A loud knocking woke Shouta up from his sleep. Groggily, he looked around and found Ren beside him on the bed where they had fallen asleep the night before. Ren was curled away from him, his back toward him and his face against the wall. It was as if he was trying to run away from Shouta even in his sleep. The knocking continued and Shouta grumbled as he got up and made his way down into the cafe.
Able to see who it was even from the large windows, both Shouta and the person knocking instantly froze, however a small excited voice called out, “Sensei!”
On the other side of the door was Misaki and his father, Jun. Jun had a surprised expression on his face and his hand was still lifted in mid knock. Embarrassed, Shouta hurried forward and let the both of them inside from the cold.
“Hi,” Shouta said to Jun sheepishly. Misaki, on the other hand, was jumping up and down excitedly, his small face alight with joy.
“Sensei! What’re you doing here? You’re taking me?” He reached up his small chubby arms that were encased with layer after layer of clothing to keep him warm. Automatically, Shouta reached out and picked Misaki up, cradling him against his body.
Misaki grinned and patted Shouta’s cheek, giggling. Still stunned opposite of them, Jun was staring at Shouta with his mouth hanging open.
“Ren?” Was the only coherent thing that escaped his lips. Misaki was still giggling, playing with Shouta’s unbound hair, twirling the strands around his fingers again and again.
“Upstairs,” Shouta said, clearing his throat, “Still sleeping.”
“Why,” Jun gulped, looking past him and towards the stairs, “Why are you here, Sensei?”
“Um… well long story.” Shouta chuckled, lightly pulling his hair away from Misaki’s little hands. “It might be better if Ren tells you.”
“Uh..huh…” Jun muttered, watching Shouta chide Misaki quietly for playing with his hair.
“Shouta,” a call came from the top of the stairs, “I heard voices. Who is here?” Ren came down the stairs scratching his stomach under his shirt as he yawned. He hadn’t gotten much sleep last night because he had to consciously fight himself from touching Shouta. When he glanced down and saw Shouta holding Misaki and Jun staring dumbfounded at Shouta, it took him a second to realize why.
Dashing down the stairs as fast as possible, Ren grabbed Misaki from Shouta and hissed in his ear, “Go put some pants on!”
Shouta was standing in the middle of the cafe in nothing but a pair of briefs and a black t-shirt. Jun’s eyes were staring hard past Shouta’s face, trying not to look down. Realizing what he was wearing, Shouta glanced down and said, “Oops.”
With a small grin at Ren’s show of jealousy, Shouta reached out and lightly trailed his fingers along Ren’s arm as he dashed back upstairs to fetch a pair of pants. Both of this was not lost on Jun who watched everything with wide eyes.
“Stop looking at him.” Ren hissed, moving to stand in front of Jun with narrowed eyes. This made Jun clear his throat and look away feeling uncomfortable. “Why are you here?”
“Kichirou’s morning sickness is really bad this time,” Jun began, “and he can’t keep his regular medicine down. Both of us didn’t want Kichirou’s pheromones to affect Misaki, so we wanted to know if you could take care of Misaki for a couple of days until we could get Kichirou the medicine and it’s taken effect.”
“Why didn’t you call?” Ren asked, lifting his eyebrow. Misaki clung to Ren, giggling at nothing. Jun stared at Ren unsure of how to answer, but looking at the way Ren had come down and at how Shouta was dressed, he immediately knew something was off.
“Didn’t realize you started dating again,” Jun muttered, his face a stoic mask. “Otherwise, we would have.”
Ren boosted Misaki up higher on his hip and mumbled under his breath, “It’s not exactly dating…Shouta is…”
“I’m what?” The voice was like a cold wave against Ren’s skin. It made him shudder and crave the warmth of that body against his skin. Ren turned his head and looked at Shouta standing there in clothes which were appropriate for work. His eyebrow was arched in a question and Ren thought that he was doing it unconsciously, but one of his hands was lightly pressing down on his stomach. What was Shouta to Ren? He was his mate, the mother of his unborn child and he was…what?
“You’re,” Ren paused, “well…”
In the awkward silence as the two stared at each other, a quiet voice shattered the heavy atmosphere. “Papa?”
Jun looked over at his son, suddenly relieved that someone else was talking. “Yes, Misaki?”
Misaki’s eyes were wide as he seemed to stare at the ground. “Why is there a red string?”
Shouta looked over at him confused and glanced around. “Red string? I don’t see it. Where is it?”
Ren and Shouta were frozen as Misaki answered. “It’s around Ren and Sensei’s fingers.”
“What?” All three adults muttered. But Shouta still looked confused.
“String?” Shouta asked, looking at his hand as if looking for something. Misaki reached out and made a plucking motion. Shouta felt something move, but didn’t see a thing. Ren and Jun, on the other hand, stared wide eyed at each other. They knew the meaning of a red string.
“It’s like the one mama and papa have.” Misaki continued, “Connecting them.”
Jun froze and stared at Ren. There were two surprising statements in that simple exchange. One was that Misaki had inherited the ability to see fate strings. The other one was that these strings revealed that Ren and Shouta were fated to be together. Even though they knew what was going on, Shouta stood behind Ren with a confused look on his face.
“Anyone going to explain?” He asked, one hand on his hip and an eyebrow raised. Shouta reached out toward Misaki and took him out of Ren’s arms, the back of his fingers grazing Ren’s arm. Their eyes locked on each other and it wasn’t until Jun cleared his throat that they stumbled away, Shouta gripping Misaki tightly.
“Sensei, have you ever heard of the red strings of fate?” Jun asked.
“You mean the myth where everyone’s pinky finger is tied with an invisible red string to another person that they are destined with.”
“Yes, there is one legend that states that this red string might get tangled, contracted or stretched, but it will never entirely disappear. This legend states that those two people connected by this string are actually twin souls that were separated at birth.” After discovering that Kichirou could see these fate strings, he and Jun had researched together for a couple years to find out everything about it. The knowledge he had now was due to this research.
“Do you know why the fate strings are connected to the pinky fingers?”
“No?” Shouta questioned, even Ren was listening intensely, he had never heard any of this either.
“There is a artery within the pinky finger called the ulnar.” Jun explained, shifting on his feet, his arms crossed over his chest. “This artery connects all the way to the heart from the pinky finger. This is why even the Yakuza cut off their pinky fingers to represent their paid debts, it’s them cutting off one of their own life bonds. That thin vein runs from the heart and extends through the pinky through an invisible world to connect to someone else’s heart. So the fate string is not actually a string, but a vein that connects two hearts to make them one. So the moment a baby is born, their pinky already has that vein. However, until they meet their destined one, that vein will not connect.”
Shouta stared on wide eyed, and shifted Misaki in his arms. “So you’re saying even Misaki has someone for him?”
“Yes,” Jun nodded, looking softly at his son. “but he won’t know who it is until he meets that person for the first time.”
“So,” Shouta drawled, and lifted his pinky into the air. “My heart is connected to Ren’s?’
Jun sighed, looking at his husband’s best friend. He personally had thought that this day would never come. “It seems as though you are, but we might want to get Kichirou to clarify it as well.”
“Can we do it soon?” Shouta asked, watching Ren’s reaction. His face scrunched up in thought and his brows were almost touching.
“Ah, it seems you missed our earlier conversation.” Jun muttered, scratching the back of his head, giving off a slight chuckle. “I was asking Ren if he could watch Misaki for a few days because Kichirou is too sick. I guess if you are fated, I’ll be entrusting him to you as well for the time being.”
“Hey,” Ren snapped, “I never said I would agree.”
“You won’t?” Shouta asked knowing how much he doted on the boy as an uncle.
Misaki piped up, “I wanna stay with Ren-chan and Sensei!”
“You’re going to deny that?” Jun laughed. He watched his son pout and the small tears that welled in those amethyst eyes that were so much like his.
“Ren-chan.” Misaki wailed, those tears spilling from his eyes. Ren groaned at those misting eyes and knew that he had lost. There was a time when he had only taken care of Misaki because of his past love for Kichirou, but with every passing day, Ren was beginning to love Misaki as a true uncle would.
“Fine. But only for three days, okay?” The sigh was long and drawn out, his hand running through his auburn hair.
Jun grinned and said, “I’ll bring some clothes and toys over later for him. Thank you so much.”
“Go take care of Kichirou and you need to get to work,” Ren sighed, looking at the men in his cafe, “the both of you.”
Shouta laughed which made the tears in Misaki’s eyes stop as his own wobbly smile appeared on his face. He reached out and snuggled his face into Shouta’s neck, breathing in steadily until he began to fall asleep.
“Ah,” Shouta exclaimed, “He’s asleep.” He rocked the boy slightly in his arms.
“I don’t think he slept very well last night” Jun said, walking over and running his fingers through Misaki’s black hair. “Kichirou was up all night sick. We tried to be quiet, but he still must have heard it.”
“I can walk to the preschool from here, so we don’t have to wake him up.” Shouta whispered, loving the feel of the warm small body against his. It made the maternal feelings in him heighten and he began to become impatient for the day he could meet his own child.
Jun smiled at Shouta and bowed slightly before making his way out of the cafe. Ren walked over and lightly touched Shouta’s cheek, his caress light, but still stimulating. Shouta was still thinking about his own baby in his arms and tears started misting in his eyes. Noticing this, Ren’s facial expression became gentle.
“Are you okay?” He whispered, wiping away one of the tears that escaped. “I can take him.”
“No,” Shouta whispered, his smile almost blinding, “it’s fine. I was just thinking of what our child will look like in the future.”
Ren smiled, and leaned forward to kiss Shouta’s forehead gently, Misaki between them. “I hope they will have your eyes.”
Shocked, Shouta looked up, those bright teal eyes like a calm sea. “My eyes?”
Ren’s smile became even softer as he whispered. “I love your eyes.”
“Just my eyes?” Shouta whispered, his heart fluttering in his chest. At that moment, he felt like he had a small family with Misaki in his arms and Ren looking at him with that expression he couldn’t define.
“Hmm,” Ren whispered, leaning forward once again and touching his lips to Shouta’s. It was feather light, but the both of them were set aflame. “We will have to see about that.”