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alone with no loneliness

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"I'm not missing someone that I've never met,
maybe a little scared.
Still, I don't care.

I'm not missing out so don't ask me again.
Thanks for your concern, but here's the thing.
Never been in love and it's all good."

Ohtori Tsurugi grew up dreaming about the stars, about far off planets and life in different parts of the galaxy. As a child, his parents thought it was cute - he was a kid with a wild imagination, dreaming of planets thought unreachable or even undiscovered at the time. As an adult, it's much less cute. His parents, as well as many of his teachers, thought his dream of travelling among the stars was unreasonable and far fetched. Man had already walked on the moon, so he really didn't get why they seemed to think it was impossible.

(Much later on in life it occurred to him that it wasn't that they thought it was impossible, they just thought it wasn't a practical career for their son. Or maybe they thought it might be too dangerous, and well... it's not like he can refute that.)

Maybe it was because he was so focused on space, on wanting to fly among the stars and visit far off planets that hadn't even been discovered yet, but it takes Tsurugi an almost embarrassingly long time to realize he doesn't care about romance the way most of his friends and classmates do. Or maybe it's not embarrassing, because really, how can someone be expected to notice the lack of an attraction? It isn't until he's well into university that someone mentions how they never hear about him going on dates, how he seems oblivious to the girls who are interested in him. It was easy to brush it off as just being too focused on his studies to have time for dating, but honestly, it's more like it just... never occurred to him. He's never been interested in anyone, so why would he waste his time going on dates? His studies are far more important, and they're far more interesting.

He doesn't tell many people that, and after he makes it into the space program, people stop asking him about dating and girlfriends. He's too busy for anything like that and people recognize it - or maybe they just stop caring about Tsurugi's personal life. What's the point of asking when he clearly doesn't care?

His parents heckle him about it a little but mostly he's too busy to even talk to them. Then he finds the Houou Kyutama, and there are far more important things than thinking about dates that he doesn't want to go on. He's the first president of the Space Federation, the first Kyuranger and he's fighting Don Armage. No one cared about asking if he had a girlfriend or someone he liked - it's pointless considering everything else going on.

It stops coming up at all until, oddly enough, he's awakened from his cryo sleep. Jark Matter is still around (so is Don Armage, somehow, even though Tsurugi knows he defeated him) and there are more important things still, but Raptor 283 is... well, Raptor and apparently some of his actions and words come off as flirting, if Raptor's (and Spada's) reaction is anything to go by. It, admittedly, still goes over his head at first. It's shortly after he's been woken from his very long cryo sleep and he doesn't know these new Kyurangers well enough.

Spada confronts him about it one day, a couple of weeks after he's awoken. It takes until then for him to realize that Raptor is taking the way he says some things as being flirty, that it isn't just her being herself.

"I'm not flirting." Tsurugi interrupts Spada while he's in the middle of a rather polite rant about leading Raptor on and how it's not nice, and she's an android but she's still a person, and then Tsurugi interrupts, which seems to surprise the chef. Probably his words, not so much Tsurugi interrupting. It hasn't been that long, but it doesn't take long to realize that Tsurugi does not care if someone else is talking - if he has something to say, he will say it.

"Eh?" Spada blinks a few times, and Tsurugi isn't sure what there is to be confused about.

"I'm not flirting with Raptor," he repeats, "in other words, I'm not interested in her, if that's what you think." The look on Spada's face is both amusing and a little heartwarming, like he's not sure whether to be relieved or offended on Raptor's behalf.

"You're not?" Tsurugi shakes his head.

"If I sound like I'm flirting, I'm almost certainly not." The only times he's ever really 'flirted' it's been a tactic. He hesitates to call it straight up manipulation, but it... kind of is. It works though, sometimes. He's fairly certain it only works with him because he comes off as cocky, confident, almost arrogant (a carefully curated image, he'd say.) That image, for some reason, makes some of the things that he says come off as less cringey, occasionally. He doesn't really get it, honestly, but it works so he does it when he has to.

He has to wonder if all these years later they still use the same terms to describe sexual and romantic attraction. It'll make this conversation (and probably future conversations) easier if they do. If not, he'll explain it - he may have to explain it anyway. He'd been around when the terms were new, when he had to explain it every single time he tried to come out to someone. Admittedly, those explanations were usually met with blank stares and disbelief (because 'everyone falls in love and wants to have sex! It makes you human!' well then Tsurugi guessed he wasn't human.)

"I'm aro ace. In other words, I'm not interested in anyone." He paused for a moment, before continuing. "I'm not romantically attracted to people, and I'm not sexually attracted to them either. Also I don't normally realize if something comes off as sounding flirty." That one has less to do with his sexual orientation and more to do with just... him.

Spada seems confused for a moment, and Tsurugi tries to remember what he knows about the Kajiki system - because every star system has slightly different expectations when it comes to relationships - and even then, sometimes it varies among the planets in a star system. In a few systems, Tsurugi's statement of not being romantically or sexually attracted to people would be considered normal. Those people reproduced through other means, or just didn't experience the attraction behind the actions. In most systems though, it was considered as weird as it had been on Earth. Some other systems yet understood that some people were different in that way, and others didn't get it and weren't very capable of understanding that (a lot like Earth, in that regard, at least when he'd left it behind. He didn't really know what it would be like now. He wasn't really holding out hope that it would be better.)

When Spada speaks though, Tsurugi has to blink a few times himself, finding himself a little more relieved than he thought it would be.

"You don't realize you sound flirty?" Spada genuinely sounds confused, which doesn't really surprise him much. It's something he got used to in university. It's not that it became less surprising as he got older and time went on, but just that people stopped caring. Plus being around so many people from different planets and systems, they have different ideas of what is considered flirting.

So Tsurugi tells Spada that. "I've never really realized if I come off as flirty." Unless he's trying to get someone to slip up and tell him something, he's never trying to sound flirty and certainly doesn't realize he does. "I'm just kind of oblivious to it."

"Huh." Spada shakes his head a little. "I would have assumed you knew." Tsurugi shrugs. It's something he heard a lot, mostly during university, a few times in high school. He sometimes realizes when people are trying to flirt with him, when it's more obvious, but if it's more subtle, if it could be taken as someone just being nice or interested in being his friend, he doesn't realize it. It happened a few times during the fight against Don Armage - he didn't realize until Orion or Quervo pointed it out.

"I can recognize when someone is acting that way towards me, usually. The other way around... I don't realize when people might take my words out of context."

Spada nods slowly. "As long as you're not trying to lead Raptor on I guess there's nothing more I can say about it." That wasn't quite the reaction he was expecting, but it certainly wasn't unwelcome. He'd honestly stopped trying to explain it at some point because he was just tired of the reactions. It was easier to point out he had too many things to do to even think about relationships. It was a nice change for the reaction to just be 'oh, okay,' and to leave it at that.

 

It never came up again with the Kyurangers. To this day Tsurugi's not sure if Spada told them so they wouldn't ask him, or if everyone else realized there were just more important things to do so unless it's an issue, there's no point talking about romance. The only time it might have come up was with Eris, but Tsurugi sees her for like, 2 minutes and she spends most of the time fawning over Lucky (and again, more important things to deal with, such as finding the new ship and you know, everything else that came after.)

It isn't until the dust has settled and things start to get better that Tsurugi is reminded of his time before all of this and not really in a good way.

He's the President of the Space Federation (still, or again. He prefers to say again, because then he can say he's both the first and second, rather than it just being continuous,) and they're trying to rebuild the galaxy, but reporters are reporters, and that's something he'd say hasn't changed in all of the years he's been alive. Some of them ask real questions, ones that they should be asking, and some work for tabloids and only care about trying to dig into people's personal lives. Tsurugi is the President of Space, a Kyuranger and is (technically) very old, and unsurprisingly there's a couple of tabloid reporters that get into press conferences and start asking stupid questions that Tsurugi is more than tired of answering.

He tries to deflect them, usually pointing out that's not at all what the press conference is for, nor is his personal life anyone's business. It doesn't always work, but can anyone really fault him for trying to stay on topic? They can, apparently. Some dirt rag tabloid makes some comment about him deflecting, saying he must be hiding something, and some people actually believe them. Tsurugi, for all his efforts, is this close to introducing his face to his desk when he's told he should probably just give a press conference with some of the journalists and answer the questions, just to get people to shut up.

So he does, hoping beyond hope that it will make people stop asking.

It's been... a long time since the words aromantic and asexual were introduced. Surely Earth has to be better about it than they used to be.

Wrong. Again.

It's still a press conference, but he answers the dumb questions he's asked without brushing them off, no matter how much he'd prefer to.

Raptor and Stinger are watching from the back of the room, because they were in the star system and he's going to have dinner and catch up with them after. He'd kind of prefer them not have to listen to him answer stupid questions, but at least he can count on Stinger looking confused or annoyed when he looks back at them (he's sure Raptor's much the same, but being an android means he can't exactly read her facial expressions. He can read her body language though, and that's nearly as good.)

The questions are stupid but bearable and his answers are taken at face value, rarely asked for him to expand on them until -

"When do you plan to get married?"

Not if he plans to, but when. This is the exact reason he didn't want to do something like this.

"I don't." He says, planning on moving on to the next question immediately - he only has to kill a few more minutes and then he can finish up and go get dinner and rant at Raptor and Stinger. He doesn't get the chance to move on immediately though, because someone asks another, unprompted question.

"You don't have a girlfriend?" Tsurugi lets out a sigh. "Surely there has to be someone you're interested in?"

"I don't need a romantic partner to complete my legend." He's sure both of the Kyuranger's at the back of the room notice how he gets tenser at the question, notice that he's obviously just exhausted, even if no one else does. He's spent a lot of time with them, and he likes to think they all know each other well - some more than others, like Raptor and Spada, Stinger and Champ, and Kotaro as well, but still. He knows they know him well enough by now to see through the arrogance and self assuredness to see when he's not entirely comfortable with the topic at hand.

He's not ashamed about it, nor does he think he's broken (he moved past that a long, long time ago) but he's tired of people telling him he is, that he just hasn't 'met the right person yet' or some other bullshit like that. Even if he was only as old as he looked, he'd be in his early 30's. Hell, even if it was a 'phase', as his parents liked to put it when he was in university, what would it matter? The moon has phases too - doesn't make them any less real.

Someone else (or maybe the same reporter) starts to say something else, but he barely listens to them. Stinger, from the back of the room, looks ready to storm up to the front of the room, ready to come to his defence. Tsurugi appreciates it, but this is something he has to do himself.

"I have no interest in romance." Or sex, but that part doesn't really need to be said. "In other words, it's incredibly, incredibly unlikely that I'll get married. It's also none of your business." Okay, maybe that's a little rude, but could anyone really blame him? (Someone probably would, but at this point, he just didn't care.)

With a glance over at Stinger and Raptor (Raptor gave him a thumbs up, probably trying to be encouraging; it kind of worked) he continued.

"I have never had an interest in anyone romantically. I'm not attracted to people that way, and so asking when I'm going to get married or if I'm dating someone is redundant and a waste of everyone's time." There wasn't really any point in using the words aromantic and asexual when he still wasn't sure if they were in use or if the people he was speaking to would understand them. He hadn't really had the time to do a check on whether the same terms were used, all these years later. There were too many other things to do and it slipped his mind a lot. It was how he identified though, and he wasn't going to change the words he used just because they were no longer commonly used.

Several people started trying to talk over each other, and honestly, he would have thought they'd moved past all of this as a society - moved past judging people based on who they were or weren't attracted to. Sometimes it seemed like a lot of people were unable to comprehend that some people just... weren't attracted to anyone at all.

Tsurugi was perfectly happy with his friendships and he wasn't going to let someone who didn't even know him try and tell him he needed to have a romantic relationship to feel fulfilled.

"I think we're finished here." He said, not listening to anything coming out of any of the reporters mouths - not that he could make out much anyway, with everyone talking over each other. What he could make out was mostly was mostly questioning or condescending, acting as though he didn't know his own feelings. If they didn't want to listen to him, they didn't have to. He wasn't going to act like someone he wasn't though, wasn't going to pretend to have feelings he didn't have.

He made eye contact with Stinger and then Raptor and nodded towards the door, signalling them to start leaving before stepping down from the small platform he'd been standing on. His media liaison looked torn between telling him he couldn't just leave, telling him to deal with the mess himself, and leaving with him. The way Tsurugi saw it, it had been her idea for him to do this anyway. He'd told her he didn't have any interest in romantic relationships, that he was aro ace and there was no reason for him to have to hold some kind of press conference just to answer a bunch of personal questions he didn't want to answer. She'd insisted though, saying if he answered them now, he could point out he'd answered them before when someone tried to ask in the future. That part was true, but it wasn't like he'd promised to 'behave' so she really should have seen something like this coming.

Many of the reporters continued to yell questions towards him as he made his way to the back of the room. Someone moves like they're going to try and block him but is blocked themself when Raptor steps beside Tsurugi and Stinger's tail grabs the reporters arm before they can try and grab Tsurugi. Once the door is closed behind all three of them, the chatter seems to quiet a little, but he can also hear his media liaison trying to get everyone to shut up (but being a lot more polite about it than Tsurugi would be. She's good at that.)

"My word," He mumbles after a few seconds of silence. "That could have gone... a lot better."

Raptor is leaning on the door, like she's trying to keep anyone from immediately following after them. Stinger looks between the two of them before shaking his head a little. "You okay?"

Tsurugi looks a little surprised, but nods. "I'm fine. I just didn't want to do any of that." Raptor seems to agree, and nods her head several times.

"Who you may or may not like is absolutely none of their business." She agrees, and Tsurugi can't help but smile. For as quirky as Raptor can be (and for as much as he may have seen it as a defect in her programming to begin with, rather than just her personality) she's sweet, and he can always count on her to make him smile, even if she doesn't necessarily mean to.

"Most people on Earth can understand liking someone of the same sex. It's when you say you don't like anyone at all that they seem to get up in arms about it. That apparently hasn't changed." He's more or less accepted that there will always be some bigots and people who don't 'understand' and are cruel and rude about it. There's nothing he can do about that except for ignoring them and spending as little time as possible around them.

"If they can't understand it, it's their loss." Stinger says, rather quietly, but Tsurugi can tell he means it. It makes him smile again, before he straightens his jacket a little, and nods down the hallway.

"To dinner, shall we?" Raptor moves away from the door and starts walking. Tsurugi and Stinger end up a couple of paces behind her, while she rambles on about something that the Commander had done the last time she'd seen him. Tsurugi's listening, mostly, but he knows she's just talking to fill the silence, and he appreciates it.

She continues to talk, even as Stinger walks along beside him and speaks himself, albeit quietly enough that Raptor might not even hear him.

"You know we don't mind, right?" Tsurugi hums quietly, signalling he's heard Stinger, so he continues. "If you're not attracted to anyone, it really doesn't matter and none of us care. As long as you're happy." It almost makes Tsurugi falter. He's not that close with Stinger and heart to hearts aren't really things he has with, well, anyone if he can help it. So he has to admit it throws him a little by surprise - if he's bringing it up it must be a little more obvious to them than he thought, that the reporters and their questions were bugging him beyond just vague annoyance.

It's sweet though, that Stinger wants him to know they don't mind. He never thought they did (Spada had already told him, in so many words, shortly after joining them) but it's nice to hear it.

"Thank you," Tsurugi says, and he really means it. His parents may never have really understood it, his lack of interest in romance and relationships, but his new found family doesn't care. They don't care as long as he's happy, and he is happy, and that's what matters.