Books tucked under one arm and tray balanced in both hands, Aya felt he was suitably prepared. He wandered over to the couch, set ‘American Gods’ and the English to Japanese dictionary on its cushions and the tray on the coffee table. As he sat down he filled up his teacup and then grabbed a shortbread cookie, careful not to get crumbs everywhere. Once the treat was finished, he made himself comfortable on the couch, had a sip of tea and then settled in for some serious reading. Dictionary close at hand, he opened the book at the point where he’d been forced to stop reading a few days ago.
He could faintly hear Omi’s music drifting down from the loft to blend in with the crackling and occasional snap of the fire blazing not too far away. Another sip of tea and he lost himself in the fascinating novel, only surfacing to look up the occasional word or to fetch one of the small post-its he’d placed inside the back cover of the book and leave it near a character description he wanted to examine in closer depth later on, or by a word he couldn’t find in the reference book. The next time he went to the bookstore, he was definitely buying that world mythology book. Too bad there was no internet available all the way up here for him to do a few searches, but maybe he’d puzzle out the vague descriptions when he read a little more.
The only real disturbance from the peace and quiet was a necessary bathroom break and Omi’s infrequent trips into the kitchen to refuel. Those he didn’t really mind as his friend tried to be as quiet as possible and twice had brought him back something - some more tea and another plate of cookies. They would exchange polite smiles each time, both of them too focused on their respective tasks to bother with small talk. He wanted to finish this book before they had to return to Tokyo and Omi was preparing for finals that were just a few weeks away. With their luck, once they returned home they’d be so busy that they wouldn’t get a chance to do anything other than work and sleep. Kritiker never gave out vacations for the hell of it, so they expected something nasty to be waiting for their return.
That thought in mind, he threw some more wood on the fire and returned his attention to the book. He quite liked the main character and, in a way, could sympathize with how the man just accepted everything that came along. Aya was very familiar with the situation. Enough loss and strangeness had a habit of de-sensitizing one to ‘reality’.
Shadow had just run into Mad Sweeney again when the slamming of the door jerked Aya back into his own world. He blinked as he realized that several hours had passed and that the sun was starting to set. Not setting the book down, he reached over and turned up the small gas lamp on the end table to help brighten the room a little. His eyesight didn’t need to get any worse.
"Hey, Aya." Cold, leather-covered arms encircled his neck as he settled back on the couch, and an equally cold face pressed against the side of his neck.
"Stop that," he warned Yohji as he pushed his lover away. "You better have not tracked any snow in here."
There was a heartfelt sigh and then leather creaking and a zipper being pulled. "That’s all you have to say to me? No ‘gee, I missed you Yotan’? Don’t you even want to know what Ken and I bought while we were out?"
He started to feel annoyed as he tugged up the collar of his sweater. "Yes, that’s all I have to say and no, I don’t need to ask what you bought because I wrote the shopping list. Now put the groceries away and," he reached for his teapot, "put some more hot water in here." He didn’t even bother to look behind him as he held up the pot. "Please," he added as an afterthought upon remembering a recent argument.
Yohji grumbled something under his breath but took the pot and walked away. Aya, realizing his quiet time would soon come to an end now that his lover was back, returned to the book with fierce determination. They were expected back in three more days so that left tonight and the next two days for him to finish this. If it was in Japanese that wouldn’t be a problem but he was determined to read the book in its native language and improve his English as well.
"Hey, you wanna join me for a walk?" Ken asked a few minutes later, causing him to glare as he looked up from the book.
"No." Just the one word, backed by the glare, and Ken chuckled and shook his head.
"Why am I not surprised? If I’m not back in time for dinner, make sure there’s something saved for me, all right?"
He nodded as he resumed reading, and shivered a little as Ken opened the door. Maybe it was the sun going down or maybe reading about someone who had just frozen to death, but it felt rather cold. Throwing the last of the wood onto the fire, he thought a little about fetching a blanket before being lost in reading once again.
This time the cold leather coat was gone and Yohji warmer than before, but Aya was no less annoyed at being interrupted. "Stew’s on, so dinner will be another hour." Yohji tugged on an eartail to get his attention. "Don’t you think the chef deserves a kiss for all his hard work?"
Not bothering to look up, he grabbed at the hair tickling the side of his face and pulled Yohji closer. As his boyfriend yelped, he more or less managed to mash his lips against Yohji’s cheek. "There. Where’s my tea and go get more firewood." He let go of the hair so he could turn to the next page. "Please."
"Dammit, Aya, watch the hair!"
Hearing the pout in Yohji’s voice, he decided to forestall the on-coming whine. "Firewood. I stocked it this morning, now it’s your turn." Then he purposely held the book up in front of his face to signal that he was done talking.
"You know, most people are happy when they’re on vacation, not become grouchy recluses. Well, more of a grouchy recluse, in your case." Yohji stomped off to the kitchen.
He decided to let the insult go, especially when his lover returned with the filled teapot, and a slight but heartfelt smile of thanks on his part seemed to cheer Yohji up a little. Alone once more, Aya poured himself some tea and tucked his cold feet beneath him. Wednesday was back and that couldn’t be a good sign, and he’d the feeling that he’d better get a post-it ready. More than likely there would be another god he’d need to look up in the next few pages.
Busy pondering the significance of blue jays in Native American folklore, he nearly jumped out of his seat when several hard things smacked onto the floor.
"Sorry, guess I brought in more than I could manage," Yohji said much too sweetly as he knelt to gather up the scattered firewood. "But there’s enough to last us until bedtime, and then Ken or Omi can fetch some more to get us through the night."
Aya merely grunted as his heartbeat gradually slowed down to normal. Sparing his smiling lover a displeased look, he tried to find where he’d left off in the book. He’d just managed to do that and move on to the next page when Yohji settled on the couch beside him. The next thing he knew, two cold feet were plopped onto his lap.
Taking the silent ‘hint’, he held the book in one hand as he began the massage. Yohji never wore thick enough socks in the winter, especially when they were at Villa White. The man was lucky that he hadn’t lost any toes yet. Rubbing first one foot and then the other, he started to feel comfortably warm once again.
"Are you really going to ignore me for a book?" Yohji asked, sounding amused and a little petulant.
"I’m giving you a foot rub, aren’t I?" To prove his point, he pushed his thumb into the arc of his lover’s left foot and smiled at Yohji’s moan of pleasure. "Just sit there and enjoy it, all right?" That way he could finish his book and have Yohji close by.
The cushions shifted about as Yohji slid his legs further into Aya’s lap and sat up, his arm around Aya’s shoulders. He leaned in close. "We’re all alone up here with nothing to do. Don’t you think there are better ways to spend the time rather than doing something you can do at home?"
Aya shivered as warm lips brushed against his right ear. Suddenly he was much, much warmer than before. He had to close his eyes and slowly breathe in and out a few times as desire washed through him. Then he opened his eyes and stared at his book. "The greenhouse. The storeroom. The mission room. The kitchen counter. Your car. The garage." He shivered again as he remembered a couple of weeks ago, when he’d helped Yohji change the oil in all of their vehicles. Well, at least that had been the intention…. "The couch. The steps." He squirmed in his seat as he mentioned that location. "The bathroom. Our bedroom. The roof." Finished with the litany – for now - he pushed his boyfriend away.
Yohji, however, was as persistent as always. "What the hell was that all about?" he asked as he once more hugged Aya.
"Just pointing out some of the locations at home where we’ve had sex to illustrate the point that we seem to have no problem doing it there. However, I can’t remember the last time I finished a book." He tried to shrug off Yohji’s arms and sighed in exasperation when his lover just held on tighter. "Besides, we’re not ‘all alone up here’," he pointed out as his hand crept up to rub the arm around his chest.
"No, you’re not." Omi’s voice drifted down from the loft. "And I could have lived without knowing about a few of those locations, Aya-kun."
"Sorry," he mumbled as he carefully marked off his page and set the book in his lap. Then he glanced at his lover, who appeared as if he was trying to decide if he should pout or laugh. "I think I win this argument."
Yohji did indeed laugh as he rested his head against Aya’s shoulder. "All right, you *may* have a point." He looked up and gave him a wink. "I think I could’ve talked you into it if Omi was out walking with Ken." Yohji’s eyes became heavy lidded and his mouth took on a sensuous curve. "Can you blame me for trying?"
The sound of Yohji’s husky voice made the breath catch in his throat, and for a moment he actually contemplated seeing how quiet they could be, here on the couch. Or maybe on the floor by the fire would be better…. He shook his head and firmly told his libido that the ‘fun’ would have to wait until they managed to get both Omi and Ken out of the cabin.
"No, I can’t blame you," he told his lover, more than a little regretful. "In fact, if you didn’t try anything I’d think that the cold had gotten to you." He smiled slightly as he brushed back the hair falling onto Yohji’s handsome face. Moving slowly, he leaned in for a kiss, his fingers tangling in the soft, wavy hair. Perhaps mindful of Omi’s presence, Yohji didn’t try to deepen the kiss other than a leisurely swipe of the inside of Aya’s mouth.
Yohji gave him a lopsided smile as his fingers stroked along the side of Aya’s neck. "You know, it figures they’d give us some time off right before spring, when we can’t have a nice picnic outdoors or spend an evening looking up at the stars." The heat in his lovely eyes made it clear that eating and stargazing wouldn’t be the only things they’d be doing.
"Well, it’s still a little too cold for those things, so why don’t you take a nap while I read?" Aya leaned back and held up his book. "I’ll rub your feet some more." Right now the best vacation would be some quiet time together.
"Nah, I’m not tired, and I’d just be up half the night if I sleep now." Yohji suddenly pulled away, his feet falling to the floor as he shifted about. Turned around, he settled on the couch with his head in Aya’s lap. "So, what are you reading, Ayan?"
His fingers automatically seeking out Yohji’s hair, Aya had to smile at the bright grin on his lover’s face. "I’m reading an American book about the gods who were brought to the country by immigrants, and how they’re slowly fading away because no one believes in them anymore."
"That sounds pretty dull." Yohji wrinkled his nose as his hands curled up on his chest. "I think I’m offended now that you prefer something that boring to fooling around."
Aya tapped his lover on the nose. "You didn’t let me finish. There’s a character named Shadow who one of the gods recruits to help him gather as many of the old gods as possible. The god, Wednesday, wants to go down fighting it seems, against the new gods who have taken the old ones’ places."
"Uh, I thought Americans were mostly Christian. Don’t they just have the one god or did their religion get a hell of a lot more interesting when I wasn’t looking?"
Happy that Yohji seemed to be following along, Aya opened up the book. "Well, the writer believes that popular things such as technology and media, not to mention urban legends, can become gods. It’s an interesting concept." Especially to someone who lived in a country covered with shrines and temples, where everywhere you turned there seemed to be a fascinating local legend or bit of history. He wondered what the writer thought about Japan and its gods.
Yohji reached up and traced his hand along the book’s spine. "Read it to me? That way I won’t be bored."
Aya blinked at the request. He hadn’t though that the book would be Yohji’s type. "I’m already a good way into it. If I start at the beginning I probably won’t be able to finish it."
"Then just give me a summary of what happened up ‘til now." Yohji tapped the book’s cover. "It’s in English, right?" When Aya nodded, he smiled. "Good, you can read it in that language. I might be able to help you with the words." He reached back and grabbed the dictionary, then rested it on his lap. "I think my English is a little better than yours, anyway."
A little stung by that, Aya frowned as he flipped through the pages. "The point of reading this is to improve my English. I don’t have the opportunity to talk to as many foreigners as you have."
Yohji arched his eyebrows, the smile fading from his face. "I haven’t had many chances to use it lately, you know." He stroked Aya’s cheek, the touch gentle. "I just want to hear you talk, okay? You have the sexiest voice."
Aya felt his cheeks grow hot, either from the caress or the compliment, and tried to cover it by brushing aside his bangs. "Don’t try to twist this into anything perverted, Kudoh."
"I won’t." Yohji gave him a wicked smile and then slid his fingers through an eartail. "Now start reading. You better finish the book up here because once we’re at home and alone, I’ll have a lot of pouncing to catch up on." The smile became even more wicked, green eyes glittering with desire and amusement. "We haven’t done it on the steps in a while, you know - or the kitchen counter. We’ll start there and then go through your list."
"I don’t need to know these things!" Omi shouted from upstairs.
"Then stop being a perverted eavesdropper," Yohji yelled back. "Aren’t you supposed to be studying?" When there was no answer, he winked at Aya and tapped the book. "All right, so what’s happened so far?"
Aya couldn’t help but smile as he recounted the first part of the book.
Aching from the cold despite thermal garments and winter gear, Ken shook the snow from his shoulders as he opened the door. Winter still seemed to have a pretty good hold on the mountains. But that was fine with him, as he could go on long walks without running into anyone, giving himself time to think and put a few things in perspective.
"I hope there’s some food left," he called out as he kicked off his boots and unwound his scarf. Omi shouted back that there was, and he could smell something sweet – hot chocolate. Quickly shedding his coat and gloves, he went in search of something warm to eat.
He almost passed them by on his way to the kitchen, his attention drawn to the roaring fire. Aya was still sitting on the couch, book in hand, but Yohji was lying with his head in the man’s lap. Next to them was Omi, wrapped up in a blanket as he sat on the floor, a mug of hot chocolate in his hands. Empty bowls and mugs were scattered about the coffee table, and Aya’s deep voice rambled on about orange prison jumpsuits and being locked up in a cell.
Omi quickly made a hushing sound and grabbed his hand, pulling down to the floor. He handed over the mostly full mug of chocolate and smiled. "Aya’s reading a really good story."
Taking a sip of the drink, Ken forgot about his empty stomach in favor of the hot, sweet chocolate and the warm fire at his back. He could eat in a few minutes – it wasn’t every day that Aya was this sociable or they all hung out like this, and right now he wanted to figure out what Aya was describing. Leaning against Omi, he concentrated on the foreign words.
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