Actions

Work Header

Aldnoah Sonata In D Major 2

Chapter Text

The blond hair was fluttering violently in the air on the other side of the window. The hairs on the bow was shredding as it stroked the strings, making the splayed hairs sway uncontrollably. The muffled electronical sound of a warped violin was heard through the insulation, and the accompanying beat shook the floor. The boy who held a dark purple electric violin in his hand wore a playful smile on his sweaty face, like he was enjoying his experiments with systematically stepping on nearly a dozen pedals surrounding him on the floor with different sounds and functions. The pedals were connected to a computer which looped the sounds made with the violin, and by creating several different sounds – warped by the synthesizer in the computer – an edgy song was created.

Slaine’s fingers rushed over the strings, creating a fast paced melody, and at times he slid the fingers over the strings to change a note without breaking the sound for a suitable effect. Slaine had spent the entire day in the studio to experiment with his new gear he had been gifted by a music system company. He had gotten a powerful computer with the accompanying pedals, program and instructions on how to use it. The system was a brand new design and innovative on the market, and Slaine had gotten the honor of promoting it.

An installer had been at the studio to make sure everything functioned, and a representative from the company and Saazbaum were Inaho’s companions in the control room on the other side of the window glass, separating them and Slaine. The representative watched Slaine with excitement, telling whoever wanted to listen what a great choice it had been to choose Slaine for the promotion job, and Saazbaum watched silently but with eyes filled with something Inaho could identify as pride.

Inaho could not argue with neither of the two men; Slaine was a natural with the system due to his passion for music and his well-trained sense of sound. Slaine had – after he found the system comfortable to use – begun to push it, trying to find its limits. As of yet no limitations had shown themselves, and during those long hours of experimenting Slaine had accidentally created an original song. It was a trait Inaho found amusing in Slaine; his musical ability allowed for such pleasant accidents to occur a little now and then, and this song was the second accident within a month’s period.

Inaho had come straight to the studio after his school day had ended; he was supposed to help Slaine catch up with his school work once the boy was finished in the studio, since the blond had been forced to take the day off in order to experiment with the new equipment. It was important for Slaine to take time off from school in order to begin his work as a violinist, since the boy had decided to become a performing professional. Due to that Slaine’s already average grades had begun to drop, and Inaho had jumped in to support him the best he could. This time though was especially important to take a couple of days off from school.

Inaho! Guess what just happened!?” Slaine had blurted the moment Inaho had answered the phone two weeks ago. Inaho had been on his way home from an errand Yuki had sent him on. When Inaho had asked what Slaine meant Slaine had continued with such an excited voice he barely made any sense, and he had said: “Father called me and told me a company called Orbital Systems Inc. had called him and asked him if I would be interested in promoting their new music system for violins and film a commercial for it and become the face for the system and I’m freaking out because I don’t know if I should accept it and begin such a serious job this early in my career and right now I don’t know what to do because nothing makes sense in my head!

Calm down,” Inaho had said calmly. “Nothing of what you said made sense in my head either. Congratulations for the job offer.

Should I accept it?

Are you confident you can do it?

“… Y-yes, I think so…”

Then there is no reason to hesitate,” Inaho had said.

Now, as he watched the blond bounce around with his hair swaying in the air, heard the sounds made with the shredding violin bow in the boy’s hand, and saw him step on the pedals like a step dancer, Inaho knew he had done the right thing to encourage Slaine. Slaine was happy and excited about the new equipment he had gotten. The blond had never seen anything like it since the violin stage he had grown up seeing was the classical one. With this new system he got the chance to explore a new kind of world of violin music; the electric violin scene.

Suddenly the floodgates of sound opened inside the recording studio; Slaine had found a new function in the system and a deep bass shook the floor like a small earth-quake. The bass was made with him stroking the bow on the strings of the violin – which had been specially designed by the company for the system he was experimenting with. Saazbaum knocked on the window into the room but Slaine did not notice him; the boy was too busy having fun. Saazbaum called out to Slaine in the speakers inside the studio and told him to calm down and lower the volume before he would risk his hearing, but Slaine was too emerged in the fun that he did not hear him.

“That boy…” Saazbaum sighed irritably but with a slight smile on his lips.

“He is wearing the headphones,” the company representative said. “They insulate pretty well. They are made for concerts after all.”

Inaho looked at the instrument panel showing the decibel meter; it showed well over the limit of 95dB; the level at which sustained exposure would lead to hearing loss. Inaho hoped the company representative was correct about the headphones since the meter showed 119dB, and Slaine was not far away from the level of when the loudness would begin to induce pain.

The sound did not seem to bother the blond though. He stepped on the pedals by sheer impulse and played with the system, and the energy he emitted was heard in the song he played. It was jumpy and catchy, saturated with techniques of violin play and probably new innovative techniques Slaine had had to improvise throughout the day. The new system truly took the field of violin music to a new level, and therefore a completely new kind of playing had to be constructed, suited for the system. Slaine was the pioneer – an honor Inaho thought was huge and something Slaine deserved.

He looks so happy,’ he thought and watched Slaine stroke the strings with such speed and force the hairs on the bow broke and shed rapidly, and soon he would not have any bow hair left to play with. Slaine seemed to notice that and began to wrap up the improvised song, and the bow went faster and faster – fast enough it became a blur, and then with a last stomp on a pedal and a last stroke with the nearly spent bow, he finished the song with a bright smile.

Saazbaum picked up a water bottle from the table nearby and a towel as well, and then walked into the now silent recording room. Slaine’s posture was slumped with exhaustion and sweat dropped from his chin while his entire face was brightly red. Even his t-shirt was soaked with sweat from the intense playing, and he panted with deep breaths.

“How did … it go? Was it enough?” Inaho heard the blond ask his adoptive father with ragged breaths. Saazbaum handed him the towel and bottle and immediately Slaine wiped the sweat away from his face and then took several gulps of water.

“It was more than enough. I am surprised you adjusted yourself to the system as fast as you did, and you did it exquisitely,” Saazbaum answered with pride. “How are your fingers?” the man then asked, and Slaine held up his left hand to look at it and squeezed his fingers tightly into a fist.

“They ache, as usual, but I cannot tell if it is because of the playing or what happened to them – or both,” the blond answered and released the fist and moved his fingers to ease them up.

“You have played for six hours all in all. I am not surprised they ache. You should be careful of not overworking them,” his father said, and Slaine nodded.

The company representative hurried into the recording room with a delighted expression. The man seemed excited and delirious.

“It is such an honor to have you on board, Mr. Troyard,” the man said and gave Slaine a deep bow of respect. “That was amazing. I did not expect that kind of performance from you, and I ask for your forgiveness for not recognizing your talent sooner.”

Slaine stared at the man with an expression mixed with confusion and shock, and he quickly threw a glance at Inaho and shrugged his shoulders. The blond did not seem to know what to do and how to answer such a compliment.

Amusing…’ Inaho thought and walked over to the door into the recording room as well to wait for his turn to speak with Slaine.

“Th-thank you. The honor is mine,” Slaine answered awkwardly and gave the man a bow as well.

The company representative raised himself up and offered his right hand to Slaine, and said:

“So you accept the offer?”

Slaine looked up at his adoptive father, who nodded, and then shook the representative’s hand.

“Yes. I would love to,” the blond said smiling and the company representative nodded satisfied.

“Splendid. I will prepare the contract for next week, and then we can begin with the work. I will see both of you on Monday.”

They said their goodbyes and the man disappeared out through the door in a hurry, probably to let his supervisor know about the good news.

“I believe we will have to get you a manager,” Saazbaum said with a small smile on his lips as he turned to look at Slaine again, after following the company representative with his gaze. “You will get a lot of career offers after the commercial for the system launches, and I cannot be here to help you with that due to my own work in the symphony.”

“A manager?” Slaine asked with raised eyebrows. “I have no career yet. Is it time for a manager already?”

There was the humbleness again which Inaho recognized. Slaine did not expect him to get a strong career as fast as both Inaho and Saazbaum knew he would. As late as two days ago Slaine had been thinking on how to best build up a steady and balanced career after the commercial had been made. As he had spoken about those thoughts to Inaho, the blond had shown insecurity in how much his violin skills actually were worth.

I have to keep my eyes and ears open for new offers so people won’t forget me after the commercial is done,” he had said.

Inaho knew people would not forget about him as fast as Slaine thought, and especially not after today’s incredible performance in the recording studio; once the commercial was to be aired Inaho was sure Slaine’s phone and mailbox would get bombarded by new job offers as well as fan letters. The blond had already gotten a few of the later after his debut concert one month ago, and Slaine had been devastated about them.

I don’t deserve this! And there’s no contact information of the sender; how am I supposed to be able to thank them for such a nice letter?” the blond had cried, filled with guilt.

It had been a shock for Inaho to hear how affected Slaine had become from getting letters from people who thanked him for his debut concert and wished him good luck in the future, and who also complimented him on his violin play. Slaine had been a complete mess for two days and had resulted in hiding in his bed the moment he got home from school. Why he was so ashamed and felt such guilt was a mystery to Inaho.

But then again, he is way too humble,’ he thought and felt a slight worry of how well Slaine would face the fame once it was thrown his way after the commercial.

“Yes, I believe it is time for that,” Saazbaum declared. “Your career will begin with this commercial, and so we have to be ready to face the interest from music companies and symphonies, as well as artists,” the man explained and Slaine knitted his eyebrows out of insecurity. “I will take a look around for a manager. Do not worry about it.”

“Thank you, father,” Slaine said quietly and hugged the electric violin in his arms to find support. His confidence was always wavering like that, and it made him timid.

It was a mystery how Slaine switched so quickly, Inaho had thought many times. When Slaine got to play and release his musical ability – like today – he was bursting with self-assurance and joy, but the moment it came to someone praising him about it he lost all of his confidence and became withdrawn; it looked like he was ashamed of playing as well as he did.

A trauma from his time with Cruhteo?’ Inaho thought.

“I take it you wish to stay here for a while longer?” Saazbaum then asked and headed toward the door. Inaho stepped aside to let the man through.

Slaine raised his head and smiled slightly.

“I would want that, yes.”

Saazbaum nodded. “Be sure to turn everything off before you leave. The doors lock automatically so there is no need to worry about locking the studio; just make sure the doors close properly. Get back home safely. Call for a taxi,” Saazbaum said with a fatherly tone, and Slaine nodded. “And be careful with your fingers.”

“I will, father. Thank you for today. I see you tomorrow,” Slaine said and gave the man a slight bow.

“Good night, Kaizuka,” Saazbaum said to the brunet.

“Thank you. Good night, sir,” Inaho answered, and the man left the studio. The boys were finally alone.

The moment Inaho turned to look at Slaine again the blond had already hurried up to him and leaned closer with a smile on his lips. The boy kissed him while still hugging the violin, and as he leaned back again he chuckled.

“I thought they would never leave,” he said with a boyish smile. “The moment I saw you step in through the door I just wanted to put the violin down and kiss you.”

Inaho felt great joy hearing that. For Slaine to want to put the violin down – the single joy the boy had had for many years – for Inaho’s sake meant more to the brunet than he could express. Even if Slaine loved the violin, the boy still loved Inaho enough to notice him step in through the door into the studio and want to kiss him.

Inaho had become unsure of how much Slaine actually loved him. At times Inaho got the feeling the violin was Slaine’s first priority since all Slaine talked about was the violin. It was of no coincidence though; ever since Slaine had been freed from Cruhteo got to play the way he wanted, the boy’s inspiration to play had grown a lot. The blond boy had a need to express the immense inspiration with words and was excited while wording it, and now that he had gotten a job offer Slaine was so happy and nervous at the same time that the excitement and worry about his future career took all his energy.

Then again, during moments like these, when Slaine was willing to put the violin down for Inaho’s sake, that feeling of being second priority disappeared.

“Have you played all day?” Inaho asked and Slaine shook his head.

“No, I have been playing for about six hours in total, but I took several breaks to let my fingers and shoulders rest,” Slaine answered and pulled Inaho deeper into the recording room after placing the electric violin and spent carbon fiber bow onto a table. “Come play with me.”

Inaho succumbed to Slaine’s encouragement and sat down on a chair in the room after making sure he would not step on or tangle his feet in the cables running across the floor from the computer. The blond boy walked over to a large built in closet and opened the sliding door, and took a hold of a cello.

“You know the basics of playing a violin,” Slaine said with a smile and handed the cello to Inaho. “The cello is like a large violin; you play it similarly. Why won’t you try it? I think it suits you better than a violin.”

Inaho held the cello in his hands and looked at it. It was lighter than he expected it to be. Slaine had been teaching Inaho how to play the violin the past month and Inaho had gotten quite good at it on an amateur level. Inaho enjoyed taking lessons from Slaine since the blond was a good teacher and – most importantly – offered such intimate lessons that Inaho had been willingly pulled along to learn how to play. He liked it how close Slaine stood while teaching him.

Slaine handed him the bow to the cello and stepped up behind Inaho to lean over the brunet’s shoulder. He reached out his hands from behind him and placed the cello correctly in Inaho’s arms. Then he took a hold of Inaho’s left hand gently, and raised it to the thick strings.

“Do you remember the chords on the violin?” Slaine asked close to Inaho’s ear and the brunet felt a pleasant shiver run down his neck.

“Yes,” the brunet answered and put the bow against the strings.

“The cello’s strings are in a different order than on the violin,” Slaine instructed. “Instead of a G, D, A and E, the cello has C, G, D and A. You also make larger finger movements on the cello, but other than that it’s almost the same.”

“So the strings’ order is a step higher than on a violin?” Inaho asked and felt Slaine’s cheek brush against his ear when the blond nodded.

“Something like that, but the octave is about two steps lower than on a violin,” Slaine said quietly. “You already know the open string notes. Try a G on the D-string,” he then whispered with a smile, and Inaho thought for a short moment to get the strings in order in his mind, and then did as he was told.

G comes right after F,’ Inaho thought. ‘D, E, F… So I should put my fourth finger somewhere here on the D-string,’ Inaho thought and pushed his little finger against the string, and as he stroked the string with the bow a slightly off G-note was heard. Inaho corrected his finger position and managed to find a clean G-note.

“Good,” Slaine said and kissed Inaho’s cheek. “For each successful note you do, I will give you a kiss on your cheek. Now try a B on the A-string.”

Suddenly Inaho found himself enthusiastic about learning on how to play the cello. The cello felt much more comfortable than a violin due to the larger instrument being easier to handle. Inaho had had problems with the small scale of a violin and the sensitivity of it, but he felt much more at home with a cello. Then, the kisses Slaine gave were a great motivational factor. The sound of the instrument was lower than on a violin and for a short moment Inaho thought of the sound as close to that of a human.

On the A-string, B should be at the top…’ Inaho recited in his head and placed his index finger on the top of the string. He then pushed his finger against the strings and stroked with the bow, and an off B was heard. Again, Inaho corrected his finger position and soon a clean B resonated from the cello.

A kiss landed on his cheek.

“Good,” Slaine chuckled quietly, and then coiled his arms around Inaho’s neck to lean against him in a hug. “Make an E on the D-string,” he ordered, and Inaho did so. A third kiss. “Then D on the A-string.”

A fourth kiss… A fifth. A sixth.

After something that felt like half an hour, Inaho had found the chords of the instrument. Slaine let go of him and walked over to his Stradivarius violin which was hidden beneath a table, and took the wooden bow and violin from their case. He placed the old violin against his neck, raised his bow and then looked at Inaho with a smile.

“Shall we try an easy duet? I’ll tell you the notes, and just play according to the tempo,” Slaine said and began to play.

Inaho followed Slaine’s quiet instructions when the blond boy softly instructed him on the notes Inaho was to play. The song was slow to give Inaho time to move his fingers, and Slaine played beautifully to fill out the melody from Inaho’s cello.

Amazing Grace,’ Inaho thought as he recognized the melody they were playing. The notes Slaine had asked Inaho to try earlier were the notes he now told him to play, with the open strings included.

Inaho had trouble with finding the tempo, though, and Slaine quickly noticed his struggle. The boy began tapping his shoe with even intervals against the floor to help Inaho find the rhythm, and the tapping sound made it easier for the brunet to follow Slaine’s lead. From there on, their duet began to sound smoother for each minute they played. Even if Inaho’s playing was still clearly on an amateur level he did not mind it the least; it was simply too fun for him to care about his mistakes, and Slaine did not mind them either. The soft tunes from the cello reverberated pleasantly in Inaho’s chest, and Slaine’s beautiful violin tunes tugged at his heartstrings – making the moment they shared overwhelmingly touching.

That was when Inaho noticed he had fallen in love with Slaine for the second time. To create tunes with him in a duet was exciting on many levels and that excitement made Inaho want to let go of the cello and touch Slaine instead.

But I can’t,’ the brunet reminded himself and for a short moment lost his concentration on playing the cello. A sharp and ugly sound attacked his ears. ’Calm down.’

Slaine chuckled amused and ended the song smoothly, and Inaho followed his instructions till the end.

“That was really good!” Slaine exclaimed while smiling, and blushed with pride after he had lowered the violin. “I was right. The cello suits you much better.”

“I agree,” Inaho said and looked at the cello. “It felt much better to play on it.”

“We have never played a duet before,” Slaine said and moved restlessly like an excited school boy. “Thank you. It was fun.” The boy blushed even more.

Inaho nodded to agree in his usual way, and then threw a glance at the clock on the wall on the other side of the window inside the control room. It showed 19:07 in the evening.

“I think we should head home,” the brunet said. “You have homework to do.”

Slaine’s smile faded and he sighed heavily with shoulders drooping.

“I know. I had forgotten about it,” he said candidly and sighed a second time. “What about you? Do you have homework as well?”

Inaho shook his head and stood up from the chair, and placed the cello back in its stand in the closet – he was careful he would not stumble over all the cables on the floor on his way.

“I did mine during breaks at school,” he answered and turned around to look at Slaine. “You need to keep up with your school work as well. I understand that you have missed a lot in school due to the music.”

Slaine sighed a third time – much heavier than before – and crouched down next to the violin case to put his instrument and its bow inside it. He locked the bow in place with the pivoting security-plate and strapped the Velcro tie-down around the violin neck to secure it. Then he closed the expensive case.

“I know,” Slaine mumbled. “I just can’t seem to find the time for both school and my career. School requires full-time attention, and so does my musical career.” The blond boy got up with the case in his hand and looked somewhat disheartened. “I am greedy and I want both.”

“That is not possible,” Inaho said. “You cannot work full-time at both school and your career, and cutting back on school should not be an option. That’s why I am trying to help you as much as I can to keep up with school because I know how important your career is for you.”

Slaine looked at Inaho like he was about to cry. Inaho wondered for a moment if he had said something bad and hurtful; he knew he could sometimes be too honest and insensitive with the truth without having the intention to hurt someone. That was why Inaho was surprised when Slaine suddenly hurried up to him with long strides and hugged him tightly.

“Thank you…” Slaine whispered with a trembling breath. “Father said the same thing about school, but I get so confused since he also encourages me to work on my career. I really want both but it’s hard to prioritize my time.”

“You need a schedule for every day of the week,” Inaho said after he had thought for a short while. “I can help you with that as well.”

Slaine’s arms around the brunet tightened and the blond buried his face against the crook of Inaho’s neck. His breaths tickled pleasantly.

“Thank you again… What would I do without you?” Slaine whispered and kissed Inaho’s neck out of gratitude.

Before Inaho had had the time to say anything Slaine kissed his neck again, but this time slowly and lovingly. A shiver ran down Inaho’s spine. A second kiss – sultry with passion – made Inaho’s mind go numb. A third – with teeth gently biting the brunet’s neck – kicked Inaho’s mind into a spin. A fourth – with a tongue licking his skin – sent a shockwave of heat through him, and at that moment Inaho pushed Slaine slightly back. The blond boy stared at him with a confused expression due to Inaho’s action but then quickly turned away and headed toward the door to the recording studio, like he had given up on even asking why. Slaine had already asked several times why Inaho rejected him like that throughout the month they had been a couple. Each time he had asked, Inaho had simply answered that he thought they should not get that intimate with each other. Slaine had not kept asking why, and instead simply accepted it. To Inaho that was a sign Slaine knew what Inaho thought, since the blond did not question him any further.

Then why do you react like that?’ Inaho thought confused and was about to ask, but he was interrupted by Slaine:

“Shall we go then?” Slaine asked with a weak smile on his lips and Inaho’s question died before he had voice it.

I’m sorry,’ Inaho thought before he walked over to the door and Slaine turned the lights off. ‘I’m not rejecting you, but we shouldn’t do things like that.

Together they left the recording studio and headed out into the snowy evening in the early January. The wind was calm but the snow fell heavily around them and suffocated the natural city sounds around them into muffled noises. Slaine called for a taxi that would take them home, and they waited for the taxi in silence. None of them knew what to say to the other. The air around them was awkward, and even Inaho – who usually did not care about awkwardness since he was used to it – felt it the same way he felt the cold air against his cheeks.

Chapter Text

Slaine stared at Inaho for a short moment after the brunet had pushed him away. The boy’s heart ached terribly – it always did so whenever Inaho rejected his advancements of love. Slaine wondered why. He always did. Thoughts of humiliation and loneliness echoed in his mind and for a moment he wondered:

Does he even love me?

They had been together for only a month as lovers, despite they had been feeling something for a longer time than that ever since summer. One month was a short time and they both had had trouble with finding a footing in their relationship. Neither of them had had a lover before and so both of them were clumsy about it. They did not know each other as lovers yet which made their relationship seem more like that between friends than lovers.

Nothing has really changed this past month…

With that thought Slaine hurried to turn around to hide the tears that filled his eyes, and then walked up to the recording room door. The tears did not fall; he had been quick to take control over the sorrowful emotion and bit himself on his lip to distract his mind from making him cry. It would feel all the more humiliating to show Inaho how miserable Slaine became each time the brunet pushed him away, and Slaine was afraid his tears would make Inaho sad as well.

It feels like I’m the only one who wants things to change,’ Slaine thought and turned around once his tears had disappeared from the waterline of his eyes. 'And I know you're not being like this to be mean.'

“Shall we go then?” he asked Inaho and forced a smile onto his lips.

Inaho did not seem to think much of what the brunet had done; the boy simply walked over to Slaine as an answer to the blond boy’s question. Slaine found it frustrating that Inaho did not seem to understand what he was doing to him. Even if the blond knew Inaho had difficulties of understanding social codes Slaine had a hard time believing Inaho did not know what a push of rejection meant for the one being pushed. He was confused by what reasons Inaho had to reject him like that.

'He is not doing it to hurt me... And yet it hurts a lot.'

They dressed in their winter coats and got out of the studio – Slaine with his violin case in hand. Slaine made sure every door they walked through closed properly behind him to ensure the doors were locked; he would have died of shame if he was the cause of thieves emptying the expensive studio, especially now that the new violin system Slaine had gotten had been installed there. Then he called for a taxi and together with Inaho, under a complete silence, they waited for the cab on the sidewalk outside the studio.

Slaine could not help but to wonder if Inaho’s reasons to push him away and deny physical intimacy had to do with Inaho’s different way of thinking. The boy was not like others; he was pretty eccentric and they had had plenty of discussions about Inaho’s psychological restraints. Maybe the brunet thought of intimacy as something bothersome? Slaine could remember Inaho telling him he felt awkward about physical contact at times, especially if it was a new kind of contact which Inaho was not used to. Slaine wanted to support him with everything he had, and thus he hesitated to dig too deep into the problem – even if he wanted to.

Why do you hesitate to touch me? Do you even want to touch me at all? Is there anything I can do to make you want to touch me? I have willingly tried to give myself to you, and you don’t want me. Why?

Slaine stared at the falling snowflakes absentmindedly while he pondered on the mystery. His breaths danced in front of him in the form of white mist that slowly succumbed to the breeze’s soft caresses and faded away, only to be replaced with a new breath. Again he felt the horrible feeling of wanting to cry and he bit his lip once again to distract his mind from making his tears fall. He had to talk to Inaho, he knew that, and yet he believed it would upset Inaho greatly to bring it up. Slaine felt that if he did confront Inaho, the brunet would feel hurt since the confrontation was about Inaho’s social awkwardness. The blond thought that if he brought it up by asking all the questions he harbored, Inaho would feel attacked by him.

I don’t want to insult you,’ Slaine thought and decided to stop the urge from asking Inaho the questions of whys and ifs. ‘I don’t want to make you think that your social awkwardness is the problem. I will support you in that unconditionally – if you truly want me.’

The taxi arrived and the boys got inside the warm car. The cab smelled of leather and leather cleaner, like most taxis did. As the cab began to move Slaine observed the darkening world outside the window. Streetlights flashed past them and snow reflected the orange glow of the lights around the buildings. People were walking on the streets, some carrying shopping bags while others held briefcases in their hands. Everyone were dressed in warm winter clothes. It would have certainly been a romantic evening was it not for the nagging feelings of loneliness that refused to leave Slaine’s heart alone. The blond sighed and closed his eyes to rest. The tiredness suddenly washed over him and the ache in his previously damaged fingers awoke yet again. Slaine felt a slight worry accompany the tiredness and he clenched his left hand into a fist a couple of times, slowly to not hurt the fingers. The joints in the fingers felt swollen.

I have played too much today,’ Slaine thought and gently rubbed his left hand fingers with his right. In the corner of his eye he noticed Inaho look at him, and Slaine quickly let go of his left hand and forced a smile onto his lips as he looked at the observing brunet. ‘I’m fine. Don’t worry,’ Slaine told him silently and hoped Inaho understood the meaning of his smile. Inaho looked at him for a short moment before he turned his face away to continue looking out through the window, the hint of worry disappearing from the brunet’s seemingly emotionless expression. Slaine frowned slightly as he turned his eyes toward his left hand before he turned his attention out through the window as well. That was the entirety of their journey home.

♪♫♪♫

“I don’t get this,” Slaine yawned and scowled at his school book that wore the title “Linear Algebra”. The chapter’s name was “Fundamental theories”.

After they had arrived to Slaine’s apartment the boys had found their seats on the living room floor. Slaine lay on his stomach with a red pencil in hand and stared at the math book in front of him on the floor, and Inaho was reading a book about a physicist called Boltzmann and his theories while the brunet took careful notes. To Slaine it was a mystery how Inaho could willingly read such books with complex theories and mathematics. As Slaine peeked at the brunet’s notes he read “Boltzmann’s entropy: S = k log W” and a lot of formulas Slaine had no idea why Inaho thought they were interesting.

The moment Slaine had voiced his indirect wish for Inaho to help him the brunet put his book down and leaned closer to take a look at Slaine’s book and notes.

“Set theory,” Inaho said after taking a quick look at Slaine’s book, quickly recognizing what chapter Slaine was studying. “What is it you don’t get about it?”

Slaine sighed and chewed on the tip of his pencil while he stared at his notes in the notebook, and then sighed shamefully:

“I don’t get what the set theory is at all… The book explains it so badly.”

Inaho moved from his spot opposite of Slaine and lay down next to the blond. Their shoulders brushed against each other and Slaine felt his heart flutter joyfully from the small touch. Every touch he got from Inaho was highly valued by the blond.

“As you probably imagine a set is a collection of things,” Inaho explained and Slaine tried to concentrate on what Inaho was saying, and watched the brunet write down the entire violin family into Slaine’s notebook. “Like for example, imagine the violin family as a set, where you have the violin, viola, cello and double bass. These four instruments that make up the set is called elements or objects. For example: The instruments x belong to the set X. You write it like this.”

Inaho wrote ‘x ∈ X’ into Slaine’s notebook.

“So the instruments are elements or objects, and they together make a set,” Slaine recited and wrote ‘violin violin family’ in his book. “Like this?”

“Exactly,” Inaho said and Slaine waited for Inaho to continue explaining. He saw the brunet draw a circle around the four instruments, enclosing them inside a bubble, and then began listing other random instruments outside of the bubble with listing the violin instruments again as well.

“Let’s name the entire group of musical instruments as Y,” Inaho said and drew a big circle around everything he had written in the notebook; both the bubble with the violin instruments and the other instruments outside of the bubble. “The violin family X is a subset to musical instruments Y, because all instruments in X also exists in Y; as well as the piano and flute are defined as musical instruments, so are the instruments in the violin family.”

Slaine frowned while staring at Inaho’s notes in the blond’s notebook.

“This is great and all, but what does the instruments have in common with numbers?” Slaine asked and sighed. He was tired.

“Just like the violin family consists of elements, so do numbers,” Inaho said and wrote down the even numbers 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 in Slaine’s notebook. He drew a circle around them, and then wrote all ten numbers from 1 to 10 outside of the circle, and then drew a big circle around it all. “The even numbers are all x and belongs to the subset X, and the entire group of numbers from 1 to 10 is Y. Again, X is the subset of Y.”

Slaine stared at Inaho’s scribble for a while and thought through everything Inaho had said and written, and then a light bulb began to slowly shine in his mind. Suddenly he felt excited.

“Oh! I think I get it!” Slaine said happily.

“You write the definition like this,” Inaho said and wrote ‘X ⊂ Y’ in Slaine’s notebook.

Slaine quickly grabbed his pencil and wrote ‘violin family musical instruments’.

“Like this but with number sets instead?” Slaine asked and Inaho nodded.

“Yes, that is correct,” Inaho answered and then kept explaining the other definitions of different sets in the set theory in a similar manner, and what the theory was used for.

“What use do I have from learning all this?” Slaine wondered as Inaho had explained the set theory.

“Probably no use at all,” the brunet answered and went back to study about Boltzmann’s theories. “We learn math in school to help us develop a mind that is ready for problem solving in life in general, not because we need advanced mathematics to survive.”

“Problem solving?” Slaine asked and arched an eyebrow. “So they’re not just torturing us students because it’s fun?” he then chuckled.

“No,” Inaho said and turned a page in his heavy book. “We learn to see connections between problems and their elements in order to solve them, by forcing us to use detailed problem solving just like you have to do in math. It trains our mind into solving future problems of any kind. It’s a useful brain exercise.”

Slaine listened intently, finally understanding the reasons behind his homework and began studying with interest. ‘So school takes more responsibility of our growth than I thought,’ he thought with a smile. He felt lucky to have Inaho help him since even if Inaho was still in junior high he already knew the subjects in high school. The brunet was a smart person; no matter what problem Slaine had with school work Inaho could always help him.

“Thank you,” Slaine said with a bright smile and raised himself up from the floor to kiss the brunet’s cheek before he continued with reading his algebra book and taking notes. Inaho went back to read his book as well and they spent the rest of the evening in silence while both were studying; Slaine because he had to, and Inaho because he wanted to.

Once the clock on the wall showed 22:30 Slaine was ready to fall asleep on the floor with his school book as an uncomfortable pillow. He groaned loudly to complain about his exhausted state and noticed Inaho look up at him. The blond quickly grabbed the chance to get some pity from his lover.

“Feel sorry for me,” Slaine mumbled from where he rested his right cheek against the book. “I’m so tired.”

“You have worked hard today,” Inaho said with a hint of being proud over Slaine’s performance with both the music and mathematics. “You did well.”

Slaine raised his head from the book and stared at Inaho with half-closed eyes due to the drowsiness that weighed him down.

“I wanted compassion, not praise,” Slaine said and pretended to look sour for a moment to extend his joke – before he realized something.

Praise is so cold compared to compassion,’ he thought and his pretended expression or sourness turned into confusion. He quickly averted his gaze from Inaho and looked down at his book; he pretended he was reading something on the page when in reality he was contemplating on what he had just realized. Inaho did not seem comfortable with physical intimacy – the kind of sympathy Slaine wanted from him. Inaho’s way of encouraging Slaine was by praising him, not by showing him love. ‘He’s not like me…

A hand patted Slaine’s hair and Slaine felt a sudden urge to cry. ‘No, that’s not enough…’ he thought and looked up at Inaho. The brunet gazed at him with those eyes which usually never told about the emotions behind them. Slaine had gotten better at deciphering that seemingly emotionless expression, but Yuki – Inaho’s sister – was still better at it for natural reasons due to them growing up with each other. Slaine was dying to know what was going on behind those eyes that now watched him while a warm hand gently caressed his head for a short moment. What was Inaho thinking about? What did he feel in that moment?

Do you love me?

Each little cell in Slaine’s body vibrated with longing. He wanted to have a similar night like their first night as a couple – the night when they had kissed each other to sleep on the floor they now rested on.

“You could have at least kissed me as a reward,” Slaine said with a wry smile. He bravely tried to make his smile look happy but his eyebrows would not stop furrowing. His heart ached in the small chamber of his chest.

Why do I have to tell you how to love me?

Slaine watched the brunet lean closer and soft lips pecked Slaine’s. At that moment – when Inaho was leaning back again – Slaine could not help himself from getting up from the floor and throw his arms around the other boy’s neck. He forcefully pushed his lips against Inaho’s, desperately nibbling and licking them between the kisses. He wanted more. He needed more.

I’m sorry, but I need more than just a peck from your lips,’ he thought panicked as he realized what he was doing; forcing himself on Inaho. ‘Inaho will push me away again…

“Slaine,” he hard Inaho’s voice say. It was not colored by love; it was colored by frustration.

“Don’t push me away!” Slaine cried and kissed him once again, but hands pushed against his shoulders anyway. Fear of rejection struck the blond and he let go of Inaho’s neck with his arms to spare himself the feeling of being pushed away; it was easier to let go of Inaho willingly than be pushed away from him by force. He watched the brunet stare back at him.

Are you angry?

“I’m sorry,” Inaho said with his usual monotone voice. “We shouldn’t-“

“Do something like that,” Slaine sighed – interrupting Inaho – and hung his head. “I know… I’m sorry…”

You won’t even yell at me,’ Slaine thought and felt tears gather in his eyes. ‘Show me some kind of emotion based on that you care, since you refuse to touch me. I don’t mind if it’s anger or love, sadness or joy. Just show me that you care enough about me to make you feel something.

“Slaine,” he heard Inaho say with his voice just as monotone as ever when the brunet was about to speak. There was no emotion in it as far as Slaine could hear.

No, that won’t do. Show me emotion or I won’t listen,’ Slaine thought rebelliously and got up from the floor. ‘I don’t want to hear you say you don’t want to touch me with such an emotionless voice.’

“I’m sorry, Inaho,” the blond said and walked toward the bathroom. “I think we should go to sleep now. We have school and work tomorrow. Thank you for all the help with algebra. It was a lifesaver.”

With that Slaine brushed his teeth and he stepped aside to give Inaho room next to the sink to brush his teeth as well, and once they finished they changed into pajamas and went to bed. Slaine instantly turned his back against Inaho and lay on the edge of the mattress, as far away from Inaho he possibly could. As he pushed his face against the pillow tears trickled down the bridge of his nose and temple, and they disappeared into the fabric of the pillow case. His heart hurt so much he curled up beneath the duvet, hiding his silent cry from Inaho in case the brunet would accidentally notice him.

Why do I have to feel like this?’ Slaine thought with childish frustration. ‘He doesn’t love me at all…

Deep down Slaine knew that was not the case but in his hurting state he immediately thought of the worst situation he could find. His mind always drifted away toward the worst situations like that, never giving him a single hint of reason to how to feel better. It served no function at all right now except make him feel worse about their relationship. He knew that and yet he could not stop his mind spinning out of control.

I love you… Please, love me too.

♪♫♪♫

“Have you seen the new trailer for the oncoming Wild West movie?” Calm asked excitedly as all of them were sitting in the school cafeteria during lunch.

“You mean the one with the lawman who turns into an outlaw and joins a bandit gang?” Nina asked while she was busy looking at herself in a pocket mirror, fixing her bangs by brushing them to the side with her fingers.

“I’ve heard it’s supposed to be an action movie,” Inko said and took a bite of the lunch she had bought at the school cafeteria.

“The guys in it look dreamy,” the blond girl giggled and folded the pocket mirror to put it back into her purse.

Calm pursed his lips and folded his arms hearing Nina say that, and grumbled:

“I was hoping to have a discussion about the cool plot, and not the guys’ appearance.”

Inaho listened idly to his friends playfully bicker about the movie while his own thoughts were occupied somewhere else. He thought about what had happened last evening; both at the recording studio and in Slaine’s living room. It nagged at him.

Why won’t he listen when I try to speak to him?’ Inaho thought. He was frustrated. If Slaine knew why Inaho was stopping him from getting intimate with him, why did Slaine insist on acting the way he did? When Inaho tried to speak to him Slaine did not want to listen, and Inaho respected that; they never solved the situation but Slaine seemed to go back into his usual self pretty quickly and smile and talk again like usual, like their unsolved situation had never happened in the first place. Inaho had thought of it as a sign that Slaine understood what Inaho was doing but took it less seriously than Inaho by insisting on awaking strong feelings inside the brunet on purpose.

Does he really understand what is going on?’ Inaho thought and tried to eat his lunch but the food tasted nothing.

This kind of situation was new to him. He had never been intimate with someone before, and that thought alone scared him enough to feel insecure; Inaho had no idea what to do in an intimate situation. Thoughts of him not being ready for it instantly popped into his mind.

Inaho loved Slaine above anything else but it was too soon for both of them to engage in deep intimacy. They had been together for about a month; it was a short time and rushing into adult activities felt intimidating because Inaho did not know how to engage in them and what to do. The brunet had always protected his personal space dearly and Slaine was the first one to invade it on Inaho’s consent. Slaine seemed much more passionate than Inaho and thus the blond was in a hurry to satisfy his passion, while Inaho needed more time.

I don’t want to hurt him by rushing into things when not feeling ready,’ the brunet thought and put his chopsticks down. His appetite had disappeared completely. ‘Being intimate is so profound for me, and we’re too young for taking such decisions in a new relationship like this.’

Slaine was soon to turn 17 years old, and about a month later Inaho was to turn 16. Even if they were older than the minimum age of consent of 13 years old, copulation was still forbidden with someone younger than 18 unless a parent gave them their approval. Inaho – due to being colored by the culture he had been brought up in – believed they both were too young to give consent to the acts he knew Slaine yearned for. The reason why Inaho thought like that was not because the law said so, but because he thought that sharing their bodies was a huge step. However, he did feel the same yearning the moment Slaine was close by, and it became worse the moment Slaine threw himself headlong at the brunet. Inaho had to push him away before he would break his principal about the matter of waiting with physical intimacy out of sheer impulse.

He makes me want to accept it but we’re not mentally mature to take such responsibilities; we might hurt each other by not thinking things through. We’re not adults yet,’ he thought and felt tired. ‘I need more time…’ Inaho felt envious of Slaine’s passion and how the blond disregarded possible future confusions and hurt by throwing himself into a moment without thinking it through. ‘Is it because we are so different that we have some kind of communication problem?

“Inaho?” he heard a girl’s voice say and Inaho looked up at Inko who stared at him worriedly. “What do you think about us all going to watch the Western movie at the cinema on the movie’s opening night?”

Inaho had not noticed he had spaced out and not heard a single word of what his friends had said for almost the entire lunch break.

“When is it?” Inaho asked and tried to calm his thoughts by focusing on planning a night out with his friends.

“The 11th of January,” Calm said – still as excited as ever. “It’s a Sunday.”

“I can’t,” Inaho said promptly. “It’s on Slaine’s birthday.”

The others stared at him for a moment with both understanding and disappointment, before Nina softly slammed her fist into her palm as an idea had emerged in her head.

“That’s great, actually,” she said. “We can treat him for the ticket and snacks as a birthday present if he wants to join us! I mean, he has so much money he doesn’t need physical presents or anything, so why not give him a happy memory instead?”

“Yeah!” Calm said and his smile faded slightly. “I haven’t seen him for a while. I heard he’s been pretty busy. I asked him over the chat on his online profile what he was up to, and he answered he had a lot of work coming up and he had to prepare for it.”

The Western boy looked to Inaho to confirm it, and Inaho nodded.

“He is to sign a contract on Monday for a job,” the brunet said. “He has been working hard to prepare for it.”

“A job? What kind of job?” Inko inquired and kept eating her lunch.

“He is to promote a new synthesizer system for violins. He is practicing on a new way of violin play,” Inaho answered.

Everyone went silent once again and stared at Inaho with shock. The brunet wondered why they were surprised by it. Slaine was good at what he did – a true prodigy – and they should have known that after the concert Slaine had had a month ago at Shinawara High School. The blond had played exquisitely back then and shown great potential as a violinist.

“Wait what?!” Nina asked with a raised voice. “Are you serious? That’s amazing!”

“A new way of playing the violin?” Inko said with wide eyes. “Like, a completely new way?”

“Yes,” Inaho said and looked at her. “I was at the studio yesterday after school. He has learned how to manipulate the system pretty well. The system allows him to play the violin in ways no one has done before.”

“So he’s like an inventor of some kind?” Calm said with enthusiasm. “Like a crazy scientist but a musician instead?”

Nina laughed:

“A crazy musician? Really?”

They all seemed joyfully surprised by Slaine’s current job but Calm was closer to the truth than the boy probably thought. The music had begun to consume Slaine. Inaho turned his attention to his food as he felt a worry bubble inside his chest, and interrupted the others:

“His grades are decreasing because of it.”

Inko, Calm and Nina went silent and stared at the brunet. This time no one spoke a word since all of them understood the seriousness of it. Even if Calm and Nina did not express themselves too seriously about school they still knew grades were important and attended school because they did not want to become dropouts in the future. They all had a dream to strive for which needed good grades and motivated them to continue to look forward to begin high school in just a couple of months. Slaine on the other hand had already finished junior high; he could drop out if he wanted to. He was set for life with the fortune his father had left him and there was no real reason for him to finish high school if he wished to solely focus on his music. Slaine’s dream was already in his reach and Inaho feared Slaine would lose interest in at least finishing high school and not climb on the educational ladder; something Inaho found troubling since he believed knowledge was important in developing one’s self. He had hoped Slaine wanted to have a good education and graduate from a university in the future.

“Oh dear…” Nina said quietly and the school bell rang to signal to the students the classes were to begin.

♪♫♪♫

Slaine stood in the studio and played on the purple electric violin like he had done the day before, but something was off. His fingers on his left hand did not move as smoothly as the day before and his mind could not find peace inside the world of music. His technical level of playing had dropped a step lower because of that; he could not concentrate properly. All he thought about were the stiff fingers and the frustration concerning Inaho’s reluctance to show him he cared, muddled Slaine’s process of thoughts. The music was not in tune with his ability to play at all and soon he heard his father’s voice say in the speakers:

“Slaine, stop for a moment.”

Slaine sighed deeply and felt like throwing the electric violin to the floor. He was so frustrated he wanted to childishly act out on something to relieve himself of the weight of it. He did not know why he was suddenly so angry about his entire situation; the frustration was burning in him.

Saazbaum stepped into the recording room and looked at Slaine with a slight frown on his face. Slaine felt like the man saw through him and instinctively tried to hide his face by turning his head away from his adoptive father.

“How are you feeling, Slaine?” Saazbaum asked and Slaine furrowed his brows.

“My fingers feels weird,” the blond answered. “They feel swollen where they were injured by Cruhteo.”

“Maybe you played too much yesterday,” the man said as an answer and reached out a hand to Slaine. “Let me take a look.” Slaine raised his left hand to the man and felt Saazbaum inspect his fingers by gently pressing them between his thumb and index finger. Slaine realized the man’s hands were bigger than Slaine’s and for a moment it felt comforting now that Slaine felt so lost. Saazbaum had slowly begun to feel like a true father, and right now Slaine felt it more than ever. “They feel swollen in the joints and at the tips. I think you should let a doctor have a look at them and rest for a couple of days.”

Slaine was quick to shake his head.

“No, I have to practice,” the blond said with emphasis. “I have to be prepared for when we will shoot the commercial.”

He felt Saazbaum’s eyes rest on him for a while before the man let his hand go.

“Are you sure?” his father asked, and Slaine nodded.

“Yes. I can keep playing. I just need to calm my mind,” the boy insisted.

“Do you have a lot going on in your mind?”

Slaine nodded silently and raised the violin to his chin and shoulder to signal to his father he wanted to end the conversation and was ready to continue playing.

“This job offer makes me think a lot and thus I have difficulties of letting my mind rest,” he lied and raised the bow to the strings. “No need to worry, father. I feel excited about this. I want to do this properly.”

Slaine began playing once again and ignored Saazbaum’s stare. His father seemed worried but let the boy play – and that was what Slaine did. The blond boy played the song he had created yesterday by accident but he did so absentmindedly. The humiliation and frustration of being rejected by Inaho burned in his heart and the swollen sensation in his slightly aching fingers made him grow angrier.

Stupid fingers! Stop aching!

The song got a darker sound to it than yesterday.

Let me love you, Inaho.

A couple of hairs on the bow shredded and a sensation of anguish began to vibrate in his chest.

I don’t understand why it has to be so difficult.

The pressure on the strings became heavier as he played louder in an attempt to drown out the ache in his chest.

I don’t want to care about your disability.

The new bow went faster, tearing at the strings.

I don’t want to feel like this.

He heard his father call for him in the speakers but he ignored it and played louder and faster, relieving himself of the anger he felt by letting it out on the violin.

Why can’t you see that I love you so much, Inaho!?

A loud snapping sound was heard in the speakers and Slaine heard it next to his ear as well. A sharp pain attacked his left cheek, right beneath his eye. The bow he had stroked on the small E-string found no support and Slaine halted and froze in the position he had been in when the snap had been heard. He looked at the violin. The E-string had snapped and the bow had shredded. Something warm trickled down his cheek and found its way to the crease between his lips. A metallic taste spread in his mouth.

Blood…

“Slaine!” Saazbaum said with a panicked voice and ran inside the recording room but this time took a tight grip of Slaine’s right shoulder and raised his head with the other hand beneath Slaine’s chin. Slaine looked at Saazbaum with shock. “Are you all right!?” he watched his father ask in a hurry. “Your eye is not injured!?”

Slaine stared at him without knowing what to answer. He had never broken a string like that before and was in a state of utter surprise. A rush of adrenaline coursed through him. His body felt instantly hot and his hands and feet tingled unpleasantly from the shock. He raised his hand to his hurting cheek and touched it. A wet feeling spread on his fingertips and when he lowered his hand to look at it he saw blood.

“I feel fine,” Slaine said with a quiet and emotionless voice – similar to Inaho’s. “I can keep playing. I just need to replace the string.”

“No, you are not fine, Slaine,” Saazbaum scolded angrily and grabbed both of Slaine’s shoulders sternly. All Slaine could do was to stare at him in silence. “You will take the rest of the days off this week and concentrate on your studies instead. You have overworked yourself.”

At least you care enough to get angry when you’re worried about me,’ Slaine thought and suddenly felt like crying. ‘Yell at me some more.’

Something warm rolled down his right cheek as well and his vision blurred. A tear trickled down his cheek and soon another fell down on the other. Saazbaum let go of Slaine’s shoulders from surprise and stared at the crying boy with worry. A sudden sting hurt on Slaine’s left cheek again; a salty tear had fallen into his wound and he quickly closed his eyes and dried his tears with the sleeve to his sweater, accidentally smearing the blood over the sweater's fabric as well.

“Forgive me…” Slaine whispered and felt ashamed for having broken down into a cry in front of Saazbaum. “I just feel stressed out about this job,” he lied.

“Boy…” he heard his father say and something dabbed the tears away from Slaine’s wet chin. Slaine opened his eyes and looked at the man who gently dabbed the tears and blood from his cheeks with a handkerchief. The man had a slightly frowning smile on his lips and eyes. “Maybe it is too soon for you to take on this kind of responsibility?”

No! I want this!’ Slaine thought panicked.

“N-no! I want to do this. I really want to do this,” the blond said almost with a beg.

The job is not the actual problem. Don’t take this chance away from me.’

“The question is if you can do this?” Saazbaum asked gently and folded the handkerchief to press it against Slaine’s wound to stop if from bleeding. “I understand you want to, but are you sure you can?”

Slaine watched the man silently for a while, amazed of how compassionate his adoptive father could be.

“Y-yes. I can do this,” Slaine said and pressed his lips together with determination and gathered his thoughts. “I will do this.”

“Very well then. If you ever feel overwhelmed, let me know and we shall call for a hiatus on the job in order for you to recover,” Saazbaum finally said, and Slaine nodded.

“I will. Thank you, father.”

Saazbaum removed the handkerchief from Slaine’s cheek and offered it to the blond instead to trade it for the bow in Slaine’s hand. The boy gave him the shredded bow and accepted the handkerchief to press it against his wound.

“Let us get you home,” the man then said and took the violin from Slaine’s hand, and together they left the recording studio.

Chapter Text

He heard his father say:

“Let me introduce to you your new manager, Slaine.”

Then he listened to the young man next to his father continue:

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Troyard. It is an honor. My name is Harklight and I look forward working with you.”

The young man reached out a hand to the blond to greet him and Slaine tilted his head slightly as he stared at the young man with dark hair and eyes.

Those eyes…’ Slaine thought and blinked himself out of his thoughts. ‘So soft and friendly.

“Oh! The pleasure is mine,” Slaine said and took a hold of Harklight’s outstretched hand and shook it. “Please, come in.”

Slaine stepped aside to let the two men into his apartment. It was Sunday and Slaine had gotten a surprise call from Saazbaum who had told him he had found a manager for him. Saazbaum had excused his sudden call and demand to have Slaine meet this new manager since it was Sunday and Slaine had been told to take the day off and rest. The man had wished for Slaine to meet with his manager before Slaine would go to the meeting at Orbital Systems Inc. so he would get to know the manager before Slaine would bind himself to a contract. Slaine watched Harklight untie his winter shoes; the shoes seemed brand new and expensive. Then he watched Harklight take off his winter coat; the coat seemed to be of a budget priced mass production line from a common store. The dark blue knitted sweater had burgundy patterns in it and looked classy despite it coming from one of the mass produced lines as well. Beneath that sweater the man wore a classy white shirt, and the pair of suit pants were of a budget line as well.

He has bought expensive shoes recently. Why?’ Slaine thought in confusion but then woke up from his thoughts again, and he hurried to ask:

“Would you like some coffee or tea? I did not know whatever you would have preferred, Mr. Harklight.”

Harklight smiled with a warm smile. The man seemed excited and happy.

“Oh! I would very much like to have a cup of tea, if it is of no inconvenience to you,” the man answered and Slaine smiled as well.

“Not at all. Please, take a seat in the living room and I will be with you shortly,” the bond said and then looked to his father. “Would you want some coffee perhaps?”

Saazbaum hung up his expensive coat on the coat-hanger and nodded.

“Yes, I would actually. Thank you, Slaine.”

Slaine nodded happily and hurried to the kitchen. He felt excited. He had never had visitors like this before; no one except Saazbaum, Inaho and Yuki had been visiting him before and thus Slaine got to finally feel like a proper host for a guest. He quickly turned on the expensive espresso machine and it quietly began to grind the coffee beans and make the coffee, which dropped into a jug. Then he filled the water boiler to boil the tea water for Harklight and prepared a tray with three cups and tea spoons, a sugar pot with sugar cubes, and three small tea cans with different tea flavors. He poured the coffee into the cups and the hot water into a tea pot, and then excitedly carried them to the living room where Harklight and Saazbaum were speaking about the contract Slaine was to sign the next day.

“Sorry if it took a while,” Slaine said out of courtesy and placed the tray onto the rosewood coffee table where the two men sat. “Please help yourselves.”

“Lovely! Thank you very much, Mr. Troyard,” Harklight said with a smile and looked at the different tea flavors.

Saazbaum offered Slaine his gratitude as well and reached out to take his cup of coffee. The man liked his coffee black, just like Slaine.

Inaho prefers tea but likes coffee with milk in it at times,’ Slaine thought as he pondered on the different ways people enjoyed their coffee. ‘Yuki likes it with a lot of sugar.’ The blond boy was about to chuckle as he realized how silly his thoughts were but used that to smile politely instead.

“I was unsure of what tea you liked, Mr. Harklight. Forgive me for not asking you earlier,” Slaine said and watched the other man pick up one of the small tea cans. Harklight had chosen the Wuyi oolong tea.

“No, I am quite grateful. Because of that I get to try oolong tea,” Harklight answered with a bright smile.

Slaine noticed the young manager sat on the edge of the armchair and seemed somewhat nervous as he gently poured the tea into the pot. The boy wondered if this was the young man’s first time being a manager to someone like Slaine; even if Slaine hated to admit it he knew his family name was somewhat of a legend in the world of classical music. As far as Slaine knew his family had been violinists for generations but the name had disappeared from the stage for a short while due to his grandfather. Why that was the case, Slaine did not know; his father had passed away before he had had the chance to ask. Once Slaine’s father had decided to step into the spotlights the name had blossomed once again due to his father’s skill which were greater than the previous generations’, and now it was Slaine’s turn to carry on that legacy.

Is it a big thing for Harklight, to shoulder my future career?’ he thought. ‘It’s not that special. Right…?

Slaine was not sure how big his name actually was and he preferred not to find out either. He had to admit he was scared; Saazbaum and everyone from the classical stage treated him like he was an expensive crystal vase. Why did they treat him as something so special? He was an ordinary boy. He could not see himself as something special at all; he simply played the violin because he enjoyed it – loved it even.

“I have spoken to Mr. Harklight about the contract you shall sign tomorrow, Slaine,” Saazbaum said after he had sipped his coffee. “He is well informed about the job and will accompany you tomorrow to the office of Orbital Systems.”

“You will not come along, father?” Slaine asked and Saazbaum knitted his eyebrows slightly.

“I got an urgent call yesterday and I have to get back to the symphony. We are rehearsing for an upcoming tour and thus I have to get back to Germany. My flight leaves tonight. I show full trust in Harklight; he will take well care of you,” the man explained.

Suddenly Slaine felt nervous as well. He was to sign a contract without his father by his side, and instead rely on a stranger for support.

“I will go through the legal principles with you of you as a minor signing a contract, Mr. Troyard,” Harklight said and raised the tea cup to his lips and continued before he sipped the tea: “I have experience with child performers from my previous work with clients of your age range.”

Slaine noticed the young man throw a glance at the small sticking plaster on his cheek, covering the injury from yesterday. Slaine quickly lowered his head to hide from the man’s prying gaze.

“I chose Mr. Harklight for that single reason; his previous work records proves he is suited for taking care of you, Slaine,” Saazbaum filled in and Slaine felt a slight relief hearing the young manager was qualified despite his seemingly young age.

“That is reassuring,” the blond said but the nervousness did not subside. He tried to quickly find a new topic of discussion to calm himself down, and suddenly said: “The weather is quite cold, is it not?”

Stupid! That was such an awkward thing to say!’ he thought as he realized what a bizarre change of subject that was. Harklight and Saazbaum stared at him with slightly raised eyebrows and Slaine blushed terribly, before the young manager chuckled:

“Yes. Last winter was pretty warm but this feels like a fimbulwinter; it is hard to imagine spring coming any time soon. My car was covered with frost this morning when I was to meet Mr. Saazbaum.”

Slaine’s blush disappeared the moment he found interest in such a strange word.

“Fimbulwinter?” he asked and tilted his head slightly as he looked at Harklight and waited for the man to explain.

“In the Northern Europe they call really harsh winters for fimbulwinter,” the young man answered and Slaine recognized the word but in its original form.

"Oh! I know that word but in its native language! My dad used to say that when I was a child and when winters were really cold,” Slaine said with a smile and the nervousness had disappeared entirely along with the blush from his previous awkwardness. “He used to say that during such winters the winter coated wolves would come closer to populated areas to hunt sheep, and that I should be careful of going out alone in the dark since the white wolves would blend so well into the snow that you might not see them.”

“He sounds like he was a well-educated father,” Harklight said and Slaine smiled even brighter.

“Yes, he really was!” the blond answered happily with excitement to be allowed to talk about his biological father – but then he remembered his father had passed away and his smile faded. He lowered his eyes to the cup of coffee in his hands and frowned slightly before he forced a smile onto his lips and looked up at Harklight again. “I appreciate you taking on the task of a manager for me. Thank you.”

“The pleasure is mine. I think we will get along well,” Harklight said with a smile.

They continued speaking about the law governing a minor signing a contract. Harklight informed Slaine that since he was a minor he was not legally bound by the contract. However, the other part – the adult – was bound by the contract and had to honor it until it was either canceled or fulfilled. Slaine could break off the contract whenever he felt like it but Harklight was careful to point out that he should only consider it if the contract risked to hurt him in any way. There was statutory exceptions though which would be enforced against Slaine. Such exceptions typically covered insurance contracts and the like, which were generally enforced for minors.

“And if you cancel the contract just because you can, it will spread to other possible future work partners. Rumors travel fast in this industry. They will not want you if you get the reputation of not honoring contracts on a whim since it means a huge financial loss for them,” Harklight warned. “Before you cancel a contract, speak to me about it and I shall try to convey your feelings to the other party and come up with a solution that benefits both parties.”

I like him already,’ Slaine thought with a smile. ‘I can put my trust in him.

♪♫♪♫

“What about this one?” Nina asked and put a cowboy hat onto her head.

“I like it. The light brown color suits for blond hair,” Inko said and picked a black hat from the shelf. “And I think me and Inaho should have these due to our darker hair.”

“Why do you always have to make every little thing into a fashion design thing?” Calm complained with a white cowboy hat on his head and a metallic sheriff star on his chest.

Inaho found himself together with his friends in a costume store downtown, looking for Old Western props. Slaine had said he would have a meeting with his new managers today and Inaho had decided to spend some time with his friends to take his mind off of things concerning the relationship he had with Slaine.

They had decided to surprise Slaine on his birthday by showing up at his doorstep with cowboy hats on their heads and dressed in cowboy vests, force Slaine into the same get up and then drag him to the cinema to watch the new Western movie with them. That was their birthday present for him. Inaho had let the others plan everything and just followed their lead. He had no idea what to give Slaine as a birthday present and now that he thought about it the idea would probably make Slaine happy.

He will smile like he used to,’ he thought and could not help but to look forward to seeing that smile again. Recently Slaine had not smiled that bright smile which Inaho loved to see – not in Inaho’s presence at least.

“Inaho, you should have this hat,” Calm said and put a dark brown hat onto Inaho’s head and then wrapped a brown Old West poncho around Inaho’s shoulders. Calm suddenly stared at him for a while and Inaho wondered why, when the boy suddenly began to laugh out loud: “You look like an expressionless Clint Eastwood!”

“Who is Clint Eastwood?” Inaho asked confused and saw Nina begin to laugh as well.

“Oh, Inaho! That suits you so well,” she giggled after her laugh had calmed down. “You should definitely buy that poncho but I think you should have a black hat instead.”

Inko took one of the black hats down from the shelf – the same she wore – and swapped the brown hat Inaho wore with the black.

“Much better,” she said and smiled as she had placed the black hat onto Inaho’s head. “Hey,” she then said quietly when Nina and Calm went to the section with costume clothes, and her smile faded. “Is everything okay?”

“Yes,” Inaho answered as a reflex but then understood it was a lie.

“Really?” Inko asked and frowned with a joyless smile on her lips and peered at Inaho a short moment, trying to read whatever was going on in Inaho’s mind. “Are you sure?”

Inaho looked at her while he weighed the answer in his mind. Was he sure? ‘No…’ he thought. Was it worth expressing?

“No, I’m not,” he finally decided to say and Inko sighed.

“I knew it. You have never thrown your lunch before and you did it yesterday for the first time. Has something happened?” she asked and looked worried.

Yes, a lot has happened,’ Inaho thought but was unsure if he should tell her what was going on or not. No one knew about his and Slaine’s relationship. The excuse Inaho had used to why he frequented Slaine’s apartment so much was that he helped Slaine with his studies. The only one who suspected something as far as Inaho knew was his sister but he had not confirmed it to her, and Yuki did not ask either. Slaine had been the one to ask Inaho not to say anything. The blond boy had explained that it was so new to him that he wanted to keep it a secret until he felt ready to reveal it. Inaho respected that and simply avoided the topic with his friends. That way he was honoring Slaine's wish and did not lie to anyone.

“Am I considered cold?” Inaho decided to ask and the question seemed to take Inko by surprise. She widened her eyes from shock.

“What makes you say that? Of course you’re not!” Inko said and sighed heavily. “Has someone said that to you?”

“No. I am curious to know because I have difficulties of forming relationships with people,” the brunet explained with honesty.

“That’s not because you are cold,” Inko confirmed. “You are a really warm person, Inaho, and once people get to know you they all agree; you look after people in your own way.”

So Slaine doesn’t know me well?’ Inaho thought. That could not have been the case since Slaine knew him better than anyone. Or so he at least thought.

“What if that person knows me and still thinks I’m cold?” he then asked and Inko’s worry seemed to deepen as the crease between her eyebrows became further noticeable.

“Then that might be because you rarely speak about what you think and feel. Since it can be difficult for others to understand you because you have difficulties with expressing yourself, it might mislead them into thinking you’re cold. But you’re really not,” she said and then smiled: “What you’re doing right now is really nice of you and expresses your warmth; you’re willing to dress up and surprise a friend of yours on his birthday.”

I wonder if that will be enough,’ Inaho thought and asked:

“What if they won’t listen when I try to speak?”

Inko got a slightly angry look on her face and she pressed her lips together into a thin line before she said:

“Then you force them to listen if they are worth the trouble! If they are your friend then your voice should be valued by them just as you value theirs!”

Slaine doesn’t want to listen. In other words he doesn’t value what I have to say?’ he suddenly thought and felt an unpleasant feeling in his chest. He felt his chest grow hot. ‘Anger?’ he thought and tried to identify his emotion. ‘No. Disappointment.’ It hurt.

“Oi! Inaho! Inko!” they heard Calm’s cheerful voice call from the section with costume clothes.

“If someone is mean to you, let me know, okay?” Inko said to Inaho.

“No one is mean to me,” Inaho assured her and together they joined Nina and Calm further back in the store.

♪♫♪♫

Inaho walked down the corridor toward the dark wooden door. He had rode up the elevator to the 21st floor like he had done plenty of times before, and then stopped in front of the door which had golden letters, saying: Slaine Troyard. He knocked on the door, and soon it was opened by a blond haired boy with a vivid smile on his lips.

“Inaho!” he said happily and let Inaho inside. “We were just about to finish.”

Inaho noticed a sticking plaster on Slaine’s cheek and wanted to ask him about it.

“Am I interrupting something?” Inaho asked instead and Slaine hurried to shake his head. The blond seemed surprisingly joyful and alive.

He’s smiling like that,’ Inaho thought and felt relief to see the joyful smile he had missed on Slaine’s lips.

“No, no! You’re not. Harklight is just about to leave,” Slaine answered and Inaho turned his eye toward the plaster once again:

“What happened to your cheek?” he asked and watched Slaine quickly raise a hand to touch the plaster. The blond got a gloomy look in his eyes.

“Nothing special; it was an accident with the violin the other day when a string broke,” Slaine answered but stopped to look up at a dark haired young man walk out of the living room.

“Oh, you must be Mr. Troyard’s friend?” the man asked with a polite smile as he strode up to Inaho and reached out a hand to him. “My name is Harklight. Nice to meet you.”

Inaho – out of manners – shook the man’s hand but had an unpleasant feeling spreading inside his chest.

Is he the reason why Slaine smiles like that?’ the brunet thought.

“Inaho Kaizuka,” he then answered in his usual manner.

“He’s my new manager,” Slaine said excitedly. “My father came by with him as you know, but we had so much to talk about that time flew by and my father had to leave.”

“I am greatly sorry for have taken up your valuable time, Mr. Troyard,” Harklight said with shame and made a slight bow with his head toward the blond.

“Not at all. I was the one to invite you to stay when father had to go. And don’t call me Mr. Troyard,” Slaine smiled. “You’re older than me; you shouldn’t need to call me for Mister.”

Don’t smile like that to him,’ Inaho thought and felt his chest grow hot again.

“That might be true, and yet you are of a higher class than I am. I should pay my respects to you properly,” the other said.

Slaine chuckled.

Don’t laugh to him like that.’

“Don’t be ridiculous. We have gotten to know each other, right?” Slaine said cheerily.

Don’t be so happy with him!

Slaine and Harklight bid farewell and the young man left. Inaho was irked to hear they would see each other tomorrow again to sign the contract Slaine was looking forward to. Inaho knew it was childish of him since Slaine’s and Harklight’s relationship was of nothing more than business. The brunet just did not like the man, and for some reason he found it difficult to accept him at all.

I don’t trust him,’ the brunet thought and hung up his coat and took of his shoes.

Slaine hurried into the living room and as Inaho was to enter it the blond came out carrying a tray with a used coffee set and disappeared with it into the kitchen. Inaho followed.

“I feel so lucky to have gotten a manager. Harklight seems really experienced as well,” Slaine said and began to rinse the used cups with a smile. “He has been a performer himself when he was a child and he changed career from a singer into a manager. I would never have dared to do that!”

Don’t be so impressed by him…’

“You don’t need to do that,” Inaho countered and watched Slaine put the cups and plates into the small dishwasher.

“Yeah, I guess,” Slaine said and closed the lid to the dishwasher and chuckled. “He even bought new expensive shoes just for this meeting today. He was so nervous to meet me and his dad had told him that a man is judged by his shoes, so Harklight wanted to make a good first impression by buying really expensive ones.”

“Is that so?” Inaho simply said while the jealousy grew inside him.

Then that jealousy’s growth was interrupted as he heard Slaine ask:

“So what have you been up to today?”

Relief replaced the burning jealousy from hearing Slaine ask him about his day, but that welcomed relief disappeared the moment Slaine looked up at him with a fading smile.

'Don't stop smiling when you look at me.'

“I was out shopping with our friends,” Inaho said. He suddenly wanted to say “my friends” but had recognized that as a childish remark to Slaine never spending time with them, and had corrected himself before he spoke.

“Oh? Did you buy something?” Slaine asked and Inaho nodded; the brunet could not lie to the blond even if he feared Slaine would ask him about what he had bought. He did not want to reveal their surprise for Slaine.

“Our friends wanted me to send you their helloes and good luck for tomorrow’s contract signing,” he said instead and Slaine smiled wryly.

“I will make sure to thank them,” the boy answered quietly. “I haven’t met them for a while, have I?”

“No,” Inaho answered promptly – maybe a little too quickly. Slaine’s smile faded instantly hearing Inaho’s urgent answer.

“Are you angry?” the boy suddenly asked.

Am I?’ Inaho wondered and raised a hand to his chest.

“Yes,” he answered candidly with his monotone voice. “I am angry.”

To his surprise Slaine’s frown disappeared and he smiled as tears sprung to his eyes. With hurrying steps the boy closed the distance between them and within moments Inaho felt the boy’s body push against him in a hug. The sweet scent of refreshing soap and detergent he found so familiar filled Inaho’s nostrils and calmed his mind. The blond clung to him tightly and Inaho was filled with confusion. His heart fluttered out of love and yet he was angry. He had expected for Slaine to become angry as well.

“Let me hold you for a little while,” Slaine whispered quietly. “I promise I won’t kiss you. Just don’t push me away yet.”

Not kiss me?

Hesitantly Inaho raised his arms and put them around Slaine’s waist to hug him back. The brunet was unsure if that was what he was supposed to do but in the end he found it comfortable to have his hands rest on Slaine’s back.

“I’m angry. Why do you hug me?” Inaho asked and heard a sorrowful chuckle against his right ear.

“Because you care enough about me that I make you angry,” Slaine whispered. “You never show me any kind of emotion. It makes me starved for it. I don’t care if you’re angry. It makes me happy anyway.”

Suddenly Inaho could not stay angry at all. He felt guilty and hugged Slaine tighter, burying his face into the crook of Slaine’s neck.

“I’m sorry,” he said and Slaine shook his head.

“No, don’t be…” Slaine whispered. “Why are you angry?” the blond then asked quietly, still holding onto the brunet.

“Because you looked so happy with him,” Inaho answered honestly.

Slaine chuckled.

“Are you jealous?” the blond asked and Inaho gripped Slaine’s shirt tighter with his fingers, and then nodded. Slaine rubbed his cheek against Inaho’s temple and chuckled again. “Don’t be. I only have eyes for you. Although, it makes me so happy to hear that I want to tell you to be even more jealous.”

“Don’t. It is exhausting to feel such strong emotions,” Inaho countered and Slaine laughed and pulled slightly back and smiled at him while looking deep into Inaho’s eyes.

“I won’t ask you to torture yourself like that,” he said quietly and kissed Inaho’s lips gently. It was a simple ordinary kiss; no nibbling or licking. It was purely lips against lips.

He does listen to me,’ Inaho thought as he felt those soft and warm lips against his. The anger Inaho had felt at the costume store – the anger that had grown to an ugly bine from the seed of thinking he was not respected – was suddenly unnecessary. Slaine had skillfully nullified it and wiped it away.

“Slaine,” Inaho said and suddenly felt urged to speak to the blond about what he had been worrying about. “I love you. I don’t want us to rush into things. That is why I have been pushing you away.”

Slaine leaned back from him with furrowed brows. He still had his arms around Inaho’s neck but he loosened the hug somewhat.

“Not rush into things?” Slaine asked confused.

“I know you want to copulate with me but I don’t feel ready for that,” Inaho said and Slaine smiled confused.

“Copulate?” the boy asked with a nervous laugh.

“Sex,” Inaho said, wondering if Slaine was not familiar with the word; Slaine still struggled with the academic part of Japanese language.

“You make it sound like it’s something bad. Making love would have been more romantic,” the blond whispered, still with that nervous smile on his lips.

“I use a different synonym of it. I put no value in the word itself.”

Slaine looked saddened. He averted his blue eyed gaze from Inaho and looked around the kitchen to find something comfortable to rest his eyes on. He found that comfortable place on the edge of the kitchen table.

“What do you mean by ‘not rushing into things’?” the blond asked with slightly pursed lips. The boy was pouting due to awkwardness. Inaho found it charming.

As long as you won’t get angry, that is fine,’ Inaho thought and decided to speak out what he felt and thought:

“We are too juvenile to do something like that. I want to think things through first,” Inaho said and Slaine looked up at him like he had been insulted, and he sounded like it as well when he said:

“What!? But teenagers do adult things all the time. And what do you mean we’re too young? I’m almost 17 and you’re soon 16! I know that teenagers do adult stuff at even younger ages than that.”

“Age has nothing to do with it,” Inaho said. “And what other people do where and when has nothing to do with us.”

Slaine pouted again and folded his arms childishly.

This is what I mean…’ Inaho thought as he watched the childish reaction Slaine had.

“Then what does?” the blond asked with a pouty mumble, and Inaho simply answered:

“I don’t feel ready for it.”

Slaine took a deep sigh out of irritation.

“What? Is it too serious for immature kids like us?” Slaine shot back; it made him sound more immature than his pouting looked. "It's not like we will get married or do something else life changing that requires a lot of thinking."

“Having sex involves strong emotions, and to throw ourselves into such strong emotions this early in our relationship might make us hurt each other emotionally,” Inaho said and felt relief to finally speak about their problem. “Since our relationship is so new, I believe we should refrain from copulation and wait. People our age have the tendency to overact to emotions due to neurological reasons involving our brain developing, which might lead to-“

Inaho stopped as Slaine slowly squatted on the kitchen floor and hugged his knees while he began laughing. The brunet stared at the blond whose shoulder’s shook while he tried to conceal his laughter. Slaine failed at it miserably and Inaho listened to the muffled chuckle.

“Neurological reasons?” Slaine asked with a voice filled with laughter as he still hid his face against his knees. “Do you have to analyze everything that deep?”

“I’m just being logical,” Inaho answered and Slaine shook his head, still not looking up at the brunet. The boy’s laughter calmed down.

“Idiot. Right now you’re being illogical,” Slaine said. “You seem to think adult things leads to bad emotions. What if they lead to good emotions instead?”

“There is no way of knowing what emotions sex will bring,” Inaho said. “I don’t want us to start sharing such strong emotions this early in case it will hurt us later on. There might be a risk of one of us feeling stronger emotions than the other, and that can lead to the person being easily hurt by the other.”

This time Slaine looked up at the brunet with a wry smile.

“You know – you won’t know unless you do it. Didn’t you tell me once that science has to test its theories in practice if possible?” he said and Inaho was thrown into confusion of what Slaine was speaking about. “Don’t you want to become a scientist in the future?”

“Not in the field of sexual intercourse,” Inaho quickly answered and Slaine began laughing again. “I am aiming for the field of thermodynamics.”

“Silly!” the blond cried with a boyish blush on his cheeks. He seemed to get tears into his eyes from laughter. “I didn’t mean it like that; I just tried to make a point.” Slaine calmed down and smiled, still hugging his knees. “I’m sure you have some theories you want to test out though.”

I do…

“Yes, but I’m not ready to do that now.”

With that answer Slaine’s smile disappeared completely. The blond stared at Inaho for a while without saying a word and Inaho waited patiently, wondering what Slaine was thinking about.

“Do you hesitate about loving me?” the blond asked and looked sorrowful.

“No, I don’t,” Inaho said earnestly.

“Then why aren’t you ready? Why have you pushed me away instead of telling me what you feel?”

So Slaine had had no idea why Inaho was pushing him away after all. Inaho suddenly felt guilty of not understanding Slaine’s reactions the day before yesterday.

“I thought you knew that,” Inaho said quietly. “You never asked me why I thought we weren’t ready, and thus I thought you understood. When you kept advancing anyway I thought you didn’t respect my thoughts.”

Slaine stared at him for a short moment and then sighed heavily and hid his face against his knees again.

“I’m sorry…” he mumbled. “I didn’t know… I thought it was because you didn’t like physical contact like that due to your social awkwardness. You have told me physical contact tends to be awkward for you.”

Inaho crouched down in front of Slaine and patted his soft blonde hair gently and waited for Slaine to look up at him. Slaine kept hiding his face and Inaho waited patiently. Time passed and they listened to the ticking of the kitchen clock. Paradoxically Inaho thought it felt like time stood still despite he heard the seconds tick away. It was soothing somehow. He knew Slaine was thinking a lot during that moment of silence and Inaho decided to let him do so in peace.

After a couple of minutes had passed Slaine finally raised his head slightly and to Inaho’s surprise the blond had tears in his eyes. Slaine had been crying the entire time.

“I’m sorry…” he said and sniveled. His nose wrinkled charmingly as he did so. “I’ve been an idiot. I’m sorry. I jumped to my own conclusions.”

“Were you scared?” Inaho asked and Slaine threw a quick glance at him before he lowered his eyes again to stare at the wet marks on his trousers.

“Really scared,” Slaine whispered. “I thought you didn’t love me or that you would never touch me. And I was scared to ask since I didn’t want to rub your disability in your face and make you believe I saw it as a problem. I really don’t. I got so frustrated about the confusion the other day that I broke a violin string while playing and it lashed my cheek.”

How considerate and emotional,’ Inaho thought and kept patting Slaine’s hair.

“My disability is not a problem when it comes to you; I like physical contact with you,” Inaho said sincerely. “You are the only one I enjoy that with.”

Slaine dried the tears from his eyes with the sleeve to his shirt and looked at Inaho.

“Really?” he asked pitifully.

“Yes.”

Slaine thought for a couple of seconds before he asked quietly:

“Then why did you push me away?”

“Because I enjoy it a little too much,” Inaho answered and saw relief in Slaine’s eyes. The blond smiled again. “I really think we are not ready yet, and I got scared when I noticed I was about to disregard that belief.”

“Then why do you believe that at all? You said you are sure about loving me, and you just admitted you get the impulse of ignoring that belief because you really enjoy intimacy with me. Doesn’t it mean you are ready?” Slaine asked. "So what if it gives us strong emotions? If you love me and enjoy me as much as you say, then why worry about those strong emotions being anything else but good? What if it will make us love each other more?”

“That is the problem,” Inaho said and Slaine looked deeply confused.

Inaho found Slaine’s arguments to be logical and if Inaho had been confused about what he felt about the matter of sex, Slaine would have won him over. Inaho was afraid of hurting Slaine and thus was afraid to lose control over his actions and thoughts. He was afraid to make the other boy emotionally bound to him before they had had the chance to get to know each other as lovers. If it turned out they should go separate ways then it would not hurt as much if they had an innocent bond to each other. That was why Inaho had pushed the other away; he had been about to lose control and was afraid of future conflicts.

As Inaho explained that to the blond Slaine sighed heavily.

“Why do you even keep the option of going separate ways open?” Slaine asked with a whimper. “Stupid Inaho!”

“I need to test the waters first,” Inaho said quietly and caressed a tear from Slaine’s cheek with his hand. “I do want you. I just don’t want to hurt you, and that makes me think rationally. I don’t want to go separate ways, but we cannot guarantee that won’t be the case.”

“What if I want to get hurt!?” Slaine cried and hid his face against his knees once again. “What if I think it is okay that you hurt me because it’s you!? I don’t care if I crash and burn if you decide to leave me. I want to be allowed to do that because I feel so much for you. I won’t break so stop rationalizing!”

Inaho heard a sorrowful hiccup from where Slaine was hiding his crying face.

I’m sorry for making you cry…

“You don’t always have to have control, stupid Inaho!” Slaine continued with frustration and frowned. “You’re always using words to tell me that you love me, but you never show me by touching me. It makes me feel lonely.”

You’re so much more passionate than me,’ Inaho thought. ‘We’re really clumsy as a couple…

“I’m sorry,” the brunet whispered. “Is it that important for you to have me touch you?”

Slaine nodded and rubbed his eyes which were irritated from him crying.

“It really is. I want to feel good with you…” the boy answered. “And I want to make you feel good too. How are we supposed to get to know each other as lovers if we avoid that?”

Inaho wondered if he could begin to face his insecurity of losing control and fear of hurting Slaine. Maybe it had not been fair to push Slaine completely away like he had done? Even if Inaho was colored by his need of control, touch was still important for Slaine.

“Let us compromise. Maybe we can wait with going all the way but we can do everything else in the meantime?” Inaho suggested. “I'm not comfortable with going all the way immediately. I need time.”

Slaine’s eyes widened and they were yet again filled with tears.

Did I say something hurtful?’ Inaho thought and was about to ask when Slaine suddenly jumped on him, crashing against him hard enough Inaho fell onto his back and hit his head against the floor with Slaine on top of him.

“We can do that!” Slaine cried against Inaho’s chest and pulled at the brunet’s sweater in a clumsy attempt to hug him. “We can do that…!”

Inaho’s head pounded from the hit and he took a deep breath. His chest became warm from Slaine’s breaths as the boy whimpered.

“Can we wait for a couple of days at least with the more serious things?” Inaho asked and Slaine looked up at him. The blond looked like a mess with tears running down his crimson cheeks and even the tips of his bangs were wet.

“My birthday,” Slaine said and sniveled. “We can wait with the more adult things until my birthday.”

A week from now…’ Inaho thought.

“As a gift. Let it be a birthday gift,” Slaine insisted.

“All right,” Inaho answered and Slaine knitted his eyebrows and got a deep crease between them as he looked seriously at Inaho.

“And you can’t back down from it, Kaizuka Inaho. Promise!”

Inaho smiled from how adorable Slaine looked when staring at him so sincerely.

“I promise.”

At that Slaine’s serious expression turned into radiantly joyful and the blond reached for Inaho’s lips with his, and they kissed. The tears left on Slaine’s cheek wetted Inaho’s face as they innocently united their lips. The brunet felt nervous but he had made a promise. He would keep it no matter what. ‘For Slaine’s sake…

They kissed and caressed each other for a while before Slaine suggested they would move to the bed. The boy did not push Inaho beyond anything else but kisses and hugs, gentle nibbling and caresses. Slaine refused to leave the brunet alone; he was the one to push Inaho against the mattress and cover him with his body; Slaine was the aggressive one who straddled Inaho’s hips and dived into the moment that heated up progressively. He had been starved for such intimacy and now that he got it he exploited it as much as he could while still showing respect to Inaho’s wish to not go further than intense kisses.

Inaho on the other hand had difficulties of staying calm as their lips rubbed and slipped against each other’s. He wondered if Slaine had the same problem. The brunet’s body burned with desire and it frustrated him. It was like he was unintentionally hoping to find a peak; to be pushed over some kind of edge. Slaine’s warmth and intensity flowed into him and took him off guard; Inaho was pulled along and he could not stop himself. He was slowly becoming greedier and his fingers itched. He wanted to run them across Slaine’s skin.

This is what I was afraid of doing,’ Inaho thought as he understood he was slowly losing control over himself. ‘This is not good.

Despite that, Inaho could not help but to drag his nails over Slaine’s shirt. Slaine suddenly pulled away from Inaho’s kiss, raised himself up against his arms like he was trying to escape but then changed his mind and gave in; Slaine arched his back violently enough he threw his head back. Inaho’s breath was caught in his throat seeing his lover’s flushed face be covered with an expression he had never seen before. He watched the fluttering of the soft blond hair as is followed with Slaine’s graceful movement. He stared at the parted lips which were cherry colored from all the kisses. He listened to his lover’s intoxicating gasp which collided with Inaho’s thoughts, rendering the brunet’s mind to a complete stop:

“Ahh!”

Slaine shivered as he supported his body against his arms. He slowly lowered his head and gasped quietly as the shiver disappeared. All Inaho could see was the expression that had been filled with desire. All he could hear was that sweet and surprised gasp. They were played persistently in his mind, again and again.

Did I do that?’ Inaho thought with astonishment as his mind had begun recovering from the shock. He had not expected such a result from losing control over himself and go with what his senses told him.

Slaine chuckled quietly and raised his head just enough to look at Inaho. The boy’s eyes expressed joy and another much sultrier feeling Inaho could not decipher. All the brunet knew was that he wanted to see that sultry expression a while longer.

“You surprised me,” the blond boy said softly with a new kind of smile playing on his lips.

It was an adult smile – nervous and yet mature.

Inaho watched the blond lower himself on top of him again. He felt Slaine’s hands burry themselves into Inaho’s tussled hair and felt his lover’s breath against his lips. They kissed again and Inaho wondered if Slaine felt a serious need to mature and become an adult.

Is that the reason to why he has been so obsessed with physical intimacy; because he isn’t in a hurry but because he is ready?

That evening they went to sleep tangled up in each other, still fully dressed but with their clothes disheveled and wrinkled. Inaho lay on his back in the large and luxurious bed and felt Slaine’s breaths tickle against the left side of his neck. The blond had buried his face against Inaho’s neck and fallen asleep with a hand on the brunet’s collarbone which had previously been gripping Inaho’s sweater. Now it rested there relaxed and kept that small spot warm. It reminded Inaho about their first night as a couple, the night when they had fallen asleep on the living room floor. They had had a horrible ache in their bones the next morning from the hard floor, but they had both agreed it had been worth it.

I should have become a rock star instead,” Slaine had said with a raspy voice and an awkward smile on his lips the moment they had woken up. As Inaho had asked him why he said that Slaine had chuckled with an innocent blush on his cheeks and looked at him, answering: “Because falling asleep on the floor after making out with someone doesn’t really suit a violinist, does it?

Inaho smiled remembering it. Just a month ago Slaine had been insecure and cautious around Inaho but that had quickly changed when the blond had gotten used to having Inaho around as a lover. Inaho had been the opposite; he had wanted to touch Slaine and hold him but the moment Slaine had begun to grow serious and demand physical touch as well, Inaho had suddenly become nervous and withdrawn because Slaine took more and more control.

'Losing control...' he thought. It was a frightening thing.

Right now Inaho was simply happy. However, he did feel nervous about Slaine’s birthday now that they would build a much more intimate bond. Maybe losing control over one’s self was not as frightening as Inaho thought. Besides, Slaine would be there with him.

Have we passed our first trial?’ Inaho wondered and felt a slight worry. ‘When will the next emerge?

Slaine would become busy with work by tomorrow. Inaho’s high school entrance exams were coming up and so he would become busy as well. He was worried they would be so busy they would not be able to see each other as often as they wanted to. Then the thoughts of Harklight came to his mind. Inaho disliked how happy Slaine had looked while speaking to the man. It was not the case of not trusting Slaine that made Inaho uneasy. The brunet simply did not trust the manager to not exploit the famous name of such a friendly person as Slaine to climb the career ladder.

Inaho understood he had not gotten to know Harklight at all and he decided to release his guard dog manners; Slaine was capable of taking care of himself.

Inaho rested his cheek against Slaine’s soft hair. Slaine squirmed slightly in his sleep after Inaho’s movement and let out a deep breath before he continued breathing with even intervals. The brunet breathed in Slaine’s scent to relax and closed his eyes. He drifted into sleep as well, holding his lover tightly.

Chapter Text

“Slaine! I think I told you to buy some new washing powder like a month ago,” Yuki groaned and waved the empty detergent box in front of her to see how empty it was. It was completely empty. She was standing in the laundry room, ready to help Slaine wash his laundry which had piled up because the boy himself had not had time to do it.

“I’m sorry…” Slaine said with an embarrassed pout and lowered his head while he tied his hands behind his back and blushed. “I’ve been busy…”

Yuki sighed and bumped her palm to her forehead as she was reminded of Slaine’s situation.

“I know, I know,” she said and smiled wryly with a troubled expression. “Have you had time to buy groceries?”

Slaine shook his head quite embarrassed.

“I have been in the studio since Monday. I have to finish the song and practice on it since I’ll be playing live on a festival in the commercial,” the blond said apologetically.

“I can go and buy groceries and washing detergent,” Inaho said and looked up from the pile of clothes on the floor which he had begun to organize by color.

“That would be great, Nao,” Yuki sighed with a smile and Inaho got up from the bathroom floor. “I and Slaine will sort the laundry in the meantime and tidy up in the apartment.”

Inaho nodded and went to pull his coat and winter boot on, and then left. Slaine helped Yuki sort his and Inaho’s laundry in three piles; white clothes, colored clothes and dark clothes. Since Inaho stayed so much at Slaine’s place the boys had decided Inaho should leave his laundry at Slaine’s instead of carry them back and forth between Slaine’s and Inaho’s home.

While Slaine and his lover’s sister were sorting the clothes they spoke about their jobs and Yuki made sure to ask if Slaine had been studying as well. Thursdays were the day of the week when Yuki would drop by during the evening and help Slaine tidy and check that everything was all right. She was happy that Inaho helped Slaine through his studies since she did not have time for that now that winter had brought the season of cold and illness with it; she was working a lot to cover for her ill colleagues’ shifts.

“What do you eat? I mean, if you haven’t had time to buy groceries for the entire week, how have you managed to not starve to death?” Yuki then asked astonished as their conversation topic shifted from work and school to their daily lives.

Slaine lowered his head to hide before he answered. He knew Yuki was strict with spending money and she would not like his answer one bit. He took a deep breath and said:

“I’ve been eating out… There’s a nice restaurant near the studio so…” he mumbled and felt Yuki’s glare burn on his lowered face.

Slaine had to admit. It was fun to have Yuki around to scold him and make sure he took responsibility. It felt a lot like a responsible older sister and Slaine wondered if Inaho felt the same way about her. It was refreshing since the parental guidance he was supposed to get from Saazbaum was close to none due to the man being so busy. To have his guardian constantly working felt bittersweet and familiar since Slaine’s father had been busy like that as well. Somewhat eagerly and somewhat pathetically Slaine waited for Yuki’s loud voice to scold him, like a guardian should.

“You have been eating out!? How much did a meal cost in that restaurant?” the woman asked with a loud voice. She did not express anger though; she was more astonished.

“Lunch 3900 yen. Dinner 21 000 yen…” Slaine mumbled, feeling ashamed.

Yuki went silent for a couple of seconds and simply stared at Slaine, who lowered his head even further.

“Wait WHAT!? For the entire week!?” he heard her yell.

“Not all week!” Slaine hurried to say to calm her down and looked up at her with a look which told her he knew he had done something she would not find acceptable. Despite that, Slaine clumsily tried to tone down the seriousness of it and brush it under a carpet like someone of his age probably would: “I wasn’t at the studio on Sunday and I didn’t eat lunch there on Monday!”

Yuki stared at him and then counted on her fingers.

“That’s 120 600 yen for Friday, Saturday, Monday evening and from Tuesday to today,” she said breathlessly and shook her head with an dumbfounded expression. “It’s such a crazy sum that I’m not sure if I should get mad or cry about it.”

Slaine pursed his lips and hung his head from shame.

“I’m sorry… It was so convenient to just stroll across the street and have some tasty lunch and dinner after a hard day at work…” he mumbled and dropped a white shirt in the pile for white clothes on the floor. “The salmon is really good there…”

Yuki sighed exasperatedly and scratched her head with frustration and then gave Slaine a small smile.

“You know, you should treasure your dad’s fortune. I know you have enough money to live a decent life without lifting a finger for the rest of your life, but don’t you think your dad worked hard for that money?” she asked and Slaine looked up at her for a short moment and then turned his gaze away to stare at the tiled bathroom floor, and nodded. Suddenly Slaine felt bad for having been so recklessly spending his father’s money. “You should ask Nao to help you cook lunch and take with you to the studio. Nao’s really good at cooking; you’ll get high class food for an acceptable price,” she then tried to encourage him, and Slaine nodded.

“I know… My manager couldn’t afford that kind of food anyway, so I insisted on paying for him too. Maybe it’ll be fair for him that I bring lunch instead and eat at the studio with him? He said he felt bad about accepting that I paid for him and I kind of forced it on him now that I think about it… I just wanted to be nice,” Slaine sighed and suddenly felt a shift of atmosphere in the room.

He looked up at Yuki who loomed over him like a demon ready to jump it’s pray and Slaine quickly leaned back and began to cold sweat. He swore he could hear Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” in his head while watching the woman’s burning eyes. “Y-Yuki…? You look s-scary…”

“You paid for him TOO!?” she hissed.

“H-he tried to talk me out of it so it’s n-not his fault! I just felt b-bad for eating a good d-dinner while he had to go to the cheap r-ramen restaurant,” Slaine’s desperate try to smooth it over sounded, and he smiled wryly. He gently waved his hands in front of him to brush it off but Yuki suddenly pointed at the door.

“Go to your room, young man, and think of how much money you have spent in the course of one week!” she yelled in a reprimand, much like a mother.

“W-which room?” Slaine stammered and watched Yuki pull at her hair.

“I don’t care which one!” she screamed and slumped forward on the floor from frustration. Slaine hurried up to run to the living room but was stopped when Yuki said: “Wait! No, get into the kitchen and wait for Nao there. I’ll have him show you how to cook!”

“Y-yes, ma’am!” the blond shrieked and hurried into the kitchen and sat down next to the kitchen table in a formal position; back straight, hands in his lap and his knees together. He did not move an inch and urgently waited for Inaho to come back from the store to save him.

Maybe I have spent a little too much money on lunch and dinner this week?’ he thought and sighed. ‘I didn’t realize I had spent that much.

For Slaine a lunch for 3900 yen and a dinner for 21 000 yen was not expensive; it was less than what Saazbaum spent when they went out to eat together as the man was visiting Japan to check up on Slaine. The blond had thought it was quite a decent prize but had not been observant on how much money it resulted in being spent during the course of a week. Suddenly he felt bad.

How much is a lunch and dinner supposed to cost in Yuki’s and Inaho’s standard?’ he thought. ‘Maybe I should accompany Harklight to the ramen restaurant instead?

He listened to the sounds Yuki made while she was cleaning in the hall. She was vacuuming the hall with the quiet vacuum cleaner and the blond heard it bump against the walls at times. She had insisted on helping Slaine clean the apartment since she had thought it to be a waste of money to pay a maid to clean it. Most of the residents in the same building had a maid who took care of their household but Yuki insisted Slaine could do it himself. Yuki was eager to teach Slaine how to do it so the boy would learn to take responsibility. Right now she was cleaning by herself and Slaine felt bad.

He bit his lower lip in determination and gathered his courage to walk over to the kitchen door and look at Inaho’s sister who was cleaning with a sour look on her face.

“M-ma’am?” Slaine said quietly and Yuki looked up at him. “Um… I really do feel bad about the money… I won’t eat at the restaurant again. I promise.”

Yuki stopped her back-and-forth motion with the cleaner head and sighed.

“I’m not saying you can’t eat there ever again, Slaine,” she said and smiled with a stern look in her eyes. “You can eat there now and then but not all the time.”

“Should I eat at the ramen restaurant instead?” Slaine asked carefully. “My manager says it’s cheap and good.”

Yuki peered at him with a slight smile.

“How much does that cost?” she asked with a meaningful tone to her voice.

“Um… I t-think Harklight mentioned it costs around 450 yen… Is that r-reasonable?” Slaine stammered and prepared to hide behind the door post in case Yuki would get angry again.

To his relief Yuki smiled a bright smile.

“That is perfectly reasonable!” she said happily. “But you should eat something else than just ramen. You’re still growing.”

“Y-yes ma’am. I’ll ask Inaho help me cook lunch for next week,” Slaine promised, and Yuki nodded satisfied.

“All right then. Since I hear you have been thinking about what you’ve done, you are allowed out from the kitchen. Help me tidy in the living room so I can vacuum the floor properly when I’m finished here in the hall,” she said with her typical cheery tone and Slaine nodded and hurried across the hall floor into the living room to tidy up the school books and music equipment that lay scattered across the floor.

As he tidied the floor; put the practice violin and its bow back in their case, put the school books onto the desk, placed the music sheets into their folders, he…

Slaine stopped. He looked at the unfinished music score in his hands which he had been writing as a way to relax after his hard days at work and after Inaho had schooled him during the evenings. Slaine had spent a few late hours per night to write the score he now held. It had plenty of scratched over music notes and small written notes on the edges, more than usually.

“Sempre Fantasia,” he said quietly to himself as he thought about the musical score’s name. “Always Fantasy.”

“Are you finished, Slaine?” he heard Yuki yell from the hall with a singsong voice and she soon emerged from behind the door post and watched him hold the staff paper with scribbles. “What do you have there?” she asked and walked closer to have a look at it. She frowned. “I have no idea how you and other musicians know how to read all that, let alone write it.”

Slaine smiled.

“It’s just a musical piece I’m writing for fun. It’s nothing serious. I have only written the intro of it,” he said. “It’s kind of written to allow the player play it according to their mood. The core is the same but the player is allowed to change the sound of it freely and add whatever extra notes and styles they want.”

“Sounds pretty loose to be a score, doesn’t it?” Yuki asked and helped Slaine pick up the rest of the pencils and other school and music utensils from the floor.

“There’s just no right or wrong way of playing it, that’s all,” Slaine smiled warmly and put it back into the sheet folder.

He went to put it back onto the bookshelf where he stored all his music books and sheets along with novels. Yuki began to dust the shelves off with a feather-duster and was humming happily when Slaine heard her click her tongue. The moment he looked up he saw Yuki take out a black book with a colorful pattern on it and Slaine went completely pale and cold.

“What’s this? It was behind all the other books,” she said and opened it.

Slaine dashed forward to grab it in utter panic.

“NO! DON’T-!”

“Guide to getting it on…” Yuki managed to read in English quietly before Slaine was about to snatch it from her. To Slaine’s dismay she stepped aside with her eyes glued to the book and Slaine stumbled over the vacuum cleaner next to her and flopped face down onto the floor. “Goofy foot philosophy about sex… Hey, is this an English educational book about sex?”

“Please don’t read it…” Slaine mumbled shamefully from his defeated position on the floor. He dared not to look up at her.

Yuki laughed and read out loud:

“It doesn’t matter what you’ve got in your pants if there is nothing in your brain to connect it to.” She chuckled. “Hey, I like this book. Where’d you get it?”

“I found it online and went to order it from the book store downtown when I was buying the latest edition of the Japanese dictionary along with other useful books for school…” Slaine mumbled and wished he could sink through the floor and disappear. He was so embarrassed he could not move an inch from his uncomfortable position on the floor.

“Are you perhaps seeing someone?” Yuki asked casually, not making any hints of teasing him. “It’s good you actually take time to read this thing. Being responsible in this subject is important.”

“I guess…” Slaine mumbled, still not looking up at her.

Although that’s not the entire reason…’ he thought and blushed terribly. ‘I just want to know what to do on my birthday…

“So which is it? Are you seeing someone on not?” Yuki asked with a playful tone and Slaine covered his head with his arms in a shameful attempt to hide.

Yes, but how can I explain to her it’s Inaho? Especially now that she has found that book!?’ he thought and felt his chest grow hot from nervousness.

“Um… Y-yeah…” he mumbled and swallowed hard, still not moving from the floor.

“Hm…” he heard Yuki from somewhere above him. “You know, you don’t have to be embarrassed about it. It’s common in your age to have a partner.”

Maybe but it’s your little brother!’ Slaine thought and held his breath.

“If you ever need to talk about it, you know you can call me anytime. I guess talking to snobby-Saazbaum is out of the question for natural reasons, and a teenager has to have someone to confide in about these matters,” she said and Slaine stiffly nodded. He heard a low thump from the direction of the bookshelf and Yuki said: “It’s okay. You don’t have to talk about it so you can get up now. I put the book back, see?”

Slaine swallowed hard once again and then slowly got up from the floor. He kept his head lowered and avoided looking at Yuki out of embarrassment, but Yuki kept dusting the shelves like nothing had happened. Awkwardly he began organizing the papers on his desk and thought for a while.

We can’t keep it a secret from her forever…’ he thought and sighed silently. ‘Has Inaho said anything to her?

Inaho had said during their first week as a couple that he had to tell his sister but Slaine had been insisting him to stay silent about it for a while. Inaho had respected that without arguing about it but had given Slaine the feeling the brunet found it unfair to hide it from Inaho’s one and only family member.

He looked over his shoulder and watched Yuki move to the next shelf and hum casually like she always did while cleaning.

Should I tell her? Would she get angry?

He knew he had to tell her – if not for his own sake, then at least he should tell her for Inaho’s sake.

“Y-Yuki?” Slaine said quietly. The woman did not stop dusting the shelves.

“Yes?” she asked and continued humming.

Slaine hesitated for a while and then said beneath his breath:

“W-what do you think about gay persons?”

Yuki got startled by the question and froze. Slaine worried she would express distain about the subject and for a moment he regretted he had said anything. He clenched his hands into fists, ready to defend his question if he had to. To his surprise she continued dusting and chuckled:

“What about them?”

Slaine blushed and turned his attention to continue organizing the papers on the desk; it felt easier that way in case Yuki would turn around and look at him. He could not face her.

“I’m j-just curious … about what you think…” he answered awkwardly.

“Well,” he heard Yuki sigh playfully. “Does it matter what I think?”

Slaine hesitated and felt his hands begin to tremble. The papers in his hands rustled quietly as they did so against each other. Why was it so hard to speak about something like that? It was not supposed to be taboo anymore and yet he found it embarrassing. Was it because Slaine had heard Japan was still conservative about romantic relationships? To him the taboo about being gay was ridiculous since it simply felt so natural for him that it had nothing to do with politics. Inaho seemed to feel the same thing despite the brunet’s conservative beliefs of intimacy.

No, he said it has nothing to do with him being conservative about it!’ Slaine reminded himself.

He had to answer Yuki’s question of if it mattered what she thought, and thus he mumbled:

“It k-kinda does…”

Yuki kept dusting.

“Because I’m taking care of you while your father is away?” Yuki asked immediately. With that Slaine understood she knew he was talking about himself, and he mumbled:

“Y-yes…”

“I’m fine with it. I’m a police officer; I can’t favor one group of people over the other. If I did it would make me into a terrible police officer since I work to help everyone in society. Besides, I don’t care who others fall in love with. That’s their business, not mine,” she said and Slaine found it a relief that she was not pointing solely at him while she spoke; she made it less personal probably because she knew he was nervous about it.

“E-even if they are in love with someone you care about?” Slaine said almost in a whisper.

Be brave!’ he thought to himself and held his breath while he waited for Yuki’s answer. The woman went silent for a while and Slaine heard her dusting away at the bookshelves. She was silent for so long it felt like his lungs would explode while he waited with his breath locked in his lungs. ‘Please say something!’ he thought nervously.

“As long as it’s mutual and they won’t hurt that person,” he finally heard her say with a serious tone to her voice. “Then again, I would feel sad about not seeing them get married or have children, but in the end that’s my problem to handle and not theirs.”

Slaine knew she was speaking about Inaho and for a moment he felt bad that he took the joy of becoming an aunt away from her, but she had given her consent to the boys’ relationship and so he decided to be grateful instead.

“Th-thank you…” he said and with that they continued to finish cleaning in the living room and then move into the kitchen and continue their work there.

Inaho came back from the store in the middle of it covered in snow and – after drying himself up – he joined their quest for getting a tidied apartment, and before they knew it they were finished and the washing machine had been made to do the rest of the work of washing Slaine’s and Inaho’s clothes.

“Phew! That wasn’t as much as last week,” Yuki sighed from exhaustion and sipped the sweetened coffee before she leaned back in the kitchen chair.

“I guess it’s because I have not been home as much to mess it up due to work,” Slaine pointed out with the steaming cup of regular black coffee between his hands. “Thank you for helping me out all the time.”

“Don’t mention it,” the woman smiled and waved her hand like she was shooing away the necessity of thanking her. “I always appreciate your offer about your fabulous coffee after everything is done, so I guess we’re even then.”

Yuki stayed until the first machine of laundry was done and threw the clothes into the dryer while Slaine and Inaho filled the laundry machine with a second pile of clothes. After that she bid them good night, but before she left she leaned closer to whisper in Slaine’s ear:

“Don’t you hurt my little brother, okay? I’ve been wondering why Inaho has spent so much time with you and it all makes sense now, but don’t toy with his heart.”

Slaine blushed slightly and bit his lower lip with nervousness and nodded, and with that Yuki left to go home. When the door closed Slaine closed his eyes to take a deep breath to relax now that the apartment was occupied by only himself and Inaho.

“What did she say to you?” he heard Inaho’s voice next to him ask and Slaine quickly opened his eyes and looked at him.

“Uh… I … kind of told her about us and she told me to not hurt you. We somehow came to that topic earlier and I decided to tell her since I know you want her to know,” Slaine said, lowered his head and poked his index fingers together. “I thought it would not be fair to ask you to keep it a secret from your only family member, and after what happened last Sunday – the argument I mean – I thought you should have someone to confide in, in case you need advice from someone…”

Inaho stepped up to him and put a hand beneath Slaine’s chin to raise his face up, and warm lips covered his. He stared at Inaho’s closed eyes with surprise before he smiled and put his arms around the boy’s neck and answered his kisses.

“Thank you,” Inaho said. “You were brave.”

♪♫♪♫

The day for the movie premiere and Slaine’s birthday came. Slaine was walking around in the bedroom nervously, pondering on what he had planned for the evening. He was so nervous his palms were sweaty, and yet he looked forward to it to the point he got frequent impulses of skip around in his apartment from excitement. First he thought nervously about what he was going to do once Inaho came back from whatever business he was on with their friends and then chuckled happily.

How do I even start?’ Slaine thought and imagined himself straddling Inaho’s hips and kiss him while they were sitting on the couch. ‘Should I just jump him? No, that would probably be too awkward…’ He sat down on the edge of his bed and rested a hand under his chin and thought. ‘Just push him down on the couch?’ His face flushed from giddiness as his mind suddenly rushed forward in time and he saw the two of them fondle each other. Slaine got a boyish grin to his face and slapped his hands over his face. He felt like screaming. ‘This is so awkward and exciting!

Today he would get to do more adult things with Inaho. They would touch each other in a completely new way and Slaine had planned everything out. Plans of how to make Inaho relax, how to build up an emotional intimacy together, how to make all the things Inaho took so seriously to seem more playful – Slaine had planned all of that. The book Yuki had found hidden in Slaine’s bookshelf a couple of days ago had given Slaine great advice and he could not wait to test them out.

He suddenly began to chuckle uncontrollably and threw himself face down against the puffy duvet on the bed and buried his face against it. The boy was so excited he felt like he had been nibbling on a cookie of pure bliss. Finally they would take their relationship to the level Slaine had waited for. Finally he would chase away the loneliness that had been eating at him.

Hurry up, Inaho!’ he though happily and nuzzled the soft duvet with a smile but suddenly relaxed as Inaho’s scent drifted to him from the bedsheets. He closed his eyes and relaxed.

A knock was heard on the door and Slaine frowned. Inaho had a key to the apartment and the brunet never knocked on the door; he always stepped in like he lived there.

A visitor?’ Slaine thought and got up from bed. He hurried to straighten his clothes after they had been disorganized from lying in bed, and walked into the hall to open the door. ‘Who can it be? I never get visitors except Yuki and Inaho…

As he opened the door he barely managed to hold back a scream as four people stood at the door with cowboy hats on, pointing plastic guns at him that emitted soap bubbles, and cheeringly screamed:

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”

Slaine took a horrified step back with his heart almost prancing out his chest and adrenaline pumped out into his body. Soap bubbles landed on his nose and cheeks and popped while he stared at the people at the door.

“G-guys? What are you doing?” he asked with a trembling breath, shocked from their sudden surprise.

He saw Inko, Nina, Calm and Inaho look back at him, the other three with huge smiles on their lips while Inaho had an unusual excited look on his face, like he had looked forward to surprise Slaine like that. Slaine’s heart began to calm down as his and Inaho’s eyes caught each other.

“Woah! Look at that apartment!” Calm said and stared amazed at the hall.

“Can we come in?” Inko asked politely and Slaine snapped out of his shock and stepped aside.

“O-of course! Welcome, and make yourselves at home,” he said and let them in. The small crowd hurried to take their shoes off but kept their coats on, and Calm was the first one to venture deeper into the apartment to have a look around. “What are you all doing here?” Slaine asked confused but had a smile on his lips to finally see his friends which he had not seen for a while.

They had not visited Slaine before and this was their first time to see his apartment.

“We wanted to surprise you on your birthday,” Nina answered and grinned. “Did we manage?”

Slaine chuckled nervously.

“You almost made my heart stop,” the blond answered and Nina giggled.

“Mission accomplished!” she said and followed Slaine who showed them into the living room. “Oh look at all this!” the girl then said, heavily impressed by Slaine’s grand looking living room. “Is this how you live?”

“Y-yes. My father insisted on buying all the furniture according to an interior designer,” Slaine hurriedly said to tone down the air of amazement the others had. “I would have preferred a more common home interior though.”

Calm took the liberty of throwing himself onto the dark brown leather couch to test it out.

“The couch feels like it’s been stuffed with clouds,” he said and the girls chuckled and hurried to try it as well.

“May I?” Inko asked politely before she sat down.

“Go ahead. No need to ask for permission,” Slain insisted and smiled confusedly as he looked at their cowboy hats. “What’s with the Old West get up?”

The other three grinned and looked at Inaho, who stepped forward and pushed a brown hat onto Slaine’s head and held out an envelope. The hat was slightly too big and the brim slipped down over Slaine’s eyes.

“It’s your birthday present,” the brunet said and Slaine raised his head to be able to see the envelope from behind the hat’s brim. The envelope had been designed to look old and worn.

“Present?” Slaine asked and pushed the hat back from in front of his eyes, and then opened the envelope. Inside lay a yellow cinema ticket to the local cinema. It was dated for tonight. He also noticed a letter and took both of them out of the envelope. “A movie?”

“We thought you maybe wanted to come with us and see the new Old Western movie on its opening night. It was on your birthday so we thought of it as perfect,” Inko answered.

Slaine smiled and decided to read the letter. On it was a single line written, saying “We will treat you to as much candy and snacks as you want during the entire evening!” and Slaine chuckled.

“You really didn’t need to do all this,” the blond boy said and looked up at them all. “This is great. Thank you.”

The others looked proud over their achievement and got up from the couch. They walked up to Slaine and turned him toward the hall to push him all the way to the shoe rack next to the apartment door. The hat fell over Slaine’s eyes once more and the boy was about to stumble over the visitors’ shoes on the floor as they arrived to the front door.

“Let’s hurry then. The movie starts in 40 minutes. How long does it take to walk to the cinema from here?” Calm asked and Slaine pushed the hat back again in order to see where he was and what he was doing.

“Probably 20 minutes or so,” the boy answered and they put their shoes on.

The moment Slaine was to pull his winter coat on Nina held out a cowboy vest in front of the blond.

“We’re already dressed up beneath the coats. You should wear this too along with the hat,” she said and Slaine laughed and accepted it and put it on. It was slightly too big for him but he did not mind.

“Thank you!” he said happily and looked up at his friends so quickly after looking at the vest, that his hat fell over his eyes again. They all chuckled as Slaine pushed the hat back.

“Wait until you see Inaho. He looks totally badass with a Clint Eastwood poncho!” Calm said and grinned toward Inaho who was slightly flushed in his face. The brunet looked hot.

“I’m still not sure who you are talking about,” Inaho said and waited patiently next to the door for the others to finish putting their shoes on.

“He’s a legendary Western movie actor,” Nina said. “He always played a gunfighter in the movies.”

Calm took an exaggeratedly manly theatrical pose with his feet slightly apart and his hips relaxed, narrowed his eyes and held up his bubble gun, and said with a husky voice:

“You see, in this world, there’s two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns.” He pulled the plastic trigger to the toy gun and a whirring noise was heard and bubbles began to float around him. “And those who dig. You dig.”

The rest of them stared at him under silence before Slaine burst out into a laugh, and Nina and Inko was quick to follow.

“What!? It was a cool imitation, wasn’t it!?” Calm cried with embarrassment and looked at everyone laughing.

“I haven’t seen any of his movies, but that was great,” Slaine laughed and dried a tear from his eyes and pushed the cowboy hat back a fourth time after it had dropped over his eyes during his laughter. “The soap bubbles were great. I like those better than bullets.”

Slaine looked up at Inaho with a smile and the brunet answered it by gently smiling back. Slaine’s heart fluttered in his chest.

Even if I have to delay our private plans, it is worth it to spend some time together – all of us.’

They left the apartment and began walking toward the cinema on the snowy sidewalk. People stared at them with confusion due to them wearing their cowboy hats but Slaine and the others did not mind. Slaine had never been surprised like that and had not celebrated his birthday for the past two years which made this evening into a happy memory to bring with him throughout his life. Inaho and his friends were a fresh breath of air in the otherwise stiff and cold world of classical music, who allowed Slaine to relax properly and enjoy being a teenager.

I’m so lucky…’ he thought and saw the lit up sign of the cinema further down the street where a huge cowboy hat rested above the sign and a realistic plastic horse stood next to the entrance along with other Old Western props that looked greatly misplaced in the snowy city.

Chapter Text

The evening was chilly and the wind had begun to pick up in strength. Slaine had heard something about a storm being mentioned in the news on his way home from the studio the day before, and it seemed now was the time for it to hit the small city of Shinawara. He grabbed a hold of his cowboy hat to keep it on his head, and his friends did the same the moment they noticed the wind.

“That was so cute!” Nina exclaimed as they had taken a couple of steps from the cinema. “I can’t believe they dared to make the movie so homoerotic!”

“That was certainly a new twist to Old West movies,” Inko said with her usual tone of an analysist. “I didn’t know it was common for cowboys to be so physical with each other. I was kind of shocked to be honest.”

Calm muttered something under his breath. The boy had been shocked as well but not in the positive way as Inko.

“Me too,” Slaine said but felt excited about it. “I always thought cowboys were these really cool and hetero guys with guns.” He chuckled as he realized how silly he sounded.

“It makes sense,” Inaho said as he stared at Calm who wore a sour look on his face. “Traveling like they did in the same sex gangs would have meant long periods of time without fornication.”

“But that guy in the dress!” Calm suddenly burst out almost like he was about to cry.

“You really fell for him, didn’t you?” Nina laughed and jokingly gave Calm a friendly push.

“No I didn’t!” the boy quickly countered, denying his previously obvious interest in the lead male character in a dress. The boy had not understood it was a man at first and had whispered with awe how beautiful the girl the lead character was supposed to be, had looked. The moment Calm had realized it was a man in a dress he had quickly denied his interest instead, insisting he liked nothing but “real” girls. “I was tricked!”

“Tricked?” Inko asked surprised. “They did explain it beforehand that she was a he or did you miss that part where the bandit forced the guy into a dress?”

“Well I was kinda busy with a text message…” Calm said quietly. “… with a girl…”

The entire group of friends sighed to Calm’s explanation and left it at that. The Western boy was not comfortable with the subject and so they all gave it a rest. Instead they continued toward the busy street where the nightlife had begun to wake up. It was close to 22:00 after all and even if it was a Sunday the bars were still open for those who had not had time to go out the evening before due to work. Slaine had the intense feeling of taking hold of Inaho’s hand. He wanted to be able to walk down a street with his lover’s hand in his like a real couple but he did not dare to. What if someone would see them?

Why am I afraid of it?’ he thought and pondered on his question. He had been brave enough to tell Yuki about his and Inaho’s relationship – the second closest person to him after Inaho. It should have been scarier to tell Yuki than let their friends or strangers see them holding hands. ‘Right?’ he thought and felt troubled.

“Are you all right?” he heard Inaho’s soft voice ask next to him and Slaine looked at his lover.

“Y-yes,” the boy answered and gave Inaho a smile. Had the brunet noticed Slaine’s troubling thoughts? ‘He always reads me so well!’ the boy thought and felt happy about it as well as annoyed. ‘I can’t keep secrets from him.’

“T-Troyard?” he heard an unfamiliar voice say and Slaine stopped to look at the source of that voice in front of him, and his friends stopped as well. A girl, just slightly older than him, stood in front of him with sparkling eyes. “A-are you Slaine Troyard?” she asked.

Slaine felt like taking a step back as he stared at the unknown girl.

“Y-yes. Why?” he asked surprised and the girl smiled brightly.

“I saw you on your debut concert a month ago!” she said. “It was so touching. I was there with my mother who loves your father’s work and you really blew me away with how prettily you could play.”

“Th-thank you,” Slaine said and gave her a formal and polite bow. “It is a great pleasure to know you enjoyed it that much and please send your mother my gratitude for enjoying my father’s work as well.”

As he looked up at her she looked confusedly at him and Slaine got even more puzzled about her. Someone poked an elbow at his ribs and he heard Calm whisper:

“It’s a fan. Don’t have a stick up your ass.”

A fan…!?’ Slaine felt like panicking. ‘No, no, no! It was just me playing on a violin!

“I will be sure to tell my mother that. She will be really happy to hear that,” the girl said and gave Slaine a bow as well. “If it’s of no inconvenience to you – and sorry for asking you this when you’re with your friends and all – but can I take a picture with you?”

Slaine felt faint. It was so shocking to hear a stranger speak like that to him that he was terrified. How could he ever express to her how grateful he was about her thinking so highly of him to consider herself a fan? It was impossible. The strong emotions Slaine got from that kind of attention threw him off course entirely. How could anyone express a level of gratitude that would match a fan’s level of admiration? He could not do her justice at all no matter what he would say; words were not enough.

I don’t deserve it but I know it’s rude to tell her such things since she is sincere…

“A p-picture?” Slaine asked and decided to lower the formalities as Calm had suggested. “Um… I don’t mean to sound mean or anything, but I’m curious to know why.”

The girl looked baffled at him, not understanding why he was asking her that. She smiled and tilted her head slightly and seemed to feel awkward.

Idiot! Now you’ve done it!’ Slaine thought panicked and instantly regretted his question. He did not want her to feel awkward at all.

“Because I really enjoy your violin play. It was magical and I would like to have the memory of seeing you like this in a picture. I of course understand if it’s inconvenient to you since I see you have been on a masquerade party of some kind, but I just wanted to ask if-“

“No, it’s all right!” Slaine hurried to say in order to make her feel better. “I’m sorry. I’m just not used to this.”

The girl’s smile faded as she seemed to realize she was the first one to ask for a picture with him, and then her lips turned into a happy smile.

“Thank you!” she said and respectably walked over to him to stand next to him. She held out her cellphone toward the others and shyly asked: “Um… C-could one of you take the picture?”

Slaine wanted to burst out in a cry of confusion. It felt so surreal to have a stranger want a photograph of them next to him that he could not comprehend it at all. What did people do in a situation like that? How did others deal with it? He would hate it if she made the girl feel bad in any way, and so he wanted to do his outmost to give her a nice photograph.

Nina took the cellphone, raised it toward Slaine and the girl and then frowned.

“Slaine, take off your hat, would you?” she asked and Slaine quickly did as told with trembling hands. Inaho took it and the others stepped aside and watched. “That’s better,” Nina chuckled. “Now smile!”

Slaine took a deep breath to relax and then smiled, and Nina took a photograph. The flash blinded the boy who blinked a couple of times to regain his sight. A bright dot danced in front of him and he heard the girl hurry up to Nina to take a look at the photograph.

“It looks good!” the girl said with a bright smile as she looked at it. “Thank you so much, Mr. Troyard! I really appreciate it.”

She gave Slaine a second bow and Slaine felt the obligation to do the same.

“Thank you too,” Slaine answered.

“Are you working a lot?” the girl asked and looked at him after both of them had gotten up from their bows. “I was wondering when we can expect an album in the stores.”

An album?’ Slaine thought. He had not had the time to even think about it. Were people expecting him to release an album anytime soon? Suddenly he felt stressed out. He had to begin working on that as well.

“I’m sorry but I am working with a project right now which I am not allowed to speak about yet,” he answered with an apologetic smile. “Once it’s done next month I will begin to work on the album,” he promised.

“I see. Well, thank you again for being so kind to let me take a picture with you, and good luck with your project. I hope to see it once its finished,” she said happily and bowed once again. “Good night, Mr. Troyard and everyone.”

“Thank you. You too,” Slaine said and waved her off while feeling confused of what had just happened.

“Wow…!” Calm said amazed. “I didn’t think you were that popular yet!”

“I … didn’t think that either…” Slaine said quietly, not finding any other words to say.

I don’t deserve that…

His hat was placed on his head and he saw Inaho look at him with observing eyes. The brunet was worried for him, probably since Inaho knew how strongly Slaine reacted to strangers telling him they admired him in some way or another. Slaine could not hold his tears back the moment the girl disappeared into the windy street where the snowflakes still kept covering the ground.

I’m not that special… I just play the violin. Please, don’t tell me I’m that special… I can’t handle it.

“Slaine?” Inko asked worriedly. “What’s wrong?”

“Didn’t that make you happy?” Nina asked quietly and confused.

Slaine quickly dried his tears away from his eyes and cheeks with the sleeve to his winter coat, but new tears began to fall.

“I am… I really am,” he said and covered his face with his hands. “But I d-don’t understand it. Why would someone think so highly of me t-that they want to tell me that and take a picture with me…?”

The others were quiet for a while but then Nina put an arm around Slaine’s shoulders and said quietly:

“Because you make people happy just by playing a violin. You touch them in a way they consider is special, and they want you to know that so they can express their gratitude. They also tell you that so you feel encouraged to keep doing what they consider is touching.”

“B-but I can’t thank them enough…” Slaine said and sniffled. “How can I make a ‘thank you’ sound equivalent to something like that? It makes me so happy that I wonder if I’m even allowed to be that happy because I can’t express it to them.”

“Of course you are!” Calm said and gave Slaine’s back a friendly pat. “You are allowed to be as happy as you possibly can be for having fans!”

Slaine shook his head violently. They did not understand and he could not explain it properly.

“Don’t be ashamed of that. I’m sure they know they make you happy, so there’s no need to be stressed about thanking them properly,” Inko said. “Wouldn’t you want to tell your favorite musician how much you like them? Wouldn’t you want to take a picture with them?”

Slaine sighed and lowered his hands from his face to dry his wet cheeks. Then he chuckled.

“I think my favorite musician would insult me and tell me to get out of his way,” he said with a little smile. He had already begun to feel better now that his friends gave him his support and simply spoke to him and told him it was all right for him to feel happy.

“Why?” Calm asked confused. Slaine noticed the boy was feeling less worried now that Slaine was smiling.

“It is said that Ludwig Van Beethoven was pretty rude,” Slaine answered. “He was considered a mean person and very clumsy. He apparently knocked everything over or dropped whatever he was holding. He would have gotten angry if I asked to take a picture with him,” the boy said and chuckled again.

“Why on earth do you consider that person to be your favorite?” Nina asked astonished, shaking her head. “I would much more enjoy someone who did happy music.”

Slaine shook his head and his smile faded just slightly.

“I guess,” he said quietly. “But he was a really sad person and he created so many beautiful works. Many of them are so dense with emotion that you can feel it when listening to his work, like Moonlight Sonata.”

Inaho took a hold of his hand and Slaine looked up at him with surprise. The brunet looked at him sincerely and squeezed his hand tightly.

“You write happy music,” Slaine watched his lover say. “You should let it stay that way after people have wanted to take a picture of you.”

Slaine’s smile widened just slightly as he looked at his lover and he squeezed Inaho’s hand back. He was grateful for all of them supporting him like they did and he felt slightly bad for having broken down in front of them after something he should have been happy about. Then again, it proved to him they truly were his friends who cared about him enough to comfort him. It was completely new to him as well since he had not had such friends under his life this far.

“Thank you all,” Slaine said and looked at all of them. “For this great birthday present and for your kind support.”

Everyone smiled brightly and as they continued walking Calm wrapped his arm around Slaine’s shoulder like best friends did in movies Slaine had seen; where friends who considered each other as brothers showed their friendship by holding an annoying arm around the other’s shoulder. Calm’s weight was uncomfortable, just as such a supportive gesture should be, and Slaine struggled to walk properly as their movements pulled at different directions at times and tugged at them. It made him happy despite the tugs made his hat fall over his eyes at times when it was not busy trying to fly away in the wind.

I’m so lucky…’ he cheerily thought.

♪♫♪♫

Inaho and Slaine wished their friends good night once they reached Slaine’s apartment building, and when the brunet and his lover stepped into the warm lobby their friends continued on their way home out in the cold winter night. Inaho could not wait to get out of the poncho he was wearing beneath his coat. Even if it was in the middle of the winter his coat was so warm that the added layer of the poncho made him sweat. It had come in handy in the movie theatre though and Inaho was secretly grateful for it, since it was so big it allowed him and Slaine hold hands beneath it so that no one saw. Slaine had sneaked a hand under it to entwine his fingers with Inaho’s, and they had been holding hands throughout the entire movie.

Inaho found it somewhat troublesome their friends were not allowed to know about their relationship. He had wished for it to be open at least in front of those they considered were their friends. Despite that he understood Slaine’s worry since Inaho had noticed the blond boy had difficulties with trusting people – even those Slaine considered his friends. Inaho could identify with that since he had been similar due to his chaotic upbringing at an orphanage and without parents, making his attachment to others be formed with inhibition. Had it not been for Inko and her family stepping in and supporting the siblings once Yuki and Inaho had moved out of the orphanage, Inaho and Yuki would have had it difficult with trusting people as well – even today. Inko and her family owned a restaurant and they had offered food for the hungry Kaizuka siblings when their budget was far below the subsistence level. Inaho would never forget such a gesture, and neither would Yuki.

Slaine has to come to that point where he begins to learn most people aren’t bad,’ Inaho thought as he followed Slaine to the elevator.

When they entered the now all too familiar apartment and removed their coats and cowboy hats, shoes and scarves, Inaho was quick to pull his poncho off of him and hang it up next to his coat.

“I need to take a shower. The poncho was too warm,” he told Slaine who quickly blushed heavily, hid his hands behind his back and lowered his eyes and looked like he was about to say something embarrassing.

Inaho waited and stared at him the seconds it took for Slaine to find courage to voice his embarrassing thoughts:

“Um… C-can I … join you?”

“In the shower?” Inaho asked and Slaine quickly nodded while his cheeks turned into a deeper crimson color. Inaho thought he would not mind and gave Slaine his permission, and the blond boy gave him a heavily blushing smile and seemed to be ready to skip all the way to the shower.

They stepped into the shower. It was a large shower, nothing like the small one-person shower Inaho had back home. Slaine's shower was a small room with beige tiled floor and walls and the shower was sealed off behind a clear glass wall. The two boys stood beneath the large square shaped shower nozzle in the ceiling which was designed to feel like the flow of a water fall. For someone who had asked for permission to join Inaho in the shower, Slaine was awfully shy. The boys had never showered together like that before and Slaine seemed to be far more self-conscious than Inaho. The Western boy was slightly – barely visibly – giddy and was avoiding to look at Inaho if he could. Inaho thought nothing of them showering together and he actually found it quite pleasant to bare themselves for each other like that – especially since something much more intimate and sexual awaited them once they had finished showering.

The thought gave Inaho a small unpleasant feeling he could not define. Defining emotions was something he found difficult and lacked ability in – even when he had to define his own emotions for himself and no one else. It always gave him a feeling of distance to his own self since he had trouble understanding himself. This difficulty had surfaced the past month which he had spent with Slaine. In a way that discovery had given him a push in the right direction of understanding himself in relation to others. Right now though, an undefined uncomfortable feeling crawled around in him, accidentally scratching his heart with sharp claws.

Am I really all right with what we're going to do?’ he thought and rubbed the lathering shampoo into his hair. ‘But if I won't do it Slaine will be heartbroken. This evening means a lot for him, and I promised not to let him down.’

The thought of not having control in a situation he was nervous about made the fear of losing control stronger and far more real for him. What would they do? What would Slaine do to him and what did he expect Inaho to do to him? Slaine had told Inaho earlier that week to trust him that Slaine would make the evening relaxing and enjoyable. It meant Inaho would have little to no control at all since Slaine had planned the evening. Maybe it would be productive for him as a person filled with fear of losing control, to actually let go and let someone else have control?

“Can I ... wash your back?” he heard Slaine ask and Inaho looked at him before he washed the shampoo from his hair beneath the falling water.

“I don't mind,” Inaho answered once he was finished rinsing his hair and Slaine smiled joyfully with his cheeks still blushing.

Slaine poured some of the pleasantly vanilla scented shower cream onto a washing sponge and squeezed it to lather it up, and then stepped up to Inaho in front of him, holding his eyes fixed on the sponge in his hand. The boy gathered courage and suddenly looked up at Inaho from beneath his eyelashes. Slaine's gaze was coy and shy and-

So attractive...’ Inaho thought and felt his cheeks grow hot. Slaine smiled and took a step closer.

Their breaths danced together gently before Slaine pushed Inaho with gentle hands beneath the falling water. They stood beneath it and let the warm water wash them. Slaine reached his arms around Inaho's waist and the comforting feeling of a sponge scrubbing his back gently made Inaho's worry disappear. Slaine's lips carefully pushed against Inaho's and they kissed by rubbing their lips together, curious tongues licking each other's, and the taste of their saliva tickled their taste buds. Slaine's saliva tasted sweet from all the candy he had been eating at the cinema. It was a pleasant taste which increased as their kisses deepened and intensified. The entire time Slaine made sure to wash Inaho's back as he had promised, and that in combination with them kissing made Inaho relax entirely.

“I love you...” Slaine whispered between two kisses and Inaho's heart fluttered.

“I love you too,” the brunet answered. Inaho felt like he could never say anything more truthful than that.

As they finished – after Inaho had helped Slaine wash his back as well – his lover insisted on them not dressing themselves more than in underwear and their respective bathrobes; Slaine’s was burgundy and Inaho’s navy blue. Inaho decided to go with Slaine's suggestion and they exited the shower to walk into the living room where Slaine sat down in the couch and turned the television on, which had been connected to his laptop.

“I know we have seen a movie today already, but I thought we should just sit back in the couch and relax,” he said and looked at Inaho as if to ask if Inaho thought of it as a good idea.

“What movie have you in mind?” Inaho asked and Slaine blushed slightly.

“I was thinking of either a silly action movie or a musical,” the blond mumbled still blushing.

Inaho had never really enjoyed action movies since they were always too over the top for his taste. Besides, they had already seen an action movie that day at the cinema.

“I haven’t seen a musical before,” Inaho said and Slaine almost dropped his jaw in bafflement. According to Inaho’s understanding he guessed his lover was in shock.

“Then we should certainly watch a musical!” the blond boy exclaimed and typed in the address to a movie streaming site Slaine had a monthly membership in, and clicked on the section for musicals. “What kind of theme would you like?” Slaine asked.

“What do you recommend?” Inaho countered.

He had never seen a musical and thus he had no idea what to expect of watching one either. To him it did not mind whichever they were to watch and he observed his lover think for a while. Slaine rested the knuckle of his index finger against his chin and looked up at the ceiling – just as he always did when thinking on something. Inaho listened to the quiet humming Slaine always did then thinking for himself like that.

“What about a love drama?” Slaine asked while he still thought. “Phantom of the Opera?”

“Is it good?” Inaho asked and his lover turned his eyes toward him in disbelief.

“Haven’t you even heard of it?” Slaine asked. “It’s about a creepy guy hiding beneath an old opera house in Paris and is in love with one of the singers named Christine, and becomes obsessive about her and becomes insanely jealous once Christine falls in love with her childhood friend Raoul, and he tries to kidnap her. It’s really good!” the boy explained and made gestures which fitted for the synopsis, and he had slowly lost his breath from being so eager to explain it. “It’s the guy with a white mask over his face. You must have seen a reference of it sometime. It’s really famous!”

Slaine seemed nearly distressed about Inaho never seeing the musical which showed how much Slaine enjoyed it. That made Inaho’s decision easy.

“If you recommend it then I think we should watch it,” he answered and Slaine’s distressed eyes became smiling ones instead, and he began searching for it immediately.

“My dad took me to a live musical of it once when I was a child. I was so scared of the phantom back then that dad had to sit next to me until I fell asleep once we got home,” Slaine said and chuckled. “I somehow related to Christine and in the musical she is kidnapped by the phantom through the mirror in her room,” he then said and laughed. “I thought the phantom would come and kidnap me through the mirror in my bathroom and so I was horrified of going in there until we moved away due to dad’s work.”

Inaho could not hold back a chuckle and suddenly they both began laughing. Somehow Inaho could imagine a young Slaine to think like that since Slaine seemed to have a vivid imagination, and would have had that ever since childhood. If he lacked imagination he would probably not have been as skilled at composing his own songs the way he did.

“If the phantom wants to kidnap me after we watch this, fight for me – okay?” Slaine said with a chuckle and Inaho nodded.

“I won’t let him take you. I promise,” the brunet said chuckling as well and watched his lover smile and start the movie.

The blond haired boy crawled up to him on the couch and pushed Inaho back to lie down on the soft cushions. He asked Inaho to make himself comfortable and once the brunet had done as told Slaine pulled a blanket around them both and lay down on Inaho to rest his head against his chest.

“It’s a romantic movie so we should be romantic too in order to feel the mood,” Slaine said and looked up at his lover with a coy smile and Inaho put his arms around him to hug him tightly.

“Sure,” Inaho said quietly and watched the black and white opening scene for the movie of an old and abandoned opera house in the middle of Paris in 1919, where artifacts were sold on auction.

This kind of platonic love is enjoyable,’ he thought and leaned his cheek against Slaine’s soft hair which was still wet from the shower. It smelled of shampoo. Immediately Slaine nuzzled against Inaho’s bathrobe on his chest enough to open it a little with his nose and place a kiss on Inaho’s collar bone. It tickled. Suddenly the blond let out a quiet squeal the moment powerful music began to play in the movie and a great chandelier was raised during the auction and the color flowed into the scene.

“It was so long ago I saw this,” Slaine said excitedly. “Christine’s dad was a famous violinist from Northern Europe as well and she was his only child. That’s why I related to her so much when I was a child.” Suddenly Slaine went quiet for a while and then said silently: “It's ironic in a way… To think my dad passed away, just like hers.”

For a moment Inaho thought of asking if they should change the movie to some other musical, but since Slaine had shown such excitement toward the movie he decided to stay quiet and continue watching it anyway, hoping for Slaine to not feel downhearted. It proved to be the right decision once Slaine began silently sing along to the musical acts. He knew the songs by heart.

Inaho began thinking of how much his world had expanded the moment he had begun to spend time with Slaine. The Japanese boy would never have even thought about playing classical songs on a cello or watch a musical, nor would he probably have dressed up as a cowboy to go watch a cowboy movie at the cinema as a surprise for someone. The biggest change of them all was that he would never have spent so much time somewhere which was not his home or school, as he did at Slaine’s.

And I wouldn’t have laid in a couch with my lover in my arms right now,’ he thought and listened to the dramatic musical number in the movie.

“Inaho,” Slaine said quietly.

“Yes?”

“Whenever they kiss in this movie, we should kiss too,” the blond boy said without looking up at Inaho and kept his cheek rested against Inaho’s chest.

“All right,” the brunet answered and smiled. He could not help but to push his lips against Slaine’s forehead to kiss him there, and he felt Slaine squirm from cuddliness and nuzzle him again. A happy smile was playing on the blond boy’s lips.

They stayed like that throughout the entire movie and kissed whenever there was a kiss in the movie. Their kisses were pleasant and loving, like they tried to tell each other how much they loved the other through their lips meeting. If this was what Slaine had had in mind when telling Inaho to trust him to make the evening enjoyable Inaho was more than willing to trust him again, but next time without feeling worry. The brunet knew Slaine had planned something more for that evening but he had to admit Slaine had made a wonderful job at making Inaho relax and feel comfortable thus far; taking a shower together, only be dressed in bathrobes and lie in the couch while watching a romantic musical, kissing innocently and simply enjoying the moment they shared.

“I feel so sorry for the phantom,” Slaine said with a pathetic voice as Christine had told the phantom farewell at the end of the movie and left the phantom in his hideout to run away with her lover Raoul.

“But he was crazy, wasn’t he?” Inaho asked somewhat surprised, and Slaine looked up at him with a childish pout and tears in his eyes.

“He was so in love with her that he went mad and did all he could to have her! That’s why I feel so sorry for him. Once the phantom understood he could never have her he let her go, even if he knew she would run to her lover, while thinking of what a monster he was,” the blond boy explained childishly. “How can I not feel sorry for him?”

“Silly,” Inaho said and brushed his lover’s cheek with the back of his hand.

“What? I would have gone mad for you as well,” Slaine pouted and moved his lips closer to kiss Inaho’s.

“Are you that passionate?” Inaho wondered out loud after a kiss and Slaine got up onto all four and floated above Inaho and kissed him again.

“If you only knew…” the Western boy whispered and their kisses intensified. “I would have been a terrible phantom though,” Slaine then whispered and they chuckled and kissed again.

Absentmindedly the blond boy stretched out his hand toward the laptop while he put all his attention into kissing Inaho. The moment their lips were to part Inaho eagerly followed Slaine in order not to break their kiss as the boy tried to put on another musical. Slaine chuckled quietly as Inaho did so and managed to start a new movie, and quickly he threw his arms around Inaho’s neck and kissed him deeper.

“Mmh…” Inaho heard Slaine moan quietly and he followed Slaine’s silent command to sit up and lean back against the backrest of the couch.

The boy climbed up to straddle Inaho’s thighs after opening his bathrobe enough to give him freedom of movement, and warm hands were placed on Inaho’s cheeks. Slaine’s tongue tickled against the brunet’s lips and Inaho parted his lips enough to give his lover’s tongue access into his mouth. Without hesitation Slaine slipped his warm and wet tongue into Inaho’s mouth and licked gently across the brunet’s teeth and teased the tip of the Japanese boy’s tongue. Inaho felt that familiar tingling in his hands which made him want to touch his lover – not on top of the bathrobe but on the skin underneath it. He was about to lose control yet again and he felt an instant throb in his heart.

What do I do?’ he thought out of worry. Would it be enough to only kiss and touch just as they had done during their first night together as a couple? Would it be all right if they relived that night again?

Inaho had greatly enjoyed that but a couple of days later – as he had noticed how serious Slaine was about their physical intimacy and him wishing to go even farther – Inaho had realized the seriousness of what it meant to be a couple. There was nothing that made him doubt his love in Slaine, but to make the boy bound to him by offering him such strong and positive emotions as physical intimacy, was frightening. What if they would have a bad argument sometime in the future and Slaine was bound to him out of love? ‘What kind of heartbreak would he go through then?’ Inaho had wondered. Slaine had told him Inaho had no need to protect him from heartbreak; the time Slaine got with Inaho would be worth to grieve over if their relationship would turn ugly.

There’s no guarantee you will think like that after an argument or fight,’ Inaho had thought once hearing Slaine say that.

Now Slaine pushed himself against him and gently rubbed his loins against Inaho’s thighs. Their groins touched while the wet and slippery noises from their kisses reached Inaho’s ears and made his body react. He felt hotter and his hands began to tremble slightly. With a desperate try to find control he took a tight grip of the back of Slaine’s bathrobe. He had noticed it began to slip away quicker and quicker – like it was pulled out of him by Slaine’s intoxicating noises and acts.

“Inaho…” he heard Slaine sigh with a weak and begging noise as the blond raised his head just slightly to look at him. For a moment Inaho felt his mind blank out and he attacked Slaine’s lips again. The sight of flushed cheeks and the gleam of wet and heated eyes triggered Inaho to want more.

I’m losing control!’ he thought with a worry and could not help himself at all. ‘And yet I want to know how he would look like if he got more of this.’

Slaine coiled his arms around Inaho’s neck and buried his fingers into the tousled brown hair. The entirety of his body pushed against Inaho’s, not leaving an inch uncovered between them. Their heavy breaths were loud and uneven – like that of two teenagers in need for one another. Their arms ached as they held each other so tightly – like two lovers afraid of letting each other go. Their bodies were hot and tingly – like that of two adults ready to express their passion for each other.

“Inaho…” Slaine whispered once again and pulled away from his lover. “There’s something I want to do…” he continued and the blush on his cheeks intensified.

“What is it…?” Inaho whispered and tried to pull Slaine back into their kiss, but the blond boy refused. Slaine had control while Inaho had lost it.

So unfair…

“Am I allowed to … go down on you?” Slaine whispered and looked so embarrassed Inaho thought he would faint. The brunet grabbed Slaine’s waist in case Slaine would fall off of Inaho’s lap.

The brunet’s thoughts halted the moment Slaine asked that. At first he was unsure of what Slaine meant due to the sudden question, and when he understood it Inaho felt something tug at his heart. Was that something he could allow? Was Slaine asking for too much?

“I really want to try…” Slaine said and avoided looking at Inaho out of embarrassment.

“Isn’t that considered sex?” Inaho asked feeling concerned. “And you wouldn’t get anything out of it.”

Slaine turned his blue eyes toward him and looked sincere.

“I think it is sex, but it’s not the same thing as doing it for real. And I would get plenty out of it I think,” Slaine mumbled. “I’m really curious about it…”

“Why?”

Inaho could not help but to ask such a pointless question. Inaho felt ambivalent in the matter of oral sex. It was a very adult thing to do and yet he could not help but to feel curious as well now that Slaine so bluntly offered himself to do it.

“B-because you said you were afraid of losing control…” Slaine said silently. “Then let me lose control and show you it’s not t-that bad to lose it. And … I want to show you how sincere I am about you b-by making you feel good without asking for anything in exchange… You don’t have to do a-anything to pay back in any way.”

But that will simply make me feel bad,’ Inaho thought and stared at his lover. ‘And I don’t know how ready I am to do things to you to make you feel good as well.’

“Please,” Slaine begged pitifully. “Don’t feel guilty about it. I really want to do it but only if you let me.”

“You shouldn’t need to do that for me without asking for anything back,” Inaho said and did not let Slaine’s eyes go with his to show Slaine this was a serious statement.

“But I am getting something in exchange!” Slaine exclaimed with a pathetic tone to his trembling and nervous voice. “It brings me closer to you, and I get to make you feel g-good. That is rewarding for me.”

Inaho had a hard time deciding what to do. He knew he had promised Slaine to do more adult things this particular night but Inaho was uncertain of how far he would want to go.

“If you w-want to pay back in some way, then do it. I will let you do whatever you want to me… But just know you don’t have to,” Slaine mumbled.

“Are you sure you are ready to do something like that?” Inaho asked and Slaine nodded.

“You’re my lover…” Slaine countered silently. “I’m always ready to show you how much I love you… I don’t need rewards in order to love you because simply showing you love is rewarding enough…”

Inaho stared at him for a while hearing those words. Was what Slaine expressed what people called unconditional love? Was he so powerfully in love with him?

And am I?’ he thought and raised a hand to stroke Slaine’s blushing cheek. ‘Not yet, but he’s pulling me in just by saying such things.’ That was why Inaho thought he was not ready yet. That was why he had been afraid of losing control. Slaine’s form of love was so much stronger than the brunet’s and Inaho had sensed that imbalance without being able to define it until now. Inaho understood he had not reached that point yet and thus he had not been ready to be physically intimate with Slaine. ‘Am I holding too strongly on to my need of control?’ he thought. ‘Is it holding me back?’ Inaho figured that if he dared to let himself go just slightly, Slaine would do the rest and pull him even closer than before – teaching Inaho how to get to such a deep level of emotional intimacy that he would trust Slaine with his entire self, just like Slaine already trusted his own self to Inaho right now.

“Do you know how to do it?” the brunet asked and Slaine pouted childishly for a moment.

“Of course I don’t, except for what I have read in a book. I have to practice and I only want to practice on you,” the boy answered stubbornly and with that answer Inaho chuckled.

“If I want you to stop, you will?” Inaho asked and Slaine’s pout disappeared and turned into a sparkling smile.

“I will!” Slaine answered happily. “If you tell me to stop, I will!”

“Then I give you my consent,” Inaho answered, and before he had had time to inhale after his words Slaine attacked Inaho’s lips with his. The blond pushed their lips so forcefully together that their teeth grazed against each other’s. Slaine plunged his tongue into Inaho’s mouth and coiled it around Inaho’s, slipping and sliding them tightly together. The tingle and need to touch his lover awoke once again in Inaho, and the brunet tightened his arms around Slaine. Heat boiled beneath Inaho’s skin and he jolted from the electrifying flash attacking his nervous system the moment Slaine grinded their groins together. The blond boy was already hard.

“Slaine…” Inaho whispered and felt feverish as Slaine carefully nibbled on his lower lip and dragged his teeth over it.

“I promise it’ll feel good. Just let me know when it doesn’t,” Slaine whispered and took a hold of Inaho’s arms to free himself from them.

Inaho watched Slaine lower himself onto his knees on the floor. The blond boy’s cheeks blushed again to such degree the tips of his ears became the same color. Gently he spread Inaho’s knees and shuffled closer, looked up at the brunet to ask for permission to open the bathrobe in front of him. Once he got permission from Inaho to do it Slaine clumsily untied the already loosened knot in the soft belt and pulled the robe open. He pushed his palms against Inaho’s abdomen and sensually moved them up to his chest and back down, then back up again and down ever so slowly to make Inaho relax while Slaine leaned closer to Inaho’s groin each time – until Inaho could feel Slaine’s hot breaths through the soft fabric.

Inaho tensed up the moment he felt Slaine’s lips lightly touch the fabric. The blond planted gentle kisses onto the fabric and slowly climbed upward with his lips until he kissed Inaho’s abdomen and licked the skin with a warm tongue. Teeth grazed against Inaho’s skin, teasing the brunet to fall into the passionate flames Slaine had ignited. The kisses tickled and were wet but in a pleasant way. Inaho exhaled with a silent sigh of pleasantness while his heat grew for each kiss Slaine teased his skin with.

“Slaine…” Inaho sighed and squeezed his hands into tight fists of nervousness as Slaine’s slender fingers began fidgeting with the edge of the waistband to Inaho’s underwear.

Slowly and carefully Slaine pulled the waistband down and exposed more of his lover’s skin which he could kiss. And he did. For each inch that was exposed Slaine was quick to cover it with a loving kiss and those kisses descended further and further down. Inaho’s breaths became faster and so did his pulse.

“I love you…” Slaine whispered and finally pulled down the underwear far enough that Inaho’s entire heat was exposed.

For a moment Inaho felt guilty and insecure but Slaine kissed around the base without hesitation. For someone who did this for the first time Slaine seemed confident enough that it showed how much he had studied on what to do. As his lips touched Inaho’s hot shaft Inaho’s breath was caught in his throat. It was a sensation he had never felt before.

“Are you all right?” Slaine whispered without looking up at him and waited for an answer before he advanced.

“Yes…” Inaho whispered back and gasped when Slaine curled his fingers around his heat. “S-Slaine… That…”

Inaho wanted to tell him to stop but he could not find words to say it. He wanted Slaine to continue so badly and yet he felt such a strong embarrassment of being like that, that he wanted to tell him to stop.

“You’re handsome…” Slaine said quietly as he kept kissing Inaho’s flesh. “And so stunning… Let me…”

“Mmh…” Inaho answered with a nod. His mind was in uproar from the embarrassment, the intense need and from Slaine’s encouraging words. Inaho was grateful for them as his lover’s words calmed him slightly down from the high top of embarrassment.

A wet lick left a cool sensation on the heated flesh which Slaine had turned all his attention to. Slaine pulled his hand down to expose the sensitive tip. A second wet lick lapped over the tip and Inaho jumped from the sudden sensation. He had to close his eyes. The distant sounds of the musical was played in the background while Inaho’s mind was in overwhelming turmoil. Moist lips nibbled at the tip and a tongue slid over the sensitive skin. Slaine’s tongue slid down to the base again and then slowly licked over Inaho’s entire length, only to add pressure against a highly sensitive spot at the back of the fleshy tip.

“Hahh!” Inaho gasped at that moment as an intense electrifying pulse spread from that sweet spot and all the way out to his fingertips. He raised his back from the backrest of the couch as his abdominal muscles wanted to contract, and he found support by leaning against his arms behind his back. “S-Slaine…!”

“It’s good…” Slaine whispered and covered the tip with his mouth, making Inaho’s muscles want to contract again.

A wet sound reached Inaho’s ears as Slaine moved his lips slowly around the tip – back and forth – up and down. The soft roughness of his tongue teased Inaho’s nerve endings so pleasantly Inaho had to close his eyes and release a heavy sigh. Slowly Slaine dared to take him in deeper and the hot and soft flesh inside felt like velvet against the brunet’s passion which had quickly grown from his lover’s teases. Slaine kept pushing his tongue against the back of the tip at where a surge of pleasure flashed through the brunet. Each time that happened Inaho let out a surprised moan and tensed up.

You were lying…’ Inaho thought and gritted his teeth. ‘You’re the one in control.’

“Aah! That’s … too much,” Inaho moaned with a strained whisper as Slaine had begun to stimulate the brunet’s entire crotch area with his hands and mouth.

Slaine did not answer but kept moving his head slowly up and down along Inaho’s needy flesh and fondled his lover’s sensitive skin with gentle fingers. The blond boy’s blush had gotten softer and so had his eyes as he looked up at Inaho for a slight second. His eyes gleamed beautifully and Slaine looked feverish and contented. There was no way Inaho could miss the enjoyment in Slaine’s expression as the blond eagerly pleasured his lover.

The gentle suction Slaine did made Inaho’s passion throb. The careful fingers rubbed at the right spots between Inaho’s thighs – spots which Slaine had discovered by being incredibly attentive to Inaho’s reactions.

Inaho’s breaths got shorter and sharp as the intensity of Slaine’s acts of pleasure beckoned him over the edge. This was the edge Inaho had felt the urge for last Sunday when he and Slaine had been kissing in the bed after their awkward argument in the kitchen. He had not been able to comprehend it back then but now the understanding came to him as he was about to reach that verge: He wanted Slaine to push him over it.

The wet noises got louder as Slaine began to move faster. He had probably heard Inaho’s breaths change and a sudden worry came over the brunet. If he would be pushed over the edge it would become messy.

“S-Slaine… Wait…” Inaho gasped but Slaine did not stop. Inaho wanted to ask him to stop in order to speak to him since Slaine had promised he would stop under Inaho’s command – but selfishly he wanted him to continue. He had hoped for Slaine to stop by being asked to wait since Inaho could not even think of uttering the word “stop”, but Slaine simply ignored him.

You’re deliberately ignoring me because I didn’t say stop,’ Inaho thought and wanted to close his legs but Slaine was in the way.

The urgency got greater and Inaho desperately put his hand against Slaine’s forehead to push him back. He did not push him hard though and Slaine simply kept on moving while he raised his hand to Inaho’s. He guided Inaho’s hand behind his head and held it there as if to silently let the brunet know it was all right to be greedy.

You may use me,” his silent words said and Inaho decided to give in. He sighed heavily and leaned his head back while he felt Slaine’s lips, tongue and hands all over him. It was wet and sticky and so pleasurable.

“Ah…!” he heard his own voice. “Haahh… Slaine…!”

The hand behind Slaine’s head was arousing his mind further as he felt Slaine move beneath it. Now he had slightly more control than before. Inaho could decide what pace Slaine should have or how deep he would go if he wanted to. He could decide if he would stop him or not by just taking a hold of the soft blond hair. Confidence grew in him along with the tension that would soon be released. He had always imagined sex to be about one person in control and the other submissive, and he had not believed it to be mutual. Now Slaine had the control of doing something pleasurable for him and Inaho had the control of how the blond would do it. Inaho’s worrying mind could begin to relax once he had gotten release from the turmoil of pleasure in his body.

“I’m…!” Inaho sighed before his breath was caught in his throat as Slaine teased his flesh intensely – eager to give him release.

Slaine sucked harder and moved faster. Inaho wanted to push him down further to get all the way inside but he dared not to in case it would be uncomfortable for Slaine. Instead he concentrated on the intense feeling of his muscles tensing up and had hoped to have time to warn his lover, but the release caught up with him faster than he had predicted. Inaho nearly doubled over as earth-shattering feelings, sensations and emotions collided inside him.

“AAHNG! Haahh!”

Inaho trembled violently and Slaine slowed down. The blond had not released him with his lips at all and his mouth must have been filled with his lover’s liquefied passion. As Inaho slowly began to calm down he wanted to quickly apologize, but the moment Slaine pulled back and released Inaho he smiled so happily with a contented blush that Inaho could not find words to say even for an apology. Slaine swallowed and dried his messy lips and chin with the sleeve of his bathrobe and chuckled quietly.

“Thank you, Inaho,” he said with his pretty blush playing on his face. “It was really fun and exciting.”

Inaho gasped for breath and stared at him where Slaine sat on his knees on the floor. How could he say something like that with such an attractive face? How could he be so contented from something like that? The shyness Slaine had shown earlier had disappeared completely and his voice was so genuinely happy it sounded like a purr.

“Did I do good?” Slaine then asked and looked sincerely curious as he looked at Inaho, who had stayed silent and admired Slaine’s pleased expression.

Inaho nodded. His breath began to calm down but his heart kept beating violently in his chest like he had run a race and won.

“It was overwhelming…” the brunet answered and Slaine’s smile brightened.

“Really?!”

Don’t look so stunningly happy or I can’t contain myself,’ Inaho thought and watched his lover cover his smiling lips with the clean sleeve of his bathrobe. ‘Don’t be so charming…!

“I was really nervous at first,” the boy said joyfully and chuckled. “But once I began and listened to your reactions it began to-“

Inaho could not hold himself back. He pushed Slaine down onto the floor and followed him in the fall. Slaine’s back bumped against the floor and Inaho hovered above him on all four. He wanted to make Slaine experience the same earth-shattering moment he had felt just a couple of breaths ago. He wanted to make Slaine feel how helplessly wonderful it was to be pushed over the edge, just like he had pushed Inaho.

“Inaho, what are you-!” Slaine began but Inaho kissed him. His lips tasted slightly bitter and salty and Slaine hurriedly pushed him away. “But I’ve just had you in my-!”

“I don’t care,” Inaho interrupted him and kissed him again. Again he felt that same taste and did not mind it the least.

“Inaho!” Slaine said at full volume after he had turned his face to the side. “I told you that you don’t have to pay back.”

Inaho took a hold of his jaw and gently turned the boy’s face back toward him so they could look at each other.

“And you told me,” Inaho said and pushed Slaine’s bathrobe open to reveal the boy’s nearly naked body beneath it. “That I could do what I wanted to you.”

Slaine stared at him a while with furrowed brows but then smiled wryly.

“I did, didn’t I?” he asked with a quiet chuckle and Inaho nodded. The boy sighed and the wryness disappeared from his smile. “Go ahead then,” he whispered and raised his arms to put them around Inaho’s neck.

They kissed and Inaho caressed Slaine’s warm torso. His lover’s breaths were shallow from excitement and once Inaho released his lips to descend with his kisses onto Slaine’s neck and collarbone the shallow breaths turned into deep sighs of pleasure. He wondered if his breaths had been as delightful to the blond as Slaine’s were to him. He wanted to hear more and so his lips enclosed one of Slaine’s pink nipples to pinch it with his lips. Instantly Slaine bit his lower lip and grabbed the shoulder part of Inaho’s bathrobe with his hands to squeeze it tightly.

“Hah…!”

It was such a sweet and intoxicating gasp. Inaho discovered Slaine found it highly arousing to be teased like that and before long Inaho had found several spots on Slaine’s body which made the blond boy gasp and moan as he arched his back, enough to raise it from the floor. All Inaho could hear and think about was Slaine’s reactions and noises and they encouraged him to release all sense of fear of losing control. Control had nothing to do with love, he had discovered. There was no need for him to worry about something like that since losing control was allowed together with Slaine.

Because I love him,’ he thought and felt relief. ‘Because we both lose ourselves in the moment.

♪♫♪♫

Slaine awoke to a sweet scent of food. He sluggishly opened his eyes and turned his face up from the pillow he had been snuggling. Someone moved next to the bed and the silent rustling of fabric reached his ears.

“Good morning,” he heard his lover say and Slaine looked up at Inaho who was busy dressing himself.

“Good morning…” Slaine whispered and yawned.

“It’s 06:30 in the morning,” Inaho said and Slaine pushed his exhausted body up from bed. The duvet fell off his torso and the chilly air instantly attacked him. He quickly pulled it up over his head and wrapped it around himself.

He realized he was naked and a satisfying embarrassment crept over his being. They had been physically intimate for the first time last night and the emotional effects showed on Slaine by making him giddy and frisky. Slaine turned his eyes toward his torso and opened the duvet just a little to see the deep red marks on his skin here and there, mostly around his chest where Inaho had kissed and teased him the most last night. He remembered Inaho’s lips kissing, nibbling and sucking on his chest and the brunet’s hand touching him inside his underwear. A tingly sensation rushed over Slaine’s skin and it was much stronger between his legs. He pulled the duvet shut around him as a wide smile spread on his lips.

I want to do that again!’ he thought and chuckled inside the duvet.

“Are you plotting something in there?” he heard Inaho say from outside Slaine’s fluffy castle walls.

Slaine peeked out from a small opening and watched Inaho button his shirt as he made himself ready for school.

“What if I am?”

“Then make sure to set it in motion once we have come back from school, and not before that,” Inaho said. “You should eat. I’ve made us breakfast.”

“Breakfast?” Slaine asked baffled and pulled the duvet off his head to look at a small tray he had not noticed before. It stood on the neatly made bedside which was Inaho’s side of the bed. On top of it stood a plate with pieces of rolled omelet, two toasts with cheese and ham, a cup of black coffee and a cup of tea, and two glasses of orange juice. “For me?” Slaine asked and looked up at Inaho who tied his green school uniform tie. Soon that green tie would become red like Slaine’s as Inaho and his friends would begin high school.

“I tried to wake you up before but you mumbled something and went back to sleep,” Inaho explained and Slaine blushed.

“I don’t remember that!” Slaine yelled embarrassed and pouted.

“But you did,” Inaho said and sat down on his side of the bed and took the cup of tea to raise it to his lips. “That’s why I thought to let you sleep a little while longer and make breakfast in the meantime.”

Slaine’s pout disappeared as he heard his lover’s considerate words. Inaho usually always shoved or pulled the blond up from the bed since Slaine was everything but a morning person. They would then dress together and go to the kitchen and make breakfast, which they would eat at the kitchen table. It had always been like that. The breakfast on the bed surprised the blond and Slaine’s heart fluttered.

I knew it would make us fall in love even more,’ Slaine thought happily and took the cup of coffee from the tray.

“Thank you, Inaho,” he said smiling and sipped on it. “That was really nice of you.”

Something was different between them. Slaine could not pinpoint it exactly but the way Inaho looked at him told him they had found a more intimate level in their relationship. It was a pleasant place to be. It felt like a storm had died down only to be replaced by calm. Tension had disappeared from between them and it was a truly serene feeling, Slaine thought. Nothing else felt different though. The acts from last night had not been as life changing as Slaine had imagined, but he was completely happy with the calm air between him and Inaho now.

They ate their breakfast together while Slaine insisted on dwelling inside his soft duvet castle to protect him from the cold air in the room. Once they had eaten and Slaine had dressed, they left for school. As they walked shoulder to shoulder he could not help but to reach out his hand and entwine his little finger with Inaho’s as they headed toward the bus that would take them to school. They did not utter any unnecessary words since the peace around them was speaking loud enough for both of them; there was no need for words. To walk side by side to the bus stop with their little fingers holding onto each other was interactive enough.

They met Inko, Nina and Calm on the bus. They sat all the way back as usual and both of them sat down on the two seats in front of Nina and Calm. They chatted with their friends like they always did before Slaine had to get off at the stop outside his school while the others had two more stops to go. Before Slaine took a step toward the doors of the bus he caught Inaho’s eyes in his and they looked at each other for an electrifying moment – and suddenly Slaine felt a wild urge. He raised his school bag onto his back before he leaned down to give Inaho’s lips a quick kiss.

“Have a good day at school,” he whispered and hurried off the bus before their friends had had the time to recover from the shock he had given them.

I’m sorry, Inaho, but I revealed our relationship for your sister. It’s your turn to do that to our friends,’ Slaine said smiling and waved to his shocked friends staring at him through the bus window as the vehicle drove off. He noticed Inaho smile at him before the bus disappeared down the street. ‘I see you later,’ he thought smiling and headed toward the gates of his school.

Chapter Text

The last note had been produced and the last stomp on the pedals had been made. Slaine’s shoulders ached and so did his right arm. He had been playing on the violin fast for so long his arm had nearly gone numb from the constant tension he had to put in it to move the bow across the strings in the right tempo. Sweat pearled down his temples and forehead and he put the violin and bow down to wipe his face with a towel. The studio felt hotter than when he had arrived that morning.

“Congratulations!” he heard Harklight exclaim as the man stepped into the room. “You have played the complete song in one go, Mr. Troyard!”

Slaine looked up at the smiling young man at the door and then turned to look toward the company representative who was on a visit to see how far Slaine had gotten with the song.

“That was amazingly done,” the company representative said as Slaine stepped out of the recording room with the towel around his neck. “Are you ready for the festival and commercial?”

Slaine tried to catch his breath before he spoke. He was so out of breath and so tense in his shoulders that he had to sit down on a chair.

“Yes, I am finished with the song and I think I can play it live now without complications,” the boy said with a tired smile.

Slaine had promised to himself to manage playing the song and record the commercial with one shot. He would give the crowd a good time without having them go through a tedious time of technical and skill based difficulties, and wrap up the shooting of the commercial as fast as possible. He would be away at an electronic music festival in Amsterdam over the first week of February with the crew from Orbital Systems Inc. and Harklight. That was next week. It was a tight squeeze for Slaine since he put priority in being home for Inaho’s 16th birthday on the 7th of February. The boy practiced hard in order to be able to play the song without mistakes and be back home before his lover would turn 16 years old so he could celebrate that special day with him. Inaho’s birthday was a Saturday and Slaine would play at the festival on Friday. It meant Slaine would be back late on Inaho’s birthday if he finished on Friday.

I must be back by then!’ Slaine thought and sighed to relax his tense body while he opened and closed his hands. His left fingers ached like they always did after a long day in the studio.

“Good to hear!” the company representative said joyfully. “I will make the last preparations before we leave for Amsterdam. I would appreciate if the song is recorded and finished before that. Is that possible?” the man then asked.

Slaine heard on the man’s tone that it was just a polite order and not a kind request. In other words they had begun to put demands on the boy and Slaine wondered how much work they would throw his way once this commercial was done. The contract Slaine had signed stated that the boy would record an entire EP – extended play album – with four songs with the system as the primary tool. Other than that he would get free reins to create whatever songs he wished. The EP album was to be recorded at its entirety before 21st of March that year, and therefore Slaine had a lot of work to do.

At least one song is finished,’ he thought and gave the company representative a nod.

“I will see to it immediately after I have rested for a while,” Slaine answered the man who nodded with a pleased smile.

“That is much appreciated. Well, I will make my leave now. Thank you for letting me observe you practicing. It was exhilarating as always,” the man said and bowed, and Slaine got up from the chair to bow back to him along with Harklight.

“I will deliver the recording once it has been made,” Harklight said and the company representative nodded.

They exchanged a couple of more words before the man left and Slaine sat down in the chair again and leaned against the backrest. He breathed out a long sigh and groaned.

“I’m so exhausted!” he exclaimed and closed his eyes. “This song was really fun to play the first couple of times but now it’s just so exhausting. My right arm hurts,” he complained and heard Harklight walk up behind him.

Big hands were placed on Slaine’s shoulders beneath the towel the boy still had around his neck, and the strong hands began massaging his shoulders. Slaine thought he would melt at the spot and he went completely limp as Harklight showed his kindness toward the boy. Harklight had massaged Slaine’s shoulders once before after he had complained about the same issue of him feeling exhausted.

“Thank you…” Slaine sighed and felt himself relax completely. “This helps a lot.”

“No need to thank me, Mr. Troyard. I will gladly help you in any way I can. I know how horrible it feels to have tense shoulders after playing an instrument for too long,” the man answered gently and Slaine leaned his head back to look at him.

“What instrument do you play?” the boy asked and watched Harklight blush heavily as Slaine had caught onto what Harklight had said.

Don’t try to hide it from me,’ Slaine thought amused and watched the man blush. ‘You gave yourself away; only a musician knows how stiff shoulders from playing a lot feels like.’

“I remember you told me when we met that you were a singer before you became a manager, but I didn’t know you played an instrument as well,” Slaine continued.

Harklight frowned with a smile and kept massaging Slaine’s shoulders. Slaine raised his head again to keep it in a comfortable position when the man massaged him. Harklight had only told Slaine he had been a singer when the young man had been a teenager. Only now did Slaine understand it had to do with creating music as well because of Harklight mentioning he knew how it felt to get stiff shoulders from playing an instrument.

“Err… I played guitar,” the man answered quietly. “I was singing and playing in small gigs at different events before a producer noticed me and wanted to sign a contract with me.”

“Really?” Slaine asked and looked up at his manager again. “Why did you stop playing?”

The crease between Harklight’s furrowed brows got deeper and the man hesitated. Slaine felt too curious to let him know it was all right if the man wished not to tell him. Slaine wanted to hear it.

I’m sorry,’ he thought as Harklight made a pause with massaging him.

“The producer began to demand so much work from me that I hardly had time for anything else. My entire life as I knew it was taken away from me and I did not realize it until my friend began to stop including me in their plans. I wouldn’t accept their invitations anyway because I had to work, they said,” Harklight explained and Slaine frowned hearing that. “Luckily I was a minor back then and so I did not need to honor the contract, and I left. With that my career was over; no one wanted to hire me, and so I changed my career to become a manager.”

“That sounds terrible,” Slaine said and felt sorry for the man. “Is being a manager easier work?”

Harklight chuckled.

“No, not really. But I love working with music and so I wanted to become a manager to help children in similar situations as the one I was in, to give them as much free time for friends as possible and protect them from greedy companies,” he said and Slaine smiled.

Somehow the boy had quickly learned to know Harklight throughout the two weeks they had been working together. The man was gentle and kind by nature and had a caring quality to him Slaine had not seen in anyone else. Harklight was considerate in many ways and he probably had the longest and sturdiest forbearance Slaine had seen.

“As far as I have seen you are doing great with that,” Slaine smiled and Harklight looked at him with surprise before he humbly bowed and continued massaging Slaine’s shoulders.

“Thank you, Mr. Troyard,” the man said and Slaine sighed from annoyance.

“I have told you many times to call me Slaine. Please, Harklight,” the boy said and chuckled. “I really need you to call me Slaine since Mr. Troyard is exactly what people called my dad. Besides, my full name is Slaine Saazbaum Troyard, so Mr. Troyard is wrong anyway and calling me for Mr. Saazbaum Troyard is too long.”

Harklight was quick to apologize but Slaine would not have that. He urged the man to call him by his first name and they bantered and argued about it for a while. The boy thought Harklight would never run out of patience as the man persistently gave him reasons to why he should address the boy by an honorific. Slaine’s impatience grew more and more.

“Fine! Then I’ll address you as a mister as well!” Slaine said stubbornly and Harklight smile with a frown and tilted his head slightly.

“There really is no need to-“ the man began but Slaine folded his arms.

“Yes there is, Mr. Harklight!” he said and Harklight chuckled and took a deep breath.

“All right, Slaine. You win,” he said and Slaine’s stubborn expression turned into a smile. He gave Harklight a boyish grin and then got up from the chair.

“Thank you,” he said and walked into the recording room with a set goal in mind; the closet with musical instruments. “Can you play some guitar for me?” the boy then asked encouragingly and Harklight blushed.

“Of course. Keep in mind that I haven’t played for a long time,” the man said but Slaine shook his head.

“It doesn’t matter. Please, show me. I’m curious to hear how you sound,” he prompted and hurried to pick a guitar from the closet where he had found the cello Inaho had played with a couple of weeks ago.

As the boy offered the acoustic guitar for Harklight the man accepted it and sat down on a chair to tune it. The guitar had no strap to it which meant Harklight had to sit down in order to support it on his right thigh. Slaine sat down on the floor like a tailor and waited patiently and he curiously watched the man tune the guitar. Harklight had tried the tune of the guitar by plucking at one of the strings and the tune had been completely off. Slaine kept an eye on the pegs when Harklight tuned the intrument with practiced fingers and he watched the man’s thumb pluck at the strings as Harklight listened to the tunes slowly grow clearer. The boy had never tried a guitar in his entire life – mostly since it had been considered as a commoner’s instrument in the classical world where Slaine had grown up – but he really did enjoy the acoustic sound of it when someone with experience and practice played the guitar. Now he felt excited.

“All right. What kind of song do you want to hear?” Harklight asked when he was finished tuning.

“Why not play one of your original songs?” Slaine asked and smiled happily – excited to hear one of Harklight’s works which the man had composed by himself as a teenager.

The man laughed softly and thought for a while. Before Harklight began to play Slaine thought of how well he suited to have a guitar in his lap. He looked so at home with the instrument in his hands and the way Harklight held it proved to Slaine he had been holding a guitar since childhood. A musician was quick to recognize another by how they held their instruments. Not just anyone could hold an instrument the way a musician did since the hold itself was developed over time the more a musician played. The hold would slowly - gradually - become natural, as natural as walking or riding a bicycle.

“I haven’t named this song since I never really came up with a proper name for it,” Harklight said and placed his fingers onto the fingerboard and thought for a while. “This was one of the last songs I made before I gave up playing as a professional.”

With that Harklight began to pluck on the strings. His left hand fingers danced over the strings on the fingerboard, creating a melody which was happy and calm as well as rich with sound and heart. As the song progressed from its soft intro, through its first calm verse and all the way to the chorus, the sound exploded with playful emotion. It swelled in Slaine's heart and put a smile on his lips. He closed his eyes and swayed slowly from side to side according to the rhythm - letting himself be enveloped by the lay-back emotion. Harklight knocked his fingers and palm against the guitar’s body with an even beat as he plucked on the strings, to form the delighted sound of a gentle and upbeat song. The skill of playing gave Slaine chills and he felt tears in his eyes. The boy was slowly becoming overwhelmed with the tenderness of the song and how well Harklight played. It was simply perfect.

Throughout the entire song Harklight had a soft smile on his expression like he had been reunited with a long-lost love. The musician in him had come alive after it had been slumbering beneath the surface of a hardworking manager. Slaine felt blessed to be allowed to see such a magical moment take place in front of his eyes. The boy held music close to his heart and to surround himself with the flow of a wonderful song being played live before him made his heart flutter happily. Music was the language Slaine knew fluently and at that moment the musician got a connection to the other sitting in the chair in front of him. Harklight spoke fluently as well, telling Slaine of his inner world which was normally concealed beneath a surface of social codes and insufficient words. Harklight was telling Slaine of kindness and gentleness, but also of calm and fun. Slaine listened keenly.

So this is who you truly are?’ the boy thought and took a deep breath and smiled wider, riding through the relaxing song Harklight played for him.

When Harklight finished the song Slaine applauded excitedly with such a bright smile his cheeks ached. Harklight gave him a humble bow with his head and smiled.

“That was so amazing!” Slaine exclaimed and leaned against his arms to the floor in order to lean forward toward the man. “Why did you ever stop playing!?”

“Thank you,” Harklight said softly and looked at the guitar with a warm smile. “I guess I never have time for my own music,” the man then continued.

“Is the work of a manager taking so much of your time that you can’t do what you love the most?” Slaine asked and his smile faded. "I could hear and see how much you like playing guitar." He felt downhearted for Harklight’s sake.

“It does. It would have been sad if time would take my ability away from me but I find it comforting to know that I have played guitar for so long that it’s impossible for me to forget how to play,” the man said and chuckled.

“But that’s terrible!” Slaine said and looked horrified at his manager. “You need to exercise that ability more!”

Harklight smiled wryly and got up from the chair to put the guitar back into the closet where Slaine had found it.

“I have no time for that,” Slaine heard him answer when Harklight closed the closet door.

What are you saying!? You loved to play again. I saw it in your expression!

Slaine shook his head and got a determined look on his face.

“You still have your guitar at home?” Slaine asked and Harklight nodded.

“It’s probably gathering dust in a corner,” he said with a chuckle and Slaine got up from the floor and pointed at the door leading out from the studio.

“Go home with you and practice!” the boy scolded. “I can manage recording my song on my own so there’s no need for you to stay here for the rest of the afternoon.”

Harklight’s smile faded instantly and his eyes widened from shock.

“Thank you, Slaine, but I can’t do that. I have to be here in case you need me,” the man said urgently but Slaine shook his head and pointed at the door once again.

“I can do this on my own. I just need to record the song, that’s all. It would make me greatly happy if you would go home and practice on your guitar playing, and maybe compose a new song. I want to hear you play some more in the future – most preferably tomorrow morning,” Slaine said with a commanding tone. Then he smiled as Harklight looked like he was growing distressed. “Don’t worry. Playing violin is what I do best,” Slaine said softly. “I know my song so well that I will finish it within minutes and then leave to go home. Really, you can go home and play on your guitar.”

Harklight stared at him for a while and Slaine stood his ground. He wanted Harklight to take time to play on his guitar. The boy’s musician heart cried from hearing the man’s guitar collected dust somewhere in a corner of his apartment and not be used the way an instrument should.

“Are you sure?” Harklight asked carefully. He sounded like he was terrified of accepting Slaine’s offer.

Just like when I tried to pay for you at the nice restaurant a while back,’ Slaine thought. ‘I had to push you into accepting it back then, and I will push you into accepting my offer right now. You need to play on your guitar.’

“Yes. Now go home. I will finish within ten minutes. There is no need for you to sit here and just wait for me. It’s okay if you go home as long as you promise me to pick up your guitar when you get home,” Slaine insisted and stared at the man who slowly began to smile.

“Thank you…” Harklight said and bowed with gratitude. “You are so kind.”

“I see you tomorrow morning,” Slaine said and Harklight nodded and wished Slaine a good afternoon. The manager walked into the control room and began to pull his coat on. “Harklight,” Slaine said and looked at Harklight through the door to the recording room as the man was walking toward the exit door. His manager stopped at the studio door to look at him. “Tomorrow, can you bring your guitar with you? I want to play with you tomorrow,” the boy said.

Harklight smiled brightly and nodded.

“Of course I can. Thank you once again, Slaine,” the man said and they bid farewell.

Slaine walked over to the purple electric violin lying on the table and picked it up after he had placed the headphones over his ears. He took a deep breath and released it with a deep sigh. Once again he had to play the song he had composed by accident a couple of weeks ago. He was growing tired of it. It had been fun in the beginning when it had been new to him and he got a challenge from it but now it was nothing but tedious to play. He had had his fun with it; it gave no other challenge to him anymore except testing his stamina.

The song needed a lot of fast paced bowing and Slaine got no moment to rest throughout the entire five minute song. His right arm had to constantly work and after half of the song the arm muscles screamed for oxygen. His arm would begin to slowly become so tense that it would begin cramping and become jerky – which forced Slaine to put even more power into it in order to keep it smooth so the bow would not make horrible sounds on the strings.

I guess stepping around on the pedals is fun enough,’ Slaine thought and turned the system computer on. The LCD screen lit up and showed the logo to Orbital Systems Inc. and the program popped up on the screen a couple of seconds later. He picked the program file with the customized settings for the pedals he had created and then pushed the recording button. He backed away from the screen to stand in the middle of the circle of pedals on the floor, raised the bow to the strings and took a deep breath.

135 beats per minute. Key: A minor,’ Slaine thought and placed the first finger onto the string and listened to the imagined beat in his mind.

He stomped on the first pedal and the background drums began to play. He waited for the drums to pick up and once they did he stepped on another pedal and began to play the fast paced melody on the strings. The synthesizer made the violin sound similar to a banjo and he smiled as he thought of how silly it actually was to warp a beautiful instrument as a violin to sound like a banjo. It was greatly fun to experiment – he had to admit that – but once he was finished with the EP album and had honored the contract he wanted to return to his roots as a true violinist.

The song picked up with richness and sound, and Slaine played flawlessly and stomped and stepped on the pedals on the floor to either change the drum beats, change the sound of the violin, or simply add effects to his melody. His heart began to feel the catchy tune as it began to beat harder and gave Slaine an uplifting feeling.

The drum sounds Slaine had composed by himself with the help of his violin and the bow. He had noticed that if he gently tapped the back of the bow against either the violin body or the strings the pickup did what a pickup does and picked up the sounds. Those sounds Slaine could warp through the synthesizer system into sounding just like drum beats and that was how he had built up the drum part to the song.

The part where he had to step around on the pedals was the most enjoyable part of the song. Slaine loved to move around the way he had to in order to play the song. He enjoyed the feeling of his clothes flutter around him as he turned around on the spot toward the next pedal he had to step on in order to start a loop of sounds, and he enjoyed how his hair fell over his eyes and how his body began to protest by sweating. It was a complete workout and he felt wonderfully exhausted each time he had finished playing the song.

Pedal 5!’ Slaine thought and pushed it slowly down and the beats began to beat faster. The more he pushed the pedal down the faster the drums went, and he kept playing the violin by moving the bow faster as well. His arm screamed at him to stop but he kept pushing. The sound flowed through him like he was swallowed by it. The intensity and catchiness gave him a satisfactory feeling.

Pedal 7!

As he pushed it down a powerful bass shook the floor. He picked up the pace of the notes on the violin and he had to grit his teeth in order to push himself through that part. He was just about to step on pedal 4 when a sudden flash of pain burned through his ring finger on his left hand and he instantly dropped the violin and bow. The electronic instrument made a loud protesting noise when the violin hit the floor and it echoed aggressively in the computer system which still played the loops Slaine had created. The boy did not hear the looping music at all despite the sounds were loud in his headphones. He could only stare at his left ring finger which felt painful enough tears sprung to his eyes. His thoughts had halted completely.

It hurt.

It burned.

His entire hand burned and the pain beamed from his ring finger through his entire arm. More tears gathered in his eyes as shock grabbed a merciless hold of him. His fingers had been aching slightly throughout the day but Slaine had not thought much about it. His fingers always ached like that.

“What is happening…?” he whispered with a tremble and collapsed to his knees on the floor and his tears began to flow down his cheeks. He tried to move his fingers on his left hand but the burning sensation flashed through him with harsher intensity. "Don't do this to me...!"

♪♫♪♫

The phone vibrated on Inaho’s desk. The boy had been immersed in social studies as the exam period was around the corner. The brunet turned to look at his phone where Slaine’s name flashed on the screen along with a photograph of the boy. If Inaho remembered correctly Slaine was at the studio today, working away on his song, and the boy wondered if Slaine had come up with a new song which he had to vet out about. The Western boy got excited each time he came up with a new song and Inaho was the one he vented to about it. Slaine’s and Yuki’s calls were the only ones Inaho answered while he was studying and so he picked up his phone and answered.

“Yes?” Inaho said as he answered but was startled by a distressed voice on the other side of the line. It was a voice Inaho had never heard before coming from Slaine. The voice was a pure panicked scream:

I don’t know what to do! Help me! I’m panicking!

Inaho stood up from the chair next to his desk and began walking toward the shoes and coats hanging in the hall. He had immediately understood Slaine was in a situation he could not handle by himself and Inaho began to put his coat on as he asked:

“Why are you panicking?”

My fingers! I can’t move them! They hurt! What do I do!?” his lover answered with that frightened screaming voice.

The pain must have been intense in order to distress Slaine like that. The boy had never complained about his fingers hurting before – probably because Slaine refused to admit it for himself. Slaine would only answer if someone asked him about his fingers, and not even then would he be honest about it. Inaho had warned him about the constant work the boy insisted on doing but Slaine had not listened. The brunet could not blame him though; Slaine loved the violin and he loved music. There was no way the blond could keep his hands away from it.

“Where are you?” Inaho asked and sat down on the floor to tie his shoes.

At the studio! Help me, Inaho!

“I’m on my way,” Inaho assured him. “Wait a moment,” he then said and got up from the floor and walked over to his sister who lay in the couch in the living room, watching a drama series. “Yuki-nee. I need you to drive me,” the boy said and watched his sister look up at him from behind the couch.

“Now?” she asked confused and Inaho nodded.

“Slaine has to go to the hospital,” the brunet answered and Yuki suddenly bounced up from the couch and hurried to the hall to dress in her coat and winter boots. She was in such hurry that she forgot to turn the television off and Inaho turned it off in her place. “I and Yuki are on our way. We will be there within 15 minutes,” Inaho then said to Slaine in the phone and followed Yuki once she was finished dressing in her outerwear.

Inaho was surprised of how quick his sister was to act in an emergency. She was usually slow and lazy paced but her schooling as a police officer had certainly made her reactions in emergencies faster than Inaho’s. The brunet had to run after her as she strode across the parking lot with long steps toward the car. Inaho kept talking to Slaine in the phone the entire way and asked about his situation. He had tried to make Slaine talk about something else – like the festival he was to travel to – in order to give the boy’s distressed mind a break but Slaine was in such misery and panic he could not even begin to think about anything else. The pain must have been horrible since all he talked about was how much his fingers hurt and how frightened he was.

Yuki did not ask Inaho any unnecessary questions as she drove toward the studio. She must have understood it was more important for Inaho to speak with Slaine than answer her questions. It was a quality to her Inaho was grateful for. His sister was quick to comprehend a situation – especially if it was an emergency – and she could prioritize her actions according to it.

They arrived in front of the entrance door leading into the building to where the studio was.

“We’re outside,” Inaho said and listened to Slaine crying. The boy had begun to calm down but he was still in distress. “Can you come down?”

I need help carrying Schreiber. I can’t open the doors and hold the case at the same time since I can’t move my left hand fingers at all,” his lover said pathetically and Inaho stepped out of the car into the cold winter air.

“Are the doors locked?” Inaho asked.

Just the one to the studio since it’s not past working hours yet,” Slaine answered quietly and Inaho opened the door leading into the building and hurried up the stairs.

“Will you open the studio door?” the brunet asked and climbed the stairs. The sound of the studio door being opened was heard and once Inaho reached the second floor he saw a devastated Slaine in the door opening. The boy’s eyes were red and swollen from crying, and his cheeks were red as well. The tips of Slaine’s hair at the front were wet from tears and stuck against his cheeks.

“Inaho…” the blond whispered and the brunet hurried up to him.

“It’ll be all right. We will drive you to the hospital. Are you ready?” Inaho asked and Slaine nodded.

“Can you … take my things?” the boy asked and Inaho stepped in through the door to gather Slaine’s coat, bag and violin case, before they both left the studio after turning the lights off. The door closed behind them and Inaho tried to open it to ensure it was locked.

Slaine did not want to put his coat on since he was afraid it would hurt his fingers. He was petrified of moving them and protected them intensely to ensure they would not be damaged any further. He was in obvious shock and his thoughts were slightly disoriented. They got down to the car and Inaho opened the door to the backseat for Slaine and then followed him inside the car. Slaine turned to stare out through the window while he tried to calm his breathing. He was weakly trembling from shock and held his left wrist with his right. He was in no mood to speak.

Yuki drove out of the street and headed toward the hospital. Through the entire ride Inaho sat next to Slaine, pushing his shoulder against him to let the boy know he was there right next to him since Inaho did not know what else to do. Slaine relaxed against him but kept his gaze looking out through the window, and when they arrived to the hospital they went into the ER where they had to wait for a while before a doctor was free to take a look at Slaine’s fingers.

“Do you want us to come with you?” Yuki asked the boy with worry as Slaine was to follow the doctor.

The boy kept his back turned against her and shook his head.

“Thank you, but I would prefer going in alone,” Slaine said quietly. “I appreciate you being here though. Can you wait here?”

“Of course,” Yuki said and frowned enough to get a deep crease between her eyebrows. “We’ll be here.”

“Thank you…” Slaine mumbled and followed the doctor and disappeared in through the door into the emergency department.

Inaho had Slaine’s violin Schreiber in his lap and he held it protectively. Slaine’s other things had been left in the car, but the violin was too valuable to dare leave it unprotected. Inaho was worried and he stared at a table just a couple of meters away from him. He had no idea where to look now that his thoughts spun out of control.

If Slaine can’t continue playing the violin, what will happen to him?’ Inaho thought. His chest felt pressurized from the inside as the thought hit him. He had not had time to worry about it until now; he had been too busy caring for Slaine in the blond boy’s acute phase of shock and not given a single thought for the near and far future. Now all of his worry washed over him like a cold shower.

“What happened?” Yuki asked next to him. Inaho noticed her looking at him.

“Slaine got a sudden pain in his left hand fingers,” Inaho said emotionlessly and turned to look at her. “He couldn’t move them and he panicked. He said his fingers burned if he tried to move them.”

I’m scared for him…’ Inaho thought and saw Yuki notice his slowly increasing distress despite he had tried to make himself sound as emotionless as always.

“That’s terrible! Was he alone at the studio?” Yuki asked and Inaho nodded.

“His manager must have gone home,” Inaho said and turned to face the table again.

“Oh dear… I hope the doctor can give him some good news…” Yuki sighed. “How are you holding up?”

Inaho held his answer. He had no idea what to answer since he himself did not know. He needed to hear what was wrong with Slaine’s fingers before he could answer that. If Slaine would not be able to play anymore Inaho would break along with him. If Slaine simply had to take time off and heal Inaho would heal beside him.

“I’m not sure yet,” Inaho answered her after pondering for a while for the right kind of answer.

Yuki sighed and hung her head.

“I guess I’m not sure either. Poor boy,” she whispered and they sat in the waiting room inside something that felt like a time bubble where nothing moved; time stood still.

After two hours Slaine walked out through the door along with the doctor. Inaho turned to look at him and saw the boy’s hand be steadied with metallic splints, just like the ones Slaine had had during summer after Cruhteo’s abuse. In the other hand Slaine held a piece of paper that looked like a prescription paper.

“Take care now and they will summon you to the orthopedist within days. Be sure to rest,” the doctor told the boy who wore a downcast look on his face. “Refrain from working at least for two weeks and take the anti-inflammatory and pain medication as prescribed,” the doctor then said and gave Slaine a bow. The boy downheartedly bowed back before he turned toward Inaho and his sister.

“What did the doctor say?” Yuki hurried to ask as she had gotten up from her seat.

“I’m not allowed to play for a while…” Slaine mumbled without looking up at the Kaizuka siblings. He kept his eyes turned toward the floor in front of him. “It seems I’m developing osteoarthritis after the physical trauma to my fingers.”

“Osteoarthritis?” Yuki asked confused.

“My joints are inflamed and swollen due to joint damage and extended activity,” Slaine explained with a whisper.

“Is it curable?” Inaho asked and Slaine’s already knitted eyebrows furrowed even more and he looked like he was about to break down into a cry.

“He couldn’t answer that. I will see an orthopedist about it. But he did say that if I want to keep my fingers healthy for sure I should stop playing the violin since it strains the joints,” the boy whispered with trembling breaths.

Yuki and Inaho stared at him without knowing what to say at first. Inaho knew how important the violin was for the boy. It was impossible to take it away from Slaine and if it was forced from his hands Slaine would lose his purpose. The violin and music was fundamental to the boy’s character, personality and life.

“And if you continue playing?” Inaho asked and Slaine shook his head.

“The arthritis will get worse until I won’t be able to play at all.”

And you will push yourself until that happens…’ Inaho thought as he knew what Slaine would do. Slaine would not let the condition stop him for as long as he was able to play; he would play until his fingers gave up completely. There was a hidden determination in the boy’s sorrowful eyes which told Inaho Slaine would keep working.

“Shall we take you home?” Yuki asked and Slaine nodded, still without looking up at her or Inaho. “We’ll get the medication for you on our way out. Be sure to listen to the doctor’s advice.”

Slaine nodded again and they left the ER. Inaho carried Slaine’s violin case in his hand and reached out the other to take a hold of Slaine’s right hand. Slaine’s cold fingers entwined with his immediately and they held each other’s hands the entire way home. They picked up Slaine’s prescribed medication on their way and not even then did Slaine release Inaho’s hand. The blond boy searched for support in a passive but desperate manner and the moment Inaho had offered it to him Slaine claimed it like it was a necessity for living. Once Yuki stopped her car on the driveway outside of Slaine’s apartment building she asked if she could do anything for them.

“Can you get my school books?” Inaho asked. “I will stay with Slaine and study when I have time,” the brunet said and Yuki nodded.

“And you, Slaine? Can I do something for you?” she asked. “I can call Saazbaum and notify him, if you want.”

Slaine quickly raised his head and looked frightened. He shook his head so violently his hair swayed.

“No, don’t tell him anything!” the boy said loud. “Please, don’t tell him!”

Both Inaho and Yuki stared at him with surprise. Inaho had a hunch of why Slaine was so scared of letting Saazbaum know what was going on but he dared not to speak it out loud in front of Yuki without speaking about it with Slaine first. The boy was in a fragile moment and Inaho wished not the trample upon the little glowing hope Slaine had in the situation he was in by mistakenly speak out of order.

Don’t let that hope delude you though,’ Inaho thought and saw his sister’s expression turn into that of a caring adult woman.

“But Slaine. He’s your adoptive father and is your guardian. He should know about this,” Yuki said with a frown, clearly not understanding what was going through Slaine’s head.

“I know that,” Slaine said quietly and got a troubled look to his eyes. “I just want to deal with this myself. He has to concentrate on his own work right now.”

It was a well composed excuse, Inaho thought, but Slaine had clearly miscalculated Yuki’s reasoning as she suddenly was angered.

“I don’t care what he has to do! If he’s taken you on as his son he should be there for you no matter if you’re his adopted or biological son. You can’t distance him from something as serious as this,” Yuki scolded. “It’s not fair for him or you.”

Slaine was taken aback from Yuki’s sudden outburst and he stared at her as his hand reflexively squeezed Inaho’s tighter. A noticeable tremble shot through the blond.

“I know…” Slaine mumbled and got tears in his eyes. “I just … don’t want him to know yet. I can’t deal with it if he comes to see me right now. I want to be left alone.”

Another well composed excuse,’ Inaho thought and wanted to speak his mind but refrained from doing so.

“Because he’s not like your dad?” Yuki asked and smiled kindly toward the boy.

Slaine nodded and dried his tears with the sleeve to his sweater. He had still not put his coat on and he stood in the winter cold without anything to protect him from it.

“He’s my father, but not my dad,” Slaine said quietly – this time speaking the truth.

“Got it,” Yuki said and sighed. “I want you to tell him by Friday. That gives you four days to rest. I know you’re not as close as a real family, but give him a chance,” she then said. “Rest for now. I will be back within half an hour or so with your stuff, Inaho. I guess you will stay the night.”

Inaho nodded and they said goodbye and watched Yuki drive off into the dark but early evening. They ascended the floors with the elevator, got off on the 21st floor and walked to Slaine’s apartment door. Inaho searched for Slaine’s keys in the bag and then unlocked the door with them. They stepped inside and the Western boy quickly kicked his shoes off and walked into the kitchen. Inaho put Slaine’s belongings on the floor in the hall and followed him. He stopped at the kitchen door and watched him in silence as the boy put the water boiler on and with a tired look took a cup of instant noodles from the cupboard.

“Are you hungry?” Inaho asked and Slaine nodded. “I can cook you something,” the brunet then said but Slaine shook his head.

“I don’t feel like eating a full course dinner really. I just want something small to eat. Thank you anyway,” the boy answered with an exhausted and barely audible voice.

Slaine stood in a slumped position next to the kitchen counter and stared at the water boiler with empty eyes as he waited for it to finish. He looked so tired. There was nothing striking about him. He had none of that usual level of energy and life to him Inaho was used to seeing. If this was a foretelling of what would become of the blond boy if the violin was taken away from him, it would truly be a heartbreaking end of the virtuoso.

“You will continue playing, won’t you?” Inaho asked from where he stood at the kitchen door. Slaine frowned but kept silent. “At least rest for a while,” Inaho continued to try to get a discussion going. He needed answers.

“Is it that obvious?” Slaine asked silently.

“It is.” Inaho watched him lift the pot as the water had finished boiling and pour the steaming water into the instant noodle cup. “You think that it’s better to keep playing until your fingers give up completely than live a life without being able to play at all.”

“You won’t stop me?” the boy then asked.

“No, and I know you will make it so that no one will stop you. You won’t tell Saazbaum because you don’t want him to hinder you from playing,” Inaho said and followed Slaine to the kitchen table where both of them sat down. Inaho knew the boy would simply continue playing and pretend like nothing had happened. “Just wait with the work until you have talked to the orthopedist and hear what they have to say first before you continue working.”

Slaine shook his head sluggishly and stirred the slowly softening noodles in the cup with a fork, staring absentmindedly at the circling ingredients in the plastic cup.

“I have to finish the commercial,” Slaine said after a while of stirring the content of the cup. “I can’t stop to rest yet.”

Inaho stared at him in silence for a while. Slaine was being stubborn and took his work a little too seriously. Inaho knew no matter what he would say the blond boy would ignore him. Slaine was a hard worker and the brunet suspected it to be a remnant of Slaine’s late father, who had worked so hard it had killed him in the end. Was history trying to repeat itself through Mr. Troyard’s son?

Inaho did not know what to say to the blond. What did people do in times like these? How could Inaho make sure that Slaine knew he was there to support him through whatever storm came their way? Inaho was bad at being a source of comfort and Slaine had already complained about it not long ago.

You’re always using words to tell me that you love me, but you never show me by touching me. It makes me feel lonely,” Slaine had told him about two weeks ago during their clumsy argument in the kitchen.

Inaho watched Slaine poke the noodles with the fork while his splinted left hand rested in his lap. He did certainly look lonely and Inaho knew it was because the boy was separated from his violin. With Slaine’s arguing words from two weeks ago ringing in his ears, Inaho got up from his seat and walked up behind Slaine to put his arms around him. Slaine went stiff from surprise and Inaho leaned his chin against his lover’s shoulder to rest it there as he squeezed him gently.

“I know I will never take the place of Schreiber, but know that I am here for you when your violin can’t,” Inaho said quietly and nuzzled the crook of Slaine’s neck. “Please be careful.”

Slaine did not utter a word for a while. Instead – after the surprise of Inaho’s embrace had subsided – he leaned his cheek against Inaho’s tousled hair and raised his right hand to let it rest on Inaho’s arms, which were coiled around the blond boy’s chest and shoulders.

“Thank you…” Slaine whispered and they stayed like that for the rest of the half hour it took for Yuki to come back with Inaho’s school books, and not even then did Inaho released his lover.

Slaine had complained about it being embarrassing being held by him in front of Yuki, and Yuki had looked surprised and awkward about the boys’ emotional intimacy in the kitchen. She had left the books on the kitchen table and spoke to Slaine for a little while to make sure he would get through the night.

“And let him sleep, Nao. Don’t keep him up during the night,” she had said meaningfully to Inaho who had persistently held Slaine in his arms during her visit. “And you stay home from school and work tomorrow, Slaine.”

“Y-yes, ma’am,” Slaine had answered with blushing cheeks while Inaho had not cared about his sister seeing them like that. Their relationship was out in the open anyway and so there was no reason to hide them being intimate with each other, he figured.

After Yuki had left Inaho placed a kiss on Slaine’s cheek and suggested he should make some dinner, and despite Slaine’s protests he began cooking a meal. He could feel Slaine’s eyes on him the entire time and Inaho pretended he did not notice him watching him. It felt surprisingly nice to have Slaine actually see him now that Slaine did not have his violin or music to adore. Inaho felt like a bad person for feeling happy in a situation like that, but he could not help but to enjoy the passive attention Slaine gave him as he cooked their dinner under silence.

They ate and spoke softly about whatever came to their mind. Slaine told Inaho about Harklight playing guitar and the jealous Inaho let Slaine know he wanted to continue practicing on playing cello. Slaine promised him to help him when his hand got well enough and Inaho promptly warned the boy from overworking himself. Slaine gave Inaho the first smile since that morning when they had gone separate ways as both of them had had to go to school and work – and Inaho felt relieved and happy:

You can smile like that with me even in a situation like this.’

When they had had their dinner and enjoyed it despite the heavy air around them due to Slaine’s injury, Inaho reminded Slaine about taking the medication he had gotten from the doctor. Slaine kept his supposed protests silent and waited obediently for Inaho to read the labels on the packages, and the brunet gave Slaine the dosage of both medicines; painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication. After that he suggested they would lie down in the couch and watch a movie of Slaine’s choosing and the blond boy was quick to agree.

They moved into the living room. To care about cleaning up the kitchen was something neither of them put thought in and they left the dishes on the table. Inaho made sure to have Slaine take it easy and rest while the brunet handled the laptop and searched for the movie Slaine wanted to see. Once the movie began they buried themselves beneath the blanket which always lay ready for them on the couch, Slaine once again placed in Inaho’s arms.

Slaine chose a peculiar movie. It was an old Italian movie with English actors, about a baby boy found on an ocean liner in the year 1900, who grew up on the ship and became a piano playing prodigy on board without never leaving the ship. Inaho found it interesting how Slaine enjoyed very different movies to those their friends enjoyed. His lover had a peculiar taste but nonetheless interesting and Inaho never seemed to feel a need for more stimulation around him; Slaine was interesting all together and had a refreshing presence Inaho would never grow used to.

After twenty minutes into the movie Inaho noticed Slaine had gone limp. The blond boy lay on his lover’s chest, breathing heavily but with an even rhythm, and his face was relaxed while his lips were slightly parted. Slaine had fallen asleep. Inaho watched the blond boy for a while and softly brushed his blond bangs away from the boy’s eyes. Then he placed a kiss on Slaine’s forehead and continued watching the movie, holding Slaine securely in his arms - until he fell asleep as well.

Chapter Text

Slaine stirred in his sleep and once he opened his eyes he stared at a blue television screen which shone in the darkness. His laptop had gone into sleep mode at some point and the television had been left on. No lights had been lit in the apartment and Slaine lay on something warm and hard, feeling disoriented in his newly awakened state while wondering about what time it was. The clock hanging on the wall behind the television was obscured in darkness; Slaine could hear its ticks and tocks but not see it. Slaine noticed his neck hurt and so did his back; he had been sleeping in an uncomfortable position and when he raised his gaze he saw Inaho’s sleeping face in front of him. The brunet must have fallen asleep at some point as well and he still rested his arms on Slaine’s back, holding the boy.

That’s why I woke up feeling so warm,’ Slaine thought and smiled. Immediately a yawn forced its way on him and he breathed in a large gulp of air. It felt good to stretch out his chest and back muscles with such a yawn and he felt tears gather in the corner of his eyes. He was so tired and exhausted. As he rested his head against Inaho’s chest and tried to go back to sleep, he heard his lover’s calm heartbeats inside the other's flesh. He listened to the beats and also noticed he could hear Inaho’s breaths quietly echo inside him.

So calming…’ Slaine thought and smiled slightly. He raised his left hand to dry away the sleepy tears from his eyes when he noticed he could not move his fingers. That was when he remembered what had happened. ‘My fingers!’ he thought and looked at the splints in the light from the television. They were the same kind of lateral support steel splints Slaine had gotten after he had been released from the hospital after Cruhteo’s abuse last summer. His fingers were sweaty but cold as the splints surrounding his fingers put a weak pressure against the muscles. The inflammation felt better and he wondered if it had to do with the medication he had gotten. In fact, his ring and middle finger felt much better.

If this keeps up I will be able to record the song and finish the commercial,’ Slaine thought and tried moving his fingers carefully. The swelling was still there but the burning pain was gone. The pain had reached all the way through his arm and according to the doctor it could have been a nerve which was pinched due to the swelling, but now that pain was gone. Relief flowed through him and he closed his eyes and snuggled against the sleeping Inaho. The boy had lost his sleepiness due to the sudden reminder and worry of his fingers but he did feel sluggish enough to lie comfortably against his lover.

Inaho must have been hot though since Slaine could feel Inaho’s shirt be damp from sweat and a weak and musky scent drifted from the boy’s shirt. Slaine inhaled deeply, feeling Inaho’s pleasant pheromones muddle his brain. A sweet and tingly sensation coursed through him feeling that smell, and he smiled. It felt so nice to lie against Inaho despite it was slightly uncomfortable due to the unnatural position his body was forced into. He felt like a kitten curling up against something pleasurable and warm, and he wished he could purr. The boy could not help but to carefully rub his cheek and nose against Inaho’s chest and breathe in his lover’s scent. Just as he thought about how much he wished for Inaho to wake up and give him attention he noticed the brunet moved beneath him, and then he heard a sleepy voice ask:

“Are you awake?”

“Yeah,” Slaine answered and looked up at Inaho again. “Sorry if I woke you up.”

“I don’t mind. What time is it?” Inaho asked and closed his eyes to yawn.

“I don’t know. I can’t see the clock,” Slaine answered and was helplessly caught by Inaho’s yawn and yawned as well. He could feel Inaho’s hands rub his back sluggishly.

“How are your fingers?” the brunet then asked and Slaine breathed in deep to sigh.

“They feel much better. I think the medication and rest has helped a lot,” the blond boy answered and snuggled against Inaho again. “And I think your presence has made a lot too. Thank you for all your help when I was childishly panicking earlier.”

“You weren’t childish,” Inaho said quietly and cleared his throat to get rid of his raspy newly awakened voice. “You had all the reason to react the way you did.”

“Thank you…” Slaine whispered. “Are you feeling hot? Your shirt is damp.”

Inaho nodded.

“It’s uncomfortable but in a good way,” Slaine heard his lover answer, and Slaine chuckled.

“Me too.”

They decided to get up after they had been snuggling for a while. Slaine turned the television off and followed Inaho into the kitchen. They both felt heavy and slightly nauseous after they had fallen asleep so soon after dinner. As they looked at the time the small clock on the kitchen counter showed it was one in the morning. They had only slept for a couple of hours.

Slaine walked up to the fridge to have a bottle of cold water in order to calm his upset stomach and in the end he shared it with Inaho before they brushed their teeth and went to bed and sleep through the rest of the night.

“I don’t want you to work tomorrow,” Slaine heard Inaho say as they lay in bed. “At least take two days off.”

Slaine frowned and opened his eyes to look at Inaho in the darkness. He could barely make out the other boy’s silhouette in the weak lights from the distant streetlights and buildings surrounding them below on ground level.

“I must finish the recording of the song,” Slaine said quietly and knew Inaho did not find his answer pleasing. “I got nearly to the end of it today before my fingers began aching horribly. I have painkillers now so I will hopefully be able to finish the recording.”

Slaine knew he probably should rest. He had to rest and yet he felt a strong need to work. He wanted to play on his violin even if he knew he was irresponsible while forcing himself to play. If he only finished recording the song, he thought, he would get a couple of days to rest before the filming of the commercial. He thought that if he rested now and recorded the song just before they left to Amsterdam his fingers would have to work a lot more than necessary in a short period of time and not get time to rest at all before the commercial.

Just hold strong a little while longer, and after that I can let you rest,’ he thought and tried to carefully move his fingers but the splints restricted their movement and kept them stable. Moving them was awkward.

Inaho stayed quiet while watching Slaine in the darkness. Slaine wanted to give his lover a reassuring smile but the boy would not be able to see it since it was too dark, but despite that he smiled anyway to reassure himself as well. Instead he reached out his right hand and let it be placed on Inaho’s cheek and he brushed his lover’s lips with his thumb. Inaho’s lips were soft and warm.

“I promise I will be careful. I just have to hold out for five minutes. I know how to play the song entirely through without problem. Five short minutes is what it takes until it’s finished tomorrow,” Slaine said reassuringly. “After that I will rest until the commercial, which I will finish within five minutes as well.”

Inaho was quiet for a while – probably thinking a lot during those short moments – before he said:

“What will you do once you can’t play?”

Slaine’s reassuring smile faded. What would he do? He had been so busy worrying about the two upcoming weeks that he had not thought farther into time than that. Really… What would he do? He knew he had to begin planning out his future now that it was at risk of becoming nothing of what he had expected. He had money in the bank which would give him the alternative of doing nothing but live a comfortable life once his fingers gave up, but that thought alone was heavy with anxiety. To never work with what he loved the most – music – would mean the death of his own person; Slaine as he knew himself would cease to exist.

“I think it’s too early to know that,” Slaine said quietly. “I’ll see the orthopedic first and see what they have to say about the situation before I resort to a plan B. I don’t trust a doctor who has taken a single x-ray and who is not a specialist.”

“I won’t stop you from whatever you want to do,” Inaho said quietly. “I know you won’t listen anyway, and only you can decide what your life is worth today and in the future. I trust that you will make the best decision for your own sake.”

Slaine loved that quality about Inaho. The Japanese boy was always objective about things and never put his own values into things that did not concern his personal life directly. Yuki on the other hand – along with their friends and everyone else Slaine knew – were quick to be swayed by their emotions and beliefs without thinking about what Slaine felt and believed. It was not a bad thing, the blond boy thought. They simply cared about him and that was always a nice thing to know and feel.

But right now I need to decide for myself. This is too fundamental to who I am to let anyone influence my decisions for my future, and I'm not ready to defend my decisions yet,’ he thought and moved closer to Inaho to give him a kiss.

“Thank you,” Slaine whispered and kissed Inaho’s lips again. “No one has loved me the way you do.”

Inaho’s arms wrapped around the blond boy and his hands disappeared into Slaine’s silky and soft hair. He pulled his lover closer until Slaine was locked in a kiss, unable to pull away if he would ever get the insane thought of wanting to do so. The boy gave in to Inaho’s silent beg of intimacy and felt greatly relieved he had the brunet at his side.

Thank you…’ he thought and answered his lover’s kisses.

♪♫♪♫

The heavy beat echoed in the great indoors arena where the electronic music festival was being held. Slaine could feel the beat bounce around in his head where he sat backstage and he desperately tried to make sure the purple electronic violin was in tune. The sounds around him were disturbing his digital tuner and in the end Slaine put the violin down and ruffled his hair in pure frustration. The constant overbearing and suffocating bass and beats, as well as the repetitive noises from a high pitched digital sound, was unpleasant for the blond who was not used to such music. Slaine pouted and leaned against the back of his stool and sighed heavily.

“I can’t tune my violin in this noise,” he complained out loud and kicked the violin case for the electronic violin with a gentle thump.

Slaine was surprisingly comfortably dressed though and he was grateful for that. He wore simple black sweatpants and a white t-shirt which gave him room to move freely on stage. As Harklight had told him about there not being a dress code Slaine had been surprised. Although, Harklight had recommended him to wear the clothes he now wore simply because no one in the crowd would care how Slaine was dressed since they were already used to DJ’s not wearing anything but comfortable clothes, and that Slaine could move freely and not get too effected by the heat from the spotlights.

“But was it not in tune before we left the hotel?” Harklight asked with raised eyebrows and looked confused. The man was going through something on his phone – probably the schedule for the evening and tomorrow.

“It was but I want to make sure so that everything is perfect,” Slaine said and sighed exasperatedly in a childish manner. “My dad always checked the tuning of the violin right before a concert.”

“I’m sorry you cannot do that,” Harklight said with a worried look. “Will you manage anyway?”

Slaine sighed again and groaned.

“It’s just me who is being a little too controlling,” Slaine said and then smiled tiredly.

Slaine had not told Harklight about what had happened with his fingers once the man had left the studio that night when Slaine had been taken to the hospital. He gave his manager the excuse that he had been lazy and not recorded the song and instead gone home, and Harklight had scolded him for promising something he did not honor, not knowing Slaine had been lying to him. Slaine had finished the song the next day under the influence of painkillers and Slaine’s fingers had not seemed to get worse after that.

The swelling had disappeared after two days’ resting and medication. During those days Slaine had not taken his limited supply of painkillers which had been for the acute pain he had had the day he had gone to the hospital. Instead he had endured the pain in order to save the painkillers for the shooting of the commercial to mask the ache which would risk of haunting his finger joints while playing on stage. Slaine had taken a pill earlier that day to prepare himself for the performance; the painkillers were so strong he felt groggy the first hours after taking it but after a while his mind would clear, which allowed him to play flawlessly.

Saazbaum had not been notified either. Slaine had forced himself to lie to Yuki that he had spoken to his adoptive father about the matter – which had left a bad taste in Slaine’s mouth. Lies were something he hated but ever since his years in Cruhteo’s care – where he had been forced to lie nearly every day in order to not get abused – lying had become a surprisingly easy thing for him to do. To deal with the guilt of lying was not nearly as hard as it had been in the past but then again Slaine thought of himself as horrible for lying to Yuki who cared about him unlike Cruhteo had.

The boy had to be honest: He preferred to suffer alone. It would be too much of a hassle to have Saazbaum meddle with the situation concerning Slaine’s fingers and thus lying was something he simply had to do. Or so he told himself – convinced himself even. The boy knew his fingers were hurt and he knew he should not work; no one had to tell him to take a couple of weeks off since Slaine could understand that much of his own situation. He had gotten a summoning letter to the orthopedist the day after he had been at the hospital and the date of the visit had clashed with the date of Slaine’s flight to Amsterdam. The boy had called the orthopedist and rescheduled the date and time of the visit to the week after Slaine had come back home.

I just have to finish this commercial and then I can rest for a couple of weeks and work with my music on paper instead,’ he thought and closed his eyes. The heavy beats of music from the festival echoed in his mind and he tapped his heel against the floor according to it. It reminded him about how he had shown Inaho how to play on cello in the studio. For a moment he felt his thoughts drift away to Inaho’s loving embrace back in Japan. How Slaine missed the other boy…! He had been away for only two days and he could already feel the longing eat away at him.

Inaho had decided to let Slaine handle his problem with his fingers. The brunet would not tell anyone about Slaine’s secret decisions and lies since the boy showed trust in Slaine to be able to build his own future. Inaho had scolded the blond boy about lying though.

You can’t build your future on lies, no matter how trivial they are,” Inaho had told him but Slaine had excused his lies to be crucial during a time like now. He had insisted he had to honor the contract with Orbital Systems Inc. in order to protect his future career. To chase away future working partners by not honoring a contract was out of the question for the blond.

Just let me do this now and I will make up for my lies to everyone once this commercial is done,” Slaine had promised and Inaho had accepted it with great doubt. Now that Slaine thought about it he frowned. He knew he was doing something bad by lying and even if he wanted to set things right later on in time, he wondered worriedly:

I wonder if I’ll be able to actually do that.’

Harklight did not know. Saazbaum did not know. Yuki did not know that the two men did not know. Inaho knew who knew what and who knew nothing, and Slaine was the one holding the reins of lies. The boy felt horrible about it. He truly did. Then again, he thought that if these people did care about him they would let him do what he thought was for the best, and not what they thought Slaine should do. A feeling of them trying to meddle with his life and tell him what was the best for him crawled around in Slaine’s mind. If he refused to listen to them he had the feeling they would convince him while yelling at him to agree with their opinion and not let him decide himself. Slaine was not ready to defend his decisions yet; he had to plan his near future to be bullet proof in order to defend it properly and have persistent but caring people back off.

I can’t trust them making a decision for my future. I’m 17 now…’ he thought. ‘I’m old enough to make that decision for myself. I decide what my life is worth – like Inaho told me.

Inaho’s kind words sounded in his ears still. Slaine felt lucky that he had Inaho at his side – even if the blond boy felt bad about putting Inaho in the uncomfortable position of keeping secrets from people – again. First Slaine had asked him not to tell people about his home situation while Slaine had been living with Cruhteo, and then he had asked Inaho to not speak about their relationship in front of people. Now Slaine asked Inaho to not say a word about Slaine’s situation.

The boy sighed heavily and hung his head.

I’m so mean to him…’ Slaine let his gaze drop to the fingers of his left hand where it rested in his lap. ‘But I’ve always kept secrets from people. It’s not so easy for me to rely on others,’

Slaine thought and knew what a horrible excuse it was. And yet it was nothing but true. Slaine had always suffered alone. When his father became obsessed with work Slaine never spoke about it to anyone and endured the loneliness and the constant stress of moving around. To others he had always said he was proud of his father and that they were a happy family of two. When his father had died he had not spoken about his loss to anyone except Asseylum, nor had Slaine spoken about the trauma of watching his father die on stage. As Cruhteo had been abusing him no one had heard a word about it from Slaine, and he was sure if Cruhteo had not been caught Slaine would have still lived with the man and never have spoken about his miserable life to anyone.

Slaine clenched his left hand into a fist and opened it, clenched it again and then opened it as he stared at it with an undefined sorrow building up inside his chest from realizing he had never had an adult to support him in his life.

There’s nothing but silence,’ Slaine thought. ‘That builds up the one I am, and I can only speak through my violin. Now I have adults around me and I find it uncomfortable, and so I lie out of panic of not knowing how to handle them and them meddling with my life.

It was ugly – disgusting even – how he did not trust people, and he let that ugliness wash over his lover and force him to become like that as well. Slaine felt frustrated and angry at himself for simply not finding ways to handle the situation alone, but his excuse was that to have a partner meant he had to let them into his life, far closer than anyone else ever before, which also meant they would be effected by Slaine’s personal problems.

To suffer alone was now impossible. It was both a relief and a burden at the same time.

“This was worrying,” he heard Harklight mumbled and Slaine awoke from his thoughts. The uncomfortable feeling still lingered but his thoughts quickly went quiet.

“Worrying? What is?” Slaine asked and looked at his manager who stared at his phone with a frown. The light from the screen reflected in Harklight’s dark eyes.

“I just got a text message from the airline company that our flight home tomorrow is canceled due to a snowstorm,” the man said and Slaine’s heart sunk in his chest. “The information is limited at the moment. I will have to call the airline company and arrange for new tickets once the snowstorm has passed. Excuse me for a couple of minutes,” Harklight then said and entered the phone number to the airline to call them.

Slaine suddenly felt angry; he would not be home for Inaho’s birthday due to a snowstorm. It had been calm and nice outside when they had taken a taxi to the venue they now were in; how could a snowstorm have arrived so suddenly? Or was the snowstorm in Japan? It was nothing someone could do anything about since weather was out of the human reach and control, but the blond boy felt a sudden anger and general disappointment. A childish thought of wishing he had not flown to Amsterdam crossed his mind. If he had asked for permission to postpone the shooting of the commercial to another music festival the Orbital Systems Inc. would have probably accepted it if Slaine was persistent about it – and thus he would have been able to celebrate Inaho’s birthday. He knew how ridiculous he was thinking like that but Inaho’s birthday was important for Slaine; more important than what Inaho himself thought about the specific date.

We can always celebrate it later,” Inaho had told him as Slaine had expressed his worry about the time schedule being so tight.

But I really want to celebrate it with you, because you mean so much to me…’

Slaine hung his head while feeling grumpy about his situation and listened to Harklight speak to the people at the airline company. The young man spoke with great respect and asked about the weather conditions of tomorrow and the day after, as well as how to book new tickets for the first flight possible. According to Harklight’s words it sounded like new tickets were booked and when he hung up he turned around toward Slaine.

“There is a snowstorm back home so all the flights to the central region of Japan have been canceled. The storm will pass during the night to 9th of February, so we will take a flight which will arrive back home at 17:45 o’clock on the 9th,” Harklight explained.

It’s two days too late,’ Slaine childishly thought but he knew Harklight was not to be blamed for it – even if Slaine initially wanted to yell at the man to fix the weather back home in Japan, which would have been unreasonable and flat out cruel of Slaine. ‘Inaho makes me think childishly because I love him so much,’ he then thought and sighed.

“All right,” he said and sighed heavily. “Thank you, Harklight, for being such a great manager.”

Slaine meant every word he said; he truly was grateful, and he watched the young manager get a smile of gratitude on his face.

“Thank you, Slaine. Now, do you feel ready for the performance?”

Slaine nodded.

“Yes. I want to get it done with,” the boy answered.

As the time for the performance Slaine was to give both the cameras and the audience came, Slaine could feel his stomach fill up with butterflies. This was his second time to stand on a stage and perform for an audience and this time it was in a completely new environment than the one he was used to. These were people in their twenties who were on an electronic music festival; he was as far away from the classic stage as Slaine could get. What kind of response would they give him and his violin?

Most importantly, how would they respond to his song?

The music Slaine had heard thus far in the arena had been repetitive and only noise. The songs were not difficult to construct and always had the same pattern. Slaine’s was repetitive as well but he played far more with the effects to give the song repetitiveness but also a great range of variation to keep the listener interested in the song itself. Slaine’s song did not allow for people to absentmindedly listen to it without getting invested in it; the song demanded its attention. That was at least what Slaine had heard from the few who had heard it, and that was how he felt while playing it.

“Are you ready?” Harklight asked as Slaine stared at the stage from behind it. The people outside were loud; Slaine could hear them scream, laugh and talk. They were noisy and nervousness burst out from its hiding place, making the boy doubt about his ability.

“I wonder…” Slaine answered but felt a pat of encouragement on his back from his manager.

“You can do it. I know you can. Come on. Feel the exhilaration from a performance and get out there and do what you do best,” the man said and Slaine smiled nervously:

“A-all right.”

As he watched Harklight get out onto the stage to present him and inform them of the filming of a commercial – and the crowd cheered like they had done for everyone who had gotten on the stage earlier that evening – Slaine moved his left hand fingers in order to warm them up one last time before the performance. The fingers did not risk of hurting due to the strong painkillers he had taken earlier. The electronic violin and the bow rested in his right hand and he squeezed them tightly.

You can do this. You have worked so hard for this moment,’ Slaine thought as a desperate attempt to encourage himself. He had prepared himself as much as he could. There was no turning back now and when he heard Harklight call his name he collected his resolve and stepped out from his hiding place and revealed himself for the crowd.

The beat of his heart fastened. His breaths became shallower. His legs trembled. The stage fright was the same as when he had held his debut concert. Slaine straightened his back further and took slightly longer steps in order to find courage from his body position. The straight back gave him confidence and the longer steps calmed him down, making his stage fright controllable and bearable.

The crowd cheered again and Harklight left the stage. The spotlights were so strong Slaine could hardly see the crowd – similar to his debut concert. It calmed him down further as it was something he recognized from an earlier and similar situation. The heat from the spotlights was incredible – also similar to his debut concert. What were new were the cheers. At a classical concert there was no cheering – only applauds. The cheering of the excited crowd was something completely new to him. No one had greeted him like that before and even if it was baffling him it brought a smile to his lips.

He liked it. A lot.

The filming had begun the moment he took steps out onto the stage. All around him cameras and cameramen stood ready to capture him on video. It was probably a reason to why the crowd was so excited since they knew they would be a part of a commercial and hopefully get a second in the commercial film. Harklight had already done the introduction and told the crowd Slaine would not speak to the crowd from the start and apologized for the impersonal concert; Slaine would simply play the song in order for the cameramen to get consistent footage. Only afterward would Slaine speak to the crowd.

Slaine stepped up to the synthesizer system. The computer was clad in an extravagant chassis with neon lights which made it look futuristic. It was not the simple computer design Slaine had had in the studio; this one looked like a monster with the flashy chassis. Slaine had two screens on the stage which were touch sensitive in order to give him quick access to the system with a simple touch of his finger, and the pedals were arranged on the floor like he had ordered them. The crowd had gone quiet and waited, and so Slaine plugged the electric violin into the system with the instrument cable, stepped into the middle of the circle of pedals on the stage floor, faced the audience and raised the bow to the strings.

The lights went out and Slaine placed his fingers onto the strings and took the first tune; a calm but haunting prelude. The lights slowly glowed stronger and swept through the crowd, revealing a sea of young adults for the boy on stage. Then Slaine stomped on the first pedal and a sudden but muffled beat began to pound in the arena he began to play. Quickly the bow went and produced a fast paced melody – the repetitive melody Slaine had played for weeks now, and Slaine stepped onto the second pedal and the muffled drum beats became clearer. The sound - sounding nothing like a violin - seemed to take the audience by surprise; a loud cheer competed with the massive speakers and when Slaine dared to glance at those cheering he saw the sea of people was jumping.

A smile spread on his lips and the nervousness began to fade away and was replaced with joy.

The boy stepped around on the pedals, played his heart out and challenged his stamina. The sweat was quick to gather on his skin as he jumped around and played the violin consistently so fast that the muscles in his right arm burned. It was a wonderful feeling to finally stand on stage again and – this time – have a lively audience to cheer him on. It was a completely new feeling compared to the classical stage and Slaine felt the motivation to finish the EP album he had to concentrate on once the commercial had been made. If he was to perform the other future songs as well, then he certainly looked forward to it.

He was quickly feeling out of breath. The heat from the fast violin play and the violent movements it required to stomp on the pedals was excruciating along with the heat from the spotlights. He pushed on, forcing his body to bear with it and to his relief his left hand fingers did not protest the slightest. His plan to force the pain away with the painkillers had been a good idea to make the commercial possible in time and for a moment he forgot about his worry of the fingers’ condition completely. To play on stage like this was so enjoyable he forgot about all of his worries. The worry about his lies to Yuki and the silence toward Saazbaum faded away, and so did Slaine’s bitter feeling about asking Inaho to play along with his lies and silence.

He felt so alive. Nothing else mattered right there and then on the large stage in Amsterdam.

♪♫♪♫

The phone vibrated on the nightstand. It buzzed softly as if it asked for Inaho’s attention in a somewhat impatient manner. Inaho woke up and opened his eyes to look at the screen flashing and lighting up the darkness in his room back home, and drowsily he reached for it and saw a number he did not recognize. It was an international call calling him right before the dial of the digital clock would show 07:00 AM, 7th of February 2015. Sluggishly he answered the phone by sliding his thumb across the screen on the virtual button, and the moment he pushed the phone against his ear and greeted whoever was calling him, a soft melody was heard from the other end. It was a birthday melody, played on a violin.

Inaho smiled and listened to the exquisite melody, waiting patiently for the virtuoso to finish the song. He waited with his eyes closed, resting his head against the pillow and felt the tunes mesmerize his mind and make them drift aimlessly. The song was played with the same emotion which he associated to his lover; the same gentle way which was so characteristic for Slaine. For a short moment Inaho was deluded into believing he was sleeping in Slaine’s bed, and Slaine was in the living room practicing on his violin. Inaho had woken up to that a couple of times – those times being all too few according to the brunet. Slaine had at those times woken up before Inaho, had let the brunet sleep while the blond boy had disappeared into the living room to practice playing or compose a new sonata. Inaho would wake up hearing Slaine’s beautiful and soft melodies and – once Inaho sought him out – find the boy sitting on the living room floor with music sheets scattered on the floor in front of him and the violin and bow in hand.

Even if Inaho knew Slaine played to him through the phone from a hotel room in Amsterdam – about 9000 kilometers away – it still felt like Slaine was just around the bedroom corner, and once the last tune had vibrated gently against the brunet’s eardrums he heard his lover say:

Happy birthday.”

Inaho’s smile widened.

“Thank you,” the brown haired boy answered and heard a chuckle in the phone speaker. “Have you recorded the commercial?”

I have. It was great and I have so much to tell you about it, but right now it’s your birthday so let’s talk about that once I come back. Instead let me listen to your voice,” Slaine answered and Inaho yawned while still smiling.

“When will you get back?” Inaho asked simply to please Slaine’s need to hear his voice.

Well…” Slaine began and spoke with a downhearted mumble. “There’s supposed to be a snowstorm there in central Japan. The storm is so violent the flight has been canceled. Harklight has spoken to the airline company and we won’t be able to arrive back in Japan until the 9th.

Inaho pushed his tired body up from the bed and sluggishly walked to the window to pull the blinds up just enough for him to see the outside world. Slaine was right; there was a heavy blizzard outside. The wind was strong and whipped the snow nearly horizontally, and the edges of the window had been embedded with thick collections of snow. Inaho instantly knew what went through Slaine’s mind and he decided to return to his bed:

“Before you apologize for not being back for my birthday,” Inaho said before Slaine had had the time to say sorry for not being back in time. Inaho crawled in under the duvet again. “Waking up to you playing the violin is unusual since you always oversleep and I’m the one who wakes up before you,” he continued. “So this kind of birthday present is perfect. It was pleasant waking up to that. Don’t worry about celebrating me on my birthday. We can do that once you get back.”

The phone went silent for a short moment while Slaine probably thought about what Inaho had just said, and Inaho could imagine a blush rise over Slaine’s cheeks from indirectly being called a sleepyhead. And then the other boy exploded in his usual manner:

I’m not oversleeping! I get up in time for school and work!” Slaine yelled childishly through the phone. Inaho could only smile while his lover acted out the embarrassment Inaho was used to dealing with. “If you’re such a goodie-two-shoes then what are you doing sleeping at this hour? I thought you were awake already since it’s 07:00 AM there.”

“Normally I would,” Inaho answered and his smile widened from hearing Slaine’s childish but lively outburst. “The exams are coming up, and I told you I prefer studying at home for the exams to avoid unnecessary noise: there is no need for me to go to cram school, remember?”

Slaine was quiet again, probably blushing even more at Inaho’s explanation to why the brunet was still in bed.

Uh… Y-yeah. I forgot. Sorry,” Slaine answered mumbling but then sighed. “I really miss you. I know I’ve been away for just two days but I really want to be with you right now.

“You will once you get back home. I won’t go anywhere,” Inaho answered and heard Slaine sigh even deeper. “Has something happened?” he asked as a worry played in his mind hearing the other boy so downhearted.

No, all is fine. I just really miss you. Like really, really. I want to touch you…”

So that was what Slaine sought for. Physical intimacy. Since Slaine’s birthday the boys had engaged in physical activities similar to what had happened that evening in Slaine’s living room, and Inaho had found his ground in that matter: He enjoyed it as long as it only involved simply hands and lips. Anything else was still forbidden ground for the brunet.

“We can do that once you get back,” Inaho said and listened to Slaine sigh so deep it sounded as if the blond boy breathed out his soul with one single breath. “Are you feeling that lonely?” the brunet continued asking.

Yeah… It’s fun here and the crowd was really nice and enjoyed my song a lot, but I wish you could have been here to see it.

“I am sure you did a great job,” Inaho said and tried to bite back a yawn but failed miserably. Tears from tiredness gathered in his eyes as he exhaled and he wiped them away with the back of his hand. “I will see you on stage once I get to see the commercial. I look forward to that.”

Really?” he heard Slaine ask hopefully. “I can’t wait to show it to you.

Slaine was eager to show Inaho what he enjoyed and found pride in as an attempt to share those parts of his life with Inaho. The boy was quick to fan his feathers and display his positive traits for Inaho by highlighting those traits the boy knew Inaho enjoyed and found attractive. Slaine was hungry for Inaho’s approval. He was starving for the brunet’s praise, and the moment Inaho gave him that Slaine sought sexual release – each time. Now that Inaho was not there in Amsterdam to give Slaine that kind of release the blond felt lonely.

No matter what Inaho did to make Slaine understand he saw only him, Slaine still silently screamed for Inaho to not only see him but to truly look at him. It made Inaho feel that he should try harder and not simply give way for Slaine’s urges; Inaho wanted Slaine to understand he tried hard to give Slaine the attention a lover should have but Inaho was not interested in physical intimacy only; he wanted Slaine to see Inaho’s platonic gestures of love as well and think of them as enough at least from time to time. Not everything should be sexual, Inaho thought.

“Do you want me to meet you up at the airport when you arrive?” Inaho decided to ask. He wondered if the question was enough to make Slaine feel the attention he so much enjoyed and help Slaine release some of the loneliness the boy felt.

I would love to!” Slaine answered excitedly. “I will arrive at 17:45.

“Then I will see you next to the meeting point in the terminal.” Inaho turned around in his bed and pulled the duvet close around himself to hide from the slightly chilly air in the room. “What will you and Harklight do during the two days you are stuck in Amsterdam?”

He heard Slaine’s heartwarming chuckle from the other end of the line.

I was invited to play at the festival again, but I don’t have any other song to play so I was asked by the chief organizer to simply have a workshop tomorrow and tinker around with the system and pretend like I’m working,” Slaine answered happily. Inaho could understand the boy was overjoyed by the excited tone to his voice. “That way I can promote myself too. The pay is not the best due to it being such an unforeseen expense for the organizer, but Harklight thinks promotion is far more important than money at the moment.”

Inaho felt proud. It swelled in his chest and filled him up so pleasantly he was confused by it. Strong emotions were difficult for him to deal with even now despite he had gotten experience from spending time with his lover. What did a person do with such strong emotions when being alone? If Slaine would have told him that in person Inaho would have had his lover to act out these feelings on, but when Inaho did not have Slaine around the strong emotions were awkward for him.

“I’m happy to hear you were so appreciated by the festival organizer that they asked you to keep playing at the festival,” he simply said and stared at the wall opposite of him while feeling restless due to the strong emotions flowing inside of him. “How have your fingers been holding up?”

The other end of the line went silent. Inaho had asked the question simply because he was worried, but due to Slaine’s reaction he was suddenly reminded by the secret Slaine had asked him to keep. Slaine was ashamed of it – Inaho knew that – and because the brunet loved him so much Inaho could not intervene with Slaine’s decisions even if it required of him to lie to others or keep information from those he cared about. He had done that earlier by keeping their relationship a secret and now Inaho did that because he wanted Slaine to be happy, and so Inaho should not meddle with the blond boy’s life by revealing the boy’s secrets to others.

I haven’t felt any pain at all today,” Slaine finally answered after a while of hesitation. “I managed to play without any problems.”

It relieved Inaho to hear, and yet he was worried.

“What about the medication? Do you still have painkillers left?” the brunet asked and felt the strong emotions of being proud over Slaine slowly warp and turn into an infected emotion.

Slaine hesitated again before he mumbled his answer:

I have one left…

Inaho wanted to tell him to throw it away. What Slaine was doing – using strong prescription medication in another way than the doctor had specified – was dangerous and irresponsible of the violin playing boy. And yet – despite Inaho thinking like that – he could not ask Slaine to get rid of the last pill. He had to trust Slaine being able to do the decisions that would keep his future afloat and that he could handle the consequences of those decisions. There was only one pill left. Slaine would not become someone who abused medication. Inaho could know that for certain. What bugged him was Slaine thinking he had to suffer alone and went through disrespectful and irresponsible ways to not cave beneath the impending future of losing his ability to play on his father’s violin. It was not respectable to lie and it was not being responsible to misuse medication. Inaho knew the outcome of all that would probably be the best future Slaine could build for himself, but there were correct and incorrect ways to achieve something as that. The former alternative required much more work and investment than the latter.

You just take the easy way out,’ he thought. The infected emotion spread further out into his body and mind and all Inaho could answer his lover was:

“All right.”

Chapter Text

The sweet sound of a violin drifted in the air. People stood around him, listening as Slaine played his own interpretation of a soul influenced piano ballad which was played over and over again on the radio and had been praised by plenty of critics. The boy had finished the looping of the slow drumbeats and the background tunes to fill out the main melody and was now playing the song from his memory on the purple violin. The festival’s busy schedule had a break at the moment and people were aimlessly drifting around in the arena or found company at the bar further away from where Slaine stood playing with the synthesizer system.

It was the day after the shooting of the commercial and Slaine had returned to entertain the groups between the shows of heavy names of electronic artists. To Slaine’s joy and surprise people found him interesting to listen to, and many had sat down on the other side of the waist leveled fence separating them from Slaine so the boy could play in peace. Others stood leaning against the fences surrounding him or were gathered in crowds here and there, listening silently as he played. Harklight stood further away, watching and keeping an eye on the boy.

The lone two details that would have made the evening absolutely perfect were Slaine playing on his father’s violin Schreiber, and to have Inaho there seeing and listening to him play. If Slaine had those two at that moment he would have been fully contented.

As the boy played he breathed calmly. His breaths were soft and his entire body was relaxed in a comfortable and nostalgic way, as if he had longed to simply play what his heart desired; as he used to before the contract with Orbital Systems Inc. His fingers moved with relaxed movements – not the tense and stressed way they had moved while playing his song yesterday – and the bow glided over the strings so smoothly and gently the violin sung almost as perfectly as Schreiber.

But just almost.

No violin could sound as perfectly beautiful as his father’s; to hear the silver and gold strings vibrate with powerful warmth and clarity, the bridge transmitting the vibrations to the hundred years old wooden body, which would resonate the tunes so softly into the air… The thought made the boy miss the violin he had left back home in Japan.

Then he thought of Inaho and how much he missed him as well. Inaho was waiting for him in Japan and Slaine had been away from him for a couple of days which felt more like years. To stop himself from longing so strongly he pretended Inaho was standing next to him, listening. As he played with that thought in mind Slaine felt his heart fill up with something great and fulfilling as the melody he created melted into his mind. This emotion did not come from playing the violin and it took Slaine off guard. He had always loved to play the violin and now, something was interfering his usual passion, warping it into something new.

It’s vivid,’ the boy thought and closed his eyes.

Slaine breathed out a deep and gentle breath and felt the weight of the violin in his hand.

It’s liberating.’

Something was changing. The violin felt different to what he was used to. He felt helpless about describing the feeling since it was so abstract. It was impossible to wrap his mind around it but he knew it made him feel blissful, and thus it could not be anything bad.

It makes me feel stronger.

He felt his chin rest comfortably against the chin rest of the violin but it did not feel like anything he was used to. It was not the violin’s chin rest he felt. For a fleeting moment it felt as if he was resting his chin against his lover’s shoulder. In that instant – as his senses were deluded for a short moment by that great and fulfilling sensation – he smiled brightly as he found his answer:

Is it all because of you?’ Slaine thought and saw Inaho’s image in his inner vision, wishing for the image to be the real person in question rather than a memory he longed for to renew. ‘I miss you…

A rush swelled in his being as he realized Inaho was the reason to the wonderful feelings he felt at that moment. He was soaring and he took the music he created with him to the same heights. The feeling became stronger as the distant Inaho became more vivid to him than the violin he was holding. The sound changed, exploding with richness he had never been able to create before – not even with Schreiber.

I want to call him,’ the boy thought and opened his eyes to look at his fingers playing on the strings of the purple violin. His fingers played lighter and yet the sound was so strong and clear it shook him to the marrow of his bones. He turned his attention to the crowd watching him and saw awe directed back at him. Some were clutching their shirts above their chests while others gaped and stared at him with shocked eyes. Some shook their heads with disbelief while couples held each other tighter than before.

Slaine was shocked – and confused.

And grateful.

Once he had finished playing a hot tingle shot through him. The crowd was silent. No one said a word. Not until a young woman slowly began to clap her hands. A second observer followed her example, and a third. A fourth… Then the area of the festival venue exploded with applauds and cheers, and more applauds and cheers came from further away from the bar and other areas to where the sound of the violin had reached. Slaine blushed so strongly heat coursed through him and he quickly bowed to the crowd.

What happened?’ he thought and raised himself up to bow again. ‘How did I summon that kind of sound?

“What was that…?” he heard a familiar voice say. As Slaine looked up he noticed Harklight had walked up to him and stared at him with disbelief. The manager watched the musician with wide eyes and raised eyebrows while slowly shaking his head. “That was amazing…!”

“Huh?”

Slaine took a step back, feeling confused, and Harklight took a step closer to close the gap between them. He looked excited beyond any excitement he had expressed in Slaine’s presence before.

“Whatever you were thinking about, don’t let go of it. It made your exceptional violin play sound so alive it gave me chills and my knees shook,” Harklight said quietly and put both hands onto Slaine’s shoulders. “The crowd was blown away; I heard them whisper and gasp as you played.”

Slaine frowned and felt his blush grow hotter.

“W-what did they say?” the boy asked curiously with a light stutter.

Harklight smiled proudly and leaned closer to whisper:

“At first he touched my heart but now he’s touching my soul, was what I heard a woman say.” Harklight’s smiling eyes were wet with tears now that Slaine saw him up close. “Do you know what that means?”

Slaine shook his head.

“N-no,” he mumbled.

“It means you have stepped over to a new form of ground as a violin player; the musical you right now is not the one you were moments ago. You have advanced further, and my god did you sound exactly like your father,” Slaine watched and heard the man say.

Those words which emitted from Harklight’s lips shook something profound in Slaine. He felt excited. Frightened. Thrilled and anxious. Happy and horrified. Had he reached his father’s level? Had Slaine become the ghost of the world’s greatest violinist or had he become a competitor? The thought of him advancing during such a short moment – which had come out of nowhere – was absurd. Slaine could not remember how it felt to advance since he had been playing the same way for many years, and thus the sign of advancement was surprising. He had not noticed it coming.

“What were you thinking about when you were playing?” Harklight asked but the boy had the feeling the man knew the answer. Slaine’s crease between his brows deepened as he stared at his manager, and his answer came naturally:

“Inaho. I was thinking about Inaho.”

It was a whisper – a gentle whisper which made heat course through the boy while the mental image of his lover flashed before his eyes. Harklight stared at Slaine for a couple of short seconds before he looked surprised, and that was when Slaine understood he had revealed something he was supposed to keep a secret. Only a musician would understand what the thought of a loved one would do to the music they played, and Harklight was a musician at heart.

He knew.

“Inaho?” the man asked and got a look of confusion to his just recently smiling eyes. “It’s the boy you spend a lot of time with whose sister looks after you, right?”

Cold sweat broke out on Slaine’s back and his knees shook.

“Um…”

That was all Slaine had time to answer with before a female voice from somewhere in the still waiting audience – who probably were waiting for Slaine to continue playing – playfully said:

“Slaine Saazbaum Troyard. That was quite an extravagant show at a simple venue like this.”

Both Slaine and Harklight turned their eyes to a girl with clear blue eyes – so blue Slaine thought the girl had consumed the clear winter sky with her gaze and stolen its color. She had short platinum blonde hair playfully brushing against her cheeks and her smile was naturally mischievous. She wore a long gray winter coat with a thin layer of snow in her lap where she sat in a wheelchair. She looked young, younger than Slaine, and she was accompanied by a man who looked sturdy in both stature and resolve.

“Th-thank you,” Slaine answered baffled by her sudden appearance and the tone to her voice, which sounded like a cat purring.

“Forgive my rudeness, miss, but who might you be?” Harklight asked and turned around toward her. He seemed to recognize her since Harklight normally never asked for the name of the people who approached Slaine.

“Lemrina Vers Envers, and this is my manager,” the girl answered and held out a presenting hand toward the man behind her, whom she did not introduce by name.

Slaine felt himself jump from hearing her name.

Vers…!’ he thought shocked. It was the same middle name as to Asseylum and her grandfather Rayregalia.

Harklight nodded in recognition and gave her a respectable bow.

“I thought I would see you here, Miss Vers Envers,” Harklight said and raised himself to look at her again. “May I ask what brings you here?”

“You are pretty inquisitive, are you not?” the girl named Lemrina said with an amused voice and raised an eyebrow, still with her lips smiling that mischievous smile which gave her a certain air to her. That kind of air made Slaine’s thoughts drift to the subject of cats.

This girl seemed to be demanding and have a strong sense of integrity. What made Slaine confused was the detail in the look of her eyes and the way her voice purred: She was independent despite being bound to a wheelchair.

She must be a strong individual,’ Slaine thought while watching her smile impishly at Harklight. She threw a quick glance toward Slaine and the boy felt himself jump from their gazes colliding. The girl smiled slightly wider noticing his reaction. Slaine could not help but to blush.

“Forgive me,” Harklight answered. “I am curious to why a minor was allowed to enter a festival like this, who does not seem to perform. On top of that, you have just arrived considering the wet tires, and you immediately approached Slaine Troyard,” Slaine’s manager continued.

Slaine was taken off guard by how perceptive Harklight had been. Or maybe Harklight was simply so experienced with being a manager he instantly saw the signs of someone approaching an artist.

“In other words…?” Lemrina asked and waited for Harklight to finish whatever theory the man had been building from watching her.

“In other words – Miss Vers Envers – you are here for a business proposal. You are the one Saazbaum spoke about yesterday,” Harklight answered and Slaine’s confusion grew.

“Has my father spoken to you about work concerning me?” Slaine asked and looked at Harklight for answers. “He didn’t tell me anything about something as a business proposal to be made today.”

The dark haired young man turned to look at Slaine with a somewhat apologetic smile, and the girl in the wheelchair – Lemrina Vers Envers – scoffed playfully.

“Forgive me, but your father called me yesterday to ask me to update him about the shooting of the commercial. He told me Miss Vers Envers had been in the audience to watch you play last night to decide if she would want to work with you or not,” Harklight explained and Slaine’s confusion slowly began to clear, even if his thoughts were still muddled. “I had no time to speak to you about it this morning since we were so busy setting up your equipment.”

Things like this was something Slaine had noticed was a commonly recurring with Saazbaum; he vaguely told Slaine about his work plans and ideas for the boy – never being clear about his intentions, and Slaine never dared to ask. It left Slaine feeling confused and somewhat stressed out, never knowing what his father would throw his way. There was no way for the boy to deny his adoptive father’s plans either since Slaine thought Saazbaum deserved a son to be proud of.

“Work with me?” Slaine asked and watched Harklight with eyebrows knitting together. He still felt puzzled. “What do you-?”

Slaine did not get the chance to end his sentence. The cat-like girl interrupted his words:

“I have decided that your sound is intriguing in many ways. I would like to borrow your sound – or rather make it company in your next song.” Her words were heavy with demand. Slaine got the feeling she would not take “no” for an answer. “You made a spectacular performance yesterday, and today you made time stand still in this otherwise busy venue. It is quite an accomplishment,” she continued and narrowed her eyes as she watched Slaine’s cheeks turn into an even deeper crimson color.

The boy felt desperate to end their conversation. She was praising him. Slaine was lost to how to handle it – as always whenever someone praised him. He wanted to run and hide but that would be rude.

What do I do?’ he thought and suddenly wanted to cry. To prevent his eyes from tearing up he bit down on his lower lip hard enough to distract his mind from the sudden guilt her kind words had awakened inside him, and bowed to hide his concerned expression.

“Thank you for your kindness,” he said as steadily as he could. “Although I cannot agree to your praiseful words. I find myself not being better than any of the artists in this venue,” he continued but heard a quiet giggle.

It was nothing of a typical girly giggle. It was of a lower pitch than what Slaine was used to hearing coming from Asseylum or his female friends. Despite the girl’s young look her soft giggle was mature.

“Are you being humble saying something like that, or are you simply afraid of vanity? You know you are good, Mr. Troyard, and that is what scares you – am I right?” the girl said with her purring voice.

A cold arrow punctured Slaine’s heart. What had she just said? Was it an insult? Slaine felt completely stiff and stayed in his bowed position, feeling terrified of looking up at her. He thought fast.

It was not an insult since what she said filled up the small cracks in Slaine’s mind and heart concerning of who he was as an individual. He could not deny her words and thus he found himself frozen in place. He suddenly understood his fear of praise. The girl was right; he knew he was good and he had always known that. The boy had told people he did not believe he was good enough to deserve praise, but somewhere – deep down in his heart – he had known it was just an excuse to deflect praise away from him because he was afraid. It was a forbidden thought but Slaine found himself helpless to it taking form in his mind.

Throughout his life he had been in conflicts with himself and others. To have always stayed hidden in the deep shadows of the spotlights directed at his late father and watch the man climb on the career ladder had made the boy want to become like his father. He wanted people to see how talented he was. Lastly, the jealousy that had been directed at him by Cruhteo and Trillram had taken its toll on him. Slaine was never to admit he was talented or else someone would get angry at him. If he admitted it even for a second conflicts would arise, and that was the source for his so called humbleness and irrational anxiety of being praised.

I’m so ugly…’ he thought and held his breath at the realization. ‘I’m not humble because I mean it. I’m pretending to be humble to hide my insecurities. How many problems do I have to deal with? First my silence, and now this!

The fear of other people’s judgment was overwhelming because he did not trust people, nor did he feel confident enough to be able to say he was talented at playing the violin despite he knew it was the truth. He could not defend a statement like that if someone criticized him, basically because he was afraid of the conflict and was not confident enough to handle it. Slaine was better than many professional violinists and he was competing with the best of the best simply by playing leisurely. If he actually played with sincerity and emotion he would step up to the level right below his late father’s; the virtuoso Troyard who had captivated the entire world with his unique sound.

At that Slaine’s mind halted for a short moment as he was reminded by Harklight’s words and the audience’s reaction to him playing moments ago.

No… I’m at the same level as dad now…’ Slaine thought and swallowed hard, feeling terrified.

“Did I hit an exposed nerve?” the girl purred and Slaine slowly rose from his awkward bow to look at her with shock. “Forgive me. I was being rude, Mr. Troyard.”

She had seen right through his façade of humbleness which the boy had not know had existed until now. Had it been so obvious to her that he was trying to hide? How could she read him like that after two performances and a minute or two of speaking to him? She was presenting some kind of statement about who she was by exposing his fear like that, and it intrigued Slaine despite him feeling terrified.

“I-it’s all right, Miss Vers Envers,” Slaine said awkwardly and met her gaze with false confidence. He had to hide his self from her prying eyes by becoming simply professional and in turn present a statement to her about who he was. “Instead of telling me why you would like to work with me, why not tell me about your musical talent? I am curious to know what you can contribute with to a possible future project together.”

The girl noticed his change of tone and the shift on the atmosphere around him, and she raised her head slightly in a challenging way – accepting Slaine’s challenge of trying to read him.

“Wind instruments as well as singing,” she said promptly. “Since my legs are weak I compensated them with strong lungs.”

“Wind instruments?” Slaine asked. “A specific type of wind instrument or are you schooled in different wind instruments?”

The girl answered him with her being able to play all basic wind instruments, and she was specialized in flutes as a professional. Besides being a professional flute player Lemrina told Slaine she sang and played clarinet as a hobby since jazz was a music genre she enjoyed singing and playing but was not accepted on the classical stage. As Slaine queried about her professional record she let him know she had been performing in a youth orchestra for four years and had been lending her flute sounds to world-renowned musical artists. It made Slaine understand she was far more experienced with the stage than him, and that thought made him feel inferior due to the look in her eyes while informing him about her experience.

“Mr. Saazbaum has been looking after me and helped me with my career ever since I was ten years old. I must say I am slightly jealous of him adopting you but not me, but then again I am not surprised he wants to share his name with you,” Lemrina said while still smiling that unnerving mischievous smile of hers which gossiped about her trying to read deeper into Slaine as they spoke.

“Miss Vers Envers here is going to a music school which is founded by Rayregalia Vers Rayvers,” Harklight explained to Slaine.

“It is founded by my grandfather,” Lemrina corrected Harklight, who looked up at her with a quick glance before he apologized sincerely.

Slaine felt how the color drained from his face. The girl was Asseylum’s sister! Slaine could not remember Asseylum ever telling him she had a sister. The girls did look alike but then again, there were clear differences to their countenances. Lemrina shared her sisters blue eyes and cheekbones but the greatest difference between the siblings was their hair color and skin. Lemrina had platinum blonde hair and translucent skin color, while Asseylum had golden locks and a natural warm glow to her skin.

“Are you perhaps sister to Asseylum Vers Allusia?” Slaine asked respectfully; the perplexity of the girl’s identity grew too strong for him to fight.

The girl turned her piercing blue eyes toward Slaine and narrowed them for a short moment. They were hostile, not toward him but toward something else. It was as if Slaine’s question had flared up some kind of anger inside her toward the subject itself and not the boy.

“Only by half,” Lemrina answered bitterly, and Slaine understood the girl held a grudge toward her sister and Slaine’s childhood friend. “Anyway, if you do not mind I would like to stay in contact with you, Mr. Troyard, and speak to you about collaborating in the near future. I understand this venue is not an acceptable place for such discussion; I was simply here to listen to you to build an opinion about the virtuoso Mr. Saazbaum has been speaking so fondly about,” she said. Her anger disappeared and turned into that mischievous smile of a feline once again.

Her peering eyes were cutting into Slaine, piercing his defenses and staring straight at his insecurities. That was how her gaze affected him; making him want to run away and hide from her. It was a completely new feeling for Slaine to handle; Yuki was good at reading people and so was Inko, but this girl – Lemrina Vers Envers – was something completely different.

“I will see to it, miss,” Harklight answered her, and Slaine felt grateful for his manager’s quick action to take the reins since the boy was lost for words. “Once we have arrived to Japan and Mr. Troyard has been allowed to rest, I will contact you and arrange for a meeting.”

The girl seemed pleased to the young man’s answer and nodded satisfied.

“Thank you. I look forward to hearing from you,” the girl answered, and with a contented smile she told them goodbye and her manager showed her out of the venue.

Slaine could do nothing but stare at her fading down the corridor toward the exit. Once she had disappeared behind a corner the boy’s eyes were frozen to the spot where she had vanished. She was Asseylum’s half-sister and Saazbaum had taken care of her musical talent for years. Slaine’s father wished for him to work with her – a person who saw right through the boy – and Slaine had no way to decline.

“Slaine?” he heard Harklight ask next to him, and the boy looked at his manager who watched him with concern. “Are you all right?”

Slaine let himself take a handful of breaths before he nodded, just to make sure how he really felt about the encounter moments ago.

“Yes, I feel fine,” the blond lied.

I’m nervous about her…

“Thank goodness. I thought you would get angry at me for forgetting to tell you something as important as a future business partner,” the man said relieved. “I would have spoken to you about it once I remembered it.”

Slaine smiled.

“Don’t worry. Both of us have been busy today. It’s not your fault,” the boy answered and watched his manager smile.

“Thank you. It won’t happen again,” the man said and bowed. “I am sure both of you will make an incredible song together. I have heard she is a great singer and her musical talent is exquisite.”

“I s-see,” Slaine smiled.

She saw right through me… She saw things in me I didn’t know existed.’

The boy felt a sudden impulse to see his lover. He wanted to hide in Inaho’s arms. Feeling exposed like that made Slaine want to hide from everyone. He did not want conflicts. He did not want to face his fear. He did not want to admit he was good, and he did not want Lemrina to see how pathetic he was.

“Do you want to continue playing?” Harklight suddenly asked and Slaine nodded and raised the purple violin back onto his shoulder.

“Of course,” the boy smiled, perfectly masking his raging emotions from encountering the girl.

♪♫♪♫

Inaho stood at the crowded meeting point at Komatsu Airport, which was located about an hour’s bus ride from Shinawara. The crowd was dense with individuals. Some were stressing toward the check-ins while others were walking casually toward the passport controls. The crowd awaiting passengers arriving with the flight which Slaine was on, was large as well. Inaho stood next to a statue of a globe a little further away from the crowd. Standing in the middle of it was awkward and he disliked to have constant noise around him which did not allow him to focus properly on his own thoughts.

The information sign about the flights arriving showed the flight JL 191 had landed and the baggage had arrived to the baggage claim. Within moments Inaho would see his lover step out through the doors into the terminal. The brunet found it thrilling. Slaine had never been away from him like this before and it made him feel excited to see the boy again. Even if he had been worrying for Slaine – as well as missing him greatly – Inaho still had to be honest and say it was constructive for them both to be away from each other a little while. That way they had time to miss each other and make the reunion sweet. It felt good to long for Slaine and not have the boy constantly available – but only a handful of times per year. Inaho would not enjoy if Slaine had to travel away for work more times during a year than Inaho could count on one hand. After speaking with Slaine on the phone, Inaho had a foreboding sense of his lover getting busier now that the boy had launched his career. Slaine was incredibly good at playing violin – Inaho could not find words to express how it made him feel to hear his lover play, more than describing it as powerful – and after this trip Inaho was sure the world would slowly begin to notice the virtuoso.

Then where will I be in all of that?’ the brunet thought.

The door into the hall of the baggage claim opened and people began to flow out through it. Inaho kept his eyes locked at the door, waiting for a blond haired boy to arrive. His heart began to beat harder. The beats were fast and heavy. His breathing became shallow and his body tensed. The Japanese boy could not wait for his lover.

Light blond hair – tussled from a long flight – peeked out from behind a small crowd of businessmen who had exited the baggage claim hall. Seeing it made Inaho want to hurry to the railing which kept the door free from unauthorized people entering the baggage claim hall, and he did that. Inaho walked up to the opening of the railing and waited until people had passed and then got eye contact with the blond haired boy.

“Inaho!” Slaine exclaimed happily while looking exhausted.

The boy was holding his violin case in one hand and a small suitcase was pulled behind him with the other. The boy’s manager – Harklight – had an exhausted expression to him as well and was speaking in the cellphone pressed against his ear while dragging a suitcase behind him.

Slaine hurried out from the crowd and stopped right in front of the brunet. The boys stared at each other, both of their bodies tingling to hold the other. If the crowd around them would have been isolated from them, taken away or hidden behind a wall or even a curtain, Inaho would have kissed the blond boy. He would have held him, tightened his arms around him and breathed in the boy’s scent. But neither of them could due to the people around them.

“How did the flight go?” Inaho asked and Slaine smiled even brighter – bright enough Inaho’s heart fluttered – and he stared at Slaine’s lips as the boy answered:

“It was all right despite it being stressful. We had stopovers in Frankfurt and Tokyo, and the safety controllers at Frankfurt were suspicious about my violin at first so I was nervous about not being allowed to take it with me as carry-on baggage.”

Slaine sighed and looked contented to finally be back home.

“Is that stressful?” Inaho asked and Slaine nodded energetically with a meaningful look.

“Even if it’s not my dad’s violin, a musical instrument as sensitive as a violin should not be stored in the baggage compartment. I was about to cry when the lady at the safety control told me to check it in as normal baggage. Luckily Harklight knew what to say in order to let me take the violin with me,” Slaine said and looked over his shoulder at Harklight who stood further away in a section of the terminal where not many people were disturbing his seemingly important phone call.

“What do we do now? Do we take a taxi or the bus back to Shinawara?” Inaho asked.

“We will take a cab. Harklight is speaking to Saazbaum at the moment and after that he will order a taxi for us,” Slaine said smiling but then frowned slightly. Inaho got a worrying feeling seeing that look in Slaine’s eyes. Had something happened? “Harklight knows about us,” the blond boy then finally spoke.

“He knows?” Inaho asked to ensure he had heard correctly, and Slaine nodded.

“I will tell you why later. I wanted to let you know since he might act awkward around you on our way back home,” Inaho’s lover said and smiled wryly.

Why would he do that?’ Inaho wondered. The man had no right to judge either of the boys, and if he did Inaho wondered what Harklight’s motivation could be. Then again, Inaho could not care less. ‘But this is a person Slaine works closely with; I have no choice but to care.’

Inaho could not wait to return to Slaine’s place and spend the night with him, and once Harklight was finished with his phone call and ordered a taxi, the three of them left the airport. On their way to Shinawara Slaine slipped his hand into Inaho’s and squeezed the brunet’s hand tightly. It was the first physical contact they had had for several days and not until now did Inaho realized how starved he had been for the other boy. Harklight was sitting in the front seat next to the driver, while Inaho and Slaine had the backseat for themselves. Inaho felt the huge urge to quickly steal a kiss from the other boy but he knew Slaine would feel awkward with Harklight present, and so he refrained from doing that. Instead he caressed the back of Slaine’s hand with his thumb, letting the blond know how much Inaho had missed him.

Once they arrived Slaine convinced Harklight to continue with the same taxi home and Inaho would help Slaine with his baggage. Harklight looked at the boys for a short moment with slightly concerned gaze – troubled over leaving the boys alone – but then bid both of them good night and asked the taxi driver to drive him home. The boys got up to the 21st floor and entered Slaine’s apartment, and the moment the door closed behind them Slaine threw himself around Inaho’s neck and kissed him.

Slaine’s lips were so soft and warm despite the cold weather outside, and Inaho welcomed them wholeheartedly. Finally he was allowed to calm his longing. Finally he was allowed to express the relationship they had.

“I missed you so much,” Slaine gasped as he pulled back just slightly, before he attacked Inaho’s lips again. “I missed you so, so much!”

Slaine gave Inaho no moment to answer. Instead, all Inaho could do, was to taste Slaine’s lips which had a hint of coffee flavor to them. His lover must have had several cups of coffee during his travel since his breath smelled of coffee as well. The brunet put his arms around Slaine’s waist and pulled his body close to his, engulfing Slaine in his arms. Their kisses grew gradually hotter and their embrace around the other tightened.

Finally they were back together.

Slaine decided to unpack his luggage the next day. He declared himself too lazy to do it immediately after he had gotten back home and instead he opened his violin case after they had let go of each other and undressed from their winter coats. He pulled out a small and thin plastic box from inside the case. It was black and had a fancy silvery engraving of an ostentatious store name on it, and he held it out for Inaho.

“It’s a souvenir from Amsterdam,” Slaine said as Inaho accepted the box with surprise. “It’s not much, but I wanted to buy you something. I have a souvenir for Yuki as well. I’m not sure if she likes jewelry but I bought her a necklace with a small bead of opal on it.”

Inaho stared at Slaine for a while and watched the boy blush. Inaho knew Slaine was very much aware of Yuki’s view on money and Inaho had a feeling Slaine had bought something ridiculously expensive anyway.

“How much did it cost?” Inaho asked.

Slaine blushed even heavier:

“A-about 250 Euro…”

“Does it look expensive?” Inaho asked, and Slaine shook his head:

“No. I deliberately bought a white gold necklace, so it looks like silver.”

“Then let’s not tell her it’s made of white gold and let her believe it is made of silver. Then she might accept it,” Inaho said and Slaine chuckled.

They left the hall and entered the kitchen. Slaine immediately began to prepare sandwiches and Inaho opened the box Slaine had given him. Inside lay a beautifully polished metal keychain. The metal was so bright it could have been mistaken for silver. The pendant was in the form of a padlock, and a date was engraved on the padlock. It was the date when they became a couple; 5th of December 2014.

“Do you like it?” he heard Slaine ask and Inaho looked up at his lover who watched him over his shoulder while opening the plastic bag for the bread he had taken out from the freezer.

“Yes. But a padlock?” Inaho wondered out loud.

“You don’t know?” Slaine asked with raised eyebrows, bewildered. “A padlock symbolizes eternal love. It is popular in Europe to put a padlock on fences, bridges or gates.”

“Isn’t that considered vandalism?” Inaho asked and Slaine stared at him for a while before he began to laugh.

“Silly!” the blond boy laughed. “It’s so popular in Europe that it doesn’t really matter. Are you trying to shoot down my symbolical gift?”

That was not true. Inaho had not meant it as a complaint or anything the sort. He was greatly happy about Slaine’s gift. He truly was. The question he had voiced was out of genuine curiosity and nothing more, and suddenly the brunet felt like he had stepped on some kind of social code he had not been thinking about. Had he been wrong to ask such a question before he had thanked his lover for the gift?

“I’m sorry,” Inaho said and Slaine’s smile faded. “I like it.”

His lover gave him a wry smile and walked over to him. A soft peck of Slaine’s lips landed on Inaho’s right cheek and the boy said:

“I was just joking.” Another soft peck landed on Inaho’s cheek. “The lady at the jewelry store told me about the history of the padlock as a symbol of eternal love.”

Slaine told Inaho about the story he had heard from the lady at the jewelry store in Amsterdam. She had told him that long ago – during the World War I – a woman from Serbia fell in love with a Serbian officer after meeting him on a bridge in her hometown. They committed to each other before the soldier left to fight the war in Greece. There he fell in love with another woman and broke up with the Serbian woman, who later died of heartbreak. After that people wrote their name, and the name of their loved ones, on padlocks and attached them on the fence of the bridge where the Serbian woman and soldier met, to ensure the protection of those they loved. The keys was to be thrown in the river to never be found again. The tradition died out but awoke again due to a Serbian poet who wrote a poem called “A Prayer for Love”. Today, the very same bridge goes by the name Bridge of Love and has thousands of padlocks affixed to its fence. It had inspired people all over the world to do the same with those they loved, and it had become a cultural phenomenon around the world.

Slaine chuckled and kissed Inaho’s lips gently before he returned to the frozen sandwiches and put them in the toaster.

“It’s a tragic story but also beautiful, don’t you think?” Slaine said. “Since we can’t show our love openly in public, at least you have a small reminder to carry with you.”

Inaho’s lips were curved into a small smile. Slaine was always like that: Always thinking about how to best show his love to the Japanese boy. Inaho on the other hand was bad at it, or so he thought. All he knew he could do – which also felt like the right thing to do – was to be a strong wall for Slaine to lean on when things would get tough for him.

That reminded Inaho about what Slaine had said at the airport and the look the boy had had in his eyes.

“Thank you. I like the souvenir,” Inaho said and went into the hall to pick up his keychain from his coat pocket. He entered the kitchen again where Slaine was waiting for his sandwiches to get toasted and put the padlock keychain onto the key loop. “You told me about Harklight knowing about us. Will you tell me now what happened?”

Slaine’s posture slumped slightly. The boy hung his head and suddenly looked tired.

“I was playing at the venue on Saturday,” Slaine said quietly. “Something happened when I played. I don’t know what really but I-“

The boy hesitated to speak.

“Are you hurt?” Inaho instantly asked and Slaine quickly shook his head.

“No, no. Nothing like that. I … kind of leveled up as a violinist … and according to Harklight I sound exactly like my father did… It happened out of nowhere,” the Western boy mumbled.

Inaho was taken off guard. He knew Slaine was good – the boy had always been good – but Slaine had not been quite at the same level as his late father; the world’s greatest violinist. Now Slaine was telling Inaho he had become as great as his father, and that alone was huge news.

“Congratulations,” Inaho said – as monotonously as ever despite the raging happiness inside him for Slaine’s sake.

Slaine smiled wryly, looking more downhearted than happy. It worried the brunet.

“Harklight is a musician – as you know – and only a musician can notice what another musician is thinking about while playing,” Slaine continued. “The moment I stepped up on the ladder of a musician, the entire area of the venue where I played went silent. It was obvious for Harklight what I had been thinking about even if he did not know who those thoughts concerned.”

Slaine went silent for a while and Inaho had the feeling he knew what Slaine meant. His heart began to flutter once again and he wanted to smile. Kisses and hugs felt timid as expressions to what Inaho felt at that moment.

“What were you thinking about?” Inaho asked and Slaine blushed heavily.

Slaine hesitated a little and fidgeted on the spot like an embarrassed school boy.

“Y-you…” the boy whispered.

Inaho had to hold himself back with great discipline. His impulse had been to touch the other boy and he had to hold that impulse back no matter what. Slaine had expressed concern and been upset about the matter. The blond had not finished explaining what had happened.

“And you told Harklight that?” Inaho asked and Slaine nodded.

Finally – after knowing Slaine since summer – the violin playing boy played with love for him instead of the violin. Slaine had been obsessed about playing the violin and Inaho had always fallen aside as second priority when Slaine had to decide which one he loved the most. Slaine had used the love for the violin as inspirational source, but now that had changed. Now his lover told him the brunet had become his first priority, and had made Slaine’s talent break through a barrier which had hindered him from standing next to his late father. Inaho was the reason Slaine had grown as a musician, not the violin.

“At that same moment I met a girl who apparently had been assigned by Saazbaum to come and watch me play at the music festival to decide if she wants to work with me in future songs. She is Asseylum’s half-sister, named Lemrina,” Slaine explained and suddenly a dark shadow flickered in Inaho’s chest, making his heart feel like burning.

“Why does your father want you to work with her?” Inaho asked and Slaine shook his head and shrugged.

“I don’t know,” he sighed. “I don’t know her and he had not told me a single word about her coming to see me. Saazbaum said – when I asked him about it later that day – he had wanted me to be unknowing so I wouldn’t be affected by being aware of her presence while playing. He said she would complement my sound perfectly since – according to him – we are similar musicians.”

The dark shadow and the burning sensation in Inaho’s chest intensified.

The toaster rattled when the bread was finished and jumped up from the slots.

“Do you agree with him?” Inaho asked and Slaine hurriedly looked up at him with concern wading in his expression.

“No, I don’t know what I think about her. She seems rude and demanding, and flat out scary,” Slaine said urgently. He had probably noticed Inaho’s jealously. “She saw right through me and seemed proud about it. She made me realize why I’m so scared of praise and that was so scary I could barely handle it.”

Inaho had Slaine tell him about what had happened in detail. He listened to Slaine explaining his fear of praise and why he acted the say he did. The fear of admitting he was talented, and the fear of that leading to conflicts with people who did not agree with him and thought of him as conceited, was so profound it ruled over Slaine’s life as a musician. He wanted to prove to people he was talented; he wanted people the see it and acknowledge it, but then the circle of evil came to be when he could not accept the acknowledgment he got from those he played for.

“I don’t trust them to know what true talent is,” Slaine explained and looked melancholy. “Isn’t that a great insult to people listening to me play? Who am I to tell them they have no knowledge of what talent is? Shouldn’t music be about listening and enjoying it instead of grading it?” Slaine sighed heavily and shook his head. “Numbers can never tell honestly how good music is since it’s such an individual abstract thing. Everyone thinks and feels different about a song.”

Inaho heard what he said and did not say; Slaine was aware how warped his thoughts were and found no pride in it. The boy was ashamed.

“Is talent everything?” Inaho wondered and Slaine’s head lowered yet again. His blond bangs fell over his eyes, hiding them from the brunet’s gaze.

“I’ve been growing up next to dad. Talent was everything for him; it brought him to the top. Talent isn’t simply about the technical talent you have as a player since talent is also about how you can express yourself through music. No matter how good you are at the techniques, it won’t mean a thing if you can’t express yourself as well,” Slaine said quietly. “I’ve always heard I’m talented at both, ever since I was a child. I wanted to become as great as my father – who also was said to be talented at technique and expression. It was everything I wanted to become: Talented. Then – when dad died – I was punished for being talented. I was beaten, insulted, harassed and all for being talented…”

Inaho stared at the boy who looked as if he was about to cry. What on earth was going through Slaine’s head? Images of those hurting him or the physical and emotional pain he had been forced to endure?

“Cruhteo and Trillram made you afraid of being talented?” Inaho asked, and Slaine nodded. “And yet you hunger for people to acknowledge you?” Slaine nodded again.

“My experiences from childhood and my experiences from Cruhteo’s house are colliding, and I don’t know how to handle it. That’s probably why I get anxiety the moment someone tells me to my face that I’m talented,” Slaine whispered. “I don’t trust them to know what talent is, and I don’t trust them to be honest about what they feel and think. I don’t trust them to not attack me in any way if I accept their praise without acting ashamed.”

Inaho went silent. Slaine was far more complex than he had expected due to the boy’s past. Inaho had been through a horrible childhood as well but it did not haunt him or affect him. He was – despite what he had been through – emotionally stable compared to Slaine who struggled emotionally. Slaine had always been an individual far more passionate than anyone Inaho had met in his short life, and how to handle that was a question Inaho could not find an answer to.

I can only be a supportive wall for him,’ he thought.

“Lemrina saw this in me. I bet she knew the instant she heard me speak. How am I supposed to work with her?” Slaine asked. “Both Saazbaum and Harklight are pushing me to work with her. They behave as if it’s something very important and Saazbaum especially seems excited about this.”

Inaho felt wary of the men’s intentions. Something did not feel right with the story Slaine told him. He was sure it was not because Slaine kept information hidden from the brunet; the blond did not seem to know any more than Inaho about what the intention was to have Slaine work with the girl called Lemrina.

“Can’t you say no?” Inaho asked and Slaine shook his head.

“I can’t…” the boy whispered. “Saazbaum wants to be proud of me, and I want him to be proud of me. I don’t want him to regret adopting me. Besides, Lemrina’s musical talent has been perfected by Saazbaum for years and I think father is excited about watching us play together. I can’t be that cruel to him and deny him that,” Slaine said.

Why do you have to be like this? Just say no if you don’t like it,’ Inaho thought frustrated, but he knew the situation was probably more complex than that. Sometimes a simple “no” would not suffice when emotions were in the way. ‘Children are loyal to their guardian.’

“Is she the reason why Harklight is acting awkward about knowing about me?” Inaho asked and Slaine nodded.

The burning sensation in brunet’s chest flared up to higher levels. He did not like the thought of having Slaine and Lemrina work together – not the least. It felt dangerous, not because he did not trust Slaine, but because he did not trust the other three involved in whatever was happening.

“How are you fingers?” Inaho suddenly asked to direct the conversation to some other topic that would calm him down from the dark creature of jealousy crawling around inside him.

He saw Slaine close his left hand into a fist.

“I guess they are okay,” Slaine mumbled. “I can feel them being a little stiff but that’s all. They didn’t ache when I performed.”

Inaho watched him for a couple of breaths, studying the shameful Slaine who was feeling guilty of him misusing the medication he had gotten from the doctor.

“What about the last pill you have?” Inaho asked and Slaine shook his head.

“I haven’t used it. I didn’t need to,” the boy answered.

At least you have only one pill left, and then they are gone,’ the brunet thought and walked up to Slaine and began to prepare the forgotten sandwiches Slaine had been doing before he began to talk about Lemrina.

“Then – after you have eaten – do you want to play Aldnoah Sonata for me?” Inaho asked. “Are your fingers all right enough to do that?”

Slaine looked up at the boy and stared at him for a while. Inaho continued to prepare the sandwiches; building up their toppings with ham and cheese, red bell pepper, salad and cucumber. When he was done he looked at Slaine who was still staring at him.

“I am curious to how you sound now that you have become greater. Do you want to demonstrate?” Inaho asked. “I think your dad’s violin should get some attention.”

Slaine’s depressed expression slowly melted away and a smile spread in his lips instead. There was that characteristic boyish smile Inaho always loved to see. The warmth radiated from the boy’s expression alone, and the blond tousled hair bounced gently as Slaine nodded.

“I would love to,” he said quietly.

Chapter Text

Inaho sat on the couch in Slaine’s living room and watched his lover play on the old Stradivarius violin. Slaine stood in front of the television, leaning his chin against the violin and stroked the strings with the bow while fingering the strings on the violin’s neck. Slaine wore a smile as if it were a ray of sunlight he had caught from above the clouds during his flight back home to Japan; it was proud and dazzling, blinding the brunet whom Slaine performed for. The violin sung with clarity and heart, this time much more so than before. The blond boy’s graceful movements were as perfectly confident and beautiful as before and Inaho could not help himself from staring at the right side of Slaine’s exposed neck. There he saw the pulse slowly beat faster, changing from calm to excitement the longer the boy played.

The sound Slaine created was warmer than before. His violin play had been breathtaking the moment Inaho had first heard him play at the street corner last summer. There the boy had been holding back, fearing someone to convey the truth of him playing to his former abusing guardian if he played his heart out. Inaho had had the pleasure to follow Slaine through the journey of releasing his restraints and watch him slowly begin to advance as a violinist. Up until now there had been some kind of limitation to the boy’s violin sound which did not allow him to reach the top which Inaho had felt from the first time he heard him play. Slaine had always hovered beneath a level where he would have the chance to become something greater. Inaho could best describe it as tension in the air waiting to grow and create a bright flash of light once it got a strong enough charge.

Like thunder,’ Inaho thought as he listened to his lover play. Something had made Slaine spark during his trip in Amsterdam. Slaine’s motivation thus far had been the violin; the source of his passion. It had not given him a good enough charge to shine the way he was capable of. Some kind of realization had come to him during his time abroad which had given Slaine the right kind of charge, now allowing him to shine as a shattering lightning of thunder, overwhelming Inaho as he listened to the declaration of love Slaine voiced through his melody. Slaine sounded more mature, like a boy who was slowly becoming an adult. The shadow of an adult which had hinted itself in Slaine’s eyes during the boys’ times of intimacy was suddenly flickering in Slaine’s way of playing as well. It showed in Slaine’s posture, the way his expression rested so perfectly on his face, and in the melody’s gentle confidence.

He told me I’m the charge he needed for this outburst,’ Inaho thought happily. ‘Just don’t leave me behind, Slaine,’ he then thought as a slight fear of Slaine outgrowing Inaho drifted through the brunet’s heart. Slaine was making slow but apparent developments toward adulthood, while Inaho felt like he was still stuck in the ways of a teenager; he felt as if he was not developing at all while Slaine was striding toward adulthood with quicker and quicker steps.

It was no wonder Lemrina had wanted to work with him. Any musician would have loved to collaborate with Slaine now that he shone so brightly, and Saazbaum seemed eager to spread the light his adopted son radiated with the world and raise the girl called Lemrina to a higher level of acknowledgment.

The thoughts about Lemrina’s existence in Inaho’s and Slaine’s picture drifted in his mind as angry vultures trying pick at his dying reason. Inaho felt heat flare up in his chest – resembling a fire scorching his veins which slowly suffocated his reasoning thoughts. It hurt. Intensely. Vividly. Inaho kept himself from raising a hand to his chest to where it hurt to not worry his lover who was playing so wonderfully for him. What was the reason to Saazbaum pairing Lemrina together with Slaine for work? For a brief moment Inaho wanted to rush up from his seat on the couch and take a hold of Slaine to pull him close. Lemrina would not get him. Slaine belonged to Inaho simply because the blond wanted to.

Is Saazbaum trying to arrange a marriage between them?’ the brunet thought.

Or that was simply what Inaho thought; Saazbaum was using Slaine to make another musician shine brighter and hopefully have Slaine and Lemrina marry in the future. Inaho was not sure if those kind of thoughts that rushed through his mind were delusions of jealousy or truth, but the boy did not trust the man’s eagerness to pair his lover with a girl without having some kind of hidden agenda behind it all.

And does Harklight support it?

It was peculiar to him why Harklight found the boys’ relationship troubling if an arranged marriage was not the reason. Would the manager keep quiet about what he knew? Would he let Slaine take the responsibility and tell his adoptive father about who he loved?

Would Slaine be brave enough to do that?’ Inaho thought and felt a bitter emotion drift around along with the jealousy he so clearly felt. He was uncertain of how brave Slaine actually was.

Inaho knew Slaine had to speak with Saazbaum about the relationship he had with Inaho soon. It would be greatly difficult for the boy since Slaine was the one fearing what others would think and say about him being outside the normative conceptions of relationships in a conservative world. Was Saazbaum of the conservative kind, Inaho wondered?

Their friends and Yuki had already accepted their relationship. Inko, Nina and Calm had been bothering Inaho about telling them about their relationship and Inaho had found it kind of perverse of how interested they were in his relationship with Slaine. They wanted to know things which they named “juicy details”, asking Inaho about what they did when they shared a bed and when they were alone in a room. To his surprise Calm had called Slaine for the deviant one, and when Inaho had questioned him what made him think that, the boy had simply answered with a wide grin:

It’s the calm and cute ones who are like devils in bed. Or so I’ve heard.”

He had been correct. Slaine was the hungry one during times of intimacy and it had shocked Inaho to hear Calm be so accurate with his description without hearing a word about the boys’ intimate moments.

Yuki on the other hand had been the way Inaho expected her to be; she had been asking gentle questions about their relationship to make sure both of them were happy and contented with both their separate lives and with their shared life. She was like the mother she tried to be; mature and responsible, as well as caring.

But what about Saazbaum?’ Inaho thought and saw Slaine’s smile fade slightly as the boy stared at his left-hand fingers. Slaine suddenly frowned as he played and directed his eyes toward his fingers. They probably hurt again but the boy kept on playing, desperately trying to demonstrate his wonderful development as a musician as well as the growth he had gone through as a boy now slowly becoming an adult.

“Slaine, stop,” Inaho said softly, still moved by Slaine’s wonderful sound despite the worry and jealousy swimming inside his chest.

Slaine interrupted his father’s sonata and looked at Inaho, still with his left hand fingers resting on the strings of the violin.

“Do your fingers hurt again?” the brunet asked and he watched Slaine nod, clearly troubled. “Thank you for playing for me. It was wonderful to hear how you have grown,” Inaho continued. “I think you should get into the shower after your long flight.”

Slaine smiled wryly while nodding and began to clean the violin and loosened the bow hairs.

“Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. I do feel kind of icky,” the blond said and chuckled while he wiped the strings off with a cloth, gently rubbing the rosin away from the strings so they would be able to sing clearly next time as well. “It’s been a stressful travel.”

When Slaine had finished cleaning the violin and moved toward the shower Inaho suddenly felt an urge to run after him. The need to be close to the boy was compelling, commanding even, and when Slaine opened the bathroom door Inaho followed after him.

“May I join you?” the brunet asked and Slaine stopped to stare at him with confusion.

“S-sure,” the blond quietly answered and blushed, and together the boys stepped into the shower.

Inaho felt slightly more at peace now that he was allowed to spend time naked along with his lover. The fear of losing Slaine was slowly becoming prominent and closeness was the immediate cure. So Inaho believed. He felt himself grow needy for attention, and to get attention he had to give attention. Inaho listened to the splashing of the water while they washed themselves. Inaho had already taken a shower that morning but he felt the need to stay closer to Slaine than usual.

Slaine kept his back turned toward Inaho, probably because he was shy and self-conscious being naked with Inaho like this. They had not showered together ever since the last time after they had been at the cinema with their friends. Did Slaine remember that and what they had done after showering? Was that the reason to why Inaho’s lover was now turned away from him? It gave the brunet a chance to watch his lover closely though. The slender body was suddenly tempting. The curves of the blond boy’s hips, the shape of his back and the soft and wet blond hair glued to his neck – all of that was suddenly clear to the brunet.

I don’t want anyone to take him away from me,’ he thought. ‘I want to bind him to me before Saazbaum tries to give him to Lemrina.’

The sudden urge – the need the boy felt – was tickling his brain. For a very long time, this was the first time Inaho’s mind became deluded by a twisted wanting for something – in this case Slaine. He feared Slaine would disappear if he did not do something now. How would he make Slaine his and only his? The blond boy finally loved Inaho more than the violin; Inaho did not want to lose that. For now Inaho had to do whatever he had to in order to calm himself down from the jealousy and worry. He had to make sure, even if Slaine had already proved it for him through the heartfelt melody from moments ago, that Slaine truly wanted him and only him. Inaho had to anchor that feeling into his heart to ward off the monsters of jealousy and fear infecting him.

“Slaine,” Inaho said and watched the blond throw a quick glance over his shoulder at the brunet.

“Yeah?” he heard Slaine’s awkward voice ask while he continued rubbing the frothy sponge over his arm.

“Your playing have truly developed,” Inaho said and watched the boy slow down the rubbing motion with the sponge. “It seems we had to be away from each other a little while for you to realize where you should find your motivation from.”

Slaine stopped moving and seemed to think for a little while before turning around and look at his lover with a blush dancing on his cheeks.

“Th-thank you, but it sounded like you’re scolding me for not realizing it earlier,” Slaine said awkwardly.

“That’s not what I meant,” Inaho said as he realized he had phrased his words poorly. “I mean that I’m happy you finally play with expressing your feelings for me rather than expressing the feelings you have for the violin. The love for your violin has been holding you back.”

Slaine’s blush intensified and the boy turned around and straightened his back, probably from feeling embarrassed. He continued to forcefully rub the sponge over his skin and said:

“I u-understand that now. I guess it was good for me to be hopelessly away from you for a while like that since it gave me time to miss you so bad it was choking me at times. I realized I missed you more than I have missed the violin in the past.”

That was beyond nice to hear. It was uplifting to hear Slaine express it clumsily like that. It gave Inaho reassurance and he felt slightly braver – brave enough to step up to Slaine and put his arms around his naked body and plant a kiss on Slaine’s slender neck. The blond froze but Inaho did not mind it. Instead he pushed his entire body against Slaine’s and held him tightly.

I need to make him know how much I want him to stay as mine that he won’t run away even if Saazbaum orders him to,’ Inaho thought. He trusted Slaine’s feelings for him but he did not trust the boy’s resolve to stand up against his adoptive father’s cruel order to break up with the brunet – if that would come. Inaho did not want to take any risks and instead wipe away every reason there was for Slaine to follow his adoptive father’s possible commands to be with Lemrina instead. Inaho would hate to see Slaine be miserable with Lemrina since he knew Slaine could be perfectly happy with Inaho instead.

“I-Inaho?” Slaine asked carefully and Inaho immediately tightened his arms around Slaine’s torso.

The brunet looked up at his lover but Slaine was still facing away from him, too nervous and confused of what Inaho was doing to look at him. Instead Inaho’s eyes landed on a hickey on the boy’s left side of his neck, right beneath his jawbone. It was the love mark of the violin and somewhere on the boy’s collarbone – which Inaho could not see at the moment – rested a similar mark. Slaine had permanent love marks from the violin since the boy rested the weight of the violin on the same position on his neck and shoulder each time he played, every day. Two violinist roses decorated Slaine’s skin like the violin’s statement of love for its musician, but they would only blossom after he had played. Normally they were a rougher and slightly darker patches of skin, but now – after a violin session – the mark beneath the boy’s jaw was blooming in a pink hue, and so was probably the one on Slaine’s collarbone.

Inaho wanted to replace them, give Slaine his own bouquet of twin roses.

“I love you,” Inaho said quietly, loud enough to overpower the sound of running water, and kissed the wet nape of his lover’s neck again. He brushed aside Slaine’s soaked hair with his lips and gave his lover a third kiss which seemed to send a shudder through Slaine’s body.

“T-thank you but what are you doing?” asked the blond boy with a trembling breath.

“Don’t you want me to kiss you like this?” the brunet asked and looked up at the violin’s love mark again while he waited for his lover’s answer.

“Y-yes, I do but-“ Slaine mumbled. “But this came out of nowhere.”

“Do I need a reason?”

Inaho waited patiently for Slaine to find the words he seemed to be looking for, and then the boy turned around to face the brunet with a wry smile.

“Of course not,” Inaho listened to his lover say and found himself entranced by the ruby lips moving. “It’s just that I have been the one to come onto you but now you’re being the one taking the initiative,” Slaine then said and chuckled as the wryness in his smile faded away. “I do like it though.”

The roses gifted by Schreiber glowed against the boy’s pale skin. His skin made Inaho think about alabaster colored velvet; it had an attractive paleness and softness to it which Inaho had had the pleasure to discover during their intimate moments in the past. Now the brunet wanted to feel it again to prevent Saazbaum and Lemrina from stealing Slaine from him.

I have to do something. Slaine has to stay mine,’ the brunet thought and reached up his hands to Slaine’s cheeks. He hooked his fingertips behind Slaine’s jawline below the boy’s ears and pulled him closer, and Slaine’s smile faded instantly as he closed his eyes while readying himself for a kiss and followed Inaho’s silent command. Inaho stared at the ruddy lips, wet from the running shower water which gave them the look of half-open flower buds in heavy rain. They were soft and appealing enough it made Inaho’s mouth water. Gently he pulled Slaine closer while feeling the sight of his wet lover arrest his mind beyond a simple love spell. A pleasant heat coursed through him, thrilling him.

“Inaho…” Slaine whispered breathlessly the moment before their lips merged together into a kiss.

Slowly they pulled their lips apart and then pushed them back together again. At times they parted their lips to gently lick each other's tongues and play with them, and the sweet taste of Slaine’s saliva gave Inaho the illusion of it to be pure honey. Their kisses were dreamy, clouding both of their minds with pink mist. Slowly their bodies awakened and in their naked state there was no way of hiding their passion. Inaho felt slight embarrassment as his loins began to burn while Slaine seemed to feel the same about his own. The brunet wondered if he had been too eager to encourage such a moment in the shower; an uncomfortable place to do what lovers did since there was no soft place to rest upon.

With a gentle push – without releasing the boy’s lips with his – Inaho showed Slaine beneath the falling water and rubbed his skin free from the foam cuddling his body. It was quickly washed away.

“Inaho, what are you doing?” Slaine asked between their kisses.

Inaho did not answer. He was not sure himself of what he was doing. Was this supposed to be one of their usual kissing and fondling moments or was this growing to something else? Inaho wanted something more than that but how would he instigate it? More importantly: Exactly what did he want to instigate?

“Inaho…”

Slaine’s gasp was heated and blurred Inaho’s mind further while they kissed. Inaho felt his lover’s fingers bury themselves in his wet hair and arms coiled around his head to intensify their kisses. The brunet felt so lost. He wanted to do everything and nothing; have all of Slaine for that evening and yet only have just a part of him. What would he do? What did he want to do? Was he ready to do “everything”, he wondered? Slaine was ready to advance once Inaho was, and earlier the brunet had been sure he had no wish for that, but now he was hesitating. A boundary was slowly overcome by Inaho’s growing desire.

Slaine pulled away from him once they had kissed for a while and Inaho had not made a move to advance any further. The boy seemed to have taken it as a sign of Inaho not wanting to go any further.

“I’m sorry,” Slaine said with an apologetic smile. “I don’t want to push you to do anything you don’t want to.”

What?’ Inaho thought surprised. Slaine had not been pushing him at all. Was he referring to their burning loins and them being his fault?

“Maybe we should calm down and watch TV or something,” Inaho listened to his lover say.

To answer with anything else but a nod was impossible. Inaho felt disappointed and relieved at the same time to hear his lover’s suggestion. Maybe he had been too quick to jump into conclusions about Saazbaum’s intentions to pair Slaine and Lemrina together as working partners? Maybe his fear was unreasonable and in reality there was nothing to worry about?

I need to calm down and see what happens,’ the brunet thought and finally followed his lover out of the shower.

They both sat down on the couch dressed in their pajamas after they had dried their hair. Silence was their company; none of them said a word due to embarrassment from their heated kisses in the shower. Both of them knew those kisses had been introductory to something else than their simple fondling and kissing moments, and they had stopped before things got out of hand. It was so clear to both of them neither of them dared to speak.

Inaho knew Slaine wanted to go to those undiscovered grounds of adulthood where a lover gave their body entirely over to the other. Inaho on the other hand was not sure what he wanted to do now. He wanted to discover those grounds now as well but that want was born from fear of losing Slaine to Lemrina. And yet – even if he was sure that was the reason to his sudden urge and desire – the heat from his loins did not fade. An inextinguishable fire had been lit. Inaho could not deny that.

The characters of a popular drama series spoke with faked serious expressions. Inaho did not listen to what they said since he was occupied of desperately quenching his heat. Slaine seemed restless in the same way and sat at an arm length away from Inaho, pressing his thighs tightly together with his knees raised to his chest and arms hugging them close.

Then, out of nowhere:

“Inaho?”

“What is it?” the brunet answered and kept staring at the television without listening nor watching what was going on. His mind was spinning out of control.

“Um…” Slaine mumbled and sighed while he hugged his arms tighter around his knees. “I love you too… I forgot to say that in the shower…”

The boy sounded ashamed of his blunder which Inaho had not been thinking much about. He had not even noticed it; he had been so busy arguing with his own mind about what to do. Instead Inaho turned to look at his lover. The sight of Slaine’s huddled up figure made Inaho realize how bad Slaine’s heat actually was. The blond boy dared not to look at him and nor did he dare to show Inaho his face which he hid behind his knees. The slender arms hugged the knees so tightly it was obviously out of desperation to control himself.

“Thank you,” Inaho answered awkwardly despite his monotone voice sounding nothing but monotonous. “Are you all right?”

Slaine hurried to nod, and it was an obvious lie. Slaine was not all right. He was burning up and it was Inaho’s fault. A bitter feeling spread in Inaho’s being for being the reason to Slaine desperately holding himself back. It must have been difficult – more so now as the boy had finally found Inaho as his main priority and source of love.

In an attempt to ask for forgiveness Inaho moved himself closer to Slaine and put a hand on top of Slaine’s wet hair. He caressed it gently until the blond boy dared to look up at him, and Inaho greeted him with a small smile.

“Can I kiss you?” the brunet asked. He wanted to be sure it was all right for him to kiss his lover despite the situation Slaine found himself in.

Slaine stared at him with surprise before he burst into a chuckle. He slightly released his knees from his hugging arms to allow himself to laugh comfortably and then he nodded.

“Silly. Of course you can. You were kissing me senseless in the shower without asking for permission, and now you decide to ask?” he chuckled with a boyish smile.

“The situation in the shower was different to the one now,” Inaho countered and Slaine raised his eyebrows.

“How so?” asked the blond and got the answer from the brunet:

“Because you’re feeling hot, are you not?”

Slaine’s already flushed cheeks intensified with redness and it slowly spread across his entire face. He was about to begin stammering forth an answer and tell Inaho how wrong he was but the brunet did not feel patient enough to wait for his clumsy answer. Instead he leaned closer and pushed his lips against Slaine’s and silenced his lover before he had had the time to speak.

From there their kisses grew once again into something more. Inaho had decided to give in to whatever was going to happen. His right hand was buried inside Slaine’s underwear while he gasped with strained breaths from having Slaine’s lips around his heat. Slaine lay on the couch with his face buried against Inaho’s loins while he gave access to his lover’s hand to fondle his desperate passion between his own legs. The sounds from the television filled the room along with their quiet moans and gasps – just as it had done a couple of times before – and Slaine indulged himself in pleasing Inaho however he could with his mouth. Slaine was enjoying himself far more than Inaho thought was possible since the brunet was the one getting most of the pleasure, and Inaho made sure to move his hand along Slaine’s hardened passion the way he had done before to make the blond reach release.

As he did that, Slaine reached a sudden hand to slow Inaho’s down. His bobbing head slowed down as well and rested against Inaho’s thighs, still with the brunet’s heat between his lips. Inaho was not sure of what Slaine was going for but after a while the scorching heat subsided and turned into relaxation. A loud sigh escaped through Slaine’s nostrils as he gently sucked on Inaho’s flesh, stimulating it only enough to feel pleasurable but not please the raging desires flaring inside them both. At times Slaine deepened the sucking, pushing Inaho deeper into his mouth. That sent a shiver down the brunet’s back and just before the heat of desire flared up again Slaine pulled him out and went back to comfortable licking and sucking. Despite it being a sexual act it felt more relaxing than Inaho had imagined. Slaine was telling him there was not always a need to work hard and get the other to reach the tipping point; it was all right to have fun and relax like this as well.

Sometimes it’s more important it feeling good and relaxing than it being sexual and intense,” Slaine wordlessly told him.

And so, Inaho followed his lover’s silent guidance and tried to make Slaine feel relaxed as well with his hand between his legs, while Inaho leaned his head back against the couch’s backrest and closed his eyes to enjoy their precious moment.

In the end he’s so patient with me,’ Inaho thought and found it a relief Slaine had managed to turn the intense heat Inaho had kindled in the shower into something comfortable and soothing. The brunet felt like Slaine had saved him from committing a mistake during the intense fright of losing Slaine to Lemrina. Inaho was grateful for Slaine not using his vulnerability to please his own urgency of having sex. Inaho would have gone through with it if it meant to keep Slaine as his, but the brunet would have regretted it later.

It wouldn’t have been the right reason to do something like that,’ he thought.

He lost track of how long they were soothing each other like that. The drama series had changed to two episodes of an American sitcom, and now a news reporter was interviewing a passersby on a street somewhere in the snowy Kyoto. Inaho’s hand was wet from Slaine’s honey and his own sweat after gently rubbing his hand up and down Slaine’s semisoft flesh. His own flesh – also partly soft – felt raw as Slaine’s gentle lips moved over it. Slaine’s tongue felt too coarse against Inaho’s skin and in the end the brunet had to ask his lover to stop.

“You okay?” Slaine asked with saliva dripping down his chin and cheeks. He looked up at his lover with concerned eyes and Inaho nodded.

“I’m fine. It starts to slightly hurt though,” Inaho answered and Slaine nodded and pulled Inaho’s hand from inside his underwear and sat up.

Slaine wiped his chin and cheeks clean with the sleeve to his pajama shirt and Inaho cleaned his hand against his own thigh, which was moist from Slaine’s saliva. They both felt sticky and a second shower was tempting, but neither of them had the energy to get up and clean themselves.

“Do you feel better now?” Slaine asked and Inaho turned to look at him.

“Yeah, thank you,” Inaho answered softly.

“I noticed earlier you were feeling weird for some reason, so I’m glad that’s over now,” Slaine continued and rubbed his slightly swollen lips carefully with his fingertips. “Mind telling me what’s going on?”

And just like that Slaine was being a collected adult. Inaho felt jealous of him being able to switch so easily from a boy to a young man.

“I want you to speak to Saazbaum about us,” Inaho answered bluntly. There was no reason to beat around the bush about what he was thinking and feeling. Slaine had to simply hear him out. “I think there is something going on behind the scenes about Saazbaum pairing you up with Lemrina, and that’s why I think he should know about us so he will stop with whatever he is doing.”

Slaine stared at Inaho with a mixture of shock and understanding.

“I kind of felt something like that was going on as well but I didn’t want to admit it,” Slaine answered silently.

“Why? Because you’re afraid of what Saazbaum will say?” Inaho asked and Slaine nodded candidly. The blond was not beating around the bush either; he knew this was a serious topic.

“I’m scared he will disown me,” Slaine mumbled with his eyebrows knitting together, forming a troubled expression on his attractive face. “I think he is really conventional when it comes to relationships, and I have a feeling his motives are deeper than simply arranging a marriage between me and Lemrina.”

That last sentence was worrying Inaho. It flat out surprised him. Slaine knew Saazbaum better than the brunet which gave Inaho no reason to doubt Slaine’s theories about the man, but he was slightly confused of what Slaine meant.

“Deeper motives?” Inaho echoed and Slaine nodded and curled up into a ball to hug his knees again – changing from a young man to a boy again. His fluctuations were interesting for Inaho to watch despite the topic they were discussing.

“I think he wants me and Lemrina to have kids. We’re both really talented musicians and I think he wants us to pass that on to newer generations or something,” Slaine mumbled from behind his knees. “Of course we are too young for that now, but I think Saazbaum hopes for us to have a kid once we are married.”

“The evidence for talents to be hereditary is slim. It's considered character is hereditary but talent is considered to be environmental,” Inaho noted as he instantly could refer to a scientific report of the subject which he had read not long ago.

“Tell that to Saazbaum and see if he listens,” Slaine answered with a sigh. “Whether it’s genetics or environment that makes a person talented doesn’t matter since both of the kid’s parents would be talented musicians. Both factors are there; genetics and environment,” the blond then said. “If the biological factor is not true then there’s the environmental factor to take its place.”

“Are you sure this is what Saazbaum is after?” Inaho asked and Slaine shook his head.

“No, but I know how deranged people in the classical music industry think. Cruhteo had a child with a soprano singer with the hopes of his child – his son Klancain – inheriting the talent of a musician. In the end, the marriage ended because there was no true love involved in it. Or so I’ve heard,” Slaine explained. “I don’t doubt Saazbaum – who was a close colleague to Cruhteo before Cruhteo was kicked out of the orchestra – would think differently.”

If what Slaine said was Saazbaum’s intentions with having Lemrina work with Slaine, then Inaho could understand Slaine’s fear of talking to the man about him not being interested in her; that he was in love with another boy. Then again, it gave more reason for the urgency of Slaine to talk to Saazbaum about it. If he refrained from doing so Saazbaum would keep pushing the two teenagers together while being completely unknowing of Slaine’s true feelings.

It will be mightily destructive,’ Inaho thought.

“You don’t want to marry her, right?” Inaho asked and Slaine turned his blue eyes toward him and widened them from disbelief hearing Inaho ask such an unnecessary question.

“Of course not!” the boy answered. He sounded slightly insulted. “I love you and want nothing to do with her. She’s unpleasant.”

“Then you need to tell that to Saazbaum,” Inaho prompted. “He has to know about us.”

Slaine shook his head.

“It’s not that simple,” answered the blond, clearly troubled.

“Everyone else already knows. You can’t keep it a secret from your adoptive father forever,” Inaho argued. “I want him to know about me.”

“He will hate you,” the blond tried.

“I don’t care,” Inaho countered. “I’m tired of you lying about me. I don’t want to be your friend when people see us together, since I’m not. I want to be allowed to be your boyfriend since that’s what I am, correct?”

“Yes, but I-“

“Do you think it’s fair for me to be denied that right when it comes to someone who is supposed to legally be your father,” Inaho interrupted the other.

Slaine went silent for a while and the crease between his eyebrows got more apparent. He got a painful expression and he sat there in muteness for a while. Inaho did Slaine the favor of waiting patiently, and once Slaine had gathered his thoughts he sighed heavily and said:

“I know I’m unfair toward you for asking you to lie about things. I’m sorry.” His voice was barely audible. “The thing about my arthritis, my medication, our relationship… I’m not stupid enough to not know what I’m doing to you by asking you to lie about all these things.”

“Then why do you keep putting me in such a situation?” Inaho wanted to know. He had been wondering about that for a while.

“Because…” Slaine mumbled and hesitated, and hugged his knees tighter. “I don’t trust people. Suddenly – after growing up without having any adult to entrust my feelings and thoughts to – I have plenty of grownups around me. I’m only 17 years old; not old enough to make my own decisions. Yet I do feel that I should be allowed to decide what I want for myself in life and make my mistakes. I just… I simply don’t trust Saazbaum or Yuki, nor Harklight to allow me to do what I want and need to do.”

In other words Slaine feared if he spoke the truth to those in charge of him they would take his happiness away from him. For Inaho that was nothing even resembling a good reason to put Inaho through the unfairness he was going through now.

“People aren’t that bad,” Inaho said. “No one wants you to be unhappy.”

“People are quick to tell me what they think is the best for me. They treat me like a child,” Slaine sighed.

“That’s because you are a child,” Inaho countered.

“But even a child has its rights, right?”

“Exactly,” Inaho answered confidently. “Saazbaum is not allowed to disown you. An adoption is not something he can cancel simply because you aren’t what he expected you to be.”

“But I want him to be proud of me…” Slaine whispered as he hid his face behind his knees again.

That made Inaho feel sad and angry at the same time. What Slaine said was that Saazbaum’s pride was more important than the relationship the boys had.

“Are you not proud of what we have?” Inaho asked quietly while feeling the unpleasant emotions begin to simmer.

If you care about what your father thinks, and if you listen to his words, he will give you to Lemrina,’ the brunet thought. He was not sure if Lemrina was aware of what Saazbaum and Harklight probably were up to; he should not have been angry at her or see her as a rival. Then again, Inaho could not help it; suddenly the relationship he had with Slaine felt fleeting.

Slaine quickly looked up at the boy with a fearful expression on his face.

“Don’t be absurd, Inaho! I’m plenty of proud of what we have!” he said loudly, close to a yell.

“Then tell Saazbaum the truth,” Inaho encouraged.

“But Inaho, you don’t understand what he-“ Slaine began but Inaho would not have that. He had to be honest with Slaine, and so he interrupted his lover:

“I’m afraid.” Slaine went silent and stared at Inaho without finding words to say, and so Inaho continued: “I’m afraid he will take you away from me if you keep lying. I want you to speak to him about us. I will be there with you if you want me to, and I will support you in any way I can. If he gets angry at you then I will be there with you to face his anger.”

Slaine suddenly got tears in his eyes. His waterline was filled with tears and threatened to overflow.

“Inaho…” Slaine whispered. “I’m in debt to him. Saazbaum has helped me in so many ways since he adopted me.”

Slaine spoke like he and Saazbaum had a conditional relationship as business partners rather than the relationship of father and son, and it angered Inaho.

“He did what a parent should do: You’re a child; his child. A child cannot be in debt to their parents for them being parents,” Inaho said quietly.

He did not know much about parents since Inaho had never had any, but he did know a parent had responsibility they would not be allowed to run away from. In the end a child could not be disowned by law and thus Inaho did not understand what Slaine was afraid of. Saazbaum would not be able to simply terminate his paternity. He had far too much to lose now that Slaine shared the man’s name; if the public would learn about the great pianist Saazbaum disowning the boy he had taken under his wings, a storm would arise in the news. Besides, Slaine had enough money to not be dependent of a parent.

“I know you are afraid of him,” Inaho continued. “So am I. You say you don’t want him to make decisions for your future, then stop him from doing that now. I will face that fear along with you.”

Slaine shook his head slowly and a sad smile rose to his lips and the tears finally flowed down his cheeks. He sniffled and dried his tears with his pajama sleeve, and then sighed so heavily it sounded as if his soul escaped from between his lips.

“I’m sorry…” he mumbled and moved closer to Inaho. Like a kitten searching for safety he slipped into Inaho’s arms and hugged him tightly. “I’ll speak to him. I promise I will speak to him tomorrow. I will tell him everything; about my arthritis and you. I won’t be selfish anymore. I swear.”

A burden was lifted from Inaho’s chest. He felt much lighter now than before. Slaine would tell Saazbaum the truths he had been keeping from him, and Inaho was to ready himself for a possible argument with Slaine’s adoptive father.

I will defend what we have,’ he thought and put his arms around the blond. ‘And I expect you to do that as well.’

Chapter Text

Slaine had come back from his first day at school since the Amsterdam trip and he had not yet taken his coat or boots off. His cold bitten cheeks were still blushing and he stood in the silent and dark apartment of his on the 21st floor. Only the light from the ceiling illuminated the foyer. Inaho had gone back home to study that morning but he had promised to be back later that evening when Slaine was to make the dreaded call to his adoptive father and let the man know the secrets the boy had kept from him.

The school day had been difficult since Slaine quickly noticed – once social studies classes started that morning – he had fallen behind his classmates. He had had trouble understanding what the teacher was teaching and he had not been able to finish the tasks stated in his school books. The realization of him putting too much priority to his work was slowly coming to him, and he felt bad. He was failing school despite Inaho had tried to help him. The homeroom teacher had taken him aside that day and asked him how he felt and if there was anything she could do for him. She had noticed Slaine was falling behind the other students and was feeling stressed out due to the jittery look in Slaine’s eyes that day; nervous about the call he would make once he got home. Depending on how well Slaine did on his tests in the near future he would risk repeating a year.

His initial thought had been to drop out of high school and focus on his career but he knew that was being hasty; he was trying to flee his responsibilities with such a misbegotten thought, but at the same time he had no idea of what to do other than that. The violin career was certain for him; he would undoubtedly succeed with it while he had no clue of how he would be able to finish high school. To stick with what he found safe and secure was his personal haven and to run to that kind of sanctuary was what he wanted to do in times of doubt.

I always try to run away like this,’ he had thought during lunch hour while he had been sitting on a bench on school grounds, staring at his brown leather boots tucked into the newly fallen snow while his misty breath floated in the air in front of him. That had been one of those moments where he had avoided interaction with others since he felt ashamed of himself, and he had not eaten lunch due to him feeling stressed out, making him lose his appetite. ‘The arthritis, my relationship to Inaho and now me failing school…? I have to tell Saazbaum about all of it today.’

It had been a tough day and to finally be back home did not make him feel any more relieved. The longer the day went the closer the time of the terrifying call would come, and to have finally arrived home felt threatening instead of peaceful. Slaine wished he could stop time and gather his crumbling self in peace but time was always cruel, never waiting for anyone, not even those who begged for it to stop the most.

What do I do?’ he thought and felt himself grow cold and begin trembling, as if he was standing naked in a cruel blizzard despite his winter clothes still covering him while he stood in the warmth of his own foyer. He found himself staring at his phone which was flashing intimidatingly. The sight of it had never been so terrifying before.

“Saazbaum…” he whispered beneath his breath as his adoptive father’s name flashed on the touchscreen and a jolly ringtone filled the air in the quiet apartment.

He had to answer the call. Saazbaum was probably calling during the first break of the day of a rehearsal; it was almost ten o’clock in the morning in Germany. If Slaine ignored the call the man would call again, and again, wait a couple of hours and then call again. Saazbaum was easily distressed if he could not get a hold of Slaine, and the man made always sure he would be calling during such hours when he knew Slaine would be home from school or work, or have free time. The adoptive father was a good father – Slaine truly believed that – but he also had the feeling Saazbaum was not as open minded as Slaine wished for him to be. If he were, he would not have tried to arrange a relationship between Slaine and a girl, and instead let Slaine find love on his own.

Slaine breathed a deep sigh and was about to answer the call when the phone went quiet. Saazbaum had hung up after the phone had been ringing happily for a while and Slaine stared at the phone’s message which told him he had missed a call. He breathed a relieved sigh. The boy felt a mixture of relief and growing stress. He was relieved to postpone the difficult call for a little while but also anticipated his adoptive father to call back within seconds. That anticipation made his pulse beat faster. The boy felt anxious and put the phone onto the hall table. He had to distance himself from it for a short while.

The fear of answering the call once the phone began to ring and flash again made Slaine miss Inaho all the more. Inaho had told him he would be there once Slaine would talk to Saazbaum and Slaine believed him to be able to comfort him no matter how his adoptive father would react. Now, Slaine stood alone facing the call. He knew if he did not answer the phone to tell Saazbaum what he had to at that instant, Slaine would not tell him a word about his secrets for several weeks. The courage the boy had gathered would fade within a couple of heartbeats if he did not speak to his adoptive father now. The fear was intense enough for Slaine to want to distance himself from reality and pretend his anxiety was unreal – much like the way he had been doing at the hands of the angry Cruhteo’s while he had been in the man’s care.

Dad… I’m back in a nightmare again…’ the boy thought and felt like crying. His chest ached. ‘Will you be there once I wake up?

Slaine hurried to remove his coat and began untying his boots when the phone began ringing again. He flew up from his bent down position and stared at his cellphone vibrating aggressively against the surface of the table it rested upon. It was announcing a call from Saazbaum again.

With a trembling right hand Slaine reached for the phone and slowly picked it up. The phone was heavier than he remembered it to be. His left hand rose to his chest where he squeezed his shirt tightly, right above his heart. A suffocating feeling washed over him; he wanted to scream while fear was trying to burst his heart wide open and beat its way out of his chest.

Despite his fear he slid his thumb across the screen to accept the call before he realized what he was doing. Automatically he raised the phone to his ear like a machine accepting an order from a program, and said:

“H-hello?”

Good afternoon,” he heard his adoptive father say. At that instant Slaine understood he had answered the dreaded call and he was about to panic; he wanted to throw the phone away. “Are you back home from school, Slaine?

“Y-yes,” Slaine mumbled breathlessly.

You sound a little bit off. Is it the jetlag from your travel?” Saazbaum asked concerned and Slaine felt like lying and tell him that was it.

But I shouldn’t lie. I promised Inaho,’ Slaine thought and gritted his teeth for a short moment before he took a deep breath.

“I-I do not feel fine,” he finally said with honesty. It surprised him how easily the words came out of him despite them still being difficult to word. “I need to t-talk to you about some things.”

The phone went silent for a while. Slaine understood his adoptive father was surprised to hear not everything was well with the adoptive son, and then he heard Saazbaum excuse himself to someone in the background – probably Asseylum’s grandfather. He heard the man tell the conductor it was an important call from his son, and something brushed against the microphone and it went completely silent for a while. Slaine lowered his phone from his ear to see if the call had been interrupted by disturbances but the phone was still indicating the call was ongoing. Saazbaum had probably covered the microphone while he spoke to Sir Rayvers.

The boy waited as patiently as he could. He had to constantly fight back the urge to hang up and he breathed with deep breaths. Hopes about Saazbaum not continuing the call floated in his mind and terrified heart, but to his dismay he head the microphone be cleared and Saazbaum’s voice was heard again:

Forgive me. I had to let Sir Rayvers know I must take this call and move to a more private area,” the man said and Slaine nodded without realizing Saazbaum would not see him bob his head. The boy’s mind was anything but in the present; not being able to understand the great distance between him and Saazbaum. “What is it you need to speak to me about?

The voice was kind and soft, like that of a caring father waiting for his child to speak about something difficult. Slaine wondered for how long the man would sound like that.

“I…” Slaine began but felt the words get caught in his throat. He took a deep breath and tried again: “I have three things t-to tell you… I-it is … very difficult for me. I know not where to begin…”

The other end went quiet again and just as Slaine was about to speak, Saazbaum said:

All right. Go from the easiest to the difficult if that feels better. Take your time.”

Slaine hesitated and decided to speak about his school first. It felt to be the least serious topic of all the three.

“I… I spoke with my homeroom teacher today about my schooling,” he said and hesitated again. He gathered his courage with a couple of breaths and then continued: “I have had difficulties to keep up with school due to work, and she said I might have to r-repeat a year.”

He heard Saazbaum sigh heavily on the other side of the call and the man immediately answered:

I knew you should have gone to a music school instead or be home tutored by a private teacher.”

“I am sorry!” Slaine hurried to say while fearing for his adoptive father’s anger. “I will make sure I pass all the exams! I promise I will make you proud!”

There was no break between his sentences; Slaine blurted out the words in such hurry they sounded like a jumbled noise.

It is perfectly all right. Calm down, Slaine,” Saazbaum said, surprised by Slaine’s emotional outburst. “I knew this would happen since it is impossible for you to go to a normal high school and work with music at the same time. In a music school you would have gotten support with both your career and schooling since those kind of schools are adjusted to such system. No harm done, however; if you still insist on going to Shinawara High School you will take the responsibility and repeat a year.”

Slaine could not believe it. Saazbaum was perfectly calm about him failing high school. The boy had expected his father to be disappointed and angry once the news was given to him, but the man was understanding. A little hope of his adoptive father being understanding with the other topics began to grow and Slaine somewhat relaxed.

“Y-yes, sir,” Slaine answered with a relieved breath. “I do have to apologize though since I was the one to convince you to let me do this; I promised I would keep up with both school and work.”

He could nearly imagine a smile on Saazbaum’s lips as the man answered with a gentle tone which sounded as if he was pulling up the corners of his mouth:

Do not promise things you cannot keep in the future. Now you have learned that lesson, boy, and I will make sure to speak to your school about this issue. That was one of three topics you wanted to speak to me about. Care to tell me the next one?

Slaine nodded again, this time feeling just a little bit more confident, but then remembered Saazbaum was 9000 kilometers away and still would not see him nod.

“Yes, sir,” he answered and took a deep breath. “The next thing is that… W-when I was practicing for the commercial right before I and Harklight traveled to Amsterdam, I had this incident…”

Incident? What kind of incident?” Saazbaum asked immediately, this time sounding worried.

“I… M-my left-hand fingers… They began to really hurt suddenly out of nowhere and Miss Kaizuka took me to the hospital. Apparently my finger joints had gotten swollen and a nerve was pinched, which made them hurt a lot… The doctor… Um…” Slaine noticed he began to mumble more and more as his confidence plummeted due to nervousness, and he quickly pulled the phone away from his ear to shake his head, and thus his mind, back to sense. Then he pushed the phone against his ear again and continued: “The doctor s-said that I have arthritis going on, and I will to go to an orthopedist on Thursday about it to get a diagnosis.”

Another sigh echoed in the phone. This time Saazbaum’s breath was directed directly at the microphone as the sound got distorted as if the man was standing in a strong wind. The speaker on Slaine’s phone emitted a rustling sound until his adoptive father had finished his long sigh.

Why have Miss Kaizuka not notified me about this? This is serious for your career,” the man said angrily and Slaine’s pulse began to beat harder in an instant. His face and chest were attacked by an intense heat of panic.

“No! She is not to blame. I-!” Slaine made a pause as he was about to tell the man he had been lying to her about him telling Saazbaum the bad news. How would his adoptive father take it? Would he get angry this time? The secret had been kept for a while compared to the school subject Slaine had spoken about moments ago. The boy took a deep breath and decided to be frank with the man: “I told her I would speak to you about it, but I was lying to her; I never told you because I wished not to worry you and I was afraid you would stop me from going through with the commercial. I told her I had been talking to you so that she would stay out of the way.”

Slaine…!

It was the heaviest sigh the man had emitted during the entire call. It was an angry sigh. A disappointed sigh. Slaine squeezed his eyes shut and felt tears gather in his eyes. He had upset the man – made him upset with the boy he had adopted.

I should make him proud, not disappointed!

“Forgive me, father…” Slaine whispered while feeling greatly ashamed. Saazbaum stayed quiet for long enough for Slaine to find it uncomfortable. “I really wanted to do the commercial…”

That was irresponsible of you, Slaine. I am angry at you,” the man declared and Slaine choked a pathetic whimper to escape his lips. “However, I am angry simply because I am worried about this. I do have forbearance for this since you are still young, but I would want you to tell me these kind of things immediately.

“I’m sorry…” Slaine whispered, not being able to hold up the formal language he used when speaking to Saazbaum, and sat down onto the foyer floor and leaned his back against the wall. “It will never happen again…”

Saazbaum was quiet for a while, giving Slaine time to feel ashamed of what he had done. It was nothing but justified since the boy had been lying to his guardian about something serious. Arthritis – a disorder which was a violinist’s enemy – was not to be taken lightly. It would with time take Slaine’s passion away; make his left hand unable to play the violin as it used to. The joints – especially those connecting the fingers to the hand – were stiff and they had reminded Slaine about them being in a bad condition last evening, when Slaine had played for his lover.

I have to admit I cannot find it surprising your left hand has developed arthritis, since it later showed Cruhteo had managed to damage them quite severely despite what the doctors said while you were in hospital. I hoped you would be spared from it since you are a marvelous violinist, but I admit I was trying to convince myself instead of looking at the reality of things,” Slaine heard his adoptive father say.

A first tear rolled onto his cheek. The reality of his situation suddenly became so real Slaine could not lie to himself anymore. To hear Saazbaum voice Slaine’s fear and make the boy hear it was like a thunderbolt hitting Slaine’s heart, burning his heartstrings to ashes. The boy covered his eyes with the sleeve to his school uniform blazer and held his breath as the reality of his situation felt more real after it being confirmed by an adult. The anxiety he had felt grew.

What will you do from here?” Saazbaum asked quietly, as if paying his respects for the physical and mental pain Slaine was going through.

“I…” Slaine mumbled and found his mouth turn stiff as his expression contorted into anguish. “I don’t know… I have to … talk to the orthopedist first… B-but I want to keep playing no matter what, even if it means I will lose flexibility with time.”

The boy pulled up his knees toward his chest and coiled his free arm around them. He buried his face against his knees while still holding the phone against his ear, and waited for Saazbaum to speak. The boy sniffled now and then and sobbed quietly. The pants of his school uniform became wet from his tears as he cried against his knees and the entire area of his chest hurt.

If that is what you wish to do, then you should do that,” Saazbaum said soothingly. “I will notify Sir Rayvers that I will travel to you and go to the orthopedist with you. I shall take some time off from the orchestra since I do believe you need your guardian and a fellow musician at your side.”

The support Slaine got felt so liberating the boy broke down into a silent cry. For the first time – when he needed it the most – there was someone to guide him and hold his hand; someone who knew what to do. Slaine knew he had cornered himself. He knew he had pushed himself into an impossible situation where he had to battle with both school and a disorder that would sooner or later take his ability to play his father’s violin, away. Suddenly his age made itself reminded; he was only 17 years old, not nearly old enough to face such difficulties alone without guidance. He had no idea of what to do or how to handle his situation and Inaho’s words from last night echoed in his ears:

That’s because you are a child.”

Those words could not have been any truer than they were right now as Slaine truly felt his young age make itself reminded. ‘I’m so stupid!’ the blond boy thought and released a heavy breath, which he had been holding while trying to suffocate his whimpers.

Slaine?” he heard his adoptive father ask and Slaine sniffled and cleared his throat while he kept crying:

“I’m here…” the boy answered quietly, trembling like a lonely winter bird trying to ward off the cold.

It will be fine. You still have your right hand to play with if worst will come to worst. With your ability I am certain you will learn how to play flawlessly with your right hand as well,” Slaine heard Saazbaum say with great comfort emanating from his words.

“Y-yeah…” Slaine mumbled, swallowing hard. “T-there is one thing more…”

Are you fine enough to speak about whatever it might be?” the man asked and Slaine took a deep and trembling breath.

“I am, I think…” he answered. Slaine had to be honest; he felt exhausted already which made him slightly numb to the fear of coming out for his adoptive father. He had no energy to hesitate as much as he had done moments ago, and so he said: “I’m wondering … why you want me and Miss Vers Envers to work together…”

Saazbaum seemed to be taken off guard; Slaine heard him clear his throat and the man hesitated to answer at first.

Both of you are great musicians at your young age,” his adoptive father then said.

“Thank you, but w-why her…? Why not Miss Vers Allusia? She is great as well and I know her since childhood,” Slaine said quietly and waited.

He had the feeling he and Inaho had been right about the answer now that Slaine thought about it further. Why had Saazbaum not paired him up with Asseylum if he was going with talent alone? Asseylum was perfected by her grandfather to an exquisite musician. Her fingers had always danced over the piano keys and she and Slaine had been friends for many years. They would have been a marvelous duo on the stage, just as they had been during Slaine’s debut concert, since they knew each other pretty well. Why would Saazbaum involve Lemrina with Slaine’s music if not for some kind of ulterior motive?

I believe Miss Vers Envers is much better suited for you since you both have similar styles of music. Miss Vers Allusia is less versatile than Miss Vers Envers since she only knows piano and flute. Miss Vers Envers has a serene voice and her musical ability with wind instruments is broader,” Slaine heard Saazbaum explain.

It was the same words the man had told the boy when Slaine had first called to ask about Lemrina back in Amsterdam, after his first encounter with her.

“Father…” Slaine said as he decided to come clean. To him it seemed as if Saazbaum was trying to hide the truth, and so the boy wanted to let the man know he knew what was going on. Slaine could not be any more certain of his adoptive father’s agenda. “I’m…” Slaine’s hesitation came back again and he collected his mind and emotions which were raging out of control. “I… Y-you see, I-“ The words did not come to him easily. The fear awoke in him again. What would Saazbaum say when Slaine would tear his plans to shreds?

What is it, boy?” Saazbaum asked, sounding worried. “Has something happened?

“Yeah…” Slaine mumbled. “A while ago… About t-two and a half months ago, actually…”

Is it something worrying?

“D-depends on what you think about it…” Slaine answered and hugged his knees so hard the muscles in his arm were cramping. His shoulders shook and tears welled up from his tear ducts faster now than before. “It’s hard…” Slaine said and raised his head to lean it against the wall behind him. He stared up at the ceiling while tears ran down his cheeks. “It’s something very personal and … I d-don’t know how to say it…”

Saazbaum went entirely silent. The man probably felt the severity of what Slaine wanted to say due to the way Slaine spoke to him.

Will you hate me?’ the boy thought and cleared his throat again.

“Father… I w-want to make you proud. I’m really grateful for everything you have done but…” Slaine made a pause once again, took a deep breath and gathered his resolve: “I like boys… If you were planning on a marriage arrangement b-between me and Miss Vers Envers, I have to decline immediately.”

All of his energy went into those two sentences and he instantaneously felt exhausted enough to collapse against the wall behind him and hang his head against his chest while closing his eyes, as if he was facing his own execution. Slaine held his breath. He was petrified of what the man would say to that. The other end of the line was completely silent. No more words came to the boy and all he could do was to wait for his adoptive father to say something. Saazbaum seemed to react with shock since he was silent for a long time. The only thing Slaine heard was the quiet hum of the orchestra playing somewhere in the background. Feelings of vulnerability crept over him and mixed with the fear he was already feeling. Slaine was in the man’s mercy since he was not 18 years old; he was not legally an adult yet. In 11 months he would be allowed to take his own responsibility according to German law, the country where he had his citizenship, but until then he had to wait impatiently.

Are you sure?” he heard Saazbaum say with a low voice.

Slaine felt threatened.

“Yeah…” he answered hesitantly and waited.

I am sure it is a phase,” the man then said in a manner of brushing the seriousness of what Slaine said aside, and Slaine felt as if his heart stopped. He understood his adoptive father did not accept his sexuality. “You will outgrow it with time.”

Slaine was at a loss for words. What would he counter with? What would he say? He had been correct about Saazbaum not being open-minded enough to accept his legal son to be anything but normative.

“N-no… Father – it’s not a phase…” Slaine said nervously. He was so afraid his voice nearly choked on its way out. His heart pulsated so strongly his entire body gently rocked with his heartbeats. His vision spun when he opened his eyes to stare disbelievingly at the opposite wall in front of him. “I… I’m in love with someone…”

Slaine, you are young and you need to experiment. I understand that and will not hold it against you, but you have to understand you cannot choose to stay like that forever,” the man continued saying.

But I didn’t choose to be like this…’ Slaine thought. Nausea welled up in his throat. ‘I’m helplessly in love with Inaho; it’s not a choice.’

“F-father… I said I’m in love with someone…” the boy tried again with a weak voice, nearly terrified of keeping the words audible.

You will understand once you grow older. You are to turn 18 years old next year and until then you can experiment, but once you get to the age of majority you will have to consider a future with a spouse,” he listened to his father say.

“But I’m in love with someone…” Slaine whimpered and began to silently cry again. “I’m in love with a boy… I love him… I love him and I want him to stay with me forever…”

Slaine felt he needed to sound more confident to let Saazbaum know he would not budge about the matter, but no matter how hard he tried he sounded pathetic anyway – giving the man a chance to step on his desperate tries to protect his right for love.

'I knew I wasn't ready to defend myself like this!' he thought.

Slaine, you cannot marry a man,” Saazbaum said as if it was a joke. “Not in Japan and not in Germany.”

It was true but for Slaine that was not important. He did not have to marry Inaho and he did not have to have a family with him. He simply wanted to be with him for as long as Inaho allowed him to stay at his side, and even if Slaine wanted to give Inaho the right of inheriting Slaine’s property if something was to happen to the blond, that was something Slaine and Inaho had to worry about once they both were of the age of majority and were living together. Slaine did not want to have it any other way.

“T-that might be true but…” Slaine mumbled and breathed irregularly from him crying. “B-but I don’t care if I can marry him or not… I want to be with him, father…”

Saazbaum began to sound distressed when he spoke:

You should give Miss Vers Envers a chance. Get to know her. I am sure you will enjoy her company once you get to know each other.”

Slaine’s heart squeezed tightly. Saazbaum was trying to convince him – force him even – to give up about Inaho. Even if the man was calm and collected something was off with the tone of his voice, telling Slaine the man would not budge either. A conflict was arising and the fear of it threatened to drive the boy mad. He wanted to convey what he truly felt about Inaho to Saazbaum, to let him know the boy only wanted the other boy and no one else, but Slaine did not know how. He was so terrified of Saazbaum taking legal actions as his guardian to prevent him and Inaho to be together. It frustrated him beyond everything.

“I don’t want to get to know her,” Slaine said, his voice stronger from the frustration sizzling inside him. “I’m happy with the one I love…”

What would the public say if you never married a woman and got a family of your own?” the man said and Slaine instantly felt anger flare up inside him.

He could not contain it. He could not prevent the rash words spewing out from between his lips like daggers. He was so angry, so sad and terrified he lost control that instant. The emotions exploded inside him like a raging inferno flaring from inside the deepest part of his heart.

“I don’t care!” the boy yelled. “Let them whisper and point fingers! I don’t want to be with Lemrina or anyone else but Inaho! I love him and I’m happy with him! He is the reason why my violin sang so well in Amsterdam! Him! He did it! He gives me all the support a person can give and I will not let anyone take him away from me!”

This is not good!’ Slaine thought with panic as his poisonous voice yelled out loud into the microphone of his cellphone.

Slaine!” Saazbaum tried but Slaine gave no chance for the man to speak; he was too terrified of hearing what the man had to say and in a desperate attempt to stall Saazbaum’s hurting words, he kept yelling:

“I’ve been kissing with him, dancing with him, laughing with him, holding him and made love with him! We sleep in the same bed nearly every night because we can’t stand to be separated and he makes me feel fulfilled! He made me feel all right after I had been at the hospital, and he makes me food when I’m too depressed to care about eating! He’s the one who helps me with school and he trusts me like no one els-!”

ENOUGH!

Slaine went instantly quiet. The tears rolling down his cheeks were burning – scorching his cheeks. His breath trembled and his mind was hazy. The heartbeats were so violent he was sure his already bleeding heart would burst. The knowledge of him going out of hand was pulling his consciousness to shreds.

I’m sorry…!

If that is how you want it to be then I will take you to Berlin and have you attend a proper music school along with Miss Vers Envers. I knew it was a mistake to let you stay in Japan and have your mind be fooled by that Kaizuka family!” the man said angrily with a raised voice from the concert hall somewhere in Berlin. “Start packing since I will arrive in two days to bring you home.”

No…!’ Slaine thought and felt his body grow weak. ‘No, no, no, no!

“Father-!” he said with desperation but was brusquely interrupted:

We have come to the end of this conversation. I will not have any more of this nonsense!

Everything came crumbling down upon him. He wanted to die. If he was separated from Inaho he might as well jump from the balcony. The phone slipped from his hand and landed with a muffled thud against the carpeted floor. Nothing felt real. What kind of world was he in now when it felt so strange for him? It was an unwelcoming world; cold and empty now that Inaho was not allowed to be there.

Slaine dropped his gaze to the phone on the floor. The distressed and angry voice of Saazbaum was barely reaching him from the small speaker. With a limp hand Slaine raised the phone to his ear again and heard Saazbaum yell his name.

“I’m sorry, father, but I won’t be here when you arrive… I won’t leave Japan,” Slaine mumbled and hung up.

The phone rang immediately with its jolly ringtone and flashed with Saazbaum’s name. Slaine stared at it a while, pondering on what to do. To answer was out of the question. Once he had decided his next move he slowly raised himself from his huddled position on the floor, grabbed his bag which he had put on the floor earlier as he had come home, and left the apartment dressed in nothing but his untied boots and school uniform. He left his scarf and coat on the hanger, not caring about the cold of the winter world outside. The need to run overwhelmed him.

♪♫♪♫

There was no answer. The signal went through but no one picked up the phone. Inaho hung up and stared at his cellphone. He had tried to call Slaine four times now and the blond boy had not answered. Worry washed over him as he wondered why Slaine did not answer his calls. Slaine would always answer when Inaho called and it was the main reason to why Slaine never put his phone on mute. The boy also knew Inaho would be calling him at this hour, and yet there was no answer.

What is he doing?’ Inaho wondered. Slaine could not be practicing violin without hearing his phone ring; Slaine’s happy ringtone would clash with any kind of melody the boy played and make it distinguishable through the violin’s song. An impulse to go to Slaine’s and knock on the door was tempting him toward the hall and Inaho reasoned with himself if he should stay and wait or go visit Slaine. The boy could have taken a detour on his way home from school and had trouble answering the phone if he was at a crowded area, but Slaine had not mentioned anything about errands in town the other day.

The timepiece of his phone indicated it was early evening.

Someone suddenly rang the doorbell and Inaho heard his sister yell to him to open the door. While silently grumbling about her laziness in his mind Inaho walked out of his room and toward the door. The doorbell rang again but he patiently walked toward the door, letting those outside wait for him to open without hurrying any extra. Then, when he opened the door he lost his breath at the sight of the person on the other side.

“Inaho…” the tear-stained lips of his lover said. “I told him…”

Judging by Slaine’s swollen lips and eyes, which were bloodshot from crying and from freezing in the cold, Saazbaum had not taken the news of Slaine being in love with a boy well. Besides the horrible condition Slaine seemed to be in he was dressed in nothing but his school uniform and held his bag in his hand. He seemed to be freezing cold.

“Come in,” Inaho said gently while feeling shocked. Slaine stepped inside the foyer and threw his arms around Inaho’s neck.

“I have to run away,” the boy said and broke into a cry.

Inaho listened to his lover’s sobs and slowly raised his arms to embrace the crying boy. Confusion swept over him.

“Why? What did he say?” Inaho asked.

Slaine released a distressed sob and squeezed Inaho tighter.

“He wants to take me away from here and have me go to a school in Berlin. He didn’t accept me loving you,” the boy cried. “I hate him! I hate him so much!”

“What’s going on?” Inaho heard his sister say from somewhere at the direction of the living room, where the television showed a drama series she had been watching. “Oh, hi Slaine!” she then merrily said but went silent the moment she realized Slaine was crying. “What happened!?” she asked worriedly and strode up to the boys.

“Slaine told Saazbaum about us,” Inaho explained. “He wants Slaine to move to Berlin because of it.”

Yuki stared at the boys with her eyes slowly widening with shock. She did not seem to find the reason to believe what Inaho said. Inaho did not blame her; the news was as shocking to him as it seemed to be for her. He had not considered the possibility of Saazbaum forcefully and legally stealing Slaine away from the brunet. As far as Inaho was aware, Saazbaum had the legal right to force Slaine attend a school in the country where Slaine had his citizenship. As long as Slaine was below the age or majority by German law, Saazbaum was to decide what was best for the boy. If he considered to have Slaine move in with him in Berlin to be good for the blond, he had all the legal right to make that into reality.

“What!? That’s insane! You have all your friends here!” Yuki said unbelieving.

“He doesn’t care,” Slaine cried and tried to dry his tears, but it was impossible to keeps his frozen cheeks dry. The tears he wiped away were replaced with new. “He doesn’t want me to love Inaho.”

“Oh dear…” Yuki sighed and looked troubled. She pulled her fingers through her hair – the way she always did when feeling concerned about something. “When?” she then asked.

Slaine shook his head with determination, brushing his chin against Inaho’s shoulder. To Inaho it seemed as if the blond boy had already decided to run away. He would not obediently wait for Saazbaum to come and take him away from the one he loved.

You’re fighting for us in your own way,’ Inaho thought and placed a gentle kiss on Slaine’s naked neck.

“He will arrive in two days but I won’t go with him. He can yell at me and try to drag me away from here but I won’t go with him. I will stay here in Shinawara!” Slaine exclaimed and sobbed.

Yuki shook her head.

“We’ll figure something out,” she said. “I will speak with him and see what I can-“ She was interrupted by her phone ringing in the living room and she hurried into the room to pick it up. In the meantime Inaho pulled Slaine into the apartment and had him remove his boots and blazer. Within short Yuki emerged from the living room with her phone in her outstretched hand, toward Slaine. Her eyes were completely tainted with anger. “When speaking about the devil…” she hissed and held the phone to Slaine. “Your so called father wants to speak to you.”

Inaho watched his lover go pale and the blond boy shook his head violently and took a step back from the phone.

“N-no!” Slaine exclaimed.

Yuki sighed and put the phone against her ear again.

“See? I told you,” she said into the phone.

While she spoke with Saazbaum she motioned for the boys to move into the kitchen, and they obeyed her and sat down next to the kitchen table. Inaho noticed her motherly traits awaken as she began to heat some water and brew coffee while she kept talking in the phone. She told Saazbaum about how happy Slaine was with where he lived while taking out some frozen buns from the freezer. She let the man know the blond boy was slowly growing as a person in the company of his friends and for it to be cruel to separate Slaine from everyone he knew. She defrosted and warmed the buns in the microwave and once they were done she served them to the boys along with coffee, and then disappeared into her bedroom and closed the door.

“Inaho…” Slaine mumbled after his tears had begun to dry. “I have to run away. He won’t listen to her.”

“Are you sure?” Inaho asked and watched Slaine hold the coffee mug in both hands, which were red from the cold outside. The boy must have been freezing on his way to Inaho’s place. Slaine nodded with his lips tightly pressed together. “Where will you run?”

“I don’t know,” Slaine mumbled again. “To the end of the world if I have to…”

Inaho had to think hard on their situation now. Slaine was determined on running away – a pretty childish thing to do. He would do it despite it being out of impulse and being hasty – Inaho knew that. The brunet had promised to fight for their relationship and so he could not let Slaine run away from home alone. The chances of him getting far was slim since Inaho knew – due to Yuki’s profession – that runaway teens were quickly found by the police. If Slaine ran away now he would be found within 24 hours.

But if I go with him…’ Inaho thought.

Inaho knew how the police worked. He knew where they would look and what resources they used to find missing juveniles who ran away from home, all because of Yuki and her big mouth. He had listened to plenty of such cases his sister had been ranting about, telling him how they had found the teenagers and how exhausting work it was for the administration office where she worked. The brunet could extend Slaine’s runaway time with at least 12 hours. It was not as much of a try to succeed disappearing as it was a statement of Slaine disagreeing with his adoptive father about moving away from Japan.

If Slaine was away long enough, would Saazbaum change his mind?

“Tomorrow,” Inaho said and Slaine looked up at him with his tear-stained face. “We will prepare our run away plan tomorrow, and once Saazbaum is to arrive we disappear.”

Slaine’s melancholy face was slowly morphed into a kind smile. The blond was relieved of hearing he did not have to run away alone.

“Inaho…” Slaine mumbled gratefully, breathless from relief.

We will fail,’ Inaho thought as he watched his lover smile the boyish smile which the brunet never got enough of. ‘They will catch us.” Inaho decided not to let the boy know that yet; Slaine needed to feel he was rebelling against Saazbaum now that his happiness was threatened, and so the brunet decided to keep the illusion alive. ‘We will fall in love even more since this will be really intense, and that will make it hurt all the more if we are separated,’ but for Inaho it was worth a try. ‘I will take the only chance we have along with you.’

“You and me against the world, huh?” Slaine said smiling and closed his eyes to rest his bloodshot eyes, and his head tilted just slightly, making him look so adorable Inaho’s heart fluttered.

The violent fluctuations of Slaine’s maturity were once again shown, and Inaho realized how childish Slaine still was; his lead toward adulthood was still short enough for Inaho to feel he was able to catch up with him within time. The words the blond had just spoken made a sudden and bubbly feeling well up in Inaho’s throat since the words sounded nothing resembling the words of an adult, and he began to laugh silently. Slaine opened his eyes to stare at the brunet, and within moments he grunted as he realized how juvenile he had sounded, and began laughing as well.

Chapter Text

It was Thursday morning and Inaho opened his eyes as the alarm sounded beneath his pillow where he had tucked his cellphone before he had fallen asleep, to not wake up his sister when the alarm would go off. He pulled out the phone from beneath the soft pillow and turned the alarm off quickly, and then he yawned and relaxed. The first thing he saw when he opened his eyes from his yawn was Slaine’s sleeping face right in front of him, resting his head on the same pillow as Inaho. The blond had not woken up by the alarm, probably because Inaho had been quick to react to it and turn it off. He slept peacefully with soft but rhythmic breaths spilling out from between his full lips, which tickled Inaho’s cheeks while half of his face was buried against the pillow. Gently Inaho moved his lips closer and gave his lover a morning kiss.

“Slaine,” Inaho whispered. “We have to get up. It’s six o’clock.”

Slaine released a pathetic groan of complaints and he squeezed his eyes tighter and pulled the duvet higher over his shoulder. Inaho was not used to sleeping with his lover in his own bed and the space was much smaller than Slaine’s double bed; the space had been so small during the night since Slaine had been moving closer to Inaho in his sleep throughout the night, pushing Inaho up against the wall. The brunet had not gotten a lot of sleep but he would not complain either; Slaine was looking for intimacy, especially now that he was afraid of his adoptive father’s arrival.

“Slaine,” Inaho whispered a little louder and took a careful hold of the boys shoulder to shake him gently. “Wake up. We have to go. Saazbaum will arrive in just a couple of hours.”

Yuki had not managed to convince Saazbaum to let Slaine stay in Japan; the man had not listened to a word she had been saying. In the end, despite Yuki trying her outmost, Saazbaum had decided on taking Slaine to Germany to live with him on the grounds of Slaine not being able to keep up with his music and high school, and because of his arthritis. Saazbaum argued the boy needed to have his guardian with him to support him. Inaho had begun to wonder what Slaine and Saazbaum had been saying during their argument the day before yesterday. Had their argument simply gone out of hand? Even if Saazbaum – according to Slaine – was conservative about marriage, Inaho wondered if the man had been fired up by the argument and gone out of hand; said things he did not mean.

Will he change his mind once he has calmed down and waged the alternatives he has concerning Slaine?’ Inaho wondered.

“Slaine,” the boy tried again. “Wake up.”

The blond boy began to stir. Slaine opened his lips to yawn and curled up beneath the duvet like a cat which had been sleeping comfortably for too long, and then open his wet and sleepy eyes to look at the brunet. Inaho would never grow tired of watching his sleeping lover wake up. The brunet especially enjoyed it when they had to get up early; Slaine was a sleepyhead who disliked waking up too early, and each time Inaho tried to force him up Slaine would grumble and groan and complain while trying to escape beneath the duvet. It would always result in a short battle between wills and Inaho enjoyed listening and watching to his pathetic lover force himself up simply because the sight was cute.

“Is it time?” was the first thing Slaine asked with a raspy morning voice, and Inaho nodded. The blond boy stretched his body thoroughly while he stayed beneath the duvet, and Inaho pushed himself up from bed.

“Yes. We should eat breakfast before we go,” Inaho said. “Do you still want to run away?”

Slaine released a sigh of relaxation as he finished stretching and went limp, and looked at Inaho with a nod as concern woke up from deep slumber, in his eyes.

“Yeah… Do you?” the boy asked and Inaho nodded.

“If you run away, I run away with you,” Inaho answered and got up from bed to begin dressing, and Slaine followed his example.

The boys entered the kitchen and Inaho began preparing sandwiches as breakfast and provision for their journey. Slaine voiced worries about Yuki hearing them but Inaho was quick to calm him down by letting the boy know Yuki would sleep through any kind of noise at this hour.

Inaho and Slaine had prepared for their travel all day yesterday. They had been taking out cash from Slaine’s bank account after Slaine had offered to pay for all of their expenses. Using a bank card meant the police would be able to trace the transactions on Slaine’s account, and so cash was the easiest way to get around without leaving any obvious breadcrumbs behind. Inaho had checked what amount was the highest one could withdraw from a cash dispenser per day without raising any questions, and they had maxed that amount instantly. Slaine could withdraw the same sum later once they left the apartment and got to a cash dispenser, and then he would not be able to use his bank card again for a while.

They ate during silence. Their bags were already packed and Inaho had rummaged around for an extra set of warm clothes for Slaine. The blond would not be able to get far with his school uniform on, revealing to everyone who saw him from where he was. Just in case, Inaho had instructed Slaine to bring his uniform with him in case the police would use that as clothing description; if they brought it along and the uniform was used as physical description Slaine was less likely to get recognized; people would be looking for a teenage boy in a Shinawara High School uniform.

Slaine seemed nervous and he had the right to be. Inaho was nervous as well but due to him and Slaine planning out their escapade in detail he felt they would be able to pull it through at least for two whole days before they would get caught.

“Are you ready?” Inaho asked once they finished their breakfast, and he turned to look at his lover who looked pale.

“Y-yeah,” Slaine said while nodding. “Let’s go before Saazbaum arrives.”

They wrote a letter of apology for Yuki and left the apartment dressed in warm coats and scarves and hats, and headed for the bus stop. Their lightly packed bags hung on their backs as they held each other’s hands, not caring about if people stared at them. They would take the bus to the station in Shinawara and change for a bus to Fukui, where they would take an overnight bus to Shinjuku in Tokyo in the evening. Traveling by train would be risky due to the many stops and the popularity of trains, and there was no need to state their names in order to get tickets. That way their names would not be registered anywhere, and the train stations were probably the first place where people would look for them.

They would spend the night in Tokyo and then work their way toward Sendai in Miyagi prefecture. Neither of the boys had been on the streets of Tokyo, so they both felt nervous of visiting the capital city and the street life there. Luckily they would be moving around during daylight and hopefully find somewhere to spend the night and pay with cash.

Once they arrived to the Shinawara station Inaho entered the convenience store close by and bought a data-only SIM card for his phone while Slaine went to withdraw money for the last time until their money would run out and they had to use his card again. They met outside the convenience store and headed for the bus stop where they would board a bus toward Fukui.

“I’m so nervous…” Slaine whispered and bounced discretely on his toes. His eyes wandered around the area with suspicion and Inaho squeezed his hand harder.

“Don’t be,” the brunet answered. “Calm down. You look guarded.”

“I can’t calm down. I’ve never done something like this before,” the blond said with a groan and seemed anxious.

“It’s all right. We will have a lot of fun and Japan is one of the safest countries in the world, so don’t worry,” Inaho tried to console him but Slaine shook his head and whispered:

“It’s not that I’m worried for our safety – even if I do feel nervous about going to places I’ve never been before. I’m worried about how angry Saazbaum gets.”

His breath danced in the air as the cold temperature made it turn into mist. The boy’s skin looked paler than normal in the cold, except for his cheeks and nose which were slowly turning crimson as they were assaulted by the cold.

“He won’t get angry,” Inaho assured him. “If nothing else he will get worried and yell at you because he cares about you, and not because he hates you.”

Inaho saw a hint of a tear in the outer corner of Slaine’s eye.

“I h-hope so…” the boy mumbled. “Will we get caught?”

“Most definitely,” Inaho answered frankly. “But let’s enjoy this trip until then.”

Slaine nodded and gripped Inaho’s hand so hard the brunet’s fingers ached, but Inaho did not shake the boy’s hand away.

The bus arrived and the boys stepped onboard and paid for their tickets. They sat down all the way in the back of the bus and sunk down on their seats to hide as much as possible. It would have been bad if people outside noticed them through the windows and would remember seeing them once the police would go out with a missing persons announcement. After a while the bus drove off, and the boys were on their way away from Shinawara.

About half an hour later they arrived to Fukui. It was around eight o’clock in the morning and they made sure to get off the bus one stop before the bus would stop at the main station in the city. Moving around at stations was risky and even if Yuki probably had just recently noticed the letter the boys had left on the kitchen table and had not reported them as runaways yet, they still had to be careful. Inaho remembered Yuki telling him about the police usually finding juvenile runaways at train and bus stations; apparently stations were the hotspots for teenagers who had ran away from home for different reasons, and those places were the first place where the police would search. The boys would avoid those hotspots for as long as they could.

They bought their tickets for the long-distance bus to Tokyo at a convenience store nearby and then began walking aimlessly down the street.

“What do we do now? The bus to Tokyo won’t leave until nine in the evening,” Slaine muttered tiredly; he had nearly fallen asleep on the 40 minute bus ride to Fukui.

“I’ve heard the dinosaur museum here is one of the best in the world,” Inaho said and Slaine stared at the brunet with raised eyebrows.

“What?”

“No one would suspect two teenagers going to a museum to be runaways, would they?” Inaho asked and Slaine got a weak smile onto his lips.

“Hide in plain sight?” Slaine asked and Inaho nodded.

“We can spend a couple of hours there to stay warm, and then we should take a walk in the forest area since I have heard it’s quite serene. Then we should stay at a café until your bus is to leave. We’ll catch it minutes before it leaves the station,” Inaho instructed and Slaine nodded with his smile brightening.

“This is crazy,” the blond chuckled and together they began to walk down the street.

They asked a passerby about where the museum was and got instructions, and so they headed toward the museum. On their way Inaho put his headset into his left ear and started the stream for the local radio channel on his cellphone, which contained the data-only SIM card he had bought in Shinawara. He would keep an ear on the radio for when a missing person announcement was broadcasted to hear what he and Slaine were described as, and then take counter actions according to the information broadcasted. To stay safe he had logged out from every online service he was connected to through his phone to ensure he was completely cut off.

“Why did you buy a new SIM card?” Slaine asked and looked at the brunet as they sat on a bench outside of the museum and waited for it to open.

“They will be able to trace from where my signal is coming from if Yuki would try to call my number, and so changing the SIM card is the safest,” Inaho answered. “And I have to listen to the radio to know when they have reported us missing, so I only need a data-only SIM card.”

“Oh,” Slaine mumbled and looked thoughtful. “Good thing I left my phone at home then. I didn’t know they could trace a call.”

“The police have a lot of resources to use, so we have to be careful. I think the museum is opening now,” Inaho declared and looked at the entrance door. A young man dressed in a museum uniform was unlocking it. “Let’s go.”

They paid their entrance fees and walked around in the museum. To Inaho’s relief Slaine began to relax for each object they looked at in the museum. The boy finally got a wide smile onto his lips and looked at the dinosaur skeletons and read all the information signs posted all around the museum. Slaine would run around and point at things he found interesting, and the light of a teenage boy slowly began to flicker in his eyes. Inaho enjoyed watching his lover so excited about dinosaurs and found it convenient Slaine was able to relax and distance himself from his troubles so easily. Give the blond a slight distraction and Slaine would turn all his attention to it and forget about most other things.

He’s so passionate,’ Inaho thought and watched Slaine’s eyes shine with awe as he stared at a tyrannosaurus rex skeleton.

“Woah! Look at that!” Slaine said and pointed at the skull of the skeleton. “It’s huge! And the teeth…!”

“Recent discovery shows that dinosaurs had feathers,” Inaho said after he read it in a guide they had gotten as they entered the museum, and heard Slaine chuckle.

“Suddenly this thing doesn’t seem as intimidating,” the blond said. “Like a giant chicken.”

“With sharp teeth and jaws strong enough to crush every bone in your body with one bite,” Inaho reminded the boy, and Slaine’s smile turned wry and the boy scratched his head awkwardly.

“Eheh! Well, I guess I would have fainted from terror anyway if I met one of those – whether it had feathers or not,” the boy said.

They spent five hours in the museum, which Inaho thought was enough. They had to keep moving; if they stayed for too long in one place they would risk of getting recognized. In the beginning, before the boys were announced as runaways, they could take it easy, but once their descriptions were released to the public they had to be more careful and constantly keep moving.

After the museum they took a long walk through the surrounding forest. The snow lay heavily on the pathway and the trees were bare and the surrounding silent. The snow padded and faded the noises of the city away, making their walk peaceful and enjoyable. Inaho questioned Slaine about what he had said to Saazbaum during the heated call to get a view of what had happened. It turned out Slaine had reacted on affects; anger infused with fear to be more precise, and gone into a verbal attack toward Saazbaum. It was not surprising, Inaho thought as he listened to Slaine explain the situation from two days ago. Slaine was a teenager, and teenagers were quick to react on affects. Inaho did the same and would only realize what he had done later on once he got to see the consequences of his actions.

Like I did when I forced Slaine to speak to Saazbaum about this,’ the brunet thought with a guilty conscience. Inaho felt guilt, he had to be honest with himself and admit that. It felt as if he alone carried the blame for what had happened between his lover and his adoptive father. Inaho had been afraid and acted without thinking; he had pressured Slaine to speak to the man who they now fled from. The only thing that relieved him somewhat was the knowledge of Slaine acting out of hand as well, which had caused a chain reaction and reached Saazbaum, who had probably acted out of hand too. ‘I’m not the only one to blame. Slaine would have had to speak to Saazbaum sooner or later anyway.’

Inaho wondered if Saazbaum was feeling guilty. The brunet was nowhere near skillful at reading people and their personalities but he had the feeling Saazbaum had not meant what he had said. Despite knowing that, Inaho could not fight the urge and continue his and Slaine’s escapade. He would not take chances; they had to prove a point to the adoptive father in case Saazbaum had been serious about taking Slaine away. The blond boy had refused to speak to his adoptive father during his stay at Inaho’s and Yuki’s place. He had not wanted to hear a word about him when Yuki tried to speak to Slaine. Slaine had at one point ran into the bathroom and locked the door, and refused to come out as long as Yuki would speak about Saazbaum. Slaine had shown an extremely childish behavior – even Inaho could agree to that – but it had been a need Slaine had had; he had to distance himself or else he would crash emotionally from the pressure. That was what Yuki had believed and Inaho found that to be possible.

They walked roughly for three hours before Slaine began to complain about his face feeling numb. It was cold after all, and the boys agreed on taking a coffee at a nearby café, which was located outside the city center in a quiet and pretty empty area. They stayed until closing hour, and then took another walk until their bus would depart.

The bus was to arrive to Tokyo early in the morning the next day and they made themselves comfortable in the bright red and black seats which were reserved for them in the back of the bus. Slaine occupied the window seat and took of his coat only to cover himself with it. The boy was exhausted from wandering around all day and from feeling stressed out. Inaho felt the same way and he followed Slaine’s example to get some sleep. When both had made themselves comfortable and the bus was set into motion, Slaine sneaked his hand to take a hold of Inaho’s beneath their coats, and curled up against the brunet. Inaho watched the boy close his tired eyes and within moments Slaine drifted into a slumber. The brunet leaned his cheek against Slaine’s forehead and closed his eyes too with the hopes of getting at least a couple of hours sleep. He was surprised though; there had been no announcement of the boys missing in the radio throughout the entire day.

Sis…’ he thought and smiled. ‘Are you helping us?

♪♫♪♫

Slaine awoke from an unrested slumber, and when he opened his eyes he saw Inaho look back at him with his burgundy eyes. He had fallen asleep, leaning against Inaho, and now his back and neck felt stiff and strained from the unnatural position. The rumbling of an engine and the gentle vibration reminded Slaine of where they were and he turned to look out through the bus window. A large city with skyscrapers reaching up toward the sky filled his view in the early Friday morning. The streets were crowded and lively. Slaine hand only seen the city in television and on the internet; this was the first time he saw it first hand from the ground, experiencing it in person.

“We’re almost there,” he heard his lover say. “Did you sleep anything?”

Slaine looked at Inaho and nodded with a wry smile.

“I think so. I did wake up plenty of times though so I guess I didn’t get any proper sleep. What about you?” the blond asked and Inaho nodded.

“The same here,” the brunet answered. “We will arrive to Shinjuku in about twenty minutes. We should head for a café immediately to have some breakfast before we keep moving,” the brunet then said and began to pull his coat on.

Slaine truly felt lightheaded from not enough sleep. Every muscle in his body screamed for more rest and his eyes had a hard time focusing.

“I’m so exhausted…” Slaine mumbled. “Can’t we get a hotel room or something?”

“No, we should stay away from hotels,” Inaho said and Slaine felt disappointed. He wanted to stay somewhere the entire day and not wander on the streets. “I will have to check something,” he suddenly heard Inaho say and watched the brunet begin tapping away on his phone.

“What are you doing?” the blond asked curiously and leaned closer to look at what Inaho was doing. The boy was writing an e-mail.

“Contacting Calm,” Inaho frankly answered and Slaine felt confused.

“Why?”

“He might know where we can stay the night.” Slaine stared at the boy with knitted eyebrows and his head slightly tilted. Inaho tapped away quickly with practiced fingers and within moments he had sent the message to their mutual friend. “I had planned for us to stay at a shelter in Tokyo at first but now that I think about it, there are better options,” the brunet said as he watched his phone.

“What options?” Slaine inquired perplexed and got an instant blush onto his cheeks when he heard Inaho quietly answer:

“Love hotels.”

Slaine’s heart skipped a beat at the surprise. Would they stay the night at a love hotel? Was that even possible? Neither of them were 18 years old and they were a same-sex couple. Slaine had nearly an inexistent knowledge of what love hotels were more than them being used by people who wish to have a private and intimate time alone. Suddenly he felt nervous.

“W-w-what?” the blond stammered and stared disbelievingly at Inaho. “B-but that’s not possible, is it?”

“Calm should know. He knows everything related to sex, love hotels included,” his lover answered.

Slaine slowly leaned back against his seat and stared at his hands resting in his lap. He could not decide if he was excited or terrified of the idea and their entire escapade. Even if Inaho did not mean they should have sex due to them staying at a love hotel, Slaine still felt the knowledge of them spending their time in such a hotel as intriguing – even if he was so embarrassed about stepping into such a hotel he would melt through the floor. The idea itself was fun and exciting, but due to inexperience with carnal pleasures Slaine felt insecure about stepping onto such fields in public, like entering a love hotel and possibly be seen by the staff or people on the streets.

I would die from mortification!’ Slaine thought and despite the embarrassment he felt a giggle well up in his throat. ‘Is it strange that I look forward to it while I’m being scared of it?

Inaho kept updating his inbox on the phone once per minute and a couple of minutes before the bus would arrive to Shinjuku he got an answer. Slaine leaned closer when he noticed Inaho was reading something on his phone and saw Calm’s ridiculous answer:

WHAT!? You’re going to a love hotel in Tokyo!? Why, aren’t you sneakily romantic…! Why are you going all the way there? It’s exam period soon! But whatever… There’s supposed to be two love hotels in Shinjuku ni-chōme who accepts same-sex couples and also doesn’t care about age. Plenty of high school kids have stayed there, heteros and homos alike. It’s a bit shady so be careful though, but they got good reviews on the internet. They’re called Hotel Castle Love and X Room Hotel.

Slaine chuckled.

“He doesn’t know we have run away yet?” he asked and Inaho shook his head.

“I think Yuki-nee is keeping it as silent as possible. I didn’t hear any missing person announcement yesterday on the local radio channel,” the other boy explained.

Slaine’s stress subsided slightly from hearing Yuki probably was working with them. He suspected the woman was worried about them and probably on a nervous breakdown by now. Yuki was a kind person; so warm and welcoming, understanding and motherly, Slaine thought. She was on the boys’ side in this matter. The way the woman had spoken about Saazbaum taking Slaine away the other day, had given Slaine a stronger will to fight for his and Inaho’s love. When Slaine’s desperation and anger had subsided the same evening he had spoken to Saazbaum, he had begun to doubt about running away. Yuki’s fiery rant about not agreeing with Saazbaum and Inaho’s determination had kept Slaine’s rebellious spirit alive, and now – two days later – they were in Tokyo, planning on sleeping at a love hotel.

Unbelievable,’ the boy thought. ‘This is crazy!

The bus finally came to a stop and the boys stepped out through the door and onto the busy bus stop at the west exit of Shinjuku station. Slaine was taken aback from the huge amount of people walking around everywhere he looked. A long line of cabs in colors of red, yellow, green and black stood parked on the taxi lane, waiting for passengers. The enormous buildings and skyscrapers loomed over the area and the noises were mighty loud. The twin towers of the Metropolitan Government Office – an iconic building in Tokyo – was finally seen by Slaine’s own eyes. It was magnificent.

Inaho took a hold of Slaine’s hand to pull the boy along and not lose sight of him, and they began wandering down the street toward a busy shopping district.

Slaine had trouble knowing where to look. The air in the city felt large: The streets were wide, the buildings tall and enormous, the smells, noises and visuals were tickling the tourist in Slaine, and the boy began to wake up from his exhaustion. He had traveled all across the world when his biological father had been alive and Slaine was not usually surprised by the life in different cities, but he had never stepped onto the streets of Tokyo before.

And I have never been in such a large city alone either,’ he thought and felt suddenly thrilled.

“This is amazing!” Slaine exclaimed as they merged with the crowd of people going to work and school, or on other errands this early in the morning. It was around 8 o’clock in the morning and the streets were already bustling with life. “Everything feels so huge! Even the air feels majestic!”

“It is Tokyo after all,” Inaho said where they walked with the same pace as the crowd.

“Aren’t you excited?” Slaine asked and looked at Inaho.

“I’m busy planning out the day so we have somewhere to stay during the day before the love hotels opens the check in for overnight stay.”

Slaine found Inaho’s answer boring and the blond sighed. Now that he felt so alive in the large crowd of one of the busiest cities in the world, he wanted to have a chance to enjoy it with his lover.

“Can’t we just relax and calm down?” asked the blond. “Enjoy the experience with me.”

“But we should locate a hotel so we know where to go once evening comes,” Inaho said. “It’s not safe to wander around on the streets in the evening while searching for a hotel.”

Slaine felt slightly worried.

“But didn’t you say Japan is one of the safest countries in the world?” he asked and Inaho nodded.

“It’s true, but it’s not completely safe,” came the worrying answer. “We should take every precaution we can.”

Inaho was right. Even if the country was one of the safest in the world Slaine had to admit he would be naïve to think the streets of Tokyo were completely safe. Better safe than sorry was their motto throughout their runaway adventure.

Slaine agreed with Inaho in the end and they ventured onto the streets of Shinjuku ni-chōme. Some of the neon lights and colorful signs were turned off while others dimply shone in the morning light. The smaller streets were surprisingly calm despite being located in a great city like Tokyo, and they were now wandering on a street where store and hotel owners were finishing up the preparations for the day. Inaho guided them through the streets with his cellphone in hand and the GPS-system turned on, and within moments they found the Hotel Castle Love. It had a gaudy lit up façade with brightly colored spotlights illuminating fake windows in different colors, and a large colorful street sign let the boys know one overnight stay on a Friday evening costed 10 000 yen. A small and discretely placed rainbow flag was lit up in a corner, indicating the hotel accepted same-sex couples.

Slaine felt so embarrassed to stand in front of the love hotel that he was looking everywhere but at the hotel. He pretended he had no idea what the building was and could swear he looked like a fool to everyone who saw him. Inaho was looking at the hotel to make sure they would remember how to find it in the sea of lights which would flood the streets once darkness fell, and together with Slaine’s obvious acting it was obvious for people why the boys were there in front of the hotel.

“Inaho…” Slaine whispered from behind gritted teeth. “Can we leave…?”

The brunet tapped on his phone to save the location and then they wandered back toward the lively streets with malls, cafés and restaurants and respectable hotels. Slaine pulled Inaho with him the moment he saw a fast-food restaurant and convinced the brunet they should have fries and hamburger for breakfast.

“I never get to rebel like this, so let me have a burger for breakfast only for today,” Slaine said excitedly and was happy to hear Inaho agree despite the brunet complaining about the lack of nutritional value in fast-food.

“We will get hungry again within an hour,” the Japanese boy warned the Westerner.

“Then we can have another burger!” Slaine answered with a chuckle, and their debate came to an end.

The entire day was spent on the streets, in stores and cafés and attractions. The freedom Slaine felt from wandering around in Tokyo alone with his lover was overwhelming and gave him the illusion of it being easier to breathe. For the first time in his life Slaine felt as if a strong gush of air gave wind beneath his wings and life was coursing through his veins. The city was so much different from the little and sleepy coastal town of Shinawara. Tokyo was a rumbling monster of entertainment and excitement compared to the boys’ hometown, never taking a break from its intense pulsations of life, and the people seemed to have adjusted to the hectic life of a large city. Slaine had been dragging Inaho off to every landmark the blond boy had caught in his gaze, and the brunet had not been complaining and had happily followed the other boy.

Once evening came and the cold began to crawl up inside their clothes, the boys took cover inside a booth at an old karaoke spot for high schoolers located not too far from Shinjuku ni-chōme. They would wait until nine in the evening and hurry to the Castle Love hotel to get an overnight accommodation. The noise in the karaoke spot was loud even though the booths were insulated, and the entire day in the city had made Slaine feel tired. The blond boy was desperately trying to snooze on the leather couch while teenagers in the neighboring boxes were screaming their voices hoarse to upbeat music. Inaho was following Slaine’s example of trying to snooze but had no further luck than the blond. The noise was far too loud and unpredictable to get any form of rest.

Once the clock was about to strike nine in the evening the boys got out of the karaoke box and hurried back onto the streets. Slaine was surprised by the new air outside. Due to it being a Friday night people were out on the streets for a night of partying and celebration. The busy people from daytime – who had been out shopping or going to and from work and school – were now replaced by noisy people yelling and laughing loudly on the sidewalks outside bars. Slaine felt slightly unnerved. Shinawara would have busy Friday nights as well but the air in Shinjuku was much different to what he was used to. People were more outgoing, much like how he imagined people in a big city would be like. They were pushy, loud, cocky and troublesome in different ways which made the blond boy want to avoid any kind of interaction with them.

Slaine did not like the night world in Tokyo.

“Stay close,” Inaho said and took a hold of Slaine’s hand to pull him along down the street toward Shinjuku ni-chōme and the hotel.

Slaine hurried after the brunet while keeping a worried eye on the people around them. There were many Westerners in the area as well who were even louder and cockier than the native people were. Japanese men, and especially women were flocking around some Westerners here and there, speaking to them with the typical broken English so characteristic to the country’s population. Even Inaho had a broken English while speaking it, which Slaine found amusing to listen to. Now, the boy was not entertained to hear that broken English around him from people he did not know.

They got to the area where the hotel was located. Inaho’s phone showed it was already nine o’clock and they had to hurry to be at the hotel in time to catch a room before all the rooms were taken for the night. Slaine was so nervous he began trembling the closer they got to the hotel. It was a highly unpleasant tremble due to the uncomfortable nightlife which slowly began to buzz louder for each minute that passed as more and more people flocked onto the streets. Slaine could not wait to get to the hotel and disappear from the streets to the safety of four walls and a bed. The people around him began to look more awkward for each street they passed and the bars and hotels became shadier, and more and more people holding hands or showing their affection in other ways began to emerge.

What surprised Slaine the most – aside from people being open with physical contact in public – was the girls standing in cute costumes on the streets passing flyers to people; they did not look older than Slaine and Inaho.

What are they doing out working like that?’ the boy thought as he got eye contact with a girl they passed. The girl – who was clearly in high school age – looked nervous but bravely kept a smile on her lips.

“Inaho…” Slaine said as they walked down a colorful street with mostly men lining up outside bars. “I don’t like this place…”

“Stay calm. We’re almost there,” Inaho answered and Slaine pressed his lips tightly together from nervousness.

A man outside something that looked like a bar called to Slaine when he was spotted. The boy’s blonde hair that peeked out from beneath his hat had been caught in the man’s field of attention and Slaine kept his eyes turned toward the ground. He felt anxious now that an unknown man was trying to get his attention.

“Ignore him,” he heard his lover say and felt an arm being draped around Slaine’s shoulders. “This is the gay area in Tokyo, so don’t be surprised if people call out to you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Slaine asked and looked up to Inaho who was now marking Slaine as his to everyone who watched them.

“You are pretty,” his lover answered and Slaine blushed so intensely the cold air was flushed away by the heat of embarrassment.

The man clicked his tongue with annoyance as he noticed Inaho put his arm around Slaine’s shoulders, claiming the blond Western boy as his. To Slaine’s relief the man did not say another word, nor did he hurry after them, and they finally arrived to the entrance to the hotel without any more trouble.

”Inaho… I’m not sure about this. Why can’t we rent a room at a normal hotel instead?” Slaine complained now that he was reminded of his embarrassment again while standing outside the hotel.

“The hotel receptionist behind the counter of a normal hotel may recognize us. A love hotel doesn’t have visible personnel in that sense; they are hidden behind curtains to assure anonymity,” Inaho answered and walked toward the entrance door. 

Slaine hurried after him despite the nervousness and embarrassment eating away at him. 

“But won’t we be caught on security camera footage here?” the boy asked nervously and a gush of warm air blew in their faces when the automated glass doors opened into the lobby where comfortable lounge music was heard.

The lobby was painted in red with black furnishing and the floor was carpeted with a deep red carpet with beige chateau pattern. Pots with extravagant plants were placed around at corners and in the middle of the ceiling hung a large modern chandelier with crystals hanging in a spiral reaching nearly all the way to the sparkling fountain beneath it. Behind it stood a red reception with a black tabletop, and a black curtain hung behind it where probably the receptionist stood and waited to serve customers. Right next to the entrance stood a large panel with pictures of rooms, some dark – indicating they were taken – and others where lit up with backlights to indicate they were vacant.

“All hotels have security cameras. According to Calm this hotel doesn’t bother to check their customers as much and allows same sex couples. Besides, this is cheaper than a normal hotel,” Inaho said and stepped up to a panel with illumined pictures of rooms of every kind. A large sign said “Welcome” above the panel of rooms.

“In other words no one will be able to trace us here if we pay with cash,” Slaine said and the brunet nodded and looked at the rooms.

“Yes, and we need to save our money so a love hotel is the cheapest,” Inaho noted and Slaine nodded immediately and leaned closer.

“So which room do we take?” the blond boy asked and looked at all of the rooms. They were rated from A to E, the further down the alphabet the more expensive and extravagant the rooms became. The rooms from A to C looked like normal hotel rooms with a bed and nightstands and couches, but they had different color themes and facilities. One room had a karaoke machine. Another had a pinball game machine. A third had a futuristic looking lamp that reached from floor to ceiling casting a blue light. The boys checked through each vacant room’s design out of curiosity.

“W-what…?” Slaine whispered beneath his breath and felt his cheeks grow hot. “That room looks like a classroom! Look; it has a chalk board and desks and everything…!”

“Would you like that one?” the brunet asked and Slaine nearly fell over from embarrassment.

“N-no! I didn’t say that!” the blond exclaimed with a whisper.

They looked through the rooms and for each room that reached further and further down on the list the themes got less and less decent.

“Dungeon…” Slaine sighed nervously after reading the name of one of the rooms at the bottom of the panel. “I liked the sailor suite more… Or the carnival theme…” he complained and Inaho nodded.

The brunet went ahead and poked a button beneath the picture of room 302 – the sailor themed room which stood next to a room with a large instant noodle cup. A little plain paper card was printed out of the machine with the room number and price, and the boys walked up to the reception. Slaine tried to hide behind Inaho in case the receptionist would pull the curtain aside to check them, and he let his lover do the communication. Inaho told the receptionist – who welcomed them with a quiet and kind voice from behind the curtain – they wished to rent the room for a “stay”, and Slaine put the money on a small and red painted wooden plate. White gloved hands emerged from behind the curtain and pulled the plate behind it, and then it came back with a plastic room key card.

They followed the signs on the wall to an elevator and once they stepped into the small space Inaho showed the room key card to a small panel on the wall. The elevator began to move and stopped on the third floor. They followed the blue lights on the red carpeted floor which led them to their room in a corner of the building. A little green light shone above the door and another door stood next to it. Inaho put the card into the slot on the room door and the green light turned red and the lock clicked.

The boys stepped inside.

The room was surprisingly large compared to normal hotel rooms which Slaine was used to. The floor was colored in a baby blue color probably to remind the visitor about the sea, and the queen sized bed was standing on top of a frame that looked like a white wooden skiff with a life buoy attached to the foot end of the bed. The armchairs were of fake white leather with blue anchors on them, and the wallpaper was of a lighter baby blue with wooden panels reaching half way up the walls. There were no windows but the room was spacious enough not to feel claustrophobic in any way.

“Woah!” Slaine exclaimed after taking his shoes off. “This is kind of incredible.”

Inaho followed the boy into the room and helped Slaine inspect the room thoroughly; a must when visiting a hotel. They began with the bathroom, checking all of the cupboards and reading all the labels on the shampoo and soap bottles. They found toothbrushes and toothpaste along with other hygiene products, and large and incredibly soft bath towels hanging on a towel heater. The bathtub was of normal size and Slaine began to immediately fill it up with hot water.

“I can’t wait to shower!” the boy sighed happily.

“We have been wandering around the streets all day. Both of us should take a bath,” Inaho answered and Slaine looked up at the boy with a sneaky smile.

“Together?” he asked and watched Inaho nod. Slaine could swear he hinted a blush on his lover’s cheeks. “I would love to! While the bath is filled, let’s check the cabinets in the room,” the boy then said and together they began searching all the cabinets and closets.

Most of the cabinets and closets contained extra sheets and pillows and duvets, as well as bathrobes and extra towels. It was nothing unusual compared to a normal hotel room, but when Inaho opened something that resembled a minibar Slaine nearly fell backwards.

“A v-v-vending machine!?” the boy exclaimed.

Where a minibar should have been placed stood a small vending machine. Inside it – according to the pictures – were toys and underwear, as well as lube and condoms and other small things couples could use. Slaine had never seen such things before and it took him by such surprise that all he could do was to stare at the pictures with wide eyes. It truly was a love hotel – no doubt about it. To think the rooms had small vending machines with toys hidden inside them was nothing he had been prepared to see.

“What is that thing!?” Slaine then shrieked and pointed at an elongated object which seemed to be made of some kind of jellylike material. “And it vibrates!?”

Inaho was quick to close the door to the cupboard and it was the first time Slaine saw a proper blush dancing on the other boy’s cheeks. Slaine was probably blushing even more than his lover did, but it was such a new experience for the blond to see Inaho embarrassed like that. The brunet had had a completely straight face the entire time they had been inside the hotel, but now his cheeks were hot and seemed to grit his teeth.

Inaho walked past Slaine without a word and Slaine followed the brunet with his gaze. Inaho walked up to the bed which he began to prepare for them but stopped dead in his tracks to stare at something. The brunet acted weird and Slaine stepped up to him to look at what the brunet was staring at.

“A-are you okay?” the blond boy asked and Inaho nodded while his eyes were still locked onto the bed.

“Yeah,” the brunet answered and reached out to take something from on top of the bed sheet. It was two small square packages which were supposed to be used that night.

Condoms?’ Slaine wondered and watched Inaho put them onto the nightstand, still with that new kind of blush on his otherwise blank face. Slaine reached for the small packages while Inaho undid the bed.

“We should keep these,” the blond suddenly thought out loud and watched Inaho turn his attention to him. “I mean, they give them to us for free, and I’m too embarrassed to buy these at a store. We should be responsible once we will… You know…?”

“I didn’t think we needed those since a male can’t get pregnant,” Inaho said and Slaine blushed and smiled wryly.

“Um… Y-yeah… Well, guys should use these for hygiene purposes…” he mumbled. “I read it in a book about it.”

“A book?” Inaho asked and stared at Slaine, who nodded.

“Yeah. I’ve been studying about these things, you know,” the blond answered. “The Guide to Getting It On; it’s a good and educational book about these things.”

“You have been studying?” the brunet asked and Slaine nodded again and said:

“Yeah… I wanted to be sure we know what we are doing once we do get it on. Why?”

Inaho threw the bed cover onto the floor.

“That is responsible of you,” the brunet said and Slaine’s heart fluttered from the boy’s praise.

“You think so?”

Slaine’s wry smile turned happy and wide as Inaho nodded and answered:

“I do.”

The evening went by fast. They bathed together to make them feel fresh before going to bed, and once they placed themselves beneath the large duvet Slaine immediately crawled up next to Inaho and put an arm over the boy’s chest. He snuggled against Inaho’s shoulder and smiled happily.

“I’m so exhausted…” he whispered. “It’s been really fun and tiring today, but thank you for running away with me, Inaho.”

Slaine truly was grateful. Inaho had been so supportive he could not find any words to describe how lucky he was to have the brunet at his side. He would not be able to survive without him if Saazbaum decided to disregard the boys protesting by running away and take Slaine with him to Germany. It would slowly kill him. Slaine was sure of it.

“We can sleep in tomorrow. We don’t need to check out until twelve o’clock, so we should rest for as long as we can,” Inaho said and Slaine nodded.

“I think that sounds like a good idea,” the blond yawned. “Good night, Inaho.”

He felt a hand take a hold of his on Inaho’s chest, and it got a gentle squeeze.

“Good night,” his lover answered, and shortly Slaine was out like a light, sleeping heavily from the exhaustions from their first day in Tokyo.

Chapter Text

A knock against the door assaulted his ears. It was an angry, demanding knock which made Slaine open his eyes wide and sit up in the comfortable bed, only to stare at the door. He could sense several people outside the door when considering the sounds; words among people who knew each other were spoken and steps from multiple feet against the floor reached Slaine’s ears.

He looked around and saw Inaho sleep next to him. The brunet was fast asleep, not reacting to the sounds, not even slightly.

“Inaho…!” Slaine whispered and shook the boy next to him. “Inaho, they found us.”

The Japanese boy gave no reaction. He kept sleeping as if Slaine did not exist.

“Inaho…!”

Slaine Troyard? This is the Tokyo police,” Slaine heard a male voice say from the other side of the door. The blond boy looked up toward it and heard a knock again. “We know you’re in there. Your father has reported you missing. Come along now.

Slaine stared at the door, and for each second that passed his pulse went faster. His blood pressure increased to such levels his head began to ache. He felt stressed out – anxious. Another try to awake his lover led to nowhere; Inaho kept sleeping, not realizing the seriousness of their situation. Slaine shook him harder. Nothing… The brunet would not wake up and instead kept sleeping peacefully while Slaine became more anxious.

“Inaho!” Slaine yelled desperately as fear struck him. He had no idea what to do. Inaho would be able to come up with an escape plan but he refused to wake up. Slaine began to feel panic; if they caught him now he would be taken away from his friends and lover. “Inaho! What do I do!?”

A third knock, much harder than the previous ones, made Slaine jump.

Open up! We know you’re in there!” he heard the male voice yell again. “If you won’t open and come with us we will have to assist you.”

“No! Go away!” Slaine yelled with a cry. “I don’t want to go to Germany!”

Slaine?” a different, this time soft, male voice suddenly spoke from the other side of the door. It sounded so nostalgic. It sounded like something Slaine had held dear to his heart in the past but had now forgotten about it. It made itself reminded once again. “Open the door, Slaine.

The blond boy felt compelled to get up from bed and walk over to the door. That voice was so enchantingly familiar and yet mysterious since Slaine could not place it anywhere. It was like a puzzle piece which fit nowhere on the board; a lost memory which had no place in his mind anymore. Recovering it intrigued him to the point where he forgot about the police standing outside, and so, Slaine stepped up to the door, turned the lock to unlock it and swung it open.

Soft blue eyes met his and the boy stared back at them. Slaine had once heard his mother’s eyes had been green, and the color of his eyes were of a mixture of hers and the eyes which now watched him. Slaine’s were more blue than green, showing which one of his parents he resembled the most, and that parent stood now in front of him.

A shiver ran down Slaine’s spine while watching his biological father’s smile. It was a smile Slaine had missed immensely but now that he saw it again – after so many years – it was terrifying. He was not supposed to see it anymore other than on pictures. He was supposed to only remember it, not perceive it again. His father was not supposed to smile like that once more, but now he was there – alive. Fear struck the boy while watching his smiling father, trying to figure out what was going on and why he was there. The man was supposed to be buried – cremated and his ashes resting in cold earth in the Troyard family’s home country.

The man was supposed to be dead.

“Slaine…” the boy listened to his father say. “Come home.”

“Y-you’re not supposed to be here anymore…” Slaine whispered and stared at the man. His biological father was nothing but a stranger now; his presence was forgotten. Slaine had trouble relating to him since he had become so used to never seeing his father again, and now the man stood there yet again. His face was blurry though, as if Slaine could not see him clearly – obviously forgotten.

You should be dead… You should stay dead,’ the boy thought and found it bizarre how he could wish something like that upon his own beloved father. The thoughts were not out of spite since the boy genuinely loved his father, and he missed him far more than he could ever put into words. The thoughts were rather born from Slaine’s mind being in a confused state; it knew the man was supposed to be dead. The knowledge was so profound the truth his vision spoke clashed with his mind’s reality. It made no sense to him to see his father again. It did not feel like a blessing. He did not feel happy to see him. Slaine simply felt confused. ‘Why am I so unhappy of seeing him?’ the boy asked himself. He did not know how to relate to the man in front of him since he had gotten used to living without his father. How would he be able to accept him back into his life? It was impossible. ‘Have I outgrown the boy I was before?’ Slaine thought.

“A good boy should stay put and obey his parents,” his father then spoke and Slaine furrowed his brow. “Come to Germany.” Slaine watched his father reach out a hand toward him. “I will forgive you if you come with me.”

Slaine stared at his father’s outstretched hand and then looked up at the man again. The boy shook his head. No, he would not go. He would stay with Inaho. He would continue being a student at Shinawara High School and he would continue his music career like he had done ever since summer. If his father’s forgiveness was termed with him obeying him, Slaine would never be biddable. He alone decided who he would give respect to, and Slaine decided he would never let anyone play him like that.

“I won’t leave Japan,” Slaine said determinedly, standing his ground of not giving in to the man’s terms. “Your forgiveness means nothing to me when you put it like that. I will stay here.”

His father’s kind smile turned into a fierce glare, morphing so quickly it took Slaine by surprise and made him step back. The man’s blond hair was covered with dark flames, washing the strands into a darker color. The blue eyes flickered into brown, and the father’s blurred face became clearer. Slaine let out a yelp as the outstretched hand reached to grab his arm, and Saazbaum pulled him out of the room – stealing him away from the sleeping Inaho. There was no trace of his biological father anymore; there was only Saazbaum.

“NO! LET ME GO!” Slaine yelled with a piercing cry as he desperately struggled in his adoptive father’s grip as Saazbaum pulled him along without trouble. “INAHO!”

“Slaine?”

It was Inaho’s voice.

“INAHO!” the boy yelled and tried to pull himself free to run back to Inaho who had woken up.

“Slaine?”

“I’m here!” Slaine answered. “I’m here!”

“Slaine, wake up.”

Gentle hands shook him and Slaine opened his eyes with a start and sat up in bed with a silent scream. His eyes quickly wandered across the room – from the television showing a reprise of a talk show to the burgundy eyes watching him expressionlessly from next to him.

“You had a nightmare,” he heard Inaho announce with his usual tone of voice. “You were moaning and turning in your sleep so I decided to wake you up.”

Tears welled up in Slaine’s eyes – blurring the welcomed vision of his lover – and he threw his arms around Inaho’s neck to hug him close. Slaine was soaked in cold sweat and shivered from anxiety. The boy sobbed against his lover’s shoulder and hugged him tightly. Inaho raised his warm hands onto Slaine’s wet back and pulled him even closer as an attempt to comfort him. The warmth he was offered was heavenly.

“I dreamt my dad came to knock on the door,” Slaine said trembling. “Then – when I told him I didn’t want to go – he turned into Saazbaum who tried to take me away from you. You were asleep and wouldn’t wake up, and I couldn’t stop Saazbaum from pulling me along.”

He felt Inaho stroke his back gently despite Slaine being wet from his nightmare. The other boy’s scent felt reassuring and the boy’s heat slowly calmed Slaine down. Inaho was there with him, keeping him safe.

“I’m sorry,” he heard Inaho say and Slaine shook his head. Inaho had no need to apologize for what the blond had been dreaming.

Slaine did not wonder what the dream had been trying to tell him since its message was all too clear. The boy had let go of his father, slowly but steadily moving his need to Inaho instead. His new father – Saazbaum – was not as important as Slaine’s true father or Inaho, and so Slaine could stand up against him. The only thing Slaine could not do was to be less reliant on his lover and instead be more independent and initiative – like Inaho.

I’m useless. I can’t do anything without depending on Inaho to be there,’ Slaine thought while hot tears rolled down his cheeks, burning his sensitive skin which had not had the chance to heal after all the days of crying intensely. Wiping his cheeks dry from all the tears had left his skin irritable, and now his tears burned.

“It’s not your fault,” Slaine mumbled to his lover and sniffled. Just as he was about to calm down the image of his adoptive father emerged and tears began to flow once again. The anxiety intensified. “Saazbaum will be so angry once he finds us…” he cried. “He won’t let me live here in Japan after all of this. He will take me with him for sure.”

Inaho was silent for a short while, probably studying the crying boy, before he whispered:

“Do you regret running away?”

Did he? Slaine had to be honest to both himself and Inaho, and nod. He did regret it. The fear of making the situation worse was all too real. What would Saazbaum say once they were found? What would he do? Slaine had not known him long enough to tell how the man dealt with a conflict, and he had no knowledge of how he handled a rebellious teenager. Slaine had never been in an argument with the man before, and since this was the first time, he was completely oblivious to how his adoptive father would react. The thought of not knowing what would happen and leave it up to Saazbaum to decide was killing the boy with fear.

Slaine had been on edge the day before yesterday, and yesterday he had been excited about Tokyo. Both days had meant intense focus and energy which had made Slaine forget about his fear of what was to happen. Now all of that fear came back to him like a tidal wave washing away his courage.

“Yes… I kind of do…” Slaine answered and made an attempt to dry his tears – irritating his skin.

“Do you want us to go back home?” the brunet continued.

Slaine hesitated. Did he want to get it over with and go back home? Would he feel better from letting Saazbaum find him or would he rather keep running now that they were already on the run? If they would return back home Saazbaum and Yuki would yell at them, and then Saazbaum would take Slaine with him to Germany – but the fear of what was to happen to the boys would be relieved. The anxiety Slaine felt now would disappear. Then again, they had already made Saazbaum and Yuki angry and Slaine doubted they could get any angrier than they already were.

What point is there to go back now when we can keep running a little while longer?’ Slaine thought and breathed in a deep sigh.

“No… I want to stay with you for as long as I can. If we go back now my time with you will get shorter…” Slaine whispered as he let his body relax against Inaho. “I want to be with you for as long as I can…”

“Got it,” Inaho answered softly and held the blond for a short moment before he let go of him. “It’s soon 11 am. We need to checkout at 12, so we should get prepared to leave,” the boy then explained and Slaine stared at him for a while without knowing what to think or how to feel about it.

Slaine wanted to stay in the hotel for the rest of the day. He felt downhearted – depressed even – of what would happen once they were found. To hide from the busy life on the streets of the great monster called Tokyo felt tempting, but at the same time he knew they had no choice but to get out there and take a new bus even further away from Shinawara.

But then what?’ Slaine wondered and watched his lover get up from the bed and begin dressing. ‘We have been wearing the same clothes three days straight now, and we can’t take in at a hotel in Sendai or we would get caught.

“Inaho,” Slaine said quietly as he dried his wet eyelashes with the back of his hand. “Where do we stay in Sendai once we get there?”

Inaho pulled his navy blue knitted sweater over his head and picked up his trousers from one of the armchairs where he had placed their folded clothes the previous night.

“They have shelters there for runaway teens and provide them with food and care,” the other boy answered. “They won’t reveal us to the authorities since that’s not their job as a shelter.”

Slaine felt heavy. It sounded terrible to live at a shelter and who knew what kind of teenagers they would meet there. Slaine had gotten the image most of the juvenile runaways were from tough backgrounds, and they would not hesitate to bully the blond boy. It felt better to stay in Tokyo for as long as they could. The love hotel was a safe place to stay the night, and it had a comfortable room at that. Furthermore, now that Slaine got the chance to reconnect with reality as the tension and excitement from the previous days had faded away, he realized he was completely exhausted. He was tired. Every muscle in his body tingled and begged for him to stay in bed, and his head felt as heavy as if he had stuffed it with cotton wool lead.

“Can we stay here?” Slaine asked tiredly. Inaho pulled his trousers on and turned to look at the boy from over his shoulder. “I mean… The shelter doesn’t feel as safe as a hotel does, and I’m exhausted too. I can’t really bother with a new city and a shelter. If they’re going to find us tomorrow or the day after that, what point is there to move? Tokyo is big enough for hiding, right?”

The younger lover watched Slaine for a while and the blond saw how Inaho’s thoughts and calculations ran in his mind to find an alternative solution. It surprised Slaine how adaptive Inaho was to sudden changes and how hard he actually worked to make the blond boy happy. The all too familiar guilt crawled up from the dark corner of Slaine’s heart.

He does so much while I’m not doing anything…’ he thought saddened and thought back to how pathetic he had been in the dream where Inaho had been asleep. Slaine had not been able to fight Saazbaum off by himself.

A plan. Slaine needed a plan. He had to create his own plan. It did not matter how trivial it was; he had to contribute to their runaway in some other way than running around the streets and living out small dreams he had harbored for years. To eat ice cream at the top floors of shopping center Takashimaya Times Square had been exciting, and visiting the Big Buddha at Taisoji Temple had been fun as well – but all of that meant nothing when thinking about their survival in the city.

We need somewhere to rest and take it easy, somewhere where we have roof over our heads,’ Slaine thought.

“Then we should come back to this hotel in the evening again,” Inaho said.

“Maybe we should go and see a couple of movies?” Slaine asked and looked at Inaho – who stared back at him with a hidden expression of curiosity. “I mean – I don’t feel so well and we can’t run around on the street all the time. It’s Saturday, is it not? The cinemas must be open by now.”

Said and done. Once the clock hit midday the boys ventured out onto the streets again. This day they were met with more buzz form the streets of people than the day before – mostly girls and women. Slaine looked around, feeling confused of why there were so many girls and women compared to the day before. They seemed stressed out and walked with hurried steps. Here and there couples walked leisurely with arms linked or holding hands, and the air in the city was happier than the day before. The city was still as busy as ever, but something felt different from the previous day.

“What’s going on?” Slaine asked as they walked past a store with large pink and red signs outside, saying something about buying chocolate in the last minute. The boys had seen the same kind of signs everywhere when they had arrived to Shinjuku and been walking around the streets, but now – when the excitement of Tokyo had faded somewhat – it hit Slaine how awkwardly colorful the stores were, especially now when the spaces in the stores were filled with girls and women.

“It’s Valentine’s Day,” Inaho answered and Slaine stopped dead in his tracks and stared at Inaho.

“What!?”

The date of the day had slipped Slaine’s mind completely. It was February in the year of 2015, but what day was it? Saazbaum would have arrived to Japan on the 12th; two days after the argument, and the boys had ran away on the same day. That day had been spent in Fukui, and then the boys had taken an overnight bus to Tokyo only to arrive yesterday, the 13th of February. They had spent one night in Tokyo and…

“You didn’t know?” Inaho asked and tilted his head slightly to look at Slaine who now realized it was the 14th of February. “I thought you knew after we visited the shopping complex yesterday. There were signs about chocolate and Valentine’s Day everywhere.”

Slaine could not believe it. Had he missed it entirely? He had to be honest and admit he had not remembered that Valentine’s Day even existed; he had barely been in contact with popular culture in his father’s care and under Cruhteo’s heavy wings. Besides that, he had been tired and excited all day yesterday with no understanding to what was normal in Tokyo and not, and the boy’s mind had been busy with the new intake of impressions. It had slipped him by completely that today was the day of celebrating love.

“I’m an airhead!” the boy exclaimed so loud people around them stared at him and Inaho while taking a slight detour around them. “I didn’t notice at all! Why didn’t you say anything!?”

Inaho kept staring at him, surprised of Slaine’s sudden outburst, and blinked before he answered:

“There is no need for us to think about it,” Inaho said and Slaine felt his heart squeeze tightly.

“Of course we should think about it,” the boy said and stepped up to Inaho to grab him by the shoulders. “It’s the international day of celebrating love!”

“But we’re male,” Inaho noted and Slaine stared at him without understanding what them being male had to do with Valentine’s Day.

“Why does that matter?” the blond boy asked distressed – worried due to Inaho’s sudden disinterest in their relationship. “It’s still love, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but Valentine’s Day is for female. White Day is for male,” Inaho explained after getting an expression of confusion of why Slaine showed such concern about today.

Slaine was lost. What on earth was Inaho talking about?

“No. Valentine’s Day is for every couple,” Slaine said and frowned. “What’s White Day?”

“Women buy chocolate for men during Valentine’s Day. One month later – the 14th of March – the men buy white chocolate back to the women who gifted them on Valentine’s Day,” Slaine listened to his lover explain, and suddenly everything made less sense even if the misunderstanding between them had been cleared.

“Oh, I understand now. You had me worried there for a while,” Slaine said and sighed from relief. He let go of Inaho’s shoulders. “In the rest of the world everyone celebrates Valentine’s Day no matter what gender, and we have no White Day either,” Slaine said and saw Inaho look at him with interested eyes, asking him to continue explaining. “I don’t know anything more about Valentine’s Day than couples going out to eat, or people – guys mostly – buying chocolate for their mates.”

The system in Japan felt awkward for Slaine. To separate people like that and have an additional day felt otiose. It made no sense for Slaine to split up the celebration into two completely different days where only one partner celebrated the other. Even worse – those days were separated according to sex, and the male sex were forced to buy chocolate to the girls who had gifted them during Valentine’s Day. To Slaine it sounded like a business proposal rather than a confession or celebration of love.

It’s the day of love and friendship, is it not?’ Slaine thought. ‘Shouldn’t two hearts connect that day a tiny bit extra than usual along with every other couple in the world, so that everyone could celebrate love together no matter what sex or relationship?’ It felt isolating that people like Slaine and Inaho were not included. ‘How do same-sex couples do it?

Then again, Slaine’s surprise of the Japanese way of celebrating Valentine’s Day faded the more he reconnected to the culture in the country. The culture of love in Japan had made Slaine frustrated a couple of times since he had wanted to hold hands with Inaho in public and be allowed to give his lover a light kiss spontaneously. Slowly the boy had become comfortable with being more open with his relationship with Inaho, and now when that kind of world opened before him society came to hinder them – telling Slaine such behavior was not appropriate.

No… I don’t care about society!’ Slaine thought decidedly and suddenly took a hold of Inaho’s hand and pulled him along.

Inaho followed the blond without arguing or pulling his hand away from Slaine’s, and the blond boy felt grateful. They kept walking down the street with eyes staring at them, and Slaine did not pay them any mind. They reached a shopping mall once they got closer to the Shinjuku station’s busy west exit and walked inside. Slaine asked Inaho to wait for him at a corner and strode up to a store with large glass counters with expensive looking chocolate and pink and red heart shaped boxes standing in neat stacks. Slaine asked – with a crimson blush playing on his cheeks – what kind of chocolate the woman behind the counter would recommend to give to a boyfriend, and the woman answered awkwardly he should buy the honmei-choko. Slaine was so embarrassed from confusing the store clerk with his unusual question, and felt great relief once he exited the store with a bright red heart shaped box in hand – filled with expensive chocolate.

He found Inaho at the corner where he had left him, and once they stood in front of each other Slaine held the chocolate box out to Inaho.

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Slaine said in English while trembling from embarrassment. His blush was probably so vivid it had crawled all the way to the tips of his ears and down his neck, but he bravely held out the chocolate box without caring about people staring at him.

Inaho gazed at the box for a short while before he accepted it and thanked the boy. Slaine saw a slight blush play on Inaho’s cheeks as well – a weak blush which resembled the intense blush Slaine had seen the day before – and felt relief.

I’m not the only one being embarrassed…’ he thought and smiled while feeling satisfied for having made Inaho happy.

“Should we get to the cinema then?” he asked his lover, who had opened the box to look at its content which Slaine had picked for him.

The brunet looked up at Slaine and nodded, closed the lid of the chocolate box and held out his hand to Slaine. Together – without a word – they entwined their fingers like lovers would, and strolled down the street toward Shinjuku Piccadilly cinema complex not far from Shinjuku station, by merging with the sea of city people. On their way there they decided to stop at a café and have something to eat, before they found the cinema complex looming over the small three-way crossing. Opposite to it they found a store which sold manga and anime as well as merchandise, and they made a stop there as well, before entering the cinema.

♪♫♪♫

Inaho leaned back against the soft cushion on the leather couch after he had been buying some food for him and Slaine from the café. The blond boy looked drowsy after sitting in the same seat throughout the movies they had been watching. The second movie was ongoing at the moment and would end within an hour, at 18:00. Their money had begun to run out due to Slaine insisting on spending it on premium seats where they could sit comfortably on a private and spacious couch and have access to the cinema cafeteria without bothering anyone else. Couples were sitting around them on the occupied couches, and Slaine and Inaho had felt somewhat misplaced due to their same-sex relationship throughout the movies.

Inaho had noted they had not enough for the hotel later that evening, and after some pondering on what to do Slaine had finally agreed to use his bank card and withdraw more money – despite it leaving a breadcrumb for the police to follow.

Inaho was surprised they had come so far. He had expected the police to find them with ease but by hiding away like this in a dark cinema hall gave them the chance to sit down and rest. Even if they would use Slaine’s bank card and reveal which city they were in through the bank, Inaho had agreed when Slaine had said the city was big enough to hide in anyway. They would take the Yamanote Line from Shinjuku station to Akihabara on the other side of the city, to withdraw money. That way, since the Yamanote Line went a full circle around in the large city, and with the Sobu Line was passing through Akihabara as well, they would disorient the police. No one would be able to know if they had taken the Yamanote Line or the Sobu Line after withdrawing money, and no one would know which station they had gotten off at.

Slaine had voiced his worries about his bank card being blocked by Saazbaum and Inaho had been worried about it as well. After a while of thinking – while a drama movie from US had been showing on the cinema screen – Inaho had come to the conclusion Yuki would not allow Saazbaum to block Slaine’s card. Once the boys were forced to withdraw money the search area for the police would narrow immediately, which was desirable in order to find a missing person.

When the movie ended they headed to the streets and took the Yamanote Line to Akihabara as planned, withdrew money and then took the same line back to Shinjuku. They went to sit down in a proper restaurant for once and have a full course meal before they headed to Hotel Castle Love when the timepiece on Inaho’s phone showed 20:20 o’clock. The roughly three kilometers long walk felt refreshing after spending the day snoozing at the cinema.

The area quickly got a dangerous atmosphere the deeper into Ni-chōme they came. Inaho was sure Slaine felt the danger as well although the blond boy seemed naïve enough not to keep an eye out for strangers. Slaine had kept his head down the evening before, and did the same thing today. Inaho kept a lookout and paid attention to the vision in the corner of his eyes. Luckily, no one gave them attention aside from stares from men waiting for the bars and nightclubs to liven up. Inaho knew Slaine was eye-catching, especially in this area since the Western boy was attractive and comfortable to look at, but the brunet never told his lover how much stares people actually gave him as a way to prevent him from worrying. Slaine was already stressed out, and feeling preyed upon by men was the last stress factor Inaho wished for the boy to have at that moment.

They got to the same hotel and noticed the sailor themed room was taken already. A couple of the expensive rooms were left and they decided on the least indecent room with a large round bed with mirrors as a headboard. The procedure was the same as last night; they paid at the desk to the person behind the black curtain, got a keycard which they used to ride the elevator to the right floor, and followed the lights on the floor to their room.

Slaine threw himself on the bed once they entered the purple themed room and stared at the ceiling, finding a great interest in it. Inaho watched the boy frown and when the brunet turned his gaze to the ceiling he saw a mirror there as well.

“I look like a mess,” Slaine said and stared at his own reflection in the ceiling mirror.

“It takes a lot of energy to move around like this. It’s exhausting not to have a proper home,” Inaho answered.

The surprise from Slaine’s supplementary question swayed Inaho the wrong way, with his heart growing heavy, when the boy showed his capacity for observation:

“You sound like you speak of experience. Now that I think about it, I don’t remember you ever really telling me about your past, or have you?”

It was a question worded with kindness but Inaho was not keen to speak about his past without being in the right mood. He was tired and exhausted as well, and speaking about his past at the orphanage felt bad at that moment. To feel relaxed and safe was optimal for things not to turn sour, and so Inaho decided to answer:

“I don’t really have experience of being homeless, and explaining what experience I have should wait for another time.”

Slaine looked at him with a worrying look but then flashed the brown haired boy a smile.

“All right. You tell me when you feel ready,” his lover said from the bed and Inaho’s heart felt instantly lighter.

Slaine was so considerate when it came to emotions, Inaho thought. The boy was quick to notice emotion even in someone like Inaho, who rarely expressed anything of the sort. Inaho wondered if that ability was there because of how passionate Slaine was as a person; he was open to read like a book, always letting people see what emotions flowed inside him. Now, Slaine wished not to bother Inaho after noticing something in the way Inaho had said things, and Inaho wondered what Slaine had seen in him.

“I wonder when the Tokyo police will be notified of us being in the city,” Slaine then said and got off from the bed to walk into the spacious bathroom to turn the showed faucet on and fill up the bath.

“It will take a while,” Inaho said and began undressing. “We should wash our clothes and use our spare ones tomorrow,” the brunet then said and followed Slaine into the bathroom.

The next hour was spent on bathing and then washing their clothes in the shower. They helped each other to wring the clothes as dry as possible and then hung them up in the shower to let them drip the excess water off. They would later move them into the hotel room to dry since it was spacious; the air in the large room would dry their clothes faster.

“So, will you buy me white chocolate on White Day then?” Slaine asked with a chuckle after they had finished making the bed ready for the night.

They were dressed in the white and soft bathrobes they had found hanging on the bathroom wall among the towels.

“If you want me to I will, but the Western way of celebrating Valentine’s Day sounds more interesting,” Inaho admitted.

To celebrate the love of a couple together felt more realistic than one of the partners celebrating the other on two different occasions. Inaho had never bothered with both Valentine’s Day and White Day since he had never had a reason to care. Slaine seemed more invested in the celebration of 14th of February than Inaho had ever been, probably because Slaine was a passionate creature, and Inaho felt like he should invest in it as well. If not for his own interest, then at least for the sake of having something special to look forward to each year, together with Slaine. In his heart he knew Slaine was the right one for him and he did not need a special day of the year to make sure it was true. Then again, to look forward to a day when they would be allowed to be together and enjoy an entire day for no other reason but to celebrate Valentine’s Day along with the rest of the world, would have been fun. It was a set date each year – a date which they could look forward to, and looking forward to something was always pleasant.

To surprise the one you love on a day when they expect to be surprised is counterproductive, but that makes up the challenge of succeeding with a surprise,’ Inaho thought and saw their future Valentine’s Days as a challenging game between them. He was pretty certain Slaine would try to find out what Inaho would be planning for Valentine’s Days, and to manage keeping his surprise a secret Inaho had to work against the boy’s curiosity. ‘It will be a fun game.’

This year though, Inaho felt like he had let his lover down. He had not thought about how Slaine or other countries celebrated Valentine’s Day, and had thus not considered buying Slaine any kind of gift. Of course, neither had the blond, but Inaho still felt he should reciprocate Slaine’s gesture that day of buying Inaho a box of chocolate in the spur of the moment of realizing what day it was.

“Slaine,” Inaho said and saw the blond boy look up at him with a smile.

“Yes?”

“Do you want to share the chocolate you bought to me earlier this day?” Inaho asked, genuinely hoping Slaine would answer yes.

Slaine tilted his head while his smile turned awkward.

“Don’t you want it?” the boy asked but Inaho was quick to shake his head.

“I do, but since I didn’t gift you anything this year I thought we should at least share the chocolate,” the brunet answered.

Slaine got healthy-looking rosy cheeks and looked excited, and nodded. They got onto the bed, leaning against the mirrors behind them, and turned the television on to see what was broadcasted at the time. They stopped to watch an episode of an anime series with the theme of mecha and intergalactic warfare. They shared the contents of the heart shaped box, leisurely nibbling away at the luxurious chocolate while commenting about the anime they watched.

It was strange, Inaho thought. They were teenage boys in a room at a love hotel after they had ran away from home, watching anime and eating Valentine’s Day chocolate in bed. Even that scenario felt like home for the brunet. No matter where they were it always felt natural and relaxed with Slaine around.

Like home,’ Inaho thought and could not help but to throw glances at his lover in the corner of his eye. Slaine was immersed in the anime episode and did not notice Inaho watching him. The brunet found it curious to how a person could throw an air of homeliness everywhere around them the way Slaine was doing. It always felt like home wherever they went together.

I can’t stand to lose him,’ Inaho thought and felt his body tingle. A need for embracing his lover struck him. He wanted to hold Slaine. They had spent three intense days together, always moving about and experiencing the world for the first time alone. They had wandered on the streets of the capital city while trying to find places that would keep them warm and fed, seen many tourist attractions and been spontaneous and watched two movies at the biggest cinema Inaho had ever been in. Last but not least, their adventure was about running from a catastrophic fate of being separated, making their runaway highly urgent and valid. All those experiences had made the bond between them tighten – the red thread of fate pulling them even closer than before.

Inaho was reminded about the possible announcement of them being reported as missing, and he picked up his phone to check the local news of Shinawara. He was met by an article showing his and Slaine’s faces, and it had been updated recently. It was partly a plea for them to return home to their worried families, and it was partly a missing person article asking for tips of their whereabouts. It had been updated with saying they had been reported to have been in Akihabara in Tokyo, and the police in Tokyo had been notified. Inaho’s heart began to beat harder from the unpleasant – but expected – surprise.

“They have found out we have been in Akihabara,” Inaho said and Slaine stopped munching on a piece of chocolate and turned to stare at Inaho with a pale face. “The police of Tokyo has been notified.”

“W-what? That was fast,” Slaine said nervously and shocked. His voice trembled. “What do we do now?”

“We need to stay hidden,” Inaho said. “Although, I think they will find us tomorrow. We should expect an article to show up in the Tokyo news tomorrow morning. As long as we stay in a love hotel everything will be fine though.” Slaine frowned while still looking shocked, not understanding what Inaho meant by the last sentence. Inaho decided to explain. “We are minors and this hotel is said to not respect the laws of not letting anyone under the age of 18 stay at love hotels. The staff won’t notify the police since they want to avoid prosecution and a possibly bad reputation, so we’re safe here.”

Slaine sighed and chewed on his lower lip while turning his absentminded attention to the television.

“We can’t stay here all day tomorrow,” the boy said quietly. “Where do we go once we have to check out? People will notice us wherever we go. You saw the people reading newspapers on the train to and from Akihabara today, right?”

Slaine was right. Inaho had seen the amount of people who still read the newspaper late in the evening. It meant people would recognize them anywhere. The expression on the blond boy’s face showed how nervous he became. Slaine was becoming anxious again, probably due to the fear of what his father would say once they were reunited. Inaho felt pity, both over himself and over Slaine. They would soon be separated if Saazbaum showed no mercy upon the boys.

This might be the last night we have together for a long time,’ Inaho thought and watched Slaine sigh and raise the chocolate piece to his lips and give it an distracted lick. They blond was clearly thinking the same thing but suddenly his movements became slow in Inaho’s vision; time began to slow down and all Inaho could see was the boy in front of him. Everything else faded away. Even the colors around his lover paled.

There was only Slaine.

“Well…” Slaine sighed. The gasping sound was loud in Inaho’s ears. “It’s been fun…” His quiet voice tickled Inaho’s brain. “I promise I will talk to Saazbaum thoroughly once I see him tomorrow and hope he won’t take me to Germa-“

Inaho could not let the boy finish. To hear him speak about such terrible things as separation was difficult to listen to. Instead the brunet leaned in close to Slaine and pushed his lips onto the soft and cherry lips in front of him. Slaine went instantly quiet and stared at his lover with wide eyes, shocked from Inaho’s sudden affection. As Inaho pulled slightly back to change the angle of their kiss Slaine tried to speak, calling for Inaho’s name, but Inaho did not let him finish. Again he pushed his lips against the boy’s but this time put more pressure against him, leaning forward far enough to push Slaine down onto the bed.

With a surprised yelp Slaine fell to his side, barely staying on top of the bed as he was about to slip down from the edge toward which he fell. Inaho quickly pulled him further onto the bed to stop Slaine from falling down to the floor, and once he had placed the boy beneath him he stared at his lover’s observing and questioning look. A heavy blush played on the pale boy’s cheeks.

“I-Inaho…?” Slaine asked nervously.

No words came from between Inaho’s lips. The brunet was not sure what he was doing but he felt the need to be close to Slaine. This time it was not out of desperation, but rather from want. He wanted to stay close to him. He desired to be with him.

I want you…

To define the want Inaho felt was difficult since it was a need he had not felt before. It was similar to the way he had felt when Slaine would pleasure him with his hands and lips, but this time it was much more unreasonable. The fire Inaho had felt in the shower back at Slaine’s place a while back was lit once again. It was a piercing fire which scorched his nerves – burning mercilessly at them much like an itch which needed to be scratched. The only cure Inaho came up with was to share the heat with his lover. It was unquenchable when handled alone.

Help me…’ Inaho thought and intensified their kisses by licking and sucking at Slaine’s lips until they were red and full – tasting the sweetness on them from the chocolate. The blond boy did not push him back, nor did he try to interrupt him either. Instead Slaine let go of the chocolate he had been holding, dropping it on the floor, and raised his arms to put them around Inaho’s neck. Their heat mingling between them made Inaho’s inner fire burn hotter than that of a raging coal furnace, and Inaho could not stop the urge of pushing his body against his lover beneath him. Slaine gasped between their kisses and Inaho released trembling breaths each time they would change their kissing angle.

He needed to be closer to Slaine. The frustration of the layers of soft fabric was clouding Inaho’s desperate mind like droplets of water trying to cool his fire – something Inaho did not allow. He wanted that piercing fire to burn hotter than ever before and burn away every drop of reason that was left in him. And so, with hurrying hands, he untied their bathrobes and pushed them open. The feeling of skin against skin felt exhilarating and rewarding, and when Slaine helped Inaho undress from his bathrobe he opened his legs for him and hugged Inaho’s hips with his thighs, raising the pleasing feeling in the Japanese boy. Desire turned into carnal lust as Slaine gently caressed Inaho’s hip with his thighs, tickling the deepest part of the brunet’s brain with sensual craving. Inaho could not stop himself from pushing his groin against the boy’s.

Every little experience – be it physical or psychological – hit the brunet so hard he was driven to seek out pleasure and give all of it to his lover. No thoughts about today or tomorrow mattered to him at that point since all he wanted was Slaine’s gasps and pleased cries. Inaho wanted to fuse with him and never let him go.

“I-Inaho…! Wait!” Slaine gasped pathetically with heated breaths and put his hands against Inaho’s cheeks to stop the boy from kissing him. “A-are we ready for this?”

When Inaho pulled back to look at his lover the wet blue eyes gave Inaho the illusion of a sea where he would helplessly drown. Slaine’s expression was so intense with pleasure and heat Inaho found his event horizon; the point of no return. He was ready. That was everything he was at that moment. He wished to give all of himself to the boy before him and never take anything of it back; he had no use of it anymore himself. Slaine ruled him as a king over his castle and Inaho would gladly gift himself to him.

“Bond with me,” Inaho said with shivering breaths as his arms began to ache from holding him up. Slaine smiled a hearty smile so bright his rule over the brunet turned powerful and became impossible to escape; Inaho felt as if he was pulled closer to Slaine by an earth-shattering gravity.

The blond reached his hand toward the nightstand where the small packages of protection had been placed when they had prepared the bed for the night. Excitement flooded through Inaho from the packages being so deeply charged with sexual intention. The sound from the plastic wrappings thrilled him further and the scraping of the nightstand drawer opening assaulted his ears. He watched Slaine take out a small bottle with liquid and then watched him proceed opening one of the condoms. Inaho’s entire being shook with nervousness. They were really going to do it. That thought haunted Inaho’s mind as Slaine pulled the condom out of the package with his blush intensifying. The blond was growing nervous as well.

“Um…” he heard Slaine’s voice speak with a tremble and Inaho awoke from a heated daze. He was reminded he was a human, and a human had manners and reason. “S-since I guess I’ll be the r-receiver we should begin with … y-you loosening me up…” the boy stammered quietly. “It might hurt otherwise, so…”

“You have been studying about this, right?” Inaho asked and Slaine nodded by looking up at his lover with those sensual blue eyes.

Don’t look at me like that…’ Inaho desperately thought as Slaine was about to sweep his reason away once again with a single look.

“Y-yeah…” the boy answered and Inaho accepted the condom and let Slaine guide him.

Inaho was grateful for Slaine taking so much responsibility as to read about how to do what they were to do now. He had thought of Slaine as flippant and eager when it came to sex, but now that Inaho learned the boy had been studying and theoretically knew what to do made Inaho’s nervousness calm down. He followed Slaine’s awkward and shy instruction of using the condom on his fingers to loosen him up; apparently it was already lubricated and made the insertion easier, as well as served as a way to keep things clean and tidy.

Slaine – with trembling hands – rolled the condom over Inaho’s fingers. The touch was electrifying to the point where Inaho barely could contain himself. Slaine’s fingers moved carefully and touched Inaho’s hand gently out of excited nerviness, giving the sense of how frail they both were in a moment like this. All their defenses had been stripped away.

“Start with one finger…” Slaine whispered as he took the bottle with liquid and opened it. With a blush he poured out a clear fluid and spread it all over the protection with a blush. Once he was done Inaho placed his hand between Slaine’s legs, reaching behind him. His lover closed his eyes and breathed with light breathing, expecting Inaho’s touch at any moment, and opened his legs a little more to ease access. “Carefully…”

Inaho nodded and with unease and excitement welling up inside him he pushed his finger toward the boy’s opening. Slaine gritted his teeth and held his breath, and Inaho slowly continued pushing – waiting for Slaine to give him any kind of sign to stop.

The boy’s opening gave way for the tip of Inaho’s finger, and once he pushed past the resistance Slaine released a breathless gasp. Inaho watched his lover’s rosy lips part and his chest moving up and down with irregular breaths.

“Does it hurt?” Inaho asked worriedly and to his relief Slaine shook his head.

“N-no…” the boy said trembling. “It … f-feels weird but keep going…”

Inaho followed Slaine’s kind command and kept pushing deeper, reaching slowly for the depths of his lover’s hot insides. It felt forbidden, as if Inaho was stepping on bewitched ground. All he would think about was how he pushed deeper inside him and made him react. Inaho’s gaze was intently glued to every movement and expression Slaine did, not wanting to miss out on any detail of their first time. Slaine was casting an unescapable curse on him. He was pulling him deeper onto undiscovered waters and threatened to drown him. What else would the boy do to him if Inaho kept going?

I want to find out…’ the brunet thought as his finger finally was buried inside Slaine’s warm body.

Slaine breathed desperately. Sweat was already emerging on his perfect and translucent skin. He was completely still as if he was afraid to move, entirely in Inaho’s mercy.

“Slaine…” Inaho whispered and leaned closer to reach for his lovers delicious lips. They shared a soft kiss, cold lips warming up against each other after all the gasping breaths. “Tell me what to do.”

Inaho’s gentle whisper made Slaine open his eyes to look at him. The curse was absolute once the brunet looked into those dreamy eyes looking back at him. Inaho could not go back to the innocent boy he had been, nor did he want to. Slaine had stolen him, claiming Inaho as his own with the intense passion reaching the brunet from the simple look of Slaine’s heavenly eyes.

“Move slowly… Pull out a-and push back in… W-wiggle it around a little…” Slaine panted and readied himself. “It feels good…”

Inaho moved his hand and watched and listened to Slaine’s reactions. Slaine gave him a seductive and unintentional show, displaying his awkward pleasure openly to his lover. At times, when Inaho moved his finger inside the hot flesh by rubbing his fingertip against Slaine’s inner walls, the blond let out a muffled moan and blushed terribly with his abdomen tensing up. Inaho greedily took in everything he saw and felt, begging Slaine to give him more. He loved to watch his lover so shy and yet brave enough he dared to expose something as intimate as the entirety of his naked body. The brunet loved to feel the heat from Slaine’s flesh seep into him from where they were connected and he loved to see how Slaine’s nakedness revealed the sensation he caused the blond. Their moment was slowly growing powerful for each advancing step they took toward their bodies uniting.

Inaho followed Slaine’s instructions, adding one finger after the other as Slaine said he was ready. The boy slowly loosened up and once Inaho was able to move three fingers inside him Slaine asked him to pull out.

“I…” the boy gasped. His voice was weak and his body trembled. Sweat beads rolled down from his chest and abdomen as he moved to reach for a second condom. Inaho felt the thrill grow to such levels watching Slaine handle the package with quivering fingers that he could barely stay rational. His heat throbbed between his legs, waiting impatiently for Slaine to roll the protection on. The sexual intention of the wrapper opening was coaxing him to not give a damn; to give into his juvenile impulses. “I’m ready…” Slaine whispered.

Slaine seemed theoretically experienced on how to handle the condom. Inaho made sure to observe for future reference, and once Slaine was to roll it on their gazes were pulled together once again like great magnets. Inaho could feel his lover’s warm hands move over his throbbing passion, making the touch send a shock through Inaho’s spine and have his skin tingle while they gazed at each other. He wanted more. This was nothing like the pleasure Slaine had offered him in the past. This was something completely new – serious and frightening, meaningful and mature. They would explore the adult world for the first time.

Once Slaine was done he made sure to lubricate the protection covering Inaho’s heat and took a deep breath of nervousness. The boy put his sticky hands onto Inaho’s hips and pulled them closer.

“Y-you can … enter…” the blond boy said embarrassed as his gaze flickered around, looking at everything but Inaho and the mirrors.

“I love you,” Inaho whispered and Slaine closed his eyes and nodded.

“I love you too…” the blond whispered and reached between their legs to guide Inaho’s passion to his opening.

Inaho felt impatient and could not wait to get inside. Slowly he put pressure against Slaine’s opening. He felt himself immediately begin to slip in and the sensation made his skin crawl pleasantly. Goosebumps exploded across his body as Slaine’s heat engulfed him more and more the deeper Inaho pushed. The tightness was perfect. Slaine’s expression was perfect. His gasps were perfect. Inaho watched him closely to make sure he would see all of it and not miss a thing as his body carefully forced pleasure onto his lover by slowly slipping into him. Slaine’s body did little to no resistance and before long Inaho’s tip had slipped inside. Slaine shuddered at the sensation and gasped with sharp breaths.

“Am I hurting you?” Inaho asked breathlessly, surprised of how pleasurable his lover could feel from the inside.

“N-no…” Slaine answered and released a quiet whimper. “It’s so h-hot I-“ The blond gasped a couple of times before he continued: “I j-just feel … weak. Ahh…”

It made no sense what the boy tried to say. He seemed as if he was on the verge of crying and yet he told Inaho he was all right. The pathetic whimpers escaping him, and the solid breaths as Inaho continued to push deeper, made Inaho wonder what Slaine was feeling. He had to trust him though; if Slaine said it was fine, then everything really was fine and Inaho could continue. The boy’s throbbing heat which was fully exposed for Inaho’s visual pleasure was letting the brunet know Slaine enjoyed himself to the fullest. A clear liquid created a honey bead on the tip which fell onto the blond’s abdomen as proof of his lover’s desire.

The deeper the brunet pushed, the warmer it became. The heat inside his lover’s hip made a violent shiver run down his spine as the rest of the air around them felt slightly chilly. They both were hotter than the room which made them sweat, and yet the air cooled them down. It tingled violently between Inaho’s legs as Slaine’s inner walls squeezed around him tightly. It felt so pleasurable his mind was filled with pink mist, clouding his reason enough to make him shake his head to clear it. Losing control was out of the question; he wanted to be there through it all – be as present as he could be.

♪♫♪♫

Slaine felt his neither region quiver. The nerves in him were burning pleasurably, causing the shivering and weakness he felt. Inaho was slowly moving inside him for the first time and Slaine was all too aware of it; he could not think about anything else. It was such a big moment for him – such a great step to take Slaine did not know what to do with himself. He had never been this exposed and helpless. All his defenses were gone and made him completely vulnerable. Hell – he could barely make sense of his speech!

Having Inaho inside him felt good. No, it was beyond good. It was torture. His body was in an uproar from the sensation it had never felt before and it tingled everywhere, causing Slaine to feel incapacitated. He could not move. He could not speak. All he could do was to gasp and moan while Inaho’s movements made him more and more paralyzed, and the slippery and sticky sounds the lubricant made between their bodies put him in a trance. It was a hot sound. An arousing sound.

“Aahh…!” the blond breathed as Inaho reached all the way into him and his hip pushed against Slaine’s behind. The brunet was deep inside him, buried to the hilt. Slaine desperately pulled Inaho’s hip closer, forcefully pushing every millimeter of his lover inside him to feel him as much as was physically possible. “Mmmh!”

To have Inaho invade him deeply felt the best. There was something which was grinding against Inaho’s hardness and made Slaine shiver so violently his back nearly arched. Electric currents scorched his nerves and as a result his entire body tensed up. The pleasure was so intense he had not been prepared to feel it and now he partially wanted to tell Inaho to stop and partially beg him to continue. Finally they were united like this. Finally he felt the closest to Inaho in both body and spirit as he possibly could.

Inaho’s hotness slowly pulled out and Slaine could feel all of it clearly. It made the blond drag in a quiet breath of surprise from the violent tingling, and when Inaho pushed back in the same breath escaped him with a moan.

“Aahh…!”

“S-Slaine…” he heard his lover gasp somewhere above him.

Slaine opened his eyes slightly to look at his lover. Inaho’s cheeks were burning hot and sweat glistened on his forehead. His hair hung in a tousled and jagged mess, casting a shadow over his face, and the look in Inaho’s eyes was the most expressive Slaine had ever seen. Inaho’s eyes were wet and wanting, as if Inaho was sensing a desperate joy and hunger. Seeing Inaho so openly expressing his emotions in this earthshaking moment gave Slaine’s mind a good spin, jumbling his thoughts into a lump of hazy sensations.

So … surreal…’ he thought, desperately closed his eyes and threw his head to the side as Inaho pulled out and pushed all the way back into him with a smooth and greedy motion.

“Haaahh! I-Inaho!” Slaine cried and bore his nails into Inaho’s skin on the boy’s hip.

I’m melting!

It felt rousing to feel Inaho’s hip move back and forth and have it collide with Slaine’s buttocks and thighs while his heated passion thrust into him. Inaho’s quiet gasps tickled his eardrums. The gentle gushes from Inaho’s chocolaty breaths brushing against Slaine’s cheeks felt comforting. The musky smell of sex made it all feel more real than what Slaine could grasp with his currently chaotic mind.

“Mmmh! Aaah!” the boy gasped as Inaho began to move with more confidence.

Look at me…’ Slaine silently begged. He wanted Inaho to observe him – to see everything his lover did to him and how it made him feel. He opened his eyes only to meet his own gaze look back at him from the mirror. There he saw his blushing self, spreading his legs wide for his lover who moved between them, pushing the hardened heat into him. Slaine’s body rocked and the bed gave way for every impact Inaho created. What a wonderful and embarrassing image it was. The expression Slaine wore looked like he battled a horrible fever; his eyes were glossy and his cherry colored lips gasped for breath. The frown playing on his brows would tell anyone he was in pain, but that could not be any further from the truth.

He watched himself open his lips further as he let out a loud cry of pleasure from Inaho torturing something inside him with his throbbing passion. The vision made him close his eyes again and turn his face toward his lover, only to open them again and look into the burgundy eyes watching him.

“Aahhnn!” the blond cried.

Yes! Look at me!

A bead of sweat hung from the tip of Inaho’s nose and hazily Slaine raised his hands to push Inaho’s bangs away from his face and wipe the sweat off. To his surprise Inaho gave his palm a kiss of gratitude and lowered himself toward Slaine, searching for a kiss. Slaine pulled the other boy closer with his hands behind the boy’s head and greedily kissed him with their tongues playing. Inaho took a short pause from moving his hips to enjoy the kiss, and once he began to move again – their lips still sealed against each other’s – Slaine moaned desperately with his voice having nowhere to go; it ended up as a muffled wailing. He felt so good from Inaho’s greedy motion all he could do was cry and moan like a pathetic creature begging for empathy.

“Aahh… Slaine…!” he heard Inaho moan of deep pleasure.

The feeling of growing weaker intensified as Inaho moved faster and harder. It began to slightly hurt but Slaine refused to let it end for such minor reason. Instead he cried louder, indecently letting Inaho know he could hardly contain the powerful pleasure welling up inside him. With his hips quivering, his breath trembling and his back slowly arching, a frightening feeling of vulnerability grasped him. Something was happening. He could recognize it but this was far stronger than anything he had felt.

“I-Inaho! Aaahh! I-! Aahhnn! Oohh! Some … thing-! Haaah!” he cried out loud. Frustration of not being able to speak due to Inaho incapacitating him so violently with pleasure, welled up in him. “Mmmhh! I c-can’t-! HAAH!”

Everything began to burn and Slaine’s body shook so violently from his muscles tensing up that he had to hug Inaho closer for stability. His mind exploded into a white void and his abdomen thrust forward against Inaho’s stomach. An intense release made him scream out so loud it tore at his throat. With teeth gritting, arms protesting and his voice turning into a groan as the torturous release kept dragging its nails across his nerves like a beast ready to eat him, Slaine lost himself for a moment. He had no idea where he was or with who. He could not understand what he was doing and why. Nothing made sense to him and nothing else mattered but to end the agony his body went through while paradoxically wishing for it to never stop.

Inaho’s moans assaulted Slaine’s right ear directly as the blond hugged his lover so tightly Inaho was not allowed to raise himself up. The moans slowly turned into pained gasps and the other’s movements became erratic. A low growl – much like Slaine’s – surprised the pleading blond and a hard thrust pushed Slaine forcefully against the mattress, making the blond boy cry out from surprise. Inaho began to quiver and breathe with strained gasps from behind gritted teeth as he probably went through the same torment Slaine had felt just seconds ago, and Inaho’s flesh pulsated inside the blond’s pelvis. It was trying to release something into Slaine’s body and would have filled him with it had it not been for the barrier his lover wore.

“I-Inaho…” Slaine gasped as the brunet finally collapsed on top of him. “T-that was … amazing…”

Finally they were adults in their relationship. Finally they had done it and connected with each other in the deepest way a couple could. Slaine could not describe how gratifying it was – how powerful it had been. He was bound to the brunet.

Forever…’ he thought and pulled his fingers through Inaho’s tousled hair while the younger boy gasped for breaths and rested against Slaine. ‘Your weight is pleasant like this…

“I love you…” Slaine whispered against Inaho’s neck and placed a kiss there, and the brunet finally got strong enough to push himself up.

They looked at each other while both gasped for breath – Inaho slightly more violently than Slaine due to his harder work. Suddenly Slaine looked at his lover with different eyes. He could see him clearly now; not just as a friend and lover but also as a mate for the rest of his future. It was real – not just something to dream about. Their future was right there, waiting for them.

“You’re so handsome…” Slaine said quietly and did not even blink while they gazed into each other’s eyes. Inaho looked exhausted and with a loving motion Slaine pulled him out of him and pushed Inaho down against the bed. At the same time he removed the condom filled with Inaho’s honey.

“Slaine?” Inaho asked as the blond got out of bed on trembling legs to tidy up after them.

Slaine looked over his shoulder to his exhausted lover who longingly watched him, and the blond smiled.

“I’ll just get a towel and throw the condoms and wrappings away. I’ll be with you in bed shortly,” he said and hurried to the bathroom.

He returned with a wetted towel and got onto the bed. With great affection in his movements he wiped Inaho’s face clean from sweat; gently caressing the boy’s cheeks with the towel, doing the same to his forehead and chin, and padded Inaho’s temples. Inaho seemed to relax as the blond freshened him up and the sight gave Slaine a warm smile onto his lips.

“I never knew it would be this cozy,” Slaine purred serenely and proceeded to wipe the sweat from his face too. “The afterglow I mean.”

A hand grabbed his wrist and Slaine was pulled down onto the bed right next to Inaho. The brunet coiled both arms around him and hugged him close, holding him tightly.

“I love you, Slaine,” the brunet whispered. “I love you.”

Slaine let go of the towel with his smile slowly growing wider and put his arms around Inaho as well.

“I love you too. So, so much, Inaho.”

Chapter Text

Morning came and for once Slaine was the first one to wake up. The weak purple light from behind the mirror headboard illuminated the room with a soft and magical light, casting gentle shadows across the room and over Inaho’s sleeping face. Slaine watched his lover sleep peacefully next to him, hidden beneath the same duvet as the blond. Something felt different Slaine thought. When looking at his lover thoughts of what words to use to describe him as floated in his mind. Lover did not cut it. What he felt and thought was closely related to a lover, yes, but Slaine felt it to be very different in a mysterious way; something much more than that.

Partnership…’ he thought and continued: ‘Best friend. Comrade. Family. Soul mate. Boyfriend. Main squeeze. Life partner. Significant other. Truelove. Beloved. Mate.

Slaine kept finding words to how to describe what Inaho meant for him and the words came to him surprisingly easy. He noticed his vocabulary on love was greater than he expected and all of the words he found were perfect to describe how he saw Inaho.

I always thought I had found the right one but now I am really sure I have found my lifemate,’ he thought and smiled. Even them sleeping next to each other stark naked was harmonious and intimate on a whole new level. In a way Slaine felt that things between them had gotten relaxed; the sexual tension from longing and inexperience was gone. Instead all of that had been replaced with a silly feeling of them being a pair of birds of paradise who had found the right mate after a long time of displaying their pretty feathers for each other. Their courtship had been long and difficult on both of them for different reasons, but now finally all of that had been settled.

Slowly Slaine reached his hand to caress Inaho’s cheek and the moment his fingertips touched the other boy’s cheek Inaho opened his eyes. The brunet looked drowsy and raised his gaze to connect it with Slaine’s.

“Good morning,” the blond said smiling and leaned closer to give Inaho a kiss. “Did you sleep well?”

Inaho inhaled a deep breath and closed his eyes again to stretch his tired body, and when he exhaled he relaxed again and sunk down against the pillow and mattress beneath the soft duvet.

“Surprisingly well,” he answered and yawned with morning tears gathering in his sleepy eyes.

Slaine chuckled at seeing Inaho so well rested. For once Slaine was the energetic one and his levels of energy slowly began to climb steeply. Happiness washed over him – making him want to jump Inaho instantly and hold him.

“You were out like a light,” Slaine said as he remembered his lover falling asleep instantly the moment they had laid down to sleep. “You’ve been holding me all night.”

Inaho looked at him expressionlessly for a while without answering. The pause was there probably due to surprise of hearing he had been clingy while sleeping, but then he smiled just slightly – barely visibly. Slaine could not help himself shuffle closer to snuggle up against his beloved and hold him and be held by him. It was the sweetest place in the whole wide world to be in.

“Are you all right after last night?” Slaine heard Inaho ask and the blond smiled broader and squeezed Inaho tighter.

“Yeah… It doesn’t hurt or anything, but I still faintly feel what we were up to last night,” the boy chuckled again and nuzzled Inaho’s neck happily. “It still feels good too.”

The blond felt like a happy dork for nuzzling Inaho’s neck and shoulder like a purring cat, happy to finally have gotten long-awaited attention. Slaine could easily compare himself to the excited nerds they had met in the manga and anime store opposite of the cinema yesterday, except that he was thrilled about finally discovering a deep bond with his lover instead of finding a limited edition ecchi figure.

I have my ecchi right here,’ he chuckled and planted a kiss on Inaho’s neck.

“Mmm…” the blond purred and kissed his mate’s neck a second time. “I love you,” he said and followed his words with a third kiss. “And I love you,” he said again before a fourth kiss. “I love you, I love you, I love you, and I love you!”

Inaho sighed voicelessly and curled his fingers around Slaine’s soft hair while the blond attacked his neck again and again with velvety lips. Slaine’s hand wandered over his lover’s chest and up to his jawline where he rested his hand to hold Inaho’s cheek and kept attacking the opposite side of Inaho’s neck. Gently his lips grew softer and passionate and when the brunet tensed up after Slaine hitting a nerve with hips lips Slaine got up from his cuddling position and slowly climbed up over Inaho to stand on all four above him. His playful kisses rained down on the other boy’s neck and chest. Soon the brunet let out a chuckle and stopped Slaine’s energetic kisses by putting his hands onto the blond boy’s cheeks and raised his head to look him in the eyes.

“And I love you,” Inaho answered and pulled Slaine’s lips close to his, guiding Slaine to where the boy preferred his kisses the most.

Slaine loved how Inaho suddenly showed a physical need by pulling him into a kiss like that. It was different from before. Slaine could remember the evening in early January when the boys had been standing on the sidewalk outside of the studio. That evening Inaho had pushed him away and had made Slaine feel lonely and worried. Now, all of that was blown away. The space between them had been cleared from all of their troubles to make it passable; becoming a road toward a private and intimate rendezvous for them only. Now they met halfway – none of them being forced to take an extra step as an initiative to engage in physical affection.

Heart to heart,’ thought the blond with a joyful smile as his tongue played with Inaho’s between their wet lips. ‘Honest and open.’ Their gasps mingled as their kisses intensified. ‘Platonic and physically intimate…’

Slaine lay down on top of Inaho, slowly and sensually while breathing hotly. Their naked bodies pushed together and heat began to rise between them once again. Slaine noticed he was needy, as if last night’s activities had sparked a new kind of life in him. Heat coursed through his veins exceptionally fast and he became ready and needy to make love again. Just a couple of flicks with their tongues and he was hot – that was all it took for the erotic spunk to kick in. His body had gotten a taste of the sweet sensations his lover could give him, and now it was ready for him again.

“Inaho…” Slaine whispered pathetically and pulled away from Inaho’s lips to look at his lover. “I wanna do it again…” He gently pushed their groins together to show Inaho how hot he was, and to his joy he felt Inaho’s passion slowly grow as well. “Can we?” the blond begged with a hot whisper, hoping for Inaho to give in due to him feeling the same way.

To the blond’s joy his lover ran his hands over his back, gently, all the way up to Slaine’s shoulders while keeping eye contact with the boy. Slaine got the illusion Inaho could see much deeper into his being now than before, and as he watched his lover back a sense of depth flowed through his mind as well. It was a wonderful moment to realize something as deep as that; two lovers finally diving into each other’s eyes and becoming one single unit. Breaking their momentous gaze was forbidden. It was a crime even. Slaine dared not to kiss him as their gazes deepened; he had to let the moment pass by diving so deep he would hit the bottom of his lover’s heart, where he would stay.

The fear of knowing today could probably be their last day for a while sizzled in Slaine’s mind – but he had faith in his lover. Inaho would not forget about him if Saazbaum would take Slaine with him to Germany after the police finding them later today. Slaine knew Inaho would wait. The brunet’s eyes told him that – promised him he would wait for as long as it took.

I will be with you for always,’ Slaine thought and desperately tried to convey his pledge to Inaho through his gaze. ‘Even if this might be our last day together for a little while, I will find my way back to you. So look at me. Remember what you see and feel right here and now. Burn me into your memory and heart.’

Inaho’s hand rose up to Slaine’s soft and tousled blond hair to caress the back of his lover’s neck and head. Slaine let out a quiet gasp as the touch was electrifying. Shockwaves of comfort and pleasure shot through him and he pushed himself up from on top of Inaho and straddled him. While they still looked at each other Slaine reached for the last unwrapped condom on the nightstand while a crimson blush slowly awoke on his cheeks. His lover’s hands ran down his legs; Inaho’s thumbs unintentionally brushed Slaine’s inner thighs. A shiver ran through the blond and shyly – while still maintaining their mutual gaze – they descended into the chaotic world of need and lust – nervously breaking the taboo of lovemaking for the second time.

♪♫♪♫

The hands of time were nearing their position to mark the time of noon. Inaho pulled his trousers on while Slaine was still in the bathroom finishing blowing his hair dry. It was cold outside and Inaho had thought of drying their hair as a good idea to prevent a cold in case they would stay outside all day.

His body still tingled violently after their lovemaking. He felt as if he walked on clouds and defied gravity. Life coursed through him – probably also called endorphins and oxytocin among many of the hormones in effect after lovemaking – but for once in his life he chose to believe it was something much more abstract than that despite it being frightening. There was no feeling of the need to be logical about what he felt right now and in a sense it was a liberating feeling. He was still new to these kind of nonfigurative sensations – so new he was stumbling around inside his own mind while trying to find a coherence to relate to. Maybe there was no such thing? Maybe love had no coherence at all and was nothing but emotions brought forth from how they spoke to each other, how they acted around each other, and how they touched each other? It had no time, space nor circumstance; it was just simply there – somewhere undefined in between them. Inko had called it for the red string of fate if Inaho could recall her words correctly. Not until now did Inaho understand what she had meant – even if he was unsure of her own understanding of what she had been talking about due to the red string being a part of popular culture. Nevertheless, he had been right the day he and Slaine had argued in the blond boy’s kitchen; violent emotions followed after making love, and he was consumed by them.

How do I handle these emotions?’ wondered the boy who felt them as overpowering.

Then again, he had to admit Slaine had been right as well; these emotions were sweet. Inaho had fallen more than he could ever have imagined before last night, and because Slaine was the reason to these emotions he could honestly say he enjoyed them. Simply the presence of the blond haired lover was enough to arouse the emotions anew; hearing Slaine turn off the hairdryer thrilled the brunet since he knew Slaine would come out of the bathroom within moments; soon they would be in the same room again. Inaho’s attraction to the blond began to climb as he sensed his lover step into the same room. It felt as if he tangled himself into the red string of fate by getting excited, resulting in him being pulled toward Slaine. And so – while being perfectly aware he was losing control – Inaho let go of his fears and embraced the other boy to hold him tightly for a little while.

The brunet had not realized it until now what their runaway escapade had done to him. It had brought him closer to his lover; so close he had tossed his principles about sex away simply because he felt he was ready. Three days packed with intensity on so many levels had been all it took for the brunet to feel ready. The powerful emotions their days together had brought him had pulled him into a world of blissful delirium. It had been all because of Slaine being there with him.

I have no control anymore,’ he thought as Slaine’s arms wrapped around him. ‘My emotions and impulses are running wild.’

Inaho had been afraid of losing Slaine, and simply due to that reason alone he had held himself from making love. He had been afraid of loving Slaine too much too early in their relationship in case he would have risked losing him. That fear had been eating away at him. To have thrown himself into such a vulnerable situation by losing control had been terrifying and thus sex had been out of the question. Now though – as Slaine stood in his arms after breaking that boundary of control twice – Inaho realized he did not fear losing him anymore. Slaine would not go away. He would always come back to him. Something in the blond boy’s gaze had told him that last night and during their sweet morning. Slaine had been confident.

Once the clock hit twelve they left the hotel with their backpacks filled with their things they had brought along from home, and the condoms they had decided to buy from the vending machine in the hotel room. Hand in hand they walked down the busy street as the city was bustling with movement and noises. Inaho had never felt a place be so claimed by man as Tokyo; wherever he looked all he saw was a concrete jungle and people who had grown accustomed to live in it. The city traffic was loud and busy with all kinds of vehicles in every color imaginable.

They headed toward the Shinjuku station after debating about what they should do. Both of them had finally agreed on letting the police find them. There was no use in continuing to run and they had caused enough worry on those who cared about them. People on the streets would notice the boys sooner or later anyway, and so Inaho and Slaine had planned to wander around on the streets to find a comfortable waiting place and see how long it would take for the Tokyo police to find them.

They walked down a large street toward the west exit of Shinjuku station and stopped by a café of a popular franchise to buy brunch and coffee. Slaine let Inaho know – as they exited the café with paper bags with sandwiches and large coffee mugs in hand – he wished to walk over to the Shinjuku Central Park to sit down somewhere nice and peaceful. They decided to continue down the unknown street which they guessed would take them to the park and spoke about every little trivial thing they could come up with. The worry of what was to happen still lingered but Inaho felt he could relax and enjoy Slaine’s company despite all that.

The blond boy seemed cheerful – much like the cheerful state Inaho enjoyed seeing him in – and all of that happiness and serenity engulfed Inaho as well; their newfound foundation as a couple was keeping their joy alive despite their adventure soon coming to an abrupt end. There was some kind of new air around Slaine beside the cheerfulness, Inaho noticed. Something about him was bigger, as if the blond was taking up more space than he physically did. His steps claimed the ground where they walked and he looked taller.

“Inaho! Look!” Slaine suddenly exclaimed, breaking Inaho’s pondering on what was different with him. Inaho looked at his lover to see what direction the blond was looking at, and when he turned his eyes toward the busy four way intersection among the skyscrapers a large red sculpture came into view. “Love!” Slaine said excitedly with a dazzling smile. “It’s Love! Inaho, come on!”

Inaho’s hand was grabbed and the brunet found himself to be pulled along by his lover toward the large Love sculpture standing on the square in front of a skyscraper named Shinjuku Island Tower. They stopped at the red lights to wait for their turn to cross the busy road and as they looked around the area Inaho saw police vehicles standing in a row on a parking lot outside a building to their right. He understood it had to be the Shinjuku Police Station.

While his heart began beating Slaine suddenly pulled him along to cross the road. The green light for the pedestrians had been lit and they merged with the people hurrying across from both sides of the road. The blond was so excited to see the sculpture with large red letters spelling the word “love”, the L and O stacked above V and E, that he had not noticed the police station yet.

“Slaine,” Inaho said as they got across to the sculpture. The blond boy was busy admiring the sculpture and Inaho’s voice was drowned out by the loud noise of traffic that began to move again. “Slaine,” the brunet tried again a little louder.

“Inaho! We have to take a picture of it!” Slaine said and turned to look at Inaho. Once the blond saw Inaho’s expression – what kind it was, Inaho was not sure of himself – Slaine’s smile faded slowly. “What’s wrong?”

“The Shinjuku Police Station is just down the road to our right,” the brunet said. “I would believe it’s about one hundred meters away from us.”

Slaine stared at Inaho for a while, probably pondering on what to do. Should they run or stay? Should they go to the police or disappear? Whatever Slaine decided upon Inaho would follow him. He was too involved already. His lover gritted his teeth and closed his fingers around the paper bag hard enough the paper rustled. The blond steeled himself and then nodded.

“Fine, let’s see how long it takes for the police next door to find us,” the blond said determinedly and pulled Inaho along.

The boy was daring, Inaho thought, and he had been so plenty of times in a short period of time. As the brunet followed his lover to the sculpture Inaho thought of how brave Slaine had been recently with coming out to their friends and family and alone trying to soldier through the arthritis eating away at his finger joints. Now he was ready to let Saazbaum find him and confront the man about taking him to Germany after running around the streets of Tokyo for nearly three days. Despite Slaine being childish about it, and despite Slaine was close to tears most of the time when he had to push through difficult situations, Inaho still thought of him as brave. Being so afraid that it would bring tears into one’s eyes and still go through with it was proof of true bravery – and now, in spite of the police finding them soon enough, the boy was smiling. He had become stronger.

“Let’s take a picture with the statue in the background, as a memory,” Slaine said beaming and Inaho took out his phone from his coat pocket to turn the camera on and put it on self-timer.

They turned their backs toward the sculpture and made sure it showed perfectly behind them in the viewfinder. The self-timer began to count down after Inaho tapped on the screen, and right before the phone took the picture Inaho sensed soft lips against his cheek when Slaine stole an innocent kiss. It surprised the brunet since he had not been expecting that, and when the picture had been taken he heard Slaine chuckle playfully right next to his ear before the boy leaned back after assaulting Inaho’s cheek ever so softly.

“That will become our memory from this place,” the blond said. “Make sure to send me a copy when we get home.”

Inaho looked at his blushing lover, who turned around to slowly walk over to the sculpture. Now the brunet understood what had changed with the boy. There was confidence in the blond haired lover which Inaho had not seen outside the world of music. Only when Slaine played violin did that confidence shine through – letting the boy take what was rightfully his in the spotlight, but now it showed in the way he walked and moved. It was heard in his voice and shown in his expression.

Slaine turned around again but this time to look at Inaho. He coaxed him closer by calling for him with flicking his finger. Come to me it said.

Those eyes…’ Inaho thought and looked at the sharp and confident eyes looking back at him. ‘Like that of a young man…’

Inaho obeyed Slaine’s call and joined the blond in sitting down in between the sculpture’s letter V and E. The E letter had a perfect little ledge to sit on, and the space was just enough for two to sit in.

“Why are we hiding?” Inaho asked and looked at Slaine who sipped coffee from the cup in his hand. The boy’s other hand was buried in the paper bag to take out the sandwich he had bought at the café.

“We’re not going to make it all too easy for the police to recognize us, are we?” Slaine said with a childish pout.

Inaho smiled hearing the child in the boy speak. It made a comfortable break to the new confident Slaine peeking through, who felt much more adult than Inaho felt himself to be. Inaho wondered if the reason to why Slaine was suddenly so confident had to do with their first time making love since he had never seen his lover like that before without holding a violin. If that was the case he found it amusing. Had it truly been the only thing holding Slaine’s confidence from emerging?

“Does it make you feel more adult now?” Inaho asked emotionlessly – as always.

Slaine looked at him to gather his thought around what Inaho had said, and then blushed slightly and smiled nervously.

“W-well, I guess it does,” he answered candidly. “I mean, it feels as if we have finally closed the last gap between us. I loved you a lot before all this, but now I really know you are my future. It feels as if our future is sealed, if you know what I mean?”

“Sealed?” Inaho wondered out loud and Slaine blushed heavier.

“Um… You know, like marriage…”

That instant Inaho chuckled. Suddenly his heart awoke from the calm and comfortable rhythm of relaxation and began to flutter so violently Inaho could not help himself from laughing quietly with his hand over his lips as the silly sensation grew. Slaine blushed hotter and pouted.

“It makes you feel like we got married last night?” Inaho asked once he calmed down.

“Stop laughing. I’m serious,” the boy mumbled, and Slaine’s protesting made that silly laughter well up in Inaho once again. “What!? I mean it!”

You’re making me dizzy with joy,’ the brunet thought with overwhelming happiness. Never before had Inaho felt this strong emotions. Never in his life had he imagined to be so invested in a relationship with another person as he was in this relationship with Slaine. The blond had – though his passionate emotions and expressive character – made Inaho slowly understand more and more about what it meant to have a relationship. More and more did the brunet learn to recognize emotions he had not thought existed and never before had he been so close to someone else as he was to Slaine now.

Where do I end and where does he begin when we’re together like this?’ the brunet wondered.

Inaho stopped laughing at that thinking moment. He heard Slaine protest about his laughter somewhere right next to him and the brunet turned to look at him.

“… and it felt so huge and all so I thought of it as something similar to how marrying the one you love would feel like, so stop laughing! It’s not that amusing,” the blond complained. His cheeks were crimson and his voice shook from embarrassment.

“I know…” Inaho said and stared at him with seriousness.

Slaine was taken aback from Inaho’s sudden answer.

“What? You know what?” the blond asked surprised.

“About what we did being very meaningful,” Inaho answered.

Slaine’s gaze flickered around from confusion before the blue eyes rested on Inaho again.

“What do you mean?” he asked unsurely.

What did Inaho really mean? The brunet had to quickly gather his thoughts to be able to define the feeling he felt. As he looked at Slaine he saw a partner. He saw a lover. Yet, it was deeper than that. They were two different beings – that was a fact. Then why did he feel like they were one?

“I must say I’m not sure of what I mean,” Inaho honestly said. “I just simply feel like we’re closer than ever before.”

Slaine sighed with relief.

“See, I told you it would make us feel a bunch of good emotions, didn’t I?” he said. Inaho believed the blond referred to their argument about having sex a while back in the boy’s kitchen. “I don’t know about you but I feel great about what we did last night and earlier this morning.”

The boy said it with confidence and pride.

“I’m sure you do,” Inaho said meaningfully and a blush crept over Slaine’s cheeks once again after the boy had taken a couple of seconds to ponder on what Inaho had meant. The blush reached all the way to the tip of his ears

“What’s that supposed to mean?” the blond cried embarrassed.

“You certainly seemed to enjoy yourself during those moments,” Inaho declared and smiled.

Slaine nearly fell forward and smash his face into the letter V in front of them from shocking mortification.

“W-w-well so d-did you!” the boy stammered self-consciously and glared at Inaho with childish anger.

“Yes, I did,” the brunet answered frankly while feeling amused by his lover’s innocent reaction.

♪♫♪♫

They spent the oncoming hour inside the statue, chatting away at everything that came to mind. Slaine enjoyed it despite he felt worried about being found. The boy had no way of predicting how he would react once the police would come to find them. Maybe he would be brave and stand tall or maybe he would act frightened.

Inaho had decided to speak about his childhood and Slaine listened with great interest now that he got to know his lover’s past. He learned Inaho and Yuki had grown up at an orphanage and later – once Yuki had been old enough – they moved into an own apartment where his sister had taken care of them both. According to Inaho the life at the orphanage had been nothing but miserable. The brunet had been bullied for not being like the other kids, and even if Inaho had gotten his revenge on the bullies by a masterfully crafted plan, Slaine still felt shocked to hear the quiet and always composed Inaho to have gone through something like that.

It sounds like a horrible childhood,’ the blond thought and found some similarities between them; both of them had gone through difficult lives as children. Slaine had never had a proper home and never had a present father due to the man always being busy, and Inaho had never had parents and had grown up with other children in similar situation as him who had bullied him. None of them had been happy in their childhood. The only thing separating them from each other was their financial situations as well as who had ended up stronger; Inaho and Yuki had been starving as young while Slaine had been well fed. ‘You’re so strong…’ the boy thought with jealousy. Slaine did not feel strong at all in situations which required confrontation. ‘I’m always so scared.’ His father had been protecting him too much, leaving Slaine with little to no skills in handling difficult situations. Then again, he did feel confident now. Maybe he would surprise himself? ‘I have to stay strong when confronting Saazbaum,’ the boy thought troubled.

About two hours went by in the similar manner. Inaho was surprisingly talkative and Slaine dwelled in the joy of hearing his lover speak about himself in such detail. Inaho had told Slaine about what he had been thinking and feeling when he and Slaine had begun to hang out. It was interesting to hear Inaho tell him about when they first met, how curious Inaho had been and how quickly he had become invested in Slaine’s life. It was surprising to hear Inaho had never been so involved with anyone else before, since he had seemed used to caring about people when Slaine had gotten to know him.

Maybe he just knows how hard life can be?

“Could it have been because that was something you could relate to?” Slaine asked as Inaho had explained how he usually cared about people. “I mean, I was in need for help due to a very difficult situation, and since you have been through something bad as well, maybe you knew how to deal with me?”

Inaho stared at him without saying a word at first. Had the brunet taken it as an insult? Had Slaine said something that was out of hand? The blond waited nervously for what Inaho would say, and once the brunet opened his mouth to speak he said:

“That could be correct. Now that you mention it I realize our difficult pasts could have been the main reason we got along so well from the start.”

Slaine was about to speak when a female voice interrupted them:

“Inaho Kaizuka and Slaine Saazbaum Troyard?”

The boys looked up at a woman in police uniform standing in front of the sculpture where the boys were hiding, and Slaine’s heart began to beat wildly in his ribcage. His initial thought had been they should run away from her, but once he noticed she seemed kind and respectful by the look in her eye, he decided to stay put. Slaine had always imagined police officers – except Yuki – to have great authority and did not hesitate to display it.

“Yes,” Inaho said and stood up from where they had been sitting inside the sculpture.

Slaine followed the brunet out from their hiding place and both of them stood before the police officer. Slaine noticed a male officer was waiting further away – probably as backup in case the boys would turn out to be violent.

“You are announced missing and your guardians are worried about you. I kindly ask you to come with me to the police station where we will contact your guardians,” the woman said and Slaine tensed up incredibly from nervousness as Saazbaum’s angry expression came to mind.

Slaine and Inaho exchanged a glance and both of them silently agreed to entwine their fingers tightly like a couple holding hands, and then nodded to her. The police officer tried to mask her surprise seeing it but she quickly seemed to understand as she smiled gently – much like a mother. ‘Like Yuki…’ Slaine thought and began to relax. The officer seemed to recognize their situation and the reason to why they had run away from home; it was probably not that unusual for teenagers who loved someone of the same sex to run away from home.

They obediently followed the woman to the police station just about a minute’s walk from the sculpture and got inside the building. They were shown to a waiting room deep inside the building – probably to prevent the boys from running away – and were asked if they wanted something to eat and drink. Slaine did not hesitate to ask for hot chocolate – simply because he felt like consuming something sweet and hot now that he felt nervous – and Inaho followed his example and asked for the same thing as well.

“It’s been really fun,” Slaine whispered once the police officer disappeared to prepare hot chocolate for the boys. They sat down on a navy blue couch standing in a corner and kept holding each other’s hands to find some kind of support that would help them calm down.

“I agree. Thank you,” Inaho answered quietly and squeezed Slaine’s hand just slightly harder.

Once the police officer came back with two generic white porcelain cups with hot chocolate she let the boys know their guardians would arrive any moment. Slaine was taken aback from the news since he had believed it would have taken at least a couple of hours for Saazbaum and Yuki to get to the capital city to bring the boys home. Had they traveled to Tokyo already to wait for the boys to be found? The police officer was kind enough to ask about their reasons of running away though, which made Slaine like her. Questions about their relationship status and what their guardians thought about it came at the boys, and Inaho helped Slaine to answer her.

“So you ran away because Mr. Saazbaum Troyard’s guardian wants to bring his son to Germany and end your relationship?” she asked and Slaine nodded while Inaho answered:

“Since Slaine’s adoptive father did not listen to his wishes we thought there was no other choice but to make him listen this way.”

The woman smiled wryly, clearly not liking the idea too much.

“That is really brave of you but something could have happened to both of you, like getting robbed or kidnapped,” she said. “Japan is safe most of the time but we battle with criminals every day like any other country in the world. Something really bad could have happened to you if the wrong people found you. These kinds of people know runaway teens when they see one and know how to exploit them.”

Slaine felt ashamed and remembered that one guy who had called out to him outside one of the bars in Shinjuku ni-chōme. A chill ran down his spine while thinking about it and listening to the police officer’s warning. Inaho stayed quiet as well. The brunet was probably not feeling ashamed as the police officer scolded them kindly since he had been perfectly aware of the risks while Slaine had not been thinking much about it. Inaho could be rational and logical and think out possible outcomes and situations before they happened, while Slaine was mostly naïve in his way of thinking. Inaho could be a step ahead no matter what situation he would be thrown in while Slaine had to wait for a situation to happen and then act accordingly. The brunet had probably foreseen a lot of situations and probably protected the blond from more dangers during their runaway than Slaine could realize.

He’s so levelheaded while I’m busy being emotional…’ the blond boy thought and sighed heavily as he suddenly felt clumsy as a person.

The door opened and a second police officer entered the room. Behind him was two grownups; a female and a male. A mixture of relief and fear struck Slaine at seeing the kind and gentle Yuki and the dominant and cold Saazbaum.

“Nao! Slaine!” Yuki exclaimed with a high pitched voice and hurried over to the boys to hug both of them tightly. “I’ve been so worried about you that I have hardly slept a wink. I’m so glad you both are fine!”

Slaine would have adored the warm and soft hug the woman gave him out of care, but all he could do was to stare at his adoptive father over Yuki’s shoulder. The tall man stared back at the boy with a stern look, towering over everyone in the room broodingly. The police officers left the room to give the boys and their guardians a private space to speak to each other but Slaine felt petrified at them leaving him alone with Saazbaum like that. The blond did not know if his adoptive father would be angry enough to punish him in a similar way as Cruhteo would have done, or if the man could actually be reasoned with in a time as this.

“I’m sorry, Yuki-nee,” Slaine heard his lover say to his sister.

“Silly boys…” Yuki sighed and let go of them. Slaine could not let Saazbaum go with his gaze and Yuki seemed to notice it, but the woman decided not to mention it. “Are you hungry? Should we have some dinner somewhere before we return home?” she asked instead.

“We haven’t been starving,” Inaho countered. “We had brunch not too long ago.”

While Slaine stared at his guardian he understood Saazbaum must have been really angry for Slaine taking out so much money and spent it so irresponsibly without permission. Usually Saazbaum would not have cared but now that the boys had done something as reckless as running away and financing it all with Slaine’s bank account, the man would not be happy. The man had been trusting the boy with the responsibility a bank card implied and now Slaine had gone and wrecked his trust entirely.

Saazbaum gave him a harsh look – letting the boy know how angry he was without blinking even once during their deadlock – before he looked at Yuki.

“I will prepare the train tickets back to Shinawara,” he said to the woman who turned to give him a bow of appreciation.

“I am greatly thankful for your support,” Yuki said sincerely.

It surprised not only Slaine but Inaho as well to see the brunet’s sister be so formal with the man. Yuki had always been perky around him, letting the man know she did not respect him for his money count at the bank. Was it a sign of Saazbaum being so angry even Yuki had to abide to keep him calm?

Saazbaum nodded and left the room and Slaine breathed a deep breath of nervousness. All the warmth sipped out of him now that he knew how angry Saazbaum was.

“Is he very angry?” Slaine asked Yuki who sighed and frowned.

“He is… He took it pretty hard that you ran away and didn’t even bring your cellphone with you. I bet your phone will get bombarded with missed calls once you power it up again; he was trying to call you like crazy even if he knew you didn’t have your cellphone with you.” Yuki chuckled tiredly. “I even thought he would lose his mind eventually when he insisted on calling your cellphone despite it being right next to him on the table. I think he was more worried than I was.”

Slaine stared at her with shock. Had Saazbaum had such a difficult time of handling the situation Slaine had put in him? Something stung in the blond boy’s heart as he realized something he had not been prepare for: Guilt enveloped him.

I was being so scared of him disowning me, but I ended up making him afraid of it too by running away…

As Saazbaum came back he had prepared tickets for them on the next train to Shinawara. Slaine and Inaho followed their guardians out of the police station without letting go of each other’s hands, and once they got outside Saazbaum put an uncomfortable hand on Slaine’s shoulder as if he feared Slaine would run away at the first chance he got. Slaine wondered if it was supposed to be a sign of care and worry but since the boy was inexperienced with such things he got the feeling Saazbaum was trying to control him. “I won’t let you run away again” the touch told him which made a bad taste spread in the blond’s mouth.

But according to Yuki he was worried,’ Slaine thought and decided that was Saazbaum’s reason. ‘Is he angry because I made him worry that much?’ The blond boy worried he had made things worse by running away and that Saazbaum would use his anger to not listen to anything Slaine had to say. ‘I hate being this suspicious all the time about people!’ he thought frustrated.

They arrived to Shinjuku station from where they took a taxi – paid by Saazbaum – to Shinagawa station. Yuki was speaking ever so cheerily to the boys now that she was calm after finding them. She asked them about their adventures and seemed genuinely surprised of hearing about the boys spending time in a museum, walking around Shinjuku to explore the ciity and staying at a cinema nearly an entire day. Saazbaum on the other hand was not talkative at all. He was the silent type when angry – a type which resembled Cruhteo a lot. It made Slaine hyper focused on the man’s every move, fearing the man would strike him. He worried Saazbaum would do that the moment they were left alone by Yuki and Inaho. Inaho noticed the atmosphere around the man and the boy, and Slaine felt Inaho grip his hand tighter and brush the back of Slaine’s hand with his thumb to let the boy know he was there.

The Hikari train – the Tokaido Shinkansen – arrived to its designated platform. The trip would take about four hours all in all with one stop at Maibara, and to Slaine’s shock the Kaizuka and Saazbaum family would spend those hours separated from each other. Saazbaum had deliberately booked seats for him and Slaine in the first class green car while the Kaizuka siblings were to sit in the ordinary car section. The blond looked at his lover right before they were separated to get onboard the right cars where their reserved seats were, and Inaho answered Slaine’s worried look.

I see you in Maibara next,’ Slaine thought and said voicelessly to his beloved he loved him.

It was a long and tedious trip. Saazbaum did not speak a word to Slaine and Slaine kept silent as well and accepted Saazbaum’s silent anger. At Maibara they changed to a train toward Shinawara, and once they arrived a taxi was waiting for Slaine and Saazbaum. Yuki’s car stood at the parking lot waiting for the Kaizuka siblings.

“Inaho…,” Slaine whispered breathlessly as he felt Saazbaum guide him away from the brunet toward the car. The boy pulled himself free and ran up to Inaho and put his arms around the boy, holding him so tightly Slaine was sure Inaho was hurting. “I love you…”

“I’ll be waiting,” he heard his lover whisper back against the crook of Slaine’s neck.

“How can you be so calm?” the blond asked while his heart was aching so horribly. “I’m breaking apart…!”

“I’m not calm but I can compose myself because I trust you. I know you won’t disappear if your father decides to take you to Germany. You promised me this morning you will be back.”

Slaine smiled with the first tear running down his cheek hearing his silent pledge from that morning had come across to his lover through their intimate gaze in a heated moment.

“So it did come through to you…?” he asked and felt Inaho nod.

“A voiceless message has never been as clear to me as that,” was the answer.

“Slaine,” he heard Saazbaum command somewhere behind him and Slaine’s heart skipped an anxious beat before running wild in his chest. It was the first word Saazbaum had spoken to him.

“I’ll call you whenever I can if I won’t see you again for a while,” Slaine whispered and pulled himself back a little to kiss his lover. He did not give a damn if they were in public and his adoptive father saw them share a desperate kiss. Slaine even deliberately wanted to show the man how much Inaho meant for him in an attempt to give the man a reason for Slaine to stay in Japan.

“Boys,” Yuki sighed saddened with a slightly quivering voice. “You can’t stall this forever.”

There was pain in Yuki’s voice and it resonated in Slaine’s mind, making him feel worse. Were they such a sorrowful sight it made Yuki’s voice shake while watching them?

“Slaine!”

A harsh hand grabbed Slaine’s arm and pulled him away from Inaho. Slaine stumbled backwards and bumped against Saazbaum, who grabbed him by his wrist and pulled him along toward the taxi. The man was angry. So, so angry. Slaine dared not to disobey him now that the man was aggressive enough to become physical with him. Instead the blond looked over his shoulder at Inaho with tears streaming down his cheeks.

“I’ll call you!” Slaine yelled to Inaho and watched Yuki wrap an arm around Inaho’s shoulders to pull him close to her. Inaho watched Slaine with eyebrows pulled together, deep creases forming between them. The boy looked like he was in pain. “I promise I will be back!” the blond assured him. “I promise!”

The last thing Slaine saw was Inaho nod before he was assisted into the taxi, and when the taxi began to move Slaine looked out through the window to get a last glimpse of the boy. The vehicle rounded a corner and Inaho disappeared from Slaine’s view much sooner than the boy was prepared for. Saazbaum – who was sitting next to him in the backseat – did not speak. He had been so silent throughout the entire day it had exhausted Slaine with him trying to soldier through the threatening air around the man. Silent anger was the worst anger Slaine could imagine – mostly because he recognized that as something common with people like Saazbaum and Cruhteo, and since Cruhteo had been cruel Slaine instinctively feared Saazbaum would be the same.

Slaine crawled up on the seat, making himself as small as possible, and cried silently as he leaned against the corner formed by the seat and car door. He was so miserable it drove him mad since now he had no control over the situation. Saazbaum would decide what to do next.

Why do people think they can do whatever they want with me simply because I’m not 18 yet?’ he thought heartbroken. ‘Dad… I’m in a nightmare once again and this time I’m not sure I’m allowed to wake up…

Chapter Text

The car ride home was long and tedious; the distance between the station and home felt longer than it had ever felt before. Inaho stared out the window at the world outside which was grey and lifeless with piles of dirty snow stacked here and there on the ground. It felt as if the sky was pouring down despite the weather being overcast and calm – just like a regular February day. Yuki drove quietly. The silence was probably a way for her to give Inaho a chance to collect himself after what had happened at the station, and Inaho felt grateful and made no attempts to speak to her. He wanted to absentmindedly stare out the window and not think about anything but what had happened.

The boy could not be angry at Saazbaum. Inaho did not feel any kind of threat from him even if he did feel sorrow for the man not accepting him as Slaine’s lover. Despite Inaho had difficulties with socializing with others he had gotten enough experience he recognized a stubborn personality like Saazbaum’s. The man had been acting the way he had simply because he was prideful, and Slaine had hurt that pride – which in turn was something Saazbaum was probably not used to. Inaho disliked generalizing but he wondered if Saazbaum was one of those who had paid their way through life; always getting what he wanted one way or another simply because he could afford it. It was not necessarily something bad, the boy continued thinking. If he had the money he would use it the way he wanted if it benefited him – anything else would be ridiculous. Now that the man had to face a boy he could not buy – who Saazbaum genuinely cared about as well – he had to face the harsh truth about reality. Slaine was a teenager with a strong will – so strong he could turn manipulative if he learned to let go of his phobic nature of worrying about what others thought about him. Saazbaum would have had to face what it meant to take care of a teenager sooner or later. That time was now.

He has to let go of his pride to handle Slaine, who also has a lot of pride. Slaine will be the last to back down,’ Inaho thought and shoved his hand into his coat pocket where he felt the keychain padlock he had gotten from Slaine after his business trip to Amsterdam. The brunet believed in the metaphor of the padlock much stronger now than before they had ran away. Their love was forever and Slaine would fight for it. Inaho was sure of it. The brunet could not do anything to help Slaine anymore; he had done all he could and now was the time when Slaine had to face his adoptive father and be brave. The battlefield was his alone now. The confidence Slaine had gotten from their intimate night was probably enough to arm him to his teeth if the boy only could realize it. Inaho had faith in him since the blond boy’s new confidence had been vivid when they were in Tokyo, and the way Slaine had held Inaho and kissed him just moments ago was proof Slaine was adult enough to handle this situation. That thought alone cheered the brunet up just enough to ask his sister if he should prepare dinner once they got home.

♪♫♪♫

They arrived inside Slaine’s apartment. It felt somehow nostalgic to be back despite the boy had only been away for three days. Those days felt much longer than that, as if he had been away for a lifetime. So many insightful things had happened on those three short days that he felt as if he was a completely new person returning home. The smell of the apartment was close to how he remembered it, but something new drifted in the air. It was someone else’s scent. As the lights were turned on and they cast their illuminating guidance across the hall the door closed behind him and Slaine jumped discretely. He was trapped in his own apartment with Saazbaum blocking his path like an angry guard dog. Once Slaine had removed his shoes and coat, and put down the backpack, he stood frozen to the spot while listening to Saazbaum remove his shoes and coat in silence. Slaine’s breaths echoed in his own ears shallowly as he waited for the man behind him to give him an order.

Without being prepared for the touch he felt his adoptive father take a hold of his upper arm and pull him along into the living room. The boy obeyed in fear of making the situation worse than it already was. There – in the majestic living room – Slaine saw the couch be covered by a blanket and pillows and bed sheets. Someone had been sleeping there and Slaine understood the unfamiliar scent in his own apartment belonged to Saazbaum. The man had been sleeping on the couch, which was a new behavior Slaine had never seen in him before. Saazbaum would always take in at a luxury hotel when he visited Slaine to check up on him.

For how long has he been sleeping there?’ the boy thought baffled and stared at the messy couch after he was let go. ‘Ever since I ran away?’ Slaine was not sure if he should be thankful or worried for Saazbaum staying at his place like that while waiting for Slaine to return home; it was confusing.

Saazbaum began walking back and forth with calm but powerful steps. The man was still upset and Slaine nervously waited for him to speak first. The blond did not dare to open his mouth and have his vocal cords vibrate with a breath and voice to speak. He lowered his head with shame and sorrow and all he could think about was Inaho. Everything he had been through and all the love he had experienced floated in his mind as a desperate attempt to comfort himself.

I’ll be with you someday again, Inaho. I promise,’ Slaine thought and tried to convince himself it was the truth. ‘It is the truth. It can’t be anything else but the truth.’

Those thoughts were a trap Slaine had not foreseen; tears gathered in his eyes and washed away every piece of courage he had left. Inaho had become his greatest weakness and the boy had now clumsily and accidentally used his own weakness as a weapon against himself.

Don’t cry!’ Slaine thought and gritted his teeth. He put all of his strength to squeeze his hands into fists and hold his tears back. If he showed his adoptive father too much weakness he knew the man would exploit it immediately and do what he wanted; force the boy away from his home. ‘I have to be brave!

“Slaine,” the man said suddenly and Slaine nearly squeaked from shock at hearing his name so unexpectedly, but the boy managed to stay silent. Instead he straightened his back and tensed up but did not dare to look at the man. He kept an eye on Saazbaum from the corner of his eyes.

“Y-yes sir…” he breathed anxiously.

“Have you finished rebelling now or should I expect more of that from you?” the man asked.

Saazbaum sounded surprisingly calm even if he was still clearly angry. Slaine hated that calmness. Cruhteo had been like that too, leaving the blond to wonder when the strike would come. There had been no way for Slaine to foretell Cruhteo’s punishment and now he had no way of predicting Saazbaum’s either. This was the first time the man was angry at him and it was excruciating. Slaine would have preferred to be furiously yelled at than wait for the silently boiling anger to show itself in Saazbaum.

But I can’t give up,’ the boy thought and collected his bravery.

“I-it depends, sir,” Slaine mumbled quietly and Saazbaum stopped walking back and forth and instead focused on the boy with a needlelike stare.

“Kindly enlighten me on what it depends on,” his adoptive father said without his tone of voice changing.

Don’t be so unpredictable!’ Slaine thought and breathed in a deep breath to collect his crumbling composure. ‘Be brave, Slaine Troyard. Don’t cry!

“I…” Slaine said quietly and swallowed hard. “I … w-will not leave … Japan…”

There. He had said it. Slaine had protested against his guardian’s wishes; something he had never done before in his short life. It was nerve-wracking since Slaine felt the man’s gaze burn on him for a short while before the man continued:

“You are not the one to decide that, Slaine. You will come with me to Germany and attend a proper music school. You will work with Miss Vers Envers until your contract with Orbital Systems Inc. has been fulfilled, and then you will enroll to the Vers Philharmonic Orchestra together with Miss Vers Envers.” Saazbaum’s way of saying it did not give Slaine any room to object. He was commanding Slaine and the frustration began to grow in the blond. “All of this means you will leave Japan as soon as I have booked a flight to Germany.”

Slaine had to keep fighting for his and Inaho’s relationship. He would not give in this easily simply because he was afraid due to the man’s boiling anger flickering inside the dark eyes staring Slaine down. The boy was sure the man would explode if he kept objecting. Saazbaum would probably punish him, but Slaine’s determination was strong enough he could stay calm and face whatever Saazbaum would do to him; a strike did not hurt anymore. Cruhteo’s last time of abusing Slaine had been the most awful thing the boy had been through; Saazbaum could not possibly be worse.

I will not fear your strike,’ the boy swore silently. ‘You will have to either drag me or carry me out of this apartment; I won’t go with you willingly no matter how childish I have to become.’

“It w-will do no good, sir,” the blond said quietly and forced the tears back.

Saazbaum stood still and did not raise his voice against Slaine for arguing with him. Instead he stared the boy down for a couple of extra seconds before saying:

“I will bring you with me kicking and screaming if I have to. Give me a good reason not to, Slaine. You have angered me greatly with lying to me and breaking my trust in more ways than one.”

Slaine knew all that. He knew how ill-mannered he had been and what trouble he had put Saazbaum through. The boy hesitated and took a deep breath again. He wanted to put his arms around himself for comfort but he had to stay strong. To stay calm and strong he took a couple of slow breaths to fill his lungs and relieve stress. How was he supposed to play the violin without Inaho around? How could he play anything but sorrowful songs as tribute for his heartbreak of missing Inaho and longing for him? They would be thousands of kilometers away from each other – 9000 to be more precise. It was a tragically long distance between two lovers and would be a perfect source for heartbreaking songs; songs no lover should have to play.

“Because I cannot play in Germany…” the boy protested carefully, lowering his head.

“Why is that, boy?” his adoptive father asked with a darker tone. The man was becoming frustrated; Slaine could hear it.

“B-because … Inaho is not there,” Slaine whispered. Tears threatened to well up in his eyes again. “I cannot p-play if I am separated from my muse… I will feel lonely and it will be reflected through the sound of my violin… Earlier I could play without a muse since t-the violin was all I needed, b-but now that is not enough…”

A frustrated sigh filled the otherwise silent room and Slaine stiffened when he noticed in the corner of his eyes Saazbaum raising his hand. For a short moment the boy expected the man to slap him across his cheek and he made himself prepared for an unexpected impact by closing his eyes tightly and gritting his teeth. When seconds passed without any pain he opened his eyes slowly only to be surprised to see Saazbaum pulling his fingers through his own hair to relieve tension. The confusion slapped Slaine instead; he had been so sure his adoptive father would slap him that he could not have expected anything else to happen.

“Do not become an obstinate child, Slaine. You cannot build a family with a man,” he said and Slaine lowered his head further. “Even if you adopt a child in the future your musical talent will not pass onto the next generation since the child is not biologically yours.”

Slaine could not understand why Saazbaum was so concerned about Slaine reproducing once he got old enough to become a father. Was it more important to have a child who inherited Slaine’s talent than being with the one he loved? How could anyone demand something like that from another human being? How could Saazbaum demand Slaine to have a child with someone he did not want or love? How was that fair to anyone? Inaho’s words from days ago floated into his mind. The boys had been standing in Slaine’s kitchen right after Slaine had arrived back home from Amsterdam. They had been talking about Saazbaum’s plan on pairing Slaine with Lemrina for the sake of a biological child who would inherit Slaine’s and Lemrina’s talents.

“It is environmental!” Slaine blurted out before he had the time to change his mind and stay silent instead of arguing for his right to be with his lover. “There is no proof t-talent is hereditary!”

Slaine could not let the man get away with deciding his life for him. If Slaine did not fight for his right to make the life changing decisions for himself then what purpose was there for living? Slaine had to make his voice heard. He owed himself that as much as he owed it to Inaho.

Saazbaum was surprised of Slaine’s outburst and stared at the boy with sharp eyes, before answering:

“There is a reason why musicians come from a long family line of musicians, Slaine,” the man said.

He sounded slightly more frustrated than before, and the man’s persistence of arguing back frustrated Slaine as well. They would keep arguing until someone did or said something that would end it; neither of them would back down until one of them had gotten hurt.

This will turn into a heated argument!’ the boy thought terrified. ‘But I have more to fight for than you; I have Inaho to fight for while you have some stupid principles to hold onto!’ Slaine had to keep talking and convince his adoptive father Slaine had found his future in Japan.

“I don’t w-want to have a child,” Slaine said with a slightly stronger voice. If he did not collect his determination and showed it to the man, Saazbaum would trample all over him. It made Slaine lose his verbal manners and come closer to the raw version of himself; the one he truly was: “I don’t want to be with Lemrina. She can’t inspire me to play and so I don’t want a child with her!”

“Your family’s musical talent will die with you if you-!”

Simply hearing Saazbaum use those words as an argument made Slaine’s mind suddenly flash with a white flare. It reached out into his entire being, burning him from the inside out, and the only way to relieve him from the aggressive fire was to raise his own voice:

“Then so be it!” Slaine yelled and looked up at this adoptive father. He was aware of how rude he had been for interrupting the man and tears gathered in his eyes, this time from blazing anger. He would not let the man decide his future for him. Saazbaum would not be able to convince him to build a family with someone he did not love. He took a step forward, showing Saazbaum his sincerity by staring back at him. “If I can’t play then there is no talent to pass on! I need my inspiration. I need to be allowed to dwell in it. Without Inaho I can’t play anything but songs of grief! I’ll be useless as a violinist!”

Saazbaum became taller and loomed over the boy to show him his authority but Slaine did not back down despite his heart’s panicked beats hammering wildly in his ribcage.

Strike me if you have to but I won’t let you silence me or my violin by separating me from Inaho!’ the boy thought and did not break eye contact with his adoptive father. He had to be brave and stare back at him.

Fury flickered in Saazbaum’s gaze. It began to slowly sizzle and infect the man’s entire expression in both face and body. Never had Slaine felt smaller in the presence of his adoptive father than he did now. Saazbaum’s eyes were dark and prideful, strong and demanding.

“Then what use do you have, boy, if you cannot play the violin!?” his adoptive father then finally yelled.

At that Slaine felt an ice cold wave wash over him. The man disowned him with those words. All of Slaine’s thoughts came to a halt. Shame, guilt and fear stormed up inside him so violently he nearly lost his footing and he could not hold back his tears anymore. His heart ached almost as if it was crumbling into pieces, and just before he turned around to run he saw regret in his adoptive father’s eyes. He could not stay to wonder why the man seemed remorseful. Slaine was brutally hurting; he had to find a safe place to suffer, like a wounded animal retiring from a battle to lick its wounds in safety. He wanted to hide and avoid the man now when chaotic emotions welled up inside him from learning he had no other value than a virtuoso carrying Saazbaum’s name.

“Slaine… I-“ Saazbaum began with a troubled voice but Slaine shook his head and immediately dashed toward the bathroom. “Slaine!”

The boy hurried into the bathroom and began to cry uncontrollably the instant he turned the lock on the door. Saazbaum’s words hurt so horribly he could not contain his sobbing voice and he put his arms around himself to prevent his self from falling to pieces. Had he no other use than to play the violin? Had it been the only reason Saazbaum had adopted him, to carry his name and not because the man wanted to pay back a debt to the boy’s late father for saving him years back?

Slaine? Open the door, boy!” he heard Saazbaum say distressfully from the other side of the locked door. “Come back out here and talk to me, Slaine.

He was cornered. Slaine had nowhere safe to run and it stabbed his mind with helplessness. He found himself beyond the ability to speak about what had just happened; he was not calm enough. Breathing was hard; his chest felt tight from angst and loneliness. Once again an adult had turned their back to him. Once again the boy was all alone in the world.

Or that was how it felt for the boy standing in a violent turmoil of hurtful emotions.

Slaine? Open the door and let me-“

“NO! When I turn 18 years old you will be dead to me!” Slaine yelled crying and hurried over to the shower to turn it on as a desperate attempt to drown out Saazbaum’s voice before the man had had time to answer the boy’s harsh words. Slaine could not take time to care about Saazbaum’s hurt since the boy’s emotions were raising havoc in his mind.

He turned the faucet to the highest and cold water washed over him. Slaine was so filled with anguish the cold did not affect him. Slowly the water began to warm up as it washed him. The water wetted his hair and clothes while he stood beneath the showerhead and leaned against his hands which found support from the tiled wall. His adoptive father’s voice was muffled by the falling water, giving Slaine relief and calm. The knocks and the muffled voice slowly faded away as Saazbaum gave up, and Slaine sunk down on the floor and continued crying against his knees.

I knew it… He wanted me for my name and talent, not because he cares about me,’ Slaine thought. The boy felt like he was treated as a purebred animal with Lemrina as his mating partner. Slaine’s family name was a curse – a pedigree for Saazbaum to be proud of owning. ‘I’m not an animal! I’m a person! I can’t do something that thoughtless and emotionless like marry a woman I don’t know!

Slowly his pain began to subside as the weighty sensation of the heaviness of his wet clothes was comfortable, keeping his mind in the realm of here and now instead of allowing his thoughts to spin further out of control. They felt like a warm blanket around him, comforting him like the arms of his lover.

Inaho…

Oh, how he missed the other boy. They had been away from each other for a half an hour at most after they were separated from each other at the Shinawara station, but for Slaine it felt like years. The sensation of Inaho’s lips against his made itself reminded as his lips tingled longingly. He sighed heavily while water dripped from his lips and chin. He wanted to be with Inaho more than anything but he knew he could not stay in the shower for the rest of his life. Once again he was being afraid and stalled the confrontation he had to face. Hiding like this was the way of a coward – Slaine knew that.

But I’m so tired…

If he went out there Saazbaum would have his way with him. He had to prove to his adoptive father how much he was hurting but how could he do that when the man refused to listen to his words when he tried to tell him that? They had to speak the same language in order for the man to understand how important Inaho was to the blond.

Then it came to him.

Slaine raised his head to look at the door. He had to show the man how much he loved Inaho. He had to prove to him there was nothing but Inaho. The boy had to speak the same language as Saazbaum to make the man hear him.

Slowly he got up from the floor and turned the shower off. With the water dripping around him – leaving small puddles behind the boy – he walked up to the door and unlocked it. When he slowly opened it the hall outside was empty of life, and so he dared to sneak out of the bathroom. Silently he walked down the carpeted hall floor while the water dripped around him, and he looked into the kitchen. Saazbaum was not there. He walked past the kitchen door and then got to the three way crossing. A movement was caught by the corner of his eye to his left and the boy turned to look into his bedroom. On the balcony he saw Saazbaum tiredly lean against the railing with a hand buried in his dark hair with slumped shoulders. The man reminded Slaine about his late father when he had been lonely and sad when Slaine had been a child. Slaine could not help but to feel sorry for Saazbaum anyway despite the way the man had treated him; Slaine was too passionate to feel vengeful and to think it suited the man right to be downhearted like that. He had not been able to be vengeful even toward Cruhteo after the man had ruined Slaine’s left hand fingers and broken one of the boy’s ribs simply because he was able to.

With relief from finding the living room vacant, Slaine hurried to the bookshelf where he stored his music books and sheets, and then took out the bundle of unfinished scores. He found the one he was looking for and put the music sheet on the music stand. Then he went on to pick up the electronic violin from its case where it stood next to his desk, raised it to his shoulder, stood before the music stand, and began to play with his back against the living room door. He would have wanted to play on his father’s violin but since he was wet to the bone the wood would have taken damage from the water. He had to settle with the purple colored violin instead.

The tune was tragic despite the violin not being connected to an amplifier. He played exactly as he felt like he should to communicate his heartbreak to whoever heard his song. It was beautiful and sad enough Slaine felt a lump in his chest grow, as if his heart would explode from pressure.

A presence made itself known behind him and he knew Saazbaum had come back from the balcony. The boy’s heart began to beat faster from distress but he bravely kept playing.

Listen to my Sempre Fantasia score,’ he thought and intensified the sound he created. ‘Hear how much my heart bleeds.’

He was playing the score he had shown Yuki a while back; the score he had been composing which allowed the player to play freely according to their mood. It could be joyful. It could be aggressive – but now it was nothing but sorrowfully begging its listener to show mercy.

The man did not interrupt him, nor did he get any closer. Slaine was grateful for the man giving the boy some distance to let him show him what he was feeling. The bow stroked the strings and made them sing with life, and by that Slaine became entirely bare. The boy exposed his pain and held his heart out for the man to look at it and see how alive it had become of being subjected to Inaho’s presence. The strings cried for Slaine’s exposed heart to be allowed to continue beating; to let the boy live for a breath longer. The sound from them tore at Slaine’s soul and he hoped the sound shredded Saazbaum’s mind and heart to pieces.

The song slowly faded once Slaine came to the end. Slowly he released the pressure on the strings by making his strokes lighter. The strings vibrated quieter and quieter, letting the stillness suffocate them, and then the room fell into a deafening silence. The boy lowered the violin from his shoulder and let it hang at his side as he turned around toward the man who had been watching him. When Slaine felt courageous enough he raised his blue eyes to look at his adoptive father and they shared the gaze for a moment in silence. Saazbaum’s expression was calm but concerned.

“This is how I will sound like if you take me away from here,” Slaine said quietly with a steady but sorrowful voice. “My father’s violin was the reason I could play with a range of emotion in the past, but now it is not enough anymore since he has made my skill grow. I love him, father – more than anything.”

Saazbaum sighed the boy’s name and lowered his eyes to shake his head. He looked tired as well.

“Slaine… I only want what is best for you,” the man said.

“How can you say it is the best for me to take me away from my home? How can you say it is the best for me to separate me from the one I love?” the boy asked. “Is it the best for me to solely live for the sake of breeding and playing violin?”

“No,” Saazbaum said quietly.

“Then why did you say my only worth is to play the violin?” the boy wanted to know as tears waited to fall from his eyes – making his sight blurry.

“Slaine… You made me angry and I went out of hand, saying things I did not mean. I ask for your forgiveness since I have never been this frustrated about anyone before. Please bear in mind I have no experience of being a father, and sometimes I wonder if I am trying too hard so that I end up hurting you,” the man said bravely. “It worries me gravely to see you suffer through difficulties in school and your arthritis since I feel as if I fail being a parent. I wanted to believe I could take all of that away if I controlled your present and guided you toward what I considered to be the right direction, and by that give you a safe future.”

Saazbaum explained he had been worried about Slaine’s safety when he had not been able to contact the boy after running away. The man had regretted many things and thought things through, but with the violent emotions of worry and fear of losing Slaine Saazbaum had ended up hurt and angry. He had wondered why Slaine had not called him or given him any sign the boy was alive, and that alone had made Saazbaum’s anger burn hotter than before, making him immaturely want to prove Slaine a point of who was the adult of the two. Once the boys had been found Saazbaum had been lost of what to do and say as a father, resulting in the man’s hurt and anger to blossom further.

Was fear and worry the reason to Saazbaum’s frustration? Slaine remembered Yuki had told him the man had been trying to call Slaine’s cell phone despite the boy’s phone lying next to him on a table. Yes, Saazbaum had been to controlling, Slaine thought. The boy knew he was still nothing but a boy but next year he was to come of age. In January 2016 he would be considered an adult according to German law – a young man who was expected to be independent – and so he had to be allowed to discover what it meant to be an adult before he would face the consequences alone. He was still in need for an adult to hold his hand – he could not deny that – but he wanted to venture out a little more than Saazbaum had planned on allowing him to.

Adulthood is coming too fast. I’m not prepared for it the way I am now…

“I’m soon a grown-up and before that I need to be allowed to make mistakes even if it scares me, father. I want to take responsibilities and prepare myself for becoming an adult,” Slaine said and wiped away his tears with the sleeve to his wet sweater. “I have been lonely for all my life and now Inaho is there to fill that hole in my heart. I know I am still nothing but a kid while crying like this, but I love him so much I cannot be an adult when facing the risk of losing him right now. I know I need you to guide me, but you cannot control me. I want to have more worth than a violinist and reproducing my talent, and I can only find that worth when I am with Inaho. Please, don’t take me away from him…”

Slaine’s voice grew more pathetic for each word he spoke; it quivered and was nearly caught in his throat when he ended his last sentence.

Saazbaum closed the distance between them with long strides, so fast Slaine backed away with surprise and bumped against the music stand behind him. He heard it fall to the floor with a loud clatter and a moment later Saazbaum’s arms closed around him and held him tightly while a hand rested on his blonde head. The scent of his adoptive father became strong as Slaine’s face was pushed against the man’s shirt.

“Of course you have more worth than that, my boy,” the man said sincerely. “You have all the worth in the world.” Slaine furrowed his brows as his heartache was relieved abruptly now that he was allowed to be weak, and he whimpered and raised his hands – still with the violin and bow in hand – to take a hold of Saazbaum’s white shirt. “I am sorry. You are my boy; I should not treat you unfairly.”

Your boy?’ Slaine thought and closed his eyes. It felt so awkward to hear Saazbaum consider Slaine as his true son. Their relationship was still unstable and Slaine had a difficult time of seeing Saazbaum as a real father. Then again, the only experience he had of a father was that of a man who had been busy working for the entirety of Slaine’s life, barely having time for his son outside of the violin lessons. Maybe Saazbaum was clumsy as a parent simply because he was not used to it and maybe Slaine should stop expecting the worst all the time? ‘Dad…’ the boy thought. ‘I guess I’m not in a nightmare this time; I was wrong about him. Your friend is looking out for me, and he is doing that well despite him being clumsy.

Slaine knew he had to let go of his biological father. The man was gone and was nothing but a memory now; a hollow ghost and nothing more. Saazbaum was inexperienced and prideful – Slaine knew that – and the boy had to support his new father in looking after him by not giving the man a hard time. Saazbaum had lost his lover and Slaine had not heard a single word of the man’s family. Maybe Slaine was all the man had, just like Saazbaum being all Slaine had as a family? If that was the case both of them were similar to each other, and it explained a lot of their arguments being so heated. They were both prideful beings who were afraid of being hurt by another; pride was all they had – for better and for worse.

Dad… I won’t cry for you anymore; I’ll settle with simply remembering you,’ Slaine thought and took a deep breath to calm down. ‘I’m ready to let you go and let your friend take over your role…

At that all the tension disappeared from Slaine’s chest and he dared to let go of his inhibitions. He buried his face against Saazbaum’s shirt and did not care if he soaked the man with his wet clothes and hair. His adoptive father did not seem to mind as he held the boy much how Slaine remembered his real father holding him when Slaine had been a child. Saazbaum would never strike him, Slaine realized. That had never been the man’s intention at all. The boy had jumped to that conclusion simply because of trauma caused by Cruhteo and not until now could he relax. Now that the boy thought about it, Saazbaum had only ever shown him support. The man had let him live in Japan alone and he had prepared Slaine’s schooling to be at a normal high school. Saazbaum had gotten Slaine a manager and he had been drying Slaine’s tears when the boy had been crying in the studio a while back.

Why did I doubt him? He is a good man…

“If you want to continue school here in Japan then I will speak to the principal of your school and arrange for you to repeat a year,” he heard Saazbaum say somewhat defeated. “I will hire a physiotherapist again to help you with your arthritis, and I will go with you to the orthopedist to have your fingers thoroughly examined. As for Miss Vers Envers, I do wish for you to work with her at least in one song simply because she is talented and I believe her sound would complement your violin. It is bound to be successful. Will you consider that?”

Slaine sniffled and took a deep breath. Was he able to work with her? She was unpleasant with eyes which saw entirely through him. Could Slaine be able to work with her in one song as Saazbaum wished? Was she that good it was safe to say their song would become successful?

He is compromising with me. I should do the same…’ Slaine thought and finally nodded.

“I will work with her, but only for one song,” the boy said meaningfully.

“That is good enough for me,” answered his adoptive father and patted his head kindly. “You should get out of these wet clothes or you will ruin the carpeted floor and get yourself a cold,” the man then said and they let go of each other.

Slaine nodded and wiped his nose with the wet sweater, feeling slightly embarrassed now that all of the tension between them was slowly disintegrating.

“I’m sorry I ran away…” the boy said. “I’m sorry I worried you so much…”

Saazbaum did not smile – he did not have a habit of doing that – but the man raised one corner of his mouth and took the violin and bow from Slaine’s hands.

“I went out of hand as well, fired up by your passionate flames. I forgive you, and I hope you can do the same for me,” the man said. “Now, get changed and call that Kaizuka boy to let him know the news. He looked quite distressed at the station. I will order something for us to eat in the meantime.”

Slaine stared at Saazbaum for a while. Was the man truly all right with Slaine being in love with Inaho like that? Maybe the man had difficulties of accepting the truth of Slaine loving another boy but at least Saazbaum was considerate enough to give Slaine the freedom of doing that. The man was letting go of the need of controlling Slaine by battling his own war of acceptance and conventionalism alone and independently. It was the sign of their age difference; Slaine was still a child who had to learn how to fight his inner battles and not cry for someone else to fix them for him, but by compromising about working with Lemrina he felt he was slowly getting there.

I have to learn I can’t get what I want all the time,’ Slaine thought as he walked toward the bedroom to change into dry clothes and call Inaho. ‘No matter how hard it is for me to accept it I have to admit I am selfish. For once I fought for what I wanted, and I won the right to love.’

♪♫♪♫

Three months later the crowd was jumping and cheering in the concert hall in Amsterdam one late Saturday evening. Hands waved in the air and the floor vibrated with both the beat of the music and the impact of the crowd jumping. The air was filled with joy and lighthearted confidence which emitted from the stage where a blond haired boy – dressed in a black tailcoat – bounced around with a purple violin in hand, stroking the strings while he stomped on pedals surrounding him on the stage floor to create an upbeat song. The boy was multitasking with the violin and synthesizer system effortlessly. Next to him – on a high chair – a girl sat elegantly with a microphone in front of her and a flute in her hand. She was dressed in a marvelous black and white evening gown which sparkled like stars on the night sky the moment the spotlights swept over her, making her look more adult than she was.

Inaho was watching them from backstage and saw them bring joy to the crowd through the upbeat songs they played together like a single unit. It had proven Slaine and Lemrina were perfectly matched as musicians, timing themselves perfectly with one another. They had been strong as a duo that both of them had agreed they should finish Slaine’s EP entirely together. Despite Inaho felt jealous of seeing them have fun like that he could not deny the girl gave Slaine’s music a nice touch of attitude. Both of them were confident and strong willed – Inaho could see and hear it the way they were on the stage – and whether he liked it or not Saazbaum had been correct about the two. Slaine and Lemrina had been working tirelessly for the concert they now held. Finally – after this concert – the contract with Orbital Systems Inc. was finished and Slaine would be free to concentrate on school and recover his hurting fingers.

Slaine and Lemrina were having the concert in Amsterdam simply because Slaine had made an impact on the crowd during his first performance on the festival. Harklight had advised Slaine to begin his career in Europe simply because he was a European himself and the music the boy created was more popular on the Western stage. Slaine had begged for Inaho to follow him to Amsterdam as the boy’s personal good luck charm, and Inaho had agreed. The brunet had never been outside of Japan before which made this trip exhilarating. Now that Slaine was getting well paid for his promotional job of the synthesizer system Inaho could agree with letting Slaine pay for the expenses – especially since the blond insisted on Inaho being the reason he could play his violin the way he did.

Indirectly you are a part of this job, so I think you should let me pay for your plane tickets and everything else. Just come with me and watch me and give me good luck by being there,” Slaine had argued – and Inaho had not had the heart to say no.

Now Slaine was on the stage together with Lemrina. It had not been easy for the blond boy to work with another musician who had a strong will just like him. Slaine had been forced to swallow his pride and let Lemrina have her way now and then in order to be able to work with her, and each time they had been in the studio Inaho had been forced to listen to Slaine’s complaints once the boy got home. According to Slaine Lemrina was sharp, insulting and stubborn. She would always brutally point out details in their song which needed to be perfected, and Slaine had no choice but to abide to her demands since she was completely intransigent. Inaho rather called it honesty than insult and made Slaine think twice about what the girl was actually telling the blond during times of criticism. Slaine was not used to hearing criticism and now that he got it for the first time in his life he could not help but to take it personally and be secretly stubborn about it as well. Lately he had gotten used to it though – probably since Lemrina had been persistently honest and did not fear letting Slaine know what he had to work with. She was helping him grow as a musician as well as a person, and Inaho was grateful but jealous.

Slaine was jumping around on the pedals with determination and Lemrina was switching her flute to a pan flute and prepared for the next part of their song. They switched between the violin and flutes, complementing each other with the instruments they knew by heart, but all Inaho could focus on was Slaine’s smile as Lemrina began to play again. Slaine was striking where he stood on the stage while the lights flashed playfully with bright colors. He stood taller than ever before, claiming the stage as his as if it was the throne of an emperor. His passionate personality shone through the melody he played and affected everyone listening like he was a well-spoken rhetorician forming the perfect combination of words. Sweat pearled down the boy’s face but he shook it off each time he bounced from one pedal to the next. Slaine’s well practiced fingers danced on the strings smoothly and resolutely and he controlled the bow with such skill it was delightful to watch. He was playful on the stage despite the expression of focus and concentration on his face. Now and then when Slaine hit a perfect note or passed through a difficult part without effort, the boy flashed a bright smile which made Inaho’s heart flutter. It was a self-assured smile so cocky Inaho found his body tingling violently each time. The brunet could not wait for them to finish the concert so he could have Slaine for himself.

Once the last song came to an end the crowd cheered so loud Inaho’s ears rang violently. It was a high pitched scream which cut through the brunet’s eardrums and stabbed his brain harshly, forcing him to cover his ears. The boy and girl thanked the audience before the curtains was lowered to hide them behind it. Immediately Saazbaum and Harklight hurried out onto the stage with Lemrina’s wheelchair and towels. Slaine helped her down from the high chair she had been sitting on throughout the concert and even if Inaho knew the girl put her arms around the boy only to hold onto him when Slaine helped her onto her wheelchair, Inaho still did not like it.

Don’t let her hold you like that,’ the brunet thought.

“Well done, both of you,” Saazbaum praised the teenagers on stage. “You were magnificent together.”

“Thank you, father,” Slaine said happily and took the towel Harklight offered him to dry the sweat from his face.

The boy looked up toward Inaho and gave him a heartfelt smile and made sure Lemrina was well taken care of by Harklight and Saazbaum before he ran toward his lover. Inaho’s heart skipped a beat watching the boy hurry over to him with the brightest smile induced by ecstasy only the stage could give him.

“How was it?” the blond asked excitedly. Slaine’s shirt and suit was drenched in sweat and Inaho offered him a bottle of water he had been carrying in hand. “Oh, thank you,” Slaine breathed and took the bottle and drank greedily.

“You did well,” Inaho answered him and watched Slaine empty nearly the entire bottle. “You look exhausted.”

“That’s because I am,” Slaine chuckled and gasped for breath. “It takes a lot to keep up with the pedals all the time. Sometimes I wish there was two of me.”

“That is because you overwork yourself,” Inaho let him know. “You know the system too well for your own good; you can’t keep up with yourself.”

Slaine sighed and opened his suit. The shirt was stuck to the boy’s skin, revealing the undershirt beneath it – which also was drenched.

“Well…” Slaine sighed and dabbed his chest and neck with the towel. “I think I’m done with the system now. It is fun playing with it but I don’t want to build my career around it.”

“That is a wise decision of you,” they heard Saazbaum say from behind Slaine. Inaho looked up at the man and Lemrina and Harklight come toward them from the stage. “You are talented on the system but an electronic violin does not suit you as well as your father’s does.”

“Thank you, father,” Slaine said happily and his adoptive father patted his shoulder. “I think so too.”

“You should get to the hotel immediately and shower and rest. You boys got a long flight tomorrow back to Japan,” the man said. “Harklight will call a taxi for you.”

“You shall not accompany us, father?” Slaine asked and looked at his father.

“I would have come with you but someone has to make sure Miss Vers Envers gets back home safely to Berlin. I will come to visit you next week in Japan,” Saazbaum answered and turned to look at Inaho. The brunet felt his shoulders tense up from the man’s stare; he had not gotten used to Saazbaum speaking to him yet after Slaine and Saazbaum arguing months back. “Make sure my boy does his homework. I spoke to his homeroom teacher and heard Slaine’s grades are looking better now. Do not let him fall behind,” the man then said.

“Yes sir,” Inaho answered and did not break eye contact with the man.

He waited until Saazbaum turned toward Slaine again to speak to his adoptive son before he let the man go with his gaze. Normally a constant stare like that was a sign of a challenge, but Saazbaum was confident and prideful enough he did not need to stare Inaho down.

The last month of spring had come faster than Inaho had been able to predict and Slaine had been surprised by it due to him working so hard and determinedly that he had now and then lost the sense of time. The boys were now going to the same school and had gotten into the same class due to Slaine repeating a year. Slaine’s grades had instantly gotten better now that he studied the same subjects as Inaho, and they always made sure to do their homework together.

In a way Inaho felt blessed to be allowed so close to Slaine’s life; now he did not have to wait for Slaine to come home from school and the studio; now they could spend more time together. Each school lunch was spent on the roof together with the boys’ mutual friends. There they would joke and laugh about things while eating lunch together, and at times they argued and were everything feisty teenagers were supposed to be. Life had never been more comfortable than it was now and Inaho found himself lucky to experience high school life together with the one he loved. Slaine called it a typical teenage life and each time the blond boy was reminded about it he got stars in his eyes.

Finally I’m really a normal teenager aside my work!’ he would blurt out happily each time the topic was brought up for discussion. The boy had explained his excitement to be based on American teenage movies where the high school kids had lovers and friends going to the same school and planned activities after school. To Inaho’s and Calm’s surprise Slaine was quick to join the girls on a day out in town, and particularly for Calm it had become a bother. If Slaine was willing to go with the girls and shop then the other boy could not decline it either; Calm would not let Slaine be alone with the girls simply because he did not wish to seem boring compared to Slaine. Inaho would merely tag along for the sake of it and be allowed to spend time with Slaine.

Harklight called for a taxi to take the boys to the hotel and within ten minutes the taxi was waiting outside the venue. Slaine told Lemrina good bye and that he would see her in the future. He wished her well and then said good bye to his adoptive father, before the boys got out to the taxi. Inaho was happy to get back to the hotel; the jetlag was making him feel tired and he longed for the soft bed in the hotel room. Slaine on the other hand was energetic and held Inaho’s hand tightly while he spoke with a smile on his lips about the night’s concert.

“How are your fingers?” Inaho asked suddenly and interrupted Slaine. The brunet stroked Slaine’s left hand fingers which were still warm from the evening’s concert.

“They’re fine,” Slaine said and his smile faded slightly. “They hurt a little but they’re fine.”

“You should wear the splints now that the concert is over,” Inaho said and pushed his hand into his blazer to take out two silvery finger splints. “Even if they feel fine you should still wear these.”

Inaho put the first splint onto Slaine’s left hand middle finger and when he was to put the other on the boy’s ring finger Slaine got a blush on his cheeks. It was intimate for the blond letting Inaho tend to his hurting fingers, and each time Inaho put the splints onto the ring finger Slaine considered it romantic in an awkward way.

The two silvery ring splints now decorates Slaine’s damaged fingers on his left hand day and night; one on his ring finger and another on his middle finger. The boy would only remove them when he was to perform or make daily exercises to strengthen his finger muscles. Otherwise he wore them every hour of the day to keep his fingers from moving and preserve whatever was left of his musical ability on the left hand.

If only the splint on the ring finger was an engagement ring,” Nina would jokingly point out now and then only to giggle to Slaine’s reaction of embarrassment each time, and conveniently make Slaine feel better from wearing the ring splints.

The blond boy had begun to practice on playing the violin like a left-handed violinist after he got the devastating news the arthritis in his fingers would get worse with time. Slaine had come back from the orthopedist three months ago with tears in his eyes but with courage and determination flickering somewhere behind the tears. The boy would not be defeated by the chronic pain which would get worse the more he played. Slaine had decided to play until he could not play with his hurting hand anymore and slowly switch to the other instead and continue his career as a left-handed virtuoso. Saazbaum had had a violin prepared for the boy solely for that reason, and Slaine was practicing hard on compensating with the other hand in order to follow his dream of becoming a fulltime violinist. The blond boy had not lately shown as much grief as he did before for losing the talent his biological father had taught him in his boyhood. Slaine was slowly coming to terms with having arthritis and he was facing it bravely like an adult young man who had not lost sight of his future due to a crisis.

Inaho was proud of him.

“Thank you,” Slaine mumbled, still blushing, as the splints were securely put in place and straightened the fingers. “I never seem to get used to you doing this.”

“I’ve only been doing it for nearly three months and it was the doctor’s order for you to wear them,” Inaho said and took a hold of his lover’s hand again and looked out through the window.

“I know,” Slaine said quietly. His healthy fingers squeezed Inaho’s hand a little extra. “It’s still special when you do it though…”

Inaho felt like smiling, and he did. He was helplessly in love with Slaine and he feared he failed letting the blond know. Slaine deserved to hear how much he was loved. He deserved to know he was just as special to Inaho as Inaho was to him.

“Slaine…” the brunet said while he still looked out through the window.

“Hm?”

“I have been thinking a lot lately,” Inaho said candidly. “I’ve been trying to define what it feels like being in love with you – which has been difficult since love is such an abstract feeling. After a while I came to something that might seem like an awkward answer.”

“How so?” Slaine asked curiously. Inaho heard in the blond boy’s voice Slaine could not wait to hear what Inaho had been thinking about. The boy was excitedly waiting for Inaho to spoil him with pretty and special words.

“I discovered this feeling already back in Shinjuku when we were sitting inside the Love sculpture,” the younger boy continued. “I could feel it back then that I could not distinguish us from each other since we were so close. After we became physically intimate this feeling began to grow and now I think I know a definition to how it feels to be in love with you.”

The leather seat creaked as Slaine leaned closer and Inaho turned to look into the blue eyes which anticipated his answer.

“Please, tell me it feels like you’re riding a pink cloud with me, because that’s how I feel,” Slaine whispered, and his ridiculous words took Inaho by surprise and made him chuckle.

“Maybe my description isn’t as imaginative as yours,” Inaho said and calmed down and then looked at Slaine with sincerity. “I noticed that I keep mistaking you for a part of me.”

At first Slaine looked confused and stared at Inaho with his head tilting just slightly. Then a warm smile spread on the boy’s lips and he raised his hands to put them on Inaho’s cheeks and leaned closer to gently push his forehead against his lover’s.

“That’s because I am,” Slaine whispered and their breaths mingled between their lips. “And I will be yours to remind you of that night and day, whenever you wish.”

There was heat between them – the kind of heat which had nothing to do with temperature. It poured out from between Slaine’s rosy lips, fired up by the boy’s sexual nature and intoxicated the brunet. Ever since they had begun to have sex regularly Slaine was quick to seduce the brunet in whatever way he felt like at the time. Inaho could not say no since his hunger for Slaine was endless, and right now he was sure Slaine was using that weakness to tease him.

“Is that a hint?” Inaho asked even if he knew what Slaine had meant with his last words.

Slaine smiled seductively and playfully bit down on his lower lip to drag his teeth over it while staring coyly into Inaho's eyes.

“Yes? I’m very, very hungry tonight and I expect some dinner once we get to the hotel,” his lover purred cunningly. “And you?”

Inaho smiled and closed the distance between them to nibble on Slaine’s soft lips with his. The tingly sensation from seeing the brash smile on Slaine’s lips from before as the blond boy had been playing on the stage floated back into Inaho’s mind. The memory of that smile thrilled him.

“I’m starving,” the brunet answered and pushed their lips together – and he heard his lover chuckle with delight.

Chapter Text

A sound awoke him. It was a quiet sound, as if it was trying to whisper to someone ever so calmly. Inaho opened his eyes and looked out into the darkness of Slaine’s apartment, and saw a weak but warm light peek through the crack between the door and doorframe. Inaho’s body was weak after the exhaustion from traveling to Amsterdam in Europe to watch Slaine play together with the girl the brunet did not like too much. Jetlag was a new experience for the Japanese boy, and he wondered how Slaine was able dealing with it without effort.

Inaho had no need to turn around to see if the other side of the bed was empty or not. Those beautiful whispering sounds were the proof of his lover being up in the middle of the night and having a secret rendezvous. Heavily Inaho pushed himself up from the bed and yawned before he got up. The cool air of the apartment felt chilling against his naked skin, and he swept the navy blue morning robe around him. The burgundy robe, which usually hung next to Inaho’s, was gone.

Inaho could still feel the soreness in his exhausted muscles after Slaine’s unquenchable appetite when it came to intimacy in all of its forms; the same moment they had gotten home Inaho’s lover had been coaxing the brunet toward the thrilling edge Inaho was still not entirely used to. Now the activity they had had a couple of hours earlier made itself reminded in Inaho as he walked up to the bedroom door.

Carefully – in order to not alarm the boy on the other side – he pushed down the handle and pulled the door open just slightly, enough to look out into the living room opposite of the bedroom. A floor lamp was lit weakly in the large room, and the whispering sounds reached Inaho’s ears more clearly. They were the whispers of the old and wise Schreiber in the form of a sweet melody. Once again Slaine had been struck by a moment of creativity in the middle of the night, and Inaho decided to sneak out of the bedroom and have a look at his lover working. It was a rare moment after all, and Inaho had to make sure he got to witness it since it was such a sweet moment each time he found Slaine immerse in his passion like that.

When he came to the door into the living room, Inaho saw the slender figure of his lover sit on the floor beneath the floor light, fittingly with his back turned toward the door. Slaine’s ruffled hair stood in every direction and the robe was loosely pulled together. The blond boy had probably woken up with a flash of artistic brilliancy and hurried to find Schreiber and seek advice from it. The violin had a mute placed on its strings, probably to keep it silent and not wake the brunet from a much needed sleep.

Inaho watched as Slaine consulted with the violin by stroking the strings lightly a couple of tones, before he agreed with Schreiber with a nod and stopped to scribble something down on a music sheet lying on the floor next to him. Then he continued consulting with Schreiber to build the artistic brilliancy tone by tone. Inaho got no coherence to the melody due to Slaine making so many pauses to write notes onto the music sheet. However, no matter what tone his lover took, they sounded warm and wrapped their softness around the other boy.

In that rare moment Inaho found Slaine nothing but beautiful. There was something about the boy as he worked that Inaho could not really put a finger on. Slaine was confident and happy, always breathing life into a room whenever he played and expressed his mind and heart to people – something Inaho could never do. There had always been this difference between the two lovers: Inaho did not express his most integral parts to people since he had no need to do so. Slaine, however, was more than willing to let people peek into his heart whenever he played. It was a very personal thing to do, and Inaho admired that kind of bravery.

It wouldn’t be your music if it were any other way,’ Inaho thought and smiled as he watched Slaine struggle with finding the correct note and quickly locate it.

Inaho stood there for a while and watched Slaine’s fingers dance gently over the strings, and listened to the bow caressing forth the slowly building melody. Time had no presence in that rare moment, as it had no value to the brunet. If Slaine decided to play throughout the night Inaho would gladly stand in the door opening to listen and watch him do so. There was great joy in observing his lover and hear him be the virtuoso he was born to be.

Once the melody was done Slaine tested it out in its entirety, and the moment Inaho got to hear it played coherently his tired muscles were filled with new energy. The melody flowed into him and soothed his aching body and jetlagged mind, eased up the tension and gave Inaho’s mind a break from thought. All Inaho could do was to stare at the back of his lover as Slaine played quietly, still having Schreiber whispering the song for him. Both the boy and the violin seemed to agree with each other: The song was nearly perfect.

The instrument and its master worked seamlessly with each other, as they had done for so many times it was uncountable. The melody breathed life into their little place on earth and welcomed anyone who wished to stop by and revitalize themselves. Inaho was the sole being close by enough to experience it at that moment, but the brunet was sure Slaine would share his gentleness with countless of people in the future once the song had been perfected.

As he watched his lover finish the last tone Inaho walked noiselessly back into the bedroom, closed the door and hung up the morning robe on its place on the wall. Silently he slipped beneath the duvet and pretended to be asleep as his lover returned into the bedroom with silent and careful steps. The blond was making great care not to wake Inaho, and slowly and gently he crawled back into bed and buried himself beneath his duvet. Inaho selfishly kept what he had observed a secret; a beautiful moment like that was the best when Slaine was unaware and would not become self-conscious about it.

Your moments of splendor is best enjoyed in secrecy,’ the brunet thought with a smile, and listened to his lover’s deep breath of relaxation before both of them fell asleep to face the day of tomorrow – together.