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"You touch him and I swear to god...I'll make you pay...I swear on my life, I will make you pay...stay away from him."

"Bold words coming from someone on their deathbed..."

 

~Tokyo Japan, 5:25 am~

 

Smoke blew from the mans open mouth, alongside a small, exhausted chuckle. It had been an excruciatingly long day, though one he could be unusually proud of. 

17 hours to be exact. 17 long, beautiful hours of hard work and a successful outcome. He was actually quite impressed with himself. 

Sitting in the corner of the cold room, he took another long drag of his cigarette, while his other hand, soaked in crimson, clutched a necklace in his palm. He had held onto it for a while; perhaps right when the boy started begging for his life, tears in those beautiful eyes, his body trembling from the pain that was inflicted. When exactly, he wasn't too sure, but it was the only thing that was keeping his mind locked and in focus. Had he let go after his work was finished, he would've gone over his head, much like in the beginning, and had most likely risked getting caught.

Not to say he had never had this problem before. There had been many times he had finished and never once held onto the item like a lifeline...not for a number of years, anyway. Not since...what would've been his high school graduation...

He thought about that night a lot, more and moreso these recent months as he grew ever so closer to where he needed to be...back to the one he wanted more than anything....more than anyone...

He sighed heavily, leaning his head back to look out the window, seeing how the moon was slowly starting to set. It was time to go. Last thing he needed was to be here where the cops eventually showed up to check out his latest pieces of work. Crushing the smoke onto the pavement, he stood, getting the feeling back in his legs and stretched, the necklace still gripped in his palm.

He walked past the bodies, past the blood, past his favorite victim thus far, to his bag and knelled to open it, grabbing the last piece he needed to make this an absolute success. Years of planning had gone into this. Years of stalking, torturing, killing, all to get the information he so craved. Tonight was the final connection he needed and this was going to be the last piece of his puzzle.

Gripping a paper he pulled from his bag, he smiled and grabbed a red marker, making small changes to the paper. Turning it around, he scribbled something and quickly crumbled the paper, tossing it haphazardly across the room, not caring where it landed. They'd see it and they'd know...they'd know and he knew deep down they'd go looking for the one in the picture...to protect him...but it would be for nothing. 

Because Takeo was much smarter than that...he knew that Sono could not hide from him forever. A dark smirk came over his features at the thought of 'the one that got away', as he often puts it to himself. 

15 years of hiding from police, from the FEDS, anyone who would know his face thanks to that sluts father...15 years of careful planning to get to this point and now, in this building, these innocent bodies, the careful papers in his bag...Tokyo had seen enough of him. It was time to make his move...

He was done here; standing with his bag now slung over his shoulder, he finally turned his attention to the necklace in his hand, a locket to be more specific. He opened it and his dark smile softened, this thumb caressing the picture. Bringing the locket to his lips, he kissed it softly, his eyes darkening in the shadow of the room.

Yes...this really was the last piece of the puzzle. He had everything he needed. And now he had to truly consider the next stage of his plan. He needed to get out of this city..make his way West...get to Osaka...find him...reclaim him...

"...almost time...it's almost time..."

He stood there, the locket against his lips and frozen in his place, his dark eyes closing in thought. So many years he had seen his beautiful face...those brown eyes...such golden hair...

He would soil that angelic look.....this time, he would truly ruin him. 

In the distance, he heard the sound of an alarm going off. The police would be here in less than 20 minutes...it was time to go.

The shrill of the alarm gave him a slight headache as he bolted out the back window. They always did.

~6:30 am~

"God damnit all..."

Officer Yakura Suruzawa removed his hat from his head, running his fingers through his hair and let out the most annoyed groan he'd let out in days, not even wanting to look around the building as his team worked endlessly with the scattered bodies. 

When he was promoted to Senior Detective 7 years ago and moved to the city of Tokyo, no where in his right mind did he expect his first (and possibly only) true case to be the finding of mass murderer Mizuno Takeo. He was getting much too old for cases like this. And while not every day was dedicated to tracking down the madman, it seemed like recently his activity was getting more and more...vibrant, for lack of a better term. Takeo seemed much more agile than he used to and it was proving to be more difficult to track the man down. 

Yakura sighed through his nose; All he wanted for today was just a quiet day of petty crimes.

Not cleaning up another mess left by Takeo Mizuno.

It was nearly the same with every call they recieved when it came to Mizuno and no matter how fast anyone responded, no one was able to get there in time. Takeo would be gone and all that would be left were bodies...bodies that, right now, were left the in the most provocative positions. Others were missing clothes and some were ever more brutalized than the others.

And of course, as with all Takeos work, there was one more torn up than the rest...a young blond man. This poor sap looked to be no older than 19 years old. Yakura noticed him when he first entered the building and almost had to take a step back...the kid looked like his back had been skinned clean...

"Disgusting..."

Yakura, annoyed with standing around, pulled out his notebook and jotted down the crime scene, the flashes of camera's from the forensics department somewhat blinding him....he shook his head and massaged his temples after placing his pad back into his pocket. The lack of coffee from being woken up so damn early was getting to him hard. They had been here fora little over an hour and he was already feeling like it was going to be a long day.

A tap on his shoulder made him turn quickly, only to see his young assistant, Oishi Muito, standing there with some files and a notepad. Yakura sighed again. 

"Give it to me straight. What is it we're looking at now?"

Oishi nodded and opened his own notepad, flipping through the pages and tilted his head, his red hair falling over his face and said, 

"All these people were employees at an administration center for most of the art schools around the Tokyo metroplex. They're the ones in charge of the main school near Shinjuku. You know, kinda like how the last ones were-"

"The admin officials in Kichijoji...what the hell is going on? Why is he all of a sudden attacking admin officials for liberal institutions? I don't get it."

Yakura ruffled his hair and paced back and forth, mumbling to himself over and over. The connections made no sense. Over the course of a few years, Takeo was only known as a serial killer in lower Japanese neighborhoods, killing street scum and evidently, people who spurned him the wrong way. Simple things, if one could call it that anyways. 

Now, he was making a pattern, murdering people in the art community. And not just murdering.

The most sickening things Yakura had seen in his 30 + years as a detective had come from Takeos file alone. And it had only just started to become a pattern for the last 5 years.

Killing art majors, admin officials from the best art schools all around Tokyo...it made absolutely 0 sense...

Turning to Oishi, who looked up at his mentor with a sharp stare, Yakura asked, mentioning to the boy near the front door, 

"And this kid? Who was he? He's too young to be an admin."

Oishi paled just slightly, but shook his head and went back to his notes, eyes flying past the pages as he stopped and said with a slight hint of morbid (and unintentional) glee, 

"Oh yes! um...his name is...was...Aoiki Haruka. He was an apprentice manga-ka for Nioku Kengo. Why do you ask, sir?"

Yakura stared hard at the kid, feeling his stomach churn at the sight of the boys back...he could only imagine what the other victims went through, but this kid...he looked so young. Fresh into University and this is what he was subjected to...shaking his head, the man looked back to Oishi and said, 

"So far, all I've come to understand about Takeo and his game here is that lately he's been targeting artists...and if there's a blond man present, he does even more horrible things to them...I think this one is the youngest I've seen...look what's been done to him..."

Oishi said nothing, but followed his mentors gaze to the boy on the ground, now being examined by medics. He winced, still not being totally used to the sight of a corpse this mangled. Well...almost mangled. The skin of his back was mostly torn clean off, yellow hair stained in red and his eyes were open...Oishi wanted to cry for the kid...the pain he must've felt was horrifying...

One of the medics stood suddenly and wiped her hands, turning to them both and Yakura, who had been eyeing her the entire time, asked,

"What are we working with?"

She sighed grimly and said,

"About the same. All the victims here were either shot down or strangled down...mostly the former. But this one...the poor boy...it looks as though he was stabbed numerous times in the stomach. His back from the neck down...skinned and ripped apart... and these hand prints around his neck show he had been one of the few that were strangled...but the other difference that I can find is..."

She hesitated and Yakura could see she was trying not to tremble. He felt for the woman, truly he did. Most of the team he worked with were still fresh and new to these sorts of cases. Poor Oishi had only been his assistant for a little under 2 years and the young man still got sickly over the 'cleanest' of murder scenes. 

But with all that said, Yakura cleared his throat, prompting her to continue with a trembling sigh, 

"We noticed blood in the back of his jeans and well...we won't know until we get the official statement, but he looks as though he was...brutally raped as he was dying..."

As with most of the news he received from his team regarding their finds in Takeos murder scenes...Yakura was left speechless, his tired eyes turning to the boy who suffered so much worse than anyone else in this building...but why...why all of a sudden was that monster attacking yellow haired men like this? It came from no where it seemed, the first victim a poor 17 year old student...he was found near a river bed, naked and cold, scared and in so much pain...Yakura had never felt more ashamed in his life when he heard the boy died at the hospital...his heart went out to that family, though he could say nothing as they mourned their only son, who suffered and died in such a horrible fashion. 

He turned quickly to get away from the scene for the time being, not allowing the others to see the hurt in his eyes. With a shuddering breath, Yakura pressed a finger to his chin, collecting his thoughts, closing his eyes and tried to piece everything together. 

"I don't understand. Years ago, Takeo was just a thug, a lowlife nothing. Now...now he's getting crafty, leading us on goose chase after goose chase. It's like he knows we were no where close to catching him before...and now it's impossible to find a lead. Art majors...administration officials for the best art schools in Tokyo...the brutal treatment of men with blond hair specifically...goddamnit, where's the connection...?"

He bit the knuckle of his finger, trying to put it together in his head, all leading to nothing. There was no solid reasoning that he could find. What was missing?

Meanwhile, Oishi was scouting the area, writing down anything he could find worth mentioning to his already stressed out mentor. Ever since he had been placed in Yakuras care, Mizuno Takeo was his top priority. He had always been Yakuras number one goal, ever since that poor student in Shibuya....Oishi had not been under Yakuras care at that time, but once he read the story about it, the young man was determined to catch the madman at all costs.  And all the research Oishi had done on the subject came up short, almost like he wasn't supposed to find anything on the man. The way the sites were blocked off...like someone was hiding him away. 

"Oi, Oishi! Come take a look at this!"

Pulled from his thoughts, he walked over to the forensics tech and watched as he pulled a piece of paper from under a chair with a pair of tweezers. Almost instantly, Oishi pulled some gloves from his pocket and slipped them on to take it.

It was crumbled and slightly dirty, so Oishi opened it, wiping off some of the dirt. Upon staring at it, his eyes widened for a split second before looking around for Yakura, watching as the man stepped out of the building with that 'look' on his face...a look of shame. 

Once outside, the older man stared up at the sky, watching the clouds go on such a dark morning. It was hard to believe that the people of this neighborhood were fast asleep while a terrible crime was committed right across the street. God, he wanted a cigarette....he left his pack on his desk at home after leaving in such a rush...this morning could not get any worse...

"Yakura-san, we found something you should see."

Spoke too soon, he gathered. 

Hearing Oishis' voice did make him jump a bit, but he relaxed enough to see his assistant hand him what looked to be...a picture? A crumbled picture, but a picture all the same.

Curious, Yakura removed a single glove from his pocket to slip on his hand and took it, staring at it. Upon closer inspection, his own eyes widened in shock, turning to his wide eyes assistant, asking, 

"Where...where did you find this?"

"The forensics team found it. What is it though?"

Yakura laughed...a laugh that sounded manic. Oishi stepped back for a second, but gaped as he mentor turned to him suddenly, grasping both of his shoulders and gently shook him, a wild look in his eyes. 

"It's a goddamn clue, is what it is! Finally! Haha! After 5 freaking years, a piece of solid help! I can't fucking believe it! We've never been this damned lucky in our whole lives! Now we just need to find out who these three people are."

Oishi, still reeling after being shaken so much by his boss, shook his head a little before turning his attention to the photo, tilting his head in curiosity.

In the picture, it showed three boys, all in high school uniforms. On the left was a boy with wild brown hair. The one in the middle was pale, with bright yellow hair....much like the victims... And the right was another pale boy with pitch black hair and deep blue eyes...almost like...

Oishi snatched the picture back and scoffed loudly, saying, 

"Takeo? No way...this can't be right. The Takeo we know is almost 35 years old...but this looks like it was taken ages ago."

Yakura scoffed in return before taking the picture back, looking it over a few times before rubbing his neck and said, 

"Maybe it's an old photograph. Maybe it's something from Takeos past and he dropped it....though I doubt he'd just casually leave something like this behind...something tells me he wanted us to find this. The question is why? And why is one of the boys marked with an X and the other is just a circle?"

"Well...I don't know about that, but there's something written on the back too."

"What?"

Yakura quickly turned the photo over and instantly caught what Oishi was seeing. In bright red ink, much like the ink used in the actual photo, were 4 simple words. And for reasons Yakura couldn't fathom, they sent a chill down his spine.

'Together...now and forever'

Huh...well...curious is and curious will ever be...what in the hell did that even mean? Turning his head to his assistant, Yakura asked, 

"Oishi...does it sound at all familiar?"

Sadly, the young man shook his head and gave a poor stare. 

"Nope. Not in the slightest."

Because of course not....why would he?

"Damn...the one piece of evidence we get and it's a picture with some stupid quote. Fuck...do we even know where this was taken?"

Oishi took the picture back slowly and gave it a long stare, almost as if he was processing it deep in his brain. Yakura gave him his time to think, as if watching the actual gears turning in his brain and finally, after a good few seconds, Oishi tilted his head and said,

"It looks like...Hanamiyama Park. If I remember correctly, it's in Fukushima. That's a nice park, especially when the cherry blossoms start blooming, like in this picture. Ahhh I remember when I was young I went to this park. It was so pretty! And-"

Oishi stopped talking when he felt his mentor grip his arms once again, shaking him much more vigorously and with a sparkle in his eyes. This time, the young man flushed as his mentor snatched the picture once again out of his hands and proclaimed loudly, 

"Oishi, you're a goddamn godsend, you know that?! I've never been to Fukushima before so I never would have known that! Shit there's so much to find out...we need to find out what school these boys went to. With any luck, someone from back then should still be there! We have no time to lose, we have to go!"

The young man had no time to gush at the compliments spewing from his mentors mouth as he was pulled down the street to the nearest taxi station, the flush still on his face as Yakura phoned the Fukushima police department, demanding they speak to the chief. He didn't give a reason as to why as he hung up quickly and got on the phone with the Tokyo International Airport, booking two coach tickets for their next flight to Fukushima. 

~Fukushima, Japan, 3:16 pm~

"What do you mean you won't help us?! We've been waiting here for hours to talk to you and you're just going to push us away?!"

The chief of police didn't say a word to them. He simply pulled out a cigarette, lit it and sighed, smoke lifting from his mouth.

Yakura was beginning to lose his patience; ever since they had arrived in Fukushima, it was as if they had 'Takeo' written all over them. The aura that surrounded them had people avoiding them, gave them strange looks, rushing off when they approached to ask simple questions. It had taken them over 20 minutes to convince their driver to take them to see the head of the police...not that it was any better from there. 

They ended up waiting for hours just to speak with the chief and when they finally...FINALLY...made it into his office, he refused to talk the moment they brought up Takeos name....for fucks sakes...it was insufferable.

Even Oishi, as level headed and polite as he was, was staring to get frustrated, fidgeting in his seat, sensing his mentors irritation and tapped his foot against the floor, eyes locked onto the chief. 

The chief crushed his cigarette in his ashtray, not really bothering to look at them for more than a moment before sighing, lamenting, 

"Listen, I'd love to help, truly I would...but I'm not sure how much help I could be with a subject like this. Takeo is...not the best thing to happen to this city."

Yakura tried hard to keep his calm as he stood up, pushing his chair back suddenly and said loudly, 

"But that's why we want to help! He's causing massive panic throughout most of the smaller districts in Tokyo and a huge terror in the metro. If we don't stop him soon, I'm not sure what else we can do! There's got to be something! Anything!"

The chief gave a hard glare to the man who was unnecessarily yelling in his office, but he backed down and leaned in his chair, graying brown hair covering his face a little as he said softly, 

"You're nice detectives, I can see that. But if this is such a hot button issue in Tokyo, which to be honest, I'm not even sure why Takeo would be there, then why don't you do your own research on him?"

Oishis ears picked up on that middle bit and his gears started turning. And before Yakura could say anything, he spoke up,

"Believe me, chief, I have tried to gain any information I can about Takeo but everywhere I go, there's something blocked. All I remember is it's blocked by some big sponsor...god I can't remember the name...Hana...Hanas-"

"You mean, Hanasaki? Am I right?"

At the sound of that, both Oishi and Yakura let out collective sighs of relief...while neither noticing how the chief suddenly paled...Oishi grinned in triumph, saying,

"Yes! Thank you! That has been bugging me for weeks now. Kenji Hanasaki. That's whose been blocking my research. Phew. Do you know where we might find him? He could hold some vital-"

The chief suddenly slammed his fist down, startling them both. Oishi yelped loudly and Yakuras eyes widened at the sound. It was so sudden and so forceful that it actually knocked off several papers and other hard objects off the desk. And the level of fiery force that came from the chiefs tone was enough to make even a seasoned officer like Yakura shake just a little bit. 

"You will not, I repeat...you will NOT speak to Hanasaki Kenji about this. There are plenty of reasons why he blocked off much of the information behind Takeo....Look, I've had enough of this. Get out of my office. You've wasted my time and I will not have you waste his. Is that understo-"

Yakura stopped him quickly, pulling the picture from his coat pocket, not willing to go without a fight and said, with an equally fiery tone in his voice, 

"Can you at least tell us who these boys are then? I'm fairly sure this one is Takeo, but who are the others? Sir, believe me, I understand this is probably a bit painful, but I'm asking, as a fellow upholder of the law...at least help us with this."

It was silent for a moment, though the air was hot around the three men. Yakura and the chief glared daggers at each other, neither looking away, all while Oishi stared at his mentor with such adoration and beaming eyes. This is why he joined the force....this is why he was so excited to work with Yakura... To be this passionate about cracking a case and helping people....reading about what happened to that boy...that poor child...Oishi knew that unless Takeo was found and brought to justice, many other young men would fall to the same fate. He couldn't let that happen. He wouldn't. He knew Yakura wouldn't allow it to happen either. He was more than prepared to stay in this city, in this office, for as long as it took until they got some solid answers. 

It seemed the chief understood that as well...seeing as how he closed his eyes and slumped in his chair, pulling out another cigarette and even offered to the two men. Oishi declined while Yakura eagerly snagged one. Finally, after a brief moment of silence and lighting up his smoke, the chief exhaled, pointing to one of the boys in the picture, saying with a tremor in his voice, 

"This one here is Nazawa Naoki."

His finger slid to the middle of the picture,

"And this is Hanasaki Sono. They were both students at the private high school up in North Fukushima. God...that was 15 years ago."

Yakura smiled, suddenly so excited to finally be getting solid information, jotting it down in his notes while Oishi spoke up, curiously asking, 

"Hanasaki? As in the same Hanasaki we were talking about? This is his son?"

The chief scoffed and nodded, saying, 

"Yeah...yeah, he is. His youngest, actually... Kenji has two sons. His oldest, Oto, is a high class lawyer up in Tokyo. I'm sure you know of him."

Yakura nodded, feeling a little stunned for not catching the connection of the names for a moment. 

"I do. He's the person who is funding this Takeo case. He's not a cop by any means, but he has much of the Tokyo police department in his pocket due to his legal help with the Mayor."

The chief nodded back to him, as if expecting that answer, staring at the picture and gave a sad smile....a knowing...sad...smile.

"That sounds like Oto...so determined to follow in his fathers stead and be the best he can be. That entire company was founded on helping people in more ways than just for legality...I'm happy to hear Oto-kun has taken that step all the way in Tokyo...he always was the most eager for that position..."

The man stopped for a moment, pressing a hand against his mouth, as if holding back a shuddering breath, shaking his head and picked up his cigarette, inhaling quickly before continuing his thoughts.

"Sono is a different story, I'm afraid. The youngest and probably the most...damaged. He's had such a difficult life. Ever since Takeo, no doubt he's lived much of it in paranoia. I'm not surprised in the least that Sono hasn't come back here to see his family. Too many dark memories."

Oishi looked up to Yakura for a moment, nodding his head and turned back to the chief, asking quickly, 

"Sir, Hanasaki is still around? And Naoki too? Do you know where we can find them? They might have valuable information and-"

The chief looked at him with such a grim stare, followed by a sad laugh, confusing both men...

"You're not getting anything out of these two...Sono left years ago and hasn't looked back since. And Naoki...well..."

Yakura and Oishi leaned in their seats to hear the chief as he was starting to whisper. When he had gone silent, Yakura mentioned,

"And Naoki sir? Is he?"

A sob masked as a cough left the chiefs lips, wiping his eye quickly and scoffed to himself, resting his elbows on his desk and inhaled another lungful of smoke, the shudder in his tone horribly clear as he responded.

"He died. He was killed protecting Sono from some thugs that were hired by Takeo. It's actually.....really sad. Naoki had told me how he wanted to marry Sono right out of high school...I saw how in love they were...I saw how happy they made each other, only for it to be stripped away so quickly....I can't...I can't imagine the guilt Sono's live with all these years. I never wanted him to think it was his fault. I hope he's learned to move on...I know he's pushed himself through such trails and look what he achieved... Highest Honor student at the best damn art school in Tokyo....Naoki would've been so proud and-"

The chief cleared his throat, stopping his talking halfway and the two Tokyo detectives stared at each other, then back at the chief, who glared at them hard, letting out a heavy sigh.

"I guess I don't have much of a choice...I've already told you this much. But listen here. Whatever I tell you, you must understand that I am more concerned with what you do with this information. Clear?"

After getting a clear nod from the two, the chief continued...starting with another cigarette.

"Do either of you know what it's like...when you get ready for work one afternoon, the day as calm as it could be. Of course, you'd get a weird pang in your chest, as if something was terribly wrong, but you ignore it. Push it aside as nothing....then you get a phone call....from your sons best friends father...telling you that they've been hurt...shot..."

The chief sets his hand on the window, his other hand crushing his smoke...Yakura said nothing and Oishi looked on in worry, almost afraid of what the man would say next.

"I don't suppose either of you have kids...so you won't know what it feels like...to be told your only son died protecting his friend. To know that you outlived your own child and have to live with the soul crushing guilt it leaves. To see the person he died saving and know that deep down, it wasn't his fault, but you want to place to blame on someone...only to forever hate the real cause of his death and vow to never have it happen again..."

The air suddenly grew thick and Yakura turned to his assistant, who he could already tell had put the pieces together quickly. They didn't need to say a word as the chief continued.

"When Naoki died and I found out later through Kenji that it was Takeo who killed him...I felt my soul tear into two. Sono and Takeo both...they were Naokis best friends...I...I knew Takeo dropped out of school and that Naoki had to step up and take care of Sono because of it...but I never thought...I never though Takeo could be capable of something so terrible...and Sono...my god..the pain he went through that night....He blamed himself for Naoki's death and most likely still does, even after knowing the truth... After Sono left for University, I sold my shop and busted my ass through police training, eventually becoming the chief, vowing to protect this city, working alongside Hanasaki-san, to be sure nothing like that ever happens again....I promise to my sons grave every day that what Takeo put this city through...put Sono through...I swore on my life to put Takeo down in some way...and the fact that you two show up here with this makes me sick to my stomach but in a way, it's a blessing. Maybe this can finally be put to bed."

Finally, the chief got up from his chair, prompting the other two men up with him, and said,

"Naoki told me the night he died that Sono was the love of his life, how he wanted to protect him and be his everything. If you both could truly see how in love my son was with him...how truly in love Sono was with Naoki in return...I...I should've seen it sooner....and I should've seen Takeo's rage from a mile away...fuck...give me the picture...I need to see it again."

Oishi handed the picture to the chief with a shaking hand and they both watched as he turned it over, seeing the writing and his brow furrowed. Turning the picture back around to face the boys, he said,

"Well, I can tell you that's Takeos hand, alright. But I'm more concerned with what he wrote. It's like a threat."

"A threat sir?"

"On graduation night, oh about 15 years ago, Takeo had beaten Sono within an inch of his life. At some point during their senior year, Naoki told me they had broken up and then he randomly comes home in tears, but wouldn't tell me why. Only for Kenji and myself to find out our sons were in a secret romance with each other... and I guess Takeo found out about it and become jealous...insanely jealous...from what I had heard, Takeo gave him a chance to get back together with him and Sono turned him down, resulting in the...well, yeah. Sono would've died had it not been for Kenji stepping in and shielding his son. He almost had the chance to kill Takeo, but he got away and that was the last Fukushima saw of him since...that can only mean one thing...where did you say you found this?"

Up until now, both men were stunned silent by all the new information suddenly being tossed at them so quickly. They hadn't expected this quick of a development in this case and to hear that not only the chief had such a connection to Takeo that they hadn't even considered...it was all piecing together, if only slightly. 

Yakura cleared his throat and answered the mans question diligently, 

"We found it at our most recent crime scene. Takeo usually never leaves us traces of him so this was quite the surprise."

The chiefs brow rose at that, clenching his fists against his desk, countering with, 

"And you said he was targeting art majors? Administration officials for art schools in Tokyo? Something about a terrible fate for men with blond hair?"

Oishi nodded enthusiastically and Yakura simply nodded. The chief ran his hands through his graying hair. Yakura spoke up first, clearing his throat again and as he spoke, he found his eyes getting wide with shock and realization.

"You mentioned before that Takeo has had a sick obsession with Sono for years...since they were kids...their separation and Sonos romance with your son must've made it even worse...he must be being especially sadistic towards blond haired men to hopefully satisfy his craving to...to...art majors...it makes sense. Sono was an art major in the Tokyo Art Academy according to you..he graduated and the admins would have old records of graduated students...there's the connection. Holy shit, that's the connection!"

Yakura jumped so suddenly that his chair flung backwards, his eyes wide and unbelievably astounded as his own discover, all while Oishi, who stared at him with energized enthusiasm, jumped next to him and listened to his mentors rambled findings, getting more and more excited as he spoke. 

"Takeo isn't just targeting these people for new kicks! He's killing them for information...the blond haired men we find...they look like Hanasaki Sono...he's doing it for nostalgic pleasure and...and...the admin records. If he had access to those...he could get access to where Hanasaki might be living now, where he works and..."

Oishio gasped loudly and proclaimed,

"Takeo is moving this new pattern because he's looking for Sono-kun! And if he finds him-"

"-there's no telling what he could do...he'd hurt him...holy shit, he'd kill him. He'd kill him worse than the men we find at the crime scenes."

Yakura turned so suddenly and slammed his hands on the chiefs desk so loudly that even the chief jumped in surprise, not expecting this level of enthusiasm. Both men were rambling on and on in such stupid glee and for a moment, the chief was starting to get a headache from all their noise. Finally, Yakura turned quickly and took the chiefs hands in his, shaking them wildly and said,

"Chief, you've been such a huge help! Thank you so much for this incredible lead! We...we have to find Hanasaki-kun. He needs to know this. He needs to get into protection and-"

"Do you two even know where to start looking?"

...

A pause...a deafening pause...

The adrenaline rush Yakura had came crashing at that realization and he almost sunk to his knees in defeat. Of course they hadn't thought that far yet. Oishi leaned against the doorway, trying to clear his head. What kind of detectives were they? Getting excited over this and yet with no knowledge of where they were supposed to go. It was academy mistakes; they knew better. 

"Heh, you two are by far the most interesting pair of Tokyo cops I've ever met...listen, if you're going to look for Sono and all that, I ask you do me one favor and one favor only."

Yakura turned his head slowly, almost baffled at the laughter coming from the chief at his desk, seeing how he sat back down and regarded them with a small smile. Oishi blushed and looked away for a moment, playing with the pen in his pocket. That smile spoke volumes and he spoke up quicker than he should have. 

"Anything, Chief! What is-"

"Nazawa."

Oishi blinked and Yakura looked confused; the chief chuckled and said, suddenly getting somber and serious, 

"Call me Nazawa. I figure if Kenji is getting updates from Oto and you're the actual updates, it's better we get on a better name basis...but going back to that promise...all I want is for you to protect him. I don't care if he's got some girlfriend or boyfriend or whatever. You find him...protect him and take Takeo down. I want this bastard brought to his knees for what he's done."

Oishi stood up straight and saluted the Chief, nodding with a smile.

"You can count on us, sir!"

Yakura nodded and the Chief nodded back, then reached into his desk, pulling out what looked to be a manga.

"There isn't much on Sono Hanasakis location since he up and left this place after graduation, but I've come to realize that it's not as hard as some people make it out to be to find others, especially if they've got a career that caters thousands of people. If you want to find him..."

The Chief held a manga in front of them and both cops eyes widened. It was a manga called "Horizon's Outlet". The manga-ka was Hanasaki Sono.

"...start with his publisher."

Chapter Text

The sun had only just started setting over the buildings of the city, creating a beautiful orange glow over the glass windows. People had begun to leave work for the day, making their way to the subways or buses to go home to their families, enjoy a night of peace...or the ones who would return to an empty house, silent to themselves as they ate their small dinners and either lamented or content in their solitude. 

In other cases, many young adults would go out with friends or colleagues to bars or restaurants, just to take the load off of a busy day or an even busier week. 

This was one of those cases in which Seiji was just done with his work load and could only think of taking a breather away from all things manga, even if it was just for an hour. He left his office building with a heavy sigh on his lips, phone in hand and occasionally looked up to the sunset, only slightly irritated that he stayed so late for another pointless meeting that could've just been a long group email. The meeting had consisted of proper quotas being met and how a select few of the manga-ka would be interviewed in the next few days....Seiji groaned almost too loudly when he saw he was one of them. It wasn't as if he hated being interviewed almost every other month, but this would be something not regarding his newest work that he had spent ages on...

No, this would be regarding something he had mentioned in a previous article written about the love lives of the others in his publication office...and how he mentioned he wasn't so much 'seeing someone' as he was deeply involved emotionally...that certainly got the rumor mill going and now he was paying the price for it. It was a talk he was going to have to bring up later, but for now, he'd push it aside just for some peace of mind. 

Finally opening his phone and peered through his messages, his brown eyes lite up as he saw a text that came in only a few minutes ago...he smiled. 

'Just left my meeting with my publisher; heading to the cafe now. See you soon <3'

Ahh that's right. If Seiji's company had meetings like the one he had today, then it stood to reasons Sonos would have the same...hopefully, he wasn't on the receiving end of an upcoming interview. His smile softened at the heart Sono left at the end of his text and his heart skipped a beat. The blond was slowly becoming a bit more comfortable with him again, sending cute little messages like this and even went so bold as to send Seiji pictures on days he was off....the younger man was not ashamed to say he had saved every picture his lover sent him throughout his work day....one of them was even his home screen and was very cautious of other people seeing it. And it wasn't even a sexy picture, nor it wasn't even a selfie of the blond....it was unbelievably wholesome.

It was a picture of them together Sono had apparently taken one night at his place. They both had suffered a long day of heavy meetings and interviews, combined with the load of their work being doubled and both assistants calling out sick. Seiji had come over with the intent of helping Sono with his work, but ended up passing out on the couch the moment he sat down. Apparently, the blond had thought this to be cute and snuggled up close to him, snapping a photo on his phone and sent it to the man the next day while he was working with his friends...needless to say, Seiji had flushed hard over it and saved it immediately, smiling every time he stared at it. 

That and the text he was looking at made him smile just a bit more, beaming from ear to ear as he typed back quickly, 

'Just left mine too. Hope your meeting was better than mine. I should be at the cafe in a few minutes. Missed you all day! :)'

Seiji sent the text and shut his phone with another sigh, though it was graced with a smile and a crack of his neck. The week was finally over and he could spend Friday night with the man he loved so much. And the timing could not be more perfect. With both of them finalizing their newest volumes (or Seiji coming close to finishing), they would eventually have some free time to do what they wanted. Which was nice...considering the emotional moment they shared only a few weeks back....Seiji's smile faded just a little at the memory. 

3 weeks since he pulled up that horrible article...3 weeks since Sono told him everything he could about this life and 3 weeks since Sono had his emotional break down in front of him...in those 3 weeks, Sono had been unusually reclusive and soft spoken, not making much of an effort to do anything outside his apartment, not that Seiji could blame him. No doubt the blond was still mentally exhausted from the strain of truly letting someone in after 15 years of keeping it all locked up. 

But evidently, that didn't stop the blond from being so....active...with Seiji every time they met up. Though, if nothing else, their sex life became just a bit more vanilla since that night. Again, not that Seiji was complaining. He rather enjoyed holding his lover close to him as they had sex, burring his fingers in those golden locks, kissing those pink lips and swallow every moan that dripped from him. He gathered this was what Sono needed in order to make himself heal and Seiji was more than willing to see him through that. 

He promised he'd be there for him...this was just one way of showing it. 

The young man sighed once again as he made his way to the cafe, suddenly thirsty and eager to just get home and slump on the couch with the tv going...preferably with his beautiful blond in his lap. He blushed and shook his head quickly once he finally made it to the small shop, opening the door and waved at the waitress, who smiled at him and pointed to a table near the wall, which already had a seat taken by someone with a gentle smile on his face. 

"Look who finally made it. I was starting to think you forgot where this place was."

Seiji laughed awkwardly and rubbed the back of his head before sitting down, shaking his head again and said, 

"As if I could. We've been here every Friday for about a month. I'm just shocked you beat me here again. Your building is what, 10 blocks away?"

Sono smiled and leaned his head on his palm, chuckling and said, 

"Taxis are a thing, Seiji-kun. And I have a feeling I'd still beat you here if I walked fast enough. Where's that youthful energy you're always showing off, hm?"

"You're lucky I love you so much."

To the untrained eye, it only looked like they were close friends from childhood to be talking so casually this way, a fact they took full advantage of when they were out in public like this. But Seiji knew that telling Sono he loved him when they were out almost always made him flush just a little, those pale cheeks turning pink even with a cocky smile on his face. They laughed with each other as the waitress brought them their drinks, casually going on about their day and discussing their newest volumes and progress. Seiji had mentioned he was being interviewed in a few days...or weeks...he couldn't remember, though Sono didn't press what it would be about and smiled, saying he'd be fine and to just keep his calm like usual. 

They left after an hour, paying for their drinks and opted to head towards Seijis place since it was closer, making their way down the streets of the city. Half way there, in the midst of the large crowd of people, Seiji felt a pressure in his hand and looked down, blushing wildly when he saw that Sono had laced their fingers together and regarded him with a soft smile. It was such a simple gesture but Seiji felt his heart throbbing against his chest. Now he just couldn't wait to get home...damn these insanely long traffic lights. 

Finally, after what seemed like hours when it had only been 20 minutes, the two men walked down the hall to Seijis apartment, the younger man not opening the door quick enough it seemed. The second he locked his front door behind them and removed his shoes, he was pressed against it and his lips covered by soft pink ones, thin fingers in his wild hair. Seiji moaned to himself, wrapping his arms tightly around the lovely blond and pulled him in closer, deepening their kiss and ran his own hand through Sonos silky locks. 

God, he missed this. It felt like they had been apart for months rather than just days. It was getting harder and harder to be away from Sono now that Seiji had all that he knew in his head. He could tell it took such a harsh toll on the blond over the course of a few weeks and even though Seiji knew better than to ask, he couldn't help but worry in silence about his love. He didn't like leaving him alone after hearing about how Sono attempted suicide out of his pain and loneliness, even though Sono had mentioned he felt he was over those feelings. 

Seiji wasn't so sure about that; Something told him otherwise, but again, out of the comfort of his lover, he kept his thoughts about them to himself. And right now wasn't the time to worry about it. 

The younger man broke their kiss quickly, eager hands removing the blonds jacket and shirt, tossing them to the floor before removing his own, seeing the hungry look in Sonos eyes grow darker with every bit of Seijis tan skin being shown. Without a word, Seiji picked his lover up and carried him to the bedroom, tossing him on the plush bed and made quick work of those sinful black pants the blond was wearing, taking note of how Sonos hands were shaking as they helped remove his as well. The note quickly fled from his brain for a second as he stared at the naked man in his bed, a bright pink flush up to his ears and fuck...he was beautiful...

The idea that this was the same man who suddenly came into Seijis life and changed his outlook on life so quickly...the fact that Sono loved him so much, enough to let him in when he couldn't trust anyone else...that way he showed a side of himself that he hadn't seen in 15 years...Seiji was beyond determined to show the blond just how much he loved him in return, how grateful he was for him, how devoted to him he truly was. 

Suddenly bursting with energy, Seiji quickly pinned the blond to his bed, kissing him again with such fiery passion, digging his hands into those golden locks as he felt Sonos own wandering (still shaking) hands lightly trail down his back. With a soft moan of his own, Sono broke away from the kiss and found the juncture in between Seijis ear and neck, causing the man to let out a soft moan of surprise, gripping Sonos hair harder, feeling a growl under his ear. Seiji chuckled. Though he would never admit it, Sono was a sucker for hair pulling.

Feeling a bit bolder, Seiji leaned down and suckled his loves earlobe, trailing his vein down to his shoulder, licking a hot stripe up his chin and kissed him hotly, pulling the back of his hair so roughly, he could have sworn he imagined Sonos eyes roll back into his skull and a wild moan let loose in his mouth.

As much as Sono absolutely loved being spoiled by Seiji like this, even he was having quite enough of his young lovers teasing. He had been on edge for the last few days and he appreciated the fact that the man was being so careful with hi, given everything he knew...but right now, that's not what Sono wanted. With a loud growl that sounded so unlike him, Sono broke free and was quick to turn the tables as Seiji found himself pinned to the bed, his blond lover straddling his hips, arching forward to get right in his face. Seiji chuckled, a damned smirk all over his face. 

"Was I teasing you too much, love?"

Sono scoffed and tried to narrow his eyes at the man, but couldn't help the smile on his cheeks. With one hand, he ran his fingers through his blond hair, tracing over a few of the ends before saying, 

"Your fascination with my hair is what was concerning me. Heh, I simply feel like I spoil you too much by not cutting it."

Seiji laughed at that, running his hands up and down Sonos thighs and eventually rose one hand to trace over the blonds bangs just hovering over his eyes, his smile softening as he said, 

"I love your long hair, honestly. It makes you look nice...beautiful...well, more beautiful than you already were..."

Oh, this damned charmer...

Sono blushed hotly and looked away, making Seiji chuckle, taking his chin in his fingers, turning his head back to him and making their eyes lock...it was quiet between them for a moment, drinking in each others soft gave before Seiji leaned up to close the gap between them, kissing with a more gentle tone, one of his hands caressing his lower back, treading dangerously low.

Sono had been too distracted with their kissing that he hadn't expected it...because without warning, Seiji teased the his entrance for about a second before thrusting two fingers inside. He jolted and gasped loudly into Seijis mouth, feeling the man under him chuckle as they broke the kiss quickly. Sono took a second to come back to his senses...followed by a soft punch to the mans chest, mouthing off, 

"Can you at LEAST give me some heads up? You and your foreplay has been scattered and it's driving me crazy."

Goddamn him....Seiji couldn't help but chuckle loudly as his free hand patted the blonds hips, feeling his muscles clench over his fingers. He gave a soft thrust in response, making Sono moan just a little; Seiji chuckled again, leaning up to press a soft kiss to the pale chest above him, mumbling into the skin, 

"You wanted me to stop teasing you, so I thought this was what you meant."

"Oh shut up, you know damn well that isn't what I mean."

Seiji couldn't help but smile at the non threatening tone of Sonos voice, given how red his face was and surely not from being mad. He was unbelievably cute like this, a rare sight for anyone to see and Seiji had it all to himself. How could he even dare to not take advantage of this sexy situation in his lap. With a soft lick across Sonos chest to his nipple, which caused a tremor to wrack through his pale form, Seiji slipped in another finger and gave a gentle push. 

A loud groan ripped from over his head and he smiled, pressing little kisses and soft licks to a perky pink nipple as he thrusted his fingers slowly in and out of the blonds body. Eventually, he turned his attention to the other side of Sonos chest, giving his neglected nub light suckles and swipes of his tongue, thoroughly enjoying the noises coming from the blonds lips....Seiji felt an uncanny urge to taste those noises. 

Releasing his lovers nipple with a loud POP, Seiji pulled Sono down just enough to kiss him, driving his tongue into his mouth and drinking the moans and gasps the blond was making each time his fingers hit a sensitive spot. 

After a moment, Seiji started slipping in a fourth finger, curling ever so slightly, smirking to himself when he felt the blond break their kiss and threw his head back, gasping and moving his hips along with his fingers. Eventually, Sonos hand found the headboard, gripping it tightly as Seijis fingers moved faster in his body, making him slightly dizzy, gasping out as much as he could, 

"God...stop teasing me...please..."

Seiji smiled, so eager to please, and gently brought the blond to his chest, making his hips rise higher and this gave him a better chance to quicken his thrusts. He felt his lovers moans on his chest, hot as they were, increasing every time he lightly grazed his sweet spot. Those moans quickly became cries as Seijis fingers locked onto the blonds prostate, curling and roughly pressing it, the pale body on his own shaking wildly. He could feel Sono dripping precum onto his groin, making his own cock jump with heightened interest. 

To see his love so open in the way, Seiji felt his heart pound madly. It had been a long few weeks, as he thought back to, though not without reason... With Sonos first emotional breakdown in 15 years, it made him seem more human. Seiji made a promise to him then and there that nothing was going to break them apart. Not even death would keep Seiji away. The look on Sonos face with that promise, the new tears he shed after so long, it cemented everything between them. Seiji would give Sono whatever he wanted, no matter what it could be. His heart, his life, his body and his soul...it was his. It was always be his. There was nothing Seiji wouldn't do to make his lover happy...Sono knew that now, or at least seemed to understand, but never brought it up...Seiji didn't mind that at all...he was happy just having the blond in his arms like this, rapture all over his face...his fingers slowed to a stop, his free hand now laced in golden hair and his lips pressing against his head, gently pulling his fingers free from Sonos heat, trying not to laugh when he heard a whine against his chest. 

Feeling slightly annoyed that Seiji stopped, Sono quickly shot his head up and stared his lover in the eyes, shaking arms struggling to push himself up to a proper seated stance on the mans groin. He shifted a little, feeling Seijis cock bump against him and he trembled, but felt a little better when he felt the young man tense under him, his pink blush turning red in seconds. They were quiet for a moment longer; Sono felt the unusual feeling of anxiety suddenly creeping up on him again, the pit of his stomach feeling heavy like lead. He felt...naked...granted, he was naked, but he felt so stripped and bare that his heart and emotions didn't truly know how to process it. The sex he and Seiji had been having for the last few weeks had been wonderful, gentle and soft, something he felt he needed. And maybe he did need it...maybe he needed to feel like someone was putting his needs and desires first whereas they had usually been pushed to the back burner. But he hated feeling like this...he hated feeling like he couldn't be emotionally honest with someone he loved so much...someone who truly cared for him...

A soft hand on his leg made him jump a little, brown eyes widening when he looked to see it was Seiji, who was giving him such a gentle look, a smile that warmed his heart...he remembered seeing that smile for the first time in that tower...seeing how Seiji would smile and wave at people walking by...he remembered the want he felt...he wanted Seiji to smile at him like that all the time...now he was and for some reason, Sono felt nervous. 

Seiji could sense the nerves and doubts running around in Sonos head; he had seen that look on his face before. The way his eyes would narrow and look away, the way his skin trembled all over and even the way he bit his bottom lip...These were all 'tells' Seiji had picked up on since that night and had done research on that same night after Sono had gone to sleep. 

He could tell the blond was having issues with his anxiety once again, after years of trying to ignore it. Seiji had been trying to prepare himself for the day when Sono would, inevitably, have a major meltdown and he had tried to get as much information as he could about adult depression. It was difficult to think about...but Seiji knew what he would be getting himself into after hearing about how his love suffered so much...just to feel loved...

With a gentle smile, his free hand reached up to cup the blonds cheek, running his thumb under his eye and said, softly, 

"Sono-san....I love you...I love you so much. Let me take care of you, ok?"

The blush on Sonos cheeks darkened a touch, averting his eyes once again with a shy smile, whispering a small 'thank you' and almost instantly, felt so much better. The lead feeling in his stomach was gone and he stopped trembling nervously, gulping to himself before shifting a bit, taking his lovers cock in his hands and gently settled himself on it, sliding down with ease, his mouth hanging open to let out gasping moans.

Seiji, in turn, let out a shocked moan, surprised with his lovers boldness at wanting to be on top, wet and smoldering heat surrounding him suddenly. Very rarely did Sono ever ride him like this and just experiencing it was a thrill. Granted, this was not what Seiji meant when he asked Sono to 'let him take care of him', but he also knew, especially these days, Sono was so out of left field that it always took Seiji by surprise. 

He knew not to waste it. 

Gripping his lovers hips, he thrusted upwards, hearing a gasp leave the mans mouth, a smirk on his own and lightly started to grind his hips, thoroughly enjoying the moans the blond was letting slip. Sono, however, was not one to not recognize a challenge. He smiled to himself, knowing that Seiji was being a horrible tease...but he knew how to set the record straight and make Seiji cry out for him as well. Biting his bottom lip in such a way that always made Seiji throb for him, Sono balanced himself and began moving his hips back and forth, up and down, eventually giving in and riding his lover into a frenzy. Every fiber in his being was set aflame, growing hotter with every grind and every thrust.

Seiji loved this. Each and every time they had sex, it was discovering a new thing every moment. He leaned his head back, moaning at the heat building in his loins, alongside the heat of his lovers body surrounding him. It felt so wonderful. So much so that he already felt himself nearing his end, his teasing the blond and the fact that Sono was riding him already putting him on a small trigger. 

Not wanting to cum before his lover, Seiji moaned, almost growled as he gripped Sonos member, earning a loud cry from above him and an involuntary thrust of his hips in his hand. He felt so hot and so heavy, throbbing and ready to burst. Seiji felt hypnotized by it as he pumped his blond lover, slow at first, then speeding up as soon as he felt Sonos hips start to lose their rhythm. His brown eyes peered up and almost lost his breath at the sight he was looking at. 

Good fuck, if he thought Sono was beautiful before, he was down right sinfully sexy right now. Sweat matted his bangs to his forehead, his pale face, usually so calm and composed, now red and glistening. Those gorgeous eyes were practically black, his lips now red and mouth agape, gasps and moans pouring from him like fine wine. His whole body was trembling, his cock pulsing in Seijis hand and dripping more precum on his stomach. The young man couldn't look away...he was so engrossed with how enchanting Sono looked right now that he had almost forgotten how close he actually was. His free hand left the blonds hip and quickly grasped Sonos left hand, lacing their fingers and held on tightly, never looking away as the blond continued to ride his cock like there was no where else he wanted to be. 

Almost immediately, the blond flung his head back and let out his loudest cry of the night, gripping Seijis hand tightly as he came hard on his chest. The force of his orgasm made his lungs forget how to work for a moment and he fought for breath, hips shaking as he rode out his climax. 

Seiji, on the other hand, was caught so off guard by the tightening around his cock that he let out a sudden moan of surprise, jerking his hips and pumping his hot seed into his lovers shaking body. Sono felt hot and cold all at once, smiling to himself as he felt liquid fire shoot inside his body, a light ray of tears leaking from his eyes. Each and every time they were together, especially like this...Sono felt happy. Happier than he had felt in years...like 15+ years ago no longer mattered...

Unable to keep himself up, Sono fell onto his loves chest, breathing heavily and felt those soft hands rub his sweaty back, tenderly massaging his muscles with his fingertips. The blond nuzzled the mans neck, inhaling his scent and kissed under his chin, silently thanking him for that, all while Seiji chuckled and pressed tender kisses to the top of his yellow mass of hair. 

They stayed like that for a moment longer, their bodies cooling down rapidly and Sono whined as he felt Seiji slip from his body, warm cum leaking down his thighs...not that he could bring himself to care about that. He shivered a little, curling closer to his lovers body, listening to a steady heart beat....Seijis heart...right under his ear. Sono sighed lightly through his nose, closing his eyes and nearly lost himself in the gentle beat against his head. 

This is mine...Seijis heart is mine...he...gave it to me so willingly...god...where would I be without him...he loves me...get a grip on yourself...he won't hurt you..you know that...stop worrying so much...

"Sono-san, are you listening?"

What?

Oh, Seiji was talking to him? Had he really just zoned out like that so fast? 

Sono lifted his head up and looked into Seijis eyes, flushing a little and asked, 

"Um...I'm sorry. I was miles away...what did you say?"

Seiji blinked for a second before laughing a little to himself, not helping the blush already growing on Sonos cheeks. 

"Haha, I gathered that...I asked what's the occasion? You know, usually you like letting me do most of the work, not that I mind. I was just curious why the sudden want to top?"

Shit, would his face ever be his natural pale ever again. Sono groaned to himself and hid his face in Seiji's chest, mumbling a little before turning to rest his cheek against his collar, opting for a straight forward response that in his head, sounded right, but saying it out loud sounded much more nervous than he would've preferred. 

"I dunno...maybe....I like to remind myself that only I can make you moan like that...you take good care of me, so it's only fair I do the same for you... It's a...comfort sort of  thing for me, I guess..."

Seiji didn't right off respond to that, already noticing how Sono was shaking a little bit and could instantly tell it was coming from his nervous twitches. The man sighed; it was like Sono was going through emotional imbalances all over again and Seiji could only imagine what this would be like if Sono was alone. His mind veered back to the parts of Sonos story where his emotions and anxiety got the better of him...how there was one person there to help him through them all..then he was taken away...

The mans grip on the back of Sonos head tightened a little, protectiveness washing over him like it usually did these days. In these last few weeks, they never talked about Sonos past since that night...never once did it come up....until Sono had a nightmare about it. 

He had woken up in tears, calling Naoki's name and begged him not to go. And once he came back to himself and saw Seiji looking at him with such a stare, Sono broke down more, crying apologies to his lover and begged for forgiveness...something he had been doing a lot of recently. 

Seiji never once minded any of this. He was happy to hold Sono close as he cried, rubbing his back and laying him against the mattress, cradling him to his chest and kissed him, soothing his nerves and telling him everything was going to be alright. He wasn't too sure if Sono fell right back asleep from that. Then again...he wasn't sure what Sono was like anymore when they weren't together. 

He never liked to press the blond for more information, but lately, he found himself thinking more and more about it. Especially after moments like this when Sono couldn't bring himself to sound as confidant as he used to. 

That needed to change. Maybe not now or soon, but eventually. 

With a soft sigh, Seiji ran his fingertips up and down Sonos spine, feeling him practically purr against his skin...he just went for it. 

"Sono...have you been...sleeping well, lately?"

There was a pregnant pause in the air and he felt Sono give a nervous chuckle. He cringed to himself, moreso when Sono responded with, 

"What? Why would you ask that?"

"Maybe you don't want to talk about it...that's ok too, but I've noticed how you nod off every now and then when we work together. You mention you're tired a lot, but make no mention of wanting to sleep, especially after that nightmare you had a while back...but Sono, if that's not convincing me of anything, the bags under your eyes give it away."

Sono said nothing, not that he really needed to. Seiji felt his body tense quickly in his embrace, trying to npt make himself too obvious about being caught so quickly.

It was true, on some level. Sono hadn't been sleeping well, or often, the last few days and try as he may to pin it on stress from work, he knew better. His mind was a mess, along with his emotions and every so often, he'd find himself crying for no reason at his desk or on his couch, doing such mundane tasks like watching tv or drinking coffee. His brain was trying to retrain his entire body about how to handle these emotions properly after locking them away for as long as he did. Clearly, he felt like he was failing, but somehow he also felt like this was what was needed in order for him to readjust.

He just wished he wasn't so damn impatient. He wanted to be better, he wanted to be able to be a grown adult and not cry over the most smallest of concerns. But damn...it was hard. And he had briefly considered going to counseling (more like Seiji would occasionally ask about it) but he didn't feel comfortable with anyone having his life written on paper...it was bad enough that Seiji knew...

The blond had gotten much too quiet and his body was trembling just a little bit. Seiji knew there was some sort of struggle going on in Sono's head, (there usually always was) and hated that he couldn't help him the way he wanted to. All he wanted was to suck away this hurt and anxiety that would take hold of his lover...but he couldn't. Not until Sono was truly ready to let him in. He took the first steps by giving Seiji a detailing of his life story, the things he went through and the pain he put himself through...but helping him heal from it was defiantly going to be the biggest battle yet. There's no telling what could happen if all these locked up emotions and memories came to a head at the worst time...Seiji would have to truly prepare for that day...he did his research and studied books and websites all based around the dangers of these feelings...memories...experiences...Sono was defiantly scarred from them and whether he chose to address it or not...he was scared. Scared of what this could do to him if left unchecked...like it had been for years.

With a soft sigh, Seiji patted his lovers leg and sat them up slowly, settling Sono in his lap and set both his hands on his pale hips, gently rubbing his skin and looking up into those beautiful brown eyes. They were a little red around the edges, perhaps from him being so tired, but nevertheless, Seiji loved the blonds eyes...he could practically get lost in them.

The younger man pulled him closer, running on flat hand up the blonds back and whispered softly,

"Hey....do you remember what I told you the night you came here and almost forced me to break up with you because you were stressed and scared of how I might see you? How you thought I'd hate you for the things you had no control over? Sono, I told you that no matter what happens, no matter what hell comes our way, I would never give up on us....on you. I promised you I'd help you heal in any way that I could. It's hard, I understand. But...you know that I'll never stop loving you and I'll never stop trying for you. I love you...I always have."

Seiji emphasized this by pressing a kiss to Sonos heart, feeling it pound under his skin, hearing the soft gasp from above him. Wrapping his arms tightly around Sonos waist, he pulled him closer, his lips never leaving his chest, projecting his feelings into the throbbing muscle. After a moment, he felt the blonds gentle hands in his brown hair, cradling him to his chest, the quiet sobs seemingly louder from above him and a timid voice asking,

"Seiji...can I stay the night? We're both off tomorrow and...I really don't want to spend another night by myself."

Though he wasn't happy with the fact that Sono sounded so unsure of his request whereas he was usually always so confidant with himself, Seiji couldn't help but smile brightly at the question, chuckling as he pressed another kiss to the blonds chest and said,

"Love...you know you don't ever have to ask me that. Having you in my bed with me is the highlight of my night. Give me a second, I think I washed that gray shirt you like so much."

He felt Sono grip his hair a little tighter, reluctant to let the younger man go even for a minute, but once his fingers loosened up, Seiji gently pressed him against the mattress and pillows, giving him a soft kiss on the cheek before finding the feeling in his legs to get up from bed. He moved to his closet, opening a special dresser drawer he kept in it specifically for when Sono stayed over and smiled when he found a large shirt, dark gray in color and it smelt heavily like him (as Sono put it), given he washed and wore it twice in the last few days.

He debated on giving the blond a pair of sweats, but opted not to since it was plenty cool in the apartment and they always slept cuddled together, keeping each other warm. Once he grabbed himself a pair of sleep pants, slipping them on quickly, he turned and smiled the the man in his bed, who was sitting up and eyeing the shirt in his hands. Seiji couldn't help but laugh and toss it at the blond, who slipped it over his head and brushed the material over his chest with a chuckle of his own. Finally, after some pats to his own chest and stomach, something odd he liked to do once he was dressed after sex, Sono sighed and plopped back against the pillows, feeling Seiji settle next to him, a strong arm settling over his chest to rub his cheek with the back of his hand.

They were quiet for a moment longer, the younger occasionally coming closer to press soft kisses to the blonds other cheek, feeling the man laugh breathlessly, stuttering out,

"Haha, Seiji quit. I'm drained and if I'm supposed to get some sleep like you want, I can't have you distracting me."

The man smiled against the pale skin, chuckling and said with fake offense,

"Awww using my words against me to get out of affection. You're too smart for me."

Sono chuckled to himself, eyes closing for a moment and felt his lover gently move his hand down to his neck, tilting his head up so they could kiss, a smooth kiss, before breaking apart and whisper to each other,

'Good night.'

Then it was quiet; Sono was out like a light, while Seiji watched him sleep for a few moments with a soft smile before silently getting out of bed, and left the room, gently shutting the door so as not to wake his exhausted boyfriend...boyfriend...he giggled at the sound of that.

Moving over to their two desks, he collected his own papers and set them in his bag before moving to Sonos work. It was only a few pieces of paper, mainly just the drafts of whatever new he decided to work on next, but he always seemed to enjoy Seiji's input when he created something different. It was a nice feeling, Seiji considered, a small blush on his tanned cheeks and a silly grin plastered on his face as he cleaned up. As he collected the blonds papers, his eyes shifted to the coffee table where they set their cellphones. Feeling curious, not that he needed to, he picked his own up and noticed he had one new text from Yasuda, reminding him of the new supplies coming in tomorrow afternoon and to pick his up whenever he came back to the studio. He smiled and set his phone down, moving to his lovers so he could set it on the desk....then he noticed the phone was flashing a bright white light. If he remembered right, this meant Sono had an unread email.

Frowning at who could be emailing him at this time, Seiji took the blonds phone, opened it and clicked to see the email.

It was...odd. A very vague email from a vague address that read,

Hanasaki Sono. It is important that we meet with you as soon as possible. I cannot go into detail now. Please respond with home address.

Scoffing at what was so obviously a scam email, Seiji moved to delete it. If this was so important, why didn't they just call? Sonos ears were keen enough, even when he slept, to pick up the sound of his phone vibrating on a table and would almost always answer. So whoever this was clearly didn't have serious enough information to just send an email.

His thumb drifted over the erase button, ready to press and move on with his night, curled up in bed and debate to himself on what the two of them could be doing tomorrow....work at home, obviously, but even before that, they could get breakfast somewhere and discuss upcoming events and meetings, such as the one Seiji had in a few days, maybe even...

...Don't...

Seiji froze...it was like there was a chill going up his bare back, like a hand...a hand made of ice. He couldn't move; his eyes widened as he felt a breath in his ear, cold like death...another whisper...

....Don't touch it....

And just like that...it was gone. The touch was gone, the cold feel of the air was gone...the voice was gone. Though it did nothing to ease the pounding against Seijis chest. His heart felt like it was going a million miles a minute, a cold sweat beading on his forehead. His hands were starting to get clammy, eyes drifting down to the blonds phone and kept reading the email, the voice still ringing in his head.

He knew that voice. He hadn't heard the voice in a while it seemed, not since that night and to this day had never once brought it up to Sono....for VERY obvious reasons. But he had always figured that was the end of it and never gave it a second thought.

It seemed as through HE had other ideas...

Slightly shaken but more annoyed than anything else, Seiji shook his head, shutting the phone and set it back down on the coffee table, staring hard at it for a moment longer. There's no way it could've been a scam email if it was enough to warrant another....visit. His voice sounded just as serious and as chill as when Seiji first heard it almost a month ago.

It also sounded furious...like a calm furious..that's what made Seiji nervous...

Opting to ignore his own thoughts and worries, simply because he was getting a headache from thinking about it too hard, Seiji went back to his room, a smile returning to his face when he saw that Sono had pulled one of his pillows to his chest. With a grin, Seiji crawled back into bed and kissed his lovers head softly, hearing a muffled moan in response.

He very much wanted to wake Sono up and tell him about the email...voice his concerns about the way it was worded...but he couldn't. Not yet. The blond clearly hadn't had a full nights rest in a while and Seiji wouldn't dream of taking that away so quickly. He'd talk to him about it tomorrow whenever they could get some downtime. They were both off work tomorrow, so Seiji had plenty of thoughts as to how to spend their day. He could bring up the email later that night.

~~~

He never got a chance to bring up the email.

From the moment they rolled out of bed at 8 am that next morning, both of their phones were blowing up with phone calls from their assistants, asking for them to come in and participate in another impromptu meeting. Seiji groaned exaggeratedly while Sono only sighed, getting dressed and had some coffee before they left, going in opposite directions and chose to meet at Sonos place later that night.

It had been an excruciatingly long day. Seiji texted his lover under the table during his meeting, mentioning how stupid this was and how annoyed each of the other artists were. Sono responded with a picture message of his own meeting, his fellow manga artists all laying their heads on the table with numerous paper cups of tea and coffee. They all looked worn out, even at noon of all times.

By the time their day finally ended, Seiji could only picture a hot shower and cold beer being in his future. Being called into a meeting on his day off was one thing, but this meeting stretched for hours and only when it ended did Seiji truly being to appreciate his publishers tenacity for progress...sort of.

On his way to Sonos apartment, the younger had stopped off at a nearby store to pick up some beer for himself and nice sake for the blond, already seeing a restful night in the next few hours. He even picked up some take out from a small noodle shop a block from the apartments, the smell so tempting and hunger settling in quickly.

Seiji had waited for the blond for a little over 10 minutes outside his front door, beating himself up for forgetting his spare key at home. When Sono did finally walk towards his door, Seiji could see how tired he was and how drained his smile looked. Genuinely excited to see his love, but too exhausted to really show it properly.

Once inside, Seiji pulled out their dinner and alcohol, setting the dining room table while Sono changed into a comfortable short sleeved shirt and light pants, admittedly salivating when he smelt the delicious dinner his lover brought them. They ate in comfortable silence, knocking back their drinks and breaking into conversation about their long day.

After dinner and drinks, Sono cleaned up the kitchen while Seiji lounged on his couch, head resting against the back and exhaled through his nose. This truly had been a long day and while he was frustrated to spend his day off in a stupid meeting, it was nice to relax and decompress at his lovers home. He didn't like spending his free time by himself much these days...he wondered if Sono felt the same.

A sudden weight was dropped hard on his lap, causing his eyes to snap open quickly and was greeted with the smiling face of the man he loved so much, taking note of how he just plopped on him and wrapped his arms around his neck. Seiji smiled in return, both his hands resting on Sonos hips, pulling him closer. Their groins shifted together and the blond let out a soft sigh, shivering a little before mentioning,

"I...I don't think I feel up for that tonight. It's been a hellish day."

Seiji nodded and winced when he felt a dull ache in his lower back when he tried to sit up properly, hands still resting over his lovers sides. His thumbs traced under Sonos shirt to lightly touch his skin, smile still on his face as he said,

"Agreed. As much as I'd love to spoil you in bed tonight, I think my body is a bit overdone with being in that stupid meeting room. I'm sorry you had a hard day too, love."

Sono chuckled and leaned forward to press his forehead against his lovers, hands lacing in wild brown locks, his breath warm as he said,

"It is what it is. And that's fine...you spoil me in other ways."

The smile Seiji had shifted into a playful grin, now running both hands under soft cotton to touch smooth skin, his lips coming so close to his lovers, whispering hot and deep,

"Oh? Give an example?"

There was a pause between them for a moment, a smile plastered over Sonos face as he whispered in return, finally closing the gap between them,

"Well..you could kiss me...like you always do."

Now who could argue with a request like that?

Seiji chuckled low in his throat as Sono pressed their lips together, kissing him with such loving passion that Seiji briefly felt the energy he lost all day slowly coming back to him. His hands trailed all over the blonds back, lifting up to his shoulders and the back of his neck, the backs of his long hair tickling his fingers.

The blond moaned softly when he felt Seijis hands rub up his back, the cool air of his apartment chilling his exposed skin. He shifted closer to the younger man, whimpering when he felt the mans tongue pull his own, making his whole body shiver against his own will.

He never wanted this feeling to stop; the level of emotion and thrill coursing through the blonds body scared him just a little, but he loved it. He felt so much more these last few weeks and he was eager to share it with the love of his life, make him truly appreciate all Seiji did for him.

His head still was reeling from that night, the pain of crying for the first time in years, the pleasure of having Seiji touch him the way he did, the way only his mouth and hands made him feel. He was certain he hadn't had an orgasm like that in ages...it wore him out faster than he realized.

He remembered the way Seiji held him afterwards, like letting him go would only hurt him more than the actual pain in his chest...he even remembered the nice dream he had about Naoki...he dreamt that his best friend came back to him, even for just a second, to tell him how happy he was for him...that he still loved him...how he made Sono a promise...

It felt wonderful knowing Naoki approved of Seiji, regardless of the fact the teen was gone and had been for years...somehow, the idea of it brought Sono some of semblance of peace, something he hadn't felt for a while. He knew somewhere deep down, he still loved Naoki and that he always would....but the love he had for Seiji was so strong that he couldn't bare the idea of it being taken away. He felt scared of losing him, even though he knew Seiji would fight tooth and nail for him...he prayed it would never come to that.

Seiji could tell Sono was distracted; he stopped moving on his lap and his hands hand gotten lax in his hair. Something was on his mind and it certainly wasn't them making out on the couch like a couple of teenagers. Breaking their kiss slowly, the younger looked up at his love, who looked almost offended that their kissing ended so suddenly. That look changed to surprised when Seiji's hands went back to his hips, the look in his eyes concerning.

"Sono-san, tell me what's on your mind. You seem lost about something."

Was he lost? He didn't really know how to respond to that. The look on Seiji's face was soft, but worried. He had that look a lot lately and through he would never truly admit this...Sono was starting to hate that look. He hated feeling small and he hated when Seiji treated him like something so delicate. It made him mad...but not enough to confront it...he felt this way once before...many times before...and it never ended well. At least not that he recalled.

Before he could even attempt to answer, a loud knock was pounded on his door, making both men jump suddenly. Sonos head whipped to the door, hearing the knocking get louder and more insistent. The blond groaned loudly and reluctantly removed himself from Seijis lap, ignoring the equally as offended look on the mans face. He made his way to the door and unlocked it, not bothering to look through the peephole and opened the door quickly, ready to snap at whoever was pounding on his door so rudely and loudly.

But when he got a good look at who was standing in front of him, his irritation subsided and was quickly replaced with confusion.

Two men stood at his door, looking flushed and surprised, like they hadn't expected an answer so quickly. They were both in suits, one more clean cut then the other and one man looked much older, gray in his hair and beard, eyes tired, but light with energy. The other looked much younger, softer features and brighter eyes.

Both those sets of eyes locked on Sonos confused face and immediately, the blond felt his stomach drop.

The older of the two asked quickly, but politely,

"Pardon us for the interruption. We've been scaling this area all afternoon trying to find the right place. Might you be Hanasaki Sono?"

The feeling in his stomach got much heavier as the men looked at him, hopeful and eager. Next to him, he felt Seiji walk up, curious as to what was going on and felt him tense after seeing the two men. Having no reason to really worry as much as he was, Sono nodded and the atmosphere changed in seconds. Both men have a loud sigh of relief, the younger punching the older mans shoulder, saying,

"I told you, Yakura-san! We should've waited to get the address before running out like that. This is horribly embarrassing...very sorry to inconvenience you like this."

Sono said nothing, still greatly confused, eyes shifting from one man to the other. The older man...Yakura, if he heard right... cleared his throat and said,

"My name is Detective Suruzawa Yakura. And this is my assistant, Muito Oishi. We're with a Special Task Force in Tokyo and we've hit a snag in our most daunting case...we recieved your name from one of our sources and we would very much appreciate your assistance in the matter. May we come in? This won't be too terribly long...I hope."

No one said a word for a moment.

The chill that went down Sonos spine suddenly outsourced to his entire body, his heart frozen against his chest. He felt the heated worry from Seiji thaw him just a little, but not enough to ease his concerns. The look on both detectives faces gave him an even bigger chill in his throat, not knowing how to approach such a situation.

After a moment, Sono nodded and stepped aside, allowing the two to come inside and remove their shoes. Seiji, while a little suspicious, showed them to the nearest couch and they sat down quickly while the other two sat in the chairs across from them. Almost immediately, Seiji reached for Sonos hand and gripped tightly, watching as the younger detective...Oishi, right?...looked around at all the manga tools around the place, eyes glowing. Yakura, however, pulled out his notepad, eyes suddenly sharp, saying,

"Once again, we are terribly sorry for the sudden arrival. We just arrived to Osaka late last night to come find you. I received your email address from one of my Intel and was hoping to hear back from you so we didn't resort to tracking your publisher. Since that failed, we went to your publishing company and we got the name of your building, but in my haste I failed to catch the number. We went around to a few of your neighbors and one of them pointed us to this apartment number."

In the back of Seijis mind, he slapped himself. The email he had thought was a scam were actually two cops trying to find him? It did nothing to ease his growing suspicions...not at all...

Sono nodded in silence, still trying to keep an open mind to this situation. He wasn't so much nervous anymore as to why they were here, just....morbidly curious. He didn't know anyone really in Tokyo...except for two people in particular...so why where these men here? What help could he possibly be in their investigations? He hadn't been in Tokyo in years, save for some small appearances in conventions, but even then, that seemed like ages ago. Yakura, already able to see the gears turning in Sonos brain, set his notepad aside and reached into his bag, pulling out a plastic bag with a photograph inside. Sono could see there was hand writing on the back, but didn't get a chance to catch it as Yakura said, sternly,

"Now...I'm just going to get right down to it. As I mentioned before, we're both part of a Special Task Force in a special division of the police force in Tokyo...recently, we've hit a snag in a case that we've been tracking for a few years. A few days ago, at our most recent crime scene, we found this photo and tracked it back to..well..let me just ask this first...what do you know about a man named Mizuno Takeo?"

All the gears in Sonos head suddenly halted.

In a matter of seconds, vivid memories of a certain night...15 years ago...flashed through his mind..things he had forced himself to try and forget..they came back so quickly. His eyes widened a little, his breath suddenly short and he gasped in a breath of air, feeling his muscles lock up.

A sudden pressure in his hand made him look to his left, seeing how Seiji squeezed his hand in assurance...though the look on his face was equally as shocked...a little less considering, but it soothed Sono just enough to answer Yakura's question.

"I um...ahem...know a bit about him. We grew up together...sort of...but I haven't heard from him or seen him in...years...not since I graduated high school...I--"

Yakura stopped him suddenly, reaching over to set his hand on his shoulder, immediately feeling sick to his stomach. Those old eyes bore into his brown orbs, as if he was looking into his soul. It hurt him, but at the same time, it helped answer questions the man didn't even have to ask.

"Hanasaki-san....I know that you know the terrible things he's done.... You don't have to be afraid...we just want the truth."

It didn't help Sonos nerves at all, honestly. The last thing he ever wanted to think about was...what Takeo had done to him...or what he could've done to so many people. He knew Takeo was a murderer...but to know that he was big enough to kill so many more people...enough to have a Special Task Force on his ass for years...

But still...this wasn't making any sense. Takeo was in Tokyo now? If that were the case, then why were these men here in Osaka? Why were they asking for him? What help could he possibly be here?

In a small voice that internally made him hate how weak it actually sounded, he said,

"I...I don't understand...what does this have to do with me?""

Yakura seemed baffled at the question, but not unknowing. This had to come as a bit of a shock to the man, hearing Takeos name after a number of years. He looked to Oishi, who was already quick to answer the mans question as politely as he could muster,

"Well, we're not sure ourselves. As Yakura-san had mentioned, we found this photo at the most recent crime scene. I immediately recognized the parks location in Fukushima, so we went there and spoke with the Chief of Police. He gave us some information about you and your past relations Mizuno, but they were pretty brief."

Sonos eyes widened just a touch more, absentmindedly squeezing Seijis hand to a point of pain, though the other man hadn't said anything. Seiji kept his gazed locked on Sonos face, occasionally looking to the two detectives for more answers.

If there's one thing Sono hadn't been expecting, it was the knowledge that these two men had actually went to Fukushima and spoke with the police chief about a topic so taboo in that city...Takeo...

Inwardly, he prayed that the men hadn't spoke to his own father about the topic...well, considering both men were still alive, it stood to reason that they hadn't. Clearing his throat, he stammered out,

"I...I see...and?"

"Well, this picture...I'm sure you've seen it."

Oishi slid the picture over to the other men; Sono had picked up the bag so quickly that Seiji didn't register him letting go of his hand for a moment. With shaking hands, he removed the picture from the plastic bag and stared hard at it....and there was no hiding the level of horror in his eyes.

He knew what picture they were referring to...he'd be stupid to not see it coming. But to actually look at it for the first time in years...he hadn't even opened his locket in over 10...there was a rock settling into his stomach and he could already feel the quickened panic his heart was settling in.

Turning the photo around, Sono was able to read the message on the back, brief as it was. A tremor passed through his body and he found he could no longer move himself. He was so stunned solid that he didn't even feel it when Seiji gripped the picture from his hands and looked it over, reading the message and then back at the picture. His brown eyes furrowed.

Up until this moment, Seiji sat silently, letting the men and Sono talk while trying to piece together everything that was going on at once.

Ok, so these men were from Tokyo and they were investigating Mizuno Takeo, a man who had hurt the love of his life so much in so many ways that even Seiji wanted to kill him...a man who Sono had said was his first friend, his first love and the only person aside from his father to truly break his heart...

If that were the case, why bring Sono in the middle of it? He gave them his honest answer and still, they continued to press. Seiji felt this horrific urge to throw these men out of the apartment before Sono settled into a panic. The last thing he wanted was for his love to be confronted with these feelings yet again.

Before he could even open his mouth to demand answer, Yakura raised his hand and spoke up quickly,

"I understand this is troubling. But please understand that we are not here to just give you this terrible news...we are here to help you."

.

.

.

Sono suddenly felt something he hadn't felt in a long time...a really long time. It was something akin to fear, but a little more forceful than that. It was like sadness, but had more of an edge to it, like his body was shaking and his heart was racing, not to mention his vision was almost turning red.

Then it clicked.

He was angry.

"Help me? How the hell do you expect to do that? Do you two have any idea who you're dealing with? You think that just because you were tasked with hunting him down and cleaning up his messes that you know who he is? Who he ACTUALLY is? You know nothing...Takeo Mizuno...he's...he's crazy. I've seen what he can do when he's lost control. When he's angry...I've felt it..."

Seiji could have sworn he saw Sonos foot twitch at that.

"You don't know Takeo like I do...he's manipulative...he targets your weaknesses and uses them against you like...like you're his plaything. He's payed people to hurt me...he killed my best friend...he took away someone I loved so much...he almost drove a wedge between me and my family..."

Sonos anger filled eyes shot towards the two officers, hands shaking as he balled them into fists on his knees, his voice trembling and filled with rage as he said,

"Don't lie to me...why are you really here? It isn't just to get information about him, is it? It can't be just that. You wouldn't have worked that hard in Fukushima just something you could find so easily elsewhere...why are you here?"

Not one man said a word. The two officers looked at each other while Seiji looked at his lover, absolutely amazed at how calm he was being, even while he could tell just how infuriated he was. And yes, Sono was trembling fiercely and his eyes were glassy, but he was firm and straight about it. He knew....he knew exactly why the officers were here. And Seiji knew too...even if he didn't want to admit it. The reality was painfully clear. No one even needed to say it.

Takeo was out there...looking for Sono. To do what, Seiji didn't want to think about, but he knew it to be true. There was no other reason for these two men to be sitting here. The younger man wanted to hold his lovers hand again, but he didn't dare reach for him yet. The blond was gripping his pant legs tightly, knuckles turning white and body trembling like a leaf.

Finally...oddly enough...Yakura smiled. Smiled and stared at Sono like he was a freaking godsend among everything else in the world.

"....The history you have with this man...Hanas-...Sono-san...I never would have imagined it the way it has been...I can tell you've figured out why we're in Osaka and...you're not wrong. But we are here on a promise to protect you and to bring Takeo to justice. There's no doubt in my mind nor in Oishi's that he is aware of what city you live in at least. And we were tasked to make sure nothing happens to you...or your loved ones."

Yakura's eyes shot to Seiji at that, making the man flush just a little, but he was given little time to think about it as Sono scoffed, snapping out,

"And who, pray tell, in Fukushima would make you promise this? I know for a fact you didn't speak to my father...even if you did speak with him about this and lived...he would've sent his own men to protect me. I would've known about it much faster....who sent you? Who is it you actually work for? And who did you speak to in Fukushima that knows me enough to give you this information?"

Oishi flipped open his notepad, skimming to the near last page and said,

"Nazawa Huri, Chief of Police in Fukushima, Japan. That's who we spoke with to get your information...You might remember his son, Naoki, right?"

Now that's a name he had been hearing a lot lately...whether it was from Seiji or his own head...

Naoki...Naoki...Naoki...he suddenly felt dizzy.

All the light in Sonos head went dark. He vaguely heard Yakura smacking Oishi upside the head for that remark. He barely even heard Oishi frantically apologizing to the man...he couldn't hear Seiji asking if he was ok.

All he saw was a white veil and he certainly didn't hear himself as he asked,

"Nazawa-san...he's...he's chief now...?"

"He made us promise to protect you. He said you were like a second son to him. He knew how much you meant to his son...how in love you both were and how eager he was to support you both when you graduated school. Now he wants us to ensure your safety, yours and anyone you have ties with here..."

A pause for a moment longer...then Yakura cleared his throat and said,

"As to who we work for, you know we're the a Special Task Force...well...that may be the case, but we're funded by an outer source..."

Sono peered through his bangs, not feeling up for more surprises but simply asked,

"An...outer source?"

"Yes....We're funded by the Tokyo branch of T.K.H Law. I'm sure you're familiar with the V.P of operations...Hanasaki Oto?"

Oh.

Oh wow.

Oh holy hell.

Sono clearly hadn't been expecting that.

He doubled over, arms wrapped around his stomach as he tried to process everything coming at him. It wasn't enough that he just discovered Takeo was looking for him...

It wasn't enough for him to know that Nawaza-san had become Chief of Fukushima police in that 15 year span he had been away...

But...his brother...his brother was funding the task force that was after Takeo...his older brother, who he was well aware had been promoted to V.P of operations several years ago...

Oto still thought about him? After all this time? Why? They hadn't spoke in years. Their last interaction was a month into Sonos university stay in Tokyo...after that one month, he never spoke to his brother again...

But Oto funded these men...and by that logic, that meant his father knew that gravity of the situation. Oh god, his family knew that Takeo was out there, searching for him. They knew...and Oto was the first to make a move.

Sono suddenly felt sick. This was too much. He felt the air around him suddenly becoming tense and it hurt to breath. He needed air. He needed to get away from these people.

Without saying a word, Sono got up from his seat and walked over to the balcony, sliding the door open and nearly slammed it shut. He didn't hear Seiji calling for him...he couldn't hear much of anything.

All he could hear where the screams from graduation night...the crack of Takeos belt...he could feel the sting of Takeos cum in his open wounds again...the pain in his heart....he felt like vomiting, but it was settled in the pits of his stomach like lead...he was slipping.

He could feel it.

Inside the apartment, Seiji was blown away by everything that was happening. He had never seen his lover react in such a way before about anything...the amount of hurt written all over the blonds face as he processed everything coming at him...there was nothing Seiji wanted more than to hold him close and comfort him...but that would've ended badly. He could already tell.

Seeing that this was going no where and the fact that their assistance clearly needed some space, Yakura sighed to himself and mentioned to Seiji,

"It's clear we've upset him with this information and I truly am sorry. I can't imagine what's going through his head right now, but he needed to hear this. I understand this is difficult but well...I ask that we at least have your cooperation with this. There's only so much Oishi and I can do. Will you help us?"

Seiji, who was still shell shocked by everything going on, turned to Yakura and nodded quickly. He didn't even need to think twice about this.

"You have my vow, officers. You made a promise...you essentially made a promise to his family...I've never met them, only heard stories. I have to know....how worried is Oto about Sono right now? Knowing all this?"

"Are you asking for like a scale of 1-10? Honestly?"

"Sure."

Yakura pondered this for a second, chuckling a little before running his hands through his hair, saying,

"One...fucking...million. Maybe even past that. We knew who he was when Hanasaki-san began his funding with us. I've been on this Takeo case for a long time....I know what's on the line. If anything were to happen to Sono in a situation like this, we wouldn't be losing just our jobs. If you've never met Hanasaki Oto...or even his father...well...let's just say that the money they've put into this is worth every penny...anything for him, as Oto puts it. My job is to give him updates on how this case is going....as well as making sure his brother is well protected. And by extension, per Nawaza-sans request...you as well."

Seiji hadn't heard the words that left his mouth next and was almost surprised to hear himself say them....even as passionately as he had, but knowing that his lovers life was suddenly in danger because of some madman...he couldn't begin to comprehend the strength in his own voice. And he may have said a bit too much...but oh well.

"I love him. There's nothing I wouldn't do for Sono and he knows that. He may not like to admit his own fears and weaknesses, but he knows I'd do anything to keep him safe. I've only just gotten to know him in more ways other than...well...physical...but I'd do anything for him. And if there's anything you need from me....anything to help...you have my support. I'll protect him. I love him...I'd sooner kill Takeo before he even thinks of getting near him."



....You Promised me.....

 

 

That voice again...Seiji froze a little as that voice rang so clear in his ear. And it was so vibrant that he actually turned his head to look behind him...seeing nothing, but immediately felt a chill run through his bones. Shaking his head, Seiji turned back to the detectives, brown eyes dark and he spoke to no one in particular...except one who wasn't even truly in the room.

"I promise."

Clearly, both men assumed the promise was pointed at them...much to their excitement. Yakura nodded and extended his hand, which Seiji took with a firm grip and shook, all while the man said,

"Exactly what I wanted to hear. It'll be nice to have some sort of assistance with this matter. Though, I didn't catch your name. Best we have it if we're to stay in contact."

Seiji nodded in return and said,

"Oh yes... It's Yamada Seiji."

Oishi, who at this point was packing up their supplies, briefly overheard their conversation and glided over to the two, catching the tale end when Seiji spoke his name. Bright stars gleamed in his eyes and said,

"I knew I recognized you! You're that amazing artist behind "Souls Beyond Nature." Ahhh it's such an honor! I'm a huge fan. And I'm a huge fan of Hanasaki's work as well. Oh when this is all over, it would amazing if I could get an autog-"

"Oishi, shut up, we're on the clock here! Be professional!"

Yakura smacked his assistant with his notepad and ushered him out the door, all while Seiji gave them his personal cell phone number, trying not to chuckle. Yakura shook his hand once again and said,

"We'll be in touch. Just...stay with him for now. This might be more difficult for him than we're actually seeing."

"I understand....Thank you, sir."

With that, they left and Seiji shut the door, resting his head against as the entire reality suddenly crashed on him hard.

This couldn't be real. There was no way in hell this was actually happening right now.

Takeo was out there....he was alive and kicking and was looking for Sono...Seiji felt sick. There were so many things going through his head, so many scenarios about the sickening possibility of that madman finding his love first.

He would hurt him...he could kill him...Seiji couldn't let that happen.

His vision was getting hazy with anger, his own body trembling with unfamiliar emotions. He had felt anger before...just not like this. He had never been so pissed off in his entire life...and he wasn't even sure what he was so mad about...

"Seiji?"

In the haze of his anger, in the fog that was his own rage, Seiji heard Sonos voice loud and clear, turning quickly to face him, immediately taking in his look.

His eyes were red, but dry....like he had rubbed them too hard and tried to avoid making them watery. His hair was a mess...he clearly had ran his hands through it too many times. But his voice...he sounded wrecked...tired...afraid...

Looking around the apartment, Sono rubbed his right eye with his palm, asking,

"Where did...where did they-"

Seiji didn't let him finish. He peeled himself away from the door and practically threw himself at Sono, wrapping his arms around him tightly and kissed his temple, feeling his lover shake in his embrace.

The younger kissed his head again, whispering,

"They left. They gave us their contact information in case something happens and told me they'll be in touch...are you feeling ok?"

Sono shook his head in the comfort of Seijis chest, muttering loudly,

"Honestly? I feel...confused. I should have known this day was going to come. Takeo's always been this way..he's always been...obbsessed with me...I thought it was over with. I thought after I left Fukushima, things would be different...I thought I was safe...I guess not."

No.

In no way, shape or form would Seiji allow Sono to think this way.

Pulling away from their embrace, the younger gripped the blonds face in his hands, forcing them to lock eyes and admitidly snapped louder than he wanted to,

"Hey! Sono, if that's supposed to be funny, it isn't. Listen, those two are here to protect you...and for that matter, so am I. What kind of lover would I be if I let anything happen to you. I'd never forgive myself...I'll protect you from Takeo. I promised that I'd always be there for you. You know that....don't you?"

Again, Sono scoffed and averted his eyes, mumbling,

"Why are you getting so worked up about this?"

"Because I love you. You trusted me with your life story....you trusted me with your body when we first met knowing all you'd been through...you trusted me with your heart when we first fought... Now I'm asking you to trust me with this....Sono... Do you trust me?"

At first, the blond refused to look into his lovers eyes. Even more so when Seiji tried to move his head to face him. The shame of feeling this way was starting to grip Sono harder than he ever wanted to admit.

But....Seiji was willing to help him...he knew this. He promised that night that he'd fight for the both of them and for Sono to relax around him....Seiji wouldn't hurt him...Seiji would never hurt him...he wouldn't abandon him...

Finally, Sono looked up into those soft eyes and whispered with a broken voice,

"Of course I trust you, Seiji. With all that I have."

Seiji seemed pleased with that, for now anyway, kissing the blonds forehead and muttered against his smooth skin, rubbing both his cheeks with his thumbs,

"Then let me be the overprotective boyfriend. Let me protect you from your past."

Sono didn't know what to say. He remained still as Seiji kissed his cheek and he couldn't help but close his eyes. The kiss was so tiny, but it felt so powerful. Even after he moved away, Sonos hand touched his cheek, a smile gracing his features. He didn't register that Seiji had moved to the kitchen with the vocal intent to make some tea, to calm them both down, but even after Seiji had left the room, Sono felt the love in that small kiss.

It reminded him of the kisses Naoki gave him when he was scared. Every time something bad happened, Naoki was always there to make him feel better...and then Takeo took him away.

The fear that he might do the same to Seiji made Sono shake in terror. Seiji had said that if anything had happened to Sono, he'd never forgive himself.

But Sono was more concerned with what might happen if Takeo did something to Seiji. Hurt him or kill him. He'd die. The force of losing Seiji would most likely kill him from a broken heart.

His fingers still remained on his cheeks as he felt tears roll down from his eyes, not realizing he was crying. His heart hurt. It hurt something terrible.

Getting the feeling back to his legs, he slowly walked to the kitchen and stood in the doorway, watching as Seiji washed some cups for tea, acting as though nothing was wrong.

Feeling like he was being watched, Seiji turned to see Sono standing there, cheeks wet with tears and he suddenly grew worried, cups forgotten in the sink and he said,

"Sono? What is it?"

He didn't say anything. He couldn't. If he opened his mouth, he'd break down in shambles. Instead, Sono walked over to his lover, his reason for life and embraced him, his tears flowing softly as he shut his eyes, letting out a choked sob as Seiji wrapped his arms around his small frame.

No words were exchanged; there wasn't much to say. The force of the day was hitting Sono hard and all he could do now was cope the best he could.

He felt Seiji kiss the top of his head and he let out another sob, trying to calm down. He couldn't break down like this. He had to remain calm for them both...he already hated himself for feeling so weak when he should be grown up enough to handle this...

But just feeling his lovers arms around him like this, lips touching his head, he had every reason to cry. He had to feel human and Seiji was his rock.

In such a peaceful yet sorrowful moment, Seiji held the blonds head to his chest, gently swaying him. It was all he could do. And he could only say one thing to him at this moment.

He pressed another kiss to his head and whispered,

"I love you."

And Sono held onto those words like a lifeline.

It was all he could do from crashing down at this very moment.



 

Chapter Text

"I know you're there....just come out and get it over with."

"I'm almost surprised you were able to see me....and that you know why I'm here."

"I'm not stupid, Takeo....I've known this was coming for a while..."

"And you're not scared?"

"....maybe a little."



Sono was many things....or he liked to think he was a lot of things.

He often liked to look at himself in his bathroom mirror and remind himself that he was in control...and that nothing could hurt him unless he let them. Which looking back now, he felt stupid for thinking that way...he allowed people to hurt him all the time and simply took it like the useless man he felt he was.

These days though, whenever he saw his reflection from a shower or just getting ready in the morning, he could see the affects of his newfound love in his life...how happy he seemed and how bright his eyes had become. Thinking of Seiji always put a spark in his body that he hadn't allowed himself to feel in ages.

He liked to think back to when they first met...how they slept together that first night and how unusually peaceful he felt afterwards. Most nights would end with him bruised or neglected, him picking his clothes off the floor and masking his true emotions until he returned to the safety of his own home...to vomit out all his anguish rather than cry about it.

With Seiji, it was so different. He didn't feel that hurt or that sickness when he awoke the next morning. In fact, he felt great, refreshed and alive. He was determined to keep Seiji satisfied in anyway he could, be it his choice or not. He couldn't think to lose a feeling like this...not after he wanted it for so long.

That's what he thought at first...until their first fight...Seiji coming to his home with accusations of sleeping with people who merely asked...of using him...it was that moment where Sono felt a small crack in his resolve and had to rethink how he truly felt about himself...about Seiji...about everything.

Even now, with things going the way they had, with Seiji being so caring and understanding and supportive...Sono wasn't sure what he was feeling anymore. He used to think he was so sure about himself and how composed he was about life.

Those detectives threw his entire thought process completely out of whack. Now he wasn't sure about anything anymore.

It hadn't been longer than maybe 2 weeks since their visit; Sono barely made a mention of the situation. He refused to acknowledge it, down right denied feeling anything about it. He ignored every phone call from Yakura and Oishi, deleted every text and almost smashed his phone against his desk when they attempted to video call.

It had gotten so bad to where the detectives knew contacting the blond was a bad idea and had shifted all their updates to Seiji...who was understandably not happy to hear about Sonos lack of cooperation in the matter.

In fact, Seiji was so frustrated when he was informed of the current issue that he left work early and marched to Sonos apartment, knowing he was hiding out there and let himself in without knocking.

He wasn't there...his shoes and jacket were gone, along with his keys and wallet. That made Seiji calm down just a bit, knowing the blond had finally left his home, even for just a bit. He had even left Sono a note telling him he stopped by and to call him later when he was free.

Seiji received a text later at around 8 pm, when he was out with Yasuda and a few other friends, followed by a picture message of a stack of manga. Apparently, Sono had been called out for a last minute signing with his assistant and left in a hurry, bringing home a few new pieces from his fellow artists. He also apologized to Seiji, a heart at the end of the message. The younger man smiled; he couldn't stay mad at him for too terribly long.

But they were going to have to have a discussion about Sonos lack of interest with the growing situation they found themselves in sooner or later. The blond couldn't keep ignoring this...Seiji wasn't going to let him.

And Sono knew that. He knew Seiji was getting horribly irritated with him about the investigation...but what exactly did he want from him? Cooperation? Information? He didn't know.

He didn't care to know. In fact, he didn't care about anything right now. He tried to live his life the most normal way he knew how, waking up, going to work and doing what he could afterwards in order to continue his existence.

It wasn't until the start of week 3 that he realized how bad of an idea this actually was.

He had woken up nearly screaming from another nightmare, one of which he couldn't remember and was terrified to see that he was alone. In a mad panic, he sprung from bed and ran to his phone, pulled up Seijis number and almost hit call....then he stopped.

He instantly felt horrible for wanting to wake his boyfriend...boyfriend, right?....up so late in the night for something so ridiculous as a nightmare...but was it ridiculous? He didn't know.

Instead of phoning Seiji like he felt he should've done, Sono did something he hadn't done since he was in his 20s when dealing with nightly panics such as this.

He drank himself asleep. Pulled every bottle he could find in his apartment and gulped every drop down, not even finishing his 3rd bottle before passing out on his living room floor. When he awoke the next morning, he reeked of alcohol and sweat, his clothes sticking to his body and his head felt like it was being pounded by a bat with spikes.

It took some effort for him to get up off the floor and stumble into a shower, but the second he made it into his bathroom, he felt the lead feeling in his stomach suddenly shoot up his throat.

By the time he was finished, he had three missed calls from his assistant, 2 from his publisher and 1 from Seiji...he never felt more like a piece of shit in his entire life than he did right now.

Sono liked to think of himself as someone who had complete control of his life.

Now that didn't seem to be the case. He was slipping again...he could feel it. And what's worse.

He couldn't stop it.

~~

BEEP

'Sorry, I can't come to the phone right now. Please leave a message.'

"Sono, it's me....listen, I know things have been crazy...I'm sorry I haven't been around much but I have awesome news! I just put in the last pages of my newest volume! I'm officially free and all yours. I'm coming over now to celebrate. I love you. See you in a bit."

Seiji snapped his phone shut with a gleeful smile, putting it in his pocket and practically pranced down the streets of Osaka. It had been, by far, the longest few weeks of his career.

On top of buckling down and finishing up the last few pages of his newest work, which had taken a chunk of his free time and replaced it with long nights working with Ashi and Yasuda, Seiji had also gone through his interview with a popular magazine, asking him the usual questions about his inspirations and muses, family and friends, things like that.

The interviewer, however, brought up the question Seiji was not really eager to answer...but at the same time, TOO eager to answer.

"Yamada-san, another personal, if you don't mind. There's been some talk among the other artists about your relationship status. How you've had many wonderful women send you fan mail and even some confessing their affections for you, yet you politely turn them all away. Any words to your fans about who it might be that caught your eye? Or are you just not interested at the moment?"

Seiji had thought long and hard about the answer throughout that day, even going far as to ask Yasuda for advice...he was literally no help, as usual. He tried looking up proper answers on the internet so as not to raise a bigger scene, but he only got half assed websites.

In truth, had it not been for the picture Sono had sent him not 10 minutes before the interview started, he would've completely blanked out. He knew he had been unintentionally neglecting his lover because of work and he knew that being with Sono was more important now than ever considering the current investigation. He wanted this interview to end quickly.

But when he saw the picture of his lover curled up in Seiji's bed, dressed in that gray shirt he loved so much....nothing else...and giving such a soft smile, along with the text

'Broke into your place to steal your clothes. Good luck on your interview. I love you.'

it was like his brain was kicked into gear. He knew exactly what to say...to hell with everyone else.

"I...can't really say that I'm not interested...but I am in love with someone. Someone very special to me....someone who needs me. This person means the world to me, even if we hadn't known each other for very long. But I know all I need to know. I'm in love. That's all I want to say about it."

Oh lord, did that start the conversation in his building.

The day after the interview, Seiji was bombarded with questions from his co-workers, all demanding the answer to that ridiculous question. Seiji only blushed and walked past them to his computer, eager to start the first half of his last day in the office for a while. Even Yasuda showed up and asked him about it, unusually curious about the fact that his dear friend didn't mention anything about a love interest.

In truth, Seiji wasn't sure how to break the news to him about Sono...given what he thought he knew. So he kept it light and told him that he'd know sooner or later.

Yasuda clearly didn't like that answer, but left it at that, leaving Seiji to his work.

And just like that, his newest volume was ready for its final edit. All the pages turned in and sent to the publisher for clearance. Seiji had never felt more free in his life. Now he had a chance to finally and truly take care of his lover...who he hadn't heard from in a few days.

That was what worried him. The last Seiji heard from Sono was that picture message...then nothing. Each call went to voicemail, each text went unread. He even tried showing up to his publishing building, breaking their unspoken rule about not coming to each others work places, and found out from the front office that "Hanasaki-kun hasn't been in the office in a little over a week. I believe he filed for personal time and didn't give a specific date to when he'd return."

Seiji should've been fuming, but he silently understood. There was probably no chance that Sono had his mind on his work after that talk with Yakura and Oishi a few weeks back...but to actually file for time off work?

That was surprising, even for him.

Hence why he was excited to actually be finished with his work and take a long needed break, devote all his time to the love of his life and be sure he was taken care of. Starting with tonight. He had went to the nearest sweet shop and picked up a few of Sonos favorites, along with his own and was determined to put a smile back on the blonds face.

He even postponed a celebratory dinner with his friends just for this...something Yasuda was highly suspicious about, but didn't question it.

As Seiji made his way down the lit streets of the city, he pulled his phone out one last time to see if Sono called him back.

He didn't and it made Seiji frown a bit, but shook it away as he turned the corner to the blonds apartment complex, making his way up the steps and found himself in front of Sonos door, a smile still plastered on his face as he reached for his spare key. Once he found it, he slipped the key into the lock and turned, opening the door and walked in with a grin, saying quickly,

"Sono-san! You home? I have a surprise for you! I didn't know if you checked your messages yet and-"

The man froze when he shut the door and turned to face the inside of the blonds home. It was...almost like he walked into the wrong place.

Papers were strung everywhere, books and boxes that held books were toppled over and his work station looked a mess. Not to mention the whole apartment smelt of cheap booze, something that surprised Seiji to his bones.

Slowly removing his shoes, the man walked into the apartment, setting the bag of sweets on a neat by nightstand and immediately saw something that made him panic, though he kept his worries down his throat.

He was looking at Sonos phone, sitting on a nearby charger, lights blinking rapidly and a bunch of different colors. Feeling curious, he reached over and just...tapped it...to turn on the home screen. His eyes widened.

Dozens upon dozens of missed calls and texts, unread emails and notifications that seemed to scroll for ages. Some of these notifications dated back to a near week or 2 ago.

Now that panic was starting to rise in his lungs, not sure of what to make of any of this. Brown eyes furrowed as he looked around the apartment, opening each door, lightly calling his name and growing more worried when he didn't get an answer.

By the time he hit the kitchen, it was where his heart sunk. He instantly could tell where the rancid smell was coming from.

There were so many liquor bottles strung all around the kitchen floor, some of them were still leaking liquids. It was foul, regardless of the kitchen being more or less clean. This was ridiculous...

"Sono? Where are you? I know you're home."

Seiji was in near full panic mode when he left the kitchen and looked around the living room, trying to get an idea of where the blond could possibly be. He never left without his phone....his shoes were still in the walkway...Seiji could barely make out his wallet sitting on the desk...Sono had to be home. There's no way he could have just left without shoes or his wallet...or his keys sitting on the hook. Where was he?

The man was about to start calling Yakura, demanding if he had heard anything. He had pulled out his phone and was about to dial the detectives number..only to stop when he saw the curtain in front of the balcony door move a little...then he saw him.

Snapping his phone shut, Seiji carefully made his way to the glass door, peered through it and almost felt his heart snap into pieces. Well....he found him....that's for sure.

Except...this wasn't the Sono he recognized...not at first.

The blond was hunched up by the wall, dressed in his purple sweatpants and a light black sleeved shirt. His hair looked a mess, tangled and wild...he had a bottle in his hands and his face was hidden by his knees. He was barefoot and his feet looked almost paler than his entire body...how long had he been sitting out here?

Seiji had to approach this carefully; there's no telling what had happened and if this was what he thought it was...he needed to tread delicately. Slowly, he slid the glass door open and made his way to the balcony. The blond hadn't noticed him yet...

Gingerly, Seiji got to one knee and carefully reached his hand out, muttering,

"Sono? Are you alri-?"

The blonds head shot up quickly, red eyes staring at Seiji like he hadn't been expecting him at all. Or rather didn't see him...all the way...at first. They locked gazes for a moment, Seiji flushing at being stared at so intently, his hand pulling back just a bit so as not to freak his lover out.

It took maybe a few seconds before Sono finally came back to himself and gasped, shocking Seiji further. Not by the actual gasp or by how he looked, but with how he suddenly responded.

"S-Seiji-kun! My god, I...I wasn't expecting you to come by today....I...haha, I look a sight, huh? Have you eaten yet? Here, I can make you something light. Give me a second."

With very little care, Sono shot up to his bare feet...gripping the edges of his balcony and dropped the bottle he was holding, using that hand to rub his forehead, groaning loudly at the pain in his skull. Seiji had never jumped up so quickly, steadying his lover with worry all over his face. He held fast to the blonds waist with one hand and snapped carefully,

"Easy, Sono, easy! Christ, you look awful. What the hell have you been doing all this time? What's with all the alcohol? You don't normally drink this much, do you? Is this why you've been ignoring my calls?"

The look that came over Sonos face was one of pure offense, but actual hurt. It shot a ping right through Seijis heart.

"Ignoring your calls?...oh...oh god, Seiji, I'm so sorry. I had so much going on through my mind I....I must've forgot to check my phone. Here, let's go inside and I'll get you something small. We can talk in the kitch-....shit!"

The sound of Sono swearing was one thing that made Seiji halt in his steps, but the fact that the blond broke from his hold and bolted into his apartment, slamming his shoulder against the door in the process, made the younger man clutch his chest in internal pain. He could feel his heart trying to stay together, but...this was what he was afraid of...his fear was happening right in front of him...and it was all happening much too quickly.

Gulping down his paranoia, Seiji made his way into the apartment, shutting the door and winced when he heard glass being moved around in the kitchen. He didn't want to face this, not yet. He thought there'd be more time. Sono couldn't be breaking down now...

When Seiji finally stepped to the doorway of the kitchen, he felt his heart reach. The sight of his lover trying (and stumbling) to pick up empty bottles ranging from sake to whiskey, all while trying to keep a level facade...god...Seiji hated this.

Meanwhile, Sono caught the man staring at him, a hurt look on his face, which Sono incorrectly interpreted it as disgust. He quickly smiled...forcefully...and stammered out,

"I'm really sorry about the mess, Seiji. It's uh...it's been a long week or two. But whose counting, right? Haha...I meant to tell you I took some time off work to kinda of clear my head...I guess I forgot...oh, how'd your interview go? I read the article and I saw your answer about your relationship status...that must've gotten people talking, huh? Here, I'm almost done. Then I can make you some dinner. You must be hungry. Anything speci-"

Seiji should've expected it...should've seen it coming. Especially with the way Sono was bustling about, tipsy as he obviously was. But he didn't and he felt even more disgusted with himself.

One of the bottles Sono was holding slipped from his fingers, crashing to the floor and smashed into pieces. The blond, in his drunken stupor, cried out in shock, not saying a word...then he dropped the rest of them and let out a broken noise...not to mention a string of rambled words.

"Shit! Shit! Shit! I'm so sorry! I...I don't know what's come over me tonight! God this is embarrassing! I'm sorry! I'll clean it up! I'll get a broom and sweep up this mess!"

The blond quickly got to his knees and reached out to pick up a piece of horribly sharp glass; that was the moment Seijis brain reconnected with his entire self and gasped loudly, jolting towards the man and gripped his wrist, swatting the bigger pieces away and yanked Sono away from the mess, pulling him to the other side of the kitchen. The force of the pull caused the blond to squeal and slam his face against the younger mans chest, not that Seiji cared in the slightest, ignoring the bruise probably forming near his ribs.

For a while, neither of them moved. The position they were in was very reminiscent of the night they first met, Seiji on his back and Sonos face pressed in his shirt. Except Sono was the one that was drunk...drunk and...in serious need of a talk.

Growling a little, Seiji forced himself to a seated position and gripped the blonds upper arms, forcing him to look into his eyes and said,

"Sono, for gods sakes, what's going on with you?! You've been ignoring my calls and apparently ignored your works calls as well! No one has seen or heard from you in weeks! And now I find your home in disarray and you drunk to the nines! Talk to me, Sono, tell me what's going on. I'm here to help you...you know this..."

The blond said nothing at first, eyes still wide and red, gazing at the younger man who held him so tightly. Even now, Seiji was starting to get anxious himself, gripping his lovers arms tighter so he couldn't break away from him. This had gone on too far. He could handle Sono wanting to be alone, but not if this is what he would be reduced down to. He wanted to help him....he promised that he would do anything he could to help him...but Sono was making it so hard. Why?

Why couldn't he just let him in? He already gave Seiji enough information about himself to make a mark, but why in the hell was he acting this way? Why was he being so reclusive?

Moving his hands from his arms to cup Sonos face gently, Seiji titled his head and said, in the most calmest way he could muster,

"Please...don't do this to yourself. You know I want to help you. I made you a promise that I'd do anything for you. Please...let me in. Talk to me, yell it at me, something. It scares me when you close yourself off from me and...and I have to find you in such a state..."

If there was anything Seiji was expecting right now, it was a well worded explanation from Sono, like always, about the way things were going. And if he knew him well enough, it would always end with a kiss to make up and talking things over in bed. It wasn't what Seiji wanted, but it was what he was used to.

However, when he watched Sonos face suddenly crumble and burst into tears, his expectations suddenly shifted. Moving to sit against the wall properly while still keeping his eyes locked on the blond in his lap, Seiji removed his hands from his lovers face and held his hips, rubbing his waist through his shirt, trying to calm him down.

It didn't work as well as he wanted, but thankfully, it was enough for Sono to wipe his eyes and open his mouth and start talking.

Well...more like expressing vividly.

"Seiji, I'm sorry....I'm sorry...I...I haven't been doing well since they showed up. I feel horrible...worse than horrible. I know you're here to help me...I know they're here to protect me...but it doesn't change anything. He's out there somewhere...I know he has that picture of us...me, him, Naoki...the things he wants to do to me...I...I can't even begin to think about it...but I don't know what to do...what to say, how to act....I knew he'd come for me eventually...I just....I wanted more time..."

Sono gulped in a large intake of air, wrapping his arms around his middle and lowered his head, only to have Seiji quickly cup his cheek and force his gaze back to him. When they locked eyes again, Sono panicked at the sight of his lovers heart broken look, mixed with a soft question,

"More time for what? Tell me."

The blond went on, feeling his throat hurt more and more as he vented, all while Seiji kept their gazes locked on each other, intent on making sure he didn't start crying as well. But oh dear...Seiji knew he wasn't prepared for this at all. 

"I wanted more time with you! I...I wanted us to be together for a long time...I wanted you for so long and when I finally got the chance to approach you...I was so happy. And then...you told me you loved me...you made me feel like I was the only person in the world. I wanted so badly to show you how much I truly love you...but...but now I'm scared. I'm scared that I won't get to...Seiji you don't understand what he's like...he hurt me many times before and I...I just let him! He took Naoki away from me! I can't bare that if he did the same to you! I'm not strong enough to face him...I never was...I don't want this, Seiji. I don't want to feel this way, but I'm so scared. I'm scared he's going to break down my door and kill me in my sleep...I'm scared he'll find out about you and use you against me...I can't let that happen. I've been drinking myself to death every night, trying to make peace with this...shitty situation, but I've only made myself feel lower than I'm used to...I don't know how else to explain it! I'm so tired...I haven't been able to sleep without being sick...I didn't want you to see me like this...Seiji, please! I'm sorry! I never wanted to worry you! I just don't want to lose you! I don't want to be taken away from you! I can't handle that! I'm not ready to lose you...please..."

Sono was in hysterics by this point. There was no hiding it. He doubled over in pain, his tears pouring onto his pant legs and over Seiji's shirt, his face red and head throbbing in agony from a massive migraine. It didn't feel good to say any of those things, but they had been brewing in his head for so long...too long and now that he just threw it out for Seiji to hear, he couldn't take it. It was eating him alive to feel this way. The idea that his life was coming to an end faster than he ever thought possible...the feeling in the pit of his stomach was starting to grow again and he tried to force it back, the taste of bile and regret all over his swollen tongue. All he wanted now was another drink and to crawl into his bed, go to sleep and never wake up.

By now, Seiji had been a silent spectator. The minute Sono had voiced all he had said, made his feelings and fears known to the man, Seiji felt everything in his body set to a primal protective mode he was completely unfamiliar with. He sat up quickly, scaring the blond for a moment before wrapping one arm around his waist, holding him close and kissing his knuckles with his free hand. From his knuckles, Seiji lifted Sonos palm, brought to his lips and kissed the center, many times, just for the blond to feel the love he was pouring into him. And it seemed to help, given how Sono had slowly stopped crying and simply stared at him through his exhausted eyes.

Seiji kissed his hand again, his own eyes burning with un-shed tears and said, his voice suddenly bursting with radiant instinct.

"Let me make this very clear, Sono...I'm only saying this once....No one, and I mean no one, is taking you away from me."

The blond gaped at him for a moment, but Seiji didn't let him speak. He gripped his hand tightly, pulling him closer and muttered through gritted teeth,

"I promised you that I would protect you from your past. I swore to you that I would fight for us if any hell came our way....I didn't expect it so quickly, but damn it, it's happening and it's real. I'm not giving up on you. You say Takeo's going to kill you? I dare him to try and lay a hand on you. I fell in love with you the moment I laid eyes on you. I didn't push past my own reservations to be with you just to lose you to fucking Mizuno Takeo, some jackass who went off the dead end just because you turned him down 15 years ago. That's not going to happen. I REFUSE to let that happen."

Sono didn't say anything, though he certainly felt the impact of Seijis words coursing through his heart. He was shaking violently in his lovers hold, new tears leaking rivers over his red cheeks. And when Seiji turned his gaze to the blonds chest for a moment, pressing a soft kiss where his heart was, he spoke out proudly, grip tightening over Sonos hips,

"You are not talking me out of this....I've made up my mind. I promised you I'd be there for you and I fucking meant it. I'm young and I'm stubborn, so he's not going to break me easily. I fight for what I love and what I love is you. He's going to need something stronger than a gun to take me down to get to you. Believe me...if anything happened to you...I'll kill him. I'll kill him myself. I've shot guns before; I'm handy when I need to be. I'm here for you and you alone, Sono. I made you that promise. And you know I always keep my promises."

....

"How?"

Seiji peered up at him through his bangs, slightly confused.

"How what?"

"How can you be so calm about this...? Everything that's happened...what's going to happen...Seiji...I...I thought you'd be just as scared as I am."

Is that what he thought? Did he really think Seiji WASN'T freaking out over this? God, if only he knew.

Seiji pulled Sono closer and brought his hand to his lips, kissing his knuckles and locked eyes with him, sternly saying,

"You think I'm not scared? Sono, I'm terrified. Everyday since Yakura came by and told us what was going on, I haven't been able to focus on anything but you. Had it not been for my friends and co-workers, I never would've been able to finish my work...but I did because I knew you needed me now more than ever. You're the most important person in the world to me...losing you would be the closest to death I could get. I can't lose you either...I won't lose you. Besides, if you saw me freaking out and crying, you'd think everything was impossible, that it's all for nothing....you need me to be strong for you and damn it, I'm not going to let him get to you. I'll protect you. You know that. I made a promise."

"Seiji...you keep saying that, but I don't offhand recall you ever promising me this much..."

Shit.

Shit.

Triple Shit.

Seiji wasn't prepared to let Sono in on the fact that for the last few weeks....someone was talking to him...someone who honestly, shouldn't even be in the same room as them. He couldn't fathom the reaction he'd get if he told his love that...that...

That Naoki was talking to him from where ever the hell he was. And how Seiji was not only able to hear him, but sometimes see him as well, was another thing he wasn't ready to tell Sono yet. Maybe not ever. The level of hysterics that may or may not follow made the younger man worry more than he should.

He had indeed made a promise to Naoki that night...every night since...that no matter what happened, Seiji would protect Sono with his life if he absolutely had to. But...Sono didn't need to know that...at least not right now.

Seiji sighed through his nose and pulled Sono even closer to him, shifting so they could get a little more comfortable, one of his hands now in his hair to pull his head to him, speaking with such clarity that it made the blonds heart clench in his chest,

"It's...complicated..but you know it to be true. So please....don't worry...I've got you. And I won't let anything happen to you..."

Seiji kissed the blonds head, soothingly, enough to make Sono whimper under his breath and it suddenly became too much for him to grasp.

The fact that Seiji was handling this far better than he ever thought imaginable...the fact he was willing to go to hell and back for him...the fact he made all these promises and declarations for him...god....Sono was much too drunk and emotional for this.

Pressing his hands against his face, sobbing quietly in his palms, the blond let out a loud noise in disgust with himself, all while doubling over again, resting his covered face on Seijis chest. The younger man kissed his temple again, hooking his arms under his lovers knees and adjusted them more comfortably against the kitchen wall. Seiji spread his legs a bit so the blond could rest between them, curled up in a ball and settled against his chest, tears still covered by his hands...the younger wrapped his arms around him, rocking him back and forth, whispering soft nothings at him, cooing him to calm down, ignoring the fact that he was just now realizing how badly the blond actually smelled.

Weeks of straight alcohol consumption and hardly leaving his home...Seiji had only heard of benders like this, never once wanted to experience it, but here it was...happening to the love of his life. He never felt more pathetic for not seeing it coming sooner.

In his head, he jotted down all the things he had to do once Sono calmed down enough to move around...hell, Seiji would carry him, he didn't care. He had to get Sono into a shower and cleaned up quickly, maybe purge whatever was in his stomach so he wouldn't feel so sick. Afterwards, he'd get him some water to drink and put him to bed...he'd have to clean up the apartment while the blond slept this off and air it out. There was a small store just a few blocks away from here; Seiji could easily sneak out and get some air freshener to spruce the place up a bit, maybe some-

"Yamada? What's going on?"

Seijis eyes snapped open so fast and shot his head to the doorway to the kitchen, almost not comprehending what he was looking at. He didn't even hear the front door opening at all...

Standing in the kitchen doorway was Yasuda, who had an unbelievably bewildered look on his face. He seemed surprised to see his best friend and co-worker on a dirty kitchen floor, embracing a man the way he was, but didn't think to voice it. Not at first anyway. Because Seiji opened his mouth first, suddenly more angry than he ever felt possible.

"What the hell are you doing here? You can't just go into someone else home without knocking!"

Yasuda blinked at him for a moment, saying,

"I did knock. Three times...it took me a while to even find this apartment after trailing you here, but the door was kinda open already and I heard yelling...this is where you ran off to? This is why you bailed on a congratulatory dinner?"

Seijis eyes narrowed at him for a second, silently cursing to himself, but had to catch his tongue...Sono had shifted in his arms and stared at him, almost unaware of the other presence in his kitchen, but somehow still heard the words that seemingly came from nothing.

"Con...congratulatory...dinner?"

Fuck...Seiji had forgotten about the reason he came by in the first place. The bag of sweets he purchased were most likely still sitting on the nightstand in the living room, but he pushed all that aside when he saw his lovers home in the state that it was.

He sighed and pressed his hand to Sonos hip, resting his head against the wall. He was starting to develop a headache.

"I...finished my most recent book. I sent it in to my publisher today and I wanted to surprise you...I postponed a dinner out with some friends because I hadn't heard from you in a while and I thought it would be a nice change of pace...you know...from what's been going on."

Many different expressions washed over Sonos face in a matter of seconds. It went from surprised, to pleasant....to shock and then to crushing agony.

"Oh god....oh my god....Seiji I...I'm so sorry....I feel so bad...I...you wanted a nice night and I ruined it with...all this! You shouldn't have turned them down....you should've gone out and had fun...instead of worrying about me..."

Sono had, at some point, bolted to his feet and back away from the men, smacking his back against his table and leaned against it, pressing a hand to his head, feeling woozy from all the movement. In no less than a second, he felt Seijis hands on his face again, pulling him in for a soft kiss, knowing he was ignoring the bad taste of stale booze, before embracing him tightly, speaking clearly into his ear,

"Sono, you know I'd give up so much for you. You need me. I need you. I'm more than happy to take care of you during this time...you know that. What kind of boyfriend would I be if I left you alone to wallow like this?"

The blond flushed brightly, all while Yasuda, who was silently watching them, felt his eyes widen behind his glasses and spoke the same word Sono did, albeit a little more confused.

"Boyfriend?"

"Boyfriend?!"

Seiji cringed to himself, forgetting Yasuda was even in the room, but chose to ignore that in favor of getting his lover to calm down. To hell with what his friend thought right now. Moving his hands from Sonos cheeks to lightly encase his neck, Seiji pressed a kiss to his forehead, whispering,

"It's weird, because I know you're so much more to me than just a boyfriend. But I love you. I told you from the get-go that all I want to do forever is to hold you...never let you go...but Sono, I need you to trust me. You hiding out like this and drowning yourself in alcohol is telling me that you don't trust me enough to let me help you...I know you're scared...I am too...but I'm happy to be strong for the both of us...you just have to let me do it...ok? Call me next time you feel this way, no matter what time it is. Whether it's early in the morning or in the middle of the night, I don't care. Can you try to do that for me?"

Sono didn't know what to say, not at all, but in the midst of everything Seiji had said to him all day, he couldn't help but feel his already tired eyes closing softly, tears gently leaving trails down his cheeks. He pressed his face into Seijis chest, crying in his shirt, trying so hard to keep calm, to hold back the vomit that was rising in his throat.

He wanted to sleep...he wanted to clean up and go to sleep, but everything was happening so fast. He couldn't trust to open his mouth and speak because he was afraid of what he might say.

So he cried...because that was all he could do at this point. And Seiji held him the whole time, pressing kisses into his dirty hair and rubbed his back, comforting him in a way he hadn't felt in so long.

However, his brain caught up with him and suddenly reminded him that he and Seiji were not alone anymore. Someone else was here with them. Through his tired, wet eyes, Sono peered over his lovers shoulder and inwardly gasped at the other man standing in his kitchen. He didn't know this person...but Seiji knew him...why was he here? How did he find them?

He especially didn't like the look on his face, eyes wide behind small glasses, mouth open and closing like he was trying to find the right words to say. He was quiet for a moment longer, before finally opening his mouth to speak.

It was meant to be a statement, but it came out in the form of a rather confused question.

"Sono.....as in....Hanasaki Sono?"

Seiji tensed immediately, his own eyes shooting open in horror. In his arms, he felt the blond trembling, like he was trying to get away from the situation. Seiji held fast to him, turning his head to face his friend in the doorway, who simply stared at them, a knowing expression all over his face.

"Ohhh now that makes sense...I was wondering why you got defensive when I told you about her...or I guess...not a her."

The unusual rage Seiji was feeling at this moment was unlike anything he had felt before. Try as he might, his eyes glared daggers at the man, all while keeping his arms wrapped tight around his lover, who right now, at this very moment, wanted nothing more than to be dead. His face said it all.

Any other day, he would've been able to handle this civilly and properly, like an adult. This was not one of those days. He wanted this man to leave, but he couldn't open his mouth. And he could feel how angry Seiji was getting by the aura he was putting off.

Yasuda didn't think twice about his next thought; granted, he should have, but in the wake of discovering his best friends secret romance with someone with such a horrid reputation, he just had to know.

So, he bluntly asked, 

"Seiji....what the hell have you gotten yourself into? How you do know he's not just using you like everyone says?"

The room felt tighter...suffocating...thick.

Seiji was put off by the fact that Yasuda actually used his first name...which meant...

Which meant Yasuda was more serious than anything at this exact moment. But that didn't stop Seiji from reaching down into his core and pulling up something he was now beginning to get antiquated with.

Trying to stay calm, he gulped loudly and said,

"Yasuda...you don't understand..."

"What is there to understand? We all know about Hanasaki's slutty reputation and just knowing he's actually a guy makes it a bit worse, not better. Or are you going to stand there and tell me it's not true. You've heard stories...lots of people use emotions to manipulate people. Is that what he's doing to you?"

"Yasuda...watch it..."

"I'm saying this as your friend, Seiji; you and I have been through a lot. We've seen people get into toxic relationships and we know what it does to good people. I don't want to see that happen to you. What's he giving you, anyway? Is sex with a slut just that good that you can't break from it? Or is there something else I'm just not seeing here? Was that interview response just to get people to stop bothering you? Did you just say all that to just- "

The motion was so quick, not one person saw it coming.

"SHUT THE HELL UP!"

Seiji had pinned Yasuda to the wall roughly with one hand, his other balled into a tight fist. There was fire in his brown eyes and even his friend looked shaken by the shift in demeanor. That voice that same from Seijis mouth didn't sound like him at all. It was deep and full of rage that in a matter of seconds, Yasuda began to rethink a lot of his accusations.

Though, he didn't get a chance to express it; Seiji pushed him harder against the wall and in that same deep voice...a voice he didn't even recognize as his own...spat out with so much venom,

"You shut the fuck up! You don't know anything about him! You think that just because you overheard some back grade gossip, you think you know what he's like?! You....you don't know shit...Talk about him like that again, I fucking dare you. As if you know what he's been through...as if you know what pain he's been pushed through his whole life! I won't let you talk smack about him anymore. I don't care if we are friends. You speak about him like that again in front of me and I swear I'll kill you...."

Yasuda felt every bit of blood in his body run cold quickly; sweat actually started to bead from his forehead, cold sweat and his couldn't think to look away from the man in front of him. His hands fought to try and push the man away from him, but Seiji was firm. His eyes were burning and the heat he was giving off was making Yasuda more nervous than he ever felt in his life....partly because he was confused, mostly because this was Seiji he was being threatened by.

Never in his whole life of knowing Yamada Seiji did he think the man had this much anger in him, this much instinct. For one person...Yasuda knew some of the girls Seiji dated in the past, but he never got this defensive over them. Not a single one.

His frightened eyes shifted to the other man in question and was...surprised...in some form or another.

The blond was still leaning against the table, brown eyes wide with horror and tear tracks all down his cheeks. He looked a mess...a hot mess...and it was like seeing Seiji react this way was scaring him more than whatever was scaring him before. He didn't...look....at all...like the kinda of person people described him as, gender misconception aside...Yasuda could see that even through his freaked out gaze. The man was trembling, his knuckles white as his gripped the table with one hand and the other tangled in his shirt. There was a spot on his lip that was bleeding...he had torn the skin biting too hard....and by god...he looked horrid.

In the same case Yasuda had his thoughts about the blond, however, Sonos brain was frazzled. Between the alcohol sickness, Seijis burst of unusual rage at his friend, and the fact that this said friend was apparently how Seiji found out about his slutty reputation...Sono felt sick...like..more sick than anything he'd felt in a long time.

The feeling in his chest was entirely too similar to that of when he was 17...watching Naoki beat those men to death with a crowbar...before they were both shot...left to die...Sonos eyes widened at the memory that seemed to shoot right past his vision, his sight distorting and warping in front of him. 

'You almost took away the one piece of happiness I had in this world....'

'We didn't mean to hurt him! We were told to scare him!'

'He's mine....and you hurt him..'

'I got angry...lost control!'

'I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU!!'

 

Sono let out a pained sob and dug his fingers into his hair, tugging at the images flashing before his eyes.

Not again.

He couldn't do this again.

He didn't have the energy to do this again.

After struggling to push himself away from the table, Sono stumbled over to the two of them and slowly wrapped his arms around Seijis middle, resting his head between his shoulder blades, still crying softly but not as hysterical as he had been.

He rubbed his face in the material of his lovers shirt, mumbling loudly,

"Seiji-kun...please...let him go...no more...I can't take much more..."

The dark red haze that was clouding Seijis brain was thick enough to ignore almost everything around him. He had never felt so insulted in his life. Yasuda was his friend...how dare he....how DARE he come into this home and say such things...in front of the one Seiji would give his whole life up for?

How...how DARE he...

He heard the words that came out of his mouth...he felt every syllable roll off his tongue...but he almost couldn't believe he said all those things. To his own friend.

The things he said didn't even sound like him at all....it sounded so...different. Almost deeper and much more dark than Seiji was used to. But as quickly as he heard the words come from his mouth, the anger he felt was starting to slip as well.

The haze was starting to fade and in the very back of his mind, he thought he could hear Sono talking to him...pleading him to stop...he almost couldn't hear it. He could feel Yasudas heart beat in his fist, so much so that it was deafening.

He could also hear another voice, loud and familiar....and much more clear in his ear...it was cold and stern, followed with the feeling of ice on his shoulders.



....Calm down....



The reaction was almost too quick.

Yasuda yelped a little as he suddenly slid to the floor, rubbing his back and groaned as he opened his eyes and snapped his head to his friend, but stopped when he saw the look of pain on his face. Not to mention pale hands gripping the material of his shirt on his chest.

Yasuda could hear the blond crying in his friends shirt, but his gaze remained locked on Seiji...who looked as though he had just stepped through a mirror.

The man couldn't say anything at first...couldn't breath properly...his entire body was trembling like a leaf, eyes locked to his friend on the floor and suddenly let out a loud, shaken breath, muttering,

"Oh my god..oh my god....I...Yasuda...I'm...I'm sorry...I don't where that came from."

Yasuda didn't even attempt to be angry; he was still in shock, more so at what just happened than the actual action.

Raising his hand and getting to his feet with the other, eyes still on Seiji like a hawk, he said in a voice so calm, he was almost surprised at how calm he actually sounded.

"It's...ok."

Time seemed to freeze in that moment; both men stared at each other, bewildered and unsure of what to do next. Yasuda leaned his free hand against the wall to stabilize himself while Seiji just stared at him blankly, face flushed with humility and slight confusion. And it was only until he felt thin arms slid from his chest down to his stomach, a moan muffled in his back.

Seiji almost didn't turn around quick enough. With panicked speed, he was able to catch Sono before he went to his knees, his entire face red with inebriation, brown eyes glassy and wet with more tears. He let out a pain filled groan and rested his hand against his head, the other clutching his stomach.

As if anyone wouldn't be able to tell what this was....Seiji frowned and sighed heavily, running a hand through his lovers messy hair and fought back the urge to scold him. This entire night was becoming too overwhelming. All he wanted was to have a nice night in with his lover...but instead it turned into...this. Internally, he knew better then to place blame. But fuck...Sono was making this much harder than it needed to be.

Finally, after a long moment of ridiculous silence, someone finally spoke up.

"Yamada...go get him cleaned up and in bed..."

It was such a turn from where their interaction had started that when Seiji turned to look at him, wide eyed and shocked, Yasuda removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes for a second before putting them back on, saying with an embarrassed flush on his face,

"Go take care of him, ok? I'll....clean up in here for a bit. It's the least I can do...for sounding like an ass...make sure he...gets it out of his system...if you catch my meaning."

Given Seijis blank stare, combined with the loud groan from the blond in his arms, Yasuda's blush deepened and he coughed in his hand, muttering,

"Y-you know....he needs to purge sooner or later."

Oh.

Now it was Seijis turn to flush in embarrassment, even as his gaze turned to look at the sickly face of his love, who looked like all he wanted to do was die.

How the hell did he not see it sooner? Sono wasn't just drunk....he was sick. Really sick. By god, if Seiji didn't do something now, there's no telling what would happen if they stayed in this kitchen a second longer.

In a matter of moments, Seiji pulled Sono to his feet, (with some struggles) and gently lead him from the kitchen, silently thanking Yasuda with a glance before making his way to the bathroom.

Yasuda, for his part, simply nodded and averted his gaze as the men left the kitchen and headed towards the bathroom. After a long sigh through his nose, he got to work picking up some of the empty bottle so carelessly thrown and smashed around the kitchen, trying to piece together what the hell was happening and what exactly he had walked into.

While also wincing to himself, trying hard to ignore the sound of violent vomiting coming from down the hall.

--

A loud PHEW left Yasudas lips as he leaned against the kitchen counter on the floor, half a bottle of whiskey in his left hand rested on his leg. He wasn't sure how much time had passed since he started cleaning; really, he didn't bother to check.

The sounds of puking still haunted his mind, along with the shower running and the muffled voice of his best friend trying to calm the other man down enough to get clean. He shuddered at some of the things he heard the blond say, loud enough (possibly still drunk) to really dig into his head. Something about needing more time and how he wasn't ready to leave yet. It was all jumbled and slurred, but Yasuda tried to tune it out as best he could.

He recalled how quiet it got a few moments after, the rustling of bed sheets and the groans that followed before it stopped. He remembered Seiji coming into the kitchen for a brief second to grab some water before leaving without a word...that was maybe 15 minutes ago.

Finally, it seemed like all was calm in the apartment and Yasuda leaned his head back, closing his eyes for a moment before he heard soft footsteps heading his way. When he lifted his head, he was greeted with the look of utter devastation on his friends face, his brown eyes red and the slump of his shoulders told Yasuda he was exhausted....or sad...could be both.

When Seiji made eye contact with him, Yasuda casually lifted the bottle of alcohol and tilted his head, saying without a care in the world,

"I don't think he'd mind if we killed this off."

It shouldn't have made Seiji chuckle, but it did. He gave a soft smile in response and shook his head, shuffling his feet towards his friend and slid down on the floor next to him, leaning his head back and heard liquid sloshing as Yasuda took a sip before handing the bottle to him. Seiji took it, albeit hesitantly, and took a large gulp of whiskey, grimacing to himself at how it actually tasted. Yasuda scoffed at him.

"Don't be such a priss. It's cheap alcohol; no one actually enjoys it unless they're trying to get themselves drunk....seems like that's what happened here, anyway. I found at least 10 bottles of this stuff laying around the kitchen. Don't get me started on the living room."

Seiji said nothing to that, only sighing and taking another drink, smaller this time, before handing it back to his friend, who took a similar sized drink before setting the bottle between them. He didn't want to remind himself of the sight he walked in on earlier tonight....the fear and panic he felt when he found his lover on the patio. Groaning, he ran his fingers through his hair and reached for the bottle again, taking another gulp before roughly setting it back on the floor. Yasuda watched him in silence for a moment longer, sighing and leaning his head back against the cabinet, staring at the ceiling.

The two men didn't say a word to each other, simply passing the bottle back and forth, occasionally taking a break from it and sat in silence. They both heard the sound of movement from down the hall, which made Seiji sit up quickly, but once it settled, he relaxed and sighed through his nose.

Yasuda stared at his friend with a piercing gaze, slightly tippsy from the cheap booze, but level headed enough to think his words through. He didn't want another instance where he was attacked by his best friend, so he tried to think think of a proper way to approach this.

Hell, there were probably millions of ways to approach this, but none of them seemed to sound right in his head. So, after taking another small sip of whiskey and turning his gaze away to stare at the kitchen door, Yasuda asked,

"So when were you going to tell me you were dating Hanasaki-san?"

Seiji slowly closed his eyes, obviously expecting the question, but wasn't too sure how to answer it. Even with Yasuda not even looking at him, he could feel the heat of his friends hurt stare from a mile away. He blindly reached for the bottle and took a sip, almost too tiny to call it one, and set the bottle against his knee, responding with,

"It's...it's not that simple, Yasuda. I wanted to...but...you kind of reacted the way I knew people would if they found out."

The man stared at Seiji for a moment, wanting to feel insulted by the answer, but he knew he couldn't. He knew his friend was pretty much right. He didn't respond like a friend would, rather like someone who just had the urge to contact a gossip forum. It made him sick with himself.

Sighing, he nodded and said,

"Yeah...sorry for that. It was just surprising. It's one thing to suddenly find out your best friend and co-worker is dating a guy...but to have it be Hanasaki Sono of all people...knowing what we know...or...I guess heard rather than know....but is it true though? Is he really a slut who sleeps with anyone who asks? I'm just asking as a concerned friend. And you kept this from me for a while...you at least owe me this."

Seiji gawked at that, rubbing his eyes with two fingers and responded with,

"Honestly, I owe you nothing. I knew what would happen if people found out about us. I knew that they'd immediately jump to the whole 'slut' shit. And that it would hurt him in a way that I wouldn't be able to protect him from...but Yasuda...this is different...I love him, but...there are things about him that I know he wouldn't want anyone to know..."

"Well, at least answer my question. Is he or isn't he? I'll accept whatever you give me."

God, did Seiji need a nap right now. That and migraine pills. This entire day was too much stress coming at him at once, but even then, he knew Yasuda was right about at least one thing, even if it wasn't actually said.

He and Yasuda had been friends for a long time, all through university and joined the same publication together right after graduation. They had been through a lot together and told each other everything....almost everything...

So he understood why Yasuda was pressing for information and was elated that he wasn't pressing for much. And even though he hated to admit it, he also knew that Yasuda was right about something else. He did owe him an explanation...

Exhaling through his nose, Seiji leaned his head against the cabinet door and said, almost slurring,

"Yes....and no. I mean, he was. I didn't know about it until you brought it up that one night. And I was pissed...like...really pissed. I confronted him about it and he said it was true...that he used to sleep with people who only had to ask him....I'll admit, I didn't take it well. Who would've, right? I yelled at him and ran out, not wanting to hear what he had to say...I accused him of using me...I felt heartbroken because I actually felt something for him..I really liked him...and I guess I wasn't ready to face the truth."

Seiji stopped for a moment to take a large drink of whiskey, seeing how the bottle was almost empty and handed it back to Yasuda, who slowly took it, eyes never leaving his friend. His face looked hurt, but his eyes read a different story. So he didn't say anything as he set the bottle down, letting Seiji continue.

Oh...did he continue...

"He followed me to some park near his place and...we talked...or rather, he talked and I chose to listen. He told me why he did what he did....that he just wanted to be happy and he felt the only way to get it was to...give himself away to people who wanted him in the moment. That's what he felt he was used to feeling...like he didn't deserve it another way....like he didn't deserve a lot of things...he told me how he fell for my work and by extension, fell in love with me and that seeing me for the first time made him panic...but he approached me and well...here we are. I gave him that chance because...I realized I loved him too much to lose him for something stupid like that. I think I fell for him the second I saw him even without knowing a thing about him...it's crazy, yeah...but something about us together just seems right...even...knowing what I know now about him...I just want to be there for him...and seeing him like this is way out of my range of knowing what to do. You and I have dealt with drunk people in the past, but-"

Seiji stopped when he felt a stern hand on his shoulder, making him snap his head towards Yasuda, who regarded him with a soft smile...all kinds of concern lacing around it.

"Seiji, I get it...sort of. You don't have to tell me anymore than you have to...I'm sorry for jumping the gun like that. I....didn't know. I should've shut my mouth the minute you tried to comfort him...he looked horrible. Worse than that. That's probably the worst I've ever seen anyone drunk off their skulls like that...he must be going through something pretty major to be this upset, especially to willingly drink crap like this."

"Ha...you don't know the half of it..."

"I'd like to. I'd like to help where I can, but I won't push you to tell me if you feel you can't. If he means that much to you...if you're able to act the way you did when I stupidly badmouthed him...then he can't be that bad. And I can make the effort to be a little nicer."

Seiji couldn't help the smile that came across his face, nor the laugh that left him immediately after. He wasn't even sure why he was laughing or why Yasuda started laughing with him...but it was nice. His nerves seemed to vanish after a moment and he felt relaxed...he was still on edge, but he felt much more relaxed.

The mood seemed much lighter as the men killed off the rest of the alcohol, standing on wobbly legs to gulp down some water before Yasuda mentioned he was leaving, that he had overstayed his unwelcome intrusion of his best friends boyfriends home. Seiji flushed a little as he rinsed out the whiskey bottle.

He had almost forgotten that he called Sono his boyfriend in the midst of all this chaos. Granted, he had called himself Sonos boyfriend before, at least, he remembered doing it the night Yakura showed up, but now it felt real.

Fuck....everything felt real at this very moment. His heart was pounding in his chest, even as he lead Yasuda to the door and opened it for him. His entire thought process was now more alert than ever...he wasn't too sure how to handle himself right now.

Yasuda, seemingly aware of what was going through his friends head, smiled and set his hand on his shoulder, saying,

"Yamada...relax. I won't tell anyone. I promise."

And just like that, Seiji deflated and sighed in relief, nodding as he watched Yasuda wave at him before walking down the stairwell. When Seiji shut the door and locked it, he exhaled a shaky breath, resting his head against the cold door, trying to regain his own bearings.

Too much was going on all at once; between finding his lover in the state he was in and having to introduce his best friend to the situation, Seiji felt more drained than he ever felt when working overtime for his manga. He needed a drink...a better drink then the one he shared with Yasuda.

But something he wanted more than just a drink, maybe even more than a drink, was to just...lay with Sono for a bit. See how he was doing. Seiji shut his eyes and winced at the memory of what he forced himself to do...what he forced his lover to do.

Never in his entire life did he have to force someone to vomit up everything they had ingested in the last few hours. And considering Sono had nothing to really...induce it, Seiji had no choice but to force it another way. He had never washed his left hand in such scalding hot water so quickly until today. Granted, he wasn't really worried about the state of his damn hand.

The second it was clean, he went right back to the blond hunched over his toilet, rubbing his back and holding his hair, forcing himself not to break down in tears each time he felt Sono lurch. This was hard to pull through, but somehow, he managed.

Getting the blond into the shower was probably the hardest part; he refused to stand still (or at all with how his legs constantly locked up) and each time Seiji tried to lean his head back to wash his face and hair, Sono would inadvertently try to drown himself with the shower water. So when Seiji decided to sit him down in the tub to properly clean him, that was when Sono started talking...sort of.

A stray tear dripped down Seijis cheek and he angrily wiped it away, not allowing himself to think back to the slurred words that poured loudly from his lovers mouth. He had heard them already but...hearing them said so loudly and absolutely drunken was...almost too much.

This whole night was too much. He needed a break.

As Seiji lifted himself from the door, he rubbed both eyes with his hands and sighed, internally thanking the universe for having him finish his piece so quickly. He knew that side projects would be coming in soon, but now wasn't the time to think about it. He knew what to expect if Sono hit an all time low like this...but he didn't expect it to be so soon.

Blindly, he reached for his phone and opened it quickly out of habit, seeing numerous missed calls from some of his coworkers and texts, but his gaze zeroed in on an email from Yakura, which he opened quickly.

It was thankfully brief.

To: yamada.seiji@xxxx.com

From: Suruzawa.Yakura@TokyoPD

Subject: Update 4/24th 

'Yamada-san, here's the update I promised you and I apologize for it being so late.

As it stands, there is still no sign of Mizuno in Osaka, at least not where we have monitors and blocks. His last sighting was in Harajuku, so he's still in Tokyo for the time being. We will continue to track his movements and keep you informed of any changes to the case. I hope everything is well with you and Hanasaki-kun. His family is also demanding updates and I have not mentioned your assistance per confidentiality. Unless you'd like to change that; please keep us updated as well. Have a pleasant evening.'

Seiji snapped his phone shut and set it back on the nearby table, running his hand over his face. He remembered mentioning to Yakura that he didn't want Sonos family to be known of his assistance just yet, not until things were finally settled and Takeo was put away for good. The last thing (at least in his mindset) for Kenji and Oto to know about was the fact that the person they're trying to protect has a partner that he didn't tell them about.

But another though hit him suddenly and he felt like an idiot, groaning loudly in his palm.

Sono mentioned that he hadn't spoke to anyone in his family in 15 years...so why was he being so secretive all of a sudden? Internally, he could've cared less if those men knew, but at the same time, he didn't want to put that added stress onto someone who was literally on the verge of a breakdown.

Seiji was tired, exhausted and just frustrated with how this night had gone. Without a word or even a real sound, he removed his jacket and hung it over Sonos desk chair, taking a moment to look at the contents of the papers Yasuda had picked up and set aside. His eyes scanned the area, seeing if anything was amiss...that's when he stopped and his eyes widened, his heart frozen in his chest.

If Yasuda saw this and just didn't bring it up, then thank whatever god was out there because how Seiji didn't see this was beyond him.

On the corner of his lovers desk was a golden locket, looking slightly worn over the years and it was opened, reveling the picture that was inside. When Seijis shaking hand picked it up and looked it over, he wasn't sure what reaction he felt the most.

Perhaps the overwhelming one was pity....or sympathy...

Because he was staring at that picture...the picture Yakura and Oishi had with them on their first visit. Really, he shouldn't have been surprised. He remembered Sono saying how he, Takeo and Naoki had lockets with the same photo throughout their last year of high school. It made sense that Sono still had it after all these years.

But the fact that Seiji was feeling anger just holding it confused him. He gripped it tightly, unsure of what he was mad at but the feeling was so strong, he almost crushed the piece in his hand.

There was a soft, chilling breeze in the apartment that seemed to wrap around his shoulders, grounding him for a second and made him release a breath he wasn't aware he was holding. Not to mention the cold wisp in his ear,



...Don't be mad at him...it's not his fault...



Slowly, Seiji set the locket back on the desk and backed away from it, shivering when that cold feeling tightened for a second, though nothing else was said. And when the cold chill suddenly vanished, Seiji turned around to look behind himself, seeing nothing but feeling the bits of cold in the air.

Then it was quiet and Seiji was alone. But his head felt more clear and he sighed, nodding to himself as he finally made his way to the bedroom, slowly opening the door and stepped inside, taking in the sight of the love of his life in bed and couldn't help but give a soft, sad smile.

Sono was still sound asleep, evident by how soft his breathing was, one hand resting up on the pillow while the other was settled on his chest. Seiji could see the level of exhaustion on his face, mainly the circles under his closed eyes and just how lax he looked. But even still...he looked at peace.

That's all Seiji could ask for right now.

Taking a moment to undress himself and fold his clothes, he occasionally looked back to observe the blond, blinking a few times when he finally saw exactly what he though he saw before.

Just like that night where he and Sono really had their biggest breakthrough, it seemed as though a visitor appeared yet again, not willing to let go so easily. That ghostly apparition was in his spot in bed, curled up on his side, one hand caressing Sonos pale cheek, the other seemingly lacing their fingers over his chest. His eyes looked hurt, but full of the kind of care Seiji thought he had only felt in his own.

And he knew the man was watching them...he only had to say a few words and he sounded so crushed...nothing like how he sounded when he spoke to Seiji these last few weeks.



...Please...let me have this...



Seiji couldn't look away, even if he wanted to. He was transfixed by the sight, seeing how heartbroken the ghost looked, knowing that his touches were merely cold wisps of air on Sonos skin. But the idea of it was beautiful to look at, Seiji realized.

But just as he got used to the sight in front of him, it was gone. The ghost had shut his eyes and faded away, leaving Seiji to blink a few more times before shaking his head, tossing his jeans to the floor and made his way to bed, getting under the covers and internally swore at how cold the covers were. He thought he heard a sorry, but he ignored it.

As he settled, he moved one hand up to his lovers cheek and rubbed under his eye with his thumb, smiling when he heard a soft moan leave the blonds pink lips. Seiji then moved his free arm to rest right under Sonos head, acting as a pillow, bringing him closer to press a soft kiss to his forehead, whispering into his skin,

"I love you."

The sleepy smile that came over Sonos face was enough to make this stressful night suddenly worth it. Seiji smiled in return and closed his eyes, his hand never leaving his lovers cheek, the frustration and anger he felt earlier no longer present. He promised the blond that he would protect and take care of him during this time...perhaps tonight was a test on that promise. And if so, Seiji liked to think he passed. If not, he wouldn't be feeling this content.

Regardless, the man relaxed and fell asleep quickly, pressing more sleep filled kisses to his lovers head, almost feeling how Sono completely turned to his side and cuddled closer to his chest, the hand on his cheek now buried in his lightly damp hair.

In his dreams, Seiji could only see Sono with him, in his arms and with a smile on his face, that cocky smile he loved so much when they first met, dressed in that same outfit that Seiji quickly decided was one of his favorites.

There was something else on Sonos person that made Seijis heart race and even when he slowly woke up from that dream in the middle of the night, tired eyes glancing down to see that Sono was in fact still sleeping, he couldn't stop imagining it in his head.

Could he? Could he really make that choice? Right now, he wasn't too sure but he certainly would give it some thought.

For now, he closed his eyes again and went back to sleep, blissfully unaware of the fact that in the living room, his phone was vibrating with a new email from Yakura.

At that same time, on the charger, Sonos phone also starting going off, still silent. It registered an incoming call.

The number was unknown.



 

Chapter Text

"Honestly...I'm surprised he isn't staying here tonight."

"As if his father would let him stay in a hospital...he wanted to get them both home to talk."

"Talk? Is that what he's calling it now?"

"No, Takeo...I mean an actual talk. Something they needed to do for a while."

 

 

--

"Is right here good?"

"Yeah...maybe a little lower. And more to the left?"

Seiji smiled, leaning over to press a soft kiss to the back of his lovers head before stepping away to pick up the wall shelf and move it to the spot Sono was pointing at, occasionally adjusting the hooks before turning his head, waiting for an answer.

Sono tilted his own to the right, brown eyes lost in thought but he smiled and nodded, giving a thumbs up. The younger man smiled and locked the shelf in place, taking a step back and let out a proud chuckle, all while the blond next to him smiled sweetly at him, walking to the shelf and tested its sturdiness. When it didn't move, the blond sighed in relief, standing straight and said,

"I really appreciate this, Seiji-kun. With all these books I found in my closet, I'm embarrassed to say I didn't have any space for them. Heh...kinda lack of insight on my part. And of course my arm locked up on me so I couldn't lift it the way I wanted to. Series of karma, I'm guessing."

Seiji gave a toothy grin and patted his lovers shoulder, gleefully saying,

"Well, when you called asking for some help, I had assumed it was another...you know...episode. So imagine my surprise when you were only asking me to set up a shelf. Nice change of pace, huh?"

The blond scoffed, but his smile never faded, nodding just a little. Seiji was right; this was a nice change of pace. Something Sono certainly didn't expect.

At some point in the week, when Sono had the weirdest itch to clean his apartment, he had found a large box in the top of his closet, filled to the brim with manga he hadn't seen in years, some from his college years and some from his time in the Tokyo publication. There was even some from his high school manga club and while it brought back memories, Sono wasn't too sure he wanted to look at them.

Naturally, he caved and sat on the floor in his bedroom, rereading his old work, smiling and laughing, admiring how truly inexperienced he actually was compared to how he grew into his field. Still, for someone so young, Sono had to admit he had a lot of talent back then. Even his old high school projects held a lot of promise.

In truth, he was actually surprised he kept all this stuff, thinking he had left it all back in Fukushima....his high school stuff, anyway. And in a weird way, he was pleasantly surprised to see it all again after all this time. Even as he scanned through the papers and old drafts, his smile grew each time he caught one that brought back sweeter memories than he was used to.

He hadn't even realized how late it was getting until Seiji had called him, asking if he wanted to swing by for dinner that night. And while Sono wanted to, he also wanted to sit and finish reading his old work, so he politely declined while promising his lover that they could have dinner together the next day. It seemed Seiji was pleased with that answer, given how happy the blond sounded at the idea, and left it at that.

Truthfully, at around 8 pm, Sono decided he wanted to hang up all these works as a token of his hard work...so he found a nearby used furniture store and purchased a wall shelf, the intention to set it up that night and surprise Seiji whenever he came to visit.

It didn't work out that way; the store he purchased the shelf from neglected to include the hooks needed for the shelf to hang properly, so Sono woke up early enough the next day to find a place and purchase them, which he did and was determined more than ever to set the shelf up that morning.

He almost had it, up until he felt a sharp pain in his shoulder that caused him to nearly slam the shelf on to the floor. By that point, he was getting annoyed and was left with no other option. He called Seiji and the man was quick to come by, asking the blond if he was alright and if he was needing something serious. Sono simply pointed at the shelf and blushed, not willing to voice his embarrassment.

Now here they were, shelf finally set up and the box moved from the bedroom to the living room, Sono organizing them how he liked while Seiji occasionally skimmed through them, beaming from ear to ear.

"I know you mentioned you were super talent as a kid, but damn....I didn't know I was dating a literal art prodigy...were you always this good?"

Sono flushed again, laughing to himself as he took some papers from the man and looked them over, tilting his head and said,

"Yeah...my parents kind of figured I was good at art when I was around 4 or 5. If you go back far enough, you'll find a sketch of a new school building that was meant to be a cram school. I'm the one who drew it and even won some money for it. My dad gushed about it for months....probably still does. I know he kept that article in some frame and I think it's in his office."

There was a weird look on Sonos face after that, almost sad, but not quite...almost a melancholic sort of look. Seiji gave his lover a once over before looking at some of the papers in his hands, smiling softly before asking,

"Do you...do you ever think about contacting your dad? Or your mom? Your brother? I know they miss you...they must if they're working this hard to keep you safe from...you know."

Sono chuckled a little at that, closing his eyes for a moment before turning to put the papers on the shelf, avoiding the question for a bit as he reorganized some old books. He could feel the burning gaze on his back and couldn't help but smile, turning to face Seiji and held his hand out, silently asking for the rest of the loose papers.

Seiji frowned a little, giving them over without question and watched as Sono set them on the shelf, a little annoyed that the blond was being so quiet. Though, he knew better than to press. The last thing he wanted was for Sono to have another meltdown like he had a month ago...

Gods...that was a month ago? It seemed like only yesterday...

The man had cleared Sonos whole apartment of alcohol that morning when he got out of bed, making a note to check the blonds cabinets whenever he came by. Honestly, he hated doing this and he knew Sono hated when he did, but it couldn't be helped. Booze was not going to help either of them in this situation at all and even Seiji cleared his home of any alcohol....just in case.

So far, things were fine; Sono hadn't had any episodes since that night and while it pleased Seiji to see his lover smile again, he was constantly reminded of a website that Yasuda had sent him regarding mental trauma in adults, the umbrella term that held so many things that connected Sono so tightly that Seiji felt horrible for leaving him alone so much. Though, he knew better than to bring it up.

He knew Sono was suffering from a lot of issues regarding this whole thing. And that night, when he hugged Seiji during the altercation with Yasuda, begging him to stop, it unlocked a new term that described plenty and Seiji, while beating himself up for not catching it sooner, felt even more stupid for having Yasuda of all people have to explain it to him...how he somehow knew what Sono was truly going through without even needing context. 

But when Yasuda brought up the idea of Sono needing to seek help with this...that maybe one day in this whole mess...Seiji would see that he wouldn't be enough for him...it almost drove Seiji back to that rage he felt before. 

 

Because really...the last thing Seiji wanted to do was try and convince Sono to talk to a professional about this...because given what Sono told him about his experiences with hospitals and doctors...it rarely ended well and Seiji didn't want to put his lover back into a situation he couldn't handle.

But he knew Sono suffered from PTSD...it was so damn obvious...but he also knew the blond suffered from so much more than just that...more things for Seiji to figure out as time went on and force himself to be strong for him...he needed his support more than he needed a doctor....for now.

"I miss them too..."

Huh?

Seiji's head perked up at the sound of Sonos voice, almost confused and surprised at the suddenness of it. But he quickly realized how they had both been standing there in silence, Sono facing his shelf while Seiji stared at the back of his head. The blond had his hand resting on a piece of paper, the other resting at his hip, all while his eyes were closed, a smile still on his face. A sad smile, but a smile nonetheless.

"Of course I miss them...there isn't a day that goes by where I don't imagine picking up the phone and calling my brother...see how he's doing...if he and Miyuki had a kid yet...congratulate him on becoming VP of our dads business....it's what he wanted...for a long time...I miss Oto...so much...but...I can't bring myself to do it...not after how we left things."

That last sentence alone was what drew Seiji from looking back at the spare papers and at his lovers back, seeing how he slightly curled in on himself and started to shiver a little. The man could almost hear his voice getting meek and withdrawn at the topic, like he usually did when they talked about his family, but Seiji was more inclined to ask gentle inquiries rather than dive in...just to keep Sonos peace of mind.

However, something about what Sono had said struck his impulse button and he couldn't stop himself from blurting out rapidly,

"What do you mean? Did he hurt you? Did you hurt him? What happened?"

Sono turned to face him, finally, eyes a touch wide and Seiji blushed at his sudden questions. But given how the blond merely chuckled at him, amused by his reaction, Seiji felt his unease fade off just a little bit. The only reason a small bit latched onto him was the look Sono had on his face, still chuckling but his eyes were somber.

Seiji knew that look well; it was the same look he had after he had told him about how his brother convinced him and Naoki years ago to get tested once Oto found out the true dynamics of their relationship. It was ease mixed with sadness, content sorted around with uncertainty.

Gods...Seiji absolutely hated to see that look on his lovers face. It was a constant reminder of what was going through the blonds head, the things he was thinking about still unknown to him and he himself was too nervous to ask blunt questions.

When Sono stopped chuckling, he shook his head and sighed loudly, muttering just loud enough for Seiji to hear,

"No, nothing like that. Just...the first weekend of university, Oto and Miyuki offered a place for me in their house and...something happened that first night...and I said some things to my brother that...I shouldn't have said...we haven't spoke since...I had always assumed he hated me for it but...I guess not..."

That only rose more questions than it did give Seiji any answers.

It was weird...why was it weird?

Oh of course....he knew why.

Given everything Sono told him, through his life story and through his surprised look when he found that Oto had funded the Task Force in Tokyo, it was fairly safe to assume that Oto Hanasaki was dead set on his brothers well being. Which made sense, given what the two of them went through together.

Oto was essentially the father Sono needed growing up and even that was difficult to put into perspective. Seiji was an only child, but was well aware of the relationship found in older siblings to their younger ones, a sort of surrogate parent when necessary, even when it wasn't really wanted. He could understand that Oto probably didn't want to be a secondary father to his kid brother...but then...he also had to think about what Sono went through and how Oto tried to make things better. He had to give him that.

Not very many older brothers can say they found their 6 year old brother bloody in bed, in tears and in a lot of pain over a grown mans horrible choices...not every older brother can say they watched their 15 year old brother become so withdrawn after nearly being tossed out by their father over something so ridiculous as first love...sort of. And Sono didn't go into much detail as to what happened between them after graduation...he simply left it at him leaving Fukushima and hadn't been back since. The only clue he left was something between him, his brother and his father and how it brought them closer...that was it and Seiji didn't think too hard about it. He didn't think it serious enough to ask questions.

But this was new information; Sono never mentioned his life in Tokyo during university and he certainly didn't mention his first night with Oto and Miyuki. And that he had...said something...to Oto that seemingly drove them apart.

Fuck...Seiji wasn't sure whether he wanted to press for answers or to approach this a different way. The internet could only tell him so much about PTSD and he didn't want to trigger Sono again by asking or saying the wrong thing.

Instead, he sighed and walked up to his lover, pushing away his curiosities about Oto for a moment to kiss Sonos forehead, muttering into his skin,

"Well, that's a good thing, right? It's good that he's making an effort to reach out to you. And who knows? Maybe this gives you a chance to try and talk to your parents again. You mentioned you had made up with your father throughout your senior year. And you told me that you had a good relationship with your mom...you did, right?"

Again, Sono smiled and sighed through his nose, more at the feeling of having Seiji so close to him rather than the thoughts going through his head...thoughts he wasn't really wanting to talk about, but he knew that he owed Seiji at least a little more context if he was to truly understand this situation.

Sighing again, this time through his mouth, he leaned closer into his lovers chest and said,

"Yeah, I did have a good relationship with my mother. If it wasn't for her, my father would've kicked me out a long time ago...but then, looking back, I think it was all talk. If he really wanted me out so badly, he would've packed my things for me and tossed me out like I was nothing...or maybe my mom is just that persuasive...I never thought to ask...but she was always the one who kept our family together...when things fell apart..and she always bragged about Oto and me for everything we did, big or small....I remember how proud she was when Oto graduated and how...overjoyed she was when I did...she always bragged to her friends about her sons...how one was going to be taking over her husbands company and how the other was going to be a famous manga-ka....and yeah, we had our fights...but somehow...she made things better...I can't deny that. She always knew what to do to make us come together, even if it was only for a second."

Seiji quickly took notice of how Sono locked up in his embrace, a tell he was becoming familier with and the younger man tried to tighten his hold. Unfortunately, Sono pushed back a little to remove himself and turn to face his new shelf, hands shooting slowly towards the middle section to grab a few papers, skimming through them and even though he was facing away from Seiji, the man could tell his lover was giving him a soft stare.

Even when he said his name, Sono only winced at the worry lacing his tone.

"Sono?"

The blond didn't turn to face him; he simply looked through the papers in his hands, recognizing them as old drafts he made when he was in middle school, before the whole business between him and Takeo nearly broke the relationship he had with Kenji...back when his father loved him so unconditionally that he almost killed doctors for him...back when things were 'easy'.

The papers showed how discontent he was with his life and how depressed he was, even before his relationship with Takeo was brought to light. He was unhappy and hurt, mainly from the memories and nightmares and scars left by Chino. But among all the things his family did to try and ease his pain, his father was always there to hold him when he wanted some sort of physical affection. Even long before middle school, when he was in the hospital, his father did everything he could to make his stay easier....like the blanket he loved so much. He remembered almost being sedated by the doctors after a horrible session went worse and how his father was called to try and calm him down.

Kenji showed up with the thick blanket from his office and wrapped a screaming 6 year old Sono in it so tight, he almost remembered feeling smothered...in a good way. He remembered how his father held him in that small bed, rocking him softly while still being swaddled in that comforting cloth, banning any one excluding his family into his room.

He even remembered the explosive argument that ensued after, when everyone thought Sono had screamed himself to sleep...he didn't. He heard his father yelling at the doctors, demanding to know why they were thinking of sedating a 6 year old child. He didn't hear what the doctors had said in response...he did hear his father threaten them if he found out about this again.

And he knew Kenji would made good on those threats...Sono wasn't dumb. He had been told stories of how protective his father was and how he was no afraid to literally make someone disappear for the sake of his family. Whether it was right or wrong didn't matter to him. And for that, Sono was grateful while at the same time conflicted.

But right now...in this moment...he was unhappy once again...only for other concerns. He hadn't heard Seiji ask if he was alright, or maybe he did and just tuned it out, but when he opened his mouth, he started venting about something he hadn't bothered to address in a long time.

"The relationship I had with my dad...it...it was very different from the relationship I had with my mom...when things settled down and he tried to mend things between us I...almost didn't let him. I couldn't begin to accept that the reasons he had for hurting was because he overreacted...I mean, he did, but I wasn't ready to take that as an answer...but even still... When Naoki told my father that he wanted to marry me after graduation...I was...honestly surprised that he was so ok with it...that he was more than willing to support us and help me...I guess after his blow up over Takeo, he had time to really think things through...everyday since then, even after Naoki died, he tried in some way to get back into my good graces...and it's sad that it took graduation to really bring us back together...the way he held me, the way he spoke to me..the way he was afraid to let me go...I...I felt like I was a kid again. I felt like I finally had my father back. He cried for me..I don't think I've seen him cry ever...He told me he loved me so much and that the three times he almost lost me...he couldn't handle it..and I believed him...I mean, he always used to say he loved his boys more than anything in existence...and how the love he had for Oto and me was something bigger than the love he had for our mother...and for a while...I never understood what that meant until..."

Sono suddenly stopped talking.

He could feel tears burning behind his eyes but he wiped them quickly, not wanting to break down again over something like this. Talking about his family hurt his heart, more so now knowing they sent police to protect him. He had spent years thinking they hated him for the things he did as a teenager, as an adult...he had a feeling they had heard the rumors about him, a testimate for how far he fell into the cliche of being a whore...for the smaller things, like never once trying to contact them and avoiding anything about them.

But knowing his brother sent detectives to hunt down Takeo and to keep him safe...it was almost enough to break him. He was so sure that Oto wanted nothing to do with him after that first night in his house...the things he said, things he'd done...he couldn't begin to forgive himself for it. The fact that Oto did forgive him...his heart clenched.

And he had to consider his parents in this equation...his mother was probably beside herself with worry...she knew enough about his experience with Takeo on graduation night to know how serious this was becoming. No doubt she would badger Oto and Kenji about it until the man was either taken in or shot down....and fuck...his father. Kenji was a beast when it came to the protection of his family...his kids...and the level of instinct he had regarding Sono among everyone else...it didn't help his already frazzled mindset.

Thinking about this hurt...actually knowing without knowing was painful as well...

From behind him, he could feel a warm presence getting closer until he felt soft hands on his hips, jerking him back into reality for a second. The grip on his sides tightened, grounding him, something he was grateful for and he let out a shaky breath, putting the papers back onto the shelf and stuttered out almost quietly,

"Seiji I...I really don't want to talk about this anymore. I miss them...truly, I do...but I'm just not ready to face them. Not yet. I need more time to...come to terms with Takeo before I even think of revisiting a relationship with them."

There was something to be said about the level of patience Seiji had at this point in the day. Never had he been so quiet and so intent on listening to someone unload like this. He didn't think he had that kind of attentiveness for something....until this moment.

Looking back on all the relationships he had, no matter how short lived, Seiji tried his hardest to be a good listener and found that sometimes...it was hard. It was hard to listen to tedious issues and complaints about little things. As a middle schooler and a high schooler, Seiji tried his best. And figured it was pointless.

But right now, in this very moment, he understood completely. Every moment prepared him for this...in some fashion. Because by god...he wanted nothing more than to just take his lover in his arms and kiss his hurt away.

Listening to Sono vent and go on about the feelings he felt about his lack of communication with his family, a family that so clearly still thought about him, loved him to death....it broke Seijis heart. It made him think of his own family, a family he couldn't get back...a family he lost at such an early age.

Seiji didn't care to think of the family he lost as he was always taught by his foster father to look ahead in life, to not dwell in the past. This was so different and he knew why Sono was like this. He lived such a painful life and to have it thrust back at him full force with little preparation...it was so...unfamiliar, but he understood. And the last thing he wanted was to put the love of his life through more strain than he was putting himself through right now.

He had moved to grip Sonos hips in a gesture of grounding comfort...he then moved his arms to wrap around his thin waist, a kiss to his temple and he said, comfortingly,

"Ok...I guess I can accept that. So long as you tell me whenever you're feeling like you need a shoulder to cry on....I'm sorry to just spring this on you."

Sono smiled and leaned back into the mans hold once again, closing his eyes and nuzzled his head under Seijis chin, mumbling,

"No, it's ok. I just...hadn't thought about it in a long time. Between telling you all that I did, then Takeo suddenly showing up...sort of...it's like I'm having to readjust to a few feelings that I put on the back burner for a while...you know? I'm not used to feeling this...vulnerable...I locked those feelings away because I felt I wasn't worth it...well...until I met you."

Seiji smirked at that, feeling cocky and prideful. While he didn't like hearing Sono talk down about himself, he knew better than to add fuel to this kind of fire. He locked focus on the positives of this situation, pressing another kiss to his lovers head and said,

"You don't ever have to hide these things from me. I love you and you know more than ever that I'm not just going to leave you like this. That's why I finished my book so quickly. I wanted all this free time so I could be with you. There's no where else I'd rather be."

He emphasized this by pressing more kisses to Sonos head, his hands smoothing over his shirt over his stomach and hips, adoring the sounds leaving the blonds mouth. They were moans, clearly, but they were mixed with laughs, giggles when Seijis hands brushed a ticklish spot on his abdomen.

Using this to his advantage, Seiji grinned and pressed his lips to the blonds neck, hands trailing under his shirt to touch his skin, nipping his skin over his shoulder. That little nip earned a loud gasp, followed by the blond turning in his hold, a smiling scowl on his face.

"Phft...you sweet talker. Stop trying to rile me up and kiss me."

Again, Seiji grinned and wove his hands into Sonos hair, pulling closer and pressing a hard kiss to his lips, drinking his moans and wrapped his free arm tight around his waist. The blond wrapped his arms around Seijis back, gripping his jacket and tilted his head, deepening the kiss and internally smirked when Seijis tongue snuck its way into his mouth.

In response, Seiji removed both hands and moved to grip the blonds thighs, picking him up and chuckled when Sono let out a surprised squeal, feeling thin legs wrap tight around his hips as he moved them both the couch. He sat down softly, allowing Sono to straddle his hips, not once breaking their kiss.

When they eventually did break apart, they both laughed soothingly, Sonos smile bright as his eyes as he layed his head on Seijis shoulder, pressing kisses to his neck and said,

"Can you believe it's Summer already? I feel like we didn't get to experience any of Spring together. We should've gone to see the Sakura trees bloom like every other sappy couple."

Seiji laughed out loud, itching his nose and blushed, patting the blonds leg for a moment before he responded,

"Haha, yeah, we missed the mark on that. But that's ok. There are plenty of things for us to do together in the Summer.....oh! That reminds me!"

While still keeping a firm grip on the blonds leg to keep him straddled on his lap, Seiji leaned over to the other edge of the couch to grab his bag, pulling it towards them and opened it with one hand, digging inside all while maintaining that soft grin on his face. Even while Sonos brow quirked a little in interest.

"I completely forgot about these stupid tickets. I got them in the mail a week ago and with all the chaos going on, it slipped my mind."

Sono went from interested to confused.

"What tickets?"

Seiji smiled at him, finding what he was looking for and pulled out on envelope, finally releasing Sonos leg and used both hands to open it, pulling out what looked to be two tickets, once again peaking Sonos interest. Especially when the younger man suddenly beamed at him, flashing the laminated pieces in his face, saying with such overly adorable glee,

"Hehe, I was gonna ask you properly, but since we're already on the subject...Sono, would you like to be my date for the upcoming Tenjin Festival?"

...

"...I'm sorry?"

Seiji grinned wildly and tilted his head, waving the tickets in his hands and said,

"You know. The festival that happens every July? C'mon, you know this."

God, the pink blush that formed over Sonos cheeks was so cute. His brown eyes averted away for a second, itching his neck and only flushed deeper when he felt Seiji shift to kiss his nose, knowing how flustered that always made him.

Sono scoffed and said,

"I..of course I know what it is! I'm just...what are you...tickets for what?"

The grin never left Seijis face as he kissed his lovers nose again, leaning back and moved one hand over Sonos back, moving him closer, ignoring the way he was now seated right over the half erection Seiji was sporting. Whether or not Sono felt it, he didn't say, but the way Sono was still blushing made the man chuckle lightly, running his hand up and down his back, responding so matter-of-factly,

"Haha, these are actually more like special passes my publisher gave us for access to the boats that take off down the Okawa River for the fireworks display. He has great connections with the event coordinator and he got us a private boat. We're allowed to bring plus ones...or dates, which ever. And I figured I'd ask you because...well...being my boyfriend and all..."

The pink flush that was on Sonos cheeks faded quickly as he paled, but Seiji wasn't at all bothered by it. In fact, he smiled softly, answering the question that was so clearly burning on Sonos tongue.

"Before you even ask, yes I know what I'm asking. I know because I've thought about this for a while and I know exactly what I'm expecting. I'm ready to show you off.....that said, if you want to give a fake name, that's fine too. I'll understand. I just want this nice evening with you. So, all that said, will you be my date?"

A date.

An actual date.

Not just a quick drink or a fast bite to eat....but an actual date.

Sono tilted his head again, thinking back to the last time he was out on an actual date with someone. Considering the life he lead and the reputation he inadvertently developed, he couldn't actually pinpoint a time where someone asked him out for anything other than sex.

In fact....

In fact, he didn't really remember a time when he or Naoki actually had a date. Granted, they had to keep their relationship a secret and maybe...maybe some of their outings could be considered dates, though not conventional ones.

Oh! There was that one time in university where he went out with a classmate one weekend during his final year. There was no sex to be had...at least not that he recalled. And it had been a nice night. Dinner, movies in the dorms, maybe a kiss, he couldn't remember.

So for Seiji to ask him this...invite him to this festival...as his date...as his boyfriend...his heart swelled. It had been too long since he felt proud of a relationship of any kind and to hear Seiji say that he wanted to show him off to his co-workers...he felt a smile on his cheeks and he even caught sight of the wild smile on Seijis face, finally finding his voice,

"...you...you're not giving a real reason to say no, so..."

He didn't get a chance to finish his thought.

Sono let out another squeal as he was suddenly hoisted in the air, legs once again wrapped around Seijis waist. Seiji had then kissed him, deeply, spinning him in his arms and refused to put him down for even a second, even as he felt Sonos hands grip the back of his jacket like a lifeline.

The younger mans hands gripped his legs tightly, kissing with such a dedicated fevor that Sono felt lightheaded once they broke apart, blushing from ear to ear as they locked gazes, brown eyes gleaming into brighter orbs. Sono couldn't help but chuckle nervously to himself, one hand detaching from Seijis jacket to tangle in his wild brown locks, nuzzling his face and said,

"Haha, I had no idea this meant that much to you."

God, Seijis smile could melt ice if given the opportunity. He practically beamed at him, kissing his lovers cheek, warm breath against his skin as he spoke,

"Any moment that I get to shower you with love and undying affection means more to me than anything. That and you saying yes makes me kinda playful. So sue me."

He emphasized this by dipping Sono ever so slightly and kissed his lips again, quickly, adoring how the blond gripped the back of his hair tightly, legs iron locked around his waist and when he eventually straightened up, Seiji only smirked at him, pulling him closer to his body, taking in the sound of a steady pulse in his chest.

Normally, Sono would've enjoyed every moment of this embrace, and right now, he most certainly did. But the feeling of his stomach growling at him had him flushing deeper red, hoping to hell Seiji didn't hear it and jump to conclusions....like he did a lot of these days.

Sighing loudly, he set both his hands on Seijis shoulders to try and push away, almost forgetting he was locked against his body, but Seiji kept a firm hold on him, pressing butterfly kisses to his collarbone and neck, trailing up to his ear and nipped at the skin every so lightly.

Sono gasped, then laughed to himself, gently hitting his lovers shoulder, saying,

"I get it, I get it. Now quit seducing me and put me down. All this excitement has gotten me famished. It's almost lunch time, so how about I make us something to eat?"

Seiji chuckled against Sonos neck and nuzzled his skin just a little longer before kissing under his chin, a sly look in his eye as he said,

"Ooooooor we could order in and snuggle up on your couch. I just helped you set up a shelf and you had a long morning trying to figure it out yourself. Let's just be lazy today. You don't have anywhere to be until tomorrow, right?"

The sound Sono made from his throat could only be described as a groan mixed with a sigh.

"Seiji..."

And he was immediately stopped with Seiji kissing his nose, a pout on his face and a near playful whimper, something that almost made Sono chuckle himself.

But then Seiji kissed the corner of his mouth and said almost silently...

"Come on. This is the first time in weeks I've caught you on a good day..."

....both men froze.

Seijis own eyes widened as he quickly replayed what he just said and he didn't even need to look at his lovers face to know just how...well, maybe taken back he after hearing that. But he knew. Sono may not tell him, but he most certainly knew.

The onslaught of emotions suddenly going through Sonos head and the mere offense Seiji took to his own words was more than enough for the younger man to gently set his lover back on his feet, arms now moving to wrap tight around his shoulders, holding him close to his chest and blurted out in a near fit of panic,

"Shit...oh shit, I'm sorry, Sono. I didn't mean it like that. I-"

In truth, Sono was slightly put off by what Seiji had said, but he wasn't really....bothered by it. There was truth to it, obviously. These last few weeks hadn't been the greatest emotionally and mentally for him...he cringed to himself at the memory of him being so drunk that even Seijis friend had to step in and help.

He hated feeling weak and unable to keep himself level, but fuck, that was just not a good night for any of them. He let his emotions and fears get in the way of his usual clear thinking and to know that Seiji sacrificed a lot to keep him happy didn't help matters either.

The days following that night weren't much better, in all honesty. Seiji stayed with him for two days, two long days, just to get him back to a sense of normalcy. He cleared out all the booze and went to the nearest store, loading him up with fresh foods and a plentiful supply of water bottles and coffee. And when Seiji eventually left, (or had to force himself to leave) it was like Sono went back to square one. The nightmares he'd been having didn't get any less vivid and when he worked, it was like he felt eyes on him, like someone was watching him.

It made him so nervous to the point where he tried to cover all his windows, but the darkness in his home only scared him more and he resorted to ripping off the curtains at 4 in the morning, just so the setting moon could shine some natural light into his apartment.

There was also the matter of the weird missed call he had from an unknown number, but he dismissed and deleted it, not wanting to jump to his own anxiety ridden conclusions. He was already frazzled. He didn't need anymore ammunition for this shit.

Sighing loudly, he shook his head and pushed Seiji back from him, looking at him with a soft smile and a light flush on his cheeks. He saw how nervous Seiji was from all this and Sono felt just a hint of pity for the both of them. There was no reason for them to be acting like this. This was supposed to be a good day. The first in a while.

Sono flushed deeper and cleared his throat, muttering loud enough just for Seiji to hear him.

"No...no you're right. This is the first time in a few weeks where I actually feel normal. I...don't want to waste it....and I do still feel kind of tired....I suppose I could...change back into my pajamas and...let you shower me with all that love you're always going on about."

The blond had wrapped his arms around Seijis neck as he spoke, getting close to him and when he finished talking, he pressed a chaste kiss to his lovers lips, coaxing him into his embrace and chuckled when Seiji growled in his mouth, kissing back almost desperately, one hand against the small of his back and the other gripped his golden hair, pulling away with a dark flush of his own, his brown eyes suddenly dark.

When he opened his mouth, the tone of his voice was thick and it made Sono shiver....just a little bit.

"Are you mocking me?"

Sono couldn't help himself. He giggled and bit his bottom lip, leaning closer to his lovers ear and whispered,

"Maybe....what are you going to do about it?"

There was more to be said about the level of tolerance Seiji had when Sono was this sly about his desires. And quite frankly...it was a huge turn on. What more could he say to that? Nothing, he realized, as he kissed Sono hard again on his lips, practically pulling him away from the living room and towards the blonds bedroom, the thought of food temporarily in the back of his mind.

---

Never before had take out been such a well needed luxury. Sono let out a loud sigh as he tossed the food containers into the trash, absentmindedly rubbing his stomach and winced at how full he was. It had been quite a while since he had eaten a big meal like that...not that Seiji needed to know such things. Granted, he had to thank the man for buying them such a hearty lunch; he had forgotten just how delicious braised pork was until today.

He could hear Seiji in the living room flipping through channels, occasionally chuckling to himself over little things he found before switching to another network. Sono smiled to himself and turned to walk back to the living room, rubbing his neck and blushed as he situated himself next to his lover, eventually laying his head on his chest, nuzzling the fabric of his shirt, closing his eyes and listened to the sounds from the television, paying close attention to the sound of Seijis heart beat against his ear. His smile grew.

Of all things that eased Sonos mind during this rough time, the sound of his lovers heart beat always seemed to lull him to a peaceful state of mind. When they slept together or even just cuddled after a long day, the blond would always rest his head against the soothing throb of Seijis chest. It relaxed him...more than he actually had to consider. It was familiar to him, but how he couldn't really tell. He knew that when he was growing up and felt like he was in need of some sort of affection, he would find shelter in either his parents arms or his brothers. They always held him close to their hearts, giving him a chance to listen to their soft beats against their chests.

This sort of behavior was quick to be transitioned to Takeo...and eventually Naoki... then back to his father...his mother...Oto...

Sono gripped the bottom of Seijis shirt without thinking, his mind suddenly racing with images of his childhood, even if he tried to stop it. His eyes still closed but a smile long gone, he sighed and whispered,

"Hey Seiji?"

He felt the younger man wrap his arm around him gently, squeezing his shoulder in acknowledgment of him and he sighed, eyes cast down to glance at Seijis lap, not knowing where else to look as he said,

"Thank you..for a lot of things. Mostly for putting up with my mood swings these last few weeks...I know I haven't been the easiest person to handle lately."

Seiji smiled a little, but frowned quickly at the tone of Sonos voice. Chancing a glance down, he could see the conflicted look all over his lovers face, how he wasn't even making the effort to look up at him. In a matter of seconds, Seiji turned off the television and repositioned them so he could give Sono a soft kiss to his cheek, more for comfort than a romantic gesture, muttering against his skin while caressing his other cheek,

"Love, don't worry about it. I can certainly appreciate what you're going through. But try not to think too hard about it. Your brother hired these men to handle it and you know I'm here to protect you too. Sono...you're safe. You know that."

Yeah....

Yeah, he did know that, but for reasons he couldn't understand, he couldn't grasp the idea of being 'safe.' It was weird to him...his idea of safe was just...not at all whatever this was. He shivered as Seiji kissed his cheek again, eyes closing, trying so hard to capture the feeling of his lovers warmth and lock it inside of him...but he gulped down a lump in his throat and somehow, that opened his mouth and let loose a string of things he never thought he'd say.

He hated venting, he hated talking about his fears and his worries and goddamn it, he just had a wonderful day with his boyfriend....apparently, his brain wasn't having it.

"I know...but...it's hard sometimes. I know if I close my eyes on a bad night, I can sometimes see him. And I know he's looking for me...I'm trying to distract myself with some menial tasks here and there, but it's complicated. Takeo...he's a part of me. We grew up together. He was my first friend, my first love. And even when we broke up and...Naoki helped me through it...he was still a part of me. So...it's hard to just force myself to forget...the things we went through together...how does one just...ignore all that?"

"Sono.."

"I mean, I get it. He turned into a monster. All those people he seemingly killed before Naoki...after Naoki...15 years...I can't even begin to fathom how the families feel. Yakura mentioned a 17 year old student being Takeos first brutal murder...at least...in that regard...but it just makes me think of graduation and what he did to me...what he could've done to me if my dad hadn't intervened..."

"Sono-san..."

"And I guess that's just how it is. I should've known Takeo couldn't just...move on...I knew he was obsessed with me from the time we were kids...but I didn't realize it went this far...torturing and killing people who looked like me....I can't help but wonder what else he's done since that night....where this really picked back up...does he really want to kill me or does he want something else from me...I...I have this strange feeling that there's something I'm missing, but I don't know what it is."

"...."

"I can still hear him...the things he told me that night...how he was the cause of it all...well, maybe not Chino, but that's irrelevant now. Or maybe...I...I can't allow myself to consider that. But Seiji, Takeo is merciless. He payed those nurses and doctors to look the other way...he took Naoki from me...and he even got one of my fathers employees to...use me...and now he's coming for me. I can feel it...knowing it's true is one thing, but actually feeling him again...it...it's too much...I don't know...how else to explain it and-"

A loud SLAM shocked Sono to silence for a moment, gasping and bolting up right, eyes wide and suddenly alert. He looked around quickly and took notice that his television remote was now rested on his coffee table...and Seijis hand was gripping it tightly....and it was trembling.

Suddenly, everything Sono had said hit him hard in his chest.

He couldn't stop those words from leaving his mouth. His brain and his feelings took full control of his vocals and he blurted everything he had been feeling for such a long time...and it was all true. Regardless of anything he could say to negate this situation, there was no denying it. Sono knew from the moment he heard Takeos last words to him, he knew...he knew it wasn't over.

 

"IF I CAN'T HAVE YOU...NO ONE CAN."

 

 

It would never be over. Not until one of them was dead. Takeo had already taken Naoki out of the equation and there was only one left. Sono felt his heart racing and only then did it dawn on him that he had not only said all that aloud but to Seiji of all people...with wide eyes and an uncertain tone in his voice, he weakly tried to get his lovers attention...but was stopped with a halting hand and very hurt sounding,

"Don't."

Sono closed his mouth and averted his gaze, unsure of what to do. He hadn't meant to say all that and dammit all if the universe wasn't hellbent on making his life utterly miserable in terms of getting his shit together. But when he tried to look at his lover, he could see the hurt look in Seijis eyes...not to mention a frown mixed with a scowl...the younger lightly turned his head to look at the blond and his look shifted more towards a concerned sort of frustrated that Sono hadn't seen in a long time..from anyone.

"Sono, why do you do this to yourself? To us? No matter how hard I try to work with you on this, you always push me away like I can't handle you....like I'm not enough for you...which means Yasuda could be right..maybe you do need professional help...."

The room went from comforting warmth to awkward silence....then to bone chilling cold in a matter of seconds.

A dark look came over Sonos features as he turned his head to stare at the younger man and Seiji mentally slapped himself, gasping low in his throat.

Shit....shit shit shit. Why did he have to say that? Of all things he had to blurt out...so much was wrong with that entire sentence. He felt his heart sink to his stomach as the glare Sono shot him with seemed to be bordering on icy.

"Excuse me? How does he know about what's going on...you didn't...tell him, did you?"

Honestly, he shouldn't be getting as mad as he was, but just seeing how angry Sono was getting proved to be the tipping point and the loss of patience Seiji had throughout the day. The younger man glared back, trying to be respectful and said, calmly,

"No, I didn't. But Sono, it's so obvious. He didn't need to ask me anything, he can see it for himself. He's not blind and neither am I-"

"That doesn't give him free reign to just throw his opinions in. He's you friend, yes....but this is private. He had no right to make such ridiculous claims...but then...he's the one who told you about me...I can see why you trust him."

Seiji scowled deeper and Sonos glare only sharpened. They locked livid gazes for a moment longer before Seiji scoffed and looked away for a second, only turning back to spit out,

"Yeah, he is my friend. Yes, he did tell me about you. But he understands us now. He gets that I care about you and that you care about me. And it's because I care about you that he's worried about you too. He saw what happened between us in your kitchen and Sono, he thinks you're suffering deeper than I can see. And maybe I see it too, but you're not letting me in long enough to so anything about it....he...he thinks you need help. And honestly...I think you do too..."

The glare Sono had on his face was wiped clean in mere moments. And in its place was a look of pure horror. Seiji winced as he watched his lovers face crumble the way it did, knowing he shouldn't have said all that, but now he couldn't stop.

Well, now he did...but only because Sono gaped at him, backing away from him on the couch and stammered out,

"You...you're not suggesting..."

No.

Whatever Sono was suddenly thinking, it was an automatic no.

Seiji recalled every bit of the things the blond told him about his time in Chiba and how it only hurt him more. How hospitals freaked him out and how he hadn't been back to one since...Seiji shook his head. No matter how angry he was and no matter how much of an absolute train wreck Sono could become at any point....he wouldn't dream of putting his lover in a situation like that.

He wanted to hold him, hug him, anything. But Seiji felt the level of panic all through Sonos body and felt it dangerous to even try to get near him. He needed to be the level head in this situation and try to approach this as best and as calm as he could.

Turning so he was fully facing his lover on the couch, he sighed and spoke clearly, never taking his eyes off the blond.

"No. I know how you feel about doctors and things of that regard. I would never think or consider doing that to you unless you yourself felt it necessary....But...if you continue to let this get to you...I'm afraid of what you'll do to yourself, especially if I'm not here. You said you had a history of depression and anxiety and...suicide attempts. And I told you that feelings like that just don't go away, especially if you repress them the way you have for years...and...I'm scared, Sono. I love you too much to lose you to that....please...be honest with me. Right here. Right now...do you honestly think that Takeo is going to find you before the cops do? Is that truly where you're at right now mentally? Do you really think he's going to kill you?"

The look that came over Sonos face said it all and Seiji couldn't help but feel his heart snap. The blond didn't say anything at first, averting his gaze and stared at the couch cushions, a red flush on his cheeks. He was trembling and it raised so many red flags in Seijis head. His eyes narrowed and he scoffed, mumbling to himself,

"My god..."

The blond winced and snapped his head back to the man, his own eyes wide with panic and anger, not so much as Seiji and his doubts...which were becoming much more obvious, but over the fact that he was doubting himself once again.

Reaching over, he quickly took Seijis hand in his, trying to scoot closer and said, almost with a hint of annoyance,

"Seiji, I don't know. I told you before that this is a lot to take in. I don't know where I'm at right now and...you constantly badgering me about it somehow makes it worse. I'm 32 years old...I don't need you treating me like a child."

The scowl that Seiji had on his face made Sono pale for a second, removing his hand and pressed it against his own chest, feeling his own heart start to pound erratically against his ribs. It didn't help that Seiji stood quickly and walked away from him, over to the nearby desk, spitting his words like venom, not even looking in his direction,

"Forgive me for being so concerned about my boyfriends fucking well being."

God, he sounded so angry.

He didn't know what to say or what to do. His emotions were running amok in his head and when he looked down as his legs, his eyes welled up. In a broken voice, he said almost meekly,

"You...you know I didn't mean it like that..."

"Then how were you supposed to mean it!? Sono, I'm trying so hard here. But you're not making this easy for anyone!"

 

Whoa.

 

Sono had to take a second and process that Seiji had just yelled at him, something he hadn't once began to consider a thing happening....and he hated himself for getting just as angry, shooting to his bare feet and eyes narrowing, snapping back,

"Did you ever stop and think that maybe I didn't ask for you to try so hard?! No one asked you to promise anything to me! You're not a cop and you're not working for this special fucking task force! You don't work for my family, so why are you getting so worked up about this?!"

The room was hot and cold all at once.

Hot from the anger and pain Seiji felt in his loins...cold from the unbelievable chill in Sonos words. But even then, hearing those same words made Seijis heart crash to his feet. This wasn't supposed to be like this. This isn't what he promised those detectives....this isn't what he promised to Sono at all.

And oh god...it was like he could feel Naoki's infuriated gaze on his back, knowing where all this was directed to. The scowl on his face faced as he stomped over to the blond, taking noticed of how Sono tried to step back with no where to go, and roughly gripped his upper arms, staring daggers at him.

Again, as he recalled the night Sono came to his home with the intent of forcing Seiji to end their relationship, being rough with him while in the middle of an emotional outburst was something Seiji knew deep down he shouldn't have done, but this was getting ridiculous.

Shaking him a little, Seiji yelled at him again, not so much angry anymore, but more hurt and scared than anything else. He could see the look on Sonos face becoming less and less angry and more and more terrified. He was about to break. He could feel it.

"For Gods sakes, do you hear yourself right now?! Did you really just ask me that?! I'm getting worked up because I'm worried about you. Ever since Yakura and Oishi showed up, you've closed yourself off from me. You won't let me in anymore. And because of that, I've had to watch the love of my life spiral down into something that he's not letting me understand! Sono, I thought we talked about this....I told you I'm here for you...I promised you that I'd protect you and help you through this! Why can't you just accept that?!"

And once again, Sono let out a pitiful cry, screaming out loudly with a mix of fury and sorrow,

"I don't know!!"

He pushed Seiji away from him, almost knocking him back against the desk; the force of it pushed Sono back himself and landed hard on the couch, a sharp pain shooting up his back, but he payed little attention that. He was starting to breath heavy from the force of his words, angry at himself, angry at Seiji, angry at everything.

Hell, Seiji was angry that Sono pushed him back so quickly, but one look at the man on the couch wiped that feeling away so fast.

The blond was hunched over himself on the couch, eyes wide and glassy with unshed tears, entire body trembling violently and his breathing sounded...

...Off...

"...I don't know...I don't know....god, I don't know...Seiji, I don't know what's wrong with me!...I don't like being this way! I don't like not letting you in...but...somethings holding me back and I don't know what it is...and that scares me!...I know you're worried about me!...I know you're trying to help me...I just...I can't..."

Two things happened in that exact moment.

Sono suddenly stopped talking and one hand went to his throat, eyes wider than usual. His other hand went to the center of his chest, gripping his shirt and he broke into a cold sweat. He slowly turned to Seiji, who gave him a worried look, unsure of what was happening.

"Sono, you...you look really pale. What is it? Are you ok?"

...

"I can't...I can't breath...I can't breath."

Oh.

Oh shit.

Oh fucking shit.

Seiji went from worried to down right horrified in seconds. Bolting over to the couch and instantly dropping to his knee, he pressed his hand against the one Sono had against his chest while his other went to his mid back, not knowing where else to put it.

His mind was racing and his heart pounded like gunfire. His voice rambled so fast he almost didn't hear himself speak. He probably couldn't; all his focus was on the man hyperventilating on the couch.

"Oh god, oh god, what do I do!? Sono, what do I do?!"

The blond, while trying to gain control of his lungs, failing horribly, weakly lifted his heavy hand and pointed to his desk, not seeing how Seiji followed it immediately. He was able to weakly croak out,

"T-top...top drawer...in...inhaler..."

before going back to gripping his throat, trying to breath properly through his nose in an attempt to calm down. He felt Seiji jump to his feet and run to the desk. He heard the sound of his drawer being opened and things being rustled. His vision was starting to hurt.

As quickly as Seiji got to his feet, that's how quickly he made it back to Sono with something hard in his hand, gently pressing it against Sonos now lax hand. The blond squeezed it tightly and forced himself to bring the plastic to his mouth, pressing the trigger and inhaled so quickly that his body locked up.

He could feel Seijis eyes on him as he inhaled the medicine once, twice, before moving it away from his lips and gulped up a huge intake of air, falling back against the couch, his hand falling on his lap, gripping the inhaler tightly in his sweaty palm.

For a brief moment, it was quiet. Sono would occasionally gasp in another gulp of air before relaxing, rubbing his chest and throat off and on, closing his eyes and leaned his head back. In the haze of his head, he felt Seiji grip the hand that was holding the inhaler and he smiled...it was a weak smile, but a smile all the same. He couldn't move his head yet, but he let out a long exhale, whispering,

"..thank you.."

Seiji wasted little time after hearing his lovers voice. He sat himself back on the couch and wrapped his arms around the blonds body, holding him as tightly as he could without hurting him, his voice weak against his shoulder, asking,

"My god...what...what was that?"

Again, Sono exhaled and jolted when a coughing fit suddenly hit him. It pushed Seiji back just a little so he could breath, even as the blond tried to speak through his coughing.

"*cough* pan...*cough cough* panic attack..I'm fine...just...couldn't breath for a second."

Well then. That certainly did nothing to ease Seijis worries. Rather, it answered questions that Seiji didn't even know he had.

He recalled Sono talking about how his panic attacks as a teenager would make him impulsive, act out and do something reckless. How they could often lead to episodes if not checked properly. He had no idea they could lead to something this...this scary.

Trying hard not to come off as too intrusive, Seiji reached out and lightly petted Sonos hair, earning a confused stare but not much else. The younger scooted a little closer, whispering just loud enough for the blond to hear,

"Oh...oh god. Sono, I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have gotten so angry at you. I just...I...god, are you ok?"

Again, Sono didn't say much. He simply rubbed his chest and let out a loud sigh, leaning over to place his inhaler on the coffee table before settling back on the couch, hand still lightly rubbing where his lungs were. He could FEEL Seijis own anxiety radiating from him and honestly...it made Sono chuckle a little.

"I think so...heh...that's why I keep an inhaler for moments like this..I know it's usually for asthma but...it helps when I'm alone....and they don't happen often but...pays to be safe, right?"

Seiji nodded and quickly let out a breath he couldn't hold in anymore. Never before in his young adult life did he ever experience something so terrifying. Watching Sono go through that was...eye opening and not in a good way. And it was at that moment Seiji realized something really...really....unsettling.

He knew nothing.

Absolutely nothing about the actuality of what Sono was going through...in his head. In his heart and in his body. He thought he had an understanding of it the night he found him drunk, but no. It was clear he had no idea. He had no clue of what to do when Sono started spouting off all he had about Takeo and his past and how he could somehow feel Takeo coming for him.

He didn't know how to approach it...and he lost his temper. He yelled at his lover when he should've truly been listening...Sono yelling back only made things worse.

And the thing that hit Seiji the hardest was the fact that he didn't know what to do when Sono was having a sudden panic attack....suddenly not being able to breath. He felt ashamed of himself.

Slowly and cautiously, he pulled Sono close to him again and internally beamed when the blond rested his head against his chest, closing his eyes and let out a noise of discomfort, rubbing his chest a little harder. The younger almost wanted to ask if Sono needed anything to help him calm down, but it seemed like Sono read his mind. He exhaled through his nose and said,

"I think...I think we need to just take a second. Seiji, I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have gone on and on about Takeo and what he could do...I don't know where that came from."

Seiji kissed the top of his lovers head, staring at the wall ahead of him, answering somberly,

"No, I'm sorry. I pressed where I shouldn't have."

"But you had every right to. You're here to help me...because you love me. I need to remind myself of that. Somewhere along these last few weeks, my brain just...forgot that you're not doing this because of some promise you made to those detectives and by result, my family...you're doing this because you love me and I love you. And I'm trying, Seiji, I really am. It's just...hard..."

It was enough. It was more than enough. Seiji knew deep down that Sono was hurting more than he was letting on, but today proved he was blind to the entire reality of it. Hearing what he heard, saying what he said in return....seeing what he saw....Seiji had to do better. He made a promise to his love that he'd be strong for him and today was a failure in his eyes.

And god bless Sono for all he was. The amount of pain he was in yet still was trying to fake his way to seeming normal...this wasn't how it was supposed to be...not at all...

But Seiji pushed those thoughts away for a moment to kiss his lovers head again, running one hand through his hair, lightly rubbing his back with the other, projecting his care into the man he gave his heart to. With a soft sigh, he said,

"I know. I know you're trying. That's all I ask for....but I also need to be more understanding of your feelings on this. We'll figure it out. We just need to calm down and think it over."

Sono groaned and moved his hand from his chest to his forehead, grumbling loudly,

"Ugh....the last thing I want to do right now is think about anything. All I've done these past few weeks is think and look what it's done to me. Seiji...I just want to shut my brain off for a while. My head is pounding and my body aches..."

That could easily be arranged.

Seiji smiled and huffed into silky golden locks, never breaking his embrace as he whispered,

"Let's go take a hot bath, then. Clear our minds for a bit. Afterwards, I'll rub your back and you can just drift away for a while. How does that sound?"

There was a pause....followed by a loud, exaggerated moan.

"That sounds...absolutely fantastic."

-Hours later-

Seiji couldn't sleep...not for lack of trying.

The events of this entire day weighed heavily on his brain and his heart...he couldn't shut his thoughts off and his chest ached with his own stress. And the very last thing he wanted to do was leave Sono alone. Not after what he had seen. What he had been through.

True to his word, Seiji had gotten them both into a hot bath, his body propped against the back of the tub and his blond love perfectly seated between legs. Neither of them really cared about how much time had gone by, especially when Sono twisted in the tub and kissed his lovers neck, a silent apology for yet another day ruined by his emotions. Seijis gut clenched at that, but kissed Sonos forehead in return, an acceptance of sorts.

After their bath and dying each other off, Sono dressed down in some comfortable clothes, resting on his stomach in bed as Seiji layed next to him, rubbing his lower back and watched as the blond closed his eyes, drifting to sleep almost too quickly for Seiji's immediate comfort.

He wanted to spend all day with him like this; curled up in bed and ready to spoil him with unapologetic affections. Make up for the harsh words that were said...

But he couldn't.

In the middle of his back rub, Seiji had received an email from his publisher, congratulating him on the success of his latest manga and informed him that he was to come by the office immediately for a discussion on his next volume. Seiji frowned; the whole purpose of completing his recent book was so that he didn't have to go back to his publisher for a while and that he could spent as much time with Sono as he could. He tried to postpone this meeting, but his publisher was not taking no for an answer.

So, when Seiji was absolutely sure Sono was out for the night (I.E, sleeping like a log), he got him situated under his blankets and kissed his palm, his head, anywhere he could without Sono waking up. He then left him a note, apologizing for leaving so quickly and explained why, setting the note on his nightstand and begrudgingly left.

The meeting, if one could call it that, was so unnecessary and so ridiculous that Seiji left absolutely fuming, but didn't say anything as he made his way home, into his apartment....into his shower and eventually, into his bed.

Sleep alluded him...he tried thinking of things that made him tired, but all he could think about was Sono...how he was doing and if he had woken up yet to find his lover had left him...Seiji closed his eyes, telling himself that Sono needed his space and that he was trying his best to not come off as too clingy...

Occasionally, he would check his phone and look at his home screen...the picture of them together on Sonos couch when he fell asleep...he smiled and opted out of texting the blond, not wanting to stress him out further.

In the end, when Seiji finally had enough of not being able to relax, he got out of bed and into his living room, sat at his desk and pulled out his laptop, logging into his account....and did some research.

He spent a lot of time scrolling through sites of the same nature...taking notes of things he really needed to be on the look out for whenever Sono would have another panic attack. The last thing he was going to do was look like an ass.

Depression....PTSD....anxiety....things he knew Sono suffered from...but Seiji didn't know who to help him through it like he thought he did.

He had to fix that immediately.

At around 5 in the morning, 4 cups of coffee into his research, Seiji received three notifications on his phone, pulling him away suddenly from a video about depression in adults.

The first was a text from Yasuda, wanting to check in and see if things were alright. It was so like him to be up this early, probably doing his own drafts and figured Seiji would be up. Seiji responded quickly, mentioning how Sono had a panic attack and that he was doing some reading to find out how to handle it. Yasuda replied with one word....'Idiot.' and Seiji chuckled, knowing how true it was.

The second was an email from Yakura, being brief in mentioning how Takeo was no longer in Tokyo, but that there were still no signs of him in Osaka. Their search was still going and for that, Seiji was grateful.

The third was a text from Sono, who thanked him for his help and that he was sorry for ruining what was supposed to be a good day. He also mentioned that he felt slightly nauseous and couldn't stay asleep, but to not worry about him.

He even sent a picture of him in bed, curled up with the jacket that Seiji had totally forgot he left behind. It made the man smile and he responded with a heart and told him to have at least have a good day today and that he loved him.

Sono replied in seconds, responding with an 'I love you too.' before it went silent once again, leaving Seiji to go back to his research.

By 8 in the morning, just as he had downed his 7th cup of coffee, Seiji had an entire notepad full of tips, hints and methods to help someone....guide someone....through what he could only guess was the first of many episodes Sono may or may not go through.

Skimming through his notes and replaying what he went through yesterday in his head, he knew notes could only help him with so much. The rest would have to be all instinct.

But at least, with this, he was a little more prepared. Because he was going to keep his promise...he was going to keep his lover safe. He was going to keep him happy.

Or, at the very least, satisfied with himself.

And when Seiji finally got up from his desk to wash his coffee cup, a sour thought crossed through his mind. He now had a vague idea of where Sono was mentally and emotionally at this moment...honestly, he shouldn't have been too surprised. But at the same time, he thought back to everything Sono had said up to that point of his panic attack.

Those nurses and doctors just...allowed some madman to pay them off....look the other way while he went to go and kill an innocent teenager...simply because said teenager loved someone so much to the point of death. That same madman payed a business man to...to...and then graduation...

Sono didn't deserve that. He didn't deserve any of that pain. He suffered so much from the time he was a child right up to his saving grace that would've been his high school graduation...and Takeo ruined it.

He ruined it all.

The cup in Seiji's hand shattered in his tight grip, startling him out of his thoughts and he gasped, starting at the cuts in his hand, blood pooling and dripping into the sink. He simply blinked and watched his hand bleed and cover his palm in red. Never before was he this...livid at something he couldn't fully understand. And in that moment, it didn't matter.

All that mattered was that he was there for the love of his life. He swore he'd be with him and hold him forever. He wasn't about to let something like this get in the way of that promise.

He'd do anything to keep Sono safe...he'd give up everything if it meant he could take away the blonds pain and fears...his job, his reputation, anything.

And that's when it hit him. The tickets...the festival...Sono had said yes to being his date. He had almost forgotten...

Shaking his head quickly and turning on the water to rinse his hand, pulling him from his trance, Seiji sighed loudly to the open air of his kitchen. There was no point in getting this angry...not when Sono needed him to be level headed and strong for the both of them. Today was another wake up call that Seiji truly needed.

God...if there were anymore of these wake ups coming his way...he may just have to force Sono to move in with him or vice versa. That way, there'd be no worries of the other being gone for too terribly long and Seiji could ease up on his constant worrying.

That simple thought had Seiji chuckling to himself as he cleaned his hand. With all that was going on, with Sono going through his emotional shifts the way he was, there was no way he could even entertain the idea of them sharing a home...

Would he?

Chapter Text

I really didn't want to do this, but life has it's way of screwing with me.

Damn you, consequences!

Due to some personal/professional concerns (as well as having the worst timing in the world to not be creative), I've decided to put a hiatus on completing this story.

The words are not coming out the way they should and I don't want to post any chapter that doesn't meet my expectations, as well as disappoint the people who may or may not enjoy reading it. And yeah, this is kind of a dumb way to mention it, but I feel it's best that I take a while to really figure out where I want this story to go. I had a vision for it and that vision suddenly shifted.

Life, right?

Anyways, when this story does come back, it'll come back with 2 new chapters (5 and 6), and hopefully, I'll get back on track later, but not too terribly late. Cause that's just rude.

I hope you all understand and I appreciate/love those who have followed along so far. I hope it won't be a long wait, but I also hope it'll be worth it once it does come back! I put a lot of heart and love into this series and now I just want it to be better than it used to be.

Feel free to comment on my first part on the series and show it some love, as well as this second half because it's just being a literal pain in my emotions.

This little bit will go away once I get my life and this series together, so expect the 5/? to go back to 4 before I add a new chapter or two.

All the best for the best readers ever. <3