Uncertainty had always been something Ryuji couldn't stand. Not knowing his place, not knowing how the person he was talking to felt about him, not knowing if what he'd just said was inappropriate or stupid. It was the number one reason why he'd always been reluctant on letting anyone in too closely, or being too honest about his own feelings. As long as he didn't spill them, he was safe.
Then he'd met Akira, and everything had changed.
Being with him was like letting go of every single fear Ryuji could have ever had. He didn't have to pretend he was someone else, and he definitely didn't have to hide his feelings – which made it even more ridiculous that he still did.
Because truth be told, there was this small little gigantic, suffocating something that he'd been hiding from his best friend for weeks, maybe months now, with each passing day promising himself to keep it under control, while feeling that he could barely take it anymore. Whenever they spent time together, he had to keep himself from saying something he shouldn't, whenever they texted, he thought about his choice of words at least twice. Acting properly around Akira had turned into some kind of chore, a farce Ryuji didn't believe he could keep up.
“I can't today,” was a thing he'd feared to hear from his best friend for months, and now he begged for those words whenever he found himself asking if they could hang out without even thinking it through. He knew he wasn't supposed to be so clingy, he knew there were other people in Akira's life-
Goddamn , it didn't need a mastermind to see what was going on between him and Mishima lately. The guy was not even subtle about his admiration for Akira – and honestly, Ryuji couldn't blame him. Maybe there was even a tiny little part in him that screamed jealousy – both of the extra-attention from Akira and the fact that Mishima had undoubtedly been able to say what Ryuji had been hiding from for months. Whenever he pretended to be all tough, seeing this unexpected couple made him realize, over and over, that he was but a pathetic coward.
“Maybe, if I'd had the goddamn guts…”
It was this kind of uncertainty that haunted him lately, made him want to scream and punch a wall until the pain in his hand numbed the agony in his heart. He wasn't the kind of person Akira would always make time for, at least not anymore. He'd had all the dozens of chances to be honest, to at least push his luck and find out if he'd have a chance, but being the way he was, he'd waited just a bit too long.
“I'm sorry I have to say this, but you really are an idiot, Ryuji,” Ann would say to him with a scolding look on her face, an eyebrow raised, inhaling deeply only to let out the longest sigh. As if that were something he needed her to tell him. There were just so many things wrong with watching your best friend and their significant other and thinking what if that were me?
“I was shit-scared, goddamn! Whadd'ya expect? Wouldn't've been good enough anyway.”
“I swear to God, Ryuji! Get your act together and tell him already, for the sake of your friendship!”
“Then I will! You know I will, don't test me!”
“Get the fuck out, Ann!”
They both ignored the looks the other people in the diner gave them, bickering on until one of the waitresses told them to please calm it down , then deciding they weren't done arguing and heading out to fight a little longer. They probably looked like the worst, most toxic couple right now, but when Ryuji got home later that evening, he'd come to the conclusion that maybe – just this once and surely never again – Ann might have been at least a bit right. He could try to hide it forever, but at some point, he would spill the truth. And thinking about that, it might be better to do it on purpose instead of accidentally. That way, he could at least think about how he would say it.
There was something in the way Akira kept looking at Ryuji even when their conversation had ended and they were trying to focus on something else, like studying or eating. The way his eyes lingered, head slightly tilted, a calm, satisfied and yet somewhat insecure smile resting on his lips, his eyes hidden behind the shades and his arms crosses in front of him like a shield.
Yuuki understood, because he knew he looked the same way at Akira.
They had never made it a topic, in those weeks they'd been dating – it was still a weird way of thinking about their relationship, because Yuuki admired Akira in countless ways, and still could hardly believe that somehow, there was something mutual in their feelings; he didn't doubt it, though. There was no way Akira would lie to him about something like that, use him like that.
And that was precisely why Yuuki didn't mind the longing looks, or the intimate ways in which Akira and Ryuji kept touching. If you didn't look closely, it probably looked casual, like the way best friends were supposed to act. There was elbowing, hugs, shoulders bumping into each other's, sometimes even fingers brushing. It'd never go as far as holding hands or even kissing, but for Yuuki, who watched the two of them as intensely as probably possible, it didn't need any of that to see how wholesome their relationship was.
He knew that Akira had some sort of romantic feelings for Ryuji, as much as he tried to suppress them. It was just obvious in the way he acted, how secure he seemed to feel. There were days he would just show up to school without his glasses after a sleepover of theirs, and he'd shrug it off telling Ann he'd forgotten them, dodging the topic of feeling free and safe enough to be himself all out of sudden.
And, really, as much as he'd told himself he should be mad about that at first, Yuuki was glad . Because the way Ryuji acted – his brash, loud, foul yet genuine attitude – was something he knew he could never give Akira in the same way. Sure, Yuuki was supportive, whenever he could and as much so, but he was still more quiet and still a lot more insecure about being himself around other people – after all, he'd gotten used to being an absolute zero since he could think, and suddenly being more than that to someone…
At times, it was too much for him to bear on his own, and he longed for the times where Akira would tell him: “Sorry, I'm busy today,” indicating that he was going to spend time with Ryuji again. For a while, he'd rarely been doing that. His excuse had always been Ryuji not asking, and Yuuki's reply - “You could ask him, too, you know?” - always fallen on deaf ears. These feelings were probably one of the few insecurities of Akira's, and while it was a bit endearing to see him struggle with something, as opposed to how strong and perfect he seemed to be at times, it also worried Yuuki.
Because what if one day, Akira realized that all of this wasn't good enough anymore, and that he couldn't contain his feelings for his best friend even though he already was in a relationship? There was no way they would suddenly vanish; they were just way too close for that, way too similar, way too good as a team – it really didn't need supervision to see that. Akira and Ryuji were undoubtedly the kind of friends you'd want to see grow into lovers in a novel or movie, instead of the standard cliché main-boy-main-girl-scenario you saw everywhere. Their whole relationship screamed meant to be , and even Yuuki, who should definitely feel some sort of entitlement regarding Akira's feelings, could hardly keep himself from wanting those two dorks to just lean in and kiss already.
Really, he'd seen every single one of Akira's good, happy, yearning emotions he had for Ryuji over the course of all the time he'd known them. And then, one day, Yuuki decided to change his point of view, looked at Ryuji instead, and realized that his were the same.
That was the point where he decided he'd had it with watching those two like that. Both of them, but especially their unbreakable bond, was too flawless to be hidden under words neither of them dared to say.
He'd mostly gotten used to calling him by his first name now, although it was still a foreign concept. But if there was even a single situation where it was appropriate to be personal, it was most likely this.
“There's something I'd like to ask you…D-don't freak out though!”
Joke ' s on Yuuki, because he was already freaking out about it.
“If you release that goddamn turtle-thing now Akira, I swear to fuckin' God-”
“Ryuji, please! You just elbowed me!”
Needless to say, Akira released the blue shell either way, ridding Ryuji of his first place he'd fought hard to get to.
“I swear, dude, I ain't talking to you in a fuckin' week!”
He watched the shell make its way forward, yet barely paid attention to the game at this point. Ryuji whined, and Yuuki suppressed a laugh as well as he could while trying to catch up, eager to finally get a good rank for once, too.
They'd become a bodily puddle quite a while ago, Akira leaning against the bed frame with crossed legs, Yuuki leaning on him hardly noticing that his own elbow was burying into Akira's side, and Ryuji somehow lying sprawled across both of them, of course only because it was – quote – fuckin' cold, man , and not because he was indescribably hungry for all the touches and closeness.
It worked fine for Akira either way. He dropped his controller, patted Yuuki on the shoulder supportively when he managed to actually win – he was a decent gamer, but didn't stand a chance against his competitors – and ruffled through Ryuji's hair in a poor try to apologize.
“Nope. No fuckin' way, dude, I'm pissed.”
“I won, though! See, neither of you are unbeatable.”
And if that wasn't worth giving up on his win any day, Akira wouldn't know a single thing that could ever be.
Sometimes, it was hard to imagine how it had come to this – really, how common were relationships with more than two people, and who in the world would have thought that it would work out for them so well?
He'd been scared, to say the least, of the undeniable truth of having feelings for more than one person. Both Ryuji and Yuuki were supportive of him in ways no one else could never give him, and even if he tried – which he didn't, because there was no reason to – Akira was sure he wouldn't be able to name anything that made him happier than watching the two of them, now arguing about who of them was the best gamer, and how blue shells were totally not fair . Eventually, it came down to both of them shouting: “Rematch, right now!!” in unison.
The rematch ended abruptly when Yuuki, pouting and tickling Ryuji, who'd been making fun of him for being in the last place , pointed at Akira, claiming he'd been the culprit.
“I would never play dirty tricks, Ryuji. He's the delinquent!”
And instead of being able to say anything witty in return, anything to keep the joyful bickering up for as long as they felt like it, Akira couldn't help the smile forming on his lips, and the satisfied sigh before he said:
“I love both of you so much.”
He could've found himself the judge of who of them turned redder, but watching them stutter in a fruitless attempt of replying smoothly was countless times better.
“I also won.”
And yet again in unison: