for as long as you can remember knowing rui, you have loved him. you do not know if it was love at first sight, for that sounds so cliched and shallow to you - but truly, you cannot remember a time you did not like him, from the very moment you met. was it simply seeing him that did it for you? or perhaps - his sweet, shy smile, making your heart flutter. or the way he was so earnest about music, so dedicated, that you were inspired. maybe, the way he stared at you like you were important and amazing after you sang, and called you and your voice beautiful. perhaps - ah, there are too many instances you can dredge up in your memories. you just know, quite simply - you love rui.
you know, also, clear as day - rui does not love you back.
of course, he is your closest friend, and you know he loves you as that. only his best friend, and absolutely nothing else. you would know if he did, for rui has never been the most subtle or guarded with feelings, shy and stammering around someone he is in love with, the sweetest of smiles appearing on his face when he talks about them.
perhaps, he would have fallen in love with you in another universe, one where you did not take so long to realise that you loved him as much, much more than a friend. one where you were brave enough to act on your feelings, and build something more. but - this is not that universe.
you always dismissed the twinges in your heart, the flashes of sadness, whenever rui mentioned someone he liked, or went on a date, or did any number of romantic things with another. it was only worry for him, worry that your bond as best friends would strain and break. you encouraged him when he asked you for advice, did you not? you teased the way he blushed, the way his words wouldn't always come out quite right, laughed as he pouted cutely and ruffled his hair - and always, you would ignore the hurt deep inside you.
weeks turned into months and into years, before you could truly put a name to what you felt. that, or you knew, but never found the courage to admit to them.
(but by then it was far, far too late, because you were already watching the love of your life and another of your closest friends fall for each other, and you could not do anything.)
you watched, as rui's cheeks turned pink and he tripped over his words when he was with umi. you smiled and said yes, as rui told you that he thought he was in love with umi, and if it was really okay with him, with the band, should they start dating. you saw how tender umi became towards rui, expression softening when he looked at him, smiled privately when rui wasn't looking. you felt your heart shatter as rui got drunk and leaned in to kiss umi, who stopped him and told him he wasn't going to take advantage of a drunken rui. you joined yuh and tohya in teasing umi about how gentlemanly he was, and in your eyes burned tears that you never let fall.
the next day, umi and rui walked in to the studio together, hands entwined, and you felt your heart break anew.
the thing is, you are genuinely happy for them. after all, what has always mattered to you most, more than your ridiculous feelings, has been rui's happiness. you would give anything to see that bright, carefree smile on rui's face, to hear that joyous laughter ringing free from his lips, knowing that he is safe and content. even if you are not the one who can bring him that happiness, even if it kills you deep down, that has always been of paramount importance. and yet - and yet! there are nights you can't stop yourself from weeping, alone and away from your friends, unable to bear the pain lancing through your heart.
umi - umi is a good man. one of the best you know. umi has always been so kind and good, to everybody that he knows. he treats the band like they're family, and is fiercely devoted to them. and - and he loves rui so much, too, treating him like he's royalty, the perfect prince to rui's princess. he is the one who brings that beautiful smile to rui's face and how could you ever, ever begrudge them that?
it kills you the most when you are on stage or in front of the camera, performing fanservice for the fans, skin and lips touching without meaning. umi is fine with it, perfectly understanding of the appeal the pair of you hold for the fans. rui doesn't think much of it, smiling guilelessly at you when you kiss. and you - you force yourself never to linger long, never to betray your true emotions, and so far you have been successful.
there are small mercies. rui does not know how you feel. rui, bless him, has never been the most perceptive of people, even if he is your best friend. he's in love with umi anyway - why should he care for your feelings? but sometimes you suspect that yuh and tohya might know something, and even umi, the sharpest of all of you. but they say nothing, and you can pretend all is well.
until the day umi asks you to stay back, wishing to discuss some work with you. you notice, then, how umi's voice is just a tad nervous, like he's trying hard not to be. you notice worry flashing in yuh's and tohya's eyes as they leave the studio. only rui seems perfectly at ease, waving goodbye and wishing you two good luck with work, that he'll have dinner with yuh and tohya for a change, tonight.
you know, then, and you hate yourself so, so much that it has come to this. why could you not control your emotions better? why were you so weak? why - why did you ever fall in love with rui in the first place? why couldn't your useless heart love someone who could love you back instead? why?
"you're in love with rui, right?" umi's voice asks you, gentle and kind.
why isn't he angry? he ought to be - you have feelings for his boyfriend, damn it, he should be jealous and angry but - god, no, of course he isn't, is he? umi is too good a person for anger and bitterness. of course he would only be understanding, so much that your heart hurts worse than ever.
the only thing you can do is nod, afraid to speak. you sing and write for a living, and you have come to this.
"have you... have you loved him for a very long time?" umi asks.
here you manage to whisper, "for as long as i've known him." then, "i'm so sorry."
"you shouldn't have to be sorry. your feelings aren't wrong just because you feel that way," umi responds, his voice quiet, but firm.
"rui's your boyfriend, not mine," you reply, knowing how pathetic you look, trying to smile at umi. "i'm so sorry, umi. it'd be much easier if i didn't love him, right?"
umi hesitates only a moment before nodding. "i don't... i don't exactly like knowing that my boyfriend's best friend loves him, too. but... you are also one of my closest friends, tomo. no one wants to see you hurt. rui, least of all."
"does he know?" you ask, your voice rough- it is getting so hard to control yourself.
"no," umi replies, swift and sure - the truth, and you are relieved. "he only noticed that you were a bit sad, and he asked if i was giving you too much work. rui is... innocent."
you smile at the floor, knowing. "good. don't let him know. ever. please. i don't want to make him sad. i don't care what happens to me, umi. i just want rui to be happy," you say, helpless.
"really? tomo, you're killing yourself like this. if... if rui and i... if we weren't..." umi cannot finish his sentence, sounding upset that he has even considered it.
"don't," you say, more vehement than you could believe yourself to be. "don't hurt rui. please. he loves you. he loves you so much. you make him happy, umi. please. don't take that away from him. i mean it when i said i didn't care about myself. it hurts, it hurts knowing i can never, ever, have the love of the person i love most in the world but - please. let rui be happy."
that is the truth. you would much, much rather rui be happy with somebody else (and somebody you know you can trust, at that), than let anything taint that happiness. let alone you. more than anything else - more than your own pain and loneliness, you cannot bear the thought of rui's tears, of rui's hurt.
"i promise," umi tells you, his voice steady once more. "i love rui, too. i'll try my best to make him happy."
this time, when you smile at umi, it is real. perhaps you needed to hear that - that confirmation, that surety, that rui is happy and loved. in the face of that promise, your own despair is - irrelevant. "thank you."
umi nods, and he rests a comforting hand on your shoulder before he leaves you alone in the room. there are a few more things you know, now.
one. you do not think you could ever stop loving rui. there may come a day when your heart won't feel like it's breaking when you see him, but still you will continue to love rui. you will always, always put his happiness before yours, you will always care for him more than anyone else. there will never be anyone else you will love so deeply.
two. you can trust umi to love rui. to keep him safe, to bring him joy, to build a beautiful happy life together with him. you can count on umi to do what you can never do for rui. you will learn to let it be enough.
and three. as long as rui is happy, you too will learn to be happy. truly happy. you will always, always love rui enough to let