9 May 2005
He growled as he stood in line at the market, and he glanced down at his cell phone again, seeing that it was exactly five minutes from when he’d last looked at it.
Which puts me five minutes closer to being late to pick up Tetsuo.
Nowaki stuffed the phone back into his pocket, taking one step closer when the elderly woman at the counter was finally escorted away by a young man carrying her bags. Both sets of people in front of him only had a few items each, like himself, so in theory, he should be out of the line in five minutes, right?
Of course, in the best books, this is where something either incredible or incredibly bad happens, but… I’m not in a book. I’m in real life, and something incredible hasn’t happened to me since that night something incredibly bad happened to me on my birthday five years ago. Well… except for Xiaolong… and that is quite the incredible something, I think!
His heart clenched and tears welled in his eyes at the thought of Xavier Blair, a man that he’d not seen in person since the morning after that horrific night—
You cannot be serious—you cannot leave!
You refuse to tell me what is between you and the Canicus man!
His name is Judah Galante and there isn’t anything between him and I but friendship and you! He protects you when I cannot be here to do so!
Then what is it that sticks in your throat, Xavier? What is it you cannot tell me and why do you refuse to answer my first question?
I cannot divulge that information. I am not allowed—
You’re going to tell me that? That’s what you’re going to go with? Classified bullshit! You really don’t care if I leave, do you?
Nowaki, I beg you, please do not say that! You are the stars, the sky, the sun, the very air that I breathe, Nowaki, please, wait—
His phone buzzed in his pocket and he pulled it out to see a text from Brandon.
Haven’t heard from you in a few.
Get back to me soon so I at least
know if you’re okay. I’ll be doing
an art exhibit in 5 cities starting
in Detroit in Jan. Was thinking
to do Boston, London, Shanghai,
Nagoya as well. Thought you just
might wanna contribute a piece or
two of your sculptures to it? Hit
me back, man… I always worry.
He smiled thinly. Nowaki was always glad to see Brandon and Christian, and of course the band, but lately, it had been getting harder and harder to think about having fun, and he wasn’t entirely certain that Brandon was looking for the kind of sculpting he’d been doing to exhibit alongside his beautiful paintings. His phone buzzed in his hand again and he stepped up to pay for his purchases as he read the next text:
Hi, Uncle Nowaki! It’s Topher on
my dad’s phone! I miss you! I’m
hoping to see you and Tetsuo when
we go to Japan soon! Think we can
do that? I love you, Uncle! Hugs from
Nowaki couldn’t help it; he grinned widely as he took his bag from the market man. “Arigato!” He typed back to both Zobals that he’d see them again when they arrived in Japan, that he missed them both, and that Tetsuo dearly missed his nii-san, Topher. Thinking about the nickname, clearly for a Christopher and not a Christian, he remembered Tetsuo giving it to the Zobal boy and that Christian loved it from the moment he’d received it… and it stuck. Topher it was… for the rest of eternity for the Shimazu men. Leaving the market, he hurried out through the rain to his car, grinning as his phone jingled from his pocket and he dive-bombed the driver’s seat as he picked it up, answering, “I went to get a late lunch for us and to pick up Tetsuo. It’s been days since you slept so well, so I didn’t want to wake you.”
“How long until you are back, Nowaki-san?” His sleep-roughened words turned Nowaki on more than he could almost stand, and he bit his lip in attempt to keep the excitement at bay.
“About to head over to Tetsuo’s school now, sukoshi ryū… then we will return home and Shohei will take him to class for an hour. I should be home in about forty minutes.” He sighed, the sound full of mirth. “It’s been wonderful having you stay. I don’t want you to ever leave—”
The warm chuckle that came over the line made Nowaki’s heart swell, as did Xiaolong’s words. “Tell me this when you get back. I will bathe and prepare for your arrival, Nowaki-san.”
“I will see you as fast as the spirits can fly me to you, dear Xiaolong.” Nowaki smiled as they hung up and he plugged his phone into the car charger, and it wasn’t long until he’d pulled alongside the curb at Tetsuo’s school just as the bell rang.
Just barely made it. Just barely.
Getting out of his car, he hurried around the front to lean against the side as he watched the children exiting the front door, accompanied by teachers. At the sight of his little boy holding his best friend’s hand, Nowaki smiled, shoving his own hands into his pockets as he took a couple of steps towards him, calling out, “Konnichiwa, musuko-chan!”
Tetsuo’s face lit up at the sound of his father’s voice and he squealed, running for Nowaki and dragging the other little boy with him. “Daisuke Chichi!”
Nowaki knelt to receive his son’s hug and to ruffle the other little boy’s hair, asking, “So is this the best friend?”
“Oto-san, this is my best friend, Matsukata Takeshi. Takeshi-kun, this is my chichi, Shimazu Nowaki,” Tetsuo said matter-of-factly.
The young boy bowed deeply, his voice soft. “I am honored to meet you, Shimazu-san. Tsu-kun tells me stories about you all the time!”
Nowaki bowed his head. “He has told me much about his best friend, too, and best friends are the best things in life to have. My nii-san is my best friend,” Nowaki told Takeshi, lifting his eyes as a lithe woman joined them, bowing her head in greeting.
“Konnichiwa, Shimazu-san. Ta-chan, we must hurry if we are to make tea with your grandmother. Apologies, Shimazu-san—”
“Konnichiwa!” Nowaki inclined his head respectfully before he smiled up at Takeshi’s mother. “And no apologies are needed. It’s a pleasure to finally meet your son, Keiko-san, as our children are close. Please be safe in your journey.”
“You as well, Shimazu-san.”
Nowaki’s phone buzzed in his pocket, a ringtone that he’d never bothered to change alerting Tetsuo to his papa’s call. His bright green eyes—Xavier’s eyes—lit up and he dug in Nowaki’s pocket to answer the call as Nowaki swallowed hard, lifting his son’s small backpack as he thought, At least I don’t have to hear your voice today as well as having memory of the last time we were in the same room and not me or you outside a door. Nowaki strapped his son into the front passenger seat of the car, hurrying around to his side as the clouds broke overhead. As he turned the engine over, Tetsuo laughed and joked with his papa, and though the sound was small, Xavier’s laugh pierced Nowaki’s heart.
It hurts—god, it hurts and I want it to stop hurting! How do I make it stop hurting?
Shohei stood on the verandah when Nowaki pulled up in the drive and Tetsuo bounced in his seat before he looked up at Nowaki. “Today is fight class with Uncle Shohei!”
“Yes, it is. He’s going to take you to class and from what I remember of last time, he owes you ice cream, too!” Arching an eyebrow, he finished, “Remember?”
“You are right, Chichi.” Unbuckling his seatbelt, Nowaki pulled his son into a hug, tears bright in his eyes when Tetsuo whispered, “I wish that we could all be a family again, Chichi… you and me and Papa. I pray for that every night.”
“Maybe someday that will happen, musuko-chan. Maybe you will get your wish someday. Now go. Chichi will pull the car into the garage as soon as you are in Uncle Shohei’s arms.” He watched as the little boy pushed open the car door and got out, and Nowaki smiled as he pushed the door shut hard before running up the steps to toss himself into his uncle’s embrace.
Blinking the tears from his eyes, Nowaki housed the car in his garage and grabbed Tetsuo’s backpack as he exited the car. As the garage door shut behind him, the door to the house opened and his best friend leaned against the doorjamb, wrapped in a deep blue yukata. “Okaeri!”
“It’s good to be home, finally, and you be here,” Nowaki murmured, crossing to him and reaching for his face. Leaning his forehead to Xiaolong’s, he rasped, “Tell me that you’ll never leave, that you’ll always be here when I come home, that we can make this new part of our relationship work as well as we made our friendship work.”
Xiaolong’s hands slipped over Nowaki’s slim hips, tugging him close. “I wanted to feel you say those words to me, not just hear them. Are you asking me to live with you?”
“I’m asking you to stay by my side, to be mine… and to allow me to be yours, to stay by your side.” Nowaki’s hands rested on Xiaolong’s chest as he stepped in closer, sliding his cheek against the tall Chinese man’s smooth cheek. “I just want you to stay, Xiaolong, to stay and love me—”
“I do love you, Nowaki. I have loved you all these years, from the moment you lifted me up while I still grieved the loss of my lover, to this very moment as you ask me to join my life to yours… and I will love you always.” Winding his arms around Nowaki, he whispered, “Now you said we’d have about an hour to ourselves? Why don’t we take a bath in the onsen? I asked your father if I might occupy it for some time earlier and he told me that it would be acceptable, that perhaps I should ask you if you wanted to join me…”
Nowaki’s eyes snapped to Xiaolong’s. “He suggested that? You lie!”
The other man chuckled, lifting Nowaki’s mouth to his for a brief kiss. “I do not… I think that perhaps your father is more cognizant of how your heart works than you give him credit for, my beloved storm.”
Nowaki’s hands slid into thick jet hair, fingers clenching as they loosened the knot Xiaolong had wound it back in, and it tumbled around his shoulders in warm perfumed waves. The scent of cherry blossoms and Xiaolong crashed over him and Nowaki gave himself over to the kiss that soon had him pressed against the opposing doorjamb. As his tongue tangled with Xiaolong’s briefly, Nowaki’s heart pounded hard, his mind spinning.
And yet all of my thoughts are about this wonderful man… and is it really possible to be in love again? His touch makes my body sing, his kiss makes me want more… and his heart, I see it in his eyes and my heart longs to be held by him, so it must be love… it must be!
Teeth bit down on the crook of his neck and a moan burst from his lips, bringing Xiaolong’s face back into view. “Shall I take you to bed or shall I take you to the onsen?”
“Bed… then onsen… then bed again?” Nowaki quipped, arching an eyebrow.
Xiaolong bit Nowaki’s lower lip, sucked on it tenderly before kissing him deeply. “I like the way you think—”
Nowaki’s arms wrapped around Xiaolong’s shoulders as he lifted up to wrap his legs around his lover’s slim hips. “Suki desu…” he murmured, leaning his forehead to Xiaolong’s smooth one. “… but I’m skittish.”
“I know. I’m patient, lover. It is one of my finer qualities. My father said that I was built to be a monk with the amount of patience I could exhibit.” Xiaolong chuckled quietly, nuzzling Nowaki’s lips with his own. “We will go as fast as you are comfortable with and not a second faster, Nowaki. What do you wish?”
His lips curled up in a slow, lazy smile and he whispered, lifting his mocha gaze to Xiaolong’s amber-flecked seawater one. “A re—”
The bell rang and Nowaki blinked as he let himself down, but stole a soft kiss before he placed a finger to Xiaolong’s full lips. “Wait here. I will return shortly.”
Another kiss and he jogged to the front door, smoothing the front of his sweater before he reached for the door. His heart clenched and his mouth went dry as Xavier Blair’s visage filled the door. He stepped back, taking a shallow breath before asking, “What are you doing here? We agreed—”
“Yes, we did, and I apologize for the inconvenience, but I have had trouble rousing anyone at your father’s house and tonight is Tetsuo’s fight class with Shohei-san, so I will be unable to reach him. I needed to drop off these gifts for his dojo.” He held up a couple of sturdy black canvas bags as his eyes swept quickly over Nowaki’s form. “You look wonderful as always.”
Biting his lower lip to still a tremble beginning in it, he took a deep breath before he answered, reaching out a hand to take the bags, “Arigato. I will get these to Shohei-san—”
A hand slid over his hip as a calming voice came next to his ear, “Nowaki-san, are you okay?”
Turning a grateful gaze to Xiaolong, he nodded. “Hai. I am now.”
Xiaolong turned a steely pair of eyes to the man on the doorstep. “You must be Xavier Blair, Tetsuo’s papa.”
A small smile touched Xavier’s lips as he gave a short nod of his head. “I am. You could only be Fei Xiaolong.”
“Hai… and I have Shimazu Nowaki in my care. You will honor the agreements made at the forswearing of your oath to him, and should further contact be needed in the physical, I will stand for him.” His jaw set as he took the bags from Nowaki and set them just inside the door. “Is there anything else that you need this evening, Blair-san?”
Xavier’s mouth worked for a long moment before he shook his head. “No, that’s all, Fei-san. An honor to meet you.”
“Hai.” Shutting the door on him, Xiaolong pushed Nowaki up against the hall wall, lifting him onto his hips as his mouth crashed into Nowaki’s. Nowaki’s fingers threaded through Xiaolong’s thick black mane as Nowaki deepened the kiss, breaking it only to lift his arms over his head as Xiaolong pushed the sweater off of him. His hands splayed on Nowaki’s smooth, defined chest as the ravenous kiss resumed, culling a growl from the man pinned to the cool wood of the wall. “I will make you forget his presence here. I will make you remember only my hands and my kiss!” Xiaolong hissed, his fingers raking down Nowaki’s chest to his hips, curling in the sides of the loose beige canvas trousers that hung on Nowaki’s hips. Dragging them over his bottom, Xiaolong squeezed the toned muscles of Nowaki’s bum, rasping, “Mine!”
“Yours… yours alone!” Nowaki moaned, working the trousers off his legs to meet his sweater on the floor. “I am yours, Ryūjin…!” He held closer to Xiaolong, arching his neck to the lips and teeth and tongue that worshipped the strong column. “I want your skin!” Nowaki shoved Xiaolong’s yukata open, his kiss muffling the groan he dragged from his lover as he got his wish, and he rocked against the hard cock he wanted buried inside of him.
He feels good… his body, joined to mine, feels like perfection… like I am right where I should be!
“Possess me! Please, Xiaolong… possess me!”
“Hai!” Xiaolong’s hands worked quickly to slick the way, and Nowaki arched and cried out as his lover pushed into him. “You are mine… mine… you belong to me, Nowaki!”
“Hai! Hai!” Nowaki gasped as Xiaolong rocked, initiating a rhythm that Nowaki met. “Teishi shinai… teishi shinai!”
Nowaki completely drowned himself in the feel of Xiaolong: every penetration, every kiss, every touch. Wrapping his hands in long, clean raven hair, Nowaki gave himself over to his lover’s ministrations, allowing himself to be cast adrift, to sink under the waves of pleasure crashing over him—
Early November 2005
The open suitcases on the bed finally filled, Nowaki unzipped his toiletry bag as he heard Tetsuo call down the hall to Xiaolong. A smile touched his lips as he waited for the beautiful man he’d shared his life with to bring the little boy into their bedroom. Taking the pile of stuff from the bathroom counter and stuffing it into the leather bag, he zipped it before he was tackled around the waist by Tetsuo. Laughing, he tossed the toiletry bag to his lover before lifting his son up into a tight hug. “How are you this morning, musuko-san?”
“I’m good, Chichi. PX helped me to finish packing. Is it true, Chichi, that PX is going to be my tutor on the set?” At the excited expression widening his son’s eyes, Nowaki could not help but grin.
“Hai, Green Eyes, PX—” He glanced over at Xiaolong. “—is going to be your tutor while I film. You excited to see New Zealand?”
“Chichi, PX means Papa Xiaolong… and heck yeah, we’re going to Hobbiton!” Tetsuo squealed, running out of the room as they all heard Shohei call out from the front door.
“You are ready to go, lover?” Xiaolong asked, sliding a hand over Nowaki’s back. “I must confess that I am ever so excited to accompany you on filming.”
Nowaki turned to wrap him in a tight hug. “I am glad that I will have you with me. This will be a long shoot, one I do not wish to be alone with and Tsu-kun has long wished to meet Emrys Marlowe, as his favorite movie in the whole world is I Am Merlyn and Emrys played Merlyn.”
“You did not tell me that Emrys Marlowe was going to be on set,” Xiaolong chided as they crossed to the luggage to close them up. “I would be appreciative if you could get an autograph from him for my niece. She also looks up to him.”
“You know I will!” Nowaki chuckled. “How do you feel about being a tutor for a child? You are used to teaching young adults.” He locked the case and set it down on the floor.
“I have many reference materials. At one time, I did set out to teach elementary school in addition to juku.” Xiaolong sat on the end of the bed, drawing Nowaki into his arms. Nowaki sat in his lap, bringing a kiss to his waiting lips. “I have also reached out to some of my colleagues that currently serve in elementary schools to be better prepared for this task. Tetsuo has shown great promise and is a quick learner. I believe that I will be successful in teaching him his curriculum.”
A knock came at the door and both men looked up to see Shohei standing in the portal, his face tight as his gaze fell upon them. Nowaki creased his brow and turned his eyes to Xiaolong, who nodded once before turning his gaze back to Nowaki’s older brother. “Nii-san, what is it?”
Crossing to squat next to them, the elder Shimazu finally spoke. “Two things. One, Xiaolong, you did not tell me that your former lover was gunned down by the yakuza.” He looked over at his unsurprised younger brother. “And two, did you know that Blair will be on those islands, too, filming a different part of the same movie?”
Nowaki answered both questions, his voice calm, though his hand squeezed his lover’s hip tenderly and he did not meet his brother’s wide eyes. “To your first question, because his lover was a casualty of war and it remains a painful subject, nii-san. To your second, yes, I did… and I am a professional, with the ability to behave in a professional manner. If Xavier cannot, then he is not the man we knew, Shohei.”
“I don’t like it, Nowaki. I don’t like him being that close to you. Xavier has already broken his word to you twice, and both times caused you such pain—” Shohei’s jaw twitched, and Nowaki reached down to cup his cheek.
“Xiaolong will be with me, and he will not allow Xavier to come near me. Should the unexpected happen, Shohei, I will be all right because I have you, Chichi, Xiaolong and Brandon to lean on.” He smiled softly at his brother. “Please try to relax, onii-san.”
Shohei surged up to hold Nowaki close, pushing his face against his shoulder. “I will fly out to see you whenever possible. We will be a barrier around you and we will not let your battlements be sieged, otōto.”
The flight was long and turbulent, but ended in a pleasant surprise. A British Airways flight touched down moments after their Japan Air plane pulled to the gate, and as the three of them were joining the queue for customs, Tetsuo tugged on Nowaki’s hair, murmuring against his father’s ear, “Chichi, Emrys Marlowe just got in line behind us!”
Nowaki turned to face his lover, glancing behind him as he did. Indeed, the actor stood a couple of people behind them, and he caught Nowaki’s gaze. The Welshman’s eyes widened clearly in surprise, and Nowaki’s lips spread in a bright smile as he motioned him over, saying, “You coming up here?”
Grabbing his roller board as the line moved a bit, the young man hurried to join them, saying, “I’ve been on pins and needles since hearing that you joined the project, Shimazu-san! Right now, I’m dead chuffed to be standing here, talking to you! Emrys Marlowe, by the way. You can call me Emrys. It’s a huge honor to meet you, Shimazu-san!”
Grinning over at Xiaolong before he inclined his head in a bow, Nowaki lifted dancing eyes to the Welshman’s mocha gaze. “The honor is mine, Emrys, and please, feel free to call me Nowaki. This is my boyfriend, Fei Xiaolong—”
“You may call me Xiaolong,” his lover interjected, bowing his head. “And it is an honor.”
Nowaki’s smiled widened as he shifted Tetsuo to his hip. “And this is my son, Shimazu-Blair Tetsuo.”
His son bowed his head, saying softly, “A great honor to meet you, Emrys. You can call me Tetsuo.”
“The honor is mine, Tetsuo, Xiaolong and Nowaki. I have long been a fan of your work—film and art. In fact, I have a couple of your paintings at my home in London.” Emrys inclined his head in a respectful bow before reaching a hand out to touch Nowaki’s arm. “Your work is so full of emotion! There is really no other way to describe it!”
Nowaki blushed. “Thank you for the compliments!”
Emrys shook his head. “I speak only the truth!”
The conversation broke for a moment as they stepped up to be processed by New Zealand customs, resuming easily as they made their way down the concourse towards baggage claim. At baggage claim, they were met by company representatives that took them to their hotel, a nice place that Nowaki had stayed once before.
On vacation… in another life. In another life that I will have to see at least once during filming, since he has a role in the film.
Blinking away the thought, he looked up as Xiaolong pressed a kiss to his mouth, murmuring, “I’m going to lay Tetsuo down on his bed. Be right back.”
Nodding, Nowaki took their luggage into the bedroom next door to the one Tetsuo would occupy, and he was grateful that though the suite was large, both the closets lay between the rooms.
At least he won’t hear us when we are amorous!
A text buzzed from his phone and he looked down at the screen.
Hey, it’s Emrys. This is my number.
You guys wanna meet for dinner? I
will bring the autograph for Xiao’s
niece and also one for sweet Tetsuo.
I can tell that we’re going to be good
friends, man, and that makes my life
since you’re one of my heroes… and
I hope I don’t sound completely and
utterly rubbish, but I am so chuffed
to have your number in my mobile!
Hands slid over his hips and up his chest as a kiss pressed to his shoulder, Xiaolong’s quiet words reaching him. “He’s a sweet young man, hai? With quite the crush on you, my beautiful storm.”
Nowaki’s eyes widened as he whirled in his lover’s embrace. “A c-crush? On me?”
Xiaolong chuckled, taking one fingertip over Nowaki’s lower lip. “On you. I dare to contemplate what will happen when we reach the part in the film where his Fingon kisses Maedhros for the first time.”
Nowaki grinned, sitting down on the end of the bed, taking his lover with him, bringing him close to his body as Xiaolong made himself comfortable in Nowaki’s lap. “You don’t think he’s ever kissed anyone? He’s almost twenty-two!”
Xiaolong’s lips upturned in a smile. “I was twenty-one when I received my first kiss, Nowaki…”
Their mouths met in a sweet kiss as Xiaolong took them down to the mattress, burying his hands in Nowaki’s shiny hair, arching into the line of his body as Nowaki’s hands slipped under his shirt and up the warm skin of his back. Breaking the kiss to lift his unusual eyes to Nowaki’s amber, Xiaolong whispered, “Could you ever understand how impossibly much I love you, Shimazu Nowaki? How much I will always love you?”
Nowaki’s eyes shone as he slid one hand around to cover Xiaolong’s heart. “Only if you could understand how much I love you, Fei Xiaolong!”
“I will always try.” Pressing an almost chaste kiss to Nowaki’s mouth, he took one hand from his hair to take the phone from the bed. “I will tell him yes, that we will have dinner with him. I will cook.”
After the wonderful night spent adding one Emrys Marlowe of I Am Merlyn fame to their family, the days and nights began to blur together as production on The Keeper of the Seventh Gate commenced. The friendship between Emrys and Nowaki, very much like their characters, grew quite close in an almost brotherly fashion; never was one seen on set without the other close by. Emrys became a staple in the Shimazu-Fei household, and Nowaki was pleased that Xiaolong cherished the young man as he did. Day 32—also known as December ninth—brought a conversation that Nowaki had not truly expected.
“I’ll walk you to your suite,” Emrys stated as they came out of makeup.
“I’d like that, Em,” Nowaki told him with a smile. “Two days off is going to be great. Xiaolong and I are taking Tetsuo to the marina tomorrow and you’re invited—as you are to dinner tonight—he told me to impart to you. Couch bed is yours, too, if you want to stay.”
Emrys’ eyes lit merrily. “I love it when you guys let me stay over! It feels like I have a family here in addition to my blood family back in Wales.”
Nowaki stopped, touching his shoulder before bringing his hand up to cup Emrys’ cheek, creasing his brow. “You are family, Emrys Marlowe, as surely as if we had been born of the same parents. Family does not always need be blood; sometimes the best parts of our family are the ones we choose.”
Emrys hugged him tightly, saying quietly, “Agreed. May I beg a favor off you?”
Pulling back to look his friend in the eye, Nowaki nodded. “Of course. You have but to ask, Em.”
The young man didn’t divulge his need until they reached the rental Nowaki had obtained for their trip to Wellington the next day. At the car, Emrys turned to him, a grimace clear on his face. “When we come back to the set in two days, I have to kiss and it has to be fierce and believable. I don’t think for a single solitary minute that I can pull that off, because—” He halted his words so suddenly that for a moment, Nowaki thought that something was wrong internally, but then a blush covered his cheeks.
Placing a hand to his shoulder, Nowaki lifted Emrys’ chin, asking, “Are you all right?”
Sighing heavily, the younger man swallowed hard before he finished, “Nowaki, I’ve only had two girlfriends in my life, and they were both before secondary school—that was when I entered drama school. Though my professors always went on about how good of an actor I was then and the critics say the same now, it’s nothing short of a miracle that I’ve never been cast in a romantic role where I had to kiss anyone. On a personal note, I’ve been so busy lately that I’ve not really had time to meet anyone.”
When he growled, Nowaki pressed a kiss to his forehead, saying for him, “So you have never kissed anyone on the mouth.”
His blush deepened, covering his ears and neck. “I don’t know what to do and I’m so afraid that I’ll be complete rubbish.”
Cupping his face with both hands, Nowaki murmured, “Are you asking me to teach you to kiss?”
“You are my closest friend and I cannot imagine asking anyone else, but do you think Xiao will be angry that I asked you?” he moaned, settling his hands on Nowaki’s chest.
Nowaki laughed, shaking his head. “No, I do not. I will speak to him when we get to the house. He did say to tell you that you are not abnormal, as he received his first kiss when he was twenty-one.”
“That beautiful man was not kissed on the mouth until he was twenty-one? Did his parents hide him away or something?” Emrys exclaimed, mocha eyes wide.
Pressing another kiss to his brow, Nowaki chuckled and opened the door for him. “Says the man that females everywhere are swooning over! Get in the car!”
Emrys had many questions regarding the relationships that Nowaki had been part of, and Nowaki could tell that he filed away each of his answers as though he were taking notes. As they parked the car outside their hotel, he turned to Nowaki. “So two male warriors, they wouldn’t be soft with each other, probably ever? It would always be as intense as the first time?”
Nowaki shook his head. “Only if in the case of the characters we’re portraying in the films. Our warriors are forbidden from having partners period; they’re Guardians of the Gates. Their sacred positions do not allow for family as they are forever, two garrisons of Guardians for each Gate.” He smiled. “The Seventh and Innermost Gate’s Guardians are named for the fierce warriors in the most famous fantasy novels ever to be written. Fingon and Maedhros—a love first forbidden in Tolkien’s lore for being unable to create offspring, and forbidden again in MacDonald’s newer lore because emotion clouds the mind—yet, still it happens. The brotherly love between the two warriors explodes when the Gates are fortified and sealed for that once every one hundred years when the Guardians receive a four day shore leave.” Nowaki smiled at the storyline he knew his friend already knew and yet they both loved. “It springs from a completely unreal kiss that turns into a full-blown two days in each other’s arms. From there, it’s all about when they can steal away to meet without getting caught. Yes, I think it would be that intense every time, but no, I don’t agree that two male warriors would never be soft. Tenderness can be reached in times of worship, and I do believe that Maedhros would worship Fingon, as Fingon would have always worshipped the elder Maedhros in some fashion, whether or not he believed himself in love with the Guardian; and that worship would transcend and complete a metamorphosis into the tenderness with which he would touch Maedhros. It would not be always, but it would happen.”
Emrys nodded, pausing a long moment before he lifted a skittish pair of eyes to Nowaki’s understanding ones as he asked him, “Can you show me how to kiss like that?”
Nowaki smiled softly, leaning across his younger friend to open the door for him. “I can show you that. Now come on, Em. Time for dinner!”
The conversation over dinner consisted mostly of talk of the aquarium trip for the next day and what Tetsuo was learning in his lessons. As they ate dessert, Tetsuo turned the conversation to Emrys’ favorite books, which were also his own favorites: The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Nowaki motioned to Xiaolong, saying, “We’ll clear the table while the two of you talk, all right, Em?”
“That means that Chichi wants kissing time with PX. It’s okay, Em, I will keep you company and we can talk about Elves!” Tetsuo giggled, kicking his feet as he clapped happily.
Xiaolong smiled beatifically as he bent down to kiss the top of Tetsuo’s head. “All right, genius boy, enough of the snarkiness. Your humor is beautiful without it!”
Tetsuo lifted his face to look into Xiaolong’s blue eyes. “I just like you with Chichi. I am happy to see him happy, PX. I love you, PX!”
“I also am happy that he is happy, little one, and I love you, too! Eat your dessert. We will return.” Pressing a second kiss to his jet crown, he turned his smile to Nowaki as he helped him to gather the dishes. Once they were ensconced in the small kitchen, Nowaki murmured, “He is quite the astute little man, is he not?”
“And quite the student. He is like most savants that I have read about, though, beautiful storm: inside his enormous brain, there lives a little boy. His emotions are not up to speed with his intellect,” Xiaolong answered just as quietly as he wrapped around Nowaki and laid his cheek to his shoulder. “It’s easy to see the little boy when he giggles and teases us. You should see him working maths and learning languages! It completely explains what his teachers have been saying at his school in Japan. Your musuko-chan has almost run through the curriculum I brought with me. I will be looking into bookstores tomorrow when we are in Wellington to find some more material—”
“Do we need to do more research on his mind? Perhaps any tests to see where he’s at?” Nowaki asked as he rinsed the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.
“I have had him take a few tests already, and he’s on—no lie—a seventh grade reading level already. I would expect him to complete his grade schooling by the time he turns thirteen if he stays on this track, Nowaki-san.” Nowaki’s eyes fluttered shut as his lover lifted his face to press a kiss to the crook of his neck. “Two days… it’s going to be so amazing! We can be a family—”
Nowaki turned suddenly, lighting his hands on Xiaolong’s chest. “Hai… and I cannot wait to do so, but we must do something for Em first.”
Xiaolong smiled craftily. “He asked, didn’t he? He asked you to teach him!”
Nowaki laughed then, cupping Xiaolong’s face as he nodded. “How do you know such things? How did you know that he would ask such a thing?”
“Because I know me. I know what I would do were I in his place, and were I in his place, you are not only my hero, but you are also my best friend… and, selfish as it is of me, you are what I desire, and even if you are not available, even if I will be sent to a special level of hell for asking what I know that you will give to me—even though I know that it is not real—it will be a moment that I can say that I spent in your arms.” His lover lifted a kiss to his lips, brief but deep, and Nowaki’s eyes fluttered shut as he gave himself over to it completely, Xiaolong’s voice none but a whisper as he tugged his lips away, “And yes, I agree that it should be you that teaches him how to kiss as I cannot keep my lips from yours since that beautiful night that you gave them to me.”
“Hey, guys—oh, wow, sorry!” Emrys whirled on his heel in attempt to make a hasty exit, but Nowaki hooked an arm around his shoulders, tugging him to them as he and Xiaolong laughed, sharing another kiss. Emrys’ hands hooked on Nowaki’s arm as he joined in the laughter, his cheeks flushing lightly with color. “I didn’t mean to interrupt you, I just—”
“You’re fine, Em. I was just talking to Xiaolong about what you asked of us,” Nowaki murmured, pressing a kiss to the top of his friend’s hair. “We’ll start working on it tonight, all right? After musuko-chan is abed.”
The Welshman’s lips spread in a wide, if slightly relieved smile, and he visibly relaxed as he replied, “I am eternally indebted to you both.”
21 December 2005, Day 42
King’s Hall Set
“That’s a wrap! Fantastic job, guys! See you all in two weeks! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!” the director called out amidst similar cheers.
Emrys tossed himself into Nowaki’s arms, pressing a chaste kiss to his mouth as he laughed. “I talked to Mum and she and Afon said aye, that they’d be very interested in spending the holidays with a big family like when she was wee.”
Nowaki threw his head back as he cackled merrily, hugging the younger man tightly. “Xiaolong said that your family would say yes. He said that they’d hear the joy in your voice and want to see where it springs from and so they would agree. I don’t know how the man knows so much, but whatever he is in tune with—”
“You wish that it would speak to you, too?” Emrys finished, grinning. “I know!”
Throwing their arms over each other’s shoulders, they began to walk towards the makeup trailer, chatting about the scenes that they’d be filming when they returned. Nowaki had a love scene of his own coming up, one that would see his Ecthelion in the arms of the Guardian that his heart had longed for since before ascending to Lieutenant. The actor that played Glorfindel clapped him on the back as he passed by them two, grinning. “So go easy on me when we come back, aye?”
“Why would I do that? You’re a Guardian!” Nowaki teased, winking at the man. “Is it not written that—”
A scream rent the air, stilling everyone on the set as if the sound itself had turned them all to stone. Nowaki swallowed, his eyes wild as he gasped, “That was Tetsuo! That was my son!”
His feet couldn’t move fast enough and he hurried towards the high-pitched sound that had become terrified tears. Taking the corner so quickly he nearly ate tile, Nowaki grabbed the doorjamb to his son’s classroom and used it to propel him into the room, stopping at the sight of his bloodied lover nailed to a cross on the wall. Words written in blood on the white wall next to him were in a language that he did not know. Nowaki’s heart pounded in his chest as Emrys joined him, gasping at the horror of the scene before them, before he reached around Nowaki for Tetsuo, tugging the little boy into his arms as he cried out for help. His best friend’s cry set him to motion once more and he hurried over to Xiaolong, grabbing a chair to stand on to put him on his eyelevel.
Sliding a hand over his lover’s cheek, he forced the vein of fright in his voice to be still as he whispered, “Please… please, Xiaolong, open your eyes.” His fingers slipped down his lover’s throat to find a rapid pulse in the jugular vein beneath the skin, a feel that sent tears of relief pouring down his face. “Please… please, beloved… I am here! I am here… please!”
A rush of footsteps behind him alerted him to help coming, a hand falling to his shoulder as a calming voice said, “We’re here, Nowaki-san… let us help you. Let us help you take him down.”
Xavier… he’s here… he’s here to help Xiaolong.
Whirling, he allowed his former lover to see the fear on his face as he whispered, “So much blood! His back is bleeding and he’s not awake and—”
“He’s breathing, Nowaki, and right now, that’s all that matters.” Xavier’s large hand cupped his cheek. “Now let’s get him down.”