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The Wanting Weeks

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Kiryu Kazuma knew the minute he stepped into the stark back office of the Tsuri Komu company that it was not his night. For starters the room wasn’t furnished with easy, grabbable items for a brawl, almost as if it had been stripped clean pre-emptively. There were two doors but they seated him far away from them on a couch that was boxed in on all sides. Worst of all, what was supposed to be a routine hand-off had turned into an extended social visit. The Dojima family had long learned their lesson not to send Kiryu on that type of job, for many reasons not limited to but including his distaste for the veiled nuance of negotiation.

“So my business partner here would like to enter into a contract with the Tojo clan for protection.”

Kiryu replied, “That’s not my job.”

Un-nuanced negotiation was also not part of the skillset he put to work for Dojima.

“But, uh –” The man looked to his supposed partner, a man with too much muscle to be purely business. Maybe if his business was getting paid per inch of bicep. This must have been what people saw when Kiryu had worked that real estate venture. The two men sat shoulder to shoulder on the couch in front of him, blocking an easy exit.

“Call HQ instead. I’ll be heading out now.” Kiryu reached for the briefcase on the table between them, but then Mr. Muscle slapped a hand down on top of it. Kiryu flicked his eyes up beneath his furrowed brow in a way that sent most punks scurrying.

“My apologies Kiryu Kazuma-san, my friend here says he lost their number. If you could be so kind as to call for me, I would be forever in your debt,” he said calmly in perfectly formal language. He had muscle, he had composure, and he had formality. Kiryu could smell the set-up from a mile away.

“I don’t carry a phone with me.” Kiryu said, starting to feel distinctly pinned down, so he stood. Mr. Muscle stood as well. The company liason searched for a rathole to dive into.

“Just a name will do, then. Who can we contact for further business?”

Kiryu went silent. The overhead lights burned a touch of sweat to his brow. In a second of doubt, he thought maybe he was reading the situation wrongly, and maybe he was fucking things up for the family by denying a new source of income. He wondered how Kazama would handle this delicate situation. Surely he wouldn’t grab the briefcase, flip the table, and beat the threat into submission.

Kazama probably wouldn’t do that, but it was too late to wonder if Kiryu should have done things differently.

As soon as the table flipped up between them, the man shouted and the room filled with cops, bursting in from both doors like a reverse clown car.

Finally, Kiryu felt like he could breathe again.

He delivered a haymaker that swept three men to their feet. He flowed through fists and police batons and even used the briefcase, indiscriminately whirling around and beating them with the weight of their own trap. If he were a sensitive sort of man he would have thought it poetic. Instead he kept a bodycount tally like a factory worker watching the clock.

He didn’t stop to think about the consequences of leaving a hallway full of unconscious police who knew his name as he strolled back to HQ, a spring in his step. He didn’t usually have to worry about that sort of thing. He was the muscle, and he was good at it.

So when he was called into Dojima’s office a few days later, he did not expect to be berated for doing the exact thing the family paid him to do.

“You’re fuckin’ lucky I don’t expel you on the spot,” Dojima grunted, tapping his fat fingers on his desk. Kiryu stayed quiet, but the sheer hypocrisy of the situation sparked a quiet burn of irritation. He knew he was a good bruiser, and Dojima knew he was good, but he’d always play at this anyway. “Our agreement with the cops don’t cover your mindless rampages.”

Kiryu had learned to bear Dojima’s clear distaste for him, so he didn’t rise to the bait and he didn’t try to set the record straight. Both would end poorly. Instead, he kept his head down and idly wondered what his next assignment was while Dojima power tripped his way around the room.

“-We’ve got a place for you out in Kyoto. Stay there while we smooth over the mess you made.”

“What?” Kiryu said accidentally. This was new. Dojima sneered gleefully, his wide face stretched wider by arrogance and the opportunity to smack Kiryu down.

“Be grateful this is even being arranged for you. You happened to throw your fists at the son of a politician or some shit. Go cool your head, dumbass. Dismissed.”

Kiryu robotically jerked his body into motion while his mind tried to catch up to what was happening. The family was pretty much his life at the moment. And he doubted it would be a paid vacation. And he didn’t know anybody in or anything about Kyoto. Was he really in so much trouble they had to send him away?

His thoughts were still jumbled the next day as he arrived at the train station, searching for the train that would take him to his strange punishment. The station was bright and impersonal, hard lines with no empathy, filled with faceless crowds traveling from point A to point B. He walked like he was in a bad dream. Beside him Nishikiyama offered a helpless shrug.

“Man this is why I keep telling you to think before you jump into these fights. Sometimes you don’t have to resort to violence yeah?”

“What was I supposed to do, give them a name? Maybe get booked?” Kiryu said in a tone that probably betrayed too much of his annoyance. Nishiki didn’t deserve it - he had come along to see him off, and was just looking out for him. They stood blocking a whole gate but received nothing more than a worried look from passerby - one of the perks of being obvious gangsters. The station attendant at the booth on the far end was beginning to look uncomfortable though.

“They wouldn’t let you go to jail dummy, you’d probably just spend a night in detention.” Nishiki smirked like it was obvious, but Kiryu had his doubts that Dojima would be chomping at the chain to free him. Nishiki was too preoccupied with his sister’s illness to really learn the inner workings and dynamics of the clan like Kiryu had, so he held his tongue. He’d been doing that more and more these days as the gap between them in the clan seemed to widen, despite his best efforts. He’d always felt responsible for his bro.

Nishiki slapped him on the back and brought him to the present again. “Anyway bro, I don't know Kyoto too well but the old man gave me this restaurant recommendation when I asked for you, maybe check it out if you've got the time." Kiryu looked at the business card in his hand, and tucked it into his jacket. "I’ll see you on the other side. Make sure to bring some yatsuhashi back.”

Kiryu grunted, hiked his overnight bag onto his shoulder, and marched alone to his fate.

The hub was easy to navigate but inexperience made him hesitate. He looked to the surrounding stores he walked, stocked with travel bentos and snacks and newspapers. Did he need those things? He’d gone 3 hours without food before. Right?

He forewent the purchases when he realized his train was leaving in 5 minutes, and jogged up the stairs three at a time, barely hopping onto a traincar that ended up being the opposite end of where his seat was. The train began to move, and Kiryu pushed down his embarrassment and walked the long walk through car after car. He had barely left his small pocket of Tokyo since joining up and didn’t have much experience outside of organized crime these days. Suddenly thrust from the life, something about that struck him as sad.

He’d have time to mull it over more on this trip. Or better yet, to sleep the matter off and forget it entirely. He hadn’t been able to keep a decent sleep schedule in ages, last night no exception. Kiryu finally reached his aisle and slung his bag up into the luggage compartment next to another small bag and a loose baseball bat, then looked down to find that his seat was already occupied.

“Excuse m-” He stopped.

He stared.

The man in his seat turned one gleaming eye up at him.

“There ya are, Kiryu-chan. Cuttin’ it close.”

“Majima-no-nii-san,” Kiryu managed to choke out. His body tensed with memories of aching muscles and tantō wounds. Majima sat sprawled across two seats like the world owed it to him, gloved hands laced contentedly across his bare midriff. It wasn’t what Kiryu would call an attack pose, but the man was an artist. Everything he touched turned dangerous. The train car was suddenly way, way too narrow to contain the both of them.

“Don’t just stand there, sit, sit,” he beamed like a child on a field trip, patting the window seat that he’d graciously guarded. Kiryu pressed his lips into a thin line. Majima didn’t move so Kiryu was forced to straddle awkwardly over his legs, making an undignified leap the last few inches.

“There ya go.” His lips were pursed in a funny little smile, no doubt at Kiryu’s expense.

If he felt boxed in before, he may as well have jumped into his own coffin and slammed the door shut. He tried not to sweat.

“To what do I owe this visit?”

“Can it with the stuffy language, you’re on a company retreat aren’t cha?”

“It’s not exactly by choice,” Kiryu said testily. He didn't have a rein on it around his senior, even though he should have. His stubbornness is what had gotten him in trouble with Majima in the first place all those years ago, and since then he’d been like a bur he could never shake no matter how many times he tried. “Why are you here?”

“That’s more like it,” Majima said, sitting up now that it wouldn’t be a helpful thing to do. “I couldn’t let you go all by your lonesome. Kyoto’s a big place for a young punk - a brother worries.”

Kiryu narrowed his eyes. “If you’re not going to tell the truth, there’s no point in talking in the first place.”

“Now why would I lie about that?” Majima cackled, then dropped his voice an octave in that way that made Kiryu’s stomach clench. “Ya wanna have it out instead?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I don’t want to fight,” he sighed through the tension that always crackled between them. They were technically “officially” forbidden from fighting after creating an unprecedented ruckus at a family gathering, but that didn’t stop Majima from trying every time they met under less than official circumstances. He couldn’t say he didn’t understand the drive, either. “Will you let me sleep without waking up to a knife between my ribs?”

“But it’s your first time, isn’t it? You’ll miss Mt. Fuji, our nation’s pride and joy. That’s why I saved you the window seat, it’s prime real estate!” Majima looked proud and sounded sincere, but Kiryu just couldn’t fully read him. He’d seen Majima’s mood do flips like an Olympic diver off a board. You never knew what sort of dive he was attempting until he hit the water, and by then you were probably already bloody.

“I guess it would be a shame to miss that,” he conceded, choosing the path of least resistance. He looked out the window for the first time. The landscape rushed by at a dizzying rate, urban sprawl giving way to fields and tall grass as they moved further from the city. It was actually more striking than he thought it’d be. For the first time since he’d been given the order, Kiryu felt something vaguely positive. It was at least a distant relative of a positive thought.

“Of course it would be! Anyway, keep this between us but Shimano’s got somethin' in the works out west, so I’m killin' two birds with one stone here,” Majima said as he hunkered back down into a confident sprawl, combative energy fading away. Kiryu recognized the armistice but couldn't relax because Majima was ni-hi-hi-ing like some comic book villain. “Lookin’ forward to gettin’ some quality Kiryu-chan time.”

“A..ah.” Kiryu put that aside, because what else was he supposed to do with it? “They’re just sending you? Alone?”

“Yeah. What,” Majima’s head flopped his way, wide-eyed. “Think it’s too much?”

“For them, maybe. Seems unfair.”

Majima laughed, delighted. “S’right.” He procured a second eye patch from somewhere and snapped it around his other eye, wiggling even further into his seat. Kiryu pursed his lips at the ridiculous sight.

“I’m not allowed to sleep, but you are?”

“Quiet, cadet. Mt. Fuji will be on your right in an hour or so, stay sharp.”

Kiryu held back his sharp retorts and settled in for the long haul.

*

“So this is what you meant by quality time,” Kiryu said, taking his shoes off at the entrance to the hideout the clan was loaning him. It was an unassuming old house down a quiet street, tucked amongst some other houses in a way that would have been hard to find if Majima hadn’t led him straight there. He sat on the raised tatami portion that comprised the rest of the floor leading from the ground-level entrance, reminiscent of the kind of homes he saw in his childhood. It was a perfect picture, except for the extremely loud snakeskin jacket at face-level. “You meant you’re crashing my solitary confinement.”

A few weeks alone with Majima. He wondered just how soon the next train back to Tokyo was – but no, orders were orders and they were both here on official business. Now he just had to focus on survival. Majima was a startlingly loyal soldier but Kiryu could no sooner get him to do things his way than wrangle a typhoon between his fists, and Kiryu was far below him in rank to boot. Given a choice, he'd take the natural disaster. He was beginning to wonder if this was actually an execution instead of a hiatus.

His would-be executioner could not be happier. “Woah woah you’re talkin’ like you aren’t super excited that Majima ‘been around the block’ Goro is your personal tour guide!”

“I don’t think that’s a nickname you want to share.”

Majima grinned, his manic energy building up in waves. “Don’t get too lonely. I’ll be back later.”

“Hey, what happened to being my personal tour guide?”

“Duty calls!” He was already out the door, baseball bat across his shoulders, sporting an aura that Kiryu was glad wasn’t directed at him for once. The door clicked shut.

Majima left a deafening silence ringing in his ears. The air was brisk even inside, obstinately remaining undisturbed despite his presence in a way that made the place feel like a guarded secret. He decided to wander around his cage. He mapped out exit points from the second floor where he could reach the roof of the next building through a window on the western side if he tried hard enough, and strategic chokepoints in between the sliding wooden doors.

The shower room downstairs was small, with a wooden floor and dark stone beneath the raised portion for water to drain into. There was a rectangular tub set into a raised hearth-looking apparatus, at odds with the modern shower set and temperature regulator mounted on the wall next to it. As far as emergency exits went, the room only had a small window he would never fit through.

The kitchen stretched long and narrow adjacent to the living room, separated only by shoji, and ended with a backdoor, perfect for funneling enemies down. The whole house was sparsely furnished but the living room had a phone, a television and a kotatsu, which was a luxury Kiryu had never considered owning before. He could probably dole out some creative punishment with this, if the fight came to him.

He paused at that thought. But that was the whole point of this, wasn’t it? Keeping a low profile, no fighting.

So in a novel move, Kiryu turned the kotatsu on just to use it. Late autumn had rolled in without his notice, and something about Kyoto chilled his extremities faster than Tokyo. Early afternoon sunlight streamed in through the opaque windows that faced the street. He warmed his toes under the blanket, circled his mind a few times for anything he may have forgotten to do, then settled down.

What now?

He didn’t know.

He relaxed out further beneath the pleasant heat of the kotatsu as it sank into his legs, and his thoughts drifted inwards. It was easier to sit back and let Kazama guide him from afar, but in these rare moments of quiet, when he was left on his own with nothing ahead and nothing behind, his mind always strayed to the same thought like an animal licking a wound.

What was he doing?

Kiryu relied on his gut instincts as situations arose rather than coming at them with an agenda. Nishiki might criticize him as impulsive but his moral compass had gotten him this far. It’s just, there was nobody around to tell him what to do, and he didn’t have anything to make decisions about.

And so he was left, an empty vessel with no desires of his own. The thought troubled him.

Before he knew it, his thoughts slowed and left him with a vague, sloth-like impression of unease. He slipped into a dream he wouldn’t remember, but did little to comfort him.

*

Kiryu woke groggily after what felt like a few moments. The late sunset slanted in from the windows, landing in large orange squares that were fading to darkness even as he blinked at them.  He was curled on his side in a pose that struck him as distinctly juvenile, something he should have long outgrown.

A sound came from the kitchen. Kiryu jerked up in response, hitting his knees on the underside of the kotatsu table with a bitten off curse.

“Oops,” Majima said, peeking in momentarily from the kitchen, eyepatch-only. Kiryu’s face heated up and he scrubbed a hand over his eyes and mouth to get rid of the evidence of his nap.

“Did you just get back?” His voice rumbled even lower than usual, sticky with sleep.

“You were sleepin’ like a lil babe.”

“I wasn’t allowed to on the train.”

“Wasn’t Mt. Fuji majestic, though?”

It had been. The bullet train was one of the fastest in the world but it could barely outrun the behemoth of a mountain, and it’d put things in perspective. But he wasn’t about to tell Majima all that.

Majima emerged from the kitchen with a tray of something hot and delicious-smelling, and Kiryu realized as his stomach twisted that he hadn’t eaten a single thing all day. He shamelessly eyed the food as Majima dropped down across from him, and was surprised to find there were two servings, beer and all. Majima dug into his portion with the all grace of a pig to a trough.

“What’s wrong? Eat up,” he said through a mouthful of curry and rice, like this was a normal thing they did and not something totally extraordinary. Majima had brought food for him.

Kiryu stared at the cheap convenience store meal, overcome with a feeling that sat wetly at the top of his throat. He must have been in worse shape than he thought, to be so touched by something Majima had done for him. He tucked into his food rather than trusting himself to speak.

Majima loudly tabbed open his beer and guzzled it, throat working to keep up. Kiryu dragged his eyes up to his face, which upon closer inspection, had the telltale puffiness that portended a bruise.

Kiryu didn't want to get too into it but his curiosity won out. “How’d it go?”

Majima slammed the can down onto the table. “Buncha pathetic excuses. Can you believe the sort of incompetent fucks that manage to climb ranks just because they’ve got a few pounds?" He sighed wistfully. "Lotta build up just to be blue-balled, it was like cuttin’ through butter."

“I guess yakuza aren’t especially picky about who joins up.”

“That’s all well an’ good, but ya can’t just put someone in charge on account of he looks like he’s smuggling melons in his biceps." Majima waved his hand dismissively like chasing away a bad smell. His voice dipped and swayed along the valleys of his Kansai accent. "He’s gotta have at least some brains if he’s runnin’ business. And more importantly, heart! If the guy backs down and gives up his men as soon as he gets a little scared, he’s worthless.”

Kiryu secretly agreed. He almost laughed at the thought of agreeing with Majima, but contained it to a small, sardonic smirk.

“Is that why you rose to the top? Heart?”

“And my dazzling wit.” He said wit in a way that Kiryu thought he really meant ‘dagger’. “And I’m not done gettin’ to the top yet. I’ve got the biggest, sloppiest heart outta all of you Tojo clan morons, and don’t you forget it!” He waggled his drink at Kiryu.

Kiryu opened a second beer and tapped their cans together, something like respect in his tone. “That’s not something I ever thought I’d hear you brag about.”

“I don’t go around tellin’ just anybody that. And I could be wrong, I’m keepin’ my eye on an up-and-comer, a real musclehead but the kinda guy who’d risk it all for, I dunno, a fuckin’ kitten or something. Can’t tell if it’s just an act yet.”

“Shinji?” Kiryu mused out loud. Majima managed quite an impressive stare despite only having one eye to work with, looking inexplicably thrown off.

“Whozzat?”

“He’s a kid I helped out a while back, just joined the Dojima family half a year ago or so. Too enthusiastic about soaplands but he’s good people.” Kiryu set his chopsticks down on his empty bowl, and sighed a satisfied sigh.

Majima still looked at a loss. His voice was flat. “Kiryu-chan, you musclehead.”

“Thanks for the meal.” He ignored the jab and rose, taking their tray with him.

All things considered, the night passed easily. Kiryu kept looking for the trap, and Majima kept not springing it. He just sprawled under the kotatsu indolently, flipping channels, looking for all the world like a normal person. It made Kiryu seem like the weird one, tip-toeing around and glancing over to check on him anytime he moved. Kiryu refused to be the weird one, between the two of them.

“Somethin’ eatin’ ya?” He asked lightly as Kiryu nearly paced around the house in his discomfort.

“What are you up to?”

“Hm?” Majima was sprawled on his side, head propped on his hand. Seeing him at ease was like watching a fish flop onto land, sprout legs, then do nothing with them. What were the legs for? Would it go back to the water? Why had it sprouted legs in the first place if it wasn’t going to do anything with them? The anticipation was killing him.

Majima, on principle, was a sharp object. Dangerous if touched. Kiryu swept his eyes along his lean body, lingering to make sure his hands were empty. His deafening jacket spilled onto the floor, offering a peek at the glaring eyes of the Hannya beneath. Majima couldn’t do innocent, but he said innocently, “Nothing?”

It couldn’t have been true, but there wasn’t anything to contradict it yet.

“So you’re just going to sit there and do nothing.”

“What do ya want me to do?” Majima asked brightly, finally leaning back to face him. Everything was in place – the eye patch, the manicured goatee. His smile was normal, not manic. Kiryu felt itchy.

“Never mind, do what you want.”

He sat heavily, third beer in hand, stress drinking. His instincts rarely steered him wrong but maybe Majima really did just want to hang out.

Kiryu could do that.

Probably.

*

Majima boo’d at the television. It sat there playing a fuzzy baseball game, screen curved and dusty. It was a solid cube that could do some damage if properly wielded - Kiryu shook his head to re-center his thinking - it was a television that was pretty OK at playing things on the screen.

“What happened?” Kiryu asked, squinting to see if that would help him demystify the rituals playing out before his eyes. It didn’t.

“The fuckin’ pitcher just gave up a run and now we’re bases loaded, one out, top of the ninth.”

“Ah.” Kiryu went for a neutrally masculine agreement. Majima would probably make fun of him if he discovered he didn’t even know the rules of the game.

“If they score here we’re tied and it’ll go into extra innings. I gotta head out soon though. Fuck!” Majima yelled as one of the men on screen ran, making the other ones run, while someone threw the ball to someone who didn’t catch it. Kiryu nodded externally and piled question marks internally.

He offered his only observation up to the dais of the manly conversation gods and hoped it’d do: “The guy… threw bad.”

“Yeah this guy’s tired. The pitcher’s gotta be strong enough to throw the balls the catcher needs.”

“Oh yeah?”

“That relationship is sacred. See look, they’re headin’ to the mound now ‘cause they can’t agree. This catcher is one of the best though, he’s a real tactician. The pitcher’s just the muscle to get it done.”

Kiryu didn’t know enough to refute that but it sounded not quite right.

“You more of a pitcher or a catcher, Kiryu-chan?”

“Uh,” Kiryu floundered, sipping his beer, not wanting to be caught in the lie. Between the two choices, with the description Majima just gave, probably, “Guess a pitcher. You?”

Majima nodded seriously at him, eye narrowed in concentration. He was all sharp corners; the corners of his bangs falling on his forehead, the corners of his facial hair, lifted just slightly. “Depends on the guy tryna be pitcher.”

Kiryu nodded one more time, and turned to the television so he wouldn’t have to meet Majima’s eye. Again, he didn’t know enough to judge that answer properly, but he’d just have to accept it. The whole conversation seemed perfectly normal, but it was making his jaw ache with tension.

Majima stood with a bitten-off curse, stretching his long legs. These too were weapons cased in leather and altogether too flexible despite the constricting material. Kiryu could kick, but Majima could kick.

“Keep watchin’ would ya?”

Kiryu belatedly realized he’d been staring and jerked his head up. Majima was facing away but pointed to the television.

“I wanna hear how the game goes!”

“Ok,” he said thoughtlessly, tapping his finger against the empty beer can. Majima was being normal for once, and now he was the one making things strange. He had to calm down.

Left alone once more, Kiryu took a deep breath to get himself under control. He turned his attention back to the game, where someone started running even though the ball hadn’t been hit, and everybody was cheering? He squinted, but it was no use. He wouldn’t be able to recount any of it.   

*

Kiryu fell asleep late and woke late in the morning, lazy because he could be, for once. His limbs moved with drowsy motions as he rolled his futon up, stumbled downstairs, and tried to remember where he was.

The house appliances were basic and utilitarian and looked like they hadn’t been updated in a while, except for the hot water pot. It had a bunch of unnecessary-looking buttons and Kiryu pressed every single one before he finally managed to make hot tea.

Kiryu scratched at a curl of green wallpaper that was peeling from the wall by the window as he came awake, sipping tea. He was out in Kyoto ordered to lay low. In a house that was too big for two but still not big enough for him and Majima to share. He didn’t know what to do out there, left alone with his thoughts and forced into a liminal space where his job was to not have a job. There was only one thing he could fix right now, and that was how he was treating his roommate.

He replayed last night’s conversations and determined that he’d try better to come at Majima with an open mind. He’d bought him food, and he hadn’t seriously tried to fight him – it wasn’t just an olive branch, it might have been an entire tree. And Kiryu had just stared at him all night, weird and tense.

Ok, this was something tangible and fixable. It was just two guys getting to know each other. He could do better.

*

Turned out he was not good at doing better.

Majima, despite not coming back at all last night, greeted Kiryu with a chipper slap on the shoulder when he stepped through the door in the evening. Kiryu, out of instinct, grabbed for his hand, ready to throw him off. He stopped himself before it could become apparent he was about to do violence but then he just stood there holding his hand to his shoulder, very tightly.

“Hey,” Kiryu greeted like he wasn’t death-gripping his hand. He patted it twice in an attempt to make it friendly but he sailed past that and landed straight back into awkward. Majima just slid the leather down his arm as he stepped into the kitchen to grab a beer, talking about something or another. Kiryu was too busy being mortified with himself to listen as goose bumps crawled in the trail of his fingers.

“What do ya think?”

“Huh?” Kiryu glanced at him, coming back down to earth.

“The guy’s kind of a goober but he seems to want to fix it. Should I give him a chance?”

Kiryu, grateful for his stoic face, inwardly scrambled but outwardly didn’t do much beyond bring a hand to his chin. “Is he a friend of yours?”

Majima tossed a beer to Kiryu and leaned back, hip against the counter. “Friend? Wouldn’t call him that. Just a guy with a mutual interest.”

“If he wants to fix it, I don’t see why not.”

“It’s just, he doesn’t seem worth it. Some guys, you just see ‘em and BAM, you know, y’know?”

Kiryu narrowed his eyes. He wished he’d been listening to the beginning of this conversation because his stomach was twisting. “…I suppose. You don’t owe him anything, but maybe he’s asking for a chance because he knows he screwed up.”

Majima sipped his beer with a considering look. “Alright, since ya told me to. If it goes south, I’m blamin’ you though. You’ll have to make it up to me.”

With that, Kiryu had successfully navigated his way through a second conversation without knowing any of what was going on. Normally, Majima did not let him get away with this sort of thing. He had a disturbingly accurate read on Kiryu whenever they talked, and Kiryu had always wondered how. He didn’t consider himself a complex man, but his stoic demeanor went far with most people. Not Majima.

He took a long pull of his beer to hide his discomfort. It wasn’t just their strange circumstance - there was something that always threw him off around his senior. He’d thought it was simply dealing with the unwarranted animosity Majima levied at him, but that was gone here. Kiryu couldn’t deny now that he was part of the problem. And he could at least fix his half.

“Did you… have a good day, otherwise?” Kiryu nearly winced hearing his voice wrap awkwardly around the words, so unassuming directed at anybody else in any other situation. He was very aware of where his limbs were as he tried to lean against the doorjamb casually. Majima popped up from behind the fridge door like a prairie dog.

“Aw, Kiryu-chan. The best thing about my day is comin’ home to you.”

There was this face that Kiryu made sometimes, when confronted with the more outrageous things Majima said or did to him. It was related distantly to incredulity but world-wearier, and genetically similar to fondness in the way that every other family member denied ties to. Sometimes there was more heat involved, or more confusion.

But this was the first time his heart started beating at such an obvious jibe. He could only imagine how it manifested on his face. That familiar and yet new expression took hold of him and his ears went red hot as he looked away, crinkling his beer can. “Alright, alright. Just asking.”

“Just answerin’,” Majima grinned, pulling out more food he’d picked up on the way back to the hideout. “You’re always so serious about everythin’. Grub?”

*

Night fell while they ate, and Kiryu felt amped from the meal. He looked back at Majima who sprawled under the kotatsu flipping through tv channels again, and considered. He had brought food for him in a surprisingly thoughtful gesture, twice. It was only natural to treat him back. “You know any good bars around here?”

Majima groaned.

“I JUST got warm.”

Kiryu felt this response was obvious every time he said it, but it never seemed to stick. “You could… wear a shirt.”

“Why don’t you wear a shirt,” he groused, inching further beneath the kotatsu petulantly. Kiryu pointedly grabbed his jacket from the entrance and made a show of pulling each arm through, then opened the door.

Majima’s disembodied head frowned at him. “Argh! Fine!”

They skipped out into the night, wandering the streets without interruption in what Kiryu would call “a miracle”. Not only did they go un-accosted by punks, but they were maintaining this armistice so well that Kiryu wondered why they hadn’t done this sooner. Majima had shown hints of a more serious personality behind the bluster of his bloodthirsty persona, but it was so blink-and-miss that Kiryu had assumed he was projecting. To finally be given a good look at it was something he didn’t even know he’d been wanting. 

In the clan Majima was something of a legend. His bloody rampages and dogged persistence made his a feared name, even alongside the strange rumors about his predilections and hobbies. He was as much a legend as he was a favored topic of conversation. People talked about how you could summon him by gathering a tooth, some stolen panties, a sakura blossom and then chanting 'mad dog' in the dark of any alleyway in Kamurocho; how he'd taken down a human trafficking ring operating out of bounds with just a garter belt and a pair of glasses.

For all everybody loved to talk about him, nobody seemed to really know him. Nobody had warned Kiryu how perceptive he was. Hidden expertly by the loud bloodlust was a bone-searing eye and a sharp-witted tongue. Kiryu had noticed it on the day of their first meeting, and he kept noticing it every time they were in a room together. Like magnets, they’d inevitably end up in the same corner trading charged conversation. He'd always wondered what he'd done for the Mad Dog to catch his scent.

They ended up in a bar a couple train stops away, by Kyoto’s famous Uogawa river. It glittered with the reflection of the shore side restaurant lights. They seemed to arrive with the regulars; salary men on their first bar of the night and students from the nearby universities who filled the room with bubbling chatter.

Kiryu bought their first round and grabbed them seats at the bar, feeling lighter than he had in a long while, energized by food, drink and company in a way that made him want more. He looked at Majima next to him and questions filled his head. Which to ask first?

“Majima-no-nii-,” Kiryu started, and then thought better of it. Ditch the formalities, he’d said. “Majima. What got you into the life?”

He sent him a mocking look. "You lookin' for an interview or somethin'?"

Kiryu shook his head earnestly. "Just curious."

Majima knocked his drink back and looked off to the side. "Oh, ya know. You’re a kid with no power, then you realize one day it’s something ya gotta take for yourself, that’s how the world works. So you start picking fights and you start winning and it turns out there’s a business in this sort of thing." Kiryu refilled his glass, and Majima's ever-present smile dimmed. "And the business finds you.”

“Just like that?”

“Eyyyup.” He sounded like he was glossing over a few details. “What about you, golden boy?”

“Orphanage, owned by Kazama. I grew up wanting to become a man like him. This seemed like the best way to give back. But,” Kiryu paused. The ice in his drink clinked into the glass as it melted. He hadn’t said this out loud before, and now he was saying it to Majima of all people. But, he was trying to make friends here, so. “He didn't want me to, and that should have been the end of it. I was a bullheaded brat. I was probably using that as an excuse to stay close to him.”

“Woah Kiryu-chan that’s some high EQ stuff you’re sayin’ right now.” Kiryu snuck a look to see if he was making fun but Majima stared back easily. So he continued.

“It was the only thing I wanted at the time. Since then I haven't really...” He’d counted that amongst his most selfish moves, and he’d decided not to do something of that magnitude ever again. “Well anyway it's just something I’ve been thinking about lately.” He filled his own glass again, flipping through the sudden mountain of questions he wanted to ask Majima, who seemed in a rare and especially lucid mood. There weren’t many people in the Tojo clan that Kiryu could say he wanted to get to know better. And before this trip, that included the man next to him.

"It’s good. That’s the sorta reflection that helps ya grow. Just don’t get lost in there.” Majima hit the bottom of his cigarette case with the heel of his palm, and Kiryu pulled his lighter out. His eye slid shut as he leaned into Kiryu’s space with his cigarette, lashes a tight curve against his cheek. The fire cast his face in shadow, smudging his eye patch away in the dark of the bar. Kiryu was just buzzed enough to think he could get away with more than usual.

“I’ve always been curious, did you have to re-learn how to fight after this?” he tapped his own eye. He also wanted to know how he got it, but he wasn’t drunk enough or sober enough to ask that and come away unscathed, he wagered.

Majima took a long drag on his cig and watched Kiryu intently, like he was weighing the merits of responding when he could just throw all of this civility out the window and carry on like they usually did. Kiryu hoped the roulette would land on civil.

“It was a bitch and a half,” he mumbled, voice deep.  “I was at the batting cages everyday tryin’ to figure out how distance worked again.”

"Oh is that why you carry that bat around? Got something to prove?" Kiryu teased, like he would with Nishiki.

Majima narrowed his eye, mouth covered by his gloved hand as it held his cigarette delicately. Kiryu got the distinct impression that he'd stepped on some sort of landmine, from the way his body tensed at Majima’s look. He wasn't ever one to backtrack so he made up for it by telling the truth. "To be honest, when we first fought I thought I could take advantage of it. That was my biggest mistake.”

Majima cackled, finally breaking the eye contact that was threatening to make Kiryu sweat. “That’s what everybody thinks! I remember now, you kept trying to dodge into my blind spot with that quick shit but you got a knife in the ribs for yer trouble, didn't ya?"

Kiryu swore he could feel the scar from that hit pulse as if Majima had pressed a finger to it. "That was the last time I tried that."

"Then, then, I saw your fuckin' brute-ass mode for the first time, just taking the abuse-" He mimed his punches with one fist and Kiryu's defensive pose with the other. "-Then you walloped me good." he sent his hands colliding and one flew crashing down the bartop as he made an explosive noise. Kiryu tugged his glass out of the path of carnage and finished it while he was at it, playing the fight over in his head. He thought about it a lot, too.

Majima settled back, storm clouds thankfully dissipated. "That's the kind of punch that sticks with you. Reached all the way to my heart, Kiryu-chan." He punctuated each syllable of his name, savoring it like a piece of candy.

A small smile ticked the corner of his mouth up of its own volition. “Worst job interview I’ve ever had.”

“And we never settled that fight, did we?”

Now Kiryu really began to sweat. Majima had that dagger-shaped glint in his lidded eye, and a smile like the cat that has gotten the cream. Even the smoke from his cigarette curled smugly into the air. Had all of their conversations just been setup for this, somehow? It wasn’t a rational thought, but Kiryu had it anyway because Majima wasn’t a rational man.

Even though Kiryu wanted to swallow to relieve his suddenly dry throat, he couldn’t let himself show any signs of weakness in front of this predator when a fight was looming over the conversation. He just stared back, speared through the chest by Majima’s gaze. They were too close.

“Guess not.” Thank god his voice came out normally. “You almost seemed like you were waiting for it, even that first time.”

“I was,” Majima said mysteriously. Kiryu couldn’t stop staring, even once their silence hit a point of no easy conversational return.

Kiryu couldn’t tell what was going to happen in the next moment, but they were so wrapped up in each other that neither of them noticed the man that appeared at Majima’s left shoulder and calmly, casually, cold clocked him in the jaw.

Kiryu’s lunge was more reflex than anything, hot rage burning through his veins with a rare intensity. As Majima recoiled into him from the blow, Kiryu reached behind him and grasped fistfuls of a tacky suit and head-butted the man to the ground. A weight pressed against his bent back then Majima was rolling over him, legs striking out at more attackers he’d missed from the side, whirling in a controlled flurry.

The bar descended into familiar chaos. Screams rose from every corner of the room and tables and chairs scraped against the floor as people rushed to avoid the fight in the narrow space. The men were blocking the exit and escape was next to impossible for most civilians. They’d have to work around them.

Kiryu and Majima drew back to back. A natural circle formed around them, pinning them to the bar. There were a lot of these men, whoever they were.

“The fuck kinda welcoming party is this?” Majima yelled, and Kiryu couldn’t see his face but he could hear the shark-smile through the words, normally directed at him and now at his back. In his tipsy state, he found he kind of liked it.

“Kawano sends regards,” one of the men said, interrupted halfway by a loud groan from Majima, and then the lull was over and Kiryu shoved his palm up some guy’s nose with a satisfying crunch. He grabbed two wine bottles and cracked them against someone’s head and poured the contents down the victim’s mouth. 

“How generous, Kiryu-chan!” He heard behind him, and he wondered how Majima could find the time to comment on anything as he wound between three men like a human Gordian knot then knocked them unconscious. Kiryu didn’t think he’d be able to pull that one off if he tried. Someone clapped, in the distance.

Kiryu’s initial rage gave way to something even more dangerous, something he normally kept a firm grip on but seemed to come especially loose around Majima. He tried to keep himself from smiling. The two of them found a pattern where they took out a few men, then snapped back to each other. At one point they shuffled along the bar back to back, Majima’s ankles against the back of his, the circle moving with them as they went. Something about that tickled him. It was more like a dance then it’d ever been.

One more thing occurred to Kiryu as he crunched a man’s windpipe beneath his white shoes.

“I’m supposed to be laying low.”

“Yer doin’ a crap job.” Majima vaulted up onto the bar and kicked shot glasses out into the dwindling number of enemies with startling accuracy, striking poses; 1, 2 and 3. The glasses met their targets but some customers behind were splashed with alcohol and booed. Majima waved a dismissive hand at them. 

Kiryu delivered a savage uppercut to a man with a prominent scar over his lips, and as he went down he grabbed Majima by the cuff of his pants. Majima’s belt dipped low onto his thigh with the strain, revealing a part of its owner’s tattoo that Kiryu had never seen before and couldn’t tear his eyes away from. Majima slid sideways off the bar with an undignified yelp, and Kiryu was glad his laugh was lost in the chaos because he would not have survived the night otherwise.

Distracted, someone barreled into Kiryu and knocked the wind out of him, bending him backwards over the counter in a way that cracked his spine. He groped around for something, anything to fend off his attacker, but they’d used up all of the glasses, and the man’s hands were curling around his throat and he was beginning to see stars. The cowering bartender lifted her eyes above the counter and pushed an ice pick into Kiryu’s empty hand.

He could kiss her.

He jammed her thoughtful gift into the man’s arm, and gasped for air as the grip loosened just enough to let him breathe. Then Majima tackled the guy from the side like a freight train.

He could kiss-

“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon,” Majima gathered him up frantically, cackling into the night as they went dashing through the brisk autumn air. Running alongside him and his boundless glee, Kiryu’s head light with drink, he felt invincible. He was still trying to catch his breath when they ran onto the train, doors sliding shut. Majima gave a hoot, and Kiryu let himself smile, just a bit.

“Why ya always gotta be such a cool customer? Let loose, we went wild in there!”

Kiryu chuckled and wiped some blood from his face that wasn’t his. It wasn't often he let himself enjoy a brawl because that was a dangerous road to go down for someone in his line of work. He didn't want to like what he did, but there was an allure to finding the fight that challenged him. Majima vibrated where he stood, watching every movement.

“You fucker that’s an even cooler thing to do.” He was leaning towards Kiryu, looking off-balance in more ways than one. He was the perfect example of what happened when you started liking it a bit too much. Kiryu made the mistake of meeting his eye and something crackled between them, like they were picking up exactly where they’d left off. Whether that meant their conversation from earlier, or the unfinished fight from when they met, or something that happened in a past life, he wasn’t sure. His heart went cold with adrenaline, stronger than it had been for the entire bar brawl. The people on the train went still with an animal fear.

“Majima-no-nii-san,” Kiryu said low like a warning.

“Kiryu-chan,” Majima whispered like a prayer.

Then he struck.

His tantō sang through the air and barely missed Kiryu’s stomach, then zipped up to nick the bottom of his chin as he dodged sideways into a sleepy salaryman. Kiryu twirled the unsuspecting man out of the way in a wide circle as Majima bore down on him in a perfect, unbreakable flow of dagger swings and kicks that forced them to the other end of the train as people flattened themselves against the windows and seats. Kiryu’s back hit the car divide, and left with no alternative, he kicked up just as Majima swung down, knocking the tantō out of his hand and into some unfortunate woman’s bag. She looked like she would sooner abandon the bag than take it with her.

Majima recoiled only slightly and then dropped into a power stance, knocking into Kiryu’s ribcage in savage blows. Kiryu eventually managed to weave underneath one particularly wild punch to jab Majima in the solar plexus. While he was doubled over Kiryu whirled them around and slammed him back against the door, straining to contain his erratic movements.

The train slowed. A soothing automatic voice announced their stop over the loudspeaker with a pleasant ding.

People rushed to leave, but as soon as Kiryu began dragging Majima kicking and screaming back towards the outdoor platform, they thought better of it and rushed back onto the train.

Kiryu stood under the harsh lighting of the station and watched the train pull away, bowing to express his utmost apologies while Majima bucked like a wild horse.

“Fight!”

Kiryu just tightened his arm around his throat. He thought he heard a laugh snuffle up through the gagging. Trying to hold onto Majima in this state was like holding onto a bag of cats, without the bag.

Kiryu blinked, looking around the station. “I don’t remember how to get back.”

“Win and I’ll tell you.”

“I’ve already won,” Kiryu said with just a touch of arrogance, which was the wrong thing to do apparently because Majima screeched, then flipped entirely up and over Kiryu using just the strength of his abs and his anger. He slithered around Kiryu’s upper body like a goddamn viper, and then Kiryu’s front was smashed against a dirty station pillar and he was left dizzy and trying to figure out what had just happened.

Majima panted his exertion in his ear, and they were pressed together from shoulder to hips to thigh, so he could feel every expansion and compression of his chest. Kiryu felt an ugly twist in his belly as something rumbled to life, hungry. He stiffened.

Oh god.

Even worse, Majima picked up on his preternatural stillness and answered with his own. Time slowed to a crawl, just to celebrate Kiryu’s total crisis. A bead of sweat dripped behind his ear. He tried to keep his breathing controlled through his nose, but it echoed loud and insistent and left wet condensation against the pillar and his cheek.

Then the pressure let up. Kiryu could move again.

He made a show of cracking his neck and rolling his shoulders, adjusting himself subtly before turning around.

Majima was already hopping up the stairs away from him.

There was a second of time before he had a real reaction, just drunkenly noting the distance suddenly between them and how strange that was, for Majima not to push his advantage. It was a nice second; neutral and lacking in any of the self-sabotaging actions that would soon follow. But, in the end, it was only a second.

A pang of undeniable hurt swept through his chest. Kiryu realized he was disappointed. Why would he be disappointed? Had he wanted Majima to do something like, wrap his strong hands around his hips and press against his-

Oh.

God.

His body moved to follow while his mind dealt with the one-two punch of getting turned on by Majima, then wishing Majima had done something about it. Then wondering if he should do something about it. Turned out it was a one-two-three punch, and Majima had hit him with those before but this was something entirely – scratch that, mostly new. New in that, he’d never consciously lingered on it long enough to draw out. But now he was lingering, and the idea took root. It seemed like a no good terrible unprecedentedly awful idea, even drunk as he was. But his gut curled warmly in anticipation, preparing him for the long dive. Kiryu grit his teeth against the thought but it persisted, and he wasn't disgusted at all.

Majima swayed from side to side with drink while he guided them back in the dark, 4 quick paces ahead of him. Kiryu kept his distance and tried and failed to argue with himself. He’d been tense since arrival, uncomfortable and pent-up from trying to figure Majima out.  His taunts sometimes had a certain edge that Kiryu tried his best to ignore because they were just part of the intimidating persona he put on, like the vivid markings on a poisonous creature that warned you away. Despite his best efforts, it seemed as if those taunts had finally seeped through.

He was losing the battle with himself. He’d already thought longer on this decision than he had on most anything he’d done for the other 10 months of the year. His mind dug up one final defense: What if this wasn’t what Majima wanted? They both needed to be in on it, and if they weren’t, this trip could turn excruciating. The answer was easy though, barely a defense at all it turned out; if he had a problem with it, they would fight about it for the rest of their days and it’d end up being exactly what Majima wanted.

His nerves threatened to overwhelm him. Nishiki would call him impulsive, but Kiryu’s instincts had gotten him this far. They reached their base, and the thin ends of Kiryu’s patience snapped.

“Hey.”

Majima turned away from the door at his call and Kiryu stepped in close enough to mark his intent, surprise lighting up Majima’s sharp face as his back hit the house. There was no moon in the sky to reveal them, no streetlights to guide his movements, just the dark silhouette of the man in front of him radiating an unbearable amount of heat from his exposed chest. They were nearly equal in height and Kiryu thought how strange it was to not bend down to kiss someone.

Majima turned his head at the last instant, and Kiryu’s lips met his scruffy facial hair. He pulled back, his blood pulsing so loudly at the clear rejection.

Head still turned, Majima’s mouth fell open with a soft click. It was the loudest sound Kiryu had heard all night. As if in slow motion, his eye curved cruelly and he rounded on Kiryu, and Kiryu hadn’t been paying attention to Majima’s hands because they were suddenly at his shoulders, around his neck-

He bit the skin between Kiryu’s ear and his jaw.

Majima surged into him, licking and biting and kissing his neck in such a startling turn around that Kiryu’s hand was gripping the back of his head instantly, prepared to smash his skull into the wall but instead drawing from him a muffled groan that vibrated against his throat.

Kiryu drew a shuddering breath to gather himself. That was a green light.

With the slow inevitable approach of an avalanche, he leaned heavily against Majima’s body, curling his large hand around the generous rise of his hip, fingers landing on the mound of his ass. The leather of his pants creaked as Kiryu gripped it, trying to hold on through Majima’s attack. He could feel his pulse beating in his face, in his cheeks as the wet sounds of Majima’s lips and tongue against his skin filled his head.

Kiryu thought the experience was much like how time supposedly slowed down when one underwent a catastrophic event.

Before he could think better of it, Kiryu slipped a leg between Majima’s and forced him up onto it, tugging his hips roughly down towards his crotch to ease some of the ache that was building. Majima made a thick, surprised sound that got stuck in his throat halfway out as Kiryu began a slow grind, relieved to feel an answering hardness growing along his thigh. He glanced down to watch the movement, the blunt shape of Majima’s cock clearly outlined through his tight pants. Majima finally pulled back from his assault and shot Kiryu a sly look that jolted him like a taser.

“I knew it,” he breathed, rubbing himself against Kiryu eagerly, shamelessly, his chest arching into Kiryu’s with each movement. “I knew it, I knew it-”

“Shut up,” Kiryu huffed, dipping both hands beneath the beltline and pressing into his thigh for sweet, sweet relief. If they were being shameless anyway, then. He bit hard at the curve of his neck and shoulder so he wouldn’t have to say anything else, and Majima was laughing his mean laugh - the laugh that usually precipitated an especially sharp hit. But it never came. Majima just worked his hips like a pro while Kiryu was left waiting for the axe to fall every second that passed.

So this was where he died. Rutting Majima Goro up against a door like a horny teenager in a nice, quiet neighborhood. Kiryu felt no small amount of shame when he realized he hadn’t even made it inside.

Majima groped around behind them to open the door and they stumbled for a few uncertain steps before Kiryu effortlessly hiked him high onto his hips and walked them over the threshold.

“Holy fuck,” Majima clung to him like an octopus. The sheer admiration in his voice boosted his confidence. “This is gonna be the good shit.”

They kicked their shoes off staying as tangled as they could, slipping onto the tatami in an uncoordinated mess. The door clicked shut with a finality that Kiryu couldn’t bring himself to care about. Majima was pawing at his belt and slipping his hand inside to finally press – Kiryu realized with a start that he still had his gloves on.

“Gloves off,” he said, on his knees before Majima, head spinning. Majima clicked his tongue but impatiently lifted a hand and put his fingers to Kiryu’s mouth, and it took Kiryu a slow second to realize he had to bite down. Kiryu had never seen his bare hands before, and even in the dark they were nice.

“Hey hey don’t stop here, ya got work to do,” Majima snapped with his other bare hand. Majima pulled Kiryu’s erection free and chased the shock of cold air away by immediately wrapping his hand around him, warm and rough. Kiryu’s stomach jumped at the skin-to-skin contact, then for a moment he was removed from himself.

They were really doing this. That was Majima’s hand on his dick.

Now Kiryu was the one off-balance. His hands had curled behind Majima’s neck at some point and he was leaned back so far that Majima was basically dipping him like a dancer, one hand splayed across his back supporting his weight and the other pumping long, fast pulls on his cock that wound him tighter and tighter with each pass of his fist. His cropped hair hung in greased strands in front of his eye patch, moving minutely as he jerked his arm. Majima’s eye burned a path down the line of his body and he let out a low, appreciative noise in a dark voice meant just for him and this thing they were doing.

“Look at you.” He paused his work to lick a sloppy wet string of saliva down his hand, then palmed Kiryu again. “I’ve wanted you on your knees for the longest time.”

Kiryu couldn’t respond to that, it was all going too fast, and he wasn’t touching Majima nearly enough. The unmistakable slick sounds of his hand on his cock echoed into the otherwise complete silence of the room, and if Kiryu were fully in control of his actions he’d be embarrassed about it.

“Wait,” Kiryu managed through the onslaught. Majima spread his legs, helpful for once as Kiryu fumbled around feeling like an amateur.  He couldn’t get a good look in the dark, and the angle was difficult, but pubic hair tickled the back of his fingers and his skin was silky smooth and hot against his palm. Kiryu swiped his thumb across the head of him and squeezed, and Majima hissed his approval, shuffling them closer, not quite touching except where it mattered. 

Kiryu kept his head down through the panic that waited just beyond the promise of release. He was in the grips of something, in the middle of a slow-moving accident with no way to prevent or minimize damage. He was mesmerized by the rough movements of their arms, and the rhythm of Majima’s ragged breaths. Majima’s free arm hooked around Kiryu’s neck for support, hips thrusting up to meet Kiryu’s strokes. He wanted to kiss him, because it seemed like the thing you did in these situations. But he didn’t want to be rejected again.

“Kiryu-chan come on baby come on, I got you, fuck, fuck-” he muttered feverishly. His own stomach was heaving and his arm was trembling. This was going to be over in a shamefully quick amount of time, but at least they both seemed to be there. Kiryu panted directly into his ear, and Majima’s dick pulsed, and Kiryu grit out a sound that he would not admit to being his name—and Majima came with a muffled burst of hot breath into the side of Kiryu’s neck, shooting thick lines of cum that splashed down Kiryu’s fist and onto his knee. Embarrassingly enough the sight pushed Kiryu over the edge with a pitiful choking sound, and he scrabbled at Majima’s sweaty shoulder as he worked him through it, uttering filthy encouragements as cum dripped over his hand, down onto the floor.

So that was that, then.

When he finally finished shuddering, Kiryu felt like a demolished tower. He catalogued his vitals like a crash victim crawling out of a car accident. His thundering heart pulsed almost painfully behind his eyes. His chest heaved with cooling sweat, and the musky smell of sex hit him with each breath. He was held up only by the equal weight of Majima counterbalancing him, arm hooked around his neck like a lifeline as they collected themselves.

Majima pulled back first and Kiryu found he was suddenly, stunningly, soberly apprehensive about whatever he was about to say.

Majima leered at him with a dirty smirk and patted his face twice with force just short of a slap.

Then, he rolled to the floor and passed out.

Well. Kiryu wanted to do the same, but he was relieved that Majima gave in first. He looked at the evidence of their activities cooling tacky on his hand, on Majima’s stomach.

Kiryu gathered the pieces of his wit together again, freed from the madness that had driven him into the arms of Majima Goro on… day two of laying low. Panic at what they’d just done gathered like storm clouds on the horizon of his mind. This tryst was an outlier for him in many, many ways, all frightening.

He jumped into action blearily. He washed up, cleaned the spot on the tatami, and eyed Majima before determining yes, he was completely passed out. He swiped the washcloth impersonally over their mess even as he still pulsed with distant pleasure.

Kiryu dragged himself up the stairs and pulled a futon out from the closet, growing chillier with each step as his body warmth was sucked away into the night air. He was absolutely not thinking about any of what had just happened. He piled double blankets onto his bed and was about to collapse into blessed and chilly unconsciousness when he stopped himself.

There was one last thing he could do. He didn’t have to, but still. He didn’t have to do any of the things he just did.

Kiryu hoisted Majima over his shoulder like a sack of rice, toted him upstairs and dumped him into the futon. He was impressed at the tenacity with which Majima clung to sleep. Majima was nothing if not tenacious, though. Kiryu did not tuck him in. But he did slide in next to him and drape the blankets over both of them. It was just warmer this way.

*

Kiryu dreamt. When he was growing up he was full of fear and want, two sides of the same coin. He wanted to get adopted, and he was scared he wouldn’t ever get adopted. He wanted to stay with Yumi and Nishiki, and he was scared Yumi and Nishiki would leave him. He wanted to be there for Kazama and he was scared Kazama would die away from him, on one of his jobs.

He hadn’t ever been adopted. So he clung to Kazama.

Yumi and Nishiki could have left, but he pulled his bro into the life with his own strong ideals, and was secretly happy when Yumi found work near Kamurocho.

He’d be dealing with the threat of Kazama’s death for a long time. But he tried to always be where Kazama directed him.

All of the things that Kiryu had accomplished with his life were fear-driven.  All of the things he wanted were burdens on the people around him, so he carefully pruned those desires like clipping errant sprouts from a bonsai. People came to him with their wants, and he helped them. That was enough for him on most days.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Kiryu blinked awake. Opaque grey light drifted through the room in such a way that implied early morning. The top half of his face, the only bit of skin unprotected by the double blanket barrier, was frozen. He didn’t know where he was, or what time it was, and something felt wrong but he couldn’t remember what. He’d had better mornings.

Kiryu tried to move, but he backed into a warm body under the covers, and just like that the moment became as fragile as a sheet of glass.

The physical memories of yesterday’s encounter rushed to fill his senses all at once, competing for attention – Majima’s tongue laving attention on his jaw, Majima leaning over him with a flush down his chest, the smell of the two of them sharing breath, afterwards –

He heaved a shaky sigh to shut down the renewed interest, vaguely disturbed there still was interest. There couldn’t be, he was probably reading himself wrong. As silently as possible while dealing with a very loud internal struggle, Kiryu chanced a look backwards.

The blankets rose and fell in the impression of a body, at the top of which a handful of black hair crept out against the pillow like an oil spill. Beneath that, a forehead, smooth in sleep. It was… cute.

That thought was enough to jolt him into a full-body recoil. He slid from beneath the covers, grabbed his bag, and hopped downstairs into the shower room.

The nice thing about a hot shower was it couldn’t give him lip for sleeping with the enemy-friend, it just woke him in a non-judgmental way. His mind was prepared to do the rest. He shook his head briskly and decided to start the day running – rather, working out. Which included running. He could really go for some familiar ground where everything wasn’t suddenly very complicated.

When Kiryu slid open the shower room door to leave, there stood Majima, blocking the exit.

He did not flinch, but his stomach flipped a nauseous 360. Or maybe it was a 540, because it did not feel like it stuck the landing correctly at all. The escaping steam shrouded around them forebodingly. Majima’s eye was lidded, and narrow.

“Mornin’,” he yawned. Hickeys peppered his bare neck and shoulders. Hickeys that Kiryu had left. Kiryu nodded tightly and stepped sideways to let him by when it became apparent Majima wasn’t going to move, and Majima trailed in sleepily without so much as an errant movement. Kiryu lingered in the doorway, very aware that the only thing keeping him decent was his towel.

“No baaath?” He whined, perching on the edge of the tub. His pants were still undone, revealing an enticing v of skin and hair, belt ends hanging heavily by his thighs. Kiryu wondered if he was going to try anything. Or say anything. About, the thing that had happened. Because Kiryu definitely was not.

“Ah- I didn’t run one,” Kiryu said in an apologetic tone. He scowled at himself. “You take morning baths?”

“You don’t? I ain’t got time at night. Those are peak business hours.”

“Guess I don’t usually take baths.”

Majima gave him an exasperated look. “You’re a real tragic guy.” And he turned the bath on full blast, set the temperature to something that might nicely boil some potatoes, and shimmied out of his pants. Kiryu got another brief look at the ends of Majima’s tattoo – swirled clouds and delicate flower petals – before he tore himself away to get dressed.

Kiryu was disappointed to find that last night hadn’t done anything to relieve the tension he felt around Majima. If anything, he now felt more, when it should have been out of his system and solved.

He threw on some workout clothes and fled the house.

Kiryu let his thoughts go flat as he ran, comforted by the easy physicality of his body. It was that hour in the morning where all of the kids were walking to school. An endless stream of middle school girls and boys clustered together in small groups, walking along the side of the road towards the train station. Some of them tittered and giggled as he passed.

His mind drifted to last night, picking over it like a post-mortem. He’d been enjoying himself until they’d gotten physical – Kiryu shook his head in an attempt to repel the memories – rather, until they had to defend themselves from those punks at the bar. That’s when his blood had reached a boiling point. They worked well together when they were back to back instead of front to front. Though they’d worked well together when it later came to that, too.

Anyway-

The point was, if they hadn’t fought they could have emerged from last night unscathed. It wasn’t the first time Kiryu had that thought about Majima, but the context was freshly devastating.

The incident last night probably related to whatever Majima was on, and the less Kiryu knew about that the better. Shimano Futoshi was an especially wrathful man with no honor and if his attention swung in your unfortunate direction, you would pay. The prospect didn’t bother him too much because the first sign of ticking Shimano off was to have Majima sicced on you. Somehow, Kiryu had achieved that reality all on his own. But he was already dealing with Dojima’s hostility and Majima’s obsession and it seemed like bad precedent to have 3 patriarchs gunning for him at once – from his own family, no less.

He’d have to work to whittle that number down in the future. 

With his time finally his own for the first time in many years, with no obligations in any direction, Kiryu slowed to a stop and tried to think. What did he want to do? If he went back, Majima might still be there. They could-

His stomach rumbled.

Kiryu had never been happier to be so ravenously hungry. He circled back to a hole-in-the-wall ramen shop he had passed, feeling like he took up more than half the space just by existing in it. On the other end of the counter sat two customers already deep into their bowls. 

“I heard it got crazy over by Uogawa yesterday.”

“Oh yeah?”

Gang stuff.” Two women chatted idly, slurping down their ramen. “My friend said he saw these two guys waste a whole crew.”

“Scary times.”

"I wish I could have seen it."

Figures. Kiryu kept his head down and relished the hot burn of the soup on his tongue. Not thinking about this, not thinking about that. Just ramen.

“You didn’t hear this from me, I know a girl who knows a guy. Says we should stay away from the river for the time being just in case. I mean, it’s already annoying enough with that one campaign van blaring around everywhere, but shit is going down.”

Kiryu slurped his noodles loudly, trying to drown out the noise. It was truly delicious ramen, too.

“…That guy over there must really like his noodles,” the other one said after a pause. She wasn’t wrong.

*

After working out at a nearby exercise park and loitering enough to warrant some worried looks from innocent park go-ers, Kiryu realized he couldn’t put off his return any longer. He steeled himself, and headed to the base.

He opened the door and was met with a quiet house. Kiryu celebrated by taking a second shower, tidying his futon, stocking the fridge with beer and snacks, and leaving the tv on just for the background noise the whole time just because he could. It was a good time. Growing up in an orphanage meant resources were always tight, and he hadn’t ever taken to the excess of yakuza life. Nishiki did just fine, though. He thought distantly that Nishiki would make fun of him for his simple pleasures. 

Majima would too, probably. The difference between the two was he didn’t feel like he had to prove himself to Nishiki. They’d grown up together, they were brothers, but Kiryu instinctually felt he had the upper hand in various ways now so he held himself back.

Majima, though. He was always goading him on, popping up as soon as he slowed down to take a break like an endurance hunter tracking a target, waiting, always watching. It was ridiculous considering they were on the same side, and he hadn’t done anything except get just a little insubordinate with him one or two times, but. He always wanted to rise to the challenge he posed.

Was this just another one of those challenges? But Kiryu had made the first move. And he wouldn’t, again. He shouldn’t. As he tried to think how specifically he shouldn’t, his attention began to dissipate like spilled mercury.   

Kiryu checked his watch after all was said and done, and found the time to be a disappointingly early afternoon. The quiet settled around him like a blanket. An itchy wool blanket. He stuffed his hands into his jacket and felt the sharp edge of something, pulling out a business card. Right, the restaurant. It seemed to be right near the river. Around where they’d been last night, where all the ‘gang stuff’ was happening.

He’d probably be fine.

He wandered around the neighborhood looking for the train until a crossing guard kindly directed him, then he headed to Uogawa.

The place seemed tamer in the daylight, like an ancient slumbering beast. Kyoto was weighed down with history in a way Tokyo wasn’t – the modern sheen of the buildings looked more like something done to keep up appearances and did nothing to mask the sense that this was a place where the gods were still breathing.

He wandered down a partially roofed shopping arcade that funneled into smaller and smaller pathways, enjoying the feeling of being new and unknown. It had been a long time since he’d felt that. Kamurocho was sprawling and he could walk its streets blindfolded and drunk and he’d still get to where he wanted to. It was where Kazama needed him and it was where he'd be until the day he didn't. But to be reminded that the world was bigger than that felt… nice.

He found the restaurant down a branch street from the main road. A crow cawed overhead as Kiryu peered into one of the windows of the establishment – it looked like Korean barbecue. What he could see was dark and quiet, on an afternoon lunch break or something. So much for that, then.

Kiryu was an expert at wandering around and wasting time, though. He turned to keep exploring when a small distressed sound slowed him to a stop. It was faint and distant, but he zeroed in on it like a bloodhound, tracking around corners and far back into an alleyway between the businesses.

He peered down into the grated bars of a draining sewer and found a kitten mewling helplessly, body small enough to have dropped through the large gaps with no resistance at all. Down the street, hunched at the nearest corner and doing a terrible job of hiding, Kiryu saw an adult cat watching him with the wary intent of an animal trapped between two instincts.

“I’ll get it for you,” he assured the mother. Kiryu had to lie down onto the ground to reach it, dirtying his suit a bit, but he managed to get his arm into the drain to grasp its thin body. He brushed the filth from its fur with patient thumbs as it mewled. He thought it’d be nice if animals could tell when you were trying to help them, but you had to just live with the idea that they probably thought they were going to die in situations like this. In his experience looking like he did and helping citizens, he found the same held true for some people too.

“There you go,” he said, setting it down and pointing it towards its mother. It toddled away, tail completely upright, and they disappeared around the corner. 

Kiryu nodded to himself in satisfaction. Sometimes in life, you were the kitten and the world was the sewer. Everybody needed a helping hand to get back on their feet, every now and then. He looked up into the sky to complete the moment.

When he did, he also happened to see an old woman leaning casually out the window on the second floor of a building, a cigarette holder pinched between her fingers. She made no move to speak, no move to break eye contact. Something about the way she held herself gave the impression of royalty even in this surrounding, blowing smoke out into the dirty alleyway.

She pointed down below her and Kiryu looked to see a door, and when he looked back up she was gone from the window. The choice was on him, then – he could just walk away, continue to wander with his time and his thoughts. Lay low, like he was supposed to be doing. Or he could see where this led.

Kiryu was beginning to think that curiosity was his greatest vice.

He cautiously opened the door and a sharp herbal smell immediately hit his nose. The interior looked to be the backroom of a medicinal shop with plants hanging from the walls and ceiling and rows and rows of glass jars filled with unnamed but probably extremely healthy leaves. Everything looked too delicate to house a man like him, so he gingerly stepped inside feeling like an earthquake.

“Not every day you see a handsome man dive into a sewer for some dumb animal,” a commanding voice said from above him. A lacquer wooden staircase led to a second floor where the old woman stood, silver hair in a large bun, skin weathered and spotted with sun. “You look strong, sonny. Think you could help an old woman move some boxes? I’ll give you some candy.”

Finally, some familiar ground. “I don’t mind helping out. I don’t need the candy though,” he said seriously.

"Nonsense. If you go out front and into the storage room, you’ll find some boxes – I need them piled into the truck out front.”

Kiryu moved with a jump to his step. He strode out to the apparent storefront, and the large man at the counter gave a start.

“Hired help!” came the old woman’s impressive and clearly practiced yell. The man sent Kiryu a wary look, then gave up with a sigh and flapped his fleshy arm towards a door on his right. Kiryu stepped over a pet dish and surveyed the two dozen or so boxes that needed moving, and got to work.

At the end of it, Kiryu sat across from the lady, drinking tea she made for him as thanks.

“You’re not from around these parts, are you?” She didn’t ask so much as state.

“Just passing through,” he answered vaguely, sipping at the tea. It bit his tongue like it had its own teeth. He made a face.

“It’s good for your muscles, this’ll keep ‘em in tip top shape. As long as you exercise too.”

Kiryu thought to himself that it was probably just the exercise, then.

“If you’re interested, I’ll be getting more shipments like this in the next couple of days. I can’t pay too much right now but I’ll send you home with some good food and warm clothes.”

He smiled through the taste of the tea that built its bitterness brick by brick on his tongue as he sipped. And he should have stopped, but it’d be impolite. “I don’t really need any sort of payment. But if you need help, I can do it.”

“There’s a good lad.” She patted his arm as she heaved herself up. She shuffled around the room and returned with a scarf and a mysterious jar from a small fridge. “Some pickles for the road. Good for digestion, if you eat them with barley.”

Kiryu thought to himself that it may have just been the barley then, but he wouldn’t refuse the gift. If he was going to be coming back - and he would be, because waiting around in the house all day for Majima was clearly the quickest way to madness - he couldn’t forget his manners.

“I’m Kiryu Kazuma, by the way. Sorry for not introducing myself sooner,” he bowed by the door.

“Kawano Hiroko. A pleasure,” she said, and she didn’t smile much but he got the impression that he had passed some sort of test anyway, and felt a deep sense of satisfaction. She waved him off as he said goodbye.

*

Kiryu got lost as soon as he stepped off the train. Even learning Kamurocho had taken him a while but he’d eventually built an infallible internal map after many, many false starts. He’d just have to build his map of Kyoto in a similar way. In his wandering he found a grocery store, and decided to take the opportunity to repay Majima for the meals and one-up him in the process.

Laden with groceries, he wandered around the streets until a young woman rode up to him on a bike and asked if he needed directions. After describing the house and the surroundings, she led him back, and he was only a bit embarrassed. The sun was setting in brilliant orange and pink hues as he stepped into the hideout, ready to cook.

He wasn’t a masterful chef but he could do enough to live on his own and feed his body what it needed to make his living easier. He rolled his shirtsleeves up and got to work, finally feeling like he could wrest back control of his life. Ever since that day in Dojima’s office, he’d been in the last car on the roller coaster of his life. Just a passenger to his circumstances.

As the fish began to sizzle in the mini oven, the door creaked open and Kiryu’s heart flipped in anticipation, completely against his will and shattering the veneer of control he’d managed to wrap around himself.

“Honey I’m hoooooome,” Majima’s voice crooned from the entryway in a sugar-sweet parody of a normal greeting.

“…welcome back.” It wasn’t something he’d said in a long time, he realized. That he was saying it to Majima now just added another layer to the cosmic joke of this laying low business.

“Oh my oh my what smells so good what is THIS?” He heard the sounds of Majima hurriedly toeing his shoes off and thumping across the floor in his excitement until he stood just behind him, presumably peering around like a kid at the zoo.

“I had some time. Just dinner, nothing fancy.” He kept stirring, even though it probably didn’t need this much attention. He’d bought this stuff to challenge Majima but in action it just looked like he was showing off. Why was he doing this?

Majima made a high sound that started in the back of his throat and came out his nose in mock outrage. “False modesty ain’t cute, this is a whole production!”

“It’s mackerel and pumpkin and pickles and barley. A simple, balanced meal.”

Majima’s chin landed on his left shoulder and Kiryu didn’t jump and didn’t look at him. But his body thrummed at his proximity, immediately breaking out into a sweat in a pavlovian response that was now twisted by what had happened.

“Kiryu-chan you shouldn’t have,” he smiled, sounding so genuinely excited that Kiryu wanted to smile too. Instead, Kiryu balked at the feeling. Majima was at his back and he should have been expecting an ambush. Just one ill-advised hookup and suddenly he wasn’t prepared for the fight. If this had been Majima’s plan all along, Kiryu was going to die here.

He was good at not showing any of these perilous thoughts, though. “I’m paying you back. You brought food for me too.”

“So that’s how ya like it, huh? I give you tit, you give me tat, and we all go home satisfied.”

Kiryu frowned. Was it just him, or did something about that statement seem a bit…

Before he could respond, Majima withdrew and bounded back up onto the tatami. With the safety of distance, Kiryu turned to watch him produce a bag from somewhere and dump it onto the table with no finesse to speak of.

“What are those?”

“Entertainment for the night. What do ya wanna watch?” Majima fanned out his spoils with a flourish and the video cassettes clattered against the table chaotically. Kiryu left the kitchen to inspect with some trepidation – surely he wouldn’t try to get them to watch adult videos or something- no, he absolutely would.

They were bootlegs of course, but to his relief they were films that hadn’t left theaters yet and a bunch of imported Hollywood things.

“These are more wholesome choices than I would have expected.”

Majima propped his head on his linked hands impishly. “Oh really? What sorta thing do ya think I’d wanna watch late at night?” His tone was innocent and put-upon, like it had been that first night when Kiryu was trying to fish out his intentions. Kiryu knew bait when he saw it.

He picked up one of the cassettes instead. “Oh, the new Stephen Spining film.”

“You a dinosaur guy?”

“I don’t really have an opinion on dinosaurs."

"That’s a hell of a statement."

"I worked with this guy a while ago though.”

“Yeah sure pull the other one,” Majima scoffed as he clacked the videos around like mahjong tiles, as if that would help him determine anything.

They settled on Cretaceous Place after a heated debate about Kiryu’s claim. They didn’t have serving plates or really any dishware to speak of, so Kiryu just brought the pots and pans and laid them on the table like some sort of industrial mess hall. Baked mackerel on tinfoil, cubed Japanese pumpkin still in the pot, pickled vegetables on the side and barley straight from the cooker. Spread out like this, even with the bachelor-esque presentation, it still looked like he was just showing off. He wasn’t used to second-guessing himself so much, he didn’t understand what was happening. Majima didn’t give a single care to any of Kiryu’s silent struggles as he dug into the fish with a happy sigh.

“Holdin’ out on me for all of these years. You’ll make a good wife someday,” he taunted, funneling barley into his mouth and immediately going for seconds.

“Not like we have company potlucks or anything. Who knows, maybe you’re some sort of chef savant.”

“Is that a challenge?” Majima’s serious tone was undercut by his bulging cheeks.

Kiryu smirked. He shouldn’t have been worried when Majima could read a challenge from a mile away. “Maybe.”

Majima swallowed, studying Kiryu’s face with a sudden intensity. “Interestin’,” he lilted, a hint of amusement.

Something unhooked in Kiryu as they watched and ate and drank, relief flooding his system. They seemed to be back to – whatever their norm had been. He really had been worrying for nothing because apparently they’d both arrived at the same conclusion about last night. To never, ever speak of it. It was such juicy ammo that he’d been expecting Majima to burst in the door wielding it as an attack on him, but if Majima wasn’t pushing it now, they were probably in the clear. It was the ideal situation.

The film continued in the background and the human casualties began piling up.

“We could probably take them on,” Kiryu said, leaning back onto his hands. “They don’t look that tough.”

“Yahaha! Sounds like yer finally ready to have some fun. Let’s call up yer ‘good buddy’ Spining and he can put us in the sequel.”

Kiryu glowered at Majima’s mocking tone. “Why would I lie about this. I could have left to work with him in the 80s and then we’d never have met.”

“Naïve, naïve. Even back then I had my eye on you,” Majima said, pointing at him crudely, hollowing out his voice. “There’s no escape, Kiryu-chan.”

The raptors circled tensely through the kitchen on the screen.

Their first meeting had been at the end of a long series of events that Kiryu to this day had trouble coming to terms with. It had been preceded by the birth of Shimano’s Mad Dog, now scruffed at the neck and leashed after his single-handed rampage up the ranks of multiple families, coincidentally the same people targeting Makimura Makoto. Kiryu had always suspected the infamous rampage was connected to her, but when he first laid eyes on Majima his takeaway was twofold: a knife in his side, and the knowledge that he was a lost cause of a man, fighting for nobody but himself.

That incident was something of a sore spot for him too, a glaring failure as he’d arrived too late to save Tachibana, and watched Makoto break down for it. He didn’t know Majima’s side of it, but whatever happened had apparently driven him to anger so legendary he’d made a name for himself. It was dangerous to ask about.

Kiryu’s curiosity lifted his tongue.

“We never had a reason to meet before Makoto.”

Majima sent him a dark look at the sound of her name, like it wasn’t to be spoken aloud. And the look should have warned him away, just as everything Majima did should have, really. But for some reason he kept stepping up to the challenge instead. Majima sneered as he spoke, “It was only a matter of time.”

Kiryu scowled. “Why would you want to find me? I was nobody back then. Still am.”

“Wrong.” His tone went serious and low. “You were someone to her. Any other two-bit punk would have walked away from the responsibility, or worse. The underworld is full of worse.”

“It was the right thing to do,” Kiryu said simply, because it was simple to him. Majima laughed, a curt, mean sound. His eye stretched wide and disbelieving.

“That’s what I don’t get yet. Ya look serious, but it sounds like complete bullshit.”

A spark of irritation ran up his spine and down to his hand, where he tightened his fist around his beer can.

“Strong guy like you can just take what he wants. But ya don’t. So you’re either lyin’ to yerself or you’re gettin’ somethin’ out if it you ain’t sharin’.”

“Makoto needed help, so I tried to help her. That’s all.”

“That’s really all ya want?” Majima looked at him like he was searching for the other shoe, so he could catch it when it dropped.

Kiryu thought then that Majima’s world view might be diametrically opposed to Kiryu’s, if he couldn’t wrap his mind around something that was so basic to how Kiryu operated. Maybe it’s why they couldn’t leave each other alone.

Majima clicked his tongue once it became clear Kiryu was not going to answer and leaned back, turning to face the tv tetchily. “I tracked ya down because I had to know you did all you could to protect her. What sorta man you were.”

Kiryu let that sink in, turning it around in his head, fitting it into the empty spaces of Majima’s past. He sounded very dedicated to her. He wondered what could have led them to meet - he wondered what could have happened between them for Majima to get riled up at just the vaguest of mentions.

“Well?” he asked instead, because it seemed safer, if not by much. Majima kept his attention on the screen, pointedly avoiding his gaze, and Kiryu was on his bad side so he could only see the eye-patch and his gloved hand, a fist on the table.

“Don’t get so greedy,” he muttered testily under his breath, so quiet that it didn’t sound like it was meant for him. It didn’t make sense either way.

He let himself watch Majima closely. Stripped of the blustering cackles, he looked more solid and tangible, but smaller. Compact. Like he could fit under just one of Kiryu’s arms if he reached out. He sipped his drink and left them both to their silence.

The family made it out of the park traumatized but alive. It seemed like the sort of movie that became an instant classic, but Kiryu couldn’t say he had been paying full attention the whole time. The tape cut out abruptly after the ending, and Kiryu didn’t know what to do without the distraction, or this silent Majima.

Luckily Majima just cracked his back then rose to disappear into the shower room, taking most of the tension with him.

Kiryu cleaned and wondered if these glimpses of Majima’s serious side might actually be the core of him. If so, Kiryu’s first impression had been very, very wrong - which was probably the way Majima wanted it anyway. Kiryu took a cigarette break and got some fresh air, too in his head for his liking. It happened easily out there where he knew nobody. It forced him to reflect on the parts of him that were just him.

When he reached the second floor ready for bed he found Majima spread-eagle on top of the futon, staring at the ceiling light in an unusual display of complete immobility. His hair was towel-dried and he was down to a pair of briefs, and Kiryu immediately curbed the lick of interest that shot through him. Bad idea, bad idea. It was one thing sleeping next to each other in the immediate aftermath of disaster, but this was trouble.

“There are more futons in the closet you know,” Kiryu said, suddenly more tired than he’d been for ages. “This one’s mine.”

Majima didn’t acknowledge him. Kiryu weighed his options. If he gave in and prepared another bed, he’d be losing… whatever this was. It was his bed. And he couldn’t just lose to Majima.

He took what looked the middle road. He got under the covers, tugging the blanket such that Majima slid off like an inanimate object, doing nothing to stop it. It would have been funny if Kiryu wasn’t trying very hard not to think about Majima’s nice legs. The aggressive silence strained like a leash about to snap. Kiryu cleared his throat, and that noise was all it took.

Majima struck. He slithered under the covers and planted an arm on either side of his shoulders in a smooth, decisive movement that got his heart pumping immediately. Majima stared down imperially, a blank slate of an expression sitting on his face. They weren’t touching at all. His gold chain hung down towards Kiryu, swaying slightly.

Kiryu stared him down as stoically as he could while trying to ignore the frankly embarrassing speed of his body’s reaction. Majima’s body loomed, stretching down and to the side, his muscles bunched and extended in ways that Kiryu would only be able to understand through touch.  The moment vibrated. Neither one seemed willing to take a next step.

Rendering his entire day of reasoning and avoidance useless, and entirely of its own accord, Kiryu’s traitorous hand began to move.

He touched the pads of his fingertips to Majima’s knee then slid his palm slowly up and over his muscled thigh like the beginning of a long journey. His skin was water-warm and smooth. Kiryu was making a mistake again. But, he confirmed, Majima’s legs were nice.

As if a contract had been sealed, Majima swung around Kiryu’s hips and sat heavily on his stomach, expelling a puff of breath from Kiryu. His mask cracked apart at the lips with a twist.

“Was that so hard? Had a guy beginnin’ to think it was all in his head. Just take what ya want already, Kiryu-chan.”

Kiryu’s other hand landed on Majima’s waist and began to knead, and Majima followed the pulse between his hands with a slow drag of his hips.

“What do I want?” He asked.  Majima pushed backwards to get some friction where it really mattered, eyebrows lifting cheekily in response.

“Seems pre-tty obvious to me.” His words were punctuated with too-heavy thrusts that pushed the air from Kiryu’s diaphragm and clawed gropes that scratched his pecs. He slid his hands under Majima’s underwear and dug his fingers into the meat of his ass to keep him nice, but Majima just cooed and clamped his legs tighter in a clear challenge.

That’s how this was going to play out, then. Kiryu couldn’t say he was surprised, or disappointed. He subtly shifted his feet apart for leverage just in case they came to blows, masking it with a strong upwards grind into the heat of Majima’s hips, sending jolts of pleasure up his spine. He watched Majima’s cock thickening through his briefs at their movements.

“Here’s yer problem, senior to junior.” Majima rucked his shirt up roughly and Kiryu had to lift his arms or have it torn completely off of him, the nerve. “Yer bottlin’ yerself up. I see it every time you think I don’t know yer watchin’. What I’m curious about is-” He leaned over and his necklace hit Kiryu in the face as he removed his underwear in a tangle of limbs and plopped back down heavily, an unbroken expanse of skin. Kiryu’s eyes darted down to where there was no space between them, just Majima’s cock burning a line against his belly where it sat sideways. His mouth began to water.

Majima’s hand gripped his jaw tightly and forced his head up to meet his gaze, eye feverish.

“What sorta guy are you when you’re not holdin’ back?”

Kiryu watched him from beneath his brow. The little indignities Majima was subjecting him to had hit their mark, but he couldn’t let that show. “I don’t hold back.”

“I hate liars,” Majima hissed meanly, and his strong thumbs were suddenly wrapped at the base of Kiryu’s neck, pressing too tightly. Kiryu’s hands flew to grip his wrists in reflex, palms growing clammy as his breath left him and Majima stared with a look just this side of unhinged, eye wide and teeth bared.

So Kiryu jabbed him in the armpit to break his hold then rolled them, bringing a knee down on Majima’s back and grinding the bones of his wrists. Something in Kiryu went bright and angry so he leaned hard on the mouth of the Hannya tattoo, dipping into a strength he would never use with women and was coming to realize might be reserved specifically for the only man who pushed him to this sort of limit. Majima’s breath emptied on a pained-sounding whine and he immediately felt guilty for being cruel and loosened his hold, taking a moment to rein his temper in before responding.

“I’m not lying. I wouldn’t do you the disservice of holding back.”

“Yer doin’ it right the fuck now!” Majima shrieked, and Kiryu winced at the pitch he hit. Majima was wrong in a way, he felt it in his gut, but maybe he was right in some other ways. Kiryu couldn’t think of the words to use to convince him though, his head gummed up with arousal and blood running hot.

“I’ll prove I’m not.” He gripped Majima’s arms tight with one hand and snaked the other between him and the futon, unsurprised to find him rock hard. Majima seemed trapped between two responses, giving a groan of relief and also jerking up to buck him off. Kiryu paused at the mixed signals.

“Well?” Majima growled, as if Kiryu had done something wrong by stopping. But Kiryu knew what consent looked like, and he couldn’t entirely tell what Majima was baiting him into here. The glimpse of his face against the pillow was flushed red even though he wouldn’t look him in the eye, like from earlier in the night.

Kiryu realized this showdown may have had some roots in the nerve he’d brushed against during dinner. Majima was lashing out; perhaps looking for the thing he wanted to see in Kiryu, whatever bad intentions he seemed to think lay beneath the surface. He was going to be very disappointed if that was what he wanted.

Kiryu released Majima to run a hand down his own face, irritated with himself. If only he could articulate what he wanted to. He’d have to understand that about himself first, though.

Majima immediately twisted free and dove at Kiryu like a wild animal, trying to force him onto his back, but Kiryu was ready for him. They grappled, his knees dragging off the futon and onto the tatami from the sheer strength of the man as he was pushed back. Majima got him up against a wall and Kiryu caught his hands and heaved until they were at a stalemate, arms shaking on either side of them. It was really the only way he’d ever imagine holding hands with Majima.

“You’re worthless -if you can’t be honest with yourself,” Majima said with enough heavy weight to the words that Kiryu thought maybe this wasn’t wholly about him, but he couldn’t begin to guess at what Majima was struggling with. Still, the statement struck a chord in him.

“We agree for once,” Kiryu managed through the strain of keeping Majima at bay. There was something he’d wanted to do yesterday and hadn’t, and maybe Majima had been right about holding back. But not in the violent way that he seemed to think.

So Kiryu abruptly stopped struggling. Majima’s arms shot forward into the wall on both sides of his head with a resounding bang, pinning Kiryu’s hands. Kiryu leaned forward –

And kissed him.

Kiryu felt an aborted movement ripple through the points where they touched, Majima recoiling back on reflex then catching himself, but it was just enough for him to pull away. Kiryu did his best to swallow the hurt that swept through his throat, trying not to let it show on his face. 

Majima’s eye darted down to Kiryu’s lips then back up again from eye to eye, like a cornered dog assessing a threat, even though it was Kiryu’s back against the wall. He must have seen something in Kiryu’s expression he hadn’t meant to show, because he dropped his hands and his gaze, violent energy seeping out of him like a cut artery.

Silence stretched between them as taut as a violin string. In the lonely symphony that was this moment, Kiryu was neither the conductor nor the composer, a worrying and running theme in his life, but a simple bystander waiting on the next note.

Then Majima leaned in slowly, on his knees bent over Kiryu. When Kiryu didn’t respond, he darted his eye up then away again in a move that winded him more than a punch. Like Kiryu had to be the one to do it, same as earlier. So Kiryu’s hand rose slowly, brushing along Majima’s stubbly jawline. He didn’t pull back. Kiryu leaned in to press their lips together one more time.

Upon contact Majima exhaled a shaky breath through his nose that fanned out across Kiryu’s cheek and his eye slid shut. Kiryu swiped a tongue across the line of his lips and they parted, and when he licked into him Majima let loose a small, pained sound that sent his pulse skyrocketing. He had wanted this in an intangible way before, but now the desire for more consumed him, as real as the press of Majima’s eye patch against his cheek and the taste of toothpaste between them.

He pushed his fingers into the soft, buzzed hair at Majima’s nape to encourage him into the right angle and he relented, hands coming up to grip Kiryu’s shoulders, bearing down on him with increasing enthusiasm. He felt like he was being eaten alive.

Kiryu pulled back for breath but Majima chased him hungrily, sliding his tongue into his mouth, crowding into his lap, bare cock pushing insistently against his stomach. All of the energy he’d leaked earlier was building back in full force. Kiryu pressed them back onto the futon and Majima went down willingly, arms wrapped around Kiryu’s neck with a trembling sort of strength as he fully controlled their kiss. Kiryu parted them forcefully with an indecent smack of saliva and Majima’s mouth was red and messy as he gasped for air, eye blinking open heavily, cropped hair fanned like a dark slash on the pillow.

He looked as wrecked as Kiryu had ever seen him.

Unable to go another second without being touched, and completely forgetting everything he told himself he’d never do, Kiryu shoved his boxers down and gripped their cocks together from base to tip. Pressed together like this, Kiryu could feel every inch of him as he squeezed them tightly, the thick raised vein along the underside of his cock, the swell of his head. They slid against each other deliciously.

“Fuck, look at that,” Majima swore, looking down at them. “Fuck.

“Mm,” Kiryu agreed, sweat beading at his temple as he sped up, listening to the raspy-slick sounds of his hand.

Turns out Majima had an oral fixation Kiryu might compare to the intensity of the fucking sun. Majima licked and bit at his ear, his jaw, drew his lower lip between his teeth and chewed, swept his tongue around his mouth like he was the last meal he’d ever have. His lips were throbbing painfully from the amount of stimulation Majima was subjecting him to, and he’d definitely have stubble burn in the morning. He’d asked for this, really.

To save them both from dying of suffocation, Kiryu let them go and began kissing his way down Majima’s chest, over the nubs of his inked nipples, down his abs. He’d been wanting to try this anyway. He couldn’t bring himself to look Majima in the eye but by the sound of his breaths he was grinning, and his hand trailed to Kiryu’s hair in anticipation.

Kiryu didn’t have much experience with this, but hell if he was going to reveal that. He swallowed him down until his nose hit wiry hair, tears springing to his eyes as he choked involuntarily. Maybe that’d been too far for a first taste, he thought stupidly as he pulled back and lapped a manageable mouthful. 

“You gonna be alright down there?” Majima asked tauntingly, but the edge was lessened by how out of breath he was. Kiryu had been on the receiving end enough to know what he liked. He hollowed his cheeks out and sucked, tasting nothing but clean skin and sweat.

Majima’s cock jumped in his mouth. “That’s it - haaaah- suck it.” The muscles of his thighs strained to stay still. Kiryu thanked him by gripping the base of his dick and flattening his tongue along the length of him as he began to set a pace he hoped felt good. One of Majima’s legs fell to the side and he moaned, low and needy and surprised-sounding as Kiryu trailed his fingers up from beneath his sack, squeezing lightly. He was too distracted to feel any of the panic from before.

“Kiryu-chan, Kiryu-chan-” he babbled, scratching his nails insistently on his scalp, trying to get him to go faster. Pushy. But he obliged, and Majima practically dissolved beneath him, trailing into a constant string of encouragements that burned Kiryu’s cheeks and had him reaching down to jerk himself. He was wound too tightly, spiraling unstoppably, the tinge of shame at getting off to his filthy words circling the drain of his mind.

Majima choked on his name and thrust up into his mouth once, twice, hands gripping his head to keep him in place, and Kiryu kept himself still as he came, a salty and bitter splash on the back of his tongue and sliding down his throat, tears springing to his eyes. He worked his tongue generously and swallowed surge after surge until Majima went boneless beneath him.

Kiryu surreptitiously wiped his own cum off on his boxers, dazed at the idea that he’d gotten off just to giving pleasure. He pulled off of his softening dick with a pop, and Majima didn’t miss a second of it, to Kiryu's embarrassment.

Kiryu kicked off his soiled underwear and flopped down beside him to catch his breath, wondering how this could have happened a second time. He had to accept some things about himself.

He was probably attracted to Majima.

Majima stretched towards him for another kiss, and this time it was Kiryu who pulled back.

“But...” he couldn’t even say it.

“Don’t care, makes it better,” Majima said in his lowest voice, and initiated a thorough kiss.

“What,” Kiryu huffed on a laugh, feeling punch-drunk with sleep and release. He didn’t know what to make of the strange intimacy that had suddenly fallen over them. It seemed like they should probably make rules, but he didn’t know because he’d never slept with someone complicated before. He was used to treating sex like a bodily function or a business transaction. It was easier and he didn’t have to navigate the labyrinth that was romantic entanglement. But this was messy. Majima was already someone he thought about too much, and it had been all too easy to flip the switch and shade all of that past thought with sexual tension. Framed here in the aftermath of getting each other off a second (and sober) time, Kiryu thought a lot of their conversations suddenly made a lot more sense. He digested that quietly, not sure how to feel about it.

The man in question licked his red, puffy lips and eyed Kiryu like he was trying to figure him out. Kiryu probably looked the same. He had no idea what Majima thought about all of this, but whatever it was probably meant trouble for Kiryu down the line. At least he wasn’t still trying to pick a fight.

Majima smiled mysteriously then rolled to his back and stretched, whining a sated sigh. Kiryu, for once, thought they had way too much to iron out to afford so much silence. But sleep pulled at him in waves, so he only had enough energy to ask, “So what sort of guy am I when I’m not holding back?”

Majima pursed his mouth at the ceiling for a thoughtful moment. He turned and brought a thumb to brush against Kiryu’s swollen lips.

He grinned menacingly. “Bit of a slut.”

Kiryu sent him a sleepy glare. Majima cackled and reached up to tug the light off, sweeping the blankets up and over them with a flourish. He pushed Kiryu aside while grumbling about a wet spot, and Kiryu was too far gone to give a single care about the dodge or the manhandling, drifting to sleep while Majima settled down next to him.

*

Kiryu dreamt. Once on their way back from school, Nishiki dragged him over to a small street. Their elementary school backpacks bumped together as they waded into the tall grass between two buildings and came upon a flattened nest where 3 wriggling puppies curled around each other, moving just to move.

"Let's take one home," Nishiki said, not budging to do any such thing.

"Do you have money for dog food?" Kiryu asked, trying to think what an adult would do in this situation. He was always trying to think about what an adult would want him to do.

"No...but I haven't seen the mom around in a while. They were like this this morning too." Nishiki reached a hand out slowly, brushed his knuckle down the brown fur of a puppy that hadn't opened its eyes yet. Kiryu thought it looked sad.

"We could tell our teacher. Maybe she'll know what to do."

"You know what I heard?" Nishiki got more daring and shuffled forward in his crouch to pick one up. It drooped like a viscous liquid through his small hands before he got a proper hold. "I heard they kill all the stray dogs around here because there are too many. They don't even bother taking any more to the pound because it's full up!"

Kiryu was frowning and he couldn't stop. It's not like these puppies had any control over whether they'd been abandoned or not. And they couldn't just take care of themselves. It was unfair.

But he and Nishiki were already kids who had less than most. He didn't understand that until they started going to school and everybody had enough outfits to wear something new every day, and their lunches weren’t packaged for 1 out of 10 kids but made just for them. He couldn't show that he wanted new clothes that weren’t hand-me-downs or a lunch made entirely of foods he liked because it made him look weak and selfish, but he did.

So Kiryu thought these puppies were better left to someone who had more. Someone who wasn't busy scraping by just to get to where everybody else had started from in the first place.

"The mom is probably around here. She won't come close because we're here."

Nishiki held the puppy closer to his chest but if Kiryu said no, he'd listen. They'd decided to be brothers like that.

"You sure?"

He wasn't. But he had to look certain.

"Let's check on them later. I'm sure the mom will come back. And they're right between these houses, someone’s probably seen them already."

And so they went home, went to school, went home again. And when they pushed through the tall grass on that spring afternoon, the puppies were still there. Nishiki found a stick to prod them with, but the bodies lay there limply.

Nishiki's face scrunched up with sudden tears that leaked over his cheeks silently. He was always a crybaby like that. But Kiryu never cried, even when he felt terrible. He could have saved those dogs, but he chose not to. He bore the consequence of his inaction with a dawning understanding that if you didn't do something yourself, it might not ever happen.

He and Nishiki walked back home to the orphanage, along the sea-side road that sat just above the swirling ocean. He remembered looking down at the waves crashing against the wall over and over and thinking he wouldn't mess it up next time.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Kiryu woke to a warm hand lazily groping his chest and a stubbly chin scratching his shoulder. This had never happened before, so he couldn't be blamed for his reaction.

"This is fine too," Majima stated, sitting cross-legged in bed, pinching and unpinching his nose to staunch the blood flow. He gave up and let a small trickle run down his lips and smiled through it, probably just to weird Kiryu out. "Are yer punches the only hard thing this morning?"

He stopped feeling guilty almost immediately. He didn't have a leg to stand on because he wasn't wearing anything and Majima could just see the answer but strangely, he didn’t care. Apparently whatever Kiryu was feeling, Majima was in on it too. They were both culpable.

Kiryu rubbed a hand behind his neck and stretched, sated in ways he hadn't felt in a long time. Everything should have been complicated, but after pushing through last night and coming out the other side intact, he couldn’t think of why it should be. Sunlight hit him warmly through the window.

"C'mere a sec!" Majima flexed his fingers hungrily, and Kiryu hesitated before shuffling over on his knees, uncertain of what to expect but strangely confident he could field it now. To his surprise, his hands sailed straight past any salacious zones and went for his hair, ruffling like he was trying to generate electricity.

"Hm." Kiryu said, trying not to smile. The blood on Majima's face was bothering him, so he smeared it away with his thumbs. That Majima let him this close with no sexual or violent motive made his heart clench weirdly.

Majima grinned. "Without all that gel it's soft as a baby's caboose."                                                                                         

"...Have you ever even held a baby?"

Majima's voice scraped along its upper register indignantly. "What do you think I am, a monster? Of course I have! Got gal pals all over Sotenbori who want ol' uncle Majima babysittin' their kids."

"And they're not yours?"

Majima's energetic petting became a yank. "This uppity fuckin' brat. See if I ever help you with any of yer kids."

"Like that'll happen." Kiryu thought briefly of Yumi, and quietly shut it down.

He didn’t notice Majima's hands slowly climb down the back of his neck until he was draped across his front, tucking himself against Kiryu's hard angles in a distinctly feminine gesture. Kiryu stopped breathing.

"Hey Kiryu-chan." He put some sort of an affectation into his voice that made it silky smooth and girlish. Majima blinked up at him, and he had unshaven stubble and hard, sinewy muscles instead of soft curves but Kiryu’s body was still fooled, somehow. "Let's make babies."

Kiryu choked. Majima giggled in that affectation, dragging himself along his body to grip his face in both hands, staring into him unnervingly, like he could see down to the bits that Kiryu himself didn't like looking at.

"Prepare yer heart. I'll see ya tonight, babe." He ungracefully shoved his tongue down Kiryu's throat, squeezed his ass, then bounced down the stairs in a flurry of activity that left Kiryu feeling like the last tree standing after a hurricane. Confused, battered, and just a little lonely.

*

When Kiryu finally recovered and made it out to Uogawa the sun was already high in the sky, and Kawano Hiroko was getting impatient.

"The order arrived late and my driver is indisposed. Could I trouble you to deliver the stuff too?" She shuffled around the boxes, marking the clipboard she held, silver hair neatly arranged in its elegant bun. The door to the front of the shop was propped open and the man at the counter leisurely turned a page of newspaper. "Don't worry, I'll make it worth your while. The glow in your skin tells me you enjoyed the pickles."

Kiryu raised a hand to his cheek as if he could tell whether it was glowing or not through touch. It didn’t seem to be, at any rate. It’s not like she could see what he’d been doing the past few nights, and he’d like to keep it that way. He tried to remember what the pickles had been for again – digestion, right.

"Ah-yeah. They really helped to, uh... get things moving?"

Hiroko rested her elbow on her hand and stared at him thoughtfully in a way that also triggered his fight or flight instinct, which was ridiculous considering he was yakuza muscle and she was 5’3’’ at most. "I'll send you home with some fresh eel this time."

"I like eel."

"Helps with stamina. Your lady friend will thank me."

Kiryu narrowed his eyes at her past the stack of boxes in his arms as he loaded up the truck, and tightened his scarf around his neck once he’d set them down. The meaty man at the counter snuffled a laugh from inside.

The front of the shop was ornate in a natural way, with dignified old-fashioned windows, a small bench in front under an overhang and an elegant handmade sign. The street was well-walked but quiet in comparison to the main street it branched off of, but judging by the amount of medicine they were shipping out business was just fine.

Hiroko sat on the bench and watched.

"What sort of work are you in, Kazuma-kun?"

Nobody had called him Kazuma-kun in ages but he wasn’t going to push it. Kiryu reached for an excuse.  "I'm on hiatus right now. But normally...insurance."

"You don't say. My husband was in insurance before he passed." She folded her arms into the dipping sleeves of her traditional winter cover, breath curling into the air. "It can be a rough job."

Kiryu didn't know too much about insurance save for some real estate things he had learned and promptly forgotten as soon as he'd rejoined the Tojo clan. Lying to a little old lady was putting something of a damper on his otherwise abnormally good mood. "The competition can be cut-throat."

"Don't I know it. I helped him out where I could. My son, though." She shook her head, a troubled expression weathering her leathery face. "Not half the businessman his father was."

"Your son works in insurance too?"

"Took over for my late husband, rest his soul. The boy is a fool but he's doing his best. If you're looking for more permanent work, I could introduce you two. You'd be a good influence."

"I appreciate the offer but my company will have work for me again when I return. This is something like a forced vacation."

"A hard worker, eh? That's no surprise, the moment I saw you in the alley I could tell right away what sort of person you were.” She motioned to the man inside then turned to Kiryu as he closed up the truck. "Here is a map of where to go - there are only 3 stops and the roads aren't too tricky.” Her finger trailed along the marked path, and tapped for emphasis on his first stop. “But watch out for strays when you get here.” Kiryu thought she must really like the idea of saving animals, the amount of time she lingered on that. “Come back and I'll have dinner ready. Here's some candy for the road, too."

Kiryu smiled helplessly as she dropped the foiled treats into his hand.

He drove through some confined and narrow roads then merged out onto the highway, blue skies and calm traffic. Maybe this sort of life wasn't so bad. It's not like he'd been caged in Kamurocho, but to be given a glimpse of what he could do outside of that place and the family life was refreshing in a way he didn't expect. It was a far cry from the misery he'd arrived with and expected to wallow in for the remainder.

He even found himself tentatively hoping Majima would stay, to his surprise. He made things… interesting. Maybe they could go back together too.

That thought sparked an apprehension in his gut. When they went back to Tokyo, would they go back to how it had been? They could still throw fists like prize fighters in the streets but he'd always know what Majima looked like when he was coming undone by his hand. And Majima would always know what Kiryu looked like, too.

He should have been uncomfortable with that knowledge, private as he was, and considering who Majima was. Or, who he had thought he was, before this. Majima was turning out to be much more than just a gangster with a knife and a chip on his shoulder. He’d looked so conflicted after Kiryu had kissed him for the first time. He couldn’t help but wonder why.

Out here, they could afford to be a little different with each other than back in Kamurocho. He still didn't trust him as far as he could throw him, but then again Kiryu was pretty strong. He could keep him in check.

Speaking of, what exactly was he going to come home to that night? They couldn’t really make… Oh, he thought, face flaring. But who would be… and who would do…

Kiryu scrubbed a hand over his mouth. He was way out of his zone both comfort and knowledge, probably exactly as Majima liked, but he’d carried on without either for most of this tryst so far. The curl in his gut promised fun, as did the memory of Majima’s face as he stared up at him, sultry.

He didn’t whistle as he pulled up to the first stop, but the impulse was there. The house sat next to an alley strung overhead with thick electric lines. The windows were dusty and mostly covered with paper from the inside. Kiryu knocked on the faded wood and blue paint chipped off. No response. He peeked in a small square of uncovered window, and when he tapped on it the whole section of glass fell straight in, shattering the quiet of the street. Oops.

The door creaked open and Kiryu took a measured but very sheepish step back. "Uh, delivery from Kawano."

"Back door," the disembodied voice said. The door groaned shut like a death rattle. Kiryu turned into the alleyway with one of the boxes, wondering distantly if there were things he had to prepare for that night. Aside from his heart. Whatever that meant. He walked to a door stained with water damage crawling alongside the building. It swung open when he pushed, and the darkness beyond was just thick enough that Kiryu's instincts began to flare into action.

Just this once, they weren’t quick enough. Maybe he was a little preoccupied.

Something hit him hard in the back of the head and he went out like a light. He didn't even remember hitting the ground.

*

The first thing he registered was a dull headache, and how sticky his eyelids felt as he forced them open heavily. A single lightbulb swam into view, hanging from the dark stone of the ceiling. The only point of entry was a reinforced door that looked much sturdier than the one, presumably, outside.

He tested the ropes around his wrists and his ankles. Tight, but he could work with it. The chair lifted when he put some force into it. It was either amateur hour or a rush job, and he was just beginning to rotate his wrists when the door opened and a few rough men stepped into the room.

A man with a prominent scar across his lips stepped forward. "Who's your supplier?"

"Is this because I broke the window? I'll pay for it."

He backhanded him, and Kiryu felt the sting of his gaudy ring cut a welt on his cheek. He rolled his eyes.

"Who is your supplier?" The second one, a skinny punk with a hideous striped button-up, stepped up to the plate.

"For the medicine? That info's on the boxes in the truck. Not really something that warrants this." Kiryu scraped his wrists together and managed to get fingers on the knot behind the chair. Stripes looked uncertainly at the other two men, and Lipscar slipped out of the room.

"Then, uh... how'd you get this address?"

"Kawano sent me. Just a basic delivery."

"Kawano?" The third guy had a gold tooth and a thoughtful face. "But that's... our boss."

"Then check with her before resorting to a hostage situation," Kiryu commanded, pulling his wrists wider. Progress. The medicinal industry was really intense, apparently.

"Ohh," Stripes sighed, scratching his head. Lipscar came back into the room and confirmed the return address on the box. "The old bat's at it again."

"What should we do with him?"

"Well he's seen too much, hasn't he?"

"Not really, he's seen a shitty storefront and a wine cellar." Kiryu said.

"Wait," Lipscar said, stepping closer, shoving his face in beyond the bounds of social grace. Kiryu leaned away. "This guy looks familiar."  

"Where from?"

Lipscar stared at him. Kiryu stared back. His fists tingled with a certain familiarity, but he'd punched a lot of folks in his day.

"...Dunno."

"Well that's useless. Let's just kill him and be done with it, maybe she won't send another."

Gold Tooth hesitated. "But, uh. We were told not to... you know. Fuck up again."

Stripes rounded on Gold Tooth like a small, angry dog barking up at a tree.  "And? She’s the one who sent him to us!"

Lipscar was still staring at him, and Kiryu couldn't risk undoing his binds with such close scrutiny. "Nah he's right. Let's wait until tomorrow and get some advice." He stood, and the three of them thankfully headed to the door.

"I hate talking to that guy."

Was the last he heard before they left him alone in the room with the light and some dust, and probably some mold going by the smell.

Kiryu twisted at the rope and wondered if this was his fault somehow. No matter where he went, the life seemed to chase him. He was beginning to think that maybe a guy like him wasn’t fated to live a simple, quiet existence. Kiryu hadn’t ever thought he’d want that, too embroiled in the criminal underbelly of Tokyo to have the luxury to plan beyond next week, but here, tied up in a dark basement for no apparent good reason, he was beginning to see the appeal.

Kiryu wondered if Hiroko had known this would happen. His innate fear of her may have actually been his instincts working as intended and not just her naturally frightening poise.

Kiryu was just about free when the door opened again and Stripes came in sporting, worryingly, a needle.

"Nothing personal," he said, eyes darting to Kiryu, who scowled at him, quickly untying his ankle. "Oh shit-" he flung himself at Kiryu and they toppled over. Kiryu used the momentum to complete the tumble and crushed Stripes under the four legs of the chair. He stood, and his hand flew to his neck to find the syringe. He pulled it out. Empty. Oops.

Amateur hour indeed, he thought as he went woozy and crumpled back into his chair, a faint 'oof' puffing from the floor.

*

When Kiryu came around again the amount of ropes on his person had quadrupled. They criss-crossed his forehead, his shoulders, around and under his armpits, his thighs. He felt like a flank of stuffed pork roast on display at the grocer’s.

His eyes throbbed every time he blinked and he kept swirling his tongue around his mouth just to make sure it wasn’t really filled with cotton balls. He couldn't keep a thought long enough to see it through to the end, but he realized the drugs were probably still in his system.

Time passed, but he didn't know how much. Kiryu’s eyes clicked noisily as he blinked. The light bulb was beginning to flicker in an effect that was unintentionally torturous.

A worry began to build in his breast once he realized he couldn’t untie himself, and that realization itself had taken quite a while. Hiroko was old and he had her truck, she couldn’t come to get him, if she even realized he was missing. Maybe this had been an elaborate hit from Dojima. He hadn't gotten around to getting Nishiki's souvenier. Majima would come home and wonder where he was. Well, not home but. Their home, kind of. He might not see Yumi or Reina again. Or Majima.

Before he could be completely consumed by paranoia, voices drifted in from the hallway, and he tried to concentrate on those instead.

"Fine. Don’t got time for this, I’m busy."

"He's just over there, we didn't kill him or nothing."

"You fucknuts, takin' a hostage in the first place is the problem."

Kiryu squinted, but with his ears. Either he was thinking wishfully, or-

The door swung open and Majima swaggered in, mid-barrage.

Kiryu watched in slow motion as Majima’s head turned and his gaze fell upon him, the blunt edges of his bangs trailing with the movement. His expression changed like watching a curtain fall, handsome features tumbling into an indignant sort of sheer shock.

Even through the drug haze, Kiryu knew he had a doofy smile on his face. He was so happy to see him, he didn’t care.

"Oh holy shit," Majima said hollowly. It was all he said before he whirled on the man behind him and swung his bat like the hammer of a god. The man dropped to the floor like a log, it was almost impressive how still he stayed.

The other men shied away but didn't run. Kiryu thought this was a bad tactic for dealing with Majima when he got like this.

"Holy! Shit!" Majima said again, barreling into the rest of the men and knocking them down with sweeping strikes. They took it, curiously, the sharp metallic thwack of the bat ringing with each hit. "We don't-"  thwack, "Take-" thwack "Hostages!" Thwack.

Majima stood in the middle of the carnage, hunched over with an invisible weight on his back.

"Majima," Kiryu called, and his vision pulsed when he spoke but he didn't mind. "Homeruns, all of them."

Majima dropped his bat with a clatter and stalked over to him, looking strangely humorless.

"Kiryu-chan, what the fuck," he mumbled, hands undoing the ropes around his forehead first, shaking. It was probably the adrenaline. "This is where you’ve been?"

Kiryu nodded, then thought better of it as the world swam in front of him. "I was just delivering some medicine. For an old lady who was going to give me some eel for stamina." Majima's hands were at his thighs and he got distracted, then pressed on. "They're complete amateurs. But they stuck me with something."

Majima finished and stood, eye roving over him quickly, assessing with a tight expression. Kiryu stood as well, stumbled, then righted himself and only swayed a little bit. He tried to appear in working order because Majima was looking at him with what looked like a worried expression, but he knew better. Maybe he had indigestion. He could swing by and get some more pickles when he dropped off Hiroko’s truck.

"I'm fine. It was just a lucky shot." Was he babbling? Were his words not getting across correctly? Majima wasn't reacting like he thought he would, with jibes and taunts and maybe just a bit of relief. His fists were clenched.

“You got kidnapped? By these punks?"

"I was delivering some medicine and they knocked me out from behind," he repeated.

Majima’s expression changed into something Kiryu recognized. He looked angry. "You should be strong enough to deal with these guys, what happened?"

Kiryu's temper flared around the seed of hurt in his chest protectively. "It was just a lucky shot, and then when I got free they drugged me." If he had to say the same thing again and again to get his point across, so be it. Majima was leaning towards him like he had on the train after the bar brawl, bunched with something he looked ready to unleash. Kiryu repressed the urge to raise his fists into an attack stance.

Majima turned on his heel, crunching gravel beneath his foot. He picked up his bat and disappeared around the corner.

Ok.

Kiryu followed after him slowly as if wading through deep water when the sharks were circling. He stepped over all of the downed men, out through the dilapidated house, each step feeling like an accomplishment. He spotted a dingy chemical setup and scattered packets, carefully arranged next to a scale. He emerged out onto the street and located the truck, still parked beneath a now-lit streetlight. Night had come at some point and the ground looked wet with rain but Kiryu had only seen blue skies that afternoon.

When he took another step, the ground went sideways and he stumbled. Kiryu thought he probably shouldn't be driving.

"-ey. Hey!" Kiryu turned to Majima belatedly, realizing he'd been calling him for some time now.

"Shit," Majima muttered, wracking his hair back. "You can't get back on yer own."

"I'll be fine." Kiryu was good at getting things done on his own. He wasn’t about to lean onto Majima for strength, even if he sort of wanted to in that moment.

"Now's not the time to debut your sparkling sense of humor." He shifted his weight, tapping his foot, energy buzzing beneath his skin. His bat thunked loudly against the side of the truck. "Alright, hop in. Dunno who’s got eyes here so we gotta be sneaky."

Now Kiryu was beginning to feel humiliated, mostly for expecting any sort of comfort from Majima. "I'll call a taxi or something."

Majima wrenched open the passenger door. "Non-negotiable!"

They rode in a silence so oppressive Kiryu wished he would just pass out again, maybe take another needle to the neck. Like being back in Dojima's office, he kept his head down to weather out whatever was brewing in Majima, and going by the way he was driving-

The truck screeched a hard 90 degrees, clipping a "no right turn" sign clear off the sidewalk. Kiryu had the sense to brace himself against the ceiling and the door.

It wasn't going to be fun.

The roller coaster ride came to a stop at a red light that Majima mercifully obeyed. The silence filled the cramped front seat of the truck, threatening to push the doors open. Finally, he spoke.

"How did you end up in that basement?"

Kiryu wished he could read Majima well enough to tell him what he wanted to hear. "I met an old lady down by Uogawa, and she needed help with some boxes. So I helped."

Majima laughed, a caustic sound that further riled Kiryu's temper. "Of course!"

He couldn't stop his words from slipping out. "I couldn’t just stand by and not."

"But ya could!" The light turned green and like a horse bolting from the gate they were off. "It's not your job to, what, fix the world? The world don't give two shits about what you do. She would have found someone else, and you could have stayed home and waited for me like a good soldier."

Funny how he called it home, too.

The world didn’t care, and that’s exactly why Kiryu had to. Kiryu thought through the haze how rich it was to be lectured by Majima, a man who'd built his persona around doing things his own way.

"That's different, I earned that shit," Majima growled.

Had he said that out loud?

Before this trip he'd only seen Mad Dog anger, a crazed and slightly performative emotion that just meant he'd be bleeding from a few more places once it was over. Then there was his sullen anger, and Kiryu wasn't any closer to figuring that out but it probably had to do with past regrets.

But this anger, bubbling beneath the surface of every critical word, was new. Majima was holding himself back, Kiryu realized slowly. If he were in fighting shape, they'd probably be fighting but instead that energy was funneling into this unpleasant thing.

"Do I have to remind you? Yer yakuza. Goin' around doing goody-goody shit like helping old ladies cross the street ain't our purview in the first place. You’ve got one job, and that’s to snap amateur thugs like those guys in half. But you couldn’t even do that! You won’t last if you keep this up. Maybe yer not as tough as I thought ya were."

Kiryu simmered in his seat. This felt very unfair. Humiliation, shame, guilt, they were all swirling dangerously in his chest, more intense than usual because it was Majima berating him, and unlike Dojima he found he actually cared what he thought, somehow. He clung to the protocol for respecting your seniors in the family, desperate to not show how he was really feeling. His voice only creaked a little when he spoke.

"I’m sorry to have worried you. It won’t happen again."

Majima fell quiet again, bringing the truck to a screeching stop down a dark alleyway. Majima led him into a backdoor that housed a roaring kitchen, busy with the dinner rush. They weaved through confused looking cooks then down some stairs into a cellar hallway, noise falling away to a muffled din. The murky golden and black scales of Majima's jacket glittered, slinking like they were still attached to the snake while the edges of everything else blurred.

Majima stopped suddenly, and Kiryu walked full into him. He whirled and gripped his upper arm tightly, the leather of his glove crackling against Kiryu's jacket. Majima was only a hair taller at his full height, but it felt like he was staring down from a mountain.

"Make sure it doesn't."

Kiryu just blinked, trying to remember what was last said. "Yes sir," in his deepest, most respectful voice. Majima's face was severe even in the soft light, eyebrows thick and low in a serious expression, the creases between them like ravines he wanted to touch. Kiryu was a bit mad at him but he still thought he was very handsome. Majima sighed, as if in response.

"Ok, stud. C'mon."

As soon as Kiryu set foot inside the familiar dense silence of the hideout, a full-body fatigue washed over him. He'd only been held together by sheer willpower, he supposed. He stumbled onto the tatami and went down while Majima watched him from the doorway, looking far away.

"I still got shit to sort out. If you get hungry there's stuff in the fridge."

And then he was gone.

*

A sound startled Kiryu awake and he blinked, alert, searching for what had woken him. In the dim moonlight he saw Majima pulling the blankets over himself in a separate futon by the wall. Kiryu thought that was the reasonable thing to do, but...

Irritation kicked up his ribs. His system wasn't 100% clean but his head was clearer now, and he had a bone to pick about how Majima had treated him.

So with the finesse he was known for he reached out and grabbed Majima's blanket, tugging strongly. Majima jolted and looked back at him with an offended expression, curled around himself in the cold.

"What the hell? Hey hey hey-!"

Kiryu reached for his futon next, dragging it fistful by fistful closer to his own until he could get hands on Majima, who put up meek resistance as Kiryu threw their blankets over both of them and leaned above him, inspecting.

"Yer lucky I'm so fuckin' tired," he sneered, the high pitch of his voice thinning out his words. "What? Ya wanna cuddle?"

"Yeah." Kiryu said simply, realizing he did. Majima's intimidating stare was undercut by the bloom of red that tinged his cheekbones at Kiryu's straightforward admission.

It was a brand new, thrilling expression. He didn’t think he’d ever, ever be able to make Majima blush and it was a rush further fueled when he turned his face to hide, eye-patch up.

Whatever power imbalance existed between them seemed to exist purely outside the bedroom in that moment as Majima allowed Kiryu to curl around him, so he slung a leg around his hips and pressed his chest to Majima’s back. The cold from his skin seeped into Kiryu at every point of contact. He watched his pulse fluttering at his neck. It occurred to Kiryu that it might not have been right of him to do this, to get so close. They hadn't agreed to the terms of any of this. But he’d done it before he could think better, it was already too late.

"I don't want to fight," Kiryu said apropo of nothing.

Majima’s voice came small and low. "This ain't a fight."

"No I mean, earlier-"

"Yeah I know. That wasn't a fight. A fight is two people on equal ground with somethin' to prove. That was just... me sayin' mean shit. To a guy who was already down." He fell to silence again, long enough that Kiryu began to wonder if that was the end of what he wanted to say, despite the hang of his tone. Then, so muffled and quieter than anything: “Sorry.”

Kiryu allowed himself all of the stunned time he needed to process the apology. Another thrilling first. "So I did worry you."

Majima made an exhausted sound. "What day do ya think it is?"

"Monday."

"Wrong, Thursday."

"Oh."

"Yeah, oh."

That was a long time to be missing. His gut twisted uneasily at the thought. The idea that Majima could have been worried about anything let alone him was just foreign enough that Kiryu had to parse it in waves, like acclimating to a swim in the ocean. Majima, who went around barechested fighting men armed with guns and swords like he had a deathwish. Majima, who had no qualms roughing him up but apparently as soon as someone else did, got angry. Majima, who mouthed off to every patriarch except Shimano and got away with it because he was strong and clever. Worried. About him?

It really drove home to Kiryu that he'd been paying special attention to his senior for a while now. Like piling small branches and underbrush to build a fire, he’d only needed to strike a spark to set it off. And now it was blazing.

The way they spoke, quietly murmuring into the room, was something usually reserved for lovers. Curled around Majima like he was, he wondered if that applied to them. It didn't quite fit, but this wasn’t a normal fling either. He thought of them returning to Tokyo again, back to where their history was. He tightened his arms.

"Ok, that’s enough of that," Majima huffed, sounding annoyed, wriggling, but Kiryu didn't give him any space. He could feel the warmth returning to the body in his arms, radiating out from Kiryu's own. The quiet intimacy and Majima's admission made him brave, but not brave enough to pull away or thank him properly. So instead he pressed his lips to the fine hairs where his hairline ended, then to the angle of his neck and shoulder, nudging aside his necklace. Majima sighed into the attention. "Yer a cruel guy, Kiryu-chan.”

"I don't mean to be," Kiryu said, petting Majima's stomach, trailing up to touch the leathery ink on his chest. Majima's heartbeat pounded beneath Kiryu’s hand but his mouth remained a firm line, fists clenching where they lay by his nose. Kiryu relished having all of him trapped between his hands and his body. He trailed his lips up to his ear, gentle and exploring. Majima trembled.

"That makes it worse," he said in a rush of breath like diving beneath the surface of the water, and he shoved Kiryu's hand under the waistband of his shorts and Kiryu gripped his soft cock, working him until he was hard and writhing in no time at all. He scrambled to turn around in a flurry of pushy but soft limbs, as if he was running on less than nothing. Kiryu decided he didn't have to exert himself for this, and pushed him back into position. He’d take care of him in lieu of speaking his mind.

Kiryu clamped a leg around and between Majima's so he couldn't move. He squeezed his other arm beneath him, up and under his armpit and crushed him back against his chest in an iron hold. Majima strained forward against it weakly, the muscles of his neck rising from beneath his skin as Kiryu kept up the relentless pace of his hand on his leaking dick. What Kiryu could see of his mouth bowed around a surprised 'oh' as he moaned plaintively. His bare hand grasped back at Kiryu's waist, blunt nails scratching for purchase as his shoulders heaved, taken apart stroke by stroke. He couldn’t seem to get his usual stream of words out, too busy gasping for air and testing Kiryu’s embrace, trying to escape or bury himself deeper, Kiryu couldn’t tell. Maybe he couldn’t either.

"Nii-san," He uttered for the first time, low as the rumbling earth. Kiryu couldn’t leave formalities behind for long, but this had enough familiarity to it that Majima could forgive him, hopefully. Majima’s head jerked back at the address, his eye seeking Kiryu’s at last. Kiryu mouthed his shoulder wetly. “Nii-san, come.”

Majima shuddered alarmingly in Kiryu's arms and came with a startled, cut-off cry, like he hadn't been expecting it. Kiryu wrung him out, the body in his arms jerking sensitively against his tight hold with what looked like an almost painful orgasm. Kiryu's heart beat against Majima's back, full of tender and compromising feelings.

"Jeee-sus fucking christ," Majima moaned under his breath, body going limp at last. Kiryu swiped up as much cum as he could and Majima was completely pliant as he worked his briefs off, leg by leg. A sluggish hand groped back at Kiryu's covered crotch but he grabbed it, pressed a kiss to the knuckles, and slung his arm forward again.

"A cruel guy," Majima said again, drowsy, already half asleep. Kiryu didn't think so, but he wasn't going to press the issue. Their conversation wasn't finished exactly but Majima's muscles were relaxing into sleep and Kiryu was beginning to think he had a new problem to contend with, more important than chasing his short-term satisfaction. He stared at the back of Majima's ear, a delicate criss-cross of veins visible through the moonlight. It was an absolutely mundane detail to find cute. But instead of looking away like he had before, he dwelled on it, running fantasies through his mind. Kiryu watched for a long time until his eyelids drooped, feeling troubled and elated at once.

*

Kiryu dreamt. The summer Kiryu turned thirteen he beat a neighborhood kid to an inch of his life. He’d been getting into fights more and more, flipping from neutral to angry at the drop of a pin for reasons he couldn’t justify to himself when he returned to his right mind in the clear calm of the aftermath. It’s like his body had secretly grown this raging beast and unleashed it against his will – when one of Nishiki’s teases hit too close to home, or if one of the boys at school looked at him funny. He used to be able to deflect or ignore, but now he punched. Indiscriminately and with no restraint to speak of.

He wished he could have said that the circumstances with that neighborhood kid were special, and that’s why he’d lost control so badly. But they hadn’t been. They’d argued, they’d postured, and Kiryu became detachedly curious as the cloud of rage took over his mind – he wondered what would happen if he went all-out. He came back just as he was pulling his fist back for a last dripping punch to the face. The kid was bloody and still and it looked like he was missing a tooth. What scared Kiryu most in that moment was how disappointed he was. The kid had gone down so easily. The thought paralyzed him. They were only saved by a neighbor that happened to come home brave enough to yell at a scared-stupid, slack-jawed punk.

The kid was sent to the hospital and Kiryu spent the night in police custody. Kazama drove all the way from Tokyo to pick him up, and lectured him the whole way home on the merits of mercy and control. Kiryu’d been surly at the time but secretly soaked up every word he said. It was an intense relief to hear that he had a choice about who he could be. As long as he could choose, he could stay himself.

 

Chapter Text

 

Kiryu stared at Majima. Majima snored back. He lay still as a corpse, limbs rag-dolled exactly how Kiryu had arranged him the night before. Watching him vulnerable in sleep made that new and troublesome something twist sharply in his chest. He wondered who else had seen Majima like this. In the cold light of day Kiryu didn’t have much more of a grasp on his feelings than he had the night before, but he knew he’d crossed the Rubicon by letting it grow instead of quashing it.

Even unconscious he looked like a mean guy. His cheeks were a bit gaunt and his nose bent hawk-like, and Kiryu wanted to touch. His eyes fell upon a shadow behind the eye patch, smushed against the pillow at the slightest angle. He used to think the eye patch was simply intimidation factor until he once saw a colleague snap it against Majima's face in the most brazen display of self-destructive behavior he’d seen to date. If he ever felt like losing a limb he now knew the quickest and most painful way to do so. Still, he wondered, and wanted.

Kiryu drew a bath and parked himself in front of the fridge while the water filled, voraciously hungry. He pushed aside some raw ingredients and consumed everything he could find, more beast than man with fistfuls of rice and meat. He breathed deep, re-centering after a tumultuous few nights.

He'd have to pay Kawano Hiroko a visit to get everything squared away. She owed him an explanation. And some eel.

Distantly he remembered again that he was supposed to be staying out of trouble. How exactly was one supposed to lay low when the world seemed dedicated to drawing him out time and time again? He hoped he’d get better at it in the future.

First shelf demolished, Kiryu moved on to the second shelf and pulled out a plate of something that literally had his name on it. Written in ketchup, on top of a startlingly perfect-looking mound of omelet rice, ‘Kiryu-chan’ sat next to what could have been a knife at the end, or, something else, he couldn’t tell because it had dripped a little.

He found a spoon and cut into it. The rice was cold and stale, but it would have been piping hot if he’d been there on time. Kiryu was glad he could react to it without an audience, because he had no idea what his expression looked like but he swallowed around a lump in his throat as he ate the meal reverently.

Majima's words from last night drifted back to him. It's not your job to fix the world. It wasn't, but his resolve to do what he could was stronger than ever. To maybe offset some harm he caused by being in his line of work. He would keep making that decision and he'd just keep dealing with whatever consequences came his way. 

A hand brushed past his shoulder and gripped his wrist, and Majima leaned forward to eat the last bite from his spoon.

Speaking of consequences. He’d been just a little unfair last night, reflecting on his actions. Majima had actually, for once in all of the years they’d known each other, looked like he was trying to get some space. And Kiryu… had not given it to him. To put it lightly.

Still, he’d wanted that last bite. Kiryu rumbled an annoyed sound at him perfunctorily.

Majima's eyebrows jumped twice as he sucked the last grain of rice from the spoon with a pop. His face looked puffy with sleep and a red indentation slashed across his forehead where his eye-patch strap had displaced during the night. Kiryu's heart thumped, and like a fool, he let it.

“It was good,” Kiryu mumbled. Majima took a sudden interest in the sounds coming from the other room.

"Izzat a bath I hear?"

"Yeah. For me." It wasn’t entirely true, but he wasn’t going to admit to preparing a thanks-for-saving-me bath for him. He still had some dignity to maintain.

Majima looked down his nose at him, eye crescent-shaped in an appraising way that usually meant trouble. Suddenly he shoved at Kiryu's chest, herding him in the direction of the shower room, and Kiryu would have been offended if he hadn't been thinking about this possibility from the start. Majima advanced on him in a predatory movement. Completely naked as he was, it was as silly as it was exhilarating.

"Ya sure do need it!" He laughed too much as Kiryu stumbled over the end of the wooden boards in the bathroom, the back of his thighs hitting the bath in an uneasy maneuver. Majima's voice dropped low like a brick. "But don't be so selfish, there's more than enough water to share."

Kiryu glanced back at the bathtub. "Tight fit."

"We'll see, won't we?" Majima shut the door with a snap that made Kiryu think maybe he hadn't gotten all of the anger out of his system.

Majima grabbed the shower head and hauled Kiryu in with a fist, hosing them both down and completely soaking Kiryu's sleeping clothes. Maybe he deserved this. Not for getting kidnapped but for inflicting the level of intimacy he had last night.

So Kiryu quietly tucked away his desires and let Majima yank his clothes off and push him against the bathroom wall. This wasn't without its perks too, he thought as Majima leered and squeezed liquid soap down his chest, lathering with shameless gropes.

"It's been so long since we've had a real knock-down drop-out fight. A guy gets pent up, ya know? Whaddya say?" He had on his ridiculous all-nonsense smile.

Kiryu looked at all 2.5 square meters of the bathroom, and that was a generous estimation. Majima's hands kneaded slippery trails around his hips. 

"Uh...Now? Here?"

"Let's do it this way then," Majima was close enough to share breath, slightly ripe from sleep. "You did me dirty Kiryu-chan - left me hangin' for 3 whole days. I ran all over lookin' for ya, hardly slept a wink."

"Wait really?"

"Then when I finally get to rest, you pull some sexual warfare bullshit outta nowhere - and that was a helluva kiss goodnight by the way - to back me into a corner-"

"I didn't mean-"

But he'd picked up speed, careening towards his point like a Ducati on nitro. "So here's how this is gonna go! This guy’s gotta listen to everything I say today." He gripped his valuables roughly, and Kiryu's breath left him in a wheeze.

"What's more," he trailed off, and then his fingers trickled around to the small of his back, slipping in between his cheeks in a way that made Kiryu's hips jerk forward unintentionally.

Oh. He’d been thinking about it, but the implication still left him speechless. He couldn't bring himself to meet Majima's eye so he leaned into the crook of his neck as a slick finger ran up and down the seam of him, circling him. His face burned hotter than it ever had. He'd committed himself to receiving whatever Majima had in store, but apprehension and arousal both burned low in his belly.

"Well?" Majima asked, and the sound vibrated against his cheekbone.

He had to look strong in front of Majima. He took a breath and nodded imperceptibly. Majima pulled away to smile, wide and smug, then blasted him with the shower head.

The bathtub was a tight fit, but Kiryu did not gloat about it. He ended up pressed against Majima back to chest, at his complete mercy. Their knees knocked against each other and the walls of the tub, four pink islands in a green-blue ocean. He could feel Majima's dick crushed against his ass underwater, like a promise. Despite the aggression bubbling under the surface of his touch, he was also dragging this out slowly, torturous.

"Bein' awful quiet," Majima said lightly, his hands gliding paths along all he could touch, water rippling silky in their wake. If Kiryu wasn't so distracted by the prospect of Majima being inside of him, he may have noticed the exploratory petting.

"What do you want me to say in this situation," Kiryu said, and his voice wobbled around the bathroom unsteadily.

"Somethin' I've been ruminatin' on. How did ya manage to fall in with the one person ya shouldn't've?"

"Talking about you?"

Kiryu felt Majima's laugh with his whole body.

"Yer not wrong! That ain't a mystery though that's just the natural laws of physics at work. Immovable object," and he patted Kiryu's belly underwater, warmly displacing currents that reached his thighs. "Unstoppable force." He firmly grasped him, stroking lazily. Kiryu sighed as pleasure hooked behind his bellybutton and pulled a taut line up his spine.

"But nah, nah, nah we're gettin' distracted here. I'm talkin' about Kawano. You got orders?" Majima's achingly slow strokes continued and his other hand slipped beneath Kiryu's thigh.

"Huh?" Kiryu couldn't help but be hyper-focused on the single finger stroking at him. Was this an interrogation tactic? "No."

"You sure? No secret nudges from Kazama? He's a smart son of a fuck, he easily could have, hmmm..." Majima pressed into him and Kiryu tightened, jumping. "Damn babe relax, you've got a guillotine down there. If they ever need me to chop off a pinky I'll come to you."

Kiryu's high pitched ‘hmph’ was ripped from him, all nerves. Surely that eek of a sound did not just come from his mouth.

Majima gave him a look that said as much, too.

"Yes I'm sure," Kiryu cleared his throat, dropping his voice extra low to make up for that. "I was on a routine collection at the Tsuri Komu company but it turned out to be a bust."

Majima's fingers stuttered, retracted, drummed. "Uhh. Huh. The Tsuri Komu company. You don't say."

Kiryu turned and asked suspiciously, "What?"

"No just, ya know." Majima's lips pursed as he nodded absently, looking like he was weighing whether or not to say what he was about to say. Rather than his words, the unusual display of caution set Kiryu on guard. "They're who we're workin' with. Out, uh, out here. Those’re the guys that snatched you up."

Kiryu's mouth parted. "What?"

"Yeeeup, drug trade, run by the Kawano family, Junior and Hiroko. Shimano's tryin’ to repair some supply chain issues. He put me on it thinkin’ it was a business problem - shut yer trap I'm an excellent businessman - but! Turns out it's just a plain boring family dispute.”

Kiryu’s stomach sank, and he went into the water with it.

"What..."

Majima's cackle bounced around the bathroom walls, ya-ha-ha. "Boy folks Kiryu-chan really stepped in it this time. How does he do it?" His fingers danced around his hairline wetly. Kiryu imagined him hanging like a spider with prey between its pincers. "What WILL he do next?!"

"That doesn't make sense. If they're drug runners, why would they set up a bust?"

"Betcha that has to do with this family tiff. I can fill ya in if yer set on stayin' involved, but that ain't lookin' like the brightest idea this side of the Uogawa is it?"

Instead of being sent away from danger he’d been sent even further into it. He’d been told to do nothing, and he hadn’t, and somehow he’d found his way into the maw of the beast. Kiryu, when faced with a beast, historically reacted one of one way. He punched it. In this case, the beast was Kawano Hiroko, or at least partly, and he would not do that. He’d do something he normally left to other, more eloquent folk in the family.

He’d talk to her.

"I'm not backing down. I started this, and I have to end it."

Majima sighed appreciatively. "That’s not even remotely true here, but it’s a cool fuckin’ line. I'm not gonna stop ya, always love to watch you work!"

Kiryu peered up at him flatly. He kept his eye patch on even in the bath.

"Thought you'd rather I stay home."

"Yer already in the shit. I got no interest in holdin’ you back now that the damage is done, it’s just a waste of yer talents." Kiryu took note of Majima's hands, resting casually by his ribs just above his own crossed arms. If anybody walked in it'd look like an intimate embrace.

"Even so, it sure ain’t the smartest move. Maybe they recognize ya from out east, maybe they bring the heat out here, maybe ya get in real trouble again with Dojima. And unlike me, yer doin' it all for free."

Kiryu frowned and mindlessly pinched the closest bit of Majima’s skin he could find. "Don't gloat. It's not cute."

Majima folded his body inwards with a jerk and crushed him between every point he could, knees, arms, hands, and Kiryu sputtered as water went up his nose. "Oh right there's the attitude we were fixin'. Where were we?"

Before he could gain his footing, Majima's arm snaked down like an iron band, pulling Kiryu back into his chest, breaking the ceasefire and setting Kiryu’s heart beating back up into an apprehensive rhythm. One arm pressed across his abdomen and down the valley of his thigh to coax his dick back into interest while the other slipped down his ass. Kiryu went ramrod stiff again as a finger pressed into him.

"Relax, I got you," Majima murmured into his ear, almost comforting in its confidence. Kiryu found himself making a dedicated effort to loosen his muscles. Majima's finger curled inside and he'd never felt anything like it. It felt wrong, intrusive, and his body rebelled.

"What, this a virgin hole or somethin'? You weren’t kiddin’ about bein’ a pitcher."

Kiryu grit his teeth at the crass language, suddenly feeling like this was a challenge he had to meet. He couldn't understand how this was supposed to feel good-

Majima pressed up into him in a way so pleasurable that it punched the breath from his lungs. His hands flew through the water to grip Majima's forearm in a slippery scramble as his blood pulsed through his ears.

"Oh-ho," Majima hummed devilishly, stroking again. The water splashed with Kiryu's flinch. The dual assault of Majima's hands suddenly thrummed electricity through him, like completing a circuit for the first time.

His breath rushed heavy and loud through his nose as he tried to wrest some control back, but Majima's steady and sure rhythm combined with the almost numbing sensitivity of his prostate didn't leave much room for control. The water in the tub sloshed up the opposite end and back as Majima rearranged them for a better angle, pulling Kiryu up and along him like a doll, pressing a second finger inside with equal parts discomfort and pleasure.

"I haven't," Kiryu strained, admission pulled from him like teeth. It wasn't what he wanted to say at all. He in fact wanted to say nothing because he had specifically tried never, ever to think of this and admitting that now felt like losing, somehow. Especially with Majima.

"Haw?" Majima slowed but didn't stop completely. Kiryu kept silent. "You haven't...?" he prompted.

Kiryu squinted his eyes shut and breathed.

"Stubborn," Majima tutted, twisting his hand inside of him, straining the limits of that ring of muscle and pushing beyond them. "But that's what I like about ya."

When Majima pushed a third finger into him some pathetic creaking whine-grunt slinked up from his chest to his throat, burning his face on the way out.

"Damn," Majima answered in a rush of breath, and he was so hard against Kiryu's ass and Kiryu could not imagine ever being able to take him. "Kiryu-chan, you, uh..."

"What?" Kiryu rumbled, forcing himself to relax, again, and failing.

"-You can say no, ya know." Majima's voice slid into his words like he'd made a hard right turn from what he had really meant to say. The idea of being pitied by Majima was too low, so he clenched around his fingers, around the dull pain until he could feel good again. It felt like too much and not enough at once, he couldn't wrap him mind around it.

"You're so fuckin' cute," he peppered his neck with kisses like he couldn't stop himself. "I'm gonna extend a special service and hold your hand through this. Not literally seein' as they're both busy right now but ya get me." He squeezed his dick, stubbornly half-mast with nerves. "There's no point if you ain't enjoyin' yourself. I'm not that sorta guy."

Kiryu's heart pumped insistently in his chest. This exchange was so awkward for him, and softer than he ever could have expected it to be coming from Majima. He knew he wasn’t throwing off entirely positive signals, and that Majima had picked up on that and was offering an out, well. He hadn’t known Majima knew how to go easy on someone. Never imagined he’d go easy on him, either.

"I was really hopin' you could rail me into next week too-"

"I haven't done this before," Kiryu said, rushing his confession out in a single word.

"Oh. Really." Majima's voice was flat but made an effort to sound surprised. Kiryu didn't hear his response as he spoke over him.

"But we've come this far, I-" He stopped. Then forced himself to speak a truth he didn’t know he had to face. "I want to keep going."

Majima didn’t say anything in reaction, and Kiryu couldn’t see his expression. He just curled his fingers in a way that sent pleasure straight to his gut. When he withdrew Kiryu gasped quietly at feeling so empty, when what felt like moments ago that had been his norm.

"Up," he said, short and commanding, and Kiryu let him arrange him so he was on his knees braced on the opposite end of the tub against the wall, water lapping at his thighs. He heard the pop of a cap then liquid drizzled cold onto his ass, warmed quickly as fingers slipped into him easily, nicely.

"Am I still dreamin'?" Majima wondered to himself in a distant tone. His hands trailed the path of Kiryu’s dragon tattoo with an appreciative touch, down around Kiryu's ass, thumbs spreading him wide. He pressed forward and Kiryu felt the head of him nudge hotly where his fingers had been. This was it.

Then, easy as anything, as if the universe didn’t care that Kiryu had been worrying about this moment as much as he had, Majima was sliding inside of him.

Kiryu hung his head. His mouth fell open. The long inevitable press of Majima's dick ached, tinged with a pleasant burn. After an eternity, his hips pressed flush against his backside at last and Majima's sigh of pleasure gusted against his lower back.

"Kiryu-chan," his voice keened on his name. It sounded like he was smiling. "How ya doin'?"

"Uh," he started stupidly. What an unexpected question at a time like this. He felt full in a foreign way. He felt like he might split in two. He couldn't comprehend the idea that Majima was inside of him. "Fine. Keep going."

Majima pulled back and thrust once, and Kiryu's lungs emptied with a jerk. The water slipped up against the tub in a wave. Then again, then again, until the waves were chasing and crashing back into themselves. Kiryu felt freshly cleaved with each thrust, the numb-burning sensation of Majima's cock pushing against his insides curling pleasure in a way he'd never felt before.

"Fuckin' christ you’re tight," Majima panted. Kiryu opened his eyes and saw his own full dick bobbing with their movements, red and wet. Beyond that, Majima's thighs worked into him, muscles straining. He shut his eyes, throbbing with pleasure.

Majima knocked his knee up with his own, angled Kiryu's hips down and drove up into him roughly, and the moan that tore from Kiryu rumbled brokenly up the walls. He couldn't stop the small sounds from escaping him now, urgent sighs and deep vocalizations punctuated by every other stroke.

"There's yer voice," Majima growled, and Kiryu felt a sloppy kiss press up his spine. "What else do you got to say for me?"

"S'good." He'd planned on saying two words but it came out as one.

"And?"

Kiryu's hands began slipping apart as Majima rocked his body violently, and he fell to one elbow as the other slipped down into the choppy water. He'd feel ashamed of the display of weakness but he couldn't put many thoughts together beyond the searing pleasure of being split open on Majima's thick cock.

"S'really good." His voice hiccupped on a quaking thrust that burned his insides up, bringing him to the hard edge of a familiar and yet entirely new line as Majima laughed on a sound that turned sideways into unhinged. Majima's fingers pressed bruises around his hips and into the sensitive juncture of his thighs, slipping and re-grasping his skin, his movements tinged with a desperation that Kiryu found flattering. He chanced a look over his shoulder and got a glimpse of Majima's face angled down, unguarded and tight as his hips snapped in pursuit of his own pleasure. His eye flew open and he looked pleased - flushed and panting, mouth open, curling into a grin under his attention -

"You gonna come on my cock, Kiryu-chan?" he snarled, and Kiryu was drawn tight – then he tumbled over that line, white hot and perfect, shuddering hard on a deep whine that bounced back at him from the wall.

"Oh, fuck." Majima spat, rhythm devolving into messy, pistoning thrusts that jolted through Kiryu in his hypersensitive post-orgasm and shoved him further into the tub’s wall. He thrust once, twice - then groaned around a broken tone, his face pressing into the sweat between Kiryu's shoulders. Blood rushed to Kiryu's neck at the sensation of each throb of his climax, even as wrung out as he was.

Then only the sounds of their breaths remained; a sharp contrast to the cacophony of just a few moments ago. The water lapped gently against his thighs and settled, lukewarm now. Majima rubbed his face back and forth on Kiryu's damp shoulders as Kiryu eyed the dissolving strings of his cum in the water distantly. He really didn’t know himself as well as he thought he did.

“Heh. Sensitive, ain’tcha? Didn’t even touch ya,” Majima drawled, reaching around to thread his fingers through Kiryu’s pubic hair and grip the base of him. Kiryu bucked and elbowed back.

Majima gave a pleased cackle, finally withdrawing. Kiryu winced as he popped out, and decided he hated the weak sensation of being empty. He rose and stepped out of the tub on wobbly legs and red, sore knees while Majima tied off his condom.

"Oh. When did you...?"

"What, you wanna bareback next?" He looked extremely perky and even ready to go again, kneeling in the water with a full condom in his hands.

"What? That’s not what I-I don't know. Sure. What?" Kiryu's movements could be described as 'absent' as his mind came around to the casual fact that they could do this again.

"I'm clean but Kiryu-chan ya gotta practice safe sex."

"Me too. I do," he said petulantly as he hosed himself down again. Even this - arguing over nothing post-coitus in a bathroom in Kyoto – was fun. If he thought he’d be able to get his feelings under control before, he was now leagues deeper in the hole.

"I dunno, you were so lost in pleasure – yer welcome by the way – ya didn't even ask," Majima tutted arrogantly, shoving in under the spray next to him but absent of the aggression that he'd entered with. Maybe their fight was over, with that. Kiryu hadn’t meant to end up so… vulnerable, but it seemed to have appeased something. Then Majima lifted his head seriously with a dark expression on his face and Kiryu’s heartbeat picked up. Maybe it hadn’t.

"Can't believe I popped yer cherry. Now you'll never become a wife."

Kiryu turned the shower head on Majima's face.

*

The day was already in full swing by the time Kiryu pulled himself together enough to want answers. To his mild surprise Majima not only decided to join him but also to bring him along to meet the rumored Kawano protégé.

Kiryu and Majima had done jobs together before, but they didn’t often end well by certain definitions of ‘well’. Sure, they accomplished their tasks. It was the getting there that seemed to rile HQ up – throwing down in the middle of raids, frightening ally and foe and bystander alike into submission with the force of their clashes. Kiryu was sure there was some saying beginning to circulate about a dog and a dragon but he’d never fully heard it.

He’d always been coursing with energy after those jobs, like Majima had struck a match in him that burned just a little too brightly. But here, away from that and in light of all that they’d done to resolve certain, frustrations, Kiryu simply found himself enjoying it.

They stepped onto the train talking shop on an empty car, sunlight filtering through the windows as it went above ground.

"So the son's taken most of the group for himself, and decided to go into… politics? Hiroko-san told me her son was in insurance."

"Well yeah we're all 'in insurance' when we're talking with civvies. Or, it’s code speak when yer tryin’ to suss each other out." Majima stood in the middle of the train car, sizing up the pole. "From what I gather, the son and the old lady got into a fight about succession shit once the old man gave up the ghost, and now nobody’s talkin’ to each other even though it’s clear Junior doesn’t know shit, and the old lady probably knows all of the shit.”

"Why is he campaigning then?" Kiryu watched Majima swing experimentally around the pole. "He want leverage or something?”

“Bingo. Probably tryin’ to have his cake and eat it too. But he’s fuckin’ terrible at most of it, especially – let’s call it, multitasking.”

Kiryu thought back to his conversation with the Kawano matriarch. “So she’s trying to pick up the slack for him, and he’s not having it.”

“Boy I’ve never seen ya like this before, yer operating at peak condition right now aren’tcha? Gettin’ me revved up over here!” Kiryu slid him a disbelieving look, but Majima was indeed ogling him from his ridiculous pose on the pole. He cleared his throat and looked away.

“All you’ve got to do is make sure the supply chain is fixed, right?”

“I’m still gatherin’ intel before makin’ my final move, didn’t even know they had an office out in Kamurocho. There’s something I’m missin’, I can feel it in my bones.”

He dismounted from the pole clumsily as the train came to a stop, but presented with a flourish anyway. Kiryu tried and failed to keep an amused smile from his face and Majima beamed.

“Well, now that both of us are rollin’ up there’s nothin’ that can stop us!” He laughed, sidled up to Kiryu and pressed a mischievous kiss to his cheek before bursting ahead into the station, which was just as well because Kiryu was doing a very poor job at remaining stoic. He felt incredibly light.

They ended up at an office building down in central Kyoto. The hustle and bustle was reminiscent of Kamurocho and Kiryu easily slipped back into his all-business demeanor as they strode from the elevator down a long, pale hallway and into an office with mahogany finish. 

“Ah, welcome, welcome, Majima-san.” A middle-aged man stood from behind the desk, arms open as he greeted them. His whole look was unassuming, designed to be ‘everyman’: a grey suit, a forgettable face, thick black hair.

Kiryu took stock of the room. It had lots of heavy-looking decorative objects, an indoor tree he knew to last at least 5 swings, and tall windows from floor to ceiling. It was spacious and uncluttered, meant to present a refined front but equally useful in a fight. He positioned himself between Majima and the door, arms behind his back.

“Kawano, how’s it hangin’? Heard your boys have been hittin’ the streets recently. Where’ve you been during alla that?” Majima didn’t bother with formal language even though the man looked to be a bit older than both of them.

The man smiled, and Kiryu noted the plastic quality to his cheeks, like they were pulled by strings.

“Ah, well, campaigning means you must do legwork to get support. Please, sit.”

Kiryu hesitated before Majima gestured to the seat beside him. Majima sprawled like a young king, legs askew, head on his palm, and he kept his face carefully straight as he said, “This is my associate, Maidra Gon.”

Kiryu bowed low, grateful for the chance to hide his reaction to the extremely transparently terrible name he’d have to operate under now. Majima’s lips curled with petty satisfaction.

The man didn’t seem to react at all beyond a token, “Kawano Junior. A pleasure.” Kiryu wondered if he hadn’t heard the name, or he just really really didn’t care because Kiryu obviously wasn’t important here. Either way, he’d take it.

“Ya know why we’re here, let’s cut to the chase. How’s it been since we last spoke?”

The man sat and clasped his hands, and it appeared normal but Kiryu couldn’t help but think there was a theatric spin to it. “I’m sorry for the trouble, it continues to be an embarrassment to my family name. I know the Shimano family has long treated us well, and for it to come to this… well, I apologize.”

“Oh yeah? The old lady’s not budgin’ huh. She still tryin’ to pivot out west?”

“She won’t even meet with me, but I know she thinks the Omi Alliance is a safer bet. More manageable, since they’re closer. I know you want us to work together again, and I want to as well, I really do. Perhaps if I could bring her something huge that would persuade her back towards the Tojo? A better deal than what you were first offering?”

He looked back and forth between them with a calm expectancy that Kiryu did not trust, like they owed him something. Majima had been doing a lot to shape them up. Kiryu wasn’t an expert on etiquette, but it seemed brazen to ask for more from them when Junior apparently wasn’t even meeting the minimum.

Majima just smiled thinly, like he’d been anticipating that. “Tell ya what, I’ll go speak to her myself and maybe we can work something out just the two of us!”

One of the strings holding up the man’s smile faltered. “Oh no, I wouldn’t make you do such a thing, sir. Surely we can discuss it here.”

“See, here’s the thing.” Majima’s voice dropped in a way that had Kiryu sitting up. Junior didn’t seem to realize, smiling like he didn’t know where the real power in the room lay. There was a willful ignorance happening here. “We gave you pre-tty explicit advice on how to patch up yer supply line, but that didn’t catch on, so I had to come allll the way from Tokyo to help out. I was generous enough to weed out some problems for ya, cut a few guys, put some good ones in charge. Then yesterday I find yer boys had kidnapped my associate here, and he’s positively traumatized. Look at him.”

Kiryu met Junior’s gaze stonily. The man leaned back slowly, eying him up and down, perhaps just now noticing how large Kiryu was.

Majima continued. “If anything, you owe it to us to make up for these transgressions.”

Junior adjusted his tie and licked his lips. “I wasn’t aware that had happened.”

Majima showed his teeth. “If only someone had given explicit directions to pay some fuckin’ attention.”

“I’ve been busy.” Junior said blithely, eyes flicking over to Kiryu every now and then as if he was the scariest thing in the room. He still didn’t look half as nervous as Kiryu thought he should be, but Junior seemed to exist in his own reality where things were always going his way. The way Hiroko held herself, Kiryu had assumed some of it would have transferred to her offspring. But he was like something empty trying to fill up.

“Tell ya what. Next few shipments will be a test-fire for yer new pipeline, so it’s only fair that we ain’t charged for them. In return, I’ll go handle things with dear old mom so you won’t have to!”

Junior fell silent, but Kiryu could practically see the room fill with his attempts to outthink the situation. People talked about Majima’s rampages and how he fought like a demon and how he’d track you down from cities away. Why did nobody talk about this legitimately frightening business demeanor? No one who laughed so hard while shattering someone’s tibia had the right to also be able to talk them out of their own drug supply.

Just when the tension in the room was hitting its boiling point, Majima perked up cheerfully, like a venus fly trap snapping shut on its prey. “Well, learning is a process! When can we expect the next shipment?”

“Later today, sir.” Junior spoke to the carpet, cowed and unhappy about it, looking like a kid sent to bed early.

“And your men?”

“Yes yes they will be on schedule. But if you let me try talk to my mother again, I can –“

Majima stood and walked towards the door, beckoning Kiryu. “Hey now, you just leave that to your generous friend Majima. I’ll fix you guys right up and you won’t even have to talk to mommy, because I’m feelin’ especially magnanimous today.” He sent an exaggerated wink in Kiryu’s direction and Kiryu flatly simmered in embarrassment. And soreness.

“But you don’t even know where to find her, do you?” Junior tried, one last and futile time.

Majima shot him a pitying look. “Nothin’ escapes the Mad Dog’s eye. Now unless you also want political advice, I got places to be, mothers to endear myself to.”  And he strode out the door, spring in his step. Kiryu looked back at Junior, who stood halfway out of his chair uncertainly, obviously still looking for some way to wrest control back and failing to realize that it was too late in every way that mattered. Kiryu almost felt bad for him, but then remembered his men had almost killed him in what amounted to, apparently, utter incompetence. His pity evaporated.

He followed the glittering golden jacket down the hall and out the building in something of a daze.

*

Kiryu led them down the shopping arcade, following the same meandering path he’d taken the day he’d accidentally stumbled into the racket that he’d been sent away from Kamurocho to avoid.

Funny, that.

“Wait,” Majima said seriously. Kiryu went on alert, turning with his fists half raised.

“Look at this. Fuckin’ adorable,” he said, pinching a women’s dress on display in the street in front of one of the many shops.

Kiryu stepped over slowly, still watching for punks. “What? You wanna buy a souvenir for a woman back in Tokyo?” He looked into the shop and found it filled with traditionally patterned goods. Charms, weapons, clothing, character goods, it was one of those one-stop tourist stores.

“Maybe,” he said coyly, holding it out to measure against his own body. It glittered darkly with a certain malice that matched his vibe. “Jealous?”

Kiryu rolled his eyes and walked in to inspect the goods.

“Ya know, you kinda owe me for savin’ yer ass.”

He turned away from the weapon case. A thought that didn’t feel entirely like his rose to the tip of his tongue, and instead of repressing it like usual he let it loose. “This morning wasn’t enough?”

Majima blinked. His gloved hand rose to grip his chest dramatically as he shot him an open-mouthed scandalized look.

Kiryu’s ears went hot and he rubbed his neck. “What do you want?”

Majima held out the dress wordlessly, face stuck in scandal.

“I’m not buying a dress for some random woman. What do you want?” Actually, how had he slipped so easily into buying a present for Majima? It’s not like they were dating. And he wasn’t a woman anyway so all of Kiryu’s guideposts were useless.

“Look, it’s backless,” Majima said monotonously, flipping the slinky black dress as if this would sway his decision. “I’ll look great in it.”

Kiryu blinked. He eyed the dress again now that he had a stake in it. It was very short and very open and it would look good on him. Once again he felt like he was saying something obvious: “But that’s a woman’s dress.”

“Yeah.”

Kiryu decided it was one of those things he didn’t fully understand yet but it had to do with someone else living the life they wanted to live, and he’d never dismiss that. Looking at Majima, who was easily the scariest man he knew, standing there holding a dress out, blankly assessing Kiryu’s reaction - maybe he was coming at this with the wrong mindset. Everybody liked to get presents, even Majima Goro. Maybe his guideposts weren’t entirely useless.

Kiryu pulled out his wallet and Majima left the store nearly skipping.

“Not just a musclehead after all, eh?” He said as they turned down the quiet street towards the medicine shop. The sun shone dully behind the dark clouds in a beautiful but ominous mix of gold and grey. Bare trees swayed their dark branches as bursts of wind blew chill from the west. Kiryu scratched his head.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Majima hummed. “You’re fun. Strong as an ox, soft as a marshmallow. Blunt as a hammer but a true gentleman.” His voice dipped and swayed in the way that Kiryu used to think meant he was being facetious. He still wasn’t entirely certain it didn’t.  “You did good back in the office too, Kiryu-chan!”

“You’re just happy you suckered me into buying you a present.” Kiryu never knew what to do with all of the unprompted praise Majima tended to heap on him, teasing or not. He was glad they were walking side by side so he didn’t have to look him in the eye. “Besides, you did all the work. Most guys couldn’t pull off what you did without resorting to violence. Even if it had gone south, you could have taken care of it. You’re brawn and brain - didn’t even need me there.”

Majima went quiet beside him and Kiryu couldn’t bring himself to glance over. They’d stumbled into a weird conversation but the compulsion to keep going was strong. “If you wanted to, I bet you could head up the clan.”

“No,” his voice came, almost wistful. “That’s a bummer of a job. Why become yakuza if yer just gonna be chained to yer desk all day listenin’ to idiots argue about money?  You can do that anywhere else. I’d rather run wild while I’m young.” Majima paused, sounding low on energy all of a sudden. “’Sides, you’d put me down before somethin’ like that happened anyway.”

“Even if I could, I wouldn’t.” Kiryu said with conviction. His honest thoughts spilled forward like a breached dam. “You’re not the kind of person to grab power for the sake of power. You pretend you’re mad but it’s an act to keep people always second guessing. To protect yourself. And you’re not motivated by greed, unlike Junior back there.”

“What do you know about me?” Majima said, footsteps stopping, words dripping with some sort of feeling. Kiryu finally turned back towards him to find Majima smiling unkindly. His stance was guarded, and even though he was only a few steps behind him he felt far away. “I’m very greedy.”

Kiryu regarded him and this arbitrary line in the sand he was suddenly drawing after a whole day of lovey-dovey behavior. He thought about the different sides of Majima he’d seen – obsessive and bloodthirsty in a fight, angry with worry in a dark tunnel, sly and secretive in the low light of a bar. He was mercurial, but there was a pattern emerging. He flirted incessantly but pulled back at the slightest hint of real reciprocation, like a kid holding their hand over a flame. Some yearning for connection led him back time and time again, except each attempt was burning layers of skin from Kiryu too. Majima wanted something and denied himself of it when it came into grasp, but he couldn’t erase that desire. Kiryu recognized that now. And he was good at giving people what they wanted.

Kiryu looked him in the eye and opened his mouth to speak.

“Maybe I don’t know all of what led you to be you. But I’m not wrong. We’ve fought and we’ve talked and we’ve slept together and each time we clash, I see a little more that I like. That’s something.”

Surrounded by the dull golden and brown colors of autumn, Majima’s breath curled in short, white puffs from his parted lips. His cheeks and nose were rosy from the cold, and his necklace rose and fell in time with the swells of his bare chest. He blinked rapidly and looked away, no response. So Kiryu turned and continued to lead them to Kawano Hiroko’s doorstep, his heart pounding in his throat with each step.

*

“So you’re alive.” Is what Kawano Hiroko announced to him as they sat around the table in the back bordered by drying herbs and glass jars.

Kiryu nodded, and sipped his tea before remembering that he couldn’t stand it.

“And you,” she swung her formidable attention to Majima, sitting primly with both hands around his steaming cup. “The Shimano man, I presume.”

Majima nodded gruffly.

“Well that makes you Tojo doesn’t it, Kazuma-kun. What a world. Let’s get down to it then - what did my boy do this time?”

Kiryu looked to Majima to take point but he stared at his cup, placid. A quiet Majima didn’t portend well for him later. This was up to him, then. He’d never conducted family business in this way, always content to just punch what stood in his way. Since he wasn’t officially on this job, he had the luxury to come at it from a different angle - it was more like helping a random citizen. With their, business. If it happened to be a sprawling drug trade, who was he to judge.

“Why did you send me to that address without telling me to expect an attack?”

“We talked about it, sonny! You said you were in insurance, I said we were in insurance. I told you to watch for strays.”

Majima turned his head slowly towards him with a look that could only be described as ‘profoundly told-you-so’. Kiryu ignored him.

“I thought you were speaking literally because I actually did save a stray outside your place.”

“Well this is a mess. I should have known that you were too kind to take anything below face value. That’s my fault, Kazuma-kun.”

“No, please.” This was just shameful. If he’d had a mother, he thought maybe this was how it felt to disappoint her. “What did you expect to happen?”

She puffed a smoke ring and tapped her cigarette holder elegantly. “I thought you’d beat them into submission and my boys could carry on with what they do best. Bowing to power. They’d know it was me who sent you and they’d come back to push product like we used to before my son got it in his head to change things.”

Kiryu frowned. “I was under the impression that you were the one who wanted to change things, Hiroko-san.”

She flapped her hand as if dismissing a servant. “Pah! Did my son tell you that? He’s an only child but I swear he acts like a youngest sibling. Doing anything to get his way. My sister was the same.”

Kiryu didn’t hesitate before saying, “He said you wanted to partner with the Omi Alliance.”

She snapped her mouth shut and stared down a middle distance in a loud silence.

“…you do want to partner with them.”

“Listen,” she reached her knobbly hand out and laid it on the table. Beside his it looked tiny and wrinkled. “I just want more opportunity for my son. If we look beyond Tojo, he has more room to grow.”

Kiryu didn’t know enough about the deal to get into the logistics of negotiating, but he could at least try and figure out what everybody wanted.

“Why does your son want to change things?”

“I don’t understand it. We’d been doing things the same way for years under my late husband, so there wasn’t a reason to change. One day it just wasn’t enough for him, he said. So I told him we could partner with the Omi, but he didn’t like that, and now we don’t talk.” She wasn’t one to look rattled, but Kiryu noticed her voice shook just a little, and realized it couldn’t have been too long since the death of her husband. Even if Junior wasn’t doing well by the Tojo Clan, he was still someone’s son.

“Is there any way to partner with both and also keep up what you’ve been sending out east?” Kiryu asked. He saw Majima look at him sharply out of the corner of his eye.

Hiroko puffed her cigarette, watching a string of herbs swaying above her in the dissipating smoke. “It’s not impossible. We’d need to expand operations to keep up with demand. If my son gets back to work, we could do it. But,” she looked straight on at him. “Then we’d be supplying both sides. That’s not exactly something you’d hear a Tojo man endorsing. Who are you?”

He didn’t know what to say to that. He just looked at her small hand next to his, and heard her earnest desire to provide a future for her son, and thought he could forge the path that benefitted everybody.

When he didn’t answer, Hiroko turned to Majima.

“You look like a hard man. What do you think about it?”

“Sounds bad from the get-go.” Majima said immediately. “Neither side would be happy to hear about it and yer doublin’ down on the danger when you can’t even provide enough for one side to stay happy. Say you could meet demand, the overhead for maintaining lines east and west alone would eat your profits if you’re not careful.”

Kiryu hadn’t considered it from a business perspective, unsurprisingly. He worked better with people not numbers.

Hiroko laughed, a sharp yet full sound. “Well that sounds a bit too smart to be Tojo, too. Who are you?”

He cracked a smile and sipped his tea in lieu of an answer, then smoothly stuck his tongue out and dribbled back into the cup in one motion. “Christ what the-“

“It builds muscle,” Kiryu said. Hiroko patted his hand.

“Well. Where do we go from here, then?” She asked, looking between the two of them. “My son wants to play politician. Shimano wants to set things back the way they were. And I want to leave a good foundation for my son to, probably, piss away once I’m gone.”

Well, she was the one who said it, not him. “There’s one last thing I’m wondering about, ma’am. Back in Tokyo, I was doing collections on a branch of yours and it turned out to be a bust. Why?”

She closed her eyes and sighed a long sigh. “All I know for sure is, my delivery boys went missing and my shipments stopped coming in before I jump-started the whole damn thing.”

“He’s tryin’ to cut you out of the equation, granny,” Majima said, popping a cigarette into his mouth. Kiryu reached to light it for him but Majima pushed his hand away and lit it himself.

“I don’t see why.”

“S’not good that’s for sure. Lady, your son can’t follow the simplest directions, which means one thing.” Majima leaned onto his elbows, rolling his shoulders, slipping into formal language. “He’s intentionally sabotaging us and doesn’t plan to fix anything. What I need to know is, what’s he angling for that’s better than what he’s got now?”

She shook her head.

Majima sighed, but marched on. “What would it take to keep you exclusively with Tojo?”

She set her holder down on the ashtray and folded her hands on the table, stately. Kiryu got the impression this is what she’d been waiting for.

“A small price adjustment per shipment would keep us in good standing. Nothing outrageous.”

“Finally speaking my language. I should have come to you in the first place, maybe this whole thing coulda been finished by now!” Majima barked, cigarette waggling between his lips.

Kiryu sat back as they haggled in what might as well have been a different language, watching them speak of things he had no patience to learn about. He sipped his tea, not one to be rude. He gave a start when something brushed by his leg, and looked down to see the cat from last week arching its back against him, the kitten sleeping quietly beneath the table. So they had been her cats. They were clearly well-loved, and despite only knowing her for a short time he doubted anything that Hiroko put time and care into could be left wanting.

“I’d still need the boys who are working with my son to return for these numbers to work. That’s the crux of it.”

Majima sucked his teeth. “I can’t believe I gotta play therapist to your family drama. That’s not what I’m here for.”

“Leave that to Kazuma-kun here. I bet he could talk some sense into my son.” Suddenly all attention was on him again and Kiryu kept himself from balking at their combined assault - Hiroko wielding an unfounded confidence and Majima a challenging stare.

He found himself saying, “I’ll try my best.” Because it seemed like the thing to say. Even if he had no idea how he’d do it or why it was up to him, suddenly. Hiroko smiled at that, for once.

“You’re very kind, aren’t you.” She patted his hand again and stood, shuffling over to her fridge of goodies, signaling the end of their session. Majima poured his tea into Kiryu’s empty cup while her back was turned, and Kiryu glared at him.

“Kazuma-kun, I’ve got bentos for all of the days you missed. I’ll add a box of my tea, since you seem to like it.”

She pushed a bag of cloth-tied lunch boxes into his arms as he blinked.

“The eel is in there too. If your girl is satisfied, feel free to ask for more.”

Kiryu pressed his lips to his teeth and closed his eyes while Majima tried and failed to contain a snrrk of amusement.

“Goro-kun, here’s a bottle of sake to commemorate the start of a healthy business partnership. Please drink responsibly.”

“Granny, yer too kind.” He cradled and kissed the bottle. “I will not.”

*

They stepped out into the dark and cold, streetlights guiding their way back. The meeting had gone well, but Kiryu still needed to rely on Majima towards the end of it, and he wished he could have taken care of it on his own. He’d been depending on Majima a lot recently.

The wind had picked up and leaves blustered from the shedding trees. Without the third party between them the awkwardness from their earlier conversation descended like a demon come to roost.

“You – want me to carry those?” Kiryu asked. Majima had wrapped his arms around his bare torso against the cold, awkwardly holding the two presents he’d won from the day.

“No.”

A pause. Majima’s teeth weren’t chattering, but Kiryu had never seen him visibly reacting to the temperature at all, so even the arm thing was weird.

“You want my coat?”

“No,” Majima said, like he’d prepared the answer before even hearing what Kiryu was going to say.

Kiryu looked to the side and hoped the train would come soon to deliver them from this foreign and stilted hell. Kiryu should have made some excuse to stay out by himself or maybe just walk straight into the river. Anything to give them the space they clearly needed.  

He was about to do just that on the road to the house when Majima stopped suddenly. The slope of his spine spelt trouble.

“Enough of this shit.” Contrasting the angry tone of his words, he carefully placed the packages by the door then stalked back to the road. “You think you know me? Prove it. Put ‘em up.”

Kiryu didn’t see that coming. He really had stopped being prepared for the fight.

Moonlight peeked through the clouds and cut across them as they squared off. Kiryu shivered with anticipation. If they could bring this back to the simplest form of their connection, then maybe he still had a chance to reel himself in.

They circled each other. Majima’s steel-tipped shoes clacked an uneven rhythm as he side-stepped, one fist low and the other kissing his lips. His face was shadowed but his hair gleamed, glossy in the dark. He hunched like something primal, risen from the ground to bring him under.

Kiryu rushed in first.

His fists met his raised forearm, brushed past his cheekbone, hammered into his bicep as Majima turned and returned the favor with his long legs, leather streaked with moonlight as he kneed Kiryu in the waist and kicked him away. 

He stumbled back winded and they slowed into a circle again. His blood coursed hot from the blow. Starlight shifted over Majima and highlighted his face, stony and tense.

Then Majima sank to the ground and slithered towards him quick as a viper strike. His hits were vicious. A stinging fist bit him on the neck, and all up his sternum. Majima drew him in by the collar and swung his legs up around his shoulders and threw him mercilessly onto the ground, then kneed him in the ribs.

Kiryu rolled away from a second curb stomp and warded him off with a sweep of his legs as he rose, shifting stances, his whole body singing with pain and realization.

Those hits weren’t sparring hits. They were meant to hurt.

He remembered now, this was how they’d started. The very basis of the language they shared. With this man, he didn’t pull punches, and Majima returned the favor. Kiryu hadn’t realized it at first but this basic exchange of respect is what formed the foundation of them, in the beginning. They wouldn’t work if one of them outpaced the other, or began to take it easy. They had to re-balance.

He feinted, lured Majima in by weaving around his hits, watched his fists get sloppy with frustration, then leaned his weight into a haymaker that caught his neck. His teeth clacked loudly as he went down, and Kiryu gripped his ankle and pistoned his fist into his face in the same motion. It felt mean, it felt satisfying. Majima could take it.

“Gk-“ Majima rolled into a kneel and spat blood. It slapped against the asphalt in a bright red streak. His eye was all whites around a dark pupil.

“That’s what I want.” His words sank low into Kiryu’s gut and burned.    

“Come here then,” Kiryu taunted with a flick of his hand. Majima’s face split across the middle like Kiryu had drawn a knife across it, roaring to life like he’d won with that statement alone.

They fought. Kiryu let himself loose because he had to, or he’d be torn apart. Majima laughed like each strike brought him closer to how he’d been before they’d fallen together. Like maybe he’d begun to wonder if he was losing himself to this thing between them.

Majima landed a devastating blow to Kiryu’s jaw that dropped him like a rock, blood flooding his mouth. He scrambled over his body to pin him, but Kiryu locked his elbows and twisted and they tumbled around in the dust like schoolyard kids, grunting and cursing and bloody. He tried to stand but Majima dragged him down in an undignified stumble, nails scratching welts through his shirt, and finally pinned him with an arm across his throat.

Majima was red and huffing, heaving forward on his haunches with each breath like a junkie at the height of his high. Sheer delight contorted his features into something fearsome.

“That’s all? You know what people are calling you, right?”

He’d heard, but he didn’t care for it.

“The Dragon of Dojima. This naïve brat, a dragon!”

“Nii-san-” he warned through his teeth, vision clouding with anger.  

“Well I fucked the Dragon of Dojima and he thinks he’s, what – in love?”

Kiryu reeled like he’d been slapped. In a night of vicious hits, it managed to be the cruelest stroke.

Were his feelings so transparent? He hesitated to call it love, but there was something there that he’d begun to want. Maybe Majima was so aggressive because the idea disgusted him. Humiliation crept up his throat to choke him. He thought they were in this together.

Majima reeled back and slugged him in the cheek and pain ruptured through his skull. He hit him again, then again, thick sounds bursting against the walls of the surrounding houses. “You can’t be that soft -- not in this life -- I won’t let you! Get up!”

Kiryu burned with a dangerous cocktail of emotions, glycerin and acids ready to detonate. He wanted to prove he could smash Majima’s face into the dirt. He wanted to prove he could walk the path he was walking without compromising on his morals. He wanted to show him that feeling like he did wasn’t weakness. He really wanted to smash Majima’s face into the dirt, and that was the thought that flipped the switch in him.

Majima wound up for another punch but Kiryu wrested his arm out from under him and caught it, snarling. Majima’s breath visibly stuttered in his breast as he was simply, undeniably overpowered. Kiryu wriggled his other arm free and grabbed his collarbone, strained with every considerable inch of muscle and wrenched Majima’s shoulder back until it crunched sickeningly. Majima howled in pain and Kiryu crushed him back into the dirt, vicious and freed.

Kiryu’s rage burned a haze in his vision. He went away for a bit, but he came back to a disturbing sight - Majima was suddenly bleeding profusely from his nose to his chest, blood and grime smeared around his neck in finger-sized streaks that he didn’t remember making. Kiryu’s fist ached to deliver a final blow.

Kiryu stared down from the precipice of a long, long fall, the bottom of which was pummeling Majima beyond submission and proving he was deep down the monster he’d always feared, and that Majima seemed intent on drawing out.

Majima’s eye burned a black hole into his own.

“Do it!”

He was so willing to be hurt in safe ways.

Majima had been testing him for this, the whole time. Pushing his limits, finding where the cracks were and twisting his fingers in like a curious kid to see where he’d break.

Kiryu could do that too. But he wouldn’t give him the comfort of safety.

“You’re the one who’s scared of being soft.”

Majima’s face fell in complete surprise. Then it twisted in outrage.

“You know what happens to soft fuckers like you in the yakuza? They get locked up for decades, alone. They get tortured and beaten and used. They take the hit for someone who doesn’t deserve it because of some - misguided feelings.”

“So then, you’re - scared of me being soft?”

Majima clicked his tongue and tried to twist away, but Kiryu kept his bruising grip.

Kiryu made an impatient sound at his silence. “Both, then. You’ve pushed me around at every turn. For no fucking reason, everywhere we meet. Not just here, but back in Kamurocho too, like everything’s just a big joke to you. You have to flirt or you have to fight, and to what end? To lure me into this thing where you’re always baiting me into making the first move, then getting angry at me when I want to –“ he stumbled over his words, embarrassingly, “-kiss you? Or hold you? Or express any sort of-”

“Shut up,” Majima rasped, smearing his hand to Kiryu’s mouth like he could staunch the flow he’d unleashed. Kiryu stood and pushed him away. He thought back to that night when he couldn’t think of the words to say to prove Majima wrong. Now, they came to him as easily as breath.

“You asked what kind of man I was when I wasn’t holding back. I’m not the kind of man who loses himself to rage. That’s me making a choice about who I want to be - it’s not a weakness that you need to beat out of me. And you’re wrong if you think this is too,” he stepped forward and a thrill ran down his chest when Majima stepped back immediately, holding his arm. Kiryu advanced on him until they were up against the backdoor to their house. “Whatever this is.”

Majima’s heavy breathing had nothing to do with their fight and everything to do with the look of panic on his face as he stared at Kiryu. He shook his head briskly, then barked up at him.

“First off, I didn’t fuckin’ bait you into anythin’ you didn’t already wanna do. Back in Tokyo, the way you blazed to life whenever we were there together then turnin’ around and pretendin’ you hated it -- you couldn’t just admit it. To be a man, ya gotta face that shit you don’t want to. But it was entirely your choice! If you remember I gave you an easy out back at the train station even though I knew somethin’ was up. And we had fun, and I wanted it to be just fun –“ Majima snarled, drawing up to his full height. His teeth were smeared orange with blood. “It coulda stayed nice and clean, just two guys blowin’ off steam now an’ then! But you kept cuddlin’- and kissin’-”

“You told me not to hold back.”

“I didn’t think that’s what you were holdin’ back!”

“Besides, you kissed me too!“

“You made me want to!”

He said it like an accusation. Majima watched Kiryu for his reaction, but Kiryu didn’t know what he was looking for. His face flickered, then went resigned.

“When you went missin’, I only found ya by complete luck. You were this close to bein’ offed and it would have been all my fault. And I was already so goddamn mad for gettin’ so worked up, it was pathetic. A few years and a handful of cum between us and we don’t even know each other, not really, and – I shouldn’t, but I still-,” he swiped at the trickle of blood from his nose, and stopped himself. “Whatever. Yeah so what, I’ve been pressin’ yer buttons. I thought you were pressin’ mine back an’ playin’ some sort of game. But you’re not like me. You really mean everythin’ ya do. You just - don’t know when to quit.”

Like a long exhale at the end of an even longer day, Kiryu’s stomach muscles began to unclench as understanding washed over him. Majima stared at some point on the ground like he could escape from what he’d said.

“Neither do you.”

Majima looked at him, then. His eye switched between Kiryu’s and something yielded in his expression, as clear as a white flag. To see it there sparked a fresh surge of fear in Kiryu’s gut, or adrenaline, or butterflies. That about encompassed the width of his response.

“Apparently not.”

They stood there in their space, finally seeing eye to eye after stepping on each other’s toes at every turn of this sort of disastrous affair.

“I’m fucked.”

“Do you hate me?”

They said at the same time. They paused, affronted.

“What? I’m gonna if ya gotta ask that.”

“Why are you fucked?”

They spoke over each other again, distaste coloring their faces. Maybe they still weren’t entirely on the same page.

“This is idiotic, I can’t stand this! I need a drink!” Majima shouted, and Kiryu winced but agreed.

*

Kiryu examined the mottle of bruises and welts down his abdomen as he catalogued his wounds, thankfully free of lacerations without the knife in play. His cheek swelled into his eye and his hair wilted limply, so he washed the rest of the gel out and let his bangs hang like he never did, to hide some of the swelling. They tickled around his eyes. His knuckles were busted open and sore, cut on teeth. Despite the dull pulse of full-body pain, he felt cleansed.

He dressed for bed and brought the medical supplies to the kotatsu, pushing aside the empty bento they’d scarfed down like animals. He slipped under the blanket as Majima self-medicated to one of the bootleg films - his pick this time, after they’d pushed his arm back into its socket. It was some sort of slasher film.

“Here,” Majima grunted, pushing a cup of sake over in a clear peace offering. He sat shirtless and bloody, bruises blooming on his pink skin and disappearing under the swirl of his tattoo. Kiryu wrapped his own knuckles as he watched gore splash across the screen.

They existed together in an uncertain but muted silence. They had worn each other down in every possible way and now they sat there, raw like exposed wire. Kiryu’s nerves couldn’t do much more than whither weakly at the prospect of anything else happening that night, but a question undeniably shifted in the air at their every interaction.

It was a different sort of excruciating.

Kiryu passed the medical supplies to Majima, who waved it off.

“But you’re bleeding all over.”

“Yeah, it’s a real look ain’t it.”

He scowled.

“What? Yer the one who did it.” But Majima snatched a wet-wipe up and cleaned the blood petulantly, then tossed it at Kiryu. 

“You explicitly asked for it. Doesn’t mean I have to like looking at it.” Kiryu knocked back the sake and closed his eyes to the sensation as it went down smooth then warm, like a hug. He took a deep breath to calm himself. “Good stuff.” He opened his eyes and caught Majima turning his head away quickly.

It was almost like they were back at square one but dancing around a much bigger issue than simple sexual tension. He wasn’t certain it was right for him to push it, not after Majima had clearly drawn his line. He probably still needed space. Maybe they both did.

Kiryu extricated himself from the nice heat of the kotatsu and headed upstairs.

“Where ya goin’?”

“…bed?”

“The movie’s not done. Or the sake. Ya gonna make me celebrate a successful deal alone?” he said, pouting. Kiryu, careful to keep his emotions at bay, examined Majima’s face for motive. He shook the sake bottle forlornly.

Kiryu went upstairs, to Majima’s audible disappointment. He crept back down and threw a blanket over him.

“I’m cold just looking at you.”

Majima’s head popped out and his expression was worth it, a grin so boyish and clear it made Kiryu’s chest ache. “You ass,” he said with no real heat.

The VHS played and they had low conversation about nothing in the dark as the movie cast a shadowplay across their faces. The world narrowed to just the two of them and nothing else beyond the edges of the light from the TV. Leaning his head on his crossed arms on the table in front of him, wrapped in the heat of the kotatsu, Kiryu felt young and out of his element. Like this was the sort of thing a normal kid growing up in a normal home would have experienced at some point. It wasn’t meant for orphaned criminals like him. He wondered what Majima’s childhood had been like; if he’d ever belonged to this world of quiet and simple companionship.

The sake ran low and the bootleg VHS quality got dicey at the end. It replayed a character’s untimely death, distorting his final cry over and over again in a way that eventually lost meaning until it cut out abruptly, leaving them in the dark. Kiryu couldn’t say why he found it funny, but he laughed once and snorted it back in embarrassingly. Majima barked a goofy off-guard laugh at Kiryu’s strange noise, and that sent Kiryu into low chuckle-snorts that he couldn’t stop, feeling like he was in the grips of some madness. Maybe they’d had a bit too much to drink, or maybe the events of the day, of the week had finally come to claim them. Probably both.

Majima collapsed onto the ground in a fit of silent laughter. The idea that one of Majima’s most honest sounds was completely silent kept him going.

“Stop,” Majima gasped, slapping his arm from the ground pleadingly. “Stop fuckin’ laughin’!”

Kiryu drew a shuddering breath and held it. But it tumbled out in undignified bursts, his stomach muscles too weakened to keep anything in. Majima’s hands pulled him down and pressed over his mouth in desperate movements as his shoulders shook.

“It hurts to laugh, please, ya gotta!”

“Ok,” Kiryu hiccupped, lips brushing against his hands, getting himself under some control at last.

“God it’s good you don’t laugh much. I’d be a goner if ya did that on the job.” Majima thumbed tears away from his eye, sighing like a whine. Kiryu’s pleasant exhaustion lulled him closer and closer to sleep.

Then Majima lowered his upper body onto Kiryu’s chest heavily, blanket and all, propping his chin up to stare at him. His breath ghosted warmly across Kiryu’s face. Kiryu’s stomach flopped weakly under the prolonged scrutiny.

“What?”

“You look too young like this.” Majima blew a breath that flipped a lock of Kiryu’s bangs. “I feel like an old perv.”

“But you are.”

Majima bit his chin. Arousal snaked leisurely down his spine and pulled his eyelids heavy. He raised his hand to press him closer, then thought better of it and let it fall.

“Don’t bottle yerself up again on account of my messed up emotional landscape.”

Something uncoiled in Kiryu. He’d been trying to give them space, having made the decision to leave their fate in Majima’s hands. But if he was honest with himself, he didn’t want to stop. And maybe it was ok to let himself want.

Kiryu thought they were probably both a little messed up in the way they were approaching each other like two wolves in the lonely depths of a long winter. He wrapped an arm around his back tentatively and Majima adjusted, tension in his muscles. With his hand covering his mouth, his expression was mostly hidden save for the single, heavy-lidded and bruise-rimmed eye that did more to pin Kiryu down than the weight of its owner. Kiryu blinked drowsily and awaited the fall of the axe.

Majima leaned in like an encroaching storm and held his lips a hair’s breadth away, letting electricity jolt between all the places they weren’t touching.

Then he kissed Kiryu.  

Like the strange small world they found themselves in, the kiss was slow and sweet and nostalgic even though it’d never been like that between them. Majima’s lips were chapped and warm, split at the corner where he’d taken a hit. His stubble scratched against Kiryu’s and the deep scent of his cigarettes wafted around them. His tongue slid wetly past his teeth and tasted of sake.

They moved slow as molasses, two dark figures on the floor blending into one shifting mass of indefinable limbs and shapes. Kiryu dragged his hands up and down Majima’s bare back and pressed them to the side so their legs could tangle under the table. Majima’s arms wound around his neck, sinking in like liquid filling the spaces in between.

It never escalated. Kiryu thought that was terrifying in its own right before he slipped into unconsciousness.

*

Kiryu dreamt. Yumi was pretty but he and Nishiki never talked about it, even when the classroom boys held their crass conversations about the girls in school. They were that age when everybody had to have a target to pursue, someone to hold up to their peers and say ‘this is who I like’.

Kiryu decided that if he had anybody like that it had to be Yumi, because she was pretty and brave and lots of other guys liked her, so she was a safe choice. But he didn’t ever consider confessing because whenever the topic came up Nishiki would get extra unbearable. Kiryu thought Nishiki had a thing for her too. So they never talked about it and the issue stagnated as this unexplored swamp in the terrain of their brotherhood.

But when the boys talked about what they wanted to do with the girls they liked, Kiryu didn’t quite get it. He saw the appeal of touch, but reconciling that with his feelings for Yumi didn’t sit right. If she liked him back, he could do it. But imagining that without her permission seemed violating and wrong, especially when she didn’t know he even liked her.

So Kiryu projected his sexual desires onto the faceless women posed in the dirty magazines the boys passed around and taught himself to be satisfied with that, because everybody else seemed to be. Sometimes, under specific circumstances he never let himself linger on, grappling boys into submission filled him with a fiery feeling that he buried so deep he could forget about it whenever it wasn’t happening.

As he grew, the flings he had with women stayed just that. They told him he was kind, but cold. That they couldn’t see any of themselves in him. He did things right and he did things well, but you couldn’t fake your feelings. And Kiryu couldn’t say he had strong feelings for any of them, not like how he felt about Yumi. But he’d never do anything about it until he and Nishiki had a conversation that neither of them wanted to have. So Kiryu grew up, caught in a logical trap, compartmentalizing his romantic feelings and his sexual desires as two separate things, and never the two shall meet. 

 

 

Chapter Text

Something burned a heavy line against his lower stomach. Kiryu blinked and couldn’t tell if he was still dreaming or not. Majima undulated against him and the sound of the shifting blankets whispered like moving through grass. Out of the haze, wet lips hiding sharp teeth nipped his jugular. He couldn’t tell left from right, wrapped head to toe in blankets that kept the light out as if he’d been woven in silk and saved for later.

Majima smudged his face into the hollow of his neck, gripped Kiryu’s hips and rutted a long drag, the ends of his belt clinking mutedly with his movements. Kiryu blearily peeked down and saw him jutting out of his pants, no underwear to speak of. Kiryu wondered if he had fought like that. Seems like it’d chafe. He closed his heavy lids and drifted off.

When he came around again, he was looking into a maelstrom. Majima’s single eye shocked warning through the muck of his mind and arousal through his belly. It widened, pleased, and then disappeared as he turned in his arms. Finally getting the message Kiryu dipped his head forward and clacked his teeth on nothing once, twice, before latching onto the corner of his stubbly jaw. He kissed what he could reach and waded through consciousness while Majima prodded and arranged Kiryu so he trapped Majima to the floor with the weight of his sleepy body. Kiryu felt like a horse being led to water.

When his cockhead caught Majima’s open hole, Majima apparently intent on spearing himself, he burst into full consciousness like breaking through the surface of a lake, pushing himself up and away.

“Hm?” Majima twisted back, flushed even in the dark. Kiryu still couldn’t get a good view of his tattoo.

“Uh,” Kiryu said intelligently.

“C’mon c’mon.” Majima wiggled insistently, his eye lidded and bright.

“Don’t we need to-” slow down? “-prepare you more?”

“I did it myself,” he huffed, and his movements were soaked with an unusual fervor even for him. It made Kiryu want to give him whatever he wanted.

If Kiryu had his way this first time would be something treasured. Like how Majima had done for him, slow and caring, reveling in the small reactions.

But the idea of Majima working himself up alone on Kiryu’s body made him dizzy. Majima had given him what he needed. He’d return the favor, and then some.

Seeing the shift in him, Majima grinned excitedly and lay halfway between his side and his stomach, one knee braced up against the edge of their blanket cocoon as Kiryu leaned into his back. Kiryu gripped himself and spread Majima open, hardly believing it could be this easy between them.

He penetrated him slowly. Majima’s appreciative ‘oh’ whined long into the blanket, already broken sounding. He was so, so tight, even with the slickness of the lube he had conjured while he was unconscious. But he was blisteringly hot.

He wanted to stay there forever. But Majima reached back and tapped his hip impatiently, so Kiryu started moving. Majima’s body was pliant beneath those first hesitant push-and-pulls, all writhing muscle dedicated entirely to drawing out pleasure instead of pain. Kiryu discovered his partner was very skilled at both.

“Ahh, fffuck- yes, finally, Kiryu-chan,” he groaned, shoving his shoulder blades into Kiryu’s chest and demanding a faster rhythm with a plush grind of his ass. Kiryu leaned a heavy hand by his ear, arched over him, and obliged.

The staccato clap of their hips echoed obscenely through the quiet room, punctuated by Majima’s shaky breaths and Kiryu’s rumbling grunts. Majima’s hand splayed and scrabbled to get purchase so he could push back, trying to control their movements, but Kiryu fucked him mercilessly into the floor. It looked difficult for him to do much more than lay there and hold on, and he gave up moving to do just that with a whine. The victory coursed through Kiryu’s veins.

Kiryu’s arm began to shake so he shifted his weight onto one elbow and drove a choked sound from Majima’s lips that shattered into an incessant stream of oh-oh-there-Kiryu-chan-oh. His voice sent his already quickened pulse into an almost painful beat in his chest.

Majima reached down to stroke himself, thigh trembling with the effort of maintaining the precarious perfect angle. Kiryu wished he could see his face, wondered if it looked as desperate as his movements were. He imagined him, brows pleading and mouth stretched wide.

His nerves tightened in a way that meant he’d be finishing alone if he didn’t do something soon. Majima’s neck looked bare, so Kiryu sunk his teeth in and pummeled into the shaking body beneath him, drawing out a surprised yelp. Majima’s breathing crescendoed quickly then caught, then he shook as he came, doing nothing to quiet the keening cry that bounced in time with Kiryu’s thrusts. Kiryu saw a string of ejaculate land on the blanket near his tattooed upper arm.

“Can I- come inside?” He tried to whisper, but his voice sounded harsh to his own ears. Majima’s head bobbed up and down, too struck for a proper response.

With permission, Kiryu buried himself and emptied deep into Majima, who clutched at his forearm as he rode it out, still so loud in a way that embarrassed and excited him. Kiryu reached for a kiss while his body surged with pleasure and their lips slid together wetly, like Majima had been drooling.

When they parted Majima let out a sigh so pleased it startled him, heart flip-flopping through the come-down from the high. He kissed a bump of Majima’s spine and felt his own smile there. He didn’t try to contain it.

They’d broken free of the blanket cocoon at some point, and the house was still as dark as a secret. Majima began to push at him so he slid out and let himself be manhandled onto his back. He was observed in a way that made him feel like the floor was going to swallow them both up.

“Kiryu-chan. You’re a beast.” Majima’s teeth glittered at him in the dark, and his voice was guttural and rough. “It’s Saturday.”

“Ah.”

“Even crime needs a break.” He stretched and dragged a hand down the side of his neck, kneading a knot. His bangs tilted sideways with a dip of his head and he shot him a look so effective Kiryu thought he had to have practiced it. “I want more.”

A wiggle of arousal slithered through his lower stomach even though he’d just come. Majima was truly dangerous.

“Give me a minute.”

If Majima had a watch, Kiryu got the impression he’d be counting down the seconds. Kiryu pushed himself up and scrubbed at his puffy eyes. Even his bruises were tired. Majima draped himself across his back and shoulders like a lazy housecat that was also a furnace, clingy in a way that secretly thrilled him. His skin was still clammy.

“You good?” Kiryu asked.

Majima hummed and mouthed at his shoulder through his t-shirt. Kiryu turned to get a good look but Majima thought he was going in for a kiss and pushed their mouths together again. Kiryu frowned and pushed him back with a hand on his forehead.

“You’re hot.”

“Back atcha stallion.” he blinked, or winked. “C’mon, can ya get it up yet? I want another ride.”

Kiryu wished Majima hadn’t given him such a tender bruise on his cheek because it throbbed every time blood rushed to his head. “No – later – I mean. You’re sick.”

“I haven’t even begun to get sick with you,” he laughed ominously, curling his nails around his throat. “My tantō is gone though.”

That statement worried Kiryu but he’d cross that bridge when he came to it. “You’re doing this on purpose. You’ve got a fever.”

“Only for you darlin’!”

Kiryu twisted him up in the blanket and hefted him over his shoulder. It was both too late and too early for this.

“Yessss, throw me around! We can fight instead –“

Kiryu dumped him onto their combined futons upstairs as drowsiness nipped at the corners of his eyes. Majima had gone through a lot of late, stressful, and drunken nights. It was a recipe for disaster, even though Kiryu assumed Majima operated in a similar pattern back in Kamurocho. It just didn’t get as cold there.

“I can’t sleep until I come.”

“Good thing you just came then,” Kiryu said, reaching for his water bottle and gulping down greedily as he sat, not at all ready to be conscious. He felt like he’d entered a pocket removed from time created solely by the force of Majima’s libido. He wondered with a detached horror if they’d ever escape now that they’d arrived.

“It was so good I want to come again.” Majima broke free and scrambled into Kiryu’s lap with the ungainly movements of a deer over ice. “You were only around for half of it last time anyway.”

Kiryu looked away and rubbed his chin to hide a smile. Majima’s enthusiasm was endearing and enduring, and he’d never been so aggressively chased.

Majima always knew when to press his advantage. He rose to his knees, just barely brushing up against Kiryu’s front in a move designed to leave him wanting more.

“Yer cum is drippin’ down my thigh and yer gonna deny me?”  He whispered, bringing Kiryu’s large hand to curl around the meat of his ass. At odds with the rougher feeling of inked skin, wetness slid at the tips of his fingers and he shivered.

Kiryu gave him what he wanted.

*

With daybreak, Majima’s fever arrived in full. Kiryu pulled out a fresh futon and wrapped him in clean sheets and a blanket, tossing the rest into a laundry pile.

“Nu-urse!” Majima tittered obnoxiously every time he wanted something, and often when he didn’t.

“Don’t call me that,” Kiryu said for the third pointless time that day, treading up the stairs again. “What do you need?”

Majima stared at him from beneath two blankets, surrounded by tissue boxes and water bottles and throat lozenges and crackers. “Feelin’ a little claustrophobic here, ya nutcase.”

“That’s the stuff you need when you’re sick.”

“I have a temperature of-” Majima’s fingers popped up from the bedspread to gesture at the thermometer by his head for emphasis “-37.4! Barely a fever, and not the fuckin’ plague!”

Perhaps he had gone overboard. But Majima hadn’t exactly objected to being doted on - even complaining he had a pleased air around him, unfolding under Kiryu’s attention like a plant towards the sun.

“Ya know what the best cure for a sick dog like me is?”

Kiryu narrowed his eyes at his tone. Majima was a constant assault no matter what he was aiming for, as relentless as the sea dashing against the cliff of his resolve. Kiryu thought they’d been practicing a robustly healthy sex life but this was maybe starting to tip over into some sort of mania and he had to be careful. Because he wasn’t immune, at all.

His hand curled around Kiryu’s ankle softly and he stared up with a wide-eyed, persuasive look. “It’s ‘hair of the guy that bit ya’, and you’ve been biting me plenty, so I should be the one to get a taste, hmm?”

Kiryu reached deep inside himself searching for the iron will he was known for. For the unyielding and stoic man he’d grown into, who didn’t cave to carnal temptation every time it was dangled in front of his eyes like a rabbit to make a greyhound run.

Majima’s hand slipped under the leg of his sweatpants and traveled gently up and down his calf, his face open with desire. It cut straight to Kiryu’s heart, and then to his dick. The pathway between the two was proving to be a terrifying undertow that pulled at him from beneath the otherwise currently calm surface of their Thing. He took a breath.

“That’s not quite the saying. And that’s a hangover cure. I’ve got laundry to do, so just get some rest.” He found it difficult to move, indulging in the hard-won, unguarded fondness of the moment. Majima kept calling him up here, and something occurred to him. “You can come down to the living room if you’re lonely.”

The hand clawed into his leg as Majima sizzled. “I ain’t lonely!”

Kiryu hummed flatly and moved to leave, but Majima held tight. “But if you are, that’s different. Carry me down.”

Kiryu let him have that. “Always so pushy,” he sighed, as he did what he asked anyway.

Kiryu considered the two uneven piles of laundry in front of him as he rolled his shirtsleeves up to his elbows. Majima had brought a grand total of 4 pairs of underwear, some socks, and the clothes on his back. No pajamas, no winter preparations, nothing. That he had even brought underwear was a surprise. Kiryu now understood him to be a man with the capacity to plan intricate plots if it led to an end he desired, so it had to be conscious rebellion that led him to where he was now, belly-down on a displaced futon on the floor in front of the television, floating in and out of consciousness. He couldn’t say he pitied him.

Kiryu sat beside a snoozing Majima, folding laundry and keeping an eye on the baseball game on tv and his charge. He had a sheen to his brow and writhed incrementally in the patchwork consciousness of a fever dream. Kiryu’s eyes were drawn to the eye patch, sweat glistening at the edges. He reached for it, fingers swiping some of the moisture away from Majima’s forehead before looping under the elastic.

Majima’s hand shot up and grasped at his folded red sleeve blindly.

“It’s sweaty, do you have another one to wear?”

Majima blinked slowly at him, then let his hand drop and his eye slide shut.

“Nah. S’fine, m’used to it.”

“Doesn’t mean it’s good.”

Majima relaxed back into sleep - or as close as he could get to it in his state.

He spent the day feeling vaguely guilty for that. It might have been why he brewed a pot of the tea Hiroko had given him, each sip like bitter self-flagellation. In the same vein of remorseful thought, it occurred to him that if Nishiki or anybody from home saw them here like this he’d be – Kiryu stopped himself. It simply wouldn’t happen.

His mind wandered while he cooked. Yesterday they had come to blows over Kiryu’s most baseline expression of respect, and maybe just a bit of extra emotion. Was it actually not something he wanted from Kiryu?

Kiryu understood, now that they were on the other side of it; he had been holding back. He’d been holding back his own desires, denying himself everything he thought he should be ashamed of without even fully realizing he was doing it. And Majima had decided to draw some aspects of that out, for some reason. It was quite a thing to undertake, especially since Kiryu couldn’t tell what Majima got out of it. Except lots of sex and fights.

Oh.

Maybe that’s all he was aiming for. He didn’t seem too happy about the, rest of it, yesterday. Even now he wasn’t sure if Majima had really accepted that Kiryu had some feelings in the end, or if he was just too horny to care. He shouldn’t push it. He’d already received more than he ever should have asked for. Still, the impetus persisted like a weed.

By the time late afternoon rolled around Kiryu had completed a gamut of chores and introspection the likes of which he’d never accomplished before. His fast paced life in Kamurocho didn’t allow for either, really.

Kiryu reached for the towel on Majima’s forehead to replace it. Majima blinked blearily up at him with the look of someone who wasn’t fully there, mumbling.

“Bro?” he whispered, sounding lost. Like something left behind.

Kiryu, inexplicably, found himself keeping his silence as new questions bloomed into existence. Majima’s eye fluttered shut on a sigh, and Kiryu pushed his bangs back and laid a fresh towel across his forehead. He decided to ask him about it when Majima was well enough to fight, in case it was that sort of thing. Which, going by experience, it would be.

With nothing left to do Kiryu settled down into a calm peace, drowsy from lack of sleep. The air of the house was as guarded as always, but it almost felt protective now; cozy with warmth from the pot of curry on the stove, from the fresh laundry, and from two bodies just existing in the same place. Dust motes drifted through the orange beams of sunset hitting the floor, slanted imperceptibly more than they had been when Kiryu had laid in the same position in a fitful nap, his first day there.

It was nice. Not having to look over his shoulder, not beholden to someone’s orders, just living day to day in a quiet place with someone he cared about. It wasn’t what Kiryu thought he should be wanting as a young man in his prime, but he found a seed of it there when he thought about his future. He wondered what he could do to keep this for himself. Before he knew it, his thoughts drifted, disjointed but comforting.

*

When Kiryu opened his eyes next it was to the stinging glare of the Hannya. Majima sat in a pool of blankets at the table eating the curry noodles Kiryu had cooked, slurping away. The swirl of petals and leaves shifted amongst the blackened waves as his shoulder blades moved.

Kiryu’s fingers were tracing a blossom before he thought to stop himself. Majima didn’t jump, but he swallowed abruptly and coughed.

“Sorry.” Kiryu didn’t stop.

“Nah, touch all ya want. I got to take my time with yours.”

Kiryu shifted into a sitting position to take him up on that, eager to see the piece in its entirety. He pressed the pad of his index finger to the sharpened tip of the Hannya’s horn, thumb landing on a petal red as blood. He followed it down to the pleading scowl, expression shifted with his angle, delicately detailed with wrinkles and highlights.

“You chose the design?”

Majima’s neat bowl cut shifted as he nodded.

“Has a lot in common with Shimano’s.”

Majima shrugged. “I’m only alive because of him.”

“I doubt that. I’d bet you’re alive because you’re you.”

He slid him a look, voice gruff with what Kiryu was beginning to recognize as embarrassment. “You butterin’ me up again?”

“I don’t recall ever ‘buttering you up’.”

Kiryu had seen glimpses of Shimano’s tattoo during clan events and other such gatherings – similar waves and flowers surrounding a snarling tiger. Majima was singularly dedicated to Shimano for reasons Kiryu couldn’t understand, so maybe he really didn’t mind having a physical representation of that bond permanently etched onto his body. Shimano didn’t deserve it. Majima wore it better, anyway.

His ring and pinky finger forayed out onto un-inked territory by the swell of Majima’s hip, and the neat lines down his side that divided the two had a pleasing contrast in feel and look. Kiryu always thought it made him look whip-thin in profile when he was actually pure economic muscle. It worked in his favor, especially when fighting. It made it harder to tell where he really started or ended.

Kiryu slipped his fingers beneath Majima’s briefs and pulled, following the lines of the spiral to their peak with a clinical curiosity. His other hand ran around the curve of his cheek where clouds and flowers threatened to spill onto the ground, and down to what he could see of the clean cut-off by the side of his upper thigh.

“I heard it hurts more that far down,” Kiryu rumbled. He watched the Hannya expand and contract with Majima’s breaths.

“More than just the tail on yer ass for sure. Not too late to join the big boys club.”

“What would I even add down there?”

Majima lifted his hands into the air, mimed a clawed grip on either side. “I’ll go with ya, they can trace my hands.”

Kiryu dug his nails in and dragged a harsh trail up to the snakes on his arms as Majima flinched away and then into it with an eek of a laugh.   

Kiryu curled around the belly of a snake on his left arm and moved to follow it over his shoulder, smoothing his palm down over the spitting head. His thumb brushed over a pert nipple.

“Can’t believe you got ink there too.”

He made the mistake of looking him in the eye. Majima stared at him like a starved man before a steaming meal and Kiryu swallowed as his throat went dry. Majima pushed his empty bowl away with a clatter and lunged for Kiryu, who held him fast.

“What?” Kiryu asked. “I just want a good look at the front too.”

Majima stared incredulously. “My god you’re serious.”

Kiryu was only half serious, but enjoyed being able to hide behind his stoic mask and have it work. Kiryu resumed his exploration, lifting Majima’s arm so he could trace the v of untattoed skin, left blank from an old tradition of prisoner tattoos occupying that painful stretch. “Oh Kiryu-chan, there? You’re pretty kinky.”

Kiryu ignored him, dragged his hand across his chest and left a red flush rising in its wake as he took both snakes in, wrapped around his shoulders protectively. The one adorning his left was perfectly positioned to strike at anyone daring enough to go for his heart.

Kiryu settled back, but his hands lingered. Like his ink, Majima was intimidating but delicate when observed up-close and still, and Kiryu wondered if that was why he was always moving. Why he’d fought Kiryu over every step closer he’d taken.

Majima’s eye bore down on him like a physical weight, and it simmered in his belly. The muscles beneath Kiryu’s hands tensed with intent.

“It’s nice,” Kiryu said, journey finished.

“That’s it? After all of that?” Majima’s eye practically bulged. “Ya better recite me some goddamn poetry about the supple curves of my beautiful skin. Pay for yer entry ticket!”

“It’s very nice,” Kiryu said, face carefully neutral to Majima’s building incredulity. Then, he flicked his nipples with his thumbs. Majima’s expression exploded into relieved laughter.

“I thought you were workin’ me up, you fuck! Sittin’ there lyin’ to my face – ‘I just want a good look’ my sweet ass, c’mere-” he lunged again and this time Kiryu let him pin him to the floor, let him unbutton his shirt and push his pectorials together while his thighs bracketed his ribcage, giving him an eyeful of his erection, curved towards his thigh in the confines of his briefs.

“Y’know Nurse-chan, this whole day I’ve been thinkin’, you’ve got the best tits I’ve ever seen,” Majima sighed happily, rubbing himself between the shallow valley of his chest muscles. Kiryu’s neck washed hot as Majima snapped the band of his underwear beneath his balls. The position felt ridiculous to Kiryu, but he looked down to see that he had managed to gather a deep cushion of Kiryu’s pecs for himself. Kiryu had never even thought to do this. He watched the slit of his head compress and widen slightly as it moved back and forth.

“Ah,” Kiryu breathed as his own dick twitched into interest.

“Stick yer tongue out,” Majima ordered breathily, and the salty taste of his erection smoothed against his tongue and dragged his lower lip, and he was trailing saliva and precum down his sternum as he picked up speed, his shoulders and back bowing with effort. He stretched away for a second, returning with the lube he’d hidden under the kotatsu, and drizzled.

Kiryu flicked his gaze up to find Majima already staring down at him with an intense look, chain swaying with his motion.

“So obedient. Yer such a good boy aren’tcha.” Majima’s words were syrupy with something that felt like naked affection, and Kiryu was trapped, he couldn’t escape the pleased twist that rose up in his chest, so he tilted his head forward and flattened his tongue so he could reach more of his dick, replaced Majima’s hands on his chest with his own so he could understand how to shape his body. Majima exhaled a wounded sound and lost some control of his hips, pausing only to readjust when his balls slipped back inside.

“Hah, so eager to please. You were never good -- at takin’ orders from me, back home,” he panted. “Drove me up the wall, just you. Angry and defiant but so—willin’ to feign subservience. And your little – ohh fuck - act tricked everyone else. But look at you now, this is the real thing – perkin’ yer tits up and openin’ yer mouth for me.”

Kiryu sent him a glare and he swore Majima throbbed when it connected, and Kiryu’s ears were burning with a humiliation that made him excruciatingly hard. He’d repay this. Majima pressed his warm hand down on top of his pecs, adding to the pressure between them and really going for it, snapping his hips with a slick friction up his chest.  

“I’m gonna paint your pretty fuckin’ face,” he moaned down at him, brows drawn. He blew his load across Kiryu’s lips with a sharp exhale, then streaked up the ridge of his nose to his brow, then his cheek as Kiryu flinched to the side to avoid a hit to his eye. Majima squeezed his hand to wring out every drop, smudging against Kiryu’s lips even though he stubbornly kept them shut now. He watched Majima’s eye linger on his face with a satisfaction that reached Kiryu, too.

“Good look,” Majima leered, eye a pleased and dark crescent. Kiryu scrubbed his face with his shirt then bowled Majima back, holding him in half on the ground as he figured out his approach, not entirely unlike how they fought. If he could make Majima beg, he could win. His own pleasure could wait until then.

“You’re always saying you want more.” Majima’s thighs bracketed his ears and he watched him from the ground with a strangely innocent curiosity despite the circumstance. Figures the one time he’d manage to look truly guileless was during this. Kiryu put some command into his voice. “So ask for more.”

Kiryu watched the blood fill Majima’s face until it almost looked uncomfortable.

“More,” he sighed as Kiryu swirled his tongue into him, until Majima’s cock began to thicken again in jumps by his temple.

“More,” he grit out as Kiryu threw his underwear off and sucked on his balls and worked two fingers into him, then a third, searching and pressing until Majima’s thighs clamped involuntarily around his head, nearly smothering him. He drew it out until the body in front of him hummed with visible energy.

“More,” he grunted, frustrated, as Kiryu pressed into him, taking his time. Majima clenched around him uselessly, trying to urge him into action but Kiryu just slowly withdrew and entered again, Majima’s yielding flesh following the movement. Kiryu moved until he saw Majima’s abs shiver, heard his breath begin to stutter as his hips made urgent movements – so he stopped moving and circled his fingers around the root of Majima’s dick, gripping tightly. Majima cried out, thrusting his hips uselessly.

“Let me come,” he tried to command but his throat was dry.

“Ask nicely.” Kiryu smoothed his other hand along his thigh as he waited.

“Fuck no.”

“Ok.” He ignored Majima’s stream of commands, thrumming with the joy of a challenge met. He could take all the time he wanted, finally. He released him as his body calmed down then thrust languidly, reveling in the conflict that was Majima’s face. Majima watched him watching, red and growing redder, stubborn. But then he began to work his hips in the rhythm Kiryu had asked for, began to moan as if they were pushed uncontrollably from him each time he bottomed out. He held Kiryu’s eye with the mesmerizing allure of a flame to a moth. Kiryu couldn’t tell who was which. He was so caught up in the display that he almost missed Majima’s hand pulling quick and eager on his cock.

“No no no– let me go, agh, christ-“ Majima’s neck muscles strained as Kiryu gripped over his own hand with a bone-grind strength. His blunt nails dug so deeply into Kiryu’s arm that he was probably bleeding. “Kiryu-chan just fucking move you fuck!”

“Don’t want to,” Kiryu murmured, not doing much of anything and enjoying it immensely. Majima kicked and struggled beneath him, trying to flip them, anything to get his. But Kiryu was as solid as a building and Majima’s protests were tinged with pleasure and weak.

Kiryu sped up, he couldn’t help it, heart pounding with the effort of holding his own pleasure back. Just a bit more, he was certain. Majima’s angry words were beginning to slur, delirious with frustration and pent-up release. And, probably, the fever didn’t help. Kiryu wondered if he was pushing too far again. Majima’s head lolled to the side as if he didn’t have the energy to hold it up anymore, body heaving. Even his fingers were trembling as he reached for Kiryu, and Kiryu shuffled closer, pressed them together belly to belly.

Majima bit his ear, hard.

Kiryu gasped in pain and only managed to jerk back out of Majima’s suddenly crushing grip by the slick of sweat between their bodies. Majima flashed him a woozy, open mouthed leer and Kiryu grew angry at how he’d fallen for that, and how hard he was for it.

“Just ask nicely,” he grit out, hand in a vice grip on Majima’s dick as he began to pound into him, control slipping. “What do you want from me?” Majima shook his head, mouth a tight line, eye scrunched shut. “I never understood. You always wanted something from me. What is it? Was it just this?” Majima’s mouth fell open on silent, painful pleasure. His fingers scrabbled at Kiryu’s forearm, slipping with the violent rocks. “What is it?”

“Please!” the word burst from Majima’s lips like a bullet shattering the glass of his resolve. His eye flew open pleading, brow twisted in despair. “Please! Please please Kiryu-chan, please-”

Kiryu let him go and pounded into him in wet, solid slaps that were lost beneath Majima’s exalted moans as they both reached their breaking point. He bucked them up from the floor with the force of his orgasm and Kiryu had to struggle to keep him contained, slamming them back down unforgivingly while Kiryu finally gave in, emptying into him on a deep groan that shook against Majima’s throat.

His ears rung. Like he’d been within blast radius of a grenade. His senses slowly returned, first Majima’s breath tickling hairs from his ear, then the press of his ribs as they expanded and contracted, then the wash of receding pleasure running between them.

When he emerged from his sex fog he found they were plastered together with sweat and cum and Majima’s arms, painful iron bands around his waist and neck. He still had so much strength despite the fever and the marathon but all of that power had bowed to Kiryu, and the satisfaction of that spread until it had touched every nerve in his body. Maybe that feeling was what Majima was chasing every time they clashed. Or maybe he enjoyed finally finding someone who could contain him.

Kiryu withdrew and Majima twitched along every inch with patently happy sounds until he fell off of Kiryu’s cock, back to the ground. Kiryu took him in, legs splayed, body glistening, and arm thrown across his eye. Thoroughly debauched and openly pleased for it.

“Is that what you wanted?”

Majima just breathed for a space of time, long enough that Kiryu wondered if he’d heard his question, but he was content to just stare at the rise and fall of his chest. Then Majima propped himself up on his elbow, tossed his sweaty bangs from his face and smiled feebly. “You askin’ if I liked it? You wanna hear how you’re such a good boy again?”

He narrowed his eyes and got to his feet as Majima made smoochy noises and called him like a dog. He wasn’t prepared for Majima to scramble up and jump him from behind as he entered the shower room, nudging into his ear with a sincere tone. “I’m kiddin’. You really are a good man, Kiryu.”

Nothing could have prepared him for such an earnest statement from Majima. He was grateful when he wasn’t teased for his surly silence, or the feeling that bubbled so strongly in his chest that Majima had to have felt it.

Cleaned and cleansed, Kiryu hesitated at the bottom step of the staircase about to head up when Majima settled down into his displaced futon. He was sick, they probably should sleep separately, they’d spent whole days in each other’s constant presence and maybe he should have wanted more space but he didn’t. Kiryu couldn’t get his body to move.

“What’re ya waitin’ for?”

“Can I sleep down here?”

“Can you sle- can you sleep down here? What the hell else were ya gonna do?” Majima blinked as he took in Kiryu’s body language. He sat up, poised to go with. “You wanna head upstairs instead?”  

Oh, Majima had just assumed they’d stay together. Kiryu, with a dawning regret that he’d made this way more awkward than it had to be, said, “No. I thought maybe you wanted to sleep separately.”

Majima recoiled with a slow motion and a hard blink into space. He looked at Kiryu again, and Kiryu saw the exact moment he realized they’d both been revealed, because his brow went pain-wobbly and then Kiryu’s cheek throbbed and then Majima’s neck flushed red in what he thought had to be the record-breaking most excruciating chain reaction in history.

Kiryu turned upstairs to hide. “I’ll get my futon.”

“You do that.”

Majima recovered from that bout of emotional honesty after they’d changed his sheets and arranged the bed, lying side by side and thinking about what they’d done.

“You just edged me to the ends of the earth and sleepin’ next to each other is the thing that makes you stop and think, hm, maybe I should set some boundaries?!”

Kiryu shrugged defensively. “We never talked about it. We always just fell asleep after sex.”

“If yer worried about gettin’ sick, it was too late the minute you stuck yer dick in me ya mook!”

Kiryu’s face stretched on a wince. Every word felt like growing pains. “It wasn’t that. I just wanted to. Didn’t know if you did.”

Majima forced a pained wheeze through his teeth, and Kiryu decided to steer it back before he brought them somewhere truly unforgiveable. “Anyway I don’t think it spreads through… semen. It’s mostly spit and breath.”

“The way you say that word, nothin’ would spread through it, it’d just shrivel up and die.” Majima propped up and leaned over, slapping a hand down on Kiryu’s chest like a salesman with a pitch. “Tell ya what. If you get sick I’ll be yer own personal nurse. I’ll dress up and everything.”

“That’s ok. Just take care of me normally.”

“I took an oath, Kiryu-chan, as a medical practitioner. I take it very seriously-”

“Please just take care of me normally-”

They bickered and talked in fits until the moon was setting through the windows. It occurred to Kiryu as Majima’s limbs fell heavy with unconsciousness around him that they’d skipped a lot of steps to get to where they were, or they’d done things completely out of order from how he would have, if he’d gone into this with any intention at all. If Kiryu were to start over with the feelings he had now, he’d have liked to have tried something a little more traditional – maybe ask him somewhere scenic for a dramatic fight, seemed like the sort of thing he’d appreciate. He could try and pack them bento like he’d heard the hostesses talking about when they described their ideal dates. He’d ask him if he had an oath brother, and how he lost his eye. It was an innocent and unrealistic desire, naïve and not manly as he’d been taught to recognize it growing up, but Kiryu fell asleep entertaining it like a guilty daydream, completely surrounded by the heat of him. He’d never been the little spoon before, but Majima was proving to be a lot of firsts.

*

Kiryu dreamt. Kiryu had visited Kazama while he was still in high school in another attempt to persuade him to let him join his family. He’d been to the city before, but usually he came with Nishiki, or with one of Kazama’s boys as an escort, usually Kashiwagi. This time he came alone.

He was young and strong but the city had fangs in places he hadn’t expected. He’d helped an old man buy some food, and when he turned around his stuff was gone. When he turned back to the old man, he was also gone. Kiryu chased in the most likely direction, but hadn’t thought to look for familiar markers and ended up surrounded by buildings he didn’t recognize on a side street that was too quiet to be safe. He caught the eye of a group of delinquents and laid most of them flat, but not before one of them disappeared and returned with backup.

The man who turned the corner was massive, like a mountain that had decided to grow legs and walk. He wasn’t flashy like the rest of his cohorts had been, dressed simply in camouflage pants and a black t-shirt that strained to contain him. He regarded Kiryu with the quiet intensity of a stretch of ocean far from land.

“This kid’s not trouble. Don’t waste my time.”

“B-but he beat Shimano boys-“

“And? If they’re not strong enough to take down a scared kid he wouldn’t want ‘em anyway. Scram.”

The lackey did as he was told and Kiryu was left alone with the mountain. He kept his fists raised and expression unyielding.

“Hey, ‘m not here to fight. Ya good?” He had a craggy old-man face but the way he used it made him look young, and Kiryu would wager he wasn’t that much older than him. “Are ya lost, kid?”

“Bring me to the Kazama family office,” Kiryu announced with his toughest voice, something that had fully settled into a deep baritone he was proud of. The man gave him another once-over. He stood blocking the exit to a lit street, framed by the brilliant orange and green lights of a pachinko parlor.

“Ya lookin’ to join up?”

Kiryu nodded sharply, jaw out.

The man puffed a breath through his nose. “You got a good reason?” Kiryu’s silence seemed to answer for him. “If ya don’t gotta be part of this life, don’t. There are better things out there for a kid like you.”

“I’m not a kid,” Kiryu uttered testily, stalking up to him. Up close, the mountain only had a few centimeters on him. The man’s dark eyes were soft, when you got a good look.

“If ya gotta say that, yer still a kid,” he laughed, clapping a hand on Kiryu’s shoulder and guiding them onto the street. Kiryu’s temper flared but was dampened by the even cadence of his would-be opponent’s Kansai accent. “I don’t know yer circumstance, all I know is I wouldn’t’ve joined if I had a choice.”

The man’s complete calm smoothed Kiryu’s hackles until his anger gave way to the tiny seed of fear it had sprouted from. “I just want to help my… father.”

The man turned to face him with a serious expression, making sure he had his full attention. “That’s what ya gotta remember if you join up. Everybody who’s here started because of a reason like yours. A lot of men lose their way and a lot of men become monsters. But everybody was so down on their luck they had to turn to this life. So try to have a little compassion here and there, when yer not gonna get knifed for it.”

Kiryu rolled his words around in his head and found them to resonate with a truth he’d like to live up to. He looked at the man with the deceptively craggy face, and years fell off when he smiled back.

“Bro-! There ya are!” Someone flew at the man from behind and hooked an arm around his shoulder – he swung into view and Kiryu had to step back or be hit by a stray limb or three, the amount of momentum he had. The mountain didn’t move at all. “Heard there was trouble around?” His eyes darted into the alleyway where the beaten men lay groaning, then to Kiryu, who froze as that sharp gaze met his with a jolt. When he smiled slyly at him, Kiryu felt it with his whole body.

“No trouble. Just a lost kid,” the mountain grumbled, shoving the eager newcomer until he was standing on his own two feet instead of, essentially, hanging from him. The newcomer’s blunt bangs swayed in front of his dark, gleaming eyes.

“Just a lost kid who beat a whole group of Shimano boys without a scratch on him,” he said, sizing him up in a way that had Kiryu lifting his fists again. The man rolled up into a laugh that was more like a cackle. “Ohoh this one’s got somethin’, he looks fun-”

“None ‘a that. He’s lookin’ for Kazama’s office.”

“Kazama? Boring, join Shimano. Big brother will look out for ya, show you the ropes.” he laid a mocking hand on his beige button-up shirt.

Kiryu looked between the skinny newcomer and the muscled mountain. “Pass. The big guy seems more dependable, anyway.”

The mountain burst out into deep, joyous laughter and the newcomer’s jaw dropped in a mirthful shock at his gall. “What’s yer name? When you join Kazama I’m gonna be on your ass-“

“Bro. Just tell him where the office is already, I’m fuckin’ hungry.” The mountain clapped a heavy hand down on the back of the newcomer’s neck and he relaxed immediately, like an angry cat that’d been scruffed. He sighed and obeyed, and Kiryu couldn’t hold his gaze without feeling strange so he looked down the street.

“Don’t get lost again,” the mountain called, the newcomer watching him with an unmistakably predatory aura as Kiryu skipped away into a run with just one glance back. Kiryu ran alone through the neon lights of Kamurocho, the scent of fresh rain on pavement, car horns blaring and people murmuring, determined to be a part of that world.

 

Chapter Text

 

Majima slept on and Kiryu left to work out while he puzzled over the conundrum of Kawano Junior, now squarely in his lap by some stroke of fate. He hadn’t spoken a single word to the man when they’d met, he suspected it was Junior’s fault he was hiding in the first place, and now he had to convince him to drop his (perhaps misguided) aspirations and go back to drug running with his mother?

Moreover he’d been introduced as “Maidra Gon”, just about the fakest sounding name he’d ever heard, and an even worse moniker for him, the up and coming “Dragon of Dojima” trying to lay low.

Kiryu was no stranger to challenge but he’d appreciate at least being able to approach it with dignity. With Majima involved, that likelihood always seemed to drop down to negative percentages.

He didn’t want to think about it. So he did chin-ups on the high bar at the local park while a nearby group of elderly moved in slow, purposeful taichi exercises. They leaned in unison, lifted their arms up and down like the receding tide. Kiryu watched and wondered if he could repurpose any of those into quicker, more deadly moves. He’d been his only teacher for a while now and he was itching to learn new things.

Kiryu finished his routine and joined them, welcomed into the fold by kind strangers who adjusted his limbs and told him where to put his weight. The movements were peaceful and easy on the body, designed to emphasize balance.

He left with some pamphlets from the instructor, and a charm from one of the women with a yin-yang symbol on it. She said it helped to promote peace and balance between the masculine and the feminine energies, and wouldn’t hurt in a mahjong game. Kiryu wondered what it was about his face that made people give him stuff like this.

On his way home he stopped by the ramen place again, loading his bowl up with pork and leafing through the things he’d been given. Two men sat near the back, deep in discussion.

“You been out to see the autumn leaves anywhere? The season will be over soon.”

“Ahhh not yet. I sort of wanted to go with someone…”

“It can be pretty romantic.”

Kiryu slurped his noodles up, condensation fogging on his cheeks as he hovered over the bowl. One of the brochures had an ad for the very thing the men were talking about – tours and day trips that stopped around some famous areas for the season. A full trip seemed too much, but maybe something shorter…

“When I went, there was this really annoying campaigner at the base of the mountain. He said he wanted to clean up the streets, but his crew all looked like gang members.”

“I mean, not like it’s a hard turn from crime to politics. It’s just making it official.”

“Damn, dude.”

“Sucks though, ruining the view with that. Guess I’ll bring her somewhere else.”

Kiryu tuned out, finished his bowl, and headed back to the house.

*

“Come onnnnnn,” Majima whined, struggling against Kiryu, who wouldn’t budge.

Kiryu held up the thermometer: 37.3.

“Just a quickie, a few punches for the poor. Yer already warmed up, I can sense it.”

“I just ate. You’ve still got bruises from our last fight.”

Majima was already jumping into his freshly laundered leather pants and struggling with the effort. In between grunts and frustrated huffs he managed, “Did you wash these in hot water or somethin’?”

Kiryu studiously looked away, because yes, he had. “You think I know how to wash leather?”

“I’ll do it next time – and teach ya!” Majima eeked out from the floor, tugging the waistband up around his hips, just shy of indecent. When he stood, he creaked. Loudly.

“Y’know? I look good. What do ya think?”

Kiryu should have thought to see the trap but the truth was, he hadn’t at all. When he turned his way to get a look, Majima was ready with a kick to his crotch, which he barely managed to catch. Majima struggled to lift his leg.

“I hope that was meant to be a higher kick,” Kiryu bristled, pushing his leg away. Every movement squeaked protest.

“Obviously. I’ve got an investment in those jewels.” He went for it again, another testing kick that reached, maybe, Kiryu’s bellybutton. He uttered an unimpressed ‘tch’. “The hell? First I lose my tantō on the train because ya won’t let go of me long enough to let me grab it-”

“-I said sorry, and you would have just stabbed me with it-”

“-and now you ruin my pants so I can’t even kick you in yer rugged face-”

“-you can wear mine.”

They paused.

Majima stepped loudly into the grey pants without taking his leather off. The waist slid down to rest across his hips, then he shifted and they fell off entirely. He looked up at Kiryu blankly.

Kiryu frowned. “I do wear a belt, you know.”

“Grey’s not my color anyway, I did my time when I was young and stupid.” Majima tried to kneel and stretch, but only managed to bend a little lower than a standing position. “Kiryu-chan,” he said seriously. “Sit on me.”

Kiryu’s already irritated expression thinned.

By the end of it, Majima could kick at least to Kiryu’s chest, and Kiryu belatedly realized he’d been baited into a spar sometime between struggling out of Majima’s chokehold and testing out some modified taichi movements with tentative strikes.

“Do that again,” Majima said, coming to stand alongside him. Kiryu looked at him curiously but Majima just made an impatient motion, so he fell into a base stance and lifted his arm. Majima mirrored him, pressed back-to-back, both facing the same invisible enemy. Kiryu thrust his hand out for a high strike, and Majima moved forward with a low, downwards kick, then shifted up as Kiryu shifted down. Covering the places he was left open, making them dangerous.

Kiryu smiled as they moved with a synchronicity he’d known they had the potential for but never would have admitted to, before all this. They were always too busy wielding their strength against each other. Though, Kiryu could admit he had fun there too, sometimes. Even if Majima never returned his feelings, they’d always have this energy that zipped between them bright like the crackling neon signs of Kamurocho.

They built the foundation of a combination move with the start-and-stop critique of two pros – until Kiryu mis-stepped and Majima came down on his toes and they rolled back into a combative tussle.

Sometime later Kiryu sat with a dozing Majima, effervescent with the ease between them.

“Hey,” he nudged Majima, prone on the futons and blankets that spilled around the living room floor like a nest. Majima grunted. “When you’re better, let’s go to a temple or something. See the trees.”

Majima breathed evenly for a while, then, “Like a date?” came his muffled voice, like he meant it as a tease but Kiryu could hear an edge of apprehension peeking through. Kiryu wasn’t in the habit of dating, having abstained during high school and then not really getting the scene as a young adult. The women he met were either involved with the yakuza or the nightlife of Kamurocho in some way so there often wasn’t room for the sort of ideal he’d been holding onto for a while, or probably more accurately, he hadn’t made room for it. Since Majima was a guy he thought it’d be easy to just pretend that wasn’t what it was, but if he was being honest, then.

“Yeah,” he rubbed his palm along his neck. He didn’t know what he was doing. He told himself he wouldn’t push it, but here he was. Majima might get evasive again. And he couldn’t chase the looming fear that once they returned to Kamurocho, everything would snap back to normal – that they were on borrowed time.

Majima shifted around until he was facing Kiryu, watching him tentatively. “That’s what you wanna do.” His tone wobbled strangely at the end of the statement. “Like some real springtime of youth, storybook stuff.”

Kiryu suddenly refused to be embarrassed about it. It was amazing what stubbornness did for him, especially against Majima. “Yeah.”

“With me,” Majima said in that same strange tone. Kiryu realized it’s what uncertainty sounded like from him. He cleared his throat, decided to back off.

“It’s fine if you don’t want to.”

“I’ll wear my new dress.”

He flicked his eyes up to find Majima’s expression teasing but open enough for Kiryu to see just a glimpse of uncertainty there, too. He tried to hide his relief behind a tired sigh, but he didn’t manage. “That’s not exactly temple wear, in this weather.”

Majima pulled the covers above his head. “You’re right I don’t have anything that goes with it yet. Shoes, accessories… shit.” Kiryu was angling more for ‘coat’. After a contemplative silence, Majima tittered under the covers, stifled excitement. “Hee hee, a date with Kiryu-chan.”

Kiryu leafed through the brochure to scout for places, but his heart beat just a little faster. They were really doing this backwards.

It was a peaceful afternoon, but something had to interrupt it. Sometime later the phone rang and Kiryu nearly jumped at the sound, barely remembering they had one. He rushed to quell the noise, pacing over to the dark corner by the foyer.

“It’s Kiryu.”

“Hah. So that’s where you ran off to.”

Kiryu’s nerves tensed. The heavy voice drawled maliciously through the phone.

“Boss Shimano.”

“The one and only. Say, you wouldn’t happen to be trying to muscle in on my little operation, are you?”

“No, sir-”

That was all Kiryu could say before a hand shot out and grasped the receiver from him. Majima sent him a red-rimmed panicky look, then shuffled as far away as he could, still huddled in his blanket, stretching out the curled line of the phone. Kiryu gave him his privacy.

After a bit, Majima returned and flopped down onto his futon in a succession of knees, elbows and then face. He groaned.

“That Kawano shit still ain’t deliverin’ on his word.”

Kiryu looked up from his bowl of food. “Could we get Hiroko-san to make up for it?”

“Granny’s gimped with the number of men she got left. It won’t be enough until we get the band back together. Ugh.” Majima perked up when he got an eyeful of Kiryu’s food. “Hey, can I get some of that?”

Kiryu was surprised he hadn’t just demanded, like usual. He wondered if yesterday had… shifted things a little. He looked at the bowl he’d made for Majima sitting on the table, but it was in his blind spot. “Yours is right there.”

He turned to stare at it with a deadly serious expression. “Who made you, Kiryu-chan?”

“I don’t know.”

“All this lyin’ around like a spoiled brat while you cook and clean, I feel like a real butt-ball right now.”

“A what?”

“I’m gonna pay you back so hard for everythin’ you’ve done yer gonna be up to your eyeballs, just you wait and see.”

“Up to my eyeballs in what?”

“You’re a real fuckin’ unicorn is what you are, a unicorn with - with hearts, where its fists should be.” Majima shoveled the food into his mouth, revving himself up into a mood Kiryu hadn’t seen in a while. It was probably only exacerbated by the fever, which might be why Kiryu absolutely could not follow him. Speaking through a mouthful of food didn’t help either. “The golden goose! And everyone wants that delicious goose meat. Fuck ‘em this dog got here first.”

“Hey take it easy, I don’t understand a word you’re saying. If Junior’s not delivering, what do we have to do?”

Majima swallowed noisily, practically buzzing, his knee beginning to bounce where he sat. “No ‘we’, just me. Gotta go bust some heads.”

Kiryu snorted, then paused when Majima didn’t drop the joke. “By yourself? In your condition?”

“Shimano thinks you’re Kazama’s way of stickin’ his fingers in his pie again.” Majima scrunched his nose. “Didn’t mean it to come out that way.”

“But it’s not. You know it’s not.”

“I know you think it’s not. Don’t mean it ain’t.” 

Kiryu grit his teeth, unable to deny that, ready to argue -

“But I don’t care about that crap! He wants you to stay put, that means yer safer with me. Gear up Kiryu-chan, we got overtime.”

He deflated a bit, still looking for the fight, not quite used to Majima just… giving him what he wanted. And going against Shimano, no less. He hopped up to get his jacket, pleased.

Kiryu stood on the train downtown, jostling into the commuter crowd with the steady rocks of the car. “What’re we heading into?”

At his side, Majima furrowed his brows. “Dunno but Junior’s men were weak when I was filterin’ out the garbage last week.” His voice floated over, muffled by the scarf Kiryu had forced on him. Paired with the familiar loud jacket and now even louder pants, someone looking at him would probably wonder what sort of bet he’d lost to leave the house looking like that. “Even in this state, in these pants, with no knife, I’ll be able to take ‘em down.”

They disembarked and walked until they came upon an industrial series of buildings. They hoisted each other up and over a chain-linked fence and approached a nondescript warehouse, stretching in front of the doors like a pair of athletes preparing for a race.

Majima cracked his neck. “Follow my lead. I’ll head in the front, you sneak around from the stairs on the right. Then you head down and come from behind so we can pincer the shit outta them.” Majima twirled his bat and clinked it to the ground like a war drum. “Ya gonna properly follow my orders or do ya want me to beg again?”

Kiryu let himself smile and jumped in place, jabbing the air, actually looking forward to getting his hands a little dirty again. Present company made it easier, too. “I’ve won our last two fights, I’m not that worried.”

Majima scoffed, then twirled his bat up and pressed it beneath Kiryu’s chin, just enough pressure to force him to look. They stood there for a beat while Majima stared into him looking like a fierce conqueror in the harsh overhead light. Before, Kiryu would have squared up for a fight. But he could see the different shades of his expression, now.

“See ya on the other side, lover-boy!”

And he slipped into the doors like mercury between the gap. Kiryu dashed around to the side of the building and up the stairs, ears red, wondering if he’d ever be unaffected by Majima.

He kicked open the door to find an office with three men sitting idly, legs propped up on desks and smokes hanging from their fingers. One had a prominent lipscar, one had a gold tooth, and the third looked like some regular guy.

“Oh, it’s you guys,” Kiryu said, before he kicked up the nearest desk into his hands and swung it.  

“The fuck-” Lipscar yelped and managed to dodge it, but left Gold Tooth behind him to take the hit. He ran for the opposite door but Kiryu chucked the desk and it landed neatly, blocking the exit. Lipscar glanced back at him with sweat running down his neck.

“Wait, wait, wait!” Regular Guy ran towards him, hand outstretched, but Kiryu grabbed and redirected him nonchalantly out the door, locking him outside with a pointed click. Lipscar came back swinging and Kiryu dodged around a rolling desk chair and swiveled it side to side with his foot, swinging the back around to block his opponent’s hits before a wild punch sent Lipscar off-balance into the chair, and Kiryu kicked both away heavily. Gold Tooth staggered to his knees just in time to get rolled over, and both men crashed to the floor, groaning.

Kiryu smirked and turned to head deeper into the warehouse. Through the windows of the office he could see stacks and stacks of boxes, high metal structures filled to the brim with cargo to be shipped, and scattered heavy machinery. He couldn’t see Majima, though.

Regular guy finally figured out how to get back in, breaking the window and unlocking it himself.

“If this is revenge, we’re sorry!”

Kiryu paused, desk in his hands. “Revenge for what? Who are you?”

“Y’know- in the, in the basement?” Regular guy looked at a loss as Kiryu’s face remained blank. “I drugged you, you stomped on me with the chair.”

“Oh. I didn’t recognize you without the striped shirt. Sorry.”

“Oh no, it’s ok. Actually look I wanted to say-” Kiryu clocked him with the desk and Regular Guy/Formerly Stripes went down cold. Maybe he should have listened to what he was trying to say. He was in a hurry though.

Kiryu snuck out onto the catwalk above the width of the warehouse. He finally spotted Majima below, skidding into some heavy machinery with a grunt, not quite ducking quick enough to miss getting hit by a man’s swing. He struggled to get his leg up high enough to twist around the guy, but he managed, and threw him to the ground, took a second to wipe the sweat from his brow. Kiryu felt some guilt for inflicting most of these handicaps on him. Maybe all, if the sleepless nights spent looking for him had developed into the fever.

There were just too many of them and Majima couldn’t keep up  – someone caught him in a hold Kiryu knew he could escape from if he were at the top of his game, and his flailing kicks weren’t enough to stop all the sucker punches that followed. Kiryu judged the vaulting distance from the catwalk as just slightly too high to survive, so he ran to the stairs.

A gunshot echoed through the warehouse, and Kiryu’s heart lurched to a grinding halt. Men dropped away from Majima as if burned, and he stumbled, but looked thankfully untouched. His bat went skidding behind him on the floor, shot through. He put his hands up, and a few men emerged from a blindspot hidden by a stack of boxes, guns trained on him.

Adrenaline rushed coldly through Kiryu’s veins as he carefully made his way down the stairs.

“On the ground,” the leading man said, and Kiryu couldn’t see his face but he recognized Junior’s voice.

“Yer outta luck, my pants are just too tight for that,” Majima said in a breathlessly high and mocking tone.

“Oh? You happy to see me?”

“Get a little closer an’ find out.” Majima’s grin was more of a snarl, but Junior seemed even worse at reading Majima than Kiryu was, maybe even totally lacked a self-preservation instinct. Junior fell for it, stepped in close enough to press the gun to the underside of Majima’s chin. Close enough for Majima to strike when the opportunity presented itself, and Kiryu was undoubtedly the opportunity.

Kiryu’s stomach churned, his fists sore from clenching. He couldn’t tear his eyes from the scene but he needed to do something.

“I’d say it’s not personal, but it became personal. You’re a disrespectful cur.”

Majima laughed, off-kilter and showy, familiar like a knife against his throat. “So ya made a deal with the Omi already, didja?”

“Did my mother tell you that?” Junior sneered.

“No you bag of dicks it’s obvious to anybody with at least a single workin’ eye. I’m surrounded by Omi!”

The dull thwap of the gun striking Majima’s jaw echoed through the warehouse. Majima recoiled slowly, and Kiryu could see the genuine anger in his stance as he swayed back into position, boiling and ready to burst. “Well you obviously missed something big, otherwise you wouldn’t be here about to turn into a human sieve. Guess you’re not that smart after all.”

Kiryu gauged the distance between him and them. His chances weren’t good with that many guns around, he had to think of something. The open box near his shoulder contained solid bags of white powder, and he picked one up curiously.  

“What’d I miss, mama’s boy?”

“You’re my ticket to the big time,” Junior gestured and a man half-dressed in police uniform stumbled forward with a tripod camera and a pair of handcuffs. “If I had a little more time to prepare, we really could have made it something big. But I can take what little time I was given.”

Majima looked paralyzed from the sheer amount of content to work with to cleverly and salaciously comment on the situation, but the anger won out in the end. He just growled, “The fuck?”

“Publicity, exposure. That’s all you need to get the right people on your side.”

Junior struck him again, and this time Majima stumbled with the force of it, blood dripping from his temple, and Kiryu rocked forward reflexively as if he could have blocked the blow. The movement was enough for one of the men to turn his way – forced out of hiding, he hurled a bag of powder at the nearest man with a gun and it exploded on his head into a cloud of white, knocking him into his friend.

“What the-” Junior said, whipping around to look, but Majima surged up and twisted Junior’s arm as smoothly as if they were waltzing, grappling him back against his chest so the gun was to his head and Majima held him hostage. Kiryu rushed in during the confusion and tackled the man powdered white as gunshots cracked through the air wildly, then went to town.

Majima’s mad laugh floated high above the chaos of the shouts and shots, then soon remained as the only sound, echoing into itself around the rafters to a haunting effect. Kiryu swept along the downed men, kicking any guns away, tense on high-alert.  

Majima and Junior emerged from the cloud of white as it settled onto the ground.  Smoke drifted up from the pistol in Majima’s glove. He brought the hot tip to Junior’s temple, who flinched, but couldn’t get far with Majima’s arm curled around his neck so tightly. Kiryu approached slowly, uncertainly.

“Well. Turns out, I am happy to see ya.” He wiped the blood from his temple with the barrel of the gun and smeared it down Junior’s cheek in a caress. He bared his teeth. “BANG!”

Junior flinched and wilted. “Please, please don’t, oh god,” he cried, completely changing his tune, finally. Kiryu didn’t blame him. He had almost forgotten that Majima had the capacity for this, somehow – the man he’d been living with had become someone else entirely when it was just the two of them.

Majima screeched his mean, mean laugh.

“A buncha hired goons ain’t worth half a real partner, Junior. More advice from me to you here in the eleventh hour. Even though you’re an ungrateful son of a bitch.” His voice scraped raw as he spoke, pitching up and down in a woozy way Kiryu really didn’t like.

“Majima,” Kiryu called, but his voice was lost below Junior’s pleas.

“I’ll-I’ll do what you want, I pro-”

Majima interrupted him with a cooing hush, and twisted wrinkles into his skin with the pistol he pressed so hard. His mouth hissed into Junior's other ear. “Ya had so many chances. I tried talkin’ business, I tried talkin’ man to man. If ya can’t listen to either, what else can I do? You know, the deal I struck with dear ol’ mom doesn’t necessitate you.”

Kiryu could suddenly see where he was heading and he should have caught on sooner but even when they’d been more enemies than, whatever they were, he hadn’t thought Majima had it in him to kill a man like this. Looking at Majima now, eye cruel and removed, bubbling with an energy that dripped like sludge from his pores, he looked fully prepared to do just that –

“Nii-san!” Kiryu shouted, and Majima rocked back, finally looking at Kiryu, like he’d just noticed he was there. “Don’t.”

“But he won’t listen.”

Kiryu stepped forward, pulling from some well of calm that came over him in a crisis, fists at his side and bearing words like arms instead. It was easy to do, to keep Majima from this. “I don’t care. We can make him listen some other way.”

Majima scowled, harder. “I’m doin’ this for you, too. You wanna sit down and hash it out over tea? Guys like this will turn on ya in a second now that the guns are out. You learn that sorta shit with experience. Your storybook nonsense doesn’t fly in the real world.”

“As opposed to where?”

“That house, of course.”

“It’s real there too,” Kiryu said, feeling out of breath all of a sudden. “It’s not, storybook. Or nonsense. You know it’s not.”

This is the real world.” Majima shook Junior again, who whimpered. “Me, you, some idiot drug dealer who won’t give up the goods, and orders from on high to take him out. When we go back to Kamurocho, that’s the life we’re goin’ back to, there ain’t room for the rest.” He spat the words out vehemently, like poison. But he looked like he’d been stung by it, too.

A muscle twitched around Kiryu’s tear duct, threatening to pull his lips up into a sneer. The rest of his body began curling defensively around what felt like the beginnings of a major wound, but he resisted best he could. Majima wasn’t certain in the same way he wasn’t certain. That had to mean something. That was all the common ground they needed to meet halfway.

“It doesn’t have to be. Let Junior go, I’ll talk with him. Then we can deal with this at home.”

Majima looked at him, sweat sheening on his forehead, dipping into angry creases.

“You sure, Kiryu-chan?”

Junior’s eyes darted to him. Kiryu nodded decisively. 

With Majima momentarily placated, Kiryu turned to address Junior. “If he lets you go, will you listen to reason? Your mother is willing to talk and come to an agreement. Let’s all see what we can do so everybody gets what they want.”

Junior nodded.

Kiryu motioned to Majima, who looked like he had tons of words to throw in Kiryu’s direction. But his face dropped on a tolerant sigh as he stepped back, hands up, mouth firm.

“Fine. But if it were up to me-”

Junior whirled and grabbed the gun, and Majima wasn't quick enough to react. Kiryu dove for them as Junior aimed a panicky shot at Majima and fired - it happened so quickly -

Kiryu hunched over Majima on the ground, listening to Junior’s steps as he fled the building. His heartbeat pumped in his veins, a wet feeling gushing up and down his nerves. He saw blood dripping down Majima’s chest and he pressed a hand to it, tried to hold back the sudden overwhelming numbness of panic that threatened to still his movements.

“Kiryu-chan.” Majima’s eye was wide and bloodshot. He pushed his hand away and reached for Kiryu’s chest, and Kiryu’s eyes followed the movement. He saw a blackened hole in his shirt, spreading red like spilling wine. “Stay with me.”

Later, he would wish he’d used his moment of lucidity to do something other than stare dumbly at Majima’s face wondering if he’d ever seen such stark fear written there. He should have said something. His name, at least, while he could.

The pain arrived like a lightning crack that spread through his nerves paralyzing and wrathful. Majima held his gloved hands over the wound in Kiryu’s chest, applying pressure to staunch the flow as Kiryu staggered onto an elbow, then his back, wincing as his body burned with pain and his breaths came short, blood beginning to bubble up his throat on each inhale.

Majima fumbled with his scarf and held it to the bullet hole with shaky hands.

“Kiryu,” He snarled as Kiryu’s vision swam. “Don’t.”

Kiryu would try not to.

*

Kiryu didn’t dream

 

Chapter Text

 

Kiryu was probably in shock.

It would explain why he couldn’t manage to speak even though he had many things to say. For example, he wished he could say that he’d be ok, but all that came out was a ragged gurgle of a noise like the crunch of wet gravel beneath a tire. It did little to reassure him and even less to reassure Majima, already huffing with exertion beneath him as he ran, and now shooting him harried looks.

Though, his inability to speak could just be the bullet hole in his lung, psychological ramifications of receiving it aside. It was hard to tell. At any rate, things weren’t going the way he’d planned.

Every time Kiryu swallowed he tasted blood sliding down his throat and it swept nausea back up. Each breath felt less than the last. Majima kept talking between his own labored breaths and Kiryu had been ordered to listen, so he clung to consciousness.

“And then, with the garterbelt, I choked him out, and some of the gals got the idea, and now it’s a self-defense move – what do ya think of that, Kiryu-chan?“

Kiryu coughed out what he hoped was not a hunk of his lung, but he wasn’t about to look. His head swam, pain knitting black around the edges of his vision as he bled all over Majima’s back. The scarf slid across his chest, squishy to the touch.

He must have left for a moment because when he came back around he was propped up in the backseat of a car and Majima pierced between his ribs with something that let him finally take large gulps of air. Majima’s mouth was a tight line and sweat dripped from the tip of his nose onto Kiryu’s shoulder as he held both ends of Kiryu’s wound shut.

Kiryu tried to curl his hand around his arm reassuringly, but all he managed was a blink in his direction. He tried to make it a very reassuring blink.

“You back? Stay here. Don’t go to sleep.” He went to pat the side of Kiryu’s face with his bloody hand, thought better of it, then brought it back against his chest in jerky motions. Kiryu summoned all of his strength and lifted his heavy hand to cover his.

“Begging again,” Kiryu gurgled, and it wasn’t funny but Majima managed a laugh that sounded like it had been yanked half-formed from his throat.

Kiryu looked at their hands holding him together, and his mind went tipsy to see his blood smeared all over Majima’s pale skin, rivulets down the arm of his jacket. That probably needed to be inside of him. His eyelids fluttered.

“No no hey – I swear to shit if you go out on that I’ll fuckin’ claw my way up to the pearly gates and drag your soul back to finish you off myself,” Majima growled, voice wet, then turned to yell at the driver.

“Faster!”

*

Something rumbled low and constant as if from beneath water, like a generator. Kiryu’s eyelashes were sticky with crust. Metal pipes criss-crossed the dark grey ceiling overhead like a cage. He could breathe, if not normally then enough to keep his head well above the surface. His throat worked dryly and the gagging sensation of swallowing old, dried blood persisted long enough that he wished he could just hurl and get it over with. Kiryu painstakingly propped up on his good side to maybe do just that, but he stuttered to a stop.

Majima sat there. Sort of. In the way a ripped sack of flour might slump, held from the floor only by the chair beneath him and even then, just barely. His head rested against the back of the chair, neck bared as if for the guillotine. At Kiryu’s movement his head tilted down incrementally, lashes fanned low over his eye as he looked at him and his expression was flat and weary and wrung-out, as grey as it’d ever been. Kiryu’s breath caught all over again.

“Majima, you look awful.” Kiryu’s voice creaked on a whisper with all the lung capacity of a small and fragile bird. It sounded bad even to him. “Come here.”

Majima’s eye rolled close and he didn’t move for a long time. Then his bare hand slowly left his knee, inched across the rough tablecloth he was lying on and stopped by Kiryu palm-up, fingers delicately curled. Kiryu took that cold hand. It had been washed of blood but there remained blackened flecks in the beds of his nails. Kiryu’s blood, where he’d held it in.

“Where?” Kiryu asked.

Majima made a tired sound and nothing more. Kiryu looked around again with a stiff neck. The room had industrial grade metal storage shelves with large cooking implements tucked away, sparkling and cared for. He wasn’t on a bed but they’d piled cloth under him to make the table softer.

“How long?”

“Don’t talk. Go to sleep.”

Kiryu exhaled on a laugh and regretted it. His chest pulled angrily at every movement. The bullet had punched him through on the right of his chest by his upper arm, where bandages shifted softly. He had a needle in the paper-thin skin of his inner elbow that led to a bag of blood, hung on a hook like a slab of meat.

He blinked lazily up at Majima open with relief. Even though he looked like a corpse, Kiryu could feel his heart beating weakly in the hand he’d offered so easily. It meant he’d succeeded. Lulled by Majima’s pulse, he dozed.

*

Kiryu had been shot before, back in the 80s when he still thought he could save Tachibana. He remembered thinking for the first time how easily you could go from something full and alive to something leaking and dying. It was barely the space of a heartbeat, such a small increment of time for your reality to be so drastically upended only to be left behind as the rest of the world kept turning. His first real brush with death, he’d been 20 years old.

If he hadn’t been shot Tachibana wouldn’t have been forced to give himself up to a cruel death by torture. If he hadn’t taken so long to recover, maybe he could have arrived before Kuze’s goons brought the hammer down. Makoto would have met her brother. Maybe Majima wouldn’t get so somber at the sound of her name. His wound had caused a cascade of events that had rippled and hardened into the very history of Kamurocho like the rings of a tree.

Turns out, experience didn’t make this go-around easier. If anything, it dug up a lot of stuff he’d intentionally buried. Kiryu woke to find fear nestled into the hole in his chest.

He woke alone and strong enough to walk and ask questions with full breaths. The bag of blood was gone and a set of clean clothes sans his only suit jacket, probably irrevocably damaged, lay on the chair where Majima had been. Kiryu kept his head down and tried to keep moving, or he’d stop too long and start to think. He pushed through the doors into a hallway, at the end of which was the hustling and bustling backroom of a kitchen he vaguely recognized. The first worker he ran into nearly upended her tray of ingredients at the sight of him, then shakily ushered him back down the hall and into an office he’d missed.

His whole torso felt angry and sore as he sat and waited for something, he didn’t know what. He ran a hand through his hair and found it greasy, floppy with time and old gel. Kiryu bounced his knee, and he didn’t have his smokes. Though he probably shouldn’t be smoking with a hole in him. The thought made him more irritated. He heard footsteps coming down the hall.

The door opened and Nishiki walked in.

“Bro, you’re up! How you feeling?”

Kiryu blinked.

“Nishiki!” A confusing mix of relief and disappointment swept through him. He quickly recovered and clasped Nishiki’s outstretched arm in greeting as he sat next to him in the office chair, looking dressed down in civilian clothing – a crewneck sweatshirt emblazoned with English, sunglasses tucked in the collar and light, high-waisted jeans with rips at the knees even though it was practically winter.

“What are you wearing.” Kiryu’s raspy voice was still shades too quiet, and lacked the strength to properly deliver the burn. Nishiki still went along.

“Some of us have more than one outfit. It’s called fashion, get with the times, man.” He pulled aside Kiryu’s collar to get a glimpse of the wound, whistling. “Oof. It hurt?”

“Like a motherfucker,” Kiryu huffed as Nishiki tried to prod him, slapping his hand away. “What are you doing here?”

“At least sound a little happier to see me!”

“I am.” Kiryu smiled, falling easily back into their familiar banter. With Nishiki around he didn’t have to think as hard as he did with most other people since they knew each other’s patterns. “Just curious, Kyoto’s not the shortest day trip.”

“Dunno, Kazama got a call this morning then asked me to come. Besides, it’s not a daytrip, I’ll be staying at your sweet hideout for a few days to help you out.”

His heart beat coldly against the cage of his sore ribs. Kiryu’s worst nightmare, come to life. “Did you hear anything else?”

“Just that you’d been shot and I could find you here. I don’t know how you do it. You don’t get into this sort of trouble when you’re with me.”

“Don’t be jealous.”

Nishiki’s jaw jutted to the side in mirth and the set of his shoulders said he wanted to shove him, but was holding back admirably.

“As if! What happened, anyway?”

Kiryu didn’t have an answer for that yet that didn’t include Majima smushed against his side in the cab, whispering things Kiryu wished he could remember. He found himself keeping quiet about him even being involved tangentially. 

“I’m hungry.”

“Good thing you chose a restaurant to recover in, then.”

*

Kiryu inhaled the delicious slices of meat with galewind force, seated at the front end of the mysterious restaurant at last. The same restaurant he’d sought out earlier, and the same restaurant he suspected had a hidden tunnel for easy escape or leading your drugged partner through to shake a possible tail. It was a Korean barbeque place with vents pulled down over each table, meat sizzling delectably surrounded by odds and ends that Kiryu consumed madly.

“Just because I’m buying doesn’t mean you have to be like this,” Nishiki groused, collecting a portion of meat and hoarding it in a behavior developed from eating with Kiryu too many times. “You only get so many pity points for a bullet wound.”

“If you get shot I’ll treat you back.”

“Fucked up. That’s a raw deal.”  

“How’re things back home?”

Nishiki took a long sip of water before answering. “I was hanging out with Yumi when I got the call, actually. I didn’t tell her though.”

Kiryu always tried to be extra careful when Yumi came up, but something felt a little different this time. “Why not?”

“You tell her yourself, when you’re all better. We shouldn’t worry her.”

“You know she doesn’t like it when we keep things from her.”

“Yeah but she should hear it from you.”

“But she’ll know you kept it secret.”

Nishiki shrugged, short and clipped. Kiryu recognized the edges of the conversation they were always dancing around, but there in the aftermath of laying his life down for someone else, it suddenly didn’t look so insurmountable.

Nishiki leaned forward with an ease so practiced Kiryu almost couldn’t tell it was forced. “Anyway, lemme tell you about some bullshit that happened with this new lieutenant -”

While Nishiki regaled him with updates on all of the inter-Tojo drama, Kiryu surreptitiously glanced around the room, looking for nobody in particular. The place was full, busy with what looked like a lunch rush of shoppers and locals. The waiters spoke rapid Korean behind the counter, then perfect Japanese to the customers.

“Shimano’s been butting heads with Kazama again too. Haven’t seen the dog slinking around the office yet though, so it can’t be that bad.”

Kiryu almost cracked his head on the vent as he pulled his head up from his plate, feeling inexplicably caught. The movement pulled at his chest and he grunted in pain.

“What about?”

“He didn’t say. The timing’s got me wondering, though. You’re just down here to hide, right?” Nishiki’s eyebrows tilted up like they did when he thought Kiryu was keeping a secret. For a moment Kiryu’s heart flopped anxiously. But he couldn’t know about- he didn’t, it must have been about something else.

“No special assignment. I get my orders from Dojima anyway.”

“I know, I know.” Nishiki waved a forlorn hand and ordered more for them. “Just, a gunshot wound when you’re lying low? Probably means you should lie low somewhere else.”

“The two are unrelated.” Sort of. In that, he hadn’t been the exact target. Still felt like a lie.

“Oookay. Well, you can stay at my place when we go back, it’ll be just like the old days again.”

Kiryu’s chopsticks paused halfway to his mouth. “What? I’m not going back.”

Nishiki gave him a weird smile. “You serious? I can only stay out here a few days.”

“I’ll be ok. I have things I need to take care of here.”

“Things like what? Seriously how did you get into this?” Nishiki was looking at him expectantly, and Kiryu realized he had to give something up. He scrambled.

“I helped a little old lady who turned out to be a drug runner. Got me in some trouble.”

Nishiki smacked the table and laughed. “God, only you. It would sound like a lie coming from any other bastard.”

As they talked, despite the comfort Nishiki’s presence usually brought, Kiryu’s chest coiled tighter and tighter. He found himself dodging truths and giving vague answers, unsatisfying even to his ears. Worst of all, he watched Nishiki allow them, as if taking pity on him. It stung.

The waiter stopped by their table in a stretch of silence and pushed meat onto the grill. Kiryu was grateful for the sounds of sizzling fat to fill the space he was creating between them. Nishiki smiled helplessly. “Figures the restaurant Kazama recommended also doubles as a backdoor clinic, though. Everything the old man does is like he’s seen the future, it’s always creepy. He could just save the mystery, not like everything’s gotta be this huge secret.”

Kiryu took that factoid and put it next to the other puzzle pieces that had no place in the shape of this weird mess. Him and Nishiki sometimes played a game where they tried to string together the mysteries of Kazama’s movements, which were always opaque and meandering until they came to a sudden, stunning eureka of a point. Between the two of them Nishiki could get into his head better, so if he couldn’t figure it out they often wouldn’t. Kiryu thought he worked better as a guide and a sounding board, because he knew what questions to ask.

“Do you think I’m here because of him?”

“Well… can’t be sure. But it’d be cruel to set you up for a bust just to get you down here under misdirected pretenses, then leave you with nothing. Doesn’t seem like something the old man would do.” Nishiki flipped the meat with his chopsticks and slapped Kiryu’s away when he reached in too soon. “He sent you to this restaurant. Did you visit before today?”

“Not really, it was closed when I stopped by.”

“Then it’s possible he just wanted you to know about this place as a safety net. Or maybe,” he snatched an unfair portion of the meat up and onto his plate, to Kiryu’s affronted scoff, and stuffed a slice into his mouth. “This is just a fucking great barbeque place.”

A man Kiryu didn’t recognize stopped by their table as Kiryu scooped the remains onto his plate with a slight pout. “You are looking well, Kiryu-san.” He had just a hint of a Korean accent.

“Hey doc,” Nishiki said through his food. “It cool for him to be up and about like this?”

“There do not seem to be complications. But rest, too.” He placed a label-less pill bottle down on the table. “For the pain.”

Kiryu pocketed it quickly. “Thank you. How much?”

“Already paid for.”

Kiryu looked at Nishiki sternly, ready to argue because food was one thing but medicine was another. But Nishiki held his hands up. “Wasn’t me.”

“Your friend earlier. You’re lucky he knew to puncture your collapsed lung so it would re-inflate. Saved you from suffocating.”

“Who?” Nishiki asked. Kiryu’s fists tightened.

“Nobody. Just the guy who helped me.”

The doctor gave him a brief rundown on bullet-wound care, with instructions to change his bandages daily. Kiryu barely listened as his chest pulsed.

*

Nishiki wanted to see the hideout. Kiryu wanted to go home, but couldn’t bring his brother to that place. There were too many things to explain and too many things to keep secret. The idea of the three of them in a room together made Kiryu’s stomach twist. But as the day wore on, it became more and more unavoidable and it took most of his energy just to look unburdened by the bullet wound.

Walking the streets with his bro, he watched as if removed from his own body. When they stepped off the train at the station, he glanced at the pillar he’d been smashed up against a lifetime ago, the first time he’d flipped the switch from aggressive annoyance to aggressive attraction. It had happened so quickly. Removed from their patterns in Kamurocho it had only taken a couple days of conversation and battle for Kiryu to recognize what he felt in his gut when he was challenged by knife or bat or gloved leather fists.

They emerged from the station and Kiryu realized with a sinking feeling that he still didn’t know the exact way home from the train. He’d only gone home alone from there once, and he’d gotten lost.

So Kiryu led them on a wayward path until, with great relief, he found the convenience store where he’d bought beer and bandages for two and supplies for a fever. Nishiki commented on the complete circle they’d walked and Kiryu claimed bullet-based memory failure while internally considering giving him the run-around for another hour. Anything to put off going home. How could he explain that house or anything that had happened in it? The truth wasn’t an option. He wasn’t certain his brother would understand right away, especially because he couldn’t yet put into words the fiery, unending something he felt when he thought about it. A dull ache settled into the surface of his skull like a bottom-feeder sucking pain into his bones.

They reached the road to the house. Each step brought sweat to his neck, and his ribs panged and throbbed. Nishiki passed the yard enclosure Kiryu had lost his temper in – where they’d broken each other down only to end up fitting together better afterwards – like it was any other patch of dirt. And it was.

Key at the lock, hand on the door.  

“Woah, it’s huge!” Nishiki said as they ducked into the foyer. He toed his shoes off and stepped across the tatami, where Kiryu had once been on his knees, then his back. He awaited the awkward exclamation, wondered what he should say.

“Can’t believe you’ve got this all to yourself. Makes me want to stay longer, so unfair.” Nishiki’s voice echoed from the kitchen and traveled around the quiet house. Kiryu frowned and turned the corner.

There wasn’t a thing out of place. No movies stacked by the television, no curry on the stove for later, no displaced futons or blankets. It looked as it did when Kiryu first stepped in, as if the house had stubbornly reset itself.

His anxiety was a cold fist in his stomach. The nagging fear he’d been keeping at bay since waking up alone fanned into something substantial.

Kiryu crept upstairs slowly, taking measured breaths to keep his body moving. He reached the top, where afternoon light filtered in from the window and landed on the pristine and empty tatami floor. The only evidence he had existed there was his bag, open but otherwise untouched from how he’d left it in the corner. The other bag was gone.

When he stumbled back downstairs, Nishiki stood in the almost clinically stark living room like the juxtaposition of his old world and his new, and Kiryu felt it all slipping away back to normalcy. His old life was stronger than the fragile thing he’d made in that house, and like a black hole it pulled everything in until he couldn’t see what used to exist. Nishiki turned to him and frowned.

“Hey hey, you should sit. You’re not looking so good.” He let himself be guided onto a floor cushion, and Nishiki rifled around in the kitchen and came back with a hot pot of tea. His tone went alarmed when he saw Kiryu.

“Oh Kiryu, bro, what’s wrong?”

Kiryu pressed the heels of his palms wetly to his eyes to hide.

“Just hurts.”

*

Kiryu woke sluggishly at Nishiki’s eager insistence the next afternoon, ready to explore an itinerary he’d prepared, and to keep Kiryu from falling into melancholy. His sleep was patchwork and pained, but he’d rather march to Nishiki’s beat again than sit alone with the hole in his chest.

Nishiki helped Kiryu get back on his feet over the course of a couple days that bled together with pain and sleep and, eventually, some comfort. They didn’t often get to spend long bouts of time together anymore, and Kiryu realized he had missed it. Even Nishiki seemed more carefree than he was back in Kamurocho. His words held less weight when they weren’t invisibly competing.

Kiryu felt a bit stronger each day, a bit more like he used to be before Kyoto. He shoved down the feeling that something was slipping between his fingers each passing moment, determined not to think about it while Nishiki was around. Nishiki knew him well, and Kiryu wouldn’t be able to hide anything if he dwelled on it.

With Nishiki at the helm, Kiryu laid back and stopped making decisions. Dormant, again. They climbed a long hill to a famous temple that sat at the top, stretching out Kiryu’s lungs, pausing halfway to admire and pay respects to a sprawling graveyard of tombstones. They leaned over the wooden railing to take in the mountainside sea of orange and red autumn leaves. Kiryu stood in line with civilians to take a drink of the natural water that flowed down the side of the mountain into a pond in the temple while Nishiki flirted with a woman below, waiting for him. On the way down, they stuffed themselves on free samples of sweet, doughy yatsuhashi from the stores that lined the walkway.

Nishiki lifted the bag of confections. “Don’t think this counts as a souvenir now, since I had to come all the way down here myself.”

“I’m not buying you anything else.”

“What? Cheap.”

They wandered down into town and stumbled onto a street festival. Kiryu was low on energy but it was Nishiki’s last day, so he just went with it. The traveling nature of these festivals often meant it staffed a more vagrant crowd. When he was younger he could tell they were in town when the night suddenly echoed with the sounds of street races and loud, revving engines. Kiryu eyed the collection of motorbikes hidden behind the stands where festival workers with ornate jackets hunched around smoking. They raised their heads to look at him as if on some instinct but Kiryu was already moving away from the potential fight with the slow pace of a wounded beast.

Kiryu paused by a stand that had weapons on display, searching with a careful eye for anything real while Nishiki chatted with the shopkeep. Too ornate, unbalanced, expensive. Most of them were fake but even the real ones were about the same level as the things goons came at him in the streets with – weapons that’d last 3 swings before shattering into trash. He shifted impatiently as Nishiki turned to him.

“He says there’s some good stuff in back. Wouldn’t hurt to get something to protect yourself with.”

Kiryu shrugged and followed them into a private tent behind the counter. The shopkeep opened up a chest lined with small, portable weapons.

“You boys good for it? Look a bit young.” The shopkeep was bald and mustached, with a black studded biker’s vest over a long sleeve shirt.

“Please. My buddy here’s got a bullet hole in him right now,” Nishiki bragged unnecessarily as Kiryu’s eyes fell on a blade. He picked it up and weighed it in his hands.

“Oh yeah that one’s a beaut. Perfectly balanced, lemme show you.” The man took it and slid the black lacquer cover off to reveal a shining tantō that sung lightly as he flipped it in his hand and rattled off info. The handle swirled with pink and red blossoms.

“I’ll take it,” Kiryu found himself saying.

“Bit delicate for you,” Nishiki judged. He held the blade in his hands and looked like he wanted to flip it but was uncertain how to. Nishiki sheathed it and handed it back as they merged back into the crowd. “But a knife’s a knife.”

Kiryu rumbled and stuffed the bag into his inner coat pocket, feeling dumb.

The strings of tiny paper lanterns hanging above the walkway glowed brightly in the night, washing over Kiryu in nostalgic red and orange as they shuffled through the crowd. They ended up at a temple at the end of the path that housed a large sitting statue. Kiryu stared blankly up to where he thought its face was, obscured by the dark and the wooden slats that guarded it. He couldn’t tell which god sat there.

He was jolted from his reverie by the rattling jangle of the temple bell as Nishiki tugged on the twisted red and white rope. He clapped his hands, head bowed.

“Please look after Kiryu as his dumb ass stays here all alone in Kyoto instead of going home with his brother.”

Kiryu slid Nishiki a tired look. He was just worrying about him in his own way, but Kiryu always thought Nishiki’s jabs could be sharp if he wasn’t in the right mood to parry them. “You’re supposed to keep that stuff to yourself if you want it to come true.”

Nishiki shrugged and stepped back with a smile. “I’m just suggesting what you should pray for.”

Kiryu slumped towards the rope and grasped it hesitantly. His articulate thoughts all fled at once, leaving him with the nebulous shape of fear that he’d been containing like a gardener battling weeds since being shot. He couldn’t put his fear into words – it wasn’t just wondering if he could recover in time (in time for what, he couldn’t tell and wouldn’t think on), or if he was making a mistake by resting at all, or if he could have done things differently. It was a mess of feelings that soured his stomach and made his limbs heavy, but he could at least trace its root back to the contemptible hole in his chest.

Kiryu shook the rope and clapped his hands and closed his eyes. He hoped the simple sentiment of wanting to heal that fear-wound came across to whatever god was listening.

*

Kiryu turned, restless, in his futon. His back and chest ached in radiating throbs and he’d used up his painkillers for the day and it meant his only options for sleep were on his left side or his sort-of-left-belly. He couldn’t find a good middle ground between too hot and too cold, so he kept sticking limbs out then withdrawing in an unsatisfying cycle.

“Kiryu,” Nishiki drawled exasperatedly from the other futon. “It’s fucking freezing in here and you’re half out of your blanket. What’s eating you? You been weird these past few days.”

He thought they’d been getting on pretty well, but there were a lot of things he was keeping from Nishiki and there was no way to avoid the awkwardness that came from that. There was one thing he could do here, though.

Kiryu thought about what he was going to say, if he needed to be tactful about it. He definitely did, but whether he had it in him in that moment was the real question.

“Do you like Yumi?” In the end Kiryu could not be bothered with tact.

Nishiki, who was already still, went stiff. “That’s not what I  – where’d that come from?”

“It’s ok if you do.”

“I didn’t say I did.”

“But if you did, it wouldn’t affect us.”

Nishiki twisted back to look at him, a beat between them. “Ok.” He took a long look at Kiryu, shifting to give him his full attention.

Before, he never would have brought it up. And he still loved Yumi, but the feeling had shifted. It was less urgent in the face of everything that had happened.

Kiryu said, “I’ve had a lot of time to think.”

“No kidding.” Nishiki rubbed his neck, looking wildly uncomfortable. Even though Kiryu had been spending the last couple of weeks learning new things about himself, he realized he hadn’t given Nishiki the time to acclimate, at all. So Kiryu decided to keep it brief, just an opening salvo to the future conversations that would lead to an understanding between them, hopefully.

“Anyway, you’re both important to me. Even if you start dating. That’s all I wanted to say.”

Nishiki nodded slowly, cautiously. “Ok. You’re both important to me too.”

Kiryu stared at the ceiling, and Nishiki did too. They shared the manly sort of silence that necessarily followed emotional honesty between two bros. Then Nishiki studied him with the full force of a lifetime of friendship and asked,

“Who’s the girl?”

Kiryu picked through the things he could possibly divulge without needing to answer about a billion more complicated questions. He was trying to be honest, but he wasn’t ready for that conversation. He carefully weighed his decision in a way he didn’t often do, ran out of patience, then decided to barrel forward and rely on his gut to lead him through another minefield conversation.

“No girl. But I’ve got a… friend. I think he’s mad at me.”

“I’m not mad at you?”

“Another friend.”

“You have other friends?”

If Kiryu had a free arm he’d chuck his pillow across the room but he didn’t so he settled for a glare. Nishiki snickered and stretched onto his front. He was relieved they could pick back up so easily after the first part of a conversation they’d both probably been dreading for the better portion of ten years. It had been nothing, once given form. Kiryu had a new conversation to dread, but with hope, when he was ready, it would be just as easy.

“Did he hear what happened?”

“Yeah. Haven’t talked to him since.”

Nishiki nodded with a sudden understanding. He rubbed his mouth hesitantly, like he was about to make another admission. “You know, my heart about stopped when I heard about it even though Kazama told me you were stable. Suddenly there were a lot of… you know, scary what-if’s floating around. What if the bullet had hit his heart, what if he doesn’t heal properly.”

He hadn’t even thought of how Nishiki was taking this, he seemed so normal. He watched his friend pick at something invisible on the corner of his pillow, warmth in his heart. They were always competing and things got strained sometimes, but he was still his brother. “I’m sorry.”

“Shut up dude,” Nishiki laughed softly. “Not like you jumped in front of the bullet or anything.”

“Y-yeah.”

“What I mean is, people can get weird when someone close to them gets put out of commission suddenly. Not me because I’m emotionally well-adjusted, but other people. Like your friend.”

Kiryu let his words sink in. Was Kiryu someone close to him? There was still so much they didn’t know about each other. But he knew little things like, what he sounded like when he’d laughed so much he couldn’t anymore. And how his skin looked as it healed a bruise from start to finish. What a fever felt like on him. By some measure, they were close.

He hid these thoughts from Nishiki and kept it light. “You consider yourself emotionally well-adjusted?”

Nishiki mimed tossing his pillow at him. “Yeah laugh it up jackass, you’re feeling just fine. Your friend’s probably scared – does he know you’re yakuza? Maybe he doesn’t know you’re the kind of guy who gets shot, as an occupational hazard.”

Or that he was the kind of guy to take a bullet for him. Kiryu thought of that moment between when Junior had aimed the gun and Kiryu thought he wouldn’t be able to reach him in time. His chest seized painfully. He’d prevented the worst case scenario, but Majima was living, possibly, his own version of a worst case scenario. Or second worst at least, with all the guilt associated. He’d even told Kiryu it was something he worried about, in not so many words, that night of their argument.

“Oh,” Kiryu murmured.

Nishiki hunkered back around and drew the blanket closer to his shoulders. “Sounds like we’ve made some progress today. That’s enough bed-time heavy talk for one day anyway, the doctor is out.”

Kiryu smiled. “Thanks. You’re so mature for your age.”

“You’re only 3 months older than me shut up.” Kiryu decided he’d track him down and prove he was fine, and then maybe they could go back to how it had been. His eyelids pulled heavy at last as he lulled himself to sleep with that thought.

*

Nishiki and Kiryu stood, once again, at the gates to the bullet train section of the station. The hustle and bustle was the same as it had been in Tokyo, but Kiryu’s mindset was different from last time. The crowds didn’t look faceless, just busy going about their own lives, their own dramas. Nobody looked at them nervously, they looked like two friends saying goodbye.

“You gonna be ok out here without me?” Nishiki teased, but there was a real question under there that Kiryu didn’t want to address. So he curled his right arm into a flex and his side didn’t hurt quite as much as it had before, and he nodded.

“Probably.”

“Kiryu, I’m gonna say it again. Just come back with me. I’ll cover your ticket.”

“I already said no,” Kiryu shook his head. That was tantamount to running, which wasn’t something they could both be doing.

Nishiki started to say something, then stopped, then clapped him on his good shoulder. “Whatever is going on with you, you’ll work it out. You always do. You want me to look up your friend and knock some sense into him?”

Kiryu did not think that would end well for anybody involved but he appreciated the sentiment. He’d try to talk to Nishiki about all of this someday, he owed it to him. He reached for him and they thumped each other’s backs.

“I’ll see you back home,” Kiryu said in lieu of an answer. Nishiki’s smile cut into his cheek with a twist. Then he waved, turned, and Kiryu watched him disappear into the crowd.

Kiryu hopped a train to Uogawa.

 

Chapter Text

 

Kiryu stepped into the medicine shop with a ring of the bell above the door. The man at the counter nodded at him in surprise, sweeping his eyes across his front. So word had reached here, then – Kiryu couldn’t tell if that was a good thing or a bad thing. The store was busy with a few customers, but the man hefted a thumb over his shoulder and Kiryu went for the door in the back. His skin began to buzz as he crossed into the herb-filled room.

“So, you’re alive.” Is how Kawano Hiroko greeted him, hobbling up from her seat behind a back counter to inspect his chest, even though the injury was entirely obscured by his winter jacket.

The question stuck in Kiryu’s throat. He’d been very careful not to say his name around Nishiki even though it flitted through his head constantly, so he dislodged it with some difficulty. “Have you seen Majima?”

Hiroko hummed noncommittally and prodded at the base of Kiryu’s ribs, and he flinched.

“Please sit, I’ll make you something for the pain.”

Kiryu thought he was in something of a hurry but apparently not, because he found himself obeying without protest as she shuffled over to the sink, gathering supplies and washing her hands.

“I’m beginning to think there’s no hope for that idiot,” she sighed, expertly grabbing ingredients from all over the room, unhooking things from the ceiling with a practiced hand and moving from unmarked cabinet to unmarked cabinet without fault. “He’s a greedy man. Won’t listen to reason. I wish I could talk with him, but I don’t even know where to find him these days.”

“I almost got him to agree to talk. Then-” Kiryu’s heart thumped unevenly as he remembered. “I’ll try again.”

“Kazuma-kun. It’s not your place to do any more than you already have, especially when it has nothing to do with you.” She sat at the table and tied her sleeves back carefully, then began to grind ingredients into a paste with a mortar and pestle. She worked with a soothing rhythm, back and forth. “I’m sorry for pulling you into this. So, I would like to request that you withdraw.”

Kiryu blinked. “What?”

“I understand that you’re here on a separate matter. A vacation, didn’t you say?”

“But-”

“I’ve lived here all my life. Kyoto has many beautiful spots, I’d love for you to see them.” She dipped into the paste she’d made and rubbed it between her wrinkled fingers, then added more viscous liquid.  “And you can only do that alive.”

Kiryu sat there with nothing to say. Quietly, he knew she was right. He shouldn’t have been involved from the start. In fact, he was expressly in Kyoto to not be involved.

“Goro-kun said,” she paused, squinting up at the ceiling with the distinct air that she was rephrasing what had actually been said. “You need help relaxing. You give a lot of yourself away and don’t save much for you. It’s admirable, of course, but also unnecessary sometimes. You will wear thin if you don’t find a way to replenish what you’ve given. You’ve done good by me, so allow me to do good by you.”

Hiroko scooped some of the balm up with a spoon and tak-tak’d it onto the rim of a medium-sized rounded jar, repeating the gesture until it was full. “Here. Rub it around the wound. It will soothe the pain and help with scarring. You can use it a few times a day as needed.”

Kiryu received it gratefully, but his skin felt raw by her words. She had nothing but good points, and all it did was solidify his defiant stance on the matter.

The same rebellious feeling he had as a younger man when Kazama denied his request to join the yakuza burned through his chest. With the perspective of age and time, Kiryu now understood Kazama’s wish for him to stay in school or get an honest job away from danger, lead the normal life he couldn’t. But Kiryu hadn’t wanted that at all. So he’d joined up, leaving Kazama to worry after him at every turn as he stumbled through the criminal underworld, feeling strong but increasingly guilty with him at his shoulder, watching over his every move.

And here he was again, considering a similar decision even after he’d vowed not to be so selfish again. His stranglehold on his own desires had been slipping for his entire stay in Kyoto, and getting them back under control was proving extremely difficult.

Kiryu stood suddenly, skin vibrating with the need to do something. Maybe he’d stop by the warehouse or ask about that house where he’d been held captive. 

Hiroko washed her hands again. “Kazuma-kun, I can change your bandages as well if you sit back down.”

“It’s alright. This medicine is quite a gift.”

“Have you changed your bandages today?”

“No.” He hadn’t even changed them at all. He didn’t want to look at the thing.

She sent him a blank stare that had him back in his seat in a second, shrugging off his coat and shirt.

“I want you to promise me you’ll stay uninvolved,” She said suddenly, standing tall in front of him with the vigilantly sharp eye of a mother who knew there was insubordination in the air. Kiryu’s eyes fell to the ground. “And if you can’t do that, then tell me why you must continue to meddle.”

“I have to help you.”

“You don’t. I may be old but I’ve still got some tricks up my sleeve. That you were ever involved at all in this manner was a simple twist of fate. And I’m asking you to stand down. It’s not noble to keep doing something I’ve asked you not to do.”

“I have to help Majima,” Kiryu said, irritation gathering at his edges, because he couldn’t think of how she was wrong. She was releasing him from the duty he’d self-imposed onto her.

“He’s got a killer instinct that you don’t have. And he drives a mean bargain. He’ll be fine without you.”

That wasn’t wrong either. He actually may have been better off without Kiryu in the first place. He’d still have his weapons at least, and it was looking like he also could have done without the rest, going by his disappearing act. Kiryu’s nails pinched into his palms. He realized he was hiding again, burying his own needs beneath the guise of someone else’s.

“I want to help Majima.” Kiryu said, voice raised. “I want to – find him. So we can talk, or fight, or – anything except this.” Kiryu bit his tongue back to gather himself. “It’s not for him. It’s not for you. It’s for me.”

Hiroko hummed and nodded in thought. “That’s a bit closer to the truth, it seems. As long as you’re being honest with yourself.”

He was, finally. Kiryu looked up at her. “Have you seen him?”

Silence reigned for a moment. She studied him.

“Yes,” she hedged, and if she was capable of uncertainty he thought he could see it in how she wound and unwound the bandages in her hand, weighing a decision. “He told me to send you away if you showed up.”

Kiryu stood urgently, scanning the house. He eyed the rooms at the top of the staircase, skin buzzing with a certainty he couldn’t back up with reasonable fact. He glanced back at Hiroko and she had a stern expression on her sun-blemished face. Then she turned to walk to the storefront and waved her hand back at him in permission.

Heart pounding, he later wouldn’t remember ascending the stairs or opening the first door, just that his eyes fell on Majima’s prone form in the dark of the curtained room. He lay there partially lit by the cone of light coming from behind Kiryu, mostly draped in his shadow, curled up in a bed.

Majima lifted his head blearily.

And dropped it with an exasperated sigh.

“Fuckin’ granny.”

Kiryu closed the door behind him solidly.

He crossed the distance between them with three and a half strides. Majima pushed up in time for Kiryu to get his hands around his arms, looking for the blood he’d seen the last time he’d gotten a good look. Which admittedly was a panicked and not very good look at all. Kiryu belatedly realized the problem.

“You’re wearing a shirt.” It was long and black-sleeved and hid his neck, and it made him shadow-slim.

Majima scoffed. “And yer not.”

Kiryu glanced down at himself sheepishly. There was old blood from his wound splotching his bandages rusty brown.

“Are you hurt?” Kiryu asked, loosening his grip as Majima began to protest.

“No. I'm not because you are.”

“I’m fine.”

Majima shot him a glare so incandescently angry that Kiryu, for once, decided to walk back what he’d said, which admittedly had been something of a lie.

“I’ve been better. It hurts.”

Majima’s wattage returned to normal levels. He rubbed both hands over his face, moving under his eye patch. Kiryu realized he was looming so he slowly sat on the bed, biting back all of his questions. Majima swung his legs off the edge, looking like he’d taken beatings from all sides in and out.

“That bro of yers was supposed to take you back to Tokyo,” he groaned, pulling at his cheeks as his hands dropped back into his lap.

“I wouldn’t go.”

Majima uttered an unimpressed sound, but Kiryu could also hear his heart beating from where he sat. It was the loudest thing in the room next to the silence. “I was tryin’ to do you a favor.”

“Thanks. But I’ve made my choice. I just saw him off.”

“Everythin’ I try to do ends in disaster.” Majima leaned onto his knees, head in his hands. “You made it look so easy.”

“This isn’t a disaster. You saved my life.”

“I put it in danger in the first place.”

“You didn’t ask me to jump in front of you. That was my decision.”

“Argh. Fuck.” Majima’s bony fingers slithered through his hair and gripped tightly.

Kiryu weighed Majima’s pride against his need for comfort, and judged it wanting. So he laid a hand on the back of his neck, let it rest heavy. It was easier for him to read Majima when he had a hand on him – like this he could feel the tension in his muscles and how he fought the droop in his shoulders. They sat like that for a while as Majima gathered himself, and Kiryu picked through the things he wanted to say.

“I told ya this would happen. I told you.”

“Yeah.”

“I said it directly to yer face and you still didn’t listen. Bring me to the fuckin’ lottery! Drape me in scarves and set me out to rip off tourists, I can see the goddamn future. Guys like you take the hit for – for, because,” he stammered as his throat closed in a way they both studiously ignored. “No-good goody-two-shoes golden boy. Yer gonna die young.” Kiryu brushed his thumb back and forth over a bump of his spine beneath his shirt.

“I won’t.” It was a foolish thing to promise but he said it anyway, not thinking much of it. “Unless you manage to get me, one of these days.”

After a stunned silence, Majima lifted his head and stared with the sudden light of a new idea. It was especially intense because it could only escape through one eye even though it looked as if it were bursting from every inch of him, just barely held in by his skin. Kiryu found himself looking for something to hold onto.

“You won’t,” he said, voice light and high. He got up onto his knees with the slinky motion of a snake, head trained towards Kiryu throughout. His hands lifted to grip the sides of Kiryu’s face too-tightly and he pressed him back enough so that Majima could hunch over him like a man kneeling in prayer. “That’s right, you won’t.”

“Y-yeah.” He hoped it sounded more confident than he felt. A tiny smile quirked the corners of Majima’s mouth, just the smallest lift of his once-again immaculate goatee. A sliver of light from the curtain partition cut golden-orange across his face and got stuck in the stormy swirl of his eye. Anticipation pulled between them fraying like rope down to its last string.

“Because I’m the only one allowed to kill you,” Majima breathed lowly.

Kiryu swallowed.

He wasn’t quite sure what his own expression was doing. His stomach muscles were straining to maintain the odd angle and his fists were clenched and his heart was punching painfully into his chest. But he wasn’t frightened and he wasn’t going to fight, even though a normal response to such a statement contractually required both reactions. Majima spoke the absurd with such conviction.

Majima’s fingers dug into the soft skin beneath his jaw. He revved up into a wild laugh that banished the gloom like blasting the curtains with a flamethrower to see the sun. This close, the effect was truly terrifying. “Of course! It’s just that simple.” He pushed him back by the face to gloat, wide-eyed and voice hollowed out with humor. Familiar once again. Like he was when they would run into each other on the streets back in Kamurocho. “Man you’ve really got a good idea or two hidden away in there, you should share more often.”

“Ah,” was all Kiryu could summon forth in response as Majima looked him up and down. There was a new proprietary edge to it that pulsed through him.

“What’s up with these? They look the same as when I last saw ya.” Majima scowled, plucking at the bandages.

Kiryu, still reeling from that declaration, answered absently. “That’s because I haven’t changed them.”

“Idiot. What’ll ya do if it gets infected?” Majima groused, grabbing his jacket and standing abruptly.

Kiryu appreciated that when Majima pushed him onto the stool downstairs, it was a gentle movement. Kiryu looked at the supplies left on the table dubiously. “You sure you’re qualified for this?”

“How hard can it be?” Majima rolled the gauze between his knuckles like he was performing a magic trick.

“And you’re not sick anymore?” Kiryu was running out of excuses and Majima was already unwinding him with swift strokes that stung when they unpeeled. Majima froze, went to wash his hands, then resumed his work in a series of actions that did nothing to alleviate his worries.

Cool air finally hit his broken skin. Kiryu chanced a look down at it for the first time, twisting slightly to see. The exit wound on the edge of his chest looked like a small crater on the moon, or the angry red rim of a volcano. The skin around the dark pool of congealed blood was raised and puckered and glistened with healing. A dark purple bruise radiated from the epicenter, and just below that was a thin but deep cut crossed with stitches. All in all, relatively speaking the bullet hole was a small mark on his body. But it had almost cost him his life, and caused a lot of worry to the people around him. And he hated it, passionately.

Majima stood behind him so Kiryu couldn’t see his reaction, but he thought the air grew thicker with something. Kiryu reached for the disinfecting cream but Majima slapped his wrist.

“You had yer chance.”  

 Kiryu sucked his teeth at him but sat up to let him work.

Majima grew quiet again in concentration. His touch was careful especially around the angry wells of blood, and it shouldn’t have surprised Kiryu by now that he was capable of hesitation but it still did, somehow. Undoing years of impression was a long task but it was made easier when he could watch Majima’s face flicker with barely suppressed guilt that Kiryu disagreed with down to his bones.

To think he’d once dismissed him as a lost cause.

Kiryu wanted to offer a reassuring touch but he couldn’t in the backroom of the medicine store, where anyone could walk in. And he wasn’t great at reading Majima’s intentions but he was an expert at predicting his moves. If he told him something cliché like, ‘it’s not your fault’ or ‘I’d do it again’, he’d punch him, bullet wound or not.

Washed, disinfected and wrapped clean, Kiryu rolled his shoulder and the bandages moved and breathed easier than the last ones. He looked up at Majima and tried not to let the heaviness of his feelings come across in his words. “Thank you.”

Judging by Majima’s uncomfortable expression, he hadn’t fully succeeded.

“You all patched up now?” Hiroko asked when she shuffled back into the room, door creaking open.

Majima swung away from Kiryu quickly as if grateful for the interruption, lighting up a cigarette from his jacket. “Ya sold me up the river, granny.”

“You ate the pudding cup I was saving yesterday.”

Majima looked affronted, and speechless. It was a sight to behold.

“Thanks, Hiroko-san.” Kiryu finished buttoning up his shirt. “We’ll get things back under control.”

Hiroko glanced at Majima, who threw his hands up as if to say ‘I tried’. “Kazuma-kun. Rest.”

“Yeah Kazuma-kun,” Majima drawled. “It’s not yer job. Go back! I’ll come see ya when I’m finished.”

Kiryu could not help but feel there was something he was missing here. He examined Hiroko, then Majima, and cast his mind around looking for the thing that’d have them both against him. Majima was worried about him, that much was clear.

Hiroko, though. She moved in absolute balance. She’d given him food and she’d made him a balm, and she’d also felt no remorse throwing him, a stranger, head-first into a familial dispute. It had to be business related, that’s when she got cut-throat. And whose interests did Majima and Hiroko generally have in common?

“Did Shimano say something to you?” He asked Hiroko as Majima choked on his cigarette in the background.

Hiroko didn’t react more than to place her hands into her sleeves. “He was quite explicit.”

“Kiryu-chan let’s talk about this at home, hmm?” Majima gripped his shirt with a strength that said no-more-questions and an expression that said I’m-impressed-but-also-fuck. “I’ll take care of it, granny.”

“Alright then. Don’t forget your balm, Kazuma-kun. Goro-kun, keep the shirt. If I have to see your nipples in this weather again, we will need to renegotiate our deal.”

Majima looked like he wanted to throw the finger at her, but his self-preservation instinct was strong, so he settled for sticking his tongue out as he herded Kiryu out the back door.

*

“Alright smart guy, you can really pull it out of yer ass when it’s inconvenient for someone else, huh?”

They walked along the sparsely populated roads, heading towards a clear dusk sky. Kiryu shrugged. “I don’t know why it’s inconvenient that I want to finish this.”

“Yer not workin’ with the whole picture here. I, however, am. With the additional and, let me emphasize this, unique spin of, ‘I sure do want Kiryu-chan to be around afterwards so he can pound me into the ground’.”

Kiryu narrowed his eyes at him. He’d always spoken in this double entendre before but to discover that it had been genuine the whole time was enlightening. It felt like learning the name of a very common color at the late, late stage of being a fully grown adult. Suddenly he could trace it back through the years.

“At least, I think that very last part’s unique. Hope it’s unique? Yeah lookin’ at the people involved, I ain’t sharin’.”

“I don’t follow.”

“You know that time in the bath, right before I ruined you for any other man, when ya mentioned the Tsuri Komu company branch out in Kamurocho?”

Kiryu rubbed his temple, and Majima clapped him on the shoulder.

“Ruined. Anyway I thought it was weird that they didn’t tell me about it. Seems sorta pertinent information, yeah? And ‘they’ includes Junior and his men, which alright he’s been a rat this whole time, but more importantly ‘they’ includes my boss, who had to have known. Maybe even knew about yer setup, and now knows yer out here with me.”

“So?”

“Sooo, my boss and I play this game sometimes, it’s lotsa fun, where he puts me on jobs without tellin’ me I’m also some sort of bait. That night at the warehouse? I was leverage.”

Kiryu stared uncomprehendingly at him as Majima waited for the zing to hit. Majima blew out the breath he was holding as Kiryu remained un-zinged, and laid it out in clearer terms. “I was the bargaining chip. Shimano sold me out to Junior, told him I was comin’ ahead of time.”

“Shimano… he’d do that to you?” Kiryu had known he was a man without honor, but it was especially stupid to throw away a soldier as unerringly loyal and prolific as Majima.

Majima slung his arm around Kiryu’s stiff shoulders, tugged them close against the brisk air. “God yer cute, I can’t stand it sometimes. Yeah, but I’m not joking when I say it’s fun – it’s also his official unofficial way of tellin’ me to go nuts, just between him and me. I’m the Mad Dog of Shimano after all, he can’t always control what happens when I’m around and he’s not! So I get to go wild and he gets to have his cake and eat it too. If Junior got me, Shimano would get his deal with Junior and wash his hands of me, too weak to stay alive. If I got Junior, Shimano would get the deal I brokered with granny, which technically doesn’t need Junior, and if she got mad he’d say I went against his orders. Simple.”

It was anything but to Kiryu. He’d never understand Majima’s relationship with his boss. These sort of mind games were everything he hoped to avoid and would work to overcome as he moved up in rank.

“’Course, I didn’t figure this out until too late this time. Bit distracted, ya know.” His hand slid broadly across the back of Kiryu’s neck and squeezed.

Kiryu knew. 

“But! My real point is, now the Dragon of Dojima is back on the board. The guy Junior’s apparently been hard up for this whole time, you get me?”

Kiryu froze. “Shimano’s going to sell me out too?”

“Oh, he’d give you away for free if he could. Already tried to probably, if my hunch is right. He doesn’t see yer value like I do.” Majima’s hand crept down to Kiryu’s butt with a jaunty pat. Kiryu swatted him away, but Majima just jostled into him laughing, arm back up at his neck. “He called just before you got there, told granny to send you back to that house if you got involved again. That she’s willin’ to just do that, well. She did raise Junior after all. I was just about to leave and head that shit off at the pass before you barged in.”

“Hiroko-san wouldn’t do that,” Kiryu said with feeling. “She made this medicine for me. She housed you.”

Majima ashed his cigarette. “We’re not all gooey inside like you are. Teaching moment: ya have to assume the worst to stay safe.”

“I’m not… gooey.”

“Yer gooey as a marshmallow!”

Majima led them back to the restaurant, popped them into the office and locked the door. Kiryu leaned back on the desk and mulled it all over as Majima secured the room. He’d walked into the medicine shop that afternoon to find Majima, and a way to end the Kawano problem so he could go back to the peaceful day-to-day he craved. But that was looking more impossible by the second. Kiryu pressed his lips together.

“We can’t go back home, then.”

Majima turned his head towards him and tilted curiously. “Haw? You should go back. Kamurocho’s yer fuckin’ castle, complete with moats fulla dedicated civvies and errand boys.”

Kiryu flicked his dark gaze up. “Not that home.”   

Majima’s expression flickered, and he busied himself with closing the blinds hanging over the door window. “S’for the best probably, there was always somethin’ unreal about that place. Didn’t have heating either, fuckin’ freezin’ my ass hairs off every night you weren’t there to warm me up.”

“I liked it.”

Majima barked on a laugh, finally approaching Kiryu, hand on the desk by his waist. Kiryu acutely felt the heat of his body radiating towards him. “Yer just a horndog.”

Kiryu did not take the invitation. He kept his eye on Majima’s, and not on his lips. Or the way his suit fell around his dark shirt that made Kiryu want to find the shape of his ribs. “I’m not going back to Tokyo without you.” Majima’s eye went slim as Kiryu spoke. “If I hadn’t been at the warehouse you could have been killed. Nobody has your back out here. You don’t have to fight alone.”

“You’d have one less hole right now if it weren’t for me,” Majima said in a gravelly voice.

“And you wouldn’t be here right now if it weren’t for me,” Kiryu responded lowly.

They paused, tense and deliberate. Kiryu got the impression they were like two generals marching out in front of their armies, meeting in the middle before war. Majima was heading towards one obvious conclusion again that Kiryu could not let him act on.

“I won’t let you kill Kawano Junior.”

Majima pulled back, eye wide. Then, his brow descended in the sudden way that said Kiryu’s words had hit their mark. “Again with this even after he shot you, you fuckin’ kiddin’ me?”

“I’m going to talk with him one last time. And you’re wrong about Hiroko-san – if you take out her son, she won’t stay with the Tojo no matter how good the deal is. I can’t let you do that to her.”

“There’s kindness and then there’s stupidity. You’re making a mistake. As long as he’s out there he’ll be tryin’ to get to ya.” Majima growled, his other hand descending to box Kiryu in entirely, still not quite touching.

“I’m not making a mistake. If we can end it without shedding any more blood we should. We owe it to Hiroko-san.”

“Granny could be setting us up, you don’t know for sure.”

“Then why were you crashing at her place? Why weren’t you at the house when I came back with Nishiki? You completely cleared out, I thought you’d left entirely!” Kiryu’s voice boomed as his anger flared, finally reaching the heart of the matter. Majima’s face hardened.

“I had to. What, did you tell yer bro what we got up to in that place? Fucked in every room?” Kiryu glared at him, stony. Majima pushed in, with a vicious vindication. “Didn’t think so. It was fun but we can’t play house anymore, Kiryu-chan.”

“You could have told me instead of leaving me alone.”

“I didn’t leave you alone, I called in yer bro.”

“You were running away.”

Majima jaw worked and he made a choked sound. But he rallied into it with a hiss. “So I was running away! You almost – this shit hurts, so fucking much.”

“How do you think I felt coming home to an empty house? Like we’d never existed there?” Kiryu clenched his jaw and took a second to calm down. Even with the door closed, someone could probably hear him yelling. He pitched his voice low, with barely contained feeling. “I wanted to stay with you.”

Majima exhaled as if Kiryu had jabbed him in the diaphragm. “What am I supposed to do with this?” His voice scraped raw like he was putting up a last ditch effort to seem angry instead of what he was really feeling at that moment. His fingers left the desk to curl in steely black bands around Kiryu’s waist, tight and desperate. “What do ya want from me?”

Kiryu blinked slowly in that moment. “I want-” He trailed off as his heart beat in his throat, on the edge of a realization that despite it all he wasn’t prepared for.

After talking with Nishiki, Kiryu could see it plainly. Majima had fought to save his life, stayed until he was sure he was fine, called his best friend to take him away, and then fled. And he’d hoped to not be found – probably until it was on his terms, probably until they were back in Kamurocho. And by then he would have compartmentalized whatever it was about Kiryu that drove him to this; trying so hard to look angry, and failing.

Majima was scared because of him. Because Kiryu wasn’t alone in what he was feeling. He was scared, not just in the bone-cutting way he’d looked right after Kiryu had gotten shot, burned as it was into his memory. But in a longer and lingering way, retreating from the open looks they exchanged when he was feverish and back to the casual innuendo of their old language – physical, as it had started between them, fighting or otherwise.

If he said what he was thinking, Majima might bolt again. He would run off and kill Junior. When they met again in Tokyo they’d fight, and maybe they’d fuck, but Majima would have killed for him and Kiryu would know it was his fault, his failing. There couldn’t be any promises between them on that path.

Kiryu wanted the promise.

That they’d see where this could go if they started being honest with each other and let it flourish. He thought it was selfish of him to ask for that, especially considering the lives they led and the people they worked with. How easily they could wreck each other, as volatile as a chemical fire. But he wanted it all the same. Recognizing that scared him silent.

Majima couldn’t see any of what was going on in Kiryu’s head, thankfully. But he looked like he was trying to climb inside of him, black eye burning severely from beneath his brow as it switched between Kiryu’s. “Yeah?”

Kiryu was tempted to just kiss him. He could probably say whatever it was he needed to say after they were both so exhausted that there wasn’t room for embarrassment or dishonesty. Articulating the nebulous tangle of his feelings was always harder than just throwing down.

“I want-”

The doorknob twisted with a clunk as someone tried to come into the office, then knocked at the door.

Majima sent it a vicious back-kick, still looming over Kiryu. Kiryu let out a strained breath. The interloper spoke through the door with a timid voice.

“I-I need to get a file,” it said.

Majima swore loudly and spun to wrench open the door. Kiryu pressed his lips to his teeth and closed his eyes, feeling like he’d failed something.

*

There wasn’t a good place they could go, just the two of them anymore. Chased from the medicine shop by Majima’s suspicion, chased from the restaurant trying to turn a profit for the night, and the house… well, it was compromised. That one stung. Kiryu stood at one of the gated exits from the underground route of the restaurant. Majima trailed behind him. There were too many big conversations and unspoken declarations cluttering the air between them. The only thing they could get out into the open was the fate of Kawano Junior, and they couldn’t come to an accord on him.

It was why they were parting ways here.

“Nii-san,” he called. Majima came to a stop far out of reach, hands in his suit pockets. Melting from the darkness of the tunnel and fully dressed for once, he looked like a disembodied, scaled specter wreathed in gloom.

“Kiryu-chan,” he answered miserably, scuffing his heel. He looked up at Kiryu, hang-dog. “I can’t convince ya to wait for me in a hotel somewhere?”

It wasn’t a look that was found in the natural habitat of Kiryu’s expressions, but Kiryu sneered lightly, teasing as he did. “That was my idea. You wait for me.

Majima just angled his head and leaned forward with a weak huff, like a punk looking for trouble on the street. “Man I wanna fuck you-!” 

Kiryu snorted. He’d advanced from innuendo to crass honesty, if that could be called advancement. Kiryu understood, though. “Heads up.”

Majima caught the brown paper bag Kiryu tossed at him, juggling it between his hands in surprise before getting a grip on it. He withdrew the tantō, sleek and shining in the low light of a dark blue post-sunset. He stroked it thoughtfully, and Kiryu wished he could read his expression.

“Ya know this’ll make it easier for me to kill him, right?” He said slowly, like he really wasn’t sure if Kiryu had thought of that. He’d let it slide. Kiryu had disarmed him entirely on this trip. It was only fair that he gave him something back.

“I like the challenge.” Kiryu cupped the flame of his lighter to his cigarette, took a drag to steady himself on the first rush of nicotine through his head, ignoring the hitch in his chest. He had the vague beginnings of a simple plan alchemizing in the back of his mind. He’d had a lot of people telling him what to do in his life thus far, but these actions were his. All of the things that had happened to him in Kyoto had resulted from choices he’d made, and despite the pain and the uncertainty between him and Majima he was still happier for it. There was no Kazama guiding his actions from afar. No Tachibana no Oda, no Dojima no Nishiki, no Hiroko, and now, no Majima. He wasn’t as scared as he thought he’d be when he was younger, finding himself completely on his own.

He looked out to the river, water rushing soundly. The river-side establishments glowed with warm yellow and orange lights that complemented the fading blue of the starry sky. It was a calm night on the Uogawa.

Kiryu thrust his left hand out to catch Majima’s wrist between his glove and his jacket, blade singing at his neck. He turned his head with a look like steel.

Majima met it with steel of his own.

“Come on Kiryu-chan,” he said lowly with a cheeky jump of his brow. “You didn’t really think I’d just let ya go did ya?”

“But we’re racing to find Kawano.”

“You shouldn’t be smoking.” Majima pulled the cigarette from between Kiryu’s lips, took a long drag, then tossed it aside. “So what?”

Kiryu slapped his knife hand away and shoved a palm into his chest, sending Majima skidding back some four dramatic meters. Kiryu began to pace the length of the exit like a territorial beast and Majima mirrored him.

“So I thought you’d redirect your energy towards more fruitful goals.”

“What’s more fruitful than a battle with you?” He stalked, shoulders strutting powerfully, watching for the opening. “We tried it your way, and your way ended exactly like I knew it would. Know what that means?”

Majima flipped the tantō between his hands with ease as he paced back and forth, like he’d owned it his whole life. He looked every inch like he belonged amongst the smoggy, congested streets of Kamurocho.

“Means I’m callin’ the shots. For yer own good. Means I’ll stop you here and I’ll stash you away like my own personal doll in its house, somewhere safe. I’ll come back to you when I’m done and take my prize.”

Kiryu knew he’d be dealing with the repercussions from the gunshot but he hadn’t quite comprehended that Majima would take it this far. That was a little dark.

Kiryu shook his head. “You can’t kill him out of some need for revenge. You’ll become a different person.”

“I’m doin’ it for you.”

“That makes it worse. If you really won’t back down, let’s just compete fairly, let that be the fight instead of this. We’ll see what happens afterwards.”

“Don’t wanna.”

Well, there was no arguing with that.

Majima leapt at him with a shrill cry of his name. He whirled to meet him, chest stinging as he threw his strength into his right arm.

It wasn’t a pretty battle. Majima had never held back before, but the way he fought there in the sewer was especially vicious. He targeted his injury without reservation, going for strikes that left blistering amounts of pain. Kiryu realized he was aiming to incapacitate him.

“Yer in no shape – to go fightin’ armies today,” Majima grunted as Kiryu got him in the stomach with a kick. “I’m not lettin’ you walk off to get thrown into prison or worse over Junior’s two-bit theatrical stunt, of all fuckin’ things.”

Kiryu slapped aside Majima’s knife strike and hefted his elbow up for a blow that would have connected with Majima’s chin, if his chest hadn’t pulled tight and made it slow enough for Majima to get a hand up to block it.

Kiryu grunted. “I won’t let that happen. I’ve got a plan.”

“A plan? You? Just hopin’ for the best and tryin’ yer hardest ain’t the sorta plan that’s gonna work here!”

Kiryu acknowledged the burn with some amusement. But, he had to admit, he couldn’t use up all of his strength here. He had a limited amount. So he began to back them up towards the wall, luring Majima in with feints.

“I’m also going to play a little dirty if you won’t let me go.”

Majima let out a long snnrk as he aimed another bruising punch at Kiryu’s chest wound that he barely managed to avoid. “Yer only good at that in bed.”

“You’ll have to forgive me,” Kiryu said. He weaved around him fluidly and slammed Majima front-first into the wall. “Sorry.”

He wrenched Majima’s right arm out of its socket, again. He shrieked, knife clattering to the floor. Kiryu winced as he ran for the gate, shutting it tight between them.

Fucker-” Majima grit through the pain, cradling his arm. Kiryu just barely managed to weave a rusted iron rod from the ground between the bars, and twisted the ends shut as Majima flew into the door with a harsh rattle.

“I’ll get Junior to back down,” Kiryu said as Majima wrapped his good hand around the cage with a creak and glowered, inches away.

“I’ll kill him before you do,” Majima promised. Framed by the bars, he looked wilder than ever. A force of nature barely held at bay. What did it say about Kiryu, that he’d never wanted to kiss him more than in that moment.

Kiryu took one hesitant step backwards as Majima watched him, feral. He broke eye contact as he took a second more decisive one away. He wasn’t running, he was fighting for the greater good. After Kiryu had succeeded, he’d let Majima do whatever he wanted with him.

 

Chapter Text

 

Kiryu stood in front of the dilapidated house, under the yellow light of a street lamp. The window he’d accidentally broken on his last visit was fixed, and plastered over with a delicate and deliberate little ‘x’ made of old newspapers. It was sort of cute. He, very gently, knocked on the door.

It creaked open and Kiryu looked into the cautious face of Regular Guy/Stripes. He wore a completely new and equally horrible striped shirt.

“Hi-” The door slammed in his face. Not fully unexpected. “I don’t want trouble. I’m sorry about last time,” he spoke through the door. “I just want to talk. I’m trying to fix things.”

After a pause and some murmured conversation, the door swung wide open for him.

Kiryu stood in the doorway to the kitchen, looking around at the only lived-in part of the house. Well-used appliances cluttered the counters and the stovetop, and a few plants adorned the window sill, looking like they’d seen better days. There was a table cloth on the kitchen table protected by plastic, and the fridge door almost bowed beneath the weight of all the delivery pamphlets and records posted there. Gold Tooth puttered around the space and brought tea for 4 to the kitchen table, where Lipscar and Stripes sat watching Kiryu like deer watched a hunter.

Kiryu cleared his throat.

“I know we haven’t exactly been friends during all of this. Uh, let’s start over. My name’s Kiryu Kazuma. What are your names?”

“Oh fuck you’re Kiryu Kazuma.” Lipscar said. He elbowed Stripes, who was gripping his cup very tightly. “You idiot! Had the guy Junior’s been looking for tied up the basement for three days and you didn’t even know?”

“You didn’t either!”

“Names?” Kiryu repeated, a little louder. They whipped their heads back at him like guilty kids responding to teacher.

“Kamasu,” Lipscar.

“Katsuo,” Stripes.

“Kawahagi,” Gold Tooth.

Kiryu wondered if they’d schooled together like the fish they were named for or if it was just fate playing games. At any rate, there were too many Ks in the room, and he forgot their names immediately. This was not off to a great start. He shook himself and tried again – he just had to develop his own style.

“Ok. I’m here about Kawano Junior. Recently he’s made some choices that we’re not so happy with, out east.”

Lipscar grunted. “Yeah you can skip this part, we got this spiel when Majima-sama did some uh… re-arranging.” He rubbed his shoulder distantly, in memory.

So that’s what Majima had been up to those first couple of days on the job. He almost wished he could have seen it. Maybe they wouldn’t look so traumatized if he’d been there too. “Ok, then. I’m here with a business proposal from Hiroko-san. If you and the rest of your boys join back up with her, she can offer more than what you were getting before.” He hadn’t listened too closely to the conversation between Hiroko and Majima when they were working the deal out, but he was glad he could remember that much.

“Really?” Gold Tooth said, leaning forward. “That sounds great-”

Stripes whapped him in the head. “Idiot! Why would the Dragon of Dojima want to help us after everything we did to him? What’s the catch here?”

Kiryu looked at Gold Tooth, who seemed unaffected by the treatment. “No catch. We’ve brokered a new deal with Hiroko-san, and she just wants you all back. No hard feelings.”

“She always was loyal like that,” Lipscar said, sipping his tea in an oddly dainty fashion for such a burly man.

Kiryu couldn’t spend too long here, but that gave him pause. “If you respect Hiroko-san, why’d you guys go with Junior in the first place?”

The men looked to Stripes, who seemed to be the de facto leader of the bunch. He crossed his ankle over his knee and leaned back on a sigh. “Kawano took a big hit when her hubby died and things got real thin for a while. Thin enough that we were losing guys to some upstart gangs. So Junior sorta unilaterally decided to step up, and the rest of us thought it’d be good for her to take a break for once. ‘Course, she didn’t go easily. So it got kinda… dicey between them.”

Gold Tooth nodded eagerly. “Then Junior made some deal with the Omi Alliance and got a whole buncha new guys! And started ignoring the rest of us. We started wondering if Kawano would take us back. But none of us were brave enough to go see her after, you know. Leaving like that and getting rid of her new delivery boys on Junior’s orders.”

Stripes pouted a little. “I was trying to ask you about her in the warehouse, if you had listened!”

Kiryu scratched his neck. He’d been too focused on other things at the time. “Well I’m listening now.”

“Thank god for that. Long story short it’s been nothing but bad since he struck out on his own, and now he’s got Omi men doing the work we used to do, so what was the fucking point in the end?”

Everybody paused to mull it over. Lipscar looked Kiryu up and down in the silence. “Why’re you doing this anyway? You’re an outsider, what’s in it for you?”

“Hiroko-san is a friend. I’m helping out.”

The men all stared, like they were waiting for him to start laughing and make a joke of it. When he didn’t, they leaned in with matching perplexed faces.

“Ok but, what are you really getting out of it?”

Kiryu felt the first itch of irritation, even though he understood where they were coming from. If he didn’t move fast he might lose though, so he said with some exasperation, “I’ll win a pretty big bet.” And he’d keep Majima from straying down the wrong path by killing when he didn’t absolutely have to. But he didn’t think they’d care about that as much as he did.

They sat back as one, like an appeased Cerberus.

“And you don’t care that we kept you in the basement for a few days.” Gold Tooth said slowly, finishing his tea. “Which, sorry again.”

Looking back on the kidnapping incident, Kiryu found he was oddly fond of it because it had prompted a turning point for how he felt about Majima. He wondered if that was normal. Probably wasn’t. “It’s fine. Well? Can you get the other men who joined Junior to go back to Hiroko-san?”

They looked between themselves, and Stripes nodded. “Well, most of them are with Junior right now on some big campaign retreat... they might not listen to us. But we can try.”

Kiryu sipped his tea. An extremely bitter and familiar taste hit the back of his throat, and he swallowed it all.

Gold Tooth looked impressed. “I was going to apologize for not warning you about the tea but…”

“It builds muscle.” Kiryu said simply.

“Bet or not, you’re a real saint aren’t you,” Stripes said, obviously still cautious. “Working for Kawano despite everything she’s done to you.”

Kiryu frowned down at him. “She’s done a lot for me.”

“If that’s how you wanna look at it. We didn’t recognize you, but sure as hell she’d know what the Dragon of Dojima looked like.”

Kiryu shifted impatiently, eager to leave. “That doesn’t matter. I’m not working for her, I’m working on her behalf.” If he wanted to get to Junior before Majima, he had to act fast. Now that he had these three on his side, he could move forward. “Before I go, there’s one last favor I’d like to ask. First, where exactly is Junior?”

*

Kiryu stepped out of the taxi and promptly decided just his blue winter coat and the thin red shirt beneath it wasn’t enough to ward off the cold mountain air. The traditional building in front of him glowed warmly, tucked amongst needled trees and surrounded by a gravel sea with a round stone pathway leading up to the steps. The small folding sign at the end of the path marked it as a ryokan retreat, with hotsprings and accommodations. He hoped he’d gotten here in time. There didn’t seem to be any signs of chaos, so that was a start.

He let himself in through the front. A security guard sat at the reception desk to the side, bored, clicking around absently on a computer. Kiryu kept his fists completely out of play, clenched in his coat pockets.

“Excuse me,” he said as softly as he could. His deep voice still penetrated the quiet of the mountain air and the man started. Kiryu sighed.

“I’m supposed to meet my friend, Kawano Junior. Could you tell him Maidra Gon is here to speak with him?”

Kiryu looked around the area impatiently while the man made a call. Slippers were stacked in shelves on the right, with baskets of yukata and obi for guests. The raised wooden platform shined, freshly cleaned by the night staff probably, stretching in hallways to the left and the right. Beyond, windows overlooked the dark woods and the mountains. He wondered what sort of campaigning could realistically happen here.

“Sir, he’ll meet you in room 506.”

Kiryu stepped into the elevator, stretching his arms, his legs, shaking his wrists out. If Majima was there, he’d have to fight, probably in every way he didn’t want to. If Junior was alive, hopefully he could get through it without the need for a physical altercation. But he hadn’t managed that… ever. Still, he would talk first. Negotiate.

Before he could knock on the door, Kawano Junior swung it open, alive and whole. Kiryu let out a breath.

“Ah. Yes. Maidra… Gon.” he said warily. He scowled at himself. “Oh.”

“It’s Kiryu.”

“Yeah I know who you are. Now. You’re a hard man to catch.”

“I was tied up in a basement by your men and held for three days.”

“How was I supposed to know that?”

“I guess by talking with your men.”

Junior huffed haughtily. He didn’t cut a particularly imposing figure, dressed in a yukata and fresh from the bath.

“Speaking of which, you owe me a talk.” Kiryu said, eyes darting around the room behind him, searching for anything amiss. Junior didn’t move, expression blank. “You promised. Right before you… shot me.”

“In fairness, I wasn’t trying to shoot you.

“Does that really make it better?”

“Means I don’t owe you jack!” Junior sniffed. Kiryu thought this was the wrong tone to be taking with someone who had talked him out of an early grave, and was still trying to. But he couldn’t get angry.

“We can discuss your drug running operation out here in public if that’s what you want,” Kiryu said, letting his deep voice naturally fill the empty space. Junior’s face scrunched up.

He threw the door open dramatically and Kiryu stepped in. He expected to feel like he was walking into the lion’s den, but nothing did it for him. The suite was extravagantly huge, with not one but two offshoot rooms, one a full sitting room with floor-to-ceiling windows and the other a separate bedroom perhaps. There was a holder next to the door with the room key, and a private bathroom branching off beyond the foyer.

Kiryu stood by the door as Junior flopped into a nearby chair and said nothing. No mean words, no fear, no fight. This was not the reception he was prepared for. Their next door neighbors seemed to be a bit rowdy too, muffled thumps breaking any of the tension that possibly could have arisen in the silence between them.

“Do you know why I’m here?” Kiryu asked. He kept an eye on the entry points, just in case. He thought about pushing Junior more towards the center of the room, to give Kiryu more time to react to whatever angle Majima was going to jump in from. It looked like Junior would let him too, slumping into his chair like a lazy seal on a sunny rock.

“I’m sure my mother put you up to this.” Junior, pointedly avoiding eye contact, gave Kiryu the impression of a spoiled kid. But he was definitely middle-aged so the overall effect was, Kiryu stood there dealing with an unhealthy amount of second-hand embarrassment.

“I’m here on my own, actually.”

“Mother is always sticking her nose into my business.”

“This is family business. Of course she is. And I’m trying to say, I’m here to-”

“You come to kill me?”

Kiryu grit his teeth and counted to five, internally. There were a great number of things he could use in a very satisfying bashing sort of way, all within striking distance of Junior.

“I’m here to prevent that. Agree to work with Hiroko-san again and you’ll be out of danger.” Probably. Kiryu would take on Majima’s residual bloodlust himself.

Junior laughed. A shift came over him in that moment and he stood, straight and tall, arms behind his back. “You know, I’ve always been told what to do ever since I was a kid. Mind the store, go to this college, learn the business – exhausting. No one ever asks what I want do. What I need. So once dad died, I thought I’d try just making the rules. If you think I’m going to let you tell me what to do when I’m on the cusp of achieving that, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you too.”

Kiryu recognized the posture of a man on the offensive but he wasn’t sure how to de-escalate it. Especially when they couldn’t seem to agree on anything. “You cut your mother out of the business after the death of your father. That’s something you need to make amends for. Your actions affect the people around you.”

Junior laughed again, over-exaggeratedly in Kiryu’s humble opinion. “Amends? You really don’t know anything about what’s happening here, do you. You can’t get anywhere thinking about every Joe Schmoe who happens to be in your way. In this life, you have to take. My mother taught me that. She saw you, and she took you, after all. And now you’re here, doing her bidding.”

Kiryu watched Junior watching him for a reaction. Was this the willful ignorance again, or was Kiryu missing something? Either way, he wasn’t doing a good job at recruiting Junior back, but at least he hadn’t punched him yet, despite how hard he was asking for it. Baby steps.  

“I told you, I’m here on my own.”

“You’re not. I’ve forged a deal with the Omi, and mother has forged a deal with the Tojo. And now, she’s sent me the Dragon of Dojima. We’re getting everything we wanted!”

Junior snapped his fingers.

And nothing happened.

Kiryu stood there, fists raised, cracking his neck.

Junior snapped his fingers again, louder and more insistently.

“Oh for fucks sake – that was the signal!”

Someone came crashing through what used to be the wall – a heavy-set Omi man, judging by the flash of the pin on his lapel – but he tumbled to the ground head-over-ass and lay there, groaning.

Junior took a step back.

Another man came flying through and landed on the ground, then another, then another, and finally,

Majima swaggered in, whistling. Kiryu’s time was up.

“Yo,” he waved with his tantō, carrying another unconscious man to throw at Junior’s feet. The man joined the pile, moving lightly in pain.

“You-” Junior’s face, which had remained relatively placid during his entire exchange with Kiryu, went rigid with anger when he looked upon Majima. It was like looking at a past representation of what his muscles did every time Majima walked into the room, too.

Majima pointed his knife at Junior. “You’re dead, fucko.”

Junior scrambled past Kiryu for the door, and Kiryu bolted into action.

He let Junior pass, then blocked the door with his body. He whipped his coat off and caught Majima’s arm with it as he tried to push past him, swerving his momentum around so he was back in the room, facing the opposite direction. Majima stumbled to a stop then turned his head to stare, confused.

Kiryu rustled his jacket. “Olé!”

Majima’s mouth fell open on an affronted but amused expression. “I can’t stay mad at you. Were you always this funny or am I just completely fucked?”

Kiryu replied from the other side of the door, jacket back on, room key in hand. “Both,” he said, before slamming it shut and twisting the lock, breaking the key off so it jammed. Kiryu looked down the hallway, trying to determine which way Junior had fled.

Then the door next door opened calmly, and Majima peeked out with a wave.

“Yeah, broke through the wall, remem-”

Kiryu hurdled into the door to shove Majima back inside with a slam that echoed throughout the entire floor. He leaned into it against Majima’s equal force on the other side, feeling like a sandbag that wasn’t quite heavy enough to keep the tideline back.

In the middle of this struggle Junior jogged by him from the other end of the hallway to the stairs, to Kiryu’s incredulous look.

“Fuck off with that, the elevator’s shut down for the day!” He shouted as he began to descend.

Majima burst through the door with renewed vigor at the sound of Junior’s voice and Kiryu only just managed to snag the back of his jacket, and when Majima slithered out of that like a snake shedding its skin Kiryu grabbed a fistful of his shirt. He silently thanked Hiroko as he pulled them back into the room, fabric straining with their efforts.

“Kiryu-chan not – now— later,” He grit, turning to swat at the hands around his waist.

“Don’t get the wrong idea,” Kiryu said, before grabbing the hem of his shirt and tugging it up and over his head, trapping his arms in the constraints of his turtleneck. He heaved him up and lobbed him into the room like a bale of hay, before grabbing the key and breaking it off into the lock, again. He hoped the ryokan wouldn’t charge him.

Kiryu ran down the hallway in the direction Junior had gone, leapt down the twisting stairwell to find him a good 3 floors below jogging down the stairs in tight circles and getting nowhere fast. All of the time he’d bought him, squandered. “If you go back to Hiroko-san with me, Majima won’t be able to touch you!”

“Make me!”

Kiryu felt like a babysitter wrangling a wayward brat. He took entire stretches of stairs at a jump and barreled out onto the ground floor where he saw Junior rounding the corner by a sign that directed guests to the open air baths.

Kiryu burst outside and had just stepped onto a wooden bridge that connected the building to the hotsprings when he heard a sound like hail on the patterned tiles of the roof above him. Majima landed lithely in front of him and rolled into a breakneck run after Junior.

Lanterns whizzed past the corner of his eyes as he ran, lungs burning with cold air and his injury beginning to throb. Ahead, Junior slipped through a large pair of wooden gated doors and they shut with the deafening sound of a wooden plank lock.

Majima reached the doors and tried to open them once, uselessly. He glanced back at Kiryu, then to the side where the wall was shorter, white stone and smooth.

Before Kiryu could reach him, he darted up a tree by the wall with a grace Kiryu would not be able to manage in his state. He stood tall to gloat down at him, thief-like in the moonlight.

“Tough luck, Kiryu-chan. I’ll come find ya when I’m done!” He blew a kiss and dropped on the other side, unreachable.

Kiryu slammed into the door with the force of his momentum and felt the door give, just a bit. Kiryu’s frustration bubbled in his throat and spilled down into his clenched hands. He couldn’t lose here, but talking with Junior was about as effective as banging his head against that door would be - painful, unconstructive, and the door would never want to go back to its mom probably. But he wouldn’t give up.

Kiryu took a step back and flattened his palm against the door, sweeping for the weak points. It was wooden and thick with metal adornments, but it had given when he’d thrown some force into it. In his time with the yakuza, he’d clashed with men who forced him to use everything in his arsenal – quick feet, brutal hits, bicycles, you name it – and he’d been pushed to the fullest extent of his ability during his fights with Shibusawa and Kuze all those years ago, and almost every time him and Majima came to serious blows. But he’d never tried going all-out on a door, before.

Kiryu punched the door lightly, once, to get a feel for it. Doable. He took a breath, shifted his foot back and grinded his heel into the dirt, and punched with more force. The handles rattled, and a sliver of a crack appeared from the point of contact. Kiryu reached into that fog of anger that writhed, restless at his core, ready to overtake him the moment he gave in to rage. The fanged and scaled beast that he didn’t have command over when he was younger, but he’d began to wrangle that day Kazama had lectured him on control, and he’d had etched into his back as a reminder. The thing that Majima could see in him, and tried to tease out every time they clashed. He felt his body crackling with blue-hot heat all along his nerves, and heaved his arm forward with the force of a meteor impact.

He brushed woodchips from his jacket as he stepped through the archway where a door had once been, kicking aside chunks of wood and metal from his path.

Junior and Majima stood at the end of a wide and empty courtyard, dotted with lanterns by its 3 entrances, sparse aside from the decorative smattering of trees and bushes and stone statues. They weren’t alone. A vast number of policemen stood around Junior, most hunched in recoil. Even Majima had his arm up as if he’d been shielding his eye. Kiryu noticed some wood from the door by his feet.

Kiryu strode forward, coming to a stop as the third point of their triangular show-off. From this angle, Kiryu could see the waves of men waiting behind the entrance Junior stood at. Despite the ‘police’ presence, they didn’t appear to be the leading authority in the situation. These were probably the men Hiroko wanted back. He wondered where they’d gotten so many police outfits.

“Damn.” Majima said with importance, eye fixed on the obliterated door. He seemed to be trying to convey something large and forceful, but that word was all he could manage. Kiryu nodded curtly at him, and Majima stuttered a sound like a pinprick of air escaping from a helium balloon.

“What are you…?” Junior asked. This was a much more appropriate reaction than Majima’s, which Kiryu suspected was not wholesome.

“Kawano Junior. What will it take to get you to work together with your family again?” He projected his voice across the courtyard enclosure and it boomed in the silence of the mountain.

Junior threw his hands up into the air with an incredulous laugh. “I don’t know what else to say to make you understand this. I. Already. Am!” He threw his arm forward and the men behind him rushed past it, brandishing weapons like swords and polearms that policemen definitely shouldn’t have.

Kiryu shuffled back in his stance to dodge as a man swung at him wildly with a baton, but caught an unpredictable swing to his forearm that broke his guard and numbed his right arm, already wobbly from the door stunt. He tripped the man, kicked his weapon up and twirled it in a wide arc, warding off the full circle of men trying to come at him. He wasn’t in great shape for a group brawl, he’d have to get creative. Majima for his part looked like he was cutting a straight line to Junior, who was way too unconcerned about that for Kiryu’s liking.

“Ahh, I didn’t expect I’d get both the Mad Dog of Shimano and the Dragon of Dojima. I’ll really get accolades in Tokyo for this.” Junior lounged gleefully by the wall as Kiryu was overcome by the sheer number of men, unable to get any closer to Majima who he could only track by the sprays of blood spewing into the air. “Where the fuck are my reporters? They should be here by now.”

Kiryu fought desperately, using every dirty street brawl tactic he could. He swung men around by their ankles to ward off the crowd, he aimed for crotches and noses and throats, he aimed to incapacitate. But no matter how many men he downed, more stepped forward to replace them, pushing him further from Junior. Someone ran at him with a taser that he mostly dodged, but it connected with the tip of his finger and his entire nervous system went up in flame. He fell to a knee with a strained grunt.

A man emerged from the crowd with a katana, holding it in a preposterous pose from a period drama or something. Kiryu had a flash of a thought that if this was the strike that killed him, he’d die blindingly angry.

Before the sword could fall, Majima slid on all fours to a stop in front of Kiryu, slicing up in a purple arc that cut clean through the sword, because it was of course, cheap garbage.

“What, did ya use it all up on the fuckin’ door?” Majima sighed like he wasn’t preening like a peacock. Kiryu vaulted to his feet in time to catch a halberd thrust from an enemy that pushed him off-balance across Majima’s bent back, who rose in time with his fall to smoothly sweep him upright and also send the halberd clattering to the ground, somehow. Kiryu felt like the proverbial drop of water that rolled off the ducks back, and the expression Majima threw at him didn’t just invite compliments, it demanded them.

“Hmph,” Kiryu said, turning to hide his smile even though his heart thumped sideways. Majima had been… cool. Majima laughed, far past manic.

They’d only practiced it once, but Kiryu shifted into a modified taichi stance and Majima picked up his intention seamlessly, back to back. They wove gracefully through the crowd, almost peaceful despite the extreme violence of slashing and punching through hoards of men, despite having opposing goals for the end of this fight. That was the hard-won balance they had struck.  

Majima disarmed a man with a spear and spun it around into Kiryu’s hands, who aimed it in front of them at the last stretch of men sitting between him and Junior.

“Junior!” Kiryu roared, crashing through the men like a train with a wedge plow, finally breaching the sea of goons and heaving the weapon in front of him like an Olympic javelin thrower. It crashed into the wall next to Junior’s head, embedded into the thick white stone all the way to the grip like it was styrofoam. Sweat broke out onto Junior’s forehead as he glanced to the side, then flinched away in just an abysmally slow reaction time. Kiryu stuck his arm out to clothesline Majima who’d followed in his wake, but he ducked under it, running at Junior with his tantō streaking behind him-

“That’s enough,” a voice cut through the din of the fighting like a hot knife through butter. Kawano Hiroko strode through the opposite entrance.  She didn’t hobble, or shuffle, she walked in the confident and unencumbered steps of an experienced matriarch.

Kiryu pressed his lips into a firm line as he caught his breath. Majima beside him turned to strike at Junior regardless but he’d skittered away, trotting in a wide arc towards his mother. The men that could still stand fell to their knees and bowed before her, parting a path that led straight to the pair of them.

“Hiroko-san,” Kiryu greeted, pained. Majima turned his blade on her, holding it out in front of them both.

“You really did sell us up the river, huh granny?”

She came to a stop in front of them, the sleeves of her purple kimono swaying with the movement. She regarded them cooly.

“She hasn’t.” Kiryu injected steel into his words. Hiroko’s eyes shone dark with pinpricks of light from the nearby lanterns as she stared at him. “I sent for her.”

“Haw?”

“What are you doing here?” Junior hissed beside her, looking around nervously. “I had it under control! Where are my reporters, dammit!”

“Kazuma-kun,” she declared. Her heavy gaze passed from the widespread scattering of unconscious men, to the obliterated door, to the halberd embedded in the wall to an almost inhuman degree. “You’ve been drinking my tea, I see.”

He nodded.

“The hell?”

“Jun-kun,” Hiroko said with a tone like thunder that immediately shut him up. “You’ve caused a lot of trouble here.”

“If I get credit for booking the Dragon AND the Mad Dog it’ll be a guaranteed win for my campaign, and with my Omi deal and your Tojo deal, we’ll be perfectly positioned. It’s everything we wanted.”

Hiroko shook her head. “Don’t pretend like you’re doing this for anybody except yourself.”

“I’m doing this for you! To make up for dad,” Junior growled. Kiryu couldn’t tell if he really believed himself or not, but Hiroko’s face went a little softer.

“All I wanted after your father’s death was a better deal than we started out with. The Omi deal you got wasn’t that. And the new Tojo deal is. But you wouldn’t talk with me, because you wanted more. So don’t say you were doing this for me.”

“But we’re about to have that and more, I don’t understand the problem here,” Junior growled.

Hiroko scowled and her eyes went hot. Kiryu and Majima leaned away as she rounded on her son. 

“Left to your own devices you struck a worse deal than we started with, apparently pissed Shimano off so much he sent his infamous dog down then pissed him off so much he’s trying to kill you. You lost the loyalty of men who have been working with us for decades, and shot the only man still trying to help you. Moreover, you’re no further in your political aspirations than when we started. What makes you think you’ll be able to manage all of that once you’re hired to office, if that happens at all?”

Majima bit his knuckle, captivated. “Oof. We’re witnessing a murder, Kiryu-chan.”

Kiryu squinted in a sort of constant wince, as if that could keep the second-hand embarrassment from fully reaching him. It very much did not.

“What?” Junior stepped back, looking genuinely nervous, sweaty and almost shivering. He visibly went down her list of grievances and found the only one he could refute. “I- I haven’t lost the loyalty of our men!”

“You lost mine,” Stripes yelled over, hunched next to Gold Tooth and Lipscar by the entrance Hiroko had emerged from. “I haven’t gotten paid since you partnered up with those Omi goons but we still had to attend Majima-sama’s fucking restructuring lessons!”

Majima cupped his hand to his mouth. “Yer showin’ great initiative, keep it up!”

“And I’ve been beaten up by Kiryu not once, not twice, but three times!” Lipscar shouted, pointing an accusing finger. Kiryu only remembered one of those, but ok.

Stripes and Lipscar turned to Gold Tooth for his input, but he waved a hand to pass. “Mine’s not that cool, I just want to quietly work at the shop again. That other house sucks.”

“But,” Junior looked beseechingly at his mother. “You said I could put them away to help my career…”

Kiryu and Majima turned to look at her with differing levels of accusation, and Hiroko met their stares head-on. “…in the very beginning, yes. But meeting and talking with Kazuma-kun changed my mind. He’s tried to do nothing but good for the people around him, at great cost to himself. He even saved you. Twice, now. He’s done good by me, so I’ll do good by him. The world doesn’t always allow for that compassionate sort of ideology, but we have to try to help it grow when we can regardless. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

Kiryu exchanged a small smile with Hiroko. Majima looked at them disbelievingly.

“You serious? The soft shit is what changed your mind, not the money?”

Hiroko turned to him. “You came all the way to Kyoto to negotiate in-person, Goro-kun. And you tried to set my top men straight even though you didn’t have to. I can’t say I approve of your current actions towards my son, but I was watching long enough to see you turn and help Kazuma-kun instead of going for the killing blow.”

Majima sucked his teeth and looked away as Kiryu glanced at him. Hiroko continued. “I’d say that’s the mark of a man who knows his priorities, ‘softness’ be damned. And I would have arranged for accommodations for you myself, but Shimano didn’t tell me you’d be coming.”

Majima looked inexplicably caught, for a brief second. Then he waved his hand dismissively, bashful in a played-up way.

“But…” Junior looked at a complete loss, between his mother and his former men, then to Kiryu and Majima. Before, whenever he didn’t get his way, the space around him would practically fill with all of the things he was trying to do. This time, it was just empty. His shoulders slumped, defeated.

“Jun-kun, let’s go home.” Hiroko began to walk back and as she did, the men on the ground rose and followed. Many grabbed their fallen compatriots on a slow march from the compound. Hiroko slid her arm through her son’s, and led him away. He looked shell-shocked.

“So I can’t kill him then?” Majima yelled, flashing his tantō when Hiroko looked back at him. “I’m lackin’ in personal satisfaction here, granny. Kiryu-chan might forgive him but I sure as hell don’t. Who’s to say he doesn’t just try the same shit again?”

Junior didn’t respond, looking like a puppet with its strings cut. Hiroko patted Junior’s arm consolingly.

“I’ll send him to prison myself if he does.”

And they continued to file out of the courtyard. The three men by the entrance waved goodbye in varying levels of enthusiasm, and soon it was just Kiryu and Majima. Like how they’d started this whole mess.

“Damn. Granny’s stone-cold.” Majima shivered. Kiryu’s wound throbbed. “But she had us completely by the nuts and she let us go. All ‘cause of yer gooeyness.”

Kiryu nodded without really listening, hand moving to grip his right shoulder, which had begun to ache. It was so late that the sky was beginning to look light again, and without the adrenaline to hold him up, Kiryu’s posture could only generously be described as ‘barely upright’. Majima’s wild eye appeared at the corner of his vision, sweeping him up and down in an assessment that only meant one thing.

Kiryu tensed. In his mind, he played out Majima’s moves before he made them: he’d throw off his shirt for their final showdown. He’d open with a strike of his knife to Kiryu’s face, mostly for the dramatic aspect. Kiryu didn’t want to fight shirtless in the cold mountain air, but he would, because Majima deserved his full respect.

Majima’s arm shot out in an unfairly quick strike, and Kiryu didn’t have time to react before Majima got underneath his arm–

And threw him just off-balance enough to force Kiryu to lean on him.

“Ya know,” Majima began to walk them back towards the ryokan. “Junior’s gone, but he’s got that suite all paid up for a good week. Whadda ya say?”

Kiryu dropped his head against Majima’s and laughed on a half-sigh. “Lead the way.”

 

Chapter Text

Kiryu must have passed out on the way there, because when he woke it was to an unfamiliar room, on an unfamiliar bed, next to a very familiar person.

Or so he thought. Before he could think better, his hand had reached out to trace the unbroken expanse of Majima’s cheek, bare without the eye patch. His bad eye looked untouched. There was a tiny freckle on his lower lid. Kiryu had thought maybe there’d be an empty hole or a scar beneath the patch. But his thumb alighted on eyelashes, then an intact eyelid, slightly oily to the touch. It dipped beneath the very light pressure of his fingertip, the only indication that something was amiss.

Kiryu had never watched Majima come awake before.

He woke in starts and stops. First, a stuttered inhalation, then a pause. He scowled, muscles tensing beneath his black shirt, resisting consciousness. Then his working eye blinked open, blazing in the sunlight with energy too intense for morning.

He drank him in. Majima’s dark pupil grew darker in contrast to the flush that crawled across the bridge of his nose as time and breath passed between them.

“Ok ok,” he grumbled, hand erupting from the blankets to block Kiryu’s face. “Enough of those goddamn eyes.”

“What’s wrong with my eyes?”

“They’re like tar pits. One step in and I’m a goner.”

Kiryu batted Majima’s hand away. Some companions had compared his eyes to warm honey in the sun or smoldering coals and those were objectively flattering compliments. But Majima’s was like an admission he’d won by strength; the acknowledgement that Kiryu was powerful, coming from a man who favored power most of all. It was a strangely striking statement.

“I just want a look,” Kiryu said, propping up on an elbow and carefully stretching out his chest. They lay in a western style bed in the large bedroom of the suite, sunlight streaming in slats through the wooden straw blinds that fell ceiling to floor, rolled up at the bottom just enough to reveal a sea of orange treetops.

“Ya don’t ever just look.”

“Sure I do.”

“Nah yer a touchy guy when you uncork yourself. Touchin’ all up on me!” Majima walked his fingers across the bed just short of Kiryu’s chest, then flicked his nipple. Kiryu cupped it with an affronted little purse of his lips. “That first night, you touched me first. That second time, you touched me first. That third time, you –”

“Didn’t we settle this already? You were pressing my buttons.”

Majima snickered, looking fox-like with both eyes squinted shut. “Maaaaybe those first two times. Just a little. Maybe I had to know if ya really wanted it enough to go for it on yer own.”

“I knew there was something going on at the beginning of all this.” Kiryu shot him a thin look that Majima returned mockingly. The air between them had a crystalline feel to it, like Kiryu could shine light through and watch it fracture down to the bare components that composed the truth. Finally. “I did ask what you were up to that very first night.”

“Well. It started out as a little harmless get-to-know-you seduction.”

Kiryu blinked. “You were – seducing me? Wh – how?”

“Ya wanna know my secret? I didn’t have to do a damn thing. Just a little restraint on my part not to get all…” he paused, clenched his fingers into a claw and waved them in the air in a tight circle.  “-like that around you in the beginning, like I always wanna. Yer just too fun. Take that away and yer grabby hands were suddenly all over me! I stopped after that first tumble though since ya looked so... panicked.”

Kiryu thought back to those early days. Majima had been extremely nonchalant after that first night, of course it’d been intentional. Kiryu remembered the relief he felt at being let off the hook for once, thinking that meant it was fine to let loose a little.

Majima continued. “Still wanted to know what made ya tick, though. The more we talked the more I realized yer the real deal, no frills muscle and heart. Just Achilles my heel up why don’ tcha.”

Kiryu frowned, ears red. “I’m still yakuza. I’m not some saint.”

“Yer too close to the issue to see it objectively. But I’m a perfectly unbiased and certified Kiryu-chan expert after all I’ve been through with you. Ya really turned the tables on me outta fuckin’ nowhere with your soulful romantic gestures –”

“That was just… I just wanted to do those things, it’s not like I was seducing you back.”

Majima waved his worries away. “No I know, I know. Ain’t that the kicker. You just came at me with bare-ass honesty while I was busy duping myself. I wanted to know what kinda man you were, and you showed me, and…” Majima scowled, stopped himself. Then seemed to push on through, with great duress. “Then I got real greedy about you when I wasn’t supposed to. Scared myself.”

Kiryu kept his breath steady over the beat of his heart.  All that time they’d spent in the house together, turns out they were both coming to terms with what they wanted for.

Majima’s gaze boiled a hole into the sheets between them. Kiryu could practically see his mind turning on itself. So he smoothed his thumb between Majima’s furrowed brows, smudging the tension away while he tried to say exactly what he wanted to say. “It’s ok. I was scared too. Still am, I guess. You saw something in me I was always trying to ignore and I only faced it because of you. You make me feel strong.”

Majima’s brows wobbled beneath Kiryu’s thumb. When he spoke, his voice sloped up and down with a pleased tinge. “Come on, this is exactly what I’m talking about! This is the stuff that kills me and you just hand it out like it’s nothin’.”

“I don’t hand it out to just anybody. Only you. You don’t want this from me?” Kiryu pulled back but Majima’s hand shot out and curled around his wrist, fingers at his pulse.

“I do. Badly.” Majima stared out defiantly as if he was expecting that declaration to do anything other than make Kiryu’s heart rate skyrocket. “Think I’ll be forgiven?” His voice was low and heavy in a way that demanded a response, even though Kiryu had no idea what he was referring to.

He floundered. “Do you mean like… religiously…?”

Majima’s serious face melted into a surprised laugh that wrinkled the corners of his eyes. He propped up on his elbow and before he even opened his mouth Kiryu knew he wasn’t going to get clarification. “Since we’re doin’ pillow talk confessionals there’s somethin’ I’ve been dyin’ to confirm this whole time.” He leaned in closer, like he was trying to keep whatever he was about to ask from the other occupants in the room, of which there were none. “You been with other guys before?”

Kiryu considered lying briefly and only because Majima might be unbearable with the truth. But if he wanted honesty he’d have to give it, so he braced himself. “No.”

Majima’s neutral expression rippled with a smile like the small waves of a pebble dropping into water before he got it under control again. “Nobody? Not even a back-alley handjob?”

“Give me a break,” Kiryu scrubbed a hand across his face.

“Did you – had you ever – kissed a boy-”

“Nii-san.”

Majima’s excited laughter burst from him like water from a dam as he rolled onto his back and kicked beneath the blankets, giddy. Kiryu couldn’t take it. He turned his hand in Majima’s grip and pushed back, face burning.

“First kiss, first handy, first blowjob, first fuck- I should get a medal, I’m a goddamn national hero for turnin’ the dragon!” Majima giggled wildly, and caught Kiryu’s other hand as he tried to get him to stop. “I’m touched Kiryu-chan. I’m flattered. I’m hard, that you’re hard just for me.”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself-” Excitement built in his throat as they grappled lightly, testing strength. Majima grinned wider than he’d ever seen so far – or maybe it was the effect of seeing it unframed for the first time- whatever the reason, it made Kiryu want to smile too, so he did. “I’m not hard yet,”  

“Aye aye sir,” He breathed, rearing up over him like a crocodile breaching the calm surface of a river to snap its jaws around his neck.

Majima bore down on him, sucking welts up his adam’s apple, taking a mouthful of his cheek as if he really intended to eat him, chewing lightly. And Kiryu, for a blazing moment of insanity, thought something like that had ultimately happened. Majima, perpetually nipping at his heels, had finally caught him even in ways he hadn’t meant to.

Kiryu slapped his palm heavy on his back to get him to stop and Majima let go with a smack and a leer, leaving saliva and teeth marks to cool on his cheek as he pressed their lips together. As a kiss it tried hard to be chaste while bruising; just a desperate push of flesh as they breathed there for a few seconds. Then they turned it into something else entirely, ravenous.

“Been too long,” Majima panted when they parted. He scrabbled below the covers, nudging his nose into the hairy crease of Kiryu’s thigh and breathing. “By my count, I owe you two.”

“Don’t keep track of that-oh,” Kiryu’s groan was lost beneath Majima’s as he took him in his mouth like it was all for him and not Kiryu. Majima sucked him loudly to stiffness, his own enthusiasm drawing something out in Kiryu that escaped in uncontrollable jerks and moans. Instead of looking into the eye of the storm he tried to watch the rhythmic rise and fall of the blankets to hold on. But it didn’t help at all because then he listened to the sounds he made, suctioned smacks and moans that vibrated into him and the rustling of fabric. And through it all, the blistering heat of his mouth and his tongue. His head swirled.

“I’m close,” he said far too quickly, wanting more already. Majima shook his head and teeth grazed the head of his cock in a dangerous moment as he dismounted, mouthing hungrily at his balls like he couldn’t help it, tugging him roughly. Kiryu’s hand hovered uselessly, caught between warding him off and encouraging him back. He couldn’t think straight, so much too fast but just right. Majima looked up and grabbed his hand tightly and made the decision himself, rising with a fluid shift of his shoulders to gulp him all the way down to the root. Kiryu twitched into the tight walls of his throat, and Majima swallowed him down and Kiryu’s orgasm ripped through him like a fresh wound.

Majima swallowed and swallowed until Kiryu had nothing left. He popped off of his trembling thighs and looked for a moment like he was considering something, free hand trailing down Kiryu’s perineum, circling him as he twitched. But he glanced up at Kiryu’s expression and whatever plan he was making crumbled in a second - he scrambled forward as Kiryu reached for his leaking erection and hauled him the rest of the way up his body, clumsy to get his own taste. Majima’s arms landed in puffs on the pillow at either side of his head as Kiryu opened wide for him, dug his thumbs into the v of his pelvic muscles, and swallowed him whole.

“Ah, god,” Majima choked as Kiryu squeezed his ass and encouraged him to thrust, and he did, riding Kiryu’s face with franticly uncoordinated movements and bursts of breath. He curled around Kiryu’s head as his hips twitched so that he surrounded him as he shook and came, Kiryu’s every sense filled with his release.

Kiryu swallowed and gasped as he let Majima’s cock fall wetly to his chin. He tugged the heaving body above him down and squeezed his arms around his waist and buried his face into his shirt. A swell of affection ruptured in his chest.

“Nii-san,” he sighed, palms tracing his sides in an unmistakably tender move. He didn’t care to hide it anymore. He wanted to flaunt it, now. Majima slid down Kiryu’s side like a runny egg, face in his neck.

“Fuck. Couldn’t stop myself. Gimme a minute.” Majima murmured. Kiryu blinked heavily over at the nightstand, just now noticing an alarmingly large bottle of lube and a box of condoms.

“…What is that over there, a challenge?”

“An investment.” Majima rocked his hips against Kiryu’s side and shuddered, still too sensitive. Kiryu snorted, sending a lock of Majima’s hair flipping backwards. They lay there for a lazy stretch of time as their bodies thrummed from their frenzied reunion.

*

Kiryu procured them yukata and a new key while Majima ordered an extravagant amount of room service that made Kiryu feel just a little bad for Junior’s tab, despite everything. But they were officially on borrowed time in Kyoto, so he decided to sit back and enjoy it. The idea of Tokyo was an army in the distance.

He inspected the hole in the wall with interest after they were finished, surprised that the rest of the room remained relatively intact despite keeping an unwilling Majima within its walls for a generous estimate of two minutes.

“You held back,” Kiryu commented, peeking into the second, unoccupied suite it led to.

“As soon as I heard where he was I decided we’d be stayin’ here, so I couldn’t wreck it too much at first. I was off by a room though, that’s the only reason ya got to him before me!” Majima sat on the floor at the table in the middle of the room, in front of the carnage of their dinner-breakfast-lunch. He rifled through his personal bag and brought out a medkit and-

“What’s this?” Kiryu asked as he picked up a piece of clothing in a color he knew Majima didn’t wear. Majima barely gave it a glance.

“Yer only suit jacket got shot through and blood-soaked. I knew memorizing your measurements would come in handy.”

Kiryu shrugged the new jacket on over his t-shirt, and it did fit perfectly. He did a double-take at the lining.

“Added somethin’ special for ya too.”

Kiryu rubbed his mouth to hide his amusement, but his tone probably betrayed him. “They just had silk snakeskin print lying around ready for rush order?”

“You’d be amazed what people can dig up under duress. The indomitable human spirit.”

“Guess you had time to pick up your stuff before tracking Junior down, huh?”

Majima scoffed. “If you’re gonna be like that about it I’ll take it back!”

“No take-backs.” Kiryu said seriously, looking over at him to drive home how serious he was. Majima was engrossed with picking at a very important stray straw in the tatami floor. Kiryu’s stomach flopped messily, but as he opened his mouth to speak Majima finally met his eye.

“Now strip, we gotta change yer bandages.”

Kiryu shut his mouth and obeyed.

Kiryu’s bullet wound was as contemptible as ever, thickening the air around it with tension like the coagulated blood it was made of. It didn’t care to look better or worse, it just puckered and shone like a window to Kiryu’s insides. Despite its bad attitude Kiryu gently cleaned the front with a cloth and applied some of Hiroko’s balm while Majima tended to its sister on his back.

Majima spread his fingers wide against Kiryu’s ink in a way that immediately got his attention. “Don’t do this again.” His tone left no room for argument.

But that had never stopped Kiryu before. “I won’t if you won’t.”

He heard Majima’s mouth click open on an immediate retort that never came, then snap shut.

Kiryu decided to press his luck. If they didn’t talk about it, it’d never heal. “I didn’t think I’d get to you in time.”

“If you’d moved any faster you’d be dead,” Majima’s voice came flat. “I shouldn’t have let you convince me anyway. I knew what sort of man Junior was.”

“No. You were showing mercy.”

“Mercy is wasted on most men.”

Kiryu turned back to look at him. “We’re here, aren’t we.”

Majima met his eye with a burning ember that said he wasn’t convinced, and would not be convinced; that he’d led a life up until then that couldn’t afford the idealistic rules that Kiryu clung to. Maybe he hadn’t had someone like Kazama to lecture him when he went astray, or maybe he had and lost them. There was still so much Kiryu didn’t know about him. He dropped his gaze and turned forward.

This would be an argument that would come up time and time again, probably. A clash of ideals.

Hair spilled over his shoulder, then he felt the press of Majima’s brow there. The high rise of his nose and the uneven fan of his eyelashes. His breath a light touch, like an autumn leaf onto water.

“Thank you,” he said. Kiryu couldn’t respond properly, but he didn’t need to. He knew he was understood regardless.

When Majima leaned away he had some humor back in his expression. “Well, it’s fine! I’ll kill you before it happens again, anyway.”

Kiryu smiled, just a little baffled but a lot fond, a new permutation of his old Majima expression. He was sure Majima said it for the reaction, but also meant it in some way that made sense only to him.

Majima pressed a square bandage on his back, and Kiryu placed one on his front, and together they fixed him up.

*

It was rare to find a bathhouse that let yakuza in. Kiryu was apprehensive as he shed his clothing in the locker room of the bath, looking around for the person who’d report him. Stepping into the steamy room, the only other occupants were a couple of touristy-looking men. Majima sat on one of the tiny wooden stools without a care, ink proudly on display, scrubbing his hair with personal product he’d brought down.

Kiryu craned his neck to check on the tourists, but they were chattering in Chinese and if they’d noticed their tattoos they weren’t going to do anything about it.

Kiryu thought not for the first time how this was something he’d always have to do. He’d been prepared for that the day he walked into Utabori’s studio for the first touch of ink, but he hadn’t thought that constant vigilance of the people around him might erode him in some invisible way. Always watching out for civilians during his brawls, looking to see who needed help, looking to see who thought he was dangerous. He doubted it’d ever amount to something substantial enough to sway him away from the life or anything, but he knew it existed now and it’d been nice to be free of it. He’d be returning right to the thick of it soon.

Cleansed, they walked the distance to the outdoor hotspring. They passed the door he’d obliterated, roped off with a sign in front depicting a bowing construction man apologizing for the inconvenience. Majima giggled and elbowed Kiryu as they went by, giddy beyond words at the sight of it again while Kiryu wondered if he’d ever get in trouble for all of the incidental property damage he caused.

His first step into the hotspring was blisteringly hot, his second even more so, and so was his seventh. Kiryu acclimated like a sloth while Majima slid in easily with an obnoxious sigh in his direction.

Kiryu tried to remain as stoic as he could while walking into a lava pit to his own apparent demise.

“People have died,” Majima splashed a dangerous splash that Kiryu eyed. “Entire civilizations risen and fallen while Kiryu-chan manages one more centimeter of water. I had to teach ya to tie yer yukata earlier and now ya need help with this too?”

“No I don’t. Get away from me. Nii-san. No-”

The ‘No Roughhousing’ sign hung pitifully on a wooden pillar holding up the roofed portion of the spring, forgotten, unheeded.

Eventually they sat peacefully amongst the steam. They’d assured a wide, private ring for themselves with their actions and even before that just Majima’s general rambunctious demeanor. He took the eye patch off but draped his little towel across his face so it was mostly covered. Kiryu sat submerged just below the bullet hole.

“Can’t believe ya told on Junior to his mom and that’s all it took,” Majima snorted, after a time of silence.

“I knew I probably wasn’t the right person for the job from the start. It was never my place to fix. You and Hiroko-san both said as much. All I could do was push the pieces together that needed a push.”

“That was a Kazama move if I ever saw one. Didn’t know you had it in ya”. Kiryu felt an embarrassing sort of elation at being compared to Kazama. He hadn’t fully known he had it in him before this trip, either. Majima peeked over at him out of the corner of his eye, smiling.

“Yep. You’re the one who should be chairman someday.” Majima declared in a casual, high register tone. Kiryu imagined that the revulsion he felt at the idea was the same Majima had balked against when he’d said it to him.

“Don’t think I want that.”

“Too bad. Some guys get it whether they want it or not.”

“Could be you, then.”

“Nope. When you’re chairman, I’ll be yer right hand.” Kiryu reached out to push Majima’s lewd demonstration down below water, putting a stop to it. Majima kept his hand, and ridiculously Kiryu was almost nervous about it.

Kiryu’s thoughts inevitably drifted back to Kamurocho. With the supply line fixed, Majima could go back. With the Kawanos appeased and Junior in, well, baby jail under the thumb of his mother Kiryu was free to resume his work. It was what he’d wanted, or what he thought he’d wanted, since the beginning of his exile from the city that had defined his adult life.

His mouth worked minutely as he tried to think of what he wanted to say before the bubble of this dream burst. And this trip had ended up being something like that - temporary, a place to rest and reflect and grow before emerging back out into reality.

He looked at the man seated next to him in the water. He lay there submerged to his chin in repose, totally relaxed and happy. It was such a rare sight that Kiryu didn’t want to disturb him, but that might have been his nerves talking. He opened his mouth to speak.

“When we go back to Kamurocho… you want to go out sometime?” It came out sounding so juvenile, to Kiryu’s mild horror.

The water shifted in waves to his left as Majima presumably turned his head towards him.

“Eh? You didn’t forget about our date, didja?”

“Isn’t this… this is sort of that.”

Majima’s hand burst from the water and slapped down in protest. “No it’s not! This is just the same as we’ve been doin’ this whole time. For a date you’ve gotta start the day off apart, dress up all cute – I’ve still gotta show off that piece you bought ya know – and plan somethin’ fun for the other person. Really go all out! Costumes, activities, scenarios, I’ve got lots of ideas if yer lookin’ for suggestions.” he laughed an ominous close-mouthed laugh, tickled at something only he could see.

Kiryu didn’t feel totally relieved at the sound of that laugh, though mostly because he hadn’t conveyed the thing he really wanted to convey.

He was still mulling it over when they left the springs.

*

Back at the room after a full course kaiseki dinner, Majima whistled as he pulled supplies from the second suite to build an unruly sprawl of furniture around the large living room while Kiryu lounged out of the event zone, watching the moon rise. Majima had called him a ‘geriatric in the body of a greek statue’ when Kiryu didn’t agree to help him with his, nesting, or whatever he was up to. Kiryu thought the view out the window was beautiful and wondered if the great poets of the world would appreciate the dramatic gap between watching a bright yellow leaf gently float in the wind while listening to the heaving, cursing cacophony of Majima Goro moving heavy furniture.

Kiryu turned in time to see Majima pulling one corner of the bed through the hole, yukata stretching as he braced a heel up against the wall to really go for it.

“Double king bed,” Majima said as if that explained anything.

“Even if you got it through it wouldn’t fit in the bedroom.”

“Double. King. Bed!”

“Nothing will hold them together, one of us is just going to fall between-”

A thunderous, rebellious crack interrupted him as Majima got the bed through the hole.

Kiryu watched Majima roll vindicated flips across the almost intimidating length of the two beds. He looked around at the chaotic state of the room and really thought this was putting a damper on the mood he wanted going into whatever he was going to say to Majima. But, well. This was fun too, and in-keeping with how Majima ran things.

A pair of arms wrapped solidly around his middle and then the world flipped - Kiryu’s chin cracked into his chest as he rolled head over heels to his hands and knees, reflexes encumbered by the restrictive tie of his yukata.

“Did you just – suplex me?!”

“Kiryu-chan, I been real patient.” Majima prowled around the opposite edge of the room, on the hunt. The overhead light shined a smudgy halo on his product-free hair. His eye patch had made a return and his elbow rested by his obi, partially shrugged out of his yukata like a classic tough guy. “It’s been a perfect day. Sex, booze, food, hot baths, all on the tab of someone you hate. Just, I can’t stop thinkin’ yer still holdin’ somethin’ back.”

Kiryu realized belatedly that the furniture around the room formed an arena, blocking access to any exit save for the bedroom. And the way Majima was psyching himself up, his twitching expression and spark-bright energy - he knew this script. It was the first thing they’d written together.

“You couldn’t get it out back at the springs, or the restaurant office before that. We’ve hashed out some real shit, and we’ve fucked enough that you shouldn’t be half as repressed now as ya were back then. So why’re ya still makin’ faces like ya haven’t shit in days?”

Kiryu wrinkled his nose at the image but thought again how amazing it was that Majima could get such an accurate read on him while he was still being blindsided by Majima picking fights. It was shameful, on his part. He had to make it up to him.

He stood and flung his yukata off in a motion, rolling his shoulder blades to stretch out his ink, warming up his range of motion around the bullet holes. “I do want something from you.”

Majima threw his own yukata off, down to a pair of black boxers and the snakes on his shoulders. He flipped his gifted tantō around and pulled it back to his ear like an archer’s shot. “Well! That makes two of us, then. Ya gonna gimme what I want, Kiryu-chan?”

“Guess we’ll have to find out,” he said, shifting his foot forward, one fist high one fist low; a dragon’s stance.  

They began.

Majima’s feet slapped against the tatami as he ran in, tossing his knife into the air then dancing around Kiryu’s palm strike, twisting such that they brushed parallel for a moment: back to back, mirrored but opposite as Majima aimed for the floor and Kiryu recoiled upwards, heads turning to meet.

Majima braced low to the ground and swept at Kiryu’s foot to get him in place for the dagger strike he began empty-handed and ended fully armed, catching it midair to bite at Kiryu’s front ribs as he barely managed to dodge.

Kiryu’s blood ran hot as he treaded backwards to get the spacing he needed to grab Majima’s knife-hand when he ran forward to strike again, turning his own motion against him as Kiryu twirled beneath their linked hands and kicked Majima’s foot out from under him. Most people would have gone down from that. But Majima…

“Tryna hold my hand again?!” He laughed, flipping fully around back onto his feet with the momentum. He dropped his knife to grab Kiryu’s wrist and tugged him in for a knee to the gut.

“Not just that,” Kiryu wheezed, realizing he could say the things he wanted to say now, easily. This was always how they communicated best anyway. He caught the knee that threatened another winded moment then snaked his arm around Majima’s waist, violently crushing him against his body. “I want to hold all of you-” Kiryu tossed Majima across the room, sent him crashing into the barrier where the moonlight shone through from the sitting room beyond. “And see sights with you,”

Majima stumbled out of the wreck, framed by the mountain scenery at night. “Oh?” He cracked the leg off of a lacquer chair that had seen better days anyway and flipped it around his wrist with the ease of a major league player.

“I want to lie around and do nothing with you, and watch baseball games with you,” he grunted, taking hits against his forearms as Majima twirled the chair leg in punishing, tight circles around his arms like nun chucks.

“Even though you don’t know a pitcher from a catcher?” Majima cackled, and when he swung his makeshift bat again Kiryu caught it with his bare hand.

“I’ll learn, so we can play properly.” He shattered the wood into pieces with a crunch of his palm, and they rained down in front of Majima’s wide, wide grin.

They fought. Testing each other’s strength, pushing each other to greater heights.

Majima pulled out a move Kiryu had never seen on him before, adapting Kiryu’s palm strike into something sharp and quick but just as destructive. It sent him hurling back towards the open bedroom, and Kiryu tried to skid into a flip but his chest seized with pain from his wound, and he tumbled onto his side instead, aching and impressed. He wasn’t quick enough to his feet before Majima landed on top of him, fist poised.

Kiryu closed his eyes and slumped on a pained breath, palms up. Before, he wasn’t certain that this alone would have stopped Majima but now he knew better. Majima only ever leapt into action after Kiryu had consented, every time.

“Hmph,” Majima sighed. His body weight sagged entirely onto Kiryu.

“You get what you wanted?”

“Che. It was a good fight up until your buddy there decided it was over,” he said, and Kiryu heard more than saw the accusing finger Majima hovered over his wound. “No, not yet. But I’m a patient man. I can wait.”

Kiryu must have made a face doubting the accuracy of that statement because Majima’s hands slapped loudly onto the floor by his ears, and his breath fanned warmly across his cheek.

“Because you look like you still got somethin’ to say,” his voice came deep and thick. When Kiryu opened his eyes he was prepared for the gleam of the inevitable second challenge that would follow up this fight. But instead Majima’s expression was something delicate he hadn’t seen in a while. He looked strikingly young when he was uncertain.

Kiryu lifted his hand to Majima’s cheek and slid it under his eye patch, and when he wasn’t stopped, he pushed it clean off. Majima leaned into his palm.

“Ya really wanna do those things you said?”

“Yeah,” Kiryu’s face tinged with a burn.

“But it’s what we’ve been doin’,”

“I want to keep doing it. Even once we go back.”

Majima rubbed the back of his neck and stood and Kiryu followed, heart in his throat. When it came down to it, he was a straightforward guy who tried to say what he meant. He wasn’t good at dressing up his words or obfuscating his intentions, especially not when he finally knew what he wanted. He barreled straight at things.

“I want, you.”

Majima’s reaction happened slowly.

And he wasn’t a man who embarrassed easily. One look at him, the way he dressed and swaggered and fought, and most people would assume he’d been born without a bone of it in his body. Kiryu had thought that too, once upon a time. But then he’d seen him hovering, waiting for Kiryu to kiss him first. And he’d seen him on the second floor of the medicine shop hiding, small and caught in Kiryu’s shadow. And just today he’d seen him picking at the tatami while Kiryu wore his gift.

And they all paled in comparison to seeing him now. Flushing sweetly as a rose, so struck he couldn’t hide a single bit of his reaction. Not the flutter of his eye or the parting of his lips or the reflexive rise of his arms, as if there was something physically between them about to bowl him over.

“Wha-” The exclamation was more a rush of air than voice. “Ya can’t just say that to a guy!”

“Why not? It’s the truth.” Kiryu, confidence overflowing in waves at the sight of him, reached for his raised hands and gently pulled. Majima followed weightlessly. No sly glances, no comments.

Kiryu softly slid the shoji door shut behind them and sat them on the bed. Majima moved as if through molasses. “What’s this? Huh? What?”

No longer worried about inflicting intimacies, Kiryu bent his head low and flicked his eyes up beneath his brow and brought Majima’s knuckles to his lips. Majima was already red but now he was red.

“Oh my god!” He whisper-yelled, looking like he’d finally returned to his body.

Kiryu ran a hand up his thigh to his chest and Majima’s skin broke out in shivers. He gripped suddenly at Kiryu’s biceps, hanging on for dear life as he was guided down. Majima had no defense against Kiryu’s straight forward admissions.

Majima laughed breathlessly, with a note of trepidation mixed in as he stared and stared. “This ain’t gonna be just a fuck, is it?”

Kiryu kissed him, deeply. There was no hurry, no desperation in the way their tongues slid, the way his lips dragged as their jaws worked in tandem.

Kiryu palmed his way around the body of the only man to have driven him to his limits, time and time again, in ways that were hard to think about when that man was thrumming to life beneath him. Majima’s energy seeped out from the tips of his fingers where he blazed trails down Kiryu’s back with his nails, and from his thighs where he bracketed Kiryu in, squeezing tightly up his legs, to his hips, then back again in movement with no other purpose than to feel, closely.

They moved like that for a while, just shifting bodies and hitching breath – far longer than Kiryu ever thought Majima would let him. But Majima was the one holding tight with an arm slung around his neck, pressed together at every joint like he couldn’t stand to be anything other than a single being.  

Kiryu’s already overworked heart jumped when he pulled back to see Majima’s raw expression. “What’s this gonna be, Kiryu?”

Kiryu pulled their underwear off while Majima clung to him fiercely, determined not to let Kiryu get away with silence. They’d done this before, but not when everything was spilling out into the open between them uncontrollably.

“If you’ll let me,” Kiryu began, reaching for the night-stand. Majima tore open a condom and rolled it onto Kiryu with hands that shook, slightly. Kiryu pressed his coated fingers into him and he could feel the quiver there, too. Or maybe it was his own hand that betrayed him.

Kiryu leaned over Majima, considering the powerful man willingly laid bare before him. Majima hungrily took his own fill, eye lingering on the sharp jut of his collarbones, the swell of his breast, down to his thickened cock, sitting heavy beside Majima’s. Back up again to Kiryu’s eyes, darkened with anticipation. Being so vulnerable to the man below him, knowing Majima could tear him apart with his hands or with the right words was a harrowing experience especially on the edge of what he was trying to say.

Kiryu said, “If you’ll have me, I’d like to make love to you,”

About halfway through his sentence like he’d seen it coming and still couldn’t contain his reaction, Majima’s breath emptied. He looked like he was flipping through a million things to say in the eternity he imposed on Kiryu, then he gave up on his own words and nodded minutely, throat working.

Kiryu hadn’t fully understood how nervous he was until he answered, and the smile that settled on his face was all relief. Majima drank it in until he couldn’t take lying still a second longer. He lifted his hips impatiently and Kiryu’s hand fell down to join his, where he guided him inside. Majima’s body stretched searingly hot around Kiryu as he exhaled slowly in the effort of receiving him. “Kiryu-chan,” he whined once he was fully seated, voice cutting out as he swallowed loudly. “Please.”

They moved, one undulating shadow in the dark of the bedroom, the outline of Kiryu’s back muscles rolling with the effort of thrusting his hips into the body below while Majima’s punctuated breaths and moans floated around them. The sounds they made were honest and undignified, distinctly human. Kiryu’s hands made the journey along Majima’s sides, up his arms, his neck, and back down to his hips to control their building rhythm. Majima, for once in the handful of times they’d been together, didn’t try to pick up the pace. His hands wandered too, and he asked for long, languid kisses.

Kiryu didn’t know it’d be like this. Every sigh Majima made was a victory at the end of a long march, every squeeze of his hands an acceptance of this intangible thing that burned brightly between them. It said Kiryu wasn’t alone in this. He’d grown used to being alone with his feelings - he’d never wanted so badly for someone to be there with him, staring down the same frightening beast. He never could have guessed it’d be Majima, but if they were going to take down a beast he wouldn’t have chosen any differently. They were individually terrifying so together they could only be atomic.

Majima’s bangs flopped over his forehead plastered with sweat and Kiryu pushed them back so he could look at him unhindered, down to the very last fleck of his eye.  

“Kiryu-chan – have mercy,” he gasped, trying to pull him into another kiss to no avail. “I’m not gonna last – I’m not gonna last you, my whole life,” he panted deliriously. Kiryu didn’t fully understand but the romantic sentiment it was said with burned at the base of his skull and zipped along his spine to his gut.

Kiryu wrapped an arm beneath Majima’s sweaty back, orgasm bellowing like a distant train. Majima swore and grinded his head back into the pillow, he held on as Kiryu lost control of the pace they’d built together so carefully. His name fell from his lips in a harsh and croaked whimper, Kiryu, meant to be heard by no one but him and Kiryu came to that blindingly like the searing roar of an ocean wave.

He moved to wedge his hand between them but before he could Majima flipped them, each movement a jolt of pleasure.  He looked down on him with a cheeky bow of his lips as Kiryu fully spent himself inside, going slack after Majima had wrung him out. He pulled off, watching him with a question as his fingers trailed down, down, to where Kiryu twitched open and closed. Kiryu managed a surprised nod, admiring his stamina as he prepared them both, stretching Kiryu until he couldn’t take it anymore.

“My turn,” he hummed, a smile in his words. He stayed on his knees as he pulled Kiryu’s body onto his cock with a solid strength, watching the burn of the stretch on Kiryu’s face, adjusting in reaction and rubbing circles on his skin. The pain and pleasure of being so full spiraled as Majima began to move in slow, swelling thrusts. He came down to join him, bracketing his head with his forearms and pressing a kiss to the corner of his eye. It was such an absentminded display of affection that it quietly devastated him.

Kiryu took in the sinewy ripple of muscles that worked from Majima’s stomach to his chest to his inked biceps. The tense quiet of the encounter wasn’t easily broken, but Kiryu couldn’t keep himself silent no matter how hard he tried, deep moans half-stifled. And then neither could Majima, bangs brushing his chin as his head fell on a filthy curse and the mood shifted.

Kiryu’s thighs fell apart as he unraveled, splayed open in the most exposed he’d ever felt. Some fear ran through him suddenly – the weight of this gesture, how he was going to explain these new things to the people he cared about, what it meant for him as a person, it all came crashing into him at once. Here, at the end of the path he’d wanted, there was still fear. But fear was indiscriminate and it lapped against his ribs with each pound of Majima’s hips.

Majima pried Kiryu’s arm from where it had slung across his eyes.  “Why, you tryin’ to hide?” He laughed, and Kiryu should have expected this as he dug down into the weakness to expose it fully. Like he’d been doing all of this time, making him stronger for it. “Ain’t that interestin’. As soon as the tables are flipped ya get a little embarrassed, huh? Bet yer wishin’ you showed me some mercy earlier!”

Kiryu looked off to the side, churning with something he couldn’t control. Last time Majima had been inside of him he hadn’t been so completely bared in basically every way. Majima’s knuckle pressed lightly into the side of his chin to encourage him back, and Kiryu’s whole body throbbed.

“You like this,” Majima brushed his fingers around his leaking cockhead, painfully stiff again. “Ya can’t hide from me. I told you before, there’s no-- escape,” he punctuated his point with a hard thrust that burned Kiryu up from the inside.

“Nii-san,” Kiryu croaked. Majima’s sweaty hands came to grip either side of his face and forced him to look him in the eye as he rubbed at his insides with increasingly harsh movements.

“Kiryu-chan, I’ve got you you’re here with me, we’re in it now, together,” he answered reverently, grip too hard, expression feverish and just a little past gone. This should have frightened Kiryu more, but the familiar sight of the Mad Dog he’d been clashing with for years washed away his fear. He was the same man, even after everything. Kiryu could handle him.

“You’re all mine,” he said ardently, and that simple statement was all it took. Kiryu shook violently into his second orgasm, grasping at Majima’s heaving shoulders as his body went so blissfully tight. Majima’s breathless cackle of delight speared him straight through the heart, and then he was kissing Kiryu messily and coming and coming.

They shuddered together in the aftermath, too tender to do anything except lie there, breathing through waves of pleasure pulsing from where they were joined.

Majima raised his head and he looked like he’d been scrubbed raw, skin pink and glowing. He said, “Ready for round 4?”

Kiryu pushed his face away on a weak half-grunt half-laugh, not quite sure he wasn’t serious.

They moved onto the other bed, away from the egregiously sweat-soaked sheets. Kiryu couldn’t put into words the exact feeling he got when Majima pulled at him under the covers, eager to be close.

Majima adopted a stony face and dropped his voice in mocking imitation. “I want you. If you’ll have me… I’d like to-- make love to you--” he broke off into giggles halfway through his sentence, muffled in Kiryu’s chest.

Maybe the feeling he was trying to name was aggravation, or something even deeper than embarrassment –

But Majima beamed at him. “What a fuckin’ KO of a line, yer the only man who could pull it off. You better not be sayin’ these things to anybody else.”

“Just you,” Kiryu sighed, hand over his face.

Majima slung a proprietary leg over his waist. “Good! I meant what I said!”

“Uh-huh.”

“Don’t act so unimpressed, you nutted immediately-”

“Where is this energy coming from? Aren’t you tired after all of that?”

“The double king bed is nice, eh? Eh?” Majima said, as he proceeded to cling to Kiryu like a limpet, taking up none of the excessive space. Kiryu’s mouth twitched into a smile, overflowing. “I thought so. Hey. You fallin’ asleep already? No fair, I want more pillow talk confessions. Tell me more about how I’m the only guy for you  – hey, Kiryu-chan – ”

*

Kiryu dreamt. Freshly re-minted as a Dojima man, walking around in a suit he’d chosen all on his own, he and Nishikiyama stepped into the entryway at HQ for a family gathering. Kiryu’s back itched uncomfortably like a sunburn – he’d finally begun to get his tattoo filled in with color. If he had a choice, he’d be back in Utabori’s studio at that very moment. He didn’t particularly want to be at the party, but it was duty so he shuttered those feelings.

They mingled amongst other errand boys from various families while the heads met behind closed doors about something or another. Kiryu didn’t care to give a second thought to it, following Nishiki around the room as he reintroduced Kiryu to people he’d definitely beaten down on before. They ignored Kiryu aggressively. Whatever. He could take a cold shoulder or twenty. It’s not like he had joined back up to make friends. Nishiki didn’t have bad blood with them so he was getting on just fine, though. It meant Kiryu was on his own.

Kiryu turned away from his brother as he told some joke to a group of men who wouldn’t make space for Kiryu, some real petty schoolyard bullying. He drifted like an untethered boat to sea, parting people like schools of fish. There was a strange contradiction in the treatment he was getting. It was one thing to be ignored anonymously as some ghostly figure – and Kiryu didn’t especially like that feeling at a party either but he was good at being left to his own devices – but to be ignored in a very intentional way... Kiryu’s chest panged, unwilling to admit or acknowledge its source. It was fine to be feared, if that’s what the issue was. It was better than the alternative. But he couldn’t say he enjoyed the experience or had ever wanted it the same way other gangsters did.

It was fine. Nobody knew him well enough to properly judge. He never had any real friends aside from his brother in the clan even before he went AWOL up its ranks. He wandered over to the open bar, determined to salvage at least one aspect of a terrible night.

The bartender set down his order of whiskey, but before he could reach for it a gloved hand snatched it up. Kiryu’s jaw clenched. He kept his face carefully neutral as he turned his head to see a man knocking back the stolen drink.

Kiryu hadn’t met him personally, but he’d heard the gossip; Bright-eyed and demon-like, bloodthirsty and ruthless. Figures he’d be the one guy with the guts to approach him. “Majima Goro.”

The man leaned backwards on the bar, looking like a panther at rest. He was dressed garishly even for a yakuza but the eye patch lent the costume some actual bite, if it was real. “Kiryu Kazuma,” he drawled, rolling the syllables around like the ice ball in his whiskey. “Fancy seein’ you here.”

Their eyes met and something scrabbled up Kiryu’s spine. It spread pinpricks across his skull, like a full nervous system defensive. He contained his reaction to a curl of his fist by his side. “Can I help you, sir?”

Majima regarded him blankly for a stretch of silence during which Kiryu, ridiculously, began to measure the distance between them in units of fist. He wagered he could get at least one good strike in before – but, no. There was no reason to, besides a small slight. And more importantly Kiryu didn’t want to want to fight. But the way the man was staring at him –

“You look like a man who can hold his own,” Majima reached into his space and lifted his arm by a pinch of his suit cuff, testing its heft and flexibility, and Kiryu was too shocked to do anything about it. He dropped his arm and circled like Kiryu was a horse he was considering for purchase. “Kuze and Shibusawa didn’t stand a chance.”

Kiryu tried to relax. He was no stranger to unwarranted aggression but he couldn’t let his temper get the better of him every time some punk picked a fight, if he was going to last in the yakuza. He couldn’t use this as an excuse. Even if he wanted to. And this man wasn’t just some punk, he outranked him. He’d be getting his own family soon. So he had to keep it polite.

“They were respectable adversaries,” he said. Majima’s eye narrowed at something he heard in his voice that Kiryu hadn’t meant to inject.

“Whadda load, say what you really mean. They left ya desperate for a real fight.” Majima’s face tightened with a smile too sharp and fragile-looking to be comfortable. His expression was like watching a muscle straining to keep working after it’d been pushed beyond its limits.

“I don’t enjoy fighting.”

Majima burst out laughing, a sound as pleasant as nails on a chalkboard. The men around them flinched like trained animals and a circle of space began to form around them. “Do you hear the garbage comin’ outta yer mouth? You have to enjoy it otherwise ya wouldn’t’ve done things the way you did. At least own up to it.” He gave Kiryu an openly appraising sweep of his eye, and it slimmed into a sly crescent. “Ain’t nothin’ to be ashamed of.”

Kiryu felt the stab of his words slice deeper than he would have liked. They were right in a way, and wrong in a way that he struggled to articulate. He just knew he had tried to do what he thought was best.

Kiryu took a closer look at the man everyone called the Mad Dog of Shimano. Clean-shaven, high cheekbones, dark lips with a delicate cupid’s bow. He looked, in a word, exact. If he was a wound he’d be a cut so thin you wouldn’t realize it pierced beyond the nerves until you pulled the skin apart and saw bone. The way everyone talked about him he’d expected more of a jagged slash. But his eye held a certain humor alongside the aggressive something simmering beneath his words. Like the two of them were in on some joke nobody else understood. Maybe that’s why he suddenly thought people didn’t know Majima Goro like they didn’t know Kiryu Kazuma.

“And if I did? Enjoy it?” Kiryu ventured. He didn’t even have the excuse of drink.

Majima’s face lit up in a rictus of mirth. “Now yer gettin’ it, that’s the right question! Wanna give it a go?” His voice dropped as low as the earth beneath them, cavernous and dangerous. That he could shift so quickly between extremes jarred Kiryu so much his stomach flipped.

Kiryu’s other fist curled at his side, and he didn’t respond. For some reason he got the feeling that no matter what he said, this man had decided how this encounter was going to go before they’d even started talking. He couldn’t say he wasn’t eager to release whatever Majima had kicked up in him, too. The night was more than salvageable. It might have even just become memorable.

A hush of anticipation settled in the crowd like a pack of prey animals watching to see what was waiting just beyond the tall grass.

“Well?” Majima produced a tantō from somewhere, idly twirling it as he backed away, arms spread wide in invitation. Kiryu found himself pushing away from the bar, getting into position as he tried and failed to talk himself down from it. “You gonna fight me, Kiryu-chan?”

He’d imagined Majima Goro to be a man of at least some honor after what he’d done for Makoto but maybe he’d been wrong. An honorable man didn’t pick a fight over nothing for fun in the middle of HQ. The way he was looking at Kiryu like a piece of meat was not the look of a sane man, either. Worse, it flared to life something in his chest. Something that he was always fighting to keep down.

He should have turned and walked away. It’s what a well-behaved and less stubborn man would have done. But he couldn’t turn down the challenge. Kiryu raised his fists, and when Majima grinned eagerly he felt an answering smile twist in his cheek, despite his best efforts. His heart roared to life.

“If that’s what you want, Majima-no-nii-san.”

He rushed forward.

 

Chapter Text

Kiryu walked down the quiet road to the house, alone. The early morning hung crisply in the entryway when he unlocked the door and walked inside. As before and as always, the air in the house stubbornly remained undisturbed as he moved across the floor like a ghost walking through a past life.

He gathered up their leftover belongings from the time they’d spent there after getting kicked out of the ryokan a few days early for basically everything they’d done. He swept and did one last clean of the house, making sure to clear out the fridge and safely pack away the tea Hiroko had given him. He’d come to enjoy it.

They hadn’t spent much more than a month in the house but the events that had taken place during his stay had so thoroughly impacted his life that Kiryu was questioning his perception of time. Whatever was in the air here, it had snapped him up like wildfire. And he was going to miss it, just a bit.

He took one last look at the curling green wallpaper, the old darkened wood of the doorways, the cozy warmth of the living room that persisted despite the chill. He had never used the kitchen to funnel enemies, or the escape route from the second floor window. The fight had never come to this place in the way he’d been prepared for but he’d been smoothed over within its walls like a stone on the beach regardless. He closed the door, and locked it with a click.

“Finally,” Majima awaited him at the gates of the bullet train station, held cigarette dangling from his wrist limply. He’d replaced his eye patch with some sunglasses for the last stretch of their stay and had taken to wearing Kiryu’s blood-stained scarf draped around his head and shoulders in the cold, looking like a very dangerous and exasperated housewife.

“Don’t be ungrateful, you left one of your eye patches.” Kiryu picked up their bags and walked through the gates, effortlessly guiding them to their train.

“Granny says goodbye again, by the way. Even though you two already said yer farewells. I think she’s playin’ favorites here. Shame I couldn’t find Junior to see if he had any last words.” Majima laid out a hand-wrapped bento on his seat tray and released it eagerly. “Eel.”

“I’ll take that,” Kiryu stole his chopsticks and inhaled half of the food before Majima could react.

“The hell is wrong with you you animal you’ve got yer own in there too!” Majima elbowed him back into his seat, giving him an affronted once-over that Kiryu smirked at.

He spotted Mt. Fuji approaching in the distance, a titan of the earth. It reminded him of the first day he’d sat on the same train in the opposite direction, awed by the scale of the mountain that he would have slept through if not for his unexpected companion. Majima had known even then that Kiryu would be on the same train with him. Which, now that he thought about it…

“Why were you down in Kyoto exactly?”

“Huh? For work, obviously.”

“Hiroko-san said she didn’t know you were coming. And you knew my exact seat and train. Odd for it to just line up like that.”

Majima paused, cheeks bulging with rice, and shot Kiryu a look that still managed to be extraordinarily guilty. He swallowed.

“That’s normal ain’t it -- what you think I don’t know when yer skippin’ town or somethin’ that’s completely normal, regular, Majima-”

Kiryu just stared.

“-Alright so maybe, maybe I casually reminded Dojima about the hideout when I heard you were in some trouble. And maybe even though I didn’t necessarily, strictly have to fix shit in person, once I heard he was actually sendin’ you I mighta followed-”

Kiryu stared, harder. “W-what? Are you kidding me -”

Majima held his hands up in defense. “I didn’t know it was the Kawanos you were in hot water with! I just thought it’d be fun to get some quality Kiryu-chan time!”

Kiryu’s face was so pinched he thought it might never recover. “So the whole reason I was down there… was you.”

“Not the WHOLE reason let’s not get hyperbolic here. I had nothin’ to do with Junior targeting you for his big fuckin’, idol debut, or whatever. And I didn’t know Dojima’d actually go for it, I just greased a few palms. And look where it got us! Now we can grease each other’s palms and more, all we want.”

Kiryu pressed his head back against the seat. It was ludicrous to even think about. Incredulous laughter bubbled out of his throat and back up his nose in a snort.

“Don’t you dare start that goofy laugh up now, we’re in public have some goddamn dignity,” Majima warned, already fighting down his reaction with a wobbly smile. All of that trouble and emotional turmoil and in the end, it had started with Majima. Kiryu couldn’t help it. It was too much to dwell on; how his entire world had been flipped upside down at Majima’s whim, how it’d backfired so spectacularly on the man himself. How they’d fallen together, regardless. So he just laughed.

They pulled into Tokyo just as the sun was beginning to set between the tall buildings, reflecting it into geometric slants that landed on the outdoor platform. Kiryu emerged, a little battered and bruised from the entire trip. Growing pains, he thought.

“I’m this way,” Kiryu said, lingering by the steps to the subway train that’d take him to his apartment. The moment was upon them.

“I know where you live,” Majima said like he was offended Kiryu had thought otherwise, even though he was absolutely certain he’d never told Majima his address. They fell into a strange silence, the weight of being back in the city of their history making itself known. Majima pushed his scarf aside and rubbed at his neck, and Kiryu watched the faceless crowd passing behind them.

He thought it was awfully silly of them.

Kiryu stepped forward into his space, too close to be anything but intimate. “You want to come over?”

“Yes.” Majima pouted. “But I gotta chat with the bossman. You could meet me afterwards at the office. Give the boys a real scare, they’d like that.”

Kiryu nodded. “Ok. I’ll see you later then.” It wasn’t a question.

“I’ll find you first,” Majima promised gruffly, pushing his sunglasses up to drive it home with the gleam in his eye. Kiryu did not doubt him. He tugged Majima’s scarf back into place affectionately, and contained himself to that. They were in the city that knew them, after all.

Apparently nobody told Majima. He surged forward and kissed him with the force of a blow. Kiryu received it, stunned beyond the clack of teeth for a moment before relaxing into it - Majima was full of surprises, but he probably should have seen this coming too.

As quickly as it had started Majima pushed him away, sunglasses back in place. “Now get,” he flapped his hand as Kiryu turned and took the steps up to the platform three at a time, filled to the brim with energy. He turned back to look at the top and Majima flapped his hand again vehemently and the set of his mouth told Kiryu he was embarrassed at being caught watching.

Kiryu stepped onto the train that would take him home then back again, wanting for nothing.