Fuyuki stormed out of the building. His head was spinning and he couldn’t focus properly on anything. He couldn’t face himself, he couldn’t face Yoshiasu. He was like a cornered, wild animal: desperate and ready to snap! He was quickly falling apart. His face was flushed and tears were building up in his eyes. He took a cab; he didn’t want to cry on the street. The cab left him in front of his studio. There was no one around to see him entering.
He shut the door behind him and sat on a chair, trying to gather his thoughts. He could see no way out of this mess. He knew that Yoshiasu would be deeply hurt and Fuyuki couldn’t bear that thought. He has reached the end; he couldn’t fight anymore. He looked around the studio, looking for something. He looked up and saw himself in a mirror; he shuddered. All that beauty has caused him only trouble and pain. The only good thing in his life was Yoshiasu and his love; now that he foolishly lost it, he had no more reasons to get going. He took a cutter from a shelf and went to the bathroom. He started the warm water and let it fill the bathtub. He slowly undressed…
Outside in the street the man sitting in an inconspicuous cart was watching intently. He was pleased to notice how much those photos had affected the young artist. He was quite curious what else would follow. He waited patiently, like a spider waiting for his catch…
Yoshiasu was intrigued by Little John’s message but he suspected that it has to do with Fuyuki’s odd behavior and clouded face. Little John opened the door and shook hands with the older man. To Yoshiasu the young native looked deeply under the weather. He decided to let him speak on his terms. Little John turned the computer screen towards Yoshiasu and opened the photo file. He said nothing just pointed to the images, stood up and stopped at the window, his head buried in his hands. While Yoshiasu watched the photos, the silence in the room became heavy, dense almost tangible.
-I won’t mind if you’d beat out the hell of me-said slowly Little John-But don’t blame him! He couldn’t remember anything! I was totally crazed at that time and I wasn’t accustomed to take no for an answer. The moment I laid my hands on him, he cried out for you. After four months without you he was almost desperate though he never let it show.
I was a stupid, cocky, selfish bastard at a major crossroad of my life but I was unable to let go. The world was mine, at least I thought so. He was afraid I might do something foolish and hurt everyone/including myself/ so he gave in to my pressure to satisfy my ego and get me back on the right track.
All I can say in my defense is that I was young and confused and that he has always been beautiful and magic. It was Old John’s decision to make him forget; he cared about Fuyuki and wanted to protect him. He was a gifted medicine man; he gave him a powerful drogue and kept him in a deep sleep while he suggested him with a false memory. But now that he knows all, I’m afraid of what he might do…
-And that’s not the only dilemma-murmured Yoshiasu. He wasn’t even angry; his logical and analytical mind followed the recount but his inside was numbed.
-Where did those photos come from?-he finally asked.
-Fuyuki said that it was given to him by a friendly enemy. Somebody visited him two days ago and gave him the pictures. Fuyuki was shocked and disturbed by them and mainly by the fact that he was unable to remember anything. Here is the man’s card…
Yoshiasu took the man’s card and read it; he quickly realized who it was. He also understood that this whole thing was meant to destroy Fuyuki by breaking up his relationship with Yoshiasu. His mind cleared in an instant; Fuyuki wasn’t an ordinary person. Despite all the good moments of his recent life, he was still very vulnerable and defenseless. Deep inside, he has remained the same trustful child, unable to see the evil in the people around, always considering himself the only one to blame for whatever occurs.
Yoshiasu turned towards the young native; Little John has matured quickly after marriage and the birth of his first child. He was a handsome young man, powerful and attractive but much more composed than when they first met. He could understand why Fuyuki has fallen for him, lonely and confused. Little John proved to be at that time an irresistible…stalker. As these things settled in his mind, Yoshiasu grew increasingly worried about Fuyuki. By now he blamed only himself for not being around Fuyuki when he needed him. His mind raced to find where he could go; he stood up and looked for the keys. The ones from the studio were not in place; Yoshiasu turned to Little John.
-Come on, hurry up! We have to find him before it’s too late and he does something to himself.
-My car is outside-said Little John. Let’s go; just tell me where…
They arrived at the studio but there was silence all around. There was only one parked car on the opposite side of the street. They left Little John’s car and hurried inside.
The moment they burst inside the studio Little John already sensed the nauseating smell of iron: it was blood, fresh blood. The studio was dead silent; there was nobody in the small kitchen or in any of the rooms. As they turned towards the bathroom, the smell increased, hitting hard the young native’s keen senses. He signaled towards Yoshiasu and gave a strong push to the bathroom door. For a moment they both stared in horror; the one they were looking for was in the bathtub, eyes shut and very pale. He was barely breathing. The water around him was reddened by the blood seeping from his slashed wrists. Fuyuki has committed suicide.
Little John quickly pulled him out and carried him to the bed while Yoshiasu was franticaly searching for something to stop the bleeding. They finally garroted Fuyuki’s arms; put some bandages on the wrists and Yoshiasu called 911. They sat on the bed and tried to get Fuyuki back to his senses. It was a hopeless try; he was barely alive.
Seeing Fuyuki lying there, broken and bleeding to death Yoshiasu realized what a fool he had been even for a moment. All his life, Fuyuki has given away what everybody wanted from him: his body. He has kept for himself only what was untouchable: his heart and his soul.
His heart belonged to Yoshiasu; he was in love with him and that was something he wouldn’t have given away. Just as he said, he gave Little John all he could give; the rest was not for him to give away. But when his memories returned, Fuyuki realized that Yoshiasu might not understand that and his only reason to live/his love/ could be lost forever.
Yoshiasu felt ashamed; once again he failed to protect the one he really loved, the one who really counted in his life. Swallowing hard he gently ruffled the black strands lying on disarray on the pillow. His hand was visibly shaking as he caressed Fuyuki’s face. He desperately cried out:
-I am such a fool! How could I let this happen?! What was in my mind? I’ve promised so many times that I’ll protect him…
-I’d never forgive myself if anything happens to him-said Little John in a restrained voice. I have equally caused this; I breached his trust and used his feelings for me to satisfy my own selfish ego…
They looked at each other desperately searching for hope in the other’s eyes. At that moment the paramedics arrived and took care of Fuyuki. They asked the two men to come down to the hospital and give some blood for their injured friend; after that they left in a hurry.
Yoshiasu and Little John returned to the flat; the young native sank on the bed, numbed while Yoshiasu did his best to put himself together and prepare a small bag of personal items for Fuyuki. Little John went to the bathroom to wash his face; when he remembered the blood streaks on the bathtub and the smell of blood, he got sick. Yoshiasu put a hand on his back.
-Come-he said comfortingly. I’ve made a strong coffee for you and me; there’s something to eat to before we leave for the hospital. You should call your family; Soraya must be worried by now.
Little John washed his face and gave a silent nod. He called Soraya and told her that Fuyuki has been rushed to the hospital and that he would stay overnight at Yoshiasu until their friend is stabilized. Soraya was very upset to hear about Fuyuki; she expressed her concerns and her hopes for the best. Fuyuki was their beloved friend; she made Little John promise to call her as soon as possible about his condition.
The two men sat at the kitchen table, holding the coffee mugs and picking from time to time small bits of food from a plate. Little John looked around; in this modern environment there were a few colored spots, discreetly placed. Those were the unmistakable signs of Fuyuki’s touch. It was Fuyuki’s natural gift to fill the world around him with warmth and magic. He did it with the same ease as he was breathing and he asked for nothing in exchange.
-He never asked for anything-said suddenly Yoshiasu, like he was guessing Little John’s thoughts. He never kept anything for himself. What have we done to him?
He looked straight into Little John’s eyes.
-We cornered him until he broke-he continued. I should have known how fragile he was inside…
-I knew nothing about him and it was so easy and comfortable to take him for its face value…sighed Little John.
He stood up and washed his empty mug and so did Yoshiasu. They left the house and hurried to the hospital. Fuyuki was still in critical state; the doctors stopped the bleeding but he needed a transfusion. Yoshiasu and Little John were compatible so they quickly donated the necessary amount. They were not allowed to see him; the doctor asked them to return the next morning and promised to keep them informed about Fuyuki. For the moment he was in intensive care, his life hanging on a thread. The two men returned to Yoshiasu’s flat. They took a brief lunch and looked for something to fill the day. So they talked. Yoshiasu played for a moment with a silver wristband left on the table by Fuyuki; he then broke the silence and turned to Little John.
-As you can easily imagine, I am upset about the photos. Yet, you have an excuse in all this: you didn’t know and even now you know nothing about Fuyuki’s past.
Little John raised an eyebrow questioningly.
-Fuyuki has never owned his body. Since his early childhood he has been constantly used and abused by his father. All he could keep for himself were his deeply buried feelings. The two of us we share a special connection; I’m sure that finding him on that cold morning, buried under a pile of leaves and dirt was something meant for me. And we really love each other.
The only thing that comforts me in this mess is that I know that Fuyuki cares for you. If things were meant to happen, at least he wasn’t taken by force. In his own, unusual way he has given himself willingly.
My pride is hurt but my mind says that it’s only male selfishness. I’ll survive that; I love him more than anything.
Little John was shocked but for the first time in his life he came to a deeper understanding of people. What Yoshiasu has just said explained Fuyuki’s vulnerability and torment. Little John regretted deeply all that happened; if only he had known, he wouldn’t have touched his friend even with a finger. Old John’s insight about the young artist proved correct…
-Despite all this mess-he said in a low voice- you are lucky, Yoshiasu. I know that Fuyuki loves you deeply. You know, at the beginning things went smoothly and he enjoyed the time spent in our land. But as time went on the separation from you started to wear him down. After he realized my interest in him, he did his best to avoid me. For him it was another blow and by now it was too much. While I was busy with my wedding preparations, he worked along with Old John and the craftsmen of the neighborhood. All these things filled his days but the evenings were empty. So each evening he rode out in a spot where you used to stay together and he curled up in the grass, crying for hours. Each evening, each night. For hours. Desperately, heartbreakingly. He never complained but I knew. I was worried about him so I followed him silently and witnessed his pain. I couldn’t comfort him; I knew it would end badly. But it was deeply disturbing to watch his torment and not being able to help.
Little John paused for a moment and looked to Yoshiasu; the older man was visibly shaken by this recount.
-I never suspected that it will affect him so much…For a moment I took his bravery for real. You’re right; I was so lucky but I haven’t properly noticed it. Fuyuki is more than meets the eyes…
Little John hesitantly put a hand on Yoshiasu’s shoulder.
-It won’t do us any good to stay here all day long and think about our mistakes. Let’s go back to the studio and clean up the place. Some real work will at least exhaust us properly.
Yoshiasu agreed; they drove to the studio and stopped in front of it. They were about to leave the car when Yoshiasu grabbed Little John’s arm.
-Stay still for a moment; we’ve been followed-he said in a tense voice. His face was dark with anger. I think it’s the bastard who has caused all this!-he said. He’s following us to gloat over our grief!
Little John lifted his eyes and looked into the rearview mirror; a car stopped on the opposite side of the street. The young man remembered the car and the shaded face inside it. His eyes narrowed dangerously; he could sense Yoshiasu tensing and breathing heavily next to him. Finally the young Japanese made up his mind.
-Let’s go inside before he realizes that we know about him. I have something in my mind.
The man in the car watched as the young native drove off leaving behind the Japanese guy at the studio. After a while, the latter descended and placed a notice on the entrance door, then returned inside. The man waited for a while but curiosity got the best of him; he came out and crossed the street to read the notice. It stated that the studio was for rent. Well, it looked like the young artist was in trouble; the man knew about the suicide attempt. He smirked then he rang the bell. When the young Japanese opened the door he pretended to be interested in renting the place. The young man let him in and showed him around. The place has been cleaned but there was a faint odor of blood lingering in the air. The man smiled inside; this was the place where a tragedy has freshly unfolded. He watched everything with eager eyes, looking furtively from time to time to his host.
The young man was visibly upset but composed. The man asked about the previous owner but the answer was that he was ill. The man promised to return the next day with answer; but as he was heading to the door he found himself face to face with the young native. The well built young man was baring his way out on purpose; his eyes were dark and his face tense.
-So-he said slowly. You became curious; but curiosity killed the cat…You came to see us crumble and rejoice over our misery…That’s not nice, not nice at all!
-And it wasn’t wise either-came the voice from behind.
The Japanese was staring at the man in cold furry. The man felt cold sweat running down his spine; he was trapped between two tall, strong and very determined young men. He had no chance against them. He tried to deny his identity but they laughed at him. Yoshiasu had kept the card and he had the memory of a high-tech computer. The man knew that the trick was useless. He was at their mercy.
And they toyed with him; they didn’t touch him but talked about him and his fate over his head. They made him sweat profusely and tremble for his life. They knew he was almost broken after two hours of talk but they looked through him and proceeded. By the end of the third hour the man was a total mess, begging for his life and trying to capture their attention. Then they stopped and turned to him.
-You’re a speck of dirt, nothing else. If anything happens to Fuyuki what you have heard is only a tiny bit of what you’ll get from us-said the young native.
-Now, take this pencil and write down that you’ve blackmailed Fuyuki into suicide and that you are ready to face the consequences.
The Japanese guy held out a paper and a pen and watched over him until he finished the declaration. He read carefully the paper then he folded it.
-You can leave now-he said in a cold voice. Go and pray for Fuyuki’s recovery and for your miserable life.
He opened the door and let the man out. He shut the door without even looking after the departing guy. Yoshiasu turned to Little John.
-Mission accomplished. Let’s go home, my friend.
As they arrived home, they called the hospital and asked about Fuyuki; he’s been stabilized and the hopes for his recovery were higher by now. Both young men felt relieved; suddenly they were leaning on each other for hope and com fort. Just like before, Fuyuki was bringing them together. They sat atop of the bed with the TV on but with their mind set elsewhere.
-Yoshiasu-said Little John quietly. Would you tell me about Fuyuki? Please…
-Only if you tell me more about you and your family-came the answer.
Little John smiled.
-Gladly; I promise. I wanted to tell you about a certain moment. You know, at the bachelor party my friends tried their best to convince Fuyuki to dress up as a girl. They wanted to trick me and they all agreed that he was the best candidate. Fuyuki said that he had once such an experience and that it was more than enough for him.
After the endless nagging of the boys he talked them about the party and they all laughed a lot listening to his recount. He made it sound very funny; it was quite enjoyable. He found a picture on his cell phone and we could finally see him dressed up.
Yoshiasu, weren’t his unmistakable lavender eyes, I would have never guessed that it wasn’t a real girl…she was stunning; the boys looked incredulously at the picture and with a lot more respect to him.
-It was our friend Angela’s idea and neither I, nor her boyfriend knew what to expect-said Yoshiasu as he was recalling the memory of that party.
We were already dressed up/I was a …samurai and George was a knight/ and we were surrounded by happily chatting young ladies. There was enough noise mixed with music around us to realize that at one moment, it ended brusquely.
I saw George’s eyes rounding up and I turned when Angela called m,e telling that she has found what I’ve lost. I stood there speechless and watched him for minutes. Just as you said, only those unusually beautiful eyes hinted out that it was Fuyuki. I was afraid to even touch him; he was so beautiful and delicate. George said that he was afraid that I might faint.
On the other hand Fuyuki felt scared and intimidated by all those people staring at him and by my silence. He turned pink and I saw the tears building up in the corner of his eyes. Only then I was able to speak and finally tell him that he was beautiful and that I loved him. George himself was amazed and he couldn’t believe that this image was not due to makeup tricks. All that evening and night nobody knew that my companion was a young…man. Fuyuki stood close to me, afraid that somebody might ask him for a dance. Probably I looked menacing enough to keep him safe but I assure you, Fuyuki was the most beautiful girl at that New Year’s Eve party.
-I see…murmured Little John.
Yoshiasu turned to him.
-Tell me about your family, Little John. Are you happy?
-I‘m the luckiest bastard on Earth, believe me-said Little John, his mood suddenly lifting. I have a wife that is equally beautiful and wise. I’m blessed with her love and a wonderful child. What else should I wish for? Well, I hope our next baby to be a girl, just like her mom-he grinned. The riding school is a real success, thanks to both of your help so we have a good life together! By the way, I’m going to call Soraya to tell her that Fuyuki is getting better. I know she worries about that.
Little John went to the living to call Soraya. They spoke for quite a while until Little John was sure that she has relaxed a bit. Her pregnancy went well and her young husband was doting over her. Yoshiasu smiled for himself; the young man was concerned and protective with his loved ones. He really was lucky. Yoshiasu thought about Fuyuki; the house…no, his whole life was empty without him. He fell asleep with his mind set on his love.
The next day they were at the hospital almost at the first hour; they looked for the doctor and found him at his personal headquarter, looking over some medical files when the two young men knocked on his door.
-You can visit him now. He’s still very weak and dizzy but he can put up with a 10 minutes visit.
Yoshiasu and Little John looked at each other with embarrassed faces. The doctor raised an eyebrow:
-Is there a problem?
Yoshiasu swallowed and opened his mouth.
-Yes. In fact there is…
-And what would that be -asked the doctor, his curiosity aroused by the two grown –ups looking like two guilty school-boys.
-The problem is that we don’t know how he will react…
-Aren’t you his closest relatives? He’s married to you, isn’t it?-he asked watching Yoshiasu blush.
-But we are the two idiots who caused this!-blurted out Little John.
The doctor looked from one another.
-Then-he said stressing each word- it is about time to make amends and prove him that he’s important for both of you. He needs a reason to get well and live. Quit being idiots! You’ll find me here if anything occurs.
He turned back to his papers while the two men left the room. They looked at each other, trying to find the necessary resolve to face Fuyuki. Finally, Yoshiasu sighed and gave a friendly push to Little John.
-Let’s go; we deserved this.
-I know-mumbled the young native. But I’ve never been so nervous in my life…
The room had a large window facing the corridor. Surrounded by ticking instruments, hoses and wires Fuyuki looked even thinner than he was. He was still asleep.
The two men cautiously stepped inside, closed the door and stood next to him, watching in silence. Fuyuki was pale, almost translucent with dark shades underlining his eyes. His breath was shallow but even. Each wrist was wrapped in bandages so his hands looked like broken wings resting on the blanket. Seeing him so fragile and torn, Yoshiasu turned his head in pain while Little John growled in frustration. Fuyuki opened his eyes and looked at them. The deep, violet eyes were glazed by pain. The moment he focused on them, Fuyuki bit his lower lip and shut his eyes but he couldn’t stop the sudden flow of tears. For a few moments he struggled to hold back but he choked then burst in violent sobs.
The two were numbed by this sudden burst of pain and anguish; they felt helpless and unhappy with what they’ve caused. Yoshiasu broke first; he sat on the bed and took Fuyuki in his arms, holding him tight.
-Fuyuki, please…please, stop crying! I’m sorry, I’m sorry; I’m such a fool and an idiot! Please, don’t cry anymore!
Fuyuki encircled his neck with his arms and hid his face in Yoshiasu’s shoulder. His body was still convulsing but he was crying silently. Little John sat on the opposite side and put a hand on his shoulder:
-Fuyuki, please…we’ve been through Hell; we thought we’ve lost you. Can you forgive us?
Fuyuki slowly turned back but he was shaking from weakness and the overwhelming emotions. Yoshiasu laid him own but kept holding his hand. Little John gently placed his palm on the other hand. Fuyuki closed his eyes for a moment then opened them again.
-I messed up everything-he whispered. I thought you would be better without me. I’m a nuisance and all I can do is to make trouble; I’m not able to take even a decent decision…
-Don’t be silly-said Yoshiasu. We might be fools and idiots but we both love you…
-Each of us in his own way-chuckled Little John. Soraya is expecting her second child; you have to come to see it, you are my best friend.
A tiny smile lit up Fuyuki’s face.
-Give her my love-he said –but tell her I need a little time to get over this.
-Ok, I will but don’t do anything stupid anymore! You’ve been quite a handful! Promise me!
-I promise…whispered Fuyuki.
Little John squeezed his hand and left. Yoshiasu accompanied him; they shook hands.
-Take care-he said as he turned to leave.
-You too-said Yoshiasu and returned to the room.
Fuyuki watched him intently, sadness washing over his face.
-You’ll always remember it and you’ll end up hating me-he said and his voice broke.
He turned away and closed his eyes; he felt deadly tired. His body was weak and his heart was broken. He wished he had died before anybody could’ve found him. Yoshiasu sat down and watched for a moment his broken and confused butterfly.
-Stop blaming and tormenting yourself for nothing-he said. I blame myself for all that happened; I have let myself forget how lucky I was to be loved by you and how empty my life was before I found you. Little John and I we agreed on the fact that both of us were selfish bastards, trying to own you and competing over your feelings. We almost lost you. At least he has a beautiful family that makes him whole and happy; but for me…you are everything. You make me whole and I’m happy and proud to protect you. Please, don’t fade away. Please!
Fuyuki looked at Yoshiasu with eyes filled with a mix of hope and despair.
-I feel so lost-he whispered.
Yoshiasu gently kissed him and held close.
-Don’t be lost; you’re my precious and I love you.
He caressed him until Fuyuki fell asleep; Yoshiasu took off his coat and took a chair. He sat next to his sleeping lover; he wasn’t going to let Fuyuki alone, desperate and insecure. Ever.