AN: I'm so sorry I haven't been able to post much (okay, not at all lol) this semester. Hopefully, this 8,500 word chapter will make up for it (a little). It marks the end of What Lies Beneath.
Disclaimer: I don't own Viewfinder, nor do I make a profit off of anything I write regarding Viewfinder.
What Lies Beneath Pt. 7
I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah
Maybe I have been here before
I know this room, I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you
I've seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
There was a time you let me know
What's real and going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you?
The holy dark was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah
Maybe there's a god above
And all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
And it's not a cry you can hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen the light
It's cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
Ryuunosuke watched the ceremony from the doorway at the back of the room, in part so he could shoot anyone who would be a threat to either Ryuutarou or Ryuuichi. But another part of it was that he really thought this ceremony was bullshit. If Katashi had truly loved his little brother as much as he claimed, this should have happened fifteen years ago, whether or not anyone would have protested—including Ryuutarou. Including himself, he thought with a frown. He wouldn't have liked the idea (hell, if it had happened, he may have even gone after Katashi to kill him), but he'd respect the Yamaguchi heir a great deal more these days.
He sighed as he watched the play between his father and Katashi, knowing it was to distract Ryuutarou. Little brother was blissfully unaware of how much of his internal dialogue was written all over his face and embedded in his body language. Ryuunosuke shook his head slightly with a half smile of genuine affection. The young man was almost as oblivious as Ryuuichi's pet, but in different ways. He frowned deeply at a sudden, disturbing thought: if the two of them ever spent any amount of time together, they'd all be screwed, considering both were as subtle as elephants in Cartier.
He shifted his considerable weight, leaned against the wall and caught the younger cop staring at him. What did his father say the man's name was? Muraki? Masashi? No… Masaki. Itou Masaki. Even from where he stood, Ryuunosuke could see the bright flush that spread upward from Masaki's neck to completely bathe his face in a charming pink blush. The cop tore his gaze down and away, flustered at Ryuunosuke's unwavering, unapologetic stare, and focused his attention everywhere else but in Ryuunosuke's direction. It amused him. And Masaki was certainly attractive enough. If he wanted to get laid, now would be the time, while he was clean and the track marks were healed.
He heard Ryuutarou's pained grunt as the branding die contacted the young man's skin. His own skin ached in sympathy, and he knew right then Ryuutarou probably felt as if the burning would never end. But it would. And it did. Branding was always done very quickly, lest damage happen to delicate skin and bone, permanently crippling the unfortunate soul. It wouldn't happen with his brother, though, not with the sheer amount of experience between his brothers and Katashi. Gods! What freaks! he thought with a smirk.
His gaze came back to Ryuuichi. More specifically, Akihito, considering the boy was shifting uncomfortably behind his brother, and from where he was, Ryuunosuke could see the pasty white color the kid had turned as Ryuutarou was branded. His gut was telling him it wasn't going to end well for the poor little bugger. Hm. He rubbed his stomach. Either that or he was hungry. He shifted again, anxious for the damned thing to end already. He really needed a fucking cigarette.
Would it be rude to light up right—
His thought was abruptly cut off as a small body shoved past him, and somewhere in the back of his mind registered that the ceremony was over.
Thank the fucking gods.
He could go smoke.
Akihito couldn't breathe. All he knew was that he had to get out of the room. He had to escape. Even if he had to rake out the eyes of the guards with his bare fucking hands he would be free of this… of this… cage! He stumbled through the corridor, barely able to see where he was going through the tears blinding him, until he found his way back to the front entrance of the estate. Four guards, Suoh included, stood at relative attention, prepared for anything. Which meant they were also debriefed about one young, accident-prone photographer.
"Takaba-kun," Suoh said, concern lacing his tone, as he stepped forward. "Are you okay?"
Akihito shook his head as he tried to catch his breath and not cry at the same time.
"Do I need to call Asami-sa—"
"No!" he pleaded, grabbing the man's suit jacket. "Oh gods please no!"
"Suoh-sama, please allow me to deal with the trash," another guard interrupted as he approached the two of them to their left and put his hands on Takaba's shoulders.
Akihito didn't think. He reacted. He dropped and kicked out, knocking the man off of his feet, and bolted. The man wasn't down long, but as soon as he was up again, Suoh backhanded him, a snarl twisting his face into a frightening mask. The man pulled himself up off the floor once more, his hands cupped around his nose and blood leaking profusely through the cracks of his fingers.
"Don't you ever lay a hand on that boy again," the large man hissed.
As Akihito ran from the scene, he caught the vehement statement from Suoh slithering down the corridor and wanted to scream. Who the hell was he that he should be treated so deferentially? Just because he was Asami Ryuuichi's supposed 'property' didn't mean a goddamned thing! The anger released a burst of energy into his bloodstream, and it propelled him toward one of the doors he knew led into a manicured cherry tree grove with a pond. If he could just get outside, he could slip away, over the fence surrounding the front of the property.
But he had to get past the guards first.
Takaba whipped around the corner, stumbling to a stop at one end of the corridor while the door and guards were standing opposite him. He leaned against the wall, giving himself a little time to catch his breath before slowly approaching the two men in suits. The guards were all dressed the same, in the same black suit, black dress shirt, black tie, like some kind of Collective of minions or goons. Akihito coughed, covering a sudden nervous giggle at the thought of Kirishima telling him that resistance was futile, and while the image was funny, it was too close to the truth for Takaba to dwell on it any amount of time.
"H-Hey guys," he stuttered, "do you mind if I step outside for a few?"
"No one is allowed out… side…" the guard trailed off, staring at something over Takaba's shoulder.
Akihito felt the warmth of body heat seep into his back moments before a revolver appeared over his shoulder, extended by a thick, tattoed arm clad in a black and red patterned kimono. Ryuunosuke. Takaba couldn't breathe with the rough gangster behind him, but like a rabbit knowing it was about to be devoured, he couldn't move either.
"Takaba-kun and I have business," the second oldest Asami said. His voice was permanently damaged, so it came out hoarse, a gravelly shadow of what it was less than a year before, driving home to Takaba what kind of world his lover lived in.
"Open the door," Ryuunosuke stated and cocked the revolver.
Asami Ryuuichi wasn't a man to worry. Not really. But he couldn't help the twinge of concern he felt when he saw Ryuunosuke disappear down the same hall as Akihito ran. It's not that he didn't trust his younger brother. No, Ryuunosuke had proven his trustworthiness to the clan time and time again. There were times, however, the large man could be… unpredictable. Especially when he'd only been clean for a few weeks and cravings were able to attack with a strength even Ryuuichi didn't think he could fully understand, in spite of the fact he'd shot up a couple times in the past.
He fought the desire to pace, to light a cigarette in the estate house. As his foot was about to leave the floor to pursue his freaked-out photographer, a hand stayed his forward momentum.
His sire. Damn. His boy's distress (and Ryuunosuke's possible interference) would have to wait.
"Father," he greeted, turning.
"Come. The Shijinjuu is about to convene," Ryuu said, putting an arm around his son's shoulder. Ryuuichi's eyebrow rose.
"Aren't you a member of the Shijinjuu?"
"I am. But I was sent to retrieve you and Katashi-kun for this meeting. The two of you are going to be required to attend from now on."
He gave a mental sigh. This was not how he wanted to spend the rest of his evening.
Takaba followed Ryuunosuke through the cherry grove, jumping internally every time either of them would snap branches or leaves beneath their feet. If it were Ryuuichi, Takaba thought, he wouldn't be able to hear the man move. Of course, it could be that they were on friendly turf, and he wasn't worried about being heard. In between the shadows of the blooming pink trees, the full moon illuminated the second son of Ryuu Asami. His back was broad, as broad as Ryuuichi's back, but Takaba was fairly sure Ryuunosuke's back wouldn't be nearly as—
Akihito tripped over the low row of stones lining the pond, and he watched helplessly as the water rushed up to meet him. His breath left him as Ryuunosuke's large arm slipped around his midriff, saving him from a complete drenching, but his whole body stiffened, the middle Asami's thick scent sending gooseflesh over Takaba's skin. He was set upright, but not released.
"Are you okay?" Ryuunosuke asked gently.
Akihito let out the breath he was holding and nodded.
"Sure?" the older man persisted.
"Yeah," he muttered.
Ryuunosuke pulled his arm back and focused on getting nicotine into his bloodstream, while Takaba burned holes through his feet with his staring. Splashing to his right had Akihito glancing in that direction, and his heart sped up in delight as a large koi—easily over half his height—broke the surface again. Forgetting about the evening stresses, if only for the moment, he leaned over the pond and saw many long, lithe koi bodies lit by the full moon. And all were different colors, from white and black to oranges, reds, and yellows.
"My father's pride and joy," Ryuunosuke said quietly.
"Is there anything your family doesn't dabble in?" Even to Akihito, his tone sounded tart.
Ryuunosuke regarded the younger man a moment more before taking another drag, looking away. "Give it up kid."
"I can't!" Takaba exclaimed, for once not pretending to misunderstand. "I'm—I'm trapped!"
"We are all trapped," he responded seriously.
Takaba snorted indignantly and rolled his eyes. "But you can walk away, bastard!"
"Is that what you think?" Ryuunosuke raged, his serene expression collapsing. "That I can just up and walk away from this?" He barked a short, bitter laugh. "We're all trapped here, kid. Every single damned one of us. And as of last summer, that includes you."
Ryuunosuke saw his harsh words whip across Ryuuichi's lover's face as solidly as if his hand connected to the delicate flesh. He sighed deeply, not in regret, but something quite close to it. Why did everything seem to be so difficult for this kid? And even on that thought, he hardened the softer parts of himself. He would do neither of them any favors by giving the young man sympathy right now. Before Akihito could regain his balance, Ryuunosuke pressed on.
"You will belong to him until the day they lay you in our family's shrine."
"Don't you mean my family's shrine, ass—" he snapped back at the taller man, only to be interrupted.
"No. I mean the Asami family shrine, where you will be buried next to Ryuuichi, when the time comes."
The night air froze between them, glittering in the full moon light. Takaba could feel the truth of Ryuunosuke's words searing through his bones into his marrow, and he couldn't stop the horrific burning behind his eyelids. With an angered half-growl, he wrenched his face from the middle Asami's gaze, folding his arms across his chest in one final act of defiance.
"If this is about being gay—" Ryuunosuke started.
"This is not about being gay!" Akihito yelled, rounding on him, cheeks wet. "Fuck! What is it with all of you? I know I'm gay. Knew before I met your dickhead brother, in fact."
"Then what is this about, Aki-kun?" he asked, gentling his tone.
The snarky comment died unuttered on Akihito's tongue when he realized Ryuunosuke was serious. A bit flustered at the unexpected kindness, he turned to look out over the koi pond awash in silvery light. His cheeks tingled from the tears drying, so he took the time to wipe them off before speaking.
"I don't want to answer to anyone," he said.
Ryuunosuke waited. Then he blinked. "Is that it?"
"Isn't it enough?" Takaba shot back, glaring at him. "I shouldn't have to answer to anyone. I'm an adult."
"Kid, if that's what you think being an adult is about, no wonder you're having problems," he stated.
Takaba's jaw dropped. "What the hell is that supposed to mean? Are you saying this is my fault?"
"That's not what I said. However, if you think adults don't have to submit to others, you are grossly mistaken."
"Go on," Akihito said with less venom in his voice.
"You think I can choose to walk away from this life because I'm an adult? I have people I answer to. Yes, one of them is my father but he's only one. My father submits to those who hold authority over him. And so on. It's the same with Ryuuichi."
"This is a criminal organization," he said, giving the other a pointed glare. "That kind of structure's expected, so it doesn't count."
"I do pay taxes. You know, submitting to the government and all."
Akihito was shocked, and it showed.
"Is it safe to assume you didn't know that?" Ryuunosuke laughed.
"I—uh… well," he stammered. "Really?"
"Yes, really," he confirmed, amusement sparkling in familiar golden eyes. "Every adult submits in one way or another. To an employer, to the law—" Ryuunosuke paused "—to a lover."
He watched the younger man's cheeks bloom in a fiery blush, visible even in the moonlight. Ryuunosuke's instincts were screaming at him to wrap the boy up and protect him from anyone or anything that could possibly harm him. And if he felt that way, he knew Ryuuichi did, though it wasn't his place to inform Takaba of his brother's innermost workings. He pulled out a flask he'd tucked into the kimono sleeve, unscrewed the top and took a swig before offering it to Akihito.
"Whiskey," he said at the curious glance.
Takaba took the metal flask, warm from contact with the large man's body, and drank two or three mouthfuls, then coughed from the sudden burn.
"Easy, kid. How long has it been since you've had whiskey?"
"Never," he admitted between coughs.
"Oi, Ryuuichi'll be angry with me for stealing that cherry out from under his nose," Ryuunosuke muttered, to Takaba's embarrassment.
Akihito dipped his head as Ryuunosuke lit another cigarette.
"So what's the problem with being submissive?" he asked, blowing out a plume of smoke.
"There are assumptions made about submissive men," Takaba said quietly. "Like they're not real men, or they're pushovers. Or—"
"Who has said such things to you, Akihito?"
"No one," he replied, shaking his head slightly. "No one had to. I've seen the way women respond to men they think aren't 'man' enough."
"But you admitted you're gay, so what does that matter in the long run?" Ryuunosuke countered and took another drag.
"It doesn't matter. But all of the gay relationships I've seen are mostly… partnerships. And… and maybe…"
"And you think that's what your relationship with Ryuuichi should be," he finished for the younger man.
"It's not unreasonable to want that," Akihito muttered.
"It is if you're in this family." Ryuunosuke's voice held a wealth of compassion. "Besides, do you see Ryuutarou as a pushover? Or is he a lesser man because he's submissive?"
Takaba was silent for several moments, pondering the question. Ryuutarou seemed self-assured. Confident. Even in control a lot of the time. Not this night. But Takaba figured tonight didn't really count as a true gauge of how the youngest Asami behaved on a day-to-day basis.
"No," he conceded. "He's a lot stronger than I am."
"In some ways," Ryuunosuke commented cryptically.
Neither spoke for some time, the quiet was punctuated by the occasional splash from the koi surfacing, sending a riot of ripples careening over the surface of the large pond. Takaba sat on a stone outcropping, created as if its maker had the overtaxed crime lords in mind.
"You've given me a lot to think about," Akihito murmured, staring out into the deep blue-black water at the ghostly shapes moving just out of reach.
"I hope so," Ryuunosuke said, taking a seat next to him. "Ryuuichi needs you, kiddo. Even more than any of us are aware, I think."
A mere fifteen minutes ago, Takaba would have scoffed at that idea (and being called 'kiddo'). But now? Now he would wait and watch his lover's behavior with a new perspective. Or, at least, with Ryuunosuke's words in mind. If he was right, that would change a lot of things and for the better, probably.
"You're smiling!" Ryuunosuke sounded relieved. "Excellent!"
"Maybe not for you," Akihito chuckled. "I figure if you're wrong, I can rub it in."
Ryuunosuke grew quite serious. So serious, Takaba thought he may have said something offensive, until Ryuunosuke explained.
"I'm very rarely wrong about people and their motivations, Aki-kun," he said, not unkindly. "But you do need to see it for yourself. You are a lot sharper than you're given credit for, and if you don't have that personal experience, you'll never believe it. Particularly not coming out of the mouth of an old criminal like myself."
Takaba found himself liking Ryuunosuke Asami. Unlike his Asami, the middle brother spoke plainly and without a hint of guile. So the moment the self-deprecating comment came from Ryuunosuke, Akihito was willing to defend his… friend? No. Not yet, anyway.
However, Ryuunosuke cut him off before he could speak. "That is honesty. Shall we keep that between us?"
The words of defense died on Akihito's lips, and he nodded after just a heartbeat.
"Good," he stated and crushed out the cigarette under his heel. He glanced at the expensive watch on his thick wrist. "We should be getting inside. At this point, I'm sure your lover is going to hit me first and ask questions later."
"Why would he do that?" Takaba asked, even as he obediently followed Ryuunosuke back through the cherry grove in bloom.
"Because you're with me, kid."
Asami paced restlessly. The meeting of the Shijinjuu didn't last half as long as he expected it to (which made him muse about what those old codgers did for the rest of the gatherings), and he was left to his own devices, to prowl up and down the corridors until his brother chose to bring Takaba back to him. His lip curled into a vicious snarl. That bastard! He'd shove his foot so far up Ryuunosuke's ass that his children would be born with a damned sandal print on their foreheads! Before his next thought was fully formed, the door to the cherry grove opened, and Ryuunosuke stepped in with his boy close behind.
Takaba could see the rage burning just below the surface in his lover's darkening eyes, and his pulse sped up. If he didn't do something, he knew the brothers would come to blows, because in spite of not being able to see Ryuunosuke's face, he could feel the man's body vibrating with tension beside him. Neither man was paying attention to him, intent on staring the other down—as was the tendency with these particular alpha males, Takaba though, fighting to not roll his eyes—so he quickly assessed what he could do break their line of sight and both save face. Before he could second-guess himself and the wisdom of the spur of the moment decision, he bodily flung himself between his lover and his lover's brother, waving his arms frantically in front of Ryuuichi.
"Hey! I'm fine! Asami-san didn't hurt me!" he cried. "See? All good! We just—uuurrrggghhh!"
Akihito's protest was cut short when Ryuunosuke gently, but firmly, pushed him to the left, out of their way, and neither man's focus was broken. He tried to put himself between them again, but Ryuuichi held him pinned with his back against the wall, one hand splayed across his chest as he continued to stare his younger brother down.
"He didn't do anything, Asami!" Takaba barked, trying to pry the absurdly strong hand from his person. "He helped me, you asshole!"
When it seemed neither brother would relent, Akihito's chest constricted painfully. Why did he even bother? Ryuunosuke was wrong. He meant nothing to this ass if he couldn't be bothered to take a second to hear him out. No—he was less than nothing; he was property, not worth listening to. The pain in his chest resolved into a gasping sob, one he didn't even try to conceal. It contained all of the hopelessness and fear and anger he'd been holding in for so long. His sight blurred and scalding tears burned their way down his face. He wasn't aware of either of the brothers until a hand wiped away the tears, and he blinked, eyes focusing on the two men with very similar features wearing very similar expressions of concern, alarm and… what the hell was that? Distress? Akihito would have laughed if his heart weren't hurting so badly.
"Really?" he managed to get out around a hiccough. "You won't listen to me when I'm trying to talk to you but when I start crying like a damn baby, I finally have your attention? Fuck you!"
Takaba pushed against Asami in vain as his tears transformed quickly into anger. Asami glanced over his shoulder at Ryuunosuke, dismissing the younger Asami. Ryuunosuke paused, eyes flicking almost imperceptibly to Akihito, then back to himself. Interesting, Asami thought. Ryuunosuke was actually warning him to be gentle. So his brother had taken a shine to his young lover, when it was a well-known fact Ryuunosuke liked no one. Well, it wasn't time to address that fascinating revelation. He nodded in return, knowing his brother wouldn't move unless he let the man know he wouldn't hurt Akihito. A moment later Ryuunosuke left.
Asami turned his attention back to a calmer Akihito, but the young man was facing away from him, arms crossed over his chest.
"Akihito," he whispered in his ear. It gave him a perverse sense of satisfaction when the smaller man jumped just a little. "I was concerned about you."
"You have one hell of a way to show it," Takaba snapped back, facing him again. Asami had no doubt that if the boy had a gun, he'd be dead right now if the fire in those hazel eyes were any indication of how Takaba was feeling.
"Ryuunosuke is a heroin addict," he continued, still close enough that his side of the conversation would stay between the two of them. "And that can make his behavior at times… somewhat unpredictable."
Takaba pulled back, confused, and searched Asami's face. Why would Asami tell him something so obviously intimate about his brother? To warn him away from Ryuunosuke? Well, of course. But it wasn't out of the goodness of his heart, that was for sure! He would be benefitting somehow—
He's jealous! Akihito realized, a slow smile stretching across his mouth. Oh gods! The man is actually jealous I spent some time with his brother!
The smile erupted into laughter, which caused Asami to give him a suspicious look.
"What's going on inside that pretty little head of yours?" Asami asked, eyes narrowing.
With a half-smile, Akihito shook his head. "Nothing."
"Something," his lover muttered back. "And I can make you talk."
"You can make me scream, too," he said, playfully tracing Asami's full lower lip with the barest touch of his finger.
Asami growled deep in his chest and gently took Takaba's finger in his teeth, trying to buy time to figure out his lover's mercurial mood. Akihito pulled his finger from the beloved mouth and dragged Asami's head down for a deep, slow kiss. He then attempted to pull away, to leave the shelter of Asami's arms, but was abruptly stopped.
"Oh Jesus, Asami. You sound like my mother," he hedged. Takaba ducked his head at the scowl, warning him that the man's patience had come to an end. "Alright, you really want to know?"
The black brow cocked was answer enough. Akihito cleared his throat and glanced away. Come on, Takaba, he though to himself, it needs to be believable.
"I just realized how much—" swallow "—how much I love you," he replied and stared up at him, hoping the depths of his feelings for the man were showing.
He stilled as Asami hunted for a grain of untruth in his words and would have been offended if he hadn't figured out the man was jealous; this reaction only confirmed it in Takaba's mind. His smile brightened even as he happily held Asami's gaze for the first time in their convoluted relationship. Asami's face changed ever so slightly—if Takaba didn't know him as well as he did, he wouldn't have seen it—from suspicion to confusion.
Asami moved a bit to allow Akihito room to slip by. What choice did he have? The young man wasn't lying to him. But he couldn't shake the feeling that there was more to it than what Akihito shared. He'd have to keep a closer eye on the boy for a while to see if he could figure out what Akihito was keeping from him.
He held his hand out to Takaba.
"Come," Asami said, guiding him. "I have one more obligation to fulfill tonight, and then we can retire for more entertaining pursuits."
"Pervert," Takaba muttered good-naturedly, to Asami's well-concealed surprise.
Around another corner and Ryuunosuke, Ryuu, Katashi, Katashi's father, the Tokugawa brothers and Kamakura waited. It seemed they were waiting for Asami's arrival. With a tight-lipped solemnity that had Takaba getting nervous until Asami smirked at him, they began filing into the room. It left his grandfather, Ryuunosuke and himself in the receiving area as Ryuu closed the double doors behind them.
"Only first sons are allowed in for what they're going to do," Arashi explained when he noticed Akihito's confusion. "And Raijin is my elder brother, so he's here as Tokugawa clan head."
It appeared Arashi was going to say more, perhaps offer an explanation, but a soft voice from behind Ryuunosuke interrupted the would-be conversation.
"Where did Katashi go?"
Akihito recognized Ryuutarou but his eyes, usually so full of life and mischief, were weary with dark circles under them. Ryuutarou shifted closer to Ryuunosuke, the barest movement betrayed by the heavy silk kimono, as if by being near his older brother he could glean much-needed strength. Ryuunosuke put a protective arm around the shorter man's shoulders, being careful of the fresh branding, and even with the benign touch, Ryuutarou winced.
"He's in a private clan meeting," Ryuunosuke said, catching his brother's eyes. "The leadership of the Tokyo Yamaguchi Clan is passing to Katashi tonight."
Ryuunosuke paused to let that information set in.
"B-But—" Ryuutarou began, his eyes widening.
"Nothing is really changing, Tarou-kun," Arashi said kindly, handing a glass of champagne to Ryuunosuke, who took it gratefully.
"We all knew this would happen," his older brother added, tightening his hold. Whether to support Ryuutarou physically or to keep him from bolting, Akihito didn't know. A bit of both, probably. With hands shaking, Ryuutarou took a long drink from the flute.
"Katashi requested that you meet him in his room," Ryuunosuke continued. "Do you feel up to waiting there now?"
Ryuutarou nodded hesitantly, gave the flute back to Tokugawa with a ghost of a smile and soft 'thank you'. Katashi had a separate set of rooms for their ceremony, until all was said and done, and Ryuutarou was sure his baggage would have been moved to Katashi's room by now. He wasn't sure where the suite was, so he leaned on Ryuunosuke and trusted his brother to have its location. Up one of the many flights of stairs and into one of the lesser used parts of the massive home is where their father had tucked Katashi Yamaguchi, and Ryuunosuke opened the door, holding it so Ryuutarou could enter first.
Ryuutarou's eyes wandered around the room, taking in the reserved set of Katashi's clothing, the office desk neat but stacked with papers he couldn't even begin to know the function of, and the general air of the suite; Katashi had matured a great deal in fifteen years. And, damn the man, he'd known he was being promoted tonight. These rooms were proof of that.
"Would you like me to stay?" Ryuunosuke asked from the inside of the door.
"Uh…" he trailed off, then glanced at the taller man. "No thanks. I'll be fine. I'm just really tired."
"Alright," the other Asami said, but didn't shut the door immediately.
"Really, I'm fine," Ryuutarou said, cutting him off. He plastered an exhausted smile on, voice stronger, and hugged Ryuunosuke. "I'm overwhelmed. A couple nights' sleep and I'll feel better."
Ryuunosuke nodded and placed a kiss atop Ryuutarou's head, then left, shutting the door quietly behind him.
Katashi grumbled under his breath as he wound his way back to the suite. While he had requested Ryuutarou's presence, he was fully expecting to have to hunt his lover down. But that's all part of the fun, then, isn't? he thought, lips twisting into a fierce grin. It hadn't faded when he opened the door to his rooms, entered and shut them again. And as he turned, suddenly aborted his step forward. He could see through the arched doorway that connected the master bedroom to a large greenhouse-like room—too small to be a true atrium—with potted trees, hanging plants, and a chair with a smoking table next to it. On the table sat a crystal decanter of whiskey with two tumblers and an ice bucket (presumably with ice in it), but none of that stopped him in his tracks.
Ryuutarou slept, kneeling on the floor in front of the chair, his head resting on his upper arm, lips parted slightly and the kimono hung off of his right shoulder, to keep from rubbing on the brand. Katashi quietly made his way over to the sleeping man. He knelt and ran a hand through the black silk hair, and Ryuutarou's head shot up, eyes open but not quite seeing. He blinked, focusing on Katashi, and all of his muscles relaxed.
"I didn't mean to startle you," Katashi said, keeping his voice low.
"It's okay," he said, tried to stifle a yawn but failed. "I was waiting for you, Yamaguchi-sama."
Katashi snorted, then offered his hands to help the younger man stand, and after he was vertical, Ryuutarou prepared both of them whiskey over ice. As his newly acknowledged charge formally presented him with the tumbler, Katashi couldn't help notice how nervous and unsteady he was. He observed as Ryuutarou picked up his own glass, drank nearly half of the amber liquid and studiously avoided his eyes—something Ryuutarou never did—as he spoke.
"So… you've owned me since I was sixteen?"
Was it his imagination? Or were Ryuutarou's hands shaking even harder?
"I have," he replied and took a drink. "How do you feel about that?"
"How should I feel about it?" Ryuutarou countered, his tone edging rude.
"This isn't a fight, boy," Katashi said, setting the tumbler down. "Do not speak to me as if it is."
"Forgive me, Yamaguchi-sama," the younger man said, dipping his head so Katashi couldn't see his eyes.
"Stop that," Katashi replied sharply, noting with no little shock how Ryuutarou flinched away from him.
Making a decision on the spot, he pointed to the table, stating: "Put the drink down. We need to talk, and we'll do so relatively sober."
For a heartbeat, it seemed as if Ryuutarou would fight him—and he would welcome it, over the behavior of this stranger—but then meekly placed the tumbler next to his own and stood, eyes on the ground, hands clasped in front of him. He crooked his finger, indicating Ryuutarou should follow, and they both went into the room where the bed and closet were located. In silence, Katashi changed into less formal clothing, mulling over what had gone horribly wrong between the ceremony and when he'd arrived back a few minutes ago. Perhaps he could ask Ryuunosuke if he'd seen anything… odd.
"Yamaguchi-sama—" the small voice came from behind.
"I swear Tarou, I will beat you if you call me that again!" Katashi snarled, too wrapped up in trying to figure out a solution to realize how his harsh words would affect his younger lover.
Ryuutarou's mouth fell open, and his whole body seemed to deflate. In that moment to Katashi, he seemed so very young and fragile, as if a gust of wind would splinter him.
"You gave your word," he accused softly, voice breaking as tears gathered and fell unchecked.
Ryuutarou's eyes were desperate and pleading as he waited in the treacherous silence for some response that would permanently define the remainder of his lifespan with this man. And when it didn't come, when all Katashi did was stand there, his face a stoic mask, Ryuutarou felt his heart fragment inside his chest. He swallowed against the sickly bile and hysterics, both rising in his throat, and fought to retain control, since losing control of himself would do absolutely nothing for his situation. Losing control may have changed the course of the evening two or three hours ago, but not now. Now all he could do was start a war. And it would, he had absolutely no doubt. He wasn't that selfish.
It was a bitter pill he was going to swallow.
"I—uh," he began, wiping his tears away. He may be sucking it up and working with the hand he was dealt, but he'd be damned if he shed another tear over this motherfucker.
"I… um, I need some time to heal," he continued quietly and turned from Katashi. "My… uh… my hands and-d my body hurt. So if you can give me that, it… it'd be appreciated. Please."
Ryuutarou dragged himself into the wingback chair on the closet side of the bed, tucked his feet beneath him and waited for the other man to pass judgment on his request. As the seconds drew out into a minute, then two, Ryuutarou grew apprehensive. That apprehension turned quickly into anxiety, and finally, he began to tremble as fear welled up through Katashi's lack of response. This was it. He'd pushed the man too far somehow, and Yamaguchi was only making him wait to prolong whatever punishment his quicksilver mind had already contrived. Ryuutarou's heart leapt into his throat as Katashi stepped toward him, and he wasn't able to suppress the shudder that wracked his slim body. Whatever was about to happen, the youngest Asami wasn't convinced he'd come out of it unscathed.
He shrank from Katashi, reacting viscerally to the much larger, much stronger man's approach. He pressed into the back of the chair, folding his damaged hands to his chest and curling in on himself in an attempt to protect them from further harm. By the time Katashi stood in front of him, Ryuutarou was such a bundle of nerves he was getting nauseated from the anticipation and desperately wanted Katashi to do something instead of toying with him as a predator would.
Yamaguchi then did something completely unexpected: he knelt in front of Ryuutarou. And when he spoke, Ryuutarou started.
"Oh, little one," Katashi said softly. "I have much to atone for, don't I?"
The newest member of the Yamaguchi clan saw the massive hand coming at him, and he braced himself, since he was frozen, rooted securely in place; he knew this was it for sure. A choked mewl managed to squeak out as he felt that hand make contact—
And sift gently through his hair.
"Ryuutarou. Look at me."
He opened his eyes slowly to Katashi's concerned expression, and the hand in his hair didn't stop stroking.
"Please forgive me. You're right. I did give my word, and you're the last person I will ever break my word to."
Before he could worry about what Katashi was doing, he was scooped up into the muscular arms and situated on Katashi's lap, with special care taken with his injured shoulder. He was tense until he figured out he'd been worrying himself sick for nothing—Katashi was genuinely concerned and fussing over him—and with a contented sigh, he melted into the broad chest, tucking his head up under Katashi's chin. Safe. He had no idea how long they'd stayed like that before Katashi spoke.
"I was worried something like this would happen. It's why I told Ryuunosuke to stay with you until I arrived."
"You did?" Ryuutarou asked, surprised. "He asked me if I wanted him to stay, and I told him no."
Katashi made a noise of derision, to which Ryuutarou looked up at him and saw he wasn't really angry with Ryuunosuke for leaving him alone.
"I can't blame him," Katashi explained, slipping his hands under Ryuutarou's kimono to massage the wiry muscles of his back. "You're a good boy, and everyone wants to please you because of it."
"Even you?" Ryuutarou muttered, eyes closed in pleasure. At the question, Katashi stopped massaging, and their eyes met.
"Especially me, koi."
Before tears could form at the sentimental words, Ryuutarou leaned up and brushed his lips against Katashi's. He groaned as Katashi took control, framing his face and invading the moist cavern of his mouth with his tongue. It amused Ryuutarou that both of them were getting hard so quickly even though they'd already coupled a number of times earlier in the day.
"I feel you smiling," Katashi mumbled against kiss-swollen lips. "What?"
"We're like rabbits," Ryuutarou chuckled.
"Ah, but I'm not going to fuck you," he said and it was his turn to chuckle at the stricken look on Ryuutarou's face. His boy didn't argue, though. He'd long since taught his boy the consequences of arguing when he put his foot down. Katashi was tolerant of some of Ryuutarou's antics, but never lenient.
"You do need to heal, and I'm glad you recognized that," he explained. To distract him from his disappointment, Katashi asked: "How did we end up here, with you a ball of nerves? What have you been thinking today to put you in such a state?"
Once again, to Katashi's annoyance, Ryuutarou avoided his gaze. He lifted the young man's chin, forcing him to face the issue, and he smiled gently at the insecure sixteen-year-old mentality staring out of his thirty-one year old lover's eyes. At twenty-two, he wasn't completely able to understand how best to deal with his younger mate. However, at thirty-seven, he could bear whatever the much younger Ryuutarou needed him to. And whatever it was, he'd been holding onto it for a long, long time. Much too long, in his estimation.
"Koi, if you don't tell me about it, how can I fix it?" he asked, voice low. "I won't be mad. I promise."
Ryuutarou's lower lip quivered a moment before he burst into tears. Katashi gathered him close and rocked him, letting him weep out the years he'd held in. It took less time than Katashi thought it might, leaving Ryuutarou a spent mess in his arms, tired but emotionally lighter than he'd been in years. He was content to hold the boy, running his fingers through his sleek hair (a guilty pleasure), until Ryuutarou made a move to sit up. He let Ryuutarou get up and go to the washroom, and when he returned to Katashi, he knelt at Yamaguchi's feet, placing his head on the man's lap.
"I thought that you'd hold a grudge against me, mainly for what I did when I was t-twenty. I thought t-that was why you didn't allow me to live with you," he said, miserably.
Of all the things that could have been bothering Ryuutarou, Katashi never guessed that was the reason. He couldn't handle Ryuutarou's sadness and lifted him up into his arms once more.
"No," he whispered, petting his boy. "No, never. That wasn't it—"
"A-And then when you disappeared last year…" he trailed off.
Katashi could imagine exactly what his lover had thought. No wonder the kid had been so aggressive when he'd shown up on his doorstep without so much as a 'by your leave'.
"Baby," Katashi said softly, getting Ryuutarou's attention, "I do hold grudges—I have to, it's kind of in my job description."
Ryuutarou chuckled a bit in spite of tears shimmering in his eyelashes.
"But never, never against you. Never. Do you want to hear the reasons why I did what I did?"
The child-like nod, so very trusting, had Katashi's heart clenching. He was right so many years ago: Ryuutarou was entirely too intelligent to withhold anything from. That was his mistake, and one he intended to correct and not make again.
"I had to be the one to mete out punishment that day, koi. Your father would've had to break bones to satisfy that lot, but I could get away with being much easier on you," he explained, noting Ryuutarou wince.
"As horrible a truth as it is, it is the truth. But afterwards, I thought you would feel safer being left with your family than be forced to live with the man who'd beaten you bloody. I spoke with your father about it, and he agreed."
Katashi watched him digest the new information.
"What about last summer? Where were you?"
Katashi sighed, ignoring the petulant whine that accompanied the legitimate question.
"I had to prepare to take the reigns of the clan," he told the suddenly tense Ryuutarou.
He felt the change in Katashi before the man opened his mouth to speak and knew it didn't bode well: he was now talking to the new head of the Yamaguchi clan. This man was not the sweet, violent lover he knew so well.
"I was also considering whether or not to include you in this part of my life," Katashi continued with brutal honesty.
"But why didn't you talk to me about that?" he asked, feeling as if his world was falling apart around his ears.
Katashi felt a spark of self-hate for what he was going to do, but ruthlessly pushed it away for the time being. This needed to happen, as much as neither of them wanted it to; if he didn't take a firm hand with Ryuutarou now, it would set a bad precedent for the rest of their lives.
He threaded his hand through the steel collar around Ryuutarou's neck. It was a close fit and threatened to cut the circulation off at the carotid artery. The color drained from Ryuutarou's face.
"Do I really need to remind you that you belong to me? That I own you?"
His voice was calm and even. Ryuutarou wasn't fooled. This man was as dangerous as his father and brothers.
"The decision to return you to your father was mine and mine alone. There was no 'we' in that. Do I make myself clear?"
Ryuutarou swallowed around Katashi's knuckles.
"H-Hai, Yamaguchi-sama," he stuttered, keeping his eyes lowered.
He held the collar a moment more, felt Ryuutarou's pulse flutter next to his fingers like a panicking, caged bird, and then let the metal slide from his grasp.
"And that is the last time you'll ever be allowed to call me by anything other than my given name or whatever pet name you wish while we are alone," Katashi stated.
Ryuutarou's hopeful gaze flew to Katashi's face.
"But only while we are alone or with your family, Tarou. When we are in public, I expect due respect from you. Understood?"
Ryuutarou nodded, and Katashi caressed Ryuutarou's smooth jaw with the back of his hand, smiling indulgently at his younger lover. He leaned into the touch, eyes rolling into the back of his head in pleasure.
I hope you do understand, Tarou-chan, he thought, because Japan won't be able to stand against the bloodbath I would visit upon it, should recompense for your behavior ever be demanded again…
The atmosphere in the small gathering room was of muted anticipation. Suzume rarely ever requested her family's attention, and since it was not frivolously asked for, everyone knew her news would be life altering. Asami stood with snifter in one hand, other arm around Akihito, his katana and wakizashi long put away. Katashi and Ryuutarou were several feet away, almost mirroring their positions. Asami was pleased to see the haunted look that had been etched into his youngest brother for the last eleven years was gone, replaced if not by happiness, then by a measure of peace.
He took a deep breath in, savoring the quiet of the moment—he and his family had so few that all of them were determined to make the most of it. Out of the corner of his eye, Asami observed Akihito and Ryuutarou exchange a glance, just a glance, and it spoke louder than either of them knew. Relief. How odd. Were they closer than he managed to keep tabs on? He made a mental note to ask Kirishima to do a little research (perhaps a little warranted snooping) on the subject.
Ryuu sat in one of the plush chairs, sipping burbon with Suzume perched on his lap. Their size difference was amusing, more like a father preparing to read his child daughter a bedtime story than two grown adults. But if there were any doubts before where either of their loyalties lay, this night they were put to rest. Both kept slipping looks of love and adoration to the other when each thought the other wasn't watching, and Suzume positively glowed every time her eyes passed over Ryuu's form.
The soft murmur of conversation died instantly when Ryuu cleared his throat.
"My lovely wife has news she would like to share with all of us." His voice was warm with love. "Koi, what would you like to tell us?"
Suzume slid off his lap and stood, a charming blush on her cheeks. She smiled, helpless against her joy.
"Family, Ryuu," she began, then faced Ryuu, "I'm pregnant."
All eyes swung to Ryuu like compass needles to a lodestone. Akihito was surprised—and then happy for them, but wisely remained silent until the patriarch had his say. He stole a quick look at Ryuutarou, who was beaming as brightly as a ray of sunshine.
Ryuu's black brows shot into his hairline as the news penetrated through his confusion, and then they sank over his glittering eyes.
"Pregnant!" he exclaimed finally, in disbelief. "Who the hell is the father?"
Akihito was appalled the man asked that question and expected Suzume to go running from the room in tears. But she did no such thing. If anything, she glared at her mate, torn between amusement and exasperation.
"Suoh-san is," she retorted, pointing to Asami's large bodyguard.
In the years he and Asami had known one another, Akihito had never seen Suoh anything other than calm and collected under pressure. Until now. The giant of a man was almost translucent with how pale he'd become, and the next heart beat, he was on the floor in a high, formal bow, even before Ryuu made it off the chair. Akihito felt Asami tense, ready to defend his man from his father's wrath, when Suzume stepped firmly between Ryuu and Suoh.
"You are the father, of course, you dense man," she quipped, poking him in the chest.
Ryuu blinked, as if he couldn't quite believe what he'd heard.
The tension dispelled, and all in the room laughed, including Suzume. Ryuu turned as pale as Suoh had been moments before. Suzume guided him to sit down before he fell down, and Asami had Suoh rise.
"Permission to be excused for a few minutes to ah…put myself together, Asami-sama," Suoh whispered to Asami.
"Granted," he whispered back with a smirk. "And Suoh, make it no less than forty-five minutes, and you have permission to drink."
Suoh bowed his head with a palatable relief. "Thank you, Asami-sama."
As Suoh left, Ryuu got onto his knees in front of Suzume, wrapping his thick arms around her waist.
"You certainly know how to keep my life interesting, wench." His color was back, and his eyes were laughing.
"Oh Ryuu. Are you really okay with having another child?" she asked nervously.
"Yes," he answered quickly, caressing her face. "Absolutely yes. It's not what I was expecting you to say, but I'm glad we're having another child."
Asami tugged at Akihito's kimono, indicating they should leave, as the others were in the process of doing, to let the soon-to-be (again) parents have time alone. As they exited, Akihito wondered if they should say something to them, but one final look and he knew neither of them would give a damn if the world came to an end. They were much too busy with each other to notice the empty room. He smiled as the door shut, and Ryuu's personal guard took up post.
Hand in hand, Asami lead him to their rooms, then the man slipped into the washroom. Akihito stretched, back popping, and he sighed, relatively content. He untied the obi, taking the time to hang it appropriately, and he removed the outer most silk kimono, the garment beneath, and hung both of them also. He left the black juban on and crawled up from the foot of the bed on his side to wait. He lay down and something hard slid from the top of the pillow, tapping him on the back of his head. He reached around and his hand contacted a book. He was confused for a moment on seeing the cover: a how to book for decorative knot work for Kinbaku.
Why would he—oh! he thought, recalling how he'd threaten to tie Asami's dick in a knot if he tried to piss on him.
Akihito got out of bed and knocked on the washroom door.
"Hey, Asami!" he called through the door. "What is it with the—"
He gasped as Asami opened the door and yanked him in before he could think to fight.
"Took you long enough," Asami purred, slamming the washroom door behind them.