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remember when we used to pretend we had direction?

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Tsukishima wakes up in his office with sunlight spilling in through the small window. He blinks a few times before realizing that he’s been drooling on a report he was working on the night before. He sits up in his chair, still groggy from sleep and lets out a small sigh. It’s good to be back in Hokkaido where he can feel the sun on his face and hear the crunch of leaves under his boots, but he hasn’t been outside in days. Instead, he’s been holed up in his office working on this report. To say that Tsurumi had been furious upon discovering that Asirpa had gotten away would be an understatement. Newer recruits had cowered for weeks while seasoned soldiers like Tsukishima had barely batted an eye at the sight of Tsurumi storming up and down the barracks, strangely silent about the whole affair. Tsukishima could have sworn he saw him playing with the finger bones again and it would have been near comical if he didn’t know how much of that fury was directed at him. So here he has been for a better portion of the week, writing up a comprehensive report on what he learned during his time with Sugimoto's group. He is under no impression that Tsurumi will ever forgive or forget the gross insubordination he witnessed that day in Karafuto, but he can only hope that this placates him for the time being. He’s wiping a line of drool from his face with his sleeve when he sees Private First Class Ariko standing in the doorway.

Tsukishima stands to salute him, nearly stumbling in the process. “What can I help you with, sir?” he asks, hoping that Ariko pays no attention to his disheveled appearance.

“There’s someone on the phone asking for you.” Ariko informs him before leaving promptly, presumably to avoid the possibility of bumping into Tsurumi.

Tsukishima gathers the pages of his report before putting them inside a drawer. As he makes his way to the common area, he wonders who could be calling him. Some of the other soldiers have families and he often sees them lined up to use the single phone, waiting to talk to mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and on the rare occasion, lovers. Tsukishima has none of these, so when he picks up the phone, he is surprised to hear the voice of Rear Admiral Koito Heiji.

“Hello, Tsukishima?” comes his gruff voice from the other end.

“Sir!” Tsukishima nearly salutes, but quickly lowers his arm upon remembering that the admiral cannot see him. “Were you able to resolve any issues with the ferry that we encountered while pursuing Sugimoto and his cohorts?”

“Yes,” he pauses to clear his throat. “Tsurumi spoke with the captain and he was able to stop it from becoming an international incident.” Tsukishima can’t help but roll his eyes at this. Tsurumi could talk a child into giving up their favourite toy, so convincing the ferry captain not to make a scene is child’s play for him.

“So…” Tsukishima waits for Admiral Koito to say something else. He doesn’t know him all that well, but has always felt a great deal of respect for the man, which is more than he can say for most of his other superiors. From what he does know, Rear Admiral Koito is a man of few words, so for him to call Tsukishima is a bit of a puzzle. “How is Koito?” Tsukishima finally decides to ask.

After being stabbed by Sugimoto back in Karafuto, Koito’s father had brought his son home to recuperate. It’s been a little over a month since then and he hasn’t returned to the barracks. Tsukishima would be worried if he wasn’t so relieved. Tsurumi has been on the warpath ever since they came back to Hokkaido and Tsukishima does not want the lieutenants to collide. At least, that’s what he tells himself. The truth is, he’s not sure what to say to Koito, so he’s been avoiding him. After dragging his half-conscious body onto his father’s ship, he spent the journey back to Hokkaido at his side, shouting at him every time he closed his eyes, worried that he’d slip into an eternal slumber. He has no clue whether the second lieutenant remembers any of that, but he’s certain that Koito hasn’t forgotten the conversation they had just hours before he was stabbed.

“He’s doing fine. He’s…” Rear Admiral Koito trails off and for a second, Tsukishima wonders if their connection has been cut. “Actually,” the admiral lowers his voice. “He’s not fine. He stays indoors all day and he’s not eating as much. The doctors tell me it’s nothing to worry about, that he’s healing well, but a father worries about this stuff, you know?” Tsukishima doesn’t know, but he doesn’t correct him. He also doesn’t bring up the fact that Koito is most likely struggling to come to terms with the fact that he and his father have been manipulated by a man he once held in such high admiration.

“I’ve tried talking to him, but he doesn’t want to…" he says before trailing off again, as if he can’t find the words to explain what his son is going through.

“Sir?” Tsukishima chews on the inside of his cheek, starting to see where this is going.

“Can you please come by and try to talk to him?” And there it is. Tsukishima is thinking of some excuse to avoid what is sure to be an awkward and long overdue conversation with Koito, but then he hears the elder Koito’s voice crack. "I can’t bear to lose him too.”