There is something Rohan hasn't been keen on saying, even to himself.
'I'm currently secretly in love with someone.' Those words stay in his mind, pushed out of the way so much it is almost all he can think about. He's not really sure when it had started or what it had started as. Hate, curiosity, befuddlement, exasperation, envy...
Circumstance had forced them together often enough that eventually Rohan had just been forced to let Josuke coexist. To visit when he pleased so long as he let Rohan work when he needed to. It worked too well.
Walking the streets and seeing Josuke in the morning with a girl or three walking close wasn't unusual. Idly he had wondered how many confessions Josuke had gotten. How many he'd rejected. How many he'd accepted. Then he would do his best to let his new frustration out in a way that didn't include writing into those girls that Josuke was off limits. Because what if one of them made him happy?
Rohan had accepted a while ago that he couldn't make Josuke happy. He wasn't kind enough, or young enough, or patient enough, or old enough. They argued all the time. Josuke just didn't want an enemy. Couldn't accept that they shouldn't be friends.
Sometimes people forget Rohan is only Twenty and that even though he is an adult and famous and well off his brain is still growing. Even Rohan forgets this sometimes.
He forgets enough to think one day as he beats Josuke in 'Oh! That's a BASEBALL' the single most dooming thought of his life.
'Ah. This punk... I guess I really like him.'
Josuke likes to visit Rohan right after school on Mondays and Wednesdays. More often than not he gets held up. Not by bad grades or detention but because of those girls. He's popular in a way Rohan had never been and while he accepted that Josuke would spend time catering to that part of his life, he'd grown sick of it quickly.
"I'm sorry I'm late," Josuke often says, sometimes with a love letter sticking out of his bag, sometimes with a bag full of treats making an odd shape in the bag. He never says why he's late. Rohan doesn't ask because he knows anyway.
It is those times he tries his hardest to put away his love because someday Josuke will return one of their feelings and forget all about the fussy mangaka. As it should be. There is a path to happiness with Josuke's name on it's winding way. Chances are it leads out of Morioh. Away from Rohan.
Perhaps it isn't the best thing to draw away from Josuke ever so slowly but it is all Rohan knows how to do. Protect himself by distance. Stop looking at what's unattainable. He will pursue what he can have to the ends of the earth but Josuke is not his and never will be.
The confession comes in Rohan's bedroom. For once he's reading something instead of drawing something. Josuke has a volume of Pink Dark Boy in front of him, the very first editions that were clumsily bound and belong to Rohan. Their knees are so close that if Rohan tried to stretch out his feet would end up curling around Josuke's back.
The words do not start out as a confession but the intent is obvious if you know how to listen.
"Hmm... What?" He flips the page without daring to look up.
"Haven't you been kinda off lately?" Yes, he had been. He sleeps more now to escape. The only drink he bothers making for himself is tap water. He doesn't meet Josuke's eyes.
"Huh? I haven't been different lately." Lies, of course, but important lies.
"But you haven't been looking at me." The words are almost childishly pouty. They are enough to get Rohan to look up slightly, gaze unseeing as panic curls around his lungs. Josuke's smile is bitter in a way that says Rohan's just confirmed it all. "Did you think I wouldn't look hard enough?"
"...Aren't you just imagining things?" The denials will keep coming even as his mind tries not to focus on the shame.
"Absolutely not. I spend a lot of time observing you... Did you know that?" Not as well as he should have for constantly watching Josuke himself.
"What are you saying?"
"Mmm... That I like you, Rohan." His heart skips a beat.
"Am I supposed to say what an honor it is to have Morioh's favorite punk like me? Oh please." He turns the page again, but he hasn't read a single word.
"You keep trying to brush me off. Ah, but it's no use." Like ice down his spine. "You've been watching me an awful lot too. Surely you must know I love you by now."
Had he? Maybe underneath his own denials the fact had been found. This seemed too good to be true. Even if it was, he would hurt Josuke in the end. Why couldn't he let this be?
"Rohan loves me too, don't you?" For a second Rohan thinks something is altering his reality. A drug, or a Stand, or maybe he'd confused water with Vodka. Because there's no way this is coming out of Josuke's mouth. His pupils shrink to pinpricks because he simply doesn't want to see.
"What a ridiculous notion," Is out of Rohan's mouth before he can think. "Why would I ever like you so much? After all the shit we've gone through, I-"
A hand covers his lips and shocks him into silence. It barely presses against him. The touch is so gentle it makes his heart ache and his eyes widen. It's the first time his face turns so their gazes meet properly.
"You're just so difficult to talk with, you know?" He looks so tired it makes Rohan's throat squeeze tight. "Just listen to me. I'm begging you not to lie and hide yourself away."
"It wasn't a lie." Comes Rohan's muffled reply. There's no conviction in it.
"It's a lie," Josuke insists while pressing his hand more firmly against Rohan's lips. "Rohan, haven't you realized how you look at me?" Full of jealousy and longing. With defeat that has yet to come in his gaze. With unrequited love he wants to throw away. "It's the same way I've been looking at you for so long." His heart stops. "We have the same expression. Please... Admit your feelings."
At this a swell of want fills his clenching throat. If only he thought this would really make Josuke happy. His eyes feel hot and watery before he parts his lips and savagely bites into the meat of Josuke's hand. Watching the teen hiss and pull the hand back instinctively gives a brutal satisfaction.
"There's no way what I feel could make you happy," Rohan spits, one hand clawed in the cushion. His eyebrows and scrunched together in conflict and he'll never realize just how sad he looks in that moment. "So I won't tell you. I refuse."
"What the hell?" Ah, Josuke's fury is something all too familiar. It's like watching a dog raise it's hackles. "When did I decide you get to decide what will make me happy? It's so obvious that I've been pining after you, that no one else will do. Just being able to sit in your room with you has made me happy for months now and I want you to be happy too!"
Josuke's reaching a hand towards Rohan again. If it was to strangle him he'd feel less worried but it's lax and full of caution. Josuke's eyes have tears in the corners. Rohan's front teeth bite the middle of his lips together, an ugly expression, so severe and afraid.
He was doing exactly what he'd been trying to stop. He was hurting Josuke again. He needs to seal these feelings away again. If he didn't hurry-
"I know you're unhappy because of me saying this," Josuke admits shakily, hand still hesitating between them. "But even if I'd known before, I'd still say those words. I'd only choose you."
Everything is going to spill out.
"You-" And oh, those tears are his now. Wet and awful trailing down his face. "How could this even be enough for you? I'm not nice, and I argue with you all the. time, and I'm not a- a girl, and I've never even been gentle with you! After knowing all that, how could I get you to stay with me?"
"What do you mean how can you? You've already got me." The hand finally breaks the distance between them, thumb gently wiping the tears from his cheek. Josuke's smile is wobbly at first but bright as the sun. "You've had me for a long time Rohan. Since I decided I wanted you not to hate me."
Tears cling to Josuke's lashes and he's too damn pretty. Their eyes meet quietly this time and Josuke leans forward. There are still tears in both their eyes, and Rohan lets his gaze drop to Josuke's lips before he gets too caught up in the affection in those purple eyes.
They screw their eyes shut and kiss close mouthed. It's so innocent Rohan can feel the red growing high in his cheeks and when they part it's there in Josuke's too. The tears don't seem to stop so much as they slow. They pant quietly.
"You look ugly when you cry," Josuke laughs out, slightly hysterical. Normally Rohan would be offended but for now he just laughs with him.
"So do you, snot nosed punk. Get a tissue or something." Rohan smiled at the disgruntled noise Josuke made.
"Even though you're ugly right now, I still love you." Josuke says sapily, leaning in so their noses brushed in an eskimo kiss.
"Hmm." Rohan breathes back, still processing the adrenaline in his system and the emotions that were slowly calming in the aftermath.
"You could at least say it properly!" So easily riled up after a moment.
"Keep brushing me off and see what happens!"
"I look forward to it." Rohan crooned, laughing when the blush turned Josuke's face and neck entirely red.
Being open and honest would lead to a lot less troublesome but Josuke and Rohan had always been trouble together. Being smitten would do nothing to help this. Still... At least they'd always be able to fix it.