Disclaimer: don't own any of the characters

Chapter 13

Tsuzuki woke up happier than he had been in a long time. He sat up, scratched his head and then stretched his arms and twisted his back, getting out a nagging creak in his back. It had been over week since he had anyone from the harem sleeping in his bed with him, and that was a long time. Still, recently, his mind was preoccupied with a certain green-eyed teenager. The same one that he had a date with this very afternoon. "Ah, my date."

That thought was interrupted with a knock at the door. "Come in."

A white linen-covered cart was pushed in with several silver cloche covered plates on it by none other than Tatsumi. "Good morning Tsuzuki. I hope you had a good night's sleep. You have a lot of work today."

"Tatsumi, why are you bringing me my breakfast? Where is cook today and what do you mean 'a lot of work today'? You know I have plans for this afternoon." Tsuzuki was a but puzzled and annoyed at the same time. Lately, anytime Tsuzuki's plans included to date Hisoka, Tatsumi made sure they were postponed, delayed or canceled outright by 'business'. "I know exactly what I have on my work agenda today. There are no meetings, I specifically told you to not schedule any. I have paperwork that must be done, and I can get that done before noon. So, what gives?"

The brown-haired, blue-eyed man sighed. It was no use trying to talk to his friend. His mind was set in one direction but one last ditch effort couldn't hurt. "Tell me something, Tsuzuki. Why date him? He's part of the harem and he's bound to you by that cursed bracelet. He wants you, you want him, so just do what you both want; take him to bed already and get your life back in order."

This debate had been going on for days now, and Tsuzuki wasn't quite sure how much more he could take. Logic went out the window long ago. It was all decided and no amount of talking was going to change his mind. There was more to this than Tatsumi would say, and Tsuzuki thought he finally knew what it was. It was that word, date. He got up and walked over to his dearest friend, put a hand on his shoulder. "We've been friends since our early teens, and been through just about everything together, including dating. The choice had to be made years go.." He turned to face Tatsumi and look into the blue eyes he loved all those years ago. "I loved you then, I will always love you. We have to live by what those decisions were."

A small tear escaped Tatsumi's eye which Tszuki wiped away. He gave a small kiss on his best friend's cheek. "No more arguments, please."

Down in the harem, everyone was busy getting things ready for the day. The kitchen was far more crowded than it should be. The breakfast crew was finishing up making the last of the morning meal while the committee for the picnic was preparing the food for the afternoon's "date". Everyone was so excited about going out that day and being with Tsuzuki, everyone that is except Hisoka, Tsuzuki's date. He was dreading the picnic.

"How did I get roped into going on a picnic date with the entire harem?" he mumbled to himself as he threw on his yukata? "I thought Tsuzuki said we were going on a date together. How can he court me when the entire harem is there? Are they going to be there when he takes me to bed the first time too?"

"No stupid, you and Tsuzuki will be all alone!" A voice rang out from behind the teenager. "Now get your butt down for breakfast."

Hisoka turned about to see Nagi standing there, a wide grin on his face. "How long have you been standing there?"

"Just long enough to know you don't want all of us on your date." Those that two words coming out in sing-song fashion.

"Look Nagi, I don't want you saying anything to anyone else, okay. Tsuzuki invited everyone, so everyone is coming. If you open your mouth..." is all Hisoka got out before Nagi cut him off.

"Don't worry, I got your back. They won't hear a word of it from me. Now come on. Everyone's waiting on you." And off he ran to the dining room.

Shaking his head, Hisoka slipped on his sandals and headed to the lion's den, I mean breakfast.

Things were no different at breakfast than any other day. The unfortunate mumblings overheard in his room never were spoken of, so he was relieved that Nagi kept his word. And like every other day, after breakfast, things were cleaned up just in time for Tsuzuki's arrival for bathtime.

Tsuzuki arrived right on time for bathing with his harem, and nothing changed from any other day here either. Hisoka still being the last one in. This time the entire bath conversation revolved around everyone telling Tsuzuki what they planned to do to entertain him during the picnic. Hisoka, not having his belly dancing routine complete, said he wasn't going to perform yet. Tsuzuki said "That's fine because, after all, it's our date. They should be entertaining both of us."

So much for bathtime. No one lingered today, in fact they all wanted to get out so they could finish preparations for the picnic. As they all left the bath, Tsuzuki yelled out. Remember, everyone be at the gazebo at 1:00 sharp. Anyone not there gets left behind! Hisoka waited to be the last one out, except Tsuzuki. "Hey, Hisoka, you still want to go that date, right?

Finally cracking a legitimate smile, Hioska turned to Tsuzuki, "Don't worry, I'll be there at 1:00. Now, don't you be late."

At 12:45, everyone was gathered at the double French doors that led out to the garden and the gazebo where they were to meet Tsuzuki in just fifteen minutes, everyone that is except Hisoka. He was in his room still trying to decide what to wear on his date. Sitting on his bed were two shirts. He stared at them trying to decide, white,blue,white,blue, back and forth. Finally, Nagi showed up. "Hey, what's the hold up Hisoka? You going to be left behind for your own date?"

"I can't decide which shirt to wear?"

Nagi looked at the two shirts, both nice but inappropriate for seducing Tsuzuki. "Neither." He grabbed them by the hangers, took them to the closet and hung them up, grabbed a low-cut purple shirt off a hanger and tossed it to Hisoka. "Wear it!"

Hisoka looked at Nagi. He had never noticed that shirt before, and would never have worn it either. "Where..."

"We guys got it for you when we found out about this dating thing. So, wear it. And hurry." Nagi said as he sprinted out the door. "You only have five minutes."

Taking a deep breath, Hisoka took off his yukata, put on the shirt, his black pants, slipped into his sandals and sprinted down the stairs. As he approached the group, Wakaba said, "close call date boy."

The girls took one look at the shirt he was wearing and he heard one of them say, "ooo la la." Well, if he wanted to seduce Tsuzuki, he guessed that Nagi was right. He just hoped that Tsuzuki liked it.

They all gathered at the gazebo as ordered and Tsuzuki couldn't have selected a better day for this picnic date. It was a pleasant 77F/25 degree, sunny day, with a slightly warm breeze. The sun was bright and playing tag with some high flying puffy white clouds. The birds were nesting in the trees, serenading everyone with lilts and coos. All and all a perfect summer afternoon.

1:00 came and our of the castle side door came Tsuzuki, punctual as ever. He was the picture of heaven to his harem. The sun framed his black hair and created sparkles in his purple eyes. His ivory colored gauze shirt was open half-way down his chest, it's neck ties flying in the breeze. The puffy sleeves billowed with each gust of wind making them look like angel wings. His black leather pants showed his narrow waist, accentuated his hips and elongated legs, but also hid anything he might want hidden. In short, they were perfect just like he was. And on his feet, a pair of black sandals. If ever there was an outfit made for a summer picnic, this was it, and their Tsuzuki was wearing it.

Tsuzuki was carrying a white wicker basket with a purple ribbon on it in one hand and draped over his other arm was a thick blue and white checkered blanket. He obviously came prepared for this picnic.

The girls all swooned and sighed and the guys were jealous that they couldn't look like that for him. Hisoka, well, he just glad that he was the one that got to spend the day next to that gorgeous man! As he approached, the girls all started to crowd around Tsuzuki, wanting to be as close to him as possible. He let them give him a hug, but unlike most times when he loved to have everyone hover around him, he made them give him some space, and he made his way directly to Hisoka. Hisoka was standing off to the side, away from the crushing crowd of people. Tsuzuki came right over to him, extended his hand, took Hisoka's hand and said, "It's our date, you're with me."

The two then led the rest of the group from the gazebo through that garden area, behind the castle. There was the main gardens of ground. It was a huge lawn, at least three acres of just well-manicured grass. Behind that were tiers of flowers: short blooms in the front, and as you saw further toward the back, the flowers got taller. Each kind of flower was easily seen and recognizable because no flower in front of it was taller. In the middle of this enormous sea of flowers stood Watari. His arms were outstretched over the flowers as he turned slightly in a circle. He was saying something but no one could hear what he was saying. Then, he lowered his arms and very carefully stepped out of the flower beds and walked over toward Tsuzuki and announced loudly. "The ants and bees will be gone for six hours. Your picnic should be pest free all day." As he got very close to Tsuzuki he whispered, "And your secret garden is all ready too." Then he smiled brightly and waved as he walked back to the castle.

Tsuzuki was very pleased. There would be nothing to ruin the picnic. He hated ants crawling on the food, or him for that matter. And who likes bees buzzing around? "Well, everyone, I guess we can set up here. Besides, it's lunchtime and I'm hungry. What did you make me to eat?"

Everyone started scattering about, their baskets of goodies were put down on different colored blankets. For Tsuzuki, he handed his basket to Hisoka to hold while he took a blanket from his arm and laid it out. It seems he brought two identical blankets. He laid one down on the ground then using his body to hide his actions, hid the second under the corner of the first. He took his basket back from Hisoka and placed it over the same corner. "This is for later." He then smiled and sat down on the blanket, patted it to invite Hisoka to join him.

In short time, the others had opened all the baskets they brought and each one served a purpose. One had the plates and napkins, another the silverware and glasses. Then the baskets with all the foods were emptied onto the various blankets and the parade of foods were shown to Tsuzuki. It was a buffet of his favorite foods; fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, creamedpotatoes with tiny pearl onions, buttered corn, then the sweets- apple pie, peach pie, cherry pie, raspberry tarts, blueberry tarts, cheesecake, and pecan sticky buns. The thermos jugs were filled with iced lemonade. Not wanting to make any of the ladies who spent hours preparing the food feel slighted, Tsuzuki took some of everything to eat, especially the sweets.

Hisoka looked at all those sweets and tried to figure out how that man could eat all those sweets and never gain an ounce of fat. It was truly amazing. Unfortunately, Hisoka found he had no appetite. The food smelled great, looked great too. It was just the fact that he wanted to spend time alone with Tsuzuki, and so far, he spent no time alone with him. In fact, Tsuzuki has paid him almost no attention since they sat down. He was getting a little discouraged. His plate of food was sitting on his lap, untouched as he watched Tsuzuki devour ever last morsel the girls have him and he sighed.

Tsuzuki was not unaware of his date's plight. He was empathic too,you understand. Still. the others had gone to all the trouble to make all this food and he had to eat it. He finished the last bite on his plate, put it aside and reached over and took Hisoka's plate and put it on the blanket.

When Hisoka looked up, he smiled and pulled the teen close to him. "I know it's now how you expected the date to go, but I promise it will get better."

"It's not your fault, Tsuzuki," the teenager offered. "I'm the one that asked if we should invite them."

"Ah, but I could have just not done it. Still, they deserve to have some fun too. I have never taken them on dates, so it's a treat for them. And, I have something else planned for us. Be patient."

Hisoka trusted what he was told and he could feel the truth of Tsuzuki's words and felt much better. He snuggled up to his master and watched as the others finished eating and then cleaned up.

After all was cleaned up came entertainment. Hisae started it off with a belly dance which Tsuzuki really liked. Then poetry, songs, karate demonstration, a ballet routine and finally the show was over. Tsuzuki told everyone how pleased he was with their performances and how much some of them had improved which really made the harem crowd happy. Then, something amazing happened. Everyone went over to their blankets, laid down and fell asleep.

Tsuzuki opened his basket and took out a watch. "3:30, right on time. Gotta love Watari."

Hisoka sat up. "What do you mean?"

"I knew that there would be entertainment. I also knew you weren't going to be dancing yet. Hisae told me you weren't quite ready. So, if I wanted any time alone with you today, I had to make sure everyone fell asleep. Watari put a spell on the flowers and grass to keep the insects away. He also put a spell that if anyone did any kind of entertaining, they would have to sleep for three hours, starting at 3:30. I had this all planned out."

"But how did you know that they would all be done by 3:30?" Hisoka did have a point.

Tsuzuki smiled. "I have timed all their routines in the past. I know how long it takes to eat, clean up, their routines. Give or take fifteen minutes, I figured 3:30 was a good time. So, now we have three hours to be alone." He stood up, put the watch away, took the spare blanket from under the basket, extended his hand for Hisoka to take. "Care to join me on our date?" Hisoka almost jumped up, grabbed Tsuzuki's hand. Tsuzuki picked up the wicker basket. "Follow me and be careful not to step on any of the flowers, they are quite delicate."

After traversing through the flowerbed, the couple made their way to another, smaller grassy area. This area was like someone's back yard. It also had well-maintained grass. The flowerbed flanked one side, directly opposite the flower bed was a very dense forest of evergreen trees which created not only privacy but security. To enclose this area completely on the sides were thick hedges that went from the edge of the flowerbed to the edge of the forest. The tops of the hedges were trimmed an even two inches shorter than the tallest flowers at the back of the flowerbed, so they could remain unseen from the main part of the castle garden. Since the flowers blossomed year round. compliments of Watari's magic, the hedges were never seen by anyone other than those who knew about this place.

In the back of the garden, right before you entered the forest, providing one could actually maneuver in that density of wood and foliage, stood a magnificent pergola. It was made of redwood, ten feet wide, four feet deep. The roof was covered in some material that Hisoka only imagined was weatherproof because he didn't see how it could be unattached. The sides and back had some kind of material the could be rolled up and down. That he thought might be the same kind of material and Tsuzuki could roll up and down depending on the weather: sunlight, rain, cold, or privacy. Inside the pergola was a long daybed, also made of redwood. It had a rich purple covering on the seat and several pillows on it. This was the perfect setting for seduction if there ever was one.

"This is my secret retreat. I come here when I want to get away from everyone and just need to be alone. It' a perfect place for a date, don't you think?"

The look on Hisoka's face really said it all, he was in awe, but also was very pleased. "I love it." He wondered is any of the others had ever been back here, but let that thought go. "Thank you for bringing me here. It's beautiful."

Tsuzuki smiled. It was exactly what he had hoped for. He wanted this to be very special for Hisoka, and for him. He put down the basket, laid out the blanket and sat down. He opened the basket and took out the watch and placed it on the corner of the blanket. "Care to join me Hisoka?"

The teen joined him and Tsuzuki started unloading a large covered dish from basket. Then the lid was removed he saw delicacies more fitting a romantic picnic for lovers. There were heart-shaped sandwiches of smoked salmon and cream cheese, caviar and buttered toast triangles, chocolate covered strawberries, dates stuffed with exotic nuts, olives, and oysters on a half shell. Next came a bottle of champagne, wine glasses, plates, forks, napkins. "I noticed you didn't eat anything earlier. Do you think I can tempt you with some of my food?"

Hisoka had never had most of these things before and wasn't quite sure if he would like any of them, either. The oysters scared him, "Raw seafood?" and he shuddered a bit which elicited a laugh from Tsuzuki.

"Just try one, here I'll show you. " He picked up the largest oyster, shell and all, held it to his lips, tipped his head back and sucked in the oyster, liquid and all. He chewed the meat and swallowed it. "It's a bit salty, but I like them."

Not wanting to hurt Tsuzuki's feelings, he braved it, found the smallest one and mimicked what the other had done. The almost slimy feeling on his tongue wasn't the best thing but it didn't taste too bad. All and all, he could handle it. "OK, so I tried it. Not my favorite, but not the worst thing."

Tsuzuki snickered. "Oh, you'll get used to the taste, trust me. Here, have another,"as he handed another small one to Hisoka and took the other large one for himself.. Hisoka looked at him like he was crazy, but let it go and did as he was asked. Thank heavens there were only four oysters in that basket.

That experiment over, he decided to just go on with the better things in the basket. "How about we try something else?" He prepared a plate for each of them with sandwichs, caviar, strawberries, dates, olives. Then he popped the cork on the champagne and poured them each half a glass before recorking the bottle.

Hisoka looked at the items on his weren't so strange, well not as strange. He sampled each of the items he hadn't tried before gingerly. The caviar on buttered toast was salty but he liked that al lot, the salmon sandwiches with cream cheese were delicious. Who doesn't like chocolate covered strawberries and those dates were so sweet. He finished everything on his plate without looking up. When the plate was empty, he picked up his wine glass and downed the expensive grape juice inside, those bubbles tickling his palate and his nose. He giggled a little but didn't stop until every drop was consumed. He was like a kid in a gourmet food store and he was thoroughly enjoying himself. That's right, he was enjoying every minute of this.

All the while, Tsuzuki ignored his own plate and just admired the way his date was enjoying his plate of food. He hadn't seen Hisoka his relaxed or happy in a long time. The sheer joy that Hisoka was having was radiating off the teen in waves and Tsuzuki was soaking them up. It was definitely the right thing to do, this private picnic.

When every bite was eaten and every drop drunk, Hisoka finally looked up and saw Tsuzuki smiling at him. "Enjoying yourself?"

"Uh, yeah," the now blushing teen replied. He looked down and saw that Tsuzuki's plate was still uneaten. "Why didn't you eat?"

Tsuzuki put his plate down. "I guess I'm still full from before. Besides, watching you eat, was more fun. I'm really glad you liked it. That's what I was hoping for." He leaned over and gave Hisoka a kiss and said, "that is what I was hoping for, and so much more."

Hisoka's heart started racing when he got kissed. He was alone in this special place with Tsuzuki, and anything was possible. He leaned into the kiss, wrapping his arms around Tsuzuki pulling him closer. Tsuzuki allowed himself to be pulled in and took the initiative and holding the teen, laid him back on the blanket, not breaking the kiss. Tsuzuki was laying on top of Hisoka, his arms cradling the younger man's head.

When he pulled away from the kiss, he stared into emerald eyes, that yearned for more of the same, more or anything. Tsuzuki too wanted more. He slowly to up, easing Hisoka up with him and took him gently by the hand and led him over to the pergola. There he sat Hisoka and sat next to him. He gazed into those gorgeous, tempting green eyes, brushing wayward strands of hair away so he could really see his face. This was what who he had been wanting, ever since that night that Muraki brought him into his castle. This is the one that he craved to take to his bed, but who had been too young. Well, now, he was here. He no longer was a child.

He caressed a blush that appeared on Hisoka's cheek. "Why blush now? It's just the two of us."

Hisoka smiled. He had been so at ease with Tsuzuki, and with no one else around, he had let his shield down. He could feel everything that Tsuzuki was feeling,knew everything thought that he had about him and he was both happy and embarrassed. So, why was he blushing? "I know it's just the two of us, that's why. I love you."

Tsuzuki's heart leapt and sank. Yes, all the members of the harem loved him, and he loved them, but with Hisoka it was different. Somehow it was different. It became clear to him at this moment that it wasn't just about getting Hisoka ready to take to his bed, he really had feelings for him. Fear struck him. This is what Tatsumi had been warning him about. He didn't know what to do. He loved Hisoka and he wanted to make love to him more than ever now.

Hisoka could feel turmoil brewing in Tsuzuki and he immediately put up his shield. "I I I'm sorry, Tsuzuki. I didn't mean to..."

Tsuzuki pulled him close. "No, never be sorry. You don't understand. I love you to. It's just..."

At that exact moment, the alarm on the watch went off.

"Oh no! We have to get back." Tsuzuki proclaimed. " I didn't realize we had been here this long. The others will be awake soon."

He got up and scrambled over to get the picnic basket packed haphazardly, threw the blanket in there too with the watch. He ran over to Hisoka. "This is not how I wanted this date to end, you have to believe me. There will be another date, and it will end better. But now, we have to get back before they all wake up." He took the shocked young man's hand and pulled him up.

After leading them back to the other side of the flowerbed, they plopped down on their blanket and dropped the wicker basket. The others were just waking up. "Hisoka, I am so sorry about this. I need to talk to you. I will send for you later tonight, okay?"

Tears were rolling down Hisoka's cheek. He didn't know what happened, but something went terribly wrong. He got up and ran back to the castle before everyone was fully up leaving Tsuzuki there to try and explain where his date had gone.

TBC

Next time- that night in Tsuzuki's room