Nowaki growled as he plopped back onto the bed, wondering how and when their family would actually be back together for more than four months at a time. Locked into the third film of the Seventh series upon sign on for the first one in 2004, he was quite glad that Ecthelion made his exit in this film, and as of book thirteen, just released in July [curiously in conjunction with his end of filming for Warriors of the Seventh Star], his character thus far had not been resurrected.
Thank the heavens for that, he thought. Though it has been long since I have had Tsu-kun and Xavier home—either home—at the same time. I miss them intensely.
Closing his eyes, he rubbed his hands over his face a couple of times, rolling onto his side to bring his knees to his chest as he said aloud, “I don’t think I want to do this anymore.”
The bed vibrated, signaling a call on his mobile and he snatched it up, sliding his finger across the glass as he answered, “Moshi moshi?”
It felt very much like a black cloud appeared above his head at the sound of his elder brother’s voice. “Ah, Shohei-san, how does the day find you?”
“Don’t sound so excited to hear from me, otōto! I call bearing great news!” Shohei cried out, joy radiating across the line to lift Nowaki’s lips slightly.
“Okay, okay… my apologies, nii-san. Tell me your great news.” Nowaki rolled onto his back again, throwing his arm over his eyes.
“I am engaged!”
Nowaki bolted upright, his back ramrod straight, eyes wide and staring in his skull. “Engaged? To who? When?”
Shohei laughed. “And when she gives birth to your little girl, we will start to have our own family.”
His hand lodged in the top of his hair, Nowaki nearly shouted, “You and Xanthe? You have lived together since 2000!”
“Hai… and we’ve been together since then, truth be told. Shared a bed full time since 2001.” Shohei paused, but the smile Nowaki had heard in his brother’s voice upon his greeting had not lessened. “I need to have your blessing, Nowaki. It is important to us.”
“Of course! And congrats, nii-san! I cannot imagine anyone better for my big brother than Xanthe.” Nowaki sank back onto the mattress, taking a deep breath before voicing his fear. “Do you think that it will take? It has not so far and I am beginning to wonder if I am broken. We have been trying for a year now.”
“Last time, it took about this long. I remember that you had the same fears and look now at your young man!” Shohei chuckled lowly. “Relax, otōto. You will have a Hoshi-san soon enough.”
Tugging his knees to his chest as he curled into a ball, he whispered, “Nii-san … I miss my husband and I want him to come home. I miss my son and I want him to come home. I’m tired of always being in fifteen different places a year. I think I’ve finally had it with the film industry. I’ve made the money I need and while I love to film, love to act, I’m ready to just be Shimazu-Blair Nowaki, husband to the great Xavier Shimazu-Blair and father to the amazing Shimazu-Blair Tetsuo.”
“Does Oto-san know of this wish?”
Nowaki laughed softly. “I have only just voiced this wish, Shohei. You are the first to hear it, even over Xavier.”
“Ah, okay. Xavier is who you were hoping I was when you answered your mobile, huh?” Shohei replied, keeping his voice low and calming.
“How very astute you are, nii-san,” Nowaki blithely retorted. “And hai, I just want to crawl into bed and have him wrap around me and tell me that soon we will not have to part. I’m homesick for home and for the home I have with him… and I miss my son.”
A knock came at the door, the male voice calling through it alerting him to room service. “I didn’t order any!” he called out, covering the phone. Turning back to it, he muttered, “My apologies, nii-san. Room service just came to the wrong room.”
Another knock. “Mr. Shimazu! I bring dinner ordered by Mr. Blair over the phone!”
Irritated, he sat up, growling to his brother, “I will call you back. I’m going to go take care of the ass at the door since it’s only three-forty in the afternoon and Xavier, while older than me, still doesn’t take dinner until about six, so why the hell would he order me dinner now?”
“You tell him, Wa-chan. Call me back… and I miss you!”
“Miss you, too, nii-san!” Nowaki hung up the phone and tossed it onto the bed as he got out of it. “You picked the wrong day to be persistent, jackass,” he hissed as he threw open the hotel room door only to find himself pinned to the hall wall, a treasured chuckle next to his ear as Xavier’s teeth tugged on the rim.
“Miss me?” he whispered, hugging him tightly before pulling back to meet his amber gaze, his own bright green glossing at the tears slipping down Nowaki’s cheeks. A gentle hand moved up to cup his cheek, his thumb tracing the sensitive skin beneath his left eye. Pressing a kiss to each eye, Xavier rasped, “I couldn’t stand it and so I spoke to my director late last night. I have four more months of filming, but I couldn’t handle not having you. It seems like since we got married, we’ve not had any real time to be a couple, much less a family—”
“Hai. It feels like time is running out, and I don’t know why. All I know is that I’m done with filming on Seventh and as much as I love my job, I love you and Tetsuo and the baby we hope to make, more than a job. I don’t care that people think of me almost in the same breath as Watanabe, Xavier, I just want to be your husband and Tetsuo’s father, Shohei’s little brother, and Masanori’s son.” Tears slid down his face to follow the paths of the ones gone before. “I’m grateful for the success that I’ve found, but I don’t want to have nothing but success! I mean, we found life before we found accolades, and so the work was supposed to add to the beauty of you and I, wasn’t it?”
“Come back to Wales with me, boku no otto… boku no kokuyoseki-suta…” Xavier lifted Nowaki’s face to his, his lips spreading in a slow smile as Nowaki climbed his hips, sliding his fingers into Xavier’s wheaten hair, whispering, “You’ve not called me your obsidian star in a long time.”
“Perhaps stars are on the brain, then… since we’re having one. Xanthe called me as I was getting off the plane to let me know that our star will descend on us sometime around New Year’s Day. Her official due date is January 2.” Xavier’s lips touched Nowaki’s and he nuzzled his nose, hushing, “And the doctor thinks that we might just have a little girl, too.”
Nowaki blinked. “They weren’t able to tell with Tetsuo until the very beginning of the second trimester—” At the sudden realization that the three people other than himself that were involved had kept it a surprise for likely a month, Nowaki shook his head with a smile. “How long have they known?”
“I’ve only known she was pregnant for about a week and a half, and I only found out because she and Shohei came to see me before they left for Japan.” Xavier leaned his forehead to Nowaki’s, breathing his breath. “The two of them always make me wonder when they’re going to tell us that they’re a couple.”
“Then you should be getting a phone call soon… because I just got off of that phone call when room service demanded my attention,” Nowaki laughed. “She’s really pregnant?”
“She’s really pregnant!” Xavier’s hands slid down Nowaki’s arms. “Now… I’m taking you over to the bed, and then I’m making love to you… and then I’m taking you back to Wales with me… and I’m marrying you there.” Kissing Nowaki’s lower lip, he finished. “Then we’ll pick up our supercomputer and take him with us to California, where we’ll get married there and begin work on a nursery for our little star.”
His smile spread so wide that he felt his head would crack and he whispered, “Brandon said that he and Christian used to say my cup tipped over when Christian was little, and god, my beautiful lion, if that isn’t ever the truth! I am certain that I have never known such happiness as I do now.” His copper eyes searched the bright emerald ones belonging to his husband. “I love you and god, how I’ve missed you!”
11 June 2013
Los Angeles, California
“Papa, you will never believe the stuff that I’m working on and that I’m learning working with OB!” Tetsuo hooked his arm through Xavier’s as they exited Canicus Industries headquarters building, smiling up at the taller man as they walked across the green towards the car park. “It’s been such a rewarding experience and I never really stop thinking that, but seriously, where’s Chichi?”
Nowaki laughed as they reached the trees, jumping out to wrap around his fourteen year old son in a big hug as he pressed a kiss to his hair. “You’re getting so big! I think that you’ve grown half a foot since I saw you last!”
Tetsuo hugged him back tightly. “Chichi… you’re so silly. I’ve only grown four and a half inches! OB and I work out together, though—it’s required and where else do you think he’s going to get a body like that just hacking! Leith calls him Moose, and it’s funny because OB lets him call him Moose! He even smiles when Leith calls him Moose—what?”
Nowaki looked up at Xavier, a knowing smile on his face as he murmured, “Hero-worship?”
Xavier shook his head. “Definitely not. This is more than that. We’re talking about smiles and bodies, not what he can do or his brain.”
“Gutter brain!” Tetsuo frowned and swatted Xavier’s shoulder. “I am not in possession of a crush on anyone!”
“I think you are,” Nowaki teased, but affection was clear in his voice. “Look at you! You’re glowing with excitement and god, Tsu-kun, but you do look beautiful.”
Tetsuo blushed, but hooked his arm in Nowaki’s. “Chichi, if anyone looks beautiful today, it’s you. What’s Papa done to make you shine so?”
“Well… he asked me to marry him twice more. Once in Wales—where we picked up a second civil partnership—and I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention to the news, but California is back in the business of marrying everyone again, so we thought a wedding in the gardens was in order. What do you think?” Nowaki answered, wrapping his arm around his son’s shoulders.
“I think it’s super-cool and I think we should go to the beach afterward!” Tetsuo turned to face Xavier. “When do you go back to Wales to finish shooting?”
“End of the week, but I’m taking you both with me, sweet boy. We’ve decided that we’re not going to have any more splits with the Shimazu-Blairs. Time is too precious, too short. Chichi and I are going to slow down on the filming and I’ve been thinking of doing more theatre, but we’ve not decided if we’re ready to add London to our schedule of living.” Xavier smiled at Tetsuo as his arm went over Nowaki’s, his hand tousling thick jet hair that was long on top and curled slightly at the back where it hit his shoulders. “I like your hair like this. Frames your face perfectly.”
“Papa… what is going on? What is it that you’re not telling me?” Tetsuo stepped out of their arms, looking at them both. “You both are being a little weird and I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s like there’s something—there’s just something that is a bit off.”
Nowaki frowned. “No, musuko-san… we’re just happy to be together again, the three of us. We already told you about Xanthe… so there’s nothing you don’t know.”
“Okay, if there’s nothing I don’t know, then why are you suddenly feeling a loss of time? Chichi… I know that your kaa-san died of cancer. Cancer often is genetic. Are you sick?” Tetsuo demanded, his face white with terror. “You’re not sick are you?”
Nowaki blinked with surprise at the direction that the conversation had suddenly taken. “No, Tetsuo, I am not sick. I missed my family. I don’t think that missing you is an indication that I am sick or dying, but that it’s been too long since we’ve been together! I have an amazing family that I’m a part of and I just want to be able to spend time with them without having to watch the clock. That’s all.”
Tetsuo nodded, swallowing hard before he threw himself into Nowaki’s arms. “You better not be and if you are, you better tell me so that me and OB can find a way to keep you from ever leaving.”
Lifting his bright eyes to Xavier’s, he quirked an eyebrow as he wrapped his son in a tight hug. “I’m okay, I promise, Tsu-kun! I am okay!”
Xavier wound around them, kissing Nowaki’s mouth, and whispering, “I don’t like even thinking about it. The idea of it gives me nightmares.”
Nowaki slid one hand into Xavier’s hair, his eyes blazing. “I am never going to leave you, Xavier, so put it out of your mind! I mean it!”
The car pulled up beside them, Leith Kennith stepping out of the driver’s side to embrace them all. “I believe that a car to the airport is in order?”
Xavier smiled widely, taking Nowaki’s hand as Tetsuo whirled on his heel to say, “So yesterday, I was asked if I could have one wish, what would it be. My response was Leith Kennith driving me and my dads to the airport, and while I meant Canicus providing us a car, they took it literally and so he really is driving us to the airport.”
Nowaki laughed. “Now that’s impressive! What did you do to gain such reward?”
Leith grinned, leaning on the door. “He and OB have designed a security system that they’re running trials with at the moment, one that is more intelligent than any system out at the moment, one that learns and remembers… could be the future.”
“What did OB wish for?” Nowaki queried. “I’m just curious.”
“He wanted to expand his home.” Leith smiled softly. “So he asked me to look into his birth parents.”
“He said his last name was MacKenzie, didn’t he?” Xavier murmured as they got into the car, and he wrapped around Nowaki, pressing a kiss to his hair.
“Yes, he did, but the MacKenzie adopted him when he found him on his doorstep one August morning. OB wanted to know more about the people who put him with that loving family.” Leith gave another hug to Tetsuo before the young man dove into the car, laying his face against Nowaki’s thigh as he sprawled on the seat beside them.
You do need to see a doctor. Masanori-san has been telling you to do so since your thirtieth birthday, Nowaki-san. Better to be safe than sorry. Remember what Hoshi-san’s death did to your Oto-san and your son is correct: it’s a well-known fact that cancer can be passed on genetically.
Nowaki blinked at the sound of Leith’s voice in his head as his fingers pushed through Tetsuo’s silky hair, his gaze catching the wink in the rear view mirror.
Yes, I’m in your head and were you to find out something negative, I would assist you and yours in preventative thinking. I owe you that much at the very least.
Nowaki buried his face against Xavier’s side, murmuring, “I’m so happy to have you here, both of you. You are the most amazing things I have ever done.”
“Chichi… daisuke!” Tetsuo’s voice was airy, giving testament to the long days the boy put in to honing his craft, and Nowaki knew that he would soon be asleep.
“I think that out of all of the things in my life, you are the one thing I did right, and together, we made that young man. We’ve made another child, and all I can think is that we are right where we are supposed to be, Nowaki.” Xavier turned to smile down at Nowaki. “I also love the fact that we still can’t keep our hands off of each other, too. Judah told me once when I complained about my age—”
“Judah’s my age, isn’t he? I mean, I know that Brandon is three years older than me, but I thought Judah was in that area—” Nowaki interjected, settling his chin on Xavier’s chest.
“Judah is Leith’s and Mel’s son. They are far older than they look. He got the phrase, I’m certain, from them. He told me, ‘Xavier, if age was just a number, what number would you be?’” Xavier smiled. “Know what I told him?”
Nowaki grinned. “I know what I would tell him.”
“I told him, ‘Judah, I’d be twenty-seven forever.’” Xavier cackled lightly. “He shook his head at me and I went on to say, ‘I’d be twenty-seven forever because my husband would appreciate it.’”
“I almost guessed what you would be, but I have to say, if you choose twenty-seven, then that makes me have to be eighteen and I don’t want to be a teenager a second time, so anywhere in my early- to mid-twenties, because then you’re in your late-twenties to early-thirties.” Nowaki blinked slowly as the easy ride of the luxury car lulled him to sleep. “Wake me when we get to LAX?”
Xavier’s lips found his in a tender kiss as he nodded. “If you promise that it will be my privilege to the end of time.”
Nowaki took another kiss from Xavier, his answer quiet, “It’s only ever always been your privilege, mate of the youngest Shimazu dragon.”
Nowaki’s eyes opened next on a window looking out over the sea, but the air wasn’t as heavy as it had previously been in California, and the breeze coming from the cottage-styled window was much cooler.
Where the hell am I? I was just about to get on a plane and now I’m somewhere where the word “cottage” applies in description?
Pulling up to lean on one hand, he looked around the room as he ran his free hand through his hair. “Where the hell am I?”
The bedroom door opened and Xavier poked his head in, a small smile touching his lips. “How you feeling?”
“How many times do I have to tell you and Tsu-kun that I’m not dying and that I’m perfectly fine?” Nowaki groused, shoving a hand through his jet hair. “I take very good care of myself because Kaa-chan almost died of cancer, and I cannot be—nor will I ever—leaving you.” Walking on his knees to the end of the feather bed, Nowaki motioned Xavier to him.
Where am I? How did I get here?
When the Englishman came to a stop before him, he grabbed hold of the front of Xavier’s sweater with both hands. “We swore we’d make us forever. I’m not ever going to renege on that. You are all I have ever wanted, Xavier. Nothing will ever make my soul complete, nothing but you.”
“Then I want you to do something, something you don’t want to do,” Xavier told him, his large hands curving over Nowaki’s slender hips. “I want you to see a doctor and make certain there are no abnormalities. Do this to satisfy my worrisome nature. Please.”
Nothing looks remotely familiar. I’ve never seen this room before, nor that view out the window.
“Okay, but if I do, and it comes back negative—which it will—you won’t bring it up again? You’ll give me your word?” Nowaki held his husband’s gaze. “I mean it!”
“I give you my word, anata, that I will leave it be if you go and there are no abnormalities. Now… if that’s a yes…?” When Nowaki nodded, Xavier lifted his hands to trail the backs of his fingers down Nowaki’s cheeks. “Will you let me tell you something that I am certain you are not quite going to believe?”
“Hai… what is it? Your words, along with the fact that I am scouring my brain to figure out where we are and why I can’t remember traveling here, are scaring me.” His eyes took in the old stone walls, the lack of glass in the window, the candles waiting to be lit, the furniture and he realized the most modern part of the room was the bed he knelt upon, and the clothes they wore. “Xavier?”
“We’ve already run the tests. When you lost consciousness, you were already so tired from traveling, I thought that you’d fallen asleep on me until I couldn’t wake you at the airstrip. Leith transported us via his jet to this beautiful place on the coast of Wales, and he brought his husband here, too. Both Kenniths are outside on the beach awaiting your answer.”
“My answer?” Nowaki echoed, his eyes ticking to the window. “Answer to what? How did my tests come back?”
Xavier did not answer him, but instead asked a question of his own, “Do you still promise me forever?”
“You know I do, koibito! Why won’t you tell me about my results?” Nowaki’s heart clenched and his stomach did flip flops.
What the hell is going on?
“Xavier, stop avoiding my questions. Tell me why I can’t remember what happened and how long it’s been and what my results are saying!”
Exhaling raggedly, his husband nodded. “Okay, but you won’t like any of it.”
“I don’t like any of it now, so what’s the difference?” Nowaki drew him down next to him, crawling into his lap to hold to him, terrified when he felt tremors of fear running through Xavier. “Tell me, Xavier, I implore you!”
“All right, all right! As I told you before, you lost consciousness. That’s why you don’t remember the traveling. You were unconscious for eight days. During that time, Leith brought in his top doctors to look you over. Early on, they discovered what was wrong and they ran every test that they could think of to effect a cure, but nothing has worked… and nothing has stopped it. Physically, your body is in excellent shape for a 38-year-old male, however—” Xavier’s hands cradled his skull. “—in your brain, a tumor is growing at a pace the doctors have never seen before.”
“So it’s inoperable… and I slept for eight days. Tetsuo—”
“Relax, beloved man, he doesn’t know yet. OB came to get him—emergency call on their trials—when we arrived at the airstrip. Kennith magic, I guess.” Xavier exhaled raggedly, wrapping tightly around him, laughing a little hysterically. “I told you to relax and I’m doing a fine job of not relaxing!”
“You said that the Kenniths are awaiting my answer. My answer to what?” Nowaki held a little closer to Xavier, terror filling his veins at the very real possibility that Death was staring him in the face. All he could think about was the malignant tumor in his brain and suddenly all he could think about was did it look the way it did in the movie about the English kid and the greeting cards?
But will I get the miracle that kid did?
“Leith and Mel want to give you a gift if you are serious, and it’s a gift I don’t foresee you saying no to, nor do I see you not instantly asking for me.” Xavier’s voice trembled, his eyes shiny with emotion. “At least, I hope you ask for me. They said to tell you that what the gift will do to you is put you back at the prime of your life, that it will eradicate all imperfections, and it will literally make your body impervious to any kind of damage.”
Nowaki’s hands came to rest on Xavier’s chest, his fingers picking at non-existent fuzz on the sweater. “I don’t understand. How could… I have never even heard… it sounds too fantastic to be real.” He lifted his eyes to Xavier’s face, loving every line he saw in his face, remembering all the smiles and laughter, and all of the tears over the years that put them there. Nowaki remembered how dazzling Xavier Blair had been the first time he laid eyes on him, and he swallowed as he realized that dazzle had blossomed into the sheer magnificence that Nowaki called husband. “What kind of gift is it, Xavier? Please be plain.”
“I am allowed to accompany you down to the beach if your answer is yes, and before you ask, you have to say yes without knowing what exactly is entailed, that this is your trust fall. They will only offer this gift once, that should you think about it, you will realize that what your answer is to lies in the oath.” Xavier’s fingertips lightly massaged the base of Nowaki’s skull.
“Oath? What oath? The only oaths I’ve made are to you, to love you forever, to find forever with you, but surely—” Nowaki stopped, blinking as he turned over the possibility.
Prime of your life. Eradicate all imperfections. Make your body impervious.
Lifting his eyes to Xavier’s, he rasped, “It’s not possible… how?”
“Not an answer, my pulchritudinous rainstorm… yes or no,” Xavier chided as his chin quivered when he tried to smile at Nowaki.
“Yes.” Nowaki nodded, bringing Xavier’s hands forward to press kisses to his palms. “My answer to that question will always be yes.”
Xavier took a ragged breath, tears in his eyes falling as his lips spread in a smile before they caught Nowaki’s in a tender, salty kiss. “Good! Good! Let me help you to the beach.”
Nowaki slid from his lap to turn over and put his feet to the floor. It was when he stood that he realized exactly what the foreign object in his skull was doing to him. His equilibrium put the world at a slant, one he didn’t actually see until the strength of Xavier’s arm tugged him up against his side. Taking his copper gaze to Xavier’s pale green, he gave another nod. “Take me to them… I can’t stand what this is doing to you.”
Biting his lower lip to still its trembling, Xavier led him out the door of the warm cottage and down a small dirt path to the beach. The cool breeze coming in off the ocean felt good, and Nowaki’s eyes found the two men to be barefoot as they walked the shoreline, hand in hand, two absolute portraits of beauty, one light and one dark. Nowaki stepped away from Xavier as he reached out to them. “Yes… my answer is yes! Please… my answer is yes!”
The stunning man in a royal blue suit stepped forward, pushing the golden waterfall of his hair over his shoulder as his brilliant eyes, accented by the color of his suit, sparkled. Catching Nowaki as he lost his balance, his mellifluous voice calmed Nowaki’s heart.
“We have never met in person, though I recall a couple of times that we’ve spoken on the bell. My name is Mel. I’m Leith’s husband.”
“It’s an honor to meet you, Mel. You can call me Nowaki.” Meeting eyes so clear blue he wondered if the gods had taken two small specks of the sky and placed them in his skull for irises, Nowaki swallowed as pain lanced through his skull, his grip tightening on Mel’s arms. “Please… please… my answer is yes! Tell me what to do!”
A tender kiss pressed to his brow before Mel whispered, “Then let us work… and let Xavier hold you.”
Seconds later, a shirtless Nowaki knelt in the sand, his cheek pillowed by Xavier’s chest, trying to breathe normally as the pain intensified in his temples. Mel’s face came into view as his fingers pushed a stray lock of hair over his ear. “We’re going to begin now. The first thing you will feel is warmth on your shoulders, and when it gets too hot, let us know. It is important for the flesh to be malleable, not burned, so remember this. At the moment, you may feel a little tired as the pain in your skull lessens. It is okay to close your eyes as Leith begins the eradication process while I work on making the roots for the wings.”
Nowaki blinked. “Wings? I will have wings?”
Mel grinned impishly, answering immediately, “Of course you will! What kind of angel does not possess wings?”
“Tenshi… hontōni?” Nowaki exhaled slowly, feeling relief as Mel’s promise became truth and his physical discomfort began to fade. “Huh… wings.”
A kiss pressed to the side of his neck sent his lips curving up towards his ears as the heat descended on his flesh, growing in intensity until he hissed, “Ah! Hot!”
While it did not hurt, whatever Mel did to his shoulders did not feel in any way comfortable, though it did not take long and by the end of it, Nowaki felt such a difference on a physical level, that it was easy to see that his rundown state had not been just from working too much.
I was really sick… as in that tumor was no small thing; it affected every part of me. Why didn’t I just go see the doctor the first time Chichi told me to do so?
Mel’s voice filtered through his thoughts. “Okay, you’re clean of imperfection, Nowaki. Leith and I have decided that what we’re going to do now is put a slight pause on your make and give the gift to Xavier as well, because neither of you should experience even so much as one second of being parted. Too much time apart was caused by Canicus, we will not allow you to suffer again.” Nowaki lifted bright copper eyes to Xavier’s sparkling emerald, joy sparkling in both sets as Leith took Xavier’s shirt, Mel speaking once more. “I will begin the eradication process while Leith creates the roots for Xavier’s wings.”
Nowaki’s tongue darted out to wet his lower lip as he held Xavier’s gaze, seeing what his husband must have seen while watching him, as what looked to be every single cell in Xavier almost glowed with a white light from deep within, shining out his eyes like the sun through a stained glass window.
“Totemo utsukushii…” he breathed as the light ebbed and he felt Mel’s hands return to his shoulders.
“You will feel very warm,” Leith murmured as his hands fell to Xavier’s shoulders. “And you will see two balls of light pass between your chests. We decided to do it this way because we thought it would be the best wedding gift we could give you, connecting your souls in such a way that no-one could ever try to take you apart.”
Without another word, two flashes of light passed through them simultaneously, slamming into one another in the middle to fuse briefly before settling in their shoulders. Nowaki shuddered as he felt them take root and explode into life. At his husband’s sharp intake of air, he looked up to see a small smile on his face and he called his name in a soft voice. Xavier turned his gaze to Nowaki’s as he brought Nowaki’s mouth to his own as he echoed Nowaki’s earlier sentiment.
7 October 2013
Los Angeles, California
“So we’re heading over to baggage claim now. Tsu-kun and OB came to pick me up from the airport. I don’t want to think about anything but bed, because the flight was so turbulent that even I couldn’t sleep, and I don’t care about time, I want to hear your voice so call me when you get this, husband of mine. Miss you, love you, see you Friday!” Nowaki took the phone from his ear as he watched his son talking animatedly with the handsome man twenty years older than him. “He is completely taken with him. I don’t think he even knows how much he adores the man, and I don’t think he’ll see it until that man finds someone to love.”
Joining them, he smiled down at Tetsuo. “I forgot to tell you, Tsu-kun—Papa thinks he’ll be coming home on Friday, so we should be able to pick him up that night, have dinner at our favorite family restaurant!” Looking up at OB, he offered a smile. “You are, of course, invited.”
A small smile touched the man’s lips. “I’d like that. Thank you!”
His phone rang again, this one Emrys’ ringtone and he quirked an eyebrow. “One minute. I have to take this. Oh, the belt’s moving. Watch for my cases?” At his son’s nod, he answered, “Hey there, buddy! Long time, no talk to!”
“I’d heard you were in my country, but then when I get here, thinking I’ll abduct you and Tetsuo and take you back with me to L.A., I find that you’re already on your way there and that Tetsuo has been living on campus at Canicus Security, working with none other than Oblivion Bane—not that I originally had even the faintest idea as to who he was, but still! You’re in my town! What’s that about?” He laughed, the sound clean and pure, buoying Nowaki’s heart. “Hey, look, I’m spending time with Mum and Afon for a couple of days and I may get to meet Afon’s boyfriend before I head over. When I do, I’m staying with Lindsay and her brother—well, if he okays it—”
“If he doesn’t, I’ve a guest room with your name on it,” Nowaki interjected. “And you better say yes. Family doesn’t stay in a hotel.”
“Good deal and you know I will… if only for your breakfast!” Emrys teased. “I love your breakfasts!”
“So what day are you flying out? I’ll put it in my mobile so I don’t forget.” Nowaki pointed out one of his suitcases to OB and Tetsuo.
“Looks like it’s going to be this Friday… the 11th. Lindsay said she’s okay to pick me up from the airport and I’ve heard tell that we’re going to dinner with her brother, but I’ll let you know, okay? Maybe we can all get together for breakfast or lunch on Saturday?” Emrys suggested.
“I look forward to it. Hey, Emrys…” Nowaki began, taking a deep breath to calm himself before he finished, “I’m glad that you and that woman are done, even if you’re in pain. She was poison and you deserve better. Keep your eyes open. Love appears in the strangest of places.”
“Arigato, Nowaki.” He paused for a long moment, and when he spoke again, his voice was thick. “You know, Nowaki… you are the best mate I’ve ever had. I know we haven’t gotten much time together, especially since Xiaolong—and that’s mostly my fault, I know, but I want to make it up to you and you have my word, my word that I’m going to start making time. These last few years…” He trailed off for a minute and Nowaki knew that he was thinking of further back than just a couple of years; he was thinking back to Kiyoshi and all that he’d lost since that fateful October night. “Well, these last few years I’ve been a little lost, but you always seem to lead me back home. I can always count on that and I hope that the feeling is mutual, mate.”
“Family doesn’t stop with blood, Emrys. Xiaolong’s death wasn’t hard just for me. You loved him, too. We all have our own ways of dealing.” Nowaki swallowed hard. “We all miss him terribly and I know that he feels our love and that it helps him to rest patiently while he waits for us, but I know that he wants to wait a long time for us.”
“When I come into town on Friday, can we talk, mate? I need to ask you some things, some things I don’t quite understand.” Emrys’ voice trembled, alarming Nowaki. “I just need to be able to talk to someone about them.”
“You can always talk to me. I will always be here for you—” Nowaki broke off when he heard Emrys’ sister call his name. “I’ll let you go for now. Go spend time with Afon and your mother. I’ll see you Friday.”
“Nowaki, we got your cases and I just called for the car,” OB told him as he hung up and they approached with his luggage. “We wanted to take you out to eat tonight, but since you’ve had a really long flight, do you need to take a nap?”
Nowaki nodded. “I could really use about two hours, hai. It’s what, almost four here?” At OB’s muted confirmation, Nowaki glanced down at his phone before tucking it into the inside pocket of his jacket. “About forty minutes to the house will bring us to half-past four and two hours will put us at about normal dinner time of six-thirty or seven.”
“I’ll make reservations then, Chichi!” Tetsuo exclaimed. “Now let’s go home!”
The drive wasn’t as long as he expected, but then again, they made it before rush hour started on a Monday, and he was able to doze as he listened to the boys chatter about work and Emrys Marlowe. Nowaki found it kind of ironic that OB wasn’t much of a fan, though he supposed it would make him better friends with the man. Having not seen The Keeper of the Seventh Gate, Nowaki gave him some slack and as they were getting out of the car suggested that they watch it while he slept. “After that, tell me if you don’t appreciate his craft, OB. Emrys is a better actor than I am, and he’s gotten even better since Keeper.” And with a yawn, he disappeared into his bedroom to fall on the bed fully clothed, eyes closing as he pushed his face into Xavier’s pillow, seeking blissful slumber.
Four days to his arms… Xavier, I miss you already!
Dinner with the boys consisted of going to an arcade to play games and eat pizza and wings. Air hockey was a big player, as was skeeball, and they hunted each other in laser tag before doing a Dance Dance Revolution battle, one in which it was almost a tie between OB and Nowaki. Nowaki won, but only by one round. They put all their tickets in the pot to get OB a giant slinky, which put a smile on both the Shimazu-Blairs’ faces when he returned to them cackling like a fiend. Nowaki took a snapshot of the man and his prize and sent it to both Kenniths and to Xavier, adding in a text that read: So the turtle comes out of his shell for a giant slinky… who knew? He didn’t need a response, but he received one from his husband readily, one that spread his smile wider. No, koibito… the turtle comes out of his shell because your sun warms all that it touches, and his spirit feels safe enough to let that warmth touch its skin. It’s you that brought him out, and it’s you that will keep that smile on his face. Looking up at the stars in the sky, and the moon covered by clouds, Nowaki whispered, “Xavier… ah, Xavier… I am so blessed.”
The days spent with Tetsuo and OB passed by quickly, and soon enough, Friday dawned and OB had to return to the Canicus campus for a morning meeting. The three of them ate a quick breakfast before dropping him off, Tetsuo leaning out the window to make the man promise he’d let them pick him up afterwards. Nowaki grinned as OB agreed, and though it was a reluctant agreement, he saw the tiny smile that touched the man’s lips. As they pulled away from the curb, he tousled his son’s jet hair, pride heavy in his voice as he said, “Tsu-kun, I wish there were more people in the world with hearts as big as your own. I cannot begin to tell you how blessed your Papa and I were when you were given to us, and I plan on telling him that when we pick him up tonight.”
A playful frown touched his features as Tetsuo pulled down the sun visor and opened the mirror, his hands frantically trying to straighten his hair. “I think that you and Papa do not wish me to have hair that looks good as you are constantly messing it up!”
Nowaki laughed. “One day, you will have a son and when you do, he will complain about his hair and you will see why it is good to be Chichi!”
They had lunch with OB at a quarter to one, and as they were leaving the restaurant almost an hour and a half later, Nowaki’s mobile buzzed in his pocket. Taking it out as he got in the car, he slid a finger across the face to read a text from Emrys:
I think I’ve found the person to
spend the rest of my life with…
call me when you can—I have
to tell you about it. I am in town,
by the by.
Grinning, Nowaki pulled up Emrys’ contact and hit the Call button as he put the phone to his ear and the key in the ignition. He didn’t wait long for his friend to answer, and when he did, Nowaki told him, “Tell me everything!”