title: the Vows we Break
fandom: Hikaru no Go
characters/pairings: Shindou Masao/OMC(s), Shindou Mitsuko, Hikaru/Akira, Touya Akiko & Kouyo
rating: Mature
warnings: sex, cheating, stabbing
summary: Shindou Masao has a midlife crisis, which may or may not have something to do with his son.
notes: written for the hikago big bang. this is essentially original!fic, given that it primarily revolves around a character than never appears in the manga or the anime. for anyone willing to take a chance and read it anyway, i deeply appreciate it. i've written Shindou Masao as gay before, so that idea has somewhat been in my head for a while. this fic could be seen as a sequel to 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, though it would be the most absurd sequel ever, since that fic was 357 words, and this one is over 55,000.

May



They worked through lunch, and he'd have meetings all afternoon. He had an energy bar and a candy bar in his desk. He was thinking of grabbing them both. Arakawa-san trailed after him, listing off who was going to be at the next meeting and what the bullet points would be, so he could be prepared. The only thing worse than going to a meeting was having to be prepared to go to a meeting.

"And Saga-san's wife just had their third baby," she finished.

"Boy or girl?" he asked. He hoped Saga had pictures. Babies were more interesting than the ink cost crisis and how to minimize its impact.

"Um... girl, I think," Arakawa-san nodded, flipping through her notebook.

"How nice," Masao smiled.

"You're such a softie," she teased him.

They entered the outer office, so there was a chorus of greetings for him. Just then, though, his phone rang. This ringtone...

He checked his phone to be sure. Jun had never actually called him before, just sent texts.

"Just a second," he smiled at Arakawa-san.

"Boss?" she wondered, but he was already back out in the hall, and heading to the stairwell. He checked to be sure no one was there, and then answered.

"Jun, are you all right?"

"Is it not ok that I called?" he asked, sounding hesitant and cute.

Something inside of Masao felt settled and at peace. "No, it's fine, it's just..."

"I usually just text," Jun laughed.

Masao wanted to be with him. "That's right."

"I have good news, though! I had the meeting with my editor today, remember?"

"I do."

"They're moving my series to the main title!" he sounded overjoyed.

Masao didn't fully understand, but he knew it was exciting. "That's fantastic... right?"

Jun laughed heartily. "Yes! I mean, I'm being published now, but the publisher has several magazines, and the one I'm being serialized in is smaller and full of more... raw stuff, you know? If I didn't get picked up by another magazine soon, I probably would have been cancelled, but... this is really great! I'm going to be in the flagship manga!"

"Wow, that's really amazing! Congratulations!" Masao was just beaming. He felt proud for some reason.

"Thank you, thank you very much," Jun was clearly grinning.

Masao needed to see him. "You should celebrate. Are you going out with friends?"

"Eh... I don't... I mean, I don't have any plans..." Jun hedged.

He was waiting for Masao to say something. "Do you want to go out with me? We could go drinking. Or we could go out someplace fancy to eat." Masao didn't really know any fancy places, but Arakawa-san would steer him to the right place.

"Going out? Really? You'd be ok with that?" Jun asked. He sounded uncertain, but maybe... hopeful?

Masao wished he could see Jun's eyes. "Of course. Anything you want?"

"Anything?"

Masao felt a little warm by the collar. "Absolutely... anything," he promised. Was his voice getting husky.

"I want to see you."

"I want to see you, too. I... I can't leave right now, obviously, but..." Masao fidgeted. Could he leave right then? Jun wanted him...

"No, I know that!" Jun sounded nervous. "Come to my place tonight? I don't... really enjoy going out as much as... being in..."

Masao's heart rate jumped. "O-okay. Like I said. Anything." He licked his lips.

"I want food, though!"

"Of course, of course," Masao laughed, grateful for the break in tension. Sexual tension. He had a tactile image of Jun's hands in his mind...

"Bring me... mm... we should have cake."

"Not a problem," Masao promised.

"And... champagne!"

"Naturally!"

"...I want to eat beef bowls," Jun said, but it sounded like he was testing Masao.

He could only laugh in response.

"What?!"

"It just... it sounds interesting. Beef bowls, champagne, and cake."

"Bring me steak instead, then!"

"Ok, got it. Steak, champagne, cake. Is that what you want?" He bit his lip before he added something dangerous like my love.

"...Probably. When can you come?"

Masao checked his watch. He was going to be late... "I have a couple of meetings, but... I should be able to leave by eight. Is that all right?"

"...Just make sure you get a cake!"

"I promise," Masao smiled. "I'll let you know when I'm on my way. Congratulations... again."

"See ya," Jun said quietly, and then he hung up.

Masao opened the door to the stairwell... to find Kinjou-kun right outside.

Sighing heavily, he gave the kid a dark look. "Is there something you need?" His voice was too sharp, but he didn't like how this kid was acting. It felt wrong.

"Oh! No, Shindou-san, I just thought you might need something... urgent, since you..." Kinjou-kun looked back toward the stairwell.

Masao was already heading to the office. "That was personal."

He stepped inside again and Arakawa-san was already waiting for him with his briefcase and trench coat. "I put your bars in the front pocket," she raised an eyebrow at him.

Nodding, he slipped on his trench coat. "Thank you, Arakawa-san. I-" His phone jingled again, but this time it was just a text.

I want a celebratory sushi platter! A big one!

Masao couldn't stop himself from smiling. Arakawa-san was giving him a strange look. He slipped his phone into his pocket. "I'll be heading straight home after the meeting, so you don't need to wait for me. Arakawa-san, where did we get the sushi for the office holiday party?"

He'd thrown her for a loop. He could practically see her gears shifting. "Oh. Ah. That was Yoshino-zushi Honten. Do you want me to get a reservation or put in an order for you?"

"No, thanks," he replied cheerfully. "I just wanted to know the name." Now that he thought about it, he should have known.

He just barely made the meeting, but nothing ever started on time, so he got to coo over Saga's new daughter. During the meeting, he used his cell to find the address and phone number for the sushi place, and in between meetings, he placed the order. After the second meeting, he should have invited the section chief out for drinks, but he just politely excused himself and headed for his car. He went to a wine shop near the business district so he could get some quality champagne. He planned on just going to a convenience store to get the cake, but near where he had to park to get the sushi, there was a cafe that sold small cakes. It was a bit embarrassing, as most of the patrons were young women, but the girls at the counter were very helpful, and this was sure to be a far better cake than something from a convenience store. Of course, that meant he had to walk to and from the sushi shop with a bright pink bag with flowers and the name of the cafe.

Anything for Jun.

It was just before nine when he parked at Jun's complex. He sent a text to tell Jun he was on his way up, and then loaded up on the 'party' goods. Jun had the door opened for him by the time he got up, and greeted him with a kiss.

Just like coming home, in some sort of pastel-colored fantasy world.

"It looks like... you went overboard," Jun fussed, looking over Masao's packages.

"What are you talking about? Not at all! This is a big deal, right?" Masao grinned, setting his bags down.

"I was just being selfish when I asked for all that. I didn't really expect you to go to any expense. All I really wanted..." Jun bit his lip.

Masao put his hands on Jun's hips, and looked him in the eye. Masao smiled gently.

"I told you. Anything you want. This is your dream, right? We should celebrate it properly."

Jun looked like he wanted to protest, and Masao could guess just what was wrong with what he said. This relationship was supposed to be just sex, right? He pulled Jun close, kissing him gently until Jun put his hands on Masao's shoulders and let the kiss deepen.

It was Masao's selfishness, to want to be a part of an important occasion for Jun. Since he'd been given permission, though...

"Let's not let this go to waste, right?" he whispered softly against Jun's lips.

Jun slipped his arms around Masao's neck, and grinned. "All right. I guess I'll let you celebrate me, then!"

They put the cake in the fridge until it was time for it. Masao popped the cork on the champagne, and Jun licked his fingers clean of the spill-over. They opened up the sushi tray Masao had ordered, and Jun immediately grabbed his favorites. Eventually, they ended up feeding each other, though Jun tried to make Masao eat the wasabi. The champagne bottle was half empty when they opened up the cake, and since they'd both eaten quite a lot of sushi, they weren't really hungry. However, Jun got into Masao's lap, opened his shirt and smeared cake on his chest, licking it up.

Masao dug his fingers into Jun's sides, trying to hold him in place.

By the time they finished the champagne, they'd both lost quite a lot of their clothing, and Masao's entire chest was sticky from cake and saliva. He dug his fingers into Jun's hair and kissed him. He meant to complain about it, but it came out more like a come-on. Jun's gorgeous and talented hands moved down Masao's torso, and he offered to wash Masao clean.

Afterward, they showered together, they made love on Jun's futon, going torturously slowly. Every time Jun thrust into him, Masao tried to hold on, cling to him, not let go. Being able to look into his lover's eyes as his lover moved inside of him made Masao feel drunker than if he'd drank three bottles of the champagne by himself. That bubbly, heady feeling was too good to let go of, not if he could help it. They fell asleep all tangled together, still sticky from sex.

His cell phone was still in the hallway with his pants, so it took a while for him to hear the alarm in the morning. It took longer to get untangled from Jun. He showered quickly, and then went through the apartment, trying to find his clothes. The sun was up when a sleepy, naked Jun shuffled into the living room.

Masao's heart skipped a beat.

"Why are you looking under the couch?" Jun yawned.

"I can't find my tie," Masao shrugged. "It's fine, I have more in the office."

Jun turned away quickly. "Are you really going into work so early?"

"You ask me this every time," Masao laughed softly. He straightened up and smoothed out his clothes. Unfortunately, he was hopelessly wrinkled. They'd just tossed everything aside last night. "I have to get going or I'll get caught dressed like this."

"Mm," Jun looked him over. "That annoying underling would at least know you were already getting some," he offered.

"Sadly, so would everyone else in the building," Masao shook his head.

"Someday, I'll get you to sleep in with me," Jun promised.

Masao's smile spread out in what he was sure was a goofy manner across his face. He turned to get his shoes. "Sounds good to me."

"...We really should stop doing this."

Masao froze.

"This... isn't just..."

"You want me to not come anymore?" Masao wasn't sure if his voice sounded sharp or not. He wanted to keep his cool here. He didn't have the right to ask for anything, after all. It was all Jun's decision. He was the one who was cheating on his wife. And... damn, the last thing he wanted to think about while thinking about how he was making things hard for Jun was how he was making things hard for Mitsuko, too.

"No, I want to see you again. That's the problem. ...I really had a good time last night. I mean, before we got to... cake."

Masao chuckled, and turned a bit to face Jun. "I'm really happy for you. You deserve... wonderful things. Success." To be happy.

"Thank you." Jun smiled at him, and Masao's world tilted a bit. He reached out and brushed his fingers over Masao's cheek.

Masao quickly grabbed Jun's hand, and kissed his fingertips, his knuckles.

"Pervert," Jun laughed. "Go to work."

"Yes, sir," Masao grinned, and nibbled at Jun's pinky finger.

All the way to work, he worried.





"We'll need to decide about the T-project by the end of the week."

"Not a problem," Masao nodded. He made some notes on the file that was in front of him, which was not at all what Arakawa-san was talking about, so he hoped he wasn't mixing things up.

"And here are some vacation requests that need to be approved."

Another file was placed in front of him. Just never stopped, huh? "Are there any problems?"

"None that I could see," Arakawa-san replied diffidently, but if she didn't have any issues, then there were none. It was helpful to have such a capable assistant, though...

Really, Arakawa-san shouldn't be trapped in such a menial position.

"Thank you very much, Arakawa-san." Masao was about to say something more, but his phone buzzed.

Since they'd last seen each other, Jun had been busy with his manga. Not surprising, since he was moving up in the manga world. Because Jun had been texting him several times a day, instead, Masao had gotten into the habit of keeping his phone on his desk. He glanced at it.

I'm eating cake! (⌒▽⌒)☆

He couldn't help grinning widely. Arakawa-san was frowning at him slightly. By now, she had to realize he was carrying on an affair. Her opinion of him had undoubtedly dropped as a result, and she must find him shameless, to spend so much time communicating with his lover. More than that, Arakawa-san knew Mitsuko and even spoke to her from time to time. He was putting her in a bad spot, wasn't he?

He smiled ruefully at her, and picked up his phone. "Are you planning any vacation time this summer, Arakawa-san?"

"No," she sighed. "I'm saving up for a trip to Korea in the fall."

"Oh, that's right. Are you going off to find some Korean husband?" he teased. He typed back to Jun, Don't get too excited, now.

"You shouldn't try to be funny, boss," Arakawa-san sighed.

"I know, I know, I'm not any good at it," he laughed. His phone buzzed again.

I'm a little excited! (@´_`@)

Masao bit the inside of his lip to keep from laughing.

Arakawa-san tapped her fingernail on the files in front of him. "Please attend to your work, boss."

"Yes, yes," he sighed, winking at her. She at least smiled at him tightly as she headed back to her desk. He picked up his phone to type a reply. Before he finished his work.

I'm jealous. I want cake.

He put his phone aside, organized the papers in front of him, and put them back into their file. That had to go to Nishida. He picked up the top file in front of him. Vacations, huh? He opened the calendar on his computer.

His phone buzzed, and Kinjou-kun stuck his head inside. "Can I ask you for some advice, Shindou-san?"

Masao picked up his phone, and nodded. "Sure, come in."

Of COURSE you do! |( ̄3 ̄)|

He wasn't sure what that emoticon was supposed to mean, but he sort of liked it. He knew he was grinning, and he wasn't paying attention to Kinjou-kun. At least, he didn't, until Kinjou-kun put his hand on the arm of Masao's chair and leaned over to read his texts.

Masao pulled away quickly, turning his phone over. "You're too close," he said sharply.

"Are you chatting with your wife?" Kinjou-kun asked cheerfully, ignoring Masao's sharp tone.

Masao didn't like this. "Obviously, that's none of your business. What did you need?"

Kinjou-kun frowned slightly, but he wasn't deterred, unfortunately. "You've been hard to track down lately. Is your wife being demanding? If you'd like to blow off some steam..."

"You're out of line," Masao snapped. "If you don't have any work, I'm too busy for these stupid distractions."

That seemed to at least give Kinjou-kun pause. "Ah... Is it good enough to fix the headers on the proof or should I go into the system and adjust them in the file?"

"You should do both. And you shouldn't have to ask about something so menial," Masao sighed, rubbing his forehead.

Kinjou-kun took a step back. "Ah... sorry... Shindou-san. Am I bothering you?"

"Yes," Masao replied, with uncharacteristic honesty. After a moment's pause, though, he looked up to see Kinjou-kun's absolutely crushed face. Damn it all... there was a delicate line here... "Don't take it to heart. You do good work. Just, please get to it." He forced himself to smile tightly for the kid, too.

Damn it.

"Yes, of course, Shindou-san," Kinjou-kun replied. He bounced back too easily.

Once Masao was alone again, he checked his phone. He typed a quick reply.

I don't even like sweet things much.





Masao glanced up from the paperwork he was checking. "The dangling ones, definitely."

Ozaki frowned slightly, and looked at the two pairs of earrings she was offering him. "Really? You think so?"

"Sure," he replied, flipping back and forth between pages to double check the numbers. "The sparkling dangle leads the eye to the neck... which is a very sexual part of the body. Subconsciously makes the young man think about kissing your neck."

"That's so sly!" Ozaki laughed. "I had no idea the boss was so tricky!"

"Well, you did say that you liked this guy, right?" he smiled slightly, making a note in the margin.

"Yeah, I do, but I don't want him to think I'm easy or anything," she frowned, looking over the earrings like they might try to start a fight.

"No, it's not that overt. It's a subconscious thing," he assured her.

"You know about it, boss!" she accused.

"Of course, I'm an old man," he sighed wearily. "I'm well-versed in the ways of tricky women."

"That's a dangerous thing to say," Ozaki giggled. "I pity your wife!"

"So do I," he muttered under his breath. His phone buzzed. He glanced at the message.

I'm drowning.

He frowned a bit, picking up his phone.

"I'm not even sure where he's taking me to eat. He said it would be someplace nice, but..." she sighed. He knew what she meant. A young man might have a very different idea of what someplace nice was than a young girl. Especially an ambitious one like Ozaki.

He opened his mouth to respond when another message came in.

I think I might really be screwed.

He barely had time to consider that one when another message popped up.

I'm starving, too. I haven't eaten since yesterday, I think!

Masao was getting worried. There weren't even any emoticons...

"Is everything ok, boss?" Ozaki asked.

He smiled at her. "I need to take care of something. Could you give me a minute?"

"Oh, no problem!" she cheerfully replied, turning quickly to leave his office.

"Close the door on your way out," he asked.

"Oho, really? I hope everything's ok," she winked, closing the door behind her.

It was true, during the working day, he almost never closed his door unless he was meeting with someone, but.

He called Jun.

"I didn't mean to worry you," Jun greeted him, sounding miserable.

"Forget it. What's going on?"

"I made a horrible mistake," Jun groaned. "I just didn't think... I changed magazines, but I was assuming... for no reason at all... that my deadline was the same. It's a whole week earlier! And I'm responsible for twice as many pages! Can you even comprehend that?!"

That was bad. Based on the cycle Jun was on, his deadline should have been next week, so... "When is your deadline?"

"Tomorrow," Jun despaired.

"Shit," Masao rubbed his lips. "How much do you still need to do?"

"I... I realized what I did yesterday. I haven't slept. I've got... eight pages done. But. I need twelve more. That's... that's so many, Masao!"

Masao closed his eyes. Fuck. "Manga artists... use assistants, right? Can you call someone? A friend or something? Get some help?

"I don't know that many manga artists yet," Jun groaned. "I called everyone I know, but they're already booked up. It's too last minute."

"If you call your editor, he should be able to arrange someone," Masao suggested.

"...I'm too afraid to tell him. What if I just get dropped instead? This is my big break. This is... my only shot..." Jun's voice was quivering.

Damn it. "Hang in there. I'm coming. Do you need anything? Besides food?"

"I... I... I can't make you..." Jun wavered.

"You can't stop me, either," Masao teased. "So you might as well get the most out of it."

"I... I need pencils. And. I dropped some ink on some paper, so probably... ink and paper..." Jun floundered.

"Ok, look. Take a deep breath. Deep. Breath in through your nose, let the air get all the way down to your belly... and exhale slowly through your mouth. Ok? Text me a list of all the art supplies you need. I'll pick those up and some food and I'll be there in about an hour, ok?"

"...Thank you," Jun said meekly.

"Don't even think about it," Masao smiled, and hung up. He straightened up his paperwork and gathered his things. He went out and stopped at Arakawa-san's desk. "Something's come up... a family emergency."

"Is everything all right?" she asked, wide-eyed.

He smiled brightly. "Yes, it's fine, just... one of those things... with my parents, I... need to go take care of something." He sure as hell didn't want her talking to Mitsuko. "If you need me, I have my phone."

"No problem, boss," she nodded.

"I've got the K file on my desk, so if there are any questions, just help yourself," he nodded. "And thank you, Arakawa-san."

"Just take care of what you need to take care of," she winked at him.

As he was leaving the building, Jun's list came in. He didn't really know what all those items were, but he knew where to go to get them, and when he got there, he just asked the college-aged clerk to help him out. He bought some extra of everything Jun ordered, just to the on the safe side. It wouldn't be any good if at three am they discovered they were short of ink or... screentones. He drove to a nearby convenience store, and stocked up on bento, energy drinks, and tea. Last minute, he also picked up some hard candy. An easy to eat sugar rush might come in handy later.

It was a little more than an hour after he'd hung up from Jun that he was outside his door. Jun opened up slowly, and looked... well, like hell.

"I can't believe you bought all that. I can't believe you came, even. You're just... incredible."

The way Jun was looking at him pretty much made it all worthwhile. "Don't call me incredible yet. There's still a lot of work to do." He came inside and shucked off his shoes.

"Eh?" Jun looked at him, bewildered.

Masao grinned. "Well, I've never done this before, but I'm not unfamiliar with how a pen or brush works, and I can follow instructions, so. An inexperienced helper is better than nothing, right? We've got twelve pages to get through."

Jun opened his mouth to say something, and then just clamped his mouth shut. "Are... are you sure, I mean... it's the middle of the day..."

"You're worrying about the wrong things. C'mon. We gotta get some food in you so you can keep drawing." He lifted the bento out of the bag, and grinned.

They stood at the counter in the kitchen to eat. The living room was a mess of drawings and supplies, everything scattered about. Jun described his manga to Masao, explaining the characters and the location. Masao wasn't really following, but he paid attention and tried to glean the essential details. As soon as they were done eating, Jun went back to work, and Masao started out by tidying up the living room space. He threw out the trash and lined up the finished pages neatly, separating them from what Jun was working on currently. He also took the storyboard pages that were already done and set those aside. He sat down next to Jun and waited for instructions.

When it came to filling in lines with ink and even writing text or sound effects, he had no problem. He was already skilled with that aspect of art. Applying screentones was a whole other matter, but rather than forcing Jun to take time to teach him, he took care of the things he knew first and just watched Jun using the screentones, until he was relatively confident he could manage. Once he was able to ink, letter, and do tones himself, Jun was freer to work on fresh pages.

They kept their heads down and kept at it for hours and hours. Masao got up to turn on more lights, and to get Jun something to drink after a while, but it was nearly ten before they took a proper break. Jun stretched out on the couch and rubbed his face.

"I think I'm going to go blind," he moaned. "How much more do we have to do?" he asked, clearly terrified of the answer.

"Well," Masao counted to double check. "Total, you've got seventeen pages done. Five to go."

"And then... clean and double check the pages... scan them... send them in... Oh, fuck, Masao, what if I don't finish?" he moaned.

Masao crawled over to the couch, and kneeled next to Jun. He moved Jun's hands away from his face, and kissed him softly. He smiled, and looked Jun right in the eye. "You are going to do it. It will get done. This is everything you've ever dreamed of or wished for, right? This is your moment. You're not going to fail. You can do this."

Slowly, Jun started to smile. "Is that so?" he murmured. Then he closed his eyes and sighed. "I'm just... so tired..."

Masao kissed his forehead. "I know. Look, you need a quick break and a warm meal. I'll cook, you rest."

Jun raised an eyebrow. "You can cook?"

"Don't underestimate middle-aged men!" Masao warned him, laughing.

"Right, right... just don't poison me, please!" Jun replied, grinning.

As long as he was grinning...

Masao made himself at home in the kitchen. He started the rice, because any good meal would need rice, and that was easy enough. He looked over the contents of Jun's refrigerator... His phone rang. Damn. He answered it, trying to speak softly. "Hello, dear. Sorry I didn't call earlier..." What if Mitsuko had called the office for some reason? He couldn't really focus on that right now, since Jun needed him, but...

"No, no, it's fine. I was just making sure you weren't coming home. I didn't want to switch off the outside lights and all if you were going to be here later," she said.

She didn't sound upset... "Yes, I'm working through the night. Make sure you put the chain on the door, too."

"Yes, dear," she sighed, amused.

"Yes, yes, I'm a nag... good night, sleep well."

"Work hard," she replied. He put the phone down, and saw Jun peeking at him over the top of the couch.

"That was... your wife, of course."

Masao smiled tightly. "Well. Yes."

"You usually call her before you come here, don't you?" Jun asked softly.

Masao turned, cutting up some vegetables. "Ah... I guess I do. It's not really... I mean..."

"I'm glad you're here, though," Jun said, and Masao couldn't interpret his tone of voice.

"There isn't any other place I would want to be," he said calmly. He lit the fire on the stove and slipped the veggies in. He seared them, and added some leftover fried chicken, also cut up. Once the rice was done, he served it all up in two bowls, and brought them over, alone with the tea he bought. Jun sat up on the couch, taking the bowl in his lap. It would be too risky to put the food on the table with the artwork.

Jun looked over his bowl, and grinned slightly. "This is... rice with veggies and leftover chicken? You realize... this is as close as you can get to not cooking while still technically being cooking, right?"

It felt a bit like Jun was forcing himself to tease Masao, but there wasn't anything either of them could do about it. "It's warm, and it's healthy. What more do you need, really?" He winked at Jun, taking a big bite.

Jun shook his head, amused. He looked like he was having trouble deciding what to say, and then he just started to eat. "Well, damn. This is good."

"See?" Masao grinned. "I have my uses."

"I can think of a few," Jun said softly. After he took another bite, he continued, thoughtfully, "I actually never would have guessed that you'd be so good at this type of work. I thought you said you weren't an artist."

"I'm not," Masao shrugged. "But I could be a halfway decent assistant to an artist. You're really talented."

"Shut up," Jun sighed. "Talented people don't get their deadlines wrong by a whole damned week," he stabbed his bowl with his chopsticks.

"Relax. We're almost there," Masao assured him with false confidence.

"Are we?" Jun smirked. "I... I really don't want to fail at this. I'm not really sure... what I'll do..." he trailed off, staring blankly into space.

Masao snapped his fingers in front of Jun's eyes. "Hey. Don't go down that road. This is tough, now. But you're not alone, and you can do this. And tomorrow, once it's all in, you can sleep for three days."

Jun grinned at him boyishly. "Yeah. Yeah, you're right. Just got to... just got to focus." He shook his head a few times, and then attacked his bowl with new vigor. Once he was done eating, he chugged down half his bottle of tea, and then got back to work. Masao cleaned up from their meal, and then sat down to help him once again. Until about one or two am, Jun was working at a frantic pace like he hadn't been all day. He started to slow down a bit after that, so Masao changed the music they had on, got Jun some candy and an energy drink, and sat closer to him, encouraging him a bit more forcefully. They muscled on through, and at four am, they had all twenty pages done.

Jun started to go through them, from page one, checking for any mistakes. Masao opened up Jun's laptop, setting up the scanner. Jun's apartment was so small that even though he had a nice, large-format scanner, he didn't really have a proper desk space to set it up, so he just had to pull it out and set it next to the table. Problem was, Jun's laptop was seriously out of date, and connections between computers and scanners were always a bit temperamental.

"This would be so much easier if I was working with a tablet and stuff. So much can be done digitally, even if it's still hand-drawn on paper. I can't believe you were able to write in all this text so neatly. It's like I typed it in. You really are a calligrapher. So beautiful... and your sound effects look good, too. You saved me so much time. I need... so much new equipment, though. I couldn't really afford it before I got my start, but now it's like... I'd need time to get acquainted with the new tools and all. I'm going to need at least one assistant, too, if I'm going to keep going. This apartment is so small... I mean, it's not a problem if I'm just getting help for like a week at a time and all, so it's not a big thing, it's just. It's all really happening, and I don't know. I'm not prepared. I am, but there's just... so much..." Jun fussed.

Masao grinned, and rubbed Jun's back. "Hey. One step at a time. And the first step is... to scan these in and submit them, right? ...You know, this will go a lot faster with my laptop. It's practically brand new."

Jun looked at him, startled. "Really? Is that ok? I mean... you don't mind?"

"Why would I mind?" Masao laughed. "One sec." He got up and went over to his briefcase, slipping out his laptop.

Jun whistled when he brought it over. "Whoa. That is nice. I was looking at one of those when I was in the store the other day. I'd like one like that, maybe... you know, fewer spreadsheets all over the desktop..."

"Brat," Masao laughed. "It's a company laptop, so of course."

"It's not going to cause you problems, is it? Doing stuff like this with company property?" Jun worried.

"You know, I run my own department. There really isn't anyone to look over my shoulder for the small stuff like this," Masao winked. He had the scanner connected and running, so he started the first page. As expected, it went quickly and problem-free. They used scanners like this at the office, too, after all.

Jun scooted over and put his head on Masao's shoulder. "And that's why you could just walk out of work in the middle of the day?"

"Yup, exactly," Masao kissed the top of Jun's head. Jun started to doze, so Masao did his best to finish the scanning with just one free arm. When he was done, though, he had to jar Jun, unfortunately, to find out how to send the files. Groggily, Jun made the connection to his publisher's server, and uploaded the files. Masao went to get a flash drive, so he could easily transfer the files to Jun's computer. He needed to retain them, after all.

It was five thirty, the sun was fully up, and the job was done. Jun stared at the computer screen in awe. "It... says accepted. It's done." He looked up and grinned at Masao goofily.

Masao leaned in and kissed Jun softly. And then he deepened the kiss. "Congratulations... see, I told you?"

Jun laughed, clearly a bit hysterical. "I will endeavor to listen to you from now on. Sometimes."

Masao shook his head, and kissed Jun again. He caressed Jun's cheek. "You need to get some sleep. I've got to get going, too."

Jun's eyes widened. "You're... leaving?"

"I can't skip work today after skipping out yesterday," Masao explained, shrugging. Work was work, after all. "Really important decisions about whether to trifold the insert or use a staple just can't make themselves. For some reason."

Jun's face softened, and then he kissed Masao, and slipped his arms around Masao's neck. "I can't believe you're going to go to work with no... no sleep at all. Because of me. I." Jun swallowed hard. "I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't been here for me. I mean, besides fail spectacularly." His eyes looked wet, and...

Masao's stomach rumbled from the look in Jun's eyes. He slipped his arms around Jun's waist, and pulled him closer. They kissed, and kissed more. It was just so intimate and...

"As long as you do it spectacularly," Masao said, his voice rough. He forced himself to smile. "Spectacular failures are almost as good as modest success, after all, and far more memorable."

Jun laughed. "I don't want to be remembered for failing!" He snuggled in, crawling right into Masao's lap.

Masao wrapped his arms around Jun tightly, kissing him to keep from saying something stupid.

The kisses broke off, and Jun pressed his forehead to Masao's. "I really must be tired. Otherwise, I'd be hard by now."

Masao laughed. "You need to get into bed. I should go." He kissed Jun's forehead... and moved Jun's arm down so he could take his hand. He kissed each finger.

It was all pretty much a blur, but being able to watch Jun work had been amazing.

"Will you come back tonight?" Jun blurted out.

Startled, Masao looked into Jun's eyes. He looked... frightened?

"I mean... I..."

"Do you want me to come back?" Masao asked.

"...Yes," Jun replied, looking ashamed.

Masao kissed his knuckles. "Then, I'll come back."

"And bring food!" Jun added, just as nervously.

Masao beamed. "Of course. We need to celebrate. You've finished your first chapter for the Weekly Shounen Victor. So, I'll bring you anything you want."

Jun looked away. "And you'll spend the night?"

Masao turned Jun's face back toward him, and kissed him.

"Anything you want."






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