The subsequent yelling match held between the seven of them immediately following the haphazard escape from the Novoselic army leaves Shuuichi with a resounding headache that lasts well into the drive they take late through the night.
In the uncomfortable atmosphere during and immediately following the argument, he learned several things. For one, Kiibo can’t cry — though from the expressions they could make and the heartbreakingly guilty tone their voice could take on when upset, they might as well have anyways, with how inconsolable they’d been for the first few hours of the drive.
For another, each of the other six people in the RV could be a formidable force when tensions were high. In addition to Kiibo’s pseudo-crying, Gonta had more than once fallen victim to upset or anxious tears, and even Kaede had to wipe hastily under her eyes at one point.
As Shuuichi would have expected, Maki and Kaito were at the head of the whole affair, lecturing Kiibo (and anyone who jumped to their defense) about how much unnecessary danger the miscommunication put them all in, how close they all were to getting injured, or captured, or worse, and how if they’re going to do this, there cannot be any more disasters like the Novoselic incident.
And while Shuuichi agreed. . .looking at any one of them for the hour following the heated exchange made him ill to his stomach.
What had been most surprising, though, was the lack of interjection into the whole affair by Kokichi, who had gone from being green from sickness at the swarm of bugs to unusually despondent and quiet, eyes on his phone as Kiibo was torn into by the others.
Shuuichi, admittedly, knew very little about Kokichi as a person, but just by witnessing his behavior the past few days, he knew that he got some sort of pleasure, some thrill out of pestering Kiibo. Sometimes it was simply light-hearted ribbing, sometimes it twisted into something a little crueler, but as Kiibo was scolded, he’d had nothing to say. His only indication that he knew some sort of altercation was even taking place was when Shuuichi caught him glancing at Kiibo for long stretches of time, face unreadable and eyes blank, but continuing to stare.
Why was Kokichi holding his tongue now, when any taunts and criticisms he leveled Kiibo’s way would likely be allowed to stand?
Shuuichi could only watch his movements wordlessly, trying to understand.
But now, though, the tension had faded to fatigue in the long stretch of time it’s been since the sun set, and Shuuichi could feel the cloud of exhaustion in the air. As a peace offering of sorts, Kaito had settled into the booth opposite Kiibo, but had long since fallen asleep; Gonta had been yawning into his hand at a steadily increasing pace over the last hour or so, and Shuuichi was just now hearing the beginnings of Kaede’s insistence that Maki pull the RV into the nearest rest station so she could rest.
With Kaito’s light snoring and Kaede’s whispered directions towards the closest rest stop being the only auditory stimulus in the RV, it’s easy for Shuuichi to zone out — not for the first time — until the RV pulls to a stop and the two girls up front are standing and rubbing at their eyes.
“Today has been a long day,” Maki begins quietly, pointedly looking away from Kiibo, who seems to shrink in on themselves even further, “so we’re going to stay and sleep the whole night. No one leaves the RV.”
No one moves to object, so she just nods and brushes back towards the bedroom, leaving Kaede standing up front. She smiles, rubbing her eyes.
“Today was really, really hard, and stressful, and scary, but we got through it, and that’s what’s most important. Let’s just try and get some rest, so we’re ready to get going tomorrow. We also have a stop planned for tomorrow to get some supplies and some disguises for Kiibo and Gonta,” the two of them look up in surprise, but Kaede continues, “so let’s get to sleep as soon as we can, okay?”
She’s met with nods from everyone still awake, to which she nods herself before moving towards the booth and speaking too softly for Shuuichi to hear to Kiibo, who rises after a moment and follows her towards the bathroom.
At their departure, everyone moves to prepare for bed. Gonta rouses Kaito, and the two of them move to the respective couches they slept on earlier as Shuuichi and Kokichi vacate them. As the three of them take to changing into more comfortable sleepwear, Shuuichi rummages around in his bag for his toothbrush and a fresh pair of comfortable clothes, heading into the bathroom a few moments later when Kaede and Kiibo emerge, both a little misty eyed but smiling.
Kaede bids Shuuichi goodnight as he moves past her into the bathroom, which he returns before she retreats into the bedroom and he shuts the door. He goes through the motions a little mechanically, body physically fatigued but mind not quite in the bleary headspace that usually indicates he’s ready to sleep.
When he exits the bathroom a few minutes later, teeth brushed, binder folded up with the other clothes he’d worn during the day, and still feeling distinctly as though sleep were out of the question, he finds that the lights have been shut off and the blinds drawn, washing the area in darkness, save for the lights on Kiibo and the overhead fluorescent beaming bright yellow just above the wall bed.
As Shuuichi is stooping down next to his bag to put away the day’s clothes and retrieve the bear he feels a shadow fall over him, and when he glances up he finds Kokichi standing a foot or so away, body facing towards the wall bed and rubbing sleepily at his eyes.
He gives no indication that he’s paying attention to Shuuichi as he stands, drawing the bear to his chest and observing him curiously.
Kokichi pulls his phone from somewhere deep within the front pocket of his oversized hoodie, blinking for a few moments down at the screen before dropping it back into his pocket and yawning sleepily into his hand, the sleeves of the sweatshirt bunched up in a way much akin to sweater paws at his hands.
It’s so transparently an act in order to get Shuuichi to relinquish the wall bed again that he has to laugh. Kokichi looks tentatively at him, and when Shuuichi just shrugs and gestures towards the bed with his free hand, he bursts into a smile, fatigue evidently forgotten as he jumps around excitedly.
“Shuuichi, how gentlemanly! You’re giving poor Gonta a run for his money!” He picks his own bag up from the floor and sets it delicately on the bed, his phone following a moment later, much less carefully as it’s flung onto the threadbare sheets. Kokichi hops up himself a moment later, feet swinging in the air as he lavishes Shuuichi with a faux-charmed smile. “Such chivalry! And they say romance is dead.”
With another soft laugh Shuuichi rolls his eyes, nodding to Kokichi before retrieving his bag from the floor and moving forward in search of a place to sleep for the night.
Option one: the booth he napped in earlier that day. Perhaps it was a minor injury from the fight with the soldiers beforehand, but the idea of trying to sleep through the night with the ache in his neck that he’d developed didn’t seem all that pleasant, so that was a no.
Option two: the floor. The assured stiffness he’d be in for in the morning aside, Shuuichi could tell even in the relative darkness of the RV that the floor was in desparate need of a good sweeping (a deep clean, more likely, but that was a fantasy and Shuuichi knew it) and he had very little desire, frankly, to wake up to a clogged respiratory system thanks to the dust and whatever else down there that would surely aggravate his allergies. So, no, thank you.
Option three: the passenger’s seat that Kaede had commandeered for herself, up front. It was padded, at least, but it would neither recline nor be large enough for him to comfortably lay sideways across, so it was sure to be a night of awkward angles.
Looking like a yes, then.
Shuuichi drops his bag unceremoniously onto the floor next to the chair, eyeing it warily for a moment before settling down. He nearly yells as his text tone goes off, the sound reverberating in the ambient silence of the RV. Quick to pull it out of his pocket and silence it, he finds his lock screen lit up with a slew of new messages from an unknown number.
shuuichi! shuuichi! hey ;)
where did you gooooooo shuumai it’s so dark!!! ;(
i hope you’re not going to cuddle with kiibaby! what if they blow you up with their lazer beam eyes while they’re having a bad dream???
just kidding robots can’t dream. ur safe!!!!!
hey cmere i have a surprise for you
shuuichiii babyyy hit me uppppp ;00000
hey do u think i can send a text with every single emoji in it
He does. It takes almost a full minute of scrolling to reach the end of it and see the final message Kokichi’s sent.
are u ignoring me, shuuichi???:((( u aren’t here yet
With more apprehension than anything else Shuuichi lifts himself out of the chair, placing his hands in his pockets as he tiptoes as quietly as he can past his sleeping friends towards the wall bed, which was still lit up by the overhead light.
As he comes to stand it front of it he makes eye contact with the bright glare of Kokichi’s phone’s flashlight, wincing away as he waits for Kokichi to, well, do whatever he planned to after he got Shuuichi to come over.
Eyes on his phone, Kokichi pats the pathetic patch of space on the bed next to himself. It takes Shuuichi a bit longer than it feasibly should to realize it’s an invitation, and when he does, he can’t help but laugh a little.
“Uh, Kokichi, I’m pretty sure this isn’t even a full twin size bed,” he points out in a whisper, trying to figure out in his mind why anyone would even make a bed this small. “You’re way smaller than me, and you’re hardly fitting. Thanks for the offer, though.”
Attention still on his screen, Kokichi half-rolls until he’s pressed flush against the wall of the RV, making some — but not a lot of — additional free space on the bed. His tongue just barely peeking out his mouth in concentration, he doesn’t look up as he taps something else out on his phone.
When Kokichi finishes he spares a millisecond to glance at Shuuichi’s pocket before his eyes move back to his own phone. Warily, Shuuichi pulls his phone out, and reads the new message Kokichi has sent him.
we’ll fit if we cuddle ;?
By the way Kokichi’s grin widens as he watches Shuuichi read the message he knows that this whole interaction is a bit, but regardless he feels an embarrassing redness crawl up his face anyways. An excuse is halfway off his tongue when Kokichi sends him another text rife with a collection of sad-looking emojis, so resigning himself to a very uncomfortable night for a whole host of reasons, he moves back towards the chair in search of the bear.
He doesn’t need to look at his phone to know that Kokichi sends him a flood of messages in his absence. When he returns to the front of the bed it’s with the bear and a roll of his eyes, followed by a long stretch of embarrassing moments as he attempts to slot himself next to Kokichi on the pitifully small bed without letting the two of them touch too much. To his credit Kokichi at least attempts to stifle his laughter on the multiple occasions Shuuichi either bangs his head on the low ceiling or squeaks when they accidentally touch, but he’s fairly certain Kokichi begins to record him at one point, so the gesture is sort of lost.
Eventually, though, Shuuichi manages to wiggle his way on and hastily shuts off the overhead light, face warm from the effort and embarrassment and awkwardness at the several points of contact his body makes with Kokichi’s on the tiny mattress.
Even with his arms wrapped around his chest as well as the bear his elbow bumps Kokichi’s chest; their knees knock together with every minute movement; and Shuuichi has to fight the urge to sneeze at the way some of Kokichi’s hair tickles his nose from where they both lay in relative closeness on the singular pillow.
It’s more than just vaguely uncomfortable, and he feels his stomach turning in agreement with his brain at the sentiment.
Because. Well. Kokichi is weird, and unpredictable, and a little mean, and a little too excitable for Shuuichi’s already fragile mental health, but the way he beams at Shuuichi when he’s settled and smiling back at Kokichi gives him that same glimmer of optimism he’s felt several times that perhaps Kokichi is just a little eccentric, not anything too formidable.
Kokichi clicks the light back on.
“Oh, thank gods you brushed your teeth before bed! If you hadn’t, I definitely would have barfed from having to smell stinky boy breath all night!”
Very, very eccentric, Shuuichi thinks to himself as he shrinks back in embarrassment despite the fact that it was, he thinks, a compliment? Kokichi’s smile is still there, if a bit more of a leer at this point, so he doesn’t think it’s an attempt to be mean.
He chooses to respond with: “so you’re talking to me again?”
“Of course!” Kokichi says emphatically, sounding aghast. “It would be so rude if I let my lovely Shuumai sleep in my bed and didn’t even talk to him!”
Shuuichi groans, pulling the bear up to hide his face. “Don’t phrase it like that. . .”
He feels a poke at his nose through the plush, and when he lifts his eyes he finds Kokichi’s finger pushing insistently at its nose, eyes alight with intrigue. “Ooh, this is so cute, Shuuichi! Hey, if I start wearing pink and white, will you cuddle me instead?”
Shuuichi gapes like a fish while trying to find a way to respond to that, half considering rolling backwards out of the bed the to escape the way Kokichi’s eyes crawl up his neck to his face, more than likely following the blush that’s once again turning him red.
“Stop flirting with Shuuichi and go to sleep,” Maki says sharply from the bedroom, the sound of her voice and what it was she actually said making Shuuichi’s face flush all the more.
“Say’s the one in bed with her ultimate gal pal,” Kokichi says lightly, though Shuuichi notes that his response isn’t nearly loud enough for Maki to actually hear.
That is, he thinks, probably to the benefit of both of their health.
Kokichi winks at Shuuichi, seeming content to leave that line of conversation there, despite not denying Maki’s accusation. Which.
He clears his throat, unable to look at Kokichi as he speaks. “Is, uhm, that what’s happening here?”
Shuuichi grimaces. “The, ah — the flirting.”
Kokichi laughs into his hand, propping his head up on his other one. “Me, flirt with you? How bold, Shuumai, how cute! But, no. I just want your Pokemon. Have you named it yet? Where’d you get it?”
Shuuichi shakes his head, kicking himself for being distracted again by Kokichi’s antics. “Didn’t you invite me here to sleep?”
“The way I see it,” Kokichi begins, making grabbing hands at the bear, “we can just sleep on the drive, can’t we? It’s obvious you don’t really trust me or like me that much, so why not bond a little, ease some of the tension?”
Shuuichi stalls. “I don’t—”
Kokichi plucks the bear from his hands, observing it appraisingly. He tugs on its ears, squeezes its paws, flicks the short nub of a tail, almost as if he were inspecting it. His eyes don’t leave the bear, and Shuuichi’s eyes don’t leave Kokichi.
“Y’know, it is toooootally unsurprising that you’re the sort of loser to sleep with stuffed animals, but I wouldn’t expect it to be such a cheap little thing! Seriously, what dollar store did you steal this from?”
Shuuichi glances instead at the bear’s face as he speaks. “I got it from an arcade, actually. Rantarou won it, he’s really good at that kind of stuff, and he got it the night before he. . .well. The night before everything happened, I guess. So I can’t bring myself to part with it, as silly as it is.”
He hears Kokichi boo quietly, pulling the bear protectively to his chest and glancing at Shuuichi with a muted expression.
For someone who keeps complaining about how cheap the toy is, Kokichi doesn’t seem too eager to actually give it back to Shuuichi.
A pause. Then: “you’re real upset about your friend, huh?”
Shuuichi looks at him, a little confused. “Well, yeah. I think anybody would be, right?”
“That’s not what I mean.” Kokichi rests his chin on the bear’s head, looking up at Shuuichi searchingly, much as he looked at the bear as he was inspecting it. He feels himself squirm.
“You’re weird, y’know that? A monster tries to kill you, you find out your bestie and his daddies and you are mixed up in all this god stuff, that you’re half god and that your parent abandoned you, then find out the world is gonna end and all the gods are blaming you and fighting over ugly Junko’s spear, but all you’re concerned about is Rantarou.”
Shuuichi pauses, Kokichi’s words washing over him with no small amount of significance. Yes, actually, in the grand scheme of things happening in his life right now, maybe he should be more preoccupied with the fact that, actually, he’s half god, and whoever his godly parent is abandoned him and hasn’t made himself known at all during Shuuichi’s life.
Or, a bit more pressing, the whole the world is ending and everyone thinks it’s your fault thing, wherein the lives of everyone are under threat from no less than four different gods, and if Shuuichi doesn’t somehow make things right and stop the gods from tearing each other and the world apart, poof, that’s it, curtain call, everyone dies.
It’s stupid, and more than a little bit selfish, but every time he even thinks about the state of things all Shuuichi can do is circle back to the fact that Rantarou is gone, that Rantarou was willing to die to protect Shuuichi, and that it’s now all on him to save his friend and make things right.
And, y’know, stop the world from ending.
That’s a lot of pressure. A lot of pressure.
“Uh oh! Looks like I freaked you out.” He must look as stricken as he feels, if Kokichi can pick up on it. He laughs to himself, waving his hand dismissively in Shuuichi’s direction. “Don’t linger too much on that sorta stuff, Shuumai. You can’t save your prettier brother-friend-whatever if you’re all locked up in your head freaking out.”
For emphasis, Kokichi raps his knuckles lightly against Shuuichi’s forehead. “So lighten up, kay? Hey, y’know, for all that you talk about Rantarou, I don’t know anything about him! As much as I would haaaaate to listen to you angst about your dead bestie, I won’t be able to sleep if you’re crying next to me all night, so spill all the dirty details of your life to me! I’m all ears, and that’s the truth!”
“You want to know about Rantarou?” Shuuichi asks, a little blindsided by Kokichi’s request. Though Kokichi had expressed interest in Rantarou beforehand, it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise, but still. . .
When he’s given an enthusiastic nod in response, Shuuichi just shrugs and tries his best to think of a good place to start. There was so much that he knew about Rantarou, so much history between them that spans the majority of Shuuichi’s life; what should he mention? What shouldn’t he? How much does Kokichi really want to know?
“Um, well—” Shuuichi stops short of finishing a single thought when Kokichi’s head lolls heavily against the pillow, fake snores spilling loudly out of his mouth. Shuuichi rolls his eyes, turning the overhead light off with a shake of his head.
He wasn’t sure what he expected.
“Just kidding!” Kokichi says into the darkness, giggles spilling out of his mouth. “. . .That was a joke, Shuuichi. C’mon, tell me about him already!”
Kokichi doesn’t move to turn the light back on, so Shuuichi doesn’t bother either before launching back into his train of thought again.
“Well, uh,” Shuuichi begins, ever eloquent, blanking on how to begin, “I hope you’re not expecting anything super grandeur or dramatic, because it, uh wasn’t? We met on basically our first day of school — same class and table to sit at and everything.
“It’s hard to remember stuff from so long ago, but I remember Rantarou reached out first. I’m sure it doesn’t come as much of a shock that I wasn’t the, ah, most outgoing kid—” when Kokichi hums in agreement, Shuuichi finds himself stalling momentarily, smiling, “—but Rantarou was your usual rowdy six year old, and wanted to be my friend pretty much immediately.”
Shuuichi shifts minutely in the bed so he’s facing Kokichi more directly, a bit more comfortable with speaking while looking at him now that he’s gotten into the groove of telling his story. “We were sort of best friends from the get go. I don’t know what it was about me that made him fixate on me so much, ah, maybe now that I think about it, it might have something to do with his, um, power? But even then. . .”
Shuuichi trails off for a moment, a sudden surge of affection overtaking him.
“Rantarou was always very genuine with everything he said and did. Coming from parents like he did, very rich and in the public eye, even as a kid I think he sort of realized there would be people who would want to use that to their advantage? I think he appreciated the fact that I, ah, didn’t really have the knowledge to take advantage of his status and wealth, and I appreciated that he never tried to get me to be something I wasn’t.”
Shuuichi bites his lip. Kokichi blinks slowly, purple eyes bright in the darkness, waiting patiently for him to speak again. He rolls his shoulders. “But, uh, who his parents were never really mattered to me. All that I ever really cared about was that he was nice to me. Even when he didn’t have to be. Even when it maybe would have benefited him to go along with the crowd, or just, uh, stop being my friend.
“But he hasn’t. Didn’t. Um, stop being my friend, ever. And he was never a bad friend. He likes to tease me a lot, poke fun, but he was always respectful of my, ah, many boundaries. And even when he was stressed out, or if I was stressed out and spiralling, or I did something wrong or we had a bad day or — or anything, he was always kind to me. Always. And he always made time for me, even when he had a world of other things going on, you know? I guess I mean that literally.”
He pauses for a long moment, shutting his eyes as he ponders whether to touch on his next point at all. When Kokichi makes a noise encouraging him to continue he does, though he’s not quite able to meet his gaze.
“I, ah, school wasn’t — school wasn’t always very good to me. For a lot of reasons. And, uh, because of that, I had to — move, a lot? I moved schools a ton, and every single time, Rantarou made Byakuya and Makoto enroll him in whatever new school my mom signed me up for, so he was always in my life, which helped.”
“Moved schools a lot, hmm?” Kokichi asks, voice tinged with intrigue as he interjects for the first time. “Was Shuuichi a troublemaker? Did you get expelled?”
Shuuichi’s expecting the question, but nevertheless it makes his stomach turn uncomfortably as images of his last day of school make their presence known in his head. He laughs into his hand, attempting to hide his discomfort.
“I only got expelled once, actually, after the monster attack,” Shuuichi admits a little shamefully, tapping his fingers anxiously against the bedspread. “The other times, um. It was because of bullying? My mom always enrolled me in the higher end schools, and I guess it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t as wealthy, or as confident, or as worthy of respect,” or as cis, his mind tacks on as an afterthought, because while Shuuichi’s more than sure that that was a deciding factor in the treatment he got, that wasn’t a conversation he was going to have with Kokichi while in bed with him, “in a lot of people’s eyes.”
The silence around them settles somewhat awkwardly for a moment, before Kokichi comments, looking surprisingly muted, “y’know, that doesn’t surprise me.”
Shuuichi looks at Kokichi a bit sharper than he intends to, but when he sees that his expression is free of anything cruel or really of any sort of joking nature at all he relaxes. The context of his comment isn’t exactly comforting, but what he says isn’t unkind, isn’t a jab — more a soft observation, free of judgement.
Still, there’s a discomfort at talking about himself so frankly at length. He shrugs in response to Kokichi’s words, realizing that his reaction is too late to be casual when Kokichi silently raises an eyebrow. He averts his eyes, silently hoping that Kokichi is satisfied so they can get to sleep.
After a few minute’s silence, Kokichi silently reaches above their heads and clicks on the light, making them both wince against the glare, wherein he takes the opportunity to push the pillow more towards Shuuichi, nudging his own head marginally closer.
“Hey.” Kokichi’s fingers twirl a bit of fur from the bear as he speaks, eyes not quite meeting Shuuichi’s. “I know you’re totally clueless about who your godly parent is, but what about your human mom? What’s she like?”
Kokichi glances up at Shuuichi, expression open and confused for only a beat before falling back into a schooled neutral, an eyebrow lifting curiously. Shuuichi cringes as he realizes what he said, bringing his hands to cover his face in mortification.
“Oh my god, that was the worst way I could have phrased that.”
“You’re telling me, jeez, Shuuichi,” Kokichi replies with a scoff, though there’s a smile in his voice. “How am I supposed to rebound a conversation after that?”
“Just — ugh, sorry,” Shuuichi apologizes quickly, staring up at the ceiling. “No one really asks about her, ah, no one likes touching the dead mom subject. So I don’t, hm, know how to talk about it delicately.”
“Hmm. . .” Kokichi rolls over to stare up at the ceiling as well, the bear pulled protectively to his chest. “Just what feels right, I guess? You’re barking up the tree about how to talk about parent stuff, y’know.”
He resists the urge to glance curiously at Kokichi before launching into another explanation. “Uh, well, like I said, I don’t really know where to start. I talk about her even less than I do Rantarou, and anyone that’s ever known my situation has been him and his family, so there’s been no reason to talk about it outside of therapy and stuff, so.
“It was just me and my mom all my life. She never really — there was never anyone else, no step dads or boyfriends or anything. It was always just the two of us in our apartment. And it worked for us, I think. She was — she was a really good mom. The best I could have ever had. She was supportive of everything about me, and she didn’t have to be, and — yeah.
“She was really good friends with Byakuya and Makoto,” Shuuichi recalls fondly, letting a smile slip onto his face, “she was like me with Rantarou — didn’t care about their wealth or their status or anything like that, which is why I think they liked her so much, too. I don’t think I can remember anything bad about her. She was always supportive, and tried her best to make things good for us, good for me, and when she was alive things were just. . .good. At least when it came to me and her.”
“But then, she, ah, she died. Car accident. Emergency workers and Makoto and Byakuya and therapists all said it was quick, that she didn’t feel anything, which I guess is good. But, um, because it was so quick, I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. One night I was having a sleepover at Rantarou’s house and the next I was being moved into one of the guest rooms and having adoption papers signed, ha. Which maybe explains why I feel so blindsided and on edge all the time, huh?”
Curious as to how his story has landed on Kokichi, who had been remarkably quite throughout his recalling, Shuuichi turns on his side to find Kokichi doing the same, his face a brick wall.
Kokichi’s expression is unreadable, and the lack of animation in his features gives him pause. Even though much of what Kokichi projected to others was untrue, or at the very least largely exaggerated, Shuuichi could generally read what he was at least trying to portray. But now, much as he had been faced with during the day when Kokichi had walled his expressions off, and now as they lay in the same cramped bed, Kokichi’s face is impassive, and he doesn’t meet Shuuichi’s eyes.
Discomfort floats in the scant space between them. Kokichi has taken to — perhaps subconsciously — squeezing at one of the bear’s paws, eyes fixed on a random spot on the blankets. Shuuichi, still not quite sleepy enough to fall asleep in a bed he’s sharing with an almost-stranger, especially not after such a heavy reveal of some of his past, taps Kokichi gently on the arm, an idea in mind.
“What about you?”
“What do you mean?” Kokichi replies, some of his bravado back as he smiles curiously at Shuuichi.
“If you want, you can tell me more about yourself. It’s only fair, right?”
“Fair. . .” Kokichi ponders it for a moment before shrugging and propping himself up on one of his arms so his head rests above Shuuichi’s, looking down at him with shining eyes. “I guess that makes sense! Buckle in, Shuuichi, this is gonna be the craziest story you’ve ever heard in your life!”
As Kokichi loudly clears his throat in preparation of. . . whatever’s to come, Shuuichi settles back to comfortably look at him, smiling a little at the fact that what comes out of Kokichi’s mouth in the next few minutes is more than surely going to just be a stream of lies.
Still, if Kokichi is anything, he’s a hell of a storyteller.
“So, Shuumai wants to know all about me, hm? Well, I could talk about the legions of thousands that I use to secretly puppeteer the world's elite, but then I’d have to kill you! Hm. . .”
“Ooh, here’s a story!” Kokichi aligns his pointer and middle fingers in an approximation of a frame, calling Shuuichi’s full attention. “Picture this: little old me, sixteen or so years younger and way less devilishly handsome, wrapped in a plastic bag and dumped on the doorstep of some rural shitbag orphanage. What a way to celebrate being born, huh?”
Though his tone is flippant and artfully detached, the contents of Kokichi’s words leave Shuuichi with a pit in his stomach as he describes his abandonment.
“Mammy or pappy or whoever dropped baby me off didn’t leave a note or anything like in those hokey Disney movies, so I couldn’t Annie my way into my own Daddy Warbucks, which is laaame. Had that childhood dream smushed pretty early, right around when I figured I wouldn’t be gettin’ my Hogwarts letter, so that tells you how sad orphan life was.
“Just kidding! The misses and misters at the orphanage had better things to do than let us read, so I didn’t do any of that! Couldn’t read myself til the ripe age of eight, which maybe explains why I have to cheat off of Kaede’s homework for online school. I digress!” Kokichi waves his hands in the air as if to clear the tangent away.
“Stuck around the orphanages — yes that’s plural, I was a problem kiddo just like you, y’know — til I hit everyone’s favorite time of their life puberty, when I became more of a brat than usual and the lovely folks who ran the child labor workshops couldn’t get me to behave anymore! So I went to all sortsa homes. Never stayed too long, y’know? I’ve got a sensitive heart, after all, and being used for tax breaks just made me cry day and night!
“By the time yours truly was, hmm, eleven? Whatever, the trauma makes it blurry around the edges, I was spending more time on the street than in the foster homes, which kinda defeats the purpose! The bestest home, though, was the one where fetus baby me walked into one of my foster’s apartments one day and found his body! Talk about a terrible, no good, very bad day.” Kokichi’s smile twists, morphing into some bastardization of humor that Shuuichi can’t place exactly. Shuuichi’s own expression must shift, because when Kokichi’s eyes refocus on him he winks, the smile falling away into something more playful.
“Of course, me and my big MENSA brain weren’t gonna get blamed for wacking off the old bastard. Dunno what actually happened, but as soon as I saw that I dipped and never looked back.” Kokichi giggles softly into the space between the two of them. “Don’t look so horrified, Shuuichi. Trauma bonding is only fun if we’re both laughing.”
He hums quietly to himself before falling backwards onto the pillow, face aimed up towards the ceiling. “Kicked the old foster system to the curb after that. How do you get better than that? Worry not, though! I’m good with my hands, and found I had a real knack for stealing the wallets off of dumb people! Got bored of that, though, decided I didn’t wanna just live off of half-empty Subway gift cards and pocket change, y’know?
“I had aspirations, I had dreams like you wouldn’t believe! And that dream?” He pauses for a long moment, taking a deep breath. “Rule the world. Small beans for an eleven year old street rat, huh? Found a ragtag gang of like minded orphans, and a year later I had ten thousand underlings that hung off my every word and obeyed each and every command! Like I said, small beans, but hey, I gotta start somewhere, right? Soon enough I was richer than God and had the criminal underbelly of the country in my grasp. Good ol’ God of Crime didn’t know what hit him, psh. Eat your heart out, Kuzuryuu’s, I was on the scene now.”
Kokichi suddenly flips over to stare at Shuuichi again, openly appraising him. After a moment he shrugs, resting his cheek on his palm. “Go figure, though, shit hits the fan and I’m arrested just short of making the jump from tween to full blown villainous teenage heartthrob. ‘Course, I’m a legend, and they try to try me as an adult. Jokes on them, I got bailed outta jail by Nagito before they got the chance, ha!”
“I know you’re endlessly enthralled by my autobiography here, Shuumai, but unfortunately we’re getting close to the end.” Instead propping himself up on his elbow, he uses his now free hand to mime a mouth moving as he mimes the bear in tandem. “Nagito poofs himself into my cell and is all like, ‘hey ya little brat wanna go to summer camp?’ and cuz I’m not stupid, I’m not about to crawl into the candy van of someone that looks like Nagito, I’m like, ‘no way, you look homeless!’”
“And so Nagito’s like,” as he gears up to move his hand in tandem with his pitiful Nagito impression Kokichi’s face twists, intentionally crossing his eyes and developing a tremor, “‘I’m, like, a god and stuff, and you’re a hybrid freak, you come with me and I’ll show you your sick god powers, ‘kay?’ and I was like, ‘this definitely sounds like something fresh off of Famous Last Words, but okay’ and then he bailed me out! Funny enough, the first place we went was the local city hall, so I could actually get a name.”
“What?” Shuuichi cuts in bluntly, knowing full well that that is certainly not the strangest part of this tale, but nonetheless the one that catches him the most off guard.
“Oh, did I forget to mention that?” Kokichi shrugs, wrapping both arms around the bear and falling onto his back again. “Whoops, guess it got caught up in all the other sordid details of my life. Yeah, y’know good ol’ mom or dad or whoever? Parent of the Year who dropped me off at an orphanage as a newborn? Didn’t give me a name before they did. Nagito asked me about it when he broke me out of that yucky jail, and when I told him, he let me pick one out! Got the papers done and everything!”
Kokichi beams over at him, seemingly unbothered by the horrific events recounted in his ‘life story,’ Not even a crack in his amused demeanor.
“I get the feeling you’re not telling me the truth.”
Unsurprisingly, Kokichi’s good mood stays, though his grin drops into a pitiful pout. “Huh? No way! At least, like, two of those things actually happened. Promise!”
Shuuichi groans, though it’s clear to the both of them that it’s lighthearted. Kokichi breaks into laughter, apparently overjoyed at the effect his waste of time of a story has on Shuuichi, and pulls the thin blanket up to his chin, smile warm. Shuuichi angles himself to face Kokichi a bit more head on, half anticipating the expectant look in his eye to lead to another addition to the conversation.
Kokichi just blinks owlishly, almost sleepily at him, the ears of the bear only just peeking out over the edge of the blanket. Shuuichi stares back, not necessarily uncomfortable in the silence that falls over them but also feeling as though it’s weirdly intimate — even considering their current position.
But, like clockwork, the moment is broken when Kokichi’s face splits into a wicked smirk as he presses his socked feet against Shuuichi’s legs, causing him to jump in surprise and nearly bang his head off of the ceiling, groaning over the sound of Kokichi’s laughter that erupts into the surrounding RV.
Shuuichi’s head falls back onto the pillow at the same moment that Kokichi angles himself even closer, now laying only a matter of centimeters away, the several points of contact their limbs previously made on the bed now a singular, elongated point, from their shoulders down to their feet. Kokichi shoves his head ever closer, and Shuuichi can feel the tickle of his — bubblegum scented? Does Kokichi use bubblegum toothpaste? — breath against his cheeks.
And suddenly, Shuuichi is uncomfortably warm.
Shuuichi attempts to shift away as anxiety over being so close physically to someone, especially a stranger, especially Kokichi, especially without being out or having his binder on, bubbles up in him so fast it takes him by surprise. It’s a losing battle, he realizes a little belatedly, as he finds himself balancing already on the edge of the bed.
“Shuuichi, no!” Kokichi whines dramatically, crocodile tears set in motion and a hand grasping towards Shuuichi’s sweatshirt. “My life living on the streets has left me with a damaged immune system, and I’m so sickly that my body temperature is several degrees lower than a normal human’s! At night I can get so cold I can die. You wouldn’t let me die, would you? You don’t reeeeally hate me that much, do you?”
Neither of them miss the harshness of Shuuichi’s grasp as he removes Kokichi’s hand from the front of his hoodie. He retreats immediately, though he can’t fight the frustration that tinges his voice as he speaks. “Kokichi, don’t, I’m getting uncomfortable. Let’s just sleep.”
Shuuichi nearly falls backwards as the bear is shoved forcefully against his chest, and immediately the press of Kokichi against him is gone; only a light, unavoidable pressure around their knees remain. Kokichi shuts his eyes, pressed as closely as he can against the metal of the wall, and though he looks uncomfortable, even embarrassed, he knows on instinct that his pride is too high to address that fact.
Kokichi punches the overhead light out, hard, and the sudden darkness can mask neither the discomforted red that floods his cheeks, nor the soft curse he utters as he pulls his hand to his chest, and there’s an undeniably you fucked up coursing through the both of them as the silence turns from uncomfortably sour to downright suffocating.
“I’m sorry, I’m just — tired. I didn’t mean to be snappish. I can leave.” Shuuichi isn’t sure of what response he’s hoping for, but Kokichi flipping over to face the wall certainly isn’t it.
“What, and sleep on the floor?” Kokichi asks sardonically, voice acidic. Any lightness is gone; Kokichi is all hard edges and sharp words now, and even in the darkness Shuuichi knows that he’s genuinely hurt him, frustration in himself quickly rising.
There were better ways to handle that, damn it. He should've known that underneath Kokichi’s flighty demeanor there was an edge of truth, something genuine that could be wounded, and he just — he shouldn’t have been so short with him. They were both teasing, there was no way for Kokichi to know he was taking things too far.
He loathes to leave the night on such a bad note. In part because he has to sleep in, quite literally, the bed he’s made for himself, but also because he knows how it feels to go to bed feeling like you’ve ruined things, and he doesn’t want Kokichi to, not if he can help it.
Biting his lip, he hesitates for several long moments before he carefully draws the blanket over Kokichi, who seems to purposefully still his breathing as Shuuichi’s hands ghost across him. He withdraws only once Kokichi’s covered, and as an afterthought lays the bear between them, its face towards Kokichi. And finally, bracing himself against the discomfort of sleeping so close to another person, he angles himself just a touch closer to Kokichi on the bed; a peace offering, of sorts. He flips onto his other side with as little disruption of the bed as he can, facing away from Kokichi to allow them both some privacy but staying just close enough to (he hopes) stand still as a peace offering.
The closeness between them is tangible; the shared body heat is comforting, if unfamiliar, and he feels the tendrils of sleep pulling him down fast, the exhaustion of the day heavy on him.
He’s not expecting a response, but Kokichi’s socked foot gently tapping his heel serves well enough as one. His smile at the gesture is his last action before he drifts to sleep.
When Shuuichi wakes, the bear in his arms, he is alone; and when he rises for the day, and greets his friends good morning, Kokichi does not meet his eyes.