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Austere

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On that fateful night they met they’d both been searching, searching for answers, searching for guidance, searching for new directions, searching for...something, anything . Rikka’s passion ( if passion was even the right word ) for modeling had been wavering for quite some time, frozen in perpetual limbo.

Accepting every job he was offered with little reason to refuse and coming home to an empty apartment was incredibly exhausting. The true strength of his inner psyche was continually put to the test, wearing thinner and weaker as time progressed. He sighed audibly as he mulled over the impact of his various life choices and the prospects of his future.

“Are you okay?” A tentative voice spoke.

Rikka looked startled, flustered to have been caught sighing so dramatically. Though it wasn’t possible for the stranger to have known the reasoning behind his emotional sigh, Rikka chuckled awkwardly.

“Uh, yes. I’m okay.”

The stranger, a tall well built man with light blue hair and eyes, scrutinized the smaller pink haired man with furrowed eyebrows. Rikka squirmed in his seat uncomfortably, the distance between the charming cafe’s tables suddenly seemed minimal and suffocating.

The blue haired’s eyebrows rose high in understanding, precedent to an embarrassed flush decorating his serious face. “S-sorry. I didn’t mean to pry. Um, nevermind.”

With eyebrows no longer furrowed, the man gave off a much less intimidating aura. The manner in which he flushed and hurriedly took a large bite of a sweet looking pastry made him seem...cute.

Rikka smiled slightly, a stranger expressing enough concern about his well being warranted a show of gratitude. “Thank you for asking if I was okay.”

The man gave a short silent nod before reaching for his earphones that had been abandoned on his table. 

“What are you listening to?” Rikka asked gently. The man seemed startled for a millisecond before Rikka chuckled in a more lighthearted manner than previously. “Sorry, now I’m the one prying.”

“It’s okay. Um, I’m listening to Dvorak.” The blue haired man remained the slightest bit embarrassed.

“Ah. Antonín Dvořák?”

“Yeah.”

“You don’t seem like the type to listen to classical music.” 

“I get that a lot. But I like all music, honestly.”

“Hm.” Rikka hummed in acknowledgment. With every intention of allowing the stranger to resume his music listening and pastry eating, Rikka smiled politely, focusing his attention back to the barely touched drink in front of him. He was all but ready to pay for his drink and head back to his apartment when the stranger spoke once more.

“What are you drinking?”

Surprised by the continuation of their conversation, Rikka responded with, “Just a café crème.” Not wanting to miscalculate the situation nor incorrectly interpret social cues, he inquired cautiously, “Would you like to sit over here?”

The stranger looked toward the empty seat across from the pink haired man, visibly contemplating whether or not switching tables would be a wise thing to do. Unfazed by his slight hesitation, Rikka waited patiently for a response. A response in the form of the blue haired gathering his things, pastry and all, and transferring them to Rikka’s table was unexpected but not unwelcome.

“Are you a student?” Rikka asked when the flash of a black backpack caught his eye.

“Um. Not anymore.” He responded while he sat down.

“Did you graduate?”

The embarrassed flush returned with a vengeance and Rikka hurriedly changed the subject. “It’s fine. You don’t have to talk about it.”

An awkward silence enveloped the both of them before the taller man spoke tentatively. “I was a swimmer.”

“Was?”

“I suffered a shoulder injury recently and now I can’t…” He trailed off, a hint of longing made his blue eyes glimmer sorrowfully.

“I’m sorry.” Rikka responded genuinely. How dreadful it must have been to no longer be able to do the thing you desperately wanted to do.

“It’s fine.” He responded although Rikka could easily tell it wasn’t fine. “So, uh, what about you?”

“What about me?”

“What do you do?”

“Oh.” Rikka smiled once more. “I’m a model, actually.”

The taller’s eyebrows lifted in admiration before settling into a neutral expression. “That explains it.”

“Explains what?”

“Um,” he rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, “you just seem very photogenic.”

Rikka chuckled behind a delicate hand. “Thank you. I’m Rikka, by the way.”

“Dai. Pleased to meet you.”

His name was Dai. 

The name of the man who prompted Rikka to momentarily disregard what had troubled him just a little while ago. A nineteen year old ex swimmer who could no longer fulfill his dream and pursue his passion. A young man who searched and longed for something more in his life, not so unlike Rikka himself.

Time was lost as the two new acquaintances spoke enthusiastically, finding comfort in the presence of another. Although three years apart in age, they expressed similarities not commonly found in others. If he had to pick one, that would probably be the real reason Rikka invited him back to his apartment in the hopes of continuing their conversation.

“It’s getting pretty late. Is your home close by?”

Dai’s eyes wandered to the large cafe windows exposing the pitch black night sky. He gathered his things in his arms before responding. “Not exactly.”

“Hm.” Rikka pursed his lips, feeling immensely guilty that he’d kept Dai at the cafe until the workers were ushering them towards the exit. The sky remaining a charcoal backdrop. “I apologize for keeping you out so late.”

Dai shrugged indifferently. “It’s no big deal. I liked talking to you.”

“Really?” Spending the night ordering various sandwiches and pastries, talking about nothing and anything for hours on end. Had Dai honestly enjoyed it as much as Rikka?

“Really.” He responded genuinely. 

Rikka took an extra moment to shrug on his light green cardigan, wondering how best to phrase a sudden suggestion. “My apartment is just a ten minute walk from here.”

Dai responded with a silent unreadable expression. Rikka looked away for a split second before speaking again. “This is embarrassing. How do I phrase this? Um, would you like to come to my apartment?”

Dai’s unreadable expression was quickly replaced by a puzzled expression.

Rikka spoke hurriedly for clarification, “Ah, I mean just so you don’t have to travel so far this late. I promise my couch is comfortable.”

For reasons unbeknownst to Rikka, Dai smiled a small smile. The first one Rikka had seen since they’d met. He couldn’t deny how adorable the taller looked when he smiled.

“Okay. Let me just text my parents that I’m not coming home tonight.”

“Of course.”

Rikka waited patiently by the cafe’s exit while Dai texted his parents. Once reunited with the blue haired man, Rikka took careful notice of their physical dissimilarities. Despite his younger age, Dai stood much taller and broader than the petite model. In stark contrast with his appearance, intimidating as it may be, Dai’s personality was gentle and warm. In the number of hours they had known each other, Rikka observed how easily Dai got flustered and how quiet and timid he could be. The minor discrepancy was cute. Dai was cute. Though Rikka was pretty sure he wouldn’t appreciate being called cute, no matter how genuine the sentiment.

“Lead the way.” Dai spoke, politely holding the door open for Rikka to exit.

The short walk to Rikka’s apartment was occupied by a comfortable silence. A type of easy silence that prevented either from feeling obligated to contribute with pointless small talk. In the hours they’d spoken to each other, they’d fortunately migrated from polite small talk to more productive conversation. Rikka accredited their comfortable walk to their budding sense of familiarity. 

Once arrived, settled into his luxury studio apartment, Rikka was made hyper aware of how much time that had passed since he’d last invited anyone over to his place. If he’d known that tonight was the night he’d be entertaining company, he would have presented a more spruced up living environment; dishes washed to pristinity and bed made with more enthusiasm and precision. 

Dai didn’t seem to notice nor care about the apartment’s state of imperfection. The neutral expression on his face could not mask the admiration setting his blue eyes alight.

“Wow.”

“It’s a little messy but-”

“It’s really nice. I guess you weren’t kidding when you said you were a model.”

Rikka had never given much attention to the intricacies forming his home’s foundation. Though he found himself often acknowledging the luxuries of his high rise building and extravagances of his living conditions. He couldn't even begin to imagine the extent of an ex college student’s impression after being presented with an ostentatious display.

“Thank you.” He accepted Dai’s compliments with practiced grace, gesturing to his living room and compellingly comfortable couch. “Are you tired right now?”

“No. As a guest, it would be rude of me to sleep before the host.”

“Of course. Well, make yourself at home. We can watch a movie to pass the time”

“Sure.”

Rikka gestured for Dai to situate himself comfortably before following suit. Both of them sat side by side on the sofa, a reasonable amount of distance between them. 

“I’m surprised you let a stranger in your home so easily.” Dai spoke while Rikka searched for a suitable movie on television.

“Was that foolish of me?” He wondered sheepishly. Their physical dissimilarities were striking second only to the notion that Rikka existed as a notable public figure. If Dai intended to exploit, their association would have been rendered foolish by any reasonable interpretation.

Rikka’s salvation relied on instinct. Everything about Dai thus far had been instinctively positive. “Sorry, I just felt bad making you go home alone. Shiki has told me I can be too nice and caring.”

“Shiki?”

“A friend of mine.”

“Takamura Shiki?"

“You know him?”

Dai shook his head. “I’m only vaguely familiar with some of his music and previous unit.”

Rikka nodded, recalling Dai’s expression of his appreciation for a wide variety of music.

Minutes passed, a suitable movie desiring to be found, and Dai was prompted to speak again.

“Might I ask why you were sighing?”

“Pardon?”

“Earlier today when I first spoke to you, you seemed upset.”

“Oh.” Rikka looked down, almost having forgotten the circumstances leading to their impromptu association. “Forgive me for saying this but I don’t think you’d understand.”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“Because you’re young.”

“You are too.” Dai bluntly responded. 

The twenty two year old laughed in frivolous amusement. “I suppose you’re right.”

“If you don’t want to tell me, I’ll respect that. But don’t think I haven’t been through enough shit in my life already. I just can’t understand why someone like you would be upset.”

“Someone like me?”

Dai blanched, responding quickly and stuttering along the way. “I-I didn’t mean that in a negative way.”

“You’re absolutely right. I’ve been fortunately blessed with so many wonderful things in my life. I shouldn’t have a reason to complain. When I was upset earlier, I suppose I was overwhelmed by the realization that I’m not enjoying the things I want to enjoy. I’m not doing the things I want to do nor living the life I want to live.”

“What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. It’s silly, isn’t it?” Rikka looked away, the movie search had long been abandoned. 

“No. You started modeling because someone coaxed you and now you’re in too deep and can’t escape. Is that accurate?”

“Unbelievably so. H-how did you know?”

Dai captured and held Rikka’s gaze with a steady one of his own, emanating a deadly serious aura. “It was the same for me with swimming. I started because someone wanted me to. Before I knew it, I’d advanced too far to quit.”

“But it seemed like you enjoyed swimming. The way your eyes lit up when you talked about it, how upset you looked when you told me you weren’t able to do it anymore ...”

Dai nodded slowly, earnestly. “Swimming is, no, was my passion. I just had to find a reason to do it for me and not for anyone else. I had to find a reason that made me happy too.”

“How did you find your reason?”

“Once I stopped looking for others’ approval, I started to enjoy myself more. I’ll admit though,” Dai leaned back and closed his eyes in exasperation, “In anything I do, I can’t help but want someone to praise me. I can be pretty self conscious and…It’s embarrassing.”

Rikka shook his head and spoke without thinking, “No. It’s cute."

Dai’s eyes shot open in bewilderment. “What?”

Rikka nervously played with a strand of his long hair, the nervous chuckle returned. “Shit, I said that out loud, didn’t I? Dai, I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable. I just really appreciated what you said, about finding my own reason to keep going.”

Dai nodded sharply. “I don’t like being called cute.”

“I’m sorry.”

“But,” He sighed in resignation, “I guess it’s a compliment coming from someone as beautiful as you.”

It was Rikka’s turn to respond in bewilderment. “What?”

Dai looked away bashfully. “If it’s you praising me, then I’m okay with it.”

Having been involved in the modeling industry since childhood, Rikka had always been praised for his ability to be charismatic with others. So for the first time in a long time, engaged in a candid conversation with a familiar stranger, he’d been stunned to a profound silence. His subsequent response was to gravitate towards mindless tasks. He busied himself, hurrying to his kitchen and fiddling with various drawers and cabinets, pretending as if a huge list of things needing to be done materialized from thin air.

“Are you thirsty? Hungry? Do you want a snack? A drink?”

Rather than engaging in inquiries relating to his thirst or hunger, Dai’s response instigated from the sudden and heavy awkwardness electrifying the air, “Maybe I should go home.”

“What?” Rikka froze in place, hand hovering somewhere near his kitchen drawer’s handle.

“It really is late and I feel like I’m intruding upon your personal space. I’ll be fine getting home.”

Rikka remained frozen, inexplicable disappointment uncomfortably twisting his gut. The prospect of Dai leaving left a bitter taste in his mouth. “I’ll get a taxi for you if you truly want to go. But…” He hesitated for a moment, “I’d appreciate it if you stayed. I enjoyed your company and...it gets lonely here sometimes.”

Dai was silent for so long that Rikka couldn’t be sure if he’d been heard or not. Too afraid to confess to the crippling effects of loneliness a second time, Rikka remained silent and waited for the response he hoped would come.

A response from Dai was rewarded a few long minutes later. A response in an unexpected manner that elicited a surprised gasp from Rikka. He felt a large hand, cautious as expected but determined nonetheless, grasp his slender waist. The exact moment when Dai had sidled up behind him was lost in the heat of the current situation.

“If you want me to, I’ll stay.” Dai spoke in a low voice, undeniably close to Rikka’s ear. 

“I want you to.” Rikka spoke, almost in a whisper. His next astonished gasp was captured by Dai’s own mouth. Careful lips pressing against sensuous ones created an affectionate kiss. 

Dai pulled away a moment later, looking flushed and sheepish. 

Rikka smiled remarkably.

“You can’t kiss me and feel embarrassed right after.”

“The kiss was uncalled for. I’m sorry.”

“I’m not sorry.” 

Dai was pulled into another, more intense kiss before he could respond. Lost in the moment, Rikka wrapped his arms around Dai’s neck. A barely concealed moan preceded Dai wrapping his arms around Rikka’s waist.

Rikka had never been one to act on impulse, prioritizing pleasure over rationality. Nor had he ever allowed himself to be so open with someone he barely knew. Inviting Dai into his home, acknowledging his loneliness and unhappiness, unearthed a vulnerable persona he desperately tried to hide.

That exact persona, that precise vulnerability, prompted him to act out of character. 

He took the initiative of leading Dai to his bed, possessing no qualms about their predicament when Dai climbed on top of him. Under the implicit assumption that nothing more would come of their night, Rikka was willing to give himself to a stranger.

Just one night.

He was allowed to be vulnerable for a single night.

Again, Dai’s lips pressed against his own before dutifully pressing against his jaw and neck. Wanting to present more of his pale neck to Dai’s wandering lips, Rikka turned his head.

Though Dai’s kisses were nothing short of soft and gentle, Rikka voiced an important request. 

“No marks, please.”

Dai chuckled against Rikka’s collarbone. “Of course not.”

Tomorrow morning, Rikka would settle back into his familiar routine. Returning to work as polished and poised as always, his moment of weakness with Dai would not discourage him. Maybe afterward, he would take Dai’s advice, only accepting jobs that made him happy, jobs he wanted to complete. But until then, until he had to worry about something so important, he wanted to relish in these carefree moments.

“Dai, are you sure you want to do this?”

Dai chuckled once more. 

To back out now, to come to their senses in the midst, seemed rather absurd. Dai’s shirt had already landed somewhere on the floor and Rikka’s had been pushed up far enough to expose his chest. 

“I can’t brag about being experienced but this isn’t my first time. If you’ll let me have you, Rikka, I would be honored.”

Rikka’s face flushed red, his body involuntarily responding to electrifying sensations of pleasure. “I want you, Dai. Please, take me.”

Per Rikka’s approval and consent, Dai carefully undressed the smaller of the two, eager to appreciate Rikka’s beauty in all its splendor.

“Wow,” He breathed, still in disbelief that for tonight, Rikka was his and his alone. “Where do you keep…?”

Rikka gestured towards his nightstand, not trusting his voice enough to speak. He was in awe at how attractive Dai was, shoulders broad from swimming and muscles prominent beneath smooth skin. Just the thought of Dai being inside of him, the anticipation to drown in shared pleasure, found Rikka moaning and reaching down to touch himself.

“Dai?” Rikka’s voice quivered unsteadily, barely masking his growing arousal.

Dai gulped audibly, highly affected by the sight of Rikka naked, moaning, and touching himself. His cock twitched in anticipation, straining against the confines of his pants. “Yeah?”

“Could you hurry, please?” 

He nodded quickly, uncapping the top of the lubrication he’d just acquired and skirting a generous amount on his fingers. The smaller of the two parted his legs willingly, shamelessly allowing the larger man to settle between them. 

Dauntingly tasked with satisfying a beautiful man of considerable stature, Dai’s timid personality returned with a vengeance. Proving to be only a minor obstacle after enough coaxing and pleading from Rikka, Dai resumed his licentious actions. He started off slowly, inserting his lubricated index finger into Rikka’s entrance, before diligently inserting his middle finger with a bit more confidence and speed.

“More, Dai, please.” Rikka moaned, desperately wanting to be filled with something more substantial before he exploded.

Though well aware of Rikka’s impatience, Dai knew how important it was to prep him thoroughly and accurately. Wanting nothing more than to bury himself to the hilt inside of Rikka, Dai used every ounce of self control to hold back. Only when Rikka’s wandering hands found the button and zipper of his pants did he feel his self control steadily dwindling. 

“Fuck.” Dai groaned at the same time Rikka unzipped his pants. He’d just removed his fingers ( he’d gotten up to three ) when Rikka started caressing the large bulge in his underwear.

“Dai,” Rikka looked up seductively at the man hovering above him, “Please, I’m ready.”

Completely captivated by the attractive man beneath him, more than willing to do whatever was asked (or begged ) of him, Dai tossed the rest of his clothes carelessly to the floor. 

Everything about that night thus far had been rushed and spontaneous but Rikka felt it wise to set aside adequate time to appreciate and admire the naked man above him. Rikka’s eyes raked over his body greedily, even as Dai reached for the condom he’d previously placed at the head of the bed.

It was ripped open eagerly albeit in a careless manner. He rolled it down over his hard shaft, not missing the way Rikka continuously followed his actions with hungry, lustful eyes.

Dai wrapped a hand around his member, only given the chance to stroke it once, twice, before a smaller, more skillful hand took its place. Rikka, desperately needing to remember how comforting it felt to enjoy the presence of another with his entire being, guided Dai’s cock to his entrance. The enlarged tip was swallowed and enveloped with ease.

Dai grunted incoherently, no combination of words powerful enough to describe how magnificent it felt to have Rikka’s walls caging him in. He was mesmerized, mesmerized by Rikka’s gorgeous eyes and enamored by his beautiful body.

A short gasp preceded full insertion, with Dai buried entirely inside. The intoxicating sensations Rikka felt overwhelmed him. Needing an anchor to ground him to reality, he subsequently clawed at Dai’s bare back. He couldn't recall a moment in time when he’d ever been appeased by penetration alone.

“Rikka?” Dai’s voice resonated from above, sounding strained from heightened arousal.

“Yeah?”

“Is it alright if I move? I’m dying.”

Rikka responded by wrapping his legs around Dai’s waist, pulling him in deeper. They gasped simultaneously, both experiencing similarly intense pleasure waves. With absolute conviction, Dai relinquished all self control. He rested his head on Rikka’s shoulder, embracing the smaller body before thrusting instinctively.  

Astonished by the fact that Dai had found the perfect angle on his first try, a surprised vocalization subsequently manifested. Rikka’s strangled moan powerfully resonated throughout the entire room.

Motivated by Rikka’s encouraging response, Dai thrust harder and more confidently. Eliciting yet another sinful moan from the man underneath. 

Only after he’d built up a steady pounding rhythm did his lips once again find Rikka’s. Rikka kissed back willingly, moaning into the kiss whenever Dai’s hips snapped sharply. The lewd noise of skin slapping against skin filled the room, the sound of their arousal lost somewhere in the midst.

When Rikka started begging for more, whimpering against Dai’s lips for him to thrust harder, faster, Dai pulled back from the kiss and adjusted their position. Knelt between Rikka’s legs, Dai gripped his hips for leverage. Adjusting the speed and force of his thrusts accordingly, he pounded incessantly into the smaller man below. 

Paying close attention to detail, fulfilling every demand requested of him, Dai was a generous lover. He pleasured Rikka thoroughly, providing him with ample opportunity to be a most optimum receiver. 

The further progression of their shared night found Dai’s eyebrows furrowed and beads of sweat gathering. Rikka embraced the moment, studying Dai’s striking features and rhythmic movements. Because, if their night was soon to be stored deeply away in memory, he wanted to be sure his feelings had been real. That Dai had been real.

“Rikka.” Dai groaned when it became clear he was approaching his climax. To ensure Rikka would have a similarly satisfying ending, he wrapped a hand around his neglected member, stroking it in time with his final powerful thrusts. 

Rikka arched his back in pleasure, tendrils of release coating Dai’s hand white.

While Rikka came down from his high, Dai’s hips stuttered. He groaned, burying his head in Rikka’s neck as his body shook with waves of pleasure from his own release. He didn’t pull out right away after coming down from his high, necessitating the desire to permanently imprint the moment to memory. Not a word of complaint was heard from the smaller man whom he shared an affectionate embrace with.

“Thank you.” Rikka spoke, voice soft and gentle in contrast to thundering heartbeats.

“For what?”

“For keeping me company tonight.”

“You’re welcome.”

Rikka convinced himself that Dai wanted nothing more than to stay right where they were, frozen in elapsed time together. He would have preferred to believe the only reason they separated was that they had no other choice.

“Can I use your bathroom?” 

Rikka nodded, feeling hollow and cold once Dai had pulled out and removed his strong arms from around him. 

He disappeared into the bathroom, leaving Rikka alone in the aftermath of their night. Pillows were scattered haphazardly around the bed, the sheets and comforter in various stages of disarray. Random articles of clothing were strewn all around the bed, the bottle of lube having found its way in their midst. Rikka tucked his hair behind his ears, the long strands having freed themselves from his fastened hairstyle some time ago.

Dai returned from the bathroom at the same time Rikka gathered his hair into a messy ponytail. Rikka’s attention was on him in an instant, the cute man with beautiful blue eyes who got flustered way too easily yet somehow knew all the right things to say.

He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, no doubt realizing how naked he still was and how Rikka’s eyes still wandered.

“Um, I can sleep on the couch if-”

“I’d much prefer if you slept in my bed.”

Dai nodded in response, something akin to relief flashing across his features.

“You were amazing. If it’s not too much to ask, I’d like to fall asleep in your arms.”

Dai’s only response was to climb into Rikka’s bed, settling the comforter over both of them and inviting the smaller to snuggle into his arms.

“Goodnight, Dai.”

“Goodnight, Rikka.”

**

Rikka awoke the next morning to an empty bed and a dull pain in his backside. The side of the bed next to him was cold, though a prominent indentation made it clear someone else had recently slept there. So last night had been real. Dai did exist somewhere, although that particular somewhere was currently unknown to Rikka. All traces of Dai had blatantly disappeared from his apartment while he’d slept soundly.

Though slightly disappointed, Rikka couldn’t say he was surprised. One night stands were nothing more than just. A single passionate night shared between two people who would likely never see each other again. Rikka had been vulnerable and opened up to a stranger. Dai had been naive and easily swayed. The man of few words who flustered easily was no more than a pleasant dream. A phantom that existed somewhere other.

Rikka climbed slowly out of bed, ready and willing to officially start his day. He had a photoshoot in a couple of hours that he desperately needed to prepare for, to ensure he remained poised and polished like the professional he was.

When he stood up and stretched, a flash of something on his nightstand caught his eye. A yellow post-it note carried the weight of a handwritten message on its surface. Rikka picked it up and read the scrawled message aloud:

You look breathtakingly beautiful when you smile.

-Dai

Chapter Text

Though not right away, Rikka eventually found the courage to refuse modeling jobs he had little interest in. It was difficult to reject the offers and go against his agency at the beginning. But once his schedule was gloriously filled with jobs he looked forward to, he realized it had been worthwhile. Dai had been right all along, once he learned to model for himself and not for others life seemed much brighter.

Dai. Dai .

Rikka hadn’t mentioned Dai to anyone since their fateful encounter. Weeks had passed, marking the conclusion of their shared night. Without a last name for identification or a number for communication, Rikka had no way to reconnect with him. Perhaps it was better that way. If they found each other again, Rikka knew he would become too attached, more so than he already was.

He’d be lying if he said he didn’t think about Dai often and what might have happened if the blue eyed man had stayed with him until morning. Be that as it may, Rikka was far too busy to be distracted by irrelevant thoughts. It really was better that they'd parted ways, he told himself whenever he needed convincing.

Rikka strolled through the busy streets of Shibuya, having just finished an exhausting photoshoot nearby. He couldn’t wait to get back home and sleep the night away. Despite getting a full eight hours of sleep the previous few days, Rikka felt as if his sleep cycle had been considerably off track. He rubbed his tired eyes, unsure of what to make of his growing exhaustion.

Preoccupied with stifling an unexpected yawn, Rikka's failure to pay attention to where he was heading led him straight into the path of a man walking in the opposite direction.

“Oh no. I’m sorry, sir.”

“Rikka?” The man spoke.

Rikka’s eyes glittered with recognition before he smiled brightly in response. “Shiki.”

Although they kept in touch, Rikka and Shiki hadn’t seen each other in quite some time and certainly hadn't spent time together in ages. They’d been swamped with their respective work; Shiki with composing and producing and Rikka with modeling. Despite fighting a losing battle against fatigue, Rikka didn’t want to miss an opportunity to catch up with Shiki.

“Are you busy? Do you want to get a drink with me?”

“Actually, I just finished work. A drink sounds wonderful.”

Rikka followed his friend into a nearby restaurant/bar with every intention of properly winding down. When the time came to order drinks, however, Rikka’s stomach lurched at the mention of anything with alcohol. He settled on ordering a club soda with an uneasy look on his face. Shiki took note immediately.

“Are you okay?”

Rikka smiled reassuringly. “Fine. I’ve just been feeling a little off lately.”

“Off?”

“It’s nothing to worry about. A little fatigue here and there. I just think I’ve been working too hard.”

Shiki furrowed his eyebrows. “Make sure you take care of yourself.”

“Yes, yes. I will. Enough about me, how have you been doing?”

“I’ve been alright. Work is work just like always. It’s different writing songs behind the scenes as opposed to being on the forefront.”

Rikka nodded slowly. “Do you enjoy it?”

“Enjoy is a strong word, seeing as I don’t have as much creative freedom as I’d like. Speaking of, I’ve heard gossip about the modeling jobs you turned down.”

Rikka chuckled nervously. “You have?”

Shiki hummed in response, taking a sip of his drink. “What’s gotten into you lately?”

“It’s a long story,” Rikka took a sip of his drink, ignoring another uncomfortable lurch in his stomach, “but I guess you can say I wanted my own creative freedom. I don’t ever want to quit being a model but...hm...I guess I’m still searching for something more. Something different.”

“Something different?” Shiki tapped his chin thoughtfully. “If you really want something different, I have something important to ask you.”

“Oh?” Rikka was taken aback. Shiki wasn’t one to often ask favors. He preferred to get things done on his own, resting assured they were done on his schedule and by his way. He was a composer who saw his vision clearly but wasn’t always given the chance to bring his original ideas into fruition. 

“Nothing is concrete yet. This is just a tentative proposition.”

“Okay.”

“The Tsukino president promised me I would have complete freedom with my music if I was able to produce a new unit.”

“Wow. That’s great! Shiki, your music is amazing and if you’re able to take control, you’ll be able to do wonderful things.”

Shiki nodded slowly. “That’s what I wanted to ask you. Rikka, will you do it too?”

Rikka’s eyes widened in surprise. “Do what?”

“Do wonderful things with this unit. Your look is eye catching and I know your voice would be just as promising.”

“Singing voice?” Rikka asked in bewilderment. He’d just been preparing to get home early and get some rest. He hadn’t been prepared for nor hoping to be asked to join a new idol unit. Being an idol and a model were two completely different paths. There was no way that anything he’d learned as a model would prepare him for singing.

“Singing and dancing, of course.”

“But, I’ve never done either.”

“I can help you with singing. And the company has wonderful choreographers to teach you the fundamental basics.” Shiki seemed confident about the prospect although Rikka was not yet convinced. His head was suddenly spinning and he felt more nauseous than before.

“Excuse me for a second. I need to find a bathroom.”

Shiki nodded in affirmation as Rikka hurried away from the bar with his mind reeling. Singing? Dancing? Idol unit? The room continued to spin at a dizzying speed as Rikka hurried towards what he hoped was the direction of the bathroom. Overwhelmed by swirling thoughts, exhaustion, and a dizzying headache, it was impossible for him to accurately pay attention to his surroundings.

Not long after his urgent departure from the bar, in haste to locate a bathroom, did he find himself colliding head on with another individual. He was unexpectedly pressed against a warm chest at the same time large hands grasped his shoulders in an effort to steady him.

“I’m sorry! Are you okay?” Rikka stepped back out of the man’s grasp to speak. He looked up into familiar blue eyes and gasped audibly.

Shiki's proposal lingered persistently in the air even as fragments of unforgettable memories clouded Rikka's head; blue eyes darkened with lust and Rikka drunk on exquisite pleasure. Those same blue eyes blinked innocently in response, more questions than answers lingering in the stale Shibuya air.

“What are you doing here?” Dai interrogated, his voice low and neutral, giving nothing away about how he was feeling.

“Dai-chan! You can’t be so blunt. People will think you’re rude.” A man of average height with light gold hair and eyes turned towards Rikka. “I’m sorry, Dai’s actually a good guy. People tend to misread him.”

Before Rikka had a chance to respond, to even process the fact that he was face to face with Dai for the first time in weeks, the blonde spoke to Dai once again.

“Weren’t you looking for the toilet?”

At the mention of toilet, Rikka’s stomach lurched more violently than before, prompting him to clamp a hand over his mouth. Yeah, he needed to find one of those quickly.

Dai took one look at Rikka, hand clasped firmly over his mouth, face paler than normal, before grabbing him by the shoulders again and leading him in the opposite direction.

“The toilets are this way.”

So Rikka had been going the wrong way after all.

He was urgently led to the toilets with seconds to spare before he was pushing his way to the first open stall and burying his head in the first open toilet. He gathered his long pink hair at the nape of his neck with one hand while the other gripped the toilet bowl. He felt Dai’s presence loom eerily close, too focused on puking to actually be embarrassed by the fact that Dai was witnessing him puke. It wasn't as if Dai hadn’t already witnessed Rikka in a vulnerable state prior to this one. 

Rikka eventually let go of his hair when he felt Dai’s larger hand nudging at the base of his neck. His hair remained safely away from the mess as he continued to empty his stomach. Dai’s capable hand gripped the pink locks securely while his other hand rubbed Rikka’s back soothingly.

“How much did you drink?” He asked, essentially not expecting an answer because Rikka was not in a position to provide one. But if he had been in a position to answer, he would have made him very much aware that he hadn’t touched a single glass of alcohol in what seemed an eternity. 

The sound of the bathroom door swinging open preceded the sound of a semi familiar voice. It was the blonde guy Dai had been hanging out with.

“Oi, mister, are you alright?”

“Tsubasa, it’s fine. I’ve got it under control.” Dai sounded exasperated.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen someone puke after seeing your face, Dai-chan.” The man, Tsubasa , joked.

“Shut up idiot. And don’t call me Dai-chan.”

The bathroom door swung open again, cutting off Tsubasa’s playful response. The sound of a familiar deep voice resonated in the room.

“Rikka, what happened?”

Rikka groaned internally, silently wishing for a miracle that would allow him to be sick in peace. Or maybe a miracle that would allow him to travel back in time and close the stall door before he started throwing up.

“You know this guy?” Tsubasa questioned. Shiki scoffed.

“Of course I know him. We work in the same industry.”

“Industry?”

“Entertainment industry. Not like it’s any of your business.”

It was Tsubasa’s turn to scoff. “Well, excuse me for being curious.”

For the remainder of the time spent with his head in the toilet, Rikka ignored Shiki and Tsubasa’s bickering. Shiki had always possessed a strong personality that didn’t commonly mesh well with others and it seemed as if Tsubasa’s personality was clashing heavily with Shiki’s. Rikka’s head was already throbbing unbearably and he really wanted to get home to rest and not have to listen to others’ arguing.

After what felt like an eternity, once he was sure he wouldn’t be sick again, he flushed the toilet and stood up. He slowly turned around, coming face to face with a very concerned looking Dai. His eyebrows were pinched together and his mouth wore a disapproving frown. His serious tone was to be expected. 

“I think you should go home. I’ll help you.” 

Rikka nodded and made his way over to the sink to rinse his mouth. He heard Shiki approach Dai, very clearly imagining the scrutiny Dai suddenly found himself under.

“And who are you to Rikka?”

“Uh...I’m…” Who was he to Rikka? 

Rikka wasn’t even able to answer that question himself. Dai was more than a stranger or acquaintance but not quite a friend.

“Alright, how about this? How did you meet Rikka?”

Rikka lifted his face from the sink, wiping his mouth with a paper towel, before intervening and mediating Shiki’s unfair interrogation.

“It’s a long story, Shiki.”

“Fair enough.” Shiki nodded, satisfied with Rikka’s answer. “Come on, I’ll take you home.”

Dai spoke in weak protest, “I really think…” He trailed off as he so often did, brooding in silence as he looked away sheepishly.

“What do you really think?” Shiki questioned.

“Nothing.” Dai murmured. Who was he to Rikka? A one night stand who never bothered to leave his number. A coward who left before Rikka awoke because he was too afraid to face him again. What right did he have to voice his opinion about someone who had been his for one single night?

Rikka saw everything Dai couldn’t put into words. He saw the flicker of regret and remorse flash across Dai’s typically neutral features. He felt that same twinge of regret and remorse, knowing he had used Dai for his own selfish reasons. A pawn to help relieve some of his pent up frustration. A shared passionate night he’d stored away in his memories.

“I think I’d feel better if both of you took me home.”

A relieved expression flashed across Dai’s face, visible only for a split second and no longer. His default neutral expression took precedence as he nodded. “Alright.”

Shiki also nodded, “Very well. Come on, Rikka.”

“Hey, what about me?” 

Rikka had almost forgotten about Dai’s friend but the blonde was determined not to be forgotten for long. 

“Tsubasa-san, was it? Well I guess it’s only fair that you come along too.” Rikka smiled politely. In actuality he didn’t care who brought him home. He just needed some sleep in the hopes of shaking off his sudden and mysterious sickness.

“It might be best if we call a taxi.” Shiki noted after witnessing how much Rikka leaned on Dai for assistance in walking just a few steps toward the bathroom door. 

“Can we all fit in a taxi?” Tsubasa questioned. 

“Hm, good point. If we have to leave someone behind it can be you. Thanks for volunteering.” Shiki removed his phone from his pocket in preparation to call a taxi. Making it clear by his serious expression that ‘leaving Tsubasa behind’ was not up for debate.

“What? I didn’t volunteer.” Tsubasa spoke indignantly whilst following Shiki out of the bathroom. “Oi, asshole, I’m talking to you!”

Once Dai and Rikka were left alone, Dai spoke softly to the smaller man leaning on him for support.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

Rikka smiled reassuringly. He felt it unjust to have someone three years younger worrying so much about his wellbeing.”I’m fine, just a little dizzy. I don’t think I’ve been getting enough sleep lately.”

That was a blatant lie. Rikka had been sleeping undeniably well for the past week at least. Dai seemed unconvinced regardless but he let it go. Though not before suggesting, “If it doesn’t get better in a few days, maybe you should see a doctor.”

“Yeah, I will.” Rikka promised as he was led, slowly but surely, out of the bathroom and through the restaurant. They met up with Shiki and Tsubasa standing outside of the restaurant, Shiki having just completed his call by the time they arrived.

“The taxi will be here in 15 minutes.”

Rikka hummed in response, leaning more heavily into Dai’s side. The tall blue haired man was so warm and comfortable and smelled undeniably good and soothing. So much so that Rikka couldn’t help but remember how nice it was to fall asleep in those arms mere weeks prior.

Before he knew what was happening, he felt his eyelids begin to close. Slowly but surely, they grew heavier with each passing second. He heard Shiki sigh heavily right before his eyes closed for good.

“Rikka, you really need to take better care of yourself,” Shiki stated firmly, as if doing so would make everything go away and somehow right everything that was wrong.

**

Voices floated from somewhere in the distance, coaxing and nudging Rikka’s consciousness to complete awareness. A familiar deep voice that struggled to conceal the magnitude of various emotions. Another voice, only partially familiar in Rikka’s hazy state, spoke with absolute conviction. Honest to a fault, emotions bleeding into the lilt of his resonant voice.

“...what the hell is this?”

“The kick in the ass you need!”

“What?”

“If you’re going to be a composer or producer or whatever, at least do it properly! Don’t write half assed songs for people who can’t even sing them properly!”

A crinkle of paper, a few terse moments of silence, and a sigh. “Who are you to give me this composition? A music student?”

A scoff. “I’m just a normal university student who has a keen talent for ridiculing shitty music.”

Rikka groaned, tilting his head experimentally to the left before similarly testing the opposite direction. Not a kink to be found led him to question the events that had transpired the previous night. Had he not lost consciousness in Dai’s arms? Or had that been a feverish dream spun from a weak thread of realism?

Rikka opened his eyes slowly, his expectations for what scene might greet him were low at best. Mildly disoriented, he expected his eyes to open to another normal morning in preparation for fulfilling his modeling duties. Except, an unexpected flash of blue hair painted a different picture of reality.

Rikka sat up, noting how his head pounded with the effects of a million phantom jackhammers clobbering his skull.

“Rikka, you’re awake.”

That flash of blue hair filled his entire field of vision in an instant, silencing the bitter bickering in the distance.

“Dai, what are you doing here?” Rikka had hoped, those few weeks ago, that he would be given the chance to awaken to the sound of Dai’s voice and feel his comforting presence linger persistently. He just hadn’t expected it to happen under the guise of such elusive circumstances.

“Rikka.” 

Before Dai could respond, Shiki entered his peripheral, followed by Tsubasa. Rikka didn’t know how to feel with three concerned men surrounding his bedside. He shrunk under the weight of each intense gaze, the desire to convince everyone he was fine grew stronger with every passing second.

Tsubasa stepped forward with a glass filled with a suspicious looking substance. “There wasn’t even time for proper introductions before you scared us half to death.” He held the glass out to Rikka who took it cautiously, an uncomfortable yet polite smile graced the model’s features.

“What is this, exactly?”

“A hangover cure. It’s 100% effective.” Tsubasa beamed proudly, as if he’d just provided the solution to all of Rikka’s problems in a single half-filled glass.

“Thank you but I’m not hungover.”

“He’s not hungover.” Shiki assured, having spent enough of the previous night with Rikka to know for a fact that inebriation was not the cause for his pounding headache and nausea.

“That’s what they all say.” Tsubasa waved them both off with a dismissive hand before extending it towards Rikka in a show of introductory politeness. “I’m Okui Tsubasa. It’s nice to officially meet you.”

“Sera Rikka.” He grasped Tsubasa’s hand in a friendly shake. “It’s nice to meet you too.”

“This tall handsome brooding man next to me is Murase Dai.”

Murase Dai.

Dai stood awkwardly nearby, unsure if he would be able to put on a convincing introductory display. Seeing as how he and Rikka had long since surpassed that formality. 

“It’s nice to…”  Dai trailed off and Rikka was ready to pick up the disrupted pace.

“...see you again.”

A surprised gasp of realization escaped from Tsubasa’s mouth. “That’s right! Where had you two met before?”

“A little cafe downtown,” Rikka spoke when it was clear Dai had no intention of doing so. “We talked for a little bit.”

“Really?! Dai hates small talk.”

Dai shot a dangerous glare in Tsubasa’s direction. His hardened stare softened only by Rikka’s warm eyes. There were some minor... feelings Rikka had for Dai, that much he couldn’t deny. Rest assured that those feelings weren’t negative or regretful, Dai seemed to visibly relax.

At that moment, Shiki sighed in exasperation, drawing everyone’s attention in one direction. The purple haired man pinched the bridge of his nose, the stressful situation from the previous night having finally caught up to him.

“Last night was quite eventful.” He focused his attention on the bedridden man. “Rikka, please get some rest and think about what I said.” Before Rikka could respond, he was focusing his attention on Dai. “Thank you for carrying Rikka home. But I think it’s time you go home yourself.”

“C-carrying me?”

Tsubasa smiled before patting Dai’s shoulder. Dai was unamused and unfazed by his friend’s actions. “Oh yeah, he carried you to the taxi and then carried you to bed. He used to be a swimmer so he’s really strong.”

Dai and Rikka’s eyes met for a split second before Dai quickly averted his own. There were invisible lines he was afraid of crossing, off limit boundaries he was afraid of overstepping. Everything about the passionate night they shared overly complicated future interactions. Though neither carried a single ounce of regret for shared time, they were both forced to carry the weight of resultant burdens.

“Thank you for looking after me.”

Dai grunted out a monosyllabic response at the same time Shiki addressed Tsubasa.

“I need to speak with you privately.”

Tsubasa snorted in disapproval. “What? Are you suddenly my boss?”

Shiki crossed his arms, seemingly as unamused by Tsubasa as Dai was.

“Anything you have to say to me you can say in front of Dai and Rikka, Takamura-san.”

“Just call me Shiki. Very well, then. Are you involved in any sports?”

“Not really.”

“How old are you?”

“20. Is this a job interview?”

“Potentially.”

“Potentially?”

“I need your contact information.” Shiki held out his hand expectantly towards the blonde. What exactly he was expecting, no one could be sure.

“Huh? Wait, at least take me out to dinner first.”

Shiki pinched the bridge of his nose in exasperation once more. “I believe you have the wrong idea. I’m not hitting on you.”

“Could have fooled me.”

“On the contrary, I want to make you a star.”

“Star of what?” Tsubasa was utterly dumbfounded. Not so unlike the rest of the curious onlookers in the room.

“I want to make you an idol, Tsubasa.”

“What makes you think-...Is it because of that musical arrangement I did?”

Shiki hummed in affirmation. “More or less. It’s clear to me that you have talent. It’d be a shame to waste it.”

“Anyone can listen to one of your songs and rewrite the chorus. It doesn’t make me special.”

“That’s true. But not everyone can rewrite the chorus into something better than the original. You made me feel embarrassed after drawing attention to my laziness. You have an impressive ear for music. And I don’t believe appearing in public would be a problem for you. Your personality is overpowering enough as is.”

“He is a show-off.” Dai murmured from his seat at the foot of Rikka’s bed.

“Dai!”

Rikka spoke in a soft voice, authenticating Shiki’s outrageous proposal. “You’re really serious, aren’t you?”

“I would never joke about something like this.”

“No, of course not.”

Shiki reached into his back pocket before handing a business card to Tsubasa. The blonde received it with faltering hands.

“Tsukino Entertainment Productions?”

“It’s a big company,” Dai spoke. His vast musical knowledge providing him with a more fundamental understanding of the situation than his older friend. “They have a lot of impressive talent.”

“Hm.” Tsubasa stared at the business card thoughtfully. “I don’t know much about the entertainment industry.”

“I was instructed by the president to form a new unit and I’m looking for members. In case I wasn’t clear earlier, I would like to recruit you as a member.”

“Alright.” Tsubasa tucked the business card in the back of his pants pocket. Both Shiki and Dai were a little surprised with how agreeable he was acting. There had to be a catch, right?

“You’ll do it?”

“Sure. Under certain conditions.”

“Which are?"

“If Dai can join too.”

“Huh?! Don’t volunteer me without asking!”

Choosing to ignore Dai’s indignant outburst, Tsubasa continued with, “He’s really knowledgeable about the entertainment industry. And he knows a lot more about music than I do.”

Shiki nodded thoughtfully, the components of his genius plan forming together nicely right before his eyes. “Your voice is pleasing to the ears, Dai. And your personality counters Tsubasa’s nicely. You’re honest and straightforward, you’d be popular with an audience. I can see this working out well. You have a passion for music, do you not?”

“I-I do but-”

“So what do you say?”

Dai was rendered speechless. His eyes scanned the room nervously, everyone’s attention on him made him hesitate in his response. His evasive gaze landed on Rikka’s encouraging one. Although still bedridden, the slender man sat upright with poise and grace, awaiting Dai’s answer with as much anticipation as everyone else.

“Rikka.” Dai said the name slowly, wanting to savor each syllable bound to the beautiful man before him.

Rikka’s eyes widened slightly. “Yes, Dai?”

Afraid of getting lost in those sparkling eyes if he stared for too long, Dai’s wandering gaze pulled away from Rikka and focused on Shiki. “I’ll join if Rikka does.”

Shiki raised a curious eyebrow. Maybe Dai requesting Rikka’s participation had not been woven into any component of his plan. But who was he to interfere if the outcome remained the same regardless?

“Rikka? What do you say?”

“I’m flattered that you both want me to join. Shiki, you would have even more creative freedom if you joined as well. Would you not?”

“I suppose so.”

“Then I’ll join as well, on the condition that you are also a member.”

“Hey, good idea!” Tsubasa spoke.

Shiki seemed conflicted. “Why is it good?”

“If you’re singing too then it’s impossible for anything to be less than perfect. You won’t be able to half ass your own creations nor executions of those creations. I’ll only join if Dai will. Dai will only join if Rikka will. And Rikka won’t accept until you do. It’s all riding on you, Shiki.”

Shiki sighed as he mulled over the sudden and unexpected proposal. There was only one answer he could give if he wanted his new unit to be a success.

“After my previous unit disbanded, I had no intentions of joining another.” He shifted his gaze from Tsubasa, Dai, and then to Rikka. “Though I’m not a firm believer in fate, the four of us have been brought together by chance. There’s something unique and special about all of us and the potential is limitless. I’m willing to bet everything I have on this last chance as long as we do this together.”

Tsubasa accompanied a smile with a friendly pat on Shiki’s shoulder. “Great speech, leader .”

Shiki nodded in thanks before continuing on, “About that contact information-”

“Yes, yes.” Tsubasa and Dai both provided Shiki with all of the information he requested.

Once satisfied with their exchange, Shiki took his phone out of his pocket. He dialed a number purposefully at the same time he approached the front door. He called out to his future bandmates as an afterthought, “There’s a lot that needs to be done. I’ll keep in touch and update you on the progress of contracts. Rikka, get better soon. We’ll need you in top condition in the coming weeks."

“Yes, leader.” Rikka nodded and smiled. Shiki was out of the apartment before anyone could utter another word.

“Well,” Tsubasa stretched and followed the same routine Shiki had initiated, “It’s been an eventful night. I really should get home. Feel better, Rikka. I guess I’ll be seeing you soon. Come on, Dai.”

Dai hesitated and Rikka spoke in an effort to conceal that hesitation, “Actually, I wanted to speak with Dai for a second.”

Tsubasa shrugged, thinking nothing strange of the request. “Alright. I’ll be waiting in the lobby."

After Tsubasa was gone, Dai let out a relieved breath. It was the first time Dai and Rikka had had a chance to talk privately. If they were going to be coworkers, then it was essential to clear any misunderstandings.

“We’re going to be working together, huh?”

“Seems like it,” Rikka murmured as he made an effort to climb out of bed in search for something more drinkable than what Tsubasa had given him. He’d only taken a single step towards the kitchen before wincing in pain. He brought a hand up to his pounding head, thankful that the dizziness had at least passed.

“Does your head hurt?”

“Just a little.” Rikka admitted. 

“Go back to bed, I’ll get you some water.”

Rikka did as he was told though weakly protesting along the way. After he was settled comfortably once more, he watched Dai rummage through his kitchen. Scattered thoughts and emotions bounced haphazardly around Rikka’s head, too jumbled at the moment to make any sense of. Though scattered and jumbled as they may be, it was with absolute clarity that Rikka realized they were all oriented around the same thing. Dai.

“Here.” Dai handed Rikka a glass of water which he took appreciatively. 

“Thank you.”

“Is there anything else you want?”

Rikka shook his head. “We really should talk.”

“I know.” Dai looked away, his face suddenly burning with shame as he spoke his next words. “I’m sorry for not staying.”

Rikka smiled to himself, finding it absolutely adorable how sensitive Dai was about such a small thing. “Dai, it would have been nice if you had but I never expected you to stay. You don’t have anything to apologize for.”

“I see.” Dai spoke.

“This is a little embarrassing to admit but I’ve thought about that night a lot. More so than I probably should."

“Really?” Dai seemed shocked. “Me too.”

“It is more than a little surprising to see you under these circumstances. I never expected we would meet again.” A ghost of a smile still lingered on Rikka’s lips. There was something comforting about being in the taller’s presence. Rikka took an extra moment to appreciate it, having been apart for quite some time now. “I liked spending time with you and I’m glad we’ll have more opportunities to do so.”

Dai smiled as well, shyly yet unmistakably. 

“This is sure to be a turning point in my career and your life as well. I’m excited to share this new experience with you. But, everything that happened that night is in the past. Any lingering feelings, any attachments should be left behind, starting from now going forward.”

Dai’s smile faltered and Rikka’s heart ached just a little. But there needn’t be any misunderstandings that could potentially cause further complications.

“If we’re going to be coworkers we need to remain professional about this situation. Whatever we shared that night, we can’t share again. Whatever we experienced, we can’t experience again. I think it’d be best if this was our last time even speaking about it. Is there anything you would like to say?”

“No. I think you’ve made everything very clear.” There was an unmistakable bite behind his words that shocked Rikka. The night they shared was nothing more than a one night stand. Wasn’t that all it was to Dai as well? Had he really invested enough emotion to be irate over the implication that the night was meant to be shoved away and forgotten?

“Dai, I didn’t mean to be so blunt. It’s just better if we forget it even happened.”

“I understand. I should get going now. See you around, Rikka.”

Dai was out of his apartment before Rikka was given an opportunity to respond. It was for the best, right? Taking control of the situation before either of them grew too attached. If it was the right thing to do, if it really was for the best, why did Dai seem so heartbroken by Rikka’s words?

The sound of the door Dai had slammed moments prior reverberated painfully around Rikka’s skull as he searched for an answer.

Chapter Text

Time was an elusive concept, seemingly abundant in regards to a specific matter and scarce during another. On hectic mornings whenever Rikka found his head in the toilet, in essence, time seemed like a rare, yet desperately needed, jewel. 

On that particular morning, his phone had been pinging nonstop, indicating just how urgently his bandmates had been attempting to reach him. Since they’d made the agreement to join Shiki’s idol unit, things had moved forward at a dizzying pace. Soon after signing their contracts, they were overwhelmed by the scheduling of various photoshoots and bombarded with strict vocal and dance lesson schedules. 

Shiki warned them that not a single aspect of being an idol would be easy, especially having to advertise their names and gain recognition, but Rikka couldn’t have imagined just how difficult it would prove to be. He found himself busier than ever, more overwhelmed and stressed than before when he’d only had to cater to the demands of his modeling career. Not to mention, his mysterious sickness remained an obstacle too large to ignore.

The headaches and dizziness had vanished, much to his relief, but the nausea remained stubbornly in their place. More often than not, he’d either find himself crawling out of bed in the middle of the night or being awakened early in the morning to dash urgently to his bathroom. He’d gag and retch for what felt like an eternity, long pink hair gathered securely away from the mess, until the sickness passed as if it had never existed. The following days followed a similar pattern of torture, violently sick in the morning and/or middle of the night and perfectly fine during the day.

He grew sick and tired of constantly being ill and his bandmates were starting to worry. The first times he’d been late to morning lessons, Shiki had been pissed. Once it became a regular occurence, Rikka shuffling into the room an hour after he was supposed to be there, murmuring a steady stream of apologies followed by excessive bowing, the others began to express concern.

Rikka conjured up every excuse he could think of for his erratic behavior. But after a while, the notion of constantly sleeping past his alarm lost its justification.

The pink haired man reached out a blind hand towards the direction of the pinging. Sat firmly on his bathroom floor and ignoring the queasy sensation in his stomach, Rikka knew he wouldn’t be getting up any time soon. He cursed after catching a glimpse of the time. He was already forty minutes late for their group dance lesson.

His phone continued pinging as he skimmed through his missed notifications. A handful of missed calls from Shiki and a couple of texts. A couple of missed calls from Tsubasa and a multitude of unread texts from him as well. Not a single notification from Dai and Rikka couldn’t say he was surprised. 

Ever since their previous talk, Dai had been keeping his distance from the model. He only spoke to Rikka when he needed to, shifty gazes making up the bulk of their communicative exchanges. Maybe it would have been wise to have another private discussion in the hopes of eliminating all negative tension. But with the both of them busy with their unit preparations and Rikka preoccupied with his sickness, missed opportunities continually passed them by.

Needing something to serve as a distraction from his lurching stomach, Rikka opened the most recent texts from Tsubasa.

Please respond to this message if you’re still alive.

The next message featured a picture of Dai sitting alone in the corner of their practice room. Dai stared at the phone in his hands with furrowed brows and a tense mouth, unaware that he was being photographed. The caption underneath the picture read:

It may not look like it but Dai misses you. This is his concerned face.

The most recent text, sent one minute ago, featured a picture of Shiki. The purple haired leader had his arms crossed, brows furrowed in a similar manner to Dai. His eyes were narrowed as he looked pointedly into the camera lens, clearly aware that his expression was being documented on Tsubasa’s phone. The caption read:

Based on his expression, I can’t tell if he’s really distraught or really constipated.

Rikka smiled a little before sending a quick text in response:

I’m alive. Don’t worry.

After having spent a fair amount of time together thus far, Rikka had come to the conclusion that Tsubasa was a rather pleasant guy to be around. He had a way with words like no other and possessed a lively aura that brightened even the darkest room and shed light on the bleakest of situations. 

Rikka opened the latest text from Shiki, the smile on his face faltering.

As your leader, I must ask this. Is there something you need to tell me? Is there something I can help with?

Of course, it was a leader’s duty to know what was happening with his bandmates. If Rikka just explained what was going on, Shiki would surely understand. He would also pester the pink haired man to see a doctor and essentially halt the progression of their new unit. Rikka didn’t want to inconvenience any of them, no more than he already had.

He would meet with a doctor privately, receive a prescription for something treatable, and continue on as normal. The unit would not have to be put on hold because of a single bandmate’s personal matters. Rikka saw, each and every day, how hard Tsubasa worked on his singing and how determined Dai was to perfect every dance step. He saw how much time Shiki invested into the production and management of their unit. Rikka refused to be the one to undermine everyone’s hard work.

He sent a text to Shiki, needing to reassure their leader that everything was under control.

Everything’s fine. I’ll be there soon.

**

One hour and fifteen minutes.

That was how long they’d had to postpone their group lesson because of him. In that time, Shiki, Tsubasa, and Dai had been given chances to practice on their own, to pinpoint and repair personal problem areas. In retrospect, Rikka couldn’t help but feel like he was the weakest link of the group, already falling a few steps behind, too preoccupied with other matters.

“I’m so sorry.” He apologized to his bandmates and their instructor.

“Nothing can be done about it now. Let’s try to make up for lost time.” Shiki spoke and Rikka nodded. Honestly, dancing was the last thing Rikka wanted to be doing at the moment. What with the room smelling sickeningly of Shiki’s favorite coffee and the tension reaching an all time high courtesy of Dai’s heavy lingering gaze.

After successfully completing a particularly difficult step and turn sequence, the rookie unit was instructed to take a five minute break. Rikka spent half of his break alone in the hopes of gathering his thoughts. Standing in front of the large wall mirror, he sucked in a deep breath, wondering how he managed to look composed when a tumultuous whirlwind was swirling around inside. He had his health to worry about, his relationship with Dai to worry about, and his obligations as a model and idol to focus on.

Past his own reflection, Rikka saw Tsubasa and Dai standing towards the back corner of the room. Although they were a good distance apart, Tsubasa’s voice carried prominently.

“Dai, you really need to stop staring. It’s getting creepy. Just go talk to him.”

Dai’s response was too soft to be heard from a distance. Based on his current expression, however, Tsubasa had embarrassed him a great deal. Not a minute passed before Tsubasa was not so subtly pushing a still embarrassed Dai in Rikka’s direction. 

When Dai approached the slender man, Rikka pretended to look unperturbed, not wanting to let on that he’d already heard some of his conversation with Tsubasa. Dai was flustered enough at the moment.

“Hey.” A man of few words, Dai patiently waited for Rikka’s response.

“Hi. Was there something you wanted to tell me?” Rikka smiled, friendly as always, no matter the situation.

“I wanted to ask if you were okay.”

Rikka faltered. Although the intentions were good, he was beginning to get tired of everyone constantly asking him if he was okay.

“I should be asking if you’re okay. We haven’t spoken much lately.”

“I wanted to give you space.”

Rikka’s smile disappeared in an instant. If he’d wanted Dai to give him space, he would have asked for it. Dai had a tendency to jump to conclusions and make assumptions. It was beginning to grate on Rikka’s nerves. Maybe it was the price he was destined to pay for getting involved with a nineteen year old.

“I didn’t ask for space!” He realized a moment too late that he’d raised his voice. 

Dai took a surprising step back at the same time Shiki, Tsubasa, and the instructor froze in place. The entire room was silent, reeling from the effects of Rikka’s outburst. Always calm, poised, professional, and nurturing, it was highly unusual for him to raise his voice. Even Rikka himself was shocked. He’d always had such a secure grasp on his emotions and temper. What could Dai have possibly done to provoke such an easy going person?

Shiki reached the conversing duo, placing a gentle hand on Dai’s shoulder and Rikka’s shoulder simultaneously. If there was a disagreement between bandmates, he wanted to settle it before it spiraled out of control.

“Is something wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong.” Rikka spoke. With Shiki being in such close proximity, the smell of coffee was overbearing. “I just need some fresh air.”

“Hey, the break is almost over!” Tsubasa called out, but Rikka had already made a hasty escape out of the room and towards the elevators. Since they were currently practicing on the 6th floor, Rikka had to take the elevator to the ground floor if he wanted to escape outside. He leaned wearily against the wall of the elevator, just as the doors began to close.

Before they could shut completely, a large hand nudged its way in between, prompting them to reopen to their full capacity. Dai silently made his way onto the elevator. Rikka couldn’t help but sigh.

“You didn’t have to follow me.”

“I wasn't following you. I wanted some fresh air too.”

Rikka hummed in response. Not sure if he felt relieved to have company or afraid his desire to be alone would cause him to lose his temper and raise his voice again.

As the elevator made its downward descent, Rikka felt it was the right time to provide Dai with an apology. “I’m sorry I snapped at you. I don’t know what came over me.”

“ ‘S okay.”

“I just want things to be more relaxed between us. People will start to notice if we don’t get along. Is it too much to hope that we can become friends one day?”

“Friends?” Dai tested the word, feeling the weight of it on his tongue. “If we become friends, will you start being honest with me?”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m not good with people but I can read them well. Every time you tell us you’re okay, every time you come up with an excuse after showing up late to lessons, they’re all lies. Since you and I...since we’ve already-” The dinging of the elevator abruptly silenced Dai’s monologue. The taller hesitated, unsure whether or not he should continue. He didn’t have to, Rikka understood what he wanted to say.

Since he’d already opened up to Dai once, in ways he hadn’t opened up to anyone in a long time, what was stopping him from doing it again? Being honest didn’t mean he was weak or vulnerable and Dai was surely the last person who would judge.

The blue haired man sighed, and continued with, “If you were going to be honest with anyone, I had hoped it would have been me. Maybe I thought too highly of myself.”

“You’re absolutely right.” Rikka walked side by side with Dai through the lobby. They exited the building to enjoy the beauty and warmth of the clear morning together. “I’ve just been so used to handling things on my own, I almost forgot that I don’t have to.”

“Do you not have anyone you can talk to? What about your parents?”

“My parents moved back to France a few years ago. We keep in touch, of course, but I’ve been on my own since they left.”

“France?”

“Yeah. My dad’s French and my mom’s Japanese.”

“I see. What about siblings?”

“I’m an only child. I take it you have siblings?”

Dai nodded. “An older sister.”

“Ah. It must be nice. You had someone to grow up with.”

“It was nice,” He murmured before changing the subject abruptly. “Rikka, if there’s something bothering you, you can tell me.”

Rikka mulled over his words for a moment before speaking. “I don’t like burdening others. Especially those younger than me.”

“Age is irrelevant.”

Rikka smiled at the same time a warm gentle breeze caressed his face. He spoke softly, ensuring Dai was the only one who could hear. “You’ve all been working so hard and I didn’t want to be the one to ruin this unit’s progress.”

“What do you mean?”

“Since that night at the bar, I’ve been extremely sick.”

“You’ve been sick this entire time?” Dai asked in bewilderment.

“I should have seen a doctor sooner but I was scared.” Rikka admitted sheepishly. Scared of what the doctor might find, what he might say. “It’s been weighing on me physically and psychologically. Now I have this idol unit to worry about and I still have my modeling career too.”

“Rikka,” Dai breathed, voice heavy with sympathy.

“And then there’s you.”

“What about me?”

“I haven’t stopped feeling bad about the things I said to you. I didn’t say them because I wanted to, I said them because I thought I had to. I don’t want to pretend as if that night never happened nor do I want to deny the connection I felt when we were together. But we should move on.

Dai nodded slowly. “I took what you said too personally, that was my own fault. But you’re right, we should move on. It’s what’s best for this unit and us.”

Rikka wrapped his arms around himself in a display of self comfort. Opening up to someone was never easy nor was being honest about anything personal.

Dai continued when it was clear Rikka wasn’t going to. “I think you should see a doctor.”

Rikka nodded, tightening his arms around his body. “I’m scheduled to meet with one soon.”

“Do you want me to go with you?”

“Thank you but I think I should go by myself.”

“I understand. But please take care of yourself in the meantime. We need you, Rikka.”

Rikka chuckled, light and sweet. “I’ll admit, it does feel good to be needed. Don’t worry, I’ll be back to normal in no time.” Whether he spoke to convince Dai or to convince himself, he wasn’t sure. But saying it out loud made it feel more authentic. Things would soon go back to normal and Rikka would be able to breathe a much needed sigh of relief.

**

On the day of his appointment, Rikka waited with bated breath, nervously anticipating the end of his physical examination. He’d planned it meticulously, scheduling a day when he didn’t have to work and a time wherein he was sure his illness wouldn’t interfere. 

As the examination drew to a close, Rikka grew more anxious. Expecting answers, hoping for positive news but preparing for bad, he was nothing more than a bundle of frayed nerves.

“Everything looks good thus far.” 

Rikka had been expecting a more... thorough response from the doctor. 

“That’s a relief to hear but it doesn’t explain why I’ve been sick.”

“I’ll order some blood tests and we’ll go from there.” The doctor spoke formally and stiffly, as if the results of the blood tests didn’t have the potential to restructure the trajectory of Rikka’s entire life.

“What do you suspect it could be?”

“It’s hard to say without further tests. It could be anemia, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, the list is endless.”

“I see.” Rikka responded quietly, displeased by the prospect of having to leave the doctor’s office with more questions than answers.  

For further analysis, his blood was drawn in a quick and precise manner. Stored away for future evaluation. Per insistent inquiry, he was reassured that the weighted results would not remain shrouded in secrecy for long.

Towards the beginning of his departure from the medical office, he received a text message. He paused a moment to focus his attention on his phone, uncovering the sender of the newly delivered message.

Dai. 

He couldn’t help but smile a bit.

Since their spontaneous conversation outside of the Tsukino building, he and Dai had been more compliant with communicative association. They messaged more freely and conversed willingly in lieu of obligatorily. 

How was your appointment?

Uninformative.

Not a single answer had been given, nor a perpetual fear alleviated. Rikka felt no better about his unfortunate situation than when he’d first arrived. He waited for a moment, curious as to whether or not Dai would reply. He didn’t and Rikka thought nothing of it.

On his way back home, his phone alerted him to another message. Shiki had utilized their group chat to relay some important information.

Shiki: We need to have a meeting in the next couple of hours. Sorry for the late notice.

Tsubasa: No way! I have plans.

Shiki: Cancel them. President’s orders.

Tsubasa: Ugh

Shiki: Rikka, Dai, are you both available?

Dai: Yeah.

Rikka: I’ll be there as soon as I can.

After replying, Rikka placed his phone back in his pocket. Abruptly rerouting his destination placed him at the Tsukino company building in under an hour. The life of an idol required being at the company’s beck and call, as per outlined in the exclusive contracts. Rikka was unfazed by Shiki’s sudden request, though he was thrown for a loop when the reasoning behind the requested meeting was revealed.

“Remember, we have our first promotional photoshoot tomorrow. Please don’t be late.” Although Shiki didn’t look at him directly, Rikka knew he was the one being addressed.

“Our first performance as a unit is coming up soon as well. Take care of yourselves and remain in top condition until then.”

“Yes, yes.” Tsubasa responded dismissively, already well aware of their upcoming schedules. “What is this meeting really about?”

“It was brought to my attention that we’ll be moving into the dorm after our first official group schedule.”

“Dorm? First official….you mean the photoshoot?” Tsubasa was shocked, that much was easily discernible, and Rikka was as well. Although for entirely different reasons.

“That’s correct.” Shiki nodded. 

Tsubasa, the only member who displayed visible anguish, spoke once more. “I object to living in a dorm.”

“Objections are unacceptable.”

“But I haven’t agreed to-”

“It was written in the contract.”

“Eh?” Tsubasa froze and Shiki massaged his temples in exasperation. 

“If you would have taken the time to read it before signing, you would have already been aware.”

Tsubasa looked helplessly back at Dai. The stoic man gave a short affirmative nod, authenticating Shiki’s previous statement. “It was written in the contract.”

While Tsubasa came to terms with the notion of having to live with others, while Shiki fought off a budding headache, and while Dai sat patiently in the midst, Rikka dealt with his own thoughts and feelings.

Unlike Tsubasa, he had been well aware they would move in together. Although the matter of when had never been specified. The timing, namely the biggest source of Rikka’s own anguish,  couldn’t have been more inconvenient. With the cause of his sickness still unknown, Rikka wouldn’t be able to hide it easily once their living conditions were altered.

“Two bathrooms, a common room, and kitchen will be shared. You’ll each have a private bedroom. Housing, food, and utility expenses will be fully covered by the company. Is everyone satisfied with that?”

“Well,” Rikka spoke, deciding to view the situation as positively as he could, “it’ll be nice to live closer to work. And I’m looking forward to having others to come home to.”

Shiki smiled in response before focusing his attention towards Dai.

“Dai?”

“As my first time living on my own, it’ll be a new experience.”

“A good one, I hope.” Shiki spoke and Dai nodded briefly in response.

Rikka didn’t consider how Dai might have felt regarding such a life changing transition. At least, not right away. Only after their eyes made accidental contact did Rikka notice conflicting emotions barely concealed behind steel blue irises.

How did he feel, knowing he’d be living in unfathomably close proximity to the one with whom he shared powerful memories?

“Tsubasa, is there a problem?” Shiki’s voice distracted Rikka from his thoughts, ensuring he didn’t get lost in his own head.

“No,” The blonde crossed his arms and sent a defiant look in their leader’s direction. “I just…”

“Just what?”

“...don’t like being told what to do.”

Shiki scoffed. “Are you a child?”

Tsubasa rolled his eyes before sighing in defeat. "Alright, leader . Tell us more."

Shiki reached into his back pocket before producing a set of six labeled keys. He held up and distributed the first three.

"These are for entrance into the dorm." The next set of keys were distributed in a more precise manner. "Dai, Tsubasa, Rikka, these are your room keys."

"When do we have to move in?" Tsubasa wondered, holding both keys in clasped hands.

"You're expected to start moving in by the beginning of next week. I'll mail each of you the address and a map of the building. I do apologize for the late notice but there was some miscommunication between the higher ups. Any more questions?"

“Will we still have the freedom to do what we want?”

“There will be rules, Tsubasa, though not as strict as you’re probably imagining. You’re free to do as you like, granted your obligations to this unit remain uncompromised.”

Shiki spoke with such finality that further inquiry proved unwarranted. All anyone could do at that point was to accept unquestionable fate under nonnegotiable conditions. Any personal concerns were to be dealt with inconspicuously. 

At the conclusion of the meeting, Rikka and Dai were the first ones to leave. Neither spoke, on the way to their respective homes, both seeking solitary rumination.

Once Rikka returned to his apartment, he became overwhelmed with sudden intense and positive emotion, filling his eyes with unexpected tears. He laughed heartily, as tears streamed endlessly down his cheeks. What would it feel like to have someone welcome him home at the end of a long day? How drastically would his life change once he had others to share it with?

There were still complicated matters that promptly needed to be addressed, but Rikka decided that for now, he would allow himself to be happy. 

Chapter Text

“Your expression is perfect, Rikka! Just like that!”

The camera’s familiar bright flash lit up the entire room, rendering it impossible to see past the blinding white light. The man behind the camera was nothing more than a disembodied voice, temporarily faceless against a pure white backdrop.

“Can you do that pose again for me? Yes, excellent!”

Rikka’s moves were fluid, his body molding into various poses effortlessly. Not a single unsure moment halted the progression of his shoot. No, Sera Rikka was a top tier professional.

Once comfortably settled into an enthralling pose, a sultry expression altered his gentle features. He felt numerous pairs of eyes tracking his every movement, just as the camera flashed thrice more. 

“That’s a wrap! Thank you for your hard work, Rikka.”

Rikka bowed politely, accepting the cameraman’s praise with gratitude.

“Shiki-san, you’re up next.”

The transition from standing in front of the camera to observe behind the scenes was seamless. Possessing such a modest personality, Rikka embraced the moments when the attention was no longer focused on him. Ironic for someone in a profession such as his.

“Woah, Rikka! That was amazing. Such a killer aura hidden beneath a charming personality!”

Rikka chuckled behind a delicate hand. Tsubasa never ceased to amuse him. “Modeling is nothing more than perfecting a façade.”

“Is it different, now that you’re doing it as an idol?”

“It’s…” Rikka searched for the right word. Knowing he was doing it for a much different purpose, contributing to something he was more passionate about, made it immensely enjoyable. He couldn’t help but smile. “...refreshing. I’ll admit my interest in modeling had been wavering, but I’m ready to continue doing my very best.”

Of course, he hadn’t reached that conclusion alone. Dai had been the one to offer earnest advice and Shiki had provided him with a favorable opportunity. 

Speaking of…”Where is Dai?” The tall man with blue hair was strangely nowhere to be seen. 

“Hm?” Tsubasa had been distracted by Shiki’s serious demeanor. The leader’s photoshoot carried a much different aura than Rikka’s captivating shoot. “Oh, Dai-chan?”

Rikka nodded.

“He seemed really affected by your shoot. He dashed off to the bathroom a while ago. I think you flustered him.”

“I did?”

“Yeah. He feels a strong sense of responsibility, so he’s sensitive about a lot of things. Maybe I should go check on him.”

Well aware of how easily Dai took situations to heart, Rikka felt it best for him to be the one to calm anxious thoughts and fears.

“I can go check on him.”

Tsubasa nodded thoughtfully. “He’ll probably want to listen to you more than me. Go ahead.”

Rikka followed the directions he was given to the toilets, stopping in front of a tightly closed door. He knocked gently.

“Dai?”

A few excruciatingly long moments later found Rikka and Dai face to face. Polished to perfection, adorned in flattering stage clothes, Dai stood marvelously in front of his senior bandmate. Their black, gray, and maroon color scheme made his blue hair and eyes even more striking.

Fitting the role of an idol in theory, Dai’s aura was lacking.

“Is everything alright?”

“Rikka,” Dai sighed, “I feel like a child.”

“You can talk to me,” He encouraged. As of late, Dai had been the one needing a comforting presence. Someone to offer him advice and reassure things would be okay. As a senior wanting to encourage his junior, Rikka was willing to step up.

It didn’t take much coaxing before Dai was opening up to the one who was there to listen. 

“I watched your photoshoot and I suddenly got nervous. You’re perfect in front of the camera and charming, even when you think you aren’t. Shiki, he’s a natural born leader and Tsubasa can capture anyone’s attention. Those things will transfer across photo shoots and performances. How can I possibly compete?”

“Dai, I think there’s been a misunderstanding.” Rikka spoke softly, gently, since Dai seemed rather distressed. “For us, the focus of being an idol doesn’t center around individual skill alone. Rather, the emphasis should be on our abilities as a unit. I’ll admit there’s nothing wrong with wanting to better yourself. But don’t proceed under the guise that you’re doing things alone.”

Dai silently mulled over Rikka’s words, rendering it impossible to tell if they had a positive effect. Finally, he spoke.

“I’m the only one who’s nervous about the photo shoot.”

Rikka chuckled lightly, causing heat to fluster Dai’s face.

“You’re wrong. I was nervous too.”

“Liar,” Dai mumbled, causing Rikka to laugh harder.

“It’s true! I swear. No matter how many I’ve done, I always get nervous before a photo shoot. Though, I’ll admit this one was much easier to complete.”

“Why is that?”

Rikka smiled. “It reassured me to realize I wouldn’t be participating in this shoot by myself."

Dai simply sighed in response, causing Rikka to frown ever so slightly.

“Still nervous?”

The taller nodded.

A patch of silence stretched between the two of them with Rikka contemplating how best to get through to and comfort Dai. The perfect idea descended upon him mere moments later. Rikka’s face lit up accordingly, in stark contrast to Dai’s solemn expression.

“Let’s head back to the shoot, I have an idea.”

Dai remained silent, though Rikka could sense his presence regardless as he followed closely behind. They arrived back at the designated photoshoot area just as Shiki was finishing his individual shots. Dai would be up next, seeing as he was the only one who hadn’t yet completed a shoot. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as Rikka approached the photography director with a request.

“Sorry for making a request so suddenly.”

“If we can get some great shots, it’ll be worthwhile.”

Rikka beamed. “I think so as well.”

At the conclusion of Shiki’s shoot, the director turned to address everyone in the room and notify them of the sudden shift in plans.

“Let’s prepare for the group shots. Everyone, please be ready in ten minutes.”

“Group shots? I thought we were doing those tomorrow.” Tsubasa inquired, Dai and Shiki looked questioningly in Rikka’s direction.

“I thought it would be better if we did those today. I imagine someone’s first time in front of a camera would be easier with company.”

Tsubasa picked up on the implication with ease, subsequently ruffling Dai’s hair with great exuberance.

“Aw, Dai-chan. Does being in front of a camera make you nervous?”

“Shut up,” He responded, though there was no force accompanying his words.

Tsubasa laughed, playfully leaning against his taller friend. “Cheer up, you can stand next to me during the shoot.”

“I don’t want to stand next to you.”

Tsubasa pouted, “Eh? Maybe you want to stand next to Rikka. You have been going on and on about how cool he-”

Dai blanched, eyes widening comically, before clapping a panicked hand over Tsubasa’s endlessly running mouth. A hearty laugh bellowed from deep within their leader at the same time Rikka shyly fiddled with a long strand of pink hair.

Shiki laughed hard enough for tears to collect in the corner of his eyes, rendering his bandmates hopelessly confused.

Dai’s hand remained firmly over Tsubasa’s mouth while Rikka’s hair remained fixed between his fingers when Shiki spoke, “Idol unit? More like motley crew.”

Tsubasa removed Dai’s hand from his mouth and narrowed his eyes indignantly. “Is that supposed to be an insult?”

“Not at all.” Shiki responded genuinely. “I don’t quite understand it myself but we mesh well somehow. It will easily translate to the audience we’re trying to reach.”

Before anyone could respond, the director and cameraman were calling them to set for group photos. They made their way over together, all thinking the exact same thing.

Shiki was right. The four of them shared a unique connection that couldn’t be described with words. Everything about them was unconventional, in more ways than one. From the first time they’d met, awkwardly crowding around Rikka in that small restaurant bathroom, till now, standing proudly together as a rookie unit, things have been anything but smooth sailing.

But standing side by side, just as they were, reminded them of the goal they shared and the new adventures they were excited to experience together.

“Dai, Rikka, would you stand back to back for this next picture? Perfect!”

Rikka leaned against Dai as instructed, speaking softly so only he could hear, “Still nervous?”

“Not anymore.”

“Good.” Rikka smiled and although he couldn’t see it, he had a strong feeling Dai was smiling as well.

“Keep those expressions, everyone. This looks great!” 

The camera continued to shutter, bathing the room in that familiar light. Even as Tsubasa spoke, the shutter sound didn’t let up.

“So what are we calling this unit?”

“SolidS.”

“SolidS? Why SolidS?”

“Don’t ask questions, just go with it.”

“Whatever you say, darling .”

Over the sound of the camera shutter, Shiki’s response was clearly heard. It was also clear that he had no intention of disguising the amused lilt that bled into his voice. “Thanks, honey .”

SolidS.

It had a nice ring to it.

**

The transition to their dorm had not been a difficult one, nor has it been difficult to adjust to the dorm living conditions. Since SolidS had been making impressive progress, the photoshoot having garnered much positive attention, the four of them were getting along with ease.

Thus far, no one but Dai knew or suspected that Rikka had anything to hide. He had been eagerly expecting the results of his blood tests since the day they’d moved in. Since he hadn’t received any news, bad or otherwise, he’d been focusing all of his attention and energy on SolidS. Anything he could do to distract himself.

Even if that meant unpacking his room in the middle of the night because his busy mind would not grant him the luxury of sleep. 

His closet was filled with fashionable clothes and his bed was made to his satisfaction. All that was left to do was personalize his new space. He busied himself with hanging pictures, tidying his nightstands and shelves, and organizing any other knick knacks he brought.

When that was done, he stood back to admire his work. With his hands on his hips, he surveyed his surroundings. His new room was bright and welcoming, tranquil and relaxing. It was perfect. He breathed a sigh of relief, knowing he wouldn’t have any problems calling this new place home.

The growling of his stomach served as another necessary distraction, prompting him to venture out to the common areas. Along the way, he passed by Dai’s room first ( which was next to his ), Shiki’s room and office space and Tsubasa’s room ( which was across from his ), and both bathrooms on either side of the hall.

He passed the common living room and made his way into the shared kitchen. Thus far, he hadn’t had much time to spend cooking, seeing as how busy they all were. It was a welcome change to have it to himself, to admire the sleek and updated appliances whilst creating something delicious. 

Barely halfway through an omurice preparation, his stomach growled even louder than before. He chuckled. After promising his demanding stomach he would be feeding it soon, he carried on with his preparation. Just as he was plating his delicious creation, the sound of an opening door captured his attention. Past the living room and down the hall, he witnessed Shiki emerging from his office.

Shiki was surprised to find Rikka awake, although Rikka couldn’t say he was surprised to find Shiki still awake. It was clear that the producer’s work had kept him wide eyed at such a late hour.

“You’re still awake.” Shiki spoke. Although not a question, Rikka nodded anyway.

“Coffee?” The pink haired gestured in the direction of their treasured coffee machine.

“Yes, please.” Shiki answered, situating himself at the countertop. He watched Rikka for a moment before speaking again. “Having trouble sleeping?”

Rikka paused in the midst of making the coffee before speaking. It wasn’t possible for Shiki to suspect anything was going on with him. Was it?

“Yes. I just have a lot on my mind.”

“Hm.” Shiki responded thoughtfully. “Is there an issue living here?”

“No, of course not. I enjoy living here, actually.”

“That’s good to hear.” Shiki accepted the coffee he was handed graciously. His focus landing on the plate of omurice Rikka had meticulously prepared.

“Oh, I got hungry.”

“This late?”

“Is that unusual?” Rikka murmured as he searched the cabinets for condiments. He found what he was looking for in the form of a dark bottle with a bright red top. In the blink of an eye, his omurice was drowned in soy sauce. Rikka’s mouth watered in anticipation before taking a large bite.

“I didn’t know you liked soy sauce so much.”

“Hm?” Only after Shiki spoke did Rikka realize just how much soy sauce he’d used. It was a little embarrassing. “I suddenly got a craving.” He replied sheepishly.

“To each his own, I suppose. Although I would suggest everything in moderation.”

“I’ll be more careful next time.”

Shiki nodded, making a point of standing up and heading back to his office. “Don’t stay up too much later. Goodnight, Rikka.”

“You too. Goodnight, Shiki.”

Rikka was left alone to enjoy his late night snack. It wasn’t often he found himself craving something so intensely, especially after midnight. Though his sudden large appetite did surprise him, he didn’t dwell on it for too long once he made his way back to his room.

With nothing left to distract him, he had no further excuse to stay up. He crawled into bed in the hopes that he would finally get some sleep. It proved shocking just how quickly he did fall asleep, though the luxury of it was not granted for long. 

He awoke roughly an hour later with a familiarly queasy stomach. He groaned at the prospect of  having to unwillingly dart out of bed. Not left with any other option, he hurried to the nearest bathroom, which happened to be the one next to Dai’s room.

This had not been his first time getting sick since moving into the dorm. But it had been the first time he’d woken someone because of it.

“Rikka?” A knock on the door. Dai’s worried voice. Shit .

A moment passed before the door creaked open and shut once more. Too preoccupied with other things, Rikka heard rather than saw Dai crouch down beside him.

“You can curse at me for invading your privacy later. But you shouldn't have to deal with this alone.”

Rikka hadn’t been in a position to lock the door, nor was he in a current condition to protest. Provided with no other option, he allowed Dai to hold back his hair and rub his back just like he’d done the first time.

Once he was done being sick, he rinsed his mouth and brushed his teeth. He faced Dai for the first time all night. The latter seemed distressed.

“That’s the last time I eat omurice in the middle of the night.”

It was a joke, sure, but the serious atmosphere had not been lifted. Dai spoke firmly. “Rikka-”

“My test results will be back soon. Then I won’t have anything to worry about.”

Dai seemed unconvinced so Rikka continued.

“The doctor said my physical examination looked good. So he doesn’t suspect it’s anything serious.”

Dai sighed before nodding. As worried as he was about his bandmate, there really was nothing he could do. There was nothing either of them could do until Rikka finally received the answers he’d been anticipating.

“Do you need help getting back to your room?”

“No, thank you. I’m fine.” Rikka responded automatically. Though shortly after, he did realize a sudden lightheadedness had crashed upon him. One unsteady step later, Dai was at his side again. Rikka leaned against the sturdy body offering aid.

“Damn it, don’t say things you don’t mean.” Dai’s voice was strained, clearly pinched out of frustration. 

Rikka remained silent, not knowing exactly what to say, as Dai led him out of the bathroom. The nineteen year old had been such a big help through this, whatever this was exactly. A large part of Rikka was grateful that someone else knew what he was dealing with. Another part, a much smaller part, couldn’t help but wonder if Dai was so invested because he felt obligated to be. To compensate for taking advantage of a vulnerable situation, to compensate for not sticking around after they’d shared an intimate night together. 

“Dai, we’re bandmates and friends. But that doesn't mean you have to do these things for me.”

He didn’t respond right away, too focused on helping Rikka into his bed. When he did respond, he said simply, “I feel responsible.”

“I don’t understand.”

With Rikka settled into bed, Dai’s hands were free. He ran them both through his blue hair in exasperation. “Don’t make me say it out loud. Fuck . I just feel like I should be the one taking care of you.”

Rikka blinked his eyes in surprise, he hadn’t been expecting such a response. It left him more than a little confused and he still struggled to understand.

“Why would you feel that way?”

“Please, don’t ask me why. It’s just a gut feeling.” Dai responded, clearly embarrassed to be admitting such a thing. He didn’t want Rikka to ever look down on him, seeing him as nothing more than a childish underling with a silly crush.

“Well, I appreciate your help regardless. And I’m sorry for waking you. Try to get some sleep”

“You too.” Dai purposefully strode to the door, no doubt in a hurry to leave after he’d embarrassed himself in front of Rikka, again . Visibly fighting against every instinct that screamed at him to flee, Dai froze in the doorway before turning around. Rikka looked up curiously.

“If you, um, need anything, you can come get me. You can wake me if you have to.”

“Dai-”

“Goodnight, Rikka.”

He was out of the room before Rikka could utter another word. The nineteen year old carried an air of mystery, no doubt. Sometimes he was easy to read like an open book, other times, it was impossible to even guess what he was thinking. 

Rikka fell asleep with thoughts centered upon Dai, wondering just how much their new living arrangements would affect their relationship in the upcoming months.

He was awakened an unspecified amount of time later by his phone’s incessant ringing. He was disoriented for a few moments before realizing where he was and remembering what had happened last night. Filtered sunlight shone through his curtains while he reached for his phone.

A brief glimpse at the time notified him of the late morning hour, though he didn’t feel adequately rested. 

“Hello?” He hated how groggy his voice sounded. 

“Is this Sera Rikka?”

“Yes.” Rikka hadn’t bothered to pay attention to the number. If he had, he would have been more prepared to receive alarming news from the medical office. They had the results of his blood tests!

Rikka sat up quickly in a panic, suddenly aware that the voice on the other line sounded serious. Unmistakably so.

“Is there something...wrong?”

A deep sigh. “Your results showed high levels of hcG.”

“What does that mean?” Rikka questioned cautiously.

“It means...you’re pregnant.”

“I’m sorry...could you repeat that?” Surely he’d misheard. That was the only plausible explanation. 

“You’re pregnant.” There was no way he could have misheard a second time. Still, he was well aware that doctors and medical offices made mistakes. This was just a simple mixed up scenario. It would be fixed in no time.

“There must be some mistake.” His voice quivered, dropping to a near whisper.

“There is no mistake, I apologize. It’s highly advisable for you to schedule a follow up appointment...”

Rikka had stopped listening somewhere along the way. His phone dropped from his hands, landing somewhere on the floor with a soft thud. His mind was reeling, the impact of the news rendering him immobile. He’d been more prepared to expect the diagnosis of a life threatening disease than pregnancy of all things. It was absurd. What about SolidS? What about his modeling career?

Rikka prided himself on being a smart person, a reasonable person, a careful person. He had never done anything to jeopardize his public image, future, or career. What was he going to do now? How was he going to handle this? More importantly, how did it even happen?

He always took care of his body, grooming himself to be in top condition at all times. He never abused his body, never slept around, never considered acting so recklessly. That night with Dai was the first time he’d-

Dai?

Dai .

That night with Dai was the first time in a very long time wherein he’d shared the night with another. Even then, they had taken precautions. When had everything gone so terribly wrong?

Rikka placed his heavy head in his hands, collecting the sudden tears that made a rapid descent. He cursed himself for being so emotional, so vulnerable. If he hadn’t been so desperate for human affection, if he hadn’t been so emotionally and mentally weak, he could have prevented this. If Rikka hadn’t been impatient, then it wouldn’t have rubbed off on Dai. If Dai hadn’t been impatient then the precautions they had taken would have proven more effective.

Male pregnancy was a widespread taboo, not unlike homosexuality. If news about the pregnancy was ever released, SolidS would be ruined, Tsukino productions would be driven to the ground, and too many people would have to suffer. 

Rikka wouldn’t, no, couldn’t go through with the pregnancy. Not if he cared about others’ well being. He wiped his tired eyes, too distraught by the idea of ruining other people’s lives to properly function. 

As he sat in bed, with the burden of his emotions suffocating him, he thought about Dai. Dai, who was only nineteen years old, living away from his parents for the very first time. He flustered when given compliments and valiantly fought budding insecurities. A teenager still searching for his place in the world was nowhere near ready to be a father.

With shaking hands, Rikka retrieved his phone and redialed the doctor’s office. It wasn’t difficult to make a decision when there was only one right option to choose from.

“I would like to schedule an appointment to discuss abortion options.” His voice remained unsteady, although he knew he was making the right decision. He would get the procedure discreetly and not have to stress any longer. No more sickness, no more headaches, dizziness, no more feeling as if his life was off kilter. A quick fix, a simple solution, and then he’d never have to worry about it again.

A baby he never asked for. A baby Dai never asked for.

“I think that would be wise.” The person on the other line responded. 

Rikka held back a bitter laugh. Even strangers didn’t want him to have this baby. What more convincing could he need?

“Male pregnancy isn’t something we deal with often but rest assured we’ll get you the care you need.” The person on the other line assisted with the process of setting up an appointment quickly and efficiently. 

Just a few minutes later, Rikka had another scheduled appointment to discuss his pregnancy and abortion. Until the appointment, until his abortion was complete , he would have to find a way to function as normal. He couldn’t draw unnecessary attention to himself, not if he wanted to keep things a secret. A secret from his employers, from his bandmates, from Dai .

He couldn’t wrap his head around it easily, the idea of Dai being the father of his unborn baby. How would he react if he knew his bandmate was pregnant with his child? In the grand scheme of life, Dai and Rikka barely knew each other. They just happened to walk the same unpredictable path of becoming idols. Idols in training who didn’t have the energy or the fucking time to raise a child.

Rikka climbed out of bed slowly, wanting to prolong the moment where he’d have to leave his room. Because once he did, there would be no turning back.

He changed from his sleepwear into activewear, suddenly deciding a mid-morning jog would be a sufficient activity to help clear his mind. He gathered his pink hair into a messy bun, a couple of loose strands framing his soft face. He couldn’t help it, as he styled his hair, when his tired eyes flickered down to his stomach. It didn’t look any different than before, though it remained perplexing to ponder the existence of a baby inside of him.

If he’d been aware of his ability to get pregnant, the circumstances leading up to conception would have been handled accordingly. He was sure of it. 

Only after he was fully composed, tears dried and personal emotions firmly underwraps, did he leave his room. The hallway was quiet as he ducked into the bathroom to freshen up, affording him a few extra moments of peace and solitude. 

His moments of peace and solitude were overshadowed only by the abrupt appearance of a certain blue haired teen. 

“Rikka?”

“Dai?”

A mere step away from physically bumping into each other, Dai had been leaving his room at the same time Rikka had left the bathroom. Too distracted by the taller’s presence, Rikka struggled to strike up a meaningful conversation. 

Dai really was the father of his baby. No matter how Rikka reworked it in his head, the thought remained too genuine and tangible to be anything but accurate. No wonder Rikka was speechless as he quickly averted his gaze. Whether Dai could sense it or not, everything between them had changed. For better or worse, it was too early for either to discern.

Unsurprisingly, Dai was the first to speak. “Did I, um, overstep my boundaries last night?” So he could sense the awkward shift in the air.

Rikka looked anywhere but the taller’s eyes. He feared to make eye contact before he was ready, in case something about Dai’s innocent expression instigated the truth coming out in a frantic rush. No, Dai needn’t be burdened with further responsibility. 

“No. It’s nothing like that.”

Associating with Dai would prove most challenging thus far. Dai, who was already sneakily suspicious of the way Rikka had been acting recently, would not be easy to convince. One way or the other.

“Right.” He said the word slowly, carefully, before moving on. “Are you feeling any better?”

“I’m feeling better. I was actually on my way out.”

“To the gym?”

“For a jog.”

“I was as well.”

Only then did Rikka notice Dai was also dressed in activewear. What excuse could he possibly give that would prevent them from having to run together? Shit

Maybe Dai hadn’t been wrong when he said he was good at reading people. Especially when he was quick to add, “If you want to run alone, I’ll wait and take another route.”

“I don’t want to be rude. I just need some time alone.”

“I understand.”

When the silence stretched for too long, Rikka used that opportunity to make a hasty escape. Once he was safely away from the dorm, he released a heavy breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. He broke into a light sprint almost immediately, needing to put as much distance between himself and Dai as he could.

It was a shame, when Rikka thought about it, how many complications stemmed from his relationship with Dai. He wondered if it was even worth it, if given the chance to go back would he have prevented that night from ever happening?

He silently prayed for a miracle, as the fresh scenery passed by on either side, that by the end of the day he would have acquired all of the answers.

Chapter Text

“Did you not suspect anything?”

“I feel foolish looking back on it. Morning sickness, mood swings, cravings. I should have known but I was too careless to suspect.”

Time for thoughtful consideration had been granted, time to weigh the full impactful implications of pregnancy. The idea had swirled around his head since he’d first discovered the existence of another life. The presence of said life carrying a sense of trepidation, something Rikka was eager to detach himself from. 

If there was only one way to do so, its meritable justification was unlikely to be called into question.

The nurse took meticulous notes, inquiring Rikka relevantly or otherwise.

“Your looks are striking. Might I ask what you do for a living?”

Rikka smiled politely, accustomed to others taking an interest in his androgynous appearance. “I’m a model, currently working towards becoming an idol as well.” 

“That’s amazing! Well, it’s a good thing you’re here. You wouldn’t want anything holding you back.” The manner in which her eyes fixated on his stomach made clear what possessed the capability to deter Rikka from the goals he sought after.

“Forgive me for asking such a personal question but how does the father feel about this?”

“He doesn’t...know.” Rikka looked away, a strange bout of guilt settling in the pit of his stomach.

“It’s better that way, is it not? You wouldn’t want him to be looked down upon, would you?”

“No. I guess not.” He was sure that the unexpected news had the potential to overburden Dai to the brink of destruction. Rikka wanted to protect the younger man. He wanted him to have the freedom, the opportunity to enjoy life as he pleased, building confidence and gaining independence along the way. Dai didn’t deserve to have such a wonderful opportunity violently stolen and held out of reach. 

“Good,” The nurse smiled politely as she completed his case history and routine checkup.

Under the assumption that he was doing the right thing, there shouldn’t have been an ounce of remorse or inkling of regret. Based upon the principles surrounding that exact hypothesis, Rikka searched for an explanation as to why he suddenly felt nauseous on the tail end of those baseless emotions.

Why was it that each of his heartbeats stuttered from pervasive anxiety?

“Shall we move onto the ultrasound now?”

Rikka nodded, his mask of composure undeniably convincing as he followed the nurse from a standard examination room into a highly specialized one. The ultrasound machine immediately captured his attention, surprisingly daunting per its sophisticated engineering. 

The complexity of the machine interfaced with the complexities of the situation. 

“Lay down for me, please.”

She gestured towards a sterile examination table. 

Rikka’s movements were automatic, dispassionate, as he followed instructions. The notion of seeing his baby for the first time left him uncertain. That precise uncertainty facilitated his placid demeanor.

“Lift up your shirt for me.”

He did as requested. 

Rikka had seen this procedure performed in movies. A proudly expectant mother glowingly jubilant, witnessing her miracle baby for the first time. Tears were always present, though the origin remained invariably indecipherable. It must have been a well kept secret, what exactly brought those to tears. A secret Rikka had inadvertently ventured onto the path of uncovering.

Rikka would have never guessed that the appearance of a tiny humanoid figure would have him questioning the authenticity of his own beliefs.

One scenario of formulating opinions and foreshadowing consequent actions was based upon an abstract concept. An inherently distinct scenario of formulating differing opinions went beyond hypothetical nuances.

Rikka had already accepted the idea of being pregnant but seeing the baby inside of him challenged his conception of reality.

“That’s...inside of me?"

The monitor captured the humanoid figure’s minuscule movements. Rikka was frozen in awe.

“Yes. That’s your baby. You look to be about nine weeks but the doctor will be able to give you more information.”

Nine weeks? Had it really been that long since he and Dai had sex? Time truly passed in a blur, ensnaring others in its endless web.

Rikka found himself silently tracking the fetus's movements as evidenced by the motion of the grainy ultrasound. He knew, realistically so, that little squirming creature embodied limitless potential. The potential to change the world for the better, to participate in revolutionary innovations, the potential to make Rikka a parent . The possibilities were endless.

“Would you like pictures?”

“Pictures?”

“It’s easy to get emotionally attached. Before abortions, some people want pictures as a way to remember their unborn child.”

A way to commemorate the decision to terminate a pregnancy? No, Rikka didn’t need to be reminded of his life choices that fostered the extinction of life’s extensive possibilities.

“I don’t want pictures. Thank you.”

She nodded and smiled. “It’s only customary to ask.”

Even if the options hadn’t been laid in front of him, Rikka could recite them by heart. In his current situation, only one of them was socially acceptable. Only one option would not weigh heavily upon his emotions and psyche like a ton of bricks. One option would not drastically alter his life nor situational outcome. Or so he believed that to be true.

The completion of his ultrasound found him back inside a standard examination room. The nurse, having successfully completed her job, placed Rikka’s complex situation into a doctor’s more capable hands.

The doctor inspected Rikka’s chart comprehensively before confronting the most prominent reason for the appointment. 

“We’re here to discuss abortion options. Is that correct?”

“Yes.” Rikka sounded more confident than he felt. The topic of abortion was not easy to address and he hoped the conversation would be brief.

“Since you’re only nine weeks, this procedure can be done quickly and effectively through medication. You would take one dose of the first medicine which would cause the placenta to detach. Within 48 hours, you would take one dose of the second medicine which would cause contractions and help expel the pregnancy naturally.”

It seemed almost unrealistic to believe that terminating an unborn life could be so simple. Almost as if the life itself meant nothing to begin with. What did the life inside of Rikka mean? What could it possibly represent? One night between strangers wherein lust took precedence over rationality. One tiny mistake leading to unintended and improbable conception. 

“Will I be able to continue working during this process?”

“It’s not advised. You’ll likely experience nausea, vomiting, cramping, and bleeding during the next couple of days. I would recommend you to stay at home and have someone you trust to look after you.”

Everything had been simple up until that point. Rikka had planned on following through the abortion process without giving anyone reason to be suspicious of his actions. With work and dorm living inevitably intertwined, he would have to work harder to keep the details of his situation under wraps.

"Will that be a problem?"

Rikka hadn't noticed his own hesitation until his reluctance to respond was undeniable. 

"I have important work obligations. Taking time off won't be easy."

Modeling jobs wouldn't pose a significant problem if he needed to reschedule. Substantial problems did center around his inability to refrain from participating in extensive preparation for their upcoming performance.

Music shows were not easily rescheduled. Neither were debut singles a simple feat to record.

The timing of his pregnancy, abortion, and work schedule would not concur seamlessly. 

"I can give you the option to postpone the abortion. But we'd have to resort to more invasive procedures once you're past the ten week mark."

Rikka shook his head. Although it came on the tail end of conflicting emotions, he'd already made his decision. 

"I don't want to wait that long."

"Very well," the doctor mused, "considering the circumstances, the best I can do for you is write a prescription for the pills. As long as you take them as directed any time within the next two weeks, the abortion will have a 97% success rate. You'll need to schedule an appointment two weeks post abortion so we can check for complications. Does that sound reasonable?"

Rikka nodded, sighing in relief. The prospect sounded perfect, actually. He was confident that he would find a small break in work within the next couple of weeks. During that break, he would hole himself in his room under the pretense of a cold or similar sickness. 

Behind closed doors, he would experience his abortion alone. The pain, sickness, emotions, he was prepared to deal with by himself. Because he had no one but himself to blame for the situation he was in. 

"I would appreciate that. Thank you."

A prescription was written for his convenience towards the end of the appointment. He shook hands with the doctor in parting, receiving an indiscreet push towards a socially acceptable direction.

"I know this can be overwhelming but I can assure you're doing the right thing. Most pregnant males don't follow through with their pregnancies for obvious reasons. It has been and likely always will be taboo. You wouldn't want to put yourself through that."

"No, of course not." Rikka murmured. Taboo or not, when the time came to take the pills, to kill the fetus, he would have to convince himself of every justifiable reason to follow through.

**

“Hey, Rikka’s back! Welcome home.”

Rikka smiled as he entered the dorm, Tsubasa’s positive energy was overwhelmingly contagious. “I’m home.”

After living alone for years, Rikka wasn’t yet accustomed to being greeted nearly every time he arrived at the dorm. In the midst of toeing off his shoes, Tsubasa approached him by the entranceway.

“Are you okay? You’ve been gone for a while.”

“Have I?” Rikka inquired. He’d lost track of time since he left for his appointment early that morning. His day thus far had only consisted of his appointment, picking up his pills, and taking a long refreshing walk.

“Yeah. It’s already mid afternoon.”

“Hm. I guess you’re right.” His walk had lasted longer than he’d realized. Its duration positively correlated with the increasing number of thoughts swirling around his head. The baby, the abortion, Dai, SolidS, modeling…

“Shiki said you didn’t have a schedule or anything.” Tsubasa wasn’t suspicious about his bandmate’s whereabouts, though he was curious.

Rikka gave an answer he hoped would satisfy Tsubasa’s curiosity and keep all suspicion underwraps. “I’m still so used to being alone. I often find myself wandering in the city and finding various things to do on my own.”

“Makes sense. But you’re not alone anymore! Next time just invite me and we can go together.”

Rikka smiled politely. Before he could respond, a familiar voice preceded the appearance of a certain blue eyed man.

“Maybe he doesn’t want to invite you.”

Tsubasa turned sharply, responding to Dai’s statement with a teasing glare. “And what have you done all morning, Dai-chan? Laid in bed waiting for Rikka to return?”

Dai ignored Tsubasa’s teasing jib, focusing his attention on Rikka instead. It had taken a considerable effort for Rikka to be able to look into Dai’s eyes normally after he found out he was pregnant. It had taken even more of an initiative to speak to him normally after convincing him that the results of his blood tests showed nothing abnormal.

Despite Rikka’s attempts, it was clear Dai’s suspicions were still heightened.

“You’ve been out for a long time.”

Rikka nodded, making his way towards the kitchen to prepare lunch. Tsubasa and Dai followed with every intention of continuing the conversation. 

“Any requests for lunch?” Rikka had assumed the group role of designated chef since he was best qualified for the position. He enjoyed cooking in his free time and took the liberty of ensuring his bandmates ate well and stayed healthy.

“Nope. Whatever you make will be amazing.” Tsubasa gushed, situating himself at the kitchen counter with Dai.

Tsubasa conversed animatedly with Rikka while the latter prepared a hearty lunch. Dai joined in the conversations sparsely, preferring to observe Rikka with an unreadable expression. 

Although Rikka knew no one could see them, the pills inside his jacket pocket pressed uncomfortably against his torso as he moved about. The implications behind the pills nudged even more uncomfortably against his self-efficacy.

Occasionally, his eyes met Dai’s. And every time, Rikka couldn’t help but wonder if their child would have inherited those piercing blue orbs. Mysterious yet innocent, Dai’s eyes held a unique variety of emotion. A beauty like no other, it was uncertain if that beauty would transcend across a successive generation.

Without realizing what he was doing, Rikka placed a gentle hand on his belly. Dai followed the minuscule movement, remaining quiet until Rikka realized what he’d just done.

He removed his hand quickly, regarding it as nothing more than a nonsensical notion. 

Dai’s attention lingered on Rikka’s stomach for a moment before finally looking away. 

Only when lunch preparations had been completed and the three of them sat down to eat did Rikka notice Shiki’s absence.

“He’s been in his office all morning. I think he’s making minor changes to the single,” Tsubasa supplied.

Their first single would be the most impactful representation of their music, of how they wanted to present themselves as an up and coming idol unit. One of the public’s first impressions would formulate based upon the mechanisms and delivery of their debut single. Of course it would be regarded with a high standard of importance.

“Can you believe we’re debuting soon?” Rikka questioned his younger bandmates, knowing it would be good for the preservation of his sanity to focus his mind on a positive (non-pregnancy related) topic.

“It’s insane! We just started preparing for this a couple of months ago.” Tsubasa responded with unrestrained enthusiasm.

“We’ve been working really hard.” Dai added, his words ringing undeniably true.

Most rookie groups didn’t have the opportunity to debut in such a minuscule time frame. Each member of SolidS had the privilege of getting to work with vastly talented and hardworking bandmates. Even Rikka, who feared his bothersome pregnancy symptoms would interfere with his progress, had surpassed an admirable level of dancing and singing. 

However nervous they might be, they truly were ready to entertain an audience.

“I’m a little nervous about the interviews,” Dai admitted, steering the conversation down a slightly different path.

Tsubasa chimed in before Rikka had a chance. “What’s there to be nervous about? We answer some questions about ourselves and each other. Piece of cake.”

“I don’t like talking about myself,” Dai added before smiling, “I’m not self-centered like you.”

Tsubasa returned the smile before continuing their playful banter, “If you don’t want to talk about yourself then you’re going to have to talk about us.”

“What about you?”

“Hm. I don’t know. But we can’t come off as boring to an audience. We need to talk about each other not relative to singing and dancing. We all need to hang out more and do things not work related.”

“What do you suggest we do?” Dai wondered.

 Tsubasa tapped his chin thoughtfully before brightening with an idea. “Let’s start simple with a movie marathon!”

Dai lifted a curious eyebrow, his reply dripping with sarcasm, “Movie marathon? Are we turning this into a slumber party now?”

Tsubasa chuckled. “We do live together.”

Dai shook his head quickly. “I’m not sleeping in your room.” 

Tsubasa laughed some more. “Fine, fine. But seriously, none of us have anything planned for today and the company generously furnished our living room with a super comfy couch and expensive TV. Why not take advantage of it? Rikka, what do you think?”

“Hm?” Rikka was taken by surprise when Tsubasa requested his opinion. He’d been so keen on letting the childhood friends continue their banter that he hadn’t expected to be addressed anytime soon.

“A movie marathon to help us bond. What do you think?”

Rikka smiled. He would do anything to keep his mind occupied and sated by relaxing thoughts. A movie marathon with his bandmates sounded lovely.

“I think it’s a great idea.”

Tsubasa’s excited response was overshadowed by the appearance of their caffeine laden leader exiting his office/studio room. He joined his bandmates at the table on the exhale of a relieved sigh.

“All done?” Rikka questioned his long time friend.

Shiki nodded. “I finished tweaking the arrangement for the single. It’s perfect. You’ll get to hear it tomorrow.”

“Can’t wait,” Rikka replied honestly.

“Shiki,” Tsubasa interjected, dead set on bringing his bonding idea into fruition, “what do you think about having a movie marathon with the four of us?”

Shiki shrugged before taking a sip of his coffee, “I’ll humor you, Tsubasa.”

“Perfect,” Tsubasa quickly stood up, “I’ll get the movie ready.” He turned towards Dai who had just finished his lunch. “Dai, you prepare snacks.”

“Tsubasa, I already told you to stop volunteering me for things,” He replied, though he was already standing with every intention of preparing the snacks.

“Shiki, Rikka, you two relax until we’re done.”

Rikka chuckled and Shiki rolled his eyes at the same time Dai and Tsubasa left to fulfill their respective tasks. Left with nothing to occupy his mind and time, Rikka took it upon himself to clear the dirty dishes from lunch.

“Are you hungry, Shiki?” Rikka, always caring about others, wondered.

“I’m not.”

Rikka gestured towards his half filled coffee mug. “Maybe you should cut back on the coffee. It suppresses your appetite.” He spoke, accompanied by a gentle smile.

Shiki returned the smile. “You’re probably right. I’ll work on it.”

It was refreshing to converse with Shiki and not have to respond to inquiries about his morning absence. Their leader had likely been working all morning and hadn’t noticed Rikka’s absence. But if he had noticed, he didn’t draw unwanted attention to the matter.

Time was left over after Rikka put away the dirty dishes. Since Dai and Tsubasa were completely engrossed in their tasks, since Shiki was enjoying his nth cup of coffee, no one noticed when Rikka slipped away to his room to spend his leftover time.

A suffocating weight was lifted from his entire being once the abortion pills were no longer carried on his person. He hid the pills in a secure and inconspicuous place, needing to ensure they wouldn’t be seen until they were needed. If the medicine was consistently visible, Rikka knew he would grow to associate those white pills with negative thinking and painful regret.

 The prospect of killing his and Dai’s baby filled Rikka with enough regret on its own.

How could something society deemed right feel terribly wrong?

“Rikka, are you ready?”

Rikka’s back had been turned to his door, his visitor’s arrival had taken him by great surprise. He turned around quickly to face his charismatic bandmate. Tsubasa cocked his head to the side curiously.

“Are you okay?”

Rikka smiled, though it felt forced and inauthentic. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“You were staring out the window.”

Rikka could attribute falling victim to his urgent thoughts ( again ) to his lack of awareness towards his own actions. “I was just considering what movie you might have picked out.”

Tsubasa brightened, his attention span regarding serious topics could be rather short at times. “It’s a surprise! Come on!”

Rikka followed closely behind, shutting away his fear and unease behind his bedroom door.

In the time Rikka had been away in his room, the living area had been transformed into a movie lover’s paradise. All the curtains were drawn, creating a substantial barrier in an effort to combat sunlit glare. An extraordinary assortment of snacks was arranged meticulously on their polished coffee table while a large variety of comfortable pillows and fuzzy blankets were provided for unrestrained use.

Shiki and Dai had already settled themselves on the L-shaped couch, ready to indulge in Tsubasa’s whims as promised. 

Tsubasa, rather pleased with the movie marathon’s presentation, situated himself next to Shiki with a fuzzy blanket, a handful of chips, and a cold beer. Since Tsubasa had occupied one end of the couch, the only available place for Rikka to sit was next to Dai. Prepared with a fuzzy blanket of his own, Rikka did just that. He sat next to the teenager, forcing himself not to consider the implications of having to sit next to the father of his baby for an unspecified amount of time.

No matter how strange it felt to Rikka, no matter how awkward he felt whenever he was close to Dai, the teen would never know the truth. Rikka wasn’t sure how to process that indisputable fact.

Needing something to occupy his time as he waited for Tsubasa to start the movie, Rikka helped himself to a wide variety of snacks. Though lunch had been completed not long ago, he ate with renewed vigor, attesting to the fact that he was eating for two. 

“In contrast to your appearance, you have a really healthy appetite.” Dai mused and Rikka laughed uneasily.

“You prepared the snacks so well, I couldn’t help myself.”

Dai smiled a small smile, more than appreciative of Rikka’s overt praise. No matter what was happening around them, regardless of how ignorant Dai was about whatever situation had occurred, he didn’t ever want to have an uncomfortable or strained relationship with Rikka. Not when he valued the opinions of and regarded the pink haired man with the utmost respect. 

“Is everyone ready?” Tsubasa teased with his finger hovering over the play button on the remote.

Shiki spoke for everyone when he deadpanned, “Just start the movie.”

“Lighten up, darling .”

“Start the movie, honey .”

Rikka chuckled in amusement, wondering if there would ever come a point in time where he and Dai could joke freely and exist so comfortably in the other’s presence. Maybe if the one night stand had never happened. Perhaps if the baby had never been conceived.

No matter how much Rikka pretended to have moved past that night, no matter how easily he convinced the others that everything was fine, he hadn’t been able to detach his feelings from that night and everything was certainly not fine.

“Everyone will get a chance to pick out a movie, okay? You can tell a lot from someone’s personality based on the movie they choose.” Tsubasa’s last tidbit of information segwayed into the official kickoff of their marathon. 

Not surprisingly, the revelation of Tsubasa’s choice unveiled an R-rated comedy. The content of which was predominantly crude humor with a dash of absurdity. Absurd as it may be, Rikka, Dai, and Shiki did find it rather amusing.

Not of his own volition, Dai was volunteered to be the next person to share his preference in movies. With a personality to contrast his looks, Dai gravitated towards the drama genre. His sentimentality shone through, brighter than anyone had seen, once he was engrossed in the melodramatic plot.

The storyline revolved around a young girl who had never been accepted by the family she was born into. The movie chronicled her inspiring journey through life as the recipient of abuse, hatred, and discrimination from her family members. Towards the end, her success was well deserved as she journeyed into adulthood.

Though the ending was positive and left no questions unanswered, Dai was lost in deep thought.

“Dai-chan, what’s on your mind?”

Flustered at having been caught pondering a drama movie, Dai quickly brushed his actions off as insignificant.

“It’s nothing.”

“Come on,” Tsubasa pressed, “we’re all trying to bond here. You can tell us.”

After great consideration, Dai sighed in defeat. “Fine, I’ll tell you. Just don’t make fun of me.”

“I would never.” Tsubasa replied in a very unconvincing manner.

“I could never understand how a parent couldn’t love their child. I do understand that life is unpredictable and stressful and that having a child won’t make things easier. But, no matter the circumstances, all life is precious. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to nurture and protect such an innocent life. The world is scary enough as is so it only makes sense to have unwavering love and support as you navigate through it.”

Unless he felt strongly about a topic, Dai never spoke much. For obvious reasons, the impact of his words affected Rikka the most. So much so that he had to excuse himself to the bathroom.

Once alone, Rikka let out a choked sob, the meaning behind Dai’s words bringing him to uncontrollable tears. The tears were not selfishly shed for himself but for Dai. A man with such a pure and sensitive heart didn’t deserve to have his baby taken away from him, killed out of convenience, without having a say in the matter.

Nor did he deserve to have his life ruined before he even had a chance to live .

Rikka’s decision remained unchanged, though it carried a more substantial burden than before. If given the opportunity, Dai would have been a good father, aware and understanding of the child’s wants and needs, sensitive to its emotions. No matter how the future played out, Rikka would always carry the weight of knowing that he stole an unborn child’s opportunity to be the son or daughter of a wonderful guy.

He placed a gentle hand on his belly, murmuring a needless apology at the same time. Apologizing would not change the outcome. Nor would it rid Rikka’s heart of any guilt. He apologized, simply because, if the circumstances were different, he would embrace becoming a parent. He would relish in the idea of raising a child whom he would give all of his love. 

Once the tears stopped, Rikka splashed his face with cold water as a much needed reminder that the circumstances remained as they were. The world remained as it was with no place for his and Dai’s baby. Hypothetical scenarios, no matter how promising, held no merit in reality. 

When Rikka returned to the living room, looking every bit as calm, collected, and poised as he didn’t feel, his bandmates’ conversation hovered around the sensitive topic Dai had brought to attention.

“Shiki would definitely be a strict parent,” Tsubasa spoke as Rikka reclaimed his spot next to Dai.

Shiki nodded in a display of agreement. “I stand to agree.”

“And Dai,” Tsubasa turned his attention to his younger friend, “would be an overprotective parent.”

“No, I wouldn’t.”

“Hm. Let’s say you had a daughter. Would you ever let her date?”

“Never.”

“Would you let her drive a car?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Would you let her go anywhere without you?”

“No.”

“That’s being unreasonably overprotective, Dai-chan.” Tsubasa teasingly sing-songed before focusing on Rikka.

“Rikka’s an easy one. He’d be a really good parent.”

Rikka’s eyes widened in surprise. “You think so?”

Tsubasa nodded. “You’re patient, nurturing, and caring. And you’re super easy to talk to. Not to mention your cooking is amazing! You’d make some kick ass bento lunches for sure.”

He smiled warmly in response though the gesture was bittersweet. He appreciated the sincere praise for what it was worth though he didn’t think he was deserving of it. Not when he knew, given the situation, he wasn't capable of being a good parent.

To everyone but Rikka, Tsubasa’s talk was nothing more than playful banter and Dai’s earlier musing consisted of nothing more than hypothetical thoughts transferred into spoken words. It was simple for them to move away from topics that held no relevance. For the sake of obscurity, Rikka had to pretend it was easy for him to move on as well.

Proceeding based upon their unstructured viewing order, Shiki was the next person allowed to dictate their form of entertainment in the coming hours. He presented his choice by way of a dated, black and white, noir movie. That of which was neverending in length and only mildly interesting in content. 

Tsubasa yawned loudly, which Shiki ignored, about halfway through. The concepts dealing with fatalism and cynicism were abstruse and required a concentrated effort to follow. The implications of moral ambiguity found Rikka disengaged and struggling against heavy eyelids.

He situated himself more comfortably under his blanket, disregarding the afternoon hour. He’d already had a long emotional day and the side effects of pregnancy were once again catching up with him. 

Before he could fully comprehend what was happening, he found himself following the alluring tendrils of sleep. Hypnotically and methodically, he was pulled further under. Unaware of his surroundings and too drowsy to regard his own actions, Rikka instinctively settled against a familiar chest. The chest moved once, nothing more than a flinch of surprise, before resolving to remain still.

For the first time all day, Rikka felt relaxed and at ease. Lured into a sense of security by the steady rise and fall of the chest and a strong rhythmic heartbeat. He slipped further and further away from reality into an imaginary place where melancholy thoughts held no significance and debilitating fears ceased to exist.

Chapter Text

Since he was a baby, his appearance had captivated widespread interest. A beautiful boy of mixed French and Japanese descent with golden brown hair and enchanting rose-gold eyes. Possessing a beauty so alluring it was destined to be shared with the world. 

When he was too young to have an opinion, Rikka’s parents held their son’s modeling career in high regards. Their prideful desire to show off their precious child placed him in front of a camera before he was old enough to speak. As he grew older, Rikka chose to prioritize his modeling career in order to please his parents. Modeling became an integral part of his life and he grew to appreciate it. Though it had never been something Rikka had chosen , rather it had been chosen for him.

Standing in a recording booth and singing his heart out to the encouragement of his bandmates were rewarding privileges consequent of the path that he’d chosen. Performing in front of an audience and freely entertaining fans with his unique personality ( not his modeling persona ) were anticipatory opportunities unlike anything he would ever experience. Rikka had a strong inkling that pursuing a career as an idol would exceed his expectations.

“Perfect, Rikka. That’s a wrap!” Shiki spoke at the conclusion of Rikka’s solo part.

Recording of the single was complete and their official debut was just around the corner. 

As he exited the recording booth, bombarded with various suggestions on how to celebrate their single’s completion, Rikka decided he wouldn’t mind living as an idol in the coming years.

Nothing would stop him from achieving his newly discovered dream.

**

The coming days passed by in a dizzying blur. Whenever Rikka found a moment to refocus his attention on the passing time, he took advantage. To lose track of time was to undermine the seriousness of his current situation. To undermine the seriousness of his situation was to admit disgraceful defeat. 

Provided with a single opportunity in the midst of a hectic environment, he could procrastinate no longer. 

The dorm was quiet and empty on the morning of the 72nd day. The 72nd day past conception marked the final day of their child’s calamitous existence. 

As of late, life had effortlessly continued on a forward trajectory towards a promising future. Things had reached a constitutional degree of normalcy in preparation for their upcoming debut. Namely, Rikka’s morning sickness had lessened tremendously as all other symptoms had become easier to deal with. On the other hand, Dai’s suspicions that Rikka hid a large secret had not dissipated, though they never had a negative effect on his interactions with the pink haired man. 

The terms of his and Dai’s relationship remained questionable at best but they got along well and would contribute to a positive atmosphere for the fans.

There was but a single daunting task, if left unattended, that threatened to offset the favorable balance of perfect equilibrium. Knowing that there existed no alternative way of escaping the inevitable fate, Rikka approached the task with unwavering resolve.

The process of retrieving the pills and placing them in his open hand required thoughtless effort. Only when it was time to bring his hand to his mouth and force the pills past his pursed lips did he hesitate. His unwavering resolve, short lived in nature, preserved a striking contradiction to the uncontrollable shaking of his hands and the pounding of his heart.

Perched at the foot of his bed with the thunderous sound of his heartbeat filling his head, Rikka froze. He stared at the little white pills in his hand, deceiving in their innocuous appearance. 

Rikka didn’t need to convince himself why it made sense to follow through with the abortion. He just hadn't expected the pills to make him experience such a loss of feeling in control. His repressed emotions were overpowering, hammering his soul all at once. His inability to constrain them brought frustrated tears to his eyes.

He understood, leading up to that moment, the magnitude of his consequential actions. He’d already accepted the corresponding weight of guilt and regret. He hadn’t reached his decision without deep consideration, hadn’t reached a conclusion without a few bumps along the way. So why exactly was he overwhelmed by every potential implication of his decision?

He and Dai would never become parents. Rikka would never know whether the baby would have rose-gold eyes or sapphire eyes; never get to caress beautiful golden brown or shiny black locks.  Their baby would never get the opportunity to grow into a child, never get a chance to live, love, or be loved. It would never get a chance to make mistakes and learn from them. Nor have a chance to decide on a dream and relentlessly pursue it. 

What right did Rikka have to steal so much from an innocent life? Upon what justification did he conclude that he was doing the right thing?

He was willing to trade the baby’s life for his own. To relentlessly pursue his own dreams whilst learning from his honest mistakes. To live, love, and be loved as he careened through life’s trials and tribulations.

It wasn’t fair that he was forced to make such a life altering decision in the midst. Not when he was used to feeling a sense of control and knowing exactly what he desired or didn’t desire. He prided himself in knowing right from wrong, of trusting his gut intuitively. He’d always embraced the concept of self-honesty and valued his emotions and feelings from an objective point of view.

How could an unexpected pregnancy change his thoughts, emotions, and actions in such a drastic manner?

His sense of control no longer held an ounce of validity. He couldn’t clearly discern what he desired or didn’t desire. He was no longer certain what constituted right from wrong. Those stupid fucking pills distorted reality into an imperceptible and formless essence of moral ambiguity. A loss of control was certainly imminent.

In an effort to reconstruct the fabric of his reality, Rikka shoved the vile pills into their box and hid them out of sight. The shaking of his hands intensified and the pounding of his heart increased with dizzying speed. He felt unsteady on his feet. His ability to walk back to his bed was consequently hindered. In an effort to regain his bearings, left with no other choice, he immediately sat where he stood.

Sat on the floor alone, he drew his knees to his chest. He didn’t realize he was crying until the sounds of his broken sobs took precedence over the sound of his racing heart. At the same time, a  debilitating sense of dread followed by an immobilizing sense of fear encased his entire being. 

His never ending sobs forced his breath out in short wheezing gasps. He felt dizzy, each time his breathing quickened and shortened, and was convinced he would pass out if he couldn’t stop crying. He closed his eyes and buried his head in his hands. The world continued to spin as he experienced suffocating waves of every negative emotion across the same spectrum of intensity. 

On the exhale of a ragged breath, he prayed and begged to every God that might exist. He begged for forgiveness for his immoral actions and prayed for a solution to his problems. 

What a cruel twist of fate to be lured into a false sense of security. To mistakenly believe to have figured everything out until reality reared its ugly head and revealed life’s unavoidable truths.

Nothing was ever black or white. Right or wrong. Yes or no. Rikka felt like a fool to have ever believed such a disastrous misconception.

As a consequence of the reduced concentration of oxygen successfully getting to his brain, the world was hazy when Rikka first heard a voice. 

He thought he’d imagined it, as expected of someone suffering from extreme lightheadedness, until he felt a familiar arm wrap around his limp body.

“Rikka, you’re shaking like a leaf. What happened?”

What did happen?

He thought he was doing the right thing, the most practical thing by deciding on abortion. As he sat there, confused and shaking, he no longer knew what the right thing was. He’d lost his ability to make sense of his emotions and felt like he was spiraling out of control. That was what had happened.

Though he was too choked up and unsteady to collect his thoughts and respond to Dai in a coherent manner. 

“Shit. I need to get you to the hospital.”

“No!” Rikka managed to choke out. 

Lab tests were performed as a standard procedure for those rushed to the hospital. With only a couple of weeks left before he entered his second trimester, Rikka would not be able to hide his pregnancy from any medical doctor. In his vulnerable condition, the last thing he needed was for another authority figure to tell him how disgraceful male pregnancy was and how seriously abortion should be considered.

Dai cursed again, visibly torn between whether or not he thought Rikka needed to see a doctor. He’d seen Rikka vulnerable before but never to that extent. He wasn’t exactly sure what to do.

In the end, he decided to abide by Rikka’s wishes not to be taken to the hospital. Rikka was eternally grateful.

“Here, let me help you get in bed.”

Dai quickly came to the realization that Rikka’s violent shaking made it impossible for him to stand. A solution was thought of swiftly as he lifted the smaller man into his arms. Not unlike the night Rikka had been sick and fainted from exhaustion, Dai carried him to his bed and laid him down gently. 

Rikka’s breathing had begun to even out though the shaking annoyingly persisted. 

“I’ll get you some water.”

Before Dai had a chance to disappear, Rikka reached out an unsteady hand. He pleaded in a small hoarse voice, “Please. Don’t go.”

At the given moment, he was too afraid to be alone with his unpleasant thoughts. He didn’t want to be reminded of the unforgettable fact that he still had a tough decision to make. At least, he didn’t want to be reminded on the cusp of his mental breakdown.

Dai focused his eyes on Rikka’s pitiful ones before sighing in resignation. “I’ll stay.”

Rikka needed comforting, more than he’d needed anything in a long time. As the only available person to provide that comfort, Dai was willing to do whatever it took to help restore Rikka’s uplifting spirit.

Needing someone to hold him, to remind him he was still a person worthy of affection after nearly killing his baby, Rikka requested compassion and Dai complied with his request.

When the opportunity presented itself, Rikka buried his head in Dai’s familiar chest. Dai responded in surprise, as he always did whenever Rikka inched abruptly close. When he felt Rikka’s shoulders shake with fresh sobs, he brought a timid hand to the man’s back. He moved his hand in a gentle circular motion, hoping it would significantly contribute to relaxing and restoring Rikka to his old self.

Though not right away, Rikka’s sobs eventually quieted and his body stilled. He no longer felt the same intense fear and dread that had gnawed their roots into his soul. Nor did he feel as if he was wrestling with his own thoughts and emotions and losing terribly.  

He was still confused and longed to make the right decision though its discovery was not as imminently sought after. 

Dai’s presence was always comforting and served as a much needed aid to help lift away Rikka’s suffocating burdens. Secured firmly against Dai’s chest, Rikka felt as if he could finally breathe for the first time in a while. Without the weight of his negative emotions dragging him down, he was able to welcome the influx of positive emotions.

When he needed someone to be there for him, Dai had been there. Rikka couldn’t even begin to express how appreciative he was.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Dai wondered once he was sure Rikka had calmed enough to speak freely.

Rikka shook his head that was still buried snugly in Dai’s chest. “I can’t.”

“You can’t or you won’t?”

“Does it matter?” Rikka questioned, his voice slightly muffled against Dai’s shirt.

“I guess not.”

Rikka pulled away from Dai’s chest, needing to make direct eye contact in order to express his genuine gratitude. “Thank you for being here with me and I’m sorry you had to see me like that.”

“It’s difficult seeing you so upset.” Dai’s eyebrows were pinched together in an honest show of concern.

Rikka smiled sadly. “I don’t mean to make you worry. I’m dealing with something personal right now but I promise I can handle it on my own. I just got a little overwhelmed.”

Dai sighed, clearly unconvinced by the spoken promise.

“I’m serious, Dai,” He spoke firmly, “Once I get this sorted out, everything will be fine. You don’t need to worry about me.”

“Rikka,” He began slowly, trying to make sense of the situation and squinting his eyes in concentration, “you confuse me. One moment you’re okay and the next you’re not. One moment you promise to be honest with me and the next you’re suffering under the heavy weight of something alone.”

Rikka chuckled uneasily, hiding his face in Dai’s chest out of sheer embarrassment. “I’m a mess. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be acting like this.”

“If you’re dealing with something personal, it can’t be helped. Just, please , look after your condition. Physical and mental.”

Rikka removed his head from Dai's chest in order to meet the younger's gaze. At such a low point in his life, Rikka realized that Dai was the only one who could make him feel better. To offer comfort like no other.

In situations similar, Rikka tended to forget how young Dai was. When someone was able to speak so honestly and rationally, ponder critically and intuitively, age became irrelevant. Dai could sense the dynamic aura shrouding Rikka in uncertainty and proved capable of adjusting accordingly.

His sensitivity to Rikka's restless temperament could presumptively be attributed to the intimate bond that they shared. Embodied by the inglorious fetus concealed clandestinely away. 

When their eyes met again, Rikka was left speechless. Dai’s sapphire blue eyes were as clear as the daytime sky, reflective of every emotion glistening in Rikka’s own. His empathetic understanding of the situation was bewildering at best, though it inspired Rikka with an epiphanic revelation.

No matter what decision was made; right or wrong, moral or immoral; Dai would prove Rikka’s emotions worthy of validation. Though the significance of the perplexing situation remained incomprehensible to him, Dai’s comforting presence would serve as a humble offering to the bearer of his child. In that sense, Rikka would not be dealing with the heavy burden alone. 

Dai carefully searched the infinite depths of rose-gold eyes. The primary objective of his search was unclear until he extended a tentative hand towards Rikka’s beautiful face. With the gentlest of touches, he tucked a few long strands of hair behind his ear. 

Rikka’s eyes closed instinctively as he leaned into the soothing touch. Dai’s thumb caressed the apple of his cheek where a single tear journeyed downward. Lost in the sentimentality of the moment, he proceeded with a light brush of cautious lips against delicate ones.

The desire to adhere to the subtle connection of lips was instinctive.

With newly restored integrity pertaining to the prospect of his future, Rikka delicately kissed back. The experience of sharing such an intimate moment was inherently different from their first. Suspended in time, the kiss was patient and affectionate, gentle and warm, comforting and reassuring. The lovely tactile sensations lingered long after they pulled apart.

Dai rested his forehead against Rikka’s, his hand still caressing soft features when he spoke, “I like you, Rikka. I really do.”

“I like you too. But…” The pink haired turned away, gifted insight orienting him to draw inevitable conclusions.

Teetering on the edges of reality, the kiss they shared was a manifestation of emotional fatigue. Another explicit moment of weakness undermining the value of self control. 

Mindful of the dramatic shift in the air, Dai removed his hand from Rikka’s face. His arm fell limply at his side.

“...we shouldn’t be doing this,” He murmured, completing Rikka’s unfinished thought.

Rikka nodded in solemn affirmation. Never would he deny that he and Dai shared something special between them. But they could not act inappropriately upon the basis of personal feelings alone. Not without more suitable justification.

If anyone were to discover them in such a compromising position, alone in the same bedroom and resting atop the same bed, any flimsy excuse would not adequately compensate for their actions.

Courtesy of Dai, Rikka was able to recover from his emotional distress. To reconstruct a more logical way of thinking and a more productive manner of reasoning. He would be able to approach his complex situation from a broader perspective, comforted in knowing he would have someone waiting if he ever needed to vent his emotions. Someone who was intuitively concerned with his well being and could offer practical reasoning.

Rikka was fully prepared to express his final notion of gratitude, in an effort to remedy any potential misunderstandings. On the tail end of his gracious speech, he anticipated Dai retreating to his own room under the guise of no longer needing to comfort a distraught bandmate.

Rikka opened his mouth to speak, to thank the man once again. Dai voicing his own distracting thoughts before Rikka had a chance.

"But nothing will change the fact that I want to kiss you again."

Rikka's eyes widened in shock. He hadn't been expecting such a forthright revelation. "D-Dai."

"Tell me you don't want the same thing. And then I'll leave you alone."

Dai's eyes were set with determination. It was somehow inspiring. Despite his better judgment, Rikka chuckled. The determination didn't waver.

"You're serious about the things you want. It's really adorable."

Dai finally looked away, his face flushed in embarrassment and his eyes burned with shame. "I was too forward, wasn't I? Fuck. I-I should leave."

His urgent need to retreat from yet another embarrassing situation found Dai's hand on the doorknob in record time. Rikka continued laughing in amusement, speaking before the humiliated teen could successfully escape.

"You should stop jumping to conclusions."

"Huh?" Dai spun around in response.

Rikka remained perched atop his bed, smile as warm and inviting as always. "I don't think you were being too forward."

"You don't?"

Rikka shook his head before looking down at his hands. He played with his fingers, twiddling his thumbs as he contemplated how best to handle the situation.

He looked up after reaching an erroneous conclusion. "Dai, I meant what I said when I told you we needed to remain professional about our situation. I don't want to confuse you or give you any mixed signals."

Dai nodded slowly, unsure of where the conversation was headed. 

"But, I can't lie to you and pretend as if I don't have some feelings for you."

"Rikka, what are you trying to say?"

Rikka chuckled again since it was much easier to laugh than to grow frustrated by the complexities comprising their relationship.

"I should get straight to the point, then. When it's just the two of us, it's not fair to hide our mutual feelings. When we're around others, it only makes sense for us to remain professional."

With his hand still on the doorknob, Dai gulped audibly. He nodded once more, not trusting his voice enough to speak.

Rikka continued.

"In either situation, I don't want you to feel shy or awkward around me. Nor do I want to come off as such to you. We should work on moving forward. I just don't think it's fair for us to let anything that happened in the past hold us back."

His secret pregnancy, their awkward exchanges in the beginning of their shared ordeal, no longer should anything hold them back from being honest about their mutual attraction and feelings. So long as they approached the situation in a rational and acceptable manner.

Rikka hoped he wasn't requesting too much out of his relationship with his bandmate. He hoped he wasn't misreading any signs.

"Does that make sense?"

"It does. But…"

"But what?"

"What does that make us, Rikka?"

Rikka smiled gently. "It doesn't make us anything. We're just two people who care about each other. Is that alright with you?"

Dai grunted in affirmation, still processing the full implications of Rikka's words. If they could find a way to make things work, he hoped their relationship could evolve for the better.

"Despite these affectionate feelings, we're friends and bandmates foremost."

"Of course," Dai murmured. Now that Rikka was a permanent and important aspect of his life, he didn't want that to change.

On the end of Dai's softened response, their serious discussion drew to a close. The room was filled with a prolonged silence at the same time Rikka nervously played with a strand of his hair. He wasn't ready for Dai to leave. Not without a well deserved display of gratitude.

"I want to thank you again," He began, unsure of how to approach a sensitive topic.

Before the day drew to a close, Rikka knew he would follow through with the abortion. He'd made his decision based upon what made the most sense given the circumstances. He'd made the most rational decision whilst fully prepared to deal with the emotional aftermath.

Dai would be there if he needed a shoulder to cry on. He wouldn't pry for an explanation like anyone else would. 

Rikka couldn't thank him enough for his loyalty. At least, not with words.

"You're welcome."

Rikka shook his head, smiling in amusement. "Words aren't enough to show you how grateful I am."

Dai's blue eyes widened innocently. He blinked in confusion.

Rikka continued. "You've been here for me when I needed you. It's only fair for me to prove that I'm willing to be here for you. If you need anything , you can come to me."

The implications associated with the word 'anything' were lost on the teen. Characterized only by the slight tilt of his head and the confused expression twisting his features.

Rikka finally stood from his bed, realizing that he needed to take a more direct approach in order for Dai to recognize and understand the subliminal message.

He strode over to the taller man with purpose, reaching a nimble hand behind Dai’s back and clicking his door locked with ease. 

Tsubasa would be attending his university classes until evening and Shiki would be working at the company building for most of the day as well. Though, if he and Dai were to freely act upon their intimate feelings, precautions would still need to be prioritized. 

"I want to properly express my gratitude. If it's okay with you."

"Y-yeah," Dai choked out. Everything was happening so incredibly fast and he was at a loss for words. Once it finally sunk in, that he and Rikka were going to freely embark on more intimate and sexual endeavors, he would find more words to express his emotions and offer more developed opinions.

At that precise moment, as Rikka got on his knees in front of him, all he could do was gulp audibly. 

From his place on the floor, Rikka met Dai’s shifty eyes with his own gentle ones. He spoke in a soft voice, soothing the worst of the teen’s anxiety and nerves

“Relax, Dai. Let me do all of the work.”

Dai flustered, as Rikka looked up at him, his feelings akin to being scrutinized under a blinding spotlight. “I just...um...have never...had anyone…”

Before Dai could find the words to complete his thought, Rikka was nodding in sympathetic understanding. It didn’t surprise him to find that Dai was more keen on giving than receiving. It had been made clear early on that the reserved teen embraced a generous personality.

“I’ll make it enjoyable for you, I promise.”

Dai nodded, resolving to continue using nonverbal gestures for communication.

When Rikka reached for the button on his pants, Dai stiffened instinctively.

“Do you want me to stop?”

“No!” Dai gasped out, embarrassingly swift with unnecessary enthusiasm. “I’m just a little...nervous.”

Rikka giggled behind his delicate hand. Dai’s face heated up accordingly.

“I’ll start out slow, okay? Don’t feel like you have to force your reactions. Just act naturally.”

Patience was a virtue. Rikka was more than willing to bestow that virtue upon someone who was worthy. 

“Okay,” Dai murmured, inspired by Rikka’s words. Not a moment passed before he was visibly relaxing.

Rikka smiled in satisfaction. Knowing that, if they wanted things between them to evolve into something meaningful, it was essential that they were able to seek unequivocable solace in one another.

In a flash of skilled and nimble fingers, Rikka undid the clasp and unzipped the zipper of the blue eyed man’s jeans. He paused for a moment, allowing Dai sufficient time to process the situation, before transitioning into a more personal phase of their thrilling experience.

As Rikka released him from the constraints of fabric, he ensured his actions were considerate and gentle. He wanted to reassure Dai that his change of heart was genuine and he was serious about the terms he’d promised. He wanted to assure his bandmate that he cared unconditionally about his well being. 

Dai gasped involuntarily when Rikka wrapped a hand around the base of his cock. He looked away instinctively when Rikka used that same hand to draw his member closer to his mouth. Having Rikka’s adept hand touching and caressing his dick was wholly gratifying. Though the concept of having someone eye level with the most private part of his body left him wallowing in mortification.

In an effort to relieve Dai of his remaining hindering emotions, Rikka continued his ministrations in slow steady stride. He proceeded with a chaste kiss to the tip of his penis before moving to the underside with the tip of his practiced tongue. 

Dai bit down on his bottom lip, barely suppressing an inarticulate groan, as Rikka moved up and down his shaft with sweet kisses and tiny licks. As the meticulous movements continued, Dai became increasingly more comfortable with the notion of Rikka’s willingness to please him without expecting anything in return.

Diligently heeding and adhering to Dai’s reactions, Rikka approached the intrinsic prospect of oral sex with precaution. He didn’t even consider the probability of enclosing Dai into his mouth until the younger man was comfortable enough to look in Rikka’s direction.

When he first made eye contact, Dai startled and looked away. Only once he discovered his hidden determination to overcome his reservations was he able to capture and hold Rikka’s gaze. With nothing left to hold him back, Dai released a pleasurable groan at the sight of the long haired beauty on his knees in front of him. 

Through delicate eyelashes, Rikka looked compassionately at the man above him. Motivated to display his gratitude by providing Dai with a rewarding experience, Rikka dutifully engulfed the head of his cock with ease. Dai groaned at the sudden and extraordinary sensation that found him lusting for more.

“Rikka…” He gasped, too overcome with desire to form coherent sentences.

Inch by inch, Rikka upheld a painstakingly slow pace as he took more of Dai into his hot, wet mouth. Before Dai could comprehend what was happening ( courtesy of the blood in his body having better places to go than his brain ), he found his hands tangling in Rikka’s long silky locks. He drew them back sharply once the implications of his actions withheld his erotic desires.

Rikka had only managed to fit half of the sizeable cock in his mouth before pulling off with a pop. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, clearing away the saliva that made his lips shine.

The loss of enveloping heat was unexpected. Dai was embarrassed to admit how disappointed he was.

Rikka looked up at him in patient understanding when he spoke. “Dai, I don’t mind if you put your hands in my hair.”

“Y-you don’t?”

Rikka chuckled in response. “No. This is my gift to you. Do whatever makes you feel good.”

“What if you don’t like it?”

Rikka smiled, appreciative that Dai was experiencing such genuine concern for his comfort. “I’ll let you know if I don’t like something.”

Dai nodded. Although it was clear he was suppressing the extent of his arousal, Rikka could tell Dai wanted nothing more than to continue their licentious behavior. He was practically shaking with the intensity of primitive emotions, emanating a carnal aura that demanded Rikka’s attention.

In an attempt to satiate a potentially ravenous inner beast, Rikka expertly swallowed Dai’s throbbing cock and resumed his obscene behavior. Dai held no qualms, the second time around, when his hands instinctively tangled in Rikka’s hair.

Impressed with Dai’s emerging confidence, Rikka responded by sucking harder and faster and bobbing his head to a continuous rhythm. Among the lewd slurping sounds, Dai’s groans were steadily increasing in volume and intensity. 

He cursed as he attempted to suppress an overpowering impulse fighting for sexual dominance. His hold on Rikka’s hair tightening resultantly. When the time came to surrender all self control, his primal instincts unrelentingly sought for sexual gratification.

He steadied Rikka’s bobbing head with a firm grip. The presence of a familiar warmth coiling in his lower belly was characterized by reflexive responses. Complying with the demands of his impending orgasm, Dai thrust shallowly into Rikka’s still mouth.

Rikka moaned in surprise though he made no effort to pull away.  

Dai thrust again, more zealously and determinedly.

Rikka gagged instinctively, the independent action forcing the intrusion further down his throat. Still, he didn't pull away. He maintained unbroken eye contact with Dai in an effort to communicate wordlessly. With his sparkling eyes alone, Rikka encouraged Dai to continue, to let go, to come undone when it was just another secret shared between the both of them.

Dai responded to the implicit encouragement with renewed vigor. He thrust relentlessly into the smaller's mouth. Frantically chasing after his impending orgasm, he cursed and groaned with every pleasurable thrust.

As he approached a most satisfying end, Dai pulled out of Rikka's mouth. Just as he began to pump his saliva coated cock with shaking hands, a pair of smaller, more confident hands replaced his own.

It didn't take much effort, a couple of tugs and practiced strokes, before he was coming undone right in front of Rikka's appreciative eyes. 

In a matter of seconds, Rikka's entire face and some of his hair was decorated in thick ropes of milky white. In that same time frame, no longer influenced by his sexual instinct, Dai scrambled to find a tissue.

"Fuck. I shouldn't have…"

Rikka chuckled, finding it amusing to think that Dai was probably the only person who would get so flustered and dishevelled immediately following generous head from his attractive bandmate.

He located a tissue in record time, taking the liberty of gently cleaning the mess from Rikka's face. The gesture was oddly heartwarming, adding to the growing list of secrets and moments they now shared.

"How do you feel?" Rikka questioned once his face and hair had been cleaned.

"I feel amazing."

Rikka smiled as Dai continued.

"I hope that we can continue this and…" A shy expression graced his features, "... I'm looking forward to getting to know you better. And getting a chance to grow together as we continue our journey as members of SolidS."

Rikka nodded in response.

Dai still had a significant amount of growth to attain as an individual and as a bandmate. Rikka did as well, evidenced by the success he yearned to achieve. And if they were destined to go through life together for the next however many years, it only made sense for them to unabashedly stand side by side.

"I'm excited to see what the future holds."

"Me too." Dai spoke, quickly averting his eyes from Rikka's. If he stared too long, he knew he would never want to look away, never want to have to suppress every intriguing possibility. "I should probably go to my room now."

Rikka nodded slowly, eternally grateful that the terms of their arrangement were well understood. No matter how they felt about each other, no matter what they desired, there still exist important boundaries too detrimental to cross.

"That's probably a good idea."

"Thank you. For allowing me to share something special with you today," Dai murmured as he made his way to the door.

He didn't specify which 'something' he was extending gratitude for. Rikka didn't ask for clarification.

"You're welcome," He spoke just before he was left alone with his thoughts and feelings.

Motivated by the prospect of a promising future, Rikka retrieved his hidden pills. Though the pills still embodied the existential despair of wasted potential, Rikka held them in his hand with unwavering determination.

He forcibly brought the pills to his mouth, valiantly fighting against the weight of guilt and regret as aftereffects.

He swallowed them with a heavy heart, mourning a life he never knew or got a chance to love.

He wondered, as he rightfully should, if his bond with Dai would no longer culminate as strongly once their baby ceased to exist.

He sat on his bed, pondering the consequences of his conscious decisions, as his eyes filled with tears. His vision blurred his pleasant surroundings, symbolic of the blurry barrier determinant of immoral and moral decisions. Which of his judgments would lead to acceptable or unacceptable outcomes?

Though the boundaries between right and wrong could never be demolished, a willful person's constitution could be strong enough to realign the rigid bounds.

Rikka attributed his strengthening physical connection with Dai and his advocacy for the desired outcomes of the future as tangible justifications for his amended resolutions.

Chapter Text

The first time Rikka heard their sanguine tune broadcast across multimedia, he was intoxicated by a passionate embrace ablaze with fervent arousal. 

The music filled the electrified air of Dai's room, intermingling with the pulsating of inexhaustible sexual energy.  

Rikka threw his head back, mouth agape on the cusp of a soundless scream, as he masterfully circled his hips to an effervescent rhythm. Dai's hands roamed the expanse of the man's energetic body, his mouth cautiously exploring each tantalizingly exposed nipple.

Rikka gasped when Dai's hot mouth latched onto the erect pink buds, sensitive to an unrestrained fault. He rode Dai with heightened fervor, coming undone to the conclusion of their familiar song.

Dai released his own pent up excitement with a grunt, filling the condom with every last drop reminiscent of another shared encounter with Rikka. His relationship with whom had transitioned into a phase of extensive exploration over the past few weeks.

Exploration of their sexual and physical desires found them seeking the other's comforting presence more often than not and sneaking away for stolen kisses and reassurance.

Dai had extended unconditional support for Rikka dealing with the emotional aftermath of his confidential abortion. As Rikka had gifted Dai with equivocal support pertaining to his insecurities centered around their ongoing debut. They gravitated instinctively towards each other, safely hidden away in protective isolation. 

Still buried snugly inside of Rikka, Dai reached a blind hand for his phone. He silenced the contemporary music blaring from its compact speakers.

"Can you believe it? They're playing our song on the radio."

"It's shocking to hear." Rikka mused, wrapping his arms around Dai's neck before placing a quick kiss on his lips.

Dai's response was lost in the suddenness of Rikka's kiss.

The pink haired man chuckled. "You don't have to be surprised every time I kiss you."

"I know. But…" The notion of having to sneak around and hide behind a monumental facade was inauspicious though unavoidable. Dai was still processing the potential impact of such an unstable promise. "...it feels odd to sneak around."

Rikka nodded his head. "It does. But as it stands, this is all we can do."

Dai nodded thoughtfully and Rikka smiled encouragingly. 

The members of SolidS were strengthening their budding relationships every day and Dai's relationship with Rikka continued to blossom correlatively. Despite the external constraints that prevented it from developing wholly.

The abrupt transition across personal and interpersonal relationships required flawless execution.

"Come on, let's get dressed. Tsubasa will be back soon." Rikka spoke, vigilant of the responsibilities comprising that immaculate execution.

Dai nodded, also cognizant of the late afternoon hour. 

Rikka consequently climbed off of Dai's lap, drawing their intimate moment to its inevitable close, and navigated through the younger's room with casual ease.

He situated himself in front of the framed wall mirror hung vertically above Dai's clothes dresser. Too concerned with grooming his collarbone length hair into an acceptable state, Rikka didn't notice the subtle implications of wandering eyes right away.

Once his hair was restored to its prior elegant style, his eyes met Dai's through the mirror's reflective surface. Disclosed details emerged, highlighting the blue eyes widening in surprise before averting in mortification. A faint blush subsequently reddened Dai's face.

"S-sorry. I didn't mean to stare."

"Hm." Rikka hummed in amusement, facing the flustered boy directly. "Is something wrong?"

Dai shook his head, eyes fixating on anything but Rikka's flawless naked body. There wasn't much time for further distraction, not if they wanted to greet Tsubasa in an unostentatious manner. 

Dai persistently avoided Rikka's gaze when he spoke. "No. There's just…"

"Just what?" Rikka prompted.

"...something about you that's different."

"Is that a bad thing?" Rikka couldn't help himself when he gave in to the sudden urge to cross his arms tentatively across his body

Desperate to clear any misunderstandings, Dai spoke in a hurried rush. "No. You've just been more beautiful lately. Your body is glowing."

Rikka grew bashful under the praise, dressing in an unimposing manner. “I’ve actually been gaining a little weight lately.” 

A rapidly changing body was not a suitable ordeal for a working model nor an emerging idol. He’d been dealing with the delicate matter privately, convinced the changes constituted a simple hormonal byproduct of terminating his pregnancy. Up until that point, he’d been desperately hoping to remedy the situation before someone noticed anything amiss.

Intuitively decoding Rikka’s complex feelings surrounding the sensitive topic, Dai offered a perpetually valued opinion and satisfyingly wholesome advice.

“For what it’s worth, I think you look stunning.”

Rikka smiled, murmuring a quiet, “Thank you.”

“But if it really bothers you, maybe we can go to the gym together or go jogging or...whatever you want to do. But you don’t have to if you don’t want to...” Dai met Rikka’s gaze shyly when his nervous rambling became apparent.

Rikka giggled in response. 

Dai didn’t often stutter or stumble over his words when he was around anyone but Rikka. Being in the presence of the man he admired devotedly brought forth his own resilient vulnerability. Exposing one’s vulnerabilities to someone they respected was a troublesome and embarrassing feat.

“That sounds nice, actually. I would love to have an excuse to spend more time with you.” He and Dai still had plenty to learn about each other, plenty of opportunities to responsibly contribute to helping strengthen the common bond of their idol group. The development of meaningful relationships needn’t be rushed.

Before Dai had a chance to respond, though the delighted expression on his face alluded to his anticipated response, a familiarly cheerful voice was heard resonantly throughout the dorm.

“Oi, is anyone home?”

In a swift and precise motion, Dai slipped a shirt over his naked torso. At the same time, Rikka hurriedly scanned the room for any visible traces of their recent escapade. They’d miscalculated Tsubasa’s arrival by a few minutes, somehow still managing to maintain composure when they greeted their bandmate in the living area.

It was only natural to expect the effects of their intimate relationship to intertwine with and influence some aspects of their expressive behavior. Though, by relying on innate charisma, they would be able to attribute the subtle changes to the variables of normal bonding.

“They’re playing our song on the radio! Can you freaking believe it?” Tsubasa radiated more indomitable energy than usual.

“There’s no need to yell.” Dai spoke calmly, sustaining the steady balance between his reserved personality and Tsubasa’s outgoing personality.

The blonde haired man feigned astonishment. “What do you mean there’s no need? You should be more excited, Dai-chan.”

“I am excited.”

Tsubasa tapped his chin thoughtfully, scrutinizing his younger friend’s demeanor. When he came to some sort of absurd conclusion, his face lit up in understanding. “I see what’s going on here.”

“What?” Dai raised a confused eyebrow. Although he’d known Tsubasa for many years, it hadn’t proven substantial enough for Dai to gain insight into his friend’s unique patterns of thinking.

Tsubasa smiled mischievously before replying. “You’re only suppressing your emotions in an effort to appear cool in front of Rikka.”

“What the hell are you going on about?” Dai groaned at the same time Rikka laughed amusingly.

It wasn’t difficult to ascertain Dai’s considerable admiration towards the pink haired beauty. Nor was it difficult for Tsubasa to relentlessly tease his friend because of it. Embarrassed as Dai might be, Rikka found the interaction absolutely adorable.

Only after Tsubasa had completed his affectionate teasing towards Dai did the atmosphere between the three bandmates noticeably shift.

“You two didn’t have anything scheduled today. I’m so jealous. How did you spend your day off?”

Dai paled in response, grateful that Tsubasa was too engrossed in searching for a snack in the kitchen to notice. Rikka was the only one who did notice. He offered a reassuring gaze in response.

“Hm. We didn’t do much of anything. At this point, we’re just focusing on bonding.” Rikka spoke easily. His words, though vague, were sincere in every possible aspect. He and Dai had spent the day bonding. Cooking, watching movies, cuddling, talking, listening to music and, of course, having sex. The details of which were better left undisclosed

“Oh,” Tsubasa gasped in excitement. Whether from the prospect of Rikka and Dai getting along or having found something delicious to snack on, no one could be sure. With Tsubasa, nothing was ever explicitly certain. 

When he joined his bandmates to lounge on their couch, a bag of ume norimaki was secured firmly in his hand. He proceeded to share the details of his own day. Professing his difficulties in balancing his university life with his idol life.

"That's on you for choosing both at the same time." Dai bluntly responded. 

Tsubasa blatantly denied any involvement in postulating the idea of overlapping idol work with university work. "It was all Shiki's idea."

"You agreed to it."

"Ah. Shit . I'm going to be so overwhelmed."

"You're being dramatic."

Rikka smiled from his place next to the bantering friends. It was always reassuring to witness the familiar exchange accompanying lifelong friendships. The easy conversation was representative of an ideal situation where all matters were effortless and uncomplicated. A most desirable reality.

"Speaking of Shiki, where is he?" Tsubasa questioned, directing the inquiry to Rikka.

"He's working at Tsukino."

"Is work all he ever does?" Tsubasa asked rhetorically. "Do you know when he'll be done?"

"I think he said he'd be done early today. Why?"

"Since he was too busy to celebrate when we finished recording the song, he has to at least celebrate now that it's being broadcast."

Rikka nodded. "What did you have in mind?"

Tsubasa shrugged. "We could go out to dinner. Maybe go shopping beforehand."

"Shopping and dinner sound nice." Rikka approved enthusiastically.

"Dai-chan, what do you think?"

"Does Shiki even enjoy shopping?"

Tsubasa brushed the notion off with a lighthearted gesture. "Doesn't matter, he needs to take a break from work anyway. I'll text him that we're going out to celebrate tonight."

"Do whatever you want." 

Diverting his attention elsewhere, Tsubasa busied himself on his phone; providing Dai and Rikka with a silent opportunity for private communication.

Rikka's expressive eyes effortlessly captured Dai's. The intensity of his gaze served as a warning of caution. Any inability to publicly uphold their responsibilities as ordinary bandmates would result in irreversible consequences.

Dai nodded, short and quick, though his eyes flickered with stubborn emotions.

Rikka smiled gently, though unwanted emotions plagued him as well. The mutual decision, whether adverse or otherwise, to continually share intimate time placed them in a complicated situation. Hence burdening Dai with mature responsibility.

Rikka hadn't considered, neglectfully impacted by his own selfish desires, if Dai was prepared to handle such consequential matters henceforth.

As the most rational and honorable verdict, he concluded to be held solely accountable if the situation were to ever spiral uncontrollably awry. 

Dai didn't deserve to be swept away by a turbulent shitstorm. Not if Rikka was able to protect and shield him from the unpleasant repercussions.

"Woah, Shiki actually agreed!" Tsubasa restored the situation to its previously simplistic state.

"He did?" Dai seemed mildly surprised.

"His exact words were, 'if everyone has already agreed I shouldn't refuse.' Tsubasa's perfect imitation of Shiki's serious deep voice was comical enough to have Rikka and Dai laughing.

When Shiki arrived at the dorm a short while later, he was greeted by the sight and sounds of his bandmates snickering on the tail end of an inside joke.

"What's funny?"

Tsubasa jumped up and draped a casual arm around Shiki's shoulders. The leader remained unfazed.

"Don't worry about it, darling ."

Shiki smiled slightly, having resolved to humor Tsubasa's antics long ago. "Say no more, honey ."

Tsubasa transitioned seamlessly from removing his arm around Shiki's shoulders to placing both palms on Shiki's back. He pushed their leader in the direction of the front door, signaling the growing need for their celebratory outing.

"Come on. It's about time you took your family out."

"Family, huh?"

"Yes, yes. We're all a family now. You're the workaholic dad, Rikka's the awesome mom, I'm the coolest big brother, and Dai's the annoying little brother."

"Huh?! How am I the annoying one?"

A teasing chuckle was the only response given. Dai rolled his eyes in exasperation.

On the way out of the building, Tsubasa reached into his back pocket and handed Shiki a shiny set of car keys.

"Here."

"What's this?" The leader was confused.

"The keys to the new company car."

"How did you get them?”

"I asked nicely."

Tsubasa led Shiki and the rest of his bandmates to the parking lot of their high rise dorm building. Surprisingly, a shiny blue car caught their attention. Shiki examined the keys in his hand thoughtfully.

“I haven’t driven in a while.”

“You’ll be fine.” Tsubasa encouraged. “But if you really need me to, I can drive.”

Dai made a blatant noise of disapproval at the prospect of Tsubasa driving. Tsubasa focused his undivided attention on his friend.

“What? I’m not a bad driver.”

“You can never stay in one lane. You switch for no reason.” Dai argued.

“Sounds unpleasant.” Rikka murmured.

“Dai’s just being dramatic because he gets carsick.”

“Only when you’re driving.”

Shiki interjected before Tsubasa could respond, by jingling the car keys and capturing his bandmates’ attention. 

“I’ll drive. Come on.”

“Let’s go!” Tsubasa enthused, sauntering over to the passenger side. Shiki climbed into the driver’s seat, leaving Rikka and Dai to occupy the backseat alone. The car was rather small and the backseat was restrictive as a result. There was little space between the two of them and it was with great surprise that Rikka found that fact to be...distracting.

“Oh, the navigation system looks promising.” Shiki spoke, fiddling with the car’s built in GPS. 

Dai shifted in his seat, aiming for a better view of the front system that was mentioned. The action caused him to brush Rikka’s shoulder, eliciting a short gasp (disguised as a cough) from the pink haired man.

Dai shot an inquisitive gaze in Rikka’s direction. He was met with a reassuring smile in response.

Once Shiki started the car, Rikka looked away from Dai and out of the window. He focused on the changing scenery rather than focusing on being hyper-aware of his close proximity to Dai. There had been numerous situations where he’d been close to the teen since their private arrangement. None of those situations had ever affected him to the point where he was distracted by how good Dai smelled, how attractive he looked, and how desperately he wanted to be touched by him again.

His sudden and intense feelings were confusing, to say the least, and he knew the car ride was sure to be an excruciatingly long one. 

“Rikka, is something wrong?” Dai inquired, attuned to his bandmate’s sudden and strange behavior.

He received a quick shake of the head and a small smile in response. Rikka was too flustered to speak and more preoccupied with ensuring he sat as far from Dai and as close to the door as physically possible. If he suddenly had no control over whatever was happening to his body at the moment, the least he could do was try to minimize his exposure to the source behind his discomfort. 

Indisputable evidence that Rikka had hurt Dai’s feelings by his actions was evidenced by wistful blue eyes. Rikka opened his mouth to offer an explanation, to apologize, but quickly closed it once he realized the potential impact of following through. Shiki and Tsubasa would likely ask questions he wouldn’t have answers for and Dai would be placed in the midst of an awkward situation.

Rikka remained silent, his body angled away from Dai, as he fought a silent war raging inside. He struggled to suppress his physical yearning towards the blue haired man and his inappropriate thoughts centered around the same man. There was nothing Rikka wanted in the world more than to have Dai satiate his sudden hunger and desire.

Lost in his own head, Rikka reorganized every plausible explanation as to why and how he could have found himself in such a predicament. For what reasons had those inappropriate thoughts popped into his head? Why did he feel as if his body was completely unbalanced and out of control?

“Shiki, is it okay if I let the window down?” Rikka wondered as he felt his skin heating up. His voice sounded surprisingly unperturbed despite his situation. Though there was a slight quiver to his tone.

“Fine.” Shiki responded, too focused on driving to notice anything amiss.

Rikka let the window down as he contemplated the plausibility of interpreting his unwanted feelings as another aftereffect of his abortion. Hormonal unrest could result in a myriad of annoying symptoms. He convinced himself he was experiencing just such.

Tsubasa twisted around in his seat to survey the happenings behind him. He focused on Rikka with a slight curious tilt of his head.

“Rikka, are you feeling okay?”

Rikka nodded uncomfortably, forcing a smile simultaneously.

“I’m feeling okay.”

“Hm.” Tsubasa wasn’t convinced. 

Rikka was sure the sight of his flushed skin was not reassuring.

“Do you get carsick like Dai?”

Deciding it would be easier to convince Tsubasa of the fact, he nodded quickly. “Mhm. Sometimes.”

“Here. Hold this.” 

Before Rikka could respond, Tsubasa was thrusting a large yellow plushie into his arms. The pink haired man held the soft plushie in his lap, slightly confused.

“Where did you get this?”

“It was already in the car.”

“What do I do with it?”

“Just holding it will make you feel better.”

“Thank you.”

Rikka would admit that he had his doubts on whether or not a plushie could offer aid for his current situation. He was pleasantly surprised, as time passed, to find that the soft texture of the toy against his skin somehow grounded him back to reality. He was triumphant in the eradication of his distracting thoughts, successful in overcoming the waves of desire that threatened disastrous exposure.

His skin no longer flushed as his body was no longer immediately affected by symptoms of hormonal imbalances.

Retired to a relaxed state of mind, Rikka chanced a glance in Dai’s direction. Unsurprisingly, Dai was pointedly looking in the opposite direction. His demeanor provided Rikka with an unmistakable indication of how he was currently feeling. 

To have someone you cared about avoid you, for whatever reason, must have been disheartening. Especially when they were in the midst of exploring and experimenting with their relationship.

Rikka resolved to remain silent, deciding it would be best to address the situation privately at a later time.

For fear of his hormones being thrown off kilter again, Rikka also came to the conclusion that it would be wise to keep his distance from Dai during their outing. Acknowledging the fact that he was the major contributor in making their complicated relationship seem even more complicated, Rikka avoided any close interaction. 

“...we can just look at clothes for Dai-chan.” Tsubasa spoke, capturing Rikka’s wandering attention.

They’d recently arrived at their designated shopping area and were discussing their plans henceforth. Which, according to Tsubasa, included watching Dai try on various clothing.

"Me? Why?"

"Clothes look good on former athletes. Come on!"

Dai groaned but allowed Tsubasa to lead him through the throng of shoppers and into the clothing stores. Shiki and Rikka followed, though at a sizable distance from the childhood friends.

"I've been rather busy, lately. I apologize."

"Hm?" Rikka had been unprepared to have Shiki suddenly apologize. Especially during such a relaxed and casual outing. "Don't worry about it."

"I can't help but feel as if I've been negligent as a leader. Has anything happened that you wish to tell me about?"

"Nothing has happened." Rikka responded, genuine in his reasoning. It wouldn't prove beneficial for Shiki to find out about his relationship with Dai or the pregnancy and abortion.

Shiki nodded slowly, contemplating the honesty behind Rikka's words and his validating stance and subtle gestures.

There wasn't a single doubt in Shiki's mind that Rikka believed his own words to be true. Whether the words themselves were factual or legitimate couldn't be discerned. Time was the only determinant factor worthy of disclosing concealed knowledge and elucidating isolated incidents.

"If anything does happen, don't hesitate to come to me."

"I won't. Thank you." Rikka smiled brightly, his outward placid demeanor executed effortlessly.

If Shiki had noticed any discrepancies in his friend's behavior, he remained mum about the profundity. Rather, he gestured towards their younger bandmates, efficiently diverting the current topic of conversation.

"It seems as if Tsubasa is enjoying himself."

Firmly stationed among various racks of clothes, Tsubasa and Dai had successfully navigated themselves through the store. The older of the two could be seen diligently yanking clothes from the racks and shoving them in his friend’s unsuspecting arms. Dai stumbled a half step back, overwhelmed by the prospect of modeling a seemingly infinite number of outfits.

“Alright,” Tsubasa beamed once satisfied with the chosen haul, “this should be a good place to start.”

“Start?” Dai seemed none too pleased with the idea of having to accommodate Tsubasa’s demands for an extended period of time.

“Sure. But don’t worry, if you get tired we can have Rikka try on clothes," Tsubasa spoke, taking careful notice of the model and leader's approaching presence. 

"Models look good in everything. Right, Rikka?" He asked once the aforementioned man was in audible range.

Rikka was quick to refuse, hoping his denial would be perceived as humble rather than an expression of self demoralization. 

"I wouldn't say so. We all have our flaws." 

Whether it be physical or mental, emotional or behavioral, imperfections were inconceivable to deny. Rikka simply wished for his own to remain indeterminate as he worked through overcoming them.

Before disappearing into the fitting room, Dai sent a fleeting look in Rikka's direction. It was intended to reassure, though it produced an adverse effect. Rikka averted his gaze, focusing on a random vantage point in the near distance. 

"I think I'm going to browse a little on my own."

"Sure." Shiki acknowledged.

Rikka departed with a quick smile, needing a moment alone to collect his thoughts. As he walked away from his bandmates, he instinctively tugged on the hem of his fashionable turtleneck sweater. Although no one but Dai knew of the existence, Rikka's budding insecurities about his weight were growing steadily. 

Along with the effects of his unruly hormones, Rikka could no longer ignore the physical impact of his spontaneous abortion. His body was changing in unexpected ways, undermining the emotional aftermath he'd already been forced to endure.

His body and mind were in complete opposition, forcing him to speculate if he had any entitlement to involve himself with Dai. To be intimately engaged with the father of a child who no longer existed because of Rikka's own decisions.

He chanced a glance back in the direction of the fitting rooms where Dai had recently emerged. The nineteen year old was impeccably styled by Tsubasa in a mid length charcoal gray trench coat and fitted black slacks. The outfit drew considerable attention to his muscular build and highlighted the expanse of his broad shoulders.

No matter the justification, nothing could stop Rikka from being drawn to the blue haired teen. No amount of reasoning would stop his body from instinctively craving the sensual touch of one such man.

It was a perplexing phenomenon to yearn so strongly for someone whom Rikka felt he shouldn't want to be involved with. 

His physical instincts were transmitting insightful information to his brain. Though his mind was slow and unreceptive in deciphering the weighted meaning. 

Before he could comprehend what was happening, he was navigating his way back to his bandmates. Tsubasa acknowledged his returned presence with a smile and a gesture in Dai's direction.

"He looks good, huh?"

Rikka nodded, more eagerly than intended. If Tsubasa noticed, he didn't say anything.

"Yeah. He looks really good."

Dai was unsure how to interpret Rikka's sudden reappearance nor his enthusiastic response. The pink haired man's intentions were proving more challenging to determine and the mixing of signals was discombobulating.

Dai would stand by his resolve to never press Rikka for information nor inquire relentlessly. But he couldn't help feeling as though Rikka's erratic behavior was resultant of withheld information that could have had a substantial impact on both of their lives.

Strange as it was, Dai couldn't offer a sole justification for why he had such an absurd thought.

"Oh! Do you hear that? They're playing our song!" Tsubasa gestured frantically towards the general direction of the music. The song resonated vibrantly throughout the shop. 

Shiki smiled, pleased to have caught a few passing words of nearby shoppers' praise.

"It's being promoted well."

Rikka nodded joyously and Dai smiled as well.

"I'm so pumped for our performance!" Tsubasa punctuated his statement with a celebratory jump.

Shiki's smile didn't falter as he spoke, "Save that energy for then."

"Aye, leader."

The day of their first performance was a single short week away. Nervous excitement emanated from each band member at the realization. Fear of the unknown was infinitely unpleasant. Though excitement for the future remained irrepressible.

The song eventually reached its conclusion, shifting the focus of attention.

"Alright, Dai. Next outfit." Tsubasa nudged him towards the direction of the fitting rooms. He disappeared inside without a fuss.

"Tsubasa, could we speed this along?" Shiki questioned after catching a glimpse of the large clothes pile Dai was expected to try on.

The blonde waved his hand dismissively. "We just got started. Relax."

"We need to be back at the dorm at a reasonable time. We have the costume check early tomorrow."

Tsubasa rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "We do, don't we?"

Shiki crossed his arms stiffly. "You forgot. Didn't you?"

"No way!" Tsubasa shook his head vehemently. "Though it might be best to cut this a little short so we can have dinner."

Dai's infinite number of outfits was downsized to a more modest number. He looked strikingly handsome in each one. Tsubasa offered, no insisted on buying him a couple of the outfits that complement his looks best.

Tsubasa also insisted on buying a few things for himself without even trying them on. 

When Rikka wandered into the houseware section, Tsubasa offered unwavering support for his decision to purchase beautiful porcelain dessert plates.

Shiki and Dai kept their distance, allotting Tsubasa and Rikka with ample opportunity to enjoy their shopping excursion to the fullest.

Towards the end of the shopping trip, Rikka felt more at ease. Though the distance between himself and Dai remained throughout dinner. 

Rikka and Dai spoke very little to each other as they ate. Not because they didn't want to communicate but because anything they needed to say was better left as a private discussion.

Tsubasa made a playful joke about them not communicating and Shiki appeared to be nonplussed either way. 

Rikka’s desire to clear any misunderstandings with Dai remained prevalent throughout dinner. He was only rewarded with the opportunity to do so long after they'd left the restaurant and returned to the dorm.

Shiki, Tsubasa, and Dai had all retired to their bedrooms later that night. Rikka had just retired to his, after a long relaxing shower, when he sent Dai a simple text.

Are you asleep?

It was challenging to accept the fact that if he and Dai ever had personal matters to address, they wouldn't get the opportunity unless the dorm was empty or its co-occupants were asleep.

Rikka never received a response, though it was evident the message had been opened and read. He sent a follow up question.

Can we talk?

Dai did send a response, although not one Rikka had been expecting.

Dai: Thought you were avoiding me.

Rikka: Dai…

Dai: I'm confused…

Rikka: I'll try to explain 

Dai: Fine. I'll come to your room.

A few moments later, a knock sounded on Rikka's door. He opened it quickly, revealing a confused and slightly irritated Dai.

Once the door was shut behind him, the taller spoke. "If you want to call this off, then tell me. Don't just have sex with me and then act like you want nothing to do with me a couple of hours later."

"Dai…"

He sighed. "I'm sorry, Rikka. That was very blunt of me."

Rikka shook his head, smiling gently. "No, I'm completely at fault. I shouldn't lead you on when I'm so unsure."

"Unsure of what?"

"My body, my mind, everything really."

Dai huffed in frustration. "I don't understand."

Rikka captured Dai's gaze and faced him with assuredness. The only thing he was unquestionably sure of, he spoke honestly to Dai, "No matter what happens, Dai, nothing will stop me from wanting to be with you."

Dai sighed again, more so out of resignation than frustration. "Now that I have you, I feel selfish. I don't want to have to let you go."

Rikka looked away. The intensity of Dai's gaze was distracting. "It's problematic to get emotionally attached."

"I agree."

"But my body craves to be close to you."

"I see."

"I don't think anything is going to change that. I didn't think I would feel this way after I..." Rikka trailed off. He hadn't expected to feel as connected to Dai after the abortion. To experience unbridled physical desire towards the blue haired man.

He was just as confused as Dai. Neither could rationalize their thoughts and feelings. Neither could draw any sort of conclusion.

Dai placed a gentle hand on Rikka's waist, their eyes met once more. Neither dared look away.

"Do you think I don't feel the same? It doesn't make sense that I want to protect a man I hardly know. I want to be with you more than I've ever wanted to be with anyone. And I don't want you to keep secrets from me."

"I can't-"

"I know you can't tell me. I'm not asking you to. I just want you to know that it hurts when you do."

Rikka nodded slowly. It only made sense for Dai to feel pain after an important part of him had been lost and destroyed. Even if he'd been unaware of its existence in the first place.

One day, Rikka hoped he could be completely open with Dai. Provide him with the answers he desired and the honesty he deserved. Maybe even then, the strong connection they felt would remain resilient. Like an invisible force incessantly drawing them together.

Chapter Text

“Our next performers are making their rookie debut from Tsukino Productions. Let’s give a warm welcome to SolidS!”

The announcer’s voice resonated throughout the entire room, signaling the onset of their first performance. The walk from the side of the stage to the center was quickly overshadowed by the urgency to locate their starting positions.

The lights were off, bathing the room in heavy darkness whilst shrouding their upcoming performance in a mystical aura. Though sight was proving to be a most unreliable sense, the four of them were able to settle into their designated spots simultaneously. It was reassuring to discover that their relentless practices had yielded indisputable results. 

Their bodies had been conditioned by instinct, to know where to go and what to do, when all other variables seemed ambivalent. 

They could not see the crowd, as they stood assuredly in their respective places. Though they could feel the heavy gazes of innumerable pairs of eyes. The ambivalency connected to the gazes was perceived from the stage as well. A cautionary measure, most likely, to determine if the rookie group was worthy of their appreciation and admiration.

As customary of any first impression, Rikka, Dai, Shiki, and Tsubasa had but a single opportunity to capture the attention and steal many hearts. The resulting pressure was immense and the consequent nerves were staggering.

Rikka’s heart pounded in his chest, a dizzying intermingle of nerves and adrenaline engulfed his entire being. From that point onward, his entire life would experience monumental change. Whether the change impacted his future negatively or positively would be designated by the outcome of that pivotal performance.

As he stood courageously, anticipating the start of their energetic music, he could sense a strong aura radiating from each of his bandmates. Powerful enough to substantially influence a mass of passive onlookers, their combined presence was magnificently captivating.

Against his better judgment, Rikka smiled to himself. The entire stage was electrified by the alluring presence of his bandmates. It was comforting, in essence, and duly motivating. 

When his adrenaline reached a transcendent threshold, there was not a doubt in Rikka’s mind that he would treasure the present moment to the highest capacity. An unforgettable memory soon to be shared and reminisced with the only other people fortunate enough to have lived through the exhilarating experience.

At the onset of the song’s prelude, the climactic moment approached its dominant peak. There was not a single opportunity for contemplation when the luminescent strobe lights ignited the darkened stage.   

Dai, Shiki, Tsubasa, and Rikka looked upon the expectant crowd synchronously. The audience waited for the triumphant climax with bated breath. An audible gasp was heard throughout the crowd when the intensity in the room reached a passionate level.

Shiki fixated piercing eyes onto the audience members, mesmerizing their very souls.

“Here we go.”

**

Revolutionary. Captivating. Extraordinary. Phenomenal.

The widespread praise after SolidS' performance had been limitless. Tsukino Production’s up and coming idol group had garnered extensive attention, dubbing Takamura Shiki, Murase Dai, Okui Tsubasa, and Sera Rikka as the newest and hottest rookie artists. Loyal fans had begun to accumulate and attach themselves to the group and its members. Despite being similarly grateful for the positive acknowledgment of their skills and hard work, each member responded to the growing recognition differently.

Tsubasa reveled in the praise while Dai found it tolerable. Rikka was appreciative and Shiki simply accepted it. Each of them was dutifully aware that greater recognition resulted in greater responsibility, highlighting one of the inevitable downsides of fame. 

Though the praise they received was well earned, it remained a necessity to continue improving and promoting their group as often and as much as possible. As had recently been the case, their schedules were overwhelmingly packed with performances, photoshoots, interviews, and practices. The terms of their contracts were fully coming into fruition as they had to remain respectfully dedicated to the group and adhere to its growing demands. 

It had been a miracle that Rikka had found the time to schedule a doctor’s appointment in the midst. Although grateful that his busy schedule had allotted him some free time, his first visit since his abortion left him a nervous wreck. His symptoms had not yet abided and were proving a minor inconvenience towards his duties as a member of SolidS. With their popularity skyrocketing to epic proportions, Rikka couldn’t afford to have anything holding him back.

He was a five minute walk from the doctor’s office when an unfamiliar voice shouted his name.

“Rikka-san! Sera Rikka!”

He turned towards the direction of the voice. His eyes landed upon a small group of giggling high school girls. They exuded unbridled excitement when he looked their way. 

One of the girls spoke in an excited rush, “It really is you! You’re even more beautiful in person!”

“You’re so cool on stage!” Another girl chimed in.

“Thank you.” Rikka smiled politely. Even though he’d been a model for many years, getting recognized on the street was still rather unfamiliar. Modeling had never been as mainstream as performing so the effects of such were variably different. 

The girls looked at Rikka with such fascination and adoration that it was difficult to turn them down when they begged him to stay and chat.

“I have somewhere I need to be. I’m sorry.” He hurried away before they could utter another word.

Rikka wanted to enjoy fame and recognition to the fullest extent. He wanted nothing more than to have deep and meaningful conversations with the fans to extend gratitude for their support. But at the moment, having to deal with the aftereffects of his abortion and relationship with Dai, he was far too preoccupied.

He reached the doctor’s office in just a few minutes, hurrying inside before anyone else noticed him. Once inside, he received a text from the blue haired teen.

Text me when your appointment is over.

Rikka smiled before replying with a simple, Sure .

It was comforting to know that his and Dai’s relationship hadn’t been affected by SolidS' newfound fame and recognition. In actuality, it remained steadily unchanged. Fame had not compromised the nights they shared nor the kisses they stole. It had not severed the connecting bonds that had drawn them together in the first place.

Rikka continued to maintain a level of trust with Dai that allowed him to be as honest as he could be. After admitting he was still dealing with personal issues, he was never pressed for further information. Though it had been evident how concerned Dai was when Rikka admitted to scheduling another doctor’s appointment.

Rikka had assured him that the problem would reach a peaceful resolution in due time. Dai seemed unconvinced.

“Sera Rikka.”

He was called into an examination room by a friendly nurse. She completed his basic examination in a quick and precise manner. Rikka blanched when she wrote down his current weight. He’d gained six unmistakable pounds since his last visit. Despite his diligent self care efforts.

“Can weight gain be a result of having an abortion?”

“Hm. It can be. Many turn to emotional eating as a coping mechanism for their loss.”

“I don’t have any issue with emotional eating. I watch what I eat and workout everyday.” He and Dai have made it a priority to jog every morning before their schedules. Dai’s innate competitiveness had even pushed both of them to work harder, making it impossible for Rikka not to have slimmed down to his previous weight.

“There could be hormonal issues coming into play. It’s best for you to discuss this with the doctor.”

“Alright, thank you.” Rikka murmured. The doctor would surely be able to figure things out and offer a quick and easy solution. Rikka remained optimistic despite a sudden growing sense of dread gnawing at his insides.

After the nurse had left and the doctor had taken her place, the sense of dread did not dissipate.

“Rikka, what can I do for you today?”

He swallowed audibly before responding, none too pleased with having to describe his irritating symptoms in great detail. Eerily similar to the first visit when he hadn’t the faintest clue he was pregnant, Rikka anxiously awaited a treatable prognosis.

“You took the abortion pills, correct?”

“Yes.”

“Did you experience cramping or bleeding as a result?”

Rikka nodded. “I had cramping and bleeding.”

Soon after he’d taken the pills, his body reacted uncomfortably. Locked away in his room, he’d had to endure each major physical symptom that had been expected of an abortion. Rikka had attributed his unavoidable discomfort to the success of his pregnancy's termination. There wasn’t a reason for him to think otherwise.

“How heavy was the bleeding and how long did it last?”

“It was moderately heavy. It continued for a few hours.” Rikka replied, finding it difficult to have to relive that night. He would stick by his decision to follow through with the abortion regardless, but the agonizing hours where he’d sobbed into Dai’s chest were best left forgotten. The shattering of his heart was better left disregarded.

The doctor asked him a few more personal questions. Each inquiry conjured a painful repressed memory. And each of his answers left the doctor more bewildered. Finally, Rikka was asked the most important question thus far. The only inquiry that instigated a shocking realization.

“Rikka, do you remember when I told you the pill was 97% effective?”

Rikka nodded. Of course, he remembered. The odds were incredibly compelling. 

The doctor steered Rikka towards a narrow path of knowledge and understanding. “Consequently, the pill has a 3% chance of being ineffective. Cramping and bleeding, in and of themselves, do not constitute a successful abortion.”

The pieces of the puzzle connecting a much bigger picture came together all at once. The symptoms Rikka had continually been experiencing had not been byproducts of his abortion. His unruly hormones, his unbreakable connection to Dai, everything pointed to an earth shattering fact.

“I’m still pregnant?!" He squeaked.

“It appears so,” was the given response.

“I can’t be. I…” Rikka trailed off as every plausible scenario careened into him at once. The impact resulted in overwhelming tears filling his gentle eyes. The ruination of his career and life was an undeniable and sinister threat. The external consequences would render him utterly defenseless if he couldn’t figure out another solution.

“We’ll need to do an ultrasound to be sure. But if you do turn out to still be expecting, we’ll be forced to consider surgical abortion.”

“Another abortion?" Did he even have the mental capacity to endure another attempt at stealing his child’s life? Every moment Rikka had cried and mourned his loss, the baby had been right there. Every moment he spent with Dai, intimate or otherwise, the baby had been present all along. Their first performance, their schedules, practices and lessons, everything .

The baby had been resilient enough to stick by Rikka throughout, strong enough to help strengthen the bond between its parents. How could an invincible creature ever be forced into oblivion? 

Once instructed, Rikka walked on unsteady legs to the ultrasound room. He laid on the examination table as requested and lifted his shirt. He couldn’t help but laugh bitterly at the absurdity of the situation when the screen lit up with the unmistakable form of a baby . A baby who had transformed from a once humanoid fetus

His laughs turned into heavy choking sobs. Tears streamed endlessly down his face as he watched the human inside of him display viable signs of life.

“You look to be about fourteen weeks. The baby is healthy and growing as expected. Do you want to know the gender?” The technician questioned.

From the time he’d found out he was pregnant, Rikka had never considered what gender the baby would eventually be. He never thought it would even matter . All he wanted to know, the only essential factor that had yet to be decided, was how he was supposed to handle the complicated situation. What was he supposed to do when he was too distraught to think clearly and the consequences of his decisions would ultimately affect his bandmates?

How could he possibly follow through with another abortion after seeing how innocent, alive, and human the baby looked? But if he didn’t follow through, his career, SolidS, and Dai would suffer immeasurable consequences.

“How about a picture?” The technician asked gently after realizing how emotional the pregnant man was.

Rikka didn’t have time to think before he was blurting out an emotional, “Y-yes. Please.”

If he was left with no other option but to attempt another abortion, he wanted to at least have an opportunity to vividly remember the valiant little baby that he and Dai created.

When the appointment was complete, he left the office with a heavy heart, a hidden ultrasound picture, and a written date and time documenting his upcoming surgery.

**

The dorm was empty when he returned. The silence a deafening roar in his ears as he made his way to his room. He crawled into bed, curling into himself as he cried into his pillow. His phone pinged at the same time he retrieved his ultrasound picture.

He ignored the chime, instinctively knowing that Dai was the sender. Rikka wasn’t ready to speak with Dai, not after realizing that he still carried their baby. Not after coming to the realization that the anguish he felt was neverending. Dai didn’t need to comfort Rikka in another broken state. He didn’t deserve to have that overwhelming burden.

Rikka traced the picture with a gentle finger. He highlighted all of the baby’s prominent features. The ears, nose, and mouth were all perfectly aligned. Three and a half inches in length and one and a half ounces in weight, he had been told it was roughly the size of a peach.

He placed a hand on his stomach, wiping away more tears. “The bigger you get, the bigger I get. That’s how it works, huh?”

Rikka sat up slowly, observing his stomach from a different vantage point. It didn’t stick out as prominently as he feared, though the weight gain was somewhat evident. If Rikka didn’t resolve the problem quickly, the scrutinizing public would begin to notice. Dai would begin to notice, more than he already did.

Rikka's phone pinged a few more times, drawing his attention, as he finally leaned over to retrieve it. As expected, he saw that he had a couple of unread messages from Dai. Further investigation revealed messages from Shiki and Tsubasa as well. He opened the first message from Shiki.

We need to sit down and talk. I won’t accept any objections.

Rikka reread Shiki’s message a few times, confused by its sharp brevity. It wasn’t until he opened Tsubasa’s message that things started to make sense.

Fans saw you leaving the doctor’s office. You looked really distressed. Are you okay?

Attached at the end of the message was a link to someone’s social media page. The person had documented a sighting of Rikka just a little while ago. The picture had been taken at the exact moment he stepped out of the doctor’s office. Though he had stopped crying at that point, his saddened eyes were tinged red and his shoulders were hunched forward in defeat. The picture perfectly captured the epitome of his broken essence.

When he’d been too wrapped up in his own thoughts, he hadn’t even considered the fact that someone could have seen and documented his vulnerable condition. As a newbie group still settling in the spotlight, damage control would have to be done before any destructive inaccuracies were derived from that single photo.

That was the only plausible reasoning for Shiki demanding they sit together and work something out.

Rikka eventually opened three messages from Dai, tears welling in his eyes once again.

Is the appointment over?

Please, you can talk to me. Whatever it is. Even if I can’t do anything about it I can still listen and offer support.

Rikka…

“Dai.” He whispered.

Dai was the only one who could offer support for the situation. The only person in the world who was entitled to and capable of sharing Rikka’s burden. The baby had not been and never would be Rikka’s alone. Sitting in bed, exhausted tears streaming down his face and a precious sonogram enclosed tightly in his hand, he couldn’t conceptualize why he had supported the idea of making every decision alone.

The fact remained that Dai was only nineteen years old. But it wouldn’t remain that way for much longer. As he grew older and more mature, Dai was fully capable of making his own decisions and being held accountable for the consequences.

As an intelligent young man raised by a respectable family, he was not ignorant about the harsh and unpleasant realities of the world. Nor was he blind to the biases and prejudices that plagued society. Well equipped to deal with life’s unfortunate circumstances, he could handle his responsibilities accordingly. If only Rikka would give him the opportunity. 

With unsteady hands and an erratically beating heart, Rikka sent a long overdue message to Dai.

Rikka: I have something to tell you.

Dai: What is it?

Rikka: I can’t say over the phone. I need to speak with you in person.

Dai: I’ll be back late tonight.

Rikka: I’ll wait up for you.

Dai: Okay...I’m here for you.

Rikka: I know. Thank you.

Rikka couldn't deny how nervous he felt to tell Dai the news. There was no way of predicting how he would react to the pregnancy or abortion nor how he would react after Rikka admitted he'd already attempted such a volatile act.

If Rikka was going to be honest with Dai, he needed to tell the nineteen year old everything that had been kept secret. Leading up to the fact, nothing would be able to prepare Rikka to instigate such a difficult and personal conversation.

It was best not to stress about the inevitable. It was better to focus on one problem at a time.

The next message he sent was for Tsubasa. He ended up having to convince the blonde for a good few minutes that he was okay and did not have any life threatening medical condition.

The last message he sent was for Shiki. Their leader who was likely beside himself trying to ensure false rumors surrounding Rikka’s doctor visit weren’t swirling around the net. From that point onward, Rikka would have to be even more careful when dealing with pregnancy related or any personal matters. He was expecting a very thorough lecture from Shiki consequently.

You’re right. I won’t object.

I’ll be back in the next couple of hours. We’ll talk then.

A couple of hours didn’t give Rikka much time to compose himself nor sort through which information could or could not be shared during the discussion. No amount of reasoning was compelling enough for Rikka to decide to tell Shiki the truth. He would only tell their leader what was directly applicable and leave any further details unspecified.

A long time passed before Rikka found the motivation to leave his bed. Many things were happening at once and he was unconvinced there was enough time in the day to process it all. Sobbing in bed would do him no good. It wouldn’t improve his situation nor provide him with a feasible solution.

He made his way to the bathroom, rubbing against his puffy red eyes. He splashed cold water on his face before he dared to look at himself in the mirror. He looked distressed, understandably so, the look in his somber eyes hinting that he was in the midst of processing concerning news. Past the obvious physical changes, the red eyes and disconcerting frown, he noticed more subtle differences about his appearance.

His face was slightly rounder than usual, gradually softening his striking features. His light complexion was completely clear and unblemished, bright and beautiful. He gathered a long strand of his hair, twisting it between his fingers and examining it closely. Its length had extended considerably past a specific point. He followed the strand to the root, noting the expanded thickness as well.

He took a few cautious steps back from the mirror until the entire upper half of his torso was visible. He turned to the side, grasping the hem of his shirt with unsteady hands. He lifted it on the exhale of a deep breath, examining his figure in the mirror simultaneously. A gasp was caught in his throat.

He hadn’t noticed it before, hadn’t even looked for it before. But knowing that there was a baby inside, the tiny bump was now unmistakably visible from a lateral vantage point. 

He yanked his shirt down quickly, hiding the disconcerting bump. It had been more of an emotional ordeal to acknowledge his bump than he’d ever imagined.

Needing to occupy his mind with something simple and unrelated to the baby, he made his way into the kitchen. He aimlessly searched through the pantry cabinets and fridge for a random assortment of ingredients before he’d even decided what to cook.

He stared thoughtfully at the recently retrieved ingredients laid in front of him.

“I could make some kind of dessert.” He murmured aloud, weighing his options equally. “Maybe they’d appreciate something French. That would be a nice change, hm?”

Rikka had just finished the beginning preparations for a simple French pastry when he was hit with a confounding realization. He’d been speaking comfortably and conversationally to the baby. Speaking as easily as if a visible person had been occupying the kitchen alongside him.

“No, Rikka, you can’t.” He berated himself aloud. If he made it a habit to associate with the baby, centering his thoughts on the child often, he would grow emotionally attached. If he was too emotionally attached, it would be that much harder to follow through with the abortion. Infinitely harder than it had been the first time he tried.

The most important thing he needed to focus on, aside from his impending discussion with Shiki, was explaining the entire situation to Dai. Once that was done, he would have someone to accompany him and offer insightful support during the abortion. When the abortion was complete, he and Dai would move on together. It would be foolish and unnecessary to overcomplicate the situation.

Instead, Rikka focused all of his attention on the task at hand. He busied himself with mixing ingredients and not allowing his thoughts to wander towards the baby. He was successful in his efforts and had composed himself to an acceptable degree by the time Shiki had returned.

“I’m home.” Shiki spoke as Rikka removed his pastries from the oven.

“Welcome home.”

“How are you feeling?” The leader wondered. 

Rikka sent a smile in his direction and replied honestly.“Much better.”

“Good.” Shiki gestured towards the dining table not far from where they stood. Rikka accurately interpreted the implication before Shiki even spoke. “We should talk now.”

“Sure.” Rikka sustained his smile even as he suffered the internal impact of emergent nerves.

He and Shiki sat across from each other at the table, Rikka using every ounce of self control not to divert from the seriously lingering gaze. 

“First off, I need to make sure you’re healthy and capable of adhering to the demands of the contract.”

“I am.” Rikka responded. Until his scheduled abortion was complete, he didn’t anticipate his pregnancy posing any serious complications that would prevent him from fulfilling his duties as a member of SolidS.

“If that changes at any time, you need to let me know. Is that understood?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” Shiki transitioned into the next topic of interest, drawing attention to Rikka’s negligence. “I suspect you understand the implications of our rising popularity. You are more visible to the public and more susceptible to being taken advantage of. You need to be more careful about how you present yourself, where you go in your free time, and what you do with that time. There needn’t be any suspicions surrounding your actions.”

“I was careless and made a mistake. It won’t happen again.” He wouldn’t allow himself to get distracted to the point of disregarding how he presented himself to the public. The next time he visited the doctor, he would take precautionary measures to ensure a discreet entrance and exit. He wouldn’t draw any suspicion to his behavior.

“Alright.” Shiki nodded, seemingly pleased with Rikka’s response. “Now, would you like to explain to me what happened? You’ve been in the entertainment industry for a long time. What could have shaken you out of your usual composure?”

There were a million things Rikka could have said. A million different ways to reorganize his thoughts into words. The only thing he did say was, “It’s personal.”

“Personal? Do you realize how much effort it takes to ensure these incidents don’t cause scandals and wind up as tabloid articles?”

“I apologize for my temporary lapse in judgement but this matter is not up for discussion.”

“Rikka…” Shiki massaged his temples in exasperation. 

“I’m sorry, Shiki, but this matter will be resolved quickly without a need for intervention.” It was as far as Rikka could extend his honesty. Anything beyond that would delve into details he was not willing to share. At least not with someone who had no direct association with the issue.

Shiki was a dear friend and a close friend. An exceptional leader by and large. But nothing could disregard the fact that he had no entitlement in regards to Rikka’s child.

“This issue of yours cannot cause problems for the band.”

“I know.” Rikka knew how much effort Shiki had put into their unit and would never do anything to tarnish its reputation. “It won’t cause problems.”

“How can I be sure if I don’t even know what the issue is?”

“You just have to trust me.”

Shiki sighed in frustration. "I do trust you. But I refuse to take any chances.”

“I’m sorry.” Rikka apologized again. Yet he remained firm in his decision not to reveal his secret to Shiki. “But this is none of your concern.”

“Damn it. If it affects the band it is my concern!”

Rikka sighed, standing up from the table at the same time. He understood the awkward position Shiki was in, teetering on the line between close friend and strict leader, but he could offer no consolation to make things easier. 

“I believe this discussion is over. I’ll be in my room.” 

Rikka heard Shiki curse in frustration as he retreated to his bedroom. Once safely behind closed doors, Rikka let out a long weary sigh. The discussion could have gone more smoothly if it had been steered in another direction. As it currently stood, the only plausible solution to the entire ordeal was for Rikka to follow through with the surgical abortion.

There was no other way around it. Not when his pregnancy was already causing problems for people other than himself.

In a perfect world, Rikka wouldn’t have to drag Dai directly into the chaos of the brewing storm. If it were possible, he would have settled things on his own. As had already been proven, Rikka could not settle things on his own. If he had been able to, nothing would have gotten as problematic as to affect Shiki and the potential dynamic of the band.

Rikka cursed to himself and raked exasperated hands through his hair. No matter what perspective he viewed, he arrived at the same conclusion.

Dai needed to know the truth to help ensure that the situation did not spiral irreversibly out of control.

**

Rikka was struggling to stay awake when he received the first nerve racking text from Dai.

We’re on our way back.

Suddenly aware of how little time remained before he would have to face the father of his baby, Rikka was on high alert. He sat up in bed and ran a tired hand over his face. His emotional exhaustion was definitive, following the events of the day, but he was too apprehensive to entertain the idea of restful sleep.

He struggled to type out a response, his nerves were nearly immobilizing. 

You can come to my room when you get here.

After his discussion with Shiki, Rikka hadn’t been able to think about anything but telling Dai the truth. He’d planned out what he was going to say, how he was going to say it, and where best to have the conversation. Taking into account all possible outcomes, he came to the conclusion that his bedroom would prove most resourceful for a multitude of reasons. 

If Dai was not receptive to the news or needed time to process it alone, he would have ample opportunity to retreat to his own room. On the other hand, if he was receptive to the news and requested more details about the baby, the sonogram would be in easy reach. 

The picture that perfectly captured the image of their child was safely stored away. Rikka hoped that the next time he would reach for the picture would be to share a heartwarming moment with the father of his baby. 

The progression of time was interminable as Rikka anticipated the inevitable knock on his door. He drew his knees to his chest as the minutes ticked by. With nothing to do but wait, Rikka didn’t move a muscle. He was left alone with his thoughts as the critical moment drew near.

When a knock on his door finally resounded throughout the room, it was hardly comparable to the thunderous pounding of his heart. He hurriedly rushed to the door, knowing he needed to blurt out the truth before his cowardice prevented him from following through.

Dai stood on the other side, still dressed in a sweatshirt and shorts from his joint dance lesson with Tsubasa, when Rikka flung open the door.

He was taken aback, it seemed, by how flustered Rikka looked.

“How was your lesson?” Rikka questioned, willing his heart rate to return to normal.

“Fine. I was nervous thinking about what you had to tell me.”

“Well, I’m nervous to tell you.” Rikka responded with a barely concealed quiver in his voice.

Dai shut the door behind him when Rikka started walking back to his bed. The older of the two gestured for Dai to join him.

“We should sit.”

The nineteen year old gave a short nod in response.

When both of them were seated, Rikka spoke. The quiver in his voice remained. “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to say.”

Dai faced the anxious man, extending a supportive hand. He hadn’t the faintest clue what could have caused Rikka to struggle with his words. His own nerves jittered restlessly.

Rikka accepted the offered hand, his smaller one fitting its way into Dai’s larger grasp. He didn’t meet the blue haired’s eyes right away, embarrassed by the sudden tears that welled up in his own.

“I shouldn’t have kept this from you. I’m sorry.” Rikka’s tears began to pour down his face. An endless stream of guilt and sorrow haphazardly intermixed.

“Rikka, what is it?” Dai hated seeing Rikka cry. His heart twisted painfully each time he bore witness. 

Rikka looked straight into Dai’s sapphire eyes. His gaze was unwavering despite the tears that made the situation appear hazy. He spoke only when he was certain his voice would not quiver.

“Dai, I’m pregnant.” 

An unsettling pause hurtled the room into a deafening silence. 

Dai searched Rikka’s eyes for any indication that the words he’d spoken held no real significance. The desperate search proved futile as he was met with nothing short of genuineness and honesty behind rose gold orbs. Once he’d acknowledged the authenticity of pronounced words, his blue eyes flickered from the intensity of his racing thoughts and raging emotions.

When he spoke, his voice was barely above a whisper. “W-what?”

“I’m pregnant.” Rikka wiped away emotional tears only for them to be quickly replenished. “The baby is...yours.”

Dai averted his gaze and removed his hand from Rikka’s. The older man tried his best not to feel hurt by the action.

“How far along are you?” 

Rikka hesitated before responding. Once Dai was able to estimate the date of conception, he would realize how long the pregnancy had been kept a secret. When the silence dragged on for much too long, the question was repeated. Knowing an answer and explanation were rightfully in demand, Rikka spoke.

“Fourteen weeks.”

Fuck .” Dai cursed, running a hand over his face. “How long have you known?”

It was Rikka’s turn to avert his gaze. Feeling guiltier and more ashamed as the truth painted a startling picture.

“I found out during the eighth week. But…”

“But what?” Dai pressed. The request sounding much harsher than intended.

Rikka’s eyes found Dai’s once again. A slew of unreadable emotions made the blue eyes appear more intense.

“I attempted to have an abortion and it failed. I just found out today that the baby is alive and healthy.”

Rikka startled when Dai abruptly stood. He expected the teen to storm out of the room, sorting through his own emotional unrest. He mentally prepared himself to be left alone, sobbing in anguish for no one to hear. 

Despite Rikka’s expectant fears, Dai did not leave. He didn’t seek an easy escape route nor a way to retreat from his responsibilities. Rather, he stayed firmly near the bearer of his child while he endured his most pervasive thoughts.

“Why didn’t you tell me in the beginning?” Though not angry, Dai’s voice was demanding and uncompromising.

“I didn’t want you to feel burdened. You’re only nineteen.” Rikka spoke softly as he watched Dai vigorously pace the room.

"This baby is just as much mine as it is yours, right?” The intensity of his words matched the intensity of his emotions.

Rikka nodded.

“So how is it fair that you’re the only one who gets to make these decisions?”

Rikka remained silent. Dai was absolutely right. It wasn’t fair for Rikka to be the only one making decisions that would impact Dai and the baby. He had come to the realization much later than he should have. Though it felt liberating to acknowledge the fact that a weight was lifted from his shoulders.

Dai knew.

Dai finally knew and Rikka didn’t have to go through the situation alone.

Just as abruptly as he stood, Dai sat down. He slowly placed his heavy head into his hands. Rikka allowed him the time to process the impact of the news. He allowed him the silence to ruminate over the consequences of the pregnancy and the inevitable outcomes resulting.

When he reached the same conclusion that Rikka had pondered long ago, once he uncovered the same disheartening truth, Dai’s shoulders began to shake with heavy sobs. Rikka rubbed soothing circles into his back, offering reassuring comfort to the one who currently needed it the most.

Dai had never cried in front of Rikka before. It made the situation seem all the more devastating. 

When the teen finally spoke, his voice broke. “If you have the baby then SolidS could be ruined.”

Rikka nodded though Dai couldn’t see. He wiped his eyes again before responding. “I can’t do that to Tsubasa and Shiki. I can’t do that to you .”

“Rikka…” Dai removed his head from his hands, his eyes were glassy. “I don’t want you to have an abortion.”

“I don’t think I want to either. But what choice do I have? We’re not ready to be parents. We can’t be.”

“We can figure something out.”

“Dai.” Rikka smiled a sad smile. The situation was incredibly unfortunate. “We’re both males. This situation isn’t right.”

“Why can’t it be right?”

Rikka didn’t have an answer of course. If they had chosen to have the baby, Rikka would have loved to be able to continue down his chosen career path and enjoy life as a proud parent simultaneously. To share in his triumphs with Dai and their child. But it just wasn’t plausible. No matter how wonderful and opportunistic life could have been for them and their baby.

“I don't know.”

Dai focused his attention on Rikka, his sad blue eyes navigating their way towards his hidden stomach. He looked sheepish when he next spoke, “Can I see it?”

Rikka smiled and nodded. He allowed Dai to lift up his shirt and place his large hand on his belly. He’d caressed and kissed Rikka’s body many times. But he’d never had the opportunity to caress and kiss their baby.

“It’s weird when you know there’s a baby in there, isn’t it?”

Dai grunted in the affirmative, too compelled by the subtle curve of Rikka’s stomach to speak.

“Everything must make sense now.” Their unexplainable connection, their unwavering desire to comfort and protect the other, “I’m sorry I kept you in the dark.”

“You were placed in an awkward position. I’m not mad.”

Despite the circumstances, Rikka smiled happily. He’d been so afraid to tell Dai the truth without any justifiable reason. As expected, Dai was willing to deal with the situation responsibly and rightfully share the overloaded burden with Rikka.

“Do you want to see the sonogram?” He wondered as they basked in a well deserved peaceful moment.

“Yeah.” Dai nodded, his hand still caressing Rikka’s stomach.

He didn’t have to reach far to retrieve the picture. Not a moment later, Dai was seeing their baby for the first time. It was clear that the picture overwhelmed him with positive emotion, evidenced by the large smile and twinkling eyes that softened his features.

“Wow. It’s really ours?”

Rikka nodded. 

The moment was bittersweet, as Dai acquaintanced himself with their baby, since it was likely he would never get a chance to watch as it grew. Nor would he ever get a chance to caress the baby outside its home in Rikka’s stomach.

He knew, just as well as Rikka, that the impact of having a baby would be too great for them to handle. It wouldn’t hurt to imagine, just for a little while, what could have been if the circumstances were different.

“Do you think we could have been good parents?”

“Yeah,” Rikka responded honestly and without hesitation. “I think we could have been great parents.”