"Hey, that's not fair!" Toboe pouted as he watched the sitting arrangements. "How come you are all dating each other? I'm the odd one out."
Blue blushed and patted the seat beside her. "Oh, don't be silly. We're still friends, right?"
"That we are," Hige replied as he placed a kiss on Blue's cheek, earning him a knock on the head from the still blushing woman.
"I still can't get over you two though," Blue finally said as she eyed the silent couple before them. Tsume was thumbing through the menu with a scowl on his face, while Kiba – with darkened cheeks – stalled for an answer by drinking from his glass of juice.
All five were at a diner for lunch, courtesy of Hige and Blue who were announcing their engagement after weeks of relentless pursuit by the former.
"Well, I sorta knew Tsume had the hots for Kiba," Hige began, only to wince in pain as he got a swift kick under the table. "Ouch. I can't feel my balls," he whimpered in agony.
"Anyway," Toboe interrupted, waving his hands in excitement. "Guess who I went to see the other day?"
"Well, spill it," Tsume finally snapped after no one was able to guess for about a minute or two.
Toboe rolled his eyes. "I went to see my former boss."
Blue gasped in shock, while the older men gawked in surprise.
"You went to see…Quent?" Kiba eventually asked. "Why? After what he tried to do to you?"
"The doctors said he has amnesia now, so he can't remember anything."
Tsume rolled his eyes in disbelief. "You've got to be fucking kidding me."
"No joke," Toboe said, looking pleased with himself. "And you should see him now, Blue. He's much nicer and kinder. He actually was glad to see me visit him. No one comes to see him anymore. I talked to him about you…well I said that I had a friend named Blue and when I said it, tears came to his eyes. He wants to see you."
Blue stared at the napkin on the table, trying to hold back her own tears. The actual concept of a 'nice' and 'kind' Quent Yaiden was unbelievable. How long had it been since she had been with the man who had once treated her like his own daughter? Greed, wealth and power had changed him and it was something she had hated. She barely felt Hige's reassuring squeeze on her shoulder.
"I'll come with you if you like," he said softly and she looked at him with gratitude before smiling at Toboe.
"Sure. Why not? We'll bring him a basket of fruits…" She stopped as she noticed Kiba's flushed features and how Tsume suddenly found the menu interesting again. "What? What's wrong with taking a basket of fruits to him?"
"Nothing," Kiba said quickly, stealing a glance at Tsume who was still staring at the menu. "I just remembered the fruits you told me to take to Tsume at the hospital that time. It was very…"
This time, Tsume looked up and smirked lightly. "Delicious," he finished in a husky whisper. Hige coughed, Blue blushed and Toboe looked clueless.
"Hmm?" he asked, staring at the adults with bemusement. Was it just him or had the air grown thicker with something akin to tension. "Fruits are delicious. I like them."
"Indeed they are," Kiba replied, reaching out to ruffle the young boy's hair affectionately. "I hope you get to taste them one day."
"So how's life with Tsume?" Blue interrupted before Toboe could wonder what Kiba meant about that.
"Interesting to say the least," Kiba answered, ignoring the look thrown at him from his partner. "We got jobs at the docks. We'll be offloading things when ships come in."
"Cool," Hige agreed with a nod. "I might join you there."
"Like hell you will," Tsume growled. "I don't need you around to keep bugging us."
"Hey, I don't bug you, do I Kiba?" Hige asked with a pout.
"No, no you don't. Besides, I think he'd be a great teammate," Kiba pleaded with the scowling Tsume.
"See? Kiba thinks I'm great."
"A toad thinks you're great," Tsume mumbled, which earned hearty laughter from the other occupants of the table.
He tired not to smile as their conversation ebbed and flowed over him. Still pretending to focus on the menu (he honestly didn't know what to order), he watched the laughing couple. Who would have thought the fatso and a beautiful girl like Blue would ever get together? They were making plans to move to a bigger and cleaner apartment, adopting Toboe as their 'kid' and putting him in school. However, with Toboe visiting the old geezer, Yaiden, who knew if he'd want to become the old man's caretaker or something?
His gaze finally fell on Kiba, who was laughing at something Toboe was saying to him. Tsume felt his stomach give another nervous sick lurch, a sensation he was beginning to get used to, just being with Kiba or thinking about him. The past few weeks had been – not to sound clichéd – but it had been heaven for him.
Surprisingly, and after the whole sleeping fiasco at the hospital, Kiba had shyly made the request about moving in with Tsume, claiming he had nowhere to go and no place to stay until he worked hard enough to make some money to find a place for himself. Tsume had squashed the latter part of his suggestion by taking Kiba again. This time he left a visible bite mark on Kiba's left hip, a sign that he belonged to Tsume and Tsume only. It was a mark that Kiba wore with pride…granted he too reciprocate the gesture by 'scarring' Tsume with a mark on his lower back. Just thinking about it sent chills of desire down Tsume's spine, memories of the day Kiba had bitten and licked the blood off his flesh, still as vivid as ever.
He shifted restlessly on his seat, causing Kiba to glance at him with a silent question.
For an answer, Tsume reached for Kiba's hand on the seat between them to squeeze it gently in reassurance. With his eyes, he hoped he was able to convey all he felt, to tell this man just how much he meant to him. He was yet to say those three words to Kiba, but with every passing day and night spent together, it was becoming increasingly hard not to do so. Kiba was a breath of fresh air, not just to him, but to the entire block. The kids who had always played with Tsume, had now taken a liking to the man with the shaggy hair who could do some cool tumbling tricks. The older ladies (and several younger ones) appreciated the man who would always leave a compliment or help with their groceries. They were always willing to leave a casserole or two for the bachelors as a token of their appreciation.
Tsume took it all in stride, trying to curb that jealous streak as much as he could. For although the women and children had his attention during the day, he knew the nights belonged to he and Kiba – and oh, what beautiful music they always made.
He simply couldn't imagine his life without Kiba anymore. How pathetic was he?
With lunch finally over and Hige, Blue and Toboe on their way to the hospital to visit Quent, Kiba and Tsume began to make their way to the docks for the evening shift. Two ships were coming in, so it was going to be pretty busy tonight.
They walked close together, and yet Tsume felt a distance as Kiba had his hands sunk in the pockets of his jacket. He eyed the dark hair that rustled gently with the breeze, the bright teal eyes that seemed to gleam with an emotion he couldn't quite describe. He admired the straight nose, the full lips he had now kissed so many times and couldn't get enough of, the strong jaw and that strong throat he had licked and caressed. Jesus! Kiba was…
"Did you say something?" Kiba asked with a small smile. The smell of the sea was soothing to him and he really did love working at the docks. He was glad he had managed to talk Tsume into working here with him despite the memories it brought.
"I didn't say anything." Dumb, Tsume! Why don't you just say it?
"I saw Cheza today."
"Oh." Tsume felt his stomach sink. "How's she?"
"She's fine. I think she might have a new boyfriend or so. She was glowing for some reason."
"She said, she's happier than she's ever been." Kiba looked confused for a moment. "If I didn't know any better, I'd think…"
"Can we not talk about Cheza…for now?" Tsume cut in rudely.
Kiba shrugged and then mumbled something Tsume couldn't quite hear.
"What did you say?"
"I said, it's not like we talk much anyway," Kiba said louder. "I'm just trying to make conversation."
"Yeah, well why do you have to keep talking about her? Can't you talk about anything else but that damn woman?"
Kiba stopped walking and Tsume cursed inwardly. Great. Just what he didn't want. To get Kiba upset.
"Look, I'm sorry, I…"
"You're right," Kiba muttered. "She's all I seem to talk about because…because I hardly know anything about you, Tsume." He pinned intense teal depths on his stunned partner. "I don't know you…and you never talk much about yourself…and I feel like…like…" He ran fingers through his hair in frustration. "Never mind. Let's just go."
He spun on his heels to continue walking. This was just another argument that wouldn't make any difference whatsoever –
"I love you too."
Kiba froze again, not sure he had heard correctly. He turned around slowly, but Tsume was already walking past him, his cheeks red, and his footsteps quick and hurried.
"Wha…what did you say?" Kiba asked desperately, having to run a little to catch up to his striding partner. "Tsume!"
"You heard me," came the gruff reply. "And we've got a whole lifetime to learn all you want about me. Just…just give me a little more time, okay?"
Kiba's jaw dropped. A whole lifetime. Did this mean…? A helpless grin of pleasure broke out on his face and he jogged up again to catch up to Tsume. He reached for the taller man's hand, ignoring Tsume's small sound of protest, and held on tightly.
No longer alone, he thought as he looked to the heavens in gratitude, just as he felt Tsume's firm squeeze of acceptance. In this new world created, we have each found our Paradise.
"What are you smiling about?" Tsume asked, trying to hold back his smile of content.
They stood at the top of the ridge, looking down at the hustle and bustle of Port Victoria below them. The sea looked tranquil beneath the evening sky, the lights from the port, shedding orange glows on the rippling cool waters. It really was a beautiful sight to behold.
"Because I've finally found it," Kiba finally said quietly.
Their eyes met, neither man realizing they had moved closer until their foreheads touched.
"Our Paradise, Tsume," Kiba whispered, sealing the distance between their lips with a slow and tender kiss.
Just me…and you…always.