphazardly ushering him off his stool and in the direction of the dance floor. The surrounding lights consume him and spit him back out into a dizzy mess.

“Get out there, kid,” he suddenly says to Yusaku’s knobby knees. “I’ll be around to pick ya up but I gotta, uh, move around for a bit.”

Yusaku wobbles.

Fair enough, but… was there a reason for Kusanagi to shove him like that? In his struggle to steady himself against the crowd, his hands locate themselves to the nearest stranger: a girl only an inch or two his junior with some impressive eye make-up and a tiny angel wing flush against the top of her cheek, almost like a mole or tattoo beneath her left eye.

Wait.

“Aoi Zaizen?”

Even through the fog, the color contacts and the fake extensions, Yusaku can pick her out with a curious amount of accuracy considering their status as mere acquaintances. Call it a quirk of his: telling faces apart. If nothing else, the way she twists back from him like she’s encountered a monster, a cave creature and not a human male makes him question what he’s done wrong in seeing her.

Her outfit isn’t… too revealing. It’s a bit gaudy in comparison to her regular garb. Aoi’s always gone out of her way to blend in, be as unassuming as possible, an existence that could hardly be classified as a blemish on the face of the collective earth. This girl in front of him now, dressed in glow-in-the-dark paint and decked out in heels couldn’t possibly—

“What are you doing here?” she barks, voice low and uneven.

Yusaku considers telling the truth.

“Decided against romcoms,” he says.

“You didn’t see me here,” she announces like a threat.

“I don’t have any reason to blab about what you’re doing.”

“Normally, you’re right, but if your antics on Twitter are anything to go by, you’re out of sorts tonight.”

Well, whip out your library card and consider him read. Yusaku has nothing at all to say in response, merely gaping at Aoi with an expression one could say resembles shock (if shock had been dimmed down with a lampshade considerably.)

“You don’t strike me to be the club-going type,” she says funnily enough.

“Neither do you.”

“I’m irrelevant right now. I go to clubs all the time and no one knows. You’re different. Are you here with your boyfriend?”

Somehow, Yusaku’s eyes catch on her metallic lipstick as her mouth forms the word ‘boyfriend’ and time stands still while his brain catches up. Yes, that thing he was trying to distract himself from today still happened. He was a single man and this was his shitty, single plan. Great how the second Kusanagi slips from his side, he’s once again riddled with shame at the sheer knowledge that he was on the road to shitfaced.

Even Aoi knows that ordinarily he wouldn’t allow this of himself. This wasn’t his usual behavior at all. Where had Kusanagi run off to? It wasn’t like Kusanagi to bolt without warning, especially in circumstances like this. It’s a wonder Yusaku hadn’t started crying in the middle of the dance floor. The thought comes when he remembers the question he hasn’t answered. Instead he says, “I don’t have one.”

Aoi’s eyebrows shoot up.

“Yes you do. I follow him on Twitter.”

This information shouldn’t weird Yusaku out as much as it does. In today’s world of social media, it was almost a staple to be tangentially linked to people you had no interest in interacting with in a serious capacity, sometimes simply by being mutuals for content or because you just happened to know their boyfriend.

But no, that still feels strange. Yusaku’s mouth turns into a line and he goes, “I guess he hasn’t tweeted about our break-up, then.”

In the same breath, Aoi is already refreshing her feed—steely blue nail polish refracting disco lights with each swipe of her hand. Pouting gently (almost as if on accident), she gives a dismissive shake of the head.

“No, nothing,” she says, and Yusaku knows better than to pull his account up and look for himself but there’s no stopping him now; the liquor in him has taken the last of his brain cells with it.

ryoken.
@hanoirevolver
Staple removers on sale at the local Office Depot. Raided. Absolutely taken down. 11:25 AM - 8 April 2019 1 1 13

Ephemeral Spectre
@Sunvinyard
@hanoirevolver As always so Proud of you Revolver-sama 1:10 PM - 8 April 2019

Okay, what the fuck.

Yusaku almost thinks that this churlish, rogue thought slips out of his mouth with how quickly Aoi’s head snaps up to meet him. It might as well have with how much her sentiments echo his own. With a curious narrowing of the eyes, she musters the courage to say, “he mentioned going to Office Depot today, but not splitting from his three year boyfriend?

“Wait, how did you know how long we were together?” Yusaku asks.

“I don’t read everything that everyone posts but I lurk and pay attention to a lot of stuff.”

That’s understandable, he says to himself. Still…

“You never mentioned why you’re here,” he says.

“Fujiki, this is a gay club,” she specifies and Yusaku’s back straightens with the knowing.

“Oh.”

“Yeah,” she affirms, further giving credence to the idea that he should keep it an absolute secret that he found her here in the first place. Yusaku wasn’t in the business of outing people to their friends or family. “But anyways, I guess it wasn’t that big of a deal to him.”

Wincing, Yusaku tries to pretend those words didn’t just puncture his windpipe. They sting, imagining a world where Ryoken is happily relaxing poolside with that friend of his (who Yusaku found has also soft-blocked him,) completely unaffected by the heartache inflicted upon him. What was self-admittedly a hard choice for Ryoken to make, something he slaved over meticulously before even bringing to Yusaku’s attention, was not newsworthy in the slightest or worth the tiniest mention.

Well, actually, Yusaku didn’t post of the break-up either, thinking it would be shitty or pathetic of him. That must be the reason behind it.

“It was a big deal,” he defends. “It wasn’t an easy decision for him to come to.”

“Maybe the staple remover is a symbol for something,” Aoi suggests, tapping her phone as she sucks her teeth. “Who’s this guy?”

“Sunvinyard? Some friend of his.”

Aoi shoots him a glance like he’s got sixteen heads and Yusaku shuffles on his feet a bit, the overpowering bass all around them making it harder and harder for him to stand upright.

“Wh-what?”

“That’s his rebound,” she says.

“No, they’ve been friends for years.”

“I know what I said,” she continues. “Look at the way he chases after your guy. Ryoken never likes back any of his replies and yet the guy comments on almost all of his posts anyways. There’s only one thing that drives someone that far without validation.”

That knowing glance pulverizes Yusaku, who stands utterly new to the idea. He whispers, “and that is?”

“Good dick,” she says and Yusaku turns his head.

“That can’t be right.”

“Is his game bad?

“No, it’s not bad. It’s…”

How can Yusaku say this gently?

“He’s a bottom.”

“For you, maybe,” Aoi supplements and Yusaku almost stumbles backwards into a line of grinding college students. The thought had genuinely never crossed his mind.

Sure, the two of them traded off once in a while but… they mostly had an order of things. Had he perhaps, in error, mistaken Ryoken’s wants and needs so badly that they had been picked up by another man? That couldn’t be the sole reason for splitting with him or even a remotely good one. Things like that could be talked out.

…and yet, Yusaku’s alcohol-addled brain is telling him that Ryoken’s busy sitting pretty atop a mountain of staple removers with Spectre at his side, ready and willing to fuck him all the way down the hillside should Spectre so much as say the word. It isn’t a beautiful picture. His stomach twists into knots and Yusaku realizes far, far too late that he’s going to miss the sex.

Break-ups really do happen in phases of discovery, each one no worse than the last.

“Ugh,” Yusaku finally grunts, running one rubbery hand down his face in agony as he struggles to cling onto whatever good vibes he’d been feeling prior to Kusanagi jumping ship. Super fantastic of him to run out on the night that he decided to get fucked up, by the way (which coincided with the night he didn’t decide to get broken up with.) “I don’t know what to say.”

“I’ve got a situation that can be mutually beneficial to the both of us,” Aoi says, and Yusaku’s chewing on his cheek in frustration.

It doesn’t even occur to him that she could have a solid game plan. The words, “go ahead,” fall out of him so lackadaisical and flat that Aoi visibly pops her hip in response, pointing a jab at the center of Yusaku’s ribs that makes him flinch up something soft and vulnerable.

“I’ve gotta keep my brother off my back. Say that you’re my boyfriend to keep him off my trail and also make your ex jealous. He’ll be crawling back to you in no time.”

Eyelashes fluttering wildly, Yusaku can’t help but ask, “keep him off what trail?”

“I can’t let my brother know I’m gay,” she says. “If we pretend to date, you make your man realize how much he needs you and we keep me in the clear.”

One eyebrow aloft, Yusaku sobers at the concept. That couldn’t be too hard, what with Twitter being he and Ryoken’s current only way of communicating toward one another. There were a lot of fake things he could post and say that held no weight or water in person. It was pretty simple, in theory.

“That will make Ryoken come back to me?” he asks.

“No question. He’s flexing on you and trying to look better off than he seems. If you shock him with a new partner so soon, he’ll have a reaction, guaranteed.”

But, would that reaction be the right one, Yusaku wonders, not discounting a reality in which Ryoken wants nothing to do with him while simultaneously casting judgement over who does have anything to do with him. It makes Yusaku somewhat sad to know that this isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Still, his adherence to this plan has a lot to do with the alcohol in him, the searing party lights, the music beating through his bones and the state of denial he’s still firmly planted in. It still occurs to him that Ryoken could come back. It isn’t over between them yet.

Nodding his head slow as the cogs begin to turn, Yusaku lets the idea blossom. It isn’t something too far fetched either, thankfully. Yusaku openly identifies as bisexual. At the very least, he’ll be helping a fellow gay individual remain safe and closeted for their safety. All variables examined, Yusaku has three reasons to take Aoi up on this offer: firstly, it will offer her some protection; secondly, it will serve to make Ryoken (necessarily) jealous; thirdly, it will give him some focus for the future ahead, or else this break-up is going to eat him up inside. There will be a lot of posting necessary to keep this charade up. That is a lot of time spent making a fake life that doesn’t exist and it doesn’t leave much room for relationship grieving.

Once all the dots connect in his head, Yusaku gives a shallow nod and rubs his neck with exasperation.

“We can try it,” he finally says. “Just tell me how it should go.”

ʚ blue angel. ɞ
@sapphiresaint
so @p1aymak3r and i are pretty serious now. 2:03 AM - 9 April 2019 4 37 789

hot dog niisan
@daddylonglegs
@sapphiresaint Ngl I didn’t see this coming 2:29 AM - 9 April 2019 3

chicken permission
@Souljaburner
@sapphiresaint WHOA REALLY????? 3:13 AM - 9 April 2019 1 2

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
@sapphiresaint, @Souljaburner its a recent development 3:14 AM - 9 April 2019 1 3

ryoken.
@hanoirevolver
Hm. 7:17 AM - 9 April 2019 1

Chapter Text

chicken permission
@Souljaburner
Just got my dick pierced At Claire’s 2:05 PM - 11 April 2019 3 24 57

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
@Souljaburner cool 2:11 PM - 11 April 2019 3

ʚ blue angel. ɞ
@sapphiresaint
@Souljaburner prove it. 2:21 PM - 11 April 2019 1 1 5

chicken permission
@Souljaburner
@sapphiresaint yea sure lemme whip meat for all 5 of my followers who wanna see that 2:23 PM - 11 April 2019 1 51 289

chicken permission
@Souljaburner
@Souljaburner, @sapphiresaint WHOA why’d my tweet get so much attention? remember me while im on 2:27 PM - 11 April 2019 1 2

ʚ blue angel. ɞ
@sapphiresaint
@Souljaburner i’ve got 29.4k followers on Twitter and you said something funny to me. 2:30 PM - 11 April 2019 1 5

chicken permission
@Souljaburner
@sapphiresaint oh shit!!! that makes sense. damn yusaku you’re dating a celebrity! 2:30 PM - 11 April 2019 1 3

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
@Souljaburner, @sapphiresaint i consider myself lucky 2:34 PM - 11 April 2019 3

Ryoken sits two fingers atop his laptop screen, maintaining composure, clicking the computer close with sangfroid. What a bunch of horseshit.

Jealous? Not as much as he is hurt and puzzled—no, puzzlement did not begin to cover the wide array of emotions he feels: a Kinsey scale ranging all the way from genuine bemusement to utterly flummoxed. Had Yusaku merely… waited for this chance? For all the upset he’d displayed in body language (which, admittedly, was not much for any regular person but for Yusaku, was more than usual), he appears to be carrying on without so much as a hitch to his daily life.

It hadn’t even been a day before Yusaku had found a new mate. It felt fake. It should have been fake, but it had been three days now at this point with no sight of the resurrection, the realization that it’d all been some ruse, a trick of the light or a terribly timed prank aimed at his caged heart.

Sipping his iced coffee, wincing at the taste of gritty sugar sticking to his teeth, Ryoken feels the weight of hell crash into his shoulders all at once. So far this week, he has done the incredibly asinine thing and kept up with Yusaku and his frequent tweets about his girlfriend (gag) and given himself up to the ugly emotions, letting them fester and boil beneath the surface. Finding that Dunkin Donuts had gotten his order so irreparably wrong was simply the last straw.

It’s an iced coffee. Why the fuck would you put regular sugar in it? In a hot coffee, the sugar is melted down and mixed into the beverage. Everyone knows that for iced coffee to have its smooth flavor, liquid sugar must be used. How fucking hard of a concept is this?

He whips his phone out with a razor sharp quickness. The furiously methodical drumming of his thumbs against his rose gold Apple iPhone XS commands the attention of one librarian passing behind him.

ryoken.
@hanoirevolver
I’ve never felt more privileged in my life. Do poor people always have to risk drinking literal sewer swill when they order from Dunkin? 2:36 PM - 11 April 2019 1 1 6

Ephemeral Spectre
@Sunvinyard
@hanoirevolver I am afraid so Did they fuck up your order? 2:37 PM - 11 April 2019 1

ryoken.
@hanoirevolver
@Sunvinyard Yes, disgustingly. I cannot drink this. It’s fine. 2:37 PM - 11 April 2019 1 1

Ephemeral Spectre
@Sunvinyard
@hanoirevolver Give me but a moment and I will come by with Starbucks 2:38 PM - 11 April 2019

Hm, good idea. Ryoken does not reply, preferring as usual to keep his conscious distance and feign general apathy. It never backfires when dealing with Spectre. Childhood friends for far too long, Spectre has become something of a second head glued to his body, ever present and not always welcome but the nature of things nonetheless. They’re both somewhat inseparable but only for Spectre’s actions. Ryoken has always coasted on by and Spectre has followed after.

It made sense though, didn’t it? After Ryoken had befriended the strange, lonely child who claimed to sense things that no one else could, who talked to the trees and believed in the fae. It was an embarrassing time in his youth, an elementary school child who loved to play pretend, who loved to make up fake identities and act them out on the playground.

Ryoken was no longer Revolver and hadn’t been for some time but Spectre was always Spectre, his real name only uttered in dire situations, whispered like a secret in a tongue only they knew.

When Spectre was not gardening, was not selling succulents and making heated YouTube videos over how best to starve them (Spectre always found idiots who overwatered them or left them outside to drown), he was setting gems on the windowsill and finding Ryoken’s future in a deck of Tarot cards. This was merely who Spectre was, never quite abandoning that persona he’d adopted as a child and never quite blending in with the rest of the populace like Ryoken had.

But, he stuck by Ryoken. That alone meant he was of great import to him, even if sometimes he tweeted about… strange topics that Ryoken knew nothing about and had no interest in.

Ephemeral Spectre
@Sunvinyard
I know that not everyone will see me as The Giving Tree kin but the least you could do is not invalidate me to my face 2:42 PM - 11 April 2019 1 1

Ephemeral Spectre
@Sunvinyard
@Sunvinyard This includes referring to it in the third person while talking to me This is othering me from who I am and is a microaggression 2:43 PM - 11 April 2019 1 1

Ephemeral Spectre
@Sunvinyard
@Sunvinyard If it is because you are following a double just do the proper thing and block them It’s not hard 2:44 PM - 11 April 2019 1 1

ryoken.
@hanoirevolver
@Sunvinyard Hey, are you still coming by with Starbucks? 2:49 PM - 11 April 2019 1 1

Ephemeral Spectre
@Sunvinyard
@hanoirevolver I’m in the drive-thru now 2:49 PM - 11 April 2019

Perfect. In the meantime… Ryoken scrolls through the gallery in his phone, frowning as he realizes all of his best selfies have been tainted. His belly turns at the sight of a photo taken of Yusaku asleep.

This has been the longest three days and it can only get worse from here, regret settling in him like sugar at the bottom of this iced coffee. Guiltily, he takes another sip and the grains stick to his lips.

A memory then: Yusaku with cake in tow, a dollop of frosting on his finger that he smears across Ryoken’s lips and licks off slow.

Wow, yeah. He robs the table of its napkin and wipes his mouth clean. No matter how badly he misses Yusaku he cannot bend. His will cannot shatter. This was a formidable decision but Ryoken stands by his head and not his heart. It, unlike the unruly beast in his chest, has yet to lead him astray.

It proves more daunting of a task than Ryoken had once thought, reconciling his decision with the way Yusaku’s chest dipped inwards with the breath he slowly let deflate from his bruised lungs. Remembering the way he’d taken a few seconds longer to form sentences, no doubt trying to make sense of his madness in his own head only makes Ryoken frustrated and empty. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Yusaku really had no idea what he’d said at all. No wonder he’s scarpered off so swiftly to find a body to fill that hole.

“I came to a revelation recently,” Ryoken had said, taking in the way Yusaku’s shoulders shifted, body bracing for impact, hair standing on end in the way he’d never wanted to make Yusaku feel.

In all of their arguments, Yusaku had never backed down or felt smaller, inferior, and he liked it that way—preferred a partner that spoke his mind even at the possibility of butting heads. It felt honest. It moved him even when the two were at odds. It reminded Ryoken that another world existed completely outside of his own personal bubble and it challenged him. Whether it had been full scale philosophical discussions with his boyfriend or a petite spat over where to have supper, Ryoken never got the vibe that Yusaku were afraid of him, of being hurt or of being abandoned.

And oh, to Ryoken who had felt his fair share of (perhaps misplaced?) abandonment, it was a sight for sore eyes.

And to see how realization looked on Yusaku Fujiki’s face and how it made the joints in his jaw lock and the wrinkles in his lips go taut made his stomach hurt, made his tongue feel like lead, heavy and unwieldy and woefully unprepared to say, “I don’t want to be with you forever.”

Eyes wide, Yusaku said, “Ryoken, I’m sorry.”

His voice shook.

“I was hoping we would be. Is there something I did?”

“No,” Ryoken had been quick to interject with. “This decision needed to happen sooner or later. It’s daunting and it was an extremely hard choice to make, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt that it needed to happen.”

Yusaku closed his mouth awkwardly around a gulp of air and bit down on his lips, listening attentively. It hurt, to have him on a string like this awaiting the reason why. Ryoken, for once, didn’t enjoy this control.

“I love you, more than I thought it could be possible to love another human being. I’m certain that if we don’t break up, we will be together for the rest of our lives. When confronted with this, I found that I still have a lot left in this life that I want to do. Being married at twenty-five is not my goal.”

These words did not appear to comfort or placate the furrow in Yusaku’s brow.

“You have yet to complete your doctorate,” Ryoken said, tugging, adjusting the cuff in his blazer: apathetic. “I’ve got an organization to run and might pursue a formal education if only for good credit.”

Ryoken spoke without feeling.

“I think that we both need to progress in our lives and not be tied down so early. What we’ve had together has been great.”

His fingers on Yusaku’s wrist were warm, betrayal of the chill in his words.

“This arrangement was not meant to last forever, but it has been good to the both of us. You’re an astounding human being. The future just holds different plans for us.”

Frowning with an expression that could only be likened to that of a lost puppy, kicked and anything but angry for it, only confused, Yusaku turned his hand over to wrap each finger around Ryoken’s.

“Are you afraid of this,” he asked, “of us?”

As if punished, Ryoken wrested his wrist back. “No.”

“How could I ever be?” Ryoken mouths to himself, into the napkin in his fist.

Thumbing eagerly through his Amazon Music, Ryoken remedies this unpleasant silence with his newest playlist.

ryoken.
@hanoirevolver
나 어떡해 나약한 날 견딜 수 없어
애써 두 눈을 가린 채
사랑의 숨통을 끊어야겠어
LET’S KILL THIS LOVE 2:58 PM - 11 April 2019 1 9

chicken permission
@Souljaburner
@hanoirevolver BLACKPINK IN YA AREA 3:00 PM - 11 April 2019 1

ryoken.
@hanoirevolver
@Souljaburner Stan LOOΠΔ. 3:02 PM - 11 April 2019 1 2

“Why did he retweet your reply?” Spectre asks, setting down Ryoken’s drink and dropping down into the seat adjacent to him. “Maybe he does not understand that you were being flippant with him.”

“I don’t even know who he is,” admits Ryoken, breaking to take a sip (and God does it brighten him up physically and emotionally) and then saying, “he’s some friend of Yusaku’s who is… still following me for whatever reason.”

“What’s… chicken permission?” says Spectre.

Regarding the other man’s display name with the sort of denigration you could only have when your own was your (wonderfully given) government name, Ryoken rolls his eyes and swipes out of his notifications.

“Some meme we’re not privy to, probably.”

Spectre makes some kind of sound that dies halfway out of his throat. It’s a curious one, something of a laugh intermingled with a gasp. He grins at his phone. With one earbud in, the other swinging around his finger carelessly, Ryoken turns toward his friend with a patient stare.

Without prompting, Spectre says, “your ex is dating The Blue Angel.”

“Hoh?” taunts Ryoken. “I see she’s verified. Who is she?”

“She’s got an EP out on Spotify,” explains Spectre, sipping what appears to Ryoken to be a matcha boba tea with popping pearls; his smirk is strangely enthused for what sounds like an innocuous, objectively factual statement.

If he waits long enough, Spectre elaborates without further urging.

“Her music is hauntingly exquisite, capturing a delicate faeriesque aesthetic betwixt atmospheric ambience and experimental electronic fizz for a combination that stimulates all six of your senses.”

“I see,” Ryoken lies.

“She’s like if you combined Grimes with Purity Ring and Billie Eilish.”

“Oh,” Ryoken amends with knowing. “That doesn’t sound too bad.”

“Her lyrics spin a tale of a lonely, sorrowful angel who goes through life, suffering at every turn for the decisions that she makes, never sure if she measures up or is enough to save those around her who depend on her or to be deserving of love herself. She derives inspiration from a children’s book of the same name, one that I’m quite fond of myself and still own to this day.”

Spectre is a walking encyclopaedia of shit that Ryoken, under humane circumstances, would not be acquainted with. This is no exception to the rule. As he rambles Ryoken mulls through the pros and cons of getting up mid-sentence to piss and takes notice to the growing storm outside. The sky has started to turn a murkier color and the rain clattering as gentle as a hummingbird’s footprints somehow manages to drown out the gushing beside him.

Gazing about to the other library patrons, Ryoken spots a few onlookers sporting dirty eyes for what is likely Spectre’s volume. Ryoken pulls a previously opened tab to the front of his screen and holds it an inch from Spectre’s face.

“Look at what I found on Pinterest.”

Spectre shuts himself up with an unshrinking smile. It’s plastic and it makes Ryoken miss adversity.

“Ah, Revolver-sama, you should add this to your Battlestar Galactica board.”

“Of course. I already have.”

“Effervescent.”

Ephemeral Spectre
@Sunvinyard
When @sapphiresaint sang I’m a God, I’m a girl, the straw that breaks the back of the world, I felt that 3:30 PM - 11 April 2019 1

ʚ blue angel. ɞ
@sapphiresaint
@Sunvinyard thanks! aren’t you the guy who posted rpf of me and your self insert? 3:50 PM - 11 April 2019 1 1 1

Ephemeral Spectre
@Sunvinyard
@sapphiresaint Aaaa I’m so happy you remember me 3:51 PM - 11 April 2019 1

chicken permission
@Souljaburner
@Sunvinyard, @sapphiresaint dude 4:03 PM - 11 April 2019 5

Scrolling through his followers, Ryoken makes the staggering realization that he and Yusaku still share quite a bounty of followers. Souljaburner, whoever he was, and Blue Angel both followed him likely because he had been Yusaku’s boyfriend. The fact that they hadn’t rescinded their follow since earlier this week only makes Ryoken’s head hurt, wondering if his daily content is really interesting enough that complete strangers with, now no attachment whatsoever to him, would opt to keep up with it.

Perchance it was ease of convenience to not bother.

Ryoken’s eyes focus themselves on the back of Spectre’s head, sat in the driver’s seat while the rain pours all around them, scraping the underneath of the car and painting the front of their windshield in fog. He drives slow, cautious while Ryoken takes up the entire backseat all by his lonesome, legs spread with one folded beneath him in some sort of position that could only be described as “aggressively homosexual.”

The word ‘convenient’ echoes, bouncing around in Ryoken’s head like an old DVD player logo. He purses his lips. That’s all Yusaku and his new girlfriend were: convenient. Too convenient.

It was meant to hurt him, Ryoken decides. This was a purposeful social move meant to goad a response out of him and here he was, giving into it.

He chuckles with a croak in his throat at this knowledge, finding it only makes his teeth clamp and his knuckles turn white.

“Find something funny?”

“Oh yes,” Ryoken sneers derisively, peering through the tweets they’ve made toward one another in the last three days.

Lukewarm flirting is all it is: a skeleton crew production of a passionate relationship. Does Yusaku really think this will fool him?

Or, perhaps… Yusaku really has bounced this quickly, and all he’s managed is this stick figure stand-in for the great thing they’d once had. He doesn’t know which is more pitiable. It makes Ryoken sick with amusement.

His eyes float back up to Spectre momentarily, stopped at a light with his head turned toward him.

“Share?”

The empty wanting in Spectre’s eyes always frightens Ryoken. They call out to him in a way he can never respond to, not even in his most desperate moments. Always clinging to the edge of anything Ryoken could say, could do, it was an uncomfortable level of devotion that Ryoken feels he can never rightly complain over.

Thoughts come quickly, how easy it would be to take the low road to getting through this, to fire back, to take the ticket that has always since age thirteen been sat in front of him, taunting him with his inactivity. It’s simply convenient. No matter how hard Ryoken tries to find the same kind of life in Spectre’s eyes as he’d witnessed in Yusaku’s, all he’s ever confronted with is a mirror, a reflection, an audio player feeding him his own words back at him.

In a moment of madness, Ryoken swallows spit and says, “I hate Blue Angel.”

Spectre regards Ryoken neutrally and does not speak. The glare of the green stop light behind him prompts Ryoken to point and say, “light’s green,” and Spectre spins around just before anyone can start honking their horns.

It’s a silent ride until Ryoken speaks up again. “I listened to her EP. It’s fake-deep refuse.”

He waits. Spectre hums with entertainment.

“I get that vibe from a few of her songs.”

Ryoken closes his eyes. Predictable.

cutteeth.
@reflektives
Tell me I’m wrong. Fight for me. Or just fight me. Something. 4:25 PM - 11 April 2019

Stupid. Stupid.

Didn’t he want this?

cutteeth.
@reflektives
This wasn’t easy for me. Why is it easy for you? Maybe I didn’t make it clear enough when I last said I would love you forever. 4:27 PM - 11 April 2019

cutteeth.
@reflektives
Don’t make me feel like this was a mistake. 4:28 PM - 11 April 2019

cutteeth.
@reflektives
Don’t make me wish he were you. Don’t ask to come back when I find you in someone else. 4:28 PM - 11 April 2019

Phone slipping from his fingers and into his lap, it rides down the line of his body and into the car floor. Ryoken breathes in deep, revulsion tracing every vein in him. He shut his eyes. No one follows that diary account but part of him wishes he had let Yusaku follow it some years ago, wishes he had done that and then ‘forgot’ to soft-block him from it, wishes he could be heard without needing to open up his mouth or that thing in his chest.

He bites down into his lips and listens to the rain.

Yusaku, holding his hoodie over Ryoken’s head as they walked home from the theatre, rain drenching the two of them from head-to-toe—the serendipity of it all somehow wringing a wry smile out of him. Yusaku, finding Ryoken’s waterlogged tongue between his teeth as they stood in wait for the bus. Ryoken, distracted by the way the droplets dripped from Yusaku’s full lashes, stepping into a puddle that drenched his legs up to his calves. His Manolo Blahnik shoes, ruined.

Ryoken shook in the backseat, confining himself to a single seat as far into the lower left corner of the car as he could manage, pretending it was just the house without lights again.

His father, telling him at eighteen on his deathbed that he’d wanted Ryoken to finish college, do something with his life, stop doing shady jobs to keep him alive. Ryoken, finding it harder and harder to hear his fading voice over the echo of the thunder all around the room, blinking the lights and making his heart snag. Ryoken, feeling his heart break for the first time.

“Revolver-sama?”

Spectre, joining Ryoken in the dark with a lit candle, the colors making a warmer thing out of Spectre’s ordinarily cold, unfeeling face. Spectre, apologizing for the storm, for the circuit breaker, for the unpreparedness of it all to an uncaring audience of one. Ryoken, holding the single candle in his hands, recalling a dark space and his perfect little place in it. His heart, a more vacant thing than he would like to admit.

“Rev—”

“Don’t call me that,” he barks, breath unexpectedly ragged. “What is it?”

“We’re home,” says Spectre, unflinchingly and patiently.

Opening his eyes, Ryoken spots their little condo on the hill and finds that without meaning to he had drawn his legs up onto the seat, all but curled in something of an embarrassment. With an awkward slowness, Ryoken untangles himself and realizes Spectre’s eyes are on him, all agog and expectant in that way that they always are.

And he’s so incredibly weak so he says, “Spectre, I want to sit in here for a bit longer.”

“Anything for you,” he responds, because of course he does, and Ryoken just wants something to hold onto for a fraction of a second before he fucks it up again.

It isn’t his fault that he takes the ticket. It was sitting there. It doesn’t mean anything when it has always been there. It doesn’t mean anything to pull Spectre from the driver’s seat and to where Ryoken is. It isn’t his fault that he takes the convenience.

It was there. He’s always been there.

Chapter Text

Akira Zaizen
@AkiraZaizen1
Happy #Monday 8:06 AM - 15 April 2019 2 1 6

go cummies only
@Souljaburner
@AkiraZaizen1 KLFJIGJSHDGHSDOGS8DG9SDJ 8:08 AM - 15 April 2019 1 2

ʚ blue angel. ɞ
@sapphiresaint
@AkiraZaizen1 thanks! i hate it. 8:08 AM - 15 April 2019 1 9

ʚ blue angel. ɞ
@sapphiresaint
@Souljaburner, @AkiraZaizen1 hey homura, delete your account. 8:09 AM - 15 April 2019 1 1 4

go cummies only
@Souljaburner
@sapphiresaint, @AkiraZaizen1 gladly but any particular reason why? 8:10 AM - 15 April 2019 1 2

ʚ blue angel. ɞ
@sapphiresaint
@Souljaburner, @AkiraZaizen1 for making my brother read your dn. 8:11 AM - 15 April 2019 1 1 4

ʚ blue angel. ɞ
@sapphiresaint
@sapphiresaint, @Souljaburner, @AkiraZaizen1 stop rting me. 8:11 AM - 15 April 2019 1 1 2

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
@sapphiresaint, @Souljaburner, @AkiraZaizen1 it is 8 am 8:16 AM - 15 April 2019 1 1 6

Akira Zaizen
@AkiraZaizen1
@p1aymak3r, @sapphiresaint, @Souljaburner Good Morning Yusaku 8:19 AM - 15 April 2019 1 3

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
@AkiraZaizen1, @sapphiresaint, @Souljaburner morning 8:21 AM - 15 April 2019 1 3

Akira Zaizen
@AkiraZaizen1
@p1aymak3r, @sapphiresaint, @Souljaburner See You Tonight 8:35 AM - 15 April 2019 2

“Oh my God,” Takeru gasps. “Is there a reason he typed that so sensually? What the fuck does that mean?”

“We are having dinner tonight,” clarifies Yusaku.

“See you tonight,” murmurs Takeru, deepening his voice and attaching a husky breath to every word. “Watch, you get there and he’s gonna slap his bed with his belt and go, ‘You, Here, Now,’ in the worst daddy dom voice.”

“I really wish you wouldn’t speak,” Yusaku says, shielding his eyes. “The last thing I want to imagine is Akira Zaizen in any sexual capacity.”

“But you know,” Takeru begins, tapping his chin and leaning back on the loveseat, “maybe dating a Zaizen is like a two-for-one type deal: you get one, you get the other.”

“No, that is definitely not a thing.”

“You don’t know that! He could be inviting you over for anything.”

“It’s a family dinner, because I’m dating Aoi,” explains Yusaku, voice coated in exasperation. “I didn’t think I’d have to spell it out for you.”

“So? Don’t you think that’s kinda weird? Why are you having dinner with her brother and not her parents?”

Unsure if Takeru genuinely does not know or has conveniently forgotten, Yusaku glances around the room momentarily, he and Kusanagi locking eyes for a split second from his desk in the corner of the foyer. They both purse their lips, and then Kusanagi says, “Aoi’s parents are dead.”

“Oh, shit. Forreal?” Takeru says. “Ditto, dude.”

Yusaku pinches the bridge of his nose.

“Anyways, I wasn’t expecting to have to do this. I didn’t sign up for this when Aoi propositioned me, but in for a penny, in for a pound.”

Propositioned you? Is that what you call getting asked out?” chuckles out Takeru, and it rushes back to Yusaku that Takeru has no idea this is all a ruse. For all intents and purposes, Takeru doesn’t need to know the truth. That just means he’ll have to do a bit more acting in person, then. No big deal.

“Uh, yeah,” he says. “Sorry it sounded strange.”

“Nah, you’re good. I think it’s pretty standard to have dinner with the family, though. You should’ve thought at least that much when agreeing to be with her. Didn’t you ever have family dinners with ole’ boy?”

Blinking, Yusaku opens his mouth to speak only to overhear Kusanagi snickering to himself. He closes it, thinks, then finally says, “Ryoken’s mother is out of the picture, his father is dead, and he has no living relatives.”

“Fuck,” Takeru sighs. “Him too!? Damn…”

“You’ve gotta pay more attention to what’s going on around you, kid,” Kusanagi pipes up with.

“I’m not best friends with Aoi or Ryoken! Snobby dude won’t even follow me back. How was I supposed to know!?”

“Regardless,” Yusaku interrupts, turning toward Kusanagi, “I’ve got all day to plan and get ready for this dinner. I was told I could invite family to come with, so…”

Kusanagi swivels toward Yusaku, propping his head up with his elbow against his desk.

“So?” he says.

“So, would you like to come with?”

Wincing something curious and off putting, Kusanagi waves his hand dismissively and shifts his lower body back around to his desk, chuckling anxiously.

“N-nah, you go on ahead without me, Yusaku. I’ve got a lot of work to do coding this program. It’s gotta be done by the end of the month and the nursing home is tryin’ to wrangle more money out of me.”

Yusaku frowns, folding his fingers together and rubbing them nervously. A certain helplessness washes over him at the mention of Jin. His teeth chatter and he says, “I understand. If there’s anything I can do to help—”

“No, you’ve got your own life, kid. Don’t worry about me.”

Astonishing how Kusanagi continues to refer to him that way when he’s twenty-three, but Yusaku figures it’s because they met when he had still been underage. Maybe Kusanagi’s always gonna think of Yusaku that way. It would sure help to dissuade the amount of people who have insisted that the two of them date.

“He’s like my brother, knock it off.”

Stretching himself out along the loveseat like something of a house cat or an equally lethargic creature, Takeru’s legs fan out across Yusaku’s lap—something that Yusaku doesn’t particularly mind, while he does levy a concerned stare his way.

Takeru pushes his glasses up into his bangs, wiping some stray tears from his eyes as he yawns and Yusaku asks, “how much sleep did you get last night?”

“The regular amount.”

“Which is?”

“About five hours.”

Yusaku’s stare turns punishing.

“You need much more than that.”

“Don’t talk to me as if you and Kusanagi don’t stay up all night doing your software shit! None of us are healthy sleepers.”

“Yeah, and we yell at each other about it,” Kusanagi calls from across the room, still engulfed in his work primarily.

“What had you up all night?” says Yusaku.

“Y’know, important video content.”

go cummies only
@Souljaburner
boutta Stream some games whatre we doin tonight kings 1:03 AM - 15 April 2019 3 7

DM for Rates and Details
@bloodshepherd
@Souljaburner Red Dead Redemption 2. 1:12 AM - 15 April 2019 1 2

go cummies only
@Souljaburner
@bloodshepherd aw man no thanks, yr the dude that always joins my streams and bitches when i fuck up 1:13 AM - 15 April 2019 1 1

DM for Rates and Details
@bloodshepherd
@Souljaburner It is a straight-forward game, one that even one such as yourself could play with relative ease. It’s got horses. 1:17 AM - 15 April 2019 1 1 1

go cummies only
@Souljaburner
@bloodshepherd fuck im sold 1:23 AM - 15 April 2019 1

“And that’s it?” Yusaku says.

“Found out playing Red Dead Redemption 2 while listening to the Billy Ray Cyrus remix of Old Town Road really opens up your third eye. I’m a certified c’untry boi now.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah, turns out the guy is a lot nicer in streams but only when you play shit that he likes. Dude really likes horses.”

“Have you looked at the guy’s description?” Yusaku asks, meaning the Twitter bio and Takeru shrugs with indifference.

“Not that I can remember.”

“You would remember if you had,” Yusaku says, eyes trained on his phone. “He advertises himself as a ‘deep-web hitman.’”

“Those exist!?”

“Not anywhere outside the Tor browser,” Kusanagi says, dipping his toes into the conversation once more and drawing the attention of both the other boys.

“The what browser?”

“It’s the dark web,” Yusaku explains, deciding now at this point to rest his hands on Takeru’s legs. “You access it through a special browser. Considering this guy is advertising out in the open, it’s probably a lie or a scam.”

Taking notice to the way that Takeru extends his arms out, blinking and flapping back into his seat, Yusaku almost can’t hold back the chuckle he’s holding deep in his gut. Takeru bounces halfway off the loveseat and off of Yusaku’s lap.

“You’re telling me, that the fucking Internet dark web assassins that come to your door and kill you really exist?

Exploding into furious laughter, Kusanagi reels back onto his computer chair and nearly slams his knee into the desk. Yusaku’s palm acquaints itself slowly with his face, and he talks as well as he can over the sounds of Kusanagi losing his mind.

“No one is ever really sure, since to find out would require actually contacting one to get someone killed, but the pages for these services exist on the dark web.”

“Whoa… so, you’re sayin’ this guy can’t possibly be one of them bc he’s talking about it so boldly and in the open.”

“Exactly,” Yusaku says. “Not even hackers advertise themselves too openly. It’s just easier and safer to find clients who know how to keep information a secret on the Tor browser. No one who performs these services would want to do business with someone who is just going to leak their business and get them both thrown in jail.”

“That’s crazy…” Takeru mutters to himself. “What does this guy think he’s doing then?”

“No idea. He apparently has rates for various services that he’ll provide, but they all seem too mundane for what he advertises himself as.”

“What, is he just an overzealous cyber private investigator?” snickers out Kusanagi.

“You’re not that far from the truth,” Yusaku says, scrolling through the man’s (public! mind you) carrd and squinting with concern at the services he provides.

“Evidently all of the prices vary depending on circumstance—”

“Which is understandable,” Kusanagi says.

“—but he essentially just says that he’ll track someone’s Internet browsing history, gain access to a certain number of accounts on various sites, prices depending on the site and on how many accounts, and basically just stalk them online from what I can gather.”

“Awww man! That’s not cool at all. I thought we were dealing with a murderer here.”

Yusaku and Kusanagi both twist to glare at Takeru, varying levels of confusion and irritation plain in their faces.

“Anyways,” Yusaku continues, checking the time to spot that it’s now 9:02, “I think he’s just using fancy terminology to get the attention of others.”

“It certainly worked,” Kusanagi admits. “We just sat here and went through all of his services. Who knows. Maybe one day you’ll need to hack into somewhere and your buddy Ryoken won’t be there to lend you his efforts.”

“Yeah. Like he’d help Yusaku out now,” Takeru grumbles with a surprising amount of bitterness, drawing an appropriately puzzled stare out of Yusaku, who stands up finally and drops his phone to the table.

“I’m a decent hacker. I might not be as accomplished as my ex who runs HanoiLeaks but should I ever need to get into something, I’m sure I could handle it by myself.”

“That’s the spirit, Yusaku,” cheers Kusanagi as Yusaku stretches on his tiptoes.

Pulling at his pajama top, a plain grey t-shirt with a tiny pattern of black cats on it, Yusaku contemplates how much time he has left before class. He really could skip. It wouldn’t be that big of a deal. His attendance is notoriously atrocious but his grades are just fine. Next semester, he’s sure to opt for a series of all online courses. Getting out of bed has never been harder when he thinks about how much he misses Ryoken being in it.

It should be silly. They didn’t live together. They had talked about it and maybe even this year the two of them had thought about finding a place of their own. Yusaku recalls it fondly. Still… it was more about remembering that he would never be there again.

The space where Ryoken once laid his head a few times a week felt reserved for him. It’s been left untouched. Yusaku lays on one side and lets the other remain in stasis: permanently undone with the slopes of the rustled sheets draping as they were since the last time Ryoken slept there.

Breaking his thoughts free, Yusaku says, “I’m gonna go get dressed for class,” and he picks his phone back up off the table.

“Alright! I’ve got nothin’ to do today so it’s time to bug Kusanagi—KUSANAGI—” Takeru blurts all in one breath.

“Yeah?” shouts Kusanagi in return.

“What game should I stream? I’m so close to getting enough subscribers that I can apply to be verified on Twitter. It’s gotta be somethin’ good.”

“Kid… It’s 9am on a Monday. No one’s lookin’ at your channel.”

“What? But—”

“And change your dn, it’s an eyesore.”

“Did you see Go Onizuka at Wrestlemania!? I almost passed out. I need water.”

Takeru scrambles off the couch and toward the kitchen in a manic mess, leaving Kusanagi to chuckle mostly to himself, speaking only loud enough for possibly Yusaku to hear as he’s leaving the room.

“What you need is a boyfriend to aim all this thirst at.”

“Oh, are you offering?” goads Takeru, having heard after all.

No,” Kusanagi laughs.

Yusaku frowns. The apartment he and Kusanagi share is full of laughter this morning, full of sun filtering in through the blinds and full of the closest he’s ever had to a family atmosphere… and yet his chest feels like it’s about to cave in and take his lungs with it. He throws his clothes to the bedroom floor, missing the hamper and forgetting to care. The sweet siren song of his sheets calls to him and Yusaku has to resist the urge to flop back down into it.

Ryoken’s voice reoccurs to him, the way he’d so nonchalantly thrown it in his face that he still hadn’t finished his degree. Fun of him to do that, by the way. Yusaku forces his hands through a hoodie and drags it over his head in lieu of a t-shirt or anything else beneath it. Wait, the tag will scratch at his neck all day long if he wears it without a shirt underneath. He tears it off again.

Tugging open his dresser drawer, Yusaku scours the contents therein and realizes he has no clean shirts… except one.

“You’d look good in that,” Ryoken said, passing by a store window, Yusaku’s arm snagging on his. They both came to a stop and Yusaku eyeballed the top: a white breezy blouse with a lace collar and pearl buttons running down the chest.

“Huh,” Yusaku whispered, “you think so?”

“Absolutely. We’re going inside.”

Yusaku tripped over his feet as Ryoken dragged him into the boutique, the bags of clothes and accessories that Ryoken had previously purchased jangling noisily on both of their arms. Always with laser-like precision, Ryoken was capable of finding whatever he wanted out of a store as if the map of it had been imprinted behind his eyelids at birth. It must’ve been a shoppers intuition.

The silvery hanger bumped up against Yusaku’s cheek as Ryoken pressed the shirt up against Yusaku’s front, stepping back as far as his arm would allow to inspect the way it presented itself against Yusaku’s features. Yusaku shivered in place and Ryoken smirked the same way he did when he had an idea, something devilish that threatened to curl his lips up at their edges.

“Good, yes. Go put this on,” he urged, tapping Yusaku and pointing toward the dressing rooms.

The fabric felt a little too thin. There was hardly any sensation to wearing it. Yusaku would think himself naked had he not had the mirror in front of him to confirm he was indeed wearing something over his chest. It was so dainty, the slightest drop of water could probably render the whole garment transparent.

Flushing up to his ears, Yusaku thought too hard on that, only shaken from those thoughts when Ryoken knocked what was likely two of his fingers against the door and said, “You’re done at this point. Let’s see it.”

Without thinking, Yusaku flinched up as he expected the door to swing open, forgetting that Ryoken actually couldn’t pry it free from that side. Hesitantly, Yusaku slid the lock and Ryoken peeled the door free the rest of the way, getting a glimpse first hand at how the frilly bits of the sleeves laid delicately against Yusaku’s wrists. It was something of an instinctual action, the way Ryoken and Yusaku’s hands gathered in the middle, Yusaku chewing on his lip absently while Ryoken tore his eyes across every inch of Yusaku.

“I was right,” he said, his gaping, open mouthed smile so much more subtle and really only visible in the way his glittering eyes rattled in wonder.

“I think it’s a little too… pretty,” Yusaku said.

“You’re pretty,” Ryoken said and grabbed Yusaku by the collar, linking their lips together in a fervent display from behind the dressing room doors.

Yusaku closes the drawer. He hasn’t hung it up properly. He’ll need to iron it to wear it and he doesn’t have the time for that. That is why he cannot wear it, no other reason.

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
i might need to go shopping soon 9:14 AM - 15 April 2019 1 4

ʚ blue angel. ɞ
@sapphiresaint
@p1aymak3r we should pick up something before going to dinner. wanna make it a date? 9:15 AM - 15 April 2019 1 1

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
@sapphiresaint sounds good. text me when you want to meet up ily 9:16 AM - 15 April 2019 1

Typing out the end of that tweet, Yusaku feels uniquely strange tagging on such an affectionate acronym toward someone he doesn’t feel even remotely that strongly about. It tastes wrong and he’s so tempted to open up Ryoken’s Twitter to see how he’s been fairing. Maybe he hasn’t even noticed. Maybe this is all destined to fail because Ryoken has truly not checked in on him at all.

Somehow it hadn’t crossed Yusaku’s mind until now, how big of a possibility it is that Ryoken will simply never look back. Of course it wouldn’t, considering Yusaku hadn’t considered an outcome where he and Ryoken were not even speaking anymore. This breakup fell outside of all the simulations he’d done in his head over this very event. In Yusaku’s mind, they would break up peacefully from falling away from one another, growing apart in a natural sort of way, remaining friends in even the loosest sense but not this—not being cut off completely.

Was there even a need for Ryoken to do that?

Shifting around in his own skin like a stranger to it, Yusaku grumbled to himself and yanked the drawer open hard enough to dislodge it from the dresser. Gift or no gift, Yusaku buttoned the shirt up, wrinkles and all, and wore his hoodie over it.

Enough moping or he wasn’t going to get a single thing done today. It was time to go, and he would not look at Ryoken’s Twitter. He was going to make Ryoken come to him, not the other way around.

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
falling asleep in computational biology 11:19 AM - 15 April 2019 1 3

hot dog rhombus
@daddylonglegs
@p1aymak3r Cmon Yusaku you cant yell at Takeru for getting no sleep and then post this 11:22 AM - 15 April 2019 1 2

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
@daddylonglegs yea i know. whats your new dn? isnt that the video game with the killer teddy bear? 11:23 AM - 15 April 2019 1 2

dragon grandpa
@Souljaburner
@p1aymak3r, @daddylonglegs IT WAS MY IDEA I STARTED STREAMING A PLAYTHROUGH OF DANGANRONPA 11:24 AM - 15 April 2019 1 1

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
@Souljaburner, @daddylonglegs have fun with that 11:27 AM - 15 April 2019 2

God, Yusaku wishes he could get a job doing something like YouTubing or video game streaming on Twitch. What the hell is he doing getting a degree? He could’ve devoted his time to being a full time hacker like Ryoken was. Even now, his flow of requests has dried up with no one commissioning him for web design, the side project of work that he’s under taken while busy getting his doctorate in computer science.

Maybe he should’ve just stuck with doing a master’s program.

Yusaku shakes his head and sips his coke, air gargling up the straw as the cup goes empty. The only reason he is so bothered is because of what Ryoken said and he knows this. It’s shaken him, making him think that maybe if he didn’t have so much on his plate, Ryoken wouldn’t have walked out. Clearly he thought that the two of them could not manage their goals at the same time as being with one another.

Crushing the styrofoam and dropping it into the nearest trash can, Yusaku parks himself beside it at the bus stop where Aoi is to meet him, and he tries to quell these thoughts

It all went wrong somewhere, and Yusaku isn’t sure where. Every single memory leading up to that day felt picturesque and novel. Their relationship felt nothing like the movies, felt natural and nothing more than comfortable and that was special to him. Yusaku spins his phone idly between his fingers, thinking to himself that it wouldn’t even bother him should it fling from his grip and into the concrete or the road. He’s that kind of frustrated. Not even the promise of free food is helping to relieve the stress. All he’s got to look forward to for the rest of the day is pretending to be in love with Aoi Zaizen, who despite being nice and all, does not hold a place in his heart. It shouldn’t be offensive to say considering he knows he doesn’t hold a place in hers either. This is merely a beneficial relationship.

Yusaku opens up his app and clicks around until he is face to face with Ryoken’s Twitter and then he shuts the app again.

No. Not going to give in.

The bus makes its way down the street, pulling up to Yusaku who stands there alone, manifestly stood up.

“Oh,” he breathes, unsure whether to board the bus without her or to wait.

The driver regards him with an impatient glance, tapping his wrist in a way that makes Yusaku hesitantly bolt into the bus.

“I’m uh, waiting for—”

“Fujiki!”

Yusaku turns his head to spy Aoi jogging his way, waving to capture his attention and he steps one foot off the bus making sure he can’t drive off. The bus jostles in place, like he’d been meaning to, and Yusaku withholds something of a cocky smile. He isn’t prone to them but this would be a particularly inopportune time for one.

All panting and hard breaths, Aoi makes her way onto the bus and waves her card over the scanner. Yusaku does the same.

“Sorry I was late,” Aoi says, taking a seat at the very back of the bus.

“It’s fine,” reassures Yusaku, distracted by the regular state of Aoi Zaizen, having the club-going image of her fresh in his mind from the last time they’d seen each other. It’s silly but they really haven’t seen each other in person since deciding to go out. There wasn’t any need to, considering they were only pretending on a platform where Ryoken could see it.

He supposes now, though, that the pretending was now extending past that and to where people in the real world had to witness. Aoi’s brother absolutely had to be sold on the idea of them as a pair and it didn’t really help that the two of them were naturally very solitudinous and kept to themselves. Personal displays of affection weren’t common to Yusaku even with Ryoken and Aoi didn’t seem to want even Yusaku’s elbow in her personal bubble, much less the rest of him.

“So, how are we going to do this?” Yusaku asks.

“Do what? Get you a nice outfit?”

“Pretend to date,” Yusaku says.

“Oh, the same way that we have been, I imagine,” Aoi suggests.

“It’s different in person. I’m afraid I might come across too…”

“Bored? Unfeeling?”

“Fake, but yeah.”

“Yeah, I’ve wondered about that too,” she says, and then the both of them go quiet, the only noise between them being the rumbling of the bus as it barrels down the road and the chatter of the other bus patrons, one of which keeps glancing back at the two of them.

There really isn’t a shred of chemistry between the two of them. Yusaku isn’t sure how in the hell he’s going to manufacture some. The ride to the mall is full of awkward bumps where the two of them move at the same time and apologize for nudging each other at all. Polite of them, but not very romantic or code that they’re okay with physical closeness.

This is never going to work, Yusaku thinks to himself moments before Aoi says, “this is our stop,” and they both collect their bags and prepare to exit.

A selfie is in order as they arrive to the destination, so the two of them snap a shot of each other with half-smiles and victory hands: all part of the charade. Once they’re inside, Yusaku relies on Aoi to direct him and remembers faintly how Ryoken would do the same for him. Yusaku was never one to know what fit on him right but somehow Ryoken had an eye for it, like he could see through to his skeleton at all times and just know what would fit him to a T. Aoi seems fashionable. He trusts her instinct—trusts most people’s over his own when it comes to things he doesn’t care to be good at. How to dress himself is just one of those things he never got around to learning.

“My brother will want you to look spiffy but casual. No tie but… an open jacket with a belt and rolled up cuffs would be a good look for you.”

“Okay.”

Aoi’s deadened stare slides a dagger through him, piercing him completely before she says, “you know you’re paying for this, right?”

“Yes,” Yusaku replies simply.

“Good,” she amends with a nod, eyes vacantly averting with what feels almost like embarrassment.

Once inside the boutique, Aoi asks, “what size are you in… pretty much everything,” and Yusaku realizes that he has no idea.

“I don’t know,” he says with an almost comical level of brevity.

“How do you not know? How do you buy clothes for yourself?”

“I don’t… really go clothes shopping,” he says.

“Well, the clothes you’re wearing now, where’d you get them and how did you know what size to have?”

Eyebrows knitting, Yusaku’s face contorts to the closest thing to annoyance and he gets his words out slow.

“The hoodie is Kusanagi’s. The pants are from high school. The shirt was a gift.”

A silence stretches on between the two of them and Yusaku hides his hands in the big singular pocket of the hoodie.

“Ryoken, bought me most of the newer clothes I’ve got. He always remembered my sizes and, I didn’t have to.”

“Oh,” Aoi says, immediately softening to that of an only mildly distressed cloud. “That’s something you should change. It’d be good of you to show off that you can dress yourself without him. He wants to date a man, not a two-year-old.”

“Yeah, I figured,” Yusaku drones sardonically, not quite as offended as his tone would imply but still worthy of an eyeroll nonetheless. “Just…”

Yusaku twists his wrist around at her absently.

“Help me get started with tonight.”

“Alright, alright. Let me just take a look at your tags and see what your sizes are.”

In the time that it takes Aoi to flip both of his collars and check the inside of his pants hem, Yusaku has started to warm up to her, for three reasons mostly: firstly, she isn’t a bad person if she genuinely cares about Yusaku and his relationship qualms; secondly: she is of a similar disposition as him and there’s something comforting about knowing that he isn’t strange for being quiet or flat in tone; thirdly: there is probably some kind of psychology behind it, but there’s a strange intimacy in letting someone help you out with buying clothes and trying them on and he no doubt feels more comfortable with her than he had been at the start.

Given an armful of garb to try on, Yusaku retreats to the dressing room and finds himself loving the material against his skin. The fabric is so sleek and soft and doesn’t snag at all. The black jacket seemed sort of try-hard or douchey but on him actually squares his shoulders and makes his presence seem to pop out naturally. He rolls his cuffs up without prompting and takes a look at how his forearms look in the light.

Eh, he’s got some working out to do.

He turns around and stands still, eyes glossing over his butt and how well it fills up the ass of these slacks. Wow. Glancing the length of his legs up and down, Yusaku can’t help but hear Ryoken in his head out of the countless times that he’s sung his praises mirror-side.

“That looks so stunning on you,” he’d muttered, hand dripping down the length of Yusaku’s chest. “Let’s see how it looks on the floor.”

Yusaku clears his throat. He’s got to take a pic in this outfit. This is the one that’s going to call Ryoken back. This is the look that will make him wish he hadn’t left. Yusaku is sure. He opens up his Twitter app. It opens to the last page he had open.

ryoken.
@hanoirevolver
Stunning lunch at Notte Bellissimo Ristorante, courtesy of @Sunvinyard. I am in ecstasy. 1:55 PM - 15 April 2019 1 1 10

Ephemeral Spectre
@Sunvinyard
@hanoirevolver Of course Anything and everything for you my love 1:56 PM - 15 April 2019 2

All the color drains from Yusaku’s face. He slams back into the wall without meaning to and his body goes numb—goes cold while it tries to discover how it wants to feel. His whole body shakes with the knowing, with the brokenness until he can swallow down the hurt long enough to form a thought.

This is a huge mistake. This is a misunderstanding.

I don’t want this, Ryoken. I don’t want this.

I don’t want this.

Chapter Text

cutteeth.
@reflektives
You’re wrong about me if you think that you can beat me in a battle of attrition. I’m the one who left, remember? 12:26 PM - 16 April 2019

cutteeth.
@reflektives
I gave my soul to you, foolishly. A rookie mistake, knowing that you’ve always been so unfeeling. I bet this doesn’t even hurt you. 12:28 PM - 16 April 2019

cutteeth.
@reflektives
I’m not hurt either, just disappointed. 12:29 PM - 16 April 2019

With the sound Ryoken’s bare feet make against the hardwood floor of his penthouse as the only grounding variable in this moment—the only thing keeping him tethered to this time and place, he drops his phone into his shuffled sheets and makes a line for the shower.

Why it even bothers him, Ryoken can’t explain. They are no longer an item, however cut from the same cloth they might have been. What had been a terribly hard thing for Ryoken to do was just another chapter in Yusaku’s book, and Ryoken can’t be sure that he would ever be worth even a bookmark. As he runs the shower, the glass door fogs over and he disrobes, recalling the many times Yusaku had spent the night in the past two years.

Yes, when he’d first bought this nice little plot of land overlooking the city, he and Yusaku had only been together a year. Moving in together seemed too fast for them but visits were frequent, so frequent in fact that it begged the question why they hadn’t simply moved in after all. Something about Yusaku’s poor roommate (a man more family to him than Ryoken figured) being all on his lonesome for the rent, and something about Yusaku not wanting Ryoken to buy him, take care of all his financial needs.

Otherwise, his name would’ve joined the lease. Ryoken quietly thanks himself for having the forethought to have never allowed that to happen.

More than enough times, Yusaku lived in the lap of luxury. Between the king-sized bed with a canopy and in-room jacuzzi, Ryoken could hardly believe Yusaku didn’t want to have a permanent residence, though admirable it was. Ryoken didn’t have to work much, inheriting more than enough fortune through the scientific achievements of his father that were beyond life-saving for the field of robotics and genetics as well as artificial intelligence. Ryoken however, didn’t have a passion for his work, knowing how the long hours ultimately caused the deterioration of his health. As it stood, Ryoken made a small killing of his own through his hacking exploits, founder of his own site, Hanoileaks, that brought the best in unauthorized publication to the masses.

Ryoken pushes the shower door ajar.

More than enough times, Ryoken would send for a ride to pick Yusaku up from his campus and spirit him away to his penthouse for a night of luxurious love-making. A handful of those times, they actually ended up finding a most insatiable documentary on Netflix and quite literally had been the exception to the Netflix and Chill phenomenon.

More than enough times, they would both find themselves in this very shower, getting the very opposite of clean in only so many words.

Now, Ryoken chides himself for the frivolity almost, smearing his hand across the glass to ensure no leftover prints have been left in it. It’s been a week since they split and he knows he’s made the right decision here. Who knows if the entirety of the future is locked out for them? In the back of Ryoken’s mind, he has entertained the possibility of the two of them getting further into their lives, college graduates with well-paying jobs (that Ryoken knew his father would be proud of) and still that fire from however many years ago burning inside.

With the two of them having ample attention to turn to one another, the concept of getting back together wasn’t only a great possibility, but it might’ve been what Ryoken had been imagining all along as he came to this conclusion.

Pouring a puddle or two of Oribe Gold Lust into his palm, he smooths it into his scalp and leans his head out of the way of the shower head, instead standing with his back to the water and allowing it to cascade down his shoulder blades. He lets the warmth seep deep into his neck, loosening up all the muscles and discs there and making him shudder.

A weird sort of smile rests on his face.

Yeah, that’s all this was. A period of away time before Ryoken would sweep back in. It didn’t matter if Yusaku wanted to explore. Didn’t Ryoken want to, too? To see if anywhere else in the world his soulmate could be found. It was like double checking. It was merely being thorough.

This had been a smart decision

“Ryoken-sama,” echoes a voice from beyond the bathroom and Ryoken shudders at the sound of it.

It still takes some getting used to, knowing that it’ll be a frosty day in hell when Spectre doesn’t use that sort of language with him anymore.

Popping the glass door open slightly, Ryoken says just loud enough for Spectre to hear, “Give me five minutes.”

Little does he know why Spectre is halfway bouncing on his toes when he finally emerges from the bathroom.

cutteeth.
@reflektives
You motherfucker. 1:04 PM - 16 April 2019

“He’s what?” Ryoken had asked, Spectre smirking something a little too self-satisfied for what this knowledge did to Ryoken.

Spectre clarifies again but this time starting with a tale.

“Genome took the public transportation the other day. You know how Baira’s always trying to figure out ways to stay green and all that. She made everyone take the bus yesterday.”

“Get to the point,” Ryoken breathes.

“Ah, yes. It was aboard this bus that he supposedly saw him, your ex, Yusaku Fujiki. He boarded with his ‘girlfriend,’ Aoi Zaizen, if you can even call her that. The two sat toward the very back of the bus so hearing them was a tad difficult, Genome says, but I think you’ll find that Genome has particularly astute hearing. It’s laughable really, what the two of them had to say when within genuine proximity of each other.”

He chuckles, covering his mouth as if to imply that he had any intention whatsoever at hiding or disguising his utter amusement. Ryoken isn’t convinced.

“For starters, they reportedly looked awkward just sitting next to one another, but if that wasn’t proof enough, Yusaku asked her how best to ‘pretend to date’ while in person! I don’t think either one has a clue that Genome saw them either. He snuck glances back at them and while Yusaku seemed to notice, he likely did not recognize him as being a coworker of your father’s.”

Spectre folds his fingers together with a somewhat twisting smile, no doubt feeling unmeasurably smug for having caught this knowledge, and he says, “I think that he’s purposely trying to get back at you, Ryoken-sama. This is proof enough.”

And oh, that idea has occurred to Ryoken once or twice. He can’t tell if it’s worse or better than the idea that he’s suddenly moved on so fast. On one hand, the latter implies that Ryoken had meant nothing at all and was easily discarded. Ryoken did not enjoy having been made a fool of. However, the former implies that Yusaku is drowning in pain, is suffering enough that he needs to get back at Ryoken, for the love he’s been deprived of, for the love he thinks he deserves to have again, for the opportunity to have it again.

Well, when you put it like that, it’s quite an easy answer which hurt more.

Ryoken laughs helplessly, and laughs some more, and feels his stomach hurt both from his diaphragm and from sickness. He wrings a concerned chortle out of Spectre who rests a hand upon his shoulder but also says to him, “is this not ridiculous?”

“Ridiculous?” Ryoken parrots. “No, this is just what I suspected. This is just the right amount of ridiculous for Yusaku.”

The knowing that he has affected Yusaku, coupled with the now God given right to be angry, to be vindictive, Ryoken feels his blood turn to fire and acid. This is the best case scenario.

“So, he and that girl are only faking it to try and hurt me. Unbelievable. Is Yusaku that desperate to try and make me come back to him that he would try and engineer a situation to make me jealous?”

“It appears that way,” Spectre says and this is one of those times where Ryoken is grateful to have a friend that agrees with anything he says. “It’s a shame he doesn’t know that you’ve already moved onto better things.”

And perhaps, Ryoken isn’t certain he completely agrees but the adrenaline in his blood says yes and without much prompting his wrist comes around to hook behind Spectre’s head and pull him into his lips.

Shower fresh with the towel still dangling hipside, Ryoken tugs Spectre into his lips and then they collapse onto the bed, because the easiest way to forget that his heart isn’t in it is to stop talking.

ryoken.
@hanoirevolver
Blessed to have such a faithful and lovely companion as that of @Sunvinyard. Feeling blissed out. 1:48 PM - 16 April 2019 1 1 11

Lovely Spectre
@Sunvinyard
@hanoirevolver The pleasure and decadence is all mine, Ryoken-sama 1:51 PM - 16 April 2019 4

Sex with Spectre is not that bad. His seemingly endless altruism means that Ryoken’s needs will never be neglected. Still, it’s hard for Ryoken to respond with the same level of enthusiasm knowing that he isn’t altogether ready to be in another relationship again. It’s just a distraction. It’s just being sated. With his eyes closed, he doesn’t have to know who’s doing what. When he’s being serviced, there’s no voice accompanying it. The slightest moans and groans, Ryoken thinks that he can substitute in his mind for the ones that he wants to hear.

This isn’t true, but Ryoken can twist his face and his head into the pillows until it all turns to radio static and this body of his belongs to a different world entirely: one where Yusaku is going down on him and holding his thighs so tightly that he prays for bruises, for any signs that he’s been there.

They have fucked maybe three times since last Thursday, always when Ryoken has to come to grips with acknowledging what this means and what he’s doing. Spectre can certainly misconstrue this as Ryoken being feisty, as the sheer mention of their somewhat relationship turns to frenzied kisses with no admission of the topic, but Ryoken knows himself to be quite communicative. This is simply a deviation.

In the afterglow of this fourth go, Ryoken lies alone with his phone. Spectre has run off to procure them some afternoon snack while Ryoken ruminates on taking another shower. It really isn’t like him to use his body to shut people up but it’s the quickest way to get Spectre to stop talking and it’s something that seldom worked on Yusaku so he’s got to get the mileage where he can.

God, Ryoken misses resistance. He’d picked a restaurant Spectre notoriously hated for lunch yesterday and the two of them went with no hitches or hangups. Yusaku would’ve said no.

Yusaku had personality. Didn’t Spectre have personality? Was he merely stuffing down all of his wants and desires to simply appease Ryoken? Didn’t it foster resentment? Where did the selfish sides of him go?

If Ryoken could see it, then maybe…

Sighing to himself, realizing that he doesn’t want to go down this rabbit hole, Ryoken abandons that train of thought while he scrolls through a few of Yusaku’s friend’s Twitter accounts: a much healthier pastime, of course. How many more of his little pals are in on the joke—aware that he’s faking an entire relationship just to spite his ex. What a petty plot.

He comes across him once more, Souljaburner, clearly some run-of-the-mill YouTube personality with five whole followers—no wait, he had fifty-two. Superb. He wasn’t actually a YouTuber from the looks of it, but a Twitch.tv streamer. The last few things he’d recorded were a play-through of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Red Dead Redemption 2 (advertised as ‘while I do buku shots’), and Yakuza 0.

Does he… make money doing this? Ryoken peers through his channel, currently down, and peeks through some of his recorded streams. A few donations come in here and there but surely that isn’t enough to keep him afloat. What the hell is he actually doing, then?

Perusing his Twitter account yields an interesting treasure: an account going by the name bloodshepherd. The display name catches his eye: “DM for Rates and Details.” Without much sleuthing involved, Ryoken discovers he’s something of an online private investigator (masquerading as something much, much more interesting, mind you). Huffing to himself, knowing that he’s much more capable than some floozy like he is, Ryoken closes out of his carrd only to spot a recent interaction between him and some other account.

DM for Rates and Details
@bloodshepherd
@GHOSTGIRL Stop poaching my business. 11:18 AM - 16 April 2019 1 1

primebitch
@GHOSTGIRL
@bloodshepherd Quit bitching about kill steals. It won’t stop me. 11:54 AM - 16 April 2019 1

DM for Rates and Details
@bloodshepherd
@GHOSTGIRL Do you think you’re funny? You would under price yourself just to undercut me? 11:59 AM - 16 April 2019 1 1

primebitch
@GHOSTGIRL
@bloodshepherd Is it undercutting if I’m better than you? lol 12:06 PM - 16 April 2019 1

DM for Rates and Details
@bloodshepherd
@GHOSTGIRL Stop dming my clients. 12:12 PM - 16 April 2019 1 1

Curiosity gets the better of him and before Ryoken knows it, he’s clicking on her display name and finding himself on her Twitter account. Does not appear to have a name that she goes by, go figure. No one seems to nowadays, at least not if they publicly advertise their hacker activities. That seems to be for the best. Ryoken just calls himself anonymous when taking up jobs.

Huh, he thinks to himself. Some of the services she offers have some merit. One in particular is grasping his attention: hacking into any number of household accounts. Of course it would be based on the household, considering there is little way to tell from outside of the network without personal information about which person uses which device for which website, which accounts belong to whose.

Ryoken is the best hacker he knows, naturally, making a living off it, but this strikes him as impressive. Presumably she would also be able to get the browsing history of the household as a whole, something that only the ISP would be privy to.

Licking his lips, he lets a satisfied laugh fall out and lets his curiosity win. Maybe he can learn a thing or two, and in the process he can get some intel on that girlfriend of Yusaku’s, Blue Angel. It’s just facts that she agreed to this with the intentions of hurting Ryoken, a stranger she’s never met, that she’s bothered to follow no less. If they want to play dirty with him and his heart, Ryoken has no qualms with getting mean.

ryoken.
@hanoirevolver
@GHOSTGIRL How much for a consultation? 2:21 PM - 16 April 2019 1

primebitch
@GHOSTGIRL
@hanoirevolver Consultation’s are free. Step into my dms. 2:23 PM - 16 April 2019

By the time Spectre has arrived back on the scene with gourmet hamburgers from a nearby joint (Ryoken always craves greasy, low-end cuisine post-coitus for reasons no one can possibly pinpoint), Ryoken has his laptop atop his criss-cross naked lap, his hair something of a candy-floss cloud with the manner in which it’s properly sex-mussed and finally dry. Without question he’s going to have to shower again because should he see the nature of his hair at present, he’ll likely punch the mirror. In the meantime, however, Spectre joins him bedside and smooths his fingers through his snowy hair, making Ryoken flinch up at the touch.

“I’m busy,” Ryoken snaps without meaning to, not like anyone else would mistake this for his usual brand of snapping with intention.

“I brought you delectables,” Spectre says and Ryoken does not remove his eyes from his laptop, instead opting to reach blindly for the take-out bag, locating a silvery wrapper with live heat running through it.

As he lifts it up, Spectre deftly plucks it from his hand, replacing it with the other one. “This one.”

Ryoken does not respond and uses his teeth to tug the wrapper open around his fingers. Fresh warmth and the mouth-watering scent of barbeque shudders through his senses, and Ryoken takes a deep bite.

God. This goes perfect with his plan to fuck over his ex boyfriend.

It hits him all over again as he sits here, fingers gliding across the keys in his conversation with the illustrious GHOSTGIRL—how angry he is over Yusaku’s fake dating scam.

Actually, perhaps not really angry. He’s not hurt, rather he’s less hurt than if Yusaku hadn’t cared about him at all and honestly moved on with relative ease. No, he’s glad that Yusaku has turned desperate. What annoyance he feels is overshadowed by the satisfaction at knowing he’s missed and cherished, however that chooses to present itself. He has every right to be upset that Yusaku had tried to pull one over on him, and in a way, he is, but it far outweighs the alternative.

Plus, he isn’t very good at displaying emotions different from the ones that he feels. Masking them altogether was much easier. He devours the barbeque bacon burger without so much as a stutter in his step, adept at typing with one hand. GHOSTGIRL is informing him of her prices.

Despite her tweet to him, she’d been the one to send a direct message with a link ending in .onion, and Ryoken started up his VPN and opened up the Tor browser.

Now he sits messaging back and forth with her over the particulars of their transaction. Ryoken is to pay via Bitcoin and GHOSTGIRL will begin her services. For a preliminary run, he’s only going to pay for her to inspect one account. He would rather know for certain that she’s a hacker worth her salt before wasting valuable time. Money can be replaced but his time cannot.

“How is it?” Spectre asks.

“Perfect, thank you.”

“What’s this you’re working on?”

Ryoken crushes the silvery wrapper into a silvery ball, dropping it back in the bag and splaying his greased up fingers against the air. No prompting necessary, Spectre tugs some wet wipes from the bedside table and takes to cleaning Ryoken’s hand off, wiping his fingers and palm down until he’s wordlessly returning it back to the PC.

“I’m not working on anything. I’m consulting with a fellow hacker on a job.”

“Really? I never thought you’d need someone else’s help on that front.”

“Never underestimate the help you can receive from others,” Ryoken says. “I’m typically sufficient but she has some impressive skills I would like to capitalize on.”

Wiping a stray dollop of barbeque sauce from his own cheek, Ryoken licks his thumb with a smirk before sputtering and shrinking his head between his shoulders.

“Blegh!”

“Ryoken-sama!?”

“Th… that was the hand you wiped down,” he mutters, shaking his head and grimacing over the faint taste of rubbing alcohol in his mouth. “Anyways, she is going to be providing me some information on this Blue Angel.”

Eyes glittering over, Spectre leans in toward the laptop.

“Oooh, do you think that maybe we can find out where she lives?”

“No, nothing that fucking creepy.”

Ryoken refreshes the page and within enough time, GHOSTGIRL answers back with a bit of her findings. The results are shocking.

“The household itself as of this month has had many visits to many different websites, but the major ones with frequency and that have accounts that must be made are Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest… Fetlife?

“Pardon?” Spectre coughs.

“It’s something of a Facebook but for those living the BDSM lifestyle,” Ryoken reluctantly explains, holding a single finger and thumb against the bridge of his nose. “I’ve completely lost my train of thought. What the fuck?”

“Y-you’re telling me… that Blue Angel is into that?

“What, like you have any room to judge.”

“It differs so terribly with her official image,” Spectre defends. “It’s simply jarring. Who knew that she had a darker side?”

Holding his hands up as if to imitate a photographer or a director, fingers in L shapes forming a rectangle, Spectre says, “I can see her now: little angel by day, little devil by night. She trades in her frilly pale blue garters for fishnet stockings, taking the city’s club scene by storm.”

“I’m going to reply to GHOSTGIRL and pretend you’ve stopped talking,” Ryoken drones, thinking to himself all the while that this is the perfect blackmail, the perfect revenge; once he has some dirt on her, he can do more than just make her regret having agreed to partner up with Yusaku Fujiki.

Poor thing just didn’t know what she was signing herself up for. Oh well. That isn’t Ryoken’s fault. He’s broken-hearted, remember?

Slapping the enter key with his thumb, Ryoken flops back against the headboard. Done. Now only time stood in the way. Soon, the results will become clear to them all. She has a public image. A Fetlife account leak will destroy her for good. She has an older brother, didn’t she? What kind of mess will she be in if it becomes known to him that she was up to these salacious activities? The possibilities are endless.

When GHOSTGIRL replies back, Ryoken can hardly keep himself static.

“The account is Akira’s.”

“Her brother’s?” Spectre says.

“The Fetlife account belongs to Akira Zaizen,” Ryoken repeats, clicking the link given and getting a screenshot of the alleged account.

No, yeah. He doesn’t need to factcheck. Ryoken has seen the man’s icon once already and he is pretty goddamn sure Akira just used the exact same icon for his Fetlife profile picture.

“You’re kidding me,” Ryoken says, disbelief in his tone.

Overworked 9-to-5er 33M sub

orientation: Bi-curious
is looking for: Friendship, A Master, A Mistress, A mentor/teacher

About me
Day-to-day life Stresses me out. New to the Community and Looking To Learn.. Have been with Women and Men.. Would love a Mommy or a Daddy

“Oh my,” Spectre giggles.

“This was a waste of my fucking time,” Ryoken whispers out through the hands pressed against his face.

What the hell does he even do with this information now? This consultation is only good for one account and she has other customers to attend to. He only got first priority because he’s a new client.

Whatever, if he wants to hack into her Twitter account so badly, he is certain he can do it on his own terms. What the hell was all of this for, then? Now he can’t erase the images from his head of Akira Zaizen being collared and leashed for some dominatrix. Fuck, he needs Catholicism.

“I’m burning this laptop at my earliest convenience,” murmurs Ryoken, still unwilling to remove his hands from his eyes and face the dark hole the world had become in the last few minutes.

“This one’s lasted you quite some time,” Spectre says, likely in agreement with Ryoken destroying the damn thing.

ryoken.
@hanoirevolver
Can someone come give me cataracts? 4:48 PM - 16 April 2019 1 1 2

dragon grandpa
@Souljaburner
@hanoirevolver omw 5:05 PM - 16 April 2019

Oh, again with this shit.

“Is he being fresh with me?”

“I’m not certain if he’s friendly or not,” confesses Spectre. “I suspect he is either trolling you or he just lacks the awareness to tell that you’re clearly not his friend.”

“Yeah, well he should learn.”

Clicking through to his page for the second time today, two times more than Ryoken ever should, he feels something white hot burn in his chest at the sight of Yusaku’s most recent tweet.

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
havent been feeling great lately, heading to El Orpheum tonight 5:00 PM - 16 April 2019 1 8

dragon grandpa
@Souljaburner
@p1aymak3r fuck yea man its gonna be great dont you worry 5:02 PM - 16 April 2019 2

Ha. Go figure.

El Orpheum is a gay bar, notoriously so. No one who liked Yusaku’s tweet appears to feel it necessary to hold him accountable for already having a girlfriend and yet seeking a refuge for the night at a nightclub, though maybe Ryoken isn’t giving dear little Blue Angel enough credit. Maybe they’ve got an open fake relationship?

Chuckling to himself with irritation and contempt, Ryoken rolls his eyes and snorts. This is a farce and he is going to end it tonight once and for all. Nothing like a face-to-face showdown to get things straight between the two of them. What was once a momentary split for the greater good of them both, Ryoken can steadily feel becoming a vengeful curse upon the both of them. It really wasn’t fair of him to be as petty as he was when his ex and his friends are so unwitting.

If he has to call him on it in front of everyone, that’s what it will take. Ryoken can see it in his mind’s eye now.

Though, if he’s honest, he has to ask himself what it’s all for.

Does he want to be with Yusaku? No… not anymore. Why? Because being tied down so early is scary—a bad idea. It just makes sense. But… does he still love Yusaku?

Lowering his phone down to the bed sheets, Ryoken doesn’t like that his answer is so clear and so, the wrong one. It doesn’t matter to him, or at least it shouldn’t. It’s irrelevant to what must be done, to what’s logical.

Does he want Yusaku to hurt?

Ryoken swallows hard. In a word, no. But when he thinks hard about it, he actually finds it in him to be distressed over the stunt he pulled. It wasn’t easy for either of them—isn’t easy for either of them, but for Yusaku to try and make it harder just because he can’t deal with the hand he’s been dealt—

No, forget everything about Ryoken not feeling rage over this. He does. He absolutely does. Underneath the snark and the glee at still being loved and lusted after, there is this ache, this terrible gnawing, this ugly sense of how dare you.

Squeezing his phone tighter, he lets his breaths come out slow and shallow.

You tried to force my hand, so I’m going to show you what happens next.

ryoken.
@hanoirevolver
Aha. 5:10 PM - 16 April 2019 4

Silver jacket shimmering with Swarovski crystals, Emporio Armani wristwatch, and just a dab of the kind of bottom lip gloss that will draw Yusaku’s eyes through the cloud of the club, Ryoken is ready to make his entrance. The rest of his outfit is rather plain to offset the triple threat glamour he’s got glowing off of him in waves. His typical v-neck commands attention and gets him into the club for free—amazing since he’s likely the richest occupant now inside it.

The innards of the club are somehow darker than the night outside, with the only genuine decent lighting being lamps situated at the doors and bar counters and the rest a throng of black lighting and disco balls. He seems nearly out of place in the atmosphere, with patrons likely parting like the red sea upon smelling the Clive Christian No. 1 on him.

In truth, Ryoken did not live deliciously out of some need to prove himself or to distance himself from other people, from poorer people. It was entirely a thing that he was capable of, and thus capitalized upon. He was neither charitable nor stingy with his funds, viewing money as being ultimately worthless in the long run but wonderful at providing with nice things, uselessly nice things. He will admit tonight, however, that he did come out of the house looking like a bonafide snack for a reason. If Yusaku wants to call him out on him, so be it. At least he isn’t pretending to be something he’s not.

The pounding of the bass thrums into Ryoken’s skull, and he thinks that if he were inebriated he might feel some sort of peace in the beats sliding through one ear and out the other like a constant stream of vibrations. In his current state, he purely feels the onset of a migraine tomorrow. Throwing his eyes around every bar patron and every boy on the dance floor, he searches for the back of Yusaku’s head, his shoulders, his cheekbones—knowing that he’ll know its him instantly because he’s spent three years doing nothing but standing beside him.

Halfway convinced Yusaku has done this all as a ruse to lure Ryoken here pointlessly, Ryoken squints down at his watch before realizing he cannot see clearly in the flashing lights. Duh. He pulls his phone out while walking still, scooting past a few dancing bodies until he bumps into a girl running across the club. The two collide without much mess, as Ryoken is sturdy enough to pretty much absorb the shock and only stagger a tad. Still, his eyes glitter with anger when he sees who it is.

“Blue Angel,” he announces.

“Oh, Ryoken Kogami,” she remarks plainly despite her sudden rush just moments before. “Didn’t think I would find someone like you in a place like this.”

“I can’t say the same for you,” he insults, watching as her passive expression melts into an oddly bright one. “I suppose you and your brother are more alike than you think.”

“What?”

“I don’t have time for you right now. Where is your boyfriend?”

Ryoken isn’t going to bring it up now, the fact that he’s privy to the faking. It wouldn’t do if she were to get to Yusaku first. He wants to see the look on Yusaku’s face when the charade is all over and the masks come off. It’ll be bittersweet, and he’ll relish in it.

Aoi shoots a thumb over her shoulder in the direction of the way she’s just come.

“Check the bathrooms,” she says and Ryoken asks no more questions; a million ideas have already begun to circulate.

Maybe he’s drunk himself silly. Maybe he’s got himself some stranger in there. Maybe he’s a mess and crying his eyes out like he’d never dare to show anyone. Maybe Ryoken is just in time.

Ryoken pushes the club bathroom door open. It slides with ease. He’ll always remember feeling disgusted at the handle being wet. He’ll always remember the way that his body froze up, that his face went white, that he regretted stepping foot inside.

He’s just in time.

Chapter Text

dragon grandpa
@Souljaburner
@daddylonglegs im comin over leave the door unlocked for a bro 9:26 AM - 16 April 2019 1 1

hot dog rhombus
@daddylonglegs
@Souljaburner I really should just give you a key at this point 9:29 AM - 16 April 2019 1 1

dragon grandpa
@Souljaburner
@daddylonglegs honestly constantly in Shock and in Awe when im practically considered family at this point. im like yr son 9:31 AM - 16 April 2019 1 1

hot dog rhombus
@daddylonglegs
@Souljaburner With the things you say to me kid I really hope not 9:37 AM - 16 April 2019 1 1

“You’ve gotta spill all the juicy details, man. How’d it go down?”

For all the light that Ryoken pilfered from his eyes, Yusaku’s amazed to find that Takeru can still see some there. There’s no doubt he’s feeling something far away and phantasmagoric today, a stranger in his own body for lack of a better term.

It’s as if the realization hadn’t set in until now: the love of his life did not love him anymore, and there was nothing that choice, chance, or the actions of others could do about it. Once he’d seen the tweets and let the full gravity of them sink him to the ocean’s floor, Yusaku wondered if that feeling he had was the first time he’d felt despair since his childhood, a messy and horrible thing that it was—not realizing what you’d had until it was gone.

The facts were as such: children did not deserve to know that kind of sadness, to discover what it was like when the ones you love don’t love you back, don’t show it the way they should, don’t protect you the way they promised.

The pain he feels now is not even a tenth of that time, but it is reminiscent. It reminds him of what can happen when he gets too comfortable.

Waving his hand in front of Yusaku’s face, Takeru’s neon smile turns neutral.

“Yusaku?”

“It was exceptionally plain,” admits Yusaku. “Akira had no questions for me, nor did he seem overly protective.”

“Wow, really?”

“He was happy Aoi had found someone,” he says, and thinks to himself, and I felt guilty for lying about it.

Takeru leans back on the couch with a grin, sitting in what would be criss-cross formation but with his feet pressed against one another—his hands gripping his ankles as he rocks with energy.

“Maaan, that’s great! I’m glad he’s so cool about it all! See, you had nothing to be anxious over.”

What was left of Yusaku’s milquetoast expression coughs its last, withering into a frown he can’t disguise, nor does he want to. It hurts too much. As much as he would prefer to keep it to himself, Takeru will ask even if he does. His mouth opens, shrinks, and he says finally, “I spent a portion of the night in the restroom.”

He swallows. “Sick,” he adds.

His movements lulling to a halt, Takeru’s eyes turn troubled.

“Oh no, did you eat something bad?”

Yeah, he thinks to himself dimly in a perfect impression of Takeru’s voice, that L.

“Ryoken’s dating again.”

“Oh,” says Takeru. “Yeah, I saw.”

“You checked his account?”

“I’m… still following him, haha,” he says mirthlessly. “Call it laziness or hate-following. I just like seeing what he’s up to.”

Well, Yusaku can’t find it in him to be distressed that Takeru didn’t tell him. He didn’t ask and frankly doesn’t want to know, but needed to know as well. It’s a complex emotion that Yusaku can’t explain. Massaging one thumb over the other, hands balled together in anxiety, Yusaku takes a deep breath.

“I barely touched my food. Just the smell of it hit me wrong and I had to excuse myself. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

A gently tanned hand joins the two in Yusaku’s lap, warmly clutching them both and giving a reaffirming jostle. Yusaku glances up at Takeru whose eyes retain too much light for him to bear—Yusaku will steal his if he’s not careful.

“He’s the one missing out, not you.” There’s a whole embrace in the squeeze of his fingers and a call to action in the ardor in his eyes. “You just got out of a major relationship. I mean—fuck, I’ve never even been in a relationship lasting longer than a few months or so and y’all were together for three years. That’s a long time, Yusaku. You aren’t letting yourself have enough time to heal.”

Yusaku’s shoulders slump and he flips over both of his palms, taking Takeru by both of his. There’s a certain… strange vulnerability about it that makes Yusaku feel naked and Takeru doesn’t seem to mind at all. Everything he’s saying makes perfect sense and it’s odd to him that it takes Takeru telling it to him for him to believe it, these things that he’s been thinking all along.

Maybe Yusaku isn’t really as crazy as he’s been thinking himself to be. Maybe it’s completely reasonable to be a bit of a mess.

“I know that it might seem weird since you’re with someone new now too, but it’s okay to feel jealous that someone you loved is with someone new now. Hell, he might be feeling the same way and you just don’t know it.”

Not sure if Takeru does it or he does it, or if they both do it, but they rock their hands up and down in a reassuring gesture and Yusaku nods his head.

“Maybe,” Yusaku says, keeping stellar eye contact with Takeru’s knuckles; that look of soft protection in his eyes nearly feels suffocating to stare at.

“Sooner ‘er later,” calls out Kusanagi from his desk, “he’s gonna see what he’s missing out on. Just you wait.”

“Yeah! That’s what I’m sayin’! Air-five!” Takeru reels his elbow back at the same time as Kusanagi shifts his chair in his direction. They both jut their palms into the sky for a beautiful display of agreement. Takeru pistons his fist backwards with a muffled yes! and Kusanagi chuckles, prattling away at the keyboard once more.

Something reminiscent of a smile comes walking its way around to Yusaku’s jaw once more.

It still hurts. God, does it hurt. He’ll never be able to forget puking his guts into the bowl, hoping the Zaizens couldn’t hear, wondering somewhere in his heart if Ryoken could, knew about the tears stinging at the sides of his eyes, knew that he was wearing his blouse, the one he bought him, his favorite one, while his innards tore him asunder.

But, knowing that it’s okay for him to not feel okay somehow makes him feel, a cousin to okay.

Yusaku squints down at his phone. He isn’t going to check in on Ryoken anymore. If this is the way that it’s meant to be, so be it. Twisting his wrist to and fro, remarking to himself how much colder his hands feel without Takeru’s on them now, he lifts his attention back up to him and says, “I’ve got plans with Aoi today until around mid-afternoon, but then I’m free all night. Do you want to find something to do tonight?”

“Oooh! You know what? You could feature on my stream as a special guest! You’re sorta important since you’re dating Blue Angel.”

“Oh, thanks,” says Yusaku, remarkably clipped. “Any other ideas?”

“Hey, actually Yusaku, when’s your girl comin’ over?” queries Kusanagi moments before a series of polite knocks echo from beyond the apartment front door.

A beat. “That’s probably her,” Yusaku says.

Shit,” curses Kusanagi, scrambling to minimize his windows and eject himself from his seat. Both Yusaku and Takeru watch him bustle past to the back door leading to a set of spiral metal stairs. He gives a two-fingered salute and speaks abruptly. “Have fun, be safe, use condoms.”

The door flings shut and Yusaku tilts his head.

“Ah?”

“The fuck’s up with him?” asks Takeru.

“I… don’t know,” Yusaku answers, though he finds it altogether too familiar to the time Kusanagi bailed on him at the club, possibly moments after he’d spotted Aoi himself (before Yusaku had the chance).

He doesn’t say it to Takeru, but he has a feeling he’s trying to avoid her for whatever reason. It isn’t important now though. He contorts himself to face back toward the front door and shouts, “it’s open!”

When she steps inside, she seems to goggle at the conditions.

There was nothing unhealthy or disastrous about Kusanagi’s apartment, merely the walls remain half-painted, the flooring in the process of being replaced in the main foyer area, and the amount of furniture being quite… minimalist, and not on purpose. A table sits littered in coffee cups and fast food wrappers. The laptops are a recent addition. The couch sits a good few feet from the wall in a way that feels decidedly out of place (for you see, that wall is going to be painted one of these days) and the television that sits mounted to the wall is pointed in a direction that the couch is perpendicular to. It doesn’t get much use anyways, what with no cable and all.

A Playstation 4 and a Nintendo Switch are connected to it though. The cords cascade down the wall from the mounted television and to the systems on the floor. Well, not entirely on the floor. They’re sat on a box of belongings. Who’s? Without looking inside, no one can tell you.

In the corner of the room nearest the door on the other side of a wall is Kusanagi’s desk. That side of the main living space has the most furnishings, complete with his desk, his desktop, his laptop, and a bookcase overspilling with textbooks, manuals, CDs, DVDs, floppy discs, external drives, and printer paper (for a printer that isn’t hooked up yet).

It really isn’t until someone enters his home for the first time that Yusaku ever feels paranoid about the state of the apartment. He couldn’t care less usually, but the thought of someone thinking that he’s poor and dirty makes him lock up anxiously.

Aoi doesn’t say a word, though her eyes travel the expanse of the apartment before she rests them on the two boys and says, “good morning.”

“Morning,” Yusaku says.

“Mornin’ Aoi! We never really get to hang out in person, do we? This is the first time in a long time, I think!”

“Yeah,” she says dispassionately. “I’m here to hang out with Yusaku.”

“Y-yeah, of course!” Takeru amends. “Still, it’s good to see you!”

“Yes, good to see you too.” She appears to think on it, and then says, “we should hang out sometime, the three of us.”

“Hell yeah! That sounds good to me!”

“That could be fun,” says Yusaku, rising to his feet to greet Aoi properly.

They practiced this in the mall, how to fake the physical intimacy aspect of the relationship. It’s not as natural as he wants it to be, but Yusaku knows the movements, however mechanical they come out: placing his hands upon her sides and leaving a small peck against her cheek, unsentimental and uninvolved.

Aoi’s hands plant against his shoulders and she nods, because that’s what you do when you receive affection… or something.

“Let’s go to my room,” Yusaku says.

“H-hey, you guys aren’t… messin’ around in there, are you!?” splutters Takeru.

“No,” they both rumble in the same tone of voice.

Takeru laughs and flaps his hand dismissively.

“J-just checkin’! Haha.”

dragon grandpa
@Souljaburner
@daddylonglegs kusanagi man WHERE’D YOU GO? 10:02 AM - 16 April 2019 1 1

hot dog rhombus
@daddylonglegs
@Souljaburner Truck 10:12 AM - 16 April 2019 1 1

dragon grandpa
@Souljaburner
@daddylonglegs ommfw 10:13 AM - 16 April 2019 1

“I think we scared him off,” Aoi says in what Yusaku thinks might be something like amusement.

Yusaku shuts the door behind them, locking it out of habit. Aoi regards the gesture but does not speak on it, plucking her phone out of her jacket pocket and tapping until the camera function is up and ready. It beeps at her.

“Where do you want to do this at?” he asks, peering around at the relative emptiness of his room with masked embarrassment.

The bed is a dingy white thing with loose sheets. The comforter is big, hefty and lavender. It used to be Jin’s. It still is in Yusaku’s eyes and will return to him when he comes home. Two mismatching pillowcases envelope two strangely lumpy pillows in the corner of the bed, nestled like perfect little puzzle pieces against the corner of the wall. Both sides are messy, though a bizarre wall can be seen between one side and the other, where Yusaku’s refused to touch the other side. The comforter can be seen drawn up like it’s being yanked in the middle, creating a divide.

He’s got a desk with scribbled papers on it and a dresser with no clothes. They’re all in the hamper or on the floor.

On second thought, maybe he should’ve straightened up some before Aoi came over.

“I’m, actually sorry about the m—”

“Anywhere’s fine,” Aoi says, plopping herself down onto the bed, on Ryoken’s side of the bed, and Yusaku knows that it isn’t Ryoken’s side of the bed anymore.

She gestures for him to come sit beside her. He hesitates some and joins her on the mattress, both of them overtaking the place where Ryoken used to lay. Aoi turns the camera to first-person view and swipes a Snapchat filter on that makes their eyes super big. Bubbles and sparkles offset their vacant expressions. They toss up victory hands and Yusaku starts to wonder how long this charade is going to go on for. Until Aoi gets the courage to come out of the closet, probably. Until he gets the courage to look for someone of his own, too.

Aoi lowers the camera, and says quietly, “I don’t mind your room.”

Yusaku collects his hands in his lap and stares.

“I don’t mind the rest of the apartment either,” she states. “I know what it’s like to not have much at all.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.” She turns her phone screen off. “My brother and I are well off now, have been for awhile even before my music career started to bring in money. That’s really pocket change compared to the money he makes now, but we used to not have anything at all.”

“Was it because of your parents?” asks Yusaku.

“Not like it was their fault,” she says and Yusaku silently chides himself for being accidentally abrasive with his language as he so often is. “My brother did a lot to ensure the two of us were okay and stable. A night where we had a hot meal was a good night.”

She moves to look at him and Yusaku doesn’t realize until then that the two of them are disastrously bad at keeping eye contact. He returns her stare, even if it stresses him.

“So, it doesn’t bother me to be in a room without much in it, or with a bit of clutter.”

Nodding, Yusaku feels the tenderness in her words and thinks to himself that she didn’t even need to comfort him but still felt the need anyways. That’s a kindness he didn’t expect out of her. Not because she’s not a kind person, but because they weren’t close. Perhaps while faking being close, they’d actually made something real out of it: a friendship.

He straightens his back up and says, “thank you, but I have a question.”

“What is it?”

“If your brother did so much for you, after your parents died, he must care for you a whole lot. What makes you think that he wouldn’t accept you for who you are?” Meaning the whole, being gay thing.

Aoi doesn’t appear to have an answer to that, her bottom lip hiding beneath a row of perfectly aligned top teeth: a feat for a child who grew up without a single dentist visit. The care is obvious. She clenches her fists.

“You must not know what it’s like,” she says, “being in constant fear of disappointing him, of not being who he wants me to be.”

Before Yusaku can answer, she draws both of her knees up to her chest, shuffling backwards on the bed until her back is against the north wall. Aoi says, “he hasn’t given me reason to think so, but it’s because he’s always been there for me that I don’t know how to feel about him potentially… not being there.”

Swallowing hard, Yusaku walks back on his hands to flank her left side, flattening his back against the wall. They do it again, this thing where they sit side-by-side and don’t look at each other at all, but it seems to work better when talking to each other. At least, it helps Yusaku open up a tad.

“I don’t know, thankfully, because Kusanagi’s my family.”

“Your roommate?”

“Yeah.”

Yusaku leaves a silence where the obligatory question goes: what happened to his family and why. Aoi doesn’t ask. She’s likely had to answer the same of her parents. It’s okay though, since this time he actually wants to tell the story.

“My parents didn’t watch me,” he explains. “I was kidnapped at a playground when I was young. I was held captive for about six months. When I was found, I didn’t go back to my family. I went to a special sort of orphanage, for other kids with trauma. Some of us had come from the same situation, the same group that had done it to me.”

He makes a wry smile, oddly enough.

“I met Jin there, and his brother Shoichi. I call him Kusanagi, and those two are my only family. Turns out my parents had sold me. Explains why I didn’t go home.”

Aoi is dead quiet.

“I’m lucky in that Kusanagi’s openly bi, or pan maybe. He’s never had a problem with who I am and I’m thankful for that. So, you’re right. I don’t know what it feels like to have to come out to someone who may not understand.”

“I… I’m sorry for assu—”

“But I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for him to accept you as you are, your sexuality and all. This… taking pictures so that you can go to the club tonight, we can’t do this forever. You can’t do this forever. Sooner or later you’re going to have to be true to yourself and he’ll either come with you or be missing out.”

It doesn’t even cross Yusaku’s mind to be offended by her statement, because it’s true. He truly has not had to face that trial, coming out to his family. All he has here is his family, and although that’s not something that she was privy to, it’s ancient history to him and irrelevant to his life.

Kusanagi has been more than enough for him, enough to make up for both parents. It’s astonishing.

A silence resonates between them both, and Yusaku blames himself for bringing the conversation to subzero temperatures. His thumbs twiddle and he averts his gaze to the east wall.

“Sorry for dumping that,” he says.

“No, it’s okay,” replies Aoi, her hand coming to rest on Yusaku’s bony shoulder; her touch is tense and light. “I’m glad I know this about you now, and you know more about me now.”

And, it snuck up on Yusaku but he’s sorta glad too, that she knows. His hand comes up to grasp hers at his shoulder in a genuine display, nothing faked for their made-up dating scheme. His fingers feel like lightning against hers in the best possible way.

“I think so too.”

A small, almost mischievous smile radiates off of Aoi’s features and she says, “gross, look at us becoming friends.”

“Uh, yeah. Yuck.” Yusaku taps her phone. “Let’s take a real selfie in honor of this.”

Aoi takes a picture of them both in the dog filter, puppy noses and ears waggling off of their faces and then they lay down side by side, flopping uselessly.

This is really good, Yusaku thinks. This is healing in a way. This is making friends. This is distracting himself.

Gazing up at the ceiling and remembering the last time Ryoken had been the voice at his ear, he is nearly startled from what could’ve blossomed into a flashback by the sound of Aoi’s dulcet cadence: “I don’t know how many we should take. Enough to ensure that he doesn’t ask any questions about why I’m not posting.”

“We’re having sex,” Yusaku suggests.

“He’ll believe that but he won’t like it,” she says and although they still lay side by side, not looking each other in the eye, he can hear the smile in her voice and knowing that is something gentle on its own.

Yusaku thinks about the clouds beyond the roof, about the billions of people in the world out there, about the whole universe and how he’d thought for sure that Ryoken was the only man in the world who could love him, and then he says to Aoi, “do you really think that you’ll meet someone good there?”

“That depends on what you’d qualify as good.”

“I guess you don’t have to be looking for a meaningful relationship, or rather, a long one. Short ones can be meaningful, even ones that are purposefully short and for fun.”

“I’m just looking for a start,” she says. “I’ve never had a girlfriend. I know without ever having made contact that I like girls. I just… want to find one. It doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to be great, even. I want to know what it’s like.”

“That’s fair,” he says. “Do you think it’d be worth it for me to look?”

“Do you want to look?” she says, and Yusaku knows it’s because of the chain Ryoken still has on his heart, keeping him buckled to the floor.

It isn’t Ryoken’s fault. He did as clean a split as he could: removed him from most social media too, something that Yusaku felt was unnecessary but ultimately sent the message that the two of them needed to move on. When he thinks about it, it feels so cold and heartless, but it tells Yusaku it had to’ve been hard for him to. It was a necessary separation. It wasn’t likely that they could be friends right now. Once the hurt wore off, once they had both found other things, they could re-enter one another's lives.

So the question is begged: does Yusaku want to start looking for someone else?

The answer ends up stunning them both.

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
havent been feeling great lately, heading to El Orpheum tonight 5:00 PM - 16 April 2019 1 8

dragon grandpa
@Souljaburner
@p1aymak3r fuck yea man its gonna be great dont you worry 5:02 PM - 16 April 2019 2

So, here Yusaku is. It’s the club scene again, bursting with lights and giving him the mounting fear in the back of his mind that he’s suddenly going to manifest epilepsy. Takeru’s slap to his back is a grounding motion. The way he halfway spills his… what is this again? Is also a grounding gesture.

It makes Yusaku blink twice and regard the sudden stain on the floor in the sea of hapless bodies. Any one could slip on it. He’s worried for that outcome. He has to—

“C’mon man, you see any cuties out here?” Takeru says, shuffling him out of the whirling pit of dancers and to where he can start to see more than a single foot of floor in front of him.

Yusaku doesn’t know. Yusaku takes another sip.

Fuck, it’s fruity. Takeru really knows how to pick ‘em.

“H-how am I supposed to see anyone clearly?”

“That’s the point, you don’t,” Takeru says. “Liquor and the lighting makes you lower your expectations. It’s why people always talk about waking up next to someone ugly.”

This… isn’t helping Yusaku feel confident in the process, if you can believe that.

“But that’s the great part. You end up getting to the person in here,” explains Takeru, wrapping one arm around Yusaku’s shoulders and knocking his free hand into Yusaku’s chest.

It’s the liquor, don’t get him wrong, but Yusaku is incredibly okay with having Takeru touching him. Or maybe it isn’t entirely the liquor. Takeru’s always been a touchy guy. It’s just, this time he isn’t even the slightest bit bothered. He’s almost reassured by his presence there.

But still, his logic doesn’t add up. “By having a one night stand with them, from a club?”

“Well, no. I mean by not givin’ a shit about what they look like.”

Yusaku takes another sip. Licking his lips (they feel shockingly dry for how much he’s imbibing) Yusaku replies, “I don’t think I can get into this. I don’t know how Aoi does it.”

“Well, for starters, she doesn’t get shitfaced.”

“I’m not,” Yusaku says.

“Not yet you’re not. Gimme that.”

Takeru swipes the drink out of his hand and Yusaku doesn’t mind. He’s not the drinking sort anyways, only really pressured by the atmosphere that insists that if he’s here, he might as well. Watching Takeru’s Adam’s apple bob with the motion, he empties out the rest of the drink powerfully and walks the glass back over to the bar it came from. Yusaku feels warm. He yanks at his collar and trains his eyes on a few bar patrons within distance.

It’s really no use. Everything is a blur. He doesn’t even notice Takeru’s joined his side when he says, “I don’t even know where to start.”

“It’s alright, Yusaku. I didn’t think you’d be the type to search here, anyways.”

Eyebrows meeting in a stare almost concerned, Yusaku shifts his weight to the other foot.

“Probably not,” he confesses. “Still, it got me out of the house.”

“Yeah, that’s what’s important, right?”

Even beneath the blacklights, Yusaku’s in awe of the glow in Takeru’s smile. It threatens to suck him in until—

Oh god. Yusaku just got a thought, and he isn’t sure it’s a good one. He doesn’t like the way it digs its claws into his head, not a fan of the way it makes a gawker out of him, finding the strangest pleasure in the way the light bounces from Takeru’s lips. And his hands feel so cold, and clammy.

Recalling their conversation from this morning, Yusaku’s fingers reach out for his and perchance he’s more startled than Takeru is when they collide—like a puppet on strings he moves without his mind allowing him to say no. At the soonest opportunity, he flinches back, as though bitten, and he clenches his eyes up tight.

No.

“I’ve gotta…” He swallows. “Find the bathroom.”

“Yusaku?”

He doesn’t remember entering. Yusaku feels like he’s on autopilot. The liminal space fluorescents of the restroom don’t help him any, don’t do his conscience any favors. The sound of running water as the last remaining patron cleans their hands penetrates deep into his skull and he wants to be alone, wants to press himself into the cool, dirty tile until he isn’t in this reality anymore.

For the longest time, he’s never felt any attraction to another human being. Once thought it was impossible, to want someone other than Ryoken. It’s weird but true, how he felt at least. It’s disgusting and horrid and scary to him, but when he touched Takeru’s hands, he’d thought for just a second that it would be okay.

Of course, it’d be okay. Takeru is his best friend. If he could ever feel attracted to anyone else, it could be him. That seems to make sense.

But his gut sinks. Something about it feels wrong to him. The thought of distorting their friendship like that, of suddenly taking a gentle and safe thing and making it twisted, perverted, something that it’s not.

It’s terrible of him, to have thought that he wanted to kiss someone who was not Ryoken. It’s further wrong, to have thought that he wanted to kiss his friend. That’d ruin so much.

Yusaku washes his face in a panic.

He’s already lost his boyfriend of so many years. He’s never coming back. The bed can remain unmade for as many weeks as it takes for it to sink in but he’s never coming back. It’s time to get that, but he can’t lose Takeru too. Not to a selfish impulse like this. He can’t possibly. He won’t do it. Can’t do it. This is just the liquor talking.

His phone vibrates at him. Now that he’s no longer so close to the subwoofers, he can actually feel it go off in his pocket. A few missed calls from Aoi and a text that reads, please check twitter. we are fucked.

What could possibly make him feel worse?

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
havent been feeling great lately, heading to El Orpheum tonight 5:00 PM - 16 April 2019 2 8

Akira Zaizen
@AkiraZaizen1
@p1aymak3r So Where are you and Aoi? 8:37 PM - 16 April 2019

That was an hour ago.

Fuck. Fuck. Yusaku presses his forefinger and thumb into his eyelids.

Well, looks like the cat is out of the bag on this one. Guess Akira decided to check Yusaku’s Twitter too. Guess that was a logical thing for him to do.

Yusaku is certain that this is by far the stupidest thing that he has ever done. He has always had the forethought to never post things that could get him in trouble. It had slipped his mind for even two seconds that Akira knew his account even if they did not mutually follow one another. He’s really going to have to find out how to apologize to Aoi for this one. He isn’t going to respond to Akira at least until he knows for sure what Aoi has been telling him in the meantime. It’s more than likely that he’s been blowing up her phone. Having the same story will help, if they come up with one at all.

Nothing can actually make this worse anymore, not even when Takeru comes waltzing in despite the way that Yusaku balks instantly.

“Hey, what happened?” he asks, voice breathy and Yusaku can’t stand to hear it.

“Nothing, it’s nothing. I’m… not feeling well.”

Takeru approaches. Yusaku wishes he’d stay away.

“It’s alright, man. I know clubs aren’t actually your thing. In a way, though, I’m kinda proud that you tried it.”

Yusaku squints. “Really?”

“Yeah, I mean. If I was dating a girl who was totally cool with seeing other people, who knows. I might see if I could take advantage of that, see who I can meet. I know you aren’t that kind of person but, it might’ve helped you to get over ol’ fuckface.”

It isn’t even that funny, but Yusaku can’t help a small snort at ‘fuckface.’ It’s so cute when those kinds of words fall out of such a soft and unassuming face as Takeru’s. There’s something endearing about the boy in green glasses, hair like strawberry vanilla, cussing like a sailor.

Yusaku forces a rickety smile.

“Yeah, I guess,” he says and Takeru pats him on the arm, fingernails catching on his jacket, clinging.

“I’ll call Kusanagi to pick us up.” And Takeru tugs but Yusaku does not move.

It feels like fire, Takeru’s fingers latched on around his arm, and when neither of them shift more than an inch, their eyes meet and mingle in a new way they haven’t ever before.

“You okay?” he asks. “Are you sick?”

Possibly, Yusaku thinks and doesn’t say, for wanting this so suddenly.

“I…”

No one calls for it but Takeru steps closer. The sink and the mirror both flank their hips and Takeru’s hand hasn’t moved but the rest of him is now just an inch or so away. He talks sweet and soft.

“It’s okay if you’re sick,” he reassures, his tone and his behavior not quite matching up in Yusaku’s mind.

“I… might be,” Yusaku stammers hesitantly.

“Stomachache?”

Yusaku shakes his head. The room spins. “No.”

Takeru’s eyes veer all over him, and Yusaku feels pinned against the wall without any touch coming to him. There’s a comforting look in his eyes—a protective one. He scans Yusaku for a time and then his silvery eyes, half-mast, decorated by a pair of minty frames come to rest against his, and he says as simply as ever, “where does it hurt?”

This is flirting, isn’t it? This has to be. Yusaku can’t be misreading the tone.

Lifting his hand limply, Yusaku rests it against his chest, remembering Takeru’s hand there, and Takeru visibly frowns. His eyes quake with a sadness that Yusaku hasn’t seen. He says, “I know.”

Does it hurt him to see Yusaku sad?

The thought grips Yusaku. The two of them move like magnets to one another. Yusaku doesn’t know who starts it. Did he lean in first? Had Takeru pulled him? Did they both meet in the middle?

They kiss sudden and fervently and Yusaku’s back presses into the wall. Mouth open, his hands slot themselves at Takeru’s waist in a way much unlike how he’d done with Aoi. His maneuvers are smooth and purposeful against Takeru’s skin, slipping with ease beneath his shirt and tugging at the hem with an anxious question Takeru can’t answer. Takeru’s too busy losing control, making noises Yusaku’s never heard into his mouth.

How terrible, Yusaku thinks faintly, how sexy I find this.

It’s something sarcastic. The thought of stopping is a joke to him now.

Their hands are roaming through clothes and hair, gripping closer, turning heads and bumping noses, clacking teeth—Takeru keeps moaning.

He really has to stop that. Yusaku can’t handle the sound.

The bathroom door smashes open.

“Yusak—oh.

His eyes pop open wide and Aoi is standing in the doorway, of the men’s room no less. She evacuates just as quickly but the damage has been done: Takeru pulls back from Yusaku with some reluctance but with shame all the same.

“O-oh man. Fuck. She saw us.”

“Keep kissing me,” demands Yusaku in a fit of adrenaline.

“B-but, dude—”

“We’re not dating.” It comes out flat and almost like a lie, but as if Takeru is itching, dying to believe it, he leverages no questions and instead dives right back in.

“Oh, thank God.

Not that it would’ve minded either way: open fake relationship and all that.

Still, there’s a renewed passion in the way Takeru kisses, like he has more confidence knowing he’s the only one who gets to do this now, the sole haver of Yusaku’s attention. It’s in the way he rocks their bodies together, flicks his tongue out at Yusaku’s and coaxes it out to play.

It tastes bad. The liquor in their mouths don’t mix. The kiss is that good that the tastes don’t matter, only the person does. Only Takeru, Takeru, Takeru.

Takeru is the only thing that matters.

The bathroom door creaks ajar.

Ryoken does not announce himself, but he doesn’t have to. Yusaku opens his eyes and then his heart falls out of his rib cage.

Good place for it, since he’s in the business of getting it stomped on.

Chapter Text

“Oh good,” says Ryoken once he’s managed to snatch his nerve.

It helps that the look on Yusaku’s face is worth it. He’s every bit as mortified as he should be. Why wouldn’t he be? Caught tonguing some guy in a low-end hole-in-the-wall likely with liquor on his lips. Yusaku wasn’t a drinker, or wasn’t a drinker with him, rather. But when you’re desperate and lonesome and throwing a fit, who knows? Ryoken sure wouldn’t.

Now, where should he begin? With the way his heart contorts in his chest to something ugly and wet, pulsating with the grief of something he didn’t think he cared about? Maybe how his blood pressure has skyrocketed, or how his heartbeat is in his ears like a drummer going mad.

The other guy turns around and Ryoken doesn’t care to meet his eyes. Whoever it is, it’s irrelevant to him. Ryoken would rather not commit his face to memory, make this event any more of a loop in his head than it is already bound to be. He’d rather keep the video clipped and focused solely on Yusaku and that sad, pathetic look he’s wearing. It makes Ryoken sick and satisfied. He’s been feeling that particular mood a lot lately.

“Ryoken…”

“Yusaku, I have to wonder which thought is winning out in your head right now: how much painful shame you feel at being walked in on in such a state, or, the disappointment you feel after downgrading from diamond to brass.”

“Hey, you,” the other man starts in with. “Who’re you callin’ an ass?”

“Takeru, don’t.

“Takeru, huh,” Ryoken says, detesting how the bland, unwieldy name sits in his mouth. “You aren’t that bright, are you?”

Locking eyes with the other boy finally, his steely gray eyes hide behind a pair of big, blocky glasses. Is this really Ryoken’s replacement?

“What the fuck do you even want, man? You broke up with Yusaku. Did you come all this way just to fling salt at him and make him feel bad?”

“Of course not,” Ryoken fibs with a smug smirk, unveiling only a sliver of glittering teeth; not like you two would know that.

He makes a show of jostling the watch on his wrist as he flicks it, pointing slackly at the two postured in the corner of the bathroom opposite him. Yusaku is clad in his roommate’s old hoodie with his Café business logo on it and a pair of jeans. How quaint, and Takeru’s solid white t-shirt is something simplistic and charming if not for the hood and the likely home-cut sleeves. His equally solid white pants with flame trails running up from the hems make him something of a human race car, which is an achievement all its own.

Really, Ryoken does not take pleasure in poking fun at people with less. He’s just a wee bit salty. He takes his highs where he can get them.

You’re the one trying to fling salt, if anyone. You do know that I know the truth about you and Aoi, yes?”

Yusaku straightens his back up, probably finally remembering how to factory reset his face into its typical flat neutrality before Takeru steps between them. He’s got one hand firmly pressed up against Yusaku’s shoulder and Ryoken would have to lean his head to see Yusaku’s face now with Takeru blocking the view.

Speed Racer over here doesn’t have a clue. He opens his mouth (presumably to put Ryoken in his place) and instead spits out some drivel about how, “Yusaku is just as allowed as you are to start dating again. If you think he’s doing it purposely to spite you and not because he’s moving on, you’re stupider and more self-absorbed than I thought.”

Oh, that’s rich. That’s cute even. Takeru has suddenly become cute in Ryoken’s eyes. Proof of God, really, the ignorance in this one, because if Darwin’s theory of natural selection were real, it would’ve killed off this bloke before then.

But there’s a certain kind of bomb Ryoken can set up here in their heart of hearts. Clearly, Takeru thinks that Yusaku and Aoi have been dating, for real, which is laughable. So, really only those two were privy to the scam. Is Yusaku using Takeru, too? Ryoken gets entirely too prideful and revolted at the thought.

There’s nothing like planting a seed of doubt, though, to tear them apart from the inside.

Just not now. Later it will do. For now, he can withhold this little trade secret a bit longer, if it means that he wins the long game. Losing the battle is nothing compared to winning the war.

Perhaps this was cruel of him, but as the Greek lyricist Archilochus said in 650 B.C., ‘I have a high art, I hurt with cruelty those who would damage me.’

It’s enough to fake it for now. Ryoken doesn’t have to fake as much as he makes himself believe when he says, “that’s where you’re wrong,” in the grossest tone of voice he can manage, as if there isn’t an iota of doubt in his mind (because there isn’t.)

“There has never been any chemistry between you and her,” he says, addressing Yusaku directly and bypassing the speccy-eyed homewrecker in between. “I know a desperate plot when I see it.”

“Oh, you are so full of yourself—”

Betraying the unassuming nature of his nerdy glasses, fluffy hair and ridiculous style, he really steps to Ryoken with a burning in his eyes like iron over blacksmith coals. He snatches Ryoken’s jacket and tugs it taut. Ryoken shifts barely an inch. He stiffens remarkably, cold and icy, observing the line of Takeru's abs through the great big holes in either side of his shirt where his sleeves once were. Maybe he's not as scrawny as he looks. Takeru begs for Ryoken’s attention, and Ryoken gazes over his head to Yusaku’s panicked stare, to the person he’s been meaning to speak with.

“You have no right to police him. Fuck off and don’t come back.”

Yusaku’s hands are fists. His eyes tell Ryoken nothing. They’ve never been able to say much. It’s always a battle, wondering if Yusaku feels anything for him—always caught between finding him unfeeling and getting proof that in actuality he’s smoldering over with emotion. Unreadable to him.

Maybe that’s part of what made it hard for him. Maybe that’s why he should let this relationship lie where it is.

Ryoken can see that he’s got a new fool now, one that is quite spicy and quick to throw hands. Tender, really. Fingers wrapping coldly around Takeru’s own, he pinches deep into the space between his tendons in his palms and makes him wince up with pain, plucking him from his jacket.

“This outfit costs more than you do, current inflation on the black market notwithstanding,” he spits and Takeru yanks his hand back but sticks close to him; Ryoken gives nothing away in his placid expression.

“I came here to talk to him, not you.”

“Yeah? Well, he doesn’t wanna see you.”

“Are you deciding that for him?”

“You’ve made him feel like shit for days now—”

“Takeru, stop.

Yusaku bites his lips. His arms shiver with the strength by which he squeezes his fists. Takeru turns to see and Ryoken hates the way he isn’t comforted by this, by the knowing that Yusaku is in pain, is in embarrassment. Maybe the effect is starting to wear off.

If so, this is dangerous territory. Yusaku moves to push past Takeru with a gentleness that Ryoken goes green in the heart over, and as soon as he opens his mouth, Ryoken finds that he can’t listen to a word that he says.

The plan will come apart if he does.

“Ryoken, I’m—”

“I’ll get it to you in writing so you remember it well this time: we’re done.”

There must be more alcohol in Yusaku’s body than Ryoken thought. Ryoken thinks he can spot his lip quiver and a sadness well up in his eyes that he’s scarcely bore witness to. Ryoken fakes a smile, something mirthless and plasticine. He doesn’t know how much regret is conveyed in the kneading of his brows.

“You made this decision as much as I did.”

Making a show of turning on his heels, Ryoken slides through the bathroom door and back into the club. All the flashing lights threaten to consume what’s left of him. It’s in the emptiness that the emotions all surge up within him. In the places between dancing bodies, the entrance and the exit, the nobodies and the strangers where no one can hear him muffle an inexorable sound, Ryoken is found to be true to his little blue heart and the cavity where he thinks it should be resting.

Personified wasteland, desertion manifest: Ryoken Kogami.

cutteeth.
@reflektives
It’s over. We’ve passed the point of no return with this. 9:56 PM - 16 April 2019

cutteeth.
@reflektives
I’ll get over it. 10:00 PM - 16 April 2019

cutteeth.
@reflektives
I’mm in l ove with you. i’ll never not be. I’ll try to forget. I want. to forget 2:21 AM - 17 April 2019

It’s two in the a.m. now, and Ryoken has decided to get himself a little tipsy in the privacy of his own home. Nothing extravagant. Nothing overzealous. Merely him and a few glasses of wine before he finds himself reclined in his sofa overlooking the skyline. The shimmering colors of the city below are rhinestones at best. The sky is filled with cloud. It’s ugly, without Yusaku. It’s unpalatable all alone.

Maybe, in some part, he’d drank in all this decadence to share with him, someone who’d had so much less. Ryoken can’t call himself altruistic, thinking himself naturally to be a bad person, but he knew it to be true: he wanted the best possible life for Yusaku and him.

Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy beautiful distractions, bubbling baths with essential oils in it and thousand dollar sheets. Money could do a lot. Money could get them both through school. Money could buy Yusaku all the clothes he wanted but couldn’t afford. Ryoken owns hundred dollar pajamas and sits wearing one of Yusaku's plain, gray sweatshirts he'd left over ages ago. Money could buy him this delectable wine but it couldn’t buy him Yusaku.

For what, then, was all of this for? What did it matter?

Ryoken swirls the red wine and sips from the glass like a thirteenth century vampire, or like a widow, or some combination of the two.

He’s killed his lover, after all, and still wants to mourn. Ryoken’s phone buzzes at him and he fumbles it onto the floor as he tries to slide it his way.

AI
@AiTheLoveBot
@hanoirevolver h3eey Sexie boi.. CLiCK here to See Pics http://www.tz2.info/Huge-Jorts... 2:30 AM - 17 April 2019

Ryoken pitches his phone. It spikes into the ground and bounces, skids into the wall. It’s sturdier than it looks. He doesn’t hear it break. Some weird porn bot is @’ing him in its creepy scam tweets. The last straw, so to speak, Ryoken curls up on his side upon the sofa and grinds the fronts of his feet against the backs of his shoes. They clatter to the floor in an unceremonious heap. The taste of red wine will decay in his open mouth overnight. His outstretched arm under his head will tire and his neck will grow a crick. His body, sadly for him, won’t decompose.

Closing his eyes, Ryoken thinks to himself that his house is too big for just him in it. He had told Spectre not to come over. He can’t decide whether it would’ve been better to fuck the emotions out of him or to breakdown all alone like the freak he is. As the final vestiges of his repression start to wear down and the starting signs of tears begin leaking at the sides of his eyes, he thinks that maybe he deserves to get it out, just this once.

Just this once, he can cry. It’s humiliating and no one tears him down quite like himself, but at least that’s the worst of it.

It’s a silent, lonely sob that doesn’t make its way out of his throat. It dies there. He lets the last of his feelings die with it, hoping that he’ll come out of it somehow darker, somehow every bit of uncaring and dastardly as Takeru thinks he is, as he needs to be to survive this.

It’s warm and wet down his lips and nose. Vertigo swishes him around and around and his eyes crack open a few times to ensure that it’s just a trick of the mind and his couch isn’t really careening around the room, and he falls asleep soon after.

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
@hanoirevolver im sorry to be @-ing you, your settings dont let anyone that you arent following dm you and you arent answering my calls, please call me 3:10 AM - 17 April 2019

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
@hanoirevolver we have to talk about what happened tonight, i dont care if you dont want to talk about it and you want to pretend i dont exist 3:15 AM - 17 April 2019

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
@hanoirevolver you owe it to me after how youve gone about this 3:17 AM - 17 April 2019

Ryoken does not see these tweets. He wakes up to a cracked screen with black and pinkish bars zig-zagging across the shatter pattern. The entire lower half of his screen is gone, but at least the top half is colorful in its complete uselessness.

Sighing, he can’t even find it in himself to be angry. He did it himself. It would be a stretch to blame Yusaku for this.

It wouldn’t, however, be a stretch to blame Takeru. Fuck Takeru.

Lurching back up from the floor where his phone lay, Ryoken wobbles with the faint hangover rattling the sides of his head and equilibrium. He moves like a corpse possessed, like something’s moving all the strings attached to his wrist-bones and unlike a person who’s got somewhere to be and new phones to buy. He drags his feet on the way to his bedroom, feeling as though it’s a walk of shame all the way there.

Through the gray curtains, sunlight catches every fleck of gold in its mesh and casts delicate patterns all over the floor and the bed and god this room’s too big. Ryoken hates how far away each of these four walls are. The bed’s a king for two, and he’s missing the other one. It sits perfectly made, clinical and distant in a way that he visibly shivers in response to. It’s like a relic. It’s never bothered him until last night, and now every memory of where Yusaku’s body has been is threatening to swallow him down into a place he can’t climb out of. Can he even turn the light on in his walk-in closet without being accosted by an old gift he hadn’t given Yusaku?

No, he can’t.

It sits on the floor, knocked over by God knows what. The wind maybe, in his secluded penthouse. Of course. Kneeling down, he plucks it up from the wood: a jewelry box for a promise ring.

Not a wedding ring, not an engagement ring, just a promise ring. Those other words were a tad too strong, and he didn’t think Yusaku would care for a bracelet or necklace. Really, the man just didn’t give a shit about good jewelry, weird. But everyone liked rings. They were romantic.

Ryoken contemplates this as he lifts his fingers gingerly to the studded diamonds in his ear lobes, remembering when he’d brought a piercing gun home and enlisted Yusaku’s help in getting the two lovely rocks in.

Shivering with anticipation, Ryoken’s face remained stern, firm, as Yusaku fixed the gun around the little purple dot he’d made in his lobe with permanent marker.

“I’m ready,” he’d said, finding hesitation in Yusaku’s wiggling mouth. “It’ll only hurt me for a second.”

Really, this shouldn’t have been hard for him. For reasons that Ryoken wouldn’t go into, he knew factually that Yusaku had no problems with consensually inflicting a little pain into him, and yet peering up at the way he trembled with anxiety made his heart warm.

“Yusaku—”

The piercing gun went off, louder than Ryoken was expecting for some odd reason, and his body went statuesque against the bed, stiffening with a dying sound leaking out through gritted teeth.

No prompting necessary, Yusaku doused the side of Ryoken’s face in kisses, pressing their bodies together as he whispered, “it’s okay, it’s one down.” And Ryoken didn’t know why Yusaku was comforting him until he swiped the side of his pointer knuckle across Ryoken’s cheeks, clearing away some tears that had formed.

Ryoken breathed hard, the pain radiating through his ear in waves. It wasn’t so bad, but the strange intimacy of it all made his senses go wild. Throwing his arms around Yusaku’s neck, Ryoken crashed their lips together, his adrenaline all but begging him to put it somewhere. Yusaku slid the gun across the sheets, sitting over top Ryoken’s lap lightly (he never really did weigh that much, to Ryoken’s worry) and playing with the inside of his mouth.

It flopped out of Ryoken heavy and suddenly, “I love you so much,” and Yusaku didn’t even make fun of him for it.

Gulping, Ryoken doesn’t chuck it. Doesn’t look for the receipt either, dated April 7th. Rather, places it back on whatever shelf he thinks it was once sitting on before the fates wanted to taunt him with its existence, reminding him of the thoughts leading up to the breakup.

His footsteps are overwrought, tempered as he moves to the back of his closet and into a smaller room. It’s something of a shelving space that he can walk inside, sit down inside, and light candles. Flicking the lighter over a few, a portrait of the late Kiyoshi Kogami illuminates and so does an urn sat alongside it. Seating himself down in front of it, Ryoken swallows his heart back down and speaks in a voice almost too tender to have come from him, from what others know of him.

“Father, I don’t want to let myself get distracted.”

A fleck of dust catches his eye, and before Ryoken can stop himself, he’s collecting the sleeve of his (Yusaku’s) shirt in his fingers and shining off the side of the urn.

“I’m behind. I still haven’t started my first year of college. I hope you aren’t disappointed. I haven’t forgotten what you asked of me.”

The smiling photograph of his father tells Ryoken no lies, and nothing of real use to him. He wishes he could hear his dad talk. Tell him what to do. He spent so much of his life being told what to do and liked it that way, despite how independent he seemed. It was always for his father’s sake.

Staring down at the sweatshirt, ugly and simple, Ryoken says, “you know, Yusaku has already gotten his Bachelor’s. He’s incredibly brilliant. He works hard. Sometimes I used to think it was… ”

Ryoken readjusts his statement. “I think it’s inspiring, I do.”

Something of jealousy lingers in Ryoken’s tone, and he breathes in the scented candles: lavender, sea salt, and birthday cake.

“I don’t even think I need it,” he insists, the photograph seeing through him, as if he’s the one who has died, as if he’s the transparent one, the ghost. “I know you know what’s best, so… I let him go. He doesn’t understand, though. I have so much I’ve yet to do and he seems to think I don’t love him anymore. He wanted to hurt me.”

Ryoken says it with such an anguished flick of his tongue that you’d never believe he had tried to do the exact same, and in fact probably did.

“He doesn’t seem to understand that I’ve got so much to get out of the way, to get on with. I wouldn’t have the time. I… even though, I know I could get the degree easy,” whispers Ryoken. “I’m self-taught in everything I need to know for most IT degrees. It’s just… difficult.”

It’s hard without you, he doesn’t say.

I know you didn’t want me to do a dirty job like this. I know you wanted me to go to college. I know you didn’t want me to merely live off your fortune and you didn’t want me to be an underground hacker forever. You wanted something respectable for me. I know I’m not doing it but… I will.

With breaking up with Yusaku, I will apply myself. I will.

And he doesn’t mention that he’s begun dating Spectre, because really… is it that important?

ryoken.
@hanoirevolver
@dunkindonuts This iced tea lemonade not only tastes like Febreze and piss, the sticker’s still on the fucking lemon. 1:11 PM - 17 April 2019 1 8

Lovely Spectre
@Sunvinyard
@hanoirevolver, @dunkindonuts I am filing another complaint with their corporate office as we speak 1:22 PM - 17 April 2019

Today has been no better than yesterday with his stream of bad luck. First Ryoken’s phone screen is shattered. Next, Spectre tells him that he’s going vegan (again), like it went so well for him the first time. And of course, Dunkin Donuts gets it wrong again. Honestly, its Ryoken’s fault this time, he supposes. Fool me once and all that jazz. But it simply wasn't his fault that there’s one practically always on the way to wherever he’s going and yet there’s never a Starbucks instead. He didn’t think they could fuck up something so simple as iced tea, tea with ice cubes in it, but he really underestimated exactly how many inbreds work there.

Tapping his Apple watch, Ryoken sees that he hasn’t taken nearly enough steps today and absolves to go on a walk once he’s finished paying for his phone. Yes, the one that he had to tweet on before he’s even walked out of the Sprint store with it. He pulls his chip out of the chip reader and pockets his card and wallet with a practiced quickness—the reflexes of a shopaholic.

Maybe he’ll go shopping, he says to himself. He hasn’t gone without Yusaku since splitting and he should. He tells himself that he should do that. Nothing like reckless spending on frivolous things he doesn’t need to feel better about himself and get over his ex of three years. But first…

Peeping his notifications, Ryoken spots a few from Spectre and most importantly: Yusaku, directly @’ing him in some ridiculous, feckless messages he has no desire to reply to. Time to put them on the back burner until he’s made Yusaku feel the heat for long enough. In fact, actively tweeting while ignoring that he’s received any notifications at all seems more his style.

Yeah, that burns, doesn’t it? It doesn’t feel good to go out of your way to make someone feel smaller.

Ryoken smirks and the man at the counter chuckles. “You liking that new one better, already?”

“Oh, yes. I am.”

ryoken.
@hanoirevolver
@Sunvinyard Let's go to Lotus tonight. That's the vegan place you like, yes? 1:28 PM - 17 April 2019 1 1

Lovely Spectre
@Sunvinyard
@hanoirevolver Yes what a wonderful idea Ryoken-sama I will book the reservation 1:30 PM - 17 April 2019 1

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
@hanoirevolver ryoken please call me 3:17 PM - 17 April 2019

Chapter Text

Akira Zaizen
@AkiraZaizen1
@sapphiresaint, @p1aymak3r Answer your phones Now 9:39 PM - 16 April 2019

It’s not until well 10 o’clock that Yusaku even sees this new tweet. He sees it because as soon as Ryoken walks out the door he turns to the wall and fishes his phone out of his jeans pocket, needing some kind of grounding force that isn’t Takeru. He needs to know what time it is, what everyone’s been tweeting, where Kusanagi is, what story Aoi’s been telling her brother. His heart is beating so fast and so desperately that he thinks he might just conk out on the floor where he stands, if not for Takeru’s hands upon his back and shoulders all at once.

And he doesn’t want to be comforted by him, fearful that he’ll fall into him quicker than he can bring himself back up for air.

“Yusaku, hey, are you okay? I’m so fucking sorry.”

Does Takeru even know what he’s apologizing for? Shaking his head, Yusaku gives up on trying to see anything on his phone screen. He’s too fucking drunk. He shoves it back into his pocket and rubs both of his palms against the balls of his eyes, fastening them there as though his sockets are suctioning them. He presses until he sees phantom colors and then he sniffs superhard, knocking his head back.

This is fine. He knew that he could never get back together with Ryoken. He knew that. That’s why tonight he was trying to move on. This was moving on. This was a good thing. But…

Takeru says something to him, too soft for Yusaku to hear over the sound of someone (he doesn’t know who, someone they don’t know) entering the bathroom and the blaring music beyond the door. Full-body shuddering, Yusaku forces his eyes open and rackets his hand around in the dark for the words to even explain how he feels. He isn’t entirely sure.

All he knows is that kiss felt so good, and everything feels so bad right now and if he could just forget again, forget that Ryoken had ever stepped foot in this small, soggy bathroom, if he could just bind Takeru to him like cellophane, he would, and Takeru deserves better than that.

“No more of this,” he says, waving his wrist. “I don’t want to think about Ryoken Kogami ever again.”

“Hey, lets go. Let’s get you home, okay? If… If Kusanagi doesn’t get here fast enough we can Lyft out of here or something.”

Yusaku can’t see the expression Takeru is making anymore. He doesn’t know it but he’s crying. Yusaku never cries. It’s something of a floodgate, getting plastered. He doesn’t feel the rivulets as they stream from each eye. He only knows that his vision gets cloudy and cloudier, and the lines between where Takeru’s hands and his face begin start blurring until he isn’t sure if he’s coming out of a dream or not. He hopes so. Yusaku wants to be.

All the space around him seems flattened, squeezed, reduced to a pinpoint he can’t possibly observe any longer. Yusaku wonders if he’s entered a dark tunnel or if he’s always been steadily traveling on the way out of one. His vision is darker than he remembers it being. Through it all, Takeru’s hand is warm. His presence is comforting, like it’s always been.

Yeah, it’s always been this way, hasn’t it? Takeru’s always been there. Through more than this, Takeru’s been there.

Their hands disconnect and Yusaku regains coherency as they exit the club. Fresh air threatens to knock him on his feet, or knock the booze right out of his gut. Yusaku swerves out of the way of a pole he threatens to walk into, Takeru reaching back for his hand and yanking it again. Seems he realized quick Yusaku isn’t going to make it without him.

“Did you just get like, ten times drunker since looking at Ryoken?”

Well, Yusaku thinks to himself, I had been feeling sick since before then, but it didn’t really hit me as hard as the realization that I wanted to make out with you did.

“Mmn,” is what he manages.

“Yeah, we’re never going drinking again,” Takeru says, chuckling some. “You’re some hell of a lightweight. It’s kinda cute actually.”

Yusaku trips over his own feet. Cute, right? Takeru catches him, surprisingly agile even for having had a couple shots himself. It’s a good thing he’s honest about being inebriated. He passes as pretty sober to Yusaku.

Keep in mind though, that Yusaku can’t see a foot in front of him. A stammering crackhead could slide out of the gutter right now and offer him ecstasy and Yusaku’d find him sober.

“It’s cooler out here,” Takeru says, coming to a stop. They’re in the club’s parking lot, presumably waiting for Kusanagi. “I let him know we need some grease. Grease’s always good after getting fucked.”

Yusaku, nauseated, doesn’t think twice about the statement. Takeru does.

“I mean like, fucked as in really drunk, I didn’t mean like… like sex. Like, I don’t think that we’re ready for that yet.” He laughs, then stops and waves his hands. “Nooooot… like I’m saying that we’re a thing… or that that’s an offer that is on the table. Haha, I just—”

“Huugghllouurghhhhh!”

Just barely missed Takeru’s shoes. Yusaku’s innards coat the pavement. It splats in a sound almost impressive. Endorphins flood him, and Yusaku almost wants to laugh. What a shitty goddamn night. All he can do is make a soft chuckle, and Takeru pulls Yusaku back from his vomit before he can wobble and slam face first into it, breaking his teeth in the process.

“Man, scratch the grease. Putting hot dogs in you now would probably make it worse. I’m so sorry I let you get this bad. I wasn’t sure how much you could take. It’s my fault.”

“Yeah,” Yusaku says to nothing in particular, and Takeru gets that impression with little effort involved. He tugs them both away from the yack stain.

“Hey, do you got your… thing on? The…”

Takeru gestures his hands back toward his shoulders and across his chest in a motion Yusaku can deduce even in as much of a stupor as he’s in and so he shakes his head.

“Good, I’m glad. Probably wouldn’t be fun to puke with one of ‘em on.”

A familiar truck rounds the corner, bounding into the parking lot and drenching one of its front tires in the residuals of Yusaku’s stomach acid. Kusanagi waves from the driver’s seat through the window and Yusaku has never been more chuffed to see him.

Saying something into his ear that goes unheard, Takeru pulls Yusaku to the truck and the two of them scrabble into the back. Much louder, Takeru warns Kusanagi that Yusaku has already yearped once already. A second time is not out of the question.

Cackling with far too much mirth, Kusanagi lets Takeru know in some cabinet of the back of his truck are some brown bags (with his dated Café Nagi logo on them) for Yusaku to go wild into.

Yusaku props himself up in the back of the truck, not sure whether he feels less or more sick with his eyes open or closed. The swirling vertigo is perpetual either way. His brain short-circuits when Takeru screams about something that falls out of the cabinet.

“Wh-what is thiiIIiIS!?

His voice pirouettes, careens through the air and lands harshly on Yusaku’s ears, and it nearly puts him out on the spot.

The last thing Yusaku hears is Kusanagi griping at Takeru to shut the doors so he can drive, and Yusaku’s world goes dark. It goes dark with Takeru’s hand in his.

dragon grandpa
@Souljaburner
@daddylonglegs DUDE what the FUCK was that 10:15 PM - 16 April 2019 1 1

hot dog rhombus
@daddylonglegs
@Souljaburner .............a hot dog eating mask 10:20 PM - 16 April 2019 1 1

dragon grandpa
@Souljaburner
@daddylonglegs THEY MAKE THOSE? 10:22 PM - 16 April 2019 1 1

hot dog rhombus
@daddylonglegs
@Souljaburner Yea lol................. helped my pops win a hot dog eating competition 10:31 PM - 16 April 2019 1 1

dragon grandpa
@Souljaburner
@daddylonglegs finally no distractions. 10:38 PM - 16 April 2019 1

Those two continue to yell back and forth at each other via their public Twitter accounts, with Yusaku only coming to once Takeru is pulling him by the arms to alertness and a popped shoulder joint.

“Whahggh?”

Takeru giggles. He probably can’t help but when Yusaku is so helpless and making such terrible attempts at human speech. Kusanagi is standing at the edge of the truck, blotted out by the shine of the moon behind him. His expression is unreadable, but Yusaku can hear the amusement as he climbs in to help excavate the poor boy from off of the truck floor.

“Let’s get you up, pukey.” Not terribly creative of him, Yusaku thinks vaguely and he isn’t insulted.

Both of them help him to his feet and from there it’s a series of faint, blurred steps until he’s sat down upon the couch. That was fast, he recalls thinking moments before he’s handed a glass of water. That was also fast.

“Yusaku, don’t fall back asleep! You gotta get some water in you or you’re gonna be in serious headache tomorrow,” Takeru warns.

Oh, so Yusaku just keeps falling back asleep every two seconds or so. That makes much more sense than his friends all being superhumanly expeditious, so he sips. He sips and oh, every cell in his body has begun to Fortnite dance rapidly. It really needed that. Sighing, Yusaku stays somewhat hunched over with the glass in his palm, not in the slightest bit fearful of it slipping out (though he should probably be.)

Takeru drops into the seat beside him and helps him to keep his hold on it. Kusanagi’s voice comes a bit exasperated.

“I didn’t think you were going to get him this fucked up, Takeru. I think he’s got class tomorrow. Where’s uh… Aoi?”

Yusaku interrupts his sip to talk. Water spills down his chin slightly.

“She’s got a different ride home.”

“I mean does she know that you guys went home?”

Um.

Yeah, maybe someone should’ve told her. Yusaku contemplates this dimly as Takeru bites into his thumbnail, wincing.

“I mean. If she has a different ride…”

Kusanagi rolls his big, tanned fingers back through his roots and he gives them both a sideways glance.

“Really? What were you both doing that was so important that you had to evacuate anyways? You sounded really panicked when you called me, Takeru.”

Takeru speaks up before Yusaku can get it out, “Yusaku’s shithead ex showed up and Yusaku just wanted to go home, that’s it.”

Clarity rolling in eventual waves back to Yusaku, he trains his eyesight on the way Kusanagi’s face softens up to something pitying, and Kusanagi ruffles Yusaku’s hair.

“Yusaku, I’m sorry to hear about that. I still think your girlfriend would appreciate hearing from you, even if she’s got another ride. You can’t leave her hanging.”

“They aren’t dating anymore,” Takeru says, and Yusaku takes a much greater swig of his water; it’s cold and rests like antifreeze in his stomach, filling up his once boozy insides.

“What?” Kusanagi frowns. “What happened?”

“They…”

Yusaku waits for it, for Takeru to realize that he really doesn’t have the slightest clue of what happened between them. Yusaku also waits for himself to find out what he wants Takeru to think. After the way he stood up to Ryoken for him, decrying the idea that Yusaku could have dated Aoi in some sort of ploy, he can’t admit to that, can he?

Gentle eyes swishing back over to Yusaku’s, Takeru tries to lock eyes but Yusaku’s in his own head, thinking as hard as he possibly can.

Takeru thinks he’s a good person. He is, isn’t he? Maybe not. Maybe not after hurting Ryoken so much. Maybe not after fucking up Aoi’s plans at dodging her brother. Maybe not after falling all over Takeru like that, regardless of how much falling he did into him in return. Maybe he just wants a win.

Closing his eyes, Yusaku decides that for the first time in the past few days, he needs a win.

“We decided we’re just better off as friends. It was fun while it lasted.”

When he opens them back up, Kusanagi seems… relieved? So does Takeru, actually. Maybe Yusaku’s still pretty intoxicated. That doesn’t seem right to him.

“I’m glad you gave it a shot. I was worried that you were looking to fill Ryoken’s absence with someone so quickly. I think you need time to heal.”

Kusanagi’s words ring true, but it opens a certain doubt in his stomach.

Is that what I’ve done with Takeru?

What’s worse is what other thoughts float into Yusaku’s head.

I don’t care if I’m not healed. I want to feel someone beside me. Ryoken’s doing it too. He has someone new. Why can’t I?

Finally meeting Takeru’s eyes, he’s victim to a glimmer in them that he’s somehow never noticed until tonight. It’s starlight and it’s overrunning his alcohol-washed belly with butterflies and bumblebees. It’s warm and it’s inviting, and Takeru elbows him in a way so friendly, so familiar, and says something so unusual: “I agree. Healing is important. Can’t be too hasty.”

He chuckles, slips over his own tongue almost, but chuckles and smiles and forces it to the best of his ability, Yusaku does. He fights the locking up of his jaw and the pit in his chest where all of his wants go to die.

Did Takeru change his mind?

Never mind. Never mind it all. Yusaku is tipsy and tired and worn and he feels every ounce of regret in the way his skin sags as he stands and his body feels distant and computerized, controlled only tangentially by his own mind but not home to him and not safe either.

He just wants to sleep.

“I’m going to bed,” he says, and then he retires to that space and Takeru does not follow.

Maybe while they had been locked at the lips, Yusaku had a faint fantasy of what might come next: snuggling together in his twin-sized bed, cramped and cozy, bodies pressed until they make a joke about it to relieve the tension, until someone asks if they can touch, until someone makes a move and then Yusaku goes white around the edges of his vision and forgets: forgets Ryoken is a person, forgets the last three years of his life, forgets how much he’s had to drink and forgets that he isn’t capable of making any decisions right now.

All Yusaku wants is to forget.

Sadly, he wakes up with a gobsmacking level of coherence at 3 in the morning, and does what his heart tells him to do: call Ryoken.

Because at the end of it all, at the end of the string is just an empty cup and Ryoken’s still got the other half. He has to answer. He has to pick up. He’ll call a thousand times if he has to, unless his number is blocked. He’ll crawl on his hands and knees if he has to, to get him to answer.

No luck. Yusaku squints at his phone screen in the dark, the blueish light turning his retinas to mush. He’s even got it in him to be testy about it, now that he’s gotten all the tears out of him and gotten the alcohol out. He knows tonight was a giant clusterfuck, but if the two of them could just talk, they could come to some kind of agreement. They could still be friends.

Yusaku could make sure he’s not losing someone who meant the world to him for so long, at least… not in two ways instead of one.

But still, if you had to ask if he still wanted Ryoken back…

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
@hanoirevolver im sorry to be @-ing you, your settings dont let anyone that you arent following dm you and you arent answering my calls, please call me 3:10 AM - 17 April 2019

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
@hanoirevolver we have to talk about what happened tonight, i dont care if you dont want to talk about it and you want to pretend i dont exist 3:15 AM - 17 April 2019

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
@hanoirevolver you owe it to me after how youve gone about this 3:17 AM - 17 April 2019

Finals are next week and Yusaku’s in bed with a hangover.

He doesn’t go to his classes today, by the way. Sorry to spoil that. He’s too busy moping over not being with Ryoken and not being with Takeru and having the world’s worst headache and none of this seems to be par the course for him. The first thing he wakes up to is a phone call from Aoi, and he wants to let it go to voicemail more than he has ever wanted anything in the world, apart from being back together with his boyfriend.

But, what’s worse than being yelled at is being yelled at in a way where you can’t say anything in reply: essentially, a voicemail. Yusaku swipes the answer button across his phone and keeps his voice level. It croaks gently. First noise of the day: “I am so sorry.”

“He knows that it’s a gay club, Yusaku.”

The first time that she’d called him by his first name, Yusaku was happy to hear it. Now, he just winces, like he’s being scolded by a parent he can’t remember having.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t think he would go through my tweets.”

She sighs. There’s background noise on her end that Yusaku can’t readily identify. It sounds like she’s on a bus or in a crowd. “It’s fine,” Aoi says finally.

“It’s not,” he argues. “What can I do? I didn’t answer him back because I didn’t want to possibly give him a story that conflicted with whatever you were telling him.”

“There is no story,” she says, voice breaking up slightly—not emotionally just, technologically. “I told him the truth.”

Yusaku sits up in bed, stirring more and more awake with every word. “You told him you’re gay?”

“No,” Aoi corrects hurriedly. “I told him I was there at the club and that you were too. I didn’t think he would know that it was a gay club.”

“…so what happened?”

“He told me it was a gay club, and I said I didn’t know that. I was just… looking for a place to party.”

Fixing his mouth into a tired frown, the bags of his eyes stretching as he narrows them at the wall, Yusaku licks his chapped lips and says, “do you think he believed that?”

In the absence before her answer, Yusaku is certain he can see her shrugging in his mind’s eye.

“Who knows,” she says, voice jittering with static. “I haven’t seen him since I came home. I stayed out until he went to work.”

“That’s early,” Yusaku points out, rather uselessly.

“Yeah, it is. I didn’t want to face him. I’m going to have to when he gets home.”

“Got a plan drafted?”

“I’m coming over right now,” Aoi says and Yusaku supposes all the call interference is her walking to their apartment. The city can be quite noisy during the day. He glances at his phone to see that it’s already noon and Yusaku nods at her (as if she can hear him do that or something.)

“Right. See you soon.”

Moments after the call ends, Yusaku hears a few powerful taps against his door. They’re most assuredly Takeru’s, since he pokes his head in within the next ten seconds anyways, rendering the knocking pointless in the first place. He smiles toothlessly.

“Hey, mornin’ Yusaku,” Takeru greets in a subdued voice. “Can we talk now that you’re up?”

Yusaku chews on his cheek a little. That wording puts a weird picture in his head of Takeru patiently seated outside of his door, awaiting any and all movement from inside as a sign that Yusaku is up and available for… whatever he has to talk about. Probably something to do with last night.

Well, considering Takeru’s already in the room, might as well. Yusaku says, “yeah, what’s up?”

The door shuts behind him and Takeru locks it shut. Yusaku’s heart races. This must be a good conversation about last night, right?

Takeru takes his seat rather far away though, on the chair by Yusaku’s desk and not on the bed nearby him. That isn’t too strange, perhaps. Maybe he’s just afraid of coming on too strong. Yusaku can respect that.

Hair flouncy when he bounces into Yusaku’s line of sight, he smells of Yusaku’s favorite shampoo. He must’ve stayed here overnight and showered. The aroma of green apple is all over him. The peppermint candy red stripes in his hair all but curl deliciously into fine cotton with the white when he’s freshly conditioned. Yusaku glues his mouth shut.

“I wanted to apologize for last night,” he says, and Yusaku rips the glue off his mouth.

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Yusaku insists, turning almost comically defensive of him at the drop of a hat.

Knocking his head from side to side, Takeru frowns. “I wish I could say that. What happened between us last night wasn’t right.”

Oh, he does regret it. Yusaku’s insides rot.

“No matter how much I wanted it at the time… you were drunk. That wasn’t okay. I’m sorry.”

Oh, he did want it. Yusaku grows a flower garden in his gullet.

“No, Takeru,” Yusaku insists, his pulse thundering at the thought, the truth, as it comes out of his mouth, “I kissed you too. I… I wanted to do that.”

Takeru’s smile is faded, achey. “You were drunk, Yusaku.”

“You had some to drink too, and I’m telling you that I wanted to kiss you.” Yusaku frowns and doesn’t budge an inch. “We were reading each others body language. You were safe. I gave repeated consent. I even asked you to continue when you’d stopped. You have nothing to apologize for.”

Takeru goes quiet, as if running the numbers in his head. Just knowing that this worry crossed his mind at all makes Yusaku feel… safe. Cared about. His insides flip. Tapping his fingers against the chair, sitting backwards against it, Takeru bites into his lip and Yusaku wants to show him all over again just how much he wanted it, how much he still wants it.

“I guess,” he says. “I’m just shaken up a bit by seeing how drunk you got. I started thinking… we’d made a mistake.”

“No, we didn’t.” Yusaku tamps down the bed beside him, wanting Takeru to come the rest of the way to where he wanted him to be just last night. The door is locked and everything. “Sit with me.”

The stare Takeru levels at him is cautious, dangerous. He hesitantly hops up and takes his seat right beside Yusaku’s hand and god the scent of his body wash is inebriating. How could it smell so much better on someone else than on him?

Smoothing his hand down on top of Takeru’s, Yusaku says, “I wanted to kiss you. I still do, want to kiss you.”

And it isn’t a lie. No matter the reasons for it, it isn’t a lie. Takeru goes pinker in the face, spreading from his ears and neck to the freckles on his nose. There’s something shy about him when Yusaku’s being forward. It’s cute. It’s wonderful. Takeru smiles some, his eyebrows knitting and his fingers linking up with Yusaku’s.

“You do? Why?”

“Why?” Yusaku repeats, and he thinks it’s an absolute no-brainer until he really comes to his conclusion: I want to forget about Ryoken.

No, that’s no good reason. That’s not a good reason. He knows that’s not a good reason. There should be something better, but all he’s got is this attraction. All he’s got is this baseless magnetism. All he’s got is that Takeru suddenly is the only thing around that is making him feel good, really good and he doesn’t want that to go away, but is that acceptable to say?

The inside of Takeru’s mind is an enigma. He could be thinking anything from potentially crushing to maybe only seeking something sexual. Maybe all he wants too is to fool around, nothing serious. Maybe Yusaku is overthinking this by wanting to lie.

Lying is just… hard. It’s why Yusaku doesn’t care to do it.

He lies the best he can: half-truths and omission.

“You’ve been there for me a long time, and… you’re really attractive.” He blinks. Fuck, that isn’t good enough, at all—

“Y-you think I’m attractive?” Takeru stutters, and Yusaku freezes.

“I do. You’re very handsome, and cute.”

Rubbing his neck, Takeru snickers, moves like he’s got something pleasurable coiling around in his skin and he can’t sit still. He averts his eyes and says, “god, I never thought I’d hear you say that, knowing how crazy you’ve always been for… y’know.”

Yusaku does know. He doesn’t say anything though, merely watching the way Takeru’s smile dances around on his face, unplaceable, faerie-like and gentle.

“Wow, I’m… gay?”

Their eyes connect and the both of them laugh on instinct. Yusaku can’t help the way it fractures out of him, like cracking through a layer of caked on, molded together anxiety. It all crumbles to pieces in that moment of sheer honesty. It’s true. He can’t deny him that.

“Yeah, yeah you are,” Yusaku teases.

Wow, okay but so are you,” Takeru jeers. “You said I’m cute.”

“I did,” says Yusaku, owning up to it and leaning in predictably toward Takeru’s seated person.

It doesn’t take long at all for Takeru to find out it’s alright, alright to let their lips touch again, move with one another like two halves of the same whole, make noises with each other as they learn what feels good and what doesn’t.

So far there’s been nothing between them than what feels good, and Yusaku’s missed that. He’s really missed that.

It makes the headache better. Takeru’s lips, tongue and teeth too just all make it better, like he’s sucking what’s left of the liquor out of his brain. Yusaku makes no bones about turning over, pressing Takeru down into the pillows and kissing him warmly, his body fixated just over top. It feels good, to make another boy mumble pleasantly beneath you. It’s shiny and brand new. It’s exciting. It makes Yusaku’s brain whirl. He doesn’t want it to stop.

It doesn’t until he hears a sudden banging on the door, like Kusanagi’s trying to break the damn thing down. He struggles with the handle, no dice. It’s locked.

“Yusaku? Takeru? Are y’all in there with the door locked!?”

Even without being seen or heard, Takeru scrambles to sit up and Yusaku gets knocked in the nose by his forehead. Wincing and holding his face, Yusaku is momentarily too stunned to answer.

“Uh, y-yeah! We’re just, talkin’ about some important stuff. Um. Yusaku’s crying, so I locked the door.”

Yusaku shoots Takeru a skeptical stare. That’s never going to work. What, are they teenagers again and they aren’t allowed to make out in the sanctity of their own locked rooms?

“Okay, well, your friend’s here so I’m takin’ off. Let her inside.”

Oh, he probably means Aoi. Shit. Yusaku didn’t think she was going to get here this quickly.

Wait… did Yusaku hear him correctly? She’s here so he’s going to take off? Why won’t he answer the door? Does he not want to see her for some reason? Why would Kusanagi be avoiding Aoi Zaizen of all people? How the hell do they know each other?

“Fuck, I’m sorry man,” Takeru says suddenly, peeling both of Yusaku’s hands off of his nose, soon nursing it with a gentle kiss of his own.

That’s a terrible move, Yusaku thinks to himself. All he wants to do is pull Takeru back into the bed with him but Aoi is here. Deciding that she really, really deserves to be helped out of this mess he put her in, Yusaku climbs up out of his bed before realizing he’s in the same outfit he went to bed in. He feels sticky too.

Ugh.

“I’m… gonna shower too,” he says. “Can you let Aoi in and, be regular until I get out?”

Takeru beams. “I’m always regular.”

NEXT HOT DOG CHAMP
@Souljaburner
THEY ARE REAL. HOT DOG EATING MASKS ARE REAL. 1:12 PM - 17 April 2019 4 62

NEXT HOT DOG CHAMP
@Souljaburner
Aoi is debating with me the legitimacy of the hot dog eating masks, but I have the proof. I’ve seen one in the leather. 1:22 PM - 17 April 2019 10

NEXT HOT DOG CHAMP
@Souljaburner
just you wait til i get my hands on one. the world national hot dog eating association is going belly up. 1:25 PM - 17 April 2019 7

“Hey, remember that whole ‘be regular’ talk we had, Takeru?” says Yusaku, joining his two friends in the foyer as he wrings water out of his hair and into a towel.

“I see you’ve checked the TL,” Aoi deduces, seated on one side of the couch completely opposite Takeru.

What is the big deal!? I’m telling you that they’re real. I saw one in Kusanagi’s truck.”

Yusaku wipes his face down, clad in a simple black t-shirt and lazy pajama bottoms with watermelons on them. His eyes catch Aoi's. Aoi’s eyes zoom like targeted missiles to Yusaku’s once that sentence falls out. She knows what’s going on here. Yusaku can tell she knows, and he feels a little hot under the collar at just the sheer implication of what he’s just heard. Still, it seems Takeru is a bit in the dark, so he’ll have to go slow with this one.

Tugging his towel down from his head, Yusaku tilts his head and parrots, “saw one in Kusanagi’s truck?”

“Yeah, like… last night while trying to get you a bag to puke into, I opened the wrong cabinet and Kusanagi’s old hot dog eating mask fell out.”

Yusaku does not blink. His eyes float between Takeru and Aoi, drinking in her patient, longsuffering expression and realizing what kind of hell she’s been enduring for the time that he’s been in the shower. Takeru’s so innocent. So mild. So unaware. He almost doesn’t want to bring the truth down upon him, spare the rod - spoil the child, so it goes.

“Uh, did you touch it?” Yusaku asks, not wanting to know the answer.

“Well, yeah? I had to put it b—”

“Takeru,” Yusaku groans, pinching the bridge of his nose. “That’s a BDSM accessory.”

“…A what?”

“It’s for sex,” clarifies Aoi.

The gears click and turn and Takeru’s eyes bolt down to his hands with a stagnant fear. His mouth opens in a silent scream. All the while, Yusaku has marched over to, ironically enough, Kusanagi’s computer desk to fetch his bottle of hand sanitizer. Seamlessly, he dabs two puddles into Takeru’s hands and Takeru takes to feverishly cleansing both from fingernail to elbow in a horrific display.

“He lied to me!”

“Yeah,” Yusaku and Aoi drone.

ex-next hot dog champ
@Souljaburner
@daddylonglegs YOU LIED TO ME 1:46 PM - 17 April 2019 1 3

hot dog rhombus
@daddylonglegs
@Souljaburner Kid lol I’m surprised it took you that long 2:03 PM - 17 April 2019 3

“So what’s the plan?” Yusaku asks Aoi, eager to get as far away from the topic of his roommate’s sexual appetites as possible.

Aoi seems just as ready to finally get down to the topic at hand and stop pussyfooting around with Takeru’s sudden traumatizing event. He had ended up asking a few minutes ago in a minuscule, broken down voice whether they thought that Kusanagi wore the mask or made other people wear the mask, and Yusaku swore that if he brought it up again, he’d put him outside.

With Takeru now quietly curled up on the couch beside them, Aoi says, “I’m going to come out to my brother.”

“Good plan,” Yusaku agrees without hesitation.

“But how?”

Aoi and Yusaku both turn to give the balled up boy a stare. Takeru sits with his arms and legs reigned in, something of a boy-orb in the corner of the couch and they regard him strangely.

“What do you mean, how? I’m… just going to tell him.”

“I mean, you could, or you could do somethin’ that makes a statement, y’know? Lets him know that you mean business, that this is who you are and that it isn’t a phase and that it isn’t going away. Something that will wow him? Maybe get some fireworks.”

“I have no idea what you think coming out is supposed to be like,” Aoi says. “You clearly haven’t come out to your grandparents, have you?”

“Nope! Whenever I have a Grindr date, I tell them I’m going to church.”

Yusaku folds his hands quietly. Aoi’s eyelids fall flat and her mouth hangs agape.

“How religious do they think you are, exactly, to go to church at probably eleven o’clock at night or later?”

“Extremely,” Takeru says.

“Anyways,” interrupts Yusaku, glancing back at Aoi. Being in the middle cushion means he has to turn his head 180 degrees just to speak to either of them directly. “I think that however you choose to tell him, you tell him as yourself. Don’t censor it. Don’t try and dress it up. Don’t make it sound like something that it’s not. Just, tell him that you’re gay, and you also like to have fun at clubs.”

Aoi turns her eyes away, visibly marinating on the ideas put forth.

“I just think he’ll think it’s really… stereotypical and hypersexual to be experimenting with being gay or, trying to find a girlfriend at a bar or club. He’ll ask why I can’t just find a girl at a coffee shop.”

“Straight people get dates at clubs all the time,” Yusaku points out, and Aoi is emboldened without question.

“You know what, you’re absolutely right.” Aoi slaps her knees with emphasis. Her voice steadies into something more serious. “I’m going to be honest about who I am. I like to dress up and go to clubs and have fun, and dance and drink sometimes, always responsibly, and I am gay.”

“That’s the most important part,” Yusaku reminds. “You don’t need to come out of the closet as a raver.”

“Takeru had a good point there,” she suddenly says and both Yusaku and Takeru twist their bodies her way like plants growing toward a window.

“He did?”

“I did?”

“I’m going to dye my hair blue.”

Oh, of course, Yusaku thinks. That was… obviously the natural course of action to take here. He wonders to himself how he couldn’t have seen this coming or have fathomed it himself, while silently narrowing his eyes and focusing them into the side of her head.

“Yeah?” he says and does not ask.

“Wait, why!?” Takeru spits. “Don’t listen to me. I was just—”

“I’ve wanted it for the longest time now,” Aoi begins, her fingernails nibbling away at the edge of her skirt’s hem in a way that makes Yusaku second guess not taking her at her word, “but I’ve never wanted to be anything but what my brother wanted me to be. It’s time that I not only come out, but I also decide to be myself completely, and unapologetically.”

And… it might sound silly, but upon reflection, Yusaku can understand where she’s coming from. Sometimes, you just need to take the plunge, and do it in whatever way works best. Sometimes that means… dying your hair blue and telling your brother that you like women. Sometimes it only makes sense to you, and that’s fine. It isn’t how he would go about it but, he has never had to really come out to someone who could disown him. For all he knows, this is normal.

Yusaku doesn’t think it’s silly at all actually. It gives him something to do today, after all.

“Oh, sick! You’re gonna let us help you with it, right!?”

“I’ve never dyed my hair,” Aoi says contemplatively, “but I think my hair is short enough that it won’t be too hard.”

Takeru elbows Yusaku with that star spangled smile of his. “So we’re helpin’ her,” he says.

“I don’t know how to do hair,” Yusaku says, “but I’m willing to try.”

“We’d better start walking then. The bus runs by here soon.” Aoi stands up, and she isn’t smiling but there’s an expression she wears that’s got hope in it. It’s one Yusaku has come to associate with her and one he imagines he wears often sometimes.

“I’ll go get dressed,” Yusaku says, departing from the room just in time to hear a muttered, ‘so, you and Yusaku now?’

Yusaku’s chest tightens, and he doesn’t hear what Takeru says in reply but he shivers in place. It’s good and evil inside him at the same time, how getting warm in the belly over Takeru feels.

Ogling his phone and finding that Ryoken hasn’t replied to him but has continued to carry on with his day, still using the app, Yusaku clicks his tongue.

That’s fine. Him and his friends are going to the store to get some hair dye and they’re going to have a wonderful time and Ryoken won’t be there. Yusaku will go to bed that night and Ryoken won’t be there. Takeru will find his way, surely, to his room that night and Ryoken? Won’t be there.

And Yusaku is more than satisfied with that.

… still, it doesn’t stop him from trying.

yusaku @hiatus
@p1aymak3r
@hanoirevolver ryoken please call me 3:17 PM - 17 April 2019

Ryoken does not call and Takeru is there. So it goes.

Chapter Text

Big Slappy
@Souljaburner
was NO ONE gonna tell me that KUSANAGI FUCKED AOI’S BROTHER? 11:12 PM - 1 May 2019 1 4

ʚ wingspan out now ɞ
@sapphicsaint
@Souljaburner can you not remind me thanks. 11:15 PM - 1 May 2019 1 3

yusaku
@p1aymak3r
@sapphicsaint, @Souljaburner good on you for replying on your public celebrity twitter account 11:18 PM - 1 May 2019 1 1 3

ʚ wingspan out now ɞ
@sapphicsaint
@p1aymak3r, @Souljaburner i’m far from famous yet but i’m flattered anyways. i see you’re finally done with finals. 11:23 PM - 1 May 2019 1 3

Big Slappy
@Souljaburner
@sapphicsaint, @p1aymak3r AW HELL YEAH LETS CELEBRATE 11:35 PM - 1 May 2019 1 3

Bigger Slappy
@daddylonglegs
@Souljaburner, @sapphicsaint, @p1aymak3r Thank you for tweeting about it and then making a thread out of it, Great work everyone 11:37 PM - 1 May 2019 1 3

yusaku
@p1aymak3r
@daddylonglegs, @Souljaburner, @sapphicsaint i was going to apologize but then i noticed your matching dns 11:39 PM - 1 May 2019 1 3

Big Slappy
@Souljaburner
@p1aymak3r, @daddylonglegs, @sapphicsaint SFJDSLLJSD ITS LIKE BIGGER LUKE THEORY. YOUVE SEEN THAT RIGHT? 11:43 PM - 1 May 2019 1 3

ʚ wingspan out now ɞ
@sapphicsaint
@Souljaburner, @p1aymak3r, @daddylonglegs p l e a s e get out of my mentions 11:43 PM - 1 May 2019 1 3

Big Slappy
@Souljaburner
i am just sayin findin out aoi’s brother wasn’t straight was pretty INSTRUMENTAL to her coming out and i think i deserved to know 11:53 PM - 1 May 2019 1 9

Big Slappy
@Souljaburner
@Souljaburner oh MAN AUGH .. IS THAT WHY KUSANAGIS @ HAS DADDY IN IT 11:54 PM - 1 May 2019 1 2

yusaku
@p1aymak3r
@Souljaburner if i have to see anymore talk of my roommates sex life on my tl youre getting the couch tonight 11:57 PM - 1 May 2019 1 3

Big Slappy
@Souljaburner
@p1aymak3r 12:00 AM - 2 May 2019 1

cutteeth.
@reflektives
I don’t want to be with you again but I keep checking in on you, seeing that you’re doing well without me. 1:08 AM - 2 May 2019

cutteeth.
@reflektives
I’m the one that needs you. 1:08 AM - 2 May 2019

cutteeth.
@reflektives
I’m not a good person. It’s not fair of me to cut you loose and want you to wallow in it. 1:09 AM - 2 May 2019

cutteeth.
@reflektives
I want you to thrive and move on… just didn’t think you’d get there faster than me. 1:11 AM - 2 May 2019

cutteeth.
@reflektives
I wonder if it’s too late. To call. 1:32 AM - 2 May 2019

Ryoken sighs and lowers his phone to his chest, eyes shutting slightly with contemplation. It has been two weeks. What had initially started out as Ryoken icing Yusaku out for power and control turned into something else entirely: Ryoken allowing Yusaku some time to himself to get through the end of his Spring semester. It was only polite.

This week marked the end of Yusaku’s “hiatus,” and Ryoken feels the time is finally right. You wouldn’t know that the college student had been taking a hiatus at all by how frequently he continued to post but Ryoken figured it was a formality to fall back on if he ever went dark without reason or vanished for days at a time. It was time to pick up the phone.

Rolling over in bed, the echo of Spectre snoring rings out from behind him. It was time to pick up the phone and be terribly quiet about it. The idea of waking his ‘boyfriend’ up was excruciating and he’d rather not have to ponder it.

For two weeks now, Ryoken’s been dying to reach out. It wouldn’t take long at all. Maybe he’d even take pleasure at the sound of Yusaku’s voice. Maybe Yusaku was just as eager to hear from him, ready to repair what was left of their friendship before it all fell through. Licking his lips, Ryoken tries to focus on this and not at all on Takeru and surely not on Takeru sleeping in the same bed as Yusaku (in lieu of the couch, as per their tweets), and surely not on his obnoxious flurry of heart emojis. How positively annoying of him. Did Yusaku really think that shit was cute?

…maybe Ryoken should’ve been like that more often.

No, absolutely not. What, was he twelve? Everything to do with Takeru was so immature. It baffled him that Yusaku, a college graduate with a degree, with a future planned out before him and a scholarship and all would downgrade from someone like Ryoken who had it all together, would downgrade to a Twitch.tv streamer who still lived with his grandparents and had no college plans at all.

Ryoken scrolls through his media and finds a boatload of selfies between him, Yusaku, Aoi Zaizen, and Yusaku’s roommate, and… they’re all so blurry or drowned out in emoji stickers and distorted by SnapChat filters. If he hadn’t seen the guy in real life, he wouldn’t be sure he knew what Takeru resembled at all. You’d think that he had something to hide.

Or, if he thinks about it, if he was that ugly he would surely only take photos with the filters on as well. Scoffing to himself, Ryoken scrolls. Oh, wait, he was meant to call Yusaku up. He got blindsided again—every time he pulls up one of their Twitter accounts.

Swiping the Twitter app away and pulling up his contacts, Ryoken taps the unblock button and sets Yusaku’s number free, then his heart stops.

Not here. His eyes dash over his shoulder and into Spectre’s. They’re closed. He’s soundly asleep. Small movements, then, Ryoken, small ones up and out of the bed. He creeps slow from the hefty comforter, thankful for the well-kept penthouse flooring, a shiny wooden tile that does not creak haphazardly beneath him. It reflects the moon’s lighting as it beams in through the curtains. Golden flecks paint his skin. Ryoken bathes himself in pale blue light as he eyes his options to leave the room. Opening the door might be a stretch, might alert Spectre or wake him up. The closet door is open though. Ryoken slips through the closet door and finds himself at the back of the room. He scoots himself across the floor and into the dark where the crack in the door does not follow.

Seated down on his knees, Ryoken cradles the cellular phone in his hands. One door away is his father’s urn and here behind it he sits with his heart on the line, somehow damning himself to fall back into what he said he wouldn’t do. His father will surely understand. His father won’t condemn him for wanting to keep a friend.

As soon as Yusaku picks up, Ryoken knows where his mind is gonna go: can we meet up somewhere, anywhere, a park bench, a late nite diner, the bridge by your apartment, the sea by my penthouse, somewhere. And he can’t. He can’t go there. Most of all, he can’t do that to Yusaku. Selfishness roots him to the floor. The brrrping of the dial tone has his heart in his lungs. He can’t string along dear Yusaku, but his soul can’t help what it wants.

It’s only when the call goes to voicemail that Ryoken realizes that Yusaku doesn’t have to pick up the phone, might not pick up the phone, might’ve decided to blow him off this time, might be asleep by now, might be with Takeru right now, might be fucking Takeru right now. Ryoken is sick. Ryoken presses his fingers into his face, breathing hard into his hand.

Of course, of course. A mistake, a big mistake. This was all a big mistake, or just mostly one. Where does the mistake begin and end? Does it start at the break-up or further than that? Ryoken digs his incisors into his lips.

He calls again and again and a few more times to no avail. Nothing answers him. Has his number been blocked? That wouldn’t be unheard of.

It isn’t until that possibility is broached that Ryoken grasps maybe, even a tenth of how Yusaku has been feeling lately. Probably.

If Yusaku blocked me, then…

Shaking his head, Ryoken pops Twitter open.

He can’t.

ryoken.
@hanoirevolver
@p1aymak3r Apologies for being busy lately. Could you call me at your earliest convenience? 1:46 AM - 2 May 2019 1

It takes ten or so minutes but in due time, Ryoken gets the vibration through his phone, the wordless notification that he’s received some sort of message or interaction. The screen shines indifference into his irises. Yusaku has liked the tweet and not responded to it. That’s per usual for him though, it isn’t a big deal. Ryoken tells himself to not dig any deeper. It’s fine.

Whenever Yusaku elects to call him back, it’s up to him. It’s… fine. It could be today, it could be tomorrow. It could be… the end of the both of them: something Ryoken had been ready to accept when it meant that he’d been the arbiter. It feels different when he isn’t in control of this, when things continue to spiral out of hand and he wishes that maybe he had made a different decision, come to a different conclusion, discussed this more or even had been open to the possibility of other avenues of conflict resolution.

Really, what had Ryoken given in this situation other than a notice that he had given them up? Ryoken sat the two of them down and gave Yusaku the news and expected nothing more and nothing less than acknowledgement and closure, and even then Yusaku had done so with aplomb. So what then was Yusaku supposed to do? What was Ryoken looking for?

Slumping from his knees and to his side, postured against the wall, Ryoken sighs. Eyes gaping up from the closet floor and toward the shelving where boxes of shoes, old mail, and out-of-trend sweaters sit, he recognizes the spot where the promise ring sits untouched. It sits ready for a finger. Biting his lip, he knows the truth behind the ring purchased a day before the end, a day before his heart leapt at the altar, a day before he could make himself crystal and clear.

What had Ryoken done but hide himself from the truth and expect fleeing to save him? When had fleeing ever saved him?

Yusaku isn’t calling him tonight. Spectre isn’t waking up from this sad dream. There’s nothing he can do unless he takes a step in one direction, or the other. It has to come. He’ll never end up free if he does not.

cutteeth.
@reflektives
I frightened myself knowing that the only options left were staying together forever or breaking up now. 1:56 AM - 2 May 2019

cutteeth.
@reflektives
It sounds so simple but I’ve never felt this way before. I don’t know that I’m ready but you won’t wait. 1:57 AM - 2 May 2019

cutteeth.
@reflektives
Would things have been different if I told you? You likely would’ve wanted to leave. This still makes sense. 1:59 AM - 2 May 2019

cutteeth.
@reflektives
Being without you is the only thing that makes sense. 2:10 AM - 2 May 2019

He holds his breath and he holds his nose. Pops his ears and sighs slow.

Being without Yusaku is the only thing that makes sense, and yet Ryoken’s the only one still suffering from this. Yusaku is fine with Takeru, is fine with a deadbeat with no gameplan, no future, no fight in him. Yusaku is fine with the runner-up.

Tentatively glancing back at the closet door hung ajar, Ryoken wonders to himself if he is too: fine with the runner-up that is. Maybe it’s all a ploy. Maybe it’s no better than he’s got.

Who really knows? He doesn’t.

For once, too tired to bother with the horrid mind games, Ryoken slinks up from the floor as his thoughts slip and slide out of his brain. They litter the ground he walks on as they pour from his ears. He wants to stop trying so hard, stop thinking in strategy and statistics and just do what his heart wants.

For once, he thinks he knows what it wants too and he doesn’t know what to do when he can’t have it. He’s not used to not being able to have it.

Ryoken sneaks back under the covers to Spectre stirring and tugging him close. The warmth is not unwelcome. The kisses aren’t a burden at all. Moving as one, Spectre’s mouth, sleep-soft and careful greets him and Ryoken can’t complain when he’s got a body in his bed and it knows how to treat him with respect. What can he complain for?

“Ryoken-sama,” he murmurs and Ryoken deepens the contact to shut him up if nothing else.

Spectre makes a sound, something starved and Ryoken smooths a thumb across his jaw.

“Go back to sleep,” he breathes and Spectre nuzzles into his neck, wordlessly, and it’s like there was never want to begin with.

It makes Ryoken shiver and die.

Lovely Spectre
@Sunvinyard
Today I am preparing Raw Vegan Lasagna for dinner, you all can follow along as I livetweet my efforts tonight 11:13 AM - 2 May 2019 5

This morning, Spectre and Ryoken parted without much ceremony. Tonight was a special dinner. Spectre would be preparing it at his home for Ryoken to partake of. Ryoken had no desire to eat… raw vegan lasagna but after an hour of convincing, Ryoken was able to get Spectre to do something he wanted.

It just so happened that what he picked… Ryoken really didn’t want to eat, but he couldn’t back down now. With all the work that went into convincing Spectre to get his way, Ryoken couldn’t say actually, not that one. Resigning himself to what he’d later ingest, Ryoken flopped back into his king-sized bed and fit himself snugly into the middle, taking up as much space as possible. He tried to pretend he was satisfied with the state of things. He made Spectre happy. The fact that he was capable at all of making another person happy was more than he thought himself capable of. Ryoken drunk himself silly on this thought and pulled himself right back down to sleep.

And then his phone rang. Fumbling to flip it over in his haze, Ryoken squints at the caller ID.

It’s Yusaku.

After clearing the sleep from his voice, “yes?” Ryoken answers.

“You wanted to talk.” Yusaku’s voice sounds vacant and cold.

Well, yes, Ryoken did want to talk but, hadn’t Yusaku called him first? He says as much and Yusaku’s quick on the uptake.

“Like a week and a half ago, yeah.”

“I’ve been busy. I also wanted to give you time to get through your exams.”

“Generous of you,” says Yusaku and Ryoken doesn’t know why his heart sinks with the attitude in his tone. They’ve argued before. They’ve been passive aggressive before. Something about the faded, vague hostility makes Ryoken’s tongue swell up, feel way too big in his mouth; he doesn’t know what to do with it. He doesn’t know what to do with Yusaku now that he’s got him on the line.

Swallowing, Ryoken says, “if you don’t want to talk to me, you didn’t have to call.”

“If I didn’t want to talk to you, I wouldn’t have called.”

“Well then what’s with the attitude?”

Yusaku pauses and Ryoken thinks that maybe he just needs to breathe before finding which words can properly chew him apart. That’s what Yusaku hasn’t done, right? All this time, he’s holding onto all of this anger and he hasn’t let it fly, not even once. Ryoken knows he’s got to blow eventually. Yusaku was never the one to scream. They both knew how to raise their voices and get loud but Yusaku kept the level head. Even if Ryoken was frosty on the outside, he could boil on the inside and Yusaku could smell it too.

All Ryoken hears on the opposite end of the line is a distinguished sigh, and then he hears, “I’m sorry. I thought that you had been ignoring me all this time on purpose.”

Oh, yes. Ryoken definitely did some of that, but he lies.

“That’s okay,” he says. “I can see how you could come to that conclusion.” And Yusaku is none the wiser.

“If you could come over, I’d like to talk in person about some stuff.”

“Come over?” Ryoken parrots. “I’m not coming to your apartment.”

“…why not?” And Ryoken can make out the angled brows in his voice.

“I’m not going over to an apartment you share with people, people who hate me, Yusaku. Let’s find a public place, a neutral space.”

“He’s not—No. You mean like how you decided a public space was the stage to properly dump me?”

Those words aren’t spat with any malice or ill-intent but they land so devastatingly harsh on Ryoken’s ribs and hands. He feels nailed to the bed and still. Maybe their conversation could’ve gone a different way had Ryoken not chosen a public café. The thought tracks. Ryoken chews on his cheek in silence.

The idea that Yusaku could’ve fought for him, probably would’ve had they hadn’t been around people is far from novel. Ryoken just didn’t think it.

Taking a deep breath and angling his face from the phone, not wanting to give away to Yusaku even the slightest bit that he’s moved or miffed or having strenuous thoughts about this at all, Ryoken says, “then come to my place.”

“And how is it better there?”

“No one’s going to be here all day,” Ryoken explains, tapping his finger against his face as he rests his cheek in his palm. “I’m the only one who lives in my penthouse and you know that.”

Even if Spectre stays around sometimes, he has his own house. Yusaku should know.

“You want no one else to be around so if we argue, you don’t have to worry about making a scene, correct?”

Those words don’t sit well with Yusaku, Ryoken decides. He comes to this conclusion when Yusaku clicks his tongue in an almost uncharacteristic fashion and goes, “it’s not about wanting to argue, I just want it to be private. Can we have a conversation and it be private and just us?”

There’s an exasperation in his tone that Ryoken can sympathize with but he’s not peachy with the implication that Ryoken deprived them of such.

Whether it’s true or not, he’s not happy about it.

“Fair enough,” Ryoken says, throwing the covers off of him. “I have plans at 7 which means you’ve got to be out of here by 5, so however long of a chat you want to have, keep those hours in mind.”

As Ryoken stalks across the room toward his closet, he eyes a box of belongings that have sat unattended for quite some time. Filling its contents are old photographs, some clothes, a notebook, and a few other odds and ends. Something of a smile corkscrews its way across Ryoken’s face as a plan steadily forms.

“I’ll be there in an hour. That good for you?”

Grinning sharply, Ryoken nearly drops his phone as he nudges the box with his toe.

“Perfect, actually.”

Lovely Spectre
@Sunvinyard
Firstly, before we do anything we need to soak our Raw Sun-dried Tomatoes for about 2 hours 12:32 PM - 2 May 2019 3

Lovely Spectre
@Sunvinyard
The raw Cashews and the raw Walnuts should also be soaked overnight and if you do not have that then oh well 12:34 PM - 2 May 2019 3

Time seems to go so incredibly slow in between the phone call and the arrival at his front door step. His heartbeat thrums in his ears and he forgets that he isn’t here to flirt and let heart flutter. Ryoken is going to serve Yusaku. It’s only fair for the strife and the trouble, he thinks.

Is it not right for him to still be pouty over that shit with Aoi Zaizen? Maybe. Possibly. He had his doubts about the whole situation but after seeing her come out as lesbian, Ryoken is pretty convinced it was all a big mess just to toy with him. In fact, thinking about it for too long is just bad for his blood pressure.

This go round, however, Ryoken is putting that blood pressure into looking a different kind of good lookin’. He pops his lips with a smack as he finishes applying the last of his lip balm, barely visible on the bottom lip. He yanks the side of his sweatshirt down to show off collar and show off shoulder, but most importantly: show off skin. It’s rare that Ryoken can show off his softer, domestic side but beings as how the playing field is his own penthouse, it’s his playground. He can look something of a mess since the only one who’ll see him is Yusaku.

Are these Yusaku’s boxers? Well, they can stay on. They’re a plain black and white plaid and haven’t joined the box of returnables, sat crooked on the living room table, sat ajar as though its guts are being dissected and deemed unworthy, unnecessary and unwanted.

Ryoken watches himself in the mirror. His eyebrows are fine. His eyelashes could afford to be longer but he’s going for a nude look. The lip balm is already pushing it. He takes a blowdryer to his hair to play-up the just-woke-up style. He’s fluffy and touchable and smooth and god, if Yusaku doesn’t make a move on him while he visits, he might just die.

Wait. Maybe Ryoken has forgotten the purpose of this visit already.

Bzzt.

The buzz of the doorbell goes off and Ryoken bounces his palms beneath the bottom of his hair in the mirror with a smirk. Time to be cold now, a fox, a steel fox.

As soon as he arrives at the door, his expression has become neutral, nonplussed as he leans an arm against the door frame. The sweatshirt sags. Yusaku’s eyes fight to stay glued to Ryoken’s. That’s good already. This is good already.

“Sorry, I fell back asleep,” Ryoken lies.

“That’s okay,” Yusaku says, eyes appraising Ryoken once again without warning, like he just can’t get the vision out of his head. It takes everything within Ryoken not to smile or laugh.

Yusaku’s woefully underdressed as usual. Clad in his usual pair of beaten up sneakers, hoodie and jeans, he really looks like he walked straight out of the club on that night two weeks ago and came strutting up to his door—maybe scuffed his toes on every half block of pavement. Still, Ryoken can’t get over the silky shine of Yusaku’s hair or the engaging emerald of his eyes. As much as he wants to talk down to him, he did get himself faux gussied up for him. He has to give some credit where credit is due, and shittalking the boy he’s trying to impress can only be kosher for so long.

Stepping back with the swing of the door, Ryoken says, “I’ve got something for you.”

“Really?” he asks with something of a subdued interest but Ryoken can read him well enough to know he’s excited.

At least until the two of them reach the table, he’s excited. There’s a sparkle in his eyes that tells Ryoken that maybe Yusaku wanted something special out of this visit, and maybe Ryoken could make that happen but instead: “it’s a box of your things.”

“My things?”

He visibly deflates and Ryoken smirks his lips, tugging the box close.

“I still had a bunch of your things here. You want them back, don’t you?”

Yusaku’s eyes won’t meet with his. Ryoken stands up straight and gives Yusaku the once over, taking in his body language and the way his fists clench but his face goes still. His eyes travel up to Ryoken’s and he says in a voice so quiet, “is this why you wanted me here, so you could make me cart all of this shit back to my house?”

And Ryoken almost blanches at that, and reflexively laughs something anxious instead.

“You really think I would do that. If you don’t want your things, don’t take them.”

“I came here to talk to you about how to remain friends, about what happened between Aoi and I and all the misconceptions that you had, not for you to throw old gifts and knick knacks at me.”

Yusaku’s voice shivers unnaturally and Ryoken feels white-hot anger at that, anger that he isn’t likely even owed but that trembles and exists nonetheless. Pushing the box with a jerk, Ryoken nearly shoves it clean across the table and onto the floor as he purses his lips with a scowl. The box jitters as it hangs over the edge. Yusaku doesn’t even move to right it. Ryoken sure as hell doesn’t, either.

You wanted to talk, so talk,” Ryoken barks and Yusaku moves silently to start rummaging through the box on his own all the while. “I just thought you wanted your things back. This wasn’t the feature presentation. Are you somehow offended that I don’t want your junk cluttering up my penthouse, Yusaku? We aren’t together anymore. What am I supposed to do with it?”

“The waffle iron?” Yusaku wields the aforementioned item in his grasp, drawing it from the box of miscellaneous content. “This was a gift. It’s not something I left here, it’s yours.”

“I don’t want it. I don’t use waffle irons, Yusaku. I barely used that one.”

There’s a dent in Yusaku’s disposition for a second, like the most cutting thing Ryoken’s ever said to him is that he never used his damn waffle iron. Strange considering Yusaku was always the more practical between the two of them. It just seems unnatural that he’d be sensitive over something like that but, things change, Ryoken supposes.

Ryoken leans his knee against the table, almost subconsciously unaware of how clearly flirtatious he’s appearing despite the hostility. Returning clothes, a mug, and a wallet to the box, Yusaku shuffles his shoulders and holds his hand out smartly.

“I want my thermos back, then.”

A beat. “What?”

“You’re giving me my things back. I want my thermos back.”

Which thermos? Oh, not the gray and gold one. That was his favorite. Ryoken’s eyes flit up to the counter in the background where the kitchen island sits, the thermos freshly washed and sitting all pretty for use once again. He uses it every single day. Yusaku follows his eyes and Ryoken comes to stand between it and Yusaku.

“The thermos stays here.”

Yusaku lifts one brow.

“It’s mine, isn’t it?”

“It was a gift.

“So was the waffle iron.”

“I just said I never used it. I use the thermos.”

Blinking, Yusaku regards Ryoken as though he’s grown an extra head and says, “well, that sounds like a ‘you’ problem,” stepping around him to scoop up the thermos.

With a wince, Ryoken turns and presses his hands to the counter, leaning across it to Yusaku.

“You don’t even use them. I’ve bought you plenty and they sat unused. I used the thermoses I bought you more than you did.”

Tapping the lid with a finger, Yusaku juts one lip out with a satisfied nod.

“Good, since we’re returning our things. You’ll get to use them again.”

So, that’s how this is going to go. Ryoken rewinds his face, recalling the deadpan stare he’d leveled when he first cracked the door ajar. He needs to find that center now. Drumming his fingers, Ryoken shrugs, fighting the urge to keep moving, keep shifting and get the energy out of him when he says, “fine by me.”

No, it isn’t fine by him but he won’t throw a further fit.

Once again he catches Yusaku’s eyes gauging him for something or another. Not that he doesn’t love the attention but he wishes Yusaku could be honest about it, or at least hold back when getting down to petty ex-boyfriend squabbles.

And then, Yusaku says blindly, “is that my shirt?” and Ryoken tucks both of his lips between his teeth… because that’s what he’s been ogling, which makes infinitely more sense.

Gazing down momentarily and then back up, Ryoken shrugs something slovenly.

“Could be. Care to check?”

“If we’re giving things back, I want my shirt back.”

Ryoken erects his back, staring evenly and clinical back at Yusaku, who wouldn’t know how much of a comfort item this shirt has become. It’s a clean, plain color with a simple, cottony feel. It’s a tad too big and does not fit either of them. Baggy is not typically Ryoken’s style. Maybe it’s because of how it resembles—reminds Ryoken of nights spent with Yusaku that he loves it, and why he’s only hand washed it with the same kind of shampoo he wears—the bottle, still in Ryoken’s bathroom (does Yusaku want it back too?)

But, since Yusaku’s out to hurt him, might as well make it weird. It dawns on Ryoken first before Yusaku, obviously, that this is going to make it weird, but Ryoken wants to make it weird.

With ease, Ryoken tugs at the back of the sweatshirt until he’s yanking it up and over his head. The face Yusaku wears before and after the fabric passes are like night and day to behold. Ryoken’s body chills beneath the brisk 65°F/18°C of his penthouse and Yusaku is delivered a front row seat to the map of his body with only a single layer of clothing between them.

Not as built as Takeru but certainly filled out and firm, Ryoken’s shirtless body is pale with two or three spots in red, pinkish-peach from lips, Spectre’s lips and Yusaku knows this. The boxers are Yusaku’s too and Ryoken thinks that maybe he’s aware of this also but… surely he can’t ask for them back, not now at least.

Yusaku’s throat bobs and Ryoken’s hyperaware that his boxers are sat slouched and sideways on his hips, one popped and exposed in a sultry diagonal line while a zigzag of unshaven curly white hair descends the expanse of his lower stomach. Ryoken shakes the sweatshirt in his hand. It snatches Yusaku’s attention (who had begun to stare) and Ryoken can’t fight back a laugh this time. It’s too much to hold back.

“Really, Yusaku.”

Snatching the sweatshirt from his fingers, Yusaku marches stiffly back to the box of his things, stuffing the thermos and sweatshirt down and trying hectically to discover which orientation can most efficiently fit all of his belongings in the box. He’s silent all the while. Ryoken licks his lips and thinks to himself that he hadn’t meant to show off those markings. His beautiful bod? Yes. The evidence that he’d been with someone else? Not so much. That was needlessly cruel.

But hey. He wasn’t the one who sprung it on him. Yusaku asked for it himself.

The silence is deafening until, “I didn’t date Aoi just to get back at you,” and Ryoken crosses his arms indignantly.

“Convince me.”

“Aoi needed a cover. She wasn’t ready to come out to her brother. I was her fake boyfriend. It had nothing to do with you.”

Huh. That story doesn’t seem too puzzling, except: “you could accomplish both with one stone.”

Twisting around to face him, Yusaku thrusts the box against his own chest with a fever.

“You need to let this go. If you ruminate on this forever, thinking that every little thing is about you, you’ll suffer and end up alone.”

Ryoken’s mouth goes small and his throat empties out of anything it was going to say. Yusaku frowns all crooked and sad, no hint of satisfaction at all in giving that blow to him. He then says in a littler breath, “I just want to get over you, so let me do that.”

Fingers kneading together to create the most jumbled, anxious mess of limbs of all time, Ryoken hides them behind his back and regards Yusaku plainly with his hurt all but masked and his body nearly bare.

“Then go.”

The words uttered are void of all feeling. Ryoken doesn’t mean them. Ryoken has no way of knowing how badly Yusaku wanted to hear them. Their eyes mingle until his pools of green grow mystifying, and Ryoken can’t be sure if he’s ever known them to be honest, or known himself to speak the same language.

Really, this whole visit, it feels like Yusaku and him are speaking different languages, and that’s why no further words are spoken—no touches and whispers of goodbye and farewell, no well wishes as Yusaku carries his heart across the threshold.

No, this single solitary event ends up becoming the divider for many things in Ryoken’s life. Yusaku leaves the penthouse larger than it was when he walked in and these walls threaten to swallow Ryoken whole, suck the skin from his bones and spit the bones back out into his grave. All he wants is to sleep.

It’s final, he thinks, and yet every single time things get worse between them, Ryoken finds himself thinking that things couldn’t get more final. When Ryoken had seen Aoi and Yusaku dating, he thought to himself that things were finally final. He felt the same when finding Yusaku at the club. At present, Ryoken still can’t think to himself how things could get anymore unfixable but life keeps presenting more and more pitfalls for them both to collapse into.

If there was ever a part of him that hesitated at the idea of being together with him again, Ryoken can say that it has been killed, pruned off and buried deep.

Wandering back into his bedroom where he might just sleep some more, Ryoken finds himself back in the closet he’d emptied of most everything to do with him. So many old t-shirts and letters they’d written each other, a CD Yusaku made him and a stuffed animal he left over… all cleaned out and sent away. Ryoken thinks that with the emptier space, he can properly move on, do as Yusaku has been trying all this time to do.

Spying a familiar gift bag on the floor of the closet, Ryoken squints. The jewelry gift bag is sat ignored, knocked over and distant. Heart dropping into his belly, Ryoken slaps the wall messily for the light switch. It blinds him.

Ryoken crashes to his knees and fishes around for the box with the ring, the box with the promise ring—inside of that gift bag was the box with the promise ring.

Smashing his palms into the wooden tile, he dies to feel the clatter of silver, of diamond, of a box or a misplaced treasure. He turns over shoes and tosses them out of the closet and over his shoulder to no avail. It isn’t here. It just isn’t here.

He bites his lips. His vision swims as he remembers combing the closet up and down for Yusaku’s things, collecting them all inside that box, setting aside the box for Yusaku to pick up and take and—and and

Going ghost-white at the fingertips, at the nose and mouth too, Ryoken wheezes.

“No, no, no no.

Lovely Spectre
@Sunvinyard
Thankfully the store had Himalayan pink crystal salt. This is going to be the greatest dinner ever 1:17 PM - 2 May 2019 6

cutteeth.
@reflektives
nno. fuck. Fuck. 1:18 PM - 2 May 2019

Chapter Text

Big Slappy
@Souljaburner
Ouduhdjkfidhhdgg Juishy 2:12 AM - 3 May 2019 1 3

yusaku
@p1aymak3r
@Souljaburner juishy? 2:15 AM - 3 May 2019 1 1

Big Slappy
@Souljaburner
@p1aymak3r Rly jusb inhlin teonfhmpagnybnmantos in the dark 2:16 AM - 3 May 2019 1 1

yusaku
@p1aymak3r
@Souljaburner are you ok? 2:16 AM - 3 May 2019 1 1

Big Slappy
@Souljaburner
@p1aymak3r Just be
Inhaling
Champaganéy mangoos 2:18 AM - 3 May 2019 1 1

yusaku
@p1aymak3r
@Souljaburner oh youre eating mangos 2:19 AM - 3 May 2019 1 1

Big Slappy
@Souljaburner
@p1aymak3r malso goin to bed gnite i love yo uuuuuuu 2:20 AM - 3 May 2019 1 1

yusaku
@p1aymak3r
@Souljaburner sweet dreams 2:21 AM - 3 May 2019 1

There’s something endearing, Yusaku thinks, of Takeru’s silliness. It draws Yusaku to him in a way that Ryoken did not attract him. The reasons why he’s attracted to these two are completely different, and that’s part of how he can reconcile the fact that he is in fact, attracted to both of them.

Yusaku clicks away from Twitter and back to his current project, getting one good glimpse at his current CSS page before his head starts to ache. Somehow less headache inducing but god, no, not right now.

Crumbling into a heap, Yusaku shoves his laptop to the corner of his desk and lets his head unravel all over his desk, his arms strewn about in a pile.

Ryoken is still so hot. Seeing him earlier today in just a pair of boxers (his own boxers no less) reignited the part of Yusaku’s brain that he elects to turn off more often than not: the part that says please, I’ve been in a committed relationship for three years straight and I’m not used to being single and not getting laid on the regular.

Most wouldn’t know it by looking at Yusaku. He doesn’t look the sleazy type, and he really isn't. High sex drive doesn’t matter when you’re committed. It matters a little when you’re free flying. It matters a lot when you aren’t sure where you stand with someone and where their boundaries are. To anyone on the outside, it may appear as though Takeru and Yusaku were dating. Maybe even to Takeru it seems that way. Yusaku… has no idea what they’re doing.

Gazing up from his arms momentarily to spot the thermos on his desk, Yusaku scowls at it: a mostly slate gray color with purposeful cracks littering the material, making it look like fractured stone with the cracked bits filled with gold… something or other. It really was Ryoken’s favorite, and it sits with the same orange juice he poured in it several hours ago.

The only thing driving him to take a sip out of it is the recollection that Ryoken’s mouth has been all over it for the past year or so, goodness—

“Ah!” Yusaku yelps out as Kusanagi presses a cold beer against the back of his neck, chuckling as he passes by the desk. He must’ve walked in without Yusaku noticing.

“You left your door open,” Kusanagi says. Well that explains that. “Just wanted to check in on you. The bathroom’s still fucked from your lady friend comin’ over and dyin’ her hair. Can’t seem to scrub that blue stain out of the tub.”

Yusaku smiles a little at that. “Should come out eventually.”

“It better. We rent this place,” he says. “Boyfriend’s goin’ to bed, maybe you should too.”

Seizing up from his desk some, that seems to do the trick. That single sentence puts everything for Yusaku into perspective. There’s a crick in his neck, a vague headache behind his eyes, and a rumble in his belly. Wincing and twisting his back around, feeling his spine jumble and crack, Yusaku breathes out and says, “hey, can I talk to you for a minute?”

In the near pitch black of his room, Kusanagi’s face is scarcely illuminated by the glow of Yusaku’s laptop screen. It’s hard to see his expression, but it’s hardly necessary as he rounds Yusaku and drops down on the foot of his bed. The beer in his bottle makes a bubbly buoyant sound.

“What’s on your mind, Yusaku?”

Swiveling in his seat, Yusaku regards the other man with a certain anxiety, not able to find the luxury in imagining Kusanagi in his underwear to undermine the nervousness—Kusanagi is already clad in some droopy shin-high socks and Spiderman boxers as per usual. It is then that Yusaku realizes that the way he feels has nothing to do with Kusanagi seeming intimidating.

He’s been careful not to bother Kusanagi with anything recently, anything that could put him in a bad mood or trouble him when things haven’t been… spectacular with Jin lately. Sometimes though, he thinks that there’s something to be learned from a guy who has been around the block when it comes to relationships, especially gay ones. Maybe the only reason there’s so much drama going on is because they’re all gay.

Yusaku recalls watching a few episodes of Degrassi in high school and shakes his head. Nah, the straight people in that show had just as much shit going on, he decides.

Chewing on his lip, Yusaku mulls over exactly how he wants to say it before he says, “I don’t know where me and Takeru stand.”

“Like, emotionally or…?”

“Like, you just called him my boyfriend.”

“Oh,” Kusanagi says, mumbling as he scratches the back of his neck. “Aw hell well, I just… assumed. I guess I don’t really know—not more than you do at least.”

“We’ve kissed,” he says and Kusanagi leans in, not really a sign of engagement so much as a sign that his back probably hurts, leaning his arms on his knees, likely already tipsy and ready for bed; maybe this wasn’t the best time to try and have this discussion. “We haven’t gone any further than that and that’s fine, I guess we just haven’t talked about it.”

“Oooh,” Kusanagi winces. “You can’t do that to each other. Both of you gotta have communication about what’s goin’ on.” He takes a swig of his Budweiser and then sets it down on the floor between them. “What other people think isn’t a super big deal but, well, what does he think?”

Yusaku keeps his eye poised on the beer bottle, fearful of keeping eye contact and also of the bottle getting knocked over and spilling all over his floor. Whether he’s got wood flooring or not, he’d prefer to not have to clean up beer. Kusanagi tends to be mindful but Yusaku’s twitching in his seat almost unnecessarily. He nips at the corner of his lip thoughtfully and then says, “I don’t know. He uses a lot of heart emojis and… we sleep in the same bed when he comes over and, we kiss and make out a lot—”

“Kid, that sounds like two high schoolers in their honeymoon phase.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Yusaku concedes instantly and painlessly. “I don’t know what to do, I…”

“Do you want to be with him?” Kusanagi asks and Yusaku doesn’t know how to answer and is even more distraught at the realization that he doesn’t know how to answer.

The fact that it takes more than a second has Kusanagi pointing a finger in his direction and saying, “that isn’t a good sign for either answer,” and Yusaku frowns.

“I just got out of a three year relationship that ended so abruptly I still feel like I’m coming to grips with the fact that it’s over, and he agreed with you when you said to me that one night that I should have some time to myself. He agreed and so… I figured he didn’t want to be with me, and that thought made me sad because I was drunk and, thirsty and I just wanted someone near me but then, he did end up showing interest in me and now I don’t know what we’re doing and if he is interested in dating me, I don’t know anymore if I’m okay with that but… things have already gotten this far and—”

“I’m gonna stop you there,” Kusanagi announces, “because you need to take it slower.”

Returning his brain to the bedding of his desk with a slam, Yusaku groans and feels his thoughts all run away from him at light speed.

It’s all too hard. He doesn’t know what he wants and it doesn’t help that neither does Ryoken. All that shit today with him wearing his clothes on purpose and making his head all fuzzy, flirting in that coy way that would’ve been lowkey to anyone but Yusaku while handing over his things—just what the fuck?

“I thought.” Yusaku swallows. “I thought I wanted to date Takeru to get over Ryoken. He’s giving me what I wanted with… physical touch and affection and, maybe he’s even interested in dating but I don’t know. I just… now that I have it, I’m not certain I’m ready for that.”

“You always think you know what’s best for you,” Kusanagi drags, appropriately, Yusaku can agree with. “When you’re heartbroken, you want something to make it hurt less. Think of it this way: if you two weren’t dating, would you feel better about that?”

Letting the thought circulate, percolate down through his senses and into his heart, Yusaku feels ugly and selfish for the feelings that follow: “I kind of wish that he felt that way about me, even if I can’t respond.”

Kusanagi clicks his tongue, picking his beer back up off of the floor. “You realize how that sounds, right?”

“I do,” Yusaku confirms.

“You can’t hold him hostage like that.”

“But, if he doesn’t think of us as dating and we’re just, fooling around then that’s fine, isn’t it?”

“It is… if that’s how he thinks of it,” Kusanagi says, and the picture of him craning backwards on Yusaku’s bed, draining the bottle of the rest of its liquid is burned into the back of his head. There’s something just picturesque about the cut of his jaw and the way the bottle sticks upright like a statue of some kind.

God, he can’t start thinking Kusanagi of all guys is attractive now. He’s already seen the guy watch Law & Order: SVU in his skivvies while making claw-fingers out of a bag of Bugles, feeding them to himself like a one-man servant to Cleopatra. There’s no coming back from that.

Still, there’s something strangely fetching about guys that look like they don’t sleep and subsist entirely on espresso and weird YouTube deep-dives.

That reminds him, “hey, so, what’s this thing that you and Aoi’s brother have?”

Visibly cringing, Kusanagi points the bottle at Yusaku like a weapon. “Not you too!”

“I don’t want to discuss your sex life. I actually would rather no one else bring it up ever again but I’m curious. How much do you date around, really?”

“Date around?” he repeats, like Yusaku’s somehow said something puzzling. “Not often, not sure I’m the dating kind. I thought I was for a while.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, dated plenty of girls in college, messed around with some guys too, you know how it is.” And Kusanagi gestures to Yusaku who is, indeed, in college and messing around so to speak. Yusaku averts his eyes to the wall. “It never lasted very long. I never got that spark.”

Yusaku slumps back in his seat. “Spark?”

“Like, that thing that people feel eventually where they think that they’re in love, get all butterflies-y and tender and want to buy a dog together—well, I’d love to get a dog if the landlord allowed it, but I mean… want to move in or, want to think seriously. I’ve just thought for the longest time that maybe I’m not interested in all that.”

Blinking, Kusanagi crosses his legs and twirls the beer bottle between his two fingers lazily, rotating his wrist around and letting it hang dangerously close to slipping.

“You don’t think that’s unnatural, do ya?”

“I’m the one who came to you for advice,” Yusaku points out.

“So you did,” Kusanagi says. “Still, you asked about my relationship shit so I figured I’d ask while dishing. To sum it up, I don’t date around much. Hookup sometimes, that’s what Akira was, but you don’t wanna know about that.”

“I guess you wouldn’t be able to really help, then,” Yusaku assumes. “I just wonder if dating around, even sleeping around is something I’d be capable of after being in a relationship like I’d been in. Ryoken made me feel the way you describe, that… buy a dog together love. I don’t know if I want anything else other than to have that back.”

Shrugging, Kusanagi rises up from the bed and not sluggishly either. Good to know he’s still only buzzed at most. His hand meets Yusaku’s shoulder in an affectionate pat.

“You’ll figure it out. For now, I really think you should do as I said and slow down. Why don’t you come with me to see Jin tomorrow? He’s been doin’ a lot better lately.”

The first thing to cross Yusaku’s mind is that he had plans with Takeru tomorrow. Lately all he’s done is have plans with Takeru. It becomes clear to him just how much time they’ve spent together when he tries to carve time out to do other things and Yusaku's brain cells pinch up with frustration.

Some space would be nice, especially because they aren’t dating. That should be allowed. That should be… just fine.

Leaning into Kusanagi’s touch, Yusaku says, “that sounds good, I’d love to come.”

“Cool beans, I’ll wake you up tomorrow then.” Kusanagi’s hand ruffles up Yusaku’s hair. “Get some sleep, kid.”

Yusaku swats at Kusanagi’s hand as he passes by, earning him a snicker as the door clicks shut behind him. Alright, nothing left to do now but deliver the news. Yusaku is pretty good at that stuff. He typically doesn’t allow room for discussion.

yusaku
@p1aymak3r
@Souljaburner hey i dmed you but just in case you dont see it til later theres a change of plans. im hanging with kusanagi tomorrow 2:57 AM - 3 May 2019 1 1

Big Slappy
@Souljaburner
@p1aymak3r OH SICK that sounds good to me dude ill meet yall there 11:18 AM - 3 May 2019 1

Of course, Kusanagi had suggested this with the stipulation in mind that the two of them would be visiting with Jin by themselves. The point was to gain a little distance between him and Takeru. It didn’t… really bode well that Takeru came along on his own but, Yusaku didn’t have it in him to complain, especially not when he was getting on this well upon his first time meeting Jin.

Yusaku sits in the far northeast corner of the room in a miniature sofa all by his lonesome. Kusanagi is by Jin’s side as close as he can get, and the other chair halfway blocking the doorway out is Takeru. Probably infringes on some law or rule about being a hazard to nurses or doctors that need to run in or out but, Yusaku is bitter. He surprisingly doesn’t speak up much when he’s bitter. He doesn’t have it in him to be passive aggressive and he knows that if he has nothing nice to say, it’s better to say nothing at all.

To Kusanagi’s credit, Jin really is doing a lot better than before. His speech is still rather slow but always as though he’s buffering—like all the faculties in place for thinking and reasoning are appropriately still in tact, it just takes some time for all the words to come printing out of him. He speaks carefully but always very purposefully about whatever he wants to be let known: today in particular, it is Love Nikki.

Cautiously, as though in the den of the unknown, Yusaku’s eyes dart between all three of them sat in Jin’s room. Even Kusanagi has picked up the game (no doubt to be closer with his brother.) Takeru being an avid player was simple coincidence, probably. Everything that they said went completely over his head and so his eyes gathered like flies to fruit on every painting, wall-scroll, and poster on his walls.

Jin was allowed to decorate his room to some degree, only with tape that did not leave stains or stickers and when the window was opened, they would fall down a lot. At present, Yusaku’s eyes mingle with a FFVII poster, ogling the bicep of Zack Fair while the others prattled on.

“Auughh,” Takeru groans, flopping back in his chair just as a nurse walks by the room; Yusaku winces, some modicum of embarrassment blooming in him seeing the way she flinches up and seems to level a judging eye at his doll-like limbs, sprawled out along the arm rests. “I just can’t get S-rank on this level. I don’t know what I’m even doing wrong. Momo is a ruthless bastard.”

The blips and glittery shimmers of cute, dress-up game players ferociously at their craft fill the room, and Yusaku opens up Wordscapes. Whatever fun he was going to have in distracting himself today has more or less fallen to the wayside.

He’d pick this game up if the idea of a dress-up game with crafting didn’t sound terribly tedious to him. Not hard, just tedious. Yusaku had a firm belief that anything fun shouldn’t be tedious of all things.

“I gotta get all these dream shards or whatever,” says Takeru. “I can’t just keep getting A’s.”

“They’re twilight spars,” Jin corrects, his voice coming slow, tone coming flat, unreadable but definitely engaged in the conversation.

Yusaku glances up at him, taking in the sight of his cheeks filling with color, losing their former sickly pallor from the last few years. Things have started looking brighter. He can’t remember the last time he’s seen this much light reflect off of Jin’s eyes, not sink into them like pits or big black holes. When he glances back at Kusanagi to see if he’s noticed it too, he’s scritching a fingernail through his chin, contemplative and weirdly involved.

“Have you been searching by attribute?” he says and Yusaku is floored by how deeply immersed he’s become into this game.

yusaku
@p1aymak3r
do All of my friends play love nikki? 5:40 PM - 3 May 2019 1 3

ʚ wingspan out now ɞ
@sapphicsaint
@p1aymak3r i’ve got an account. who else plays? 5:42 PM - 3 May 2019 1 1

yusaku
@p1aymak3r
@sapphicsaint all 5:43 PM - 3 May 2019 1

“Yes!” Takeru cries. “It’s all gorgeous and elegant. This makes no sense.”

“And… your skills are leveled up, right—just let me see,” Jin interrupts himself, shutting his eyes in something of almost annoyance, and the expression warms Yusaku’s heart, watching as Takeru utters a private please and offers the phone to Jin’s much more capable hands.

Licking his lips, tapping the screen a bit, Jin’s eyes scan the screen effortlessly, like sifting for gems through sand and he says, “oh.”

“Oh?” Takeru repeats.

“This level needs items with the European tag… and you barely have anything for that.”

“Fuck, is that really important?” Takeru grouses.

“Yeah,” Jin says simply.

“Well, where does it say that? It doesn’t say that anywhere I’ve looked! How do I get that shit anyway?”

Blinking, displaying either a heavier dose of his medication or perhaps just exhibiting a powerful patience, Jin’s face remains utterly passive as he begins to utter, “there’s items in the store, or… you could—”

It’s all for nought as Takeru grabs his phone back.

“Great, here let me just…”

Only Jin can see what Takeru does. Kusanagi isn’t privy to all of Takeru’s stupider decisions, but Yusaku can deduce what’s transpired by the notification sounds and the way Jin’s eyes blow wider just a tad with shock. It’s somewhat subdued, in that dimmed down low way that all of Jin’s faces are, but he visibly regards Takeru with a bit of distance and then he says, “I mean, I was just gonna craft some parts of Assassin’s Faith for you but… okay.”

Takeru bought shit, didn’t he? On his dumb mobile game. Yusaku snatches the bridge of his nose. Brilliant.

“Or, if you’re in an association, you could get the sapphire stuff… you are in an association, right?”

Jin’s words ring out with a degree of confidence that does not warrant the dumbfounded, chillingly simple smile Takeru offers him in return.

“I couldn’t figure out how that worked!”

“Oh,” Kusanagi pipes up with, pointing a lazy and crooked finger at him. “Just join ours.”

“Only if you’re gonna contribute daily though,” Jin insists, and despite all the shit that doesn’t make sense to Yusaku, he manages something small and similar to a smile at the knowledge that a year ago Jin wasn’t able to insist his way, even catch an attitude or voice too many thoughts that were contrary to other people’s.

It feels good to see him quip and be sassy, be a bit of an elitist over this silly mobile game. Yusaku feels like Jin deserves that at least, if he can’t walk, can’t manage a completely healthy life just yet. It’s the least he can get.

Biting down on both lips, Yusaku wills his mouth shut, holding himself back from excusing himself just to get some fresh air. It might seem too obvious—that he feels weirdly shunted from what was meant to be a get away, a bonding activity for him in particular. It isn’t Takeru’s fault that he’s somewhat stolen the attention. It’s good for him and Jin to make friends. It’s… a good thing.

Eyes locking with Jin’s knees, angled inwards awkwardly and a dangerously pale color like a white fish belly, Yusaku wonders if things with him could’ve ended up like they had with Jin.

Psychosomatic paralysis. Almost all of Jin’s illnesses were a result of his trauma. It didn’t make it easier. Doctors were so keen to tell someone that because a disability was a result of the mind, it was fake. If it was all up here then the person was surely weak of will, but Yusaku didn’t see things that way.

This boy laid up in the hospital bed, red fall-risk band around his thin, chicken-bone wrist, dangerous and pretty cheeks, thick hair, dead eyes subtly gaining light—he is stronger than so many other people Yusaku knows, himself included.

Seeing that things are alive today, he knows he can’t mess that up. Yusaku can’t take this away from Jin.

Luckily, terrible things happen at the most opportune times.

ryoken.
@hanoirevolver
@p1aymak3r Yusaku, please call me. 5:46 PM - 3 May 2019

Oh, fuck that. Breathing in deeply, Yusaku thinks incredibly loudly, fuck no and fuck him.

Yusaku hides his eyes behind his hand, massaging the inner parts of his sockets with his thumb and forefingers.

What could he possibly have to say now?

Yusaku ignores it. He ignores it because Ryoken has talked his ear off already, has refused to leave him be, has made a mess of him in public spaces and has driven his heart into the ground again and again. More than that, Yusaku ignores it because if Ryoken is the one to make the call and not him, he has a valid excuse to leave the room.

How horrible, he thinks, waiting for the call to come through, quietly tapping his thumb against the ringer button so his vibrate-only status upgrades to a volume other people can hear. He isn’t excited, mind you, to talk to Ryoken. To get out of this room for five fucking minutes? Yes, that.

He awaits the inevitable cave like he always does, because Ryoken will freak at the absence of attention and dial his number—dial it because he still has it memorized, because they dated for three whole years and Ryoken has yet to let the full implications of it all sink in apparently, and realize what he’s doing to him.

Ryoken won’t see that he’s cut Yusaku off at the knees, expecting him to crawl back to him on stumps and hands. It makes Yusaku’s skin prickle. He jiggles in his skin, shivering in his seat before the phone finally rings. Vampire Weekend fills the room. Every eye in the room glues to him. Yusaku turns his cell from side to side as unenthusiastically as he can bare to manage.

“I’ve gotta take this.”

All three of them acknowledge this in a chorus of ‘mhm’s, ‘okay’s, and ‘alright’s. Scooting his body past Takeru’s chair positioned too damn close to the door leading out, within easily countable seconds Yusaku is out the door and down a hall leading to the outside. The sky has dyed itself in oranges and pinks and Ryoken’s voice on his ears is as grating as ever.

“Yusaku, I need you to meet me now,” he says. “Now,” he repeats, like he’s dying and Yusaku hasn’t said a single word, hasn’t uttered a phrase since the phone met his ear to connect the call.

Ryoken demands, because when doesn’t Ryoken demand and Yusaku can’t decide where he’d rather be: here with Takeru where he feels suffocated, or back with Ryoken where he wonders if there’s even a future with someone so wishy-washy.

Really, nothing about Ryoken has ever felt unsure, uncertain, fickle or confused. Always aware, always alert, on-trend, opinionated and very steadfast to what he felt, Ryoken has always been stuck in his ways but stuck all the same. The fact that they had split at all was painful, but Yusaku struggled to wrap his head around the reality that Ryoken had something to be on the fence about, to be unsure about… and it was this of all things.

It was their relationship of all things. Yusaku walks along the sidewalk, stepping through the grass to let people go by, trembling beneath the creamsicle skies, finding the truth rising quickly out of him and not liking a word of what he says after it.

“No, Ryoken.”

It creeps out of him hesitantly, like a thing he didn’t know he had in him escaping, going back home to where it belongs. Maybe Ryoken will never belong back with him again. The way that Ryoken goes statuesque and silent only fosters that feeling.

Yusaku’s fingertips go numb and he feels his chest sink and catch on something like fish hooks in his lungs. Why doesn’t either option make him happy? Why has something like this become so hard, so hard that he doesn’t know anymore how to make himself happy?

A minute passes, maybe more before Ryoken breathes in deep, voice all but even when he speaks up again.

“…say that again.”

After a pause, “I said no, I’m not coming to meet you.” After a wince, born out of anger more than pain. “We can’t repair this. Just let me get over you in peace.”

“I haven’t been completely truthful about my feelings, about the breakup,” Ryoken spills. “I broke up with Spectre.”

Closing his eyes, Yusaku stops where he’s standing. Yusaku realizes he’s been walking away, taking slower and slower steps out of the reach of the hospital but steps all the same. He comes to a halt when the edge of the grass arrives to meet him and he’s fighting for purchase against the white-washed iron fencing. He doesn’t care, he doesn’t care—he can’t care.

“You’ll… you’ll be making a big mistake, worse than I’ve made if you don’t hear me out, Yusaku. Please.”

As ever, Ryoken’s voice leaves Yusaku feeling dumb. It echoes with an inappropriate level of superiority. There’s no contrition in the way he says please, no bend in his knee, only excuses.

“This is a mess but we can undo it—”

You wanted this!”

Yusaku raises his voice and only feels marginally better for it. Hand cupped over his mouth, Yusaku holds back a sound, something whiny and something broken that wants to come out of him. Something he can’t bear to let Ryoken know, and Ryoken tries to say something else but Yusaku doesn’t let himself hear it.

“You wanted this. You wanted to leave me. You wanted this. You did.”

Steadying himself, craning his head back, Yusaku quivers against the fence.

“I’m hurt and I want to be alone.”

At first Yusaku isn’t clear who says it, and upon reflection he finds himself assuming it was all in his mind. It doesn’t sound like something he would say. It doesn’t feel like him. It is simply too vulnerable, too honest and too sudden for him to blurt all at once, but it comes from him and it comes awfully genuinely.

Likely, just as shocked as Yusaku is, Ryoken stammers in a manner most uncharacteristic.

“You and… you and Takeru aren’t…?”

Fists white as the arctic, Yusaku squeezes them and cringes.

“What, boyfriends?” Yusaku jeers, sick and sad. “No, we’re not seeing each other and neither were me and Aoi Zaizen. I’m not ‘in love’ again. I’m licking my wounds, if you’d let me. I just want to be alone by myself and if that hurts you somehow, I don’t care. You’ve done enough to hurt me too.”

The phone clicks off.

The wind is cold.

The phone clicks off and Yusaku doesn’t pick it up again, and he’s cold and not a bit better for it. He doesn’t wonder if Ryoken calls him again. He blocks the number and finds the Twitter. He blocks the Twitter and hangs his head. The weight of the night falls over him like a cloak and disguises all his hurting as Sundowners syndrome.

Maybe he belongs in here, he thinks as he walks the hospital grounds.

Thumbing the ridging of the iron fence, Yusaku grits his teeth as though preparing for the next punch he’ll get into them.

This isn’t how any of this was supposed to go, but then again, just some weeks ago he was happily magnetized to the love of his life. A few weeks can change a lot.

Takeru doesn’t come out to find him and neither does Kusanagi. Yusaku enjoys the space.

Just… not what the space means.

Chapter Text

Ryoken is on the verge of throwing up and the raw vegan lasagna has yet to pass his lips.

Yusaku has the ring. The ring is in the box. The box is carrying his heart and all of the things that once colored it, made it a magical thing and not a hollow expanse lined with blood and muscle. He holds his breath. He tries to calm down. Far too late to chase Yusaku down, and without even a good excuse, Ryoken finds himself writhing against the closet wall, cheek melding with penthouse drywall. So many thoughts flood his head, swishing about his brain and pouring out of his mouth like sea sickness.

“What if he thinks it’s something that it’s not? Or thinks I’m trying to hurt him again with this? Or… thinks that I want him back?”

A dangerous thought crosses his mind: does he want Yusaku back?

No, of course not, never mind that. There’s no possible way they can turn back now.

Clenching his eyes shut tight, Ryoken breathes deeply and imagines he’s on an island far away, all by his lonesome along the beach with sangria and a tart: his typical fantasy. He’s shaken from his oceanside reverie by a notification on his phone. It clatters against the floor with the force of its vibration. Wide-eyed, he expects to find Yusaku’s number lighting up in bright blue. It’s Spectre instead.

He can’t wait to see Ryoken tonight.

Exhaling in relief, Ryoken can’t call this dinner off to have an ongoing panic attack. There’d be no sense in that. Trying his best to still the panic in his chest, his eyes, sharp and determined force themselves to fixate on the send button of his phone, fixate on one thing at a time and not concern himself with unnecessary struggles. Nothing can be done about the ring now. If Yusaku finds it, or perhaps when Yusaku finds it, Ryoken can only hope that he’s open to a sincere and honest dialogue about the whole thing.

Maybe he will even toss it out. Ryoken can be overthinking this, but knowing the trend that they’ve both set for one another thus far, they seem to be repeatedly hurting each other while claiming it is the work of the other’s purposeful design. Frowning to himself, Ryoken brings his knees up to himself in a display of something vulnerable and private, resting his arms and chin over them and thinking softer thoughts to relax his mind.

There’s something somewhat liberating about knowing there is nothing else he can do, and he forces himself to swallow that peace down and enjoy it. There’s nothing gained in fussing about. The acceptance comes quicker when there’s no fight to be had, only the end of the inevitable.

“I’ll have a good time with Spectre tonight,” he says, “and I’ll accept things as they are now.”

Who knows? Maybe raw vegan lasagna isn’t nearly as far fetched as it sounds.

ryoken.
@hanoirevolver
Spectre has made me the most delightful dinner and I couldn’t love him more, he is perfect in every way 7:49 PM - 2 May 2019 1 1 7

ryoken.
@hanoirevolver
@hanoirevolver Oh, I see you’ve remembered my phone passcode. 7:56 PM - 2 May 2019 2

Swiping his phone back from the kitchen counter where it’s sat for quite some time, Ryoken makes something of a disgruntled smirk at the invasion of his account. Cheeky, but strange. It almost agitates him if not for the fact that it agitates him, which means it doesn’t, in fact, agitate him. Knowing that Spectre has done something to bother him of his own accord and not focused on compulsively pleasing him makes Ryoken’s mind find ease. It’s an ease he doesn’t find with Spectre often. It’s one that, in hindsight, he isn’t sure will come to last, though it’s necessary for it to.

It might be a while before Spectre gets to his phone to see the reply, hands red and green with vegan lasagna so Ryoken sets the phone down hard and locks eyes with his boyfriend as he turns to glance back. Spectre’s fingers are riddled with pesto and tomatoes and he smiles knowingly in return to Ryoken’s sideways one.

“Is everything alright, Ryoken-sama?”

“I beg you to not call me that anymore,” Ryoken winces gently. “How much longer on the—”

“It’s just about finished. It’s raw so I’m not cooking it. I just wanted to prepare it live for eating immediately.”

Oh, yes. How could Ryoken forget that he was going to be eating cold, raw food for dinner? It must’ve somehow slipped out the back door of his mind all the while. He simpers and folds his hands together, adjusting himself on the bar stool he’s sat on and bracing his elbows against the shiny black counter top of Spectre’s kitchen. It reminds him of Yusaku’s kitchen in his dingy little apartment. The bar stools were too high there. The counter tops were scratchy and kitschy in that faux marble way. Here, the proportions were beautiful and just right.

Ryoken mindlessly dragged his nails across the black top.

There’s something fluffy about Spectre beneath the few, yellowy spot lamps of his kitchen, the light playing tricks off his fluffier, freshly conditioned hair. The whole apartment has something of a black and brown aesthetic, sepia toned and jazzy as though Spectre lives in a fireplace. It’s something warm and inviting, but also something dark like the jungle when Ryoken observes the exceptionally large collection of potted plants riddling the walk space, filling the bedroom and lining the walls of the living area.

The floors are a stark white, so clean and pristine in a way that almost feels absurd, as that’s where feet go and maintenance must be terrible when there’s so many things filled with dirt just lying around. Spectre has always been an incredibly clean individual so it doesn’t surprise him so much as it feels… unnecessary. But, Ryoken owns two watches, one for each wrist, so what does he know about unnecessary? (One is an apple watch, you wouldn’t understand.)

Carrying two plates over to the kitchen island in the center, lifting himself onto a bar stool himself, Spectre presents the dish of the night.

It looks… actually not too bad, until Ryoken remembers that it is completely cold, and then he shivers in his seat.

“Here we are, Ryoken-sama. I hope that it’s to your liking.”

Pinching the side of the plate and spinning it, turning it, glancing it over, Ryoken speaks tersely when he says, “what is in it?”

“Zucchinis, white button mushrooms, tomatoes and tomato sauce, pesto, and cheese.”

Ryoken squints. “Cheese?”

Not that Ryoken is against cheese but, cheese is decidedly not vegan.

“You make the cheese without milk, with water, raw cashews, lemon, yeast, shallot, garlic, and a tiny bit of salt.”

Somehow, none of that sounds like it should make cheese but Ryoken doesn’t know enough about cooking or about cheese to debate the point. Really, this is the first time in a long time that he hasn’t gone out to eat. Yusaku was not a seasoned chef—would sooner dine on tv dinners every night in a row than learn to bread chicken. Ryoken was similarly aligned, only he had plenty of dough to spend on eating out every night. Spectre was the most talented one he’d met so far, despite the fact that… he really didn’t care for what was sitting in front of him.

Ogling the plate with something of a subtracted interest, he reaches for his fork and knife unaware of the way his face contorts into something more stiff and honest. Spectre speaks up before Ryoken can dive his knife in.

“I can make you something else,” and his voice lacks a hint of emotion or hurt.

Blinking, gawking up at him like he has just been elbowed in the chest, Ryoken purses his lips. He licks them and says, “no, I want to have this.”

“I can prepare anything else you’d like to have if this is not what you desire.”

Spectre’s eyes merely reflect back to him whatever he’s said, done, expressed, and Ryoken can’t find a way to read their true intentions or personality. His smile is mirroresque, empty, and it almost knocks the wind out of him.

Has he really made it too obvious?

“Do I look like I don’t want it, Spectre?”

“I have to say, Ryoken-sama—”

“Stop, calling me that,” Ryoken interrupts in a breath.

“You don’t seem enthusiastic about it. I am very happy for this opportunity to share the type of food that I’m passionate about, but I know that you’d prefer something else.”

Ryoken closes his teeth around his mouth, adjusting his blouse cuff. Is that so?

All the times that he’d ever wanted his way with Yusaku, he’s had to bring it up with him and tell him, otherwise Yusaku would not notice, would insist his way. Is Spectre just a walking mimic or in fact, was Yusaku inattentive and selfish?

He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know but he knows that he preferred the way that it’d been before.

This should be everything he wanted: no arguments, no debates, always his way, always validated, always agreed with, nothing bumpy or anxious, just smooth-sailing.

It was peaceful and fake, so fake, so wrong

“Spectre, what do you want?”

The question gushes out of him, messy and horrible and the way Spectre’s eyes spread further open display the way Ryoken feels for blurting it out so haphazardly.

“I wanted you to have dinner with me tonight, have I gone and done something wrong?”

“No, you—”

How does he bring it up without sounding crazy? It does sound crazy, doesn’t it, being displeased with someone who wants to please you. How does Ryoken get the words out or find them in the right order without hurting his feelings?

An abhorrent thought comes lurching from the depths of his brainpan: can’t hurt his feelings if he’ll just agree with you.

“We never do anything that you want. You only ever want to appease me. You always ask me what I want, what I prefer, what I need, but never insist upon anything that you want. Am—… am I talking to a person or myself when I talk to you?”

Tensely placid, gobsmacked and stupefied, Spectre sits in place and Ryoken can’t discover what he feels, wonders silently if even now he’ll hide his feelings away.

Argue against it. Argue with me. Show me you’re a person.

“Ryoken,” he says, the name itself uttered like a warning, like something that should have red stripes and a sign above it, like something that Ryoken shouldn’t want to hear but he does, god he does anyways. “Is that what you think of me?”

“What I think of you?” Ryoken repeats, tone insisting that he’s offended at being asked, as though he’s done something wrong—a sentiment he does not agree with. “I think that you change your opinions to suit what mine are, and you mold yourself to be whatever you think that I’ll like, and you forgo the things that you love and enjoy to be whatever I want, but what I want is someone who is an actual individual! Someone who will disagree with me, have discussion with me, not a yes man.”

“You want to argue?” Spectre asks.

Bracing himself against the counter, the plate jostles against his wrist and Ryoken stands on his feet. His knees wobble strangely. He doesn’t know why.

“I want…” He pauses, realizing he still cannot tell what Spectre is thinking. Is he angry, is he distraught? Spectre’s face is one of stone and Ryoken can only keep himself calm by speaking endlessly on, unaware that likely, he’s making things worse.

“I want you to want to watch your favorite movies even if I hate them. I want you to insist that I try this food even if you can tell I don’t like it. I want you to fight for the things you like. You don’t have to force me to do anything that I say no to, but you have to show me that you… like Blue Angel and have listened to her new album on repeat since it came out, and that you like these recipes that I clearly don’t, and like coffee places I don’t, and that you don’t like the Italian places that I do.”

Ryoken breathes deep. “Just…”

“All I ever wanted was to get along well with you, be the person you felt that you could confide in the most and the person that you felt understood you the most.” Spectre frowns in an excruciatingly genuine way. “I misunderstood what you needed most, someone who challenges your mind, your thoughts and feelings. You must find that much more interesting.”

Spectre lowers himself from the bar stool as well, and Ryoken thinks that perhaps this is the first constructive conversation that the two of them have ever had. The way Spectre’s shoulders crowd around his neck puts a stopper in Ryoken’s lungs and he hates what he’s done to him. Things will be better, he supposes, with this all out in the open. He thinks this, of course, until Spectre says, “it’s just as well that in the end, Yusaku is still the better match for you.”

And Ryoken’s skin sags below his eyes. His look of neutrality wilts into a worn, weary line about the mouth and he guesses that things were always heading back toward this conclusion, so much so that he doesn’t have the energy to snap back with a negation. All he can do is watch as Spectre struggles to keep himself comfortable in his own skin, chuckling some to himself as he presses one hand through his hair and nails his eyes to the wall beside them.

“You can be awfully cruel, Ryoken. I’d never heard before this day that there was something wrong with wanting your partner to be happy. Maybe you’re right that I have no personality of my own. I thought that I had interests through my love of botany, enjoyment of cooking, vegan lifestyle, and interest in wicca, but I see that through your eyes I was only ever giving those things away to become someone you’d enjoy.”

Lowering his eyes, Ryoken beholds the lasagna before him. However cold, raw, and uniquely unpalatable it was… it was still made for him and it held love in every ounce of it, every hour of effort put into it. However strange Spectre had seemed and how his love manifested, it was love all the same. That had to mean something, however incompatible it was with the way Ryoken desired to be loved. Perchance he’d merely gotten too used to Yusaku and his brand of partnership and couldn’t tear himself away from that manner of affection. There’s a chance of that.

Without saying a word, Ryoken cuts himself a corner of the lasagna, loading his mouth full of the stuff before he realizes it doesn’t taste bad. Not at all. The flavors are all right… the texture and the temperature though—

“I apologize,” he says, invoking Spectre’s true name and wringing a shocked, gap-mouthed gaze out of him. “I treated you poorly in this relationship. What I need in a lover is something that you aren’t able to give me. As a friend, I still think that you are very good at being by my side, being like-minded in many ways…”

Ryoken plucks a napkin from the roll beside the counter and cleans his mouth off. “And being different in many ways.”

Not sure if these words are helping, Ryoken recalls comforting isn’t his strongest suit and he eyeballs the two sitting plates with ample anxiety typically uncharacteristic to him.

“You were right. I’m still in love with Yusaku.”

The words are sluggish. They trickle out of him and at the end of these words are Spectre’s outreached hands, cupped and ready to catch them and know what he wants to hear: “I think you should do what your heart wants you to do, then.”

His skin pinches up beneath the strain of his heartache and all of its heaviness. Lord only knows what Ryoken’s heart wants. He sure isn’t privy to it. Things are too far now, too distorted and unneat. Ryoken doesn’t know how to repair it, return the lustre to their love and furnish it anew. Even if he can find it in himself to be honest about it.

His chest wrinkles as though made of paper mache and ready to cave at any moment. His stomach is restless. Ryoken inhales deeply.

“I don’t know what I want to do but… I can’t do this anymore.”

Spectre nods and Ryoken remarks to himself that there’s a boon in finding pain etched across his face. It hurts in a way that is gratifying, meaningful. He must be twisted for that, so eager for proof that the man in front of him has a heart all his own.

“You can leave then, Revolver.”

At the mention of his childhood nickname, Ryoken grows softer, aching all the while, following the clean white tile all the way to the door leading out.

cutteeth.
@reflektives
I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I want Yusaku to find that ring. 9:12 PM - 2 May 2019

cutteeth.
@reflektives
I don’t know what I want him to think. 9:13 PM - 2 May 2019

cutteeth.
@reflektives
I don’t know what I want. I want Yusaku but… 9:27 PM - 2 May 2019

Arriving home, Ryoken collapses into his bed, disrobing to find Yusaku’s boxers loosely draped over his rear and legs, hiding his shame and the warmth he feels building within him. He huffs, whines, finds his face digging into the pillows with frustration, with agony.

It froths from out of him, the pain of separation, of realizing that he’s allowed fear to dictate his decisions. He’s all but disguised it as logic, as necessary time needed to grow, change, live, exist, without knowing that what he needed exactly to exist was right there all along.

Ryoken’s eyes, once so clear-cut, pristine like diamonds, fierce and unchanging, were wavering. His hands travel the expanse of his form. He shudders and cowers beneath the sheets of his bed.

cutteeth.
@reflektives
I’ll allow myself time to think, time to let it course through my system, parse it, discover it. 10:40 PM - 2 May 2019

Chest bounding, breath catching, Ryoken’s body lolls onto his side. The moon paints pictures all over his face and hands and his bones all shake around in secrecy, wishing for Yusaku. He tosses the towel he keeps bedside to the floor and feels sleep approach him.

cutteeth.
@reflektives
Decide if my life can take it, what my heart requires. 10:42 PM - 2 May 2019

And he releases his hold on his mobile device.

In the morning, he gains a clarity he hadn’t had before. It happens as he walks through the scattered wasteland of his apartment.

Ryoken has to take the trash out. Ryoken has been subsisting on nothing but delivery and wine for weeks whenever Spectre wasn’t taking them out. Ryoken is lonely in his penthouse, unsure if he should call. Would Yusaku even want his call?

Are the birds outside, with their singing and merriment, orchestrating their swan song? Ryoken stands unsure if he has anything left in him but to succumb to the sensation, the want in his blood, needy and terrorizing.

Strung out on the emotion he can’t place, can’t muffle, Ryoken drapes his body down onto his couch, wide and blown out. He can’t take up the whole space no matter how thin he spreads himself. The plush white swallows him. He sinks down and gazes up into the ceiling and before long his digits swish up to his ear to finger the piercing there, the one Yusaku had given him. The memory comes fast, the one of Yusaku pressing him fast against the sheets, calm and cool. Ryoken can recollect the pain and he blinks slow, time everywhere seemingly stopping all for him.

He remembers that night, April 7th 2019, coming home with the ring in tow. He remembers rehearsing all the words, all he wanted to set free from his heart. He’d wondered if he should get a different box for the ring, knowing too well this one resembled the ones popularly used for engagements. Ryoken figured he wouldn’t present it in such a fashion, and maybe he’d even bring up the concept beforehand to explain before giving the ring… it was just a promise ring, it was just between them, it just meant he was serious, but maybe not ready for that much. That is all it meant.

Fingernail rotating around the diamond stud in his lobe, Ryoken’s eyebrows twitch, eyes shut. A headache brews.

Then it set in, recalling how much further along in life Yusaku was, despite having less, despite having started with so much less. He had so much drive. Ryoken’s was in something else, in keeping his father alive, in keeping himself sane. It set in, recalling that he’d been ignoring his father’s last wishes. It set in quick, recalling that whether he’d said it or not, the only choices were to leave or to stay forever.

It felt sensical. It only made sense. Being without Yusaku was the only thing that made sense.

And yet—

Yusaku moved toward Ryoken, eyes sparkling in the moonlight as he ate up the sight of his keys dancing beneath the stars. They jingled around Ryoken’s spun finger. Ryoken grinned, his teeth glimmering. He was full of starlight and hope.

“You don’t know what you’re gonna be missing,” he said. “But, I’ll still let you stay the night. I’m nothing if not generous.”

“I can’t leave Kusanagi,” Yusaku insisted, tugging at Ryoken’s sleeve with a cottony gentleness. “I’ll visit often though.”

Pulling in Yusaku for a kiss, Ryoken paused just inches away from his mouth. Yusaku served up a pair of dark, heady green eyes and the way his expression morphed from surprise and into lust in a mere few seconds had Ryoken feeling exhilarated. Ryoken exhaled, licked his own lips, and said, “who knows, maybe when the lease is up, you can come join me on it?”

Then he smiled with a dangerously inviting gap in his mouth, one that Yusaku couldn’t keep his eyes off of as he laboured to reply. In time, Yusaku swallowed hard, said with ample delirium, “when’ll that be?”

Smirking, Ryoken held Yusaku’s body to him hard.

“In two years.”

Their lips met without warning and Yusaku ushered Ryoken up the stairs to station him against the front door. Tongues looping, grinding, bodies pressing tightly, Ryoken lacked the faculties to repress the noise he made up into Yusaku’s touch, nor the panting that fled out from him as Yusaku pulled away. Perhaps, however, he just didn’t want to, delighting in the naughty little glint in Yusaku’s eyes as he glared back at him. Too perfect, he thought. Shaking beneath Yusaku’s palms, Ryoken snatched himself back once more as Yusaku said slackly but passionately:

“I can be ready by then.”

Holding his breath, Ryoken finds himself wondering where that fire had gone. How had he become afraid of commitment, eager to run away, unsure of himself?

cutteeth.
@reflektives
The lease is almost up. 5:44 PM - 3 May 2019

Ryoken’s blood lights itself ablaze.

cutteeth.
@reflektives
I want you on it with me. 5:45 PM - 3 May 2019

ryoken.
@hanoirevolver
@p1aymak3r Yusaku, please call me. 5:46 PM - 3 May 2019

Yusaku won’t answer but he’s online. Ryoken knows he is, knows that he’s seen him post just minutes ago. Yusaku likely wants him to beg, wants to stall, draw him out, make him make the effort. Little does he know that Ryoken has no bones about doing just that. Ryoken has no shame anymore.

Pulling his lavender robe tighter around himself and rising up to his feet, Ryoken begins to move around his penthouse, marching in something of a distorted circle as the dial tone meets his ear—the most stressful sound Ryoken’s beheld in some time, though he knows Yusaku will pick up. Yusaku has to pick up or else he’ll just call and call and call until he does.

Hurry. Hurry. The anxiety can kill him.

Ryoken’s incisors find their way into his bottom lip suddenly. Yusaku has only seconds before it will go to voicemail and he won’t leave a message just to be ignored. The sound of wind in the background is finally what alerts Ryoken to the other side of the call he’s been waiting for. Yusaku’s picked up, and Ryoken speaks hot and fast: “Yusaku, I need you to meet me now.”

His body is sick. “Now.” And so is his head. He can tell Yusaku is there but nothing and no one answers him.

An eternity comes and goes, the stars misaligning and spinning out of orbit as Ryoken bets it all, incapable of thinking of anything else, saying anything else, doing anything else until Yusaku answers him, until Yusaku agrees to this, agrees to let him speak his piece. There’s only one truth to be found in this moment and Ryoken will freely admit to it if Yusaku wants to know but as fate would have it:

“No, Ryoken.”

Body floundering, pausing in place, Ryoken goes rigid, still and cold and his face scrunches with the rejection. One of his hands comes up to hide the frown of his mouth from himself, from any ghosts who can see.

His eyes see nothing at all when they stare endlessly past his penthouse walls, past infinity, past whatever fix he thought that he had. He forgets to breathe for a time, focusing instead on mending this.

Ryoken’s heart wrenches but—plan b. Remember plan b. He’s had a plan b all this time, just hadn’t brought himself down low enough to use it.

The memory of El Orpheum comes back to him, and Ryoken swipes through a few apps on his phone. Takeru’s unaware of the truth, unaware of the nature of Aoi and Yusaku’s relationship, unaware of how it went. He’d intended this all along, told himself on that day that he’d use this one day.

The silence deafens them both, calling to mind the division that Ryoken had put between them, and he learns that being earnest, forthcoming about your dirtiest feelings won’t help. He decides this on his own. Vulnerability can only get you so far, at the cost of your pride and all of your insides, your darker parts.

As his thumb jabs against the record button on a phone application, Ryoken’s cadence falls flatter, robotic, unfeeling.

“…say that again.”

cutteeth.
@reflektives
Nothing like a secret weapon. 5:49 PM - 3 May 2019

superhuman named sepiriya
@Souljaburner
YO we boutta go live in just a few on twitch.tv, come check out a livestream of nier:automata 8:10 PM - 8 May 2019 1 5 31

Half the work week and a weekend passes before Ryoken can be found aimlessly browsing Takeru’s Twitter account from the comfort of his bed. His laptop is sat on his lap, warm above his cloudy pajama pants. White wine sits bedside. Spectre is in the kitchen.

Ryoken’s eyes peer up periodically, hearing the clinking, clattering of plates and dinner wear as Spectre busies himself with the dishes. He’d told Spectre not to bother, but he was a tough one to tell what to do sometimes. This is how it’d always been, but it was a better normal than they’d been together. Ryoken decides this as he sips and licks his lips.

A relative normalcy has returned to them both and for the better. For two men that have known each other since tackling on the playground, since role-playing Revolver and his sidekick Spectre!, this couldn’t be the end to them. This could never come between them. Spectre was more than chuffed to get back to business as usual, sit side by side with his best friend, life partner in the platonic sense, support his every venture with endless enthusiasm.

Ryoken only let him so close, but couldn’t deny that he longed for the company when Yusaku had rejected his last attempts at repairing what they’d had.

Spectre was a good friend to him, good when he needed an ear and good when he needed someone who paid attention to his every little detail. After some chatting between them, Ryoken vowed to treat him much better as a friend too.

Though, in ways that didn’t involve eating his strange concoctions… no offense to those who like vegan lasagna.

As for him and Yusaku… all that was left was time. Time could heal but time took, and that was the price.

If he and Yusaku were ever going to know one another again in the way that they had before, it would take space and patience and Ryoken hated knowing that.

Craning his neck back to let the freshly dried (and warm) pillows tickle his neck, Ryoken closes his eyes and shuffles his shoulders all around. He’ll sleep soon, but until he feels like it, he instead gathers the courage to click Takeru’s link on his profile.

Being transported to his stream, Ryoken focuses on the slate gray of his eyes, somewhat similar to Ryoken’s own. The wavy, curled bits of his hair, a gentle white, could almost resemble Ryoken’s as well if not for the streaks that contradicted his own. In more ways than one, Ryoken is looking back at an opposite of himself, an anti-Ryoken as he watches him enthusiastically boast of his skill and rally to collect donations of some kind. Ryoken’s never played Nier: Automata, but based on how many times he keeps dying to a single boss, Ryoken doesn’t suppose that Takeru has either. Still, donations pass by sometimes.

They flood in at the rate of a leaky faucet but that doesn’t deter the gamer. Perhaps Takeru is really only playing for fun and the whole, making-a-living-off-of-it was secondary. Thinking to himself how silly this all was, Ryoken’s finger dances across the trackpad and nearly exits out of the tab. His digit misses and he’s treated to the sight of an absurdly large donation. A notification rings out, balloons and noisemakers pop across the screen like a New Year’s bash as he earns a new subscriber with a bountiful donation that amounts to $400, something like ¥44,000, or £300, or €350—so much fucking money.

Ryoken’s whole universe shifts out of sync and Takeru falls clean out of his chair, scrabbling to pause his game as he dies to the Opera Singer again.

“Oh—oh my god! Who the hell!? Th-thank you so much! Holy shit! Guys oh my god!!

Laughing and dragging his hands down his face, Takeru clambers back into his swivel chair, gawking in awe at the name of the donation and the text that follows it.

Anonymous Tip

“Click here to know more”

“Dude, whoever you are… ‘anonymous tip?’ You’re fucking crazy dude, oh my god. What do you want to show me?” Takeru laughs, gesturing with defensive hands toward the camera, toward his audience. “Guys, just give me one second, I know this is crazy but I gotta see what this is. Dude spent hundreds of dollars to show me this. I better see.”

Throat tightening, Ryoken’s hand clasps over his mouth. Takeru clicks the link on his desktop computer, presumably a gaming computer, only to be brought to a site that plays an audio file and nothing else. The screen is black. He squints as it plays. The few people in the chat that have calmed down are asking furiously to know what it is. He ups the volume. The voices are clear, save for a bit of windy background noise.

Ryoken knows what it is.

Takeru’s face faults.

“You and… you and Takeru aren’t…?”

“What, boyfriends?”

It’s too late for Takeru to end the stream, turn it off, make it private, make this discovery any less horrible than it is. The chat erupts into chatter, babble about ‘lol fake,’ ‘lmfao he’s using some kind of fake drama to make his stream more interesting,’ ‘guys stop he looks so upset,’ ‘dude this is about his boyfriend,’ ‘wait he’s gay?’

Pain icing the sides of his eyes, Takeru stammers. His voice croaks out of him like glass shards up the throat, like devastation, like hurting. “I’m cutting this stream short, sorry guys.”

The stream goes belly up, and Ryoken’s gut does the same.