The monastery of St. Catherine’s was home to a great many pieces of fine art in the form of paintings, sculptures, murals, huge woven tapestries, tile work, furniture, and so on, collected from all parts of the globe. Much of it was newly acquired as the monks before did not have the means, but the Catholics seemed to have endless resources and connections to decorate the monastery. If the monks were still alive and knew of the opulence of the current state of the monastery, they would have truly marveled at how a group of people—who supposedly took a vow of poverty—could afford such treasures.
—The Treasures of the Great Monasteries of the World, C. B. DeMille (1998)
Kato was standing there, completely naked. He was being cleaned with a warm rag by Takahashi. He had a warm blush. Takahashi wiped down his whole body, including all his most intimate spots. Then Takahashi grabbed a fresh cloth and dipped it in the warm water and took Kato’s erect penis, pulling the skin back a little and started to gently clean it. It felt immensely erotic and Kato awoke to himself having another wet dream. He breathed a couple heavy breaths as the flood of euphoria ran through his body and a sticky mess developed in his boxers. He realized that he was lying on his back with Takahashi spooned up against him and his arm draped over Kato’s chest.
What the fuck was that? And why now? Kato inwardly screamed. He was thoroughly embarrassed and was hoping like hell that Takahashi didn’t notice. He gently moved Takahashi’s arm and got out of bed, grabbed the robe and threw it about him, grabbed some fresh boxers, and a washcloth and towel. He looked at the time. It was 4:02 am. He went down to the bathroom and cleaned up.
He was quiet when he returned. He put his stuff away and his newly soiled briefs into the laundry bag. He stood there, wondering why that happened. His arm was around my chest, so he wasn’t touching me there. Why did this happen? He could see the sleeping form of Takahashi in the dark. He considered whether Takahashi would attempt to touch Kato in his sleep but immediately discarded that idea. Takahashi would never do such a thing. Just a stupid dream, he concluded. He took the robe off and climbed back into bed.
“Everything okay?” Takahashi whispered.
“Yeah,” Kato turned his back towards Takahashi. He really hoped Takahashi wasn’t awake during all that. He felt a cold distance between their two bodies. After a minute passed, he wondered why Takahashi hadn’t closed the distance. So, he scooched back and snuggled against Takahashi. This prompted Takahashi to put his arm around Kato and bury his nose into Kato’s neck, sending some serious goosebumps down Kato’s body, all the way to the tips of his toes.
Kato lay there for a few minutes, trying to make sense of that vivid dream he had before he fell back to sleep.
The alarm announced that it was 5:30. Kato removed part of the blanket and reached over and hit the snooze button. He instantly felt that the room was cold, but not due to a fever. He just didn’t want to leave the warm bed. He turned to lie on his back as his side ached a little. Takahashi put his hand on Kato’s stomach but said nothing. Kato was awake now and spent some time considering how close they were now that he would even allow another boy, let alone Kensuke Takahashi, to spoon up to him and put his hand on his tummy. It was a curiously warm and intimate sensation, though not erotic. Kato didn’t feel aroused. What he did feel though was contentment, even completeness, as if something he had been missing all his life was being filled by having Takahashi here at his side.
The alarm announced that it was now 5:35. Kato reached over again, and this time turned the alarm off, causing Takahashi to remove his hand from Kato’s tummy. Kato got up and went to the restroom. When he returned, he saw Takahashi was dressed and collecting some stuff together. Kato was reluctant to see him go. He instantly thought of how lonely it was going to be when he had to go back to sleeping by himself, a thought that never occurred to him before. He removed the bathrobe and handed it back to Takahashi.
Kato watched as Takahashi grabbed everything and turned as he was about to leave. Kato said a soft “Thank you.”
Takahashi didn’t look back but simply said, “See you at breakfast,” as he left the room.
Kato was left standing there, feeling that overwhelming sense of loss again. He just didn’t understand where it came from. It wasn’t there before. He shook it off and proceeded to separate the bed linens and make Tachibana’s bed for him and then his own. He got dressed and Tachibana entered the room.
“How you feeling now, Sport?” Tachibana cheerfully inquired.
“Still rough but better. I usually bounce back quickly from such things.”
“You two didn’t do anything unwholesome in my bed, did you?”
Kato glared at Tachibana which caused Tachibana to laugh. “I’m kidding!” Tachibana put his stuff away while Kato went to clean up for breakfast.
“You look better, Kato-san,” Murata offered.
“Yeah but I still feel raw,” Kato complained.
“I came by to see you, but you were sleeping.”
Murata nodded. “Yeah, but it looks like Takahashi took good care of you.”
Kato sighed. “In a way, I’m glad he did. My recovery may not have been as quick without his help.” Kato looked but Takahashi wasn’t at breakfast. “He must have skipped again.”
Murata simply shrugged.
When Kato returned, he noticed that Tachibana was not there. He got ready and went to class. It was English again, with Sister Mary. He entered the room and saw that Takahashi wasn’t there. The chime rang and he was still not there. He wondered at this. Was he late? Did he catch my cold and now is staying in bed? He noticed Handa was not there either. Great. Did they fight again?
Sister Mary had the students warm up by telling her in English what they did over the weekend, going down the rows. As she was halfway through the class, a page boy came in and gave a note to Sister Mary. She read it and then looked at Kato and said, “Kato-san. They want you to report to the headmaster’s office.”
Kato was shocked. “I don’t know where that is,” he plainly stated. Some students starting giggling.
Sister Mary gave him some simple instructions on how to get there. So, he left the classroom. He began to break out in a bit of a cold sweat. What could possibly be wrong? He started catastrophizing about a family illness or death or something wrong with his schooling. He simply couldn’t guess.
He found the administration building and the front desk clerk pointed him in the right direction. When he got to a door clearly marked as the headmaster’s, he knocked. A voice from inside bellowed, “Enter.”
Kato nervously opened the door and peeked in. Then he said, “Excuse me,” and bowed as he entered. He immediately noticed a group of people seated before the headmaster’s desk: Handa, Aizawa, Takahashi, and Tachibana. The headmaster pointed to a fifth chair. “Sit, Kato-san,” he said neutrally.
Kato politely bowed and sat in the chair.
“Do you know why I summoned you, Kato-san?” the headmaster asked.
Kato looked at the others. He could guess but he replied, “I’m not sure.”
The headmaster looked at him for a few moments, making Kato feel apprehensive. “I got a report from Handa-san that Tachibana-san spent two days with Aizawa-san on Wing C and Takahashi-san spent two days with you on Wing A.”
Kato looked at all the boys, then looked back at the headmaster. “That is correct.” He noticed that Handa had a big grin on his face, but the other boys were looking at their hands, except for Takahashi who kept his head up and eyes forward.
“You may be new here, but I believe it was thoroughly explained in the handouts and during orientation that students are not to leave their own wing after 8 pm.”
“Yes,” Kato politely affirmed.
“Care to explain why Takahashi-san was in your room for two days?”
Kato looked at Takahashi then looked back at the headmaster. “I caught influenza and he took care of me.”
“Why didn’t you go to the infirmary?”
“Excuse me sir, but I did. They simply sent me home with instructions to drink fluids and take medication.”
“Yes. But when the flu hit hard, I was so very weak. I needed help and Takahashi-san offered.”
“Why him? Why not Tachibana-san?”
“He didn’t want to get sick from me, so he traded places with Takahashi-san until I was better.”
The headmaster was silent for what seemed to be minutes. Then he spoke rather sternly, “I cannot allow this behavior to go unpunished. I’m giving all of you, apart from Handa-san, 8 hours of work detail, unpaid. This Saturday you need to report to the maintenance building for work detail. All of you are dismissed, except you, Kato-san.”
Kato was afraid. He watched the boys get up and leave. He looked back at the headmaster and waited as the last boy shut the door on the way out.
“Yes?” He politely asked.
Kato didn’t understand the question. “Huh?”
“Why are you hanging around with him?”
Kato looked down at his hands for a moment, then looked up and said, “He takes care of me.”
The headmaster frowned. “In what way?”
Kato spoke up bravely and honestly. “Besides nursing me back to health, he’s protected me from abusive students, helped me to learn how to survive here, taught me a bit about baseball, and he’s promised to help with my music lessons.”
“What has he asked in return?” The headmaster asked.
The headmaster snorted. “Friendship?”
“Yes,” Kato replied politely.
“Do you know his reputation?”
“And you still choose to associate with him?”
The headmaster sighed, then he spoke seriously, “I cannot ignore the rules around here and show leniency.”
“I understand,” Kato said.
The headmaster glared. “You will not repeat anything said in this room, do you understand?”
“Yes,” Kato replied.
The headmaster softened his voice a little. “I know your history, with your mother and your aunt. I am sorry.”
“Yes,” Kato said.
“I know Takahashi-san’s history as well. I not sure that he will have a positive influence on you.”
Kato simply kept eye contact with the headmaster and listened.
“If I had it my way, I would break you two apart,” he said firmly.
“Apart?” Kato questioned.
The headmaster glared at Kato. “Yes, separate classroom schedules. Maybe even a different dorm.”
“I’m not going to, though.” The headmaster sat back in his big chair.
“Why not?” Kato asked.
“Because maybe, just maybe, you might have a positive influence on him.”
With that, Kato was dismissed.