After Akihito was discharged from the hospital, he temporarily moved into Asami’s penthouse for the duration of his recovery. It took some explaining to his parents but they readily accepted the situation. When he was able to move around, Akihito went to look for Maseo in the park so Asami could get him a job at a good company but he was nowhere to be found. Other men in the park said they didn’t know him and had never seen him before. Akihito never found him.
When he was fully recovered, Akihito insisted on getting his own apartment. Asami hadn’t wanted him to but Akihito wanted time to decide what direction he wanted to take in his professional life. Asami bought the apartment and made sure it was very close to his penthouse.
Akihito barely lasted four months before they permanently moved in together. For this occasion, Asami bought a brand new penthouse and had the interior custom built for them. It included a state of the art darkroom.
Akihito continued to make a name for himself as a photographer on his own though he allowed Asami to buy him things. For his part, Asami was able to allow Akihito the freedom to come and go as he pleased. He knew they would always return to each other after a few hours, a day, or several days apart.
About five months after permanently moving in together, Akihito found himself back at the beginning, albeit a very different one. He was again following Kirishima down the long hallway at Club Sion in West Shinjuku on his way to meet Asami for a late dinner. He could see him at the other end of the hallway standing outside a VIP room speaking to some men. He gasped, stopping, for one of the men appeared to be Ravi. Kirishima glanced back at him. “It’s all right. That’s Janu, Ravi’s younger brother. They look very much alike even if their temperaments are completely different. I should have warned you. My apologies.”
“It’s okay. I just…well, I feel a little sad,” said Akihito.
“I understand,” said Kirishima. There was no emotion in his voice. Kirishima paused.
“What?” asked Akihito, looking up at him.
“Takaba-kun, I wanted to say we appreciate you allowing us to take care of the situation in the penthouse and not resorting to taking action on your own. You’re under our protection now and we have orders to ensure your safety.”
“Yes, I know,” said Akihito. The First Assistant stepped closer putting his hand on Akihito’s shoulder, surprising him.
“Since that night in the penthouse, your safety has become our primary importance. More important than protecting Asami-sama. Do you understand?”
“I…No, what do you mean?” Akihito stared up at Kirishima. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“You are the most important thing in Asami-sama’s life. More important than the organization, more important than his assets. Keeping you safe is the best thing we can do for him.”
Akihito blushed. “I…had no idea. Even more important than protecting him?”
“Yes. This is a dangerous world, Takaba-kun. Asami-sama wants to shield you from those dangers as much as possible. I’m telling you this because I want you to come to us if there are problems. Let us do our jobs when it’s necessary,” said Kirishima giving Akihito’s shoulder a squeeze.
Akihito pulled away from Kirishima’s grip. “Okay. I’ll do that but Asami’s safety has to be more important than mine.”
“We have our orders and priorities, Takaba-kun,” Kirishima said.
“Wait, does this mean if we are both in danger and you can save only one of us, you’d save me over him?”
Kirishima pushed his glasses up. Akihito could see he was searching his eyes. “Yes, that’s correct.”
“That’s…wrong and you know it! You’re his First Assistant, Kirishima-san. How could you accept that?”
Kirishima sighed. “Your safety is the most important priority, Takaba-kun. You don’t understand what Asami-sama has been through. When he lost Jin I made him a promise, and I’m keeping it.”
Akihito looked down at the floor. He felt a painful squeezing of his heart. He didn’t like the thought of Asami’s men picking him over Asami in a dangerous situation.
“Takaba-kun, if you will just come to us if there are problems it would go a long way to avoiding that situation,” said Kirishima, his voice surprisingly gentle. Akihito said nothing. “It’s a last resort in the event of a life and death situation.”
Akihito looked back up at him. “I understand. That doesn’t mean I have to like it but I understand. I know you’re having me followed all the time.”
“It’s for your safety,” said Kirishima.
“I know and I’m getting used to it.” He held out his hand. Kirishima paused for too long, looking at Akihito’s extended hand then took it and they shook firmly. “I promise I will let you take care of these things. Thanks.” They turned and continued down the hallway.
Asami saw Akihito approaching and smiled at him, surprising everyone. Janu looked at him as well. Akihito’s outward appearance had changed. He was now wearing very expensive clothes and his hair was shorter though growing back out but he also knew he possessed a self-assuredness that he didn’t have before.
Janu bowed as they stopped. “You must be Takaba Akihito. I’m Janu. I’ve been longing to meet you so I can formally apologize for my late brother’s unforgivable act. Please accept my family’s sincere apologies.”
Akihito glanced at Asami who nodded slightly. “Thank you.” He bowed in return. “I’m happy to meet you.” Even though Ravi had almost killed him, he still couldn’t help but feel sad about his death.
He watched Asami finish saying his goodbyes and explaining to them that Kirishima would be happy to see to their dinner arrangements. Then Asami held his hand out to him. Akihito took it and the two men walked away towards Asami’s office. He understood the promise Kirishima made but it was bothering him. Akihito remembered Maseo’s comments about Asami being the love of his life. It was true, of course, and he knew he would gladly give his own life to save Asami’s if the situation demanded it.
“What are you thinking about?” asked Asami when they had turned the corner of the hallway.
“I’m thinking how lucky we are to have each other,” said Akihito. The connection between them never wavered since Akihito felt that clear and true moment while lying on the bloodied white carpet that night after telling Ravi that no one would break him, not even Asami.
“Yes, we have a lot to look forward to,” said Asami. He glanced down at Akihito. “Something is bothering you. What is it?” Akihito looked up at him but didn’t reply.
Asami stopped, pushing Akihito up against the wall.
“Was it something you and Kirishima were discussing?” He leaned close. A jolt fired through Akihito’s body. No matter how many times they made love, kissed, touched each other, each time the intensity was overwhelming.
Akihito felt the very familiar heat rise into his face. He looked away from Asami, still not replying. Asami leaned closer to to him. “Akihito,” said Asami in his ear, “tell me what’s bothering you.”
“He…was telling me that my safety is more important than yours,” Akihito finally said, trying to ignore the heat. He looked at Asami, feeling a surge of annoyance. “That doesn’t sound right. Your safety should be the most important thing.”
Asami grabbed his chin. “You are mine. Nothing in this world is more important. My men have been told to keep you safe no matter what the cost.” Akihito turned his head and tried pushing Asami away. He knew it was useless but he didn’t care.
“I don’t like it, Asami. If anything happens you should be saved, not me,” said Akihito. Asami kissed him on the cheek, his soft lips warm on his skin. Akihito closed his eyes but he still managed to summon his stubbornness. He looked up at him. “I’m serious, Asami! You’re not listening to me!”
Asami buried his face in Akihito’s neck, licking and nibbling. Akihito cried out, he couldn’t help it. He pushed uselessly at Asami again as he attempted to hold on to his last shred of annoyance. “Asami! You can’t distract me like this when I have…”
“Have what?” Asami murmured against his neck.
“When I’m worried…about…you.” Akihito said, gasping. He began to struggle. “Let…let go of me. I’m trying to tell you…it’s important.”
“There’s nothing to worry about,” said Asami, looking down at him. Akihito looked up into his piercing eyes. In the past, he’d been too afraid to look into them for very long for fear of losing himself but now he let himself fall into those eyes knowing Asami would always find him. His heart was pounding.
“If it comes down to either you or me being saved, I want it to be you,” said Akihito. He leaned up towards Asami, stopping just short of kissing him. “Promise me.”