Kouta couldn’t believe that Ryuu had taken his pets. He scowled as he dialed Ryuu’s number.
“Just what do you think you’re doing?” he asked, by way of greeting.
“Did you see my note?”
“Yes and that was a cheap attack.”
“It wasn’t an attack, only a way to get you over here.”
“Are my pets still alive?”
“Of course they are,” Ryuu said, laughing.
“I’ll be there in a little while—and they’d better be happy,” Kouta grumbled, trying to muffle his pleasure at hearing Ryuu’s voice.
Kouta let himself into Ryuu’s apartment. Ryuu was sitting at his dining room table, in the middle of drawing. Nami lay in his lap, purring. Aki looked as if she had just woken up from sleeping peacefully. She was on the floor, her chin on one of Ryuu’s feet, her tail lazily slapping the floor. While Kouta’s pets glanced in his direction, neither of them ran over to him.
Traitors, he thought. You furry, little traitors.
Kouta leaned against the apartment’s door. As he crossed his arms and pierced Ryuu with his gaze, there was an obstinate expression on his face.
“Don’t be upset with me,” Ryuu said.
He bit nervously on his lip, trying to gauge just how bothered Kouta was. Kouta finally began to walk towards him. Ryuu picked up Nami in his arms.
“Are you going to use my cat as a shield?”
“And your little dog too,” Ryuu joked, making Kouta laugh. He put Nami down and reached out for Kouta.
“I missed you,” Kouta admitted, as Ryuu pressed against him.
“I missed you too,” Ryuu responded fervently. “I want you back in my life.” His words echoed in Kouta’s mind.
“Did you mean that?” Kouta asked.
“Absolutely. I know we have some issues to work out. I won’t pretend everything has been resolved.”
Ryuu’s expression was one of sadness and longing; his desire to mend his relationship with Kouta was real. Kouta knew he just had to meet him halfway.
Ryuu took Kouta’s face in his hands. Tears came to Kouta’s eyes and the depth of the emotion surprised him. He tried unsuccessfully to get rid of the tears.
“Stop looking at me,” he whispered, as he squeezed his eyes shut. “I don’t want you to see me like this.”
“You’ve cried in front of me before Kouta,” Ryuu murmured, massaging his shoulders. “I don’t think less of you for doing it. In fact, there were nights I cried too. I missed you but the foolish part of my pride kept me away. I was so worried that you’d want to end things. That’s why I took your pets, knowing you’d come to get them, if only out of anger at my arrogance. I was hoping I’d convince you still to have a relationship with me. It was a damn desperate move.”
“Yeah, that was kind of pathetic,” Kouta teased, smiling at him.
“What’s next for us, Kou?” Ryuu asked, as he brushed a lingering tear away from Kouta’s eyes.
“There are serious questions I should be asking you. I’m not in the state-of-mind to get them all out. I have to go back home. I just need a little more time to get my head straight.”
“Can’t you stay here?”
“We both know that we’ll sleep together, if I do that. It won’t resolve my main concerns. It will only make it more complicated.”
“Alright; go back home. But please don’t make me wait too long. I’m dying here, Kou.”
“I’ll leave my pets, so you can be sure I’ll return.”
They started laughing and shook their heads at the circumstances.
Kouta and Ryuu didn’t see each other for another week. Ryuu didn’t contact Kouta, understanding that he needed space to determine what he wanted. Ryuu’s consideration made it much easier for Kouta to sort out his feelings. He desired to be back with Ryuu. However, he was still uncertain about the role Alexis would have in Ryuu’s life. When he’d last spoken to Ryuu about her, the explanation of how things would work had seemed deceptively simple. Ryuu was optimistic that he could be a father to Natasha and not have any interference from Alexis. However, Kouta had never met Alexis or Natasha. Right now, they were just names of individuals with a huge impact on Ryuu’s life. Kouta felt unsettled about the influence they were also having on his life, without him even having met them.
Kouta wanted to be Ryuu. However, his concerns had to be addressed first. He had to gather his thoughts. Staying at Ryuu’s, as had been suggested, would have clouded his judgment.
It was one morning, after he’d taken a shower, when he made his decision. He looked at himself in the mirror for a few long moments. A small smile graced his face, as he realized it was worth giving the relationship with Ryuu another try. He knew that if he moved on without making a further attempt, doubts about his choice would continuously plague him.
He got dressed and went to Ryuu’s office, hoping to surprise him.
“We only finished this project two weeks ahead of time!” Ryuu was exclaiming dramatically. “What kind of staff did I hire?”
Kouta stood behind him, watching the scene. It was clear from Ryuu’s tone and the expressions from the members of his staff that the mood was lighthearted.
“It’s your fault, Boss,” one of his employees responded. “You should have been stricter with us; two hours of sleep instead of six.”
“He’s right,” another person added. “Plus you shouldn’t have kept on cooking for us. That’s no way to get us to work harder.”
“No backtalk,” Ryuu said. “I know where you two live. I’ll use my giant robot to crush your homes!”
Kouta stifled his laughter, as the staff continued to tease their boss. By now, everyone except Ryuu knew he was there but he’d motioned for them to keep quiet.
“Quit picking on them, will you?” he eventually broke in, announcing himself. Ryuu turned to see him. For a long moment, he paused. Then he grinned and Kouta’s insides heated.
“Who let in this troublemaker?” he asked, motioning at Kouta with a thumb.
“It was me,” Yoriko replied cheekily..
“When did you even have time to make a phone call?” Ryuu asked. “See, it’s reasons like that why we weren’t at least three weeks ahead of schedule. Phone calls. Bathroom breaks. That’s not why I pay you all.”
“Wait, we’re still getting a salary?” Yoriko asked, feigning confusion. “Um, has someone been hacking into my account?” The rest of the staff laughed at her banter.
“You guys are all ridiculous,” Ryuu said, shaking his head. “Now excuse me. I have to go deal with Kouta.”
Kouta followed Ryuu to his office. As he walked behind Ryuu, he tried to keep his face from showing the lecherous thoughts he was having. He was remembering the last time they’d been together in Ryuu’s business.
When Ryuu closed the door to his office, he gripped Kouta to him tightly.
“You came back,” he said, relief in his voice. “You really came back.”
“I did.” Kouta gave him a shy smile, overcome by the strong show of emotion.
“I’m so happy,” Ryuu told him. “Really I am. I’m too tired to find better words but Kou…it’s just…to see you…”
“So poetic,” Kouta teased. “Shakespeare would be jealous.”
“Have a heart,” Ryuu groaned, resting his head against Kouta’s shoulder. “I could fall asleep right here.”
“You have to stop grinding yourself down to the bone,” Kouta gently chided him.
“I’ll do better,” Ryuu promised. “I’ll do better at everything.”
Kouta ran his hands through Ryuu’s hair and pulled him close for a kiss. Ryuu sighed and Kouta felt him smile as their mouths met.
“I’ll be doing an interview in a little while,” Kouta told him, when their lips parted. “Then the guys and I are having lunch in Roppongi. I should be home by one.”
“I’ll see you a little after noon.”
“That would make it the middle of the workday, Mr. Kobayashi.”
“I know but my staff can cover things. Besides, I’m the Boss; I can set the hours. Right?”
“Yeah; that’s right,” Kouta said, grinning at him. “Anyway, I should go now.”
He gave Ryuu a quick goodbye kiss. Anything more involved would have led to him tumbling Ryuu onto the couch right then and there. On his way out of Ryuu’s studio, he went to speak with Yoriko.
“Hey, Shinji really hasn’t been the same without you.”
“I have plans to speak with him soon.”
“Alright,” Kouta said, giving her a hug.
“Kouta, thanks for your concern.” She leaned up to whispered in his ear. “And please take care of Boss. It’s noticeable when you’re not in his life. But it’s even more noticeable when you are.”
Kouta smiled as he hung up the phone. He was waiting for Ryuu at their home. Ryuu had just called and told him that he was only a few minutes away. Kouta had heard his excitement through the phone. He’d eagerly been anticipating Ryuu’s arrival, as he nervously moved around the house, unsure what to do with all of his energy. He felt they were on the verge of a stronger relationship.
Kouta was putting out food for his pets, when he heard the front door open. Nami and Aki scampered to see who it was. There was the sound of Ryuu speaking playfully to them, telling Aki not to jump, and telling Nami she was always leaving cat hair on him.
“Hi,” Ryuu said, when he found Kouta in the kitchen.
“Hey there,” Kouta murmured, realizing bashfulness was in his voice. “I see you brought my pets back.”
“Yes,” Ryuu said, chuckling. “I did it while you were at your interview.”
“Great. So, um…”
Kouta slowly perused Ryuu’s body, as need quickly flooded through him. Ryuu responded to Kouta’s lustful gaze by grabbing his hand and hurrying to the bedroom. When their immediate carnal need was seen too, they lay next to each other, laughing at their frenzy.
“Do you have enough strength to listen to what I want to say?” Kouta asked, as he leisurely stroked Ryuu’s back. “We really do have to talk.”
“I think I can concentrate now,” Ryuu murmured against his neck. His warm breath sent a current through Kouta’s skin, making him hard again.
“Well, first you have to stop distracting me.”
“As you wish.” Ryuu sat up and faced Kouta, who mirrored his position.
“I can’t pretend I don’t still have my doubts,” Kouta began. “You know, there were times when I was so angry with you, that I’d wanted to ask for the keys to my house. I’m glad I never did.”
“Otherwise, I couldn’t have taken your pets and—-”
“Saved us from our own stubbornness.”
They both laughed; it was a good, strong, bellyaching laugh, the kind they’d missed having with each other.
“These past few months were so difficult for me,” Ryuu admitted. “During the day, I could keep myself busy. At nights though, especially when I lay in bed without you next to me, I really hurt.”
“It was the same for me.”
“Let’s not do this to ourselves again. Please Kou. Please…”
Ryuu stared at Kouta so intently that he began to fidget.
“What is it now?” Kouta asked.
“I just want to look at you. To tell you I’m sorry I hurt you. To let you know I’m glad you’re giving me another chance. To promise you forever that I’ll be deserving of a place in your life.”
“I’ll hold you to that last part,” Kouta told him.
“And you can expect the same from me.”
They sealed their agreement with a fervent kiss that left their mouths tingling when they separated.
“I love you so much,” Kouta told him.
“I love you too…” Ryuu’s voice broke, as tears came to his eyes.
“Are you the one crying now?” Kouta teased lightly.
“No. That’s just lots of sweat. It’s hot in this bedroom.”
“Oh sure…Did you know that whenever you start crying, the tears come out of your left eye first?”
“Really?” Ryuu asked, sounding mystified. “Love, you notice the strangest things.”
“I really do,” Kouta said, chuckling.
“Will you tell me what changed your mind about coming back?”
“I felt that you really wanted me,” Kouta answered. “Everything you did showed you were fighting to have me in your life. I know it must have been difficult to meet with Alexis again.”
“It was. But I did it because it was the right thing. For her. For Natasha. But, most of all, for you and me.” Ryuu touched his forehead against Kouta’s. “I can’t believe I let my cowardice pull us apart.”
“From now on, we have to be better about addressing each other’s needs.”
“Yes; I understand.”
“I know sometimes I can be demanding. I have to learn to give you more room to maneuver.”
“And I have to respect when something is important to you and not procrastinate about handling it.”
“I think we’re off to a good start,” Kouta told Ryuu, as he felt his doubts slipping away. He lay down again and Ryuu rested next to him. They were quiet for a few moments, as contentment settled through them.
“Remember our trip to Greece? We celebrated your last birthday there.”
“And you sang to me,” Ryuu added, propping himself up on one elbow and looking at Kouta.
“How about when we went to Italy?”
“Kou, I remember those times, and much more. Why are you bringing them up, especially with that earnest expression on your face?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s hurting to think about our troubles over the past few months…”
“So you wanted to talk about our happy times?”
“Yes; maybe that’s it.”
“We can make more great memories,” Ryuu said, pressing Kouta under him.