Early update! Yeah, I need to go see a doctor because I might have appendicitis, so just in case...I'm giving you this update a bit sooner.

Since there seems to be some confusion, I'll explain it here: the story won't be ending anytime soon. When I started writing this, I had planned that this fic would end where the original series starts (in October, after Misaki's 18th birthday). That means that there will be 7 years in total.

Of course, if people don't want me to continue this, that means that I will just end the story sooner, although I hope that isn't the case.

- Year III -

Chapter 23 – stranger

It was an ordinary, although rather cold, Saturday afternoon when Misaki walked home from his trip to the grocery store. Since his brother was feeling a bit under the weather, Misaki decided to do him a favor by going to the store to make him his favorite food. Of course, while his brother was lying in his bed with a headache, trying to get some sleep, Misaki slipped out secretly to do so, knowing that Takahiro wouldn't allow him to go all alone after the incident with the bullies two months ago.

The plastic bag was a bit too heavy, so Misaki had to carry it with both hands, realizing that he had perhaps bought too much for tonight's dinner. He shrugged; if it was for Takahiro's sake, then it didn't matter anyways. All that mattered was that his older brother would feel better. The young brunet walked slowly as he crossed the street. It wasn't exactly crowded that day. Usually, when Misaki went to the store on a Saturday, there were loads of other people running errands as well, mostly parents.

'Parents…' At the memory of his lost father and mother, Misaki felt his heart ache, his gaze lowering to the ground. As happy as he was for other children to have parents, he had to admit that he was jealous. Just the sight of a happy family walking down the street saddened him, even though his parents died when he was only eight years old. Gradually, Misaki slowed down until he was no longer walking. Five years had passed since that dreadful day, but he could still remember it all too well. Why was it that he started thinking about it now? What had triggered him so suddenly?

Happy tunes reached Misaki's ears, accompanied by vibrations in his pocket. He put the bag down and fished for his cell phone, then studied the number being displayed. Recognizing Akihiko's number, he pressed the green button.

"Usagi-san?" he said questioningly. The author hardly called him out of nowhere, so he was mildly worried. "Is something the matter?"

"Hello Misaki," the deep, husky voice spoke, causing Misaki to shiver, "I just wanted to say that I want to see you, so I was hoping you could—"

"You don't have time to fool around!" a loud voice on Akihiko's side cut the man off, and Misaki instantly knew it was Aikawa.

Akihiko emitted a sigh, glaring at his editor for a moment before continuing the conversation. "Anyway, I have to tell you that Aikawa is going to drag me to some award ceremony, and I'm forced to stay at a hotel for a few days. Unfortunately, that means that you can't come over this weekend."

Misaki nodded in understanding, even though Akihiko couldn't see this gesture. "That's okay," he assured, "Work is important, after all." Emerald eyes darted around to make sure that Misaki wasn't blocking the path for anyone else, and legs were locked around the plastic bag.

"Nothing is more important than you, Misaki."

"D-don't say weird things!" the teen spat, his face reddening, "Y-you should listen to Aikawa-san and go to that award ceremony. It's undoubtedly very important."

"Still, not as important as you."

"That's beside the point! Just go there and do your job!" Misaki rolled his eyes. 'God, he can be such a child sometimes,' he thought, not realizing that he himself was still young as well.

On the other side of the phone, Akihiko was trying to get Aikawa to shut up, getting irritated by how pushy the redhead was getting. Couldn't that woman give him a break, just for once? "Misaki, I will go, but if you miss me, I will be staying at Teito Hotel. Remember that if you need to see me."

Misaki blinked in confusion. He had never heard of Teito Hotel, but it sounded as if it was a pretty fancy place. Then again, the boy hadn't been to any hotels ever since his parents passed away, so he didn't know very much about it.

"Are you still there?"

"Ah—yes!" Misaki replied quickly, snapping out of his thoughts, "You have fun at the hotel, I guess."

As Akihiko was about to respond, Aikawa snatched his cell phone away. "I'm sorry Misaki-kun, but sensei and I have to leave now," she apologized, making sure that Akihiko couldn't steal his phone back.

"It's okay. I hope we'll see each other soon, Aikawa-san."

"Me too, Misaki-kun. Goodbye!" Quickly, the woman ended the call. Misaki stared at his phone, still processing what had happened, and then picked up the bag with groceries again. The only thing he could think of was going to a hotel. Actually, he wanted to go to a hotel, but he knew Takahiro would be too busy with his work to go, not to mention that it was expensive. Maybe the teen could go there with Akihiko.

Misaki shook his head. Why would he and Akihiko have to go to a hotel anyways? Wouldn't that mean that he'd have to leave Takahiro all by himself? Sighing, Misaki started to walk back home in a slow pace. Pushing his own needs was a selfish thing to do and Misaki didn't want to be selfish. Still, going to a hotel with Akihiko could be very…romantic.

"Gah! What the hell am I thinking?!" Misaki said out loud, panicking at his own embarrassing thoughts. Yet, at the same time, he couldn't help but wonder what would happen if he would stay at a hotel with the handsome author. As soon as his mind entered its perv-zone, the boy's face flushed and he banished all of his thoughts.

Picking up the pace, Misaki attempted to run with the heavy shopping bag in his hands, which wasn't too easy. He was just taking a turn left when he noticed a fancy, shining car at the end of the street. The car was parked at the side of the road, a car door swinging open. Misaki stared in awe as a tall man clad entirely in black stepped out, wearing a black hat and gloves. His curiosity got the better of him and the brunet couldn't stop staring into the stranger's direction.

Soon, eyes met and the man slowly walked over to Misaki, smiling kindly as he approached the young teen.

"Excuse me, young man," The black-haired stranger spoke, "But do you happen to know how I can get to the Nodaiwa restaurant?"

Furrowing his brows in thought, Misaki looked around for a minute. He had heard of the restaurant, but he couldn't say that he had ever been there. So many places in Tokyo were still unknown to him.

"I believe that it's pretty close to the Shimokitazawa station, but I can't say for sure," Misaki replied as he looked back at the man, "I'm sorry that I can't be of more help, but I'm not exactly familiar with that restaurant."

Smiling, the stranger shook his head. "That's all right. Your instructions will surely be useful, so thank you very much."

"Ah—no problem at all!" Although Misaki had no idea why, his face reddened a little as he bowed. However, his mild embarrassment was replaced by confusion when he noticed a brown-haired man looking out of the car window, staring at him. His face lacked any kind of expression as his gaze locked with the brunet's.

The black-haired man noticed the eye contact and coughed awkwardly, feeling the need to explain the situation. "Haruhiko-sama is supposed to go to a meeting at the Nodaiwa restaurant. I'm merely his driver, but I didn't get any directions when we left and I'm not familiar with some parts of Tokyo."

Misaki simply smiled and nodded. "Well, I hope you will be able to get there in time."

"Again, thank you for your help." The driver smiled as Misaki gestured that it was no problem, and then got back to the car, exchanging a few words with Haruhiko before getting in. The other male pushed up his glasses as he glanced at Misaki once more. Then, the car drove off.

After standing still for what seemed to be an eternity, the confused boy finally proceeded to walk back home. This Haruhiko person had to be very rich if he had a driver. Misaki didn't know anyone else who had a driver, although he was sure that Akihiko could afford one easily.

While walking, Misaki's mind wandered off to the hotel once again, and his imagination ran free soon enough. Manami had been coming over more frequently and she and Takahiro were always watching romantic movies whenever Misaki entered the living room. Every single time, Misaki couldn't help but stand near the doorway and watch the movie for a little while, praying that his brother and Manami wouldn't notice him. In most movies where a couple went to a hotel, there were always bottles of champagne or wine and silk robes or yukata.

Misaki paused as a question popped up in his head. Would they have yukata and alcohol at Teito Hotel as well? If so, then who would Akihiko spend the night with?

"No, he wouldn't…do that, right?" Misaki asked himself softly as he started walking again, "He says he l-loves me, so he would never cheat on me…I think." Of course Misaki believed Akihiko's words, but he still couldn't ignore his doubts. The author was handsome and rich, so it definitely wasn't uncommon for women to be all over him. Perhaps…Akihiko wanted to spend some time with one of those ladies.

Everything was tearing the poor brunet apart, and before he knew what he was doing his hand found his cell phone and dialed Akihiko's number. The moment when a familiar low voice answered, Misaki realized what he had done and started blushing intensely, unable to utter a single word.

"Are you already missing me?" Akihiko asked smugly, practically purring into the phone.

The question spurred something within Misaki and he found his voice. "I-I was wondering what the hotel is like," he replied half-heartedly, "It must be a very expensive hotel."

A low chuckle could be heard on the other side. "Teito Hotel is indeed a very luxurious hotel. It's often used by companies for meetings or ceremonies, and very important businessmen come to the hotel. Naturally, the suites should be of exceptional quality in order to satisfy the guests."

Misaki's eyes widened at Akihiko's explanation. It sounded as though the hotel was like a castle, and the quests were all kings and queens that would get whatever they wanted. To even set one foot there already seemed like a dream to Misaki.

"Yet, there is no way that it will ever satisfy me," Akihiko stated confidently, causing Misaki to frown.

"Why not, Usagi-san?" Misaki had noticed that the man could be rather picky at times, but he didn't seem too hard to please.

"It won't be fun to sleep all alone in a large bed." As this answer came from Akihiko's lips, he didn't know that this affected Misaki greatly…and not in a good way. The brunet started trembling slightly at the thought of Akihiko sharing his bed with some stranger, and a weird feeling entered him. Why was he getting so worked up?

'Maybe it's because I don't want Usagi-san to be with someone else…' Misaki said in his head, completely lost in his thoughts, 'Isn't that natural though? If I'm in love with Usagi-san, that means that I don't want him to do 'things' with other people.' Then, Misaki finally realized that he was being jealous.

"Misaki, is something wrong?" Akihiko asked worriedly, not trusting the sudden silence. Quickly glancing at his watch, he noticed that he still had some time before the taxi arrived. This worried him even more; he wanted to find out why Misaki had fallen silent before Aikawa would drag him along. "Oi, Misaki?"

"Huh, what? I'm sorry, I got distracted. What were you saying?"

Akihiko could feel a smirk play on his lips. "I was saying that I'll feel lonely if I can't share my bed with anyone," he purred softly, "You know, I'm sure we could have a wonderful night together if you came over."

Understanding the true meaning behind those words, Misaki quickly climbed the stairs towards his brother's apartment, his face getting hotter for what seemed to be the hundredth time that day. "Pervert!" he whisper-yelled, putting his bag down and searching for his keys, "There's no way I'm coming over."

"That's a shame," Akihiko replied calmly, still smirking slightly, "If you happen to change your mind, you know where to find me."

Misaki was about to mutter something in protest, but decided to cut the conversation short as he didn't want to wake his brother. "I'll talk to you later, Usagi-san. Bye for now."

"Goodbye, Misaki. I love you."

Blushing, Misaki took the cell phone in his free hand, feeling a twinge of pain in his neck from clamping the device between his head and shoulder. He ended the call and unlocked the door, noticing that his hand was shaking mildly. When Akihiko said those three small words, the teen felt as though he had to convey his feelings as well. Yet, he couldn't do it…again.

'I'm such a sore loser,' Misaki thought, picking up the shopping bag as the door slowly opened, 'Usagi-san tells me he loves me all the time, so why is it so hard for me to say it?' He had to admit that he admired Akihiko's straightforwardness, although it was something uncharacteristic for a Japanese man. After all, wasn't it weird for a man to express his love so openly?

A cold breeze nearly shut the door behind the boy as he shuffled his way inside, taking off his shoes and slipping into a pair of comfy slippers. After taking off his coat and closing the door quietly, he sneaked towards the kitchen, praying that Takahiro wasn't awake yet. A sigh of relief came from Misaki's lips as he discovered that the floor was abandoned. In a few large steps, he managed to get to the kitchen and started emptying the plastic bag.

Soft footsteps could be heard from the hallway and Takahiro appeared soon after. Rubbing his eyes, he tried to focus on the sight of his brother standing in the kitchen.

"Misaki, what are you doing?"

The sudden voice startled Misaki and he looked up to see his older brother in his pajamas, eyeing him sleepily yet curiously.

"Nii-chan, shouldn't you try to get some more sleep?" Misaki asked, still trying to hide his surprise from the other.

"I've slept for three hours already. If I keep on sleeping I won't be able to get some rest at night." Takahiro wobbled closer until he was on the other side of the counter, studying the ingredients. His eyes narrowed as he noticed that those weren't the ingredients he had bought earlier. "Misaki, did you go to the store all by yourself?"

Misaki gulped, seeing his brother's face turn serious and stern. "I-I wanted to make you something good so that you would feel better," Misaki admitted, clutching the bag, "Please don't be mad, Nii-chan. I've been very careful and I didn't run into those bullies."

Takahiro was about to give Misaki a lecture, but instead of doing so he merely sighed. "Don't go out there all alone, Misaki," he spoke softly, his gaze softening, "I wouldn't know what to do if you got hurt. Even though your intentions are good, I don't want you to run off like that."

"I'm sorry," Misaki whispered, looking down at his hands, "But really, nothing happened today. There was hardly anyone outside, except for a man and his driver who asked me for directions.

Hearing this, Takahiro knitted his eyebrows. "Misaki, you shouldn't talk to strangers…it's dangerous."

A look of confusion crossed the younger one's face as he stared back at his brother. Wasn't that how he'd met Akihiko though? "I don't understand what you're saying Nii-chan. He simply wanted to know how to get—"

"It doesn't matter what they ask of you, Misaki," Takahiro interrupted, his tone indicating that he was serious, "Whenever a person you don't know starts talking to you, walk away from them. If you don't, they might kidnap you and…" Takahiro silenced himself and his face contorted in concern.

"Tell me, Nii-chan," Misaki ordered, even though he was scared of what his brother was about to say.

Takahiro sighed and scratched the back of his head before continuing. "Listen closely, Misaki. There are all sorts of creeps out there and I don't want them to lay their hands on you. If you're really unlucky, you will find yourself being raped and…murdered."

Doe green eyes widened in shock at that last sentence, and Misaki grew even more scared and curious against his will. "A-are there people like that in Tokyo as well?" he asked carefully. He gasped as Takahiro nodded slowly and took a step back.

"Misaki…there are men out there who are attracted to children and young teenagers. They often approach a child when it's alone and take it to a private place…and force them into having sex."

Despite the shock and fear, Misaki's mind started connecting the dots.

'Men taking away children…and forcing them to have sex…'

The entire world seemed to have fallen silent as Misaki started thinking more and more about what his brother had just said. Akihiko…when they first met, had offered Misaki to stay at his house for a while, which resulted into having sex. This tiny bit of information was enough for the teen to make a shocking and very unpleasant discovery.

'Usagi-san…is one of them.'

Well shit, Misaki found out. Do you think he'll still accept Akihiko?

The new character is indeed Usami Haruhiko, and yes, he will be causing trouble...later.

I hope you liked this chapter :) Thanks for reading and please review ^_^