Asami turned from the sliding glass door. He wore a polo shirt and white linen slacks. The room, part of a luxurious villa, was dark and the sliding door was open. He had been looking at a spectacular orange and purple sunset over the ocean. Palm trees waved in the tropical breeze. It was a beautiful evening.
“How are you feeling?”
Maseo walked slowly towards Asami, his face in shadow. “All right, I guess. I didn’t expect Andou to shoot me like that.” Maseo’s face came into view. His faded blue button down linen shirt was open and he had on baggy shorts. He wasn’t wearing his glasses.
“You look the same. No scars, no wounds.”
“I told you before I can heal myself. Even these kinds of injuries.” Maseo thought about how terrible he must have looked, bloody and lifeless. “Did you lose faith, Ryuichi?”
“No, but you looked dead enough lying on the floor. With two bullets to the head, I had my doubts,” said Asami, “How long did the healing process take?”
“A few days. It was painful. It seems when my body is that badly injured, I can’t really do much of anything. I kept the bullets as souvenirs,” said Maseo. He went to stand next to Asami at the sliding glass door. “Thanks for having my body moved to that hotel room. I’m sure the staff wasn’t happy about the mess I left.”
Asami shrugged. “Doesn’t matter what they think since I own that hotel.”
He looked at the pain that had settled in Asami’s eyes and his slightly slumped posture. They were small indicators but he knew Asami was grieving deeply. He reached out to touch him on the cheek but Asami pulled away. “Careful with that. You love someone now.”
Maseo closed his eyes and dropped his hand. The deep seated pain he felt worsened though he was able to keep it in check. “How is he?”
Asami hesitated but only for a moment. “He’s in a bad state. He hadn’t been eating or sleeping and he was working around the clock. I’ve had him installed in one of my condos and the doctor has been making regular visits. Two of my men are keeping an eye on him.”
“Why isn’t he at home?”
“When he collapsed from exhaustion, he begged Suoh not to take him back to his condo. He can’t bear to be there because that’s where you were shot. I’ve made arrangements to have it sold.”
A tear rolled down Maseo’s cheek and then another. He turned around so Asami wouldn’t look at him while he wiped them away.
“He’ll get better. He’s tough. He just needs some time to rest and recover.”
Maseo turned around. “No, it’s not that simple. He’s mine now. I took him and we’ve started bonding even if the process isn’t complete. The separation is almost unbearable at this point. I should have never—I should have never gone back to him,” he stopped, taking a breath. “The pain is outside normal human experience. It can twist and destroy a person’s mental and emotional state.” He swallowed hard. The tears were coming faster so he went into the bathroom, ran cold water in the sink, and splashed his face. As he dried off with a towel, he felt more in control.
Asami was standing in the middle of the room, waiting for him. “He’ll be all right, Maseo. He’s always steady and reliable but he also has an unshakeable strength. He has to in order to do his job as well as he does. He’s being well taken care of.” Asami stepped closer until they were less than a foot from each other. “And I promise I will continue to look after him.”
“I know you will,” said Maseo. He looked past Asami out the sliding glass windows at the fiery orange sky. “The thought that he’s probably going through the same pain my mother experienced is almost too much to bear, Ryuichi. I did a very selfish thing.”
“You said your father couldn’t stay away from her. What made you think you could stay away from him? Did you really believe that you would be stronger than your father?” said Asami.
Maseo frowned. “I guess…you’re right about that.” He sighed looking down at the floor. He’d underestimated everything, his curiosity, his desire, and his love, and now they were both paying the price. The pain in his heart deepened.
“Let’s go outside,” said Asami.
They went out to the balcony and sat down in wicker chairs. The sun was setting. The faint scent of some exotic flower mingled with the sea air. The sound of the waves was soothing.
“I know you’re right about Kei being tough. Besides he has something else to keep him going,” said Maseo.
“You. If he were any more devoted to you, he’d be in love.”
“Are you jealous?”
Maseo leaned forward, staring at the streaks of deep purple across the horizon. “No, of course not, not of you, anyway, but…don’t forget, Ryuichi, he belongs to me.”
Asami let out a slightly hoarse chuckle. Maseo leaned back in his chair and laughed with him. He closed his eyes letting the good feeling settle into his being. A seagull was calling in the distance. He took a deep breath, relishing the sea air.
“You were jealous of Kazumi,” said Asami.
Maseo opened his eyes. “Yes, I was. I attacked Kei in his office when I went to say goodbye. He needs to understand that he belongs to me. I can’t stand the thought of anybody else touching him. They’re…too close even if they are best friends.”
“They’re not sleeping together if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“I know that but Kazumi is too familiar with him. I don’t like it.” Maseo frowned, looking out at the darkening orange sky. He watched the waves roll in then retreat. “Kei said I keep seducing him and leaving. He made it sound so unfair.”
“It is unfair, Maseo.”
He looked at Asami, startled by the hard tone in his voice.
“You’re avoiding responsibility and hurting the person you love the most.”
“Well, it can’t be helped, Ryuichi,” said Maseo. He stood up and leaned against the balcony, watching the seabirds run along the shore.
“What are you—?”
“I told him about my parents,” said Maseo. He was still leaned against the balcony, his back to Asami.
Silence. Maseo took another deep breath letting the sea air fill his lungs.
“How much did you tell him?”
“I explained how my father told me never to fall in love, how my mother died, and how he eventually left me. And I told him how you and I met.”
“What did he say?”
“He asked if family disapproval was the reason why my father kept leaving.”
“I didn’t correct him on that question.” Maseo turned around to look at Asami. “And I didn’t tell him anything about you or us growing up together other than how old we were when we met. I explained that was private and he respected that, as I knew he would.”
Asami looked away from Maseo for a moment before meeting his gaze again. “Thanks.”
“He seemed to understand why I had to leave after I told him about my father.”
“But you went back anyway and you were going to keep taking him until you bonded completely,” said Asami.
“Yes.” Maseo lowered his head. Longing coursed through him. “It hurts be away from him.”
“That’s how these feelings work, Maseo. You should know from the years you’ve spent observing people.”
“I thought I understood but dealing with these feelings…” He shook his head. “It’s not at all what I thought it would be.” He looked at the water again. The sky was mostly purple with tinges of dark orange.
“What happened to your glasses?” asked Asami after some minutes had passed.
Maseo turned around. “I don’t know. When I woke up they were gone.”
“Will you get another pair even if you don’t need them?”
“I think so. I like wearing glasses.”
Asami gave him the barest smile. Maseo noticed that his expression was harder. He knew this moment of lightness was fleeting and as soon as he left, Asami would grow harder and colder than he’d ever been in his life.
“I’m sorry about Jin. I did my best with him but I feel like I should have known about this elaborate mess. It seems like I failed you somehow.”
Asami took out a Dunhill and lit it. “You can’t know everything, Maseo. I don’t hold you responsible.”
“I think I tried to do too much this time, Ryuichi. Even with my efforts it made no difference.”
“I don’t expect you to do anything, Maseo. The debt you owed me was paid years ago,” said Asami, exhaling smoke.
“I wish you would stop thinking of every interaction as what someone owes you.”
Asami said nothing. He held his cigarette in his right hand and flicked the ashes. Tiny sparks floated on the ocean breeze around him and then were extinguished.
Maseo looked out at the last of the orange light on the horizon. He could see the silhouettes of couples walking on the beach. He felt a familiar twinge in his chest. Jealousy again? No, envy. He let the feeling sit quietly inside him. He realized he was envious of those couples on the beach.
“What I would give to have the same–,” Maseo said out loud. He stopped, still watching the couples. What would he give to have the same opportunity? He wasn’t sure how he would answer that question. He looked back at Asami who was still watching him.
“Maseo, when was the last time you were in love?” Asami’s knees were crossed and strands of his hair were blowing gently in the wind.
He shook his head. “I wouldn’t call the bond you and I share ‘love,’ Ryuichi.”
“That wasn’t my question. I’m asking about you.”
Maseo didn’t hesitate. “He’s the only one. Yes, the first and the last,” he said, settling back in his chair.
“What are you going to do about it?”
He didn’t answer right away. Resort workers were setting up torches on the beach and lighting them. The flames flickered. He swallowed a lump in his throat. “I have to stay away from him. I know that’s a terrible thing to do but I don’t have a choice. In a way, Andou shooting me makes this easier.” Maseo shook his head. “The bonding process was happening so fast. I took him to bed, thinking I could hold back but I couldn’t.”
Asami exhaled cigarette smoke. “I knew you wanted him. I kept wondering when you were going to do something about it. When you told him in the garage ‘No one can hurt you,’ I knew this wasn’t a trivial matter. You told me something similar years ago.”
“Yes, and it took some time for me stop trying to keep you from harm all the time. Why you decided on this dangerous way of living is beyond me, Ryuichi.” Maseo slumped in his chair and folded his hands over his chest. “I suppose the same thing is true for Kei. I’m going to have to get used to not being able to save him all the time. Staying away should help.”
“You just needed a strong person who can take care of himself and Kei is more than capable of doing that.” Asami looked out at the darkening sky on the horizon.
“Ugh. I hate this,” said Maseo. He looked around the scene and raised his voice, “Do you hear me? I HATE this!”
“If you feel that strongly then go get him.”
“Easier said than done and you know it.”
“You need to be truer to yourself. Go after what you want. Take some responsibility.”
“It would be an unforgivable breach. And being with me would ultimately hurt him. I can’t let that happen. I need to stay away from him. Far away,” said Maseo. He saw Asami’s eyes narrow for a moment.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to use that term.”
Asami shrugged. He stubbed out his cigarette on an ashtray on the wicker table between them. Stars were starting to appear high in the night sky. “I suppose you expect me to keep this secret for you. I’ll do it,” said Asami, “After all, I owe you for coming with me to that building but I don’t like keeping this information from him.”
“I understand your feelings. Thanks,” said Maseo. He leaned forward in his chair. “How are you doing, Ryuichi?”
“What you might expect under the circumstances.”
Maseo looked down at his bare feet. He wanted to tell him everything was going to turn out all right, that another person, the right person, was out there for him but he knew he wasn’t going to mention it.
Asami stood up and went to stand next to him. His shoulders were slightly tense. “What is it? What are you worried about?” he asked without looking at him.
“You, of course. Who else?”
“My men will look after me. You need to look after yourself.”
“I may help from time to time but I won’t do it in your presence,” said Maseo. The outside lights of the villa had gone on. When Asami turned to face him, the lights illuminated his chiseled face. Maseo studied the beautiful face he’d known for so many years.
“I don’t expect you to do anything that won’t benefit you,” said Asami. He tilted his head just slightly, his hands in his pockets. “Why do you keep looking at me like that?”
“You’re growing colder. You’re starting to freeze up inside.”
“It’s to be expected, right? Considering what’s happened,” said Asami.
“Yes, you’re right. Still, it’s not an easy thing to watch happen.” He leaned on the balcony. “I’ll be gone for a long while. I need to go back to what I was made to do: observing and helping people, and stop getting entangled in these affairs. It’s not a good thing for me.” He knew that without his presence Asami would allow his emotions to shut down but he had to leave. He sighed. “I should go. I’m sorry about Jin. I did the best I could.”
Asami nodded, taking another drag on his cigarette, then he walked into the darkened room. Maseo followed.
“Good luck, old friend,” Asami said, turning to face him, “Take care of yourself.”
“Yes, you do the same.” Maseo smiled and turned to leave.
“Wait,” said Asami, grabbing his arm. “I know you tried hard with Jin. Thanks. I appreciate it.”
Asami stood looking at the empty space where Maseo had been. “Kei.” He shook his head and then went to take a shower.