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“You’re not happy,” Goto said.

“I am,” Masayoshi insisted, flipping through the last few pages of his packet.  “This is great.”

On reaching the final page, Masayoshi smiled, nodded to himself, and put the packet down in front of him. He dropped his hands into his lap, straightened up, and nodded again.

Goto watched Masayoshi across the table, chin in hand, gaze unwavering.

“Ah!” Masayoshi exclaimed. “That’s right!”

He picked up a folder from the floor beside him — the folder the packet had come in. He tucked the packet inside, closed it, and put it down exactly where he had placed the packet moments ago.

No — apparently, it was a little off. Masayoshi turned the folder slightly, and — there. Perfectly centered. Masayoshi nodded again and sat back.

“You don’t like it,” Goto said.

“Goto-san!” Masayoshi laughed.

He sat up a little straighter, smoothed out his hoodie… Suddenly, it seemed extremely important that the plastic sliders on his hoodie strings should both be facing forward, and that the logos on them be perfectly visible. Masayoshi busied himself with that for a moment.

When he looked up, Goto was still staring at him.

“What?” Masayoshi asked, smiling.

Goto’s brow furrowed, his mouth a tight line.

“I’m happy with it,” Masayoshi repeated. “Really.”

Goto heaved a sigh and got to his feet.

“I’m getting another beer,” he announced, retrieving his empty from the table.  “You want anything?”

“No! Thank you.”

Goto dropped the can into the recycling as he entered the kitchen, then dropped to his haunches in front of the overstuffed under-counter refrigerator.  Funny — it had looked so spacious back when it was just him, and the only thing his six-pack had to fight with for space was whatever Goto had left over from his convenience store dinners… As he pawed past Masayoshi’s sugary drinks, last night’s curry, and the ingredients for tomorrow night’s curry, Goto reflected that this was really a bachelor’s refrigerator when it came down to it — fine for a guy whose girlfriend wouldn’t be joining him in Tokyo until they were ready to get hitched, but no good for a guy with a roommate.

Especially a permanent roommate.

Goto stood up, turned, and found Masayoshi standing silently in the doorway.

“What?” Goto asked, shrugging.

Masayoshi smiled again. It hadn’t reached his eyes before, but now it was barely reaching the corners of his mouth.

“It’s fine,” he said again.

Goto pushed the refrigerator door shut with his foot.

They remained there in the apartment’s slender kitchen, watching each other, the only sound Goto cracking his beer and taking a long first swig. Finally, Masayoshi declared that he’d gotten up to use the bathroom. Goto stepped to the side and swept his hand toward the apartment’s entryway.

“Don’t let me stop you.”

Masayoshi hesitated a moment longer, then slipped past.  Goto started for the main room, but stopped once he heard the bathroom door close behind him.  He leaned against the counter and waited.

If Masayoshi had only ducked in the bathroom to get away, he still put on a convincing show. After a decent interval, Goto caught the soft whump-whump of paper spooling off the roll, the toilet flushed, and water splashed in the sink before Masayoshi emerged — and almost jumped out of his skin seeing Goto still standing there, looking in his direction.

Once he recovered, Masayoshi shot a glare at Goto — not even trying to hide his irritation now — and stalked toward the main room.

He stopped short.

“Do you need something, Goto-san?” Masayoshi asked.

Goto shook his head.

“Just standing here. What about you?”

“No.”

“All right, then.”

“OK,” Masayoshi agreed, nodding again.

“So what is it you don’t want to tell your manager you don’t like about the plan she came up with?”

Masayoshi froze. He sucked his teeth, exhaled sharply.

“She didn’t come up with it, Goto-san — the wedding planner did.  Ishihara-san just approved the draft.  Pre-approved it.  We’re the ones who will approve it."

“Right — she just signed off on it and said, ‘Everything in here is A-OK in my book.’”

“Exactly.”

“And you’re not even a little worried what would happen if you said, ‘No, Ishihara-san — this other venue is nice, but I won’t compromise!  Goto-san and I are getting married on a riverbank right here in the city’!”

Masayoshi opened his mouth to protest — among other things, Goto’s impression of him was not flattering — but now that he’d been exposed, the fight drained out of him like lightning finding the shortest path to the ground. He slumped miserably against the wall.

“That’s a bad example, Goto-san. She already said no to that.”

He moaned.

“That’s the whole reason she got so involved in the first place!”

Goto took a long drink to hide his grin as Masayoshi sank to the floor.  He wasn’t happy that he’d “won” — just that Masayoshi had given up the charade. They couldn’t have a real discussion until he stopped pretending.

(Well, and too, when it wasn’t a legitimate crisis, Masayoshi’s overblown dramatics were always good for a laugh.)

Once Goto felt like he could keep the corners of his mouth under control, he gently reminded Masayoshi that, according to him, the first thing Ishihara had said after “Congratulations” was that Caesar Pro would have to be involved in their wedding; that Masayoshi was too famous and his marriage too big a deal for the agency not to have a role. Privately, Goto suspected Masayoshi was right, and that Ishihara wouldn’t have felt the need to be so hands-on if Masayoshi hadn’t gotten excited and started sharing his…interestingly different ideas about appropriate wedding venues right off the bat.

What Goto said, though, was that there was probably never a time when Masayoshi’s manager wasn’t going to play a major role in how things turned out, and they just had to deal with that. Masayoshi grumped something indistinct in response; he’d drawn his knees up to his chest, and was basically speaking into his folded arms.

Goto put his beer on the counter beside him and crossed his arms.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Goto said. “It’s not a bad plan. I don’t know much about weddings, but I know we couldn’t pull off something this big by ours—“

“It’s not significant if it’s just outdoors!” Masayoshi shouted.  “It means something if we exchange vows on a riverbank at sunset!”

Startled, Goto managed to knock his beer off the counter and catch it before it got anywhere near the floor. He blotted up a tiny dribble of suds with the corner of his sleeve, put his beer as far as he could from the edge of the counter, and squatted down in front of Masayoshi. After a moment, his fiancee’s eyes flicked up to him, then off to the side.

"I really do like it," Masayoshi mumbled.  "I had some other ideas...but I don't think they’d fit with this.  And if the agency is paying for everything, and I like ninety-nine percent of what’s in the draft anyway…”

He shrugged.

"Don't tell me the guy who kicked the Prime Minister in the teeth to stop him from passing a law he didn't like still can't say no to his manager's face.”

Fighting a smile, Masayoshi gave him a Goto-san, please look.

“I think Okuzaki-san has more weak spots than Ishihara-san.”

Goto bobbed his head — Point taken — and Masayoshi sat up a bit.

"It's not that I'm afraid Ishihara-san will be mad." 

Masayoshi paused.

"I am a little worried about that,” he admitted. “But it’s more...if I know Ishihara-san already approved what’s in the packet, and I like most of it anyway — and I’m sure she worked hard on this, because Ishihara-san always works hard…is it really worth raising a fuss?”

Goto looked Masayoshi square in the eye.

"That’s curry udon talk.”

Masayoshi flinched.

“Th- there’s nothing wrong with curry udon!  You said that yourself, Goto-san!”

“And you said, 'Not if I want curry rice!’"

“My voice doesn’t sound like that at all!”

Goto plopped a hand on Masayoshi’s head.

“Why don’t we pregame this?”

“Eh? ‘Pregame?’”

“We don’t meet with your manager and the wedding planner until next week, right?”

“Right…”

“So let’s figure out what we want to say before we go in.”

“A strategy?” Masayoshi asked.

Goto nodded.

“Tell me what you’re thinking of, and I’ll tell you if I think she’d go for it. No guarantees, but…like the riverbank thing was probably doomed from the start, but I could’ve told you there were better ways to set that up than ‘Alien Flamenco told me that…’”

“That was universal wisdom Alien Flamenco gained by merging with other sentient races all across the galaxy, not Alien Flamenco’s idea — and I told Ishihara-san that!"

Funny how I’ve only ever seen that “universal wisdom” on TV, Goto thought.

He sighed and gave Masayoshi’s hair an affectionate ruffle.

“Humor me, OK? I really want to hear what you came up with — even if it’s got no chance in hell with the boss lady.”

After a long, thoughtful pause, Masayoshi agreed, on one condition.

“Shoot.”

“We have to get curry udon first.”

“Damn straight.”

***

“I want to be very clear about this: I really do like what the wedding planner came up with.  I don’t want to make any big changes.”

“Right,” Goto agreed, distantly.

On their way home from the restaurant, they had stopped at a neighborhood convenience store to pick up a few things. As they were waiting to check out, Masayoshi had some kind of epiphany and dashed away, leaving a puzzled Goto to wait in line. When Masayoshi returned, his arms were full of snacks, and he looked very pleased with himself. Goto was pretty sure they still had some goodies back at the apartment, but, what the hell — maybe Masayoshi was still a little drained after his manager-related angst earlier in the evening and needed some very specific pick-me-up. (That didn’t make it less irritating that Masayoshi insisted he couldn’t join Goto, now next up to check out, and had to go to the back of the line to wait his turn.)

“How are you still hungry?” Goto asked after they got home, watching Masayoshi immediately start opening up his snacks.

“I’m not,” Masayoshi replied. He laid the TV remote precisely along one edge of the table, then pulled out a single Tongari Choco-Corn.

“Then what are you doing?”

With great care, Masayoshi set the Choco-Corn on its base about a foot away from the remote.

“Visual aids,” he said.

And now Goto was staring at the finished product: a not-quite-scale model of the ceremony venue made out of snack foods and various items Masayoshi had gathered from around the room.

“So,” Goto said carefully, “the Tongari Choco-Corns are the guests?”

Masayoshi nodded. He tried to right one of the chocolate-topped corn chip cones that had fallen over, but they were engineered to be delicious, not stable, and it fell again as soon as he moved his hand away. Masayoshi huffed, blowing his bangs out of his face.

“It’s fine,” Goto said. “We’ll just say that’s someone who fell asleep because it’s hot and we got off to a late start.”

Masayoshi almost stopped to protest — with Ishihara-san running the show, things would start on time even if she had to drag them both down the aisle by their ears! — but he’d been trying to stand up that particular Choco-Corn for a while with no success, anyway, and decided to run with it.

Sweeping a hand over one of the two roughly rectangular arrays, Masayoshi explained that these Choco-Corns represented his “his” side, and the others were Goto’s.

“So the Gotos over here —“

“Yes.”

“—and the Flamencos over here.”

Masayoshi gave him a look.  “There aren’t that many ‘Flamencos,’ Goto-san."

“At least a dozen, right?”

Unsure now that Goto had mentioned it, Masayoshi did a quick count.

“Eleven.  But you can't count me because I’m the ‘Flamenco’ getting married, so I won’t need a seat. Beyond Flamenco is dead — and is also me, kind of — and I don't think Alien Flamenco will show up.  If he does and he isn’t invading, that's fine, but I think he’d need at least two chairs, wouldn’t he?”  Masayoshi spread his hands apart, trying to approximate Alien Flamenco's wide pelvis.

“Mmm, that looks like three chairs to me," Goto replied. 

Masayoshi’s face darkened.

“Actually,” he said, “Alien Flamenco was a giant the last time I saw him. If that’s still the case, I don’t think any number of chairs will hold him…”

"Let's cross that bridge when we come to it,” Goto said, moving Masayoshi along.

Masayoshi started paging through his packet, explaining that he genuinely didn’t have many objections. The wedding planner — with Ishihara’s guidance — had made a lot of choices that Masayoshi either agreed with one hundred percent, or he didn’t have a strong opinion on and could live with, from the colors to the actually pretty-OK outdoor venue to the flowers.

“Pretty clever making it mostly roses,” Goto said with a smirk, “since that’s basically your family crest.”

“And the Samurai Flamenco symbol!”

“I’m pretty sure she was thinking of the first one.”

“Then why so many pink roses?”  Masayoshi asked. Seeing Goto’s confused face, he added, “Samurai Flamenco’s color is red. Pink is light red.”

“Thank you for clearing that up.  Maybe they picked that because you look good in pink, and you’re the main attraction?”

“But you also look good in pink, Goto-san!"

Goto scoffed. “When have you even seen me in pink?”

“When you put one of my pink hoodies on by accident,” Masayoshi replied, putting big fat air quotes around “accident.”  “Or when Goto-san is blushing, like you are right now!”

Goto insisted otherwise, and also that Masayoshi should stop grinning like that right now, even though there was no way Goto could have seen Masayoshi’s grin when he was holding his own packet in front of his face.

Masayoshi turned a few more pages and told Goto he thought the music choices sounded all right, too.

“You sure?” Goto asked, lowering his papers a bit.  “I thought for sure you’d want to walk down the aisle to — I don’t know — ‘GO HARAKIRI CUTTER.’”

“It’s called ‘Now! Harakiri Sunshine ~Theme of Serious Second Harakiri Sunshine ~,’ Goto-san.”

“I know that.”

Masayoshi sighed, a little wistful.

“I’d like that, although I’d pick ‘His Name is Red Axe ~ Theme of Armored God Red Axe,’ because that’s the song that really gives me courage. But, even though hero music is the soundtrack of my life, using another hero’s theme at your wedding? When they’re right there, in the audience…?”

“Too tacky?” Goto asked.

“I was thinking of ‘rude,’ but…yes.”

“Well, I wouldn’t worry about using Red Axe’s theme, then, because there’s no way Red Axe actually shows up.”

“Master will definitely be there.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Goto put down his packet.  “I see what you’re saying, though.”

“But,” Masayoshi began, carefully, “at the reception…”

Goto chuckled.

“Well, the reception is more of a party, isn’t it?” Masayoshi asked.  “Everyone will be eating and dancing and having a good time, so I feel like no one would be mad if we borrowed their music for that.”

“Let’s ask first,” Goto said. “Although if we do that, couldn’t we do that for the ceremony, too?”

Masayoshi blinked…then gazed suspiciously at his fiancee.

“Goto-san…is there some hero theme you—"

“No.”

“Are you the one who wants to—“

“I still can’t believe they said yes to curry on the reception buffet, and two different levels of spicy — did you see that?”

“I feel like you’re trying to change the subject, Goto-san — and it’s actually three levels of spiciness.”

“No, it’s two.  I remember seeing that and thinking, ‘Oh, no — there’s just ‘regular spicy’ and ‘super spicy,’ poor Masayoshi will go hungry at his own wedding…’”

“I can eat more than ‘mild’ curry — and it is three, it’s here on…wait, where did it go?”

And as Masayoshi flipped through his pages trying to find the reference, Goto let out the smallest, subtlest sigh of relief he could manage.

Once that matter was settled (three spice levels, Masayoshi declared, right there on page nineteen), they returned their focus to the ceremony itself. The wedding planner had them set to go the altar separately with their escorts, Goto first, then Masayoshi. Masayoshi asked if Goto was all right going first, or if he’d like to switch. Goto shook his head.

“I think the spotlight’s really on the one who goes second, so it probably should be you, anyway — but I definitely don’t want it to be me.  And if Mom’s gonna walk with me, I think she’d probably be more comfortable going first.”

Masayoshi’s face lit up. “Did she say yes?”

Goto silently poked at one of the Choco-Corns for a moment before admitting that he hadn’t gotten around to asking yet.

“She’ll say yes,” Masayoshi insisted, squeezing Goto’s shoulder.  “She was so happy when we told her — I’m sure she’ll want to be part of this, too.”

“I know. It’s just…”

“I know.”

Goto glanced at him. Masayoshi smiled softly and gave his shoulder another, gentler squeeze.

“Just make sure you tell her before the ceremony,” Masayoshi added. “It’s not far, but her feet bother her sometimes — she’ll want to pick the right shoes.”

Goto snorted and turned back to the packet.

He paused.

“Wait — here at the bottom.”

“Yes?” Masayoshi asked, scanning the page.

“Across from me and Mom. There’s you, but next to that it’s just a big ‘question mark, question mark, question mark.’ Who’s your escort? Or were you planning on going solo?”

Masayoshi leaned in close, brow furrowed. It was just as Goto had described.

“Didn’t I tell Ishihara-san…? Oh, that’s right — I thought I should ask Hirai-san first.”

“Hirai-san?”

“Haven’t I introduced you? Hirai Kazuo. He was a close friend of my grandfather.”

“I don’t think so. So you’re close?”

Masayoshi shook his head.

“Not really. Apparently, he used to come over a lot when I was small, but he moved away before I started school. Then he moved back to our old neighborhood about a year ago, but now I don’t live there, so…”  Masayoshi chuckled. "Honestly, when I saw Hirai-san at Grandpa’s funeral, I thought I was meeting him for the first time. It wasn’t until we visited the grave together last year that I found out.”

“So why him?” Goto asked.

“Well, we have talked a lot since he sent me Grandpa’s things — you know, his Samurai Flamenco notebooks — or as I like to call them, ‘Origins: The Samurai Flamenco Materials Collection’!”

Ahhhh, Goto thought.  There it is.

It must have shown on Goto’s face, because Masayoshi immediately shot him a look.

“It’s not just that.  Hirai-san is… He’s not like my grandfather, but I feel sort of closer to Grandpa when I’m with him.  Even if we’re not talking about Grandpa, somehow, it just…”

Masayoshi waved his hands, a vague suggestion of something…vague.

“It feels kind of the same?” Goto ventured.

“Maybe…” Masayoshi agreed, nodding slowly.  “It’s a good feeling.  And he’s someone my grandfather trusted with his legacy. Grandpa never said anything about what I should do if I got married — I was only seventeen when…but I don’t think…”

Masayoshi paused.

“I don’t think Grandpa would want me to be…”

He frowned.

“I think, if it’s Hirai-san…”

Masayoshi sucked his teeth, sighed, looked up at the ceiling… Finally, he turned to Goto, and looked at him the way Goto imagined he often looked at Masayoshi.

Please understand what I’m trying to say, because I don’t think I can say it out loud.

Goto did. He closed his hand over Masayoshi’s and nodded.

“I think your grandfather would like that. So you better get on the horn and ask the guy.”

Masayoshi smiled gratefully.

“And to think you were giving me the third degree for not asking Mom yet…” Goto tsk-tsked and turned at his packet. “So, where are we now?”

With a small “Hmph!” to stand in for “That wasn't even close to the third degree, Goto-san!”, Masayoshi flipped the page. He brightened.

“Please look at the model, Goto-san!”

“Oh, it’s time for that?”

Masayoshi nodded and gestured to two tiny plastic figures attended by a third just in front of the first row of Choco-Corns.

“Once we’re both at the front, there could be a prayer, and some readings, but that’s all TBD right now.  I guess I might have an opinion on those once we know what the priest might say, but for n—“

Crunch.

Masayoshi looked up.

Horror. Carnage.

“Goto-san, that’s one of our guests!”

Goto paused mid-bite, then finished grinding the Choco-Corn between his teeth and swallowed.

“Sorry,” he said. “You know I like these things.”

“We just ate,” Masayoshi complained, turning his attention back to the packet. He turned a page — then stopped.

“I heard that, Goto-san.”

Goto swallowed and returned Masayoshi’s glare.

“You said this is my side.”

“Not to eat.”

Masayoshi fished a few of the remaining Choco-Corns from the box and filled in the row.

“How are you going to understand my ideas if you keep eating the model?” he grumped.

“You say that, but what’s that?”

Masayoshi looked at the Choco-Corn that had somehow found its way onto his index finger. He used it to point to the box, then, after a beat, he pointed at the rows of Choco-Corns in the model and made an X with his arms. Goto rolled his eyes and made a Get on with it gesture.

“What’s next,” Masayoshi said, “is The Vows. And The Exchanging of Rings.”

Masayoshi had a gift for pronouncing the capital letters so you could hear them.

“I think this is the most important part of the ceremony,” Masayoshi continued.” There are some other changes I’d like to see, but I think these are the ones that would matter the most — and so they’re the ones I’d be most willing to fight for, even if it means going toe-to-toe with Ishihara-san. So please give me your full attention and your most scathingly critical feedback, Goto-san.

“This is curry rice."

Goto nodded, dusted the wedding guest crumbs off his hands, and sat up straight.

“Lay it on me.”

“All right.”

Masayoshi put down his packet and took a deep breath before turning to his fiancee.

“To start with, Goto-san, you should know that ever since you accepted my proposal, I’ve been putting serious thought into what getting married actually means.  Specifically, what does a wedding do that makes an unmarried couple in a serious relationship different from a married couple in a married relationship?

“And so, I've done some research."

Oh no, Goto thought.

"I talked to married people I know, like Master…"

Oh god, Goto thought.

"...and I’ve also been looking around online.”

Without looking away, Goto reached for his beer.

"What I actually found most helpful were advice columns,” Masayoshi continued, “because people are always writing in saying ‘I’m about to marry a wonderful person, but he never makes time for me,’ or ‘She keeps flirting with people even we’re getting married in two weeks’ — that kind of thing.  And the person writing the column almost always says something like, ‘Don't expect getting married to change that.  You’re the same people before and after the ceremony, and the problems and stresses in your relationship don’t disappear just because you say, “I do.”’  Does that sound right to you, Goto-san?”

Goto nodded, cautiously.

“And then, unless the letter writer's fiancee is doing something really egregious, the columnist will tell the writer not to lose heart, because their fiancee could still change — if they want to change. Because even though marriage doesn’t change you by itself, it creates a situation where you can change yourself — like Kiba-kun! Kiba-kun’s hands were trembling when he accepted Sharkman’s Gashi-Gashi Gear, because Kiba-kun, frankly, was a coward, and had been since childhood! But Sharkman died saving him, and the only way Kiba-kun could repay that debt was taking his place as defender of the Milky Way Sector and being the best Sharkman he could be, no matter how scared he was! And because Kiba-kun tried so hard, eventually he became worthy of the name ‘Metal Fang Space Sheriff Sharkman’ — and that’s when the Gashi-Gashi Gear upgraded itself to the Gatsu-Gatsu Gear, and Kiba-kun unlocked the invincible Mach Mako Mode!! Do you see, Goto-san?”

“Yes. Now sit down.”

“...oh!  When did I—“

“Right about the time Sharkman sacrificed himself to save Kiba-kun.”

“Oh.”

“So,” Masayoshi continued, slightly red, “in the same way, a man might not be ready to perform all his husbandly duties when he first gets married, because he’s still himself, with all his flaws and human weaknesses.   But, by being in that situation and making an earnest effort — and with his partner by his side, also trying to overcome their weaknesses and do everything they need to do — he can become a true her- husband. Husband.

“And thus, after all my research, I came to one unavoidable conclusion — one I think Goto-san won’t be able to help agreeing with.”

Masayoshi planted a hand on either side of the table, leaned over his carefully-crafted model wedding, and looked Goto square in the eye.

“On a fundamental level, a wedding ring...is a transformation device.”

Goto's eyes widened.

“What,” he asked in a deliberately measured tone, “did you do to our rings?”

“Eh?” Masayoshi asked.

“Did you do something weird to our wedding rings?”

“Of course not!”

“You didn’t turn our wedding rings into transformation devices? No bullshit, Masayoshi!"

“Goto-san, language!”

“I’m not hearing ‘no!’’"

“I said ‘no!”  How would I even do something like that?"

“Harazuka-san!  Did he —“

“No, and I didn’t ask any of the Flamengers Initiative scientists, either! The technology just isn’t there, Goto-san!”

“So you didn’t ask, but ‘the technology just isn’t there!’, huh?”

Whoopsie.

After a brief headlock, Masayoshi admitted that the subject might have come up when he visited Harazuka-san at his lab a few weeks back; the older man was just so eager to share what he’d picked up during his recent collaboration with the scientists responsible for the transformation tubes the Flamengers had used to get suited up.  But it would take months if not years of research to get all that technology into something the size of a wedding ring — it just wasn’t feasible in the amount of time they had.

“…and I’d ask first!” Masayoshi added quickly.

“You’d better,” Goto warned.

“I would!  And no matter how big the equipment is, it’s still hard to go directly from civilian clothes to suited up, so even if Harazuka-san could somehow make transformation rings in time for the ceremony, we’d probably have to be almost naked to use them!  And neither of us would enjoy that, Goto-san!”

Goto snorted lightly — Reading my mind.

“So what are you saying?  Wedding rings are like transformation devices —“

“But not literally transformation devices.”

“ — but not literally transformation devices.”

“Especially our rings.”

“OK.  And….?”

“And I thought that metaphor is something we could build our vows around.  And the ring exchange.”

“Oh…  OK, that sounds…yeah, that makes sense.  Pretty on-theme, too. So what did you have in mind, exactly?”

Cheered by Goto’s reaction, Masayoshi visibly brightened. He crawled over to the TV stand and retrieved the small Sunshine figure that had come on last year’s Christmas cake.  Returning to the table, he placed it behind and a little off to the side of the last row of Choco-Corns, as if it was about to enter the venue to be seated.

Goto remained optimistic, but his bad feeling started to creep back in around the edges.

“Now, we’d need to arrange things so there’s plenty of space behind this last row,” Masayoshi explained, repositioning the figure slightly.  “Oh, and this isn’t Sunshine, Goto-san.  This doesn’t involve Sunshine at all. Frankly, we’ll be lucky if we can find him in time to deliver an invitation.”

“But you’re saying it is someone?” Goto asked.

“Yes — Master.”

Oh, yeah, the bad feeling was back.

“I understand wanting to involve the Old Man, but during the vows?”

“He’s the most appropriate person.  I know, Goto-san, but he always shows up when it counts.”

“Not always on time.”

“But always at the right time.”

“The Old Man does have a knack for drama,” Goto sighed.  “OK.  So what’s he doing there in the back?”

“Waiting for a signal from…probably Black.  Blue might need to escort Master and—“

“See, you’re worried he won't make it, too!”

“—BLUE MIGHT NEED TO ESCORT MASTER,” Masayoshi repeated, "so we’ll see, but either Black or Green or Pink.  Standing…here.”

Masayoshi scanned the room for another easily-accessible figure, but Goto’s strict rules about the place not getting overrun with Masayoshi’s toys meant Masayoshi would have to get up and dig something out of his Secret Base, formerly known as Goto’s storage closet. Deciding it didn’t really matter for demonstration purposes, he plucked a gummy ring from the open bag beside him on the floor and placed it across from the Sunshine figure.  He then picked up the Sunshine and held it about a foot away from the table.

“Master would probably start back here, actually.  That means we might need someone here, too, to signal Black.”

Masayoshi placed a second gummy ring across from the first one.  

“So let’s say this is Green. And Pink can be in charge of making sure the space is completely clear. After all, that was one of her most important roles as a Flamenger — civilian evacuation!!”

Goto’s morbid curiosity got the better of him, and he prompted Masayoshi to continue. His fiancee obliged by lifting up the Ammoniter trading capsule figure he’d identified earlier as the priest.

“When the priest says, 'You may now exchange rings’ — or whatever the exact words are, that's the signal."

He replaced the Ammoniter in front of the figures that represented the two of them: super-deformed Hero Museum gift shop figures of Samurai Flamenco (original suit version) and Samurai Flamenco (allegedly Goto in the original suit but damned if Goto could see any difference version).

"Black will signal Green, who will signal Blue, who will signal Master, and in comes Master with our rings!”

Suddenly Masayoshi's arm shot forward, zooming the Sunshine figure toward the table -- then he banked it sideways, SKREEEEEEEing out of the corner of his mouth as he brought it to a halt behind and between the two rectangles of Choco-Corns.

"Is he on his motorcycle?!" Goto cried.

Masayoshi nodded.  "NOW do you see why we need to keep this space clear?”

“I DO.”

"Of course, I’d make it very clear to Master he has to stay on his bike until it comes to a complete stop — no jumping off and letting it run this time!  And he should be in formalwear, too — if he shows up as Red Axe, everyone will think there’s some kind of problem!"

“There IS a problem and it’s him showing up on a motorcycle!”

“Hear me out, Goto-san!”

Masayoshi pivoted the Sunshine figure toward the two Samurai Flamencos.

“He’s not gonna ride up the aisle, right?”

“No!”

In the deepest, most Red Axe voice he could manage, Masayoshi called out, "‘Hazama Masayoshi!!  Goto Hidenori!!’”

“You really think he remembers my name?”

"'HAZAMA MASAYOSHI!! GOTO HIDENORI!!  Go!!’”

And with that, Masayoshi pulled his arm back as if winding up for a monster pitch, then released it, with a loud “HA!!"

“YOU WANT HIM TO THROW US OUR RINGS?"

“Exactly!  We'll need to check how far it is between the last row and the front of the venue, but I’m sure no distance is too much for Master's Axe Arm!”

“OUR WEDDING RINGS?"

Masayoshi nodded and smacked the center of his palm.  “Just like that — POW!  Right on target!  You musn’t underestimate Master's Axe Eyes, Goto-san!”

Goto sank back, suddenly exhausted, and demanded Masayoshi give him a minute to…collect his thoughts. Masayoshi cheerfully complied, noting that there were a lot of moving parts to this.

“So,"  Goto said, rubbing his forehead, "let’s pretend, for a second, that the Old Man doesn’t accidentally take out a bird or slam…our wedding rings into the back of some old lady’s head."

He looked doubtfully at Masayoshi. 

“We catch them?" 

“Of course!" Masayoshi agreed. “It’ll be easy for you, Goto-san — you played baseball!” He smacked the center of his open palm.  “THWAP!"

“'Thwap.'  Right. Then…vows?”

Please don’t let the Old Man be involved in the vows.

Masayoshi shook his head.

“I thought we could exchange rings first.”

The ring exchange…OK. That had to be a little more sane, right?

“I don’t have a problem with that,” Goto sighed. “So, I do yours, you do mine?  Or switch that? It doesn’t matter to me, but we should probably figure that out ahead of time so we’re not fumbling around in front of everybody.”

Masayoshi shook his head again.

“I thought we could do it at the same time — cross-counter style!”

Cross-counter?

Wouldn't that be…

“How literally do you mean ‘cross-counter'?" Goto asked warily.

Masayoshi rolled his eyes. 

“Goto-san."

"You're the one who said it!  The Old Man's riding a motorcycle into the venue and chucking our rings at us!  At this point, I don’t know what to think!”

"How would we even do that?" Masayoshi demanded.

Frustrated, Goto waved Masayoshi along — Keep going.

“Well, what I’m thinking is — hold on.”

Masayoshi removed two more gummy rings from the bag and passed one to Goto.

“That’s my ring, Goto-san — don’t eat it.”

Goto snorted.

Masayoshi put the bag to the side and held up his gummy.  He tried to pinch it between his fingers and stand it on its edge as if it were a real ring, but, being made of gummy, it immediately folded in two.  Masayoshi shook his head, held it at the top, and continued. 

“All right.  Put your ‘ring’ in your right hand, Goto-san, and hold it…about here? Let me see your arm.”

And even though they were only playing at exchanging rings, just messing around with gummy candy so Masayoshi could show him what he meant by a cross-counter ring exchange (Seriously, what the hell?)…for some stupid reason, yes, Goto found himself tensing up.  His heart beat a little faster as he extended his arm toward Masayoshi. Masayoshi, looking solemn, took Goto at the wrist and elbow, gently guiding his arm upward, so that Goto held the ring just in front of his right shoulder, elbow raised. Masayoshi then mirrored his position.

“OK,” he said, “now, slowly, like this..."

Masayoshi pulled his left arm back slightly. Concentrating intently on Goto’s right hand, he slowly extended his arm forward, splaying his fingers and carefully guiding his ring finger through the middle of the gummy in Goto’s hand.  Or as far as he could get it on his finger — the hole wasn’t very big.

“There — like that!” Masayoshi declared.  He pulled the gummy off his finger, then handed it back to Goto. “So that’s me doing it, and if Goto-san does it at the exact same time, it’ll be a cross-counter ring exchange!”

Goto gazed skeptically at the stretched-out gummy.

“You think we could both do that at the same time — and nobody gets hurt?”

“We’re very in-sync, Goto-san.”

“Sure, but are we that in-sync?”

“Try it with me.”

“Fine, but I need another ring.”

“Did it tear?”

“…no.”

“Goto-san, you didn’t!"

“You have a whole stupid bag of them!”

“There won’t be a bag of them when it’s for real!”

“I won’t want to eat it when it’s real!”

Masayoshi angrily thrust a gummy into Goto’s face; he snatched it up with equal intensity.

“On three!”

“Fine!”

Masayoshi counted down — three, two, one!

On reflection, they they both agreed that before trying a maneuver that required precision and timing to pull off, it would have been smarter to cool off a little first. At the very least, they should have committed to doing it more slowly, so that if the did, say, bump their forearms into each other, it would be a bump, not a slam, and it wouldn’t hurt like a mother-fucking son of a bitch (Goto’s words).  They waited out the throbbing through an episode of Stylish Police Osharanger, and after the end credits rolled, they made a (somewhat hesitant) second attempt. This time, moving at a glacial pace, they managed to avoid hurting each other, but both Masayoshi and Goto found it hard to hit their target with one hand without twisting and pulling the ring they were holding out of the other’s reach.

Also, the rings were fucking gummies and not made to slide smoothly onto the ring fingers of adult men.

“It worked in my head,” Masayoshi sighed, muting the TV but letting the DVD title screen run in the background.  “And it looked cool."

“I bet.”

“Goto-san…”

“I’m not making fun — I get it. It would be cool. If we could pull it off, it would be cool.”  Goto sighed and rubbed his arm.  “But I think we’d need a fight choreographer to—“

Masayoshi brightened.

“I know fight choreographers! Good ones!”

“…all right,” Goto said, smiling.

Masayoshi almost pulled out his phone to start going through his address book, but he stopped when he noticed the way Goto paused before saying ‘all right.’  Something a little…

“So, what about vows?” Goto asked.

“…vows, right.  The vows… Oh!  I forgot something!”

“What?”

“Before we exchange rings, we have to shout our transformation phrase!”

“Wait — our rings aren’t transformation devices, but we still have a transformation phrase?!"

“Of course! So —“

Masayoshi reached to pull his gummy ring off his hand for demonstration purposes, but found it missing.

“Oh…I guess I…”

Goto smirked at him.

“Just hurry and give me a ring, Goto-san! I know you’ve got the bag!”

“Can’t.”  Goto showed him the empty bag. “We finished them during the boss battle — we. You and me both.”

Masayoshi fumed.

“You always say how much you hate sweet stuff!”

“I don’t know — I’m getting married, so I guess I’m craving rings.  What’s our transformation phrase?”

“Something I’ll come up with later!” Masayoshi snapped.  He drew his arm back, shouted, “TRANSFORM!” and mimicked stabbing his finger through his ring, full speed.

Goto imagined doing this himself, in front of people he knew and might interact with at some point in the future.

Goto imagined moving far, far away and assuming a new identity.

“Do we have to do flippy stuff?” he asked. “Handsprings?”

Masayoshi shook his head.

“It might be hard in nice suits — and I know Ishihara-san is going to prioritize how they photograph over ease of movement.  But we should put some thought into how we turn from facing each other to facing Master to catch our rings, and then getting into position for the cross-counter.  That’s something else the fight choreographer could help with!”

“Mmm,” Goto agreed, face carefully neutral.  “So, rings on; vows now, yes?”

Masayoshi nodded firmly and got back to his feet.  He turned to face the wall — then pivoted back toward Goto, arms slicing through the air until he snapped into a hero pose.

“Pledging a lifetime of passionate love!” he shouted.  "Husband Red, Hazama Masayoshi — I swear!”

Goto’s mouth hung open.

“‘Husband…Red?'"

“I know the revised marriage license has ‘spouse A’ and ‘spouse B,’ but that’s boring,” Masayoshi explained.  “So I thought for the ceremony, I could say ‘Husband Red!’  And then, for Goto-san, 'Husband Blue’!”

In front of people, Goto thought.  I wonder if Nicaragua is as nice as She let on…

Goto allowed himself a long drink before asking Masayoshi if he was trading in “Samurai Flamenco” for a new hero name.

“Of course not!”

Masayoshi returned to the table and lightly smacked Goto’s hand away from the remaining guests.

"I’ll always be Samurai Flamenco — but just like I’m ‘Flamen Red’ with the Flamengers, within our marriage, I’d be ‘Husband Red!’”

“Hmm,” Goto agreed.  "But that guy is ‘Blue.’”

“Do you mean Soichi?”

“Yeah. He’s ‘Blue’.  You guys all call him ‘Blue.’”

“It’s not like Blue is the only ‘Blue’,” Masayoshi insisted.  “Now that I’ve met Hatter 5, Furoranger, Galagar, all the other sentai teams, I know tons of ‘Blues!'  But Blue is still our ‘Blue' — you see what I mean?"

“Isn’t that all the more reason I shouldn’t be ‘Blue?'"

“Well…but if it’s just two people, ‘Red’/‘Blue’ is classic…”

Masayoshi snapped his fingers.

“What about ‘Husband Ao?’  ‘Blue’ in Japanese, not English?”

“Is that allowed?” Goto asked, propping his chin in his hand.  “I thought Ranger names always had to use English for the colors.,,”

This time, it was Masayoshi’s turn to stare as if Goto had said something impossibly dumb.

“GORANGER, Goto-san?  Secret Sentai Goranger?  THE VERY FIRST SENTAI TEAM?  Aka-ranger?  Ao-ranger?  Ki-ranger — not ‘Yellow Ranger,’ ‘Ki-ranger—’”

“OK, I got it.”

“Mido-Ranger?  Momo-Ranger?”

Masayoshi crossed his arms, looking genuinely concerned.

“Are these names really new to you, Goto-san?  Have I not shown you Goranger yet?”  He turned his eyes toward the closet. “I think I have it…”

“Wedding,” Goto reminded him, rapping a finger on his packet.  “Wed-ding.”

Masayoshi grumbled, but sat down and returned to the matter at hand.

“So, as you can see, Goto-san, not only is there precedent for ‘Husband Ao,’ but it’s a name with a deep and meaningful history."

“Shouldn’t you be ‘Aka’, then?  We should match.”

Masayoshi considered it — and his face lit up.

“‘Husband Aka’ — yes!  'Husband Aka!’  ‘Husband Ao!’  Oh, it sounds good, Goto-san!”

Masayoshi sprang to his feet and whirled into a pose.

“‘Pledging a lifetime of passionate love!  Husband Aka, Hazama Masayoshi — I swear!”

Gathering up the Choco-Corns that had fallen to the floor when Masayoshi jumped, Goto asked, "Did you have vows written for Husband Ao, too?”

“Some ideas, butI think you should decide what you want to say, Goto-san.”

“Let me hear what you came up with — it’ll be easier if I have a model.”

Masayoshi nodded.  He turned, mirroring his position, and assumed a stern expression that Goto supposed was him.

"In sickness and in health — eternal devotion!  Husband Ao, Goto Hidenori — I swear!”

Masayoshi turned to Goto expectantly, and got an appreciative nod.

“Let me think about it,” Goto said as Masayoshi sat down again.  “But I could live with that.”

“Do you think people will know we’re both swearing to do all the same things if we don’t say exactly the same things?” Masayoshi asked.

“I hope so,” Goto said, crossing his arms.  “I mean, we are, right?  You’re in for the ‘in sickness and in health’ part?”

“Of course!  And I know I don’t have anything to worry about in the ‘passionate love’ department when it comes to Goto-san!”

Goto’s silence made Masayoshi pause…then his grin widened.

“Shut up!” Goto shouted, turning away.

“I didn’t say anything.  But, Goto-san…

“…what?”

“…you really do look good in pink."

Aggressively turning in the opposite direction and doing his best to cover his face with his hand, Goto asked what came next.

“Well, I guess that’s when priest would say, ‘By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you married.’  At this point, we’d both be in our poses” — Masayoshi raised his arms to demonstrate — “so maybe we could turn so that we’re back to back — like when we fought the Prime Minister!”

Goto considered it, sighed, and turned back around to face Masayoshi.

“I could go for that.”

“YES!”

“So next would be…?”

“The kiss!”

“OK — so what’s your big show-stopper idea there?”

“We’d kiss.”

“Right.  And?”  

After a moment, Masayoshi volunteered, uncertainly, “A long kiss?"

“So you’re saying after all that build-up…you just wanna kiss like normal people?”

Masayoshi was silent…then he picked up one of their guests that had fallen over and pushed it in his mouth. So Goto waited — and helped himself to a guest, because if Masayoshi was going to start in on them now, he wasn’t about to hold back…

“I guess I was more focused on other things…” Masayoshi admitted finally.

Goto let out a long sigh.

“And you’re the one who gets to say ‘passionate love?'"

Masayoshi scowled.

“Well, do you have any ideas, Goto-san?  I may have neglected some things — but that’s because I was busy thinking of all the other things!”  He crossed his arms.  “Frankly, I’m starting to feel like I’m the only one who’s making any effort…”

Goto waggled his packet at Masayoshi.

“Better not let your manager hear you say that.”

Masayoshi’s eyes widened.  

He was completely still for a moment — then, as if some crucial invisible support had been kicked out from under him, his arms dropped to his sides and he flopped forward, barely catching himself before he would have slammed face-first into the table.

“That’s right…” Masayoshi whispered.  “Ishihara-san…"

Masayoshi’s head whipped around to Goto, who, despite all their time together, could still be caught off guard by Masayoshi’s sudden mood shifts. He’d scrambled backward in surprise until he was flush up against the bed behind him.

"Goto-san,” Masayoshi asked desperately, "will Ishihara-san go for any of this?!"

Goto opened his mouth…paused, and held up a Wait a minute finger.  Masayoshi watched anxiously as Goto sat up, collected himself…rested his elbow on the table and tucked his chin in his hand.

Oh.

This was going to be a serious think.

In the end, Masayoshi had time to clean up the snack garbage and get himself a tea before returning to the main room — and Goto was still thinking about it. Was that good — Goto thought there was some hope? — or bad — Goto was trying to figure out how to break the bad news that none of this would work, and also he was canceling their engagement?

(Well, no — it probably wasn’t that dire.)

Finally, Goto reached some kind of conclusion. He didn’t turn to Masayoshi, but got to his feet — and…it seemed like he was trying to avoid their eyes meeting.

Oh.

Goto stepped around and behind Masayoshi, dropped to his knees… Yes, that cemented it.  If Goto was coming to comfort him, and he almost certainly was, this probably wasn’t the wholehearted endorsement of Masayoshi’s wedding plans he was hoping for.

Well, no — he’d known better than to hope for that.  Goto often accused Masayoshi of having selective hearing when it came to doing what he wanted to do, but Masayoshi hadn’t missed any of Goto’s objections. He didn’t let them stop him, but…he’d heard. Every one.

Masayoshi knew very well that some of his plans were a little…unusual by most people’s standards.  But, Masayoshi thought as he felt Goto scoot up behind him, Goto had to know they would be — and still he’d encouraged Masayoshi to share his ideas.  He’d invoked curry udon to do it!  Goto must have expected there to be something salvageable, so maybe… 

Goto’s arms wrapped around Masayoshi. Masayoshi sank back into him, unresisting.  A moment later, he felt a weight on his shoulder — Goto resting his chin there — and the pressure against his back of Goto drawing in a deep breath, and letting it out as a long, regretful sigh.  Masayoshi did the same, and let his head rest against Goto’s.

“None of it?” he asked, quietly.

Goto sucked his teeth.

“No matter how many spotters you have,” he said, “I don’t think she’s gonna be too wild about any plan that involves our wedding, the Old Man, and a motorcycle.”

A soft chuckle.

“Honestly, cut the motorcycle and I’m still not sure — it hasn’t been that long since she worked with him on the Hero Museum opening.”

Masayoshi frowned.

“He was there, though.  We’re the ones who didn’t make it at all."

“Right,” Goto agreed.  “He doesn’t flake like he used to — he just makes you think he’s not gonna show, and then he shows up at the last second. And it’s dramatic and memorable, and I really wish I wasn’t so sure your manager would torpedo it because it sounds…”

Goto sighed.

“…it sounds great.”

WHAT?!

“I mean, it’s dumb, also — don't get me wrong,” Goto clarified.  “But when I picture it in my head, and I imagine it somehow all goes right — the Old Man doesn’t let the bike go flying into the hedges, and we don’t lose the rings when he throws them, and neither of us breaks a finger trying the cross-counter thing—“

“I get it, Goto-san. You really…?”

Goto squeezed him.

“It sounds wild — good wild.  Even if only half that stuff went right, nobody would ever forget that wedding.  Actually, that would probably just make it more memorable.

“And it would definitely be our day."

Masayoshi’s small smile was short-lived.

“But you don’t think Ishihara-san…”

Goto nodded.

“As big as this thing is, I think she’s gonna want to keep uncertainty to a minimum.  She probably has to. I mean, if the Prime Minister actually does show up — no, it’s two of them, right?  The current one and the one we beat up, they both get invites?”

Masayoshi nodded.

“‘You can’t invite the former Prime Minister and not the current one, even if he’s not a ‘Flamenco,’ Ishihara-san said.  It wouldn’t look right.”

“Yeah.  And there’s a bunch of other politicians on the guest list too, right?  And entertainment industry bigwigs and celebrities…  Whatever security guys Caesar gets, I’m sure they’ll be pros, but I think we can make their job a whole lot easier if we cut down on surprises and things flying through the air when they aren’t supposed to be.”

“Do we really need ’security’ when we’re inviting so many heroes?” Masayoshi asked, a trifle offended.

“Well, I don’t know much about proper wedding—“

Goto tried and failed to remember the word “ etiquette.”

“— you know, rules, but I think it’s probably considered rude to ask your guests to be the first line of defense if anything goes wrong…"

“They’d do it, though.”

“I know they would.  Because they’re heroes.  And that’s why we should let the security people do their thing, so all those heroes get to kick back and have a good time for once, and they only have to step up if it’s aliens or something.”

A holiday for heroes…well, Masayoshi couldn’t argue with that.

“What about our vows?  ‘Husband Aka, Husband Ao?’”

Goto was silent for a moment. Then, hesitantly:

“This is me talking, all right? Not what I think your manager would say. Although I don’t know what she’d think about that.”

Masayoshi nodded, slowly.

Goto took a deep breath, let it out. Licked his lips — and took another breath.

“I definitely want us to do our own vows,” he said. “But…for the delivery…  You know the dumb, cliche romantic stuff? Holding hands…stuff like, ‘Meeting you changed my life; I wouldn’t be the person I am today without you; thanks for not giving up on me; I’ll always be there for you…’?”

Masayoshi nodded again.

“…couldn't we do that?” Goto asked.

“‘Meeting you changed my life,’” Masayoshi repeated, trying out the words. “‘I wouldn’t be the person I am today without you… Thank you for not giving up on me… I’ll always be there for you…’? Like that?”

Goto bobbed his head.

“So we’d write each other’s vows?” Masayoshi asked.

“…what do you mean?”

“Isn’t that what I’d say to Goto-san?  The stuff about not giving up, and how I’m a better person because we met — all that?  That’s me saying that, not you, right?”

After several false starts trying to answer that in words, a very red-cheeked Goto groaned and curled up tight around Masayoshi.

Finally, Masayoshi got it.

He tried to free an arm to stroke Goto’s hair but couldn’t — Goto was stronger, and Masayoshi wasn’t nearly as good at getting out of holds as his husband-to-be. So Masayoshi settled for nuzzling up as best he could, and warning Goto that he had better practice that speech if he really planned to say it on the day, in public, with everyone’s attention focused on the two of them.

“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather ‘Husband Aka, Husband Ao’?” Masayoshi teased.

Goto relaxed a little.

“I did sort of have an idea about that…"

“You did?”

“Mmm.  Well…the ceremony is supposed to be formal, right? Serious; traditional; everyone has to be on their best behavior and you’re supposed to follow a bunch of stupid arbitrary rules…this isn’t turning you on, is it?”

Masayoshi hmphed and knocked his head lightly against Goto’s.

“Anyway, that’s probably the part that your manager cares about the most, because that's the part most people are going to see.  Like on the news and on the internet and in magazines…"

“That makes sense,” Masayoshi agreed.

“What’s in there,” Goto said, nodding toward one of their packets, “it’s for us, but also for her — for the agency. I think if we say ‘yes’ to that — mostly — and we promise not to get in the way too much, Ishihara-san gets the ceremony she needs…

“…and maybe she won’t care as much about the reception.”

“The reception?”

Goto released his grip on Masayoshi and climbed to his feet.  Puzzled, Masayoshi watched as Goto padded into the kitchen, stopped in the doorway, and turned back around to face him.

Goto pointed into the room.

“Where you are, that’s where we’re having the reception — the main area where everybody sits.”

“OK…”

“Right here, this is the main door, and all the tables and things are set up so everybody is looking in this direction, pretty much.  And the door is shut.  Or no — it’s double doors, probably.”

Masayoshi nodded.

“Also, I’m both of us, not just me, and we haven’t officially arrived yet.”

Masayoshi nodded again, and Goto took a breath.

“BKAM!!” Goto shouted.  And as well as he could manage in a normal-sized doorway with no actual door, Goto pantomimed throwing open a pair of pair of double doors with all his strength.  He dashed into the room and dropped into a wide-legged stance, turned at an angle, arms raised in a defensive position.

“We're back to back,” Goto explained.  “I’m you, OK?”

 Masayoshi, now sitting up alert, nodded emphatically.

"'Husband Red, Hazama Masayoshi!’” Goto announced.

“Husband Aka, Goto-san!” Masayoshi shout-hissed, hands cupped around his mouth…and eyes absolutely shining.

“Oh, right.”

Goto resumed.

“Passionate love, something something!  'Husband Aka, Hazama Masayoshi!’”

Goto turned switfly to the other side.

"In sickness and in health!….whatever!  Husband —“

“‘Eternal devotion!’” Masayoshi called out.

“Eternal devotion! Husband Ao, formerly Goto, Ha- Hazama Hidenori!”

Goto pivoted forward, held his pose silently…then shook his head and shrugged.

“’Thank you for joining us on this special day!!’” he shouted, throwing up his hands. “I don’t know — this is where you fell apart, too.  Some kind of big finish.”

Goto returned to the floor, explaining that if everyone had a few drinks in them already, they’d probably get a kick out of it, and like Masayoshi had said, the reception is supposed to be the party part, so Ishihara-san couldn’t be too mad if — but by then Masayoshi was already straddling Goto’s lap, and then he was kissing him, pushing him down, kissing him all the way to the floor.  When Masayoshi finally came up for air, Goto tried to ask, “You like that, huh?”, but he didn’t get past “you” before Masayoshi darted in for seconds.

And thirds.

“I love it,” Masayoshi whispered, bare inches above Goto’s face.  “I love you.  You’re already the best husband, Goto-san.”

Goto snickered softly, looking somewhere to the right of Masayoshi’s nose, too overcome by his adoring gaze to meet it head on.

“Do we have to tell Ishihara-san?” Masayoshi asked. “Couldn’t we just do it? Then she couldn’t say ‘no’…”

“Security,” Goto reminded him, rubbing his side.  “Probably armed.”

Masayoshi frowned.  “They were armed when we stormed the Diet Building, too.”

“Yeah, and so were we, and the magic horny space cube was on your side, then, too.”

“The term is ‘tesseract,’ Goto-san.  Or ‘hypercube.’  And ‘eromanga’ only came up because —“

“Anyway,” Goto interrupted, “let’s tell her, and if she does say no…we’ll tell the security guys we’re doing it so they don’t open fire.”

Masayoshi laughed.

“Although if we do do that,” Goto added, “I wouldn’t want to be you when we get back from the honeymoon…”

Masayoshi’s laughter died suddenly, but was survived by his smile.

“She’ll never believe you came up with it,” he cooed.

“Well, I didn’t — you did.  I just bumped it to the reception.”

Masayoshi cocked his head, looking thoughtful.

“I still wonder if we couldn’t do it at both...  Think about it, Goto-san — wouldn’t it be great if you said 'Goto Hidenori’ the first time, and then, at the reception, after we’re married, ‘Hazama Hidenori?’"

Goto shrugged.  “I’m open to it, but if we keep doing the ‘Husband Aka/Husband Ao thing, people are gonna start thinking we’re serious about those names.

The look of incomprehension on Masayoshi’s face worried Goto, but he decided that was something they could talk about later, and ruffled Masayoshi’s hair instead.  Pleased, Masayoshi leaned into it, grinning.

Staring up at Masayoshi, gently backlit by the overhead light, hanging bangs exposing his forehead, eyes soft, Goto had the beginning of an idea. And so, on a hot day in June, at the end of a fairly orthodox ceremony, the crowd’s applause for the newly-married couple turned to muffled confusion as the pair pivoted away from each other, toward their guests, and stood back to back, hands raised as if prepared to take on the whole lot of them.  Then, just as practiced — and practiced, and practiced — Goto leaned back, back — and there was Masayoshi’s arm underneath him, easing him down.  Goto slipped an arm around Masayoshi’s waist, stretched the other up to his shoulder, more for the look of the thing than for support.  Also for the look of the thing, as soon as Masayoshi had lowered him far enough that Masayoshi’s knee was under his back, Goto raised the leg that wasn’t stretched out in front of him — a little artistic flourish.  Now the crowd understood; they gasped, hooted, hollered, cheered; in one case, screamed YOU NUMBSKULL, THAT’S A TANGO DIP, NOT FLAMENCO, OH MY GOD YOU BOTH SUCK. But Mari did admit, begrudgingly, after most of a bottle of champagne, that it was sort of, just slightly, a little bit cute.  And if they told anyone she said that, they should considered their balls stomped.

Goto looked up into Masayoshi’s face — his new husband’s face, sweaty in the heat, glowing with love — and then their lips met, and Goto closed his eyes as the crowd roared thunderous approval.

“Goto-san?”

That was in the future, though.

 “Mmm?”

Masayoshi lowed himself onto Goto, resting his head on his chest.

“We need to watch Goranger.”

“We can’t — I have work tomorrow. So do you.”

“We don’t have to watch the whole thing.”

“You say that, and you know what it turns into every time.”

“Then, Battle Fever J episode fourteen, Furoranger thirty-six, and…Gokaiger…twenty-nine, I think?”

“Don’t tell me those are all wedding episodes.”

“More or less.”

Goto sighed.  “You’re lucky I’m in the mood. We have all those handy?”

“Battle Fever, yes; Gokaiger, yes; Furoranger, no.  But I saw it at the rental shop last time.”

“Well, you’re gonna have to get off me, then, so we can go get it.”

“Mmm,” Masayoshi agreed, making no move to move.

END