8 October 2000
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…?
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.”
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.”
“Please, Shohei-san. Watch Tetsuo-san for me?”
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