Music of My Soul

BY : ReadtoEscape
Category: Wei▀ Kreuz > Yaoi - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 1198
Disclaimer: I dont own Weiss kreuz, Ran, Yohji, or any of the guys. I write/post for my own enjoyment. No profit is made. Well, except the stress relief of writing it, & the warm fuzzies I get if you like it. But as those are intangibles,


CHAPTER 19



 



Yohji watched from the shaded patio as Jei and Ran held a serious discussion over the smoker off to one side. Trying to determine how much longer before the bird was ready, Ran checked the wood chips pile and consulted the manual. Schu’d given the smoker to Ran and Yohji as a housewarming gift upon his arrival for the long holiday weekend. Citing Yohji’s soft spot for smoked meats and his mini addiction to jerky, Schu’d presented the smoker with a flourish and a grin. Ran had been excited to try it out for Thanksgiving, smoking both a ham and a turkey. The ham, done yesterday, was warming in the large oven inside while the bird finished roasting.



 



Yohji smiled at the outraged cry heard coming from the inside as Ken wailed at yet another scoring fieldgoal by the hated Cowboys just at the half. Jei looked back toward the patio doors at the wail, a fond grin on his face, and spotted Yohji watching there. Nudging Ran, Jei turned walking toward the patio. ‘Hey Angel” Yohji called out as they approached, ‘thought I’d warn you, it’s halftime. Figure Omi wont sit still much longer.”



 



Just as the words left Yohji’s mouth, he was almost bowled over by a struggling Omi dragging Ken through the door, followed by a laughing Nagi. “it’s halftime Ken. You got half an hour before you have to watch Dallas score again. C’mon, burn off some steam. They’re gonna win, why watch it and suffer?”



 



Ken stumbled as Omi let go just off the edge of the patio, and stopped a bit before turning toward Jei standing off to one side, leaning on the support column. “hey” Ken mumbled as he bumped shoulders with Jei, eyes still following Nagi as he and Omi set up the lawn darts at the other end of the yard. “you having fun out here cooking?” Ken asked still not looking at Jei.



 



Jei laughed, reaching out and pulling Ken in close beside him. Leaning down he planted a swift kiss against chocolate strands, inhaling just briefly before pulling back. “So, done sulking? Finally got tired of watching Dallas win and decided to let Omi drag you out for a breather?”



 



He grinned at the scowl on Ken’s face as Ken growled. “fucking Dallas Cowboys. Man I hate it when they walk all over someone. Arrogant pricks.” Ken forced a sigh, “forget it. C’mon, toss some darts with me. Help me put the kiddies in their place?” he turned a hopeful grin on Jei, letting that innocent boy next door look enter his eyes briefly, that look he knew made Jei crazy, before smiling a big, open smile and pulling on Jei’s arm to drag him to the other side of the yard.



 



“Brat” Jei growled low, but gave no protest as he followed Ken. For that special smile, the one Ken gave only to him, he’d do almost anything. Even go play freaking lawn darts. He sighed a put upon sigh and entertwined his fingers with Ken’s.



 



Laughing, Nagi handed a set of darts to Ken and Jei. “Omi and I will go first. See if you guys can keep up.”



 



Yohji settled Ran against his chest as he leaned against the wall of the house. Basking in the family feel of the day, he nuzzled the back of Ran’s neck. “mmmm, kitten, you smell nice. I like that new shampoo.”



 



Ran jerked forward quickly, turning in Yohji’s hold to glare into warm emerald eyes, full of laughter. “kitten?” he growled, “don’t think-“



 



He was cut off as Yohji laughed outright, “I told you a long time ago Angel, that you are definitely cat-like. I’ve been thinking kitten for some time now, it was bound to slip out sooner or later.”



 



“Kudoh” Ran growled, I am NOT a kitten.”



 



“ooh, your claws are showing” Yohji grinned, pulling Ran in closer by a tug on an eartail. He leaned in and whispered against Ran’s ear, “don’t worry, I wont tell anyone how cuddly you are, or how you purr when I stroke you.” grinning widely, he leaned back to gaze into stormy violet eyes. Eyes that smoldered a bit longer, before melting with warmth, laced with mirth.



 



As the hint of mirth entered those eyes, Yohji grew nervous. “now Ran. It’s just one more name for the many sides of my Angel....” his voice trailed off as Ran continued to gaze at him, silent. “Ran?” he asked, a hint of worry entering his voice as Ran leaned in.



 



“kudoh,” Ran purred, as he trailed fingers through Yohji locks, “I promise you, if you slip and call me kitten where anyone hears you, my claws will come out. Got it?” he leaned back after nipping at Yohji’s ear and letting loose an actual rumbling purr for only a second. He searched wide green eyes for a moment to make sure Yohji got the message, then turned, settling back against Yohji’s chest again, snuggling in as Yohji’s strong arms came up again to wrap him in warmth.



 



Yohji chuckled and breathed into Ran’s hair. “got it  Angel. I’ll do my best.” He inhaled a bit, then leaned his head back against the house, letting Ran’s head fall against his collar bone.



 



 “Thanksgiving in LA sure is a far cry from snowbound New York hmm?” Yohji asked with a laugh as they watched the antics of the four playing in the yard, shaking his head at Ken’s exaggerated groan at Omi’s third dead on bulls-eye, he called out “You know better Ken, you know how accurate he is at darts. Shoulda went with something where his aim isn’t such a handicap.”



 



Laughing outright as Nagis’s dart flew over the fence into the pool though, Yohji changed his mind. “Never mind, carry on.” He shook his head at Nagi’s slumped shoulders, and covert glance to Omi. “he worries too much,” Ran murmured, watching Nagi too, the disappointment in himself and the flash of fear over his features as he looked toward Omi.



 



“Yeah,” Yohji piped up quietly, “he’s not gonna chase Omi away by being a klutz. Didn’t he ever watch Ken?” Yohji tilted his head a moment, “come to think of it, by the time the kid joined us, Ken was with Jei. He only knows they were together before, and junk  from the gossip rags. He never saw them together. And Ken’s klutziness is not as bad now as it was before. Jei’s usually pretty close by, and he seems to.... steady Ken. Hmm” Yohji mused.



 



Ran went on, “Omi was... submissive, to Ken. Content to let Ken lead him, direct things. He’s more.... confident, in himself now, since the reunion. More mature, more secure, in who he is, what he wants. And he wants Nagi.” Ran tilted his head, “if anything, he seems to like it when Nagi stumbles over himself. I think it makes Omi feel.... more....”



 



He trailed off, and before Yohji could prod him to go on, fascinated by this insight of his, they both jumped at an indignant, loud sqwak with a heavy German accent, “Was machst du?! Aussteigen!, Ich habe dir schon!” (What are you doing?! Get out! I told you already!) followed by a loud clang and a cry of, “Geez Crawford, control him or something! Don’t let him kill me!”



 



Turning to make their way inside, both also heard the quiet, amused response, “Yuushi. He did tell you. You should know not to mess with an artist and his creation”



 



Stumbling into the kitchen, Yohji and Ran were dumbfounded at the sight of Schuldig brandishing  an overlarge knife at a frazzled Yuushi backed into the corner as Brad picked up the knocked over, thankfully empty, cookie sheet and mixing bowl.



 



On the counter sat a cake with a rather large swipe through the still being spread chocolate frosting. Frosting which was obviously smeared across Yuushi’s face as though his hand had been grabbed and jerked aside just as he’d stuck his smeared fingers in his mouth. Smeared fingers that were now held up in a surrender gesture with both hands over his head as he cowered down in the corner with the red headed German waving the knife and sputtering in German: “Dieb, scleichen, ungelduldig” (thief, sneak, impatient)



 



“Ok! Ok! I’m sorry, I’ll get out of the kitchen, I can wait, just don’t kill me” Yuushi placated , “geez, I’m sorry already.”



 



Laughing, Yohji stepped around the island, reaching and taking the knife from Schu. “Now Schu. Don’t kill him, we need him for the new album.” Smirking, he glanced at Yuushi before steering Schu back to the cake. “go clean up blondie,” he laughed as he tried to calm a still fuming Schuldig.



 



Ran helped Brad put things to rights while Yohji soothed Schu. “That my favorite german chocolate cake? Sure looks good man.”



 



“Yohji!” Schuldig barked, “no tasting!” he glared a bit, then softened, I made you your own mini one, there” he gestured off to the side of the stove where sat a few cupcakes cooling, “if Yuushi hadn’t been a sneak about it, I might have given him one, but he’s snuck in here three times in the last hour. And his grubby fingers swiping over this just as I turned my back for the chocolate sprinkles was the last straw.”



 



Schu glared as he smoothed over the swiped area of frosting. Brad came up behind and wrapped his arms around Schu for a brief hug, then worked at lightly massaging his shoulders and arms. “no harm done Babe.” He murmured, then kissed Schu on one cheek. “it’ll be fine.” He turned back to the sink where he’d been cleaning up a bit before the attack.



 



Yohji happily sampled his cupcake while Ran peered at the various dishes warming in the oven and cooling on racks or in the fridge. Smoked ham, corn bread stuffing, baked potatoes, corn cobs, and green bean casserole all waited in foil covered dishes in the oven, while two pies sat cooling on the counter, peach and pumpkin, along with the cake Schu iced. In the fridge were fruit salad, jello, and yet another pie, pecan. “this sure is a lot of food Yohji.” Ran said, shaking his head. “and the turkey too?”



 



“yeah, well, there are a lot of us Angel. Plus, we wanna make this one extra special. Our first Thanksgiving in our new home, back together, and not in a hotel. These will be some holidays to remember this year. Besides, Ken eats enough for three guys, you know that. And have you seen how much Yuushi can pack away? Add in Manx and Aya too, that’s a lot of empty bellies. Where is Manx anyway?” Yohji turned to Brad, leaving Schu to his decorating work.



 



“She ran to the store for more beer or smokes or something. Just called a few minutes ago, there’s an accident on the freeway, she should be back any time.” Just as he finished, the sound of a car door was heard in the distance, “That’s her now. Say, what happened with Aya? I never got to ask this morning with all the commotion. I thought she was to arrive yesterday like we did.”



 



“Yeah” Yohji sighed, slipping a glance at Ran, whose face was darkening as he dried the last of the pans Brad’d washed. “she was. But she got snowed in in her layover, Chicago or Denver, I forget. She wouldn’t tell us her new flight number info so we can pick her up at the airport, doesn’t want us to miss out on the game and all the *family fun time* while waiting for her. Her flight arrives some time today, but she insisted she’s taking a cab. We aren’t sure when she’ll get here.”



 



“oh.” Brad answered quietly, with a short look at Ran. No wonder the thundercloud look had come over at the mention of the beloved sister, instead of the usual smile. Then Brad was blindsided as a huge smile broke over that darkened visage as a sweet voice called out from the other room, “Ran?”



 



He was nearly bowled over as Ran bolted for the living room, calling out in answer, “Aya!” Brad stood, stunned for a moment, before turning his gaze to Yohji. “that’s her I take it” he drawled with a pleased smile. What a transformation had come over Ran.



 



Yohji chuckled. “yeah, that’s her. Come on” he nudged Schu, who put down the knife, having just finished the cake, and the three made their way to the living room. As they came through the archway entrance, they found Ran wrapped around a petite, dark haired girl having just stopped a twirling hug. Ran stood back, beaming, hands on Aya’s shoulders, “you look great Aya! Are you ok? Not too tired? How long ago did your flight land?”



 



“Ran” she laughed, “I’m fine. I got a nice sleep at the hotel last night, and caught a cab almost as soon as I left baggage claim. It’s fine.” She glanced over Ran’s shoulder, “hey Yohji.” She called out, “Would you mind? I have bags out there and I’m sure the cabbie doesn’t wanna hang around”



 



“I got it princess.” Yohji smirked, grabbing Yuushi who’d just stepped out of the hallway bathroom after cleaning up, blinking at the commotion in front of him, “hey Aya” Yuushi called, before yelping, “hey!” as Yohji dragged him along behind as he made his way to the front door.



 



“princess has luggage, come help me” Yohji told him as they made their way.



 



“oh. Sure. Why didn’t you just say so?” Yuushi straightened his shirt and followed Yohji to the cab waiting at the curb. Yohji pulled his wallet as they approached, “Thanks man.” He shook the cabbie’s hand, pressing a tip inside, then reached down for a couple bags. “Happy Thanksgiving,” Yohji called as the cabbie made his way around the car. “to you as well” the man called out and drove away.



 



“Damn!’ Yuushi groaned as he stood up with a bag in each hand, “What’d she bring, a whole shoe store?”



 



Yohji laughed, “you know women, it takes a lot of spackle and glue to get that natural beauty look we all love so much”



 



“hmph!” Yuushi snorted, “speak for yourself Yohji. I bet Aya’s not like that. Hers really is natural. She wears a little make up, but not like the crazy women we see around here”



 



Yohji grinned as he watched Yuushi grumble, leaping to an unneeded defense almost without realizing it. “Just kidding Yu. She’s a sweetheart, a real princess. You don’t have to tell me man. And she doesn’t need a knight in shining armor you know, she can take care of herself.”



 



Yuushi stopped short, turning a wary gaze to Yohji. “huh?” he tried to pass off that he didn’t have a clue, but Yohji pressed on. “I’m not an idiot Yu. I see how you look at her. And while she brings out the protective side of all of us, yours is a little more chivalrous than the rest of us big brothers she’s got hovering. I know Yuushi. I know how you want to protect, to…. Shield. And I know how fragile Aya seems, how innocent, sometimes. Just.... take it slow ok? Ran can be oblivious sometimes, but he is very, very much the overprotective big brother with her. If you wanna ask her out, at least.... talk to him about it. Don’t blindside him.”



 



As Yuushi’s eyes grew wider, Yohji continued, voice low, “I’m not saying you need his permission. Aya’s a big girl, and while she is innocent, in a lot of thigs, she is not fragile, not like Ran thinks., But he can’t help it, and I don’t want her pissed at Ran thinking he’s screening or anything, but.... just let him know huh? Tell him you’re gonna ask her if you get up the nerve. His whole life has been about protecting her. You know that.”



 



“yeah. I got ya” Yuushi answered quietly. When they’d dated while Yohji and Ran were apart, he’d been given a fairly clear rundown on Aya and on Ran and Yohji’s past and could see why Yohji worried. If anyone hurt Aya, there’d be hell to pay. And while Yuushi was not the playboy many rock musicians were, Ran hadn’t really known him long enough to know that and to discount the tabloid bullshit.



 



And he had his own reason to look at Yuushi with concerns, no matter how secure he and Yohji were. Hell, Yuushi’d be worried if it were him with someone who worked with their ex lover-friend….. Even though Ran seemed to understand that Yuushi and Yohji were ,,, perhaps friends with benefits at that time, not in love, or even really lovers, just…. easing each others’ losses. But, still, Ran wasn’t of the casual sex make up and Yuushi knew it probably bothered him more than he let on.



 



Yu’d been in love before, once. And after it hadn’t worked out he had dated a bit. Even dated Yohji, for a while. But while he was bi, he leaned more toward women. And he wasn’t your typical rock guy. He wanted that one right person, that one soul he could devote himself to and be a knight protector for. And when he imagined a soul mate, it was a woman he held in his arms.



 



A true old fashioned romantic, putting women on a pedestal to be cherished and loved, he’d had his heart trampled on a bit. After the girl he’d loved had turned out not to love him enough to be faithful during extended absence, he’d remained alone for a long time. After securing his future with WEISS he dated again, but only that, finding it hard to find women of sincerity. Many of the women drawn to rock bands were more.... promiscuous, than he cared for.



 



Ran was so wrapped in Yohji it very likely escaped his notice that Yuushi seldom left the after parties with anyone. He was alone. And while dating was fun, and he liked to party and dance as much as the next guy, he wanted someone he could love. For real. Someone genuine and sweet..... someone like Aya.



 



Yuushi’d noticed her almost immediately when they’d first met her shortly after Yohji and Ran reunited. She’d been finishing school on the east coast, and they’d gone on tour shortly after, but the few times she was able to visit and spend time, he found himself more and more under her spell. He watched from afar, sweet, caring, innocent.....



 



He’d been afraid to taint her with the gossip and innuendos that always followed any women he dated. The hangers on didn’t care. They liked the dings to their reputation, dating a rocker bad boy, but he didn’t want to tarnish Aya. So, he’d refrained from asking her out. Not to mention the whole big brother issue with Ran and Yohji....



 



Now, she was moving to LA as well. Soon, he understood. Maybe.... Yuushi sighed, “yeah Yohji. I hear ya. If.... If I get up the nerve, I’ll talk to Ran first.”



 



“that’s all I ask man. Thanks” Yohji led the way into the house and up to the guest bedroom. After dropping off and arranging the bags for easy access, they followed the laughter to the kitchen where everyone had gathered for welcomes. Manx was back as well, apparently having slipped by while they unloaded the bags.



 



“my turn Princess” Yohji called out as he entered the kitchen. Aya turned from her introduction to Brad and hopped over to Yohji. “Yohji’ she cried, “Happy Thanksgiving” she kissed him lightly on the cheek. “Are you having a good day?”



 



“yeah, sweetheart, it’s been perfect except for missing you. Now, it couldn’t get any better” he smiled warmly, pulled her in for another warm hug, then set her back. “you remember Yuushi?” he nodded to one side, then left her with a demure glance to the floor and a light blush and stepped over to Ran before he could notice for himself.



 



“well Babe, this make your day or what?” Yohji smiled as he wrapped his arms around Ran from behind, hanging his chin over Ran’s shoulder to beam at Manx. “Hey Manx. See you’re back. So,” Yohji turned to look at Jei without letting go of his kitten, “how much longer on the bird? Should Yu and I start setting the tables?”



 



“hmmm,” Jei mused, looking at his watch. “what do you think Ran? another half hour?” at Ran’s nod, Jei turned to Yohji, “that sounds about right Yohji, but I don’t think you and Yuushi need to set the table. I think Ken and Omi and Nagi, who have been lazing around watching TV can handle that. It’s probably not a good idea to have Yu in the area of the kitchen anyway. Schu looked a little murderous there.”



 



“yeah, maybe you’re right... ok. Let’s have Omi and Nagi set the tables. Ken can help me haul out the food while you and Ran bring in the bird. Yuushi can make sure Aya gets all settled and they and Manx can handle drinks while Shu and Brad bring out the deserts. Sound good?” Yohji looked around at the gathered faces, struck again by the warmth and love of being surrounded by his ‘family’. Content and happy he squeezed Ran once more before patting that delectable ass as he turned Ran toward the patio door to follow Jei out back.



 



“Hang on!” Ken called out suddenly, ducking off to one side of the kitchen, he came back quickly with the over large roasting pan. “Should take this out with ya, sexy. Save a step huh?” he smiled at Jei as he held out the pan.



 



Eyes narrowed, Jei took the edge of the pan and quickly pulled Ken in close. “good thinking tiger” he grinned, kissing the side of Ken’s neck before pulling back and turning to Ran. “ready now, I guess. Let’s get that bird.”



 



Shaking his head with a small grin, Ran followed. Yohji grabbed Ken, dragging him to the oven to start pulling out the potatoes. “tiger huh?”



 



Ken blushed a bit. Blushed!´ then, with a sheepish laugh, explained. “Well, heh, um... I guess all your pet names for Ran finally got to him... and he said, um...” Ken’s voice dropped as Omi and Nagi left with the plates and table cloth, “he said the claw marks I’d left the other night made him look like he’d been mauled” Ken flashed a quick grin, then turned pointedly back to the oven.



 



Yohji stood there a moment, stunned, then sputtered, “Ken! You, you...” he shook his head and grinned, “huh. Well. Tiger it is then.”



 



Ken’s head snapped to the side,  “Kudoh! No.” he hissed,  “you can’t  call me that”



 



“Awww. C’mon kitty.. why not” Yohji drawled



 



“no Yohji! I mean it.” Ken turned to him, uncommonly solemn. ”promise me Kudoh. No.”



 



Yohji stopped a moment, taking in Ken’s flushed, almost worried expression. “relax Ken Ken, I wont take Jei’s thunder.” He grinned, then, clapping a hand on Ken’s shoulder, he stopped a moment, “I’m glad you and Jei are so happy Ken. You seem.... content, secure, in a way I don’t’ think you and Omi really were. More.... relaxed with each other, and yet without any lost heat.” He eyed Ken for a reaction to that comment, unsurprised when Ken nodded.



 



“Yeah.” Ken gazed out the window at Jei and Yohji knew what he was looking at without any verification. “Omi was my first love Yohji. You know that. He was happiness, and fun, and freedom. But, even though we’d been together so long, there was this.... need to ... I don’t know, to impress him, or keep him.... interested. Like he wouldn’t be if I didn’t hold his interests ya know? Then, he just kept outgrowing, moving past me, but growing more.... inward..... Anyway ... well... we’re still best buddies, more than brothers. And I’m glad we were able to come to the decision together without, ya know, the bitterness people get.”



 



He smiled softly, then turned back to Yohji and went on quietly, “when we split, I was ready, resigned really, to just being alone. Figured I’d blown the easiest relationship a guy could get ya know? Had to be my fault, I mean, we’d known each other so long, and Omi’s just so easy to like, had to be some flaw in me, something keeping me from settling, making me restless.”



 



Ken stopped, took another look out the window, and lifted the pan of ham from the oven, “But Jei.... no one Yohji, and I mean no one, was more surprised than me when Jei called me.” He shook his head, “he made me see there wasn’t anything wrong with me, or with Omi, just with the combination. We’re friends, and thankfully, we will always be friends. I’m glad of that. But Jei.... Jei’s like... a part of me. A part... I don’t know... that grounds me, centers me. I can’t explain it.” He looked down for a moment, then glanced back up at Yohji.



 



Yohji was smiling. A warm smile. A little bemused, he regarded Ken. “you don’t have to explain Ken Ken. I get it man, completely. Ran is the same piece of my soul. That’s why it knocked me so far off center when we were all fucked up.”



 



He ruffled Ken’s hair after Ken’d sat the pan on the end of the table and they were making their way back for the last of the load, then, “I’m happy for you man. And for Jei. He’s been waiting for a long time for this. I didn’t know he was waiting for you. I shoulda seen it I guess, but I’m kinda glad I didn’t. Just woulda put a damper on things.” He grinned, “really Ken, I’m happy for the two of you. You both are more... centered. It’s good Ken, real good”



 



He stood back, giving the table a once over. “Looks good man. Mmmm, I’m getting hungry.” He took a deep breath and grinned, “and just in time too.” he gestured with a nod as Ran and Jei made their way up to the table with the still smoking bird, a trial of sniffing, almost drooling people in their wake.



 



Yohji called out, “Yuushi, Aya! Come and eat!” causing Ran to look around a little bewildered, “they haven’t come down yet?” as he sat the bird on the table.



 



“That’s them now,” Yohji nodded to the stairs at the back of the kitchen. Aya’d changed from her sweats and tshirt she’d worn on the flight to a more dressy skirt and blouse in fall colors. Yuushi’d changed his shirt from the football jersey with the chocolate frosting smeared on the collar, to a button up dark brown shirt he’d left in the music studio last time WEISS had jammed together yesterday.



 



“Perfect timing princess” Yohji murmured as he led Aya to a seat near the end, on Ran’s left. He held the seat for her, then, ever the gentleman, pulled out the one next to her for Manx. “My lady” he bowed as he gestured to the seat for Manx to take her ease. “I’ll finish with the drinks. Job of the host and all that.”



 



Smiling, Manx sat, and looking up at Yohji she patted his cheek. “you rogue, one day of good behavior does not a year of scamp erase.” She laughed at Yohji’s mock pout. “I’ll put in a good word for you, but don’t be too surprised if Santa doesn’t buy it”



 



“hmph!” Yohji grumbled, then impishly reached out and ruffled her hair. “Yohji!” she squealed. “That’s what I’m talking about.”  He grinned, the bent and kissed her hand with a flourish fit for any courtier and turned to the tables.



 



“drinks anyone?”  he asked with a twinkling eye, and turned to the cart Manx had brought in and placed between the two tables. As each person called out their preference, Yohji poured and Yuushi served. Ran carved the turkey and Jei the ham and platters and bowls were passed around to all.



 



Finally everyone was seated, apart from Ran and Yohji. Silence fell into the pause as the guests realized neither had made a move to sit. Smiling for a moment at Ran with a warmth that brought a flush to his cheeks, Yohji tilted his head to give Ran the go ahead to speak first.



 



Ran turned to the group. His family. Unconsciously, he reached for Aya’s hand, then cleared his throat. “Thank you all, for coming today. You don’t know what this means to us, really.” He took a breath and glanced around the tables. Many here knew already, what a holiday like this would mean to him and Aya, but perhaps some did not. “Aya and I never actually celebrated holidays, any holidays, from the time of our mother’s passing.” He glanced down at her,  her eyes shining full of love as she smiled at him, and found his voice to continue. “which makes this – all of this – so much more than you can know.”



 



Looking to Yohji and holding his gaze Ran went on. “Finding Yohji again was a blessing I never, ever, expected would happen. And being accepted into this family, was something I’d never even hoped for, much less believed was possible. But, over this last year, you have all come to mean so much, to both of us. Accepting us into your family, sharing traditions, and plans….. Aya and I have a tradition, that we made for ourselves, to …. Not celebrate, there was little or no celebration, but to…. Recognise, the holiday of Thanksgiving,”



 



He stopped, looked sheepish, or… boyishly worried, like a child who’d found a wonderful frog or lizard and wanted so badly to keep it, but knew he’d have to face a mother who very likely would be dancing on a chair in fright rather than finding him a box…. “I know it’s going to sound….trite, or foolish,” he looked down at Aya then, took a breath, “But, well, it’s our tradition. And, since we’re together, and you’re all here, I told Aya I’d…..”



 



“Ran.” A solemn, calm voice spoke up and all eyes turned to Jei. Lookng at Ran, not condescending, or scoffing, Jei went on. “Some of us also came from a home life that was not pleasant. One where we wished and wished we had some silly traditions. It’s fine. We are your family, and we won’t laugh or ridicule, or make light of you or Aya. What is it?”



 



Yohji smiled. “Told ya Angel. It’s fine.” He turned to the group and raised his wine in toast. “Thanks guys, really, for everything. Go on Babe. Finish the speech and we’ll dig in while they’re all thinking.”  He sat and turned his gaze up to Ran, smiling.



 



Ran looked to Yohji, then Jei, and Schuldig, and finally to Aya. With a tiny smile he shook his head. “Well. It’s Thanksgiving. So, we … found things to be thankful for. Just like the silly junk you see in the movies, or like you had to do in grade school, only…. With a twist. Not just, making a list of things that you’re thankful for, though we did that too, it was a game we played, and I challenge you all to do so as well.



 



After we’re done here, we’ll each write out five things you’re thankful for. Then, we’ll read them off. But, if someone else has the same thing on their list, it cancels out. Whoever has the most left once all the lists are read, wins. It can get, inventive,” He gave Aya a wry smile, “you wouldn’t believe some of the things we came up wih in trying to find things the other wouldn’t.” he shook his head, then looked back up,



 



“But, aside from the game, thanking each other, specifically, for something that you’re thankful for, in them. And not just general, silly stuff….. With Aya and I, it was just us. Persia obviously gave no one cause for gratitude, and there was no on else, so we could get rather…. Creative, sometimes silly, sometimes, sentimental. But, here, we have all touched each others’ lives. Think of one thing each person here has done for you to be grateful to them for, and before the end of the day, say Thank You.”



 



He then turned his gaze, surprisingly, to Yuushi. “Yuushi. I would like to say my Thank you now, to you.” Yuushi sat, somewhat stunned, as Ran went on. “In that time that Yohji and I were apart, you were his friend, his sounding board, I understand, even more than Jei or Schu. Given their, understandable, prejudice in the situation, you had to listen to a lot of things I am sure at first you didn’t understand, and perhaps had no desire to puzzle out. Yet you supported Yohjo enough to send him back to me. Something I am not certain Jei or Schu would have done. Nor I, for that matter, had I been in either of their place. And despite all you heard, and listened to, about me and the” he swallowed, “the pain I caused Yohji, you gave us a chance. And you have never treated me with any disdain, or any of the censure I deserved. You are a man of honor Yuushi, and I am thankful I can call you friend.” He held a steady gaze with Yuushi for a moment more, then sat down in the quiet.



 



As he sat, Yohji stood. “So. You’ve food for the mind to keep you busy while you stuff your faces with food for the body. Think about your thank  yous, and your lists, and dig in!” He grinned, then sat down and tore into his baked potato.



 



After a moment, each began to eat, and conversation gradually picked up, until it was once again a lively Thanksgiving dinner table, suddenly and loudly made more rowdy by Ken’s despairing cry of “NO! Come on guys, don’t let them score again! Arrgh! Damn Cowboys!” Ken was hanging slightly off the left side of his chair following the game in the other room, then tumbling from the chair to the floor when he’d lunged in despair as Dallas scored another touchdown. Everyone laughed as Ken turned beet red and righted his chair.



 



Sitting back at the table he turned a sheepish glance to Jei who watched with a shaking head. Jei watched him for a moment, an unreadable look in his eye. Jei leaned in closer, and quietly spoke. “I want to give you one of my many, many Thank Yous Ken.” He kissed Ken briefly, then went on, “Thank you Ken, for laughter and joy. Not cynical laughter, or amused laughter, but joyous laughter. Thanks Tiger, for being you and making  me happier than I ever dreamed I could be.” He wrapped a hand around the back of Ken’s neck and pulled him in for a soft, sweet kiss.



 



Ken just watched Jei with wide eyes and a smile so big it was a wonder his face didn’t split. Awestruck, unable to think or speak, his love and amazement were openly displayed for all.



 



The lists were exchanged that evening over coffee and pie. Somewhat startling to all it came to a tie between Brad and Aya, with off the wall topics like:”the extremely soft hotel bed and sunken bath from the hotel last night” and  “no earthquakes in California the last three months,” and “the wonderful invention of the webcam,” [which for some reason caused Schuldig to blush a deep scarlet] and “the greed and lasciviousness of the excessively weathy resulting in my latest architectural design commission” bringing laughter from all.



 



The rest of the day and evening were spent discussing plans for the coming January union ceremony of Brad and Schudling (Schu flatly refused to call it a wedding, giving no fuel to the “who’s the bride?” line of questioning), and scanning the internet for a nearby condo for Aya.



 



 



Following just over an hour of lousy ads and lackluster condos and apartments no one was really surprised when Manx made the offer to have Aya room with her. Manx and Aya had bonded rather closely over the past few months, exchanging email and texts regularly.



 



Manx had a three bedroom condo, less than two miles from Ran and Yohji, where she lived alone, and assured Aya she was more than glad to take in a roomate who enjoyed cooking and understood her crazy schedule with WEISS. (not to mention another on her side when convincing them about needed press conferences or appearances that they didn’t especially want to make)



 



It was a suggestion that was well received by all, and plans were made for shopping with Aya for furniture and sundry items over the coming weeks. The following Friday being “Black Friday” and a completely legitimate excuse for shopping, the girls were up and away early, dragging a floored Schuldig and Brad along to “register” for their own apartment.



 



Friday evening, exhausted but happy, they all gathered around enjoying the last of the pies as various Thank yous were exchanged. Some werer suprising in sincerety and meaning, some were lighter, and some even a bit risque. Not surprisingly, these were from Schuldig to Brad and Yohji to Ran, sparking an impromptu contest for who could outdo the other for outrageous thanks until Ran had enough and, flinging a sputtering Yohji over his shoulder made his way to the bedroom with a barked, “Good night” softened by the predatory smile he threw back into the shocked faces  as he shut the door (No longer paper now, but corrougated, sound muted cardboard).



 



It was truly a Thanksgiving weekend to remember by all.



 



 



 



 



 



 



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