Toshiro sat on the bed, legs crossed, watching Jason sleep. Morning crept in, in that silent way it had. The light slowly creeping through the curtains behind him, it turned Jason's hair gold. He touched the soft strands delicately, not willing to wake Jason just yet.
He still couldn't believe this was real. This man, sleeping so peacefully, was his. It seemed untrue.
Like a dream.
Marry me, Jason had said with a smile.
His heart skipped and he frowned. He'd never thought luck would favor him this way. Not with someone to love him, never that.
A soft sound outside the door drew his thoughts away from Jason. It wasn't noise, really, but a feeling. A sense that someone stood outside the door.
Toshiro got off the bed careful not to wake Jason. He doubted Jason would wake up anyway. They'd had a very tiresome two days. He wanted Jason to catch up on his sleep.
On bare feet, Toshiro went to the sitting area where Yuriko had left the brown bag of food a day ago. He hadn't eaten much of the food. He reached in and grabbed a plastic fork. Staring at it, he shook his head. He seriously needed to remedy this 'no weapons' problem.
Sneaking a glance at Jason, he was happy to see him still sleeping.
Moving to the door, the fork held tight in his left fist, Toshiro looked through the peephole. There was no one, just an empty hallway.
He frowned and stepped away from the door, standing still, he waited. He wasn't wrong. There was something there…someone…
Toshiro waited on the other side of the door.
He could feel him there.
Toshiro was definitely standing there with a dark frown, so typical of the ferocious snake that had fought his way to the top. The man missed nothing.
Gods, how he hated Toshiro's guts. To have both parents living and searching was a privilege he didn't know. Toshiro, with all his bad attitude and anger, was blessed to have that in his life. He couldn't help but be jealous of Toshiro's luck.
Aside from that, Toshiro's sense of survival was sharp. The man crawled out of trouble even if it meant digging in his nails into solid rock and climbing up. That kind of instinct was difficult to handle, probably the reason why Toshiro irritated him so much. He was jealous of Toshiro while admiring his need to live no matter what. A grin tugged on his lips when he imagined Toshiro's reaction at the sight of him. It was going to be a shock for sure. All this time, he and Toshiro had fought and abused each other…he touched his sore nose; it still hurt from Toshiro's head butt.
Speaking of which, the punk was probably standing on the other side holding a gun.
He took a step back, hoping not to feel a bullet in his gut. Toshiro could easily shoot through the wall. He wasn't ready to die yet he had a goal to meet.
"What are you doing?" Jun Natake asked.
He glanced up to find the older man walking down the hall.
He brought his finger to his lips, and then pointed at Toshiro's door.
Jun reached him and stopped right outside the door to Toshiro's suite. Jun knocked firmly on the smooth wooden surface.
He wasn't surprised when there was no answer.
Toshiro was too cautious. Too paranoid.
"It's me," Jun said. "I'm your…f-father."
Still the door stayed locked.
Toshiro was no fool.
Toshiro wouldn't open until he knew who else was with Jun Natake.
Toshiro stared at the door, his father's voice ringing through his head. His chest tight, he fought the urge to open the door. There was someone else out there. He knew it.
His grip on the fork tightened. Toshiro wished he had a gun.
His father wouldn't dare betray him. He wouldn't dare, right?
Toshiro glanced back at the bed where Jason still slept. His main priority now was keeping Jason safe. No matter what, Jason's safety came first.
Jun Natake stepped back from the door a tad hurt. He hadn't thought his declaration would get Toshiro running into his arms.
That would make things easy. Make Toshiro somewhat real to him.
He sighed and turned to walk down the hall to the next door. He knocked and the door opened immediately. Yuriko threw herself into his arms and he smiled. Her reaction healed the sting from his son's rejection.
"You're late," Yuriko accused, her voice muffled against his chest. "I haven't slept for two days. Where were you? I worried."
He hugged her tight then stepped back.
"I want to meet him."
Yuriko dropped her arms from around him and stared at him.
He hoped she saw his desperate need.
Their son was alive.
He couldn't think past that truth right now.
Fear that she'd take his demand as a rejection had him searching her face. He found sadness in her liquid dark eyes. There was a tinge of uncertainty quickly replaced by her armor. That strong armor she hugged around her, it kept her emotions hidden from him. He wished she wouldn't, but was grateful that she did. It was hard enough knowing he hurt her.
He didn't miss the dark circles under her eyes. She looked exhausted. He'd pushed her hard in the past few years, worse in the last week. Pushed their marriage to limits he didn't dare mention for years. She'd stuck to him though and that was worth lifetimes. He rubbed his thumb over her cheek before he kissed the soft skin.
"Thank you for taking care of him," he said, not stepping into the hotel room. "Please, let me meet him. I've waited so long."
Yuriko nodded and stepped out of the hotel room, closing the door behind her. She held his hand tightly. Her slender fingers warm in his. He couldn't remember the last time they'd held hands like this. Yuriko's hair was in a haphazard ponytail. She was dressed in a light t-shirt and fitted jeans. Her feet were in pink sandals. He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen her this way either. Dark suits, hair in a bun, that he remembered, but not this woman leading him to their son's door. She looked braver somehow.
More determined, he thought as she stopped outside Toshiro's door.
Her knock was soft, less abrupt than his was.
"Toshiro, its Yuriko. Please open the door." She leaned her forehead on the door. "I'm with your father."
"Who else?" Toshiro demanded on the other side.
Jun gaped and looked at the young man he'd turned from Mako Takumi's clan. How had Toshiro known there was a third person?
Yuriko glanced at the young man with an uncertain frown. She'd once told him she never wanted to know what he was doing. Which was just as well since she could never have handled his choices.
"One of your father's men," she said now with a slight shiver. "We can trust him."
There was a soft curse on the other side and then the lock turned. The door flew open, and Yuriko was pulled into the room. The abrupt movement had her letting go of his hand.
"Trust no one," the order came in a rough tone tinged with annoyance.
In seconds, Yuriko stood hidden behind a shirtless young man.
His son wasn't tall, but his aura was dark enough to threaten. His hair fell around his face, hiding it. Jun wished it were shorter then he'd get to see more of his son's handsome face. He'd only seen that face in pictures. Never so bare, so closed off.
Jun took in the white cast on Toshiro's right arm, then the tight left fist. There was a white bandage wrapped around Toshiro's abdomen. The gunshot Yuriko had told him about. It couldn't have healed yet. There had to be pain, but Toshiro stood tall, as though he were invincible. His gaze returned to Toshiro's left fist. There was a plastic fork there.
Toshiro was uneasy.
Reaching into his jacket, Jun tugged out the gun he wore in his holster. Toshiro studied him not moving. Most people would make a gesture of defense at the sight of a gun but not his son. Toshiro stood his ground, light brown eyes hard as he stared at him, refusing to move. Jun realized that Toshiro was protecting his mother. Toshiro would use himself as a shield for Yuriko if necessary.
Pride swelled, and he held out the gun to his son.
Toshiro took the gun in one quick motion, his gaze never shifting from the doorway.
Surprise hit him when Toshiro trained the gun at him.
"Show yourself," Toshiro said, his tone cold.
"Do it, or I shoot him," Toshiro repeated.
It was frightening to see the truth of Toshiro's words in his eyes. His son would shoot him.
Jun frowned as the young man he'd taken from Mako came to stand beside him. The gun leveled on the young man.
The young man pushed him aside and drew his sword.
Jun gasped worried he'd made the wrong decision. Relief flooded him when the young man dropped to his knees. The young man placed the sword on the carpet and bent his head low.
Toshiro stared at Taki in shock.
Every instinct had him wanting to shoot the bastard. All those times they'd fought, all those times….his finger flexed over the trigger. His thoughts filled with Taki's attitude toward him when Sakura had captured him.
What was Taki doing with his father?
Toshiro looked at Jun Natake.
"Explain," he said. "I'm going to kill him and you if I don't like what I hear."
"He killed Mako Takumi."
"So?" Toshiro demanded. "He'll kill all of us if it suits him. That's not good enough."
"Toshiro," Yuriko touched his cast and he shrugged her hand away. He didn't have time for her softness.
"Check on Jason," he ordered her. "He's asleep. I don't want to wake him up."
"Do as I say," he snapped at her when she didn't stop.
Yuriko moved around him and slapped him across his left cheek.
The sting wasn't painful; that she'd done it surprised him more.
"Yes, I've slapped you. What are you going to do? Shoot me?" she demanded looking at the gun he held pointed at her.
Cursing under his breath, he lowered his gun.
"I'd rather you shoot me than listen to you threaten to kill your own father," Yuriko said. "Your father values your life, you brat. He has moved the heavens to find you. I won't watch you treat your father badly."
"Yuriko," Jun said from the doorway.
"Jun get into this hotel room. I won't have the hotel staff thinking we're running a spectacle here. There are people watching. Jeez, why couldn't I marry a simpler man? He has your genes, you know. Stubborn, impossible," Yuriko cursed under breath. "Toshiro stop glaring at me and move away from the door."
When Taki didn't get up from the floor, she snapped at him.
"What are you waiting for?"
Toshiro moved fast to pick up the sword Takino placed on the ground. He ignored his father and went to sit on a stool close to Jason's bed. His left cheek stung. His mother had a wicked slap. He shifted his jaw a bit awed by her attitude.
Yuriko was tougher than she looked.
He glanced up when the door slammed closed. Taki was smart enough to stay right at the door and not move into the room.
His father however moved closer coming to stand before him.
"Were you really going to shoot me?" Jun asked.
He looked up to meet eyes that matched his own.
"Are you offended?"
"Not at all," Jun said with a shrug. "It's good to know where I stand, that way I know what I have to work with."
He held his father's gaze for a second before he looked away.
"Keep it down. I don't want to wake my boyfriend. He's had a rough week."
He glanced at his father then to judge what he thought of that statement. Jun nodded and folded his arms against his chest as though it didn't matter. His gaze returned to Taki and he felt a tinge of uneasiness fill him. He'd never liked Taki.
"Why are you with Taki? He's not loyal."
"He's loyal to me."
"That doesn't mean much to me."
"It should." Jun moved to sit on the bed and Toshiro couldn't help but reach for the gun. He didn't want anyone close to Jason.
Jun paused, his gaze on Toshiro's hand for a second before it slid to Jason's sleeping form.
Toshiro was happy when Jun stepped away from the bed. His father was no idiot.
"Taki has worked for me for ten years. He found you for me. He'll help us reach Kaito Takumi."
Toshiro studied Taki. He hated the man. Had always hated how arrogant Taki acted with him. What about the punches when Sakura had captured him? The slurs against his mother…Toshiro shook his head.
Worked for his father? What? Was his father yakuza too?
Not yakuza, he thought.
Jun Natake's blood wouldn't allow him. No, his father had probably found a way to bend laws to his will…enough to allow him to live in the grey areas.
"Why did you bring him here?" Toshiro asked now, his gaze never leaving Taki.
"I want you to refuse to testify."
"That gets me arrested without any negotiations," Toshiro said, looking at his father.
"I know. Taki will go in with you." Jun sat on the edge of a table close to the window. "That's a good thing. You'll be inside close to Kaito."
"Takumi will kill me." Toshiro pointed out. "I'll die the first night."
"Not if you have Taki with you." Jun smiled. "He'll protect you."
"Protect me?" Toshiro scoffed looking at the man leaning on the wall beside the door. That sounded straight out of a fantasy. Jeez, his parents were crazy. "I don't like it."
"I don't like it either. You're a pain in the ass," Taki said from the door, his voice making Jason shift on the bed.
Toshiro scowled at him as Jason sat up. Grabbing the gun, he stood up and moved around to Jason's side. Jason looked around the room and started to get off the bed. His green eyes filling with worry.
"My father, and…" Toshiro assured Jason, and then stared at Taki. "Someone I want to kill."
Jason pushed the covers away and wiped a hand down his face.
"Seems every time I wake up you want to kill someone, babe."
Toshiro chuckled. "I'm sorry."
"Yeah, me too," Jason said, standing up his gaze on the gun Toshiro held. Toshiro sighed and tucked it into his pants in the small of his back.
He shifted with Jason making sure he wasn't in Taki's direct line.
"How's your stomach?" Jason asked his voice still heavy with sleep.
"As good as it's going to get," Toshiro replied.
Jason studied him for a second. The worry in those green eyes undid him. Jun coughed behind him and he sighed when Jason looked at the older man with slight recognition. Toshiro scowled when Jason deliberately moved around him to greet his father.
"I'm sorry. Toshi is not big on pleasantries," Jason said. "I'm Jason Stone, his boyfriend."
Jun smiled wide as he took Jason's hand and switched into fluent English.
"Nice to meet you," Jun said. "I'm Jun Natake, Toshiro's father."
"Yuriko has told me a lot about you. I'm glad you could make it to see Toshiro." Jason turned his attention to Yuriko. "Did you sleep?"
Yuriko stood behind the couch her arms folded against her chest. She smiled at Jason.
"Very little, I wait for Jun. I'm happy you wake up. Husband with bad attitude, son with worse attitude, I need help to control."
Jason chuckled and touched Toshiro's shoulder.
"What's going on?" Jason asked him.
"My father is in a crazy dream, and he brought along my worst nightmare."
"I want Toshiro to turn himself in," Jun explained to Jason. "I'll make sure he doesn't testify in any case because Kaito will be dead."
"What?" Jason froze beside him, "but he'll die in prison. We just escaped from a hospital where people tried to kill Toshiro. You're not thinking right."
"I took care of the hit squad," Taki said then. "They're headed to Japan in body bags. Toshiro is safe from everyone except Kaito."
"Do you want a medal for the hard work?" Toshiro snapped.
"You're the bastard who trained them," Taki accused. "You should thank me for undoing that whole clan. It wasn't easy."
"Fuck you, Taki." Toshiro scowled at him.
"Insulting each other not solve problem," Yuriko said. "Maybe we talk to Michael Baron before making decision."
"He has a mole in his office. Do you think he can protect Toshiro?" Jun asked, and then turned to look at Toshiro. "He'll get you killed, Toshiro. You have to know this, I know you do."
"So, I'll fight my way out," Toshiro replied with a sigh. "It's nothing new."
"You do know this is your life they're talking about, right? Our life?" Jason asked. "Can you get serious for a second?"
Toshiro met worried green eyes. "It's going to be fine, Jason."
"You keep saying that," Jason said, before he sat on the edge of the bed, his shoulders slumped.
"Kaito is the last of Takumi blood," Jun said. "If he stays alive, you'll have a bounty on your head for the rest of your life. The people you care for will be in danger: Jason, your mother, me...as well as anyone who helps you."
Toshiro winced, as Jason's shoulders seemed to slump further. Seeing Jason so worried annoyed Toshiro. The room suddenly felt too small. There were too many people meddling with his life.
"Don't you think I know?" Toshiro asked his father. "I'm not a killer. If I were, I'd have killed Kaito a long time. The best I can do is maiming him."
"I'm a killer," Taki said then. "I'll kill Kaito."
Taki's declaration worried Toshiro. It didn't assure him at all. He didn't know what Taki's deal was and he hated that it left him uneasy, but they were right about one thing. Sitting around waiting for help wasn't helping.
"I'm going to call Michael," Toshiro said.
"What, no," Yuriko started moving around the couch. "He said to wait—
"Enough waiting, Mother," Toshiro interrupted her. "The longer we wait the more time the other side has time to plan. I don't want that. This ends now."
"That's first time you call me Mother."
Seriously, that's what she got from this conversation?
Toshiro scowled at her. "Well, don't get used to it."
"You know, I not mind the short form. Mum, Mom, Mamma…"
"Can I call you Mom?" Jason asked getting up from the bed. He moved to wrap an arm around her shoulders.
"Of course," Yuriko smiled pleased by Jason's half hug. "It might infect my son to start calling me that."
Toshiro gaped and a snicker came from Taki by the door.
"What are you laughing about?" Toshiro asked irritated. "I still want to kill you."
"Kill me fast before I drown in all this mush," Taki returned, meeting his gaze with a challenge.
Toshiro didn't fight the red haze that came over him. He rushed Taki allowing his anger free reign.
Finally, a face he could punch with no remorse.
He attacked Taki like there were no wounds on his body. Grabbing Taki by the neck, he slammed him back against the wall. His fingers dug into the delicate skin at the neck, pushing hard, satisfaction flooding him when Taki gasped for air. He growled when Taki's fingers sunk into his hair in a desperate attempt to pull him away.
Pain slammed through him when Taki punched a low blow into his stomach. He lost his hold on Taki's neck long enough for the other man to grab and slam him against the wall.
"Stop it!" Yuriko said her tone hysterical. "He's still hurt! My son is still hurting, please stop!"
Toshiro sighed when Jason and Jun pulled Taki away from him.
His wound burned like crazy. He met Taki's angry gaze and took in a deep breath. Calm slipped in as he realized Taki's anger wasn't hateful. It came from elsewhere, and wasn't meant for him. That anger came from some place deeper, and darker than his past...Toshiro shivered.
"Are you done?" Jun asked him. "If you're done we need to sit down and come up with a plan that works."
Taki's dark eyes held his and he frowned when he read amusement.
Shit! He still hated Taki's guts.
Jason touched his shoulder, jerking him away from the anger pit.
"We have to check your bandage," Jason said. "Let's go to the bathroom."
"Yes, go tend to his highness," Taki said then.
Toshiro gritted his teeth and pushed off the wall, his left hand on his abdomen. He ignored Taki's taunt and allowed Jason to lead him to the bathroom. His mother hovered, her eyes bright with worry.
"What's wrong with you?" Jason demanded the moment he closed the bathroom leaving his mother outside. "You want to see me worry until I die. Do you want to see me die too? Is that it? Is that what you want?"
Toshiro sat on the stool next to an open towel cupboard. He pulled out the gun from the small of his back and placed it on a bundle of towels. He turned to look at Jason with a sigh.
"Oh no, don't give me that pleading look. I'm canceling those pretty eyes of yours with reality. You let that guy goad you into a fight. You didn't stop to think about your wound. For all I know you've ripped out all the stitches. God, can you imagine what it's like for your mom to watch you fight. It isn't pretty, you know. She almost came undone."
Jason turned on the water at the sink and grabbed two small wash clothes.
"I can't bear to see you with new bruises. That guy wasn't being kind. He actually punched you in the stomach. Why don't you think about yourself, Toshiro? If not for your sake, then do it for me. It's painful to see you hurt. Do you even know that? Huh? Do you know I can't stand to see all those scars on you? I just want to erase them and keep you safe, yet you—
"I'm sorry." Toshiro cut in.
"Damn straight you better be sorry."
Jason came to crouch before him and started undoing the old bandage around his stomach.
"I told you before, you have to stop fighting."
Toshiro sighed. With care, he leaned forward and cupped Jason's face. He kissed Jason then. Kissed him because no matter what happened now, his life now belonged to Jason. He wanted to listen to Jason's tirades on a daily basis. He wanted to have Jason worry about him for the rest of his life. His heart ached with love for this man.
He broke the kiss and leaned back to stare into surprised green eyes. A soft gasp escaped when Jason touched his cheeks to come away with wetness.
"Hey," Jason wiped tears from Toshiro's eyes. "I'm sorry I didn't mean to go off on you—
"That's not why," he said, sitting back, a bit mortified that he could cry. He'd thought his tears gone. "I'm not used to anyone caring what I do, whether I hurt…I—
He broke off and smiled at Jason.
"I love you."
Jason studied him for a moment. "I hope that means you'll listen to what I say."
Toshiro laughed then. A strange phenomena, tears and laughter all at one go, only with Jason. He nodded in answer.
"Good. Now stay still, I have to fix your bandages. You'd better not have ripped your stitches out." Jason finished removing the bandage and threw it into the trash. "You really have to start listening to me, babe."
"I'll do my best, my love."
"I sense a 'but' in that answer."
"I might have to get into trouble one last time, Jason."
When Jason started to protest, Toshiro touched his lips with a finger.
"One last time, then I'll go back to Penn Yan with you for life."
Jason studied him for a moment before he continued changing the dressing.
Toshiro watched Jason work in silence. When Jason finished the dressing, he sat back and green eyes held his.
"Was your father right about our lives being in danger with Kaito alive?"
"Yes." There was no use hiding the truth. "Kaito will want revenge for his family's dishonor. It is the way."
"Do you trust your father?" Jason asked him then.
"I don't trust anyone except you, Jason. I need you to go to Penn Yan while I'm away."
"You're going to do what your father says though?" Jason asked.
"Trust that I'll find a way to survive." Toshiro shifted on the seat. "I'm marrying you, right? I'll come back to you."
Jason studied him for a moment before he moved to hold him.
"I'll go help Sean plan our wedding. So, don't stand me up," Jason said then.
Toshiro couldn't help the smile at the talk of weddings, especially one that would include him. He held Jason tight.
"I promise," he said, his tone quiet.
"I won't forgive you if you break that promise," Jason warned. "I'll haunt you even in your afterlife."
Toshiro laughed against Jason chest. His heart skipped when Jason kissed him giving him even more reason to return to Jason.
Two hours later, Toshiro tugged the zipper of his leather jacket closed. He walked beside his father on his way to meet Michael Baron. Taki walked ahead of him.
"Why do you trust him?" he asked Jun.
"I knew his parents." Jun turned to look at him then. "Ryu Takumi killed them when Taki was in grade school. He wanted their land, so he adopted Taki into the clan. When I was searching for you, I found him first. We joined forces. It took him the better part of a decade to find out about you."
Toshiro returned his gaze to Taki. "He's been a bastard to me."
"He feared to show any form of recognition toward you. As you know, had Mako found out he was working with me she would have killed him. Worse, she'd have killed you."
"Still," Toshiro shook his head. It was hard reconciling the bastard Taki he knew with the one vowing to protect him now. Very difficult. Shaking off thoughts about Taki, he thought about his father's easy way with their life. "You've turned into one of us."
"There is no us, or them," Jun Natake said. "I've become what I needed to find you."
"And what is that?"
"I'm cleaning up the Takumi clan."
"With Mako dead, Kaito is the last of the clan." Toshiro pointed out. "What do you do after?"
"Get to know you," Jun said simply. "Put our family back together and help your mother. I've been cruel to her in the past. I have a lot to make up."
They walked in silence for a while. It felt surreal, walking with his father. The city was busy, as always. Not caring what a momentous moment this was for him. His father…he sighed.
He started then stopped because they were approaching the rendezvous point. He'd left Jason with a single kiss; none of them had dared do more in front of his parents and Taki. Once he met Michael, he didn't know how long he'd have before he returned to Jason. He stopped and turned to look at his father.
"I'm grateful you kept looking for me. I've wondered what my father would be like. I was even envious of Kaito when I saw him with Ryu Takumi. I'm glad it's you."
He looked down the street.
Taki waited at the entrance to the alley they'd chosen. Working with Taki would be like returning to his old life. He'd have to shed everything Jason had given him to get through it. He sighed and returned his gaze back to his father.
"Can I entrust Jason to you?"
"He's the most precious thing in my life. The only one," Toshiro said with a frown. "I think you understand."
Jun held his gaze then nodded with a hard swallow. "Jason will want for nothing."
Toshiro read the promise in Jun's eyes.
Jun glanced at Taki then.
"They're waiting for you."
"Yeah," Toshiro said.
He studied his father one last time. Jun Natake was one interesting man. He started toward Taki thinking he wanted to meet Jun again.
"I don't trust you," Toshiro told Taki when he reached him.
"That's coz you don't like me."
"Can you blame me?" Toshiro demanded as they turned into the alley. "Are you going to shoot me when I'm not looking?"
"I hate your guts, but I won't shoot you for your father's sake. He's helped me a lot."
Toshiro glanced at Taki.
"You insulted my mother when you and fucking Sakura were holding me."
"Is that the only insult you remember? I punched you too."
"Yeah well, you owe my mother an apology."
"You keep laughing, and I'll punch your teeth in."
"You've already head butted my nose."
"You deserved it for what you said about my mother," Toshiro said. "It's worse because you knew who she was."
"You're such an annoying brat. Have always been," Taki complained.
"You've been a hell of a bastard. I don't see how that's changed now that you're on the other side."
Toshiro sighed when he saw Michael waiting. The man looked older. This case was sucking the energy from him.
"We can't trust anyone inside," Toshiro said then.
"I understand," Taki replied.
Toshiro smiled when Michael reached for his gun.
"I hope you're ready for this."
"I hope you are," Takino said.
"Hey fellas," Michael said then with a smile. "Toshiro, you brought me a friend."
"I've changed my mind," Toshiro said. "I'm won't testify. Arrest me. Life is getting too dangerous out here."
Michael gave a grim nod and pulled out handcuffs.
"I'm not sure this is the best choice, Toshiro. Whatever you're up to, you're about to have a really hard time."
Toshiro held out his wrists.
"Story of my life."
Jason paced the length of his shop floor making customers nervous with each glance he threw outside the windows. Toshiro was late. He'd promised a week. One week, and he'd be back in Penn Yan. The one week had turned into two, almost three. He couldn't think. He was afraid Michael Baron was going to show up to tell him the worst. He sighed and wiped a hand down his unshaven face.
What was he supposed to do without Toshiro?
"Jason, have coffee with me."
He turned to find Yuriko standing a few feet away holding one of the mugs from his kitchen upstairs. She was smiling at him. He wondered why when she should worry too. Her son wasn't back yet. How could she smile?
"Come on," she urged, waving a hand over the coffee to entice him with the scent. "It smell good, right? I make good coffee."
Her English was getting good thanks to Sean and Claire. They spend the day correcting her. His stomach rejected the idea of food. Worry had taken residence there and food felt wrong. He couldn't eat without knowing how Toshiro was doing.
"I don't want coffee."
"You don't want coffee, or food, or sleep for past two weeks. Neglecting health won't make this easy. Take it from someone who knows. Now follow me, or I pinch your ear and drag you away."
Jason laughed because the thought of her pinching him and dragging him away by the ear was too comical. He took the mug she held out, and acknowledged that she made the best coffee when the first sip left him with a zing.
Sean had gone home to his husband earlier. Claire, his store helper was doing inventory behind the counter, checking out customers leisurely. There wasn't anything for him to do down here but pace, so he followed Yuriko upstairs to his loft.
Upstairs, she led him to his kitchen where she'd baked chocolate chip cookies. He sat on a stool at the high table staring at them.
How had she known?
"I find chocolate in your writing desk by the window. I figure you must like chocolate."
He stared at her in shock, her words so similar to Toshiro's a lifetime ago. Toshiro had presented him with chocolate cookies then too. Their gooey taste still fresh in his mind though the time he'd spent with Toshiro at the Watson house was so far away.
Gods, how did they manage staying apart again?
'Coz he wasn't surviving this at all. He was falling apart inside.
Falling apart with worry…he pushed the chocolate chip cookies away.
"How long?" he asked.
Yuriko understood his question.
"Michael won't tell us much. He say they found mole in office, after they tried to hurt Toshiro in prison. Afterwards, Toshiro met with judge, and promised to give up clan money. Michael say they're cleaning up the mess the case has caused. My husband not know when it ends."
"Toshiro?" Jason asked. "Why can't I talk to him?"
"Because, he insists you be safe," Yuriko said. "I stay with you until he come back. My husband takes care of him for both of us. I hope Jun call this evening with good news."
"It's not enough." Jason stared into his coffee. "I want him back."
"I want him out too," Yuriko said. "We have to stay strong, Jason."
Strong was difficult, Jason thought.
It was hard when the one man you loved was in danger. He couldn't remember the last time he'd taken a breath without fear. He stayed up in bed afraid to sleep in case Toshiro called him.
He'd promised to plan a wedding, but he couldn't even look at the invitations without wanting to puke. If Toshiro didn't make it…he closed his eyes.
"Sean is planning a wedding I'm afraid might not happen."
"Have some faith," Toshiro said into the room.
Jason jumped off his seat turning to stare at Toshiro. He could barely believe the sight of him standing at the kitchen door with a small smile. Dressed in a green t-shirt and black jeans, Toshiro looked well, alive!
Gods, he looked good.
Jason rushed to pull Toshiro into his arms. Holding him tight, he buried his face into Toshiro's loose hair.
Was this real?
It better be, he prayed. It better be.
Toshiro rubbed his back.
"I need to breathe, babe."
Jason chuckled and released his hold slightly, very slightly. Gods every part of him was shaking with relief.
"Are you here to stay?" he asked, when he could speak without bursting into an emotional mess.
"Until you get tired of me," Toshiro answered in a whisper. "And even then…I won't let you chase me away."
Jason smiled wide and lifted Toshiro into his arms whirling around in happiness.
"Welcome home," Jason said his tone happy.
Goodness, those words healed every hurt in his body, his soul. Toshiro held on to Jason feeling complete. The last two weeks disappeared when he was in Jason's arms. They disappeared and became a blur.
He closed his eyes and breathed in Jason's clean scent. This clean wave of love that permeated all the dark spaces in his heart, he drew it in like a starving animal. How he'd missed Jason.
They held each other for a long time, lost in each other's arms.
"Can I interrupt?"
He lifted his head from Jason's shoulder to find his mother standing a few feet away. She looked left out in the moment. Her gaze was unsure as she looked at him with longing, she wringed her hands together.
Jason let go of him and stepped back.
"Your Mom worried too."
Toshiro nodded. It wasn't easy, but he crossed the distance between him and his mother. For a full awkward minute, he wondered how to go about hugging her. She looked too delicate, too clean…
She moved, suddenly wrapping him in a cloud of flowers. She dragged his head to her shoulder, and he had to bend his knees slightly to accommodate her short stature. She held him tight. It was a different hug from Jason's, so warm.
Toshiro closed his eyes, as he finally understood what mothers did for their children. Her comfort was in her touch, the way she stroked a gentle hand through his hair. It felt priceless, precious.
"My son," she whispered and instead of ripping grief for what he'd missed without her, he felt peace.
That night, Jason made love to him in their great big bed.
Jason called it their bedroom, their loft.
That easily, Jason shared all he had with him. It undid him, remade him. Lying on his back, Jason above him, driving him insane with love, he wondered how he could have ever thought to live without this.
Toshiro threw his head back caught in a tide of passion. Jason's hands slid over his chest, sending heat burning through him. Jason's full length surged into him, scraping that bundle of nerves inside him that turned him into quivering mass. He bit his lip, biting back his moan.
His mother was in the next room.
Jason dragged fingers into his hair and took his mouth in a hot kiss. Jason surged into him faster, drawing more moans. It turned him on, when Jason swallowed his moans, kissing him as they plunged into a fast ride. He came with a muffled shout when Jason reached between them and stroked him. Floating in a cloud of ecstasy, he felt Jason come inside him, sending delicious thrills surging through his body.
Jason collapsed on top of him with a happy sigh.
Toshiro wrapped his arms around him, running his fingers over Jason's sleek back down to his ass. He closed his eyes when he felt Jason move inside him. His body responded with happy thrills.
"I don't want to miss this again." Jason kissed his collarbone. "Don't leave me again."
"I won't." Toshiro promised kissing him. "I missed you too."
Jason sighed and braced himself above him. The lights were on, dispelling any shadows in the room. Jason's green eyes left him breathless. He reached up to feel Jason's stubble against his fingers. He'd dreamt of this every night when he'd been in prison. Two weeks of confinement and he'd wanted nothing to do with jail time ever again.
"You've gone away from me. Where are you?" Jason asked then. "What are you thinking about?"
Toshiro met green eyes and smiled.
"How much you mean to me."
He sighed when Jason slipped out of him, feeling like he'd lost a part of him.
Jason rolled to the side and propped his head up with his left hand to study him.
"I want you to tell me what happened."
He turned to his right needing Jason's closeness.
"Do I have to? Can't we just forget it? We're getting married soon. Starting a new life—
"You might want to forget but you keep thinking about it. It was hard for me too. I need to know what happened."
Toshiro sighed and reached up to touch Jason's jaw.
"It's all so dark."
"Just tell me, Toshi."
Toshiro dropped his hand away because he knew Jason wouldn't let it go. Jason had waited all afternoon to ask. He'd told them that Michael had released him, but what it had taken…even Jun had wanted to spare Yuriko. They'd sugarcoated the story for his mother and Jason during dinner. It was nice to have Jun's support. His father was a man he was proud to know.
"Please, Toshi, don't shut me out now. You were arrested," Jason started for him. "Taken to jail with that Taki guy, did he come out too?"
Toshiro sighed and sat up. He wished he could get a drink for this tale.
"No, Taki didn't make it," he said. He shifted until he was propped against the headboard. "He died killing Kaito."
Jason sat up too and waited. It was the way he waited that made Toshiro love him even more.
Toshiro closed his eyes remembering Taki's sacrifice. Taki, who he'd hated, had died freeing him from a lifetime of trouble.
"Michael booked us in as planned. He made sure they placed us in the same block as Kaito. I was nervous because the news of Mako's death would have reached Kaito. Taki and I had the same cell. Taki's goal was to get Kaito, but that changed when someone tried to strangle me our first night. The mole in Michael's office had friends."
"I didn't eat anything for two days." Toshiro shook his head remembering the fear of walking among the inmates. "I was sure they'd try to poison me that way. Taki smuggled food for me on the second day from the kitchen. I still don't know how he managed that. We hadn't met Kaito yet and someone had tried to strangle me in my bed. The other tried to throw me from the fifth block down to the ground head fast. If it weren't for Taki, I don't think I'd have made it."
Jason hissed and shifted on the bed. Toshiro forced himself not to look at Jason.
"Michael worked a deal with the warden. The third night they caught the guard who opened our cell and the inmate who wanted to stab me to death. The two gave up the mole in Michael's office. Kaito emerged from solitary the fourth day after they arrested Michael's mole. Kaito wasn't happy."
"How did Taki die?" Jason asked.
Toshiro rubbed his eyes wishing to wipe out the horrid memories.
"I tried to get him to calm down when Kaito showed up. Kaito came straight to find us, like the enraged beast he was. He wanted to kill me, payback for his mother's death. I didn't do it, and he knew, but still he wanted to kill me. His hate was hard to take."
Jason took his hand and squeezed.
"I know your relationship with Sean was different from mine and Kaito but, imagine Sean hating you. Would it be easy?"
Jason shook his head in understanding.
Toshiro wondered how Jason could understand. Kaito's form of love was darker. Seeing him again had dragged Toshiro back to his past. Back to the young boy who grew up wanting to please Kaito. Seeing Kaito's anger had almost driven him to beg for forgiveness.
That he'd even contemplated begging forgiveness made him feel dirty sitting so close to Jason. He didn't want to spoil the love he had with Jason. It was so pure, so unsullied.
"Before Kaito stabbed me, I thought I loved him. I really did, I would have done anything for Kaito, Jason. Had done things for him," he broke off because he understood that wasn't love. "Looking at him again in that place, I felt disgust for me, for him, what we've done together. My life shouldn't have happened that way."
"And poor Taki, his rage against Kaito was so deep. The Takumi family had killed his parents. Slain them in front of him, for land, it drove Taki crazy in that place. The rage, it ate away at him. I kept wondering why, but I shouldn't wonder, Jason. I should understand his rage, shouldn't I? Taki made me realize I had no idea what a parent really is, Jason. Aren't I pitiful?"
"I've had such dark thoughts. I wonder what you see in me."
Toshiro looked away from Jason's empathic gaze. Perhaps Jason's goodness couldn't allow him to see the dark side inside Toshiro. The dark side that still lurked inside, it worried Toshiro.
"Taki planned his move without letting me know." Toshiro shook his head. "I wanted Michael to get us out of there. I wanted to save Taki, even if it meant living on the run. Taki's rage was hard to take. I just wanted to take him away from there. Jail is hard, Jason. So hard. I tried my best to have Michael move fast but I was too late."
"Taki woke up very early on our sixth day. I woke up to find him gone, so I went searching. I found them in the showers. Kaito's head smashed into the toilet bowl, he'd bled out on the wet floor. He didn't go without a fight. Taki sat on the floor with two stab wounds in his stomach. He kept saying 'tell Jun you're free now'. I tried to stop the bleeding but," Toshiro stared at his hands remembering the blood, "so much blood. I could do nothing…I could do nothing."
Jason pulled him into his arms, holding him tight. Toshiro felt a soft kiss against his temple.
"It wasn't your fault. Taki chose his path."
"I could have saved him. Tried to understand him," Toshiro sighed. "I couldn't see past my own anger with him."
"I'm happy he freed you," Jason said. "There was nothing to do for him, Toshi."
Toshiro breathed in Jason, hoping to shift the darkness inside him.
"After that, Michael moved me. There was no urgency in the case now that Kaito was dead. However, he needed to get me free. So, I took him to the money. There's a man without a name who does banking for people like us. It's dangerous to bring along an agent, so it took convincing that I wasn't after him but Takumi money. That's where I was this past week. When it was over, and Michael was safe, I spent two days avoiding my father. It was hard getting back to my past. I missed you, but I wasn't sure you should have to live with someone like me."
He felt Jason stiffen under him. They both knew if he'd wanted, he'd have disappeared and never returned.
Toshiro had thought about letting Jason go, allowing his parents to go too….but he was selfish. His heart wouldn't let him. He'd wanted the life Jason promised.
"What changed your mind?" Jason asked in a whisper.
"You," Toshiro answered matching Jason's tone. "You rescued me, you know. Showed me a different life, something I'd never seen before. I'm sure you're the only reason I feel anything for my parents. Without you, I don't know if I'd understand them. I really want to know what the whole family thing is about…and I can't do that without you. So, I'm being selfish here."
He shifted away from Jason to meet amused green eyes.
"What are you thinking?" Toshiro demanded.
Jason rubbed away his frown with a gentle thumb.
"I see you, Toshi. Your heart, it's very beautiful."
"You must really love that word, beautiful."
"I love you, Toshi."
"I love you, too."
Jason let out a relieved happy sigh.
"Let's get married tomorrow."
"That's a big thing, you know. People don't just decide, let's get married tomorrow."
"Tomorrow," Jason insisted. "I can't watch Sean plan this wedding any longer. He's getting out of control. Your parents are in town. Why not get married?"
"What about your mother?"
"She's a phone call away."
"But I haven't met her, what if she—
Toshiro shifted on the bed so that he was kneeling.
"What if she hates me?"
"She has no choice but to love you. You're going to be my husband."
Toshiro smiled then his heart so full at that simple title: not a gangster, criminal or a bad guy, but a husband to Jason. He could live with that.
He flung himself into Jason's arms.
"Yes, to whatever you say, Jason. I'm yours."
Their wedding was small, intimate.
Jason's friends, Sean's friends, Toshiro's parents who held hands tight through the ceremony. The Watsons who he'd finally met. Jason's mother and her husband, a nice man who had a wonderful smile. Jason's mom hugged Toshiro tight and called him her son.
Jason's people, becoming his people, Toshiro's heart squeezed tight at that gift.
He'd stumbled through a forest at the start, bleeding to death, with no one to care. He met green eyes and smiled. This man had rescued him that night in more ways than one. Jason had given him a place to belong.
Jason, his lover, his friend, his family, his heart…his rescuer, he didn't know what lay ahead, but he belonged here now. In this small town in Penn Yan, this small magical place that he was now part of forever.
He smiled as Jason slipped a ring on his left ring finger. He smiled harder when he saw the design, a curved snake to match his tattoo. Except this ring was crafted by Jason with love.
What a man, he thought slipping a solid white gold band on Jason's finger.
Yes, this was his place, right beside Jason. He'd struggled to find it, but now that he was here, it felt damn good. His heart swelled with happiness when Jason kissed him, and their family and friends clapped in joy.
Please switch to the pop-up to complete the payment.
Complete daily missions to get rewards.Learn more about the rules
This's an experimental test for reading assistance in case.
We highly recommend you to enjoy the beauty of the original words.