He bumped into him by chance at a gay bar. It wasn’t the sort of place he would have expected Ritsu to go. By the uncomfortable look on his face, he thought it might be his first time there. It was Friday and the music was too loud to really talk. So Momiji took him outside by his wrist and led him to a nearby alleyway he’d been to a couple of times before.
“I never expected to see you at a bar,” Momiji said. He grinned. He was full of alcohol and love for the world. He hadn’t seen Ritsu in a long time. Years, maybe. They didn’t go back for New Years much anymore. The gravitational pull that had existed was cut loose. Freedom tasted a lot like tequila.
Ritsu looked much the same as he ever had. He was wearing a furisode. That was how Momiji had spotted him in the busy bar. He’d never seen kimono in a gay bar before.
“I wanted to try pushing myself,” Ritsu said. A blush coloured his cheeks.
“That’s good. It’s really good. I’m so happy to see you,” Momiji said, “It’s normally just the same people all the time. They’re good people, but it’s exciting when someone new comes. And then it was you!” He laughed.
“You come here a lot?” Ritsu asked.
Momiji nodded. There was a weighted silence for the time it took Momiji to realize what was unsaid.
“Oh, I’m bisexual,” he said, “What about you?”
Ritsu blinked in shock at the candor of it. Momiji was reminded that everyone started cautious. The words and the labels holding this enormous power. He remembered a man he’d met at a bar early on proclaim he was gay like he was talking about the weather. Momiji remembered the shock and excitement that had ricocheted through his body at the possibility.
“You don’t have to say,” Momiji tempered himself, “Probably just coming here was enough without being quizzed, right? It’s great that you came though. It’s scary the first time, huh?”
“Y-yes,” Ritsu said. And then, “I think … I think I’m gay?”. He ended it like it was a question and Momiji might have the answer. An answering grin was all he could offer him.
“Cool!” he said. It was cold, and they were missing the fun. “Did you want to go back inside?”
Ritsu glanced to the door of the bar, and a steely resolve must have taken over him because he agreed.
A couple of hours later, Momiji was content that he’d had a good night. He’d drunk just enough that he felt full of joy and warmth, but not so much that getting back to his apartment was going to be a challenge. Most of his friends had gone already, peeling off with each other or other people or by themselves.
Stepping out into the cool night air, Momiji was immediately confronted with Ritsu lingering outside.
“Hey, I thought you’d have gone home by now,” Momiji said. The older man’s cheeks were flushed. With alcohol or the winter night air or just the thrill of it all, Momiji didn’t know. “Did you have a good night?”
“Yes. It was something very different to anything I’ve ever experienced,” he said, and he broke out in a smile. He looked down at his feet, remembering his restraint. “I hope you don’t mind that I waited for you, but I wanted to thank you.”
“Thank me? For what?” Momiji laughed. The stars above them were beautiful, and Tokyo was still abuzz with people out having fun. They were falling in love or breaking up, crying their hearts out with grief or joy. All around them, people were living. And here they were, Momiji and Ritsu, Sohmas destined to be penned in their whole lives. They were born captive but their prison had fallen to the ground because of unconquerable love. Momiji could feel his heart singing with the wonder of it. He wondered if Ritsu felt it too.
“You gave me courage to keep on trying tonight,” Ritsu was saying, “I was going to leave. People were staring. I think I was the only man there who dressed like me. I felt out of place. But you gave me courage to try again. And it was better the second time.”
“That’s really great,” Momiji said, running his hand through his blonde hair. “Trans and gender-nonconforming people don’t come to this place all that much. But there are other places where it’s more diverse. They’re more like basement type places. I’ll take you next time.”
Ritsu was watching him, taking in what he said but maybe stumbling on some of the words. It was a learning curve with a lot of ideas and phrases and learning about all different people. It was wonderful though. Momiji felt a warmth at the idea of Ritsu finding people like himself. It was good to not feel so alone.
“Hey, do you want to come for a nightcap back at my place?” Momiji asked. It was a whim. He didn’t have a set plan, but he never really did when he invited people back to his apartment.
Ritsu agreed. Like instinct or a childhood habit he had never grown out of, he took up Ritsu’s hand as they walked to the train station.