The love that Izumi feels for Ritsu is fierce and passionate: a burning in the pit of his stomach that threatens to overwhelm him even in the quietest of moments. A passion that, although he knows Ritsu will never reciprocate, burns brighter the longer he keeps it from his friends, and returns with a vengeance during the times he tries to deceive himself. The longer the time he spends away from Japan, apart from his unit, and away from the mess of his feelings is almost liberating. He almost feels as though he is free from his feelings. Almost. The first day is always the worst. He wastes no time in his schedule and arrives at practice almost as soon as he's landed in Japan, his jetlag not yet able to take root in his exhausted mind. But to see Ritsu again, unchanged and listless and perfect is both a gift to his soul and a stab through his heart. Izumi sometimes arrives too early: he sees the Ritsu that clings to Mao and voices his utter adoration to the readhead, and Mao, being either too stupid or dense or both , clearly doesn't understand the gift he's been given. But Izumi does, and all he's capable of doing is watching from the sidelines, giving veiled encouragement which, after all these years, is barely veiled at all. He watches, and learns, and loves.
Izumi is like a ray of sunshine in Ritsu's darkened world, the moment Ritsu lays his eyes on him he feels a weight lift from his heart. Izumi makes him feel like he wants to do things, that he wants to succeed, even if it's just so he can hear the rare words of praise from Izumi. But they are indeed rare, and rarer still are the looks that Ritsu wants from Izumi aimed at him. But of course, Ritsu cannot compare to Leo: perfect, genius Leo, who lights up everyone's world, but especially Izumi's. Ritsu wants to be jealous, he curls into his bed and imagines how his life would be if he could be the one to encourage Izumi, to push him further and further towards his goals in the way Leo does. But it's impossible: Leo is Leo, and Ritsu can never compare with him. So instead he shares his sorrow with Mao, who listens and shares in Ritsu's woe, as he always has and always will. Ritsu loves Mao, of course he does: Mao has been with him through most of the important parts of his life, but they both know it could never be a romantic bond between the two of them. But still, as Ritsu drapes himself over Mao and confesses all his inner thoughts, there is a warmth in their bond that Ritsu will forever be grateful for.
Although, Ritsu could never believe one of his many chats with Mao would be the catalyst to his life changing. It was innocuous and simple: Izumi was not due to arrive at the New Dimension building for at least another hour, so Ritsu drags Mao from his own agency building to simply recharge and air his melancholy of the day. He knows Mao doesn't mind, after all, he's listened to his own fair share of Mao's complaints, but today Ritsu is feeling particularly sorrowful. He seats himself next to Mao, his head resting comfortably in his lap, Mao's fingers gliding gently through Ritsu's hair.
"Ricchan, one of these days you're gonna have to go through with telling him how you feel, you can't keep chickening out and running to me at the last minute."
"Maakun, don't be mean~ You know how scary Secchan can be, isn't it terrifying being in the same dorm as him?"
"Not really, we don't talk too much and he only really knows me as 'Kuma-kun's Mao.' The longer you put this off, the worse you're gonna feel, Ricchan."
"Hmm~ I need to catch him in a good mood then, when he's not been thinking about Tsukipi all day~"
"Isn't today the best day for that then? You said yourself that Tsukinaga-senpai won't be at your lesson today so maybe he won't be thinking about him as much?"
"Maakun you're so smart~ He's been so busy today that maybe he hasn't had time to think about anything. I'll maybe ask him after my nap in our lesson~"
"He's going to scold you for sleeping again, Ricchan. Seriously, of all the people for you to fall in love with, it had to be Sena-senpai, didn't it?"
"Mmhm~ It's not my fault, I tried to fall in love with Maakun but Secchan stole my heart from you~"
Izumi, having arrived at the Agency's building far earlier than he expected, hears everything. He sees the two boys freeze but doesn't give Ritsu enough time to sit up before he turns on his heels and walks briskly towards the Building itself, deciding to make a beeline directly for the practice room. His heart is in his throat: how much of that can he trust? Did they already know he was there and just wanted to make fun of him? He was fairly certain that wasn't the case but it hurts his heart to consider the alternative: that Ritsu loves him. Perfect, beautiful, ethereal Ritsu loves him. He stops for a moment in the Agency lobby and shoots off a text to Arashi and Tsukasa to cancel their lesson since he wasn't going to be attending. He knew he would never be able to concentrate in this state, with his head and heart so full of turmoil, but he still heads to the practice room. They’d booked it after all, and he knew it would be a place that no one would disturb him whilst he sorted his thoughts out, as turbulent as they are. He moves straight to the practice room and shuts the door behind him, willing himself to calm down and collect his thoughts. He chooses a spot by the wall and slides down to the floor, and tries to calm himself down. There was no way that was true, so he simply needed to forget he’d heard anything and collect himself ready for their unit meeting later that day. He’s a master at masking his emotions when he needs to, so he simply has to will himself to get over the initial shock and just… act normal.
He’s been lost in his own thoughts for a few minutes, when suddenly he hears the practice room door open quietly.
“Natchan said you’d cancelled practice but I thought you’d still come here, Secchan~”
Izumi inhales a breath as he looks towards the door, Ritsu smiling warmly down at him, and he feels his heart constrict. He’s not ready to see Ritsu yet, but he tries to keep his face as neutral as possible.
“Why did you come after me, Kuma-kun? So annoying…”
Ritsu frowns and Izumi feels another pang at his heart. Stupid, beautiful Ritsu.
“I just wanted to tell you that you can ignore that conversation between me and Maakun, if it makes you uncomfortable at all~ I know how you feel about Tsukipi so you can forget that conversation ever happened~”
Uncomfortable , what? Izumi’s mind raced, there are so many possibilities for what Ritsu means, but he needs to make sure. “Kuma-kun... Did you mean what you said?”
In the middle of moving to sit next to Izumi, Ritsu freezes at the question, a guilty look flashing across his face before his usual listless expression returns. “What do you mean, Secchan?”
Izumi reaches out to grab Ritsu’s arm and pull him down to the floor, forcing him to kneel in front of Izumi. He keeps a tight grip on Ritsu’s arm as he struggles to force out the words. “Did you mean what you said? Do you… love me?”
Ritsu’s cheeks flush with the slightest tinge of pink as he carefully avoids Izumi’s gaze. “Like I said, you can ignore that conversation~”
Izumi refuses to budge, though, and keeps his hand clamped around Ritsu’s arm, not letting him pull away.
Ritsu sighs. and finally meets Izumi’s eyes. “Yes, Secchan, I fell in love with you. But you don’t have to worry, it hasn’t affected me for any of Knights’ activities, and won’t affect me in the future. You can carry on loving Tsukipi without having to worry about me~”
“Ou-sama…. You think I love Ou-sama? You’re such an idiot.” Izumi yanks on Ritsu’s arm and pulls him forward, wrapping his arms around Ritsu’s shoulders as he falls forward. “You’re the one I love, Kuma-kun, you annoying idiot. ”
Ritsu struggles against his grip and pulls back, trying to level his gaze with Izumi’s to minimal success. Izumi’s hold on him is firm, and Ritsu can’t help but feel his cheeks heat up even more. “You don’t have to pretend, Secchhan, I can handle rejection just fine~”
Izumi laughs curtly in Ritsu’s ear and places his hands on the other’s shoulders, pushing him away slightly so their faces are inches apart. “Have you ever known me to lie about my feelings, Kuma-kun? So annoying.” Izumi leans in slowly, giving Ritsu enough time to react if he needs to, and with no resistance presses their lips together in a gesture that seems far too sweet for one Izumi Sena. Ritsu’s lips are soft and pliant, and Izumi is assured that, in that moment, his true feelings are fully recieved.
“I love you, Kuma-kun, but you’re an idiot. A lovely, beautiful, perfect, annoying idiot.”