A couple of evenings later, Sugizo and Heath were at home waiting for Hide to come by to continue their brotherly hanging out. The first night they had gotten together had gone by far too quickly and they had much more catching up to do. While they waited, they wiped down their instruments and chatted.
“I still can’t believe our brother is called ‘Dad’ by anyone, can you?” Heath asked.
Chuckling, Sugizo shook his head. “No…not really. He’s way too much of a loose cannon. And Taiji helping him out with the pups? I can just see that now…” he said, still laughing. “They’ll know how to curse in three languages, but I don’t know about anything else!”
“Right?! I kinda feel bad for the kids, to be honest. Maybe we ought to try to exert some good influence,” Heath offered.
“I’m sure somebody needs to. Not Acchan level, but somewhere between that and dysfunctional. Bound to be a lotta room there.”
Walking into the kitchen in search of tea, Heath and Sugizo found their uncle propped against the counter, teacup in hand, completely lost in thought. And it didn’t look like a good thought either, judging by his expression.
“Sakurai-san…something wrong?” Sugizo asked, placing a hand on the man’s arm.
The older man looked at the two of them and sighed while nodding.
“There’s been another disappearance. Morrie-san just let me know that his grandson, Yukihiro, has gone missing.”
“Oh no,” Heath responded. “That’s terrible. Does he have any ideas about what happened or who’s responsible?”
“No, not as of yet. His entire clan is out looking for Yuki and I told him that we would help in any way we could. I just hope they find him soon. Morrie-san is normally rather stoic, but I could hear how upset he was.”
“Anything Heath and I can do to help?” Sugizo asked.
“At the moment, just help me inform the family and tell them to be vigilant. We don’t want anyone else disappearing.”
“Will do. Hide is coming over in just a bit, so we’ll tell him and he can relay it to Taiji and anyone else he can think of. Just let us know if anything comes up that we can assist with, okay?” Sugizo said.
Acchan nodded. “I will. I’ve called my older boys and now I’ve got to go tell the younger ones.” He stopped and sighed. “We have to find out who’s doing this and put an end to it one way or another.”
“Do you think all the disappearances are related?” Heath asked.
“Yes, I’m afraid so. It’s either some ridiculous so-called ‘hunters’ getting lucky or worse, it’s a rival clan,” Sakurai said, looking even more worried than before. “I have to go talk to the boys.”
Once he’d left, Heath and Sugizo just looked at each other and shook their heads.
“This could get ugly…really ugly,” Heath assessed.
Sugizo agreed. “We’ve gotta help Acchan with the boys and maybe we can convince Hide to let us help him too.”
“Help me with what?” the redhead asked, walking up behind Heath and palming his posterior.
Heath didn’t even flinch. “Help you with your pups. Another of Morrie’s clan has gone missing—his grandson this time. Acchan is beside himself.”
“Ah, damn…that really sucks. Hang on, let me call Tai-chan right quick and let him know. He’s watching Tora and Saga for me tonight,” Hide said.
Once he’d finished his call, he looked up at his brothers.
“I’d better go change—don’t want Uncle Acchan on my ass. Your room okay?” he asked.
“Yeah, that’s fine. We’ll come with you,” Sugizo answered, picking up Hide’s guitar case before he had the chance to.
“Okay, but no threesomes. Not yet anyway,” the redhead said with a cheeky grin.
Heath rolled his eyes and gave his brother a playful shove. “Go the hell on…”
Sitting down at the dressing table, Hide pulled his large cap off, allowing his hair to fall to its full length, several tiny braids hanging on either side of his face. He noticed his brothers watching him from where they sat.
“I have to keep the hair put up when I don’t want to be noticed. It is rather eye-catching, don’t you think?” he asked, twirling a thick, red lock around his fingers.
“Oh yeah, for sure. Suits ya,” Heath said, smiling.
“You really like it?” Hide asked, being coy.
“I mean, if you don’t want to be noticed, it’s not exactly the ideal thing, but it’s definitely you,” the brunette answered.
“Good. Feel free to pull it when you’re yelling my name in bed later,” Hide said, winking at Heath and then turning to kick his slippers off so that he could get changed.
Heath just chuckled and shook his head. Looking over at Sugizo, he just shrugged.
“Ummm, you got designs on my mate or something?” Sugizo asked.
Hide looked at him after pulling his shirt off and starting to unbutton his pants. “No more than usual.”
“Ah, okay then,” the auburn-haired man said. If Hide was serious or not, who could tell. He wasn’t entirely worried about it though. They’d played this game before.
The redhead pulled out a stack of beautifully folded clothing and set to getting dressed to Acchan’s standards. He’d come prepared this time. The colors and patterns, however, gave his brothers pause. As a rule, men wore darker colors and muted patterns, but not Hide.
“Dear brother, did you steal your girlfriend’s kimono?” Sugizo asked, a bemused grin on his face.
“What? I like flowers, don’t you remember? And you know I’m not one for black, gray, or brown. It’s not me. I prefer yellow, red, and pink,” Hide responded, straightening his collar before belting everything.
If they were honest, the brothers would have to admit that their somewhat odd brother did look good in the ensemble and it went well with his mane of blood red hair.
Once he was dressed, they all picked up their instrument cases and left the bedroom, heading toward Uncle Imai’s house for an evening of music and booze. On their way to the back door, they passed Uncle Acchan in the hallway. All three paused momentarily and bowed to the older man, chatting briefly about what they were up to. Sakurai looked Hide up and down and even had him do a little turn for him before smiling, shaking his head, and going on his way with a chuckle. The three just laughed and continued toward the gardens.
“See? I told you--Acchan likes you just fine,” Sugizo said to Hide as they walked.
“Eh…I think he tolerates me. I’m the court jester brought in to make the king laugh every now and then,” the redhead replied.
Sugizo rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Oh please…”
“I wouldn’t expect you two to understand—he’s always favored you guys. Especially you,” Hide said, nailing Sugizo with an eyebrow-raised look.
“That was a long time ago,” the auburn-haired man responded, glancing at his mate for a little backup.
“Oh no, I’m not in this,” Heath shot back and used his long legs to move away from them quickly. “Uncle Imai! You ready to play?!” he asked happily, stepping up to greet the man outside his house.
“Hey! Yeah! I’m just putting some chairs out here for us. My place is too small for all of us at once,” their uncle replied, putting down the last chair to finish forming a wide circle. “Come help me with the drinks!”
The four of them played and drank and laughed for a good two hours with Sugizo even borrowing a spare guitar of Imai’s to show them how much his playing had improved over the many years that they’d been gone.
“We have got to get Tai-chan over here to play with us some!” Heath suggested. “I miss him.”
Sugizo and Imai nodded.
“Have to get him away from that new boyfriend of his first,” Hide said before taking another long sip of whiskey.
“Oh? Do tell!” Sugizo replied with a definite amused tone.
“Oh, some guy he met. Josey or something like that.”
Imai nearly spit. “Josey? You’re kidding.”
“Yeah, I just call him that. He’s from the Adachihara clan. Name’s actually Ju-Ken,” Hide informed them.
“Oh, that’s Issay’s brood. What’s he doing down here?” Imai asked.
“From what I understand, he’s originally from here. He had come down to look up some old acquaintances or something and that’s when he met Tai-chan,” the redhead answered, lighting up another cigarette.
“What’s he like? I gotta know what kinda guy turns Taiji’s head,” Heath asked, a wide smile on his face.
Hide thought for a couple of moments and then leaned back in his chair, blowing out a cloud of smoke.
“Ya know how they say opposites attract?” he began and paused while they nodded. “Well, that’s horse shit. This dude is tall, broad shouldered, loud, tattooed, and rough around the edges just like Tai-chan. They’re the same motherfucker, really.”
Howls of laughter went up at that. So much so that when Sakurai suddenly showed up a couple of minutes later, they were worried that they’d disturbed him.
“Alright…what’s so damn funny?” the head of the clan asked, appearing behind Imai, hands on hips. The older man almost jumped out of his chair.
“Oh fuck…Acchan…you scared the life outta me!” Imai exclaimed wide-eyed, one hand on his chest.
“Relax, you’re already dead, remember?” Sakurai said, chuckling and patting his brother’s head.
“Figure of speech, fuck off,” Imai responded, still rubbing his chest.
“Uncle, we weren’t being too loud, I hope,” Sugizo said, still smiling at Imai’s fright.
“Oh no. I just kinda felt left out, so I thought I’d crash the party.”
“Hide, get the man a chair,” Imai directed and then turned to his brother who was still standing over him. “Sorry. I thought you had lots of work to catch up on.”
“Well, I do but…it can wait another hour. Now, what the hell is so funny?” Sakurai asked with a smile.
Hide brought him a chair and placed it in between Imai and Sugizo, wagging his eyebrows at his auburn-haired brother when he sat it down. Sugizo gave him a quick eye roll.
While Acchan made himself comfortable, Imai started relaying the story. “So Taiji is dating this guy…”
Once they’d had yet another good laugh at Hide’s description of the new couple, they all sat back with their drinks.
“So let’s hear some music! I didn’t walk all the way down here to get drunk with you lowlifes,” Acchan stated, smiling.
“Okay, whatcha wanna hear?” Imai asked.
The newcomer to the group thought for just a moment and then reached down and picked up Sugizo’s violin from its open case and held it out to its owner.
“Please? With you and Ichiro gone, I haven’t heard any violin music around here in ages,” Sakurai said, looking Sugizo straight in the eyes.
His nephew took the instrument from his hands with a warm smile. “Of course,” he said in a low voice and reached over and picked up his bow. “Anything in particular?”
“Something your dad taught you.”
Sugizo just nodded and looked down as he thought about what he should choose. When he had decided, he put the violin under his chin and began to play…
Recognizing the tune immediately, Sakurai just closed his eyes and listened like he was trying to absorb the sound into his body. When Sugizo stood and began to move around a bit as he played, Acchan watched him with what could only be described as a sad smile on his face. A glance at Imai showed that he was feeling the same way. Seeing their nephew in Ichiro’s robes, playing a song that he had taught him on a violin that he had no doubt given to Sugizo was having a definite effect on Sakurai and Imai. Even Heath and Hide sat very quietly and just listened.
When Sugizo finished, Sakurai wiped away a tear and started applauding with the others following suit. He got up and walked over to his nephew, wrapping him in a warm embrace that he held for several moments.
“Thank you,” Acchan said quietly right next to Sugizo’s ear.
“My pleasure…anytime,” the auburn-haired man responded.
“Fuck me…I need another drink after that,” Imai said, trying to be discreet about wiping a couple of tears from his own eyes and failing miserably.
“Keep your seat, Uncle. I’ll get it,” Heath said and got up, heading into Imai’s kitchen.
Inside, Heath was busying himself getting more ice and looking for a fresh bottle of whiskey when Hide suddenly showed up beside him.
“That boy of yours is good, I have to say,” the redhead said, resting against the counter.
Heath smiled. “Yeah, he is.”
“Acchan definitely appreciated his playing if that hug is anything to go by, wouldn’t you say?”
“Seems so, yeah.”
“Kinda makes you wonder, doesn’t it?” the redhead said with a grin.
Heath stopped what he was doing and just looked at his brother. “Hide…what are you trying to say? Come on, out with it. Wonder what, exactly?”
“How long it’ll be before Acchan lures Sugi-chan back into his bed.”
Heath rolled his eyes and shook his head.
“Oh come now, Hi-chan…you know it’s gonna happen. You hold his heart I have no doubt, but I’m betting he’s more than up for a tumble with our handsome uncle. You know, just like it used to be.”
Heath didn’t respond right away. He stood looking at Hide like he was analyzing his motives.
“Look, all I’m saying is that if Sugi is going to be busy with Acchan from time to time that maybe you might be interested in a little… extra-curricular with me. What do ya say?” Hide explained and then moved even closer to the brunette. “We used to have a lotta fun together, remember?” he asked in a breathy whisper, leaning in to nuzzle at the man’s neck.
Heath couldn’t help but smile a little at that. “I remember.”
Hide moved around to place a soft, tender kiss on Heath’s partially-open lips. After a couple of moments, the brunette returned the kiss.
“I’ll think about it. Have to talk things over with Sugi first, you know,” he said quietly.
“Fair enough. Just don’t take too long, okay? I’m in desperate need over here,” Hide said with a grin.
“Yeah…I desperately need to see you tied to my bed, naked, begging me for some mind-blowing sex. It’s past time, Heath.”
The brunette laughed and swatted his brother on the head. “Shut it and help me carry this stuff outside! Man, you haven’t changed a bit.”
“Nope. But you love it,” Hide quipped and made a kissy face at him.
Heath nodded. “I’ve missed you…”
With the security concerns and continuing disappearances, tensions remained high over the next few days as the search for Yukihiro continued. Sakurai had been making calls to anyone he thought might be able to help locate the young man, but to no avail as of yet.
Late one evening, Acchan was in his sitting room—the one reserved for the older adults--with Sugizo and Heath talking about the situation, when they heard loud footsteps running down the stairs and a voice yelling “Dad! Dad!”
Moments later, Aoi came sliding into the room, eyes wide.
“Dad! Come quick! Reita is beating Ruki!”
Fifteen or twenty minutes earlier, the argument had started over bathroom time. Ruki had been in the boys’ shared bathroom for some time trying to figure out what to do with his hair to make him look more mature. Reita wasn’t at all appreciative of his quest.
“Annoying little shit…hurry up!” he said, pounding on the door.
“Leave me alone, I’m busy!” Ruki answered.
But Reita had waited long enough and he was utterly annoyed. Laying a shoulder into the old door, he burst into the bathroom and grabbed Ruki up by the arm, practically slinging him out into the hallway.
“Fuck off, you big brute! You’re such an asshole!” Ruki yelled.
“Oh, go whine to Dad like you usually do, Pet!” Reita growled, emphasizing his disdain for Ruki’s status as their dad’s supposed favorite.
“Jealous, are we?” the small blonde spat.
“While we’re at it, why don’t you stop with the little child act? You’re not, you know.”
“And why don’t you stop with the ‘I’m a badass’ act? You’re not, you know!” Ruki countered.
Reita had begun stalking toward Ruki, backing him into the bedroom that Ruki and Aoi shared.
“I’m not afraid of you, ya know!” Ruki announced.
“Maybe you should be, you mouthy little runt!” Reita growled, still coming toward him.
As Ruki was quickly being backed toward a wall, he decided it was time to escalate things and either make Reita stop or at least be able to get away from him. Big talk aside, Ruki gave up about seven inches and at least 40 pounds to his bigger brother.
“Fuck you, Reita!” he yelled and picking up the first thing he could find, he threw the empty glass bottle as hard as he could toward his brother, nailing him square in the chest.
That was it for the enraged, bigger boy and he covered the distance that still remained between them in two long strides. He struck Ruki on one side of the face with his fist, knocking the smaller boy back into the wall. He then grabbed him by the front of his kimono and slapped his face hard.
“I’m gonna shut that smartass little cocksucker of yours,” he yelled, grabbing Ruki by the throat and throwing him to the floor hard. The blonde was trying his level best to get away but wasn’t having any success. Reita then laid a couple of hard kicks to Ruki’s side, afterward dropping to his knees over the top of his brother.
“You had enough? You ready to shut your fuckin’ mouth now?” Reita asked loudly.
Even though he was small, Ruki had a lot of attitude and he’d be damned if Reita was going to punk him out like this.
“Fuckface Neanderthal…go to hell!” the small blonde spat.
Reita saw red at that point and started wailing on Ruki’s face, not stopping until he felt himself being lifted up by the belt and tossed like a rag doll across the room.
The older man had entered the room along with Heath and Sugizo after being alerted by Aoi. He saw his youngest son being held down and beaten senseless by the much bigger and stronger Reita and he wasn’t having any of it. He snatched the boy up by his clothing and flung him one-handed with strength that no human possessed. Reita’s blind rage was such that even after he had slammed into the opposite wall and slid down, he came up still ready to fight. Sakurai, having knelt down on one knee beside Ruki, turned to face Reita, his eyes glowing red.
“STOP!” he growled, finger pointing at his older son like he was about to strike him down.
Whether it was the inhuman growl or the red eyes of his dad glaring at him, something broke through the fog and Reita suddenly stopped in his tracks, looking from face to angry face. Then he saw past his dad and spotted little Ruki crumpled on the floor, unconscious and bleeding from his nose and mouth. Looking panicked, Reita suddenly bolted toward the door and took off down the steps.
“Let him go for now,” Sakurai said to his nephews, gently scooping up Ruki and laying him on the nearby platform bed.
“Ruki? Baby, can you hear me?” he asked gently, pushing blonde hair back out of the boy’s face.
“Sugi-chan, please get me a basin of water and a cloth,” Acchan requested.
“Yes, Uncle—right away,” the auburn-haired one said, turning and hurrying to the bathroom.
“Aoi, please go find Uruha and Kai and bring them here,” Sakurai instructed.
“Umm, Dad…I’m…uh…I’m scared of Reita…” Aoi said in a fearful stutter.
Acchan nodded. “Heath, please go with Aoi and see if you can find the older boys.”
“Yes, sir,” he said, taking Aoi’s hand and heading toward the steps.
Once Sugizo had returned with the water and bath cloths, he helped his uncle clean Ruki’s face.
“Wow…he really did a number on the little guy. Wonder what set him off like that?” Sugizo asked.
Sakurai just shook his head. He could already tell that one of Ruki’s eyes was swelling shut and that entire side of the boy’s face was going to be deeply bruised.
“Whatever it was, it didn’t warrant beating a smaller boy like this. There is absolutely no honor in this.”
The small blonde began to groan and move his head around some, the cold water rousing him.
“Ruki-kun, can you hear me? Open your eyes for me,” Acchan said, gently stroking the boy’s face.
“Mmmm…” Ruki groaned. He tried to open his eyes and look up at the owner of the voice, but that one eye wasn’t working right.
With the other though, he looked up at Acchan leaning over him and suddenly the memory of being beaten came flooding back. He whimpered and started squirming, trying to get away.
“Easy, easy…it’s okay, Ruki. It’s dad. You’re safe,” Sakurai whispered, attempting to calm his young son.
“Yes, baby. I’m here.”
“Your face? Yeah, I’m sure it does, but you’re okay.”
Sakurai suddenly looked more concerned. “Can you show me?”
Ruki pointed to the side that Reita had savagely kicked.
“Okay, I’m going to take a look. Bear with me, baby,” Sakurai said, unfastening the belt the boy wore and peeling away the layers of kimono until he reached Ruki’s undergarments. Rolling Ruki onto his side carefully and lifting the han-juban, the older man saw the red marks that were already turning into bruises on the boy’s side and back.
Sugizo watched as Acchan closed his eyes tightly and set his jaw. The man took a deep breath and tried his best to keep calm.
“This might hurt a little okay, but I need to check your ribs. Just bear with me, Doll,” he said, beginning to gently but firmly press on each rib in that area to make sure they didn’t give any. The boy was trying his best to stay still and managed to only flinch a couple of times, groaning softly.
“You’re being so brave,” Sakurai said, smiling warmly at him when he looked up. “I think your ribs are okay—everything seems normal there. You’re going to be sore, but you’ll heal pretty quickly.”
He rolled Ruki onto his back once again and started to fix his kimono, but then stopped.
“Why don’t we just go ahead and put your nightclothes on you and let you rest, okay?”
Ruki nodded slightly and pointed toward his dresser. “Second drawer,” he said softly, reaching up to cradle his deeply bruised cheek.
“Sugi-chan, would you please go get an ice pack from the kitchen? Morihito-san should be around somewhere and she can show you where they are,” Sakurai requested. “He needs something for his face.”
Before very long, Daddy Acchan had his youngest changed and tucked into bed. He sat on a floor pillow next to the platform bed, gently stroking the boy’s soft hair, waiting for Sugizo to return with the ice pack.
Heath and Aoi walked in just then followed by Uruha and Kai.
“We found them, Dad,” Aoi said, coming over to the bed to check on his brother. The others stepped up beside him.
“Oh my god…you weren’t kidding, were you, Aoi?” Kai said quietly, shaking his head and looking up at Uruha.
With a sad, worried look, the younger boy looked at his brothers and shook his head.
“I don’t think I ever want to be left alone with Reita again,” Aoi said.
“How is he, Dad? Anything broken?” Uruha asked, kneeling beside the bed and looking closely at his youngest brother.
“Not that I can tell. He’s severely bruised on his face, side and back, but I don’t believe anything is broken. He’s definitely going to be sore though,” Acchan reported.
“Dad, you remember what we were telling you about Reita being a bully…but I still can’t believe he could do this. I mean yeah, he’s got a temper and some anger issues, but damn…” Kai said.
“Any sign of him downstairs or in the gardens?” their dad asked.
All of them, including Heath, shook their heads ‘no’.
“I need you boys to see if you can find him. You know where he might run to. With clan members disappearing, now is not the time for him to be out there by himself somewhere. I need him home,” Sakurai said, a distinct note of worry in his voice.
“Hi-chan, can you call Hide or Taiji and get one of them to go with you and Sugi to look for Reita? I know one will have to stay with their pups, but maybe one of them will be free? Kai and Uruha need an older adult with them, so we can ask Imai. He’s the best tracker anyway,” Acchan stated.
“Of course, Uncle. Sugi and I will be glad to do whatever we can to help,” Heath said, pulling out his phone and dialing Hide’s number.
As Sugizo picked that moment to walk in carrying an ice pack for Ruki’s face, Heath decided to step out into the hallway to talk to Hide. His dear brother wasn’t the type that you put on speaker.
“Hey Hide, it’s Heath. Not a bad time, is it?”
“Hmm? Oh no, just hanging out with the kiddies, waiting on Tai-chan to get home. What’s up? You ready to take me up on my offer? I’m just dying to get my hands on you again,” Hide replied. Heath could just see the lecherous grin on the redhead’s face.
“You’re not talking like this in front of the pups are you?”
“Hi-chan…Tora and Saga are like 20 years old…they’re men. They know about s-e-x,” he said in a loud whisper.
Heath glanced skyward and shook his head. “Behave yourself, please. I have something serious to talk to you about.”
“I’m very serious about wanting to ravage you. What’s the problem?”
“HIDE. Listen to me, will ya?”
“I need to know if either you or Tai-chan can help us search for Reita. He’s run off and Uncle Acchan is really worried what with Yukihiro missing and all,” Heath informed his older brother.
“Ah, damn. What caused him to take off?”
“Well, he got into a fight with one of the younger boys and hurt him pretty badly. Acchan came after him growling and eyes glowing…flung him across the room…no doubt scared the absolute shit out of him. He took off and no one has seen him since. Now is not the time for him to be roaming the streets alone.”
“Holy hell…I’d run too. Our dear uncle can be terrifying when he wants to be. You remember that time when we were fucking off in the garden…” Hide started but Heath interrupted him.
“Hide…focus. Can you or Taiji help us search?”
“Yeah, of course. I’ll call him and see when he’s gonna be back. One of us will meet up with you guys.”
“Good, thank you. Imai-san, Sugi, me, Uruha, and Kai will be leaving here right away. Call me and I’ll tell you where to meet us.”
“Gotcha. Alright, Tiger…see you in a bit,” Hide replied and couldn’t help but add a little purr before hanging up.
Heath laughed in spite of himself, put his phone back in his pocket and shook his head as he reentered the bedroom to discuss search plans with the others.