You’d been seeing him for several weeks now, but neither of you had yet put any kind of a label to your relationship. He’d taken you to the New Year’s Eve soiree on the roof of the Tres Spades, kissing you soundly as the year changed. You’d made him some special gourmet chocolates for Valentine’s day. With a mischievous glint in his eye, he’d whisked you off to a high-end love hotel for White Day, complete with a special lingerie set that hadn’t actually survived the weekend. That was the weekend you’d learned that despite his smooth, quiet and put-together outward appearance, the man had some interesting fantasies.
There was always a bouquet of flowers from him at the end of your shows, which, happily, had been cut back down to three a week. Your regular jobs, as a studio musician and freelance photographer, had picked back up as the weather warmed again.
Over the course of the last few weeks, you had learned that Soryu loved omelets to an almost unhealthy degree, and that he adored detective novels. He’d even borrowed a couple that you’d brought back from your last trip to the States, set in and around a Navajo reservation in the American southwest. One of your favorite memories was of the time you’d spent, here in your own place, snuggled together in nothing but a sheet, as you showed him pictures and videos of the area.
“I’d like to go see this place some time.”
His voice rumbled against your back and his breath tickled your ear, as you lay nestled between his legs, your laptop resting on your knees.
“It’s a beautiful area,” you said, clicking through your picture folder.
“You’ve been there?”
“My parents met when my dad was stationed here with the US Air Force. My mom’s parents were very traditional, and objected to the relationship, which only served to drive my mom to my dad. Between being a military brat and my work as a photographer, I’ve been lots of places.”
This was when he’d learned of your aversion to matching socks. You had pulled a pair of riotously bright, fluffy socks on to help your toes stay warm as you whipped up some food. He’d walked up behind you and slipped his arms around your waist, his chin resting on your shoulder. You could feel the muscle in his jaw twitching, a habit you’d learned meant something was bothering him.
You could feel the heat of his blush on your neck as he muttered into your shoulder.
“Your socks don’t match.”
You almost managed to fight back a grin.
“No, they don’t. None of my socks match.”
The muscle in his jaw twitched again, and you couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped.
“You can go check my sock drawer. I guarantee you won’t find an exact match.”
His reluctance to leave was almost palpable, but he still left, heading back to your room. He’d been gone for some time. You turned the burner to it’s lowest setting to let the soup simmer, and headed back to your room.
You stopped in the doorway of your room and started giggling. He’d dumped your socks out on your bed and stood, in only his boxers, arms folded across his chest, glaring at them.
“Even those that look similar don’t really match,” he growled.
You stepped up behind him and slid your arms around his chest, just under his arms, placing a soft kiss in the middle of his back.
“Sorry, sweetheart,” you chuckled. “It’s all part of the package.”
He sighed dramatically, turning in your embrace and wrapping his arms around your shoulders, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
“I’d been wondering when the illusion of perfection was going to shatter. I suppose I can deal with non-matching socks, though.”
He dropped a kiss on your forehead.
“But how is it that you don’t have any matching pairs?”
“They sell them in packages of twelve random socks.”
“Huh.” He grunted. “But why not just get all white?”
“Not my style.”
He made a sound that was somewhere between being noncommittal and agreeable.
“So I’m learning,” he answered.
You’d even discovered that he had a highly developed and sensitive nose, which explained his extreme dislike for heavy perfumes and excessively smoky rooms.
However, you still had no idea what he actually DID. Every once in a while, usually as he was telling you that he had to change your plans together, or that he was going to be out of town for a few days, he’d look as though he wanted to say something more, but then he’d change his mind and change the subject.
It concerned you a little, but, if you were honest with yourself, you had already allowed yourself to fall so hard for him - despite your own cautions - that you doubted you’d care much what he told you. Your only real fear was that you were going to find out he had a wife somewhere. You were reasonably sure that wasn’t the case, but there was definitely some mystery surrounding your lover, and you often found yourself wondering if you were ever going to find out what that mystery was.
You shook yourself out of your reverie and put the finishing touches on your hair and makeup. After finding out that you were leaving for an extended trip to Okinawa to photograph a traditional ceremony to welcome spring, he had insisted on taking you to a sneak preview of a play based on his favorite detective series.
The now-familiar pattern his distinctive knock sounded on your front door, as you made certain the back was locked. You hurried across the house and opened the door with a smile.
Your breath caught in your throat and you felt a familiar warming sensation low in your belly.
You hadn’t seen him in a week, and he hadn’t shaved in a few days. The dark stubble made his jaw look stronger, the added shadows emphasizing the powerful angles of his face.
He must have been worried that it looked bad, because his bright smile drooped just a little when you didn’t immediately say something.
You took his face in your hands and pressed your body against his.
“It’s really not fair for you to look so damned sexy when we have to go out,” you whispered before pressing a hard kiss to his soft lips.
His hands instinctively slid around your waist, pulling you in tight.
His grin was sheepish when you separated.
“So, it doesn’t look bad?” He rubbed his jaw, a hint of red in his cheeks.
You laughed, resting your forehead against his. (Not something you usually got a chance to initiate when standing, because he towered over you.)
“I can’t even with you,” you finally managed to speak. “How can you be so unaware of how hot you are? How do you not have scores of women following you around, throwing themselves at your feet?”
He shrugged, and a mischievous light filled his eyes. He leaned in close, whispering in your ear and rubbing his stubble against your neck.
“Well, except for one, I find women to be noisy, smelly, and highly irritating. That one, however, is very exceptional, and I can’t tell you how happy I am that no other man has yet snapped her up.” He nipped at the area he’d just rubbed raw with his stubble. Your knees turned to jelly and your fingers tangled in his hair.
“Did you remember to pack an overnight bag?” He asked, his fingers finding their way under the hem of your dress and tickling the insides of your thighs.
“Ye-es…” you managed to squeak.
It was his turn to laugh and yours to blush.
“Good, because I’m not letting go of you tonight,” he growled, his voice low and rough.
You drew in a deep breath, trying to regain some semblance of composure.
“Let me grab my stuff and we can go.”
You pulled your red silk shawl off the jacket stand and flung it over one shoulder while you walked over to the couch to pick up your bag, lifting the wide strap to sling it over your other shoulder, when it was lifted by another hand altogether.
Soryu grunted a bit as he hefted the heavy bag.
“This is a lot for one night,” he remarked.
“I have an early flight to Okinawa tomorrow. I decided it would be easier to leave from wherever we happen to stay tonight than to rush back here and then rush to the airport. So, in addition to clothes and toiletries for four days, that has my cameras and lenses, a couple of tripods, my laptop, extra memory chips and a card reader.”
He reached out and draped your shawl properly around your shoulders, using the ends to pull you close.
“What if I don’t let you go tomorrow?” He whispered, tickling your neck with his stubble again.
“You would force me to spend the entire night explaining what a big deal it is for an outsider to not only be allowed to attend the vernal equinox ceremony, but to photograph it for a spread in a world-wide publication.”
You let your finger drift suggestively down his chest and belly, playing with his belt, then looking up and batting your eyelashes at him.
“I’d rather spend the night enjoying other… activities. Wouldn’t you?”
With a sigh, he nuzzled his face in your hair and muttered something. Your Cantonese was a little rusty, but you were pretty sure it amounted to ‘damn woman’.
He pulled you out to the waiting car, pausing only long enough for you to lock the door.
Inui already had the trunk open by the time you reached the car. While Soryu secured your bag, Inui held the door open.
“Hello again, Princess!” His smile and voice were bright and welcoming.
“Hello, Ryosuke. It’s good to see you again.”
You slid into the back seat, moving over enough for Soryu to join you. Inui closed the door, and climbed into the front seat, beside another man that you hadn’t yet met.
The drive to the theater was uneventful. Inui let the two of you out while the other man stayed in the driver seat.
“Tell me what you think of the play, okay Princess?” He asked as you climbed out.
“You aren’t coming in?”
He shook his head.
“No. Samejima and I will be staying out here, to keep an eye on… things.”
You caught a look between Soryu and Inui, and then Soryu was guiding you into the theater and up to your seats.
The box seats were perfect - no columns or bobbing heads to block your view, and private enough that the two of you could tease each other without disturbing other patrons.
Intermission arrived, with a light meal being served in the front courtyard.
The sun was beginning to set as the two of you made your way outside, chatting about all that had happened in the first act. It had been very exciting, and you were looking forward to solving the mystery.
With an ear-piercing squeal, quickly followed by the acrid smell of burning brake pads, a large, dark car screeched to a stop in front of the theater. Several men in black masks jumped from the car brandishing guns, firing just above the heads of the play attendees. People were screaming and running, as the men began yelling in Cantonese.
Soryu took your hand and pulled you low to the ground, running behind some tall stone planters. He held you close, pressing your head against his chest, covering your outer ear with one large, warm hand.
You couldn’t understand most of what was said, though you were able to pick out Soryu’s name, and your mind began racing, wondering why in the hell they were yelling for him.
He peeked around one of the planters, then quickly pulled his head back.
“We’re going to start making our way back to the car park,” he spoke quietly. “We need to stay low, and move quick.”
He looked down at you, his dark gaze a mix of concern and determination.
“Okay,” you nodded, heart beating wildly and breaths coming in adrenaline-charged gasps.
He set a gentle kiss on your forehead, tracing a finger down the side of your face.
“I’ll keep you safe. Let’s move.”
He looked around the courtyard then raised up a little, staying bent over. He kept one arm around your shoulders, holding you close and keeping you between the concrete planters and his own body. The two of you moved quickly, and were within view of the car park when one of the masked men found you.
He fired several shots, hitting the planter in front of you.
Soryu tucked you even closer, shielding you from the flying cement chips.
“Dammit,” he muttered, reaching inside his jacket.
He pulled a pistol from within the jacket, taking a moment to aim, then pulled the trigger. You saw the other man crumple to the ground, a shot in the vicinity of his knee taking his legs out from under him.
Your mind was going a mile a minute: Why did Soryu have a gun? How was he so calm? Why was he such a crack shot? Your upbringing in a military family gave you enough background to know those kinds of things didn’t come easily.
He wasted no time in getting the two of you moving again. You could see the car now - it was waiting in the aisle, engine running. Inui flung the nearest door open, holding it open as you scrambled inside, closing it with a wince once Soryu was in, as well.
Samejima hit the gas the moment the door closed, whipping out of the parking lot and speeding down the street.
Soryu looked back, watching long enough to decide you weren’t being followed, then turned to you, worry etched on his face.
“_______, are you hurt?”
“No, but you are.”
He’d been hit by concrete shrapnel, enough to leave jagged scrapes down one cheek.
He pulled out his handkerchief and swiped at the scratches.
“It’s nothing,” he answered, looking out the back window again.
From up front, Samejime called out, “Where to, Boss?”
“To the office. The long way,” Soryu growled.
“Ryosuke, you’re hurt,” you observed.
“Oh, one of those bastards got a little feisty,” the other man smiled, though his skin was pasty and his smile forced.
His left arm hung limply by his side.
He nodded, then swallowed as a hard turn and bump sent him sprawling onto his injured shoulder.
“How long will this ride take?” You asked, noticing how he hissed with pain at nearly every movement.
“At least half an hour, to make sure we’ve lost any tails,” Soryu answered, watching you closely.
You nodded, then reached toward Inui.
“Ryosuke, I’m going to take your tie off and use it to secure your arm to your body. It will protect the tendons around your shoulder. You don’t want to injure it anymore than it already is.”
He looked over at Soryu, who nodded in agreement.
“Okay,” he agreed, hissing at a sharp turn.
You reached up and quickly untied the necktie, then gently lifted his injured arm, angling it across his chest.
“Hold your arm here,” you instructed him, then reached around his chest, making certain that the injured arm was supported in two different places, and tied a snug knot in the silken strip of fabric.
“Thank you,” Inui said. “That already hurts less.”
You smiled, sitting back against the seat and instinctively nestling into Soryu. He slipped his arms around you, pulling you closer.
“I’m no doctor, but I do know first aid. I can even slide that shoulder back into joint, but there’s not enough room in here for that. You’re going to want to see a specialist as soon as possible, though. Tendons don’t heal as quickly or easily as muscles.”
Inui nodded and leaned his head back against the seat, his color slowly returning.
You smiled a little, then turned your body more toward Soryu, sliding your arms around his waist and resting your head on his chest. You could hear his heart beating, a steady, reassuring thump-thump after the excitement of the last several minutes.
“Now, will you tell me what that was all about?” You asked.
You felt rather than heard his sigh, and he started running his fingers through your hair.
“I’ve spent weeks trying to figure out how to tell you,” he said quietly. “Any explanation that I came up with seemed ridiculous. I didn’t want to lie, but I wasn’t sure how you’d take the truth.” He sighed again. “I’m involved with organized crime. I run a mafia gang.”
“M-mafia?” You asked, trying to wrap your head the thought that the man you’d fallen in love with was a mob boss. “Like the yakuza?”
“The yakuza are scum-sucking pigs!” Inui swore. “They have no honor, and no qualms about hurting innocents.”
“Calm down, Inui,” Soryu admonished.
“We operate outside accepted laws, yes,” Soryu continued his explanation, “But we do have our own code of honor to which we adhere.”
“I see,” you answered, your mind still swimming. “I guess it could be worse. You could be married.”
You stopped for a moment, realizing what you’d just said.
“Believe it or not, that phrase sounded better in my head.” You could feel your cheeks burning.
Apparently Soryu found it highly amusing. His arms tightened around your shoulders as he laughed.
“No, I’m not married,” he agreed, one hand caressing your cheek and tilting your face up to his.
“Not yet,” he whispered, pressing his lips to yours.