"There were a couple of boxes with some books and my old work, but I didn't want to impose too much as a guest here and they were too heavy to have carried," I replied as I shifted the bag on my shoulder. In truth, even the two bags I did bring were incredibly heavy for me to have brought on the subway here. I'd never had any kind of strength on my slender frame which caused a lot of things to be heavier to me than to others.
"Are the boxes marked? I could have someone bring them over for you." I knew he was going to offer that. The fact of the matter was, Sanji had been trying to get me to come live with him for the last two years. Every few weeks for the last three years, he'd start stopping by nightly to check up on me. Gradually, those visits grew longer and longer as if he knew the secret that I had been keeping.
"It's okay, Sanji-san. You don't need to go out of your way for me." There it was again. That look in his blue eyes like he really wanted to scold me for being so obstinate, but as usual it quickly changed back to that overpowering smile.
"Let me show you to your room so you can get settled in," he said, leading the way down the only hall in the huge condo. The room he led me to was all the way at the end of the hall, in fact, the very last room. It was large and spacious and he had already had it furnished. There was a large bed, too big for just one person, a nightstand and dresser, but he had also gotten a television, radio and even put an easel in the corner. I had a feeling the easel was a hint, but in truth I hadn't picked up one of my brushes in over half a year.
"You went out of your way again, Sanji-san." I felt the warmth of a blush rise to my cheeks as his hand touched my head. "I'm just a guest here, you didn't have to go to all this trouble for me." Suddenly, I was beginning to think living under the same roof as the man I've had a crush on for so long now. Even the slight friendly touch of his hand was making my heart race and my breathing hard to control.
"You aren't merely a guest, Kaoru-kun. For the next four years, this will be your home. I want you to be able to relax here." His voice was soft and soothing, just like always. I knew he was smiling at me those gentle eyes, but I couldn't bring myself to look up at him, knowing full well how red my face must be at the moment. "I'll leave you to get settled in. When you're done, please come see me in the studio to discuss the working side of this relationship."
"Okay, Sanji-san," I replied and stepped fully into the room. Behind me, Sanji shut the door softly and a heavy sigh escaped my lips. I had figured that being so close to him was going to be difficult, but I had not imagined that it was going to be this hard and I had to wonder if I had the nerves to be able to do this for the next four years. I shook my head to clear away my thoughts and opened up my bags to unpack. As I went to put my clothes away, I found other clothes already within the drawers of the dresser and hanging in the closet. I pulled them out to figure out what was going on and noticed that they were all my size and even the tags still remained on most of them. "Damn that Sanji-san. He really intends to take care of me." Even though I was fussing, I was still extremely happy. It had been quite a long time since I had felt the warmth of being cared for. Sanji had offered it many times before, but my pride kept me from letting him know the truth.
I finally finished putting everything away and headed back toward the main part of the house. My feet froze in place as I entered the main living area. The room was huge, taking up at least half of the total square footage of the condo. It was brightly lit from the skylight windows as well as the wall of windows that faced into the back yard. Off to one side of the living room was the large open kitched area and opposite from it and up higher I could make out the opening to what appeared to be a large open loft like area.
"Are you looking for the studio, Touya-sama?" a deep older voice asked behind me. Surprised, I whipped around to face that voice as I clutched my chest to slow my pounding heart. Before me stood a tall older man with greying hair and smiling eyes, wearing what I could only guess to be a butler's uniform. "Ah, forgive me for startling you, Touya-sama. I am Tamaya, Kanda-sama's butler. If you need anything, please just ask me. Oh and, the stairs to the studio are right over there," he said pointing to an obscured staircase.
"Ah, thank you, Tamaya-san," I said quickly heading over to the stairs to meet with Sanji. I slowly stepped into the studio from the staircase, my eyes roaming over the space that he used to do his work. He had a large overstuffed couch along one wall, as well as a corner full of pillows, besides the normal cabinets full of paints, brushes and trays. Lined up behind him against the far wall were several paintings, most covered up but a few were still uncovered, and quite a few scrolls tagged with information so they wouldn't have to be unrolled.
"All settled in, Kaoru-kun?" Sanji asked, sitting on a stool behind his easel. He dropped the paint brush he had been holding into a jar of water and set his paint tray down on the small table beside him.
"I've unpacked, yes, though settling in may take awhile longer." Sanji simply nodded and smiled at me as he gestured for me to sit on a stool near him.
"About you earning your keep, as you put it. I have two conditions that I'm going to ask you to adhere to. First of all, you must maintain at least a B average, though I would prefer an A. If you start having trouble, let me know and I'll help you find a tutor." I chewed my lip for a moment, thinking that I might have a few troubles if I had issues with my health like I did my senior year of high school.
"I suppose that I can handle that and keep my part time job at old man Harry's bar," I replied looking at the floor as I thought about how I was going to get they studying done.
"Ah, that brings me to the second condition. From now on, your part time job is as my model. I've already talked to Harry about it and although he was disappointed he wouldn't get to see you much anymore, he felt that this was a good choice for you." The words took me by surprise and I looked up at him. His face showed that he was completely serious about this particular condition and that there was no room for negotiation.
"Me? Model?" I asked, my voice cracking a bit in my confusion.
"Yes. I get alot of specific requests and I often use live models to help me create the image the customer desires. Your face is absolutely perfect and that frame can wear anything, so I think you will work out quite well. But I'd like to know just how much I can use you for." I was in too much shock to speak and could only stare wide-eyed at him. "If you would be so kind as to undress, I would really like to see what I am working with."
"Undress?!" I asked, panic sweeping through me. I still had quite a few secrets that Sanji didn't know and I didn't want him to know, but my body held evidence that would make him ask the questions I didn't want to answer.
"Nervous? Well, I suppose I can understand since you practically lived by yourself the last few years. There's a screen over there you can undress behind for now." In the corner behind me was oriental style free standing screen. It was really pretty with it dark wood frame and what appeared to be Japanese sakura branches in full bloom painted on the screens themselves. I couldn't help but think that the elegant beauty of it suited Sanji's personality and style really well.
I got up slowly and walked over to it, running my hands over my pockets to be sure I still had my magic liquid with me. I knew that Sanji probably believed that my skin should be virtually flawless but because of a prior incident, I had a scar that ran from my ribs to my hip bone. I was lucky though, since I had idolized my mother when I was younger, I had followed her everywhere and learned the trick to minimizing and hiding scars. Since I had gotten the scar, I had always carried around a small bottle of concealer just in case I had to take my shirt off for any reason. I never wanted to have to explain to anyone how I got such a nasty scar. As I undressed, I quickly spread the concealer over the scar that I had spent months and years trying to minimize the appearance of. Finally, I stepped out from behind the screen, arms cross in from of me over my stomach and my eyes lowered nervously.
"I was beginning to wonder if you were ever going to come out from back tehre," Sanji said as he stood up. Once more, my heart began to race as his fingers lightly ran over my exposed skin. I could feel his eyes as the roamed my body and could hear cogs going round inside his head as he absorbed whatever information he had been looking for. "Absolutely perfect. Not only can I use you fully dressed, I can use you naked as well. Not to mention with the smoothness of your skin and soft curves, you could aslo pose as a female model."
"Female model? But wouldn't I be lacking something important for that?" I asked, blushing deeply from embarrassment. I'd always known that my frame lacked in masculinity, but to have in compared to a female's body was extremely hard to accept without blushing.
"Ah I take it you mean breasts? Well, my work is usually provacative but its clean. And I've had enough women that my imagination can fill in those parts. Put your pants back on, I want to do some sample sketches." My heart was sinking as I walked over and retrieved my pants. I had never known what kind of lovers Sanji had had, but with his looks I had assumed he was likely popular with both sexes. I suppose it's probably better this way. At least I won't have any hopes or expectations of anything more than just as his roommate and model. "Okay, Kaoru-kun. Let's start with a frontal sketch. Here, lean against the wall and..." I stopped listening and just let him position my body where he wanted it. "You don't smile much, do you?" he suddenly asked, bringing my back from my negative thoughts.
"I don't suppose I do," I replied, keeping my eyes turned away from him. I didn't want him to see how close to tears I was as it completely sunk in that my feelings were likely to remain unrequited.
"It's okay. The sullen look is still quite attractive. Leaves an air of mystery behind as people wonder what could make such a pretty boy so sad," he said smiling softly. "Alright, don't move and keep your eyes locked on me." Ah to be able to freely stare at his gorgeous face was both wonderful and torturous. To me, his looks were the most bewitching of any man I'd ever known. Since the time I realized that I was in love him, I'd refused all other potential lovers only wanting to be with him. As the next two hours, I only thought about Sanji as he continued to do his sketches, repositioning my body in between each.
"Kanda-sama, dinner is served," Tamaya said standing at the entrance to the studio.
"Is it that time already? Okay, we'll be down in just a minute. Kaoru-kun, you can put your shirt back on we'll head down for a bite to eat."I noddded and got up from the position I had been in for the last half hour. As I shrugged my shirt back on, I watched as Sanji flipped through the sketches he had done, his eyes scanning and examining each sheet carefully. "Kaoru-kun, your face holds such beautiful expressions. I almost couldn't tear my eyes away from your face because of them. But we'll talk about it more over dinner. I'm sure you must be hungry by now."
I didn't say anything in response to his comments. I'm sure my face was expressive as it probably reflected how much I was thinking about the secrets that I was keeping from him as well as how beautiful he looked when he was concentrating on his drawing. Despite not really being hungry either, I followed him downstairs and over to the a table with a delicious looking meal spread on it. My eyes widened a bit at the sight since it had been quite some time since I'd had a home cooked meal that I hadn't made myself. I took a seat across from him, laying my hands in my lap as my eyes kept drifting to the sketches just off to the right of Sanji's hand. I was curious to see what these expressions that he had captured had looked like.
"Something wrong, Kaoru-kun?" he asked, apparently noticing that I was rather distracted.
"Ah, no, Sanji-san. I was just thinking it had been years since I have had a home cooked meal. I don't suppose instant noodles really counts as home cooking," I replied absent mindedly, still thinking about the sketches.
"Years?" Sanji asked curiously. The question snapped me back to what was going on and I began to squirm nervously.
"Did I say years? Hehe. I meant weeks! Cause, you know, my mom has only been gone a couple of weeks this time," I stammered unable to look him in the eye.
"Kaoru!" I turned my eyes to him at the use of my first name, surprise completely evident amongst the guilt in my current expression. "Stop lying to me already!" He said, slamming his hands on the table as he abruptly stood. "I've known for a very long time that you were lying to me, but this is the first time you've ever slipped up and gave me reason to doubt you. So please, stop lying to me now." I sat there, staring at him, completely dumbfounded by his words and actions.
"Sanji-san?" the words tumbled from my lips as the tears welled up in my eyes. I had had the feeling that he had seen through my pathetic lies all along, but instead of pressuring me for the truth he had chosen to keep checking on me. He moved around the table and I felt his arms wrap about me as he embraced me with his calming warmth.
"I want to know what happened to cause such a rift between you and you mother. She loved you so much that it's hard for me to believe that she would have left you all alone for so long," he whispered as he continued to hold me tightly. Part of me really wanted to tell him everything, wanted to get everything off my chest and start fresh and clean as I entered college. But some of the things that I've hidden from him and everyone else who meant anything to me were so horrible I was afraid of them looking at me differently. I took a deep breath, hoping that telling him why my mother abandoned me wouldn't completely disgust him.
"During my last year of junior high, she walked in on me having sex," I murmured. My voice was shaking so badly I couldn't get it about of a whisper which made me slightly glad Sanji was so close, so I wouldn't have to repeat myself. "Silly, right? And it probably would have all blown over, but I was with my best friend, another guy. She flipped out on us and left. I haven't heard from her since then." For the first time I actually felt tension in Sanji's touch and I could only imagine the shocked look on his face at finding out I was gay. All I could think of at that was that I was going to be betrayed and abandoned yet again.
"Why didn't you tell me this sooner, Kaoru? Why did you make yourself suffer alone for so long?" he asked pulling back and raising my face so that our eyes could meet.
"I was afraid, Sanji-san. I was so happy when you would come to check up on me and even though you kept making the offers, I thought even you would abandon me because I was gay," I whispered, knowing my words were probably quite hurtful.
"Why would you think that?" he asked, gently brushing the tears from my cheek.
"The only other two people I trusted either abandoned me or betrayed me. My mother abandoned me because I was gay, and my best friend betrayed me to clear his own name. You were the last person I could trust and I was afraid that even you..." My voice trailed off as the memories and feelings of three years ago came flooding back.
"Kaoru, I would never have done anything to hurt you. Tell me what happened to the Kaoru I used to know, the one who was always smiling and couldn't wait to show me what he had drawn or painted that week. You were always the type who moved forward with a smile despite the problems you faced, so I can't imagine that just your mother disappearing would have stolen your smile. Please, Kaoru, tell me." His voice was soft and soothing, but behind it was a nervous sound, something like a pleading tone. My mouth start to move, started to spill all the secrets I had kept hidden, but my voice wouldn't come out.
"I'm sorry, Sanji-san," I mumbled and stood up, turning away from his caring face. "I'm not sure I am ready for that yet. I don't think I have the strength to face those skeletons right now." With that I walked back to my room, turning on the thumping music of my favourite CD. I went over to the dresser and got a bottle of pills from the top drawer. One of the secrets I was keeping from Sanji were these pills and why I needed them. I almost dropped the bottle as the shakes in my hands was suddenly uncontrollable after having forced it down for the last ten minutes. I swallowed one of them and put the bottle back before flopping down on the bed and closing my eyes tightly. I had always sort of understood why my best friend had betrayed me. He didn't want to be labelled as a homosexual at such a difficult time in our lives. "But why did he have to be the one to almost kill me?"