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    Seeing Reita happy was one of the things Uruha hated most.

    It sounded like a terrible thing to say, and sometimes he did feel a bit guilty about it. Reita deserved to be happy. He was a good man. But Uruha just couldn't stand to see Reita happy with someone else.

    He thought he had taken it pretty well when Reita had started dating Chikako. She was a nice girl, warm and friendly, confident enough to not hide behind Reita. He could stand quietly behind her and be the way he always had been, shy and reserved. Uruha admittedly had liked her a bit himself when he'd met her. Sure, he was jealous of the time he lost, but it was worth it to see Reita cheer up a bit, so he had smiled and wished his friend a good time on his nights out.

    But the time became more and more. He saw Reita less and less. Chikako became more present. But when he'd really come to resent her was when he saw Reita kiss her. That itself had killed him. It hadn't been a special kiss, either - just a quick, affectionate peck when she had left one night. But it had made Uruha explode with a jealous rage, his hand tightening into a fist in his coat pocket.

    "You okay?" Reita had asked.

    "Yeah, I'm fine. Why?"

    "You look a little peaked."

    "I'm just stressed," Uruha had lied. "The tour's coming up."

    "Well, let's get to practising then."

    The blonde hadn't changed at all. He was still kind, still laughed, still close to him and teased him, those dark amber eyes bright when they were together. But it was different. It was different from the way Reita looked at her. Uruha had thought that gaze was his, but it wasn't.

    He couldn't bring himself to say anything. Reita was happy with her, and he deserved it. Even if Uruha hated it, even if he obsessed over what they could be doing when they were alone together who knew where, he couldn't ruin Reita's joy for any reason. So he sulked in his room, angry and depressed, crying to himself when Reita's actions from the day hinted at maybe sex that night.

    Uruha had always been a bit of a drinker, but he had always tried to not let on that he hit it harder when Reita was in a relationship. He drank to try and distract himself, knock himself out, make the memories and thoughts and obsessions go away for even a little while. Usually it worked. Sometimes it didn't, and it made things worse.

    "Did you get drunk last night?" Reita asked one morning as Uruha came into the practise room.

    "What makes you think so?"

    "I know when you've had a bad night of drinking. You can't hide it from me at this point."

    Uruha hefted the guitar, slinging it over a shoulder. "What would it matter if I got drunk?"

    "It matters because lots of things can go wrong if you get too tipsy. I don't mind looking after you, Uru, but I can't do it all the time."

    "You could," Uruha muttered to himself.

    "What was that?"

    "Nothing." He tried to strangle his frustration so Reita wouldn’t hear it. "Sorry. It happens."

    "You need to tone down. Do I need to check you in to Alcoholics Anonymous?"

    "If you did, I'd kick your ass so hard."

    Reita laughed now, picking up his bass and laying it in his lap. "You would."

    "I'd take great pleasure of it."

    "Don't get your hopes up. Just don't drink so much, okay? I worry about you."

    "Do you?" Uruha asked. He knew it wasn't what he wanted, but hearing any sort of affection was something he was desperate for.

    "You know I do. You're my best friend, come on." He strummed a few strings, tuning them carefully. "If I didn't worry about you, something would be wrong." When Uruha looked away, the blonde continued, inquiring, "I mean, you worry about me, right?"

    "Worry? What's there to worry about? You're sober, you quit smoking, you have a girlfriend." Uruha tried to swallow back his bitter feelings. "You've got it all figured out."

    "So, you don't worry about me."

    "I do, idiot."

    "Then act like it." Reita leaned forward and hit him lightly. "Jerk."

    Uruha stuck out his tongue and began tuning his guitar. "Fine, when you need someone to come pick you up, you call me."

    "Deal. And don't let the alcohol ruin practise."

    "God, okay, give it up already."

    "You two are so cute when you argue," Aoi said as he came into the room, setting down his guitar case and bag next to his chair. "Having a little fight?"

    "Shut up, Aoi."

    Aoi's black eyes glanced at Uruha, and he looked down, averting his gaze. Aoi was probably the only one that knew. Then again, they were so close all the time, there was no way Aoi wouldn't know about that. About why he faltered when he saw Reita texting someone else. Why he shut down during conversations about girlfriends. Why, when Reita wouldn't answer his phone at night, Uruha drank himself half to death.

    "A simple no would suffice," Aoi replied as he sat.

    "Not with you it doesn't."

    "Oh Reirei, don't start a fight with me too. You know I hate arguing in front of the children."

    Reita rolled his eyes, though a smile was on his lips. Uruha let his gaze trace Reita's face, taking in everything about his expression for the hundredth time so far today. He plucked disinterestedly at his guitar while Reita and Aoi continued squabbling lightly, his fingers playing out a tune without even needing his mental engagement. He ended up staring at Reita's mouth, the soft curve, his perfect lips with just the right colour tingeing the skin.

    "No fights," Kai's voice said as he entered too. "Take it outside, kids."

    "We're done, no arguing going on here."

    Ruki arrived soon after, so they started practise, and the music, and the activity, put Uruha's mind at ease so he was able to focus and simply let his worries fade away. It wasn't out of line to get up and press against Reita then, lean on him or elbow him teasingly and steal the contact he needed that was becoming incredibly rare. The contact was what he craved and needed. Seeing Reita was enough to make him happy, but touch soothed him. Reita was smiling as they rubbed against each other, shoving Aoi off with his other elbow. And Uruha felt much happier. It made the time in the studio practising fly.

    He was happy until they were packing up. Then he heard Kai and Reita talking on the other side of the room while he was wiping down his guitar.

    "They're good, then?"

    "Yeah, they're really good," Reita's low, smooth voice was saying. "We're going out tonight, she said she had something really special planned. It's our first anniversary. I knew it was something like that, but..."

    "Geez, you know better than Uruha how long you two have been with each other, but you can't remember with her?"

    Uruha felt a savage bit of triumph as Kai said it.

    "Hey, I know generally how long it's been. I probably couldn't tell you to the date when Uruha and I met. Anyway, it's our first anniversary. And I think everything's going really well."

    "A year is a good amount of time."

    "I'm thinking maybe she's the one. Maybe it's time I marry her."

    Uruha didn't realize his heart had stopped, or that he had stopped breathing, until his mind registered how much agony his body was in. He took a deep, shuddering breath as Kai asked, "Oh, you're that serious?"

    "Of course I am. She's been good about everything and she's stuck by me this far. No real complaints about my hours or how much I'm gone. She and Uruha get along, and you all seem to like her."

    Uruha laughed bitterly to himself. Get along? He'd been wanting to tear her face off for months. Couldn't Reita see the forced smiles or how he would leave, or how every time he knew Reita and Chikako would be spending the night together, he showed up hung over the next day? How could he not, when he was so good at seeing everything else?

    "Do you love her, though?"

    "Hey, I'll walk you to your car," came Aoi's voice, and Uruha looked up at his friend, who was shifting the strap of his guitar bag on his shoulder. Aoi jerked his head towards the door. "Let's go."

    "Yeah, sure," Uruha replied, surprised at how steady his voice was. He hurriedly put his guitar in its bag and stood up, heading straight for the exit. "I'm ready to get out of here."

    "Uru?"

    He didn't say anything when Reita called his name. He just walked straight out, fighting back the burning tears that were blurring his vision. Aoi kept up with him, and to his relief, didn't say anything until they were out in the parking lot. Then he said, "It's okay, Ussan."

    "Shut the fuck up, Aoi." Uruha pulled out his keys and unlocked his door, practically throwing his guitar in the backseat. He didn't care what happened to it. He felt like his chest was going to explode. "I'll see you later."

    "Call if you need me, okay?"

    "Sure. Bye."

    Uruha was glad his body could drive on autopilot, because there was no way he could focus now. He was lost in his own thoughts, in the tidal wave of anguish and feelings of betrayal. Reita, his lifelong partner, who had promised he'd always be there, was going to marry someone else and leave him all alone. Uruha tried hard to keep the tears back, but they were rolling down his face by the time he pulled in to his apartment's parking. He sat in the car for a few minutes, trying vainly to dry them so he wouldn't be seen crying. Once his sleeves were completely soaked, he gave it up. He fled the car, leaving his guitar inside, and went straight to his apartment. He slumped into his couch and pulled his knees up to his thin chest, hugging them tightly.

    "It isn't fair! I've always been here, I've always loved you! Why not me... why don't you choose me..."

    Uruha cried into his knees for awhile, trying not to picture Reita and Chikako together, what they were doing tonight, Reita's lean, strong body over Chikako, his slim hips and long fingers and powerful arms... his voice whispering in her ear, his voice growling roughly as he -

    "No, stop..."

    But it wouldn't. His amber eyes ablaze, his blonde hair, damp with sweat, clinging to his face and neck... Uruha tried not to picture it, but he couldn't keep himself from it. He wanted it. But he wasn't going to have it, and he couldn't admit to his friend how he felt. Why would he mess anything up? He could never tell Reita.

    Overwhelmed with rage at himself, and at Reita for not noticing, of all things, how he felt, Uruha got up and stormed to the kitchen. Beer, wine, anything. Anything. He cracked open a beer and chugged it, savouring the thick taste and how the faint alcohol flooded his system. Throwing the empty can aside, he picked up another and drank it all down. Feeling a bit sluggish, he slumped to his bedroom and curled up in bed, pulling his covers over his head and suppressing more roiling feelings of betrayal and agony.

    "You were supposed to notice, like you did with everything else..."

    Uruha tried to calm down, tried to take deep breaths and tell himself everything would be okay, but after failing several times, he crawled back out to the living room and dug in his bag for his phone. He found he'd missed a couple of calls from Reita, a voice message. Feeling hope though he knew he shouldn't, he listened.

    <Just checking to make sure you're okay. You didn't seem like you were feeling well when you left. Text and let me know you're okay. I don't like feeling like I have to worry about you. Anyway, have a good night, Kou. I'll talk to you tomorrow.>

    His heart sank lower as he listened to it. Reita felt like he was a burden. Of course he did. He had someone else to put all his attention on now. No room for anyone else, not even someone who had been by him and loved him far longer than that slut of a girl would ever be able to. Uruha pressed his phone to his forehead, once more trying to calm himself. That wasn't true. Reita just didn't want to worry. He wanted to feel like everything was alright. It didn't mean he didn't care. But those words felt empty and like lies.

    The phone rang, and he almost dropped it in surprise. But he answered when he saw who it was. "Hello."

    "You okay, Ussan?" Aoi asked.

    "What do you think?" Uruha asked, curling up again.

    "Sorry. Hey, it's fine. No need to be upset, okay?"

    "Will you come over?"

    It was a mumble, so he wasn't surprised when Aoi said, "I didn't catch that. Say it again."

    "Come over. I need you."

    A pause. "Uruha -"

    "I need you."

    He heard the darker one sigh a bit, but he said, "Okay. I'm on my way. Please try to be sober when I'm there."

    Uruha hung up and slammed the phone down. Fuck that. He went to the fridge and started drinking as much as he could. He didn't want to be sober for Aoi's visits. By the time he heard the doorbell ring, he'd gone through another two cans of beer and half a bottle of whiskey, and had started on a bottle of wine. Feeling the familiar drunken fog settling in, he pushed himself up, left the bottle on the counter, and stumbled to the front door.

    "Hey," he said to Aoi, waving him inside sluggishly. "Come in."

    "Can't you be sober, for once?"

    "Nope." He turned and swayed back towards the counter, where he heavily plopped onto a stool, almost knocking it over. "Shit... want some wine?"

    "No, I'll have to drive back."

    "Who said you were going back home tonight?" Uruha asked, glaring at his bottle now.

    "I brought a bentou for you."

    "Not hungry."

    "Alcohol is not food."

    "It is tonight."

    "It is every night, Uruha, and it's not okay. Even I eat sometimes." Aoi appeared in front of him on the other side of the counter, setting the plastic container down. "You need to eat."

    "No, I'm not hungry."

    "Would you stop lying?"

    Uruha glared and lifted the bottle to his lips, taking a long swig.

    "Give me that." Aoi snatched the drink from him. "Stop chugging nice wine like it's a cheap beer."

    "I'll do whatever the hell I want," Uruha replied, tiredly grabbing for it again. "It's my wine."

    His guitar partner didn't respond, just turned to look for a stopper. Uruha set his head down on the counter, watching angrily. His whole body was vibrating in tandem with his emotions, fast and unforgiving right now. As Aoi put the bottle back into the fridge, he said, "You can't keep doing this."

    "I do what I want."

    "No. It needs to stop. I understand you're upset, and I am too. But you can't keep drinking yourself stupid every night things don't go your way. That's never going to change anything. Are you even any happier doing it?"

    "Maybe," Uruha grumbled.

    "Idiot. Now eat."

    "No." He felt tears in his eyes again, and he rapidly tried to blink them away. "I don't want to."

    "So when you're in the hospital and Reita is there worried sick about you, will that be worth it to you? You really want to make him miserable?"

    "No." He didn't want Reita to be miserable or sad. Not really. "I don't."

    "Then eat. I won't say it again before I cram it down your throat myself."

    Slowly, Uruha sat up straight and pulled the container towards himself. Aoi watched him closely as he fumbled with the chopsticks, taking several attempts to snap them, and then messily started eating.

    "Not that it would matter," Uruha said through a mouthful of tempura. "He wouldn't even come see me anyway."

    "Do you really think that? You really think just because he's dating a girl, he doesn't care about you at all anymore?"

    "Seems that way to me."

    Aoi sighed, leaning down on his elbows. "You're so depressing."

    "I'm losing my best friend to some whore."

    "Most guys lose their best friends to 'some whore' and almost none of them act as much like a girl as you are."

    Uruha grabbed for his drink to throw, forgetting he didn't have one anymore, and flailed with thin air.

    "Point proven. Can't you even say what he is to you out loud? He's not your best friend."

    "Yes he is. He's always my best friend."

    "What else is he? At least say it once."

    The brunette stared down into his food, body humming. He opened his mouth, silent for a few moments, before he whispered, shaking his head, "I need it."

    "Uruha -"

    "Please."

    "You can't keep doing this."

    Quietly, he began eating again, shovelling the anger and feelings of rebellion down with the food. Aoi sighed, running a hand through his hair, pulling on it as if to help relieve tension from the headache Uruha was probably giving him.

    "I don't mind helping you, Uruha, but this isn't helping. You're not getting any better and you aren't going to unless you do something."

    "Please."

    Aoi's hand took his chin, tilting his head up so he met the black gaze. Aoi said quietly, "If you promise me you'll stop doing this after today."

    Uruha bit his lip. "I can't promise that."

    "Will you at least try?"

    "... I'll try."

    "Good boy. Do you really need my help?"

    "Yes." His body was buzzing again, mind locked on the image of Reita, Reita, Reita. "I can't..."

    "You're such a girl. Come on."

    Uruha usually hated being clingy like this, but Aoi was the only one who was here for him now. Ruki knew he was having a hard time with something, but Uruha didn't let on to him. Kai probably knew, but he was there more for Reita. Uruha was closest to Aoi, after Reita. Aoi seemed to understand his tumultuous feelings. Aoi reached out to him and gave him what he needed to get through. So he held to the other guitarist with everything he had, even though he was drowning in guilt for using him, and for being so pathetic as to need to use him.

    Aoi stayed late, much later than he needed to, and Uruha only wished he could express his gratitude. But he stayed silent as his friend sat by him, just being a comfort.

    "I need to go," he eventually said, turning and tucking some of Uruha's hair behind his ear. "Okay?"

    "Okay." By now the alcohol was wearing off, the pleasant vibrations giving way to heavy, nauseating ache. Uruha didn't feel like moving. He just wanted to lie in his pool of pathetic filth and self-hatred and drown.

    "Shower and go to bed. Drink some strong coffee in the morning. And eat," Aoi added as he stood. "I'll see you at work."

    "Mmhm." Uruha didn't move, just listened to Aoi moving around and getting his things together. He stared into the back of the sofa, body frigid and weighty. "Night."

    "Goodnight, Ussan."

    A soft hand ran through his hair, and then he heard Aoi's footsteps trace out, the front door open and shut, and he was alone again. It didn't take long for the tears and frustration, the agony of the heartbreak and longing, to start falling again. Uruha held to a pillow, burying his face in it to try and stifle everything.

    "It isn't fair, Reita..." He was so pathetic. No wonder his feelings weren't returned. But he couldn't stop them, and he whimpered them to himself, curling up tightly as his body quivered. "I love you, Reita... please, love me too..."

 ~.oOOo.~

    When Reita saw Uruha the next day, the guitarist looked absolutely miserably sick. Reita felt a stab of guilt at not having seen it a bit earlier, and for not checking in with Uruha more. He approached his friend and touched his shoulder lightly.

    "You okay?"

    "I've been better," was the quiet, monotonous response.

    "If you're sick, you could have stayed home. You should have stayed home."

    "I have to come to work." Uruha shrugged him off, letting his guitar case down.

    "I'd rather you feel better."

    The guitarist somehow managed to let out a small, bitter-sounding laugh. "Stop worrying so much."

    Reita felt a bit confused at Uruha's stiff behaviour, but he wrote it off as the sickness, and the obvious lingering hangover. He told his friend, "I can't help but worry about you. You worry me."

    Uruha paused, then looked at him with bloodshot chocolate eyes. Reita rubbed his friend's arm, trying to comfort him. Uruha was incredibly cold to the touch, though it was very warm today.

    "Do you want to go home?"

    "No. I'll be fine."

    "You're sure?"

    "Yeah. Stop worrying about me."

    Even that sounded sarcastic and bitter. Reita was going to ask his friend what he'd done, but Aoi entered at that moment with a bright, "Ohayosan!" and interrupted. The bassist sighed in frustration and resignation as Aoi threw his arms around him.

    "How are you, Reirei?"

    "Just fine Aoi, thanks."

    "Have a good anniversary?"

    "Yeah." Reita hadn't thought of it, he'd been focused on Uruha since he came in. "Yeah, it was nice."

    "The anniversary?" came Kai's voice. "What did you two do?"

    "She had reservations at a nice restaurant, and then I took her out on the bike..."

    Uruha had turned away, going to his place in the studio and opening up his guitar case. He wasn't giving any congratulations or showing interest, and that hurt Reita a bit, but he gave his friend a pass for today. He was sick, of course he wanted to be away from the sound.

    "Sounds good. You pulled your own weight."

    "I always do."

    "Did you talk to her about the next step?"

    "No. I just focused on the two of us." A lie, actually. He had, of course, but it wasn't the only thing that had been on his mind. But he couldn't admit to Kai and Aoi, and Uruha, that he'd been thinking about work too, and mostly, worrying about Uruha. His friend had seemed just as cold at the end of the day yesterday, and he'd been concerned for him, especially when he hadn't gotten a response to his text. Normally, Uruha would respond quickly. "It was a nice evening off."

    "I'm glad you had a good time," Kai told him with his warm smile. "Seeing you happy is a wonderful thing."

    Reita smiled a bit and bowed his head in gratitude.

    "But now," the leader said, his tone switching from sunny to stern, "practise."

    "Where's Ru?" Aoi asked, still hanging on Reita.

    "He said he was running a bit late and to start without him, so we'll go ahead and warm up."

    The bassist looked back towards Uruha again. The guitarist hadn't turned around, was just hunched over his guitar.

    "He's fine," Aoi told him, dragging him to their side. "Just a bit moody. You know how he gets sometimes."

    "He's drunk, too."

    "Well, that's Ussan, isn't it?" Aoi slapped his shoulder and then gave him a push towards his bass rack. "Get warming up."

    Reita glared at Aoi in jest, but went on his way. He kept glancing at his best friend often, though, trying to determine what was making him so shut off. Sick, yes, drunk, that was confusing... well, not lately. Maybe with age Uruha wasn't handling his alcohol as well. But Reita couldn't help but worry. He'd been looking after Uruha for well over twenty years, and it wasn't something he could just turn off. It was his nature now to gauge his friend's mood and health.

    He tried to approach Uruha during breaks, but the guitarist stayed quiet, or moved away from him, excusing himself. Reita began to feel a bit of anxiety from his concern, as well as a large stab of irritation. Had he done something wrong? Uruha almost never acted like this, except for when they'd had an argument. Even then he wasn't so cold.

    "I told you, stop worrying," Aoi said during the break before the last bit of practise. "Just give him some space."

    "I feel like there's something I could do." The darker guitarist gave him a look that made the back of his neck prickle. Reita asked, wanting to know, "Is there?"

    "I couldn't tell you," was the response he got after a moment of silence. "You'd have to ask him."

    "He hasn't told you anything?"

    Aoi unscrewed the cap of his water bottle and took a long swallow before answering. "Ask him yourself. Even if he told me something about you, it doesn't mean anything if it comes through me, you know?"

    Reita could understand that. He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck.

    "Well, if he'll let me talk to him, I'll ask him."

    "Good plan. Hey ducky," Aoi said, looking beyond Reita, who turned to see Uruha coming back into the room. "Did you grab a beer for me?"

    Uruha gave Aoi a dull look. "Why would I do that?"

    "I thought you might."

    A shrug, and he picked up his guitar. Reita bit his lip, looking at the clock. There were still a couple minutes left for the break. While Uruha's back was turned, he approached and touched his friend's shoulder.

    "Won't you talk to me?"

    Uruha jumped, but then looked at him with a tired smile. "Sure. What is it?"

    "Have I done something? You've looked like you're upset with me."

    "No, Rei. You haven't done anything."

    "Is there something I can do to help you feel better?"

    "No."

    "Can I come over after tonight? It's been awhile."

    A pause, and Uruha's dark eyes searched his face for a moment. What was he looking for? Reita tried to figure it out, but for some reason, Uruha was closed to him. "Sure, if you want to."

    "We'll watch a movie or something. Keep it easy so you can rest."

    "I'd like that."

    "Good, it's a date."

    Another weak smile, and then Uruha turned back to his guitar. Reita went back to his bass, feeling a bit better. If he was at home with Uruha, he could figure it out. Aoi gave him a thumbs-up as he passed, and he grinned at his friend. As soon as practise was over, he had his things put away and was over with Uruha, helping him too.

    "You didn't need to," Uruha said as Reita wiped down a guitar.

    "No, but I wanted to." He felt his body ache a bit as his fingers stroked over the instrument. When was the last time he'd helped Uruha like this? A long time. It had been normal for him and his friend to help each other, up until some months ago. He'd forgotten how much he missed it, the feelings of ease and comfort in being shoulder-to-shoulder with his best friend. He wanted it back. He'd have to start it up again. Being close to Uruha was something he missed more than he'd admit to anyone. "I'll just follow you in my car?"

    "Sure. I'll meet you there."

    It had started to rain while they were in the studio. Reita kept the music low as he drove through the night-lit streets, enjoying the quiet and being alone in his car while knowing he was going to something familiar. He didn't see Uruha's car when he pulled into the car park, so he pulled out his phone. Chikako had left a message asking for him to call. Leaning against the door, he returned her call.

    "Hey Chi chan," he said when she answered. "What's up?"

    "Nothing, I just wanted to hear your voice. Am I seeing you tonight?"

    "Sorry Chi chan, I'm with Uruha tonight. It's been too long since I had some man time."

    "Aww, with Uru chan? Okay. It has been a really long time. Can I have you tomorrow, though? I really want to talk with you about some things."

    "Sure, I'll make sure I keep tomorrow open for you," he said, though he felt a small twist in his gut. He knew what she wanted to talk about, and he didn't think he was quite ready for it yet. He saw Uruha's car pull in now, and he added, "But I'd better go in now, or he'll get upset."

    "Have fun. Send him my love."

    "Will do. Bye, Chika."

    Reita hung up as Uruha's lights switched off, and gathering his bag, he got out of the car, holding his bag over his head. Uruha appeared, shaking his hair out in the rain. He smiled a bit as he met Reita and they started walking to the building, and Reita said, "There's Uruha."

    "Oh, quiet." But the smile, however small, stayed, and that was all Reita wanted. "Or I'll kick your ass."

    "Why don't you?"

    "I'm tempted to."

    They got in, and Uruha said as he shut the door and locked it, "I'll get you a towel."

    "Thanks, Uru. Chikako sends her love."

    "Sit wherever you want."

    Uruha went off on his own, dropping his bag onto his sofa, and Reita sat down next to it, shaking his head a bit to throw off some water. He thought it took a bit long for Uruha to come back, but when his friend threw the towel in his face, he said, as if knowing what Reita had been thinking, "I was washing my face."

    "You're fine. Are we doing dinner?"

    "I'll order a pizza."

    "Great. Can I choose a movie?"

    "Sure."

    Reita dried himself off and then got up, making his way to Uruha's media tower. As he squatted down and started looking through the DVDs, he called, "Are you sure you're okay?"

    "Why do you keep asking?"

    "Because you've been a bit distant lately."

    No response for awhile. Reita waited, running his finger along the spines of the cases.

    "I don't think you're allowed to say that."

    "Why?" Reita looked over his shoulder, surprised at the response. Uruha was leaning against the wall, looking down at his phone.

    "It isn't like you've been all that close either," the guitarist said quietly.

    "I think I have been."

    "This is the first time you've reached out in months."

    He realised with a start Uruha was right. HIs friend's dark chocolate eyes stayed locked on the phone, not even glancing at him. Reita bit his lip. He guessed he had been, and he'd had his reasons, but it was certainly not an excuse to have been trying.

    "You're right. I'm sorry."

    "Maybe during work, it's all the same. I haven't been that different either, I don't think. But outside of work, I never see you anymore. How else am I supposed to feel, when you barely pay attention to anyone anymore?"

    That wasn't true, and hearing Uruha say it hurt. He paid so much attention! Did Uruha not see that? But Reita fought it back. Uruha had never been the most observant. That was why. "You're right, I haven't seen anyone outside of work much lately. I'll work on it."

    Uruha didn't say anything to that. Instead, he asked, "Is pepperoni okay?"

    "Yeah, great." Reita felt wounded. Uruha upset with him was something he couldn't stand. "Uru, come on. Look at me."

    Slowly, he looked up.

    "I'll work on it," Reita repeated. "I promise."

    Uruha held his gaze for a moment before he turned back to the phone. "It'll be here soon. What movie are we watching?"

    The blonde bit back a noise of frustration and looked back to the movies. "Have you watched Fast and Furious recently?"

    "No, not in a long time. Sounds good to me."

    Reita took it out of its case and turned on the DVD player, sliding the disc in. Returning to the sofa, he settled down onto it, playing with the remotes while Uruha took a seat a cushion away from him. Reita took his phone out of his pocket and glanced at it - a couple of messages from the other members. He checked them quickly; Kai's and Ruki's were just general, but Aoi's said, <Make sure you talk to him.>

    "I'd appreciate if you didn't talk with your girlfriend while you're supposed to be spending time with me," Uruha grumbled.

    "I'm not, I told her I wouldn't be available tonight. It's just the guys." Make sure to talk to him. What did that mean? "Aoi's worried about you too."

    "He would be."

    "You know you can talk to me about anything, right? I mean, at this point, there isn't really anything you could throw at me that would send me running the other way."

    Uruha laughed a bit. "You might be surprised."

    "Surprise me," Reita suggested, curious now, as well as a bit hurt that Aoi might be the one Uruha was confiding in. That was Reita's job. He wasn't interested in giving it to anyone else. "What have you told him that you haven't told me?"

    "That you're an idiot."

    "Well then."

    "Put the phone away."

    Reita held up his hands. "Okay. Phone, in the bag." He did the action, then pushed the bag out of reach with his foot. "Happy?"

    "Yes." Uruha settled back into the couch. "Thank you."

    "Really though. Talk to me."

    "The movie -"

    "Ignore the movie for a few minutes. What's wrong? Other than the fact that we haven't been talking as much. I'm sorry about that, this is me trying to work on it."

    Uruha looked at him without saying anything for awhile, and Reita tried hard to reach his expression. Usually he could, and that was what made him so in-tune with his friend. But this quiet, blank face... he couldn't see anything in it to clue him in to what the guitarist was thinking. Then Uruha said, "Reita, I don't have anything I could tell you."

    "I don't believe that."

    "Then don't, if you don't want to."

    "It's not that I don't want to, but I can't, because it's obvious something is wrong." Reita wanted to grab Uruha and shake him, yell at him. But he fought to keep himself calm. "I've done something wrong."

    "I've told you already."

    "Uru -"

    The doorbell rang, and Uruha got up and went to the door. Reita sighed in frustration, running a hand through his hair. He heard Uruha's voice thanking the delivery man, and then his friend returned with the pizza box, dropping it into his lap.

    "Food."

    "Obviously."

    "Will you eat some and stop pestering me?"

    "I'll eat but I'm getting tired of you dodging the question."

    "What question?"

    "What's. Wrong," Reita repeated, opening the box.

    "Look, I don't have anything else to tell you. I've already said you're distant. You don't reach out to anyone outside of work. At work, you talk more with Kai than anyone else. You spend all your time with your girlfriend. If you won't accept those as answers, that's your problem, not mine."

    Reita stared at Uruha for a second, a bit taken aback by the angry, bitter tone. Uruha didn't like Chikako. Why? He'd thought they had been getting along so well. Uruha had always been nice to her. He'd joked with Reita early on that if Reita didn't want to date her, he would.

    "Why didn't you tell me you don't like her, then?"

    "Excuse me?"

    "Chikako. You don't like her."

    Uruha threw up his hands. "Halle-fucking-lujah, you finally noticed."

    "Why the fuck didn't you just tell me?"

    "The sad thing is, I'm just too tired with you to pretend that I do like her."

    "Why?" Reita was confused and frustrated now. "What's happened?"

    "Nothing."

    "You liked her at first. You've never said anything until now, you always got along with her so well. Why have you been lying?"

    Uruha snorted. "I wonder."

    "Seriously. It's important to me that you two get along. That you approve of her."

    "Why is that? You hardly let me participate in your life any more. Why should it matter what I think of her?"

    "Because you're my best friend!"

    "Am I?"

    "Yes, you are, you idiot! You can tell me these things! You should have told me when you started disliking her!"

    "Are you saying you'll break up with her now?"

    That struck him, and he stumbled for a moment to try to find a response. There were so many things he wanted to say, but right now, he was getting angry with Uruha, so he chose, "Probably not."

    "Then why would I bother?"

    "Because I could have fixed it when it was happening."

    "You can still fix it now, but you won't. So the result is the same."

    "What is wrong with you?" This wasn't like Uruha at all. Reita didn't like this. He wanted to fix it, but there was no reason for Uruha to be this petty about it. Uruha had never been petty about anything before.

    "Me? Look at yourself. You've basically cut everyone out of your life but her. You only see me because you work with me. It's that way with the rest of us. Do you see any of your other friends? Your family? Or is it all her?"

    "Is that the only reason you don't like her? Because I spend time with her? News flash, Uruha, she's my fucking girlfriend, I'm going to spend a lot of time with her."

    "Just because she's your girlfriend doesn't mean the rest of us matter any less! You're not like you were with me any more! After twenty years, how the fuck am I supposed to be feeling about that? Or do you not give a fuck because she'll spread her legs for you, and that's all that matters?"

    Reita had slapped Uruha before he could think about it, and the second it registered, and he saw the surprise and hurt on his friend's face, he stood quickly, backing away. He'd just hit his best friend. He was reeling from it. He'd hit the most important person in his life.

    "Uruha, I -"

    "Get out." Uruha said it bitterly, looking away from him.

    "I'm sorry. I am. Kouyou, look at me."

    "Get out."

    "I didn't mean to. I don't know why I -"

    "Get out!"

    Reita sorely wanted to stay and make it right, but after hesitating just a few more moments, Uruha had picked up his bag and shoved it in his arms, pushing him roughly to the door.

    "OUT!"

    "Okay, okay." Reita put on his shoes as quickly as he could, still numb with shock at what he had done. He had dropped using their stage names, which had become normal, to try to plead with his friend. "Kouyou, I'm sorry. Please let me -"

    Uruha opened the door, pushed him out, and slammed it, leaving him on the step in the rain. He stared blankly at the door for a bit, holding his bag loosely. His head was still spinning. He'd hit Uruha. For no reason at all, he'd hit his best friend. They had been together twenty years, of course they'd fought before. They'd had fist fights, too. But he had never, ever slapped Uruha like that.

    He stood there in the rain until he felt like he could walk. Then, slowly, he made his way back to his car and drove, mind still far away. He tried to take apart the conversation in his mind, so he could pinpoint what it was that had made him react like that. Because Uruha didn't like Chikako? No, he'd had no reaction when Uruha had said it multiple times before that last time. Because he'd insinuated Reita only cared about sex? Reita was hurt by that, but not enough that he'd hit Uruha. Because he'd talked about Chikako like a whore? It made Reita feel terrible and cruel, but no, not that either.

    Of course it was obvious to him, but he couldn't bring himself to think about it. Not after all this.

    He didn't call her when he got home. He sat, soaking wet, on the couch for awhile, deaf to the calls of his birds wanting to come out. He fidgeted with his phone for awhile, staring down at it, before he called Uruha's number and got voicemail. Listening to the recording, he heard how bright and happy his friend's voice was for it, and it jolted him to realise that he hadn't heard his friend sound like that in a long time.

    "Kouyou, I'm sorry. I really am. I just... I don't know. I won't make excuses." His heart was aching. He wanted Uruha to answer, so he could figure this out. He needed to figure all this out! "Just know I'm sorry. I'll make it up to you, okay? You let me know how, and I'll do it. I don't want to fight with you over something like this. Just let me know. I'll... I guess I'll talk to you later. Bye."

    With a sigh, he dropped his phone and turned his attention to the clamouring birds. "Hey kids. I'm going to shower really fast and then I'll let you out, okay?"

    Even the hot shower and playtime with his birds didn't help him feel any better, or distracted. He could only think about what he'd done wrong and how on earth he was going to fix it. He couldn't sleep that night, just kept tossing and turning in bed until he got tired of it and got up. He spent the rest of the time playing bass, angrily slapping the strings as he struck out random tunes.

    Uruha had no right to be so angry. Reita had been trying so hard. Maybe he'd been distant because of Chikako, but all Uruha had had to do was bring it up, and Reita would have fixed it. If Uruha didn't like Chikako, he should have said so early on. Now the relationship was so far along that it would be a pain to try to fix whatever it was Uruha didn't like about her. If he only disliked that Reita was spending time with her, the blonde didn't know what he could do about that. Breaking up with her just because Uruha was feeling selfish about time spent was a stupid thing to do. If he was going to do something that extreme, it had to be for a better reason than that. Reita could only pick out a couple of reasons that he could do that to her for, and most of them made him feel guilty at the very thought.

    He didn't eat breakfast - he didn't think he could. His stomach was in too much turmoil, churning angrily and with grief. He went to work exhausted and anxious to see his friend. The other three were used to being around him and Uruha when they were having arguments, but this was one to a degree they'd never had before. Reita could only imagine what the atmosphere would be.

    Walking into the studio, he saw Ruki, Kai, and Aoi, Kai checking his drums, Ruki and Aoi talking. When he got closer, Ruki looked up at him with that adorable smile and said, "Good morning."

    "Morning, Ru," Reita replied, managing a smile.

    "You look like a wreck. Didn't sleep?"

    "No."

    "Oh, were you with Chika?"

    The teasing, which normally he would laugh off, just pissed him off today. It wasn't Ruki's fault. Somehow he kept himself calm. "No, just had one of those nights, I guess. Where's Uru?"

    "He called in sick. He sounded really terrible," Aoi replied, his tone a bit flat. "We'll give him the day to rest."

    Reita's heart sank. "Yeah, that's probably a good idea."

    "Well, you're here now, so we'll get started."

    He couldn't keep his eyes off the wide, empty space where Uruha usually stood. It was hard to focus on work when the guilt was gnawing at him like this. During lunch, he called his friend only to get voice mail again.

    "Kou, please. You need to talk to me. I'm sorry I hit you, I really am. But I can't fix anything if you don't tell me what's wrong. Call me, we'll figure this out." He hesitated, but then added, "I don't want to lose you. Okay? I want to work things out with you. Call me. Bye."

    He didn't have any messages or calls from Uruha by the time work was over, but he had plenty from Chikako. On his way out to the car park, he called her, desperate to hear someone's kindness.

    "Hey," she said when she answered. "You never responded."

    "Sorry, I've been busy today."

    "It's fine. Do you want to come over for dinner?"

    "That would be good." Reita would try to eat, at least. "I haven't eaten all day."

    "Oh, Akira, that's so bad for you. Come on over, we'll get some food in you."

    "Thanks. I'll be there soon."

    He welcomed her touch when he arrived, how she wrapped her arms tightly around him and smiled up at him. He returned the embrace lightly, feeling too wary of everything that had happened the night before to be too close. Her large brown eyes filled with worry as she looked over him.

    "You look terrible. Are you okay?"

    "I've been better," he said, lightly pulling away from her now.

    "Don't get sick on me."

    "I'll try."

    "Come sit down, dinner's on the table."

    Reita obediently sat, feeling his stomach churn a bit again as he saw and smelled the food. Chikako sat across from him and started dishing some food onto his place.

    "Not too much, Chi chan," he said, smiling tiredly. "I don't want to push myself too much."

    "Alright," she replied, giving him a small portion of everything. "You must be getting sick, then. Normally you'll eat everything."

    "I know." Part of him was screaming at how calm this was, being with her, after last night. He was desperately trying to soothe himself with it, prove that Uruha was overreacting.

    "How was your night? Did you have a good time with Uruha?"

    He froze up a bit. He didn't want her to know about everything. Reita chose to say, "It was good to see him again. It's been too long. He's upset about it."

    "That's too bad."

    "He's been sick too, so I wanted to help him out. It wasn't so much fun as it was..." Reita struggled to find an appropriate word. "... sobering."

    "Sobering huh." A teasing smile curved her mouth. "Has he been sober?"

    Reita stared at her for a second. He knew he'd told her Uruha had had hangovers, but that sort of joke was a bit out of line.

    "I'm sorry, don't look at me like that," she amended.

    "You shouldn't say things like that about him."

    "I'm sorry."

    "You like Uruha, right?" he asked now, wondering if the dislike was a mutual thing that maybe had blown up when he had been out of the room, or unaware of it.

    "Well, sure," Chikako said after a moment, looking a bit confused now. "Sure I do."

    "Do you really?" The hesitation put him on edge.

    "Yeah, when I get to talk to him, I like him just fine. I haven't really seen him in a long time, though. He always leaves early. Just says hi and asks how I'm doing and then leaves. He's always been nice about it though. I haven't been given reason to not like him yet."

    "It sounds like you don't like him."

    "I do!" she protested, looking a bit hurt and irritated now. "I just don't like him as much as your other friends. I can't! He doesn't give me a chance to."

    Reita guessed that was true. Looking back on it, he did realise Uruha had been leaving almost as soon as Chikako had turned up at anything. He knew now though that Uruha had a problem with her, so he could understand that.

    "Besides, as long as you two are getting along and he's treating you well, it doesn't really matter what I think of him. If he's not going to be around, there's no way for me to like him as much as you seem to."

    "It does matter what you think of him, though," Reita said, heart aching. She didn't like Uruha, he could see it on her face, if not in her dismissal of the topic. Neither of his two important people liked each other. Why? "I want you two to like each other."

    "I do like him. Just not as much as others, because I don't know him as well as the others!"

    "Okay," he said quietly, not wanting to field another argument right now. "Okay, Chika."

    "Why are we talking about him anyway?"

    "Because he's an important part of my life."

    She sighed, pulling her long dark hair over a shoulder. "I know he is. I'm sorry. He's like your brother, I know."

    Brother. He supposed that was a way of putting it. He supposed it was comparable, to a certain degree. It was what he was trying to make their relationship, anyway. It couldn't be more than that, not with Chikako. A wave of bitter regret rose in him, and he picked up his glass to take a long swallow water to drown it.

    "Can we talk about us?" she asked.

    "Sure. We'll talk about something else."

    But he couldn't get it out of his head now. His mind was spinning even faster. He talked with her, but he was only half there. He felt angry and frustrated and confused about everything. When she asked him to stay, he gently (as gently as he could, anyway) told her he needed to go home and sleep instead. It was his intention to do so, but he knew he wouldn't. He spent the night restlessly dozing again, trying to fit things in his mind, trying to figure out a way to fix them.

    The next day at work, Uruha still wasn't there. There had been no messages or calls. Reita started to call to leave a message, but then hung up before he could. He didn't know what to say anymore. He had no idea what to say to make things better. He lied to Chikako and told her he was going to dinner with some friends, but he went home instead and, finally, fell asleep and slept all the way through to morning.

    Friday and Uruha was missing again. Reita felt more normal, now that he had slept, but a bit dull. He didn't know what to do. He saw Aoi glancing at him during work, but he paid no attention to it until they were leaving. Then Aoi cornered him and said, "We need to talk."

    "Do we?" Reita asked tiredly, pulling his bag onto his shoulder.

    "Yes, we do. You want to know what's going on with Uruha, right?"

    "Yeah. You know?"

    "Come on."

    Aoi was walking fast, impatiently, his face set. Reita stayed quiet, trying to keep pace with him as they went out to the garage. They had reached his car when Aoi turned and stopped, his hands in his pockets.

    "So."

    "So," Reita repeated.

    "You know I've been having sex with Uruha for some seven or eight months now, right?"

    He did a bit of a double-take at how plainly Aoi said it. "Excuse me?"

    "I've been fucking your best friend for months now. You didn't notice?"

    "No, how am I supposed to? Neither of you said anything."

    Aoi sighed. "God..."

    "Well, good for you two." Reita stung a bit with the discovery, but he tried to keep it out of his voice. "I'm sure it's going great."

    "You didn't fucking notice anything going on?"

    "No."

    "Great. Fine. You do know that he's been getting drunk."

    "Yeah, there's no ignoring that."

    "Have you ever noticed when, precisely, he gets drunk?"

    Reita stared blankly at his friend. "Am I supposed to have noticed?"

    Aoi let out a frustrated noise, half turning before he snapped back. "Or have you noticed how he'll up and leave parties."

    "Well, yeah, but he -"

    "GOD!" Aoi yelled, turning away again, as if he were absolutely distressed. He did sound very angry. "You're such an idiot!"

    "What the fuck... he's your boyfriend, not mine."

    "I didn't say he was my boyfriend. You're not even fucking listening, no wonder he's so goddamn angry at you." Aoi turned around again, his expression livid. "How can you be this stupid? You're so wrapped up in Chikako's legs you can't notice your best friend?"

    "Enough," Reita snapped, getting angry himself now. "Don't you dare talk about her like that. What you and Uruha do isn't my business. You two are going out? Good for you. You deserve each other."

    "We're not fucking going out. We're not boyfriends. I told you I'm fucking him. He's not having sex with me - I'm having sex with him."

    "What the hell does that even mean?" Reita didn't understand what this had to do with him. "What, is that the problem? You two are banging and he's angry I didn't notice for some reason because you two have kept it so under the table you're screwing in a mud pit?"

    "He pretends I'm you!"

    Reita stammered into silence, staring at Aoi. The garage was eerily quiet now that they weren't screaming, despite the noises of cars from the street and the sound of the rain.

    "He pretends I'm you," Aoi repeated curtly, his eyes flashing. "He gets drunk, calls me over, begs for sex, and then pretends it's you fucking him."

    "I..." Reita didn't even know what to say. The idea that Uruha was doing something like that was too much. "I don't believe you."

    "Of course you don't." Aoi pulled out his phone and held it up, pressing the screen. A recording began to play - it was a bit muffled, but Reita could hear the heavy breaths and moans, the sounds of sex, and Uruha's voice...

    "Please Reita, don't stop, Reita... Rei, Rei, Reita oh godddd Reita... oh... ohhhhh..." Long, moaning whimpers, quickening with breath back to lusting cries. "God, fuck me, Reita, please... I need it, I need you... Reita... Reita...!"

    Aoi was watching him as it continued. Reita felt his throat closing off as he listened to the desperate pleads, Uruha's voice breaking and soaring and falling back to raw pleasure and cries of passion...

    "Stop it," he whispered, frozen in place. "Stop it."

    Aoi didn't, just turned up the volume.

    "I'm cumming... Reita, please, give it to me, give it all to me, I want it... Reita, make me come, give me your cum, cum inside me please... Reita... Reita... Reita, Reita, Reita, Reita god Reita...!"

    The orgasmic scream jolted him, and he was trembling. The calls were echoing in his head now, Uruha wanting him, begging for him... the cry had passed now, and he heard the quiet whimpering.

    "Reita... I love you... I want you, please... Reita... Reita..."

    Aoi stopped it now, still just looking at him. Reita, with effort, turned his head away. He was blank. He didn't know what to say, or do.

    "It started when you and Chikako started. First he was just drinking and calling for a shoulder to cry on. And it got worse, and worse, the longer it went on. He's never called my name, not once. It's always been for you. Every time you say something that gives away you two are fucking, Uruha distracts himself. He can't bear to think of you with anyone else. He's in love with you, Reita."

    "Why didn't..." It made sense now. All of it did. But there was no way he could have known! "Why didn't he just say something?"

    "Because you always knew everything else. Why didn't you notice?"

    "How could I have noticed? It wasn't like he was making it easy to spot! He should have just said something!"

    "And why didn't you, then?" Aoi asked shortly, stopping Reita again. "If you're so on about being open about your feelings, why didn't you tell him you wanted him? Why did you just off and get a girlfriend?"

    "I don't -"

    "Don't pretend, Reita. We're beyond that now."

    Reita shook his head a few times. "I did everything but tell him."

    "You should have fucking told him! I don't care what the hell you were doing that he was supposed to know meant you were after him! It's the exact same thing as what he's doing! There's no way he would have known! I don't know if you noticed, Reita, probably not because you're clearly a fucking moron, but he isn't the brightest person! You have to tell him things!"

    "He has to tell me things too! Why is it all my fault? He should have said something! Why the hell do you think I got a girlfriend? He wasn't responding to me!" Reita didn't give a fuck. He just let it out. He knew Aoi wasn't the person to unload on, but he was the one here. "So I tried to move on and give him some space! I tried and I succeeded!"

    "Did you?" Aoi spat, his eyes narrowing. "Did you succeed at moving on?"

    "Yes!"

    "Then this conversation wouldn't be happening, would it?"

    Reita stopped cold.

    "You're jealous of me. It's obvious. You got angry when I said I was having sex with him. The look on your face as you heard him screaming your name said you wanted it. You're still in love with him, more than you are with her."

    "Shut up," he whispered.

    "She's just a replacement, and you know it. You haven't been thinking of marrying her because you love her. You've been thinking of marrying her so you can run away from how you feel about Uruha. You think it'll make everything better."

    "Stop..."

    "Well here's a free tip, asshole. It isn't going to fix a fucking thing. You don't love her."

    "Stop it!"

    "You never did, and you're never going to. The sooner you face that fact, the sooner you can keep your life from going downhill. Now I've told you what's wrong. You're the only one that can fix it, because you're the one that's caused it."

    "He can do something about it!"

    "If he told you he was in love with you, it doesn't change a fucking thing. You're the one in a relationship. You're the one running away. He's been right here."

    "He fucked you!"

    "He didn't go anywhere! Have you been calling his name when you screw her? No? Then you don't get to put the blame on him. Even as I bang him, he's never left you. You're the one that left him, so you fucking fix it!"

    Reita felt like he was going to breathe fire. He was angry, so angry, but he was hurting so much he felt like he was falling apart. He glared at Aoi, who glared straight back.

    "If you like him," Reita said shortly, "why don't you just tell him."

    Aoi laughed. He turned again, disbelievingly, before he came back and snapped, "Don't try to make this into something it's not, Reita. Uruha's my friend. I care about him. I've been trying to help him. Sure, I've gotten free fucks. They're really good, by the way. His body is amazing. Long and slender but so strong..."

    "Shut up," Reita snapped again, feeling the irritation screaming. He didn't want to hear it, not from Aoi.

    "Such powerful hips, dancing and undulating and taking me in."

    "Shut up."

    "His thighs, full and warm and spread open around my waist-"

    "Shut up!"

    "-and his ass is so tight and hot. Better than most women I've ever had. He clenches me so hard as he cries your name, not wanting to let me go anywhere..."

    "Shut UP!"

    "Yeah, I've been getting fucks," Aoi said, narrowing his eyes at Reita's shout. "And they're amazing fucks. But I don't love him. The sex was something we both needed. He needed someone to fulfill his fantasies of getting screwed by his best friend, and I needed to get off. He trusted me, and I came through for him. I didn't do it because I want him for myself. I did it for him, as a friend, as a favour. So don't try to make this into me being an asshole, Reita. Stop putting blame anywhere but yourself. He's not entirely innocent, it's true he should have told you. But you're just as guilty as he is, if you can’t accept being more so. I'll stand by him anytime, because at the very least, since he came to the realisation you were all he wanted, he didn't run away from his feelings."

    "You were in his ass!"

    "I wasn't there, Reita! When we were screwing, I was you. He never fucking saw me. He saw you! He's that desperate and delusional, when he does open his eyes, I don't see myself in them! I'm not there! You are! He's never left you. He'll do it until he fucking kills himself. It will always be you. Stop trying to make him the only guilty one!"

    Reita's fists were clenching so hard he could feel the blood welling in his nails. He wanted to scream more, to put Aoi down, to shoot it all down and make it not true... but he couldn't. He felt too hurt, too angry, too confused to manage it.

    "I've told you what was wrong," Aoi said shortly. "You asked if you could do anything to help it. I've told you now what you can do. It's up to you whether or not you want to do it. You're fucking welcome. Good night."

    And he turned and left, walking to his car. Reita stayed where he was, hands still curled into fists, watching Aoi's Jaguar pull out. As it passed, he saw the guitarist flipping him off, and then he was gone and Reita was alone in the garage. It took him a long time of forcing himself to take deep breaths before his hands could relax and he could manage to get into his car. He didn't notice the drive home. He was too caught up in replaying the conversation, hearing Uruha's voice over and over again, hearing all of Aoi's angry accusations and sharp words. His body was on autopilot, up until he got into his apartment and collapsed on the sofa.

    Uruha was in love with him. That was why he had been quiet and distant, why he had left gatherings when Chikako had come, why he had come to work drunk, why he had never engaged in conversation about the relationship. It was why he had been so angry at Reita. It was why he hadn't liked Chikako. It made sense. It all made so much sense, everything that had made no sense at all did now. Reita felt overwhelmed with guilt.

    Aoi was right. He should have noticed. It should have been easy to see. But Uruha had put the guards up, and Reita hadn't tried hard enough to get past them. He hadn't been honest with Uruha, so Uruha hadn't been honest with him. And because of that, he'd put himself into his relationship with Chikako to try to get away from his feelings for the guitarist. He'd thought he'd succeeded. He'd come so far and come to really care for her. But if Uruha was the price...!

    The tears on his cheeks startled him. Reita angrily wiped them away, swearing loudly. It wasn't fair. He'd worked so hard to make his relationship with Chikako. He'd gone into it halfheartedly, but he had developed feelings for her. She'd been good to him, at least, even if she didn't like Uruha. Not that he could blame her, since his friend had been so cold. He'd have been happy with her. He still could be. But it would mean abandoning the person that had been with him so long, he could barely remember life without him. It would mean abandoning the person he truly cared for, the one he had always wanted to be with.

    It wasn't fair. He didn't know what to do. He wished he hadn't asked to know. Then he could have had the bliss of ignorance. But now he had to choose one or the other. It wasn't a fair choice, for anyone.

    His phone rang, and slowly, he picked it up and answered without looking at who it was. "Hello?"

    "Akira, it's me."

    "Hi Chika."

    "Are you okay? You sound upset."

    "I've just been thinking. A lot."

    "Can I come over...?"

    He bit his lip. But he would need to talk to her. "Yeah. Come on over. We have some things to talk about, don't we?"

    "Yeah, I've been thinking about some things too. I'll be over soon."

    Reita dropped his phone onto the sofa and leaned forward, burying his face in his hands. It took him a few minutes to get himself back together. He went into the bathroom to splash his face with cold water, returned to the living room and let the squawking birds out of their cage, and then noticed his phone. A new email from Aoi.

    <Thought you might want this. Enjoy it, asshole.>

    A sound file, quite large and quite long. With a noise of despair, Reita threw his phone across the room and down the hall, not caring as it slammed into his bedroom door. Again what Aoi had played for him was looping in his head, erotic and heavy and Uruha.

    Reita forced himself to eat dinner and play with the birds, waiting for Chikako to arrive. The sound of the doorbell was an incredible relief. He let her in, giving her a half-smile as she took off her shoes.

    "Thanks for coming."

    "Of course. I had to see you." She smiled brightly at him, lovely and cheerful, and it broke his heart for what he was about to admit to her. "Let's talk."

~.oOOo.~

    Uruha held to Aoi tightly when his friend came. The darker guitarist wrapped his arms around Uruha, rubbing his back softly.

    "You okay? Feeling better?"

    "I guess so. Physically, anyway."

    Aoi pulled back and slid his hand onto Uruha's forehead. "Your fever is gone. Have you eaten?"

    "I had some soup."

    "Good ducky." Aoi smiled. "I'm glad you did."

    "I am still getting hungry," he muttered.

    "I worry, though. You haven't been taking the best care of yourself."

    "You worry about me?" Uruha asked when Aoi let him go.

    "Of course I do. You're my friend, you're important to me." Aoi ruffled his hair lightly. "I think you should have some medicine, though. I'll get it for you."

    Slowly, Uruha sat down on the sofa as Aoi went into the kitchen. He felt a bit dull, still, from his fight with Reita. He'd looked at the texts his friend had sent him, but had, with difficulty, simply set his phone down and not replied. It killed him, because he wanted to forgive his friend and he wanted him back, but he knew that that was probably the worst thing to do. They were in two different worlds now, no matter how much he wished it was still the same as it had been a year before.

    Aoi returned from the kitchen with a packet of medicine and a glass of water. Uruha silently took them, swallowed the powder with a grimace, and then drained the water quickly to wash it down.

    "Thank you," Aoi told him, taking the glass and setting it aside. "I'd rather you be safe than sorry."

    "Yeah, I guess so."

    Slowly, the elder sat down by him and put an arm around his shoulders. Uruha held it in place with one hand, desperately wanting the touch and comfort. Aoi murmured, "You haven't gotten better inside, though."

    "I'm hurting still, yes."

    "It can't be easy to get over."

    "It's not. I can't believe he..." Uruha could still feel the slap, almost as vividly as when Reita had done it. Ignoring the sting, he continued, "I can't believe he actually hit me like that."

    "Has he apologized?"

    "He has, but I haven't responded. I can't."

    Aoi cupped his cheek gently, and Uruha closed his eyes, leaning into the touch. He felt his partner's thumb brush over his skin softly, as if trying to stroke the memory of the violence away. "I think it's good you haven't."

    "Thank you."

    "Come here."

    Uruha willingly went into Aoi's arms, letting him hold him, returning the hug. Feeling Aoi rest his cheek on the top of his head comforted him, somehow. Maybe it was because it was such a gesture of affection, and Uruha was starving for it.

    "You'll be okay," Aoi told him. "It will work out, somehow."

    "I can't even tell him."

    "You can. You're just afraid to."

    "I can't. It won't change anything."

    "You don't know that if you don't try."

    Uruha shook his head.

    "Okay. I won't push you too hard right now. I do think that's the best way to resolve it, though."

    He didn't have anything to say to that. He felt the best way to resolve it would be to try to move on. He knew he couldn't do it, but he could try. Or pretend. Lots of people lived happy lives, pretending to commit to someone else. Hell, they'd sometimes even love them too. Just not the way they loved their true soulmate.

    "What are you thinking right now? You've suddenly gone tense."

    "Just... things."

    "Like?"

    "Like..." How much it hurt without Reita. How much life would be suffering without Reita. How it would just be trying to survive. "... making do."

    "Making do?"

    "With something else."

    "I don't think that's something you should be planning on, Uruha, until you've actually done a few other things."

    "I could be happy with someone else."

    A small sigh was Aoi's response.

    "I could be happy with you, maybe." He wasn't sure, but he'd been friends with Aoi for a long time. Wouldn't becoming lovers just make what they were already doing more official? No need to feel guilt in it.

    There was no response, not for awhile. Slowly, Uruha lifted his head to look at his friend. Aoi's face was blank, dark eyes a bit confused.

    "I can try," Uruha added, feeling a bit nervous now at that expression. "But you make me happy."

    A few more moments, and then Aoi smiled tiredly. "Uruha, you don't have to pretend."

    "Are you pushing me away too?"

    "No, I'm not. I just don't feel like you should pretend that you're okay with moving on. With settling for me."

    "I'm sorry."

    "I understand. It's always going to be him, isn't it? At least, until you can let him go. And I'm okay with that. You don't have to act like you could let him go, because I know you can't. I know."

    "I'm sorry." Uruha felt terrible now. How could Aoi not hate him, for saying what he just did?

    "I'm here to help you any way I can. And if that's something you want to try, we can try it. I just want you to be sure that's what would help you be happy."

    "Then help me now."

    "Uruha -"

    "Please. I can do it." He pep-talked himself. He could do it. He just needed to do it a few times, and it would be easy.

    Aoi watched him with a slightly-upset look on his face, but Uruha leaned in, and Aoi met him, kissing him softly. Uruha struggled to keep his eyes open, to take in that it was Aoi. No one else. Aoi was the one kissing him, holding him, caressing him, laying him down. He moaned softly as Aoi brushed and placed love down his neck and chest, and he stroked a hand through the thick black hair.

    "Ah... A-Aoi..." He stumbled over the unfamiliar name.

    The other didn't respond, just kept kissing lower and lower, then licked his way back up. Uruha cried out softly, forcing himself to continue calling the darker one's name.

    "Aoi..."

    "Is it good?"

    "Yes." It was harder than he thought. He had to catch himself and keep his eyes open, because Reita was in the back of his mind. "It feels good."

    "You're such a naughty boy." Aoi leaned up, kissing his lips softly. Uruha raised a hand, tremblingly cupping the guitarist's cheek.

    "I want it."

    "I know you do. You're beautiful, you know? Your name suits you." A warm, quiet smile, that would make almost anyone else melt. Uruha tried to react that way. "Beautiful Uruha."

    He wasn't. He was a terrible, ugly person, wanting to take Reita away from the girl he loved, forcing himself on Aoi knowing he couldn't love him like that. But Aoi bore it. Uruha bit back tears as they shared another kiss, and Aoi's fingertips ran lightly up his stomach to his chest to play with some weak points. The brunette arched a bit, whimpering.

    "Ah..."

    "That good?" Aoi pinched it now, and Uruha yelped, breathing hard. "You're so sensitive."

    "It's amazing."

    "I want to taste." The elder dipped his head, lightly fastening his teeth onto the other side. "So delicious."

    Uruha wrapped an arm around Aoi's neck, the other hand playing with his hair as he nipped and licked. His body and hips were trembling with the physical stimulation, but his mind wasn't quite there. A particular tweak and nibble had him buck, and his eyes squeezed tightly shut.

    "Shit."

    "That one was it, hm?" Aoi licked him hard, extending his whines. "Let's try the other side."

    He bit his lip hard as the affections switched, his hand clenching in the thick black tufts. It was Aoi. Aoi was the one comforting him, loving him. Not Reita. Not the blonde. Not that strong, toned body, the gruff low voice, blazing amber eyes -

    "Reita!"

    Aoi stopped as he cried the name, and he felt hideously ashamed of himself. He held tightly to his friend, trying to swallow back the tears. Then Aoi kissed his nipple softly, moved up to press another kiss to his heart, and then raised his head, looking Uruha in the eye with a soft, understanding expression.

    "It's okay."

    Uruha shook his head, throat choked with tears. He didn't want this. He didn't want to be this pathetic. He didn't want to pine after Reita forever! He needed to let his friend go, even though fibre of his being fought against the very idea.

    "It's okay. It is." Aoi cupped his cheek, brushing away the drops that coursed down his face. "I'm not angry."

    "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry!"

    "Come here." Aoi sat up and pulled Uruha into his arms, holding him tightly. The younger buried his face in Aoi's shoulder, trying hard to hold back the anguished, pathetic sobs. "It's okay. I know."

    "Aoi!"

    His friend held him until the cries stopped, until he was exhausted from trying to be strong. He was pathetic. He couldn't be. It was only Reita. And Aoi held him close and let him pretend again. Still too sick, emotionally and physically, to go to work the next day on Friday night, when Uruha called him, he came and he did the same again. The only difference was this time, he didn't give Uruha a chance to try to pretend. He put a finger to Uruha's lips when he'd tried to shift the attention, and told him to let it be Reita. Selflessly, he let Uruha indulge in his fantasy again.

    Saturday night found Uruha sat unmoving on his sofa, knees drawn to his chest, staring blankly at the wall. He didn't want to move or think. It was too painful to think of Reita, and Reita was more or less the only thing on his mind.

    He was lonely. He was grateful that Aoi had come the nights before, gently dealing with him and listening to him, but he'd said he couldn't make it tonight. Uruha had wanted to beg, but he knew Aoi needed his room. And Aoi was right, anyhow. He needed to find another way to cope. He didn't know what else he could possibly do, but he needed to stop imposing on his friend. Aoi had a life, and Uruha needed to stop ruining it. If he couldn't move on, he needed to at least stop making Aoi miserable too.

    The guitarist rubbed his eyes on one of his wrists, trying to stop the aching. Between the crying and the cold, his eyes and head felt like they had been pounded on with a sledgehammer. He didn't want this any more. Not the grief or the pain. He wanted to just let it go. But he knew he couldn't, not as long as Reita was the one. And there was no one else that could ever be that for him.

    The doorbell rang, and he jumped a bit. Squinting at the clock on his Blu-ray player, he saw it was almost midnight. Who would possibly be here at that time? He decided to ignore it, but a few moments later it rang again, followed by knocking. With a sigh, he stood up and plodded to the door, unlocking and opening it.

    "Look, it's late and -"

    "I know it is, I'm sorry."

    Uruha froze as he saw Reita and heard the apologetic response. His friend smiled tiredly at him, blonde hair falling around his face only highlighting the dark circles under his eyes.

    "I needed to see you, though. Can I come in?"

    He hesitated, remembering their last encounter, but the sound of Reita's voice and seeing him, even as much as it hurt, was what he wanted more than almost anything. He resigned and said, "Sure, come in," and opened the door wider. Reita slipped in, and Uruha left him in the genkan and went back to the living room. His heart was beating hard against his ribs, and suddenly it was hard to breathe. What was Reita here for, so late? Just to apologise? Uruha wouldn't accept it. He couldn't accept it.

    "Hey."

    Uruha jumped again, springing a bit away and whirling, Reita held up his hands.

    "Sorry."

    "Why are you here?" Uruha asked in a whisper, throat getting too swollen with emotion to allow him to speak normally. "There's a reason I never responded to your messages."

    "I know. Aoi told me."

    That stopped him for a few moments – stopped him from responding, breathing, thinking. He took a few seconds to process it before he choked, "Told you what?"

    Reita's smile, still tired, had softened. "Why you don't like Chikako. Why you've been upset with me and pushed me away. Why you haven't been smiling."

    "I -"

    "Why didn't you just tell me, Kouyou?"

    Filled with bitterness, Uruha turned his head and didn't respond. He couldn't, he didn't have anything to say. What could he say to that? That he had worried it would end the friendship? That he would be rejected and still just have to be a friend, and suffer with that every day when he looked at Reita? Watch Reita fall in love with someone else, knowing how Uruha felt?

    "No, it's okay. You don't have to tell me. I know why."

    "Like hell you do."

    "Well, you didn't see that I love you too. So yes, I do."

    Quiet again. Uruha stared at the floor, arms still crossed over his chest. He heard the footsteps, felt Reita close, his friend's rough fingertips on his chin. Reita turned his head, so their eyes met, and he stared into the serious depths. They were dark and honest, telling him to believe. He pulled back just a hair's width as Reita's face leaned up, but his lips parted with a tiny breath, and then he felt the kiss, gentle as Reita had ever been, press to him. That too, was honest. Uruha closed his eyes, squeezing them shut, as he subconsciously leaned into it, seeking Reita's warmth and touch. Now his heart was racing, and he could feel the warmth flooding into his cheeks. When the blonde pulled back, Uruha couldn't keep the tiny whimper from following his lips.

    Reita didn't let go of his chin, though. He held Uruha in place, looking at him with that quiet, grieving gaze. Uruha stared back, another whimper rising in his throat. He didn't know what to do or say. Reita had said the words. Reita had said those words he'd only ever heard in fantasies and dreams.

    "I'm sorry," Reita whispered, his expression not changing. "I should have told you too."

    "Akira," Uruha managed now, feeling how his whole body was trembling. "Please, don't be cruel..."

    Reita pulled him back in, their lips meeting again, deeper, fuller, warmer. Part of Uruha told him to resist, but he couldn't do it. He wanted Reita too much. Even if it was a joke, he could pretend for a few minutes. He grabbed Reita, holding him tightly, pulling the blonde's face closer still. He was hungry. He wanted it. Reita's hand mirrored his action, moving from his chin to his neck, curling around it firmly. They parted and immediately pressed back together, bodies growing closer as they kissed desperately. It was innocent and chaste at first, but as soon as he felt Reita's mouth opening, Uruha eagerly followed suit. He was rewarded by Reita thrusting his tongue in, wresting a mewl from Uruha as he tried to respond. He was gasping for breath when they parted, diving back in eagerly, pressing up against Reita's smaller, but stronger, body.

    Uruha felt one of Reita's hands touch his collar and run down him to his side, slowly to his hip, where it rested. Uruha was delirious. He wanted more. He silently willed Reita to touch and feel whatever he wanted - Uruha's body was all for him. But the hand stayed where it was, cradling his hip, and Uruha was only frustrated about it for a few moments before the rough, passionate kiss drew his attention away again. He wanted more still, deeper and deeper...

    Reita pulled back, covering Uruha's mouth with his hand when the younger tried to follow and restart it. Uruha whimpered again, staring pleadingly into Reita's eyes. His hand moved so he was holding Uruha's chin again, slowly running his thumb along the full lower lip.

    "I love you," Reita murmured. In all this time, his gaze hadn't left. Even when Uruha had screwed his eyes shut with the waves of pleasure, when he'd opened them, Reita's were still holding firm. "I'm in love with you, Kouyou."

    "Akira, I love you too... I love you, I've wanted you..."

    "Believe me when I say it."

    Uruha hesitated just for a moment - there was Chikako, after all - but the earnest tone of Reita's voice, and his pleading gaze, his touch and his expression. He knew his friend. It wasn't a lie. He felt the tears coming back, he was so overwhelmed.

    "Akira!"

    "Do you believe me?"

    "Yes, god." His Reita was back, the one that saw all of him, that read him and knew him all the way through. The Reita that had always turned full attention on him, always sensed what he wanted and needed. The Reita that had always given him everything. The one that he knew would always be there. No disappointment, no deceit, no dishonesty. Just good, gentle, loving Reita. Akira.

    "Believe me."

    "I love you." This was a dream. He was sure of it now. He didn't want to wake up. He'd stay in this dream forever. "I love you, Akira, I always have, I've always wanted you, just you!"

    They shared another kiss, not hungry and passionate, but soft and deep. Uruha couldn't help but close his eyes again, drowning in the sensation.

    "Do you love me?"

    "Yes, Akira, yes, I love you!"

    "I'm sorry, Kouyou." The hand on his hip pulled him closer still, and Uruha took in a sharp breath, melting a bit. "I'm sorry I let all this happen."

    Uruha blinked hard, trying to keep the tears back, as he pushed his mouth to Reita's again, unable to go without the affection now. Reita stroked his cheek softly, still watching him with those calm dark eyes that made Uruha's whole body shiver.

    "Don't wake me up," Uruha whispered against Reita's lips. "Please don't."

    A small smile and laugh, and the blonde caressed him. "I won't."

    They twined again, Reita's hand on his waist squeezing a bit harder. Uruha slipped one of his hands down from Reita's jaw around his neck, wrapping his arm around to hold Reita in place. He didn't want to go anywhere. He wanted to stay in Reita's arms forever.

    "I love you," Reita murmured when they parted for breath. "Always. Always, through all the years, you were the one most important to me."

    "Akira..." Uruha was getting high. His body was burning, with Reita's scent and touch and taste. "Mine, mine, mine...!"

    "Kouyou, all mine."

    He felt like his legs were going to give out. This contact was making him weak. He tried moving backward, keeping his arm locked around Reita to keep him, and the blonde followed him, only parting from his lips. Uruha panted, trying to stay on his feet, but didn't let Reita pull away. Their lips were still brushing as they breathed, as Reita murmured to him.

    "My beautiful Kouyou, always my bright and sunny Kou."

    "I'm yours," Uruha moaned, shivering as Reita stuck his tongue out and traced his lips with it. "God, all yours."

    When they made it into his bedroom, he yanked Reita back into the embrace, pushing as deep and hard as he could and delighted when Reita returned it. Both his strong hands were on Uruha's waist now, holding him and keeping him steady. Uruha couldn't breathe, he felt his body tremoring... and then Reita pulled away and gently held Uruha out. The guitarist tried to pull him in again, but Reita smiled softly and said, "You're about to pass out, Kouyou."

    He didn't want to stop. He locked his arms tightly around Reita's neck so he couldn't be pushed away. "I don't want to."

    "Come here, then." Reita folded him close, not into a kiss, but a tight hug. Uruha could feel his heart pounding against his chest into Reita's. "Breathe."

    He tried, burying his face in Reita's shoulder, taking deep whiffs of his friend's scent. That calmed him, and he felt his heartrate slowly returning to normal. Reita traced a hand over his back gently, helping soothe him.

    "Akira," Uruha whispered, "this is a dream, right?"

    "No." His friend murmured it into his neck, and Uruha shuddered again. "It's not."

    "I'll wake up and be alone."

    "No."

    Reita pushed him back, and Uruha felt his legs hit the bed. He tumbled back onto it, still clinging to his blonde friend, and they tangled on the covers, Reita on top of him. The blonde pulled back just enough to look into his eyes again, and Uruha felt himself melt and go limp on the mattress in the hot gaze.

    "Aki..."

    "What do you need?"

    The familiar question struck him with the anguish of how difficult the last year had been, and he felt like his chest was going to burst with all the emotions he'd been damming up. He bit his lip hard, but the tears came out anyway, flooding down his face.

    "Kouyou."

    He gave it up and just let himself cry, holding to Reita with all his strength. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry!"

    "I am too. It's okay. I'm here now."

    "I loved you." It had hurt keeping it to himself, trying so hard to bury the feelings deep, and keep his facade to never let anyone know. His feelings for Reita, the hatred towards Chikako, the guilt of using Aoi, the pain of the entire thing was too much to bear any more. "I loved you all this time, and it hurt so much!"

    "I know, Kou." Reita's voice sounded a bit choked. "I know. It's okay."

    "All I've wanted was you, I'd have given anything else up!"

    "It's okay."

    Uruha cried it out, clutching his friend so tightly he was sure it probably hurt. But Reita didn't say anything. He simply held him, until the guitarist was shuddering for breath. Then the blonde leaned up and kissed him softly and shortly, not making breathing harder. Uruha blinked the last few tears away, staring up into the amber eyes. He saw they were wet and bloodshot... Reita had been crying too.

    "I l-l-love you-u-u," he whimpered.

    A warm smile, and Reita leaned his forehead against Uruha's. "I love you too."

    Uruha closed his eyes, taking a shaky breath as he leaned up and brushed a tiny kiss against Reita's lips. He would never get enough of them, their taste and feel. Then he swallowed hard and asked, "W-what about Ch-Chikak-ko...?"

    "Hm?"

    "Are y-y-you staying-g with h-h-her...?" He felt terrified at the thought, now that this had happened, that he knew Reita's feelings and Reita knew his.

    "We broke up."

    Uruha was quiet for awhile, struggling to process these feelings now. Relief, triumph, a bit of worry. Reita had seemed to really care for her. Had he broken up with her just because of Uruha?

    "She came over last night and we talked for a while. We'd been needing to, but I kept putting it off because I didn't know what I wanted to say. But I finally did, last night and today. And I was honest, to a degree. She wanted commitment to the next step in the relationship. I said I couldn't do it. When she asked why, I told her there was someone else, and I was trying to figure it out. She understandably got upset and left without saying anything to further a conversation, other than I had a day to decide. So I went over to her place tonight to talk with her more about it."

    "What did you s-say?"

    "I said that with things the way they were, with our opinions on different things and what she was asking of me, I didn't think I could commit to her like she wanted me to. I couldn't do it wholeheartedly, because I wasn't going to let the other person go. She said she didn't want to be in a relationship with a cheater anyway. And that was it."

    Uruha was quiet for awhile, fingertips straying through Reita's blonde hair. Then he whispered, "I'm sorry."

    "I tried. But I wasn't in it as wholeheartedly as I thought I was. I was in love with you. I thought you didn't feel the same way, so when I met her, I thought I would try to make a good relationship for myself. I managed pretty well. But I couldn't have ever let you go. I tried really hard, but I couldn't. You're too big a part of me."

    "I can't lose you either, Akira. If I do, I lose myself." Uruha pressed his nose and mouth into Reita's shoulder, breathing deep. "I need you. I love you. I can't ever stop, no matter how I try. And I've tried!"

    Reita moved, and while Uruha didn't grab at him, he didn't let go either, so when the blonde rolled off Uruha onto his side, the guitarist was pulled with him. They lay, looking at each other, arms still around each other. Uruha's agony and pain and grief had faded. He felt warm and surreal. Reita's hand on his hip grounded him.

    "I still don't think this is real," Uruha whispered, gaze tracing Reita's face, down his jaw and neck and shoulders, and back up to those eyes that were always watching him. "I'm still afraid to wake up."

    A small smile stretched Reita's mouth. "I'll stay the night with you. Then when you do wake up, I'll still be right here."

    "Please." When Reita had first kissed him, Uruha had burned for sex, to be taken and claimed hard, and a faint bit of that lust was still pulsing in him. But it had given way to the need for simple affection and comfort and validation. He supposed the first night wasn't the time for sensual gratification. Maybe later. It wasn't why he wanted Reita anyway. He wanted Reita because he was like this - gentle, supportive, always looking to give him the very best. Uruha swallowed hard and smiled, the first real smile he'd managed in a long time. "Stay with me."

    "I couldn't do anything else."

    Curled up in Reita's arms, holding him tightly, was just as satisfying as sex, Uruha decided. Feeling and smelling the blonde's breath, hearing his voice and his heartbeat, was so comforting. It was all he had ever wanted. He didn't want to fall asleep, because waking was a terrifying thought, but he couldn't help it. He felt calm and loved. He drifted off with his face pillowed against his friend's shoulder.

    He jerked awake in the morning, heart beating fast. Uruha had never woken up with such clarity. He waited for his senses to tell him he was alone and cold in bed, twisted in the sheets. He expected it. He didn't expect to still be wrapped in Reita's strong, protective arms, to be held against the lean toned body, to have lips pressed into his forehead. Shaking a bit, he lifted his head and found himself nose-to-nose with the still-sleeping bassist. Uruha was lost for words. He was breathless. He was waking up to Reita holding him. Tears came to his eyes again, and with a lump in his throat, he swallowed them back.

    "Don't cry... don't cry…" he begged himself.

    Uruha ran his hand gently along Reita's chest to his shoulder, reassuring himself it was real. Down the side to his hip and thigh, under the sandy feel of his jeans. He tentatively ran a hand through the gold hair, somehow not waking his friend, even as he traced a fingertip over his eyebrows and down that forbidden nose. All tangible, all warm and human, all very very real. Reita's expression was blank but soft, his lips slightly parted. Uruha smiled despite himself and kissed them softly.

    "You're still here."

    He slid his arm back under Reita's, around the bassist's back, and pulled himself close again. A couple of tears slipped free now, soaked up by Reita's thin shirt. He couldn't help himself.

    "You're still here..."

    Not long later, he felt Reita shifting, and he raised his head again so he could watch his friend wake. He'd seen it often in hotels, or backstage, but being this close and in his arms was something different. He held his breath as he watched Reita's eyelashes slowly open, revealing the clear amber depths. They stared at him for a few seconds before a smile stretched his mouth.

    "Good morning, beautiful."

    "Akira, good morning," Uruha breathed.

    "Not a dream."

    "Not a dream, no."

    Reita hugged him tightly, and the guitarist buried his face in Reita's shoulder, clutching at his back.

    "Not a dream,” he repeated, his throat slightly choked.

    "I'm glad it isn't, too."

    "I still feel like it is, though. It doesn't seem real that you'd say those things to me."

    "I think we'll both need some time."

    "You really broke up with her?"

    "Yes. I'll need some time for that, too. But having you will make it easier on me. You're the only one I'd do that for."

    "What if I had told you a long time ago?"

    "I still would have broken up with her. I'm in love with you."

    "You love her too."

    "Not like I should. Not for being life partners. Not like I've loved you through all the years and changes, good times and arguments. I don't know if I ever could have loved her quite like I love you. It would have been enough to get by. But you always would have been number one."

    Uruha clutched at him tighter. It was exactly what he had been thinking, when he'd been considering settling for what he could get. Even if he could have loved someone else, loved Aoi, they never would have been able to take Reita's place.

    "I'm sorry, again, for not having the guts to tell you."

    "I'm sorry too. I feel like such a loser."

    "You kind of are."

    "Asshole," Uruha muttered, though incredibly fondly. He wouldn't mind being so, if it was with Reita.

    "Whatever you think, babe."

    The pet name gave him a warm shiver. "Say it again?"

    "You're kind of a loser."

    "Not that." Uruha lightly hit his back. "Call me babe again."

    "Kouyou. Babe."

    Uruha sighed as the shiver passed through him again. "Baby."

    "Call me that all you want."

    "I will, trust me. You're mine now."

    "Don't let me go."

    "Never again."

    Reita squeezed him tightly, and they enjoyed a few more minutes of warm silence before Reita said, "I'm hungry."

    "Bastard." Uruha reluctantly let go of him and sat up, stretching his arms. The blonde propped himself up on one arm, watching as he stretched. Uruha smiled broadly, seeing himself in Reita's eyes. Could he really have been so miserable less than twelve hours before? It seemed impossible. "Let's get some breakfast then. But only if you spend the whole day with me."

    "You're a terrorist. But I'll agree to your demands."

    Uruha stood up with Reita, grabbing his shoulder. The blonde seemed to know what he wanted, because as soon as Uruha had his face in his hands, Reita kissed him softly. The guitarist held it there, loving when Reita rested his palms on his hips. Pulling back he whispered, "I love you."

    "Love you too, babe." That warm, soft smile that Uruha knew now was only for him. "We have the whole day. Let's get ready for it."