Chapter 13

Six thirty the next evening found Fuji and Ryoma seated across from one another in a booth at the airport McDonald’s. They had come a bit early in order to grab some food before the inevitable showdown with Rick.

Ryoma was so strung out by the time they’d taken their seats that he couldn’t eat. Just the thought of food made his stomach recoil, a sensation made worse by the knowledge that Rick was going to be walking through the entrance at any moment. After Rick had put him in the hospital, Ryoma never wanted anything to do with him. He hadn’t called to let him know it was over, but he thought he’d sent the message loud and clear once he’d banned Rick from his hospital room.

Fuji watched the trepidation spill over Ryoma’s face, his own gut tightening in anger. To see Echizen so vulnerable in such a public setting- gritted his teeth tightly behind his smile and counted to ten, willing himself to calm down. There’d be time enough for anger later. He chewed his food methodically as he waited, not really tasting it. He’d ordered more out of a need to keep up appearances than true hunger.

“That’s him,” Ryoma whispered, tilting his head to indicate the newcomer.

As soon as Fuji glanced at him, he’d sized him up. Rick was a westerner, about 5’4” with shaggy brown hair that fell in curls around his face. He had a habit of reaching up to brush one particularly vicious curl aside that occasionally fell in such a way to obscure his vision. He wasn’t bulky with muscle, but he wasn’t skinny for lacking it. As appearances went, he was pretty average.

It was the way he held himself that drew attention. Rick walked with a bit of a swagger that said he knew what he was doing. his arms fell by his sides in a swing that indicated confidence to a casual observer, but Fuji wasn’t casual. There was a very slight,almost unnoticeable, hesitation in how widely he swung his arms, and he always moved them just a bit too far. He was insecure, but adept at covering it. Probably with his fists.

Speaking of fists, Fuji had curled his own hands into fists without thinking about it. He relaxed his hands. They were in public. Appearances mattered.

Ryoma stood as Rick approached their booth. He and Fuji had discussed the need not to draw attention to themselves in public and orchestrated a plan around that. “Hello, Rick,” he said, switching to English.

Rick didn’t even glance at Fuji. The only person he had eyes for was Ryoma. “Hello, Ryoma.”

Fuji stood up smoothly and turned to the westerner. “Hello, Rick. I’m Syuusuke Fuji,” he said, his English flawless though rather heavily accented.

Rick eyes him like he was an annoying not, not even important enough to squash. “Why is he here?” he asked Ryoma, completely ignoring Fuji.

Masked smile in place, Fuji answered. “I am Ryoma’s boyfriend.”

Rick snorted. “Pull the other leg. Come on Ryoma. We’re leaving. This freak can stay here.”

Ryoma winced inwardly. Insulting Fuji was never a healthy thing to do. “I’m not going anywhere with you.”

Rick reached out a hand to grab Ryoma’s wrist and force him along, only to find his way obstructed when Fuji stepped in between them, smoothly deflecting the grab.

“Saa, why don’t we all sit down and discuss this like adults? People are starting to stare.” Fuji still hadn’t lost his composure, but Rick was glaring at him for all he was worth.

“Fine,” Rick said. “But Ryoma sits with me.”

Fuji raised an eyebrow. This guy was way too pushy. Then again, he hadn’t expected anything less. “With your history, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“History? What history?” Rick asked. Realization flashed across his face and he turned to Ryoma, anger coloring his words. “You told him about that? You had no right-

“He had every right. Now please, sit down before someone decides to interfere.” Fuji nodded towards the other people in the restaurant, not a few of which were openly staring at them.

Rick scowled, but slid into the booth. “Ryoma, sit beside me.”

Ryoma looked at him blankly, then turned his attention to Fuji. He felt caught. He in no way wanted to sit with Rick, but he also didn’t want to give the guy an excuse to hurt him.

“Ryoma,” Rick said, voice sharp with warning.

Fuji smiled a little at the attempt at dominance. He turned to his boyfriend. “I’d like it if you sat with me on the inside but feel free to sit wherever you like.” Control wasn’t about giving orders all the time-it was about that fine line of illusion that caused orders to appear as choices.

“I’ll sit with you, Syuusuke.” Having made that decision, Echizen slid into the booth first, breathing a sigh of relief. Fuji slid in after him.

“I don’t know what game you think you’re playing, Syuusuke-

“It’s Fuji,” he said, eyes flashing with anger as the mask slipped off his face. “You have no right to use my first name.”

“You introduced yourself as Syuusuke.”

“You mean to tell me you dated Ryoma and didn’t learn that we refer to one another by last names unless there is a degree of intimacy involved?” He kept his tone at gently tiding, but wanted to put more derision behind the words.

“Whatever. Americans use first names, not last.”

Ryoma spoke up then. “Rick, please. It’s just a name.” He wasn’t ready for this to escalate into violence over something so stupid.

“Since you ask so nicely. Fine, I’ll call you Fuji. But only because Ryoma asked.”

Fuji longed to bang his fists on the table to demonstrate his frustration. His patience was starting to wear thin. Rick had somehow mastered the trick of looking at his face but completely avoiding eye contact. And while Fuji didn’t need to use his gaze to intimidate people, it made things much less complicated.

“As I was saying, I don’t know what game you think you’re playing, but Ryoma is mine. You have no claim on him.”

“Game? I am not playing any games,” Fuji said.

Rick glared at him before turning to Ryoma, once again dismissing Fuji. “Why is he here?”

Fuji’s irritation was growing stronger, as was his anger. Rick didn’t know how to be polite. His rudeness was not only insulting, but degrading. Acting like he was better than everyone around him. Fuji had to be amazed that no one had managed to put him in his place. “I believe I already answered that.”

“Shut up, asshole, I’m not talking to you.”

Calm came over Fuji as he reclaimed his public persona. Rick had lost control of his temper. That meant this game was his to play now. Knowing that, he tilted his head back to consider the annoyance on Rick’s face. The guy had a temper and a volatile one. But Fuji had the advantage here because he would never lose his cool in public. It lacked sophistication. “Does it offend you so much when I speak?”

“When you answer questions not meant for you, yeah. I was talking to Ryoma.”

“Che. His answer is my answer,” Ryoma said, cutting in.

Rick jerked angrily in his seat, then hissed, “Don’t fuck with me, Ryoma. You won’t like me angry.”

Fuji started to speak, but Ryoma beat him to it. “I may not like you angry, Rick. You did put me in the hospital. But.” He stopped.

Rick glared. “But what?”

Ryoma sighed. “You may have put me in the hospital, but I’m not afraid of you. I know how far you’ll go. You’re mostly bark and a little bite. You’re a coward.”

Rick’s face twisted somewhere between a snarl and a grimace. His eyes narrowed. “You belong to me,” he spat.

“No, I don’t. I never did.”

“Don’t lie. You were at my side for a year. Don’t act like that doesn’t mean anything.” To Fuji’s surprise, there was actually pain in those words. Somewhere inside, Rick really did care for Ryoma. That just made what he’d done to the freshman that much more despicable.

“And I never once said that I was yours and you know it,” Ryoma said.

“Maybe not. But the things you let me do-no, the things you begged me to do. You’ll never find anyone else who’ll give you what you need.”

Ryoma gave him a disgusted look. “You are not what I need. And just because I let you hurt me doesn’t mean you own me.”

“Yes, it does. You don’t let just anyone take a knife to your back.”

Those words stopped Echizen cold. While he had let Rick cut him, it had been under duress. Knives terrified him.

Fuji looked at Ryoma with contemplation. He’d never thought of using a knife. It seemed too risky, too much of a temptation. He caught the shadow of fear in Ryoma’s eyes. “You cut him even though you knew it scared him,” he said.

“Yep. And he begged me to do it.” Rick was proud. It radiated from him. Fuji felt a little sick.

“I didn’t beg you to cut me. In fact, I remember yelling at you to stop. Repeatedly.”

“Semantics.” Rick dismissed that out-of-hand. “Begging is begging.” He paused. “You still haven’t said the but. You’re scared of me angry-

“No, I’m not. Your anger doesn’t frighten me.”

“Fine, whatever. But you don’t want me angry.”

“Because I don’t enjoy hospitals.”

“Then come with me. Admit you belong to me. There’ll be no more hospitals.”

“You’re right. Because I’m not going with you.”

Rick snarled. “Why the fuck not? You remember what I said on the phone-

“That you’d kill me.” Ryoma was radiating calm. Fuji felt a moment of pride that he was holding up so well under pressure. “Yeah, I remember.”

“Then stop being an idiot and-

“But.”

“But what?” Rick was all but yelling now. It was truly a miracle that none of the other customers hadn’t come up to them. Then again, maybe not. It seemed that people generally avoided involving themselves in others’ conflicts. Still, Fuji wished Rick could act a little more civilized.

“There’s one thing more terrifying than you killing me.”

“Somehow, I don’t believe you.”

Ryoma grinned and prodded Fuji’s side. “You asked me what he was doing here.”

“Yeah, so?” Rick had to take a moment to reorient himself to the change in topic.

Ryoma stared at Rick. “Meet Syuusuke Fuji, my boyfriend. Oh. I should mention. He’s a sadist and a helluva lot scarier than you.”

Rick picked that moment to look at Fuji and this time Fuji managed to capture his gaze. Fuji let his mask crumble into pieces and sat staring at the westerner, eyes ablaze with anger. There was a lesser, answering anger in Rick’s eyes but neither one of them wavered.

“I will kill him before I let you touch him,” Rick said.

Fuji smiled. It wasn’t a nice smile. “Ryoma belongs to me.” The way he said it was nothing like the way Rick had set it. Rick was desperate for everyone to believe that Ryoma was his property. But Fuji just simply knew that Ryoma was his. There was no arrogance in his voice, no boasting. Just knowledge.

Rick recoiled at that, laughing to hide how unsettled he felt. “No, he doesn’t. He said he didn’t belong to me. He never said he’d accepted your claim.”

“True enough.” Fuji turned to Echizen. “Ryoma. Tell him, please.” He kept his voice soft.

Ryoma leaned forward, smirking. “Rick, I will never belong to you.”

“You’ve already said th-

“Because,” Ryoma interrupted. “I can’t belong to two people.”

“Wait? What?” Rick nearly exploded.

“Ryoma, who do you belong to?” Fuji asked, not taking his eyes off Rick. With his temper, he might try something stupid, and Fuji didn’t want to risk Ryoma’s safety.

“You, Syuusuke.”

Something dark flitted behind Rick’s eyes. “If you think I’ll accept this without proof, you have another thing coming.”

Fuji tilted his head. “Is there proof we can provide that will get you out of our lives permanently?”

Ryoma was tugging insistently on his hand under the table, almost frantic. “Syuusuke, that was-

“An excellent idea,” Rick said, smirking. “In fact, I can think of the perfect proof.”

Ryoma clutched Fuji’s hand hard under the table. So the bravery really had been a front. “What proof would you require?” Fuji asked, absently tracing circles on the back of Echizen’s hand.

“Why, using a knife on him of course. If, as you say, he belongs to you, then he most certainly won’t refuse such a thing.”

“He is afraid of knives,” Fuji said. He did not like the turn this conversation was taking.

“If he trusts you, the fear shouldn’t matter. So what will it be? A knife show or giving him to me to play with?”

Fuji shrugged. “Ask Ryoma.”

“I thought you said he belonged to you.”

“He does. But I’ll not force him into anything. I’m giving him the choice.”

“Che. The options suck.” Ryoma glared at Rick. He knew if his ex won this challenge, he could very well end up dead. Drawing a ragged breath, he turned to Fuji. “I’ll take the knives.”

Fuji smiled sadly. “I would spare you this.”

“No.” Ryoma shook his head. “It’s fine. Syuusuke, I trust you. I’ll do whatever takes to be worthy of you.”

“It is me who should worry about being worthy, not you.”

Rick rolled his eyes. “Whatever. Just come to my hotel at five tomorrow. I’ll be expecting a good show.” With that, he slide out of his booth and disappeared.

Fuji pulled Ryoma close to him, resting his head on Ryoma’s, who was leaning against his shoulder. It seemed life kept getting more and more complicated. “Why did you agree to the knives?”

Ryoma sighed against him. “Because as much of an ass as Rick is, he does have his own sense of morals. If he says he’ll accept proof and leave, he will. I don’t want this to be messier than it has to be.”

Fuji frowned. “He didn’t strike me as the type to break a bargain. But I don’t like that I’m going to have to hurt you at his whim.”

“I like it less than you.”

“And yet you agreed to it.”

Ryoma rolled his eyes. “I did. Because having you take a knife to me scares me a lot less than the idea of being back in his care.”

Fuji chuckled. “You told him I was scarier.”

“You are.” Ryoma struggled for the words. “I know Rick will only go so far in order to hurt me. He’s too squeamish to do anything but a quick beating or a clean death, if he ever kills. But you, Syuusuke. When someone hurts someone close to you, you won’t make it quick or clean. You’ll prolong it.”

“Does it bother you?” Fuji couldn’t protest. It was true. Already, plans were forming in his head to make Rick pay for everything he’d done. It would be hard to get a hold of his American contacts, but he’d do it. And then he’d make sure Rick never stepped out of his house again without being terrified. He deserved nothing less.

Ryoma shook his head. Solemnly, he said, “No. Because it’s only knowing that you’ll torment Rick for the rest of his life that’s going to allow me to get through tomorrow.”

For that, Fuji kissed him. There were no words adequate enough.

Chapter 12     Chapter Index     Chapter 14

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