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!
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!”
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.
“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—”
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.”
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.
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
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