Nowaki inhaled deeply as he slipped his arms into the deep sleeves of the montsuki haori before affixing the haori himo in the proper position just above the hakama. Taking the rakuten in his left hand, he ran his right hand through his thick black hair, smiling as the arms of his son wound around his waist. Hooking his arm around Tetsuo’s neck, he murmured, “Love you, too, buddy. How does Chichi look?”
Turning to face him fully, Nowaki waited for Tetsuo’s assessment. The young savant eyeballed his full samurai kimono, tightening the haori himo just a bit before nodding. “You said that you planned to go barefoot instead of wearing the tabi and zori, so I think that you look perfect, Chichi. I wish that I could go with you and Papa.”
“I know, Tsu-kun, but we’ve already talked about this, and you are well aware that grounded means not leaving the house—”
“Chichi! This is an awards ceremony! Surely there are exceptions made for this!” Tetsuo protested, his green eyes wide.
Doing his best to keep a stern expression on his face, Nowaki crossed the two steps to his son, lifting his chin with one hand as he arched an eyebrow. “Have we learned anything from this experience, musuko-san?”
“Aside from Chichi means business when he grounds the Tetsuo-san?” Tetsuo’s face mirrored Nowaki’s, eyebrow and all, though his gaze was disgruntled whereas Nowaki’s held an amused, yet stern, glint. At Nowaki’s nod, the boy went on. “Aside from Papa swearing to keep computers from ever being in my possession?”
“Aside from those things, hai. Musuko-san, this is no laughing matter. What you did was wrong, and were you an adult, you would have gone to jail!” Nowaki knelt before him. “You are very lucky that you were not caught, that you did nothing aside from break into Scotland Yard and Interpol to read!”
Tetsuo bowed his head suddenly, a move that Nowaki had never seen his son make. When he knelt and lifted his chin to meet his eyes once more, he was alarmed to see tears in his son’s eyes. They slipped down Tetsuo’s smooth cheeks as he grabbed Nowaki’s hand with both of his, crying out, “Chichi, please forgive me! I lied to you and I lied to Papa! I did not break into those places for reading only! I changed files! I hacked Scotland Yard and Interpol and the London police to make certain that Christopher Carson paid for what he did to you both and for what he cost you and Uncle Judah! I wanted him to pay, so I made him pay!”
Nowaki’s eyes flew wide at the confession, but he drew the little one into his arms, his mind awhirl at the sheer intelligence contained within Tetsuo’s skull. It was daunting to think that a little over a year ago, at age nine, the child had hacked three different heavily fortified systems with a school computer, hidden his location and presence, and changed encrypted files in a matter of minutes. Xiaolong had recommended a teacher for juku once, for a friend with a child similar to Tetsuo, and the man was coming to the house tonight to meet with and assess Tetsuo. Shohei and Xanthe were staying with Tetsuo to speak with the teacher in Nowaki’s and Xavier’s stead, with clear instruction that the study program would be with actual books and not to include computers. Tetsuo’s grounding was almost over, though his ban from computers still held for another year, and upon acceptance to university—his first choice, that is—he would again be trusted with technology.
How do I explain to him, and explain to him to where he understands, that the intelligence he was blessed with does not give him the right to behave as though he were a god? That no matter if Carson deserves to be punished, that he does not have the right to punish him, that justice will be served, though we may not be around to see it?
“Tetsuo… sweet boy…” Pulling back just enough to look him in the eye once more, Nowaki continued. “You must understand that we are not above the law. It is not our place to take matters into our own hands, but to trust in the systems we help to put in place as a nation to handle the law breakers—”
“But Chichi, he was the one that broke up our family! He started it all when I was a baby! He should pay! Just like Papa’s father. He deserves to pay for what he did—”
Nowaki shook his head, his voice sharp. “Iie! Tetsuo! Listen to me! Don’t just hear my words, musuko-chan; listen to them! Okay?”
Setting his jaw, Tetsuo growled, but consented. “Hai.”
Swallowing hard, Nowaki took a deep breath. “Carson was part of the plot to crack us apart, hai, and it worked for a while and while it was terrible and painful and cost us time together, we found Xiaolong! Fei Xiaolong was part of our lives for five years, musuko-san. Would you have it any other way? Papa was never kept from you—”
“But he was kept from you and you were kept from him! Every time that you heard his voice or he heard yours, or worse still, you saw each other—the pain that radiated from you both burned like fire! He helped to cause that! As did Papa’s father! He arranged the whole thing and hai, we had PX, but we’d have still had him, just perhaps not as romantic as he was to you! I don’t understand the logic behind why it was wrong of me to do that—”
“Tetsuo, it was wrong because you are not a lawman. While you understand and have knowledge of the process behind the justice system, it does not mean that you can take it into your own hands. Musuko-chan, that makes you a vigilante and that is not a good thing. Vigilantes are still criminals, even if they hold good reason behind their actions. What is it that Xanthe says all the time?” Nowaki held the boy’s arms and he crinkled his forehead as Tetsuo visibly accepted defeat with his answer.
“Good intentions pave the road to Hell.” His shoulders fell as he leaned back into his father’s arms. “I just think that they should get what’s coming to them!”
Nowaki smiled, hugging him tightly. “And they will, musuko-chan. They will. People like them always do… and hey, think of it this way, okay?” Tugging him back up to look into his pretty eyes—Xavier’s eyes—Nowaki smiled. “We are back together and stronger than ever! Nothing can break us apart again. Not ever.”
“I promise, Tsu-kun. Nothing will ever split this family apart again.” Nowaki wrapped Tetsuo in a big hug and held him tightly. “Never again.”
An hour and a half later, his left hand carrying the tabi and zori he’d worn because of the weather, Nowaki held to Xavier’s arm with his right hand as they walked along the beach. Leaning his cheek to his husband’s chest, they loosed hands in favor of wrapping around one another. Sand between his toes comforted Nowaki as he muttered, “I know I should be happy for the other artist, but I really wanted to win that award. I also know that I should have stayed for the rest of the awards—”
Xavier chuckled, pressing a kiss to his forehead. “You don’t have to stay any longer than you want to at an awards ceremony that you didn’t win at. There is no written rule—”
“Chichi would disapprove—”
Xavier laughed out loud. “Hai… of you not winning! How dare they pass over a Shimazu?”
His skewed logic—skewed to cheer him up, of course—sent a laugh tumbling over Nowaki’s lips as he dropped the shoes and socks to wrap his arms around Xavier and bring his mouth to his in a kiss. “Aishiteiru!”
Xavier’s fingers threaded through Nowaki’s hair as he returned the kiss, murmuring against his mouth, “I love you, too, Nowaki… and I am ever honored to be your husband!” Winding his arms around him, the taller Englishman deepened the kiss briefly before breaking it to ask, “You ever think about having more children? Maybe a… maybe a girl?”
Nowaki blinked, his amber eyes widening in surprise. “I can’t believe you remember that! I told you that on the plane to Japan when we went back the first time for Okaa-san’s funeral games.” His lips spread in a smile. “What made you think of it?”
Xavier chuckled, taking another kiss from Nowaki’s lips. “Well… Xanthe keeps telling me that if we want more children, her clock is ticking and we need to decide or we may be finding another surrogate.” He nuzzled Nowaki’s nose with his own as he breathed him in, rasping, “And I find myself thinking about you with Tetsuo in your arms and I remember how beautiful it was to watch you with an infant—and then the idea of a little girl—”
Nowaki covered his mouth in a hungry kiss, tears slipping down his cheeks to turn the kiss salty as he deepened it as far as he could, his tongue tangling with Xavier’s while his fingers clenched in the man’s long gold hair. Pressing his body flush to Xavier, Nowaki lost himself in him, forgetting where he began and Xavier ended until the kiss broke and an English lilt came next to his ear, “I take it that’s a yes?”
Nowaki laughed quietly, nodding. “Hai! Hai! Aishiteiru, Xavier-san!”
XAVIER’S HAND slid over his belly as a kiss dropped to Nowaki’s shoulder and a set of jewel-like eyes met his own sparkling ones in the bathroom mirror. “You and me, date tonight. Don’t forget! I made a reservation at our favorite family restaurant.”
Nowaki grinned, turning to face Xavier as he hopped onto the counter, drawing his fully dressed husband into his arms as Nowaki straightened his tie. “That restaurant… wouldn’t have anything to do with the date today, would it?”
Xavier tilted his head, pretending to think. “Hmm… today is the first of August. We got married on the first of August two years ago, but that was in Canada, so the last time that this restaurant and this date had anything to do with us—oh, that’s right! The day we met. Yep… the day we met was the first day we kissed, and we’d just eaten lunch at that restaurant. So two anniversaries in one, celebrated by our favorite restaurant in sunny California.”
“Tetsuo still won’t answer my phone calls. He is quite angry that we came to California without him.” Nowaki slid to the edge of the counter as Xavier’s hands untied his robe and slid over his hip. “I don’t know why he can’t understand—” He hissed when a strong hand wrapped around his hardening cock. “—do you have time to do this?”
“I’m making time.” Xavier bent to take Nowaki into his mouth, his tongue massaging briefly before he pulled off to swirl it around the sensitive tip. Pressing a kiss to it, Nowaki watched as Xavier took him again into the warmth of his mouth, hollowing his cheeks as he began to move on Nowaki. Nowaki’s hands slid into the back of Xavier’s hair as he watched his husband pleasure him, eliciting moans and tremors alike with his ministrations. Clenching his fingers in gold silk, Nowaki bucked, shuddering when his movement received a chuckle, and Xavier dragged his tongue along the sensitive underside of Nowaki’s cock. “Close, koibito?”
Nowaki’s hooded eyes met Xavier’s bright ones as he nodded. “Close… hai…”
“Good,” Xavier rasped before he took Nowaki completely into his mouth, swallowing him down.
At the feel of the tight muscles of the Englishman’s throat massaging his length, Nowaki shuddered and cried out as he found release. Xavier drank of him, unwilling to spill a drop, and when his mouth found Nowaki’s seconds afterwards, he cackled as Nowaki sucked on his tongue before taking his mouth in a hungry kiss. “Tell me you’ll hurry home, Xavier, because all you just did was ensure that we’ll break in the new bed.”
Xavier’s eyes lit and he bit Nowaki’s lower lip. “Oh, that’s what I meant to do! That mattress was made for us to romp about on… and I’m a long, long, long way from being able to be away from you for any period of time.”
Nowaki laughed, pushing him back with a bare foot to Xavier’s hip. “Go! Well… so you can come back! I love you!”
Xavier’s hand cupped Nowaki’s cheek as he pressed a tender kiss to his lips. “All that I am belongs to you, Arashi!”
Nowaki stood in the garage moments later as he waved Xavier off, hugging his arms at the morning chill and laughing softly to himself at the expected horn honk from the front gate that was always Xavier’s final goodbye. “Can’t believe he remembered to do that! We’ve not been here in years!”
His phone rang from the pocket in his robe, a ringtone he recognized to be Judah Zobal-Galante’s, and he picked up, running his finger across the screen to answer, “Hey, Galante… how are things?”
“Better than they were, but still not great. Heard you were in Cali and wondered if you were up to having houseguests for a bit. Brandon and I are bringing Christian out to UCLA to settle him in and we thought that if rumors were true, we’d hang out with our non-Boston… besties… if you will.” The soldier sounded amused as he used the vernacular and Nowaki chuckled as he heard Brandon laugh in the background.
“Xavier and I would be honored to have you and you can stay as long as you like. Our home is yours, Judah, no matter what shore we are on,” he replied as he let himself back inside the house. “We have a dinner tonight and a few meetings with directors tomorrow morning—”
“Yeah, I caught the documentary done on your family on the History channel the other night—that was some fascinating stuff! I couldn’t take my eyes off of it and I certainly never realized how much your father resembled the great Narinobu!” Judah interjected excitedly. “One of these days, I’d really like to attend a fire festival—”
Nowaki chuckled as he made himself a cup of tea. “We will have to do that soon, then. Perhaps this year. Emrys should be in town this weekend, too. Maybe we should do a barbecue?”
“Oh, that would be wonderful! I’ve not met him yet, and Brandon says he’s really down to earth, that when the band worked with him on the video for that last movie he was a ton of fun to work with. Christian would also really like it as one of his favorite movies is still the wizard one!” Judah laughed, a sound that Nowaki knew made Brandon’s heart swell.
“I hear you. Tetsuo still has two Merlyn posters up in his bedroom as well.” Sitting down at the kitchen table, Nowaki sipped his tea. “He will probably be angry that we saw Emrys without him. Even if I justify it by saying that we came here to get work, he will see it as another small betrayal.”
“Boyo isn’t taking his punishment well, is he?” Judah asked quietly.
“Not as well as I figured he would, logic being his best friend other than one Topher Zobal-Galante, no. I cannot figure out how to make him see that I am not grounding him because I want to, but because he has to learn that he is not above the law!” Nowaki sighed, leaning back in the chair as he crossed his legs at the knee. “And Xavier and I have talked, but we have not come to any conclusions that we think will achieve the results we are looking for, you know?”
“I hear you.” Judah paused for a moment, the background noise quieting, telltale that he’d gone outside on the porch. “So what if I talked to my dads about it, maybe ask them to speak to him about what he did?”
Nowaki sat up straight, setting his teacup down in its saucer. “Your dads? As in Mel and Leith Kennith of Canicus? What do you suppose they could do?”
Judah sighed lightly. “Well, Canicus has many different facets and many different faces that work those facets. One of those faces that has rarely been seen is a hacker in their employ known as OB—”
“Oblivion Bane… I’ve heard of him, yeah. Tetsuo spoke of him when we first spoke about his actions.” Nowaki took a deep breath. “Do you think that they’d talk to him about using his mind for good? I mean, as long as he wasn’t seeing field work—”
“No, no, no! Don’t misunderstand me, Nowaki-san, I would never suggest him meeting with them if it involved him eventually going into the field. That’s not an option I would ever see on the table—you have lost too much to consider one of your family being a soldier—”
“It’s not that so much as he’s so young. Even though his soul is old, and his brain is the size of the Canicus corporation itself, he’s still a little boy,” Nowaki corrected, a smile touching his lips. “Hai. I think that a talk with Canicus could cheer him up a bit. Hell, it may mean a return to modern technology earlier than he expected it, and that will cheer him up. Arigato, Judah! So when do you foresee yourselves arriving?”
A light rain descended on Los Angeles in the early afternoon, one that saw Nowaki on the veranda, stretched out and dozing on the porch swing as he waited for the director of his next film to call. Breathing in the fecund smell of life, he was surprised at the horn honk from the front gate and he sat up, quirking an eyebrow as he watched Xavier’s car pull in the curved drive. A smile spread like wildfire across his lips as Nowaki watched the taillights go out and he heard the engine turn off before his husband exited the small car to run across the yard and up the steps to cross to him. His large hands cupped Nowaki’s face as his mouth found his in a dizzyingly deep kiss, one that Nowaki lost himself in as he drew the Englishman down onto the swing next to him. Crawling into his lap, he raked his fingers through warm gold silk as he broke the kiss to breathe, whispering, “Not that I will ever mind that kind of greeting, but you have to tell me what brought that on, koibito, because… well… wow.”
Xavier bit his jaw, kissing up the line of it to say just as softly next to his ear, “I got the part!”
“You lie! You were worried about it because you were up against Sean Bean and you thought you were too young for it!” Nowaki exclaimed, eyes wide with joyous surprise. “You got the part?”
“I got the part!” Xavier cried out. “I got the part!”
“We must celebrate! We—We should have a barbecue!” Nowaki laughed loudly. “And I might have already arranged it somewhat. Emrys will be in town tomorrow and the Z-G’s are coming into town—” He lifted Xavier’s left wrist to look at his watch. “—they are already here and likely moving Topher into his dormitory at this time. I told them that they could stay with us. We should have a nice dinner tomorrow night, just us guys.”
“Think Emrys will bring Lindsay, though?” Xavier queried, slipping out of his jacket and loosening his tie as he scooted a little lower on the swing, rocking his hips.
Nowaki’s eyes hooded as a moan tumbled over his lips before he answered, “I think it’s possible, yeah. They seem thick as thieves as of late. It’ll be her or Thad, most like.” Opening Xavier’s trousers, Nowaki slid his hand inside to work his husband’s hard cock for a moment before lifting his eyes to an almost glowing set of green. “Do you have any lube? I didn’t bring any outside.”’
Xavier dug in his pocket and produced a mostly used tube with a rueful smile. “Might still have some in it. My husband can’t keep his hands off of me,” he teased.
“I know the feeling. My husband is the same way!” Nowaki joked back, taking the tube and working what he could out of it to slick Xavier as much as possible; he needed to have him inside him. “Might be a bit rough,” he warned as he positioned himself, and pushed down onto Xavier with a small cry.
“You okay?” Xavier wept kisses over his throat and shoulders, his hands gentle on Nowaki’s hips.
It took a minute for his body to acclimate, but a smile cracked his face as Nowaki nodded, dropping a small kiss on Xavier’s lips. “You feel good… I’m always okay when you’re inside me.”
Xavier grinned, lifting another kiss to Nowaki’s mouth as he hissed, “Did I ever tell you how hot my husband is?”
Nowaki laughed, folding his arms behind Xavier’s head as he started to move on him. “Bet my husband is hotter than yours!”
Meeting him stroke for stroke, Xavier shook his head. “Not possible! My husband is Japanese, and a trained samurai. He’s also very bendy.”
“My husband does yoga, is English—meaning he has this beautiful thick accent—and is with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He also worked with a mercenary for a time, so going to bed with him could be a variety of sexiness and I never know which one until I’m against a wall or tossed over a table… or flat on my back!” Nowaki arched, a deep groan eliciting his lips as his description caused Xavier’s hips to speed up as he angled Nowaki’s own, deepening his thrusts. “God… oh, god, Xavier… you feel… so… so… good!”
Xavier’s hand slid up Nowaki’s toned chest, splaying over his heart, as he arched an eyebrow, rasping, “Close?”
Nowaki nodded. “Very. You wanna?”
Xavier smiled softly, carefully laying Nowaki back on the swing to tug from the warm recess of his body before taking him in his mouth to quickly swallow him down and force his release. Drinking from him mere moments later, Xavier pushed back into him and rocked, Nowaki’s still-clenching muscles triggering his own climax. Nowaki kissed him to stifle his cry as his body bowed with new pleasure, his arms holding his beautiful man close as the bliss slowly ebbed. Breaking the kiss, Nowaki hushed, “I will never let you go again, Xavier. Never.”
His husband’s eyes shone as his lips spread in a soft smile. “I won’t let you. This between you and me? This perfection? It was meant to last forever and forever is what I aim to have… with you.” Laying his head to Nowaki’s chest, his eyes fluttered shut as Nowaki’s fingers threaded through his golden hair. “Nothing beats the way I feel when I’m here, in your arms, my legs tangled in yours, my soul swimming in yours while my heart pounds next to your heart. I lost it once and thought I would go mad. I can’t do that again, Arashi.” Nowaki felt tears slip down his temples into his hairline at the thickness of the Englishman’s voice when Xavier finished. “I won’t. We are meant to be.”
“Yes, we are, Xavier.” Pressing a kiss to Xavier’s hair, Nowaki laid his cheek to the top of Xavier’s head. “Yes, we are. I love you!”
Almost an hour later, they were scrambling to get into their clothes after taking far too long in the shower—the bane of sharing one when we knew we wouldn’t be able to keep our hands off one another!—and Xavier asked Nowaki to grab his watch from his office. Nowaki laughed as he ran down the hall and cornered the doorjamb into the one room of the house that he could spend hours in just breathing: Xavier’s office. It smelled so good that before Tetsuo, the only way Nowaki could sleep when Xavier was away was by doing so on the couch in his husband’s office. The amazing scent of the Englishman’s cologne, bodywash and aftershave comingled with the cigars that he mostly carried like a worry stone or to give as gifts, had the power to instantly settle Nowaki’s nerves when Xavier wasn’t there to hold him at night.
Conversely, that room—should he have been forced to stay in America during their time apart—would have been his kryptonite. As he looked around a chamber created out of dark wood, hues of burgundy and hunter green, floor to ceiling bookshelves stuffed with books, swords on the walls, a telescope at one slender window; Nowaki felt desire filling his veins again and his smile turned up his lips as he padded across the wood floor to the heavy cherry wood desk. The glass top displayed many photos of the two of them, Tetsuo and Christian, Les Innocents, and a couple of Xiaolong with Nowaki and Tetsuo. As he reached out to touch the photo of himself and Xiaolong, his arm brushed across a stack of opened mail, sending it to the floor in front of the desk.
“Crap!” His eyes lit on the silver watch sitting next to a framed photo of Nowaki and Tetsuo on the left side of the blotter. Grabbing it, he slid it onto his wrist as he moved around to pick up his mess. Humming to himself, he went about his business, until he realized what he was holding were personal correspondences from an unknown party to his husband… correspondences of an extremely personal nature. On the back flap of a letter, he read a postscript stating:
I know that you are married and I know that you are madly in love with said husband. I don’t want you to think that I cannot understand that concept, but the thing is, Xav, I am happy that you have him back, and though I don’t need you to love me back in the same manner as I love you, I need you to know that I am in love with you. Your friendship is treasure enough for me, dearheart, and please understand this: all I wish for is your friendship.
Nowaki blinked several times, reading the postscript from TW a second time, his eyes burning on the lines regarding himself and especially the I don’t need you to love me back in the same manner as I love you. “Who are you? How do you know my Xavier well enough to be in love with him?”
“Beautiful man? What’s keeping you? We need to get—” Xavier’s words died on his lips as he crossed the doorway into his office to see Nowaki crouched on the floor with the letters in his hands.
Nowaki’s eyes lifted to Xavier’s wide ones as Nowaki realized that they had reached their first bridge. Swallowing hard, he straightened the envelopes and got to his feet as he took a deep breath, saying, “I did not realize that you had photos of Xiaolong and when I reached out to touch the one of me and him, my arm brushed the stack of letters. I was trying to put right the few letters that fell out of their envelopes and this one—” He motioned to the top one, the one with the postscript, as he put them back where they’d sat. “—it startled me. Not that I don’t know that you have new friends that I probably don’t know yet, I just… it startled me.”
“May I come closer?” Xavier murmured. “And may I touch you?”
He knows we are at the bridge, too. It has not escaped his attention that we need to proceed with caution. I don’t want to lose him and I believe him. I believe that he loves only me, that he doesn’t need anyone but me. He is a great actor, but when it comes to me, and to us, I’ve seen him try to withhold information, but never lie.
Nowaki nodded, holding out a hand to him. “Tell me why these letters are here.”
Rushing over to take his hand, a small relieved smile touched the edges of Xavier’s lips as his fingers threaded through Nowaki’s. “Tobias writes to me, and he writes to me, and he writes to me, and he keeps on writing to me. I had not—until very recently—contemplated writing back. At first, I thought it would be quite disrespectful to you to do so, but I thought he would eventually stop writing me, that I would receive a final, angry-toned letter. Still, he persists, and so I’ve been thinking of writing him back, telling him to stop, thanking him for his presence in my life.”
He lifted his hand to motion to Nowaki’s cheek, and Nowaki covered his hand with his own, pushing his face into his palm. “Tobias rescued me after that terrible night. He saved me for you, much in the same way that Xiaolong saved you, with the exception of you having known him from before. Tobias was new to me. We met at a function of Father’s. He commented on my tie, asking where I’d gotten it—it was the one that you and Tetsuo had bought me for Christmas the year before, with the kanji for eternity.”
“Oh, my,” Nowaki breathed, his eyes glossing over with the pain he felt in retrospect for Xavier. “You either chose it without thinking or you chose it with intent.”
Xavier laughed dryly as he nodded. “I wore that tie so much that Father asked if he needed to buy me more ties, since I evidently did not depart Japan with any but that one.”
“Xavier!” Nowaki rasped, pressing a kiss to his palm, his heart hurting for the man.
“We will never let it happen again.” Pressing a kiss to Nowaki’s lips, he continued his explanation. “Tobias apologized profusely when I did not answer… I could not answer. After the function, we ran into each other at a business lunch held at a pub. Turns out he was a solicitor for the RSC. I laughed when he told me, and wondered aloud why we’d not met until now. He replied with a deadpan, ‘We have no people skills so they don’t let us out much.’ We got to talking and did quite a lot of drinking while we did. This was about a month after Father’s lunch social, and about four months after us.”
Nowaki squeezed his hand, stepping in to loose his hand as he held him, laying his cheek to Xavier’s chest. “Koibito… koibito, I loved Xiaolong. It’s okay if you loved this man, too.”
Xavier wrapped his arms tightly around Nowaki as he pushed his face into his black hair. “I did love him, after a fashion, and I still do, but not in the way that he’d like for me to love him. Tobias loves me the way that I love you, and not that I could stop—which I now know for certain that I could not—but I need for him to find someone else to love, which is why I’ve been contemplating a single response telling him to stop writing.”
Nowaki nodded. “So tell me the rest.”
“Do we have time, you think?” Xavier asked, and a smile touched Nowaki’s lips as he realized in that moment that his Englishman needed to divulge it and wanted to do so, but that he remembered they had prior obligations.
Lifting his face, Nowaki smiled up at him. “The world can wait, koibito. We waited for it, didn’t we? It owes us this time.”
Warm hands framed his face as tears slipped down Xavier’s smooth cheeks, his chin quivering at the acceptance he found in Nowaki’s face. “Aishiteiru, Nowaki… aishiteiru!”
“Aishiteiru… anata!” Nowaki lifted a kiss to Xavier’s lips. “I am here… and I will always be here.” Laying his cheek back to Xavier’s chest, he murmured, “So tell me.”
“Tobias walked me to my flat—I would not stay in the family home. I took a flat close to the theatre in London. He walked me to my flat hours later and when we got there, he made certain I made it through my front door. I had gotten myself so pissed that while I was able to walk with help, I had lost my precarious hold on sanity. I told him that my husband would appreciate his help in getting me home.” Xavier’s tears wet Nowaki’s shoulder and Nowaki pressed a kiss to his chest. “Tobias asked if it would be presumptive to offer solace to me. I laughed. God, I laughed! He asked me what was funny. I told him that only soldiers offer solace, only Canicus soldiers offer solace and they never offer it to civilians. He said that was true, but that I’d worked for Canicus before and that I needed his help. I lashed out by telling him that Canicus was the reason I was in this position, because of my affiliations with the stupid company, that somehow an oath of silence to them had gotten in the way of an oath of loyalty to the one person in the world that meant life to me and now that person was gone. I shouted at him to leave and then I passed out cold on the floor.”
“He didn’t leave,” Nowaki breathed. “He didn’t leave and that made you angry.”
Xavier nodded. “I was furious when I came to and found him sitting on the couch in my living room, drinking tea and watching telly. I told him to get out and he shook his head, telling me that we could talk like civilized men, that he was right where he was supposed to be and that I wasn’t going to get better, and that I was never going to be the man you needed me to be, if I didn’t try to get better.” He gave a bitter laugh, pressing a kiss to the column of Nowaki’s throat. “He was right, though I couldn’t see it then. I threw him out and told him that if I saw his face again, I would punch him.”
Nowaki smiled softly. “You didn’t. You wanted to, I’m sure, but you didn’t.”
“Things got bad when I started to think about what had really happened, what had to have happened to split us up. Judah wasn’t available when I first started trying to work things out in my head. I asked Father for help in figuring it out and he told me he would help, but of course he didn’t. He actually tried to steer me away from it in such a way that I didn’t suspect him, taking me with him to business dinners, introducing me to single ladies and one night, after having had enough, I ended up in Tobias’ office. I asked him how the hell I was supposed to just get better, that I needed you so badly, that I wanted to have you back in my arms and that it was killing me that I’d hurt you in such a manner, that I wanted to take Canicus down for taking away the one person in the whole universe that made Xavier Nicholas Blair into a man worth knowing, into a man worthy to bear the name Shimazu.”
The dam on Xavier’s emotions broke and Nowaki took them down to the floor, holding his husband as he wept. “I broke then, like I’m breaking now, and Tobias… he picked up my pieces and put them back together. The RSC hired Canicus solicitors about a year later and I hired him the very day the Company let him go, to represent me and to be my personal assistant for a while. Our… our relationship was friendship and solace on occasion when things would start to get bad—upcoming birthdays and anniversaries, though never on the days themselves—and when I finally was able to get Judah back from mission, since it had been Judah’s life as well that had been ruined, the three of us and eventually Xanthe, too, went heavy into what Tobias called research mode to find the truth. When we found it, and I was able to get back to you, I saw that you were happy with Xiaolong, and I could not stand to break that.” Lifting his face to bring the wet jewels of his eyes to the shiny amber of Nowaki’s own, Xavier’s chin quivered as he whispered, “I was content to love you in the shadows. I was content to play the part of Tobias for you, minus the letters… and then darkness fell twice upon you and I could no longer be content. I could not let your light dwindle into nothingness.”
“And so you left the comfort of your arrangement with Tobias?” Nowaki asked as they heard tires on the gravel of the drive outside.
Xavier nodded, pushing his face into Nowaki’s hands when they moved the front of his golden hair behind his ears. “Your pull was too strong, and when you called for me, all the denizens of Hell could not keep me from running to you.”
“And all this time, Tobias has been writing to you? You have many letters—”
“He writes me once a month, and yes, he’s been writing since our reunion. I read them because I believe it would be disrespectful not to, yet I am always hoping that he will say that this is his last letter, or something that indicates he does not expect me to write back.” Xavier looked over at his desk. “Those are just the ones from this year. I wasn’t trying to hide them from you, Nowaki—”
“I believe you, and I trust you, koibito,” Nowaki reassured him, leaning up to press a kiss to his lips. “And know that I never stopped loving you, either. Xiaolong knew that I loved you, that I never stopped loving you. Never once did he ask me to take the evidence of you from my body, nor did he indicate that he felt they disrespected him, and I did the same when it came to the cuff he wore on his wrist, one that his soulmate had given to him. As far as Tobias is concerned, I think you are right. I think that you should finally write to him, tell him your thoughts, but you need to be very clear about his role in your life now. If he truly wants friendship, and you are accepting of it, then you have to set the terms and you cannot bend on them. Anything else would be disrespectful to the beauty that he so enabled us to regain.”
The doorbell rang, and Nowaki dried Xavier’s eyes before lifting a kiss to his lips. “In my life, I have known dragons and gods and monsters and a whole realm of mythical creatures in Japan alone, but you are the only lion I have ever had the privilege to know and love and care for, Xavier. I would give my whole life to keep you here by my side and I would do it all over again to never leave your side.”
Xavier pulled him to his chest in a tight hug as the bell rang again, calling out, “One second!” Pushing his face into his neck, the Englishman pressed a kiss to the sensitive crook as he whispered, “I would do the same to keep you here by my side, to never leave your side, to always be held in the strength of your arms and able to bask in the beauty of your love.”
Nowaki held tighter to him for a long moment before pressing another kiss to his full lips. “My love for you is as unstoppable as time and ever it will be in bloom, Xavier Shimazu, for that is who you truly are: you are a Shimazu!” At the bright smile that lit up his husband’s face like the sun, Nowaki dried his own face, telling him, “Now go wash your face and I’ll get the door. We have a date tonight!”
THEY STOOD in the customs lounge, Nowaki with his hands stuffed in the pockets of his trenchcoat, his eyes trained on the doors as he thought. Looking out of the corner of his eye, he watched Xavier mulling, his arms folded over his chest, his green eyes pale and wide in his face. Turning, he slid his hand over the Englishman’s side, moving in to wrap his arms around his waist, smiling softly as Xavier wound his own around Nowaki’s shoulders, murmuring, “I don’t like the idea of being away from you for so long. Tetsuo coming home is good for you both, but the whole idea of being in New Zealand without you for the most part… for two to two and a half years? I hate it!”
Nowaki lifted his face to set his chin on Xavier’s chest. “Did you forget that my film is only in production for nine months and that that time includes reshoots? Tsu-kun and I will be with you in no time, koibito!”
They whirled around to see Tetsuo sprinting towards them, arms outstretched, glasses crooked on his face, a crimson hat similar to a fedora crammed down onto his head, matching scarf wrapped twice around his neck over a tan trenchcoat to match Nowaki’s, his long hair coming out of the hastily made ponytail at the nape of his neck. Nowaki caught him up in his arms, one hand splayed over the back of his head as Xavier took the hat from Tetsuo’s head to press a kiss to his shiny jet hair.
“Welcome home, musuko-chan!” Nowaki rasped, kissing Tetsuo’s forehead. “Good flight?”
“It was all right. Japan Air always takes care of me. I like flying better when I have a computer, though. Solitaire isn’t as fun on a phone and my Angry Birds kept annoying the flight attendants. Finally, I tried to take a nap, but man, I just couldn’t sleep and nothing good was on the television.”
“Listen to music?” Xavier asked him, arching a blonde brow. “I always do that when I can’t get anything else to occupy me.”
“The difference, Papa, is our age. You have a crazy amount of concerts that you’ve been to, but I’m only eleven, so my extent of concerts is three: Pearl Jam, Linkin Park and Les Innocents. I have nothing to imagine when I listen to stuff that isn’t those three bands.”
Nowaki laughed, looking up at Xavier. “Guess he told us, huh? We’re old men and he’s a young’un.” Taking his gaze back to Tetsuo, he smiled. “What baggage claim did they tell you?”
“The normal one. Is Papa really going to New Zealand without us?” Tetsuo quietly answered, and Nowaki knew the question broke Xavier’s heart.
“For a little while, musuko-chan, you and Chichi and I will alternate holidays—you two coming to see me and me coming to see you two—until we can be together at the end of Chichi’s filming.” Xavier cupped Tetsuo’s chin. “The two of you are filming here in Los Angeles, so at least you’ll be home.”
Tetsuo hugged Xavier tighter. “It’s only really home when we’re all here, Papa, but I understand your meaning.”
“Hey, Short Stuff, I’m here, so you have to be somewhat excited!”
At Christian Zobal-Galante’s voice, Nowaki grinned at his wide-eyed son, saying, “Surprise!”
“Topher is here? You didn’t tell me that Topher was here!” Tetsuo squealed, jumping the older boy. “How long are you here to see me?”
“I’m here going to school. UCLA, buddy. My dads are here, too, because the band’s recording in L.A. and… well, a representative of Canicus is here to talk to you.” Christian ruffled Tetsuo’s hair.
Nowaki grinned up at Xavier as Tetsuo directed his words at them. “Talk to me? What on earth could Canicus want with me?”
“Not Canicus, Shimazu-san,” another voice interjected and Nowaki watched as a tall young man with broad shoulders stepped out from behind Christian. His soft golden brown hair, while long in front just touched the nape of his neck in the back. He bore features that were both brooding but attractive, and his gleaming seawater eyes were fringed with feathery pitch lashes. His shoulders were well defined and broad, and the grey short sleeved shirt showed off shapely arms and long fingered hands. The shoulders tapered into a tiny waist, slim hips and lean legs that screamed runner clad in loose black denim jeans, feet wrapped in black Doc Martens. The man folded one arm over his abdomen as the other hand reached up to smooth over the dark stubble covering his jaw.
“Me,” he finished, his voice as calming as his eyes gleamed. “I was sent on behalf of the Canicus Security. My name is Jamie MacKenzie. You probably know me better as Oblivion Bane.”