Guess who is alive! I meant to update ages ago... like four months ago? But then after I settled down at home, resigned to being unemployed forever, I suddenly got a job within three days of applying! It's been a whirlwind ever since. So many times I had to put writing on a back-burner. And make you guys wait. It makes me so happy, but guilty, that there are still people out there waiting for this story to be updated.
I'm sorry! I'm sorry I'm always apologizing. So I decided to get off my ass and push this chapter out. Hope you enjoy this short chapter! The next one has about 45% written - poke me, I swear it'll happen sooner than later.
Disclaimer: Nope, still not mine.
Going home was out of the question since his mother found out about him dating Fuji, but Ryoma wanted out of the headquarters. Atobe had taken to popping in everyday for the sole reason of seeing Tezuka squirm, and Ryoma really didn't need to see the Monkey King making (incredibly disgusting) seductive faces at his captain. The solution was surprisingly easy.
It's not like he missed Ryoga or anything. No matter what Fuji said.
"Aniki." Ryoma strolled into Mike's restaurant, eyeing the occupied seat next to his brother. Ryoga, with a wide smile on his face, reached out and pushed the occupant onto the floor without so much a glance. "Hn."
"Hey—" the man started to say, when Mike emerged from the kitchen. "What d'you do that for?"
"Are you harassing my customers?" Mike nodded at Ryoma, who took the seat with a small smirk. "Didn't I tell you to behave, Ryoga."
Ryoga laughed. "Aww, Mikey. Where else will my chibisuke sit?"
"Don't call me that."
The man pulled himself up and opened his mouth. Mike shushed him with a look. "Sit over there instead and your meal will be on the house." Mike fixed Ryoga with the same look when the latter simply slung an arm around Ryoma's shoulders, unrepentant. "You."
"Yes, me." Ryoga batted his eye lashes.
"That face is gross," Ryoma said. "Yo, Mike."
"The usual?" At Ryoma's nod, Mike called back into the kitchen. "You guys heard him!" He slid into the other side of the table booth. "So what brings you here?"
"Heard you've picked up a stray," Ryoma smirked in his brother's direction, eyes never leaving Mike's face. "Thought I'd warn you he's a clingy one."
Mike leant back in his seat, crossing his arms. He smiled. "Well, it's pretty cute."
The jibe rolled off Ryoga, whose arms tightened around Ryoma. Ryoga shoved his face into his brother's neck, ignoring the disgruntled yelp. He rubbed his face happily, "I knew you'd destroy that Akio bastard, you're my precious otouto after all! He's nothing against Ryoma, yes, he wasn't!"
Ryoma rolled his eyes as Ryoga proceeded to climb onto the table and announce to the world just how proud he was.
"Still not regretting it?" He directed at Mike. The older man just shrugged, unconcerned that Ryoga was trampling around with his dirty boots where customers eat.
The bell at the door jingled. "Mike-san!"
Ryoga paused in his lively jive to wave at the door. "Nanako!" He hopped down to greet his cousin properly. Ryoma eyed the muddy prints on the table top. Well, he was bemusedly impressed, he sure has Mike wrapped around his finger if this doesn't drive a restaurant owner crazy.
"So, you and Fuji are a thing."
"Do I need to warn you that Ryoga is going to do something crazy."
"What are you talking about," Ryoma said. "My brother has moved on already."
Nanako slammed a heavy straw basket in front of them. Ryoma moved his food away just in time. "Nanako-san!"
"Oops, sorry!" She plopped herself in a chair and sighed. "Ah, it's so nice to be out of the house. Oji-san is up to something again."
"Oh yes," Ryoga joined them. "I meant to warn you, chibisuke, he is definitely plotting something. Probably to do with your lover boy."
Ryoma tsked. "So annoying."
"Well, I know Syuusuke can take of himself but since I'm your older brother and stuff—" Nanako stuffed a piece of pastry into Ryoga's mouth and smiled sweetly.
"Stop talking, I'm trying to ask Mike-san something here." She ignored her cousin's muffled grunts and turned a smile on the restaurant owner. "Here are the taster pastries we discussed on the phone last time! If you like them I'll make bigger batches to sell at the shop. We split the profit, of course."
Mike took one from the basket and chewed thoughtfully. "Mhm, as good as always Nanako. Don't bother with splitting the profit, I don't mind lending some space out." His hand clamped down on Ryoga's head. "It's not like you give me any trouble, unlike this one."
"I'm done." Ryoma stood up. "Thanks for the food Mike. Owe you one."
"What, you're leaving already?"
Ryoma smirked. "Bagged the guy you wanted, going to meet him now."
"Rude!" Ryoga called out at his disappearing back. "Mikey, I think he's going through a rebellious phase." He moaned. "I knew him and Fuji were a bad idea."
Nanako rolled her eyes. "As if you don't spoil him the most." She stood up to leave as well. "I'm off! Promised auntie I'd go shopping with her and you know how she hates to wait."
"I've been abandoned," Ryoga said mournfully into the table top.
A towel hit his head. "Shut up and clean up the mess you made."
Fuji laughed. "Somehow I can imagine Atobe doing that."
Ryoma and Fuji were sitting at an outdoor café, feet tangled comfortably under the table. They had bumped into Momo and Kaidoh earlier on, both parties coincidentally meeting at the same spot. Kaidoh took one glance at their joined hands, Fuji's smile and Ryoma's nonchalance, and dragged a protesting Momo away.
"Hn," Ryoma stole a sip of Fuji's drink. He glanced up to see Fuji staring at him, wearing the same soft smile he witnessed on the rooftop those long weeks ago. His ears burned but contentment sat warmly in his chest. "So," the question slipped out, "Do I need to meet your family all over again?"
"Why Ryo-chan," Fuji teased. "I didn't expect that from you."
"Shut up," he mumbled. "This is… this is serious to me okay."
"I know." Fuji's voice was devoid of amusement, and layered with understanding. Ryoma couldn't resist but to lean in and peck him on the mouth. He pulled back before anyone could see.
Fuji's giggle pulled a small smile from him.
"So that's where the smooth playboy was hiding."
Ryoma's eyes gleamed. "Haven't brought him out yet." His hand fell casually onto Fuji's wrist. "Maybe I'll show you later."
Fuji reached into his bag and produced a notebook and a pen. "Well, let's get down to business then." He turned to a fresh page and wrote: Sailing the Golden Ship.
Ryoma eyed the newly coined "Operation get Eiji and Oishi together" with embarrassment and amusement. Amusement won out, as it always seemed to do with Fuji.
"Now let's see…."
They split ways when the sun dropped low. The orange light draped lightly over the dips and curves of Fuji's brows, nose and mouth. Ryoma was entranced all over again.
"See you in a few days?" He managed after a few minutes, dragging his gaze away. A hand touched his palm and then strong fingers locked with his.
"Hey, Ryo-chan," Fuji said. He tugged on Ryoma's hand until his boyfriend looked up. "Don't miss me too much, okay?"
Cat eyes widened and then a grin broke out over Ryoma's face. "Only if you don't, Syuusuke." He eyed the light flush that stole across the bridge of Fuji's nose, the pink ears. A flustered Fuji was a cute sight, and an even harder one to coax out. Ryoma raised their joined hands and repeated his gesture of confession, brushing lips over pale skin.
"Is this going to be a thing?" Fuji asked, eyes drawing open.
Ryoma hummed. "Have a fun visit home."
Fuji watched Ryoma saunter down the street, then he turned the corner and was gone. "Hm," his heart was sparking. Fuji let his smile grow into something real. God, after all those years of chasing suitors away with an inscrutable smile, Ryoma strolls into his life like he had nowhere better to be and Fuji was lost.
"That boy is totally ruining my reputation," he sighed fondly.
"Be careful he won't ruin you."
Fuji whipped around, pulse rocketing. How did he not hear—
Ryoma checked his phone and grimaced. Twenty messages from Ryoga, three missed calls from his mother, a few other notifications from other people… He skimmed through Ryoga's texts, ascertained it was all nonsense and ignored them. He texted his mother back, confirming yes Fuji-sempai is my boyfriend now, yes he is good to me, of course I did the pursuing whose son do you think I am, obviously yours, and that left: a voice call from his father.
He frowned. Oyaji never bother with voice calls, usually preferring to call until Ryoma picked up the phone, or sending a text when it was urgent. In fact, the older Echizen's M.O was to send people over to pass on his messages, even at the dead of night. Such a nuisance. The voice call was also time stamped the most recent. Ten minutes.
Ryoma arrived at Seigaku exactly ten minutes ago.
What's the old man up to now?
He tapped the icon with extreme prejudice.
"You're fired up right now, aren't you? Hehe, ah, what kind of son scowls when they hear from their father – it hurts! You're so much like your mother with that temper… well, it's not time for that."
Ryoma near stopped breathing. An unpleasant squirm drew his stomach tight.
"Tell me, son. Why did I send you to Seigaku?"
The haze was spreading through his limbs.
"Was it the strength? Or was it the people?"
Ryoma stood up, reaching for his cap. If he pulled the brim low enough, people would not see.
"Have you grown stronger? Show me."
No one but Tezuka had met Echizen Ryoma. They knew Ryoma, Ryo-chan, Ochibi. Echizen Ryoma is the part that never made the surface, except that moment when Ryoma let his anger consume him, and then it consumed Akio. The hungry, possessive part that knew what it wanted, believed it deserved, and hated to see gone. The spoilt child of mafia royalty, who never once won against his father.
"You know exactly where Fuji Syuusuke is. You just have to come home."
Echizen Ryoma who was scared.