“So when do I get to meet this Asami-san?” Takato asks casually.
Akihito starts coughing and spits out the beer in his mouth.
“That’s disgusting, Aki,” Kou says, rushing to the kitchen to grab some paper towels. “I would like to get my security deposit back eventually.”
“Sorry,” Akihito says, taking the paper towels and wiping up the spill. “It’s not like you’re planning to move anytime soon, though, right?”
“That doesn’t matter!”
Takato cuts Kou off before he can gather any steam. “Aki, don’t try to change the subject. Kou, don’t fall for his pathetic attempt.”
Kou sighs and shrugs his shoulders.
“What’s the big deal?” Takato asks. “Kou’s already met him, right? Or do you think I’m going to do something to embarrass you?”
“That’s not it,” Akihito protests.
“Then what is it? Is Asami-san really old? Ugly? Fat?”
“There’s nothing wrong with being overweight. Or ugly. That’s really shallow,” Kou cuts in.
Akihito’s face is bright red. “Asami’s not that old.”
Takato looks back and forth between the two of them, raising his eyebrows.
“He looks like a model,” Kou finally offers. “Aki’s just shy. And Asami-san is really… forward.”
“Forward?” Takato asks.
“Er… demonstrative? Like a foreigner.”
“Ohhh.” Takato snickers.
“It’d be hard to meet him. It’s not like we can go out in public together,” Akihito says.
“So why can’t I come over to your place to meet him?” Takato asks.
Akihito doesn’t say anything.
“He’s embarrassed at how huge and fancy his place is,” Kou explains.
Takato’s eyebrows reach for his hairline again.
“He lives in the penthouse apartment of the most exclusive building in Shinjuku,” Kou says. “And you should see his TV.”
Takato starts to laugh.
“It’s not funny. Why do you both always have to laugh at me?” Akihito pouts.
“Because it’s hilarious,” Takato says.
Kou nods. “You’re the most unmaterialistic person I’ve ever met, and yet you’re living with a sugar daddy in the lap of luxury.”
“Asami’s not my sugar daddy!” Akihito says hotly. He stands up, ready to head for the door.
“I’m sorry, Aki. I know he’s not.” Kou says, trying to soothe him.
“I’m not that kind of person,” Akihito says as he sits back down, still glowering.
“We know. That’s why it’s funny to us, because we know,” Takato says.
“Well, no one else seems to get it.” Akihito folds his arms across his chest.
“They don’t matter,” Kou says. “Most of them are just jealous.”
Takato snorts. “Only you would be embarrassed to have your friends meet your gorgeous, rich, successful boyfriend.”
“It’s not like we’ve met Mari-san yet, either,” Akihito points out, trying to change the topic.
“That’s true…” Takato says, looking at Kou. He claps his hands. “Okay, let’s make it a triple date.”
Akihito and Kou both groan, but Akihito says, “I do want to meet Mari-san. I’ll ask Asami, but I can’t make any promises. And he’s pretty busy, so we might have to wait a while.”
“So it’ll be at your place?” Takato asks, smirking.
Akihito shrugs. “It could be at your place,” he suggests.
“No way. I want to see your amazing place!”
“What about Kou’s?” Akihito asks, casting Kou a desperate glance.
“Your place is much more suited for entertaining,” Kou says.
“You just want to play on the Wii,” Akihito grumbles.
“And eat your delicious cooking,” Kou agrees.
“You have a kitchen,” Akihito points out.
“Your place is more centrally located,” Takato says.
“You guys are really pushy.” Akihito sighs, giving in.
When Akihito mentions the idea to Asami, Asami asks, “How long has Kou been dating Mari again?”
“That’s what I thought. This is your home, too, and I don’t want to tell you whom you can invite over, but…”
“You want to tell me whom I can invite over,” Akihito says. “This is the longest relationship Kou has ever had.”
“That’s all the more cause for concern,” Asami says. “You’re more than welcome to have your friends over, and I’ll even welcome Takato’s wife, but not some girl he’s only known for a few months and whom you’ve never even met before.”
Akihito scowls. “You think she’s some spy who’s been using Kou to get close to you?”
“Of course not. But do I really have to remind you about what happened to Kou’s apartment when a rumor started that he was you? If the truth of our living situation got out, you’d be in even more danger.”
Akihito’s face falls. “How am I supposed to tell Kou?” he asks. “The whole point is to meet both you and Mari.”
“Tell him I’m bad with women,” Asami suggests.
“That might work with Takato, but Kou’s met you. That won’t work.”
Asami shrugs. “What about meeting somewhere else? As long as you call me by my first name…”
Akihito turns scarlet. “Like I could do that.”
“Why not? You already do when we’re alone. Sometimes.” Once.
“That’s different. Anyway, Kou and Takato already know you as Asami, so I’m sure they would slip up at some point.” Akihito suddenly grins wickedly. “We could just pretend Asami’s your first name, though!” Akihito notices the warning look Asami’s giving him, but he can’t resist adding “Asami-chan!”
Asami’s eyes flash. “That wasn’t funny the first five thousand times I heard it, either.”
The grin slips off Akihito’s face. “Were you bullied as a kid?”
Asami shrugs. “No more than anyone else. I think ‘teasing’ is a more accurate word for it. But it did grow old rather quickly.”
“Sorry. I know what that’s like,” Akihito says.
“Do you, Aki-chan?” Asami teases.
“You’re right. Definitely still not funny.” Akihito glowers at him.
“Well, I suppose I could be someone else,” Asami says.
“What do you mean?”
“I could change my first name.”
“Hmm.” Akihito’s not sure how that would help, because Asami oozes power and wealth from every pore of his body.
“So as long as we meet somewhere else, I’ll meet your friends,” Asami says. “Since Kou lives in the Sion corporate apartments, I could go there without raising any suspicions.”
Akihito frowns. “But I don’t like lying to my friends.”
“It’ll still be me. You just have to give the wrong name once. If their relationship grows serious and she discovers my real name, she’ll probably think she just misremembered it, especially if it’s something close.”
“Kou knows your real name. He’ll wonder why we’re lying.”
Asami shrugs. “He also knows very well what kind of danger you could be in.”
Akihito sighs. “That’s true. But it’s his girlfriend. People get stupid when it’s the person they love.”
“That’s all the more reason he should understand why I’m doing this.”
It takes a second, but when the meaning of Asami’s words sinks in, Akihito flushes scarlet. He changes the subject quickly. “How about Junichi?” he asks.
Asami wrinkles his nose. “‘Most obedient’? I’d rather be Seiichi or Keiichi.”
Akihito snorts. “I’ll grant that you’re ‘refined’, and you certainly think you’re ‘excellent’ in most things–”
“It’s not about thinking; it’s a matter of knowing.”
Akihito rolls his eyes. “Yes, yes, you’re very skilled in getting your way. Neither of those sounds that similar to Ryuichi, though.” He snickers. “You’re certainly not Michio or Shin’ichi, either.”
Asami shakes his head slightly (his equivalent of rolling his eyes). “Like they sound anything like Ryuichi. But I make my own path, and it’s the ‘correct path’ for me, and I’m as ‘truthful’ as I can be. What about Yoichi?”
Akihito snorts. “‘Most seductive’ or ‘greatest pride’? Hmm, actually, you do seem to have the biggest ego with all these names you’re selecting… But Yuichi is even closer to your name.”
“Thank you for acknowledging my ‘wealth’ and ‘bravery’,” Asami says teasingly. “But I think that might be a little too close to my name.”
“Hmm. What about Yuji then?”
“I’m not a second son; I’m the first son.”
“You’re not supposed to be you, you know!”
“Fine. I guess I can be ‘the brave second son’.”
“Just be yourself. We’re only changing your name.”
Asami embraces Akihito and starts kissing him.
Akihito turns his head slightly so he can say, “On second thought, don’t be completely yourself. Try to act more Japanese.”
“What do you mean?” Asami asks, moving down to Akihito’s neck. His hands are wandering around Akihito’s body, and Akihito’s knees are starting to feel weak. He grips harder on Asami’s shoulders.
“No PDA, okay? Keep your hands to yourself in front of my friends.”
“Why? They know we’re together.”
“Because this type of stuff is supposed to be done in private! Besides, Takato said Kana-san is a fujoshi.”
“So? You said she was his wife; of course she’s a woman.”
“No, fujoshi as in ‘rotten girl.’”
Asami furrows his brow further. “So why did Takato marry her if she’s so bad?”
Akihito sighs in exasperation. “Are you seriously that clueless? ‘Fujoshi’ means a fan of BL – boys’ love stories.”
“Ah,” Asami says. He looks up at Akihito from his position near his chest to ask, “So?”’
“What do you mean ‘so’? She’s probably going to watch us carefully, hoping to catch us… doing something.”
“But she won’t mind, right?”
“I’ll mind! Argh!”
“Alright, fine; if it means that much to you. Unless I have to remind anyone whom you belong to.”
Akihito rolls his eyes. “They all know. And they’re my friends. I’m going to hold you to that; I’m taking it as a promise.”
“Oho, are you going to punish me if I don’t behave to your satisfaction?” Asami asks, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.
“And you like me this way,” Asami says confidently.
By this point, Asami has stirred him up so much, Akihito is incapable of protesting.
Two nights later, Kou comes over to play video games and play with the kittens. Akihito doesn’t know how to broach the subject, but Kou brings it up himself. “So, did you and Asami figure out when we can all come over?”
“Actually…” Akihito says.
Kou looks at him. “You chickened out.”
“Asami doesn’t want us in his space.”
“Spit it out, Aki.”
“It’s one thing to be introduced as a couple, but for people to realize we’re living together? We’re both guys.”
“And? Takato and I already know. Kana-san will almost certainly be fine with it, based on what Takato’s said. And Mari-chan already knows about Hiro-nii. If she doesn’t mind me having a gay brother, she won’t care about a gay friend.”
Akihito pauses the game and sighs. “It’s not just that. It’s… well, remember what happened because of the Kurosaki situation?”
“How could I forget?”
“I mean, your apartment kept getting targeted because they thought you were me. Asami’s worried about what would happen if it got out that we were living together.”
“Okay… But I already know. I’m in your place right now. And you already told Takato, too… Couldn’t Asami just do background checks on the girls if he’s that worried?”
“He already has…” Akihito said.
“What? Did one of them not pass?” Kou asks.
“No… That’s not it. But…”
Kou looks at him. “Stop dragging it out already.” He narrows his eyes. “It’s Mari-chan, isn’t it? That’s why you’re afraid to tell me. Why?”
“It’s just… Takato and Kana-san are married. You’ve only been dating Mari-san a short time.”
“I knew her for two years before I asked her out, and we were good friends for more than half that time. It’s not like I hardly know her,” Kou says.
“I didn’t know that. You never mentioned her until we took the checklist. Anyway, I still don’t think it’d make a difference to Asami. Not until you were actually married.”
“He doesn’t trust my judgment,” Kou says.
“He’s just really protective of me. I mean, would you have wanted Mari-san meeting Asami after you talked to Yoshida’s dad, before you actually met Asami yourself?”
“That’s not the same thing at all!” Kou bursts out. “Mari-chan’s not some criminal!” He stands up.
“I know; I’m sorry,” Akihito says. “That was a really stupid analogy. It’s not that Asami thinks Mari-san is some secret criminal. It’s just… he likes to think of all the possibilities. What if she were talking at work and mentioned hanging out at her boyfriend’s gay friend’s place, and just happened to casually mention our names? And what if one of her coworkers happened to be dating someone in some organization with a grudge against Asami?”
“What if Kana-san did that?”
Akihito shrugs. “I know Kana-san wouldn’t do that. And you know it, too. Especially if Takato and I emphasized how important secrecy was. We don’t know Mari-san.”
“I do. I know she wouldn’t do that.”
Akihito sighs. “It’s just… Asami wants to keep the circle of who knows we’re living together as small as possible. The only people in Sion who know are Kirishima-san, Suoh-san, and the security guards who protect Asami and me. It’s actually a pretty small group. And Asami has only told one other friend besides that, and it’s someone he’s known since high school. I’ve only told you and Takato, and I didn’t really plan to tell anyone else.”
“Not even your parents?” Kou asks.
Akihito blushes. “Well… Maybe one day. I don’t know. I’m an only child. I don’t want to tell my mom she’ll never have grandchildren.”
Kou sighs. “I can see your point. I guess.”
“Look, I’m sure Mari-san is a nice girl, and I’m looking forward to meeting her. Asami will meet her and Kana-san, as my… whatever we are. He’d just rather do it somewhere besides our place. Specifically, at your place, so that anyone watching him won’t figure out he’s meeting my friends.”
Kou rolls his eyes. “Fine. But you’re still cooking and playing host.”
“That’s fine. Thanks, Kou!” Akihito gives him a quick hug before unpausing the game.
“Hey, warn me before you do that!” Kou cries.
Sunday afternoon, Akihito arrives at Kou’s, carrying a box of supplies. As he starts to unload things in the kitchen, he says, “I’ve still got to run to the grocery store.”
“What’s all this then?” Kou asks.
“I had to prepare some of the stuff in advance, and bring some things I didn’t think you would have.” He names the items as he pulls them out one by one. “Crêpe batter. Char siu. Serving dishes. Takoyaki maker.”
“That thing is huge,” Kou says.
“I just found it the other day in the pantry. It has interchangeable plates for grilling and teppanyaki, too, but when I saw the takoyaki plate, I just had to try it!”
“You’ve never made them before?” Kou asks skeptically.
“No, but I found a video that shows how, and it doesn’t look too hard.” Akihito stashes the batter and char siu in the fridge. “Let’s go,” he says.
“You need me to come with you?” Kou grumbles.
“I won’t be able to carry everything myself, and you should know where the good shops are near you,” Akihito says.
Kou sighs. “Fine. But I usually just go to the corner market for everything.”
“You’re so lazy,” Akihito chides. “I guess I’ll just have to ask Yoneda-san.”
Yoneda is the guard on duty, so he accompanies them shopping. He shows Kou the vegetable and fruit vending machine that’s right around the corner from their place. “They only refill it on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, in the morning, but their stuff is always fresher and less expensive than the stores.”
“Awesome, they have strawberries!” Akihito cries excitedly.
After picking out some vegetables, they head to two different grocery stores to buy the rest of the supplies.
“Do you have any wasabi powder?” Akihito asks Kou.
“What about okonomiyaki sauce?”
“Why would I have that?”
“I don’t know. Maybe?”
Akihito sighs. “I should have checked your fridge. Or brought some of this stuff over from my place. I thought you were starting to cook for yourself.”
“I do,” Kou says defensively. “At least two or three times per week.”
“I guess we should resume our cooking lessons,” Akihito says.
“Hey, it’s for your own good. And you’ll be helping me prepare everything today.”
When they get back, Akihito and Kou wash their hands.
“Where’s your apron?” Akihito asks.
“I don’t have one,” Kou says, shrugging.
“That’s funny. I remember giving you one during your first cooking lesson,” Akihito muses.
“Oh, but that one was a gift for you. I wouldn’t feel right accepting something that was picked out for you especially by your two best friends.”
“Some friends,” Akihito grumbles. “I should have brought an apron with me. Oh, well, lend me a t-shirt then.”
Kou grabs an old t-shirt. Akihito pulls it on over his vintage one.
“I’m surprised you didn’t bring that ‘special’ apron with you,” Kou says, referring to the pink frilly one he and Takato had given Akihito as a joke (and which Akihito had tried to give to Kou, only to have Kou turn around and give it to Asami).
“Asami hid it. I don’t know where it is, or believe me, I would have. And put it straight in your burnable trash.”
“That’s a bit too much information there,” Kou says, blushing faintly.
“You’re the one who brought it up! And you’re the one who put me in this situation,” Akihito grumbles.
Akihito starts the rice cooker and makes the crêpes. Next, he makes the filling for the steamed buns. While the filling is cooling, he makes the dough for the steamed buns. Meanwhile, Kou starts preparing the ingredients for the sushi. While the steamed bun dough is resting, Akihito makes a savory stacked crêpe appetizer.
The whole time Akihito’s working, Kou is whining about his task. “I suck at julienning. Are these small enough?”
“Do you want to eat a plain cucumber roll?” Akihito asks. “They need to be smaller.”
By the time Akihito is done with the appetizer, Kou has finally finished preparing the sushi ingredients. Akihito arranges them on a couple of serving trays and sticks them in the fridge. He teaches Kou how to prepare the sushi rice.
“Next, we’ll toast the nori.”
“Toast it?” Kou asks dubiously.
“Just a little.” Akihito waves a sheet above the burner a few times. “Just be careful not to catch it on fi–”
Kou drops his flaming piece of nori on the floor. Akihito wets a towel and smothers the flames. When he lifts the towel, there’s a slight burn mark on the floor. Akihito scrubs at it, and it comes off.
“This is why I don’t like cooking,” Kou says.
“I’ll finish toasting the nori,” Akihito offers. “Can you please cut up the strawberries and make the whipped cream for the dessert?”
“How do you make whipped cream?” Kou asks.
“You whip the cream with a whisk until it’s firm. Make sure everything is really cold. You might want to pour the cream in the bowl and stick it in the freezer while you cut the strawberries.”
By the time Akihito finishes the final touches on the sushi-making station, Kou is whipping the cream.
“It’s not working,” Kou grumbles, trying to hand Akihito the bowl.
“You’re doing a good job. It shouldn’t be much longer,” Akihito says.
Kou sighs but keeps beating the whipped cream while Akihito makes the steamed buns. When the buns are ready for their final rest before steaming, Akihito checks on the whipped cream.
“It’s done,” he tells Kou.
“Finally,” Kou grumbles. “Now what?”
“Now we set the table and wash up what we can,” Akihito says. He washes the dishes while Kou sets the table. While Kou dries the dishes, Akihito gets the miso soup ingredients ready and prepares everything for the takoyaki. “We don’t want to start cooking anything else until everyone gets here,” he says.
Mari is the first to arrive, fifteen minutes before the party is scheduled to start. She brings a bottle of sake and a case of Sion Gold Label Beer. As she sets them on the counter, she looks curiously from the case of beer to Akihito.
“Yes, Kou used me as a model. I told him to make it look less like me, but he couldn’t be bothered,” Akihito says.
Kou makes the introductions. Akihito is a little surprised by Mari’s appearance. In the past, the girls Kou has picked out have had more going on in the looks department than in personality, but Mari is shy, sweet, and a little awkward. Her clothes and posture indicate that she’s a little self-conscious about the extra weight she’s carrying. She’s pretty, but she would never be mistaken for a model.
“Everything smells so good,” Mari tells Akihito. “I’d offer to help, but I’m hopeless in the kitchen.”
“That’s fine. Everything’s nearly ready,” Akihito says. He puts the buns in the steamer and starts the miso soup. Next, he heats up the takoyaki maker and prepares the batter.
He’s just putting the first takoyaki on the heat when Kana and Takato arrive.
“Akihito-san! It’s been too long,” Kana cries. She hugs him, and then hugs Kou, too. “It’s good to see you, too, Kou-san, but I’ve been worried about Aki-san ever since the Kurosaki situation.”
“It’s fine,” Kou says, embarrassed. He quickly makes another round of introductions.
“I brought salad and tsukemono,” Kana says. “What can I do to help?”
“Have you ever made takoyaki?” Akihito asks. “I’m not sure when to turn them.”
“You just don’t want to turn them too soon.”
As Kana helps Akihito turn the takoyaki, he feels a familiar arm drape across his shoulder. He elbows Asami before the man can kiss him on the cheek.
“When did you get here?” he asks.
“Just now. Takoyaki?” Asami asks.
“Yeah. The first batch is just about done. Give me some room, okay?”
When Akihito finishes removing the takoyaki from the pan, he turns to introduce Asami and is surprised by the man’s appearance. Asami is wearing a t-shirt and jeans. I didn’t know he even owned either of those. And Asami’s hair is completely unstyled, like he just got out of the shower. He looks at least five years younger. And somehow he’s managed to tamp down on his aura, losing the “I’m in charge” vibe he always radiates.
“This is Asami–”
“Asami Yuji. I’m a salaryman,” Asami says, bowing to the others.
Kou raises his eyebrows but doesn’t say anything. He clarifies that Asami is “Aki’s partner.” Akihito feels his face getting hot, so he pretends to be engrossed in the takoyaki-making process while the others are introduced to Asami. Akihito quickly puts the next batch in the pan. “The first round of takoyaki is ready,” he announces.
Kana dresses the takoyaki with okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise. “You should eat some, too,” she tells Akihito.
“It’s fine. I’ll eat some from the next batch,” Akihito says.
But Asami holds one up with his chopsticks in front of Akihito’s mouth. Akihito eats it.
“Wow, that’s delicious!” Akihito cries.
Asami snickers. “You’re not supposed to compliment your own cooking.” He pops one into his own mouth. “But you’re right.”
“Sorry, I was just surprised. It’s my first time making them. Kana-san helped, or I would have ruined them.”
Akihito notices that the room is kind of quiet, so he takes a quick look behind him. Everyone else immediately looks away from him and Asami, which is a dead giveaway that they were all staring at them a moment before. He elbows Asami again. “Cool it,” he mutters out of the corner of his mouth.
“What do you mean?” Asami asks. “I’m not doing anything.” He holds up another takoyaki for Akihito.
Akihito turns his face away. “If I want one, I’ll eat it myself, okay?”
“It’s going to fall,” Asami warns.
Akihito eats it, glaring at Asami.
“Asami-san, what would you like to drink?” Kou asks, sparing Akihito for once.
Akihito casts him a grateful look. “You guys should eat the stacked crêpe, too,” he says.
Kou serves thin wedges of the crêpe to everyone. He puts Akihito’s on the counter, and Akihito sneaks in a few tastes when he can. When the third batch of takoyaki is done, Akihito finally eats his share while Kou adds the miso to the soup and ladles it into bowls. Akihito brings out the sushi-making platters and the steamed buns. Kana serves her salad and tsukemono, and they sit at the table, making their own sushi rolls.
Akihito demonstrates how much of the ingredients to put on. Kou tries to overstuff his first roll, but when the nori doesn’t fit all the way around and it falls apart, he learns to use fewer ingredients.
“You’ve always got to learn the hard way,” Takato teases.
Both Asami and Mari are peppered with questions throughout the meal.
“What do you do, Mari-san?” Akihito asks.
“She’s a mangaka,” Kou says proudly.
“I’m an assistant,” Mari corrects.
“But you were just asked to debut in a monthly magazine!” Kou protests.
“There’s a chance they might not even publish it,” Mari says. “And even if they do, it won’t be a series or anything. Not unless the readers really like it.”
“They will,” Kou says confidently.
“It’s a lot harder than you think,” Mari says. “Don’t get your hopes up too much.”
“What magazine?” Kana asks curiously. “Is it a shoujo?”
“Well… Yes, I suppose.” Mari blushes faintly.
“Oho! Is it BL?” Kana asks.
Takato rolls his eyes. “Please excuse my fujoshi wife.”
But Mari turns even redder.
Kana squeals. “It is?!”
“But I don’t know anything about the genre,” Mari groans. “I’m not even sure I’m going to do it.”
“You didn’t mention that before,” Kou says.
“I didn’t realize at first. And then I was too embarrassed to say. I’ve never even read any BL before, much less know anyone in a real BL relationship.” Mari blushes harder and stares down at the table.
Kana states the obvious. “Well, you’ve got Akihito-san and Asami-san right here. I’m sure they’d be willing to answer your questions.”
“Kana!” Takato cries. “Sorry, Aki, Asami-san,” he mutters.
Akihito’s face is burning. He ducks his head. Asami squeezes his hand under the table, so Akihito sneaks a peak at Asami’s face.
Asami looks as unfazed as ever. “What would you like to know?” he asks Mari.
“I- I don’t know,” she stutters. “I don’t even know what I don’t know, and I don’t want to make any assumptions that are wrong, based on how things work between a boy and a girl.”
Asami nods. “That’s a good start. Remember that there are two men. Don’t make one of them a girl that looks like a man.”
“Or a boy that acts and looks like a girl,” Kana says. “I can’t stand stories like that.”
Mari bites her lip. “I was wondering how two guys would even start dating. I mean, it’s hard enough to ask out someone of the opposite sex, but asking someone of the same sex? With the risk of not just rejection, but others finding out? It’s got to take a lot of courage.” She hesitates then asks, “May I ask how you two met, Asami-san, Akihito-san?”
Akihito freezes. How on earth am I supposed to answer that?
Kou (who has his own mostly correct suspicions about how they met) chokes on his tea. “Mari-chan, I think that’s a little…”
Asami speaks up, however. “Well, I could tell that Akihito was interested in me.”
“He flirted with me.”
Akihito’s eyebrows shoot up. “No, I didn’t!”
“You called me names and stuck your tongue out at me.”
Kou and Takato laugh.
“That sounds just like something Aki would do,” Kou gasps.
“What are you, a kid?” Takato teases.
“It’s not like Asami was any better,” Akihito says.
“What do you mean?” Mari asks.
Akihito freezes. Oh crap.
Once again, Asami comes to his rescue. “I teased him back and pretended like I wasn’t interested. It took me a long time to convince him that I was serious.”
“How long?” Kana asks.
“Over two years,” Akihito says at the same time Asami says, “A year and a half.”
They look at each other as everyone else bursts out laughing.
Asami frowns. “We started–” He abruptly stops.
When Akihito does the math, he realizes Asami must be talking about when they moved in together. He shoots him a look that says, And you were the one who wanted to keep it a secret, stupid. But it’s Akihito’s turn to come to Asami’s rescue. “But you didn’t say anything until two months ago.” He can feel the blush spreading over his face.
“Is that when Asami-san finally confessed?” Kana squeals.
Takato places a hand over hers. “Calm down,” he tells her.
Akihito’s face grows redder, but this time it’s Mari who rescues him. “You don’t have to tell me if it’s too personal, but how did you two meet? I mean, a salaryman and a journalist…”
“Akihito was pursuing a scoop concerning one of my business acquaintances, unbeknownst to me at the time,” Asami says smoothly.
True enough, if by ‘acquaintance’ you mean ‘client’ and by ‘unbeknownst’ you mean ‘until the paper pulled my story and notified you that I was investigating your club,’ Akihito thinks snarkily.
Asami continues. “And after that, we just kept running into each other. Once Akihito ran out right in front of my car when he was being chased, so I offered him a ride.”
Akihito flushes again. “You didn’t have to tell them that,” he grouses.
“This is why we worry about you,” Kou says, shaking Akihito’s shoulder a little. “Thank you for taking care of our reckless friend,” he tells Asami.
“Oh, I think he was just looking for an excuse to see me,” Asami says.
“I didn’t know it was your car! And you wouldn’t have even needed to slow down if I hadn’t slipped in that oil slick.”
“You slipped after I honked at you in warning,” Asami points out. “But fine, I’ll share a story about me reaching out to you. I showed up at your place that evening with the excuse that I didn’t have an umbrella and needed to get out of the rain.”
“And you just happened to be in Musashino, far from your home and office.” Akihito snorts. “How did you even know where I lived, anyway?”
“I peeked in your wallet.”
“When?” Akihito asks curiously.
“I’ll tell you later,” Asami says smoothly. He reaches over and squeezes Akihito’s upper thigh.
Akihito turns tomato red.
“What’s that look for?” Kou asks, laughing.
“Too much wasabi,” Akihito says, coughing. “Enough about us. How did you and Mari-san meet?”
“At the art supply store,” Kou says. “We both wanted the last box of maru-pens.”
“I needed the whole box because we were two days from the deadline and we had a lot of detail work to ink, but Kou-kun’s deadline was the next morning. He said he only needed three, and he promised to get more at a different store and bring them by the studio the next day. I let him have them, but I honestly didn’t think I’d ever see him again.”
“Hey, I keep my promises!” Kou cries.
“I know you do,” Mari reassures him, patting his hand. “The next day at lunchtime, Kou came by not only with a whole new box of pens, but also snacks and coffee for us. It was really sweet of him.”
“After that, we kept running into each other at the art supply store, and we would get a coffee together and talk about art,” Kou continues the story.
“Kou-kun gave me a lot of encouragement about drawing and submitting my own manuscripts. It’s hard when you work all day on someone else’s manuscript and your back, eyes, and hands are aching, especially when you keep getting rejected,” Mari says.
“But you were getting positive feedback!” Kou protests.
“I know. They liked my art, but my stories…” She makes a face. “I don’t have a lot of experience, and I guess I kept basing my stories off what I read instead of doing something original. I guess that’s the advantage of writing BL, since I can’t copy what I haven’t read.” She laughs. “Though I certainly don’t have any experience in that, either.”
Kou squeezes her hand. “Just write from your own experiences. If it’s based on your true feelings, it’ll feel true.” He hesitates. “I can ask Hiro-nii if he’d be willing to talk to you about things. I know Aki’s too shy. And he’s pretty weird.” He sticks his tongue out at Akihito.
“Hey!” Akihito cries. He throws a piece of cucumber at Kou.
“Here they go again,” Takato says, rolling his eyes.
After dinner, Kana loads the dishwasher while Akihito packs the leftovers.
“Akihito-san, you sly dog,” Kana teases. “Why were you hiding a dish like Asami-san from us?”
“I wasn’t hiding anything,” Akihito says. “It just never came up.”
“Oh, sure. When I’d ask you if you’d found a girlfriend yet –”
“I still haven’t found a girlfriend,” Akihito retorts.
Kana hits him with the dishtowel. “You could have said something! All those times I tried to set you up with my friends, and you were too busy…”
“I told you I wasn’t interested. And I really am busy.”
Kana rolls her eyes. “Well, now that the cat’s out of the bag, tell me everything. How long have you and Asami-san been dating?”
Akihito shrugs. “I don’t know.”
“How can you not know? When was your first date?”
Akihito shrugs again. “I’m not sure we’ve ever really had a date.”
“What do you call tonight, then?” Kana asks.
“Meeting friends for dinner?”
“It’s a date, dummy,” Kana chides.
“Oh. So maybe tonight is our first date.”
Kana just looks at him.
“What? It’s not like we can go out to dinner together,” Akihito explains.
Kana’s face falls. “Oh. I guess you’re right. But I’m sure you’ve cooked dinner for him before, right?”
“Sure,” Akihito says. “But that’s just eating.” Stupid Asami. You said it was okay for Kana to know we’re living together, but since Mari doesn’t know, I have to tread carefully here.
“Ever watched a movie together? Even just on the T.V.?”
“Yeah…” Akihito says.
“Those are all dates, dummy! So when did you start seeing each other?”
Akihito scratches his head. “I still don’t know. We’re both guys. I guess we don’t care about that stuff.”
“What stuff?” Takato asks, coming into the kitchen for another drink.
“When was our first date?” Kana asks him.
“Did you forget already? It was February 18, 2012, and we went to a café. You ordered a flat white.”
“How do you remember that?” Akihito asks.
“Why wouldn’t I?” Takato furrows his brow in confusion.
“Akihito-san doesn’t know how long he and Asami-san have been dating,” Kana explains.
“That’s probably because Aki was so clueless, he didn’t even realize they were dating for at least a few months.”
“Hey! That’s not how it was. We had a weird start,” Akihito tries to explain without explaining.
“What, did you start off as friends with benefits or something?” Takato asks.
“Takato!” Kana exclaims.
“Seriously?” Takato asks.
“Of course not!” Akihito cries. More like professed enemies with benefits, I guess.
“What’s all the commotion?” Kou asks, also coming into the kitchen for a drink.
“Akihito’s trying to figure out when he and Asami-san started dating,” Kana explains.
“Why does it even matter?” Akihito asks. He casts Kou his most desperate “help me” look.
But Kou chooses to throw him under the bus instead. “So you know when to celebrate your anniversary, of course.”
Akihito rolls his eyes. “We’re both guys. We don’t need an anniversary.”
“What does you both being guys have to do with it? I know I’d be upset if Kana forgot our anniversary. Don’t blame us if Asami-san gets upset when you don’t remember it,” Takato says.
“Remember what?” Asami asks.
“This kitchen is too small for this many people,” Akihito says, trying to escape. But there are four people between him and the living room.
“When did you and Akihito-san start dating?” Kana asks Asami.
Asami eyes Akihito. “I’m not sure what you would call the start,” he says.
“See?” Akihito says. “I told you, it doesn’t matter.”
“If it was the first time we admitted how much the other means to us, that was May twenty-second of last year,” Asami continues.
Akihito’s jaw drops. He does the math and realizes that was probably the day Asami rescued him from Feilong. “Well, I didn’t exactly have access to a calendar then,” he defends himself.
“If you mean the first time we actually confessed, that was November twenty-fourth.”
“I could have told you that,” Akihito says.
Takato whacks him with the dishtowel. “Then why didn’t you, you twit?”
“If you mean the first time we had a real date… Hmm…”
Akihito smirks at everyone else. See? It’s not that easy.
Asami snaps his fingers. “Our first lunch date was the first Tuesday of August, two years ago.”
Akihito’s jaw drops. “What? When?”
“When we ran into each other at the Diet member’s office when you were assisting at an interview. We went to lunch afterwards, remember?”
“Oh, right, the interview you caused to be canceled,” Akihito gripes.
“You ate ice cream for lunch,” Asami says.
“You had whiskey for yours,” Akihito retorts.
“You guys already act like an old married couple,” Kana says.
“No, we don’t,” Akihito and Asami say at the same time.
Everyone else laughs. “Sure you do.”
“Clear out of the kitchen, will you? I’d like to finish putting this stuff away,” Akihito grumbles.
Kana stays behind to continue helping.
“Hey, Aki-san. Sorry if I was being too nosy earlier. I just want to say, if you ever need to talk – like, to a girl – you can talk to me anytime.”
“Just because I’m dating a guy, that doesn’t make me a girl,” Akihito says defensively.
“I know. But I am a girl. And maybe you want to talk about something but don’t feel like you can bring it up to Takato or Kou-san… you can talk to me. I’ll listen, and I’ll never laugh at you. Okay?”
“Sorry. Thanks,” Akihito says.
Kana gives him a quick hug before they rejoin the others.
When they get to the living room, Takato cries, “Let’s play the King game!”
Akihito groans, but nearly everyone else is for it.
Except Kou. “No way. I played a drinking game with these two before. Definitely not.”
“What’d they do?” Kana squeals.
Kou shakes his head. “You don’t even want to know. Just… no.”
“Hey! We didn’t do anything bad,” Akihito protests.
“It was ‘Never would I ever,’ where you’re supposed to throw coins into the center if you would do something, and these two were whispering to each other the whole time. It was disgusting.”
Akihito’s face flushes. “That’s not true,” he mutters. But as he imagines how Asami will react in the King game if Akihito is dared to kiss or hug anyone else, he decides to suggest an alternate activity. “What about playing Super Smash Brothers?”
“I don’t like this game,” Asami grumbles as his character is knocked off the screen for the fifth time.
“You just need to stop falling off,” Akihito tells him.
“I’m not. People keep pushing me off.”
“It’s too confusing.” Asami sets down his remote. “I’ll just watch.”
A few minutes later, Mari gives up, too. “Asami-san is right. It’s way too confusing,” she says, laughing.
A half hour later, Akihito gets the feeling that someone is watching him. He looks up to see Asami and Mari sitting close together. Mari immediately blushes and looks away from him, but Asami smirks at him. Bastard, you’re talking about me, aren’t you? Akihito asks with his eyes.
“Pay attention, Aki! They’re crushing us!” Kou cries.
Akihito returns his attention to the game.
After they’re finished playing, Akihito serves the remaining crêpes with strawberries, whipped cream, and honey. He prepares one for Asami without any honey. “Here, it shouldn’t be too sweet,” he says, handing it to him.
Asami winks at Mari, and she giggles.
Akihito flushes. “What was that for?” he demands. He grabs the honey bottle and holds it threateningly over Asami’s plate, but Asami pulls his plate away.
“Nothing. I just told Mari-san that you’re thoughtful and observant. And now you’re proving me wrong…”
Akihito eyes him suspiciously.
“Sorry, Akihito-san. Asami-san was helping me with ideas for my story. I think it’s sweet that you made a dessert you knew he’d like.”
His face burning, Akihito focuses on preparing the next crêpe. “How many strawberries do you want, Kou?” he asks.
“Just a few,” Kou says.
“And you, Mari-san?” Akihito asks carefully.
“That’s good,” Mari says. “Sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable.”
“It’s fine,” Akihito says. He hands her the crêpe. “I’m glad I finally got to meet you.”
“Same here. I knew you were nice when you called me to explain why Kou had been blowing me off, but it’s nice to finally meet you.”
“I didn’t blow you off! I was helping Akihito deal with that Kurosaki mess.”
“I know. But you could have just told me that,” Mari chides.
“I know. I’m sorry,” Kou says with a hangdog expression.
“It’s fine now, thanks to Akihito-san,” Mari says. She squeezes Kou’s hand. “Anyway, Akihito-san isn’t nearly as crazy as you made him out to be.”
“Yes, he is,” Kana, Takato, Kou, and Asami all say together.
“Hey!” Akihito cries.
Asami ruffles his hair. “I like crazy,” he whispers.
Akihito kicks him. “Be more Japanese,” he mutters.
“Why is it okay for Kou, Takato, and Kana to touch you, but not me?” Asami asks.
“Because they’re my friends,” Akihito hisses.
“And I’m not?” Asami asks.
Akihito rolls his eyes. “If you touch me in a friendly manner, I won’t mind,” he says.
Asami grins triumphantly.
Oh no. What did I just agree to?
After dessert, they settle back in the living room to watch Biri Gyaru. Kou, Mari, and Asami sit on the couch. Takato and Kana sit on two dining chairs next to the couch, but Akihito settles on the rug in front of the couch at Asami’s feet.
“Somehow I get the feeling that I’m looking at the high school version of Aki,” Takato says after the main character (a sophomore in high school) laughs as she tells her friends that she’s academically at a fourth-grade level.
“Hey! That’s really rude, you know. I’m not that stupid,” Akihito grumbles.
“Sayaka got into Keio University; she obviously wasn’t stupid. She just wanted to party. From the stories you and Kou told…”
“Spoiler alert!” Kou says, pausing the movie.
“What? How did you not know that? They hyped it up in all the articles about the movie. It’s based on a true story,” Takato says.
“Never mind about that. I actually cared about learning, you know,” Akihito says.
“But what about those times you bragged about talking back to the teacher?” Takato asks.
“That was usually him griping about pointless assignments,” Kou steps in to defend Akihito. “His grades actually weren’t that bad. He could have gone to college if he wanted to. At least one that didn’t care about teacher recommendations.”
“So why didn’t you?” Mari asks curiously.
Akihito shrugs. “I didn’t see the point. An apprenticeship would prepare me better for what I wanted to do in less time, and I’d be making money instead of spending it.”
Mari nods. “I can understand that. I went to an art college, and while I did learn a lot, I sometimes wonder if I’d be farther along if I had just gotten an apprenticeship directly. Although my skill wasn’t good enough straight out of high school… Or maybe if I had studied writing as well, my stories would be better.”
“Ah. Well, I guess I might write better articles if I had gone to journalism school, but my focus is on the photos, and the editor helps fix my articles. Though I have gotten better at writing over time,” Akihito says. He shrugs. “I just didn’t have the patience for any more school. Too many stupid rules and pointless assignments that didn’t teach you anything. Especially English.”
“English is useful,” Asami says.
“I know. But not the way they taught it at my school. After several years, most of my classmates couldn’t even hold a simple conversation in English.”
Kou chuckles. “You should have heard when Aki told off the English teacher in our third year. The teacher held up Aki’s test after he got aoten and told Aki in front of the whole class that his provincial attitude was the problem with Japan, and he’d be stuck in his tiny little bubble his whole life unless he tried harder in English class. Aki told him off in English, saying that the teacher was the one living in a tiny bubble, teaching according to a horrible textbook instead of actually helping the students learn to speak English. He ended by saying that the teacher probably couldn’t even speak English himself, even though he taught it, and that was why he was such a terrible teacher.”
The others laugh.
“I bet he got in a lot of trouble for that one,” Takato says.
“The teacher blackmailed me into taking photos for the yearbook and school paper, since he was the advisor for both. Looking back at it, I probably could have refused, and he still wouldn’t have gone to the principal, because I was right about his English.”
“What makes you say that?” Asami asks.
“He didn’t answer me in English. If he could have, wouldn’t he have proven his point by pointing out all the mistakes I made? I may be able to understand and speak it well enough to get my point across, but my grammar is actually pretty horrible.”
“Where did you learn to speak it? I’m assuming it wasn’t in school,” Mari says.
“My American relatives, when they would visit on holidays. And we’d send each other comic books and movies that we liked that weren’t in the other’s country. Of course the ones they sent me were all in English. They never had Japanese subtitles.”
“You’re hafu?” Asami asks.
Akihito turns and looks at him. “How could you not know that?” he asks, surprised.
Asami shrugs. “You never mentioned it.”
“Most people figure it out from my hair and eye color,” Akihito says.
“I thought you dyed your hair,” Asami says.
“You and half my teachers and classmates,” Akihito grumbles. “You’d better dye your hair back to black, young man. Then I would get in trouble for talking back when I pointed out that dying my hair was against school rules.”
“You never actually said it was your natural color, though,” Kou points out.
“They were the ones who assumed it wasn’t,” Akihito gripes.
“So you’ve always liked to make trouble for yourself,” Asami observes.
“Hey, I don’t make trouble! It just finds me,” Akihito says. “Anyway, let’s get back to the movie.”
Kou unpauses the movie. After a few minutes, Akihito wants to relax a bit more, so he leans back against the couch. Asami spreads his legs so Akihito can fit between them. Akihito hesitates at first, but everyone else is engrossed in the movie, so he relaxes.
Now that he’s sitting still, Akihito can feel the exhaustion seeping into him. He was on a stakeout until dawn, and he only got a few hours of sleep before he had to start preparing for the party. He lets his eyes drift closed.
“Ooh, hand me my phone; I want to take a picture!” a girl squeals.
Akihito opens his eyes and blinks a few times. For a moment, he can’t remember where he is, but as Kana and Takato come into focus, he says, “Is the movie over already?”
“Yeah, it ended five minutes ago. You were totally out of it,” Takato says.
Akihito lifts his head and realizes that he was using Asami’s thigh as a pillow. There’s a huge wet spot where he must have drooled. He wipes at it with his sleeve. “Sorry. Why didn’t you wake me?” he asks, looking up at Asami.
“You looked really tired,” Asami says. He reaches over to wipe Akihito’s cheek but freezes when he hears a click.
Akihito turns to see Kana holding up her phone to take another picture. He can sense Asami’s menacing aura start to radiate. “Sorry, Kana-san. Asami really doesn’t like being photographed. He doesn’t even let me take his picture.”
“Seriously?” Kana raises her eyebrows in surprise. “But he’s so hot!” Takato shoots her a look, and she says, “Sorry, Asami-san. I’ll delete it. Even though it was a really cute picture.” She sighs but deletes the photo.
Akihito stands up and stretches. “Guess we should call it a night,” he says, yawning.
“Are you going to be safe to ride home?” Kou asks.
“I’ll be fine,” Akihito says. “It’d be hard to fall asleep on a bike.”
“I’ll give him a ride home,” Asami says.
“I don’t want to leave my scooter behind.”
“I’ll help you pick it up tomorrow,” Asami offers.
Kana squeals but quickly claps her hand over her mouth.
Akihito glares at her, but it’s undermined by the blush creeping across his face.
“I’ll take the train home,” he says desperately.
“You’d fall asleep before your stop,” Asami retorts.
Akihito rolls his eyes. “Fine.”
As they head towards the door, Akihito notices Asami is limping slightly.
“Is your leg asleep?” he whispers.
Asami ignores him.
“Idiot,” Akihito hisses. “You should have woken me up.”
Mari and Kou hang back in the kitchen while the others get their shoes and coats on in the genkan. Just as they’re ready, the couple reappears. Mari gets ready to leave, too.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Kou-kun,” she says, “assuming we don’t run into difficulties.”
“If you do, I’ll come over and help,” Kou offers.
“You need to stop doing that unless Sensei starts paying you,” Mari chides.
Kou shrugs. “If it means I can see you and you have more time for your own manuscript, I don’t mind.”
Mari explains to the others, “Sensei expects me to start work at 7am, but she often changes her mind after we’ve started inking, so sometimes I get stuck working until the last train.”
“Or after it,” Kou adds.
They say their goodbyes and nice-to-have-met-yous. Kana, Takato, and Mari get off the elevator at the street level to walk to the train station together, while Asami and Akihito continue to the basement garage.
“Was that so terrible?” Asami asks once they’re alone in the elevator.
“Yes,” Akihito says.
Asami raises his eyebrows.
Akihito grins. “Just kidding. It was fine. Mari-san is really nice. She and Kou are so cute together. Guess I’d better start saving for a wedding present.”
“Isn’t that a little early?” Asami asks.
“I’m not as rich as you. It’s going to take months for me to save enough,” Akihito retorts.
When the elevator doors open, Yoneda and Sakuragi are waiting for them. Akihito furrows his brow in confusion.
“Yoneda is going to ride your scooter home. Sakuragi will drive him back here,” Asami explains.
“That’s really not necessary. It’s only a fifteen-minute ride. I’ll be fine,” Akihito protests.
“Ride with me,” Asami pleads.
Akihito looks at him curiously. “Alright,” he says.
Asami leads him to a peeling gold 1993 Toyota Corolla.
“Are you serious?” Akihito asks.
Asami pats the hood. “This is Kintsukuroi, my first car.”
Asami opens the passenger door for Akihito.
“Thanks,” Akihito says awkwardly. When Asami gets into the driver’s seat, Akihito tries to cover his awkwardness by asking, “Why ‘Kintsukuroi’? Did you buy the car to fix a broken heart or something?”
“Or something,” Asami says, chuckling.
He’s silent while he navigates out of the garage, and Akihito is about to burst out in frustration at the non-answer when Asami finally elaborates.
“My senpai in high school told me to park his car for him, but I didn’t have my license yet, and I accidentally bumped it into a pole. The senpai insisted I pay for the full value of the car. I didn’t really have a choice because his dad was pretty high up in the yakuza. It took half my savings, but I was able to get the dent removed for 5000 yen, and after that, I had a good car. More importantly, I decided that from then on, I would either make people who opposed me yield to me or crush them.”
“What did you do to that senpai?” Akihito asks.
Asami smirks. “You don’t actually want to know.”
“I do. Tell me,” Akihito presses.
Asami sighs. “Nothing, actually. His dad was disgraced a few months later and Senpai had to leave school before I was able to plan my revenge. I overpaid a bit for the car, but then again, I’d made a good chunk of that money delivering messages and goods for Senpai, anyway, so I eventually forgot about it. I ran into him five years later in Shinjuku and hardly recognized him. He was a host. He was only a year older than me, but he’d aged nearly two decades in those five years.”
“That’s kind of sad.”
“I lost any remaining desire for revenge after that.”
They ride in companionable silence for a few minutes before Akihito says, “Thanks for meeting my friends tonight.” He reaches across to briefly pat Asami’s thigh, but Asami catches his hand and holds it on the thigh. Akihito can feel Asami’s quadriceps tense as he shifts gears.
“Thank you for inviting me,” Asami says. “I had a good time. I really like your friends.”
Akihito’s eyebrows shoot up. “Seriously? You didn’t think we were too…” He drifts off.
“Young for me?” Asami finishes for him.
“I was going to say childish,” Akihito confesses.
“I like that you can all relax and have fun together without worrying about formalities. I like that you tolerated an old fogey like me.”
“You’re not old,” Akihito protests.
Asami grunts. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a casual get-together like that, with no business.”
“Kou came over a few days ago to play with the cats.”
“That’s different,” Asami says. “I guess it’s my fault for hiring my friends, but I haven’t been to that kind of party since…” he trails off.
“College?” Akihito guesses.
“High school. First year, I think,” Asami says. “And even then, we always had to be conscious of our parents’ jobs and their relationships.”
“That’s sad,” Akihito says.
“I like how you and your friends support each other, giving without keeping score or expecting anything back. Like Kana offering to share her favorite manga with Mari, even though they’d just met.”
“It’s not really a gift if you’re doing it expecting something in return,” Akihito says as Asami pulls into the garage of their building.
Asami parks in a back corner. “I guess you’re right,” he says. He leans over and kisses Akihito.
“Asami! Someone could see us!”
“There’s no one around,” Asami says.
“Yoneda-san is coming with my scooter.”
“He beat us here. Look. They’ve already left.” Asami points to Akihito’s Vespa parked in its usual spot.
“What about the neighbors? Can’t you wait until we get upstairs?”
“Not really,” Asami says, deepening the kiss.
Akihito gives in, but the position is awkward.
“This car felt a lot bigger in high school,” Asami grumbles.
“Hey. When did you peek in my wallet?” Akihito suddenly asks.
Asami laughs. “That’s been bugging you all night, hasn’t it?”
Akihito pulls back and folds his arm across his chest. “Tell me.”
“Don’t pout,” Asami says. Akihito glares at him. “Fine. I’ll tell you, though you should be able to figure it out yourself.”
Akihito thinks about it. “When you kidnapped me?”
“You’d think, but no. I thought I’d be satisfied playing with you once.”
“I was wrong, obviously,” Asami adds.
“When… Feilong? My camera bag was dropped off at the newspaper office with everything still in it.”
“I had Kirishima deliver it for you. After I went through it, of course.”
“But when you rescued me, you didn’t have it with you,” Akihito says, confused. “Otherwise I’d have just taken it when I left.”
Asami chuckles. “You don’t think I stormed Feilong’s stronghold all by myself, do you? If I were that reckless, I’d never have survived this long.”
Akihito sighs. “So you memorized my address so that you’d be able to stop by and bother me whenever you wanted?”
“No. I memorized it so that I could station guards near it. I was hoping you’d be wise enough to move after it was broken into twice.”
“How’d you know about that?” Akihito asks.
“My men and Feilong’s,” Asami says.
“Then you already had my address before you peeked in my wallet.”
“No. Kirishima did.”
“What’s the difference?”
“The difference is that when we were driving near it, I knew we were close by, and I decided to drop in. You were such a cute host, trying to pretend you didn’t want to see me but feeling obligated to be polite at the same time. I could tell you were raised well.” Asami smiles.
“I ended up moving after that,” Akihito says.
“I know. While I was glad that you were safer, I was a little miffed that you chose to move after I visited instead of after those break-ins.”
“It took a while to save the moving expenses,” Akihito explains. “I wanted to as soon as the first break-in happened.”
“Oh,” Asami says.
Akihito grins impishly. “Though I will admit you showing up in the middle of the night was the final push that really spurred me into finding a new place as soon as possible.”
Asami lunges toward him again, but he suddenly stops. “Ow.”
Akihito looks at him curiously.
“This stupid gearbox,” Asami mutters, rubbing his right side.
Akihito chuckles. “Why don’t we go upstairs?”
As soon as they’re out of the car, Asami grabs Akihito’s hand and hurries towards the elevator. He types a code into the elevator panel.
“What does that do?” Akihito asks curiously.
But Asami pushes him against the elevator wall and occupies his mouth.
Akihito turns his head to gasp, “The lobby–”
“We’re on an express ride,” Asami says.
By the time they reach the top floor, Asami has to carry Akihito off the elevator.