Tokito forces himself to wait three rings before answering the phone.
“Hello?” he says, purposely making it sound like a question. It’s stupid—childish—but he’d rather be stupid than scared at this point.
“Hey, Toki. How’s it going?” Kasai asks awkwardly, like he knows damn well he’s not who Tokito wants to hear from.
“Shit,” Tokito mutters, not really caring if Kasai hears him or not. “You’d better be calling to tell me—“
“I don’t know any more than you, Toki boy. Not a damn thing.” Kasai sounds tired, and some of Tokito’s irritation fades. It’s not Kasai’s fault that Kubo-chan is such an idiot. “Look, I’m sure he’s fine,” Kasai rattles on. “He’s only been off the map for—”
Kasai doesn’t say anything for several seconds, then Tokito hears him let out a rush of breath, a shaky laugh. “Okay, so longer than he usually goes without at least getting in touch with you.”
Kasai is only backing up Tokito’s line of thinking, because both Kubota and Tokito have been really good at keeping up with each other since all that shit went down at the harbor. But right now it just feels like Kasai is rubbing salt in the wound.
“Still,” Kasai goes on, “I don’t think you have to worry all that much.”
“No?” Tokito asks, his voice rising. “This is Kubota we’re talking about.”
“Exactly,” Kasai says, probably trying to sound comforting but failing. “It’s Kubota. He can take care of himself.”
But he’s not supposed to have to anymore, Tokito thinks.
Apparently, Kasai is psychic or something now, because he says, “Look, I’m keeping my eyes and ears open, and I’m sure he has a good reason for not calling you. Probably not a great reason, but … it’ll be okay.”
Tokito hangs up on him and grabs his jacket. He’d gone to Kou’s last night, but the bastard had already locked up, and no amount of pounding on the door miraculously made it open. The noise he’d made trying to break in nearly got Tokito arrested, however, so he’d beaten a hasty retreat before getting himself into trouble that Kubota wasn’t around to get him out of.
It’s nearly lunch time, so Kou should be open for his usual shady business. Sure enough, Kou is there, behind the counter, measuring some sort of grayish powder into teeny tiny bottles. Tokito is absolutely not interested in whatever the stuff’s supposed to be, though he doubts it’s anything illegal if Kou’s handling it out in the open. But the last time Tokito had expressed any curiosity in Kou’s weird business, he’d learned more than he ever wanted to know about the aphrodisiacal properties of unagi.
“Good morning, Tokito,” Kou says, greeting him with that bastard smile that always gets Tokito’s hackles up. “It’s looking to be quite the pleasant day.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Tokito says as he forces himself to approach the counter. God, he hates talking to this guy, but Tokito doesn’t have much of a choice at this point.
“What can I do for you, Tokito? Or are you here at Kubota’s bidding?” Kou is teasing him, Tokito knows, but it’s still hard to ignore, despite the circumstances.
“I suppose I could be here because he asked me, if I’d seen him recently.”
Kou’s eyebrow goes up at this admittance, and he stops fiddling with the powder and the tiny bottles. “He’s not making any deliveries for me, Tokito, or performing any other function on my behalf. I can assure you of that, but of nothing more.”
“Are you sure?” Tokito asks, peeling down just enough of his glove to let some fur show. He’s not above letting Kou poke and prod him if it gets him Kubota back.
Kou just smiles again, but this time it’s an expression full of sympathy, which is more than Tokito can stand.
Tokito slumps down over the counter, resting his head on his folded arms. “Fuck.”
He leaves the shop with one of those bottles in his jeans pocket. Turns out the powdery stuff isn’t powder at all, but salt. For seafood or some shit like that. Tokito is going to throw the bottle at Kubota’s head when he finds him.
Tokito calls Takizawa next, while he’s still standing in front of Kou’s store, unsure of where the hell he’s supposed to go now. There’s no answer, though, so Tokito leaves a terse message telling the fucker to call him back.
It sucks, but as a last resort Tokito tries Anna, chancing that she’s still working the same job. He knows it’s a long shot he’ll even catch her there, since he figures most of her business is the kind conducted at night, but he doesn’t know where she lives—doesn’t want to know—and he “lost” her phone number, so he goes there anyway.
He nearly runs into her as she’s walking out the front door of the massage parlor, looking drawn enough that she probably just finished working a really long shift.
“What the—oh! Tokito! What are you doing here?” Anna asks, color pinking up her cheeks while she smiles brightly, as if they were old friends or whatever.
But something must give him away, because before he even gets the words out, she’s grabbing his shoulder and asking, “Is Makoto okay?”
The words sit on Tokito’s tongue, tasting like broken glass. He’s been here before, under far too similar circumstances, and the last thing Tokito wants is to admit to this girl that he’s lost Kubo-chan again. But he does.
“Oh. No,” Anna says, squeezing his shoulder gently, and it’s all Tokito can do not to rip her hand away. “I haven’t seen or heard from Makoto in a long while. Sorry.”
So that’s it. Tokito has nowhere left to go, no one left to try. He heads home. He checks his phone every thirty seconds on the way. He calls Kubo-chan’s number five times before he makes it to their door. He drops his phone on the floor when he finds Kubo-chan and Takizawa on the goddamned, motherfucking couch.
Kubota looks most definitely worse for wear—lying there, shirt off, an ice pack on his head. None of this hides the bruises decorating one side of his ribcage, and Tokito is pretty sure that if he lifts the ice pack away, he’ll find a bruise or a bump or maybe even the graze of a bullet or something else equally as horrifying.
And Kubota has the fucking gall to smile.
Takizawa gets up and moves toward Tokito. “He’s not as bad as he looks, Toki, I promise. And it’s my fault he got into this mess—”
“Completely,” Kubota shares from the goddamned, motherfucking couch.
“Jesus, fuck, Kubota, you’re not helping here,” Takizawa pleads, but Tokito really couldn’t care less at this moment.
“Get out,” Tokito says.
Takizawa looks like he wants to object but, intelligently, he doesn’t. He has to know he’s getting off easy, so he grabs his coat and leaves. But not before smacking Tokito on the back of the head and saying, “Don’t be too hard on him. It really wasn’t his fault.”
When Takizawa’s gone, Tokito shrugs off his jacket and lets it fall to the floor with his phone. “So you’re working for Takizawa now, too? Does he pay as much as Kou?” Tokito’s hands are balled into fists because he’s not sure whether he wants to try getting some ice on Kubota’s ribs or if he wants to add to the collection of bruises.
Kubota shrugs, but the movement makes him wince. Next thing Tokito knows, he’s at Kubota’s side, wanting to touch him but not sure if—and where— he can without hurting him more. He settles for holding Kubota’s hand.
“Nah,” Kubota says, answering Tokito’s question. “He pays shit compared to Kou. But the work usually isn’t as dangerous.”
Eyeing the ice pack, Tokito gives serious thought to kicking Kubota in the head enough to keep him home and out of stupidly dangerous situations. He just keeps holding Kubota’s hand instead, assuring himself with the warmth of his skin, the strength of his grip.
“Are you at least going to tell me what happened? And why you didn’t call me?”
Instead of Takizawa, he doesn’t say, but he knows it’s understood.
“I got made,” Kubota says, making circles with his thumb on the back of Tokito’s hand. “I got made, and then I got shot at.”
Tokito looks at Kubota’s head, but—
“No, not a bullet graze, or I’d have gone down then and there and not gotten up again. No, I had to jump from—well, never mind. I had to jump. I landed hard,” he says, gesturing at his ribs and head. “Lost my phone. Managed to hide behind a dumpster and promptly passed out.”
Tokito nods. He doesn’t need all the details, not right now, but he does wonder one more thing. “How did Takizawa find you?”
“When I didn’t check in, he came looking for me. He knew where I’d gone, or at least where the guy I was tailing would go, but it was probably more luck than anything that he found me.”
Tokito nods. He and Kubo-chan know more than a little about luck.
“Still, Takizawa could have called me,” Tokito can’t help but say, even though he knows he’s sounding childish again.
Kubota doesn’t argue with him. “Sorry,” he says, pulling Tokito down to lie on top of him, which has to hurt, but Tokito’s not going to argue either.
“What’s this?” Kubota asks, moving his hand down and under to poke at the front of Tokito’s thigh.
“Oh, that’s salt,” Tokito answers, remembering the little bottle from Kou’s shop, still in his pocket. “Supposed to taste good on seafood.”
Kubota is silent for a few moments, his fingers still playing with the bottle through the fabric of Tokito’s jeans. “You went to Kou’s.”
Kubota doesn’t say anything else, doesn’t ask where else Tokito went while looking for him, but maybe he knows anyway because he holds Tokito that much closer.
Tokito would like to know with absolute certainty that Kubo-chan won’t pull this shit again. But he won’t hold his breath. He’d also like to think that Kubota would bring him in on more of his jobs, or at least some of the riskier ones. But Tokito’s learned to live with Kubo-chan’s weird over-protective instincts. Lastly, Tokito would like to kill the fuckers that hurt Kubo-chan with his bare hands but …
He’ll settle for five minutes alone with Takizawa, so he can explain the proper etiquette of hiring Kubota for jobs (which includes giving Tokito a fucking heads-up) and for using his goddamn phone to call Tokito when shit goes bad.
And, of course, Tokito will settle for Kubota. Alive, on the couch, with bruises on his ribs and an ice pack on his head. But—because it’s worth saying again—alive.