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Shelters in The Storm

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            “If this is what you want, then I say let’s do it.”

            “Are you sure? I know everyone is expecting a huge party and all that, but it’s just…you know I’m not good with crowds. I just want it to be special for us, and not everyone else.”

            Ruki held Tomo close, “Babe, this is about you and me, not about the band, or our friends or fans. They’re not getting married, we are. We can have a party at the HBG later, or not at all.”

            Tomo blushed, “I’d like Kouyou and Hal to be with us, are you okay with that?”

            Ruki kissed Tomo’s forehead, “Sure, hell, maybe they’d like to have their wedding like this, Kou’s not good around a ton of people either.” Tomo leaned back and raised an eyebrow, “Not good around people? Do you hear yourself?”

            “You know what I mean. Playing in front of thousands is one thing, being in front of people he knows where he’s the center of attention, is just not him. Uruha of the Gazette and Takashima Kouyou are two different people. Look how different Aoi is from Shiroyama Yuu, huge difference there.”

            Ruki had come home from the studio to find Tomo cuddled up on the couch with his laptop, searching for a wedding venue. Everything he saw just felt wrong, like every venue was too fancy or expensive. It was that apprehension, that brought the couple to where they were now; planning a simple secret ceremony, and letting everyone else know about their marriage, at a much later date.

            “I think I’ll call Kou and see what he thinks.”

 

 

           “What does management say about upcoming lives, are they going to schedule anything yet?” Koichi laid on the couch, his feet in Tatsu’s lap, Moofie asleep on his chest.

           “I think they’re waiting a little longer, since there’s been an increase of cases again. No reason to plan a live, only to have the lockdown reinstated. We’re in no big hurry to be honest, we need practice time. What about the HBG, any word on when they’re opening?”

            “Mm, Taka is still doing the schedule. Tomo’s asked for time off for their wedding, and we really don’t want to hire someone else. So, I might be picking up some extra hours, which won’t be a big deal if you’re busy in the studio.”

            “Just be careful and make sure to wear a mask, please. The last thing we need is you getting sick… hell, anyone getting sick.” Tatsu tickled Koichi’s feet, “NOOO! Don’t start that!” Tatsu picked up a foot and kissed a big toe, “Gross! Really? I’m so not kissing you until you brush your teeth.”

            “If you don’t have anything planned for dinner, want to call the others and go to Ojisan’s? I’m tired of ….” He stopped.

            “Tired of what? My cooking maybe?” Koichi glared at his husband, sticking his tongue out. “I didn’t say that. I love your cooking, I’d just rather have some chashu pork and ramen, wouldn’t you?”

           “Fine, I’ll call Taka, you call Miya and Yukke. In about an hour?”

 

 

             “I’m tired, Acchan.” Uta pouted, he knew this was a sure way to get his lover’s attention.

             “What do you want, Uta?” Sakurai also knew to call him out.

             “I don’t want anything, I’m just making a statement, sheesh. I have no ulterior motives.” He moved away from Sakurai, where they had been sitting on the couch watching TV. “Just ask, Uta. What do you want?”

            Byou was watching the interplay between the two men with some astonishment. He would have never said anything remotely close, to Isshi.

            Uta smiled, “Fine. I’d like Ojisan’s for dinner tonight. We’ve gone without for months, and I think he could probably still use the business. But can we just get take away please? I don’t really feel like getting dressed.”

            “When will Naoto be home?” Sakurai got up and grabbed a note pad, “Do you know what she would like, or do I just order a bit of everything? Byou, do you have anything specific you’d like for me to order?”

            Byou hated to inconvenience Sakurai, “Um, if Ojisan has any of his mom’s udon, I’d like that please, but if not, just a beef ramen.”

            “Tadaima,” Naoto called from the genkan.

            “Okaeri, what do you want from Ojisan’s? Acchan is going for take away.” Uta replied. “Hmm, chashu pork and tonkatsu ramen please, Atsushi, thank you. Let me put my things away, and change.” Naoto went down to her room.

            “I’ll be back in a bit.” Sakurai kissed Uta on the head, then ruffled his hair, “HEY! God you’re so annoying!” Byou snickered behind his hand.

            “Don’t even laugh, that just encourages him to do more stupid shit.” Uta complained halfheartedly.

            “I’m sooo tired,” Naoto shuffled into the living room, flopping down on the couch next to Uta, “I hate looking for a job, it’s so annoying.”

            “How did the interview go?” Byou asked.

            “Shitty, the manager took one look at me and basically wrote me off. We did the interview but he just said thank you for applying. I was dressed so normal too!” Naoto knew there was a reason she loved working at BookOff, there was no judgement there on her appearance.

            “Pfft, assholes. You didn’t want that job anyways. You know,” Uta paused, “we can always go talk to Taka. We should be opening soon and with Tomo planning his wedding, we’re going to be short on staff.”

            Naoto sighed, “If I don’t hear from the BookOff store by the end of the week, then I’ll go talk to Taka, I need to get something soon.”

            “Don’t worry about that part, we just need to find you someplace that’s worth working for, don’t settle just to make money.” Uta reminded her.

 

           

            “Really? No, I think it would be amazing! We can be each other’s witnesses. True, you’re like me, I don’t want a huge wedding with a ton of people. So, do you have a date in mind? NO WAY! That’s what Ruki and I chose! So, are we agreed? Okay, do you want to meet at the registrar’s office? Okay, we’ll see you there.”

            “Saturday at eleven, just us four and the monk. I still want to wear our original outfits, Kou said he and Hal will too. Maybe we could go to Ojisan’s afterwards for lunch? Or maybe invite them here? Oh, should we get them a gift, or just wait until we have the reception? Why are you looking at me like that?” Tomo huffed.

            “It’s fun to see you so excited, and happy. Anything wrong with that?” Ruki laughed.

            “No, but you’re being kind of being weird Ru, like a creeper smile and stuff.” Tomo softly punched his soon to be husband in the arm. “What do you think about having them over after for brunch?”

            Ruki rolled onto his back, “Brunch is good, do we cater or do you want to cook?”

            “Hmm, catered would be easier, but I guess I could just do a cold brunch, that way I can have everything done by Friday.”

            “I’ll make sure to have some champagne too.” Ruki tipped his head to the side, “How long do you want to wait until we tell people? I want to make sure we’re on the same page, and so I can be more careful about not blurting it out.”

            Tomo groaned, “I don’t know. I feel like I need to at least tell Taka, because he’s going through all the trouble of covering shifts for me, because of the wedding. I know if I swore him to silence, he wouldn’t say anything, not even to Sato. But what do I tell the guys? Mao’s going to know somethings going on if all of a sudden I show up and there’s been no actual wedding.”

            “Yah, I can see where that might be a problem. I guess we tell who we need to, and say we’re putting off any sort of party for a while.”

            “I need to call Kou again.”

            “How are we going to keep this a secret? Mao’s going to know that something’s wrong, and he’s going to blab to everyone! I’m supposed to have a wedding, and then suddenly I’m back at work? What about your guys? Kai’s going to ask questions, isn’t he? What are we going to do, Kou? Wait… doesn’t that defeat the entire purpose of getting married and not telling anyone? KOUYOU! WHAT THE HELL AM I GOING TO DO?

            Ruki gently takes Tomo’s phone away from him, “Kou, Ru…let me speak to Hal. Hey, yah, he’s pretty much curled up on the bed in panic mode. Honestly? I don’t care. I say we still have the ceremony and tell people that we’re doing something else later. No, my guys aren’t going to care, and I doubt yours will either. Yah, I know, but I can’t put Tomo through this any longer, he’s already a basket case. Sure, let’s just keep the date and we’ll figure it out. Oh, and Tomo wants to do brunch over here after, sure. Thanks Hal, see you then.”

 

            “A squatter? I don’t know Pon, that doesn’t sound very safe.” Die wasn’t sure he liked the idea of his boyfriend being a landlord.

            “I don’t think it’s going to be a problem; we just need to speak to the person. They might be in the same situation Uta had been in, and isn’t that why we’re buying the building?”

            Die sighed, “I understand that part, but what if it’s some creepy guy or child molester or murderer, and they attack you when you go to kick them out.”

            “Child molester?” Pon raised an eyebrow, “You can’t seriously believe that, can you? Look, if it makes you feel any better, you can come with Uta and I when we confront the person, I’m sure Sakurai won’t let him go alone either.”

            Die frowned, “When are you planning on doing this? I might need to cut out of practice early.”

           

            “Of course, I’ll be going with you.”

            “Oh? What if I say I don’t really need you to go? I doubt there’s going to be a problem, Acchan.”

            Sakurai glared at Uta, “If you think, for one moment, that I would let you go to an empty building, at night, to speak to an unknown and possibly dangerous person, we may need to re-think our relationship.”

            “Re-think…?” Uta gaped at Sakurai, “Honestly Atsushi, you’re over reacting. I’m a grown ass man that can handle his own business.” He tried to downplay the situation.

            Sakurai’s face softened, “Baby, I’m not over reacting. You of all people should understand why I wouldn’t let you do this alone, even with Hiroto.” He reached across the couch for Uta, pulling him close. “I worry about you every time you are out of my sight. It hasn’t been that long since you were seriously ill, that I almost lost you. I’m not saying you’re a child, I’m saying that I’d feel much better if I were with you when you contacted this person.”

            Uta’s resolved caved in at that point, finally understanding what Sakurai’s motives were; genuine fear that he may become ill again. “Fine, you can come.” He sighed and snuggled under Sakurai’s arm, “I bet Die will be with us too, he’s almost as paranoid as you are, with Pon.”

            Sakurai kissed Uta on the side of the head, “Our love for you, is not paranoia, it’s care and concern and it’s all based out of how much we love you. Daisuke is just as concerned as I am.”

            “Tomorrow night, about eight?”

 

            “Didn’t I tell you that Sakurai would be coming with us?” Pon had just gotten off the phone with Uta, laughing when he had been told what Sakurai had said.

            “Too bad, I’m still going with you.” Die grunted. “You don’t know for sure if it’s only one person living there, and what if it’s a man? Nope, you’re stuck with me.”

            “We’re going over tomorrow night around eight, does that give you enough time to get home from the studio?”

            “I will make sure to be home.”

 

 

            It had been three days since Yume had seen the people walking through the apartment complex, and into the flat she had been squatting in for almost two years, days filled with looking for another place to live, just in case. Her days were usually uneventful, always searching for both food and money, the latter being the most difficult to obtain, without engaging in something illegal or shady.

            She didn’t want to go back to the days of allowing old men to watch her attempting to bathe in a sink in a public restroom, as they jerked off. The first time she had been given twenty dollars for that, the man wanting more but Yume scared him away by threatening to go to the police. She wasn’t proud at that moment, but the money had given her a chance to eat decently for the first time in weeks, and afforded her a small stash of non-perishable food to keep in the flat. Yume had resorted to the practice a few more times, but only when she was at her lowest. Now all that was threatening to be disrupted.

            With her typical guarded approach to the building, walking past and peering into the courtyard, Yume quickly slipped through the gate and down the hall to the flat. Waiting several minutes before turning on her flash light, she grabbed the last few onigiri that she had bought days before, and ate her ‘dinner’.

 

            “This should be enough; it’s only going to be us four.” Tomo put the last of the food in the fridge, “the champagne is in as well. I think I’m done.”

            “Good, now come over here and sit with me, and we’ll watch a movie and just relax. There’s nothing else you have to do.” Ruki patted the couch. “What did Taka say when you told him?”

            “He was surprised but he totally understood. He knows I don’t like crowds and was really not that surprised when I told him that we decided against having a big wedding. I think he might have seen this coming.” Tomo had gone to the HBG that day, and spoke to Taka privately.

            “You can tell everyone on Saturday. Just not today, I don’t need Mao calling me every five minutes.”

            “Oh, I wouldn’t subject you to that torture.” Taka laughed, “Is there anything I can help you with?”

            Tomo smiled, “We have everything already arranged.” he paused, “I think there might be something you could do for us, but it would have to wait until Sunday.”

            Taka winked at Tomo, “I won’t even tell Sato, he has a hard time keeping secrets.”

 

 

            “Daisuke and I will be right behind you.” Sakurai had his hand on Uta’s shoulder, Pon looking back at Die, nodding in agreement. “We’re going to have to be quiet, I don’t want to scare the person to death.” Uta said.

            It was too late for Yume to react, as she heard the key in the door. She had just closed her eyes, when the foot steps and keys jangling, startled her awake. “Shit.” Scrambling up and leaning against the wall, she pulled her blankets up to her neck, and waited.

            “Hello?” A man’s voice came from behind the door, “We don’t want to hurt you, we just want to speak to you. I’m going to open the door.” Uta looked back over his shoulder at Sakurai, “You and Die stay back.”

            Slowly opening the door, Uta turned on a flash light and started to sweep the room, quickly finding Yume, scrunched up in a corner. “Hi, my name is Uta…we’re not here to hurt you, okay? We just want to talk. This is my friend, Hiroto, can we come in, please?” Yume was shaking, but slowly nodded, but her eyes went wide when she saw the other two men.

            “They’re going to stay outside,” Uta said, “I swear, we just want to talk to you, we’re not here to hurt you or make you leave.” Pon’s flashlight swept the room, making sure there were no other people in the flat.

            Uta carefully walked a little closer to the young woman who was still cowering in fear. “I’m going to sit down, so we can talk. What’s your name?” As he looked at the young woman closer, he could see that she was crying. “Sasaki Yume.”

            “How long have you been living here, Yume-chan?” Pon asked, in a soft calm voice. “Um, almost two years.” They heard a sharp intake of breath behind them, “Two years?” Die mumbled.

            “Yume-chan, how old are you?” Sakurai stepped into the flat, “Eighteen.” Die swore again, turning around and walking out of the flat. “Don’t mind him,” Pon smiled at her, trying to gain her trust.

            “Um, I’ll leave if you give me a few minutes to gather my things. I’m sorry I messed up your flat, but it’s been empty for so long, I didn’t think anyone would notice.” Yume reached out as far as she could, without leaving the security of the corner, and pulled her clothing towards her.

            “You don’t have to leave, Yume. I’m not here to throw you out into the cold.” Uta reached out and touched her hand. “Pon, I mean Hiroto, and I are going to buy the building, but you don’t have to leave.”

            Yume let her long black hair hide her face, as she still reached for her things, “But…I can’t pay rent or anything. It’s okay, I know a safe spot where I can go, I’ll be out in a few minutes.” Uta looked over his shoulder, Die had returned but was standing in the doorway.

            Pon nudged Uta, “You can stay here, Yume, you don’t have to leave. I’m not forcing you out, and besides, we don’t own the building yet, we haven’t signed the papers.” Pon pointed out.

            Uta stood up and walked over to where Die and Sakurai were standing, “I don’t think I can get her to come home with either one of us, but can we at least go and get her some decent food and something to drink?”

            “I’ll go,” Die offered, “Just keep her here.” He slipped away without being noticed.

            “…but I don’t understand, if you’re going to buy the building, why would you let me stay here?” Uta walked over and sat down, leaning against the wall. “Without getting into too much detail, let me explain. Hiroto and I are going to buy the building, have it remodeled, and then we will have flats available at a low rent, to help younger people like you, that are going through a hard time. Once we get to know each other better, I’ll tell you the whole story.”

            Within twenty minutes, Die was back with two bags, “I hope you like McDonald’s, because I figured you could use a hot meal, even if it’s not the best.” He handed the bags to Pon, “Here’s a few other things to tide you over until Uta and Pon can figure things out.”

            Yume stared at the men like they were aliens, “I don’t understand, you don’t even know me! Why are you being so kind?” the tears started again.

            “Yume-chan,” Die stepped forward, “We don’t need to know you, to understand that you’re in need, ne? Besides, if Uta doesn’t help you, who will? Looks to me like you could use a little kindness, right?”

            Sakurai interrupted, “Yume-chan, stay here for the night, and tomorrow morning, we’ll come back and help you figure out what to do. At the very least, you may come to my home tomorrow and take a proper shower and wash your clothes.”

            Leaving the two flashlights that Pon and Uta were using, Uta turned and looked at the young woman before he shut the door, “I promise, you’ll be fine. We’ll find a way to work something out.”

            Yume stared at the door for some time, trying to unscramble her brain over what had just happened. Four strange men, had come into her life, gave her food and promised her that everything would work out. What the hell just happened? Looking at the McDonald’s bag, she shook her head, “Just eat, stupid girl, think about that shit later.” she murmured.

            Die was pissed, flat out angry as hell. Pon saw the man’s jaw set so tight, looking like he may crush his own teeth. Reaching across the seat, Pon put his hand on Die’s leg, and gave it a soft squeeze. Pulling into the lot at the complex, he turned off the car and leaned his head on the steering wheel. “What’s wrong?” Pon asked carefully.

            “Two years. She’s been there for two years, since she was 16. Why the hell is an 18-year-old girl, squatting in a dumpy flat for two years? Where the hell are her parents? I don’t understand parents who allow this, or worse, are the cause of it. What could she have done that was so horrible that she couldn’t live at home any longer?” Die said through his silent tears.

            “I don’t know. I don’t understand parents who reject their children either, but we know quite a few that have. Uta’s parents, Yuki’s did originally, the kids don’t grow up to be what their parents expect, so they throw them away. It’s disgraceful at the least, criminal at best, but the point is, we found Yume and now we’re going to help her.” Pon tried to comfort Die, knowing that he was falling short.

            “Come on, it’s getting late and you have to be at the studio early.” He leaned over the seat and kissed Die on the cheek. “I’m sure Uta and Sakurai are having the same discussion we are, but maybe they have better answers.”

 

            Uta and Sakurai were having the exact same conversation, though it was Uta who was crying into his lover’s neck, as Sakurai tried to comfort him.                 “Did you… did you see how scared she was?” Uta sobbed. Whispering soft words of comfort, Sakurai shook his head when Naoto and Byou peeked into the bedroom, ‘later’, he mouthed.

            “Baby, look at me,” Sakurai tipped Uta’s chin up, wiping the tears from his eyes, “What we have to do is figure out how we’re going to help Yume. You have to have a plan in place, at least a starting plan. How long until you find out if the offer on the building is cleared?”

            “Monday,” Uta sniffed, “I can’t let her stay there until then, but we have no extra rooms, Acchan…what am I going to do?” He laid his head down on Sakurai’s chest, still sniffing the tears away. “Even after that, the flats aren’t going to be ready to live in for at least a month, I can’t let Yume stay there, it’s not safe.”

            A thought crossed Sakurai’s mind, that made him smile, “Who else do you know that would take in a young person in trouble?”

            “What? I don’t know anyone that would do that… what do you mean?” Uta sat up on his elbow, looking down at Sakurai.

            “Think about it carefully, love. You do know someone that would take Yume in,”

            “Hide and Yuta?” Uta guessed. Sakurai snorted, “Maybe as a last resort, she’d end up being their daughter…that’s not who I’m thinking of.” Uta laid back down, his mind flashing with names, then he sat up quickly, “Oh, you can’t be serious!”

            Sakurai nodded, “Do you see Yume as a threat?”

            “No, of course not, but Mistress? Do you think she’d approve?”

            “It wouldn’t hurt to ask. You’re doing the same work you had started out to do after Teiji died. You promised Davina that you would help other people that were in tight spots. Yume is in a very tight spot, don’t you think? It would only be temporary.”

            Uta said nothing for a moment, then reached over and grabbed his phone off the night table. “I need to speak to you about a problem with the new building, text me when you wake up.”