White Paper, Black Ink

by Tenno Ai (天之 愛)

(mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/38129.html)

Ren smells like winter when he comes into the kitchen; his cheek is icy cold when he presses it against Ryuu’s, his arms looping around his waist. “Taidama,” Ren whispers into his ear, and Ryuu laughs as he turns and kisses him. From anyone else, the greeting would seem purred, somewhat erotic, but from Ren it’s always soft and sincere.

“Okaeri nasai,” Ryuu murmurs when they pull back, and Ren smiles up at him before peering over his shoulder to see what’s been made for dinner.

“Dumplings!” he cries, and Ryuu laughs again.

The meal is scattered and lazy, Ren gesturing wildly with his chopsticks as he talks about his day: who he met, what was said, and the consequences of everything as such. Ryuu is the proper listener by now, knowing exactly how to react, what to say and when exactly to do so. This is probably not what most would consider love, this level of comfort and sweetness, but every time that Ryuu catches Ren’s eye, the quick swoop in his stomach tells him that this is more than good enough, for him at least.

“Akio managed to mess up the system,” Ryuu says later that night, when they’re lying on the bed and Ren is absently playing with Ryuu’s hair as he reads. “It wasn’t too bad – the main database was down for only an hour – but it hit during the early evening rush which was inconvenient.”

“I still can’t believe libraries get things like rushes,” Ren teases, laughing as Ryuu digs his elbow into his side. “But it’s nearly exam time, now, and I suppose the students are beginning to panic.”

“I did,” Ryuu mutters, closing his eyes as the first inclination towards sleep begins to steal over him. “My parents wanted me to get into the best high school I could. I hated cram school so much.”

“Mmm,” Ren mutters, sounding sleepy himself, but Ryuu knows why he doesn’t answer. As childlike and scatter-brained as he may seem at times, Ren’s photographic memory had meant that school was never a problem. He had been in their high school’s top five percentile easily, while Ryuu studied day and night to get in. Ryuu can’t find it in himself to resent Ren for it, however, since it’s been years anyway, and Ren has never felt comfortable enough regarding his intelligence for Ryuu to ever consider teasing him about it.

Instead, Ryuu tilts his head up and presses his lips to Ren’s. “I love you,” he whispers.

Ren murmurs, “I know,” into the kiss. He never says it back.

+

He remembers the first time that he met Ren, during their first day of high school. The importance of the occasion was lost on no one, even those who would play the good student for a week and then be troublesome for the rest of their high school career, as short as it would probably be. They lined up, their uniforms new and slightly too neat and too large for them, and were paraded before the rest of the student body as they were led to their seats.

Ryuu had to resist the urge to pinch the inside of his arm as he gazed up at the principal. He still remembers the blank shock he had felt when he had found his number on the list of those accepted, and how his mother had cried and his father had shaken his head as he beamed. He remembered his friends staring at him with their jaws hanging open, before they had whooped and cheered for him.

He wouldn’t let this chance escape him, not when he’d finally made it.

Still, that didn’t mean that the speeches weren’t very boring, and Ryuu soon found his attention wandering. A glimmer sparked in the corner of his eye, and he followed it to see another boy sitting at the edge of the left row in front of him. The glimmer had been the boy’s hair, so pale it could almost be called white, a shade Ryuu had never seen on a boy or girl before in his life.

The boy stiffened, possibly unconsciously aware that someone was looking at him, and then peered around slightly.

Large blue eyes met his, wide and shining, and the boy smiled at him after a moment of staring. The smile was extraordinarily sweet, no matter how much Ryuu tried to deny it, and his stomach suddenly swooped before he could figure out why.

He opens his eyes to darkness softened only by the faint haze of the streetlights outside. Ryuu blinks, shifting slightly and stretching his legs, and frowns. Dreaming about high school; how pathetic is he? It had probably been brought on by mentioning it to Ren, but still. Almost on cue, he glances over to see Ren curled by his side, face pressed against his neck. He’s breathing softly, still fast asleep; Ryuu thankfully hasn’t woken him.

Ryuu makes himself comfortable again, pulling the blankets closer and kissing Ren’s hair. It’s still as soft as it had been in high school, still that peculiarly unique shade. Leaving high school, getting into college, and then entering the real world has changed both of them, as passing time and changes always do, but Ren hasn’t changed dramatically. He’s still the blond, blue-eyed boy more prone to laughter than shouting, still gentle and wild all at once. Still the one that Ryuu fell for when he first clapped eyes on him, as foolish and cliché as it is.

If only it wouldn’t feel like sometimes they are balanced on a fragile bridge about to shatter and collapse. Ryuu knows that he worries too much, about himself, his life, and Ren, but most of all he knows he still secretly doubts Ren’s feelings for him sometimes. It’s not any doubt concerning Ren’s fidelity, inasmuch as Ryuu thinks that there has to be someone far better out there for Ren than himself, but rather a fear that someday Ren will turn, look at him, and wonder why he’d ever thought he loved Ryuu at all.

Ryuu shivers; he knows the thoughts are stupid, but the darkness makes them seem stronger, and the room has suddenly turned cold. He curls closer to Ren, breathing in the scent of his hair, and tries to fall back asleep.

Please don’t leave me, he thinks. I don’t know what I’d do if you were gone. He can’t even say it out loud because then there’s a chance that Ren might hear – and if he hears, then he might actually consider the prospect. Or worse, it might be something that he’s been thinking about for some time.

+

Ryuu works as a library assistant, working his way steadily up the promotional ladder, and writes in his spare time. Ren is in a publishing company, and always threatens to show Ryuu’s manuscripts to someone.

“I don’t have to say that they’re from you,” he insists, pointing one of his chopsticks at Ryuu, almost in accusation. Ryuu wants to tell him that pointing is rude, but swallows the words with a mouthful of rice. “I can just say I found it on the slush pile, and that it has promise. I don’t have to mention your name unless they like it.”

“Ren,” Ryuu says, and falls silent when Ren glares at him. They have this argument every time Ren comes home, complaining bitterly of the latest substandard writer who’s got a deal. It always leads on to how Ryuu’s writing is far superior and why he refuses to attempt publication.

“It’s not the right time,” Ryuu always says. “I’m not ready yet.”

Lately, Ren’s gaze seems to ask him when he will ever be ready.

“You could have your books read by so many people,” Ren mutters, stuffing rice into his mouth like a sulking child. “Instead of wasting away your days surrounded by shelves of books and trying to help people who can barely read.”

“I like books,” Ryuu says, and almost cringes at how weak his answer sounds. Of course he likes books; he writes them, after all, and he chose to work in a library after college.

The truth, which he will never, ever tell Ren, is that Ryuu knows his writing will never be ready. He will never publish it. It’s not because it’s bad; Ryuu isn’t arrogant, but he knows that his writing isn’t terrible. He’d probably have a very good career if he did publish.

However, the fact is that Ryuu doesn’t trust his writing – not one bit.

+

“Akio,” Ryuu says, trying his hardest not to let the dismay show on his face, “how do you manage to do this all the time?”

Akio, fortunately, is a remarkably pleasant person, which therefore makes it difficult for anyone to remain angry with him for very long. It’s lucky for him, since Akio manages to crash the system practically every week, coincidentally when Ryuu is usually the only person around who can fix it.

So when Akio rubs the back of his neck, gazing sheepishly at the ground, all Ryuu does is wave him in the direction of the growing queue to field the now-manual requests, while he settles down to figure out what Akio has done this time.

Over an hour later, he’s figured it out and everything is back up and running smoothly. Ryuu then half-threatens Akio with certain death if even touches another key wrong; Akio laughs and flashes him a bright smile.

“You know, Ryuu,” he says, leaning against the counter following the end of the current queue, “you’re wasted here.”

Ryuu, who is resignedly contemplating the trolley of books which have to be sorted and reshelved, blinks and turns to look at him. “Huh?”

“Wasted here, I mean,” Akio says, waving his hand to encompass the stacks around them. “Honestly. You could be doing so much more – you’ve saved our system so many times from me.”

Ryuu is already shaking his head before Akio has even finished speaking. “No. I like books. I only know our system backwards because the Head forced me to know it backwards. Otherwise, Ren is the one who knows what to do when one of our computers goes crazy.”

Is it Ryuu’s imagination, or does Akio stiffen at the mention of Ren’s name? Odd (and has he always done this? an unpleasant voice whispers at the back of Ryuu’s mind), but Akio quickly pulls himself together and grins again at him.

“Well.” He says, “you should think about it. There’s good money in the IT world right now, compared to shelving books and getting nowhere with your writing in your spare time.”

Ren is always urging me to submit my writing, Ryuu wants to tell him. It’s my fault that I’m getting nowhere. But he doesn’t.

Akio suddenly leans in, far to close to Ryuu for his own comfort. His gaze is deadly serious when he says, “You’re a really wonderful person, Ryuu. Honest. Don’t ever forget that.”

Ryuu immediately realises that this is about a lot more than his limited computer skills. Reluctantly meeting Akio’s earnest and hopeful gaze, Ryuu feels sick to his stomach.

+

That evening, Ren comes home upset.

The latest book of one of their bestselling authors, the next ‘big thing’, is due to be launched next week and Ren has been coming home more and more stressed as the day draws closer. Ryuu has tried his best to cheer him up, hugging him and kissing him upon the forehead and cooking his favourite meals, but tonight is different.

Tonight, Ren comes home, closing the door firmly behind him and leaning against it. He closes his eyes, breathes in a long sigh, and then groans.

Ryuu pauses at the kitchen doorway, leaning against it. “Ren?” he asks.

Ren takes in another long breath and then lets out a strangled growl, reaching up to tug at his hair.

“Ren!” Ryuu exclaims, rushing forward. He stretches out his arms to envelop him in a hug and then pauses as Akio’s face suddenly flashes before his eyes. He gazes at Ren instead.

Ren sucks in several breaths, his eyes still closed, and then abruptly calms down. Opening his eyes, he suddenly laughs and shakes his head. “I’m sorry,” he says. “It’s just been a very long day.”

Ryuu blinks, Akio’s face rapidly fading from his mind’s eye. He gazes down at him, smiles, and then hugs him tightly. “It’ll be okay,” he says.

Ren snorts, wrapping his arms around Ryuu’s waist and clinging tightly to him. “Yes, once one of that – woman’s books flops and she finally stops believing that she is the sole source of our annual profit,” he grumbles. Then he sniffs and visibly perks up. “Hey, what’s for dinner?”

Ryuu laughs and leads him towards the kitchen.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if we got a pet?” Ren asks him later, when they’re sprawled, entangled, on the couch, watching bad television and drinking beer from cold cans. “I was thinking of maybe a cat.”

Ryuu blinks, swallowing the last dregs of his beer and pondering another bottle. “A pet?” he repeats. “What brought this on?” They’re both insanely busy, only seeing each other in the morning and evening and in the occasional snatched lunch hour together. Any pet, unless it had a companion, would be on its own for hours at a time. It doesn’t seem like the ideal situation for any sort of animal.

“I don’t know,” Ren remarks, absently trailing a hand down Ryuu’s side. “I just think it would be good for us.”

“Mmm,” Ryuu replies, frowning. “Well. I suppose we can think about it.” Ren has suggested stranger things and has gradually forgotten about them; Ryuu has no reason to believe that this time will be any different.

But Ren says, quite happily, “Okay,” and curls closer to him, humming quietly.

Ryuu shakes his head, and then stiffens when Akio’s face, earnest and bright, flashes before his eyes again.

Ren senses this and gazes up at him. His lips turn downwards and he reaches up to trail his fingers against Ryuu’s cheekbone. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

Ryuu shakes his head, Akio’s image fading away again. “Nothing,” he murmurs, and holds Ren tighter. “I love you,” he adds.

Ren laughs, a clear burst of sound, and says, “Silly,” before leaning up to kiss him gently.

+

The following weekend, Ryuu, Akio and the few others on their shift go out for a meal and drinks. It’s a rare occurrence, only when things haven’t been busy enough that everyone is exhausted or quiet enough that everyone is bored enough only to want to go home, but Ryuu always enjoys them when they occur.

The sushi restaurant is good and not terribly expensive, and the sake flows well and often. Ryuu paces himself, mindful of how quickly good sake can get him drunk, but Akio takes no such precautions. He’s been loud and far more cheerful than normal since they finished work and he eats sushi and downs sake with complete abandon. Towards the end of the night he is very, very drunk and Ryuu takes it upon himself to get him home.

He knows where Akio lives from their discussions about property rate increases and manages to flag down a taxi – he has no desire to haul Akio on and off a train with the state he is in. Akio is beginning the long road to sobering up when they reach his apartment building and starts talking, albeit still in a slow manner, when they stagger inside and up the stairs.

Ryuu grits his teeth while Akio tells him (in slurred speech he can just barely decipher) how much he likes him, how sorry he is for getting this drunk and how wonderful Ryuu is for getting him safely home.

Ryu is just dumping him on his bed when Akio says, somewhat breathlessly, “I love you,” and kisses him.

It is a terrible kiss, wet, sloppy and stinking of alcohol. Ryuu recoils almost immediately, wrenching back to stare at a half-asleep Akio with wide eyes and his mouth hanging open.

He manages to stay composed long enough to help Akio into bed, put a glass of water near him, and make it back to the taxi to take him home. He sincerely hopes that Akio won’t remember this in the morning.

Ren is asleep when Ryuu staggers in the door, but he stirs and mumbles, turning when Ryuu slides in beside him. “You’re cold,” he complains, wriggling indignantly when Ryuu yanks him closer. “Lemme go.”

But he sighs and opens his mouth when Ryuu kisses him, lying back, arching, and spreading his legs when Ryuu’s hands drift over him, lower and lower until Ren is gasping and writhing helplessly.

Ryuu will never tell him, but he loves it when Ren is like this: squirming, breathless, sweat shining on his pale skin as he whimpers, begs and cries out. Ryuu grunts when Ren’s nails dig into back as they move together, Ren wrapping his legs around Ryuu’s upper back as they fuck.

“Harder,” Ren hisses, and Ryuu obliges him.

No one would ever think this: that Ren, sweet, angelic, fragile Ren, will open his legs whenever Ryuu’s hands drift downwards, head slammed against the pillow and moans spilling from his throat as they rut, spasms racking his pale, smooth body as he comes.

They lie together afterward, panting and sated, and Ren laughs suddenly, the sound breaking the heavy – which it feels to Ryuu, anyway – silence.

“What brought this on?” he asks, still laughing as he kisses Ryuu on the cheek and rolls out of bed to find something to clean themselves up with.

Ryuu watches his body gleam in the light from the hallway before he disappears into the bathroom. “Nothing, really,” he says, thinking that, at last, he can no longer taste Akio in his mouth.

+

It doesn’t go away. Ryuu wakes up to constant churning in his stomach and a faint headache just above his cheekbones. He sleeps less and less, slipping out of bed at three in the morning and then sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea gripped between his hands that always grows cold before he’s bothered to take a few sips of it.

Ren doesn’t say anything about it at first, but halfway through the second week he follows Ryuu out into the kitchen, leaning against the doorway and peering at him with wide, anxious eyes.

“What’s wrong?” he asks, frowning. “Ryuu, you have to sleep.”

Ryuu looks at him, but can hardly meet his gaze for a few seconds before he has to look away. “Nothing,” he says, gripping his cup so hard that his knuckles turn white. “Nothing is wrong. I just don’t need to sleep.”

Ren raises an eyebrow. “Ryuu, don’t be ridiculous. Everyone needs to sleep. What’s wrong?”

Akio’s face flashes in front of Ryuu’s eyes and he has to close them, taking a quick swallow of cold tea. It congeals in his throat.

Every time that Akio looks at me, he looks like he wants to kiss me again, or make me leave you, Ruu thinks, grimacing as he takes another swallow of tea. Or maybe even both. But I can’t tell you because it’ll destroy both of us.

“Nothing is wrong,” he says again, and he knows he’s giving himself away simply by not being able to meet Ren’s eyes. He’s never believed in the signs given away by liars until now.

He can feel Ren’s gaze on him and he hears the scepticism in his voice when he says, “You’ve been using the word ‘nothing’ for a while now, Ryuu.” He goes back to bed without another word, leaving Ryuu alone in the kitchen, save for a dripping tap and a cold cup of tea. The silence threatens to swallow him up.

He gets up and puts the cup in the sink, twisting the tap until the drip subsides and finally stops. He returns to the table, sits down, and presses his forehead against the cool surface. He breathes in, breathes out, and tries his best not to succumb to the desire to sob or scream. Instead, he reaches up, tangles his fingers in his hair, and tugs.

Tears spring in his eyes as he continues tugging, but he refuses to stop, sucking in deep, shuddering breaths as he closes his eyes.

“I am not losing my mind, I am not, I am not, I am not,” he says, and then releases his hair, leaning back in the chair with his eyes still closed.

He doesn’t know what to do. It was never supposed to turn out like this.

The urge to write has deserted him since he stopped sleeping, but now it returns full-blast, forcing him to his feet and to his laptop. Ryuu bought it mostly because he likes to write in a variety of places, usually wherever the mood takes him. It cost him enough of his savings to make him worry about the cost of a sudden medical emergency, but the freedom it brings him is worth far more than the cost. It’s smooth, sleek, and almost completely silent, and he adores it, enough that Ren sometimes jokes about whether he should be jealous of a computer.

Akio’s face flashes before his eyes again, but this time Ryuu deliberately forces the image away, and instead opens a fresh blank document.

Ren always wishes that he would write epic fantasy about princes, princesses, knights and kingdoms. He wants the passion, the desire, the rage. He wants words crafted around clashing swords, groaning armor, and blood-stained battlefields. He wants that which is no longer real because he wants Ryuu to make it real for him.

Almost like an unintentional slap in the face, Ryuu’s writing is, in reality, depressingly mundane. He writes about quiet, everyday relationships slowly destroying themselves from within; about people unable to see that they no longer love their significant other, but still willing to keep up with the charade. Lately, he’s been trying not to think about how his writing is beginning to reflect his actual life.

Ryuu never thinks about Ren while he writes. It’s a firm, unbreakable rule that Ren doesn’t know about because the argument that could result from that doesn’t even bear thinking about.

But now Ryuu breaks his own unbreakable rule. His fingers move over the keys in a flurried dance, almost like he has no control over them. His mind is full of Ren as he writes: he thinks of the pale, unnatural shade of his hair, his shining eyes and his bright smile. He think of his smooth skin and the noises that spill from his throat when they make love, and the way he will burrow his face against Ryuu’s neck when they sleep. Ryuu thinks of the way that Ren moves his hands while he talks, and the way his laugh sends shivers up Ryuu’s spine.

He still loves him, so, so much, and that just makes everything that has happened so much worse.

Ryuu thinks of Ren, and he writes of a white cat with soft, smooth fur and bright blue eyes. A white cat that mewls imperiously as it winds itself sleekly around Ryuu’s ankles, a cat that has to be female because she makes demands like a queen.

The house is silent except for the clicking of the keys as Ryuu types, so he hears the shrill meowing and insistent scratching at the door sounds clearly even in the kitchen. Ryuu’s eyes widen and his mouth opens slightly, though no sound comes out. His hands drop to his sides and hang there limply.

No, he thinks, not again. Not again.

The sounds grow even louder and he stumbles to the door, yanking it open to find a white cat curled up miserably and glaring up at him.

“No,” Ryuu says, but the cat only huffs and stalks past him, trotting straight into the kitchen. It sits down and gazes at him expectantly.

Ryuu sighs, dragging a hand through his hair. “All right,” he mutters. “I suppose I have to feed you.”

He rummages in the fridge for meat leftovers and pours a saucer of milk. He sits cross-legged on the floor, watching the cat delicately pick its way through the meal.

When it’s finished, sitting back on its haunches and cleaning its face and paws, Ryuu says, “What am I supposed to do with you?”

The cat blinks at him, a long, slow action, and then climbs onto his lap and curls up asleep, purring.

Ryuu runs his hand down its back, marvelling at how smooth and soft its fur is, and can’t help but smile.

+

While Ryuu is showering, the cat creeps onto the bed and curls up beside Ren. Ren wakes up to find a white cat asleep beside him, quietly snoring with its head curled up against his shoulder. Ryuu is drying his hair when he hears Ren yelling, “What the – Ryuu!”

Ren coos and fusses over the cat, who basks over the attention much to Ryuu’s chagrin. Ren doesn’t bother asking Ryuu if he’d planned this and Ryuu doesn’t even try to pretend: there is no way to successfully hide a cat in their apartment, and there are very few ways to find one at almost four in the morning. So he tells most of the truth: he heard the scratching and meowing and opened the door to find the cat there. Ren believes this because, really, there is no reason for him not to.

The cat adjusts to having her owners gone for most of the day, to Ren’s delight and Ryuu’s surprise; they arrive home to find her playing with toys or dozing, with their clothes and furniture perfectly intact. The cat delights in Ren and tolerates Ryuu for her demands.

The cat does what Ryuu didn’t believe possible: she starts to slowly and patiently repair the rift between him and Ren. Things almost seem to be returning to normal, and Ryuu gradually starts to act like himself again, able to start forgetting what happened between him and Akio.

Until one evening, when Ryuu is off work and writing with the cat dozing on the table beside him, lifting her head every so often to be petted and then falling asleep again. Ryuu is so absorbed in his writing that he almost misses the doorbell ringing until it rings again, this time accompanied with polite knocking.

Ryuu raises his head, frowning; Ren is visiting one of his brothers tonight and never forgets his key. He stares at the cat, who is awake and looking quite grumpy to be so, and then gets up to open the door.

He finds Akio on his doorstep, hands stuffed into his pockets and looking uncomfortable. Ryuu pauses, still staring, and then says, “Akio.”

“Hi,” Akio says, meeting his eyes only for a moment. “We need to talk.”

Ryuu almost says, What? but instead pauses, looks at him thoughtfully and then holds open the door. “All right, then.” He doesn’t think they have very much to talk about – Ryuu has been deliberately avoiding situations where they’re alone together – but his dreadful sense of fairness tells him that he should hear Akio out, at least.

Akio refuses an offer of tea and sits down opposite Ryuu at their kitchen table, staring at him intently. Ryuu shifts in his seat, hiding behind his cup of tea, and finally says, “You wanted to talk.”

“Why are you avoiding me?” Akio says, so blunt that Ryuu winces and hunches his shoulders before he can help himself, but he forces himself to meet Akio’s faintly accusing expression.

“How much do you remember about the last time we all went out after work?” he asks.

Akio shrugs. “I got drunk and I kissed you.” He sounds so matter-of-fact about it, almost flippant, that Ryuu can’t help but stare at him.

“Oh,” he says, trying to keep the shock off his face but not quite succeeding: he can feel his mouth turning down.

“I want to kiss you again,” Akio continues, still looking at him.

Ryuu shakes his head. “No. I can’t believe you said that.”

Akio shrugs again. “It’s the truth.”

“That doesn’t make it right.” Ryuu glares at him and then blinks when the cat suddenly jumps onto the table between them. She hisses at Akio, her ears flattened and her fur standing on end, and Akio instinctively backs away, the chair grinding against the floor as he shoves it back.

“Please leave,” Ryuu says wearily. He pets the cat, trying to smooth down her bristling fur, before standing up. “I love Ren. I will never cheat on him and I would never even consider it. I will never kiss you, and I will never allow you to kiss me again. Please, just –” He breaks off, stunned, as Akio suddenly jumps up from his seat and darts over to Ryuu.

“What are you –” Ryuu begins, and then Akio has grabbed his shoulder, pulling Ryuu against him as he kisses him. For a moment, Ryuu can’t move, before his mind suddenly clears and he pulls his mouth away, pushing at Akio and scrambling back.

“Ryuu –” Akio says, but Ryuu slashes a hand through the air.

“Enough,” he snaps. “Enough. Get out.”

Akio opens his mouth again, but a new voice breaks the sudden, heavy silence.

“Get out, Akio,” Ren says; they turn to find him in the doorway, his arms crossed and his expression cold and hard. “We’ve both said it now, so please actually listen for once.”

Akio glares at him, but it is the cat who makes the decisive move. She stalks right up to the edge of the table near Akio, crouches and hisses, and then swipes her claws dangerously close to him. Akio jumps back, glares again, and then edges towards the door with one last wistful glance towards Ryuu.

The door shuts and then a heavy, dreadful silence descends upon the apartment. Ryuu sits down, his shoulders slumped, unable to look Ren in the eye. The cat trots over, jumps onto his lap and nuzzles his hand; Ryuu gathers her into his arms and holds her close.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Ren asks at last, sitting down at the other end of the table.

Instead, Ryuu asks, “How much did you hear?”

“I was just a little behind Akio when I was coming home,” Ren says. “You were just beginning to take when I came in. I heard everything.”

Ryuu closes his eyes and holds the cat tighter. “I’m sorry for not telling you. I didn’t know how.” I was afraid you’d leave me, he adds silently.

Ren doesn’t immediately reply and then says in a small voice, “You said you love me.”

Ryuu does open his eyes at this and stares. “Of course I do. How can you doubt that?” I say it all the time.

Ren lets out a long sigh and then gets up to boil hot water. “I… sometimes,” he begins, and then pauses to concentrate on the water and the tea. Ryuu watches him place a fresh cup of steaming tea in front of him without saying a word, clinging onto the cat to prevent her from sticking her nose into it.

“You were saying?” Ryuu finally prompts, and then immediately flushes. He knows he has no right to force Ren to say anything after what has happened, but that doesn’t prevent the words from slipping out.

Ren sighs, raising an eyebrow. He takes a sip of tea and then says, “Sometimes I think you don’t really mean it. You often say it without thinking.”

Ryuu wants to ask if that’s why Ren never says it back, but this time he manages to stop the words from coming out. Instead, he repeats, “I’m sorry.”

Ren glares wearily at him. “Stop apologising. You didn’t cheat on me.”

Not really, Ryuu wants to say, but manages to hold his tongue. Ren seems more tired than angry and he seems inclined to remain on Ryuu’s side, and Ryuu knows anything he would say right now would only serve to mess that up. So he stays silent, hating the sinking feeling in his stomach, and keeps his attention on the steam rising from his cup.

“Ryuu,” Ren finally says, lowering his cup and rubbing his face. “What’s wrong? I don’t mean about Akio,” he quickly adds when Ryuu looks up at him, startled, though Ren doesn’t bother to hide his expression of disgust when he says Akio’s name. “I mean… in general. You seem so… sad sometimes, like you’re expecting me to eventually leave you, or for things to collapse in some other way.”

Ryuu swallows and finally says, “I don’t want to talk about it.” The ticking of the clock on the wall seems suddenly loud.

Ren makes an angry sound low in his throat. “You never do,” he snaps. The cat growls softly from Ryuu’s arms, though Ryuu suspects that she’s growling at him rather than Ren. “Please, just for once – talk to me.”

Ryuu stares at him for a long time, looking at Ren’s narrowed eyes and hard mouth and then says, “All right. I’ll be right back.” He silently places the cat on the floor, where she sits and looks up at him gravely before chirping quietly.

He retrieves his laptop and brings it into the kitchen, opening up a new blank document and gesturing Ren to come closer. The cat jumps up and noses it for a moment, before lying down and watching them both.

Ryuu takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. If this is a moment for admitting uncomfortable truths, then perhaps now is the time for him to explain exactly why he never thinks of Ren while writing.

“Watch what I write,” he says, and begins to write. Ren is a warm presence behind him and Ryuu’s stomach lurches at the thought of not kissing or touching him again.

As the sound of typing fills the kitchen, Ren suddenly laughs. “Why are you writing about a companion for our cat?” he asks. “Cats don’t have purple eyes, Ryuu, not even black ones.”

“I’m thinking of you,” Ryuu says quietly and then stops, closing his eyes, as he hears the muffled sound of tiny paws being thumped against the kitchen window. Shrill meowing echoes from outside and their cat chirps and jumps over to the window, nosing the glass eagerly.

Both Ren and Ryuu look over at their kitchen window and see the black cat with purple eyes waiting to be let in.

Ryuu looks up at Ren just in time to see his face turn a sickly pale. “What the… how… cats don’t have purple eyes,” he repeats, somewhat helplessly.

“They do if I write about them like that,” Ryuu says softly, staring down at his hands balanced against the keys. “If I think of you while I write, things like that happen. They become real.”

“Oh,” Ren says faintly; he looks about ready to pass out. “I… I suppose I should let the cat in.” He walks over, opens the window with shaking hands, and then catches the black cat as it launches itself in with a flying leap.

Ren sits down and they watch the two cats talk and circle each other, tails waving easily.

Ryuu keeps gazing at him anxiously; he’s still dangerously pale and his eyes are a little too wide for Ryuu’s liking. “Are you all right?” he finally asks softly.

Ren looks at him like he’s sproated another head. “I… I don’t think you should be asking me that,” he says, his voice cracking towards the end. “I’m not the one who makes things happen when he writes while thinking of me!”

Ryuu swallows and looks away. There is only silence for another few minutes before Ren sighs heavily. Ryuu sneaks a glance at him; he’s alternatively rubbing his eyes hard and staring at the cats repeatedly.

When Ren looks at him again, he asks, “Is that where our white cat came from?”

Ryuu nods. “I was thinking of you when I was writing and I knew you wanted a cat and she just… appeared at our doorstep,” he says, struggling to maintain eye contact. He pauses.

“Is that why you don’t want to get your writing published?” Ren asks, drumming his fingers on the table.

Ryuu shrugs. “Partly. Really, I just don’t think I’m good enough.”

Ren snorts, but doesn’t say anything else and the only sounds are the noises from the cats.

At last Ryuu blurts out, “That’s – that’s how you fell in love with me.”

There is a long pause, and then Ren finally says, “…what?”

Ryuu swallows, running his hands through his hair, and says, “After I had just met you, I wrote a story about you. I’d liked you for so long, and it was… a really awful story actually, where you thought I was wonderful and you fell in love with me and everything was fantastic.”

There is another long pause.

And then Ren bursts out laughing.

Ryuu blinks and stares at him. “I… see,” he says at last, when Ren laughter finally subsides and he is simply chuckling and wiping his eyes rather ineffectually.

“No, it’s just… when did you write that story?” Ren asks, smiling.

Ryuu frowns and thinks. “Around the end of April, I suppose,” he says after a moment.

Ren shakes his head, still smiling, and stands. Walking over to Ryuu, he pulls him up and then kisses him thoroughly. Pulling away, he says, “Then your story had nothing to do with it. When I saw you watching me at the opening ceremony… that was when I started to like you.”

Ryuu blinks and then says in a small voice, “Oh.”

Ren laughs again and then says, “So silly, but I love you anyway.” It’s been so long since Ryuu has heard those words coming from Ren’s mouth that they sound foreign, almost alien.

When Ren pulls him in for another kiss, Ryuu murmurs, “Why do you never say that to me?”

Eyeing his lips and then meeting his eyes, Ren replies, “Because I assume you know it anyway, and you say it enough for the both of us.” They kiss again and then Ren yanks him towards the bedroom.

Normally when they have sex it is Ryuu in control, but as they struggle to discard clothing while making their way towards the bed, Ren wastes no time in pushing Ryuu back onto it and climbing on top of him.

“I love you,” he whispers, pressing feather-light kisses along his neck and collarbone, moving slowly downward. Ryuu closes his eyes and wriggles, his erection rapidly swelling as Ren’s mouth moves down his chest and stomach, sucking at his nipples, bypassing his groin, and instead moving to the inside of his thighs.

Then he groans as Ren bites the soft skin, licking each bite as he draws closer to his penis. Ryuu’s hands cling to the blankets as Ren’s mouth finally closes over his erection for a moment, pulling back and then dragging his tongue up and down. Ryuu clenches his teeth, hissing in strangled breaths as he fights not to force Ren to take him deeper into his throat.

Ren’s fingertips begin to brush over Ryuu’s balls and Ryuu gives up any pretence of control, tossing his head back against the pillow and whimpering. It takes far more effort than he would like, but Ryuu forces himself to open his eyes again and watch Ren’s mouth move up and down his cock, humming as the muscles in Ryuu’s thighs spasm with the sensations.

Just as Ryuu is about to come, Ren takes his mouth away, crawling back up to the top of the bed. Ryuu’s eyes snap widen and he sits bolt upright, his cock swollen and painfully ready. “Wha –” he begins, but Ren presses a finger against his lip as he fumbles in one of the bedside drawers.

“Don’t speak,” Ren orders as he returns to his original position between Ryuu’s legs. “Close your eyes.”

When Ren’s mouth returns to his cock and Ryuu finally feels himself beginning to peak, he lets out a long groan. When he comes and Ren presses fingers against his entrance at the same time, he arches and screams.

Neither of them sleeps very much that night.

+

Two days later, Ryuu arrives home to tell Ren that Akio has been transferred to another branch. He tries his best to ignore Ren’s satisfied smile and the glint in his eyes. Instead, he accepts the latest novel tie-in to his favourite manga series that Ren has brought home from work for him before it hits the shelves.

The next morning, Ryuu hands Ren one of his manuscripts and tells him to do his worst with it.

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