A few years ago, Makoto may have called his current lifestyle and interests boring. Though, he had to admit he always had a small glimmer of wanderlust resting deep in his heart. Perhaps it came with being tied down to the same place for so long. Or, more likely, it was his way to honor his mother's memory and make his own life something worthwhile. He had done a pretty shitty job of that so far.
It was a little difficult to get used to time zone changes, especially when his decisions on where to visit next changed on a whim. Late nights still felt like restless mornings, and he soon came to learn there were less than stellar cable programs so late in the night in California. Typically, he could fall asleep rather easily. It wasn't something he was used to, but in recent times, the dark thoughts that once plagued him slowly drifted into obscurity. When Makoto woke up feeling rejuvenated most mornings, he decided quitting while he was ahead was the best decision he could make.
Quitting didn't mean leaving everything behind, though. He still found himself calling Abby with little tidbits from his travels, and she returned the sentiment. Cynthia sometimes answered his calls, too, but he could only imagine how difficult it could be raising a boy on your own. He couldn't blame her for not having the time to chat. Of course, he could never get rid of Kudo and Shi-won, and he was content with that.
On the other hand, Laurent seemed impossible to reach. It surprised the man, in all honesty. Makoto half expected Laurent to check in on him any chance he got, but in the two years they had been away from each other, there was no communication from the blond man. Was it worrying? Not really, Makoto decided, leaning back against the sofa as the program on TV faded to a commercial break. Laurent was a free spirit, and while everyone else went their separate ways, he had already been on the correct path.
That didn't mean Makoto didn't find himself missing the blond asshole, though.
When he stepped off the plane a week ago, Makoto felt a strange presence looming over him. Perhaps it was solely because this was his first time back in Los Angeles since that fateful day, but he couldn't help the hopeless little grin on his lips as he walked down the halls of LAX. Some part of him wondered if Laurent ever came through his airport with the same thought.
He probably didn't.
The warmth of California welcomed him, and he wished he could stay just a few more days. But, Makoto had a schedule to follow, even if it was a rather lax one. There were plenty of other places to see, and plenty more coffee to try. His next destination would be Portland, he decided. For his last day in the Golden State, he would take it easy.
It never hurt to do things people would label as "tourist-y." When he was younger, he had never imagined himself as an art guy, but people change. Makoto could look up at the grand paintings hanging high above him in the Getty and at least appreciate the artistry.
It felt good to look at an expensive piece of art and not wonder if there was a scheme attached to it. He could just ponder the strokes of oil and the carefully chosen colors rather than the payment one could receive. Makoto shoved his hands in his pockets and wandered to the next exhibit with that thought.
Makoto had found himself on one of the balcony platforms of the museum, the view of LA unmatched. The setting sun covered the city in an orange haze, and Makoto wondered if he could make it to the Griffith Observatory before the sun fully set. He was about to pull out his cellphone and check the time when a pair of hands suddenly rested on his hips. Immediately, he struck whoever it was with his elbow, the stranger being taller than him and taking the hit to their chin. They stumbled, and Makoto whipped around with a heart that was ready to jump out of his throat. Words were ready to fly out of his mouth, until he saw the blond man rubbing his chin with a frown.
"Where do you get off grabbing me like that?" Makoto shouted, which gained glances from the few guests in the area. He shut his mouth and stared at Laurent, who only chuckled.
"Just a warm hello," the taller man said. He smiled at him with that smarmy grin Makoto had grown accustomed to. He was definitely annoyed, but in a way, relieved.
"Just saying it would have been more appropriate," Makoto murmured, turning around and leaning on the metal railing. Laurent took a step closer, facing opposite with his elbows on the rail.
"Your English got better," Laurent commented.
"Tends to happen when you use it a lot," Makoto watched as a swallow flew by and nestled itself in the branches of a nearby tree.
"What brings you back to LA? Reminiscing?"
"Barely. I'm sightseeing," Makoto shot a glance at the man. "What about you? Another con?"
Laurent shook his head and looked up at the warm sky. He had a smile on his lips that didn't meet his eyes, but Makoto found that to be a normal countenance on the blond. "Buying a vacation home."
"So you are still a confidence man," Makoto replied, looking back at the view. He sighed. "I guess that's your path, huh?"
"For now, yes."
"That's why you're at a museum, right? Screwing around with some rich schmuck here?"
"No. I find art… comforting now. Like it's an old friend."
It was then that Makoto realized the older man was watching him, a fond look on his face. An old friend, huh…
"You can assume what I've been up to," Laurent said, breaking Makoto away from his thoughts. "But what about you?"
"Traveling the world. Drinking coffee. Like I said I would."
"And how's the coffee in California?"
"Good. I've had better, I've had worse. Nothing to write home about."
"Any café you'd recommend?" Laurent asked, turning around and leaning against the railing in a similar manner to the other man.
"I'll get back to you on that," the brunet murmured. Their elbows were nearly touching, and somehow, the vague warmth was comforting. He wasn't used to being this close to people, which was strange. It seemed like Laurent was always this close to him when they were working.
Then, they merely stood there for a while. The museum would be closing soon, and Makoto could already hear the shuffling of feet as guests began filing out.
Laurent didn't seem to have changed since the last time he saw him. Perhaps he hadn't shaved in a day or two. He still wore those tacky Hawaiian shirts, and styled his hair the same way. It was like no time had passed.
"Say," Laurent began, standing up straight. He didn't meet Makoto's gaze, and instead looked off to the horizon. The sun was completely gone at that point, and Makoto hadn't even noticed that much time had passed. "How about we get dinner? Catch up a little more."
"Sure," Makoto nodded.
Makoto expected a fancier restaurant. That was the norm with Laurent. Parking outside of an In-N-Out was not the norm with Laurent. "Really?" Makoto questioned with a raised brow.
"What? Not a fan?" Laurent replied, releasing his seatbelt and opening the door.
Makoto followed his actions and got out as well, looking at Laurent from the other side of the car. He wanted to joke about it, to say something about treating a date to fast food. But he bit his tongue, and forced down the heat rising to his cheeks. That was taking it a little too far, surely. "Nah, it's fine. Used to fancy five stars with you."
Laurent just smiled, and walked towards the glass doors of the restaurant.
That late into the night, the dining area was empty, save for an employee on their break. It was comforting to sit across from Laurent in the silence. It felt familiar, which was something Makoto had missed. He was always finding new things to do and experience, and there were always new places to go. It was exciting to always be active, but sometimes, a piece of the past was very welcomed. Makoto smiled lightly as he sipped his drink.
"How much longer will you be here?" Laurent asked, popping a fry in his mouth.
"Oh, I'm leaving tomorrow night."
Laurent's light brows shot up, and he looked at Makoto. "Really? You can't stay a little longer?"
The brunet shook his head. "Last day in the Airbnb. I don't want to be bothered to book another one."
"If that's the only issue, why not stay with me?"
Makoto slowed his chewing and lowered his burger. He didn't look at Laurent, instead opting to stare intently at the red palm trees lining his cup. That was a little too close. If he stayed with Laurent, that was one step closer to the blond asshole involving him in another escapade.
So he didn't really know why he nodded his head and accepted.
Even with the earnings from the final heist, Makoto never splurged. He wasn't someone who cared too much for material things, at least nowadays, so seeing the house Laurent seemingly bought on a whim was a little bit of a shock to his system. The size and location of his supposed summer home made the younger man curious what other estates he owned, but he kept his questions to himself.
It wasn't the biggest house Makoto had seen in California, but the view of the ocean was incredible. In the night, the sky’s horizon disappeared into the indigo sea, and it was impossible to see where one shade of black began and the other ended. It felt so strange to think Japan was on the other side of that water. Laurent was already on the porch by the time Makoto was done staring at the sea, and the shorter man picked up the pace and made his way down the driveway to meet him.
"Make yourself at home," the blond announced, opening the front door.
It was… empty, to say the least. The small foyer led directly into a sitting room, and safe for a pair of armchairs and a sofa, there wasn't anything to suggest anyone lived in the house. Though, Makoto supposed it made sense for a recently purchased home. He always wondered what Laurent’s personal style was.
Makoto stopped, though, when he noticed the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the ocean. When he stepped closer, it felt as if he could fall the great distance and straight into the water.
"There's a cove under the house. When it's low tide, you can easily walk down to it," Laurent commented, and from the corner of his eye Makoto could see the blond man perch himself on the edge of the arm of the sofa.
"That's pretty spectacular," Makoto simply said.
"Pretty romantic, don't you think? Waking up to a view like this every morning?"
"Yep," Makoto started, turning around. Of course he would have to say something like that. Anything to kill the mood. "You'll make your next one night stand pretty impressed."
His comment made Laurent frown. The blond crossed his arms over his chest and merely cocked his head to the side. "One night stand?"
"That's what you're into, right? I'm sure you've had plenty recently considering Abby and Cynthia aren't around to berate you."
Makoto looked at him, almost questioning him. Instead, he shrugged his shoulders and shifted his backpack on his shoulders. "Anyway, where am I staying?"
"You can take my room, if you'd like."
"Thanks, but no thanks. Where's the guest room?"
Laurent pointed down the hall, and Makoto followed.
When the morning came, Makoto rose with no problems. The sound of the ocean nearly lulled him back to sleep, but the smell of something cooking got him right back up. After a quick shower, he wandered through the house and found the kitchen, along with a cheerful Laurent standing in front of the stovetop. He was still in pajamas, and his hair was muffled from sleep. Cute was the word that popped into Makoto's head, but he kept that to himself. "Breakfast, huh?"
Makoto's voice seemed to almost startle the man, but like always, Laurent kept his cool and hummed, "Seemed like the proper thing to do for a guest."
The brunet took a seat at the island counter and rested his chin in his hand. "Have you talked to Cynthia or Abby recently?"
"Why do you ask?" Laurent retorted instead of answering. Whatever he was cooking sizzled.
He didn't know how to answer that. Was it too forward to simply admit he would be jealous if he was contacting those two, and not him? "Cynthia's hard to reach. I was wondering if you've been able to talk to her."
"Occasionally. I'll even get her involved in a thing or two if she's up for it. The same goes for Abby."
"What? I'm not good enough for this stuff anymore?" Makoto feigned being offended.
Laurent turned to him with two plates and placed them on the counter with a smile. "You made it very clear that you were done with that life. Am I to believe you were lying, Edamame?"
Makoto's lips lifted involuntarily upon hearing that nickname. But, then he forced a frown and looked up at the man. "You don't think I'd still want to know what's going on?"
Laurent turned again and went back to the stove. "You really haven't changed. You always want to know every little detail, don't you?"
"I've gotten myself into some pretty bad trouble because of little details, haven't I?" Makoto commented, "Do you have any coffee?"
"Of course," Laurent jutted his head to the side, gesturing with his nose to a coffee maker. "Make me a cup too, would you please?"
Breakfast was quiet, but Makoto didn't mind. The sound of the ocean kissing the coastline was enough to fill the silence. He wished he had more time like this in California, thinking back to that first heist again. He was more concerned for his well being and keeping his head on his shoulders than listening to the ocean's waves. He never thought he would be following the same man who sent him through that hell down the cliffside to the sea's edge.
The staircase was a little steep, and the idea of losing his footing and tumbling down into the water once again did not sit well in Makoto's stomach. He grabbed the back of Laurent's shirt when he felt his knees wobble.
"Here," Laurent offered his arm as leverage, and Makoto immediately grabbed on. “Still afraid of heights?”
“I’ve gotten better,” Makoto admitted as they continued the trek down the cliffside. “But being so close to falling makes it a lot worse.”
Laurent simply nodded his head and hopped off the final step, turning and holding out a hand to the younger to help him down. Makoto accepted, and the spray of the salty water hit his face. The cove was like a whale’s mouth, the rocks shining under the sun and the water a deep blue. It took a moment of staring in awe for Makoto to realize he was still grasping the blond’s hand, but he didn’t pull away. Instead, he pulled Laurent further into the cove. It was cold, and the drips of condensation echoed in the space. The cove was quiet, and Makoto could imagine it would be rather blissful to sit there with someone. But, the idea of the tide rising and trapping whoever inside still rattled in his head. He gripped Laurent’s hand just a little tighter at the thought.
Laurent’s hand was warm, and Makoto hadn’t noticed when their fingers became intertwined. Makoto swallowed, and hoped it wasn’t obvious. “This is pretty incredible,” he commented, turning away from Laurent to look out at the sea. The breeze rustled his hair, and cooled the specks of water that covered his skin. “I think you made a good choice with this place.”
Laurent only hummed, and Makoto could tell he was looking at him.
“I don’t think I could ever live on a cliffside though. What if there was an earthquake and your house just falls into the ocean? That happens more often than you’d think.”
Laurent’s hand disappeared, and Makoto couldn’t find the courage to look at him. Instead, the man’s hands came up to Makoto’s cheeks and held them lightly, making the brunet meet his eyes.
Those blue eyes always held up a shield. Makoto had thought if he pried too much, another mask would go up. But at that moment, as he stared up at Laurent, it felt as if every cover was destroyed. He could feel something deeper in the azure color, as if this was really Laurent’s way of welcoming him.
His eyes were much more beautiful than the ocean.
And then, Laurent closed his eyes and leaned forward, and Makoto had to stop his heart from beating out of his chest.
The touch of their lips seemed to pull the whole world together, and Makoto’s hands traveled up to rest on Laurent’s shoulders as the taller man tilted his head to deepen the kiss.
Comforting. That’s what Makoto would call it. That’s what he would call Laurent’s entire presence, but the pressure of his lips against his own was what really brought the word to his head.
When Laurent pulled away, Makoto instinctively leaned forward in an attempt to follow his touch. “Romantic, isn’t it?” he murmured, but Makoto simply ignored him and went in for another kiss.
Yes, it was. But he wasn’t going to let Laurent know that.