frameofmind6: (Akame: LeaningOTP)
Title: Rondo
Author: FrameofMind
Pairing: HayaRyu
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama/Romance
Word Count: ~8,700
Disclaimer: I don’t own these characters
Summary: Hayato does what Hayato wants. And Ryu doesn’t tell him to stop.
Author’s Note: This was the pinch-hit second story I wrote for the Drama Character challenge at [livejournal.com profile] amigo_santa in the spring. Just a heads up—this story takes place both in the present and in flashback, and the “present” (for these purposes) is during the Gokusen movie. So it might help to be at least vaguely familiar with the movie plot…


Rondo

He waits by the school gate. The shoes are too shiny and the jacket too stiff. The building is large, and all the kids around him seem smaller than he remembers being. It hasn’t been that many years yet, has it?

He got here a little too early, thought about sneaking a cigarette around the corner, somewhere out of sight. There were bleachers by the sports field he passed on the way from the train station, and a couple of little alcoves in the corners of the building. Even a few well-placed trees. All spots he’d have known well by now if he’d been a student here. Some even big enough for two.

But it’s probably best if he doesn’t walk into the classroom smelling like smoke on his first day. And if any of the students saw him—well, he knows what he’d have done with that kind of bargaining chip.

So he just stands by the gate instead, leaning against the trunk of a tree and flicking through emails he’s already read. Watching the students wander by and wondering why he’s here again.

He wonders so long he’s almost late getting there.

*      *      *

“No, no, no,” Hayato says, snatching the baseball cap off Ryu’s head and jamming it backwards onto his own. “You’re the president. I’m the king.”

“So? Why can’t the president wear a baseball cap?”

“Because I’m the king,” Hayato says, like Ryu’s an idiot. Which, of course, he is. “Kings always wear hats.”

“They wear crowns.”

“That’s a kind of hat.”

“It’s not a baseball hat,” Ryu points out.

“Whatever, it’s close enough. This baseball hat is my crown, okay?”

Ryu sighs and sits down on the nearest swing, rocking back and forth a little and dragging his toes in the dirt. He’s got a scrape on his knee from when Hayato pushed him off the jungle gym two days ago. His mother sprayed antiseptic on it and put a huge bandage over it that made his skin feel all weird and stretched when he walked, but he ripped it off as soon as he left the house. Hayato says scars are cool because they make you look tough, and pirates have them. Pirates are also cool. So are spacemen and deep sea divers, but not cowboys, because leather chaps are gay. Hayato has lots of theories.

“Alright, so what kind of hats do presidents wear?”

Hayato walks around behind the swingset and takes the swing by the chains, pulling it back a few feet and then pushing it forward. Ryu’s stomach drops into his shoes, and he clutches the chains for dear life, but he doesn’t complain. He’s never told Hayato he’s afraid of heights. Hayato would baby him and treat him like a girl, and they wouldn’t be able to do the spaceman game on the jungle gym anymore because Hayato would think he was too scared. Hayato is an idiot.

“Presidents don’t wear hats,” Hayato says, catching Ryu at the hips and pushing him forward again. It terrifies him every single time, but he never tells Hayato to stop. “You’ll look stupid if you wear a hat.”

“You said you liked that one though,” Ryu grits out, trying to keep his voice steady as the ground falls away again, and he feels the swing’s arc twisting just slightly to the left. Just a little bit out of his control.

“I know. That’s why it’s my crown,” Hayato says. And when Ryu swings back, Hayato only pushes him higher.

*      *      *

He puts his briefcase on the chair by the kitchen table, pulling his tie loose inside his collar. The shoes are still too shiny. Even that stupid game of kick the can didn’t scuff them up much. Not that he did much kicking, as the students never actually showed up.

He could have told her they wouldn’t. He also knows she wouldn’t have listened.

She’s a bit like Hayato in that way, actually, always certain she’s right about things and tearing ahead full-throttle. The difference, of course, is that she often actually is right. About things.

He shrugs his coat off and hangs it over the back of the chair. Rolls his sleeves up and walks over to the sink in his tiny kitchenette to start rinsing and putting away dishes from his hurried breakfast. The place is bigger than his first apartment—his mother used to balk at the stacks of books everywhere, claiming they were a fire hazard, and he finally consented to accept money from his father for a better place, just until he’s finished with his studies. He intends to pay it all back as soon as possible.

Assuming he ever actually decides on a career.

It’s weird being around Yankumi again. He wasn’t sure how it would be, exactly. She can be so completely irritating, constantly setting herself up for failure and disappointment and yet somehow always surprised when it comes. But at the same time, she’s never down for long. There’s always another sunset to run towards.

It’s comforting in a way he’s sort of forgotten, the notion that no matter what happens, you can always pick yourself up and start over. That’s Yankumi’s theory, anyway. And he believed it once too.

There’s some leftover takeout in the fridge, and he empties it into a frying pan. Adds a little soy sauce and cooking wine as it heats and stirs. When the rice is done, he dishes himself a single portion and carries his meal to the low table in the living room. He grades quizzes while he eats—it’s not difficult. Most of the boys have filled in the blanks with smart-assed remarks and nonsense. He wishes he could give bonus points for the clever ones, but he dutifully marks big red zeroes across the top of the majority.

It’s quiet.

*      *      *

They walk side by side along the canal, squinting into the setting sun. The others have split off and gone home already. The breeze stings a bit against the raw scrapes and bruises on Ryu’s face, but Ryu doesn’t try to shield them. Hayato says scars should be worn proudly, like badges of honor, because each one makes you stronger. Hayato is full of shit, but Ryu likes him anyway.

“You should have told me,” Hayato grumbles.

Ryu breathes a laugh.

“Why didn’t you?”

The answer should be obvious. But Hayato has never been good at spotting the obvious. “Because you’d have stopped me.”

“No I wouldn’t.”

“Yes you would.”

“I would not,” Hayato whines. “If you’d just explained—”

“You would,” Ryu says firmly. There’s no point in arguing. It’s a fact, like the sun rising and setting or the air turning cold in the winter. There’s no reason for it except that Hayato is Hayato, and Hayato does what Hayato wants. And no man or god is ever going to change his mind by reasoning with him, certainly not Ryu. He accepted that a long time ago.

He takes a few more steps before he realizes Hayato’s not with him. When he stops and looks around, he finds Hayato watching him with a sort of troubled expression.

“What?” he says, brow twitching inward with a frown.

Hayato stares a moment longer. Then he shakes his head and averts his eyes, shoving his hands in his pockets and catching up again. “Next time, tell me, okay? Whatever it is. If I do something…stupid, or whatever. If I do something you don’t want me to. Tell me. Okay?”

Ryu gives him a sidelong glance. Hayato is staring down at his silver shoes, watching them scuff their heels along the asphalt. There’s a little smear of blood on the right one from when he kicked one of those guys in the face.

“Okay,” Ryu says, tucking his hands in his own pockets and shrugging against the wind picking up.

But he’s pretty sure he won’t.

And he’s pretty sure Hayato knows it.

*      *      *

Ryu bows his thanks to Tetsu in the doorway of the Oedo house, stepping aside to let him close the door. He can still hear Yankumi’s drunken snores from the living room even as he starts to walk away into the night, but soon they’re swallowed up by wind rustling in the trees and traffic on the busier streets ahead.

It’s hard to know if this is what he wants. Ryu hasn’t bothered asking himself what he wants in a long time, because the answer was always the same, and always equally impossible. But maybe it’s different now. A fresh start for a lot of things. He doesn’t exactly have the passion for teaching that Yankumi has—he doubts he’s ever really had Yankumi’s passion for anything, to be honest—but it’s something he can do. And it’s satisfying, in its way. That might be the same thing as wanting, if he gives it time.

It’s worth a try. At the very least it’s worth that, that’s what he’s been telling himself. If he lets the darkeness and the quiet swallow him up, then there’s really no point in any of this. He has to try, even if it’s not what he would have chosen in the beginning.

*      *      *

The first time is under the bleachers at the far end of the sports field. They sneak out to share a cigarette, but Hayato only realizes after they get there that his lighter is out of fluid. It’s too late to sneak back into class without a fuss, so they just lean back against the side wall of the equipment shed and tear grass out of the ground in little handfuls, talking about Yankumi’s latest attempt to entice them to do homework.

“At least she could offer something cool, like a motorcycle.”

“She had to work construction jobs just to pull together the money I told her I owed those guys at the bar. She can’t afford to go giving away motorcycles in exchange for algebra worksheets.”

Hayato shrugs and throws another fistful of grass. “So a motorcycle jacket then. I’d look good in leather.”

Ryu breathes a little chuckle. “You’re an asshole.”

Hayato eyes him sideways for a moment. Then he gives another little shrug. “You’d look okay in it too, I guess,” he concedes. “Maybe I’d let you borrow it.”

“Thanks. I’ll hold my breath.”

It gets quiet for a while, after that. One of those long silences where Ryu starts thinking, starts to wonder what Hayato is thinking. Probably something about hamburgers—he always gets peckish again around midafternoon—or maybe those girls who hang around the pool hall just to see if he’ll show up. They’d like him in a motorcycle jacket. He disappeared with one of them for an hour last week. Ryu wasn’t actually with them, he was still on the shit list, but he was there with a couple of old acquaintances from middle school who’d turned out to be twice as boring as he remembered, and he’d noticed. He’d noticed Hayato leave, and he’d noticed him come back with his hair all messed up, like someone had been running fingers through it. He’s probably not thinking about leather and white t-shirts in the rain, and his hand on Ryu’s thigh.

His hand is on Ryu’s thigh.

Ryu’s brow twitches with a frown, and he glances down just to make sure he’s not imagining stuff—he has a good imagination, and he’s used it more than once—but it’s really there. Long fingered and warm and slightly sweaty, halfway between his knee and his hip. He hears Hayato swallow, feels him shifting around at his shoulder until he sort of leans in close and puts his mouth against Ryu’s neck. Ryu can hardly breathe, and the hand squeezes his thigh a little, and his stomach is in his shoes again, the earth falling away, and he doesn’t tell him to stop. He grabs Hayato by the hair and kisses him and doesn’t tell him to stop.

*      *      *

He goes to Kuma’s place quite often these days, because it’s nearby and not terribly expensive. And the company is good. Kuma always stops by to chat with him for a little while, ask him how things are going with Yankumi and the class. If they’ve settled down yet. Figured out she’s really on their side. They haven’t, but both of them know they will eventually, because Yankumi is persistent like that. They’re not long conversations, and it’s lucky that Kuma is chatty enough for the both of them, because they’d probably get a bit uncomfortable for Ryu if Kuma weren’t so willing to fill the gaps between his sentences. But as it is, it’s nice. Kuma’s wife is nice too—she always gives him an extra fishcake.

Sometimes he stays there for hours, grading stacks of paper and drinking a steady stream of tea. He likes the booth in the corner best, because then he has a view out the front window that never gets obstructed by the sunlight slanting through. When he finishes grading papers, sometimes he lingers a while longer still, just watching people wander past until the sun disappears completely behind the buildings and the sky falls dark.

If they’re having a nice talk and Ryu doesn’t have an early morning, sometimes he even helps wipe down the tables as Kuma closes up the shop. It’s not difficult, and it’s the least he can do for them for letting him occupy a table half the day with only tea as compensation. Besides, he likes it here.

He always goes home to his apartment eventually though. And when he does, it’s always empty.

*      *      *

“It’s so fucking unfair,” Hayato complains as Ryu flicks through the shirts on the discount rack. Hayato is sitting on the edge of a table displaying piles of polos, the nearest pile scrunched up against its neighbor to make room for Hayato’s ass. There’s a little display of neckties in various hideous patterns on the adjoining table, each rolled up neatly and held in place with an elastic band. Hayato picks one up and starts tossing it into the air and catching it again like a hacky sack.

“You always say that,” Ryu points out. He tugs at the side of a black t-shirt with bold red writing on it that he can’t read, frowning over it thoughtfully. Then he lets it drop again and flicks another hanger along, and another after that.

“This time it’s true though. I’m telling you,” he says, pointing the rolled up tie at Ryu, “he had nothing on me—we hadn’t even ordered yet. The guy just took one look at us and figured we were trouble, and suddenly we were out on the sidewalk.”

“So?”

“So?” Hayato repeats, hopping off the table and stalking over to follow Ryu around the rack. He leaves the tie sitting in his place, next to the rumpled polos. “It’s so unfair. He doesn’t know anything about me, but he acts like I’m some kind of a—like—public nuisance, or whatever. It’s total bullshit.”

Ryu finishes one complete circuit of the rack. When he gets back around to the table, he puts the rolled up tie back on the display and smoothes down the pile of polos. Hayato is already over at the next display, leaning in a bit to peak under the shirt of the female mannequin standing at the edge of the women’s section. Ryu rolls his eyes and continues flipping through the shirts on the next rack.

“I just wish people would stop treating me like I’m an idiot, you know?” Hayato whines.

“You are an idiot,” Ryu murumurs distractedly.

“But they don’t know that. They don’t know me—they just think they know me, and they assume I’ll be, like—whatever they think I’ll be. That’s why it’s stupid. I mean, what can you tell just by looking at somebody, right? I could be a brain surgeon.”

“Hmm,” Ryu nods along. It’s really the best thing to do when Hayato gets off on one of his self-pitying rants about becoming a brain surgeon. Ryu isn’t sure exactly why Hayato equates this with the epitome of personal achievement and social status, because Hayato doesn’t actually know any brain surgeons and Hayato is afraid of needles anyway, so Ryu doubts he’d be suited for medicine even if he weren’t the king of the D-classes—but Ryu has long ago given up trying to apply logic to any of Hayato’s theories about life.

He finds two quite nice white t-shirts with black writing on them. Both of them would fit, and he can’t read what the writing says, so that’s no help. He holds the lefthand one up first, sweeping eyes over the pattern of the strange words as they get heavier toward the bottom. Then he holds the right one up—on this one the words are more evenly scattered, but in all different weights and fonts and sizes.

He glances at the left one again. Then the right.

They’re both cool. Either one would work.

Maybe he should just forget about both of them.

“—they just don’t understand. It’s so fucking stupid,” Hayato says, coming up behind Ryu. He tucks his chin up by Ryu’s shoulder for a moment, eyes flicking briefly back and forth. Then he reaches around with his left hand and plucks the left t-shirt out of Ryu’s grip. “This one,” he decides, and puts the other away, handing the chosen one to Ryu. And then he’s off again, picking at another tie display and messing up the pattern.

Ryu buys the shirt.

As soon as they step back out onto the sidewalk, Hayato snatches the bag out of Ryu’s hand and takes off running. “Thanks for the shirt, man!” he shouts with a gleeful grin, turning in a circle further on up the street. Ryu tsks and runs after him, trying to be pissed off in spite of the cool breeze against his face and Hayato’s childish laughter as he dodges past the occasional startled pedestrian. What an idiot.

He follows Hayato around a corner leading into an alleyway, but he hardly makes it three steps further before something catches him by the arm and pushes him up against the wall behind a pile of crates, and then Hayato is kissing him. Still laughing. Ryu grabs him by the collar and kisses him back, because there’s no one around to see.

It’s like that now, with them. Ryu likes it a lot.

Ryu’s house is no good, and Hayato’s dad would have a fit if he found out what they were doing. Besides, Hayato shares a room with his little brother, so it’s not exactly like privacy is easy to come by there. That leaves places like this—secret alleys between home and school, or the park after the sun goes down, or under the bleachers by the sports fields. Sometimes there are quick fumbles in abandoned classrooms or the condemned men’s room at the end of the hall when they can get past the “caution” tape without anyone spotting them. Those are the best days.

Ryu tries not to look at him too much when they’re in class, because it makes him feel stuff, and he’s not sure what his face does when he feels stuff like that. He’s mostly avoided feeling anything until now. Not that it wasn’t there, but it’s different when it’s not just in his head.

He’s pretty sure Hayato still has girls too. Hayato never says anything—they don’t exactly curl up and have long heart to heart talks in the men’s room stall—but sometimes he gets this look in his eye, like his mind is somewhere else, and Ryu just assumes that’s where it goes. He tries not to let it bother him too much though, because it’s not like it’s something either of them can change. Hayato does what Hayato wants—he’s always been like that. And Ryu is just happy that at least right now, Hayato wants him.

The night after graduation, they rent a hotel room with Ryu’s allowance and some money Hayato made helping out at the ramen shop, and Ryu lets Hayato have everything he wants. Ryu wants it too.

Afterwards they sprawl underneath the covers splitting a tub of macadamia nuts and a couple of tiny whiskies from the minibar and talk in little bursts about random things. The end of school and exams. Tsucchi’s new job. Ryu’s college courses in the fall. All things they’ve talked about before, but Ryu likes it better when it’s just the two of them. He lies on his side with the pillow scrunched up underneath his head and watches Hayato chuckle over the new uniform Tsucchi showed them all the other day, and he wonders how much it would cost to rent a little room somewhere. Because it’s nice like this. More of this would be nice.

“I’m thinking I might travel,” Hayato says quietly, when they’ve been silent again for a little while. He’s got one hand propped underneath his head and the other one fiddling with a half-empty bottle, and he’s staring up at the opposite edge of the ceiling.

“Travel where?” Ryu asks, dropping another macadamia nut in his mouth and crunching it between his teeth.

“I don’t know. As far as I can get on my savings, I guess.”

“How will you get back then?”

Hayato purses his lips and closes one eye, tilting the bottle and peering down the little hole in the neck. “I’m not sure if I’ll come back.”

Ryu stops chewing. The ground is falling away again, and he doesn’t know why it comes as a surprise. He always knew it would, eventually. Hayato is Hayato. Hayato does what Hayato wants, and once he knows what he wants, there’s nothing anyone can say that will convince him otherwise. Certainly not Ryu.

And he knows it’s stupid and useless and selfish, but everything in him is telling him to punch Hayato in the shoulder right now and tell him he’s a big fucking asshole. Tell him he doesn’t want him to go. Tell him he should just stay.

But Ryu doesn’t tell him to stop.

Hayato’s eyes meet his for a brief moment, and there’s a rare uncertainty in them, like he’s on the edge of a question. Ryu keeps his face impassive and just waits for him to spit it out, hoping he’ll know the answer. Hoping everything inside him won’t show the moment he opens his mouth.

But then Hayato blinks, and it’s gone. And he’s just Hayato again, certain as ever.

Hayato downs the last of the tiny whisky bottle in two short swigs and tackles the macadamia nuts. He starts talking nonsense about tropical summers and frigid winters and how this place is too small for him anyway. We could all die tomorrow, right? He’s got to see the world before he kicks the bucket.

Hayato leaves when the summer is over, when the leaves start to turn and Ryu’s college courses begin. He tapes a note to an apple and chucks it over the balcony outside Ryu’s room—Ryu finds it there when he gets back from class. It just says, “Bye.”

*      *      *

It feels good to throw a few fists for a change.

As he stands back to back with Yankumi, beating back a crowd of young punks—the punks look smaller too somehow, go figure—he feels the blood pumping through his veins like it hasn’t in years, and he remembers how he used to love and hate this. The bruising crunch of his knuckles hitting bone. The ring and shudder of the punches he doesn’t manage to evade. The flurry and chaos, trying not to get distracted looking round to see what’s happening to Hayato, because if he gets distracted then he’s no use to him at all. Just a liability.

Maybe it’s better that Hayato’s gone now.

Another thug comes at him with a giant metal bar, and he delivers a swift stomp to his midsection followed by a flawless right hook.

Team Yankumi saves the day again.

*      *      *

The first time Hayato shows up on Ryu’s doorstep, he’s wearing coveralls with the jacket hanging around his waist. All he carries is a duffel and a small gift bag with a slightly smushed yellow bow on the handle. Inside are candies from Fukuoka.

Ryu’s apartment is tiny, barely large enough to turn around in. He can sit on the foot of his bed and still reach the stove with the cooking chopsticks. He rented the place as soon as he could afford it with the money from his part time job at the student commissary, just because he didn’t want to have to go back to that house every day. And it’s closer to school anyway. He can walk most of the time.

“Take told me,” Hayato says when Ryu asks how he found this place. “I tried your dad first, because I was already at your parents’ house looking for you, but he still hates me.”

Ryu hums an acknowledgement and continues putting groceries away in the fridge. Hayato drops his duffel on the bed, because there’s not really anywhere else to put it. Ryu sees him glance around at the piles of books and other belongings taking up most of the floor space before deciding to drop himself down right next to the duffel.

They sit sideways on the bed and watch variety shows while eating instant ramen. Ryu doesn’t ask why Hayato is here, because he doesn’t really care. Hayato does what Hayato wants.

It’s been eight months since he’s heard a single word from him, and even then it was just one. Hayato’s stupid post-via-apple. He kept the damn thing sitting on his desk for weeks, until it got all moldy and mealy and he had to throw it away. And still he’d heard nothing. By then he was so pissed off he’d chucked the note right out with it. Fuck him.

He’s not exactly pissed off anymore. A little surprised, maybe. He’d heard from Take that Hayato was in Kyushu somewhere working in a factory or some shit. Actually, he hadn’t even heard it from Take, because he hadn’t asked—but Take had told Hyuuga while Ryu was in earshot. Ryu had tried not to pay attention. Hayato was still on the shit list then.

It stuck with him anyway.

When Hayato finishes his noodles, he stretches to put the empty cup on the nightstand near his foot. Then he settles back against the wall next to Ryu again, reaches for Ryu’s knee and tugs his leg across his thighs. He does it like it’s just some kind of idle habit, poking fingers through the holes in Ryu’s jeans as he laughs at some dumb game with a balloon bomb being treated like a hot potato. Ryu just stares at him, knowing better.

But he doesn’t tell him to stop.

Hayato is an idiot. But Ryu still likes him anyway.

When the game finishes, Ryu tosses his empty cup into the trash and reaches for the remote. Despite his apparent attention, Hayato keeps staring at the blank screen for a bit before he realizes it’s been turned off.

“Can I have my leg back?” Ryu asks.

Hayato blinks over at him. There’s a slightly weird, caught expression on his face. His fingers are still hooked into the holes in Ryu’s jeans, and he doesn’t seem to notice until Ryu jiggles his knee a bit to point it out. Hayato immediately lets go.

Ryu scoots off the bed and grabs Hayato’s noodle cup and the two empty beer bottles off the nightstand. He drops the cup into the trash and the bottles into the recycling, then rinses off his hands in the sink. Hayato just sits there on the bed, watching him. Quiet for a change.

When he finishes drying his hands on the dish towel, he comes back over to stand beside the bed. Hayato has the question in his eyes again. He’s trying to hide it, but he’s not that good.

Then Ryu grabs him by the t-shirt collar and climbs on top of him, kissing him hungrily until he topples right over onto the bed. Hayato’s hands are underneath Ryu’s shirt, and he almost bites Ryu’s lip in his haste to respond. His shoulders are broader than they used to be, Ryu finds. Apparently three years of teenage fisticuffs is no match for eight months of heavy lifting.

“You dick,” Ryu growls into his mouth. “If you chuck a freaking apple through my window again, I’ll cut your balls off.”

Hayato actually shivers underneath him. It’s interesting.

Then he grabs Ryu by the hips and pulls him down hard against him, and things get very, very interesting for a while.

There’s not much room for two grown men in a bed made for one, but they make do. Ryu falls asleep with Hayato’s sweaty arms wrapped around him, that little bit of stubble on his chin tickling Ryu’s ear as he snores. It’s the best sleep he’s had in months.

Hayato stays with him for nearly a week. They meet for lunch sometimes on campus, and Hayato sneaks into the shower with him in the mornings, and they have a huge fight after Hayato spills beer all over Ryu’s calculus textbook. The space is way too small and they’re on top of each other constantly. Many things get broken. It’s pretty close to perfect.

On Wednesday, Hayato starts acting twitchy again. One minute he’s all hands, the next he’s halfway across the room talking too loudly about some woman he slept with last month or shooting his mouth off about how shit costs too much and landlords are assholes. Not that he’s paying any rent.

“He keeps eyeing me every time I come back here, like I’m trying to steal something.”

Ryu doesn’t say anything. Hayato does what Hayato wants.

On Thursday evening, he comes home from class to find a note in the middle of his bed: “Met a guy who needed fish packers in Aomori. I’ll write. Hayato.”

It’s taped to a banana.

*      *      *

There’s a whole giant rack of shirts. Like a floor-to-ceiling closet made up of cubbyholes, and the shirts stacked inside them are all different colors and fabrics, even some with stripes. For a while Ryu just stands there staring at them, overwhelmed and wondering vaguely how one is supposed to reach the cubbyholes at the top. Even Tsucchi would need a stepladder.

He hates shopping. It takes ages, and he never knows what he wants, and he’s rarely happy with what he gets, but he really couldn’t put this off any longer. Yankumi’s students have a very bad habit of getting into trouble they can’t get out of, and as a result Ryu has ruined three shirts just in the last two weeks. If he doesn’t buy more soon, he’s going to run out completely.

He runs his fingers over pile after pile, even the weird ones that are pink with black stripes, or a rather violent shade of magenta—because who knows, maybe that’s him? He’s never sure. When he sees all the choices laid out like this, his for the taking, he’s never sure of anything.

Three times he almost just gives up and walks out of the store. He makes a little pile of shirts at the corner of a table, choosing only ones that fit, and mostly solid colors. Mostly white, really, but different fabrics and styles. That narrows it down, but it’s still too much, and he just wants to be done already, maybe forget it and come back another day. But then he imagines showing up to work tomorrow in a tweed blazer and a tank top and he knows he can’t.

He buys eight of them. All white, but each a tiny bit different. It’s twice as many as he intended, and none of them are what he wants, but at least it gets him out of there.

He glares at the bag of shirts sitting on the kitchen table as he eats his dinner. He’s going to have to take some of them back—they’re not inexpensive, and he doesn’t have much money. He really needs to take them all out and try them on, make decisions, but he can’t face that right now. Another day won’t hurt.

After dinner, he washes up and puts his dishes in the drainer. He spends a little time reading up on tomorrow’s lessons so he’ll be ready in case anyone magically decides to start paying attention to the curriculum. Then he brushes his teeth and slips off his clothes from the day. He drops them all in the hamper, and then he pulls on an old white t-shirt with black letters that get heavier toward the bottom. The fabric is worn thin from use, a little stretched at the shoulders now, with a couple of tiny holes near the hem, but it’s the only thing that feels right.

He curls up under the covers and sleeps.

*      *      *

When Hayato says he’ll write, it turns out to mean he’ll send a shitload of empty postcards.

The first ones come from Aomori, but after few weeks they move to someplace in Sendai, and then he seems to be traveling around in a circuit from Sendai to Niigata to some tiny little town Ryu’s never even heard of. Most of the postcards seem to have been bought in Aomori, like he stocked up and has just been doling them out once every couple of weeks, but occasionally there’s something different. Ryu saves them for a while, until the eighth one with nothing but an unfamiliar address and some random picture of a statue arrives, and then he gets drunk and throws them all away.

They stop coming after Ryu moves. He’d have sent his new address, but he wouldn’t know where to send it.

It’s raining like hell the day Hayato shows up again, and he’s soaked to the bone. Ryu considers just shutting the door again, because that would be easier, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t invite him in either—just leaves the door open and goes to fetch a towel from the bathroom. By the time he comes back, the door is closed again, and Hayato is dripping on the kitchen chair while he peels off his wet socks.

“Fuck, this place is far from the station,” Hayato says, ruffling a hand through his hair and flicking little droplets everywhere. “It didn’t look that far on the map.”

Ryu spreads Hayato’s sodden clothes out across all his furniture while Hayato showers. He clips the socks and boxer shorts to his little hanging rack, but leaves it hanging over the sink instead of on the balcony. Wouldn’t do much good to put it outside right now. Then he orders in Chinese for the two of them and steps out to have a cigarette on the tiny balcony while he’s waiting for Hayato to be done.

The wind is a little unpredictable, and it nearly gets him wet enough to put out the cigarette. He stubs it out himself before it’s finished.

When he steps back inside, he finds Hayato, his hair still damp and curling a bit from the shower, flipping through his wallet to pay the delivery guy.

Ryu watches him nudge the door closed again and bring the takeout bag into the kitchen, setting it on the counter while he rummages to figure out where the plates are.

“You ordered extra noodles, right?” Hayato says as he pokes through the spice rack. “They never give you enough.”

Ryu watches him close the first cupboard after a cursory glance and open up the second one. He frowns a bit as he picks up a cereal box to see what’s stuck behind it. The box dislodges a box of baking powder right next to it, and Hayato flails and drops the cereal in the sink as he catches the smaller box against his chest, a little bit of the powder spilling over his arm.

“You said you’d write,” Ryu says.

“I did write,” Hayato replies as he carefully puts the baking powder and the cereal back where he found them. He keeps a hand on them until he’s got the door nearly completely closed, just to be sure they don’t fall on his head again. Or to be extra sure they’ll fall on the head of the next person who opens the cupboard.

“Your fucking address doesn’t count.”

Hayato pauses with one hand still on the door handle. For a moment his expression flickers with something like guilt. “I didn’t know what to say.”

“You didn’t know what to say?” Ryu repeats, incredulous. “Bullshit. You always have something to say. You called Take four times. You even wrote Hyuuga and Tsucchi about the fucking weather. But you have nothing to say to me?”

“I don’t know what you want from me!” Hayato bursts out, hitting the side of his fist against the cupboard door as he faces Ryu. And there’s this wild look in his eye that’s somewhere between panic and fury. For a minute he just stands there floundering, like there are ten million things running through his brain—does he even have room for that many?—and he can’t sort them out. Ryu’s never seen Hayato speechless before.

Or maybe he’s just always been speechless. Maybe that’s what all the noise was about.

Then it all just snaps, and Hayato is on him, kissing him hard and backing him up against the kitchen table. Ryu shoves him off once, but his fingers stay tangled in Hayato’s wet hair, and Hayato comes right back. Ryu lets him. Doesn’t tell him to stop.

Doesn’t really want him to.

Hayato drags Ryu’s shirt off over his head and leaves a trail of little bites and kisses down his neck as he spreads him out on the table. His hand is fiddling inexpertly with the front of Ryu’s jeans, but Ryu hooks a leg around his waist and doesn’t let him up far enough to get them undone. Finally Hayato gives up and just grinds against him, pulling Ryu’s thigh tight against his hip, and Ryu feels grass underneath him and hears the P.E. class running circuits on the track on the other side of the bleachers. And Hayato should know by now that Ryu can’t have what he wants, so there’s no point in asking.

But Hayato has never been good at spotting the obvious.

Late one night, three days later, they’re folded up together in Ryu’s bed and Ryu is staring at the broken lamp sitting on his nightstand. There’s more space now, but they’re still on top of each other. Things still get broken. That’s just how they are together.

“Ryu,” Hayato murmurs in his ear.

“Hm.”

There’s a little pause. For a moment, Ryu thinks he’s changed his mind about whatever it was he’d planned to say. Or maybe he’s just fallen asleep.

“What do you want?”

It’s quieter this time. Like it matters.

Ryu wants a lot of things. Ryu wants Hayato’s arm around his waist. Ryu wants Hayato’s breath against his neck. Ryu wants Hayato’s smile at his door, and his stupid theories, and his clumsy kind of charm. Ryu wants Hayato. He always has.

But Hayato does what Hayato wants.

“I want to go to sleep,” Ryu says.

Hayato doesn’t ask him again.

*      *      *

The apartment is no good anymore. There’s just so much space everywhere, it’s starting to feel a bit sterile. It reminds him of his father’s house, and he doesn’t like that. It reminds him of other things too.

He tries rearranging the furniture, but that just makes it weird and inconvenient. He keeps tripping over things and knocking stuff off of tables. One time he kneecaps himself on his dresser and drags the bedside lamp off the table so it lands on top of him. It doesn’t break.

He buys paint for the walls, because maybe that will help, but he’s too busy to actually do anything with it. He takes all his books off the shelves and puts them in piles around the floor just to cut down on the emptiness, but that just makes it look like he’s already moving.

Maybe he should move. Maybe that’s the solution. He could find a decent place across town somewhere, probably less expensive than this one. Or he could move to another city, at least once his studies are finished and he has his teaching license. Or another country, even. Change his name and learn a new language and be someone else. Someone without all this empty space.

For now though, Ryu stays.

*      *      *

The visits are more frequent now. Sometimes it’s like he’s never completely gone even when he is. Those days are the worst.

Ryu stops sleeping. He pretends to, and sometimes he just passes out on the couch in front of the TV, or at the laundromat in the middle of putting his clothes in the drier, or over lunch in the cafeteria, but he doesn’t sleep properly anymore. He can’t. When Hayato is there, he’s afraid that he’ll be leaving, and when he’s gone he’s afraid this time he won’t come back.

It’s hell. Beautiful and sweet, the worst kind.

He buys a new bedside lamp, but that gets broken too. So does one of the kitchen chairs, and a running tally of dishes. Hayato sometimes leaves things around when he disappears for a week or two, but he sometimes doesn’t. Maybe it would be easier if it gave Ryu any clues, but sometimes he takes every scrap he owns and comes back within two days, and sometimes he leaves all but his wallet and a pair of shoes and doesn’t show up for a month. Ryu hates him sometimes. And he likes him anyway.

Hayato even calls him sometimes, from wherever he is. Usually some out of the way place doing manual labor. At one point in February he’s helping to break ice from the surface of a river up north so boats can pass, while in April he’s digging drainage ditches somewhere in Kansai. Ryu listens to his stories and tries to keep up with his studies and tries to sleep and tries to be okay, because this is more than he’s ever had before, and it’s making him happy and completely miserable.

Late one night in early fall, Hayato is there again. He’s been there for weeks already, and he must be getting twitchy again, but Ryu can’t tell anymore because he’s so twitchy himself, all the time. Meanwhile Hayato is curled up next to Ryu under the covers and poking at his ribs, teasing that he must not be eating enough.

Ryu never eats enough. He can’t sit still enough to eat.

Ryu runs his fingers through Hayato’s hair and wraps his arm around Hayato’s shoulders and just wants. Just for a moment, he lies there staring at the ceiling and he wants as hard as he possibly can, because it’s there, and he hasn’t tried it yet. And he won’t get another chance.

And then he lets it go.

“Hayato?”

Hayato’s voice rumbles softly as it hums against Ryu’s skin. It hurts. It hurts so much, but it won’t anymore. Soon. Someday.

“I think you should stop coming here.”

Hayato’s thumb stills against Ryu’s side. He feels the little tickle of eyelashes against his chest, a sweep and then a flutter.

“What?”

Ryu scratches his fingertips lightly over Hayato’s scalp, feeling the soft dark hair slide between his fingers. “I need you to stop coming here. This isn’t working for me anymore.”

Hayato is quiet for a long time.

“Is that what you want?” he says eventually.

Ryu swallows and runs his tongue over his lips.

Hayato is an idiot.

“It’s just not working,” Ryu says. Because it’s the only thing he can say that’s true. “I can’t do this anymore.”

Hayato takes a deep breath and twists a little bit against Ryu’s side, curling a little more tightly around him. “Okay,” he murmurs. “I’ll go. If that’s what you need, I’ll go.”

And then he crawls back up to kiss him, and Ryu lets him. And they move together again, just like before, just like always, because why not. Because there won’t be another chance, and that’s the best thing. And of course Hayato will go—Hayato always goes. Hayato does what Hayato wants.

The next morning, before Ryu wakes up, Hayato climbs out of bed. Hayato takes all his clothes from the drawers and the closet. Hayato takes his shoes from the front hall. Hayato takes his scant belongings from around the living room. Hayato even takes the very last orange from the fruit bowl. When Ryu wakes up, there’s not a single trace left of him anywhere, and the fruit bowl is empty, and there’s not a word.

The ground is finally firm under his feet, and his heart is where it should be. But Ryu falls away.

*      *      *

Life at Yankumi’s heels is really never boring.

Ryu spends hours at the police station after the incident with the drug smuggling ring. Mostly he’s just telling the same story over and over again, and trying to keep some of the younger guys from flying off the handle when nerves and long waits and general lingering distrust of authority figures conspire to cause trouble. Yankumi takes care of most of that though, to be honest. Even injured as she is, she’s pretty intimidating when she wants to be.

A couple of times, Ryu actually has to remind her to calm down.

It’s well after midnight by the time the last of them are released, and they give him cab fare home because it’s too late to catch the train. He almost nods off a couple of times along the way, resting his head against the window glass and listening to the quiet rush of air and traffic.

It was nice seeing Tsucchi again, Ryu thinks as he pays the driver. He should make some time for the guys sometime soon. For a long time he’s avoided it just because he didn’t need the questions, or the reminders, but now…now it seems different. Now he thinks maybe he could handle it. It wasn’t bad this afternoon, and if Tsucchi had any nosy questions, he kept them to himself.

Ryu is fine.

He tucks his wallet back in his pants as he starts up the stairwell, one step at a time. All the way up to the fourth floor, and then to the left. All the way down to the end, and then right at the corner, he follows his feet as they weave tiredly down the corridor, and that’s when he sees him.

Ryu stops walking just as Hayato looks up, a huddled figure sitting by Ryu’s apartment door, and for a moment they just stare at each other across the dim expanse. Ryu feels anger bubbling up inside him, because why—they talked about this. They settled this, and it’s not supposed to work that way anymore, and where the hell does Hayato get off breaking the deal? He was fine. Hayato is a fucking idiot.

But then, suddenly Hayato is up off the floor, crossing the distance in a few short steps and throwing his arms around Ryu. Tight. Pinning Ryu’s arms to his sides so hard it squeezes a little of the breath out of him, and he buries his face in Ryu’s shoulder.

“I saw it on the news.”

Ryu has to strain to make out what he’s saying, feels fingers twisting in the back of his shirt.

“I’m sorry. I tried to do what you wanted. I tried to leave you alone, but I just can’t anymore.”

Ryu grits his teeth against the swell of resentment. Stupid fucking asshole. “Hayato…”

“Please don’t make me go,” Hayato mumbles into his shoulder. “I know I’m a stupid fuckup. I know you’re better off without me, and I tried—I really tried. It’s no good. I’m no good without you, and when I saw that guy put a fucking gun to your head…I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Ryu blinks a couple of times at that. “What are you talking about?”

“Please,” Hayato says. “Let me stay this time. I’ll try not to fuck it up, I swear. Just let me stay with you.”

Ryu swallows, trying to hold his ground, because it’s threatening to fall away again, and he’s supposed to be done with that. He’s supposed to have grown out of that. Hayato is asking to stay? Since when does Hayato ask for anything? Much less that. “I don’t want you to,” he says, trying to mean it. Trying to stand firm, though somehow his fingers have curled themselves into the hem of Hayato’s coat, which is all he can reach from inside Hayato’s iron grip. “I’m serious. I don’t want you here if you’re just going to leave again.”

“I don’t want to leave. I won’t leave. I don’t want to leave you.”

“Since when?”

Hayato squeezes him a little tighter, and Ryu doesn’t even mind the struggle for breath. He probably should mind more, but…Hayato is still Hayato. And Ryu doesn’t want him to stop. “Since always,” Hayato says.

It curls in Ryu’s chest like a warm, purring thing, even as it pisses him off. But that’s warm too, and familiar and strange. Months away and years away and eons away, and never, as it turns out, really gone after all. Hayato is complicated.

“Then why did you?”

“Because you were better without me,” Hayato murmurs. “And I thought you’d never tell me to go. Until you did.”

Ryu wants to punch him and kiss him, but Hayato’s grip on him is too tight for either, so he tugs uselessly on the hem of his jacket instead. Hardly a fitting punishment. “You’re a fucking asshole. I was never better without you.”

“But I push you around. I break stuff. I make you miserable.”

Ryu swallows. “Only when you go.”

Hayato is quiet for a moment. Then he turns his face against the side of Ryu’s head, his breath warm and close against Ryu’s ear. “Really?”

“Get off me,” Ryu says, and Hayato does so immediately, backing up a few inches and looking at him with a confused question in his eyes. Ryu just looks back at him and thinks maybe this is where all the time has gone. Maybe they’re both fucking idiots.

Then he kisses him hard. He twists his fingers in the front of Hayato’s jacket and kisses him, walks him backwards until he’s trapped against the door, and Hayato kisses back. Hayato doesn’t tell him to stop.

“Ryu?” Hayato breathes between kisses.

“Stay,” Ryu says, kissing him again. “Stay. Just stay. Stop disappearing. Stay forever. That’s what I want. That’s what I always wanted.”

Hayato’s arms curl around Ryu’s waist and pull him close, and there’s a little laugh against his lips. “Okay.” Another kiss, deep and hard and wonderful, and a little promise. A little curse, childish insults whispered between lips and teeth and tongues, smiles that no one can see, and Hayato’s fingers in Ryu’s hair, Ryu’s fumbling for the door.

And Hayato does what Ryu wants.

*      *      *

A/N: My first HayaRyu, incidentally, though I’ve always meant to write a few. These guys are fun… ;)

Comments are always appreciated!

Date: 2014-10-16 04:51 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] patrycja444d.livejournal.com
It's been so long since I lastly read something new with HayaRyu. I was really happy to see a new one-shot; it's so rare lately.
Great idea, I always appreciate those who are able to write the characters just the way they are.
I loved the story, thank you for writing it. :)

Date: 2014-10-17 02:16 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] pinkporca.livejournal.com
So happy to read a HayaRu fiction. Thanks for doing so. And...if you want to do more, I would never complain. Love the way you laid out their quite interesting relationship. From "Hayato does what Hayato wants" to the ending "Hayato does what Ryu wants."

Date: 2014-10-19 10:02 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] kaze-no-hisui.livejournal.com
a wonderful story, really like it ^////^ also coz I miss them too. their story is so rare > <

feel so sad everytime hayato gone and leave ryu alone T_T also when ryu told hayato to leave and don't come back *sob* but I'm so glad that finally they're get together \^o^/

Date: 2014-10-19 05:50 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] exbenjamin.livejournal.com
Hayaryu falls into oblivion. It's so rare!!! That's why i'm happy you wrote this! It was soooooooo lovely!!!!! I liiked it XD

Date: 2014-10-20 01:54 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] jo-lasalle.livejournal.com
I really enjoyed this. *___*

At first I found Ryu a little strangely passive, but the backdrop of the movie works really well, and I could actually see the development from series!Ryu to the older (and more... yeah, sort of more passive) Ryu.

Really loved how tight this was and the theme of Hayato doing and Ryu not stopping him is woven through the story.

The note on the apple, OMG. Poor (dumb) Ryu and poor (dumb) Hayato. (Though broad-shouldered manual labour Hayato is also yum. *g*)

“I don’t know what you want from me!” Hayato bursts out, hitting the side of his fist against the cupboard door as he faces Ryu. And there’s this wild look in his eye that’s somewhere between panic and fury. For a minute he just stands there floundering, like there are ten million things running through his brain—does he even have room for that many?—and he can’t sort them out. Ryu’s never seen Hayato speechless before.

This was a wonderful turning point for a hitherto enigmatic Hayato. *___* (Shame Ryu is also dumb sometimes. But cute. And sweet. And awwww.)

I really liked the movie backdrop in general. I've only seen the movie once (because, erm. Reasons.) but you still managed to evoke exactly the right scenes for it, and pinning the relationship twist on Ryu being threatened with a gun is GOLDEN.

Very very enjoyable! Thank you for writing & sharing! :D

Date: 2014-10-24 03:23 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] anj24.livejournal.com
i enjoy reading your story i though that they will not be together again as Hayato keep on leaving Ryu.
but it started i didn't know what he really feel til the end its just not he want Ryu as a bed warmer (if i can call it that way) but he really want to be with him but feeling conflicted as he feel Ryu will be better off without him.
communication is very essential in any relationship. many years been wasted due to lack of communication on their relationship...

thanks for sharing your creation..

Date: 2014-11-09 07:44 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] masami93.livejournal.com
Oh my... I've read it some time ago so how comes I'm only commenting now?! I'm so sorry!

I love HayaRyu stories so I'm always looking for a new one. And this one is amazing! Hayato being his usual stupid self and Ryo lets him... to some extent. There always has to be a breaking point. I love the idea with notes attached to fruit, I can imagine Hayato doing it. Though I still can't imagine Ryo as a teacher xD I don't know what kind of job would suit him but a teacher... I'd definitely want to see a sequel to that plot.
And of course just a right amount of drama/angst. I need more stories like that.

Thank you for it!

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