Kouta opened the door and his heart lightened when he saw Ryuu.
“What’s wrong?” Ryuu asked, as he came inside the house. “You sounded worried.”
“I couldn’t move my legs for a while,” Kouta explained. “They went out from under me and I wasn’t able to get up.”
“Should I take you to the doctor?” Ryuu asked, his voice full of concern. His eyes swept over Kouta’s body, checking for injuries.
“No; I don’t think I need to go.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes; honestly. Could…could you follow me?” Kouta led him to the kitchen.
“What’s all this?” Ryuu asked, as he looked around. “Dog food?”
“I dropped it, when I fell,” Kouta said, feeling heat rise to his cheeks. “Can you help me?”
“You don’t have to be embarrassed,” Ryuu murmured.
After cleaning up the mess, they made sure that the pets were properly fed. When the immediate reason for Ryuu’s return was out of the way, Kouta shifted nervously from leg to leg. He didn’t know what to say. He went to the living room and settled on the couch. Ryuu followed, sitting across from him in an armchair. Kouta tapped a nervous rhythm on the arm of the couch, trying to get his thoughts together.
“Did you see Dr. Uchiyama again?” Ryuu asked, breaking the lengthy silence.
“I went today. He still couldn’t pin down the cause of what was wrong. So it remains a watch-and-wait game. Somehow, I don’t think I’ve seen the last of this problem.”
“We might not have seen the last of this problem but we’ll manage it.”
“You talk like we’re a couple.” Kouta looked at him warily.
“We never stopped being one,” Ryuu responded, emphatically. “Taking time away from you was one of the toughest things I’ve done. I missed you so much. And you were right. I should have dealt with the situation about Alexis.”
“Did you find out what she wanted?” Kouta asked, even as he dreaded the answer.
“Yes.” Ryuu looked down at his hands and took a deep breath. “Alexis got pregnant the last time I slept with her. I have a daughter who’s a little over three years old. Her name is Natasha.”
Kouta closed his eyes, the worst of his fears coming to fruition.
“What are you going to do?”
“Alexis and I are still working out the details,” Ryuu admitted. “I do want to be in Natasha’s life. ”
“And what about Alexis?” Kouta asked tentatively.
“She’s married. Her husband’s name is Greg and he’s in the military. They’re going to be stationed in Japan and they’ll arrive in a few months. She’s also several months pregnant.”
Kouta sighed, relieved to know that Ryuu wasn’t invested in being back with Alexis. Ryuu read his expression.
“Kou, you never had to worry about me going to her. Not after you.”
“I saw how you enjoyed taking care of my niece and nephew,” Kouta told him. “I felt that something was missing for you. I didn’t know if Alexis would pull you back to her. I guess, in a way, she has.”
“Please don’t think of it that way. I’ll only be communicating with her because of Natasha.” A small smile came to Ryuu’s lips. “My daughter has a great, strong personality.”
“I’m glad you’re happy,” Kouta told him. “It’s good that you were able to get your answers.”
“The next big issue is about what this means for us,” Ryuu said. “I want to be with you. I hope that still counts for something.”
Kouta let out a long breath, as he ran one hand through his hair.
“This is too much to process. I don’t know if I can handle all of it.”
“What am I supposed to do?” Ryuu asked, plaintively. “Just go back to my apartment and have more sleepless nights? Just go back there, knowing we can work it out but that you’re reluctant even to try? I don’t know what else to tell you…” Ryuu’s words trailed off and he seemed to lean to one side.
Kouta peered closely at him, noticing that beads of sweat had appeared on his forehead. His skin was also a bit pale.
“Ryuu, what’s wrong?” Kouta asked.
“I went out walking in the rain last night,” he answered, looking sheepish. “I’m not feeling so well.”
“The rain? You mean the storm? Ryuu! You actually went out in that?”
“It felt great at the time; all the water was falling on me so hard, like it was trying to wash away my hurt. I was thinking about you so much. More than usual.”
“You really shouldn’t have gone out in that kind of weather. Stay here tonight. Let me take care of you.”
“It’s probably nothing but a slight chill. I’ve been working a lot too. I’m sure that doesn’t help…Hey, I’m licensing some more of my work to an overseas company. This morning, I signed the con…a con…”
“Contract, love. I understand. Now, let me put you to bed.” Kouta led him to the bedroom and coaxed him into getting some rest.
“I’m sorry I’m causing you trouble,” Ryuu said, as Kouta tucked him under the covers.
“Don’t think that.”
“Kou, when you said you needed me, it wasn’t really about cleaning up the dog food, right?” Ryuu asked, his eyelids growing heavy. “Right?”
Kouta smiled at him but didn’t answer. He only told him to go to sleep. Ryuu sighed and closed his eyes. Kouta monitored him through the night, taking care of his fever. Then he sat in a nearby chair to watch over Ryuu for a while. Eventually, he grew tired and crawled into bed too. When he awakened, Ryuu was looking at him.
“Did you sleep well?” Kouta asked.
“Yes. Better than I have in months.”
Kouta placed his hand against Ryuu’s forehead, testing to see if he still had a fever. His skin was much cooler to the touch than the previous night. Satisfied that he no longer had to be concerned about Ryuu’s health, he gently stroked Ryuu’s cheek, causing him to sigh. Ryuu pulled him closer and kissed him. Kouta became tense, trying to hold back his feelings. Eventually, after more heartfelt kisses, Kouta’s reluctance melted away.
They unclothed, enjoying each bit of revealed skin. They took their time, reacquainting themselves with each other’s bodies. Kouta smiled when he discovered a new mole on Ryuu’s left collar bone.
Ryuu trailed one hand down Kouta’s side and then around to his crotch. He gripped Kouta’s cock firmly and with masterful pulls, soon had him fully hard.
When they were ready, Ryuu slowly slipped inside him. Kouta sighed as Ryuu’s familiar length filled him. He groaned, as he adjusted to Ryuu’s thickness, after months of being apart. Ryuu rested his face against Kouta’s neck, as he began a steady rhythm.
Images of their other times making love flashed through Kouta’s mind, heightening the experience for him. Soon, Kouta felt Ryuu begin to tremble, as he became lost in pleasure. Kouta followed him, holding him tightly, as they kissed fervently.
Afterwards, Kouta wanted to tell Ryuu that he still loved him but hesitated. The force of his confusion had stolen the breath it would have taken to vocalize the words. He was too scared to say them out loud. He wasn’t ready to deal with what saying them again would signify. Their situation wasn’t completely fixed. Having sex in the middle of the mental chaos made Kouta feel incredibly vulnerable.
“Kou, I don’t like that look in your eyes,” Ryuu told him. “I’m worried about what it means.”
“You can still read me,” Kouta admitted. He untangled himself from Ryuu. “It’s just that we lost a bit of control there. We’re not entirely—”
“Aren’t you sure about working things out?”
“I told you I wasn’t. The only reason I had sex is—”
“Because you wanted it. I feel that way about a relationship with you. I hope you start thinking that way too.”
Kouta didn’t have a response for him. Ryuu watched him for a few moments but didn’t say anything. Finally Ryuu released his frustration, when Kouta remained quiet.
“Kouta, you’re giving me mixed signals here. I—”
“Can we please stop?” Kouta held up one hand. “I really can’t get into all of this right now.”
“Then I should go,” Ryuu said. He slipped out of bed and began to get dressed. “I can’t be this close to you knowing you don’t want me.”
Kouta put back on his clothing too. Then, he walked Ryuu to the door.
“Can I have a little sign of affection…something…anything?” Ryuu asked sullenly, as he looked down at the floor.
“Yes,” Kouta murmured.
Their mouths came together and their tongues met. Kouta found himself wrapping his arms around Ryuu. Their kissing became more passionate.
“Kouta, you have to make up your mind,” Ryuu said, in between frantic kisses. “Either I stay or I go.”
Kouta opened the door and Ryuu walked out of it. Unlike the last time, seeing him leave didn’t hurt.
Over the next week, Kouta thought about where he was headed with Ryuu. He spoke with his family and his closest friends, hoping that they could help him find a clear path. He was thankful for what they told him. In their own way, they’d each said that his ambivalence was because of fear. Unless he could manage that, he could never be happy with Ryuu.
He found himself going to his parents’ home more often than usual. During his most troubling times, they were comforting to him. One night, after having dinner with his parents, he left their home with instructions from his mother. She’d told him to watch the most recent episode of Animation Spotlight. She told him it was important to see it and, above all, digest what it meant.
The first thing he did, when he arrived at his house, was to go to the show’s website. As he and Ryuu had watched it sometimes, Kouta remembered that, two days after the episodes aired, they were put on the site. Each monthly episode focused on animation from around the world. There was also a special segment where a director was featured; that month’s guest was Ryuu.
Kouta smiled, as he admired how confident and attractive Ryuu looked. He answered questions with ease, showcasing the best of his personality.
“Can you tell us about something special to you that’s related to animation?” the interviewer, Nozomi Sawada, requested.
“Well, there are so many things,” Ryuu responded. “I did receive a fantastic gift though and I brought it to show the audience. It’s a set of four original animation cels from The Ambitious Prince. It’s one of my favorite series and a very important person in my life found the cels.”
“And just who is this ‘very important person’?” Nozomi asked.
“I’d rather keep that to myself,” Ryuu answered, his cheeks flushing. “That person also gave me another present. It has great memories attached to it. In fact, I’m wearing it now.”
“Really?” Nozomi leaned forward with curiosity. “Do you mind telling me what it is?”
“No; I’ve said too much already,” Ryuu told her, chuckling.
Kouta thought back to the wristband he’d given Ryuu for his birthday. It was right there on him, a reminder of some of the most fulfilling time they’d spent together.
The video had stayed on Kouta’s mind, even as he went about his routine. He remained in a state of limbo. At nights, he’d walk in the Tokyo air, trying to calm his mind. Still, everything he saw was somehow connected to Ryuu. Motor cyclers passed him, causing him to think of when they would ride together. One of their favorite Indian restaurants was also on his route. The spices drifted out to him and he thought of the various dishes they’d tried.
Even after he’d returned home from one of his strolls, Ryuu was on him mind. He was checking his voicemail, hoping Ryuu had contacted him. There were no messages.
Are there really none for me? he wondered. Not even from Ryuu. Then again, what did I expect? After all, he was just respecting my wishes and giving me my space.
“Aki, Nami, I’m home,” Kouta announced. He was surprised that, upon his return, there hadn’t been the usual scampering of Aki’s feet or meowing from Nami. There was no response to his words.
He went searching for his pets, calling their names as he looked in all of the rooms. In Kouta’s bedroom, there was a note on his pillow: “Aki and Nami are at my place…Ryuu.”