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"Hiro-san! I'm home!"

Nowaki somehow managed to shut the door behind him, despite having both arms full of grocery bags.

"Hiro-san?"

But he was greeted by nothing but silence. The apartment was clean and tidy, with that slight stuffiness of a room that had been closed up during a long summer day.

Hiroki wasn't home.

Nowaki sighed, and trudged through to the kitchen. This was the latest in a long stretch of days that Hiroki hadn't come home from work at his usual time.

Nowaki put the groceries down on the counter, and pulled his phone from a pocket. He thumbed the speed-dial as he opened the refrigerator and started to put things away.

"Nowaki?"

"Hiro-san! Good evening."

"Er... hi. Did you want something?"

"I wondered if you might be home in time for dinner this time?"

"I'm not sure. Don't wait for me."

Nowaki swallowed down his disappointment. "I'll save you something and leave it in the microwave for you. You should make sure you eat, Hiro-san. Proper nutrition is very important."

"Hmm?"

He wasn't paying attention. Nowaki knew that 'hmmmm'. He could imagine Hiroki in his office at the university, so absorbed in his book that he was barely aware of his surroundings. There was no use talking to him when he was like this, especially not on the phone. If he'd been with him in person he could have at least tried to distract him with a kiss or a disarming hug. But Hiro-san wasn't here, and Nowaki had been banned from his office after that incident with the lube bottle and Miyagi's laptop.

"I'll see you in the morning, Hiro-san. Please try to get some rest. I love you."

Hiroki made a sort of squeaky noise followed by a mumbled "you, um," and then disconnected the call.

Nowaki sighed again, folded the grocery bags for recycling, and put his apron on.

At least he could make sure that Hiroki didn't starve.

*

"Hiro-san! I'm home! Are you awake yet?"

Once again, the apartment was still and quiet, but this time Nowaki harboured hopes that his lover was simply still in bed. It was early, barely half an hour past dawn, and there was a chill around the place. Nowaki's shift at the hospital had finished on time for once, and there should be a couple of hours before Hiro-san had to be at work.

Abandoning his coat on the sofa, Nowaki went through to the bedroom. He pushed the door open quietly, and peered inside...

... to find a perfectly, crisply-made bed, and sunshine streaming through the windows.

Not only was Hiro-san not home, but it looked as if he hadn't been home at all. He never made the bed that well, and Nowaki always had to put his books back in a neat pile on his bedside table each morning. If he didn't they formed an ever-growing peninsula that eventually prevented access to the bed from Hiro-san's side at all. But this morning they hadn't been touched: they were still stacked in a neat pile next to the bedside lamp next to Hiro-san's spare reading glasses, next to the very, sadly empty bed.

Nowaki dropped his bag on the bed, his heart full and sad. He was so tired. He was so lonely. He just wanted to wrap his arms around his beloved Hiro-san and...

"Nowaki!"

Nowaki looked toward the door, heart suddenly racing, eyes full of hope. "Hiro-san?"

Hiroki came in, loosening his tie, messy hair falling adorably in his eyes, and flung his briefcase down on the floor just inside the bedroom. "Hi."

"Hiro-san!"

Nowaki couldn't help it. He launched himself across the room and flung his arms around his lover as if he hadn't seen him in months.

"Cut it out," Hiroki said gruffly, even as he gave Nowaki a little squeeze in return and burrowed into his neck with his cute, perfect, slightly chilly nose.

"It's so good to see you." Nowaki started to undo the buttons of Hiroki's shirt with one hand, the other still holding him close.

"Hey!"

"You've been at work so long. You must be ready for bed." Nowaki stripped the shirt off Hiroki's shoulders.

"Shouldn't you be at the hospital?"

It wasn't an outright no, which was extremely promising. Hiroki was even toeing his socks off.

"Not for an hour," Nowaki said breathlessly, his hands moving to the fly of Hiroki's trousers.

"Pervert," murmured Hiroki, but there was no real feeling in it. It almost sounded like a purr.

Nowaki steered him back towards the bed, a thrill of excitement racing up his spine as he lay Hiro-san none too gently down on the bed. He stripped off Hiroki's trousers and underwear. He kissed his way up from Hiroki's ankle, to his knee, to his soft, quivering inner-thigh, noting with satisfaction the long, elegant erection that lay along his belly.

Hiro-san snored.

Nowaki looked up at Hiro-san's face, and blinked.

He was asleep.

Completely, and utterly asleep.

Nowaki slumped down on the edge of the bed. He could have cried. He was sorely tempted to wake Nowaki up and do such wonderful, unspeakable things to him that he'd never want to go to sleep again for fear of missing a repeat performance.

But, he thought, trailing one finger softly along Hiro-san's perfect jaw, he looked so peaceful. As Nowaki's lust subsided a little he noticed details that he'd missed before. There was at least a day's growth of beard on that beautiful face. There were dark smudges under his eyes, and his skin looked pale. He looked incredibly tired. He must have been working hard all this time.

Nowaki took a blanket from the end of the futon and carefully covered his lover's naked body. Hiroki turned over and snuggled into it, a tiny smile appearing on his face.

"Rest for now, my love," Nowaki whispered, and kissed him gently on his cheek. "I'll be home this evening."

And with nothing more than the faintest whimper of frustration, Nowaki crept from their apartment and went to work.

*

It was a long day. The children at the hospital seemed particularly energetic, and then there was a great deal of paperwork to catch up on.
There was a long lecture on genetics, a subject which he hadn't covered in detail before, and so demanded significant powers of concentration; a paper to finish in the library... and finally a shift in the flower shop, with a long list of orders for an exhibition centre.

By the time Nowaki arrived back at the apartment he was about ready to pass out himself. And he should really cook them some food first....

When he opened the door, the first thing he noticed was the delicate fragrance of jasmine rice. The second thing he noticed was the table, set for dinner. There was sushi, and a bottle of wine. And Hiro-san emerged from the kitchen with plates, and smiled at him.

"It's okay," Hiroki said. "I didn't cook. I went to that place around the corner you like."

Nowaki ignored the sense of relief that washed over him, and smiled back. "This is wonderful," he said.

"Yeah, well." Hiro-san mumbled something Nowaki couldn't quite hear, possibly including 'that fucking Miyagi', and waved for Nowaki to sit down.

The sushi was delicious - Hiro-san somehow seemed to know all Nowaki's favourites - and the wine was perfectly chilled and crisp with a slight sparkle.

"Are we celebrating?" Nowaki asked, savouring a particularly exhilarating wasabi.

"Well, um, kind of," said Hiroki, stirring his rice around with his chopsticks.

"Kind of?"

"You might not like it."

"Oh?" Nowaki's heart sank a little.

"You remember that paper I submitted a while ago to that conference?"

"The one that they foolishly rejected?"

Hiro-san had been devastated, and had threatened for about a week to give up his goal of becoming a professor until the literary world was ready for his incisive literary talent. Nowaki wouldn't forget that in a hurry.

"Yes. Well.... they changed their mind. Someone dropped out, and they asked us to present the paper after all."

"That's excellent news!" And then, when Hiro-san didn't do more than shrug irritably, "isn't it?"

"Yes, I suppose. Miyagi thinks so."

"He co-wrote the paper with you, didn't he?"

"Yes. As a matter of fact.... well, that doesn't matter. The point is, we're going to the conference."

"That's splendid!" beamed Nowaki.

"Tomorrow," Hiroki added.

Nowaki's face fell. "Tomorrow? But that's.... oh."

"I know."

Nowaki rallied a little. "But really, Hiro-san, it doesn't matter in the slightest. I'm thrilled for your success and of course you must go and show the world just how wonderful you are!"

"It's our... you know."

"Our anniversary, yes. That's all right. There's plenty more of those."

"I know you'd planned something."

That was a surprise. Come to think of it, Hiro-san actually remembering the date they'd first moved in together two years ago was quite astonishing. Perhaps some of those hints Nowaki had been leaving had actually sunk in.

"It's nothing that can't be rearranged."

"Are you sure?"

"Of course! You mustn't think of turning down such an opportunity!"

"It is a very prestigious conference. I knew you'd understand."

"Of course." Nowaki thought wistfully of the theatre tickets in his locker at work; the dinner reservation; the night in the luxury hotel with its huge hot tub and silk sheets. "We can go on a picnic at the weekend instead."

"Thanks, Nowaki. Um... what do you think about an early night?"

"That would be good, Hiro-san," said Nowaki, feeling a little better. "I'll just take a shower, okay?"

And so Nowaki relaxed under a hot shower, working out the knots and tensions of his long day under the steady stream of hot water. Then he went through to the bedroom, checked the lube, turned down the crisp, clean sheets.

"Hiro-san! Are you coming to bed?"

"I'll be right there!" yelled Hiro-san. Probably sneaking in a chapter of some book while he waited for Nowaki to shower.

Nowaki towelled his wet hair, slung the towel over the back of the chair, and spread himself out on the futon to await Hiro-san's arrival.

Within thirty seconds, he was asleep.

*

The next morning Nowaki woke to find the bed empty. The suitcase had disappeared from the top of the wardrobe, and there was a note on the bedside table. "See you on Monday, H."

Not so much as a goodbye kiss.

Well, Nowaki would just see about that.

*

He went to the University first. Judging by the heat of the freshly-made pot of coffee in the kitchen, Hiro-san hadn't been gone long, but Nowaki had no idea where the conference was, and therefore whether he should be aiming at the railway station or the airport for his romantic farewell scene. He hoped that Hiro-san's colleagues might be able to shed some light on the mystery.

What he found, in fact, was Miyagi, still in the office he shared with Hiro-san. He looked distinctly dishevelled, and had at his side two bulging grip bags as well as a suitcase. He jumped almost guiltily when Nowaki knocked politely on the open door.

"Oh, it's you," said Miyagi.

"Yes," said Nowaki. "I'm sorry to disturb you, but I was looking for Hiro-san."

"He's gone ahead. To the airport. We're, um, I'm meeting him there."

"I see. Would you like me to help you with your bags?"

"What?"

"Your bags. I'm going to see Hiro-san off at the airport, so I could help you to carry your luggage, Miyagi-sensei. You do seem very... well equipped."

Miyagi looked down at the bags, and up at Nowaki, and smiled weakly. "Um, yes. I'm, um, that is they're not all mine. I'm taking someone else on the trip."

"Ah."

"Not a woman!" Miyagi said, almost guiltily.

Nowaki blinked at him.

"It's a boy. I mean, no, not a boy, it's...." Miyagi paused, took a long, shaky drag of his cigarette, and then continued. "It's the son of the Dean of the University. He's coming along. For, um-"

"An educational trip?" Nowaki offered, helpfully.

"Yes! Yes, that's exactly it. An educational tour, to inspire him. It's hard to keep young folks on track at college these days, and a prestigious conference like this...."

Nowaki smiled politely.

"I'll just turn off the computer," said Miyagi, and his fingers danced briefly on his laptop keyboard.

"I was very pleased to hear that your paper was accepted at the last minute. Hiro-san was looking forward to this conference very much," said Nowaki, as much to make small talk as anything.

"Yes," said Miyagi. "There will be some very influential professors there. No doubt Kamijo will want to stay up 'til all hours talking with...." He tailed off, looking over his shoulder at Nowaki, his glasses glinting with reflected light from the window. "I'm surprised he didn't invite you to join him."

"He said the two of you would be very busy in workshops for most of the time," Nowaki said. "I understand that networking is very important at these events."

A good deal of the tension left Miyagi's body, and he smiled a very broad smile. "Ah, nonsense. All work and no play.... you should come."

"Really, Miyagi-sensei, I couldn't."

"Do you have to work tomorrow?"

"No, as it happens I had other plans for the weekend. Although, they have fallen through," said Nowaki, sadly.

"Splendid! We can stop by your apartment so you can pick up a few things, and you shall come with us!"

"What? No, really, I can't. I have no ticket, and I'm sure I wouldn't be admitted to the conference..."

"You don't have to. Didn't Kamijo tell you? It's being held at the exclusive Tsubayano resort. Anyone can stay at the resort, regardless of whether they're attending the conference. You could relax during the day and at night...."

There was a distinctly wicked look in Miyagi's eyes. He was plotting something, Nowaki was certain of it.

"It's a very relaxing resort." Miyagi peered closely at Nowaki, and tutted. "You do look a little tired, now I see you in that light, and goodness knows Kamijo is like a zombie after all the hours he put in on that paper. He's starting to look like a middle-aged man. I have an idea. How about I pay for your flight, on the condition that you absolutely make sure Kamijo gets some rest while you're there? There's hot springs, lovely rooms...."

An idea popped into Nowaki's head, a big, scary, somewhat risky idea.

He grinned a grin that would have been as devious as Miyagi's, if Nowaki could ever be thought to be such a thing as devious.

"Thank you, Miyagi-sensei," he said. "That's a terribly generous offer."

"It's the least I can do, as Kamijo's beneficent mentor," Miyagi said.

And if Nowaki hadn't known better, he could have sworn that Miyagi winked at him.

*

Everything was perfect. Nowaki looked around the room and sighed a sigh of deep satisfaction.

He picked up his phone and sent Miyagi a swift text message, as agreed. A few moments later his phone beeped confirmation: Hiroki was on his way.

A little nervous now, Nowaki shed his towel and slipped on the blue silk yukata. It was decorated with an intricate design of dragons and peacocks, and it felt incredibly good against his skin. He turned down the lights, and sat in the chair by the big sliding doors to wait.

It had been risky, coming here without Hiro-san knowing. It had been especially risky slipping into the lecture hall that afternoon to hear Hiro-san's lecture, but he wouldn't have missed it for the world. Just to listen to his voice, to bathe in the passion he felt for his subject, to see how it inspired and impressed his colleagues made Nowaki's heart swell with pride. He was also glad to be able to give Hiro-san a little moral support - even if Hiro-san didn't know it - after Miyagi had got unavoidably detained at the last moment and Hiro-san had had to deliver their paper alone. Once or twice during this adventure Nowaki had wondered if Miyagi wasn't taking his responsibilities regarding Shinobu-kun's tour a little too seriously, as they seemed practically joined at the hip. Then again, Shinobu was the Dean's son. Nowaki supposed it was important to keep one's employers happy.

At least now Miyagi was being good to his word in sending Hiro-san to him. (You'd almost think he wanted his colleague out of the way, he was so helpful!) And in just a few moments, Nowaki's anniversary surprise would be revealed.

By the time Hiro-san knocked on the door, Nowaki was barely breathing for nerves. Suddenly he was remembering how Hiro-san didn't always take kindly to surprises... that he might think Nowaki was intruding upon his working life... how he hated being romantic, or so he said, andandand…

"Come in," he heard himself say. "It's open."

The door slid open, and Hiro-san bowed, and had got as far as, "excuse me, Tsuzuki-san, sensei said you wished to speak with me...."

He straightened up, and his eyes went wide.

".... Nowaki?!"

"I hope you don't mind," said Nowaki. "You've made me so happy, Hiro-san. I couldn't let the day go by without saying thank you."

Nowaki's heart thudded in his chest, as he waited to find out whether Hiro-san would be angry, embarrassed, irritated...."

Hiro-san stepped into the room, and closed the door behind him. "Nowaki," he said, in a tiny voice. Even in the soft, flickering light from the candles, Nowaki could see the blush across his cheeks. "You're really here?"

Nowaki smiled, and crossed the room to pull Hiro-san into his arms.

"You're amazing, Hiro-san," he whispered. "And adorable. Come with me. I want to show you something."

Hiro-san let himself be led across the room, through the sliding doors at the other side, and out into the cool evening air.

There were candles arranged on the rocks, and lanterns in soft blues and greens suspended above the pool, bathing the steaming water in a soft cloud of light. Incense burned by the door, sandalwood, Hiro-san's favourite. Fresh towels were stacked by the little steps that led down into the water.

"It's just ours for tonight," Nowaki whispered. "It's a private pool, goes with the room."

"How much did this cost?!"

"No more than I can afford," said Nowaki, honestly. He decided it wasn't the right time to say exactly how generous Miyagi had been. It would only prove a distraction. "Now, why don't we get your clothes off?" He reached for Hiro-san's tie.

"I can undress myself!" Hiro-san flailed about a bit, anxious to prove that however romantic Nowaki might want to be, he, Hiro-san, was absolutely manly and in control.

Nowaki indulged him, merely catching items of clothing as they were discarded and tossing them into a heap.

Finally, Hiro-san was naked, and Nowaki shrugged his yukata off in a cascade of watery silk. Hiro-san was already headed for the water, but this was a moment Nowaki was determined to savour. He grabbed Hiro-san by one hand, reeled him in and kissed him. Hard at first, to get his attention, then softer, more gentle, slow, slow, slow.... until Hiro-san couldn't stand it any more and flung his arms around Nowaki's neck, kissing him back with passion and insistence that stole Nowaki's breath and made his knees feel weak.

They entered the water together, they floated and played, until the heat got a little to much and they sat quietly, sipping water from the jug Nowaki had left there. Hiro-san rested his head on Nowaki's shoulder, and sighed.

"I want to make love to you," Nowaki whispered, delighting in the little wriggle of embarrassment Hiro-san made at the suggestion.

"Not here," Hiro-san said. "Dizzy."

"Then we must get out immediately," Nowaki said. "You're right, it's not wise to raise your blood pressure in a hot spring." He hurried Hiro-san out of the pool, and wrapped a large, fluffy towel about him.

He caught a glimpse of Hiro-san's cock, standing well and truly to attention.

"It looks as though we got you out just in time," he said.

Back in the room Hiro-san lay back on the bed, while Nowaki collected champagne from the fridge, and a small bottle of massage oil. But by the time he returned Hiro-san was looking distinctly sleepy, and Nowaki wasn't sure he could face another lonely, unfulfilled night while his lover snored next to him. So he left the massage for later, and popped the champagne instead. Noisily.

"Happy anniversary, Hiro-san," he said, and let foam pour from the bottle over Hiro-san's flushed skin.

Hiroki jumped about ten feet in the air and called Nowaki a lot of quite rude names in response to the sudden cold of the champagne. But he settled down nicely when Nowaki began to lick the bubbles from his belly. From his chest. From his nipples. (Nowaki took a good while over his nipples.) Then Nowaki took a mouthful of champagne and shimmied down the bed, relishing Hiro-san's little gasp of surprise when his cock was engulfed in a delicious blend of hot mouth, wriggling tongue and fizzing, tickling bubbles.

"Nowaki," he groaned, then, and again in a little while when Nowaki knelt between his legs and pushed inside, deep into glorious, clutching heat. And that second time, as Nowaki threaded his fingers through Hiro-san's hair, and Hiro-san quivered beneath him, face flushed with pleasure, Hiro-san whispered, "Happy anniversary, Nowaki. I love you."

And Nowaki felt like a king.

*

"I like this thing." Hiro-san plucked at Nowaki's yukata. "It kind of goes with your eyes."

Nowaki smiled. "You look very beautiful in yours, too," he said. "I always knew you would."

Hiro-san pulled green silk a little more tightly around himself.

"'Kind of', though," Nowaki chastised him gently. "It's not terribly romantic. Not for a literature professor."

"Don't be an idiot."

Nowaki sighed.

"Wait there," Hiro-san said.

He was gone a few minutes before returning with a slim volume, a battered-looking book in an old, pale green dust jacket. He sat once more at Nowaki's side, dangling his feet in the warm spring water. The candles burned low now, and the darkness was lifting. He opened the book and began to read.


"Tonight, as hail falls on bamboo leaves,
rustling, rustling,
I don’t feel like sleeping alone.
Loving you, my heart may shatter into a thousand pieces,
But not one piece will be lost..."

 

Nowaki watched the sun rise as his lover read him poetry, the luckiest, the happiest of men, and thought he might never need to sleep again.

~owari~