“How long have you known about the baby?” Kichirou wondered as he watched Ren’s deft hands dice and chop onions before throwing them into a skillet to carmelize.
As he moved on to cutting some fresh chicken into small pieces, Ren answered, “Less than two weeks.”
“Hm, so he’s due about the same time as I am.” Kichirou muttered, his mouth watering at the scent of the onions caramelizing. Even as Ren added the chicken to the pan to sear, he started another pot and added some milk into it before turning the heat up slightly.
“My first ultrasound is in two weeks,” a voice sounded out from the top of the stairs. Shouta stood there with Misaki on his hip, looking over the three in the cafe. Ren was adding basil, onion and peppercorns to the milk he had simmering on the stove. Walking down the stairs with Misaki, Shouta stood beside Kichirou, looking at the other pregnant man with a smile. “I will be two months along.”
Kichirou’s eyes lit up with mirth, his smile bright, “I now have a pregnant friend.”
Misaki tapped Shouta on the arm as a signal he wanted down, so Shouta set him on his feet and watched as the boy began to run around the cafe, using it as a maze all to himself, weaving through and around chairs. Realising that Kichirou had said that last statement with joy in his voice, Shouta became slightly confused.
So he asked, “Why do you sound so happy about that?”
Giggling, Kichirou leaned in as if to whisper something, so Shouta did the same. What came out of Kichirou’s mouth shocked everyone, “Because we can suffer together.”
Kichirou pulled back and laughed loudly, his joy visible with every breath he took. He wasn’t just happy about having someone to share his woes with, he was extremely happy that this person in front of him was Ren’s. His friend needed someone to be with and he knew that Shouta was the perfect choice. Jun just shook his head at his mate, keeping an eye on Misaki who was still running around the tables giggling.
Stunned, Shouta just stared at the laughing man before he blurted, “I was not expecting that.”
Thinking about it for a second, Shouta realized that he was happy as well, especially since if he needed any advice, he could go to Kichirou about a plethora of things, not just pregnancy advice. This was what it was like to have a real friend he guessed. Just as happy as Kichirou, Shouta’s smile almost blinded Jun, who had just turned to look their way, until Shouta’s next statement froze him to his seat, “I guess we both can grow our aliens together.”
Kichirou grinned and reached a hand out to give Shouta a high five. The slap of their palms hitting was loud in the small space. Stunned, Jun couldn’t even utter a word, but from the kitchen Ren’s laughter exploded like a pistol shot, and he threw his head back, laughing with uncontrollable mirth until he dragged enough air into his lungs to wheeze, “Shouta, don’t call our child an alien!”
He had laughed more in the week he’d known this mate of his, Ren realized, than he had laughed in an entire year. The happiness that oozed from his pores was due to this man infront of him, and he would have it no other way.
“But it’s our alien.” Shouta turned that blinding smile towards his mate, causing him to suck in a breath, holding back his lust. The look of absolute joy on Shouta’s face was a memory that Ren would never forget for the rest of his life. It was their child and the best thing about that was the one carrying that child was his mate, no one else’s. A wave of fierce possessiveness filled Ren, but he stamped it down and continued to cook their dinner with a smile on his face.
Watching this exchange with joy, Kichirou smiled, his grin becoming wider at that little split on their strings, loving that he knew what fate had in store for them. Any baby was a joy for the world, but a baby would become their world. Thinking this, Kichirou smiled down at Misaki who had collided into his legs, clutching them and looking up with his sparkling amethyst eyes.
“I caught you, Mama.” Misaki giggled, his smile bright.
“You caught me,” Kichirou laughed back, reaching down and picking up his son who smacked a large kiss on his mother’s face. Kissing Misaki back, the small boy erupted into giggles before squeezing his small arms around Kichirou’s neck.
The love one had for one’s own child was something that could not be explained. Kichirou could not wait until both Ren and Shouta were brimming with that hope, love and desire to do anything in the world for that small human being to live with smiles and laughter.
On the other side of the city, Hana was just arriving at Akira’s with a grin on her face. She was excited to go back to work tomorrow to be with Shouta. Over the last few days she had noticed that Shouta had seemed brighter than usual as if he had been lit up from within. She liked this new bubbly Shouta, because the smiles he showed the children were the most astonishing, beautiful thing she had ever laid eyes on.
When Shouta had first started at the pre-school, she had been worried that the man that rarely smiled at his coworkers would be a good fit with the children. However, over the first few days, she had watched the reactions the children had to him, and, to her surprise, the children treated him as one of them. They loved him, and those warm smiles he gifted the children began to be gifted to the adults around him as well.
Hana realized that Shouta had needed to trust those around him before he had warmed up to the adults. She didn’t know how he had grown up but she could tell that he held resentment towards the older adults. The reason she knew this was because she had once felt this way before. Back when her mother had been raising her, she had learned to trust no one but her big brother. Even though Jun was an alpha, Hana had never been afraid of him, he would never do anything to harm her. Her mother had thought otherwise though, always claiming that Jun was going to mark her and rape her.
When she turned sixteen, Hana began to resent the adults even more in her life, especially since she had experienced her first heat surrounded by the outside world. The only thing she could remember at that time was the feeling of dirty hands running along her skin as if they wanted to rip her skin off. The feeling had caused her to vomit but even then, those many hands had continued to touch her.
The one who had saved her had been Akira. Hana remembered looking up at the sky as those hands jabbed and yanked at her, hoping, wishing, praying that she would just die. She didn’t want to be raped. She didn’t want to be touched. As she stared into that sky blurred by her tears, she saw from the corner of her eyes a flash of red. Then, as if someone heard her prayers, those dirty, nasty hands were ripped away from her.
Standing proud and tall near her, had stood AKira, her long blonde hair fallen out of it’s usually bun, her red jacket waving like a flag in the wind. Her eyes had been narrowed her teeth bared in a growl. She had stood there, like a guard dog, waiting for Hana to get her bearings before the two of them had disappeared from the area.
Ever since that day, Hana could no longer stand being touched by other people. Jun and Ren were fine because they felt like family, and children were so innocent, that she never felt any reaction with them. But, on that night when her mother had touched her skin, to pull her into the house, Hana had thrown up all over the floor at that mere contact.
Due to the traumatic experience, she had developed an aversion to being touched. Her doctor had told her it was all just phycological, but she didn’t think so. She believed it had something to do with her omega pheromones. Whenever she came into the vicinity of another alpha, the aversion started even if they didn’t touch her. There were only three alphas she did not have that reaction to, Jun, Ren and Akira. Out of the three, she felt the most comfortable around Akira. Akira had been Hana’s hero since that fateful day, and she was the only one Hana could touch without any reaction whatsoever.
The door in front of Hana opened and Akira stuck her head out, he hair falling around her shoulders like a cascading waterfall, she smiled at Hana before chiding, “If you were already here, why didn’t you come in?”
Hana laughed, her smile wide on her face as she answered. “I was lost in my thoughts.”
Akira clicked her tongue and grabbed Hana by the arm, dragging her over the threshold as he chidded, “Hurry up. It’s cold out.”
It wasn’t until after dinner, as the two of them sat there watching a romantic comedy that Akira gained the courage to say, “I have something I want to tell you.”
Looking over at Akira’s serious expression, Hana had a bad feeling about what would be said next, but her curiosity got a hold of her and she muttered, “Is it bad?”
Glancing away as if she was a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar, AKira muttered, “It might be.”
A bad premonition flooded Hana. There were only two things in this world that she was wishing with all her soul that would never happen, and one of those was for Akira to never leave her side. But…if she found her “one” what could Hana do but cheer her on? “Did..did you find your mate?”
Akira huffed in laughter, her smile so large it seemed to take up half of her face. “No, no, nothing like that.” She breathed in and added, “But I think someone else did.”
“Who else is there?” Hana asked, tilting her head in confusion.
The whisper that came from Akira was like a gunshot to Hana. It pierced her skin and struck her heart with enough force to leave her gasping for breath. “Ren.”
For the first time in three years, Hana didn’t want to believe Akira. “Wait…are you serious?”
“Yes,”Akira breathed out, then she stuck the final nail in the coffin, “and his mate is Shouta.”
Breathless, Hana hesitatingly said, “How…how long have you known?”
“Only a few days.” Akira quietly, and truthfully, said.
“But…” Hana stuttered, her heart breaking in fragments. “Ren has been single all this time. How did this happen? I thought that he would…” She thought that he would be her mate.
Knowing what she was thinking, Akira whispered, “I’m sorry Hana. Shouta already has the mark.”
“Ah,” Hana breathed out, not able to breathe in again. “That’s…”
Akira moved forward and wrapped her arms around Hana, hugging the smaller girl to her as tightly as she could. “I didn’t want you to find out the hard way.”
Sobbing into Akira’s shoulder, Hana shook her head, “Thank you, but, it still hurts.”
“I know,” Akira whispered into Hana’s hair. She stared at the wall and watched the clock tick each and every second off. Her mind was a disaster of thoughts, trying to figure out what the best method was to heal Hana.
It had been three years since the two of them had met, and even throughout those years, Akira had held a secret within her. That secret had pushed upon her every waking moment. Those mere seconds that passed by made Akira realize that no one would ever know what would happen in the future. Everything could be fine one second and the next, everything was falling apart around them. Like the sand beneath one’s feet as the waves washed over them, trapping them in place as they sank further and further.
Akira closed her eyes, and took a deep breath in before putting a little distance between her and Hana. Hana’s wide eyes stared at her with tears falling from those beautiful lashes. More determined than ever, Akira sighed and said, “There’s something else you should know.”
Hana hiccupped, never losing her trust in her best friend as she whispered, “What?”
Breathing in once more, Akira’s eyes never left Hana as everything she felt for the last three years burst from her in a simple sentence.
“I love you.”