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.


Masao was playing with his wedding ring again, turning it round and round. Arakawa-san had just left, and Kinjou-kun and Ozaki were still fluttering around his desk.

He had a headache.

"Boss, you don't look well." Ozaki set a mug of something warm next to him, and from the smell, it was probably some very nice tea. Just, not in a teacup. "And you're still playing with that! Even though your wife already left you," she finished sadly.

Kinjou-kun was watching him. Smiling placidly, Masao put his hands in his lap. "It's just a habit, it seems."

"Boss, you're way too nice! It's hard to believe any woman would leave you! You're still so handsome, and you're successful... It's just crazy! I can't understand a woman like that at all!" Ozaki huffed.

"Now, now. Please don't speak ill of the mother of my child," Masao warned her gently.

Ozaki made a face, and then she beamed. She put her hands down on the desk, leaning over. He averted his eyes. "Boss! Come out drinking with us after work! There's no excuse not to! Having a raucous night out is just what you need to put it all behind you!" She looked so bright and hopeful.

She was ambitious. Becoming a trophy second wife was better than working for a living, he supposed. "I'll pass. I have too much work at the moment, according to Arakawa-san," he genially declined.

"Sometimes, boss, you act like it's Arakawa-san who's running this department," Ozaki frowned.

"She's doing a great job, too, don't you think?" he laughed, being completely serious.

Ozaki giggled. "Boss, you're really too nice! Your wife will end up regretting letting you go!"

"I don't think so," he laughed. "She's quite clever. And you have no idea what I'm like at home," he winked at her.

She was giggling as she left the office. Yes, Kinjou-kun was still hovering at his elbow.

Masao looked at the boy and raised an eyebrow. "Was there still something I could do for you, Kinjou-kun?"

"There was a rumor going around that you'd gotten a divorce, but I didn't think it was actually true. Your wife left you?" he asked, sounding a bit too...


Masao sighed, and rubbed his forehead. "We agreed to divorce, yes. Of course people are talking about it. I had to file a change of address form." There was no such thing as a secret in a high school or a corporation.

Kinjou-kun put a hand on Masao's shoulder. Masao looked at the offending hand. "Going out to drink with slutty secretaries won't do anything to cheer you up. Why don't you come home with me tonight? I'll cook for you," Kinjou-kun offered, every bit as ambitious as Ozaki.

Masao brushed Kinjou-kun's hand away with disgust. "As I've already said, Arakawa-san has already arranged my plans for tonight. I've been meaning to tell you this, but don't you think the space between manager and employee has gotten too small between us? You need to be more mindful of your position. You have a future in this company, but not if you continue this sort of disruptive behavior."

Kinjou-kun looked rattled. But that was good. This conversation was long overdue. Masao had mistakenly believed the kid would take a hint, and back off on his own. Since that didn't happen, it was past time for Masao to speak up. "Shindou-san... ah... it's, I know, this is the office, and the door is open, even. My apologies. I know how much appearances matter to you."

Masao's eye twitched. Appearances matted to him? Kinjou-kun knew that about him?

"I'll be more discreet, of course," he continued, lowering his voice. "But, I'd really like to be able to spend some time with you again. Especially now... that you're free..."

Bitterness washed over Masao. He reacted from his spite. "You're making a nuisance of yourself, can't you tell? You can't be so hard up for companionship that you have to keep knocking on a locked door. The mistakes that I made in the past won't be repeated. Try to be more aware of the signals."

"Y-you don't mean that!" Kinjou-kun burst out.

"We're in the office," Masao admonished.

"I-I'm sorry, but..." Kinjou-kun looked around, desperate. "Shindou-san, please don't say things like mistakes. There's no way I could ever think of those times as mistakes. P-please... let me just have a bit of your time, and..."

"The person I'd want to share my time with isn't you," Masao sighed. Unconsciously, he started to fiddle with his ring again.

"You went out of your way for me. We made a connection. I'm not imagining these things! Please, don't say cruel things just to make a point. I-I don't want to be a nuisance. I think this is something we should discuss outside the office," Kinjou-kun wheedled.

Masao rubbed his forehead, trying to block Kinjou-kun from his view. "Just, stop it. I'm sorry that I allowed you to misunderstand things. I should have realized that you were more naive than I. I don't see those past encounters as anything other than purely physical. It was my mistake, entirely, as your superior. I should not have allowed it to happen. For that, I am truly sorry."

"Stop saying that!" Kinjou-kun cried out.

"You're creating a scene!" Masao sighed. "You need to go back to your desk. Tonight, just go out and get drunk and meet someone new. If you let yourself move past this, you'd be surprised how quickly you could forget about it all. It worked for me."

"I'll never forget!"

It happened quickly, too quickly for Masao to react properly. He'd already limited his view of Kinjou-kun, after all. And Kinjou-kun's hand moved fast. He grabbed what might well have been the first thing he could reach on Masao's desk, and struck with it. Masao saw it coming in time to deflect the blow, but that was all. Before he could consider where Kinjou-kun had been aiming, there was the searing pain. Masao screamed, and covered his eye with his hand. He fell out of his chair, the pain was so great, and his hand was wet. There was something... large... it was in his eye. He screamed for Arakawa-san. He just screamed. His hand was so wet. Was that blood? He couldn't see.

Arakawa-san came in with someone else. There was more screaming, and Arakawa-san barked out that someone had to call for an ambulance. She came to his side, and held onto his arm. She was saying something but Masao couldn't hear. The pain and the wetness was too much.

Was that really blood?

He should have considered this sooner, but this was a bad idea. First of all, Jun wouldn't want to see him. He realized that, but he wanted... or maybe needed... to see Jun. But. The very reason he'd been avoiding this was exactly why this was a bad idea. What if Jun already had someone new? What if he slammed the door in Masao's face?

Also, what if he ran into his son again?

He was getting dizzy, though. He raised his hand and knocked. And then he got confused. Should he step back or keep knocking...? Wait, wasn't that a strange thing to be confused by?

The door opened, and Jun peeked out. "Yes? Can I... Masao? What's going... Shit, what happened to your eye?!"

Masao lifted his hand to his face. Right, the bandage. "Ah..."

"In any case, it's cold out there. Come on in," Jun offered, stepping aside.

Masao stepped inside Jun's apartment, and took a deep breath. This felt so good. "I'm sorry... for just... showing up."

"You don't sound good. C'mon, let's get you seated." Jun took his coat and then shepherded him to the couch. The table in the living room was a bit different, and the couch was at a different angle. It was messy with artwork, but Masao was pretty sure there was an order to it all, based on the sense of progression of the art in the piles.

Ah, and the lightbox he got Jun... Jun was still using it.

"I'm sorry... for intruding."

"Never mind that," Jun sighed. "Can I get you something to drink? Or eat? You look really pale."

"Well..." Masao started, but his head swam. "No, thanks. I... they gave me a lot of drugs."

"Cataract surgery?" Jun asked.

Masao started to laugh. Wait, no, he had to reply, it was just. "No, no, it's nothing like that..."

"Is your eye ok?" Jun asked.

"No," Masao sighed wearily. "It's gone."

"It's... what?" Jun was horrified. That almost made Masao laugh.

Masao took a deep breath. "It's gone. I was stabbed. In the eye. With a... with a letter opener. My own, no less," he smiled weakly.

Jun just stared at him. "You should... you should have one of those blunt letter openers. Much safer."

Masao really wanted to laugh. "Well, I don't want to see that one ever again..."

"Who stabbed you?!" Jun asked, touching Masao's cheek.

"Oh... my underling..." Masao drifted off. Actually, he wondered what happened to Kinjou-kun. Did they know he was the one who did it? Masao sort of remembered talking to a police officer in the hospital, but. He couldn't remember what the man said.

"You should have given him a raise," Jun said sympathetically.

"He wanted me to fuck him," Masao dryly replied.

"Oh, that underling," Jun figured it out. "You're not very good at saying no, are you?"

"I was telling him no when he stabbed me," Masao explained.

"Are you sure you're ok? You really do look pale..." Jun fussed.

"They... wanted me to spend the night in the hospital, but I was getting more and more anxious the longer I was there. I just wanted to get out. They made me sign some paper or something, about going against orders..." he sighed. It really all blurred together. "I told them... I was going home to my family... so I got a cab. And then I gave him your address. S-sorry."

"Idiot," Jun admonished affectionately. "But what about your wife? Does she know about all this?"

Masao furrowed his brow and sighed. He played with his ring. "This is where this all started. It's habit, you know? I never took it off. Not even when I met you, and I should have." He twisted his ring, and then he started to pull it off. Either his fingers were rubbery and hard to use or it was stuck, but... eventually, he got the ring off. He looked at it, and then put it in Jun's hand. And he closed Jun's hand over it. "We were talking about my ring when it started... I mean. That's not. Right before, that's what I mean. Right before the stabbing..." He sighed. Jun looked horribly confused. He was being confusing. Oh, right, the most important part... "I'm divorced."

"You're... what? When did that happen!? It's only been a month or so since..." Jun squeezed the ring in his hand.

Masao stared at Jun's hand. "It's been six weeks. Since I last saw you. It was just a few weeks ago that the divorce was finalized. It was all... really simple. Amicable. I guess that's the word."

Jun was shaking his head. "You... you... Idiot!" He stared at the ring in his hand, and then set that aside carefully on the table. He then grabbed Masao by the shirt. "Idiot! If you got divorced, why didn't you come to me immediately! You should have come right here as soon as the ink was dry! Before you even filed it... as soon as you'd decided! Why didn't you come to me?" Jun cried.

Masao put his hands on Jun's wrists, steading himself. "I... I was ashamed. And afraid. The divorce... wasn't my idea. It was Mitsuko's. She... that's not important. I thought... I thought you might not want to see me again. It should have been me, choosing you first, I just... I was too afraid."

Jun threw his arms around Masao and clung to him. "Idiot! Moron! What the hell... if you hadn't been stabbed in the eye, would you have ever told me? You should have come back on your knees and begged me to take you back, no matter what!"

"I know. Wait. I-I can still beg..." he couldn't get on his knees with Jun in his arms, but.

"There's no time for that!" Jun sighed. He pulled back, and brushed his fingers through Masao's hair. "I guess it means something that you came straight to me after something like this..." He ran his fingers over the edge of the bandage. "Do you mind if I take a look?"

Masao half-turned his head. "Mm. It's... it's got to look really gross..." he sighed.

"So vain!" Jun kissed his forehead, right next to the tape for the bandage. "Still so vain, huh?"

"Don't tease me now!" Masao complained softly.

"Of course I'll tease you now! Idiot. You're such an idiot." Jun was practically in his lap now, putting soft kisses all around the bandage. Masao took a hold of his waist, anchoring himself. Or Jun. Or, both? "Let me just peek..." Jun's fingers peeled delicately at the tape, pulling it back enough to see.

"Th-they said they could fit me with a glass eye tomorrow. But I... I thought about my great uncle who would pop his eye out at family functions and plop it in his sake cup, to freak the kids out. I said I'd prefer an eyepatch, so they... they sewed it up. They said it would heal over, like I'd never had an eye there... eventually. ...It looks really bad, doesn't it? Wow. I'm actually literally disfigured," he sighed, his stomach doing a flip.

This was bad.

Jun put the bandage back in place. He kissed the bandage, and then Masao's cheek, and then his lips... Masao tried to hold onto the kiss, but Jun pulled back. "I can't believe someone could do this to you. I can't even imagine... it's like something out of a manga. The kind of manga where people keep losing eyes. I mean."

"It might be kind of hard, given the circumstances, but can we... move away from the topic of losing eyes for a bit? I just..." Masao took a deep breath, and closed his remaining eye. He wondered how long it would take to get used to all this. "I'm... I'm so sorry, Jun."

"It's not your fault this happened," Jun said quickly, his voice hard. "Even if you shouldn't have slept with that brat, this is...!"

"No, I'm sorry I didn't come straight to you. I'm sorry I didn't... I should have... when I... when we... instead of breaking up, I should have said I'd leave Mitsuko. I should have, at the time, I knew I should have, and. I was a coward. You deserve better." Masao dug his fingers into Jun's side.

"Idiot," Jun replied lovingly. "You really do look pale. I think you need to get some sleep. Should you take a bath? Your shirt is all rumpled and filthy. What is this... blood?"

"Blood and eye juice, probably. I had eye juice all over my hand," Masao said miserably.

"That is so gross," Jun shook his head.

"I know," Masao replied.

"You should at least have a quick soak. And then get to bed. Is it ok to just sleep on a futon tonight? I mean, the couch is fairly comfortable..."

"I want to be with you," Masao said firmly.

Jun kissed him softly in reply. "C'mon." He took Masao by the hands. "Let's get you washed up."

He let Jun lead him down the hallway to the bath. He undressed Masao, though he didn't take the same care with Masao's ruined clothes that he normally did. He ran the bath nice and hot, and wiped down Masao's body before he helped him get in. Jun took off his own shirt, too, but he didn't get in, just sat down next to the bath, his arm hanging into the water. Masao leaned as closely to Jun as he could.

"So, you're going to wear an eyepatch? Like a pirate?"

Masao tried to smile. Actually, maybe he was already smiling. "Well. I can't go around with my empty eye showing."

"What would people think?" Jun teased him, caressing his skin lazily.

"Why do people think I'm so wrapped up in appearances?" Masao sighed, stretching out a bit. He wanted to take Jun's hand. It was somewhat silly, though. Holding hands in the bath.

"I wonder," Jun laughed softly. "Why would you think they wouldn't think that?"

"I don't... want to be the same person anymore," Masao sighed. He only had to close one eye. It felt strange.

"Changing yourself isn't easy," Jun smiled ruefully. "You're not so bad the way you are."

"But... I'd like to be better. You know, it's still hard for me to say out loud. That I'm. Ah. You know."

"Gay?" Jun finished for him.

"That's the word. You know, I had a fight with my parents. I guess I came out to them. I think my mother wants to meet you." Masao sighed. He felt warm. It was a good feeling.

Jun chuckled softly. "That's a bit scary!"

"And sort of nice..." Masao ran his fingers along Jun's arm.

"Mm. It's a little hard to believe. You're here... in my bathtub, again. It was not so long ago that I was missing you, and now you're here... talking about introducing me to your parents..."

"Just my mother," Masao corrected. "You wouldn't want to meet my father. Not unless you can play go. You were missing me?"

Jun laughed, and pulled his hand back a bit. "Not so long ago. I didn't mean tonight."

"I was missing you. Tonight, this afternoon, this morning..." Masao sighed.

"Such a romantic. Words like that don't suit you all that well." Jun grinned, leaning over the bath a bit.

"They don't? I don't say romantic things to you? Why not?" Masao mused. He wanted to touch Jun...

"Maybe... they're unnecessary? Maybe we were just afraid before. Just sex."

"Not anymore."

"True. We don't have to lie about it anymore. We can be as romantic and goofy as we like. It still seems strange, though."

"Everything seems strange right now. I never thought I'd be stabbed, either. Life is strange," Masao sighed.

"You can say that again! Ah, I want to get in with you," Jun lamented.

"Why not?" Masao grinned a bit. He wouldn't mind.

"Don't try to tempt me. If I got in with you, I'd want to touch you and kiss you. I'd eventually want to push you down, spread out your legs. I'd want to be in you. And you can't. You're too fragile and weak. And, well, drugged."

"I wish, as long as I was high and all, they were better drugs. I feel strange. And my eye feels sore. Except... it's not there anymore."

"I'm looking forward to your pirate look, though. Very swashbuckling. I'm sure you'll make a very dashing pirate," Jun replied cheerfully.

"As long as you think so, it's ok, then," Masao smiled.

"Really? It's ok to lose your eye as long as I'm happy?" Jun asked.

Masao looked at Jun. "I'm so happy... that you didn't slam the door in my face. That would have been..."

"There's no way I could ever have done that. After all, I'm in love, too." Jun got up and smiled at Masao. "Don't slip down. I'll get the futon ready."

Masao watched Jun walk away. He meant that he was in love with Masao, right? Masao clung to the side of the tub, and closed his eye. Yes, he was tired, but even more. He was grateful. So grateful. Jun came back and helped him out of the tub, drying him off like he used to dry Hikaru when he bathed him as a child. He even teased Masao by brushing his teeth for him. They went to bed, curling up together in Jun's futon, spread out in his cramped bedroom. They got in to sleep as they always did, but Masao discovered that Jun was on his blind side, and he unexpectedly started to panic, so Jun agreed to switch places. Being on the other side of the futon felt weird, too, but not being able to see Jun at all without moving his head... was stranger.

It seemed like he was just about to drift off, feeling warm and happy and comfortable, and then Jun moved to put his head on Masao's chest. "Are you still awake, Masao?"

"...Ah, yeah, I am..."

"You sound groggy. Are you really awake?" Jun snickered.

Masao rubbed Jun's back. "I'm awake, I'm awake!"

"...You know. Back in... back in high school, I fooled around with a couple of guys, but it was never serious. I wouldn't say I dated any of them. They were scared of it, you know. Being gay, being with another guy, even just for fun. It was always about secrecy. That was ok. I didn't mind back then. I wasn't in love with them or anything. I was found out, though. My parents knew. They were willing to overlook things, as long as I went far away for college. From Nagano to Tokyo... it felt win-win to me.

"In college, first term, I had this... sociology class. I was supposed to be a graphic design major. It was just a required course. But, I fell in love with my professor. I had never felt that way before! Everyday, I couldn't think about anything or anyone but him. I'd just moon over him in class. Of course, I was scared, too. I mean, the Professor wasn't that special or anything. He wasn't super gorgeous or anything. He wore funny vests that didn't match every day, and got very excited in class, making it seem like the things he was talking about happened last week to people he knew, rather than a millennia ago.

"Near the end of the term, I screwed up my courage and went to see him, and I made a pass at him. He accepted me. I was pretty shocked and ecstatic, at the time. I had no idea that he was a total nympho who slept with anyone at all who would let him. He was married, he had kids, his youngest child was a few years older than I was, I was far from his only lover... and still, just because I had been crushing on him and then he said yes, I ended falling into the trap. I changed my major in my second year so I could take more classes from him, and I did work study in his research group. I spent a summer in China with the group, and he didn't tell me until the last minute that he wasn't going. After college, I started working for him officially as a researcher, a grunt, really. Though, I did all the artist renderings for him, of course. That was how I had subverted my own dreams, and became his property.

"We had sex whenever he wanted to, we met up when he wanted to, he ignored me when he wanted to, slept with anyone else he wanted to..." Jun sighed heavily. Masao rubbed the back of his neck. "It was a hellish half-life, but daily I convinced myself that I was in love and it was therefore ok. It went on like that for years, so much so that I'm really ashamed to admit it. And then."

Jun swallowed hard. "Two... I think it was about two years ago, nearly three... during vacation, the Professor was in a car accident. Because it was during vacation, no one in the research group knew anything, since he was supposed to be away with his family anyway. He lingered, after the accident, for days, going in and out of consciousness, but by the time we heard about it... he was already dead. Of course I went to the funeral, but his wife glared at me, and his children ignored me. They knew he was a degenerate cheat, and I had even spent a summer in Milan with him once, so.

"I had been with him for seventeen years. And when he died, I wasn't able to say goodbye. I wasn't even allowed to grieve for him."

The room was silent, and dark. Masao wrapped his arms around Jun.

"Obviously," Jun sighed, "after all that, I was determined to never go through anything like that again. The next time I fall in love, I promised myself, it would be with someone who could love me and only me in return. But I just have bad taste, or something. I saw this... gorgeous, elegant man at the station, and I followed him to a bar. I told myself, any guy like that has got to be married, or a jackass, or something, but I watched him most of the night, and he didn't hook up with anyone, so at least he wasn't looking for a one nighter in a love hotel. I went to the same station the next night, just for a lark, and he was there again. On the third night, I actually spoke to him at the bar. Turned out, I was just his type, too." Jun moved up, leaning over Masao. He looked right into Masao's eye.

"I was too afraid before, too. If I pushed you, maybe you would have chosen me. But if you didn't, I think... I think it would have been worse than with the Professor..." Jun sighed, and looked away. But then, he turned back, and more firmly, "That's why! Now, even though it's late, I'm asking you... Choose me! Only me! I promise, I promise... I'll always choose you, too. Even after we're both dead, you'll still be my first choice. I think we can be really happy together... I think... so please! Choose me!"

"I am," Masao said, trying to break into Jun's desperation. He touched Jun's face, a bit clumsy as he realized his lack of depth perception. "I am choosing you. There isn't anyone else I'd want to choose, I swear."

They kissed, and they fell asleep together.

He opened the door with his own key and stepped inside, calling out, "I'm home." A rush of happiness swelled through him that could wash off any and all bad things that had happened during the day.

"Welcome back!" Jun called back, still sounding rushed and excited. He and his two assistants were valiantly working away in the living room. Jun looked like he wanted to jump up and greet Masao, but he was neck-deep in work. Jun had both a male and female assistant, and they both seemed to understand about their situation. Maybe... too well. The young woman was watching Masao expectedly as if she thought he'd come over and give Jun a greeting kiss right in front of them. Just the thought of it was so embarrassing...

He really had a long way to go as an openly gay man.

"Working hard? How's it going?"

Jun groaned softly, but he was still smiling. "Things are progressing, slowly but surely! I don't think we'll be causing any trouble tomorrow for the deadline. How about you?"

Masao shrugged, and put the bag from the grocery store on the counter. "You know. I got some stuff to make dinner, enough for all of us. Let me just change my clothes..."

Jun groaned again, and Masao blushed just thinking of what he was thinking. As nice as it would be to let Jun undress him...

"Yay for boyfriend-san!" the male assistant exclaimed. "I'm starving!"

"Just keep drawing!" Jun tapped on the table.

"Yes, yes!" the two chirped back in unison.

Masao smiled at Jun as he made his way back to the bedroom. He had about half of his wardrobe at Jun's now, so the bedroom barely had enough room for the two of them while they were sleeping. With the assistants there, too, there was no room at all in the front of the apartment. Tomorrow was the deadline, so it was fine for just tonight, but. Masao changed out of his suit into a shirt and a pair of khakis, and went back out to make dinner. He smiled at Jun again as he passed, and then set himself to work in the kitchen. Both Mitsuko and his mother fussed over him, offering to teach him to cook a bit, but he'd brushed them off. He did buy a cookbook, though. He could manage, as long as he kept it simple. And the grocery store did have some ready-made things to help out, too.

It didn't take long, then, for him to put together a meal, and Jun let them all take a break. They ate standing at the counter, and Jun's assistants teased him for not remembering their names, even though he did know they were Nakamoto and Tenno, he just didn't remember who was who. Jun kept catching his eye and smiling at him. But then, he would stare at Masao's eye patch.

Once they were done eating, and the assistants replenished their drinks, they went back to work. Jun lingered at the counter, reaching over to touch Masao's arm.

"Thanks for cooking," he said softly.

Masao flushed a bit. He had the feeling that Tenno-kun - that the was girl, Tenno-kun - was watching them, but she was in his blind spot now. "Don't mention it. I'll clean up in here so you can focus. Is there anything you need to me to get or anything?"

"Nah... we'll be fine. I'm sorry, you know, this is all so cramped..." Jun sighed, looking over his shoulder.

Masao put his hand on Jun's and squeezed. "It's fine, for now."

Jun was looking at his eye patch again, so Masao turned to start cleaning up. "Hurry and get to work, or you'll be up all night again," he teased.

"Yes, yes!" Jun laughed, going back to work.

Masao washed all the dishes, and cleaned up the kitchen, taking his time so he could stay out where Jun was without being in the way. He brewed a pot of coffee and set out some snacks for them, too, but that was the limit. Going back to the bedroom now seemed a bit sad, but there wasn't any room for him out there.

Unless he stretched out on the couch, and he couldn't do that.

"I'll be in the back, then," he told them, but Jun waved him closer.

"Here, here. Be useful! Help me with this sound effect, ok?" Jun pleaded.

Sighing as if it were troublesome, Masao came up behind Jun. He could try to sit next to him, but space was just too dear. He sat on the couch behind Jun and reached over him. "Where?"

"Here," Jun pointed. "Right across here. We can fit it in after you write it. It's supposed to be like a... ker-bonk! kinda feeling, but I want it to be kind of... sweeping at the same time..." Jun sighed.

He had placed a sheet over the page he was working on with the lightbox. It sure made it easy to see, as if Masao was working on the page itself, without chancing anything. It made him feel happy, that his gift was so useful to Jun.

"You know, it would be easier from the other side, since..." Jun began, talking right against Masao's skin.

Masao knew he was turning red, and even Nakamoto-kun seemed amused. "If I go on that side, I won't be able to see at all," Masao sighed.

"Are you sure you can do this with no depth perception?" Jun worried.

"Just watch," Masao promised. It was difficult, but he made sure to position the brush before letting it touch the paper. He wrote out the effect quickly, using fat, messy strokes and elongating and contorting the characters to fit Jun's verbal description. "How is that?"

"Wah! Boyfriend-san is so talented!" Tenno-kun squealed.

"You know, you can just call me Shindou-san," Masao sighed.

"That's really cool, though," Nakamoto agreed. "We've been working on this for too long already."

"As expected of a calligrapher," Jun declared affectionately. And then he kissed Masao's cheek.

Burning up, Masao stood up. "Ah... yeah. Well. Just... call me if you need any more effects." He smiled at Jun, and made his escape.

This was difficult. But. Jun had been smiling as he left the room, so.

There wasn't anything for Masao to do. If he was at Mitsuko's house, with his office, he'd probably log on and do some work, or at least go through emails. He could technically do that from his phone, but it was troublesome, so. Jun had some manga shoved in the corner of his room, so Masao picked it up and skimmed through it. He couldn't quite follow, mainly because he wasn't familiar with the series, but he took the time to examine the art more critically, especially now that he was familiar with how Jun worked.

After a few hours, he had read everything in the room, so he decided to go across and shower. He couldn't take too long because it was the only bathroom and they couldn't expect Tenno-kun to just come in on him, not that he'd be happy to be invaded by Nakamoto-kun, either. He got ready for bed, and set out the futon. He flipped through his phone, reading some email and messages, though he didn't bother trying to reply.

He heard them breaking for the night just after midnight. Of course, they couldn't miss the last train because there wasn't space for them to stay the night. Tenno-kun called out a goodnight to boyfriend-san, making the other two laugh. Once Masao heard the door close, he got up and went out to see Jun.

"So, how is it?"

Jun smiled brightly at him, though he looked exhausted. "Only two pages to go. Not bad at all. Remember that first deadline? I was so freaked out and you saved me. And then later, my editor was laughing at me because I turned my chapter in so early on the day it was due... long before he was even in the office." Jun grinned, and put his arms around Masao.

Masao rubbed his back. "Well, you had an amazing assistant that time."

"I did!" Jun laughed, looking up at him. "Desperation and adrenaline helped, too. How is your eye?"

Masao turned his head, but Jun was lifting his eye patch, anyway. "It's fine, it's fine. It just feels... weird."

"It still looks pretty red and angry. Are you using the ointment like you're supposed to?" Jun fussed.

"I am, I am," Masao ruffled Jun's hair. "It's just, well. You know. Healing."

"It's so strange!" Jun exclaimed, and Masao tried to jerk away, but Jun wouldn't let go. "I just meant the human body is amazing! Your eyelids are just... sealing together, something like that. It's kind of cool."

"It's grotesque." Masao pushed the eye patch back down.

"You're not supposed to sleep with that," Jun reminded him.

"I'm not sleeping," Masao reminded him right back.

"Were you ok tonight? You should have just gone out drinking or something. It's so cramped in here," Jun looked around, making a face. The apartment was still a disaster, but they'd get the pages cleared up tomorrow. Still...

"You need a proper space to work," Masao said quietly.

"I know. I've been promising those guys that I'd be moving soon... since I first hired them. I even switched my lease to month-to-month, knowing I'd have to move. But it's so daunting! Looking for an apartment and planning a move... on top of everything... I still feel like I could be canceled at any time. And I could be. It's all just... so much," Jun rubbed the back of his neck.

Masao put his hands on Jun's waist and pulled him over to sit on Masao's lap as Masao sat on the couch. He kissed Jun softly, letting Jun control the kiss. "Well... you're in luck. Because you have a boyfriend-san who has already been looking for places. I can handle it, if you want."

"Really?" Jun raised an eyebrow, but he looked like he was still holding back.

"Indeed. In fact..." Masao grinned, and nibbled at Jun's lower lip. "Since I can't really keep staying at that hotel for much longer... we... could... discuss... um, alternative options..." Masao looked at Jun hopefully.

Jun jumped on it immediately. "We could. You have to start the discussion."

"I do?" Masao asked.

"Yes, definitely," Jun nodded.

"Ok..." Masao laughed nervously. Having it put on him made him feel like maybe they weren't on the same page, after all. "Then... would you like to... to get a place together?"

"Is that what you want?" Jun instantly pounced.

"Well... I'm the one who asked you! Would you like to live together?" Masao probed.

"I do," Jun admitted, looking sheepish. "But for me, it's like... moving in with the boyfriend-san I've been seeing for about half a year. It's the next logical step. For you, though... you just got divorced. And had an eye gouged out. Maybe it's too much, too fast?" Jun looked really nervous.

This was silly. Masao picked up Jun's hand off of his chest and kissed each finger in turn. There was ink smeared over his thumb and index finger, and the tips of his index finger was red from overworking. Masao licked his palm, and grinned up at him. "It's wrong of me... but I feel the same way you do. Like this is the next logical step. I just want to be with you, Jun. I love you. I am choosing you."

Jun flushed, and looked away, but he was smiling. "Then. Let's get someplace together. We'll be able to get a bigger place that way, anyway. Ah, but...! I'll pay my share!"

Masao leaned back, falling down onto the couch and pulled Jun down with him. He kissed Jun passionately, holding onto him. "Just be with me. We can figure it all out as we go. I want to share my life with you, so."

"And you don't feel guilty?" Jun looked at him quizzically, grinning.

"Of course I do," Masao laughed. "At this point, I wouldn't know how to not feel guilty. But, I don't know. I think this is karma," he sighed, touching his eye patch.

Jun frowned. "For sleeping with a psychopath?"

"For everything," Masao chuckled. "For... living my life as a lie for so long that I... shy away from the truth, even now. If I think of this as a reminder to live honestly, then I really can't forget. Because I have to be aware of this... every second of every day..." he sighed.

"I don't like that," Jun murmured. He kissed the eye patch, and then he moved it aside to kiss right under Masao's eye socket. "But, it's only been a week. I think you'll get more accustomed to it in time. You might even get accustomed to being gay," Jun teased. "Or at least, aspects of it that society isn't accustomed to."

Masao chuckled, and rubbed his hands over Jun. Jun, who was here with him, who was going to move in together with him, in a place that was theirs. His lover. His Jun.

"Well. It's possible. ...If the price I had to pay for my lifetime of lies was an eye, it's worth it, if that means... I can finally be with you."

"Ah, you're being romantic again!" Jun complained, making a face.

"Sorry," Masao laughed. "I'll stop right away," he promised.

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