Subaru toweled himself off. He hadn’t been back to the main residence in two years. Not since he’d been given his own team of bodyguards, and they’d been sent on a long-term overseas mission.
He ran a hand through his hair and walked to his bedroom, taking time to carefully select his clothes.
With any luck, he’d see her. He hadn’t seen her in two years, either. Not since he’d given in to fear and made the biggest mistake of his life.
From the back of his closet, he pulled out the tie she had given him for his birthday - jade green with a subtle golden sheen. It reminded him of her eyes, which was why it had been in the back of his closet.
He waved his I.D. badge in front of the reader at the gate, and waited impatiently for it to open enough for him to drive his car through.
There were a few new faces in the halls as he headed for the briefing room, where Daiichi stood behind the podium, discussing the day’s assignments. He nodded in acknowledgement as Subaru slid into a seat.
“Due to recent threats, we will be taking extra bodyguards to the reception this morning. Sora, go get the car ready. Mizuki, please let Kaiji and the Prime Minister know that we are nearly ready to leave.”
The two men stood, nodding and smiling at Subaru as they left.
“Subaru,” Daiichi said, sitting across the aisle, “how have you been?”
“Very well, thank you. How have things been here?”
“Exciting, as usual. I am surprised to see you. I heard they’d offered you a permanent posting at the embassy.”
“They did, but I have some unfinished business here that I need to take care of.”
Daiichi nodded at him, his eyes perceptive, and stood.
“There may be fewer loose ends here than you think. Would you like to join the team for today?”
Subaru followed suit.
“Sure. Is it just the reception today?”
“Yes. The wedding itself was a small, private affair last week. Today is for everyone who didn’t attend the wedding.”
They walked down the hall, stopping briefly at the radio room to pick up a set for Subaru, before joining the rest of the guards and the Prime Minister.
Hiraizumi smiled at Subaru, surprised to see him.
“Mr. Ichiyanagi. It’s good to see you again. You’ve been making quite the name for yourself, I hear.”
Subaru bowed his head.
“Thank you, Minister. It has been an interesting posting, to say the least.”
The ride in the car was quiet, the guards all on alert.
Subaru was surprised when the vehicle stopped in front of a bar. .
The sign above the door read ‘Long Island’. A sign on the door said ‘Closed for Private Party’.
“Hey, this is where Fae got the bartending job right after graduation,” Kaiji remarked.
A tall man in a plaid shirt opened the door, bowing to the prime minister, who returned the bow with an inclination of his own head as the group walked inside the building.
“Subaru, stay with the prime minister while we check out the building,” Daiichi called over his shoulder while he, Kaiji, and Mizuki split up to verify the location was safe.
Subaru nodded, stepping closer to Hiraizumi as the others left, following him to a booth in the corner.
A man with shoulder-length hair walked toward them, a genial smile on his face.
“Ah, Kunihiko,” Hiraizumi greeted the man with a friendly handshake. “How was Uji?”
“Beautiful, as always. Almost didn’t want to come back, but the Boss wouldn’t hear of it.”
A loud crash echoed from the kitchen area.
“Excuse me,” the man called Kunihiko said. “I’d better go make sure everything is alright.”
“Good luck,” Hiraizumi called after him, gesturing for Subaru to join him.
“Subaru, did Daiichi tell you anything about today?”
“Not really, though there wasn’t much opportunity to do so.”
Hiraizumi frowned, though not unkindly.
“You have my apologies, then. This reception. It’s for Fae. Kunihiko is her husband.”
Subaru had heard the phrase ‘broken hearted’ many times. This was the first time he’d ever really understood what it meant, however. He could, almost literally, feel his heart shattering.
There would be no reconciliation. No reunion. No second chance.
He forced himself to smile.
“Lucky man,” he said.
The rest of the party passed in a blur. He kept a smile plastered on his face and took every opportunity to check the outside of the building, to get away from the laughter and the celebration of a future that should have been his.
It was early afternoon when they returned to the residence. Subaru took the radio off and left it in the radio room on his way out to his car.
Driving home, he noticed a realtor’s office and pulled in to the parking lot. After making certain that the house could be sold without him being in the country, he stopped by a store, picking up a couple ready-made meals, some boxes, and a lot of alcohol.
After leaving the store, he called his boss.
“I’ll take the long-term posting,” he said, then ended the call.
Once home, he opened and drank a beer and assembled the boxes, before stripping off his clothes and drinking another beer. Wearing nothing but his boxers and the tie she’d given him, he sat on the couch. The same couch they’d cuddled on after that night, the night a thug-for-hire had broken into her apartment and tried to kidnap her. The couch where they’d confessed their feelings, where they’d first kissed.
He drank another beer and went into his bedroom, donning pajama pants, but not bothering with the shirt. He wandered into the kitchen, pulling out a ready-made meal and popping it into the microwave.
He opened the cupboard, only to be met by the matching glasses they had made on their first trip as a couple. He pulled them out of the cupboard, running his thumb over the flowers they’d painted on them.
He chugged down another beer as he stared at the glasses, remembering sitting beside her in the class, spending more time watching as she concentrated on painting her glass than painting his own, leaning down to kiss her ear. She had poked him at that point, trying to look angry that he’d caused her to mess up her design. He turned the glass to find the initial goof, that she’d managed to change into that stupid frog meme that had been popular at the time. Her look of defiance as she painted that same stupid frog onto his glass. As much as he’d hated that stupid frog meme, she’d managed to make it look cute.
He recalled her shy smile as she looked up at him. The love and happiness that shone in her eyes. The habit she had of resting her forehead on his chest when she wasn’t certain whether or not he was teasing her.
That brought to mind the day’s events, and he opened another beer as they played through his mind.
Every time she had smiled up at her husband, every time she’d slid her arms around his waist, every time he had wrapped his arms around her shoulders or kissed the palm of her hand...
He slammed his fists down on the counter, crushing the now-empty can.
That should have been him.
The microwave beeped that it was done, and he took the meal out, grabbing the last can of beer before walking to the table and eating absently.
All the times he’d sat in this chair, Fae sitting across from him, the morning sun streaming through the window as they ate the breakfast they’d just made and discussing what their respective days held in store. All the times whatever meal they’d made was swept aside in favor of... other... activities.
He finished the food and the beer, leaving the empty bowl and can on the table and wandered into the bedroom, lying on the bed, remembering their first time together.
He remembered they way her eyes darkened and her cheeks flushed when she was aroused.
The way she sighed his name when they made love.
The way she clung to him after they’d climaxed.
He rolled onto his side, grabbing the other pillow that still, after all these months, held the scent of the lavender that she loved so much, and clutching it to his chest.
The morning sun prickled at his eyelids. He slowly woke up, mouth dry and sticky, head pounding. It let up after a shower. He brushed his teeth and dressed, cleaning up his mess from last night.
In the kitchen, he took his apron out of the closet and tenderly wrapped it around the painted glasses.
There wasn’t really anything in the living room that he cared about. He’d never been one to display family portraits or heirlooms.
He walked to the bedroom and pulled out his luggage, tossing the nested suitcases onto the bed. He got a faint whiff of peppermint that brought a smile to his face. It had surprised the hell out of him the first time she’d misted the cases, inside and out, with peppermint oil.
“It keeps the bugs out,” she’d said.
He walked to the linen closet, pulling out the lap blanket that they’d embroidered together, when he’d taught her needlepoint, laying that in the bigger suitcase and setting the apron-wrapped glasses on top, before proceeding to throw all of the clothes he’d left behind into the cases.
At the back of his sock drawer, he found the box. The ring he’d designed and bought to propose to her. Then, like a coward, he’d broken her heart, instead. He remembered that terrible day.
They’d spent the previous weeks talking about a life together; where they wanted to live, how many kids they were going to have, where they wanted to go on their honeymoon. He’d gone out and had this ring specially designed to mimic the constellation for which he was named. Had planned out exactly where and how he was going to propose. Had spoken with her father to ensure he'd had Hiraizumi’s blessing.
Then, he’d gotten stupid. Or scared. Or something.
A couple days after the celebration of him being given his own bodyguard team, he’d received the call, offering him the position of head of the guard at the Japanese embassy in Paris, protecting the ambassador and visiting dignitaries. It was a huge coup, to be offered the position when other, more experienced team heads had been vying for it... and the substantial pay raise that went with it. The catch was that it required a two-year commitment.
He still wasn’t sure why he’d accepted. He’d hurriedly packed an overnight bag, figuring he’d just buy what he needed there, and driven over to Fae’s place.
He recalled, his heart aching, how she’d looked when he’d broken the relationship. Hell. May as well be honest. When he’d broken her heart. Selfishly, arrogantly, callously sweeping away her feelings. Telling her that it would be better for her. She could stay and get to know her father, finish her degree. Telling her that she should move on with her life, all while hoping she would wait. That she would put her life on hold while he went off on foreign adventures, convincing himself that when he felt like it, he could just sweep back in. She would run back to his arms and they could simply carry on where they’d left off.
He’d never been so ashamed of himself as that day. The tears that rolled down her cheeks, her hands shaking as she struggled to understand. In the end, he’d left her, curled up in an overstuffed chair and sobbing. Even then, he had somehow convinced himself it was for the best.
He wiped away the tears that were rolling down his cheeks and pulled out a piece of paper.
It was evening when he’d finally finished. He packed his luggage in the trunk of his car, dropped off the keys to his house at the realtor’s office and signed the needed paperwork. The furniture would be sold with the house. The realtor would take care of getting the dishes and linens to a secondhand store.
The next stop was at a car dealership, where he sold his car and caught a cab.
The final stop before the airport was the bar that had hosted the reception. There were half-a-dozen patrons inside, along with Fae and her husband.
“Wait here,” he told the cabby, and climbed out of the car, taking the package with him.
The bell rang pleasantly as he opened the door.
“Welcome,” Fae called out as she wiped an area on the bar, doing a double take as she realized who he was.
“Subaru?” Her voice as she said his name was unsure.
“Fae. May I speak with you outside for a moment?”
Her husband, Kunihiko, stood up from the bar stool as she walked from behind the bar. She put a hand on his chest, looking up at him.
Subaru could well remember that look.
Kunihiko placed a kiss on her forehead and sat back down, and she turned and walked toward Subaru. He followed her out of the door, unconsciously placing a hand in the small of her back.
They stepped around the corner of the building, and she turned to face him. The setting sun shone on her face, giving her a red-gold sheen. She took his breath away, but then, she always had.
“Fae....” his voice failed him, and he cleared his throat, meeting her gaze as he tried again.
“Fae. I just wanted to apologize to you. I was stupid and arrogant and selfish, and the pain I caused you is unforgivable. Even I don’t understand why I did what I did. All I can say is that I’ve regretted that choice every day for the last two years. I’m so sorry.”
He handed her the box with the note wrapped around it.
“This is for you. It was always meant for you. I hope that you will use it to make your new dreams come true, since I shattered your old dreams. I know you will have a wonderful life. You are too full of love and light to have anything but.”
More than anything, he wanted to take her in his arms, but he kept his hands at his side. “Subaru....” she whispered his name, tears in her eyes. Even now, after all he’d done, he could see that she still cared for him, in some way.
He heard the door open as he placed a gentle kiss on her forehead.
“I will always love you, Fae. I am so sorry for all the pain I caused you. And I know, better than anyone, how lucky a man is your husband.”
He walked to the taxi and climbed in as Kunihiko came around the corner. The driver turned around in the middle of the road and headed back toward the airport. As they drove past the bar, Subaru saw Fae clinging to her husband.
“That should have been me,” he said.