Just over three weeks after their return from Kyoto, Hajime and Toru were enjoying a quiet Saturday morning together. Hajime had just been down to collect the post, and was now going through it whilst Toru read the paper. He smiled to watch her wrestle with the large sheets that didn’t want to cooperate with her coffee cup.
"I think we need a bigger dining table," Toru complained.
Hajime chuckled. "It’s fine for us."
"For us two, yes, but I’m not going to become a human baby-chair."
Hajime nearly dropped his letters. "Are you—?"
"Not yet." Toru blushed. "Anything important in the post?"
Hajime flipped idly through the envelopes. "Phone bill. Electricity bill. Water bill." He made a mock-scowl as he put each of those aside to be dealt with later, then came to one with a well-known logo on the front. "Oh look, the payment notice for the bank loan."
"Don’t give that face, we’ll deal with it." Toru said a little reprovingly as she turned another page.
Hajime shrugged and added that envelope to the ‘later’ pile as well. Then he came to the last one. It was a white A4 sized envelope, thick and heavy, and there was the vague outline of something rectangular. Looking at the front of it, the postmark was from Kyoto.
Hajime stared in disbelief for a moment. Then he opened it. The envelope was lined with bubble wrapping. He popped some of it while trying to reach inside, and Toru glanced up. "What is it?" she asked.
"… Something from Kyoto." Ignoring his wife’s startled look, Hajime finally managed to retrieve the contents. First there was a letter, crisply folded with a traditional seal. Second and more curious was a small, slim case, rather similar to that of designer watches, made of dark wood and polished smooth. It reminded Hajime a little of the chest, and he touched it apprehensively.
Intrigued, Toru moved closer. "What’s that?"
"I don’t know." Unsure of whether he wanted to know what was inside the case just yet, Hajime opened the accompanying letter, skimming past the body of the text to the signature at the end. "It’s from Reiko Sumeragi-san … Fourteenth Clan Head?"
"She was training to be Sumeragi-sama’s successor, wasn’t she?" asked Toru.
"Yes, she was, but she wasn’t the Clan Head when we met—" He broke off. Understanding dawned on his face, as it did on Toru’s.
"… Oh," Toru whispered.
Still stunned by the unexpected communiqué, Hajime went to read the letter itself. It opened with a ceremonial salutation, and a thank you for their visit. It told them of the passing of Subaru Sumeragi, thirteenth head of the Sumeragi clan, and his funeral. It told them that before his death, the thirteenth clan head wanted to thank Hajime and Toru for their effort of bringing the chest and paintings to him, and to apologise for his behaviour during their visit. It told them that the case sent with the letter contained a gift.
"‘It is magic, yes, but a different sort to the kind you encountered,’" Hajime read aloud. "‘It was created especially by my respected uncle for you and your family with his blessing. It would please him to know that the life the two of you will live together in your home is happy. To further aid in this, my uncle has taken the liberty of arranging in his will for your financial situation with the bank to be resolved. I hope that you will accept this parting gift from him, an admirable man and beloved uncle to whom your discovery meant more than you can ever imagine. Yours in thankfulness, etc.’" Hajime put down the letter and sat back in his chair as the revelations sank in. Toru couldn’t speak, and in the end she bowed her head to whisper a short prayer for spirits departed.
It seemed a while later before Hajime roused himself. He reached for the case, which was warm to the touch. Hajime stared at it for a long time, remembering his last encounter with magic and boxes, before he brought himself to open it.
The case was lined with white brocade. Nestled inside was an elegant plaque of gold about as long as Toru’s hand, on a ribbon of woven silk. Beneath the plaque hung two small golden bells under which fell a pale blue tassel, also of silk, the upper part of which was tied to form tight loops like a four leaf clover. On the plaque engraved in the most exquisite of craftsmanship, were the kanji characters for Harmony, Hope, and Happiness.
"Toru-san, look," breathed Hajime, lifting the piece out of the case and handing it to his wife to examine. She took it from him gently, and traced the kanji with her fingers.
"What should we do with it?" asked Hajime.
Toru held the piece up by the ribbon so that the golden charm caught the morning light. The bells chimed musically, their sound hanging in the air like two souls in flight. "… Treasure it."
Early morning, and the room was growing light. As of yet it was still uncoloured, washed out in the beginnings of pale dawn, but that would change slowly, and the little world inside this bedroom would come to life again.
For some reason, he was already awake.
He lay there for a long time, staring at the gradually disappearing shadows on the ceiling. His left arm was pinned beneath the slim weight pressed against his side; he turned slightly to look down at the young man still deep in slumber, dark head tucked against his shoulder. He couldn’t feel his fingers anymore – his arm must be growing numb – but for some reason he couldn’t bring himself to move. And yet he couldn’t go back to sleep either. In the end all he did was lie in bed staring at the ceiling, wondering what he was doing there in the first place.
Minutes ticked by. The feeling in his arm drained away.
Why was he still here?
Finally, one of them moved. The young man rolled over just enough to free his arm, which exploded into pins and needles. Hissing a little in annoyance he flipped the sheets away and got out of bed, carelessly leaving the young man uncovered and nude. The moment he was gone the young man murmured something in his sleep, frowning as he curled up around the pillow. But he did not wake.
The man scowled a little, something that went completely unnoticed by his sleeping lover. Stepping over his clothes, which lay scattered on the floor with white bandages, he went into the bathroom to take a shower. He washed slowly, stretching out time, hoping that by doing so the young man would eventually awaken and thus catch him in the act. He wondered what look would decorate the other’s face when he saw him preparing to leave with nothing more than a smile. He had never seen it before, because usually he always left before the young man woke up.
Why was he waiting today?
Finished, he turned off the water and wrapped a towel around himself before going back to the bedroom. The young man was still asleep, but outside the sun was rising, spreading a blanket of light over the city. He stopped to watch it, caught by the changing colours in the sky. Only when the sun was high and bright enough to make him flinch did he turn back to the bedroom. He stepped away from the window, idly glancing at the bed and the person in it.
He stopped. Before him was a perfect canvas.
It helped that the bandages were off. It gave the illusion the young man was as perfect and unsullied as he had been before they had made love for the first time. With a body of fine lines and smooth skin, the sunlight flowed over his lover like bright water, leaving soft shadows that hinted at places to explore even though he already knew them in all intimacy. It was perfect, picture perfect, an illustration of angels sleeping on clouds in heaven … it fixed itself forever in his memory, and he wanted to paint it so that he could look on it forever.
Suddenly, the angel’s eyes opened. The emerald eye blinked adorably, shaking off sleep. Then it fixed on him, and him alone, and all the eloquence in the world could not have described when he felt then.
"Seishirou-san," the angel asked sleepily, "what are you doing up so early?"
It was several moments before he could bring himself to speak. "Nothing," he said, "… nothing, Subaru-kun." Suddenly he smiled. "Just enjoying the view."
The angel blushed. Then he extended one hand invitingly to him.
The man smiled. Letting the towel fall he returned to the bed and into the young man’s arms. It was a warm place, and he closed his eyes, trying to analyse, to understand and name what it was he had felt – was still feeling – when this person had looked at him. He would have to paint it when he got home …
A kiss on his lips, shy and soft. Without thinking he caught it with a kiss of his own and pulled his lover close.
He would paint later. This was their picture.
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