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Scaling the Highest Fence

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Ritsu grunted softly, wincing as he was whirled around and shoved against the chilly walls of their shower stall. He breathed hard against the dark tile, breath mingling with the steam and bracing his arms to steady himself, biting his lip to push through the slow, languid burn of Masamune entering him.

No matter how many times they did this--it never stopped: this sharp, stabbing sensation that peaked and faded into a dull throb all too quickly overpowered by the brush of Masamune's cock within him, punching thrusts in and long, slow draws out, executed in loose intervals at first before increasing in pace and desperation.

Ritsu whimpered--not in pain, but not entirely not in pain either. Irritation, need, desire--they all pooled together at times like this into a single, ineffable emotion that flowed from his pores, his mouth, his very body, an emotion that warmed him through for more reasons than one and bled over into Masamune.

He felt a broad, slick chest press against his back, finding himself covered from head to toe and inside out. "Careful. The bathroom echoes."

"Should've…sprung for the place in Ebisu…"

Masamune's throaty chuckle rumbled through Ritsu, and he pulled out a few inches before pressing in, easy and deep, shifting from side to side to situate himself further. "God you feel fantastic you know…"

Ritsu smiled, self-satisfied, and returned gruffly, "I gathered as much... You gonna take all day back there?"

"Just enjoying myself."

"Try to remember there are two of us involved in this."

Masamune chuckled again, this time with a decidedly sharper edge, and he pulled up off of Ritsu's back, gripping Ritsu's shoulder with one hand and settling the other at his hip. "You're pretty unforgettable..."

He punctuated this assertion with a quick, short thrust that got Ritsu's attention and sent him scrabbling against the wall--but he followed it up with a jerk to his hips, guiding Ritsu further backwards and lightly kicking his ankles to urge him to spread wider. Ritsu complied wordlessly, letting his eyes slide shut and just reveling in the sensations Masamune wrought upon his body.

The thrusts started growing in intensity, jarring now as they had been almost gentle before. He supposed this was simply getting what he asked for, and the force wasn't entirely unappreciated when Masamune was brushing against that spot on most every other thrust, hips jerking in a searching rhythm as he plotted their lovemaking by gauging Ritsu's reactions, adjusting his pace and force with each grunt or whimper like a master navigator.

Ritsu had never been good about being quiet in bed with Masamune--not when he had been Saga, and certainly not now--but some conscious part of his mind stilled his tongue and choked his throat, leaving him with little recourse but to babble and mutter in an unintelligible whispered stream of sweet nothings dotted here and there with the occasional expletive, because moments like this were no time to be modest with one's words, and there was no other way to get across the sheer enormity of the sensations he was experiencing than shit--fuck--Masa...mune...!

He felt the man at his back groan his shuddering release, voice pitched high and keening as he pressed against Ritsu a final time, pulling back on his hips like the reins on a mount to bury himself as deeply as he could, fingers burning red brands into Ritsu's flesh where he gripped hard until his shivering orgasm died down and he could bring himself to slip free, one hand slipping around front to help Ritsu milk away the last of his own climax and send it swirling down their drain in a milky lather.

He leaned against Ritsu's back again, this time with lazy bonelessness, and grunted against the broad expanse, "We need to put a bed in the bathroom."

"Do we, now?" Ritsu managed breathily, still seeing stars and trying to calm his racing pulse.

Masamune nodded against his back. "I'd fuck you in the shower way more often if we had a bed in here."

Ritsu snorted, reaching over to turn off the spray after dousing himself and Masamune one final time. "We do it almost every day as is. You wanna do it more?"

He could feel Masamune frowning in confusion. "You don't?"

Ritsu rolled his shoulder and shoved Masamune away. "Get off me, horny idiot." He hoped he could pass the flush to his cheeks off as a post-coital bloodrush combined with the heat from the shower. It was ridiculous that months since they'd started dating, since they'd moved in together even, Ritsu still felt like he was walking around with his head perpetually in the clouds.

He'd never thought he'd feel this kind of blind, overwhelming emotion again, that he'd never be able to open himself up to anyone and welcome such eager attentions--but then Masamune came along and fucked up both of those plans, firmly settling himself in Ritsu's life and refusing to be moved. He couldn't even lie to himself and say it was just because he's Saga--not when he'd probably been falling in love with the man called Takano well before anything of their past together had come to light. It was what made this whole situation so utterly surreal: he couldn't tell if the skip to his heart rate was Saga's fault or Takano's--and he was starting to not really care.

Sliding open the shower stall, he gingerly stepped into the chilly air of the bathroom proper, pausing to turn back when he felt fingers wrap gently around his wrist and tug insistently. "Wha--mmfh!"

He relaxed almost instantly, growing limp and letting Masamune tug him close again for a deep kiss, grateful for the hand at the base of his spine helping to support him on his legs still jelly-like in the wake of their morning activities.

They broke apart after a moment, foreheads resting together and breath coming in fast pants. "...Cause I couldn't kiss you while we were fucking."

Ritsu rolled his eyes. "You'd get tossed out on your ass if your coworkers knew what a romantic their hardass boss was."

Masamune snorted, releasing Ritsu's wrist and whirling him around to pat his shoulders and shove him out into the bathroom. "No, I'd get a promotion. Or did you forget I work in shoujo manga?"

Ritsu reached for a towel and passed another to Masamune, rubbing down quickly and donning a light robe. "I try as much as possible to forget that you're running off to drown in flowers and hearts and dreamy backlighting all day."

"And yet I still make more money than you." Ritsu twitched, throwing him a nasty glance over his shoulder before stalking into the bedroom, muttering under his breath.

After toeing on a pair of boxers and an undershirt and padding into the laundry room to iron his pants, he returned to the bedroom to find Masamune already mostly dressed--glasses perched on the bridge of his nose as he sat hunched at the edge of the bed perusing the same set of panels Ritsu had all but had to forcibly pry from his hands the previous evening because it was nearly 2 AM and he wanted to sleep. "Making any more sense this morning?"

Masamune glanced up, brows lifting, then returned his gaze to the panels, shaking his head with a frown. "I may just have to get her to redo the whole thing."

"Won't that take time?"

"I'll work it out somehow." He tossed the panels haphazardly back onto the bed at his side. "Gonna let me drive you in today? It's almost the end of the cycle and I really don't feel like fighting the crowds on the train."

"Mmm, maybe if you ask nicely." He shuffled over to the bedside table and picked up his cellphone, frowning when he noticed it flashing a message. "Huh..."


"Oh, nothing--I just missed a call." Swiping forward a few screens, his frown deepened. "Crap."


"It's my mother…"

"Probably wanting to know why her dearest little baby hasn't called her lately." He stuffed the panels back into the satchel at his side, shaking his head. "Such a mama's boy."

Ritsu's frown softened into one of long-suffering annoyance as he brought the phone to his ear, listening for the dial tone. Masamune retreated back into the bathroom, and a moment later he caught the sound of running water in the sink.

Covering the mouthpiece with one hand, Ritsu slipped out of the bedroom and into the living area--it wouldn't do for Masamune to unwittingly make an offhand comment and have his mother hear, after all. After a few digitized beeps, a familiar voice greeted him with a huffed, "Hello?"

"Ah--Mom? It's Ritsu."

"Oh--Ritsu, wonderful. I tried calling you earlier but you didn't pick up, and I couldn't figure out how to leave you a message. I really wish you'd leave your phone somewhere you can easily access it. It's far less hassle."

Ritsu could already feel his headache approaching. "I the shower. Where I'm usually going to be if you call me in the early morning on a weekday."

"Well, whatever the reason--I was calling to inform you that I just received a package yesterday evening unexpectedly. Can you guess why?" She paused for dramatic effect, but Ritsu knew better than to respond. "It was returned as undeliverable. A package I sent to you."

"Ah...oh..." His voice caught in this throat, and his mouth went dry. He hadn't set up forwarding for his mail from his old apartment mostly because he thought he'd managed to notify all concerned parties about his move. He'd worked hard to update his accounting information for his cell phone and cancel his water and gas bills, and had passed his exit inspection with flying colors. Why--why hadn't he just gone the extra step and had everything forwarded? "That's..."

"Onodera Ritsu--what's going on?"

"I...moved?" The best lie was the truth, wasn't it? He didn't have to say why he'd moved--not the real reason at least. "Just--it wasn't spacious enough for me, and the neighborhood was kind of run down, more than I'd initially thought. The commute's a bit longer--b-but I really think it's worth it?" He winced, hearing himself speak to his own mother like he was still in elementary school, as if he needed her permission to do anything in life. Whether he was moving in with Masamune or not, it really was none of his parents' business where he moved or what he did with his own money--and while it was nice to notify one's parents of such major decisions, there was no reason to feel like their approval was required.

There was a pause over the airwaves, and after an interminable silence, his mother prodded, "And where might you be now? And when were you going to let your own family know?"

Ritsu sighed and slipped onto the couch, ignoring the look of concerned confusion Masamune threw him when he wandered in and just shaking his head in silent response. "Seriously--it just...slipped my mind. It was fairly recently, and I still haven't gotten settled in yet, really. I haven't even met my neighbors." Masamune rolled his eyes and wandered into the kitchen, buttering some toast for a quick breakfast. "...Listen, I really have to go--I'm late enough as is--"

"Well when are we having your moving party, then?"


"Your birthday's coming up soon, you know--we may as well get both out of the way at once."

"Eh--but, I mean..." He laughed roughly. "I'm turning 26, Mom. I don't need a party. And besides, it's the middle of the week, and--and there are boxes everywhere, the place is a real wreck. I'll make plans to come home some time in April, all right? Maybe I can spare a weekend--"

"Oh, hush. We're coming over and giving you a proper celebration whether you like it or not. You've got plenty of time to make your little apartment suitable, I'm sure. I'll have your father contact you later when we've decided what time to drop by. You're an Onodera--I can't imagine your superiors would begrudge you sharing your birthday with the rest of your family. The one which pays their salaries, you'd be good to remind them."

Ritsu closed his eyes, grimacing, and let his head flop back against the cushions. His headache had arrived in full force. "…Yes, ma'am."

He bid her a quick farewell and tossed his phone aside, wiping his hands over his face and groaning out loud in frustration. When they fell away, Masamune was standing before him, smile bemused, with two cups of coffee in his hands, passing one over to Ritsu with a raised brow. "And how is the good Madam Onodera this morning?"

"Annoyingly nosy, as usual."

"I can't imagine why, since you're ever so upfront about your comings and goings with her."

Ritsu took a tentative sip, shooting Masamune a cool glance. "You'd rather I let her know every detail of my love-life?" Masamune shrugged ambivalently. "And what about your parents then? When can we expect to entertain them?"

Masamune choked on his coffee, coughing and pounding his chest before smoothly shifting the subject back to Ritsu. "So--your parents. Here. How's that going to work?"

Ritsu peered into his coffee mug as if it held the secrets to resolving this very situation. "...I guess as long as I keep them out of the bedroom…it shouldn't be too difficult to pass off that I'm here alone, huh?" He glanced up. "But--you' there too, right? I seriously don't want to be stuck here alone with my parents..." He licked his lips. "I mean... That is, if you don't mind being just an 'acquaintance' for the night..."

Masamune raised a brow. "…Maybe it should be if you don't mind it." He eased down onto the couch next to Ritsu, being careful not to spill his coffee. "I don't care, you know. Whether you tell your parents or not, or if they find out or not. I'm not offended." He took a sip. "It'd be awful hypocritical of me, anyways."

I wish you would be offended, Ritsu wanted to snap, but knew inside that this was more in frustration at himself and his family. He just wanted to enjoy his new life with the only person he'd ever really loved right here beside him. It was like a dream come true--a setup right out of one of those girly manga Ritsu made fun of Masamune for fretting over. Why couldn't he be allowed to enjoy it?

He raised his mug to his lips and took another sip--bitter. "And I was really looking forward to birthday sex, too…"

Masamune's chuckle next to him was full of promise. "I'm sure we can work out some sort of belated gift-giving session or three."

Despite the support and assurance that everything would be fine, Ritsu couldn't help the sickening roil that his stomach gave when the doorbell sounded at precisely 7 PM, and he stiffened visibly in place, hands shaking where he'd been peeling potatoes for dinner. Masamune reached over and prised the peeler from his grip, whispering that he'd take over and to go greet his parents. Knowing that deep down Masamune was fighting telling him to get his shit together and stop acting like a girl, Ritsu whispered his silent thanks and steeled himself for the evening.

With one final deep breath, he pressed down lightly on the handle and pushed it open to welcome their guests, pasting on a wide smile. "Good eve..."

His words trailed off at the soft Ah! that escaped from the young woman standing in front of him, a thick coat with a high, fur-lined collar weighing down her slender frame and cheeks red with the nip that lingered in the air where March refused to wax into Spring. "...Happy birthday?"

"Ritsu--is that Ritsu? Let us in, child--it's freezing out here! An-chan--hurry and get inside." That would be his mother, bustling up from behind with his father in tow.

Of course. Of course his mother would have made An-chan come along. Of course she would have been planning this all along, a 'family' evening to celebrate his birthday and give the two of them another chance to bond.

The trio of guests bustled inside, with Ritsu's mother directing him to help An-chan with her coat while she brushed off her husband's attentions to her own outerwear with a huff of I can do it myself. They exchanged pleasantries in the genkan while everyone removed shoes and coats, and after these introductions were out of the way, Ritsu ushered them all through the front hallway, throwing a nervous glance to the closed-off bedroom, and into the kitchen area where he could hear Masamune puttering around.

Before his mother could make a scene, Ritsu coughed loudly and gestured in his direction. "Ah--Mom, Dad, An-chan, this is my good friend Takano Masamune-san. He was a neighbor from my previous complex, and we've stayed in touch since the move." He rattled everything off in one breath, praying he didn't trip over any of the script he'd frantically memorized, hoping to plug any gaps and nip any questions in the bud. He kept his smile wide, brows raised expectantly, but his mother just gave an ambivalent ah, his father nodded with a smile, and An-chan...well, he couldn't quite describe the look on her face, but he was willing to bet that deep inside, she wasn't feeling too happy with the situation at all. Ritsu certainly wouldn't, were he in her shoes.

They hadn't spoken since their wedding date where they'd run into Masamune in the hotel lobby--a fact which Ritsu was both grateful for and also which made him feel like an utter ass. He hadn't meant for her to find out about them--not the way she had--and she'd taken her licks gracefully, refusing to be beaten down by a rejection more utter than if Ritsu had formally turned her down himself. Still, it couldn't be comfortable, thinking she was simply coming to offer Ritsu birthday congratulations, only to what was very obviously Ritsu living with the very person he'd rejected An-chan for in the first place. Salt on a wound was a fitting metaphor, and yet still didn't quite capture the kick to the gut it must have felt like.

He pursed his lips and showed his parents to the living room, asking them to have a seat while he went to see how dinner was coming along--a suggestion his father took gladly but to which his mother objected strongly. "It's your birthday--we can't have you slaving over a hot stove on your birthday..."

Ritsu waved her off, jerking a thumb back to the kitchen. "Takano-san's quite talented in the kitchen--and I'm pretty sure he's planning to pass off the meal as my present because he's too cheap to go out for something material--" His father snorted, and the reaction made Ritsu's heart lighten a fraction. "So just--it won't be much longer, okay?"

His mother remained dubious and opened her mouth, another lecture on her tongue, but she was stilled when An-chan placed a hand on her arm, squeezing gently and offering, "I'll go see if there's anything I can do to help, shall I?"

"Oh..." Ritsu's mother started, bringing a hand to her lips and looking as if she were about to cry before brushing her off. "Such a sweet child--yes, yes of course." Ritsu wanted desperately to roll his eyes, but instead just offered An-chan a sad smile and led the way while his parents chatted on the couch.

"...I'm sorry, Ricchan." The apology was sudden and unexpected, and Ritsu nearly tripped over himself, whirling around and forcing An-chan to dart around him and continue forward with Ritsu at her heels. "...Your mother all but demanded I come--I couldn't get out of it. I..." She swallowed. "I certainly would have made better efforts at excusing myself if I'd know I'd be barging in and Masamune-san."

Ritsu fumbled for words for a moment, stopping her from crossing into the kitchen with a hand on her arm, and he dropped his voice to a soft whisper. "It's hardly your fault--I mean, I...feel terrible about all of this. My mother's...well, my mother. And..." He licked his lips and looked away. "I haven't been a very good friend to you lately." It wasn't self-deprecation--it was honest commentary. He and An-chan had always gotten along, even before the engagement, and regardless of his romantic entanglements at present, it was more than rude to shut her out like this when she was trying to gracefully accept his decision. "...I am glad you came though. I wish it didn't have to be like this, of course, but...I do still like you, An-chan."

"Oi--" Masamune's tone was sharp as he poked his head out from the kitchen. "If you're done cheating on me, the rice needs to be taken out of the steamer."

Ritsu ducked his head and continued forward past An-chan, who followed behind and prodded him for instructions as to where the tablewear had been tucked away.

Ritsu fumbled for a moment, testing a few cabinets to minimal success, before Masamune reminded him, "Top-right above the sink."

Ritsu flushed at the patronizing tone, muttering, "I'm just not used to the new layout yet..." and felt a bit better when An-chan at least chuckled softly and lifted onto her toes to pull down plates.

For all the drama leading up to it, dinner itself was a relatively mundane affair. Ritsu's mother gave him an overly detailed report of how she'd very nearly had to fire the gardener because half of the azalea plants had died off in a recent cold snap and were going to have to be replaced, and his father shifted the conversation to more neutral ground by prodding Masamune about his line of work, brightening when he mentioned Marukawa. "I thought your name sounded familiar..."

Ritsu helped clear away more of the dishes, setting them in the sink to be dealt with after this whole fiasco was over and done with. He'd just cast about for the coffee mugs, thinking to treat everyone to a post-meal warm drink, when his mother called from the living room, "Ritsu! Come back in here--we've got your presents still to exchange!" Ritsu rolled his eyes, muttering under his breath, and wandered back to join his friends and family.

At least they hadn't brought him a cake--though the night was yet young, and he wouldn't put it past his mother to have one of the maids waiting downstairs to have it brought up at her convenience. He flopped down on the couch where he was directed, sitting up straight and trying to feign eagerness--he knew he was being rude on some level, and his parents had driven quite a ways to do this for him. His mother was overbearing and liked to do things at her own pace without listening to others, but her heart was always in the right place. And An-chan...she deserved to have the best time she could tonight, all things considered. He forced a smile and lifted his brows. "All right--fine. Lay it on me."

His mother prodded An-chan, urging her to go first, and she reached for a small, nondescript gift bag from Ritsu's father, gingerly passing it over to Ritsu himself, a light flush to her cheeks. He took it with care, reminding himself that even if she had accepted his relationship with Masamune, it did nothing to quash her own feelings for Ritsu, and he would do well to respect them.

He accepted the gift with a gracious smile, gingerly removing the tissue paper stuffed into the bag, and pulled out a small domed jewelery case, opening it with care to reveal a handsome wristwatch ticking away softly inside, his initials engraved in a loopy Roman script on the back. He felt a smile ticking up at his lips--An-chan definitely knew his tastes--and glanced up, genuinely glad to have received the gift. "...Thank you, it's beautiful!" Her blush deepened, and she waved him off, muttering softly that it was really nothing, and she'd had it ordered for some time now.

"All right, all right--there'll be plenty of time for you love birds to chatter about An-chan's lovely gift later. Dear--our gift now?" Ritsu's mother snapped her fingers at her husband, reaching over for another bag, and she pressed it into Ritsu hands now, urging him to quickly bring it out for everyone to see.

Ritsu ducked his head in apology at An-chan, letting a fleeting glance pass over Masamune to gauge his reaction--but he couldn't discern the meaning behind Masamune's schooled features where he sat, relaxed, in a chair opposite the chouch, and a shiver of unease ran through him. Masamune was quite dangerous when you couldn't tell what he was thinking, Ritsu had learned over time.

His mother continued her fussing, pulling the tissue paper out herself when he failed to be quick enough on the draw, and Ritsu finally pulled out another jewelry box, this time a fair bit smaller than An-chan's own gift. He laughed dryly, turning the box over. "Another watch?" His mother tutted and urged him to open it, open it! When he finally complied, his stomach dropped like a lead weight.

"Oh..." His mother was absolutely beside herself, yanking the box from his hands and prying the two small, silver rings from where they'd been stuffed inside, letting them fall into her open palm and holding them up for everyone to see. "They're..."

"Promise rings," she explained in an excited huff. "They're all the rage right now, you should hear the ladies at tea go on about them--here, put them on! I had them sized for you and An-chan both." She held one out in either hand, nodding for them to take them, and Ritsu complied tentatively, brows furrowing in consternation. He could feel his pulse rising, could sense Masamune's cold gaze watching him, judging him, a mental plea floating across the room not to put it on, not to seal this engagement any further than it already was, to say something dammit--

"Ma'am--I..." He glanced up, face going white when he realized it was An-chan who'd spoken, her eyes shining with unshed tears and her voice choked. She made a fist around the tiny ring in her hand and shook her head, pressing it back to Ritsu's mother who looked on in shocked confusion, for once at a loss for words. "I...I can't possibly take this."

"But--why on earth not, dear?" She gently guided An-chan's hand back. "I realize it's Ritsu's birthday, but this is our gift to the both of you--right Dear?" She looked to her husband, who only smiled weakly and nodded. "We wanted you to feel like a part of--"

"I said I can't take this," An-chan repeated, this time with more force, and she grabbed Ritsu's mother by the wrist and forced the ring back into her palm. "I'm sorry. It--wouldn't be fair though." She stood and glanced around, clearly looking for the quickest route out, but was stalled by Ritsu's mother grabbing her hand and tugging insistently.

"An-chan, what on earth's the matter? I don't understand what's--"

"Because I'm not marrying Ricchan," she exploded in a huff, taking a wide step around the low coffee table before them and shuffling back into the front hallway.

Ritsu stood, with clear intent to follow, while his mother let her mouth fall open and shut a few times in flabbergasted silence before finding her voice again and snapping, "Ritsu--what are you standing there for? Go after that poor girl and find out what's wrong!" Ritsu glanced back and forth between his parents for a moment, steeped in confusion and frozen to the spot--the promise ring still clenched in one fist. His heart was pounding, and he hadn't a clue what had just transpired, only that his mother had stepped entirely too far over the line with this, An-chan was an emotional wreck because of it, and someone needed to go after her but his feet would not move.

"No." Masamune's voice was low and steady, far more even than Ritsu would have expected given the events of the past few moments, and he rose to his rather impressive height with purpose. "Please--stay here for now. I'll go see to her."

Ritsu's mother flushed with confusion and anger at the perceived impropriety. "That's very kind of you, Takano-san, but really I think An-chan should be with someone she knows, with family right now--"

"I'm afraid that an Onodera is likely the last face she wants to see just now," he responded shortly, his tone clipped and professional, and Ritsu regarded him warily--wondering if this was how he acted around unruly authors and superiors who needed to be taken down a peg or two. "We'll only be a few moments--I'm sure she just wants to clear her head." He cast a nod to Ritsu and his parents in turn--and then was gone.

Leaving Ritsu alone with possibly the most awkward people to converse with in the world and a lot to explain away.

"You know," Masamune began, and An startled at his approach, "...It's freezing out here. I'm sure it was nice and dramatic to storm out without pausing to slip on your shoes or coat or anything. But it wasn't very smart." He leaned against the railing, peering down at the traffic passing below, and closed his eyes to breathe in deep the chilly night air.

Beside him, An relaxed a hair and adopted the same posture she'd had before his entrance, wiping furtively at her eyes and trying desperately not to look as if she'd just been crying. "If it's all the same to you, Masamune-san, I'd rather be alone right now. Thank you for the concern. I'll come back inside when I've had a chance to compose myself." She sniffled. "It's rude to cry in front of others."

Masamune nodded passively. "...Then I'll keep you company."

She bristled at this. "I'm trying to remain ladylike in a rather trying situation--I'd appreciate it if you'd stop trying to trip me up."

He shrugged. "Not trying to trip you up."

"Then you've come to rub it in."

"What, that I'm with Ritsu and you're not?" She flinched, and he rolled his eyes. "You act as if it's news to you. I heard you talking to him earlier--you came here even though you suspected."

"I did not--"

"You did." He gazed out across the low trees dotting a small park a few blocks away. "I'd probably have done the same." He shook his head. "Sometimes you just have to see things for yourself before you can accept them..."

An flushed, but it was hard to tell if it was from shame or the nip in the air. "I thought I'd made it clear I wasn't going to do anything to stop him from seeing you..."

"Not clear enough, apparently. As his parents seem to still be under the impression you're engaged."

"Because we are--"

"Why?" She stiffened, and Masamune turned to face her in full, drawing himself upright. "You know he doesn't love you any more than as a sister. You know he doesn't want to marry you--he didn't want to marry you before I even came into the picture, as I see it, so don't try blaming that on me. You know all of this, you know he's seeing someone and is happy with them and that they're--and I know you're not gonna want to hear this--in love." He swallowed. "...So why do this? Why keep this up?"

She closed her eyes and passed a hand over her face. "...I'm not."

"Not what?"

"Keeping it up. Obviously." She waved a hand back towards the apartment they'd just abandoned. "Or did you miss that scene I just made?"

Masamune shrugged, unmoved. "You snapped. Everyone has moments like that. You could easily take it back, blame it on something or another." He cocked his head. "...Are you going to?"

She narrowed her shoulders and ducked her head--and he could tell from the way she hid her face it was because her tears were threatening to return with a vengeance. "...I can't." Masamune regarded her warily, not wanting to push too hard lest she dissolve into a fit of blubbering waterworks like some of his authors did now and then. "I...I can't do this to Ricchan...anymore." She took deep breaths, sniffling, over a few silent minutes before she regained enough composure to brush the tear tracks from her cheeks. "I love him. More than you. I have confidence in that." She threw him a look that dared him to challenge her assertion. "And--that means that I can let him go. It will hurt now, and it will ache for a long time. Maybe forever." She frowned to herself. "But...part of me can keep being happy as long as I know that he's happy." She narrowed her gaze. "...Is he happy, Masamune-san? Is he happy with you?"

Masamune frowned, distinctly uncomfortable with the almost accusing way An was speaking to him. "...You'd have to ask him that." She scoffed and glanced away, leaning back against the railing. "...Fine. I'll accept that you may love him more." He turned around and relaxed back against the chilly metal bars that lined the top of the landing. "...But I'm in love with him more. And that means I'll fight for him." He cast a side-long glance at An, a thrill rising in his chest when he noticed she was watching him warily. "And I'll win."

She jerked her gaze away again, tapping her fingers along the railing and resting her chin on her elbows crossed before her. A few long moments of silence passed between them, the only sounds around them the muffled din of night falling on the neighborhood--dogs barking, children laughing, cars driving by, a washer finishing its cycle. "...So how did you meet Ricchan, anyways?" Masamune blinked several times, regarding her with blatant curiosity now. This chick was all over the place; no wonder Ritsu kept her around.

He sighed, a long, slow release of breath. "...We used to date. In high school."

An's head snapped back up, and her eyes grew wide and round, her mouth forming an o of realization. "You''re that person?"

Masamune mirrored her confusion, raising one brow. "...I don't know. Who's 'that person'?"

But An didn't respond, her gaze growing distant, and her lids dropped in defeat. "...I suppose that makes more sense then..."

Masamune certainly hoped it did, as it made fuck-all sense to him. He licked his lips and huffed. "...I didn't mean to--to steal him from you or anything, you know? It just...happened. And I'm not one to let go of something I want so easily."

An shook her head. " I suppose not. And you shouldn't have to--especially not when Ricchan is...well, it's quite obvious." She wiped at her face again, sniffing and chuckling softly at herself. "I've certainly made a mess of this evening..."

"If it helps, it's going better than he expected." She laughed a bit more genuinely at this, and Masamune allowed a small smile. He hated comforting chicks, and it left no small sense of relief when they picked themselves up and dusted themselves off without his having to play the gentleman. He let her have another moment to compose herself before gently prodding, "...They'll be wondering what's happened if we're much longer."

She nodded her assent, slapping her cheeks a few times and shaking her head to clear it. "At any rate..."


"I think it's clear my watch was a better present than your meal."

"Onodera Ritsu--what on earth did you say to that poor thing?" It was probably the tenth time in the last five minutes she'd asked him some variation of this question, and the arguments were starting to wear on Ritsu, physically and mentally so.

Ritsu bristled, arms crossed on the couch. "I--didn't say anything! Honestly--I was as surprised as you were about..." He waved a hand in the general direction An-chan had fled. "About that."

His mother scoffed. "It's just like a man to be so dense. I thought I'd raised you better--and you've known An-chan all your life. Yet you still can't think of anything you possibly did to make her react like that? You've been awfully distant lately, and you never come home any more. And just a few weeks back after you escorted her to that wedding, she seemed rather distraught after it but refused to tell me a thing." She gasped softly. "Ritsu you didn't try anything on her, did you? Honestly, I thought you to be more of a gentleman than to--"

"I did--nothing of the sort, Mother!" he ground out, flushing violently. "And--after all!" He pointed a finger in her face. "I've been telling you for years that I didn't want to go through with this wedding. That while I like An-chan, I don't want to marry her. Did you ever stop to think that maybe she feels the same way?"

His mother brushed him off easily. "Absolute nonsense. An-chan adores you, it's plain to see." And indeed, it was. "So obviously you must have said--or done--something to have warranted such a display. It's not like her to react so emotionally, so all I can think is that it's something that's come up between the two of you." She leaned forward and placed a hand on Ritsu's thigh, ducking her head so he couldn't avoid looking her in the face. "What's wrong, Ritsu?"

"He has someone he loves already."

Every eye in the Onodera family jerked over to the entry hallway where An-chan had padded forward, brushing past Masamune who hung back out of respect.

"An-chan..." his mother started, voice a soft, horrified whisper, and she stood on shaky legs, holding her arms out and wilting visibly when An-chan didn't come crawling back to her for comfort. "What on earth is going on, dear?"

She licked her lips and took a breath. "It's just as I said. Ricchan has someone he loves already. So--I can't marry him, and he can't marry me. I don't want to stand in the way of Ricchan being with the person he cares for." Her voice started going high, threatening to break. "I--I love Ricchan. More than anyone else--and so I want him to be happy."


"And I know he'll be happy with the person he loves--because I trust him to make good decisions. To know what's best for himself. So I'm going to support him." She pursed her lips and nodded softly, hands forming fists at her sides.

There was a heavy silence hanging in the air between all parties for a few long, excruciating moments, before Ritsu's mother found her tongue again. "...Who?" She glanced over at Ritsu, brows furrowed and eyes wide in disbelief. "Who on earth could possibly be better, could be more perfect than An-chan...?" She let her eyes dart around the room, focusing on nothing, before bringing them back. "Why haven't you said anything--?" Despite the fact that he'd tried on several occasions to have this exact conversation. "Well?"

Ritsu quailed under her gaze, throat going dry, and his mouth opened and shut a few times in success as his gaze darted around the room in panic, eyes inexorably drawn to Masamune where he stood, silently leaning against the door frame with his arms crossed as he waited patiently for the drama to settle down. His throat seized when he realized he'd let his gaze linger for too long, and he felt himself flush even more deeply as he tried to train his eyes away, desperate to keep Masamune out of this, to be done with this entire fiasco.

He could feel his mother's gaze drifting from Ritsu's face, following his eyeline across the room, could sense the dots connecting in her mind, synapses firing and connections being made that had previously lain silent and unassuming, could feel the horrified gasp waiting to fall from her lips, the accusations and berations and the lecturing that would do nothing but hurt himself and An-chan and Masamune more than this whole setup already was and--

"It doesn’t matter." An-chan's voice, clear and strong and laced with conviction Ritsu wasn't familiar with hearing fall from her lips, cut through the tense silence, drawing Ritsu's mother's attention from the man Ritsu had tried to pass off as a friend and back to the immediate. "It doesn't matter who Ricchan loves. Really. Because it won't change the facts." She padded forward, head held high and shoulders back, and reached down for her bag before turning to face Ritsu.

"Happy birthday, Ricchan." She leaned forward and pressed a soft kiss to his cheek, just below his eye. He could still smell the chill of the night air on her skin--and hated that, now of all times, he wondered if Masamune was steeped in that same crisp, clear scent. "I think it's best if...we retire for the evening though."

It took another ten minutes of awkward goodbyes and tentative hugs and promises--which would likely be broken--to see each other again soon before Ritsu finally slid the latch home on their door and let himself lean again the closed door, heart beating a loud tattoo in his chest as he tried to recover from the evening's dramatics.

"...I think that went well," Masamune drawled from behind him, headed into the kitchen with the unused wine glasses he'd set out for after-dinner night-caps.

Ritsu rolled his eyes and followed him at a far slower pace, slipping limply into one of the chairs at the dining table and resting his head on his folded elbows as he watched Masamune putter about the kitchen tending to the dishes. "That's because you weren't stuck talking to my parents alone for ten minutes. Oh--" He lifted his head up, immediately regretting it when the migraine he'd been fighting all evening returned with a vengeance. "--what did you and An-chan talk about?"

"How you sound in bed."


"Your favorite positions."


He rolled his eyes and shook his head. "None of your business. We just talked. And things worked out--that's all you need to know."

Ritsu pushed himself back from the table, standing and wandering over to where Masamune stood by the sink, hands and arms covered in suds as he scrubbed down dishes. "...You just talked?"

"Not much else to do. It was damn cold out there." Ritsu frowned, then pressed himself against Masamune's broad back, resting his hands at his hips. They said nothing for a few long moments, the only sound the occasional soft hiss of the faucet being turned on, and Masamune sighed shortly. "...She does just want you to be happy. But she's in love--can you blame her for not taking it well?"

"Of course not. Just..." He shrugged. "...I never really expected you to be the one to give her a pep talk."

Masamune chuckled softly, turning off the water a final time and reaching for a towel, mopping his hands dry before twisting around so that Ritsu was leaning against his chest. "Just goes to show you I'm serious about snipping off any loose ends." He let his head drop forward, tilting to the side to urge Ritsu to close the distance.

Ritsu pursed his lips. "Or you're jealous and want to stake your claim."

"Does it have to be one or the other? Can't it be both?"

His brows furrowed, will dissolving, Ritsu bit back the sarcastic remarks he wanted to trade, instead pressing closer and breathing in sharply when Masamune shifted his hips. "...I'm sorry."

"For what? Taking too long to fucking kiss me already?"

"I--" He flushed, huffing at the diversion. "No, I"

Masamune shrugged ambivalently. "Wasn't my birthday that got ruined."

It wasn't ruined, he wanted to protest. "Not that--but...for making you go through all that." He ran his hands up Masamune's sides, making fists in the fabric of his shirt and resting his forehead squarely in the center of his chest. "I always meant that...when it happened, it'd be on my terms. I never wanted you to be standing there off to the side pretending to be a casual acquaintance." He jerked his gaze back up, eyes wide and desperate. "I'm not ashamed of you--!"

"Of course you're not. I'm awesome." He tucked a finger underneath Ritsu's chin to keep him looking up. "So stop worrying so much, would you? You may not like it--but I seriously don't give a shit about your parents or your fiancee or your family name or any of that. All I care about is you. Full stop." He shifted his hand and brushed a thumb across Ritsu's cheekbone, cupping his jaw. "Why the hell would I waste any time worrying over stuff that doesn't even matter in the long run, so long as you feel the same way about me?"

Ritsu wilted, brows drawing together. "...Why do you have to sound so sexy when you're being such an asshole?"

"Because it's your birthday and you're in a giving mood."

"That doesn't make any sense. Shouldn't I be in a receiving mood?"

"I dunno." Masamune shifted again, and the unmistakable hardness of a burgeoning erecting brushed against Ritsu thigh, drawing a sharp gasp. "I guess it's up to you. Are you in a giving mood...or a receiving mood?" He leaned forward and forced Ritsu to bend back a bit, lips dropping open as Masamune angled their mouths to slide together. "I don't care, as long as it's with you."

And really, those words about summed up Ritsu's entire lookout right now. Come overbearing mothers, come doormat fathers, come fiancees whom he could only ever hurt, no matter what he did... As long as, at the end of the day, he could flip the light switch and crawl into bed next to this guy who somehow made even the wrong thing to say seem like the right thing...he'd live to see another day.

Sometimes shoujo manga-worthy happy endings weren't that far-fetched after all.