Genre: Romance, m-preg, au
Disclaimer: I do not own Arashi, only these words.
Summary: Jun is given in an arranged marriage to Lord Sakurai Sho. Against the odds, love blossoms.
A/N: I never meant for this to happen but this has now turned into my first chaptered fic. I have no idea where this is going or where it will end but you are welcome to come along for the ride.
Previously: Chapter 1
Nino only stirred from his sleep when the shaft of sunlight that was sneaking through the gap in the curtains made its way onto his face.
The warmth and light woke him up and he was momentarily blinded as he cautiously pried his eyes open.
His stomach gave a sudden lurch when he realized how late in the day it already was. His master's breakfast would have been prepared and left sitting in the kitchen long ago.
He carefully slid out of the bed, trying not to make too much noise in his haste to depart and attend to his duties.
He thought that he had almost succeeded until he snuck around to the far side of the bed to retrieve his shirt that had been hastily slung on the floor there during the previous night.
Clutching the shirt to his naked chest Nino started to back away when a slender but strong, tanned arm snaked out from under the covers and caught his wrist in a firm grip.
A head covered in tousled brown hair followed the arm as Masaki spoke in a husky voice "Were you planning on sneaking out without saying goodbye?"
"I didn't wish to disturb you."
"I will only be disturbed if you do not give me a kiss before you go," Masaki joked as he pulled Nino down to meet his lips.
It took all of Nino's considerable willpower to drag himself away from the tempting prospect of returning to bed with his appealing lover who was looking up at him with sad puppy eyes.
It was only his strong love for his master and his secret knowledge regarding Jun’s possible pregnancy that dragged him away. Masaki had warned him that symptoms might start to appear soon and he wanted to be sure that he was close at hand when they did.
Before Masaki, Nino had shared his bed with many lovers, both male and female, but in the weeks since the healers return, he had for the first time found himself contemplating the prospect of having a long term and faithful relationship.
Jun had picked up on it immediately and had taken great pleasure in teasing and mocking his awakening feelings in an affectionate way. He was the only one that knew about their relationship though, as Nino was concerned about Lord Sakurai's reaction to the knowledge that his former lover was involved with his husband's personal servant.
Nino was hurrying along the hallway carrying Jun's breakfast, even though it was almost lunch time, when he bumped into a figure coming the opposite way.
Nino almost dropped the tray as he bounced off a solid body. To his great dismay he realized that it was his Lordship himself.
"Nino!" Sho complained as he grabbed the tray before it could spill its contents to the floor.
"I'm sorry my Lord," Nino replied as he righted himself and hastily snatched the tray back.
"No harm done, and actually I was coming to look for you anyway," Sho replied. "You know my husband better than anyone. Have you noticed anything strange about him lately? I am worried that he is sickening for something. He seems to lack energy."
"Should I fetch the healer?" Nino asked, trying to avoid giving a direct answer to his master's questioning.
"I do not think that is necessary, but perhaps he could make up a herbal tonic of some sort? Pass me the tray and I will bring my love his breakfast while you go to Masaki."
"But it is my duty and you are my master..." Nino began; embarrassed at the thought of his Lordship doing his job in his place.
"If we don't tell anyone, then no one will know," Sho said with a conspiratorial smile.
Nino nodded and reluctantly passed the tray over before hurrying back to Masaki's cottage.
The curtains were still closed in Sho's bedroom when he manoeuvred the tray of food through the door. Even though he had been up and about his duties since dawn Jun had still not stirred from where he had left him that morning.
Although they had been married for over six months Sho still found himself to be sometimes still taken unawares by the beauty of the husband that King Ohno had chosen for him.
Time spent in daily weapons training with Sho had caused Jun's body to fill out; his strong thighs and more muscular arms only served to highlight his broad shoulders and slender waist.
Jun was lying on his side with his legs curled up almost to his chest with a pillow clutched tightly to his stomach. He had kicked the silken covers off so that his body was fully exposed to Sho’s view. His night shirt had slipped to one side revealing one smooth white shoulder which was marked with a light love bite from their earlier lovemaking. He had looked so gorgeous when Sho had awoken that he had been unable to resist taking him before heading to his duties.
Sho leant down and pressed a kiss to Jun's forehead. "My kitten, it is time you were awake. You cannot sleep the whole day away."
Jun grumbled and pulled a cushion over his head. "Yes I can."
Sho laughed and pulled both the cushion and pillow away from a protesting Jun.
"You must eat my love. You have had nothing at all so far today and hardly anything for dinner last evening."
"I'm not hungry," complained Jun, as Sho waved a slice of apple under his nose. "And anyway that smells terrible," he mumbled as he pushed Sho's hand away.
"Just a small bite, my love."
"I will bite you in a minute," Jun grumped in reply.
"Oh, will you now? I would like to see you try," joked Sho.
With a snarl Jun snapped at Sho's fingers, catching two of them between his teeth. The older man laughed, but his expression soon changed as Jun began to suck on them instead, twirling his tongue seductively around them.
"Bad kitten," Sho said, as he reached to sharply tweak a nipple through Jun's thin garment.
Jun hissed in response as he released Sho's fingers, gripping his husband's cock through his trousers as he massaged it with a firm grip. Sho responded by biting the side of Jun's slender neck and tweaking his other nipple, drawing forth a wanting moan from Jun, who soon found himself being pushed down onto his back, his erection pushing up the fabric at the front of his body.
Sho swiftly removed his trousers and undergarments, before reaching for the bottle of sweet oil that sat beside the bed. He wanted to take the time to carefully prepare his husband but Jun had other thoughts. After a few minutes he impatiently pushed Sho's hand away before taking his husband's heavy erect cock into his hand impaling himself on it in one go.
Jun paused only momentarily before he started to ride Sho hard and fast, rendering him unable to do anything other than lay back and moan at the sensation.
Jun hardly had to touch himself before he climaxed, covering Sho's chest and belly with ropes of white a second before Sho released with a cry of Jun's name as he fucked up into the younger man's shuddering body.
Jun slid carefully off Sho's softening cock and curled up amongst the pillows once more. A very confused Sho wanted to ask about what had just happened, but a red cheeked Jun was already asleep, not even stirring when Sho wiped his sticky body clean and covered him with a light quilt.
Masaki offered Sho a cup of wine as he took a seat opposite him, which the older man gratefully accepted.
"I've always loved this cottage, you know," Sho said as he took an appreciative sip of the heavy, dark wine. "It always seems so warm and welcoming."
"Why thank you, my friend," Masaki replied as he tasted his own cup.
"Does Nino enjoy it too when he stays the night?"
Masaki gulped and began to cough as he choked on the wine while Sho helpfully slapped his back until he could breathe again. "You know?" he gasped looking up at Sho through watering eyes.
"How could I not know? You two glow when you are close to each other like a pair of fireflies."
"And you don't mind?"
"Why should I mind? I left you alone when I found my happiness. It is only justice that you are allowed to find your own as well."
"You don't mind that Nino is your husband's servant?" Masaki asked cautiously.
"Nino is more like an older brother to Jun. I don't think that I have ever seen him as just a servant; I consider him to be more of a companion and if it will make your heart more at ease then I shall appoint him as such. Then you may see each other openly. Although I seem to remember you always did enjoy me pleasuring you in our secret places." Sho said with a fond laugh.
Masaki blushed deeply but his smile said it all. This way Nino would have no excuses for not acknowledging his full feelings.
"Now that is out of the way, we can touch upon my main reason for visiting you here." Sho said with a suddenly more serious expression. "Jun is still so listless. These past few months must have been quite a strain on him. His life has changed so completely, and even though we love each other very much it could have turned out so very badly for him when his father handed him over to a virtual stranger. His birthday is coming up very soon and I have thought of a surprise for him and I would like yours and Nino's help, if you would?
"Why do you think that you even need to ask? We love Jun too and will be delighted to do anything we can to make his seventeenth birthday special for him."
"Thank you Masaki, and I wish you all the luck with Nino. And from what I've seen of his forceful personality you may well need it.
Jun woke up to the unexpected sight of a pair of round dark eyes staring at him from close range. Sho was leaning over him, the end of his nose almost touching his own.
"Are you awake sweetheart?" Sho asked as he brushed his fingers over Jun's flushed cheeks.
"I am now," Jun sighed, pushing his eager husband to one side. He yawned widely, stretching out his sore back as he did so. Sho had been very attentive when they retired to bed and Jun was sure that he had only been asleep for a short while.
"It's still dark outside. Why are we awake?" Jun mumbled as he rubbed his eyes wearily.
"Because my love, it is a very special day," Sho replied as he pulled a small silken package out from under his pillow. "Happy birthday my precious kitten."
"My birthday?" Jun had been feeling so out of sorts lately that he had forgotten what day it was.
All thoughts of sleep were gone as he sat up and eagerly took the small item from his husband's outstretched hand.
Nestled within the purple silk lay a gold filigree ring set with a deep red garnet. It was delicate yet manly in design at the same time. Sho slipped it onto his right hand where it proved to be a perfect fit.
"Thank you. I love it and I love you so very much, my husband," Jun said, unexpectedly bursting into a helpless heap of tears.
When Sho had managed to calm Jun down, he explained the reason for the early awakening. "This was just my first gift to you my love. We are going on a small journey to celebrate your birthday and since it will take us a few days to arrive at our destination, we need to make an early start."
"Where are we going?" Jun asked, his eyes no longer teary, but instead shining like a pair of bright stars.
"It is a surprise. You will know soon enough when we arrive," Sho said as he stroked Jun's soft dark hair. "Now, let us dress with haste so we may depart."
"But I haven't packed!"
"Don't fret, Nino has packed everything you will need for the journey and has it waiting in the carriage."
"We aren't riding?"
"It is quite a long journey and you haven't been well lately my love. I feel that it will be better for you to ride in the carriage."
Jun looked as if he was about to protest when Sho added "I will ride in the carriage with you also and I hope that you may entertain me on the journey.”
This changed everything for Jun and he eagerly surged down the stairs running towards the front door. He tripped over his own feet and almost fell, but Sho swooped and caught him up in his arms at the last moment and carried him, wriggling and protesting towards the waiting carriage which was fully loaded and ready for departure.
Jun's eyes became almost large enough to fill his entire face when Sho lifted him into the carriage and he found Nino and Masaki sitting snuggled together in the corner. Nino was asleep, his head resting comfortably on the healers shoulder as he snored lightly.
Jun turned to Sho with a confused expression "You know?"
"I not only know. I also heartily approve," Sho replied with a laugh, marvelling that Jun and Masaki's reactions had been identical as he settled Jun comfortably on the seat.
"Your husband is a remarkable man," Masaki said. "He has appointed Nino as your companion and asked the pair of us to accompany you on your birthday journey."
Masaki didn't explain that Sho had invited them to join them because he was worried that Jun's health might suffer further because of the travel involved. As a precaution he had tucked away his traveling bag full of herbs and remedies safely in the luggage and some flasks of special teas already prepared in case of emergency.
Jun was soon asleep once again, cuddled up against his husband as the carriage drove towards the dawn light. The two older men exchanged smiles over their sleeping lover's heads. Sometimes it was too easy to forget that Nino was only two years older than Jun and was still a teenager himself.
They breakfasted at a small coaching inn while the horses were fed and watered. For the first time in weeks Jun ate heartily, batting Nino's hand away when they both reached for the last slice of bacon before taking it for himself. Nino was so pleased to see Jun eating that he was happy to surrender.
Two hours later Masaki, who was sitting opposite the younger man, noticed that Jun's face had taken an unhealthy greenish tinge. The road was a little rough and the carriage was rocking slightly with each pothole, but nothing much more than the usual movement.
A bead of sweat rolled down Jun's temple as he suddenly pressed his hands tightly over his mouth as he lurched towards the window.
Sho reacted instantly, banging on the roof and yelling at his driver to stop.
Nino had already jumped up and wrenched the door open allowing Jun to leap out just in time before emptying his stomach onto the ground while Nino supported him with an arm wrapped around his shoulders.
"I should assist him," Sho said as he moved to leave the carriage and assist his stricken husband.
"Please let Nino attend to him. I think that Jun would not wish you to see him like this." Masaki said as he restrained him lightly.
A very pale and wobbly looking Jun climbed back into the coach a short while later. Nino had cleaned him up and given him water to rinse his mouth out.
As Sho took his hand to assist him, he noticed that Jun's hand was shaking badly and that his skin was clammy. Masaki gave him a small cup of herbal tea which he forced down with a quiet thank you.
"I'm sorry." Jun added in a tiny voice.
"My sweet, you can't help it if you are unwell. Obviously riding inside the carriage disagrees with you. I hope that you may become more accustomed as our journey continues," Sho said comfortingly, making an ashen faced Jun stretch out across the seat with his head in his lap.
The tea that Masaki had given him made Jun drowsy and he soon fell asleep while Sho soothingly ran his fingers through his hair. Sho was so worried about his husband that he missed the significant glance that passed between the couple sitting opposite, as they took this as further proof that their suspicions regarding Jun's pregnancy were correct.
Sho had made arrangements for two rooms for the night at a comfortable inn which they arrived at in the late afternoon.
Jun had woken up when they stopped for lunch and had cautiously nibbled on some bread and cheese, washed down with another one of Masaki's herbal teas. After that he had seemed quite well again, looking eagerly out the window and chatting brightly to Sho and the others.
The innkeeper told them of a waterfall nearby that they could easily reach after a twenty minute walk. Jun was eager to go, but Sho was cautious.
"My love, you were sick earlier..."
"But I am well now. I just ate too much at breakfast. Please may we go?" Jun asked with irresistibly large pleading eyes.
Masaki and Nino both said that they were tired from the journey, but Jun could hardly miss the sparks flying between their eyes and knew that they were eager to test the comfort of their bed.
With a sigh, Sho agreed to hire a horse and take Jun to see the sight, not wanting him to exhaust himself by walking.
"Thank you!" Jun breathed happily into Sho's ear, the warm puff of breath making him shiver.
Jun leant back happily against his husband's broad chest as they neared the waterfall. He was sitting comfortably perched on the saddle on front of Sho, lulled almost into a trance by the slow and steady plod of the huge but gentle horse.
The sound of rushing water grew ever louder as they approached, making Jun sit up in eager anticipation. The falls were beautiful; the spray catching the late afternoon sun and shining in a rainbow of colours like so many tiny diamonds.
Sho dismounted and helped Jun down. As soon as his feet touched the ground, Jun excitedly grabbed his husband's hand and pulled him to the point where the best view of the falls could be obtained.
Sho was almost knocked off his feet as Jun turned and leapt upon him, flinging his arms around his neck and showering him with a flurry of tiny kisses.
"Thank you so much for this gift. I don't know what I have done to be worthy of something so wonderful." Jun said breathlessly.
"My love, simply being by my side is all you have to do to make me the happiest man in the world." Sho replied with a kiss.
They stood holding hands and watching the flowing water for as long as they could before the impending darkness forced them to return to the inn.
If Sho thought that Jun would be exhausted by the day's events he couldn't have been more wrong.
Masaki and Nino had come down to dinner with flushed faces and ruffled hair. Sho and Jun both chose to ignore the highly visible love bite glowing on the side of Nino's neck in favour of a description of the falls and a discussion of their plans for the next day.
Since they would have another early start the couples soon retired to their respective rooms.
Jun went to bathe first while Sho went to make sure that his servants were comfortably settled and to make arrangements for their departure in the morning.
When Sho lazily walked through the door with his robe tied loosely around his body, nicely relaxed after his hot bath the last thing he expected was to be ambushed by his husband.
As soon as the door closed behind him he was pushed up against it and engulfed in a flurry of arms, lips and teeth.
"J-u-u-n," Sho groaned as Jun bit lightly on his shoulder as he ran his hand along his stiffening length.
"Take me," Jun begged as he rutted his naked body up against him.
"Jun, I have to..." Sho was worried that still needed to prepare his lover.
With a secret smile Jun took Sho's hand and guided it between his buttocks.
Sho's cock twitched with excitement as he felt Jun's slick and already stretched entrance. This had never happened before and the thought of Jun preparing himself for him instantly made his cock painfully hard.
"Take me," Jun repeated in a seductive voice as he coiled his arms around Sho's neck and lifted his legs to wrap them tightly around Sho's waist.
Jun's skin was warm and still slightly damp from his bath and he smelt like sweet almonds.
Sho lost control of himself as he spun around pressing Jun hard up against the wall and thrusting up into his body without pause and without any lubrication.
Jun whined in pain, arching back, his whole body stiffening in shock at the overwhelming burning and tugging sensation.
Sho realized his mistake and tried to withdraw but Jun held him firm, his body slowly acclimatizing to the intrusion.
"Please move. My insides are slick enough,“ Jun begged.
"Jun, why can I never resist you?" Sho groaned as he began to move his hips.
Sho fucked up into Jun's body searching for just the right angle. When Jun wailed and clenched around him he knew he had found the right spot. He snapped his hips hitting the same place relentlessly, jerking Jun hard up against the wall with each thrust.
Jun came first, filling the tight space between them with his cum. Sho held Jun's hips tight enough to bruise as he pumped him full of his seed, so much so that it leaked out of his ass and dripped to the floor.
With trembling legs Sho carried Jun to the bed and collapsed down beside him, both of them breathing heavily.
"I hope we didn't shock our neighbours," Jun said with a breathless giggle.
He needn't have worried because Nino and Masaki were rather occupied themselves at that moment. Nino was in the middle of doing something rather complicated to the tip of Masaki's straining cock that always made the healer's eyes roll to the back of his head and rendered both of them oblivious to the outside world.
It had been a very subdued early breakfast taken by the couples before continuing their journey.
Masaki had eaten heartily and tried to feed a half asleep Nino who kept moving in his chair as if looking for a comfortable position. He had made a half-hearted attempt to eat before falling asleep where he sat with his head slumped down to his chest. Masaki had to keep putting out a shielding arm every few minutes to prevent him from slumping face first into his half eaten breakfast.
Jun was once again refusing to eat anything at all; complaining that everything smelt horrible, particularly the fruit and even the plain rice that was sitting untouched in front of him.
“Jun sweetheart, please eat some rice at least. It will help to settle your stomach,” Sho said as he waved the bowl under his husband’s nose.
“It really would be for the best,” Masaki agreed as he propped Nino up once again.
“Fine!” Jun huffed as he spooned approximately five grains of rice into his mouth and swallowed them with a visible effort. “Satisfied?”
He then poked a complaining Nino awake and dragged him with him to stand out the front beside him while waiting for the coach to be brought around.
Masaki and Sho exchanged resigned looks and abandoned the remainder of their breakfast in favour of going to placate their respective partners before helping them to climb into the coach where they both immediately curled up and went to sleep.
By the time they stopped for a picnic lunch the mood was fortunately much lighter as they climbed out to stretch their cramped limbs.
They found the perfect spot for their luncheon close to a clear running stream with the ideal blend of sunshine and shade to make everyone happy.
While Nino unpacked the food and drinks, Masaki kissed the back of his neck before wandering off in search of certain rare herbs that only grew in this region; he was always happy to be able to replenish his stocks
Sho and Jun walked along the bank of the bustling stream, holding hands and enjoying the fresh air and sunshine whilst awaiting Masaki’s return.
“Are you feeling well, my love?” Sho enquired as he stroked the back of Jun’s hand with his thumb.
“Why do you keep questioning me so?” Jun unexpectedly snapped as he tugged his hand out of Sho’s grasp. “I am not some sort of invalid,” He continued, glaring at Sho with narrowed eyes.
“As your husband it is my duty to be concerned for your welfare,” Sho answered uncertainly.
“So, I am just a thing of duty to you?” Jun shouted angrily before bursting into tears.
Jun turned to run, but Sho was quicker, catching hold of him and pressing him tightly to his chest.
“My kitten, I love you and value you more than my own life. Please believe me.”
“But you didn’t choose me. I was given to you and you had no choice in the matter.”
“And I give thanks every day for being lucky enough to have you as my husband. I would choose you a thousand times over.” Sho said as he felt Jun’s heart thumping wildly against his chest. He had no idea that Jun had ever worried about such things. He only hoped that he would believe him now.
“Do you really mean what you say, my husband?” Jun asked, his body relaxing slightly in Sho’s firm grasp. “I sometimes wonder if you would be happier with someone of your own choosing.”
“Jun, look at me. Surely you can read the truth of my words in my eyes?”
Jun looked up at him with tears trembling on the end of his lashes and suddenly pulled Sho’s head down for a desperate kiss. “Promise you will never leave me?”
“I swear on the souls of my parents that I will remain by your side for the rest of our lives.” Sho replied seriously.
Jun clutched tightly to Sho’s body until his breathing steadied and his tears dried up.
By the time Nino came to tell them that Masaki had returned and that the meal was ready Jun was happily sitting on Sho’s lap and laughing as his sides were lightly tickled, all of his earlier fears seemingly forgotten as they gazed together into the clear waters flowing past.
After a hearty dinner at the next coaching inn while Nino was entertaining Jun with a series of card tricks Sho motioned to Masaki that he wished to speak with him in private.
The other two were so engrossed with what they were doing and happily bickering with each other that it was easy for the older men to slip further away to a more secluded section of the lounge.
Sho and Masaki made themselves comfortable and clinked their glasses of spirits together in a toast as they looked over to their lovers.
Nino and Jun were now apparently involved in a game of snap with each other that was so hilariously boisterous they were attracting indulgent smiles and laughter from the other patrons scattered around the room.
"Jun is so full of life tonight and Nino will be impossible later on," Masaki said with a laugh.
"Do you really think so? He was less so earlier. Jun’s mood seems to change like the wind lately," Sho replied with a frown.
"My friend you must bear in mind that Jun is of an age when he is filled with hormones. As a Carrier he will be even more prone to mood swings. I have the same problem with my Nino. Sometimes his tongue is sharp enough to make me bleed."
"You are convinced then that he may be able to bear your children?" Sho asked, genuinely curious to hear his friend's reply.
"I am. But even if he could not, I am afraid that he has such a tight grip upon my heart that I would still wish him to not ever release it and I hope that one day I will be able to persuade him to marry me," Masaki said with a blissful expression.
"I think that we should count ourselves to be very fortunate indeed to be loved by these two bewitching young creatures," Sho agreed.
Nino's normally pale face was leant an animated glow by the flickering firelight and Jun's large and luminous eyes were sparkling with mischief as he snatched the deck of cards from Nino's stumpy fingers, holding it just out of his reach.
"I think that perhaps we should break this up before they cause a riot," Sho said with a laugh.
"I agree. I have other plans for Nino this evening," Masaki replied, hastily draining his glass and rising from his seat. His actions were mirrored by Sho as they made their way back to their playful lovers.
Nino looked as if he wished to argue against retiring so early until his lover leant down and whispered words in his ear that made his cheeks burn a fiery red.
"Jun, do you require anything further from me this evening?" Nino asked, trying to will the blush to leave his cheeks.
"I really wanted you to show me how to perform one of your card tricks..." Jun said with a teasing smile, enjoying the way Nino fidgeted and shifted from foot to foot. "But I suppose that I may learn it tomorrow evening instead."
With a relieved bow Nino caught up Masaki's hand and pulled him towards the stairs that led to their bedchamber with all haste.
Much later when they were lying naked together in a sated heap Masaki ran his fingers in idle circles over Nino's stomach.
"I think that we must soon speak with Jun of our suspicions," Masaki said. "It is best that we do not concern Sho at this point. If we are mistaken, he would be sorely disappointed."
"And what of Jun's feelings if we are wrong?" Nino asked, sitting up to glare at Masaki. "You told me that you were certain."
Masaki pulled Nino close to him once again, stroking the soft skin along his back "Jun is very young. Male bodies were not originally designed to cope with child bearing and many Carrier pregnancies fail in the early stages. All we can do is bide our time and wait for him to be alone. Although that will be a hard task as Sho is a most caring and attentive husband who rarely leaves Jun's side unless his duties require him to."
"You do know that if you hurt or upset Jun I will make you suffer tenfold in return, " Nino said as he sat up and poked Masaki in the chest with his finger.
"Of course my fierce Nino. I would expect nothing less," Masaki said as he grabbed hold of Nino's finger, pushing the smaller man down onto his back and straddling his hips. "I think that even Sho himself would cower in fear when you are riled. Although in my eyes even when you are angry you still appear adorable to me."
Nino tried to protest at being called adorable but his lover was sucking gently on the spot just below his earlobe that made him shiver and his words died in his throat and a moan emerged from between his lips instead.
The soft light of the lantern revealed the need in Nino's eyes as his body moulded itself to his lover's. Masaki had seemed to know all of the most sensitive areas of his body as if by instinct. Never before had Nino been brought to such levels of pure sensual pleasure. When he was in Masaki's arms he was made to feel delicate and precious for the first time in his life.
As the fire coursed throughout his body he momentarily forgot his worries about Jun, who was the closest thing he had ever had to a family of his own.
"Soon my love we shall arrive at our final destination," Sho said as he observed Jun closely as the carriage rattled its way along the road.
Jun merely hummed in response, seemingly wrapped up in his thoughts as he observed the scenery passing by the window as he gulped in mouthfuls of fresh air.
Both couples had taken a late breakfast in their rooms. The day's journey was much less taxing and they could afford a lazy start to the day.
Jun had breakfasted quite well, suddenly eating the sliced fruit that he had been rejecting for the past week much to Sho's surprise. But just as they were preparing to leave their room Jun had once again become violently ill, barely making it to the bathroom in time.
Sho had desperately wanted to assist his stricken husband, but remembering Masaki's earlier advice he had fetched Nino up from supervising the loading of the luggage instead.
Nino had disappeared into the bathroom with a fresh shirt and some pills from Masaki. He had emerged fifteen minutes later with a white faced Jun who refused to speak or look at anyone as he climbed into the carriage.
Sho had earlier attempted to attract Jun's attention earlier in their days travel, but he was cut off by a protective gesture from Nino that was accompanied by a glare that brooked no argument. Sho couldn't help but to admire Nino's staunch defence of Jun and his willingness to defend him even at the risk of offending his Lord.
“I think that we should make the last part of the journey a surprise for Jun,” Masaki said trying to lighten the atmosphere. “It is his birthday gift after all.”
This earned him a dig in the ribs from Nino and a worried glance from Sho, but Jun immediately sat straighter in his seat and looked eagerly around the carriage.
“A surprise?” Jun asked as his cheeks blushed a delicate shade of pink and his eyes became round. “My mother used to surprise me on my birthday when I was small, but since she died my father chose not to bother with presents or surprises.”
Nino was nodding vigorously in agreement. “Jun’s mother was such a kind and great lady. She always gifted me with sweets on my birthday.”
“I always wanted a puppy when I was a child but for some reason animals don’t seem to like me. So when I was eight my mother cajoled Nino to dress up as a dog. It was most wondrous to view his charming little – “Jun’s words were cut off by a cushion sent flying into his face by a most embarrassed looking Nino.
Jun merely poked his tongue out in response and grinned wickedly before hurling it back at Nino’s head.
Masaki bent and whispered in Nino’s ear “So my Nino finds pleasure in dressing up? I shall mind this for future reference.”
Nino suddenly resembled an overripe tomato as he found something endlessly interesting to view outside the carriage window.
The final section of their journey was completed with the blinds firmly drawn so as to not give away any hint of their surprise destination.
The darkness and rocking motion of the carriage soon lulled the other three into a light doze but Jun remained wide awake; far too excited to relax.
Nino and Masaki were somehow twisted together in a knot of tangled limbs. Masaki’s breath was blowing Nino’s hair to and fro as the smaller man nestled against his chest.
Jun’s heart sang with joy to see his two best friends in the world displaying such a depth of feelings between them. He would never forget Masaki’s part in bringing him enough courage to accept and act upon his feelings of love for his beloved husband who was at present drooling lightly on Jun’s lap where his head was resting. Sho had proved to be the perfect husband and he was grateful for the wisdom of King Ohno who had deemed them to be an ideal match.
Jun hoped that soon he would find the opportunity to speak with the healer in private. He knew that the way he had been feeling for the past few weeks was unusual to say the least. It was as if he had lost control of his own body and of his emotions and the possible reason for this scared and excited him greatly.
He wished with all of his heart for his husband’s sake, that the tiny seed of hope he was nurturing deep within his heart might prove to be fruitful.
“Step carefully, my love,” Sho said as he guided a blindfolded Jun down from the carriage, lifting him and gently depositing him on the ground.
Jun clutched his husband’s hand tightly as he was led up a small incline. He could hear the cries of unrecognizable birds carried upon the refreshing breeze that filled his lungs.
He could hear Nino make a cry of excitement behind him that was swiftly muffled as if by a hand was being pressed over his mouth which only served to heighten his anticipation.
“Shield your eyes when I remove the blindfold. The light here is very bright and likely to dazzle you,” Sho whispered in Jun’s ear as he held him still.
“Happy birthday, my beloved kitten,” Sho said as he undid the silk handkerchief that covered Jun’s eyes.
Sho knew that for as long as he still retained breath in his body he would never forget the expression on his husband’s face when he opened his eyes and saw the vista that stretched endlessly before him.
“Is this – is this the ocean?” Jun breathed, blinking in wonder at the endless expanse of blue that stretched before him. The surface glittered in the sunlight as the waves rolled in to the pristine sandy beach that stretched in both directions.
“Most assuredly it is my beloved. It is as deep and as never-ending as the love that I hold in my heart for you.”
Sho was concerned for the briefest of moments that he had done the wrong thing when tears began to roll unchecked down Jun’s cheeks until he was caught up in a tight embrace.
“Oh it is so wondrous. I never thought to see it. Nino and I used to look at a painting of a seascape in my mother’s dressing room when we were small and imagine ourselves to be within the frame.” Jun said excitedly. “I don’t know what I have done to deserve a husband such as you.”
“It is not a matter of being deserving or not,” Sho said as he placed his fingers beneath Jun’s jaw and tilted his face upwards towards his own. “You are quite simply the other half of my heart and my soul. Without your love I simply could not exist.”
Jun gazed lovingly into Sho’s eyes as he replied “I love you with all of my heart my husband and you will never need to learn what it is to live without me. I shall stand by your side always.”
There was a sudden burst of applause and cheering from Nino and Masaki’s direction.
“Congratulations you two. I think that you just reaffirmed your marriage vows and this time the words spoken came directly from your hearts,” Masaki said with a wide smile.
Nino was hopping around beside him with his eyes ablaze with excitement. “Jun it is the ocean! The ocean!”
Jun ran over to him and the pair of them hugged and jumped around like over-excited children.
“May we walk on the sand?” Jun asked with pleading eyes.
“And paddle in the sea?” added Nino.
Sho and Masaki could do nothing but laugh and agree.
“As soon as we are settled into our accommodation you may spend as much time as you desire doing both of those things.” Sho said. “My old army comrade Toma has offered us the use of his holiday cottage by the sea. It stands just across the way behind the dunes. He has a permanent staff there that will assuredly make our stay a comfortable one.”
Jun and Nino rushed towards the water, their bare feet digging into the soft sand as they flew across the dunes. Sho and Masaki followed at a more sedate pace enjoying the expressions of pure excitement that played across the faces of those that they loved.
Jun hesitated cautiously at the edge of the water as Nino shot past him, seemingly unable to halt his progress. Nino let out a squeak at the icy temperature of the water as it closed around his ankles making Jun laugh at his discomfort. A second later Nino grabbed Jun’s hand and pulled him into the shallow water with him.
A tug of war ensued as each tried to prevent the other from leaving the numbing water.
“Nino, you wouldn’t dare,” shrieked Jun as Nino prepared to kick water over him.
Unfortunately Nino took this as a challenge as he made the water spray over Jun’s legs, soaking his rolled up trousers.
In retaliation Jun picked up a large strand of slimy seaweed and tried to slap Nino in the face with it.
With a yell of disgust Nino took off running along the beach with Jun in hot pursuit, making threatening noises as he flailed his makeshift weapon at the back of Nino’s head. He ran as fast as he could, Jun’s high pitched giggle close behind him spurring him on.
But suddenly there was silence behind him instead of the sound of Jun trying to catch him mid-flight; Nino looked back over his shoulder and immediately saw why. Jun was lying sprawled on the sand the seaweed dropped on the ground a few paces behind him.
Nino’s heart began to pound as he raced back to the stricken figure of his best friend and master.
“Jun please wake up!” Nino begged as he tried to rouse him by shaking his body gently at first and then with a rougher and more desperate motion.
He realized that the chase had led them around a bend in the headland and Sho and Masaki were no longer visible.
“Jun, I’m just going to get help. I promise I am not abandoning you,” Nino as he stood and ran back along the way they had just come.
Masaki and Sho were strolling along the sand at a leisurely pace when Nino appeared shouting something unintelligible and waving his arms to attract their attention. As one they ran to meet him.
“Jun..Jun…fell down…and he won’t…he won’t wake up. I cannot rouse him,” Nino panted as they neared him.
The pair nodded and sped past Nino who was left to run after them at a slower pace, his breath lost to exertion and fear.
Sho was frantic when they reached Jun's limp body. He grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him, hoping desperately that he would open his eyes.
"Sho, please let me see," Masaki said in a soothing voice.
Sho propped Jun up against his chest and allowed Masaki to check his pulse and breathing.
"Sho, can you carry Jun back to the cottage so I may examine him more thoroughly? I believe he has just fainted and will come to his senses shortly."
"Masaki, please tell me that he will be fine," Sho said as he scooped Jun up into his arms and headed back towards the cottage with as much haste as he dared.
"Sho, do not worry. Nino and I will care for him to the best of our abilities."
As they reached a deeply upset Nino, Masaki took his hand and pulled him along with them saying "Nino, it is not your doing. Jun will need your assistance more than ever now, so I need you to be strong. Can you do that?"
Nino nodded firmly and pulled his hand from Masaki's grip so that he could run ahead and prepare a comfortable bed for Jun and to ensure that there was hot water available for steeping Masaki's herbal remedies.
Halfway back to the cottage Jun stirred in Sho's arms, looking around with a confused expression. "Sho, why do you carry me? I was running after Nino and then I was falling...did I trip?"
"Hush my love. Masaki will examine you when we reach shelter. Please don't exhaust yourself by talking," Sho said gently.
Jun lay back in Sho's strong arms and allowed himself to be carried indoors and deposited on the comfortable bed in the large light filled master bedroom.
"Sho, could you please wait outside while I examine Jun?" Masaki asked as he sent Nino to fetch his equipment.
"He is my husband. I should be here -"
Jun spoke up from where he was lying pale faced and ill looking, propped up upon the pillows "Please Sho. I will be more at ease if Masaki examines me in private."
Sho reluctantly agreed and exited the room to pace up and down outside the door, glaring at Nino when he bustled past him and disappeared into the room carrying Masaki's supplies.
In the bedroom Masaki made a thorough examination of his patient, wanting to satisfy himself that Jun was not suffering from any serious illness.
With gentle hands he carefully palpated Jun's abdomen, smiling to himself at the swelling that he found within.
"Masaki?"Jun asked with hope written clearly across his face.
Masaki merely nodded in Jun's direction before sending Nino from the room to go and fetch Jun's stressed husband.
Sho bustled into the room and rushed to Jun's side. He took his hand into his own and looked to Masaki for answers.
"Please tell me what illness Jun is suffering from and how it may be cured?”
"Jun is not ill."
"But he has been so sickly lately and so lacking in energy. I wish for him to be restored to be as he was before."
"Ah, well, I am afraid that will take some time." Masaki replied mysteriously.
"But you assured me that is not ill," said Sho who was feeling very confused.
Jun looked up at Masaki and nodded slightly which was the cue for both the healer and Nino to slip quietly from the room.
Sho looked at Jun with confusion as they were left alone and Jun tugged his hand, pulling him down to sit next to him on the bed.
Jun spoke for the first time since Sho had entered the room. "Sho, my beloved one, I am not ill."
"But what did Masaki mean before when he said that it would take time for you to return to be as you were before?"
Jun smiled at him and his cheeks turned faintly pink as he replied "I am not ill my dear husband. I am pregnant."