Kouta had just returned from getting groceries, one of Ryuu’s favorite desserts being among his purchases. Pushing it to the back of the refrigerator, he did his best to hide the treat.
After feeding his pets, Kouta went to check on Ryuu. His lover had stayed up all night, due to work. He was now resting in their bedroom, the same as before Kouta had gone out. Kouta smiled down at Ryuu’s still body. He gave into the urge to stroke Ryuu’s bare chest, feeling the warmth of his skin. Ryuu tended to be a light sleeper, yet he didn’t awaken at Kouta’s touch. It was clear that he was exhausted; he had been working much too hard again.
Kouta watched him, thinking about how long they’d been together. Tomorrow, it would be two years, two chaotic and wonderful years of loving each other and sharing their lives.
Kouta went to the kitchen to make a meal, wanting to have some food ready for Ryuu when he awoke. He knew Ryuu would be up soon. While the rice was cooking and strips of seasoned beef were grilling, he prepared the cucumber sunomono, a salad that consisted of sliced cucumbers that were marinated in ginger, sugar, salt and vinegar. He smiled as he added a little bit extra sugar to Ryuu’s serving, which was just the way his lover preferred. When he was almost finished making the meal, Ryuu came up and affectionately squeezed him from behind. Ryuu’s scent let him know he’d recently stepped out of the shower.
“That nap was so good,” Ryuu said, as he helped Kouta set the table. “I’ve been keeping a crazy schedule again.”
“I know. Not too long ago, I fondled you while you were sleeping,” Kouta teased him. “You didn’t even wake up.”
“That’s because I feel safe with you.”
“Do you really?” Kouta asked, giving him a comically evil grin.
Ryuu laughed, enjoying Kouta’s mischievous side.
“Running off three hours of sleep has begun to take its toll,” he groaned, stretching.
“Maybe you should go back to bed, after we eat,” Kouta suggested, as he put some rice in a bowl.
Ryuu opened the refrigerator and chose a beer to drink. He noted a white box and was about to peer inside when Kouta stopped him.
“No. Leave that alone.”
“Why can’t I see?”
“Because I said no.”
“Oh, so it’s like that, huh?”
“Yes it is,” Kouta told him, laughing. “You’ll wait, until I give you permission.”
“Fine.” Ryuu leaned against the kitchen counter. “Anyway, I’ll head back to the office after dinner.”
“Ryuu, I thought you’d given everyone the day off,” Kouta said. “Why can’t you take some time out for yourself too?”
“I did tell everyone they could have Friday free,” he responded, after taking a sip of his beer. “They really deserve it. I, however, am going in to look over some storyboards. The crew and I made great progress last night. I just want to fine-tune a few things.”
Kouta remained quiet, trying to measure what he wanted to say. Ryuu watched him, noting the slightly strained expression that was on his face.
“What is it?” Ryuu asked. “What’s bothering you?”
“I guess Takayuki is wearing you out,” Kouta grumbled.
“What was that?”
The two sat down and Ryuu continued to study Kouta. After eating a few mouthfuls of food, he paused.
“Kou, are you still alright with me working with Freefall?” Ryuu questioned. “I want to keep checking with you about this.”
“You’ve already signed the contract and you’re doing work…”
“That’s not an answer.”
“We’ll take it all in stride.” Kouta shrugged his shoulders, trying to shake off his misgivings.
“That’s probably best…You know, last year, I didn’t balance my private life and my work as well as I should have.”
“Ryuu, you don’t have to…”
“No listen. When you were in the hospital, I was so scared I’d lose you. So now, I don’t want to make the same mistakes.”
“I’m going to shed tears in my salad,” Kouta told him.
“I’m sorry,” Ryuu said, giving him a wide smile. “Let’s change the subject.”
“Right then…shouldn’t there be something more important on your mind anyway?”
“Well, I don’t know,” Ryuu said, leaning back in his chair and giving Kouta a teasing grin.
“Really? Think for a moment.”
“Oh!” he exclaimed, snapping his fingers. “A movie I want to see is coming out tomorrow. Maybe I’ll catch it right away.” He looked at Kouta mischievously and roguishly pilfered some beef off his lover’s plate.
“You know exactly what I mean,” Kouta responded.
“Tomorrow is our anniversary,” Ryuu said, laughing at the adorable glare he was receiving. “I haven’t forgotten! I can’t believe it, a second year putting up with you.”
For that insult, Kouta ate the last two strips of beef, dramatically consuming them, as Ryuu pretended to be annoyed.
After they ate, they decided to spend some more time together, before Ryuu acted on his plan to return to work. He reclined against Kouta, as they lay on the couch. The two began discussing their anniversary ideas for the next day. They hadn’t decided anything far in advance, as they wanted their day to be quiet and simple, just focusing on each other.
“Tomorrow, I believe we should spend many hours in bed,” Ryuu suggested.
“Do you think you can hold my attention?” Kouta teased.
“Was that a slight on my sexual prowess?” Ryuu protested.
“I’m just priming you to rise to the challenge. “
“Speaking of challenges…You told me to leave that box alone but…”
“Why don’t you ask the question?” Kouta told him, laughing softly. “You’ve been curious, since you took that beer out of the frig.”
“So, what’s in that box?” Ryuu wondered.
“What box?” Kouta asked, suddenly feigning ignorance.
“The one you didn’t want me to touch,” Ryuu responded, sounding a bit petulant.
“It’s baklava,” Kouta told him. “I remembered how much you liked it in Greece. I thought we could share it.”
“You bought baklava…” Ryuu repositioned himself to look at Kouta through half-closed eyes. Kouta grinned, knowing that he was thinking of how they had celebrated his birthday. He looked down at Ryuu’s crotch, seeing the evidence of where his lover’s thoughts had led him. The dessert was forever linked with one of their best sexual experiences.
“I did but you need to head back to work,” Kouta said, quietly, cleverness threading through his voice. “It would have been a great pre-anniversary event. Too bad.”
“I’ll stay,” Ryuu responded quickly, making Kouta laugh.
“Then I’ll feed you the baklava,” he offered to Ryuu, pulling him closer for a kiss. “And later, we’ll take care of a different hunger…”
When Kouta awoke the next day, he found Ryuu smiling at him. A cup of coffee was waiting for him and he took a sip, enjoying that it had the perfect amount of cream and sugar.
“Good morning, love,” Kouta told him. “Happy Anniversary.”
“Happy Anniversary,” Ryuu murmured. Kouta grinned broadly and nestled closer to him.
“Hey Ryuu, did something happen this morning? You were up early; you left the room to make a phone call.”
“I was checking on an arrangement,” Ryuu answered. The sides of his mouth tugged up, forming a secretive smile.
Kouta sat up, contemplating if he would press for more information. Ryuu shook his head and folded his arms, a stubborn expression on his face. He was determined to reveal what he knew on his terms.
“Alright…” Kouta sighed, knowing he wouldn’t be able to convince Ryuu otherwise. “So what would you like to do next? Should we have breakfast?”
“Let’s exchange presents.”
“Then I’ll go bring out what I have for you,” Kouta told him.
He went to a trunk and unlocked it, pulling out the two gifts he’d stored away for Ryuu. He’d thought for quite a while about what to get him and he hoped that Ryuu would really enjoy both presents.
“Here’s your first surprise.” Kouta handed it over to him. He watched Ryuu unwrap the gift he’d bought months ago.
“Isn’t this from the Ghilardi Glass Factory?” Ryuu asked. “I’d know their craftsmanship anywhere…plus the label on the bottom helped.”
“Yes,” Kouta said, laughing. “I bought the panther while we were in Italy. I hid it when we arrived home.”
“I’ll take it to my office,” Ryuu said, turning the sculpture around in his hands, his fingers tracing the contours of the animal. “I’ll put it right on my desk.”
“Now, close your eyes. I’m getting your other present. Don’t look until I tell you.”
“I won’t,” Ryuu responded, as he did Kouta’s bidding. “I promise.”
“I have to display things just right.” On the dresser, Kouta put up his second gift on four miniature wooden easels. He adjusted them a few times and then stepped back to get the full effect. When he was satisfied with how everything looked, he told Ryuu, “Go ahead. You can see it all now.”
“Oh man!” Ryuu shouted when he saw what was waiting. He rushed over to the display. “How did you even find these?!”
“I have my ways,” Kouta said with smug satisfaction.
One by one, Ryuu reverently picked up the four hand-painted animation cels, staring at the scenes depicted. The confident figure in all of them was Zarvo, the hero of The Ambitious Prince. The show focused on his long journey to return to his country, after his uncle had him kidnapped and sent across the sea. Zarva had wanted to claim the throne, as he was the rightful successor. The epic tale had first been a comic book series and then a television series.
“Wow,” Ryuu gasped. His next words were heavy with nostalgia. “I still have the comics. I used to watch the show when I was a kid too. This is why I wanted to do animation.”
“I remember you telling me that. So, I wanted you to have some of the cels.”
“I will be a prince like no other!” Ryuu exclaimed. Kouta laughed at his expert dramatization of the character’s trademark line.
“Kouta, I’ve received some great gifts but this one…I mean…I don’t really know what to say. Thank you so much, love.” The happiness on Ryuu’s face made Kouta’s six months of searching more than worthwhile.
“I hope my presents will live up to yours,” Ryuu murmured.
“Whatever they are, I’m sure they’ll be great.”
“Well, you already know one of the things I’m doing for you is a work in progress,” he said. “We’ll finish it today.”
For the past two weeks, each day, Ryuu had drawn a picture of Kouta. Sometimes it was while Kouta had been writing music, practicing with his band or just lounging. Other times, Kouta had awakened, finding Ryuu sitting and quietly drafting his body.
“Where do you want me for the last picture?” Kouta questioned.
“Here, in the bedroom. Sit in the chair by the window. I want the light to be flowing in through the blinds.”
Ryuu set things up for the art session. Then, a keen focus coming into his eyes, he began to draw Kouta with steady strokes of his pencil. Kouta tried to stay as still as Ryuu wanted but it was difficult. The intensity in Ryuu’s eyes was beginning to excite him. Kouta unzipped his jeans, his hands cradling the growing hardness at the juncture of his thighs.
“Stop moving,” Ryuu said, his voice gruff. Kouta ignored him, as he slid his hand into his boxers and began stroking himself. “Kouta…” Ryuu put aside his drawing pad and started to go to him.
“No, stay,” Kouta ordered.
“But…” A sound came from Ryuu that made Kouta pause and then he laughed.
“Ryuu, did you just whimper?”
“No,” he said, going a deep red.
“The hell you didn’t…”
“Well, you’re not supposed to move. Instead, you’re distracting me. I need you! I mean, I need to concentrate.”
“I’m not going to stop.” Kouta worked his cock even more. “You will sit there. You will watch.”
“Don’t you dare move from that spot,” Kouta warned. “Just keep sketching.”
Ryuu did as he was told.
Kouta’s breathing became heavier, as he expertly manipulated his flesh. His body shook when his efforts paid off, sending the evidence of his pleasure all over his hands.
“I’ll be good now,” Kouta told Ryuu, after cleaning up.
When he saw the finished drawing, he actually felt embarrassed. Ryuu had perfectly captured the moment right as Kouta was coming. Kouta’s eyes were shut tightly; he was gripping an arm of the chair, as he’d become lost in his release.
“Ryuu, that’s very…graphic.”
“I like watching you come Kouta,” Ryuu said, kissing him.
“Promise me that you and I will be the only ones who see this.”
“I don’t know, Kouta. You didn’t listen to me about not jacking off. So, maybe the tabloids—”
“No,” Ryuu assured him, laughing. Then he became very serious. “No one else deserves to view you like this. No one.” Kouta smiled, liking the possessiveness in his voice.
“Show me the other drawings,” Kouta requested.
All week, he had tried to see Ryuu’s artwork but Ryuu had been adamant, wanting to keep Kouta away until all of the drawings were completed. Now, when Ryuu handed Kouta the sketch pad, Kouta studied what he’d done. He admired the skill that was evident in the artwork; some of it had been done in pencil, while the others were in charcoal.
Kouta was closing the sketchbook when Ryuu stopped him
“Look carefully,” Ryuu said. “I think you missed one.”
Kouta flipped through the images again, taking his time to further admire Ryuu’s abilities. There was another page that Kouta hadn’t seen and it had something on it that made him pause. It was a highly detailed rendering of a motorcycle.
They had argued more than once about Kouta getting another bike, Ryuu being extremely concerned because of Kouta’s accident. Ultimately, Kouta had decided to wait to get another bike, until Ryuu was comfortable with the idea, as much as he could be, given his strong dislike of the situation. Kouta felt strange looking at the picture, being reminded of the tension wanting a bike usually caused. He wondered what point Ryuu was trying to make, especially on this day. He really didn’t want to fight with him but Ryuu’s action surprised him.
“What does this mean?” Kouta asked, restraining the annoyance in his tone.
“Don’t get defensive, love,” Ryuu said, quickly. “Your second gift should be arriving soon.”
“Oh!” Kouta’s eyes lit up with pleasure. “Is it what I think it is?”
“You’ll just have to wait.”
Ryuu lazily sipped his coffee, looking at Kouta, while he tried to keep his excitement under control. Kouta paced, wondering if Ryuu really could have bought him what he’d craved for almost a year.
“When’s it coming?” Kouta finally asked, exasperated.
Ryuu smiled, nonchalantly looking at his watch. “In about five minutes. Let’s have a leisurely stroll outside.”
“Sure. Leisurely. Okay.”
Kouta rushed out the front door and hurried down the walkway. Ryuu followed him, laughing at his eagerness. Kouta threw open the gate and saw the arrival of a delivery van from the motorcycle dealership where he’d gone. Two men got out, opened the back of the vehicle and carefully rolled out a motorcycle, bringing it inside the gate. They placed it on the concrete platform where he’d had his previous bike. Ryuu spoke with them, going over some final details. Then he thanked them for their service. When they left, Kouta immediately focused on his present, staring at each of its features. The bike was jet black with chrome trimmings. Kouta’s name had been written in silver on the left side.
“Ryuu, you didn’t even come inside to see the bikes. How did you—”
“The day after our argument about it, I went to find out what you wanted. I knew how unhappy you were about not having it. I didn’t like you feeling that way, especially not because of how I was acting.”
“You’re okay with me having a bike?”
“Are you really sure?”
“I…well… I’ve been too stubborn. I know you said you’d hold off—and you have. So, go ahead.”
Kouta trailed his hands over the headlights, the handlebars and the mirrors. He sat on the bike, reveling in the feel of the high-quality leather seat.
“Do you want to take it out now?” Ryuu asked, his voice strained.
From the corner of his eye, Kouta saw Ryuu biting down hard on his bottom lip, a deep crease of concern between his eyes. When Kouta turned to fully face him, he gave Kouta a wide but shaky smile. Kouta went over to him, took his face in his hands and touched his forehead against Ryuu’s.
“You’re such a worrier,” Kouta told him. “You’re still not certain about this.”
“I know but I want you to have it. Go for a ride. I’ll wait.”
“There’ll be plenty of time for that.”
“Kouta…” Ryuu whispered. The way he spoke his lover’s name contained the emotions he couldn’t express.
After covering his bike, Kouta took Ryuu’s hand. They went back inside and Kouta led him to the bedroom.