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.

November



He tapped his finger on his desk lazily. This was getting so tiresome. He made sure the transfer document was in order, and then put his seal on it.

"Oh, and... sorry, boss, the meeting in Kyoto has been... well..."

"Cancelled," he finished for Arakawa-san. He smiled at her to ease her discomfort. "That's not really surprising, is it?"

She sighed, frustrated. "This is all so unfair! That damned brat...! ...Oh, sorry, boss..."

"You're not wrong," he laughed. "But it's not unforeseen, is it? Oh, I need you to collect the documents and data for the M-project. That's been shifted to Okuta's group."

"That man is a drunk," she muttered under his breath.

He smiled at her, amused and touched by her loyalty. "Well, yes, he is. But he has a capable staff. The company is not going to sink because of this, fortunately or unfortunately."

She gave him a forlorn look, but if she was about to say something, his phone interrupted them. "Oh, that's Hikaru's ringtone."

"I'll get the files together, boss," she nodded at him, and left to give him privacy.

He answered the phone brightly, "Hello, son."

"Hey. How come I didn't know you were a cyclops?"

Masao blinked, and then sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "...How did you...?"

"I'm over at my friend Isumi's place... you remember him, he was there that night I caught you cheating on mom? He lives next door to your boyfriend."

"Ah... yes, well. We didn't actually meet that night, but." Masao had seen him about the complex, too, since he'd essentially moved in, though he hadn't had the opportunity to introduce himself properly.

Or maybe, he'd successfully avoided the opportunity.

"Yeah, so, I was here and I saw your boyfriend was moving, so I went over to talk to him, and saw some of his drawings, by the way, did you know that he's Yoshizawa Jun?!"

"Yes, I did know my... lover's name, son," Masao sighed.

"Yeah, well, anyway, I saw a picture he drew of you with an eye patch so I made him tell me what was up. But he said I should talk to you and stuff." Hikaru sounded put out.

His son was really too cute, even at his age. "I'm sorry. I guess I should have... look, let's... let's meet. Would you like to go to dinner?"

"Yeah, ok. That family diner? That was pretty good."

"Yes, you've already eaten half of their menu," Masao teased. "What time is good for you? Six?"

"You can leave work that early?" Hikaru asked, astonished.

"Well... it's a pretty light week," Masao smiled.

"Ok. You're buying, right?"

"Didn't you just win some huge tournament or something?" Masao sighed. "You're an adult now!"

"You're seriously going to make me pay!?"

"Of course not," Masao laughed.

"Hey!"

"I'll see you then, son."

"Yeah, yeah!" Hikaru hung up.

Masao already had a text from Jun.

I'm so sorry! It just kind of happened all at once! m(_ _)m

He typed back quickly. Don't give it a thought. He can be a brat, huh? I'll be late coming back, going to take the brat to dinner.

The rest of his day was suitably boring, the only interesting parts being the texts he traded with Jun. He left just after five, then, to get to dinner, and was waiting for Hikaru in the restaurant with an order of french fries. Hikaru plopped down opposite to him, openly staring at his eye patch.

"We're going to spend a lot of time talking about my lack of an eye, aren't we?" Masao sighed. He tried to cover his eye patch with his hand, but that didn't stop his son from staring.

"What do you expect! It's not every day you find out your dad was stabbed in the eye and he didn't even bother to tell you!" Hikaru complained. Loudly.

"I'm sorry, son, I just..." Masao shrugged. He wasn't sure what he just. It never actually occurred to him to call around and tell people about it.

"Does mom know?"

Masao blinked. "I... haven't had the opportunity to see your mother since it happened."

"Does grandma know?" Hikaru continued.

"Er... well, like I said..." Masao fidgeted.

"You had time to find a new apartment with your boyfriend! You can't go see your mother and tell her you lost one of the eyes she gave you!" Hikaru was loud. Masao quickly looked around. This wasn't like the last time when hardly anyone was there. The restaurant was just starting their dinner rush. He sighed.

"I know. It's just. It's not an easy thing to tell people. It's... a bit..." He rubbed his forehead. He wasn't sure he could make Hikaru understand. One thing he certainly didn't inherit from his father was any sense of modesty.

Before Hikaru could retort, the waitress came to get their order. Masao just got a small steak, but Hikaru ordered a few dishes. Still, it was less than the last time they were here, so. After she was gone, he shoved a few french fries in his mouth and gave his father an appraising look. After he swallowed, he sighed.

"Was it that weird guy who came to our house? The one who..." he pointed at Masao's eye patch.

There was no getting around it. "Yes, it was Kinjou-kun."

"Did they arrest him?" Hikaru asked sharply.

"The company wanted to keep it quiet," Masao replied, keeping his tone neutral. "His family had him placed in a mental health clinic, though."

"He could use some mental health," Hikaru grumbled. "Did you sleep with that guy?"

"I... I..." Masao stuttered. He wasn't expecting that question, even though he should have.

"Before you met Yoshizawa-sensei, right?" Hikaru narrowed his eyes.

Masao blinked. This was hilarious, in some alternate universe. Now Hikaru was standing up for Jun's honor? "Yes, it was before I met Jun. And it was once." Technically, it was twice, but. "It was just a mistake. And he..." Masao rubbed his temple over his empty eye socket.

"He was nuts," Hikaru sighed. "Even Akira agreed he was nuts, after we got home. And Akira never says anything bad about anyone."

"What did he say to you all when he was in the house?" Masao wondered. He should have known sooner, shouldn't he? That Kinjou-kun was unstable.

Hikaru shrugged. "Eh. It wasn't like he said anything specific. It was just his whole manner. And he kinda gave mom a dirty look." Hikaru looked away.

"Well, I'm sorry about that. Actually, that night, I didn't want him to come with me at all to get the files, so." Masao shook his head.

"Crazy people are just crazy," Hikaru said, and Masao wasn't sure if it was wise of him or just funny.

Their meal arrived, and Hikaru dug in right away, though not with quite the same fervor as the last time, fortunately. After a bit, he looked at his father's missing eye again. "Does it hurt?"

"Not anymore," Masao dismissed. "It's just... strange. It's mostly healed, too."

"Did you think about getting a glass eye?" Hikaru asked.

"Not for long," Masao stated bluntly.

"I like the eye patch better, anyway. It's kinda... dashing or something. There's a lot of anime characters that have eye patches. And cosplay stores have their kind, you know! So you can get eye patches with, like, patterns and stuff! That would be cool, huh?" Hikaru was looking far too excited with the idea.

"You know, plain black really matches everything, so..." Masao hedged. He envisioned getting an assortment of cosplay eye patches for his next birthday.

"Yeah, but when you wanna dress it up... I'm sure Yoshizawa-sensei would like 'em..." Hikaru teased him. Little devil.

"I should have realized that the manga artist aspect would win you over," he sighed.

"His stuff is so cool! I've been reading it! Oh, and Yoshizawa-sensei said that you helped with his first chapter for Weekly Shounen Victor! That's so wicked awesome! I had no idea you could do cool stuff like that!" Hikaru's face was lit up beautifully.

Masao wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry. "Thank you. I think."

"How did you meet?" Hikaru asked timidly. It was so cute, Masao almost didn't feel guilty about his answer.

At least Hikaru liked Jun... that was good. "Ah... it was, well. You know, at a bar."

"A gay bar?" Hikaru pressed.

"Well. Yes."

"You shouldn't have gone to someplace like that when you were married," Hikaru scolded him. "I want to go, though. Akira isn't too interested. I think he might be bi." Hikaru looked vaguely disturbed by that.

"You're essentially married, so you have to take your own advice, then," Masao teased him.

Hikaru just sighed. "I know. But I think it would be interesting!"

"Technically, you aren't old enough to drink yet, anyway. And. If Akira-kun doesn't want to go, you could always go with some other friend of yours. Just, you know. Don't hook up with anyone," he warned his son.

"Ha, ha, I know." Hikaru rolled his eyes. "I'm really starting to warm to the eye patch."

"I'm so glad," Masao replied dryly.

"You know... Mom is getting remarried..." Hikaru said, looking away.

So cute. Masao would never get over thinking his son was cute, it seemed. "I know. They're getting married in the spring. Hara-san, right? Have you met him?"

Hikaru sighed heavily. "I guess. We, uh, had dinner the other day. I'm not sure how he felt about meeting Akira. He seemed really cold, but mom said that was just his way, so I dunno what that means."

"It doesn't have to mean anything," Masao shrugged. "It's not up to him to approve or disapprove. You and your mother are both adults. He won't interfere with your relationship with one another." Masao hadn't met the man, but he trusted Mitsuko. She was too good a mother to let anyone get between her and her son.

"I guess, I mean, it's not like I'm worried, it's just..." Hikaru sighed heavily. "I don't get why she's in such a hurry, anyway! You gave her the house! She's got money! What does she need a husband for, anyway?"

"I understand... that she loves him," Masao gently reminded Hikaru.

"You know she met him long before you were cheating on her! She said she started having tea with him back last November, and you said you only started being weird after I introduced you to Akira and that was just before the New Year!" Hikaru pointed out, using his chopsticks to drive home his points.

"I know, son," Masao smiled genially at him.

"Doesn't it bother you? She was cheating first!" Hikaru accused.

"It was just tea," Masao shrugged. She wasn't off sleeping with Hara-san... "And I'm really happy for your mother. I could never make her as happy as she deserved to be. I'm glad she's getting a second chance." And that Masao hadn't totally ruined her life.

"He's way older! Older even than you!" Hikaru complained.

"Thank you so much for that," Masao rolled his eye. "I'll make sure to remind you of that when you are 40. Do you have some objection to Hara-san other than he is going to put his hands on your mother?"

"Oh, shit, they're going to have sex," Hikaru paled visibly.

"That just occurred to you?" Masao stared.

"Well! They're old! Why do they have to do... that stuff!" Hikaru threw his hands in the air.

"I'm going to remind you of that when you're 40, too," Masao sighed. "You're already aware that I'm... not dead yet. Why does it bother you so much more when it's your mother?" Masao understood, of course. Mothers were different than fathers, but it still wasn't fair of Hikaru. Mitsuko had every right to a satisfying sex life.

"Well, yeah, I mean, I know, not that I really think about it..." Hikaru started to think. "...Wait, do you usually top or bottom?"

"Why would you ask me that?" Masao slumped back in his seat.

"I don't know. I started to regret it before I even finished asking. ...I'm suddenly curious, though," Hikaru looked stumped.

"I'm not going to tell you!" Masao firmly told him.

"Do you ever think about that with me? I mean, you know, me and Akira..." Hikaru started.

"I try really hard not to think about it at all," Masao cut him off. "As long as you're both happy, I don't need to be involved."

"It's kind of cool, though. Having something in common and all with you," Hikaru said, grinning just a bit. The way he smiled, he reminded Masao of the way he looked when he was four, and he just figured out something good. "You know, Yoshizawa-sensei said that I reminded him of you?"

"Oh, yeah?" Masao raised his eyebrow. Warmth spread up through his belly.

"Yeah," Hikaru looked at him a bit shyly. "People usually only say I look like mom, but Yoshizawa-sensei said he'd never met mom, so he can see you in me. What do you think? Do I look like you?"

"I'd be worried if you didn't," Masao teased. "Children are an amalgam. I tend to agree that you look more like your mother, and I've always liked that."

"Yeah? You wouldn't have liked it better if I looked more like you?" Hikaru asked.

"Well, we didn't have a child to try to clone ourselves," Masao laughed. "I like everything about you. Even your go," he sighed. Though, he could never like go.

"You didn't mind that I became a go pro?" Hikaru asked, looking surprised.

"What? Of course not. Did it seem like I did?" Masao asked.

Hikaru shrugged. "Well. I never really asked. At the time, mom said you said it was ok if I did whatever I liked, but..."

Masao smiled softly. "At first, I wasn't really sure where it was all coming from. I thought maybe my father had exerted some influence. But you were always a really... single-minded kind of kid. You did what you were interested in, and nothing else. It was really hard to imagine anyone influencing you too much. Then all of sudden, it seemed like, you were taking the pro exam. I didn't know what to think of that, but I figured... whatever happened, you'd figure out the next step from there."

"And you didn't disapprove?" Hikaru pressed.

"Well... I thought it would have been better if you'd gone to high school," Masao shrugged. "But, I respect the fact that it would be difficult, managing your game schedule and trips and the like with school. I just thought, well, nothing in life is certain. It would have been good to have a backup plan. Though, if you decided you wanted to continue your education, you could still go back to take, like, an equivalency exam or some such. There's always another way," he nodded.

Hikaru was looking at him like he was really seeing his father for the first time in a while. "Well. Thanks. You know, for letting me just... decide for myself."

That was something Masao knew the value of, simply from the lack of it. "No problem, son. You've done well, anyway. So, retrospectively, I know it was right."

"What kind of place did you get? I mean. You're moving in with Yoshizawa-sensei, right?" Hikaru asked.

Yes, Masao felt warm all over. It was just... a happy feeling. "We, um. We've bought an apartment... It's. I'll send you the address. It's nice, near a station, plenty of room and light."

"Maybe when you're all moved in, Akira and I should come over and like... celebrate or something. Housewarming?" Hikaru looked amused at the idea, but still.

"We'd really like that," Masao assured him.





He opened the door and called out, "I'm home." He slipped his shoes and coat off, and looked at the ficus inside the door. Jun called back, "Welcome back!" from his studio. Masao felt the leaves on the plant. Jun said he'd always wanted one, so it was one of the first things they got, but Masao worried about it. He'd never cared for a plant before, so he wasn't sure what they needed to do to make sure it didn't die. It probably needed to be watered, he decided. He went back to the studio first, though.

They were moved in, and most of their stuff was unpacked. Masao still had a few boxes shoved in a corner, but for the most part, they were done. Jun, of course, had set up his studio first. He used the bedroom with the best natural light, and gotten himself a proper drafting desk, as well as a table for the assistants to use. The shelves on the wall were lined with materials, tools, reference books, and Jun's manga. Masao had even splurged and gotten Jun a tablet for drawing, but Jun was still getting used to it.

Tonight, Jun was alone, drawing at his desk. He smiled brightly when Masao came in. "You look tired," he sighed.

Masao shrugged, and came behind Jun to put his arms around him, kissing under his ear. "I am tired. But I'll take a second wind. Now that I'm home."

Jun flushed a bit, turning his face away from Masao. "How was work, then?"

"Oh, you know," Masao sighed. "Same as yesterday, and the day before..." he sighed.

"That bad, huh?" Jun sounded concerned.

Masao forced himself to smile. "It's not so bad. It's not like I wasn't expecting it. I approved another employee's transfer to another section. Won't be long before I've got no one left. Not too hard to imagine how my next review will go," he laughed.

"It's so unfair," Jun sighed, sounding just like Arakawa-san. "You weren't the one who stabbed a coworker! You were the victim! Why are you being ostracized?" He looked at Masao, stricken.

Masao kissed between his eyes. "It's not so bad as all that. It's just the way corporations work. I've got a stigma attached to me. Everyone knows I'm the manager who was stabbed by his jealous underling right after getting divorced. The stories flying around are all pretty toxic, and no one wants to be associated." Masao shrugged. "It's not like they're going to fire me for being stabbed. Or, well, for being..." he swallowed hard, and finished before Jun could finish for him. "For being gay. They're just going to shuffle me into obscurity."

"Well, that's no good!" Jun pouted.

He was so cute, Masao had to kiss him. "True. ...Well, there's something I'd like to talk to you about, but it can wait until after dinner." Jun raised an eyebrow at him, but Masao just smiled at him. He couldn't really wink at anyone anymore... "Don't worry, it'll keep. Did you want to take a bath before dinner, or...?" It looked like Jun had been working pretty hard himself.

"Nah, I'll just wash up. I'm starving! We still have leftovers from that place last night, right?" he grinned at Masao.

"We do," Masao told him, leaning down to kiss Jun again. They'd gone out to an Italian restaurant last night, and really splurged. It had been... borderline romantic. And exciting.

A proper date.

"I'm just going to change my clothes and then I'll warm it up," he said.

Jun jumped to his feet. "I'll help you change."

"I'm not trying to discourage you, but I do want to be sure you know that I'm capable of undressing myself," Masao teased.

"Of course, but it's more fun my way, right?" Jun laughed.

That, Masao couldn't argue with, so he just let Jun follow him to their bedroom. Jun brushed down his suit and then took it off, piece by piece, hanging it up gently. He eyed Masao's underwear and tugged at the waistband, but he let Masao redress without complaining. Masao went to their kitchen and Jun went to the washroom, and they met again in the living room over plates of reheated pasta. Jun turned on an anime and Masao teased him while they ate. They finished the bottle of wine Masao opened for dessert, Jun curling up to Masao on the couch.

"You were going to talk to me about something?" Jun prodded.

"Oh, yes," Masao murmured, smoothing out Jun's hair and kissing the top of his head.

"You're not going to use sex to avoid the issue, are you?" Jun laughed.

"It's not really an issue," Masao laughed. "But we can have sex later."

"So hopeful," Jun teased.

"I took a long lunch today, since there's hardly anything going on in the office. I took a walk to the calligraphy store that I used to get all my supplies from," he began.

"That sounds nice," Jun said, smiling. It was easy for Jun to imagine what it was like for Masao.

"It was. The old man who owned the shop was still there, just like always. A little grayer, more wrinkled, a bit smaller..." Masao laughed. "We got to talking. He didn't have any children to pass his store down to, but he'd planned on retiring and giving it to his nephew. But, his nephew got married and followed his wife out to Osaka, so. That clearly didn't work out. He said he's getting too old to run the place anymore, but it's hard to sell it off, too."

"That's understandable," Jun replied, and Masao had a feeling that Jun knew where he was going with all this.

"We started to talk about it. The store is pretty stable. I mean, he has a few contracts with, like, schools, universities, that sort of thing, so he's been operating in the black for quite a while. He's also saved up a bit, so. When I asked him how much he was looking to sell for... it was a pretty reasonable sum, considering his location and all." Masao felt nervous for no real reason, except.

He'd given up a long, long time ago on doing anything for a living that was really interesting.

"You can afford it?" Jun asked, sounding excited. For Masao.

It was a good feeling. "Well. That's sort of. What I wanted to talk to you about... I can probably swing it, especially with a commercial mortgage. And, given the way the business has gone for the last decade and all, that shouldn't be a problem. But... I've... no longer got the house, that's Mitsuko's. And my assets, too, were divided in half. We just bought this place. I don't think I'll have any trouble, but I'll have to use just about everything I have, so... things might be a bit leaner than, well..." He wanted to be able to continue to provide, after all. It was what he was used to doing.

Jun's eyes widened, until they were almost comically bugging out of his face. "But! I mean...! I have an income, too. It's not, well, not that stable, really, and I'm just getting started, but still! I can even swing the monthly payments for the apartment, so...! I totally think you should do it! You'd be so much happier running a shop like that... you can handle running a shop, right?"

"Katagiri-san said he could show me the ropes for about a month or so after the sale, so I feel pretty confident. I mean, he already showed me his books and everything. Fortunately, he'd done pretty well at keeping up, so everything is computerized. I'll have to do a bit of studying up on certain topics, like taxes and all, but overall... Katagiri-san has been doing it for more than half a century, so it's manageable." Masao felt a bit overwhelmed thinking of it. Doing accounting and all... but the software should make it feasible. It wasn't the sort of business that relied on being cutting edge. On the contrary, calligraphy artists depended on the same sort of tools and inks they'd been using for centuries.

"Well, there's not much to talk about then, right? I mean, your company seems dead-set on penalizing you for being stabbed, so. Rather than being made the... Vice President in Charge of... Cleaning Supplies, or whatever, this is way better!" Jun joked.

"The Vice President in Charge of Cleaning Supplies is a really capable man who is the nephew of the CEO. I don't think I could take his place," Masao sighed, feigning seriousness.

Jun laughed, putting his arms around Masao's neck. "Bastard. What's the issue, then? Go for it! ...Is this something you would have talked to your wife about before?"

"My ex-wife," Masao corrected him. "And. Well. The last time I made a huge career change, I didn't really consult with her, but that was because I was... basically running away from her," he laughed self-depreciatingly. "But this is... well, this is a huge financial risk. So that. That affects both of us, right?" He looked at Jun hopefully.

Jun looked shocked, and then he bounced on Masao, excited. "...Yes! I mean, I guess it does. Yeah. But! You don't need to worry! Even if you fail miserably and end up a loser bum, I can still support you! So... go ahead and take your risk!"

"Please don't use the phrase fail miserably or loser bum again, that's..." Masao laughed.

Jun started to kiss him, though. And he was caressing Masao's chest. This was good... "Ah... I am a little disappointed, though," Jun pouted, not at all convincingly. "If you're running a shop, you'd look a little funny if you went in everyday in a three-piece suit, huh?"

Masao laughed, and squeezed Jun. "Yes, yes, that would look odd. I could still wear the vests," he offered.

"It's ok. I can make you dress up at home. That's... kinda better," Jun licked his lips.

"Pervert," Masao teased, picking up one of Jun's hands to nibble on his fingertips.

"Takes one to know one," June replied lovingly.





It was rare in the morning for him to be dressing himself anymore. Jun liked to tie his tie, at the very least. But, Jun had been asked to do a cover for the magazine, so he was working hard at getting a good image ready, and coloring it. Once Masao was dressed, he went into Jun's studio, and kissed his cheek. Jun glanced at him, smiling, but he was still working hard on his drawing.

"I shouldn't have woken you. You hardly got any sleep last night," Masao sighed.

"And for all the wrong reasons!" Jun laughed. "But it's ok. I'll be meeting with my editor this afternoon, so I want to have something to show him. A couple of somethings, really. After the meeting, I'll take it easy. Probably."

Probably, Jun would get to work on whatever his editor told him to do. Masao dug his thumbs into Jun's shoulders, massaging him. "Just don't overdo it. Send me a text when you're done with your editor."

"Ah, that feels so good," Jun purred, leaning back. He looked up at Masao, grinning. "I will, of course I will. Have a good day at work."

"I'll be having lunch with Katagiri-san," Masao told him, leaning down to kiss Jun. "We'll be doing the final paperwork probably next week."

"After that, we should celebrate. While you still have some credit to celebrate with," Jun teased him.

"You just do well with your cover! I'm going to be depending on you!" Masao teased him. Still, the idea of depending on Jun...

From Jun's bright smile, he was probably thinking the same way. "Work hard!"

One last kiss, and Masao was off for the day.

The morning was slow, two meetings where, once again, no one spoke to him directly. At lunch, he spent over an hour with Katagiri-san, who let Masao take some of his old books so Masao could go over the accounting and make sure he understood everything. The afternoon brought a small crisis, but that at least made the time pass. He got a text about three, which he expected to be from Jun, but it wasn't.

You've been putting me off for so long, I've forgotten entirely what you look like. Isn't it about time we met for drinks?

Crap. Natsuo... it had been a crazy long time. The last time he saw him was in February. That was before Masao met Jun. He'd begged off the last few times, because Masao was prioritizing seeing Jun over everything else. He wasn't sure how to respond, though. He worried about it for a bit, but it was less than an hour later when Jun sent him a text, so he called Jun.

"I thought you were just going to text me back. I was about to get on the train!"

"Sorry for delaying you," Masao sighed. "Something sort of came up, so I wanted to ask you... A friend from college wants to get together tonight for drinks."

"I'm assuming you want to ask me about this because by a friend you mean the last man you lived with," Jun laughed, but Masao couldn't really read his tone.

"Natsuo is really just a friend," Masao said, though he was reminded that both his son and his ex-wife thought that Natsuo and he had some kind of other sort of relationship. "But if it bothers you, I'll put him off."

"It doesn't bother me," Jun replied quickly. Too quickly? "I'm kinda wiped out, anyway. When I get home, I want to do a few things, before I forget what we discussed in the meeting, and then I'll probably just take the night off and nap or something. So wake me up when you get home, if I'm sleeping. And. Masao? If you cheat on me, I'm cutting out your good eye."

"I have no desire in the world to be with anyone but you," Masao assured Jun, laughing. He was fairly sure Jun wasn't kidding, though. "I shouldn't be too late, anyway. Sorry."

"It's ok. But I'll have you give me a full-body massage when you get home," Jun promised.

"Sounds fine to me," Masao licked his lips.

As soon as he was off the phone with Jun, he sent a text back to Natsuo. Sorry, it's been a crazy year, I guess. The usual place? I can be free whenever, so just let me know.

The only problem with meeting him for drinks was finding something to do in the office until after six. It was before seven when he got to their usual pub, so he ordered some beer and snacks and waited for Natsuo. It might have been the first time in years that he'd been there first for one of their nights out. He sent a text to Jun to let him know where he was, and Jun quickly replied to remind him not to cheat. Masao was looking at his phone, then, when Natsuo sat down opposite him.

"I can't believe you're here first. What happened to your eye? Cataract surgery?" Natsuo picked up his beer immediately.

Masao shook his head and sighed. "Why does everyone jump to that? I'm the same age you are! No, it's not that!"

"Sorry, sorry!" Natsuo laughed. "Just giving you a hard time. But seriously, what happened?"

Sighing, Masao looked away. "Oh. I got stabbed in the eye by a coworker. Nothing much."

"Really?" Natsuo stared at him, open-mouthed. "Holy crap. When did that happen? How is your eye?"

"It's gone," Masao shrugged. He was able to say that now as if it really didn't matter to him. "It was a bit ago now. It's mostly healed, in fact. Just skin over an empty eye socket." Though, that was still pretty humiliating. Masao had to expect that any conversation he had with someone he hadn't seen recently would revolve around his empty eye socket, but he still hated it.

"Shit. What was it, a disgruntled employee who was being passed over or something?" Natsuo took a long drink.

He was going to stare at Masao's face all night, wasn't he? "No... no, it wasn't that," Masao sighed, hoping they could steer the conversation to something else.

Natsuo grinned at him wickedly. "You, of all people. This must be driving you nuts. You hate it, right?"

"Don't make fun of me, please," Masao shook his head, flushing a bit.

That just made Natsuo laugh. "Of course you do, your beautiful face, all... ruined. For what it's worth, I sort of like it. It's very..."

"Swashbuckling," Masao finished for him, laughing at himself. "I know, I've heard it. I'm very piratey now. It's a little behind the fashions, but there you have it."

Natsuo was just openly laughing at him now. "Don't fret, Masao. We all still love you. What does Mitsuko think of it?" he wiggled his finger in the direction of the eye patch.

Masao froze for half a heartbeat. Ah... right... He rubbed his leg a bit under the table. "Well, she... she was surprised, of course..."

"Surprised?" Natsuo looked puzzled. "Well, of course! But I'm guessing she's having a good time teasing you about this. Though I suppose it's finally gotten you to stop spending so much time in front of the mirror, staring at yourself."

Masao flushed right down to his neck. "I never... ah." He shook his head. Natsuo was practically falling out of his seat.

"I used to have to physically shove you out of the way to brush my teeth!" he reminded Masao.

Damn it all. A good memory wasn't needed in this situation! "Yes, well. Mitsuko doesn't have the same opportunity to tease me anymore." Natsuo just looked at him, confused. "It really has been a long time... Ah, Mitsuko and I got divorced."

Natsuo's glass hit the table hard, splashing beer everywhere. Masao started to move his napkin over to clean it up, but. "What do you mean? Divorced? Since when?"

He was being loud. Masao looked around furtively. "Mm. It was settled in September?"

"Your anniversary was in August! Twenty years!" Natsuo burst out.

Masao winced. "Yes, well... it was on our anniversary that we decided to split, actually. Just took a little while, you know, separation of assets and the like..."

"What the... hell, Masao... What... what have you been doing since then? Where have you been living?" Natsuo reached out and grabbed a hold of Masao's wrist.

This wasn't going how Masao expected, and he had the sinking feeling that he should have expected this. "I, I just moved into an apartment. Um. Recently." He nodded slowly, smiling at Natsuo. "Are you all right?"

"Am I... shit, I can't believe you wouldn't call me to tell me this!" Natsuo rubbed his face with his other hand. The one that wasn't holding onto Masao. Masao tried to move his wrist out of Natsuo's grip, but Natsuo wasn't letting go. "I can't believe you wouldn't... well, why?"

"Why?" Masao repeated, dumbfounded.

"After twenty years, a man and a woman have to have a reason to divorce!" Natsuo burst out.

"Ah, why... well. I mean. I think... you can imagine... and... also... Mitsuko met someone," Masao shrugged, at a loss.

"Wait, she was cheating on you?" Natsuo asked, outraged.

Masao was feeling hot under the collar. He was also damned sick of people staring at him. He had enough of that at work. He looked around, feeling painfully embarrassed. "It's not really like that. And anyway, I met someone, too. It was amicable. We're still friends."

The color drained from Natsuo's face. "What do you mean... you met someone. What are you talking about? Who?"

"I feel like I'm being grilled," Masao complained. "You're causing a scene. I met someone. I don't think there's any chance you know him."

"You... you're with some guy? Are you... are you living with this guy?" Natsuo shot back.

"Please keep your voice down," Masao begged. With a bit of force, he got his arm back from Natsuo. "Yes, I am currently... living my lover. And yes, we're both male, well, obviously," Masao sighed. He couldn't look at Natsuo.

"Your... lover," Natsuo spit out bitterly.

"I really didn't expect you to take it like that," Masao closed his eye.

"How did you expect me to take it, Masao?" Natsuo bitterly spat out. "We've been together... for decades. I have been... patiently... just... sitting back and watching you... you... you do whatever the hell you want. One day, you decide you want to be normal, so I have to accept that. You want to be a good man, and be faithful to the woman you'll never love, so I had no choice, did I? I had to step back and be the best friend. And now you tell me... you've just decided to screw it all. Forget the last twenty years. No, more like the last twenty-four years, because you didn't just toss Mitsuko aside. You had all this shit going on, and you never thought about me once, did you?"

Natsuo was pretty much shouting at him. Masao thought he might just die of being embarrassed. Their waitress came by, looking nervous. "Is everything all right, sirs?" she asked, practically shaking.

Damn it all. Masao smiled smoothly and stood up. "Ah, yes, but I think we're actually done," he apologized, leaving money behind.

She exhaled with relief.

He moved quickly just to get out of there. He figured that Natsuo would follow him, but he still needed to get away. He started to head to the station once they were out of the pub, but Natsuo grabbed him by the arm. Masao turned to face him, glaring, though he couldn't help thinking it wasn't very effective with just one eye. "What?"

Natsuo looked furious, but there was something else in his eyes, too. "C'mon. There's a love hotel over this way, let's go."

"Idiot!" Masao pulled his arm away from Natsuo. "I'm not going to a damned love hotel with you!"

Natsuo shoved Masao back into the alley. "Why not? You've clearly chosen to forget all about it, but I've never forgotten, Masao. We were good together, once! I'm the one who has been at your side all this time. I deserve to be the one you want to be with!"

"I really don't think it's a question of deserve," Masao spat out. "And what are you talking about, anyway? You have a wife, a family."

"Only because you forced me to!" Natsuo put his hands flat on the bricks on either side of Masao's head.

"I don't recall doing that!" Masao scorned. "I never forced you to do anything."

"You forced me to break up with you!"

"We weren't..." Masao took a deep breath.

"Right. I was nothing to you." Natsuo looked and sounded hurt, and angry. Hurt, damn it.

This was all wrong.

"I thought we were friends," Masao pled with him.

"You were wrong," Natsuo replied firmly. He moved in to kiss Masao, but even though he was fast, Masao was still able to get his hand up to block him. He ducked under Natsuo's arm and pushed him away.

"I am... so sorry. For. Everything, I guess. But you need to cool your head off," Masao sighed. "I guess we were both wrong about a lot of things, but the fact is... I'm... in love with someone else. I'm living my life with someone else now."

"You barely know him!" Natsuo desperately grabbed at Masao's jacket. "You haven't even known him a year yet. I'm the one..."

"I'm sorry," Masao cut in. "But the way I feel isn't going to change no matter what you say. It's just. I'm sorry, but it's not."

"You're such a bastard," Natsuo leaned back, defeated. "So fucking spoiled. So used to everyone doting on you. I hope your lover cheats on you and leaves you. That's what you deserve, you selfish prick."

"That's probably true," Masao agreed sadly. "But even if that's the case, it doesn't mean I'd come running to you."

"I would punch you in the face if someone hadn't already..." Natsuo waved at Masao's eye socket. "I can understand why someone would stab you in the eye. I wish I had been the one to do it."

Masao flinched, and turned away. "I... I am sorry. Natsuo." He walked off, hoping like hell that Natsuo wouldn't follow him. When he got on the train, and sat down, he realized he was shaking. He put his hand over his eye patch, and tried to focus on breathing calmly.

He'd been afraid of Natsuo.

The train got to his stop, he got off, he walked to the apartment, counting the number of steps to keep himself calm. He got out his key to open the lobby door, but his hand was shaking a bit, so it took him a moment. He checked their mailbox, even though he was pretty sure Jun would have gotten it earlier. He was trying to get calm enough so that when he got to their door, he wouldn't be so visibly upset. Thinking about it, he wasn't quite sure what he'd been afraid of, but maybe that was what made it so difficult. Or perhaps, he had just been too keenly reminded of being stabbed.

He got to their door and opened it, and was reasonably pleased with himself at how normal he sounded when he called out, "I'm home."

"What? So soon? Ah, I mean, welcome back, but. I wasn't expecting you for hours!" Jun was in the kitchen. He was wearing an anime t-shirt that was like one Hikaru owned, and sweats.

He looked so comfortable. Masao just dropped his coat on the floor and went to Jun, putting his arms around him. It was only after he was able to hold Jun for a minute that he was able to speak again. "Well. Drinks didn't do so well. We had a lot to catch up on, and apparently... he didn't take it all so well."

"Ah," Jun sighed, wrapping his arms around Masao. "So the friend from college wasn't too happy to find out you were divorced."

"Yeah," Masao sighed, feeling more secure knowing Jun was laughing at him. "Well, I'm not sure if he was having more trouble with that or that I was living with another man, so. Apparently, he thought, well... that it should be him or something." It seemed so ridiculous when he said it out loud. It had been over two decades since they'd last been... together!

"You're really dumb," Jun laughed, pulling back enough so Masao could see him smiling. "You're handsome, but dumb." Jun kissed the forehead over Masao's good eye.

"How was I supposed to know?" Masao sighed, miserable. "I mean, I get that I should have, but..."

Now Jun was just laughing out loud. He pulled back, taking something off the stove. "Did it get ugly?"

"He tried to drag me off to a love hotel," Masao sighed.

"Aw. And you weren't at all tempted?" Jun asked him, looking at him wickedly over his shoulder.

"What do you think?" Masao wryly replied.

"I feel sorry for your friend from college, but I guess those are the breaks. It's not really your fault, you know," Jun placated him.

"I have a feeling this is going to turn around on me," Masao sighed darkly.

"You just have this, like, demon power of attraction," Jun explained cheerfully. "You're not even aware of it. You just draw people in, and even when they want to get away, they can't. Honestly, I have more and more respect for your wife, being able to break the spell."

"Ex-wife," Masao reminded him robotically. "And it's ok if you think that way. I'd actually prefer it if you found me demonically attractive. It would give me a great deal of peace of mind." Natsou's curse echoed in his mind. "But nobody else needs to feel that way. I'd be a lot happier if no one else considered me to be that attractive. After all, I only have one eye left," he sighed, rubbing his temple near his eye socket.

For a second, all he could think about was the pain in his head, but then he had Jun in his arms again, and Jun was squeezing him, hard. "There you go again. Being romantic and saying... just what I've always wanted to hear," Jun murmured raggedly. "I wish you'd stop doing that," he sighed.

Masao wrapped his arms around Jun and squeezed him tightly, rubbing his back. "Yeah. Well. Working on it," he teased.

Jun pulled back and grinned at Masao. "Ah... I was about to eat something. Want to watch bad movies with me and get drunk?"

"I can't think of anything I'd rather do. Wanna help me change my clothes first?" Masao wiggled his eyebrows at Jun.

Jun stroked the fabric over Masao's chest. "Mm, yes. We have to take good care of the suit..."

Masao laughed, and pulled Jun's head closer to kiss his forehead. He was definitely, finally able to feel himself again.






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