Iwaki and Katou had managed to clear their schedules to have a couple of free weeks during the holiday season so that they could visit their families--Iwaki's first, and then Katou's. Because they were going to be arriving in Niigata on Christmas Eve, Katou insisted on buying presents for everyone even though Iwaki protested that his father was a traditional sort who didn't celebrate Christmas.
"But it would be so sad to show up without any presents for little Hina-chan!" Katou exclaimed. "I always got presents from 'Santa' when I was a kid. Does your dad really hate Christmas, Iwaki-san?"
"Well, 'hate' is probably too strong a word," Iwaki conceded. "But he thinks that Christmas isn't a 'real' Japanese holiday."
"If he's offended, then you can blame it on me," Katou said cheerfully. "Just tell him that I'm an idiot who doesn't know any better. And maybe if we get him a really nice present, he won't mind at all."
So they arrived at the Iwaki house laden with presents--mostly for Hina, but they'd also bought gifts for everyone else in the family. Iwaki had thought that a small token gift for each person would be fine, but Katou had gotten carried away with his usual exuberance, and was carrying a bag of presents almost big enough to match Santa's--which went along with the red-and-white Santa hat he was wearing.
"Ho ho ho!" Katou bellowed in a deep voice. "Has Hina-chan been a good little girl this year?"
Hina toddled forward giggling, "Uncle Youji!"
"No, no, I'm Santa-san," Katou said, sweeping Hina up in his arms.
"Santa-san," Hina echoed obediently, still giggling.
"Good girl," Katou said approvingly, and began handing out the presents: designer bags and perfume for Fuyumi and Hisako, gloves and scarves for Masahiko and Father, along with a very expensive bottle of Father's favorite brand of sake, and several toys for Hina.
"You'll spoil her," Masahiko grumbled, but he didn't really sound upset, and he smiled when Hina laughed delightedly at a toy puppy that was barking and wagging its tail. Masahiko had always agreed with their father that Christmas was a silly holiday, but he was a doting father, and Iwaki suspected that Hina had him wrapped around her little finger.
What really surprised Iwaki was that his father seemed to have mellowed over the years, and didn't say one word about Christmas being a marketing scheme rather than a real holiday. In fact, he thanked them sincerely for the gifts and smiled indulgently as he watched Katou and Hina playing together with her new toys.
"Katou is like a big kid himself," Iwaki said, still feeling rather bemused.
"It was very sweet of him to think of Hina-chan," Fuyumi said with a smile. "He has a good heart."
Masahiko just grunted in reply, but did not disagree.
Iwaki got an even bigger shock at dinner when their meal turned out to be fried chicken and sushi. Granted, Hisako and Fuyumi had prepared the chicken themselves rather than ordering it from KFC. There was even a Christmas cake for dessert with whipped cream and strawberries.
"I don't know why you said your dad doesn't like Christmas, Iwaki-san," Katou whispered. "This almost feels like Christmas at my folks' house."
Iwaki shrugged helplessly, feeling like he was caught up in a science fiction story where his family had been replaced by aliens. However, his father was as observant as ever and noticed the exchange.
"It's true that I didn't think much of Christmas in the past," he said pleasantly. "But Fuyumi had grown up celebrating Christmas in her family, and from the way she described it, Christmas was an occasion for the family to have a festive dinner together and exchange small gifts to express their appreciation for each other."
"So now we have fried chicken, but home-cooked instead of fast food," Hisako chimed in.
"Along with a nice, traditional dish like sushi for Father's sake," Fuyumi added with a mischievous smile, and the elder Iwaki chuckled.
"Fuyumi said that she really enjoyed Christmas when she was a child and that she wanted Hina-chan to experience it, too," he said. In a more serious voice he added, "I find myself wondering now if maybe I deprived you and Masahiko of some of that enjoyment."
"I never felt deprived," Iwaki assured his father, although as a child, he had occasionally felt a wistful desire to have Christmas cake and presents like his classmates. But it would be an exaggeration to say that he had felt deprived: his family was wealthy, and while he and Masahiko had not been spoiled, they certainly hadn't lacked for toys and treats.
"Nor I," Masahiko said firmly. "I don't mind celebrating Christmas for Fuyumi and Hina's sakes, but I don't feel like I missed out on anything."
"I'm glad," Father said with relief, while Hina smiled and munched on a strawberry, oblivious to the brief moment of tension that had just cleared.
"Oh, that reminds me, we also have presents for you two," Fuyumi told Iwaki and Katou, tactfully changing the subject.
She had knitted scarves for them, and Hisako had knitted matching hats, each with a large, fuzzy pom-pom on the top. "Wow, this is great!" Katou said, pulling the hat onto his head without any embarrassment. "It'll keep me warm and cozy in this cold weather."
"Yes, he's got little enough common sense as it is, so we need to keep his brain from freezing," Iwaki said, wryly but fondly.
"You're so mean, Iwaki-san," Katou said, pouting like a child with his lower lip outthrust, but he laughed along with Iwaki a moment later.
Iwaki was even more surprised to receive rice crackers and sweets, both made at local shops, from his brother and father.
"I'm sure that you two already have everything money can buy," Masahiko said gruffly. "But I remember that you liked these when we were kids."
"Money can't buy everything," Father corrected him gently. "You can't buy these in Tokyo, only locally here in Niigata."
"Thank you, Dad, Niisan," Iwaki replied, genuinely touched that his stern and practical father and brother had actually done something as frivolous and sentimental as buying him Christmas presents. And not just for him--they were addressed to Katou, too, which perhaps meant that Masahiko had finally accepted their relationship?
"Thank you very much!" Katou said earnestly, also looking moved by the apparent peace offering. Father politely accepted his thanks, while Masahiko flushed and turned away with another wordless grunt, which made Iwaki smile because he saw through his brother's bluster. Fuyumi also smiled, with amusement and affection, and it occurred to Iwaki that both he and Masahiko had a hard time expressing their emotions. Katou had helped him to open up a little and let his loved ones know that he cared about them, and perhaps Fuyumi had done the same for Masahiko.
They played with Hina and chatted with the adults for awhile, but when Father began to look tired, Iwaki and Katou excused themselves and retired to their room. Katou yawned and stretched, saying, "I was a bit tired, too, to be honest--it's been a long day. Shall we take a bath before it gets too late?"
"Sure, you can go first," Iwaki told him. "The guest bathroom is down the hall, second door on the right."
"I was thinking we could bathe together," Katou coaxed with a sweet, innocent smile on his face.
But Iwaki knew that they would end up doing a lot more than bathing if he got into the tub with Katou. He was still embarrassed about the last time that they had gotten carried away while visiting during New Year's and belatedly realized that the family had overheard them making love.
"You go ahead," Iwaki said, giving his husband a stern look. When Katou began to pout, he added, "I have some reading to catch up on, anyway," and pulled out a script that he did indeed have to memorize by the time they returned to Tokyo.
"Fine," Katou sighed, his shoulders slumping slightly with defeat, and headed for the bathroom.
Katou sighed again as he briskly scrubbed and rinsed himself off, wishing that Iwaki were here with him--it would certainly make bathtime a lot more fun! For a former porn star, his beloved Iwaki-san could be surprisingly shy and almost prudish at times. Okay, it was a little embarrassing that Masahiko had overheard them having sex--and more importantly (at least in Katou's opinion), Big Brother had been annoyed enough to take away the baby pictures of Iwaki that Katou had wanted to copy.
But still...they could have made an effort to be quiet this time. Then Katou grinned smugly. Perhaps Iwaki was worried because he couldn't control himself when they made love, which Katou had to admit was pretty flattering.
So he decided to be virtuous and enjoy his solitary, celibate bath. It would prove to Iwaki that he could be mature, and maybe he could persuade Iwaki that they could try to have quiet sex tonight after everyone had gone to sleep.
Feeling a bit more cheerful, Katou climbed into the bathtub, which someone--probably Hisako--had thoughtfully filled up ahead of time. The water was much cooler than Katou had expected, but it would be rude to complain, so he lowered himself down into the tub and tried to relax.
He leaned back, closing his eyes, which suddenly snapped open again when he felt something nibbling on his toes...
Iwaki immediately dropped his script and ran out into the hall when he heard Katou's scream of terror.
"What the hell?" he muttered to himself, then saw the rest of his family rushing towards him, having also been drawn by Katou's screams.
"What's wrong?" Masahiko demanded, frowning in both worry and annoyance.
"I have no idea," Iwaki replied, feeling a touch of exasperation filtering through his initial concern. What kind of trouble could Katou have possibly gotten into while taking a simple bath? "He just went to go take a bath a few minutes ago. I'll go check on him."
Fuyumi's eyes widened with comprehension and she exclaimed, "Oh no, you didn't send him to the guest bathroom, did you?"
"Why shouldn't I have?" Iwaki asked in confusion.
"Oh," Masahiko said knowingly.
"Dear, why didn't you warn them?" Fuyumi chided her husband gently.
"It's my fault," Hisako apologized. "I should have warned the young master and Katou-san, but it completely slipped my mind."
"Iwaki-san!" Katou shouted, running out of the bathroom dripping water and wearing only a towel wrapped around his waist. "There are fish in the bathtub!" He grabbed Iwaki by the arm, dragged him into the bathroom, and pointed at the tub, as if afraid that Iwaki wouldn't believe him without seeing the evidence. Swimming lazily around the tub were two koi, one white with a red spot on its head and the other red with black patches.
"Sorry, Katou," Iwaki said. "I forgot that Father sometimes keeps his koi there during the winter." He heard a soft, muffled noise from Fuyumi and turned to see his sister-in-law pressing a hand to her mouth, obviously fighting back laughter, and Iwaki suddenly had to bite his lip to keep from grinning himself.
"But why does he keep them in the bathtub?" Katou asked in bewilderment.
"I apologize, Youji-san," Father said gravely, although there was a faint twinkle of amusement in his eyes. "Those two koi are ill and wouldn't survive the winter if I left them in the outdoor pond. Besides, they need to be quarantined so that the other fish don't get sick, too. So I nurse them back to the health indoors until they're strong enough to rejoin their companions."
"But...in the tub?" Katou asked, scratching his head and still looking puzzled.
"They're too big to fit in a goldfish bowl," Masahiko pointed out dryly. "And they're very valuable, so they need to be treated with special care." He gestured at the white-and-red fish and added, "That Tancho is a prizewinner worth several million yen."
"Really?!" Katou exclaimed, his eyes widening with shock. "For a fish?"
"For a champion koi," Masahiko corrected in a cool voice. "Father is a very well-respected breeder and his fish have won many prizes."
"I'm only an amateur," Father protested modestly. "But since I retired after Masahiko took over the business, I've been able to devote more time to my hobby, and I've been fortunate enough to have my koi win a few prizes."
"I'm so sorry, Youji-san," Fuyumi apologized, still fighting back laughter. "We've grown so used to having fish in the bathtub during winter that we forgot to warn you and Kyousuke-san. You must have been quite startled!" A giggle bubbled out of her mouth before she could stop it, and she managed to gasp, "I'm so sorry," before bursting into outright laughter.
It proved to be contagious: Iwaki lost control and doubled over with laughter, and Hisako began laughing even while she was apologizing to Katou for being so rude. Father chuckled, and even the always stern and stoic Masahiko cracked a smile. Katou stared back at them indignantly, but he was too good-natured to stay offended for long, and was soon laughing along with everyone else.
But later, when they were alone in their room, Katou pouted and said, "You were very mean to laugh at me, Iwaki-san. I was really scared when that fish bit me!"
"Did it really bite you?" Iwaki asked skeptically. "Where?"
Katou pointed at his big toe, and Iwaki bent down to examine it carefully, then scoffed, "There's not even a scratch on you--you made it sound like the fish nearly bit your foot off!"
"Well, maybe it didn't break the skin," Katou admitted. "But it still hurt!" He gazed at Iwaki with a wide-eyed puppy dog look and asked hopefully, "Maybe you could kiss it and make it better?"
"Don't be such a big baby," Iwaki scolded, but he did feel a bit guilty for laughing at Katou, so he lowered his head and planted a gentle kiss on Katou's (allegedly) wounded toe.
"Better?" he asked.
"Much," Katou assured him, then gave him another puppy dog look. "Is there any way I can convince you that the fish bit my lips too?"
"Silly Katou," Iwaki laughed. "I don't need an excuse to kiss you." And he pulled Katou into his arms and gave him a much more heated kiss on the mouth.
"Mmm, I love you, Iwaki-san."
"I love you, too, Katou."
Fuyumi had to give her brother-in-law and his husband credit--they managed to keep the noise down this time, although an occasional grunt or moan filtered through the walls. But it was an old house, and the walls were thin...
"Those two are shameless," Masahiko grumbled as he lay in bed next to her.
"Let them be, dear," Fuyumi told him. "I think it's rather sweet, how they still act like newlyweds."
"They act like two dogs in heat who can't control their hormones," Masahiko retorted. "I think that we ought to have the guest bedroom soundproofed so that we can get some peace and quiet the next time that they visit!"
Which meant, of course, that Masahiko intended there to be a "next time" in spite of all his complaints, and Fuyumi smiled at him tenderly. She found it endearing, the way he covered up his sentimentality with gruffness.
"What?" Masahiko asked suspiciously.
She laid a hand on his chest and smiled at him more seductively this time. "If the noise is bothering you, perhaps I should distract you so that you won't notice it."
"Oh," Masahiko said, blinking in surprise. "Oh. Well...yes, actually, that might be a good idea."
"I'm full of good ideas," Fuyumi laughed mischievously.
"Yes, you are," Masahiko agreed, his stern face finally relaxing into a smile. "One of the many reasons why I married you," he added as he pulled her into his arms and kissed her.