Sometimes he feels like he should buy some cans of cat-food to store in the kitchen cabinet so it doesn't look as empty half the time. Maybe he could get a few treats instead, although those are kind of expensive and Kai's not sure if Mrs. Sven would be pleased if he started overfeeding her already fattening Maltese.
In the end, he gets a couple of cans of tuna two-for-one (he's certain he's seen his neighbor feeding Franzi some) and onions, because even if he's not entirely sure of how he's going to prepare them it's still kind of alarming that Kai doesn't even remember the last time he ate vegetables that weren't frozen, dehydrated and/or came from a plastic bag.
He looks twice to either side of the street as he makes it to his building; a slowly decaying, awfully nondescript four-story high block of cement or whatever they're making buildings out of, these days. Kai knows it's rather late for his psyche to develop any sort of paranoia, but since he left for school early in the morning he hasn't been able to shake the feeling that somebody's been watching him, hiding in his shadow. Kai reckons he's pissed a moderate lot of people off in his life, some time or another, but It's not as if he's been having trouble with gangs or other suspicious groups in the shadier parts of town. Nevertheless, he knows for a fact that some people can't discern certain boundaries and a little payoff is never too late in the coming, after all.
He jumps and clenches a fist in the pocket where he keeps his keys when a car honks past him through the lonely street and turns around the corner. Kai sighs, but his heart is racing in his chest and, really, it's times like these that he hates the most what Voltaire made of him. He doesn't hate his grandfather; not anymore. Just what he did, what he forged Kai into. Although, who knows, perhaps the misfortunes of his childhood and early adolescence were just some sort of karmic debt he had to square in this lifetime, or something. Kai doesn't actually think much about it, but one can go on hatred alone for so long, thriving for power, losing every bit of what little remained of his sanity. He's made pace with that, Kai thinks. It's over, for good now; even though he feels like he left a significant part of himself behind. Even though he sometimes wonders how he's been able to manage with this miserable, patch-up work of a life he's built for himself.
Kai calms his pulse, crosses over, enters the building. No new mail, but on his way up the stairs he picks Mrs. Sven electric bills and tucks them under his arm to unlock the door to his apartment. Kai removes his shoes and steps on his slippers as he pads trough his tiny kitchen/living room to deposit his groceries on the counter, next to the sink. He opens the only window to reveal a crumbling wall of bricks from an abandoned construction site at the back of his building to let the fresh evening air sweep trough the clean, orderly arranged furniture that Kai didn't buy for himself. It all had come with the apartment.
The only things that populate his living space are a bottle-green generic sofa, the small wooden table in front of it where he kept his textbooks in a leaning pile, a square dining table with two mismatched chairs (one plastic, the other unknown) and a yellowing, standard mini-fridge. He doesn't have a microwave, he doesn't have a TV, he'd once had a phone but gave it away since he couldn't pay the bill anyway and Kai had deemed it unnecessary. Mrs. Sven had given him a fully grown orchid for his birthday, but he was unable to sustain another living thing aside from himself for too long so the soil-filled pot now lies plainly and flowerless atop the fridge. There's a standing floor lamp in his room with a slightly stained screen, but Kai secretly believes that it will blow off if he tries to turn it on.
In the single-dorm-single-bathroom deal Kai got his apartment from, the only thing that didn't look like a chop-off of a cheap decorating magazine when he first walked in was an intricately adorned wooden armoire in the bedroom. It's probably an antique, a rather outstanding piece of work that looks out of place next to the dirty lamp and the worn-out futon in his room, but it's also quite pretty to look at and a pain to move around, so Kai leaves it alone. It has wrought-iron handles and the third drawer has a dent (that's where he keeps his socks). The bottom drawer holds a dark velvet pouch which Kai pretends doesn't exist, but that is a different matter altogether.
The light breeze coming from the window messes with his hair and brings about a rather offensive aroma as the Chinese couple in the second floor ready themselves for dinner. Kai remembers the stack of envelopes tucked under his arm and goes to place them by the table, then changes his mind when he sees no surface available between his econ texts and the physics study guide so he just drops them on the couch along with his satchel. He doesn't worry about the envelopes getting lost in the dark abyss that lies between the cushions because Mrs. Sven will probably nudge her way out of paying her electricity bills anyway, like she does with the rent and... just about everything else, really.
Kai's stomach squirms alive and grumbles to remind him that he left without having any breakfast that morning (electrolyte sport-drinks do not count) and that it demands proper sustenance, pretty please. Kai groans as he goes to wash his hands and face and wishes that the cafeteria food in the university will be good enough to keep him from being anywhere near a frying pan.
When he considers himself clean enough to handle kitchen utensils Kai gets the white nondescript apron neatly folded in one of the drawers beneath the counter (it'd been there when he'd first arrived at the place, incidentally enough) and fastens it to his waist. The only thing left in his kitchen cabinets is a hard, stale, slightly greenish inedible loaf of bread that's probably gone a few notches up in the food chain since Kai swears it moves when he traps it under a paper towel, confines it even further into the plastic bag where his groceries came from and then throws it down to the bottom of his trash bin. The prospect of cafeteria food remains forever enticing in his brain as he washes the onions in the sink and draws a plank of wood and a knife to abandon himself into endless onion chopping and the unavoidable stingy eyes that go along with it and...
"Shit,"... almost managing to cut his whole thumb out in one startled jerk as the doorbell rings.
A couple of beads of blood drop down on the cheap linoleum of the kitchen as Kai tries desperately not to bleed all over his food while he attempts to wrap another paper towel around his injured finger and he's absolutely certain that he has never heard his own doorbell in his life. Mrs. Sven always knocks.
"Uh," thus, Kai's not exactly well-versed in the following protocol of door-answering. "Coming!" also, there's a chunk of his thumb missing. Not a big chunk, mind you, just some of the fleshy pad of his finger right under his nail. It's currently bleeding like a hemorrhaging leech cut in half and it hurts, dammit, he can feel his own pulse as the blood oozes out of his skin.
There are bloodstains on the floor and Kai knows he dropped the knife, somewhere. His eyes are blotchy and watery because of the onions and the once white paper bandage covering his wound is rapidly turning red and there's that ringing sound he'd never heard before, again. "I'm coming!" he dashes to the entrance of the apartment and, Jesus, the person at the other side of the door can't be anything if not insistent, because whoever it is rings the doorbell again and Kai just knows he has a crazed look on his face and is seriously considering something akin to murder when he barges the door open and...
… he finds Tyson Kinomiya, staring wide-eyed back at him and mouthing mutely, lips rounded in a slight 'o'.
Kai has to fight against the very core of his being the urge of kicking the door shut and pretend the last five minutes of his life didn't happen.
He tries closing his eyes (they sting, dammit. It might look as if he's been crying, God forbid) as if the pitch-black of the back of his head is going to make it all go away. Maybe he'd been so stress-ridden with admission exams and trying not to starve and being broke, generally living like a 18 year-old hermit that the thin, fragile lid keeping his sanity at bay had finally burst open and now he was an overflowing, post-traumatic mess with auditory hallucinations and schizophrenia.
"Kai..." Tyson says, and it's exactly the same way he used to say it, even though it's been so long that he can't even remember the last time they spoke to each other. It almost convinces Kai that he's not lost it completely. Almost.
A moment passes, or a thousand, he can't tell. Kai's never been good keeping track of these kinds of things. They don't move, don't seem to have any other inclination aside from staring at one another into oblivion.
It's Tyson who breaks the silence. "You're bleeding!"
Kai exhales soundly and shit, he had been holding his breath why had he been holding his breath? It's like his senses had been detached from his body and all he could feel was Tyson, right there, in front of him. Everything comes rushing in at once as he realizes that the makeshift bandage for his thumb is already soaked in blood, his whole hand is pulsing painfully and his eyes sting like someone poured a lime on his face.
"Uh," Kai replies, very intelligent. "It's nothing," his voice sounds strained to his own ears, like he hadn't spoken in weeks. He tries to dismiss Tyson's alarm and his worried expression with a shrug. "I was making dinner, there was a miscalculation," he tries to make it sound matter-of-factly, more business-like and less 'my own doorbell startled the crap out of me', but he's not sure if he conveys the message properly and he follows Tyson's gaze down to his apron and dammit, there's no way in hell for those stains to come off.
Tyson opens his mouth and stutters something unintelligible only to have it closed again. Kai watches in what could have been mild amusement if he hadn't been so thoroughly embarrassed and in pain. He knows he looks ridiculous, half-covered in bodily fluids with blotchy eyes and an apron, for God's sake. He ponders silently on shutting the door again as another moment drifts by and things start edging on the wrong side of awkward.
Kai, in any other state of mind, would have rolled his eyes at the situation. Time and maturity have yet to stop Tyson from being a loud-mouthed, unhelpful idiot. But as he thinks that through, something warm he hadn't felt in a while settles on his stomach and, suddenly, nothing else matters except for Tyson; here, close. Kai feels the heat on his face like rays of sunshine cutting through the clouds and he moves aside to let his old teammate in without saying a word.
Tyson stumbles past him with his head lowered and Kai shuts the door close behind him. He leans back against the cool wood, feeling somewhat oddly as he takes the view of Tyson in his tiny, neat, scarcely packed apartment. Kinomiya's apparently left the habit of wearing his trademark cap behind, since the only things framing his cheeky face are a couple of stray bangs of dark long hair that don't seem to make it to the even longer ponytail pouring from the back of his head. The brunette is significantly... grown, Kai recokns. His shirt no longer falls loosely atop his upper-body but stretches on and on across broad shoulders and the taut tanned skin on his sinewy arms... He's changed, thoroughly, but there's something about him, something so fundamentally Tyson that Kai would have recognized even if he had dyed his hair blonde and undergone plastic surgery.
"I, uh," Kinomiya stops, closes his mouth. Breathes; starts again. "I think you should wash that up, Kai. Looks pretty nasty from here," he says, and Tyson looks at Kai, looks at the state of disarray of the kitchen. The brunette leaves a package Kai hadn't noticed before on the kitchen counter and bends down under the dining table to pick up the knife Kai would've probably spent hours looking for. "I'll take care of this, don't worry," he assures, and it's such a Tyson thing to do, really, that Kai doesn't have it in him object being ordered about in his own place.
He relents and retreats into the bathroom, shuts the door and holds onto the sink for dear life as he endures a terrible outbreak of the wobbly legs. Kai looks up, his reflection a mess of puffy red eyes and oddly-colored hair sticking up in weird angles. He shakes his head while removing the crimson-soaked paper-covering on his thumb, lets the cold water wash away the pain as a thin trail of blood contours impossible spirals at the bottom of the sink before being sucked down at the drain. Kai dives face-in under the stream of water, for good measure, and then attempts to fish out the pack of band-aids behind his mirror cabinet. Let it not be said that Kai Hiwatari is not perfectly able to nurse his own wounds, even with one hand. Besides, he'll be damned if he has to go out to ask Tyson, of all people, to help him put a band-aid on his thumb.
It's still kind of surreal, to think of the brunette and having him right here, in his own apartment, Kai poders. Now he's afraid of leaving the bathroom and finding out his mind had actually been playing tricks on him all along, after all.
Kai breathes in, pats the door with a bandaged finger and twists the knob. His stomach makes a funny gurgle when the smell of something cooking in the kitchen invades his nose. If he thought it was surreal to have Tyson Kinomiya in his apartment at all then he's out of adjectives to describe a Tyson Kinomya cooking in his kitchen. There he is, all business messing with the stove like he knows what he's doing and Kai can't do anything but gape stupidly from the bathroom door. It only takes him a couple of seconds to set his jaw to the right angle once again because, seriously, Kai Hiwatari does not gape.
It takes him a little bit longer to get the hell out of the bathroom and walk all the way to the kitchen (which is a total of five long strides, at most) to ask his new guest that could still be a figment of his damaged psyche just what on earth he thinks he's doing.
"What are you doing?" Kai questions. He's way more articulate in his head.
Tyson turns around and Kai gets a glimpse of something brownish that smells somewhere between sweet and tangy and delicious. "Kai!" Kinomiya says, and if Kai didn't know any better he'd say his eyes are sort of... shining. "Took care of the bleeding? Does it hurt?"
Roundabout as ever. Kai can't help but shake his head at the latter and show the brunette his neatly covered thumb.
Tyson chuckles, of all things. "You've gotta be more careful, man. You could've chopped off your whole finger!" He talks like they just saw each other this morning and not like it's been almost three years.
Kinomiya seems to have read Kai's perplexity out of his features since his carefree expression drops out of his face like ice cream melting in a hot day. "It's just a tuna casserole," he explains, gesturing at the mixture. "You don't really have anything else, and since you went all the trouble chopping the onions I just figured..."
Tyson doesn't finish. He looks at Kai expectantly and gets a nod in response. Kinomiya goes on whisking about the swiftly cooking tuna and Kai takes minute to inspect the kitchen's floor, his guest's socked feet and the droplets of blood scattered about. He really needs to clean that up.
Somehow, time seems to drift by in amiable silence as the casserole sizzles when Tyson puts it in the oven and the floor is impeccable once again. Kai's already freed himself from the bloodstained apron that felt a little too tight and strangely uncomfortable to wear around Kinomiya, and both Kai and his impromptu guest have taken seat at the two mismatched chairs of the small dining table. Feeling bold, Kai had chosen the non-plastic one to sit on.
"So..." Tyson starts, his hands fumbling about the table as if missing something to hold.
"So," Kai parrots, feeling somewhat indulging. It's probably the effect of food cooking nearby for him to eat. "The cooking thing."
How did you find me? Is actually what he'd meant to say.
"Ah, that!" the brunette leans back on his backrest. "It's just... Grandpa's been taking cooking lessons, but he really sucks at it and he almost managed to burn the whole kitchen down, once, so I've taken to own to it and stuff..." he scratches the back of his head, unconsciously. "I'm actually not that bad at it, but I only know how to make a few things. Enough to get by!" Tyson grins.
Unlike me, Kai thinks with a quizzical brow and no spite at all. "I see."
Kinomiya leans in against the table once again, crossing his legs under its surface. He is yet to master the art of staying still, Kai points out in his mind. Jesus, having the brunette all restless and looking at him expectantly... it's almost like how it was back then. The way he was always moving, spinning endlessly, rushing into battle, brash and beautiful and stop. It's over. Not even Tyson has the power to change that.
"Well," Tyson says. He opens his mouth to speak, but instead of his voice what Kai hears is a soft, mellow, painfully familiar 'meow' coming from the window. Both he and his guest turn their heads at the same time to see the stocky cat covered in bluish fur silhouetted against the light of the window.
Kinomiya is the one to stand up. "Hey, kitty, kitty, kitty..." he sing-songs. The cat meows again and tilts its head to the side. "Kitty, kitty..." he looks at Kai, then back at the animal. "This is Kai's home, kitty, I don't think he'll be happy if you get in without permission."
The cat looks from Tyson to Kai as if sharing a joke and Kai has to fight back a laugh. "That's just Franzi." He gets up from his chair, making his way slowly to the window and helping the cat gently into his arms. "Mrs. Sven's, my neighbor's cat."
Tyson looks at Kai with rapt attention and an oddly serious expression, the sound of tuna cooking slowly in the background and Franzi's low purrs filling the air.
"The smell must have drawn her in," Kai goes on, caressing with practiced ease the blue fuzziness beneath his fingers. "She's a glutton."
There's a soft, strange smile playing on the brunette's lips, and for some weird reason Kai feels his throat tighten. Weird; he's positively certain that he's not allergic to cats nor any other animal.
Pink tawny hues start spreading on the wallpapered rooms of the apartment as the sun sets behind the abandoned construction site and the last beams of the day filter trough the window. That warm feeling that had taken over Kai's body when he'd been at the door with Tyson bubbles in his belly with excitement. The air seems to buzz as Tyson attempts getting closer to try his hand at petting the cat. Franzi purrs and her tail coils between Kai's fingers, and Tyson is really close Kai can recognize his scent and wouldn't it be nice to close his eyes right now?
While the air still buzzes, something else vibrates and rings loudly out of Kinomiya's pocket and, "Oh, food's ready," Tyson says. Kai swears he sounds disappointed, but Franzi is also startled by the sudden interruption and jumps right out of their arms to land gracefully on the floor.
The brunette turns around a little too abruptly to look anywhere near casual as Kai follows the cat with his gaze to avoid staring at Tyson's crouching figure in front of the oven. Franzi paws about the floor with her tiny head held high like she owns the entire building until she finds her favorite spot on the couch and clings to its surface, eying Kai almost daringly. It makes him ponder on how at ease he should feel in his own place instead of what he feels now, standing dumbly in the middle of his apartment without knowing what to do with himself.
"Yep, this is all set," Tyson announces once he manages to put the steamy casserole on the counter without burning his hands in the process. "I guess we can set the table while it cools down a bit?"
Kai sighs for the third time of the day and wordlessly sees to the table, once again wondering just what it is that gives Kinomiya the right to make decisions for him. Fortunately, the previous owner of the place (bless that soul, wherever he or she might be) was kind enough to leave a flowery, half-decent set of dishware that prevents Kai from exposing the plastic cutlery he bought a few months ago out of sheer desperation when there was a slight raise in dish-washing detergent that shocked his close-to-nonexistent budget.
Tyson seems to be completely engrossed with the smoky trail spinning out of the baked tuna, frozen on the spot as Kai reaches into the cabinets next to him looking for the chipped coffee mug that Franzi claimed for herself since day one. Kai tries not to flinch much while pretending that his body is not leaning unnaturally to the side to avoid touching at all costs.
"Thanks for the food!" Kinomiya hollers into his praying hands, once seated. Kai looks down as he lowers the tuna-filled cup to Franzi's desperately wet muzzle and mutters a much quieter 'Thank you' not really intended to the heavens.
The outside nightly sounds blend in with the constant clatter of forks and knifes and, actually, Kai hadn't known Tyson knew how to eat western style. He watches silently as the brunette stuffs something too big of a bite for him to chew and then tries to swallow it down with the hot pomegranate tea Kai didn't know he had stacked in the lower shelves of the fridge. Tyson succeeded in downing the mouthful by burning his throat, if his blistering eyes are anything to go by.
"Kai..." the brunette coughs. "You don't like it?"
Kai looks up from the skin on Tyson's throat to his dark eyes and did he just space out? "What?"
"You're not eating. Aren't you hungry?"
Kai gazes down on his plate, the steamy portion of baked-tuna goodness still intact. He looks up at his guest and his stomach growls in anticipation. "I am."
Tyson looks at him expectantly. "Well?"
He grabs a bite with his fork, takes it to his mouth. Kinomiya is staring vehemently, even Franzi stops munching on her dinner to look up at Kai and wait for his reaction.
He closes his eyes and tastes, breathes in. Swallows; breathes out... Opens his eyes to look at Tyson, stops. And then repeats, and then he can't stop.
"Wow, Kai... you must have been starving!" the brunette points out in awe. Kai doesn't register the small smile playing on Tyson's features as he annihilates another portion from his plate.
He has, more or less, been starving since he was finally able to emancipate. Between himself and Mrs. Sven they wouldn't be able to cook a proper meal to save their lives (not even Franzi's).
Four servings down and the casserole visibly decimated, Kai's stomach declares victory. Or defeat, since he doesn't stand a chance at eating anything else until some time later, preferably tomorrow.
"Uh," his guest starts awkwardly across from him by the table. Kai has to blink several times before taking in Tyson, gawking at him with big wide eyes. "Uh, Kai... I don't think you ever liked sweets, but. Um, there's this friend of mine and she says it's rude and impolite when one comes over and forgets to bring anything at all, so," he stops his babble to point at the kitchen counter and the package resting on top of it which Kai had hardly taken into account. Tyson could have a time-bomb wrapped in there, for all he knew. "I brought macarons..."
Kai blinks, then jumps when Franzi deems appropriate climbing on his lap to lick the remaining tuna on his plate.
Tyson's already picking up the dishes and setting them on the sink with his face hidden beneath his hair, but Kai could swear he caught the glimpse of blush in there, somewhere.
"I don't understand," Kai says because, really, he doesn't.
"Well, I think they're made out of eggs and Hilary once said she'd like to have them best in France so I guess they must come somewhere from Europe."
"No," Tyson's thick-headedness is something worth of amazement. "I mean," why are you here why are you doing this why why. "Why, you...?"
"Okay, okay. Kai, stop." The brunette lifts his hands in the air, and Kai feels confused. Strained, even. For some reason, he just can't bring himself to ask the right questions. He fears, deep inside, that he'll find everything he doesn't want to know. He'll find what he's left behind, all he ran away from.
"I know... I know this must be creepy as hell to you, I mean. With me showing up out of nowhere and... Well, I've been, kind of, following you these past few days, but... But the truth's that I've been looking for you. All over, man. And... at first I thought you'd left for Russia, and I know everybody else was wondering just where the heck you were, but they kept telling me to leave it alone and let you be. And..." Tyson closes his mouth. Kai sees his lips tremble from where he's seated with Franzi as an immobile, lying weight on his lap. "And everybody's moved on, you know? I mean, Chief's studying abroad and Max's in America. Rei's in China and... I'm here. And you... They used to ask... they all asked me, whenever we talked... on the phone, through the computer. 'Any news from Kai?', 'Did you find him yet?'"
Kinomiya inhales and lets out a bitter chuckle. "But now's like they've forgotten, as if nothing ever happened."
Franzi stirs under Kai's arms as he nods. Kai nods because it's okay if they've forgotten him. His former teammates, only a faint memory what his life had once been. He's okay, really. He just doesn't want to talk about it, to remember.
To forget. "But I couldn't." Tyson finds his gaze; pupils blown, effervescent irises with that something, the same bubbly feeling down on Kai's gut. "I don't know how you do it, how you manage, but I couldn't. Leave it. Alone, Kai. I couldn't."
"You fucking disappeared, man." He carries on. "And I knew... I said to myself 'this isn't right.' 'Kai's not right.' They said it was nothing, that's just the way you are, but..."
But. It echoes in Kai's mind, and he can't let himself meet Tyson's gaze again because his own eyes are stingy for a different reason than bleeding thumbs and onion layers.
You know better. "That's not it, is it?" there are a couple of brown hands gripping the corners of the dining table and Franzi meows into his chest when something imperative in Tyson's hoarse voice forces Kai to look at his face. "Kai. Tell me that's not it." The brunette inches closer. "Look me in the eye and tell me that's not it."
That's not it. "I..."
Kai stutters when Tyson's hands leave the table a grab his face. He can feel the warm calloused fingers against his skin, so different from his own, now, when his callouses have all gone soft. "...T-Tyson."
There's something indescribable about the situation, about the way Kai can't look away from Tyson's face, can't feel anything else aside from this here now close. It sends him spiraling down right into memory lane, the brightest corners of his mind where he keeps everything shut away and hidden in dark giant velvet pouches. As Tyson's eyes flicker the black ties keeping the pouches close unlace slowly, and bit by bit every image flashes through Kai's head like a dying man. His friends, all of the battles and victories that made him stronger, the humbling defeats that made him a better person, the sound of spinning tops clashing against each other, the feel of a launcher in his hands, Tyson's hand pulling him out of a river, the cry of a phoenix. Dranzer, burning alive, dying; then flying out of his ember ashes into the open sky.
After all he's been through the whole day, it's Tyson's stupid face what finally pushes him over the edge. Kai really should have cried the onions out, because now everything he's kept for himself in the last three years since leaving his grandfather's place, all the pent-up rage and confusion and loneliness have finally found a way out in the form of Tyson's arms holding him close and that's not very likely to recede, is it?
Neither of them is prepared for the soft knocking at the door, except perhaps Franzi, who seems to be fed-up with the whole ridiculous chick flick business. The cat bounces out of the trembling bundle that has become Kai's lap and hops all the way to the plywood door to dig her claws into the material. That damned animal has way too many liberties, Kai thinks between discreet, inaudible sobs. How Mrs. Sven manages to keep her out of her stuff, Kai will always wonder.
Speaking of the devil. "Kaius? Are you there?" comes a raspy woman's voice a thick accent that leaves Tyson sort of perplexed.
"Kaius?" the brunette mutters as the alluded in question stands up harshly away from him and runs a hand through his wet cheeks.
Kai calms his breath. "Yes, I'm coming."
The door opens to reveal a small, seemingly harmless, balding old woman with a heart-shaped face covered in wrinkles. "Oh, Franziska. Here you are." She reaches down as Franzi curls around her leg and bites her shoes fondly. "You sleazy fatso, you've been eating out of poor Kai's food again, haven't you?"
Kai's used to it, but he guesses that reconciling the picture of a nice old lady with Mrs. Sven's heavily-accented foul mouth must be giving Tyson a hard time from the way his mouth curves in disbelief.
"Oh, my, my. There's something new. You have company." He doesn't like the way her small slit eyes shine at the word. Mrs. Sven takes a moment to inspect Kai's unusually puffy face and scowls, looking at Tyson like he's a bearer of ill omens."Wait, he's not one of Takeshi's boys trying to kick you out, is he?"
Kai shakes his head, and for lack of a better explanation, Tyson introduces himself with a smile. "Hi, I'm Tyson. I'm one of Kai's friends."
Funny, he says as if Kai has any other friends left.
"Really?" the old lady utters. She looks at Kai expectantly, as if she wouldn't take anything Tyson said to be true. That's probably due to the fact that Kai has never shown any evidence of maintaining acquaintances aside from Mrs. Sven herself and their common landlord, the only regular interaction being with the former, Franzi and an array of varied stray animals.
Kai nods. This seems to please the old lady since her wariness all but evaporates out of her features and beams a smile at the brunette. "Wonderful, wonderful. You may call me Mrs. Sven, dear boy. I'm Kai-kun's neighbor and legal guardian."
Kai fights the urge to slap his own forehead. "Not this again. What part of emancipated do you not comprehend?"
"You're emancipated" Tyson states. He looks from the old lady's smiling face to Kai's frown. It's not a question.
"Nonsense!" Mrs. Sven jumps in. She's already made her way through the door into the apartment and is currently poking at the leftover tuna with suspicion. "You're a child. You need legal guardianship at least until you're twenty-one."
Kai ignores Tyson's stupid gaping and trails after Mrs. Sven. That woman cannot be let anywhere near a kitchen without strict supervision. "I'm not having this discussion again."
She scrapes the bottom of the casserole with a pointy crumpled finger. "Good for you, having found a friend that cooks." There's something about her smirk that make alarm bells go crazy in Kai's head.
"You should have that," Kai offers because, technically, Mrs. Sven's has been starving way before Kai. They look out for each other like that, in their own twisted way.
The old woman shakes her head and the few white strands of hair she has left wave slightly in the air. "Thanks, but no thanks. A friend of a friend was indebted to me and he decided to pay me with ten pounds of hallacas; a type of Latin-American pastry filled with pork sauce that's served in Christmas," she explains with a bored expression. "My refrigerator's full of them, the vile, smelly things."
"We're in June" Kai points out.
Mrs. Sven shrugs as she walks back to where she came from, past Tyson's still gawking stare. Franzi trots, long-suffering after her mistress. "Did you get my bills?" Kai nods. "Keep them. Those bastards won't be getting anything else from me for as long as I live." Mrs. Sven spits on the hallway floor for good measure. She's theatrical like that.
Kai shakes his head. Tyson gapes stupidly and Franzi licks her paw.
"Ya vernus' pozzhe!" Mrs. Sven announces casually. Kai frowns, since it's rare for the woman to switch out of Japanese due to her own impossible whim of perfecting her pronunciation.
"And for you, young man" she addresses Tyson, who swallows uncomfortably. There's something menacing in the sound of her voice. "... Good day!" she smiles. The door falls shut and just like that she's gone.
Tyson breathes. "Who was that?"
Kai shrugs, picking the leftover tuna and putting it inside the empty fridge. How he could even begin to describe Mrs. Sven? The Wilson to his castaway, an eccentric companion in his isolation? His self-appointed fairy godmother with a rather rich vocabulary? The thing with Mrs. Sven is that she's very much like Kai. In a sense, they're the same. Their companionship is based on the lies and all the secrets they won't share, their interactions on the daily occurrences of what their new lives have become.
Mrs. Sven is an essentially sweet, rude and tiny old lady at 4'3'' in height. She lives in the 402 atop Kai's floor and rarely ever comes down the stairs because of a bad knee (she'd rather have Kai run errands for her and pick up her mail so she only has to go down one floor). Most people can't make out what she's saying half the time, and Kai probably wouldn't had not spent half of his life in Russia. She can curse a man in sixteen different languages, but when asked where she's from, she'll just laugh and say 'I'm a little bit of all over, darling.' Kai holds his bets on Denmark, but with Mrs. Sven you just never know. Her real surname is a mystery and way too long to fit Japanese forms and written records, so she uses her late husband's first name instead. Kai's heard Takeshi, their landlord, call her 'Uschi' when they think he's not listening, but he'd rather not meddle with that since Mrs. Sven's probably enduring the agony and speaking endearments in French so Takeshi will keep swooning for her bones and forget collecting her rent money (Kai thinks they have a not-so-secret torrid love affair).
She mostly speaks in riddles and sayings she's caught all over the world, which makes Kai come up with colorful theories of how she wound up in Japan, old and alone except for her female Maltese named Franziska after some First Lady of South Korea. He secretly thinks the most plausible explanation is that Mrs. Sven used to be a spy, somewhere between the Cold War and the invasion of Kuwait. She must have been a real looker back then, with her tiny frame and curvy figure, when her face wasn't covered in wrinkles... but Kai doesn't really care for any of that.
"She's my neighbor" he says, and that's all that matters.
"Oh." Tyson nods, and it seems to suffice.
Franzi's absence is felt deeply by Kai as he stuffs his hands down his pockets, missing the damn spoiled muzzle just to hold her tight.
"She's kind of..." the brunette speaks up and Kai waits for it. "You two seem close," Tyson says, looking down.
Kai thinks about it for a second. It was extremely bizarre to have both Tyson and Mrs. Sven occupying the same space, at the same time. Bizarre, but it also felt right, in a way. Weird; how two contradictory parts of life seem to fall together like the pieces in a puzzle.
"What was that part about her being your legal guardian? I don't think I got that right, I mean... her accent's kind of odd."
Odd, he says. "That isn't true." Kai shakes his head. The other thing about Mrs. Sven's that you can't fully believe anything that comes out of her mouth.
"Oh. And... the emancipated thing?" he asks, probably trying to go for casual.
That. Right. "It's nothing." It's none of your business I really don't want to talk about it leave it leave it.
"I think that's kind of a pretty big deal, Kai." Tyson meets his gaze. "But, okay. It's fine, I get it. You don't wanna talk about it."
If he's not trying to pluck the answers right out of his mouth, Kai ponders, then why why why is he here.
"Actually... that explains a lot of things." Tyson pads his way behind the sofa and digs his fingers on the top of the backrest. "I tried talking to your granddad. I went to Tokyo."
"But they kicked me out! I couldn't even get to see him, when I asked for you they say they had no record of a Kai Hiwatari. Can you believe it?" Tyson snorts in indignation. "Hiwatari Enterprises, and nobody there knew you at all. I was scared for a while, after that. It was so freaky, as if you'd never existed." He laughs, not amused in the least. "I though I was going crazy, man. I swear..."
Kai doesn't know what to say. He doesn't have any excuses to offer, any explanations. He doesn't even know if he should feel sorry for what he did. He'd just known, at the time. He'd just had to leave.
"..." and so he did, without saying good-bye.
But Tyson's not asking him why he left, is he? "I was actually thinking about going to Russia, you know?" At this the brunette chuckles as if that's a funny thing and, seriously, what?. "Grandpa thought I was mad."
Was? "But the craziest thing happened, man." Tyson's smile could certainly pass for that of madman as he makes a dramatic pause to reveal the next part of his story. "I actually ran into you."
As if on cue, the general murmur of the Chinese couple arguing downstairs escalates into a loud, unintelligible brawl.
"I think you were leaving from school, or something. But you didn't see me."
Kai tries holding his breath.
"That's when I... began to follow you." Tyson's cheeks turn slightly pink. He scratches the back of his neck.
Kai had known there was someone trailing after him. So it wasn't just him being paranoid, after all. Good to have clarified that little detail.
On the other hand, there's the fact that Tyson had actually been following him around since God knows when. The brunette just had to pop into his new, boring, orderly arranged life to bake him tuna casseroles and make matters all the more complicated.
Kinomiya must have read his mind again because the next thing Kai hears is a string of apologies streaming out of Tyson's mouth. "I'm sorry I didn't say anything before! It's just... I was, sort of, afraid. I mean. I didn't know if you..."
Kai blinks stoically. Tyson didn't know if he'd want him back. In his life, again. Like Tyson is, now. "... I see." The whole mind-reading business works both ways, as it turns out.
"Aren't you...?" The brunette seems relieved, but he's still perched against the couch and his eyebrows could almost merge in one. "Aren't you angry?"
And that's the thing, incidentally. Kai should, by all rights, be angry. Furious, mad at Kinomiya for being able to waltz back in whenever he pleases like it's nothing. Like it hasn't been three years since the last time he held Dranzer in his hands, watched him spin. As if it wasn't over for Kai, long before it ever began.
As if they're still friends; the same annoying little brats they were before life happened and everybody had to go their own way.
Kai will later blame the tuna for it. It was being fed that did it, he'll think. But the truth's that he's hardly ever been able to deny Tyson Kinomiya anything at all. He sighs "Whatever." It's okay, really.
"..." You can stay.