If you had said to Tatsuya a year ago that he’d be living on his own estate with his family’s male gardener as his lover, he’d have told you that you were crazy.
He’d had everything all planned out – or, rather, planned out for him. Marry the high society girlfriend that he was dating because . . . well, because they were both from respectable families. Move into one of the smaller houses on either his family’s estate or hers and wait for the children to start coming. Raise said children in the same way that he’d been raised until he collected his share of his parents’ inheritance – and he stood to inherit most of the estate.
Instead, he’d chosen to follow his heart, do what he wanted to do instead of what he’d been told to do. And if his grandmother hadn’t been sympathetic, he would have ended up disinherited. Instead, she left him her estate and most of her fortune.
Of course, it was more of a lifestyle change than he’d imagined it would be. For one thing, most of his old friends ran in the other direction, aghast at his decision. They didn’t make any big pronouncements that they were done with him, they just stopped inviting him to parties and luncheons and afternoon tea.
“The hell with them,” Shohei – his lover – told him as they went over the plans for the new gardens for the estate. “If they don’t want you, they don’t deserve you. Are you really willing to be friends with people who are narrow-minded enough to shun someone for who they chose to be in a relationship with?”
“Well, no,” Tatsuya replied.
“Then don’t worry about it. The right people will come into your life.”
“You had friends, didn’t you? When we were living back on my family’s estate?”
Shohei looked up from the plans. “If you mean the rest of the staff, I avoided them as much as possible. They spent most of their time gossiping about each other and about your family. Just being around them casually, I learned plenty of things I wished I didn’t.”
“Maybe we’re both better off,” Tatsuya said, quietly.
“You’re not having regrets, are you?”
Tatsuya shook his head. “None whatsoever,” he said. “When I’m with you . . . I finally know what happiness feels like. Because I never allowed myself to feel it before.”
“You admit that now,” Shohei said.
Tatsuya nodded. “I was letting other people determine my life, not me. And in the end, it’s MY life, right?”
He was wondering, though, what form that happiness would eventually take. He had Shohei, and they were building a stronger and deeper relationship . . . but who else would eventually become part of his world?
* * *
When he was living back on his family’s estate, Tatsuya liked to ride his bike everywhere. His parents owned enough turf that he could ride for hours and never leave their property.
His new estate was smaller. It was still big enough to ride his bike around, sure . . . but he wanted to explore the outside world. He wanted to see how people lived who weren’t aristocrats. And so, he found himself pedaling toward the nearby town.
It was fascinating to him, really – he was getting a glimpse of a world that was foreign to him. In the circles he’d grown up in, the idea of working for a living was thought of as the ultimate horror. Having to wake up early every morning, brave traffic to go to a place you really didn’t want to be at and do things you didn’t enjoy doing . . . it made one shudder.
Riding around and looking at the shopkeepers and merchants, though . . . they didn’t look unhappy. They seemed to be taking genuine pride in what they were doing. He paused by the door of a bakery and watched a woman in a white apron pull a tray of rolls out of the oven, picking them up one by one with tongs and artfully arranging them in a bin so they’d look attractive to potential buyers.
They all seem to have a mission, a purpose, he thought. The way I was brought up . . . we had no purpose. Our only purpose was to increase our standing in society. Maybe that’s what I need in my new life . . . some sort of mission.
He parked his bike at the side of the street and walked from store to store, peering in, watching one man intently typing something in the newspaper office, two women arranging a display in the front of a bookstore, a jeweler describing the engagement rings he had in his inventory to a young man . . .
A voice behind him said, “Do you always gawk at everything like that?”
Tatsuya turned around quickly and saw a small man, half his face covered by huge sunglasses and dressed mostly in black, standing there with his arms crossed.
“Oh!” he said. “I’m . . . I’m . . . was I disturbing you?”
“Not me,” the man said, “but you’re probably freaking out the people in these businesses. Anyone who just stares into their stores without buying anything is looking to rob the joint.”
“No! That’s the last thing in the world I’d do! I’m just curious about them, that’s all.”
“Curious?” The tone of the man’s voice conveyed eye-rolling, even though his eyes weren’t visible.
“I’ve just moved into this neighborhood. I . . . I live in that estate, on the hill . . .”
“You took over the rich old lady’s place?”
“I’m her grandson,” Tatsuya said, bowing. “My name is Tatsuya.”
“And what the hell are you doing around here – being ‘curious’ - if you’re one of those aristocrats?”
“I’ve just been wondering about the town, that’s all. Working for a living is a concept that, well, I’ve never experienced.”
“You’re not missing anything,” the smaller man said. “Some of us have to do it to put food on the table, you know. We weren’t born with silver spoons in our mouths.”
“You work around here?”
“Unfortunately.” The man pointed toward the post office. “I’m a postman. Was just finishing a route when I saw you. And as a postman, it’s my duty to report anything suspicious I see to the police.”
“Please, don’t! I’m not suspicious. Really. I’ll just let you go back to what you were doing.”
“You’re not suspicious, but you’re sure weird. What kind of aristocrat comes here because he’s curious about our town?”
“One who’s just broken from the aristocratic world,” Tatsuya said, softly.
The man frowned. “The hell do you mean by that?”
“Just that I decided to do what I wanted instead of what my family wanted,” Tatsuya said. “So, they disowned me. Except for my grandmother, which is how I ended up with her estate.”
“You’re damn lucky,” the postman said. “My family didn’t like what I wanted to do, and I had nobody to back me up. Which is why I’m slinging mail for a living.”
“What was it you wanted to do?” Tatsuya said.
“Art. I’m a painter. There’s a few of us in town who are starving artists. We sell our stuff over by the train station on weekends – we conned the stationmaster into letting us do it.”
“You don’t have any kind of gallery or anything?” Tatsuya said.
“Are you kidding me? That takes a building. We can’t afford that. We’re all just making enough money from our art and our day jobs to live on and create more art.” The man lifted the leather sack next to him and slung it back on his shoulder. “I need to go back to work.”
“Wait! What’s your name? I don’t think I got it.”
“Ruki. Call me Ruki.”
“And you said you’ll be at the train station this weekend?”
“Weather permitting. We’re not exactly going to put out shit we worked our asses off to make out in the rain.”
“It was nice meeting you!” Tatsuya said. “I’ll see you around!”
He rushed for his bike and pedaled back toward home. He had been looking for a purpose in his new life – and it looked like he’d found one. He was going to help these artists get their gallery.
* * *
That Saturday, Tatsuya insisted Shohei come down to the train station with him. “What’s so important about it?” Shohei said.
“They’re artists, and this is the only way they can show their work! They need help – and I want to help them.”
Sure enough, there was a row of displays in the train station parking lot. The first one was Ruki’s paintings – which tended to be dark, melancholy surrealism. Shohei paused in front of a canvas showing the backs of two naked people standing in front of a pyramid with a sinister eye looking out of it.
“He’s got imagination, to be sure,” Shohei said.
“It’s brilliant,” Tatsuya said. “It’s the kind of thing that stops you in your tracks.”
Ruki wandered over when he saw the two of them. “I don’t believe it,” he said. “You did show up.”
“Did you think I wouldn’t?”
“You rich people usually don’t follow through when you say you’re going to do things,” Ruki said.
“I told you, I’m not just any rich person,” Tatsuya said.
“Who’s the other guy?”
“This is Shohei,” Tatsuya said. “My . . . my boyfriend.” It was the first time he’d said that in public, and he ended up looking at the ground, blushing bright red.
“Boyfriend, huh? He one of those rich people, too? Didn’t know they let guys like you have boyfriends.”
“They don’t,” Shohei said. “That’s why he was disinherited.”
“Shohei and I met because he was my family’s gardener,” Tatsuya said.
A voice behind him yelled, “No shit!” He turned around and saw another young man, this one with spiky blond hair . . . and some sort of rag tied over his nose?
“You COULD try not being fucking rude, Reita,” Ruki barked.
“Hey, I’m right next door. Could I help overhearing all this?” Reita jerked his thumb toward a display of sculptures that seemed to be made of junk and found objects – mostly cans.
“You did this?” Tatsuya said.
“I like to think that I did,” Reita said.
“Reita works a bit too hard on his stuff,” Ruki said. “He’s lost a lot of days on his day job because of blowtorch accidents.”
“That’s called devotion to your art!” Reita said. He pointed to his nose. “That’s why I wear this. Had to bandage my face after an accident. Thought it looked cool and kept it. Every artist needs a trademark!”
“Just how many of you are there at this station, anyway?” Tatsuya said.
“Usually five on a regular basis,” Ruki said. “We get others who come by from time to time, like Kazuki.”
“He’s around because he’s fucking Aoi, admit it,” Reita said.
“Can you try NOT being an asshole for five minutes?” Ruki said.
“What fun would that be?” Reita said.
Tatsuya laughed. He liked these people. Genuinely liked them. They weren’t afraid to be themselves – unlike the people he grew up with. This is LIFE, he thought. This is people out here expressing themselves, being genuinely passionate. The exact opposite of the stuffy existence I was living.
“You really have no place to show your art other than this train station?” he said.
“Do you see any art galleries in town?” said Reita.
“We’d have one if we could,” Ruki said. “But I told you – none of us can afford it.”
“I can,” Tatsuya said, quietly.
The two artists stared at him, open-mouthed. “What are you saying?” Ruki spluttered.
“I said I’m going to find you a gallery,” Tatsuya said.
“Wait a minute,” Reita said. “You’d just go out there and buy an art gallery for a bunch of assholes you just met? What’s the catch?”
“There’s got to be some catch, isn’t there? Rich people don’t help people like us unless there’s some kind of motive. Like they plan to make the business a tax write-off and drop it in a year.”
“There’s no catch,” Tatsuya said. “I want to help you. Really.”
“You’re fucking serious, aren’t you?” Ruki said.
“Does he look like he isn’t?” Shohei said.
“Look,” said Tatsuya. “Up until now, I wasn’t living. I was just existing. I lived in a sterile world. And I didn’t know any different – until I met this guy.” He put his arm around Shohei. “When I met him, and saw how passionate about his plants he was . . . I saw what life could be. I knew what I was missing, for the first time. And meeting you guys . . . now I really know what I was missing. Something to really believe in, like he believes in his plants, and you believe in your art.”
“You really aren’t joking, are you?” Reita said.
Tatsuya shook his head.
“There’s nothing in it for yourself at all?” said Reita.
“I just want to be able to help run the gallery,” Tatsuya said. “And promote the artists. Because, well . . . I WANT to know what it’s like to work for something you believe in.”
“He WANTS to work?” Reita said. He looked at Ruki. “He’s crazy!”
“Are you going to fucking look this gift horse in the mouth?” Ruki said. “After you damn near burned your nose off?” He turned to Tatsuya. “You better not let us down, you know. Not after you got our hopes up like this.”
“I won’t!” Tatsuya said. “It’s a promise.” He paused. “And I’d like to invite all you guys – and any artist friends you have – to a party at my estate next Saturday night.”
“What’s the occasion?” Reita said. “Other than this partnership, of course.”
“Because I want to get to know you all,” Tatsuya said. “I think . . . we might be friends.”
‘Oh, you bet we’re coming,” Reita said. “Hell, yeah!” He suddenly grabbed Tatsuya’s arm. “Come on, I’ll introduce you to the other guys!”
“Don’t handle our patron like a sack of potatoes!” Ruki shouted after him.
Tatsuya smiled as he was dragged off. Once chance encounter had brought him his lover. Another was bringing him a group of friends, and a true mission in life.
His old life falling apart was the best thing that had ever happened to him.
* * *
By the time they got back to the estate, the cook already had dinner in progress. Most of his grandmother’s old staff had stayed on to work for Tatsuya. He did wonder sometimes how strange it must be for Shohei to be served by staff, since he was most recently staff himself.
Over their food, Shohei said, “What are you going to do about a gallery for those guys?”
“I saw an old restaurant building that was for sale when we were downtown,” Tatsuya said. “I could buy it and have it remodeled. There were some guys who owned a big construction company that used to come to my family’s parties – even though my father used to complain about them being ‘new money.’”
“You’re really into doing this, aren’t you?” Shohei said.
“I feel I was meant to do it, you know?” Tatsuya said. “Like . . . I have all this money I got from my grandmother. I could either sit on it or put it to good use. And to me, what better use is there than to help someone achieve a dream?” He picked up his wineglass and swirled the liquid around. “Besides, part of me feels like I have to make up for lost time.”
“What do you mean?” said Shohei.
“All the time I spent doing what I thought I should be doing, instead of what I wanted to do.”
Shohei put his hand over Tatsuya’s. “You don’t have to make up anything,” he said. “You’re doing what you want now, and that’s what matters.”
The main thing, Tatsuya thought, is that I’m with you. We both took a chance on building this life together, didn’t we? And so far, it’s working out.
Much later, when they retired to their bedroom, he had a similar feeling as he stood in the doorway connecting their bathroom to the main suite, watching as his lover pulled off his shirt while siting on the middle of the bed.
Everything he does, Tatsuya thought, is so sensual. He’s a master of all things physical – whether it’s taking care of plants or making love to me.
Shohei glanced up at his completely naked lover. “Didn’t bother with a robe?”
“Didn’t feel I needed one.” Tatsuya approached the bed.
“You’re really hungry for cock, aren’t you?” Shohei’s voice carried a darkly teasing lilt as he unzipped his pants and rolled to the side of the bed to get rid of them.
“Only for yours.” Tatsuya reached into the nighttable and opened the drawer containing their sex supplies. He didn’t want any fumbling for what they needed in the heat of the moment.
“Well, I suppose I’m going to have to give you what you want.” Shohei rolled over toward him, and Tatsuya felt the familiar shudder of lust. How could anyone, he thought, be that beautiful?
Shohei suddenly pulled him into his arms and kissed him fiercely, and Tatsuya gasped, pushing his tongue against his lover’s, raising a leg right away to hook over his hip.
Let me feel it, Tatsuya thought. Let me feel your velvety skin on mine, your tongue sliding in and out of my mouth, your cock and mine sliding together. I don’t know how I even lived without this.
“You really want it,” Shohei murmured breathlessly between kisses. “You can’t get enough, can you?”
“No,” Tatsuya murmured.
“Good.” Shohei reached out for a nipple and gently squeezed it between his thumb and forefinger, and Tatsuya’s whole body trembled. “Because I’m going to give you everything you want.”
“Yes . . .” Tatsuya was starting to move his hips, grinding himself against his lover. So damn good, every time, he was completely losing himself in lust and heat, giving in completely to sensation, to the feel of hardness on hardness . . .
And then, Shohei suddenly rolled him on his back, reaching for the lube. He slicked a finger and reached down, pressing it against Tatsuya’s entrance, caressing it, slowly teasing. Tatsuya found himself breathing heavily.
“How much do you want it?” Shohei said.
“I need it,” Tatsuya moaned, and moaned louder as the finger pushed against him again, caressing a bit harder, faster. “I need you.”
Shohei pushed it further inside. “Say it,” he said. “Say how much you want my cock in you.”
“Please . . . please, I have to have it, I need to feel you in me, please fuck me . . .”
He moaned as a second finger penetrated him alongside the first, and he raised his hips, thinking that he was so lucky to have such a beautiful man want him so much, so very lucky . . .
The fingers pulled out, and Shohei paused just long enough to slick his cock and use baby wipes on his hands. Then he was moving on top of Tatsuya, covering him completely, pushing his cock against his lover’s entrance as Tatsuya shifted his hips, making it easier for him.
And before Tatsuya knew what was happening, Shohei was grabbing his hands and pinning them atop his head, holding Tatsuya down. “Oh!” he gasped.
“You want to be completely mine?” Shohei started to push into him, tightening his grip on his lover’s wrists. “You are.”
Tatsuya raised his hips more, very much aware that that was the only movement he was capable of as Shohei pushed further and further into him. He was completely held down, locked in place, at the mercy of his lover. It was a beautiful, wonderful thing. Tatsuya closed his eyes and surrendered entirely to feeling, to the strength of the hands gripping him and holding him in place, the hardness of the cock filling him more and more . . .
As he started to thrust, slowly, Shohei leaned over and bit at Tatsuya’s neck, and Tatsuya arched upward, moaning, only to be held down more firmly by his lover, Shohei’s hands gripping him tighter, pressing him into the mattress. The gardener tenderly licked the spot he’d just bitten, kissing along it . . .
Then he moved his mouth to the base of his throat, sucking hard, scraping his teeth, leaving a mark of possession. The cock was thrusting into him harder and faster now, the hands and Shohei’s body locking him in place, and Tatsuya was being completely possessed by this man, under his total control.
He was absolutely on fire. He moaned loudly, feeling his heart pound, knowing full well that this was a former servant owning and controlling his master, which made it all the more dirty and forbidden and delicious.
“Shohei . . .” he gasped, only to be silenced by firm lips against his, a tongue probing his mouth hard, hands tightening more on his wrists, and that cock driving harder into him, rubbing against sweet spots, making him tremble, driving him closer and closer to the breaking point . . .
He tried to arch upward again, and he was pressed down harder, which just made him burn even more, made him dizzy with heady sensation, and he began to ache for release, even as he wanted it to go on and on.
Shohei took one hand from Tatsuya’s wrists, grabbing both of them with the other, and reached down for his lover’s cock, grasping it firmly, stroking rapidly up and down, and Tatsuya panted, feeling the heat inside him burn and crest and threaten to envelop him completely . . .
The explosion burst deep inside him, and he cried out in total ecstasy, his whole body trembling over and over, and when it faded, he was a limp heap lying under his lover, feeling Shohei thrust into him hard, chasing his own release.
Shohei only let go of him when he buried his face in Tatsuya’s shoulder, letting out his own orgasmic cries, and then collapsed atop him, Tatsuya finally able to wrap his arms around his lover. They kissed softly, then snuggled together, Shohei rolling off Tatsuya to lie beside him.
“I needed that,” Tatsuya said.
“You really did like that, didn’t you?” Shohei said.
“Well . . . yes,” Tatsuya said, blushing a little. “I’ve never really done anything kinky like that before.”
“I didn’t mark you up too badly, did I?” Shohei examined his neck.
“It’s okay if you did,” Tatsuya said. “Let them look at it and wonder what we were up to.”
“And this is the guy who was a stuffy aristocrat until I met you?” Shohei said, teasingly.
“I don’t think I ever really was,” Tatsuya said, softly.
He snuggled against his lover. Another new experience. Shohei really had a way of bringing out the best in him, giving him what he never knew he needed, making him try new experiences . . . making him feel truly alive.
Well, here were two more new things under his belt – getting kinky and becoming a gallery owner. And he couldn’t wait to see what was next.
* * *
It was actually a bit more difficult for him to acquire the restaurant building than he’d thought. The owner had wanted to sell only to another restauranteur; he was baffled by Tatsuya’s plan to make it an art gallery.
“Think of it as a service to the community,” Tatsuya said. “We have other restaurants in this town. We don’t have any space for the arts. Don’t you want to do something unique?”
A bit more persuasion and he was finally able to wear the man down. The artists were thrilled when Tatsuya told them. By now, he’d gotten to know their entire group, including Kai and Uruha, a couple who made mixed media collages together. He felt so comfortable around them – because they had the freedom to be themselves that he’d never had. Nobody had told them what to do, or who to socialize with, or who to love. They lived on their own terms.
That’s going to be me, he thought. From now on, I live my life as I want to live it.
It took a few months to fully renovate the gallery. By then, Tatsuya and Shohei’s social circle had started to grow. Their friends had introduced them to other artists, who in turn brought along other creative types – musicians, writers, actors. Their home was getting a reputation as an artistic salon.
When the day of the grand opening finally came, Tatsuya himself cut the ribbon on the building, and everyone swarmed in, admiring the pieces on display. He stood at the door, welcoming everyone and handing out glasses of champagne . . .
And then, an unexpected guest walked in – his father, who he’d barely seen since moving out. Tatsuya looked up at him with a small “Oh” and shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. What was he doing here?
His father rubbed the back of his head, looking just as awkward. “I saw in the newspaper that you had opened this gallery,” he said.
“Well, yes,” Tatsuya said. “The community needed it, and the artists needed it, and . . . and . . .”
“You know, nobody in our family has done something like this before.”
Here it comes, Tatsuya thought. The lecture on how someone like me is supposed to behave. But instead of slumping like he used to in the past, he suddenly stood up straight, thinking, why do I need to be afraid of him anymore? “Father, it is MY life. And it is MY money that was left to ME by Grandmother. I choose how to . . .”
“I’m proud of you.”
Tatsuya stopped short. What . . . the . . . hell? Who was this person and what had he done with his father? “Excuse me?”
“I’m proud of you, son. You may have made some questionable decisions” – and Tatsuya could just hear the unspoken “like that GARDENER” – “but this is not one of them. You’re giving the community something it needs.”
“I . . . I . . .” His father had left him speechless. My God, he thought, am I dreaming? He APPROVES of this?
“I’m still holding you accountable for your unwise choices, though,” his father said, quickly. “Don’t think you’re off the hook about that.”
“I wasn’t about to,” Tatsuya said, ruefully. Well, he thought, I wasn’t exactly counting on him coming to my place for a casual dinner with Shohei and I.
“But this . . .” His father swept an arm around the room. “I have some friends who are redecorating and looking for art pieces. I’ll send them here.”
“Just tell me what kind of art they want!” Tatsuya said, quickly. “If it’s not here, I have plenty of contacts who can probably supply what they’re looking for.”
His father shook his head. “My son is an art dealer now,” he mumbled. “I will tell them. I . . .”
At that moment, a pink-haired man in a wide-brimmed black hat, a corset top, black booty shorts and thigh-high laced-up boots with huge heels approached them. “Tatsuya,” he said, “when you have a moment . . .”
His father looked visibly uncomfortable at the arrival of the newcomer. “I’m going to go look at what you have on display here,” he said. “I’ll get in touch about the art.” He quickly bolted into the crowd.
The newcomer blinked. “What was that about?”
“My father. He’s . . . proud of me.”
“Really? You should alert the papers, then. I can’t remember the last time anyone in my family said they were proud of me. Then again, I don’t remember the last time I saw any of them.”
“Well, anyway.” Tatsuya handed the other man a glass of champagne. “Sorry I didn’t say hi when you came in before, Yuuki, I was busy.”
“That’s okay. When you’ve got time, I’ve got an interesting offer for you.”
“Remember I told you that my boyfriend is starting a theater company? Well, their fourth partner pulled out of the deal.”
“Yuu. Kei and Shoya are still on board. So, even though I know your thing is usually art, not theater, Yo-ka wanted me to ask you . . . would you be interested in joining them?”
Tatsuya smiled to himself. A new adventure, he thought. One challenge is completed with the opening of the gallery. Another begins. This is my life now, and I love it.
“Sure,” he said. “Bring it on!”