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Ten Years and Beyond

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The sound of footsteps didn't register in Ryo's brain at first. He hadn't heard them in so long that he ignored the sound as a figment of his imagination, as he stood in the kitchen, trying to figure out the best way to store this year's harvest. The squeak from the garden gate couldn't be ignored, though, and he stiffened as he realized someone was coming into his garden. Oh god.The vegetables.

The omega snuck up behind the curtain and peaked out, having to stifle a gasp when he saw an alpha standing there, looking at his garden. Dread filled his veins with ice. If the alpha decided to steal his vegetables, he would be done for. It was too late in the season to grow new ones, and he didn't have enough seeds anyway, needing these plants to give him new seeds for next year. The shock made him move a bit behind the curtain, and the alpha seemed to notice, looking around to see if anyone was around, but giving up when he didn't spot anyone.

As the alpha walked up to his zucchini plants and looked underneath, Ryo was about to have a heart attack. This was it, he was going to die of starvation. But to his amazement, the alpha didn't take any of the ripe vegetables, he just stood up and looked around him before he turned and walked away. The creak of the gate shook Ryo out of his frozen pose, and he could feel how his body started shaking violently as the adrenaline rushed through him. Who the hell was that alpha? He would have to check this out further, make sure the other wouldn't come back with company and steal it all.

It took him hours to gather up the courage to go look for the intruder. First, he harvested some of the vegetables and stuffed it into bags, making sure he had as much as he could carry in case the alpha would come back and try to take it all. He hid the bags in a nearby garden before he went out on his search.

It wasn't far. The horse and cart was hard to miss, and the alpha keeping watch was as well. Anyone would be to Ryo of course, considering how long it had been since he saw anyone at all. But this alpha... Ryo found himself equal parts terrified and curious. The alpha was good looking, but in that rugged way that made the omega think that he probably didn't know it himself. And he had left Ryo's food alone.

Was there anyone else there? It was hard to tell, but it was unlikely that the alpha was alone in guarding the horse 24 hours a day. When the alpha saw him and called out to him, the words meant nothing at first. They were just noises, and he felt an unease creeping over him. It had been too long since he saw people. Couldn't he speak anymore? Or even understand others? He swallowed and backed away into the mist to calm down.

By the time Ryo had made sense of the words in his head, he felt ashamed. The alpha had said nice things, but he hadn't even understood simple words at first. How stupid hadn't he become since Nii disappeared? Still, he couldn't help being intrigued. The alpha hadn't been threatening. Of course, that could change, but just seeing other people again... It awoke a longing in his chest that he didn't know he had. And that alpha had unlocked something inside by showing up and actually being kind.

Maybe he should take another look? Just a quick look.

And so he went back. The same alpha stood there, and he started talking to Ryo when he saw him. The omega had to struggle to keep up, but after a few minutes, it was easier. After a long while, he stepped closer, only to be startled by the appearance of another alpha. He felt a shriek make its way out of his mouth, and he wondered where his voice came from. It hasn't been used in so long that it echoed through his head and made him dizzy, and he had to stop and steady himself at the corner of the street. To his surprise, no one had followed him. Instead, they started making a fire and pulled out some food from the cart. The scent from the frying pan was heavenly, and it made Ryo's mouth water. Maybe there was some truth to what the alpha had talked about? The parts that he understood, that was.

And then, to his utter shock, the alpha came closer and offered him a plate, leaving enough space for him to get it without capture. Was it a trap? Ryo watched the alpha carefully, looking for signs of someone trying to grab him, or poison him. No one did, and for some reason, he felt that the alpha could be trusted. He carefully moved up and took the plate, feeling his stomach growl at the scent. It was gone in three seconds, and so was the tea he was offered next.

However, when the alpha started talking about a home that he wanted Ryo to come with him to, he got suspicious again. Who would offer food and protection to a stranger? Something was up. Was he after the vegetables after all? He fought with his body, willing it to work, as he spoke for the first time in years.

"My food," he managed to get out, catching the alpha's - Asanao's? - attention. But instead of saying they would take it, or make a move against the omega, the alpha left the choice up to him. He gave it a few more tries, but when Ryo wouldn't budge or even answer, he gave up. He gave the omega a map, and with a final "I hope you change your mind," the alphas and their cart left.

Ryo stood there, looking after them for a long, long time. He didn't trust them, no. Of course not. But what Asanao had offered sounded so wonderful, and the ache in his chest was back as soon as he was alone again. It got worse and worse, to the point where he thought he would pass out from the pain of his heart. He couldn't be alone anymore. Not if there was another option, he just couldn't. And the alpha had seemed so honest and strong. Maybe he really would be able to protect and save Ryo?

And so, finally, he made his decision. The bags already packed, he grabbed them and started walking.

. . . . .

Asanao was thinking. Reo and Kaoru had asked for his input on some new tools and the alpha wanted to be thorough. It wasn't like they could spend too much time on trial and error nowadays, so they had better get it right straight away. So he furrowed his brows and pondered the problem from every angle.

At the other side of the room, Ryo but his lip. With every hour that passed, he got more and more nervous. He had tried talking to his alpha, but Asanao just hummed absentmindedly with a frown and a faraway look in his eyes. Was he getting tired of Ryo? They had been together for almost two months now, but the omega was still insecure. After all, Asanao had dithered for ages before he decided to go for it. Maybe he was thinking it was a mistake? Wanted to take it back maybe? Ryo whimpered quietly to himself, hugging his legs and hiding his face where he sat on the bed.

"Ryo? What's wrong?" The bed suddenly dipped next to him, and a warm arm snaked around his waist. "Are you ok?"

The omega blinked and nodded uncertainty. "If... you ok?" he mumbled.

Asanao looked baffled. "Me? Why... Oh." A sudden guilty expression stole over his face. "I'm sorry, I was just thinking about a problem Reo gave me for input. I'm sorry I ignored you." He reached out and caressed his boyfriend's cheek. "You dont have to be nervous baby. I'm staying by your side."

Ryo whimpered again, but for a different reason, and he hugged his alpha tightly. Maybe he needed to trust in this more. After all, Asanao was nothing but trustworthy. And maybe, just maybe, he could dare let himself believe.

. . . . .

Ryo was excited. It was Christmas Day tomorrow, and since last Christmas had been so amazing in every way, he knew he couldn't expect the same again. But still, Christmas on the island was a treat no matter what. Asanao chuckled at his boyfriend when the omega crawled into bed, a huge smile on his face as he snuggled down against his alpha.

He woke up the next morning to the smell of tea and something else he couldn't quite identify. He slowly stretched before he opened his eyes, the smile making his face soft.

"Wake up, baby." Asanao's whisper in his ear surprised him, and he opened his eyes to find his lover looking at him intently.

"Mmm... Morning," the omega mumbled, receiving a loving smile from the alpha as he pulled back and set down a tray on the bed next to Ryo. On it was the cup of tea he had smelled, but also something Ryo thought he would never see again; a cookie.

"Happy anniversary, baby," Asanao smiled. "Kai baked these for tonight as a surprise for dessert, so you can't tell anyone yet, but he slipped me one on the sly for our anniversary."

Ryo stared at the cookie, and then at his lover, before he suddenly gave off a loud squeak of joy. He leaned over and hugged his alpha tightly, before he looked down on the tray with glittering eyes. Not only did Asanao remember their first anniversary, but he had gotten him something extra to celebrate. It was enough to make Ryo's day, and it hadn't even started yet. 

"Share!" he stated firmly, and reached for the cookie, breaking it into two equal parts and handing one to Asanao. Before he took the first bite, however, he leaned over and gave the alpha a big kiss.

"Love you," he said affectionately, before he reverently put the piece of cookie in his mouth.

This Christmas would be even better than the last.

. . . . .

Asanao was lying on the bed, reading. They had just picked up some new novels and he was keen to read something just for his enjoyment again. He had only gotten maybe ten pages in when a small body suddenly appeared next to him, wriggling into the crook of his arm. A soft head of hair nestled itself onto his shoulder, and dark eyes settled on the page he was reading. The alpha stared down at his lover in surprise, but it appeared Ryo was reading the page, ignoring him. So, with a small smile, Asanao went back to reading his book, enjoying the warmth of his boyfriend against his side and chest.

A soft hum from Ryo made him glance down, but the omega didn't look at him, just let his eyes wander a bit as if he had stopped reading. Experimentally, Asanao turned a leaf, and the omega's eyes fixed on the page again. Chuckling to himself, the alpha resumed his own reading. As he was nearing the end of the page, another soft hum let him know Ryo was done, and two sentences later, the alpha turned the page.

They continued like that all evening, reading the book together while enjoying the closeness. Fortunately, they seemed to be roughly equal in speed of reading, and sometimes Asanao was done sooner and waited for the hum, sometimes Ryo gave a soft hum when the alpha still had a few rows left to read. But they made do, and Asanao reveled in the feeling of being so close. When Ryo's hums were getting slower and sleepier, he reached for a bookmark and put the book on the side table, content to snuggle down with his boyfriend instead.

"We'll continue tomorrow night," he whispered, pressing a kiss to the omega's forehead and smiling at the soft snore he got in answer.

. . . . .

They woke up on Valentine's Day to snow. A lot of it. Now that Ryo knew he would be warm during this weather, he came to love it. Everything looked like a beautiful fairy tale.

Asanao was extra snuggly. "We need to be super warm," he argued at Ryo's huff. After breakfast, Asanao and the other alphas went out to shovel various pathways. Ryo went upstairs to the library with a bunch of other omegas, snuggling up to Yutaka. He always did when he missed his ada. Koichi had been standing at the window while his boys slept, no doubt watching Hazuki work. A small grin flit about his lips before he called out.

"Hey Ryo. You better come look at your alpha."

Ryo exchanged curious glances with Yutaka, and both got up to join Koichi at the window. What Ryo saw made his hands fly up to his mouth and tears spring to his eyes. ASANAO LOVES RYO was written in giant letters in the snow, right where the omega was sure to see it.

Yutaka snorted. "What a sap."

. . . . .

Asanao couldn't stop looking at his boyfriend's sleeping face. He really should be sleeping as well, he was dead tired already and they were still only halfway through Ryo's heat. But something about the peaceful look on his lover's features as he slept, finally, was so beautiful that Asanao couldn't look away. Ryo was gorgeous all the time, and nothing was more arousing than his expression of bliss when they had sex, and nothing made the alpha want to please him more than the whine, frown and pout when Ryo woke up to an urgent sense of need. But right now, sated, happy, relaxed in the depths of sleep, he was so beautiful it nearly broke Asanao's heart. And so he continued looking, as the minutes passed until the next time his boyfriend would wake up and reach for him.

But right now, everything was just perfect the way it was.

. . . . .

It was finally warm again. Spring has arrived, bringing warm weather and rain. Today had been stormy, driving the islanders indoors, either in the big house or their cabins. Ryo and Asanao stayed in their cabin, just enjoying the quiet of being together. Ryo adored the library, and was currently reading a rather thick novel at their table. Asanao had kept him steady supplied with tea all day. Now the alpha sat in the doorway, back against the frame as he watched the rain. A strong clap of thunder sounded, startling the omega. He closed his book, and padded over. Asanao smiled at him, reaching up to tug his boyfriend into his lap. Ryo took a long drag of his alpha's comforting scent. Asanao wrapped his arms tightly around the small frame. "Ryo," he said softly. "I love you."

Ryo nearly burst with happiness. He grinned widely at Asanao, gripping his shirt, as he took several deep breaths. He wanted to get this right. "I love you too, Asanao." Asanao smiled lazily, and leaned over to kiss Ryo tenderly before they went back to watching the rain.

. . . . .

Another year, another Christmas. When Asanao counted backwards, he was slightly shocked to realize this was their tenth Christmas together. He watched his boyfriend laughing and dancing with Hiroto, his eyes shining and his cheeks glowing from smiling all day. The years had not done anything to diminish Ryo's love for Christmas, and he was so happy that Asanao could swear his face would split in two if he smiled any wider. 

Another thing the years hadn't lessened was his boyfriend's close friendship with Hiroto, and the alpha watched as the now slightly awkward teenager swung around the dance floor with Ryo, both of them giggling hysterically. Asanao felt his heart swell in his chest at the sight, and with it came a sudden urge to feel just how much Ryo loved Christmas. 

The thought had occurred to him before of course, but this time, it was so overwhelming that he couldn't leave the thought be. And so he decided it was time. It was now or never. The Big Question.

When they were back in their cabin, snuggled down in bed together, hands and lips wandering, he almost lost his nerve. But no, he would do this. He really would. Ryo noticed his hesitation and pulled back, looking a little worried at his alpha's pensive mood, but he waited patiently while Asanao gathered up the courage to talk to him.

"Ryo? Baby? Would you... only of you want to of course... and I know it's ridiculously late to ask this but... would you... Do you want to be my mate?"

It was silly to even think he needed to wait for an answer. Ryo pounced him, crushing his lips against his boyfriend's, his whole being screaming YES without a single word being uttered.

And so, that was the night that Asanao got to find out just how much love and happiness there was room for in his lover's heart.