In the Next, It Might Just Change.
Here in my hand
Time is just sand
Fine lines of love and hate
There on your face
But I look at this way
In the next seven days
In the next
It might just change
“Sinking Feeling”, Roisin Murphy
They're sharing chocolates from all the ones they received over Valentine's Day. Kakei's orders had been not to lose potential costumers, so when the hoard of high schoolers arrived with chocolate, they were to smile, say thank you, and accept them.
At the end of it, there were enough chocolates to last a month, maybe more, and Kazahaya makes a face at the huge pile littering their table.
“You can have mine,” he says, sitting down with a sigh. Rikuou shrugs because hey, more chocolate is always good, and then smirks towards his roommate.
“As long as you're not expecting me to give you something for White Day.”
“Ha-ha. You are so funny, why aren't you a comedian?” Kazahaya deadpans over a dry look, which isn't as fun as his screams, so Rikuou shrugs, picking a random chocolate to eat.
Except, there is something over the way Kazahaya is acting – how he has acted the whole day – that has been bugging him for the whole day. He has been polite to the costumers, yes, and to Kakei, but he has been quiet, a little too much, in a way that hits close to home which is why he hasn't had any kind of notion of how to breech it.
At one point it was as if they had somehow decided never to mention their pasts. They hadn't actually said it out loud, not really, but neither of them really does. Not birthday, schools, favorite memories, nothing. For people that are living and working together, they really don't know much about each other.
Somehow, that makes him frown. He takes a chocolate bar, throws it to Kazahaya's head.
“OUCH! What the hell, you jerk?!”
“It's dark chocolate, dumbass, I hate that bitter stuff.”
Kazahaya mutters something about jerk roommates, but he peels the bar to take a bite, at least not looking down now, more thoughtful.
“D'you think that Kakei-san would make a White Day thing for the drugstore? So we can say thanks without, you know, having to buy something for every girl who was at the store.”
“Dunno. What kind of thing?”
“A special sale on something girls' would like?”
He thinks about it for a minute, and then: “... pads?”
Kazahaya makes a noise as he chokes on his chocolate, spitting half of it and then coughing. Rikuou thumps his back.
“But don't forget to breathe, dumbass.”
But then Kazahaya is laughing between his coughing fits, laughing hard enough that he can't, really, manage to stop coughing. It's a nice laugh, Rikuou finds out, shaking his head, more amused than he'd admit.
It is the first time he hears Kazahaya laugh like this, freely and without a care, the first time he can think of and for just a second he thinks that it fits him, that look. Happiness.
They start using 'I'm home' and 'Welcome back'.
It really is a minor thing, barely worthy of any mention, so small that Rikuou can't really say when they started, just that at one point they didn't, before, and then they did. Because the apartment they were wasn't home for him, not without Tsukiko, not without knowing where she was, if she was fine or hurt or hungry, and not for Kazahaya, for whoever he was missing that used lo like flowers and was like a cat, that person that got him sometimes looking outside as if his heart was breaking, the person he was staying alive for.
So, at first, neither of them really said it. They barely even talked to each other, really, unless they absolutely had to, screams on Kazahaya part, dismissals on Rikuou. Living and working together also meant they usually were there at the same time, no-one who'd welcome them, no-one they'd want to do so.
But then, after that school, something seemed different, subtle enough that he really doesn't catch it. One day, after he closes the store he goes upstairs, distracted by the scent of a slightly burnt curry welcoming him.
And Rikuou stops from picking up the newspaper, just frozen solid for a minute. Kazahaya had barely looked away from the stove for a moment when he went inside, and he's already back to the food, serving rice and the curry.
"What did you say?"
Kazahaya blinks, confusion clear over his face. "When?"
Rikuou is about to tel tell him, a perfect opportunity to mock him and make him yell... except he goes back a few minutes, remembers unlatching the lock, opening the door and...
Saying 'I'm home' first.
If the job is bad enough, Kazahaya ends up with nightmares. The kind of nightmares when the person having them screams their throats out and where they can't wake up unless shaken.
After one of those jobs and one of those nightmares, Rikuou holds Kazahaya's arms and calls his name until he knows Kazahaya is focusing on him. He's learned the signs, how Kazahaya almost stops breathing, his body tense, eyes wide in fright, still locked inside whatever memory he is Seeing and then... then he sees him and he relaxes. He takes a slow, shuddering breath and he closes his eyes, and Rikuou feels the way his body unlocks himself from his grip on his arms. He lets go so that Kazahaya can sit down, gives him a few moments to gather himself up and stop shaking, gets him a glass of water.
But this time, instead of accepting the glass, Kazahaya is with his the heels of his hands still pressed tightly against his eyes, as if he could somehow unSee whatever it was in his dreams.
He frowns, sits down on the side of Kazahaya's bed.
“What was it?” It was, really, a nasty case. Graveyards give him the jitters, he can't imagine how it'd be for someone who can actually relieve the past.
“Nothing,” Kazahaya says a little too fast, and then, as if he realized that the lie was obvious, he sighs, uncovering his eyes. “It wasn't from today. It... it was something from home.”
They don't talk about their past. That hasn't changed. But perhaps the fact that they've known each other for almost a year means that they've picked up things from each other, enough to let go of those kind of comments. He knows when Kazahaya is sad, even before he gets to see his expression, with just how he's moving. And Rikuou has, actually, noticed that when he's troubled, Kazahaya seems to have these little details with him, saying he'd do the dishes when it was Rikuou's turn or offering to buy him something from the grocery store 'since he was going already' even though Kazahaya basically hates about a ninety five percent of what grocery stores sell.
He moves a hand towards Kazahaya's head, fingertips pressing a little against it, threading his hair over his fingertips. Kazahaya sighs but doesn't move away from it. For a moment it almost seems as if he was leaning closer.
“I want French toast for breakfast,” Rikuou says.
“... it's like three a.m.”
“You're an asshole for making requests this late? Jeez! I know it's my turn, stupid Rikuou!”
“Yeah, but you burnt them the last time,” Rikuou says, then, since his hand is still over Kazahaya's head, he pushes his forehead. “So I'm making them.”
He stands up then, thinks it better, and leans closer, leering over Kazahaya's confused expression.
“If you want to say 'thank you', think about wearing a short skirt for tomorrow.”
Kazahaya flushes red in seconds, spluttering, but Rikuou is already heading over his side of the room when Kazahaya screams a 'pervert!' to him.
The job goes bad really fast. They're traspassing over an abandoned orphanage but Kazahaya is barely asking him to show whatever it was that Kakei got them to find the other thing they are supposed to get when there's a dog tackling him, sharp teeth over his forearm and it's only thanks to the jacket that it's not, actually, tearing away the flesh of his arm.
And then, the idiot, decides that the smart thing to do to get the dog off him is throw it a stone which, yes, works, but then the dog stops attacking him to attack Kazahaya, and before Rikuou can do anything, before even the idiot has reacted the dog jumps, tackling Kazahaya to the floor as well and biting him over – what Rikuou sees where he's trying to scramble up- the neck.
“Kazahaya!” and fuck it if it's the dog they have to find, he gets ready to rip it apart even if he has to do it little by little, fuck it all--
“Wait!” his voice is tight with pain, but Kazahaya looks at him from over the back of the animal where it's biting viciously over his shoulder, not neck, and then he drops the hand over the back of the animal. “It's fine. It really is. We're sorry, we mean no harm...”
Kazahaya keeps repeating the words over and over, not really moving the hand over the back of the animal for what feels forever but, before Rikuou decides that it was enough and uses his powers, the dog lets go. It looks at Kazahaya and the idiot, despite the bloodied mess of his shirt and jacket, actually smiles at it. And with that, the dog simply lays down besides him and Rikuou sees how it stops breathing.
Kazahaya stands up, ignoring his shoulder, the expression of his eyes distant, probably still Seeing whatever it was the dog showed him. He stumbles near a dead tree, brushing leaves away with his good arm until he pulls out an old fashioned bronze key before he faints.
He feels him stirring when they're almost back to the drugstore, so he tightens his hold over him..
“Don't go and yell or you'll fall down and break your head as well.”
But Kazahaya doesn't even ask why he's carrying him over his back, doesn't even complain about his shoulder or how awkward Rikuou's hasty bandages had been, how he only knew to use the ruined jacket to put pressure on the bite. He just nods, his hand twitching a little as he holds unto Rikuou's shirt.
He clenches his jaw and he would love to have the idiot face to face so he can yell at him directly, but he has to make do.
“What the hell where you thinking, doing that?”
Kazahaya stays quiet for long enough that Rikuou thinks he might've dropped off again, but then he starts speaking, softly, so that if he wasn't so close to his ear he doesn't know if he'd actually hear him
“She was lonely. She was sad and old and she was dying,” Kazahaya murmurs. Rikuou can picture the way his eyes would look, the painful look he'd have, relieving memories not of his own and yet his because he Saw them and felt them. “Everyone she had loved had already gone, except she was still there. And that place held all of her memories, the times when she was happy and when she was loved and safe.”
And then, even in a softer voice: “... she was so sure no-one would cry for her when she died.”
He feels the tiny shiver that runs down Kazahaya's body as if he was cold and then he remembers last December, remembers Kazahaya on the ground, covered by snow, speaking about dying. He frowns, grateful that Kazahaya can't see his face, that Kazahaya hasn't, won't See him.
So he hitches him up a bit, catches the way Kazahaya tenses when his wound jostles and doesn't say sorry for that, instead:
“Hold on or you'll fall down.”
Kazahaya murmurs an agreement, still weak, who knows if from his empathy or the blood loss. Rikuou feels his arm close a little bit better around his neck, and this way the scent of blood could be from anyone, but he can feel the shape of Kazahaya's face pressing against his neck and he's within reach, not gone, still there.
If there is a choice between he being hurt and Kazahaya dying...
It's not really a choice, is it?
Because even if it was a choice, he'd still do the same.