NEVER SEE THE LIGHT: Chapter Eight– Not Without You

Never See the Light_XSmall

PLEASE BE AWARE: The following chapter is a HUGE spoiler if you have not read Butterflies are Free. I have hidden the text below the spacing for those that do not wish to continue until after they’ve read it. 🙂 That being said… onwards!

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Japanese Glossary

20 October 2013
Los Angeles, California

His mobile rang loudly, jolting him from his peaceful doze on the porch swing. Fishing it out of his jeans pocket, he put it to his ear, answering, “Moshi moshi?”

“Nowaki, it’s Lindsay. I need you to come to the hospital—we’re at Cedars-Sinai. He’s gonna… he’s gonna need you… it’s all my fault—”

At the word hospital, Lindsay Trevelyan had his full attention as he bolted up into a sitting position, feet flat on the wooden verandah floor. “What happened? Linds, are you okay? What do you mean, it’s your fault?”

“Ísarr and I got into a terrible fight. He left and—” She broke off as Nowaki heard in the background, “If you’ll follow me, Mr. Trevelyan-Marlowe, I’ll take you to your husband.” Those words sent a shockwave of grief through Nowaki as he remembered similar ones being said to him upon Xiaolong’s death.  “He left and—and he was hit by a car—we’re in the morgue, Nowaki—”

“I’m on my way, Linds. Be there soon.” Nowaki reeled as he ended that call and placed another to OB.

It rang twice before he answered, “Yeah, Nowaki, what can I do for you?”

“Have Tsu-kun ready. You can come, too, if you like. You’ll probably ease his pain. A friend of ours needs us because his husband just died. Emrys… he lost Ísarr today.” Nowaki growled, slamming his fist into a wall. “I’ll be there in ten minutes. The two of you, please be ready.”

“Yes, sir. We will. Thanks, man.” His voice was gruff, and it surprised Nowaki, who asked, “For what?”

“For including me.” OB took a deep breath. “We’ll be ready.”

Hurrying inside, he grabbed his keys and wallet, shoving them in his pockets as he ran out to the garage. Seconds later, he was exiting the property, calling Xavier on his mobile.

He’s going to be sleeping now, I know it.

On the second call, just as he was pulling into the drive at the Canicus Campus, leaning over to open the passenger door, Xavier’s sleepy voice finally came over the line. “Beautiful man… is everything okay?”

“Xavier… I need you here as soon as possible. Emrys needs us. It’s imperative. Get sleep on the jet. Call me with your arrival time. Tsu-kun, OB and I are on our way to Cedars-Sinai.” He took a deep breath. “Aishiteiru! Isogu, anata!”

“Hai! Aishiteiru!”

Pocketing his mobile, Nowaki glanced over at his son, reaching out to curve his hand over the boy’s skull as he whispered, “I love you more than anything… anything, Tetsuo. You are my whole world, you and your papa. I hope you know this.”

“I do. Always, Chichi.” Pressing a kiss in Nowaki’s palm, he finally asked, “Why are we going to a hospital, Chichi? You said that Emrys was there. Is he okay?”

“Emrys needs us, musuko-chan. Ísarr was in a car accident… and he didn’t make it.” As they stopped at a red light, Nowaki turned to look at his son, tears in his eyes for the loss of a man who’d been so alive, a man that Tetsuo had gotten to know fairly well.

A man that Emrys loved… a man that loved Emrys so intensely and so well.

Carefully watching his face, Nowaki smiled at the large hand that appeared on Tetsuo’s shoulder as OB leaned forward from the backseat, saying, “I’m here for you, Rocky J. I won’t let you go this alone.”

Tetsuo sniffled, dragging the heels of his hands over his eyes as he nodded, a small smile touching his lips as he glanced up at his friend. “You never call me that outside of ops. I don’t think you’ve ever called me that, actually. I thought that was just my server name… and—”

“I can’t be Moose without you, Squirrel,” he teased, something Nowaki hadn’t ever seen him do; usually he was far too serious to do much teasing.

His good-natured jest had the desired effect, and Tetsuo laughed lightly. “Oh, you are still Moose, just not Bullwinkle… without your short sidekick Rocky.”

“Exactly… and this moose won’t let this flying squirrel go this alone. When Nowaki has to hold Emrys together, I’ll keep you together, too.” He squeezed Tetsuo’s shoulder again. “We’re family—”

“And family doesn’t stop at blood, OB.” Nowaki smiled at him as the light finally turned green and he turned back to the road, glancing up at OB in the rearview. “Please remember that.”

“Yes, sir. I will, sir.” He smiled softly as he remained upright, a hand to Tetsuo’s shoulder for the rest of the drive.

They parked near the front entrance to the hospital, hurrying in to ask directions to the morgue from a security guard. He led them downstairs to the basement, and to the check-in desk while he opened the doors to call out to the coroner. A short rotund man with a bushy red beard came out, shutting the doors behind him as he thanked the guard.

Looking up at the three of them, he gave a small smile before he said, “Hello, I’m Davis. I’m very glad that you were so quick to arrive. He’s in bad shape, obviously. As an FYI, there exists a bit of tension between him and the girl that arrived with him. I’m not sure what happened there, but I am certain that the death of his husband will exacerbate the situation. As I told Mr. Trevelyan-Marlowe, I would like to do an autopsy to find out if his husband died prior to being thrown into the ocean.”

Nowaki nodded, motioning to the entrance. “Can we—?”

Davis smiled again, stepping aside. “Oh, sure… sure. Go ahead.”

Nowaki took hold of Tetsuo’s hand as they pushed through the doors, OB behind them, Nowaki’s copper eyes filling with tears at the grief-ravaged face of his best friend outside of his husband and his brother. Emrys’ eyes were bruised underneath, his face red and wet, and he sniffled at the sight of them. Nowaki and Tetsuo wrapped him in their arms, Nowaki rasping, “We’re here, buddy… we’re here… gods, Em… we’re here.”

NOWAKI HAD SUGGESTED that they all go back to his place, but Emrys wished to return to the flat above the bookshop, though after showing Tetsuo and OB to their rooms, he did not wish to stay in the bedroom he’d shared with Ísarr. He changed into Ísarr’s pyjama bottoms and one of his favorite tee-shirts, but he did not wish to stay in their room. Nowaki tossed his jacket over the chest at the end of the bed, running his fingers through his hair after he slipped the sweater he wore over his head and kicked off his shoes.

What would I do if I had to go through this again? But I don’t have to, I don’t have to because Xavier and I are forever now, literally. How can this be happening to our friend? How can he have found it so quickly, just to lose it? Even Xavier and I got seven years our first go, but two weeks? It seems like such a slap in the face for something so priceless.

Sitting down on the bed, he tugged his mobile out of his pocket to see a text on its face from Xavier.

Call went to voice mail, beautiful
man. I’m taking a Canicus jet from
New York and I should be arriving
at LAX around two in the morning.
I’ve already got a car booked with
Canicus, so it’ll be waiting. See you
soon, Nowaki. You are my heart.

A glance up at the notifications bar showed a missed call, one he was certain was from Xavier.

“He left the house at 4.16 and the coroner determined that his time of death was 4.42. Twenty-six minutes. I had twenty-six minutes in which to save him and I spent it trying to save their relationship instead of trying to save my husband, Nowaki… twenty-six minutes.”

The soft voice with a hitch in it broke his heart and Nowaki looked up at the reflection in the mirror to see his friend standing in the doorway of his room, blanket wrapped around his shoulders, tears slipping down his cheeks. Pivoting on his heel, Nowaki faced Emrys, whispering, “I had fourteen seconds from the time Xiaolong was shot until the time he slipped from this world.”

“I had an eternity compared to you—”

“But Xiaolong lay in my arms and I had the ability to watch him die—”

Emrys nodded miserably. “Ísarr was alone to my knowledge… neither situation was preferable.” Tears slipped down his face. “I don’t know…” he began, closing his eyes. “I don’t know… how… what did I do… gods, I’m so incredibly selfish—” Emrys opened his gaze upon Nowaki’s own shiny one. “Here I am, thinking only about meself when… it happened to Ísarr. He’s the one who really paid… paid with his life. I should be praying that his soul went somewhere peaceful and that he really didn’t feel any pain… I should be, shouldn’t I?”

Nowaki moved quickly to his friend, wrapping him up in a hug as he shut the door behind him. “If it makes you feel better, it’s okay to be selfish right now. I guarantee that Ísarr is raging against the Veil, angry that he was taken from you.” Pressing a kiss to Emrys’ hair, he murmured, “Sorrow is natural, as is the anger that such beauty was torn from you. It’s natural to feel both, and so very hard to transform either into peace, to let go—”

Emrys sagged against his frame. “When do I stop lettin’ go? How many times do I have go through this? The difference here is that he loved me back! Kiyoshi loved me as a mate, but Ísarr—he loved me entirely. He loved me entirely… with all of his soul… and heart… and body. He loved me exactly the way I loved him!”

Nowaki’s tears poured down his face when Emrys finally gave into the grief ravaging his soul, burying his face in Nowaki’s chest with a muffled scream. Nowaki lifted him easily into his arms, carrying him over to the bed and settling against the headboard to hold his friend and silently grieve with him as Emrys fell apart, giving way at first into sobs that were full body. Each of his cries ripped through Nowaki’s soul, and the pain it exhumed reminded not of Xiaolong’s death, but of the moments watching Xavier leave after they’d broken up in 2000.

And every other time I saw him, where our eyes would catch and I would see the agony I felt, the longing I felt to run to him and beg him to come home, to tell him that I was wrong, that I was stupid, that I changed my mind. Every time I heard his voice on the phone with Tetsuo. Every time Tetsuo put up a new photo on his corkboard. Every story that I would hear from him—god, the physical agony of Xavier being gone but not. Nothing in life could compare to that horrific experience… except for not having him at all. Losing him—

Nowaki slowly ran his fingers through Emrys’ russet curls and down his back as he tried to calm his friend, his own tears falling faster at his own musings.

I missed Xiaolong, and I loved him, yes. We claimed each other, yes, but we harbored no delusions as to whom we belonged to and with: Xavier was my true mate, while Ranmaru-san was his. My grief for Xiaolong was both selfish and not. I missed him madly, for he was my best friend and my lover and… I missed him because it meant that I was finally alone. Alone to officially go through pain I had put on the backburner. My grief became anger at being deprived of my best friend and the lover that was stolen from me, that lover being Xavier.

Leaning his head back against the headboard, Nowaki sniffled as his eyes ticked to the blue LED of the bedside clock, finding the time to be almost eight.

I cannot wait to see him again. I need to see him smile at me, to see him reach for me… as I know that he will give me strength to help Emrys.

So lost in thoughts filled with empathy, Nowaki did not notice at first that Emrys had quieted. Feeling his breathing finally evening out, he pushed his hair from his face to see that the sorrow had finally spent itself for the moment, and Nowaki sighed in relief as he slid down to wrap around his friend. Pulling Emrys’ back to his chest and tangling his legs in the Welshman’s, Nowaki reached behind him to turn the lamp off.

“I’m here for you, my friend, and I will hold you while you surf the tide of dreams. I will pray you only find good dreams during this brief respite from the world, but know also that I will still be here when you wake and I will not leave you alone.”

For hours, Nowaki held Emrys, running his fingers through his hair and rubbing his back to keep him relaxed and in a mad attempt to keep his slumber peaceful. He started to doze just before midnight, and the last time he looked at the clock, it was 12.13 in the morning. He woke with a start when the bed shook and Emrys howled, “No! No! No… no, no, no, no… nooooo…no, it’s not right, not fair. He can’t be… gods, he can’t be—”

Nowaki’s chin quivered and he bit his lip to still it as he slid his hand up Emrys’ back, curling it around his shoulder to tug him backwards and back into his lap. “C’mon, Em… let it out, buddy. Cry it out.”

The screen on his phone lit up as a text from Xavier sent the device buzzing on the nightstand. 2.48 in the morning. Nowaki held tight to Emrys as the young man pleaded with him to help him, taking strength from the few words that filled the notification bar. I’m here. On my way up. Nowaki held tighter to Emrys as he murmured, “I’m here… I’m not going anywhere. I’m here.”

The bedroom door opened, lifting Nowaki’s eyes to the shaft of gold light from the hallway filled by his husband just before his heels clicked across the floor and he sat down next to them on the bed. As he wrapped his arms around them both, Nowaki buried his face in Xavier’s neck, breathing in the familiar scent of Giorgio Armani, the favorite cologne of his husband. Emrys’ arm went over Xavier’s neck, his fingers tangling in Nowaki’s jet hair as the grieving man’s broken words touched their ears, “Thank you, mate… thank you for coming to b-be with—be with m-me!”

Xavier pressed a kiss to Emrys’ tousled curls, whispering, “Where else would I be, old friend, if not here when you need me most?”

“Comin’ to L.A. has i-its perks, I-I-I suppose… Nowaki’s h-here.” Emrys tugged free of their arms to lift bruised, yet glittering eyes to the glossy jewels of Xavier’s eyes. “You really should just tell him how you feel, mate. I-If I know one th-thing, it’s that w-we d-don’t know h-how much t-time w-we have l-left. Y-You cannot, cannot d-delay. What w-would y-you do i-if you were—if you were me a-and Nowaki w-was m-my Ísarr?”

Nowaki’s lips lifted in a half-smile as he chuckled lowly. “He’s got a point, Xavier… though, if you remember, I don’t like to think of my time as anywhere close to being up.”

“I-I’ll let you two h-have a bit of—of private t-time… I h-have to g-go get something and g-go to the—go t-to the loo. I-I-I’ll be—I’ll b-be right b-back.” Nowaki watched as Emrys pushed from their arms completely, climbing out of bed to hug his arms as he walked the four feet to the loo, disappearing inside as Xavier spoke.

“Uhm… Nowaki?”

“Koibito?” he murmured, a smile touching his lips despite the sorrow threatening to swallow them all.

He sighed heavily, running his long fingers through his thick hair, rumpling it as he began, “I want to—”

Nowaki smirked, arching an eyebrow as he interjected, “You want to what, Xavier?”

“I think I’m ready,” Xavier answered immediately. “I want what you want, Nowaki, and that’s a home. I want to make a home before our daughter is born, and that’s where I want to live, at home with my family. I don’t care if it’s in California or Japan; I just want to be with my family.”

Taking a deep breath, Nowaki crawled into Xavier’s lap, threading his fingers in Xavier’s as his smile spread widely across his face. “And your family wants you to come home, Xavier!” Covering Xavier’s mouth with his in a deep, if brief, kiss, Nowaki submersed himself in Xavier’s love, drawing strength from the solidarity of their union. “Aishiteiru.” His words were quiet, accompanied by a second kiss, though they both heard and watched as Emrys left the bedroom. Lifting his copper eyes to Xavier’s, he rasped, “We’ve not been together all that much this year. I don’t want to be separated again, Xavier. I feel like when we leave each other’s sight, we are able to be torn apart. We’ve worked for years and we have a son that’s almost fifteen. We are soon to have a daughter, why don’t we—”

“Yes. Yes. We haven’t had real time as a family, and I want the same. We should take this time now, hold onto the ones we’re adding into the family, and—”

“—just breathe.”

Xavier nodded once, his warm hands framing Nowaki’s face. “Hai.” Leaning in, his lips took Nowaki’s a third time, worshipfully, breaking only to rasp, “Hai.”

“Oh, so… so this is how it is, then? You’re going to—going to hold your grief—over mine?” Hiccup. “Well… let me tell you something—”

“Shut up, Lindsay. Just shut up while you’re a-ahead! Your admission o-of guilt in re-regards to Ísarr’s d-d-death was all I-I-I needed to realize th-that it’s true. Ísarr o-only left the safety of this house to clear his head. Y-You’d fought before b-but never about s-something l-like th-th-this.”

When they heard his sob, Nowaki caught Xavier’s gaze. “We need to go to them.”

“Definitely,” Xavier agreed and they were at the door seconds later.

“I-I’m sorry, but even if y-you—if y-you thought th-that we f-failed you… we—we had n-nothing on—n-nothing on your b-b-betr—b-betrayal. You did kill him.”

“Take that back.”

“W-Why? I-It’s true. You killed Ísarr.”

“They’re going to kill each other,” Nowaki breathed, sliding his hand across Xavier’s back as they entered the living area. “I got her. You get him.”

“All right.”

Nowaki felt Xavier briefly squeeze his hand as they separated, the warmth still felt as he lifted it to touch Lindsay’s face as he asked, “What’s going on here?”

Lindsay’s black eyes lifted to his copper ones. “Em th-thinks that his grief is more important than m-mine. He th-thinks that because h-he was his hus-husband th-that that m-makes his more important—”

“J-Just b-because you knew him longer than me doesn’t mean that I didn’t love him enough in nine days for countless lifetimes!” Emrys shouted, straining against Xavier’s hold on him. “I l-loved him… a-and y-you couldn’t st-stand th-that… s-so you ripped a hole in his heart and sent him to his death!

Nowaki blinked when their friend slipped from Xavier’s grip, growling as his eyes lit for a brief second.

What the hell?

Harshly rubbing his face with his hands, a beloved silver ring glinting in the low light from its seat on a hallowed ring finger, Emrys looked between Xavier and Nowaki. “I-I-I can’t d-do this. I-I-I have to g-get some air. I’m goin’ for a-a-a—”

No!” came the resounding shout from all three of them, Lindsay finishing, “The last time someone did that… the last time—no, you can’t!”

Nowaki saw the flash of pain on Emrys’ face as he jerkily bowed his head, clenching his jaw to still the sob, keep it inside. A ragged inhale of breath and he bit out, “Fine. Th-Then I’ll g-go for a d-drive.” Without another word, he stalked out of the room and they heard his feet on the stairs before the jingle of the bell and the hard shut of the door downstairs.

Xavier sighed heavily, lifting shiny eyes to Nowaki’s as he ground out, “Well… that certainly went well.”

I don’t want to be kind. I don’t because I’m so angry that I could hurt someone and feel no remorse.

Nowaki tugged Lindsay back into his arms, holding her close to his chest, but carefully as though she were made of porcelain. “Please, Lindsay, I implore you. Tell us what happened here. Start at the beginning.”

“O-Okay.” She sniffled, taking Nowaki’s hand in hers as she led them over to the couch and chair. Nowaki sat next to her, Xavier taking the chair adjacent to them as Lindsay attempted to dry her face before speaking. “It may take a while—”

“At the moment, love, we have nothing but time,” Xavier interjected gently.

Her forehead creased as she turned the black pools of her eyes to Nowaki. “You might hate me at the end. I lost it, Nowaki… I completely lost my mind. All that strength I’ve been building the last couple of weeks we have been spending together painting—it all flew out the window today. All of it—he’s right… I did kill my brother.”

Nowaki placed his hand to her shoulder, gave it a reassuring squeeze. “Linds… talk to us. Tell us what happened.”

Lindsay bared her soul, that much Nowaki knew as he listened to her speak. She gave complete honesty to them, answered whatever question was thrown her way to the best of her ability, and while Nowaki’s anger simmered beneath the surface, Xavier’s raged hotly, evident in his face, the taut muscles of his shoulders. Nowaki had the benefit of spending almost every day of the last two weeks in her company while Tetsuo had been with OB at headquarters. He’d listened to her pain during the day, and at night, he’d check in with the lovebirds via text or phone call; it had been beautiful to watch Emrys falling so in love and hear that it was completely returned. Unfortunately that all ended hours before when she’d left the house to go get a change of clothes, stopping by the Circle K for a couple of energy drinks and munchies to take to the “nerds” on the way back to Nowaki’s.

I asked her to do that for me… and now there is nothing left but the desolation.

As the minutes turned into hours and almost three of them passed, a cold pit formed in Nowaki’s belly and he lifted his gaze to Xavier’s, knowing that he felt it, too. Though they knew it was coming, the harsh knock that came on the glass-paned shop door at 6.01 startled all three of them. Nowaki stepped into Xavier’s space, squeezing his hand and kissing his mouth as he hushed, “I will go answer it, Xavier. Wait here with her.”

Nowaki hurried out of the room and down the stairs, skipping the third one from the bottom to hurry across the shop to the door. Turning the deadbolt, he swallowed as he saw two police officers on the stoop, and though he knew the answer to the question, he asked it anyway, “Officers… what can I do for you?”

“I’m Officer Thomas Muldoon and this is my partner, Officer Dominic Bellucci. You are?” The one on the right quirked an eyebrow after he finished introductions, and Nowaki would have smiled… on a normal day.

But today is the day the desolation becomes complete.

“Shimazu-Blair Nowaki. I am close friends with the Trevelyan-Marlowes and with Lindsay Trevelyan, Ísarr’s sister.” He sighed. “What brings you here, officers?”

“I spoke to Ms. Trevelyan and Mr. Trevelyan-Marlowe yesterday,” Officer Muldoon began. “I brought bad news. Unfortunately, I am bringing more of the same today.”

“Bad news?” I am not prepared for this. I am not prepared for this, he thought as he folded his arms over his belly and asked, “What do you mean?”

Officer Bellucci finally spoke. “Emrys’ car was just found at the bottom of a steep switchback in the hills. Witnesses saw the vehicle lose traction and shoot over the edge. The damage to the car alone was extensive, and that was with the front and side airbag deployment. Blood was everywhere, on the glass and seat of the car.” He paused for a moment, shaking his head. “From the state of the car alone, it is presumed that Mr. Trevelyan-Marlowe didn’t make it.”

Nowaki swallowed again, nodded. “Presumed? When did it happen?”

“The first call came just as the car Mr. Trevelyan-Marlowe was driving left the road,” Officer Muldoon answered, looking at his notes. “The time reported on the 911 call was 4.42.”

Nowaki’s chin quivered and he bit his lip to still it, blinking. “You said presumed—”

The officers both shook their heads, Muldoon interrupting him. “Yes, sir. There was no body in the car or at the scene anywhere we looked. We are currently looking as far as the ocean because of the seawater that covered the car somehow. But with the state of the vehicle itself and the amount of blood inside it, it’s a pretty sure bet that he’s dead. We came by to speak to his next of kin, and our sources led us to believe that his mother and sister were here, though we have been unsuccessful in contacting them. Also listed as his next of kin, outside of his husband, was you.”

Nowaki nodded again. “I have Dilys’ and Afon’s number. I will call them to find out where they are. If they’re here, we will make certain to take care of them.”

“One more question and we’ll leave, sir, as I know that this has to be hard for you.” Bellucci’s words were quiet. “Do you have any reason to believe that someone wanted to hurt Emrys? As far as we can tell, he didn’t have any celebrity stalkers.”

Nowaki shook his head. “No, he never mentioned any and I’ve worked with him on a couple of things, but I never saw any trouble with him. We’ve been friends a long time. When he left earlier, he was very upset, as I’m certain you can imagine. What you described sounds like something startled him as he was driving. He loved to drive the hills; their view of the ocean he always said reminded him of home.”

“Okay, thank you, sir. If we have any other questions, we’ll contact you,” Muldoon murmured. “We’re sorry for your loss.”

Nowaki gave a tight smile, though his grief could not be contained much longer. He shut the door, locked the deadbolt and leaned against it as he struggled to control his breathing.

Emrys… gods, Emrys… not you. Not your bright light…

Putting his face in his hands, he wept silently for a moment.

Have to tell them. Have to tell… oh, gods… Tetsuo.

Hurrying over to the stairs, he started up them, his left foot hitting the third stair with a loud creak that startled him, eliciting an audible sob as he stopped. Strong arms wrapped around him, ones he clung to as Nowaki rasped, “He’s gone… he’s really gone… koibito… the bright light has gone out! How are we going to tell Tetsuo? He’s gone, gods, he’s gone! He’s gone!”

Xavier held him tighter, pressing kisses to his brow and his hair, whispering, “I’ve got you, I’ve got you, my pulchritudinous rainstorm, I’ve got you!”

The throwback to their very beginning at the very end of such a beautiful life stilled Nowaki momentarily, though he held close to Xavier as his husband gritted out, “Are you satisfied yet? Are you? How many more of my family do you have to take for this to be over, Lindsay? How. Many. More?!

NOWAKI LAY STILL in Xavier’s arms, watching but not really watching the television news coverage of Emrys’ and Ísarr’s tragic deaths. He and Xavier had located Emrys’ sister and mother at the hotel that they usually stayed at, meeting the Englishman that Afon planned to marry, one curiously [and humorously] named John Watson.

Emrys said that she only dated him because her favorite author is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and now she’ll be Mrs. John Watson.

Tetsuo stirred, rubbing his face in the small of Nowaki’s back as OB entered the room, a furtive expression on his face.

Xavier muted the television, causing Nowaki to look up as well, prompting the younger man to speak. “Okay, so Emrys’ family is on their way over here. They apologized again for not taking our help, but his sister also said it gave them a little time to grieve. His mother said to tell you that they should not have been so selfish in grieving alone, hence their decision to come to us. Also, John—the fiancé—said that he had called in a favor from home.” OB smiled a little, causing his green eyes to light. “Turns out that old John Watson works for—get this—Scotland Yard.”

Xavier chuckled, as did Nowaki, but it was the Englishman who stated, “You’re kidding!”

“Wish I was, but no. He works for Scotland Yard, is an intern there. The detective he’s working with is Detective Inspector Ashe Reynolds, and he’s on holiday in Los Angeles to visit friends and surf.” OB paused. “John called him, and they called it in, got permission to investigate his death because of the odd circumstances regarding the car. According to John he’s down at the impound yard right now with the wreckage.”

Nowaki put his face in Xavier’s chest for a moment before he spoke, taking a few deep breaths, attempting to stay calm. “You said odd circumstances. Does that have to do with what the policeman said about the lack of Emrys’… of Emrys’… of his body?”

“What John said when I talked to him was that Ashe had brought up the file shared with the Yard—they did that because of Emrys’ citizenship—and Forensics had noted that the entire car, inside and out, was coated in sodium chloride. Even the blood was diluted with it, like the car had hit deep water and sank, and also with the impact pattern left on the car. The impact pattern suggests his car did not hit rock, but water as well,” OB told them. “You have to admit it’s weird. Oh, and also, they found a large unbroken piece of windshield lying off to the side of the wreck, coated in the stuff, with a starfish the size of a man’s palm just lying there.”

“A starfish?” Xavier crinkled his forehead in consternation. “And sodium chloride? Seawater? Where they said he was… he was nowhere near the ocean!”

“And the ground was soaked in it, like a wave had gone over his car,” OB confirmed, running a hand through his hair before tucking it behind his ears. “The facts don’t add up at all.”

Nowaki looked up at Xavier. “What do you think?”

His husband shrugged slowly. “Do you know where to find his research? He always said that it turned up nothing.”

“I’ve got it boxed up in my office closet, top shelf. I wanted it to be close in case he ever needed it.” Nowaki carefully moved from under Tetsuo, sitting up as he motioned OB over to them. “Before you ask, when Emrys was twenty-four, just after we’d finished filming the first Seventh movie, he’d met Dr. Arishima Kiyoshi, the leading archaeologist on old world pirates. I don’t know if you heard anything about what happened? The young doctor had started working on a find in the Caribbean, fell into a mysterious coma for ten months and woke up fine, with the exception of possessing an entirely new set of speech patterns, and he woke up with wedding rings on his finger.”

“I remember hearing something about it from people in the office, yeah,” OB replied blithely, folding his arms over his belly. “Disappeared off the face of the earth in October of 2007, left not a trace.”

“That’s the story that we—Emrys included—wanted people to believe” Xavier took up the story. “According to Emrys, Kiyoshi insisted that he was married, that he had a husband… and I met said husband the day he left. Kiyoshi had gone to see his doctor that day, according to Emrys. He’d gotten sick and his condition was worsening as the days passed, to the point that it scared him. Apparently, he’d had follicular lymphoma when he was younger and had nearly died, but it had unexpectedly gone into remission. If I remember correctly, ten years later his cancer returned and it was taking him quickly. Shelly—that’s the husband—found a way to travel to this world to retrieve him, and he brought with him an acquaintance of his, a pirate named Cameron Morgan. They came and they took Kiyoshi back with them.”

OB looked from Xavier’s face to Nowaki’s then back to Xavier’s. “How?”

“That was back when Emrys had a place on the beach, before he sold it. They came out of the water somewhere near his house, and they returned via the same place,” Xavier answered, his voice low. “I watched them leave.”

“You were there?” OB blinked as he crossed to them. “You’re not pulling my leg?”

“Oh, no. Wish I was. Insanity would be far easier to explain this away, but no… out of the sea. The floor was wet from their water-logged clothes, as was the porch and the steps. After they walked into the waves, I looked for them, trying to find them, called in favors from Canicus even, but nothing has ever turned up on them.”

OB sat on the edge of the bed. “Why are you telling me this?”

Nowaki reached out to him and squeezed his arm. “Because what we’re thinking is that since it was seawater that was all over Emrys’ home then, and now seawater covered his car and clothes, leaving behind a starfish as a signature of some sort… that maybe, just maybe they came for Emrys, too.”

“But Kiyoshi was alive when they took him home—”

“Not for much longer. The doctor he went to told Canicus that his scans indicated the cancer had come back with a vengeance.” Xavier shook his head, asking, “What if this World’s End place is like a heaven place without all the singing?”

Nowaki looked between them, giving voice to the most obvious question. “Well, if it is, how do we find out for certain? I’m not keen on going on faith.”

“I might be able to help with that.” OB took out his phone. “I just need to make a call to my boss.”

Hours later, Nowaki stood in the garden, clad in a traditional samurai kimono, his face wet, holding a note in his hand.

Are the people I love going to ever stop killing me?

He glanced down at words already seared into his brain, remembering how she’d left the shop that morning, the words they’d said to one another as they grieved—neither had been faultless, no… his words had dealt hefty wounds to her soul just as her words had slashed at his own.

“Yeah, it’s over—for them. Who gives a fuck for those of us left behind, right? How selfish of them—“

“Selfish of them, you say? Selfish of them? Oh, you have a lot of gall, Lindsay, to call them selfish! What about you? What about what you did to your very own brother Ísarr? He was your blood and you told him that he was dead to you! You disparaged him to Emrys in a selfish attempt to steal him away from Ísarr! And what about how you treated Emrys? Have you given thought to that? Questioning his loyalty, the trust he held in you, belittling his grief because his time with Ísarr as his lover was shorter than yours as your brother. I tried to put a salve on the wound you felt, but there was no healing what you wanted to cultivate. Yes, you are right in your thoughts, Lindsay Trevelyan: you are the reason two precious lights have gone out—“

Lindsay’s eyes, so wide and black, so full of tears in that regrettable moment, searching Nowaki’s own glossy green as her lower lip quivered. He’d watched as she called the emotion back, put up her stone wall and bit him right back.

“Well… lucky for you Shimazu Nowaki, you won’t have to worry about me ever again.”

“Where are you going?”

“Out. I’m going out, Nowaki. That should make you happy, you self-righteous bastard. You’ll finally be free of evil old me.”

She’d gone back a few hours later, let herself in while they were out to eat, and left a note after grabbing some clothes and her portfolio. The note, left on a corner of the guest bed, had been addressed to Nowaki.

Nowaki,

I’m so sorry that I reacted badly
to their marriage after promising to
try to be a supportive sister and best
friend. I apologize to you for saying
the horrible things I said and you are
right- I am the reason that two precious
lights have gone out.

I love you dearly, you and Tetsuo,
even your Xavier, but I have to go away
for a while and I’m not certain when I
will return.

Always,
Lindsay

Hands wrapped around his upper arms, hauling Nowaki back against a familiar and lean frame, a kiss pressed against the column of his throat as the purr of an English accent caressed his ear. “Beautiful, beautiful man… my wondrous rainstorm—”

Nowaki whirled in his arms, both his hands folding over Xavier’s heart as his tears fell, the paper crinkling under his fingers. “Swear to me, Xavier, swear it to me again what you swore to me on that beach in Wales… that as we are as forever as Time, as impenetrable as diamonds, that we will also be as unwavering as Death in the steadfastness of our love for one another, that we will never allow anything to part us. Swear it to me, Xavier… swear it to me now, because I will not…” Nowaki blinked rapidly to clear the tears from his vision, his copper gaze finding his husband’s emerald one and holding it fast. “… I will not live this life, not without you.”

Xavier’s lips spread in a tender smile before they covered Nowaki’s in a kiss that sent waves of tranquility over the Japanese man’s soul. Nowaki leaned into the kiss, giving a quiet moan when Xavier’s arms tightened around his back and shoulders, only tugging his lips from Nowaki’s when he relaxed. Pressing his lips to Nowaki’s brow, he whispered, “We shall be forever as Time, as impenetrable as diamonds. We shall be as unwavering as Death in the steadfastness of our love for one another, and we shall never allow anything to part us. Nowaki, I give you my oath as goshujin—” Xavier’s hands slipped up to cup Nowaki’s face as he finished, his voice thick with emotion, “—I cannot and will not live this life… not without you.”

Wrapping his arms around Xavier’s shoulders, he pushed his face against his chest. “I can handle pain and torment, but two things in this life I will never be able to take is losing Tetsuo and losing you. I refuse Death those two things.”

“And when you do, I will stand at your side… ready for battle,” Xavier murmured, tugging Nowaki’s head from his shoulder to press a kiss to both Nowaki’s eyes. “Now come, we must ready for dinner. Dilys said that Afon is irritable with late-comers.”

~NOT the End~

Chapter Seven         Table of Contents

NEVER SEE THE LIGHT: Chapter Seven– Tell Me Now

Never See the Light_XSmall

Japanese Glossary

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?”

“G’mornin’, Wa-chan!”

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.

“Totemo utsukushii!”

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!”

Chapter Six         Table of Contents         Chapter Eight

NEVER SEE THE LIGHT: Chapter Six– I Needed Saving

Never See the Light_XSmall

Japanese Glossary

April 2010
Nagoya, Japan

 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.”

“Promise?”

“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:

Postscript–

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.

Always,

TW

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!”

“Papa! Chichi!”

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.”

Chapter Five         Table of Contents         Chapter Seven

NEVER SEE THE LIGHT: Chapter Five– Round and Around and Around

Never See the Light_XSmall

Japanese Glossary

24 December 2007
London, England

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.”

“Your 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
Toronto, Ontario

“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.

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.

Gratitude,

Fei Xiaolong

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.

Nowaki,

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.

 

Always Yours,
Xiaolong
 

Postscript–
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?”

“Nowaki! Xavier!”

“Uncle Nowaki!”

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.”

Chapter Four         Table of Contents         Chapter Six

NEVER SEE THE LIGHT: Chapter Four– The Way You Move

Never See the Light_XSmall

Japanese Glossary

9 May 2005
Nagoya, Japan

He growled as he stood in line at the market, and he glanced down at his cell phone again, seeing that it was exactly five minutes from when he’d last looked at it.

Which puts me five minutes closer to being late to pick up Tetsuo.

Nowaki stuffed the phone back into his pocket, taking one step closer when the elderly woman at the counter was finally escorted away by a young man carrying her bags. Both sets of people in front of him only had a few items each, like himself, so in theory, he should be out of the line in five minutes, right?

Of course, in the best books, this is where something either incredible or incredibly bad happens, but… I’m not in a book. I’m in real life, and something incredible hasn’t happened to me since that night something incredibly bad happened to me on my birthday five years ago. Well… except for Xiaolong… and that is quite the incredible something, I think!

His heart clenched and tears welled in his eyes at the thought of Xavier Blair, a man that he’d not seen in person since the morning after that horrific night—

You cannot be serious—you cannot leave!

You refuse to tell me what is between you and the Canicus man!

His name is Judah Galante and there isn’t anything between him and I but friendship and you! He protects you when I cannot be here to do so!

Then what is it that sticks in your throat, Xavier? What is it you cannot tell me and why do you refuse to answer my first question?

I cannot divulge that information. I am not allowed—

You’re going to tell me that? That’s what you’re going to go with? Classified bullshit! You really don’t care if I leave, do you?

Nowaki, I beg you, please do not say that! You are the stars, the sky, the sun, the very air that I breathe, Nowaki, please, wait—

His phone buzzed in his pocket and he pulled it out to see a text from Brandon.

Haven’t heard from you in a few.
Get back to me soon so I at least
know if you’re okay. I’ll be doing
an art exhibit in 5 cities starting
in Detroit in Jan. Was thinking
to do Boston, London, Shanghai,
Nagoya as well. Thought you just
might wanna contribute a piece or
two of your sculptures to it? Hit
me back, man… I always worry.

He smiled thinly. Nowaki was always glad to see Brandon and Christian, and of course the band, but lately, it had been getting harder and harder to think about having fun, and he wasn’t entirely certain that Brandon was looking for the kind of sculpting he’d been doing to exhibit alongside his beautiful paintings. His phone buzzed in his hand again and he stepped up to pay for his purchases as he read the next text:

Hi, Uncle Nowaki! It’s Topher on
my dad’s phone! I miss you! I’m
hoping to see you and Tetsuo when
we go to Japan soon! Think we can
do that? I love you, Uncle! Hugs from
Topher!

Nowaki couldn’t help it; he grinned widely as he took his bag from the market man. “Arigato!” He typed back to both Zobals that he’d see them again when they arrived in Japan, that he missed them both, and that Tetsuo dearly missed his nii-san, Topher. Thinking about the nickname, clearly for a Christopher and not a Christian, he remembered Tetsuo giving it to the Zobal boy and that Christian loved it from the moment he’d received it… and it stuck. Topher it was… for the rest of eternity for the Shimazu men. Leaving the market, he hurried out through the rain to his car, grinning as his phone jingled from his pocket and he dive-bombed the driver’s seat as he picked it up, answering, “I went to get a late lunch for us and to pick up Tetsuo. It’s been days since you slept so well, so I didn’t want to wake you.”

“How long until you are back, Nowaki-san?” His sleep-roughened words turned Nowaki on more than he could almost stand, and he bit his lip in attempt to keep the excitement at bay.

“About to head over to Tetsuo’s school now, sukoshi ryū… then we will return home and Shohei will take him to class for an hour. I should be home in about forty minutes.” He sighed, the sound full of mirth. “It’s been wonderful having you stay. I don’t want you to ever leave—”

The warm chuckle that came over the line made Nowaki’s heart swell, as did Xiaolong’s words. “Tell me this when you get back. I will bathe and prepare for your arrival, Nowaki-san.”

“I will see you as fast as the spirits can fly me to you, dear Xiaolong.” Nowaki smiled as they hung up and he plugged his phone into the car charger, and it wasn’t long until he’d pulled alongside the curb at Tetsuo’s school just as the bell rang.

Just barely made it. Just barely.

Getting out of his car, he hurried around the front to lean against the side as he watched the children exiting the front door, accompanied by teachers. At the sight of his little boy holding his best friend’s hand, Nowaki smiled, shoving his own hands into his pockets as he took a couple of steps towards him, calling out, “Konnichiwa, musuko-chan!”

Tetsuo’s face lit up at the sound of his father’s voice and he squealed, running for Nowaki and dragging the other little boy with him. “Daisuke Chichi!”

Nowaki knelt to receive his son’s hug and to ruffle the other little boy’s hair, asking, “So is this the best friend?”

“Oto-san, this is my best friend, Matsukata Takeshi. Takeshi-kun, this is my chichi, Shimazu Nowaki,” Tetsuo said matter-of-factly.

The young boy bowed deeply, his voice soft. “I am honored to meet you, Shimazu-san. Tsu-kun tells me stories about you all the time!”

Nowaki bowed his head. “He has told me much about his best friend, too, and best friends are the best things in life to have. My nii-san is my best friend,” Nowaki told Takeshi, lifting his eyes as a lithe woman joined them, bowing her head in greeting.

“Konnichiwa, Shimazu-san. Ta-chan, we must hurry if we are to make tea with your grandmother. Apologies, Shimazu-san—”

“Konnichiwa!” Nowaki inclined his head respectfully before he smiled up at Takeshi’s mother. “And no apologies are needed. It’s a pleasure to finally meet your son, Keiko-san, as our children are close. Please be safe in your journey.”

“You as well, Shimazu-san.”

Nowaki’s phone buzzed in his pocket, a ringtone that he’d never bothered to change alerting Tetsuo to his papa’s call. His bright green eyes—Xavier’s eyes—lit up and he dug in Nowaki’s pocket to answer the call as Nowaki swallowed hard, lifting his son’s small backpack as he thought, At least I don’t have to hear your voice today as well as having memory of the last time we were in the same room and not me or you outside a door. Nowaki strapped his son into the front passenger seat of the car, hurrying around to his side as the clouds broke overhead. As he turned the engine over, Tetsuo laughed and joked with his papa, and though the sound was small, Xavier’s laugh pierced Nowaki’s heart.

It hurts—god, it hurts and I want it to stop hurting! How do I make it stop hurting?

Shohei stood on the verandah when Nowaki pulled up in the drive and Tetsuo bounced in his seat before he looked up at Nowaki. “Today is fight class with Uncle Shohei!”

“Yes, it is. He’s going to take you to class and from what I remember of last time, he owes you ice cream, too!” Arching an eyebrow, he finished, “Remember?”

“You are right, Chichi.” Unbuckling his seatbelt, Nowaki pulled his son into a hug, tears bright in his eyes when Tetsuo whispered, “I wish that we could all be a family again, Chichi… you and me and Papa. I pray for that every night.”

“Maybe someday that will happen, musuko-chan. Maybe you will get your wish someday. Now go. Chichi will pull the car into the garage as soon as you are in Uncle Shohei’s arms.” He watched as the little boy pushed open the car door and got out, and Nowaki smiled as he pushed the door shut hard before running up the steps to toss himself into his uncle’s embrace.

Blinking the tears from his eyes, Nowaki housed the car in his garage and grabbed Tetsuo’s backpack as he exited the car. As the garage door shut behind him, the door to the house opened and his best friend leaned against the doorjamb, wrapped in a deep blue yukata. “Okaeri!”

“It’s good to be home, finally, and you be here,” Nowaki murmured, crossing to him and reaching for his face. Leaning his forehead to Xiaolong’s, he rasped, “Tell me that you’ll never leave, that you’ll always be here when I come home, that we can make this new part of our relationship work as well as we made our friendship work.”

Xiaolong’s hands slipped over Nowaki’s slim hips, tugging him close. “I wanted to feel you say those words to me, not just hear them. Are you asking me to live with you?”

“I’m asking you to stay by my side, to be mine… and to allow me to be yours, to stay by your side.” Nowaki’s hands rested on Xiaolong’s chest as he stepped in closer, sliding his cheek against the tall Chinese man’s smooth cheek. “I just want you to stay, Xiaolong, to stay and love me—”

“I do love you, Nowaki. I have loved you all these years, from the moment you lifted me up while I still grieved the loss of my lover, to this very moment as you ask me to join my life to yours… and I will love you always.” Winding his arms around Nowaki, he whispered, “Now you said we’d have about an hour to ourselves? Why don’t we take a bath in the onsen? I asked your father if I might occupy it for some time earlier and he told me that it would be acceptable, that perhaps I should ask you if you wanted to join me…”

Nowaki’s eyes snapped to Xiaolong’s. “He suggested that? You lie!”

The other man chuckled, lifting Nowaki’s mouth to his for a brief kiss. “I do not… I think that perhaps your father is more cognizant of how your heart works than you give him credit for, my beloved storm.”

Nowaki’s hands slid into thick jet hair, fingers clenching as they loosened the knot Xiaolong had wound it back in, and it tumbled around his shoulders in warm perfumed waves. The scent of cherry blossoms and Xiaolong crashed over him and Nowaki gave himself over to the kiss that soon had him pressed against the opposing doorjamb. As his tongue tangled with Xiaolong’s briefly, Nowaki’s heart pounded hard, his mind spinning.

And yet all of my thoughts are about this wonderful man… and is it really possible to be in love again? His touch makes my body sing, his kiss makes me want more… and his heart, I see it in his eyes and my heart longs to be held by him, so it must be love… it must be!

Teeth bit down on the crook of his neck and a moan burst from his lips, bringing Xiaolong’s face back into view. “Shall I take you to bed or shall I take you to the onsen?”

“Bed… then onsen… then bed again?” Nowaki quipped, arching an eyebrow.

Xiaolong bit Nowaki’s lower lip, sucked on it tenderly before kissing him deeply. “I like the way you think—”

Nowaki’s arms wrapped around Xiaolong’s shoulders as he lifted up to wrap his legs around his lover’s slim hips. “Suki desu…” he murmured, leaning his forehead to Xiaolong’s smooth one. “… but I’m skittish.”

“I know. I’m patient, lover. It is one of my finer qualities. My father said that I was built to be a monk with the amount of patience I could exhibit.” Xiaolong chuckled quietly, nuzzling Nowaki’s lips with his own. “We will go as fast as you are comfortable with and not a second faster, Nowaki. What do you wish?”

His lips curled up in a slow, lazy smile and he whispered, lifting his mocha gaze to Xiaolong’s amber-flecked seawater one. “A re—”

The bell rang and Nowaki blinked as he let himself down, but stole a soft kiss before he placed a finger to Xiaolong’s full lips. “Wait here. I will return shortly.”

Another kiss and he jogged to the front door, smoothing the front of his sweater before he reached for the door. His heart clenched and his mouth went dry as Xavier Blair’s visage filled the door. He stepped back, taking a shallow breath before asking, “What are you doing here? We agreed—”

“Yes, we did, and I apologize for the inconvenience, but I have had trouble rousing anyone at your father’s house and tonight is Tetsuo’s fight class with Shohei-san, so I will be unable to reach him. I needed to drop off these gifts for his dojo.” He held up a couple of sturdy black canvas bags as his eyes swept quickly over Nowaki’s form. “You look wonderful as always.”

Biting his lower lip to still a tremble beginning in it, he took a deep breath before he answered, reaching out a hand to take the bags, “Arigato. I will get these to Shohei-san—”

A hand slid over his hip as a calming voice came next to his ear, “Nowaki-san, are you okay?”

Turning a grateful gaze to Xiaolong, he nodded. “Hai. I am now.”

Xiaolong turned a steely pair of eyes to the man on the doorstep. “You must be Xavier Blair, Tetsuo’s papa.”

A small smile touched Xavier’s lips as he gave a short nod of his head. “I am. You could only be Fei Xiaolong.”

“Hai… and I have Shimazu Nowaki in my care. You will honor the agreements made at the forswearing of your oath to him, and should further contact be needed in the physical, I will stand for him.” His jaw set as he took the bags from Nowaki and set them just inside the door. “Is there anything else that you need this evening, Blair-san?”

Xavier’s mouth worked for a long moment before he shook his head. “No, that’s all, Fei-san. An honor to meet you.”

“Hai.” Shutting the door on him, Xiaolong pushed Nowaki up against the hall wall, lifting him onto his hips as his mouth crashed into Nowaki’s. Nowaki’s fingers threaded through Xiaolong’s thick black mane as Nowaki deepened the kiss, breaking it only to lift his arms over his head as Xiaolong pushed the sweater off of him. His hands splayed on Nowaki’s smooth, defined chest as the ravenous kiss resumed, culling a growl from the man pinned to the cool wood of the wall. “I will make you forget his presence here. I will make you remember only my hands and my kiss!” Xiaolong hissed, his fingers raking down Nowaki’s chest to his hips, curling in the sides of the loose beige canvas trousers that hung on Nowaki’s hips. Dragging them over his bottom, Xiaolong squeezed the toned muscles of Nowaki’s bum, rasping, “Mine!”

“Yours… yours alone!” Nowaki moaned, working the trousers off his legs to meet his sweater on the floor. “I am yours, Ryūjin…!” He held closer to Xiaolong, arching his neck to the lips and teeth and tongue that worshipped the strong column. “I want your skin!” Nowaki shoved Xiaolong’s yukata open, his kiss muffling the groan he dragged from his lover as he got his wish, and he rocked against the hard cock he wanted buried inside of him.

He feels good… his body, joined to mine, feels like perfection… like I am right where I should be!

“Possess me! Please, Xiaolong… possess me!”

“Hai!” Xiaolong’s hands worked quickly to slick the way, and Nowaki arched and cried out as his lover pushed into him. “You are mine… mine… you belong to me, Nowaki!”

“Hai! Hai!” Nowaki gasped as Xiaolong rocked, initiating a rhythm that Nowaki met. “Teishi shinai… teishi shinai!

Nowaki completely drowned himself in the feel of Xiaolong: every penetration, every kiss, every touch. Wrapping his hands in long, clean raven hair, Nowaki gave himself over to his lover’s ministrations, allowing himself to be cast adrift, to sink under the waves of pleasure crashing over him—

Early November 2005

The open suitcases on the bed finally filled, Nowaki unzipped his toiletry bag as he heard Tetsuo call down the hall to Xiaolong. A smile touched his lips as he waited for the beautiful man he’d shared his life with to bring the little boy into their bedroom. Taking the pile of stuff from the bathroom counter and stuffing it into the leather bag, he zipped it before he was tackled around the waist by Tetsuo. Laughing, he tossed the toiletry bag to his lover before lifting his son up into a tight hug. “How are you this morning, musuko-san?”

“I’m good, Chichi. PX helped me to finish packing. Is it true, Chichi, that PX is going to be my tutor on the set?” At the excited expression widening his son’s eyes, Nowaki could not help but grin.

“Hai, Green Eyes, PX—” He glanced over at Xiaolong. “—is going to be your tutor while I film. You excited to see New Zealand?”

“Chichi, PX means Papa Xiaolong… and heck yeah, we’re going to Hobbiton!” Tetsuo squealed, running out of the room as they all heard Shohei call out from the front door.

“You are ready to go, lover?” Xiaolong asked, sliding a hand over Nowaki’s back. “I must confess that I am ever so excited to accompany you on filming.”

Nowaki turned to wrap him in a tight hug. “I am glad that I will have you with me. This will be a long shoot, one I do not wish to be alone with and Tsu-kun has long wished to meet Emrys Marlowe, as his favorite movie in the whole world is I Am Merlyn and Emrys played Merlyn.”

“You did not tell me that Emrys Marlowe was going to be on set,” Xiaolong chided as they crossed to the luggage to close them up. “I would be appreciative if you could get an autograph from him for my niece. She also looks up to him.”

“You know I will!” Nowaki chuckled. “How do you feel about being a tutor for a child? You are used to teaching young adults.” He locked the case and set it down on the floor.

“I have many reference materials. At one time, I did set out to teach elementary school in addition to juku.” Xiaolong sat on the end of the bed, drawing Nowaki into his arms. Nowaki sat in his lap, bringing a kiss to his waiting lips. “I have also reached out to some of my colleagues that currently serve in elementary schools to be better prepared for this task. Tetsuo has shown great promise and is a quick learner. I believe that I will be successful in teaching him his curriculum.”

A knock came at the door and both men looked up to see Shohei standing in the portal, his face tight as his gaze fell upon them. Nowaki creased his brow and turned his eyes to Xiaolong, who nodded once before turning his gaze back to Nowaki’s older brother. “Nii-san, what is it?”

Crossing to squat next to them, the elder Shimazu finally spoke. “Two things. One, Xiaolong, you did not tell me that your former lover was gunned down by the yakuza.” He looked over at his unsurprised younger brother. “And two, did you know that Blair will be on those islands, too, filming a different part of the same movie?”

Nowaki answered both questions, his voice calm, though his hand squeezed his lover’s hip tenderly and he did not meet his brother’s wide eyes. “To your first question, because his lover was a casualty of war and it remains a painful subject, nii-san. To your second, yes, I did… and I am a professional, with the ability to behave in a professional manner. If Xavier cannot, then he is not the man we knew, Shohei.”

“I don’t like it, Nowaki. I don’t like him being that close to you. Xavier has already broken his word to you twice, and both times caused you such pain—” Shohei’s jaw twitched, and Nowaki reached down to cup his cheek.

“Xiaolong will be with me, and he will not allow Xavier to come near me. Should the unexpected happen, Shohei, I will be all right because I have you, Chichi, Xiaolong and Brandon to lean on.” He smiled softly at his brother. “Please try to relax, onii-san.”

Shohei surged up to hold Nowaki close, pushing his face against his shoulder. “I will fly out to see you whenever possible. We will be a barrier around you and we will not let your battlements be sieged, otōto.”

The flight was long and turbulent, but ended in a pleasant surprise. A British Airways flight touched down moments after their Japan Air plane pulled to the gate, and as the three of them were joining the queue for customs, Tetsuo tugged on Nowaki’s hair, murmuring against his father’s ear, “Chichi, Emrys Marlowe just got in line behind us!”

Nowaki turned to face his lover, glancing behind him as he did. Indeed, the actor stood a couple of people behind them, and he caught Nowaki’s gaze. The Welshman’s eyes widened clearly in surprise, and Nowaki’s lips spread in a bright smile as he motioned him over, saying, “You coming up here?”

Grabbing his roller board as the line moved a bit, the young man hurried to join them, saying, “I’ve been on pins and needles since hearing that you joined the project, Shimazu-san! Right now, I’m dead chuffed to be standing here, talking to you! Emrys Marlowe, by the way. You can call me Emrys. It’s a huge honor to meet you, Shimazu-san!”

Grinning over at Xiaolong before he inclined his head in a bow, Nowaki lifted dancing eyes to the Welshman’s mocha gaze. “The honor is mine, Emrys, and please, feel free to call me Nowaki. This is my boyfriend, Fei Xiaolong—”

“You may call me Xiaolong,” his lover interjected, bowing his head. “And it is an honor.”

Nowaki’s smiled widened as he shifted Tetsuo to his hip. “And this is my son, Shimazu-Blair Tetsuo.”

His son bowed his head, saying softly, “A great honor to meet you, Emrys. You can call me Tetsuo.”

“The honor is mine, Tetsuo, Xiaolong and Nowaki. I have long been a fan of your work—film and art. In fact, I have a couple of your paintings at my home in London.” Emrys inclined his head in a respectful bow before reaching a hand out to touch Nowaki’s arm. “Your work is so full of emotion! There is really no other way to describe it!”

Nowaki blushed. “Thank you for the compliments!”

Emrys shook his head. “I speak only the truth!”

The conversation broke for a moment as they stepped up to be processed by New Zealand customs, resuming easily as they made their way down the concourse towards baggage claim. At baggage claim, they were met by company representatives that took them to their hotel, a nice place that Nowaki had stayed once before.

On vacation… in another life. In another life that I will have to see at least once during filming, since he has a role in the film.

Blinking away the thought, he looked up as Xiaolong pressed a kiss to his mouth, murmuring, “I’m going to lay Tetsuo down on his bed. Be right back.”

Nodding, Nowaki took their luggage into the bedroom next door to the one Tetsuo would occupy, and he was grateful that though the suite was large, both the closets lay between the rooms.

At least he won’t hear us when we are amorous!

A text buzzed from his phone and he looked down at the screen.

Hey, it’s Emrys. This is my number.
You guys wanna meet for dinner? I
will bring the autograph for Xiao’s
niece and also one for sweet Tetsuo.
I can tell that we’re going to be good
friends, man, and that makes my life
since you’re one of my heroes… and
I hope I don’t sound completely and
utterly rubbish, but I am so chuffed
to have your number in my mobile!

Hands slid over his hips and up his chest as a kiss pressed to his shoulder, Xiaolong’s quiet words reaching him. “He’s a sweet young man, hai? With quite the crush on you, my beautiful storm.”

Nowaki’s eyes widened as he whirled in his lover’s embrace. “A c-crush? On me?”

Xiaolong chuckled, taking one fingertip over Nowaki’s lower lip. “On you. I dare to contemplate what will happen when we reach the part in the film where his Fingon kisses Maedhros for the first time.”

Nowaki grinned, sitting down on the end of the bed, taking his lover with him, bringing him close to his body as Xiaolong made himself comfortable in Nowaki’s lap. “You don’t think he’s ever kissed anyone? He’s almost twenty-two!”

Xiaolong’s lips upturned in a smile. “I was twenty-one when I received my first kiss, Nowaki…”

Their mouths met in a sweet kiss as Xiaolong took them down to the mattress, burying his hands in Nowaki’s shiny hair, arching into the line of his body as Nowaki’s hands slipped under his shirt and up the warm skin of his back. Breaking the kiss to lift his unusual eyes to Nowaki’s amber, Xiaolong whispered, “Could you ever understand how impossibly much I love you, Shimazu Nowaki? How much I will always love you?”

Nowaki’s eyes shone as he slid one hand around to cover Xiaolong’s heart. “Only if you could understand how much I love you, Fei Xiaolong!”

“I will always try.” Pressing an almost chaste kiss to Nowaki’s mouth, he took one hand from his hair to take the phone from the bed. “I will tell him yes, that we will have dinner with him. I will cook.”

After the wonderful night spent adding one Emrys Marlowe of I Am Merlyn fame to their family, the days and nights began to blur together as production on The Keeper of the Seventh Gate commenced. The friendship between Emrys and Nowaki, very much like their characters, grew quite close in an almost brotherly fashion; never was one seen on set without the other close by. Emrys became a staple in the Shimazu-Fei household, and Nowaki was pleased that Xiaolong cherished the young man as he did. Day 32—also known as December ninth—brought a conversation that Nowaki had not truly expected.

“I’ll walk you to your suite,” Emrys stated as they came out of makeup.

“I’d like that, Em,” Nowaki told him with a smile. “Two days off is going to be great. Xiaolong and I are taking Tetsuo to the marina tomorrow and you’re invited—as you are to dinner tonight—he told me to impart to you. Couch bed is yours, too, if you want to stay.”

Emrys’ eyes lit merrily. “I love it when you guys let me stay over! It feels like I have a family here in addition to my blood family back in Wales.”

Nowaki stopped, touching his shoulder before bringing his hand up to cup Emrys’ cheek, creasing his brow. “You are family, Emrys Marlowe, as surely as if we had been born of the same parents. Family does not always need be blood; sometimes the best parts of our family are the ones we choose.”

Emrys hugged him tightly, saying quietly, “Agreed. May I beg a favor off you?”

Pulling back to look his friend in the eye, Nowaki nodded. “Of course. You have but to ask, Em.”

The young man didn’t divulge his need until they reached the rental Nowaki had obtained for their trip to Wellington the next day. At the car, Emrys turned to him, a grimace clear on his face. “When we come back to the set in two days, I have to kiss and it has to be fierce and believable. I don’t think for a single solitary minute that I can pull that off, because—” He halted his words so suddenly that for a moment, Nowaki thought that something was wrong internally, but then a blush covered his cheeks.

Placing a hand to his shoulder, Nowaki lifted Emrys’ chin, asking, “Are you all right?”

Sighing heavily, the younger man swallowed hard before he finished, “Nowaki, I’ve only had two girlfriends in my life, and they were both before secondary school—that was when I entered drama school. Though my professors always went on about how good of an actor I was then and the critics say the same now, it’s nothing short of a miracle that I’ve never been cast in a romantic role where I had to kiss anyone. On a personal note, I’ve been so busy lately that I’ve not really had time to meet anyone.”

When he growled, Nowaki pressed a kiss to his forehead, saying for him, “So you have never kissed anyone on the mouth.”

His blush deepened, covering his ears and neck. “I don’t know what to do and I’m so afraid that I’ll be complete rubbish.”

Cupping his face with both hands, Nowaki murmured, “Are you asking me to teach you to kiss?”

“You are my closest friend and I cannot imagine asking anyone else, but do you think Xiao will be angry that I asked you?” he moaned, settling his hands on Nowaki’s chest.

Nowaki laughed, shaking his head. “No, I do not. I will speak to him when we get to the house. He did say to tell you that you are not abnormal, as he received his first kiss when he was twenty-one.”

“That beautiful man was not kissed on the mouth until he was twenty-one? Did his parents hide him away or something?” Emrys exclaimed, mocha eyes wide.

Pressing another kiss to his brow, Nowaki chuckled and opened the door for him. “Says the man that females everywhere are swooning over! Get in the car!”

Emrys had many questions regarding the relationships that Nowaki had been part of, and Nowaki could tell that he filed away each of his answers as though he were taking notes. As they parked the car outside their hotel, he turned to Nowaki. “So two male warriors, they wouldn’t be soft with each other, probably ever? It would always be as intense as the first time?”

Nowaki shook his head. “Only if in the case of the characters we’re portraying in the films. Our warriors are forbidden from having partners period; they’re Guardians of the Gates. Their sacred positions do not allow for family as they are forever, two garrisons of Guardians for each Gate.” He smiled. “The Seventh and Innermost Gate’s Guardians are named for the fierce warriors in the most famous fantasy novels ever to be written. Fingon and Maedhros—a love first forbidden in Tolkien’s lore for being unable to create offspring, and forbidden again in MacDonald’s newer lore because emotion clouds the mind—yet, still it happens. The brotherly love between the two warriors explodes when the Gates are fortified and sealed for that once every one hundred years when the Guardians receive a four day shore leave.” Nowaki smiled at the storyline he knew his friend already knew and yet they both loved. “It springs from a completely unreal kiss that turns into a full-blown two days in each other’s arms. From there, it’s all about when they can steal away to meet without getting caught. Yes, I think it would be that intense every time, but no, I don’t agree that two male warriors would never be soft. Tenderness can be reached in times of worship, and I do believe that Maedhros would worship Fingon, as Fingon would have always worshipped the elder Maedhros in some fashion, whether or not he believed himself in love with the Guardian; and that worship would transcend and complete a metamorphosis into the tenderness with which he would touch Maedhros. It would not be always, but it would happen.”

Emrys nodded, pausing a long moment before he lifted a skittish pair of eyes to Nowaki’s understanding ones as he asked him, “Can you show me how to kiss like that?”

Nowaki smiled softly, leaning across his younger friend to open the door for him. “I can show you that. Now come on, Em. Time for dinner!”

The conversation over dinner consisted mostly of talk of the aquarium trip for the next day and what Tetsuo was learning in his lessons. As they ate dessert, Tetsuo turned the conversation to Emrys’ favorite books, which were also his own favorites: The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Nowaki motioned to Xiaolong, saying, “We’ll clear the table while the two of you talk, all right, Em?”

“That means that Chichi wants kissing time with PX. It’s okay, Em, I will keep you company and we can talk about Elves!” Tetsuo giggled, kicking his feet as he clapped happily.

Xiaolong smiled beatifically as he bent down to kiss the top of Tetsuo’s head. “All right, genius boy, enough of the snarkiness. Your humor is beautiful without it!”

Tetsuo lifted his face to look into Xiaolong’s blue eyes. “I just like you with Chichi. I am happy to see him happy, PX. I love you, PX!”

“I also am happy that he is happy, little one, and I love you, too! Eat your dessert. We will return.” Pressing a second kiss to his jet crown, he turned his smile to Nowaki as he helped him to gather the dishes. Once they were ensconced in the small kitchen, Nowaki murmured, “He is quite the astute little man, is he not?”

“And quite the student. He is like most savants that I have read about, though, beautiful storm: inside his enormous brain, there lives a little boy. His emotions are not up to speed with his intellect,” Xiaolong answered just as quietly as he wrapped around Nowaki and laid his cheek to his shoulder. “It’s easy to see the little boy when he giggles and teases us. You should see him working maths and learning languages! It completely explains what his teachers have been saying at his school in Japan. Your musuko-chan has almost run through the curriculum I brought with me. I will be looking into bookstores tomorrow when we are in Wellington to find some more material—”

“Do we need to do more research on his mind? Perhaps any tests to see where he’s at?” Nowaki asked as he rinsed the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.

“I have had him take a few tests already, and he’s on—no lie—a seventh grade reading level already. I would expect him to complete his grade schooling by the time he turns thirteen if he stays on this track, Nowaki-san.” Nowaki’s eyes fluttered shut as his lover lifted his face to press a kiss to the crook of his neck. “Two days… it’s going to be so amazing! We can be a family—”

Nowaki turned suddenly, lighting his hands on Xiaolong’s chest. “Hai… and I cannot wait to do so, but we must do something for Em first.”

Xiaolong smiled craftily. “He asked, didn’t he? He asked you to teach him!”

Nowaki laughed then, cupping Xiaolong’s face as he nodded. “How do you know such things? How did you know that he would ask such a thing?”

“Because I know me. I know what I would do were I in his place, and were I in his place, you are not only my hero, but you are also my best friend… and, selfish as it is of me, you are what I desire, and even if you are not available, even if I will be sent to a special level of hell for asking what I know that you will give to me—even though I know that it is not real—it will be a moment that I can say that I spent in your arms.” His lover lifted a kiss to his lips, brief but deep, and Nowaki’s eyes fluttered shut as he gave himself over to it completely, Xiaolong’s voice none but a whisper as he tugged his lips away, “And yes, I agree that it should be you that teaches him how to kiss as I cannot keep my lips from yours since that beautiful night that you gave them to me.”

“Hey, guys—oh, wow, sorry!” Emrys whirled on his heel in attempt to make a hasty exit, but Nowaki hooked an arm around his shoulders, tugging him to them as he and Xiaolong laughed, sharing another kiss. Emrys’ hands hooked on Nowaki’s arm as he joined in the laughter, his cheeks flushing lightly with color. “I didn’t mean to interrupt you, I just—”

“You’re fine, Em. I was just talking to Xiaolong about what you asked of us,” Nowaki murmured, pressing a kiss to the top of his friend’s hair. “We’ll start working on it tonight, all right? After musuko-chan is abed.”

The Welshman’s lips spread in a wide, if slightly relieved smile, and he visibly relaxed as he replied, “I am eternally indebted to you both.”

21 December 2005, Day 42
King’s Hall Set

“That’s a wrap! Fantastic job, guys! See you all in two weeks! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!” the director called out amidst similar cheers.

Emrys tossed himself into Nowaki’s arms, pressing a chaste kiss to his mouth as he laughed. “I talked to Mum and she and Afon said aye, that they’d be very interested in spending the holidays with a big family like when she was wee.”

Nowaki threw his head back as he cackled merrily, hugging the younger man tightly. “Xiaolong said that your family would say yes. He said that they’d hear the joy in your voice and want to see where it springs from and so they would agree. I don’t know how the man knows so much, but whatever he is in tune with—”

“You wish that it would speak to you, too?” Emrys finished, grinning. “I know!”

Throwing their arms over each other’s shoulders, they began to walk towards the makeup trailer, chatting about the scenes that they’d be filming when they returned. Nowaki had a love scene of his own coming up, one that would see his Ecthelion in the arms of the Guardian that his heart had longed for since before ascending to Lieutenant.  The actor that played Glorfindel clapped him on the back as he passed by them two, grinning. “So go easy on me when we come back, aye?”

“Why would I do that? You’re a Guardian!” Nowaki teased, winking at the man. “Is it not written that—”

A scream rent the air, stilling everyone on the set as if the sound itself had turned them all to stone. Nowaki swallowed, his eyes wild as he gasped, “That was Tetsuo! That was my son!”

His feet couldn’t move fast enough and he hurried towards the high-pitched sound that had become terrified tears. Taking the corner so quickly he nearly ate tile, Nowaki grabbed the doorjamb to his son’s classroom and used it to propel him into the room, stopping at the sight of his bloodied lover nailed to a cross on the wall. Words written in blood on the white wall next to him were in a language that he did not know. Nowaki’s heart pounded in his chest as Emrys joined him, gasping at the horror of the scene before them, before he reached around Nowaki for Tetsuo, tugging the little boy into his arms as he cried out for help. His best friend’s cry set him to motion once more and he hurried over to Xiaolong, grabbing a chair to stand on to put him on his eyelevel.

Sliding a hand over his lover’s cheek, he forced the vein of fright in his voice to be still as he whispered, “Please… please, Xiaolong, open your eyes.” His fingers slipped down his lover’s throat to find a rapid pulse in the jugular vein beneath the skin, a feel that sent tears of relief pouring down his face. “Please… please, beloved… I am here! I am here… please!”

A rush of footsteps behind him alerted him to help coming, a hand falling to his shoulder as a calming voice said, “We’re here, Nowaki-san… let us help you. Let us help you take him down.”

Xavier… he’s here… he’s here to help Xiaolong.

Whirling, he allowed his former lover to see the fear on his face as he whispered, “So much blood! His back is bleeding and he’s not awake and—”

“He’s breathing, Nowaki, and right now, that’s all that matters.” Xavier’s large hand cupped his cheek. “Now let’s get him down.”

Chapter Three         Table of Contents         Chapter Five

NEVER SEE THE LIGHT: Chapter Three– How to Feel About It

Never See the Light_XSmall

Japanese Glossary

8 October 2000
Nagoya, Japan

Nowaki stood facing the wall as he stared at the half-finished painting. It called for completion as surely as any lover would do, but for once, it did not give instruction as to how it would like it done. Still, Nowaki’s own soul begged to do so, for this work was an echo of the passion with which his soul burned.

Hands slid over his chest as a kiss pressed to his bare shoulder. “I’m home, and the little man is asleep, and we’ve not had time for each other in over two mo—”

Whirling on his heel, a smile wide on his face, Nowaki found his husband clad in a pair of his own paint-spattered jeans, zipped but not buttoned, and not a stitch more. “Xavier!” he breathed. “I didn’t hear you come in!”

Laughing throatily, the Englishman wrapped his strong arms around Nowaki’s slender waist. “I called in a few favors here and there from gatemen and your immediate family, snuck into the house, into our bedroom, stole these—” He glanced down at the bottoms he wore. “—and I came to you. You’ve not missed much else.”

Nowaki arched an eyebrow. “What else?”

“Oh… I brought this—” He held out an envelope, postmarked in Ontario, Canada. “—from my uncle, who lives in Canada half the year. Specifically, in Ontario. He says that he heard from quite a trustworthy source that should we travel to Ontario in January, we might be able to obtain our very own marriage license.”

Nowaki’s eyes widened. “A license? A real one?”

“A real one, declaring that by all the laws in Canada, I am legally your husband and you are legally my husband,” Xavier chuckled, leaning in to slant his lips over Nowaki’s in a hungry kiss. Shoving the precious envelope into the back pocket of the borrowed jeans, he raked his fingers up the smooth skin of his lover’s back, garnering a deep moan from Xavier as he broke the kiss to bite and lick his way down the strong column of Nowaki’s throat. “Aishiteiru, Nowaki-san! Aishiteiru, boku no otto!”

“Aishiteiru! Aishiteiru!” Nowaki purred, hands shoving into the sides of the denim trousers covering Xavier’s bare ass, pushing them over his hips as his lover laughed and opened Nowaki’s own.

Taking them down to the colorful floor of Nowaki’s art room, Xavier rocked his hips against Nowaki’s, serving to send the Japanese man arching into the line of his lover’s body when the Englishman’s hard cock slid against his own. “It’s been so long… gods, it’s been so long, Xavier! Gods, you feel good—”

“Please… please…” Xavier yanked the jeans from Nowaki’s legs as he stretched out over him, pulling Nowaki’s thigh up to his hip to bring their bodies into full contact as he lifted smoldering emerald eyes to Nowaki’s lit copper. “I beg you, Arashi, you must allow me inside…”

“I would never refuse your soul sanctuary inside my own, koibito!” Nowaki cried out, rocking hard against Xavier, knowing he would find his release when he did and he smiled as he trembled, whispering, “For you, Hi No Raion, to claim me!”

A hungry smile broke across Xavier’s lips like wildfire on a dry plain and he used the pleasure he’d culled from Nowaki’s body to ease their union when he pushed deep inside Nowaki.

Finally… gods, finally, his soul is no longer aflight! It’s with me once more, housed inside me, wrapped in mine. Finally, oh, finally… aishiteiru!

His eyes flew open and Nowaki wrapped his legs around Xavier’s waist, his hands reaching up to touch his face, bring his mouth to his as they moved as one. Xavier took him quickly, pushing deeper with each stroke until Nowaki’s cry fell silent and they rode the tide of bliss all the way in… mouths fused greedily as the familiar euphoric heights ebbed.

Xavier’s chuckle finally took Nowaki’s lips from his briefly. “What is it, koibito?”

“Do we have time to go again?” Kiss. Bite. Suck on Nowaki’s lower lip. Kiss. “There was a time we’d not take the time to ask, but just keep going!”

Nowaki arched his throat as he looked behind him at the clock. “We’ll have to be very quick. Tetsuo will be up in the next quarter hour!”

Xavier tugged from him, rolling Nowaki over to slam back into him, riding him hard as he yanked him upright, pulling his back to his own chest. Nowaki met him stroke for stroke, his hands covering the ones on his chest and belly, threading their fingers as he leaned his head back on Xavier’s shoulder. His lover’s mouth found his in a ravenous kiss and Nowaki responded eagerly, a low groan eliciting his lips when Xavier bucked hard, his release nearly triggering his own. He found himself on his back before he could lose his precarious hold, Xavier’s mouth hot around his cock, swallowing him down his throat to drink of Nowaki.

The doorbell rang, startling them both and Nowaki groaned as Xavier pulled off of him with a pop! Tugging the blonde man’s mouth to his, they ignored it until it rang a second time and their son giggled on the baby monitor sitting on the corner of the desk that Shohei had built for Nowaki.

“Chichi… Chichichichichichi… Pa… pa…!” the little boy rambled happily.

“And… he’s awake,” Nowaki chuckled, pushing Xavier’s hair over his ears. “I’ll get him, you get the door, we meet in the middle?”

“Sounds like a plan, boku no utsukushii Nowaki,” Xavier agreed, and soon, they’d clothed themselves and gone to their separate tasks.

Nowaki cleaned up quickly in the bathroom just off of Tetsuo’s room before hurrying into the little bedroom that housed the tiny person that belonged solely to himself and Xavier, one Shimazu-Blair Tetsuo.

And praise be to the gods, he did get his Papa’s eye color and my hair!

“Chichi!” squealed his eighteen-month old, holding out his arms, hands splayed as he giggled madly.

“You are such a happy boy, sweet Tsu-chan!” Nowaki gushed, lifting him into his arms and tossing him gently in the air. Feeling his diaper, he grinned at his son. “Dry diaper! Chichi is so proud!”

Not that it matters for at least another year, but it’s always nice to get him up from nap and not have to change him immediately. Allows for hugs and kisses and some quality playtime!

Snuggling him and kissing all over his face, he murmured next to the boy’s thick black hair, “Papa’s home, sweet baby boy! Papa missed you so much!”

Rushing down the hall and stairs, he walked into the living area, startled to see a man not that much older than himself—and one he did not know nor recall ever seeing—hugging Xavier. He paused in the doorway to wait to be acknowledged, though Tetsuo did not possess such patience and upon seeing his other daddy, exclaimed, “Papa! Papa!

Hearing his son’s voice, Xavier’s eyes flew open and his smile cracked widely across his face as he loosed the man to pad over to Nowaki and Tetsuo, pressing a kiss to Nowaki’s temple as he reached for their son, asking, “May I?”

Nowaki laughed, nodding, “Hai, koibito! I brought him to you for that purpose.” He glanced over at their visitor. “Shall I get tea? I need to bring Tsu-chan his snack, too—”

“Kit, would you like some tea?” Xavier asked, pivoting to look over at the man. “Nowaki is headed into the kitchen for our son’s afternoon snack—”

The man looked back and forth between the two men and Tetsuo for a long minute before Nowaki advanced over to him, holding out his hand. “Shimazu Nowaki… and you are Kit?”

“Christopher Carson, actually. Xavier is the only one to… to, uh, call me that.” Looking over at Xavier, he arched an eyebrow as he placed his hand in Nowaki’s. “You can call me Christopher… did you say, Xav, our son?”

“Yes, Christopher, he said our son. I am Nowaki and our son’s name is Tetsuo; he bears both our last names as his own,” Nowaki answered, annoyed. “How do you know my Xavier?”

“Your Xavier,” he repeated, though it sounded like a question. “I see. You two are a couple.” Smiling tightly, he gave a nod. “I met Xavier through a friend at the playhouse. I’m his main understudy usually, and though I rarely get to take the stage, I always know all the lines and I always take home a decent paycheck, and I get to spend plenty of time with your Xavier.” The last two words were bitten out. “Your Xavier.”

“Kit—” Xavier began, furrowing his brow, clearly startled.

Nowaki did the same, though he thought he understood far better than Xavier the motivation behind Christopher Carson’s emotional outburst.

“Carson-san, please allow me to—”

The man whirled on his heel and stalked past them towards the front door. Nowaki caught up with him as he was slipping into his shoes, hearing him murmur something that sounded like, “I was a fool to believe.”

“You do not have to leave, Carson-san,” Nowaki said softly, touching his arm.

“Let me be! Haven’t you done enough?” the Englishman hissed, jerking away from him. “Haven’t you? Look at you. Look at that child…”

“What have I done to offend you? Please, Carson-san, I mean no disrespect.” Nowaki meant what he said, but his words held ulterior meaning, ones that he hoped the man would reveal… should there be anything to reveal.

Please let me be wrong.

“You exist. That is what you have done to offend me. You exist. I came here for him, to tell him how I felt, to meet his son and endear myself to him in hopes that I might be asked to stay when he saw how well we got along. I do like children, and I know that two men cannot produce one without help, but still, I wanted to be a daddy with that man in there. The only clear problem is that there is a you and not an ex-wife. Our son.” He snorted derisively. “You do know that he never talks about you, don’t you? Never. The little one, however—”

“Still not the right political climate for him to be able to refer to me as freely as he would be able to were I a woman and not a man, especially here in Japan and in America.” Nowaki folded his arms. “You can leave now, Mr. Carson, and you are not welcome again in my home.” Moving past the man, he opened the door and held out an arm towards the outside. “Leave.”

“The RSC will hear of this—”

“And they can take it up with Sir Ian McKellen, too, should they like. I’d pay money to see how that would go over!” Nowaki retorted, anger tensing every muscle in his upper body. “Now get out of my home before I throw you out of my home!”

When the door closed behind the Englishman, Nowaki’s nostrils flared in hotly provoked anger and he jumped when a knock came at the recently shut portal. Throwing it open, he barked, “Nani?”

A singular arched eyebrow and a short question made him swallow and apologize immediately. “Gomen nasai?”

“Sumimasen, Chichi!” Nowaki blushed, continuing in English. “Forgive me my anger. Xavier has returned home, as you know, and an impolite visitor came seeking him, working to rouse my anger—”

“It would appear that he was successful, Nowaki-kun—”

“He was. He disrespected me greatly and for a moment, I wished that Mori-san’s tales of an underground samurai rebellion were truth instead of just tales.” Nowaki’s smile grew grim and he sighed. “And now it is I that am disrespectful. May the gods forgive me my blasphemy.”

Shimazu Masanori wrapped his arms around his son. “We all want for blood at one time or another where it concerns our spouse. On certain days, I still want the damn doctor’s blood even though I was given the blood of the man that ran Hoshi-san down.”

Pressing his face into his father’s shoulder, he growled. “Christopher Carson should—”

Will not be allowed on lands again, Nowaki-kun, this I promise.” The older man tugged his son’s head up to press a kiss to his brow. “I would do nothing to cause the joy to fly from your eyes, Nowaki. Why don’t I take Tsu-chan for a walk in the courtyard to give you two some time to compose yourselves?”

“Hai, Chichi. Arigato, Chichi,” Nowaki murmured, knowing that his father was right to give them time to sort out Christopher Carson’s implications.

Wrapping an arm about his shoulders, Nowaki’s father walked them into the kitchen where they found Xavier feeding Tetsuo the last of his fruit. “Ah, mago! Sore wa Ojisan! O genki desu ka?” he called out as he crossed to the two, squeezing Xavier’s shoulder. “Konnichiwa, Xavier-san. I am here for our afternoon walk. We often make conversation in the courtyard. Tsu-chan loves the cherry blossoms—”

“Chichi! Do not let him eat them a second time! It was disturbing to change his diapers afterwards!” Nowaki chided, eyes wide.

Shimazu Masanori laughed heartily, lifting the little boy into his arms. “Come along, Tsu-chan. No-one here seems to understand you—” He cackled, making their son giggle. “—let us get you dressed for our afternoon together!”

As he left, Xavier crossed to Nowaki, surprise written on his face when Nowaki stepped back, asking, “He is your understudy at RSC?”

“Yes. Why do you ask? What is it that has you upset? What did he do to rouse your anger?” Xavier answered immediately, green eyes wide.

Taking a deep breath, Nowaki gave a short recap of the man’s hate-filled words. “Hmm… I apologized for possibly offending him in some way, so he told me what had caused his hasty exit. He is in love with you and the fact that there exists a me—meaning that you like men, but already have a significant other—offended him. He had heard that you had a son, so he thought to come here, meet your son, so that you would see how well they interacted and he could then tell you of his feelings for you. He somehow thought you would be swayed enough by his confession for all to go according to his plan.” He folded his arms over his chest.

“And then there was the matter of his spite, as if the prior conversation was not enough.” Nowaki took a deep breath. “I try not to let it bother me, I try to use the logical side of my brain as I did in conversation with him, but still… he did manage to get under my skin with this part. He said that you never speak of me, but that you speak of Tetsuo—”

Xavier crossed the distance between them, taking Nowaki’s face in his hands. “I keep you close to my heart, yes, but the reason that he doesn’t know of you is because he’s not one of those I keep close. He is not family, and I don’t trust him with you. Those that matter to me, those that I trust, ask of you often and I speak of you with them frequently. Those that are not in that category, I would never hold you out to display for fear the mere knowledge of you would bring the crows—”

“Crows? To tear apart the Blair name?” Nowaki groused.

“Crows to tear you down and rip you to shreds. You forget, love, the political arena is still too conservative towards relationships like ours, though change is coming. Soon, I will be able to not worry what they will say about or to you. Soon, we will be able to walk in the streets, holding hands without—”

“I don’t need a lesson in politics, Xavier. I am quite clear on where our relationship sits in the political forums. What I wonder is why he was of a mind—”

Xavier tugged Nowaki to him bodily. “Because of jealousy. He must have thought there was someone here that had given me a son, yes?” His arms wound around Nowaki’s waist and at his nod, Xavier continued. “He came to logical conclusions and when things didn’t pan out for him, he used those conclusions as weapons. Remember, Arashi: I belong to you solely, just as I promised you in Sakura Courtyard two years and three months ago. I would do nothing to jeopardize my standing in your eyes, nor would I do anything to disrespect or dishonor the love we share, and that includes leading anyone that was not you to believe I would return their feelings.”

Holding up Nowaki’s left hand, one that bore a titanium band with a thin silver line around it, he kissed the palm and then the ring itself. “This means forever, boku no otto. Until the end of our very souls, I am yours, Shimazu Nowaki… Xavier Shimazu Blair.”

NOWAKI ROLLED his eyes as he lay abed, waiting for Xavier to come upstairs. A laugh reached his ears and he finally sat up in bed, growling low in the back of his throat as he thought, Tonight was supposed to be our night together. Tetsuo is with Shohei tonight so that we can have our time. Our time was supposed to start almost an hour ago. I want my time… but he’d rather be talking to whoever it is that he’s talking to, so I suppose that I will go to my room.

Crossing to the closet, he took his paint jeans from the bottom drawer and shoved his legs into them before grabbing a bandana to wrap it around his skull and tie it at the back. Exiting out the winding staircase off the balcony, baby monitor in hand out of habit, he let himself into the art room and turned on the lamps. Ripping the current canvas off the wall, he tossed it over a rack and yanked down a new piece, pinning it in place with four corner clamps. Going over to his stereo, he set the CD player on shuffle and then pulled out several tubes of paint as the first track began to play.

Squeezing colors out onto a mobile turntable, Nowaki dragged it over to the canvas, and using his hands instead of his beloved brushes, he splattered crimson anger across the new field. Black unknowing followed, nails scraping until they bled the rage through, mixing the two emotions until they were as indivisible as the colors. Nowaki had never created this way, but he found it quite the release.

Unlike the one I was promised initially. Has he even noticed the tone of my music? Has he even noticed how long he’s been on the bell? Who is more important than the husband he didn’t see for two months? He’s only been home for not even a week, yet we still haven’t discussed Canada!

His bottled up emotions exploded in a loud shout as he added more dark colors, throwing them onto the canvas as he snarled along with music that further agitated him, provoking his emotions to expel themselves into art. Hot tears flowed from his eyes, his breathing became ragged and his mind played a phantom conversation with Christopher Carson as he worked.

I was a fool to believe.

Fool to believe what?

Haven’t you done enough? Look at you.

How do you mean? What did I do? What’s wrong with me?

You exist. You offend me because you exist. I came here to tell him that I loved him, to get him to tell me that he loved me, too, and to be a daddy to his son, but there’s a you—

Not my fault that you weren’t quicker on the draw, as they say. I’m sure that you’ve known him longer than I have, but hey… I’ve known him now seven years and we sure the hell don’t get as much time together as we got when I was first going to school in Los Angeles, before we moved to Japan and he was globetrotting here, there and everywhere for his father, working between productions with the Royal Shakespeare Company—

The only clear problem is you. He never talks about you, never. I mean, you do know that, don’t you? Never.

The only clear problem… the only clear problem is—

Hands grabbed his wrists, the left one bearing a matching ring to his own as a loud voice came next to his ear, “Nowaki, stop! Stop! What the hell is wrong with you?”

The only clear problem is you.

Nowaki struggled hard against Xavier’s hold, finally getting loose, and he whirled, shuddering as he took in a deep breath before giving a half-laugh. “Oh, so you finally remembered I was here, huh? Sorry to take you away from your telephone call. I will retrieve my headphones so that I may work with no disturbance to you.”

“Remembered you? Of course, I notice you, Nowaki; you’re my life!” An expression of utter dismay widened Xavier’s beautiful green eyes and opened his perfect mouth in a small O before he continued. “What is this? Is this s-something I did—you never disturb me, Nowaki, so what gives?”

Dragging a clean forearm across his eyes, Nowaki laughed aloud. “What gives? What gives? What took you away from the phone call, Xavier? What exactly made you hang up with the person that so occupied your time that you put everything and everyone else on hold?” He slammed his hands into Xavier’s chest, shoving him back a good foot. “What gives? What is this? This has unexpectedly become crystal clear, Xavier.”

Xavier blinked at the suddenness of Nowaki’s calm voice. “Well, I don’t understand any of this, so please make your words plain.”

“Who were you on the phone with, Xavier? Tell me that. The only other time I’ve heard you laugh like that was one I do not wish to remember.” Nowaki’s voice trembled with the last three words and his gaze locked onto Xavier’s. Please let me be over-reacting. Please… Xavier. “Tell me.”

Xavier shook his head in confusion. “What does it matter—”

Tell me!” Nowaki shouted, his face red with anger. “Tell me now!

“All right! All right, I’ll tell you!” Xavier took the briefest of moments to shove Nowaki against the wall next to the fury of his art, pinning his hands to the wood on either side of his head. “It wasn’t Carson, if that is what your mind was torturing you with, Nowaki. I called the RSC the very day of the incident with him and requested a new understudy. Carson was released from the playhouse that very hour for his actions. The call I was on was with Xanthe, with whom I have been secretly planning your birthday party these past few days. It’s not but a week away, and I want it to be perfect. She was telling me about—”

The only clear problem is you.

Nowaki turned his face, embarrassed, reeling with the tales his jealous mind had spun for him and he murmured, “Xavier, he told me that I was the problem.”

A strong hand turned his face back to his lover’s, his eyes fluttering closed when lips covered his own in a brief kiss. “I like your jealousy for the most part.” Another deeper kiss. “The only thing I don’t like about it, boku no utsukushii Nowaki, is what it is doing to you. This—the furious tears and dark thoughts—is unacceptable to me and what’s worse is that his words have messed with your mind so much that you have almost convinced yourself that I could do such a thing.” His eyes searched Nowaki’s as he shook his head. “For that, please allow me to convey my humblest of apologies—”

“Xanthe… and my birthday…” His voice failed him as he struggled against Xavier’s hold, grateful when he loosed him, and Nowaki wrapped his arms around the Englishman’s shoulders. “I’m such a stupid, stupid man—”

“But you’re my stupid, stupid man and I could never want for anything so long as I have you, Nowaki, the stupid, stupid man.” Xavier kissed his neck, murmuring as he held Nowaki tighter still, “How many times must I remind you that we belong together, that I belong to you? When will you stop worrying about it and just believe me, Nowaki?”

Pushing his face into Xavier’s neck, Nowaki rasped, “I’m so embarrassed—I was filled with such… rage… I’ve had no patience—”

“You’ve never possessed patience, since, I believe your birth. So anxious to be in your mother’s arms that you would come in a typhoon, your father trapped in the city due to the weather—no, you’ve never possessed patience, koibito. It’s one of the many attributes that I’m glad to know you don’t possess, as I don’t possess it, either—” Xavier chuckled, kissing the crook of Nowaki’s shoulder. “—except when it comes to you. I only possess patience when it comes to you, Nowaki. I would do anything for you, to keep you, to love you, to have you in my arms always.”

“I have never left them and I will never leave them. I will never leave you, Xavier! You are the heart of this storm!” Nowaki lifted his face to his lover, his mouth crashing into Xavier’s as he climbed his hips. He groaned as the Englishman’s hands grasped the sides of his jeans and dragged them over his hips and it was bare moments before Nowaki’s back and throat arched as he felt Xavier slick him… begin to ready him. The anticipation that he felt as Xavier worked him was nothing in comparison to the cry that tore from him as he pushed into him.  Tears slipped from his eyes as Nowaki gave himself over to pleasure he’d craved, his voice thick when he used it, lapsing into Japanese as he was driven mindless. “Ah! My storm… belongs to you!” His mouth fell open, his quiet words heard only by the man who worshipped his throat. “It’s fueled by you…” Nowaki’s hands slipped into the golden hair he so loved, bringing the gleaming green gems of eyes he’d been lost to since first he laid eyes on them. “… you are the heart of the typhoon…” A brief kiss, tongues tangling possessively for a moment as they moved, release nearing, shallowing both Nowaki’s and Xavier’s breath. “… and only you can calm the winds and rain, Xavier-san…” Clutching Xavier close, Nowaki trembled as they found familiar heights together, crying out, “… or bring them! Aishiteiru! Aishiteiru!”

The following days brought a return, of sorts, to the normalcy of life with Xavier home. In the mornings, they woke together to happy burbles from sweet Tetsuo, Nowaki sprawled across Xavier, his head on his lover’s chest. Breakfast was a light affair, after which they bathed and went about daily errands and tasks. Midday meal was often taken at the main house with the Shimazu patriarch, as was evening meal with the whole family. Friday evening found their son taken from them by one Uncle Shohei, which gave them time to be alone… time that they both craved and took. It was on Saturday, however, that Nowaki woke with a sense of excitement that snapped his eyes open.

Today… today is my birthday!

A warm, breathy chuckle tickled his ear just before the lips that elicited it took his own in a tender kiss. His back hit the sheets as a strong hand tugged his thigh up to a slim hip and Xavier joined their bodies. Nowaki’s back arched, his hands moving to catch on Xavier’s side and shoulder as the kiss intensified and his lover’s hips began to roll. Pleasure keened swiftly, and soon Xavier’s mouth had wrapped around his cock and he drank deep of Nowaki. Rolling them to their sides as he crawled up Nowaki’s body, Xavier’s kiss burning once more upon his lips, Nowaki murmured, “I love you… apologies, Xavier, for ever—”

Two fingers placed upon his lips silenced him. “I know not what you speak of, saiai no otto. The hurt is already forgotten.” Strong fingers threaded through his thick jet hair. “Today is your birthday. Would you like your first gift?”

Nowaki pushed Xavier onto his back, his smile wide as he pulled up on his arms. “Hai!”

Laughing, the Englishman reached into the nightstand next to the bed, withdrawing an envelope. “Happy birthday, beautiful man.”

Reclining in Xavier’s arms, Nowaki opened it, finding a handmade card with elegant calligraphy inscribed on the front, English and calligraphy on the inside, though inside he also found two plane tickets to Ontario for the last two weeks of January.

Towards the end of January. Is he…?

“Xavier—”

Lifting his eyes from the card and tickets, they fell upon a tiny opened wooden box carved to look like a treasure chest. Inset in gold velvet made to look like treasure he found two slender bands. Xavier’s voice spoke in a breath above a whisper, “Made after the fashion of our Japanese bands, slender to be as one with them; titanium, this time with a thin gold line to represent the forever of you and the forever of me.”

“Hai! Arigato! Aishiteiru!” Nowaki took the ring box and card in one hand to slide his free hand into the thick gold of Xavier’s hair as he kissed him madly. “Aishiteiru!

When they two adjourned to breakfast, they both wore new jewels around their necks, for Xavier had also purchased sturdy silver chains for them to reside upon until the day that they exchanged them in a Canada registrar’s office come a January morning. Tetsuo laughed as they cuddled him, his hand finding Nowaki’s birthday gift as he put the plane tickets under a magnet on the refrigerator, telling their son, “Papa is taking Chichi and Tsu-chan to Canada in January. What do you think of that, musuko-chan?”

“Papa!” Tetsuo shouted. “Birday Chiiiiiiichiiiiii!” He threw himself backwards as he cackled madly. “BIRDAY CHICHI! BIRDAY CHICHI! BIRDAY CHICHI!”

“Sounds like it’s someone’s birthday, Xavier-san,” came a voice from the door. “I am certainly glad I did not miss breakfast this morning.”

All three of them turned at the new voice, Nowaki smiling when he saw his elder brother Shohei standing in the doorway. Tetsuo shouted from his arms, “Birday Chichi!”

“It is indeed, little one!” Shohei called, smiling widely as he crossed to hug Nowaki and Tetsuo all at once. “And what a night we have planned, ’ey, Xavier?”

Nowaki grinned at the excitement on his lover’s face, laughing when the Englishman took gleaming eyes to his own. “Indeed we do, anata. Tonight will be a night to remember!”

Much merriment ensued throughout the day and his party was no small affair, as Shohei and Xavier had procured all of his favorite food and drink, ensured that all the ones Nowaki had deemed friends in the last seven years made it to his party, and that all the music he loved was played, which included an acoustic set by the American band he’d fallen in love with while living there, Les Innocents.

The band started the set off with a slowed down version of “Halloween Girl,” a song Xavier knew to be Nowaki’s favorite and when Dylan Bedloe began to sing, Nowaki grabbed Xavier’s hand and lifted smiling copper eyes to sparkling green. “You’re amazing!” he rasped. “How did you do this?”

“Brandon Zobal is a friend of mine. I met him in Shanghai a month before we met. I have been waiting for the opportune moment to surprise you with something like this, Nowaki, so that I could see exactly this face!” Holding his gaze as his free hand cupped Nowaki’s cheek, Xavier whispered, “So that you could see exactly how much I love you.”

Nowaki hugged his lover excitedly, whirling around to sing along as the band played all of his favorite songs off of Marionette, Pulling My Strings, World Falling Down and the newest album, Brain Matters Not. When they ended their first set with an acoustic version of the latest in the saga of Les Innocents’ The Dead Man, “The Dead Man’s Chest,” Nowaki pivoted on his heel to wrap around Xavier, lifting his mouth to the Englishman’s waiting one as he whispered, “You have completely outdone yourself—”

“Neither the party nor the day is over yet, anata—” Xavier interjected, tenderly taking his knuckles down Nowaki’s cheeks. “—so how can you truly say?”

“Because never in my life has my birthday been such an affair to remember? Because I don’t think I’ve ever, ever had my favorite band play the party? Because—”

Xavier kissed him deeply as he whispered, “Because in all the years we’ve been together I have been waiting, gathering favors, and watching for the opportune moment to create the perfect backdrop. This year, this night, this birthday—we’ve never risen higher, Nowaki. Tonight was the night—”

“Wa-chan!” Shohei appeared at his side, grabbing his arm. “The band would like to make their introductions.”

Nowaki lifted a kiss to the soft underneath Xavier’s chin. “Coming?”

His lover held up his phone as it rang. “Be there shortly. I believe I have to take this.”

Pressing a kiss to his mouth, Nowaki grinned. “Hurry! I want to meet your friends with you, koibito!”

Taking his brother’s arm, Nowaki practically shook with excitement. Shohei laughed all the way over to where the drummer and the singer were getting drinks at the bar, and he shook his head at his younger brother as he touched the drummer’s shoulder. Brandon Zobal turned around, his dark eyes playful if not haunted, his voice jovial, “Happy birthday, Shimazu-san!”

Nowaki grinned. “Please… you can call me Nowaki. My father, he is Shimazu-san.”

“Then you may call me Brandon, and this is Dylan Bedloe, but you can call him D. We all do.” Brandon looked past Dylan to the remaining band members. “Fellas, this is Nowaki, the birthday boy! Nowaki, that’s Seth, Oz and Ritchie.”

“You are all amazing and I will always be a fan of your music! Thank you so much for being here at my party and for playing all my favorite songs!” His smile spread to his guests’ faces, and he looked to his brother. “I am being so rude. New friends of mine, this is my older brother, Shimazu Shohei—”

“You may call me Shohei, fellas, and I am definitely a fan of your music as well.” He tipped his head in the direction of his brother. “This one got me into you with the World Falling Down album.”

“Chichi!”

Nowaki whirled around at his son’s call for him, smiling at Xavier as he carried their son over to them, tugging Xanthe by the hand behind him. Grinning at the approaching three, his smile turned to the drummer. “I will never forget my twenty-fifth birthday, and I will never forget it because everyone I love is here. Xavier told me that you are friends with him, Brandon, but have you met our sweet Tetsuo?”

“Daaaaaaddy—oh, hi! Happy birthday, Nowaki-san!”

Brandon lifted his son into his arms, his lips finally spreading in a huge smile. “Very nice, Christian. This is Tetsuo-san, and he’s their son.” Lifting that bright smile to Nowaki, Brandon made introductions. “Christian, these are my friends, Xavier and Nowaki. Fellas, this is my son, Christian.”

The blonde-haired boy twisted in his father’s arms to smile at Nowaki and Tetsuo. “I will be his best friend, Nowaki-san, and I will take care of him like a big brother.”

Nowaki held Tetsuo to his chest as he bowed deeply. “Domo arigato gozaimasu! In my language, that means thank you very much. I think that Tetsuo will really like having a big brother.”

“Otōto, I must step outside for a moment,” Shohei murmured next to his ear as he grasped his elbow lightly. “I will return.”

“What is it?” Nowaki asked, startled at the tone in his elder brother’s voice. “Shohei!”

“I will be but a moment, gentlemen.”

Nowaki turned a smile back to the special guests at his birthday party to find Brandon smiling sympathetically at him, though it was the bass guitarist, Seth, that spoke. “My cousin, Alan, is on our security and he does the exact same thing to me. I think it’s an older brother thing, because he acts like I’d expect an older brother to act. He’s just going to check on things to make sure your birthday stays happy.”

Nowaki nodded, pressing a kiss to Tetsuo’s temple as he looked up at Xavier then back at Seth. “You’re right, Seth. Very right. Where were—”

Shohei returned, but not to his side. He spoke into Xavier’s ear and tipped his head towards the front door, and his lover pressed a kiss to Nowaki’s hair. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ll be right back, boku no kokuyoseki-suta.”

He watched Xavier leave the party in the garden and enter the house. He had been gone for almost ten minutes before Nowaki bent down to kiss the top of his son’s head and reach out to run a hand over his new playmate’s blonde hair as he favored Christian with a soft smile.

“Nowaki-san, I will keep him safe! And we’ll keep playing! I won’t let him eat the cherry blossoms!” Christian told him.

“Arigato!” Standing up, he looked to Shohei. “I’m just going to go check on Xavier. I will be right back.”

“Otōto—“

“Please, Shohei-san. Watch Tetsuo-san for me?”

“Hai.”

Nowaki lifted a smile to Brandon, who smiled back and nodded at him before setting his drink on the bar and standing up straight. Christian lifted his eyes to his father. “Want me to stay here with Tetsuo-san, Daaaaaddy?”

“Yep. Your uncles are staying with you, too, buddy.” He bent down quickly to kiss the top of his golden head, and what he said next made Nowaki blink in surprise. “Nowaki-san and I will be right back.”

The drummer took his place at Nowaki’s left side, saying quietly as they began to walk. “You looked like you needed a friend, as opposed to a big brother.”

“Arigato!” Nowaki nodded. “Shohei is sometimes too overprotective for his own good.”

As they entered the house through the back door moments later, Nowaki listened for Xavier’s smooth English voice. He saw movement through the front windows, crossing silently to stand beside them to listen, hearing another voice colored with tones of the Isles and one he recognized as belonging to Judah Galante, a soldier for Canicus Militia. He heard Xavier speak first—

“Judah… it’s nothing personal. I just think that Nowaki will never be at ease with you and me—”

“But Nowaki and I are friends—”

“And yet, I don’t foresee him being as easy-going with us anymore, not after—”

Unable to quell his curiosity and dread, Nowaki pushed open the screen and stepped outside. “Judah? What are you doing out here?”

“And here is where it gets complicated, Judah,” Xavier breathed before turning around. “Judah came to ask me to help him out with a mission in Tokyo.”

“And that would be why you foresee him causing me discomfort, why you don’t think I’ll be at ease with him? Or is it something else?” Nowaki demanded, his voice flat, his heart beating so hard he was certain it would explode. When Xavier didn’t answer quickly, he went on. “I’m certain that you can see how any normal person would take what I heard in a not so easy-going manner.”

“It’s very much not what you think, Nowaki—”

“So the two of you were never involved and never slept together, then?”

Xavier crossed to Nowaki, reaching for him, but Nowaki stepped back, his mind crying out loudly, You’re supposed to refute this immediately, Xavier! You’re mine… you’re not anyone else’s! Why aren’t you speaking? Out loud, he shook his head, hissing, “But you did, didn’t you? You slept together—”

“Nowaki, please… it’s not what you think—“

Nowaki’s eyes flew wide as he suddenly understood that it had not been prior to their start, but that the event in question had happened while they’d been together and he hit him. “We have a son!”

Xavier tried to grab hold of him, but Nowaki stepped back a second time, colliding with Brandon’s chest, thankful when the man’s hands flew to his sides to steady him as Nowaki shook, asking, “How could you do this to us?”

“Beautiful man, it’s really not what you think—”

“And what do I think, I wonder? I think that you slept together. I think that you slept together while we’ve been together. Is it what I think?” Tears slipped down his face. “Well? Is it what I think?

Chapter Two         Table of Contents         Chapter Four

Never See the Light: Table of Contents

 

About Never        

Japanese Glossary    (included at the top of each post)

Chapter One              Throw Your Hands in the Air

Chapter Two              Fever

Chapter Three           How to Feel About It

Chapter Four            The Way You Move

Chapter Five             Round and Around and Around

Chapter Six               I Needed Saving

Chapter Seven         Tell Me Now

Chapter Eight           Not Without You