Sadayo looked up from the map on her phone and frowned. Everywhere she looked, she saw building after building; everything was the same. It was only her second visit to this city, but she felt that with the map she could have at least found her way; she was wrong. Her brow furrowed, Sadayo felt a dull pain fill her temple. Rubbing the throb, Sadayo looked around for something that looked like a convenience store or any place where she could get directions.
They’d spent weeks planning this visit, his parents were off visiting an aunt and his sister had left on a training trip with her swim team and both of them had been anxious. It was the second to last week of both their summer vacations and Sadayo had finished her work a few days prior in preparation. Akira had mentioned having to work at his new part-time job for the remainder of the week but said he’d be home before she arrived.
Checking her watch, Sadayo sighed seeing that it was nearly three and darted off toward the nearest street merchant. It was difficult with her suitcase rolling behind her. The bag wasn’t overly large, but it was filled to the brim with her clothes, toiletries, and a few snacks that some of her friends had asked her to bring back with her. Coming to a stop, she took a moment to catch her breath. The cart was run by an older man, in his late forties, and was surrounded by several breeds of flowers. He looked to be content, prepping bouquets and other items.
“Hello.” The man set down the latest bouquet, a rather large one filled with tulips and other flowers Sadayo didn’t recognize.
“Hi.” She stood up, a slight stitch in her side as she caught her breath. “Would you mind if I bothered you for a moment? I’m a bit lost.”
“Of course my dear.” The man adjusted the small pair of wire glasses on his nose and gave her a patient smile. “Where are you looking to go?”
“I’m looking for this address; or at least the street.” She opened her phone and showed him the address.
“Oh,” the man chuckled after a moment and handed her back the phone. “You’re not that far off dear. It’s about five blocks down that way and then a left at the bakery.”
“Bakery?” Sadayo’s stomach growled loudly at the possibility of food. “What kind of bakery?”
He gave her a wink and pulled a few small purple flowers from his stall and held them out to her. “A rather lovely bakery that also serves a bit of coffee. Ask for Akane and she can help you if you get lost again.”
“What are these for?” Sadayo took the flowers and smelled them. They were rather fragrant, not overly powering, but lovely in their own right.
“You just look like you could use a pick me up.” The man gave her a wink and waved toward the streets. “No charge, but should you need anything else, please come back. I’m here most days.”
Sadayo bowed and turned to head in the direction he’d mentioned. Stopping, Sadayo turned back around and looked at the man. He had brown graying hair and dark sun tanned face. His eyes were a deep green and his hands were stained with dirt.
“Would you mind if I ask for your name, sir?”
He looked up from his latest bouquet and checked something off a piece of paper and gave her another smile. “It’s Gin, my dear. Might I ask yours?”
“Kawakami Sadayo.” She bowed and returned the smile. “It’s very nice to meet you, Gin-san. Thank you for the flowers.”
“Just Gin, my dear.” He chuckled and waved a hand at her. “And it’s just Akane with the lady who owns the bakery, or Akane-chan. She’s a stickler for people treating her like she’s their sister.”
“Thank you for the advice.” Sadayo took a deep breath and clutched the flowers. “I’ll be sure to stop by and buy a few more on my way out of town.”
“I’ll have something special ready to make when you return.”
She bid him farewell and then turned down the street with a slight bounce in her step that wasn’t there earlier. The sun was shining and she was beginning to at least enjoy herself. The trip on the train had been nearly unbearable thanks to it being over an hour late and the air conditioning was barely functioning. Luckily, she’d worn a pair of low-cut shorts and a tee-shirt rather than her customary skirt and found the trip at least tolerable compared to the people in work clothes; but she had noticed a few people eyeing her. It was both flattering and a bit creepy given the fact that some of the men looked to be older than her father.
Now out amongst other people, Sadayo felt less conspicuous since there were several people dressed like her and felt her headache slowly dissipate now that she knew where she was going. She’d chosen this outfit especially since Akira had rarely seen her outside her work outfit in person. Since he’d been gone they’d taken to video chatting and long phone calls when she could pull herself away from work and him from his studies and family. This was mostly on Friday and Saturday nights after his parents had gone to bed. Luckily for them, Akira’s parents were usually in bed by ten and after putting the cat out, they were able to both entertain and pleasure themselves without interruption.
Still, there was something to be said of him seeing her dressed like this in person rather than naked over a video chat or describing it over the phone. Despite how intimate they’d gotten over their long chats and short dates together, seeing one another naked was still new to them. The body of a naked man was nothing new to Sadayo. While she hadn’t been pushed to that with her maid job, she'd had dates and even a few boyfriends in her time to get her used to the sight, but Akira was different.
While the age gap wasn’t that great, Sadayo always saw quiet anxiety in his eyes. She had grown used to his cockiness, how he always handled everything with this casual ease. He could make her calm with a touch, ease her tension with a simple smile, and dissolve her barriers with a mere question. Yet he always grew bashful when she began showing the slightest hint of skin, even after all the times he’d seen her in her maid outfit.
When she approached the cafe, Sadayo took a moment to appreciate her reflection in the mirror. She’d been growing her hair out and had pulled it back into a ponytail. A small hint of doubt crept into her mind at what he’d think about it, but she thought she looked good and so did many other people based on all the stares she was getting. Adjusting her shirt, to make sure it left at least a little to the imagination and contemplated entering the bakery.
It smelt divine and made her stomach growl and from the window, she perused some of the food she could see. She saw several sandwiches, cupcakes, danishes, and other favorites that tempted her grumbling tummy. When she finally made up her mind to buy a sandwich, her phone rang and her chest tightened at the picture he’d taken of them the last time they saw a movie.
“Hey!” He sounded breathless as if he’d just come back from running, which wasn’t unusual given that she knew he and Ryuji were keeping up with their training regimen.
“Hi.” She felt her ears grow warm at the sound of his voice. “What have you been doing? You sound out of breath?”
“I just got back from a run.”
I knew it. She thought in victory at hearing this.
“What are you up to? I thought you would have been here by now?” He sounded more concerned rather than annoyed and it made her feel warm inside. “Are you lost? Do you need me to come and get you?”
“I’m at that bakery a couple of blocks away.” She turned away from the bakery and began heading down the street. “My train was a bit late and I did get lost until a nice man running a flower stand gave me directions.”
“You mean Gin?” He sounded like he’d just taken a huge gulp of something.
“I take it he’s a local favorite?” Sadayo clutched at the flowers Gin had given her.
“He’s been working that corner for years.” Akira laughed and she heard a drawer close. “He knows this town better than most people so if he gave you directions I’m not worried. I’m going to get in the shower, but if you need me I’ll have my phone.”
“I will.” Sadayo’s lips parted in a smile so big that she felt her cheeks hurt slightly. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” She could hear the smile on his face and the ache in his voice. Hanging up, Sadayo decided to take a minute and step into the bakery. Everything looked as good as it smelt and she wasted no time in ordering two of their larger sandwiches and a couple of treats. Thanking the young girl behind the counter, she left the bakery and loaded the GPS to see she had only another ten minutes of walking before she was there. As she began to wander she noticed a gathering of clouds beginning to form and cursed beneath her breath and picked up her pace, but her caution was soon met with disaster.
As she hurried, the rain began to fall and Sadayo began running down the streets, hoping not to lose her way. A few of the citizens asked her if she was all right and she told them she didn’t have too far to go. While she appreciated their concern, Sadayo had decided to heed Akira’s advice from her last visit and keep her contact with most of his neighbors to a minimum.
In their conversations, she’d listened to Akira describe how everyone had been treating him. Few people, save for a couple of former friends that believed in him, spoke to him at school. The teachers barely called on him in class and treated him with indifference; much like she had when she’d first met him.
The mention of that stung her quite deeply. It was her greatest regret and she hoped that she could make it up to him.
Finally, there were his parents. He never mentioned them much, the first time being how they’d welcomed him home with a small party and spoke little of the events that they’d learned about during his trial. Sadayo had listened to him go on about how they barely ever talked to him about his time in Tokyo and only wanted him to focus on his school and picking up where he left off. Sadayo had stayed up many nights talking to him about what he was feeling and wished that she had the time to visit him and talk to them, but whenever she mentioned it he’d denied her.
“You need to stay there,” he’d told her once after a particularly emotional conversation. “I know we don’t really have to hide anymore, but I don’t want to risk it.”
Reluctantly, she’d agreed and since then they’d survived on letters sent to LeBlanc, on top of the phone calls and video messages. Her only other visit had been a two-day visit over a long weekend where they’d spent most of it in her hotel room, lying in bed and ordering room service; they’d even risked a couple of meals out when it got late enough. But now she had a week alone with him and no one to worry about interrupting their time alone.
The rain was beginning to pour now and Sadayo felt her body begin to chill. Swearing quietly she began running through the street, arms clutching a bundle of flowers and a bag of sandwiches, while her suitcase trailed behind her. She began scanning every house she could see until she finally saw it through her rain splattered vision. Only a few meters ahead was a quaint modern looking home with a small yard in front of it and tall concrete wall. The front door had a large awning over it, covering the front step from any inclement weather. Most of the blinds were closed, save for a couple up on the second floor where Sadayo saw a familiar pair of blue eyes flash from the window facing the left side of the street.
Gulping loudly, she gripped her suitcase tighter and approached the door. The rain splashed around her shoes as she jogged up to the gate. It took her a moment to open it since she was now using her flowers and lunch as an umbrella, but she managed and soon found respite beneath the awning. Shivering, she raised her hand to the door and began knocking loudly as the cold began to sink in. Looking around, she saw nobody staring at her, but began regretting wearing such low cut shorts but was glad for the thick tee-shirt and her bra. After a few minutes with no answer, Sadayo hit the doorbell several times and waited until she heard the thundering of footsteps and a loud yowl from inside the house.
“Then don’t sleep in the middle of the steps!” She heard him yell as she began to hastily undue her ponytail and fluffing her hair.
There was some more yowling and Sadayo rolled her eyes. She’d never understood why Akira always talked to his cat so much. Granted she wasn’t much better with her tendency to care for some of the strays in her neighborhood, but the level he took it to was unusual even for a pet owner.
The locks scraped and then there was the rattle of a latch on the door and Sadayo felt herself grow weak when she saw him.
His untidy hair was still soaked and plastered to his head. His arms and legs were bare thanks to the shorts and tank top he was wearing and Sadayo couldn’t help but admire the scars and sinewy muscles and how badly she wanted them to warm her up. His lanky form still towered over hers, but she liked having to look up into his gray eyes as he slowly realized what he was looking at.
Rubbing his eyes, Akira slowly drank in the sight before him.
It was one of the few times, Akira was at loss for words in her presence. Since the last time he’d seen her hair had gone from just below her ears and was now down to her shoulders. She was wearing a baggy gray, faded, and soaked tee-shirt that clung to her torso and was wearing a pair of shorts that left almost little to the imagination. Her brown eyes were staring off to the side, but there was a deep blush to her face and a smile on her lips. Stepping out, Akira reached out with a hand and gently touched her cheek and let out a smile when he felt her hair.
It was as soft as he remembered, if a bit longer than he was used to. Running his hand through it he didn’t find any knots and continued running his fingers through it lovingly. He could feel her shivering but deduced that it was more because she was cold rather than his touch.
“Do you like it,” she asked through slightly chattering teeth.
“Yeah,” he whispered and stepped forward. His other hand rested on her cheek, his thumb absent-mindedly caressing it. His head leaned forward and he couldn’t help but rest his forehead on hers. His eyes closed and he heard her exhale, her thin arms pushing them between him and her. Knowing what she wanted, Akira moved his arms from her head and down around her body, enveloping her with his warmth. It didn’t help her much, but Akira could feel her relax slightly and he couldn’t help but smile.
“You’re really here,” he whispered as she gently kissed the bare skin of his chest.
“I am,” she replied, her voice still chattering but her body made no attempt to enter the house. She wanted to stay in that spot, her chin finding its way to his shoulder while her arms wrapped around him. He was so warm and Sadayo clung to him in desperation. She hadn’t realized how much she had missed him until she felt his arms pull her in. They remained there for several moments, the rain pounding around them, but safe beneath the awning save for a couple of small droplets hitting their ankles. Despite the warm security of his arms, Sadayo shivered and tried to burrow deeper into his body.
“Come on,” he said as he rubbed his hand up and down her back.
“One second,” Sadayo whispered as he stepped away from her. Though the air around them was warm, Sadayo’s hands were still shaking from the sudden downpour. Reaching up she took his face into her hands and pulled him close. His lips wasted no time in finding hers and her body seemed to warm from the contact. Her shivering was now more from the sensation of finally being able to kiss him and she moaned deeply when his tongue pressed gently against hers.
“Feel better?” He asked after they broke apart. The familiar cocky grin had returned to his face, along with a deep tinge of red to his mildly tanned face.
“I’m still undecided.” She gave him a soft kiss on the lips and proceeded to grab her belongings.
“I’ll get those,” he said stepping out onto the small porch and lifted them effortlessly.
“Show off,” she snickered as they walked into the entry way. Taking off her shoes she wandered over to the steps and began petting the black cat that had joined them so many times at LeBlanc. “Hi, Morgana.”
“Hello, Sadayo.” The cat said though it sounded like mere meows to the teacher.
“You’re such talkative cat.” Sadayo scratched behind his ears and under his chin making the cat purr. “Such a good boy.”
“Hear that, Joker?” The cat broke away from the woman’s scratches and rubbed his head against her hands. “I’m a good boy.”
“You’re going to spoil him,” grunted Akira, though there was a twitch of amusement from his lip.
“Animals deserve to be spoiled on occasion, just like humans.”
“Yeah, Akira.” Morgana made a quick movement and jumped onto Sadayo’s shoulder. “I deserve to be spoiled.”
“If you say so.” Akira gave Morgana a small flick on the nose and wandered off toward the kitchen while Sadayo carefully stood up, hoping the cat wouldn’t scratch her.
This was the first time, Sadayo had actually stepped into his house and was a bit amazed at how much life it seemed to have. While not messy, there was a slight disorganization to it. Books on various topics were laying around. She read a few titles and after reading the back saw that a lot of them dealt with psychotherapy, others were cookbooks and managerial books. There were also books most people would use for casual and scholastic reading as well. Picking up one of the books on psychotherapy, Sadayo looked around the walls and saw pictures and paintings of all kinds.
Most of them were of Akira and his family. Vacations and holidays were plastered everywhere as well as graduations from elementary and middle schools. She saw a long lanky man and a smaller squat woman with a round face and glasses smiling at her while wearing traditional wedding kimonos. Further down she saw a young girl, no older than five or six, and a young Akira, both looking frustrated about something while their mother was trying to console them. Chuckling at the sight frumpy look on her boyfriend’s face, Sadayo wandered into the kitchen and watched Akira nibble on one of the cookies she’d bought.
“Dessert first?” Sadayo set the book down and removed Morgana from her shoulder and scratched the top of the cat’s head.
“I ate while I was at work.” Akira pointed at the sandwiches and said, “Though next time I’d recommend the club over the roast beef. It’s less of a hassle for carry-out.”
“Eat there often?” Sadayo wandered over and found that he’d placed what was once a pile of lovely meat on crisp bread was now a soaked pile of bread and meat. Not one to waste a good meal, Sadayo asked for a knife and fork, to which Akira obliged and dug into the food. The bread actually tasted clean and a bit salty thanks to the broth. The meat itself was sweet and tender and the ch
“Considering that’s where I'm working now, yeah I’d say I eat there often.” Akira handed her a glass of water and sat down next to her, smiling as he watched her.
Sadayo took a moment to ponder what he’d said before finally chuckling, “Of course you’d get a job at a nearby coffee shop.”
“I’m a creature of habit.” Akira picked up a stray bit of meat off her plate and popped it into his mouth. "And it's a bakery not a coffee shop."
“There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of familiarity.” Sadayo leaned over and gave him a quick kiss. “Besides, I know you made a lot of money during your time as a Phantom and I find it kind of sexy you’re still willing to work so hard after making enough to put yourself through college.”
“I still don’t know what I’m going to study.” Akira gave her shoulder a quick nuzzle and kissed it. “Everything seems so mundane after last year.”
“I know.” Sadayo set her knife and fork down and wrapped an arm around his shoulder. “But you can still waste a year in general studies while you figure it out. A lot of people do and if you can’t figure it out this year, maybe take a year off and work a few jobs; see if you find something that interests you.”
“And what if I don’t go to college and find a good job doing something weird?” He rested his chin on her shoulder and stared at her.
“As long as it’s not illegal or shady, you’ll have my support.” She gave him a kiss on the nose and returned to her food.
“You’re going to spoil me,” he laughed and gave her shoulder another kiss. She smelt like rain and coconut and he found it intoxicating.
“You’re already spoiled.” She sighed at having finally completed her lunch and burped quietly. “Excuse me.”
Akira laughed and gathered her dishes and headed toward the sink. As he began washing them, Sadayo wrapped her arms around him and rested her head on his back. He stopped momentarily, allowing himself to become accustomed to her embrace before continuing his work. When he finished, he turned around and she noticed a deep blush to his face.
“What’s the matter?” The dampness of her shirt was beginning to cling to her shirt and she noticed that Akira was looking away.
“No..nothing.” Akira coughed loudly and then looked down to her. “Are you sure you aren’t cold? Your shirt isn’t exactly dry.”
Sadayo stepped back and looked down at her shirt. She had to admit it was still pretty damp and clung to her skin, but it was by no means uncomfortable. Raising her arms she jumped up and down in front of him saying, “I’m fine with it.”
Akira averted his gaze, his face turning a deeper shade of red at the gentle jiggling the jumping caused.
Feeling frustrated at his lack of appreciation for her efforts, Sadayo crossed her arms and asked, “What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” Akira whispered as he scratched his head.
“That’s bullshit and you know it.” Sadayo tapped him on the head and snorted. “Why do you always get like this whenever you see me in clothes like this; or in none at all?” She approached and took his face in her hands and asked, “I don’t mind you seeing me like this. I love you and I want to share myself with you. You never get this way when we’re kissing or it’s on the phone so why should this be any different?”
“I know.” Akira nuzzled her hands and kissed her wrists. “I like looking at you. I like touching you and,” his ears turned a bright red as he added, “I really like how you feel when we have sex. But….sometimes….well a lot of the time, I just feel like I’m no better than some of those people who...”
He stopped but it was enough to tell Sadayo what he meant. She’d always wondered if this would come up and she kicked herself for never explaining herself fully. It was no secret about what most people expected of phone maids. Some girls went further than others, and Sadayo knew she was close to that breaking point before he’d helped her, but she couldn’t deny that she had been sorely tempted in order to pay the Takase’s their blood-money. The guilt, mixed with the need to fulfill her promise was becoming too great, but she was grateful that Akira and his friends had saved her from giving up the remainder of her dignity and help her become the teacher she’d always wanted to be. But even though she’d been freed from that prison, she never thought about how something like that would weigh on a mind as young as his after they’d both admitted their feelings.
“Akira,” Sadayo ran her fingers through his hair and did her best to sound consoling, “I know you aren't that kind of person. I’ll admit that I had been tempted to do some of those services because of what was happening to me. I’ll admit I’ve given massages and shown off a bit more than I’d have liked in that job, but...” she turned his face back to hers and said, “even if I had done those things I would never compare you to them. While I know you, Mishima-kun, and Ryuji-kun were being a couple of idiots trying to see how far you could push your luck.”
Akira’s face turned a bright red and he gave her a nervous smile and shrug as if to say, “You got me there.”
“And yes, I am very disappointed in you for even thinking of doing something like that.” She gave him a small glower but her eyes still held a small glint of a smile. “That doesn’t mean you are a bad person. It makes you a bit of an idiot and an inconsiderate ass. However, based on what I know of you three, I figured you all would have chickened out or been a bunch of idiots around whatever girl was sent to you."
“Good to know,” he said with a small chuckle. “But, it’s still a bit weird. I mean,” he kicked himself when he saw her eyes widen, “I mean I’m still surprised you want to be with me. I’m not a Phantom anymore. I don’t have my powers, I don’t have any reason to really go around and be smug and cocky. I’m just a criminal now, even though I’ve been proven innocent, I’m just….” he raised his hands up and down in front of him and just let them drop in defeat. “I’m just a normal person now.”
“Do you think I fell in love with you just because you were a Phantom?”
“I think it played a part.” Akira shrugged and rubbed at his eye beneath his glasses. “You can’t deny it did help in the long run.”
“It did,” Sadayo couldn’t deny that it was because he was a Phantom that she’d been pulled from her own personal hell, “but that doesn’t mean you’ve lost who you are and that you didn’t make an impact on lives.” She took his hand in hers and squeezed them, “You’ve helped people get through a lot of their own problems, with and without your powers. What you did when you were a Phantom will probably have a long lasting effect for many of those you helped, and in turn, they’ll help others. It might not be as fun as running around beating up bad guys, but,” Sadayo kissed his fingers one by one before speaking, “I didn’t fall in love with the thief; I fell in love with the man. I want him to know that he doesn’t need to worry about my seeing him like that. I want him to see me like I see him; as the person I love.”
Both of them were now blushing so much that, Morgana who’d been watching in the corner meowed loudly, “She’s got you there, Joker! God, you need to learn how to be more considerate to the women in your life. I’m so glad you didn’t fall for Lady Ann, she’d probably be climbing up the walls right now.”
“What’s got him so worked up?”
“Don’t worry about it.” Akira glared at the cat who gave him a small chortle. “He’s being an asshole right now.”
“Tell that to your mother when she wonders why there’s something brown and squishy in her shoe when she gets back,” mumbled the cat as he sauntered off toward his cat tower in the corner of the living room.
Akira fought off the urge to tell the cat off but didn’t want to scare Sadayo. Turning his attention back to his girlfriend, Akira and finally let the words she’d spoke sink in. “I do see you like you see me.” Akira rested his forehead against hers and nuzzled it. “I do like looking at you, but you’re the first person I’ve ever really been intimate with so this is still kind of new to me. Add that with how this all got started and my brain goes into overload and I get lost at how to handle myself.”
“I figured that was part of it too.” Sadayo nuzzled back and caressed his cheek. “It’s okay for you to tell me if you’re uncomfortable or unsure of what to do.”
“I know.” He smirked at the reassurance in her voice. He was so used to being the one she leaned on for help that it was kind of strange to listen to her consoling him. “I’m not stupid enough to think I’m the only guy you’ve ever been with. If I was maybe I’d be more confident, but,” he took a deep breath, “I don’t want to disappoint you.”
“You won’t.” She kissed him and let his hand cup one of her buttocks. She smiled when his cheeks flushed at the feeling of her skin. “I’m yours and if you do something I don’t like, I’ll tell you and I trust you’d do the same for me. Promise?”
“I promise?” Akira’s voice was hoarse and he couldn’t help but squeeze the flesh in his hand. Sadayo let out a small moan and gave him a coy smile. He smiled back and took her hand, a sort of renewed, but fragile confidence. “Come on,” he said pulling her toward the stairs. “It’s time I showed you where we’ll be sleeping.”