I woke up the next morning feeling completely disoriented. My face was crusty and itchy with dry tears and I couldn't remember at what point I had fallen asleep.
Outside it was cloudy, rain hitting the window in torrents and streaking down the glass like tears. It looked freezing and made me feel even more lonely.
They say it takes one week for a routine to become a habit. It didn't even take that long, I thought, as I craved the warmth of Tadayoshi's body. Although my bed was too small for two people and my body was always sore from sleeping in a cramped position, I would have given anything for Tadayoshi to be there with me.
I sighed, a deep depression taking hold of me. I realized how pathetic I was for missing him so much when he had only been gone for so short a period of time.
Still, I could not find the will in me to get out of bed. If it weren't for the fact that it would be suspicious to skip work, I would have stayed in bed all day. Protecting Tadayoshi was still the most important thing to me.
My anxiousness could be explained by that reason alone. It was my duty to protect Tadayoshi and make sure that he was safe at all times. And though I loved my sister, I couldn't trust such a precious task to anyone else. I knew that as long as I was separated from him, I would never be able to relax.
It took several minutes before I had worked up enough motivation to crawl out of bed. I stretched, noticing for the first time that I was still wearing the same clothes I had been wearing the previous day.
I drug my body, which felt much heavier than usual, to the kitchen and reached into the cupboard, pulling a cup down. I was suddenly very thirsty, I realized, as I filled the cup and quickly downed it. I hurriedly placed the cup in the sink as my doorbell rang.
My stomach leapt, remembering that the police were supposed to show up at my door that day. I didn't have time to change or shower. They really could not have picked a more inconvenient time to show up. I still hadn't made sure that Tadayoshi had packed all of his things. No trace of him could be left behind.
I took my time walking to the door. I needed to stay calm and composed in order to pull this off properly. I opened the door, and standing on the other side of the door was Tadayoshi's father, Yokoyama and one other police officer.
“Good morning, Yasuda,” Yokoyama said. “Sorry to stop by so suddenly, but we need to search your apartment.”
“Search? You're not still on that Tadayoshi thing, are you?” and I opened my door wider, allowing the visitors entrance.
“Sorry,” the other police officer commented, stepping into my apartment. “Do you mind if Ohkura-san joins us this morning?”
I shook my head. Truthfully, I was more than a little annoyed that he had weaseled his way into coming along, but I needed to make a good impression. “Nice to see you again, Ohkura-san. Can I offer you all tea?”
They shook their heads and broke up in my living room, searching various areas. Yokoyama went to my bedroom and I could hear him opening drawers. “Do you live alone?” the other officer asked me.
I nodded again.
He followed Hideo into the kitchen and I followed after. “Aren't these too many dishes for a man who lives alone?”
I smiled sheepishly, “I'm a bit lazy about cleaning up after myself. I haven't washed the dishes in a few days...”
I was surprised about the ease with which the lies were coming to me. So surprised, in fact, that I began to wonder if they were even believable.
The officer nodded his head, seeming to be satisfied with that explanation. Ohkura, on the other hand, seemed to be getting angrier with each passing second.
“Yokoyama!” the second officer called, and Yokoyama poked his head into the kitchen.
“Did you find anything?” the older police officer asked.
Yoko shook his head, but his arm came around the corner, holding up a pair of my underwear. “ But I really like these polka-dotted underwear!”
Red-faced, I ran to where he was now cackling maniacally and snatched the underwear out of his hand, “You're an idiot!”
And then the other officer was pulling Yoko towards the door. “I'm sorry to bother you this early in the morning, Yasuda-san.”
“It’s no problem,” I smiled at them as they opened the door, bowing before they left. Hideo stayed behind, leaning against my counter and crossing his arms over his chest.
“You may have them fooled, but I am not as stupid,” he narrowed his eyes, glaring hard at me. “I happen to know Tadayoshi was here.”
“I'm sorry, sir,” I said, his anger making my voice shake a little nervously, “I have no idea what you are talking about.”
He straightened up, standing tall. “Next time you see Tadayoshi, tell him I said to have fun playing with you while he has the chance. The only reason he hasn't been caught yet is because I haven't been trying.”
“I already told you that I don't know where he is, but I assure you that he isn't playing. Regardless of what you may think, you don't own Tadayoshi.” I walked to where he was standing, clenching my fists in anger.
His father was a good head taller than me, and he leaned down, his face close to mine. “What? And you think that you do?” He laughed, his breath hitting my face in puffs. “I could make him leave you in the blink of an eye.”
I tried swallowing my anger, clenching my jaw in anger. “I think you should leave.”
He laughed at me again, heading towards the door. “Be sure to give Tadayoshi my message,” he smiled, and I ran to the door, slamming it shut behind him.
I walked, with shaking steps, towards my bedroom. Slamming the door shut behind me, I started rifling through my closet to find a clean suit to wear to work.
Ohkura Hideo’s words had shaken me to the core. I had grown so attached to Tadayoshi that the only thing in my life that I feared was losing him. And Hideo had been so sure of what he had said, confident that he could make Tadayoshi leave me.
Although Tadayoshi had told me that he loved me, I now wondered how true it was. With shaking hands, I pulled on a button up shirt. The promise he made to me, that he would wait no matter what, meant little to me at that moment.
I knew that Ohkura Hideo had some inhuman hold over Tadayoshi. I knew that no matter how they felt towards each other at this point in their lives, they were still family. And I knew that was important to my lover.
I needed to see Tadayoshi, to hear his voice and to touch him. From under my bed, I pulled out a suitcase, rushing over to my dresser and pulling out a pile of clothes. Indeed, Tadayoshi’s drawers had been completely emptied, another sign that he was gone.
I realized halfway back to my bed and the suitcase, that I was being ridiculous. “What am I doing?” I asked myself out loud, dropping the pile of clothes where I was standing. I couldn’t skip work. There were responsibilities that I had and rushing out on them wouldn’t help anything.
In fact, Tadayoshi’s father had been so sure that I knew where his son was that he was probably watching me and waiting for me to make one wrong move. Perhaps, Hideo’s visit was meant to rile me up in hope that I would lead him to Tadayoshi.
I took a deep breath, calming myself down. The best thing I could do right now was keep a level-head and wait until the weekend to see him.
I put the suitcase away and continued getting dressed. In my head, I knew that it would be a long day and an even longer three days until the week was over and I was able to see Tadayoshi again.
There were other important issues I should have been thinking about. I would have to watch every move I made, I knew now how closely I was being watched. There was also the matter of what I would tell my sister. And perhaps the most nerve-racking thought, however irrational it was, that I would have to introduce Tadayoshi to my parents.
And yet the only thing on my mind was how many days, hours, minutes, even seconds would pass before I could see him again.
I tried once more to shake all thoughts of Tadayoshi from my mind. I needed to focus on work. I had to believe that he would be safe with my sister. The only way I could protect him at this point in time would be to try my hardest to avoid the suspicions of my co-workers, the police and Tadayoshi’s father.
I finished getting dressed and grabbed my briefcase before heading to the train station.
Surviving the rest of the week had been as impossibly hard as I had imagined it would be. By the time Friday rolled around, my whole body felt like it weighed a million tons.
Coming home to an empty apartment became a little harder everyday. I had grown so used to coming home to the smell of Tadayoshi’s cooking, the warm feeling that would spread through my body when he would smile at me as though he hadn’t seen me in years, the way his strong arms would wrap around me, and the sweetness in his voice when he asked me how my day was.
All I could do when I came home was crawl into bed, hug the pillow that now only faintly smelled of him and hope for sleep to come so that I would be one day closer to seeing him again.
I was a mess. I had no appetite, I was so worried over Tadayoshi that I was barely able to eat. Sleep wasn’t coming easy for me either, and I must have looked like death warmed over. Luckily, I only had a session with Subaru and he was understanding enough to know that I was in no mood to focus on work.
I knew that it must have been bad, for Murakami had sent me home early that Friday. “You look like shit. Are you sick?”
I shrugged at him, “I don’t feel all that great…”
“Why don’t you go home and get some rest?” and that was the first time I saw him look concerned for me since Tadayoshi had entered my life.
I shook my head however, “I’m okay.”
“I mean it, Shota,” He said, staring at me sternly. “I don’t want you to collapse here. Just go home early and rest this weekend.”
I noticed from the corner of my eye, that Maruyama was closely watching our conversation. He too seemed just as surprised at Murakami’s kindness as I was.
I nodded then, understanding that he was trying to be nice and that I should take advantage of it. I grabbed my suitcase and headed out from the building, desperate to get home.
At home, I quickly packed a weekend bag. Glancing at the clock, I realized that if I hurried I could make the 4 o’clock train and see Tadayoshi by five. My spirits slowly started to lift a little, as I changed into something more comfortable for the train ride.
By the time I had packed and was ready to leave, I was practically skipping from my apartment to the train station.
It wasn’t until I was on the train, speeding out of Osaka, that I realized I still hadn’t come up with something to tell my sister about Tadayoshi’s sudden need to stay with her. And what was worse was that she would definitely be expecting me to introduce him to our parents.
That thought had me hyperventilating a little, I realized, as I was gripping the handles of my bag, frozen in terror. I had no idea what I would tell them or what their reaction would be. What if they threw me out and told me to never come back? Or what if they laughed? What if they were disgusted with me?
My hands were shaking with those thoughts as I reached up and wiped some sweat off of my forehead. I knew I could count on my sister to support me, but I had no idea whether I could expect the same thing from the rest of my family.
I closed my eyes, trying to straighten out my thoughts and calm myself down. I could feel a panic attack coming and I knew that I had to relax. My thoughts returned to Tadayoshi. The thought of seeing him again soon made me feel much calmer and more level-headed.
Tadayoshi would be there by my side when we met my parents. He would be there to hold my hand and give me courage. He would also be there to hold me and comfort me if my parents reacted badly. I knew that I could count on him. I loved him more than anyone or anything else. If he was there with me, I knew I could get through anything.
Of course, I was still nervous. I loved my family, and I didn’t know if I could survive being abandoned by them. But with Tadayoshi there, I knew that we could pick up the pieces. He had lived his whole life without a real family, and both my sister and I had welcomed him warmly into our lives. I knew he would return the favor by supporting me and become my family.
The train ride had passed quickly, I realized as we pulled into the train station. I stood up on shaky legs, grabbing my bag and preparing to switch to a train that would take me to the station near my sister’s house.
During the train ride to my sister’s, I felt much calmer than before. I was mere minutes away from seeing Tadayoshi again. As I stepped off the train, I was practically skipping down the platform. I don’t think I had ever walked as fast as I did that day, hurrying to get to my sister’s house.
I was so preoccupied with thoughts of seeing him, that I had passed her house and was already halfway down the next block before I realized it and had to turn around. This time, I didn’t even try to keep a calm pace. I jogged back to her house, opening the gate and flying up the steps to her door. I pressed the doorbell several times, unaware of how eagerly I was behaving.
The door opened after what felt like twenty minutes, and I was greeted with the site of my brother-in-law, wearing an apron, his hair clipped up in little barrettes. I would have laughed, but my anticipation of seeing Tadayoshi again had me standing on my tiptoes, straining to look over his shoulder.
“Nice to see you, too,” He grumbled, opening the door and standing aside so that I could make my way inside.
“Sorry, Osamu,” I said sheepishly as I removed my shoes.
“Don’t worry about it,” he laughed, leading me into the house.
“Where’s sis?” I asked, looking around.
He raised an eyebrow at me, “You mean where is Tadayoshi?”
“Well,” I blushed a bit.
“Your sister is over at her part time job today, so I took the day off to spend some time with the baby…” He trailed off, and I knew he was teasing me by not indulging where Tadayoshi was.
“I see,” I mumbled, looking around to see Tadayoshi.
Osamu was watching me, a goofy smile on his face. “Your sister was right. You’re so in loooooove.” He made kissy faces at me then, and I wondered if my face could get any redder.
“Hi,” I heard and turned around to see Tadayoshi standing in the kitchen doorway, my niece cradled against his shoulder.
“Hi,” I replied awkwardly. There was so many things I wanted to say to him. I wanted to tell him how much I missed him. I wanted to give him a hug, to feel his warm body against mine, to smell the scent that was purely Tadayoshi. But my brother-in-law was watching us closely.
“Here,” he said after a few moments, grabbing the sleeping baby from Tadayoshi and hurrying from the room.
“Hi,” he said again, smiling at me.
Now that we were alone, I wasted no time rushing to where he was standing and wrapping my arms around him, hugging him tight. “I missed you,” I breathed out.
He let go of me and backed away, and already I missed the warmth of his body. “Are you okay? Have you been eating? You feel all bony and you look like you haven’t slept in days.”
I nodded at him, “I’m fine. You cut your hair…”
He touched his head, nodding. “Sister said it was getting too long. Does it look okay?” he asked.
I nodded back, wanting to hug him again. “It makes you look younger…”
He blushed, and my stomach did a flip. I wondered if there was anywhere in the house where I could be alone with Tadayoshi. I wanted to kiss him, but there was no way I could trust my brother-in-law not to spy on us. When he married my sister, it seemed that he had somehow magically inherited the nosiness that ran in my family.
Tadayoshi must have been reading my mind at that moment, as he grabbed my hand and lead me upstairs to the guest bedroom. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get away before Osamu called up to us, “Don’t do anything that I wouldn’t!”
In the bedroom, Tadayoshi let go of my hand and closed the door. He was by my side again in the blink of an eye. Grabbing my face in his hands, he leaned down, gently kissing me. My eyes fluttered shut as I wrapped my arms around his neck, trying to pull him closer to me.
His hands left my face, and his arms wound around my waist, holding me gently against his body. I wanted more. I wanted him to hold me tight against him, with all of his strength. I stood on the tips of my toes, wrapping my arms tighter around him, pressing the full length of my body against him as I opened my lips to invite him into my mouth.
He realized what I wanted, wrapping his arms tightly around me and guiding me backwards to the bed. The back of my legs hit the edge of bed and Tadayoshi laid me down against the mattress, his hand behind my head. I welcomed his weight on top of me, spreading my legs and sighing in contentment at the way he fit so perfectly between them.
He sat up, looking down at me, confused. “Are you crying?” he asked me, and when I reached up and touched my cheeks I noticed that they were indeed wet.
I didn’t say anything, didn’t know what to stay. I couldn’t explain why I was crying. You always see people crying out of happiness in movies, and I always thought it was ridiculous. At that moment, my feelings were so muddled, I didn’t know if I was crying out of happiness, but I supposed it was the closest thing to it.
I sat up and reached out for him, realizing how pathetic I must look, but not caring enough to stop being such a baby. Tadayoshi didn’t seem to mind, anyway, as he gladly pulled me into his arms. He laid back down, pulling my head to rest on his chest.
He grabbed my hand, wrapping it in his own as his other hand started stroking my head. I closed my eyes, inhaling his musky scent and listening to the steady beat of his heart. I started to drift off, and I knew I would sleep well, though in the back of my head I wondered if I had reached the point of existence where I couldn’t live without Tadayoshi.
I had been sleeping incredibly well, possibly the best nap I had ever had, but I was awakened by the distinct sound of giggling. I cracked open an eye and sure enough, there was my sister and my brother-in-law, hovering over the bed with a camera.
“What are you doing?” I asked groggily, wiping the sleep from my eyes and removing my head from Tadayoshi’s chest.
“You guys are so cute!” My sister said, reaching over and pinching my cheeks.
I slapped her hands away, “Are you going to say that every time we blink?”
Tadayoshi was sitting up then, blinking in confusion.
“I can’t help it if everything you two do is so cute…”
“I told her not to come in here,” Osamu commented, although I could tell he didn’t try too hard.
“He just thought you guys would be naked…”
“You did too! I don’t know what your problem is! You think this is some type of yaoi manga. That’s your little brother, you know!”
Tadayoshi was laughing at the exchange between them and I hung my head in embarrassment, although I wasn’t surprised about their interruption. I was just glad that Tadayoshi and I hadn’t been naked.
“It’s not like that,” My sister pouted. “I am just glad that my little brother is in love. And that his boyfriend is so cute and sweet.”
I sat up, pushing the covers off of me. “What do you want anyway?”
She smiled at me, “I told mom that we would all be coming over for dinner tonight…”
I suddenly felt like throwing up. I had thought for sure that I would get to put off introducing to Tadayoshi to my parents until tomorrow.
“So get dressed. You guys look like crap,” she pointed at our wrinkled clothes.
Tadayoshi nodded, crawling out of bed. I wanted nothing more than to crawl back under the covers and hide for the next two days.
I took my time getting dressed, ignoring my sister when she poked her head in yelling that we would be late. When I could put it off no longer, Osamu and Tadayoshi had to practically drag me to the car and throw me in.
The car trip was blanketed in silence, everyone not sure what to do about my pouting silence.
“Isn’t it pretty out tonight?” My sister, commented, trying to slice the tense atmosphere. She pointed out the window to where the stars were twinkling brightly in the sky.
“Yeah, you can see them much better outside of Osaka. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them this clear.” Tadayoshi added.
I wasn’t paying too much attention, still too worried about what my parents would say and how they would react to Tadayoshi. My sister liked him, seemed to think he was a good person. I could see her looking at me from the rear view mirror, and I knew she was desperate to hear about what was going on with Tadayoshi.
I didn’t have time to worry about that. I would cross that bridge after I told mom and dad about Tadayoshi. I sighed heavily as we pulled up in front of their house.
I opened the door slowly, reluctant to exit the vehicle. Tadayoshi nudged me out and we waited patiently by the car as my sister unbuckled the baby from the car seat. The walk to the door seemed to take forever, and I let Osamu open it and lead us inside. Tadayoshi grabbed my hand in silent support and I glanced at him before pulling him inside behind me.
“Sounds like they’re here,” I heard my dad’s voice from the living room.
My mom’s head poked around the corner, and I stiffened in fear, gripping Tadayoshi’s hand painfully tight. “Ah, Shota. It’s so good to see you. Papa,” she called to my dad. “Shota is here too.”
My father joined us in the entry way and I tried to find my voice to say something, anything. Tadayoshi’s thumb began gently stroking the top of my hand, and when I looked at him, he was smiling at me encouragingly. I wondered, again, how he could be so calm all of the time.
“Mom, dad…” I began, knowing that I couldn’t put it off any longer. I had already dove into this relationship head first. I loved Tadayoshi and wanted him to be a part of my life for a long time. My parents could either accept this or not. And that night I would know for sure if they would still love and accept me. “This is my boyfriend, Tadayoshi.”
“Oh,” My mother smiled, stepping forward and shaking his free hand. “It’s nice to meet you Tadayoshi.”
“Nice to meet you, too,” he said, still holding my hand.
My dad shook his hand too and I found myself blinking in confusion. I had expected a reaction. Any kind of reaction, but they were behaving like this situation was completely normal. “I mean, he’s my boyfriend. We’re dating.” I repeated, not sure if they understood what I was trying to tell them.
“We heard you the first time,” my mom said, clicking her tongue at me.
“Let me take your bags,” my father said, and I noticed for the first time that Tadayoshi had brought along my weekend back along with his leather satchel.
“Carry them up to Shota’s old bedroom,” She called after him as he climbed the stairs. She turned back to us, “I’m assuming you guys are sleeping together?”
I opened and closed my mouth in horror several times, “M-mom…”
She laughed, “Well, I just meant the same bed, but your reaction clears up any other questions I had.”
“Did you tell them already?” I felt myself getting angry as I turned to my sister.
“No, I didn’t tell them anything, Shota.”
“Don’t get so riled up,” my mom scolded me. “We’ve known for years, so it’s not exactly news to any of us. Although its nice that you’ve finally brought someone home. Tadayoshi must be very special to you.”
Their reaction was more than I could have hoped for. I could feel tears spring to my eyes and I was suddenly grateful for my weird family. I didn’t know anyone else who had a family as supportive as mine.
I had been so afraid that they would disown me, or think I was disgusting. Since the first minute the thought of introducing him to my family had entered my brain, I had been so sure that the news would tear my family apart.
My sister had been right all along, my parents would be accepting and supportive. Now the only thing I had to worry about was whether or not they would like Tadayoshi.
My mother smiled, and pointed down to where our hands were still joined. “Isn’t that the cutest?”
“I know, right?!” My sister replied enthusiastically.
I realized then, that their acceptance was not an issue. Along with my sister, I could count on my parents to support Tadayoshi and me. I loved Tadayoshi, and I felt confident that they would too.
I was blushing, still holding Tadayoshi’s hand as my mom and sister continued squealing over how cute we were and how handsome Tadayoshi was. And I had to bite back a smile at the look of excitement and happiness on Tadayoshi’s face as he realized that he was also being supported by my family.
I realized, for the first time, how important this night was to him and how much it meant to him that he was also accepted warmly into my family. And I’ll never forget the look of complete happiness that crossed his face when he looked over at me before my mother pulled him to the dining room table.
I knew he had never felt happiness like that, and that I was able to play some part in it made me happy too. I had no idea, however, as I joined him at the table, that our happiness and our dreams of a future together would be over in mere hours.
A/N: Sorry that you all had to wait so long for the next chapter. For some reason, this chapter was really hard to write. I also realized that there are only about 3 chapters left before the story is over, and I don’t want it to end. But the good news is that I will still finish before finals as planned, even if I only release one chapter a week. But I will try to update more often than that, so please forgive me and keep reading. Now I am off to cry xD