“Good morning,” Takashi barged into the office and lost his smile. “I always forget how messy this place is.”
“It’s not mess. This is research.” He snapped. Books were stacked higher than the table on the floor. The desk was littered with open volumes and notes scrawled on scraps of paper. His laptop was pushed to the side, sitting precariously on the edge.
“Working on a new paper?”
Hikaru managed to nod his head. “I’ll get through most of it this summer holidays, when I don’t have to grade students.”
“You should really delegate, get some help on the research from your students. We all do it.”
Hikaru shrugged. He knew it was common practice, he had participated when he was a student, but it wasn’t something he wanted his students to do for him. At least not on this paper. “What’s up?”
Hikaru became wary. “What?”
“You and Ruby?”
“What?” He repeated. At the mention of her name, his gut clenched. He did well over the weekend, not thinking about her and focusing on his work. Not once did she pass through his mind. ‘Maybe there’s something wrong with me? No woman, no matter how attracted I am to them, stays in my mind quite like the great authoresses.’
“Did she get home safe?”
“And… where did you sleep?”
Hikaru leapt to his feet and pointed his finger in heated accusation. “Sexual harassment.”
“No,” Takashi laughed. “Just hoping to see the young people enjoying themselves.”
“So what, it was a set up?” his arm flopped to his side and he felt a little deflated. “If that’s the case, why didn’t you make Hokuto take Ruby home? They seemed to click.”
Takashi rolled his eyes. “I consider Ruby family, no way do I want her to fall in love with that baka and making him my family.”
“But he wouldn’t be technically,” He sank back into his chair, rocking backwards.
Takashi leaned his shoulder against the door jam and got comfortable. “It was our family she lived with in high school her first time over here. When she decided to return, we of course wanted her to rely on us. She did for a year and it was nice having a family in our home. Then she moved out her second year to be more independent.”
‘Why is he telling me this?’ Hikaru sat in confusion.
“She always came home to visit, but it wasn’t the same.”
“I get it, she’s like a daughter to you.”
“And that’s why I want her to end up with a responsible man who will do good by her.” He grinned at his college. “She asked about you.”
B-dum. Excitement raced through his body and he felt a little less exhausted. But his rational side won out. “Please don’t encourage this.”
“Because I don’t have the time.”
“Everyone has the time for love.” Takashi countered.
“This isn’t love.”
“It could be.”
“And then what? Is she planning on moving to Japan to get married?” Hikaru sneered. “She’s here on holidays, this isn’t the time for her to be thinking about anything but having fun. And I really have to get back to work.” Turning away he struck the keys on the laptop with deadly accuracy.
The silence was heavy.
“When did you last go on a date?”
Hikaru’s fingers froze on the keys.
“When was your last relationship?” Takashi continued. He moved further into the tiny room, reached over and closed the laptop.
“A while ago,” was all he could say. Thinking about it made his head hurt. ‘When was the last time? What was her name? We had dinner… and then what? I can’t remember.’
The muscles in his head and neck tightened, making the headache pulsate.
“When was the last time another human being was at your home?”
Hikaru gasped and looked up at his elder. “What are you trying to do?”
“I’m trying to get answers as to why you’re always here, always working, reading about someone else’s life, but never actually out there living your own. Why is that?”
‘This is annoying.’ “What is it to you?”
“I understand what it means to wait too long to do something.”
The annoyance left his body, replaced with an inability to meet Takashi’s eyes. Everyone knew he and his wife were childless not because they chose to be. ‘It would be the worst thing in the world to admit I don’t care if I never have children.’ Hikaru swallowed hard. “Takashi-”
“No,” He interrupted. “We’ve known each other for years. I’ve seen you work here until you pass out. This isn’t a life you should actively chase.”
“Takashi,” He started again, this time determined to say what he needed to say. “I’m doing what I like because life is too short. Romance isn’t high on my priority list. That’s my decision. You should do the same and do what you like.”
He narrowed his eyes. “What I would like to do is see you and Ruby go on a date.”
Hikaru slapped his forehead with his open palm. “That’s not what I meant.”
Takashi chuckled. “I know. I understand. But Ruby noticed the way you were looking at her and all I can say is she wouldn’t object to getting to know you better over a nice meal.” He leaned in close.
Hikaru leant back, his face was on fire. This was so embarrassing.
“It’s one thing to say you have no time for it and don’t care, it’s another thing to have the evidence of your interest for a romance presented to you.” Takashi grinned and while humming, he left the office in more disarray than before.
Hikaru stared at the closed laptop.