Where: The cafe
Rating: Ah... PG, I guess?
Summary: Dan and Ryoma are cleaning up after their shift ends, ready to close up for the night. There's still a decent amount of tension between them, specifically due to Ryoma almost kissing him. Easily enough, Dan snaps, and things are finally said between he and Ryoma.
Notes: On the lengthy-side, but almost short, considering how long the tension & emotions had been building up between the two. It's a bit of a sad log, but also..er...very sappy. :D;;;
The bell on the door jingled loudly in the empty café as Yuuki-san waved goodbye, leaving only Ryoma and Dan in the small café to close up after hours. By now she trusted the two of them completely with everything at the café that tonight she’d asked them to finish cleaning up and to lock up so she could run out immediately after closing. Ryoma didn’t mind at all – they usually had to stay after closing anyway, and it wasn’t as though he and Dan hadn’t closed before. Hell, they did it at least two times a week, usually, so no big deal, he thought, grabbing the mop and starting at the far end of the eating area, near the door, and working his way back towards the counter, slowly.
… Though it was a little different, now, with Dan being the only person closing in here with him. Things were still a little… weird – a strange kind of awkward, and they had been ever since Ryoma had decided to declare his utter idiocy with that half-attempted kiss that should have never, ever happened. But Dan had seemed all right with trying to forget it had happened, for which Ryoma was utterly, utterly thankful, and he’d sworn from that day on that he was going to squash all the stupid feelings that had gotten him in so much trouble in the first place. Dan had seemed so… mortified by the whole thing; it gave Ryoma a stomachache just to think about the look on his face for too long. It wasn’t meant to be, and the quickest way back to being Dan’s friend was to forget all about it and pretend that he felt nothing more than the regular concern you were supposed to feel for your friends.
And so he was trying, and he desperately hoped it might be working. “Can you wipe down the counter?” he asked, glancing over one shoulder to see if Dan was still over there, so they could at least save time that way. “I c’n get the tables.”
"Ah, I'll be on it in a few," Dan poked his head above the counter as he replied. He ducked beneath the surface again, momentarily in a crouched position before he shifted to sit on his knees. Dan then continued where he briefly left off: stacking a few rolls of paper-towels, arranging the cleaning materials, and counting the menus for a second time, just to be sure they were all collected.
The days following the wedding had been, save for the normal flow of customers, incredibly relaxing around the café. Dan certainly had a vague idea of the responsibilities that were involved with such an event, but nothing could have prepared him for the amounts of stress and calamity that would take place on the actual day. Regardless, though, he had fun; seeing everyone dressed up, the joy that seemed to fill the air, and of course all of the wonderful food. Dan was grateful that he was able to contribute his time and ability to such an occasion. Even Yuuki herself had a blast, although Dan knew from the beginning that she would.
Dan got to his feet and began wiping down the dark-grey marbled surface with a damp cloth. After going through a mental checklist of things to do before leaving, he nodded to himself. Everything had been accounted for, as far as he was concerned. Yuuki already counted up the till and locked the register, the coffee-makers were clean and turned off, the ovens were shut down - along with the bread-maker. After working at the café for a decent amount of time, Dan had begun to feel a sense of pride about the place. As he continued with the counter-top, Dan quietly hummed one of the songs from the wedding to himself; it'd been in his head all day.
However, he stopped, briefly, to ask Ryoma, "We just have to stack the chairs once I'm done with this, right?" He glanced up (almost reluctantly, in a way), just to be extra sure that they hadn't missed anything.
“Yeah,” Ryoma replied quietly, “and I’ll finish wiping down the tables in a sec.” He was halfway across the floor with the mop already, and had to glance back at Dan to make sure he wasn’t going to run him over, but the other boy was still behind the counter and so Ryoma continued mopping around it, making sure the rest of the floor in the front of the café was clean before working his way to the small space between the counter and the kitchen door. “Don’t slip,” he advised, making sure Dan stepped out of the way, keeping carefully and respectfully far enough away so that they could preserve personal space. Damn, he wouldn’t have had to be so careful a few weeks ago, but no, he was stupid and there was nothing for it but to make sure Dan knew Ryoma wasn’t going to try anything again. He didn’t think he could handle another… disaster like the last one.
Finally finishing behind the counter, Ryoma stowed the mop in the small supply closet and went about the task of wiping down the tabletops. He found himself dragging, though – it was… nice, somehow, to be alone with Dan, even if the air was still different between them. They didn’t have to speak, and Ryoma was actually a little glad for that, since he somehow no longer seemed to really know what to say to Dan. It was hard – harder than he’d thought, harder than before – to want to say things, ask how he was doing, make sure things were all right, when he was worried that he’d slip up and say something that seemed wrong. Ryoma desperately hoped that this strange tension between them would fade with time – he wanted his best friend back, even if he knew that the only thing keeping them apart was himself, and his damned feelings. Until he knew for sure he could keep them in check, he had to keep his distance.
But now it was quieter in the café, and he heard – Dan, humming, something… familiar… From the wedding, Ryoma realized, one of the songs they’d played during the reception – not something Ryoma would listen to on his own, but he knew the song anyway. Trying to clear the air between them, trying to think of something that would start making things normal again, he cocked his head towards Dan, pausing in his task a moment. “That still stuck in your head from before?”
Being within such a close proximity to Ryoma never felt as daunting and awkward as it had over the past few weeks. In fact, Dan usually felt the opposite. He was supposed to enjoy the time he and Ryoma spent together, whether working, at school, practicing, or just doing nothing in general. Aside from Sengoku, Dan honestly could say that he'd never had a best friend of his own (Sengoku was more of a brother, and for one reason or another, that was on a separate level than "best friend"). Not even Akutsu. Of course, being around Akutsu was always fun (well, most of the time...), but despite how much Dan loved him, there'd always been a line splitting them in half. Maybe that was due to the way Dan felt, knowing that he more-or-less could expect a negative comment, or how he knew that Akutsu wasn't the "comforting type." Dan accepted it, though, because he wanted to be with Akutsu. He was all Dan could see.
As for Ryoma, however, Dan felt he would never understand. He didn't get how his love for Akutsu dwindled so shortly after their break-up. Obviously there was no denying that Dan still held feelings for his ex. As some people say: No matter what happens in life, you'll never truly forget about your first love. Dan wanted to believe that. Yet, with Ryoma... Dan knew, yet was clueless at the same time, about the facts regarding his feelings, and one Echizen Ryoma. And even though Sengoku told him that a person simply cannot control who they fall in love with (as Dan himself said all the time, back when people asked why in the world he was with a person like Akutsu Jin), Dan couldn't help feeling like a hypocrite, or possibly just hating himself for it all. He'd been with Akutsu for almost a year, and was very much in love; how could he love another so soon?
But he did. Dan just couldn't stop, either.
"Eh?" Dan blinked at the question. His mind had gone off on its own once again, for the umpteenth time over the past month. Sometimes it was soothing, given the thoughts of how Ryoma almost kissed him just wouldn't leave his memory, and by allowing day-dreams to take over, Dan wouldn't feel the pain or frustration from that night.
"Oh...!" A timid grin broke the puzzled expression, and he nodded. "It's been in my head almost all day. Yesterday, too." Dan glanced to Ryoma before sweeping off the register, finishing up. He lightly sang the chorus to the song while rinsing off the cloth and placing it in a large white bucket beneath the sink. The song was definitely one of those that everyone knew, not to mention it was fairly old, but Dan enjoyed it, regardless. It had a light, cheerful sound, and the lyrics were easy to remember, not to mention sweet. And if played at a wedding, it most definitely was about love, in one way or another.
“Oh. Okay,” Ryoma said quietly, wiping off a few more of the tables slowly, deliberately. It was a cheerful song, sure, but actually hearing the lyrics… he didn’t want to listen to something like that right now. He’d been mostly distracted at the wedding – either working or with Akaya, because in Ryoma’s mind the quickest way to quash anything he might be feeling for someone else was to lavish attentions upon his boyfriend, the one person whom he could be close to and it was all right to want to be that way.
But he wasn’t about to tell Dan to stop; he had a sweet voice, really, and it wasn’t like he sang all that often… Ryoma’d only heard him once or twice before, and that was mostly when he was being silly. Right now, sweet or not, it kind of hurt, but he was going to have to get over this if he wanted his life back the way it had used to be. So instead he closed his eyes for a moment, just moving the cloth back and forth over the table, and listened to Dan’s voice instead of the words. It was nice –
But it wouldn’t do to lose himself in it. Ryoma opened his eyes again and forced himself to finish wiping down the tables, slipping past Dan to rinse off the cloth and hang it up to dry in the back. Coming back out, he offered what he knew had to be a pathetically watery grin. “S’a cheesy song, you know.” He tilted a head to the chairs that needed stacking, hoping by the time they were done he’d feel all right again.
Dan allowed himself to silently watch Ryoma for a fraction of a moment. He then moved beyond the counter and onto the main eating area to begin stacking the chairs. As he did so, Dan slightly brushed past Ryoma; there wasn't a whole lot of space behind the counter. The touch barely registered in Dan's mind, he didn't quite feel it, yet immediately, he pulled his hand away. It was as though Ryoma's skin were toxic, like the variety of corrosive substances Dan worked with on occasion in his science class. While Dan was known to be on the clumsy side, he always took any precaution possible, in order to protect himself. Being around Ryoma, however, proved to be a different case; Dan decided that maybe this was better. Maybe it'd be better to burn. Dan bit down on his tongue to block out the sensation of his heart, but its pulse refused to settle down.
"Yeah, I know~" Dan stuck his tongue out playfully. He moved on to the next table and grabbed the closest chair before adding, "But a lot of love songs are like that, wouldn't you agree?" He cast a partial grin over to Ryoma, then focused on the second chair. "It may sound cheesy, but... Well I guess that's the point. Love can make you do things that you otherwise would think of as lame." Again, he bit his tongue. The tone in his voice softened a slight bit towards the end.
It's just painful, too. Dan grabbed the third.
He may not have made any outward indication, but Ryoma noticed when Dan brushed by him – and he noticed more when the other yanked his hand back as if he’d been burned. It made him want to die – maybe nothing had changed, maybe he’d ruined things far too badly for them to ever go back to the way they were. It made Ryoma want to scream and curse himself out and go back in time and freaking tie himself up so he couldn’t possibly ruin things the way he had.
He moved away from Dan, a few tables down, and grabbed a chair of his own, then a second, stacking it on top of the first. He worked on stacking chairs, taking deep breaths, trying to figure out what to do, what to say, to make it better. He didn’t know, didn’t know how to say anything other than…
I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, how do I fix it? Ryoma shut his eyes; he stopped stacking chairs, just stood there and after a moment opened his eyes again, staring at the small tower he’d constructed. “I c’n… why don’t you go. I can finish on my own, okay?” Shit, why did his throat feel so tight, it made the words sound choked and he was supposed to be okay. He was just offering to save Dan the work of moving these stupid chairs. That was all.
The silence between the two of them lingered, pulled taut like a rubber band about to snap. Dan fell into a routine of stacking the chairs like a machine, methodically grasping the frame in the same place, lifting and setting. The clatter of shifting the seats fell upon deaf ears.
"No!" Ryoma's suggestion was...sudden. As was Dan's reaction. By the time the response left his mouth, Dan's eyes widened; he certainly didn't intend that. He turned in the opposite direction as Ryoma and fidgeted with the next chair. "I-I mean, it's okay..." Dan corrected himself. His cheeks felt warm. "I...There isn't much left, but I don't mind staying. I-I like having someone to walk home with, s-so..." At least that much was true. Even though it'd been a while since Ryoma took the job at the café, and the fact that the two walked home on days where they shared the same shift, Dan never grew tired of having someone to be at his side. The café had its fair share of employees, but for a while, Yuuki and Dan (and often times Yuuki's brother) were the two who worked most often. Dan would close up on his own, or he'd go home before Yuuki did. Either way, he usually walked home or caught the bus on his own. Having Ryoma there was wonderful.
Dan swallowed down a lump in his throat before moving on to the next table; it was next to the one Ryoma just moved to, and the last two before they finished. "We don't get to close too often, or...or even work the same shift very much. So, it's okay." Dan paused, gripping the chair. His knuckles nearly began to pale.
"Ne..." Dan managed a small smile. He stared at the empty table in front of him. "Do you ever wonder if you'll be like that?" He made a fist, hidden from Ryoma's view, and then unclenched it. "I...I mean like at the wedding. C-can you actually see yourself in the same situation...?" Dan silently exhaled. What was he trying to ask, anyways? He shook his head lightly and laughed it off, a few moments later. He was thinking aloud, that's what. Yeah... "A-heh. Never mind, actually. It- It's so far to think about, after all..."
Ryoma nearly jumped at Dan’s refusal, but he nodded after a moment, inwardly both glad and not that Dan hadn’t wanted to leave. He liked spending time with Dan – even this strange, awkward weirdness was better than nothing – but on the other hand, this was hard and sometimes it was easier to just avoid the problem.
But it didn’t look like that’d be happening tonight. “… Okay,” he murmured softly, by way of apology, because if he started saying ‘sorry’ to Dan he might keep going and never stop. They continued stacking chairs, nearly done, before Dan spoke again. Ryoma couldn’t help himself; he turned around, blinking at Dan, at the question, feeling something inside want to run far, far away.
“… I…” He didn’t know how to answer something like that. Turning back to the chairs, grabbing the next one, Ryoma bit his lip. “I never thought about it,” he admitted honestly – hell, he hadn’t even been in his first relationship more than a few months, and with a boy no less. He’d honestly never, ever thought about it being himself up there, getting married, not even when he’d sat next to Akaya and Dan and watched Nanako and her new husband go through it. Never, not once. But now that Dan had said something…
“Doubt it, anyway,” he said quietly, because that was the only conclusion that came to mind. Akaya wouldn’t be with him forever, and he wasn’t particularly interested in most girls. Besides, even if he found one… well, he doubted that the one or two he’d be able to stand would want to stick around after they saw what he was really like. Because he didn’t even know what that was like anymore.
He wanted to ask Dan the same question, ask what he’d thought – had he envisioned himself there, with Akutsu, before? Ryoma shook his head – he didn’t want to know, didn’t want to think about that. “Could see you up there, though,” he muttered quietly – Dan would find someone, someone he loved that would marry him, and he’d be happy, and that was all Ryoma needed. Right?
Of course Dan mused over the idea of getting married, but that was different compared to actually seeing himself up at the altar as a groom. Maybe it was simply due to his inability to picture himself loving a female in that particular way, and how - even though it wasn't completely taboo, as far as he was concerned - having a same-sex marriage wasn't exactly the easiest thing in the world to pull off. There were times when Dan almost felt jealous of Marui and Taki.
The admission from Ryoma was, to a point, surprising. He really was able to see Dan up there like that? "Ah...well, I mean...Not in the actual groom position," Dan corrected what he meant to really ask: Could Ryoma picture himself loving another, maybe as much as a newly-wed couple? "But... But just...being i-in love, y'know..." Damn, his cheeks were still warm. Dan wasn't sure if he should bother turning to completely face Ryoma. Maybe after a few moments? "...I- ...It's such an incredible feeling, but so confusing and...w-well, scary..."
Dan's grip on the chair finally relaxed enough so he could stack it. Another bite to the tongue; Dan didn't quite stop with his comment, however. "L-love is... A-heh, like winning a game you thought would be literally impossible," he laughed quietly at the lame analogy. His voice wavered just slightly, and Dan closed his eyes for a moment. "...y-yet it hurts." He almost choked on the murmur. God damnit, Taichi. "T-the weight of it....it c-can be so suffocating..."
I know, was all Ryoma could think, biting down on his lip so hard he suddenly tasted blood; he wiped it off with the back of one hand, it wasn’t that much. I know, I fucking know, stop doing this to me. He wanted to scream, to ask Dan if he had any idea what he was doing to him, but he couldn’t, it would be all wrong, it would ruin everything even more, and he could barely take how badly he’d ruined them already.
“Yeah, well, not everybody wins,” he said, very quietly; fuck, he hoped Dan hadn’t heard that, he didn’t need to hear that, maybe Ryoma should leave before he made this any worse. Because he was going to, he could just feel it, he was going to snap if Dan kept going like this, what the hell kind of saint did the universe expect him to be? Because he wasn’t, plain and simple, and he was sick of trying to play one.
“I gotta be home,” he said shoving the chairs into the corner, going behind the counter without looking at Dan, grabbing his hat and his bag and Dan’s things too, shoving the brim down low and stopping in front of Dan, holding out the bag and not able – freaking not able – to look at him at all. How was this any better? “Are you coming?”
Dan swallowed, hard. Ryoma was on edge as well, it seemed. Dan couldn't make out the faint murmur, and from then, he didn't expect Ryoma to answer his question. Dan wasn't at all surprised.
What he did hear, however, just had to be a lie. Ryoma rarely ever had to "be at home." Dan knew that much, at least. He stood there by the table when Ryoma went to grab their things; jaw clenched, his eyes tingling from the burn of tears he forced away (which wasn't going to work). Dan drew in a slow, trembling breath, and then swallowed down the heavy air. It had to be now, he thought. All of this running around was going to send Dan to a padded white room if he didn't say something. Anything.
Without looking up quite yet, Dan reached out to grab Ryoma's wrist. "You d...don't have to ...be at home this mo...moment. I a-already know that." Dan's voice nearly cracked, though spoken almost in a whisper. His hand around Ryoma's wrist visibly trembled. "I'm c-coming, s-so d...don't worry. I'll..." another crack. Dan shivered, despite the warmth of a few escaped tears. "I'll f-follow. ....I'll follow y-you wherever you g-go. So...so p-please," the dam had been on the verge of bursting for so long, and Dan wasn't sure he could hold back his tears for much longer. "...p-please, d...don't...leave me behind..."
Oh, no – no, no, no. Ryoma was furious with himself all over again – what the hell had he just done? Dan must think he was angry, he was trying to apologize, when nothing was his fault. Ryoma just blinked at him, for a moment, not even realizing he’d turned and was just… staring at him; he winced as the other’s voice cracked, twice, he hadn’t meant it like this, he hadn’t meant –
“No – no, Dan, I’m…” His heart ached, physically hurt, he was so sick of doing this to his best friend. How many times had he seen Dan cry in the past few months, that wasn’t somehow related to him? The answer was none, absolutely none, and Ryoma hated that, hated it more than he’d hated almost anything else. Every single time this happened, he went blank, he didn’t know what to do, and this time he didn’t even trust himself to touch Dan, to try to make it better. He’d just do something wrong again.
“I’m not gonna leave you,” he said quietly, staring at the trembling hand clamped around his wrist. “I… don’t cry, I’m not –“
Ryoma swallowed. “Dan… you gotta tell me what to do. You gotta… what do I have to do? How’m I supposed to make this better?” It wasn’t fair, asking Dan, but Ryoma didn’t have a clue – he didn’t know what to do anymore, maybe Dan knew, maybe he could tell Ryoma what to do and they could forget about all of this. “I just want you back, okay?” he said, pleading, his throat felt tight again, how could he do this? “I know I messed up. Tell me what to do an’ I’ll do it, okay?”
Little by little, the walls to the dam began to break. Dan choked on another breath before he could properly exhale.
Stop it. Just...stop apologizing! You didn't - Dan shook his head, as if it would somehow organize his thoughts, or possibly rid the situation of all the insanity and frustration. Of course Dan knew that Ryoma would never leave him, but...well, damnit, it was more than just that! Maybe Dan wasn't sure of what to say, or possibly just how to say it, but that felt so surreal. Dan was able to tell Akutsu so easily; why was this all so intimidating now? Why??
Dan's hand slowly moved from Ryoma's wrist, up to his shoulder. Pale, quivering fingers hesitated briefly before grasping on to the fabric of Ryoma's shirt, almost clinging to him. "I -" Dan started. The tears streamed heavily down Dan's flushed cheeks, he barely managed to bring his eyes to meet Ryoma's face. "But...you didn't mess up... S-stop saying y-you're s- ...s-sorry all the time!" The hand made a fist, and the shirt twisted within Dan's grasp, but he couldn't hold it for long. "A-and you don't need me b-back, w...w-when you already have me. I just... "
Dan leaned his forehead to Ryoma's shoulder. His slight frame wavered as he continued to half-cling to his best friend.
Ryoma felt like Dan might as well have thrown a bucket of cold water in his face. What? He heard what Dan was saying… and then he heard what Dan was saying, or at least what he desperately wanted Dan to be saying, but was that… actually it? He didn’t dare mistake it for what he wanted to hear, but…
Well right now there were more important things, anyway. Dan was clinging to him like Ryoma was the only thing holding him up, and he was still crying, and Ryoma swallowed a lump in his own throat and swore on everything he cared about that he was not going to do something wrong, and carefully, tentatively, put arms around Dan, because right now he could pretty much figure how Dan felt, because not so long ago it had been him, and Eiji-sempai, and…
“Feels like I lost you,” he said quietly, one hand rubbing lightly between Dan’s shoulder blades; he remembered that had felt good, that had helped, and it was okay, right? “You don’t… really talk to me anymore an’ I don’t really talk to you an’ I don’t wanna be like this, Dan.” He didn’t want to be the reason Dan cried, and he didn’t want it to hurt so damned much every time he even thought about walking into the same room as his best friend. “You gotta tell me why I keep makin’ you cry.” Because he was obviously doing something wrong, and if Dan could tell him how to stop, he would. Because if apologies wouldn’t do, then he needed to try something else.
Dan almost wanted to laugh. Apparently, the fact that his head was spinning, and his heart aching, wasn't enough. The seconds ticked by like molasses. Dan continued to cling to Ryoma, already knowing that if he let go, his knees would give way.
By no means did Dan aim to be rude, but was Ryoma genuinely that oblivious to what Dan was trying to say? Because it certainly appeared as such. Or, just possibly, Ryoma was still confused. Hell, even Dan remained in a state of not knowing exactly what to do, what to say. Even though he did know, all at the same time. Dan was more than positive that Ryoma wouldn't respond negatively, too. If he did, then...yeah, that almost-kiss really was a mistake. But why would Ryoma be as torn up about it?
Dan clenched the shirt's material again. The sensation of having Ryoma's arms around him nearly made Dan sob; instead, though, his breath hitched, and a fresh set of tears spilled down Dan's face. "I d-don't wanna be like this, e-either," he managed to reply. Another sob welled up within Dan, and he nearly choked on it, his face twisting as though to hold it back again. "But I don't know w-what to say, when t-the only answer is...is that you b-being you makes me cry." Dan's fist clenched again, his knees gradually turning to jello. "A-and...and that I'm just making m-myself cry ...because o-of the fact that a-all I can think a...about is you, even ...even though I should be w-working on getting over h-him. And I've b-been hating myself f-for feeling that way, but I can't help it anymore, a-and I just...I can't..."
He pressed closer to Ryoma without needing to think about it. Dan couldn't find his words for nearly a minute then, as the tears burned his throat, his head throbbing. The fact that he and Ryoma continued to stand within the café was beyond Dan's knowledge at this point.
The first part of that managed to turn Ryoma's stomach cold – well, now there really was no mistaking that he was making Dan cry. How was he supposed to fix that...?
But that wasn't all Dan said, and the rest of it was like another bucket of cold water in Ryoma's face. He... didn't even know what to say to that, it was something he'd pretty much never expected to hear, especially after Dan had been avoiding him so deliberately for weeks now. But he definitely wasn't avoiding Ryoma now – Ryoma was very acutely aware of how close Dan was, pressed against him, and he tightened his grip a little as Dan shifted, because it felt like he might fall otherwise. Dan was still crying, and Ryoma was still trying to process what was going on but he had to say something now.
“Hey, c'mon,” he said softly, like he was talking to Karupin, as his mind was still racing, panicking, he had to do something and he wasn't even sure what to do. He'd pretty much been waiting for this moment for who the hell knew how long, and now that it was on top of him he couldn't think of a single thing to say.
... Then maybe he shouldn't say anything at all. Maybe it really was time to do something and not be afraid of it, because Echizen Ryoma hated feeling timid, afraid, and he hated holding back. He reached up with one hand, trying to brush the tears from Dan's cheeks, his heart pounding but he had to do this, and if it really did go badly – but maybe it wouldn't! - then at least they'd both have their answer. He had to take this risk, because he couldn't take this anymore, and it had to end. Right now.
It wasn't that hard – he and Dan were nearly identical in height, all he had to do was tilt Dan's trembling chin up so he could press lips to the other's, carefully, closing his eyes and tasting saltwater and determined not to pull back until Dan knew that he wasn't the only one who was sick of hating himself for thinking about things he was sure he shouldn't. Ryoma'd learned that a kiss could say a lot – a lot more than you could say with words, and he just hoped he would be able to tell Dan everything so he'd understand.
For just one moment - an extremely long one, at that - Dan felt as though someone reached into his chest and wrapped a hand around his heart in what could only be described as a death grip. Even his tears stalled within that time, as he stood there, practically latched onto Ryoma. Dan couldn't breathe properly; Ryoma was even closer than before, their bodies more or less flush against each other. They were so close, in fact, that Dan swore he could feel the frantic beating of Ryoma's heart against his own, and in that instant, Dan wanted to soothe it. All of the stress and tension within Ryoma, and how, really, it had accumulated between both of them.
Dan wasn't able to kiss back immediately, as he desired to. A slight tremble continued to work its way through his body, even up to his lips and chin; he wondered idly if his teeth were chattering, as well. Dan leaned into the gentle touch upon his cheek without ever giving it a thought; his face remained warm, and though Ryoma's hand was about the same temperature, Dan didn't care, it wasn't even something to think about.
The time that Dan took continued to drift past like clouds on a lazy summer day, until finally, he lifted his free hand. It wavered, hesitant for just a fraction of a second, before Dan placed it upon Ryoma's cheek. Dan felt his fingers curling against the warm skin, and his eyes finally closed. He returned the kiss tentatively at first, given how overwhelmed he already was, and how - despite the relief - his body remained in a weak state, in regards to holding himself upright.
It didn't matter, though. Dan didn't really care if he fell to his knees.
The kiss only lasted for so long before Dan felt his breath hitch for another time. The grip he held on Ryoma's shirt, tightened. "I-It's not a mistake," He murmured, barely audible. "It's not a mistake; it's n-not a...mistake at a-all..." Dan shook his head faintly, and his hand that rest upon Ryoma's cheek slid down before wrapping around to the back of his neck. A fresh layer of tears spilled down Dan's face, and he leaned in a bit closer, his forehead to Ryoma's for a moment.
"So don't a-apologize," Dan managed. "P..please d-don't apologize anymore."
For a moment Ryoma thought his heart would explode – what if Dan ran away, like before –
But then Dan didn’t pull away – he leaned closer, returning the kiss tentatively, and Ryoma felt like he wanted to die all over again, but this time of relief. The arms around Dan tightened a little; trying to keep him close, though there didn’t seem to be any fear of Dan running away again this time. Dan’s hand against his cheek felt like it was setting his skin on fire, but he resisted the urge to lean closer – this wasn’t Akaya, and he still didn’t… quite feel like this was real.
They pulled apart, bodies still close, and Ryoma was afraid to open his eyes, even as he heard Dan speak in a quiet, stuttering voice. “Hey… only f’you don’t cry anymore,” he said softly – he didn’t need to see Dan’s face in front of him to feel the tears still sliding down his cheeks, making it feel like Ryoma himself was crying even though he wasn’t. He finally opened his eyes, taking a deep breath, feeling like he was breathing Dan in as the other’s breath mixed with his own.
“I… didn’t think you would…” Ryoma started, but he wasn’t quite sure how to finish it. Would what? Feel the same way? Kiss him without running away? He didn’t even know, but whatever he had been so sure couldn’t possibly happen… seemed to suddenly have proved him wrong. And suddenly it made a lot more sense, why Dan had been avoiding him for so long, why things had been so strained, even before they’d almost kissed weeks ago. “… S’that what’s been bothering you?” It seemed clear as day now, and Ryoma couldn’t believe how thoroughly he’d managed to convince himself it was the complete opposite.
"Sometimes I...guess I just can't help it." Dan almost wanted to laugh. He knew the tears would gradually cease, anyways. It'd been a long time since Dan had cried that much, that hard, and even longer since he first told himself that he wouldn't cry as often as he used to. But as he just told Ryoma: it wasn't always easy. Sometimes crying was the only thing that a person could do, unless they wanted to bottle up how they felt, until it backfired on them. Dan felt that he must be a different kind of person, then. His nerves finally snapped, and he cried, at the same time.
Dan lifted his eyes to meet Ryoma's, and again, he nearly succumbed to the desire of wanting to laugh. It would've been an amusing sight, at least. With Dan's flushed, tear-stained cheeks, the watery gleam to his dark gaze, and a smile that appeared to waver, one would probably think Dan was going crazy. Maybe he was. Dan wasn't sure of that at the exact moment, but he also didn't care what others would think of what he looked like. Right now, it was just he and Ryoma.
The expression faded when Ryoma spoke again, shifting to one with almost a bittersweet quality. Dan lowered his eyes for a moment, thinking. He then replied, quietly, "Yeah..."
Loving someone was troublesome, Dan knew. It'd been especially so with Akutsu, even though Dan hated to admit it. In Ryoma's case, in addition to the frustration and trouble, Dan had been in pain. He never was able to separate himself completely from Ryoma, however; no matter how hard he tried, or needed to. Dan saw Ryoma during school, practice, on the job at times... There was no absolute escape. Although, Dan never felt that he wanted to. As things were, Ryoma was all that Dan was able to think about, and a person couldn't exactly separate their mind from their body.
"All this time," Dan continued. He moved his hand down Ryoma's neck before shifting it down and around his waist, and as he held Ryoma close, Dan buried his face in the crook of his throat. "I've just been loving you, y-yet trying so hard not to," Dan barely spoke above a whisper. He silently accepted that another set of tears surfaced. "But it won't stop, a-and I... I don't think I care anymore, because it's all I want, and you're all I c-can see, and I j-just..." Dan shivered as though the air-conditioner turned itself on, despite not. He let out a slow breath and nuzzled closer, his voice still barely at a whisper. "...I just...love you. I..I want to be by your s-side and never fall behind, or to let you go and - "
By now Ryoma felt like his knees were going to give way. He hadn't known at all what he'd expected Dan to say, after that, but... it hadn't been anything like that. And he wasn't sure what to say back to something like that – his mouth opened, but nothing came out for a minute, as a billion different things raced through his mind, until he didn't know what he wanted to say and settled for trying to process the arm around his waist, the face buried against his neck (and the fresh set of tears soaking into his skin), the scent of Dan's hair just centimeters from his face.
“... Me too,” was all he could say, hoarsely, finally, trying to pull Dan closer against him and resting his forehead a moment against the top of Dan's head, suddenly wondering how much of this he might've been able to prevent if he'd just... said something, ever. It was clear now just how much this had been hurting Dan, and that hurt, in return because he realized he could've done something about it. But he'd been so sure he couldn't say anything, that Dan could never feel the same way, that Dan was off-limits because he'd been in love with someone else...
He could go around in circles for hours like this, but it wasn't going to change anything now. And right now, he had exactly what he wanted, so going around in circles about it seemed more than a little pointless. He had to do something about it now, and just... standing here, intoxicating though it was to simply be holding Dan after... months, maybe even a year of wanting to... well, they had to do something about it, now, didn't they?
Well - he did. “I gotta... I'll talk to Akaya,” he said softly, but firmly – Akaya would understand, wouldn't he? They – well, Ryoma had to admit, he liked being with Akaya, a lot - but if Dan was right here, right now, and... well. Yeah. Akaya would understand. Ryoma'd explain it, and apologize, because Akaya probably deserved that, and... “If you want me to, I c'n... I'll talk to him tomorrow. If you wanna... do...” Do what? Date? He felt his cheeks flush, uncharacteristically. It was a question he'd wanted to ask Dan for a long, long time. And never could, until now. “If you... wanna go out with me?”
This time, Dan really did laugh. It was quite a bubbly sound, amused, if rather sudden, given the situation. But Dan couldn't help it. The weights were finally beginning to ease themselves from Dan's chest and shoulders, and especially his mind. He wondered briefly if this was all that needed to happen; did he need to wait so long? If he spoke up earlier, Dan mused, would he still have broken down in such a drastic manner? He most definitely was one of those emotional types, sometimes too much for his own good, but to nearly crumble to his feet, that wasn't something Dan often did.
The mention of Kirihara yanked Dan back to his senses, and immediately felt as though his stomach lurched. Dan's primary reason for delaying (and often denying) his feelings for Ryoma was due to how recent his break-up with Akutsu had been, and the fact that Dan would need a good amount of time in order to recover. The other reason, however, was obvious: Ryoma was not, and is not, single. And splitting up a couple wasn't something Dan ever wanted to do; he never wanted to be 'the other person', so to speak. Dan could see that Ryoma was happy with Kirihara, yet...yet here they were. A part of Dan didn't understand exactly what was happening; it sure came out to be that Ryoma planned to break it off with Kirihara, though.
"I- " Dan closed his mouth before saying anything else. Opposed to only several minutes ago, he now felt as though he couldn't speak.
Dan lifted his head once again; Ryoma's flushed cheeks made Dan want to giggle and poke them, given how sweet they looked. Instead, Dan pressed a soft, lingering kiss to one of them. He didn't need to answer Ryoma's question (maybe Ryoma asked because he was just as frazzled by this all as Dan happened to be). Dan simply continued to hold Ryoma tight, nervous yet excited for what would happen, or what would be said next.
Ryoma, feeling a little silly by now, couldn't help the small smile that turned his lips upward. “I'll take that as a yes,” he said, feeling a little giddy, still – everything was happening so fast, all of a sudden, he'd barely had time to process it. But... yes – he'd talk to Akaya tomorrow. It. was definitely sudden, but... Akaya seemed to treat their relationship as something fun, to be enjoyed while it lasted, but not... well, it wasn't something he wouldn't let go of. Not if Ryoma asked in the way he was planning on asking. And Ryoma would miss him a lot, yes, but he saw Akaya every day and now that they'd gotten to know each other, he thought that maybe, just maybe, they would be able to pull a decent friendship out of this. Ryoma didn't give his friendship to just anyone, but Akaya'd proven himself more than a few times over. He didn't have to let go completely. They'd work something out. It would work. It had to.
Because now there was Dan. Still standing here, he was of the vague opinion that he never wanted to let go of Dan ever again – but that wouldn't quite be conducive to dealing with this, Ryoma thought wryly. Glancing down at Dan – and his still slightly tear-stained cheeks, his body seemed to go on autopilot. "Hey... c'mon, you should sit down," he said quietly, passing a hand lightly over Dan's dark hair; he definitely didn't want to pull away, even for a second, but he forced himself to move, took Dan's hand and led him over to the last two chairs that they hadn't stacked yet, making sure the other sat down so he could get him something for his face. Heading quickly into the kitchen, Ryoma grabbed a washcloth and ran it under warm water and coming back out to the front, carefully wiping Dan's cheek's with it.
“... Really didn't mean to make you cry so much,” he admitted, watching Dan's face carefully, making sure the other's bangs didn't get plastered to his damp forehead.
Dan exhaled quietly, slowly as he waited for Ryoma to return from the kitchen. Once all of the crying came to an end, Dan's head began to throb more than it had earlier. He closed his eyes for several moments, taking in slow, deep breaths. The last time Dan could remember crying so hard was when... he wasn't even sure. Dan briefly thought that it possibly was when he realized that his break-up with Akutsu was real; not just a threat, as such things did occur. Or maybe, Dan's memory drifted, when he first learned of his grandmother's passing. For now, Dan would assume that he simply didn't know, due to the throb within his head.
"Maybe I just bring it on myself," Dan spoke lightly. Taking responsibility for all and any kind of action seemed to be within Dan's nature - he knew very well that Ryoma was sincere, yet at the same time, Dan knew that he himself was to blame as well, for the tears. However, to save his head from any further pain, Dan settled with the fact that both he and Ryoma were to blame.
Dan's eyes remained closed as Ryoma gently ran the damp cloth over his face. Even the kind, and most simple of gestures made him want to smile. So he did so, and said a soft, "Thank you." Dan opened his eyes after that; although a tinge of red lined them, they gleamed with a sense of relief and hope.
“Hey, this time was my fault,” Ryoma replied, exhaling – and feeling as though a weight he hadn’t even realized he’d been carrying lifted as the air rushed out of his lungs. Things were going to be… very different now, he thought, but maybe that was how they needed to be, because things being the same just… hadn’t solved anything, that was for sure. So maybe change was exactly what they needed. Ryoma wasn’t sure how to act, from here on out, but he figured it couldn’t be all that hard. He was pretty sure he could start with the way he used to treat Dan – like someone he looked forward to seeing every day, instead of someone that just made him hurt inside. Hopefully that would make them both a lot happier from here on out.
Dan definitely looked happier now; Ryoma hoped this would be the last time he saw his best friend cry for a long, long time. And if not, then he hoped that it would be the last time it was his fault, and the last time he felt so damned helpless to do anything about it. He offered Dan a small smile, rubbing the tip of his nose playfully with the cloth. “You feel better now, though?” He knew he did, for one – no matter what happened now, Dan loved him –
The thought was dizzying, Dan loving him, but it was exciting at the same time. He barely knew what to do next – the fact that they were still at work, that they had to finish putting the chairs away and lock up was just starting to trickle back into awareness. “We should finish up here.”
The smile that edged its way across Dan's lips could almost be taken as timid, or possibly even insecure. But it was his only response for Ryoma, at the moment. The gentle tap upon his nose, as simple as it was, made Dan feel warm inside; he was thankful to see a smile on Ryoma's face. Over the years of getting to know him, Dan knew that Ryoma's smile wasn't something that many were able to witness. Dan considered himself lucky. It wouldn't surprise Dan if he were to learn of others who wished for Ryoma to liven up a bit, be more cheerful & the like - in fact, Dan probably knew some of those people already. It made him wonder. A genuine smile from him... Dan often mused. He decided that a smile from Ryoma was a gift. Not one of those smirks that Dan often saw him giving to opponents, but a simple, true smile. They never failed to make Dan feel warm and just plain good.
"Ah-! Yeah, we probably should." Dan glanced to his right; there were five chairs left, including the one he currently occupied. I guess I didn't see those... Once he stood, Dan went to grab one of the other chairs to stack.
They finished less than a few minutes later. Dan went back to where he and Ryoma were standing, before Dan had nearly broken down altogether, and bent down to pick up his bag. "It'll be nice to have a bit more free time, now that the wedding is over," he spoke while making his way back to Ryoma's side. Of course, school and practice still took up a fair amount of their time, but, damn, the wedding took quite a bit out of their schedules. Now, especially after all that had happened only several minutes ago, Dan knew that he was going to be able to relax. No more worrying over the fact that he was in love, so soon after a break-up; no more forcing himself to avoid Ryoma whenever possible; he no longer had to crush down the need to kiss Ryoma...
...Dan flushed in amusement, but smiled anyhow.
"Shall we?" He turned to Ryoma with a small, half-grin, and nodded to the door.
The rest of the cleaning went quickly – they’d already done most of it before… that had happened, so within minutes Dan and Ryoma were ready to leave and lock up, for real this time. Seeing Dan retrieve his bag, Ryoma finished putting away the washcloths and strode over to the center of the room to take his own, shouldering it and glancing around to make sure everything really was done.
He sighed, but not in frustration or exasperation; he felt so… relieved, really, and now a little anxious. Things were going to change – and very quickly – and while he definitely wanted that change, he felt like none of this was real until they stepped out that door, into the rest of the world – while they were in here, everything was still private, still quiet. If they started dating… well, everyone was going to notice. And while Ryoma didn’t care about that, per se, it was something to consider. It was like they were making a major decision, right here, right now, that would affect the rest of their lives once they left the café.
Well, the decision had pretty much been made. And Ryoma didn’t regret that part of it one bit. “Yeah,” he said, reaching over to take Dan’s hand, pull him close beside himself, reveling in the fact that he could do that. “I think we’re done here.”
It was rather nice to be similar in size to Ryoma; their hands fit together in just the right sort of way. Dan immediately twined his fingers with Ryoma's and gave his hand a gentle squeeze. It still felt so surreal, too perfect. Dan nearly felt that his heart would burst from his chest at any given moment; the rapid pulse continued to thrum away, practically making Dan shiver. It leapt to his throat on occasion, resulting in the need to giggle or simply run around. Dan was hyper, so it seemed. His head, while still a bit achy, spun with the endless possibilities of how to answer the question that - more than likely - he and Ryoma alike probably had on their minds at this very moment: What now?
"Mn," Dan nodded in agreement. He took a quick glance around the room, double checking the mental list of the things that needed to be taken care of before closing up. Yep, they'd taken care of everything. However, Dan couldn't move quite yet. A part of him didn't want to think about the What now? part. He didn't want to leave the privacy of the cafe, or even the inevitable fact that he and Ryoma would eventually part until seeing each other the next day. No, Dan wanted to freeze time, even for a few moments.
"Ne..." he suddenly murmured, eyes still fixed on the front door.
Hyper... Dan was still incredibly jittery, or even intoxicated; exhilarated, relieved, tired, but so very happy. He swallowed down the lump before glancing to Ryoma. The same, slight grin with an odd concoction of playfulness and hesitation drew across Dan's face. He turned to completely face Ryoma, tugging his hand to bring Ryoma to face him.
He leaned in close enough for their foreheads to touch. A light giggle escaped despite Dan's attempt to hold it back, but he ignored it, still smiling and flushing as he spoke. "I think it's okay, now..."
Ryoma blinked, looking at Dan, watching the small smile grow on the other's face. “... Yeah,” was all he could think of to say, pretty sure he knew what Dan wanted him to do, hoping that it really was okay as he gave in to temptation, leaning forward to brush his lips lightly to the other's. When Dan didn't pull away, Ryoma added a little more pressure, then more, feeling like he was learning to kiss all over again when he knew he already knew perfectly well how to do it. It was just so... different, somehow – he was still trying to tell Dan everything he could with just this simple action but somehow, he was pretty sure that Dan understood. He understood everything.
Ryoma's mind was spinning, landing on the oddest things: like the fact that they were so close in height that he didn't have to even really tilt his head, or the way Dan's hand fit so perfectly into his own. He wanted to remember everything about tonight, about the way Dan felt, and he never wanted to forget. Ryoma's fingers tightened around Dan's as time seemed to stop and that was just fine with him. He wanted this moment to last forever; even though he knew it couldn't, the promise of many more just like this to come was far more than enough for him.
The slightest hint of a shiver prickled its way along Dan's skin, down his arms and through his fingers. Dan almost wanted to say that every kiss should feel like this one; like a current of electricity crackled through the body's veins. He returned the squeeze to Ryoma's hand, as well as the brief, yet lingering kiss. Their noses brushed, nearly bumping together, making Dan want to smile or laugh; instead, he used the moment to nuzzle his nose to Ryoma's.
After one more kiss, Dan reluctantly pulled away. While they were definitely in private, Dan didn't want to risk anything. His pulse felt like it was shivering, his body over-heating, in addition to already being warm. If they kissed again, Dan didn't know if he was going to be able to smother down all of those temptations. He'd done so for such a long time; now that doing such things was okay, Dan wasn't sure how long it'd be until he snapped. He wouldn't want to let Ryoma go.
Dan adjusted his bag over his shoulder and let out a deep breath. Things were going to be fine. It was certain. "Let's go," Dan glanced to Ryoma, before pushing open the glass door in front of them. He dug the set of keys from his pocket, and once the doors were secure, he and Ryoma turned to head home. Taking the long way sounded like a nice plan tonight.