He can't help but feel agitated, looking over at his ex turned employee chat away politely with whatever author he's trying to suck up to this time around. He can smile and use that sweet tone, gentle and light, around anyone else, but him ?
No, of course not because at this point, he's a nuisance in Ritsu's way.
If someone ever asked him if he, Takano Masamune, felt insecure, he'd tell them to fuck off and get back to work instead of creating chatter that acquaintes to nothing at the end of the work day. But some days, especially days like these, he can't help but feel that bubbling insecurity chip into his armor. For once in his life, he didn't know what to do. He was lost.
Just like back then, huh? It seems thinking back on the past is inevitable nowadays, especially when the only person he's ever managed to love is constantly near him, almost inescapable. It's like getting slap repeatedly everyday with the fact of 'its over'. He remembers feeling that the moment Ritsu, or rather Oda , kicked him in the face, leaving him dumbstruck. He constantly feels the same itch under his skin, that something is off, that he's making a mistake , but he tries to ignore it.
He can't help wonder what Ritsu wants. It's been on his mind ever since he declared he'd make the brunette fall once more. Does he even want Takano? Or would he rather him leave him be, married to his work, and let him forget the past?
Let him forget their present? The way that Takano can still feel the familiar shy glances that Ritsu thinks he's hides well. He really doesn't . Or the way he can practically smell the jealousy off of him whenever he gets near someone or when someone gives him a gift or when Ritsu misinterprets someone's actions.
But even when that feeling undoubtedly bubbling deep inside Ritsu's core, does he even want it? Does he even dream of pursuing it like Takano does? Does he ever wonder what it would be like, to give themselves up to the feeling and intertwine their fingers in the dusk of the night and press their bodies closer for warmth during the colder nights as they travel home together?
Of course he doesn't.
That's what Takano imagines him saying. He knows if he pulled Ritsu aside and asked that, he would get that answer, matched with all his usual heated cheeks and nervous stuttering. After that, he would berate Takano for asking this on company time and pulling him away for such a stupid reason.
"Tch." He scowls, glaring down at the manuscript. He tries his hardest not to rip it in the midst of his rage. Instead, he chooses to slam it down and stand up. "I'm going on a smoke break, don't do anything stupid Onodera."
" What - Why would I do it?! You shouldn't assume things!" He finds just a smidge of amusement in Ritsu's offended glare but it doesn't help clear up his affronting anxiety he'll never let seep through. Instead of responding, he chooses to pull out his favorite brand of cigarettes and makes his way to the smoke room, undoubtedly finding himself alone once more as he steps inside.
He wonders how he ends up here again, feeling like he's that hopeless, depressed teenager who could find no joy in his pitiful world beyond that starry-eyed, lovestruck kid who he thought he was so weird. Back then, he could never imagine anyone having an interest in him or fathoming why they would, it seemed really stupid at time.
No wonder he wanted to break him. He wanted to make Ritsu feel horrible as he had, tear away that sheer happiness that he always brought with rosy cheeks and a weak, high-pitched voice. He thought he was so annoying back then. Really, Saga had no idea just how much all those irritable charastics meant to him now in the present day.
Takano supposes he succeeded unintentionally. With misunderstanding on Ritsu's part, he broke hearts for sure. He never meant to include him in there but life is rather unpredictable. Ritsu finally got to know how he felt in the pit of hopeless, heartbreak, and betrayal.
And Takano, he got to be worse than he ever been, at the point where life was meaningless. All he did was flunk classes, drink, and have pointless sex. He hurt many others in that time he imagines.
He definitely hurt Yokozawa during that time. He was the only one who really gave a damn and even after hurting him further, he still cares and looks out for him. Even in his own aggressive way, though Takano can't find it in himself to blame him all that much. He's pretty sure he would react the same if all of this had happened to Yokozawa instead of him.
Yeah, he'd want to punch Ritsu in the face too.
He had hoped the toxins would have flooded his lungs, tearing him apart in the way he liked but he finds himself in the same position as ever. Useless against Ritsu. What is he supposed to do?
Everything is seemingly so messed up and broken beyond repair. Ritsu doesn't even want to try, even if his heart longs for Takano. He's always been the sort of guy to freak and run from something rather that face it and take a risk by standing against it.
That's why he fled to the UK of all places. He likes to deny how much of privileged brat he is but his parents had him transferred and on a plane over to Britain before Takano even got the chance to look and ask what the kick was about. The thought makes smile a little but his heart still rings with anguish.
"Fuck." He mutters, putting out the cigarette in the ashtray next to him. He buries his face in his hands, gripping his dark locks. He's at a loss what to do here.
Ritsu can't even tell him what he wants. If he did, it was only a matter of time until he retracted it.
"Enjoy your break?" Hatori asks, looking up once he hears Takano returning to their area.
"Much as I can without this damned manuscript being approved. Fix that with your author already, he's a hassle." He gives him a fixed gaze, demanding the situation be fixed and processed already. Yoshino has always been a trick author, never good at timing and judgement. That's probably why Hatori is the best fit for him.
"Understood, sir." Hatori agrees, his own anger has probably already bubbled to the surface long ago but a reminder never really hurt anyone. Looking back at his own author's manuscript, he shoves the top off of his pen, and goes through it, marking along where he sees a mistakes.
He thinks too much sometimes, he believes. He knows what he wants and he'll chase it to the end but that doesn't mean he's confident the whole way through the process. Sometimes, it gets to be too much and he finds himself acting like he was in college, drinking a bit to numb the pain.
He licks his lips, sighing. He could really go for a good beer right now. Doesn't Yokozawa know a good bar around here or something?
Alcohol doesn't only numb the body, it numbs the mind too. That's exactly what he needs right now. Your personal feelings and work ethic shouldn't affect each other if it isn't in strictly positive ways because right now he can't stop himself from thinking, from resisting one persistent question rising in his head.
Why does Ritsu act like they're enemies?
It's frustrating to say the least. Whenever he touches Ritsu, even in the most innocent of ways, he freezes up and jerks away. His shoulders tenses up around him and he's always wary of Takano, trying to keep a distance between them. The moment Takano makes a stand to make his way over there or even makes an implication of it, he's headed for the door with some flimsy excuse of their copier is broken or he's going to get drinks or it's his lunch break.
Why is his shoulder so cold? He acts so terrified of Takano, it's almost worrying. Why does it seem like he would rather if Takano just didn't exist?
That thought makes Takano flinch.
He just avoids him as much as possible, seemingly like he rather have nothing to do with him even when he acts like he's in love with Takano. If anyone in the room looked a little closer, they could tell. The entire BL department thinks they're dating either way.
How he wished that was true. At least he could say he made some progress of some sort.
He picks up the phone from it's receiver, dialing in his author's number. He looks over at Ritsu who chats freely with the others, even befriending Kisa and the others with a nervous smile and an upright nature. Why can't he be like that with him?
It's really fucking unfair.
"Yes, this sucks." He hears an offended gasp on the other line, knowing she's ready to retort and argue why it's not but he's already prepared. "You have too many jokes in here, the story plot for this one is stupid, and there's far too much dialogue. The reader isn't supposed to be crammed with information like that, that's not how you progress a story. It sucks. Do it over."
"Takano! Do you have any idea of how much - "
"I don't care. Do it ." Takano warns, knowing she'll be able to produce better than this garbage. It will light a fire under her skin and that's just what he needs. It's no wonder she's at the top of the charts.
"Harsh as ever, Takano!" Kisa laughs, overhearing that demanding conversation.
"If it sucks, it sucks." Takano scoffs, rolling his eyes. "Is your author done with theirs or not? Tick tock, I don't want to fire another employee."
"Eep! So scary, sir!" Kisa brings his hands before him, smiling nervously. "She says she'll be done by the end of the day, she'll fax it to my very own private one!"
"You better hope on it."
"You terrify me, sir."
"Long as it keeps you working."
It would be easier to give him up, he thinks. Even if he had to see him everyday, it would be easier to not go after him. Perhaps that even scares him at how simple it could be.
"Takano, do you want to go out with drinks tonight?" A couple of female employees ask, leaning a little closer than normal. "You're always working so hard, you deserve a break too!"
He feels his eyes on him. He's not as sneaky as wishes.
"That'd be nice," He starts. "But I already have a previously planned arrangement, sorry. Another time definitely."
"Definitely!" One of them giggles, mocking him in knowing he won't do that. He hasn't ever since Ritsu showed up, only really going out to drink when Yokozawa offered.
He smiles, thanking them for their work. He looks up and he can see Ritsu's gaze that's locked on him. The said employee nearly jumped out of his skin at being caught and turns away, shoving his stuff away quicker now. Takano trails his eyes over his hunched shoulders and across the curve of his bent neck, noting how he flushes so easily.
"A previously arrangement huh~?" Kisa snickers, continuing his teasing ways. Takano simply sends him a pointed look and he drops it with a simple shrug of his shoulder and almost knowing smile.
"Good work everybody." He manages to say, sighing once more. It hasn't even been a hard day and yet he feels exhausted. He can't keep allowing his feelings to affect him like this. It will only be his downfall.
"You too." Hatori nods, grabbing his bag and heading out along with the others. Takano doesn't know what he's doing yet.
The last train won't come yet so he could stay for a few more hours and get ahead of schedule if he really wanted to but it would be nice to go home, cook a meal, and relax while he still can. The only real bad thing about going home is that the fact he'll be forced to see everything he doesn't want to right now - Ritsu, completely nervous and upright around Takano.
The burnout of decisions has to be one of the deadliest there is, he thinks.
"What to do…" He gushes out a groan, deciding just to get on with it. Ritsu will have to get over himself at some point, won't he? He gathers up his bag, making his way to the station. He can see Ritsu is a little further ahead of him thanks to the time difference and he really doesn't feel like running up to him and getting yelled at with a number of accusatory remarks.
Somehow, because the universe seems to despise him, Ritsu happens to look behind him and see Takano. The look is what he can really only explain as stunned with his wide eyes and parted lips.
"If you gawk at me like that, you're going to run into a pole." Takano sighs and accepts his fate. There's really no escape, huh?
"I-I wasn't gawking !"
"Yeah, yeah, just look ahead before you trip on your feet." He warns, noting how the sidewalk is uneven thanks to natural disasters and lazy building.
"I will not!" Ritsu huffs, glaring down at the sidewalk. He walks with purpose, his body seething with a lack-luster form of anger. It's almost like he's trying to hold onto the anger but the task of that itself is so difficult, as if he couldn't be mad at Takano for that long.
He isn't sure if knowing that is a blessing or a curse. Perhaps a mix of both.
"Sure you won't." How is he next to Ritsu now? That doesn't make any sense, he was ahead of him. The only way that would be possible is if - "Did you just slow down so you could walk with me to the station?"
" What ?! N-no!" His voice is annoyingly high, his face ridiculously red, and his fingers are probably cold in the dusk of the night. He notices how Ritsu's hands are laying lazy at his side instead of inside the pockets of his comfortable, warm trench coat, almost as if he's silently asking for something.
"Whatever you say." Takano slips his fingers between Ritsu, holding onto his hand. He doesn't hold it tight, not at all, in fact, it's looser than he would normally go for. Ritsu can break away if he wants, just with the flick of a wrist, so it's all up to him.
He just has to decide what he wants.
Takano almost chokes on his spit when he feels Ritsu's fongera response, holding Takano's hand in a tighter grip. It was as if he was telling him its okay to hold my hand now. He looks down at the brunette, completely awestruck.
He initiated it, not Takano. He did what he wanted , not Takano. He made the choice, not Takano.
The silence would normally kill him but he can't help but smile now. Knowing that this is what Ritsu wanted, it makes his heart soar in a new, fresh way he's never known before after all this pain and agony he had been putting himself through for the last few hours of the work day. Ritsu's warmth sears through Takano's skin, enlightening a fire in his skin with this new itch, completely devouring the one that made him question his motive.
But he still has his doubts. What exactly does Ritsu want? Even now, does he truly want to be holding Takano's hand as they make their way towards the station?
"What...do you want exactly, Ritsu?" He manages to breath out, lowering his eyes to the sidewalk. He can't help but feel the pain squeeze his heart once more. He half-expects Ritsu to rip his hand away but he doesn't.
"What do you mean?"
Does he really have to ask? Surely, that's obvious by now. God, he's so annoying sometimes. No wonder he wanted to break him when he was younger.
He rolls his eyes and looks down at the brunette looking curiously up at him. He's grown since his high school days, hasn't he? He constantly yells about how he has when he pushes Takano away, as if Takano was a chemical he should never be mixed with or the outcome could be deadly.
"You can't be serious, right? You aren't this dim... surely. " Takano gapes down at him.
"Huh?! Excuse you!" Ritsu glares up at him, frowning cutely. Takano wants to lean down and peck his lips at the sight of the pout but he can't because he doesn't know what Ritsu wants.
"What exactly do you want with me?" Takano breathes out, feeling weirdly vulnerable as they step onto the train, and manage to get a seat next to each other. The train is seemingly less full than normal, perhaps because it's late.
Perhaps they shouldn't be having this conversation on the train but it's already started and there's practically no turning back now. He looks down at Ritsu for a response, seeing him thinking thoughtfully. He feels Ritsu grip his hand, a feeling that makes Takano's heart a little giddy.
"I want..." Ritsu breathes, squeezing his eyes closed. He looks so small and terrified. Takano almost feels bad for asking. He looks up, opening his eyes, and Takano can see all the emotion swimming deep in Ritsu's core. He breathes in, seemingly knocked out of breath by that one question, and squeezes Takano's hand again. "I want something . I'm... I'm tired of this...beating around the bush. T-this isn't healthy for anyone! I can't keep…"
"You can't keep what?"
Ritsu looks down at the stretch of the floor between his feet, his face flushing brightly as he mutters the words. "I can't keep denying my feelings...for you ."
The exact nature of said feelings aren't clear but the implication as Takano more than hopeful, reaching up with his empty hand to cup Ritsu's hot cheek. He guides his head to look up at him, looking into his eyes once more.
Takano isn't composed as everyone seems to think he is. He's constantly scared of Ritsu, terrified of how he'll react or what he'll say. Ritsu is the only person he's ever loved and he can't lose him. Not ever.
He doesn't want to be Ritsu's enemy.
"Say it." Takano urges, "Please, admit it. Just admit that you're... you're everything you've been denying this whole time."
The train yanks to a stop, jolting them from their special little moment. A bit rude, don't you think? But to be fair, Takano can't kiss Ritsu in a bus of people. It's a bit impolite.
"Come on," He urges again, drawing Ritsu up from his spot and they step onto the platform. The silence isn't deafening or stressful, there's an underlying implication of what's to come. Once he feels the cool air outside, he breathes in and urges his heart to calm down before Ritsu hears it beating widely. "What were you about to say back there…"
Ritsu looks up at him with wide eyes as they come to a stop near a lamp post. He can see all the little sparkles and orbs of white twirling in those cautious eyes he's loved for half of his life.
"Surely, you didn't think I'd forget." Takano chuckles, hoping the guy he loves isn't a complete and utter moron. When receiving no reply, except an even more flustered Ritsu, he just accepts his fate with a mere sigh. "Come on, I've waited long enough, haven't I?"
Ritsh nods, meek and quiet. Takano smiles at the sight, gently raising his hand against Ritsu's cheek just like he did back in the train.
"I…" Ritsu breathes, the air is electrifying. To know what's coming, the implication has Takano's skin burning with a need. It's as if he's a man dying of thirst and those words are the water he desperately needs .
"You've got it, take your time." Takano cooes, gently brushing his thumb along his flushed cheeks. Ritsu really is too cute sometimes, if not all the time.
"I'm...in love with you , Takano." Ritsu manages to say after a long awaited silence, his eyes glossed over with tears. He isn't the only one emotional at the finally heard words of his.
Takano draws him closer, holding him tight against him, and burying his face against the crook of his neck. He breathes Ritsu in, feeling the other return his hug slowly. Being wrapped up in Ritsu's arms, he can't help but be giddy and happy, especially after everything he doubted and thought today.
"Ritsu, let's go home." Takano pulls away, looking down at the confused brunette. He leans down and kisses him, pressing their lips together gently in the middle of the cool night. He feels Ritsu return it although it's a simple kiss, compared to their other ones for certain, it's the one that means so much more than a kiss. It's a promise, a knowing future before them. "I'm in love with you too, idiot."
Ritsu nods wordlessly and finally, after anxiously wondering why it was always different, he smiles nervously. Takano's heart is gone, off in another universe with how happy he is and the relief he is feeling is overwhelming.
Ritsu slips his fingers between Takano's and grips tightly this time around, smiling up at him and takes one step forward. Takano happily follows along, he'd follow Ritsu anywhere if he just asked but he won't let him know that, not yet. Not until this country accepts them entirely, not until he's on his knees, and not until he says yes .
He presses closer to him, walking beside him. He smiles, feeling complete like he did all those years this.
This time, however, he will chase Ritsu the second he runs off. He won't ever wait and regret again. He refuses to because after all this time, Ritsu is his again.