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Mending Fences

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Masamune frowned when he felt a warm beam of sunlight fall over his face, shadows flitting in and out behind his eyelids as his curtain ruffled in a morning breeze. He shifted onto his side with a groan, draping all available appendages he had access to at the moment over his bedmate and pulling up close behind him, spooning their bodies together and breathing in deep at the base of his neck. “Morning.”

Onodera had been up for a good hour tossing and turning, as if passive-aggressively reminding Masamune that his bed was much more comfortable (a lie, blasphemous even; pocket coils were the only acceptable mattress out there) but really only serving to remind him that he actually had a bedmate at the moment, a very awake, very desirable one, and Masamune found himself wondering of Onodera hadn't been doing it more on purpose than he realized.

Pulling away abruptly, Onodera snorted, "That tickles--stop it," and tried to disentangle himself from Masamune's grip, but it was the morning after the evening following finally getting Kanade-sensei's first project off to the printers--fruits of a long, tortuous journey that he was hardly sad to see finished--and he'd sworn off any intimate encounters (save solo ones) until he'd signed off on the final sheet. Now--he was intent on catching up on lost time.

But Onodera was having none of it, and just as Masamune had started snaking his free hand slowly down Onodera's side, gently massaging as he went and pressing soft kisses at the nape of his neck, Onodera groaned his annoyance and promptly rolled off the side of the bed to escape. "O--oi, what the hell are you doing?"

Rising elegantly and turning around to protect his decency, Onodera began piecing through the clothing scattered about the bed, trying to pick his own from among Masamune's. He finally managed to find his briefs and toed them on, wobbling precariously on one leg as he did so. "Just cause you're not due in until the afternoon doesn't mean I get the same luxury."

"Mmm, yet another reason you should come work for me. As your boss, I'd be more than happy to grant you a long morning now and then." He rolled onto his side and propped himself up on one elbow, watching Onodera slip on his pants; how he could manage to be cute just buttoning his fly was beyond Masamune, but his heart still did a little flip watching the man lazily piecing himself back together, standing barefoot at the edge of Masamune's bed with his chest still pockmarked with lovebites he'd have a hard time explaining away. He wondered idly what that Saeki-san would say; they needed to go out drinking again, as he had discovered it was quite a bit more fun to tease Onodera with an audience than just alone.

Life always seemed to pass Masamune by, weeks flowing seamlessly into months and on to years, but Onodera had proven staggeringly effective in drawing Masamune into a lull, holding him until their days turned lazy and lethargic and their nights long and luxuriant, until the usually gung-ho Masamune found himself dreading the morning sun (or afternoon, as it were) because invariably one or the other's schedule would pull him away and set them on their own paths for the next eight to ten hours.

It was just--he wasn't used to this, to really indulging in a relationship and enjoying these first few weeks of fun and frivolity; everything had always been needy and desperate and just because, always a distraction from work or because he was drunk enough and they were attractive enough and maybe, maybe if he slept with enough people, if he tried to convince himself that first loves were never the strongest or most enduring, maybe he'd eventually believe it, maybe Ritsu would leave him in peace.

That that same Ritsu was presently pulling off a sock he'd just realized was not his own and was still trying to find the undershirt Masamune knew had been kicked under the bed in their haste the night before was…well, he didn't like to throw around words like miracle or fate or any of the other garbage he had to stare at all day at work. But then, maybe it was, just a little.

Rolling onto his back and stretching to wake himself up more, Masamune contented himself with watching Onodera putter about the room for a few silent moments before the man finally caught him watching and snapped, without much bite, "What?"

"Nothing," he practically sang in return, lips quirking up at their sides. Onodera hadn't changed nearly as much as Masamune had initially thought; he just was a lot more direct in making his discomfort known. Where before he would've just flushed pathetically under Masamune's gaze, letting his nerves build up inside until he couldn't bear it anymore and made efforts to physically remove himself from Masamune's presence, now he just snapped chastising comments like keep your eyes on your work, idiot and not while I'm cooking--the stir-fry'll burn! and (Masamune's favorite) you're a pervert because really, even he had to admit he got a little carried away--but ten years apart from the only person you'd ever really loved did that to a guy.

By now, Onodera had managed to find most of his clothes and was more or less decent, buckling his belt and trying to keep a frown on his features when he clearly wanted to blush and smile goofily and roll his eyes all at once. "You're weird. Why're you staring at me?"

Masamune just shrugged. "Cause I can." Really, it was all the excuse he needed anymore.

Onodera finally decided to go the "roll your eyes" route and scoffed at Masamune's perceived sentimentality, fighting a flush while he checked himself in the mirror. "You'll be back late, I guess?" He caught Masamune's eye in the mirror, brows raised in question.

Rubbing his face and flopping back against the pillows, Masamune grunted his ambivalent reply. "Depends." He'd bought himself a bit of leeway by rushing to get the materials to the printers the previous day, but he could never afford to rest for too long on his laurels. Cocking his head to the side with a grin, he pressed, "Gonna miss me?"

Onodera gave him an even glance, treading close to a glare. "I won't miss you fishing for compliments." He tossed his jacket over one arm and reached for the door handle--but was held back when Masamune shot an arm out and grabbed him by the wrist, dragging him back until he toppled onto the bed. "Oi I've gotta go get ready for--"

Masamune held his wrists fast to the bed, leaning over and staring down in triumph. "I'll be back by ten. Promise."

"Whatever--you could've just texted me later. I'm seriously going to be late if I don't--"

"We could shower together?" And now he'd lowered himself a bit to where their noses were almost touching--he could feel the heat from Onodera's blush this close.

Onodera coughed softly, reminding him, "And that wouldn't make me even more late than I already am?" But the bite was again absent, and he hesitated only a moment before tentatively lifting his head and cocking it to the side to tempt Masamune to close the distance, which he did eagerly. Onodera let the lazy kiss continue for longer than Masamune had hoped, and he'd just started to entertain the idea that perhaps he'd convinced the guy to punch in twenty minutes late--when he felt two hands leveraged against his chest and shoving him off. "Off, off--I'm having enough trouble getting out of here already…"

There was a comment perched on Masamune's lips about how it'd be simpler if they just moved into one of the more spacious 1LDKs on the floor above instead of trading off sleeping in each other's apartments every other night (or at least that was the idea; but Masamune's bed was more spacious and he was a better cook)--but Onodera just ruffled a hand through his hair as his goodbye and slipped out the door, calling out from the living room as he headed to the door, "I'm making curry udon tonight."

The door slammed shut before he could respond, and Masamune slumped back on the bed, rolling over and pulling the pillow Onodera had slept on to his face, breathing in the fading scent. It was the most ridiculously domestic situation he'd ever been in, embarrassing when he thought about it--but he'd honestly never been happier.


Mostly because he knew it would irritate Onodera if he knew, Masamune drifted back to sleep, sprawled across the full width of his bed like a grade-schooler, and managed another hour of sleep before he was roused by a text message, his phone on his nightstand beeping and vibrating incessantly for his attention.

He rolled onto his back, eyes still shut, and felt around blindly with one hand until his fingers finally brushed across it, flipping it open on instinct. He blinked a few times to force his vision to focus, squinting until the lines settled into familiar patterns.

"Kohinata…An?" Who the fuck was that? Spam? He scanned the text body quickly and caught words like Ricchan and back in Tokyo and can we meet up? before his bleary mind surmised that it was not in fact spam but a legitimate message--about the same time he realized the display looked funny, and wasn't his phone blue, not gray?

Oh--Onodera. He must've left his phone on the nightstand and forgotten it. Masamune craned his head and recognized his own next to where he'd grabbed the one he currently held. He glanced back at the message, frowning and rereading it before his better senses told him it wasn't polite to read other people's private emails.

Kohinata An. Obviously someone close to Onodera--close enough to call him Ricchan (but then, even Saeki-san called him that occasionally, though more to tease him)--a sister, married perhaps? Or maybe a cousin, visiting from up north? His throat constricted as he realized he was trying to explain away messages from likely innocent sources because he felt threatened--when Onodera had never given him reason to believe he should feel that way.

Except he had; not directly, but he had.

And then he remembered the news that had come as more of a kick to the gut than that his little kouhai crush had run off to study abroad without a word: fiancee.

He snapped the phone shut and tossed it to the other side of the bed, turning onto his side and burying his head in the pillow, eyes half-lidded as he felt a wave of lethargy wash over him. It could still be a sister, or a cousin, or an aunt or former co-worker or author he'd managed before or anything. And yet now that he'd buried the seed of doubt in his head, it was all he could think about.

Fuck he'd just gotten Onodera--Ritsu--back, they'd just started to get to know one another (and shouldn't that have been a topic of conversation before now?!), they'd just started being happy again, and Masamune had entertained these grand ideas like now that they'd reconnected, that they were more mature and more stable than before, whatever had happened before wouldn't happen again, they'd make it work this time.

He glared at the cell phone over his pillow, as if all of his problems now stemmed from it. Technology could be such a bitch.

He rolled out of bed and slipped into some sweat pants and a wife beater--just enough to be decent--and snatched up the phone, out the door and leaning on Onodera's doorbell within moments. After a few more presses just to amuse himself, he rapped loudly on the door until Onodera finally obliged him with complaints already on his lips. "You're not being a very good neighbor, Takano-san. I'm going to report you to building management." His hair was wet and sticking up in places and he smelled clean and fresh, like soap--he'd obviously just stepped out of the shower.

"Well you aren't being a very good bed partner, so we're even." He pressed the phone into Onodera's hands. "You forgot this, idiot."

"Ah--" He flushed in recognition, quickly stuffing it in his pocket. "Thanks…"

Masamune just hmmed evenly and brushed away a few hairs that were hanging in Onodera's eyes. "I like my curry spicy, just so you know."

"I know," Onodera responded with an eyeroll. "Goodbye." And he started to shut the door in Masamune's face--but Masamune's hand shot up to hold it, prompting Onodera to question with a scowl tinged with worry, "…What?"

Masamune's mouth opened and closed a few times in succession, but no words came out--not surprising, given the state of confusion his mind was in. He settled on, "Don't skimp and do that instant crap like you tried last week," and this time Onodera did shut the door in his face.


Work was work, just as it always was; Onodera or no, little had changed in the editing offices of Emerald at Marukawa Shoten, and one would be hard pressed to tell that their editor-in-chief had any cause to have a spring in his step given the unchanging harsh attitude his editors suffered under. Hatori had given him a raised eyebrow once or twice when he'd caught him smiling with more affection than dry amusement at an idle text Onodera had sent, and Mino's squinty smile seemed to have gotten just the tiniest bit more knowing, if that were even possible. But aside from that, no one seemed to know or care who Masamune was sleeping with, if anyone.

Well, almost no one.

Yokozawa took a long draw in his cigarette. "You certainly took your time getting here this morning."

Masamune shrugged, tapping off the ash against the bin. "I had a late night; I'm allowed to take it easy after working my ass off to meet a deadline for the first time in a while. It's a wonder I'm here at all even."

He could feel Yokozawa eyeing him warily, picking apart his excuse. "I'm also under the impression that having someone else in bed can make it hard to drag yourself into the waking world, too."

Feigning disinterest, Masamune just pulled out his phone and started checking messages that didn't exist. "I guess so."

"You can fool the idiots working for you, but I know you better than anyone." Which was unfortunately true; and while Masamune had no intention of directly lying to Yokozawa, there were…reasons he hadn't been very upfront with his best friend for the past couple of months on this subject.

Yokozawa had been the one constant in his life for the past ten years--well, the one constant that didn't ache when he thought about it, at least--and he was convinced there was no amount of thanking he could ever do to fully express his gratitude for the guy not dropping him back on his ass for all the shit he'd done at university, how horrible a friend he'd been, how immature he'd acted in the wake of everything falling down around him. But Yokozawa, always even, never asked anything of him in return, simply pressed him to go out drinking now and then and brought around the cat when Masamune got too involved in work. It was no exaggeration to say that Masamune had no idea what sort of person he'd be like today without Yokozawa there dragging him forcefully along, and he would never let that fact go unremembered.

And yet, there still remained bits of himself, parts of his past, that he'd made peace with or worked to forget and just didn't want to bring up again. Still further was the fact that Yokozawa was a harsh man who always spoke his mind, and Masamune was--sure, a little scared, worried really…about what he'd say if he knew who was responsible for these late mornings. He wouldn't judge Masamune for feeling the way he did--but he would judge the object of those feelings, viciously. It was a defense mechanism, he supposed; hell, even Masamune had been more than a little pissed when the truth had come to light, and he liked to think he was a relatively even guy outside of work, letting little get under his skin.

No, Yokozawa wouldn't let Onodera's true identity go quite as easily as Masamune had, and he could hardly be blamed. But for that reason, Masamune wanted to let this play out longer, wanted to enjoy their time together just a little more without Yokozawa hovering over them. He'd earned it, he figured, after all these years spent waiting for a chance he never thought he'd have. Yokozawa could pace and prowl and try to prise the truth from Masamune, but he would simply take a long draw on his cigarette and let the guy stew.

Of course, shutting out the only person in the world who could possibly understand his situation left him with a grand total of zero people in whom to confide, and given that he'd been more on-edge than usual the entire afternoon and evening, Masamune suspected this was not the wisest choice. But opening up to Yokozawa about the events of the past few weeks and months only to subsequently start moaning about the morning's text would…not endear Onodera to Yokozawa in the least, and he needed advice and a comforting voice reminding him that Onodera was no more the two-timing type than Ritsu had been, that there had to be a good explanation, and anything Yokozawa unleashed during such a conversation would likely only amount to a glorified, "I told you so."


Dinner was enjoyed with little fanfare, a comfortable silence settling across the little table, and any conversation either attempted to start quickly died down between bites, until they both just stopped trying and finished their meal.

It wasn’t tense so much as...Masamune’s mind was elsewhere, and either Onodera’s was as well or he’d just caught onto Masamune’s disinterest in talking just now, letting him work out his problems himself. Except that wasn’t a very wise move, as Masamune had been attempting to do just that all day, and each successive review of his concerns and potential courses of action just mired him deeper in confusion. Onodera eventually offered to take their dishes to the sink, if they were done, and Masamune thanked him politely for the meal, a pang of guilt punching through him when he realized that Onodera had probably been hoping for more conversation and company than Masamune’s blind gratitude for dinner.

He rose, pushing out his chair and following Onodera silently into the kitchen, bracing his hands against Onodera’s hips after the bowls were safely settled into the sink to soak and guiding him around to face Masamune properly. He leaned forward, ignoring the hand Onodera had instinctively brought to his chest to keep them apart. “Sorry, I’ve been kinda distracted.”

Onodera pressed himself back against the edge of the counter, trying to place some distance between them, and glanced off to the side. He very obviously didn’t like seeming like he was offended or pouting, even if he was entitled to feel that way. He could be so obliging sometimes, even if he tried to pretend at being prickly and stubborn while he was doing so. Masamune had thought the Ritsu who would do anything for Saga-sempai, anything to make him happy, anything to keep from being a nuisance, was gone--but no, he’d just evolved into Onodera, and it made the pursuit all the more rewarding for it.

“I...need to do the dishes,” he mumbled, an excuse he’d conjured up just so he could convince himself he hadn’t let himself get swept away like Masamune was intent on doing.

“Pretty sure they can wait,” Masamune reminded him, nuzzling lightly against his cheek and pressing himself against Onodera’s hip while he snaked a hand under the hem of his shirt, fingers skittering along the sensitive bare skin of his abodomen. “I, however, can’t.”

He could feel Onodera smile against his lips, tilting his head just to the side to breathe against him as he looped his arms around Masamune’s neck, rubbing circles at the base. “Pervert.”

“I’m just making up for ten years’ lost time is all. We have a lot to catch up on.” He ground against Onodera’s hip, breath shuddering at the sensation as he worked himself up to the task. “Plus yeah, I’m kind of a pervert for you.”

Onodera actually laughed out loud, slapping his free hand over his mouth quickly to stifle the nose, and Masamune brushed it away, covering Onodera’s mouth with his own and enjoying a lazy, deep kiss while his hands worked at the snaps to Onodera’s pants. He’d just managed to work his fingers under the hem to push the pants down when Onodera grunted against his lips and turned his head to the side, warning, “Not in my kitchen, geez...”

That was as good an invitation as any, and Masamune let himself be pushed away, heart flip-flopping in his chest when Onodera grabbed the hem of his shirt and headed towards the bedroom on jelly legs with Masamune in tow. It was still surreal, even after all that they’d done; it felt like they’d more just...closed up that chapter of their lives before, tried to move on and start anew--and maybe that was all fine and good for Onodera, but Masamune still reveled in the idea that he had Ritsu back, a new-and-improved model even, one that could look him in the eye and argue with him without being reduced to babbled apologies for raising his voice, a Ritsu who dragged Masamune to bed rather than waiting to be pushed there (even if he did still throw out protests now and then).

He let Onodera attend to the rest of his disrobing while Masamune removed his own clothes at lightspeed, shucking his undergarments in one swoop with his shirt and pants and not waiting for permission before backing Onodera against his bed, smirking in the low light when he overbalanced and fell backwards onto the bed as Masamune straddled him. “Impatient much?” he grumbled, but Masamune could feel from the heat radiating off of him that he wasn’t complaining about the speed with which things were progressing tonight.

Which was good, because just now Masamune wasn’t entirely sure he could trust himself to be gentle this once. Not that Onodera ever asked for gentle, but it was nice to draw this out, make it long and memorable until their touches were burned into each other’s skin, following them throughout the next day until they could come together again.

Tonight, though, Masamune felt desperation clutching cold fingers around his heart, and he sought to melt it away with Onodera’s heat, taking him in every way possible and marking him for Masamune’s own. He’d never felt possessive before, but with each brush of fingers along bare skin, the tickle of sweat dripping down his brow, the tight heat, constricting and releasing with each successive thrust, he kept hearing some melodic voice singing out Ricchan, pulling Onodera further away such that Masamune had to physically hold on to keep him from disappearing.

He felt Onodera’s hands against his back, palms splayed out wide and fingers pressing tight over his skin as Masamune’s thrusts grew long and slow but pressed even deeper, jarring in intensity. “Taka...no-san...ah...!” His voice was raspy and choked, broken with rhythmic cries as he struggled to keep his wits about him.

Masamune,” he breathed against Onodera’s neck, voice muffled in the crook but deep and serious and pleading. He would do everything he could to tear down all the barriers between them--real or imagined, whether erected by society or family or propriety or whatever--and this one simple act was the first step.

Whether he actually understood the request or just repeated the only words he could with his mind wracked with pleasure, Onodera complied and tightened his grip around Masamune’s chest, whispering against his ear, “Masa...mune...”

“Ritsu...” he replied in turn, and picked up the pace of his thrusts, eager to reach his climax and just hold Onodera until this ugly feeling of need and desperation passed, until they could just be themselves again and not have to worry about anything outside of 1202 or 1201, at least until the sun rose. He pushed himself up and braced his arms on either side of Onodera, shifting his angle just enough to draw a strangled cry of, “Oh fuck,” from Onodera, which was honestly about as hot as hearing his name on those lips, and he smiled despite his dark thoughts, trying to focus on Onodera’s flushed cheeks, the sweat sheening down his neck and chest, his eyes dark and pupils wide with adrenaline, all serving to push Masamune closer and closer to the edge.

Onodera’s hands had moved to grip his biceps, and his fingers dug into the muscle, knuckles white with tension as he let himself go, carried along on Masamune’s climax as the sensations within and without overwhelmed them both.

The room was filled with little more than heavy, labored breathing for several minutes afterward as they struggled to recover from the exertion (perhaps it hadn’t been such a good idea to jump into bed right after eating, Masamune reflected). He could hear Onodera next to him stifling a series of giggles, and let the sound wash over him, infectious. “What?”

“Nothing, just--I think I’ve had more sex in the past ten days than I have in the past ten years...” He let his head flop to the side, trying to focus on Masamune’s face in the dark. “I never pictured myself as the type... You’re a bad influence on me.”

“The worst,” Masamune admitted freely, letting his eyes flutter shut. He didn’t want to go to sleep just yet, but he couldn’t bring himself to look at Onodera just now, couldn’t look at him smiling that goofy smile he remembered from high school, still riding that post-coital high of excitement and relief.

The silence continued for another few minutes, and the sound of their breathing slowly grew longer and less fevered, returning to a normal in-out, in-out, until Masamune half-wondered if Onodera hadn’t fallen asleep himself--but when he opened his eyes, vision half shielded by the pillow he was relaxed against, he found Onodera still watching him with half-lidded eyes, lips curling up at the corners when he realized he’d been caught.

Masamune’s heart lodged in his throat, and before he could stop himself, he was asking in a choked voice, “Who’s ‘Kohinata An’?”

Onodera’s head shot up from the pillow, and his brows knit in concern. His throat bobbed as he swallowed a lump, and after a few tense moments, he managed a raspy, whispered, “...Where did you hear that name?”

Masamune rolled onto his back, unable to bear Onodera’s gaze any longer, and stared up at the ceiling, trying to keep his voice even. “You left your cellphone on my bedside table this morning. I picked it up, thinking it was mine, and she’d just sent you a message.” He closed his eyes, letting the relief of finally getting it out wash over him. “I didn’t mean to look, I just--”

“You read my text messages without my permission?” And Onodera was very definitely pissed, but laughingly enough over the breach of privacy rather than the contents of the message. How like him, to freak out over the wrong things. “I can’t--how could you just--” He sputtered a few more horrified protests before he wore himself out, and just when Masamune thought maybe he could get a word in edgewise, he felt the bed dip and then rise as Onodera rolled out of it with a huff, pacing around the room trying to find his clothes.

“Onodera...” he started pathetically, but the guy didn’t even stiffen, didn’t pause, just toed on his briefs with methodic attention, ignoring Masamune. “...She’s your fiancee, isn’t she?”

And here he did pause, standing straight up and shooting a shocked glare over his still-bare shoulders. “How did...?”

Takano groaned loudly and melted into manic laughter completely devoid of mirth, covering his face with both hands. “Fuck....” Up to that point, he’d managed to retain some hope, deep down, that this was all in his head, that he was completely overreacting and that all that would come of this would be Onodera giving him a much-needed talking-to about invasions of privacy and how they needed to have boundaries in whatever this relationship of theirs was.

But now Onodera had that guilty look on his face again, and wasn’t Masamune supposed to be the one in trouble here? Hadn’t he been in the wrong, poking his nose where it wasn’t supposed to be? He swallowed hard, choosing his words carefully. “It was years ago; when I was still looking for you.” He glanced up and noticed Onodera’s expression shift from frustrated guilt into one of confusion and wonder; had he been under the impression that Masamune hadn’t been devastated by his leaving? That he hadn’t tried to find him? “A guy in one of my cram classes brought it up, it was just coincidence...” He tried to gauge Onodera’s reaction to this explanation by his body language, but the man was silent in every respect. “...I guess I always assumed it was--some family thing, and that you had to--”

“You don’t understand our situation,” Onodera snapped, quite more harshly than Masamune felt merited, and it sounded dangerously close to it’s none of your business, which was ridiculous, as it patently was Masamune’s business seeing as they were sleeping together and--he liked to think--in something resembling a relationship, even if it was just dressed-up friends with benefits.

“Maybe that’s because it was never explained to me,” he groused in response, sitting up in the bed and resting his elbow on his knees as he leaned forward.

He could tell Onodera was flushing, even in the dark, and saw his hands ball into fists at his side, shaking with repressed emotion of some sort or another. “I don’t really want to talk about this right now,” he muttered to himself more than anything, the words almost lost in the dark room, and he reached for the doorknob, but Masamune’s hand shot out and grabbed him by the wrist, holding him in place.

“Don’t run away. Ritsu.”

His voice sounded, even to himself, far away, as if through glass, and he couldn’t honestly tell if he’d really made the plea or if it had been all in his head, a hallucinated manifestation of his mind’s urges. But whether he truly heard Masamune or not, Ritsu still stood fast, staring down at the long fingers wrapped tight around his wrist.

Masamune licked his lips. “...I never thought much of it, you know. I didn’t take you for the two-timing type--” And Ritsu flinched at the backwards accusation, tearing his wrist free and rubbing it defensively.

“It wasn’t like that,” he protested, his tone treading close to the snapped defense from before, and he consciously gentled himself. “It...wasn’t like that, I swear. It’s just something our parents decided. I never intended to go through with it--but they’re old fashioned and think they know what’s best for...our families.” He swallowed and stared at the floor, looking every bit the nervous little first year again. “I really did love you back then. Just you. And I didn’t mean for you to find out--not like this, at least.”

Masamune paused, choosing his words. “...But you’re still engaged even now.”

“I don’t want to marry her, though!” And he sounded so desperate for Masamune to believe him, as if this was all that mattered--intent--and if he’d just been an onlooker rather than a victim of circumstances himself, he might have laughed at the naivete. “An-chan and I, we’re just friends--we’ve known each other all our lives, so of course she still wants to keep in touch with me. But this is something our families decided; we’re not seriously...”

He trailed off when Masamune’s glare turned hard. “You don’t want to marry her, but you’re still engaged.”

Onodera ducked his head guiltily, obviously understanding the implication and how that kind of made him an asshole--tying up the poor girl in a fruitless arranged marriage. But then, Masamune strongly suspected that, while Onodera insisted they neither of them wanted to be part of the process, this An-chan most assuredly didn’t feel the same way, otherwise she probably would’ve taken strides to break it off herself. Which was going to make it even harder on everyone involved in the end, one way or another.

Masamune sighed loudly, sinking back against the pillows and rubbing at his eyes. “...So what are we doing?”

“Eh?” And god but Onodera could be annoyingly thick, he was remembering. He hadn’t wanted to ask the question, but there it was: he had to know, needed...some kind of reassurance. Closure. He’d spent ten years dithering on about Ritsu, never knowing why he’d left, never knowing what could have been... He wasn’t about to spend another ten waiting for the guy to enjoy his youth all over again only to subsequently man-up and take up the family mantle along with a pretty, polite little wife.

Masamune couldn’t do it--he couldn’t throw himself into this relationship headfirst like he desperately wanted (and had thought Onodera wanted as well) only to be hurt again in the end. He wasn’t asking for some lifelong commitment, but...he needed some sort of reassurance that in another six months or a year he wouldn’t have to sit there and watch Ritsu standing there tall and proud in dress kimono, exchanging vows and accepting congratulatory gifts and running away again. Fuck.

Onodera shifted on his feet, obviously confused and uncomfortable with the conversation. “I...don’t know,” he managed after a few moments, and they both knew full well it was a pathetic, wanting answer. “I just--want to live my life as I want, is all. I don’t want to have to worry about fiancees or--or carrying on the family name or taking over the company some day unless I so desire it.”

Masamune let his hands fall away and lifted up onto his elbow, glaring in the dark. All of those things were well and good to want--there were lots of things Masamune wanted, but he was also realistic about what he could feasibly have and earnest about pursuing things that required more effort of him to obtain. Onodera, even at 25, was still a spoiled little obocchama through and through. “Well sorry. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” He tossed aside the covers that had bunched up around him and cast about for his pants and shirt, pulling both on and striding back out into the living room to fetch his bag. He spent his whole day around people who couldn’t make proper decisions that always wound up hurting Masamune somehow in the end; he didn’t need to spend his nights in the same situation.

He could hear Onodera padding after him, desperation in his voice. “So--what am I supposed to do then? Just--completely cut ties with them? I’ve already told them I’m not marrying An-chan, and she’s--she’ll accept it anyways, she has to!” Masamune tried to block him out, focusing instead on remembering where he’d tossed his bag and what work he could use to distract himself for the rest of the evening. The sooner he was holed up in his own apartment, the better. “Takano-san.

And less so the name than the emotion in the voice gave Masamune pause. What was he doing? Walking out? Giving up--just like that? Not even fighting for the one good thing to come out of his shitty high school life? Onodera had a fiancee--so what?

Not so what, but...but then, what was he supposed to do? What did Masamune want him to do? He’d laughingly suggested just severing ties altogether, but wasn’t that harsh? How fair was it to demand that Onodera change everything, his entire life, his relationships, just for Masamune? He knew, with a sick, twisted feeling, that Onodera was far closer with his family than Masamune was with his own; he’d grown up loved and coddled and was at least still on speaking terms with his own parents, even if they were trying to shove him into molds he wasn’t made for or force outdated arranged marriages on him. He claimed he’d never go along with it--but when the time came, would he really be able to stand his ground? Was it arrogant of Masamune to hope, pray that perhaps he could be the added strength Onodera needed to save himself from a fate decided before he was old enough to even understand that you ought to spend the rest of your life with the person you chose than the person your parents chose for you?

Still...it hurt. The uncertainty, the worry, the fear that Masamune was giving himself up to the vague idea that someday, somehow Onodera would possibly, hopefully choose him over his fiancee, over his family. Who was to say this thing of theirs wouldn’t peter out in another couple of weeks, that they wouldn’t realize oh the sex was great and all but we really weren’t a match--and even as he entertained the thought, he could feel he was just reaching for excuses, but still. The fear of the unknown wouldn’t release it’s grip.

A hand on his arm startled him from his thoughts, and he moved to twist around, only to find Onodera pressing himself against Masamune’s back, whispering apologies into the fabric. “Please--just wait for me. I’m not--like you, I’m not brave, I can’t stand up to my family and go off and make my own way in life. Not just--right now... But please know I never intended to two-time you or anything like that. Not then, and not now.” Masamune could feel him swallow a lump, steeling himself. “I really...did love Saga-sempai back then; you were all I could think about.”

Masamune hesitated to respond, not trusting his voice, and stiffened in Onodera’s awkward embrace. “...And now?”

At this, Onodera jerked back, hands releasing Masamune as if dropping a hot plate as he took a few steps backwards, laughing nervously. “I...uh, that’s--probably a subject for...further discussion. At another point in time?” And at such an expected response, Masamune couldn’t help but snort, shaking his head--it was futile, telling himself he needed to stop before he got in too deep, before he got hurt. He was already in over his head.

He ran a hand through his hair and glanced over to the couch, spotting his bag leaning against the far end. A distraction--something he still needed, but more because if he stood here with Onodera hovering over him and touching and grabbing, he was never going to get any work done. His resolve to get at least a little work done that evening didn’t seem to deter Onodera much, though, as he trailed after him, worry still tinging his voice, “I’m really sorry, though--honestly, I try not to think about it much is all... I would’ve brought it up eventually, and it wasn’t like I kept it from you intentionally, and...” But Masamune didn’t respond, simply slumped onto Onodera’s couch in his usual spot and reached for his bag, unzipping the top and rifling through his papers for the next day’s schedule. Onodera was fit to burst. “Takano-san...!”

‘Masamune’.” There was a pause as he waited for the reminder to sink in, and he could see recognition dawning on Onodera’s face out of the corner of his eye. The schedule blurred before him; this was useless. He cleared his throat. “I told you...to call me Masamune.” And here he forced himself to look Onodera in the eye, trying to keep his voice even. “I want to call you ‘Ritsu,’ so it’s only fair.”

He was met with only a dumb nod, realization still obviously sinking in, and he turned back to his schedule with his chest the tiniest bit lighter. If he wanted to help be Onodera’s--Ritsu’s strength, they needed to be as close as possible, and while it was only a small thing, those tended to make all the difference in the world, in the end.