.hack//G.U. – Endrance
“Endrance” by Ryuuzaki Kusakurin and Yumi Mitora Kusakurin
DISCLAIMER: Neither of us own .hack//G.U. or any of the other .hack games, but we sure wish we did…
Warnings: Yaoi [non-graphic], language, violence, etc.
Characters: Haseo [Misaki Ryou], Endrance [Ichinose Kaoru], Kuhn [Kasumi Tomonari], Sakubo [Nakanishi Iori], Silabus [Morino Yuuichi], Gaspard [Kouta Maki], Atoli [Kusaka Chigusa]
Theme Songs: Innocent Sorrow [Abingdon Boys School], HOWLING [Abingdon Boys School], Zips [TM REVOLUTION], Michiyuki [Hikida Kaori], This Is Love [Utada Hikaru]
Pairings: Endrance x Haseo [Kaoru x Ryou]
Ayako: Say hi to the nice readers! *acts as reporter* Now, what would we do if we owned .hack?
Yumi: We could make a 4th volume! *le gasp*
Ryuuzaki: We could make an Endrance-centred version! *insert starry eyes*
Yumi: You know, any sane person that reads this must think we’re crazy…
Ryuuzaki: Yeah, that’s kinda sad…
By the way, don’t steal our stuff! We’ll loose Saku on you after telling her that you love Endrance!
“Haseo?” The Rouge turned to his companion Endrance, thoroughly annoyed by the dungeon they were currently occupying.
“What is it?” He didn’t even bother to curb the annoyance in his voice – the former Demon Palace Emperor wouldn’t care too much. It was one thing that Haseo appreciated about the odd man – he took a lot of things at face value rather than reading into the sometimes pointless emotions behind the words when Haseo was annoyed at life in general.
“Have you ever met any of your online friends in real life?” The question startled him a little, but he continued hacking at the monsters in front of him with the broadsword.
“Yeah,” he replied, distracted. “Kuhn works at this arcade I go to a lot, he’s pretty cool… Silabus and I hang out sometimes…”
“I – I’d like to meet you in real life,” Endrance murmured, brushing past the Adept Rouge and slicing gracefully at the monster Haseo had been targeting. He effortlessly brought the creature down, smiling cryptically once the battle was over.
“You’d have to log out of ‘The World’ for that, you know,” Haseo commented. He knew that his friend was a hikikomori and stayed online almost all the time, but for him to show that level of commitment to anyone was astonishing.
“I would for you, Haseo,” the Blade Bandier told him, smiling in that odd way of his once again before drifting off towards more enemies. “Assuming, of course, that you would like to meet.” The statement was a loaded question in disguise – not even Haseo was foolish enough to not see that.
“Umm… where do you want to meet then, Endrance?” Haseo was distracted again, the blue-haired man noticed, but that didn’t stop him from offering another sign of the strange devotion he was known for.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” he told Haseo airily.
“How about… the Raikou Arcade. You know where that is, right?”
“It’s near the cinemas, isn’t it?” Good, Haseo thought. He isn’t completely clueless, and he lives near me if he knows where it is.
“Yeah, that’s it. I don’t have work or school today, so how does 10:00 sound?” It was still early in the morning, and when Endrance agreed, Haseo finished the area with him and logged off to get a shower and dress for the day.
Running a hand through his wet hair, Misaki Ryou pulled a plain black tee over his head and grabbed a pair of faded jeans to match. Slipping a terrycloth wristband over his slender wrist, he was about to rush out the door when he realized he’d probably want his phone. Slipping it into his pocket along with a small wad of bills, Ryou walked out the door to his apartment and headed for the arcade. It was only a second after that when he realised that he had no idea what Endrance looked like.
Fifteen minutes later found Ryou in front of the arcade, surrounded by gamers much like him, although he was waiting for someone. Waving to Tomanari – Kuhn – he picked a seat near the door, mentally rejecting the possibility of each passer-by being Endrance, and eventually everyone currently in the arcade was rejected in that manner. In the next few minutes, more than twenty people passed through the bustling arcade’s doors, and once again, Ryou decided that none of them actually could be Endrance.
Then one young man – at most, he was 20 – entered the arcade, and Ryou found that he couldn’t automatically discount the possibility.
The willowy blonde’s hair was wild, even though it looked like he had attempted to tame it, and it was long enough to obscure part of his face; the man kept brushing it away from his dark eyes, and it seemed to annoy him. His skin was almost unnaturally pale, a good match with his model-thin frame. Not only that, but his posture was nearly perfect, aside from a slight slouch that Ryou automatically decided came from too many hours of video gaming. Deciding to speak to the newcomer, Ryou walked up to him and placed a hand on his shoulder to get his attention.
“You wouldn’t happen to be the player ‘Endrance’ from ‘The World’, would you?”
“Haseo?” The man’s voice was a pleasant falsetto, and Ryou fought the urge to grin like an idiot.
“I have a real name, you know,” he replied with a harmless frown which was quickly replaced by a lopsided grin. “I’m Misaki Ryou.”
“My name is Ichinose Kaoru,” ‘Endrance’ replied, almost nervously. Ryou guessed that this was the first time the other man had been away from the virtual world for this long.
“Calm down,” Ryou smiled, offering a few tokens to him. “Want to go play some of the games?” Kaoru nodded and more or less took off with the golden coins. Laughing to himself, Ryou followed, feeling very much like he was looking after a new pet. After he relocated Kaoru in front of a shooter game, he decided to go play a game or two himself. “Would you mind if I went to go play some of the other games?” Kaoru shook his head, perfectly comfortable now that he was in front of a video game, and when Ryou left, he completely focused on the game in front of him.
As Ryou neared the DDR platforms, a voice behind him made him jump.
“So, who’s your date?”
“He’s not my date,” Ryou replied, a light blush colouring his cheeks at the very thought. “It’s Endrance.”
“Whoa,” Tomanari replied, surprised. “I thought he was some kind of hikikomori,” he continued, obviously amazed that anyone had managed to disconnect the young man from his computer.
“He is,” Ryou replied, his crimson eyes focused on the screen in front of him. Selecting a song, he began to move according to the arrows on the screen, continuing to talk haltingly to Tomanari and cursing whenever he missed a step. “Yeah, he’s a definite net addict, but he – dammit – decided to come to the arcade to meet me today. It only makes sense to bring – damn – him to an arcade; I don’t know what else he likes.”
“Yeah,” Tomonari agreed, smiling as an idea came to mind. “Why don’t you cook for him or something? Ladies love that kind of stuff,” he continued.
“Endrance isn’t a girl…” Haseo swore softly under his breath – as much as he hated to admit it, Kaoru was a bit on the feminine side, so he would also end up being the girl in the relationship…
What the hell?
In his attempt to derail that particular train of thought, Ryou’s brain tried to instead concentrate on the DDR steps, which of course meant failing miserably. He gave up altogether after a moment of pointless attempts and completely missed steps. Putting his body more or less back onto autopilot, he sank back into his previous line of thought.
A relationship? Is that what I want?
He was at the point where he was actually beginning to wonder this. The man’s looks were enchanting enough to make him ask what he truly wanted out of this friendship. He knew what Endrance – Kaoru – wanted, but what did he want?
And why did it frighten him?
When his rounds were over, Ryou was understandably tired. Yawning widely as he stepped off of the well-used dance pad, he checked his cell phone’s clock and sighed. 10:45 am. Two more hours of trying to amuse Kaoru to go.
I’m such an idiot, he decided. He had absolutely no idea what the man liked. While he mulled over this, a cold hand touched his arm, startling him out of his thoughts.
“Ha-Ryou?” He turned to face his blonde friend, still trying to figure out what to do with Kaoru.
“I was wondering if we could go somewhere… quieter… There are a lot of people here.” Kaoru sounded nervous, and Ryou attributed it to the fact that he wasn’t used to the real world.
“How about my apartment? I have video games there,” Ryou offered, shrugging.
“That sounds like fun,” he replied affirmatively, his airy voice seeming to be happier than usual. Following Ryou, he left the arcade, headed towards his crush’s apartment.
That was how they had ended up as they were now, sprawled across Ryou’s large bed as they played. Ryou was losing quite dismally to Kaoru at the moment; he was almost convinced that he was using what he had currently dubbed ‘Endrance-powers’ to hack the game, nevermind that it wasn’t ‘The World’.
Sighing heavily, he finally threw in the towel.
“You win,” the defeated teenager announced. After nearly an hour of playing the same game and consistently losing to Kaoru every single time, he had decided to give up.
“Alright… Ryou,” the man replied with a gentle tone which Ryou took to mean that the man was comfortable around him.
“What do you want to do now?” The teenager was at a loss for things to do, now that he had thoroughly worn out any path he might have been able to take.
“Oh… anything’s fine…”
“That was meant in an ‘I have no idea what to do now’ way,” Ryou sighed, clearly tired. “I don’t know what else you’d like to do.”
“Then ask me,” the blonde boy offered. “I can answer anything as long as it’s you asking it, Haseo.”
“Ryou,” he corrected, shaking his head mentally. It would almost appear that Kaoru was unable to seperate the real world from ‘The World’.
“Sorry. I… I don’t really get along with the real world well.” That answered Ryou’s unspoken question.
“Anou… Why not?” At this, Kaoru shifted uncomfortably on the bed and sat up a little straighter. “You don’t have to answer that,” he hastily added.
“It’s alright,” the man said, his voice dispassionate. “My father… he was… abusive when it came to my mother and I. I was never… wanted.” His blonde bangs fell into his face as he spoke, lending him a depressed air. “Nobody wants a… a hikikomori as a son. He doesn’t at all… he almost killed me when I was seventeen.” His eyes were sad, and when Ryou moved to hold him, he gently hugged the boy back.
“That’s awful. I’m sorry, I had no idea…”
“It’s alright,” ‘Endrance’ replied, brightening a bit at the prospect of having ‘Haseo’ this close. He neglected to mention that it was because of his father that he had delved even further into gaming as Endrance – Elk hadn’t been on 24/7, and he had actual friends. Endrance… he didn’t, aside from Haseo and occasionally Sakubo. Ryou’s stomach growled as he pulled away from the blonde, and he sighed heavily at the idea of having to go cook. Maybe I’ll order out instead…
“Aren’t you hungry?” he queried, looking pointedly at Kaoru’s skinny body.
“Not really… I don’t eat much…” That much was obvious, Ryou thought.
“How does sushi sound? There’s a great place near here,” he offered with a shrug.
“I don’t eat meat,” Kaoru replied quietly. “I’m sorry…” he apologised, looking very much like a chastised puppy. Ryou almost felt sorry for him. Almost.
“How does vegetable-fried rice sound?” Kaoru perked up at this, and Ryou took it to mean an affirmative answer. “Alright, I’m going to go cook, you can play this game a bit longer if you like.”
“I… I’ll come with you, if it’s okay. It would be boring without you around.” Ryou rolled his eyes inwardly but was secretly pleased with the answer. If he had someone around, then maybe cooking would be easier…?
“Alright,” he offered, leading him across the small apartment towards the kitchen.
“Hey, Kaoru, can you grab the frying pan for me? It’s right… there,” he said, pointing at a cabinet above the stove. Since Kaoru was a bit over 6 feet tall, it wasn’t hard for him to reach.
“This…?” He held it as if it were a foreign object, and for all Ryou knew it was to him.
“Yeah,” he replied, taking it from the blonde man and rummaging in his refrigerator for carrots, an egg or two, and peas. It wouldn’t be anything fancy, for sure, but it was something Kaoru would eat, so it was fine with him. Blindly opening a drawer, he grabbed a knife and offered it and the small carrots to the taller man. “Here. Make yourself useful,” he joked. Fortunately, athough Ryou was a little worried he might take offense to the flip comment, Kaoru took it in stride. Turning to grab a smaller pan, the black-haired teenager quickly began the process of frying the eggs, only to find Kaoru still staring at the knife and carrot, unsure of what to do with it. “You really can’t cook, can you?”
“Well… not really… I just don’t pay attention to food,” Kaoru admitted.
“You’re starting to worry me, you know…” Ryou shook his head, but then turned his attention to Kaoru. He still had a few minutes before he could put the rice on, anyway, and the egg would be fine if he left it for a minute or two. “I’ll show you how to use it if you’ll help me next time, alright?” At the blonde’s nod, Ryou gently guided Kaoru’s hands to chop a carrot into small pieces. For his part, Kaoru blushed; he was holding hands with Ryou, in a way. It made him truly happy, and so he made sure to pay attention – if he could do this right, he could please his beloved. And he had een mentioned a next time. The whole idea made Kaoru quite happy.
“I think I can do it now,” he offered, missing the warmth of Ryou’s hands as he pulled away, but he was pleased nonetheless as he successfully chopped he carrot into small enough bits to put in the rice.
He had never in his adult life been quite so proud as when Ryou had smiled and told him that he had done a good job.
“It’s good,” Kaoru offered when Ryou looked up from his own plate to watch the emaciated gamer eating. “Mother will be… surprised, I think.”
“Your mom does all your cooking for you, right?”
“Yes… I don’t usually eat much of it though…” A rueful look at his own picked-at plate of rice revealed that he never usually ate much either way.
“You’re gonna shrivel up and die, Kaoru,” Ryou commented around a mouth of food, his crimson eyes finding the older man’s darker ones. “You’d leave me all alone,” he joked.
“No! I… I would never leave you…” Kaoru had even adopted his ‘Endrance’ voice for that, the brown-haired teen thought with a barely-repressed grin. The urge to smile faded when he realised that, along with a video game, he was really the only force that kept the blonde living.
“I’m happy to hear that,” he replied sincerely. “But you really do need to eat more, you know.”
“I’m fine… really, I am…” He paused and looked back at Ryou. “Stop looking at me like that… I really am alright,” Kaoru protested. At this, Ryou sighed dramatically, knowing that it was really none of his business if Kaoru wanted to starve himself to death, but – dammit, he didn’t want to lose anyone else, not after Shino. Especially not after Shino.
“I just don’t want to lose anyone,” he muttered, standing up and putting his plate in the sink, where he would wash it later. “It really sucks to lose a friend.”
“I… I think I know how that feels,” Kaoru replied, wrapping his too-skinny arms around his friend after following him.
“Wha-whoa! Kaoru?” he questioned, craning his neck to look at the man. He wore a strangely pensive expression.
“When I lost Mia… it was like I lost my world…” Ryou sighed, next turn in the conversation would probably include outright claims of love. “But you came and rescued me…” What do you know…
“I didn’t rescue you,” he replied, leaning his head back and onto Kaoru’s wiry frame. “That was you. All you needed was someone to snap you out of it.”
“For that, I am eternally grateful,” Kaoru sighed and closed his eyes as Ryou shifted against him. If only he understood how I feel for him… “Thank you.”
“I think that’s the first time I’ve heard you say something without a breathy sigh or something like that in it,” the smaller boy commented. “It’s actually kind of surprising.” He happened to glance at the clock as he blinked. “Dammit,” he muttered, ignoring it in favour of paying more attention to the surprisingly pleasant 20-year-old.
“What is it?”
“I’m supposed to be at work,” he replied. “So much for that…”
“I’m sorry! I… didn’t mean to keep you…” Kaoru began a loop of constant apologies until Ryou held up a hand.
“Enough, Kaoru. It’s alright, I can just call in sick.”
“Is that alright? To call in sick?” It was fairly obvious that the hikikomori had never held a job in his life.
“Yeah. Every now and again, it’s okay to take days off, too,” he explained, feeling vaguely like a teacher. Kaoru was so naive in terms of everyday life, it was almost funny. “Anyway, I have to put in the call, so if you want to do something, make yourself at home.” Kaoru stood there for a moment before wandering out of the room, towards Ryou’s room. Groaning, he steeled himself for the call he was about to put in, which would likely be followed by another hour-long round of losing.
He was relatively amazed when he entered the room and Kaoru wasn’t playing video games. He was completely amazed, though, when he saw the man sleeping. he must not get much sleep at home, he decided, knowing that ‘Endrance’ was logged in almost all the time. The guy was practically never AFK. Gently brushing a strand of silky hair away from the sleeping hikikomori‘s face, he pulled a blanket over himself and yawned. Naps were always good, especially after he had promised that he would be at the G.U. meeting later that day, closer to the night.
He had no idea that Kaoru was actually still awake, and that he was now stock-still because of the fact that Ryou was sleeping on the same bed he was. Apparently he was trusted. Granted, it was a huge bed, and the brunet was on the other side of it, but still…
He waited until Ryou’s breathing evened out before moving closer to his friend and beloved, where he, exhausted from the constant drain of leaving his room for any amount of time, fell asleep only moments later.
Ryou never opened his eyes as he woke up, but he did immediately notice a warm object near him. Groaning quietly and grabbing it – he assumed it to be a pillow of some sort – he snuggled up to it, only to hear a soft breath coming from it.
His crimson eyes flew open as he took in the waking form of Ichinose Kaoru, who looked rather disoriented.
“It’s just me,” he murmured, trying to reassure his friend that he was safe, even if he was out of his room. “…And I need to log into ‘The World’ for the meeting.” Standing up and stretching, he ambled over to the computer and quickly attached his M2D.
“I do, too,” Kaoru mumbled, rolling over in an abject refusal to wake up. Instead, he buried his head in the pillows. “‘m too tired though…” His words were muffled by the pillow, but it was easily obvious to Ryou that the gamer was still half-asleep. Pulling on his M2D, he signed in and warped to Mac Anu, tipping the headset up every few minutes to make sure Kaoru hadn’t fallen off of the bed or something equally stupid. Manipulating the controller so that his character was now biking across the ‘Eternal City’, Haseo opened the door to Raven and walked into the Serpent of Lore, looking around at the assembled members. Everyone appeared to be here, except for Endrance.
“You’re finally here,” Yata rumbled from his usual post in the darkened room.
“Wonder where Endrance is,” Kuhn sighed, sitting down on the floor.
“Umm… he probably won’t be logging in for the meeting,” Haseo replied, stifling a snort of laughter.
“Why not? Master En didn’t tell me anything about that!” Maybe because you’re annoying, Ryou thought, glaring daggers at Saku.
“I’m awake…” Kaoru grumbled, nearing the range of the mic on Ryou’s M2D. Covering the mic temporarily and tugging on Ryou’s sleeve, he waited until the brunet had pulled the headset off before speaking. “Would it be alright… if I just listened from over here?” It would give him an excuse to be near Ryou, if nothing else. It helped that Ryou only had one computer in his apartment.
“Yeah, sure, there’s a chair over there,” the teen told him, pointing at one on the other side of the room. When Kaoru just looked at him, he sighed, handed the headset to Kaoru, and got up to retrieve said chair. By the time he turned around, Kaoru had already slipped the headset on and was beginning to talk.
“Sorry I’m late…” Haseo’s character spoke with Endrance’s voice, which totally creeped everyone [aside from Yata] out. Kuhn actually got up and off the floor.
“Master En?!” Saku seemed to be totally lost. “Haseo kidnapped you, didn’t he? How dare he! I-”
“Not right now, Saku… I just woke up…” he groused, pulling the headset off and wordlessly handing it to Ryou when he was poked in the shoulder. Situating himself on the close chair, he gently leaned over and placed his head on Ryou’s shoulder. Ryou tensed a bit but said nothing on the matter, allowing Kaoru to
“Okay, I’m back. What did I miss now?”
“Ha-Haseo? Was that Endrance?” Atoli was completely mortified, taking things in the worst possible way, as usual. Nothing strange there.
“Yeah. He was hanging out over here,” Haseo explained. “Anyway, we’re all here, so can we get on with it already?” He hoped he sounded impatient and bored. Kaoru voiced his own opinions about it, agreeing with Haseo as usual.
“Haseo is right… we’re all here… so perhaps we should begin?” As he said this, he unconsciously leaned into Ryou a little more.
“Hey! Stay on your side,” Ryou protested, playfully shoving Kaoru off. The older boy took it in the worst possible way, and it took him a few seconds to convince the blonde to come back. “I was kidding, I swear! Come back already…” Kaoru didn’t need to be told twice, opting to take up his former position as Ryou’s shoulder-warmer.
“Haseo, hurry it up. We don’t want to interrupt your time with your new boyfriend or anything, but seeing as we’re all here…” Kuhn grinned as he said it. Pi shook her head and was tempted to smack both the PKK and the Steam Gunner as Haseo settled back in.
“Boyfriend? I’m – I’m not interested in him that way, and he’s not gay!”
“You’d better not be, because Master En is mine!”
“I was just teasing, Haseo! Lighten up a little bit!”
“I would be… if it was for you…”
“Endrance, you’re not helping!”
“Master En! Don’t let Haseo fool you, he’s just a big liar who wants to use you for your strength!”
“Shut it, brat! …that can apply to both of you!”
“Don’t call me a brat, you old hag!”
“Meeting adjourned.” Everyone stared at Yata at this point, who rumbled with laughter before waving them off. “We’re not getting anything done as it is now. Come back tomorrow. Until then, I will look for more developments.” Haseo logged out as quickly as he could, pulling off the M2D and turning to face Kaoru.
“We should probably talk, after that,” he sighed. It wasn’t really disapproval or disappointment, it was more like… exasperation that drove him to offer the chance.
“You’re probably right…” Kaoru was still in his ‘Endrance’ persona.
“Snap out of ‘Endrance’, Kaoru. I logged off.”
“Oh… what did you want to talk about?” He seemed genuinely confused.
“What you said a minute ago,” Ryou stated flatly, pushing his chair in and sitting on his bed in awkward silence. “About being gay.”
“I was telling the truth…”
“That’s what I was afraid of,” he muttered, falling backwards on the bed.
“I don’t care if you don’t feel like I do… I’m happy just seeing your smile,” Kaoru commented, moving to the bed after saying that. Careful to sit a bit away from Ryou, he looked at his lap and wrung his hands together. “I just want to see you happy.”
“I… uh, thanks, Kaoru, but what does that entail?”
“Nothing from you…” The simple response hit Ryou as though it had been a bullet. ‘Endrance’ was a quiet character that was obsessed with Haseo, although it had never occurred to him that Kaoru might have been content with watching him from afar. It was reasonably selfless, all things considered.
“But that’s not right! I mean, you can’t give without taking something from someone else. It… it just doesn’t feel right,” he finished rather lamely. “I want to do something for you in return, sometimes.”
“Then allow me to stay by your side as a friend… nothing more, unless…” Kaoru paused, looking for the right words to say. He wasn’t lacking in vocabulary, that was for sure, but he just had no idea how to put it into words that wouldn’t scare Ryou off. “…Unless that was what you wanted.” He hoped that it had come across clearly.
“And if it wasn’t?” Ryou crossed his arms in a Haseo-like pose. “What would you do?”
“It would break my heart,” he sighed dejectedly, lowering his head. “But I would be happy to be your friend all the same… I would be grateful if you would just let me stay near you…”
“Do you want to spend the night?” He blinked stupidly at Ryou for a moment before it was repeated to him. “Well?”
“I – I’d love to. I need to call Mother first, though… I’ll be back in a moment…” He wandered towards the phone, leaving Ryou wondering what the hell he actually wanted.