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Hair of the Dog

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A sick joke of bastard fate makes Majima’s release date the anniversary of that day. Saejima almost went to pick him up, but Date talked him out of it. Not many other cops would be as agreeable as him if they saw him out and about, even if his name is being cleared.

So he waits in Majima’s penthouse, where he’s been crashing for the past week or so, and only after all family officers insisted that it was just as much his house as their boss’. Doesn’t feel much like it, but he guesses it’s better than a jail cell and daily beatings. He’s cleaned up the broken glass shelving that he thought was a result of Majima resisting arrest, but after a while he starts noticing there are a lot of baseball bat shaped dents in the walls and furniture. Not to mention the ones that look like faint imprints of fists. He thinks about his brother, alone in this giant empty house full of ghosts and crane machine toys, smashing his expensive furniture to pieces, and regrets ever thinking that he was living the good life. At least in prison, Saejima got regularly fed, and there isn’t any sign of food in the penthouse that isn’t mummified takeout or empty containers with Nishida’s neat handwriting on the labels. So this past week he’s found himself cleaning up, like an anxious mother instead of an oath brother, emptying overflowing ashtrays and condoms stiffened solid under furniture, always expecting to find a syringe specked with his brother’s blood, a burned spoon. He never does, though he does find the biggest bag of marijuana he’s ever seen - not that he has exactly seen much of that stuff, but that shit’s as large as his torso.

“The boss has trouble sleeping,” had said Nishida, helpfully rolling a joint as thick as his wrist. “This helps.”

“Does it.”

He’d shrugged. “As much as anything else does, sir. We all make do.”

They’d traded tokes in silence for a while before Nishida had looked up to him with that gentle face that said everything but ‘right hand man of the Mad Dog’. “Thank you for not killing him, sir.”

Saejima’d grunted. “Ain’t ever really been big on revenge.”

“Yeah. Neither has he.”

Saejima had wanted to say something; ask him what had happened to Majima that made him so convinced he was going to die in the batting center. Ask how somebody like him ended up babysitting his brother. Thank him, for looking after his other half while he could not.

He’d said nothing, and they’d smoked in silence until there was just a dirty glass filter. Then he’d listed to the side and had fallen into the deepest sleep of his life. Maybe there was something to be said about this stuff after all.

He’s been sleeping on the couch ever since. It’s bigger and more comfortable than his cot in prison, for sure. He’s tried….briefly, to approach Majima’s massive bed but the smell of his brother was so thick in it, threaded deep into the knotted up silk sheets, that it made his stomach twist. Cigarette smoke and fancy cologne and drugged up sweat and the tiniest hint of a sweet women's perfume; probably the gal that wears all those slutty dresses in the closet that are exactly in Majima’s size. He threw the sheets in the wash, put on fresh ones, but the smell lingered and Saejima did not think you could find yourself bawling your eyes out with sheer longing over sweat stank and yet. There he was, doing exactly that.

And now, twenty-five years since their lives went to shit, he waits. He’s got leather seam marks on his face and a crick in his neck and he can’t stop lighting one cigarette after the other. After years of rationing, he’s been smoking too much, he knows. His lungs feel rusty and wet. Today ain’t the time to quit, for sure.

He snaps to his feet when the door clicks open and for a long moment they stand, unmoving, at the two ends of the penthouse. Saejima can tell Majima is doing exactly what he’s doing - piecing his features together with the ones of the man he remembers, superimposing the image he had in his head on top of the old man in front of him. It’s harder than it looks, and not just because a silver snake laughs at him from where Majima’s bright brown eye should be.

“Right,” says Majima finally, stepping inside and kicking the door closed. “This is gonna take a while to get used to.”

“Yer telling me,” says Saejima over the twin thuds of Majima’s boots being dropped in the entrance.

Majima avoids him and pads a beeline towards the kitchen. Saejima follows, taking in the tense hunch of his shoulders and the shake in his hands.

“Why’s nothin’ in the right place,” he grumbles, clattering around the complex coffee machine without any visible buttons that Saejima was afraid of angering.

“I cleaned up. Was like a pigsty in here.”

“What are ya, my mother now,” he hisses.

“Kyoudai.”

Majima keeps spooning coffee grounds into the pot.

“Majima.”

Coffee grounds dust the counter when the pot shakes in his hands. He slams it into the machine with too much force and turns around. “What.”

He wanted to look him in the eye but now he doesn’t know what to say. The man before him might as well be a stranger, who just happens to have a piece of his heart inside of him.

Then Majima nervously tucks a stray lock of hair behind his ear, a gesture so painfully familiar it kicks the breath right out of his lungs.

“‘S getting long already,” he says, reaching out in a way that’s entirely a muscle memory he thought long atrophied. He never gets to find out if Majima’s hair is still as soft as it used to be because Majima recoils, like a mangy mutt scared of his own shadow.

“I need to cut it. Makes me feel weird.”

Saejima knows an opportunity when he sees one. “I can help.”

Majima hesitates, but his shoulders lower a little. “Ya haven’t cut my hair in twenty-five years.”

Saejima doesn’t even have to concentrate to feel the weight of the old squeaky scissors on his hand, feel the tickle of tiny black trimmings sticking to his sweaty skin, the smell of burning of the old buzzer in the suffocating heat of his room. “I’m sure yer head ain’t changed shape that much.”

Majima finally smiles, a hint of color in his cheeks as he turns around to tap the flat surface of the coffee machine. “I dunno. Kiryu-chan has smashed more’n a few bikes on my noggin over the years.”

Kiryu-chan, huh, doesn’t ask Saejima, because as much as he’s dying to tease Majima about that, he knows he’s still on thin ice. Maybe after he’s had his brother’s fuzzy undercut in his palm, he’ll feel more at ease with him. The coffee machine whirrs to life with a beep and starts bubbling. Right. He knew there had to be a trick to that.

Majima almost touches him as he passes him heading to the bathroom, but not quite. The Majima he knew would have slung an arm around his shoulders, slapped his ass. It’s going to be interesting to adjust to this guarded, heavily armored Majima.

Majima’s main bathroom (who needs three bathrooms? Majima, apparently) is all black marble and chrome, and the first morning it took Saejima half an hour to even figure out how the shower worked. Bathtub’s pretty amazing though, sunken into the floor and and deep and large enough to fit three of Saejima. Seems another life they squeezed into a literal bucket and poured kettles of water over each other’s heads. Saejima hasn’t dared using it yet, just like he hasn’t dared using his bed. Majima shucks his jacket and sticks his head into the massive sink, getting water everywhere like a dog.

“I’m probably faster at this point,” tries Majima one last time, fishing razor sharp hair scissors out of the cabinet.

“Ya in any hurry?”

He squeezes into his shoulders and lies the scissors on the counter instead of passing them to Saejima. “Guess not.” He goes to sit on the gleaming steps leading to the bathtub, water droplets running trails down his shoulders.

Saejima sits behind him, on level with the tub. Does not dare to put his legs around him. “Up to here?” he says, tapping the back of his head with the flat of the scissors.

“Yeah.” He flinches when Saejima touches his hair. Saejima takes his time smoothing it out with his fingers, thick and slippery and still as black as night.

Finally, Majima’s shoulders drop and his head lolls a little forward, and Saejima can start clipping. It’s not that long, but he knows how fussy his brother is about his dumb haircut. Seems that, at least, has not changed.

There’s a lot more scars on his head now, though. White lines cutting through the darkness of his overgrown undercut like a firebreak in a forest, an odd bump just below the strap of the eyepatch, a small starburst mark on his temple. Saejima wonders idly how many times Majima’s skull has been broken in the past twenty-five years, and clips more hair. Even as a pale animal of the night, Majima has a very definite tan line where his usual haircut lies, straight as a knife slash. He wonders if he’s ever been to Okinawa, ever felt the burning sun in Kiryu’s yard. He wonders if he’ll come along when he goes back to Okinawa to visit. To thank Kiryu, and Haruka, for all they’ve done for them. He wonders if they’ll show him what their bond is.

He wishes he could ask, but it’s not the right time yet.

“Can I….?” he says, tugging at the little latch of the eyepatch. He’s no expert, but it reminds him of a girl’s bikini strap, securing Majima’s eyepatch flush to his head with nothing dangling an assailant could grab. He knows, because he’s definitely tried to grab it during their fight.

Majima shrugs. “You know what’s under there anyway.”

He does, but Majima seems very private with that, showing it to him like he was showing him all his cards and his heart as well instead of just a pale old scar intersecting a sunken eyelid that will never open again.

Saejima fidgets with the tiny plastic clasp for a bit, and the little huff of laughter from under him is a sound he didn’t think he’d get to hear again.

The tan line of where the eyepatch sits is even more obvious, a pale strip where hair isn’t even growing anymore. He runs his fingers over it, and Majima shivers.

He really wants to kiss it.

He keeps clipping instead, thumb pressed against the curve of where the strap line touches bare skin, feeling his brother breathe.

“Ya know, I had long hair for a bit,” says Majima quietly.

You?” it’s hard to even imagine it.

“Longer’n yours ever been. I wore a douchebag ponytail an all.”

Saejima laughs at the image. “What happened to it?”

“...don’t like havin’ stuff people can grab.”

The way he says it makes a cold pit open in Saejima’s stomach with the certainty he ain’t talking about comfort while fighting. There are things of their time apart they’ll never tell each other and, he feels, who used to grab his long hair is one of those.

He rests the scissors on the step and blows on the back of Majima’s neck, tiny hairs stuck to the pale crown of his tattoo, as if the black clouds are spreading up. “Ya got anything to shave with?”

Majima nods at the counter, running his fingers in the back of his hair to make sure it’s as short as he likes it. “Think ya can figure out the buzzer, old man?”

Saejima huffs as he gets to his feet, ignoring the pang in his back from sitting all twisted up. The buzzer is sitting upright on the counter, gleaming in its stand. He pulls it out and has a moment of confusion when there’s no cord coming along.

“Cordless, cordless,” crows Majima, almost sounding like himself, leaning back onto the steps. “Ain’t the dark ages anymore around here, y’now?”

“Huh.” He finds a button and clicks it to life. “I guess this one’s not gonna catch fire on us.”

Majima smiles, looking a lot more relaxed and himself now that his hair’s shorter, and when Saejima sits behind him, he dares slotting his legs around him. After a few moments of hesitation, Majima hooks his arms over his thighs and, finally, it feels like he has his brother again - even with the scars, the lines, the different scent of his skin, the occasional silver hair. The buzzer is a lot quieter than the ones they had in prison, and definitely more precise, gliding smoothly into the fuzz at the back of Majima’s head. Majima tilts his head according to Saejima’s movements, and doesn’t flinch when he holds down the top of his ear to shave his sides. His eye steals a glance back at him when Saejima shaves his sideburn. When he shaves off the other, he’s the one to steal a look at Majima’s missing eye. Knife wound, for sure, webbed over and healed all warped and discolored.

But that tiny mole right under his eye is still there. The buzzer vibrates quietly in his hand as he leans forward and presses his lips to it. Majima startles, but melts against him just as fast, his nails digging into Saejima’s calves.

“Unfair, comin’ at me from my blind angle,” he breathes, not sounding very convincing at all.

Saejima cups the back of Majima’s head, the freshly shaved undercut prickly under his palm and his skin warm and clammy. A black dust is settling all over the both of them. “Ya need to wash up before it starts itchin’.”

“Yeah. Get that prison stank off me, too.”

“That’ll take a while.” Saejima is sure he’ll still smell the ghost of chlorine, mold and stale grub for another decade at least. “Didn’t feel right usin’ this fancy-ass tub without ya, but…”

Majima huffs, wobbling to his feet. “This is yer house too, bro. Everything’s here is yours.”

“Everything?” he says, looking at him.

Majima seems to not know how to respond to that, so he turns his back at him and lets the hannya carry Saejima’s gaze as he makes water happen with whatever arcane ritual it takes to make the smooth chrome taps answer to his orders. Then he leaves the room, abandoning Saejima with the rapidly filling tub. When he doesn’t come back right away, Saejima just kicks off his clothes and sits on the edge, feeling the hot water rise up his calves.

Majima comes back just as Saejima is worriedly eyeing the taps, fully naked and a lot less twitchy. When he leans over to shut off the water, Saejima catches a whiff of the sticky-sweet smell of his breath.

Well, whatever it takes for him to relax.

The water is nice bordering on a little too hot, and the tub slopes gently under the surface so sitting is easier. Saejima sinks up to his chin with a sigh, what feels like an actual lifetime of tension melting in the heat. Majima slips under the surface on the other side, and the tub is actually so big only their legs are touching.

This won’t do. “C’mere.”

Majima hesitates and doesn’t look at him and makes bubbles under the surface, water up to his nose.

“Kyoudai. C’mere.”

He finally moves closer with a gentle wave, his body between Saejima’s legs even hotter than the water and just as smooth and fluid. Saejima cups water in his hands and pours it over his head and shoulders, washing off the hair clippings. He pushes his wet, sticky hair out of his flushed face, trails already pruning fingertips down the sharp edge of his jaw, and kisses him.

Twenty-fucking-five years. Their nervous, hungry mouths have become tired and lined and yet they still slot together like halves of the same whole. He clasps the back of Majima’s head, his shoulders, his neck, trying to get him closer.

And then he stops, because Majima is cupping his hands and trying to close them around his own throat.

“Kyoudai.”

“Why did you forgive me,” he hisses. “Why won’t you kill me.”

“There ain’t nothing to forgive,” he says, resisting the pressure and keeping his touch soft. “Never was.”

“I abandoned you. I couldn’t save her. I - “

Majima.”

“Twenty-five years on death row and you don’t want to kill me, why, why don’t you hate me.”

“I thought you were dead,” he blurts, louder than he means to, holding Majima’s neck harder than he means to. All those years of rage hurting in his hands, all the walls he dented when he thought he’d never see his brother again. “I thought ya were dead because you’d never betray me.”

“I should’ve died,” he croaks. He looks so old. So tired. This is all he’s lived for since 1985. In a way, a big chunk of them has been dead a long time.

Saejima feels an odd calm wash over him. He’s so tired, too. His hands close around Majima’s throat. Focuses on his heartbeat, fast and irregular against his palms, the air struggling to pass through as he squeezes. “Is this what you want?”

Majima looks at him, his eye so dark and sad.

“We go together, like we promised. If that’s what ya want.”

Majima’s lips part but nothing comes out. Saejima loosens his grip, lets air through. “No,” he whispers.

“No?”

“I wanna live.”

“Damn fuckin’ right ya wanna live. Dumbass.”

Majima slips through his fingers and falls into him, water splashing out of the tub as they wrap their arms around each other, and breathe, and let themselves grieve for all they’ve lost. They hold until they’re shivering in lukewarm water, and then trail water all over the penthouse before falling into that too large bed that now feels just right.

Tucked safely under his chin, Majima finally tells him what happened that day. Of the chains and the knife and the darkness. Saejima traces the marks of a place he thought was only a scary story to make newbies behave, and is not surprised his brother is the one who lived the horror story and crawled out of it, and then buried them all. Outshined them all.

“I’m proud of ya, kyoudai.” He means it with all his heart.

Majima punches him in the stomach, and tangles his long legs with his, and they keep talking until a dawn they’re almost ready to face together, until they’re whole again, or something like that.