24 December 2007
Nowaki threw the door shut behind him as he struggled to breathe normally. Nothing that had happened in the last two years made sense to him, and now, on Christmas Eve, he was leaving his son with Brandon and his new husband, Judah Galante.
Good on our Brandon—he’s needed to have this joy for so long, needed to be loved like this—
Tears slipped down his cheeks as he hit the sidewalk and finally crumpled to his knees, a sob eliciting his lips.
Xiaolong… and before that Xavier… the only two men I have ever loved and they are both gone—and Xiaolong is gone forever!
Covering his face with his hands, he wept quietly, awaiting the arrival of the car to pick him up and take him to the airstrip. His thoughts spun like mad whirling dervishes in his mind, faces flitting across the widescreen of memory to remind him of all that they had lost in one single year.
They’d gained a Dr. Arishima Kiyoshi in July, and Emrys had fallen madly in love with the young man. Kiyoshi had lost much of his memory due to months spent lost in a comatose dreamland, and in the end, Emrys told Nowaki that Kiyoshi had confessed that his “dreamland” had been a reality and he had personally met the pirate that held Kiyoshi’s heart, that had literally married the young doctor in their little world, a place the two only referred to as World’s End. Emrys had been left behind when they’d returned there, and the pain of losing Kiyoshi had been one that Nowaki and Xiaolong had tried repeatedly to help assuage. Lucky for them, Emrys had made a new friend, one called Lindsay Trevelyan, not a month after and she helped him through it without even realizing what she was doing. Emrys had left for New Zealand on the seventh of November and forty-two days later, the bright star that was Fei Xiaolong had been extinguished.
We had travelled to Wellington to visit him, and we were running to the waiting car… and he died. A man shot him in the chest and he died in my arms.
Arms wrapped around him and a large hand cupped the back of his skull, a voice he recognized as belonging to his older brother murmuring next to his ear, “I’m here, Wa-chan… I’m here and I’m taking you home.”
Nowaki would realize later that he remembered none of the car trip to the jet, nor that he could recall the less than tranquil flight to Nagoya. He could not recollect his return to Shimazu lands, nor could anything bring to mind the bath Shohei administered in the Shimazu’s personal onsen. Nowaki refused to eat or drink for days, and it wasn’t until his father returned home from Okinawa that he uttered three words. As the car pulled into the drive, he lifted bruised eyes to his brother’s own, rasping, “Chichi.” They both heard a second set of wheels and Nowaki swallowed hard, closing eyes so pale in a face so drawn. “He’s home.”
“I’ll go get him, otōto.” Shohei pressed a soft kiss to Nowaki’s damp jet hair before darting out of the bedroom.
Nowaki stretched out on the cool wood floor, flattening his palm on the carefully taken care of surface. “My dragon has come home… the funeral home brings him now.” Opening his eyes, he pushed up to all fours, then to his feet, carrying himself slowly to the verandah just as the skies opened up to mourn with him. His eyes fell upon a man he’d seen fourteen years ago when his mother had passed.
Has it been so long, Kaa-chan? Has it been so long since the Shimazu star faded from sight? And now I send you my dragon to protect you until Chichi joins you. Please convey how much I love him and how much I miss him—
His thoughts halted as the back of the hearse opened up and the funeral director and his assistants began to remove a mahogany casket from inside. Nowaki hurried down the steps, pushing past his brother’s hands and slipping his father’s grip to skid to a stop next to the emerging resting place of one beloved Fei Xiaolong. Startled at his sudden appearance, the four men did not move as Nowaki reached out a trembling hand to touch the cool wood, tears mixing with raindrops on his cheeks as he murmured, “I am here… Ryūjin… I am here… I am here!”
A hand slid over his shoulders to wrap around and catch him as his knees went out from under him, a strong arm catching his legs up as Shimazu Masanori carried his son back into the dry of the house. Nowaki clung to his father, unable to keep back the torrent of grief that swept over him at seeing the truth proved real in the arrival of a black casket. “He’s gone… he’s gone, Chichi… oh, he’s gone… Ryūjin is gone!”
THE FUNERAL service was small, consisting solely of close family and friends, and though Tetsuo wished to be near him during the most intense time of grieving for his father, Shohei delivered the boy into his papa’s hands the day after the funeral. Xavier stated that he would not put himself in Nowaki’s direct path, but that he refused to leave Japan until he knew that Nowaki would be able to cope or until he could see him for himself to decide, whichever came first. Shohei told his younger brother about his former lover’s strange demand, but Nowaki brushed it off. “He’ll go home when I won’t see him,” he told Shohei. “And I won’t see him.”
The reading of Xiaolong’s will sent Nowaki spiraling when he left everything to him, including a large chunk of his fortune to be deposited into the trust fund set up for Tetsuo by Xavier, prior to their son’s birth, and the Fei family estate in Shanghai that had been left to Xiaolong upon his grandfather’s death. For days upon end, while the investigation into his lover’s death was going, did Nowaki spend at his lover’s grave, meditating. He slept upon the cold grey stone monument beneath the cherry tree, curled tightly in a ball, most of the days, waking and returning to the house to make a small supper for himself and Tetsuo upon the boy’s return home. Xavier still had not left, much to Nowaki’s elder brother’s dismay, but he had not forced his presence upon Nowaki, so Shohei kept silent.
It was the Tuesday prior to Saint Patrick’s Day that it happened.
Nowaki stood in his old art studio, a place he had not been since Xavier had moved from the house, a house that in truth, Nowaki himself had not dared to enter since the split with the Englishman. Angry music filled the small room as he stared at the canvas that years later, still refused to speak, no matter how hard he tried to force its voice, and he closed his eyes, whispering, “You began in a fit of rage caused by jealousy, but you weren’t meant to be finished by rage, but by loss… and now when I feel the very depths of loss, when I immerse myself in the chill of its blood, you refuse me—”
He blinked, dropping the palette as oxygen became hard to find, and the garrote cut through the top layer of skin as Nowaki slammed his heel down onto his attacker’s foot. No sound came from the being behind him but the pressure exerted on the weapon taking breath from him loosened for a long enough moment for Nowaki to turn to face him. Hands took over his strangling and his eyes beheld the visage of a masked man—ninja?—before his sight narrowed to black tunnels only—
Fire seared his lungs as he collapsed onto the floor, his hands going to his throat as he heard only the rush of blood in his ears and then hands turned him onto his back, Nowaki’s eyes opening to see Judah Zobal-Galante over him. “Are you all right?” he murmured, placing a handkerchief over the wound on his throat. “Nowaki-san, please… speak to me if you can!”
“I am all right—” His words laced with pain, he finished. “—where is… he?”
“I killed him. He was trying to kill you and I could not allow that to happen.” Judah’s words, so matter of fact, filled Nowaki with relief and dread simultaneously. “I will put in a call to Canicus to put a protective detail on you and your—“
Sitting up carefully, he shook his head. “No. I will speak to Oto-san and Shohei. We will resolve this internally—please, I mean no offense—but Judah, your husband and I are good friends—”
“And I came here to resolve the pain that still exists between you and I, Nowaki-san. I came here in good faith, not intending upon finding you here in this house.” He paused for a moment. “I came here to try to work through what could have happened between you and Xavier, before I ever approached you, and instead I find someone trying to kill you in your art room—”
“Work through what happened?” Nowaki arched an eyebrow, his words a whisper as the pain in his larynx blossomed bright. “How do you mean?”
“It is my belief that the only thing that could have set the wheels in motion for you to believe Xavier capable of breaking your trust is if someone had deliberately woven a web of doubt to put cracks in your relationship—”
Nowaki shook his head, yelping at the agony that lanced through his flesh before he rasped, “Why now? Why did you come to do this now and not seven years ago, Judah? Why now?”
Judah reached out a trembling hand. “I should have done, but I didn’t because I was forbidden to do so. I am still forbidden to do so, on more levels than just the one from back then, yet I cannot allow you to be so alone, not now… and I never should have allowed it then, either!” His hand cupped Nowaki’s cheek. “Here—this house—is where the pain feels brightest. Here is where I came to right it.”
Nowaki cast his gaze down at the paint be-spattered floor, at his splayed left hand where a ring still sat.
“You are the only man I will ever marry!”
His words to Xavier screamed through his memory, and he had held to that vow, never removing the ring, never thinking to remove it in all actuality.
“You are the only man I will ever marry!”
Nowaki closed his eyes on the gale those words had become, whispering, “I should have married Xiaolong. He deserved to be called husband far more than a forsworn Englishman.”
Judah crept closer to him, his hand moving to Nowaki’s shoulder. “Please, Nowaki-san, I beg you bend your ear to my words.”
Lifting pale eyes to his companion, he asked, “What knowledge could you possibly have that could change the way I feel?”
NOWAKI WRAPPED the robe around his damp body, tying it quickly before he let himself out the front door to curl up in one of the big chairs on the verandah. The rain had started just after Judah took his leave and as he had bathed, Nowaki saw that the storm had only grown in strength, which was not uncommon in the springtime. Closing his eyes, he breathed in the fecund life that surrounded him, nodding his thanks to Isao when he brought tea to the small table between the two chairs, asking one quiet question of Nowaki, “Are you certain, Nowaki-san, about seeing Xavier? Shohei-san is adamantly against the idea and has already threatened to kill him if he upsets you.”
A small smile turned up the corners of his lips at the love displayed by his family. “I am certain, just as I am certain that you are glad to see Xavier once more.” The retainer that had served the Shimazu family for years, as had his father and grandfather before him, scowled at him as he poured the tea, causing Nowaki to finish, “Isao-san, I meant no disrespect, only to express that you must be glad to know that the truth may finally be coming to light, that you will no longer have to hide your affection for him. That is all I try to convey, my friend.”
Isao set the teapot down on the tray and grasped Nowaki’s hands as he knelt before him, lifting his dark eyes to Nowaki’s copper ones as he murmured, “Young master, you have been the heart of this family since the passing of your mother, and I would never see your storm blow cold as it has these past few months, nor as it did in the wake of Xavier’s departure at the turn of the century. You have had the fortune to be loved not one time, but twice, and I do not have to tell you how rare that is; this you know to be truth. While I did love Xavier’s company and his conversation, I counsel you now to think of what may come of this interaction today, and what you hope to gain from it.”
Nowaki blinked tears from his eyes as he took his hands to grasp Isao’s own. “I hope only to gain the truth that I wanted to hear then, one Xavier was not at liberty to tell to me then. I seek to gain shelter from this storm of pain. I seek to gain the companionship I cast aside in anger, and I cannot breathe for thinking that it might not still be there.” He took his gaze to the trees and flowers singing songs of praise to the rain. “I know that he has not been alone these past eight years, but I can dare to hope that whatever he might have found in the interim might be solely solace and not love as we once knew it.”
Hurried feet on the path lifted their attention to the imminent arrival of Nowaki’s guest, that being one Xavier Blair. He stood at the base of the steps leading up to the verandah, nodding respectfully to Isao when the older man passed him by. Nowaki padded silently to the steps, gazing long at the Englishman standing in the rain, clad in a traditional blue and black striped yukata. His wheaten hair plastered to his bearded face, he lifted those green, green eyes to Nowaki’s amber gaze, his lips forming two words, “You called?”
Nowaki nodded once. “I did. You came quickly.”
“It was you. If you commanded it, I would fly.” Xavier’s soft words resounded loudly in the chambers of Nowaki’s heart.
“Not exactly truth, dear man.” Nowaki descended to the bottom step, still standing almost a foot above Xavier. “I commanded the truth from you on the twentieth of October a little over seven years ago and you refused me. It was… classified.”
Xavier’s gaze darkened and he turned it from Nowaki, startled when the Japanese man slipped one hand over his cheek, his thumb tracing the skin beneath his left eye as Nowaki murmured, “Look not away… tell me what you could not that night. Judah has already broken his silence and spoken the truth of the matter, you have only to confirm it, to help me discover whom and what could have wished to have riven us apart in this manner.” Stepping down into Xavier’s space, Nowaki lifted wet eyes to ones shiny with tears.
“Xiaolong once asked me how a man I had known so well and so intimately could have fooled me, if I knew for a fact that he had. I responded with, ‘He must have or he would still be here.’” Nowaki’s free hand splayed over Xavier’s heart. “He asked me then, ‘So I repeat my question, how is it a man you knew so well fooled you?’” Nowaki’s lips curved up as his own tears mixed with rainwater. “The answer is as simple as the words you spoke to me the day that I left you.”
Xavier’s hands shook as they fell to Nowaki’s hip and his cheek. “You are the stars, the sky, the sun, the very air that I breathe, Nowaki, Arashi!”
Nowaki’s smile grew a bit as he turned his face into Xavier’s palm. “You did not betray me, but you did leave out vital information that could have changed the course of our history, Xavier.”
“I should have told you I was doing missions with Judah. If I had, we might have survived—” Xavier began, pressing a kiss to Nowaki’s brow as he breathed in all the scents that made up Nowaki. “—and just so that you know, I am no longer contracting myself out to Canicus.”
Nowaki’s eyes widened. “You left their employ? Who is Judah’s partner?”
“What? He didn’t tell you?” Xavier smirked as his thumb traced Nowaki’s high cheekbone. “He left the militia, too. For me, it was too much to ask and I left after we split. I was called back in and went back in this past year for one reason only.”
Nowaki’s eyes fluttered shut for a moment as he took in the very real presence of Xavier Blair. As they opened once more, he whispered, “You went back because it was personal… it had to do with us.”
Xavier nodded. “And only for that reason.”
“What did you find?”
Nowaki blinked and they both turned at the sound of the Shimazu’s voice. He stood at the end of the path, one hand resting on his daishō as his steely gaze took in Nowaki’s close proximity to the Englishman. “It better lend reason to the madness you put him through, or I might be inclined to lend a little martial punishment to the thick of things.”
“Chichi… please… his presence here is my own doing. I called Xavier here for the truth—”
“He was unwilling to give it last time! What is the difference now?” Masanori snapped, rushing towards them, his eyes flashing with anger.
“The silence has been broken, Chichi!” Nowaki stepped in front of Xavier. “He has but to confirm its validity.”
Masanori’s nostrils flared as he lifted flashing eyes to Xavier’s over Nowaki’s head. “Hurt him a second time, you will not live to rue the day, Blair-san!” He whirled about, hurrying down the path to disappear into the Sakura Courtyard.
Nowaki turned to Xavier, echoing his father’s words, “Tell me what you found, Xavier. Tell me why this happened!”
“The shortest answer…” Xavier thrust a hand through his drenched hair to push it back from his face. “When I went back in, Judah and I looked for months to find a lead. We finally found a thread of code that did nothing. Absolutely nothing. We figured it was like a watermark of sorts, and so we looked to find other occurrences of it, finding it in places that once collected, started to paint a portrait that I could never have expected.” He paused, biting his lower lip to still its trembling. “It all tied back to my parents, to my mum and dad. All of it. Carson was the main player; if he didn’t sell his performance then none of it would have been possible. The missions I did with Judah were supposed to be protected from inquiry, but a carefully placed mole leaked details, details that Judah discovered early on in October 2000 and once he found the entirety of those details, he flew to Japan to warn me.”
“But it was part of their plan, warning me on my birthday, because they knew how I would react and that I would demand truth, demand you break your vow to the militia or to me. They knew you were honorable and that you would keep your silence no matter what.” Nowaki took a deep breath. “And Xanthe… is she speaking to you now?”
“Xanthe has not told you?” Xavier quirked his left eyebrow. “I felt certain that her decision to remain on Shimazu lands would have—”
“Xanthe remained, hai. Xanthe lives with Shohei, and she wasn’t exactly a champion to your cause,” Nowaki interjected. “More like her warcry was Kill Xavier.”
“Xanthe helped us in our mission. She remained on the outside, pretending to make up with Mum. In so doing, she managed to regain their trust and that afforded her certain privileges.” Xavier’s hands fell to Nowaki’s shoulders. “Mainly, she was able to access their financials and that was where she found record of a single payment of ten thousand pounds to the RSC.” Xavier took a deep breath. “That sounded off, but I discounted it until she told me that it said it was a check, but that she couldn’t find a scan of it. That’s not like my parents, you understand; if they pay by check, there is always a scan of it, should the worst happen.”
“So you looked into it.” Nowaki did not take his eyes from Xavier’s face. “What did you find?”
“My father is paranoid, this I’ve told you. He has people on the people he has on his people, which meant that there existed footage of that day, I had only to find it. Judah found it first.” Lifting his hands to Nowaki’s face, he brushed the rainwater away as he whispered, “My father paid Carson in cash to do what he did and he flew him on the family jet to Japan to make certain he could do it. I found it strange that Carson did not contest my complaint to the RSC even so much as to apologize, but then, money can cushion a blow to a person’s character if they’re a person that can be bought.”
“So he sowed the seed of doubt, and they wove the web that laid waste to their own son. Why?” Nowaki asked, feeling Xavier’s heart pounding beneath his palm.
“Does it need saying?” the Englishman countered, pain evident in his expressive face. “Because, Nowaki, because they did not agree with my heart.”
Xavier’s forehead creased and his lower lip trembled. “You. They didn’t like that I fell in love with a man, and so they attempted to remove the equation without committing murder.” He snorted, his eyes shiny as he shook his head. “They didn’t care what it took, they were splitting us apart. I’m quoting verbatim from the footage with Carson; all of what I just said was directly from my father’s lips.”
Nowaki took a step back from Xavier, though he did not move so far as to pull from his touch; the feel of Xavier’s hands alone was the tenuous gossamer strand that held Nowaki’s heart together as he turned slightly away. “So what happens now? They tore us apart… and we let them! What now?”
Xavier turned Nowaki about, grasping his left hand and lifting it to his lips. “We take it back. We take back that which was stolen and we don’t let it fall for anything. Not for anything, Nowaki! Please… let us do what we planned so many years ago and solidify our bond legally.”
“You would ask me to marry you like that?” Nowaki groused, crinkling his forehead. “Like that? Seriously?”
Xavier hiccupped, closing his eyes for a moment, holding tight to Nowaki’s hand before he reached beneath his yukata to bring forth the silver chain bearing the other half of Nowaki’s ring. “I would not be so daft as to propose a second time like that, my love.” Slowly sinking to his knees, he snapped the chain and held up the ring, asking, “We were rent apart by untruths, and for years have we hurt at the mere sight of one another, our hearts clenching in agony at the sound of our voices! Let us take back what was torn from us and restore the soul we once shared to its former brilliance!” Tears slipped down his cheeks as he slid the ring, still on the chain, onto Nowaki’s finger, where it found a perfect seat. “Marry me, Nowaki, and allow me the chance to make you happy once more!”
“Hai!” he breathed, wrapping his arms around Xavier’s shoulders as the Englishman stood. “Hai… hai, koibito!” Nowaki lifted his lips to Xavier’s trembling ones in a kiss that left them both exhilarated and needing more. Tears shone in his amber eyes as he nodded once. “I will marry you, Xavier Shimazu Blair.”
1 August 2008
“So… tell me again. Emrys was—”
Xavier chuckled as he shouldered a sleepy Tetsuo and Nowaki settled the little boy’s backpack on the top of their roller board as they exited the gate. “—held hostage by a reflection of himself made flesh, and when we looked into his history a few days after it was all over, we found that Shelley Gwynn was actually one of his ancestors on his mother’s side.”
“And that reflection came into this world and took back his lover—”
Xavier shook his head. “Not just his lover. His husband. Shelly was very specific… and I saw their rings. They were handmade and beautiful. Wish I knew how to make rings. I’d have made ours.”
Nowaki smiled up at him as he stood up, clasping Xavier’s hand with his left and the handle to the suitcase with his right. “Maybe you still will one day.”
Xavier pressed a kiss to his temple before his lips spread in a radiant smile. “Maybe I will. One thing I hope we find one day is their kind of forever. I get the feeling that they reside in a place that does not age. To have you, and forever with you, never having to worry about either of us ever having to go through the pain of the last seven years without you becoming the rest of our mortal life—”
Nowaki nodded. “Agreed. I do not wish to know that pain again. It might have been lessened with the addition of…” Tears glistened in his eyes as they walked to baggage claim. “… of Xiaolong, but—”
“Arashi, front pocket of our satchel. There’s an envelope.” Xavier brought Nowaki’s hand to his lips with a small smile. “I think it’ll help.”
They loosed hands for the moment it took them to make it through the revolving exit door to the outside of the airport and their two bags. Once they found their belt, Nowaki’s hands dug in the specified pocket to feel a folded manila envelope. As he withdrew it, he saw his name in Xavier’s neat handwriting. Unfolding the metal clasps, he lifted the flap to slide his hand inside, withdrawing an opened folded business envelope bearing Xavier’s name and London address. Lifting his eyes to Xavier’s brilliant gaze, he murmured, “I don’t understand.”
“Keep going and you will, koibito.” He nodded to the mail. “Look inside.”
Following instruction, Nowaki swallowed as he realized the he knew the writing on the outside of the envelope.
Xiaolong wrote him? Why?
Inside the envelope was a short note in his late lover’s hand to Xavier.
I do not really know why I write to you except that I know that should I leave this in our home now, one of our two beautiful boys will find it. This is merely a just in case letter and I do not wish for it to fall into hands that may tremble should they find it and find me still breathing. Should the very worst happen, and I know that you know what that means, I wish for this to get to beloved Nowaki. He needs to know all I have found. It is in your best interests. I am sealing the knowledge inside an envelope and writing his name on it to keep your curiosity at bay. Thank you for indulging my wishes, and I wish you both all the best, should you have to follow my simple instructions.
Tearing open the envelope with his name on it, Nowaki’s hands shook and he took a deep breath as he unfolded the letter written to him. His tears fell at beloved salutations and discourse.
I hope that this letter finds you put back together and at least back in the arms of the other man that loves you as much as me. My love, I need you to listen now. I was never a talkative man, never one that spoke too much, though I was always one to give you the truth. You know even now as you you knew back when I lived and breathed in your arms, that my heart belonged to you, but that we both had loved deeply before and Xavier was to you as Ranmaru was to me: he was the very mate to your soul, the one that while you never knew why, ever did you long to understand what happened the day you lost him. Never will I stop loving you, dear beautiful Nowaki, I swear it! To prove this from the grave, I will now divulge the truth of my frequent trips to the library.
I was searching tirelessly to find out what really happened between Galante and Xavier, and why they were unable to tell you the truth that terrible night. I needed to find out for myself if your heart had truly been unfaithful or if there was something else… something more to it. The reality of the situation paints a picture that I wholly did not expect, but that I am graciously going to receive, and that truth is this: he was never unfaithful. He told you that he had been working with Judah Galante of Canicus and that was true. He had signed on as a contractor to lend help to the company that helped him keep you safe when he could not be there with you and Tetsuo. In so doing, on one mission, their cover was blown and they had to improvise. Not knowing much about his partner but for that the papers declared him none but a wealthy playboy that spent much time in Japan in the company of geishas, the improvisation according to the debriefing report written by Judah reads as thus:
“I shoved Blair against the alley wall and I asked him if he trusted me. He nodded. I told him that we were in real trouble, that he needed to follow my lead. I told him that in a whisper against his ear as my hands caressed his face. I told him that if he agreed, to kiss the side of my neck. He told me next to my ear as he tugged my hips to his, that he loved and that he belonged to Nowaki. I told him as I pressed my body fully against his, burying my face in his neck, that if he wanted to be able to get back to him, he needed to cooperate. He kissed my neck and consented to the complete change to our mission. I do regret to inform that the means to getting him out alive, to reaching completion to the mission, forced us to go down a path that neither of us wished to go.”
I took that word for word from the report. While his actions were consensual, they were not sought after. Xavier had to debrief, too. His report, while detailed, seemed a bit despondent. Canicus has on file a couple of reports of his treatment by a doctor specializing in the use of civilians.
Now you must wonder how I got Canicus to let me into their system. I made a deal with them that they would give to me what I wanted if I gave to them details about The Triad my father worked for, about the yakuza contact that they used, and in return for those names, I would receive access to the system to find what I needed for you and for sweet Tetsuo.
I want you to be happy. I need for you to be happy now and I know that the only way you will is if you can return to Xavier and his love. Nowaki, run to him and do not look back! He loves you and no one else. You need him and I never want for you to be alone. Forgive him, dear Nowaki, for he did only what he had to get back to you. You have to admit that you and I would have done the same were we put in those shoes. I love you so much, so very, very much, Nowaki. Xavier is a good man, and he loves you as I do. I could not ask for more than his love for you and you could not want for more, should you follow my wishes for you.
Also, I must beg your forgiveness for keeping this secret from you. I did not think it my story to tell, and yet, it was still selfish of me to not reveal a truth that might have led you back into Xavier’s arms. Please, beloved, do not let your heart fill with hate for my omission.
Folding the pages and putting them back into the envelope, he lifted his eyes to see Xavier tugging their suitcases from the belt as he talked to their son, who stood now awake. Stuffing the letter into his back pocket, Nowaki tugged their carry on over to Tetsuo and pressed a kiss to the top of his head as he moved his small hand to the handle.
“I got it, Chichi,” the nine-year-old told him with a sleepy smile.
As Xavier turned around with the second case, Nowaki stepped in close, his hands gripping the sides of his open black leather jacket. Sniffling, he searched the Englishman’s clear green eyes. “I… I wish you had been able to tell me about it. I know that would have changed everything, and I know that we both learned something from our time apart, and I know that I loved Xiaolong so very much that reading his words and hearing his voice in my head still just about kills me—” Nowaki bent his forehead to Xavier’s chest as he wept for a moment. “—but Xavier, he’s right! You are the other half of my soul as Ranmaru-san was the other half of his. Promise me that we will never separate again, promise me that whatever happens, we are in this together, and never ever shall we apart.”
“I promise that I will never let that happen.” His hands cupped Nowaki’s face, lifting it to bring their gazes together, Nowaki finding Xavier’s eyes to be wet as well. “Promise me that you will not?”
“I cannot live without you again. I promise I will not let it happen, not ever again!” Nowaki wrapped his arms tight around Xavier’s shoulders, burying his face in the other man’s neck as the Englishman held him just as tightly. “I love you so much!” he rasped when they finally loosened their holds enough to look each other in the eye.
“Oh, my beloved storm, I have loved you since first I laid happy eyes upon you outside of LAX.” Xavier covered Nowaki’s mouth in a brief, tender kiss, one that got a sleepy giggle from their son. “I will never stop loving you… now shall we go get married?”
The surprise had finally arrived and Nowaki grinned up at Xavier as their son jolted completely awake at the sound of those three precious voices. Brandon, Judah and Christian Zobal-Galante strode towards them, the two men tugging suitcases behind them. As the surprise had been planned for not just Tetsuo, but also for Xavier, Nowaki leaned up to press a kiss to the Englishman’s lips. “Surprise!” he whispered, smiling. “I wanted you to see with these beautiful eyes that I do trust you, that I do believe you, that when I say those words—I do—I mean them.”
Xavier wrapped his arms tightly around Nowaki’s shoulders, his voice rough when he finally spoke. “Every time that I think it isn’t possible to love you any more than I do, you do something to remind me that with you, all things are possible!”
“I love you, too, Xavier!” Nowaki lifted his mouth to Xavier’s for another brief kiss before the Zobal-Galantes joined them, and Nowaki turned his smile to their friends, hugging Brandon first, then Judah. “Shohei, Xanthe and Oto-san will be arriving in an hour and a half. We should stay near the airport, perhaps have some lunch?”
“Sounds like a plan. Airplane food just isn’t what hits the spot,” Brandon agreed eagerly. “And can I just say that this part is the absolute best part? The actual document, even if it’s only good in Canada, saying that you are legally joined—it’s amazing. The political climate will change, and when it does, we’ve already decided that we’re going to get married wherever it’s legal.”
“That would be quite a collection to have—marriage licenses, I mean,” Xavier commented.
“Chichi, Papa—do we have BBC?” Tetsuo interjected suddenly. “That’s not what ours is called, is it? Topher says that he watches Doctor Who on BBC.”
Xavier leaned down to press a kiss to the top of the boy’s head. “Baby boy, BBC stands for British Broadcasting Corporation. It’s a public television service in the United Kingdom, where Papa is from. But Tsu-kun, if you really want to watch Doctor Who, we will need only to turn the telly to NHK.”
“Papa, are you serious? It’s been on NHK all this time?” Tetsuo exclaimed, eyes wide.
“Since the 1960’s, baby boy,” Xavier answered, ruffling his son’s hair.
“That’s so cool, Papa! And I like Topher’s shoes! Look! They have the TARDIS on them!”
Nowaki grinned at his son’s excitement, lifting a happy amber gaze to Judah and Brandon. “Instilling necessary Whoniverse values in your son? Emrys did the same with Tetsuo. I painted Em’s Converse with space and the TARDIS this past summer. From what I’ve been told and photos that he sends me, they are ever on his feet.”
Brandon nodded. “It’s what I did for this one, too. Looks like you might be making a second pair for Tetsuo!” Ruffling Tetsuo’s hair as he hugged him, he arched an eyebrow. “Kiddos… food calls! Let’s go!”
“Oh, Uncle Brandon, I am starving!” Tetsuo agreed, causing his dads to roll their eyes, Xavier taking Nowaki’s free hand in his as he snarked, “Because when we say it, it isn’t as cool. He’s on the eve of double digits and yet already with the mentality of a teenage boy. We’re in for it, we are!”
It was a quarter past four in the afternoon when Nowaki signed a new name for the very first time on a form known as the Record of Solemnisation of Marriage in the presence of the Deputy Registrar, Remy Harkness, and the few gathered to be their witnesses—the Zobal-Galantes and his son, father, brother and Xanthe. Shimazu-Blair Nowaki is my name now… and it feels so very good! He watched as Xavier signed next to his own X and as soon as his new husband set the pen down, Nowaki threw himself into his arms, kissing the Englishman for all he was worth, murmuring between kisses, “Mr. Shimazu-Blair! My husband! I love you! We’re official!”
The small group clapped and the two boys threw homemade confetti and next blew bubbles over their heads before the hugs began and Nowaki shook hands with the older lady who’d married them. “Thank you so much, Remy. You have no idea how long this day has been in the works, nor how much it is needed.”
“I know enough to know that you both will be a stronger force now.” Placing a hand on Xavier’s shoulder as she held tightly to Nowaki’s hand, lifting a set of twinkling grey eyes up to meet both men’s gazes. “You must realize that together, you are one hell of a force to be reckoned with, that you are capable of doing anything. To do that, you must hold trust in one another, must hold close to one another—above everyone else, nobody stuck in-between—that as much as you love your son, even he cannot get between you. A united front cannot be broken. Love brought you together, love keeps your boat floating and as long as you keep your love blazing brightly by keeping your passion lit, your trust strong, your respect for one another of utmost import, and by holding fast to one another’s hands, you will be all right and your marriage will last. From what your father and sister said, the two of you have loved one another for fifteen years exactly, that today is your fifteenth anniversary?” At their nod, her smile grew wider. “Remember that, then, my dears. Remember what it took to get here and for the most part, do more of the same.” Loosing Xavier’s shoulder, she reached her hand out to Brandon and Judah. “I married these two and I have faith that your love burns as hotly as the Zobal-Galantes. I have high hopes for you both, Mr. and Mr. Shimazu-Blair. I know that you will still be together in fifty years.” Her eyes shiny, she nodded. “I just know it.”