Byakuya Togami would say the strangest event to transpire the previous year was when during his wedding, a tank driven by five off-brand Monobears showed up along with two strangers claiming to hail from the future. At least, he would say that if all information pertaining to the event wasn’t classified for the next sixty years. Therefore, the strangest event to transpire the previous year was when his wedding with Touko somehow was double booked with Makoto and Kyouko’s wedding. Same day, same time, same venue.
Four months later, he found himself in a situation threatening to become this year’s strangest event.
“It was luck,” said Makoto, a narrow aisle separating his seat from Byakuya’s.
“Dumb luck,” muttered Touko, next to the window, on Byakuya’s other side.
“Don’t put down my win as ‘luck’.” Komaru pouted. She was in the middle section of seats, beside Kyouko who was next to Makoto. Next to Komaru, a nameless passenger napped, having fallen asleep an hour into the plane journey. “I had to recite the longest Kamen Rider name perfectly to win those three tickets. That requires serious skill.”
“T-Tickets to the same resort where we're having our honeymoon!” Touko dragged her fingers down her face. “On the same day!”
That was the strange event. Komaru phoned in to a radio show and won three tickets to the same Jamaican resort where Byakuya and Touko arranged to spend their honeymoon. So much for him and his wife having any peace and quiet while there. Byakuya’s scowl cut deeper into his features. In contrast, Kyouko looked amused.
“It is rather extraordinary that this occurred,” said Kyouko. She rubbed her chin. “Of all times and locations...”
“It’s unlikely, but not impossible. It’s like Kamen Rider Diend once said.” Komaru wagged a finger. “‘ If you have the motivation, I don't think anything in this world is impossible.’”
Touko threw her head back and groaned. “You are forbidden from making any more references to that cursed franchise. W-We’re not even off the plane yet, and you’re already ushering a grey cloud over me...”
“Aw, come on. It’ll be fun. This will be like when we used to share a hotel room in Towa,” said Komaru brightly, making Touko huff.
“Fortunately, this time we won’t be sharing the same room... or the same bed,” grumbled Touko.
While the two women continued their sisterly bickering, Kyouko turned to Makoto and Byakuya.
“What made you choose this resort, anyway?” she asked Byakuya.
“The brochure said it was ideal for those who appreciate seclusion and seek adventure.”
Her eyebrows rose. “I would have thought you have had enough adventure for the time being.”
That could be said for all of them. Hopefully, they wouldn’t be forced to defeat any tanks controlled by robot bears or partake in another killing game at the resort. Byakuya clucked his tongue instead of answering and turned his focus onto his book, trying to ignore the voices around him. He had ridden private jets throughout his childhood, and each conversation that took place on this plane was another needle in his personal bubble.
A little later, Touko rose, mumbling about needing to go to the bathroom. Komaru jumped up and followed after Touko. Byakuya eyed the back of Touko’s head for a few moments, but knowing she was in safe hands with Komaru, he returned his attention to his book.
This was not some book plucked off a shelf in an airport bookstore. That morning, Touko had given him a handwritten book written specially for him to read on their honeymoon. Its blank, navy cover bore no title, no hint to the genre, and Touko hadn’t told him what it was about either. Her favourite genre to write was romance, while he preferred mystery and thriller genres. So far, it seemed contemporary, wrapped in lyrical prose.
Byakuya had just turned to the twentieth page when Touko and Komaru returned from the bathroom. Komaru shuffled past Makoto and Kyouko to reach her seat, while Touko remained standing, peering down at Byakuya.
She scrunched up two handfuls of her skirt. “Byakuya...”
Something seemed to be bothering her. He frowned. “What is it, Touko?
Taking a deep breath, Touko straightened up and opened her mouth, only to be interrupted by another, familiar voice.
“I thought I heard you, Touko-chi!”
The group’s heads whipped around toward the speaker. Sandals slip-slapped against the strip of carpet as along came Yasuhiro Hagakure, already dressed for the beach in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, beaming and waving.
“H-Hagakure-kun?” spluttered Makoto, as surprised as the others. “What are you doing here?”
“Are you on a honeymoon too?” asked Komaru.
Yasuhiro parked his knuckles onto his hips and declared loudly, “Yep, that’s right!”
Even though as far as Byakuya knew, Yasuhiro wasn’t married. A round of laughter left Yasuhiro’s lips before he leaned down and lowered his voice, raising a hand to a corner of his mouth.
“Asahina-chi and I felt left out and wanted to go on holiday too, and the cheapest package was for married couples,” he explained in a hushed tone.
“So Asahina-san is on this plane too?” asked Kyouko with a frown. Yasuhiro nodded. Byakuya glanced at Kyouko.
“Why do you ask? Are you going to offer her your condolences?” asked Byakuya, and Yasuhiro’s smile fell off immediately.
“Don’t be mean!” Yasuhiro jabbed the air.
“So you married Aoi-chan for a cheap holiday?” Komaru blurted.
“Yes. No, I mean,” Yasuhiro stood tall for a moment before bending down again and adding quietly, “if anyone asks, we married four months ago.”
The rest of the group exchanged looks, none of them containing smiles. Komaru and Kyouko soon left their seats to find Aoi in another part of the plane while Yasuhiro remained where he was, chatting away to Makoto, seemingly oblivious to the weird stares from some of the other passengers.
“Won’t you have to share the same bed?” asked Makoto.
Yasuhiro shook his head. “We agreed to flip a coin each night. The other person sleeps on the couch.”
Listening to their conversation slowly drained the life force out of Byakuya. He shifted his gaze to Touko, who was still standing, her feet rooted to the spot. Her brow was furrowed as she stared forward, lips pursed, eyes unfocused.
“Touko?” said Byakuya.
She twitched, breaking out of her trance. “Y-Yes?”
“You were about to tell me something?”
Her shoulders slumped.
“A-Ah...!” She released her skirt, moving her hands to her lower stomach, and passed by the front of Byakuya to return to her seat. “I... the toilet stinks.”
The honeymoon could only become more romantic from here, surely.
“W-What did you say?” Byakuya stared in wide-eyed horror at the receptionist as she fumbled with a stack of papers.
“Mould,” she said again. The professional smile she plastered on came across as patronising. She twitched her fingers through her tightly curled hair. “We have been able to secure you all an exclusive suite in the village, but due to the limited number available, I’m afraid your group will have to share. You will have different bedrooms with their own bathrooms, but you will have the same communal area. Again, my apologies.”
Byakuya wouldn’t have been surprised if the rose gold ceiling collapsed in on them, or if the check-in office’s tiled walls flaked. He wouldn’t bat an eye if the planks in the wooden flooring rotted and curled like dead leaves. Makoto stepped forward to stand at Byakuya’s side.
“It’s all right,” Makoto told the receptionist. “We don’t mind sharing.”
“Don’t speak for all of us,” Touko hissed, but there was little else they could do. The outbreak in mould had hit all the overwater cabins clustering around one of the piers, and Byakuya certainly didn’t want to stay there while it was infected.
“It’s not a big deal, honestly. We’ll only go to the suite to change clothes and sleep,” Makoto pointed out.
Kyouko’s head bobbed once. “Makoto is right. The majority of our time will be spent at different attractions. There’s snorkelling, hiking, bamboo rafting...”
Each strenuous suggestion drained another shade of colour from Touko’s already pale face.
Komaru grabbed Kyouko’s shoulder, grinning widely.
“And there’s a beach! The sand is so white it almost looks like snow,” Komaru chimed in. “I want to make sand angels... and swim... We’ve got to check it out before we do anything else.”
“We need to unpack first,” Byakuya reminded her. “Then we can consider what to do next.”
Fortunately, only a five minute walk separated the check-in office from the village area where a sky-blue hotel was separated from the sea by a patchwork of swimming pools and a lip of beach. As Komaru had claimed, the sand was very pale. They checked into the hotel, and riding up the elevator, Byakuya wanted nothing more than to lie on his bed and process the turbulent day so far.
The honeymoon could only become more romantic from here, surely. When the elevator doors opened, Byakuya stepped out with the rest of the group and turned to face down the corridor. Then he froze.
“Yo! You’re at this hotel as well?” Yasuhiro called out. Next to him, Aoi waved. He gave a bark of laughter. “Seems like you’re the ones stalking us, ‘right?”
Great. Their suites were on the same floor.
“The cabins we were going to stay in had mould,” explained Komaru. “It works out better this way though. I can stay with you two whenever Kyouko-chan and oniisan want some privacy.”
Yasuhiro laughed while Makoto and Kyouko cringed, blushing a bit. Byakuya opened the door to their suite, and he was about to go inside when Yasuhiro spoke.
“You guys want to go to the beach with us? Me and Asahina-chi are going to babe-spot there - and hunk-spot too in my case, but you guys can build sandcastles or sunbathe instead.”
‘Babe-spotting’ and ‘hunk-spotting’ did not sound like honeymoon activities. Also, Byakuya doubted Yasuhiro would have any success, giving his orange trunks a disdainful look. Cartoon aliens. Seriously?
“We’ll come!” chirped Komaru. “Let us drop off our suitcases in our suite and grab our beach gear. We’ll be ready in five.”
Komaru hooked her arm around Touko’s, sealing Byakuya’s wife’s fate. Byakuya glanced at a window. Cloud-white paint framed a bright blue sky. Perhaps it would do him good to visit the beach after spending seventeen hours cooped up on a plane, rather than trade one small enclosed space for another.
Ten minutes later, they were outside, walking down a path with the Sun beating down on them. The beach near the hotel was sprinkled with tourists, so they trooped along until they stumbled upon a secluded beach with no one else present. To access it, they descended a path carved into a rock wall.
“Does the sand feel like snow, Komaru?” asked Makoto while he and Kyouko unfolded deckchairs. His trunks must have belonged to the same brand as his favourite hoodie, because not only were they the same olive colour but they had the same red emblem on them too.
“Nope.” Komaru hopped from one foot to the other, dressed in a plain navy one piece swimsuit. “It’s definitely sandy sand. Argh, what do I want to do first? Swim? Volleyball? Build a sand castle?”
“Are you five?” asked Touko, wrinkling her nose as she tugged on her dark blue sarong skirt. By now, they had all seen the scars on her thigh, but she still preferred to keep them obscured.
Komaru turned to her. “Did you build sandcastles when you were five, Touko-chan?”
“No. I’ve never built a single one, ever.”
“Then we have a lot to catch up on,” Komaru announced. She jerked her thumb at herself. “Tell you what, me and oniisan will help you build your dream sandcastle.”
“We will?” asked Makoto, looking away from the beach umbrella he was setting up.
“Duh! We were both formidable sandcastle builders when we were little.” Komaru dashed over to the canvas bag she had put down when they arrived. She picked it up, and with the handle dangling from her elbow, she then grabbed Makoto’s wrist and dragged him away. He released the umbrella after a few unsteady paces. “Come on! For Touko-chan!”
Despite her grumbling, Touko followed after the pair. Kyouko bent down with a sand anchor, drilled a hole in the sand, then picked up the umbrella and inserted the end of the pole into the opening. Aoi ran off next, making a beeline for the sea and soon turning into a yellow speck in the water. Yasuhiro whipped out a metal detector from his bang and began zigzagging away across the sand. It seemed the babe and hunk-spotting would be happening later. Hopefully when Byakuya was not there. He had been roped into being a wingman on too many nights out to willingly go along with it again.
After Yasuhiro’s departure, Kyouko and Byakuya were left alone. Byakuya took his book out of his bag and settled onto one of the deckchairs. On the edge of his vision, Kyouko claimed the seat next to him, shaded by an umbrella. Her black bikini contrasted starkly with her pale skin.
“I’m surprised you’re not on your feet, keeping busy,” she remarked.
He opened his book on the page with the bookmark and started reading. She cocked her head to one side.
“It’s a pleasant change to see you unwinding a little,” she added.
“And it’s unusual to see you talking so much,” Byakuya stated. “Often, trying to coax non-monosyllabic answers from you is like rousing a hedgehog during its hibernation.”
“The change in location must be bringing out other sides to us.” Her voice took on a cool edge. “As well as that, it’s not like this is an anime, so we don’t have to worry about tentacles emerging from the water, real or robotic. Unless you’re into that sort of thing.”
Heat flared in Byakuya’s cheeks, and it wasn’t caused by the beaming Sun overhead. With a glower, he pointedly held his book in front of his face and resumed reading.
In the novelette, the wife of the main character had recently become distant toward him, being vague about where she came home from. Byakuya wondered whether she was having an affair. But then Byakuya wasn’t sure Touko would write that for him as a honeymoon gift.
There had to be more to it.
As he continued through the book, he could hear Touko, Makoto and Komaru chattering away.
“The moat isn’t wide enough,” fussed Touko. Byakuya glanced over. She was standing over the Naegi siblings, who were both on their knees, armed with plastic spades and buckets. “Do you want us to get invaded? And the prince’s bedroom has to be next to my sleeping quarters.”
“Who exactly is going to invade? A sponge and a starfish?” asked Komaru.
“And what if it’s a princess?” added Makoto.
“Shut up. It’s my story,” Touko whined, jaw clenched. Makoto and Komaru looked at each other, eyebrows raised.
Byakuya frowned at them, and his gaze was still fixed in their direction when the tide licked at the shore, leaving behind a crab that headed straight for the sandcastle. A dramatic shriek ripped from Touko’s lips as she jolted. She turned sharply, left then right, before snatching up one of the twigs that comprised the moat bridge.
“G-Get back!” Touko brandished the stick at the crab, which had stopped in front of the bridge. “You... You freeloader!”
The creature raised its claws and snapped them threateningly. Gritting her teeth, Touko bent down and tried to whack it with her stick, but the crab weaved out of the way, dodging her strikes, before trying to catch her weapon in its claws. Komaru sighed.
“Only Touko-chan would start beef with a crab,” she lamented, facing her palms toward the sky.
“Don’t you snap at me, you little bastard!” Touko snarled before swiping at the crab again, just missing it as it scampered away. After half a dozen steps, it changed direction and lurched toward her, leaping onto her arm. She shrieked, stumbling back and thrashing her limbs. The crab flew off almost immediately, landing safely in the sand a short distance away, while Touko fell onto her backside.
“Are you all right?” asked Makoto while Komaru crouched down next to Touko.
“I’m fine,” mumbled Touko, rubbing her lower back. A crease tore through Komaru’s brow. She looked like Touko had been thrown through a window rather than just sat down heavily. Like Touko herself was made of glass, when Touko was the strongest person Byakuya knew.
With all the time Komaru and Touko had spent together in Towa and afterwards, Komaru shouldn’t have looked so worried. Then Kyouko started to stand up, and Byakuya realised something was wrong. He materialised at Touko’s side before Kyouko could set one foot onto the sand.
“Are you sure?” he asked Touko as she rose. She shook off Komaru. His hands tingled with the impulse to hold Touko up.
Touko bit her lip. All she had to do was say ‘yes’ to confirm that she was.
Instead, she said, “Byakuya, I - ”
She sneezed. Her head tipped back. Moments later, she tilted her head forward, now with a long tongue hanging out of her mouth.
Exit Touko Togami. Enter Genocider Syo.
“Huuuuh?” Syo’s eyes darted about. A small crinkle formed in her brow as she quickly processed her surroundings. “Let me guess, we’re honeymooning?”
Byakuya nodded. She beamed at him but when her gaze drifted over to Makoto, her expression sobered.
“What the hell are you sluts doing here?” she asked.
“It’s a long story,” replied Makoto, scratching the back of his neck. “Komaru called into a radio show, and - ”
Syo interrupted with a loud snort, imitating a snore.
“Whatever, we don’t have the word count for a recap!” She turned to Byakuya and smiled again. “Come on, hottie! Let’s go play in the waves and I’ll show you my bikini bottom!”
Without waiting for a response, Syo yanked off her skirt, revealing her bikini bottoms, then grabbed Byakuya’s hand and dragged him into the sea.
Komaru facepalmed with a groan. Makoto shook his head and Kyouko cupped her chin, thoughtful.
The evening Sun splattered yellows and reds across the sky, which would soon turn purple like the love bite on Byakuya’s neck. He adjusted his shirt’s collar, studying his reflection in the bathroom mirror. During dinner at a restaurant, where Byakuya ate brown stew fish, Syo had sneezed so Touko fronted again. Once she gathered her bearings, she wolfed down her jerk chicken and drained her coconut of its water, and then she went with Kyouko, Aoi and Komaru to the hot tub.
As for Byakuya, he retired to their hotel room, settling down on the bed and reading more of the novelette. However, as gripping as Touko’s prose was, and always was, Byakuya’s mind kept straying to his wife. During the meal, she had seemed unfocused. Distracted. She went to the restaurant toilets twice, claiming her stomach was still adjusting to being on solid ground again. He had asked her what she wanted to tell him at the beach, and she had claimed she wanted to give him a tour of the sandcastle.
Touko was a good liar. She would be, having spent her childhood explaining away bruises to teachers and placing herself away from where bloody crime scenes had taken place the night before.
Yes, she had become very skilled at lying, but he had grown up reading others’ body language, whether they be shady business people, siblings or his own father. He had become skilled at discerning whether people were being honest with him. If he hadn’t, he would have been scammed, kidnapped, assassinated long ago.
While he did think she wanted to give him a tour of the sandcastle, he suspected she had wanted to tell him something else as well. What, exactly, he didn’t know.
The shared hot tub was in the communal area, accessible from either of the adjoined bedrooms. Grey tiled flooring and cream walls housed a vaguely oblong hot tub, and floor to ceiling windows gaped Jamaican evening sky. Byakuya had glanced into the room once when they first arrived.
From the bed, he couldn’t hear any conversations the women may have been having. Not that he was trying to eavesdrop. He was trying to read, but he couldn’t stop a sudden loud voice breaking through.
“You knew?” Komaru.
“Sh!” Touko. “Keep your voice down. I don’t want the whole hotel to know. A-And Byakuya might be in the other room...”
His brow furrowed.
“Maybe he has gone sight-seeing.” Komaru again. “Hold on, I’ll check...”
Byakuya definitely had not gone sightseeing. If they caught him, that would put a stop to their conversation. Footsteps splattered in the other room, growing louder, faster. His curiosity burned too brightly for him to want to be discovered, or leave. He had to act quickly.
He sprung off the bed. Looked around. No time to hide in the bathroom. His eyes flitted about, landing on a nearby floor lamp with a black shade. With no time for second thoughts, he put it over his head, stood ramrod straight, and held his breath.
The door opened. One second. Two seconds. Three. Four. Then five.
“Nope, he’s not there,” said Komaru, and Byakuya soon heard her footsteps recede. What he didn’t hear was the door click shut.
He pulled off the lampshade. As he suspected, Komaru hadn’t closed the door properly, and the miniscule gap proved enough to allow him to hear them better than before.
“... I still can’t believe you worked it out already,” said Komaru.
Byakuya could hear Kyouko’s smirk as she replied, “I am a former detective, after all. So Togami-kun doesn’t know?”
The mention of his name deepened his frown.
“I haven’t found the right time to tell him,” replied Touko. “Whenever I try, s-something or someone interrupts. It has to be the perfect moment. No surprise intrusions from friends, no crabs... Argh... W-What if I never tell him?”
He envisioned Touko clutching her head, a pained expression on her face.
“What should I do?” asked Touko. “W-What if each time, the moment is spoiled and I have to try again? And again, and again, and again, and - ”
“Touko-chan!” Komaru. “I know you want it to be perfect, but sometimes things won’t turn out that way and that’s okay.”
“She’s right. There is only so much you can do to influence a dice roll. The most you can do is hope,” said Kyouko. “Then, it is up to you to adapt to the situation given.”
A door creaked. Byakuya flinched, but then he realised it wasn’t his door moving. The other door to the communal area had opened.
“Sorry, I didn’t realise you were all here,” came Makoto’s apologetic voice. “I’ll come by later.”
Water sloshed. Kyouko replied, “Don’t leave. The others were about to head off, so you can join me.”
“Were we?” said Aoi.
“You are all going to find Togami-kun,” explained Kyouko. When she spoke next, Byakuya imagined a blush blooming across her face. “Meanwhile, Makoto will bring some champagne and I will stay here with him, if you don’t mind.”
By the time the other women entered Byakuya and Touko’s hotel room, he was long gone.
Byakuya arrived at the secluded beach they visited earlier and unfurled his towel. Beyond the rock walls enclosing the area, rhythmic bass pumped out of the village. Ahead of him, the dark sea pawed at the sand, the last rays of the day’s Sun kissing the water’s creases and his black jacket.
Holding his phone in one hand, he shone its torch onto the pages of his book. At some point, Touko would inevitably show up to talk to him, probably flanked by Komaru and Aoi, so he tried to read as much as he could until then.
He heard familiar voices when he reached the final quarter of the novelette.
“I see a light down there! I think it’s him.”
Despite hearing Aoi’s voice, he pretended no one had spoken. That he only heard the sea’s whispers.
“Go on, Touko-chan,” urged Komaru. All three of them were there, it seemed.
“B-But...” Touko faltered.
“Touko-chan.” Byakuya pictured Komaru grabbing Touko’s hands and staring at her with the same determined expression Makoto sometimes put on when giving one of his friendship speeches. “One time, while we were in Towa City, I was crying because I wanted everything to be normal again, and Genocider Syo told me she had a piece of candy in one hand, and two pieces of candy in the other.”
“I don’t want to hear your inane - ”
“If I guessed the hand with two pieces of candy in it, I could have them both. However, if I chose the hand with one piece, I had to try again.” Komaru acted as if Touko hadn’t interrupted. “I got really unlucky, because I kept choosing the hand with one piece, but when I was about to give up, I chose the hand with two candies. Sounds great, right?”
There was a pause.
“... the two pieces had crumbled and were drenched in her sweat. She laughed and gave me the one uncrushed candy and told me sometimes, you can never get the best outcome, and sometimes when you reach your goal, it’s not as great as you imagined. You frustrate yourself on the journey. Sometimes... it’s best to take what you get, like Kyouko-chan said. So this isn’t the romantic scene you imagined. But you can do it, Touko-chan.”
“Yeah!” Aoi chimed in. “We believe in you, Touko-chan!”
Touko whined. “Stop it, both of you. It’s too dark for you to be so bright. I can’t stand here any longer... you’re b-blinding me...”
Byakuya knew that was Touko’s way of excusing herself. He stared at the book without reading it, waiting for Touko to walk down the path zigzagging down the stone wall until she joined him on the sand. She panted as she stopped next to him, trying to catch her breath.
“How did you know I would be here?” he asked calmly without looking up.
“I had a hunch,” she replied. “Has the honeymoon been to your liking so far?”
“It hasn’t totally lined up with what I envisioned, but I am enjoying myself, yes.”
“Good! I know what you mean... b-but if you keep chasing after a certain outcome, by the time you get to it, it may have become rotten.”
There was Genocider Syo’s analogy.
“Not all things rot,” he said.
“I know. My love for you never did. Never will.”
His heart fluttered. He pushed up his glasses, face warm, and finally turned his head, peering up at her. A gentle smile was cradled between her lips. She wrung her hands.
“Byakuya...” Her grin became brittle. The light from his phone touched her face, and he could see her knitted brow, the hesitation tensing her jaw.
“Touko.” He stood up. His gaze didn’t yield its hold on her. “Something has been bothering you since we left the airport. What is it? Are you unhappy about how the honeymoon has been panning out?”
She stirred, widening her eyes. “No!”
Her fidgeting hands clasped together as she shuddered. Then, hardening her features, she reached out, grabbed his wrist and placed his hand onto her stomach.
Seconds stretched by. His eyes flicked up after the pregnant pause.
“... Do you have food poisoning?” he asked, straight-faced.
That would explain her behaviour on the plane. The frequent trips to the bathroom and the queasy looks on her face. Touko wouldn’t have wanted him to know in case she thought it might spoil the honeymoon. Nonsense, of course. He would have been fine spending the holiday in their room, by her side while she recovered. She could lay her head on his lap while he read, and he could hold her hair back when she vomited.
“No,” said Touko. “It’s not that.”
Byakuya’s lips pressed together in thought, until realisation sparked like a phone screen suddenly switching on in the darkness.
“You’re pregnant,” he murmured.
“Y-Yes!” She broke into a large smile. “I had a positive pregnancy test the night before we set off. A little Byakuya... is in me!”
Touko clutched her stomach. He stared at her, withdrawing his hand.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked.
The energy radiating from Touko fizzled out a little. “I wanted everything to be perfect when I told you. Every single aspect... had to be flawless... b-but I would rather have a delicious sweet than two covered in sweat... unless it’s yours, of course.”
Having heard Genocider Syo’s story, Touko’s allegory made more sense than it would otherwise. Still. Even if he hadn’t heard it, he would have gleaned what she meant. Touko smirked, her expression growing more serious when Byakuya placed his hand against her stomach again. The conglomerate would have called this an heir. A business investment. A venture. Just as easily as they would call this a nobody, a failure, an outcast. With Touko’s parents, she had been seen by her mothers as a shackle, a prison bar, a punching bag. For her father, a plaything.
His hand trembled slightly.
“Our child,” he whispered. He slipped his arms around Touko and he pulled her into his chest. She squeaked, but he soon felt her arms curl around him.
“Byakuya?” she mumbled into him. He held her tighter.
“Stay.” Stay here, with him. Not just now, but evermore. “I will protect you.”
He knew about the traumatic circumstances around her birth. Her parents’ affairs, her deceased half-sister born at the same time as her, who perished in a medical accident shortly after their births. His throat was full.
“I will protect you and our child,” she promised just as quietly. Her fingers dug into him. She had been with him when they visited his family home and found his mother’s corpse on his bed. She was there when he awoke at night, seeing tears he wouldn’t allow anyone else to see, as he choked on nightmares about the annihilation of the conglomerate. “Stay with me.”
Byakuya shifted back a little and cupped her chin with one hand. Touko rose onto tiptoe. Their lips crashed into each other’s cheeks, noses bumping, glasses clacking and falling askew, but then their lips stumbled until they connected and the two melted into the sand.
Muffled music from the village harmonised with their heartbeats. There was sand between Byakuya’s toes, in every crease of his body, in his clothes, and there would be for weeks. A sharp breeze nipped at his exposed skin. Every time he breathed between fervent kisses, a crust of salt slicked the inside of his mouth. None of that mattered though. As long as he could feel her presence, and she his, they didn’t need to keep throwing dice.
He glided his lips down her neck, one hand roaming onto her waist. “Let’s go back to the hotel,” he mumbled.
They stood up, twining their hands, slightly breathless. As they approached the rock wall, Touko asked, “Did you finish my novelette?”
“Almost. When we’re back in our room, read me the rest,” he said, though he suspected he knew how it would end. But while the story in the novelette would conclude, and the sea would wash away their imprints on the sand, their story would continue, together, and forever.
A high bar had been set, but the honeymoon could only become more romantic from here.