Raining in Kyoto
By: Chaos and Raven

I find that different people in my life have different music. It's not just music in my head either, it's the music that plays when they're around. I know for a fact that every one of my relationships has had its own theme. I've never been sure if that's good or bad. I can't listen to those songs without thinking of the people they represent.

Now the song is 'Raining in Kyoto.' I have no idea who in my life it's for. Maybe it's for me. My theme. It does make me think of rain. How appropriate. It's always raining here. The clouds blow away only to be followed by more clouds. I don't mind, usually, but right now I could use some sunshine.

I've been waiting for the bus for two hours now. And wandering around the streets for longer than that. It's nearing four AM and the rain hasn't stopped for weeks. There goes that song again. I dig through my pockets searching for a cigarette but come up dry. Just as well, I've been trying to quit.

I almost laugh but it's too strange laughing when I'm alone. It always sounds hollow when there isn't someone else to hear it. A strong staccato of footsteps on wet pavement makes me correct that thought. Whoever it is would just think I'm a crazy bum off the streets if I were laughing at myself, though.

I don't like people to think I'm crazy and I'm too young to be a bum. By all rights, I ought to be at home in bed, waiting for the sun to rise and another day of school to begin. Yeah, I have a home to go to if I wanted. I don't. I live in an abusive and alcoholic house and I swore that if it didn't stop by today, I would leave. So here I am, sitting at a bus stop in the earliest hours of the morning.

The footsteps stop over to my left and I can feel someone standing there but I don't want to look up. I don't like the way people look at me when they see my face. I'm beautiful. And really, that's not being vain. That isn't the problem though. It's the scar that runs down my cheek from eyebrow to chin. At the widest part, across from my nose, it's almost a quarter inch across. Not the sort of thing that's easy to disguise. My hair usually covers it. Long, black Japanese hair that I inherited from my mother. I grew it out for her, as a memento I guess.

My mother's song is 'Taps.' And I can't think of her without seeing a half raised flag. Yeah, the General's wife got a military funeral. I was ten when she died of cancer. I was eleven when my father first started to drink. Twelve when he first hit me. And fifteen before I told him I'd leave if he didn't stop. That's when I got the scar. I don't think he quite intended for it to be as bad as it is. Social services almost got me after that one but he promised to clean up his act. All that meant is he wouldn't be caught again. Now I'm seventeen and waiting for the bus three days before Christmas. Life sucks.

I rub my fingers together in an attempt to resuscitate them. It's a futile endeavor though. I wish that I'd been more prepared. I would have brought gloves, maybe a heavier jacket. I have my backpack; filled with things only I could possibly place value on. And my wallet, filled with as much money as I could withdraw from the bank.

"You cold, boya?"

It's a man's voice, only not really. He sounds young. I shiver. He sounds like the song, even though it's a woman singing.

"No, it's a fucking sauna in my world." I snipe back. I don't like talking to strangers. There's movement by my side and he settles on the bench next to me.

"Where are you headed?" He asks, as though I hadn't been rude.

He takes my hypothermic hands in his and begins to rub them gently. I look up at him and am about to yank my hands away when I see his face. He's not pretty. Not now. He could be though. He hasn't shaved in forever I'm sure. The stubble is approaching grotesque. His hair is shaggy and slightly unkempt, falling just into his eyes. He's Asian though, and Asian boys always look pretty in my eyes. Except he's older than his voice would have had me believe. Thirty perhaps? At least late twenties.

Despite the haggard look to his face, his clothes are nicely tailored. And he's tall, so much taller than I am. He wears a black suit. Black shirt. Black tie. His long trench coat is black. The only other color I see is a flash of silver on his wrist, a watch or bracelet.

I do take my hands out of his, though it's more reluctant than I would have liked. "To the bus," I reply at last.

I can hear the smirk in his voice. "And after that?"

I shrug and pull my jacket closer around my body. The warmth of his hands on mine has left me chilled even further. I go rigid when his finger pulls my hair behind my ear and traces down my cheek.

"You running from whoever did this?" His voice is soft and I have to struggle back tears as I nod. "Whoever it is deserves that and more," he whispers. I feel him, desperately close to my face. "If I had the chance, I'd take revenge for you pretty one."

I pull back in horror and he laughs at the look on my face. His laugh is like low thunder, off in the distance.

"You think I'm some pervert from off the street don't you." I don't answer but I don't think he expected me to. "I'm not going to try anything with you, boya. Unless you want me to."

"No." I manage to force the word between my lips. It's like a whisper, only harsh and pained.

"Hey, I was just kidding." He turns away and leans against the bench, putting his arm along the back of it. "What's your name, boya? I'm Satoshi Yu."

"Hiroshi Andrews." Only fractionally louder than my whisper.

"Hiro and Sato, eh?"

He chuckles once more and I am compelled to look up at his face again. His eyes are perfectly black but I can see that he feels the laugh. Is it odd to say that? Very often, people laugh when they don't mean it. They don't feel the emotion they are portraying. Does that make more sense? I try to look through the stubble and see what his face would really be like but I can't.

"Just pull around the block again, Travis. He has to be out here somewhere."

I hear the voice but almost don't recognize it as my heart leaps out of my chest. He's found me already. I don't register the 'Yes, sir' and the steady purr of the engine coming to life but as the door clicks shut I'm in motion.

"Oh, god! I can't believe it." I struggle with my backpack. Satoshi stepped on the strap when he sat down and I have to yank it out from under his foot to get it loose. "Get off, damnit!"

He snickers. "Not often I'm yelled at to do that." He does move his foot though. "What's the matter, boya?"

I can feel tears stinging behind my eyes and I hate how weak it makes me in front of this man I don't even know. "He's found me already." I choke out and then I'm off, sprinting down the street away from where I heard the car.

I hear footsteps coming after me and I try to run faster. I'm not fast enough though and arms encircle me.

"Hiro." It's Satoshi and I gasp in relief. "Let me help you."

"Why would you help me?" I break away warily. I don't have the money to pay him back for any help and I don't want to whore away my freedom.

He sighs explosively at my defensive stance. "You need help. It's not going to cost you anything, I promise."

I want to resist but he's right. I do need help. The song is thundering in my ears now. He draws me next to him, sheltering me from sight with his body, and pulls out a cell phone. He dials the number and after a moment says some things in precise Japanese. I don't speak the language, despite being Japanese myself. Well, Japanese-American, with a greater emphasis on American. I do have a great enough understanding to recognize 'Arigato, Watanabe-sama' as he hangs up. He takes my hand and pulls me down the street after him.

There is a motel a few blocks away and we go straight into the lobby. He pounds on the bell and a slight older woman appears from behind a brightly colored curtain. She's probably in her sixties at least. Her silvery hair is pulled back in a traditional bun.

"Oh, Yu-san. You brought another one of your girls?" Her tone is critical and I see a faint stain of red along his cheeks.

"Eh. Not quite, Obasan."

They break into hushed Japanese and I can't understand them any longer. I do hear my name though, and to my surprise, my father's. When they're done talking she moves away slowly, clucking her tongue in disapproval. She brings back a key and sets it deliberately in his hand and says something else. I turn to ask why he said my father's name when I hear the voices again.

"...Just ask if they've seen him. It can't hurt. Hiroshi's looks are quite distinct."

My father's voice is bitter and I'm not surprised. He's never liked that I'm prettier than most girls. I look up at Satoshi in fear. He gives me a reassuring smile and grabs my arms, hoisting me over the counter.

"Take him in the back," he whispers. "I'll come knock when they've gone."

She nods and hurries me behind the curtain she walked through before. I can't see anything. I'm huddled to the side and the room is very dimly lit, but I hear every movement with excruciating clarity.

The bell above the door rings and for a moment there is no noise. "Satoshi Yu." My father hisses.

"Good morning, General Andrews." He responds cordially. "Now, now. There's no need for weapons is there? Unless by some miracle you have a warrant for my arrest?"

I hear Leonard Travis, my father's aide, groan in defeat. The old woman, Obasan he called her, disappears from my side and walks out into the other room.

"I'm sorry, Yu-san. I'm all out at the moment."

"Ah. Well, thank you anyway." He takes her cue. The chime above the door rings again.

"May I help you gentlemen? A room, perhaps?" Her tone of voice suggests they would want to share a bed and I have to restrain my chuckles.

"No, thank you." My father again, in his clipped military tones. "I'm looking for my son."

"Oh? What does he look like?" She is too good at this game and I begin to wonder what I've gotten myself into.

"He's about five foot five, long black hair, and a scar from here to here. Japanese. He could have come by any time since nine PM." That's Travis for you. He's so flattering.

"No, I'm sure I'd remember someone like that. Yu-san is my only customer tonight."

"Do you mind if we check the register, ma'am?"

"Oh, no. Go right ahead. I'm sure I would remember him, though."

After a few minutes of page shuffling, they are forced to admit defeat and the bell rings a final time. I hear the engine start again and the crunch of gravel under the tires. Obasan comes back and leads me to a door at the rear. She opens it carefully and relaxes when she sees Satoshi leaning against the frame.

"I trust it went well?" He doesn't wait for her reply, instead motioning for me to step outside next to him. "Arigato, Obasan. I would not want this boy harmed."

She smiles cryptically at him. "No, you would not."

I follow him silently to the room he has rented. The song has been droning silently in the recesses of my mind since we arrived and now it blasts full force. Tell me what are you... That's all I can understand of it though the rest of that sentence has always played in my mind. Tell me what are you looking for? That may very well be what she sings but I don't know. I huddle silently by Satoshi's side as he unlocks the door, constantly afraid I'll hear the voices again or I'll see the black sedan. He flicks on the lights and locks the door. Now that we are inside and I'm sure no one can see me, I feel a little safer.

"How do you know my father?" I ask. I have guessed who he is but I want him to say it.

"Sam Andrews's good friend the chief of police has been trying to arrest me for years. They have no proof, though." He kicks off his shoes and sits on the bed.

I follow with my shoes and notice for the first time there is only one bed in the room. I school my features as best I can. "You said I wouldn't have to pay for your help. And that didn't tell me who you are."

"You didn't ask who I was, you asked how I knew your father. As for the bed, if I were to get more than one bed in my room it would arouse suspicions. I always get this room when I stay here and there is only one bed."

I stare at the double and his limbs spread out on it. "It won't hold us both."

"Not unless you decide you really like me." He agrees cheerfully.

I ignore the bed for a moment. "Who are you?"

"You mean besides Satoshi Yu? I'm surprised your father hasn't told you horror stories about me. Yakuza is the expression you'd want if we were in Japan. In America, I'm just a well-paid thug."

"Yakuza." I breathe the word. "Why would you help me? Are you going to try to get at my father through me?"

"You worry too much, boya. I couldn't care less about your father. He's only a threat to himself now. You needed help and I gave it to you. Don't be stupid and refuse it now."

I can only nod dumbly. The Yakuza are the Japanese version of the Mafia. Watanabe-sama must be his boss, either someone farther up on the food chain or the boss. I sigh. When it rains, it pours. The song is thundering in my ears now. Raining in Kyoto. Suddenly, I have to know.

"Have you ever been to Kyoto?"

"Hmm?" He's leaning back against the pillows, almost as though he's going to sleep in his clothes. "I was born in Kyoto. Why?"

"Oh." I'm startled. I didn't really think it would relate. "It is your song."

Satoshi turns his head to look up at me. I'm still standing dumbly in front of the door. "What's my song?"

"Raining in Kyoto," I answer softly. I walk over and slump to the floor at the foot of the bed. "It's been playing in my head all night. For you, I guess."

I can feel him smiling at the back of my head. "Ah. I'm going to shower."

I nod mutely and watch his feet move across the carpet into the other room. What a mess you've made of things this time, Hiro. I haven't started to worry about my choices. I haven't had time until now. I don't want to worry though. This was the right choice. Without Satoshi, my father would have caught me and that would be infinitely worse than being stuck in a hotel room with only one bed and a man that could be beautiful. I shake my head. Yes, Satoshi was the best choice. But that doesn't mean I like it.

I could leave, I reason, but that would just place me at the bus stop again where my father could drive by at any given time. I pull out my Walkman and skip through the first few tracks. Finally, the music is real, not just burning a hole in my brain.

I wake to Satoshi shaking me. I hadn't even realized I dozed off. I look up and my breath catches. He shaved while he was in the shower and the face underneath is astounding. His cheekbones are sharp but his face isn't sunken in by that. His lips are full and beautiful and I have to resist drawing my face to them. His jet black eyes are amused when they meet mine.

"You could have gotten into bed first." He admonishes.

I shrug. "It's your room, your bed. I wasn't planning to be asleep when you got out."

Now that I'm awake a little more, I see that he is wearing nothing but his pants. Not even underwear. I can tell because his belt isn't holding the pants where they ought to be and they are slung far enough down his hips that his hipbones protrude sharply out. There is a faint line of dark hair peeking above the waist. I struggle to my feet and he grabs my arm to help.

"Come on. I know we're not quite friendly enough to share a bed but I won't have you sleeping on the floor."

I blush and he has the good grace not to notice. I'm too tired to argue, though. I strip efficiently, leaving on my boxers. He smiles and climbs into bed wearing his pants.

"Satoshi..." I falter. "Surely, that's uncomfortable."

"I would prefer to be uncomfortable at my expense rather than yours, Hiro."

I climb under the covers on the other side. "You won't try anything." It is a reassurance to myself, not a question.

"We have to lie very close in this bed. Too close, I think."

"It's okay. I don't want you uncomfortable. You have done a lot for me tonight." It looks as though he's going to argue again. "Just take the damned things off! I trust you." I gentle my tone. "It's nothing I haven't seen before."

He shakes his head but does what I tell him. My back is to him but I hear the zipper clearly enough and I feel his weight shift the bed as he lies down next to me.

"You shouldn't trust a man like me, Hiro. I'm not someone you should rely on."

"Maybe not." I concede. "But I do."

He doesn't reply.

The light switches off and we're left in darkness. I hear the song again, softly in the back of my subconscious. He's making an effort to stay as far away from me as possible. I try not to laugh. There really isn't enough room on this bed for us to be anything but close. I roll over so I face him. His back is to me and he has pulled himself as close to the edge as he can without falling off. I take one hand and place it on his hip and wedge the other beneath him, then I pull him towards me. Satoshi makes a surprised noise in the back of his throat.

"You're being stupid." I whisper to the back of his neck.

We spoon together, like puzzle pieces, and I hold him. It's amazing how nice it feels, just to have that. After another minute, he pulls away only to shift us both. He rolls me over and takes the position I had. One arm is under my head, the other tucked around my waist. It's been so long since someone held me. I snuggle back into his embrace.

"You're warm." I mumble. It's the best way I can say what I feel. "Thank you, Satoshi."

I wake to sharp knocking on the door. I jump and every muscle in my body tenses.

"Open up, Satoshi. I know you're in there."

It isn't my father's voice but that doesn't rule out someone from the police force who is looking for me. Satoshi runs his hand across my shoulders in a way meant to be comforting but only causes me to tense up more.

"Pretend you're sleeping," he whispers. "And keep your cheek to the mattress."

I don't have to ask which one he means. I've become used to the fact that if anyone sees the left-hand side of my face they're not likely to forget it. He stands, gloriously nude and makes his way to the door. I can't actually see him since my face is turned away but I know he didn't stop to pull his pants on. I hold my breath as he opens the door.

"Toru, you asshole. You could have called to let me know you were going to come storming in. Christ." There isn't really any anger in his voice, only annoyance.

"Sweet Jesus, Yu-san! Pants!" I hear the other man stagger against the door frame. "Not everyone wants to see all that. I didn't interrupt anything did I?"

"Besides my very contented sleep? No. You can get up now, Hiro."

I feel an inexplicable sense of pride when he complains about being woken up. I had been enjoying my sleep, too. I sit up, my hair draping across my face out of habit, and assess the new man. He isn't nearly as tall as Satoshi. Only five foot seven or so. His hair is cut shorter, more professional looking. He is wearing the same type of suit that Satoshi had been in. He isn't nearly as pretty, either. But he is older so I suppose that is reason enough.

Satoshi sits back down on the bed and covers himself with the sheet. "Hiro, this ass is Toru Shirai. He's my baby-sitter."

Toru snorts and I try not to laugh at them. "I'm obviously not very good at it if you keep bringing home strays, Sato."

Satoshi chuckles and the song begins again. Low and quiet in the back of my mind. "This is a special stray, Toru. Hiroshi is General Andrews's son."

That earns an explosion of Japanese from Toru. I watch them argue and feel consistently more useless. I don't even know what they're saying but I'm sure that Satoshi is going to lose. The song is still a low buzz in my mind.

"Satoshi?" I interrupt quietly. "I'm going to use the shower."

He stops in the middle of what he is saying to look at me. I hold his gaze, trying to look more confident than I feel. He nods at me but grabs my wrist at the last minute.

"Toru, look at his face. I'm sure you can see it from there. Andrews did that to him."

Then he releases me and lets me walk into the bathroom. I stay strong until the heavy rain of water encompasses me. I sag against the tiles. The cool ceramic feels nice against my skin. Most of my shower is spent watching the water cascade against the wall. The song resonates in time with the droplets.

I shut off the water and step out, dripping onto the floor. It doesn't matter, though, not really. Soon, Satoshi will have to check out and I will have to go find the bus. I've never had someone get a song before I'd met them. It feels like fate almost, except I don't believe in all that crap. My life is my life. I towel off and pull on my boxer shorts again. I have to wrap my hair in the towel. It won't dry fast enough otherwise.

Satoshi isn't in the room when I enter. Toru is sitting in one of the chairs, leaning back in a very relaxed and contented pose. My stomach sinks through the floor and I have to hold back the sudden urge to puke.

"Where is Satoshi?" I ask, my voice more hoarse than I would have liked.

Toru looks up, evidently surprised. "Getting breakfast. He'll be back in a minute."

I nod and focus all my attention on ignoring the other man. I dig into my pack and pull out a clean T-shirt to wear. The cotton is warm against my skin and it makes me think of Satoshi spooned against my back. I yank on my jeans and jacket angrily. I feel stupid. I've only known him for a few hours. Six, I realize as I look at my watch. It's only ten AM.

He comes in the room a few minutes later, just as Toru predicted. He looks a little worse for wear. His shaggy brown hair is hanging limply across his face in wet trails. I can't really see the water on his clothes but I know it's there.

"I hate this city sometimes." He growls. "Toru, get me some dry clothes out of the car, would you?"

"Hai, Yu-san."

Toru leaves and Satoshi turns his attention to me. He doesn't say anything, just sits on the edge of the bed where my legs will let him. He hands me a muffin that he'd been cradling against his chest, and a bottle of juice. I'm ashamed now, of being such a brat, and I tuck my legs up next to me.

"Toru can be very stubborn sometimes," he says quietly. "He doesn't understand that there are some things that are sacred in our Yakuza. Watanabe-sama understands and he gave me permission to help you last night." His face draws up in a frown suddenly. "I... I can't always be there for you, Hiro. But I want to be. You are a beautiful person and you need someone to take care of you. In only a short time you have become very special to me."

I thought that I'd spent enough time crying in this life to drain my tears but I'm wrong. They trace wet paths down my cheeks. Random on one side, following my scar on the other until they drip uselessly onto my shirt. Satoshi isn't looking at me. He's staring intently at his coffee.

"That is very sweet of you to say, Yu-san." I whisper hoarsely, the honorific falling awkwardly from my lips.

He looks up sharply, horrified to hear the tears in my voice. "I didn't mean for you to cry, Hiro. Only..." He stops whatever he was going to say and sets his cup on the floor. "Come over here."

I drop my food into the blankets and slide across the bed to where he is sitting. He takes me in his arms, not a challenge for someone of his stature. I sit cradled in Satoshi's arms and silently cry on his shoulder. He holds me tightly and tucks his head into the crook of my neck. Tell me what are you looking for? The song throbs endlessly through my mind.

We sit like that until Toru comes back, the sharp rap on the door alerting us to his presence. Satoshi slides me onto the bed to answer the door. He comes back, though, and wraps an arm around my shoulders. Toru sends him a sharp, disapproving look but doesn't say anything about it. We settle into each other and Satoshi makes no move to get his fresh clothes.

"There is only one car out there, Yu-san. They won't be able to see him clearly if we walk with him between us."

Satoshi nods and only now disentangles us. "Make-up. And braid his hair over his shoulder so his scar is hidden."

"Satoshi?" I'm a little alarmed now, and I want to know what they're doing.

He leans over and brushes his fingertips over my scar. "You don't want to go back to your father, ne?"

"Well, no. But..."

"There is an unmarked police sedan out there and we don't know if they are here just to watch Yu-san or in the hopes of finding you." Toru interrupts smoothly. "If we make you look like a girl, there is less of a chance of you being caught."

"But then what?" I sputter.

Satoshi smiles from where he's extracting his new suit from the duffel Toru brought in. "Then we take you home."

"That defeats the entire purpose of me running away!" I can't believe it. After all this, they're making me go back. "You can't make me." Now I'm just being foolish, they could make me very easily if that's what they wanted.

"Hiroshi." His voice is weary, as though I'm a spoiled child that he has to watch after but doesn't want to. "Please be reasonable. You are underage, if you were caught by any police, not just your father's friends, they would send you home. Once they let out your profile, it will be hard for you to stay hidden. The scar... is very distinct."

I know what he says is true but I don't know where he's going with it. "You said... you said that you wanted to be there for me. I believed you, Satoshi. And now, now you want me to go back to him?" My voice hitches but I refuse to cry.

"I thought you were going to explain this, Sato." Toru's voice is fondly tolerant.

Satoshi looks up from his T-shirt. "I started to but he was so sad."

They're talking to each other as though I'm not even in the room and that really irritates me. I hate it when people act as though I don't understand what's going on. It used to happen to me all the time when my father would have his army friends over. They would talk about things, talk about me, and pretend I couldn't understand what they were saying.

I reach over and pick up my muffin from where I left it. With any luck, they'll notice that I'm still sitting here and then explain what the hell is going on. It's my own fault I suppose, for falling apart the way I did. If I hadn't started crying, Satoshi would have explained why they're going to take me back home. I couldn't help it though. I haven't had someone really care about me since before I got my scar. Ever since then, I've closed myself off. Satoshi is the first person to break through my defenses and he does it so effortlessly.

"Hiro." Satoshi is kneeling next to the bed and I stop picking at my muffin to look at him. "Look, not everything we're doing is going to make sense. You have to trust me that it'll work out though. You're going to go home and get your things. While you're packing, I'm going to be talking to many different people. I have to talk to my lawyer, Watanabe-sama, the police, and probably your father. I want you to be home so that I know where you are." He looks at me intently. "I promise that you won't have to stay there once I'm done. Do you trust me, Hiro?"

I manage to nod before throwing myself into his arms. I don't understand any of it. Why would he do this for me? I do know that I trust him though. If Satoshi says, then it is. It's foolish perhaps to put my life in the hands of a gangster that my father's friends have been trying to arrest for years. In less than twelve hours, though, he has done more for me than any of them.

He holds me and strokes my back until I've calmed myself. There are no tears this time, only overwhelming emotion. And the song, playing faintly in the back of my head. When I let him go, he stands and finishes getting dressed. I eat my muffin and then reluctantly cross the room to where Toru is sitting.

"What is it you are going to do to me, Toru?"

He smiles, happy I'm going to cooperate I think. "Nothing that you won't be able to take off once we get in the car, Hiroshi."

He stands and walks to the bathroom, motioning me after him. I follow somewhat reluctantly. I don't trust him the way I trust Satoshi. He puts the lid down on the toilet and makes me sit on it, then opens up the shaving kit he brought in.

"This won't be anything too extreme." He tells me, trying to reassure me. "Just enough that someone who isn't looking too close will think you're a girl."

My eyes widen in horror and he chuckles. I don't think there is anything particularly amusing about being made into a girl. I try to remind myself that I'm doing it for Satoshi, because it's what he wants. And I trust Satoshi because he promised that I won't ever have to go back. My eyes drift closed and I feel soft sweeping touches along my face.

It takes ten minutes. I didn't like the mascara, but that was mostly because Toru slipped once and nearly stabbed me in the eye. I stand to look in the mirror and gasp at my reflection. I have known for years that I'm rather effeminate but I didn't realize to what extent. Staring back at me is a slender young girl. Her eyes are covered in a smoky gray shadow. Long lashes made longer with the heavy coating of black mascara. Her cherry red lips are parted in shock. The only sign that I am the girl in the mirror is the scar that no amount of makeup can cover.

"Toru! I'm a girl." I exclaim.

He chuckles, higher and more staccato than Satoshi's laugh. "We're not done yet. I still have to hide that scar. It's a little bit closer to your skin color now but with binoculars it will still be very obvious."

He has me sit sideways this time, so that my scarred cheek is facing him. With careful fingers, Toru combs and then begins to plait my hair. This is the part that I could sit through for hours. He's very gentle with me, as though he's done this many times before. I wonder how true that may be. How often must it be necessary for them to hide their identities or the identities of people around them?

When he's done, the braid is very loose around my face allowing my hair to cover my cheek. He smiles reassuringly at me before walking into the other room. It takes another minute before I can bring myself to follow. I'm not sure I want to see Satoshi's reaction just yet. I keep my head down and try to school my features.

"Oh come now, Hiroshi." Toru teases me. "Let Yu-san see what a masterpiece I have made of you."

I look up and hear Satoshi's quick intake of breath. I don't know if I like that. Is he surprised because I look so convincing? Does he wish that I really was a girl? I don't want him to like me as a woman. He comes up next to me and traces my scar with his fingertips the way he did the first time we met.

"It will be enough to convince them." He says in a hushed voice.

"Come now, Yu-san." Toru interrupts. "He's beautiful. Even you should be able to see that."

Satoshi turns away from me and begins to clean up our things from the room. "He's beautiful without the make-up."

Toru sniggers in response but doesn't argue. I try to help Satoshi by throwing my things into my bag again. There isn't much of mine in the room to begin with. My dirty shirt and socks, my Walkman, that's about it. When I'm done putting things in my backpack, I sit on the bed to watch Satoshi finish.

His clothes are different from yesterday. His hair is mussed as it has been the entire time but now that he's clean shaven his looks are stunning. He's wearing similar black pants. Instead of the button up and tie, he's opted for a nicely form fitting T-shirt. It's black, of course. I can see his hands more clearly now and the silver flash I'd noticed in my first assessment is a bracelet. A slender chain with a silver rectangle curving across the top of his wrist. An ID bracelet. I look up to see Toru watching me watch Satoshi. I would be embarrassed ordinarily but I can't bring myself to care right now.

Satoshi takes my bag from me and stuffs it, along with my jacket into the duffel that Toru brought. With a final assessing nod he opens the door, gesturing for me to go first. The rain is a gentle drizzle now. They flank me on either side and Satoshi drapes his trench coat over my shoulders. I blush furiously at that gesture for some reason. It isn't as though I should be ashamed of being protected by him.

The song starts to play again as we cross the parking lot. Light and gentle like the rain on our faces. I see the police car at the opposite side of the lot. If it is a stakeout, it's disgustingly transparent. We make it to Toru's car, a dark blue Ford Taurus, without mishap. He opens the door to let me inside and then puts the duffel bag in the trunk. Satoshi slides in the back seat next to me.

"You do promise that I won't have to stay there?" I ask anxiously. "You'll come get me as soon as you're done?"

I see his fingers twitch against his thigh and he chuckles. "Toru is going to follow you around today, like a bodyguard. Nothing bad will happen to you."

I nod and sink back into the seat. My fingers are running mindlessly along the hem of his jacket. "It's so unreal. You're supposed to be a bad guy but you're helping me get away. I keep thinking that I shouldn't trust you. I can't help it though."

Toru slams his door shut and we pull out into the street. I see the world flashing by in shades of gray, blurred by the droplets on the window. Somehow, Satoshi has saved me and I'm not sure what to do about that. There are very few 'what ifs' circling my mind. Only, what if he doesn't protect me? I sigh and lean against the window.

"What is going to happen to me after today, Satoshi?" I murmur, more to myself than anything else.

I hear the smirk in his voice as he replies. "I'm surprised you waited until now to ask, boya. I want to try to get guardianship of you. It shouldn't really be hard, except that I'm a suspected felon."

"Guardianship? Like, you would be my parent?"

He laughs, an approaching storm. "No, nothing like that. You're going to be eighteen in a few months, anyway. Just so you have someone to take care of you."

"Oh." I'm quiet after that. He wants to keep me. That knowledge alone could make me love him, if I don't already.

"You might want to clean off your face, boya." His voice is hushed and I wonder if I've insulted him by not responding.

I nod slowly. "Do you have something? I don't particularly want to eat lipstick."

He smiles and pulls a white handkerchief out of his pocket. I take it and wipe as much of the red off as I can. I turn to Satoshi and he nods in approval. He takes it from me and brushes it gently across my eyelids. I'd forgotten that I was wearing make-up at all.

Toru pulls into my driveway fifteen minutes later without so much as a word from me. It's a little frightening to realize that they've known where I live. That they know things about me I haven't told them. Yet I still trust them both. Does that make me naive? Or just stupid? I believe Satoshi won't let anything happen to me because he said so. I feel tremendously young now. Young and vulnerable. The song again. Tell me...

Satoshi steps out of the car after me and stands protectively by my side. At least it feels protective to me. Toru is standing a few feet away, looking up at Satoshi and I feel excluded by whatever is going on between them. They say a few things back and forth in Japanese and I'm even more lost. I really ought to make an effort to learn that language. I turn to face Satoshi.

"I guess we'll see you in a few hours then?" Toru switches back to English and I'm very grateful for it.

Satoshi nods and his hand almost comes up to my cheek. He lets it drop on my shoulder, running his fingers along the inside of my neck where Toru can't see them. It's the first remotely sexual act he's made towards me since we met. That is discounting his verbal come-ons. I think he was joking then. I smile. Toru makes an impatient noise and I break away from Satoshi to follow him. I have to stop before I leave, though and turn to wrap myself in Satoshi's arms. He returns my hug with fervor and is only slightly less hesitant than I am to pull away.

"Thank you, Satoshi."

And then we are really leaving, walking up the steps to my house. I hear the car start behind us and the noise fades as he drives away. I realize I'm still wearing his coat and smile to myself. I unlock the door and let us in. My father isn't home right now. It's only noon. Despite his son being missing, he still has to go to work. If he were a teacher, perhaps sentimentality would be allowed but he's a General. Even if he had feelings, he isn't supposed to show them.

The lights are off in the house. It's a little spooky looking with just the faint light coming through the windows. The rain is starting to pound heavier onto the sidewalk. The song is building to a crescendo in my mind. I'll have to put on the CD while I pack.

There isn't a lot left to pack. The most important things are already in my backpack. I have a few posters on my wall of movies and boys that I think are cute. There are a lot more clothes in my drawers. My computer will be too hard to take with us but I have the things I need saved on disks.

I take out a duffel bag from my closet and begin to pile my clothes on the bed. I find myself wondering what sorts of things Satoshi might like me to wear but stop before those thoughts get out of hand. I sort the things on the bed, throwing anything I don't wear often back into the closet. There's no point bringing things I'm not going to have a use for.

When my clothes are packed, I bring out another bag and fill it with the few things left on my desk. Soccer trophies from when I was younger and the stuffed animals that I had no room for last night. I don't have many books but the ones that are mine find their way into the bag as well. Then I go pilfer the bathroom for my brush and other important toiletries that I'd forgotten.

Toru has taken to pacing in front of the window since we came up. I think having nothing to do makes him nervous. As bodyguard for me, he is more of a baby-sitter than with Satoshi. I take the posters down and roll them up. There is nothing left to pack and that startles as well as worries me. I have the rest of the day to worry about Satoshi and my future. With a heavy sigh, I sit down at my desk.

"Toru!" I snap after a minute of silence. "Sit down already. You're making me nervous."

"Gomen, Hiroshi."

"It's going to be a long day, Toru. I would have rather stayed with Satoshi." I sigh and roll a pencil around on the desk. "At least then I would know what's happening."

"You are a very selfish child, aren't you?" He asks, amused.

I frown. "What do you mean by that?"

"Don't you understand what Yu-san is doing for you? To be your guardian, he will have to leave the Yakuza. Most men who ask to leave are killed."

My eyes widen in horror. What's the point? What's the point if he's just going to die? "But Toru..."

"Watanabe-sama is very peculiar about the way he does things. Sometimes, an action that would ordinarily be considered death is accepted. That is what Yu-san is hoping. Watanabe-sama allowed him to help you this morning. It is all dependent on what Yu-san says."

"What if... What if it isn't the right thing to say?"

Toru shrugs. "Then you will be hiding from both the police and the Yakuza."

The song spills loud and clear through my ears. "But why would he do that for me?"

"You're asking the wrong person. Why do you think I yelled at him? Satoshi doesn't listen to anyone once his mind is made up though. He would have helped you even if Watanabe-sama had said no. It would have been harder, but he would have done it."

"What about you? Will you have to kill him if Watanabe-sama won't let him go?"

The older man shakes his head, amused. "The only person worse at following orders than Yu-san is me. If we have to, Satoshi and I will protect you."

I slouch back in my seat. Two men who don't even know me are ready to risk their lives for me. I have never felt more humbled than I do at this time. Even if Satoshi had limited his help to getting me a motel room, I would be shamed by his selfless act. He didn't have to. Now he risks his life. And Toru, who I'm sure doesn't really like me, is going to stay as well.

The next few hours are hell. The more time that passes, the more irritable I become. I snap at any question Toru asks me and I can only marvel at his patience because I am being a vile brat at this point. I think that he realizes it is only out of worry for Satoshi. I don't want to have to live in hiding. If it's just from the police, it won't be so bad. My birthday is in eight months and I would be perfectly content to spend the better part of a year hiding with Satoshi. But if it happens that we have to hide from the Yakuza, we may never be able to stop.

The sudden shrieking of a cell phone makes me visibly jump. I turn to glare at Toru who answers it heedless of my look. He doesn't say anything I recognize, just 'hai' a lot and then he hangs up.

The look on his face is unreadable when he finally speaks. "Bring your things downstairs, Yu-san will meet us in ten minutes."

It takes me a minute to understand what that means and then I'm moving as quickly as I can to grab the bags and rush to the driveway. Toru takes one bag and is at my side the entire time. I don't know what to expect when Satoshi arrives and from the look on his face, Toru doesn't either. It could be good or bad. The rain has stopped falling outside but the sidewalk is still wet. I set my bags down on the steps and proceed to worry.

The song begins, low and quiet in the back of my head. I tug Satoshi's coat closer around myself, as though somehow it will help bring him to me. Finally, the car pulls into the driveway. I'm running toward it before it stops and in Satoshi's arms the second he steps out of the door. Satoshi strokes my hair soothingly, murmuring things that I don't understand.

"I thought you were going to die." I whisper into his shoulder. My fingers are kneading into his back.

"Didn't I promise? Everything's going to be fine, boya. Watanabe-sama was upset but he didn't protest too badly. Some things are more important than others." He tilts my head back with his hand to look me in the eyes. "You are more important than anything."

Toru has been standing off to the side until now, trying to give some semblance of privacy to our reunion. He calls out when a police car pulls up into the drive. Satoshi disentangles me from his arms and smiles at us all.

"Not to worry, Toru. I have everything worked out. These guys are on our side."

A uniformed officer and a woman in a suit step out of the squad car and make their way to where Satoshi and I are standing.

"Is this the boy you spoke of, Mr. Yu?" The woman's voice is slightly clinical but she seems nice enough.

"Yes, this is Hiroshi Andrews. Hiro, this is Dr. Gina Rallins. She is a social worker for the state. If everything goes well, your case will be handled by her."

I smile at Satoshi and then turn my gaze to the doctor. "I'm very pleased to know that we have your support, Dr. Rallins."

"Just Gina, please." She gives a faint smile. "Mr. Yu pleaded very violently for your case, Hiroshi. He seems to have only your welfare in mind. The possibility of criminal action on his part made me a little reluctant but thus far, it is all speculation and no formal charges have been brought against him."

Satoshi takes my hand in his and pulls me out in front of him. "Show her your face, Hiro. That was the most convincing part of my argument."

I realize that my hair is still braided and draped across my cheek. I take a step closer and push the loose strands behind my ear. Gina gasps and the officer who has been silent the entire time mutters 'damn' in an awed voice. I try to look nonchalant. I hate for it to be brought to attention.

"How old were you when you got that scar, Hiroshi?" Gina asks quietly.

"Fifteen." I reply automatically.

I know the things that I have to say for this to work. And the things I shouldn't say. I shouldn't tell them, for instance, of the night I spent in Satoshi's arms. Or the song that plays a little louder in my mind every time I see him. And I should probably avoid mentioning that in less than twenty-four hours I have fallen completely and madly in love with a man who is more than ten years my senior. I'm not ashamed of any of it, though. I don't know how he feels but every time I see him, he says things that are just a little sweeter and a little more caring than before.

Gina takes a closer look at my face but doesn't ask any more questions. We stand out in the driveway saying nothing, doing nothing. I look at Satoshi, wondering why we don't leave. He is staring down the street and I get the feeling he isn't really paying attention any more. I pull his coat closer around me and realize that he is standing in the cold wearing only a T-shirt. Worried, I step closer to offer it back when I notice his skin is tinged red.

"Satoshi, your arm." I reach up with tentative fingers and touch the hem of his sleeve.

He turns, slightly confused, and looks down at me. "It's nothing important, Hiro."

"But you're bleeding." I insist. "We should bandage it."

He doesn't respond when I slip my fingers under the fabric and pull his sleeve back. I gasp as my fingers come away covered in blood. His shoulder is saturated but I hadn't seen the blood because of his black shirt. I look up at him, shocked and appalled.

"Satoshi, why didn't you bandage it earlier? You've lost a lot of blood."

"It was more important to get to you, Hiro. I told you, you are the most important thing."

I snort. "Fat lot of good that's going to do if you pass out from blood loss. Toru! You must have a first-aid kit in your car, where is it?"

The older man turns from where he is talking to the officer. "In the trunk. Why?" The question dies as he sees the blood on my hands and on Satoshi's arm.

Toru is next to us in a second, sitting Satoshi in the car so his pants don't get wet. He opens the trunk and pulls out the distinctive white box. He has been yelling at Satoshi in Japanese since he walked over and I can only imagine the obscenities that are flowing from his lips. Satoshi hasn't responded to any of it though. He is smiling from his place in the car and looking right at me.

Gina and Officer Hughes, as he introduced himself, hurry over to see what we are in such a tizzy about. Toru has torn Satoshi's sleeve up to his collar and is cleaning away the blood. There is a makeshift dressing on it but it wouldn't have held up for much longer.

I stand uselessly by and watch. I never had to clean myself up. There was always someone there with the kit and a bottle of aspirin. Satoshi's eyes are still on me. I want to step over and take his hand but I'm not quite young enough that it would be a natural action. Tell me what are you... It's coming in random bursts now.

Toru steps away once most of the blood is gone. The slice in Satoshi's arm stretches from the front of his right shoulder to the middle of his arm. It's about four inches long. I see Toru pull out a needle and I have to turn away. He's going to stitch up Satoshi's arm in the middle of my driveway.

"Hiroshi, come over here." Toru commands. "He needs something to hold on to."

I am relieved and disappointed at the same time. Needles make me sick. My scar is so wide because I wouldn't let them put sutures in. I can't stand needles. For Satoshi though, I will try to forget that I am queasy. I look into Satoshi's eyes and avoid seeing anything in the periphery. He takes my hand gently and gives a small smile. I return the gesture weakly.

"What happened to you, Mr. Yu?" Officer Hughes asks. Business as usual, I suppose.

"It was really nothing. For Hiroshi I would endure much worse."

I blush at that comment.

"Really, Yu-san, it was most careless of you." Toru interjects, his voice heavy with sarcasm.

"I was quite unprepared for it. I am not deliberately foolish, Toru." His hand squeezes tightly for a moment before releasing me.

"But really, Mr. Yu!" The officer presses. "What on earth happened?"

"Watanabe-sama was displeased that I wished to discontinue serving him. It is nothing."

The look on Satoshi's face leaves no room for argument and I can see that the young Officer has been defeated. I'm trying to make my movements seem careless as I edge closer to Satoshi. I like the feeling of him next to me. He is strong in all the places I am not.

"Satoshi?" I whisper. "What are we waiting for? Can't we leave now?"

He smiles reassuringly up at me. "Just a little while longer. We have to see your father first." He anticipates my jerk backwards and holds his grip firm. "I want this to be legal, Hiroshi. I don't want to give him any opportunity to get you back."

"But Satoshi...." My voice wavers.

"It'll be okay, Hiro. I won't leave your side."

I look back at Gina and Officer Hughes. They seem concerned about me but are perhaps unsure if they ought to interfere.

"He's right, ya know." Hughes gives me a grin. "Besides, as far as everything is now, the law's on your side." He puts a reassuring hand on my shoulder. "That's what I'm here for."

To my other side, Toru stands and stretches out his back. "That will do for now, though you really ought to go to the hospital." He shoots a disapproving glare at our still clasped hands.

"Nonsense." Satoshi brushes him off. "You are better than any surgeon that I know Toru."

I start to pull my hand away but he holds it firmly in his grasp. If it wasn't for Hughes and Dr. Rallins, I would have kissed him. God, this has become ridiculous. How long has it been? Still less than twenty-four hours. I want to lose myself in him. I don't want to be here. I don't want to see my father. I just want Satoshi. I sag against him and he takes my weight easily, wrapping an arm around my waist. I want this forever.

I see the young officer and Dr. Rallins stiffen. I can hear the crunch of gravel behind us. I bury my head in Satoshi's chest. He holds me tight and presses a brief kiss to the top of my head before straightening out. He is strong and proud, just as I need him to be. I am such a child next to him, cowering in fear of this confrontation. I hear a car door snap shut and will my eyes to the end of the drive.

"What is the meaning of this?" My father calls out indignantly.

"General Andrews?" Hughes asks. "My name is Officer Jason Hughes. You are under arrest for child abuse."

I stand by silently as my father is cuffed and read his rights. He is tucked carefully into the police sedan. I am numb, I think. I didn't think this would ever happen. I never really thought I would escape. Satoshi is a strong presence at my side. I think he is the only thing keeping me standing at the moment.

"Ms. Rallins? If that's all we need for now, I'd like to take Hiroshi away from here. I think he could use some sleep."

"That should be fine," she replies. "Hiroshi, can I ask you a few things first?"

I nod slowly.

"I'm just curious as to where you're going with this," she says.

"I don't care. I just don't want to have to come back." I'm trying so hard not to collapse right now. "I turn eighteen in eight months. There is so much red tape I doubt anything concrete will be settled by then. After, it won't matter. I just don't want to go back," I repeat.

She smiles. "That's fine. If you gentlemen would be so kind as to drop me at my office?"

Toru nods and we pile into the car. I lean heavily against Satoshi once we are seated. He is my mountain, I decide. Strong, immovable. I smile. He is petting my hair absently, running his fingers along the length of my braid. I am finally free.

I fall asleep on the way to drop off Dr. Rallins and don't wake until Satoshi is shaking me. We are in the suburbs. Not that it means anything. It could be out of state as far as I know. Satoshi leads me carefully indoors and I stumble along after him. I hardly notice being undressed and deposited under the covers. I feel him pull away though and reach out to stop him.

"Stay." My hand clenches on his wrist. "I want you to stay with me."

A heavy sigh and then he's there. Right behind me. And it's warm and right and perfect. I curl into him as much as I'm able, tucking my head under his chin and wrapping his arms around me. So what if I had to make him? He's there and that's what matters.

He hasn't moved when I wake hours later. The faint gray storm light has faded to the diffused glow of lamp light through the windows. Satoshi is leaning on an elbow and watching me. I smile at him.

"What time is it?" I ask softly.

"Almost nine," he replies. "You slept quite a lot."

I nod. "I don't usually sleep well. Satoshi," I look up at him, "what happens now?"

He shrugs. "We wait. There isn't anything we can do right now."

The music in my head matches the fat droplets of water that splash against the window. I curl closer to him. "Satoshi," I whisper, "can I..." And then I stop. I have no reason to make such a fool of myself.

He chuckles, low and rumbling, and strokes my scar with gentle fingertips. "Are you quite aware of how beautiful you are, Hiroshi?" He murmurs.

I look up at him sharply. And then...


Because he is right there and I can smell him. Taste his breath on my skin. It's only a little effort to tangle my fingers in his straight, dark hair. Our lips collide. It's gentle and not nearly enough. I tug at him and he pulls away.

"We really shouldn't, boya," he says as he traces my lips. His voice is husky and raw.

"Just kissing," I say, tugging him forward. "Just for a few more minutes."

His response is lost in my mouth. He tastes like rainy days and crisp spring breezes. Fresh and alive. I melt into him and he draws me closer. I feel like a cat under his ministrations. He strokes the bare skin of my lower back, his other hand reaching up to hide in my hair. His hands are big with long slender fingers that I know should be calloused and aren't. Artist's hands. He tugs gently at my lower lip, licking across the length of it before I suck his tongue into my mouth.

I break away and nuzzle my face into the side of his neck. "Just kissing?"

Satoshi makes a disgruntled noise and runs his cheek along the top of my head. "You're half my age, Hiro."

I snort. "So?"

"So it's not legal," he replies sharply.

I pout a little. Not too seriously because, well, I'm only seventeen for eight more months. "It's not legal for us to have sex you mean." I counter. "There's nothing that says I can't kiss you."

He pets me a little more, digging his fingers deep into my hair, tangling where my braid is still twined. His fingers trace along my lips and I whimper a little, my mouth falling open to catch the pad of his index finger between my teeth. He doesn't say anything but I can feel him tense up. My eyes sting and I blink rapidly. I release his finger with a gentle kiss to the tip. He makes me so weak.

"I'm sorry, Satoshi," I mumble. "I didn't mean to seduce you."

He kisses my temple and strokes my hair. "I know, Hiro. It's okay. I'm not angry. If I didn't... feel for you the way I do, it would make no difference. But Hiro, you are the most important thing to me and I won't ruin that so early. Ever if I can avoid it. Shall I get you something to eat?" He changes the subject and I let it drop. Perhaps when I am stronger we will discuss it again.

"I'm not hungry. A shower might be nice though." I look up at him and he gestures to the hallway.

"First door on the left. There ought to be clean towels. I will have your things brought up while you bathe." He stands and glides smoothly across the room.

The bathroom is a nice cookie-cutter bathroom that you expect from nice cookie-cutter suburban houses. The hot water stings my eyes and I realize I'm probably crying. All the tears I've held back are spilling out now. And yet... I'm safe here, in what I assume is Satoshi's home. He loves me, somewhere in there, even if he'll never say it.

Happy. It's rather strange that I can feel it, not just in my heart, but all over my skin. Like I can touch my joy. I wander into the room in my towel, leaving wet footprints all over Satoshi's nice carpets. I pull a pair of ratty sweats from one of my bags and go exploring.

The house is not too big. The upstairs has two bedrooms and a bathroom. Satoshi is in none of those places and so I go downstairs to find him. He is in the kitchen, chopping vegetables when I do finally find him. Wearing faded jeans and an undershirt, he is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. He doesn't notice my presence at first and I take a moment to just look at him. True, his back is to me and there isn't much to see but it's his presence that draws me. He has... an aura about him that is very hard to explain.

"Hiro, are you ready to eat yet?"

His voice startles me and I stammer out my reply. "I... um... yes, I could eat something."

The table has already been set and there is nothing for me to do but wait with him as he stir-fries. The radio is on in the kitchen, playing soft piano music. I can barely hear it over the oil sizzling in the pan and the rain beating against the window. When Satoshi serves the food, I take my place next to him at the table.

"Tomorrow is Christmas Eve." He comments. "Toru and his wife will probably be over for dinner, if you don't mind."

I shake my head in disbelief. "This is your house, Satoshi. Why would you ask me?"

He smiles. "You are going to live here too. I assume you would consult me before having people over and I wish to extend the same courtesy. Suppose you were too worn out and wanted to spend tomorrow relaxing?"

I shrug and concede the point.

"Anyway," he continues, "I figure it will be best to wait until after Christmas before we worry about this situation any more. I want this to be something we both deal with, Hiro, not just me making decisions now."

"That's fine," I say softly. "I'm still -- I still can't believe it's really happening."

He nods sympathetically and doesn't say anything else. I help him with the dishes and then follow him on our way to bed. He turns away from me at the top of the stairs, heading towards the other bedroom. I grab his arm with sudden determination.

"Satoshi... stay with me? Or let me sleep with you. We don't have to... I just want to be closer..."

He nods slowly in agreement even though I'm not halfway through my protestation. "Come to my room. There's a bigger bed."

He strips and I take his example, quickly shucking my clothing. I slide under the sheets next to him and he wraps his arms firmly around me. I am, I realize, utterly happy. And this, Satoshi and I, is the start of something perfect. Outside, the rain drips down the window and the song continues to play.