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through the bottom of the sky

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The first time when anything of the sort occurs to Akira is a hotter-than-usual night in the beginning of July; inhaling as much of the summer air as he can, he thinks offhandedly to himself through a haze of lack of oxygen and exercise-induced endorphins that if cicadas could survive in this part of the city they'd be out en force right now. He's breathing heavily and sweating a little, but he blames it on the lack of breeze down between the buildings. Agito is crouching down next to the prone figure of their one-time prey, rifling through his wallet in search of identification. He looks up at Akira, and his face - pale, blood-spattered, the usual little flush around the cheeks that he gets after a good chase - shines momentarily in the dark, briefly illuminated by the headlights of a passing car.

"Wrong guy." He flashes the ID nonchalantly, a bored flick of the wrist toward the other boy - a banker from Shizuoka, not a parts-smuggling car dealer from the seedy end of the city. He stands up, not bothering to wipe the blood from his face. A grin flickers at the corners of his mouth as he tosses the card away, almost succeeding at keeping the electric excitement that carving a road always seems to grant him out of his voice as he says, "you know, if we just keep running, we're sure to catch the guy eventually. Those fuckers in the backup squad'll never have to know."

The shark is still breathing in short gasps, because for an old salaryman that bastard managed to give them a fairly good run, and something in the way his sweat is mixing with the blood on his face and the humidity in the air makes something in Akira's lungs hollow out, makes him want to slam Agito against the wall, taste the blood and the salt and the sweat pooling at the tendon where neck meets collarbone. Akira realizes blurrily as visions of fucking Agito hard and fast into the wall, of the Fang King's hands raw with searching for grip on the unfinished concrete, of Akira's name repeated over and over again mix with the heady smell of blood in the air and the way the neon signs at the end of the alley seem to spread their light hazily over the two of them, that the tromping he can hear is the backup team, shuffling uneasily on their new AT toward the Crocodile's two aces.

"Akira-san?" someone - Akira normally knows the names of his subordinates, but for some reason he can’t identify the speaker - calls out to them uneasily. "Who is- did you get him already?"

"No," Akira gasps out, looking at the floor, the target, the men - anything but Agito, "he's just some drunk. Let's move on."

Agito has already started his run, and Akira rushes to catch up.

Marks from the fang regalia are clearly embedded into the man's wounds, but the team says nothing and follows the crocodile's beasts.

By O-Bon, Akira is fairly certain that the whole affair was a one-time thing, brought on a little bit by bloodlust and a little bit by lack of oxygen to the brain due to smog and hyperventilation. He's been able to act normally around Agito since then, and although he occasionally remembers what he thought nails scrabbling on brick might sound like, overall he's able to put the whole thing behind him.

It's the end of August and they're on a stakeout; it's been three hours so far and Akira is fairly certain that no one is coming, but Kaito has talked the target’s AT skills up enough that Agito is barely able to hold still with anticipation. He keeps talking about everything that he's going to do to the target, and Akira is watching lazily through hooded eyes as Agito animatedly details the road that he's going to carve. The Fang King has kicked off his AT and his feet (striped socks with little pompoms on the back - Akira supposes that they must be Akito's) are on the dashboard, over on Akira's side, almost in his lap, and when he leans back, his shirt rides up, exposing the tiniest sliver of skin. Akira finds himself transfixed by Agito's mouth, wonders what it would feel like against his skin, what noises he could elicit from it. He's suddenly certain that the target is never coming, that they've got the whole night, that it's even though it’s hot out that they could fog up the windows easily, that no one wants to interrupt the two of them when they're working, that it wouldn't even matter anyway. It'd only be the work of a moment to reach over and push Agito's seat back, shove his shirt up, and Agito's pants are a size too big, so once he got past the belt they could easily be shoved down around his knees-

"Akira, you fucker!" Agito is scrabbling for his AT, grabbing for the door (shit, when did he unlock the door?). "What the fuck do you think you're doing? That's the target." Akira scrambles with the clutch, but he puts it in third by accident and the car stalls out. Agito makes a frustrated, unsatisfied noise, and opens the door and dives into the night. He's in hot pursuit before Akira has even managed to put together what has happened to him. When he touches it, Agito's seat is still warm with anticipation and bloodlust.

As he forces the whining stick shift into first gear, he fights the rising urge to slam his face against the steering wheel.

By October, Akira is certain that he is actually going crazy. He can't think of any other explanation for the way Agito keeps flitting in and out of his thoughts, the way he keeps waking up with the distant memory of blunt fingernails scratching helplessly at his back. When he sees bed sheets he remembers dreaming of small, delicate fingers twisting wildly in and around them, sees the awkward angles Agito's spine might bend to as he writhes beneath him.

He has to take frequent trips to the bathroom during the day, to wash his face and get a grip in a place where Agito won't want to follow, but after a particularly vivid dream in early September, all he can think of is the smaller boy holding on for dear life to the top edge of the bathroom stall, of biting hard into the palm of Akira's hand to keep quiet. He imagines that Agito's gasping would sound a lot like it does at the end of a run; when he dreams it, it's a sort of heaving pant somewhere between a sob and a prayer, and his breaths are hot on Akira's sweat-slicked skin.

He's taking a nap in the break room, where no one usually goes since Kaito cracked a man's skull open on the table during lunch last April; he's feverish and tired, and in his dream he is just maneuvering his way around the buttons of Agito's jacket when he's awakened by his chair giving a jolting lurch forward, hitting his solar plexus directly against the edge of the table. Gasping, choking, his head snaps up, desperately searching for the source of the intrusion, and he finds himself pinned under the cool gold stare of a shark eye.

Agito leans forward, almost inquisitively. “What the fuck’re you in here for? If that crocodile catches you napping on duty, sleep deprivation’s going to be the least of your worries.”

“Shut up,” Akira grumbles, slumping back onto the table and resting his head in his arms, “he’s been working us crazy recently, and I’m allowed to make use of the break room on my break, it’s in my contract.” The other boy makes a ‘hmm’-ing noise, pushes himself up onto the table next to Akira. His thigh is mere inches away from Akira’s nose, and in the next few minutes of comfortable silence the brunet can’t help noticing that the edge of Agito’s t-shirt has faint brown speckles, like Kaito-nii had lost interest halfway through trying to get the blood out of it. Suddenly Agito’s face is inches away from Akira’s own, and he asks with carefully practiced lack of concern,

“What, are you sick or something? Your face is all red, and you’re breathing irregular.” Like the animal that he is, Agito is incapable of missing these basic biological cues. Akira can barely stop himself from laughing aloud. Yes, he’s sick, he’s sick with something that he can’t explain, all he wants is for it to stop but he knows how to stop it and he knows that he can’t. He wonders wildly what Agito’s blood tastes like, thinks of pushing him down onto the table and biting his lip to find out, of slamming the back of his head into the lockers behind them, of hooking his thumbs in the other boy’s belt loops and dragging him forward to meet him. As it is, Agito stares openly as Akira’s shoulders are wracked with silent laughter.

Kaito is a lot sharper than Akira had really ever given him credit for, as it turns out, and one night during a stakeout, Kaito turns suddenly on his protégé, saying, “So, there’s a girl, huh?”

Akira chokes on his coffee. Kaito is inching steadily closer, and years of training with the Shinjuku Crocodile have taught Akira to be especially cautious when he’s being friendly. He freezes, cautiously trying to work his brain into an appropriate response, but Kaito continues, wrapping an arm around his waist.

“What you have to do,” Kaito’s breath reeks of Jack Daniels, and Akira can’t decide whether he’s more bewildered by the concept of his boss giving him love advice (on how to get a girl!) or by the way his free hand is wandering toward Akira’s jugular, tracing the vein with a finger. “What you have to do is, get her into the police commissioner’s office,” the finger has danced its way deftly to his collarbone, “and fuck her on the desk.” Akira estimates that his eyes are roughly the size of AT gears at this point, and Kaito catches his disbelieving look, drops his hand from Akira’s shirt to his own holster, fires two warning shots out Akira’s open window. “I’m fucking serious, girls get off on that kind of shit. She’ll do anything after that.”

Agito takes this inopportune moment to return from his run; his shirt is clinging to his skin and his hair is in his eyes, and his AT has left a bloody trail behind him. When he moves to join the other two in the Hummer, Kaito fires a rubber bullet straight into his thigh. The fang king crumbles, momentarily surprised, and only Akira’s hand shooting out of the vehicle to catch him by the wrist stops him from falling nastily onto the pavement.

“What’d I tell you about hosing those things off before getting into the Hummer?” Kaito blows a cloud of smoke toward his two beasts, brotherly bonding and advice forgotten with the coppery tang of new blood in the air.

Akira knows that Kaito hasn’t forgotten the advice that he gave, however, when three days after catching Akira trying to talk Agito into going to check the commissioner’s office out, he accidentally takes his subordinate out with a stray bullet to the kneecap during a relatively routine mission.

“Friendly fire.” Kaito shrugs above Akira’s hospital bed. “It happens. Come on, Akito.” Akito shrinks after his older brother, pausing only to leave a dry, pressed flower on the bedside table.

“Sorry, Akira-kun,” the younger Wanijima smiles somewhat nervously, fingers ghosting around the doorframe. “Agito thinks that wounded people are boring.” Akira watches Akito leave, listens to the peals of his laughter in the distance, a vague ghosting of sharkish amusement around the edges, and wonders when he’ll be well enough for Agito to come visit him.

Akira’s breathing heavily and his lip is split, but his injuries are nothing compared to what Agito is dealing with. The Fang King’s breathing is ragged and one of his arms is completely useless. The fight has gone on for four hours and most of the spectators have gone home by now, expecting it to get broken up by SWAT team WIND at any moment; most of the stone structures around them and a large section of the seating area are crumbling into ruin, and the call’s been made. For the first several hours it was a real run, probably the most fun he’s ever had in spite of its implications; but something has been off for a while with Agito, and it hasn’t been like he’d thought it would be when he’d idly imagined what it would be like, were he and the other boy ever to square off. Ren Fa is watching, though, so Akira continues with the fight. Agito can barely move, but something is keeping him standing, and somehow it infuriates Akira. In an instant he’s within reach – was Agito always this slow, this clumsy?; the other boy moves jerkily to block, but Akira simply grabs him by the shoulders and shakes him angrily, hissing,

“Just give up already, goddamn you, this is my win.”

Agito looks at him with the deepest disgust possible – he’s never even given the people he carves his road on that look - but when he tries to retort, Akira knees him in the stomach and all he can do is cough helplessly. He struggles futilely, his grip on Akira’s arms weak but determined, but his shoulders are shaking. Akira stares openly when he realizes that there are tears streaming out from under the eye patch, because although Agito is too proud to lose here, to Akira and Ren, somewhere inside that tiny body Akito is screaming.

He grabs both of Agito’s wrists in one hand; they are thin and pale, and although he’s held them a hundred times before, for the first time they look fragile to him, like he could crush them without even trying. He bends a finger on Agito’s bad hand back, backwards, much, much too far back; it snaps easily, like an icicle hit by a stray snowball, like the pencils they used to use to fill out post-stakeout reports, like the legs of what seems to him like thousands of people that they have taken down together, and Agito screams, breath wracked with sobbing gasps. Shark eyes meet his own and don’t leave them, even when he punches him once, twice, three times in the gut. The great beast grabs the Fang King’s face in one hand, thinks: this is my last chance, that it would be easy to pry Agito’s mouth open now, to throw him onto the ground and be done with it, but Ren is watching and when he looks at Agito he can see that there’s no way anymore, not in a thousand years, and he head-butts him instead. The fight is finished, and Agito falls forward, onto Akira. His breathing is ragged and sobbing, and right before he loses consciousness completely, the fingers of his good hand twist helplessly in his friend’s sleeve. Akira sets him down onto the ground, switches the eye patch, takes the regalia; it’s only after he’s limped away with Ren, her voice trembling as she calls for an ambulance to come to where they’ve left the other boy, that the crocodile’s ex-beast notices that his shoulder is soaked through with blood and tears.

Akira sends his letter of resignation by email and changes his cell phone number; he hears through the grapevine that Chief Wanijima doesn’t even come to pick his degenerate underling up at the hospital, but the rumors trail off after that. It’s three weeks later when Akito shows up on his doorstep, dark eye reddened with crying and right arm in a soft cast. Ren Fa has gone out for the day, leaving Akira to resize the Fang regalia, and it’s a mystery how Akito’s managed to find Akira when his older brother has been so unsuccessful. At first Akira suspects a trap, but just the sight of the older boy is enough to start Akito trembling uncontrollably, and something about his old friend (or at least the child in his body), terrified and battered on his doorstep, causes Akira to let him in.

It’s only after two cups of hot chocolate that Akito calms down enough to talk to him, although their conversation is as stilted as always. A cold rain starts pouring down outside, chilling the apartment, and Akito manages to chirp conversationally, staring deeply into the brown liquid in his mug,

“You know, Akira-kun… Agito didn’t want me to come.”

Akira knows this, has known this, and the only question that he can think of is why this little midget thinks that he needs to be told. Akito continues carefully,

“Actually, even now he really doesn’t want to be here. This is… this is one of the first things I’ve ever done that Agito really hates. I, um, think Agito said that he didn’t want to see your face again except to rip it off, so, um, he’s pretty mad.” He looks up at Akira suddenly, his single dark eye somehow unreadable, continuing, “But--! I think that really, Agito is going to…”

And then before he even finishes his sentence, he’s dropped the half-full cup onto the floor; he is in Akira’s lap, pressing his own lips fiercely against the other boy’s and tangling the fingers of his good hand in his hair. Akira could crush his windpipe right now; there’d be no witnesses and no one is waiting for Akito at home, but he opens his mouth to allow the other boy’s tongue entrance, thinks hazily: this is what Agito tastes like. Pulling back, the younger Wanijima’s lips are swollen and his hands are shaking as he fumbles with Akira’s belt, but he offers as an explanation,

“You know, I… I’m pretty useless. I never do anything but hold Agito back, so I’m.” He takes a deep, shaking breath, but his fingers are steadier than they were before. “I want to at least do this for him.”

From there on everything dissolves into a mess of sweaty, tangled limbs, of shuddering breaths and sobbing moans, of fingers grasping for something to hold onto. Fucking Akito is a lot like he’d always thought fucking Agito would be; their skin is the same, the way their hair feels when Akira grabs at it and tugs is the same, and their blood is the same coppery liquid that he’s smelled a thousand times. But instead of hoarse, shallow gasps for air like at the end of a good run, Akito only whimpers; when Akira bites at his lower lip, he squeaks in surprise and pain. Once he’s been pushed into the couch, there’s no biting, no scratching, no kicking, and when he comes Akira’s name sounds wrong and broken tumbling over his lips.

When it’s over Akito is in even worse condition than he was when he arrived, but he shies away from Akira’s attempts at help, and he stumbles out of the door on trembling, unsteady legs without ever looking backward.

It’s a cool night at the beginning of March, but Akira opens all of the windows and stares out toward Akito. The other boy looks very small silhouetted against the sky, making his way home as quickly as he can, earthbound. There’s no breeze in this part of the city and the new owner of the fang regalia rests his head quietly in his arms, remembering the way that Agito clutched at his sleeve right before he lost their fight and trying to ignore the hollowed-out, airless feeling that’s settled deep into his lungs.