It was a slow day at the Iwatobi police department. Rin leaned back in his chair and scoffed faintly after receiving a phone call about a missing puppy or something rather. He found himself glowering at the piece of crap he'd just hung up for no particular reason. It was quite the old thing. Hell, it even had a spiral chord attached to it. He had laughed at it when his first day working here. The laughing stopped shortly after a fellow policemen, an oddly dark man with navy hair Rin had come to know as Aomine, had told him that they actually had do use it. Sousuke nudged him in the shoulder and murmured that he had laughed at it too.
Rin glanced over at where Sousuke was now. Sousuke sat at the desk next a few feet away from his own, leaned back in his seat leisurely as he smirk down at his phone. He better not be sexting Ai again. Rin thought as he narrowed his eyes at him. He'd caught Sousuke doing it once before while they were doing patrols on the freeway. He could remember the feeling of burning in his face when he heard the faint Mmm, and the groaning after a received message. Rin drew the line when he could see the slightest bit of tenting in Sousuke's pants and he had caught a glance of the messages as the phone was being put away.
Are you stiff already?
More than stiff. Hard. I'm tenting.
It's alright. I am, too.
Are you wearing the lilac thong I bought for you. Is it making you uncomfortable. Or are they rubbing just right?
It wasn't until later that Rin realized Ai must have been volunteering at the pre-school, he now worked full time for, at the time. Rin wasn't sure if he repected Ai's rebelliousness or if he had lost respect for Ai because.. Well, you know why.
While Rin recalled that moment Sousuke had looked up at Rin and was saying something. “..Alright?”
“Ah..?” Rin reached up the rub the back of his neck. “Could you say that again?”
Sousuke chuckled in amusement at Rin's absentmindedness. “Ai wants to know if you'd like to come to dinner Wednesday night. His cousin will be in town. Ai says she's real cute. And she's doing most of the cooking Ai's just helping. So the food should be good.”
Rin threw his head back and laughed. “And I guess it's implied that she's single.”
Stifling laughter Sousuke looked up from his phone screen. “Sorry.” He snickered. “I told Ai you wouldn't want to another set up after what happened with Shunpei.” Sousuke reached for his one of the papers on his desk as he set his phone down. “But Ai went and said that he's much better at picking girls than he is at picking guys.”
Rin raised his eyebrows at Sousuke. “He did?”
The corners of Sousuke's lips perked. “Offending isn't it?” He said, nodding. “Anyways, Ai told me to tell you that last part about the cooking. He thought it might tilt the scale and make you want to come.”
Rin's shoulders shook with laughter. It did tilt the scale, but not the much. Rin had just about had enough of the blind dates and set ups with relatives he had gotten from Ai, Gou, Nagisa and even one or two from Rei. Luckily Haru and Makoto had both stayed out of his love life. Although Makoto had once suggested that Rin meet one of his firefighter buddies, but he never followed through. Rin's hate for blind dates was almost over powered by how much he liked dinning at Sousuke's and how nice it would be to eat food that tasted good there.
Rin spent about four out of seven nights a week eating Thai takeout alone in his big empty house. The other three were usually spent alternating between friends houses and apartments. Makoto and Haru had the best food. Nagisa and Rei make the most healthy food (Rei had control over what the
family ate.) At Gou and Seijurou's he could see his nieces and nephew. And Sousuke and Ai's.. Well, at Sousuke and Ai's place it was different. A different astmosphere. One he felt a connection with. They were two people Rin had always felt a connection with.
“I'll think about it.” Rin answered and reached for his canned coffee on his desk.
Sousuke picked at the remainder of the bento box Ai had made for him and nodded. “Hey, do you want the last of the octopus sausage? They're the ones that aren't burnt. I was saving them for last but Ai made a big breakfast this morning.” He said holding out the box that must have been a foot long. Sousuke sure could eat.
Rin reached for the last of the bento's contents chuckling. “Must have been a big breakfast. Your whining about still being hungry.”
“Heh,yeah.” Laughter bubbled in the back of Sousuke's throat.“Ai must have scrambed a whole dozen eggs.”
Rin, nodded, indicating that he was still listening as he chewed. This wassome of Ai's better stuff. He'd been on much worse in college. Rin could still remember the time when Ai had made him his own bento box while he was training for the national swim team. He'd playfully teased Sousuke about being jealous of the cute looking bento he got every day.
What'd Ai make you today?
You better savor those pot stickers he made you.
Aren't you lucky.
Within a week of that Sousuke had showed up with an extra bento and snickered when he forced Rin choose between burnt omelets and soggy undercooked rice.
“They always looked perfectly fine.” Rin had said clicking his tongue to get the the taste out of his mouth.
Sousuke shrugged his shoulders and finished another bottle of water. “He tries so hard to make them look good he doesn't even bother to check their taste.” Teal eyes flickered to his own nearly empty bento box, save for the few crumbs of burnt omelet stuck to the bottom. A smile stole the features of Sousuke's face. “I've been thinking about asking him if he wanted to take a couples cooking class. That way I don't have to be the one who tells him he sucks.”
“That so..?” Rin glowered at the clump of rice left in his own bento. “You let him think he's good at it?”
The smile on Sousuke's face widened. “He knows he's not very good, but I keep telling him I like them. So I think he thinks he's about half decent.” Both of them knew he was far from even that, but from the way Sousuke ate all of the contents from his bento everyday and even bragged at timesto some of his other college students Sousuke saw what Ai was doing as endearing. Even now Ai's bento boxes where a tradition between the two of them.
As the day went on, while looking through case papers and taking phone calls, Rin took the time to wonder how things got this way. Well, putting it like that made things seem kind of bad. Which they weren't. Rin lived in a large house in one of the the nicer, higher class neighborhoods in his home town. His house was bigger than any of his friends apartments. Bigger than Rei and Nagisa's spacious condo and certainly bigger than Sousuke and Aiichirou's cozy looking apartment. He didn't even really have to work. He would be able to get by with what he had made during his days as an Olympian. Maybe not living his current life style, but definitely with a decent place, nice car and the works. It wasn't even that his job was bad. Boring at times, maybe, but Rin would be much bored lazing around in his big empty house.
And Rin could certainly find a date. Hell, he would bet one of his metals, maybe not a gold, but probably a silver, that he could find a partner and be married in less than six months. He'd even gotten close to marriage. He was a sliver away from proposing to a very attractive tennis player during the '24 Olympics two years ago. It wasn't until he brought his partner back to Iwatobi that he had started to second guess himself and his felings. They had what Rin had thought was a perfect relationship, but seeing his old friends made him realize that it wasn't much more than something that was platonic. Seeing Makoto and Haru get back from the Olympics with him and making plans for the restaurant Makoto was pushing Haru to open it, because Mako knew Haru so well that he could see though his bashful lies whenever the subject was brought up. Seeing Rei and Nagisa start to make connections with adoption organizations and dotting over every child they saw on the street. Seeing Sousuke and Ai settling into their new apartment. It was smaller than the one they had now but somehow they found it in themselves to seem happier than Rin and his partner had been in a condo twice the size of the one they had now.
Rin wanted to find a love like that.
Just how had all of his friends found something as amazing as what they had now?
Rin was pretty sure he saw what was going on between all of his friends before they did. Even with Sousuke and Ai. If anything they needed a bigger push than all the others did. Rin was aware of the one sided feelings between both of the two boys and himself. There was even a point where he thought he might return said feeling to either one of them. He'd always wonder what would have happened if he had made a move on Ai before Sousuke had come to notice him. Or if he had turned around and kissed Sousuke the in moment he sort of confessed that one night in their dorm. Could he be as happy with one of them as they were with each other?
Nonetheless he was happy for them when they announced they were dating. Partly because it was stupid that they thought they were keeping it a secret. The whole swim team was aware of their little secret. And a good amount of the Samezuka student body was whispering about them. At the time Rin hadn't thought of their future together. It was an in the moment thing for Rin. They seemed to be compatible at the time, but Rin never saw them as a forever thing. He'd never seen any of them as a forever thing. It'd never crossed his mind. He'd always assumed they'd be friends, but in the back of his mind he guessed he seen them all going out and seeing other people. There was a whole world out there. What were the chances of meeting your the one in high school?
Rin ended up going to the same college as Sousuke. Neither of them new what they were going into. They had just decided that they would get their core classes out of the way and focus on other things. Sousuke was helping coach Rin as he prepped for the upcoming Olympics. He was one of the first picks. They roomed together again during that first year. The moments Rin could remember the clearest were moments when Sousuke was on the phone with Ai. Rin remembered having to go and find another friend to go out with to go pick up chicks and cute guys with. He had no problem with it. It was never too difficult. It didn't take long for people to realise that Rin was a magnet for both sexes and as long as you were with him you would be getting laid that night.
Though out that whole year Rin found himself kind of pitying Sousuke a little. Because, well.. when did Sousuke ever get laid? He wasn't the cheating type and Ai was still in Iwatobi. And they were teenage guys.
They flew back to Iwatobi for spring break and apparently it had been the first time the couple had seen each other in over two months. Rin thought he was being a good friend when he told Sousuke that he would leave their hotel room empty for an entire Saturday while he was at his mother's. He even made sure to text Sousuke before he came back to make sure they had everything cleaned up. It was a bit surprising that Sousuke had announced that they had to change beds, but Rin figured accidents happen and they must have not payed attention to which bed they had been using. It wasn't until later that Rin found out, from a very bashful and embarrassed apology from Ai that they had used both beds. The one Rin ended up sleeping on was the one that got the least amount of action on it.
Their sophomore year Sousuke moved out of the dorms and into a squalid little studio apartment that, although Ai actually had a dorm room at his own college, Aiichirou spend most of his time at. Ai had ended up at a community college a couple minutes away from their own. He had been studying in some field Rin didn't quite remember. He just knew that Ai changed his major while Rin was off training a few months before his first Olympics.
Sousuke had went with him the first time. He was one of Rin's official coaches and it was a full time job. He even put off college for it, though he made sure to make time for Aiichirou. It was in that time, the final sprint of training before Rin's first go at the Olympics, that Sousuke had been away from Ai for nearly four months. They had been together for longer than Rin imagined they would be. But that fact was the last thing on Rin's mind at the time. He was focused solely on his swimming career.
One night, about two weeks before the actual games. A week before Ai and several of their other friends would be showing up to support Rin. Makoto, Haruka, Rei, Nagisa, Gou and even Momo and Seijirou. Rin had come up to Sousuke's hotel room, asking about some technique or something rather, Rin couldn't quite remember what it had been now. But Sousuke had been on the phone with Ai. Well, no big deal, right? Sousuke talked to his boyfriend a lot. It was no different than when they shared a dorm in college. Right?
“Aii.” The way Sousuke dragged out Aiichirou's name said differently. “Are you using a a toy or just your fingers?”
Rin's hand tensed around the door knob. The door was only half closed. He could have just pushed open the door. Rin was happy he didn't. He was ready to turn around and give Sousuke and Ai the benefit of the doubt.
The could have been talking about something else, right?
“How are you going to make your fingers enough, Aiichirou? They can't be enough compared to me right?”
God, am I a creep. Rin thought. He could practically hear Ai's voice. “No, Sousuke. Sousuke, they're not enough. I want yooou.” A disgusted shiver ran up Rin's spine. He was not imagining Ai's voice while him and Sousuke had phone sex.
“Are you bent over? Is you face pressed against a pillow?” Sousuke paused, letting a groan radiate though his throat. “Is your ass up so you can make your fingers go deeper?”
After that, Rin knew there would be no doubting what they were doing. He turned around anyways. He absolutely couldn't stay and listen to Sousuke panting into the speaker of his phone. Groaning as he jerked himself off and grunting Ai's name when he came. He had to leave before he could start to fantasize and get hard.
It was too late. He probably would have fantasized and stiffened up if he had left earlier anyways. He was already wondering what it would be like to have Sousuke hovering over him. Hands planted on either side of Rin's head while he writhed and whined under Sousuke. Begging for him to go faster. Harder. He wondered what it would be like to be dominated.
Or what if he was on the other side of the line. Pounding into Ai's small strangling hole. Burying himself into the bountiful pleasure that was Aiichirou Nitori. Feeding on Ai's moans and pleas. Deciding whether he would be slamming Ai against the wall, or watching him sink into a bed. Fucking. Or making love. Having complete dominance.
Rin returned more than an hour later. Only passing Sousuke's room on his way to his own. Rin thought he would turn into a tomato if he saw Sousuke after that. It would be difficult to look at either of them for days. Upon passing Sousuke's room Rin noted, in the back of his mind, that they were still on the phone. But the groans and moans had died down into background chatter. Telling one another about their day and such.
It was passed three when Rin looked up from his desk and realized he had spent upwards of two hours absentmindedly reading papers while in the back of his mind he went over Sousuke and Ai's life. Guilt licked at him when he realized that Sousuke was up and talking to someone at the door.
Is that? Could it be? Rin cocked his head to the side and squinted at the figure in front of Sousuke.
“...Arson, you think?” Sousuke rubbed the back of his neck and glanced over his shoulder at Rin. “Hear that Rin? Something exciting might have just happened!”
“Sousuke..!! This is terrible! Someone lost their home..!!” The figure in front of Sousuke let out a panicked huff.
Sousuke chuckled and reached out to knock the mans shoulder. “I'm kidding Tachibana-kun, I'm calling the troopers right now. Aomine'll be pissed he missed this, huh Kagami-kun?” He raised his head to look over Makoto's shoulder and grinned at the man behind him.
“Like hell he will. Someone's going to make sure Satsuki calls and tells him about it.” The monstrously sized man behind Makoto chuckled. Rin guessed that either Kagami or his boyfriend Kuroko, who Rin knew happened to work with Ai, would be calling this Satsuki. It was a bit odd how small of a world it seemed to be. How, in some way, somehow, everyone in Rin's inner circle and even his outer circumference of friends were kind of related and new each other in some shape for form.
After turning off his PC and neatly placing his pape r into one of the files in his cabinet Rin rose from his seat and sauntered over. Ready to follow Sousuke to the burnt crime scene.
The inside of their police car a a bit tattered and unkept. Well, a bit too unkept for Rin's liking. At times it seemed as if Aiichirou was rubbing off on Sousuke, but Rin knew that it was only this way because neither of them had taken the time to give the car the few touches it needed to become the spotless police car it was suppose to be. Sousuke had been too busy following Ai around to the gatherings and parties Ai loved so much. And Rin.. Well, Rin would just rather avoid picking up the half devoured fast food scattered about the vehicle.
In the passenger seat Rin found himself sneaked sideways glanced at Sousuke. Tracing the line of his jaw and side profile with his eyes.
Behind the steering wheel, where the speedometer and what not should be, pictures of Ai littered the place. Pictures of Sousuke and Ai together. Pictures from high school. College. Pictures from the one time when Ai cut his hair short. And pictures from now when it was grown out and chic looking. Somehow Sousuke found it in his ability to look around all those pictures to find the speedometer. Though, sometimes, during highway patrols and such Rin caught Sousuke staring at them. A ghost of a smile painted onto his face.
Rin hadn't expecting the sudden announcement made by Sousuke when the two of them got back from his first go at the Olympics. They'd both put off college for the most part to focus on swimming, so Rin had assumed they're future careers were put on hold too. He'd never actually thought about what Sousuke would go into. Never put thought into it. And as far as what came after reaching Rin's goal of becoming an Olympic swimmer Rin was clueless.
“Actually, I think I'm going back to college to study in criminal justice.” Sousuke had said casually when Rin mentioned what things would be like when time came for his next go at the Olympics.
“What?” The thought had stopped Rin in his tracts. It seemed to change everything. It didn't, really. But it just kind of shattered Rin's images of the future. He'd felt so.. well, he wasn't quite sure how he felt about it. Shocked? Hurt? Betrayed? But those word seemed so harsh. It wasn't Sousuke's fault. Sousuke had grown out of swimming. He had accepted that swimming would be something of the past and there was no future in it for him and Rin couldn't be mad at him for doing that.
“Sorry, I didn't tell you sooner.” Sousuke shrugged his shoulders and reached into the bag of chips between them, bringing one to his mouth as he watched Aiichirou pick out his bowling ball across the alley. “I just recently decided.”
Rin follows his gaze and furrowed a brow. “It's just kind of sudden. Does Ai know..?”
“Kind of. He sort of convinced me.. I mean I've been considering it before while now. Just in the back of my mind. When I told Ai about it he said it sounded like a good idea.” A smile graced the features of Sousuke's face. “And now that he's changed his major to child development. And I just thought about it. How life would be with him. And I..” Sousuke rubbed the back of his neck bashfully. “I just kind of really liked it.” Sousuke, himself, seemed a bit surprised with what was coming from his mouth.
Rin blinked. He found it in himself to smile a little. For Sousuke, even though he wasn't looking at Rin, but at Ai. And for the fact that Rin knew that things would be alright in the back of his mind. He had Haruka. And Haru did end up going with him his second time around. Despite the fact that he had turned down the Olympics offer in 2020, he swam for the Japanese Olympic team in '24. Makoto took Sousuke's place as a coach. He hadn't been an Olympic pick, but Haru wouldn't go without him. It all turned out alright.
After another year or so of college, about two years before Rin went to the '24 Olympics, Rin, still unsure of what he wanted to do, took one criminal justice class. Sousuke seemed quite enthusiastic about the his new found passion and for no specific reason Rin just decided that one measly class didn't seem too hard. And it definitely wasn't hard, but there was just something about it that just clicked. For the first time Rin actually read a text book cover to cover. In was quite the surprise for Rin and he received his degree just before he dove into his second round of the life consuming Olympic training head he had started four years before.
The scene was a black sooty pile of rubble. The was the late afternoon by the time they were done investigating it. The sun was threatening to set and Rin wanted nothing more than to leave to get home and order his regular take out from his regular Thai place. But one, he couldn't leave the scene without Sousuke. And two, Sousuke was leaned up against their police car talking to Makoto. Rin had only been half listening to their conversation when he realized that Makoto had asked him a question of some sorts.
“Well? You coming too, Rin?” Makoto inquired, unaware of the fact that Rin was oblivious to what they had been talking about.
“Yeah. Then Ai can ask you if you want to meet his cousin himself. And you can reject him flat out if you want to.”
Well, Rin thought. They're asking me if I want to go somewhere Ai's going to, too.
“And I'd bet Haru'd like to serve you his knew Mackerel dish.It's, uh, different.”
Oh, Rin realized. He's probably inviting us over for dinner.
“It's been a while since we've all been together.” Makoto continued.
“Yeah, I bet Ai'll be happy to see Nagisa.” Sousuke nodded. “He's been talking about asking him about coming in for a career day for the kids. Remember me mentioning that to you, Rin?”
Rin nodded even though he couldn't recall talking about anything of the sort with Sousuke. Rin figured just agreeing with him would help move the conversation along. The conversation continued. With Rin only paying attention as long and as concentrated enough to realize that Makoto had been inviting them to the restaurant Haruka co-owned with some baker. The place was about the side of a rundown studio apartment. Looked a bit like one too. They planned to renovate it as soon as the money came up. Rin didn't know how long that would take. How many customers did they get dayly. Seven? But the food wasn't too bad. Haru wasn't aloud to just cook mackerel anymore. And to be honest Rin thought Haruka was better at cooking other things than he was good at cooking fish.
Before Rin knew it he was walking side by side with Sousuke on the way to his and Ai's apartment. Absentmindedly, Rin had agreed to head to Sousuke's place so Sousuke could change and pick up Ai for their dinner at the restaurant. He didn't regret it too much. It livened his life a little. And they hadn't all been together in while.
It wasn't until the months before the '24 Olympics that Rin began to feel a bit empty. A bit lost. A bit lonely. It started out when the whole gang would hang out. He'd never brought anyone to their gatherings like Momotarou did. He'd never felt the need to. He usually left a bit early. Murmuring something about early training tomorrow or something. But one time he felt kind of spontaneous. He wanted to stay out longer. He stayed there until it was just Sousuke and Ai and him. It turned into the first time Rin had actually felt like a third wheel. Like there was something about him that didn't belong. He ignored it of coarse. Sousuke and Ai didn't seem to notice. So Rin didn't address his new found awkwardness. And then they left. And Rin began to feel lonely. He ignored that, too.
But there came a point where he couldn't ignore it any more. Couldn't ignore that there was always an odd number of people and everyone else had already found their partner.
He found himself looking at them a lot. Thinking a lot. Fantasizing a lot. Just as he had done before his first Olympics with Sousuke and Ai. He seemed to think about the two of them the most sometimes.
Rin watched Sousuke work with his keys until the door to his apartment opened. He focused on the curve of his jaw and the straightness of his nose and found himself doing it again. Wondering about how easy it would have been to make Sousuke his own. Wondering if it would have been this way if Rin had taken him in high school. Surely they would have been happy, right? Surely they could have found the love that Sousuke and Ai shared? Or would have Sousuke and Ai still have found each other..?
Rin stepped into the apartment after Sousuke and felt a burning in his nose. It was faint, but something had definitely been cooked wrong. Mixed wrong. And not cleaned enough. Sousuke grunted and coughed a bit, but not as much an Rin. He felt bad for making his discomfort so obvious, but felt a bit less bad when Sousuke looked at him and smiled. Somewhere in between apologetic and amused.
“Aiii!” Sousuke called. “Where are you..? What'd you cook?!”
There was a faint clanging noise and then a little 'ah!', but Aiichirou appeared in front of them a second later looking flush and panicked. “Sousuke! Welcome home!” He uttered, breathlessly, but closed the distance between them easily and smiled when Sousuke leaned in for a welcome home kiss. It lasted for about two seconds and was innocent and casual. And after so long Rin shouldn't have been so awkward about it, but he was always a bit awkward when he first got into their apartment. It radiated an aura of them. A domestic happiness that Rin felt he had been jipped of.
It took but another two seconds for Ai to see Rin and grow sheepish. “Oh, Rin!Welcome!” He cried and went to run a hand through his hair, though he couldn't because it was pinned back with bobby pins. A silent gosh, I'm probably a mess! showed on his face. “I'm sorry, Sousuke I was trying to make your bento in advance for tomorrow! But I burnt it all! And I lost track of time trying to clean it up! We're going to be late aren't we?” Ai blabbered as he wiped his hands on his pale pink sweats. “I'm sorry!”
Contrary to his boyfriend's worried frown, Sousuke is smiling . Grinning, in fact. Rin isn't sure if it is because he finds Ai just too endearing or if it's because he can buy a decent tasting bento box on his way to work tomorrow. “It's fine. I still have to change too.” He said, as he took his shoes off and strode past him toward the bed room. “Rin just came so we could head to the restaurant with him.”
Still a bit jittery Ai looked at Rin and smiled. “Your coming too, Rin?” When Rin nodded Ai nodded toward the couch. “Sit down, okay? Do you want something to drink? I can get you something and turn on the TV before I change.” Aiichirou reached for the remote and shoved it into Rins hands.
Rin accepted the remote awkwardly and rubbed the back of his neck. “No thinks, Ai. I'm good.” He settled in the couch half reluctantly and glanced at what was already on TV. The sappy subtitles screamed Korean drama. Not that the look on the main characters face didn't make it obvious too.
Aiichirou gave Rin a skeptical look and pestered him about giving him something to drink a bit more before retreating to the bed room after Sousuke to change. Once Rin was alone he relaxed into the couch just a bit more before feeling up the remote for the guide button.
Sousuke was out before Rin could find a sports channel that he wanted to watch. Sousuke had always been a quick changer. Ai had failed to brake him of the old sniff and pull on method that he had been using since high school. This time he was a step above casual. Not quite dressy. To be honest not quite matching either. But he never looked quite put together without Ai by his side.
“What's on TV?” Sousuke asked from across the room he looked like he was headed towards the bathroom.
“Just some soccer. I couldn't find anything else worth watching." Rin called before Sousuke disappeared behind the door. A faint oh was heard before the door shut completely.
A couple of minutes later Ai entered the living room. His hair all out of the pins save for two pretty berets that pulled back one twirled piece of hair and he had traded out his comfy pink sweats for some tight fit black leggings and a large over sized sweater that looked like it could have belonged to Sousuke in middle school. “When did you get changed Rin?”
“I had some extra clothes at the station.” Rin said turning to sit on the couch a bit side ways. “They're not as nice as yours but they'll do.”
“Hmm.” Ai hummed, thoughtfully as he reached for his jacket. “I have some button ups that might fit you if you want.” He offered as he pulled his arm through the sleeve holding on to the sleeves on his sweater to make sure they didn't get caught.
Rin felt his face twist a little. “Not thanks.” He answered. “They're probably too small anyways. Your frame's a lot smaller than mine.”
It was only the latter of the two statements that was true. As much as Rin didn't want to admit it. Ai had grown quite close to his size. He wasn't quite as broad shouldered as Rin and he was still just about a half an inch shorter. But it was a bit of a surprise when people began to ask if Ai was taller than him.
“Of coarse not!” He practically shouted when Makoto had pointed it out for the first time.
And of coarse Rin was right, but to anyone standing a few feet away from them would think they were the same height. Although Ai was still lanky was ever and he had only grown in length, he was still a ways away from the boy he had looked like in high school.
Rin had first noticed it in college. About half way through his own sophomore year and Ai's freshmen year. It started long before that; Rin realized later. Maybe even while Rin was still at Samezuka. Sousuke had mentioned things about Ai being able to look quite a bit like a girl when they were at college and he was groaning about how Momo and Ai were still roommates .
But it was during that time in college that Rin realized that Ai had started to wear make up. Just faint bits of it. A bit of blush here. A coat of mascara there. He'd always looked a bit girly. Always had a bit of a different look to him. Rin just didn't think Ai would go as far as to make his feminine bolder. To bring them out. He’d always assumed that Ai was a bit embarrassed of it. Had Sousuke brought about this change? Rin wasn't sure. But Ai had become to, for lack of a better or more blunt word, bloom.
Slowly Ai started to wear more feminine clothes. More jewelry. Dainty rings and bracelets and such. It was Nagisa that had the courage to point it out first, but the shota-like boy had put it in such a blunt way that it made Rei gawk.
“Nagisa-kun! You cannot say that!” Rei blubbered.
“Why not? You told me you think he looks like a girl too!” Nagisa snapped offensively. “It's not like he's not gay too! We can't be offending him!”
“Nagisa there is a difference between gay and transvestite!” Rei was practically wailing now.
The look on Ai's face didn't betray what he was thinking, but it didn't boil with anger either. Ai looked somewhat amused. He met eyes with Sousuke for a second then turned to look at the couple. “No.” Ai said. “I'm not trans. I don't want to be a girl.” Sousuke's hand came up onto Ai's shoulder and he ran his thumb along the side of Ai's neck as he continued. “I want to be a boy. And..” Ai paused as if looking for the right words. “I don't think wearing make up and dressing like this makes me not a boy. It just makes me Ai. And Ai is a boy. And Ai has a boyfriend just like Nagisa does with Rei. And Rei does with Nagisa.” The smile that had found it's way to Ai's face widened. “I'm just Ai.”
It was an endearing moment. One that kind of painted a new picture of Ai for Rin. Just as the moment that Sousuke said he wanted to study criminology was for him. Aiichirou didn't wear make up everyday. He didn't dress femininely every day. Someday he wore basketball shorts and a tee shirt and you could barely tell him apart from how he was in high school. Except for his hair of coarse. On those day Ai usually pinned it back. Not much differently than how he had it today before he got changed.
“Are you sure?” Ai pressed. “They're flannels and they don't look too girly. I usually use them as a cardigan so I'm pretty sure they'll fit.”
“Nah.” Rin waved Ai off and got up. “I'm fine.”
Ai nodded, though still not looking convinced, but nonetheless didn't press on. He leaned against the book shelf that. They stayed like that, in a comfortable silence that they both knew well from high school and spending their lives around each other.
Rin jumped a little at Ai's sudden noise. “What..?” He asked while making an attempt to follow Ai's gaze.
“Don't..!” Ai gasped. As he lunged forward. He pelted past the couch at maximum speed. “Don't look..!!”
Rin didn't mean to look. He had full intentions to listen to Ai and not look, but his mind just didn't take it that way. He acted on habit and turned to see what Ai was reaching for. At first, to be honest, he wouldn't have known exactly what it was. He may have not figured it out if Ai hadn't basically explained it to him without actually explaining it to him.
“Ahh.. Well..” Ai clutched the little skimpy black and white striped piece of cloth to his body. “Momo kind of bought this for me.. I mean us..!! I wouldn't want it.. And wouldn't use it unless Sousuke liked it. I wouldn't have used it I mean..” Aiichirou continued to blabber while Rin squinted at the thing for a couple more seconds and then let the realization sink in.
“Your into some kinky shit, aren't you..” He meant to say it that loud.. Actually. Rin hadn't meant to say it at all. It had just been a thought that crossed his mind. Somehow it seemed that it had gotten across his lips too.
“Ahhhh..!! Well..!!” Ai clutched the piece of cloth closer to his body in a panic.
“What are you two wailing about..?!” The bathroom door opened and Sousuke stepped out. He was clean shaven and his hair was a bit more gelled. He still went for that messy going everywhere look. Not that it didn't still suit him. It just seemed a bit odd that he didn't evolve with Ai.
“Sou..Sousuke..!!” Ai flailed a little bit as he moved the hide the cloth again.
Sousuke's eyebrows knitted together as he crossed the room to Ai. “Oh.” He grunted and snatch the outfit up. “This..” His eye's wandered around the room for Rin and he chuckled. “Heh.. It's no big deal Ai.. Rin knows we have sex.”
Rin felt the heat rise to his face. Of coarse Rin knew they did it. He was even aware of the fact that they did the kinky stuff. But seeing the evidence made it seem all the more real. And just a bit like he was there. Like he had caught them in the act or something. He'd even actually caught them in the act before. Kind of. If you counted it over the phone both voice call and via text message.
“Ready to go..?” Sousuke asked as he crumpled up the clothes and tossed them into the dirty clothes basket.
Rin knew that Sousuke and Ai didn't have a perfect relationship. It may have only been a few marks away from the dot. But they still fought at times. They had disagreements. Sousuke had a difficult time conveying his feelings and wasn't much for words so he had a difficult time saying sorry. Whereas Aiichirou was stubborn and, although he usually said sorry eventually, it took a while for him to get there.
Rin knows when Sousuke and Ai had a fight or squabble. Sousuke walks into work tense. Not in a worked-out-last-night-stiff or had-an-amazing-sex-marathon-with-Ai-last-night-stiff(although the first one sometimes caused fights because Ai didn't want Sousuke to over exert himself. And Rin really knew when Sousuke had been stiff with the latter of the two because he was unbelievably slap happy and a little disgusting.) This was a different kind of stiff. A slow moving kind of poisonous stiff that seemed to radiate the actual stiffness(not happiness like the sex-marathon-stiff did) off of him.
Sousuke usually sneaks in texts with Ai throughout the day. He does it even though he's constantly told that he'll get himself fired. And even when he knows Ai can't text him back. He's always checking his phone.
But when they're fighting Sousuke's just stares at his phone. It doesn't ring the cute little tone it does when Ai calls him. It doesn't light up and whistle with one of his texts. It just sits on his desk. Or on the dashboard and Sousuke glowers at it. He gets lost in staring at it and can't focus on much else until Rin finally speaks up.
“What'd you fight about?” Rin asked once.
Sousuke's head snapped up. “What?”
“Didn't you guys have a fight?” Rin said as he reached for his coffee and took a swing. “What'd you fight about?”
Sousuke blinked. He reached for the picture of Ai on his desk. It was one of them both. Their both a bit red faced. You can tell they'd been in the sun. Rin guessed that it was taken while they had been in Australia. It's a picture of Ai before he got the small tattoo on his collar bone. The one of a small bird that he swearsisn't a duck, but everyone knows that it has to be one. But since the tattoo isn't there, it must have been while Sousuke was still coaching Rin. Ai must have been visiting them there.
“The cat died.” Sousuke mumbled rubbing the back of his neck. “Ai got all worked up about it and I guess I was kind of insensitive about it.”
Rin felt a faint chuckle rise up in his throat. He hadn't meant to laugh. “The cat?” He asked making an effort not to let his chuckles spill out into his voice.
Sousuke shifted his gaze up to him and tried to glare, but soon he was chuckling himself. “It's not funny!” He huffed and then went on to talk about how he had offered to get Ai another cat. A better one that wouldn't shed everywhere. And how Ai had taken it to heart saying that it wasn't Yoshirou's fault! And that he didn't just want to replace her! Sousuke couldn't have helped but to chuckle at the tears that cat had caused even though they had only had her for three months and to which Ai replied that it was Sousuke's fault. You were the one who wanted to get an adult cat and not a kitten..!!
They made up that night of course. Rin knew that Ai was probably feeling just as bad as Sousuke. He always did. Rin had been around them throughout there relationship enough to see both of their attitudes while they weren't getting along. They never fought about big things. Just things like the cat. And when Ai's mother was over. And how Sousuke was sure, for so long, that Ai's siblings didn't like him. And how Sousuke is annoyed with how much his family just loves Ai. Especially his bother who, although is actually straight, seems to be more all over Ai than Sousuke, himself.
Rin had never heard either of them complain about one not trusting the other enough or such. For the longest time Rin thought they just didn't get jealous, but now that he's had brief conversation with both of them he was aware of the fact that they both had their insecurities.
“Well, Sousuke-senpai normally likes girls.” Ai had said once, while they were still in high school. They were on the way back to the academy after a tournament. “And you, Rin-senpai. But not any more.”
Rin felt the heat raise to his face. He'd been aware of it, too, but it felt odd hearing Ai say it. He wondered if it hurt Ai to admit it. “Well, Ai..”
“I know he's got feelings for me.” Ai continued. “I know that he had a chance with you and chose me instead. I know he wouldn't have done that if he didn't feel a lot for me.”
Rin his mouth go agape. Just how much did Ai know..? Was Sousuke that open with him? He was right, of course. Rin had given Sousuke a clearly stated chance to be with him, but Sousuke had turned sharp on his heels and went to Ai. He pondered the thought as Ai went on.
“I just.. Well, even though I'm scrawny and a little girly looking, I'm not a cute girl. And I can't do the things girls do with guys. Not just the..” Ai paused to clear his throat and lower his voice before continuing. “.. sexual stuff. But the normal stuff. Like Sousuke can't show me off or anything. And I mean..” He began to mumble as he sunk further into his seat. “If he's used to girls, then I won't be normal for him, you know..?”
Rin pressed his lips together staring at Ai who was staring at Sousuke who was in the front of the bus talking to the couch. Something about stats and stuff. Lately, he'd shown a new interest in that stuff that didn't quite make sense to Rin. Ai laughed faintly after a minute and smiled at Rin.
“I'm probably worrying about nothing, right, senpai?”
And Aiichirou was right. He had nothing to worry about. Rin had known so at the time, just not to such an extent as he did later. Later when Sousuke had actually voiced his own thoughts.
“I didn't think I had to worry about guys anymore.” Sousuke muttered once, completely out of nowhere. Rin followed his gaze to Momo who was following Ai around like a duck of Ai's own.
“I knew Ai was gay, but I didn't really think about it, I guess.” Sousuke went on. “I always assumed my biggest threat would be really macho girls.” A chuckle left Souuke's lips; it was hardly humorous. “And he doesn't hit on guys or anything. But I can see him looking sometimes. And I look at girls sometimes too. It's just a little..” Sousuke paused. Rin wasn't sure if it's because he's guilty for feeling that way or if it's because he doesn't understand how to explain it. “It's a little annoying.” It's a mix of both. “Not Ai. Ai's not annoying.”
Oh, but he is.. Rin remembers thinking in the back of his mind.
“It's me. Or rather how I feel about it.” Sousuke turned to look at Rin and this time the chuckle that comes out is a bit self loathing. “I'm annoyed with that fact that I thought I didn't have to worry. Like Ai couldn't be attracted to anyone else.” It becomes more self-loathing. His smile widened for another second before they both heard Ai call out to them. And then everything seemed alright.
Rin guesses that they've probably talked about it by now. They've been together for something around a decade. And although Sousuke didn't seem to match Ai's hundred mile an hour talking skills, he had one redeeming quality that made him perfect for Ai. He listened.
And listen to Ai was exactly what he did on the way to the restaurant. They took the car. The little Subaru that Sousuke can't even sit up properly in. Even Rin finds himself a little more than cramped in the back back seat. It's about perfect for Ai, who's never seems to take any notice in his boyfriend or Rin's discomfort. He continued to chatter while sitting there in his passenger seat. Going on about his day at pre-school. About how Chiaki is still having trouble getting dropped off in the mornings (he keeps crying for his mother) and how Ryou brought him dandelions at recess.
There was a point in time when Rin was convinced Sousuke didn't actually listen. He was pretty sure Ai thought he didn't listen here. Rin just assumed that they had a mutual contentment in having a partner to talk and listen to. But when you look at Sousuke, when he's looking at Ai while he talks, or while he's look away at the rode, you notice those small barely here nods that Sousuke does. The way he chuckles when Ai talks about something worth laughing at. Like when Kuroko sneaked up on him today and made him spill milk on one of the children. Sousuke's brow furrows a bit when Ai huffs about how he can't get one of the children to eat lunch. And he smiles when Ai gushes about being able to teach Nagisa and Rei's daughter Akio. Sousuke doesn't quite say anything, but he doesn't quite need to. He never has. Not in these moments.
He'll tease Ai when the time is right. He'll let a lazy smile take hold of his features as he goes on about Ai letting some of his little pre-schoolers harbor sappy little crushes on him. He'll fake grumble about it and grin over his shoulder as he pretends to give the silent treatment. But there is an unspoken need for this time of the say when he listens to Ai. It is like music to him.
“Sou-chan and Ai-chan!” You can tell they are a couple from the way Nagisa puts their names together. It seemed to roll off of his tongue as he jumped from his seat to greet him. “And Rin-chan? I didn't know Rin-chan was coming!”
Next to him Rei made a panicky noise in the back of his throat. “But Nagisa, Makoto told you Rin was going to be here with them.” But in the end Rei could only smile when he was waved off by Nagisa who made his way across the restaurant to greet them. It’s only a couple strides. Even with Nagisa's height. They have a table reserved in the middle of the room. Technically it seemed to be about three tables pushed together, but it looked to be able to fit all of them.
Aiichirou mentioned Gou and Seijirou not being about to make it and Momo would only be there if he could find a date, which was becoming more and more difficult for him. He'd been through what seemed to be every girl in Iwatobi.
“Nagisa-kun!” Ai stumbled back when Nagisa went in to a hug a bit to quickly, both scaring and startling the boy who was now a good couple of inches taller than him. Ai had always been a bit awkward to fit into anyone's embrace. It only seemed to work for Sousuke because it seemed as if anyone could get lost in Sousuke's arms, even though they were reserved especially for Ai.
“Your here!” Makoto appeared at the table a second later. Followed by Haruka.
It was then that Rin realized, one, Haru is wearing his casual, okay maybe slightly dressy, clothes. And two, the entire restaurant, with the exception of the the seven friends, is empty.
“Hey, not getting a whole lotta business are you, Haru?” Rin hummed.
A deadpan look crosses Haruka's face. “I closed the restaurant for this.”
Rin's hand went up to rub the back of his neck as Haruka's glare heightened in intensity.
It didn't take long for the seven of them to settle into their usual order around the table. Haruka and Makoto glued themselves together at one end of the table with Haru observing the rest of the group, chewing what seemed like the same piece of mackerel throughout the whole evening, while Makoto chatted happily with Sousuke, who was next to him, about the kids on their volunteer swimming class. Next to Sousuke was Ai, who was being tugged away by Nagisa. The space between the couple would grow larger and larger until one of them realized it was there. Usually it would be Ai while he was reaching over to steal from Sousuke's mountain of food, but sometimes Sousuke would nonchalantly glance over and the whole table would see him as he would start to peel Nagisa off of Ai as if it was the most natural thing in the world. He wouldn't even stop talking to whoever he had been talking to. Naturally Rei was next to Nagisa, fretting over the situation. And as it would seem, this time, Rin found himself in between Haru and Rei. He moved around quite a bit. Ar their last gathering he has been between Seijirou and Rei. The one before he was between Sousuke and Makoto. He didn't dare squeeze in between one of the couples, never tried to. Or maybe never given the chance. Rin wasn't quite sure.
Today, Rin could hear Nagisa and Ai's conversation above the rest. Mostly because the only other people talking were Sousuke and Makoto. And Sousuke looked as if he was paying more attention to Ai then Makoto.
“I told Rei to leave her with the sitter, Ai! She'd probably throw a fit anyways. She doesn't like
fish.” Nagisa chuckled, obviously feeling Haruka's laser-like glare directed straight at him.
“Aw! But Nagisa-kun, I wouldn't mind. I need to be able to calm her down anyways if she'd going to be in my class!” Ai pouted, ignoring the fact that everyone else had ears for their conversation.
“Oh, Aiichirou-san! If Aki starts to cry you can just call me,” Rei cut in leaning over Ai's shoulder. “We wouldn't want to burden you when you have so many other kids to look after!”
“Uh-uh, Rei-kun,” Ai shook his head back and forth. “I couldn't do that. Looking after kids is my job! And I just love Akio-chan anyways!”
As if anyone didn't see it. Everyone loved Akio, even Gou's little boy who was a year her junior, but Ai dotted over her the most. Cooed over her the most. Asked Nagisa about her the most. Everyone saw it. And everyone saw Sousuke while he watched Ai dote, coo and ask. He had the look. Rin wondered if he had talked to Rei about adoption agencies yet.
The night went on. Rin talked to Rei -- some conversation that he found himself wanting out of about three seconds into. He talked across the table to Makoto about how they got another cat. Another conversation that Rin wasn't quite sure he was too into. About half way through the conversation Sousuke joined saying he and Ai were looking at an adult dog at the shelter.
Later on Rin talked to Nagisa about something, he can't quite remember what it was about. Rin just remembers watching Nagisa's eyes wander away from him, until he isn't even answering anymore. And Rin only went on a bit longer before Nagisa nearly jumped from his seat in exclamation.
“Ai-chan got a new ring!” He belted out, interrupting all other conversation.
Aiichirou, who had been in some sort of conversation with Makoto, found himself defensively bringing his left hand closer to his body. “Oh,” He said quietly when he realized that Nagisa was right while blinking down at his finger. “Right.”
Ai and Sousuke had kept matching rings since Rin had first left for the Olympics with Sousuke. A kind of promise of sorts. A tradition they had adopted from both Nagisa and Rei and Makoto and Haru who had both started early in college. They had gotten new rings once or twice before. A little after Sousuke got back to Japan from the Olympics with Rin. Three years ago when they had decided to invest in something more than just a little band of silver. The Ai wore after that was a shiny fourteen carat gold ring, designed with detailed strands of metal that accented a medium sized gem that was nothing special. The beauty was in the frame and not the stone. Sousuke had stuck with a gold band. Neither of them were worth thousands of dollars, but they both wore them constantly.
The ring Ai was wearing now was not gold, at least not that Rin could see. Briefly he noted in the back of his mind that it could be platinum. But it was even more simplistic than the last. Just a single band with three of the same color stones set in the middle.
“Did you get a new one too, Sousuke-san?” Rei asked, eying Sousuke's hand.
Rin could see the heat creeping up Sousuke's neck. He wasn't sure if it was the two bottles of beer he had had or just that he felt as if he was put in the spotlight. “Ah, no.. I mean well.. It's not a promise ring anymore, so..” Sousuke murmured as he reached up the rub the back of his neck.
“We meant to tell you all!” Aiichirou squeezed the ring, still on his ring finger, between his index and thumb. “It just didn't quite come up.”
There was a thick swampy silence that fell over the room before the congradulations began to roll in. The wow's and good luck's and then finally the When did you pop the question? Asked my Haruka who had seemed uninterested until that moment.
“A while ago.” Sousuke muttered under his breath at the same time Ai chirped. “Not long ago!”
There's another brief silence before Makoto's low giggle fills the room. “Well,” His large hand clapped onto Sousuke's shoulder. “When? Where?”
“We haven't really looked that far ahead.” Aiichirou's eyes were plastered on the ring as he came up with a not-so answer.
“Well, before the others were just a promise to say together, right?” Sousuke's eyes wandered to the ring too. “So this is more of a promise that we'll get married. It won't be right away.”
“Boo on you guys! That's no fun!” Nagisa huffed.
“Nagisa that's rude!”
The conversation when on and eventually changed subject after some talk about the road to same sex marriage in Japan and some unofficial wedding planning. But Rin only nodded as their voices became a faint melody that he could only hear and not understand.
It shouldn't have been a shock to him. Some odd amount of weeks back Sousuke had talked to him about getting married to Ai. And the week after wards he had gone out looking for a ring. Rin wasn't quite bright enough to put the two together.
It shouldn't have bothered him either, but it just made everything seem so real. So blindingly real that Rin made it a point to not look at them as he ate. It wasn't jealousy that pitted it's self into his stomach. Or so that's what he told himself. And maybe it wasn't. Rin just knew that he found himself thinking.
Would it have ever worked with Rin substituted for one of them?
How many times had Rin seen Sousuke stare at him for a second too long in high school. How many chances had he been given to tug at his sleeve and tell him that he was there for him. To be with him. Would he have been able to take complete hold of Sousuke's heart and not let it go in the way Ai seemed to have done effortlessly today?
And how many times had Rin slept in the bunk below Ai's. His whole second year of high school. Throughout that year Ai had not just slept above Rin. He had lived at his side. He'd even made sure to have all his extra curricular classes with him and always sat in the seat next to him. It hadn't taken Rin so long to understand exactly who Ai's feelings belonged to.
It wasn't until about forty five minutes after the announcement that Rin finally found himself glancing up the the two. Most everyone else had been engrossed in they're own conversation at the moment. Sousuke was talking to Rei about Nagisa with their toddler, when Aiichirou had begun to transfer the water chestnuts from the his stir fry onto Sousuke's plate one by one. It wasn't until Ai had started taking Sousuke'd shrimp that he started to pay attention.
“Ai.” Sousuke's tone was on the edge of accusative, but Rin could see the amusement dancing behind his eyes.
“Well, you like water chestnuts and you know I like shrimp. So we can trade, right?” Aiichirou's voice feigned innocence. He was good at acting it too. Rin wasn't sure if everyone at the table could see the undertones of smugness that highlighted his face.
Sousuke stifled a chuckle as he reached over onto Ai's place and grasped one of the smaller shrimp between his chopsticks. “But you know I like shrimp, too.” He said as he placed the shrimp in is mouth. “I like shrimp more than I like water chestnut.”
The innocence didn't leave Ai's face. “But this way we'll both be happy!”
Sousuke was still chewing when Ai reached over to grab another one of his shrimp. “Hey! You little.” Everyone at the talbe could see he was trying his best the seem angry. Trying to hold back the laugh bubbling his his throat. And everyone could see him failing.
Ai made no effort to conceal his giggles as he popped little fried morsel into his mouth. “You can't take that one back!”
A halfhearted growl rose in Sousuke's throat. “I could,” The corners of his lips quirked. “I still can.”
This time the giggles subsided. “You wouldn't..!!” Ai's cheeks went flush.
“Hmm.” Sousuke hummed in victory, but didn't move to take any of his shrimp back. His eyes just lowered as he went to pick up one of the water chestnuts Ai had dropped onto his plate. He purposefully nudged Ai's shoulder with his own in the process. They shared a brief glance before a giggle erupted in Ai's throat as he reached for one of the many shrimp on his plate. His smugness was showing through a bit more now.
Next to Rin, Haruka was chuckling. “He's got Sousuke whipped, huh?” He said flashing Rin a sideways glance.
Rin nodded. “Sure does.” He murmured a couple seconds later, but by then other conversations were blossoming again behind him. Aiichirou and Sousuke where still pressed close together, shoulder to shoulder, although they were in different conversations now. Nagisa and Rei in the same conversation with Ai, with Rei practically hovering over Nagisa's shoulder. Haru strayed quiet, while he observed others, just as Rin did, but with his hand attached to the hem of Makoto's shirt, while he talked to Sousuke.
In the mists of the happy couples around him. Rin didn't feel quite so lonely. Even though he was, in a sense, the seventh wheel. He had the answer to the questions he had been contentiously asking himself all day. He'd had the answer for a while now.
Rin could never be happy with one of them as they were with each other. He couldn't be a substitute. Couldn't give them the happiness they had now. But he could find that happiness. Not with any of them, but the very fact that they all have someone as perfect for them as the person sitting next to him means that there's someone like that for Rin too.
Rin reached for his beer and smiled as he took a sip.
“What's got you all smiley?” Sousuke's eye furrowed as he chuckled at Rin reaching for his own beer. “You aren't drunk already are you?”
“Sousuke!” Ai piped up, tugging at his arm.
Nagisa began to giggle. “No, Rin-chan's not drunk. He's just being creepy!”
“Nagisa!” Rei nearly mimicked Aiichirou as he bristled in embarrassment.
“Are you getting sick?” Makoto asked leaning over to look around Haru to look at Rin's face.
“Why would he be sick, Makoto? He was just smiling.”
Rin found himself chuckling a little. Maybe he was a little tipsy because he could feel the heat raising to his face from all the attention. It wasn't a bad feeling. He was still loved. He knew that he was still loved. And that mattered a lot.