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: Chapter Two– Fever

Never See the Light_xsmall

Japanese Glossary

1 September 1998
Los Angeles, California

Nowaki stirred awake as fingers laced through his own long fingers, ones he recognized as belonging to Xavier. Lifting his mouth to a soft one he knew well, he smiled, murmuring, “Mmmm… we there yet?”

Soft kisses pressed to his eyes. “Almost, Nowaki… we’re making our descent, though, so it won’t be long.”

Finally, he thought. Finally home. Although, how exciting was that? First real film with my name in it!

Opening his eyes, he turned to face Xavier, who was fastening his seatbelt. Brushing the errant lock of golden hair that always fell out of his ponytail over Xavier’s ear, he said quietly, “Good to be home, hai?”

The Englishman grinned. “Oh, it’ll be wicked good to be home. I can’t wait to take a bath in our tub.”

Nowaki cupped Xavier’s cheek, bringing his lips to his lover’s once more before adding, “Can’t wait to take one with you!”

Xavier grinned. “I have a few days off before the RSC director wants to do a conference call about the fall season. Have you made a decision about England yet?”

Nowaki nodded, squeezing his hand. “I have, Xavier. My mind hasn’t changed; I’m in this for the long haul. You’re the most important person in my world. If the call with the RSC man is the call you’ve been waiting for, then we’ll relocate to London. I’ve already spoken to Guildhall about the courses and they’ve looked at my transcript and are interested in me.”

Xavier’s eyes widened, their green color more vivid than Nowaki had ever seen them, the vein of excitement in his lover’s voice unmistakable. “Are you serious? They’re interested? You’ll come?”

Nowaki laughed. “You thought I wouldn’t? You actually thought I would let you go somewhere I couldn’t go?” He snorted, teasing slyly. “I suppose that I shouldn’t be too surprised!”

Xavier caught his mouth in a hungry kiss. “You.” Another deep kiss. “Are.” Nowaki’s hands buried in his lover’s hair as Xavier almost devoured him. “Amazing.”

“Nothing amazing about me… I’m in love with you, Xavier Blair,” Nowaki whispered, taking another light kiss. “Never will be in love with anyone but you.” Nuzzling Xavier’s nose with his own, Nowaki finished, “And the answer to the meaning of my life is Xavier Blair.”

The next hour was a blur; landing, getting luggage, catching a taxi, the drive back to the house overlooking the beach all passed with one singular thought in mind… and as soon as the door shut behind them, Nowaki was in Xavier’s arms. Nowaki’s chuckle muffled by Xavier’s kiss brought an arched eyebrow as those radiant green eyes met his copper moments later, the tip of Xavier’s tongue tracing Nowaki’s lower lip before he asked, “What is it, my iridescent lover?”

“Can you believe it’s been five years since our first kiss?” Nowaki pressed a kiss to the soft of his jaw, trailing his tongue down to Xavier’s voicebox, swirling around it before pressing a kiss to it as well. “And yet our fire is still a conflagration that has you pressing me to the stairs because we simply cannot make it up to our bedroom—”

Xavier laughed. “We never do make it there, do we?”

Nowaki grinned, shaking his head. “Never after a trip!”

Xavier’s mouth found Nowaki’s in a greedy kiss as his fingers curled in the waist of Nowaki’s jeans and pulled them down over his hips before opening his own. Nowaki rolled over, moaning as Xavier’s fingers caressed the sensitive skin of his ass and back. Kisses rained down on his spine and his shoulders, fingertips raking down his sides, moving around to stroke his already hard cock, one Nowaki would later bury inside of Xavier upon their arrival to the bedroom they shared. Warm gel was applied to his entrance as his lover’s low English voice murmured next to his ear, “I want your back to my chest when I take you, perfection that is my Nowaki.”

Slipping from his shirt, liking that Xavier did the same, Nowaki stood up on his knees, leaning back against his lover, shuddering as Xavier pushed into him, one hand hooking around the back of Xavier’s neck as Nowaki cried out. Both of Xavier’s hands slid over his chest and belly, adding to the erotic bliss that was their lovemaking. Nowaki lifted his mouth to Xavier’s waiting one as they began to move. Oh, he’s perfect… he’s so perfect… and he’s mine! Blushing at his soft thoughts, Nowaki chuckled again, prompting Xavier’s sweet smile and his question, “A chuckle? Am I not doing everything I can to keep coherent thought from mind?”

“They were good thoughts… even if they were slightly coherent and just a little bit romantic,” Nowaki rasped, his blush a little deeper… like Xavier’s strokes, dragging a purr from him. “I just thought, ‘oh, he’s perfect… so perfect… and he’s mine!’”

Xavier’s speed increased and his smile widened as he nipped at Nowaki’s ear. “All yours… only yours!”

Nowaki threaded his fingers through the ones splayed over his heart as he leaned his head back to Xavier’s strong shoulder, arching his neck at the pleasure swimming over him. “Xa-vi-er… close!”

Perfect white teeth bit hard on the column of Nowaki’s throat, causing him to buck, which drew both a growl and a cackle. “Closer, my beauty?”

Nowaki shuddered, eyes fluttering shut. “Hai!”

Xavier pulled from him and put Nowaki on his back in one fluid motion, one hand around his own cock as he took Nowaki’s straining one into his mouth. Moving quickly on him, he hollowed his cheeks to give ever greater satisfaction. Lifting up on his elbows, Nowaki watched him work, meeting his eyes for a split second just before Xavier swallowed him down his throat. Nowaki groaned deeply as his lover swallowed him a second time—“I love it when you do this to me!”—but it was the third time that sent him over the edge with a loud cry.

As the tremors skated over him, he felt his jeans tugged from his legs just before Xavier’s lips slanted over his own and he pushed into him once more, wrapping Nowaki’s legs around his waist. “Aishiteiru!” Xavier rasped between kisses. “Aishiteiru, Nowaki!”

Nowaki’s hands buried in warm gold waves as he ravenously returned the kisses, arching into the line of his Xavier’s body. “Aishiteiru! Aishiteiru, Xavier!”

Hours later, Nowaki lay half in and half out of the bedcovers, running his fingers through Xavier’s damp hair as they kissed and talked, having thoroughly exhausted their bodies. They had not yet reached the dozing part, as they were trying to convince themselves they were simply “recharging.” Pressing a kiss to the tender skin of Nowaki’s belly, Xavier murmured, “Do you ever wonder what a child between us would look like?”

“He’d be beautiful. Your eyes—green has been seen before in my family line—”

“Your silky black hair—he’d have to have that—and your hands… that way someone other than myself will have the bliss of your hands—”

Nowaki laughed, covering his eyes with his spoken of hands. “We’re talking about a child, Xavier! And you’re talking about—”

“Your touch!” Xavier crawled up to hover over him as he smiled. “Not just sexually, although, I hope by our most recent example today, you can see what your touch does to me!” A gentle chuckle elicited the Englishman’s lips. “But the way you slide your hand over my shoulder when you come up behind me, the way that only you can ease the tension from my back when it’s been a bad day, the way you hug me always tells me how much you miss me even if it’s just a meeting or a day spent in meetings. Waking up with your arm over my shoulders and your other hand buried in my hair. You always push my hair over my right ear. The way you hold my hand—you always thread our fingers—and the way you curve your hand over my bicep from underneath to draw me aside. It’s your hands, your fingers, your palms on my chest when we kiss.” His lips spread in a sated smile. “Other than your amazing copper eyes and your incomparable cock—” He waggled his eyebrows wickedly, causing Nowaki to laugh. “—yes, it’s your hands that are my favorite part of you and I would hope that our child would get those hands.”

“Your lips and your smile and—” Nowaki looked over at the empty nightstand and laughed. “—that is your phone! You must have left it in your jeans on the stairs.”

Xavier stretched out across Nowaki, one hand pushing Nowaki’s thigh up as he joined their bodies with a slow thrust. “Just wanna be inside you—”

Doorbell.

Xavier swore under his breath, glaring at the bedroom door. “Are you kidding me?”

Nowaki rocked, reaching up to bring his mouth to Xavier’s as he told him, “Ignore it. Make love to me, father of my children!”

A tender cackle—“Father of my children!”—and they lazily sank below the waves of bliss.

“Xavier? Are you up there?”

Nowaki’s eyes flew wide at the female voice and Xavier’s hand covered his mouth as the Englishman pushed deep, triggering both their releases. Removing his hand bare moments later, he pressed a kiss to Nowaki’s mouth, whispering, “Stay… stay here for a moment—”

“Xavier? It’s your mum!”

“She’s coming up the stairs!” Nowaki hissed as they sat up. “God—our clothes!”

They heard the door open downstairs and both men halted as they waited to hear the voice of whoever had come with her. A cheerful, but tired voice floated up from the hall. “Xavier’s man must be off today—”

“No, it looks like he only just arrived home from New South Wales and he apparently brought a lover with him from the state of undress on the stairs. Xavier Nicholas Blair, I know that you’re not asleep! If you do not show yourself within the next five minutes, I will come up there!”

“You would think that a thirty-two year old man could have some peace from his mother, wouldn’t you?” Xavier grumbled, taking one more kiss from a grinning Nowaki. “Don’t look at me like that! It’s not fair!”

“Nicholas, huh?” Nowaki teased as he sat up, catching the warm washcloth that Xavier tossed to him seconds after entering the bathroom just off their bedroom. “I like it. When you marry me, I’ll take Blair as my middle name.”

“When I marry you? Are you asking?” Xavier exited the chamber clad in a pair of clean black silk pyjama bottoms.

“I will ask soon… that I promise.” Standing on his knees, Nowaki lifted a kiss to his lover’s lips. “Aishiteiru. I will be along in a moment.”

Xavier shook his head, calling out, “A moment, Mother!” Giving Nowaki another kiss, he rasped, “Pyjama bottoms and that lovely dragon robe of yours. You’re coming with me.”

“We’re telling her?”

Xavier framed his face. “Yes. Today, I am telling her that you’re mine. Up until now, I’ve been quite content to let them think of me what they want to—I’m the youngest son and so I’ve been afforded a certain amount of liberties and expectations. That was when it was just me, but it’s not been just me for five years now. I am not and should not be okay with letting the world think that I’m a playboy and that people are my toys. You are all I’ve seen and loved and wanted to be with since we met, Nowaki, and you are mine.”

“And you are mine, Xavier.” Pressing a kiss to Xavier’s lips, Nowaki shot off of the bed and into the black silk bottoms that were his favorite and had been a gift from Xavier the first Christmas they’d spent together. Slipping his arms into the black robe that had been rewarded him upon completion of his training with the Dragon Lord of Tokyo, he strode over to Xavier, proud to be presented as the Englishman’s partner. Xavier’s hand came to rest at the small of his back as they approached the railing, Xavier calling down, “All right, Mother… you can stop shouting! We’re here now. Xanthe, hello, darling sister!”

Nowaki’s eyes fell to a lithe blonde so reminiscent of his lover that heritage could not be denied; they looked so alike they could almost be twins, though Xanthe Blair held more blue in her eyes than green. The woman smiled up at Xavier, waving as she replied, “Hello, my beautiful brother! It’s so good to see you!”

“I don’t see why you had to bring your playtoy with you, Xavier. You could have left him in the bedroom where you were no doubt—”

“Talking about the children we want to have together, Mother. This is Shimazu Nowaki, and he’s been by my side and I at his since I traveled to Los Angeles five years ago at the Shimazu’s request,” Xavier leaned on the railing. “We’re in love and that will not change, though it will certainly grow.”

Xanthe ran over to the stairs and hurried up them to hug Xavier tightly, crying out, “Oh, little brother! It’s so wonderful to see that you’ve finally found someone!” Bowing reverently to Nowaki, she smiled at him just as brightly. “It’s wonderful to meet you, Shimazu-san! I hope that someday you will allow me to call you by your given name! I’ve heard a change in my brother’s voice and I’ve noticed a change in his mannerisms and I now know that that change must be due to you, so it’s a great pleasure to finally meet you.” Loosing him, she bowed deeply. “You may call me Xanthe.”

“Please… call me Nowaki, Xanthe-san!” Nowaki insisted, a wide smile crossing his lips. “I must admit, I thought it was Xavier that was the elder of you two.”

Xavier’s mother joined them all, giving her son a skeptical expression. “You know how your father and two brothers will react to this news.”

“Precisely why I haven’t told them yet, Mother… but I needed to tell one of you.” Xavier’s hand found Nowaki’s. “Though even if they knew, it wouldn’t change what I feel in my heart, and you know it. I’ve always preferred men, and my very first kiss was from a boy. My heart has found its mate, Mother. That will not change… nor will it change the fact that we really were talking about children when you arrived unannounced.”

NOWAKI WORKED quickly to make the evening meal, one of his favorite things to do. The house had become so much more than a home since the first day that they had moved into it.

“We should make it something that is solely ours.”

“How can we do that, Xavier-san?”

“I loved Japan. I loved everything about it—the culture, the refinement, the décor and the architecture and the landscaping—much of the reason that Father sends me to Japan to do business for him when I’m not on a set is because I know how to make it successful… because I love the land and her people. Now I have you, Nowaki… and I know why I was so drawn to Japan, and that’s you. Let’s make this house a home that we’ll both be happy in, one you will be comfortable in, and fill it with all the things that are beauty and light.”

“You want this house to be a reflection of your love for me and my country?”

I want this house to reflect all of the important things in life—and yes, that very much includes you and the land you call home.”

The house had become a sanctuary from all the craziness that the world had to offer them, though he’d never guessed that Mrs. Blair possessed a key to the place. Nowaki smiled as fingers trailed across the back of his neck, his eyes fluttering shut as his jet hair was collected over his left shoulder and a worshipful kiss placed at the nape of his neck. Warm hands came to rest at his hips as a beloved voice murmured, “Smells heavenly.”

“It should, koibito,” Nowaki sighed, leaning back in Xavier’s embrace. “I am making your favorite meal! Do you not remember that it is our way?”

A kiss dropped to the crook of his neck, sending his lips curling up towards his ears as Xavier chuckled. “I do remember, and koibito? I like the sound of that word on your lips, Nowaki-san. To what do—”

Nowaki turned his face to catch Xavier’s lips in a deep, if brief, kiss, leaning into the man’s touch when one of his hands cupped Nowaki’s cheek as the kiss broke. “You claimed me! In front of your mother and your sister, you claimed me and you didn’t back down. I don’t think I ever thought you wouldn’t, but it was momentous for me! I have so many things I wish to say and do and I think many of the walls I must have had were on such a subconscious level that I didn’t see them until today—I cannot stop the smile!” Nowaki laughed quietly, stirring the vegetables. “I cannot stop thinking of how much of my heart is owned by Xavier Nicholas Blair!”

His lover groaned at the utterance of his middle name, though he buried his face in Nowaki’s neck, teeth nipping the sensitive skin. “Wish they were—”

“Me, too! Though we’d be eating out of the fridge—”

“Xav?”

The two men looked up to see Xanthe standing in the door, and Nowaki smiled. “You are welcome here. Our home is yours, Xanthe-san.”

“Domo arigato gozaimasu, Nowaki-san,” she replied easily, pushing one fat golden curl over her shoulder as she crossed to lean on the opposite side of the cooking island. “I like the way you look with my brother. I’ve never seen him look as wonderfully peaceful as he does holding you. It makes me wonder why he’s been hiding you away these past few years.”

Nowaki grinned. “Perhaps I have been hiding him.” He winked at the woman. “This man is a scoundrel! I’ve heard stories—”

Xavier laughed heartily. “Stories, ’ey? From who?”

“Oh, everyone talks, Xavier-san. Everyone.” It was Nowaki’s turn to laugh as he held up a snow pea with his hashi. “Try it.”

He watched Xavier’s mouth close over the green vegetable and then work to chew and all Nowaki could think about was making babies—hold it there! We can make love all we like, but we’ll never make a child. Men make babies with women, not other men!

Lips closed over his own as they formed barely audible words of love. Nowaki’s tongue touched Xavier’s lightly before the kiss broke and Nowaki rasped, “Aishiteiru!”

“Oh, did I interrupt a private moment?”

Xanthe rolled her eyes as she shook her head. “No, Mother. Your sons are making supper. Come, we’ll set the table in the garden together.” Glancing over her shoulder at Nowaki, she grinned at him. “We’ll talk soon!”

As the two women disappeared out the back doors, Xavier groaned. “Why do I get the feeling that her we’ll talk soon is going to be the death of me?”

Nowaki laughed, taking the food off the heat. “Her Japanese is wonderful! Besides, what do you have to be worried about, koibito? Are you afraid she will tell me stories of you as a child, embarrassing ones? If so, you shouldn’t be so troubled… I’m certain that nii-san will have plenty of that for you as well. He’ll probably even have pictures!”

“Nii-san? You plan to—”

Nowaki lifted a kiss to the soft underneath Xavier’s chin. “I plan to reciprocate, hai. I believe that nii-san will be understanding like Oto-san. Okaa-san loved you before you were mine, so I have to believe that she would have loved you after meeting you as mine. Now take the tray down for me, hai?”

“Anything for boku no otto!” Xavier hushed next to Nowaki’s ear before stretching up to take the requested item from the shelf above the cabinet, nearly causing the surprised Japanese man to drop the hot pan he held as he transferred the cooked food to its proper bowl.

As he lifted shiny copper eyes to Xavier’s dancing emerald ones, Nowaki said lowly, “I think you found the charger, koibito!”

Xavier grinned. “Oh, now I’m counting on that promise!” Settling the tray down on the counter, he framed Nowaki’s face with his large hands, smiling when Nowaki’s lithe fingers splayed on his chest, he asking, “Will you say it one more time?”

“Boku no otto?” Xavier teased, arching his left eyebrow.

Nowaki’s mouth crashed into Xavier’s as the Englishman took one hand to the small of Nowaki’s back, tugging him close to his body. Nowaki’s right hand slid up and into the thick wheat of his lover’s hair, clenching as they deepened the kiss as far as they could take it. Breaking the kiss only to breathe, Nowaki wrapped his arms around Xavier’s shoulders as he lay his cheek to his lover’s shoulder, “I don’t want this to ever end, Xavier… our love is an inferno that should never die out, but explode into a conflagration that can be likened only to that of a star’s fire.”

“We shall never die out, nor even bank the flames, watashi no kokuyoseki-suta… for our love is as eternal as your beauty.” His knuckles grazed lightly down Nowaki’s cheeks. “Just when I think that there isn’t a way I could feel any more love, you do something and my heart swells enough to fit that memory in there, too.”

Nowaki’s lips touched Xavier’s as he murmured, “Aishi—”

“Where is the tea tray?”

The two men turned their gazes to see Xavier’s mother standing primly in the door, and Nowaki wondered briefly if her stay with them would change her mind on accepting him as part of Xavier’s life. Loosing his lover he moved over to the small black tray with the green tea set. Lifting it, he carried it to Xavier’s mother, bowing as he offered it to her.

“Thank you, Mr. Shimazu—”

“You may call me Nowaki, Lady Blair—”

“Oh, I am not nobility—”

“But Nowaki is, Mother, and you still have not bowed back,” Xanthe corrected gently, finishing, “And this is his house.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake!” The matriarch gave a small bow and exited the room, leaving Nowaki confused and a little hurt, though he’d never divulge that unless his lover asked him directly.

I just really do not know how to right this!

Xanthe touched Nowaki’s arm, offering an encouraging smile. “Please… don’t feel badly, Nowaki-san. Both our parents have these tough exteriors that make them—”

“Xanthe, this isn’t about their exteriors. This is because I love him, because Mother caught us kissing and she didn’t have to believe I was in love with him until that very moment when she observed it.” Xavier padded across the floor to wrap his arms around Nowaki and press a kiss to his shoulder. “Don’t let this scare you, Nowaki. I am by your side and I’m not leaving it.”

“I do not wish to hurt you—”

“You don’t.” He looked out the door to the gardens and swallowed. Nowaki followed his gaze to see Xavier’s mother approaching the open door holding out a phone, and Xavier added, “But she might.”

Nowaki’s hands covered the ones on his chest and belly as the older woman entered the kitchen once more, offering the phone to her son. “It’s your father, Xavier. You can explain your ridiculousness to him now.”

Nowaki bowed to Xanthe and to Xavier, lifting a kiss to the latter’s cheek. “I’m going to put on some clothes.” Stepping into his lover, he closed his eyes as he felt tears fill them. “I might call nii-san, too. If I’m going to be insulted, might as well get it all over with, hai? After that, if you are finished with your own phone call, maybe we could walk down to the beach to calm our minds?”

“I like that idea. I’m so sorry that my mother is being so inconsiderate, Nowaki. Nothing could change my mind on what I mentioned before… boku no otto.” Kissing his mouth, Xavier whispered, “Aishiteiru.”

“Aishiteiru!” Nowaki replied, swallowing hard before he whirled on his heel and left the kitchen. Out of sight, he bolted up the stairs to the bedroom that still resonated of such a love as he’d never known; lovemakings, fuckings, or just plain sex, all only ever with Xavier, and Nowaki could see them all as he stood in the doorway. He also saw the tender way that they slept at night, wrapped around one another, and the sweet way that Xavier always woke them. Boku no otto… my husband. He wishes to marry me… but what will his parents do if we decide to join our houses?

Nowaki crossed to the closet, grabbing the phone off the charger as he did. Moving into the small dark room, he sank down to the floor, his back to the far wall opposite the door, as he dialed Shimazu Shohei, his older brother. Waiting as the phone rang, he finally let the tears fall down his cheeks as he faintly heard his love fighting his own battle with his father downstairs. How did it come to this? I never thought love could hurt like this—not like this.

“Moshi Moshi?”

“Ah, Shohei-san,” he began, knowing his brother would jump at the chance to use his English with Nowaki. “Nowaki desu!”

“My brother! Hello, little brother! You are calling me from California now? Oto-san said that you are thinking of coming home to Japan soon on holiday!” Shohei laughed jovially, and Nowaki made a noise that was supposed to give the impression of a dry laugh, but his older brother saw through it. “Otōto… Nani ga machigatte iru?”

A sob elicited Nowaki’s lips before he could stop it and Shohei growled as Nowaki asked, “Nii-san… is there anything I could do that would tear us apart? Anything?”

A small noise that sounded like the combination of a sigh and a laugh came over the line. “Oto-san mentioned that you had fallen in love with the person you are living with, Nowaki-san. He used the word person, so I am assuming that means the Englishman, is your boyfriend. Wasn’t his name Xavier Blair?”

Tears of relief flooded his cheeks at the nonchalant way that Shohei answered. “I felt certain you would think it dishonorable—”

“Oh, otōto… our history is peppered with same-sex relationships, and none of them existed without reason, yet we have much evidence that many of those relationships were love-based from the get-go or that they transitioned to love by their ends. Our culture has never been as stringent regarding gender relationships as it is as of late. I had hoped that you would see that I would never belittle or estrange you for falling in love with someone, whether it be a man or a woman. Know that none of your family would do this, either. Okaa-san loved Xavier… I have to imagine that she’d love him as your boyfriend, too.”

Shohei’s smile filled his ears before Nowaki murmured, “I fear I will never like his mother and father.”

“What has happened? What have they done to you? You do not have to stay in America, Wa-chan… you can always bring Xavier and come home!” Shohei exclaimed.

Nowaki!

“Xavier-san is calling you,” Shohei commented and Nowaki got to his feet, calling out as he took the phone from his mouth, “I’m here, Xavier!” He pushed the closet door open, stepping out of the dark. “I’m here—”

His beloved wrapped around him, holding him tightly. “Let’s go down to the beach—” Xavier’s lips found his in a brief kiss before they pressed gentle kisses to his eyes. “—and we can walk in the surf, hold hands, be silly… find the happiness that is ours once more.”

“Or we can run away to Japan,” Nowaki joked. “Shohei-san suggested we go to hide there from your parents.”

A big laugh tumbled out of his lover’s mouth as he hugged him tightly. “We are due a holiday, are we not? Sho-kun will put us up for a while?”

“Tell him I said that Oto-san will put us all up—he’s the one with the fabulous courtyard of cherry trees and Okaa-san’s gardens!” Shohei interjected.

Nowaki’s coppery eyes lifted to his lover’s jade set as he shook his head. “Shohei-san said that Oto-san would put all of us up. He also mentioned the Sakura Courtyard and Okaa-san’s gardens.”

Xavier’s left eyebrow arched. “Oh, he’s driving a hard bargain. What do you think?”

Nowaki furrowed his brow as he growled. “I don’t like the way that your mother treats me and I don’t like it when you shout—not at me or because anyone makes you feel the need to raise your voice. The fact that whatever your father said made you to shout—it angers me. I would not mind going home to Japan—we could find a place to live there, too.”

Xavier’s fingers slipped into the hair at Nowaki’s temples as he nodded. “I’m game if you are.”

Nowaki’s lips finally spread in a smile as he nodded back before his eyes flew wide. “What about the RSC man?”

“I can call him to give him the number I’ll be at, boku no otto.” Xavier’s hands framed Nowaki’s face. “Perhaps there we can think about making—”

“Marry me in Sakura Courtyard,” Nowaki blurted out. “Take Shimazu instead of the Nicholas that you despise, as your middle name!”

“Hai! Boku kekkon suru!” Xavier rasped, kissing Nowaki deeply for a long moment. “Our luggage is still packed, so let’s just get dressed and go.”

Nowaki nodded, putting the phone back to his ear. “Shohei-san—”

“I heard. Congrats, little brother! Call me back with your flight info and we’ll meet you at Nagoya! Talk to you soon! Can’t wait to meet the X-man soon to be my brother-in-law!” With that, knowing that he’d made Nowaki smile, Shohei hung up the phone.

Hitting the End button on the cordless phone, Nowaki tossed it onto the bed as he lifted his mouth to Xavier’s. “Mine,” he rasped as their lips met and they shared a groan. “Mine,” Nowaki said again before deepening the kiss, his hand clenching in soft waves of gold.

When they came up for air, Xavier nuzzled Nowaki’s nose. “Just yours, Shimazu Nowaki. I belong to just you. Let’s get dressed now, and get the hell out of here. We have a shindig to get to, yeah?”

Nowaki nodded. “That we do. I will call to make reservations on Japan Air.”

“Would either of you mind if I tagged along?”

Both men turned to see Xanthe leaning against the doorjamb to their bedroom and Nowaki shook his head. “If you don’t mind, I definitely wouldn’t. Your sister is the only other Blair that I care about, Xavier.”

His lover smiled softly before turning his emerald eyes to the lithe blonde woman. “Get your things and we’ll meet you downstairs, love.”

Nowaki pressed a kiss to Xavier’s hair as the family car pulled through the gates, his words soft as the cherry blossoms floating on the air. “We are on Shimazu lands, my love. Wake up.”

Xavier stretched as much as the car would allow. “In Japan?” Blinking rapidly as he sat up, he groaned. “Oh, wait… no, I remember getting off of the plane at Nagoya.” Smiling sweetly at Nowaki, he leaned over to press a kiss to his lips. “And then I remember telling you I wanted to sleep on you—”

“And then you nestled your face in my chest and took a nap. It’s okay, it was a decent car ride due to traffic on the motorway,” Nowaki explained as he sat up next to him, stretching out his back. “I feel like I’ve been on a plane for the better part of three days.”

“It’s because we all have,” Xanthe interjected from across the way. “I took two planes to get to you in California, then a third with you to get to Japan. I believe out of the three of us, I got the shortest break from catapulting through the air in a metal tube. The two of you at least got enough time to wear out each other on the stairs and in your bedroom.” She winked at them, a devilish expression on her sweet face. “I thoroughly expect you both to do more of the same before this wedding that was mentioned by phone before we left Los Angeles.”

Nowaki grinned at Xavier. “I agree with Xanthe-san! We should do more of that when we get out of this car!”

His lover cackled. “I whole-heartedly agree!”

They finally came to a stop and the door next to Nowaki opened, a pair of arms he recognized pulling him from the car into a strong hug. “Welcome home!”

Nowaki wrapped his arms around his older brother’s strong shoulders, holding tightly to him as he pushed his face into his neck.

I’ve always done that… I’ve always thrown myself at Shohei-san bodily and crushed my nose against the crook of his shoulder. He never minds, and I am twenty-three now!

“Missed you so much,” he rasped in his brother’s beloved English, a language that he taught at the nearby prep school. “I missed you so much, Shohei-san. I wish you were there for me in America when—”

Shohei held him tighter, making soothing noises as he swayed this way and that. “You are home, and you brought your lover and a lovely lady who I am supposing is Xanthe-san, and no-one will let anyone through that gate who has even so much as an inkling of a thought to hurt you.” As he let Nowaki’s feet down, he pressed a kiss to his brow. “You know that they have movies in countries other than America, right? You don’t have to go there. You can make movies here and in Europe, too.”

“Our mother is what destroyed their moment,” Xanthe interpolated. “Our mother disrespected him and the culture that is so beautifully integral in both Nowaki-san’s and my brother’s life. He doesn’t have to leave America or its movies, as that’s the place they’ve made quite a life in and that’s his dream. We just have to work out a way to keep our mum and dad in England.”

Xavier crossed to tug Nowaki back into his arms. “However… I will say that I am also perfectly happy to live elsewhere with you. If this is a good place for you, then we can live here, too. We have enough money to do it, my dear beautiful man. We can live in both Nagoya and Los Angeles.” Pressing a kiss to his mouth, he nuzzled his nose. “I would do anything to see you at ease again, to have the laughter and the joy from before my mother back in your eyes and your heart.”

“You always hated America, Xavier… you hated everything about the country—”

“I never hated life with you. I love our home there—”

“You love it because it looks like Japan—”

“I love it because it represents the beauty of the life I live with Shimazu Nowaki, the man I wish to marry!” With that, he covered Nowaki’s mouth in a deep kiss, one that lasted until the tension ebbed from his skin and his hands relaxed on Xavier’s chest. When finally he broke the kiss, Nowaki murmured, “I love the life I live with you, Xavier Blair… and you are the only man I will ever marry!”

“Is that my sons? Are my sons finally home from America? Sho-kun said that they were coming home, but I thought it was not yet winter, the cherry blossoms were not yet blood red. It cannot be time for one to come home, let alone both,” a warm voice entreated playfully from the verandah. “Is that really my sons?”

“Chichi!” Nowaki whirled, taking Xavier’s hand in his own, hurrying up the steps to toss himself at his father, a distinguished Japanese man still possessing a full head of raven black hair. “Tadaima!”

His father, Shimazu Masanori, chortled as he held his youngest son to his chest, arms tight around his shoulders, hands splayed on the back of Nowaki’s skull and just beneath his shoulderblades. “Okaeri!” Pressing a kiss to Nowaki’s hair, he whispered, “Oh, little one, I have missed you very much while you were out making a big noise!”

“I missed you as well, Chichi!” Nowaki held tighter to his father for another long moment before tugging from the hug to hold out his hand to Xavier, who wore a soft expression on his face as he watched their interaction. “Chichi… this is Xavier Blair, my partner. I wish to marry him—”

“Nowaki—” Shimazu Masanori arched a reproachful eyebrow. “—I hope that you understand any ceremony we were to give would not be recognized—”

“This I know, Chichi, but still I wish to have it. Perhaps we can be official someday; they’re already working on changing minds in the US and wherever allows it first, that’s where Xavier and I will go. Right now, I just wish for us to be united in the eyes of the gods,” Nowaki stated plainly, lifting his copper eyes to Xavier’s emerald gaze.

“You know that I would die a thousand deaths before I would deny your heart its very blood, Nowaki-kun.” The patriarch gave a slight bow before stretching out a hand to Xavier. “Konnichiwa, Xavier-san.”

Xavier reverently bowed in return, only rising when Shimazu Masanori motioned him to do so, taking his hand in a warrior’s clasp as he stood upright. “I am deeply honored, Shimazu-san, to bow before you as your son’s partner, as Nowaki-san means all to me.”

“We shall walk in the garden after the evening meal, Xavier-san, just you and I. We shall speak of many things, but most importantly, we shall speak of Nowaki-san, for it is the Shimazu typhoon that is now the lifeblood of our clan.” He placed a hand to Nowaki’s left cheek, smiling proudly as his thumb traced the soft underneath his eye.

“Indeed, he appears to possess that quality in our home as well, Shimazu-san,” Xavier conceded with a smile up at Nowaki, who blushed. “It is well known in our circle of friends, that I do not possess the ability to tell him no.”

Both his father and brother laughed, as did Xavier’s sister, who approached the group of men silently, Nowaki smiling at her as he made introductions. “Oto-san, this is Xavier’s older sister, Xanthe Blair. Xanthe-san, my father, Shimazu Masanori.”

“I am honored, Shimazu-san.” She bowed respectfully, folding her hands before her as she did so. “Truly, I think of my brother Xavier with the same ferocity I have witnessed Shohei-san display in regards to the Shimazu typhoon this day.”

“Our siblings are all we have in the end, are they not?” Shimazu Masanori took hold of her slim shoulders to bring her upright. His smile lit Nowaki’s own when he leaned in to kiss her cheek. “Welcome to the Shimazu lands, Blair children. Stay as long as you would like, although…” His dark eyes flitted from his own sons’ faces to Xavier’s as he stepped closer to the Englishman. “… Sho-kun murmured in my ear earlier, such words as to make my heart swell with love for you, Xavier-san. Is it true that you bring Nowaki back to Japan with thought to make a home back in Nagoya?”

Xavier’s lips curled up towards his ears in a wide smile. “It is, Shim—”

“Please, Xavier-san, call me Oto-san. It would not do to have Nowaki’s otto to call me by my surname,” Shimazu Masanori urged. “I would be honored if you were to call me Oto-san.”

Nowaki took a deep breath, his eyes wide to keep happy tears from falling down his face. He met Shohei’s eyes, leaning against his brother’s shoulder as Xavier bowed once more to their father. “I would be honored, Oto-san, to have the privilege of such an intimate relationship with you as to be referred to as your son, as it is your son that gives me such joy and love.”

Xanthe sniffled, the tears in her eyes mirroring the ones in Nowaki’s own, though she said nothing. Nowaki’s father smiled at her, offering her his arm as he reached out to touch Nowaki’s face. “Get some rest. I will have Shohei come to your room to wake you both for the evening meal, Nowaki-kun. I am so happy to have you home… and I will be overjoyed should you choose to stay here in Nagoya.”

“Hai, Oto-san.” He watched his father walk the verandah, turning at the far end as he covered Xanthe’s hand on his arm with his own, and Nowaki shook his head in amusement before lifting a kiss to Xavier’s lips. “You were perfect… and I love what you said to him. Makes my heart so big, koibito!”

Wrapped in Xavier’s embrace, Nowaki felt the first waves of tranquility washing over him and as he buried his face in his lover’s neck, his eyes closed and he smiled. He never even felt Xavier bend to scoop him up into his arms; all he heard was the steady beat of his lover’s heart beneath his ear.

He is perfect, boku no koibito.

When he woke next, it was to Shohei’s gentle shake of his arm and the words, “Dinner’s almost ready, Wa-chan.”

A smile and his brother left the room, allowing Nowaki to stretch, his eyes fluttering shut when a pair of soft lips covered his own in a tender kiss. “Welcome back to the land of the living, boku no kokoro no taifū.” Xavier’s lips took his in another stronger kiss as his hands moved up Nowaki’s back, holding him tighter before he murmured, “Xanthe dropped by just before you woke. She held a proposition for us.”

Nowaki arched an eyebrow at the vein of excitement he heard in Xavier’s voice. “You sound as though you like the proposition.”

“Well… it falls in line with something we discussed recently, so it’s hard for me not to like, beloved man.” Xavier’s fingers ran through Nowaki’s hair, bringing his lips to his for a brief kiss. “She wants to give us a child, one that would be of yours and my blood.”

Nowaki’s eyes widened, his voice a breath above a whisper. “To marry you… and to be the actual father of your child… Xavier, my life would be complete!” He laughed with the joy bubbling up and out of him. “Aishiteiru! Aishiteiru!”

Chapter One         Table of Contents         Chapter Three

NEVER SEE THE LIGHT: Chapter One– Throw Your Hands in the Air

Never See the Light_XSmall

Japanese Glossary

1 August 1993
Los Angeles, California

Nowaki growled as he stepped onto the sidewalk and looked at the long line of taxis. “He’s not here.” His hands gripped the bags tighter as he watched the cars move in the outer lane. “Last born sons always get the shaft.”

A black limousine pulled alongside the curb, a window rolling down to reveal a tanned face bearing a set of emerald eyes that in that moment, forever changed his world. Wheat-colored hair framed his chiseled face as full lips spread in a generous smile. “Shimazu Nowaki, if I’m correct?”

Nowaki blinked at the rich English accent that colored the man’s words. “You are Xavier Blair?” he asked, blinking slowly. “You are Oto-san’s friend?”

“That I am. I’m sorry for my unexpected tardiness in meeting you at the airport, Nowaki-san.” Xavier Blair opened the door and swung his legs out to plant his feet down on the cement, but it wasn’t until he stood that Nowaki observed the man was the very portrait of Western civilization. “There was an accident on the motorway that held us up for almost an hour.”

Shiny black leather shoes, silk navy trousers, and a soft black cashmere turtle-neck sweater with long bell sleeves; Xavier had money, yes, Nowaki knew that but as every piston in his cranium fired, he tried to remember if he’d ever seen anything as fine as the worldly man before him. Nowaki nodded, lifting his eyes to the sparkling set he found gazing at him, realizing in that moment that he’d missed what the Englishman had said or asked. “My apologies, Xavier-san, I was distracted.”

Merriment filled Xavier’s face as he motioned to the open trunk. “I merely asked if you would like to stow your luggage, Nowaki-san.”

Smiling even as he felt the color fill his cheeks, Nowaki murmured, “Hai. I would like this very much.” He hurried to the back of the car, dragging his roller board suitcases behind him. “Thank you.”

“Should you wish to speak Japanese, I am fluent in it. I lived and went to school in Japan when I was in my younger, more formative years. I met your father through my own father.” Xavier shoved his hands through his gold hair, rumpling it deliciously.

Did I really just think that? Deliciously? I’m embarrassed and he didn’t even hear it!

Nowaki shook his head, hefting his luggage to settle it into the cargo area of the automobile before retying the flannel around his slender waist.

He is exquisite… and he will not be interested in a boy.

“Thank you, Xavier-san, but I am in America now, and it would be disrespectful for me to utilize the language of Japan on the streets. I received the highest marks in English in school. I will hone my English now.”

“Why did you choose to come to America instead of going to N University?” the man asked, taking the satchel from Nowaki’s shoulder to place it carefully between the two suitcases, affording it no room to move. “Masanori-san said that N University’s Japanese literature and art departments had practically declared war on each other over who would receive the honor of your choice!”

As the trunk closed, Nowaki swallowed hard, lifting coppery eyes to Xavier. “I did not want to sacrifice the honesty of my art by allowing a school to sculpt it, especially when I knew already what career I wanted.”

Xavier leaned against the side of the car, folding his arms over his chest as he looked over at him. “What is your chosen career path?”

“I came to Los Angeles to be an actor. I want to be a movie star, not just in Japan, but in the world. I want to be like Ken Watanabe or Hiroyuki Sanada or… or even Bruce Lee.” He smirked then, folding his own arms over his chest. “Be my own man.”

“You want to make your mark on America before making it on Japan?” Xavier queried, arching a thin blonde brow. “That’s quite unusual.”

“Perhaps I’m just an unusual guy.” Nowaki shoved a hand through his jet hair as he stifled a yawn. “Where’s a good place to eat around here? Any family restaurants close by?”

“I thought you might be hungry. I’m famished as well.” He ticked his head at the open door as he favored him with a smile. “After you, Nowaki-san.”

With a grin, Shimazu Nowaki, brand new to the United States of America, dove into the belly of the luxury car, cackling like a fiend.

I am here, Kaa-chan! I am here and like Bruce Lee, I will make a big noise, one you can hear all the way in Japan!

“Do you live in America at all, or in England only?” Nowaki asked, carefully watching the man across from him out of the corner of his eye.

He is so beautiful!

“I am living here for the moment, but only until Masanori-san is certain that you will be okay on your own. America is not for me. It’s too… impersonal, cold even.” Xavier Blair curled his lip as he made a face that clearly illustrated his distaste for this side of the pond. “It would have to be something pretty impressive to get me to stay in this country.”

“How long will you be here then?” Nowaki asked. “Not that I need a baby-sitter, I’m just asking.”

Xavier shrugged. “I don’t know.” He smiled at Nowaki. “I guess that depends on you. Are you needy? I know that you’ve never been out of Japan before now.”

Nowaki laughed. “Last summer, I went to a cram school in Tokyo, because Oto-san insisted that the school was the best. He wanted me to apply for T University and N University, insisting on it even. He said that if I could get into T University, N University would be a breeze. He had intentions of staying with me, but when Okaa-san fell ill during the first month we were gone, I told Oto-san to go home, that Okaa-san needed him and that I would be in close contact and ever aware of my surroundings, and that I’d keep up with my studies. He agreed, and he sent me money every week for food and train fare. Before he left, we found an apartment for me and rented some furniture. I spent all summer like that, finding my way around Tokyo. Tokyo is almost its own country, I think. Nii-san stayed with me on the weekends sometimes at the beginning, but he was there the last two weeks most especially.”

“Yeah… and I’m from Bath and yet going to London to attend Guildhall didn’t prepare me at all for the US, Nowaki-san.” Xavier leaned forward, placing one hand on Nowaki’s knee. “We’ll see how long this lasts. First things first: did you come here with intent to go to school or did you come here with intent to get into the movies?”

“Oto-san said that I must do it right. So I applied and was accepted at UCLA for acting,” Nowaki replied, doing his best to keep his mind focused on conversation and not at what Xavier’s hand on his leg could do to his body.

“Then we are in good standing. We shall hunt for a place nearest the university’s campus, one that I like as well as you and that way, I will have a place to stay while here. I am supposing that Masanori-san gave you money?” Xavier squeezed his knee before letting go of it to sit back in his seat as the car made a left turn.

“He said that he would do what he did for me while I was in Tokyo for as long as I held true to my goal.” Nowaki took a deep breath, finally looking the Englishman directly in the face. “It will be nice to have a friend here.”

“Yes, I’ll absolutely agree with that,” Xavier murmured, his green eyes lighting. “I believed you asked for a family restaurant?” As the car stopped, he motioned to the restaurant on the right. “I did some research and found out that this place was the one to go to if you want Japanese food done right. I hear that their soba is to die for. Shall we find out?”

AS SOON AS the front door closed behind them and Nowaki crossed into his part of the suite at the upscale hotel that Xavier had secured, Nowaki moved over to the phone to call home. He lifted the receiver and dialed, his heart full of the excitement still thrilling him to be actively pursuing his dream. His father’s man, Isao, picked up, “Moshi Moshi?”

His lips spread in a wide smile. “Isao-san! It’s Nowaki-san—”

“One moment, Nowaki-kun. I will get Masanori-san for you.”

“Hai.” Nowaki instinctively straightened at the somber tone to Isao’s voice, and he waited anxiously for his father to pick up.

“Nowaki!” His father’s voice was rough with emotion and Nowaki stood, setting his jaw.

“Chichi… what has happened?” he rushed out. “Should I return?”

“No, Nowaki-kun, stay where you are!” Shimazu Masanori’s voice broke at the end. “Kaa-chan… she wished for you to shine bright in America. You stay to make her proud of you.”

“Chichi… what has happened?” Nowaki asked a second time. “Tell me! If you do not, I can call nii-san!”

Quiet, ragged breaths came over the line as Nowaki listened to his father try to calm himself and he knew that something very serious had happened while he’d been in flight and eating dinner. “Chichi, please… tell me.”

“Kaa-chan, she… she was hit by a car this morning as she was going to market. The driver did not stop. She is in critical condition, but the doctor does not expect her to live through the day, as her body is already in a weakened state from the last few months of cancer treatment.” A sob came over the line, sending the tears forming in his eyes down his cheeks. “She refused to let me accompany her this morning… I should have persisted, been over-protective, informed her that it was my responsibility to see her to the market.”

“Chichi… please, Chichi… allow me to come to you! I implore you, Chichi!” Nowaki exclaimed, his heart pounding so hard in his chest that it almost hurt.

“Iie! You stay there! Get set up. Kaa-chan would not see you start but never finish, Nowaki. It is likely that I will send for you soon, but get as much done as you can. Xavier-san will see it done, and will accompany you home if necessary. He owes me much and he knows my expectations of him.” Masanori finally steadied his voice. “You know that we care deeply for you, and I promise to be in touch. Give me a number where I can get a hold of you until you find a more permanent residence.”

Moments later, he replaced the receiver in its cradle as he lifted his eyes to see Xavier leaning against the doorjamb, concern written in the crop of wrinkles on his brow. “What’s wrong?” the Englishman asked, straightening up and crossing the room to Nowaki. “What’s happened?”

Sniffling, Nowaki dragged his arm over his face as he managed, “Okaa-san… she was hit by a car a few hours ago. The doctors… they don’t expect her to make it. Her body is too weak from treatment—” Xavier’s hands framed his face, his thumbs brushing away Nowaki’s tears as the Japanese man rasped, “Are you against holding another man, Xavier-san?”

Xavier tugged Nowaki to his chest, allowing him to crumple into frightened sobs at the very real prospect of losing his mother. Shimazu Hoshi was the star at the center of the Shimazu universe and his father had told the story of their star-crossed love so many times that Nowaki knew it as well as he knew the story of his own name. When the phone rang, startling them, Xavier took the hand he’d slid around Nowaki’s back to the receiver, and answered quietly, going on to answer a second time after he’d accepted the call from the front desk, “Moshi Moshi?”

Nowaki didn’t move his cheek from Xavier’s chest, and as he listened to him speak, he understood what his new companion’s use of full Japanese meant. Liking the beautiful sound of it on his lips but realizing there existed a very real reason Xavier had not given the phone to him, Nowaki lifted his wet face to Xavier’s to whisper, “The Shimazu star has gone out, hasn’t it?”

Tears slipped down the Englishman’s face as he gave a singular nod. “It has. I aim to find us lodging and furniture today and tomorrow, get the necessary forms for enrolling you in university, and then we will travel back to Nagoya to mourn with family and for the funeral games.”

Nowaki silently agreed, his fingers curling in the soft cashmere before he whispered, “Xavier-san… you will not leave my side?” He didn’t know why he asked it, but he suddenly wished to never be outside the warm protective circle of Xavier Blair’s arms.

“Not unless you’re in your father’s or brother’s embrace, Nowaki-san,” Xavier vowed, his voice strong like the folded steel used by samurai.

“Arigato, Xavier-san,” he murmured before pushing his face back into the Englishman’s chest. “Arigato!”

Nowaki wrapped his arms tightly around the other man as he gave into the sorrow overwhelming him. He didn’t notice when the Englishman moved them to the couch opposite the hotel bed, cradling Nowaki as the grief that tore at the younger man finally sent tears down his smooth cheeks, tears that Nowaki lifted one hand to touch when a tiny gasp alerted him to Xavier’s own pain. The Englishman turned his eyes, blue flecks in the irises giving the shiny orbs almost a seawater appearance, to Nowaki’s copper ones as he murmured, “Hoshi-san was always kind to me…”

Nowaki took a shaky breath as he nodded. “I will not leave your side, either, Xavier-san.” His thumbs traced the high cheekbones of the Englishman’s face, drying the wetness from underneath his eyes. “Okaa-san would have us cleave to one another in this time of grief… to keep each other upright.”

Xavier’s hands slipped down Nowaki’s back, tugging him closer as Nowaki sat up a little straighter, holding Xavier’s gaze. Neither man loosed the other as Nowaki turned to face the Englishman fully, docking his knees on either side of his slim hips.

I wonder if he’ll punch me if I try to kiss him—but I need—

The Englishman’s mouth covered his own, his tongue pressing on Nowaki’s lower lip, requesting invitation. Nowaki scooted closer to Xavier, opening his mouth to deepen the kiss as he buried one hand in the lion’s mane of the man’s hair while the other pushed up under his cashmere turtleneck to splay on the hot skin of his back. The kiss grew salty as their grief drew them ever closer, building on the chemistry that exploded the moment Xavier had rolled down the limousine window. Nowaki grunted as he found himself on his back, divested of his grey tee-shirt, his own fingers reaching behind to Xavier’s back and dragging the garment over the man’s head.

Nowaki’s eyes roved the skin that he’d bared, lifting one knee to keep his lover balanced as Xavier carefully settled atop him. The smooth weight of Xavier comforted Nowaki and he whispered, “Don’t leave… don’t leave tonight, Xavier-san.”

Xavier took his knuckles lightly down Nowaki’s cheek as he whispered, “I already promised to never leave your side unless your father or brother was in the very near vicinity… although—” His lips turned up slightly. “—perhaps we’d be more comfortable on the bed?”

“I’d rather hoped we’d make it over there today, yeah…” Nowaki didn’t mean in a sexual sense, but in the sense that he could sleep on Xavier’s chest, one of the man’s large hands buried in his hair, the other on his arm or rubbing his side. “… I’d really like that.”

As he lifted his mouth to Xavier’s, Nowaki felt it. The death of his mother had torn a hole in his soul, but the salve covered him presently, holding his slender body flush to a gold-white one with emeralds for windows, gems he lost himself in as his heart hammered in his chest in time with its twin. The salve that worked to mend Nowaki was Xavier.

I will chase him forever, though… he won’t settle… he won’t. He’s a lion, meant to lead.

Thumbs rubbed his temples before fingertips lightly moved through his thick jet hair, a light chuckle opening his eyes. “Does it ever shut off?”

Nowaki grimaced, one hand going to his face as he blushed, but answered, “Some of the time, but mostly, no… I just sometimes have to let it run its course.”

“You must be tired, my pulchritudinous rainstorm.” Xavier stretched up to press a kiss to Nowaki’s brow. “Why don’t we lie down over there and I’ll hold you. You can let my heartbeat lull you to sleep,” he suggested.

“I’d really like that.” Nowaki smiled softly, allowing the other man to help him stand and lead him over to the bed.

You said it, and you used a word that most people cannot even spell, let alone say, to call me beautiful without using a word that’s over-used. You wanted to give me your own term of endearment—and you called me yours.

When Xavier’s mouth covered his own once more as the Englishman drew him down onto his chest, Nowaki gasped, stretching out as the bedcovers were drawn up over them. Xavier’s tongue flicked across the roof of Nowaki’s mouth, eliciting a light moan from him and Nowaki tugged his lips from Xavier’s to whisper, “Can we do this… can we do this until I fall asleep?”

“I will kiss you until you tell me to stop,” came the reply, along with a wry smile. “Or did you miss the intent behind my words?”

Nowaki’s fingertip touched the Englishman’s full lips as he nodded, his shiny copper eyes sparkling. “I liked your words. My own seem a bit lame in comparison, but I really liked your words.”

Xavier drew him more fully onto his body, his right knee bending to keep Nowaki steady. “I’d like anything you said to me, Nowaki; your touch and your kiss, they cleanse me.”

Blushing, Nowaki pressed a kiss to each beautiful eye before kissing him thoroughly. “You are a lion in coloring and in spirit, claiming what is yours and defending it against all enemies. You are fearless and strong and cunning and superb, Xavier; the very definition of your name.”

A blonde brow arched teasingly. “I own a new house?”

“The Arabic meaning of your name: bright, splendid!” Nowaki protested, laughing. “Although, by the end of tomorrow, yes, you will have a new house!”

“This is true.” Xavier pressed a tender kiss to Nowaki’s jet head. “Rest your head, Taifu no Otoko. We will get to the rest of today after a wee nap.”

As his eyes closed, Nowaki felt a long-fingered hand slip into the back of his hair as its twin slid over the smooth skin of his side. His eyes fluttered shut at the peace the tender caresses gave him today, though he knew that soon, Xavier’s touch would bring only sweet chaotic bliss.

But that’s tomorrow. Now… now, he gives me a sanctuary from lamentation.

About NEVER            Table of Contents            Chapter Two

About: NEVER SEE THE LIGHT

Never See the Light_XSmall

To celebrate the release of Butterflies are Free, I am posting the first chapter of a free serial here on my blog. 🙂

Never See the Light introduces you fully to Shimazu Nowaki and Xavier Blair. If you remember in World’s End, you met Xavier at the very end, when Emrys spoke to him on the bell. Here, you meet him and get to know both him and the beautiful Nowaki.

Blurb:

Having grown up in Japan as the youngest son of Shimazu Masanori, Nowaki wanted to be his own man and be that son, but knew of no other way to do it than to walk the wire without the net. Emulating Bruce Lee, Nowaki travels to the U.S. in hope of making a big enough noise that his parents could hear it across the Pacific. Xavier Blair, friend to Nowaki’s father enters his life on the very day that he takes his first steps in Los Angeles, California. Son of one of the wealthiest men in England, Xavier works hard to look good and to be everything that the papers say about him: beautiful, playboy, superficial, always with a different woman. When their worlds collide, neither can deny the chemistry that veritably explodes between them, but will they find strength in one another and the love they discover, or will the film industry and their families drag them under to where they never again see the light of their sun?

On to Chapter One– Throw Your Hands in the Air