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Urban Family

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Akihito sighed as he began to walk up the stairs. He hesitated at the top, looked down at the beer he had brought with him, and continued down the covered walkway leading to the all too familiar apartment halfway down. Laughing at himself, he reached up to knocked on the door, hesitating. Damn! he thought, I haven’t felt this nervous since I had to call dad the last time I was arrested. He’d been in high school at the time, just about to graduate. Looking back he remembered that it wasn’t telling his dad that he’d been caught trespassing that had him upset. It was that he’d broken one of the man’s cameras while trying not to get caught. Yeah… I’d rather face the old man with a broken camera again. But this… He shook his head. He needed to do this. And he needed to do it on his own terms. Things would go differently this time. Not like they had gone with his parents the other night.

He shook his head. What the hell am I thinking? Of course this isn’t going to blow up like it did last week. He laughed at himself and knocked on the door in front of him. If he knew anything, he knew whom he could trust.

“Akihito!” Kou almost tackled him as he opened the door to let his friend in. “Where the hell have you been hiding? We’ve missed you!” he exclaimed as he ushered the boy into the apartment. “And you’ve brought beer! Yes! Takato! He brought more beer!” 

“It’s about time you did something useful,” Takato said as he stood from the couch, grabbing the beer from Akihito and taking it to the kitchen. It was still somewhat cold, but it could stand to be colder. “So,” he said over his shoulder as he opened the fridge and put the beer on the top shelf. “What is it that was so important that we had to meet with you? You sounded so weird on the phone when you called.”

“I sounded weird?” Akihito asked, reaching around Takato to grab one of the cold beers occupying the shelf with the ones he had just brought.

“Yep. Even for you. You haven’t gotten yourself into trouble again, have you?” Takato looked at him skeptically.

Akihito had to laugh. Opening his beer and sitting on the couch he took a long drink, trying to steady himself. “You guys know me so well,” he took another drink.

His friends looked at him, worry etched on plainly on their faces.

“Akihito…?” Takato said softly, sitting down next to his friend. Gently, he placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “You know, whatever it is, you can tell us. We won’t judge you.”

“Thanks,” Akihito replied softly. “But I’m not in trouble.” Sighing, he ran his hand through his hair, stopping it at the base of his neck to try and rub some of the tension out briefly before continuing.

“What the…?” Kou exclaimed, yanking Akihito’s hand away from his neck, his eyes clearly staring at the platinum band circling his finger. “What the hell is this?” He held up the hand with the offending ring for Takato to see as well.

It’s a ring. Akihito bit back the sarcastic remark with a small smile. “That,” he said calmly as he pulled his hand back, “is what I wanted to talk to you about.”

His friends stared at him in disbelief. Takato said nothing, just waited patiently. Kou, after a brief, tense moment, began to laugh. “I get it,” he began laughing harder, though a little uneasily. “This is a joke.” He continued laughing, though not very convincingly. “It is a joke, right?”

“Akihito?” Takato asked quietly.

The photographer was silent, trying to gather his courage. He had planned this out in his head all day. Spent countless hours rehearsing exactly what he was going to say and how he was going to say it. But now those words failed him. He was afraid of his friends’ reactions. He knew there would be some disappointment. Not in the fact that he was now married, but in that he hadn’t invited them to any wedding, nor had he told them about it before hand. All they would see was that he disappeared for over a month, again, and returned married this time. That he had married a man, he still hesitated to discover their response to that fact.

“Wait?” Kou broke the silence. “You got married? And you didn’t tell us about it? What happened? Did you get some girl knocked up? Did her father threaten you into marriage?”

Out of nowhere, Takato’s hand reached across Akihito and slapped Kou upside his head. “Would you shut up for a moment and let the man talk?”

“But…”

“Just be quiet,” he told his friend. “Akihito,” he continued. “If you’re not in trouble, then why are you suddenly married and we knew nothing about it? And why do you still hesitate to tell us about it even though we now know?”

“Well,” the boy began hesitantly. “It’s complicated. And it’s not like I planned on events going like they have. It just sort of happened.”

“Just sort of happened?” Kou snorted. “Seriously, Akihito. Just how do you ‘sort of happen’ to get married? Wait!” he said suddenly. “It’s not that clingy, rich woman you’ve been seeing off and on for the past two years, is it?”

Akihito laughed at the idea of Asami being described as a ‘clingy, rich woman’.

“No way…” Kou gasped. “Seriously? But I thought the two of you fought more often than not?”

That was true, if you looked at it from their perspective. They knew very little about his relationship with Asami. The only time he ever really brought it up was when the two of them were having issues.

“It’s true, we do have our issues from time to time. But it’s the fight that makes it exciting,” he replied, trying not to think too deeply into that fact. Shaking his head, he continued. “Let’s put that aside for now and let me tell you this from the beginning. But first, can you get me another beer?” he shook his empty can. “I’m going to need it if I want to get through this.”

“Sure,” Kou said as he took the can and left for the kitchen.

“Are you sure you’re not in trouble, Akihito?” Takato asked.

Akihito nodded, placing a reassuring hand on his friend’s knee as he did. “I promise. I’m not in trouble.”

Takato looked at him questioningly.

“Here you go,” Kou handed Akihito a freshly opened beer and sat down, waiting for his friend to begin his story.

“Thanks,” he said, taking another long drink before starting. “As you two know, I’ve been seeing someone for the past few years.” The two nodded. “But I haven’t been completely honest with you about it.” He hesitated, looking at the can in his hands, afraid to meet his friends’ eyes.

“What haven’t you been honest about?” Takato asked, prompting the hesitating boy.

“I’m not seeing a rich, clingy woman.”

“Is that what this is all about?” Kou laughed, rolling his eyes in exasperation. Takato simply sat next to Akihito, waiting patiently for the explanation he knew was about to follow.

“I’m seeing a rich, clingy… man.”

Silence.

Akihito sat there on the couch, staring at his beer. The silence dragged on painfully.

“Wait a minute,” Kou finally broke the awkwardness. “Did you just say ‘man’?” he asked in disbelief.

“Yes, he did, Kou,” Takato answered before Akihito had a chance to. “He didn’t stutter. Nor did he mumble.”

“Wow,” Kou continued. “I don’t know what to say.”

Akihito sat there, not saying anything, listening to the conversation. This was what he was afraid of. His friends would now reject him like he feared. He fought back tears that threatened to form in the corners of his eyes. He was going to make this work. He was going to apologize to his friends for lying to them and come clean, telling them the truth about him and Asami. Well, most of the truth. There were still some things that they didn’t need to know. But that was for their protection, and piece of mind. They would worry more about him being married to a major crime lord more than him being in a relationship with a man.

“You don’t have to say anything,” Takato said noticing Akihito’s tears as he slapped the top of Kou’s head for the second time that night. “Just get him another beer. And order us a pizza while you’re in there. Double pepperoni.” Kou nodded as he stood up from the couch again. “And extra cheese,” he called after the man as he picked up the phone. “They never put enough cheese on them.”

Turning back to Akihito he asked, “Are you happy?”

“What?” Akihito replied, not knowing what to make of his friend’s words. If he heard them right, there was no trace of sarcasm in them. Nor was there any scorn.

“I said ‘Are you happy’?” Takato repeated.

“Truthfully?” Akihito asked hesitantly. Takato nodded.  “I’m scared shitless right now,” he replied, wiping at the tears he failed to contain. “Honestly, I’d rather be telling my dad I broke another one of his cameras.” He finished off the beer he had in his hands as Kou returned and handed him another.

“Not about coming out to us,” Takato shook his head. “I meant does this man make you happy? Is this what you want? Like Kou said earlier, you two seem to fight more often then not.”

“Yes… He makes me happy,” Akihito answered truthfully, something the he had only begun to do recently regarding his and Asami’s relationship. “And we do fight… Sometimes…” he hesitated with a small smile, bringing his beer to his lips. “But it’s the fighting that makes it interesting,” he mumbled before taking another swallow. A slow blush crept across his face as his eyes lit up remembering their last ‘argument’.

“Oh… my… god…” Takato breathed out slowly in realization. “That is more than I ever wanted to know.” The photographer choked on his beer.

“So when do we get to meet this guy?” Kou asked.

“Tonight, if you want,” Akihito replied. “He’s off tonight and tomorrow. Since he doesn’t have to go into work in the morning, he said it would be all right to bring you guys by tonight if things went well. But I’ll understand if it’s too sudden a thing for you. I mean, if it feels too awkward for you, you don’t have to push yourselves,” the photographer began rambling.

“We’re not pushing ourselves,” Takato interrupted the boy’s rambling. “And it would make me feel better if I met this man at least once.”

“But what about the pizza?” Kou asked.

“We can have it delivered to my place,” Akihito answered. “Just call them back and have them deliver it to this address.” He quickly scribbled down the address on the back of a piece of paper handing it to Kou.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

 

Chapter Text

“Wow!” Kou exclaimed for the fifth time as he gazed around the inside of the limo in amazement. “I can’t believe you’re with someone this rich!” He reached out and began fiddling with the buttons on the console next to his seat.

“Would you stop playing, Kou,” Akihito asked, swatting his friend’s hand away from the compartment he was about to open. “Asami doesn’t like it when people mess with his stuff. Besides,” he said hesitantly, “there’s no telling what you might find in here.” Before he could stop Kou’s childlike curiosity, a small panel opened on its hinge revealing a small drawer-like compartment. To his horror, Akihito watched as is friend pulled out a well-wrinkled necktie and a small bottle of lube, his embarrassment only tempered by the small relief that it wasn’t a gun they had found.

“Again,” Takato said with a small laugh. “That’s more than I wanted to know.”

Akihito shifted in embarrassment on the seat trying to not to look either of his friends in the eye. Kou, watching the blush spread across the photographer’s face but not exactly understanding Takato’s remark looked down at what he was holding in his hand. Realizing the purpose of the objects he threw them back in their place, shutting the panel as if the tie were a snake and began wiping his hands on his jeans. 

“Seriously, Akihito. You should warn a guy,” he said trying to cover his own embarrassment.

“I did,” Akihito laughed. “But you’re worse than a kid in a candy store with a pocket full of money.”

“So when do we arrive at this new apartment of yours?” Kou asked, changing the subject.

“Looks like we’re here now,” Akihito replied as the limo pulled to a stop in front of the familiar high-rise building.

After exiting the limo, Kou’s jaw dropped as he scanned up the building. Letting out a soft whistle he asked, “Damn, Akihito! What floor do you live on?”

“The top,” he mumbled as he led his friends through the front door.

“What?” Kou asked as the two men tried to catch up with the photographer.

Reaching the elevator, Akihito pushed the button for the penthouse as the doors closed.

“Just how rich is this guy and how did you find him?” Kou asked.

“Honestly, I’ve never bothered to ask him just how rich he is. It’s not like I’m with him for his money.”

Takato looked at his friend skeptically. He felt that there were still some things the young man was hiding from them. It concerned him. He wanted to ask questions, but figured they could wait. It was hard enough on his friend that he had come out to them tonight. Yes, he regretted the fact that Akihito felt he had to hide his orientation from them to start with, but he also understood his friend’s need to. He knew there were others that probably didn’t accept the photographer for who and what he was. And, even though he was straight, Takato had seen enough in high school, college to understand that not everyone was polite about letting people live their lives in their own way. He wondered what his friend had seen that made him afraid to come out to his best friends. Like all the other questions, he would leave that for another day if it was to be asked at all. Besides, Kou was asking more than enough questions for the both of them.

They stepped off the elevator into an empty, but short hallway. At the end a large, blonde man in a dark suit stood next to the apartment door. Is that a guard? Takato asked himself.

“Come on in, guys,” Akihito said as he opened the door for them. “I’m home,” he called out as he placed his shoes on the shelf next to the door.

“Welcome back,” a voice said from inside the apartment.

“I brought my friends with me so behave,” Akihito continued as he walked into the living room and was pulled into the kitchen. Both Kou and Takato watched in mild shock as their friend disappeared around the corner of the room suddenly. “I said behave!” they heard Akihito gasp as they followed him around the corner of the room to see the young photographer in the arms of a larger, rather attractive and somewhat familiar man. “Ryuichi, please!” Akihito struggled half-heartedly against his assailant. “I said my friends are here. So you’ll have to wait till later.”

“I’ll remember you said that when they leave,” the older man said seductively in Akihito’s ear causing him to shiver.

The young man turned to see his two friends standing at the edge of the kitchen bar counter, each with a look of mild shock on their faces. If they had any doubts about Akihito’s confession earlier, they were all swept away now.

“Wait.” Takato said in disbelief. “You’re that guy from New Year’s two years ago. The one that Akihito kept calling?”

A smirk fell across those lips as the man obviously remembered that evening. “Yes, I am.”

“Kou, Takato,” Akihito interrupted before the conversation could go any further. “This is my… lover… Asami.” Akihito tripped over the word ‘lover’ and a faint blush spread across his face at the admittance. “Asami this is Kou and Takato,” he said pointing to each man respectively. “My best friends.”

“It’s nice to finally meet the two of you,” Asami replied. “I’ve heard much about you.”

“Can’t say the same,” Takato said, returning Asami’s greeting.

“I’m a rather private man,” Asami said as he ushered the men towards the seating area in the living room. “And Akihito seems to be overly concerned with what people will think when they find out he’s dating a man.”

Before anything else could be said, the doorbell interrupted them. “That would be the pizza,” Akihito said, rising to get the door.

“I’ll take care of it,” Asami said, stopping the boy before he could get up. “You stay here with your friends.”

“I can buy my own damn pizza, bastard!” Akihito hissed.

“Yes, you can,” Asami said as he stood up and left the room.

“Do your parents know?” Kou asked innocently.

Akihito froze. He was hoping not to discuss his parents with his friends tonight.

“You should tell them,” Takato said, taking Akihito’s silence as a negative answer.

“They know,” Akihito said silently. “They already found out,” he looked at the coffee table in front of him.

“Oh…” both men replied, both affected by the sudden and obvious tension in the room.

“They didn’t take it well, I’m guessing,” Takato said, placing a reassuring hand on his friend’s shoulder.

“Mom’s a mess. Crying. She’s wavering between being upset that I didn’t trust her enough to tell her to begin with and wanting grandchildren. Dad…” Akihito hesitated again, sighing. “He’s still trying to figure out if my being gay is an insult to his manhood.”

“Like it matters!” Kou exclaimed, trying to cheer up his friend. “You’re still you.”

“You’re friends seem to have better sense than your parents,” Asami said suddenly from behind the couch. “Your pizza,” he said as he passed it over Akihito’s shoulder with one hand while he ruffled the boy’s hair with the other. He shot Takato a possessive look while resisting the urge to swat the man’s hand away from his lover’s shoulder.

Takato did not miss that look and returned it with one of his own. His thumb briefly played with the wedding ring on his own hand to show the older man that he was no threat to their relationship while at the same time leaving that hand on Akihito’s shoulder to show he wasn’t going to give in to the subtle challenge and threat. He wouldn’t interfere with their relationship if the older man would stay out of their friendship.

Asami smirked. The boy has good friends, he thought to himself. “Drinks, anyone?” he asked. “We have soda, beer, sake…”

“Beer,” Akihito answered.

“I’ll help,” Takato said, preventing Akihito from getting off the couch. The boy gave his friend a puzzled look, but didn’t have the energy to stop him. The evening had already worn him out.

In the kitchen, Asami was pulling glasses out of the cupboards. “We don’t need glasses,” Takato said as the man began retrieving the beers from the fridge. “It tastes just the same in the bottle, and you have fewer dishes to wash in the end. Besides, it’s just a waste of effort to pour it from the bottle to a glass when it drinks the same either way.”

“Alright,” Asami said as he placed the beers on the counter and began putting the glasses back up. “But you didn’t follow me just to give me some household hints on helping me keep my kitchen clean, did you?”

“No, I didn’t,” Takato answered firmly. “I came to see what kind of man you are when Akihito’s not in the room.”

“And what do you mean by that?” Asami asked, his eyes growing cold.

“He’s my best friend. And I just want what’s best for him.” He stared challengingly into those cold, golden eyes. There was no light in them and that disturbed him. What had this man seen that made his eyes look that cold? “Ever since he met you, he’s been keeping secrets,” Takato continued. “He disappears more often then not, and with more frequency and for longer periods of time. And I can tell there is more to you than he’s telling us.”

“Really?”

“I’m not going to pry into your business. But that boy was in tears earlier from fear when he came out to us. And that’s not like him. I’ve never seen him afraid of anything before you came into the picture.” Takato continued to level a firm stare into Asami’s eyes. It was then he realized there was more to those golden eyes than just coldness. It was buried, hidden deep. But if you looked hard enough, you could see it fight to the surface at the mention of Akihito’s name. “You didn’t just happen to have tomorrow off, did you?” he asked. When he didn’t get an answer, he continued. “You took tomorrow off just in case the two of us rejected him like his parents did, so he wouldn’t have to deal with it alone.” And it’s the only reason you’re even bothering drinking with us. To make sure we don’t do anything that would upset Akihito.

Those gold eyes stared at him, unwavering. That hint of emotion grew stronger for a brief moment and was quickly buried again only to be replaced with mild amusement. I’m being toyed with! Takato cursed this man in his head. He’s only doing this for the appearance of it and to keep an eye on us? Jealous prick.

“Don’t worry,” the young man continued with a small laugh, I’ll play your game. “I won’t tell him. He seems to be oblivious to things like that. That and he hates to admit it when he needs someone or help of any kind.” He shrugged his shoulders. “And it would piss him off to no end if either of us pointed that out to him.” Grabbing three of the beers he proceeded to leave the kitchen. “But I will say this,” he said turning around to level one more stare at Asami. “Do. Not. In any way. Hurt him. If you do…” he left the threat hanging in the air. He wasn’t sure whether or not it would work on the man, but it needed to be said.

“No one is allowed to hurt Akihito,” the older man said, finally joining the one-way conversation. With out looking away from Takato’s eyes he picked up his beer from the counter, walked past the young man and into the living room as if nothing else needed to be said.

Though not exactly satisfied, Takato left it at that and followed the older man out to the living room. He set the beers down on the coffee table as he watched Asami sit down next to Akihito on the couch, forcing him to find a new place to sit.

The evening continued, full of idle conversation. They discussed Akihito’s photo shoots and his propensity for getting into trouble. Kou admitted to being in line for a promotion at the tech firm he worked for. However, everytime Asami’s work was mentioned, he managed to smoothly avoid the topic and change the direction of the conversation. Takato, though he participated in the chatter, mostly sat back to observe. He was still a little uncomfortable with some of what he thought Akihito, and Asami, were leaving out of the conversation.

“So,” Takato chimed into the conversation. “Just exactly how did you two meet?” he asked. They had managed to finish off the beer that was in the fridge and Asami had sent one of his men to get more. Kou was drunk, but not as drunk as Akihito who had a head start on the evening. He was surprised at how well the boy had managed his alcohol, though he was still a serious lightweight.

“Huh?” Akihito looked at his friend, his eyes glassy.

“We met at work,” Asami answered for the boy, putting an arm around his shoulders. “He was taking pictures for me.” The man was still completely stone-cold sober even though he had drunk almost as much as everyone else.

“Work?” Takato questioned, a hint of worry creeping into his voice. He had paced himself so as to stay sober tonight. He wanted to observe the man sitting next to his best friend.

“Yep,” Akihito chimed in drunkenly. “I was out on a job one night when this man crossed in front of my viewfinder. Nothing has been the same ever since.” His words slurred as he waved his half-empty beer in Asami’s face.

The older man gently took the offending bottle from his lover’s hand, setting it down on the table. “I think you’ve had enough for tonight,” he said softly.

“Speaking of work,” Akihito continued as he turned suddenly to face Asami. “You haven’t been telling them not to use my photos have you?” He poked his finger drunkenly into Asami’s chest to emphasize his annoyance.

“Why would you say that?” Asami asked, grabbing a hold of Akihito’s hand before he could poke him again.

“Because no one has called me in over a week,” the boy pouted. “I thought maybe you might have something to do with that. You always tell me my job is too dangerous and inconvenient.”

“Yes, it is. And I said as long as you were careful… But we already had this discussion. I don’t think it’s appropriate to have it again in front of your friends.”

“Bastard,” Akihito mumbled. Still pouting, he laid his head on Asami’s chest and snuggled closer. Something everyone in the room knew he wouldn’t normally do had he been sober.

“Kou,” Takato spoke up. “I think it’s time for us to go home. Before this fool gets any more drunk.” Kou only nodded in answer. “Or you get any more drunk for that matter.”

“I’ll have my driver take you home,” Asami said as he walked them to the door, leaving a drunk, pouting Akihito on the couch.

“That’s okay,” Takato answered. “You don’t have to.”

“I insist,” Asami pressed the matter. “The trains have already stopped for the night, and it would be a shame for you to have to pay for a taxi when it’s not needed.”

“Alright,” Takato agreed, turning to leave. “You know…?” Takato mused before turning completely. “Akihito only took pictures of my wedding as a favor to my wife and I as my friend. His real job is as a free-lance, criminal photojournalist. Which makes me wonder exactly how you managed to cross paths with his viewfinder?” He looked Asami in the eyes, ignoring the stares from the large blonde standing outside the door. “Just exactly who are you?” he asked.

“A businessman,” was Asami’s frigid reply.

“A businessman?” Takato echoed with a wry smile, shaking his head. “Only because Akihito is so afraid of losing our friendship at the moment, and that he’ll bolt if I ask too many questions right now, will I leave it at that. A businessman. But I don’t believe you one bit. Too many things are starting to make sense now, though they bring up more questions than they answer. Our getting kidnapped by that crazy long-haired guy. Akihito’s sudden, and frequent extended disappearances. The new scars on his wrist and on his shoulder…” he let his voice drop off leaving the rest of his thoughts unsaid. “I get the feeling that though they’re not your fault, you are connected to them somehow. I also get the feeling that I need to be upfront and openly honest with you about this. I’m not sure I like you. And I don’t think you’re good for Akihito either. But I’m also willing to let you prove me wrong.” With out another word, Takato turned to join Kou who was waiting at the elevator for him. “Good-night, Asami-san. And thanks for the lift home.”

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Chapter Text

Akihito woke to the now familiar warmth of Asami’s arms wrapped around him, his head cradled on the older man’s shoulder. Carefully glancing up and trying his best not to upset the pounding headache he was sporting, he caught a glimpse of Asami’s face. It seemed the man was still asleep. Gently, so as to keep the world from spinning, he turned his head in hopes of viewing the clock on the nightstand. 8:30. Good, he thought. I still have time before that appointment with my boss. He was hoping the man would explain to him why he’d not been given any jobs recently. It was becoming annoying, really. He had finally been able to get back on his feet and establish himself in the world of photojournalism. It had taken longer than he thought it would since his return from Hong Kong, but it had been worth it. Now, suddenly, he had nothing. There were no leads and no jobs offered from any of the publishers that he had worked for.

With a groan, he pulled himself closer to Asami. He had a raging hangover, and wasn’t looking forward to the meeting. Running his hand lightly over Asami’s chest he sighed, dreading leaving the strength of his arms. But, as much as he had finally admitted to himself that he craved that strength, he still had to find a balance in his life between depending on his lover and standing on his own. Shit, do I really have to do that today, though? He really didn’t want to get up. His head hated him at the moment, and he was sure stomach didn’t like him much either. It was entirely too easy to just stay where he was and tell the rest of the world to go fuck itself.

Sighing again, he tentatively leaned his head forward, and, leaving a kiss on Asami’s chest, tried to extract himself from those possessive arms. Before he could make it very far, those same arms pulled him in close, so close he all but stretched himself out on top of the older man. “And where are you going so early in the morning?” he heard the voice above his head rasp sleepily. Even just roused from sleep the man’s voice was sexy as hell. Akihito shuddered to feel those lips brush against his hair as they spoke.

“I have an early meeting with my editor this morning. So behave yourself. I can’t convincingly demand to know why he’s refusing to give me work if I’m limping,” the photographer replied sarcastically.

“Fine, then,” Asami kissed the top of his head. “But your ass is mine when you get home. It’s the least you can do after passing out drunk last night.”

“What ever, bastard,” Akihito hissed. Sitting up carefully, he chastely returned Asami’s kiss and made his way into the bathroom. He knew the older man had taken the day off to spend with him just in case his friends rejected him like his parents did. But he already had this meeting planned out with his editor before Asami told him of his plans.

After a quick shower, Akihito returned to the room to find his lover already asleep again. He probably won’t be up for at least another two or three hours if he follows his normal sleep schedule, he told himself. I should be back well before then. Pulling out one of his most comfy pairs of old jeans and one of the new dress shirts Asami had recently bought him, he quickly dressed just in case the older man was feigning sleep. The last thing he wanted at the moment was for the man to find him naked and then fuck him into the mattress making him late for his meeting.

Turning to leave, he took one last look at his lover sprawled out in a tangle of sheets on their bed. Asami had rolled over on his side, his arm reaching over to Akihito’s empty side of the bed his fingers clutching at the sheets as if trying to cling to something that should be there. With a rare, loving smile that he never let Asami see, Akihito bent over, brushed the hair back from his husband’s face and gently kissed him. “I promise I’ll be back soon,” he whispered as he did. “I’ll let you have your way with me then, Ryuichi.” Placing another kiss on the older man’s hair, he left the room, quietly shutting the door behind him.

 

Asami laughed slightly as he heard the door to the room click shut. “I’ll remember that,” he whispered. He had woken up the moment Akihito touched his hair, but he would never let the boy know that. It was in these rare moments when the photographer thought he was asleep that he was able to hear the young man’s true heart. Though he wasn’t a sentimental man, Asami knew he would cherish every word the boy spoke in these secret moments. With a rare, honest smile, he quietly let slip the words he could never say out loud to the boy, “I love you, Akihito.” And with that, he drifted back to sleep, waiting for his lover to return to his side. 

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

“I don’t believe this! You’re telling me I’m fired?!” Akihito shouted. He ran his hands through his hair as he paced his editor’s office. How the hell did this happen? his thoughts spun out of control. I haven’t missed any photo ops. And I’ve met every deadline. “Why the hell am I being fired?” he demanded.

“It’s complicated,” the man sitting at the desk in front of him said weakly.

“Complicated?” the photographer choked. “This is my job. Not a fucking relationship! So explain it to me so that I understand!”

“Here…” the man sighed, picking up a thick manila folder and handing it to him.

Akihito opened the file to find several photos of him and Asami together in various places. There were shots of him getting out of Asami’s limo. One of them kissing in Club Sion, which, if he remembered correctly, was the one that was published in the tabloid that his mother found. There were a few others of the two of them eating out. The last one was of the two of them playing with Miwa at the orphanage. From the look of it, the picture had been taken the day they visited to celebrate the completion of the new playground replacing the one Ishida’s men destroyed. He would have been absolutely frightened of Miwa being involved again in what ever this was if it hadn’t been for what he saw underneath the photos.

“No!” he breathed out in shock. “How…?” Flipping through the pages he found attached to the back of the folder, he couldn’t help but shudder. There, in his hands, was every single misdeed of his past. Every sordid detail laid out in neat, clean pages. “How the hell did you get a copy of my juvenile police record?”

“That doesn’t matter. What matters is that you lied to us on your application. And that is the grounds I’ve been told to give you for your dismissal. It’s also company policy to not employ people with criminal records on the crime beat.”

“I was a juvenile…” Akihito said softly. “These records were sealed when I was nineteen. As far as the law is concerned, they don’t exist. So I wasn’t lying…”

“The board doesn’t care about that. They’re using that as the excuse to let you go."

Speechless, Akihito handed the folder back to his editor.

“Keep it,” the man waved off the file. “It’s the real reason why I called you in. You need to know about this. Besides, I don’t want it. I never did. And I didn’t go looking for it just so you know. It was delivered to the board of directors early last week. They sent it down to me since I’m your immediate supervisor. Though there was nothing else with it, the warning is obvious. It looks bad for the paper if we employ Asami Ryuichi’s lover. Especially after finding out that lover already had a criminal past.”

“Looks bad?” Akihito gasped. “Is that what this is all about? The board is worried about the paper looking bad?!” his voice rose in anger.

“It makes it look like we’re in bed with him too, so to speak.”

“Fucking hell!” Akihito hit his limit, screaming out his anger. “You mean, that after all this time that I’ve been hiding my relationship with him so that it wouldn’t look like I was using his influence, I was worried for nothing? That it doesn’t matter?”

“They’ve already made their decision. Don’t fight them on this,” his boss tried to calm him down.

“I would never exploit his ‘influence’. You should know me well enough to know that my personal and my professional lives are separate.”

“You can’t fight this, Takaba-kun. Let it go. You don’t want to piss the board off,” his boss warned.

“Just out of curiosity,” Akihito said sarcastically. “Is no one here is afraid of pissing off Asami by firing me?”

“It’s a chance the board of directors is willing to take,” the man answered. “They’re counting on the fact that he hates being a public figure more than his concern for your job. And they’re willing to push that issue.”

“You mean they want to trade not publishing about him for my walking out the door…” he said suddenly realizing the position he was being put in. “Isn’t that the same as being ‘in bed’ with him?”

“Yes,” his boss said with an ironic smile. “But they’d rather it not be known. And they’re willing to fight you on this one.”

“Fight? How?”

“You walk out quietly and they keep their unspoken agreement with Asami about not publishing when he’s involved. You make a fuss about being fired and the media goes to war with him.” He ran his hand over his face with a sigh. “You’re a good kid. I have no doubt about that. And I don’t know how you got involved with Asami Ryuichi. But that is the problem. You’re too high a profile risk and no wants to risk it.”

“No one…?” Akihito asked softly, not wanting to hear the answer.

“No one,” his boss said sadly. “We’re not the only paper to get that file.”

“So much for journalistic integrity,” Akihito whispered, fighting back the different emotions raging inside him.

With out another word from either of them, Akihito left the room.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Akihito looked up from his ramen to see Imamiya step through the door. The man didn’t look too pleased to be there.

“I don’t see why I couldn’t come down to the station to discuss this with you,” Akihito greeted the detective as he sat down.

“Really?” Imamiya said in response. “Have you no sense of self-awareness? Asami Ryuichi’s openly acknowledged lover walks brazenly through the front doors of the precinct…” he shook his head. “That would create quite a stir.”

“What does my being the lover of a major entrepreneur and businessman have anything to do with creating a stir with the police?” Akihito countered innocently.

Imamiya only nodded in response. Neither man was willing to admit openly the real reason why it would create a stir.

“So what’s your problem, kid?” Imamiya asked as he ordered a coffee from the server. “Why is it so important that you see me?”

“I’m looking for work,” Akihito said, taking another bite of his ramen. “But it seems that someone leaked my juvi record to all my different publishers. Now no one will hire me,” he put his spoon down and looked the detective directly in the eyes. “I’ve tried to look into it, but none of my contacts with the police are returning my calls.”

“And they won’t,” the detective said firmly.

“Shit!” the photographer slapped the table in annoyance. “Is this the reason why I can’t even get a tip-off from the police either? How the hell am I supposed to work?”

“Look,” Imamiya said in a low voice suggesting the young man calm down and not make a scene. “You should have known this would happen the moment the two of you announced your ‘marriage’.”

“Again… what does that have to do with anything?” Akihito asked with an annoyed voice.

“Listen, kid. I’m only going to say this once. So pay attention,” the detective said firmly waiting for Akihito’s undivided attention. Only when he knew the boy was listening to every word he spoke did he continue. “No one, and I mean no one is going to contact you. You’re a smart kid. So I know you’re only pretending ignorance. Everyone knows exactly what that man is. They may not have any proof whatsoever, but they know. The good cops aren’t going to contact you for fear of them looking corrupt. And the corrupt ones won’t contact you for fear it’ll prove that fact. Face it kid. You’re persona non grata now. And you did it to yourself the moment you signed those papers changing your name and put that ring on your finger.”

The two men sat in silence. Akihito pushed his ramen away having lost his appetite. His world spun. It turned on its head leaving him without a single shred of hope to find his footing.

“How did my record end up in the hands of my publishers? Those records were sealed and filed away for no one to find years ago,” he said as the detective started to rise from his chair to leave, effectively stopping the man before he could.

“That I don’t know.”

Akihito could tell from the man’s expression that he was telling the truth.

“Would you tell me even if you did?”

“Yes…” Imamiya said after hesitating. “Yes I would. I owe you at least that much. But that’s all I owe you,” he said as he stood to leave. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do. And don’t bother calling. I won’t pick up.”

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Akihito dropped his keys on the table just inside the door and quietly placed his shoes on the shelf where they belonged. Knowing Asami was awake and waiting for him to come home, he didn’t announce his return. He knew he would be in trouble when the older man found him home, but at the moment he didn’t care. He wanted nothing more at the moment than to be alone.

Turning the doorknob to his workroom, he quietly opened the door. The room, until now, had been his haven. He didn’t know what he was hoping to find here. It wasn’t like he would be using the room anytime soon. Tossing the folder containing his record and the pictures of him and Asami on his desk, he looked at the bookshelf, full of his scrapbooks. Lifting one from the shelf, he looked through its pages. These were some of his best photos. He’d made a point to keep a collection of them for himself. With each job, each new opportunity, he would pick out the best of his photos and place them in a scrapbook. There were several books now, each full of photos. The current one, the one in his hand now, would never be finished. He wouldn’t be taking any more pictures.

In a fit of rage he threw the book at the wall, breaking its binding, its photos flying from their pages to scatter across the floor. The entire shelf, book by book, followed the first. Each leaving its own mark on the wall, the floor. In a matter of moments the room was littered with broken binders and scattered photos. Tears streaming down his face, his entire frame shaking in rage and sadness, Akihito grabbed the camera sitting on the desk next to his computer. It was his favorite, the one he used for every stakeout, every criminal photo shoot he had made. It was the camera he first caught Asami with in his viewfinder.

With an unearthly, almost animalistic scream he hurled the camera at the wall to follow all of the photos it had taken, shattering it beyond repair.

The pain was too much to handle. Sinking to the floor, he pulled his knees to his chest and laid his head on his knees. Wrapping his arms around his head and his legs, he began to sob.

“What do I do now…?”

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Chapter Text

Asami sat in his study waiting for Akihito to come home. He’s running late, he thought. Normally he wouldn’t worry. That is, unless the boy had ditched his guards. But today the photographer hadn’t. In fact, earlier Akihito had texted him to let him know he still had some business to take care of and that he would be out longer than he thought. When he had seen that, he immediately called Hayato, Akihito’s personal guard, to make sure everything was going well with the young man. Hayato couldn’t confirm much, only that what Akihito said was true. He had another meeting that would keep him out until after lunch. He also said that the boy did look upset, but that he wasn’t saying much.

Not being a man to waste his time, he decided to spend the time working in his study while he waited for Akihito to come home.

Putting down the papers he was looking at, he sat back looking at his watch. When is he coming home? he asked himself. With a small laugh, he chastised himself for being so weak. It had been like this since Hong Kong, though he wouldn’t let Akihito know that. He knew that Hayato was with the boy so he couldn’t get into too much trouble. The two of them had hit it off surprisingly well at first. When Asami had assigned Hayato to Akihito’s guard duty, he had expected the normal antics that drove all of his guards to quitting. But Hayato seemed able to put up with Akihito’s rash temperament. It was only later that he had learned that the reason why the boy hadn’t been able to ditch his new guard easily was because Hayato had actually been helping the photographer with his photo shoots. At first he had considered separating the two, but after more thought he had to congratulate Hayato for his reasoning. He wouldn’t let Akihito take any jobs that were particularly dangerous and, by virtue of being in Asami’s employ, he was able to steer Akihito away from jobs that he didn’t need to take. Even Asami had to admit that it was the best compromise allowing Akihito to keep his beloved job and the freedom that came with it.

With a sigh, he picked up the file he had abandoned and stopped, thinking he heard the front door shut. Turning his head he waited to hear Akihito’s familiar “I’m home.” When he didn’t hear it, he resumed his work. Since he thought he was home alone, it was a surprise to him when Akihito’s first scrapbook hit the wall.

All he heard was a muffled thud followed immediately by a smaller thud as if something had hit the floor. Concerned, he picked up his gun from where he kept it in the drawer while working, and quietly headed out into the hall.

There was another thud. And another. What the hell?

The noise was coming from Akihito’s “office” and it sounded like someone was ransacking the place. Careful to not make any noise he reached the open door and stuck his head inside narrowly missing the last of Akihito’s scrapbooks as it hit the doorjamb. Before he could say a word he watched in horror as his boy picked up his favorite camera, looking at it with enraged, yet dead eyes. Time seemed to slow down painfully as he watched as Akihito’s arm pulled back and let the camera fly across the room. His ears felt as if they would bleed in response to the painful shriek that accompanied the camera. In complete and utter shock that his lover would do something so uncharacteristic, all he could do was watch as the boy sank to the floor sobbing as he pulled his knees to his chest and covered his head in anguish.

“What do I do now…?” he heard the boy sob.

Rage built inside him, quickly boiling to the surface as the noise died and the sounds of Akihito’s sobbing filled the room. Someone had hurt his lover. When he found that someone they were going to pay for it in blood. “No one is allowed to hurt Akihito.” He had said those words just last night to the boy’s best friend, Takato, and he meant every word.

Stepping into the room he carefully picked his way across the floor littered with books and photos to where Akihito sat next to the desk. He was at a loss for how to handle what he saw before him. His lover was completely broken. Normally, he would devour the photographer. He would fuck the boy into unconsciousness in the hopes that he would forget his problems. Looking at the state of the room around him and the broken camera laying on the floor where it had landed he knew that such a temporary fix to the situation would not work this time. If he didn’t find the root of this problem and help Akihito overcome whatever it was that had happened, he knew this would cripple the boy judging from the state of things, especially the broken camera.

Checking the safety on his pistol, Asami set the weapon down on the desk next to Akihito’s computer. As he did, he noticed the file haphazardly tossed there as well, a picture of him and Akihito peeking from inside the folder. Thinking it might answer some of his questions, he picked the file up and looked over its contents in hope that it would give him some clue as to why the boy was so upset. The photos disturbed him.

He had remembered the one that was taken of the two of them inside Club Sion. That was the photo that had caused so much trouble between Akihito and his parents. But the one that disturbed him the most was the one of the two of them playing with Miwa. Who ever it was that did this would die, and die slowly. Not only were they threatening his lover, but by the very nature of that photograph, they were threatening the rest of his family as well. Under no circumstances would he allow a repeat of the incident with Ishida.

Sliding the last photo aside to see what else was in the folder, he stopped. Is this…? he ran his fingers over the page in front of him. “What the hell?” He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He had tried in the past to get his hands on Akihito’s police record. But even with his contacts he had been unable to obtain it. Glancing over its pages only briefly, he shook his head. He knew his boy had been a juvenile delinquent, but he didn’t know to what extent.

With a sigh he placed the file back on the desk. It could wait for later. Right now Akihito needed him more than he needed to read the contents of that file. Luckily, his boy either hadn’t noticed his presence or he didn’t care. Looking at the distraught photographer, he decided that Akihito hadn’t noticed him yet.

Slowly, so as not to alarm the boy, he knelt at Akihito’s side and pulled him into his arms. It was testimony to just how upset his lover was that he did not fight as Asami wrapped his arms around the sobbing boy.

“Tell me exactly what happened, Akihito,” Asami said gently as the boy leaned in to him.

“I can’t… I can’t…” he sobbed into Asami’s chest. His voice faltered as he began sobbing with more intensity.

Asami knew then that he wasn’t going to get anything out of the boy. He was far too upset to say anything about what had happened. And it was obvious that questioning him would only upset him more.

He hated this. He was Asami Ryuichi for fuck’s sake! Nothing was beyond his reach. And yet here he was, cradling his weeping lover, at a loss for what to do. This was why he had never let anyone in before. His control over the situation was non-existent at the moment. He had no idea who had hurt his Akihito. He couldn’t get any information from his boy to try and correct the matter. And he had no idea how to comfort the boy. Shit! he cursed the entire situation. What was his vast empire if he couldn’t keep the one closest to him from hurting?

Gathering Akihito in his arms, he lifted the boy from the floor and left the room. Though he tried his best to be careful, with his heavy burden in his arms, he was incapable of missing the photographs strewn across the floor. Sensing the loss under his feet with every photograph he stepped on, he left the room.

Moments later he laid Akihito down in their bed. In order to make him more comfortable, Asami removed his jeans, tossing them on the floor to be forgotten. His lover’s cries had softened, but had not abated. He just lay there, motionless and clutching at the sheets that Asami now pulled over him. Leaving for just a brief moment, Asami retrieved the file from Akihito’s desk and called Hayato.

“Akihito picked up a file earlier today. Where did he get it?” he demanded.

“File?” Hayato asked, thinking through the day’s events.

“Yes, a file. A plain manila file folder with no markings on it. Where did he get it?” he demanded dangerously.

“He was given that at work this morning, Asami-sama. I apologize. I thought it was for work so I only paid minimal attention to it. Is everything alright?”

Asami didn’t answer, he merely hung up the phone in response. So it was the file that set him off, he thought. But why deliver it to his boss? Unless…

Suddenly it was clear. Akihito hadn’t been given any work recently. And after meeting with his boss he left with a file folder containing every piece of incriminating evidence of his past along with photographs that looked to be threatening in nature towards both him and his family. Did they threaten him into leaving his job? Was he fired? he asked himself.

If that was the case, then Akihito’s reaction would make sense. After all, being a photojournalist was the one thing Akihito dreamed of. It had been his driving goal in life and had even helped him overcome the trauma of Hong Kong and the casino ship in Macao. Asami knew it was also the standard by which Akihito judged himself as his equal. The boy prided himself on being his own person, having his own job and way of supporting himself. It was his freedom and what kept him grounded in the dark world he had entered as the lover of a major crime lord. If that freedom were to be taken away from him, Akihito would collapse. He hadn’t learned yet that final lesson that his value was within himself, not in his job or being someone’s equal.

After a brief call to Kirishima saying that he did not, under any circumstances, want to be disturbed for the rest of the day, he returned to their bedroom. Opening the door, he noticed Akihito’s sobs had subsided substantially. However, he was still crying and from what he had seen he knew it wasn’t about to end anytime soon.

Changing into a pair of loose, draw-string pants, Asami slipped under the covers himself, pulling his distraught lover back into his arms where he belonged. He gently stroked the boy’s hair, letting him cry himself out.

It was only after Akihito had cried himself to sleep that Asami picked up the file to give it more attention.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Chapter Text

Akihito woke with another splitting headache. Damn it! With a groan he tried to sit up only to feel Asami’s arms tighten around him.

“You’re not going anywhere,” the voice above him said softly. “At least not at the moment. 

“I just want to go to the bathroom, bastard,” Akihito replied sullenly. It was the truth. He really needed the bathroom.

“Fine. But you’re coming right back to bed. No arguments.”

Akihito looked at his lover as he headed toward the bathroom, surprised. There was no lust, no sexual mischief lacing his voice. It sounded like simple and plain concern. What the hell…? Returning from the bathroom, he crawled back under the covers and curled up against Asami. He told himself it was only because the bastard had told him to, and not because he was hurting and wanted to be held.

“Good boy,” Asami said as he wrapped his arms around his young lover.

Akihito jerked his head up in annoyance causing him to groan. Had he missed something earlier? Was Asami teasing him again? He looked in his eyes, surprised to see no teasing there. Gently he laid his head back down on Asami’s shoulder and sank into the strong arms that were circling him.

He wasn’t sure how long the two of them lay there like that. His headache had subsided some. Asami had brought him a glass of water and some aspirin while he was in the bathroom. It was unnerving. Asami, being gentle? Akihito was having trouble wrapping his mind around it. Looking at the clock, it had been at least an hour since he returned from the bathroom. They had been lying in bed together, arms wrapped around each other, and Asami hadn’t molested him once. The absurdity of the situation made him laugh.

“What’s so funny?” Asami asked.

Do crime lords ever snuggle? he wanted to ask, but fear that the moment would be broken any more than it already was, and fear for his ass, quelled his rising sarcasm.

“Tell me, Akihito,” Asami said with a dangerous tone. It was a tone that Akihito knew very well and it told him that he needed to say something or his ass would be in danger despite his best efforts.

“I’m trying to decide what to make of this.”

“This?”

“Yeah…” Akihito hesitated. “This,” he waved his hand over them and the bed indicating what he was talking about. “It’s unusual for us,” he mumbled into Asami’s chest. “I like it,” he added quickly, glancing up at his older lover’s face to judge his reaction. “But it’s not something I’m used to.”

“Hmmm,” Asami hummed as he bent to kiss the top of the young man’s head. “Are you ready to tell me what’s going on?”

Akihito was silent again. Looking over to the nightstand, he saw the file he had brought home the night before. Sudden memory rushed through his mind. Flashes of destroyed scrapbooks, his studio littered with scattered photos and his favorite camera, smashed and irreparable on the floor raced through his mind. They were followed by something else, something even more surprising than Asami’s gentle treatment this morning. He remembered the older man lifting him off the floor and carrying him to the bedroom. He had cried himself to sleep in Asami’s arms. The boy flushed in embarrassment. The entire event seemed so surreal. Normally Asami’s method of ‘comfort’ involved more ‘vigorous’ activities than simply holding him in his arms and stroking his hair as if he were a child.

“Akihito?” Asami questioned. His voice sounded concerned. “I’ve looked over the file.”

“Then you know everything you need to,” the boy replied trying to keep the older man from asking questions he didn’t want to answer.

“It would appear that way,” Asami continued. “Except for the fact that what is in that file, though more than your average juvenile delinquent, is not worth sealing away so deep that even I couldn’t get a hold of it. And believe me, I tried to once I found that my innocent lover who has done nothing but spit venom at my choice of occupation was, in fact, quite the delinquent, before he became a photographer hunting down criminals. It’s also not enough to create the reaction it did in you yesterday. I don’t ever want to see you cry like that again, Akihito. And I don’t want to see you crying now, either. Now tell me. You don’t want me to ask again.”

It was Asami reached up to wipe away a stray tear that Akihito realized they were slowly falling down his face. He knew he was stuck. Asami wasn’t going to let it go. Maybe it was time to tell him the truth.

“I’m not sure I even understand myself, why I got into half the stuff that I did, then,” the boy started hesitantly. Asami just waited patiently. Akihito was already a mess as it was and he didn’t want to make it any worse. At least the boy was talking. “It was just a small group of us. For me it was the thrill. And it wasn’t anything malicious. You know, the usual teen mischief… trespassing, drinking, some shoplifting. You know, that’s actually how I met Yamazaki-san. He was the arresting officer my first time I got arrested for trespassing.”

Akihito’s voice drifted off. Asami wasn’t surprised. Though it had been a few years, Yamazaki’s betrayal was still a fresh wound for the boy.

With a sigh, Akihito continued. “It wasn’t long before we caught the attention of one of local gangs. They weren’t anything serious… though they thought they were. We were given a choice, join or get beat down. Of course, none of us wanted to willingly call down a beating. And, since we really didn’t take them seriously we all decided to join. I figured I could always quit. I only had a few months left until graduation. I would be leaving for college and then it wouldn’t matter. I wasn’t going back anyway, so I thought I could just hang with it.”

Again they boy hesitated.

“All of that was in the file, Akihito. What’s missing?” Asami asked when the boy failed to continue his story. He knew there was more to the photographer’s past than what was recorded on paper. “It wasn’t that simple, was it?” he asked. He understood quite well how teenage thugs such as Akihito was describing operated. They were barely organized, erratic, and always had something to prove which made them both a danger and a constant thorn in his side.

“No, it wasn’t,” the boy whispered. After a few moments to gather himself, Akihito tried to finish his story. “In order to be accepted as part of the gang, we had to prove our worth. There was this man that had been a particular problem for the gang. We were told to ‘take care’ of it. We weren’t going to hurt anyone. Just scare him a little.” He halted his story yet again. It hurt to tell. It hurt so much he hadn’t told anyone. He never talked with his parents about it. They preferred to act as if the entire situation had never happened, though it was the catalyst for the split between Akihito and his father.

Asami didn’t prompt. It wasn’t hard to figure out where the story was going. But how far that direction, even he had to admit he was somewhat afraid to hear. The fact that his lover carried such a dark secret was something unfathomable.

After a brief, tense moment, Akihito began again, new tears in his eyes. “What they failed to tell us was that it was an older man. Someone’s grandfather. What’s worse, his little granddaughter was staying with him. Apparently he was babysitting for his son and his wife who were celebrating their anniversary…” his voice became a whisper Asami had to strain to hear. “No one was supposed to get hurt…”

Clearing his throat, Akihito spoke louder, obviously forcing himself through the last few details of his tale. “The old man had already had problems with this particular gang, and our presence spooked him. The girl got in the way… I had tried to talk the others out of it before we got there, and I tried to stop them when I saw the little girl there, but they refused to listen,” he shuddered. “No one died… But… seeing that little girl in the hospital… It freaked me out. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I did that. I may not have been the one that actually hit her, but I didn’t stop it, either.”

“You didn’t know,” Asami said gently as he tried to sooth the boy’s tears. “And you tried to talk them out of it.”

“That doesn’t excuse it,” Akihito snapped.

“What happened next?” Asami prompted. He knew the answer to that question was part of what had Akihito so upset. It was also the reason the incident was not in his file and why the entire file had been sealed so deep.

“I turned them in,” the photographer said matter of factly. “I made a deal with the police that I would testify and in exchange, the incident would never be placed in my file and my entire report would be sealed and never see the light of day again. I’d be given a clean slate. It was during the trial I found out that the leaders of the gang had already tipped off the old man, threatening him and his granddaughter. The old man was waiting for us.”

Asami wasn’t sure what to say.

“It turns out they were just using us to scare a simple old man. They thought it would be fun to hurt him as revenge for sticking his nose in their business. They were also trying to make an alliance with one of the local yakuza groups, which was my bargaining chip to get my record sealed. It gave the police the leverage they needed to begin a serious investigation of that group. Soon after was when I decided to chase criminals with my camera. It was the only way I felt I could pay that old man and his granddaughter back for what I had done. I could stop other thugs from hurting the innocent people who might be their next victims. And I could get the same thrill, the same danger only it was constructive. It wasn’t long after that I came to love my job. I had the freedom to make my own way and still be a productive member of society… That’s all gone now.”

“But how does that fit in with this file showing up?”

“I was fired yesterday.”

“What?!” Asami couldn’t help but roar.

“Yep. They fired me. Apparently it looks bad for the paper to employ Asami Ryuichi’s lover. Even my contacts in the police have abandoned me as a result of our relationship. I guess it looks bad for them to be talking to me.”

“Why not go to another paper?”

“Because it’s not just the one publisher that got that file. Apparently it’s gone out to all the publishers that I’ve worked with. No one is willing to work with me.”

“And you didn’t fight this?” Asami asked. He couldn’t believe that Akihito didn’t go down fighting when it came to losing his job. Something was wrong. His Akihito was a fighter. It wasn’t like him to just give up.

“I…” Akihito began. He didn’t want to explain to Asami that he had walked out of his boss’ office without so much as a struggle because they threatened war with Asami.

The older man didn’t say anything. Reaching up, he placed his hand on Akihtio’s chin and lifted it up, tilting the boy’s head so he could look directly into his eyes. There was definitely more to his lover’s story.

“They threatened…” Asami’s eyes got wide at hearing this. Before he could say a word, Akihito continued. “I was told that if I fought, they would go to war with you… I couldn’t let that happen. I… I… I didn’t know what to do.”

Asami’s rage burned to a fever pitch. How dare they put his Akihito in such a situation. He had promised when he saw the photographer a broken mess in the middle of his trashed studio that some one would pay for this. He renewed that vow in his mind as his troubled lover stopped talking and buried his face in his shoulder. Asami knew the boy wouldn’t say any more.

“I can fix this for you, Akihito. Just tell me, and I’ll fix it,” he said, his voice full of menace.

Akihito knew the menace in his lover’s voice wasn’t directed at him but at those that hurt him. He felt comforted by those words, that tone. Part of him wanted to accept Asami’s offer. Part of him knew he shouldn’t. He needed to figure this out on his own. And he wasn’t going to put Asami in a situation that could turn out more delicate than either of them expected.

“No, you can’t,” Akihito said, untangling himself from Asami’s arms and sitting up.

“Akihito,” Asami’s voice was stern.

“You can’t,” they boy said firmly. “Who ever did this would be expecting that. It’s why the threat was made. Didn’t you see the pictures they had? If they have those, they might have more.”

“And they might not,” the older man argued, though he knew his boy was more thank likely correct.

“It’s not a chance I want to take. They had a picture of Miwa. I can’t believe that was coincidence. Who ever the hell this is, they know my past. All of it. Her picture was a reminder of who I was, of what I’ve done… Of what could happen,” his voice faded for a moment. “I won’t put her in a situation like that again, Asami,” he said strongly. “We can consider her picture a threat as well. Not from the media, but from who ever gave them that file. There is more here than we can see on the surface. Besides,” he said with a wry smile. “I have to fix some of this on my own.”

Asami looked at him questioningly. He could see the fire coming back to his lover’s eyes. Who ever was responsible for this had made a mistake putting Miwa’s picture in the file. Even if it was an oblique threat, Akihito would never forgive them. And he would fight tooth and nail to keep the girl from harm. Asami had already seen how far the boy would go to protect her. He suppressed the urge to smirk. Yes, he thought, his lover would be just fine. It was only a matter of time.

“I can’t rely on you for my job security,” Akihito said, staring out the window. “I need to figure a way out of that myself. You just go after the bad guys. Only, promise me you’ll let me see them before you do anything to them,” he turned to look the older man in the eyes. “I need to ask them myself why they did this.”

Without another word, Akihito stood up from the bed and headed back toward the bathroom. “I’m going to go see Kou and Takato. They’ll want to know what’s going on. Well… at least what I can tell them of all of this,” he laughed. It was a brief, sad laugh. But it was better than crying. “I can’t not tell them. They’ll be pissed if I don’t.”

Asami watched as the door to the bathroom closed. It wasn’t long after that he heard the shower running. He would respect Akihito’s wishes about his work. At least for now since he could see the fight back in those beautiful eyes. But if things grew worse, he would intervene even if the boy didn’t want him to. Pulling on a robe, he grabbed his cell phone from its place on his nightstand. It was time to make a few calls.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Chapter Text

“Damn, Akihito,” Kou whistled lowly as his young friend took the empty seat next to Takato.  “You look more than hung over.  What happened to you?  The husband keep you up all night?”  Despite the teasing nature of the question, there was genuine concern in the other man’s voice. 

“No,” Akihito shook his head in embarrassment.  Of all the things for Kou to tease him about, it had to be his sex life.  “And just because you’re not getting any doesn’t mean that you have to be so snarky about it,” the photographer snapped.

The two friends looked at the other man, both a little taken aback by the sudden, and rather out of character, statement.  

“Are you alright?” Takato asked, the worry in his voice obvious.

“No, I’m not…” Akihito sighed.  “I’m sorry, Kou.  I’m a little edgy.”

“Really?” Kou replied.  “I hadn’t exactly noticed.  But that’s okay.  Care to tell us what happened to put you in such a mood?”  There was genuine concern in the man’s voice telling Akihito that there was nothing to be forgiven for.  They all understood that there had to be a reason for the photographer's uncharacteristic behavior.

“I was fired yesterday, and I really don’t know what to do about it at the moment.”  There, he said it.  He had been dreading this conversation all morning.  But no matter how hard he thought about it, there was no good way to broach the subject.  So instead, he opted for the band-aid method.  Quick.  Painful.  But not nearly as painful as trying to draw out the conversation.

“You’re joking, right, Akihito?” was Kou’s only response.  

“Would I joke about something like this?” Akihtio asked.  

“Oh my god…” Takato mumbled in disbelief.  “Why did they suddenly…?”

“I’m not entirely sure, myself,” Akihito began.  “But it appears that someone got their hands on my juvi record and then released it to all my publishers.  No one wants to keep a former delinquent employed on the crime beat.  And they certainly don’t want to employ people who ‘lie’ on their applications,” he finished.  Akihito knew he couldn’t tell them the entire truth, but in this instant, a partial truth was more effective a lie than anything else.  

“Seriously?  Do you know who the hell did it?  And how the fuck did they get their hands on your juvi record?” Kou was quick to jump to his friend’s defense.

“I have no idea.  But I do intend to find out,” the photographer replied honestly.

“Are you sure that’s wise?” Takato asked, worry obvious in his voice.

Akihito laughed.  

“That’s what I thought,” his friend agreed.  “Seriously, Akihito, you really need to be careful with this.  I mean, honestly,” Takato continued, “this person, who ever, they are, has to have some serious connections if they’re able to get a sealed file from the police.”

Akihito caught the obvious implication in his friend’s words.  He knew the other man was suspicious of Asami, but neither wanted to discuss it.  Instead, there was that comfortable silence between close friends.  Takato was only concerned for his friend, and the other knew it.  Akihito, in return, wasn’t going to hold it against Takato for suspecting Asami for having something to do with this.  That, and it would create too many problems if he had to explain exactly what Asami was in the first place.  

“I know,” Akihito said softly.  “But I intend to see this through until the end.”

“I thought so,” Takato said in resignation.  “Just try not to piss anyone off this time, Akihito.”

“I’ll try.  But until I have this straightened out I might not be around as much.  I don’t want you mixed up in this.  So I wanted to come see you first,” he said hesitantly.  “Just in case I drop off the grid again.  I wanted to give you some heads up this time.  I figured a warning about my ‘disappearing’ might make you worry a little less.”  

Akihito looked down at the table in front of him.  He didn’t know what to say beyond this.  But neither did he know how long it would take to fix the situation.  Nor did he know just how deep this ran into Asami’s business.  What he did know, though, was that there was a chance he would have to ‘disappear’ for a while in order to protect his friends.  He would be a fool to think otherwise.  And now that his father wasn’t exactly talking to him, and his mother didn’t know how to handle him, Kou and Takato were his only family other than Asami.  No matter what, he would protect them from the dark world that he had stumbled so naively into.  

“Do you really think it’ll get that bad?” Takato asked, worry clear on his face and in his voice.

“I sure as hell hope not,” Akihito replied honestly.  “Besides, it’s not like you don’t know where to find me.”

“Yeah,” Kou chimed in.  “We might just come visit a little more often if it means we can stay in that nice apartment.”  

Takato reached over and shoved Kou lightly.  “Really?  Is that all you can think about?” he asked incredulously with a smile on his face.

“I’m only telling the truth,” the boy said returning the smile.

The rest of the evening was spent with mindless chatter and beer.  If anyone thought it was odd that Akihito drank far less than normal, no one wanted to bring it up.  Both his friends understood exactly what it meant to the photographer to lose his job.  They had been with him far too long to not understand exactly how having a camera in his hands had saved Akihito from walking down a dark road in life that none of them wanted to consider.  Even alcohol wouldn’t cover the loss deep in the boy’s heart.  The only thing they could do was try to raise Akihito’s spirits by simply being there for him if he needed them and in the mean time listen to his complaints until everything was fixed.

“Take care, Akihito,” Takato said as he hugged his friend good-bye.

“I will.  I promise,” the photographer said turning to leave.  “Oh!” he exclaimed, turning around and taking something out of his pocket.  “Here.  These are for you,” he said with embarrassment as he handed each a shiny, black card, the word “Sion” written elegantly across the front of it in large script.  

“Holy shit!” Kou exclaimed, looking at the cards.  “Is this what I think it is?!”

“Yes,” Akihito said, running his hand through his hair.  

“Why?”

“Well, I’m not exactly sure how to say it…” he hesitated.  

“Just say it, Akihito,” Takato prompted.

“It’s just in case something happens and you can’t get a hold of me…” his voice faltered.  “Asami owns Sion.  If anything happens… anything… just go there.  Tell the bouncer what’s going on.  He’ll get in touch with Asami.”

“Which bouncer?  I’m sure there are several for a club this fancy?”

“Any of them.”

“Any of them?”

Akihito nodded wanting to end this awkward conversation as soon as possible.

“Do we get discounts on drinks?” Kou asked, breaking the tension.

“No.  You don’t get discounts on drinks,” Akihito smiled.  “And you don’t get to run a tab, either.”

“But…” Kou stopped short when Takato elbowed him in the ribs.  “Alright.  I think I understand anyway,” he said as he tucked the card safely into his wallet.

“Later, guys,” Akihito waved as he saw a black BMW pull up to the curb beside him.  Checking in the window to see if it was, in fact, Hyato driving, he opened the back door and climbed in.  “I’ll try to call you soon,” he said as he shut the door.

The two friends stood on the sidewalk in silence as they watched the car drive away with their friend.  Neither wanted to really talk about their fears.  

“Well, shit,” Kou suddenly exclaimed.  “He’s so damn good at getting into trouble.  I can’t help but worry about him.”  He put his hands in his pockets giving him the appearance of sulking more than of being mad.

“I know,” Takato replied.  “I can’t help it either.  But there’s nothing we can do about it.”

“That only makes it worse.”

Takato could only nod in response having no desire to discuss his true worries with his friend as they continued walking toward the nearest subway station.  

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Chapter Text

“Seriously, Akihito,” Kou slurred, his beer almost sloshing as he waved his hand while talking.  “You have haven’t hardly had a thing to drink all night.”

“I’m sorry, guys,” Akihito replied.  “I know I’m not much company.  I have a lot on my mind.  That’s all.”

“Still haven’t gotten any leads?” Takato asked.

“Nope,” Akihito took a sip of his almost full beer.  “And my last one fell flat today.”

“Seriously?” Takato laid his hand on Akihito’s arm.

“Yep.  I am officially out of things to investigate.  Whoever did this, they sure as hell knew how to cover their tracks.  I’ve got nothing.”  He laughed at the irony.  Shaking his head he stood up from the table.  “I’m sorry, guys.  I think I just need to go home.  I know you just want to cheer me up…” he sighed.  “Thanks.”  He managed a week smile before turning to leave.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

“I’m home,” Akihito said as he entered the apartment. 

“Welcome back,” Asami replied causing Akihito to jump from where he sat in the foyer taking off his shoes. 

The photographer looked up over his shoulder to see the older man leaning against the wall, a glass of bourbon in both hands.  His usual smirk graced his lips, but it didn’t touch his eyes.  Akihito couldn’t help but stare into those amber depths noticing the concern that lay deep inside them. 

“Thanks,” he said, reaching up to take the offered glass from Asami as he stood up.  Without hesitation, the younger man closed the gap between the two and leaned into the strong, solid warmth that was his lover.  “Damnit, Ryuichi,” he hissed.  “I promised myself…” his words faded only to be replaced with tears.  Asami’s arm wrapped around his slender waist.  Taking a step back, Akihito wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.  “Shit…” he sniffled a little.  “It seems that the only thing I’m good at right now is crying,” the boy said with a weak smile.

Turning towards the living room, Akihito walked over to the couch and plopped.  He didn’t say anything else, just sat there, sipping his drink.  It wasn’t long before Asami sat silently next to him.  Neither said a word.  They simply sat, sipping their drinks.  It didn’t take long before the silence started to make the photographer uncomfortable.  It wasn’t like Asami to sit so close to him and not touch him at all.  Akihito couldn’t help but begin to fidget. 

“Have I done something wrong,” the boy asked, putting down his drink to take off his jacket.  He had forgotten it as he came in the door and it was beginning to make him warm.

“No,” Asami said.  “Why?  Have you done something that you should feel guilty about?”

“No,” Akihito replied.  “I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on.”

“What do you mean?”

“Look,” Akihito said with a sigh.  “I know that talking isn’t your strong point,” the boy continued to fidget.  Taking off his jacket hadn’t done anything to alleviate the warmth he was feeling and he was beginning to become uncomfortable about it.  “But you’ve hardly said but two words to me since I came home.  And what the hell have you done with the thermostat?  Asshole, it’s fucking hot in here!” 

He stood up from the couch, intending to check the setting on the thermostat, but a sudden hand wrapped around his wrist prevented him from getting far.  Before he could get even one step from the couch, he found himself falling back into its cushions, Asami hovering over him as he was pressed further down into the upholstery. 

“It’s not the temperature,” Asami whispered into the boy’s ear.

Akihito shuddered at the touch of Asami’s breath, his heart rate increasing dramatically.  “What the fuck…?” he gasped, his eyes catching his half drunk glass of bourbon sitting on the coffee table.  “You didn’t…” he questioned trying to push the larger man off of him only to fail miserably, his hands having been bound firmly with the tie Asami had been wearing up until a moment ago.  “Bastard!” he hissed as the warmth he had been feeling finally reached his groin.  “You did...!”

“Did what?” Asami asked, a far from innocent smirk gracing his lips. 

“You drugged me!” Akihito struggled, fighting against both Asami and himself as waves of pleasure began to wash over him in agonizing surges. 

Asami chuckled, his lips finding that sensitive pulse point on the photographer’s neck.  “And just what are you going to do about it?”  Sarcasm laced his voice heavily as he bit down, marking his young lover. 

“Ahhh…!  What the hell?!  Did you really have to do this?!” Akihito continued to struggle.  He tried to kick out, to push against the solid wall above him that was Asami and dislodge the older man.  All he managed to do was tumble them both onto the floor, knocking the table and spilling what was left of his drink.  Not that he wanted it anymore knowing what was in it. 

“Yes, I did!” Asami said firmly, pinning Akihito’s arms above his head as he sat across the boy’s hips, effectively pinning him to the floor.  “Just how damn long are you going to mope?”

“Mope?” the boy asked, his voice tinged with confusion and worry.  If he didn’t know better he would say that Asami sounded truly angry with him.  Not the normal, he’d taken an inconvenient picture of the wrong person, angry, but honest and real anger.  Even in his drug-addled state, he knew that didn’t bode well for him or his ass. 

“Yes.  Mope."  Asami stared coldly into Akihito’s eyes.  “You’ve been sulking for the last two months, Akihito.”

“They destroyed everything I’ve worked for,” Akihito replied realizing the source of his lover’s anger.  “I’ve lost everything, Asami!  This is my life, damnit!  Not some fucked up arms deal!  My.  Fucking.  Life!” Akihito’s eyes burned with disappointment and rage, tears flowing freely down his flushed cheeks. 

“Which is why you should fight for it,” Asami growled claiming Akihito’s lips in a searing kiss.  “I plan on thoroughly fucking you until realize that,” he continued once Akihito was breathless and unable to interrupt him.  “And once you’ve finally realized that, I plan on continuing to fuck you without mercy as punishment for making me have to take the time teach you a lesson you should already know.” 

His hand snaked down to Akihito’s waistband and quickly undid its button.  The boy gasped, his hips bucking into the warmth that enveloped his drug-induced erection only to be denied release as Asami’s fingers wrapped tightly around its base.  “Also, the next time you call me by my surname, Akihito, I’ll get out your favorite cock ring.  And I won’t take it off, no matter how hard you beg,” he nipped at Akihito’s nipple through his shirt.  “Do you understand me?” he asked, looking up to see his boy’s response.

Akihito nodded.

Asami lifted Akihito’s shirt above his head.  “I said,” he bit down again, only harder this time while tightening his already painful grip on the photographer’s straining member.  “Do you understand?”

“Yes…” Akihito panted.  “Yes… Ryuichi…” he breathed knowing they would be his last coherent words for the evening.

“Good boy.” 

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~ 

Akihito rolled over in the large bed and pulled the covers over his head with a groan.  He ached all over.  “Damn bastard,” he mumbled to no one in particular.  It had been two days since Asami drugged him, and the ache he felt, though familiar, was so intense he wanted nothing more than stay in bed for the next week. 

He could hear Asami’s voice in the living room, his baritone low and hard to pick out.  Whoever it was that he was talking to must be soft-spoken because Akihito could not, in any way, hear the other voice.  Only bits of the conversation drifted into the room.  Turning his head, he tried to hear what was being said on the other side of the door.

“… not feeling well… make sure he eats… in bed all day...”

 Bastard got me a babysitter?!  Enraged, Akihito turned back over and burrowed deeper into the covers.  Whatever!  Just for that, I’m definitely going to stay in bed all day.  The bastard can go and fuck himself… save my ass the trouble.  This is his fault anyway.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Akihito drifted in and out of sleep for the next few hours only to be woken up to the sound of the bedroom door opening.  His initial thought was to yell at the intruder who was disturbing his precious sleep.  Instead, he opted for silence.  Maybe if he pretended to be asleep they would leave him alone.

Sadly, he had no such luck.  Though he couldn’t hear any footsteps, he could feel the presence of someone else in the room as they moved from the door, across the room, and around the bed.  What the hell kind of ninja did he assign to watch me?  Whoever it was, they continued around the bed, ignoring the fact that he was supposedly sleeping. 

He was surprised when a familiar, though slight, weight climbed up onto the bed with him and slipped into the covers, burrowing with him into the sheets.  Grateful for the fact that he was at least wearing boxers and a tank-top, Akihito opened his eyes with a small smile only to have that smile returned to him by a pair of dark, chocolate eyes staring back at him.

“Morning, Aki-nii,” the little girl said softly.  “Ryu-nii said not to let you sleep too long.  But if you’re really not feeling well, I don’t mind if you stay in bed.  I won’t tell.  I promise.”  With mischief in her eyes, she sat up just enough to reach for the familiar brown teddy bear that had taken up residence in the corner of Akihito’s side of the bed and wedged it between the two of them.

“Does it still work?” she asked innocently.

“Hm?”

“Does it still keep the nightmares away?” Miwa asked indicating the bear between them.

“Oh…” Akihito realized what she was asking.  “Yes,” he answered softly as he ruffled the girl’s hair.  “Yes it does.”

“Good.”

“What are you doing here?” Akihito asked.  “Ryu-chan didn’t tell me you were coming to visit.”  In his mind, the photographer allowed himself a small, mental smirk.  If Asami ever heard him calling him that, Akihito was sure that he wouldn’t be able to walk straight for a week or better.

“Mommy’s sick again,” she said sadly.  “She didn’t want to tell Ryu-nii about it, but something happened and they came to take her to the hospital this morning.”

“What?!”  The last vestiges of sleep left Akihito suddenly.

“She says that she’s going to be okay.  And Ryu-nii has gone to see her.  But I’m still worried.”  Those large brown eyes filled with tears.  Akihito drew the girl closer to him, crushing the bear that lay between them.  “Then Ryu-nii told me you weren’t feeling well when I got here…” her voice hitched. 

“No… no…” he whispered soothingly as he stroked the girl’s hair.  “I’m not sick,” he reassured her.  “I just haven’t been sleeping well.  That’s all.”

“But you said…”

“And it is.  I promise.  No nightmares.”  He pulled back just enough to look her in the eyes then pulled her close again.  “I’ve just had a lot on my mind.  It makes it hard to sleep some nights.”  Of course he wasn’t going to tell her the real reason for his discomfort.  Still, there was still some truth to his words.  Enough for Miwa to believe him and relax. 

“Oh…”

Akihito lay there for a moment, thinking.  “Tell you what,” he said suddenly, sitting up and pulling the child into his lap.  “Why don’t I get up.  Get a shower.  And get dressed.  Then you and I can go out and spend some of Ryu-chan’s not-so-hard-earned money?”  Miwa’s eyes brightened a little at that.  “You wait for me to get ready and think real hard about where it is you want to go.  Okay?”

Miwa’s eyes lit up.  “Anywhere?”

“Anywhere,” he ruffled the girl’s hair one last time.  “So think hard and make it good.”

“Yay!” Miwa clapped her hands with excitement, leapt from the bed and raced from the room.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

One shower, two extra-strength Tylenol, and a quick breakfast later, Akihito and Miwa sat together in the living room as the young girl explained what it was she wanted to do for the day.

“I wanna go see the cherry blossoms!” the child exclaimed.  “And I want to have a picnic too!  Right under the cherry trees!”

Akihito had to laugh at her excitement.  The girl had all of Tokyo to choose from and all she wanted was a hanami

“That sounds like fun,” he replied.

“And you have to bring your camera,” Miwa added.

“What?” Akihito asked, taken aback.

“Can you bring your camera?  Please?!” the girl begged.  “You look sad right now, even though you’re smiling.  But you always look happy when you have your camera with you,” she said innocently.

“Sure…” Akihito hesitated.  “But if I’m going to take pictures of you with the cherry blossoms, we need to dress you up a little, first.”  Miwa looked at him a little confused by his words.  “Give me a minute,” the photographer added as he rose from the couch and headed toward his small studio room Asami had renovated for him shortly after moving in.

With hesitation, Akihito opened the door to the one room in the house he had been avoiding all these months.  Though the room had been straightened up, it had taken him days to get the pictures all put back in their proper places and their binders back on the shelves, they weren’t the reason he had been reluctant to enter the room once it had been cleaned. 

It was the box.

On top of the shelves that held his many scrapbooks sat a small, plain box.  And inside that box, broken beyond repair, was his father’s camera.  Try as he might, the mere thought of that camera reminded him of himself.  Of his current situation.  His career was shattered.  Everything he had ever worked for had been stripped from him in a single moment and he had no way of fixing it.  Like the camera, he was broken and without purpose.

With a sigh, he grabbed his camera bag and his, now, best camera along with several rolls of film.  Yes, he was only humoring a six year-old girl.  But all the same, he didn’t want to disappoint her.  

Trying to put his best smile on, he returned to Miwa who was waiting patiently in the living room for him. 

“Alright!  Now let’s go shopping first,” he said trying to hide his need to cry.  “Then we’ll go find you the best cherry blossoms in Tokyo. 

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Chapter Text

Suoh sat rather uncomfortably where Akihito and Miwa had left him guarding a scattered pile of near empty bento boxes spread out across a large quilt laid beneath an impressive cherry tree.  He felt so ashamed.  If Asami were to see him now, he was sure to be fired.  Keeping his eye on the two mischievous brats as they laughed just a few yards away, Akihito’s camera working non-stop to take pictures of Miwa in her new yukata, Suoh couldn’t help but nervously glance down at the jeans he was wearing.  He sighed, trying to ignore his situation.  How did it end up like this? he asked himself as he looked back to his charges, his mind going over that morning’s events. 

It had all started when Akihito decided that if he were to take pictures of Miwa with the cherry blossoms, then she needed a brand new yukata just for the occasion.  Of course, while shopping, the young girl took it upon herself to decide that if they were going cherry blossom viewing, that Suoh couldn’t wear his suit. 

“But you look so uncomfortable wearing that,” the little girl stated, her large chocolate eyes looking up at him with frightening innocence.  “Not to mention scary.  Why do you always have to look so scary, Uncle Suoh?”

He could hear Akihito fail to suppress a laugh.  How the hell do you answer a question like that?  Suoh couldn’t understand it, but for some reason the child had taken a liking to him.  She had taken a liking to all her “big brothers” and “uncles” that were now part of her extended “family”.  But for reasons he could not fathom, reasons that he knew should frighten him, Miwa liked him the most out of all of Asami’s guards. 

The rest of the conversation was a blur now, fading into an uncomfortable memory.  The girl could manipulate better than Asami could any given day and she didn’t know she was doing it.  Truly frightening, Suoh shuddered.  In the end, he had given in to the girl’s request and ended up buying his current outfit of jeans, a t-shirt, and a light-weight jacket.  The jacket, of course, hid the gun he was carrying. 

Despite his discomfort, he continued to watch the two as they continued with their impromptu photo session.  And he had to admit, the girl looked absolutely adorable in her pale pink yukata decorated in a large cherry blossom print, her hair done up in pink ribbons and now spangled with fallen cherry blossoms. 

I want my suit

If anyone didn’t know him, they would say the huge, unfriendly blonde was sulking.

He sighed again.  There was nothing he could do about it at the moment.  And brooding over the problem wasn’t going to fix it.  Besides, Miwa was having fun.  And this was the first time in months he had seen an honest smile cross the Brat’s face.  Surely Asami-sama would forgive him this one lapse in decorum for that.  Though he hated to admit it, it had been a little boring the past two months what with not having to chase Akihito all over Tokyo.  And he sure as hell would never admit having taken a small liking to the boy.  It wasn’t like he was doing this for the photographer anyway.  Miwa was the one that had asked.  He was only humoring Asami-sama’s little sister.  Besides, the boss would be happy to see the Brat taking pictures again… At least that’s what he kept telling himself.  With any luck, Asami would never see him looking like this.  Yeah… he thought… with any luck

“I wouldn’t have believed it, if I hadn’t seen it for myself,” a familiar voice, tinged with amusement, sounded from behind. 

Startled, Suoh began scrambling for a way to stand up without upsetting the various bento boxes laid out in front of him.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Chapter Text

Asami stared in disbelief at the message displayed on his cell phone.  Shaking his head in amusement, he pushed the icon to open the attached picture.  A brief laugh escaped his lips, startling Kirishima where he sat in the driver’s seat of the limo. 

“Asami-sama?” the other man questioned.

“Change of plans, Kirishima,” Asami said from the back of the car.  “We’re going on a hanami.  But first we need to change our clothes.”

“Sir?”

“Drop me off at the penthouse.  Then go change into something casual,” Asami ordered without explanation.

“Sir?” Kirishima asked again, completely bewildered.

“I didn’t stutter, Kirishima.  What did you not understand?”

“Nothing, Asami-sama.  I understand.”

“Good.  Meet me back here in half an hour.”

“Yes, Asami-sama.”

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~ 

It wasn’t long before Asami was walking through the park, a disgruntled and casual Kirishima in tow carrying several freshly made bento.

Akihito was easy to find, his shock of what was now died ash-blonde hair kneeling on the fresh green grass, his camera raised to his eye and a true smile on his face for the first time in months.  Asami’s eyes followed to where the viewfinder was pointed to see Miwa in her new yukata, hair and its ribbons dancing around her as she chased the cherry blossom petals caught in the breeze.  He could hear her giggling in delight.

To his left sat an obviously uncomfortable Suoh, warily watching his charges.  Asami knew there were others of his men scattered through the park in plain clothes as well, so he had no need to worry.  In fact, he thought, the hanami was a good idea.  He would have to discover who had suggested it and thank them for bringing his lover out of his depressed shell.

“I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself,” he said.  He chuckled in amusement at Suoh’s discomfort as the man tried to rise without knocking over what food was already laid out on atop the quilt.  Extending his hand, he halted the man’s movements and sat down on the quilt with him.

“So,” Asami began, enjoying his subordinate’s discomfort, “whose idea was this?”

“Miwa-chan’s, Asami-sama,” was Suoh’s reply.  “She wanted a picnic with the cherry blossoms.”

Asami nodded.  “And the camera?”

“Miwa-chan, sir.”

Asami’s eyes drifted back to the young girl in time to see her duck behind one of the weeping cherry trees, it’s branches partially obscuring her as she peeked mischievously from behind its sturdy trunk.  Akihito knelt low to the ground in front of her, took a few pictures, then suddenly stood endlessly taking pictures of the playful little girl from different angles as he crept around the tree in front of him.  It was so good to see him with a camera again.  So natural. 

His anger began to burn again as the image of a shattered camera rose unbidden in his mind.  Akihito had been so broken the past few months.  Even though Asami had tried, had put his best investigators on the case, there were no leads as to who was behind this current attack.  Yes, he considered it an attack.  It may not have been an attack on his organization directly, but it was still an act of war.  Whoever was behind this was terrorizing his lover because of who he had chosen to be with.  It was unacceptable.  If they would go after his lover, they would go after others that he loved as well.  He had to find them, and find them soon before they dragged the rest of his family into this.  Find them and make them pay.  Slowly and painfully.

He glanced back to Miwa and their eyes met.  She seemed to light up at the sight of him. 

“Ryu-nii!” she squealed, coming around from behind the tree and racing towards him.

Asami stood to meet her, scooping her small frame up into his arms as she, with the complete faith of childhood, launched herself at him, trusting him to catch her.

“Careful!” he chuckled, kissing her cherry blossom scented hair as he took a step forward to retrieve her fallen geta.

“But you always catch me, Ryu-nii,” she replied, curling into him, her small arms trying to reach around him.

Asami laughed again.  “Yes, I do,” he said as he set her down on the quilt.  “I brought more food,” he said as he gestured to the now open bento boxes on the blanket.  Suoh, he noticed, was now standing having positioned himself a little way from their chosen tree with an equally uncomfortable and casually dressed Kirishima.  Asami couldn’t help but chuckle at the sight.  “I thought that since I missed lunch with you, that we could have dinner here as well.”

“Yay!” Miwa clapped her hands in excitement.  “Look, Aki-nii!  Ryu-nii brought dinner!”

Akihito looked down at the food and smiled.  “Good.  I’m hungry,” he said as he sat down on the quilt and reached for one of the bento.  Asami, however, intercepted his hand and tugged, pulling the photographer off balance and almost into his lap.  His other hand snaked around Akihito’s waist, drawing him in for a brief kiss.

“It’s good to see you smile again,” the older man said as he helped Akihito regain his balance and sit next to him on the blanket.

“Asami!” Akihito hissed, indicating Miwa occupying the quilt with them.

“You’re mistaken if you think I’m going to hide the true nature of our relationship from her, Akihito.  She’s going to find out sooner or later anyway, so why fight it?”

“That’s not…” Akihito blushed, his words fading.  Asami couldn’t help but laugh at his young lover’s discomfort.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~ 

The sun began setting, its low, golden disc deepening the pink of the cherry blossoms that surrounded them.  Akihtio had long since given up fighting Asami’s advances and sat silently, holding Asami’s hand contemplating taking more pictures.

Miwa, however, interrupted his thoughts as the girl stood suddenly, walked the few feet over to where Suoh was standing and grabbed the guard’s hand.  “You haven’t played much today, Uncle Suoh,” she said with an innocent smile.  “I wanna go for a walk.  Will you come with me?” 

The guard glanced furtively over towards Asami, a panic-stricken look in his eyes.  Asami, amused by the guards more than obvious discomfort nodded, leaving the man helpless as Miwa had already started dragging him off through the park, her small hand engulfed in his.

When they were out of earshot, Akihito turned to Asami.  “How’s your mother?” he asked softly, unwilling to disturb the mood.

Asami sighed.  Akihito couldn’t believe it.  The man had actually sighed, then hesitated before answering.

“She’s dying.”

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Chapter Text

Akihito quietly kicked the door shut behind him trying not to wake the sleeping burden in his arms.  He smiled down at Miwa.  The day had completely exhausted her, negating any chance she had of surviving the car ride home awake. 

Asami, unfortunately, had work that he needed to finish.  He had put off much of what needed to be done that morning while visiting his mother in the hospital.  That same work had been shoved aside to join them in the park for dinner.  So when it came time for the exhausted Miwa to be brought home, Asami told her goodnight and promised Akihito to see him later, leaving the photographer to deal with the tired little girl himself. 

After tucking her into her bed, Asami had made sure the child had her own room once Akihito had discovered his secret family, Akihito tucked her treasured pink teddy bear under the covers with her.  Though the frequency of her nightmares had decreased over the months, their intensity had not.  With a final adjustment of the covers, the photographer left the child to her peaceful sleep. 

He left the door to Miwa’s room open just a crack in case and proceeded to walk down the hall to his workroom.  With a sigh he put his heavy camera bag down on his desk, though the weight was not so much physical as it was mental.  Feeling a pull he hadn’t felt in months, and only half-conscious of his actions, Akihito opened the bag, pulled the rolls of film out, gripping them tightly in his hand.  His feet, as if with a mind of their own, carried him over to his darkroom and through its door.  The familiar and comforting smell of developer and stop-bath greeted the photographer the instant he was through the door and for a moment he simply stood, inhaling deeply of the soothing, though acrid, air. 

His mind raced.  Confusion warred in his mind.  Too many things had happened today for him to remain settled.  Miwa’s request for him to take pictures of her with the cherry blossoms.  His first time holding a camera in months.  The joy of hearing the snap of its shutter.  Asami’s mother.  All this filled his mind, swirling in an unending eddy of confusion. 

Before his mind could register the action, he had scrubbed his developing trays of their crusty, dried chemicals and refilled them with new.  Knowing he would be unable to sleep, he succumbed to the lure of the familiar surroundings and turned off the light, plunging the room into complete, comforting, velvety darkness.

For a moment, a thrill ran down his spine.  He realized just how much he had missed this.  As his hands, confident with years of practice, began the developing process, he let his mind wander of the past few months.  His conversation with his former boss.  His juvi record.  The anger and depression of being fired.  Whoever was responsible for this, they had taken everything from him.

Or had they?

They had taken his job, his credibility.  But had they really taken everything?  Was this mysterious person really the reason he hadn’t taken a picture or set foot in his darkroom in months?  Were they the reason his favorite camera, the one gifted to him by his father, lay shattered in a box on top of his bookshelf just outside his darkroom door?

No matter how hard he tried, or which way he looked at it, he could only come up with one answer.

This was his fault.

Yes, they had fired him and taken his job from him.  But he was the one that had stopped taking pictures.  He was the one that gave up his passion and his dream. 

He had done this to himself, and now was the time to fix things.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Asami came home to find all the lights in the apartment still on.

“I’m home,” he called out, waiting for his young lover’s reply.

“Akihito?” he called out again, a hint of worry tingeing his voice when the boy didn’t reply.

Cautiously, without a sound, Asami made his way through the apartment, checking for the boy.  The door to the master bedroom stood open, its light out and its bed unoccupied.  His concern grew.  He knew Akihito was home.  Suoh, having seen both Akihito and Miwa home, confirmed as much and had assured Asami that neither had left the apartment.

Peeking into Miwa’s room, he found the small girl tucked happily into her covers, her arms wrapped lightly around her precious bear.  Asami paused briefly in his search to find his absent lover to kneel down and, brushing a stray lock of hair from the girl’s face, kissed the top of her head.  He still needed to tell her.

Standing up he pushed those thoughts aside.  They were something he would also need to discuss with Akihito.  If he could find the boy.  Quietly shutting the door on Miwa’s bedroom, Asami softly tread down the hallway to the only other place the boy could be, worry quickly replaced with hope.

The door to Akihito’s workroom stood open, its light spilling into the hallway.  The room, though, was empty.  Asami leaned against the door frame considering where his lover could have disappeared to.  He wasn’t in the kitchen, or the bedroom.  He wasn’t with Miwa.  He honestly had thought he would find Akihito in here.  After all, Miwa had insisted the boy take his camera with them today.

His eyes scanned the empty room, its shelves neatly arranged with binders full of photos and cameras.  Given the current state of things, one could hardly believe that a mere two months ago the room was a complete, ransacked mess.  Turning to go, his eyes fell on the small red light next to the door to the darkroom.  It was lit, indicating the room was occupied and in use.

A genuine smile graced his lips as he turned to leave the room.

“Good boy.”

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Akihito stared at his finished work, his mind finally clear.  There had been far too many pictures for him to print all in one night, so he had printed the few he thought were the best.  From those there were two that he particularly favored.  One was Miwa peeking from behind the cherry tree, mischief shining in her dark eyes.  The other he hadn’t intended to take.  But when the opportunity had presented itself, his finger pressed the shutter reflexively.

The picture was taken the moment Asami swept Miwa up, his strong arms encircling her small frame.  His golden eyes were closed and his head turned down as he placed a gentle kiss on top the girl’s cherry blossom sprinkled hair.  Rarely had he ever seen Asami so completely unguarded.  The tenderness of the moment demanded to be preserved resulting in his unconsciously taking the picture. 

Akihito sighed.  That was another thing that needed fixing.  But would Asami agree to his idea?

As the photographer left his workroom, he noticed that the lights in the house had all been turned off.  Briefly wondering when Asami had returned home, Akihito checked on Miwa, a sad smile gracing his lips as he thought of what lay ahead of the child.  The girl’s world had already been turned upside-down.  Twice.  And now it would be upended a third.  One of us will have to tell her, he thought.  He sighed at the thought.  It would probably have to be him.  He couldn’t see Asami handling the situation well.  Death was so much a part of the older man’s world.  Akihito didn’t think he would be able to tell her properly.  Though the child probably already knew.

Reaching their bedroom, Akihito noticed the table lamp was still on though Asami was fast asleep.  Worry lines creased the older man’s face.  Things must be really troubling him if he shows this much in his sleep.

Not wanting to wake him, Akihito set the picture of Asami and Miwa on his lover’s nightstand and entered the bathroom.  After a quick shower, the young man was dressed and ready for bed.  Turning out the light, Akihito gently crawled into the covers and curled up against Asami’s side.  The older man, sensing the presence of his lover even in his sleep, curled his arms around the smaller man, pulling him closer.  In moments, exhaustion claimed the young photographer as he fell into a deep, restful sleep.  The first restful sleep he had found in months.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Chapter Text

Asami woke to the pleasant feeling of his lover draped across him, snuggling close to his warmth.  Shifting as carefully as possible so as not to wake the sleeping boy, Asami reached over to the nightstand for his phone.  He wanted to turn it off and make sure they were not disturbed for the next few hours.  After all, Akihito had a few things to answer for. 

Having finished his brief text messages to Kirishima and one to Suoh to come pick up Miwa for a small outing, Asami laid his phone back down on the nightstand only to have his fingers brush across the picture Akihito had left there the night before.  A genuine smile graced his lips as he looked at the picture of him and Miwa.  He had to admit, the boy had an eye for photography.  He would have to find a special place for the photo.  Maybe he could get a nice frame for it and put it on his desk in his office.  He chuckled a little at the thought.  Him, the great Asami Ryuichi, a family man with pictures of family on his desk at work.  Who would have thought?

But those thoughts would have to wait for later.  He still had things to discuss with his lover.  Gently shifting the boy off of him, Asami leaned over and dug in the drawer of his nightstand, extracting a simple, but very effective leather band.  A wicked grin lit his eyes as he turned his attention to his still sleeping lover.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Akihito woke with a start.  He’d had a late night, and was surprised to be awake so early.  Something was wrong, but he couldn’t put his mind to what it could possibly be.  That is, until he tried to sit up.  He found his hands bound to the headboard with one of Asami’s favorite pair of cuffs.  It wasn’t the cuffs, however, that disturbed him.  His heart rate was elevated.  His breathing was labored, coming suddenly in shallow gasps.  And he was uncovered and completely naked. 

“Nice view,” he heard Asami’s voice from beside him as the older man’s hand ran across his belly and down to his straining and, to his dismay, bound erection. 

 “What the fuck!” Akihito gasped, bucking into Asami’s skilled hand.

 “I remember telling you the other night, that if you ever called me by my surname again, that I would get out your favorite cock ring and we would play,” Asami whispered seductively in Akihito’s ear.

“When did I… Ah!”

 “Yesterday,” Asami continued to whisper, taking Akihito’s earlobe between his teeth and pulling.  “At dinner, in the park.”  His hand kept its relentless hold on Akihito’s member, stroking it, caressing it.

Akihito’s mind struggled to maintain its hold on what little coherency he had left as he sifted through memories of yesterday’s conversation underneath the cherry tree.  “I don’t remember,” he moaned.

“Well,” Asami’s fingers abandoned Akihito’s painful erection only to travel further south towards his neglected entrance.  “Regardless of that, I’m sure that after today, you won’t make the same mistake again,” the man murmured against his lover’s chest and his fingers, having found their prize, plunged inside.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Exhausted, Akihito lay against Asami as he had earlier that morning, his hand lazily stroking the older man’s chest. 

“I want us to adopt Miwa,” he said suddenly, breaking the silence between them. 

Asami smiled and kissed the top of his head.  “I’ve already filed the paperwork,” he said with an amused chuckle. 

 “Bastard!” the boy hissed.  “When were you planning on telling me this?  And when the hell did you have the time to do this anyway?”

 “I knew you would agree, so when Mother gave me the paperwork yesterday morning, I didn’t hesitate to file it.  I was just waiting for the right time to tell you.  Don’t worry.  It had your signature on it as well.”

 “You forged my signature?!” Akihito sat up indignantly.  “Wait…!  Inoue-san gave you the paperwork?”

Asami nodded solemnly.  “She had it already filled out, signed and sealed.  All that was needed was our signatures.”

“Then she’s known…” Akihito’s voice dropped, not wanting to think about how long Asami’s mother may have been sick and neither of them knew about it. 

“It would seem so,” Asami agreed.  “It seems you’ve been busy,” he added, reaching over to the photo occupying his nightstand as a way of changing the subject. 

 “Hmmm?… yeah… about that…” Akihito began hesitantly, looking down at his knees.

 “What is it?” Asami asked, concern lacing his voice. 

 “I know this may not be the best time… But I did a lot of thinking last night…” the young photographer kept on hesitantly, unable to come to the point.

 “Thinking?” Asami prodded gently.

Akihito nodded, a slight flush tingeing his face.  Whatever it was that was troubling the boy was obviously more than he could voice.  So he sat there, staring at his knees, clearly wanting to say something but having difficulty saying what it was.

 “Thinking about what?” Asami prompted again.  “Is this about Miwa?  Or is it something else?”

Akihito nodded again.  “I…” he began again, clearing his throat and then raising his eyes to meet Asami’s.  “I need your help.”  There, he’d said it.  And it was probably the most difficult thing he had done in his life. 

Asami simply stared at his lover, his mind processing the depth of what had just happened.  Akihito never asked for help.  No, he always chose to face his problems himself. It was one of his most endearing traits, though frustrating as it was at times.  Yet at the same time, Asami couldn’t help but love his partner even more for the request.  Gently reaching out to his boy, he pulled him against him, wrapping his arms around him comfortingly and kissed the top of his head.  He would give the world to Akihito.  The boy only had but to ask.  And he finally had.

“Anything,” Asami agreed without even hearing the request, his lips still buried in Akihito’s hair.

“I want to buy a studio,” the photographer said firmly, his hesitation from earlier having vanished. 

Again, all Asami could do was stare at his lover at a complete loss for words.  Had he just heard right?  Was Akihito saying what he thought?  Was the boy going to give up hunting stories with his camera and settle in to a studio job?  Laughter interrupted his thoughts.  It was a glorious sound.  One he hadn’t heard in months. 

“If I had known this would be your reaction, I would have asked sooner.  I never thought I would see the day… The great Asami Ryuichi… speechless!” Akihito’s laughter continued.

Asami opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out.  The only sound heard in the bedroom was the sound of Akihito’s laughing.  “What about your job?” the older man finally managed to ask.  “Not that I mind your change in profession.”

“Yes,” Akihito sat up and stopped laughing enough to answer.  “It’s been two months, Ryuichi,” he sighed.  “Who ever the hell did this knew exactly how to cover their tracks.  Even you haven’t found anything.  And we both know that even if I got my old job back, it would never be the same.  Besides,” he hesitated once again.  “One of us has to be legitimately employed during the day so that we can take care of Miwa.”

Asami laughed.  “I’ll have someone…”

 “No,” Akihito interrupted.  “I want to do this… I… need to do this… myself.”

“I understand,” Asami nodded.  “Let me know when you have found a place.”  He knew how painful it had to be for Akihito to ask him for the money.  Yet at the same time, it spoke volumes as to how close they had grown over the past few years.  If anything proved how much they boy trusted him, it was this request.

“Thank you!” the photographer exclaimed as he launched himself at his lover, throwing his arms around the older man.  Asami couldn’t help but smile at the gesture, wrapping his arms around his young lover in return. 

 “You’re welcome,” Asami said, kissing the top of the boy’s head again. 

“Mmmmmm,” Akihito nuzzled at Asami’s neck.  “Now tell me, just when is Suoh returning with Miwa?” he asked as he bit into the sensitive flesh of Asami’s neck where it met his shoulder. 

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Two weeks later…

The crowd of people had long since dispersed.  Only three lonely figures remained, standing in front of a family tombstone dressed perfectly in white kimonos.  Miwa, wrapped in Asami’s arms, cried silently.  Akihito stood with his hand resting on the back of Asami’s waist, his head against the man’s shoulder.  No one spoke.  The only sound heard, other than silence, was the sound of the little girl’s tears.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Chapter Text

“Hey, Takato.  It’s good to hear from you, but I can’t talk right now,” Akihito balanced his cell phone between his shoulder and ear as he dug through his dresser for a clean pair of underwear.  “I’m so sorry, but we’re running late for Miwa’s first day at her new school.”  And it’s all that bastard’s fault, Akihito thought to himself.  He can be so damn persistent.  He knew that we had something important this morning.  “I don’t have time to explain, sorry,” he apologized again as he rushed around the room, trying to keep his cell phone wedged tightly while he pulled up his jeans.  “But I’ll make it up to you.  How about we meet for lunch.  We can talk then.  And bring Kou, too.  I need to talk to him about something.”  Now where was that shirt?  He wanted to wear something a little nicer than his usual t-shirt since they were supposed to meet Miwa’s homeroom teacher when they dropped her off.  Even he knew enough that he needed to look at least a little more dressy than normal.  “Yeah… I’ll see you then.”  He quickly hung up, pulled on his dress shirt, and buttoned it, leaving the top two buttons undone.  He’d be damned if he was going to wear a tie.  It would only give the bastard ideas.

Taking one last look at himself in the mirror to make sure he presented an appropriate appearance, he ran his hands through his hair in satisfaction.  His jeans hugged him in just the right way, looking good, but not too suggestive.  The emerald shirt he pulled out of the closet flattered his hazel eyes, bringing out their highlights.  He sighed.  So much had happened in such little time. 

Time!  Shit!  Rushing from the room, he found Asami and Miwa waiting for him in the living room, both already with their coats on.  Asami had the photographer’s coat in his hand and other held the young girl’s new book bag. 

“We don’t have all day, Akihito,” the older man said dryly as he held out Akihito’s coat.  The photographer glared at him in response. 

“It’s your own damn fault that I can’t exactly walk straight this morning, bastard,” Akihito mumbled under his breath as he took his coat from Asami.  The older man only chuckled, giving no response to the photographer’s ire.  Taking Miwa’s hand, Asami headed for the door, leaving his young lover to follow or be left behind.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Akihito stared at the beer in front of him while waiting on Kou and Takato to join him, his thoughts too full to even care that it was going flat.  Miwa was successfully delivered to her first day of school and Asami had gone to work early.  That left him to his thoughts while he waited for his friends to arrive. 

Sighing, he turned the beer in his hands, not really seeing it.  His mind was too full of other things.  He couldn’t keep his thoughts away from Miwa in her brand new uniform, its pleated skirt, white wide-collared dress shirt, and her hair done up in ribbons courtesy of Asami.  Who knew the bastard knew how to braid the girl’s hair, let alone do it up in ribbons like that.  Just the idea of it was so incongruous with the older man’s fearsome crime lord image that it was laughable.  Yet he couldn’t bring himself to remotely poke any fun at the older man for this unusual talent.  Miwa had been through so much in her short life.  And, with the loss of her mother, she was now theirs to take care of.  A small laugh escaped Akihito as he raised the beer for a sip.  They were a real family now.  Not just in idea, but on paper as well.  Mom was complaining about wanting grandchildren… And yet she would never meet Miwa.  Not if his father didn’t come around to at least accepting his relationship with Asami.  Why did the man have to be so damn unreasonable?

“Man… this looks more serious than I thought,” he heard Takato’s voice from the other side of the table.  “What’s got you so troubled you didn’t even notice the two of us sit down, Akihito?”

Akihito raised his eyes from his drink to see that his two best friends had, in fact, seated themselves across from him at the table while he was mulling over his troubles.  “Hey, guys,” Akihito smiled when he saw them. 

“Well at least he can still smile honestly,” Kou said with a laugh. 

“Yeah,” Akihito replied.  “I can still smile.  I’ve just got a lot on my mind lately.  And I don’t even know where to begin.”

Both friends nodded.  “Why don’t you start with why you have Miwa attending a new school,” Takato prompted.  “The transfer seems to be a bit sudden.  And talking about her always makes you feel better.  I swear every time you tell us a story about her, it’s like you’re some kind of mother hen clucking all pridefully over her favorite chick.”

Akihito almost spit out his beer as he choked.  “You really couldn’t be closer to the truth, Takato,” he replied from behind his napkin.  “Actually, that’s why I haven’t been in touch recently.  Ryuichi and I… sort of… adopted her…” his voice faded as he hid behind his beer, taking another gulp to hide reluctance tell them such an important detail. 

It was still difficult to talk about.  Though he only knew her for less than a year, he had grown very fond of Inoue-san.  Seeing what the loss of her did to Asami broke the photographer’s heart.  Yes, the man remained ‘strong’ in the face of everyone.  But Akihito knew there were nights that the man couldn’t sleep and would find his way his office at night, a glass of whiskey in one hand and a photograph of Inoue in the other.  Akihito had followed him one night with the intention of confronting the man, of demanding that he quit his stubbornness and allow him to help with the grieving.  But he wasn’t prepared for what he saw as he peeked through the small opening left in the doorway when Asami hadn’t closed the door completely. 

Akihito still couldn’t tell you what possessed him to look into the room before entering, but he was glad he chose to.  Asami looked utterly grief stricken.  The whiskey was sitting on the desk, unattended and completely un-Asami-like.  Yet it was the look on Asami’s face that made him hesitate.  It was a look of complete and raw emotion.  The mask was gone.  Shattered.  In its place grief and loss.  So, instead of barging in and demanding Asami quit grieving on his own, Akihito quietly pushed the door open, tread softly across the room, and wrapped his arms around his devastated lover’s shoulders as he silently took up residence in the older man’s lap and buried his face in his neck.  Asami’s arms then wrapped around Akihtio’s waist, trapping him inside their trembling, grief-stricken warmth.  They sat there the rest of the night, neither saying a word to the other.  But words weren’t really needed.

“You what?!” Kou exclaimed a little too loudly. 

“We adopted her.”

“That’s a little sudden, don’t you think?” Takato asked, though he only asked out of concern for his friend and nothing else.

“Yeah, we know.  But her mother passed earlier this month.  It was her last wish that the two of us take in Miwa as our own instead of her staying in the system and going to home where she didn’t know anyone,” Akihito explained plainly. 

“Damn… I’m sorry, Akihito.  I didn’t mean…” Takato said softly.

“I know,” the young man reassured his friend.  “I know.  But it’s been a lot to deal with, so I haven’t really been in any frame of mind to call anyone.”

“We understand.  Is there anything you need?” Kou asked.  “Maybe a babysitter or something?  It can’t be easy for you two suddenly with a kid in the house.”

“Nah… we’ve got it covered.  But thanks,” Akihito shook his head.

“You sure?  I mean… seriously… as many times as I’ve seen you limping?” Kou teased with a suggestive shrug.  “This has got to put a serious block in your night life.”

Akihito blushed and kicked his friend beneath the table.  “No.  Thank you,” he hissed.  “And for your information, my ass is enjoying the break.  So don’t you dare suggest otherwise to Ryuichi.  Or I’ll kill you.”

Several beers later, after catching up on what they had all missed in each other’s lives over the past few weeks, the conversation finally turned around to what originally brought them together.

“We’ve both been receiving strange phone calls,” Takato finally broached the subject that had originally brought them together for lunch.

“You mean like threatening calls?” Akihito asked, suddenly very aware that neither of his friends were aware of just what kind of world he truly lived in.

“No, not threatening,” Takato continued.  “But odd just the same.”

“What do you mean ‘odd’?” the photographer asked. 

“It’s… hard to explain,” Takato replied reluctantly.

Akihito had a sinking feeling in his gut as he watched Takato take a drink of his beer, his eyes downcast.  Nothing good was going to come from this conversation.  He knew it without having to listen to Takato’s story.  Still, a perverse sense of curiosity drove him to ask.  That and he was concerned for his friends’ safety.  Regardless of his recent acceptance of his situation, they still hadn’t been able to find who he had pissed off enough to ruin his career.  “Just tell it plainly.  There’s no real other way to do it, is there?” he pressed.

Takato nodded, took another swig of his drink to steady himself, and began his story.  “Recently, both of us, have been getting these anonymous calls.  The guy on the other end of the phone sounds familiar, but neither one of us can place his voice.  But that’s not what’s disturbing.  It’s what he’s saying…” his voice faded and he picked up his beer again.  Akihito waited patiently for his friend to continue.  It would only make things more awkward if he pressed the issue now that Takato had started.

“He’s saying you’re the one in danger, Akihito,” Takato looked his friend square in the eye. 

“What?!” Akihito choked.  “How am I in danger?”  Akihito’s heart sank even lower.  Shit!  How much further was this mysterious prick of an asshole going to mess with me? 

Takato looked at him, worry evident in his eyes. 

“Just say it!  Damnit!  How the hell am I in danger?”

“It’s Asami-san.  He says that Asami-san is bad news.  He’s rather vague about it.  But he keeps insisting that we need to get you away from him.”

Akihito laughed nervously.  “Really now.  Do you really think that I would marry someone that I didn’t trust?  Or that I thought was bad?”  He picked up his beer to try and cover his unease.

“No, that’s what we thought.  So we ignored this guy at first.  But he was so persistent…”

“So I did a search,” Kou picked up where Takato dropped off. 

Akihito’s eyes widened.  He was right.  Nothing good was going to come of this conversation.  “And what did you find?” he asked deceptively calm.

“Well, it’s just like Asami-san says.  He’s a businessman.  At least, that’s what everyone sees.  But there’s more to him, isn’t there?  There’s more than what we can see on the surface.  I couldn’t find anything definite, but there are rumors, well-hidden rumors, but rumors just the same.  If there’s any truth to even a part of what I found… Then seriously, Akihito…”  Kou hesitated.  “Do you really know who it was that you married?”

“Yes,” Akihito replied firmly.  “I married a businessman.  A businessman in charge of several popular nightclubs and a few other corporate businesses.”

“Akihito…” Takato said softly.  “If what we found was even remotely true… he’s dirty.  As dirty as they come.”

The photographer shook his head.  “He’s a businessman,” the young man reiterated without blinking, then looked at his watch.  It was almost time to pick Miwa up from school. 

“Akihito…” Kou began.

“I’m not having this discussion with you,” Akihito interrupted.  “Not here.  Not now.  I’m sorry.  But you’ll just have to trust me on this.  I’m fine.  And there is no danger.  Now excuse me, but I have to go pick up Miwa.”  Finishing the last of his beer, he got up from the table to leave.

“Don’t think this conversation is over, Akihito,” Takato called after him.  “We’ll come by later tonight, so let Asami-san know we’re coming to visit.”

All Akihito could do was nod. 

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Chapter Text

Akihito looked at his watch for the countless time that night, wondering what was taking Kou and Takato so long in arriving.  No, they hadn’t said exactly when they were going to come visit, but it was getting late and it weren’t for their earlier conversation, he wouldn’t be worried.  But as it was, with this no-name bastard terrorizing not only him now, but his friends as well, he couldn’t help but be concerned. 

A knock at the front door brought him out of his thoughts, only to disappoint him.  What he found on the other side of the door wasn’t his two friends; instead it was a messenger with an envelope for him.  He thanked the boy, and walked back inside the apartment, opening the envelope as he did.

Inside, he found a stack of photos eerily similar to the first stack that had been present with his juvi record that his publisher had given him.  “No…” he breathed as he sifted through the glossy prints.  There were pictures of him and Miwa as well as Asami from their hanami, along with some shots of them shopping with Miwa for her new school uniform.  There were even pictures of his lunch that afternoon with Kou and Takato.  The truly disturbing ones, however, were of Miwa at her school, playing on the playground or sitting in her desk near the window in the classroom.  “The bastard’s been stalking us!”  The picture that drew his attention the most, however, was a picture of the three of them, dressed in white kimonos, standing in front of Inoue-san’s grave.  Attached to it was a note.

What a lovely “family” portrait.  You know what he is.  What he does.  And yet you still choose him.  You let him steal your dreams.  Pretend all you want.  Your new “family” is but the shadow of reality.  Nothing lasts forever.

Akihito went pale, the pictures slipping from his hands onto the couch in front of him.  Just the thought that the bastard doing this had been so close to Miwa, close enough to know what classroom she was in at school when he wasn’t there to protect her, made him sick to his stomach.  And yet he was powerless to do anything.  Looking over his shoulder at his and Asami’s bedroom, he could hear the sound of running water from their bathroom.  It wouldn’t be long before Asami exited the shower.  He would show him the pictures then.  Asami would know what to do to keep Miwa safe from this lunatic.  Too much had happened in her life recently and Akihito would be damned if he would let something happen to her again.

He was grateful the older man was home early tonight.  He found it comforting, in fact.  Though there was a sense of irony in the domesticity of the entire thing.  Both their schedules had shifted since Miwa began living with them.  Akihito couldn’t help but laugh at that despite the situation.  If you had asked him a year ago where he would be now… married to the most powerful crime lord in Japan, and probably Asia, and playing mother to an orphaned little girl wouldn’t have even made the list.  Still, there were no regrets.  It may be unconventional, but this was his family.  And now someone was threatening it.

But who would do such a thing?  Who hated him enough to be doing this?

The answer escaped him, refused to remain still enough for him to grasp.  To many things were familiar about the situation, especially the photographs.  Only he couldn’t grasp what those things were.

He picked up the pictures and sifted through them again, hoping they would reveal some secret they hadn’t on first examination. 

“No!” he gasped, throwing the photos onto the coffee table. 

Stalking into the bedroom, Akihito forcefully opened the drawer of Asami’s nightstand, snatched the cursed folder from inside it, and slammed the drawer shut, all the while oblivious to his lover, half-dressed and watching him from the closet.  “Shit!” he cursed under his breath he stalked back out of the room.

Hurriedly he all but ran to his workroom and snatched a binder from among the shelves of scrapbooks.  As he returned to the living room, he ignored Asami’s presence in the threshold of their bedroom.  Still cursing under his breath, he threw the scrapbook down on the coffee table next to the newly delivered pictures as he sat down on the couch and opened the file. 

He wasn’t interested in his record.  The pictures were what he wanted.  Pulling them out of the file, he tossed the unwanted folder on the couch next to him and turned his attention to the mess of pictures on the table in front of him, adding the older ones to the pile.  Haphazardly he spread them out, covering the table with them, the picture of the funeral in the center of the mess.  Kneeling on the floor between the couch and the table in order to get a better reach across the surface of the table, he opened the binder randomly and began flipping through its pages. 

By this time Asami had quietly joined his lover, sitting down on the couch next to the kneeling boy and watching his frantic hands as they passed over the pictures on the table, picking up one and examining it then placing it back only to grab another.  The scrapbook, he noticed, wasn’t one of Akihito’s.  It looked to be an older family album, its pages filled with pictures of a younger Akihito growing up.  What does that have to do with this? he asked himself as he picked up the note that was mixed in with the photos.  He frowned as he read its words.  It hadn’t escaped him that there were new pictures he hadn’t seen before spread amongst the ones he watched Akihito pull from the file.  He was about to ask when had they arrived when Akihito’s hands stilled, his young frame trembling with violent emotion.  Anger or hurt, Asami couldn’t tell. 

“No…” the young man gasped so faintly it was almost a breath.  “No… no, NO, NO!” his voice rose in pitch and intensity with each monosyllable, the final word breaking from his throat in a strangled sob.

Asami watched as Akihito’s shoulders slumped in defeat and the boy wilted, laying his head atop the pile of scattered photos, and wept.  He reached toward the now broken photographer, his anger at the situation rekindled to a new height.  He had just gotten the boy’s fight back.  What was it about an old family scrapbook that could unhinge the boy like this?  As soon as his fingers reached Akihito’s shoulders, the young man tensed.  His sobs quieted.

“No,” Akihito growled, sitting up.

The intensity in that one word stunned Asami as well as the burning hate and betrayal he now saw reflected in the boy’s eyes.  It was a darkness he had prayed never to see.  A darkness he had fought against for years wanting to protect his innocent lover from the world he now lived in.  Asami’s heart sank looking at the boy, no… the young man, in front of him.  He had once said they would descend together, though at the time even he hadn’t realized the depths of his feelings for Akihito.  But now, gazing into those darkened eyes he knew the inevitable had come.  Akihito’s descent had come to an end.  His fall was complete.  All Asami could do now was take his partner’s hand, grasp it tightly, and guide him, help keep him from wandering into those deep, dark chasms that even he feared.  He would have to do it for the young man’s sanity, for their sanity.

“I need another favor,” Akihito whispered coldly through his streaming tears. 

“Anything,” Asami replied, brushing the tears from his lover’s eyes, though honestly he was a little fearful of the request that lay behind those hurt and smoldering eyes.

Akihito nodded in response.  “Good,” he continued softly, his voice cold and controlled, murderous despite his tears that refused to cease.  “I know who took the pictures.”

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

 

Chapter Text

Takaba Toshiaki groaned, his head hanging heavily as consciousness returned.  Attempting to raise his hand to rub his eyes and clear the last vestiges of darkness, he was mildly surprised to find them bound to the chair he was seated in.

His eyes struggled to focus on their unfamiliar surroundings.  From what he could see and hear, he guessed he was in an old, possibly “abandoned” warehouse down by the docks.  In the dim light, he smiled in victory when he saw the large, hulking blonde guard he had first seen the night he discovered his son’s “marriage” to that bastard Asami.  He couldn’t help but laugh.

He had expected as much when he learned the true nature of his son’s “husband.”  He shifted as well as he could in his chair, taking stock of his body.  Remarkably, he was completely unharmed, that is, aside from a drugged head.  This had to be Asami’s fault.  Who else had reason to detain him like this?  Of course, that bastard was the reason he had gone to such great lengths to remind his wayward son of the damage this sort of path could lead to should he remain with that man. 

“You know… You’re bringing me here like this,” he nodded in the general direction of the chair and his surroundings, “it only proves how crooked your boss really is.  When my son finds out about this…” his voice dropped, leaving the threat unfinished.

Suoh stood silently.  He had nothing to say to this man.  Besides, his orders were to “stand there and look intimidating,” nothing else.  So he refused to answer the man in front of him.  Instead, he opted for silently staring at the man, murder in his eyes.  It wasn’t hard for him to pretend to hate this man.  Not after what he had done.  No, instead, he would focus all that hatred into his gaze and pray that the man would feel it to his very soul.

Toshiaki averted his eyes, his bravado starting to fail him.

“You bastard!” he called out to Asami.  “Why the hell can’t you just meet me face to face like a real man?  No, you’re a fucking coward!  First you steal my son.  You force him into that disgusting parody of a family.  Then you have the gall to send your minion for me.  You drug me, kidnap me, and what?  You don’t even have the courage to face me?  I’m tied to a fucking chair!  You fucking coward!  Show yourself!”  His voice rose with each taunt as his anger and fear began to war with each other.  “You destroyed my son!  He was so pure…  My boy…  Now look at him!  Look at what you have you done to him you fucking monster!  He’s nothing more than a mobster’s fucking whore!”

“Ryuichi isn’t here,” a calm voice spoke from the shadows.  “So you can stop wasting your breath.”

“No…” Toshiaki gasped, his eyes moving towards the voice in the shadows.  “No… It can’t…  You…” he stuttered, unable to voice the confusion in his mind.

His eyes widened as he watched his son emerge from the shadows next to the blonde guard.  His boy was dressed in a dark, finely tailored suit, a deep, blood red shirt underneath the jacket, its top two buttons undone.  He opened his mouth to plead with Akihito.  To thank the boy for coming to his rescue.  To berate that bastard Asami again and rejoice that his son had finally seen with his own eyes just what his partner was capable of.  But all that died on his lips the moment his eyes met his son’s.

Fear replaced confusion.  True fear.

Before him stood a man he hardly knew.  A man he had never seen before.  This was not his son.  His son would never look at him with such cold, murderous eyes.  He had to say something.  He had to bring his boy back to him before it was too late. 

“Son…” he began.

“NO!” Akihito hissed, interrupting him.  “You lost the right to call me that the moment you threatened my family.”

Toshiaki was taken aback by the sheer vehemence and hatred that dripped from those words.  “I was only thinking of you.  Of your well-being,” he said weakly.

“My well-being?” Akihito laughed.  It was a disturbing sound, cold and devoid of humor.  “How the hell is destroying my reputation and threatening my family looking out for my well-being?”

“You’ve walked this path before.  When you were younger, don’t you remember?  I watched you walk it.  I watched as it almost destroyed you.  I couldn’t sit back and watch it happen again.  When I found out what that man is…”

“I know what he is,” Akihito said calmly, firmly.  “It’s how we met… If you can understand the meaning of that.”

Toshiaki gasped.  The meaning was completely clear to him. 

Akihito smirked at the sight.  “It all began when I crossed him.  Took pictures of something I wasn’t supposed to… But I’m guessing his business isn’t the real reason you’re upset, is it?”

His father looked away.

“Yes,” Akihito continued softly.  “That’s what I thought.”  He lifted his father’s face, forcing the man to look into his eyes.  Toshiaki tried to look away, to turn his face, but Akihito only gripped his chin harder, his fingers digging bruisingly into the man’s jaw.  “Admit it.  You’re disgusted by just the thought of our relationship.  Of what that means.”

Toshiaki looked his son in the eyes.  “It’s unnatural.  Two men were never meant to be together like that.”

Akihito’s grip grew tighter as his anger flared, his eyes blazing.  He was too angry to speak. 

“He’s a thug, Akihito,” the older Takaba spoke as best he could in his son’s vice-like grip, his eyes pleading for mercy.  “He only knows how to threaten and hurt people.” 

“And yet here you sit,” Akihtio spat as he roughly released his father’s face.  “You sit here, like this, because you hurt me.  Because you threatened my family.  You, my father, are here because you have done the one thing Ryuichi has never done, and never will.”

The elder Takaba looked up at his son’s impassive face.  Silence lay thick over the room.  Slowly, as if to kiss his father’s cheek, Akihito leaned forward. 

“You betrayed me,” he whispered in his father’s ear.

Tears formed in the corners of Toshiaki’s eyes.  Tears of understanding, grief and loss.  He knew then, beyond any doubt, who was responsible for his son’s transformation. 

Akihito took a step back, looking his father in the eye again.  His eyes said everything that needed to be said.  They spoke of hurt and betrayal, but also of determination and resolve. 

“You are no longer my father,” the young man said coldly as he turned his back and returned to the shadows he had stepped out of earlier.  “I am no longer your son.” 

Before he was completely lost to Toshiaki’s vision, Akihito stopped, looking over his shoulder.  “Before I go, I will say this one last thing.  The only reason I am here and not Ruyichi is because I asked to be the one to handle this.  He wanted to shoot you and not ask any questions.” Akihito laughed lightly.  “He can be quite obsessive when it comes to protecting what is his.  But I couldn’t do that to Mom.  However, I will promise you this,” he continued as he turned around, his eyes burning with disappointment and betrayal.  “If you ever come near me, my husband, or our daughter again…” he took a step forward, advancing menacingly on his father.  “If you even think about harming us or threatening us in any way… Ruyichi isn’t the one you’ll have to worry about.”  Again, as if to kiss his father’s cheek, Akihito leaned forward once more.  “I’ll fucking kill you myself,” he said calmly, his lips a scant inch from his father’s ear. 

Toshiaki could feel the truth in his son’s words; saw the truth in his eyes as he stood up to walk away.  He was familiar with that look, the look of his rebellious son.  Only it had matured.  Now, it terrified him and chilled him to the bone. 

“Good,” Akihito said in a lighter tone.  “Now that we have an understanding, Suoh will escort you home.”  And with that, Akihito turned and walked away.

“Asami-san,” Toshiaki called out hesitantly as he watched his son disappear from him. 

Akihito stopped as if to listen, but refused to turn around.

“Please believe me… I didn’t think it would come to this,” his father pled.  “I didn’t want it to be like this… But… This won’t stop here.  I… I was hired.  I only took the pictures.  I never sent them, or the threats.”

Akihito’s head turned slightly, though not enough for the elder Takaba to see his face clearly.  “It was Yamazaki.  He’s angry with you for siding with Asami.  I’m not sure why, but he bears you a serious grudge.  Something about losing something because of you.  He was going to contact your friends.  He was hoping to use them against you as well.  But what he really wants is the girl.  I thought he only meant to drive you away from Asami.  I didn’t know…” 

“He won’t get the girl,” Akihito said calmly.

“I know that, now.  But he said his revenge wouldn’t be complete without her…  If he can’t get her…  Call your friends.  Make sure they’re all right.”

Akihito said nothing in response, kept his back turned to his father, and walked away.

Toshiaki lowered his head in despair.  The damage was done.  There was no turning back now from the wreckage of his family that lay in front of him.  Silently, he wept with only the sound of his son’s retreating footsteps as counterpoint to his silent sobs.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Chapter Text

“I’m home…” Akihito sighed as he closed the door behind him.  Noticing two extra sets of shoes in the entryway he cursed.  “Shit!”  He didn’t want to deal with this now.  Not after the discussion he had just had with his father.  He was tempted to turn around and leave.  Only now that he had announced himself, he knew he was committed to yet another uncomfortable discussion. 

Entering the living room he caught sight of his two best friends sitting on the couch facing off his rather bored looking lover.  “Hey, guys,” he said weakly.

“Honestly, Akihito,” Takato began, his tone sounding more than annoyed.  “Do you know how long…?”

“How was your meeting with your father?” Asami asked interrupting Takato’s interrogation before it could begin. 

“It went about as well as you could expect,” he said wryly.  That was another subject he wanted to avoid.

“Your father?” Takato asked.

“I really don’t want to discuss it, guys.  And I’m sorry for making you wait so long, but I’m really exhausted.  Can’t we do this some other time?”

“No.” Takato’s voice had a ring of finality to it.  “If we don’t do this now, you’ll keep avoiding the situation.”

Asami chuckled from where he was seated.  Akihito glared at the both of them.  Kou held his hands up as if to proclaim his innocence.  He knew better than to get into the middle of this argument. 

With a sigh, Asami rose from his chair and crossed the room towards his angry lover.  “I’ll get you a drink,” he whispered as he passed Akihito.

“No,” Akihito said and grabbed Asami’s arm, preventing the man from passing.  He looked into those golden eyes, begging silently that the other man not leave.  The older man nodded and stood to the side just a little.  “There’s nothing to discuss,” he said to his friends. 

“But…” Kou tried to enter the conversation finally.

“No!” Akihito raised his voice.  “This is my life,” he raised his hand to take in the apartment and all that was in it.  “This is my husband,” he pulled Asami to him.  “None of this is going to change.  You’ll just have to trust me that I know what I’m doing.”

“If you would just listen…” it was Takato’s turn to try and get his friend’s attention.

“NO!  There is no ‘but’.  There is no ‘listen’.  Why can’t you two trust me?” the young man yelled in desperation. 

“Because you won’t talk to us about this,” Takato said plainly.

“There is nothing to talk about!” Akihito hissed.  “Look… I’ve had a terrible night already.  Okay.  Now the way I see it, you two have two choices.  You can either trust me, like you have in the past…,” he stared both his friends directly in the eye, making sure he had their complete attention.  “Or you walk out that door and I toss you out of my life like I just did with my father.” 

The two boys just stared at him.  “Your father?” Kou gasped in surprise.

“Are you serious about that, Akihito?” Takato asked his friend.

“I’m done dicking around with people trying to break the two of us up,” the photographer said as he turned around and walked into the master bedroom shutting the door behind him.

Asami stared at the door, concern breaking through his normal stoic mask.

“Come one, Kou,” Takato said sadly.  “Let’s go.”

“Sit down,” Asami ordered the two men as the gathered themselves to stand up.  “You’re not going anywhere at the moment.”  His voice brooked no argument and, leaving the two now bewildered men sitting in his living room alone, he entered the bedroom to find an angry Akihito stripping off his suit.  Clothes flew wherever they landed as the young man tossed the uncomfortable clothes off piece by piece.  “What was that about?” Asami asked his lover.

“Don’t pretend you don’t know,” Akihito replied accusingly.  “I know they gave you the same interrogation they gave me today at lunch.”

“That’s not what I was asking about, and you know it.”

Akihito sighed, his hand faltering as he held a pair of worn sleep pants.  He refused to turn around and meet his husband’s eyes. 

“Are you sure you want to do that to your friends?”

“I’m lying to them, Ryuichi!  What else am I supposed to do?  You tell me!  What the hell am I supposed to do?!  I’ve never lied to them.  Ever.  Yeah, I may have not told them everything.  And I’ve kept secrets before… But never like this.  Nothing like this.  I outright, blatantly, LIED to them!”  He shook his pants at the older man.  Tears pooled in his eyes, threatening to spill at any moment.  “What else am I supposed to do…?”

“First,” Asami said as he sat down on the edge of the bed, “you need to remember that they are your friends.  Not your father.  Do not take your anger at him out on them.”

Akihito winced at that.  He couldn’t deny it, though it pained him to admit it to himself.

“Second,” Asami continued, “you need to go out there and apologize to them for your poor attitude and hurtful words.”

“They’re still here?”

Asami nodded.  Though he wasn’t going to tell the boy it was because he told them not to leave.  The small glimmer of hope that returned to his young lover’s eyes warned him not to.

“But what do I tell them, Ryuichi?” Akihito whispered, terror warring with despair.

“Tell them the truth.”  Asami’s voice was gentle.  His hand reached out and pulled Akihito into his lap, his arms wrapping around the trembling boy lightly.  “If they’re your friends, then they need to know.  Give them the opportunity to make their decision properly informed.  They may surprise you.” 

After kissing the top of his boy’s head, he stood, forcing Akihito to his feet and pushed him out the door, sleep pants still in his hands.

Akihito heard the door click shut behind him before he realized what had happened.  Staring at the pants in his hands, he stumbled, his mind numb as he put his legs through the appropriate openings and pulling the pants up around his hips.  Only then did he glance up, his eyes meeting those of his friends.  He could see the hurt in both of them.  Tears that had been threatening to spill flowed freely now.  Silently he walked over to the kitchen, retrieved three glasses from the cupboard, filled each with a generous helping of Asami’s best whiskey, and returned to the living room and what he had to admit were the only two true friends he had in the world. 

He set all three glasses down on the table before handing one each to Kou and Takato then taking up a seat on the floor opposite them.  He wiped his eyes, drying them.  “I’m sorry guys,” he whispered.  The boy tucked one of his legs under him, bringing his other knee up to this chest.  He stared at his drink sitting on the coffee table between him and his friends, not sure what to say or where to start.

“Did you really disown your father, Akihito?” he heard Takato’s voice break the silence. 

“Yeah…” the boy whispered.  “I did.”

“Damn…” Kou breathed.  “Was that really the only option you had left?”

Akihito nodded, slowly spinning the glass where it sat watching the light as it caught the facets of the cut crystal glass.  “It’s a long story.  But not one I want to talk about at the moment.”  Finally, he lifted his glass, raising his head from his knee and took a long drink.  He opened his mouth to continue speaking, but his voice caught in his throat.  Words failed him.

“You know, Akihito, we really do care,” Takato said, filling the silence again.  “It’s not like we’re trying to break the two of you up or anything.  We just want to understand what’s going on.”

“We found some pretty scary stuff when we looked into your husband,” Kou took up the conversation where Takato left off.  “Most of it is rumor, but still… If there’s truth to even half of what we found…” his voice dropped, taking a sip of his drink.  “Damn!  This is some good stuff!” he smiled, holding his glass out to Akihito.

“It’s the best that Ryuichi has in the house.  So enjoy it,” Akihito smiled.  “You may never get it again.”

“Bribing us with liquor?”

Akihito nodded, his smile finally coming to life. 

“At least you can still smile,” Takato replied softly.

The photographer sighed.  “It’s either that or cry,” he said wanly.  Shifting, he lowered his knee, crossing both his legs in front of him.  “And I do thank you for your concern.  Really I do.  But it’s not needed.”

“Akihito…” Takato said warningly.  He wasn’t going to give this up.  Not until he got a satisfactory answer from his friend. 

“He’s…”

“Don’t you dare say he’s a businessman,” Takato interrupted his friend angrily.  “All three of us know that’s a lie, Akihito.”

“Listen.  All I can, and will tell you, is that he is a businessman,” Akihito stressed, looking Takato square in the eye as he spoke.

Kou opened his mouth to say something, only Takato held out his hand, touching the other man’s knee to silence him.

“You knew…?” Takato asked, his eyes growing wide with understanding.

“Since the day I met him,” Akihito replied, denying nothing.

“So that’s how he crossed your viewfinder.”

“No,” Akihito laughed slightly.  “That was our second meeting.”

“Then why didn’t you say anything when we asked…”

“We were in a rather public place, if you remember,” the photographer answered before Takato could finish his question.  “A family restaurant is hardly the place to discuss what you wanted to know.”

“You do have a point,” Takato agreed, though grudgingly. 

Kou sat, mouth gaping as he tried to follow the conversation.  “Are you sure this is what you want?” he finally asked.  “He’s not threatening you or anything, is he?”

“No,” Akihito laughed.  “He’s not.  And he’s not all that you think he is, either.”

“Then what exactly is he?” Kou asked. 

“I don’t really know,” the photographer shrugged.  “And I never really cared to find out.”

“He’s dangerous, Akihito,” Takato said.

“I know.”

“And even if it’s not by him, you’ll get hurt one day.”

Akihito sighed.  “I know that, too.”

It was Takato’s turn to sigh.  “I’m still not sure if I can accept this or not, but I do have one more question.  Then I’ll leave this alone… for now,” Takato added.

“Alright.”

“How far is he willing to go to protect you?”

“He took two bullets for me,” Akihito replied honestly, without hesitation. 

Kou and Takato’s eyes widened in shock.

“Remember that time that long-haired guy had taken you two prisoner and then I disappeared?” Akihito continued.

Both friends nodded.

“That guy’s name is Fei Long.  He’s the leader of a major Hong Kong triad.  Ryuichi took two bullets trying to protect me.  When that didn’t work, he came for me.  He challenged Fei Long on his own turf to get me back before his wounds had even healed.”

Neither friend knew what to say to that.  Takato took a lengthy sip at his drink. 

“Wow…” Kou shook his head in disbelief.

“Let me go get that bottle,” Akihito said, standing up from the floor.  “Your glasses look a little empty.”

“We really should be getting home,” Takato tried to stop the younger man.

“No,” Akihito said firmly.  “You both are staying the night,” he continued as he began his walk towards the kitchen.  “And I know you’ve been listening, Ryuichi, so you might as well come out of the bedroom and join the conversation.”  Without further comment, he retrieved both the bottle of whiskey and another glass from the kitchen.

Asami emerged from the bedroom, an amused glint in his eye.  “You forgot your shirt,” he said as he held out one of his button-up shirts for Akihito.

“That’s your shirt,” the photographer said. 

Asami only shrugged.  “Still, you do need to cover up,” he said with a smirk as his finger traced from the not quite faded hickey on his young lover’s collarbone to another, darker mark on his chest.

“Oh shit!” he gasped as he passed the bottle in his hand to his husband and all but ripped the offered shirt from the older man before handing him the glass as well. 

“And who gave you permission to get into my good whiskey?” Asami asked with a smirk.

“I’ll pay for it later,” Akihito replied, leaning up for a kiss and rocking ever so slightly against his lover’s hips before he pulled away to finish buttoning the shirt.

Asami raised an eyebrow briefly at the boy’s unusually open display of affection.  “Oh I’m sure you will,” he said with a low, sultry voice.

“Hey!” a voice called from the couch behind them.  “Don’t forget there are others in the room!” Kou called out in embarrassment. 

“Just because you’re not getting any…” Akihito teased.

“Exactly how much have you had to drink?” Asami asked as he sat in his favorite chair setting the bottle down on the coffee table.

“I think it’s the relief making him giddy, Asami-san,” Takato answered.  “He’s only had the one glass.”

Asami nodded, glancing at his lover who had resumed his place on the floor.  “Care to tell me why your friends are staying the night?  And where are we going to put them?”

“Seriously, Akihito,” Kou said.  “Why do we have to stay the night?  It’s not like either one of us came prepared for that.”

“It’s a long story.  But I’ll try to make it short,” Akihito replied.  “My father was the one responsible for all the creepy photos that have been showing up lately.”  He held up his hand to forestall any questions from either friend.  “But he wasn’t responsible for the threats.  Yamazaki hired my dad to take those pictures.  Yamazaki’s also the one that provided those convenient copies of my juvi record for all my publishers.  Dad said he has some kind of grudge against me.  Though he’s not sure what exactly it is, he said it’s pretty deep.  Yamazaki wants to hurt me.  But he wants to do it by hurting those I care for the most.  That’s why there have been pictures of Miwa and you two included with the threats.”

“And that’s why you want us to stay here tonight?  To keep us safe?” Takato asked.

Akihito nodded.  “I was thinking…” the boy shrugged, “since it’s Friday night… you two could spend the weekend here.  It’s not like either of you have to go to work tomorrow.  And I know you both have Sunday’s off.  If you don’t mind sharing a futon, I can put you on the floor in my studio room.”  He looked at his two friends, begging them to accept.  “Two days should be enough for us to get this thing sorted enough that things could go back to normal,” he suggested, looking at Asami for reassurance.

“I think that would be a good idea,” the older man replied.  “Besides, I think Miwa would be happy to get to know her two new uncles.  Or would you be her new nii-chans?”

Takato sighed again.  “We’ll both need to go home to get some clothes and other necessities for the weekend,” he said.

“I can have my men take you both to your homes so you can gather your things,” Asami replied as he took out his cell phone and began dialing.

“What about your wife?” Akihito asked Takato.

“We kinda lucked out there.  She’s visiting her parents at the moment.  So she’s not home for the next week.”

“That’s good.”  Akihtio looked relieved.

“What I want to know,” Takato continued as he and Kou headed for the door to put their shoes on, “and you can tell us when we get back, is what the hell happened that you pissed off Yama-san like this.”

“Don’t make it out to be like it’s my fault,” Akihito said with a defiant glare.  “And I’ll tell you the whole, long, story when you get back.”

“Good,” Takato nodded.  “And leave the whiskey out.  I have the feeling we’ll need another drink to hear that story.”

“I will,” Akihito said, watching the front door shut as his friends left the apartment.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Chapter Text

“Listen,” Takato said with a small amount of annoyance as he began toeing off his shoes in the entryway, “Just because it didn’t take as long as we thought it would doesn’t mean we can’t…”

Aaaaahhh!” Akihito’s cry muffled from behind the closed bedroom door rang through the apartment, effectively stopping Takato’s rant.

“Is that…?” Kou asked in disbelief, looking to his now blushing friend, hoping for a denial.

Takato couldn’t answer.  He could only stand there, his mouth open, trying not to take in what he knew was happening behind closed doors with his friend.

AAAHHH!” Akihito’s voice rose.

Both men looked towards Kirishima as the man awkwardly cleared his throat.  “Did Asami-san happen to mention where you would be staying?” he asked, a faint trace of blush tinting his cheeks.

Yes!... Ah! Ryuichi… YES!...

“I think Akihito said something about his studio?” Takato said, his face flushing as he failed miserably to block out his best friend’s cries as a baritone joined in, though it was too faint to make out if any words were being said.  It was awkward enough hearing Akihito referred to as ‘Asami-san’ without having his ears witness as to the reason for the photographer’s name change.

 “Please…” Akihito’s pleading voice changed its timbre, taking on a more pleading, begging tone, followed by the still muffled but more demanding baritone of Asami’s voice.

“That would be this way,” Kirishima gestured towards the hallway leading off the other side of the living room. 

Kou and Takato both noticed, to both their dismay, that they would have to cross close to the master bedroom to reach the safety of their hopefully more peaceful room.  Looking at each other, there was nothing to do but follow the older man towards the back of the apartment.

Please… Ahhhh!...” the begging in Akihito’s voice rising to a fever pitch.

“Maybe we should just come back later?” Kou whispered to Takato as they crossed the room quickly, their proximity to the bedroom only highlighting Akihito’s growing cries.

Please… Ryuichi… Just…

Asami’s voice, more demanding, still controlled but still incoherent to the two unwilling eavesdroppers, grew in intensity.

“It’s already a little too late to erase this from my mind,” Takato whispered back.

Just… break… me…” Akihito gasped.

Kou stumbled, his feet refusing to work for a brief moment.

They could hear the bed creaking, rocking feverishly against its frame.

Break me… Break… ME!… BREAK!… MEEEEEAAAAHHHHHH!!!

Silence rang through the apartment.  Kou and Takato stared at each other in disbelief.  There really were no words to express exactly what was running through their minds. 

Kirishima opened a door and gestured for the two men to follow him as he entered the room.  “I believe Asami-san keeps a futon in here for when he becomes exceptionally engrossed in his work,” he said as he opened the closet.  “Here it is.  And some blankets as well.”  Kirishisma laid the bedding in the middle of the floor.  “I’ll go let Asami-san know that you’ve returned.”

With that, both men were left alone. 

“Help me with this futon, will you?” Takato said to Kou in a desperate attempt to bring some sort of normality back to their evening.

“Sure.”

It didn’t take long for the futon to be laid out, blankets spread and ready for the night. 

“We need another pillow,” Takato said as he looked around the room, finding only one in the closet the futon came from.

“I’ll get it for you,” Asami’s baritone called out from the door surprising the two.  “Akihito was more exhausted than he let on,” he continued without a hint of embarrassment for the obvious lie.  “He’s already asleep, so you’ll have to continue your conversation in the morning,” the older man said as he turned from the room. 

“Is there anything else you need?” Asami asked after returning with the requested pillow.

Both men shook their heads, neither man being able to find their voice or look the other man in the eye.  Asami smirked.  “Then I’ll leave you to yourselves.  Miwa’s room is across the hall, so please if you really find the need to stay up talking, keep the noise to a minimum tonight.  There’s no need to wake her up unnecessarily.”  And with that, the older man left.

“He wants us to be quiet?” Kou gasped as they found themselves left alone again.  Takato could only shake his head. 

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

A chilling scream broke through the air, jolting Kou and Takato from their sleep. 

“What the hell…?” Kou mumbled as he sat up.

Takato, ignoring his friend’s confusion, threw the covers and headed towards the door, opening it in time to see Akihito as he raced through the hall in just his boxer-briefs and entering what he thought to be Miwa’s room.  He stood in the door, observing, too disoriented by his sudden awakening to do anything but attempt to process the scene that unfolded before him.

“It’s okay, Miwa.  I’m here,” Akihito said softly as he gathered the young girl in his arms.  “We’re here.  You’re safe…”  He gently stroked her hair, trying to sooth the girl’s sobs.

Asami appeared in the hall only moments after Akihito his bathrobe wrapped firmly around him, a button up shirt in his hand.  Entering the child’s room, he gently lifted the weeping girl from Akihito’s arms as he passed the shirt to his young lover.  “I’m here, little one,” he said softly as he hugged Miwa close to his chest.  The girl’s sobs quieted immediately as she buried her face in his robe.

“Ryu-nii,” she cried into the soft folds of Asami’s robe.

Takato watched in amazement as the man he had earlier discounted as a heartless criminal gently stroked the crying girl’s hair, whispering soothing words to her as her sobbing abated. 

“You think you can go back to sleep now,” Asami asked the little girl who sleepily shook her head no as she clung to his robe more tightly.  He looked towards Akihito where he still sat on the girl’s bed, now covered once again in one of Asami’s shirts.  Akihito nodded, an unseen, unspoken conversation between them.  With that, Asami left the room, carrying Miwa with him, still whispering soothingly in her ear as he disappeared down the hall and into the master bedroom.

“Sorry, guys,” Akihito said as he walked over towards where Takato stood in the door to his studio.  It was only then that Takato noticed the slight limp in his friend’s gait.  “She’ll be okay, now.  She’ll go right back to sleep as soon as Ryuichi lays down with her.”

Takato nodded.  “Damn, Akihito.  You said she had nightmares…”

“She’s getting better,” Akihito replied weakly.

“This is better?”

Akihito nodded.  “Yeah.  It’s the only one she’s had all week.”

“Only…?”  Takato gasped.  “You mean this happens more than that?”

Akihito nodded again.  “Sometimes every night.  But now that things are more stable in her life, they’re growing less frequent.”

Takato didn’t know what to say.  His tired mind was still trying to assimilate what he had seen transpire between Miwa and Asami.  Could it be possible that such a man would tolerate a child with a condition like Miwa’s?  If it were true, he would have to rethink his opinion of the man, if only a little.

“Hey,” Akihito continued.  “I’m going to go check and make sure that she’s alright.”  He pointed down the hall towards his room.  “I’ll talk to you over breakfast in the morning.”

“Sure,” Takato replied as he watched his friend walk down the dark hall and disappear into his room.  Turning back into the room, he stumbled into Kou who was standing behind him, having also watched the evening’s proceedings.  “Sorry,” he mumbled to the other man.

“It’s okay,” Kou replied as they both settled back down onto the futon.  “You sure you can go back to sleep easily after that?”

“I’m not sure,” Takato answered back. 

Kou grunted in agreement.  Silently, both men lay there, each trying to forget the heart-wrenching wail that woke them.  Takato, though, was more preoccupied with the tenderness he had seen displayed by the man that he was trying to figure out.  Was Asami really the heartless criminal that he had been thinking of?  Or, like Akihito had said earlier, was there more to this man than he had originally thought?  His mind raced through questions, many more questions than he had before he came over tonight to confront his Akihito and his lover.  Only his sleep addled mind wouldn’t let him grasp any answers.  Willing his mind to still itself, Takato lay there silently wrapped in his thoughts as he drifted off to sleep for the second time that night.

~ ≈ 川 ≈~ 

Chapter Text

“What’s up with the shirts?” Takato asked the next morning after breakfast.  “Don’t you have any of your own anymore?”  He indicated to the button-up shirt that Akihito wore over his loose drawstring pants.

“Uh... yeah…” Akihito replied, looking up from his laptop.  “I think it’s his way of being reassuring but possessive at the same time.”

“I would think that the new mark at the base of your neck would suggest that,” Kou said as slid his chair closer to the photographer to poke at the dark mark he mentioned.  He laughed as Akihito’s hand flew to the same spot on his neck, swatting his friend’s hand away as he covered the hickey with a small ‘eep’.

Takato shook his head and was going to include himself in the friendly argument that ensued when he was distracted by a flash of pink from the corner of his eye.  Turning his head he saw Miwa as she ran across the living room towards Asami.  Honestly, in what little time he had known the girl he didn’t think she knew how to walk.  She was as full of energy as Akihito was. 

“Please, please, please, daddy!” she chimed she came to a halt where the older man was seated in his favorite chair with his morning paper and coffee. 

“Of course, little one,” Asami replied with an indulgent smile. 

Curious, Takato moved towards the edge of the kitchen to get a better view.  He watched as Miwa handed over a hairbrush and several long, pink ribbons.  Surprised, he continued to watch as Asami turned the girl around so that her back was to him, and, amidst her giggles, he began deftly weaving the ribbons through her long black locks, effectively binding them into a tight braid holding her hair back.  When finished, he turned her back around placing a kiss on the top of her head.

“Thank you, daddy!” she beamed.

“Are you ready for school?”

The girl nodded. 

“Good.  Be a good girl.  Uncle Suoh will take you to school today.  And he’ll bring you home when it’s over.”

Miwa’s face brightened as she looked towards the door where the large blonde stood.  Takato hadn’t remembered him coming in this morning.  Then again, the huge man hardly said two words any time he saw him.  For some unexplainable reason the man looked incredibly uncomfortable at the idea of escorting the child to school and back.  Bringing his mind back to two in the kitchen he realized the conversation had shifted.

“Have you found anything?”

“No.  Not much more than I already knew,” Akihito sighed.

Takato walked back to the kitchen table, almost stumbling as Miwa ran past him. 

“Miwa,” the photographer chided.  “How many times have I asked to not run in the house?  You almost tripped Takato because you weren’t looking.”

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“I’m not the one you should say that to,” Akihito said gently.

“I’m sorry, Taka-nii,” she said turning towards Takato. 

“Don’t worry about it,” he replied.  “Just be careful.  We don’t want to see you trip and fall because you’re not paying attention to your own feet.”

“Now,” Akihito said, handing the girl her bento.  “Be good at school today.”  He placed a kiss on her head as he turned her around and sent her on her way with a light swat on her backside. 

“I promise!” she said, a twinkle in her eye promising mischief.

Takato had to laugh.  That look reminded him so much of Akihito.  “You have your hands full with that one, don’t you?”

“You have no idea,” Akihito sighed as he raked his and through his hair.

“I find it to be poetic,” Asami said from behind Takato, making him jump slightly.

“You would, bastard,” the photographer grumbled.

“You found something?”

“Maybe,” Akihito said returning to his computer.

“You know,” Takato said, “you still haven’t explained how Yamazaki fits into all of this.  Is he threatening you to get at Asami, Akihito?  I thought he was supposed to be the good guy.”

Akihito laughed bitterly, surprising Takato and Kou both.  “No, he’s not after Ryuichi.  He’s after me.  And no.  He is not the good guy.”

“What do you mean ‘not the good guy?’” Kou asked.

“He’s the real reason I met Ryuichi,” Akihito said distractedly as he continued to click away at his laptop following whatever lead had caught his interest.  “He used me to try and disrupt Ryuichi’s business so that a yakuza group could try and take over his territory.  Instead, my story got buried and he got caught.  They buried that story pretty deep, too.  I can’t find anything on Yamazaki’s downfall other than the initial story.”

“Then, if you can’t find anything other than what you already knew, what are you doing now?”

“Searching through police and public records.  I may have been fired, but apparently I still have access to the files.”  He looked up at Asami with the same mischief that lit Miwa’s eyes earlier.

“The one that gave you the file?” Asami asked.

Akihito nodded.  “Apparently he must have disagreed more with upper management than he let on.  He left all of my logins intact.  Even managed to upgrade my access somehow.”

“Really?”

Akihito nodded again as he looked back at his computer.

“I’ll have to thank him for the favor,” Asami said.

Both Takato and Kou noticed the slight tension accompanying the conversation regarding Akihito’s lack of work.  Takato shivered briefly.  Judging from the look in Asami’s eye, he wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of the man’s anger.  This was not the same man that indulgently wove ribbons in a small girl’s hair or held her gently after a nightmare.  It was the look of a brutal, dangerous man.  Whoever this person was that they were talking about, the man had bought himself a get-out-of-jail-free card with this small, unasked for favor.  In fact, Takato would go as far as to assume he would be the only one to escape Asami’s judgement.

“Wait…!  Here we are!” Akihito said with a shout of triumph. 

The three men crowded around the photographer’s chair. 

“It looks like Yamazaki did some time for his little tryst with those yakuza.  He was released from jail only recently.  In fact…  From the dates we have here, it looks like he was released just about the time that photograph of the two of us showed up in the tabloid.”  He looked up at Asami.  “That explains why he feels like I betrayed him for you.  Though why the hell he would think I have any loyalty to him after what he did,” he grumbled as he turned back towards the computer.  “Then again, it must have been quite a shock for him to find out I ended up marrying you after everything else.”

“I’ll make sure to send him a thank you card,” Asami smirked.

“Excuse me?”

“He is, as you have already pointed out, the reason that we met,” Asami kissed the top of Akihito’s head.

“Sadistic prick.” Akihito absentmindedly swatted at the older man over his head.  “Please don’t antagonize him unnecessarily.”

“He’ll be lucky if that’s the only thing I do,” Asami growled.  “I’m going in to work, now,” he kissed Akihito’s head once more.  “Let me know if you find anything else.”

Takato watched as the older man left the kitchen, grabbed his overcoat from the closet and, nodding to Kirishima who had been silently lurking around the living room, left the apartment with his assistant in tow.

“Are you sure you’re okay with living with him?” Takato asked as soon as the door was closed. 

“We discussed this last night, guys,” Akihito replied. 

“I know,” Takato sighed.  “I just can’t help but worry.”

Akihito smiled at his friend where he sat next to him at the table.  “I know.”

“I will say this,” Takato continued.  “You were right about him being more than what I thought he was.”

The young photographer sat back in his chair, listening.

“It’s… just…” the other sighed.  “The way he treats you.  And Miwa.  You can’t fake what I see in his eyes when he looks at the two of you.  And how often does he do her hair up like that?  I didn’t know crime lords could braid hair like that.  And you… You definitely sounded like you were having fun last night,” he laughed. 

The photographer sputtered, completely unable to respond to his friend’s comment.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Chapter Text

Kou and Takato lay sprawled out across the living room floor, each holding one of Akihito’s 360 controllers.  The sound of their game filled the room.  Akihito, however, ignored their light-hearted banter as they battled each other for world domination.  He knew he was still missing something.  But what, he could not tell.  He continued to click through the records hoping that one would at least point him in the right direction. 

“Damn it!” he shouted, throwing his hands up in frustration.

“Akihito?” Takato questioned as the two paused their game.

“Something is so not right here.  I can’t figure out what I’m missing.  I mean, he has to have a reason for what he’s doing.  Yamazaki wouldn’t be doing this just because I ended up with Ryuichi.”  He sifted through the pictures scattered next to his computer.  Maybe a change of perspective would help. 

“What is it, Akihito?”

Hands moved gently from picture to picture occasionally pushing one to the side.  “Everything here shows that Miwa is the target.  Not me.  But dad said that I was the focus of his grudge…”  His hands stilled, picking up the picture of Miwa sitting in her desk near the window at her new school.  “What am I missing?”

“It’s not just Miwa,” Kou said, sitting up from the floor. 

“What?”

“It’s your entire family he’s after,” Kou replied, handing Akihito the picture from Inoue-san’s funeral. 

Akihito looked at him, puzzled.  “How do you figure?”

“The pictures include us as well as Miwa.  As well as you and Asami-san.  And look at this note.” Kou handed the photographer the note that had been attached to the funeral picture.  “It’s clearly threatening your entire family.”

The young man nodded.  “Wait…!  My entire family…” his eyes widened in realization.  “He used my father to take these pictures.  He knew it would piss me off.  And I played right into that one…  Oh my god…”

In a flurry of movement, Akihito turned back to his computer, fingers typing away feverishly at the keys.

“No…”

“Akihito,” Takato warned.  “You’re driving us crazy with the tension.  What is it?”

“I may be the focus of his grudge…” He turned his computer around so the others could see what he found.  “But Miwa is his target.”  Both young men stared at the screen, their minds trying to process what they saw.  A divorce registration.  An obituary for a young girl.  “He lost more than his job when he crossed Ryuichi.”

“You think…?”  Kou couldn’t finish the question.

“Yeah.  I now have everything that he lost.  And he blames me for losing it.  Now he wants me to feel exactly what he feels.”

“Dear god.”

“I have to call Ryuichi.”  As he reached for his phone, it rang making him jump.  “Hello?... What?” he shouted.  “Is she okay?”  Worry crossed his face.  Takato rose from the floor to go to his friend.  “Oh… yeah… I can be there in a bit.  I’ll come over now.”  He hung up the phone, turning to his friends.  “I have to go over to the school.  Miwa’s in trouble.”

“Is she okay?” Takato asked.

“Yeah.  She’s been in a fight at the school.  The principal wants to see me right away.”  He looked dazed.  “She’s fine.”

“But you’re not,” Takato replied.  “I’ll go with you.  In this state, you’re hardly coherent.”

“You don’t need to.”

“Yes, I do.”

“But…”

“Kou will stay here just in case Asami-san comes back.  And if you give him his number, he can call him with the information you found while we go and take care of Miwa.”

Akihito looked to his other friend. 

“It’s okay.  I’ll take care of this,” he indicated the computer on the table.  “You go take care of Miwa.”

“Thanks, guys.”

“It’s why we’re here,” Takato laid his hand on Akihito’s shoulder. 

The young man nodded, unable to express his gratitude for their being with him through this crisis.  A small part of him wanted to laugh.  He originally had them stay here so that they would be protected, cared for.  But now it was they who were the ones doing the caring.  The other part of him knew exactly why they were here.  Why they did what they did.  They were his family.  Not by blood.  But they were family just the same.  Maybe even more so than his biological family. 

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Kou looked at his phone, uncertainty playing across his face.  Why the hell did he agree to this?  Sighing, he pushed the call button and put the phone to his ear. 

It didn’t take long for the other end to pick up.  “Asami,” was the one word answer he received.

“Hey… Asami… this is Kou,” he stuttered as he tried to gain his bearings in this conversation.

“I know,” the voice on the phone chuckled.  “Caller ID.”

“Uh… yeah…”

“Did something happen?” Asami asked, trying to bring the conversation to a point.  “You wouldn’t call just for a late morning chat.”

“Akihito found something he thought was important.  I’m sending the files to your phone.”  Kou clicked on a few keys.  “Did you get them?” he asked after a few moments.

“Yes.  What am I looking…?”

“You see it, too?”

“Yes,” Asami growled.  “Where’s Akihito?  Why are you the one calling?”

“Miwa was in a fight at school,” Kou hesitated to answer.  He could sense the growing tension in the older man even through the phone.  “But it’s not what you think,” he rushed on forestalling the barrage of questions he knew to come from the revelation.  “It has nothing to do with this.  Apparently, it was a normal children’s squabble.  Akihito and Takato left a few moments ago to go pick her up.”

“Takato went with him?”

“Yeah.”  It was Kou’s turn to chuckle.  “Akihito was a bit of a basket case when he got the call, even though they assured him everything was okay.  Takato didn’t think he should go by himself.  He figured he needed someone a little closer than a guard to keep him from going overboard with the parental theatrics.  They’ll bring her back here when Akihito’s done talking to the principal.”

“Thank you.”

The tone in those two words caught Kou off guard.  He could sense that the words meant much more than for this brief conversation. 

“I’ll have him call you as soon as he gets home.”

And with that, both parties hung up.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

“I’ll wait out here,” Takato indicated the chairs outside the principal’s office.  “Just remember, this has nothing to do with what’s happening outside of school.”

Akihito nodded as he closed the door behind him.  Turning he nodded again, this time to the principal.  Miwa was sitting in a chair in front of the man’s desk, tears streaming down her face, one of her braids unraveled and obviously shorter than its mate. 

“What the hell happened?” he shouted at the principal as he knelt in front of the distraught girl. 

He lifted a hand to her shorn hair.  The braid was missing about six inches and instead of reaching near her waist, it now ended around her shoulder blade.  Miwa’s answer was incoherent, lost in between her sobs. 

“Oh, sweetie,” he whispered, gently picking up the girl and sitting in her chair with her in his lap.  “Tell me what happened,” he demanded of the principal. 

“From what we can tell, Miyamoto-kun cut her hair by accident during craft class.  But before the teacher could determine what had happened, Asami-chan turned on him and punched him in the face then continued to kick him once he was down.”

“Accidentally?” Akihito hissed.  “This is more than an accident!” he held up the frayed section of hair.  “This is deliberate.  I could understand if it was a few strands, or the ribbon.  Maybe even a lock.  But to cut through the entire braid and this evenly… Don’t think I’m a fool.  What really happened?”

“Miyamoto cut it and then said I was dirty,” Miwa’s small voice answered from where it was buried in Akihito’s chest. 

“Dirty?”

She nodded.  “He said that I was filthy and that I didn’t deserve to wear pretty ribbons like this.  I told him to shut up.  That my daddy put these ribbons in my hair.  Then… then…” she started to cry again.

“What did he say, sweetie?” Akihito gently prodded. 

“He said something I didn’t understand.  But it sounded bad so I hit him.”

“What did he say?”

“That only a filthy fag would know how to braid a girl’s hair,” she whispered.  “I don’t know what it means… but I won’t let anyone call Ryu-nii names!”  She looked up at Akihito, expecting to be scolded, defiance in those tear-bright eyes. 

Akihito hugged her tight then kissed the top of her head.  “Miwa, I need to you wait out in the hall while I talk to your principal.  Takato is there waiting for us, so go sit with him.  I’ll be out in a little bit.”

The little girl nodded.  Akihito waited until she had shut the door behind her before rounding on the principal.  “That is far more than an ‘accident’.  That was intentional.  And more than that.  It was bullying.  Do you condone bullying?”

“No, Asami-san.”

“Then why is she the only student in this room right now?  And what happened with this Miyamoto who thought it was appropriate to bully and insult my child then vandalize her hair?”

“He’s in the infirmary.  She left him with a black eye, a split lip, and a bruised rib before we could pull the two of them apart.”

Akihito nodded trying not to laugh.  Leave it to Miwa to thoroughly thrash the boy for insulting her nii-chan. 

“Normally we would expel her for fighting.  But as she’s so young, we’ll send her home today and assign her extra detention when she returns on Monday.”

“And the other child?”

The principal was silent.

“And the other child?” Akihito growled.

“Please understand, Asami-san.  This is a bit of a delicate situation.”

“How the hell can it be delicate?  He bullied my daughter.  He vandalized her hair.  Yes, she should be punished for hitting him.  But this boy is far from innocent in this.”

“His father is the Chief of Police.”

“And that means what exactly?” 

Again, Akihito was met with silence. 

“Oh hell no!” he pointed his finger at the man sitting in the desk in front of him.  “You are going to punish this child in like fashion.  And you are going do a better job of educating your children in the art of tolerance.”

“Please understand, Asami-san.  You are the only open homosexual couple we have with a child in this school.  The children don’t understand or know how to deal with something like this.  Especially when their parents don’t agree with your lifestyle.”

“Really?  Are you sure that’s the entire problem?”

For a third time, silence.

“You people are absolutely unbelievable.  Just because of rumor, you are willing to treat my child differently than any other in this school.”  Akihito shook his head.  “I assure you, you will fix this.  Because despite the rumors, my husband is a respectable businessman.  And though you might never be seen inside one of his clubs, I guarantee you that many of your ‘more respectable’ parents will.  I’m sure they would be happy to know how hypocritical you are when you dispense discipline among their children depending on which one of them is at the time rumored to be even the least bit unscrupulous or politically unfavorable.”

Akihito found the silence this time to be far more satisfying as he strode to the door and, without so much as a good-bye, joined his daughter and friend in the hallway. 

Miwa’s tears had finally stopped and she had a smile on her face as she sat in Takato’s lap, her hair now done up in a ponytail and tied by what was left of her pink ribbons. 

“Taka-nii said it would hide the… the…”

“Unevenness,” Takato whispered in her ear.

“The unevenness in my hair until we could make it to the hairdresser.”

“Thanks, Takato,” Akihito said as he lifted Miwa into his arms.  “Now let’s go see the hairdresser and then go home.  Do you want ice cream?”

“Yes!” Miwa chimed as she threw her arms around his neck.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Before they could leave the building, a familiar face stepped out from behind the stairs, a revolver in his hand.  Akihito’s hand came up, turning Miwa’s head towards him and clutching her to his chest.

“Yamazaki,” he hissed.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Chapter Text

Asami sat in the back of his limo, a cigarette in one hand, a drink in the other.  He had to focus on his work.  But he was finding that simple task rather difficult.  Sighing, he closed his eyes and laid his head back against the seat.

“Take me home,” he addressed the driver.

“Is everything okay, Asami-sama?” Kirishima asked from the other seat having noticed his boss’s inattentiveness. 

Asami didn’t answer.  Instead, he opened his eyes, directing his gaze out the window at the passing city.   He had to get it together.  If he continued to let his emotions rule him as they were, there was no telling just how much this could go wrong.  But try as he might, he couldn’t rid himself of the growing fear deep in his gut.  Corporate takeovers, territorial disputes, things like that he could handle.  Never before had he had to deal with a situation like this.  This was a calculated attack against his family. 

And there was the problem.  That was the completely unique aspect to the entire situation.  Until now, he had never had a family.  Not a true family.  Nor one so publically acknowledged.  He chuckled a little at the thought.  He had known things like this would be a possibility, but that still hadn’t prepared him for it. 

“Yes,” he finally replied to Kirishima’s question.  “Everything is perfectly okay.  In fact, I don’t think they could be better.”

Kirishima raised a questioning eye towards his boss. 

Asami shook his head.  He wasn’t going to answer that unasked question.  He was not going to explain how a brat and an orphaned girl had done the one thing no one else could… bring him to his knees.  Before his assistant could verbally ask his question, Asami’s phone rang.  The caller ID identified the number to be Kou’s again.  What could the boy want now?

“Asami,” he answered.

“Akihito and Takato haven’t come home yet and I’m starting to get a little worried,” Kou stated, getting strait to the point.  “I’ve already tried calling both their phones, and neither one is picking up.  And no matter how much trouble Miwa was in at school, they’ve been gone too long for that to be the reason they’re not home now.  And we both know that Akihito would have called before going anywhere else.”

“I want you to stay at the apartment, just in case they do show up.  I’ll take care of everything else,” Asami instructed they young man.

“You think Yamazaki has finally made his move?”

Asami could hear the worry in the young man’s voice.  “Yes,” he answered.  “And I promise you he’ll regret it.”

“Okay.”  Kou had trouble finding his voice. He didn’t want to think about what that meant.

“I’m going to send over a few extra guards.  I know that just waiting is hard, but don’t leave the apartment.  If you need something, send one of them for it.”

“Sure,” the younger man replied, his voice starting to come back.  “But isn’t there something I could be doing to help?”

Though Asami appreciated the offer, he knew it was impossible.  Not with what he knew needed to be done.  “No,” he answered. 

“But…”

“No,” Asami replied more firmly as he hung up the phone.  With a sigh he turned to his assistant.  “Kirishima…” he began.

“I’ve already called the guards assigned to the apartment,” Kirishima interrupted.  “They have strict orders to not let the boy leave the premises.  And they are to make sure that he doesn’t do anything particularly stupid.  He is Asami-san’s friend after all.  I’ve also arranged for the added security.  They will arrive at the apartment soon.”

A faint smile tugged at Asami’s lips.  He nodded.  This was why the man was his most trusted assistant.  “Can we get a lock on Akihito’s cell phone?”

The other man nodded.  “It appears to be located somewhere in the warehouse district down at the docks.  We’re trying to work on a more specific location.”

“That’s not necessary,” Asami reassured the other man.  “I know exactly where they are.”

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Akihito tried to sit quietly, taking in the familiar surroundings, but he was finding that near impossible.  His bound hands were in front of him, Miwa safely tucked in his arms.  Yamazaki had insisted that he tie both Takato’s and Miwa’s hands.  The fool didn’t complain when he bound theirs in front.  He’d even gone as far as to bind Akihito’s in like fashion.  The man really had come unhinged in the past few years.  Now, Yamazaki paced around the familiar warehouse, ranting, never once allowing his three captives to leave his sight. 

“Why?  Why, Takaba?!  He’s the enemy!” the man shouted.

“You only say that because he shot you,” Akihito replied derisively.  “Which, by the way, he did because you had already turned against him by joining up with a rival yakuza group.  If I remember correctly, it was right over there, just outside that door in the corner.  So don’t you dare preach to me about siding with the enemy.  You were dirty to start with.”

“I had no choice.  Don’t you understand?  I had no choice!”

“Yes, you did.”

“I couldn’t let her die…” the man whimpered.  “I couldn’t…”  He brought his free hand up to his face.  “No!  It’s your fault!  All of it!  My wife left me because you couldn’t leave well enough alone.  My daughter died because we couldn’t afford her treatments.  And all because you whored yourself out to that man!”  He rounded on Akihito, facing him full on, pointing the gun in the young man’s face.  Miwa cringed, crouching farther in to his chest.  Akihito raised his chin, defiantly staring down the man in front of him. 

Yamazaki hissed, pulling the gun back.  “Not yet.  Not yet,” he mumbled.  “We still need one more guest before we can start.  He should be here soon.  He always seems to find you.  No matter where you are.  Yes… yes… one more guest.”  With that, the man went back to his mumbling rant as he paced the warehouse floor.

“Miwa,” Akihito leaned down and whispered.  The girl looked up, fear in her dark brown eyes.  Oh how he hated to see that.  He would make Yamazaki pay dearly for putting that fear there.  “Miwa, sweetie, I need you to trust me.  I need you to do something for me.  Do you think you can manage that?”

Takato looked towards his friend.  What was going through his mind?  But the girl nodded.  Despite her fear, she had courage.  In fact, she had been rather calm through out the entire ordeal. 

“Good girl.  I need you to go sit over in Takato’s lap for me.  Okay?”

“But…?”

“It’s okay, sweetie.  He’ll protect you.  He’ll keep you safe.”

“But what about you?”

“Ryu-chan won’t let anyone hurt me.  He made me that promise a long time ago.  Do you believe that he keeps his promises?”

Again the girl nodded. 

“Then do what I’m asking.  Go sit in Takato’s lap.  When I tell you to, wrap your arms around his neck and don’t let go.”

“And me?” Takato asked quietly, looking his friend in the eye.  He didn’t like the way this seemed to be going.

“You run like hell.  Don’t worry about anything else.  Just run like hell out that door and don’t stop running until you find someone that can help.”

“And you?”

“I can take care of myself.”

Takato continued to stare at his friend.  He knew that there was no good way for this to end.  Even when Asami found them.  In the state that Yamazaki was in, he would more than likely shoot them first, beginning with Miwa if what they had figured was correct, before defending himself.  Akihito knew that.  He knew that they had to get the girl out of the way before anything could possibly happen to her.  He sighed.  There was no way around it. 

He nodded in agreement.

Quietly as possible, they shifted Miwa to Takato’s lap, tucking her carefully into his arms.  All that was left was to wait.  For what, he had no clue.  But it was obvious that Akihito was waiting for something specific before making his move.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Asami’s limo pulled up outside the familiar warehouse.  “Well this is nostalgic,” he whispered.

“Pardon, sir?” Kirishima asked.

“Nothing, Kirishima,” he replied.  “Just noting the location.  I should have killed that bastard here all those years ago instead of only wounding him and sparing his life.”

“May I ask why you didn’t?”

“No, you may not,” Asami replied.  I wanted to spare the kid.  I knew Yamazaki’s betrayal stung.  But having him shot down like that in front of Akihito… I couldn’t bring myself to do it…  Maybe I was already soft on him. 

Kirishima tried to hide the smile that played on his lips.  Yes.  He knew what his boss was thinking.  Though neither of them were going to say it out loud.  That boy had been troublesome since they day he crossed Asami’s business.  But who would have thought things would have ended up the way they were as a result? 

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Akihito closed his eyes.  Not in sleep, but in concentration.  He would have only one chance at this.  So, blocking out all other distractions, he feigned weariness, slumping down against Takato’s shoulder.  Listening to his surroundings, he tried to distinguish between the various sounds inside and outside the room. 

Yamazaki’s feet as he restlessly paced the room. 

The man’s unrelenting rant. 

The harbor outside, it’s waves lapping at the pier. 

And finally… one other. 

The most comforting, familiar sound in the world.  The sound of a limo engine idling.

“Now!” he whispered to Takato. 

Jumping to his feet, Akihito rushed Yamazaki.  His bound hands outstretched before him, he knocked the man down before he had a chance to react.  The gun knocked from his hand, skidded across the floor only to stop against a series of crates stacked up next to a pile of variously sized pipes.

Takato quickly threw his bound hands beneath Miwa as he pulled her as close to his chest as he could.  The girl wrapped her arms around his neck and held tight.  Without looking back, he bolted for the door.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Asami stepped from his limo in time to see the door to the warehouse thrown open with a crash, Takato and Miwa racing across the small lot in his direction.  He could not miss the look of surprise on the boy’s face as he ran towards them.

“How…?” he asked breathlessly.

“Get in the car with her.”

“Akihito’s still inside.  He distracted Yamazaki long enough for us to get to the door.”

A gunshot rang through the air.  A scream of pain followed it. 

For a brief moment Takato thought he saw fear in those golden eyes before it was replaced with pure animalistic rage as Asami took off running towards the warehouse, gun drawn. 

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Please… Asami prayed to whatever gods would listen to a man with a soul as black as his.  Please… His feet ran as quickly as they could.  Damn his lover for messing up his plans.  Though he understood what had happened.  Akihito had already proven once just how far he would go to protect their small charge.  And once again the rash young man had put himself in danger for her sake. 

He reached the door in a matter of moments.  He threw himself over its threshold only to see Akihito doubled over on the floor near a pile of crates, his leg bleeding.  Yamazaki stood over him with his gun pointed at the young man’s head.

“Yamazaki!” he shouted, bringing his gun to bear. 

“Finally!” the other man said, turning his attention away from the wounded boy on the floor.  “I was thinking that I would need to end this boy’s life without him having suffered as I had.  But now you are here.  So I’ll kill you first.”  He brought his gun up to point it at Asami.

It was all Akihito needed.  Asami watched in amazement as a small smirk played across his lover’s lips.  Bringing his good leg up underneath him and, grabbing a pipe he was kneeling over, Akihito sprang up knocking Yamazaki’s legs out from under him.  Yelling at the top of his lungs in frustration and pain, he followed through with a baseball-like swing to the man’s head as he crumpled to the floor. 

“You fucked with the wrong family, asshole,” he said, the pipe falling from his fingers as he fell to his good knee, his bound hands clutching at his wounded thigh.  “Took you long enough, bastard,” he said through clenched teeth.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Takato watched through the window of the limo, praying that any moment Akihito would walk through the door he himself had come out of earlier.  He absentmindedly rubbed at his bruised wrists.  What could possibly be taking them so long?  Glancing over to Suoh, he fully intended to ask the guard that very question, only to be distracted by what sat across the limo from him. 

Miwa sat buried in the massive arms of the guard and he couldn’t help but smile at the sight.  Since he first learned the guard’s name, he could have sworn that the man was uncomfortable around the small child.  He seemed to cringe every time he was asked to escort the girl some place.  And he avoided her almost religiously at the apartment all weekend.  But here he was, cradling in his arms the same girl that apparently frightened him, his large hand brushing across her face, caressing the back of her head as he whispered soothingly in her ear.  There was no doubt in Takato’s mind the girl was loved.  He had seen it in every one of Asami’s men as well as Asami and Akihito.

He turned back to the window to resume his restless watching, abandoning his question.  It would only upset Miwa.  Besides, it was pointless to ask about things beyond his control.

Finally he saw Asami’s men leave the warehouse followed by both Asami and Akihito.  He noticed his friend was limping, his hand around Asami’s broad shoulders as they slowly made their way towards the limo.  A small laugh escaped despite the situation when he watched both men stop, Asami turning to the younger man to say something that immediately had the photographer cursing, waving his free hand around in vehement denial.  The protests obviously landed on deaf ears as Akihito was swept up into Asami’s arms and carried the rest of the way to the limo.

“Take us to the clinic,” Asami said as he gently settled Akihito on the seat.  Suoh moved to the front seat to make room for Kirishima in the back. 

“Ryu-nii,” Miwa cried as she dove across the limo and into Asami’s arms, jostling Akihtio’s leg as she did. 

Akihito hissed in pain.

“You’re hurt!” the young girl said.  “You said you wouldn’t get hurt!” she accused.

“I’m sorry.  I wasn’t careful enough.”

“You said that Ryu-nii wouldn’t let you get hurt!”

“It’s not his fault, Miwa,” Akihito said gently, bringing his hand up to wipe away the girl’s tears.  “I promise you, this is my fault.  I just wasn’t careful enough.  But I’ll be fine.  I’m still here and I’m not going anywhere.  It’ll be a little hard to walk for a bit, but other than that I’ll heal in no time.  Promise.”

The girl hardly seemed placated though she did give up her protests she turned to glare at the older man.

“If it’ll make you feel better, you can take care of him as soon as we get him home from the clinic until he’s fully healed,” Asami offered.

Miwa seemed to contemplate those words, a small pout forming on her lips.  “Okay,” she acquiesced.

“Now,” Asami said as he held up a portion of Miwa’s uneven hair.  “Tell me what happened at school today.”

“That,” Akihito interjected before Miwa could say anything, “is something that we can discuss at a later time.”

“Really?” Asami raised an eyebrow.

“Yes,” Akihito said.  “Later.  When you are less emotional and less likely to go after someone with a gun.”

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Chapter Text

“Ryuichi?” Akihito called out sleepily from where he had just woken up on the couch.  Glancing at the clock on the entertainment stand, he tried to sit up completely, still fumbling with his injured leg.  “Shit!  Ryuichi?!... Miwa!” he called out again, unsettled.  Miwa was supposed to be home hours ago.  And yet neither she, nor his lover, were to be heard in the apartment.

“I’m here,” the older man said quietly from behind the couch. 

“Where’s Miwa?”

“She’s with Takato for the weekend,” Asami replied.

“What…?” Akihito questioned, confusion obvious in his eyes.

“I thought that you could use the break, what with how adamant she has been these past few weeks taking care of you.”

Akihito blushed.  His leg was still healing, and would probably be in bad condition for another few weeks.  Though it was healing nicely, the bullet had gone completely through his leg, though not before it glanced against his bone with just enough force to crack it.  It would be at least a month before he could walk on it again.  And Miwa wouldn’t be satisfied until he was able to walk without any extra aid.  Until then, she had made it her mission in life to “take care” of Akihito.  It was suffocating.  Sweet though it was, he was beginning to think that it would be better to deal with his husband at his most possessive than continue on in the little girl’s care. 

“Oh thank you…” he breathed.  Closing his eyes in relief, Akihito laid his head back against the couch.  He could hear Asami chuckle from behind him but he chose to ignore it.  “Is it so bad that I feel relieved?” he sighed.

“No,” Asami replied as he sat down next to him.  Akihito felt his hand brush through his hair.  “Try not to think about it too much.  It’s been a difficult past few weeks.”  The hand continued to gently card through his hair.  “But enough of this.”  Asami removed his hand and shook Akihito’s shoulder.  “Open your eyes, sit up, and eat with me.”

Akihito did as asked, opening his eyes to see the table in front of him covered in all of his favorite foods. 

“What is all this for?” Akihito asked in surprise.

“Do I need a reason?” Asami replied, his trademark smirk gracing his lips.

“Uh… yes?” Akihito replied hesitantly. 

Asami looked at his lover, mock hurt showing across his face.

“When do you not have some ulterior motive in what you do?” Akihito asked, mischief in his eyes.

“I would pretend to be hurt, but you know me so well.”

“Yeah, well I am married to you, bastard,” the photographer said with a laugh.

“Yes, you are.  And tonight,” he brushed away a stray lock of hair from Akihito’s face.  “Tonight, only, I have no motive.  No hidden agenda other than to completely seduce you.”  The burning devotion in Asami’s eyes stunned Akihito speechless.  “Eat,” Asami said, reaching over to the table and bringing a piece of sushi to his lover’s mouth. 

Akihito accepted the morsel, completely at a loss for anything else to do. 

“Ryuichi…” Akihito began once he was done with the piece of sushi.

“Shhhh…” Asami interrupted him, bringing another bite to the photographer’s lips.  “No words.  Not tonight,” he whispered as he slid the food into Akihito’s mouth. 

They sat in silence as Asami fed his lover, piece by piece until they were no longer hungry.  Both, however, were far from sated. 

Akihito leaned his head back against the couch, savoring the last bite of strawberries and cream.  “Mmmmmm…” he moaned softly as he licked the remnants from his lips.  He was afraid to open his eyes.  Afraid to look at his lover sitting next to him on the couch. 

It wasn’t real fear, only apprehension and a sexual tension he had yet to experience in their relationship.  A tension he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to disappear and opening his eyes would cause him to lose what little control he had over himself at the moment.  Asami hadn’t touched him during the entire meal except to catch the odd stray piece of food before it fell from his lips.  A gentle caress of his thumb across his bottom lip.  An accidental grazing of the tip of the photographer’s tongue by the other man’s finger as he fed him some of the most delicious food he had ever tasted.  Though he wasn’t sure that was entirely due to the cook’s skill as it was augmented by the delicious tension between him and his lover.

Before he could bring himself to decide whether to open his eyes or not, he felt Asami’s fingers run along his cheek, his thumb caressing his lip, the ghost of a touch gliding along its bottom edge.  A subtle shift in the weight on the couch next to him brought chills down his spine as his face was tilted towards the only man that would ever hold his heart.  He opened his eyes at the last moment, catching the gleam in Asami’s eyes and he gasped just before his lips descended on his in a gentle, searing, soul-consuming kiss.

He gave himself over, surrendering to the desire he saw in those golden depths. 

It had been weeks since Asami had truly kissed him.  In fact, he hadn’t been touched by the other man except for the most casual and familiar of touches since he had returned from the hospital.  Though he understood why, with his leg in the condition it had been in he was hardly in any shape for anything more vigorous.  But today the doctor had removed his cast, declaring him fit to begin physical therapy and eventually resume walking.  He still had to be careful of the bullet wounds, each directly across from the other on his thigh.  But his bone was no longer in danger of breaking or cracking any further. 

Still, Asami’s hands were gentle, loving, worshipful even as they moved over Akihito’s chest and down his ribs to settle just inside the waistband of his sweats.  If he had been in any other state of mind, he would have laughed at the absurdity of that idea.  The grungy, loose sweatpants he wore, one of several he had lived in since his return from the hospital, could hardly be considered as seductive.  At the moment, however, he didn’t care.  Every touch, every kiss from the man next to him held his soul in complete thrall. 

Gently, wrapped in the tender silence that surrounded both lovers, Asami lifted his soul-mate from the couch, cradling him close to his chest.  He rained kisses along the young man’s brow, caressing each eye with a tenderness he had never displayed before.  He could feel his beloved as he trembled deliciously in his arms as he carried Akihito through the house and into the bedroom.  Tenderly, he laid the photographer on the mattress, still taking care to not jostle his leg.  He leaned over him, carding his fingers through Akihito’s unruly locks as he met his lover’s eyes, trying to convey the depths of what he felt.  The love, the devotion, the absolute worship he felt for this fiery, rash, beautiful soul that had captured him so utterly, so completely. 

With a kiss, he consumed Akihito’s attention as he gently removed the hideous sweat pants the boy had been living in the past few weeks.  Asami threw them to the floor with a hint of disgust.  He would truly be glad to see his lover dressed in his fitting, vintage jeans again.  Yes, he thought, he had a newfound appreciation for just exactly how those jeans conformed to his Akihito’s perfect ass.  Just as gently, he removed Akihito’s shirt, leaving the photographer naked, his flawless alabaster skin the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. 

That is, flawless with the exception of a few scars.  One on his shoulder which had provoked his original feelings for the boy to be acknowledged openly.  The faded, barely noticeable one on his wrist which only provoked his desire to protect and keep his boy from all harm.  And two new ones on his left thigh, one in front and one in back, testimony to Akihito’s complete devotion not only to him, but to everything that he loves and cherishes.  Proof of his willingness to protect the family they had started to build together.  That knowledge alone unhinged him to his very core.  It was proof that if anyone had been tamed, if anyone had been conquered, it was him…

Not the boy his pride had set out to subdue those few, brief years ago, but him…

Asami Ryuichi.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~

Akihito lay there in silence, unable to form any sort of words that would express what he was feeling, what he saw as he watched his lover’s fingers caress the newly formed, still healing scar on his thigh.  Instead, he took it all in, the complete vulnerability that Asami was offering him and he would never, ever speak a word of it to the man.  In that moment he knew, without a shadow of a doubt that this man, this prideful, arrogant man was his completely.

“Ryuichi,” he breathed.  Reaching out, he brought his hand up to his lover’s face, caressing his stubbled cheek with as much love as he could put into a single touch.

Again, Asami descended upon his mouth and Akihito welcomed him.  He could feel how much the older man needed this moment.  How much he needed to convey his feelings but was still unable to put words.  But he knew words didn’t matter.  In this moment actions were so much more than words.  They were so much clearer, so much more heartfelt and true than anything a word to put to existence.

So he surrendered. 

Akihito surrendered to the gentle, worshiping touch of his lover, taking in the meaning of every caress, every touch, every kiss.  And when Asami finally rolled him over on his side, propping his injured leg up on a pillow for support, and entered him with a complete tenderness unlike any other of their previous joinings, he knew, felt and understood down to his very soul exactly how much he was loved.

~ ≈ 川 ≈ ~