Note: Chapter 1 will be VERY short, compared to the other chapters, because it is just an alternate ending, not a full episode. You can consider this chapter a sort of "pilot" to the rest of the series, which will continue by chapters as season 3 would have by episodes.
Chapter 1: episode 24: Beginnings are Endless
"Takano-san!!" I yelled instinctively, as I saw him collapse to his knees on the cold concrete floor of the subway platform. Turning and running back towards him, i silently cursed myself. Why should i worry over Takano-san's health? I sighed at that thought; i knew exactly why.
First of all, he had recently missed work, and he never missed work unless he was ill enough to be physically prevented from editing manga. Second, i had already admitted this to myself, and to Yokozawa, yet it still had barely started to sink into my head. I was in love with Takano.
He remained on his knees as i squatted down and looked up at his downturned face. Even today, a morning on which i had woken up in the worst of moods, i couldn't help but feel frustration dissolve into compassion as i looked at his weak and tired expression. He had always looked down at me in a near-smug way; i needed no encouragement to stoop down and be the one to take pity on him.
"Rit..." and he keeled forward and fainted, in the middle of helplessly whimpering my first name. I gasped slightly, catching his head and torso before he hit the floor. He felt so limp and weak in my arms, i couldn't help but feel frightened for him. My hands quivered and my heart pounded as i shook him gently and called his name. He didn't wake up.
I set him down momentarily and sprang to my feet, looking around frantically. It was late morning though, and the station was nearly empty. I knew I needed to get Takano home, but the last thing he would want was for me to make a scene. The train to work that we had just exited was about to depart for home again, and seeing my only chance, I shoved my arms under him and heaved him onto my shoulder, gripping him by the legs and waist. Stumbling onto the empty train moments before the doors shut, i struggled to set Takano down as gently as i could across a row of seats.
Being only 5'9", and Takano being several inches taller with a broader build, i wasn't quite sure how i managed to lift him, much less run onto a train with him slung over my shoulder like a giant ragdoll. Confused, i huffed out a sigh and sat down, placing Takano's limp head in my lap. The last thing he needed was a head injury on one of those unsteady subway trains. Still puzzled, i shrugged and dismissed the thought. It must have just been an adrenaline rush.
"Takano-san! Do you hear me?"
To my relief, his eyelids flickered and gently opened, and he gazed up at me with his luminous hazel eyes. His face was terribly pale and obviously pained, but he offered me a weak smile. In a rush of sudden emotion, I grasped him by the shoulders and pulled him upwards, hugging him to my chest.
As i received a muffled and surprised -but complete- "Ritsu..." in response, i noticed several appalling things. Throughout the entire incident I had been anxiously gripping his right hand in my left, tears of worry and relief were streaming down my cheeks, and I had just called him Masamune.
"Ma-..Takano-san...are you alright?"
"Don't worry about me, i'll be fine." He mumbled into my coat. Hearing his voice, low and weak as it was, my worries evaporated, and i was suddenly conscious of how tightly i was holding him. I was holding HIM. What on earth...?
"Where are we?"
"On a train home, and before you argue, there's no way you're going in to work today. You can't even walk on your own. I'm taking you to my apartment. You can rest there."
"Fine." He pushed himself away from me and sat up on his own.
"What?" I questioned, as he eyed me from a few seats away.
"I..I'm just startled is all."
"Don't worry too much, you were only unconscious for a minute or so. You'll-"
"That's not what i meant." He interrupted, scooting himself over until we were shoulder to shoulder. He took my hand in his and looked me in the eyes. I could already feel myself blushing. "What happened to the jaded, uncaring Ritsu from these past few months? Why are you suddenly so concerned for me?
Shit, this was it. I had already admitted it to myself and to Yokozawa, and what was so wrong with it anyway? Why shouldn't he know, when it's all he's been whispering in my ears for the past few months?
"No. I call you Ritsu outside of work. Use my first name too."
I paused. My heart was in my throat; i was terrified. Not of rejection or judgment, but of myself. Love was something i hadn't admitted to since a fateful day in highschool when i spouted romantic gibberish to a certain stranger in a library. What a coincidence that i would say the same thing to the same person ten years later.
"I love you."