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Kinzo wakes up in the morning feeling cripplingly alone. Everything about their apartment, their little one-room in a run-down building in the bad part of town, is tiny, from their 8-tatami room to their sixty-by-sixty centimeter tub to their narrow futon, just big enough to fit two teenage boys side by side, but now that Shishimaru isn't there, Kinzo feels as if he's surrounded by vast emptiness. Weak, the others would probably say, but since when has he ever cared? It's not weak, it's not anything like that, just like Shishimaru isn't weak for losing to that cowardly Kamen bastard.

He hates being alone, and he hates the feeling, the nagging guilt like he's let this all happen-- again. He's spent his entire life with a constant presence by his side, ever since before he can even remember, and suddenly being alone is like trying to go a day without a smoke; he's constantly put on edge by the nagging sense of loss, like a ringing in his ears. The one other time he let Shishimaru be taken away from him, it had been a huge mistake, and so now he's on edge, pacing the small space as he brushes his teeth, as he pulls on his school uniform. He wants so badly to hit something, to hit someone, in particular, but with no object for his aggression in sight and the one person who's always been able to put his mind at ease gone, he feels practically nauseated as he chokes down his breakfast. Because whose fault is it that Shishimaru is gone? After what happened last time, after Kinzo had sworn to protect him, after everything they'd been through together--

But it's lame to think that way, Kinzo knows as he slams the door behind him and scuffs his way down the stairs. Shishimaru isn't weak, and neither is he-- he's going to make things right.

He spends every day at the hospital with Shishimaru. Aside from his one foiled attempt to take down the asshole who did this in the first place, he doesn't even bother with school; what's the point? None of that shit matters, none of those teachers matter. He's learned better than to put any faith in people like that.

Shishimaru sleeps most of the day; they have him on some sort of drugs that put him to sleep, and it's probably for the better. Kinzo knows jack shit about doctors and medicine and all of that, but the way he hears them talking, he knows it isn't good. He's not going to die-- Kinzo had clarified, eyes wet and throat tight and voice hoarse with terror, when he'd first arrived at the hospital that night-- but he needs surgery, soon. Surgery that Kinzo can't pay for, but he'll find a way, some way, any way. For Shishimaru, he knows, he'll do anything. Maybe he's made some mistakes in the past, maybe he's made some mistakes up until right now, but if he knows anything sitting in that little white room with Shishimaru's hand clasped tightly in his own, it's that he's going to fix things. Even if things look hopeless… Shishimaru gives him the kind of strength that lets him push forwards.

Every so often, though, Shishimaru wakes up and tries to talk, his voice tight and his face contorted when even the slightest movement sends him into waves of pain. Kinzo tells him not to move, not to talk, but every time, he tries anyway, looking up at Kinzo with wide eyes, those same wide, sweet eyes that Kinzo has stared into so many times, as children on the playground, as teenagers first having one another's back in petty fights, as adults now (up until now) laying in bed together, just the two of them… It makes him get choked up in a way that he'd never let anyone see, but Shishimaru isn't anyone, and Kinzo can't really help it, either way.

I'm sorry, Shishimaru insists, time after time after time, his voice strained over the pain, and every time, Kinzo feels like his heart is breaking in his chest.

But he swallows back the lump in his throat and squeezes Shishimaru's hand and shakes his head, because he's got to be the strong one, now, always, forever. Just get better, he says because that's all he needs, just Shishimaru and nothing else. I believe in you.

And even if it's tight and pained, Shishimaru's smile gives Kinzo the strength to keep going.

He doesn't have the money. It's the one snag in the whole thing-- Kinzo can be as strong as he wants, but he can't make money materialize out of thin air, and after a few days, it feels like a gun to the back of his head. Shishimaru needs surgery now, and Kinzo has to be able to get it for him somehow. But how? As it is, he can barely work due to his goddamn shoulder being fucked up, and it's not like he can ask for help. After all, who would he ask? There's no one he can trust in the world besides Shishimaru, and Shishimaru is the one he needs to help.

It frustrates him. It pisses him off. It makes him want to scream and punch things or else retreat into the farthest corner away from humanity and cry, but he can't do either of those things, can't find any way to overcome the feelings clashing inside of him, and so he does nothing, stays stoic, jaw locked, eyes narrowed. It practically hurts, to know that he's acting like nothing is wrong and Shishimaru is writhing in pain on some hospital bed, and the thought makes him feel even more helpless, even more useless, even more weak--

But he's not weak, and he knows it, he never has been and he can't be right now, for Shishimaru, he has to be strong. Strong means facing shit, means facing the impossible, and so finally, finally, he breaks down-- or maybe he overcomes.

Laying out his problems before an adult and asking for help is something that, until this day, Kinzo considered to be impossible. But, he supposes, for Shishimaru, he'd do the impossible, for Shishimaru, one last time, he'll take the leap of faith.

Kinzo gets home at night feeling cripplingly alone. He doesn't know what's happening as he makes his way into their little one-room in a run-down building in the bad part of town-- whether he'll get the money from work or not, whether he'll be able to save Shishimaru, whether he'll have to do something desperate-- and without Shishimaru there, he feels surrounded by vast emptiness. Weak, that fucker Araki would probably call it, but since when has he ever cared? Araki doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about, and as Kinzo stands there, in their space, in their home, the home that he'll bring Shishimaru back to if it practically kills him, he knows, now more than ever. He doesn't need teachers or parents or adults or anyone else. He believes in Shishimaru, and that's all he'll ever need.