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no war in anger was ever won

Chapter Text











 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Summer is burning a hole right through Samatoki’s chest.

Summer is especially hellish this year. Like the war was rising up from the piles of dead to punish them for their sins — and wouldn’t that be exactly what they fucking deserve? Tempers are snapping left and right under the relentless whip of the sun. He’s had to knock sense into his runners every time they stare at him twice, been triple checking every shadow that’s stupid enough to lurk behind him. But no, it’s not that — it’s something else rattling fight, fight, fight, at the back of Samatoki’s head.

Rumours of a division battle are humming restless along the wire. Every division is rippling with ugly possibility, the change of power; ripe to spill the violence that’s been bubbling inside ever since those women sewed it all up.

And violence seems to be all that Samatoki knows these days.

Cracked across his knuckles, ripped raw from his throat — nobodies and upstarts and bastards, all here to eat their fill of him. But they just don’t get it. It has to be until the end of the line, or nothing.

Red sun on the streets. Red sun in his eyes, light bleeding red all over the exploded flowers that pattern his shirt. Even the light cotton does little to help with the heat. The fabric sticks to him in all the worst places and he wants nothing more than to rip it off, rip off his own skin that suddenly feels too hot and tight and wrong. Lately he’s been waking up like he’s drowning, a sliver of something lodged right there in between the second and third rib of his left side, sunk so deep he’s gasping for breath. It sits on his chest like an impossible weight — the hazy leftovers of a future he’s been dreaming about for years, soft laughter a memory that vanishes under the heat of this terrible sun that just doesn’t know when to quit.

Like how some fucking people just never knew when to fucking quit.

The house has been empty for so long. Samatoki doesn’t want to think about a future that doesn’t fit him anymore.

The cigarette burns idly on his lip, a tiny rebellious spark. And maybe the future is just this, just him fighting weakly against the sun and the whole world trying to burn him to ash. They think just because he’s young, that he’s been down on the ground, they can fuck around with him. Well. Payment has been late two times now with these runners, and it seems someone needs a friendly reminder of who’s boss.

The sun slices a thin line across the dark glass of the storefront, empty but for the shadow of summer trees, the glitter of the street lights coming to life— three men moving up behind him. That traitorous sliver worms its way through his chest, plucking up his heart along the way, and the dying light ignites something so uncontrollable inside him, it’s like his bones have grown too sharp to be kept under his skin any longer, like he can rip out his ribs and carve from these bastards every single thing that’s been— that’s been missing.

The hypnosis mic stays silent. The cigarette ashes. Samatoki is faster than the sunlight dipping under the sky and the hiss of his cigarette burning a perfect circle into the skin of one of the men is the only word he needs, the rhythm of his right swing all it takes to drop the second, and then the third. He doesn’t feel their knives. He doesn’t really feel anything at all except the way his fists thump heavy and sure, the way his bones are roaring to be free.

There’s screaming, somewhere. The drip of his blood hitting the pavement echoes like the broken tap in the kitchen that he never quite managed to fix. The swell of his lip might as well be music.

Somewhere in between the blink of the setting sun and the rising moon, a blue diamond-patterned scarf tucked into a back pocket clips into view and— his fist connects to a nose and the breaking bone is like soft laughter and suddenly, out from the haze, everything becomes clear. Blue diamonds. A shitty little gang in Yokohama, trying to take back their territory the old-fashioned way.

A shitty little gang, full of shitty little men and their shitty little lives and their violence. The kind that’s just going to cause him a whole new set of headaches. This is really the last thing he needs right now. His anger goes flat, just like that. He’s tired. He hasn’t slept well in days.

Another knife flashes in the low light. Samatoki doesn’t even care anymore. Lets it eat into his ribs, watches the man’s eyes go wide in surprise. Pain flares bright and raw and all too real through him, filling in all that empty space with red. The only real thing in this unreal twilight, finally waking him up.

And then he turns and runs like some kind of fucking coward.

 

 

*

 

 

Alleys, side streets; the thin stream of pavement eventually pouring into the nameless river of the downtown crowds of Shinjuku. Jyuto’s voice had been cool in his ear as Samatoki ran with a phone tucked against his shoulder: Lay low outside of Yokohama while I make arrangements. I know a guy, or two, or three. You know how it is. I’ll contact you when things have cooled off.

The 7/11 sign overhead flickers yellow and hums. Teenagers scuff their sneakers and yell something indecipherable across the lot. Blood continues to slowly bloom under the handkerchief pressed against Samatoki’s side, the little pink flowers picked out along the hem flooded dark and red, and he grits his teeth against the feel of bone bumping up under his hand. Jakurai wouldn’t turn him away if he knocked at his door — that had always been Jakurai’s kindest and worst flaw.

A blue diamond scarf flutters at the corner of Samatoki’s vision. Those slimy bastards. This should have been neutral ground. He slides into the mouth of an alley that runs along the 7/11 and lets the darkness swallow him up.

“Hey! Watch it!” Sneakers skidding over gravel. “Samatoki?

Samatoki has heard it a hundred times. He’s heard it a thousand times. He’s heard it rattling his brain restlessly while he sleeps, until all he can do is wake up with anger knifing through him, and nothing but silence, silence everywhere.

Silence that floods like ice water into the tight space between them.

It’s been a while. Ichiro is taller now. His hair just a little longer. Boyish shoulders that have filled out so much in this short time, and it should be annoying how Ichiro grows and grows, and keeps growing so big and bold away from him but— there’s something that burns fierce and clear in those mismatched eyes, more than before, and Samatoki knows it for exactly what it is.

The thing that had burnt them both down.

Samatoki’s hand strays to the hypnosis mic tucked against his side. A snarl twists his mouth as blood seeps between his fingers.

You.” It’s all he has. It’ll have to be enough.

Nothing moves Ichiro. Not like this. There’s just this now too tall boy staring at him, that fire going flat and hard in his eyes, and Samatoki wants to punch that light right out. Be done with it all. But Ichiro’s hands are empty as he offers them up, like he’s trying to tame some fucking wild animal

“I saw them. That gang that’s looking for you. They’re on the move.”

“Fuck you!”

“Fuck you.” Ichiro’s hands ball up into fists. Samatoki’s lip twitches. There it is. “Jakurai-san has patients, I was just there. Go to him, and you paint a target on all of ‘em. But nobody would ever believe you came to me.” Ichiro turns the fire of his gaze back on him, and it’s like the sun flares red hot against the back of Samatoki’s neck in this dark clammy alley. “Not anymore.”

“I don’t need your help, brat.”

Dried blood tickles the skin in between Samatoki’s fingers and he grits his teeth against the pain scraping against his ribs. Of all the times.

“Do whatever you fucking want then!” Ichiro turns away but Samatoki catches it anyway, something stupid and young that flits across Ichiro’s face that he’s trying to hide behind his messy bangs. It’s been years, but it suddenly feels like no time has passed at all. “But if you die before I get to beat you, I’ll never forgive you!”

The wall of Ichiro’s back is like a thousand years of ice, but his fingers reaching out are warm against Samatoki’s arm, tugging back the way Ichiro came. Toward Ikebukuro. Toward home.

And maybe this was it, too, the sun always flaring up too bright, insistent on burning him down to the ground, and Samatoki somehow, somehow, for some stupid reason, goes along with him anyway.

 

 

*

 

 

The crumbling front steps of Yorozuya Yamada, the store sign painted in clumsy broad strokes shoved in the window, the piles of manga stacked messily with old receipts tucked in between pages to keep the place — it’s the same. It’s all the fucking same.

But Ichiro’s hands are gentle as he cleans the dried blood from Samatoki’s wound.

Black, to red, to just skin, stretched pale across his naked ribs under the moonlight, and he pretends that Ichiro isn’t looking at him like he might have some kind of answer to give, the way it used to be.

 

 

*

 

 

Sleep doesn’t come easy. But it never really does. At least the anger simmering in his chest is familiar, comforting. Samatoki could never sleep his anger away, never understood people who could. If you care, you just care, morning or night, summer or winter. Dead or alive.

If you can just let something go so easily, did it really matter in the first place at all?

Also, the ratty old couch in the common room is as cramped and lumpy as hell. Pain shoots down his neck. Samatoki doesn’t need to open his eyes to know that early morning light is cutting through the room without mercy, and he desperately needs a smoke to dull the pounding in his brain.

“When did nii-chan pick up such a dirty stray?”

“Ichi-nii is too kind! Maybe we should get rid of him so he doesn’t bother Ichi-nii any more than he already has.”

Samatoki blinks the sun spots from his eyes.

Two sets of mismatched eyes look down at him and blink back in unison.

He snarls at Jiro and Saburo before he can help himself. Almost laughs right in Saburo’s face as his mouth goes flat and tight. This stupid middle schooler making tough faces like he’s seen anything of the world at all. But isn’t this is just what he fucking needed right now before he got a bite to eat, or even a smoke — every brat coming out of the walls and piling up around him.

“Hey! He’s still a guest in our home! Play nice!”

Two heads dip and howl as Ichiro strides into the room, smacking both of his brothers on the back of the head so smoothly, Samatoki is a little impressed.

“A guest, huh,” he growls, instead.

“But it’s nice to see you both get along for once!”

Ichiro’s big grin, Ichiro’s feet shuffling in house slippers, Ichiro’s hair still a little rumpled from sleep — it’s all so defenseless. How can he be so open like this, with an enemy under his roof?

A yawn ripples Ichiro’s mouth and his hand quiets it, quiets the grin into something small and hidden. Tired at the edges. Feet continue to shuffle on their way to what Samatoki supposes is the kitchen.

All of this is just another morning for him. This is just Ichiro’s normal now.

Something pinches hard inside Samatoki’s chest. How long has it been since—

Fuck. He desperately needs that cigarette now.

“Whatever,” Jiro mumbles as he slumps over the back of the couch. His face is especially sour. Samatoki remembers when it had been sweeter. But maybe that was the problem — Jiro would remember the most from back then, too.

Samatoki throws it back anyway. “Doesn’t a brat like you have school to go to?” He pats around the thin blanket over his lap for his cigarettes.

“Jiro is too stupid to go to school,” Saburo smirks.

“What did I say about playing nice, Saburo?” Ichiro yells from the tiny kitchen. A clatter and a swear as something falls.

“It’s okay, Ichi-nii, I’ll buy bread from the cafeteria today!” Saburo heads toward the door, hefting his school bag over his shoulder. He takes one last look at Samatoki. “Ichi-nii took your cigarettes away. No smoking in the house allowed.”

“Says they’re gross,” Jiro adds as Saburo calls a farewell to Ichiro and the door closes. Jiro’s eyes narrow and he bares his teeth in what he thinks is a threatening glare. Samatoki resists the urge to poke his cheek. Definitely a brat. “You’re gross. Don’t try anything again with nii-chan, or I’ll kill you.”

Samatoki allows himself a sharp grin. “Pretty sure it was your precious nii-chan that—”

“Jiro!” Ichiro is standing in the doorway with a pale blue apron tied around his waist. “If you have nothing better to do, go do that thing at Nakamura’s!” He glares at Samatoki but his cheeks are flushed red. “We’ll have breakfast ready when you’re back.”

Jiro shoots him one more dirty look before leaving and Samatoki can’t help but think, Nemu-chan would never

Tch. I never agreed to helping.” Samatoki plants his feet, looking around for his clothes. He’s in nothing but his boxer-briefs and some horrific anime t-shirt that Ichiro had thrown his way to sleep in. The t-shirt still smells like Ichiro — something else that hasn’t changed after all these years. Cheap soap, green apple, a clean sharp scent like ozone burning away at the edge of your senses. Samatoki tries to squash the feeling that threatens to knife him in the gut again.

Ichiro hands him another apron. It’s bright orange with a chubby little black bird on it. Samatoki glowers, wants to throw it right back in Ichiro’s stupid smirking face, but— better this than whatever of Ichiro’s anime girls is currently splashed across his chest.

“Put your pants on, we’re making omurice!”

Turns out, Ichiro really fucking sucks at them.

Samatoki eyes the ugly and misshapen lump. He can’t believe this is the kid that once threatened to beat him. He huffs, reaches to grab the pan from Ichiro but— what were they trying to play at? The memory that comes with Jiro’s sour face curdles in the pit of his stomach, sitting uneasy.

The clank of the pan clumsily hitting the counter, the sizzle and smell of gently cooking eggs, miso simmering on the burner — familiar, far away, the same way he used to make them for Nemu-chan before sending her off to school. The entire weight of it strikes a feeling so immeasurably like grief in him that his hands start to shake. Here in this shabby little kitchen with its cracked walls and mismatched cookware, the morning sunlight flooding it golden is almost beautiful because it feels like a home.

Samatoki feels the weight in him snap in half.

“You’re making a mess!” It’s Ichiro, it’s always been Ichiro, a wall that sprung up when the world changed. “Get out of the fucking way and take care of the miso. Or watch and learn something for once!”

A smooth roll of the wrist, the pan tilted just so. Ichiro is at his shoulder, looking at him intently as he idly stirs the miso, taking it all in — like this is where they were always supposed to end up, in this stupid kitchen making ugly omelettes. Ichiro is warmer than sunlight, the dip of his sleeves against Samatoki’s elbow an invisible string that keeps pulling, pulling him in against that warmth. He can feel Ichiro’s breath against his ear, it’s so close, soft and slow, like he has nothing to fear at all.

The anger is tiring, but sometimes it’s all Samatoki has, and like hell he’s going to give anything else up. But. The day hasn’t dissolved into a smothering heat yet, and the warmth—

The warmth can be nice, sometimes.

Another perfect omelette gets rolled onto a plate, Ichiro silent the entire time. Maybe he has grown up enough to know that a single word would tip this delicate thing into the water. But Samatoki understands it for what it is. Refuses to look at the face he knows Ichiro is making, the lips curved into an easy smile, the eyes sleepy — gentle and hazy with memory.

But in Samatoki’s experience, some things are just meant to be broken. He digs in. “You often send Saburo to school without breakfast, huh?”

Ichiro flushes. “I— I’m—” His elbows pull back, tuck in close to the body. He looks even younger like this. Closed off, more vulnerable. Samatoki’s arms grows cold, all at once, and it prickles ice all the way across his back. Sunlight to shadows.

Tch.”

The last of the eggs sizzles in the pan.

“I lost so much time,” Ichiro says softly. He’s staring at the omelette cooking, cooking too long, it’s going to burn but the weight is back in Samatoki’s throat and he feels like he can’t move. “With Jiro and Saburo. I had to leave ‘em behind, but the entire time I was trying to bring ‘em home, I never learned how to do it right. I spent so much time thinking about the future, I forgot about the little things. And they deserve that, a big brother who can build them a real home with all the little things like… like this.”

It just pours out of Ichiro, sudden, overwhelming, like the words have been waiting for the right person to spill into, and when Samatoki turns to look at him, it’s like Ichiro is so filled up with all this morning light, too, that there was never really any room for anything else at all.

But when someone walks with their head always turned up, always facing a brighter future, sometimes they can’t help but step on those they can’t see underfoot.

“What the fuck do you think this is, idiot?” The morning suddenly feels so unreal. How did he get here? Who is this older Ichiro he met in a dark alley, who brought him here in this kitchen lit up so bright with sunlight?

“It’s not bad, is it?” Ichiro is smiling, a boyish smile, a young smile, the one he used to turn toward Samatoki when he was sure he had done good. “I’m learning and I’m going to get it right this time.”

The weight is a memory. The weight is a feeling. Samatoki won’t fall for that again. Optimism is for fools. The future is for people who know what true sacrifice is, whose ideals are strong enough to survive.

The omelette turns black and bitter. Samatoki rolls it and slides it on top of the plate anyway with a stuttered flick of the wrist.

“I’m leaving.” Fuck all of this. “Next time I see you, you’ll realise you haven’t learned anything yet.”

 

 

*

 

 

Everything aches. His neck hurts from his bad night’s sleep, the knife wound is a raw burning red line across his stomach — what should be a reminder that he still needs to hear from Jyuto, but all it does is make him think of Ichiro’s gentle hands from the night before.

Somehow that’s a thousand times worse than the idea of getting shanked if he goes back home.

Ichiro’s room is simple, most of the space taken up by the unmade futon. Samatoki doesn’t want to stroll back to Yokohama with a titty girl shirt, but it looks like Yamada laundry day is doing him dirty.

“Hey grumpy titties, it’s time to eat!”

“Watch your fucking mouth!”

Ichiro easily slides past him and pulls a pair of sweatpants and a plain t-shirt out from behind a pile of books. Samatoki is a split second away from punching that cocky grin off Ichiro’s mouth.

“I’m not wearing your dirty laundry.” Samatoki grinds his teeth.

“Hey! It’s clean! What do you take me for?”

Samatoki scowls at the pile of clothing. “A disgusting brat who never learned how to—”

And of course his stomach growls like a fucking traitor.

“You sure you want to leave?” Ichiro smirks. “There’s breakfast waiting on the table.”

“Don’t treat me like one of your kids!” He finally yanks the clothes on, lets the cotton of the t-shirt muffle him as he hisses, “Brocon.

Sometimes you just have to take the small wins where you can get them.

Jiro is sitting on the arm of the couch with a plate, jittering impatiently. His eyes snap immediately onto Ichiro but Samatoki can read the incline of his head toward him. He stalls.

“Got that info you wanted from Nakamura, nii-chan!” Jiro’s eyes are lazy, but the line of his back tenses like a kid caught, and Samatoki has seen plenty of that before. “Aohitsugi Nemu was seen in class this morning, unaffected by the wave of gang violence in Yokohama last night.”

A line of sunlight cuts white and shrill across the floor. It traces along the common room flooded with morning sun on one side, and the little hallway on the other side where Samatoki freezes. Another world entirely, untouched by sun. “Don’t you dare.”

Ichiro shrugs, grabbing a plate off the low table. “We put an ear out. I thought you might want to know. I’m not heartless.”

“Nii-chan did you a great favour! You should thank him!” Jiro mumbles his thanks for the meal at Ichiro, rice scattering from the omurice as he stuffs his mouth. “Hey, these are really good, the best ones yet!”

It’s like his body is on automatic. The warm plate in his hands, the food burning in Samatoki’s mouth; but he swallows it down anyway. He doesn’t want to owe Ichiro anything, but the itching of his wound is already reminding him of otherwise.

 

 

*

 

 

Jyuto calls him after breakfast.

Just a couple more days. Things got tricky, but you’ll get the word.

 

 

*

 

 

Samatoki finds his cigarettes stuffed under Ichiro’s pillow. Idiot. He avoids him for the rest of the morning, sitting on the doorstep, smoking cigarette after cigarette to dull his restless nerves — he’s not used to being forced down to the ground like this. The sun is burning a black hole into this brain but he doesn’t want to go inside, the idea of walls so stifling and terrible he’d rather wither to ash in the open air of the street instead.

Morning dips into afternoon when he sees a familiar figure coming up the street. Shouldn’t kids be walking home with their friends? Nemu-chan always had at least one or two girls in tow, giggling at the gate as they bid her goodbye.

But Saburo walks with a distracted air, and alone. What a weird kid.

Samatoki continues to smoke. He’s turning rhymes over in his head — the rhythm of Ikebukuro is completely different from Yokohama, and he feels it already seeping into his bones as a new tune. Something to use, maybe.

Saburo stops right in front of him. His eyes flash. “If you’re going to freeload off of Ichi-nii, you should at least welcome me home properly, you know.”

Everything is so stupid hot and his t-shirt is soaked through with sweat, but Samatoki suddenly finds that he has the patience for this weird, lonely kid.

Tch. Welcome home, then.”

“Ask me how school was!”

Sure, why not. “How were your classes today—” It’s so instinctive, the familiar question, the rhythm of welcoming home, he can’t help himself, “Saburo-chan.”

Saburo’s eyes are dagger slits; his smile even worse. “I did perfect on my math quiz, Mr Hardcore-niichan!”

“Call me that one more time and I’m gonna beat the shit out of you.”

“Can I show you my math quiz, Yokohama Bad Boy-niichan? You’ll be so proud of me, Samatoki-niichan-san-sama!”

This kid is so weird. Was he even related to Ichiro at all? Samatoki blows smoke into the air. “Nevermind. Don’t care. Fuck off.”

The heat must have made Samatoki sluggish, because Saburo is quick to pluck the carton of cigarettes off the doorstep on his way in, dancing away as Samatoki slaps at his legs, laughing a stupid, bratty little laugh. “I’m telling Ichi-nii!”

But it’s a young laugh. Happy to be— here. Home.

As explosive and chaotic as it is. Samatoki can hear the moment Saburo runs into Jiro, a tangle of yells dropping down over his head like a cloud to hang there like the growing storm of a headache.

This is cute? Is Ichiro out of his mind? How can he even compare these two idiots to Nemu-chan?”

It’s muttered, but the sudden shadow looming over him huffs loudly. “It’s gap moe! You wouldn’t understand, you siscon weirdo!”

“Great, it’s the third idiot.” But he can’t help the smile that slips to the edge of his teeth.

A cold can of Coke is pressed against his forehead, chasing away the gathering headache. Samatoki shivers despite himself. It’s pleasant and perfect.

“Pick yourself up. We can’t leave you here, and the Animate specials await for no man.”

No fucking way. “No fucking way.”

“Oh, fucking yes,” Ichiro grins, and there it is, feral and familiar, right up in his face like a fight Ichiro’s ready to win, and Samatoki’s body does that stupid, stupid thing where he can feel all of his blood burning red hot in his cheeks and in his chest and at the very tip of his fingers, where they’re touching Ichiro’s as he grabs the can. He shivers again. Hot and cold. He probably hates this season most.

“If anybody recognises me with you, I’ll kick your fucking ass,” Samatoki spits out from between his teeth.

“Not if I kick yours first.” That smile, all fangs. Fight, fight, fight.

This close, Ichiro smells nothing of cheap soap or green apples. It’s just warm skin a little sweaty and sweet with the summer air, and the ice cold drink going down Samatoki’s throat does nothing to help with the hot weather at all.

 

 

*

 

 

Ichiro is different, like this. He always walks tall, but— it’s like the stupider the arguments between the brothers, the bigger the weight that lifts off his shoulders.

And their arguments are just so, so stupid.

Samatoki walks a step behind the three of them, a stick of strawberry Pocky instead of a cigarette dangling from his lip where Saburo had stuck it in his mouth in disapproval. For some fucking reason, he had just let it happen when Saburo had laughed, clearly delighted. It had been the heat frying his brain, maybe. It had been Nemu-chan’s favourite Pocky flavour, too.

“You just think you’re so freaky smart, huh, but it’s obvious in episode nine—”

Saburo and Jiro are digging into each other again. It’s all white noise, like cicada in the trees. Almost pleasant enough that he can forget for a moment that every time Ichiro’s eyes wander over his shoulder, it was like another spark settling in the pit of Samatoki’s stomach, piling deep, deeper, ready to just explode.

A car scatters gravel as it takes the corner a little fast, breaks the reverie as he almost bumps into the back of Ichiro’s hair.

Ichiro’s head whips around. “Samatoki?”

It’s instinct, it’s absolutely instinct, Samatoki’s arm shooting out to pull Saburo back from the road. But Jiro had been one step closer to the curb, body angled to block Saburo’s path from danger. And the idiots didn’t even stop arguing for a single second.

It aches suddenly, all of it so fucking normal and so completely fucking ridiculous that Samatoki wants to— he stops. They’re almost there. They’re almost to the Animate. The green trees of West Gate Park are poking the skyline at their backs and it’s just clusters of girls noisy and excited around them, and the entire time he had been breathing free, lungs open, nothing piercing through his ribs at all. The late afternoon sun paints the storefronts red and for once it feels like exactly just that. Light.

“Hey you! Best option: Asuka or Rei?” Jiro is looking down at him, or at least trying to. It’s almost cute how hard he’s trying.

Saburo sneers at Jiro. “A connoisseur knows the true answer is Misato.”

“Answer correctly, your life depends on it!”

The sun hits him right in the eyes but it’s hard to look away, Ichiro looking at him like he’s about to laugh, the lock of his eyes not breaking — and that’s when he realises that Ichiro’s ears are pale and smooth. No earrings. Not even a scar. Like the pinprick of red that had marked him all those years ago had never really mattered at all.

Something twists deep inside but Samatoki refuses to look away. If you care, you just care. “Kaworu.”

“Kaworu? Kaworu?” Jiro startles so suddenly he’s yelling. “You really watched it? The movies or the entire tv series, huh? Did nii-chan make you watch them? What’s your favourite Unit? Have you read the—”

“He’s never watched any of it.” Ichiro snorts, plucking the Pocky stick from his mouth and taking a bite. Ichiro’s teeth snap clean and crisp. The sun flares red hot all along Samatoki’s spine. Sparks, all sparking at once. “Guess you just got lucky, huh.”

Samatoki smirks and pulls the Pocky from Ichiro’s mouth, and eats all of it in one go. He doesn’t taste any of it at all except a hint of salt still warm from Ichiro’s mouth.

Tch. Lucky is for fools.”

For brats. For upstart bastards. For heedless optimism. But maybe, also.

 

 

*

 

 

Samatoki hisses, head thrown back against the wall. Ichiro’s mouth is burning hot on him. Dusty boxes of keychains rattle threateningly in the storage space. “The kids are gonna come looking for us, idiot!”

Something mumbled from between Samatoki’s legs.

“For fuck’s sake, don’t talk when your mouth is—”

Ichiro has always been talented. Ichiro has always learned fast and well. And yet Samatoki just isn’t quite prepared for the little upstart to twirl his tongue around his cock like he’s dropping clever words on the street.

“Fuck! Fuck fuck fuck—”

Ichiro pops off, wet and obscene. Spit shines on his chin. “Staff are gonna find us if you don’t shut up! If you get me kicked out of my favourite Animate I’m gonna kill you!”

Samatoki is so hard it’s like he’s angry all over again. But he— he doesn’t want to hurt Ichiro like this. Keeps his hands clenched tight into fists by his side. Lets all his want burn him up from the inside instead, so desperate and furious he knows if he doesn’t come soon he’s going to possibly die, but, but. Ichiro’s hands on his thighs are achingly gentle for some reason, guiding him where Ichiro wants him, never quite enough like he just wants to take his fucking time and it’s confusing and wet and slow, so slow, and good—

“I like it when you look at me,” Ichiro breathes as he takes Samatoki eagerly on his tongue.

Shit.

Ichiro smirks like the cat that definitely, absolutely got the cream.

 

 

*

 

 

“Hey, nii-chan! We thought we were gonna meet on the shoujo floor!”

Jiro is waving them over, but Samatoki immediately feels the dagger of Saburo’s gaze on him. Oh, that kid is definitely not just weird. That’s a kid to watch. Dangerous.

Ichiro grins. His cheeks are pink. “Just a detour on the—”

“—BL floor?” Saburo’s glare is acid.

“What’s that face? Did you guys fight again?” Ichiro puts a calming hand on Saburo’s hair and Samatoki watches in amusement as the brat deflates completely, hackles smoothed instantly.

Happy. They just look so fucking happy.

 

 

*

 

 

Things have always been red with Ichiro.

It had just spilled everywhere. As uncontrollable as Ichiro in all things. The sun dripping across the sheets of his futon; the fury of his raw mouth; the blood stains that freckled his skin when they got in close, hypnosis mic straining to capacity as they knocked down everybody who used to stand in their way.

But the chasm in between them is just dug deep with it now. It had felt right, back then, to mark Ichiro's ears up with it. Ichiro had pulled him right in with that look of his, still so full of awe. It had all cut like a knife, and so what else could he have done but return the favour.

Ichiro is sprawled on his futon reading a new manga series he picked up today. It softens all his rough edges, him like this, brows pinched and lips parted slightly in excitement as his eyes devour page after page, a look so familiar and yet completely unfamiliar now. Samatoki has spent so long staring at the Ichiro who was always looking up, that he had forgotten, that he had done this to himself — that somewhere in Ichiro’s heart was a little corner that still believed in stories with endings.

“Thanks for tagging along today.” Ichiro smiles happily as he looks up. It’s— a lot. This last day had been a lot. Samatoki feels like he’s been plucked completely out of his life and being held here, somehow, in the cradle of Ichiro’s hand. A wild animal baited with only a little kindness.

Samatoki bristles. The sun has long since set. The walls rise tall again. “I’m leaving in the morning.”

Jyuto and everything else be damned.

Ichiro shifts uncomfortably. A hand reflexively goes to his ear, like he knew this entire time. More than anything else, more than betrayal, more than a cage, that wakes the anger again to burning hot in Samatoki’s chest — if it matters, it matters. It doesn’t stop mattering, even if you wake up in a house full of light.

“You got rid of it.”

“I was angry.” Shadows flit across Ichiro’s eyes.

“Stop scratching at your fucking ears! What did you with them?”

He cares, he still cares.

The weight is a single red stud clumsily wrapped round and round with a cotton handkerchief, safely tucked in the back of the dresser.

The weight is a thin needle heated to red hot in the flicker of Samatoki’s lighter.

The weight is Ichiro’s soft gasp as Samatoki slides the stud through, gentle, so gentle, this is never how he wants to hurt Ichiro either, no matter how much he wants to, in every other way, in all the ways that he used to think mattered. He wants Ichiro to remember how much being handled gently can sometimes be what tears you right down at midnight, when the moon rises, a perfect circle come around again, white shadows crawling across the skin.

Ichiro’s hands are burning hot on him, sliding up his ribs, and it’s like he’s going to carry this fever with him to the end of his life. But what are you going to do? Might as well just fucking burn yourself down to the ground while you’re already halfway there.

He feels hands carding gently through his hair as he laps the salt out of the corner of his mouth, Ichiro’s cock already dripping eagerly when he pulls aside his clothes, and somehow this feels like one of those small victories, too — if he’s going down, then he’s gonna take Ichiro down with him.

“You don’t have to, you know?” Ichiro’s teeth are a grit line but his eyes are soft, glowing in the low light. He’s always been beautiful, somehow, unguarded like this. Samatoki’s chest aches. This is going to kill him. Everything is killing him. “I didn’t help you so you had to— you know— had to—”

“We owe each other nothing,” Samatoki snarls.

He swallows Ichiro down whole, choking him off.

 

 

*

 

 

“People who only break things don’t know how to build.”

Ichiro had said this once, maybe.

 

 

*

 

 

Sunrise brings very little sun, a whole lot of cloud.

You’re in the clear. Do whatever you still need to do. I’ll see you soon.

Samatoki swipes away the message Jyuto left him some time after midnight, and resists the urge to light up a cigarette right here in Ichiro’s room. He’s at peace when he sleeps. There’s never been a weight in this world changed that could hold Ichiro down.

The piercing is a little red punctuation mark — something to close off the night, an ending to all the endings. It seems to be healing well, and there’s nothing but the thing in Samatoki’s chest all filled with red that keeps him from reaching out, from brushing away the wayward strand of hair that kisses Ichiro’s little beauty mark.

But it does stop him. And he lets it.

There’s nobody to look for him as he slips out of the house and crawls back through the dark alleyways.

“Hey Jyuto, I’m on the move.”

“And a good morning to you, too!” A chuckle teases from the phone held to Samatoki’s ear. “Did you sleep well?”

The streets open up. Yokohama is grey and distant, but it’s his, and he finds that, honestly, truthfully, like air being set free from his lungs:

“Yeah, I did. I did sleep well.”