"I'm home.." Akira calls for the 307th time that year. It's November the 3rd. His birthday.
For his mission he'd been sent to west Bengal, which was nice. It wasn't too far from where lived, so this past year he'd been home a lot. When he walks in the door and says I'm home, he's calling for Tapioca who sometimes stays behind, and he does it even when she's with him. It's a habit.
It's always been like this. Akira slips his shoes off at the door, another habit he'd picked up in Enoshima even though he prefers keeping them on. I can't remember the last time I was just me and Tapioca for my birthday. Always on a mission, out and about somewhere doing something for DUCK.
"Welcome home!" Someone yells from the kitchen.
Who is that? Akira takes a few paces back, picking up the hand gun he keeps with the umbrellas. Then he stops. Silence.
He still doesn't recognize the voice, but then the person laughs and Akira's arm goes limp.
"Should I have taken the gun? I knew it was there. Predictable." Finally, Akira rounds the corner to see Natsuki in the kitchen, blue apron on. Is this a dream?
"Are you alright?" Their eyes meet for the first time, Natsuki's attention being redirected from his work.
"Why.. why are you here?" Akira sets the gun down on the table, taking another step closer. Still unsure that it's not a trap.
"Why? Oh, I've missed you too, thanks." There's a laugh on his voice before Natsuki walks around to look at him, a content smile and the friendly touch of their hands together. "It's your birthday, is it not? You're twenty seven. Happy Birthday, Akira."
"Am I that old?"
They laugh together for a moment, the tension soon dissolving in it. It had been nearly two years since they'd seen each other. Akira hadn't changed at all, but Natsuki seemed taller. His hair had grown back out, maybe even longer than it was. The boys shoulders seemed broader, his jaw more defined. How old was he now? Nineteen? Nearly twenty?
"You're staring." Natsuki's eye brow raised.
"It's been a while excuse me, prince."
For the first time Akira heard Natsuki laugh at that name instead of glare. "Ah, goodness. No one calls me that anymore. But hearing you say that..." Makes me happy.
"Yeah, yeah." Akira tries to brush it off but the look on Natsuki's face is apparent. They'd talked a lot since Akira left Enoshima and texted, skyped even. Natsuki kept up with everyone though. The only one Akira really kept up with...was him.
"I made you a cake." Natsuki sounded proud, and walked over to it.
"You know I hate cake."
"Well It's a good thing I didn't make you one."
"What I thought you said..."
Tease. Annoying boy. What are you doing in my kitchen after all this time. In India. How did you get here?
"I made you curry instead."
"Natsuki, why are you here?"
"Hold on, just sit down."
But Akira didn't listen, wouldn't. Instead his hand was on Natsuki's wrist quicker than the boy had imagined it could be. They were backing up into the fridge.
"Don't!" Don't do this now! Natsuki's eyes shifted to the living room and back to him a couple of times. Like someone was watching. Akira turned his head back to see what Natsuki was looking at. "Now!" Natsuki yelled, face bright and arm squirming to free itself from Akira's grasp..
"SURPRISE!" Haru was the first person Akira saw, jumping out from behind the couch. Followed by Yuki setting off a party popper, and Urara squealing because he hadn't expected it to be so loud.
Akira finally started to loosen his grip, and Natsuki tore away as soon as possible. "What are..."
"We came to surprise you!" Haru jumped closer. "Happy Earth Birthday!"
"Happy Birthday Akira!" Yuki was smiling, standing behind Haru, a present in hand.
Urara just stood there saying nothing, but he didn't even have to say anything.
"Happy Birthday...Akira." Natsuki muttered from behind him, still flustered.
What is this feeling?
"Come, sit down! We have presents for youuu~!" Haru latched onto Akira, forcing him into a chair. He glanced back to look at Natsuki, eyes wide and face red. It was written all over Akira's face. He was happy.
They went through the presents and curry rather quickly. Haru had gotten Akira a pink turban, covered in yellow polka dots. Even though he would probably never wear it, Akira smiled more than he wanted to because he was so startled by the gift and thanked Haru. Next, Yuki of course got him something a bit more practical. It was a life long subscription to his favorite fishing magazine. Urara had been nice enough to buy Tapioca and Akira matching sweaters. Probably the gift most frowned upon, but it's the thought that counts. They always say that. It's the thought that counts? But it really is. Akira's face hurt so much by the time they left, unable to hold back his smile and laughter.
In the curry Natsuki had carefully placed twenty seven bright yellow candles in, and when it was time to blow them out Haru urged Akira to make a wish.
I wish to never forget the friends I have
And how much they mean to me
Because I had forgotten how happy they make me
And now I know there's a hole there that I'd been ignoring
"Why haven't you left yet, everyone else went to catch the plane."
"Well, I don't have school. I don't really have to go. Do you... do you want me to go?"
Akira breathed heavily, happily. "No, please stay. Make your self at home."
"I'm sorry I couldn't get you anything. I'd spent a lot of money already arranging their flight tickets, and all of this."
"You did this?"
"It was my idea."
Natsuki finished cleaning up the dishes and sat next to Tapioca on the couch, he petted her gently, making sure not to ruffled her feathers.
"Earlier when I grabbed your arm.."
"Huh?" Natsuki pulled his hand away from Tapioca, eyes readjusting. "What did you say?"
"Thank you." Akira leaned over to place a kiss on Natsuki's cheek that remained a bright red from beginning to end.
"You're... W-Welcome." Natsuki's eyes wandered, looking for any place that wasn't Akira's eyes to distract him. But he was staring.
"If I had done that earlier, what do you think Yuki would have done?"
"Wh-why would Yuki care?"
How old are they now, really? I know I'm old but when I was that age... I wasn't that..
"Nothing." Akira tried to laugh.
"You think, Yuki likes me?"
Akira rolled his eyes, of course you- agh. Children are so frustrating. "Yes, Natsuki."
"Long distant relationships never work..." Natsuki's voice trailed, bright face growing dim. "And besides, there's someone else."
"Oh, well why didn't you tell me? I'm sorry. I shouldn't have kissed your cheek-"
Akira was too experienced not to notice. The smallness of Natsuki's voice, the squirm, the way he refused to look back at him. Me?
"I thought you said long distant relationships never work."
"How can you do that?"
"See right through me..."
"Love is predictable."
"Did you know I was going to be here, when you came home?"
"Then it's not as predictable as you think."
"No, that's just you. You're very hard for me to predict. A weakness."
"Do you...?" They didn't even have to say the words.
"What's stopping you?"
"Reason. Instinct." Reason because it's stupid, instinct because there is no point in getting hurt.
"But, it's your birthday."
It was then that they both started laughing, louder than they had all night. Cackling and breathing heavily at such a silly response to a serious conversation.
"You're right, it is my birthday. Does that mean I get what I want?"
"Is that okay?"
Such desperation in his beautiful voice. How long.. has he loved me?
"But what about tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow's your birthday too."
"And the day after that, and even the one after that."
"We should celebrate your existence everyday."
"Just so you can have me?"
"No, because you deserve it. We aren't here for you enough."
"You're here right now, and you've made my day for the next three hundred and sixty five.."
"Not yet, I haven't." Akira's eyes widened at the change in tone, the words Natsuki had just said. Is he not... that same sixteen year old boy I knew? Or...
"Natsuki..." His eyes looked from Natsuki's right to his left but nothing changed. He was really going to go through with it.
"Happy Birthday, Akira." Natsuki fell into him, arms on his shoulders and lips together. Akira kissed back, realizing something. He'd never been kissed on his birthday before. Never been in a serious relationship where he'd... been loved enough to receive that. For someone to go out of their way and tell him happy birthday, and set something up. To spend all of their money just to see him. To love someone and tell them happy birthday is more than a celebration. It says, thank you for existing. Please continue to do so, and next year let's celebrate it again.
You're an important part of my life.