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Shelters in The Storm

Chapter Text

 

          Uta was just plain pissy. Taka had called a meeting to inform the crew that the HBG would be closed indefinitely due to the pandemic, and everyone was sent home, with no date to reopen. “The boss will still pay you, and you’ll all have your jobs when this is over, but at this point, we’re losing money by staying open, and possibly exposing ourselves and others to the virus.”

          Driving home, frustrated and angry, Uta pulled into the drive way, got out, and slammed the car door. Walking into the house, he threw his keys down on the small table in the genkan, Uta toed off his shoes and went in search of his lover. “Tadaima,” no answer. “Great, he’s not even home, why does he get to be out and I don’t?” Stomping down the hall, Uta went to their bedroom to change out of his uniform, muttering and swearing, “this, fucking sucks.”

          Throwing himself down on the couch, and grabbing a blanket, Uta settled in to start the remainder of his day, watching TV and being bored. When Luna came up to nuzzle her boy, Uta roughly shoved her off the couch, “I’m not in the mood, Luna,” he snapped at the cat, who gave him a decidedly dirty look before sashaying down the hall to the bedroom.

          For the better part of an hour, Uta threw himself a huge pity party. Flipping through the channels, trying to avoid any news reports on the situation with the virus. When he couldn’t find anything to watch, he reached for his phone, hoping to distract himself with games, only to grow even more frustrated, finally tossing his phone on the table, “UGGHH! This is so not fair!”

          “Tadaima,” Uta heard coming from the genkan, jumping off the couch, he went to greet his lover, “Finally, where have you been?” he demanded of Sakurai, as he stood at the door, with his hands on his hips.

          The older man was slightly taken aback at Uta’s tone, “I was at the studio, gathering up some projects to work on during the week. All concerts have been canceled, so I’m going to take this opportunity to try and write some new songs.”

          “So basically, you’re going to be stuck in your office all day?”

          Sakurai frowned, “Where is all this anger coming from? Why are you so damn pissy?” He walked to the kitchen, Uta trailing behind him.

          “We had a meeting today at work, Taka said the boss is closing the HBG until further notice, though we will still be getting paid. This whole thing is just asinine, we’re not going to get sick, it’s only old people like you.”

          “Old people like me?” This hurt, and Uta saw it in Sakurai’s face.

          “You know what I mean, older people that are already sick.” Back-peddling.

         Sakurai turned away, “I’ll be stuck at home as well. My band and many others have had to cancel performances, Mucc had to cancel a European tour, the Gazette had to cancel an anniversary event. This isn’t about not being able to go to Vinyl Fetish, Uta, this is serious.”  

         “It’s going to get boring; you know that as well as I do. What are we going to do? This could last for weeks.” Uta wasn’t done whining.

         Sakurai wiggled his eyebrows, “I believe that we can find a few things to do,”

         Uta scoffed, “Even that’s going to get old fast,”

         This last comment, even more than the age jab, hurt Sakurai the most. Pouring a glass of wine, Sakurai brushed past Uta and walked down to his office, firmly shutting the door.

         “What did I say?”

 

          For the next hour, Uta tried to remain busy while he anxiously waited for Sakurai to come out of his office. Going over what he had said to his lover, he knew he had hurt the man, “He’s not old…” he whispered. Thinking over the situation, he had to admit he was being selfish. The pandemic wasn’t just in Japan, it was world wide and people were dying at an increasingly swift rate.

         Deciding to start dinner, Uta didn’t hear Sakurai come into the kitchen, the man sneaking up behind him and wrapping his arms around Uta’s slender shoulders, nuzzling his neck.

        “Hey, you know I’m ticklish!” Uta squirmed to get out of his lover’s grasp. “I want to apologize,” he said as he turned around, “I didn’t mean anything by the old comment, I don’t see you as being old…I promise, and sex is definitely not boring. Can you forgive me?”

         Sakurai accepted the apology with a kiss. “I understand, this whole situation isn’t going to be fun for anyone,” he took over finishing cooking dinner. “There’s going to be a box arriving tomorrow, and I don’t want you to open it, just take it and put it in the office.”

        “A box of what?”

        “Never you mind what it is, just don’t open it.” The remainder of the evening was spent with Uta trying to guess what Sakurai had bought, “Um, is it a new kitten? No, wait, that wouldn’t be delivered…oh! I know… it’s um, a new… forget it…I can’t think of anything.”

 

       The next day, Sakurai needed to get Uta out of the house, sending him to pick up some cat food, “You know if they don’t have their canned food in the morning, they’re going to scream all day. Just do it quickly, and make sure to wear your mask.”

       Uta hadn’t been gone more than fifteen minutes, when Sakurai’s package arrived at the door, “Perfect.” Taking the box down to the bedroom, Sakurai unpacked its contents, laying them out individually on the bed. “Bet this doesn’t get old,” he chuckled. Standing back and looking down, he tapped his finger to his lips, deciding on how to use each item. Hearing Uta’s small sports car pull into the garage, Sakurai quickly repacked the box and shoved it under the bed, walking out he closed the door.

      “Tadaima…”

       “Okaeri, in the kitchen.” Sakurai called out, “What do you want to do about dinner tonight?”

         Uta started to unpack the cat food, putting it in the cabinet, “Hmm, I don’t really care, maybe pasta?” The couple discussed ways to combat the boredom during the foreseeable future. Sakurai suggesting that they take long drives along the coast, “We can be in the car and not come in contact with anyone, and still be safe.”

        “Could we go to the estate? If we packed our own food… oh wait, never mind,” Uta’s voice dropped, “We don’t have anyone to watch the cats.” The look of defeat was hard for Sakurai to take, “Baby, I promise when this is all over, and everything is back to normal, we will take a long vacation, maybe back to the Netherlands to see Josez and Marcel. I’m sure Davina would let us use her flat, wouldn’t that be nice?”

       Snuggling on the couch after dinner, Uta’s feet in Sakurai’s lap, the couple watched some TV, mostly about the pandemic, “This is so sad, all those people in Italy and Spain?” Uta now felt like an asshole for complaining earlier about not being able to go out.

       “Let’s go to bed, I’m tired of all this bad news,” Sakurai suggested, “can you feed the cats?” Uta moaned a complaint, but did as he was asked. “Come on you terrible little fur people, time for your last meal.”

        Sakurai pulled the box out and set it on the bed, trying hard not to giggle. “He’s going to love this…” Standing at the foot of the bed, Sakurai waited for Uta. “Before you say anything, I want to remind you what you said about a certain thing getting old fast.” Uta stared hard at Sakurai, “What do you mean?”

      The older man stepped aside, a gesturing wave towards the box, “Open it.” Uta sat on the bed and slowly opened the box, “What the hell? Are you serious?”

      “Still think our sex life will get old?” Uta looked at his lover, “You bought sex toys? How many are in here?” he started to take each item out and lay them on the bed. “You’re joking? How is this suppose to fit?” He picked up a rather large latex toy, and waved it around, “You’re not using this on me!”

      “Maybe I want you to use it on me?” Uta’s eyes grew wide just before he fell over on the bed laughing, “really? You want me to use this on you? Oh, my god, Acchan…you’re such a pervert!” The couple spent a few minutes teasing each other with the dildoes and vibrators, the cock straps and nipple clamps, making sure to voice who would be using what on who. “Only you could think of doing this, hentai,”

          “Still think sex will get old so quickly? If you do, l promise to show you just how wrong you are.”

 

 

         

         

         

         

         

         

Chapter Text

“I’m going to get fat, if you keep making cookies and desserts, is that what you want?” Hide was joking of course, but Yutaka was not amused.
“Then I suggest you don’t eat them, it’s not like you like them anyway, you only like Uta’s cookies.” Yuta huffed, “You don’t really like my cooking as it is.”
“That’s not true, if I didn’t like your cooking, we’d already be divorced.” Hide was teasing, but his husband didn’t think it was funny.
Yuta glared at Hide, “That might be a consideration. Now you can find something to eat on your own.” Throwing the metal spoon, he was holding, into the sink, Yuta stomped off to their bedroom, slamming the door.
“Damn, that was an asshole move.” Hide muttered to himself, walking into the kitchen. “Don’t know when to keep my stupid mouth to myself.” Opening the cabinet doors, and checking the fridge, all Hide could find was the latest batch of cookies that Yutaka had made. Picking one up, he bit into it, “Not as good as Uta’s, that’s for sure.”

Starting up his laptop, Yutaka browsed different sites for online recipes for peanut butter cookies, hoping to find something that would be close to Uta’s. “Hmm, okay…this one has chocolate chips,” Bookmarking several different pages, Yutaka sighed, “All I can do is try.”
Leaving the bedroom, and going straight to the kitchen, Yuta opened the fridge, only to find his cookies missing. “Where are the cookies I made?” A moan was heard coming from the living room, “Hide?”
The man in question was laying on his back, holding his stomach in pain, with his eyes closed, “What’s wrong?” Yuta asked concerned.
Hide opens his eyes, and smiled painfully, “I ate all of your cookies,”
Yutaka gasped, “All of them? There were almost two dozen! Why would you do that?”
“Because I love you.”
The tears started to well in Yuta’s eyes, “You stupid man…I love you too. I promise I’ll ask Uta for his recipe, but next time you can only have two, not twenty-two.” Sitting next to Hide on the couch, Yuta reached out to stroke his husband’s hair, “I really do love you… even when you’re a dumbass.”

Chapter Text

          Tatsu had arrived at the studio, to pick up sheet music and supplies to weather the long stretch of confinement, leaving Koichi to his own devices while he was gone. Growing bored of TV, Koichi parked himself in front of his computer, looking at random sites that were reporting the pandemic across the world, and its impact on general life.

          “What? Seriously?” Koichi clicked on a link for a news article from America, the headline reading “Animal shelters begging for adoptions.” The article explained that people were dumping their pets at animal shelters, either out of ignorance that they believed they could catch the virus from their pets, or that they simply did not have the resources to keep their pets.

          “Morons,” Koichi grumbled, “I’d go hungry before I’d give Teo and Gordy away.” Reading through the remainder of the article, Koichi’s thoughts went to what was happening in his own country, “Are they doing that here?” He did a quick search of animal shelters near him, hoping that they would not be overflowing with unwanted pets.

          Checking the shelters nearby, Koichi was greatly relieved to see that for the most part, Japan had not fallen to the insane belief that a family’s pet could expose them to the virus. “Pfft, of course we’re not that stupid,” he muttered. Still, he continued to go through the different shelter sites, searching through pages and pages of animals that were up for adoption. Then he stopped.

          “Oh my god…you’re so CUTE!” he gasped at the picture in front of him, “where are you?”

 

          Driving through the mostly deserted streets of Tokyo, in his head, Tatsu went over what he and Koichi could do to avoid the upcoming boredom of quarantine, “Ojisan’s, movies, food, what else is there?” He had not been the only musician that had come to the studio to gather up work that they could do at home, Tatsu had run into Sakurai Atsushi on his way out.  “I hope you and Koichi are staying safe, Uta’s being a pain in my ass right now, with his whining about not being able to work.”

          “Koichi’s not there yet,” Tatsu smirked, “but I’m sure he will be by the end.” With exchanged goodbyes, Tatsu headed home.

          The house was eerily quiet when Tatsu came in, “Tadaima”, there was no response. Putting his things in his office, he went back to the bedroom. Carefully opening the door, he saw Koichi in bed, lying on his side facing away from him. “Kou? Are you okay?” the fear pooled in his stomach.

          Tip toeing around the side of the bed, the first thing he notices is not Koichi, but a tiny striped face looking up at him. Reaching over he gently shook Koichi’s shoulder.

          “Hmm? Oh, you’re home,” Koichi said sleepily.

          “What’s that?” Tatsu pointed at the small kitten curled up against his husband’s tummy.

          “Moofie”, the kitten looked up at Koichi, as Tatsu sat on the side of the bed, “Where did he come from and why is he here?” Koichi explained about reading the news articles, and wondering if the practice of dumping pets, was happening in Japan.

          “Then I saw his picture,”

          “Kou, we don’t need another cat,” Tatsu sighed.

          Koichi rolled his eyes, “Well, we have one now, and Moofie is special.” As if the kitten understood what Koichi had said, he sat up and walked to Tatsu, and climbed into his lap. “All kittens are special, Kou… how is this one any different?”

          “Pick him up,” he urged Tatsu, who then shook his head, “Me holding him will not chan…” As Tatsu put his hand out and picked Moofie up, his eyes grew wide, “How?” he hadn’t noticed the missing left front leg, until he wrapped his hand around the tiny body.

          “The shelter said he had a birth defect,” The kitten lifted a paw and patted Tatsu on the chin. “It doesn’t bother him, put him on the floor, you’ll see he can get around with only three legs just fine.”

          Putting the kitten on the floor, Tatsu watched as Moofie started to explore the room, “See, he probably doesn’t even know his leg is gone. I’m sure he won’t have any problem playing with Teo and Gordy.”

          Knowing that he had just lost the battle, Tatsu fell over on the bed, “You did this on purpose, didn’t you?” he accused Koichi, “you knew I wouldn’t say no, once you got him here. You’re so manipulating sometimes.”

          Much to both of their surprises, Moofie easily clawed his way up on the bed, and went straight to Tatsu, head booping him, and nuzzling the man’s nose.

          “I think you finally have your own cat…he hasn’t done that to me.” Koichi giggled. Tatsu had to admit, the kitten was adorable. “What do you think, Moofie? Are we going to be besties?” As if the kitten understood, he nuzzled Tatsu’s neck, then curled up under his chin, and promptly fell asleep.

 

 

   Moofie

Chapter Text

 

          The single thing Taka hated most about being the manager of the High Ball Garden, was doing payroll, it just made him uncomfortable. Working from home, made it somewhat easier as he had no distractions…other than Sato. It started with Koichi calling him and telling him about Moofie, “Kou, you know we can’t come over to meet him, just send pictures.”

          Settling back into his work, Taka had some quiet time, for at least fifteen minutes, before he heard another sigh, “What are you doing?” Sato asked from the doorway.

          “The same thing I was doing an hour ago,” he pointed out.

          “Sorry,” Sato huffs, “I won’t bother you again.” With nothing left to do, Sato went to the bedroom and took a nap.

         

          It took two hours for Taka to complete his work, two hours of working with numbers, something he truly hated. “Finally,” he sighed as he pushed back from his computer. Going in search of his husband, Taka was surprised to find the man sleeping in the middle of the day. Realizing that Sato had to be as bored as he was, Taka didn’t wake him, instead opting for a quick trip out of the house.

 

          “Irrashai…Taka-kun, I’m surprised to see you out, what can I do for you?” Ojisan had left his ramen hut open for take away and delivery only, having no customers at the counter. “Ojisan, I need two pork cutlets and some ramen to go, please.”

          “How are you holding up under the lock down?” Ojisan asked while he was in this small kitchen.

          “Except for Sato pestering me while I work, we’re doing okay. Koichi keeps calling as well, evidently without Tatsu’s knowledge, Kou went and got a new kitten.”  They talked a little more about the events in the city, how quiet the streets were and how long it was expected to last.

          “All I know is after this is all over, there’s going to be a lot of celebrating going on.”

 

          Pulling into the driveway, Taka could see Sato standing at the front window, he held up the two bags from Ojisan’s. “Hey, you could have woken me up,” Sato snipped.

          “I didn’t want to, I wanted this to be a surprise. Now, sit down and I’ll get this out.” Taka ordered his husband. “Ojisan says hello, hopes that we’re not killing each other yet. He said most everyone has either ordered take away or delivery, I suspect he’ll be doing a lot of business while this shit is going on.”

          While they were cleaning up, Taka slid his arms around Sato’s waist, “Hey, I want to apologize for being so snarky earlier. I was doing payroll and you know how much I hate that.  I think we need to find something to do while we’re locked up, before we kill each other.”

          Flipping through the channels, the couple bounced ideas off each other, “What about doing the virtual rides at Disneyland? There are a bunch of amusement parks that are doing that, or even museums. We can do the one’s in America…” Sato suggested.

          “Hmm, as long as we don’t have to do that one rollercoaster in California, that thing made me sick as hell.” Taka reminded him. “Hey, look at this,” he pointed towards the TV.

          A news report from CNN was showing people who had put up Christmas lights on their houses, and even some that had put up their Christmas trees, in a bid to spread cheer among the country and for those staying home.

          “We should do that! I mean, not put up a tree, but can we please get out the Christmas lights, maybe put up some decorations?” Taka asked excitedly. Sato was grinning, “I think that’s a great idea, we should call everyone and see if they’ll join us.”

          For the next three hours, the coupled pulled out their Christmas decorations and lights. “Lights in the front window and along the gate,” Taka was enjoying this way too much. “Yes dear.”

          Going through the house and placing different decorations in the living room and kitchen, making sure that there was nothing that the cats could get into, Taka’s heart felt lighter. “This is perfect,” he quickly took a picture and sent it Koichi.

          “You should do this too! Everyone should put up Christmas lights.”

 

          Koichi showed the picture to Tatsu, “What do you think?”

          Tatsu looked at the picture, “I think I’ll be in the garage, getting the boxes down, just keep the cats, especially Moofie, from getting into things.”  

          “Tatsu’s in the garage now, you should send this to the others.”

 

          “This was a great idea, don’t you think?” Taka asked. He was comfortably snuggled up with Sato, Eddy at his feet, Muzzie and Fozzie poking around at the decorations. “I think this was a brilliant idea actually. Something to be thankful for, from the Americans, it’s a perfect way to lighten everyone’s mood.”

          “Maybe we should think of buying an artificial tree for next year, then we could leave it up longer and maybe Muzzie wouldn’t try to eat the needles.” Taka hoped Sato would go for the idea, secretly hoping to keep the Christmas tree up past New Years.

          “That can be arranged, but let’s look tomorrow, now I just want to sit here and enjoy ourselves,” Taka tipped his head up, asking for a kiss, which was gladly given. “I love you.”

 

 

Image may contain: christmas tree and plant We are having a 'Covid Christmas" This is our tree. 

Chapter Text

 

          “What flavor is that one?”

          “Persimmon…and here is a cranberry orange.” Shinya held the jelly jar up to show Miya. “The flavors this time are pretty standard, no weird ones like rose petal or tulip flavor.”

          A member of management from DCR had stopped by earlier in the day to drop off a box of fan gifts, from the last tour before the country went into lock down. As per the norm, there was a lot of jelly, something that he was always happy to receive. Miya got the typical fan letters, a few pieces of jewelry and oddly enough, a pork pie hat.

          Holding up a small rabbit plushie (something that Shinya didn’t care for), he called for Miyu, throwing the plushie to the dog, “Here’s a new toy.” It only took an hour before the plushie was ‘dead’.

          Laughing at some of the clothing choices; a long scarf with skull print, a shimmery velvet tank top, and a pair of socks with chihuahua’s printed on them, it was always fun going through the fan gifts.

          “Here’s the last card,” Miya handed it to Shinya.

          Opening the card, he expected it to be in English, (which he would have to translate), but was surprised that it was in romaji. Reading through the card, he gasped, “Miya…read this!”

          “Shinya-san, I wanted to give you a gift that you would truly love, and that would not take up any space in your suitcase. Instead I donated $100, in your name, to our local no kill animal shelter. Thank you for coming to America.”

          A picture of an older woman, holding a Papillon and a Chihuahua was included in the card. Shinya was in tears, his hand over his mouth, “This is the best gift I think I’ve ever received, that is so sweet and look at her cute dogs!”

          Miya put his arm around the man’s shoulder, “She obviously knows what matters most to you, and it’s great she did that instead of giving you another jar of some weird jelly.”

          “I wish I could thank her, but she obviously lives in America, so she’s not part of [a knot].” He read the card again, “I’m going to put this up on the fan club site, it’s the least I can do.” Taking a screen shot, Shinya posted the card and the picture on the fan club web site, also tagging the rest of the band.

          He rarely kept any of the numerous cards and letters that he received from fans, but this card was different. It showed that the fan knew how much he loved his dogs, and that this would be warmly received, and appreciated.

         

            

Chapter Text

 

          “Bleach?”

          “Hmm, maybe as a last choice.”

          “Netflix?”

          “Depends on what’s available.”

          “ARGH! Would you just pick something?”

          “I tried to, but you shot me down,”

          “We can not keep having sex ten times a day, Akira.”

          “Why not?” Reita started to reach out to Ayato’s thigh, only to get his hand slapped away. “We’re not going to have sex again today! Three times is enough.”

          Reita crossed his arms over his chest, “Well thanks, I love you too.”

          Ayato glared at his boyfriend, “This has nothing to do with how much we love each other and you know it. We need something to occupy our minds, now you can either suggest something to watch, or you’ll be stuck with what I choose.”

          “Fine, let’s watch Bleach.” Reita conceded. Grabbing a blanket and some pillows, the couple settled in.  

          “Do we start with episode one, or where we left off when we were still in California?” Ayato had the remote in his hand.

          It had come down to this; watching all 366 episodes of Bleach after exhausting all their previous attempts at combating boredom. It wasn’t as if Ayato didn’t enjoy sex with Reita, it was more of an issue of being able to walk or sit down without pain.

          “Episode one, not like we have anything else to do. Do you want snacks or a beer?” Reita grabbed some chips, “Yes to both please.”

          “Do you think the new Bleach will be any good? It’s been how long since the anime ended?” Ayato took the beer.

          “Hmm, 2012, I think. I don’t have much hope for the the new release. Who the hell will they use as seiyuu? It’s been eight years.” Reita arranged the blanket over their legs.

          “I guess since they’re professionals, they would still have the vocal range for the characters, I doubt that’s something that just goes away, that doesn’t happen with vocalists, does it?” Ayato wondered.  Reita shrugged, “Voices change. If you listen to Sakurai when he was younger, compared to now? His voice has more depth now, it’s the same with Ruki and Kyo.”

          They watched the first five episodes in silence, only talking during the change to the next episode, or getting up for more snacks and beer. “If we keep drinking like this, we’re going to both be drunk, and out of beer. I’m making this last call.” Ayato announced.

          “That’s fine, we don’t need to be drunk in our own flat.”

 

          “You know, when Ishida fights Mayuri, he sort of looks like Toshiya,” Ayato commented.

          Reita laughed, “You think? I’d say Aoi looks more like Ishida.” Now it was Ayato’s turn to laugh, “Aoi looks like a male version of Yoruichi, but without the boobs.”

          “Who’s Ruki then?” The conversation went to hell after that, with the constant comparing of Bleach characters, to their friends.

          “Who am I then?” Reita asked.

          Ayato narrowed his eyes in judgement, “Hmm, let me think… Ichigo, only because of the hair.”

          “My…” Reita threw himself on top of Ayato, tickling the man until he screamed, “My hair looks nothing like Ichigo’s!”

          Pushing Reita off, he sat up, “Fine, who is your choice?”

          Reita hesitated for a moment, “Duh, Renji.”

          “Renji? Oh my god…” Ayato’s laughter hurt Reita a bit, “It’s not that funny,” he pouted.

          Reaching for his laptop, Ayato did a quick search, “Here, this is Ichigo, and this picture of you! You could be twins.” Turning the laptop so Reita could see the screen, Ayato points out a very old picture of Reita, pre-noseband days.

          “Oh shit, I forgot those are still out there,” he groaned.

          “It’s not a bad picture, Aki, besides, it’s not like you wear the noseband at home. You were pretty damned cute though. Oh, here’s one of Ruki and Uruha… you guys were so young!”

          This trip down memory lane, changed what they were watching. Going through the images, Reita commenting on what year and what album each look represented.

          “Which one do you like the most?” Reita challenged his lover.

          “Um, I like all of them,” Ayato said shyly, “but if I had to choose? This one…because you do that at home all the time.” He pointed at a picture of Reita flexing his muscles.

          “Really? Not the finger licking challenge? I though that was a damned good photo, everyone lost their shit over it as well.”

          With the remaining Bleach episodes forgotten, the couple went through and looked at pictures of The Gazette, which then faded into other bands, and finally, back to the Gazette.

          With a stretch and a yawn, Ayato shut down his computer, and leaned over to kiss Reita, “I’m tired, let’s go to bed,” he winked at his lover. Reita looked surprised, “Wait? You said three times was enough!”

          “I lied.”

 

Reita. The GazettE. | The gazette, Jrock, Visual kei Ichigo?

 

Posts in Topic "[Artist] The Gazette [Part 4]" | JpopAsia Nothing wrong with this picture! I can honestly see him doing this at home... in front of the mirror. 

Chapter Text

 

          The tension between the two lovers was palatable in the flat; Die retreating to his guitar room, Pon sitting on the couch with his laptop. Like so many others during the forced lock down, the couple had become testy and snippy with each other over the most minor of things, finally going to separate rooms. “This is stupid,” Pon muttered.

          Die was thinking the same thing, but wanted to give Pon some quiet time, “We shouldn’t be arguing over nothing.” They were both right, but the tension was unavoidable without being able to cool down, somewhere other than in the flat.

          Pon spent the next hour watching videos, not committing to an entire movie, in case Die wanted to join him. “Hmm, Maximum The Hormone.” Pon clicked on the video, and was instantly in hysterics, over the greenscreen video, of the band members dancing. “This is epic,” he giggled.

          “What the hell?” Die opened the bedroom door, “Pon?”

          “You have to see this!”

          Die put down his guitar and walked down the hall, “See what?”

          “Do you know who Maximum the Hormone is?” Pon patted the couch.

          “Um, I don’t personally know them, but I know of the band, why?”  Pon was still laughing, “They have a song about sperm,”

          Die smirked, “Yah, I’ve heard it, pretty damned funny, which video did you see?” Pon pointed out which video he had just played, where the band is dancing in front of a green screen. “This is better than Mucc Taiso!”

          “It gets better,” Die reached for the laptop, “this is the perfect video to explain the band.”

          “Oh. My. God! Look at how many people are there!” The video die had chosen was a festival in 2015, “they’re doing the dance and everything! Shit…I’d get totally smashed in that crowd, but it looks like it was so much fun!”

After that video, the two men went down a deep dark rabbit hole, that ended with Dir En Grey.

          “Okay, we’re done…” Die started to close the laptop, “Wait!” Pon grabbed it out of his hands, “Why can’t we watch some Diru videos?”

          Die groaned, “Really? Do we have to? Isn’t it enough that you’re living with their guitar player?” Pon stuck his tongue out, “No, it’s not.”

          For the better part of two hours, Pon and Die went through the video history of Dir En Grey, with pauses to recover from laughing.

          “You guys were so young…I mean look at Kaoru, he looks sort of dad like now, not that he’s ugly, just more mature. And why hasn’t Shinya changed at all? He still looks exactly the same!”

          “Well, Shin is the youngest, but I get what you mean. I think Kao has changed the most…well maybe Toshiya considering how buff he is now, Kyo and Kao have added more tattoos to their collections,” Die explained, “For me, it’s been my hair is that’s changed the most.”

          Pon leaned against Die’s shoulder, “Hey, I’m sorry for being such an asshole, I’m just bored.”

          Die kissed Pon’s forehead, “I’m sorry too, this is going to get worse though, so we need to figure out what to do, so we don’t kill each other. Any suggestions?”

          “Drinking, sex, Ojisan’s delivered, sex, watching videos, doing Taiso, sex…” Pon deadpanned.

          Die huffed, “That’s a lot of sex, are you sure?”  

          “Is that a problem? I can change it and just do drinking, Ojisan’s and Taiso, we can skip the sex.”

          “Should we warn the neighbors?” Die half joked.

          “Pfft, screw the neighbors, you know that they’ll be doing the same thing.”

          “So, screw Ayato? Hmm, that sounds tem…OW! You didn’t have to hit me, I was joking!”  Pon had smacked Die hard across the chest, “That’s not even funny, Mister. There will be no screwing of Ayato or anyone else but me…understood?”

          Die wiggled his eyebrows, “Have you been talking to Mistress or Uta? You sounded pretty dominating right now.”

          “Guess you’re going to have to figure that out on your own…” Pon was not admitting to anything.

          “Can we figure it out now?”

Chapter Text

 

          Closing his notebook with a snap, and taking his glasses off, Kyo raised his arms over his head and leaned back, stretching his body to work out the kinks from sitting at his desk for far too long. He had taken advantage of the current lock down, the creativity had flowed from Kyo, having written at least three songs worth of lyrics.

          “Mao?” Kyo stopped in the kitchen to grab a water bottle.  

          “In the bedroom,” Bedroom? Why is he in the bedroom at this time of the day? It was unusual for Mao to be so quiet. Walking to the bedroom, Kyo noticed that Chibi and Sumo were not following him and screaming for food.

          What Kyo found was surprising, “Mind telling me what you’re doing?” he leaned against the doorway.

          “Isn’t it obvious?”

          Kyo raised an eyebrow, “No, not really. Why are you in bed…and still in your pajamas?”

          Mao was propped up with what looked like half a dozen pillows, his laptop on a small table across his legs, Sumo and Chibi were curled up, asleep at his feet.

          “It’s pajama day, didn’t you know?” Mao claimed with a straight face.

          Kyo was not convinced, “There’s such a thing as pajama day?”

          “Well, not in this country, no. But in America, April 16th is officially Pajama day. It’s the day after they have to turn in their income taxes, and you’re suppose to wear pajamas to work.”

          “It’s not April 16th,” Kyo noted.

Mao rolled his eyes, “That’s not the point, you can do it on any day, and today is pajama day for me. Would you care to join me?” he asked.

          Kyo snorted, “You know I don’t own any pajamas,” Even before Kyo was finished, Mao had gotten out of bed and went into their closet, “I bought you a pair.”

          The pajamas were a soft blue, with tiny skulls printed on them. “They’re kind of like that pink shirt you have, with the flowers and bats? I thought they were cute.”

          Humoring his husband, Kyo put the pajamas on, “So, what do we do on pajama day?”

          “Watch random videos, eat junk food, nap and snuggle,” Mao patted the bed. “Sounds boring, are you sure there isn’t something else to do?” Kyo was hoping for more than just a snuggle.

          Mao’s shoulders drooped, “Really? Can’t we just lay in bed and watch videos for a bit before you start molesting me?”

          “But I still get to molest you, right? What do I have to watch before that? A movie or are we binging a TV show?” Kyo climbed into bed next to Mao, “What’s up first?”

          Kyo was surprisingly attentive and cooperative with Mao, never once bitching about what they were watching, or when he would be allowed to screw Mao silly, instead he laughed at the dumb TV shows, and paid attention to the movie. After three hours, Sumo and Chibi woke up and proceeded to demand to be fed, and the couple ended their official Pajama Day.

          Kyo wrapped his arms around Mao, as they stood in the kitchen, preparing the cat’s dinner, “I have to admit, that was fun, it was a nice relaxing day with my fave person.” He nuzzled Mao’s ear, making the man squirm. “I’m surprised you lasted that long; I was sure that you’d start grabbing at me after an hour.”

          “I do have some self restraint, it’s not like I can’t fuck you whenever I want,” Kyo declared, “it was fun. We haven’t had a day where we just hung out, in awhile.”

          “Wow, thanks for acknowledging that I’m not a sex toy,” Mao snapped, “maybe I won’t let you fuck me…how about you sleep on the couch, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” In a huff, Mao returned to the bedroom and slammed the door, and that quickly, the day ended.

          He winced as the door slammed shut, “Dumbass,” Kyo muttered to himself, “now what do I do?” Going to a closet, he pulled out a heavy blanket and a pillow and make himself comfortable, on the couch.

          Mao rubbed the hot tears from his eyes before they could fall, he didn’t want to give Kyo the satisfaction of knowing that he was angry and hurt. He had thought that his little pajama party had been enjoyable for his husband, but, Kyo was just humoring him and was just waiting for it to be over. “Asshole, it doesn’t always have to be about sex.”

          Both men had the same thoughts running through their minds; How long would this argument last, and how to fix it? Being locked down 24/7, was not conducive to mending the riff. Who would have to be the bigger man and apologize first? “Not me, it’s not my problem that all you want to do is fuck.” Mao muttered, as he shimmied down into the blankets and pulling his pillow over his head.

          Was this Mao’s depression flaring up? Or was it him just being an idiot and assuming that after agreeing to Mao’s little pajama day thing, Kyo was expecting sex afterwards? “Both?” Mao’s depression had been mostly under control, a little bit of situational depression had been experienced, but everyone was unhappy about what was happening in the world. None of this gave him an answer on how to remedy the problem.

         

          The next morning, the tension remained high, with Mao ignoring his husband as he went about his morning routine of feeding the two screaming cats, and getting his tea, before returning to the bedroom with another slam of the door. Kyo argued with himself over what to do; force Mao to talk to him and work things out, or leave the man alone.

          “…will just piss him off more,” he said under his breath.

          For Mao’s part, his feelings were still hurt, the sting of what he saw as the belittling of attempts to find something to help break up the boredom, that didn’t involve sex, was still painful. His heart argued that Kyo loved him and didn’t mean anything by his statement the night before, but his brain was churning with what he knew were thoughts brought on by his depression. This was turning into a lose/lose situation.

          Looking back, this seemed to be a repeat of the incident at his sister’s house, Kyo went over what he had done wrong in his proposal and involvement in the planning of their wedding. He had made a huge blunder, assuming Mao would handle all aspects of the wedding, and he just had to show up, and it had had blown up in his face.  Looking at what was happening now, the incidents were mirroring themselves, “So, fix it again…”

 

          “Might as well take a nap,” Mao mumbled as he started to shut down his laptop. How long was Kyo going to wait to apologize? Should he apologize first just to get the argument over and done with? A text from his phone, interrupted Mao’s thoughts… “Kyo?”

          “Please check your email.”  Mao sighed, “He can’t even say it to my face,” He grabbed his laptop, going to his email. “Just a reminder…” was the title of the email. Opening the attachment, Mao gasped as a video started to play, with Kyo standing in their kitchen, filming himself with his cell phone.

          “First, I want to tell you, I love you beyond any words I could ever use to express myself. I’m so sorry babe, I was completely out of line and I ignored your feelings and what you were trying to do for us. Now, I want you to watch the video closely and you’re going to have to decide in which order that we’re going to do things…” Soft music started as the video went dark.

          “You’re joking!” Mao laughed at the first picture; a white couple riding horses in what looked to be Hokkaido, “I’d pay to see you on a horse.” The video progressed through different vacation spots located all through the country, with more than a few castles and important shrines. At the end of the video, Kyo appeared, “We need to sit down and talk about this together, as a couple. I’m not pressuring you to go anywhere, I just want to be where you are.”

 

          The table couldn’t possibly be any cleaner than after the ten-minute scrubbing Kyo had given it, waiting for any sound or reaction from Mao. Hearing the bedroom door open, he braced himself for the unknown.

          Mao walked straight into Kyo’s arms, resting his head on his shoulder, “I’m sorry too. This freaking virus thing has my head all fucked up, my depression is worse than normal. I shouldn’t have snapped at you and I’m sorry.”

          Kyo held the man tightly, “Ditto…except without the depression,” he held Mao at arms length, “we need to stop and think before we speak, ne?”

          Mao nodded, “But the horse back riding? Seriously? I would only agree to that if we could take a camera crew and film it, I’m sure the fan club would love to see you on a horse.”

          “Pfft, if that’s what you would like to do, who am I to say no? Not like we’re going to run out and buy a farm and start doing rodeos or some shit.” He kissed Mao and led him to the couch. Going through the video again, Mao picked his favorite parts and pointed out the somewhat ridiculous places Kyo had chosen. “You don’t even like touring in America, what makes you want to go there on vacation?”

          “I just thought maybe you’d like to go, do the whole Los Angeles thing…like I said, I want to be where you are.”

          Mao leaned his head on Kyo’s shoulder, “I can’t choose right now, because we don’t know how long this is going to last, but I promise not to jump to any more conclusions and I will make sure to think before I speak.”

          “That’s acceptable. I’d like to ask you if we could please just take a nap? The couch is not the most comfortable to sleep on, and I mean just a nap…nothing more.” 

          Standing up, Mao held his hand out for Kyo, “Sounds good to me, as long as it’s just a nap… anything else can wait until later…and yes, there will be something else for later, I promise.”

          “Do I still have to wear the pajamas?”

Chapter Text

 

          Yukke winced as he heard yet another crash, “What the hell?” followed by Kai’s swearing, an hour in, and Kai had yet to find his wallet. It began with Kai wanting to order some things online, and at checkout, he went to grab his credit card from his wallet, only yet again, to find it missing. Turning the volume up on the video he was watching, Yukke went back to ignoring his husband’s tirade.

          Since the early days of their relationship, it was apparent to Yukke that Kai had issues with losing every day items; keys, wallets, belts, even shoes. The other members of The Gazette took this in stride, filming the flustered man looking for whatever it was he had lost that day, as it had become a running joke.

          “Any luck?” Yukke asked as Kai slumped on the couch next to him.

          “No,” Kai sulked, “I don’t understand, I had it with me on Thursday,” (it was now Saturday).

          “Thursday, what were you doing?”

          Kai leaned his head back, “I was ordering drum sticks, watching TV and waiting on you to cook dinner.”

          “Okay, what did you do after dinner?” Yukke was smiling, waiting for that moment that Kai had realized where his wallet may be.

          Grabbing his husband by the hand, Kai yanked Yukke off the couch and started removing the pillows. “It has to be here…” he muttered. He stopped for a moment then bent down and picked up something, turning to Yukke, “Here, hold this.” Kai hands him a bottle of lube. Yukke knew the bottle was there, so it wasn’t surprising.

          “Damn, when was the last time we cleaned under here?” Kai handed Yukke a handful of change, a French fry and a chopstick. “It’s been awhile,” he answered. “I’ll go get the vacuum.”

          Taking off the next pillow, Kai smirked. Tapping Yukke on the shoulder, he handed him another bottle of lube, “Really? Two bottles, Kai?” The man shrugged, “I like to be prepared.”

          Removing the third pillow, revealed no wallet. “What the hell? Where is it?” Yukke pushed Kai aside, “You didn’t dig deep enough,” he told him as he shoved his hands down into the crease in the couch.

          The other chopstick.

          More change.

          Three pens and a pencil.

          Another bottle of lube.

          The wallet. Holding it up triumphantly, Yukke handed it to Kai. “See, we just had to dig a little.”  Moving the couch so Yukke could vacuum under it, they found more items and a lot of dust bunnies.

          “Is there a reason that there were three bottles of lube, stuffed in between the cushions?” Yukke asked.  

          “Would you rather that there was none? I mean, really Yu…” Kai tried to explain, “not having any lube could wreck the moment, not like I’m going to put it in dry, we’re both too old for that type of sex.”

          Yukke rolled his eyes, “I’ve never been into pain, and you know it. But three bottles of lube stuffed in our couch is a bit much. What if we had the guys over and one of them found it? How would you explain that?”

          Kai laughed, “Do you honestly believe we are the only couple that has lube stashed in the couch? What do you think someone like Kyo, has stashed in his couch? Seriously Yu, it’s not that big of a deal. Just be happy I’m thinking of your comfort.”  Yukke took his phone out, and flipped through the contacts.

          “Who are you calling?”

          Yukke stuck his tongue out, “Hey, it’s me, I have a question for you since Mr. Know it all seems to think it’s common… do you have lube stashed between the cushions of your couch?”

          Kai’s jaw dropped, “Who the hell are you calling? Oh my god, I didn’t mean for you to actually ask people.” Kai tried to snatch the phone from Yukke’s hand, the man jumping up and walking into the kitchen.

          “Really? Well, you two are a bit hentai after all, what? You’re joking, seriously? How does he know? Oh, well I guess that makes sense. Well thanks, jaa ne.”

          “Who did you call?” Kai demanded.

          “Tatsu, who else would I have called? You think I’m going to ask Miya? He’d have my head on a stick for embarrassing Shinya. At least Tatsu was honest…and yes he does.” Yukke’s face was a little red.

          “Come here,” Kai held out his arms, “I’m sorry that you find this embarrassing. But really…would you rather we only have sex in the bedroom? That’s a little boring, don’t you think? Why break the mood if we’re on the couch…maybe if we’re watching some porn or something and you get all hot and bothered…you want to stop and then start all over in the bedroom?”

          Yukke leaned away from Kai, “Porn? Since when do we watch porn? Oh My God! Are you watching porn when I’m gone?”

          With a sigh, Kai grabbed Yukke around the waist tightly, “No, I’m not watching porn while you’re gone, I’m just saying that we want to be prepared. Look, it’s going to be awhile before we’re going to be allowed to go outside and back to normal, maybe we should watch some porn, spice it up a bit.”

          Sliding his hands into Kai’s back pockets, and giving his ass a squeeze, Yukke tipped his face up and asked for a kiss, “I’m good with that… you know PornHub is probably the best one, but IceGayTV and BoyfriendTV are pretty good too…”

          Now it was Kai’s turn to look surprised, “How would you know which sites are the best? How much porn are you watching while I’m gone?” Yukke giggled, “Enough to spice things up, as you said.”

          The lube in the cushions went to very good use that night.

Chapter Text

          Kaoru winced as the front door slammed. Just another day fighting with Toshiya over some asinine and miniscule reason. Today’s argument was over the closet and Toshiya’s expanding wardrobe. Due to his work with DIRT, Toshiya had started coming home with multiple pieces of clothing, namely the t-shirts and hoodies, thus crowding Kaoru almost out of their shared closet.

          “Um, where are my dress shirts?” Kaoru asked as he thumbed his way through the closet, “I had a dark purple one and a few black…I can’t find them.”

          “Oh, I put them in the chest, I needed some room for the new DIRT products.” Toshiya said offhandedly, not looking up from his laptop.

          “More DIRT product? Don’t you have enough already? It’s getting a little insane, Totchi, you’re shoving my stuff out of my closet.” Kaoru went to the chest and pulled out his shirts, irritated that they would need to be pressed before he could wear them.

          “Your closet? Wait…what happened to shared space?”

          “You took all the shared space, look…” Kaoru started pulling hangers out, “You must have a hundred shirts in here…” throwing the shirts on the bed, “and here is what I have.”

          The piles were hugely different in size, there were more of Toshiya’s clothing, than Kaoru’s.

          “Fine, if you want to talk about shared space, what about all your shit in the bathroom? I get that you have longer hair, but do you really need all this product? We’re not in the studio or on tour, so why do you need…” he counted the bottles, “twelve different hair products?” Toshiya accused.

          “They don’t take up as much space as your damned shirts! You have an entire shelf to yourself, as I do. This is about clothing, not shampoo.” Kaoru was starting to get a little hot under the collar.

          Toshiya stomped over the bed and grabbed an armful of clothing, “Fine, I’ll just put them in my car…that’s surely my own personal space still isn’t it?”

          Twenty minutes after the argument, Toshiya had still not returned to the flat, “He can’t be out there.” Kaoru walked to the window and looked towards their parking lot…nope, Toshiya’s car was gone. “Shit.”

 

          He hadn’t planned on driving off, but Kaoru had pissed him off more than ever that day, which if he was honest with himself, the tension had been building for at least a week. The too small flat, the constant confinement due to the COVID, had just started to wear on the couple. Their living together had been peaceful up until the lock down had been announced, but they had also been able to leave the flat with no problems, leading normal lives.

          The snippy remarks about stupid things had started when Kaoru made a comment about Toshiya’s collection of figurines, “Can’t we just put more in storage? Having those shelves full, just makes the flat feel over crowded…and they’re kind of creepy.”

          “Creepy? How are anime figurines creepy? Okay, that one skeleton in the sleigh that I got from a fan, is kinda creepy, and maybe the ones from Death Note, but Sailor Moon?” The comments hurt Toshiya’s feelings, more than he would admit to his lover.

          “Sorry, I guess I’m not used to having things like that in the flat, you can keep what you have out already, I’m sorry.” Kaoru conceded. The situation had not gotten better after that…it just got snippier, angrier and testy.

 

          Now Toshiya found himself driving through the vastly empty streets of Tokyo, trying to make sense over the most recent argument. Yes, he had a lot of clothes, but he was directly involved in creating a fashion line, it wasn’t like he was going out and excessively shopping.

          Ignoring his phone chiming every few minutes, Toshiya found himself pulling into a parking lot, turning off the car and just sitting. “Maybe this isn’t going to work…”

 

          “Damnit Totchi, answer your phone.” Kaoru muttered, he knew the longer they left things unsaid, the worse it would be once Toshiya came home, if he came home at all. “Where else would he go, dumbass…he doesn’t have his own flat anymore.” Wracking his brain for any solution for what had been going on for a few weeks, Kaoru could come up with only one answer…something he wasn’t sure Toshiya would like. First, he needed his lover home, they needed to talk things out, like adults…but where Toshiya was, and when or if he was coming home, Kaoru would just have to wait and see.  

 

       

Amazon.com: Hallmark Keepsake Ornament 2019 Year Dated Tim ... I don't think this is creepy. 

Chapter Text

          “Why are you watching that?” Aki had walked into the bedroom to find Tora lying on the bed, with his laptop.

          “I have nothing else to watch, why?”

          “Um, you’re watching Buck Tick videos? Isn’t that sort of creepy since we know the man?” Aki laid down next to Tora, wiggling under his arm. On the screen was Buck Tick’s video for Romance.

          “You have to admit, Sakurai’s sexy as fuck … “Tora nudged Aki.

          Aki sighed, “Yes he’s sexy, but he’s also Uta’s boyfriend. How can you watch this and not think of what they do in the bedroom?”

          Tora pulled away slightly, “Now who’s being creepy? Thanks for putting that in my head, how the hell am I going to face Uta once we go back to work?”

          Aki rolled his eyes, “Let’s just stop watching this please?”

          “Sure…” Tora snuck a quick kiss in, “Um, what about Mucc?”

          “Why do we have to watch videos of bands, that we know the members?” Aki groaned.

          “Because I’m tired of watching videos in general. I’m tired of watching TV and playing video games. Unless you want to go to bed,” Tora checked his watch, “four hours early, then we’re watching Mucc videos next.” Aki rolled away from Tora, burying his head in a pillow.  “You’re so weird.”

          “I’m not weird. I understand that what I’m watching is not an accurate representation of who our friends are. I’m merely interested in their professional body of work.”    Tora argued.

          Aki’s head popped up from under the pillow, “Accurate representation… where the hell did you get that from?” he rolled back over, half watching the videos.

          “Mucc taiso?” Tora started the video. “We should totally do this every day, it’s way better than radio taiso.”

          “You’re joking, right? Can you hop around on one foot and grab the other?” Aki got out of bed, “I can…” he proceeded to mimic the move.

          “Wait…wait… I need to film this!” Tora scrambled out of bed and took his phone out, “okay, do it again!”

          The results of Aki and Tora’s Taiso, was something that could not be kept secret. Spending an hour re-creating the Mucc video, laughing until they were in tears and a possible strained muscle here and there, the couple were understandably exhausted by the end. “I’m going to send this to Koichi,” Tora gasped, still trying to catch his breath, Aki still laying on the floor, arm flung over his eyes.

 

          “You have to see this!” Koichi ran into the living room, flopping down on the couch next to Tatsu, “It’s Aki and Tora doing Mucc Taiso!” taking out his phone, he played the video.  “Oh god, send that to the others,” Tatsu laughed. The video quickly made its way to the members of Mucc, who in turn, shared it with their spouses and the other bands.

          The overwhelming reaction to the video was positive, with Tora and Aki’s cell phones blowing up for over an hour with comments;

          “You should do this and upload it to YouTube, with a side by side with the Mucc video!”

          “I’m going to try to get Kyo to do it with me and film it.”

          “Shinya laughed at my skinny ass legs, not sure why…I still have skinny ass legs.”

          “Ask Koichi about what I wanted to do with Sato and the bowling pin costume.”

          “Don’t listen to Mao, I’m not doing that shit.”

          The couple spent the remainder of the evening reading and responding to the texts, going back and watching what they had created and in a ironic twist, thanking the virus for giving them a short creative boost, to ward off the boredom that everyone was feeling.

          “Aren’t you glad I made you watch videos with me?”

          With a sigh, Aki had to admit, yes, he had fun watching videos and making their own.

          “Yes, I’m glad, but don’t get any more ideas about doing our own videos, unless you want to do a sex tape,” he teased.

          “Hmmm, a sex tape? That could be a lot of…” Aki grabbed Tora and kissed him into silence, “Don’t get any ideas, I was joking.”

          “Maybe I want to do a sex tape…not like we have to show it to anyone.”

          Aki gave Tora ‘the look’, and Tora knew he had pushed too far.

         “Fine, if we can’t do a sex tape, can we just have sex instead?”

           “Only after I’ve checked for hidden cameras.” 

Chapter Text

          “Bachelor parties? You’re joking…”

          “Nope, Reita told me that Ayato had brought it up, sort of as a joke, and that you and I should have bachelorette parties.”

          Uruha and Tomo were spending much of their time on the phone with each other, discussing their delayed weddings. The topic of bachelor parties had come up when Uruha had told Tomo about the conversation between Reita and Ayato regarding any pre-wedding celebrations. “What do you even do at a bachelorette party, other than have male…oh my god! Ayato didn’t offer to dance for us, did he?” Tomo gasped.

          “Reita said something about going to a gay strip club, and that’s when Ayato offered to dance for us, but you know he’d never allow it. I don’t think I want to see Ayato naked anyways,” Uruha giggled.

          Sharing ideas, dreaming of venues and vows, it helped pass the time during the confinement, but also leaving both men frustrated, Tomo especially, “My head understands, my heart is screaming for me to say those words. At least Ruki’s been busy with some new merch designs, I doubt he’s even thinking of the wedding.”

          Tomo couldn’t be further from the truth.

 

 

          “Which one?”

          “Um…I think I like the one in the middle more.”

          “Really? That’s so plain though…what about the one on the left?”

          Hal shrugged, “That’s nice too, I don’t know Tomo well enough to predict, though Kou would probably like the one in the middle, it’s elegant but understated.” 

          The two men had been doing video calls in an effort to decide which of the three rings Ruki had designed, Tomo would like the best. “The one on the right is too flashy, you can’t tell me that fans wouldn’t notice it, it definitely looks like a wedding ring, even if you wore it on your thumb.” Hal pointed out what he thought was the obvious.

          “Hmm, maybe you’re right, the fans never miss a thing, even if it were on my thumb.” Ruki took the paper and wadded it up. “What type of rings are you and Kou doing?”

          “Silver, with a lace type pattern and our names on the inside of the band, but we’re both going to wear them on our left index finger, though Kou said he’d take his off during lives, he’s worried that it will interfere with his playing.” Hal sat back, “I still can’t believe it, Ru…he’s actually mine and we’re going to get married.”

          Ruki chuckled, “I know what you mean. This stupid virus thing can’t be over soon enough for me. Have you guys discussed any sort of honeymoon?”

          “No, mainly because of the uncertainty of when everything’s going to get back to normal. You guys missed your anniversary, and we were supposed to start on an album, that leaves both band’s schedules up in the air.” Hal sighed in resignation.

          “Same for us. I’d like to take Tomo overseas, but it’s hard to plan around the unknown. But I can tell you for certain, there’s going to be a lot of partying going on after this shit is over.”

 

 

          “Europe? I don’t know Kou, that seems like it would be expensive.” Tomo wasn’t sure that a European honeymoon would be practical.

          “Really Tomo? Who the hell are you marrying?” Uruha teased, “Ruki’s got plenty of money, we all do. Europe is not out of reach, I think you’d love it.”

          “What about you and Hal?” Tomo wanted to get away from talking about himself.

          “I can’t even begin to plan, we might not be able to do it for some time, and that would also put yours and Ruki’s honeymoon off. All of it depends on when this all ends.”

         

 

          “All done?”

          “Mm, he just wanted to talk about the band, nothing serious. What about you and Kouyou? More wedding plans?”

          “No, not really. We talked about a Bachelorette party with strippers. Maybe even having Ayato dance for us.” Tomo said with a straight face.

          “Aya…” Ruki scoffed, “Akira would never allow Ayato to dance for anyone but him, try again, you sneaky man.” Tomo giggled.

          “Are you seriously considering a bachelorette party? Isn’t that kind of 1970’s lame? Where would you go?” Ruki was confident that his boyfriend would never agree to something like a party in which he was part of the focus.

          “NO! I could never do anything like that, and you’re right, it’s totally lame. Kouyou was just telling me what Reita said,” Tomo wrapped his arms around Ruki, “I don’t need a party, all I need is you.”

 

 

          Hal had tears in his eyes he was laughing so hard, when Uruha had told him about Reita and Ayato’s ideas of bachelorette parties. “There is no way I want to be in the same room if Ayato is dancing…I would never be able to look him in the face again! No, Kou…I don’t think we need any of those types of parties.”

          “I don’t want a party like that and neither does Tomo, though I think we should maybe have dinner together the night before each of our weddings, would that work for you?” Uruha snuggled against Hal’s arm, Alfina coming up on the couch, and wedging herself between them.

          “That would be nice, but no heavy drinking during dinner, none of us wants to get married with a hangover.”

          “I just wish this was all over, it’s like we’re living in limbo. I’m bored with staying in the house, but I’ve had to remind myself over and over that no, I can’t just go see Tomo, I can’t just go to the HBG for a drink, or even just go to the studio.” Uruha sighed.

          “It will end eventually, and just think of all the parties and lives that were canceled, that will most likely happen next year…you know there’s always Lunatic Fest, maybe Sugizo will ask Umbrella to play.”

          “I think Gazette will be doing the anniversary live, and maybe a few Hersey lives, just to make it up to everyone. But if we’re not playing, I’d love to go to Lunatic with you.” Uruha nuzzled Hal’s neck.

          Standing up, Hal held his hand out for Uruha, “Let’s go to bed, I’m bored and I can think of more exciting things to do than just sit here and whine.”

 

                  

 

Chapter Text

          It wasn’t the first argument, but it was going to be the last.

          “You don’t need to work,”

          “It has nothing to do with need, I want to work.”

          “Why? I have enough money to support us, so what’s the point in you working?”

          “I want to have my own money, I want to be able to have something to do everyday other than sitting around the flat, I did that enough after the accident. Why are you so against me getting a damned job?”

          “Your own money? You have plenty of your own money from the settlement, I don’t get this at all.”

          “Gee, Aoi… it seems like you don’t get a lot of things. But guess what you DO get,” Yuki walked down to the bedroom, “You get to sleep on the couch tonight.” Throwing a blanket at the man, Yuki stomped back to the bedroom, slamming and locking the door.

          He stood in front of the door, “Yuki… come on, let’s talk this out.” Aoi pleaded.

          “Fuck off Aoi…” the man leaned his head on the door, “Please, Yu…” He got no answer.

          “Can you meet me in the courtyard?”

 

          “You seriously said that? Dude, don’t you remember what happened between me and Ayato? What the hell is wrong with you? Didn’t you learn anything from my mistake?”  Reita was sitting on his porch, Aoi standing a few feet away.

          “This is completely different, you were worried about Ayato’s safety after Ken died, this isn’t the same at all.” Aoi snapped.

          “In what way?” Reita challenged.

          “You’re not getting married, Ayato is…”

          “Not my husband? Just my boyfriend? So you’re saying that after you’re married, Yuki ceases to be an independent person? Whatever you say is law?”

          “No!” Aoi stammered, “I’m not saying that at all, buy why does he want to work. He has the money from the settlement, and I make a decent amount, you know that.”

          Reita shook his head at Aoi’s comment, “Why are you against him going back to work, what are you afraid of?”       

          Heaving a dramatic sigh, Aoi just shrugged; he didn’t’ have an answer, “Thanks for listening.” Going back into the flat, he grabs the blanket off the floor, there was no point in trying to talk to Yuki that night. “I love you.” He whispered in the dark.  

Chapter Text

 

          “Sir?” Karyu tugged on Isshi’s sleeve, “May we go into that shop if we have our masks?” the young man pointed at a large department store.

          They had been in Maastricht since just before Christmas, taking advantage of Mistress Davina’s generous offer of the use of her flat, in hopes of soothing the devastation of their souls, after the trial and conviction of Masamoto Umeji.

Isshi had been unable to return to Japan before the outbreak of the virus, leaving them stranded in the ancient city. After several long weeks, the complete lockdown of the city had lifted, though with certain precautions in place, such as wearing masks, it was something that came natural to the small family.  

          “We must wear our masks, just as we would at home, there is still a chance of infection,” Isshi told his young men. Karyu had become fond of Blokker, a chain of all-in-one shops, with merchandise of all sorts. Isshi didn’t have the heart to say no, “Of course, love.” He would not deny his boys any type of respite from the daily grind of living in a foreign country, unable to go home.

          The first weeks after the trial of Masamoto Umeji and his cohorts, had proven to be more taxing on the three young men, than anyone had originally thought. It had been less than a week before the nightmares had started for Byou, waking one night screaming as he thrashed around in his bed. Ruimaru was the first to hear his co-lover, running into his room and throwing himself onto Byou, “Go get Sir!” he told Karyu.

          That first night, Isshi had spent holding Byou, chasing away the young man’s demons, a night that had solidified his belief that he needed to get his young men out of the country to recover.

          The next morning, Isshi brought the boys into his study, “Sit, we have much to discuss.” Byou was pale with exhaustion, Ruimaru and Karyu holding his hands, “Sir? Is this about going to the Netherlands?” Ruimaru asked.

          “Yes, my angel, it is. After last night, I truly believe we will never recover if we remain here at home. Mistress has offered her home in Maastricht, and the use of her private jet. Emi would go and stay with Mistress…” Ruimaru giggled, “My Angel?”

          “I’m sorry Sir, I just remembered what Mistress said about Emi, and Kato-senpai and having a little… um, in his bed,” he giggled again. Isshi sighed and shook his head, “You truly are a little devil.”

 

          Byou had no life left in his eyes, even as they boarded Davina’s private jet, Karyu and Ruimaru were anxious about flying, neither one having left the country. “This is fancy, Sir!” Karyu remarked as he took his seat.

          A flight attendant approached the small family, “Isshi-san, we will be departing in about fifteen minutes, is there anything I can get you before we are airborne?”

          “Water would be lovely, thank you.”

          Karyu and Ruimaru sat together, watching through the window, as the plane taxied to the runway, both gasping and clutching at each other as they took off. “Sir! This is… um, I’m a little scared…” Ruimaru’s voice was shaking.

          “It will be fine, Ru…it’s just weird until we get way up,” Karyu tried to reassure his friend, sharing concerned looks as they both looked over at Byou, who had his head on Isshi’s shoulder, apparently asleep.

          During the hours long flight, the group had been given a light dinner, and after, the cabin lights dimmed. Isshi had woken Byou up for the meal, though the young man went straight back to sleep once he had eaten. Isshi encouraged Ruimaru and Karyu to do the same, “It’s a long flight, sleeping will make it seem shorter.”

 

          Boh met the jet at the hanger in Maastricht. Davina had told him the sad story of what had happened to the boys, “Byou is especially fragile, just as Uta was, but in a different manner. Please take them straight to Marcel and Josez.” Boh always obeyed his employer, meeting the small family and whisking them away.

 “Isshi-san, I hope that staying here in Maastricht will help in your recovery.”

          Marcel and Josez stood on the patio of In Den Ouden Vogelstruys (In the Old Ostrich), waiting for the sleek Mercedes to arrive. Isshi knew that while he spoke no Dutch, Marcel spoke enough English for them to get by, and Josez was fluent.

          “Welcome, Isshi,” Marcel greeted them as they stepped out of the car, “Ruimaru, Karyu and Byou, I hope you enjoy your stay here in Maastricht.” Isshi bowed and thanked the man.

          “Schatje’s” Josez said simply, then opened her arms, Ruimaru being the first to rush into the woman’s warm embrace, quickly followed by his co-lovers.

          “Josez, I’ve heard so much about you from Davina, I feel as if I already know you. Thank you for your lovely warm welcome.” Isshi bowed to the woman. “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.”

          Taking a few days of rest to recover from the jet lag, the first outing for Isshi and the boys, was to Saint Servatius. “We have to see what Uta was talking about! His descriptions made the church sound magical.” Ruimaru exclaimed excitedly.

          “Byou-kun?” Isshi always watching the boy, “come boy, you need to get out and get some fresh air, no more laying about.” Taking him by the hand, Isshi led them down the stairs and across the plaza.

 

          Maastricht had been decorated for Christmas, the city center was a dazzling scene of lights and color, and traditional music. The plaza was crowded with shoppers visiting the Christmas Market, the stalls lining the streets, filled with every type of decoration you could ever imagine, and regional holiday food. A large Ferris wheel, and a grand carousel were near the old City Hall, drawing both children and adults. The ancient basilica was also ablaze with lights, the tower bell ringing for the mass, as the faithful were called.

          Even with the fantastical atmosphere, Byou spirits remained dampened, not reacting to the excitement shared by Ruimaru and Karyu. He stood with Isshi while the other two men rode the carousel and Ferris wheel, followed behind Isshi as he shopped for something special to send to Davina, and generally just existed without emotion. It was that dullness that caught the attention of a couple, who were walking just behind them at the market.  

          Isshi knew he was being watched, having seen the couple behind them, stopping when he stopped. He had chosen not to say anything to the boys, not wanting to alarm them. The man was tall and slender, long dark hair that fell into his eyes, the woman was petite and blonde, and wearing a collar. “What the hell do they want?” Isshi growled softly.

          Gathering up his young men, Isshi led them towards the basilica, hoping to distract them long enough so he could confront the couple following them. Ruimaru and Karyu took Byou by the hand and into the church, “Let’s go see the dead saint guy.” Isshi waved them off, taking a seat in a pew near a side altar, he waited.

          The man approached Isshi, taking a seat behind him, “Excuse me, Isshi-san,” a voice spoke in English with a heavy Dutch accent, Isshi turning to face the man, “Do I know you?” he asked, irritation in his voice, “Why are you following me?”

         The man bowed his head, “I must apologize, but I did not want to approach you when you had your submissives with you. My name is Luuk, and this is my pet, Alida.”

         “You haven’t answered my question, Sir. Why were you following me, and how do you know my name?” Isshi was on the edge of a dangerous anger.

          “It was brought to our attention by a senior member of our community, that you and your submissives were in Maastricht. She asked us to contact you and introduce ourselves.”

         Isshi was still angry, constantly watching for the boys to return, “Who is this senior member you’re speaking of, and what connection does she have with me? Quickly man, I do not want my boys seeing us speaking.”

       “Madame Siska, of Amsterdam, has asked me to invite you to one of our clubs here in the Netherlands. She has connections to Mistress Davina,” the man reached in his coat pocket, drawing out a business card, “please feel free to contact me, so we can continue our discussion.” The man handed Isshi the card, then stood up and bowed, taking the woman by the hand and leaving the church.

        Quickly tucking the card in his pocket, Isshi heard the unmistakable voice of his angel coming from the underground tomb where Saint Servatius was laid to rest. Putting his finger to his lips, Isshi scolded the young men, “This is still a church, and there is etiquette to be followed.”

        “Sir, you should see the tomb,” Karyu whispered, “I can’t believe there’s a body in that coffin…well bones.” Sliding in next to his Dominant, Ruimaru looked over at Byou, then whispered in Isshi’s ear, “Yes love, I know.”

 

         With his submissive securely tucked in for the night, Isshi went downstairs to the pub, asking Marcel for a late dinner and a stiff drink.  Bundled up from the cold, he sat on the patio, looking at the business card Luuk had given him. “Club Siberia? That gives me no information.” Frustrated, he took out his phone.

          “Isshi? What’s wrong, why are you calling me in the middle of the night?” Davina’s voice was panicky.

         “There is nothing wrong Mistress, at least not with my boys, we are all doing well.”

        “Some other problem then?”

       “What do you know about the community here in the Netherlands? Have you ever visited one of their clubs?” Isshi’s voice sounded concerned, which alarmed Davina.

       “I know that the laws in the country, are very lax. They allow quite a bit more entertainment in the open, than let’s say America, and of course, at home. Why do you ask?”

        More laxed? “We were at the basilica, and a couple approached me, Luuk and his submissive Alia. They informed me that Madame Siska was seeking me out to invite me to a club, by the name of Siberia. I do not want to go in blind and unprepared, and I will not be taking the boys.”

       “I have known Siska for some time, and I know her submissive Zelena quite well. That being said, I have never attended any of their clubs. I don’t really have an answer for you Isshi, perhaps research the club online?”

       They spoke a while longer, Isshi voicing his concern with Byou, “He seems not to be able to drag himself up from the depression. At this point, I think we should come home, do you know if that’s possible?

      Davina didn’t know, “I will have to look into it, I’m not sure what the regulations are when it is a private jet. Give me a few days before saying anything to the boys.”

 

      “Mistress?” Kato noticed that Davina seemed to be distressed, “Is there anything you need?”

      “No, my love. I just had a conversation with Isshi, and it seems Byou is not improving.” Kato sat down next to her. “There’s something else, isn’t there?”

      Picking up Kato’s hands in hers, she turned slightly to face him, “Do you remember your Mistress saying anything about the community in the Netherlands? Did Astrid have any idea what was going on in their clubs?”

      Kato frowned, “Not that I ever remember, but then we had not visited Holland yet, she got sick before we could.”

      Davina patted the man’s hand, “Someone approached Isshi, and told them that Mistress Siska had asked for his presence at a club. The man is nervous for good reason, I do know that the situation within the community…well their government is very loose in their attitudes towards sex.”

      Kato’s jaw dropped, “He’s not taking the boys to one of those clubs, is he?” Davina reassured the man that Isshi had no intentions on exposing the three young men, to a community he had no experience with.  

 

 

         A short man with a tuxedo opened the door for him, “Welcome Isshi-san, to Siberia.”  This was the first unnerving issue, that they were expecting him even as he had not called nor replied in any way to Luuk, or Madame Siska. Entering the club, he felt the familiar beat of heavy dance music, though he could not see a dance floor. The club was fairly large and well appointed, though there were no private rooms that he could see.

        Isshi moved through the club with no obstacles or interruptions, his mind flying in different directions at what he was seeing. There were Dominants, who were violently and aggressively, playing out scenes in the open room, with submissives who were bound tightly and restrained, gagged and not able to offer up a safe word, not able to speak out on their own.

       Nude women, tied to various things; bars that lined the wall, a bondage horse and strung up by their hands to a hook in the ceiling. Most of the women were crying out in pain, due to the torture they were receiving.

      The young woman in front of Isshi was bound in a roughly (and dangerous) kinbaku, the ropes crisscrossing her chest, wrapped around her throat and over her eyes, Isshi could see that the technique was not perfect. Her Dominant was placing wooden clothespins on every inch of the woman’s breast, and her genitals, a lit candle above her dripping hot wax down her back. With all this torture, she did not utter a sound, but there was no pleasure in the pain, she was enduring. Isshi moved away.

        Walking towards the bar, he stopped to watch another scene, again with a young woman. It seemed that the cliental were mostly mixed gender Dominants, with exclusively female submissives. This young woman looked no older than eighteen, perhaps even younger and her Dominant was a rather large woman dressed in leather.

        Tied to a Saint Andrews Cross, the woman had cotton swabs stuffed deeply into her nose, a system of strings that kept her mouth open. As Isshi watched, the woman cried out every few seconds, as her body jerked involuntarily. On closer inspection, he saw that the woman’s tongue was being pinched between two chopsticks, and there was an electrode attached that was sending shocks every few seconds. The young woman’s Dominant striking her with a scourge every time she cried out.

      Isshi had had enough, and started towards the door. “Isshi-san? Thank you for joining us this evening, is there anything you need?” Upon hearing his voice, Isshi turned around and found Luuk, with a fully nude Alida, being dragged behind him, with a small leash, attached to the woman’s nipples with alligator clamps, that were already starting to ooze blood.

       Glaring at the couple, Isshi held his tongue, “You can tell the elders of your community that there is nothing they can do for me. I will not pass judgement, but I will tell you that this is not what I expected.” Without another word, Isshi left Club Siberia.

       He was still shaking as he sat in the cab on the way back to Marcel’s, the complete disregard for a submissives wants and needs, infuriated Isshi. “We are leaving tomorrow,” he growled lowly.

 

     “Your cherished city has a disgusting deviant side, Mistress.” Isshi’s tone was less than friendly. “If possible, I want to leave the Netherlands tomorrow. There is nothing more here for us, we will recover at home.”

       “What happened, Isshi?”

       He ignored the question, “Will you send your jet for us please? If that’s not possible, then I will make other arrangements.”  

        “Isshi,” Davina’s voice faltered, “my dear man, I will have Boh contact you before morning. Please call me when you get home, and we will have lunch. Give the boy’s a kiss for me.” Isshi hung up, without saying thank you, or goodbye.

       By 2am, sleep had denied Isshi, as the visions of the abuse at Club Siberia were more than he could handle. These were not caring Dominants; these people were as bad as Masamoto and his ilk. Laying in the dark, Isshi finally rolled over and tried to put those visions to rest, and think only of their return to normalcy at home.

 

       Kato heard Davina crying, but was unsure if he should approach his Mistress, not knowing the reason for her distress. Unbeknownst to Kato, Davina had done a quick internet search on Club Siberia, and was horrified with what she had seen. While their small community in Japan was just that, small and isolated, Davina was not ignorant to the fact that other communities’ standards differed greatly from their own. However, with these differences, shock and disbelief would follow. Isshi had no way of knowing what the community in the Netherlands was like, and she was thankful that he had been smart by not taking his three young men with him.  

       “Mistress?” he knocked softly on the bedroom door, “Yes, Kato?”

       Peering around the door, Kato’s heart sunk, “Mistress, is there anything I can do for you?” Without permission, he moved to Davina’s side, kneeling next to the bed, “What’s happened?”

      The Dominant sniffed, wiping her eyes with a tissue, “Isshi had a very bad experience at one of the community’s clubs, though he did not give me specifics. He wants to return home tomorrow, and has asked for my jet. I’d like for you to call Boh and see if there are any restrictions in place, to keep me from bringing them home.”

       Kato kissed Davina softly, “Yes, Mistress.”

 

          “Was it really that awful, Sir?” Ruimaru, Karyu and Byou were having a quick breakfast while they waited for Boh to arrive. “Yes, my Angel, it was that bad, and that’s why we are leaving.” Isshi did not give his boys any specifics on what had happened the night before, but woke them early to tell them that they were going home.

          Apologizing to Marcel for giving him such short notice, Isshi graciously thanked the man for taking care of his small family, “Perhaps we will come back for a visit, when all of this craziness has subsided.”

          “Isshi-san,” Boh looked in the rearview mirror, “You will have to self quarantine for two weeks once you arrive. Mistress has informed me that your home will be well stocked with food, and essentials, and Emi will be waiting for you.”

 

          “Tadaima, Emi,” Karyu called for the cat as the door opened, dragging in his suitcase. They were all dead tired, not just from jet lag, but from the entire ordeal of living in the Netherlands for longer than they had anticipated. Karyu dropped to his knees as the small gray cat trotted up to him, with a scolding meow. “I know, Emi, we’re sorry you had to go stay with Mistress.” Karyu scooped the cat up and nuzzled her nose.

          “Sir, is there anything we can do for you before we take a nap?” Ruimaru’s eyes were red from fatigue, “No, I think not, we will all seek our own beds.”

          Nothing felt better than sleeping in your own bed, after having been on holiday, though Isshi’s vacation had not ended with the desired results. Christmas in the Netherlands had been magical, there was no denying that the Dutch knew how to celebrate. Ruimaru and Karyu cheerfully shopping at the small market in the town plaza, riding both the Ferris wheel and the carousel multiple times during the holiday season.

          Byou followed his Dominant, but rarely said anything let alone interact with his co-lovers and their excitement of being in a foreign country. Try as the had, Byou gave one-word answers to their questions, exhibited no interest in their day trips, other than sleeping while in the car or on the train. The entire reason for them to be in the Netherlands, had failed.

          The long flight home had given Ruimaru time to speak to Isshi, “Sir, can I suggest a way to help Byou?” he asked eagerly  

          “Of course, Angel.”

          “Remember when Uta-kun wanted to die in Maastricht, and when Koichi and Taka wanted to die because of other traumas? I think we need to have a meeting, or something, and invite them all over to speak to Byou.”

          Reaching over to stroke the boy’s cheek, Isshi’s eyes filled with tears, “My Angel, you’re such a clever boy. I think that’s a wonderful idea, but I also believe that we all need to speak to a counselor to repair all the damage of the last year. We will also have to wait until our quarantine is over to move forward.”

         

          “Mistress, we are home. There will be a two week quarantine for us, but that does not keep us from speaking on the phone. Please give us a few days before calling, to recover from the jet lag.”  

Chapter Text

 

          The streets were oddly quiet, as Toshiya sat in his car across the street from a large high-rise apartment building. Typing out notes on his phone, calculating rent and moving expenses, and ignoring the constant chimes from Kaoru, he growled in frustration, finally giving in and checking the texts;

          “Where are you? When are you coming home?”

          “We need to talk about this, I’m sorry.”

          “Please, just call or text me.”

          Snapping his phone closed, he had no plans on answering the texts. “Damn it, not right now, Kao… shit just leave me be for a minute.”  Looking over the lists of flats he had compiled, he finally had chosen the two bedroom flat in Roppongi. “Close enough to the studio, shopping…Kao’s not that far away, perfect.” Calling the management company, Toshiya scheduled an appointment to view the apartment the next day, he would pick up the keys from a drop box.   Looking at the time, he decided not to go home…not quite yet, not with the chance that Kaoru would be angry, and the last thing he wanted was a confrontation late at night.

          “Hmm, I could use some food…but what’s open?” Pulling out of the parking lot, Toshiya headed back towards his apartment, his eyes searching for a fast food restaurant or konbini.

 

          Frustrated, Kaoru threw his phone on the bed, “…asshole, why won’t he answer me?” It was nearing 11pm, and Toshiya had been gone for almost four hours, and had not answered any of his texts, or phone calls. Pacing through the flat, with a million scenarios flashing in his mind, the man was close to a full-blown panic attack. “Where are you?” he whispered.

          His perfect world was crashing and burning, his idealistic life with Toshiya was washing out from under him, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. The weight of depression was almost too much to handle, his perceived insignificance in Toshiya’s life was overwhelming. Had he gone back to Jui? What about the fact that they had talked about buying a house before the lock down,…well Toshiya talked about it, had he changed his mind after living together?

          It was nearing midnight and still no answer, leaving Kaoru to face the fact that his lover may not be coming home at all. He left the light on in the living room, and slowly made his way down the hall, closing the door and going to bed, “I love you, Totchi.”  

 

          He was stalling. But why? Why was he afraid to see Kaoru? “He’s going to make a scene, that’s why,” Toshiya muttered. The one thing he didn’t want to do, above all else, was to hurt Kaoru, but he knew it was inevitable. His sensitive lover would view his moving out as the first step in the ending of their relationship, no matter what Toshiya would say, or do to prove otherwise. With a sigh of resignation, Toshiya started the short drive home.

          Putting his ear to the door, Toshiya listened for signs that Kaoru was awake. Hearing nothing, he opened the door as quietly as he could. Toeing off his shoes, he went straight to the living room, grabbed a blanket and laid down on the couch, looking at the bedroom door, “I love you, Kao.”

 

          It took Kaoru a brief moment to realize that he was awake, he reached out for a warm body, only to find an empty cold bed, and the stark realization that Toshiya had never come home, hitting him hard in the heart.

          Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Kaoru shuffled into the living room, not expecting to see his lover asleep on the couch. He stood there looking at Toshiya, then sat down on the coffee table, staring at the sleeping man. Should he wake him? Would there be a huge scene if he did, and would he get a ‘hey, sorry for yesterday, I love you.’? Probably not. Kaoru already had it in his mind that they were breaking up, how could he not? Toshiya never came home last night…or at least when he did, it wasn’t to wake him up to talk about the argument.

         Sighing sadly, Kaoru got up and went to start coffee, trying to steel himself over what he knew was coming. Making as little noise as possible, he leaned against the counter, strangely hoping that Toshiya wouldn’t hear him, though the smell of fresh coffee was bound to wake him up. Taking his cup and walking towards the bedroom, Toshiya groaned as he stretched his legs, “Morning.” Pushing back his hair, he sat up, “we need to talk,” Toshiya patting the couch.

       “First, I’m sorry that I stayed out so late, but I needed time to think about our arrangement.”

       Kaoru was stunned, “Arrangement? Is that what you think our relationship is? An arrangement?” He was cut deeply by the term.

       “No! Of course not, I love you. I mean us living together. The only way we’re going to be able to be together is if I move out, if I don’t, we’re going to be at each other’s throats and then we will break up. That’s the last thing I want.” Toshiya reached over and covered Kaoru’s hand with his.

         “I’ll do anything, whatever it takes, even if you feel the need to move out. I love you too, so whatever you want to do...” Kaoru hoped his fake smile was convincing enough for his lover. “Do you know where you want to live?”

         Toshiya grabbed his lap top, and pulled up the apartment building he had found in Roppongi, “This is my first choice…” he excitedly pointed out the pictures of the flat.

          “It’s super close to here, the studio isn’t that far, we can see each other every day, and look…here’s that restaurant you always wanted to try, right across the street.” Kaoru couldn’t deny that the location was perfect…it just wasn’t his flat. “I have an appointment at eleven, to pick up the keys from a drop box and go look at the flat, you’ll come, won’t you?”

        NO! Kaoru’s mind screamed, “Of course I’ll come with you, I need to know where you’ll be, I want to make sure it’s safe.”

 

         Looking at the flat, it was difficult for him to act like he was pleased. He walked around and ‘mmmhmmm’ every few minutes when Toshiya excitedly pointed out some minor detail. He wandered around by himself while Toshiya was calling the management company and setting an appointment to sign the papers and the lease agreement.

          The tears that Kaoru was forcefully holding back, threatened to spill every time he looked at his lover. This was it, there was no other explanation; Toshiya had had enough with his moodiness, and brooding, just has Ryo had.

          “Hey, I’m ready to go. The management company is going to fax me the paperwork, I gave them your number, I hope that’s okay?” Toshiya reached for Kaoru’s hand, pulling him in. “Are you okay?”

          “Mmm, I’m good,” Kaoru caressed Toshiya’s cheek, then kissed him. “You ready to go?”  

 

          “Do you need any help?”

          “No, everything that’s left will fit in my car.”

          An awkward silence stretched.

          “Want to come over tonight? I can make dinner.”

          “No, you need to unpack first and get settled in. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

          With a hug and a kiss, Toshiya left the flat and walked out of Kaoru’s life.

 

          Toshiya trotted out to his car, eager to get back to his new flat and get unpacked. There were no thoughts of ‘what if Kao…’, just thoughts of his first night alone, and with more room to store his things, than he had at Kaoru’s. The readied acceptance, (perceived) with Toshiya moving out, by Kaoru, had made the transition that much easier. There had been no fights or cross words, no shaming or guilt-tripping.

          Kaoru, however, was devastated. Once Toshiya had left the flat, the man fell apart. Stumbling into his bedroom, he didn’t bother taking off his clothes, just getting under the covers and putting the pillow over his head. The tears started the moment his head hit the pillow, sobbing over what he thought was the death of his relationship with Toshiya.

 

          “Damn it, where the hell is he?” Kyo snapped his phone closed, it was unusual for Kaoru not to answer his phone, ignoring both calls and texts. Now he had to go through Toshiya, something he didn’t really want to do.

          “Totchi, why isn’t Kaoru answering his phone?”

          “Hmm, I have no idea, I’m not at his house,”

          His house? What the hell… “What do you mean you’re not at his house? Whose house are you at?” Kyo was quickly becoming irritated.

          Toshiya wasn’t expecting to have to explain so soon, it had only been a few days.

          “I’m at my new flat, I um…I moved out yesterday.” He waited for the questions to come flying.

          “Oh, okay…well I’ll try again later, thanks Totchi.” Kyo hung up before Toshiya could say anything more.

          “Shit.”

 

          He could hear his phone ringing, the text notification chiming. It wasn’t Toshiya, he had no reason to call him, they were done and Kaoru had to live with it. It was probably the studio, or a random telemarketing call, but whoever it was, it wasn’t important enough for him to get out of bed.

          “Kaoru!” he heard someone banging on his door, “Kao, I know you’re in there, open the door.” It was Kyo, the last person he wanted to see. Getting up, he walked to the door, “Kyo, I don’t want to see you or anyone right now, just leave me be please. I’ll call you in a few days.” He turned and went back to bed.  As Kyo walked down to his car, he pulled out his phone and called Shinya, “I need to see you right now.”

           

          Miya had Miyu in his lap, slowly petting the dog and quietly listening to his husband talk with Kyo.

          “Moved out? Are you sure?” Shinya was in disbelief, “But why would Toshiya move out? Did they have an argument or something?”

          “No clue. All I know is after trying to call Kao about a hundred times, I finally called Totchi, and he said he was at his new flat. I didn’t ask any more questions.”

          Miya grunted, “Not like Kaoru is very open with his emotions, so you might not be able to get any answers from him.”

          Kyo pushed his hair back, “Do we confront him, or not interfere? I don’t want Die to know, he’s got a big mouth and it would be all over the place if he finds out.”

          “No,” Shinya shook his head, “unless it becomes problematic for the band, I think we keep it to ourselves. We also need to keep this conversation to ourselves; Toshiya and Kaoru don’t need to know we’ve spoken.”

         

         

          12:30 and Kaoru was ready for a nap, though he had only been up for four hours. Checking his phone constantly, waiting for the text or phone call from Toshiya, that never came. It was shit, all of it. No matter how hard he had tried, it had all sucked. His song writing was garbage, only passable because of Kyo’s brilliant lyrics, and even then, the music was shit.

          Sleep was his only soft comforting place to hide, being numb was better than putting yourself out there. Depression? What a joke! He was just another fake ass shit person, nobody cares, their words were hollow. He stayed out of pity, if Kaoru hadn’t been around, Toshiya would have found someone better. The last 20 odd years, were just one huge fraud.

          Nobody could ever truly love him, they stayed out of some twisted sense of loyalty, he knew they were always looking for a way out, to find someone better, anyone but him. You deserve this pain, he told himself. It’s easier to stay away, do as little as possible and eventually, he’d be forgotten, and no one would remember his name.

          He always felt like an accessory to his much better looking boyfriend, they don’t look at me…they all gravitate to him. You remain nameless or ‘his’ boyfriend. Nobody actually goes to the lives to see him, the fans don’t call out his name. Ryo was right; anti-social, recluse, morose, boring and brooding, all of those applied to Kaoru.

          He would show up, pretend to do his work, but he always thought he’d be better off staying confined to his flat, having his life delivered to him to avoid contact with the outside world. He had proven to himself during the lockdown, that he could live…well exist in that type of new world.

          He could record at home, stay out of the way of the others and let them live the rock star life, that they fell so easily into. Guest guitarists would be the norm, and Kaoru of Dir En Grey, his name would fall into obscurity, without notice.

          Waking up from a two hour nap, Kaoru felt no better, still bone tired and shaky. Picking up his phone, there were several missed calls from Toshiya and, three text messages from his apologetic boyfriend, having claimed to have fallen asleep the night before, instead of having Kaoru come over for dinner.

          “Why didn’t you call me? I fell asleep last night.”

          “Hey, call me when you have a minute.”

          “Are you mad at me?”

         

          The last text was laughable, and with a heavy sigh, and a heavier heart, Kaoru got up and used the bathroom. As he was walking out he turned and looked in the mirror, he saw nothing, nothing worth noticing, nothing for anyone to bother with. “Loser.”

          What now? Sit in front of the TV, eat and have a few beers, go to bed. Rinse and repeat. This is what his existence would be without Toshiya, faking his way through life and barely living.

Chapter Text

 

            Rolling over onto his side, Yuki wasn’t sure he wanted to get up, the sting of the argument with Aoi the night before, was still burning. The fact that they fought over the issue that he wanted to go back to work, was asinine. It wasn’t that he had some high-profile business career, he just worked in a damn trendy clothing shop, so what was the huge problem?

            “He can’t control me, that’s why.”

          Yuki had been certain that they had shoved Aoi of The Gazette into a closet for good, but how had they gone from Yuu and Yuki, back to whatever it was now? With resignation, Yuki knew he had to get up, he could also hear Rin and Sora crying and scratching at the door, “Why hasn’t he fed you yet?” As soon as he opened the door, the two cats started screaming that they were starving to death.

          “Yuu, why haven’t … Yuu?” Aoi wasn’t on the couch, “Yuu?” he wasn’t even in the flat. Quickly feeding the two cats, Yuki went over and knocked on Reita’s door, “Hey,”

          “Hey, what’s up?” Reita said from the kitchen.

          “Have you seen Yuu this morning?”

          “Nope, not since last night. You kicked him out, right?” the bassist laughed.

          “No, I didn’t kick him out, I made him sleep on the couch, but he’s gone.”

          Reita now gave his full attention to Yuki, “Is his car gone?” Shit. He hadn’t even thought of that. “I’m going to go look, then I’ll try calling him, thanks Akira.”

          Yuki glanced at the parking lot as he made his way back to his flat, “Your car is here, but where are you?”

          Quickly dialing Aoi’s number, he took a deep breath in preparation for an argument. On the last ring, just before voice mail…Aoi answered. “Um, hi.”

          “Where are you? When did you leave the flat?” careful even voice.

          “I’m in my car,” a breathy sigh.

          Yuki went back to the door, and looked out into the parking lot, “No you’re not! Where are you?”

          Aoi reached down and pulled the handle, sitting upright in this seat, “Yah…I am.”

          “What are you doing in your car?” He walked up to the driver’s side, “At least come into the house so we can talk, please?”

          “Fine,” he got out of the car and followed Yuki.

          “Do you want tea or coffee?”

          “Mm, coffee please.” How the hell was he going to explain why he was sleeping in his car? Aoi knew he had fucked up royally, but had not come up with a plan on how to fix the fuck up.

          Yuki handed him his coffee, “So tell me why you were sleeping in your car.” He sat down on the couch, close but not too close.

          “I was pissed off at you. I laid on the couch for an hour, talking myself into breaking up with you,” he paused, tears of shame starting to spill, “I went as far as packing a bag.”

          Yuki uttered a tiny gasp, “Why…why would you leave without talking to me?” Aoi looked at his hands, twisting them in his lap, “Yah, I was. I took my bag and got into my car, I even started it and had it in reverse.”

          “What stopped you?”

          Aoi chuckled, “Someone smacked me in the back of the head…hard. It scared the shit out of me.”

          “That makes no…” Yuki frowned, then his eyes went wide, “Ken?”

          “Maybe?” Aoi shrugged, “I just ended up sitting in my car, trying to figure out what my damn problem is…I still didn’t have a true answer, but,” he put down his coffee and reached for Yuki’s hand, “If you want to go back to work, I’ll support you 100%. I’m sorry I was so controlling, and an asshole.”

          He leaned his head on the back of the couch, “What do we do now?” Yuki asked.

          “Can we please go back to bed? I didn’t really sleep much in my car. We can talk about your job hunting later, ne?”

 

          “Oh my god, what the hell is all this?” Uta leaned in the doorway of Sakurai’s office.

          “This,” Sakurai waved his hand, “is three years worth of various and assorted paperwork, which I need to go through.” The pile on the floor was significant, enough so that even he was astonished.

          Turning in his office chair to face Uta, he had in his hands another weighty file, “And this my love, is yours.” He held it out for Uta.

          “Mine? Um, I shouldn’t have anything other than my documents and the deed to the flats, what else is there?” Carefully stepping over the pile of paperwork on the floor, Uta took his file, and went out to the living room. As he started going through the paperwork, he surprised at what he had found and even more so, what he had forgotten.

          “Well?” Sakurai leaned over the back of the couch, “Find anything interesting?”

          Uta nodded, “Yah. Remember when Mistress was going to go live in Maastricht with Nagaharu?” He held out a large manila envelope. “This is the deed to her house; it was with all the other paperwork and the bank passbook.”

          Sakurai looked at the deed and additional legal papers, “Well, that would mean you’d be the owner of the manor in a year or so,” he handed the envelope back to Uta, “what are you going to do?”

          “I need my laptop first.”

 

          Stunned was an understatement, shocked came close, but he probably was more blown away at what he had found when he checked his bank account. He had no idea what to believe. Standing in the doorway of Sakurai’s office, “Acchan?” his voice was shaking, “Um, can I ask you a question?” 

          “Hmm?” Looking behind him, he saw Uta’s face was pale. “Baby, what’s wrong?” Uta had his laptop with him, “Can you explain how this is possible please?” Sakurai took the laptop and placed it on his desk, “What don’t you understand?” Everything looked in order, there were no huge chunks of missing money.

          Uta stood behind Sakurai’s chair, leaning over and pointing out the problem, “I’m not trying to be stupid, but I don’t really know how the whole investments thing works. How can that balance be right?” 

          “Come with me,” he held his hand out, “I’ll try to explain it all, ne?” 

 

          “Mistress, I’m going to rip it up, whether you like it or not. Neither one of us are in the same situation or position we were, when you created the document, there’s no arguing with me. I obviously don’t need the manor, nor do I want it, so stop badgering me about it. Fine, I will call tomorrow, but as far as I’m concerned, the document is void and null.”

          “She’s so damned stubborn!” Uta snarked as he snapped his phone closed, “I don’t need her damned house, why would I?”

          “Uta, play nice with Davina, she only did what she did, out of love and concern, you know that.” Sakurai scolded him. Uta turned and gave his lover the middle finger.

          “The bigger question is what are you going to do with your money, if anything at all?” The account balance had surprised both Uta and Sakurai, the compounding interest, the other investments that had been made in his name, had given him some hefty returns. Adding the monthly rental money from the flats, had left the young man more than well off for a person his age.

          Moving through the kitchen while he made dinner, Uta didn’t have an answer, “I have no clue. I never believed in my wildest imagination that I’d ever have that much money, or even extra money to spend on whatever I wanted.”

          “There’s no reason you have to spend it, you can leave it in the bank and just continue to draw interest. You could talk to Davina’s or my financial investment broker, look at your options, or perhaps you could go into business for yourself.”

          “Go into business for myself?” Uta laughed, “What the hell can I do? I work at a high ball bar, I have some apartments that I loosely manage, that’s it Acchan, I have no other skills. What would I even do?”

          “We will have to wait until the lockdown is lifted, before you can do anything. Just give it time, and don’t sell yourself short, babe. I’m sure there’s something that you would enjoy doing.”

 

 

          “He told me to go into business for myself! Like I have any type of business skills or even anything that I’m good at.”

          Davina chuckled, “You’re a wonderful submissive, Uta.”

          “Mistress,” Uta whined, “that doesn’t mean anything, that’s not a business profession.”

          Becoming frustrated with the single thought that he would be able to run any business, Uta had called Davina and begged her to speak to Sakurai, “I don’t know what you think I can do by speaking to him, Uta. Are you certain there is nothing you’d enjoy doing, that can be translated into a business venture?”

          “No,” Uta huffed, “I’m not good at anything.” Davina could sense that the issue really wasn’t about running his own business, but more about that Uta had so little faith in himself. “Uta my love, let us revisit this problem once we have returned to our normal lives, I can’t advise you properly over the phone. Try and come up with something that you love doing, and if it could be translated into a self-employed profession.”

         

          Uta placed the last cookie in the container, “Three dozen should keep them happy for a while,” he giggled. Yutaka had called him a few days earlier, begging for a batch of his fabulous peanut butter cookies, “I tried your recipe, but Hide said yours were still better, would you please make some and bring them over?”

          Yutaka had told Uta the story of Hide eating all his cookies in one sitting, “He was so sick after, he just laid on the couch and moaned.”

          “Acchan? I’m taking the cookies over to Yutaka and Hide, I’ll be back in a few minutes,”

          “Wear your mask please, or just leave them on the porch! And don’t drive like a maniac either!” Sakurai yelled from his office, where he was still going through the mound of paperwork.

          Uta muttered some choice words under his breath, about his supposed maniacal driving habits, as he got into his car. “I don’t always drive like that, just when you’re with me…”

          The streets of Tokyo were eerily quiet, an unnerving calm silence. The trains could still be heard, but there was no longer crowds of people emptying from the stations, Shibuya crossing, devoid of the thousands that flooded the intersection daily. A shiver ran down Uta’s spine, as he drove past Tokyo Tower, and the HBG, both closed and empty.        

          “This is just too damned creepy.”

 

          Yutaka already had his mom dress on, when Uta knocked on the door, “Why are you knocking, silly boy…this is your home too!” The older man grabbed his ‘son’, by the shoulders and hugged him tightly. “I think you’re safe here without the mask,”

         “Hello Uta, how’s things with Atsushi?” Hide hugged the young man, “Do we have to talk about Acchan already?” Hide and Yutaka shared quick glances, “No, we can talk about other things, like your cookies? You did make some didn’t you?” Uta held out the plastic box, “Is three dozen enough, and please…don’t eat them all at once.” Hide’s face turned a bit red, “I refuse to talk about that incident.”

        “What’s he done now?” Yutaka sighed.

         “It’s not what he’s done, it’s the stupid idea he put in my head.” Uta explained the paperwork for Davina’s manor, “I called her and told her I don’t want the manor, and I was going to tear up the contract. She agreed and everything was fine.”

        “But?” Hide deadpanned. There was always a ‘but’.

         Uta shifted nervously, “Well I checked out my bank account…” his face turned red, it was embarrassing that he was so ignorant of his financial status.

          “And I um… well this,” he handed Yutaka his passbook. Hide leaned over his husband’s shoulder, “What’s the problem?”

          “There’s no problem other than I had no idea I had that much! How the hell did that happen like over night?” Uta’s voice was shaking.

          Hide’s face showed a fatherly concern, “What have you been doing since you returned from the Netherlands?”

          “What?”

          “What have you been doing? Have you gone out and bought a house, or a fancy car, or wasted all your money on material things?”

          Uta snorted, “You know me better than that, Acchan bought me the fancy car, and I don’t waste money on material things.”

          Yutaka knew what Hide was doing, “Have you been collecting rent from your tenants, or had any major repairs done to the flats?”

          He stared at his parents, the realization slowly dawning on him, “Oh…”

          “You’ve been living with Acchan for some time now, you’ve gone through all that trauma with Isshi and his boys, the trial and the aftermath. Have you even for one second sat down and breathed? Davina left your financial situation with a good investment broker, and your constant input of cash has obviously increased…you just don’t spend your money.” Hide put his hand on Uta’s shoulder.

          “Acchan said I should go into business for myself…that’s a stupid idea, I don’t know how to do anything other than pour a high ball.”

          “That’s not true!” Yutaka sputtered, “You are a talented young man, Uta.”

          “Oh yah? Tell me then what talent I have that could be turned into a successful business, Kaasan.” He narrowed his eyes.

          Yutaka sat up straight, “Baking, you could open a bakery and sell your cookies, I’m sure Hide would be there every day.”

          “He’s right, I would be there every day, then I’d get fat and get kicked out of the band.”

          “I wouldn’t let you get fat…I’d just have Toll chase you around with a stick,” Yutaka patted Hide on the arm.

          “Really? You’d let your brother beat me, just because I put on some weight?”

          “He used to punch you all the time when he found out we were dating, you had several black eyes, remember?”

          Hide crossed his arms over his chest, turning away from Yutaka, “That wasn’t because we were dating, that’s because I was fucking you in the van, and he knew about it.”

          “HE WHAT? OH MY GOD!” Yutaka screamed, covering his face with his hands.

          Uta tried not to laugh, but his parents were more than just a little ridiculous, covering his mouth, “Okay, I don’t need to hear this, you’re going to corrupt me.”

          The two older men gaped at Uta, “Seriously? You’re living with Atsushi; we have a very good basic understanding of what happens in your bedroom.” Hide reminded Uta, who immediately turned bright red.  

          “Have you thought about buying more properties? You did say you wanted to have affordable flats for people who are struggling.” Hide pointed out. “I’m sure Davina could help you if you asked, she might even have other properties that she would be willing to sell you…wouldn’t hurt to look into it.”

         

          Buy more properties? Uta was unsure of his ability to be a good property manager, considering the only experience he had, was with a three-flat unit. Still, it got him thinking, so much so that he drove past his house, not realizing it until he was a few blocks further down the street. “Oops.”

          Pulling into the driveway, Sakurai was just pulling out of the garage, “Hey, where are you going?”

          “I have to run to the studio for a minute, care to join me?”  It didn’t take Uta but a moment to park his car, “Sure, I need to talk to you anyway.” Slipping into the low riding sports car, Uta heaves a rather dramatic sigh.

          “Is it that bad?” Sakurai asked, a tinge of worry in his voice.

          “Probably not as bad as I think it is, but it still feels shitty.” Uta went on to explain the conversation he had with Yutaka and Hide, and the idea of starting a bakery, “Like I have the time or the energy to do that… maybe the time but certainly not the energy.”

          Sakurai nodded, “I agree, I don’t think that would work for you, as much as Hide would love having your cookies available when ever he wanted.”

          Uta started to laugh, “That brought up an entire other conversation, about Hide becoming so fat that Yuta would have Toll chase him around with a stick. Then Yuta said something about Toll giving Hide some black eyes, because they were dating. Do you remember that at all?”

          Sakurai chuckled, “Oh yes… Toll was quite the protective Anii, and they did scrap a few times before he accepted that Hide would be dating his baby brother, that’s common knowledge.”

          “Wrong!” Uta crowed.

          “Oh?”

          “Toll found Hide and Yuta…as Hide put it, “fucking in the back of the van. Not my words, Hide’s. Yuta screamed and covered his face.” Uta was still laughing.

          Sakurai grinned, “I think I need to speak with Toll…in front of Yuta.” Uta softly punched his boyfriend in the arm, “That’s just mean, Acchan!”

          Pulling into the studio parking lot, Uta remained in the car, “It will only take a minute,” Sakurai said. Uta pulled out his phone, playing some random game when he received a text chime from Ayato,

          “Building manager-san, we have a leaky pipe in our flat, do you have time to call a repairman?”

          Uta quickly called Ayato, “Hey, what’s going on with your leaky pipe? Where is it?”

          “Kitchen sink, it’s not horrible…yet. It still soaks a dish towel in about two hours. I figured I’d call you sooner than later, so it’s not a huge project. Can you schedule someone and Akira and I will make sure to be out of the flat?”

          “Let me come by and look at it first…it might be a simple fix, maybe even Akira could do it, or Die? Just hold tight, I’m with Atsushi at the studio, we’ll drop by in a bit.”

          “Maybe Hide is right…” Uta muttered as he paged through his contacts for the number of the handyman that was always on call. “Ugh, do I really want more responsibility?”

          “What’s wrong?” Sakurai saw Uta’s pissy face as he walked up to the car, “Can we please stop by the complex? Reita and Ayato’s faucet is leaking and I want to look at it before I call the handyman.”

          “Sure, no problem.”

         

          “It doesn’t look too bad, but I don’t have any kind of tools with me.” Uta was on his hands and knees, looking under the sink with a flash light, “Let me go home and get my toolkit and I’ll be back in about an hour, just don’t run the water until we fix it.”

          “Sure, Akira isn’t even home, and not like I have anywhere to go, thanks again.” Ayato was surprised on how quickly Uta showed up, not even thirty minutes after he had texted the man.

          Rejoining Sakurai in the car, “I have to come back, I don’t have my tools with me. It’s a simple enough fix, just a loose washer, but I have to have a pipe wrench to tighten it.”

          “So, no handyman?” he asked.

          “Nope, I don’t want to bother him by coming out for something that I can easily fix, it’s going to take me all of ten minutes, if that.”

          “Was that all you wanted to tell me, before? That Yuta thinks you should open a bakery? Or was there more?”

          Uta again, heaved a dramatic sigh, “Hide brought up the fact that maybe I should buy more properties, considering what I’ve done with the complex, but I don’t know…”

          “Are you afraid of being over worked, or what?” Sakurai thought it was a great idea, but kept that to himself.

          Uta shrugged, “Not over worked per se, but maybe just in over my head? Davina set me up completely with these flats, but going out on my own and doing it? I’m not sure I’m qualified really.”

          Arriving at home, Uta got out of Sakurai’s car and made sure his toolkit was still in his car, “Let’s talk about this more tonight, after I’m done,” he kissed Sakurai, “It shouldn’t take me more than thirty minutes total.”

          “Please be careful, I love you.”

 

          Climbing from under the counter, Uta grinned, “I’m sure Die or Reita could have done this…maybe not Aoi though,”

          “Pfft, Aoi is useless when it comes to anything more complicated than his guitar,” Ayato scoffed. “We haven’t seen you in what feels like forever, how’s things been?”

          Uta washed his hands, “Fine, boring but you know…in the same boat as everyone else. How bad has it been for you guys? I mean, I know how sulky Atsushi can get because he can’t do anything musically other than from home, what about Akira?”

          Ayato groaned, “You mean that monster that forces me out of the house, so he can play his stupid bass turned all the way up? He’s been playing a lot with Die and Yuu, sort of like a garage band, but with more experience. Yuki and Pon usually come over and we sit around and drink beer while the boys are playing.”

          “How’s things with Yuki and Aoi? Still happy and um… not fighting?” Uta furrowed his brow, knowing that even though the couple had proposed to each other, he still wondered if they would ever make it to actually being married.

          Ayato laughed, “Yuu still does stupid Aoi stuff occasionally, but Yuki smacks him around a bit and shoves that bastard back in the closet. As for Pon and Die? They’re the same, Die is goofy as fuck, and Pon tolerates him and keeps him in place.”

          “The things we do for our pig-headed, stubborn men, right?” Gathering his tools, Uta headed for the door, “We should do Ojisan’s one night soon, social distancing porch party…ask Pon and Yuki what would be a good evening, since none of us have anywhere we have to be.” With the promises of a porch party, Uta left the complex.

          It felt good to help Ayato, to have some authority, even though he didn’t feel like he deserved it. Maybe Hide was right, buying more properties would keep him busy, and help out other young people, “Do what Davina and Teiji would want me to do.”

Chapter Text

          Shifting through the bills that had started to pile up, Ojisan knew the bigger issue was that he needed to open the counters of the small ramen shop, sooner than later, or he would lose his business. He was unable to sustain the hut with the small amount of take away and delivery orders.

          Even with the problems weighing heavy in his mind, Jin Koba went through the motions of opening his business each and every day. Putting out the canvas sign, turning the light on in the small lantern with the name of the shop, Ojisan would pray to the kami for a successful day.

          He still filled his rice cooker, chopping vegetables and meats, going through the same routine he had for the last thirty years. What was missing from that routine, was the steady stream of customers, specifically the young ones he had come to love as his own children.

 

          He said ‘Irasshai’ less often as the weeks turned into months, his trips to the produce market had gone from daily to once a week. His rice cooker was only half full, and his beer supply was dwindling, mainly as Ojisan had taken to drinking away the lonely hours sitting behind the counter of the small shop.

          The brightest days were always when a regular customer would come in for a take-away order. If the customer was from the music industry, he deemed the day livable, though the visits were much too short for his satisfaction.

         Had he paid attention to the flashes of insight that morning, Ojisan would have been more prepared to deal with what was soon going to happen.

 

          “Ojisan? Are you open for business today?” Kato had slid the door open, poking his head into the shop.

          “Irasshai, Kato-kun, yes…please come in!” Ojisan said eagerly. “What can I make for you this afternoon?”

          “Mistress would like the chashu pork, and I would like the shrimp ramen, please.” Ojisan bowed, turning his back to Kato as he started to cook. “How is Mistress these days?” He was thirsty for any information about his friends, “And Uta? Has he been behaving himself, or tormenting Sakurai Atsushi?”

          The conversation went along, Kato telling the ramen maker what he knew, saying that he had not heard from Uta, either good or bad, “I’m guessing that means everything is peaceful with Sakurai-san.”

          Without turning around, Ojisan sighed, “My shop misses the young ones, they fill my humble hut with noise and love, of course.” Kato noticed the slump in the man’s shoulders, as if a great weight was pushing him to the ground.

          “Have you been kept busy, Sir?” Ojisan was still in his small kitchen. At the question, Kato saw the man’s shoulders shake, and he provided no answer for some moments.

          “Not as much as I’d hoped, it’s understandable though. People are not working so they are spending less in the shops these days.” The further unspoken answer was obvious to Kato, his heart wounded as he realized that Ojisan was struggling.

          “Your food, Kato-kun,” He handed the bag to the young man, “Please give Mistress my love. I hope to see you all soon.” With a very sad smile, Kato thanked the man, and bowed low, leaving the ramen hut with more than a few questions and no answers.

 

          “DAVINA!” Kato all but shouted as he entered the manor, and not in a voice that was permissible for any submissive. “Davina… we need to talk please, in the kitchen.” The instant the woman had heard Kato’s voice, she knew there was a problem, and walked quickly from her parlor.

          “What is so important that you forget your training?” Davina snapped testily, standing in the doorway of the kitchen hands on her hips.

          “We need to speak openly Davina…it’s Ojisan.” This rapidly gained the Dominant’s attention, “What’s happened? Is he…” she let the question hang.

          Placing the food on plates and setting the table, Kato stopped and looked at his Mistress, “I believe Ojisan is struggling financially.”

          “How do you know? Has he said anything?” Kato recounted the short conversation he had with Ojisan, “Davina, he looked beaten down, there was hopelessness in his eyes. I asked him how his business was, his back was turned, though I could see his shoulders shake. He accepts what is happening, people are not eating at restaurants, they’re not going out into the shops. He said he misses the young ones, that they fill his hut with noise and love.”

          Davina peppered their conversation during lunch, with questions that Kato couldn’t answer. “What should we do, Mistress?” Kato asked as he cleaned away the lunch dishes, and placed the leftovers in the fridge, “could we make a donation perhaps?”

          “No.” Davina said, “Ojisan is too proud, not to mention, too stubborn to accept a gift like that, we must be careful and subtle in our assistance.”

          Kato looked over his shoulder, “Davina,” he said respectfully, “we can not buy and eat ramen every day until the pandemic is over, it would be rather boring.”

          A slow smile spread over Davina’s lips, “No, my love, we can’t personally order ramen every day, but…”

 

          “We will need to stagger the orders, if we all order on the same day, he will be overwhelmed.” Davina was conducting a call on Zoom, with Sakurai, Uta and Taka, explaining what she had in mind, in the way of helping Ojisan and the ramen hut.

          “Taka dear, we need a system…or check list for who has done their part, and who still needs to. Also, perhaps those that don’t wish to participate, so we can shame them later.”

          “MISTRESS! You can’t do that!” Uta gasped.

          “Fine,” Davina huffed, “But we’ll know who they are.”

          Taka cleared his throat, “Mistress, I already make the schedule for the HBG, this isn’t really much different. I’ll assume you’ll be doing the same for the members of your community?”

          Once Davina had explained to Kato, what she had planned, “We are going to flood the ramen hut with take-away orders, and we’re going to use our friends in the community, and also those in the music world, who have come to love Ojisan as much as we have.” Kato knew that anyone that they asked to help, would gladly do so.

          “Davina, I’d like to be the first,” Uta spoke up, “I already have an event planned,” he explained his porch party with the tenants of the apartment complex. “I’m going to call ahead to order the food for Friday, so it gives him time to go shopping. I’m also going to tell him that this may be a weekly event, at least during the lock down. We all need a bit of distraction, these days.”

          The Dominant woman giggled like a young girl, and squirmed in excitement, “This is going to be fun! I wonder how long it will take him to realize what we’ve been doing behind his back?”

 

 

          “Uta wants to be first, but I think we could order on the same day…OH! I know, we could both show up, maybe you first and then I come in a few minutes later?” Taka suggested.

          “Sure, I could even bring Tatsu with me, I’m sure Ojisan wouldn’t even suspect something was up.” Koichi agreed.

 

          “Will you call Kao?”

          “I can try, we haven’t talked much, he’s been sick with the flu.” There was an edge to Toshiya’s voice, an edge that sounded a lot like someone holding back tears. Shinya was certain that Kaoru’s excuse was a lie, but how to call the man out on it?”

 

          “Toshiya says Kaoru is sick with the flu, have you spoken to him since last week?”

          Kyo growled, “No, but I’m ready to kick both their asses if they don’t stop this stupid shit.”

 

          After the Zoom call with Davina, Uta’s excitement ramped up, starting with a call to Ayato to explain the plan.

          “Wow, I guess I didn’t even think about how hard it would be for him, he’s been in the same spot forever, yah?”

          “Thirty years. So, are you guys in? All of us…well maybe not Atsushi,” Uta smirked, “he just makes it feel weird.”

          Ayato blushed at the mention of the Dominant’s name, “I’m sure Pon and Yuki are up for it, not sure about Die or Yuu.”

          “Okay, then it’s set. Friday night, let’s say at six, I’ll order enough for seven people, and you guys supply the beer. I’ll have Atsushi drop me off, that way I can drink.”

 

          “Why are you doing this to us? I just moved out, we didn’t break up, it was never about that.” Toshiya sat on the side of Kaoru’s bed, talking to a lump burrowed in some blankets. After repeated efforts to speak to his boyfriend on the phone, Toshiya had given up and drove to the flat to confront Kaoru.

          “I’m not doing anything,” Kao mumbled.

          “You’re ignoring my calls and texts, why?” There was no answer from the lump.

          “Kao, talk to me, dammit!” Toshiya reached over and yanked the blankets off the bed, exposing the rough looking man.

          Kaoru turned over, “Fuck off,” he growled, “you made it perfectly clear that you don’t want me.”

          “How the fuck did I do that? I never said one word about breaking up, this was about needing more space, your flat is too small for two people.” Toshiya snapped back.

          Grabbing the blanket and burrowing under it, Kaoru snorted, “Your stuff is blatantly more important than I am.”

           Toshiya’s shoulders slumped, “Is this how you see it?” his voice was near cracking, “I don’t think so, there’s something else. What is it, Kao? I love you, please tell me how to fix us.”

          Kaoru sat up suddenly, “Fix us? You’re joking right? I can’t fucking believe you…you don’t even remember what you said…just go Toshiya, just forget everything.” Kaoru laid back down, drawing the blanket over him, leaving Toshiya hurt and confused.

          “Fine…I love you Kao.”

 

          “A what, party?”

          “A porch party, you know, basically what we’ve always done; sit on our porches, eating and drinking. Uta just gave it an official title.” Ayato was explaining Uta’s idea to Pon and Die and the reasons behind it, as they sat on their porches… drinking.

          “Davina, you clever woman,” Die laughed, he nudged Pon, “We should probably order take away later in the week.”

          Pon leaned away from Die, looking over at the flat next to them, “Has anyone seen those two, today?”

          Ayato wasn’t about to say anything about the fight, that Reita had reported that morning, “Nope, it’s been quiet all day.”

 

          It had been quiet, Yuki and Aoi sleeping until well past noon, then only getting up to feed the cats, and themselves.

          “Tea, coffee, beer or soda?” Aoi asked.

          Yuki didn’t really want anything, “What time is it?”

          “Um, 3:15…beer?”

          “No, a soda and chips please,” Yuki ordered.

          Aoi made an icky face, “Ew, chips in bed? Sorry, I refuse to eat chips in bed.”

          “Fine, cookies?” Yuki laughed.

          After an hours long nap, Aoi and Yuki had spent the day in bed, talking, with Aoi trying to explain his thoughts on why he objected so roughly to Yuki returning to work.

          “Okay, here’s my thought, tell me if I’m even close,” Aoi nuzzled Yuki’s nose, “If you go back to work, you’re going to find a nice normal guy, not someone in a band, that you can have a completely open relationship, no hiding, and no worrying that someone will find out.”

          This stunned Yuki. After all the bullshit he had gone through, getting back to Aoi, the man was still this insecure? “Really? You’re not just making this shit up?”

          Aoi turned read, “Yes really. I’m sorry! I panicked, and Gazette Aoi escaped and grabbed me by the balls.”

          So it wasn’t about Aoi controlling him, it was a base fear of abandonment. He looked hard at his boyfriend. He knew what he had to do, to restate his position on their relationship.

          “Give me your ring,” Yuki said sternly, as he held out his hand. “Give it up,”

          The look on Aoi’s face was priceless, the fear and sadness as he apparently believed that Yuki was breaking up with him. He slowly took off his ring, “I’m sorry Yu…really.”

          Taking the ring, Yuki got off the bed, walking around to Aoi’s side, and stood looking down at the man.

          “How many times have I said I love you?” he expected an answer.

          “A lot, dozens or maybe hundreds of times.” Aoi replied quietly.

          “Have I ever wavered in my love and trust in you?”

          Aoi shook his head, “No…I mean before when I was an asshole, but not since then.”

          “Do you believe that I love you, truly believe?” Yuki asked softly.

          Aoi sighed, a twitch of a smile played on his lips, “Yes I believe you.” With a surprised move, Yuki kneeled next to the bed, picking up Aoi’s hands, and breathed deeply.

          “I love you, Shiroyama Yuu, will you marry me?” Aoi’s lip started to quiver, tears at the brink of falling. Wrapping his arms around his boyfriend’s slender shoulders, he whispered a breathy “Yes,” in Yuki’s ear. A lusty nap followed the impromptu re-proposal.

 

          Sharing a few cookies, and a cup of tea, the couple were still in bed. “Have you thought about where you want to work?” Aoi started the previously heated conversation.

          Leaning his head back, Yuki groaned, “No…I know I can go back to my old shop, that’s so limited and boring.”

          “True,” Aoi admitted, “what would your dream job be, if you had all the right connections?”

          “Connections? Not sure what you mean,”

          “Well, you have tons of music industry connections, shit you’re sleeping with, and engaged to the guitarist for The Gazette. Let’s say you wanted to open a bar, Taka would be who you’d talk to. You could talk to Davina if you wanted to open some…” Yuki slapped his hand over Aoi’s mouth. “I don’t want to be involved in that, thank you very much.”

          Aoi licked Yuki’s palm, laughing as it was instantly jerked away from his mouth, “Okay, bad example. You obviously like clothes and music…do you have any talent in those areas?” Yuki shifted uncomfortably, Aoi instantly noticed a change in attitude, “What?”

          “You have to promise not to laugh, if you do…the engagement is off!” Yuki threatened.

          “I promise,”

          Leaning over Aoi, Yuki opened a drawer in his night table, pulling out a stack of paper, clutching them tightly to his chest, “I started these before I could walk,” he slowly handed the papers to Aoi.

          Chewing on his thumb, Yuki couldn’t read Aoi’s expression; was he trying not to laugh? He started to reach out to grab the papers, this was such a bad idea.

          “Nope, sorry…I’m not done yet.” Aoi got out of bed and walked down the hall to the living room, “Yuu! That’s not fair, give them back.” Yuki scrambled to follow the man, pouncing on him as Aoi sat on the couch, trying to grab the papers, “Give them back!”

          Aoi held his arms up over his head, twisting away, and grappling with his boyfriend, “You drew these?” Yuki stopped attacking him, “These are original designs, not copied from anywhere?”

          Yuki slowly sat back, staring at his hands in his lap, “Yes, they’re original…why, do they look like I copied them from a designer? I told you, I did these when I couldn’t walk…they’re just …” he stumbled over his words, “What do you think?”

          Looking at Yuki, Aoi’s eyes were shining, “Babe, you need to show these to someone, like soon. These are amazing, I’d totally wear this one on stage!” Aoi held up a sketch of a VK inspired coat. “I love this earring, and Reita would totally go for this t-shirt.” Aoi went through each sketch, giving his opinion and who he thought would wear the designs.

          “Really? You…you like them?” Aoi dropped the papers, reaching up he cupped Yuki’s face gently, “Babe, these are amazing, just like you.” Leaning in for a kiss, they were both startled by loud banging on their door, “What the fuck?”

          Aoi stomped up the the door, muttering angrily under his breath about cock blocking, “Can I help you?” he scowled at Die.

          “Woah, dude…calm down,” Die put his hands up.

          “What do you want, Die?” Aoi was more than just annoyed.

          Die looked over Aoi’s shoulder, seeing Yuki sitting on the couch, “You and Yuki are coming to the party, right?”

          “Yuu, what’s going on?” Yuki stepped up next to Aoi, listening as Die explained the party, then went on to tell the story behind the event.

          Aoi’s annoyance dropped slightly, “When is it?”

          “Tomorrow night, I’m assuming you don’t have any plans?” Die joked. Yuki groaned, standing on his toes, he called over Die’s shoulder, “Pon, come get your dorky boyfriend out of my flat before I strangle him!”

          “Are you coming or…” Pon grabbed Die by the arm, dragging the man away from Yuki’s flat, “Sorry guys, hope you can come.” Pon waved, as Die protested. “What? I’m just trying…”

          “We’ll be there,” Aoi agreed as he shut the door.

          “Porch party? That’s a good name for an excuse to drink.” Yuki giggled. Aoi took his hand, leading him back to the bedroom, “It sucks about Ojisan though, guess we need to eat more ramen, at least until this whole thing blows over.”

          “Mind telling me why we’re going back to bed?”

          “Nope, it’s a surprise,”

 

          “Ojisan? It’s Uta. I need to place a large order for Friday evening please.”

Chapter Text

          “Fuck you then!” Kyo threw his pencil across his desk. Writing, erasing, growling and finally tearing out the page and throwing it in the general direction of a trash can; the growing pile of rejects entertainment for Chibi and Sumo, “At least you’re happy.”

          With his head resting on his hand, he stared down at the notebook, the whiteness of the empty pages, taunting him, as if to say ‘give up’. “Piss off”, he flipped a middle finger at the notebook.

          Leaving his office, Kyo wandered through the flat, spending a few minutes in the kitchen, then back to his desk. picking up his pencil, he wrote a sentence…then quickly erased it. Slumping  back in his chair, he folded his arms tightly across his chest, the only sound in the flat was the two cats playing with the balled-up pages of his failed attempts.

          “Come to the store with me,” Mao said, “You need to get out even for an hour.” Kyo rejected the idea, “I need to write,” he said sullenly. Mao knew better than to badger his husband when he was in a mood. “I’ll be back in a little while.”

                His lack of inspiration, even of motivation, worried him. Kyo had believed that being ordered to stay home, would give him weeks to write, uninterrupted, and it frankly shocked him when that wasn’t the case. Add the infuriating stupidity that was Kaoru and Toshiya’s current problems, in the end left Kyo angry and annoyed. He didn’t have time to babysit his bandmates.

 

          “Tadaima,” The front door slammed, “Okaeri, need help?” Kyo pushed away from his desk, mostly relieved to have another distraction. “How was it? Stores still empty?” he started putting groceries away, as Mao unpacked the bags.

          “It was okay, not too many people, though the meat selection was pretty sparse.” Before Kyo could ask, Sumo charged through the kitchen, carrying a wad of crumpled paper, Chibi hot on his heels. “What’s this all about?” Mao stepped back to keep from being run over. “Do you want lunch?”

          Sitting on the couch, Mao knew better than to ask about the man’s writing, it was obvious that Kyo was struggling. Instead, he listened with a somewhat sympathetic ear, as his husband whined about his band mates, “I don’t have a clue, all I know is Toshiya moved out.”

          “Has anyone gone over and checked on Kaoru?”

          Kyo snorted, “I have better things to do, than run over there to hold his hand, he’s a grown ass man.” Mao stopped eating his sandwich, mid-bite.

          “Wow, now who sounds like an asshole?” dropping the remainder of his sandwich on his plate, Mao got up and went into the kitchen, and started slamming cabinets as he cleaned up, leaving Kyo sitting on the couch with his mouth hanging open.

          “Why am I an asshole?”

          Mao continued to clean with extra force, ignoring Kyo.  “You call me an asshole,” Kyo got up and went to the kitchen, “and then I get the silent treatment…what the fuck Mao?”

          “You don’t have time?” Mao pushed past Kyo, going into the spare room where the man’s desk was, stooping down he grabbed the trash can, and calmly walked over and dumped the contents on Kyo’s head, then stood back and glared.

          “Seriously, by the looks of this room, you have plenty of time TO HELP YOUR FRIENDS!” Mao shouted, dropping the trash can as he left the room, he muttered ‘asshole’, under his breath. Kyo raised his hand reaching out for Mao, but with a slam of the bedroom door, the conversation was over. As he was picking up the trash, Kyo still debated with himself if he should get involved in the whatever it was, between Toshiya and Kaoru. Mao’s words had stung; he did have time, since his muse decided to leave and go on vacation.

          “What exactly, does everyone expect me to do?”  

          “Do you know where Toshiya’s new apartment is?”

 

          “Your stuff is blatantly more important than I am.”

          Those words spoken by the one he loved the most, had burned a hole in Toshiya’s heart. Between the break up with Jui, and the lock down due to the virus, he was ready to give up on having any sort of workable relationship. But why did Kaoru believe that his moving out, meant that they had broken up? The man had helped Toshiya find an apartment, helped him pack and move. Kaoru was accepting of the entirety of Toshiya’s decision, so what had changed? His mind blurred with the possibilities as he drove the short distance home.

          Stepping into the elevator, he pushed the button for his floor, then leaned against the cold metal wall. Just as the doors were about to close, a hand shot forward and pushed them back open. Toshiya started to reach for the door button, “Sorry…”

          “Oh good, now I don’t have to bang on your door,” Kyo stepped into the elevator.

          “What are you doing here, Kyo? Go home and mind your own business.” This wasn’t who Toshiya wanted to deal with at that moment.

          He ignored the comment, “Pretty posh building, sure you can afford this?” Kyo just looked at the doors. When they reached the 8th floor, Toshiya pushed Kyo out of the way, “Go home,” he snapped. Kyo could instantly see the pain in his friend’s eyes, “Sorry, not happening,” he followed Toshiya closely to the man’s apartment.

          Stopping in front of his door, Toshiya looked at his bandmate, “Please, just go home.” He was nearly in tears; he didn’t need nor want Kyo’s pity.

          “No.” Kyo said softly, as he took the keys from Toshiya, who was jabbing at the door, trying to hit the lock. “We’re going to talk.” Once again shoving past the shorter man, Toshiya dropped his bag and went straight to the kitchen, without removing his shoes. Jerking a cabinet door open and grabbing a large bottle of vodka, he didn’t bother to get a glass. “Toshiya, that’s not the…” Kyo started to say. “Fuck off.” His voice had started to waver.

          Sitting quietly next to his friend, Kyo didn’t talk, as much as listen, occasionally answering a question, or a gentle hum in agreement. He also was watching the amount of alcohol Toshiya was consuming, knowing that it would not be a pretty sight in the morning.

          The crying started after an hour or so, sobbing through his words, he almost dropped the bottle, Kyo gently taking it from him and setting it on the floor next to the couch. There was still no clear understanding of why Kaoru treated Toshiya as he had, “He told me to fuck off…that it was over, that I don’t remember what I said.” Toshiya fell over, his head landing in Kyo’s lap. “What happened? I don’t understand,” he sobbed.

          Carding through Toshiya’s hair, Kyo had no clue what to say, “Come on, let’s get you to bed.” Helping Toshiya to walk, (which wasn’t easy considering the disparity in height) then to at least take his pants off, Kyo got him all tucked in. Going back to the kitchen, then to the bathroom, Kyo placed a bottle of water and some pain meds on the night table.

          “I can’t promise you anything, Totchi, but I’ll try.”

         

          “Hey babe, I’m going over to Shinya’s, I’ll be awhile.”

          “Take your time, tell everyone I said hi.” Mao smiled to himself, “Guess you are going to help.

 

          Much like Kyo, Shinya’s emotions were on a sliding scale of anger and sadness, “All because of closet space? That can’t be the real reason.”

          “He’s right, there has to be something Kao’s holding back.” Miya agreed.

          “If he is, Toshiya doesn’t know. You know how he is when he’s drunk? All chatty and giggling…tonight?” Kyo looked down, shaking his head, “Tonight I had to pour him into bed, he was so drunk. It’s going to be a rough morning for him.”

          Miya held Shinya’s hand, “What’s your next move?” His husband’s head on his shoulder, “As much as it may be a bad idea, I think we need to tell Die…I don’t know what he can do, but we can’t leave him out of it. What’s going to happen if one or both of them show up at the restaurant or Ojisan’s, without the other?” Shinya reasoned.

          Kyo didn’t like the idea, but they were out of options, “I’m not a fan of that, but…I don’t think it’s fair to keep him out of the loop any longer. He’d better keep his mouth shut; we don’t need the entire industry knowing our business.”

          “I’ll call him, and I’ll warn him that I’ll be the one he has to answer to if he starts running his mouth.” Shinya said with certainty.

 

          The reaction from Die, wasn’t exactly what Shinya had expected; a choked voice on the verge of tears.

          “Why would he say that? I don’t understand?” Die was slumped on his couch, clutching a pillow to his chest, and his hand over his eyes as Shinya explained what had been going on for the last week.

          “I don’t know, we’re not even sure how far or how much to interfere.” Shinya confessed. Miya was also trying to stay out of it if possible, letting his husband take care of his own band’s problems.  

          Die sat up quickly, stunned at what he had been told, “Wait, you haven’t done anything? Not even talk with Kaoru yet?”

          “We didn’t think it was our…hello?” Shinya looked at his phone, then at Miya, “He hung up on me.”

 

          “PON!” Die yelled as he rifled through a kitchen drawer, “PON! Damn it, where are they?”

          “Are you okay, why are you screaming at me?” Pon had been in the bedroom, Die’s screaming startling the man.

          “That key ring, the fuzzy bat one, where is it?” he slammed another drawer shut.

          “Fuzzy bat?”

          “Yah, it’s blue…has like four keys on it.” Die threw his head back and moaned, “I need those keys.”

          Pon didn’t ask what the issue was, leaving the kitchen and going into the spare bedroom, where the guitarists equipment was, and opened a drawer in Die’s desk, finding the keyring.

          Returning to the living room, Pon held up the keys, shaking them at Die, “You mean this one? It’s a bird, not a bat.”

          “Yes!” Grabbing the keys out of Pon’s hand, he kisses him on the head, “I’ll be back in awhile.”

          “Um, okay, love you.”

 

          For the first time, Die was thankful for the city streets to be virtually empty, arriving at his destination in less than ten minutes. “You’d better have some damn answers,” he muttered as he parked his car. Trotting across the parking lot, he took the stairs two at a time. As he walked down the narrow dark hallway, the only light shining were the tiny lights over each door. Reaching the apartment in question, Die didn’t bother knocking, using the keys he brought with them to get the door unlocked.

          Opening the door with a snap and a slam, Die see’s Kaoru walking towards his kitchen, a stack of dishes in his hand. “What the hell have you done, you idiot!” he growled at Kaoru.

          Narrowing his eyes, Kaoru calmly said, “Get out of my house, Andou.”

          “Fuck you!” Die unexpectedly rushed the man, shoving Kaoru across the floor and hard into the wall, causing him to drop the dishes. As he grappled with Die, he stepped on a piece of glass, cutting his foot. Ignoring the pain, he growled, “Get off me!”

          “Why are you fucking Totchi over, asshole?” More grunting as Kaoru pushed back.

          “Fuck…you! None of… OW…your business!”  Die had reached his arm back, to punch Kaoru in the face, when a voice screamed, “STOP IT, BOTH OF YOU!”

          Then Miya was there, holding back Die’s arm, “Don’t do it.” He said sharply. Die let go of Kaoru’s shirt, still glaring at his band leader, “Why? Why would you hurt him like that? TELL ME KAO!” Die reached out and shoved Kaoru again, Miya once again stepping between them. “Knock it off, Die.”

          Shinya had smartly closed the door, before making his way to the kitchen, looking for a broom to clean up the broken glass. As he cleaned, he noticed a blood trail on the floor, that led to Kaoru, “Kao! You’ve cut your foot.”

          The man lifted his foot, looking at the bottom, “Oh.” Miya pushed Die further away from Kaoru, “Go sit down.”

          “You,” he pointed at Kaoru, “bathroom, let’s get your foot cleaned up.”

          Die was still shaking, the adrenaline slowly dissipating.

          “What were you thinking?” Shinya’s soft voice was heard from the kitchen, “Were you really going to punch him?”

          Die shrugged, “Probably, he’s an asshole.”

          “What would that have proven?” Shinya put the broom away, then walked over and sat next to his friend. “Why?”

          Die leaned back, not looking at Shinya, “Ask him, he’s the asshole.” He nodded his head at Kaoru as he and Miya returned from the bathroom. Before anyone could say another word, Kaoru demanded that they leave, “Go home, I’m done with you.”

          Nobody moved, it wasn’t quite over yet. “Fine, I’m going to bed.” As he turned to walk away, Miya reached out and grabbed Kaoru by the forearm, “Sit down.” The man glared at Miya, hesitated for a moment but thought better of it, sitting in a chair across from Die.

          Taking his place next to Shinya, Miya leaned forward and looked Kaoru in the eyes, “Why did you break up with Toshiya?”

          “That’s between us, he knows the reason.”

          “No, you’re wrong Kao, Totchi doesn’t know. Kyo did the same thing as Die, he forced him to talk. Unfortunately, he drank a half a bottle of whiskey.” Shinya said. Kaoru stiffened, and opened his mouth to say something, but then thought better and remained quiet.

          Nudging Die in the ribs, Shinya nodded towards the man sitting across from him. Die smacked his hand away, “I’ll keep asking you until you tell me the truth…why Kao?”

          “We are trying to help, you love him, has that changed?” Shinya pleaded.

          “He doesn’t love me, that’s what changed. He chose to move out and that told me everything I need to know.”

          Die started to get up, “He doesn’t know!” Miya quickly reached out and grabbed Die’s belt, pulling him back onto the couch. “Stop it.”

          “Between his drinking and crying, Kyo said it was difficult to understand what Totchi was saying, but it was something about what he had told you. What was that thing?” Shinya was trying to be as clear as possible.
          Kaoru turned his head, crossing his arms over his chest, “This has nothing to do with you, it’s private.”

          “Hey asshole, it DOES have to do with us, we’re in a damned band together, if you haven’t already forgotten! What the hell is Totchi talking about?” Die shouted.

          “FINE! It was right after we moved in together, and he was arranging his stuff in the flat, and I questioned him about all his stupid figurines and his clothes.” Kaoru looked down at his hands, “then he said that we should buy a house, instead he packs up and leaves, what’s that tell you?” His voice was so low, they weren’t sure they heard him right.

          “What? Buy a house?” Miya asked. Kaoru nodded, “You broke up with him over that?” He looked at Shinya and Die, “It tells me that you’re a petty fucking jackass, you’re not even in my band and I want to kick you out. I’m done with your childish… damn you’re just fucking stupid.” Miya got up, kissed Shinya on the cheek, “I’ll wait in the car, take your time.”

          Kaoru’s face flushed in embarrassment as he watched Miya leave the flat. “It’s not childish, he dumped me.”

          “Why didn’t you say anything? He most likely just forgot, Kao, so why didn’t you say anything to him?” Shinya was astonished at the pettiness from his band leader, “How does moving out, equate to the same thing as breaking up with you? This is a smallish flat, even for one person. So why didn’t you just say something, like ‘hey we need a bigger flat’?”

          Die had been silent for most of the conversation, mostly because he was still angry with Kaoru, “Did he ever say, he didn’t love you, did that ever once come up? What was the last thing he said to you?” he demanded.

          Kaoru pouted, “He said he loved me.”

Die slapped his thigh, “Then how did you get to this? How did you get to be such an asshole, enough so that I had to come over and basically kick your ass? Are you for real?”

         “Come on Die, we should leave.” Shinya stood up, “I suggest you clear this up immediately, like tonight. You need to go over and apologize and ask for forgiveness for being such an idiot. If you still love Toshiya, you need to fix this tonight, Kaoru.”

 

        Kao had thought his flat was cozy, but if he was truthful, (and he had to be), realistic, and thought long enough about their daily life, Toshiya was right; the flat was too small for two people.

        “Go sit down while I make dinner.” (kitchen was too small.)

         “How much longer are you going to be in the bathroom? I need to pee!”  (No separate toilet room.)

         Finally, Toshiya’s clothes in the too small closet.

       Why hadn’t they at least talked about a bigger flat? They could have waited on buying a house.

         “I have to make this right.”

 

          Quietly letting himself into Toshiya’s apartment, Kaoru was glad that he had accepted the key, “You’ll be coming and going all the time anyways,” Toshiya had told him the day he moved in.

          Most of Toshiya’s things had been unpacked, though there were several boxes on a table in the kitchen, more in the small second bedroom, and boxes that were clearly marked ‘figurines’. The closet was empty, “It’s been a week and you haven’t even hung up your clothes.” Going further down the hall, he slowly opened the master bedroom door, peeking in before entering, unsure what he would see.

          There wasn’t anything in the room, but a bed and a lump of a body. Kaoru walked over and stood next to the bed, ‘damn you’re being creepy’ , he looked down at Toshiya. He could see that he’d been crying; his eyes were red and swollen. As if Toshiya knew Kaoru was there, he rolled over and uttered a tiny sob, ‘Kao…please…’. Grabbing a pillow to his chest, Toshiya curled up tightly, another soft sob slipping from his lips.

         At that moment, Kaoru hated himself. How could he have questioned Toshiya’s love for him? Hadn’t they both gone through enough, before finding each other? It was his fault that the man was now crying in his sleep, a drunken slumber that he knew would result in a very rude awakening the next morning.

        “Totchi,” he whispered. Slowly backing away from the bed, Kaoru left the room. Going back into the small bedroom, he looked around for any box that said ‘clothes’, hoping to find what he needed. It took him twenty minutes of throwing things around the room until he pulled out a pair of track pants, he knew he could wear. Quickly changing, he went back to Toshiya’s bedroom, and closed the door.

         Ever so gently, he lifted the blankets, his eyes on Toshiya at all times. Carefully sliding into the bed, he pulled the blankets up, then slowly slid next to his lover, snuggling against his back, and putting his arm around Toshiya’s waist, pulling him in. “I love you,” he whispered against the nape of Toshiya’s neck, then closed his eyes.

Chapter Text

 

          Huddling on the damp concrete steps, the girl watched the back door of the ramen shop, hoping that the kindly owner would once again be her guardian angel, and give her a bowl of ramen, free of charge.

          She had stumbled, literally, into the back door of the shop, as she was pushed aside by a delivery wagon that filled the narrow alley. She could feel a large lump forming on her knee, where she had bashed it against the concrete step. Before she could stand, and collect herself, the back door opened, “Are you injured, young one?” The savory smells of food cooking, hit the girl full in the face.

          Standing up, the girl bowed deeply, “Please forgive me, I fell when a delivery cart came by.” She peered up through her bangs at the man, expecting to be scolded and chased off.

          “You look hungry, please…come in out of the rain. I have extra ramen today, would you like a bowl?”

          The girl started to back away, “I um, I don’t have any money, but thank you…”

          The man smiled at her, “It’s free of charge, I would be throwing it away otherwise.” He held his arm open, “Come, it’s cold and wet.”

          She hesitated for a heartbeat, then her stomach rudely growled, pushing her to accept the man’s kind offer.

          Stepping into the small restaurant, the girl was overcome with a longing for her previous life. She could imagine herself with her friends, eating ramen late at night, after a concert or a night out in the clubs. But it was just a memory that had faded quickly, as the virus took over the world.

          Losing her job at BookOff was the first blow, the manager Akira having to close the store, “I’m sorry everyone,” he said, “as soon as this is all over, I will call you.” Without a job, she could no longer afford her part of the rent in the shitty flat she shared with a school friend. “I’m sorry, I’m going back to my parents house, will you be okay?” the roommate had told her.  It seemed her life was now full of ‘I’m sorry’.

          She lied of course, “I’ll be fine, stay safe, ne?” The girl waited until the roommate moved out, before selling what she could, and packing the rest of her meager life in a large backpack.

          Taking the train from Chiba to Shibuya, she knew of a decent and safe manga café, where she could spend a few nights, but that only solved a fraction of her problem. With no job, and no income, returning to her parent’s house was not an option. It would be just a matter of weeks before she would be out on the streets…homeless

         

          Hanging over Sakurai’s shoulder, Uta mostly watched and listened to the video conference call with the senior members of the BDSM community. Though he was on more casual terms with Mistress Davina, he knew better than to interrupt the conversation.

          “I just could not believe what I was seeing. They were no better than Umeji or that horrid creature Natsu.” Isshi was detailing his experience at Club Siberia, in the Netherlands. At the mention of Natsu’s name, Uta hid his face in Sakurai’s back.

          “It was abominable how those women were being treated. We may have our rough scenes, but what I witnessed was nothing less than pure torture. There were instances that if a woman wanted to use her safe word, she would be unable to speak.”

          The slow simmering rage Isshi had thought he had put to rest, once more rose to the surface.

          “We can not censor a foreign country’s standards, no matter how they differ from our own.” Madame F dictated, “All we can do is inform anyone that may be traveling, on what to expect in the Netherlands.”

          “Isshi, I know you didn’t request this meeting to discuss a questionable establishment, how is Byou?” Davina asked.

          The Dominant’s façade of self control started to crumble, his lower lip trembling as he tried to speak, “Not well, not well at all.”

          Uta squeezed Sakurai’s shoulder, “What can we do to help, Isshi?” he asked gently. Uta leaned forward and whispered in his boyfriend’s ear, “Uta has suggested that he, along with Koichi and Taka, have a meeting with Byou, they have all had similar experiences, what do you think, Isshi?”

          With a weak smile, and a chuckle, “That is exactly what my Angel suggested. What happens afterwards, is what concerns me.”

          “Excuse me,” Uta stammered, “can you wait until we talk to him before making a decision? We might be able to help you decide on how to proceed, what he might need.”

          “I think that is a wise choice, Uta, don’t you Isshi?” Davina wanted to step carefully; she knew the man’s little family was very fragile.

          The Dominant sighed wearily, “At this point, I’ll agree to anything, I just want…” Isshi started to sob.

          Madame F started to speak, but was interrupted, “Sir! What’s wrong?” Both Ruimaru and Karyu had rushed into the room, at the sound of their Dominant crying. Ruimaru looked at the computer screen, and bowed, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt, but…”

          Madame F waved her hand, “Ruimaru, our meeting is over, please take care of your Dominant, Isshi, we will be in touch.” With a nod and another bow, Ruimaru closed the program.

          A collective breath was released, “Uta, I will leave it up to you to gather your young friends to meet with Byou. I’d like a full report after that meeting, please. Thank you all for attending.” Madame F nodded, then disconnected.

          “Davina, I’m starting the Ojisan project tonight,” Uta reminded his Mistress, “I think you can wait a day or so before you do your part, ne?”

          “Kato has our meals planned for the next month.” She laughed, “We will keep Ojisan so busy, he won’t have time to worry.”

          “Kato’s so…” Uta held his tongue, “We have to go, we’re picking up the food tonight. I’ll text you in a few days, I love you, Mistress.”

           Uta quickly kissed Sakurai, “Give me five minutes and I’ll be ready.”

 

           “Thank you for the ramen, Sir.” The girl picked up her backpack, bowing to the man behind the counter. She always ate quickly as not to bother any other customers that may come in.

           “It’s still raining, please stay awhile longer, at least until your clothes are dry.” The kindly man said.

          “Are…are you sure?”

          He nodded, “I’m not so cruel as to send a young one in need, out into the rain.”

          “Thank you,” The girl was on the verge of tears, she had experience so little kindness in her many days of homelessness.

 

           Uta quickly sent a text to Ayato, “Hey, picking up the food. Atsushi will drop me off in fifteen minutes or so.”  

 

          Ojisan bagged up the last of the take-away boxes, “Irasshai…”

         “Uta?”

         Uta’s jaw dropped, “Naoto? Oh my god, it’s been ages,” he walked over and hugged the girl, “how are you?”

         Naoto looked down at her hands, “I um, “

        “What happened?”

        “Akira had to let us all go from the store, and then I lost the flat, my roommate went to live with her parents, and when I couldn’t pay rent…”

        Ojisan stood in front of Naoto, “Naoto-chan has been visiting with me these last few days.” He looked knowingly at Uta, giving him a slight nod. Uta understood immediately.

        “You best take your food, Uta. Your friends are waiting.” Ojisan slid the bag across the counter.

        Reaching over the back of the chair next to Naoto, Uta grabbed the backpack, then took the young woman by the hand, “You’re coming with me, no arguments.”

       “No! I can’t Uta…”

        “Naoto-chan, accept Uta’s hospitality.” Ojisan urged her.

        “Come on, we’re going to a porch party.” Uta looked back at the ramen maker, “Thanks for taking care of her, Ojisan.” Grabbing the bag, Uta pulled Naoto along with him.

        “Uta, are you sure this is okay? I don’t want to cause any problems for you.”

         Uta laughed, “The only problem might be who my boyfriend is, and oh, some of my friends, but don’t worry about it.”

        Sakurai had just stepped out of his car, curious on why it was taking Uta so long to collect the food, “Uta?” he saw him walking quickly towards the car, the bag of food in one hand, and pulling a young woman with him.

        “Acchan, this is my friend Naoto, we worked together at BookOff in Chiba. She’s coming to the party.”

       The color drained from the girl’s face, “Acchan?” she whispered.

       Sakurai could instantly see the fear and trepidation in Naoto’s face, “A pleasure to meet you, Naoto-chan. Please, call me Atsushi.” He looked at Uta, “We’d better get going or the food will get cold.”

       Gently pushing Naoto in the back seat and handing her the take-away bag, Uta trotted around to the passenger side and got in. Looking over his shoulder, he grinned at Naoto, “Relax, it will be fun, I promise.”

 

       On the drive over, Uta sent a quick text to Ayato, with a warning, “Tell Die, Aoi, and Reita to behave themselves, I’m bringing a friend and she’s super shy.”

          Ayato stepped out of his flat, waving his phone, “I just got a text from Uta,” he looked at Die and Aoi, who were setting up a table, “He wants you to behave yourselves, you too Akira. He said he’s bringing a friend and she’s shy. So, no extra stupidity tonight please.”

          Aoi and Die exchanged hurt looks, “Why us? We’re not that bad.” Yuki and Pon both rolled their eyes, “Do you need us to remind you of your recent past?” Yuki said sarcastically. The two men ignored the comment.

          “Who’s the friend and where do you want the cooler?” Reita was standing on the steps, “I don’t know but she’s probably not in the industry,” Ayato pointed to a corner, “put the cooler next to the table, please.”

          “She?” Pon arched an eyebrow, “She wouldn’t be from his other set of friends, would she?” Ayato shrugged, “No clue, he didn’t say.”

         

          Uta looked over his shoulder at Naoto, who looked slightly terrified, “Please don’t worry, my friends are super nice, and if they step out of line, their boyfriends will kick their asses.” The comment drew a snort from Sakurai, “Yes?” Uta glared at him.

          “Nothing, I love you.”

          “Good save.” Uta laughed. He quickly sent his boyfriend a text, “Please make sure the guest room is clean.” He wanted everything in place, ready for Naoto later that night.

 

          Turning into a small parking lot, Naoto was relieved that it seemed to be a normal complex and not some plush mansion. Uta got out of the car, and came around to Naoto’s door, “I’ll take that,” he took the food from her.

          “Hey, about time you got here,” Ayato walked towards them, bowing lightly when he saw Naoto, “Hi, I’m Ayato, nice to meet you.” Naoto was stunned, “Hi,” is all she could say. The young man standing in front of her was simply the prettiest boy she’d ever seen. Uta nudged her shoulder, “This is my friend Naoto.”

          “Come on then, you can meet everyone else,” he smiled, “we have beer and cola, which ever you’d prefer.”

          “Okay,” she replied timidly.

          “Uta! What took you so long?” Of course, Die had to be loud, loud enough that Pon elbowed him in the ribs. Naoto stopped, her eyes growing wide. She took a step back, but Uta was there, taking her hand. “This is Naoto, a friend of mine, we worked at BookOff in Chiba.” Everyone gave her a soft ‘hello, nice to meet you.’ Uta knew he didn’t need to make the obvious introductions, instead opting to introduce the boyfriends.

          “Pon’s the only one in the industry,” Uta was starting to plate the food, “he’s a studio engineer at DCR.”

          “It sounds more glamorous than it is. It really means I’m stuck in a tiny room for hours with men that need to shower more.” Naoto covered her mouth and giggled.

          “Hey, I’m not that bad!” Die objected.

          “You stink when you come home.” Pon offered Naoto a beer, “or would you like a cola?”

          “Beer is fine, thank you.” Uta handed her a plate of food. Carefully watching the others, Naoto forced herself to eat slowly, no matter how hungry she really was. Uta sat down next to her, learning over and whispering, “I told you they were nice.”

          After the food was gone and the beers drained, Uta quickly sent Sakurai a text, letting him know they were ready to go home.

          Naoto stood up, “It was nice meeting you all, thank you.” She bowed lightly.

          “If you need anything, just let us know.” Ayato offered. Naoto started to tear up, suddenly walking out to the parking lot.

          “Is she okay, Uta?” Yuki asked, concerned that they might have offended the young woman.

          “It’s all just over whelming for her. I’ll explain it later, good night.” Uta waved and walked out to the parking lot, finding Naoto leaning against a wall, tears flowing. He walked over and put his hand on her arm, “Hey, are you okay?”  Naoto nodded, then suddenly threw her arms around Uta, crying into his shoulder.

          “Thank you,” she mumbled, “for helping me.”

          “Hey, look at me,” Uta held her out at arms length, “you’re my friend, of course I’m going to help. Even if I didn’t know you, I’d help you in some way, I’m all about helping other people get back on their feet.”

          With a soft purr, Sakurai’s Mercedes pulled into the parking lot, Uta putting his arm around Naoto, “Let’s go home.”

 

          Naoto’s head was leaning against the window, having nodded off during the drive home, Sakurai peering at her in the rear-view mirror, “How did it go?”

          “I think she had a good time, once she got over the shock,” he giggled. “We’ll get her settled in, then you and I can talk.”

 

          “Good night,” Uta closed the door quietly, with a sigh of relief. Padding down the hall to his own bedroom, he felt emotionally exhausted.  Sakurai looked up from his book, then patted the bed, “You look tired, is she alright?”

          “Mm,” Uta dramatically fell face first onto the bed, his lover reaching out to ruffle his hair. “So, my love, tell me why I have an obviously traumatized young woman in our guest room.”

          Uta rolled over, “She’s homeless for one,” he wiggled up next to Sakurai, throwing a leg over the man’s hip, “I don’t have any open flats, so is it okay to let her stay here, temporarily?”  Uta went through Naoto’s story, as much as what she had told him, “I think Ojisan had been giving her ramen, for free.”

          “I believe there are more unfortunate young people out there, that are in the same situation as Naoto.” He drew Uta into his arms, “She is lucky to have you as a friend.”

          Uta hummed in agreement, “Now I just need to figure out what else I can do to help her.”

 

          Never in her life, had the combination of a hot shower, clean pajamas (even though they were Uta’s) and a comfortable bed, felt as good that moment. A day that had started out with cold rain, had ended in warmth and luxury.

          Standing in the shower, she had a good cry, weeping in relief of not having to spend another night out on the streets. The surrealness of going from free ramen, to Sakurai Atsushi and meeting three other famous musicians, all in one day, made her head swim.. she was warm, she had eaten her full of delicious food and now she was safe.

          High on her list, things she could not ignore, was a place to live and a job.

          “Tomorrow,” with a sigh, she closed her eyes and slept.

 

          “Really? I didn’t get that impression at all. I mean, sure, she was shy, but she also met the three of us, in a super informal way.” Die’s conclusion on Naoto’s behavior, was a bit off, for Pon’s liking.

          “To me, she looked scared, like she was ready to run, and she was obviously hungry.”

          “Wait, what? Hungry?”

          Pon rolled his eyes, “You were too busy talking to Aoi. Her hands were shaking when Uta gave her a plate. She wasn’t like shoveling the food in her mouth, but she was definitely hungry.”

          “Whatever the situation was or is, she’s with Uta and Sakurai now, they’ll keep her safe.” Die declared.

         

          Aoi sighed contentedly, nuzzling Yuki’s ear as they lay in bed, “That was fun, we should do it again.”

          Yuki wiggled away from Aoi, “What did you think of Naoto? Did you get a weird vibe, or sense there was something…I don’t know, off?”

          “Hmm, big time goth,” Aoi paused, “tattoos, piercings, overall a great look. She seemed nice enough, maybe a little quiet. Why, what did you see?”

          “Nervous, maybe a little scared, she didn’t say much.”

          “I’m not bringing him out of the closet, but could it have been that she met three popular musicians, in a very private place?” Aoi reasoned.

          “Maybe. I guess Uta will tell us when he’s ready.”

 

          “I’m telling you, I’ve seen that look,” Ayato was adamant, “hell, I’ve had that look before. Naoto is homeless, Akira.”

          Reita moved through the flat, locking it up for the night, the couple discussing how the first porch party had gone, and their thoughts on Uta’s friend.

          “Okay, so she’s homeless, or was. It’s obvious that she’s under Uta’s care now, I’m sure Sakurai is good with that as well.” Reita concluded.

          Ayato huffed, “She can’t stay with Uta forever. If she’s homeless, she’s obviously not working. So where is she going to live?”

          “Maybe Pon has a flat available for her? If it comes down to it, she can stay here. I can just move my basses over to Aoi’s, or even Die’s, or I could take some of them to the studio. Naoto’s Uta’s friend, and that makes her one of ours as well.”

          A look of shock crossed Ayato’s face, “You’d be willing to let her stay here? Seriously Aki? I’m not saying no, but I’m just surprised that you’d let someone we didn’t know, live with us.”

          “Really? Have you forgotten your past and how we met? You basically let a man, you had just met, even though we had sex, move into your apartment. Sorry babe, but you can’t play that card with me.”

          His face flushed in embarrassment, he knew his boyfriend was right, “That situation was a little different, we had feelings for each other even after we fucked.”

          “You have to have feelings about fucking to live with someone? Gee, Aya…I don’t think I can do that with Naoto.” Reita put up his hands quickly, just missed being hit by a shoe thrown by Ayato.

          “You know what I mean, dumbass. Okay, so I guess I’m okay with her staying here, if she needs to. But I seriously think Uta’s going to find her a place, and maybe even a job. Regardless, you’re right, Naoto’s now our friend by default.”

Chapter Text

           Even before he opened his eyes, Toshiya felt like he was going to puke, the spins intensifying with every breath and the stupidity of the previous night’s break down was now fully evident. He wasn’t’ ready to get up, but it was hard to ignore the complaints from his stomach and bladder, though there was a familiar weight across his hip.

          Not completely trusting his head or stomach, Toshiya slowly rolled over, surprised to find a still slumbering Kaoru. He blinked twice, then reached out and gently caressed his boyfriend’s face.

          “Hey babe,” Kaoru smiled sleepily.

          “Hey yourself,” Toshiya kissed Kaoru’s forehead.

          “I hope you don’t…”

          “Of course not, when?”

          “About midnight, after Die kicked my ass,” he snorted.

          This caught Toshiya by surprise. “Die? Um, Kyo was here with me, I think he’s the one that put me to bed. He must have talked to Die.”

          “Well, I know he talked to Shinya, who then must have called Die. He used his key to get in, then he tried to kill me,” a single tear slid down the man’s face, “and he should have.” Toshiya wiped the tear away, “Let’s have some coffee.”

          Toshiya swung his long legs over the side of the bed, hesitating momentarily before getting up and going into the bathroom, “Kao, there’s a new toothbrush on the counter,” he called out. Just the minor action of brushing the sludge off his teeth, made him feel marginally better.

          Slowly shuffling into the kitchen, Toshiya found the offending, nearly empty bottle of vodka, which he immediately poured the remainder into the sink, “No more of that shit,” he muttered.

          “Vodka? I’m surprised you’re still standing.” Coming into the kitchen, Kaoru slid his arms around Toshiya’s waist, nuzzling the nape of his neck.

          Leaning back, Toshiya kissed the side of Kaoru’s head, “Hopefully it won’t happen again.”

 

          With coffee cups in hand, they sat on the couch facing each other, Toshiya felt he needed to speak first, “We have to agree to be brutally honest right now, no bullshit, no worrying about hurt feelings.”

          “I agree,” Kaoru nodded, “I want to apologize, I had no right to treat you like I did or say those awful words, I should have discussed my feelings like an adult.”

          “And I shouldn’t have ignored your calls and texts, I shouldn’t have acted like a spoilt child,” Toshiya reached for Kaoru’s hand. “What did you mean when you said I had forgotten something I told you? I still have no idea what you meant.”

          There it was, first out of the chute, Kaoru breathing deeply before answering, “When you first moved in, I was complaining about your figurines, and you said…”

          “Oh shit,”

          “No, that’s not…” he shook his head,

          “I said we should buy a house,” Toshiya face palmed, then hissed, “Shit, my head.” Kaoru put his coffee down and went into the bathroom to grab a few painkillers, and grabbed a glass of water from the kitchen, “Here,” he handed them to Toshiya. “Thanks,”

          Kaoru sighed heavily as he stared at the floor, “this is all my fault, I should have said something, but to be honest, I saw your moving out as you not wanting to be with me, then Ryo’s words hit me. I saw that as validation, that I wasn’t good enough for you or anyone.”

          This confession crushed Toshiya’s heart, “Kao…” he smiled sadly, “don’t you know by now, that’s never how I’ve seen you, not even before we were dating, not now, not ever!” Taking Kaoru’s coffee from him, and putting it next to his on the table, Toshiya scooted closer, “I love you,” he cupped Kao’s face, leaning and softly brushing his lips to Kaoru’s, “even if we were to breakup, I would never lose my respect for you.”

          “I’m so sorry, Totchi,” he leaned his forehead against Toshiya’s, he chuckled “Hey, we’re both to blame, you’re stubborn, and I’m childish…perfect pair, ne?”

          Kaoru shifted uneasily, “Where do we go from here?” he wanted, no…he needed Toshiya to lead him in the right direction, at this point he didn’t trust his own judgement.

          “Whatever we do,” Toshiya held his hand again, “it has to be a mutual decision. Let me make some breakfast, then we can decide what we’re doing next.”

 

          “Oh god, that totally made me feel human again,” Kaoru groaned as he pushed his plate away, “I think I need more coffee though.” With a large, starch filled meal, both men’s hangovers were starting to dissipate. What was next for the morning, would be a little less comforting.

          “So, how do we start to figure this all out?” Kaoru asked cautiously, “I mean, well…um,” he stammered.

          “We can start with you moving in with me,”

          The request shocked Kaoru, “But I thought you wanted to buy a house?”

          Toshiya shrugged, “I’ve signed a year lease, and since this place is bigger than your flat, I just thought… was I wrong?”

          Kaoru’s brow furrowed as he struggled to keep his temper in check, “We would still have the problem of your clothes and collectibles.” Toshiya reached across the kitchen table, “I know you went through a box of clothes to find those track pants; didn’t you see the other boxes?”

          “I saw that you’ve been here a week and you still haven’t hung up your clothes,” Kaoru snarked.

          Toshiya shook his head and sighed, “Listen to me please.” Getting the coffee pot, he refilled their cups, “The boxes of figurines are going into storage, except for a few that fans have given me, and I’m sending the clothes back to the designers, there’s no reason I need them in the house.”

          This certainly caught Kaoru off guard, “But…but why didn’t you… wait,” he pushed back from the table, “why didn’t you just…damn it Totchi! We went through all this shit, and then you turn around and…” he raked his hands roughly through his hair.

          Watching his lover’s tantrum wearing a bemused grin, Toshiya waited to speak, “What?” Kaoru growled.

          “Are you done with your hissy fit?”

          “Hi…hissy fit?”

          “Kao, sit down please.” Toshiya said. “I only just decided to do this, in the last hour.”

          The anger drained from Kaoru’s face, “But, why didn’t you do that before?”

          “Because you were forcing the issue. In my mind, you gave me an ultimatum, my stuff or me, had to go.”

          “That’s not what I was saying at all! I wanted to compromise, then you just left the flat and didn’t come home, you ignored my calls and texts. You made the choice to move out without discussing it!” Kaoru’s temper was flaring.

          “And you didn’t remind me of what I had said about a house, you never even brought up getting a larger flat, either! This isn’t all my fault.” Toshiya reminded him.

          They sat silently for a few minutes, both trying to regain their composure.

          “Now what?” Kaoru mumbled.

          “My offer still stands; I want you to move in with me…please? I love you,”

          “What happens if we have another fight?”
          ‘All couples argue, Kao,” Toshiya chuckled.

          “Shinya and Miya don’t.”

          “I’m sure they do,”

          “Not after Shin beat the crap out of Reita,” Kaoru laughed, somewhat easing the mood.

          Pushing away from the table, Toshiya held out his hand, “Want to check out the shower?” he wiggled his eyebrows, “It’s plenty big for two.”

 

 

          Yuki was ready to compromise, “Okay, let’s say I agree with you, who should I be showing these too?” he patted the sketches that were sitting in his lap, “I don’t know anyone that’s a designer.”

          “Yes, you do,” Aoi smiled, “Ruki’s a designer.”

          His jaw dropped, “You’re lying!”

          “Want me to call him?” Aoi challenged, “I’m sure he’d be willing to look at your work and give you honest feedback.”

          “I um, no…that’s okay.”

          “Listen to me,” Aoi gently removed the sketches from Yuki’s lap, “answer me truthfully, what are you afraid of?”

          “Afraid? What do you mean?”

          Aoi knew he needed to tread lightly, “Why don’t you trust yourself enough, to show these amazing designs to anyone? What are you afraid of?”

          He shifted in his seat, refusing to look at Aoi, “Not afraid,” he mumbled.

          “Nobody will laugh at you,” Aoi sighed, “especially not your friends. Ruki will tell you the truth, but he’s not going to laugh at you.” Yuki turned away.

          “What about a compromise? Show them to Ayato and Reita.” Resigned to the fact that Aoi would never stop pushing the issue, Yuki reluctantly agreed.

          “I know they’re home, I can hear Rei’s bass, come on.” Aoi patted Yuki on the butt, leading him over to their neighbor’s flat.

          Aoi knocked loudly, then stepped back a bit. “Hey, what’s up?” Ayato answered the door.

          “Yuki has something he wants to show Reita…and you too.” Aoi announced, ignoring his boyfriend’s glare.

          “Um, sure, let me go get Akira.”

          “Do I have to, Yuu?” Aoi squeezed Yuki’s hand, “Yes, you do.”

          Reita appeared at the door, “Aya said you wanted to show me something?” Ayato peered over his boyfriend’s shoulder.

          Yuki wordlessly handed the bass player the sketches, waiting for the obvious ridicule and rejection.

          Reita and Ayato looked through the pages closely, then stared at Yuki, “These are yours?” Yuki nodded, watching as they went through the pages again.

          “These are really cool; I totally love this.” Reita held the sketch of a t-shirt. Aoi nudged Yuki, “Told you.” Reita and Ayato noticed the uncomfortable look on the young man’s face.

          “What?” Ayato asked.

          “He doesn’t believe they’re any good,” Aoi told them. Yuki wasn’t looking at anyone, his face trained on the ground, scuffing his feet.

          Grabbing the sketches from Reita, Ayato pushed him off the step, “Come with me,” he grabbed Yuki by the hand and dragged him towards Die and Pon’s flat. “Aya, stop,” he pulled his hand away, while Ayato banged on their door, “Die! Pon, I know you’re in there, come out here for a few minutes please.”

          “Babe, really?” Reita rolled his eyes, “If Yuki doesn’t want…” Ayato gave Reita a death gaze, Reita putting up his hands and backing away.

          A sleepy Die peered through the door, “What? We’re napping, can’t it wait?”
          “No, it can’t, so get your candy ass and your boyfriend, out here.” Die leaned back into the flat, “Pon, Ayato has a stick up his ass, better do as he says.”

          An equally sleepy Pon, peered around Die’s back, “What’s happened?”

          “Yuki needs your opinions, so get out here.” Ayato was truly being a troll. With a grumble and a sigh, the two men joined their friends in the court yard.

          “Fine, we’re here… What are we doing?” Die slumped into a patio chair, pulling Pon into his lap.

          “Look at these.” Ayato shoved the sketches at Pon, “He needs your honest opinion.”

          Yuki pulled at the hem of his shirt, stretching it out, “I um, I did these when I was paralyzed,” he paused to look at the others, “they seem to think that they’re amazing, they’re really just doodles.”

          Paging through the sketches, Die and Pon both snorted, “If these are doodles, what the hell do your actual pictures look like?” Die teased.  Pon grabbed the sketch of a VK inspired skirt. “I really like this one, and the square bag is cool too. What are you going to do with these?”

          “Nothing,’ Yuki reached over and snatched the papers away, but before he could turn and walk away, Aoi grabbed him around the waist, “No you don’t, not yet,”

          “Who have you shown these to?” Reita was the first to ask.

          “No one, they’re nothing special.” Aoi throws up his hands, “I’ve tried telling him,”

          Die patted Pon’s knee, standing up, and throwing social distancing out of the window, he clapped his hands-on Yuki’s shoulders, “Listen to me, these are good, like really good. With so many new VK bands coming out, or bands that are trying to re-invent their looks, these are designs that I’m sure they’d be interested in.”

          “He’s right,” Reita added, “you really need to show them to Ruki.”

          “Why Ruki, of all people?” Yuki didn’t understand the connection.

          “NIL DUE / NIL UN, Ruki started the brand in 2017,” Aoi held up the papers, “These fit right in.”

          “I … I don’t know,” he was over whelmed by all of the suggestions, everyone talking at once.

          ‘Yuki?” Pon touched him on the elbow, “one other place that’s not so high end, if that’s what’s worrying you, you could look at Sex Pot Revenge.” It seemed that everyone heard Pon’s soft voice, “These look a lot like what SPR carries, it’s at least worth thinking about.”

          “I’m sure Ruki can help you with contacts,” Reita pointed out. Yuki was familiar with Sex Pot Revenge, and to have something he designed, sold in their shop, would be the ultimate goal.

          “Well, we can’t do anything until the lockdown is lifted, but in the mean time, maybe just fax those over to Ruki, let him look.” Reita suggested.

          Yuki’s mind was churning with so many thoughts, “I’d have to make samples… can’t just hand him the rough sketches.”

          “Do you sew?” Ayato was sitting in front of Reita, resting between his legs.

          “Yah, I learned on my mom’s machine, maybe I could go get it later this week.” Aoi coughed, and looked at Reita, “Who are you texting?” Yuki asked.

          “Um, Ruki, just telling him to look for the fax,” Aoi was actually texting Reita.

          “I want to do something for Yuki, can I have stuff shipped to your flat? I might need Ayato’s help too.”

          The impromptu gathering broke up, everyone willing to have ramen delivered that night, “Ojisan still needs the business.”

          “Hey,” Aoi took Yuki’s hand, “Let’s look at some of my clothes, maybe you can alter them once you get your mom’s sewing machine.” What he was really doing, was calculating where he could make a work space in the spare bedroom.

          “Maybe you could make some masks too? Big business in that right now.” The burning in Yuki’s chest was overwhelming his senses, tears started to fall freely. Aoi slid his arms around Yuki’s slender waist, “Don’t cry,” he kissed his nose, “You have your friends standing behind you, just believe in yourself.”

          Leaning into Aoi’s embrace, Yuki knew that his lover’s words were true, “I will, as corny as it sounds, as long as you’re here with me, I’m going to try.”

 

          “A year? How did you come up with that date?”

          “Well, my lease will be up after Christmas, so it makes sense. Is there a problem?”

          Laying together in bed, after a session of steamy shower sex, and a much-needed nap, it was time for the couple to address the obvious elephant in the room.

          “Would you rather wait to move in, until we buy a house?” Toshiya didn’t want to come off as being too pushy.

          “No, of course not.”

          “But?” There was always a ‘but’.

          “But nothing.” Kaoru knew he would have to step outside his comfort zone, and be more flexible if he was going to be in a long-term relationship with Toshiya. That meant throwing caution to the wind, and not over analyzing things to death.

          “We might as well start today. You should call the leasing office and let the know you’re going to have a roommate.” Kaoru turned onto his side, “Can we officially start over?”

          “We never quit,” Toshiya faced Kaoru, “It was a gross lack of communication on both our parts, and assumptions without clarity. I don’t plan on doing anything remotely like this again. I love you.”

          “I love you too, and as much as I would like to show you how much I love you…again, I think we’d better get up and at least be somewhat productive, even if it’s only emptying boxes in the spare room.”

          Toshiya groaned, “Do I have to be a responsible adult? Can’t we just lay in bed all day and have sex?”

          Kaoru took the initiative and rolled over, and got out of bed. “No, we can’t, unless you want to wait for me to move in? The sooner I move in, the more sex you get.”

          “Fine, I’m getting up.” Toshiya grumbled. “But tonight, I’m demanding more sex, even if you’re not living here full time yet. Is that understood?”

          “Yes, dear.”

Chapter Text

          The news that morning, had been long coming and prayed for; the lockdown due to the virus was now being lifted.

          Sakurai had been up early, taking a moment to himself before Uta and Naoto would rise. Reading the newspaper, then double checking the online news sources, he was both pleased and relieved. Thinking on how Uta would react, Sakurai formed a devious plan in his mind, just a little something to tease his young lover with.

          Hiding the paper, and making sure the TV was off, Sakurai wore a decidedly grim expression, as he patiently waited for Uta to wake. Busying himself with preparing breakfast, he had to decide just how far he would let his small deception to last.

          “Morning,” Uta shuffled into the kitchen, “what’s for breakfast?”

          “Pancakes, they should be ready as soon as Naoto-chan is awake. Would you like coffee or tea?” Just as Uta was going to answer, Naoto appeared, “Good morning,” she bowed lightly.

          “Did you sleep well, Naoto-chan?” Sakurai asked.

          “Yes, sir, thank you, better than I have in ages.”

          “Good, you look well rested. Tea or coffee with your pancakes?” Sakurai placed a large serving plate piled with pancakes, in the center of the table.

          “Coffee for me, please.”

          “Same,” Uta mumbled.

          Gently teasing Uta, (who was not a morning person), and seeing a brightness from Naoto that was not there the night before, Sakurai abandoned his plan of deception. He just didn’t have the heart to upset the young ones that morning.

          “Do you have plans for the day?”

          Uta snorted, “Sure! We’re going shopping, then to the bookstore and maybe have lunch at Ojisan’s,” he announced sarcastically.
          “Uta…that’s rude,” Naoto hissed at her friend.

          “It was a stupid question, he knows we can’t go anywhere,” Uta snapped, his morning persona was in full view.

          Without a word, Sakurai got up and retrieved the newspaper from the living room. Rolling it up, he smacked Uta in the back of the head, then unrolled it and placed it

on the table.

          “What the hell was that for?” Uta growled, as he rubbed his head.

          “Hush, look at the paper!” Sakurai shot back.

          Uttering a few choice words under his breath, Uta picked up the paper, “What’s so speci…”

          Returning to his chair, Sakurai reached out and covered Naoto’s hand with his, “Wait for it…”

          “OH. MY. GOD. IT’S OVER!” Uta threw the paper into the air as he stood quickly, almost knocking the chair over.

          “What’s over?” Naoto looked at both Sakurai and Uta.

          “The lockdown, the government has ended the lockdown.” Uta collapsed back into his chair, “I guess that means we really can go shopping today!”

          “I, for one, will be going to the studio for the day, I’m sure Imai has new music to play for me.” Sakurai excused himself, kissing Uta on the cheek before heading to the bedroom.

          Naoto started to clear the dishes from the table, “Could we stop to see Ojisan today?” She felt the need to thank the man more formally, for helping her in her time of need.

          “Sure, we can have lunch there later. Anywhere else you’d like to go?” Uta started helping with the dishes.

          “Do you think the BookOff in the city would hire me? I have the experience and they wouldn’t need to train me.”

          Uta debated telling Naoto about his experience with the store, even though he knew that Zero was in jail. “Sure, we could always talk to Taka too, I think you’d like the HBG, it pays well and you have benefits. Not to mention meeting a lot of music industry people, and Ayato works there as well, so you would have at least two friends right away.”

          Within an hour, they were cruising through the crowded streets of the city, “This car is so cute!” Naoto repeated for the third time.

          “Atsushi hates riding with me, he says I drive like a maniac,” Uta laughed, “I always tell him, he shouldn’t have given me a sports car if he wanted me to drive like an old man.”

          Their first stop was BookOff. Walking into the store was a bit nerve wracking, there were shadows, but Uta didn’t see anyone he knew that was working on the sales floor.

          “I’m going to go see if I can speak to a manager.” Naoto left Uta browsing in the book area, but he still couldn’t help looking over his shoulder every few minutes. Thankfully Naoto returned quickly, wearing a smile, “Can I use your laptop later? I need to apply online.”

          “Sure thing. I need to stop by the complex for a few, then we can go shopping!” Grabbing Naoto by the hand, they left the store and walked to the parking lot.

 

          “Do you think Reita and Aoi are going to be there?” Naoto wanted to prepare herself mentally, if the musicians would make an appearance.

          “Mm, probably not, I’m betting they’ll all be at the studio, DCR is going to be a busy place for awhile.” Uta understood Naoto’s mood regarding his friends, it wasn’t a normal every day event to just hang out with three famous bandmen. “I just need to talk to Pon, so it shouldn’t take too long.”

          Pulling into the small parking lot, Uta notices whose cars were still there, “Hmm, Reita’s bike’s gone, so is Die’s car.”

          Walking up to Pon’s apartment, Uta didn’t bother to knock, something that shocked Naoto. “Uta!” she whispered sharply.

          Uta waved off her concern, and walked into the flat, “Hide your valuables, the property owner has arrived for an unannounced inspection.”

          They heard a giggle and the slamming of doors, coming from the rear of the flat, “Pon? Who are you hiding back there?”

          “Pfft, like I need to hide anything from you,” Pon scoffed, as he walked down the hall, “Hi Naoto, it’s nice to see you again so soon.”

          Naoto bowed her head, “Hello, Pon-san,” Uta and Pon gaped at her, “Uh seriously, you can drop the honorifics, I’m so not that formal.” Naoto’s face flushed in embarrassment, “Um, thanks, Pon.”

          “So, are you busy right now, do you have time for a little chat?” Uta sat down on the couch, Naoto sitting next to him.

          “Ayato and I were just helping Yuki with something,” Leaning back, Pon looked down the hall, “Yuki, come show Uta and Naoto what you’re doing.”

          “Don’t laugh, Uta,” Yuki yelled from the back bedroom, “It’s a rough idea and Aya’s not a great model.”

          “Hey fuck you, I look good in this.”

          “Just go show him already,”

          “Are the seams straight?”

          Ayato strutted, (that’s all you could call it) down the hall and stood in front of Uta and Naoto. “Um…” Uta was at a loss for words, and all Naoto could do was gasp.

          “What?” Ayato twirled around, “I look damn good in this.”

           The costume he was wearing consisted of a tiny corset, that showed off his tummy and his bellybutton ring. A mini-skirt that was slit up one side to the hip, seamed fishnet stockings and knee-high boots. The ensemble was topped off by an over sized hat with feathers, a feather boa around his neck, and opera gloves. The costume was done in shades of black, red and gold.

          “Um, where…I mean, why are you, uh, who?” Uta stammered.

          “Cute, right?” Ayato twirled around again. “Do you like it Naoto? I want your honest opinion.”

          Naoto’s mouth had been hanging open, “You’re beautiful. Oh, I um, mean it looks great on you.”

          “Yuki made this,” Pon stated, “original design, though we cut up some old costumes of Aoi’s and Reita’s.”

          Stepping from behind Ayato, Yuki looked at Uta, “What do you think, Uta?”

          Uta had seen the various costumes that Sakurai wore on stage, and of course the suggestive outfits he himself wore to Vinyl Fetish, “Wow feels like an understatement.” Getting up he walked over to look closer at the outfit.

          “Perfect for a VK band, and there are pieces that would work for any submissive attending a club.” Uta took the hat and put it on, “Think Acchan would like this?” he chuckled.

          “Are you a designer, Yuki?” Naoto could not take her eyes off Ayato.

          “Um, no, but if these guys have their way, I might be.” Yuki said, shyly.

          “He thinks we’re just being nice,” Pon explained, “that we’re his friends so our opinions are shaded by that.”

          “Have you made anything else?” Naoto asked eagerly

          Yuki shook his head, “No, I just have some sketches,” he nodded at Ayato, “this is the first full outfit I’ve done.”

          Naoto got up and walked over to Ayato, slowly walking around the young man, looking intently at various pieces of the outfit.

          “This would be perfect for a girl, but if you wanted something like that for women, there’s a lot you’d have to change.” Naoto went through the differences, making suggestions and offering alternative ideas. “It has a lot of potential.”

          The four men were staring at her, as she sat down again, “What?”

          “Um, where did you learn about design?” Uta asked carefully.

          “Mostly from books or videos and I’ve always liked the different styles of VK fashion. We didn’t work together long enough for you to see my wardrobe.” She told Uta, “I sold most of it when the lockdown was announced.”

          Yuki sat down on the coffee table in front of Naoto, “Would you come and look at my sketches? It will only take a minute.”

          Naoto looked at Uta, “Do we have time?”

          “Sure, I still need to talk to Pon.”

          “Thanks, Uta,” Yuki grinned, “I won’t keep her too long. Aya, come over once you’ve changed.”

 

          “So, what did you want to talk about?” Pon offered Uta a cola.

          “I’m thinking of buying another apartment building, and wondered if you like to invest in one with me.”

          “Another building? You mean like a larger complex?” This got Pon’s attention.

          “Yah, maybe a three- story unit, or if you’re interested, something a little larger.”

          “What brought this up all of a sudden?”

          Uta laughed, “I need to spend some money.” Describing his situation, Uta emphasized the need for more affordable housing.

          “Look at Naoto,” he began, “she’s homeless, or she was, she’s staying with me, but it will take her months after she gets a job, to save up for her own flat, and even then, she’ll probably need to have a roommate, in order to have a decent place. I want to buy a larger building, three-stories or more, then I thought of you, and what you’ve done with your flats.”

          Pon nodded in agreement, “I’m pretty much in the same place financially that you are, and I’m like you, I don’t waste money on material things.”

          “Well, think about it at least, talk with Die, we have plenty of time.”

 

          “Well?”

          “I think you should listen to your friends,” Naoto teased, “I love these, and with some minor adjustments, these could be created in a way for either men or women.”

          Ayato lightly punched Yuki in the shoulder, “I told you.” Yuki swatted his hand away.

          “Now that the lockdown is over, you should go to Nipponi Town and start looking at fabric, and all the extras, you’re going to need samples of your designs.”

          Yuki looked at his hands, why was this so difficult to accept, “I don’t know…I don’t know anyone…”

          “Stop it! We told you about Ruki and Toshiya. We have connections!” Ayato smacked Yuki in the arm again.

          Covering her mouth so she wouldn’t laugh, Naoto’s heart was brimming. This feels nice, she thought to herself. She had never been accepted so quickly, into a group of established friends, she had always been an outsider.

          “If I’m going to Nippori Town, will you come with me?” Yuki was almost begging Naoto, leaning in with the big puppy eyes that were hard to ignore.

          “Sure, I’d like that.”

 

          “She’s really nice, I like her a lot.” Yuki and Ayato waved as their friends drove away.  “Me too, I’m glad she’s part of our weird family now.”

         

 

          “Kou? Babe you need to get up.” Tatsu gently shook his husband, “I have to leave for the studio.” Koichi had taken to sleeping in, most days, for the last few weeks. His depression had worsened with the situation of the lock down.

          “I’m already depressed, now this?” he complained one afternoon. “I’m going to take a nap.” Teo, Gordy and Moofie had gladly accepted the change in their routine; sleeping the days away with someone in bed.

          “Hmm?” Koichi opened his eyes, “What do you mean, you need to go to the studio, for what?”

          “Well,” Tatsu sat on the bed, rubbing Koichi’s back, “I’m meeting Sato, Miya and Yukke, and we’re going to start planning for our first live.”

          “I don’t understand.”

          “The lock down has been lifted; we can all get back to our normal lives.” It took a few seconds for the information to reach Koichi’s brain. “The…lifted? Seriously?”

          “Mm, so get your cute little ass out of bed. I want you to call Taka, or Uta or someone, and get out of the house for the day. I’ll need the car, but Sato’s riding with me, so Taka will have his car.”

          Shoving the blankets off, Koichi jumped up to his knees, throwing his arms around Tatsu’s neck, and dragging the man down onto the bed. “Are you sure we don’t have time for a little…?” As much as Tatsu would love to indulge his husband, he had to be the responsible one, “No, we don’t have time for that…at least not until later tonight.” With a short but passionate kiss, he smacked Koichi on the butt, “I need to get going. Text me later, and pleased, just have fun today, ne?”

          Reaching for his phone, Koichi quickly called Taka, “Hey, yah I heard. So, let’s do something today. Hmm, true, we should. Come pick me up, oh and then you can finally meet Moofie. Ojisan’s? Oh god yes, like you need to even ask me that? Okay, I’ll be ready in an hour.”

 

          “I need to stop by the HBG, the boss left me some paperwork that I need to fill out before we can open again, plus I need to get everyone’s schedule posted. Is there anything different about your hours?” Taka was sitting on the couch with Moofie, tickling the kitten, who was laying on his back in his lap.

          “Hmm, Nope. I’m going to guess that maybe Tomo will want less hours, so he and Ruki can plan their wedding, no clue about the others. You can schedule me like you have in the past, unless someone else needs more hours.”

          “Okay Moofie, time’s up.” With one last tickle, Taka placed the kitten on the floor, “Ready?” he asked his best friend. “Yep, let’s go.”

 

          “Just as I thought,” Taka looked at the notebook that was used as the staff communication log, “Tomo’s asked to have his hours cut back. Unless Aki, Tora or Ayato want to pick up extra hours, we might need someone else as backup. I’ll check with Mao first, I’m sure Kyo will be busy for the next few weeks.”

          “It feels sort of weird being here, doesn’t it?” Koichi was standing at the counters, “It’s almost creepy.”

          “We’ve been closed since when? The end of March? So, yah, it is kind of creepy. I know I’ll be in tomorrow to go over what needs to be restocked, and I’m sure the boss is going to have a cleaning company come in and sterilize everything.”

          Koichi laughed, “How long before there’s a DCR event? I’m going to say before the end of summer, what’s your prediction?”

          Taka leaned back in his chair, “I say it will be the end of September, but you know there will be one hell of a holiday party this year.”

          “Oh, I wonder when Hal and Uruha will be getting married? Think they’ll have their reception either here or at the restaurant?” I should call Ruki and ask what they have planned.”

          They both knew that the two couples would be anxious to have their weddings, considering how long they had been put on hold due to the virus. “This is going to be a weird next few months, regardless of the weddings.” Taka predicted.

 

 

          Even with the announcement by Isshi that morning, there was little in the way of excitement shown by his submissives.

          “Is there somewhere you’d like to go today? I believe that we should, at the very least go out to lunch, perhaps at Ojisan’s?” Isshi was trying to get any sort of a positive response from Ruimaru or Karyu, with Byou sitting quietly on the couch.

          “Sir? Can we call Mistress, soon, please? I’d like to go and visit Zeus, and Kato-senpai as well.” Ruimaru nudged Karyu, who then nodded towards Byou.

          “I’d like to see Uta, we haven’t seen or even spoken to him much since we got home from the Netherlands.” Karyu added.

          Isshi rose from his seat, “I think we need to go shopping first, then perhaps we’ll go to Ojisan’s. Yes, I will call Mistress and set up a time to go to the manor, and I’m sure Madame F would also like to visit with us.”

          Remembering the short conversation Isshi had had with the other Dominants, he was eager to set up some sort of meeting with Uta and Koichi, in hopes of helping Byou. The boy was still not himself, though the nightmares had subsided to no more than one or two a week, he had taken to sleeping with Isshi more than not, but the boy was uninterested and had not participated in any of their scenes with Ruimaru and Karyu, always begging off that he was too tired. All Isshi could do is pray that somehow Uta and Koichi could reach Byou and guide him out of the depressive state that he was in.

          “I’d like you to be ready to go in an hour. I have a few shops I’d like to stop at before we go to lunch.” The hope that Ojisan may have some wisdom to give to the small family was on the minds of both Karyu and Ruimaru, “Yes sir, we’ll be ready.”

Chapter Text

 

“The weekend? But it’s only Tuesday, why can’t you come over after you’re done at the studio?” Jui whined. He couldn’t believe that Kuina thought going to DCR was more important than seeing him, after weeks of being apart. 

“Jui, I don’t know how late I’ll be at the studio, and you know that the band has a lot to catch up on. A few more days won’t kill you. I promise I’ll spend the entire weekend with you, just let me get this done first, please?” 

The man was seething, he had to bite his tongue from saying what he really believed Kuina was doing, and it had nothing to do with his band, Royz. The lock down had been especially difficult for Jui; a new relationship with a man that was nothing like his ex, Ryo. But there was always someone else in the picture, hovering in the background, just waiting for his chance to strike. 

“Fine,” he huffed in resignation, “I understand, I’m not happy about it, but I guess it can’t be helped. Would you at least call me when you get home tonight?”

“Don’t I always?” Kuina laughed. Wanting to spend the weekend in bed with his lover, was on his short list of things to do, but now that the lock down had been lifted, Royz business came first. 

“I’ll make sure that Subaru doesn’t schedule anything for the first weekend. Most likely the band is a month out from having any sort of a live.” Reassuring Jui had become a bit of a chore, the younger man completely insecure about their relationship, but for good reason. Ryo’s persistence lasted another month, after Jui had broken up with him. The constant calling, Jui being afraid to leave his flat if he was alone, always looking over his shoulder waiting for a confrontation that he never knew would happen. It took a good three months for Ryo to finally stop trying to contact Jui.

But there was still a third person that inserted himself into Kuina and Jui’s relationship, but this person could not be ignored, and would not go away no matter what Jui said. It was almost uncanny how frequently Subaru would interrupt phone calls between the couple. At first it was amusing, a little weird but still funny. 

Most of the time, it was during their evening calls, or Zoom viewings, when Subaru would ‘buzz in’. Subaru would play dumb, pretending to not knowing he was interrupting, yet again, and Kuina blowing it off as a funny coincidence. After the first five or six times, it ceased being funny to Jui, and quickly started to lead the young man to think that Subaru was doing this on purpose.

“How long were you dating Subaru?” Jui carefully asked during one of their rare uninterrupted calls.

“Um, I don’t know, five years maybe? Why?” The question caught Kuina off guard. 

“Just wondering, I mean you guys are still super close. It just seems weird to me that you are still in a band with your ex-lover.” 

Jealousy, Kuina thought to himself, Jui’s jealous. “Well, the band was more important than our relationship, we both knew that. We decided to stop dating, because we wanted to make sure that the band remained successful. It wasn’t like a huge romance really, more like a friends with benefits situation.” Kuina was trying hard to downplay the incident.

“Oh, okay. Anyways…” Jui knew that his boyfriend was lying to him, but why? It was after that, that the reinforcement of his thoughts that Subaru was trying to come between them, was apparent. 

“Is there anything special you want to do this weekend? Go somewhere for dinner?” Kuina wanted to spend quality time with Jui, it was the amount of time he would have to offer his boyfriend, that was worrisome. 

“Maybe just go out for a drive or something, then come home and um...you know.” Jui giggled. 

Kuina chuckled, “I think that can be arranged. How about we go drive out to the beach, grab something for dinner, and then… like you said, we can um, you know.” 




Subaru checked himself in the mirror for the tenth time, making sure that his make up was subtle enough that nobody would accuse him of ‘dressing up for someone’, which he actually was. “Yus, good enough,” grabbing his bag, he was out the door and down to where his car was parked. 

The butterflies in his stomach were somehow calmer than they had been lately, not just because he was finally seeing Kuina, but the fact that the band would be back in the studio, and their lives would return to some sort of normalcy. 

The drive to DCR was surprisingly quick, though the streets were crowded with people who were out and about, just enjoying the day. Pulling into the parking lot of the studio, he honked his horn as he saw Kuina walking towards the door. 

Kuina waved and waited for Subaru to park his car, watching as the man jogged towards him. 

“Hey, good to finally see you again,” Kuina opened his arms for a hug, “Same! It seems like it’s been forever since I’ve seen you.” Subaru leaned his hips in slightly, as he clutched the back of his friend’s shirt. Did he notice?

“Yah, it feels good to be outside for a change.” Kuina casually slipped his arm around Subaru’s waist, “I hope you’ve been writing, because I’ve been sending stuff back and forth with Koudai, and I think we’ve come up with at least three decent songs, maybe even four.” 

Exchanging greetings with other band members and DCR staff, they walked towards the elevator to go up to the third floor where the Royz practice room was located. “I haven’t really spoken to anyone other than you guys...well and your boyfriend.” Subaru claimed. 

Kuina didn’t want to say that he thought that Jui was jealous of his bandmate, keeping the conversation light, “Yah, well this weekend I promised Jui that I’d take him out to dinner, and spend the weekend with him. So, don’t pile the homework on me please, leader-san.” 

The words formed on Subaru’s lips, but he bit his tongue and kept his thoughts to himself. He knew he’d have to step carefully around Kuina, when talking about Jui, and not criticize or speak rudely of the boyfriend. 

“Hey, it’s about time you got here!” Tomoya greeted his bandmates, “We’ve been waiting for what? Five minutes at least!” Tomoya and Koudai grabbed their friends around the shoulders for a group hug, “Damn, it’s good to see you guys!” 

“I heard you might have some songs for us already?” Subaru asked Koudai. 

“Hopefully, Kuina and I did a lot of Zoom sessions together, I’m sure you’ll like what we have.” 

 

The banter back and forth between the members lasted for the first hour; joking about what they all had planned for the upcoming weekend of freedom. “I’m sure Kuina will be busy with Jui, just remember not to break the boy, he’s sort of puny.” Tomoya nudged him in the shoulder. 

“Never mind what I have planned, what about you guys? Time to start trolling for new toys?” Kuina teased back.

“Not me,” Subaru said dejected voice, “I’m not looking for anyone, I’m so done with those kind of relationships...or fuck buddies...whatever you want to call them. The next person I date, will be the last, and it will be forever or never.” 

Tomoya, Koudai and especially Kuina looked at their vocalist in amazement. 

“What?” 

“Um, are you serious? Like, you’re not going to date anymore?” Tomoya asked. 

“Nope. I’m done with that, I’m done with fuck buddies. Look at Die...even he has someone to love...and Pon is damn cute. Maybe I can find someone like that.” 

Kuina’s heart sank. He had thought that maybe he had made a mistake in breaking up with Subaru all those years ago. “I’m sure you’ll find someone, especially when you’re not looking. That’s how I found Jui, just walking down the street.” 

Koudai laughed, “You were Jui’s knight in shining armor, saving him from Ryo. You lucked out and found someone on the street, most of us aren’t that lucky.” 

“Speaking of Ryo, have you had any more problems with him?” Tomoya asked. 

Kuina shook his head, “Not since right after we went into lock down. He’d try calling Jui, texting as well. But I think he knew we were together, because he never showed up at Jui’s flat. I hope he gets the help he needs, he seemed like he could actually be dangerous, if something pissed him off bad enough.” 

Throwing the rest of the conversation off until they finished, Royz got down to the business of prepping for a comeback live. 

 

Jui was silently fuming. The fact that it was Tuesday, and he had to wait three more days until he could see Kuina, pissed him off, and made him feel like Ryo used to; that he wasn’t important enough to be bothered with until the weekend. But his brain was telling him to quit being such a baby, and reminded him about what had happened with Toshiya, when he had that same attitude. 

“I totally blew it with Totchi,” he sighed. He knew that if he wanted to keep Kuina, he was going to have to accept the fact that his band would come first most of the time, at least until the foreseeable future. “Get over yourself,” he said sharply. Deciding that he needed to at least find out if he still had a job, Jui took a shower and got dressed. 

 

Taking the train to Shibuya station, and walked the short distance to Harajuku, he made his way past the stores that were now fully open. Waving to people he knew from other shops, Jui turned the corner and went into Kiki’s. 

“Irasshai Jui-kun!” A middle-aged woman with long dark purple hair and multiple piercings, opened her arms to greet her employee, “Hi Kiki! God it’s so good to be outside again!” He hugged the woman tightly. “I’m sure you’re here about coming back to work, ne?”

Jui nodded, “Yes ma’am, I’m ready when you are. I’m sure we’re all in the same place financially, you want to open and I want to work!” Taking Jui by the hand, Kiki led Jui back to the office. “I just need you to fill out some papers, and then we’ll talk about your schedule.” 

 

An hour later, Jui left the shop, heading for the train station. With several errands to run before going home, he quickly texted Kuina, “Just wanted to say hi! I’m going back to work on Monday, so I’m free for the weekend. Hope you guys are having fun!”  Closing his phone with a snap, Jui leaned his head back, “I have to be more confident… he likes that, he doesn’t want a wimpy boyfriend.” 

It was only becoming more independent, Jui knew he had to quit being so paranoid about Subaru. Of course, Kuina would be close to the vocalist, they’d know each other for years. If Kuina said the personal relationship was over, Jui had to believe him. Reading some sort of sinister motive into any time the two men had to interact, was not doing anyone any good, especially himself. 

“He said it was over years ago, he wouldn’t lie to me about that, he’s not Ryo,” he muttered as he walked through the grocery store, picking up items for the week. Even if Subaru had intentionally interrupted their video calls and texts, he was most likely doing it to tease Kuina. Jui had to kick himself in the ass, if he had not watched all those Royz non-music videos, none of this would have been burned into his mind. But he still had leftover trauma from Ryo, whether he wanted to admit it or not. 

The phone calls, while the number was blocked, still had shown up on his call list, for weeks after the final incident when he had been saved by Kuina. “Why are you doing this to me?” he would cry at night, listening to the hum of his phone and the flashing BLOCKED NUMBER, on the screen. 

Slowly, over the course of a month or so, the calls slowed to once or twice a day, then a week, to nothing, and it was at that point he thought he could finally breathe. Kuina had taken to showing up at Kiki’s, shyly asking Jui out to lunch, then to dinner. A month into dating, they finally had sex, and for Jui, it was nothing less than perfect, he could only compare it to his experience with Toshiya. Kuina was a tender lover, there were no harsh words, no insults or vulgarity, just a sweet loving man, tenderly holding his lover in his arms. 

The only time there was any sort of regret was when Kuina and Jui went to the DCR Christmas party, and stopped to say hello to Kaoru and Toshiya. His heart beat a little faster upon seeing the couple, something that Kuina picked up on and gave his hand a little squeeze. “Regrets?” he asked when they found their table. 

“No, not really. I mean, it was obviously not meant to be. I’ll always love Totchi as a good friend, Kao too. They were there for me when Ryo was being a major asshole, and I know that if I ever needed anything, I can go to them with no hesitation.”

“I hope I never give you a reason to do that, that’s my job now.” Kuina leaned over the table and gently kissed Jui. “I’m going to make sure you know what it’s like to be truly loved.” 

 

Walking home from the grocery store, Jui mused how much his life had changed since the day he bumped into Toshiya at the collectibles store. Having only vaguely known of Dir En Grey, to dating their bassist for a year. The week-long stay at his boyfriend’s apartment during the days of severe weather, only to have a huge fight and break up, and then on to Ryo and that insane mess. Turning the corner, he was lost in thought over the plans he and Kuina had for the weekend. He wanted to make it special...something that Kuina would appreciate.” 

Walking up the steps to his flat, Jui didn’t notice the figure lurking in the shadow of the building across the street. “So that’s where you live...soon, my little doll. 

 

Kuina was wearing a bemused smile, holding his phone and reading the text. An elbow in the ribs brought him back to the present. 

“That good, huh?” Koudai grinned, nodding at the phone Kuina was holding. 

“Just looking forward to the weekend, that’s all. It’s been a rough few months, not being able to see each other in person, ya know?” 

“Yah, I can imagine.” Koudai put his arm around Kuina’s shoulder, “It’s nice to see you so happy. There was a time you know, that I wasn’t sure you would ever find anyone else after… well you know. Jui seems to be a super sweet guy, and I can tell he really loves you.” 

“I love him too, and it’s a pretty effortless relationship to be honest. There’s not a lot of silly petty shit,” he wanted to add a name there, but he knew his friend understood who he was talking about. “I just wish he’d find someone too; he deserves to be happy, hell, we all do.” 

“Woah now, don’t assign domestic bliss on me yet! I’m still a single fun-loving guy, I’m not ready to be tied down.” Koudai put his hands up in mock fear.

“That’s not what I’ve heard,” Tomoya yelled from across the room, “I’ve heard that you do in fact, enjoy being tied down.” 

Koudai’s face turned bright red, “Who...who’d you hear that from?” he muttered. 

Tomoya walked by the couch, patting Koudai on the head, “I’m sorry, I’m not at liberty to reveal my sources, and I do not question their accuracy.” Reaching out, Koudai grabbed his drummer around the waist and threw him on the couch, “WHO TOLD YOU THAT?” he started fake punching Tomoya in the back of the head, while the drummer laughed and tried to wiggle away, “I’m not telling” he teased. 

Leaning away from the two wrestling musicians, Kuina glanced over at Subaru, who was wearing an odd, an almost sad regretful expression, though once he saw Kuina looking at him, he quickly turned away. He needs to get over it, move on buddy...just move on, it’s never going to happen

Chapter Text

          “What do you think, Ru? Does it give us enough time?” Tomo had a calendar laid out on the table in front of him, paging through the months, trying to find a date for the wedding. 

         “Hmm, I’m not sure, I haven’t spoken to the guys yet, so I don’t really know what to expect. Maybe we should choose a few different dates, and once I find out what the band is doing, we can go from there.” Ruki leaned over the back of Tomo’s chair, and hugged his lover, “I’d get married tomorrow if we could,” 

          Tomo leaned his head back, “Seriously? What about a reception and all that?”

          Ruki shrugged, “The exchanging of vows is the most important to me, the party could always wait.” He grabbed a chair and sat down next to Tomo, “Why? Are you saying you’d rather not have a reception?” 

        Tomo blushed, “It’s not that, but you know how I am in crowds. If we truly plan a wedding, wouldn’t people expect us to throw a huge party?”

       “I don’t care what people would expect, that’s not the point of us getting married. If you told me right now, that you wanted to get married tomorrow, I’d be just as happy as if we did plan a big wedding. It’s whatever you want, babe.” 

          He could see Tomo was struggling with the decision. “Let me go into the studio today, talk with the guys and see what our immediate plan is, and then we can decide. If you want to get married this weekend, we will, and if you don’t want to tell anyone for awhile, we’ll keep it a secret.” He leaned forward, touching his forehead to Tomo’s, “I love you.” 

          Tomo rubbed noses, “I love you too, thank you for always being so considerate of my feelings.” 

 

          Ruki was the last to show up, walking into the Gazette practice room, in a business-like strut, “Hey guys, good to see you finally. Let’s get to work.” 

          “Well hello to you too, stranger. No loving words for your family that you’ve so dearly missed?” Aoi said sarcastically. 

          “Nope, I have shit to do, so I don’t want to waste any time. What’s the plan for today?” Ruki cleared a chair of a stack of papers, putting them on the floor. 

          Kai looked at the others and shrugged, “Guess we’d better start.”  Kai took out a notebook and started the meeting. 

          Much like many other bands, the sole aim was to get back to performing live, and making up for the missed concerts that had been canceled due to the virus locking down the country. That included The Gazette’s large anniversary event. 

          “We need to start practicing for the live we missed earlier in the year. You know that the fans deserve an over the top performance, and I’m hoping that we can extend the playing time to two and a half hours, that’s the least we can do. Also, I’m going to want to talk to you Ruki, about perhaps some fan club specific merch just for that event.” 

          “How long until we can expect to play? Are we talking a month, two, three? I sort of need to know so I can plan with Hal.” Uruha was worried about touring and having to put his wedding off even longer. 

          “I’m going to guess no sooner than three months, since we’ve been off for almost five. Will that give you enough time?” Kai understood the need for a better timeline. 

          Uruha nodded, “Yes, thank you.” 

         “Any questions?” Kai looked at each member. “Okay. What about your wedding, Ru? Have you guys nailed down a date?” 

         “Not at the moment, but we’re starting to get things in order. I’ll let you know as soon as we’ve decided.” Ruki said confidently. 

          After an hour, Kai called the meeting to end, and they made their way to the parking lot, Aoi hung back a little, wanting to talk with Ruki. “Hey, have a minute?” 

         “Sure, what’s up?

         “Yuki needs some professional advice, and he’d never come to you on his own.”

          Ruki looked confused, “Professional advice? Does he want to sing for a band or something?” 

         Aoi laughed, “No, not at all. When he was still paralyzed, he did some sketches of different clothing ideas, and they’re really good, but… he has no confidence in himself. He thinks  we’re all just saying they’re good because you know, we’re his friends.” 

        “Yah? What kind of clothing? Street wear or something?” Ruki’s curiosity was piqued. 

        “VK stuff that would be great for some of the newer bands, he did some accessories like bags and what not. Could you please come by and just look at them?” Aoi was near begging his friend. 

         “Sure, is he home now? I mean, Tomo had to go to work to see about hours, and I have time right now.” 

        “Wow, great. Just meet me at the flat, I’ll make sure he’s there.” 

 

       Yuki started shaking. Shit. Ruki was coming home with Aoi. Coming over to look at his sketches. Fuck. He got to his feet, unsteadily, and walked to the front door, then the short walk to Ayato’s flat, “Um, Aya?” He knocked once and opened the door.

      “Hey, what’s up?” Ayato was in the kitchen. 

      “Um, can you come over for a bit please.” Yuki’s voice was quivering. 

      “What’s wrong?” Ayato dried his hands on a towel, walking over to his friend, “Why do you look like you’re going to puke?” 

       “I still might puke, um...Yuu is bringing Ruki home to look at my sketches, what do I do?” 

       “Finally! Do I have time to take a shower?” Ayato threw the towel back into the kitchen.

       “Shower? What the hell does that have to do with this?” 

       “Pfft,” Ayato snorted, “I’m going to need to model that outfit. Shit, I doubt I have time, if they’re heading over now. Never mind, come on,” he grabbed Yuki and dragged him out of the flat, “I have time for a little makeup, and to get dressed, stall Ruki as long as possible.” 

       Reita’s bike roared into the parking lot, just as Ayato was dragging Yuki along, “Hey, what’s up? Where are you going?”

       “Yuu is bringing Ruki over to look at Yuki’s stuff, I need to model that outfit. I’ll be home in a little bit, there’s stuff in the fridge if you’re hungry, love you bye.” With a slam of Yuki’s door, Ayato was gone. Reita shook his head and went to his own flat. 

 

       “This isn’t too much is it?” 

       “I doubt any is too much, if you’re going for a VK look… and that’s basically what we’re doing, right?” Before Ayato could answer, they heard a soft ‘tadaima’ and the front door opening. 

       “Okaeri, um...give me a minute.” Yuki went into his craft room and grabbed the sketches. Taking a deep breath, he walked down the hall to the living room. 

        “Hey babe,” Aoi gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. 

       “Hi,” he blushed, “Hi Ruki, thanks for um, agreeing to this.” He was still a little uncomfortable around the diminutive vocalist, this was Gazette Ruki for fucks sake.

       “Hey, Aoi tells me you’ve been sketching out clothing designs, can you show me what you have?” Sitting on the couch, he took the pages that Yuki handed him. 

        At first Ruki said nothing, looking carefully at each design for several minutes, going through the pile a few times, before looking at Yuki. 

       “These are yours; you didn’t copy them from anywhere?” 

       “No, these are my originals, of course I had influences from bands and stuff, so they may look similar to what a band had worn, but they’re originals.” 

       “Have you made any of these yet?” Ruki asked. Yuki nodded, “Ayato… you can come in now.” 

       Much like he did the first time, Ayato strutted down the hall, his hips swaying suggestively, just as he would if he were dancing. He stopped a few feet in front of Ruki, doing a little twirl. 

       Just as Naoto had done, Ruki got up and looked closely at the outfit, touching the fabric, the feathers and the other embellishments. Aoi had sat down on the arm of the couch, his arm comfortably around Yuki’s shoulder. 

       “What...what do you think?” Yuki dared to ask.

       Pointing his finger at Ayato, Ruki asked for another twirl, “I think you need to sew up a few more samples, then come and talk to me.” 

        Yuki’s mouth fell open, “Really? You like them?” Ruki sat down again, “Yah, I think they’re great. You have a lot of talent, and Yuu told me that you don’t really believe that. I’m telling you, you’re good, and if you get with the right company, you could easily turn this into a career, either working with a retail outlet, or within the industry. I’d certainly ask you to design stuff for the band, and I wouldn’t doubt that some of the other DCR VK bands would like to speak to you as well.” 

       “See, I told you,” Aoi whispered in his ear. 

       Yuki stood quickly, and bowed low, “Thank you, Ruki-san, for your support.” 

      “Aww, he’s cute and he has good manners, what the hell are you doing with that asshole?” he pointed at Aoi. 

      “Oh, believe me,” Ayato stepped in, “Yuki made him work for it, big time. Yuu’s not too big of an asshole anymore.” 

      Aoi pretended to pout, “Why are you all ganging up on me? I’ve been a good boy for awhile now. Aoi’s shoved in the closet, only to come out while I’m on stage.” 

      With a further promise to call Ruki when he had created the other samples, Yuki walked the vocalist out to his car, “Thank you for giving your honest opinion. I know it’s stupid that I didn’t believe anyone, but I’m sure you understand.” 

      “Yuki, never underestimate yourself. You’ve accomplished a lot in your short life, from moving on away from that asshole Aoi, to loving Ken, to getting Yuu back into our lives. You have more power than you think.” With a pat on the shoulder, Ruki got in his car and drove away. 

 

 

        Nakamura Taizo looked back only once at the brightly colored house, as he walked down the path to where his car was parked. It was one of the few original houses in the Marina District of San Francisco to survive the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, still standing tall between houses that had been rebuilt. Nakamura wasn’t surprised that Constance had chosen one of the beautiful old homes to purchase when Nakamura returned to Japan. “I’ve always loved this section of the city, you know that.” she told her former Dominant.  

        For Nakamura, the trip to his past was something he needed to do. After the trial and subsequent conviction of Masamoto Umeiji and his cohorts, he had taken a long hard look at his past within the BDSM community, and what he had found was ugly. 

       After the trial, he had waited a few weeks, hoping to speak to Isshi and his boys, but the small family had left the country, though he did not know where. 

       “They are safe, and I’m sure you understand that you are not entitled to know of their whereabouts.” Madame F had told him after his inquiry. 

        “Of course. Please extend my well wishes to them, when you speak with Isshi.” That was the last the senior members of the community had heard from Nakamura; he had quietly left the country without informing anyone. 

        Leaving Japan before Christmas, his next journey was back to America, to find and speak with Constance. There was so much he felt he needed to say, apologize for, seek atonement and ask for forgiveness. His former submissive had heard about the trial, as it was common knowledge in the close-knit community of San Francisco, she knew that her Dominant had been involved and to what extent. 

        Constance was hesitant to meet with Nakamura, unsure of his intentions when he had called and requested a meeting, “We can meet in a public space, or at one of the clubs, you decide when and where, I am at your disposal.” 

        This tone was unsettling coming from the Dominant, something that Constance had never heard from the man. Gone were the demands, the outrageous pomposity that he had been well known to exhibit. Instead there was a softness and a man showing a great deal of self-reproach. 

       “Was it truly that bad? Had you sunk so low as to agree to be a part of that event?” Constance asked him, as he sat in her parlor.

       “Yes, it was, and yes...I was truly that despicable. I had every intention of participating in the final event. I had the young man in my room, strapped to a St Andrews, he was blindfolded and gagged. I put my hands on him.” Nakamura leaned forward, putting his head in his hands. 

       “It wasn’t until I had him on the bed, that I thought I recognized him. I said Isshi’s name and the boy knew it was me. You know the rest.” The trial had been followed with more than a passing interest, with the names of the people involved, spreading quickly across the globe. 

      “But you stopped. You didn’t abuse the boy, and you took action to save the other two.” Constance felt pity for her former Dominant. The man that was sitting before her, was the man that she had fallen in love with, when she was first collared, not the man who had become abusive. 

      “What will you do now?” 

       Nakamura chuckled, “I’m going back to Japan and attempt to rebuild my life, but outside the community. I am no longer fit to be a Dominant, I do not belong in the community, that part of my life is over.” With a hug and a chaste kiss, Nakamura Taizo walked out of Constance’s life, for the last time. 

 

        As luck would have it, Nakamura slipped into the country just before the virus exploded. He had been home just ten days, when the edict from the government was handed down. He used the short window of opportunity to stock up on food and other necessities, knowing that running to the local izakaya would not be an option.

       Debating whether or not to inform Madame F that he had returned, and finally settling on avoiding the woman, Nakamura tasked himself with going through and examining all of his business ventures and investments. It was a prime opportunity to expand some of his real estate holdings, purchase a few small companies and do a general house cleaning of his business life. 

       It was the other part of his life, the private side, that he had no idea how to manage. Could he really step away from the community that he had been involved with for over twenty years? What was he to do, start dating again or would that lead to yet another submissive? “Stay away from the pretty boys, Taizo.” he muttered to himself. He knew deep down it would be difficult, if not near impossible.

 

        Nakamura Taizo woke that morning, stretching with a groan before getting out of bed. He went through his normal morning routine; a shower first, then breakfast and reading the morning paper and checking the latest world events from the online news sources. The surprise, as it was with everyone, that the lockdown had been lifted, had given him a bright outlook for that day. 

       “Hmm, Madame F and Mistress Davina? Or do we just keep our head down and go about our business?” Deciding on going into the office for at least part of the day, Nakamura was still debating in his mind, either when or how to approach the senior members of the local community. 

 

        “Good morning, Nakamura-san!” He was greeted by the doorman of the office building. “Good morning, Shima-san, it’s nice to see you again.” Taking the elevator up to his offices, he was greeted by his staff members with smiles. 

        “Ms. Soto, good morning.” he greeted his secretary. The young woman smiled and followed him into his office, carrying a stack of papers and a notepad. 

        “You’re going to be busy this morning, Sir.” Ms. Soto put a stack of mail on his desk. “But I’ve gone through most of it, this is all that is of any importance.” 

        “Thank you. What else do we have going on?” For the next several hours, Nakamura Taizo was busy with phone calls, answering emails and dealing with contracts and proposals. 

         Just as he had finished his last email, he was interrupted by a call. 

        “Sir, you have a visitor, a Madame F?” Ms. Soto’s voice was trembling under the steely gaze of the Dominant woman. “Send her in, please.”

        Nakamura rose from his desk, “Madame F, I’m surprised to see you, what can I do for you?” He greeted the woman with a light bow.

       “Hello Taizo. I was informed that you were back in town some time ago, but of course with the current situation, I had to wait until today to visit. May I?” Madame F took a seat, Nakamura returning to his chair. 

        “I’m guessing this is not a social call, or at least not completely?” 

        “You’ve guessed correctly. I’d like to know what you plan on doing in relation to the community. While you have redeemed yourself in the eyes of the senior members, there would be some talk if you were to just randomly return to the clubs. Of course, with one word from me, that talk would be silenced. Have you decided what you’re going to do?” 

        Nakamura was quiet for a moment, choosing his words carefully, “I have no plans on returning to the community, Madame.” 

        The Dominant woman cocked her head, “Oh? May I ask why?” 

         “You may, but you may not like the answer.” He sighed heavily, “The soul searching I’ve done since the event in Mei, since I brought those boys back to Isshi, has been deep. I do not believe myself fit to be a Dominant, and I certainly am not fit to have a collared submissive. I do not wish to play out any scenes, I will not be returning to the clubs, or the community. I am finished with that part of my life.” 

          Madame F settled herself deeply into her chair, “I see. Is this a final decision? Not that there is anything that says you can not change your mind, of course. But I would like to know so I can inform the other senior members, as we will need to prepare some sort of statement, in the precaution of you being seen out in the city, as well as in your business dealings. You are still a very well-known name in the country.” 

         “I don’t have a problem with that, do and say what you must to satisfy the others. I would like to be cordial and pleasant, if we happen to cross paths in our daily lives.”

         They concluded their short meeting, Nakamura asking Madame F to give Isshi, Davina and Sakurai his best wishes. “If you need me for anything, please don’t hesitate to call.” 

 

          “Ormond, take me to Davina’s, please.”

          Madame F looked back at the building, “You’re not finished with us yet, Taizo.” 

Chapter Text

         “I honestly can’t blame the man. After what he went through with Isshi and the boys, that would definitely put a mark on his resume as a Dominant.” Mistress Davina wasn’t surprised at the information that Madame F had brought to her; Nakamura Taizo would not be resuming his practices as a Dominant within their small community. 

         “I don’t believe it for one second.” Madame F huffed. “That man could not stop being a Dominant any sooner than myself or you. It is not something you just turn off, Davina. No, I believe he will return, but at what capacity, I can’t begin to know.” Madame F thought about what Nakamura had told her, on the drive to see her protege. 

         “Madame, I don’t want to argue the point, but who would ever agree to be collared by him? Everyone already knows what happened, there would be questions if he ever accepted another submissive.” 

         The elder Dominant had thought this through, “Who is to say he must have a submissive? How long did Sakurai go without one, before he met both Taka and Uta? Years, Davina, and he never lost his status.” 

          Davina squinted at Madame F, “Why are you pushing the issue, what are your motives to having him rejoin the community? You’re not telling me the entire truth, Madame.” 

         Two soft gasps were heard, both Dominants turning to glare at their submissives, “There is no sinister plan, Davina. I simply do not believe Nakamura’s words. I believe there are questions that he needs to answer, but in his own time.” 

         There was a bit of a stare-down between the two women, Davina finally acquiesced, and deferred to Madame F’s opinion. “I suppose all we can do is assist him if he asks.” 

        A soft release of breath, was heard  from the submissives, Madame F giving Ormond a disapproving look. 

        “Do you have any business for the next few hours, Madame? If not, I’d like to invite you to lunch, at Ojisan’s.” 

 

         With their arms laden with packages and bags, Isshi followed his young men back to the car. Watching Ruimaru and Karyu attempting to get Byou to interact with them more, was heartbreaking for him. Byou would answer questions, reply with small soft smiles, but there was nothing jovial about the threesome. Byou had passively accepted the trying on of clothes, being dragged around the bookstore by Ruimaru, and allowed Karyu to force him to try on new shoes. 

        “Sir? Can we go to Ojisan’s now, please?” Ruimaru helped load the packages into the trunk of Isshi’s car. 

        “Yes, my Angel. I believe Ojisan’s is exactly what we need right now.” Closing the trunk, Isshi slid into the driver’s seat, pulled out of the parking lot and drove towards the ramen hut.

         “Hmm, I think I’ll have the omurice today, what are you going to order, Byou?” Karyu nudged his co-lover with his shoulder. 

          “I’m not really hungry, but maybe a small bowl of ramen.” he said dully. Isshi caught Karyu’s worried look in his rear-view mirror. Ruimaru reached over and picked up Byou’s hand, holding it gently in his and running his thumb over the boy’s knuckles. 

 

        They arrived in the parking lot nearest the small ramen hut, and parked the car. “I can’t wait to see Ojisan! It feels like it’s been years since we’ve been here.” Ruimaru exclaimed excitedly.

        “What about me?” a teasing voice was heard behind the group.

        “Uta-kun!” Ruimaru dropped Byou’s hand and threw himself at his young friend. “Hi, Ru.” Uta whispered in his friend’s ear.

        “Isshi-san,” he bowed to the Dominant, “it’s good to see you again.”

        “Byou,” Uta walked up and pulled the boy into a tight hug, “I’ve missed you.” 

        “Ahem,” another voice cleared her throat. 

         “Oh shit, sorry. This is my friend Naoto. We used to work together, and she’s staying with Acchan and me.” Uta introduced his friends, “This is Isshi-san, Ruimaru, Karyu and Byou.” 

         “It’s nice to meet you all.” Naoto bowed. 

          “The pleasure is ours, Naoto-chan. And now, I believe that we need to go and see Ojisan.” With Isshi leading the way, Uta and Naoto walking behind them, Naoto noticed Byou’s demeanor, “Is there something wrong with Byou?” she whispered to Uta, “I’ll explain later, it’s super involved.” 

 

        “Irasshai, my friends!” Ojisan was standing in front of his counter, he had awakened that day, knowing it would be special. “How I have missed you all.” Arms full of young men, hugging them all tightly. “We’ve missed you too, Ojisan,” Ruimaru whimpered. 

       Noticing that Byou did not step forward, Ojisan opened his arms, “Byou-kun,” he smiled. Byou choked back a sob and threw himself into the older man’s arms, much to the astonishment of the others. Ojisan looked at Isshi, who shook his head sadly. 

        He turned his attention to Naoto, “Young one, you look happy. Are you finding living with Uta and his gentleman pleasant?” 

       Naoto giggled, “Sometimes they can be rude and they tease each other a lot, but his friends are all very nice. 

       “Come, sit down, Byou, I will make you my special udon, just for you.” Ojisan led Byou to a chair. “What can I make for you all today?” Lining the counter, the group ordered their food. 

       The volume in the small hut was higher than it had been in months, leaving Ojisan near tears. He had missed his young friends, his family, in the months during the lockdown. He had struggled with not having enough business in the beginning, but it was soon after Kato had visited, that he was busier than he had been in quite some time. 

      Placing a bowl or plate in front of his customers, Ojisan stood back and crossed his arms over his chest. He knew that his counter was not yet full, there were a few missing that he knew would grace his humble restaurant. 

     “Ojisan, thank you for the Udon,” Byou said shyly, “it’s seriously the best I’ve ever had.” Those few words were more than the he had spoken in weeks, something that was not lost on Isshi and the other boys. 

      “My mother made this for me as a child, when I was having troubles, I hope it lifts your spirit as it always did mine.” 

        Naoto suddenly got out of her chair, and went around to the back of the counter, bowing low in front of the ramen maker, “Ojisan, I wish to thank you properly for all that you’ve done for me, before I met Uta. You fed me and kept me out of the rain, you offered me shelter when no one else would even look at me. You treated me with compassion and trust. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.” 

        Without looking at the man, she returned to her chair, hiding her face behind her hair. 

       “Naoto-chan, look at me please,” Ojisan leaned over the counter, closing his hands over hers, “I have a place in my heart for all young ones that are in trouble and need guidance. I sensed you were in dire need, and once I found you, there was nothing that would have made me walk away from you. I’m so pleased that you have renewed your friendship with Uta, and now you have others that consider you a good friend as well, let them help you if they offer. The young one that danced, will be a special friend, as will his lover. Yuki-kun has suffered much in his short life, protect him, he will need someone strong behind him as he moves into the next chapter of his life.” 

        Before he could continue, the door chimed again, “Irasshai Mistress, Madame,” Ojisan said without looking to see who the new customers were. 

        “Hello old man, how have you been faring since this atrocious virus has halted the city in its tracks?” Madame F asked, as she swept into the small hut. 

        “Thanks to Mistress, I’ve been doing rather well, almost too busy actually.” 

         “Me? Whatever are you talking about, Ojisan?” Davina feigned innocence. Ojisan looked at Uta and winked, “I believe you know exactly what I’m talking about, Davina.” Kato stifled a chuckle. 

         “After the single visit by Kato-kun, suddenly I had more visitors than I had even on a normal day’s business, and who would those customers be? Madame F sent Ormond. Koichi and Tatsurou, Sato and Taka, members of bands that rarely if ever, had sat at my counter. You were not as sly as you thought you would be.” 

        Coming from behind the counter, Ojisan approached Davina. He looked at Kato and winked, then proceeded to pull Mistress Davina into a bear hug, “Thank you for your concern and love, Davina.” 

        Davina choked back a sob, “Old man, you mean the world to me, you know that.” Ojisan released her from the hug, “You have provided us all with comfort and concern over the years, you are family to many of us, and we all help family in times of need, ne?” 

          The man sniffed then rubbed away a tear, “What can I make for you today, ladies, and gentlemen?” 

          Uta was watching Byou while this was going on, noticing that his young friend was poking at his food uninterestedly. He looked over at Madame F who was also watching Byou, as was Ormond. This was beyond just having Taka and Koichi speak to Byou, this was becoming dangerous for the young man. 

          His thoughts were interrupted by the door chime, “Irasshai, Koichi-kun, Taka-kun, welcome!” Ojisan once again came from behind the counter and hugged his young friends, “I suspect your husbands are at work?” 

          “Yep, they bolted as soon as they heard the news, we probably won’t see much of them for at least a few weeks.” Koichi laughed.  “Isshi, Mistress, Madame F,” Taka bowed to the Dominants.

         

          The two hours spent with Ojisan renewed everyone’s spirits, something they all desperately needed after being cooped up during the early days of the virus. It was with great reluctance that the impromptu party needed to end, with everyone having other things to do that day. With promises of a weekend night meet up at the ramen hut with lovers and husbands, they all went their separate ways, leaving behind a man whose day had been made brighter. 

 

          Sitting on the couch, Naoto hesitated before asking, “Okay, can you explain this to me? Isshi and those boys, Madame F and Mistress Davina...I don’t understand.” Uta knew it was coming, and he had to respect his friend’s wishes. 

          “Madame F is the senior member of the BDSM community, Isshi, Mistress Davina and Acchan are also high-ranking members.” Uta said bluntly. Naoto’s mouth twitched, “So, you’re saying that you and Atsushi are into that sort of thing?” 

          Uta nodded, “Yep. Let me explain,” Uta went over his life for the last few years, not in great detail, but explaining his relationships with the Dominants, and Isshi’s boys. He did not however, gloss over Teiji’s murder, and his own death wish. 

          “That’s why if you see Atsushi hovering over me, he’s just ready to freak out any time I get sick, or god forbid, stressed out,” he laughed. 

          “Well, that’s understandable, he almost lost you, because you were being stupid.”

          “Not you too?” Uta leaned his head back on the couch, “Yes, I was stupid. Yes, I was trying to kill myself, sort of. But that’s over, I’m not stupid any more, and I don’t have a death wish.” 

          Naoto chuckled, “Well, I don’t know about you not being stupid anymore, you did invite me to live with you, even when we really weren’t that close while we worked together.” 

          Uta smacked her lightly on the arm, “That’s so not the point of me asking you to stay here! You were homeless, I remember what that was like and it sucked. That shitty flat that Yuta and Hide grabbed me from was terrible. It doesn’t matter that we weren’t like besties, I still considered you a friend.”

          Naoto leaned her head on Uta’s shoulder, “You have no idea how much that means to me, considering I had no one else, once the store closed, and my roommate left me.”

          “The flats that Die and Reita live in? I own those. But originally, I rented them to Pon and Yuki, it wasn’t until later that Die and Aoi moved in. I rented the other flat to Reita, just because of a bunch of shit that happened to him before he was with Ayato...or sort of. You’ll have to ask Ayato about it, and from what Ojisan said, he might end up being your new bestie!” 

          “Yah, what was with that? He said all sorts of creepy things, and even when the others came in, he didn’t’ see them but greeted them by name, how does he do that?”

          “Ojisan is a mystic, or something like that.” Uta told Naoto about Ojisan’s visions and warnings, the incident of when he got sick in the Netherlands, “If Ojisan says something to you, bottom line you’d better pay attention.” 

 

          “Tadaima,” Sakurai called from the genkan, “Okaeri, in the living room.” Sakurai walked into the living room, stopping to kiss Uta on the cheek. “How was your day? Uta asked. 

          “Productive. Imai had been busier than I had thought. We almost have enough material for an entire album.”

          “How did Hide look today?” 

          Sakurai looked confused, “Um, like Hide, how else was he supposed to look?”

          “Bloated, in pain, fat.” Uta said with a straight face.

          It took Sakurai a few minutes, “Oh,” he laughed, “He didn’t look like he’d eaten all the cookies, nor did it appear that Yuta had beat him.” 

          Uta looked over at Naoto, “Yutaka tried to make my cookies, and I guess they were kind of bad. He and Hide got into an argument over it, and Yutaka went into his bedroom. When he came out, Hide was lying on the couch in pain, he had eaten two dozen of the cookies, all of them.” 

          For the first time since she’d arrived, Naoto really laughed, “Oh my god, that’s so stupid!” 

          “I know right?” Uta joined in the laughter. 

          “How was Ojisan’s?” Sakurai asked,

          “Hmm, it was good. Davina, Madame F and Isshi showed up, submissives in tow. Ojisan actually cried a little, and he called Davina out on her sneakiness.”

          Now it was Sakurai’s turn to laugh, “I can’t believe she thought she could hide that from him, she of all people should know better.” 

          Uta’s face turned serious, “But Byou,” he said sadly, “Acchan, he looks a lot like I did when I was in Maastricht, he looks like he’s willing himself to die.”

          Before Sakurai could respond, his phone rang. “It’s Davina,” he answered the phone and left the room. 

          “What’s wrong with Byou?” Naoto asked. That led to another involved story, which left Naoto horrified, “Oh my god,” was all she could say. 

          “We were thinking of getting Koichi, Taka and myself to talk to him, but I think we need to do something else, that’s not going to be enough.” 

          Uta basically filled Naoto in on everything that had happened since he had been hired at the HBG; Koichi’s issues, Taka’s, Masa, Natsu, Sakurai’s asshole behavior.

          “And you said you’d like me working there with you? Are you joking?” Naoto shook her head.

          “I mean yah, shit’s happened, but good things too. Like when Taka and Sato got married, Ken Yokoyama’s memorial party, there’s a lot of good things. Besides, the people that attend these parties? Naoto, I’m talking like big time musicians, bigger than Buck Tick.” He knew Sakurai had heard the comment.

          “I’m sorry, who is bigger than Buck Tick?” he fake sneered at Uta. 

          “Oh, let’s see. X, maybe Gazette and Mucc...oh Dir en Grey for sure!” 

          “Really boy?” Sakurai advanced on Uta, his hands out like claws. 

          “Wait! No! I’m joking” he hid behind Naoto, “Oh no, I’m not getting involved with this, I’m not saving you, you deserve that, Uta.” She laughed then got up and walked down the hall to her room.

          A quick few grabs and kisses, before Uta could ask about the phone call, “What did Davina want?”

          “Pretty much told me the same thing as you did, that Byou needs an intervention of some sort, but how or what to do, we’re not sure.” 

          “I’m scared for him, Acchan. He’s going to die, and that’s going to kill Isshi and the boys.” 

          “We won’t let him die, Uta.” Sakurai pulled his lover into his arms. “I have an idea, but I’m not sure how to talk to Isshi about it.” 

          “Mm? What’s the idea?”

          “I believe Byou needs to be removed from Isshi’s home.” Uta shoved Sakurai back, “WHAT? You’re joking! How the hell is that going to help?” 

          “Settle down for a moment, and I’ll explain.”

          “Fine, but I need something to drink first.” Uta got up and went into the kitchen, filling two glasses of wine.

          “Okay, explain how the hell that’s going to work.” 

          “Byou needs to be removed from the constant reminder of what happened. That reminder of Ruimaru and Karyu’s abuse and the attempted murder of Isshi, is not doing him any good. I believe he should either go to Davina’s or Madame F’s home for a time, in order to heal, but also to be comfortable with another Dominant.”

          “He needs to move in with us.” 

          “Wait, what?”

          “Byou needs to move in with us. The last person he needs to be around is Madame F, she’ll just constantly tell him that he’s vexing her. Davina would be acceptable, but I think she and Kato would coddle him, and that’s not helping. The best place is here, with Naoto and I, we’re pretty normal, and I could have him come with us to the porch parties, or even hang out at the HBG. It’s a perfect solution!” Uta jumped off the couch and ran down the hall, “Naoto!” he banged on her door, as he ran past. 

          “Uta? What’s wrong?” she poked her head out of the door, “Nothing’s wrong, but go sit with Atsushi for a minute.”

          Opening the bedroom door next to Naoto’s and across from the master bedroom, Uta quickly looked around, “Oh god, it needs help.” 

          Returning to the living room, Uta took a seat on the coffee table in front of the couch, “Okay, the room next to Naoto’s would be perfect, but it needs to be cleaned and freshened up, I can do that tomorrow during the day, so it would be ready tomorrow night. Have Isshi…” Sakurai reached out and put his fingers on Uta’s lips. 

          “I think we should speak to the others before doing anything, ne?” 

          “There’s really no other option, but fine. Call Davina and Madame F first, but I’m still going to clean, and get it ready for him.” 

 

          “He means no disrespect, Madame, but he does have a point. You know that Byou would vex you, and he does not need a strict environment. Davina, you know as well as I do that you would coddle the boy. It just makes sense that he comes here, but the real question is, how do we convince Isshi?” 

 

          He listened carefully, and with an open mind. At this point Isshi was ready to try anything to save Byou, even if it meant sending him away for a time. The other problem would be telling Ruimaru and Karyu that it was not out of any sort of punishment, but out of love and concern.

          “I will have him at your house tomorrow evening. I too believe this is the last option we have, if he does not respond, I’m not sure what we’ll do.” 

 

          “I am not sending you away from me, Byou. I’m sending you to live with Sakurai-san so you can heal. It’s obvious that you can not do it living with me, and the constant reminder of your shared tragedy. This is not permanent, you are still under contract with me, you will still wear your collar. I will make daily phone calls, as will Ruimaru and Karyu. We love you dearly, it breaks my heart to see you go, but I would rather do this, than lose you completely.” 

          Byou sighed, he didn’t care anymore, “It’s fine, Sir. I’ll pack my things and be ready in an hour.” He left the room without being dismissed. 

Chapter Text

 

         “That’s the last of it.” Toshiya slammed the door shut and snapped the lock in place. “It went smoother than I thought it would. Now we just have to stop by the design house, and drop off all these clothes.” Looking around to make sure nobody could see them, he snuck in a quick kiss that made Kaoru blush like a teenager. “Totchi….” he whined. 

         “What? Nobody saw us,” 

          “That’s not the point,” Kaoru glanced down, shifting his pants to make ‘it’ less obvious. “Damn Kao, I just kissed you,” Toshiya teased. 

          “Yah well, we have a few days to make up for,” 

          “Want to skip going to the design house and go straight home?” the taller man wiggled his eyebrows. 

          “No,” Kaoru’s shoulders slumped, “let’s just get it all taken care of, then we have no reason to leave the house when we do get home.” 

         Toshiya leaned over, “I love you,” he whispered. 

 

            With the disagreements, the unsaid words, the hurt feelings, all in the past and worked through, moving in with Toshiya had gone quicker than Kaoru had originally thought. He had visions of fights with his boyfriend over stupid things, like artwork or towels, or kitchen utensils, but he had been proven wrong...again. 

          “Your kitchen stuff is nicer than what I have, so I’ll just toss mine into the donate pile, and I think between the two of us, we have enough towels for the entire band.” 

Toshiya had left most of his furniture in storage from his first move, as Kaoru had nicer and newer items. This time though, there was no arguing about what he could bring with him, this time it was equal. 

          “You know, we do need to go to the studio at some point. I haven’t called anyone yet, but we should really be meeting either later today or tomorrow.” Kaoru slipped into leader-san mode. 

          He was about to whine, but he stopped himself. “True, when do you want to go?” Toshiya had promised himself that his petulant, childish behavior was no longer going to be a part of his life. He was fully committed to adulting full-time. 

          Walking out to the car, Kaoru took his phone out, “Let’s go drop those clothes off, and I’ll look at the calendar.” 

          Staying quiet as Kaoru worked, Toshiya snuck quick glances at his lover, the strong man who had become so important to him in more than a million ways, it seemed to Toshiya. 

          “What are you doing?” Kaoru asked without looking up from his phone.

          “I’m driving,” 

           “Then keep your eyes on the road, and stop staring at me,” Kaoru reached over and put his hand in Toshiya’s lap. 

          “Okay, now what are you doing? Don’t start feeling me up when I’m behind the wheel, at least wait until the next light.” 

          “You wish that’s what I was going to do. Not a chance.” 

 

         “Today? Um, in like 45 minutes? Sure, I’ll text everyone else.” 

        “I just got a text from Kao, have you heard from Toshiya yet?”

       “No, but I got the same text, what about Die?”

       “Same, he hasn’t heard from either one of them… you think Kao killed Toshiya?” 

      “KYO!”

 

      “Hurry up and get us to the studio, I want you to hide in one of the empty rooms,” Kaoru smirked.

       “Hide, why?” 

       “I think our friends need a little more drama in their lives, don’t you?” 

 

        Pulling the door open, so violently, Kyo surprised even himself. Looking around the practice room, and not seeing the bassist or the lead guitarist, he started swearing under his breath. “Have you heard from Toshiya?” he snapped at Die. 

        “Nope, not a word.” Kyo looked at Shinya who just shook his head. “Damn it, what the hell is going on with those two assholes?” 

        The snap of the door opening, startled them, seeing Toshiya walk in was even more of a surprise, “Hey,” the bassist mumbled. He looked like hell; hair looking like it hadn’t been washed in a week, clothes wrinkled, and his eyes were red. 

          “Totchi,” Shinya whispered, as the bassist walked past him to grab an instrument from the rack. Die looked at Kyo, mouthing “say something”, Kyo flipped his middle finger. “No,” and walked towards the single sofa chair in the corner, sitting down and crossing his arms over his chest. 

          “Hey buddy, what’s up?” Die was next to try, Toshiya glaring at him, and not bothering to answer. Grabbing a folding chair, he pulled it against the wall, sat down and started tuning his bass.

          Shinya sat next to Die, whispering urgently, “We have to do something.” Toshiya looked at them and growled, getting up he put his bass back on the rack and started for the door. 

         “Totchi, wait!” Before anyone could get to him the door swung open. Kaoru stopped for a moment, then stomped over to where Toshiya was standing, raising his hand as if he was going to slap the man, “KAORU NO!” they all screamed.

        Raising his hand higher, he swung at Toshiya, grabbing him behind the neck and pulling him into a passionate kiss, “I love you,” he said, then he winked. “Okay, let’s get to work.” 

        “WHAT THE FUCK?” Kyo shouted, “What the hell was that?” 

         “What was what?” Toshiya asked innocently, “Have any idea what he’s pissed about?” he asked Kaoru. 

          “Well, you know how he is, he always has to be pissed off at something or someone. Just ignore him.” Kaoru picked up some papers, shuffling through them. 

          Kyo stomped over and stood in front of Toshiya, “Would you like to explain what the hell just happened?” 

          “Um, nothing?”

          “Totchi, so help me, if you don’t stop fucking around, I’m going to beat the shit out of you!” 

          “I don’t think so, warumono.” Kaoru laughed, “You’re going to sit down and we’re going to start our meeting, or…” he nodded at Toshiya.

          “Or what, Kao?” Kyo sneered. 

          “Um, THIS!” Toshiya grabbed Kyo around the waist from behind, picking him up and slamming him onto the couch, straddling him.

           “TOTCHI GOD DAMNIT! GET OFF ME!

          “Sorryyyy,” Toshiya laughed, “This is what you get for thinking that Kao was actually going to hit me!” He leaned down and kissed the vocalist on the forehead.

          “I take it that you’ve worked through your problems?” Die laughed as he watched Toshiya grind his hips into Kyo. 

          “Yes, we did. Thank you very much.” Kaoru announced. Toshiya kissed Kyo one more time, on the lips, then sprang up from the couch, trotting over to where his chair was, making sure to put a little distance between himself and the pissed off man. 

          “I’m happy for you both,” Shinya hugged Toshiya, then Kaoru, “I’m glad you worked things out.” 

         “Same for me, sorry about being an asshole, Kao...but you sort of needed it,” Die said sheepishly. 

          “Are we going to go through this shit again? Okay, fine, Toshiya and Kaoru are fucking again, all ponies and dildos, can we PLEASE get to work, or I’m leaving.” This time it was Die, who grabbed Kyo, and threw him on the couch, “DAMN IT DAISUKE!” 

 

          “Hi, Uta? It’s Yuki, could I speak to Naoto please?” 

 

          “Did you bring the sketches with you?” Naoto asked from the back seat of Ayato’s car, “and do you have an idea of what type of fabric you’re looking for?”

          “No, that’s why I brought you.” Yuki laughed. “Seriously though, my ideas might not flesh out, and you might have a better eye for what fabric will work.” 

           It had surprised Naoto when Uta handed her his phone, “It’s Yuki.” She really hadn’t believed that her new friend would call and take her up on her offer of going into Nippori Town to look at fabric for his designs, Yuki nearly begging, “Please say you’ll come! Ayato’s going to drive, and I seriously need your help.” 

          He had explained to her that Ruki had given his opinions on the sketches, and the outfit Ayato was wearing, “He wants me to get these outfits together, then call him. I’m not sure who he’ll be showing them to, but I’m going to need your help.”

         

          “Any idea where we should start?” Ayato asked, as they walked down the main street of the district. 

          “Ruki says check Tomato, it’s a five-story building with four different shops. He also said if we can’t find what we’re looking for? It doesn’t exist.” 

         “How do you want to do this?” Naoto asked, as the store came into sight, “Should we split up?” 

         Yuki stopped just in front of the doors, “I guess we need some sort of plan, um…”

         Ayato solved the problem, taking the sketches from Yuki, “I’ll take these pants and t-shirt, Naoto, take the skirt and the accessories, Yuki, you get the rest. We pick fabrics, then meet up to decide which is the best option, then meet back here in an hour.” Armed with the sketches in hand, the trio separated and started their hunt. 

         

        Getting ready to leave the house for a quick trip to the studio, Sakurai poked his head into his office, where Uta sat at the computer, “Hey, I’m getting ready to leave, do you need anything before I go?”

         Swiveling around in the chair, Uta pointed at the computer screen, “Maybe a quick look at this building?” Sakurai walked over and bent down slightly, “Hmm, is this one that you’re looking to purchase with Hiroto-kun?”

          “Mmm, it’s pretty much the perfect layout; three stories with six flats, all lined up similar to Pon’s complex. I haven’t gotten any further than just looking.” 

          “My suggestion would be to drive by the place, get a good look at what stations and other shops are in the area, and if the building looks good from the outside, make an appointment to look at it. Is it occupied?” 

          “Nope, that’s the part that worries me, what if it needs a complete renovation?” 

          “Maybe call Mistress, she might have some information. Do not forget that Byou is coming tonight, is his room ready?”

          “Yep, all clean with sheets and towels.” Uta was a bit apprehensive.  With a quick kiss, Sakurai went on his way. 

           “Hey, do you have time to see me? Oh, cool, probably fifteen minutes or so.” 

 

         “What do you think?” 

         “It pretty much is exactly what we are looking for, but considering it’s empty, we’d obviously have to go look. How much do you know about construction issues?”

          “You mean like the bones of the building?” Uta chuckled. 

          “Exactly. Mistress Davina had already made sure my building was up to code before I bought it, I just did the basic cosmetic improvements.” Pon explained. 

         Uta looked back at the computer screen, “I could call her and see if she’d come with us to look at it, she might even know who owns it.” 

          “Good idea, she seems to know her way around real estate better than either one of us.” 

          “How’s Naoto doing?” Pon asked.

          “Oh shit, that reminds me, I need to get her a phone. Other than still being a bit quiet, I think she’s doing okay. She’s with Yuki and Ayato today, looking for fabric. I guess Ruki came over and gave him the thumbs up on his designs, so he needs to make samples.”

          Uta got ready to leave, “I have to get going, Byou’s coming to stay with us for a while, and I need to be home when Isshi drops him off. I’ll call Davina later and let you know.”

 

          “I don’t know, the red is a little brighter than I had originally planned,” Yuki was looking at the fabric Ayato was holding, “But, with the black and white straps, it would be really striking, the contrast, right?” He looked at Naoto,           “Mm, I think it would be. What about this for the skirt? I thought the overlay of the mesh with the skulls is subtle enough, that you really have to look at the piece to see it.” 

          They discussed the different fabrics they had each found, settling on a few meters of each, “I’m getting extra, just in case I fuck it up,” Yuki laughed. 

          “Oh, I just thought of something that might work with the pants and the t-shirt,” Naoto held them back before they left the store. “Considering how things have been going with the pandemic, what if you did a line of masks? Like, super punk masks, with zippers, chains, maybe safety pins, and different patterned fabric.” 

         Yuki and Ayato looked at Naoto with their mouths open, “Oh, shit...sorry, I just thought…” 

        “Can you draw?” Yuki grabbed her by the arm, “Like right now, can you draw what you’re describing?” 

       “Uh...right now? What will I…”? 

       “Here!” Ayato reached in his bag and found an old grocery list, “Just a rough idea,” he handed her a pen, and dragged her towards an empty table. 

       “Maybe a little fuller of a mask, like cybergoth, or even steampunk, with zippers here, and some chains,” Naoto roughly sketched out her idea. “Do you think anyone would wear these?”

       Ayato picked up the paper, “I can almost bet Akira would, as long as it covered his nose. There’s enough kids out there that would think it’s cool, you know, piss off your parents cool.” 

        “If I make this, I’m putting your name on it, as the designer.” Yuki looked at the drawing. 

          Naoto shook her head, “You don’t need to do that, Yuki, it was just an idea, it would be your design.” 

         “Stop it, you have good ideas, and if I make them and they sell, then you’re getting credit and royalties.” 

          Naoto stared at them, her eyes starting to well with tears. “What’s wrong?” Yuki put his hand on her arm, “Why are you crying?”

         She shook her head, “You’re all so nice to me, it’s um...it’s hard to get used to, that’s all.” 

         The two men shared glances, “Well, we can be mean if you’d rather,” Ayato said in a snarky voice, put his hand on his hip. 

         “Aya!” Yuki smacked him across the chest, “Ignore him, he thinks he’s funny.” The teasing went on until the tears stopped, replaced by Naoto giggling behind her hand. “You guys are so weird.” Walking towards the cashier, Yuki checked his phone, “We should get going, Akira and Yuu are probably wondering where we are.” 

 

 

          “I want you both to stay home, I shouldn’t be longer than an hour.” Isshi had his arm around Byou's shoulder, the young man staring at the floor, shoulders pulled forward in dejection and depression. 

          Ruimaru walked up to Byou, kissed him on the cheek and pulled him into a tight hug, “I’ll call you as much as I’m allowed. Uta-kun and Sakurai-san will take good care of you, I love you.”

          Karyu repeated the hug, with more kind words, “It will be okay, you’ll get better and then we can bring you home for good. I love you.” 

           “I love you, too.” Byou mumbled, still not looking at his co-lovers. With a gentle squeeze to his shoulder, Isshi guided Byou out the front door and to the car.

         

           Before getting out of the car, Isshi turned in his seat to look at Byou, “My love, you do understand why I’m doing this, why Madame F and Mistress suggested it?”

          “Yes Sir, I understand.” He didn’t really, but it didn’t matter anymore, it was just a different place to live, but everything else was still following him. 

           Standing at the front door, they were greeted by both Sakurai and Uta, “Welcome to our home, Byou-kun, please, come in.” Byou stepped into the genkan, 

 toeing off his shoes, not hearing the whispers behind him, “Isshi….” Sakurai murmured in a concerned voice, Isshi sighing sadly. 

          “I’m glad you’re going to stay with us, Byou, I promise, everything will work out.” Uta hugged his friend, then taking him by the hand and leading him into the living room.

           Sakurai took Byou’s bag to the room he’d be staying in, while Uta spoke with Isshi. Just as he closed the door, a flash of white shot by him, as Luna raced down the hallway and into the living room, chirping and calling for Uta. 

          Jumping on the couch, she wiggled between Byou and Uta, sniffing the unknown person. “This is Luna,” Uta giggled, “I’m surprised it’s her and not Saki, he’s the nosey one.” Luna stepped into Byou’s lap, and in the same fashion as Saki, put her feet on the man’s chest, sniffing and nuzzling him.

         “Hello Luna,” Byou stroked the fur of the sleek cat, Uta leaning into him, Sakurai had nudged Isshi, raising his eyebrows. 

         There were no tears when Isshi left, just resignation by Byou. “Come on, I’ll show you your room, and maybe the other cats will come visit,” Uta said.

          “How many cats do you have?” Byou asked.

          “Three others. Saki is Luna’s brother, Maru and Tsubaki are brother and sister, too. I’m sure you’ll hear them in the morning, considering they think they’re starving by 8 am.” Leaving Byou in the bedroom to get settled, Uta went back into the living room. 

           “Isshi just left, he also gave me this,” he handed Uta a cell phone, “It’s for Byou.” Uta took the phone, “That was weird...I mean Luna never accepts people that quickly, it’s always Saki.” 

          “Perhaps Luna could sense that Byou needed to be comforted, you know how perceptive the cats are.” 

         “Tadaima.”

        “Okaeri, in the living room.” 

         “Hi! How was shopping?” Uta asked. Naoto groaned and rolled her eyes, “Those two are, how should I put it?”
         “Silly? Immature? Weird?” Uta guessed. 

          Naoto laughed, “Yah, that works, but honestly, I really like them, a lot.” 

         “Oh, I almost forgot,” Uta jumped up and went into the kitchen, “Here…” He handed Naoto a cell phone, “Before you say anything, it’s just temporary until you get a job, you can pay me back later. If you’re going to live here until we can find you a place, you’re going to need a phone number to put on applications, right?” 

          She promised herself she would stop crying so easily, “Thanks, just make sure you let me know how much I owe you.” 

          Sakurai cleared his throat, and nodded his head down towards the bedrooms. Uta smiled, then left the room, walking down the hall. 

          Coming back, Naoto was surprised to see a young man with Uta, “This is Byou, he’s going to be staying with us for awhile,” he introduced Naoto, “She’s staying with us as well, this is now the Sakurai Boarding House.” 

          Naoto could feel the profound sadness that surrounded Byou, so much so, that it hurt her heart. “Hi, I hope you like it here.” 

         “Thank you, it’s nice to meet you too.” Byou had actually looked at Naoto, instead of his usual staring at the floor. 

         “Dinner will be in half an hour,” Sakurai announced. “You guys up for a beer?” Uta went to the fridge, “Sure, I’ll have one,” Naoto raised her hand. 

         “Byou?”

         “Um, Sir doesn’t usually let us drink,” he stammered. Sakurai put down the bowl he was holding and walked over to Byou, putting his hands on the man’s shoulders, “I want you to understand this, Byou-kun. I am not your Dominant, you are a guest in my house. What you would normally do with Isshi, is not what you will be doing here. Take this as a vacation from everything, there is no ‘Sir’ required. Yes, you belong to Isshi, but right now, you are just a normal young man, who’s having a rough go of it, and you’re here to recover.” 

          Byou nodded, “Thank you, um...I don’t know what to call you.” 

          “If you’re comfortable with it, you may call me Atsushi. Now, would you like a beer or a glass of wine, before dinner?”

          For the first time in months, Byou smiled softly, “A beer would be nice, thank you, Atsushi.”

Chapter Text

 

            The couple were standing in the doorway of Jui’s apartment, “You’re going to have to let me leave, you have to go to work tomorrow, and I have to be at the studio early.” Jui sighed, “I know, it’s just… one weekend hardly makes up for months of being secluded, you can’t blame me for not wanting it to end.”

            Kuina captured Jui’s lips one last time, “I don’t want it to end either, but I have to go.” He kissed his lover on the forehead, “I’ll text you in the morning, I love you.”

            “I love you too,” Jui slowly closed the door and locked it. Deciding on going back to bed, he was more than just a little sore. A weekend’s worth of sex, had taken its toll, but he couldn’t have asked for a better reunion with Kuina. Arriving on time, and with the biggest bouquet of roses, he had ever seen, Kuina swept his boyfriend off his feet. Friday night started with a nice dinner at the restaurant, and ended in hours of slow lovemaking.

            Ending the weekend with dinner at home, Jui sighed every few minutes, knowing that the idyllic reunion was coming to an end. “You know, this isn’t like you’re not going to see me again.” Kuina chided Jui gently. “I’ll see you on Tuesday after work, I’m sure you’ll be tired too.”

            “Sorry,” Jui was embarrassed, “I’m just being a clingy weenie.”

            “I love you, weenie.”

            Jui reached across the table and smacked Kuina on the hand, “Hey! Don’t think you can use that as a nickname, because you won’t be getting any if you do!”

 

            Monday morning dawned bright, Jui happy that he didn’t have to deal with going to work in the rain, something that he hated more than anything. Kiki’s was just a short walk from Shibuya station, and he was excited to see his coworkers and his boss.

            “Tadaima!” he called out as he entered the store, Kiki always wanted her ‘kids’ to feel at home. “Okaeri, Jui-kun!” Kiki quickly pulled Jui into a tight hug, “I’m so happy to see you again, come… I want you to meet your new coworkers.” Taking Jui by the hand, the woman led him to the back room.

            “Jui, this is Toya and Misa. They’ll be working your shift most days, and you’ll alternate on the weekends.” Jui bowed to the new employees, “It’s nice to meet you.” He smiled at them, “I hope you like working here, Kiki’s an amazing boss.”

            Misa smiled, “She seems more like a mom, than a boss.” Kiki of course giggled, “Misa-chan, you haven’t even started working, and you’ve figured me out already. We’ll get along just fine.”

            Toya stood and bowed to Jui, “It’s nice to meet you Jui-san,” the young man said formally. “Oh please, you don’t need to use honorifics with me, Toya-kun, and it’s nice to meet you too.” Toya was tall and slender, with a roguish smile, blue hair and VK clothes rounded out the look. Jui couldn’t help noticing that the boy was super cute, and looked like he’d worked in Harajuku before.

            “Alright children,” Kiki clapped, “Misa, I’d like you and Jui to be on the floor to start, Jui will show you where everything is. Toya and I will be behind the registers. Please have fun this morning.”

           

            “Davina said she’d meet us at the building, seems that she does know the owner.” Uta told Pon. “Since you’re not working right now, I figure it’s as good of time as any, to move on this deal.”

            “Thanks for calling Davina, I feel better knowing that someone with some experience, will be there. I don’t completely trust my own instincts when it comes to this, considering I’ve never done anything more than act as your agent, while you were still sick.”

            Pon had explained to Die what he and Uta were doing, “Really, together?”

            “Well, we’re both in the same position, we need to either invest the money, or spend it, and seriously, what do I need to spend money on?”

            “Hmm, well there’s this really nice ESP guitar I was looking at…” Die teased, “but you’re right. I know you’re not going out and buying stupid shit, but an apartment complex?”

            “Uta called Mistress Davina, and she knows the owner of the building, and will be going with us to look at it. I trust her judgement over anyone else.”

 

            “Pon-chan, so nice to see you again. How is our dear Daisuke doing, is he behaving himself?” Davina kissed the younger man on the cheek. “Yes, especially after Kyo threatened him, saying he’d call Madame F for some corrective training.” Pon laughed, he now knew the weird relationship between Davina and his boyfriend was harmless.

            “Uta, how is Sakurai these days?”

            “He was a bear most of the time, but I can’t blame him, I was pretty much a bitch as well. But with Naoto and now Byou living with us, he’s been on his best behavior, and busy at the studio. I’m still worried about him though, all he does is sleep.”

            Davina sighed, “We will try our best to help him, that’s all we can do.”

            Entering the courtyard of the complex, it was obvious that the building had been empty for some time. The overgrown weeds, a broken fountain and a layer of general trash lay in the ,space. “Well, this is easy to fix.” Uta said, “new fountain, if we even want one, and landscaping.” Entering the first flat, they were surprised to find that it appeared as if someone was already living there. A futon in a corner, a box of clothes and some toiletries were in the living area. Pon checked the bathroom and the other bedroom.

            “Squatters obviously, but who?” Uta didn’t disturb the clothes.

“Thankfully they haven’t tried using the shower or toilet, I’m assuming the water has been shut off, as well as the electric and gas?” Pon pointed out, as he rejoined Davina and Uta.

            Davina nodded, “Harimoto-san said the building has been empty for several years.”

            “Let’s go look at the other units.” Uta closed the door and left it locked as it was before. The next unit over was empty, no signs of squatters. “Hmm, new floors, new fixtures, paint. Pretty much the same condition as your building, Pon.” Davina walked around and looked under the sink, checking the flooring in the bathroom for water damage, and finding none.

            Going through the next four units, it was apparent that the bones of the building were still solid, the condition was purely cosmetic. “Well, what do you think, Mistress?” Uta locked the door to the last unit, “Seems like a decent enough building.”

            “With the repairs that need to be done, and the cosmetic issues, I think you should offer him at least two or three million less. You will have to replace most of the bathroom fixtures, and those can add up.” Uta held Davina’s hand as they descended the stairs.

            Peering into the flat that was occupied by a squatter, Uta was concerned. Looking at Pon, “What about this person? What do we do?”

            “I’m not sure. I guess we would need to speak to them, see what their situation is and go from there. I’d hate to throw them out if they are that destitute, that goes against what we want to do with this building.”

            Parting ways with Davina, Pon and Uta discussed the issues with the complex, the pros and cons of purchasing the building. “I’m seriously worried about whomever the squatter is, it’s pretty obvious that they’re in need.” Pon was just uncomfortable with that aspect of the purchase.

            “Mmm, I agree, but how do we speak to them? Unless we go over at night, and I’m dead sure Atsushi is not going to agree to that.”

            Pon chuckled, “Neither is Die. We could bring them as body guards and make them stay outside while we talk to the person, that’s really the only way we can do this.”

            “Do we agree on it? Should I call Harimoto-san?”

 

            Byou didn’t know what to do once he had awakened. It was mid-afternoon and the house sounded quiet. Could he go into the kitchen and find something to eat, or should he stay in his room? Taking a shower first, he would make a decision afterwards. His first night in Sakurai-sama’s house had been pleasant; he had been allowed to call the Dominant by his first name, ate dinner with Uta and Naoto and had even had two beers.

            Sleeping soundly for the first time in months, Byou had not been plagued by nightmares, something that surprised him, waking up somewhat refreshed. The shower bolstered that feeling, and as he got dressed and made the bed, he decided that he would venture into the kitchen, at least for a cup of tea.

            “Good afternoon, Byou.” Naoto was sitting at the small kitchen table, “Did you sleep well?”

            Byou bowed lightly, “Yes, thank you. Could I um… make a cup of tea, please?”

            “Sure, tea is in the cupboard next to the stove.” Naoto returned to paging through the computer, “Do you have plans for the day?”

            Opening cupboards until he found the cups, he shrugged, “Not really, I’m not even sure why I’m here. Sir said I shouldn’t live with him for a while.” The dejection was obvious.

            “I’m sure whatever his reason, he is only thinking of you. From what Uta has told me, Isshi-san is a very caring and loving man.” Naoto didn’t know how much she should reveal that she knew of his situation.

            “Sir is perfect.” Byou stated, “I’m the one that’s the problem.” Naoto looked up, closing the laptop, “I don’t think that’s true. If you were a problem, wouldn’t Isshi had voided your contract, and make you leave his house?”

            “I don’t know. I feel like that’s what he’s done by sending me here.” He sat across from her, “I don’t really understand.”

            Naoto cocked her head, “I don’t know the details, and I would never expect you to tell me, but from what I understand, you’ve just given up, ne? You don’t think you’re worthy of Isshi’s love, or Ruimaru’s or Karyu’s. You believe you’d be better off dead.” Byou stared at his tea, nodding ever so lightly.

            “Do you know why I’m living here? It’s because I was homeless. I lost my job at the beginning of the pandemic, my roommate moved back to her parent’s house and I had no job and no income. I sold everything I could, things I thought I’d never get rid of, just to have a little bit of money. I stayed at Internet cafés until my money ran out. Then I was sleeping in a park, on a bench. I had nobody to call, my parents have abandoned me, and I’m not very good at making friends.” Byou was listening intently.

            “I was in an alley, when I fell against Ojisan’s back door. He opened it and offered me free ramen, and somewhere to stay until my clothes dried and the rain stopped. He gave me free ramen every day for a week. It was just by chance when Uta showed up. We were never that close when we worked together, he wasn’t there very long. But he immediately took me in, introduced me to all his friends and told me I was staying with him and Atsushi until I could find a job and a place to live.”

            “Not to be rude, but what is your point?”

            “You do have someone to go home to. You have Isshi, Ruimaru and Karyu. They love you enough that they want to help you over come whatever this is about. They know that Atsushi and Uta are good people, and trustworthy. You obviously need some help, what kind, I don’t know and it’s not my place to ask. But please, Byou…let them help you.” Naoto hadn’t spoken that much in years, but she knew that the young man sitting across from her, needed to hear her story.

            “I have to get going, I have a job interview in a bit. There’s stuff in the fridge if you want something to eat. I’m not sure when anyone will be home.” Then she did something that even shocked her; she hugged Byou and kissed him on the head, “I’m your friend now, and friends help each other.”

            “Friends.” Byou whispered.

 

            “Lunch time, Jui-kun.” Kiki walked up to the front of the store. “You and Toya are on lunch; Misa and I will cover for you.” Folding the last t-shirt, he bowed lightly to Kiki, and made his way to the breakroom. Clocking out then going to his locker, Toya was already sitting at the table, “How is your first day going?” he asked over his shoulder.

            “Great, Kiki is a fantastic boss. How’s it going with you and Misa?” He mumbled through a mouthful of onigiri.

            “Same, she’s a quick learner, but she’s done retail work before, just not with clothes. Did you know she’s married and has a little daughter?” Placing his bento on the table, he grabbed a soda out of the vending machine.

            “Yah, when we were interviewing, she told us. She almost doesn’t seem old enough for that, she looks like she’s 19, maybe 20 at the most.”

            Jui laughed, “Looks are deceiving. So, what did you do before the pandemic?”

            Toya groaned and rolled his eyes, “Worked at an arcade, worst job ever. Especially right after school is out. I’m telling you, high school girls are real twits, even worse than some toddlers.”

            “Really? I guess I’ve been lucky, we don’t get that many high schoolers in here, mostly college age and older. It takes money to buy the stuff we sell.”

            “What kind of music are you into?” Toya asked, “I’m into VK mostly, but some of the older bands like Mucc and Gazette.” Jui hesitated before answering, he had to be careful not to expose Kuina, “Um, I like a lot of American music, old punk and stuff. I don’t really know anything about VK, and the other bands are just old men,” he laughed.

            “True, but I guess it’s all based on talent anyways. Even if they’re an older band, if they continue to put out new music, it’s all good.”

            The small talk continued, Jui not saying anything remotely relating to either Toshiya or Kuina, he knew better now.

            Spending the day on the sales floor helping customers, Jui hadn’t realized how quickly the day had gone by, 5:00 came faster than he had expected. Grabbing his things from his locker, he clocked out and left the store.

            “Hi, just got off work, text me later, I love you.”

 

            Kuina felt his phone vibrate in his pocket, he knew it would be Jui. As he reached for it, Subaru glared at him. They were in the middle of discussing the upcoming album and how many tracks to include. “Sorry,” Kuina said sheepishly. Subaru turned back to the discussion, which went on for another hour.

            Just before they were getting ready to leave, Subaru stopped Kuina, “Hey, just leave your phone in your bag or something, or turn it off. It’s sort of rude when we’re trying to have a meeting.” He didn’t wait for an answer.

            “Um…okay,” Kuina said as Subaru walked away. “What’s up his ass?” he muttered, walking back to the conference room.

            “Everything okay?” Koudai was still in the room. “I just got chewed out for my phone, no big deal.”

            “What? Because it vibrated? It’s not like the damn thing was ringing.” Koudai said in sympathy.

            Kuina shrugged, “Seems Subaru is being overly serious…doesn’t it?” How the man could switch from looking at Kuina with regret one day, to snapping at him the next, confused him.

            “I think he’s just uptight because we have so much work to catch up on. I wouldn’t take it too personally.” Koudai liked Kuina, and was glad that he had found Jui. The relationship between his friend and their band leader, had been volatile and had ended on a note that could have been the end of the band, had he not stepped in.

            “I have to get going, I need to call Jui when I get home…see you tomorrow?” Kuina patted Koudai on the shoulder. “Yah, sure, see you tomorrow.”

           

 

            Walking quietly past the building, she looked into the courtyard for the people she had seen earlier in the day, worried that they may have returned, but all was quiet. Going into a konbini, she bought a bento and a power drink. Glancing at her surroundings, she quickly darted into the building’s parking lot, making her way to the ground floor flat. Using a pocket knife, she unlocked the door.

            Relief flooded her body; the people had been in the apartment, but nothing was disturbed or missing. Sitting down on the futon, she reached for the small flashlight and settled in for the night. The bento calmed the hunger pains, the power drink she would leave for breakfast.

            She worried about the people she had seen. The two young men and the beautiful woman in the black dress. From behind a brick wall, she watched as they went into each flat, talking and commenting about what work needed to be done. She heard the words ‘buying, repairs’ which scared her. If these people were going to work on the building, she’d have to find a new place to live. She hated the thought of living in the park, the older men always leering at her and asking for sex in exchange for food.

            Finishing the bento, she drank some water then laid down on the futon, pulling the blanket up. “Where am I going to go? Why does it have to be this hard?” There were no answers, she just had to pray that she wouldn’t lose the only home she had lived in for the last two years.

Chapter Text

            “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.”

Chapter Text

            “Two years? Where are that child’s parents and how is this acceptable to them?” Davina was mortified at what Uta was explaining to her about Yume’s situation.

            “You should have seen Die’s face, when Yume said that, and the fact that she’s only eighteen. So, will you help her, at least until I can get that first flat renovated?”

            Uta couldn’t see Davina’s sad smile, “My love, of course I will help her. You’re doing our beloved Teiji’s work, and I promised you that I would continue to stand by your side, in any endeavor you choose to take.”

            As such, Davina couldn’t see the tears in Uta’s eyes, as she said Teiji’s name, “Thank you Mistress,” Uta covered the phone and sniffed loudly, “will you meet us at the building in two hours?”

           

            Tomo and Uruha were gently teasing their new husbands, “I thought we were going to be the ones doing all the crying.” Tomo chided Ruki, as they sat around the table, enjoying the brunch after the ceremony.

            “I wasn’t really prepared for the emotions, to be honest,” Hal claimed, “but seeing you both in your suits, you both looked so perfect, ne Ruki?”

            “Perfect is an understatement.” Ruki poured each of them another glass of champagne, “Now we get to decide, how and when are we going to tell people.”

            “The restaurant is out of the question, there would be too many people to effectively pull it off.” Hal pointed out.

            Tomo nodded in agreement, “I told Taka that he might be able to help us, if we decided to do it at the HBG, but then there’s the worry that the public would be around, that’s the last thing we need to deal with. That leaves Ojisan’s, and I think I have a way of getting everyone there.”

            “Oh, how’s that going to work?” Ruki was skeptical.

            “I think we need to treat this like a bachelor party, without the strippers of course, you’re going to call your guys, Hal will call his, I can get Taka and Koichi and their guys, everyone at work for me. I think that we let everyone get there ahead of us, then we walk in a little later wearing our wedding suits.”

            Uruha gasped, “Oh my god, that’s perfect!”

            “Sounds like a believable excuse, though we should call Ojisan and let him know ahead of time, we don’t want to just spring a party on him without warning.” Ruki added.

            Hal laughed, “And when is this bachelor party going to happen?”

            Tomo had his phone out, writing down who he’d need to call on his side, “Tomorrow night, it’s Sunday so it’s a good excuse, nobody really needs to be in the studio, until late on Monday, and having not seen anyone in so long, it makes it just that much better.”

            “What about Ojisan? You know how he is about waving the beer limit, is that a good idea on a Sunday evening? You’re going to have a bunch of hangovers on Monday. Oh, and we need to make sure everyone has a designated driver.”

            “I’ll drive, since we’re in the studio the next day,” Uruha volunteered.

            “Guess that means the same for me.” Ruki said

            “I’ll call Ojisan, and then go from there.”

            Breaking up the post ceremony brunch, Hal and Ruki patted each other on the back, Uruha and Tomo hugging, “This was the best day ever.” Uruha whispered in Tomo’s ear.

“Yah, it was. Thanks for being such a good friend, Kou, and sorry I was such a basket case, but hey, I’ve never been married before, and that’s my excuse.”

            Uruha laughed, “Hopefully, we’ll never get married again. I don’t think I could handle the stress.”

 

 

            “Do you think Yume will agree?” Pon asked as he and Uta were standing by their cars, in the parking lot of the building, waiting for Davina and Kato.

            “I hope so, I wish I could just bring her to my house, but with Byou and Naoto living with us, we don’t have another bedroom. Davina’s manor is huge, so there’s no problem with having a room to herself.”

            “I know, I’d invite her to live with us, but I’m pretty sure living with two strange guys, isn’t her idea of safe.” Pon said. Before they could continue, the sleek burgundy Mercedes pulled into the lot. Uta opened the back door, before Kato could exit the car, “Hello Mistress,” Uta hugged the only woman he would ever love, “thanks for agreeing to this.”

            “There’s really no question, is there? This young woman needs assistance, and I know that if you could, you’d have a flat for her right now. I’m in a position to assist, that’s why I’m here.”

            “Mistress Davina, Kato-san,” Pon bowed, “Thank you for coming.”

            “Pon-chan, it’s good to see you as well.” Davina kissed him on the cheek. “Now, let’s go speak to this young lady, ne?”

            With Kato doing a preliminary sweep of the courtyard, making sure it was safe for them, Uta went to the flat and knocked on the door, “Yume? It’s Uta,” There was no answer. Uta knocked again, then waited. “Yume, I’m opening the door,” Uta got out his keys, slowly unlocking the door.

            “Hello?” Uta opened the door, and groaned, “She’s gone.” Looking at the living space, it was cleared of clothing and other items, the futon neatly folded and in a corner. “Shit, why did she leave?”

            Pon pushed past Uta, going into the other rooms, “Yep, she’s gone. But everything is cleaned up.” Kato was next through the door, holding Davina’s hand. “Damn it…” Uta swore.

            “Hey, look,” Pon held up the McDonald’s bag from the night before. Handing the bag to Uta, he could see that Yume had written a note,

            “Uta-san, please accept my apologies for living in your flat. I tried to clean it up as best as I could. Thank you for your kindness.”

            “Well, this sucks, why did she leave?” Uta’s shoulders slumped. Turning to look at Davina, all he could do is shake his head, “I’m sorry we dragged you out here for nothing, we told her she could stay and that we’d help her, I don’t understand why she left.”

            “Die’s going to be pissed,” Pon muttered.

            “Why is he going to be mad?” Uta asked. Pon went on to explain Die’s anger from the night before, “He was crying, he said he couldn’t understand how parents could do that to a child, that young.”

            Davina pulled Uta into her arms, hugging him tightly, “Uta love, you tried. Perhaps you will see her somewhere on the streets, and if you do, my offer still stands. Now, do you need anything more? I have some other appointments I need to take care of.”

 

            Yume watched the Mercedes leave the lot, followed by Uta and Pon. She sighed heavily, “I just couldn’t do it, it wouldn’t be right.” She had fought with herself the entire night before, arguing both the pros and cons of letting Uta help her. Finally realizing that she just didn’t want to inconvenience anyone, let alone the new owner of the building, Yume packed her things, cleaned up all the trash and left just before daylight.

            Walking towards Shibuya station, she went over her options. Would she resort to her previous ways to make money, by letting old men watch her wash in a public bathroom? If she did it a few times, she could make enough money to stay at an internet café, a somewhat safer environment, that also gave her access to a shower. Building a makeshift shelter in Shinjuku park, was her absolute last choice.

            Finding a bench just outside the station, Yume put her things underneath, rolled up a hoodie to use as a pillow, and laid down. The rush of business commuters and shop workers wouldn’t start for another hour, leaving plenty of time for a short nap.

 

            Yume was woken, by the low rumbling sound of people leaving the station. High heels clicking, school children laughing, the mumble of businessmen on their phones, apologizing to their superiors for running late. Yume snapped wide awake with a start, hoping that she had not inconvenienced anyone with her presence. Dodging and weaving through the crowd, Yume exited the area around Shibuya station, walking towards down town, but with no idea where she was going.

            Her stomach growled rudely, reminding her that she hadn’t eaten since the fast food that Die had bought for her. Finding her way to a small park, she found a secluded area, and sat down on the grass.

            Digging through her bag, she found the remains of a bag of chips, half of a stale sandwich she would have eaten the night before, and a bottle of water. Deciding that the chips would get her through the day, and leaving the sandwich for the night, Yume appeared to be any other young person, unless someone looked closer. Laying back in the grass and using her bag as a pillow, she ate the chips, savoring each one and chewing it slowly.

            Where was she going to spend the night? Would she have to resort to another bathroom incident, or should she find some place on the street. Finishing the chips, she drank some of the water and decided that it was a safe enough place to take a nap. Closing her eyes, Yume drifted off quickly.

 

            “What are you going to do now?” Die was upset with the news that Yume had moved out. “Are you and Uta going to go look for her?” There wasn’t much he could do, he was at the studio, and there was no way for him to get out of practice.

            “I don’t know, to be honest. Mistress Davina said for us just to keep an eye out for her on the streets. I wouldn’t even know where to begin to look.” Pon hated calling his boyfriend while he was at work, but he knew how hard Yume’s situation had hit him.

            Die sighed, “Hmm, Davina has the right idea though, whenever you guys are out, just keep looking for her.”

            “I will. Hey, try to have a good day at practice, I’ll see you when you get home. I love you,”

            “I love you too, Pon.”

 

            Uta was pacing back and forth in the living room, chewing on a finger nail. “Baby, you can only do so much for her, if she’s going to resist your help.”

            “I don’t think she’s resisting as much as she’s scared.” Uta stopped, “How would you feel if you were suddenly faced with four men, after hiding for two years? She freaked out, and she did what she’s probably always done, she ran.”

            Sakurai opened his arms, “Come and sit with me for a moment.” Uta fell onto the couch, laying down with his head in Sakurai’s lap. Carding through his hair, Sakurai tried to come up with the right words for his young lover. “I believe you need to follow what Davina has suggested. Any time you are out driving, or even at work, just be aware of the people around you, you may get lucky and find her. If that happens, you take her aside and speak to her gently, and try to reassure her, that you truly care about what happens to her.”

            Uta buried his face in Sakurai’s thigh, “I will never, ever, understand how parents can do this to their child. Not my parents, Naoto, Byou, Ayato… how can so many parents just throw their child away without a second thought?”

            “I can’t answer that,” Sakurai said sadly, “all we can do is help those that fall into our lives, as best as we can. We are already helping Naoto, and Byou, though Byou has a home to return to.”

With a loud sniff, Uta sat up, “I’ll have a flat ready for her. Pon and I are signing the papers today, and getting the deed to the building. Davina already has her contractor lined up to meet us, so we can start the renovations.” He took a deep breath, “I need to find her, I don’t feel good about just letting this go.” Leaning over he kissed Sakurai,

“Thanks for letting me cry all over you.”

“I’ll collect my payment later this evening,” Sakurai winked.

 

“Excuse me, miss?” A policewoman tapped Yume on the shoulder, “Are you okay?”

“Hmm? OH! Yes, I’m sorry,” Yume sat up, “I was um, just taking a short nap, I’m sorry.”

The policewoman smiled, “It’s quite alright. A concerned mother called us over, she had been watching you for quite some time, and was worried.”

Yume’s face flushed in embarrassment, “Oh. I um… “

“Do you need anything? Is there something I can do for you, or someone I can call?”

“Um, no thank you. I’m fine, really. I’ll get my things and be on my way.” Yume stood and brushed off her clothes, then bowed deeply to the officer. “Thank you for your concern.”

“You know, you can always come to any police box, if you are in trouble.” The woman patted Yume on the shoulder, “We’re here to help you.” The local police agencies had seen an increase in homeless youth since the pandemic had started, but with the cultural norms of the country, the homeless were less than forthcoming, about asking for help.

Yume walked away from the park quickly, she wanted to put as much distance as she could from anyone who may look at her with pity. She had slept longer than she had intended, it was late afternoon and the need for a safe place to spend the night, was urgent. Without a destination in mind, Yume started walking.

 

“I’m so glad to be back, at least this gives me something to do, other than watch Kyo stomp around the flat.” Mao laughed. It was the first shift of the re-opened HBG, and Mao was closing with Koichi and Taka.

“Your husband wasn’t the only one, half the time Tatsu was a real asshole. The other half of the time he was so clingy, like all he wanted to do was have sex.” Koichi groaned.

Taka and Mao looked at him, “Kou, really? TMI dude.” Koichi giggled, “Like you didn’t have the same problem? How many times did you either call me or text about Sato being a crazed sex fiend?”

Aki and Tora chuckled, “Looks like everyone had the same problem.” The couple had opened the first day to a brisk business. “We got super busy right around lunch time. I’m thinking you may want to schedule three openers, or maybe someone to come in until early afternoon, we were pretty swamped.” Aki had given Taka the daily counts, and they were impressive.

“I don’t really want to hire anyone new, if I can help it,” Taka frowned, “can I get everyone to give me updated available hours, please. I’m not sure what’s going to happen for the fall and winter season, there’s just no predicting it right now.”

The closing shift went as planned; not too busy, with most people commenting that they were happy that the small high ball bar was opened once again. “It wasn’t the same without you guys,” one woman told Taka. “That’s always nice to hear, isn’t it?” Mao told Taka. “Yah, it is. Means a lot to me really. The boss likes hearing it as well.”

Going through the closing duties, Taka reminded Koichi that they had to open in the morning, “Just do as little as possible, we can do the rest when we come in.” Locking the covers over the counters, Taka turned off the light, and he, Mao, and Koichi closed up for the night.

 

Peering through the hedge that surrounded the back portion of the patio, Yume watched as the three men left the small building. Having made her way to the base of Tokyo Tower, Yume noticed that the area became less populated as darkness descended on the city, though the small bar under the tower had been busy throughout the evening.

Hoping that the area would become quiet as it grew later, Yume waited another fifteen minutes, looking around quickly, she walked under the tower to where the back side of the building was. It was dark, but the patio was illuminated by the golden light of Tokyo Tower, creating a soft inviting dimness. She loved looking at the glimmering Tower, she spent a lot of evenings just people watching, the apartment building was close enough, within a half hour walk. She looked at the patio again.

“Guess it’s as good as anywhere else.”

 

Koichi was not happy. Not being a morning person, and having to function like an adult so early, pissed him off. He, like many others, had grown used to sleeping in most days, “Moofie, go away.” He pushed the now teenage cat off the bed, as he swung his legs over the side, “Why did you schedule us like this?” he mumbled, swearing at Taka under this breath.

“Coffee, Kou?” Tatsu stuck his head into the bedroom, “I have to get to the studio, there are pancakes in the fridge, and fresh coffee in the pot. Maybe if you’re not too worn out when you get off work, we could go to Ojisan’s for dinner?”

“Yes please, sorry…I’m just tired.” Tatsu snuck a quick kiss and a ‘have a good day’, then was gone. Stumbling through a shower and a quick breakfast, Koichi laid down on the couch to wait for Taka.

 

“Tatsu wants Ojisan’s after work, what about you guys? Want to go?” Koichi was at least a little more awake, enough to make dinner plans with his bestie. “Sure, Sato’s not going to want to cook tonight either, and I’m sure as hell not doing it.”

Through yawns and stretches, Taka and Koichi got the counters opened for the day’s business, with Koichi making a sweep of the patio. Wiping down tables and chairs, gathering the trash from the previous night, Koichi was walking towards the fountain when he stopped, “What the?” There was a person sleeping in the corner, curled up against the wall.

Koichi quietly walked back to the office, “Taka, there’s someone sleeping next to the fountain.”

“A what?” Taka pushed away from the desk, “Where are they?” He followed Koichi, “I can’t tell if they’re male or female, what do we do?” Koichi wasn’t so sure he wanted to wake this person up. “What if they’re dangerous? Shouldn’t we go get the police?”

Taka shook his head, “Let me do it.” He walked over and squatted down next to the person, gently shaking their shoulder, “Excuse me? Are you okay?” A mumble came from the unknown person. Taka stood up, and backed away a few steps.

Yume turned over and sat up, “Um…” she looked up at Taka, who was smiling at her.

“Hi, don’t be afraid, is there something we can help you with?”

Yume’s eyes grew wide, not again! “I’m sorry, I um, I’ll be out of here in just a minute, please… I’m sorry.” The girl scrambled to her feet, grabbing her bag and holding it tightly against her chest. “I’m sorry, I uh had no where else to sleep,” She bowed deeply.

“That’s okay,” Taka tried to reassure the young woman, “I totally understand. Would you like something to drink? A cola or some fruit juice? Is there someone I can call for you?”

Yume shook her head, “No, ah thank you.” She bowed low, then brushed past Taka, and went running out through the main entrance. “Wait!” Taka shouted, “Damn…”

“She didn’t look so great, have you ever seen her around here before?” Koichi asked as they walked back to the building. “Nope, and yah, she did look pretty rough. But it’s not like we can force her to accept our help, right?”

Koichi shrugged, “True, well maybe if we see her again, we can get her some lunch or something.”

 

Two times in less than twenty-four hours, Yume had someone approach her and offer assistance, and what did she do? She ran. Even though the two men from the bar looked nice, she knew she couldn’t trust anyone. Trusting people just got you hurt. By now though, she was starting to feel puny; not quite sick, but not well either. She had to decide what to do. Go to a police box and ask for help? They would most likely at least feed her. But it probably wasn’t a good idea. Once they found out her age, they would try to call her parents, and she had no idea what they would do or say.

Going back to basically selling herself in the bathroom, wasn’t an option anymore, she’d rather starve than subject herself to that humiliation again. Uta. He said he’d help her, that she could stay in the flat. The other one… what was his name? Hiroto? He looked sweet, probably super nice like a best friend type. The tall one with the long hair that gave her the fast food? He was handsome, but he looked angry that night. The other man, older but definitely good looking, didn’t say much. She couldn’t decide how she felt about him.

Uta said they could make arrangements, the older man said something about a shower and washing her clothes. She couldn’t remember the last time she or her clothing were clean; months at least. She was so tired, shaky from hunger and exhaustion, all she wanted to do was sleep.

Resigned to the fact that this was her only option, Yume knew what she had to do. The apartment building wasn’t that far, maybe she could sneak back into the flat, and wait for Uta to come back. If he didn’t, at least if she died, it would be hidden…just like the last two years of her life. Nobody would notice that she was gone.

 

“Yes sir, we’ll start on this flat first, get it gutted, and then start on the others.” The contractor was standing with both Pon and Uta, going over the schedule for the remodeling of the flats. “I’ve already had the power, lights and water turned back on, so it makes it a bit easier for you to do your work. I’ll come back tomorrow and see how it’s going.”

 

Yume could hear the construction workers voices, and the sounds of power tools, as she walked up to the building, the gate was wide open. Stumbling on shaky legs into the courtyard, she sees a man wearing a white hardhat walking towards her. He was saying something but she couldn’t understand him. What? I don’t… a buzz of white noise was all she could hear.

“Miss? You shouldn’t be here; this is a construction zone. Miss?” The foreman walked towards the young woman, seeing her swaying dangerously on her feet, “Hey, wait… you need to sit down,” he reached out for her, but the woman collapsed before he could get to her. “Shit! Yamamoto! Sasaki! Somebody call an ambulance!” the man picked Yume up, and carried her into the first flat, laying her down carefully on the floor. The girl looks younger than his own daughter, but her features are pale and haunting, she weighs nothing in his arms, “Miss, hey, look at me, come on sweetie, open your eyes.”

Yume heard someone mumbling, but not what was being said. She was so tired and it felt good to lie down again. If the person would stop talking, stop touching her, she could go to sleep, and hopefully never wake up. That’s all she wanted to do. Sleep.

 

Sir, you need to get down here right away, a young woman has collapsed in the courtyard.”