On When the Clouds Came Back
When Mizuki Hirasawa stepped off the bus, the first thing he noticed was that the weather was unseasonably cool, blustery even, for mid-June. The second thing he noticed was that Hiro was late. Again.
He'd spent the better part of the morning getting ready for their date - Hiro had recently gotten a promotion and as a result had promised to take Mizuki window shopping and to dinner at a mall in Shibuya. Much primping, brushing, tweezing, and making faces in the mirror had been involved, but most of the morning had been spent as trying to decide what to wear. He tried on all manner of sundresses, skirts, slacks, and blouses, but eventually just gave up. For as much as it fulfilled him deeply and made him feel comfortable in his own body to dress in clothes uncharacteristic of his sex, today he just couldn't find something special.
And so, he shivered a little, dangerously under-dressed in what he'd finally decided on: a thick cotton tank top and a pair of running slacks. He glanced around a couple times before diverting his gaze down to his watch. It was 4:38 pm, and even as the breeze wound through nearby traffic and alleys, the early summer sun beamed down, casting long shadows and warming the German Shepherd's tan and brown fur. He leaned against the enclosure, staring down the street and watching the cars come and go; before long a green and yellow taxi pulled up at the stop and let out a familiar figure - a black tricolor Australian Shepherd with broad shoulders and a neat suit. Hiro had arrived.
He jogged over to where Mizu was waiting, whom had playfully turned up his snout and was pretending not to notice the other, particularly enjoying the radiant warmth of the sun as it caressed his face. "Hey you! Sorry I'm late, I got held over at the meeting and the driver got lost, I..." he trailed off. Mizu's eyebrows had arched, but his eyes were still closed, doing his absolute best to seem unimpressed. "Mizuki, please, I know I promised. I'm sorry, it's my fault." Mizuki opened one crystal blue eye, casting a coy look in Hiro's direction. "You're buying dinner." Hiro sighed. "I'm buying everything." Mizu's facade cracked immediately, youthful grin curling his maw in an instant. "I suppose it can't be helped, then." He leaned forward off of the stop enclosure and turned, leading down the sidewalk, forcing Hiro to catch up. Once they were astride, Mizu had gone back to seemingly ignoring the other, staring dead ahead down the street towards the mall they'd arranged to spend the evening together at. Hiro looked over at Mizu concernedly, and after a second or two, Mizu looked back without turning his head. Mizu swung his hips left, then right, bumping against the other dog's, who returned the gesture, and they shared some giggling. Mizu took Hiro's arm in both of his and sighed. He was very much in love.
Before long they were among the weekend crowd, in and out of shops and very much enjoying some retail therapy. Mizu spent most of his time in clothing shops, holding up dresses, skirts, and blouses for Hiro to weigh in on, and Hiro spent most of his looking over gadgets, knick-knacks, and other merchandise. At least once, the pair found themselves lip-locked and grasping at each other in a dressing room for an unhealthy amount of time. By 6, the crowd has reached its peak, and the pair could barely maneuver through the concourses. They settled onto a bench to rest (and steal a smooch or two from each other) when their stomachs began to grumble and the pair decided it was about time to settle in to eat.
They dove back into the fray and some struggling later they found themselves in a darkened steakhouse in the southern portion of the mall, the roar of the crowds outside but a mere whisper intertwined within the soft piano music which pattered down from the overhead speakers. The host cast a disapproving look at Mizuki and his state of dress and the twin bulging shopping bags he was carrying. Mizuki didn't notice. "The present wait for a party of two is about 90 minutes," the opossum remarked dryly over the podium. Hiro leaned in, and after a moment of fishing in an inner suit pocket, he slipped a 10,000 yen note across. "We have a reservation." The host nodded and smoothly tucked the note into his pocket. "Of course, how silly of me. We have a booth ready for you, right this way."
Some time later the pair shared quiet conversation over their food; Mizu noshing on miso salmon while Hiro instead elected for grilled rib-eye steak. After a pause, Mizu spoke. "I thought over what you talked about last week, but... I just can't stand it anymore." Hiro was immediately concerned as the German Shepherd continued to speak, his tone uncharacteristically morose and hushed. "It doesn't feel right. Inspector Himura says I'm one of the best in the prefecture, but every day I'm less satisfied." Hiro mused over a mouthful of steak before speaking. "I want you to be happy, but... it really seems like you're throwing away a really good thing here. You can't stick it out a little longer?" Hiro's pager took that exact moment to go off; Mizu, whom had been steeling himself to say something difficult, visibly jumped while Hiro unclipped and checked it. "Work again?" Hiro took a moment before nodding slowly. "Hmmmmyeah. I need to take this, can you excuse me for a minute?" Mizu sighed wearily. "Yeah, I have to go to the bathroom anyway."
They both left the booth, Hiro heading for the payphones near the entrance and Mizu heading to the restrooms. Hiro unhooked the payphone, slid his phone card in, and, after glancing back down at the pager, dialed. It rang twice before the line clicked open. He glanced over his shoulder, and anyone paying close attention would notice he was speaking quietly and holding the receiver awfully close.
In the restroom, Mizuki hadn't visited the toilet. He honestly had no need, and was instead washing his face with cold water and staring into the mirror, gripping the counter as if he might slip off at any moment. The sparkling blue eyes gazing back in the mirror searched him for some kind of answer or direction; some sort of guidance at the crossroads he found himself at. He wanted to be happy, desperately, but beyond that he wanted Hiro to be impressed with him. They'd met a couple years ago in a bar; Hiro was a promising executive in some major corporation, and Mizuki was a freshly minted police officer who had just graduated from the academy and assigned to work in Tokyo. Mizu was immediately smitten and had nervously sidled up to Hiro and made smalltalk, and before long they'd found themselves at Mizuki's apartment, made love, and talked about their dreams and aspirations until the sun had come up. Mizuki had always looked up to Hiro, and as time passed, Hiro proved himself a capable climber while Mizu, despite obvious merits in his work, remained where he was. With each passing day, he grew more and more paranoid that Hiro was seeing him as obsolete and uninteresting. He chewed on his lower lip, then turned away from the mirror, drying his face thoroughly and leaving the restroom.
They met back at the booth, but neither of them spoke, instead finishing their meals and avoiding eye contact for one reason or another. Finally, Mizuki could take the suspense no longer and spoke. "I gathered my things from my locker and quit yesterday."
There was a long silence, the music and conversational noise nearby suddenly oppressive and menacing as the world dared to continue around their moment of tenseness. Hiro hadn't looked up form his now empty plate for several seconds, but his expression lacked any readable emotion. Mizu desperately wanted Hiro to say something, but the silence continued, slowly crushing in on him until he continued to speak. "I... Well, when I left, Himura stopped me at the door and begged me to stay. I told him I couldn't and he demanded I at least speak to him in his office and tell him why, and..." Hiro had glanced up from his place and was now looking at Mizu with at least a little perceptible interest. "Well, I told him how I was feeling about the position, and how I felt about myself and my uniform and..." Mizu looked longingly for a moment at Hiro, wishing beyond wishes for a word or even a look of encouragement. "Long story short, Akamatsu's been promoted to Sergeant, and the police box he was working is just a few blocks from my apartment. There's a substantial pay cut, but Himura can't let me work patrol in a female uniform, so he's agreed to pull some strings and have me more or less permanently assigned there if I stay." Mizuki couldn't hold Hiro's gaze any longer, he stared down at his plate. There was but more silence, and the waiter that took their plates and placed their check on the table had the distinct impression he'd walked in on a breakup.
"I'm proud of you."
Mizu didn't realize the words weren't a snippet of background conversation for a few moments before quickly looking up from the table and glancing at Hiro, a pleased, calm look on his face and gentle smile curled along his muzzle. "I was waiting for you to do something about it. Watching you go to work every day over the last several months was like watching a beautiful flower wilt. I was actually getting ready to see if we had a job opening in one of our sister offices this week if you hadn't but... this is even better. I'll help you if things get tight with your salary being reduced, but your happiness is worth it." It was everything Mizuki could do to keep from crying. He slid over, hip-to-hip with Hiro and embraced him tightly, burying his face into the other's shoulder, whom in turn wrapped him in his own arms. They stayed like that far longer than they had any license to.
By the time the sun was disappearing over the tops of the buildings, they were back at Mizuki's apartment. The Shepherd's top was already off by the time they passed the foyer, Hiro kicked the door shut behind him as they came in, and Mizuki undid his blazer. They found themselves both topless in the vibrant honey light from the setting sun, arms slung around hips, lips meeting lips, hearts pounding in time as they drunkenly danced around the apartment. Furniture was bumped, more clothing was shed, and at last they collapsed, naked on Mizuki's bed as twilight faded. They made love once, then twice, then gave in, flopping on either side of the bed, panting and raw in the sheets.
Hiro was already asleep by the time Mizuki got up to take a shower. As he washed himself, he reflected on the day. Things had gone much better than he'd thought they would, and he silently chastised himself for letting worry get to him so badly. He finished, dried himself off thoroughly, and slipped on a pair of tights before crawling in bed next to Hiro. He drifted off with thoughts of the next morning in his head, one arm draped over his companion.
The next morning, the first thing that struck Mizuki when he awoke was that Hiro's pager was going off. He groaned, opening his eyes and immediately regretting it as the early morning sun beamed in through the window opposite his bed. When he reached over to nudge his companion awake, it struck him that he was alone. He called out for Hiro twice as his pager continued to ring, but there wasn't a reply.
A few minutes passed and he sat up, rubbing his eyes and yawning. He willed himself into the kitchen, pulling up his shorts and trying to figure out which hole was for his head in a cotton tank top. He made his way over to the kitchen table, hitting the acknowledge button on the pager before turning on the coffee pot. He fetched two mugs from a cupboard nearby, and as he did so, the light in the room shifted, dimming and turning a pale slate as the sun slipped behind some overcasting clouds. He walked around the apartment, but Hiro was not there. Mizuki mused that he'd gone into another meeting at work.
Mizu retrieved the pager and reviewed the message on its screen, a little concerned that Hiro had forgotten it; he was always in possession of it because of how often his job contacted him.
SUN 6/23/85 3:38 AM
03-4482-9383 BRING CONDOMS IM OUT
Mizuki wanted to feel something, but he didn't. His blood was ice water, and his face had nothing but a look of tired incomprehension. The beeper's tiny plastic frame creaked and the Shepherd became aware he was gripping it like a vice and eased off. Doubts and second guesses filled his mind, and he hit the previous message button. He had to be sure. He absolutely had to be sure.
SAT 6/22/85 6:40 PM
03-4482-9383 FREE TONIGHT? CALL ME
He set the pager down. He stood and stared for several minutes out the sliding glass door onto his tiny balcony where their bikes were; Hiro's rusted in place from years of disuse and Mizu's neat and tidy, locked to the railing. The coffee pot chirped a quiet notice that it was ready to brew, and Mizu walked over and turned it off, suddenly not terrifically thirsty or needing caffeine. He put both mugs back into the cupboard and went back into the bedroom, laying atop the sheets and pulling a pillow under his chest, staring into the middle distance for a while, until a picture frame on the end table caught his eye. It was just within arm's reach, he fetched it and brought it closer. In the frame was a German Shepherd in a light jacket and cream colored shirt; and an Australian Shepherd wearing a collared shirt and loose tie - the pair were vacationing in Hokkaido around this time last year.
Mizu buried his face into the pillow and cried. The wailing was still so loud that when he threw the photo across the room and shattered it, his downstairs neighbors called the police.