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the lies etched underneath your skin

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It was the end of a typical day for Sanada Genichirou, when the doorbell rang. He had finished the last of his studying for the interview to promote him from his koban duties into the Prefectural Police department, and he had been gathering prep materials for his interview on the next day, when his day had been disturbed by the ringing of the doorbell.

Sanada blinked, and walked to the door, wondering who could be coming to see him at nine at night. He opened the door and blanched at the sight that greeted him.

Yukimura Seiichi was bent over double, using his doorframe as a crutch, one arm over his stomach, where a vast amount of blood was blossoming up his white-suit shirt. A suit jacket was draped over his shoulders and his suit-trousers were slightly ripped and covered in blood. There were small drops of blood on Sanada's welcome mat and Yukimura's face was contorted in pain.

Sanada hadn't seen Yukimura in almost six years. His closest friend had disappeared after high school graduation. Sanada had assumed it was to play tennis, but he'd not even seen a single article about Yukimura playing tennis or even someone with Yukimura's name. He'd wondered about Yukimura’s whereabouts, but every number he'd tried was unreachable and even Yukimura’s own family had no idea where Yukimura was. So he'd given up and continued his own life, thinking that Yukimura hadn’t cared for him, in the end, beyond tennis.

Sanada should have asked questions. Should have demanded an explanation. But he said nothing as he pulled Yukimura upright and into his house. He had been accepting and understanding of Yukimura for almost fifteen years of his life, it was a hard habit to break. "How did you get the injury?" he asked, as he shut his door.

Yukimura shot him a grateful look as he gripped onto Sanada for support. "Gunshot." he hissed out. "I got the first half of the bullet out, but there is still one shard in there. Have you got tweezers?"

Gunshot? How? Near here? It would have been reported, surely. It was very illegal. Sanada shot him an alarmed look, but nodded. "Here, I'll help you." he said, helping Yukimura walk towards his couch.

Yukimura shook his head, while biting his lip. "Don't, I'll get blood on your couch."

In response to that, Sanada slipped free of his hold on Yukimura, and grabbed two towels from his closet, to place over the couch, quickly, before helping Yukimura lie down. Yukimura was too injured to just stand there.

"Get rid of your shirt and jacket, so I can see how bad it is." ordered Sanada, as he strode away to his bedroom to grab the medical kit that was provided for every police officer working for the koban.

When he returned, Yukimura had fulfilled neither of those requests and was instead using a sharp-looking knife against his shirt and failing. Sanada pulled the knife away from him, with an exasperated sigh. "You must have lost at least a gallon of blood, don't make it worse. I know it's hard, but be sensible, Yukimura."

He started unbuttoning Yukimura's shirt and paused upon Yukimura grabbing his hand and shaking his head. "Don't." he said, with a hiss. "Don't get more involved. I just need tweezers."

"You're bleeding. I can't extract the bullet with your shirt still covering the wound." pointed out Sanada, with a glare.

"But I can." said Yukimura, his teeth gritted together. "Hand me the tweezers, Sanada."

Sanada, easily fighting the weakened Yukimura, pulled the last of the buttons off and paused just a little. Snaking up the sides of Yukimura's chest and along his shoulders, were numerous tattoos, of the highest quality. One of them was an insignia that Sanada recognized very well. "Inagawa-kai's daimon." he said, meeting Yukimura's gaze with a slight look of horror. He was yakuza?

"Happy now, moron?" asked Yukimura, with a slight hiss, as he attempted to get back up and hit Sanada.

"Perhaps." said Sanada, non-committedly, as he pushed Yukimura down and knelt next to Yukimura, so he could get better access to Yukimura's wound. He couldn't afford time to act shocked if he wanted Yukimura to be alive. The edges of the wound were raw and ragged, and the shard of the bullet was wedged in, deeply. Sanada winced, but doused the ends of the tweezers in the antibacterial fluid and started slowly probing.

"...that's police kit." said Yukimura, with a slight look of incredulity. At Sanada's nod, he dropped his head back against the armrest of Sanada's couch, with a muffled curse. "I picked the worst house to come to." he muttered, darkly, as he gritted his teeth and tried to hide the tears coming to his eyes.

"I can turn you in, if you'd really like." said Sanada, as he carefully managed to get a grasp around the bullet. "I was planning on keeping it quiet, personally. It's quite difficult to get a promotion when you have yakuza friends."

"Friend. Singular." said Yukimura, with a slight frown. "No one else that we knew is in the yaku–fuck, be careful, Sanada! I like my internal organs!" he berated, smacking his shoulder, weakly.

Sanada, to his credit, didn't move his hand even a little. “Please stop hitting me. Unless you really would like me to rupture one of your internal organs, then by all means, please continue."

Yukimura tossed him a suspicious look. "When did you grow a sense of humour?" he demanded, between slight hisses of pain.

"About the time that you were dealing drugs." grumbled Sanada, as he pulled the bullet out slowly.

"Inagawa-kai are more into gambling and prostitution. You haven't done your research. We recently banned drug trafficking in our organization." said Yukimura, as he tightly gripped the sides of Sanada's couch with tears in his eyes.

"My interview for promotion to the Organized Crime is tomorrow." said Sanada, calmly, as the bullet finally came out of Yukimura's stomach, which led to a fresh wave of blood. "I didn't need to know much about it. Until now, my biggest responsibility was stopping minor robberies and showing tourists around."

"Koban duty?" asked Yukimura, not even bothering to hide the waver in his voice from the tears.

"Yes. This needs stitches, Yukimura, I'm not that trained. I need to get you to a hospital." said Sanada, as he straightened up to get rid of the bullet in his kitchen bin.

"No, no, I know how to." said Yukimura, impatiently. "Just sterilize the needle and the cloth and I'll do it myself."

Sanada shot him a look as he returned from the kitchen. "You can barely sit up straight, let alone sew yourself back together."

"I can't go to a hospital either!" snapped Yukimura, with a growl. "I can't afford to get arrested now!"

"Then tell me how." said Sanada, as he started to sterilize the needle and sat down next to Yukimura. Yukimura sighed and wiped his eyes clean of tears, using the edge of one of the clean towels.

"Okay, disinfect the wound first, then we have to compress it for a bit to stem blood flow." instructed Yukimura, as he rummaged in Sanada's medical kit for a needle and some thread. "Then sew the skin back together in a diagonal way, but only stab in at the edges of the wound. Because the pain receptors there have already been numbed."

Sanada frowned as he obeyed instructions. "You've been shot before?"

"Once. And stabbed thrice and burnt on countless occasions." listed Yukimura, as he bit his lip as Sanada doused his wound in antiseptic. "This job's got more hazards than perks, especially when you climb the ranks."

Sanada strung the needle silently, concentrating firmly on seeing it through, his brows furrowing a little. "Why join in the first place?" he asked, as he slowly dipped the needle in antibiotic cream.

Yukimura laughed lowly and harshly. It sounded nothing like the laugh that Sanada remembered from Yukimura before. Not even from when Yukimura had been in hospital. “It's long and complicated. It's pretty depressing too. Do you really want to know?”

Sanada nodded, easily. "The truth is better than an assumption, no matter how depressing." That was something he’d learnt from Yanagi over the years. He started to slowly stitch the wound together, with Yukimura shakily pointing to where he had to stab the needle in to avoid pain.

"Well, my dad worked at an advertising company, as a text logician. Ever wondered how he paid for our huge house, my hospital stay and two surgeries?" asked Yukimura with a rueful smile. "Neither did I, until some yakuza thug came knocking at our door. It was late at night and I was on my way to play tennis with Fuji, but I didn't like the look of his sunglasses and the scar on his face. I lied and said that my dad wasn't around and batted my eyelashes a bit. Thought that would work, but upstairs, my mother called my dad and he responded, before I could slam the door in the guy's face." said Yukimura, with a slight hiss and a quiet voice, as Sanada slowly stitched.

"The guy got angry, but I had my racket. I hit him with my racket before he could do anything with the knife he was drawing out. I might have got us into more trouble, if it weren't for the fact that the thug had a cleverer accomplice behind him, as backup." said Yukimura, with a slight frown. "To the left, Sanada, or else the thread will hurt."

Sanada complied quietly, without too much bitterness. "Clever yakuza doesn't really bode well." said Sanada, with a frown.

"Well, it's better than a thug with a knife, who’ll stab us left, right and centre, yes?" said Yukimura, dryly. "This one explained to all of us clueless fools that father was a chronic gambler, and had been experiencing a winning streak for a long time, but started losing around the time I entered high school." he said, softly. "He'd owed a debt of almost 30 million yen to the yakuza and they'd come collecting. But they said they'd waive the debt if I joined the yakuza instead. They liked my reflexes and willingness to lie."

There was another rueful smile, an expression that Sanada had seen countless times at the hospital. If anything, this was bitterer than those ones. "The only one who contested the decision was my sister."

Sanada paused in his stitching, not wanting to injure Yukimura because of the sudden shiver, at that thought. They'd sold their son out, to waive a debt? But Yukimura didn't say that he'd been against it either…had that meant that Yukimura had also agreed to it willingly or that he’d been forced into it? "You could have said something." he said, fiercely. "I thought you'd died in a ditch somewhere, Yukimura. Nobody knew anything, not even Renji."

"Which was the point." said Yukimura, pulling a face. "Better to think that I was dead or missing or even just cold and callous."

"Better than what?" asked Sanada, as he started sewing again, with a little more force. Yukimura winced and flicked at Sanada's hand.

"Careful, that's my skin." he reproached, his blue eyes narrowing. "And it was better than you being used as a way to bully me into things. I am third in command, and I deal with street gang extermination; they don't have the same rules as yakuza. You'd have been kidnapped, tortured, beaten up, maybe even killed. Maybe it's okay for you, Mr. Police Officer, but Marui's a cafe owner near here and Akaya's trying to go pro. They couldn't afford something like that."

Sanada quelled a little. "Not even a little message? Not even a birthday card? Or a small letter saying, 'I'm safe'?" he asked, quietly, as he finished the stitches, neatly.

"That would have implied that there was something that would make me unsafe." said Yukimura, as he prodded the stitches and winced. "Okay, good, they're good. Thanks."

Sanada could only frown at that statement. It was true, but Sanada had wanted something. They’d been friends since they were four and Yukimura had just disappeared. He had been so unsure for so long, whether Yukimura had ever really liked him. He’d wondered for so long whether he’d just been used. And here he was, being used again.

Sanada started bandaging Yukimura’s wound over, so it wouldn't be so exposed, and after he finished, he wiped his bloody hands in the towel. With a small sigh, he started to collect up the supplies he'd used and walked over to the kitchen. "I have a spare futon in my room, but I think it's best if you don't move for a bit. I'll make you soup or something, so you can replace body fluids."

Yukimura smiled, and while it was weak and filled with pain, it was a better smile than any of the ones that Sanada had received in the past half-hour. "Do you have a sports drink, or something? It's more important I replace electrolytes, or else I start slowly dying in more pain than the gunshot."

In response, Sanada lightly tossed Yukimura a bottle from the huge pack of sports drinks that Niou had sent him for Old People Appreciation Day. As expected, even looking half-dead, Yukimura caught the bottle with ease and started drinking. "Ah, your taste in sports drinks improved, Sanada." he said, with a teasing laugh.

Sanada snorted from the kitchen. "You mean, it got more artificial. It's not mine, it's Niou's, anyway."

Yukimura pulled himself up to his elbows, mid-sip. "Niou's your roomie?" he asked, looking very skeptical.

"NO!" said Sanada, with a horrified glance, peering out of his kitchen door. "His idea of a joke." he said, with a roll of his eyes. "I don't even know what he does to get the money to pay for this."

"Hacker." said Yukimura, nonchalantly. "Eats at major accounts of rich people, to leech off what they really don't need. Some of it's rerouted to charity, most of it stays with him."

Sanada, who had been in the process of tipping out the soup mixture, stopped and blinked, a couple of times. That was Yukimura on his sofa, yes? Not Yanagi? "You keep tabs on us?"

"No, I've just worked with Niou before." called Yukimura, his voice obviously indicating that he was rolling his eyes. "If I kept tabs on you all, I would have known you were a police officer. Try and be sensible Sanada, I know it's hard for you." he said, parroting back Sanada's comment from before.

" were waiting to use that on me." said Sanada, matter-of-factly, as he started the timer for the soup.

"Of course not, Sanada, how could you even suggest that?" asked Yukimura, his voice pitched to sound entirely innocent.

Sanada just ignored him, with a soft chuckle.

When the soup finally stopped cooking, Sanada emerged back out, to a softly dozing Yukimura, his eyes loosely shut and the bottle of lucozade perched on Sanada's coffee table precariously. Sanada smiled a little. It was a familiar scene from many of their childhood days. Yukimura would always come to watch him practise kendo and fall asleep while watching. It was a little less innocent, with the sheer amount of blood that stained the towels over his couch, but it was close enough.

He was being used, but Sanada could feel the affection behind Yukimura’s tone. They were still friends. Sometimes, you could restart a friendship without thinking about it.

With a little regret, Sanada gently shook him awake. "Soup." he said, shortly, as he handed Yukimura the large soup ladle. He didn't fail to notice the slightly trembling hands however as Yukimura came up to accept the bowl, and Sanada didn't relinquish his grip on the bowl. Yukimura's eyes fell to his hands and he clicked his tongue, impatiently. "Back to this, aren't we?" His eyes softened a little. "I am sorry for being a burden, Sanada. I just couldn't think of anyone else, who wouldn't ask too many questions...and you’ve always been there for me, even when I don’t deserve it."

"It's never a burden." said Sanada, softly, as he continued to support the bowl as Yukimura shakily took a spoonful of soup. Really, it wasn’t, not now that he could tell that Yukimura wasn’t just using him. "But why me? If you're third in command, surely there are others who would help?"

Yukimura smiled wanly. "No, there aren't." he said, softly. "It's complicated and most of it would be too confidential. But a condensed version is that I can't return back to the oyabun until I've completed my task. The rest of my team-members on the mission are out of reach, so you see, I had nowhere to turn to recover."

Sanada nodded. "How long will it take to recover?" he asked, quietly. Yukimura had said that he'd experienced gunshot wounds before...

"Four weeks.” said Yukimura, with a nod. "The stem cells that they inserted during the second operation in America are there for life, which means I heal faster than most people."

"Then you're staying here for that long? I'll make a note of it, so I can get more food." said Sanada, adjusting his grip on the bowl so it was easier for Yukimura to eat.

"...thank you." said Yukimura again, his eyes soft and just a little vulnerable. He finished his soup quickly, a little like a starving man, and Sanada wondered whether he had been just that, for a period of time. He seemed even thinner than he had during high school, if that was even possible.

"Just stay here, I'll get that spare futon and a spare yukata ready." said Sanada, as he got up with the empty bowl.

"Just how do you think I'm going anywhere?' asked Yukimura, dryly, as Sanada quickly rinsed the bowl and starting walking to his room.

"You're stubborn when you want to be." retorted Sanada, calmly, as he pulled it out of the closet and laid it out across the tatami floor, along with some pillows. The yukata would hang a little loose on Yukimura, but he probably needed some fluidity in order to not agitate the stitches.

When he came back, Yukimura's eyes were shut again, but they flickered open when Sanada placed a hand on his shoulder. "Not as stubborn as you and Renji used to be..." he said, as Sanada helped him get up. He really was thinner than ever, though his muscles were lithe and could be felt through the tattered and blood-stained shirt. They slowly staggered to the bedroom and Sanada placed Yukimura down, with utmost care. To spare his friend's pride, he hadn't carried Yukimura, but with how weak Yukimura was, it would have been the better option.

"I can change myself. I'm just tired, not an invalid." said Yukimura tightly, as Sanada started to unfold the yukata. "Good night, Sanada." he said, firmly, with a tone that brooked no argument.

Sanada nodded and left the room, with a murmured greeting. He stood in his living room and stared at the bloodstained towels on his couch. He was harbouring a yakuza his house. The rest of the police force would be up in outrage if they knew what he was doing. He would lose his job in a heartbeat and be a laughing stock.

He should report this, but Sanada couldn't even imagine selling out Yukimura, not when he was that injured and was asking for Sanada’s help.

So, he was breaking laws and harbouring a criminal because of an old friendship.

What had he gotten himself into?


Despite distractions and worries running through Sanada's mind the next day, the interview went well and the officers seemed impressed by his maturity and determination. In fact, they'd almost immediately promoted him to Police Captain after seeing his kendo credentials and his impressive scores on the exams.

It was a slight feeling of bemusement that Sanada returned back to his apartment from the conbini, with some extra groceries, to compensate for Yukimura's appetite. He was still a little in shock at the way that events had unfolded, but he sent a victory text to Yanagi, as he unlocked the door. He blinked at the sight that greeted him.

The apartment was...sparkling. Everything was neat and put-away and things were practically sparkling with how clean they were. Slumped against the kotatsu table was a fast-asleep Yukimura, still wearing that yukata that Sanada had lent him, which really was far too big on him. Feeling a little reluctant to wake him, Sanada started to pack away the groceries, and paused upon even seeing the fridge being clean and neat and organized. Sanada wasn't a messy person, not by most standards, but even he wasn't the most organized. He felt quite impressed by how hard Yukimura must have worked to get everything this spick and span. Then, he remembered exactly how injured Yukimura had been yesterday and he started frowning angrily.

He made some tea for the both of them and took his own seat by the kotatsu. "You know," he said, loudly, as he placed the cups down on the table with a thump. "Gunshot wounds mean that you rest so your wounds feel better. Not clean the whole place."

Yukimura stirred a little, his eyes blinking a little blearily. "Sanada...?" he asked, as he rubbed the corners of his eyes and yawned.

"You shouldn't have done this." said Sanada, pushing the tea towards Yukimura.

"I wanted to." said Yukimura, as he gracefully accepted the cup and took a sip of the tea, with a contented smile. "Besides, I was bored. You have no books or movies here, and I can't sleep for very long with the pain." he explained, with a slight irritation.

Well, he could help with something. Sanada pulled out a small pack of painkillers and handed them to Yukimura. "Not much, but they're the strongest that I could buy over-the-counter. Take them every twelve hours." he instructed.

Yukimura's eyes widened then crinkled. He popped out two pills and dry-swallowed them. "Thank you." he said, with a grin. "My skin reknitting hurts like a bitch. Which reminds me, you had your interview today, how did it go?"

If it weren't for the fact that Sanada could see the tattoos spilling out from where the yukata didn't quite cover, he could almost pretend this was a normal conversation. "Well enough. They promoted me to Captain. I'll be in charge of coordinating the Riot Squads for Tokyo." he said, with a soft smile. "I wasn't expecting it, not in the slightest."

Yukimura smirked a little. "Always win, Rikkaidai." he said, as he finished his tea. "You should have more confidence in your abilities."

"You never know, I could be an awful police officer." said Sanada, as he took a sip of his tea while Yukimura shifted, until the shorter's man's toes were brushing against Sanada's knees. Sanada didn’t shift, even though the light brush was ticklish and just a little sensual.

"You didn't even bat an eyelid when I started dripping blood all over you." said Yukimura, as he leant back a little. "And I know you; you were never one for doing something halfway. If you're a police officer, it's because you're good at what you do."

"None of us were." said Sanada, calmly. It was more comfortable than he'd expected. "It's what made us winners."

Yukimura nodded, his lips curling up into a lazy smirk. "Speaking of winners, I can't afford to lose something. Do you have a laptop I could borrow, Sanada?" he asked, as he straightened a little, his hands curling up together in his lap. "I promise, no one will be able to track the IP address back to you."

Sanada nodded, feeling a little wary. Did he extend himself to even this? "It’s under my futon. Just...don't overexert yourself. Rest, so you can get better soon, okay?" he asked, as he got up.

"Worrywart." accused Yukimura playfully, as he too got up, with a lot more strength than the day before. "I hope you don't mind that I liberated your fridge of leftovers. I made the rather foolhardy decision of cleaning the kitchen before lunch." he said, cheerfully.

Sanada just shook his head. "You just can't cook, can you?" he asked, with a smug smirk.

There was a light shrug from Yukimura. "There's not much time to learn to cook when you're either being spoiled by luxury or running for your life." he said, as he leant against the side counter of the kitchen, as Sanada filled the rice cooker with water. His hair fell into his face, and Yukimura pushed it back a little impatiently.

"I'll teach you some basics then." said Sanada, as he rolled up the sleeves of his work shirt. "Watch carefully."

Yukimura's eyes sharpened and his gaze turned to follow Sanada. Sanada could feel the idea of a challenge being accepted and smirked a little.


The problem with their living arrangement was that it was comfortable. Too comfortable. It was all too easy to forget that Yukimura was a yakuza member, at least, until Sanada stumbled upon Yukimura cleaning out his gun or his internet page left open at sketchy looking sites that encouraged all sorts of illegal things in their country. He wondered sometimes, whether he was compromising his own integrity as a police officer as he did this, but upon joking around with Yukimura and laughing at bad jokes, he couldn't think of it as anything but helping out an old friend.

"You abslutely cannot tell any of the others." said Yukimura, out of the blue, when Sanada was working on some paperwork on the kotatsu. Yukimura had been doing something on his laptop, that Sanada had been tuning out for purposes of plausible deniability, but now, his piercing gaze was on Sanada's face.

"You mean our old friends." said Sanada, carefully.

Yukimura nodded, his hair falling into his eyes. Sanada resisted the urge to reach over and brush it away from his face. "Niou already knows, but he's keeping just as quiet as I am for the same reasons. Akutsu from Yamabuki is an approved bosozoku member- no surprises there- but other than that, nobody except you knows. Keep it that way."

It was an order and phrased that way, and Sanada frowned. They weren't teammates anymore; following orders felt a little against his sensibilities. Still, it was a reasonable request, so Sanada said nothing about the wording, as he continued to write. "Hn." he said, hiding his frustration at the way it was worded.

"...thank you." said Yukimura, with a nod, as his fingers brushed one of his shoulder tattoos absently. Sanada couldn’t look away from the bright splash of ink against his rough, pale fingers and the curve of Yukimura’s shoulder.

Sanada glanced up at Yukimura’s face with some difficulty. "'s a tattoo per kill?" he asked, curiously, breaking the silence that had fallen between them.

"Per success." corrected Yukimura. "Murder is frowned upon, unless strictly necessary. It draws too much attention. Mostly, this is about cheating people out of money, driving out bosozoku gangs and successful soapland operations." said Yukimura, casually.

"And human trafficking? That's a specialty of Inagawa-kai." said Sanada, as he flicked over a sheet of paper, to sign on the back. He'd done his research on the yakuza specialties and distinctions while he'd had a slow day at work.

"Not my department." dismissed Yukimura, without pausing. "Someone else deals with that."

"You're okay with it?" asked Sanada, cautiously.

Yukimura laughed, dryly, as he tucked a strand of hair behind his ear. "If you're asking about my moral sensibilities...yes, I disapprove of stealing people who haven't asked for involvement with the criminal world. But business is business and it's not my place to disagree with the oyabun." he said, as he continued to type.

At Sanada's disapproving look, he smiled, just a little patronizingly. "I can't afford to have a conscience, Sanada. This isn't tennis, where I can drive a disagreeable coach away, with a bat of my eyelashes and a small temper tantrum. He's in charge of the yakuza for life. If I disagree in any way, I die." he finished, his eyes cold. "I'm not willing to risk my life for a deluded sense of a conscience.”

"Ah." said Sanada, as he went back to his paperwork, feeling just a little disconcerted. He disagreed about Yukimura's distinctions of crime. It was crime, whether or not they chose to get involved with the yakuza or not. He felt uneasy by Yukimura’s easy dismissal of his moral code for survival. It didn’t rest well with him, but he had nothing to say in rebuttal, so he stayed silent.

It was not what Sanada would have done six years ago, but they had all changed.


It was around two weeks after Yukimura had crashed into his apartment, that Sanada started feeling things were accelerating. At work, there were reports from all over Tokyo that gang activity was increasing and with Showa Day drawing closer, accompanied by a parade through the popular districts of Tokyo, Sanada was understandably worried.

But at home, Yukimura also grew increasingly antsy. He paced incessantly, constantly kept looking out of the window, fixed his gun a lot (which always made Sanada just a little nervous, even if Yukimura had no intention of shooting him) and seemed to obsessively check his bandages.

"It's not going to heal over the space of five minutes." said Sanada, irritably, as he looked up from his paperwork on the couch, finally getting frustrated after four days of non-stop fidgeting from Yukimura.

Yukimura blinked, and his face looked wan. He didn't even seem to notice. "Huh?" he asked, as if breaking free from some sort of trance, his distant blue eyes vaguely coming to rest on Sanada.

Sanada sighed, as he placed the papers down. "You were checking your bandages again. I'm saying there's no need."

Yukimura's expression darkened a little as he glanced down at the bandages covering his chest. "I just need it to heal quickly." he said, with a small sigh. "I'm going crazy in here, just waiting for something to happen."

Sanada's lips tightened. "You know why gang activity went up this past week?"

Yukimura's eyes sharpened and he moved forward so fast that Sanada almost didn't see him move, until he was right in front of Sanada, eyes wide and determined. "It went up? Which sectors?"

"Shibuya, Minato, Bunkyo, Koto..." said Sanada, "Most of the important places."

Yukimura swore loudly, stepping back from Sanada as he threw his hands up in frustration. "Bastards! I told them to fucking wait until later! Their stupid need for significance all the fucking time!"

"It is to do with Showa Day then?" asked Sanada, leaning forward.

Yukimura's eyes glinted as he regained his composure. "And you tried to tell me you were incompetent." he said, with a small smirk.

"Something's happening do with the parade? But what?" asked Sanada.

Yukimura's smirk only grew larger. "If you don't know already, I can't say anything." He waggled his fingers in front of Sanada's face, with a determined glance. "I like having full use of my limbs. I haven't had to cut off my index finger tip yet, and I don't plan on it happening in the future."

"But this is gang activity, not yakuza. They're your enemies. Let us help you." said Sanada, gripping Yukimura's hands.

Yukimura's eyes flickered down to their hands and his eyes darkened a little. "I don't need police help." he said, coldly. Then, he looked up and caught Sanada's gaze. "But...I would appreciate the help of an old childhood friend."

Sanada let go of Yukimura's hands and leant back against the couch. He'd known that he would have to ignore a few of his police duties by housing Yukimura with him, but Yukimura was outrightly asking him to choose between his duty and his friendship. "Give me a moment." he said, with a low voice.

"Of course." said Yukimura, as he took a seat on top of Sanada's kotatsu. Sanada didn't reprimand him, as his thoughts started spiraling.

He had a duty to the country, to protect against all crime. Joining Yukimura would mean that he was joining with yakuza, which was against police morals.

But, keeping to the letter of his duty, would mean letting the gang activity happen without any sort of moral regulations. Refusing to compromise his morals meant that he would remain clueless and Yukimura would continue whatever plan he would do, alone.

And even if his old friend felt like he wasn't injured, Sanada could see how Yukimura's movement was limited by his injury. So Sanada would potentially endanger Yukimura and the people of Tokyo by letting gang activity happen, if he sat back on his morals and his duty. At least the yakuza had some honour, even if their corruption scandals were some of the most disgusting affairs to read about. Bosozoku had no sort of honour.

"Fine." said Sanada, with a nod. "I'll help you. But after this, my duty returns to the country. And we stay anonymous, okay? I don't want my reputation compromised." he said, holding out a hand, in a western-styled handshake, that they always used in tennis.

"Seems fair." said Yukimura, meeting his gaze and gripping his hand, firmly. It was a tighter grip than his own and Sanada had almost forgotten the sensation of this, on hot summer days, over a dusty court and a taut net, adrenaline pumping through his blood.

"So what's happening?" asked Sanada, as Yukimura loosened his grip but didn't let go.

"That would still be in the territory of losing fingers." said Yukimura dryly as he turned their joined hands over, to show off his longer appendages. "They're nice fingers. I like them."

Sanada wasn't sure what to think. "So... you want my help with something you're telling me nothing about?" he asked, skeptically. Even back in school, Sanada had never been that obedient. And he was even less likely to follow that now.

"Pretty much." said Yukimura, looking nonchalant as he squeezed Sanada's hand briefly and let go. "I would appreciate the help, but I can do it myself, if it's too much for you. It's just...20 highpower explosives are quite heavy..." he said, his voice softer and slightly worried.

Sanada knew he was being played. The idea of Yukimura being careless with anything that could blow him up was vastly incomprehensible. Yukimura was shrewd and smart and much, much better at the game than Sanada. Still, the gunshot wound would leave Yukimura wide open for gunfire. "...fine. If only to make sure you don't get shot again, from being too careless." he said, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Now you sound like Tezuka." said Yukimura with a soft laugh. "Your grandfather is rubbing off on you again."

"...he died last year." said Sanada, reluctantly. "He couldn't if he tried."

Yukimura paused and pulled a face. "Ah. I'm sorry. That jibe was in bad taste, then. I didn't know." His voice was genuine and his eyebrows quirked and Sanada remembered that Yukimura had liked his grandfather's ways of teaching. "...Is that why you don't wear the hat anymore?"

Sanada tossed Yukimura a look. "I got older. It's not particularly dignified to wear a baseball cap when patrolling the streets."

Yukimura met his look, with a little challenge. "But you're not on duty now."

Sanada continued to meet Yukimura's gaze, until they were engaged in a staring contest. He had always won these in school. Still, Yukimura had evidently increased the amount of time he could go without blinking and Sanada eventually gave in as he turned away. "Perhaps I did. It's a piece of him." It was also one of the only pieces bequeathed solely to Sanada and not his entire family. He didn't want to wear it every day.

"I won't make fun of you for treasuring it, I promise." said Yukimura, as he got up and stretched, languidly. "Besides, you look more handsome without it." With that nonchalant comment, he got up and walked to the bathroom, leaving Sanada just a tad confused about exactly what Yukimura meant by the comment.


It was two days later, as Sanada was exiting from his office, after a long day’s work of denying any connection between gang activity and Showa Day, that he found a frantic series of texts from none other than Kirihara Akaya.

16:10- fukubuchou, u gotta help me!
16:13- fukubuchou, I think yanagi-snpi’s mad at me and im so scared and ur his best friend, u gotta help me out! plz!
16:14- :( don’t avoid me, fukubuchou! i know ur off work.
16:17- plz fukubuchou, im despratae and i only hv a day 2 fix it. im off to france tomorrow.
16:21- u r too avoiding me. i know where u live. im coming there now. have the key from Yanagi-snpi.

After spending a few seconds trying to decipher the awful slang and hiragana usage, Sanada swore and started sprinting down the busy Tokyo street, ignoring the cries of anger he left in his wake. His home phone was disconnected since he never used it anyway and Yukimura didn’t have a legal mobile phone. If Akaya caught Yukimura at his apartment, Yukimura would hate Sanada’s guts. Also, the whiplash of Akaya being unable to keep a secret would mean that it would spread to all of the old friends, which was exactly what Yukimura didn’t want.

He wasn’t as fit as he had been in school, which annoyed Sanada a little. He could have used that six minute mile time, now. Instead, he just ran as fast as his legs could pump him and hoped he could make it before Akaya did. Akaya would use a car, and he would most certainly be slowed by rush-hour traffic, so Sanada had the advantage, but Akaya had a twenty minute head-start.

It was with a sigh of relief that Sanada managed to reach his apartment and there was no angry shouting or noises from inside. Sanada fumbled with the keys and stumbled back inside. Yukimura was sat in front of his computer, frowning at something on the screen, and slowly tapping away something.

He looked up upon Sanada’s arrival and raised an eyebrow at Sanada’s panting and sweating through his suit. “Sanada…” he said, looking a little confused. “What–“

“No time.” said Sanada, with a frown. “Akaya’s got a key to my place and he’s on his way over. You need to hide somewhere until I get rid of him.” he said, as he struggled to catch his breath.

Yukimura’s eyes widened. “Shit.” He got up, as frowned as he looked around Sanada’s small apartment. “But where…?”

“Closet.” said Sanada, shortly. “There’s enough for someone to sit there, if I pull out one of the packing boxes.”

They both immediately walked to it and opened the door. Yukimura frowned upon surveying the area. “It’s got enough height...but I can’t go far back enough. The door won’t shut properly.”

“Which is the point.” said Sanada, as he started to pull out the box. “If I shut the door properly, you’ll suffocate. It’s airtight. But the closet is around the corner, he shouldn’t be able to see you, even if the door is open a smidgen.”

There was a skeptical look on Yukimura’s face, but he conceded and folded himself into the space with his feet and hands sticking out a little. “This is very uncomfortable.” said Yukimura, with a slight frown. “Get rid of him quickly.” It melted into an angelic smile, which struck fear into Sanada’s heart. Sanada nodded and almost shut the closet door, before rushing to get rid of evidence like painkillers, the laptop open at a strange website and the gun which was still left on top of the kitchen table.

Akaya wasn’t like Yanagi, but he wasn’t unintelligent either. He noticed small, sharp things when you didn’t need him to and he was curious enough to try and follow it through. Sanada had to be careful.

It was with a curse that Sanada rushed to hide the extra dishes upon hearing Akaya’s voice tipping off his driver from outside of his window. Why had Akaya chosen this month to irritate Yanagi? He pushed in his headphones and pulled out some paperwork, and settled himself on the couch as his front door rattled and Sanada looked up, as if clueless.

“Akaya?” he asked, with a confused look. “What are you doing here?” he said, as he stood up.

“I need your help!” said Akaya, running forward and gripping Sanada’s shirt, tracking mud in with his shoes. “Yanagi-senpai’s super mad and I don’t even know what I did and I just need to know what you’d say, fukubuchou, because you know him best and I need to fix this because I leave for France tomorrow!”

Sanada let the chatter wash over him, and pulled off Akaya’s hands from his shirt, forcefully. He then gave Akaya a sharp swat around his head. “Akaya!” he barked and Akaya stopped, looking a little mollified. “Calm down. Breathe a little. Take off your shoes. Let me get you some tea and try again.” said Sanada, inclining that the younger whirlwind should sit down.

“Could I get coffee instead, Sanada-fukubuchou? Still a bit jetlagged from China.” he said, his laugh, a little ragged.

“I’m not your housemaid.” he said, sharply, but nevertheless, made Akaya and himself a coffee in the kitchen, as quickly as he could. “Now, try again, and start from the beginning.” he said, as he settled into seiza, aware that Yukimura was probably cramping from the small space, already.

“Well, I came back from China a couple days ago, and I went to go see him, texted him from the airport and we went out for dinner somewhere and went back to his apartment.” said Akaya, with a frown. “And then I told him that I was going to be going to France early for Roland Garros, because I wanted to win it this year and he got all cold and mad and wouldn’t talk to me.” he finished, looking down at his coffee, morosely.

“Well, you’re in town for a very short amount of time.” said Sanada, dryly. “It’s likely that he just wants more time with you.”

“Yeah, but it’s not that! I would have gone straight to France, but I didn’t, I came to see him! He knows that!” wailed Akaya, looking down with a sigh. “It’s what my manager wants me to do, because I’m not winning as much as my potential allows, he said. And I don’t think I’m missing anything important! It’s not either of our birthdays, and none of the team’s either! I mean, yours is coming up and Marui-senpai’s just went by, but it’s not while I’ll be at Garros…”

“Anniversaries?” asked Sanada, absently. “My brother was dreadful at remembering those and his girlfriend used to kick him out as well.”

“No, we started dating in December…” said Akaya, with a confused face. “At Christmas, when I finally got fed up of senpai dancing around and avoiding me when I got free time.”

“When you met?” asked Sanada, with a shrug. He wasn’t sure why Akaya was coming to the ‘dateless-wonder’ (as Marui had coined him) for romance advice. It would have been better to go to Yagyuu who was actually involved with someone and who knew Yanagi well. But Akaya wasn’t known for his common sense.

There was a pensive look on Akaya’s face, before his face clarified and he shot up, clicking his fingers like a showgirl. “School starts about now! This was when I challenged you three, back in middle school! Ten years ago, right? Huh, seems like forever ago.”

Sanada nodded, he still cringed over the quality of that letter when recalled it. “That would be why Renji’s upset. He might have been planning something and was upset that you didn’t tell him about your plans to go to the French Open, earlier.”

Akaya’s face was the most dejected that Sanada had seen in a while. “How do I make it better, fukubuchou?” he asked, miserably.

“…presents?” asked Sanada, helplessly. He rarely upset Yanagi that much. “I have a book that he’s been wanting for a while. Bring that to him and babble at him before he can slam the door in your face and give it to him.” It would mean that Sanada would have to think about another birthday present for Yanagi, but if it would make Akaya leave earlier, it was probably a good price to pay.

“Do you?” asked Akaya, and even if it hadn’t been a good option, Sanada wasn’t sure he could deny that.

Sanada got up and nodded. “Hold on, I’ll get it for you. Would you mind putting the cups in the sink, Akaya?” he asked, hoping to move him out of the direct sight of the closet where the book was stored. Him seeing Yukimura hiding in the closet would be a thing to explain.

Akaya nodded and disappeared and Sanada opened the door wider. Yukimura looked a little quizzical but Sanada mouthed ‘Not much longer’ as he perched on tiptoes to reach the top shelf and get Yanagi’s book. He almost tripped and fell into Yukimura’s lap, which would have been a bad idea. Instead, his hand came out to use Yukimura’s knee as a perch and he managed to pull himself upright. He shut the door again, with an apologetic look, but Yukimura didn’t seem to be looking at him, so Sanada stepped around the closet and returned to the kitchen.

Akaya was looking at the stack of opened sports drinks, with a slight frown. “I didn’t know you liked these, fukubuchou. Didn’t you used to tell us these were bad for us?”

Sanada swore in his brain. That was his biggest mistake yet. He hated those drinks. everyone knew it. “It was a stupid joke from Niou, and since it’s bad to let things to go to waste, I use them.” said Sanada, with a nonchalant shrug. “Sometimes Sasuke comes over too, and he likes them too.”

Akaya sent him a slight look, with a little skepticism. Still, he seemed to ignore it upon seeing the book. “This it?” he asked, as he flipped through it quickly and familiarizing himself with it. “Thank you so much, fukubuchou.”

“Get him flowers too.” said Sanada, with a slight sigh.

“…buchou would know what kind, huh?” said Akaya, softly.

Sanada laughed, a little nervously. Akaya hadn’t brought up Yukimura in a very long time. Why would he even think about Yukimura now? “I would imagine so. Yukimura loved plants.”

“I miss him…” said Akaya, with a frown. “He was supposed to go into the pro field. My coach was telling me that everyone who was anyone, wanted to coach him and Tezuka. Then he just…vanished. Kapich. You don’t think he’s dead, do you? I think Yanagi-senpai’s starting to think he is….”

Sanada shook his head. “Yukimura’s stronger than that. Wherever he is, he’s doing well.” he said, strongly. He’d never believed that Yukimura was dead, even before seeing Yukimura, and now, his belief was confirmed in Yukimura’s inner strength. “Go on, hurry. Before the traffic gets unbearable.” he said, pushing Akaya out of the door.

“Bye fukubuchou!” called Akaya, as he jogged down the street, away from Sanada’s apartment. Sanada shut the door and scanned the room. Akaya had left nothing. No reason for Akaya to return. It was safe.

Sanada opened the closet door and nodded. “It’s okay.”

Yukimura clambered out and stretched out, his muscles reaching up to the sky. Sanada pulled his eyes away from the dip in Yukimura’s yukata and looked at his face, instead. “About time!” said Yukimura, looking impatient. “I thought you’d never stop talking.”

Sanada just rolled his eyes and shook his head, with a slight smile tugging at his lips. “Be reasonable, I had to act normal and usually I let Akaya talk for a little while.” he said, as he turned to walk back out to the couch.

“So…Akaya and Renji are dating?” asked Yukimura, his voice a little peculiar. It stopped Sanada in his tracks. It was different to any of the tones that Sanada had heard from Yukimura all of this time. Sanada nodded, a little warily.

“Yes. Since the Christmas before last. But they shared an apartment for a lot longer, when Akaya was still mainly based in Japan.” said Sanada, slowly.

“Ah…good for them.” said Yukimura, with a strange smile to match his strange tone. His eyes were distant again and there was a peculiar turn to his lips. Sanada had lost his ability to read Yukimura’s more subtle expressions. He wished he hadn’t, but six years without contact would do that. He’d just have to wait for Yukimura to tell him what he was thinking.

Sanada nodded and moved to turn away. Instead, his hand was gripped by Yukimura’s whose face was gripped by something else peculiar as he pushed Sanada back against the wall. He slowly drew closer, giving Sanada ample chance to push him away. Sanada didn’t react and waited, his breath coming in shorter breaths as Yukimura finally leaned into kiss him.

It was overwhelming and forceful, and Sanada couldn’t help but give way. He was as fluid as water, now, not as immovable as the mountain. He moaned slightly against Yukimura’s mouth and circled his arms around Yukimura’s waist, to pull him closer. One kiss turned to two, to three, to several, until Sanada was breathless and flushed, and Yukimura looked increasingly ravished.

“I’ve been wanting to do that for a while, you know.” said Yukimura, as he slowly, and lazily worked at Sanada’s buttons to his shirt. “You got very, very handsome with age.”

“You haven’t changed much at all. You were always beautiful.” said Sanada softly, as he gave into the urge he’d had so often while they’d been staying together, and brushed his hand through Yukimura’s locks.

“Charmer.” said Yukimura, as he finally loosened Sanada’s shirt and started pressing hungry bites and kisses to Sanada’s neck and shoulders. Sanada slipped his own fingers in through Yukimura’s yukata and traced Yukimura’s sides, steering clear of the gunshot wound. He could feel scars and bumps on Yukimura’s skin, but they only served to make Sanada kiss him harder, pulling him away from Sanada’s increasingly ravaged neck.

It was when Yukimura placed his hands on Sanada’s belt that Sanada realized how far they were going to go…and couldn’t care less. He just kissed the side of Yukimura’s neck and nodded. Yukimura smirked and started unwinding the belt with the nimble fingers he was so proud of.

In the end, they ended up fucking three times. Once against the wall, once against the table and finally, the last time on Sanada’s futon, all at the ruthless, breakneck pace that earned them both bruises, but filled with so many breathless kisses and moans of each other’s names, that it made up for it all.

Finally, looking exhausted, Yukimura shut his eyes and lay back against the pillow, his hair spilling haphazardly over his pillow. Sanada had a little more energy and turned around with a little amusement. They would both be extremely sore tomorrow, but it had been worth it, judging by the lazy smiles on both of their faces.

Yukimura flopped over onto his stomach, tossing and turning a little, in a way to find a comfortable position and Sanada’s eyes widened a little as he finally got a good view of the tattoos. They were intensely gorgeous. The flowers spilled out from his upper back, red, white, blue and vivid green, over Yukimura’s pale skin. Each one was clearly a masterpiece and his lower back turned into a beautiful mishmash of historical scenes. Sanada recognized a few of the events briefly, but he was too in awe of the entire thing to analyze each picture.

“They’re beautiful.” said Sanada gruffly, as he trailed his fingers down Yukimura’s spine, following the path of the petals.

Yukimura snapped up a little at the delicate touch, before frowning at Sanada. “Warn me when you do that.” he said, his voice a little sleepy and grumpy.

“Are these all of them?” asked Sanada, trying to suppress his curiosity, but failing. He remembered the yakuza criminal that his grandfather had described when speaking about his own police days, the one who was head to toe in tattoos.

Yukimura shook his head. “I have one on the back of my knee. My first tattoo.” he said, shifting his left leg minusculely towards Sanada, without having to move himself over. Sanada thought it was a clever location. No one would suspect there to be a tattoo under a knee, after all. There were three kanji, small and thin, barely visible against Yukimura’s veins.

“Patience, Passion, Discipline.” said Yukimura, as Sanada traced them softly. The three things that he, Yanagi and Yukimura had all prided themselves upon having, what seemed like an eternity ago, on a tennis court.

“You didn’t forget.” stated Sanada, his voice a little confused.

Yukimura frowned at him, sleepily. “How could I forget? I made that promise to remain full of these, when I was dying. They’re good principles to live by.”

“Sometimes I wonder.” said Sanada, as he slid his arm over Yukimura gently. Yukimura shuffled a little closer into Sanada’s side. “With yazuka…”

“I lost my pride. And I lost my conscience. I can still be passionate, and I must be disciplined and patient, or I will reach nothing.” said Yukimura, cutting him off. “Look, just don’t dwell on it, if it troubles you so much. I didn’t change so much. I just went for a different lifepath!”

They were silent for a while, and Sanada finally summoned the courage to speak, fighting with himself about asking the question. But he’d never been good at being anything but blunt and to the point. “Do you miss tennis?” he asked, quietly.

“Every second.” came the sleepy response. “But life keeps going on, even if you are unhappy. It is our job to make the best of what we have. And so help me, if you don’t shut up and let me sleep, I will smother you with my pillow.”

Sanada shut up.


Still, the conversation played in Sanada’s mind as Showa Day drew closer. Yukimura was unhappy as a yakuza member. There was no way for Yukimura to ever be an international tennis player, like Kirihara, Echizen or Tezuka. Even if he escaped the yakuza, he would be hunted. But surely, there was a way to allow Yukimura to live a normal life, where he could play tennis at leisure, even if not professionally.

It worried at Sanada, but the more pressing matter was the fact that Sanada came home to see Yukimura hard at work, making pipe bombs on his kitchen table or drawing documents up that looked suspiciously like the PSIA official documents.

“What do you even need one of these for?” asked Sanada, as he picked up the drying plaster that Yukimura had painted painstaking with metallic paint, to look like the PSIA badge.

“Need to persuade people to get out of the way.” said Yukimura shortly, as he worked on painting the second one. “The actual fight is going to be dangerous.”

“And the bombs?” asked Sanada, skeptically.

“…they blow things up. Please try and stay awake, Sanada, I worry for our police force.” said Yukimura, looking up from his task, with an exasperated look that Sanada was very familiar with.

Sanada almost rolled his eyes, but settled for crossing his arms over his chest with a slight grunt. “Somehow, I managed to figure that out. What are you blowing up?”

“Gang members.” said Yukimura, immediately. There was no elaboration. Sanada wondered whether this whole venture for information would continue to be like he was pulling out his teeth without anaesthesia.

“Any reason?” asked Sanada, with a small sigh. Patience was a virtue, as Yanagi frequently reminded him through texts, when Sanada had dealt with lot of tourists who hadn’t understood simple directions.

“The oyabun wants them gone.” said Yukimura, with a small, thin smile. “So we comply.”

“But explosives aren’t very discreet.” pointed out Sanada, with a frown.

Yukimura shook his head, as he flicked the paintbrush into the water and collected some more silver paint on the edge of his brush. “The point isn’t to be subtle. It’s to make an example.”

Sanada considered beating his head out against the wall. It seemed easier than getting any concrete answers out of Yukimura. “Would you mind telling me what is going to happen in three days’ time? I can’t plan if I don’t know what is going to happen.” he snapped, feeling a little frustrated.

“Fingers.” reminded Yukimura, as he slowly finished painting the last touches to the badge, his hair falling into his eyes as he worked. “I quite like them, and if I remember correctly, so do you.”

Sanada flushed a little, in memory of Yukimura’s fingers dragging their way down Sanada’s back. “Yes, but I like being alive too. And if I go in without any information, to a situation where almost 100 gang members are supposed to be active, I could potentially kill us both.”

Yukimura placed his paintbrush down with a sigh and frowned. “If someone else explains, is that okay?” he asked, as he got up to Sanada’s sink and washed off his hands and the butter lid he’d been using.

Sanada frowned. “I suppose, as long as I get an explanation.”

Yukimura nodded and bit his lip. “Give me five minutes to make a phone call and dress up, then we’ll go get you your information.”

Sanada frowned at Yukimura, but received no other explanation as Yukimura placed down the second finished PSIA badge to dry on Sanada’s kitchen table, as he loosened his hair.

Fifteen minutes later led to Sanada being dragged down a busy street on Tokyo, by a surprisingly fast Yukimura. His characteristic hair was tucked into one of Sanada’s less important caps and he wore a hugely baggy t-shirt to cover up the bulge around his stomach, from bandages. Luckily, his suit trousers looked fashionably ragged rather than ripped while running from the police, and he looked a lot more normal in the streets than Sanada did in the jumper knitted by his elder brother’s wife.

As the streets they passed started to look increasingly sketchy and the looks that Sanada started to received looked more and more hostile, Sanada’s nerves were starting to run on edge. He was starting to wish he had a tazer with him, to shield from the hostile gazes of some people looking in their direction.

“Where are we going?” asked Sanada, with a frown as he passed what he was sure was a drug-addict bent over a street corner.

“A café.” said Yukimura, as he looked around, from under the shade of his sunglasses. “It’s where we’ll meet the informant.”

Sanada had to bite back the slight anger at yet another vague answer that told him very little new information. Still, it was better than previous answers he’d received these past few weeks. “This café have a name or is it more mysterious than the tax records of politicians?”

Yukimura shot him another look of utter bemusement, before shaking his head. “Rosetta Stone. Run by a foreigner, who allows yakuza business to be discussed in her private stalls, in exchange for protection and an ability to stay out of anything yakuza-related beyond lying to the police.” he said, as he gripped Sanada’s wrist tightly upon seeing something down a dark alley that Sanada didn’t have time to glimpse.

“I see.” said Sanada, with a nod, as they crossed the road to see a fairly clean-looking café that seemed to glow in comparison to its surroundings.

Yukimura strode into the café with confidence and made a beeline for the counter, his shoes clacking against the polished tile. “Dear Rosie, it’s a pleasure to see you again!” he said, with a smile.

The waitress, who looked like the sort of woman that his coworkers liked to talk about inbetween jobs, tilted her head as she looked at Yukimura. “I’m sorry, your name’s slipped my head, Mr?”

“Yamada Taro.” said Yukimura, with a small smile, as he slid down his sunglasses.

The waitress beamed widely and chuckled. “Why, Yamada-san, I didn’t recognize you! Your cosplay grows better by the day, it’s a wonder. A private table upstairs?” she asked, cheerily. Sanada had to admit, she was good at this and it was a perfect disguise. Pretend that all of the yakuza members were just one cosplayer, which would always explain why Rosie was not always able to recognize them and why her regular customers always looked different.

“Yes, that’s right.” said Yukimura, softly, “Just to let you know, we won’t be needing drinks today.” The smile he directed towards the lady was more than indicative of the fact that he definitely wanted her to stay out of the way.

Sanada followed Yukimura up the stairs, feeling more and more wary of this. Technically, all of him felt the urge to have the police raid this place and bug it so they could hear yakuza conversations for future reference. But, of course, she was strongly affiliated with yakuza, she wouldn’t let police anywhere near her shop.

As they took a seat at one of the booths, a young woman with shortly cropped brown hair strode her way in, looking a little out of breath as she took the seat opposite Sanada and Yukimura. Her brown eyes were fierce and her pierced lip gave her the look of one of the youngsters Sanada saw around Harajuku, if a little muted in her colour palette. She looked vaguely familiar, as well. Sanada wondered where he’d seen her before.

“On time as per usual, I see.” remarked Yukimura, dryly.

“You only just got here, as well.” she retorted, with a frown. “Hold yourself to your own standards, oh great, prosperous third. What did you want, anyway?”

Yukimura pulled off Sanada’s cap and the sunglasses, looking a little ruffled as he faced the woman directly. “Sanada, meet Tachibana An. She’s one of the fourth’s main protégés who is currently under the alias Saitou Misa. Tachibana, meet Sanada Genichirou, a friend I’m staying with currently. You might remember him from the—“

“Middle-school tennis circuit.” finished Tachibana An, with a nod. “The Emperor of the Courts. My brother’s team hated your team with a passion.”

“You’re Tachibana Kippei’s younger sister.” said Sanada, with a sigh. “I heard of his passing, I’m very sorry for your loss, Tachibana-san.”

“It happened sometime back and you didn’t kill him, so don’t apologize.” she dismissed coolly, as she pulled out a cigarette lighter and lit herself a smoke, something distant in her eyes. For all her bravado, Sanada recognized grief and she was filled with it. “So, what was so important, Yukimura?” she asked, tapping the ashes of her cigarette against the desk.

“I want you to tell Sanada about the Showa Day plan. It has been planned for then, hasn’t it?” asked Yukimura, with a slight frown.

“Yep. Kachou ignored all your warnings the moment that you looked like you were police-caught; it was hilarious to see your protégés explode in rage.” she said, with a lean smirk. “But why should I say anything? Not my job to educate your boy-toys.” she said, with a shrug.

Boy-toy? Sanada tossed Yukimura and Tachibana looks of contempt. Why was he here: to be insulted and lied to? Still, Yukimura just rolled his eyes at Sanada’s look and pulled up his shirt to show off the bandages. “This is why. I’m compromised. I can’t do my job for the plan. I need Sanada’s help and…. well, after this is all over, this alteration to the plans will make it to the oyabun. If you help me, I can honestly look him in the eye and tell him that I didn’t tell Sanada a thing about the plan.”

“And because I’m linked to the fourth, who hates your guts, it would be unlikely I told him. I won’t even get questioned.” said Tachibana with a smirk. “Good plan. But you didn’t answer my question, why should I help?”

Yukimura shrugged. “Oh, I‘m not sure, losing to the street gangs would rest on the fourth’s shoulders and therefore yours, An-chan. And let’s not forget who it was that saved your little Fudo gang from bosozoku? With considerable risk on my behalf, mind you.”

Tachibana snorted a little and exhaled a large amount of smoke into Yukimura’s face, whose nose wrinkled up in disgust. “So you got me. Well done. What stops me just killing you both right now?”

“The fact that I sent instructions to Hyorin to kill you if I don’t email her back in five hours.” said Yukimura, dryly.

Tachibana blinked and skeptically raised an eyebrow. “You broke the orders to not use the network for this? I don’t think so, I’m calling your bluff.”

Yukimura shrugged and spread his arms. “Do what you will, but it’s not just you at risk here. I sent her the addresses of the Fudomine Tennis Team.” He shrugged helplessly, his blue eyes widening, as if he were innocent.

Tachibana’s face contorted and there was a look of fear there, for one moment. Sanada looked away, to hide his pity, and wished he hadn’t come. He hadn’t wanted to see Yukimura doing this. He’d just wanted information, but he was getting all of the wrong sorts. He’d often told Yanagi that he wasn’t as inquisitive as Yanagi was. To Sanada, in many ways, ignorance could be bliss, and this was a prime example.

“Fine. Where do you want me to start?” she asked, her voice low and resentful, her teeth pulling at her piercing.

“The beginning would be nice.” said Yukimura, kicking back.

Tachibana put out her cigarette completely and leant back in her own chair, looking angrier than the time that Rikkai had faced off with Fudomine before. “Okay, fine. Oyabun hates the fact that street gangs are a pain in the backside for yakuza. They take our customers and they screw honour and what-not. Oyabun’s old fashioned, he hates their guts. There are four main gangs in Tokyo and oyabun wanted them gone so we could prosper and perhaps make the people trust us a little more.”

“But that’s near impossible.” interrupted Sanada. “Public support of yakuza has never been lower.”

“Don’t discount it before it’s happened. Kachou says it’s very possible, actually.” said Tachibana, as she crossed her legs and sighed. “The point is, we made Inagawa-kai look like a sinking ship. Bunch of members jumped ship, leaders started making ‘bad decisions’, all over the space of about three months. We wanted to make it look more natural, some of these guys are actually pretty smart, not just thugs. At first they were suspicious, but time passed and nothing happened, so they relaxed.”

Sanada leant forward with a frown. Most of this sounded rather involved, how had the police missed all of this? “The climatic point was what happened three weeks ago.” continued Tachibana, as she played with her piercing, nervously. “Kachou pretended to turn on Yukimura with great glee, and pretended to work with the gangs. He was supposed to pretend to shoot Yukimura with a blank, but I think he conveniently forgot that part.”

Yukimura rolled his eyes and kicked back as he ran a hand through his hair. “Conveniently putting me out of action.”

Tachibana quirked an eyebrow at Yukimura, who tossed her an unimpressed look in response. “This part, I don’t know all the details. The safehouse that Yukimura was supposed to go to…was crawling with police, so he had to go and stay with you?”

Yukimura just nodded and Sanada softly snorted at the irony. Escaping police to stay with a policeman. That was what you would call out of the fire and into the frying pan. Tachibana tossed him a confused look that Sanada just dismissed with a look. “So…what’s actually happening on Showa Day?”

“Gang activity is increasing because of the lack of Inagawa-kai’s presence, but that’s also fueled by our own members. It’s supposed to cumulate on Showa Day, though the original plan was Greenery Day, to give us more time.” Tachibana shrugged, carelessly. “Symbolism and whatnot. It means that this is all a little rushed, but, you know. Kachou wants, kachou gets.”

Yukimura pulled something of an irritated face, as he looked away. Sanada cleared his throat as Tachibana’s pause extended. “That’s all great, but I would like some details on what I’m supposed to help Yukimura do.”

“You were a prepper, right?” asked Tachibana boredly, and Yukimura nodded, as he curled his hair around his finger. He looked quite bored with all of this and Sanada frowned a little. Maybe it was because it was information he already knew, but Yukimura seemed almost tired of this whole experience.

Tachibana, not seeming to notice Sanada’s musings, continued on. “Well, there are eleven locations where the gang members are going to die. You should rig it with explosives and keep innocent people away while the gangs get into there. Our members inside the gang will lure them in and then they’ll die. You and Yukimura have it fairly easy.”

Sanada nodded, seriously. “And there are ten other people in other parts of Tokyo…they’re all keeping innocent people away?”

“Those were my orders.” said Yukimura, with a slight sigh. “But I don’t know whether they’ll be followed. After all, I said Greenery Day and that was scrapped.” He looked quite bitter, as he stood up and nodded to Tachibana An. “Thank you, An-chan. I’ll see you around.”

Tachibana just tossed her short hair away from her face. “I hate your guts, remember? Don’t act all friendly, that ruins your plan.” She too stood up. “Get better. Or don’t. That’ll put Kachou in a better mood.”

Yukimura scoffed. “I’m getting better, whether he likes it or not. I’ve survived worse and I’ll do it aga–”

“Thank you for your assistance, Tachibana-san.” said Sanada, interrupting the barely-veiled insults by taking Yukimura’s hand and squeezing it, with force. “It was greatly appreciated, especially at taking up so much of your time.” He bowed lowly and Tachibana reciprocated, with a small smile on her face at Yukimura’s quelled look.

The moment that they left the cafe, Yukimura seemed to gain more of his personality back. “Enough information for you?” he asked, as he swung their hands between them, ignoring the looks that they received from other people on the street.

“Would you have really killed the Fudomine people if she hadn’t told us?” asked Sanada, quietly. The idea sat uneasily with him, when his entire existence was about preserving the common populace.

Yukimura shook his head, with a slightly smug smirk on his delicate face. “I didn’t use the system when we were on lockdown. I couldn’t, if I’d tried. It was a bluff and she took it.” At Sanada’s skeptical look, Yukimura sighed. “I wouldn’t kill them, that would be losing a valuable bargaining chip with An-chan. But if she had done anything to you, I wouldn’t have hesitated.”

Sanada nodded as his hands looked down to their linked hands. With a nervous swallow, he looked back up to meet Yukimura’s piercing gaze. “You hate this? The yakuza job?”

Yukimura rolled his eyes. “Of course. There are very few who love it.”

“I can get you out of it.” blurted out Sanada, making up his mind and resolve. He would have to pull all of the strings he had and owe a lot of people favours, but he knew of only one way for this to happen.

Yukimura just laughed. “The only way to leave is dying.”

“So what if you die?” asked Sanada, seriously.


“For the record, this is a stupid idea.” said Yukimura, as he slung the backpack over his back, filled to the brim with pipe bombs. Sanada shot him a slightly concerned look; it was pretty stupid to be treating pipe bombs with nonchalance; even if they were fake, the immediate vicinity of the explosion would be decimated if they detonated. And stupid wasn’t like Yukimura.

“It was your idea.” retorted Sanada, as he adjusted the suits they were wearing to look more neat. Posing as PSIA members, this was the really stupid act. If he wasn’t a police officer on the job, he would be arrested for fraud.

“Not the plan.” said Yukimura, as he brushed back his curly hair and started to walk out the door. “The other part.”

Sanada just rolled his eyes as they left his apartment. “The original plan was stupid too. How were the yakuza members who were luring the others into there, going to escape in time without being suspicious?” he asked, as they started to walk down the busy Tokyo street.

Yukimura rolled his eyes as he adjusted his jacket. “They weren’t. They were dying too.” he said, not even sounding worried.

“But there are ten other locations than our own…” said Sanada, feeling horrified, as he realized the scope of this.

“And twenty people die for the greater good.” said Yukimura, with a shrug. “Look, it’s not such a bad thing; they were pretty shitty excuses for humans. Some of them have done worse things than I have and that’s difficult.”

“Does that mean they deserve to die?” asked Sanada, with a slightly disapproving look. There was a reason that the police didn’t just kill criminals. Nobody deserved to die, not really.

Yukimura clicked his tongue. “I don’t have the luxury of even entertaining anything but what the oyabun says, Sanada. Don’t make this harder than it needs to be.”

“It’s your final act in this life and you’re not even going to question him?” Sanada asked, as Yukimura pulled him away from the commercial side of Tokyo, and closer into the warehouses. It felt quieter and Sanada’s heart was starting to beat a little faster.

“So melodramatic.” said Yukimura, with an amused grin. “I wasn’t aware that you bought into that stuff, Sanada.”

He then froze and his face became different, more smooth and suave. Sanada noticed that three people stood guard around a barrier and he too made his face completely expressionless, as he pulled out his badge. He could only hope that Yukimura’s fakery of the badge had been perfect.

“We need to get past the barrier.” said Yukimura, with a clipped tone. “I know you blocked off this road for the parade, but this is urgent business.”

“What for?” asked one of the policeman, someone that Sanada recognised vaguely from seeing around.

“Classified business. You can call your superiors, if you really want to.” Yukimura said, again, as Sanada showed the man his badge, but didn’t give it to him to inspect. Would it work? He could only beg to the gods that the other policeman wouldn’t recognize him. He wasn’t exactly someone with average looks, his features were quite unique after all. And what if they took up Yukimura’s offer to call their superiors? Why had Yukimura included that sentence?

“Go, and be quick, the parade is coming.” The policemen moved away and let them through, but Sanada didn’t dare drop his expressionless face until well after the policemen were behind them. As they reached a clearing behind the buildings, he and Yukimura both removed their backpacks, careful to place them on the ground upright.

“Alright, they’re all fake?” asked Sanada, as they placed the pipe bombs across the complex. He didn’t want the lives of gang members on his hands. Yukimura just nodded, from where he unwound the fuse to connect to the makeshift ‘explosives’. Sanada’s heart was beating in his throat, as he adjusted his sunglasses over his face. He could hear the parade getting closer.

They were later than Yukimura’s instructions; they were supposed to have already left the scene ten minutes ago to follow the original plan. Still, all they could do was be as quick as they could in this. He sprinted forward, to take the fuses connections from Yukimura’s hands and connect to the pipe bombs, as Yukimura braided all twelve together, so they could easy start the fake explosives.

“Hurry up, Yukimura.” he muttered as Yukimura’s fingers deftly braided the strands together.

“I’m trying, shut up.” said Yukimura, not slowing, as he hissed out his rebuke.

Too late. The criminals had arrived on the scene, and the gang members stopped, looking confused as Yukimura finished the knot. It was easy to tell who the yakuza members inside the group were, as they gave Yukimura a completely bewildered look, as he straightened and spread his arms wide, a large grin on his face.

The head of the group looked practically furious as he got off his motorbike. Yukimura immediately aimed his gun at the leader and the man stopped, to stare at Yukimura. “They said you were dead.”

“They said that Inagawa-kai were disassembling too, and see how true that is.” said Yukimura coolly. Nobody was looking at Sanada, so he discreetly lit the fuse and waited for the smoke to come out, so they could escape. He felt uneasy about his whole thing, this whole deception. How exactly was he supposed to make Yukimura look like he had died in a short amount of time? He had fake blood and he knew that he had to get some debris and get it to be close to Yukimura.

But if his own squad didn’t arrive in time to arrest the startled gang members, he and Yukimura were both going to die. It felt like there were too many holes and too many areas that this smoke-and-mirrors trick could go wrong.

“What is going on?” asked one of the yakuza, looking entirely confused and somewhat horrified.

Yukimura just smirked. “I wanted to watch you die.” he said, simply. “Isn’t life so precious and delicate? To see so many disappear in such a short amount of time, well, it’ll be delicious.” He was just a little too convincing for Sanada to feel very happy about this deception.

“Yukimura, we need to go.” he said, tugging at Yukimura’s sleeve, pretending that the explosives were real.

The gang members were having the realization that the explosives were real and were attempting to flee, but Yukimura shot one of them straight in the leg, and he fell down, crying out in pain. Yukimura immediately trained his gun back at the leader. “Next person to move, I’ll shoot straight through the heart. There’s a chance of you surviving if you follow my directions. If you run, I’ll shoot you dead.”

The gang members were panicking and Sanada’s eyes flickered to the fuses. Almost there.

“Come on, Yukimura, we need to go.” he said, again, as if he was actually concerned about it going off. Yukimura’s lips pressed together as his eyes glanced towards the fuses and he pushed Sanada down, forcefully, as the explosions went off.

They were not fake. Sanada’s ears rung and he felt disoriented and on fire. Everything hurt and he couldn’t make out anything through the smoke. What was going on? It had supposed to have been a fake explosion! He groaned as he forced his muscles to unroll out of the protective ball, and tried to push himself up, before a sharp, stabbing pain in his lungs and stomach stopped him from moving more than a few inches.

He collapsed back to the floor and took a sharp intake of breath at the pain that came from it. Where was Yukimura? Yukimura had been right next to him and they had been far, far too close to one of the explosive packs. Sanada tasted iron in his mouth, even though he wasn’t bleeding. Everything ached and he didn’t know whether he could do anything.

The smoke was clouding his vision. And he couldn’t move well. This was the worst situation and Sanada just felt angry and frustrated. How had this happened?

“Sanada-san!” said a familiar voice of a riot squad officer, as hands came to grip his shoulders. He hissed in pain, and realized dully that he had burns everywhere. “Where’s Yukimura?” he gasped out, as he pulled himself up.

“Sir, you should get do--”

“Where is he.” Sanada interrupted, with all of his force and the man quelled as he turned over to where the smoke was clearing more. There was a blue-haired figure and far too much blood.

“YUKIMURA!” he called, as he struggled to try and get up, ignoring the stabbing pain in his insides and the quelling hands of the police officer. “Seiichi!” he yelled but the figure did not stir.



It was supposed to be a fake death!

Yukimura hadn’t supposed to have been right. The only way to leave the yakuza is to die. No. It couldn’t be true. Right?

“Sir, please calm down. The ambulance is coming. You’re severely injured, please stay down.” said the police officer, pushing him down. Sanada tried to struggle, but the pain was starting to tint the edges of his vision. Finally, he fell back against the ground and let the blackness take over his vision.

Everything that could have gone wrong had gone wrong. He’d gone into this to prevent Yukimura from being injured further. And now Yukimura was actually dead, as were the other gang members. Lives that could have been saved. On his hands.


With a weary sigh, Sanada traipsed up the stairs, rubbing the back of his neck and wincing upon scratching too much on the old burn tissue. The injuries from the accident almost a year ago still plagued him. It wasn’t easy to survive an explosion like that. He had been in hospital for almost two months and in-and-out of physical therapy for the next five months. His lungs still ached when he did too much work and the shrapnel wounds along his legs were vivid if he ever wore shorts.

Still, he wasn’t dead and he could still go on active duty, though he would never be a special ops member. A small victory, on what had been a disastrous event for Japan. All of the gang members and the expendable yakuza members had died, something that had halted the parade altogether and sent the country into a very anti-yakuza mindset, but with the yakuza having more influence than before, the public’s attitude was very conflicted.

Even now, the politicians of the Diet grappled with yakuza restricting laws. After all, this hadn’t been very discreet at all, and had been quite opposite to the usual yakuza operations.

Bu Sanada wasn’t involved in that area. He just worked on stopping crime, not dealing with the public and making the laws themselves.

He unlocked the door and stepped in, exhaling wearily, as he stared at the beige door shutting. His apartment was silent. He wasn’t exactly sure what he’d been expecting. Placing his bag on the kitchen table, Sanada loosened his tie and turned on the kettle. His eyes fell to the pack of sports drinks.

It still had two bottles left, almost a year and half after Niou had gifted it to him. It was a good thing that it was just water of questionable colour and couldn’t perish. Demolishing it was more difficult than he’d been expecting. As the water boiled, he reached up for a cup and dropped a teabag in it.

Renji would call blasphemy, but Sanada rarely had time to steep the leaves for long enough, and the bags were just more convenient for his busy lifestyle, Pouring the water into the cup, Sanada stopped to grab one of the bottle of the energy drink as well, before moving over to the sofa, and tapping awake the person sprawled out over it.

Yukimura blearily blinked awake, rubbing at his eyes. “...Sanada?” he asked, sleepily, his voice slightly more hoarse and husky, thanks to the burns he’d got on his throat.

“The last of the yakuza were caught today.” said Sanada, as he took a seat next to Yukimura and took a sip from the scalding tea. “The oyabun of Inagawa-kai finally told us where the Fourth was hiding and the last of the Inagawa-kai is now looking for a lawyer.”

Yukimura’s mouth twitched up, with a smirk, as he ran a hand through his long, messy hair and sat up properly. “In the end, that bastard managed to hold out longer than everyone else. I’m impressed.”

Sanada just quirked an eyebrow. Technically, there was one more member still out there, but for her assistance, he and Yukimura conveniently hadn’t mentioned Tachibana An to the authorities. She was probably still around, but he thought that she seemed just as out-of-place in the world of crime as Yukimura had been. Hopefully she was pursuing something legitimate now.

“Also, Niou finally finished with the last of the witness corroborations.” said Sanada, as he handed the energy drink to Yukimura, who cracked it open, easily. “Kamimoto Takayuki is officially alive.” It was a little irritating that the witness programme in Japan was so poorly funded that he’d had to hire Niou to help him make Yukimura a new personality, but at least he’d managed to make all of these documents legal and filed legally.

Without police help, it would have been as if Yukimura was a convict. Even if it had damaged Sanada’s pride to bow down to so many superiors and other people of his level, it was worth it to have Yukimura be enrolled as a legal, new person.

Yukimura smiled, widely, and it was completely disarming as he pulled himself to his feet, with some effort. “Come on, you cheapskate, I’m not toasting this with caffeine and electrolytes. I know you have a bottle of sake in your cupboards, I cleaned them the week before last.”

He walked into the kitchen as Sanada watched him go, the long blue-black hair brushing the back of his shirt and the slight tattoos that peered out from above the low-necked shirt. He returned with a large bottle of sake and two small cups, and placed them on the kotatsu.

“You either have to wear the wig that Niou lent you for the photos, or you have to cut and dye your hair to that style.” explained Sanada, again. Niou had told them their options when they’d first met with him, after they’d both been released from hospital and Yukimura from police custody, but he wanted Yukimura to remember again. “And you have to wear the brown-coloured contacts instead of your normal ones, and then wear prescription glasses over them. That will help change the way your face looks.”

Yukimura pressed a finger to Sanada’s lips. “Sssh. We can run over the details again, later. Toast first.” He pressed the glass of sake into Sanada’s hand and Sanada accepted.

“To a new future.” said Sanada, simply, as he held his glass out.

“To being able to play tennis again.” said Yukimura, with a mischievous grin and Sanada couldn’t help but laugh at that. They both downed their glasses and Sanada smiled fondly at Yukimura’s slight face at the taste of sake. For all that Yukimura liked the feeling of alcohol, he hated the taste.

Sanada still thought that seeing Yukimura being alive was the most amazing thing. He had honestly thought that Yukimura was dead. It hadn’t been until a month after his hospital stay, that one of the officers had deigned to tell him about Yukimura’s survival. After that, it had just been attempts to try and see Yukimura again and keep his existence as secret as possible.

It hadn’t been difficult to do, once Sanada had insisted that Yukimura was turning to their side and would tell them all the names and locations they needed, as long as Yukimura Seiichi remained dead to the rest of the world. Once his first words upon waking up had been about witness protection, the police seemed well on their way to giving him a full pardon, and after every single name was accurate, they were more than happy to pardon him.

The japanese police force had always been too kind on yakuza members, but for once, that had worked out to his advantage.

Yukimura’s head fell onto Sanada’s shoulder and Sanada let his free hand snake around Yukimura’s side and pull him closer. He was free. If he was this relieved for Yukimura, he couldn’t imagine how Yukimura was feeling. Still, Yukimura didn’t let much touch his face, except a weary contentedness.

“So what now?” asked Yukimura, hoarsely, after they sat together for some time, his warmth comfortable against Sanada’s side. “I stick my disguise on, and do what?”

Sanada shrugged. “You can’t be too much in the public spotlight. Some nosy reporter would pokes holes in your backstory. But you can do anything else.” Yukimura had possessed a multitude of talents. He would be fine, even if he was unsure now.

“For such a small word, ‘anything’ is quite formidable.” murmured Yukimura, into Sanada’s jaw, which felt absolutely sinful.

“We’re Rikkai. Nothing is too formidable.” replied Sanada, as his fingers crept underneath the edge of Yukimura’s shirt, to across the tattoos that Sanada still found completely beautiful, and Yukimura just nicked his neck, playfully.

“Too serious. You should loosen up a little.” he whispered, as he twisted away from Sanada’s grasp and straddled Sanada’s thighs.

“Are you going to help me out?” challenged Sanada as he settled his hands on Yukimura’s hips and pulled him closer. Yukimura just hummed in assent and that was enough for now