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I Won't Give In, We'll be Dead in the Eyes

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Dying hurts.

There are plenty of things Hajime thought his death might involve. He'd hoped, of course, that he would live to an old age and pass away quietly in his sleep. Or if he didn't, that at least he wouldn't feel pain, and then, if he had to feel pain, that it wouldn't last long.

He should have known that nothing he hopes for ever works out.

Gravel presses into his cheek where he landed on the road and he can tell that there's grit in the graze spreading from the corner of his eye down to his jaw. Tacky blood sticks his lips together at one side, but he thinks he can move them, which is strange when he's a dead man. Being able to take inventory of anything strikes him as odd, really, but he falls back on his training and keeps going with his tally of injuries.

His neck bends at an unnatural angle where it snapped after his head hit the road. He's breathing, which he thinks is good. He sucks in a breath to confirm that he is breathing, and he didn't make that up. Air flows in through his nose as he inhales - there might be vertebrae piercing his windpipe, but it gets into his lungs somehow.

His teeth hurt, his nails feel like someone ran a knife around the edges and his vertebrae could have sandpaper grinding between them. It definitely feels like they do. He's also vaguely aware that he has tears running down his face and snot dribbling out his nose, and they must be his but he would swear up and down that he isn't crying.

Someone whistles, right behind his ear. "You look like shit, Hajime-kun."

There are so many ways that Hajime doesn't want to know who said that. He's dead, that means he should be exempt from interacting with people who whistle into ears as an introduction. But since he doesn't hear anything like the person fucking off, he tries to find his voice.

"Fuck you," is what he manages to produce. He sounds like someone ran over his throat, but the words are at least intelligible.

"Hajime-kun," the person chides, "you'll have a difficult time fucking anything with your neck at that angle."

Maybe, if he doesn't talk any more, they'll go away.

Someone else, above him and further off, says something about being finished and packing up, though Hajime has a hard time piecing together the exact words. He hurts and the corners of his mind are growing fuzzier.

Opening his eyes seems like an impossible task, it could easily be an impossible task, for all he knows. He broke his neck, he can't expect to be able to move anything with a broken neck. His heart continues hammering blood around his body and he can hear it rushing through his ears and oozing out his cuts, and he spoke but he shouldn't be able to move. Dead people can't move.

The person speaks again. "It's time to get up, Hajime-kun. We have a lot of things to do." Hajime knows they do - he's not sure how he knows, but he knows - what he doesn't know is why that fact is being pointed out by this person.

"Fuck you," Hajime says again, because at least he can be sure those two words are within his grasp.

"You said that already," they say, perfectly cheerful as they point out Hajime's repetition. "And since you can't, I'm here to very generously offer you assistance, so how about I help with your neck?" Two hands settle either side of Hajime's head before he can reply, they sting like salt against his graze, and yank it back into place.

"Fuck!" Hajime shouts as his neck cracks into alignment, eyes flying open.

The world is bright and disorienting, the mid-morning sun lurks over a skyscraper and Hajime's eyes lock onto it before they snap to a grin belonging to the guy, who is still gripping the sides of his face.

"I didn't think you would have such a filthy mouth, Hajime-kun." That's four times in as many minutes the guy has used his name. Hopefully, four times is enough for him.

"How about you fuck off if you don't like it," Hajime says in an attempt at some new words, which works well enough, though he sounds croaky and hoarse.

"Can't," the stranger replies, full of cheer. His smile is as staged as alien sightings. "I'm here to help you settle into the business."

Hajime groans, his lips unsticking properly this time. He wrestles an elbow under himself and lurches into a sitting position, though every fibre of his being protests with some kind of pain. His companion drops his hands down from the side of his face onto his shoulders then adjusts the collar of his t-shirt so that it pulls away from his back, where blood was making it stick to his skin. Hajime diverts his eyes to the ground.

He died.

"I died," Hajime says towards the road, in the hope that something might change with the words said aloud.

He can hear the grin in the stranger's voice when he replies. "What a cutting observation!" His hands are warm through the thin fabric of Hajime's t-shirt.

"The afterlife is more obnoxious than I thought it would be," he says, dryly, and receives a laugh in return.

"This isn't the afterlife." The stranger's words slip into Hajime's stomach like a lead weight.

Clamping down on the pain and pushing it to one side so it doesn't distract him, Hajime looks around and assesses whether there's anything to back up the stranger's claim. It's the same intersection where the car hit him. A tow-truck is preparing to drag the car away, though it doesn't look like he damaged it too badly when he went over - it'll need a new windshield, but nothing more than that, as long as the driver wasn't hurt. Hajime can't imagine they were, pedestrians don't do much damage even when a car is travelling quickly. A police officer directs traffic around the car, but he keeps glancing behind him towards the accident to check out what's happening. Hajime wants to go up and tell him to get back to his work and focus, but he doesn't trust his legs to stand.

"Are you going to explain what happened?" Hajime asks, studying the guy's face. He's pretty, with high cheekbones, long eyelashes and his smile might be fake but it's painted on a delicate mouth that wouldn't look right without some kind of humour in its curve. And Hajime would give anything to mess up his stupidly perfect hair.

"Hmmm," he says and rocks back on his heels. "Let's feed you first."

Hajime bites his tongue because, while it sounds stupid that he would need to eat after his death, the remaining pain in his stomach feels a lot like hunger. He staggers upright, his companion steadies him with an arm around his shoulder, rising with considerably more poise himself.

The guy is tall, six foot or so, lanky but broad across the shoulders, and has the grace of a model, all boneless elegance. Though, since Hajime has experienced him opening his mouth, he's sure his appearance is at odds with his nature. He'd guess he's anywhere from seventeen to mid twenties, he has that endlessly young look and his clothing taste is classic - he's wearing a knee length, perfectly cut, cream coat, a green scarf and black trousers with matching loafers.

He leads Hajime into a ramen place on the corner down the street, the sign in the window proclaims it's open but, until they enter and he sees a man at the till, Hajime thought the owner forgot to reverse the sign. The man behind the counter scowls, like he's offended that anyone would come into his restaurant. Hajime's perky and irritating new best friend orders for the both of them, smiling brightly at the man and waving Hajime off to claim them a table. There are plenty available, the only other one that's occupied has a middle aged man and woman sitting opposite each other, looking exhausted and passing a document between them. Hajime takes a seat in the back, as far away from them as possible.

To occupy himself and distract from the sting of his cheek and continued low lying ache of various body parts, Hajime watches the stranger at the counter. He's giving a more involved order than Hajime thought he would - saying 'two pork bowls, please' and handing over a couple of notes doesn't take long - but by the end of their discussion, which included the stranger laughing sheepishly and rubbing the back of his head at something the shopkeeper said, the shopkeeper is smiling as he bows and accepts his money.

The stranger seems surprised when he turns to the table and sees Hajime watching him. "Can't take your eyes off of me, Hajime-kun?" he asks, grinning, as he slides into the seat opposite him.

"You said you'd explain," Hajime says, instead of attempting to decipher what exactly he's implying.

"I said I'd explain after food! We can't discuss important things on an empty stomach, you wouldn't be able to concentrate," he pauses like he's assessing Hajime, but Hajime assumes it's just for show. "You are the type who thinks with anything but their brain, aren't you, Hajime-kun?" Hajime opens his mouth to add another 'fuck you' to the guy's collection but he's interrupted before he can. "Though, I suppose I could get started on the basics. My name is Oikawa Tooru, and you're Iwaizumi Hajime, aren't you?"

The newly dubbed Oikawa pulls a purple post-it note from the pocket of his coat and slides it across the table. Scrawled across the note, in the worst handwriting Hajime has ever seen, it has today's date, the address of the accident and, finally, Hajime's name, slightly larger and circled, written in scratchy black ink.

Hajime picks it up. Terribly written it might be, but the ink is quality, written with a fountain pen at a guess. "What's this supposed to be?" he asks, looking up from the piece of paper.

"A death note," Oikawa says without missing a beat and his smile means the reference is intentional.

"You're an asshole." He might be out of his depth with recent events, but he's sure of that.

"Hajime-kun, that's terribly rude to say to someone you just met! Think of my poor feelings."

"You have feelings?"

"No," Oikawa admits. "But that is what they're called. They don't cause your death, if that's what you're worried about."

He wasn't worried about that. He was more worried about the fact that he died and is somehow still managing to sit in a ramen shop with an asshole bereft of feelings, who said that this isn't the afterlife.

"The death notes are just so we can find you before your soul turns nasty," Oikawa continues. Hajime smiles ruefully, Oikawa came around fast from not doing this on an empty stomach. "You're a reaper now. Welcome to the club!" Oikawa's smile is radiant and it makes Hajime scowl as he rests back in his chair.

There doesn't seem to be any reason Oikawa would lie about that, but there might be some angle Hajime hasn't considered, or this could be some elaborate hoax - but the feeling of his snapped neck and his still oozing wounds on his head would suggest otherwise. He picks over his words carefully before he asks, "What if I say no?"

Oikawa's eyes widen in surprise. Fake surprise. 'No way, that's my hand on your ass, how did that happen?' surprise.

"Hajime-kun, what will poor souls do without you to see them on their way?"

"Whatever they did before I-" his eyes fly wide and his head snaps to the right, like something heavy slammed into it. Or like it hit the road. He scrambles for breath but the feeling is gone in seconds, as if it was never there to start with. He finds himself gulping mouthfuls of air he doesn't need, heart hammering and eyes streaming.

Oikawa's look softens as Hajime wipes at his tears with the back of his hand, but he doesn't so much as reach out a hand to check that he's okay. "Sorry. You're not-" Oikawa pauses and looks thoughtful. Hajime isn't sure if he buys Oikawa's consideration, but he waits patiently enough, forcing himself to keep his breathing regular and hoping whatever that was doesn't come back. Oikawa finds the words he wanted and continues with more kindness than Hajime imagined he would. "You're not really in a body right now, but your mind thinks you are, which means that when you remember stuff like being dead - and you're not hopped up on pretend adrenaline - it gets hard to talk about."

"Hard to talk about?" He might be glaring harder than Oikawa deserves, but 'hard to talk about' is a hell of an understatement and the sting of his tears in his cuts is shortening his supply of patience.

Oikawa flinches and nods, hesitantly, opening his mouth to say something else but the grumpy man interrupts him by placing a bowl of ramen and a pair of chopsticks in front of Oikawa. He doesn't give Hajime so much as a glance. Once the man is back behind the till, glaring at the door, Oikawa pushes the bowl and chopsticks over towards Hajime.

"He can't see you," Oikawa says with a nod towards the man.

"But he's fine with you talking to yourself?"

"Funny world, isn't it?"

There's something Oikawa isn't saying but Hajime's stomach - or, he supposes, what he thinks of as his stomach - rumbles and he puts that aside, deciding that food comes first and he can interrogate shithead reapers later.

The ramen Oikawa ordered is Hajime's favourite, it has perfectly cooked pieces of fried tofu floating in the broth, which swirls gently as Hajime stirs it with his chopsticks. Oikawa beams at his reaction, clearly pleased with himself.

Hajime shoots him a glare but digs in, only pausing to swat Oikawa's hand away as he tries to claim the egg for himself. Whether it's mind over matter or whether the ramen here is just that good, Hajime sucks down his noodles at an alarming rate, savouring each mouthful. He's not sure if they're the best he's ever had, but if they're not, they're only trumped by his mother's.

The couple at the other table gets up, stowing their document away and the man slams the door behind him as they exit. Being in a run down, barely open restaurant like this, with the man behind the till glaring at them every so often shouldn't make this dinner feel more intimate but Hajime finds himself glancing up at Oikawa between mouthfuls. He's still looking pleased as he patiently waits for Hajime to finish his food.

Once Hajime has drained the last of his broth, Oikawa smiles wide, the touch of softness that had crept in replaced with humour. "Enjoy yourself, Hajime-kun?"

Hajime stiffens and wonders how he can downplay the quality of his vanished ramen. "It wasn't terrible."

Predictably, Oikawa laughs. It serves Hajime right for deflecting that weakly. "People will be able to see you a bit better now," Oikawa says and stretches, resting his hands on his stomach like it was him who just downed a bowl of ramen in under five minutes. "Unless you don't want them to, of course."

"Of course," Hajime deadpans back.

 

*

 

With more reaper jargon than Hajime ever wanted to stomach under his belt, Oikawa drags Hajime on the path back to his apartment, practically skipping backwards in front of him, somehow managing to avoid other pedestrians with deft steps to the side. As they walk, Oikawa explains that his feet are his main form of transport, commenting brightly that "We stayed human shaped for a reason, Hajime-kun!" Hajime isn't as sure about that as Oikawa, but walking in the evening air is refreshing so he doesn't complain, though he thinks he might try and object when the weather changes.

Oikawa finally faces the way he's walking to bounce down a few steps to the iron gate in front of his apartment complex, he jiggles his key in the lock in a motion that would take Hajime minutes to replicate and shuffles them up and inside his apartment after performing a similar action on the door. Oikawa's living quarters are beyond tiny, Hajime discovers as he prowls around. The kitchen has barely a foot and a half of bench space, there's no TV, the laundry is in the basement which is shared with the rest of the building, and it has an open window with bug-screen across it in lieu of air conditioning. When he notices that Oikawa's futon presses against three walls of his bedroom, Hajime adjusts his estimate of Oikawa's age towards the younger side of his previous guess, reasoning that no one could live like this unless they don't know what an actual apartment feels like.

"Home sweet home until we get you on payroll!" Oikawa chirps and flops down onto his couch - one of three pieces of furniture he owns.

Hajime pulls the chair out from under the table so he can sit with his hands folded over the back as a barrier between himself and Oikawa. "Or I could go back to my own apartment," he says, without much hope.

A series of expressions flicker across Oikawa's face. The first and most easily identified is anger - though Hajime doesn't think it's at him. Others are more difficult, so he doesn't try too hard to place them. He just met the guy, it figures he wouldn't know how to read him immediately. He settles with noting that Oikawa isn't all sunshine and smugness when he's caught off guard.

As Hajime is about to say something more to break through Oikawa's conflict, Oikawa interrupts his unspoken words. "Would you really abandon me so quickly, Hajime-kun? How will we ever bond if you run off at the first opportunity." It should be a joke, but Hajime doesn't think it is.

He scratches at the blood caked on his cheek as he formulates his reply. "I didn't say I wouldn't come back," he says, but Oikawa is already shaking his head.

"I've got to keep an eye on you."

Hajime's eyes narrow. So there is an actual reason.

"Why?"

Oikawa clucks his tongue, like he's having difficulty sorting out what to say. "For your protection, it's- there are lots of dangers for new reapers."

Hajime wants to ask more but Oikawa leaps up, whipping a laptop out from under his couch. He declares that after Hajime has cleaned his blood off his face, they're watching a movie. He can't find it in himself to refuse.

Late that night, closer to four than three, Oikawa shudders against Hajime's back. Oikawa is more of an asshole than he'd originally thought, because he's sure Oikawa always gets nightmares when he's the big spoon, but he insisted on curling around Hajime's back when they pulled up the sheets for sleep. As gently as he can, Hajime twists in his grip until he can see the flicker of Oikawa's eyelids and the way tears leak out between them.

Hajime brushes the tears away, but new ones replace them in seconds.

"Hey, Oikawa," he whispers.

Oikawa remains resolutely trapped in his nightmare, snuffling and mumbling. Whimpering.

"Dickface."

Oikawa's fingers clench, causing his nails to drag across Hajime's skin in thin red lines. Hajime hisses as Oikawa hits one of his cuts. This is an awkward position and shaking someone he just met awake from a nightmare when he's sharing a bed with them seems like a recipe for disaster, but when gentle words didn't have an effect, he doesn't have a choice. If he's lucky, Oikawa won't give a damn. He nudges Oikawa's bare shoulder and Oikawa curls into himself, away from Hajime so there's a gap between them. Oikawa mumbles on, but a little more distinct now, like somewhere in his subconscious he's holding a conversation.

Hajime shakes Oikawa properly, roughly jerking his shoulder. Oikawa's eyes fly open and he recoils in a lurch. His head smacks against the wall with a sound that makes Hajime wince and reach out to force his hand in between it and the plaster. "Shh, shh - don't fucking strain yourself, dumbass," he says, voice gruff and rattly. "It was just a nightmare." He hopes Oikawa gets that he's trying to be comforting. Calming people down doesn't come easily, though he's learned to manage.

Eyes wild and not feeling the knock to his head, Oikawa draws in a breath. He has one hand up by his face and the other in a fist over his heart. Every inch of him shakes. "Fuck," he says, in a stammering exhale. "Fuck."

Hajime inches his head back away from the wall, keeping his hand cupped over the back of his skull and watching his expression intently as Oikawa's eyes gradually regain focus.

"Hey, Oikawa, how old are you?" he asks, before his brain has a chance to kick in. Oikawa looks even younger than he did before, despite his height and the width of his shoulders remaining the same.

Oikawa takes a while to respond, he licks his lips and keeps glancing away and back to Hajime as the shock and terror drains from his eyes. "I was eighteen. When I died. That was seven years ago," he says.

So he'd be twenty five now, meaning they're the same age, or they were, before Oikawa died and Hajime kept on living.

"I'm sorry," Hajime says, because he can't think of anything better.

Oikawa laughs with his breath uneven. "Don't pity me, Hajime-kun. Pity is for people who aren't as great as I am, you know?" He doesn't sound convinced of his own words but at least he's back to pretending.

"Go to sleep, kid. Teenagers need their rest."

"What are you, my mom?"

 

*

 

Hajime finds Oikawa easy enough to get along with, now that he's realised that Oikawa doesn't mind it when he raises his voice, maybe even likes it. Four days of Oikawa's flighty idiosyncrasies go by and then their domestic banality is interrupted by a searing pain somewhere in Hajime's kidneys. He doubles over, scattering his hand of cards from their latest round of 'Oikawa don't pretend you didn't just change the rules'. It's almost a relief.

Oikawa, the bastard, doesn't do a thing, just sits, looking curious, as Hajime tries to get his muscles to do anything at all.

"Hajime-kun, if you think this will get you out of losing, you're completely wrong."

"How has anyone not killed you?" he grits out through his teeth.

"They were a little too late, I died before anyone felt the need."

Maybe he should have picked a different insult, but he's in too much pain to care.

Oikawa moves behind him to rub between Hajime's shoulder blades. It's nice because somehow Oikawa always knows just how to get the various aches and pains that come with being a reaper to fuck off - he helped Hajime heal his cuts faster than they ever would have when he was alive - but also sucks, because there's no way Hajime will ever reach that spot by himself. His heart thumps loudly but gradually returns to its normal rhythm, and the pain recedes. Oikawa's fingers linger for a moment, he rubs his knuckles so they bump over the column of Hajime's spine.

"Think about a pen," Oikawa says in his 'I'm an experienced reaper and you should listen to me even though I look too young to shave' voice, which Hajime has become very familiar with.

Hajime does what he asks, because this seems like a legitimate use of the voice, though he puts what he'd like to be a murderous expression on his face, as a hint to Oikawa that he doesn't enjoy half-hearted explanations. He thinks of an orange ballpoint with blue ink and jumps when the exact pen he thought of appears in his hand. It comes complete with teeth marks at the top - a stress habit Hajime could never kick. A matching piece of paper fades into view like, by focusing his eyes on it, it became real. Fucking reaper crap. Hajime's hand swoops over the paper, and without needing to think, scrawls out tomorrow's date at two twenty two AM, a room in a hospital on the fourth floor and Kubo Masaru.

Oikawa whistles and Hajime considers shoving his pen down his throat to shut him up, but it vanishes into thin air before he can. "Nice easy job for your first time. Don't worry Hajime-kun! I'll be gentle with you, till you're used to it."

"I hate you," Hajime says on principle.

"Or you love me," Oikawa shoots back but he isn't paying attention as he does, instead focused on his watch. "Do you want to go to the movies, Hajime-kun? There's one I want to see."

Their time together means that Hajime knows refusing isn't an option, if he did Oikawa would whine and complain like a child until Hajime gave in, so he grunts an affirmative and trails after him.

 

*

 

Oikawa being taller than him is revolting, Hajime isn't short but that just makes it worse that someone with an eighteen year old body makes him look small. Hell, he feels small standing next to Oikawa. Sometimes Oikawa hunches over, when he's distracted or relaxed enough, and when he does they look equal. But usually what happens is Oikawa focuses and radiates confidence and Hajime awkwardly draws himself up to match, forcing his shoulders down and elbows wide before he realises what he's doing. It's a long time since anyone made him feel insecure enough to do anything like that, and it makes him grind his teeth that the one to do it is an obnoxious kid.

Hajime stands to the side while Oikawa buys their tickets, the cashier spares him a glance and he smiles back. When he was alive, he wouldn't have reacted to her look at all but in his brief time of not fitting into the lives of other people, he's grown to appreciate every piece of eye contact.

As it turns out, the movie is terrible. A lacking special effects budget and the same amount of plot as a tube of toothpaste makes it a slog to sit through. Oikawa spends it grinning from ear to ear and pointing out continuity errors in a loud voice. Hajime would tell him to shut up and stop annoying the other viewers, but the movie is at the end of it's run and no one else was stupid enough to spend money to see it. That and Oikawa's comments are the only thing entertaining enough to keep Hajime from walking out.

When they leave, he finds himself smiling at the back of Oikawa's head. Oikawa gestures with enthusiasm towards the open air about the movie, still excited about the aliens, and Hajime laughs, just as Oikawa twists.

Oikawa's grin is honest with happiness for once. "You know, that's the first time you've laughed since you died, Hajime-kun."

Hajime's feet slow, then stop. That's- he can't be right. Surely he's laughed at something Oikawa's done.

"I was starting to think dying knocked your sense of humour right out of you," Oikawa continues.

Hajime drops his smile, Oikawa's own smile shrinks and his eyes take on their usual sad tinge.

"Maybe I didn't have a sense of humour before," Hajime says, grumpy again. Plenty of people have claimed that he didn't have one - called him too serious and incapable of happiness. They were right for a while at least, but he grew up and moved on, or he thought he had. But when the third person in four months dumped him for being too grim, he got used to the idea that maybe everyone else is right and it's his perspective that's flawed.

Sighing, Oikawa loops his arm through Hajime's before he can protest. "Try not to look like your mom died, Hajime-kun," Oikawa says. "We can still have fun like this." He's back to forcing cheer, it's disappointing to see, Oikawa is always good looking, but he was something else with a proper smile, asshole teenager or not.

Oikawa keeps his hand resting on Hajime's forearm for the walk back to Oikawa's apartment. It's comforting enough that Hajime doesn't try to dislodge it, he thinks it might be able to shake off some of his residual sadness.

Coffee keeps them awake until it's time to go to the hospital, despite Hajime's protests that it shouldn't and Oikawa's amusement at his frustration in the face of reaper crap. They walk for half an hour until they pass through the gates of the hospital. It's smaller than the main hospital, but even this late there are a handful of people bustling in the lobby.

"Good thing they let people up at night," Hajime says as they step through the automatic doors.

Oikawa looks amused. "Hajime-kun, do you really think hospital security could stop supernatural beings such as ourselves?"

In a fit of maturity, Hajime responds with a glare.

Oikawa demands to see Hajime's death note before they open the door to Kubo Masaru's room, reasoning that they don't want to take the soul of someone still alive just because they were sleeping too soundly, though Hajime doubts that's possible.

The name and room are correct and they enter with minutes to spare. Oikawa uses the extra time to flick through the pages on Kubo-san's medical notes, while Hajime studies the man himself. Kubo-san has wrinkles so etched into his face he could have been born with them, his laugh lines run the deepest and Hajime reaches a hand out to touch them - Oikawa catches his wrist and shakes his head.

"Did you forget to listen when I told you how this goes, Hajime-kun?" he asks and Hajime lowers his hand to rest by his side. It feels cruel to withhold touches in Kubo-san's last moments, but Oikawa told him that bad things happen if a reaper takes a marked soul before their actual death, and he believed him. Somehow the way Oikawa attempted to breeze past the explanation made it sink in. So he should follow what that means. And that means no holding Kubo-san's hand until his last breath has faded.

Oikawa hooks Kubo-san's notes back onto the end of the bed and checks his watch. Three minutes to go, because it's his reaping, Hajime doesn't need a watch to know how long Kubo-san has to live.

"You remember how this-" Oikawa starts but Hajime cuts across him.

"Yeah, I know."

Oikawa pouts in a revolting look but doesn't comment further. Hajime knows what to do.

"Then I'm counting on you, today," Oikawa says, quietly enough that Hajime wouldn't believe it was him if there was another person able to talk in the room.

Hajime waits. Ninety seconds until two twenty two AM. Kubo-san keeps breathing regularly, his breaths are the only sound in the room, though the voices of two people chatting down the hall drift in to stir the air.

The last seconds of Kubo-san's life trickle away. At fifteen seconds, he draws in a strained, rattling breath; at five, he lets it out again; and at zero, his heart beats its last as Hajime's fingers close on his wrist.

Oikawa explained what this would feel like, at the time, Hajime thought he was exaggerating.

Kubo-san lifts free of his body. How tiny he'd become with age wasn't obvious when he was lying down but as he rises, his legs pass through the frame of the hospital bed and he barely reaches Hajime's armpit. Kubo-san opens his mouth and says something, but his voice doesn't travel through the air in a way Hajime can hear.

Hajime blinks, and details of Kubo's life appear in his mind, like they were always there. Like he lived Kubo's life. He knows that Kubo fought in two wars and counted himself lucky to get through both with all his limbs and most of his mind - even if his teeth fell out when he was fifty. He knows that Kubo fell in love only once and it was when he was young. He still regrets that it ended so soon, but he created another kind of love over ten years of marriage to a friend. He adored his wife until her last breath.

He knows Kubo has already accepted death.

Hajime keeps a tight grip on Kubo's hand. The image of his soul slips away with his limbs, his edges grow fainter and fuzzy. Holding his hand is like trying to keep a hold of a cat that doesn't want to be held, Hajime tugs him close in a hug as he grows fainter and fainter, until it's just Oikawa and Hajime standing in a room with Kubo's dead body.

"That was pretty good, Hajime-kun. But don't you think it's unprofessional to cry?" Oikawa says, reaching forward and rubbing Hajime's back like he did just before Hajime wrote the note.

"Shut up, asshole," Hajime says. It's the only response he can manage with dignity.

Most of what he knew about Kubo is gone already, taken with him to the afterlife, but an impression of him clings to the fringes of Hajime's mind.

That wasn't so bad.

 

*

 

"You're fucking with me," Hajime says, peering into his first pay packet.

"Not even a little," Oikawa replies.

Except Oikawa's smile shows that he is fucking with him, at least a little, because- "This is three times what I earned in a month at my old job."

"Then Hajime-kun's old job wasn't very good, was it?"

Hajime frowns, he's tempted to try and explain that no one joins the force for the pay, but Oikawa's in a good mood, he doesn't want to ruin that by arguing about lives they don't have any more. Besides, it's not often he gets an opening to ask about Oikawa.

"You were headed for big things with a huge salary, I suppose?" Thinking about it, he can see Oikawa in university, with a trail of girls following him after class for a study session that didn't involve much studying. Hajime thinks that Oikawa is the type who gets top marks with last minute work.

Oikawa shrugs with his reply. "My family thought I'd go into politics."

"You thought different?" Hajime asks, despite himself.

Oikawa's smile curls deeper at the corners, but it doesn't look right, it's like he's putting on a cruel imitation of mirth. Hajime wants to wipe the expression off but doesn't know how. "I thought I'd die before I got there," Oikawa says, that false humour contaminating his voice as well.

Hajime frowns, ready to ask more but Oikawa switches to his fakest smile and pulls a note out of Hajime's pay packet, fast as lightning.

He waves the note in front of Hajime's nose. "I'm confiscating this in the name of a rice cooker, since someone - who will remain nameless but is much less pretty than I am! - can't cook it without one to save his sad afterlife."

"Or we could-" really, with the two of them earning salaries like this, they could eat in restaurants every night. But Hajime likes home cooked rice - even from a cooker - so he cuts himself off and says, "You have to clean it," instead.

"Aye aye, Hajime-kun!"

Soon 'Hajime-kun' is going to strangle this boy.

He waves Oikawa off, down the street towards a department store. "Go find one that suits you."

"Isn't Hajime-kun going to help me carry it?" Oikawa asks with his eyes wide in an accurate imitation of a puppy.

"'Hajime-kun' is going to get himself a laptop and a book," he says and heads in the opposite direction. Oikawa opens his mouth to object, but Hajime pretends he didn't see.

He half expects Oikawa to follow him, but when he makes it to the end of the block and looks over his shoulder, he's alone. It's the first time he hasn't had Oikawa with him in a fortnight.

"Possessive bastard," he mutters to himself, though he has to admit it's strange not to have Oikawa a second away from touching him.

When he reaches the electronics store, he walks by it, he passes three bookstores, too. Instead of visiting them, he jogs down the steps of the subway, forks over cash for a ticket and settles on a shinkansen destined for Miyagi. It leaves in half an hour. He can buy a return ticket tomorrow, or maybe a few days later, and endure whatever pouting Oikawa wants to throw at him for such cruel abandonment. He's sure Oikawa will pout, never mind that he did just fine without Hajime before they met. Hajime wants to see people, talk to them, and he's sure he'll get used to Oikawa's suffocating presence being in a different city.

The train doors slide shut and Hajime sits up while the speakers drone on about train safety. Some poor bastard runs up the stairs to the platform, a huge box in a bag flapping at his side as the train starts picking up speed. Another leaves in an hour and a half but he looked like he'd been running hard, though Hajime couldn't make out his face to see if it was red.

This train ride generally calms Hajime down, he's made it many times before when he was heading home for the holidays, off-duty and relaxed, and there's nice scenery even if most of it rushes by too fast to appreciate. Today the ride could be improved, a child in the next carriage howls about missing his dad and nothing his mother does calms him, even after she pulls him close and whispers in his ear.

Hajime sighs and settles into his seat. Perhaps going home isn't the most sensible course of action, but he misses his family. He doesn't know how he's going to break the news that he's dead but still here. He figures saying 'hi' is a start.

In retrospect, he should have stopped at the bookstore. He can cope without anything to occupy him, but his thoughts drift back to Oikawa with startling frequency, which irks him more than it should. They are both, theoretically, grown men and Oikawa took care of himself before Hajime, so he'll take care of himself after. Not to mention Hajime did say that he'd come back when Oikawa first raised objections to them spending time apart. Oikawa shouldn't worry about what he'll do without him, even if that's essentially what Hajime is doing.

He nods off after a while but his sleep isn't restful. He starts awake ten minutes from his stop with the phantom of Oikawa's breath on the nape of his neck. The asshole is everywhere, even when he's miles away.

 

*

 

Home looks the same as ever, it's a boxy house with camellia trees planted either side of the door. They're not flowering for once, which Hajime thinks is sad when his family could use cheering up.

His finger hovers over the doorbell. It's probably broken, it was always broken when he lived here and he's spent hours with a screwdriver in his hand fixing it. Even when he got it connected for a second, often as not his hand slipped and it disconnected again earning a laugh from…

He blinks and tries the bell anyway. It rings, muffled by the door but operational. "Colour me surprised," he whispers to the button.

The bell might work but nothing comes from ringing it. The middle of the day isn't the best time to expect a response, so it's not a surprise everyone is out but he had hoped. He unhooks the gate to the back yard and fumbles under the awning for the spare key, years have passed since he last used this key, but it's still in the same place.

"Hey," he calls into the house but to no reply. No one curled up sobbing in grief then. He's glad.

Three bunches of flowers rest on the table. One of the cards reads 'some cheer in your time of loss' which is depressing. Someone - his mom, maybe - dragged out piles of old photos and they they lie scattered throughout the room. The photos show him with friends from his time in school and then later, when he didn't have many friends, him and his co-workers. He picks up one picture that was taken on the day he'd completed his training and first received his badge, it's one of the few times he can remember being happy after high school. It shows him with his hat under his arm, badge in his hand and smile on his face. His mom teared up that day and he'd kissed her on the top of her head before he tossed his belongings into his bag and left to go back to his work.

His mom asked him every time he came back to town if working as a police officer could get him killed, at the time he downplayed the risks. As a low level officer they were there, but minimal. Still, bad things happen. She never told him to look both ways before crossing the street.

He rests on the couch and fidgets, bouncing his leg and ignoring the pain building around a crick in his neck.

He could call someone, there's a list of his family's numbers taped next to the phone, but he doesn't want to cause a heart attack. At least, not one where he isn't in a position to pull them into a hug and tell them that he's really okay, and really here.

Time passes and the sun starts to dip behind the rows of houses, casting yellow light on the few places it can still reach. Hajime switches on the TV but everything sounds like static and he doesn't bother focusing enough to fix it, instead flicking it back off after only a minute.

The doorbell rings loud - too loud, he'll have to tinker with it sometime to tone it down. His mom's hearing is delicate and it must make her wince every time someone uses it instead of knocking.

He nearly opens the door, but remembers that it's probably someone calling to offer flowers for his family's loss and the person they lost shouldn't open the door. Instead he creeps out the back door and around the outside like a thief to check who it is.

He stops dead.

"Oikawa," Hajime says, the name falling from his lips. He can't imagine how he even got here.

Oikawa clutches the handles of a giant bag in one hand. Hajime can see his nails biting into his palm and a picture of a rice cooker is visible through the plastic stretched across it, he doesn't know much about rice cookers but he thinks that's one of the good ones. Oikawa doesn't look mad, just tired, like he's too old for everything that's happened. Like seven years is too long to think about death every day and have his partner run off without him.

"That wasn't very nice, Hajime-kun," he says, dull and flat.

Hajime shuts the gate to the back of the house behind him, shoves his hands in his pockets and shrugs. "Didn't think I could get home any other way." Though, considering Hajime didn't leave a note, Oikawa got here fast. He frowns. "How did you find me?" he asks, eyes narrowed.

"I know everything about you, Hajime-kun. I was your reaper, wasn't I?"

The feeling that Oikawa isn't telling Hajime something bubbles up, along with uncomfortable bile in his throat. He swallows. "Come inside, I'll make us tea." Tea is a weak peace offering but it's all he has.

Oikawa is already rejecting it, shaking his head. "We have to go," he says.

"Fuck off," Hajime growls and yanks the gate back open - something thumps to the ground, probably Oikawa's bag with the rice cooker - and Oikawa's hands latch onto Hajime's elbow.

"You want them to remember you, don't you?"

Hajime makes an involuntary gurgling noise of pure frustration. "Why the hell wouldn't they remember me?"

"Because you're dead, Hajime-kun. If you talk to them, they'll forget about you."

Hajime's blood runs cold, because that was soft. That was Oikawa trying to be gentle.

"How?" he asks, standing frozen with his hand still on the gate.

Oikawa stalls mid-shrug, a crease crinkles between his eyebrows, like he wants to explain, but doesn't know how, like he's ended up caring about Hajime enough to show obvious pain talking about this.

They're a mess.

Hajime wants to itch the side of his face, he's fairly sure his fingers would come away tacky with blood but he's trapped by Oikawa's grip.

Oikawa attempts another shrug and gets through this one. "How can we eat without a body? It's just something that happens, Hajime-kun." Oikawa licks his lips, one of many symptoms of how tense he is. He continues, more confident but not by much. "First, they start thinking you're two different people alive and dead. Then after that, they lose patches of time from the past, until they don't have any memories of you. If you try and force it, they stop seeing you at all." He shrugs again. "There would be too many reapers if they didn't forget."

Hajime's hands clench into fists, relax, and clench. Oikawa's hold remains steady on his elbow and the strength of it is obvious as his muscles move under Oikawa's fingers.

"We have to go, Hajime. Don't do this to them."

Without speaking, Hajime yanks his arm out from under Oikawa's fingers, ducks his head and trudges down the street.

Oikawa follows.

Later, he realises that he left his pay packet at home and the back door unlocked.

 

*

 

Since their 'field trip' as Oikawa has taken to calling it, Oikawa spends the afternoons somewhere other than their apartment. While he never actually told Hajime the reason, he's sure it's because he doesn't have to worry about him catching another train, which makes him wonder why Oikawa didn't just explain before. Oikawa has become even slipperier about answering his questions so he won't be getting an explanation about that any time soon.

When Oikawa goes out, Hajime finds himself at a loose end, rattling around the apartment. The space feels much larger when Oikawa isn't making a nuisance of himself with a grin and casual touches, and there's not much to do when Oikawa lives like a hermit, but without his pay it wouldn't feel right to ask Oikawa to spend more money on him than he has to. At least they're getting good use out of their rice cooker.

He glares at the tiny clock in the corner of Oikawa's laptop screen, it's still an hour before Oikawa will be back.

The thing is - the thing that really gets under Hajime's skin and makes him lie awake, staring at the back of Oikawa's neck - is that Oikawa fits into his life (death, existence, whatever) too well. Or maybe it's Hajime fitting into Oikawa's. Either way, they slot together like puzzle pieces. And he's a sap for thinking it. Living with Oikawa, practically on top of each other - some nights literally when Oikawa twists so his spine should break and makes it known that he's fucking heavy as he snores gently, curled over Hajime - works. Even when Hajime caught Oikawa sucking smoke into his lungs by the gate to the building, he didn't do more than call the habit disgusting and drag him back inside.

Their situation is all very domestic.

Hajime grinds his teeth and sets Oikawa's laptop facing the kitchen on the table, with a recipe on the screen. He needs to use his hands and pounding dough doesn't seem like a bad way to go about it. It's been years since he made bread, but he remembers how and the container of yeast in the fridge has been sitting unused. Nothing about the container gives him a clue how long it's sat there before Hajime arrived, or why Oikawa bought it in the first place, but he thinks he can manage to make some buns. Their neighbour offered the use of her larger oven when Hajime spoke to her once, so he figures he'll use that to bake them.

He switches out his t-shirt for one of Oikawa's, on the basis that he only has the three that Oikawa 'graciously' bought him and that's hard enough to manage without getting flour on one. Oikawa's shirt fits well, his height making up for Hajime's wider shoulders, and it's soft - from years of use based on the faded state of its UFO design.

The techniques for making bread come back to him gradually and it's a comfortable feeling as he measures out the ingredients and combines them together.

In the middle of kneading the dough for the second rise, someone warm and Oikawa-shaped drops their head onto his shoulder.

"We need to find a bigger place," Hajime says as he folds the dough over and stretches it out with the heel of his palm.

Oikawa slips his arms around Hajime's waist, gives him a squeeze and locks his fingers together. He's not making it awkward to knead the dough, so Hajime lets him do it. He doesn't pretend to understand Oikawa's whims.

They stay like that, Oikawa pressed against him and Hajime stretching and folding the dough until he pauses to rest his wrists. When his hands still, Oikawa speaks so his breath tickles against Hajime's neck. "Hajime-kun still wants to live together?"

Hajime stops. Oikawa lifts his face from his skin.

"I don't want to pay rent by myself," Hajime replies, figuring that's a reasonable explanation, even if it's only tangentially related to why he wants to continue living with Oikawa.

"Denied," Oikawa says. He rests his chin down on Hajime's shoulder and curls over him like Hajime is a turtle in need of a shell. It's more oppressive than his previous gesture and red creeps up Hajime's neck until he's warm enough to fry an egg.

"You can't deny it," he says, then clears his throat. "Unless you can read minds, asshole."

Oikawa gasps in mock shock. "Hajime-kun, you have a mind to read?"

Hajime is completely ready to retort and maybe punch Oikawa to get his message across.

But Oikawa pops the button on his jeans, and he short circuits.

All the witty replies he could make vanish like they were never there to begin with. With Oikawa against him, he can tell that he isn't as interested or apparently easily excited as Hajime, which is embarrassing when Oikawa is supposed to be the teenager. Oikawa dips his fingers into the front of Hajime's boxers and all the blood that occupied his face heads south. Oikawa brushes his fingers along his dick as it hardens, practically caressing it, and works his lips along Hajime's neck where he sometimes feels the spot it snapped.

So Hajime does what anyone would do: he kneads.

Oikawa doesn't speak as he continues his impromptu handjob and Hajime beats the dough into submission. It's probably a metaphor. A metaphor for how household violence is a problem, so he should take his frustrations out on baking, rather than eighteen year olds with boundary issues.

His jeans slip halfway down his ass and Oikawa puts the better access to good use, picking up the pace. Hajime loses control of his dough and flicks it out of the way, giving up on getting it kneaded properly, in favour of turning his knuckles white as he grips the edge of the bench. If he didn't, his knees would give out.

"This is fucking unhygienic," he mutters.

"I could stop, if Iwa-chan wants?"

"Don't you dare," Hajime barks back. Oikawa will finish what he started.

Cars rumble by outside as Oikawa finishes him off, pulling down his shirt when he comes so nothing gets on the food. A tiny laugh bubbles out of Hajime as he remembers that this is Oikawa's shirt.

Oikawa rests over his shoulder with his hand still in Hajime's boxers. From the inches he can see of Oikawa's face, he looks relaxed. Happy.

"This place belonged to my teacher," Oikawa says, like he didn't just give Hajime a five minute handjob. Like his fingers aren't covered in cum. "I slept on the couch back then, unlike certain other people." With his blood starting circulation to places other than Hajime's dick, some sees fit to turn his neck red again. "But he was old and needed space."

"Who says I don't need space?" Hajime asks and shoves his hands under the tap to wash them of whatever might have found its way on there. Not that he touched anything but he wouldn't feel right starting up again without doing so. His boxers feel uncomfortable and he can't wait to change them for a different pair but he's getting these buns rising first.

Oikawa finally extracts his hand from Hajime's pants, pulls the zip up and closes the button using only his clean hand. A skill which makes Hajime's traitorous dick twitch again already. "I'm pretty sure we worked that out quite nicely just now, don't you think?"

Hajime divides the dough and sets it out for its second rise without dignifying the bastard a response. He can still feel the phantom of Oikawa's hands on his dick.

"I'm not returning the favour," he mutters, putting the last piece of dough on the tray and poking it into a better line. "You need to buy milk."

Oikawa leans against the counter, eyebrows high and grin wide. He's going to say something annoying. "Hajime-kun, it's polite to ask before you borrow someone's clothes."

Hajime grinds his teeth, drapes a tea towel over the buns and pulls off Oikawa's shirt to throw at him before ducking into the shower. His next pay and new clothes can't come soon enough.

 

*

 

"Why the fuck are you naked?" Hajime asks, hoping and praying that Oikawa has a reasonable answer. Though, saying he's naked isn't entirely true, Oikawa has shorts on. They're aqua and white ones, like a school team uniform, but his chest is bare and - while Hajime is loath to admit it - very distracting.

Oikawa strikes a pose, his hand pulled in a 'v' over one eye and arm muscles flexed. The worst part of him doing that is he has a body worth flaunting, even if it is still one of a teenager, all nice lines and graceful muscles. "I thought I'd give Hajime-kun something to look at while we unpack. Unless you're saying you don't enjoy the view?"

Hajime stabs the tape of one box so he can peel it open and liberate the kitchenware inside. "Start unpacking and I might have time to look."

"Hajime-kun is no fun," Oikawa says. "This is your second life and you're completely wasting it." He shakes his head but also makes a move towards the boxes, so Hajime holds his tongue for now.

Hajime likes this house. It has two bedrooms, is furnished but still with room for Oikawa's meagre collection of possessions and their rice cooker. He would take issue with the price of rent, but fighting Oikawa to find a cheaper place they both like would have given him a migraine, and made Oikawa smug when he inevitably caved. Besides, they get paid enough that they could live just about anywhere and make it work.

Located near one of the hubs of the city, it's is convenient for getting where they need to go. There's a subway two minutes walk away and a bus stop to the outer suburbs five minutes in the opposite direction. Oikawa pointed out these features during the tour when the agent couldn't figure out how to pitch the house to the two of them.

It also has two beds, which means Hajime can finally get a good night's rest. Even though nothing changed, the frequency of Oikawa waking him up in the night pleading in jumbled words has picked up from twice in the first weeks Hajime spent curled around Oikawa's back to every other night. Hajime would be more sympathetic about the nightmares, but when he'd asked why it sounded like Oikawa was making deals with the devil in his sleep, Oikawa only flashed a grin as artificial as styrofoam and claimed they were about Hajime not paying him enough attention.

He places the last of Oikawa's glasses onto the shelf and Oikawa presses up against his side - either he has excellent timing or he's been keeping track of Hajime's progress. Hajime would put good money on the latter.

"Are you going to blow me this time?" he asks. While he enjoys getting off, he prefers to know in advance and the last time has stuck with him. Given his location, he's starting to think Oikawa might have a thing for kitchens.

"I was considering it," Oikawa replies, amusement lining his tone.

Hajime flushes red. Oikawa snickers. He glares at him and sets to flattening the box, ignoring that Oikawa ducks down with him to keep one arm on his waist.

"Sex is how you christen new homes!" Oikawa explains. "Hajime-kun wants to feel at home here, doesn't he?"

Hajime is going to find and kill whoever put that idea into Oikawa's head. "Are you sure it's seven years since you died and not five minutes?" He puts the flattened box in the pile with the others. "You still act like a horny teenager."

"Not true!" Oikawa says, prompting a snort from Hajime. "If I were merely a horny teenager then I would have gotten into your pants much sooner." He shrugs and Hajime wishes he'd been firmer about Oikawa putting on a shirt.

"What if I wasn't gay?" he asks.

Oikawa's eyes go wide, which is a worrying sign. Hajime clenches his jaw to prepare himself. "Hajime-kun is gay?" Oikawa asks.

He'd kill this boy if he wasn't too late. "Bi, and you're an asshole," he says and shoves at Oikawa's chest. It's smooth and warm and awful. Oikawa slips back off his heels onto the floor. He probably shouldn't have confirmed that he's not straight, but Oikawa would find some way to twist any response. The only way to win conversations with Oikawa is not to have them.

"I just thought you might enjoy it."

Only Oikawa.

Hajime clears his throat, face growing ever brighter. "Sex should mean something."

"Why?" Oikawa fires back like he was waiting for Hajime's reply before he asked.

Hajime grinds his teeth. "Because otherwise I'd rather take care of it myself."

"And if I told you it did mean something to me?"

"You'd be lying." Jerking someone off in a kitchen is hardly a proclamation of undying love.

"I suppose, Hajime-kun."

Oikawa leans forward for a moment and Hajime tenses up. But he relaxes again when Oikawa doesn't shuffle within dick sucking range, or make any motions to try and get closer to do that. What Oikawa does do is stand up and set water to boil for tea.

Hajime feels vaguely like he failed a test.

 

*

 

Rubbing his hand over his face, Hajime squints and fumbles for the light switch in the dark. He can hear sounds coming from somewhere inside the house, which he figures woke him up. He has no way of knowing what time it is here, he doesn't have a watch or an alarm clock - no cellphone either because the only person he knows, he always has close at hand when he wants him. But he can tell it's late.

"Oikawa," he calls into the dark.

The sounds that initially woke him up continue - so much for sleeping better here. His eyes adjust enough to find the switch. He flicks it, prompting another round of squinting, and trudges over to Oikawa's room.

Light flows in through Oikawa's window from a street lamp, it falls over his face and, as Hajime moves closer, he can see his eyelids twitch and flutter as his mouth moves in jumbled words.

"C'mon, dick," Hajime says and pulls Oikawa's pillow out from under his head.

Oikawa's head thumps down and Hajime catches him say "But why me?" amongst his continued stream of nonsense.

"Because you're an ass, fucknut," he says and whacks Oikawa on the ear with his pillow.

Oikawa jerks awake with a cough and mumbles out, "Hajime-kun, don't you want me to get my beauty rest?" but Hajime's already moving back into his own room and doesn't bother to reply.

 

*

 

Hajime scribbles out a new note on a light yellow piece of paper. The time listed is for today, in an hour to be precise, because having some advance notice is apparently a thing of the past; the address is the second floor of an apartment complex on the edge of town; and the name he scrawls out is Saito Tsumiko. Hajime grits his teeth as he looks it over. It's the kind of name he likes, pretty and sweet, it's the kind he would have given to his own daughter if he had one, but now all he can think about is how it will look good on a grave. The work is necessary and important and he's responsible for these people but he hates that he only learns their names as they're about to die.

His hand stutters over the paper and circles her name before he can stop it.

"Fuck," Oikawa says from over his shoulder.

"What?" Hajime snaps back, clipping the lid back onto his pen and withdrawing it into himself.

"This isn't going to be fun," he says, like that explains anything.

Hajime pulls out Oikawa's laptop and searches for pictures of Saito to ignore Oikawa's cryptic comment, figuring that if Oikawa wanted to explain, then he would explain. Hajime has enough reapings under his belt now that he'd be able to manage without Oikawa's years of experience if he gets himself into a pinch and the asshole decides to be even less helpful than usual.

Since their first conversation Oikawa's teaching style has deteriorated. Now, instead of using words, or talking, he makes noises that Hajime guesses are supposed to indicate he's doing the right or wrong thing, but working out what each noise is supposed to mean is like solving a riddle that he only heard the second half of. Hajime's patience for it has just about evaporated.

Once he's pulled up Saito's facebook page he skims it, it shows pictures of her with a small group of friends. She smiles in an uncomfortable way, like she'd rather stand behind the camera than in front of it.

With a sigh, Hajime closes that tab and pulls up Google maps to find the path to the apartment. "Next pay I'm buying a scooter," Hajime grumbles after he's checked the timetables - the bus will get them there on time but the one back won't be for over an hour.

Hajime expects a quip from Oikawa about how fun it is to spend time exploring areas they never visit and how Hajime is an old grump, but it doesn't come. The missing comment leaves an eerie silence in its absence. Oikawa isn't even paying attention, instead he's staring out the window with his hands linked and an unhappy tug at the corner of his mouth.

Hajime punches his shoulder as he passes him on the way to the door. "Get your shit, the bus leaves in ten minutes."

Still no reply.

On their bus ride, Oikawa continues his mute routine. The uncomfortable atmosphere that started at their apartment grows until it's oppressive, putting a damper over them for the entire trip. Hajime's stabs at talking to Oikawa to lift it prove entirely unsuccessful and Oikawa doesn't even blink when Hajime tells him his coat looks nice - he's wearing the same cream one he wore when they first met.

When they step off the bus, cookie cutter houses surround them. The only difference between each of them is the numbers on their letterboxes, no apartments though. Hajime checks his tiny, scribbled map. The address is two streets back, so he hasn't taken them on the wrong bus but Oikawa's looking in the opposite direction to where they need to go.

"C'mon, assface," Hajime grumbles and forces his fingers between Oikawa's, linking their hands so he doesn't have to check every two seconds that Oikawa hasn't fucked off somewhere on his own. Dragging Oikawa by his hand, he leads them towards the apartment. "You could try to be less of a pain."

"But then what would Hajime-kun do?" Oikawa replies with a tiny smile. It's a better response than Hajime expected but still lacking Oikawa's usual humour.

"Not worry about my blood pressure," Hajime says.

"So boring." There's no enthusiasm behind Oikawa's words.

They walk in a silence that Oikawa makes more pointed the closer they get to the apartment. Hajime releases Oikawa's hand to double check the number and Oikawa vanishes it into his coat pocket with his eyes fixed on the second storey.

"I'm counting on you today, as well," he says and steps through the gate.

What an overdramatic bastard.

Inside, the complex is worse for wear. Cracks line the stairwell, one worrying break in the concrete wall runs up to the ceiling by the entrance and Hajime frowns at it as he looks around.

Oikawa takes in their environment using jerky motions. Hajime has never seen him so off balance. He places his hand on the small of Oikawa's back and Oikawa jumps under the contact before flashing a charming, but fake, grin and bouncing up the stairs two at a time.

Inside Saito's room, papers cover every surface and a cat wriggles out from under her low bed, it hisses at Oikawa then stalks over towards Hajime, keeping one eye on Oikawa until it's close enough to rub itself against Hajime and twine between his legs.

"How can it-" he gestures to himself. They should be invisible.

"Hajime-kun," Oikawa says, "do you really think that works on cats?"

He doesn't dignify Oikawa with a reply, instead he bends down and scratches the cat between its ears, where a white triangle stops amongst its black. It rewards him with a purr and Oikawa looks disgusted. It figures he wouldn't like an animal so similar to himself.

Usually, Oikawa finds their target and keeps track of them - something he does even when it's Hajime's reaping and he doesn't have the connection to their soul, showing he's a control freak at heart, but this time around, he looks at her things. He picks up a photo in a plain black frame and smiles.

A thump and a splash come from Saito's bathroom - it's probably the accident that will kill her. Hajime shoves at Oikawa's shoulder and nudges open the door to the room.

He gags.

A bottle of pills lies empty on the floor. The bath is full, with water overflowing the sides and pooling on the lino. Saito herself is a blur beneath the water's surface. The thoughts 'This isn't an accident' and 'she's not dead yet' crash through Hajime's shock.

Oikawa knew she would kill herself.

His non-existent heart races as he remembers: he can't touch her. But Oikawa can. Only, Hajime can't hear any sign of Oikawa following him.

"Assikawa, get in here!" he calls, his voice cracking.

Oikawa does, which is more than Hajime expected. Hajime looks for something that he can do without touching Saito but he can't concentrate because his stomach is filling with pure nausea and he doesn't know whether he can keep it down.

"Pull her out," he says once he's collected enough composure for words. He's sweating like he has a fever, even though he knows that's impossible.

"I can't," Oikawa says. He stands as far as possible from anything in the room, only just inside the door, his heels are still on the carpet of the main room.

Hajime covers his mouth in an effort to keep down the bile in his throat and swallows. "I can't. You can." That's what Oikawa said, that's what he told him, he knows that.

"Hajime-kun…" Oikawa trails off, shaking his head.

They have a minute. A minute and she'll be gone when she doesn't need to be.

"Oikawa, please," Hajime says. He's begging now, but he doesn't know what else he can do.

Oikawa moves, but it's not to stop Saito's suicide. He wraps an arm around Hajime's shoulder, eyes grim as he says, "Get ready to touch her, Hajime-kun."

Hajime opens his mouth to plead with Oikawa again. He goes to use his given name and stops when he can't remember it.

That's what sticks with him as the last seconds of Saito's life trickle away, Oikawa's given name sitting somewhere in his memory that he can't bring out to put on his tongue.

The water chills his hand as he reaches in.

Her soul feels wrong when he pulls it out of her body. She doesn't have a face or even a semblance of one, just a hazy fuzz of static where it should be. No emotions coming through the connection either. It's wrong. It's all wrong. Oikawa squeezes Hajime's shoulder - he holds a scythe in his other hand and Hajime doesn't know when it appeared.

She shudders and drops over the side of the bath. Hajime fumbles as he catches her, gritting his teeth because all the parts of him that rest in contact with her soul light up with pain and he doesn't want to scream.

He manages to say, "Oikawa, what the fuck-" with a hoarse voice that finishes in a croak but that's all he can manage.

Oikawa yanks him back and out of contact with her which cuts the pain off but leaves his skin feeling tingly and hollow. Hajime watches, unable to move as Oikawa stands and addresses Saito.

"Saito Tsumiko, can you hear me?" he asks like he's talking over a radio.

Her head snaps up. She still doesn't have features.

But he can hear her. "I- I am..." she says. Her voice could be coming in through Hajime's ears but something tells him that it's not, that her words are just wedging in his mind, no sound waves required.

Oikawa's face smooths into a clean slate. "You're still here."

She screams.

If they were in a movie, her scream would shatter the windows, do damage to everything and send Hajime and Oikawa flying to the ground. But this isn't a movie and it doesn't, they don't even need to cover their ears. It's just a girl, who isn't really there, tearing her nonexistent throat out with an unending, crying scream.

"Saito-san, you don't have to-" Hajime says as he steps forward but stops when Oikawa uses his scythe to block his path.

"She won't respond, Hajime-kun. She's too corrupted."

"But-" Hajime begins.

"She can't even see you right now, Hajime-kun."

But Hajime can tell she can see Oikawa, as what would be her head tracks his movements when he inches around the room.

Saito's scream halts. She lunges - hands no longer hands but blackened claws and the static of her face crawls to cover the rest of her skin. Oikawa pushes Hajime again so he collides with the toilet - which is the only thing that stopped her claws from raking his heart. His pulse races. Saito stumbles and what little Hajime can piece together of her body language through the static says she's confused. Oikawa swings his scythe and steps forward. She steps back in turn and Oikawa steps again. From what Hajime can tell, he's aiming to get them more room. Hajime swallows and his throat treats him to a stabbing pain where it snapped weeks ago.

Oikawa and Saito clear the door frame and Oikawa's posture relaxes. "Saito-san, I'm sorry," he says. He shifts his weight forward and swings.

Oikawa's scythe slices through her in an arc from her hip through her chest up to her jaw. It tears her like she's made of nothing more than smoke in air. She ducks but Oikawa swings again, and again. He lands more hits than he misses, and with each one Oikawa connects, she loses density. They dance forward and back into each other's space, using the whole room. Oikawa moves gracefully, ignoring gravity because it doesn't suit his purposes.

Hajime inches out of the bathroom and picks up a lamp, it won't do any good as a weapon, but he feels better with something weighty in his hand. Oikawa kicks over Saito's table in a lunge, sending papers flying, as a rattling hiss escapes what remains of her. Hajime sees a flash of black as her cat races into a different hiding place.

"Iwa-chan, move!" Oikawa yells, right as Hajime realises he's caught himself between her and the door and she can see him now.

Ordinary people would move. Ordinary people see blackened souls and flee as fast as they can. But Hajime spent the last month and a half trying not to roll over and instantly do whatever Oikawa tells him to. Hajime is stubborn. He might be about to piss himself as the creature he doesn't want to call Saito any more looms closer, but he's still fucking stubborn.

Hajime holds his breath and squeezes his knuckles white in their grip on the lamp.

Oikawa doesn't bother telling him to move again, she's too close for him to manage getting out of the way. She's close enough that Hajime can see between her ribs and through cracks in her skull that show static and darkness beneath bone.

Her clawed hand reaches out for him but Oikawa's blade slices once more and that's the end. She disintegrates into a pile of sand, mingling with the carpet, and then that fades too. Hajime's lamp, still clutched tight, was useless.

Oikawa's scythe vanishes to wherever it came from before and he tucks his hands into his pockets. Nothing about his posture suggests he wants to explain.

"What the fuck was that?" Hajime asks, to try and prompt him.

Oikawa shrugs. "What we could have been," is all he offers. A complete non-answer.

"Explain," Hajime says and Oikawa sighs, ducking his gaze.

In the fight, Saito's couch tipped over, Oikawa picks it up and sets it back where it was before, then sits in the middle of it. Something isn't quite right about the items that moved, and he thinks that some of them are back in their original position, without Hajime or Oikawa touching them. Oikawa keeps his shoulders down and his chin up to look at Hajime but the set of his jaw and look in his eyes scream of tension. He smiles, which doesn't help. "Sit down, Hajime-kun."

Hajime sits.

"I had hoped we wouldn't run into a case like this so soon. Suicides are a nasty business, don't you think?" Hajime jerks his head down in a nod, frowning at Oikawa. Oikawa's expression is an unreadable mask but Hajime doesn't get the impression that he's lying, just deeply uncomfortable. "Only, they're worse for us," Oikawa continues. "Souls that commit suicide are fundamentally different to deaths outside of their control. It's a punishment, I think. For going too soon."

Hajime grunts in acknowledgement. That sounds plausible, though he doesn't think it's the whole story.

Oikawa's mouth jerks into an actual smile at his response, then continues again. "A normal soul turns into that if they're not taken fast enough - particularly with violent or traumatic deaths - but suicides almost always go that way."

"Almost?" Hajime asks, latching on to what has to be the missing piece.

"If they don't, they become reapers."

Hajime glances through the door to the bathroom at the bathtub where he can just see the blur of her skin under the water. "So she could have become a reaper instead."

"No," Oikawa says with force. "There was nothing you could have done to change her fate, Hajime-kun. In suicides, the soul starts corrupting before their death. She was already gone when you wrote the note."

"So that's what the circle means?"

Oikawa nods. Hajime grits his teeth. He wants to ask why Oikawa didn't just explain, but he knows. He thought that Hajime wouldn't listen to him if he knew the full situation, wouldn't believe that there wasn't anything they could do for her. He's still not convinced they couldn't have saved her, but he supposes that just means Oikawa was right not to explain.

He stands up, scraping the chair he was sitting on back, and turns away from Oikawa because the dickhead would bring up his eyes starting to water if he caught that. After he's blinked his eyes dry, he sticks his head in to look at Saito. Her hair floats in patterns on the surface of the water. He swallows.

"We should call emergency services, so they can deal with her."

He doesn't see Oikawa shake his head, but he can feel that he does. "There's no point, Hajime-kun. We'd get asked an awful lot of questions that we don't have good answers for and end up sneaking away suspected of murder."

Bile rises in Hajime's throat and he swallows it down so he doesn't have to lunge for something to vomit into.

They leave her body, submerged in water, for someone else to take care of.

 

*

 

At the bus stop, Oikawa chats in a half-hearted way and it's Hajime's turn to voice monosyllabic replies without a scrap of emotion behind them. After one particularly inane comment, he's had enough. "Stop," he says, voice as firm as he can manage. Oikawa's jaw snaps shut.

They wait in silence until their bus arrives, pay their fare and take take their seats - Oikawa on the opposite side to Hajime.

Oikawa wants to say something, that's clear from the way he's pretending to look out the window because Hajime catches Oikawa's eyes dart back to him half a dozen times, as the bus rumbles down the street.

"What is it?" he asks because Oikawa would overcome whatever is holding his tongue, eventually, and his fidgeting is more irritating than whatever he could say.

Oikawa deflates, like he didn't expect Hajime to ask him outright. "We don't get that many. Most reapers only get two or three a year."

"Great," he says and hopes that his sarcasm makes Oikawa reconsider imparting any more wisdom about suicides.

Their bus rounds a corner three stops from their place and Hajime pulls on the cord. There's a bar up the street and it contains lots of alcohol, which is more appealing than home with Oikawa right now.

"Hajime-kun, I-" Oikawa starts.

Hajime can't be bothered hearing any more of what Oikawa has to say. "I'll see you at home," he says over Oikawa's words and steps down from the door. The driver pauses for a moment but sets off when Oikawa rests back into his seat.

The bartender raises an eyebrow as Hajime tells her to give him something, anything, with high alcohol content. The bar is empty and he can imagine how it looks for him to be here, looking to get shitfaced in the middle of the day. He also doesn't care. The bar wouldn't stay open if customers weren't allowed.

He downs three triple shots in quick succession, then nurses the fourth as the alcohol slipping into his bloodstream makes his thoughts fuzzy at the edges.

Fuzzy like Saito.

He snorts. The bartender shuffles down to the other end of the bar, wiping it as she goes and picking up glasses to polish.

The whole nightmare runs in loops through Hajime's mind. Seeing Saito as a blur beneath the water, yelling at Oikawa to help and then wrapping up with them leaving the apartment after Oikawa tore Saito's soul to pieces like he was born for it. And each time the scenario plays, it jars when Oikawa says suicides create reapers, like a bump in a record throws the music off.

In a morbid way, he can see Oikawa taking too many pills or stepping off a bridge with no one to save him. He's a miserable guy under all those repugnant smiles, but if that's true, Hajime killed himself as well - and he didn't: a car hit him.

He plays out the scene of his death in his mind and his stomach rolls and churns to tell him to knock off thinking about situations which invalidate its existence. He picks at his memory anyway. He heaves and the bartender shoots him a warning look.

Stumbling to his feet, he makes his way down to the other end of the bar, willing his stomach into submission. The bartender looks up and he offers what should be a smile but is more reminiscent of a grimace.

"Can I use the phone?" he asks.

She frowns and focuses on the door behind him before blinking and returning her eyes to him. She raises an eyebrow, probably weighing up letting him use it versus him throwing up somewhere she would have to clean. "Okay, don't take too long," she says once she reaches a decision.

He nods, thanks her and she ushers him into a partition that would be a closet if it didn't have two doors - one to the bar, the other to the kitchen. It's a bizarre piece of architecture, but he's not complaining.

The phone seems like it's as old as the building, with a cord hanging in tangled loops beneath it. Hajime picks it up and dials, hoping that his fingers know his home number even though he's only used it once before and his head would rather he focused on nothing at all.

Five rings in and Hajime wonders if he got the number wrong, eight and he's sure of it. Oikawa could have gone out, he supposes, he does perform his vanishing act regularly, but Hajime suspects he's the type to stay put when he's unsure of Hajime's actions.

A click and the ringing stops as Oikawa answers, "Soul delivery service. How may I help you today?" Shithead, Oikawa isn't even trying to pretend that's funny.

When Hajime speaks, there's a slur to his words which makes his already rosy cheeks gain more colour. "Say shit like that and I'll change my mind about coming back."

Oikawa clucks his tongue and Hajime wishes he was within strangling distance. "Now, now Hajime-kun, we have joint custody of a rice cooker. You wouldn't want it to think you've gone off to find it a new dad, would you?"

Hajime hesitates, because he doesn't actually know what the fuck Oikawa is talking about. "Fuck you," he replies because it's always a good response to the nonsense that comes out of Oikawa's mouth. He licks his lips as he tries to straighten out what he wants to say. He settles on, "I didn't kill myself." It's a good start.

On the other end of the line, Oikawa sighs. Hajime imagines he has that sad downturn to his lips that comes through when he talks about anything that matters. "Hajime-kun thinks he's very important, doesn't he?"

Hajime shakes his head, because he can't have. He just wouldn't have. "No."

"Hajime-kun…" Oikawa says, voice trailing off into the quiet noise coming through the line.

"My best friend killed himself," Hajime blurts out. He'd forgotten, but he remembers now and the hurt never left. He can't have killed himself when someone important chose that escape.

Oikawa draws in a rushed breath. "I'm sorry, but you did," he says.

"I didn't. You saw it happen. A car hit me; that's not suicide."

Silence is the only thing at the end of the line. Maybe he convinced him. Maybe.

A tiny sound that Hajime puts down to Oikawa chewing on his lip breaks the silence before he speaks again in a mild tone. "I've done a lot of reapings, you know, seen a lot of nasty things. Accidents on operating tables, people dying in their own homes, with no one to care that they're gone until it starts to smell. And a lot of suicides - more than my fair share, actually. And I'm not just saying that, I mentioned it a while ago to a reaper who's set up not far from here and she hasn't had one in over a year. I got them instead."

Hajime grunts and sinks further down the wall, adjusting himself to avoid something dull and metallic pressing through his t-shirt.

"So what do you think, Hajime-kun?" Oikawa's voice is filling with bitterness. "Your only friend post-death lies to you about this just to make you feel bad? To get a laugh? I thought you knew I don't have a sense of humour, Hajime-kun."

"A car hit me," he repeats and Oikawa snorts.

"Are train jumpers suicides, Hajime-kun?" Obviously they are and Oikawa doesn't wait for Hajime to respond. "A train hits them and they aren't driving it. What makes a suicide is an action willingly performed to die."

An action he willingly performed to die. Oikawa makes it sound so simple. A car hit him.

"You stepped in front of the car, Hajime-kun."

His breath halts.

"You couldn't talk to me otherwise."

He sucks in air. "And we couldn't have that," he says, quieter than he intended.

"I would miss you, Hajime-kun."

"Alright." He presses his hand over his mouth, smiles when he feels his stubble and the scratchy sensation it brings and ignores the tacky feel of blood because it's fading already. "You're awful."

Oikawa doesn't address the statement, so Hajime thinks he probably agrees. "Are you coming home?" he asks instead.

"Yeah." Hajime hangs up and staggers to his feet.

Oikawa calls it home so easily.

He still can't picture stepping in front of a car thinking he wants to die.

Slinking back into their apartment, Hajime attempts to diffuse his own awkwardness by calling into the house for Oikawa as he pulls off his shoes. He paused on his way back to pick up teriyaki eel from their favourite place and a bunch of flowers from the convenience store. They're pink. He has no idea if Oikawa likes pink.

"You match those, Hajime-kun. I'm surprised they served you," Oikawa says, appearing from around a doorway, a smaller but more sincere smile than he's seen before.

Hajime doesn't feel that drunk, but the heat in his face tells him Oikawa isn't lying. "Do you want them or not?"

"Of course I do! How rude would I be to turn down a make up gift?"

"That's not what this is," he says, but hands over the flowers anyway.

Once they're settled down, tucking into their food, with the flowers balanced precariously in a mug, Hajime catches Oikawa watching him. He watches him like Hajime was taught to watch people. It didn't come naturally to him - other people's business should stay their business and none of his - but he managed. He can feel Oikawa taking in how he sits with his elbow on the table and fist on his cheek as he tries to ease away the lingering feeling of gravel; the way his hand grips his chopsticks a fraction tighter than normal; and how he swallows his mouthful a chew too early, making him pause and swallow again. If he was on duty, he'd set one eye on himself, just to keep track and make sure he doesn't do anything stupid.

He wants to do something stupid.

"How did you…" he starts to say. He feels stupid. And just knows Oikawa will make him finish that question before he answers it.

"How did I what, Hajime-kun?" Oikawa asks, a self fulfilling prophesy in a teenage body.

"Kill yourself," he replies, bluntly. "You saw me die, it's only fair."

Oikawa considers, or pretends to consider, his mind works lightning fast, so anything like this is always for show. "Is it fair?" he says. "It was such a long time ago for me, it's barely relevant to who I am any more."

It is relevant, it couldn't not be. He killed himself and lived in the same tiny apartment ever since. Or he did until Hajime made him move out. Oikawa hasn't moved on from anything. "If it's not relevant, what's the point of keeping it from me?"

Oikawa narrows his eyes, boring them through Hajime's expression. Hajime keeps his gaze steady in return, he's not letting Oikawa run from this. Oikawa breaks away first, back down to his food, he swallows and his voice is small as he says, "I couldn't be good enough. So one more failure didn't matter." This is the first time Oikawa has sounded eighteen.

It's also the first time Oikawa has outright confirmed his delusions of inferiority. Hajime knows they're delusions because he thinks Oikawa might be the smartest person he's ever met. Not in a book smart way - he has no way of knowing that when all they do is watch movies, eat food and reap souls - but in a way that lets him untangle people. Oikawa had Hajime sorted from the moment he woke up.

"So you killed yourself." Hajime doesn't ask it as a question, because it isn't one.

Oikawa holds up his arm and shoves his sleeve down to his elbow. A deep purple scar fades into view on his skin. Hajime holds himself back from leaning across to kiss it.

"So I killed myself," Oikawa confirms.

"Did you go fast?" he asks, figuring he might as well ask all the awkward questions at once.

Laughing - fucking laughing - Oikawa shakes his head. "Not at all, Hajime-kun. Your way was much better."

"Fuck you, I didn't-" Oikawa's foot kicks him, swift, under the table.

"You're drunk and always a little stupid, Hajime-kun, but you know I wouldn't lie to you."

Hajime glares, sullen and mule-headed. He can't think of a time Oikawa has told him a lie, he's avoided topics and stepped around questions he doesn't want to answer, but those are different from flat out telling him something untrue.

Breathing deeply, Hajime regains his composure. Oikawa sets his chopsticks down, parallel to the edge of the table and picks himself up, while Hajime catches up on eating his own food. When Oikawa returns, it's with a newspaper in hand.

All at once, Hajime knows what it is.

He pushes away from the table, picks up his bowl and dumps it into the sink with a clatter. It still had a few mouthfuls of rice left in it but his head is ringing and his stomach rolls so there's no chance of him keeping it down if he finished everything. He covers his mouth with his hand, so when he gags - and he does gag with a spluttering cough - he has some comfort that he won't vomit over everything.

The newspaper slaps down onto the table, making Hajime flinch like Oikawa jabbed him with a needle.

"Hajime-kun. Look at me," Oikawa says.

He can't. He can't make himself look at Oikawa, or look at the paper that he brought. His body is entirely outside of his control. He tenses himself through his shoulders down to his toes, his cheek stings and his neck has a crick in it that he knows is really a snap.

"Do you want to read the article?" Oikawa asks, as gently as he can. It's the voice Oikawa uses on souls.

No.

He shakes his head and he swears he can hear his teeth rattle in his gums. Oikawa folds the paper into tidy quarters. "I wouldn't do anything to hurt you, Hajime-kun. If you ever want to, I have it."

He doesn't have the courage to read about his death.

 

*

 

"Up and at 'em, Hajime-kun!" Oikawa chirps. Without giving Hajime a chance to tell him to fuck off, he pulls down Hajime's sheet, exposing him to the sunshine pouring through his window. Oikawa raises his eyebrows. "Hajime-kun, you don't live alone, you know. Is it really polite to sleep naked?"

Right now, he doesn't give a single solitary fuck. He'd been dreaming, something about reaching the finals of a tournament and celebrating with quick blowjobs before the two of them had to be responsible. A happy kind of a dream. He's surprised he's not hard but somehow it was more pleasant than sexual. Remembering it now that he is awake and naked, with Oikawa looking shamelessly at him, does set his blood flowing. He hates this boy.

"It's too hot for this, Assikawa," he says and pulls his sheet over himself again.

Summer is kicking his ass, and he still thinks it shouldn't be able to. He's dead. He doesn't have a body to sweat and yet he sticks to his sheets every morning.

"We have souls to send on their merry way and Hajime-kun shouldn't slack off."

He really could have done with more sleep before dealing with Oikawa. "You have souls to send on their way. I don't have to do shit," he says, but he mentally prepares himself for getting up anyway.

"But I'd be so lonely without my best friend!" Oikawa proclaims, bouncing onto the bed, ass dangerously close to landing on Hajime's leg.

Steeling himself, Hajime swings his legs onto the floor and shoots Oikawa a look. "Last I heard you were calling me your apprentice." Only when it suits him of course, because Oikawa has to stop calling him 'Hajime-kun' for two seconds before he can call him anything like best friend. Still, Hajime's look might not be as mean as it could be after hearing Oikawa call him that. He's oddly touched.

"I upgraded you. Today's your last lesson." He pulls three death notes out of the pocket of his jeans. Blue, pink and aqua. It's disgusting that Oikawa seems immune to the weather, but given the notes he's holding, climate control isn't his lesson.

Hajime squints at them - no circles, thank god - but he can't make out the time. "When?"

"Ten minutes ago."

He swears. "What are we still doing here?" He stands to pull some clothes on - wonders if it might be worth it not to and just stay invisible the entire time.

"Relax, Hajime-kun. It was past time when I got them."

"Then-"

"Then it's perfect for the last lesson."

Hajime has some idea what this lesson might be now, and it's not a pleasant thought.

Just under three quarters of an hour later, he stands in the middle of a closed off intersection with a tangled wreck of vehicles in the centre, struggling to keep his temper. The mess in the middle keeps distracting the police officer directing traffic. Hajime would go whack him on the back of the head, remind him that he has a job to do, but Oikawa has his arm in a vice grip and he can't go anywhere.

On the way over, Oikawa confirmed his suspicions about their task and tried to explain exactly how to form a weapon out of his soul. "It doesn't have to be a scythe," Oikawa had explained. "But most reapers' are." He'd shrugged as he finished with, "You won't have much choice of what it is."

From Hajime's half attempts before they arrived, his is a couple of feet long, blunt and not a scythe. And of course caused Oikawa to make Freudian comments.

"It's go time, Hajime-kun," Oikawa says, waiting for Hajime's nod before he moves in to touch each of the bodies in the middle of the mess of an intersection.

As he touches each one, their souls rise up, larger than Saito. Meaner, too. Though that's a pointless observation when he has to take them down no matter how malicious they are. Seven of them - how were there this many casualties? - so Oikawa hid four notes from him, which is less surprising than it should be.

He concentrates and darkness spills out of his hand. It forms differently to when Oikawa manifested his scythe, where it wasn't there until the second it was. His comes together in patches, like spiderwebs weaving a cocoon out of black thread. Eventually, it solidifies and he holds up his new police baton to the lumbering creature in front of him.

The souls merged together but kept their mass.

It's huge.

"Ready, Hajime-kun?" Oikawa asks, standing out of the way but at the ready.

"Are you counting on me today?" he asks, dryly, keeping his eyes locked on the demon and stepping around to the side. It tracks his movements, then steps forward, muttering in half a dozen voices that sound like an argument happening through a wall.

"I'm always counting on you," Oikawa says. Hajime wants to check Oikawa's expression to see if he's as earnest as those words would claim, but he has to focus or the thing will be on top of him in an instant.

Some day, it would be nice if Oikawa fully prepared him before letting loose a monster like this. Not that he expects it, but a world where he knows what the fuck is going on sounds relaxing. Hajime does his best to keep his baton between him and the demon. Its walk has a swagger to it that suggests a personality, though Hajime is sure it can't have anything of the kind. It reaches towards him with static and clawed hands. He swings his baton near and they dissipate into fog for a split second before solidifying again. He guesses he'll need to be faster and more decisive with his swings to get in a hit that counts.

He imagines how those claws would feel slicing through him and redoubles his grip on his batton. Oikawa's scythe seems more practical now he's trying to land blows, but with a step forward and another strike he manages to clip it solidly on what might be its forearm.

Oikawa hovers, doing nothing more than making sure he's out of the way of Hajime and the monster, lurking at the fringes of Hajime's vision, while Hajime's breathing grows laboured as he swings again and again, taking chunks out of the conglomeration of souls set on tearing him to pieces.

Moving like Oikawa did back in Saito's apartment is easier than he thought. His lack of body helps him move swiftly and brace himself against nothing, just because he thinks he should be able to. He's managing feats like planting himself against the ground, just like a superhero in a movie.

The creature takes a swing from the right and he gets his baton up and braced on his free hand, diverts it down and knocks it away. That's another difference between his baton and Oikawa's scythe: Oikawa's scythe tore through Saito and forced her to dissolve, but his baton collides like the demon is solid and leaves dents that get bigger with each impact.

The people who make up this demon are strangers to him, and he wishes they weren't. With all the other souls he at least knew their names, it helped him remember that they were people, that he's helping, that this is good. He's sure Oikawa has his reasons for keeping them to himself, but he can't guess what those reasons are.

Blinking, he realises he's stepped back until he's up against a building, his heels hitting the wall. The demon is only a third taller than him now, rather than the towering nightmare that it was, so he allows himself a grin. Situations like this are where he really lives, it's nice to know that's still the case now that he's dead.

Then a claw swings down, nicks him on the temple before he can see it coming. Agony streams from the cut - is there a cut? Can it cut him? - his thoughts fade, darkness falls over his vision and his cheek stings.

"Where do you get off letting that pipsqueak injure you, Hajime-kun?" Oikawa's words are the last thing to make it through before his consciousness gives up.

 

*

 

There's a damp towel pressing over his eyes when he comes to, his eyelids are too heavy under it to think about moving, but he's alert enough to take inventory, so he does. The towel stings where it rests on his cheek, so he's guessing his scrape is back and bleeding again. The rest of him seems to be encased in soft sheets and he can't wiggle his toes, which is almost certainly because Oikawa tucked them in too tightly rather than paralysis, though the ache in his neck could mean his body has finally decided to take his neck injury under advisement and make him a quadriplegic. He tries to curl his fingers to check, they move at his command so it is only the sheets. He breathes a sigh of relief, fighting paralysis would make his job more difficult than it already is. On top of his cheek stinging, his head aches right through, like it's made of two hemispheres loosely taped together, for all he knows that's what Oikawa did. His lips are dry so he licks them, he's thirstier than he's ever been in his life. He breathes something like a laugh. Than he ever was in his life.

A rustle stirs beside the bed and it dips with a squeak as Oikawa sits. "Hajime-kun, are you awake?" he asks, his voice a whisper, which is somehow more irritating than a normal tone would be.

Hajime tests his grip on the sheet and tries to work out the scope of his energy, eventually he raises a single finger for Oikawa to view.

"Very mature, Hajime-kun," Oikawa says. "Do you want some water?"

Guilt hits him in the gut as he realises that Oikawa sounds concerned, as concerned as Oikawa would ever let himself sound, anyway. He switches his previous gesture for a thumbs up.

"Anything for you, Hajime-kun," Oikawa says and moves away from Hajime.

The cut that he's sure isn't visible or even physical, runs from his temple over the bridge of his nose and wraps around the back of his head like someone took a hot wire and ran it through his skull. He tries to focus on things that aren't pain but the feel of his sheets and the noises outside aren't enough of a distraction, so his attempts only add a headache to his pain by the time Oikawa returns, feet stepping lightly on the carpet.

"Can you sit up?" he asks, no longer bothering to whisper.

"What do you think?" Hajime replies, relieved to find his voice works, even though it's raspy and out of tune. He pulls his elbow up, tests it with some of his weight before flopping back into his pillows. Check on his voice, not on his strength.

"I think you're weak as a kitten and need me to protect you," Oikawa says, his previous concern seems to have vanished with Hajime proving himself able to speak.

"Did you get rid of it?"

Oikawa hums what is presumably a 'yes' and presses a cool cup to Hajime's lips before he can ask how.

They stay in silence together well after Hajime finishes the water. Somewhere along the way Oikawa reaches for his hand and traces his fingers until Hajime drifts off again.

 

*

 

When Hajime next comes to, he feels better, though he still knows where his cut was, even if he can't feel it anymore. Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, he draws the path it took with a finger. Along his nose and over his cheek where his graze was but is gone again. His imagination lets him feel it as a scarred dent even though he doesn't have so much as a bump.

The door opens and Oikawa enters, drops down onto his shoulder and laces his fingers around Hajime's waist. "I went to check on you and you weren't there, Hajime-kun," he says. "I thought you might have died."

"We can't die. Remember?" he says and gives Oikawa's hand a squeeze before unwrapping it from his waist.

Oikawa's face looks out of kilter as Hajime catches it in the mirror. It's odd to think that this reflection is the only view of himself that Oikawa sees. Oikawa might have photos of his old life stashed away somewhere but Hajime didn't see them in the move, and the only files Oikawa has on his laptop are obsessive statistics to do with aliens and reapings, all of which are bundled in together because Oikawa has some trouble separating fact from fiction. None of his possessions show that Oikawa even existed before Hajime died.

Hajime licks his lips, still with one hand gripping Oikawa's. "Do you want to go out somewhere?" he asks.

Oikawa's expression shifts, settling somewhere around sceptical but with genuine fear underneath. "You should go back to bed, Hajime-kun."

Returning to bed sounds entirely unappetizing, getting a bowl of ramen and taking a walk is far more appealing, and he figures Oikawa can't stop him. "I'm fine, I'm going out. You can join me and keep an eye on me, or you can stay here and sulk."

He was thinking Oikawa would choose the second option, but when Hajime's ready to leave, he finds Oikawa resting against the door, set to get on his feet and follow him. Oikawa watches him too closely as Hajime pulls on his shoes so he shoves at his shoulder to dislodge his gaze as he exits.

They walk together, shoulder to shoulder, with Oikawa an inch inside Hajime's personal bubble, like he knows just where the boundary is to push. Hajime is aware of where Oikawa is, aware of the way he moves, aware of the faint freckles that have spread over his nose from the summer sun, despite the products Hajime has seen him put on them in the mornings. They talk about this and that as they walk, Oikawa makes one joke that causes Hajime to laugh hard enough he has to stop to gasp and catch his breath.

"Fuck, it's a pity you died, you could have been a comedian," Hajime says once he can speak.

"Don't say things like that, Hajime-kun," Oikawa says and shifts out of his space. "I chose this, remember?"

And just like that the warmth and comfort Hajime was enjoying vanishes. "You don't say that," he snaps, anger filling him. "Getting put in a position where you want to end your life isn't a choice." He snorts. "And you can't have chosen becoming a reaper."

"I could have dissolved into a demon instead, I'd have been as happy." A tiny smile sits on Oikawa's lips but Hajime knows it's only for show, only to piss him off.

Images of something that could have happened but didn't flash through Hajime's mind. Oikawa taking the swing that knocked him out. Oikawa destroying his soul. Oikawa leaving because he was just another job. Hajime's neck aches.

"You're too stubborn for that," he says, trying to work out what Oikawa's really trying to say.

"Just like you, right, Hajime-kun?"

Hajime doesn't have a reply to that, he is stubborn and he knows it. He turns and starts walking again, trying not to feel relieved when Oikawa follows.

Their walk continues, but with Oikawa's composure collapsing. Every time Hajime looks up he's got his eyes fixed on him. On his face, on his hands, on his neck, but always him. It's amazing Oikawa hasn't walked into a lamppost yet. His fingers catch at the side of his shirt - a light t-shirt thank god or Hajime would be sweating on his behalf - and rub the fabric, then release it to catch his wrist and rub at his skin where his scars are instead.

Hajime slows at the turn to their usual place but Oikawa keeps walking two steps further, before freezing and turning, a smile plastered over his concern like he just realized what he's been doing. Hajime's face remains in its standard frown.

"We should split up," Oikawa says.

A knot balls in Hajime's stomach and his cheek is stinging again, he pushes the feeling aside as he replies. "Don't say stupid things." He doesn't do Oikawa the disservice of pretending he doesn't know what he's talking about. Pretending like that is something Oikawa would do and Hajime is a better guy, when it comes to that kind of thing at least. "Who else would wake you up in the middle of the night?"

Oikawa flinches like he hit him. "I coped before you died, Hajime-kun." He licks his lips, avoids eye contact. Hajime steps forward. "I'll cope again."

"You don't have to, you self-absorbed narcissist." Hajime steps closer and brushes one hand through Oikawa's hair. It's soft but crisp in places where he's used product to glue it into what he considers the most attractive position. Oikawa's eyes widen, but Hajime has wanted to do this for ages and he thinks that Oikawa might want it too. He kisses him. Soft, and just for a moment, awkward and terrified. He's never been more glad that he can adjust things so passersby can't see him, as when he cups Oikawa's face and wonders if he just ruined everything.

Oikawa doesn't move. Hajime's hand slips from Oikawa's face and drops to his side. His heart hammers in his chest like it exists. Oikawa licks his lips and then snaps them into an awful smile.

"You don't have a very good sense of humour, Hajime-kun. I might almost think you like me." He sounds like he's got tears building in his throat. God help me, I made him cry. Oikawa steps away, with a forced bounce in his step. Hajime darts his hand out to catch him on the shoulder and Oikawa jerks away like his hand is fire.

"It's okay, Iwa-chan! I know that it's not a problem for you, but I don't like you that way anymore. You shouldn't even be here." He laughs. "This wasn't supposed to happen."

Hajime can feel Oikawa putting more distance between them without even moving.

He frowns and puzzles out what he wants to say. "Oikawa what are you doing?" Oikawa flinches - he's so jumpy. "I-" What? Hajime thought he could trust his instincts, but he's having a hard time working out words. He doesn't want to lose Oikawa again. He continues, his voice thick. "This feels right, don't you think?" He's asking, because he doesn't know, Oikawa's reaction makes him wonder if there's some reaper crap he has left to learn. If Oikawa still hasn't told him something.

He knows Oikawa's personality so well but doesn't know the first thing about his life or his afterlife. He knows how to make him laugh, and now, after this, cry, but doesn't know his favourite food. Their world is as big of the two of them.

"It doesn't matter. Iwa-chan shouldn't have died. And I shouldn't have you here," Oikawa says. Tears bud in his eyes when he blinks. "So it doesn't matter. Even if you love me." Hajime baulks - how could he know just from a kiss? "Or that I love you-" Hajime's breath catches "-because Iwa-chan wouldn't have died without me so it doesn't matter." Oikawa wipes the back of his hand over his nose and vanishes.

Hajime's heart stops.

A lingering smell of ozone remains, as tangible a reminder that Oikawa should be in that spot as rain on concrete.

"Fuck," he says. His eyes sting as much as his cheek. He must flicker into view because a woman with heels as tall as she is takes a step around him with a sympathetic smile. His stomach rumbles and he turns into a grown man wiping his tears away as he walks to buy his lunch.

He returns home with his food and a meal for Oikawa - he doesn't think Oikawa would have bought food for himself, no matter where he went - but their house is empty when he opens the door. There's no note, or any other sign that Oikawa so much as stopped by.

 

*

 

He spends the next day with a ball of sickness wedged under his ribcage and when he gets a death note, he tears it to pieces.

Hours trickle away, closer and closer to the time of the person's death. At the last second, he tucks his wallet into his pocket and sets off at a jog. He can't leave a soul to rot in a corpse.

He keeps an eye out for his mark, checking the street signs and then checking again. He lays eyes on her three minutes before she's due to die. She's just a little girl. Hamasaki Maki. Oikawa's not here to press the knot in Hajime's back, but he breathes slow until he's as relaxed as he would be if he had Oikawa's fingers rubbing away his stress.

Maki trips. Falls. Her head with a yellow bow tied on one side cracks on the concrete.

Hajime waits for the last second to pass before taking her away from her mother, who screams and clutches at her shoulder. Maki was looking forward to show and tell next week. He places a kiss on the very top of her head as she fades away.

Her mother continues wailing, Hajime stands beside her unseen and wishes he could explain how much her daughter loved her.

When he returns home, his hands shake as he takes off his shoes. He hates being alone.

 

*

 

Three days pass and Hajime wonders if he's stupid to assume that Oikawa will come back at all. He bakes loaves of milk bread to see if that will make him return, and throws them out to the birds when it doesn't.

He misses him. He misses the barrage of irritating comments from Oikawa that accompanied everything Hajime did. He misses berating Oikawa for the ridiculous stunts he pulled. He misses the way Oikawa's hands would find their way onto Hajime's shoulder, waist or chest as he passed by. He misses their companionship and he can't believe he misses him this much when less than a week has passed.

Oikawa knew Hajime loved him. He knew it before Hajime did, apparently. Oikawa is too good at reading other people, and terrible at dealing with himself. Hajime traces his lips with his finger. He can't take that back. Their first kiss. He wants to go out, run, do something but... "Shit," he says into his empty home.

Sitting in Oikawa's room, he realises it doesn't smell of Oikawa, or feel like him either, but it's comforting just knowing that Oikawa lived here. Hajime chokes out a laugh. That he existed here, no living for either of them.

Oikawa's gone. And he might not come back.

Hajime spends that night, and the ones after, in Oikawa's bed, only dragging himself out of the house to get vegetables to eat and take care of reapings. He leaves his notes on the table now. On the off chance that Oikawa comes back when he's out, he won't let Oikawa think he's been abandoned.

He reaps two men out on a country road who crashed after missing a turn, then a drug overdose, and a stillborn baby that rose into the tiniest demon.

Mostly, it's lonely, which sits with him uncomfortably. He's not used to loneliness. He's never been alone, all through school he had his best friend and while he didn't after - while he didn't have any real friends after - he worked with people who always had his back. They took care of each other. Not all of them were perfect workmates, but they were enough.

Oikawa never explained how far the memory loss goes, the new people Hajime has met seem to remember him okay, the owner of the ramen restaurant knows his order now, so he could conceivably make friends among the living, but he can't imagine that will work in the long term. He wouldn't be able to make a connection with anyone who's alive. Not a lasting one.

He could find another reaper - from what Oikawa said, there should be a community of them somewhere, but then he remembers what they all have in common and his throat fills with bile. It's too sad, too awful. He can't do that to himself, either.

So, he's alone.

 

*

 

More days pass and his trust that Oikawa will return drains away. Oikawa's room becomes his room as more of his things collect around it. His clothes, his books. He checks Oikawa's internet history but there's nothing in it apart from Hajime's own searches. 'Hajime-kun thinks he's very important, doesn't he?' Oikawa never thought of himself as important, not a shred of real self-esteem in his teenage body. Even doing a job like theirs, Oikawa thought he was disposable.

It's too much. He peels the sheets off of Oikawa's bed, drops them into the laundry, picks up his keys and locks the door. Then he pounds down the street and throws them in a rubbish bin. He's too old for tantrums but he just lost his best friend all over again and that should be too much for someone to handle, even after seven years between each time.

He breathes deep and tries to calm down but anger and pain bubble under his skin. He wants Oikawa back. Hajime is a selfish fool but he wants Oikawa back to tell him he's a stupid, selfish, horrible fool like he's done so many times before. Like when he went into the police force and Hajime barked that he's doing it to protect people and Oikawa bit back with hard words about protecting him instead.

Hajime blinks. That wasn't Oikawa, that was his first best friend, but he supposes they're the same. They left him.

He doesn't buy a ticket for the train, but steps on without one, making himself invisible as the ticket collector passes.

Walking to his old home, he notes the people, the scenery. It's all as he remembers it. When he reaches the house, he brushes his fingers over the leaves of one of the camellias, it's still bare of flowers like the first time he returned. He can only remember that they do flower, not when it happens. When he steps inside he finds the house empty once again, but all the furnishings are still here so his family hasn't moved. He finds a little shrine with his photo on it, tucked away behind a door, some incense crumbled underneath it. It feels self-serving to even think about doing it, but he scrubs his hands clean and kneels in front of the shrine to light a stick of incense. As the fragrance starts to waft from the tip, he clasps his hands together and bows his head. He wishes for general wellness and, with a snort, for a peaceful afterlife.

A car's brakes squeak outside followed by the engine switching off. His ankles pop as he stands.

He can't stay, can he?

He exits the way he came in. This time, he locks the door and tucks the key back in its proper place.

The car door closes and he presses against the house until he hears whichever one of his parents or sisters it is enter the house and shut the door.

He wanders back to the station, taking his time and meandering along the longest route through the park. The sun has dipped to halfway behind the rows of houses by the time he reaches the platform, he checks the timetable, and curses, because he's missed the last train back.

At least it's not a cold night, he thinks as he settles onto one of the benches facing the tracks. If Oikawa had taught him how to vanish then he wouldn't have a problem and it would have saved them travel time and effort, but he supposes that would mean he'd have been able to follow him wherever he went as well, and Oikawa wouldn't allow that as a possibility. He can just imagine Oikawa saying, "It's to stimulate the economy, Iwa-chan. No reason to keep all of our hard earned money to ourselves!" while they both know he's lying.

He'd stay at the inn, but one of his old teammates took over management last year and he has a nose for gossip that Hajime can't risk.

Everything is such a mess.

All this happened from only a kiss. Hajime drags his hands down his face, then presses the heels of his palms into his sockets. He doesn't see stars but his cheek hurts and he thinks that's about the same.

The last of the sun dribbles out over the tracks and a train travelling the wrong direction pulls up. A few straggling people stumble off, two chatting to each other and the third talking on her cellphone, completely engaged in her conversation. She walks past him without a glance and Hajime lets her, staying quiet and invisible. As she steps off the platform, she laughs out loud, her hand pressed to her lips doing nothing to muffle the sound.

The night drags on and he sinks down into the bench, drifting off to sleep with the phantom feeling of Oikawa's breath on his neck.

 

*

 

His ride back to the city is an achy affair, he didn't think his muscles would protest to sleeping out in the cold, considering they don't exist, but reaper crap never goes in his favour and when he woke up his cheek was bloody in a way it hasn't been since he first hit the road. His walk home from the station feels like it's taking an age so he breaks into a jog just to cut through the monotony. This stretch never seemed so long before and even though it's only ten minutes, he's panting by the time he reaches home.

When he reaches the door, he remembers with a curse that he threw his key away. Blaming Oikawa for his rash decision is pointless, but that's what he does, swearing vague threats at someone who isn't there and won't come back.

Hysteria wells up inside him. He's ridiculous. He's sulking, like he ever willingly did more with Oikawa than make him tea and watch bad movies. But he loves him. Has from the moment he met him and probably before that as well.

Exhaustion wins out against his urge to do the right thing and find a payphone to call his landlord, his night on the bench is taking its toll and talking to the slightly confused man about how his housemate is missing and he lost his key is far beyond anything Hajime can deal with, so he shuffles around to the back door and... stops.

With his back pressed against the door and a cigarette cupped in his hand, Oikawa raises his head and makes eye contact with Hajime. Oikawa's jaw hangs open so his mouth forms a perfect circle.

Before anything else, before anything else can go wrong, Hajime surges forward and slaps Oikawa across the side of his face with a crack that sends the birds nesting in the trees into the air. "You asshole," he spits out.

Then, he wraps his arms around him and squeezes. Oikawa smells like nothing, just as always, but the tang of his smoke lingers over top and it's a relief. It's all the same as before. He hugs him because, what else could he do when he still fucking loves this asshole. "I love you," he says because Oikawa has to hear it from him this time.

Hajime holds Oikawa steady so he can't waver or move, he's barely warm and he doesn't speak. Hajime's shoulders rise and fall, once, in a shaky sob. He's happy to see him. He's beyond happy to see him.

"I didn't think you would come back," Oikawa says, mild, like he doesn't care. Though he has to, Hajime thinks, he can't not. Surely. "You threw your keys away." His cigarette crumbles at its tip.

Hajime presses his forehead into Oikawa's shoulder. Shakes his head. Oikawa's hands stay by his sides. He drops the stub of his cigarette. "I was angry," Hajime says.

"Over me, Iwa-chan?" Oikawa asks, all hollow.

"Yeah, over you." He tilts his head so his lips brush over the bare skin above the collar of Oikawa's t-shirt. Oikawa flinches. "You asshole." He leans back. Oikawa vanishing right in front of him plays over in his memory, he shifts his hands to loop his fingers around Oikawa's wrists where his scars sit. "It wasn't that bad was it?" He tries to put a laugh into his words but his voice doesn't pull it off. He sounds rough, crass and unfeeling. "Me kissing you. I haven't really..." Shit. He's tearing up and that's fucking embarrassing. "Not for a long while." He hasn't kissed anyone he had feelings for since high school.

"That's the first kiss I've had since I died," Oikawa says. His smile is awful and fake and he's looking down at Hajime like it's killing him. "You shouldn't be here to kiss me." Oikawa's breath is picking up and he locks his fingers together in front of himself. Standard defensive panic behaviours, Hajime's old training fills in for him.

Hajime reaches up and brushes his knuckles over Oikawa's arm but Oikawa jerks away like he touched him with a live wire.

Oikawa freezes - then sniffs and plays it off. Hajime captures his other wrist again, fighting down the urge to laugh, because he's missed being irritated. He must be some kind of masochist.

"Maybe you should leave me be, Iwa-chan."

"Stop calling me 'Iwa-chan'," he snaps out as Oikawa takes his turn to shake with a sob. "I'm not going to fucking leave you, asshole."

A hollow smile works its way onto Oikawa's face again, it barely touches the red mark from Hajime's slap. "If only Iwa-chan knew." He glances down to where Hajime's holding him. "You killed yourself, Iwa-chan. That shows weakness of character."

Weakness of character, for fuck's sake. "Guess we have that in common," he says with his chin up. But wait, he thinks, as a horrifying thought occurs to him. What if - "You're going to stay."

Fear takes hold of Oikawa. Hajime can see it in the set of his jaw and the muscles around his eyes and can feel it as the tendons in his wrists tense. What a coward. "I don't think that's a good idea, Iwa-chan," he says.

He grips tighter and it must hurt, but he doesn't see any sign of it on Oikawa's face. Maybe Oikawa's a masochist too. "Because I love you?"

"That's one of the reasons," he says. It occurs to Hajime how young Oikawa looks right now.

"You're such an idiot. Can't you just be happy?"

"Can't you?" Oikawa bites back. "I know Iwa-chan like the back of my hand. I have since I was four and he's never been happy. Much less with me."

Static fills Hajime's thoughts and he hears someone that might be him ask "What?" His mind races and stops at the same time. They were born in the same year. He never knew Oikawa. He grew up and played volleyball and made friends all without ever seeing Oikawa's brown eyes or his smile that's so honest when Hajime earns it.

His fingers go slack and Oikawa pulls free of his grip. "I've known you since I was four," Oikawa repeats.

Nothing about his posture or face suggests he's lying. "You..." Hajime can't shake the ringing in his ears that makes his voice sound like it belongs to someone else.

"Killed myself and then spent time with you until you forgot it ever happened. Yes." Each of Oikawa's words hits his ears like a blow. The last one lands and he snaps.

"You fucking bastard. All this time, you knew?"

Oikawa steps back and away as he replies. "Of course! You forgot, that doesn't mean I did."

Tears run down Hajime's cheeks but it's not his own emotions causing them, it's the emotions of some poor bastard who lived without his best friend for seven years and was left without even a memory for company.

"Go." He can't take this. "Just, fuck off."

Oikawa vanishes for a second time.

 

*

 

The only good thing about his encounter with Oikawa is the set of keys he left on the table, so at least Hajime isn't stuck explaining how he lost his own to his landlord.

Inside the house, everything is the same. The same dishes he hasn't done in the sink, the same newspaper folded so the obituaries sit on top lying on the table. The same absence of his best friend.

He scrubs the dishes clean and tucks them into their places, by the time he's finished, the sun has dipped beneath the skyline and a chill has crept in. There weren't many dishes but his fingers kept slipping and the minutes disappeared before he knew it.

His stomach aches and he shakes as soon as he relaxes his hands out of fists.

Oikawa knew him. The whole time. Every single thing he said was with that knowledge. It seems less surprising that he knew he loved him now, they must have been a couple.

He tries to picture it, him and Oikawa, growing up together, experimenting like teenagers do and stealing kisses and touches in private moments. But each time he tries, the image drifts away. He can't imagine a single moment of their relationship before he died.

That first day, Oikawa bought him his favourite ramen. Hajime can't picture their past together but he can picture Oikawa, slit wrists still bleeding, eating at a ramen place picked out by his mentor, ordering his best friend's favourite dish and staring listlessly at it after the first mouthful, because he'd never get to share a meal with Hajime again.

Hajime's stomach rolls and he stumbles into the bathroom. The tiled floor chills his knees as he kneels on it and dry heaves for what feels like hours.

He continues sleeping in Oikawa's room to force reminders of him to stay in his mind at every opportunity. He forgot the asshole once and he might not want him here, but he's going to remember him. He didn't have the option last time.

Oikawa took away his grief and Hajime doesn't know if he can forgive that.

Anger fuels him for days, he doesn't count them - doesn't see the point. Each reaping is a relief. He feels awful that it is - doesn't want to think about gaining pleasure from deaths. He goes on his first solo suicide, and for a second, he thinks the soul will stay whole and become a reaper but it wavers and turns black. Hajime lifts his baton between them and slams it down on it's head. It's much easier than the first mess of a demon he took on.

He settles into a routine, eating breakfast when he wakes up, he then goes for a run afterwards, passing by the library to drop off any books he finished and pick up more if he's running low. He's reading more than he ever has, he always enjoyed reading and would have done it more often if he didn't have school and volleyball. He puts anything supernatural back on the shelf as fast as he can. Once he leaves the library, he holes up in a tiny cafe to read for as long as it takes him to finish his coffee. Then, lunch at the ramen place. The guy behind the counter is less grumpy now and starts making Hajime's order as soon as he sees him approach, waving off payment until the meal is prepared. He lets himself fall invisible as he eats and reads more of his book, slurping down his noodles. It's easier in the lunch crowd, somehow. No one ever tries to take his seat even when they can't see him. After lunch, he walks back home, where he reads or plays video games on Oikawa's laptop. He sticks to kids and action games, no matter how good the reviews are for something else. And he always checks the internet for mentions of suicide before he starts.

Though it's cooler now, he waits until the evening to bring his baton out and practise his old training moves.

He repeats everything again the next day.

Any one of these activities can be disrupted by a hastily scrawled death note, and he's okay with that. No better distraction than someone else's life passing through his mind. He's almost getting used to being around death all the time.

 

*

 

At three in the morning, Hajime wakes to his hand stuttering over a piece of paper and his heart sinks as it finishes by looping around the name.

He fusses around until the time comes to leave, checking the news and the weather. He hesitates before leaving, then curses as he pulls Oikawa's cream coat off its peg. The coat makes him sweat as the heat of the day begins, but he keeps it on. Oikawa's little habits are catching.

The site isn't far so he walks. He never did buy a scooter.

Idly, he wishes he had Oikawa's ear to talk into. "Never here when I need you," he says to Oikawa's absence.

He reaches the middle of the street where his target will die and slumps against the edge of one of the raised flower beds, filled with red and yellow pansies, that line this road as he watches for the right person.

Given where Hajime feels his target will die, they're going to take the same course of suicide as himself and step in front of a car. His stomach churns and he gives it a half hearted slap to quiet it. He died months ago, it should be used to being dead by now.

Crows perch on the building opposite him, peering at him occasionally. Sometimes he thinks his invisibility only works on humans but no dog has paid him attention since he died so maybe cats and crows are two pieces of the same exception.

He sighs and returns his gaze to the people walking by.

A nervous guy, mid thirties or so, with shaking hands stands out of the way of foot traffic on the other side of the road, watching the cars drive past. Nakamura Hibiki, preparing to kill himself.

Hajime steps into the middle of the road, soundly invisible, as Nakamura does the same.

A van, the driver talking on her cellphone, slams into Nakamura, Hajime hears his bones break under the impact and wonders if they're audible to anyone else. He has to wait another minute after Nakamura lands, crumpled on the road behind the van where it swerved into one of the flowerbeds, for his life to fade. Hajime spends the minute crouched beside him, listening to his breathing.

He reaches out to touch him, baton in hand.

The demon rises up without giving any pretence of remaining human.

Fighting among people feels like a bad idea, but it probably happens all the time. No one notices him as he swings his baton into the demon.

How many of these become reapers? What chance did Oikawa think he had of getting Hajime back?

It's faster than the others he's encountered, and while he keeps out of its grip, he's not landing hits as often as he feels he needs to.

He swings down and cracks it on its skull. It shrieks, lashing out claws even longer than before as it capitalizes on a moment of hesitation. He curses while taking the blow and lands on his ass.

His entire side feels like it caught fire, but he's relieved he's still conscious. He makes his body move and forces his feet under him. The pain makes his head swim and it's all he can do to get his baton up between him and its next strike. But at least he's still conscious, he repeats to himself.

It swings with its other hand straight towards his core but something heavy hits him in the side and knocks him out of the way. He lands on the hip that was already on fire, more pain doesn't make a difference but he's going to ache later, he grits his teeth and lurches to his feet, already stepping forward to take the last swing he'll need.

His hit lands true between where the demon's shoulder blades are cracked and brittle. It crumbles into dust over - "Oikawa," he says, with a hollow breath.

The bastard took the blow as he pushed him out of the way, now he lies unconscious in a heap.

During his fight, police arrived on the scene, Hajime glances at Oikawa and then back to them. He doesn't know if people can see reapers when they're unconscious, but he'd rather not take the risk.

He hooks his hands under Oikawa's armpits and braces himself, glad that the cops are directing traffic away so it can't interfere, as he drags Oikawa onto the footpath, propping him up on the same flowerbed Hajme leaned against before.

Oikawa's heart is silent within his chest but Hajime refuses to read anything into that when his fingers stay pink and slightly warm to the touch. He laces his fingers between Oikawa's and settles against the flowerbed to wait.

Oikawa's face looks tired but it's hard to know when he's unconscious and probably getting dirt in his hair from where it trails in the flowers' soil. The traffic begins to pick up again behind them, Oikawa remains steadfastly unconscious.

Eventually, he gives in and allows himself to touch more of Oikawa than just holding his hand, brushing Oikawa's fringe away from his face. "Why the fuck did you have to take that hit?" Hajime asks Oikawa's closed eyes.

He freezes when Oikawa mutters, "Iwa-chan would have died."

"You have the worst fucking timing," Hajime replies, swallowing down tears.

Oikawa shrugs but keeps his eyes closed as he speaks again. "You were always supposed to live."

"You arrogant-" he starts but breaks off when Oikawa's eyes fly open and he scrabbles weakly at his pockets - he might be weak but he seems to regain strength with every movement. "What are you…?" Hajime begins.

"I had a reaping," he says, eyes wide and face drained of any residual colour as he pulls the death note out of his pocket. He looks barely fifteen like this, even with his height. The death note's time is for over two hours ago, just after his own reaping.

Hajime swears. "Where? I can-"

"It has to be me like this, Iwa-chan. You know that." Oikawa picks himself up and puts himself on his feet. Then lurches over to the wrecked van, almost ready to be towed away. So his target was the driver.

"They moved the body, took it away," Hajime says. He saw it as he waited for Oikawa to wake up.

Oikawa shakes his head and leans into the car. "It was messy enough that there's still a link. I can bring her back here if I concentrate but…" he trails off, hand paused over the driver's seat of the car.

"But this is going to be a hell of a fight?"

Oikawa nods. He presses his palm against the seat.

Eerie whistling grows from the spot Oikawa touched and dark wisps of matter draw together. Stepping back, Oikawa materializes his scythe. Hajime stands with his baton already firmly in hand.

Moving forward now and taking down the soul while it's still incomplete is tempting, but there's no way destroying it like that could do anything but bring pain in whatever semblance of an afterlife these souls get.

It snaps together with a last whisper of darkness sliding into its mass. If Hajime thought the demon caused by the seven deaths of the car wreck was huge, it's nothing compared to this. It's double the size, bulky and ugly, bulging out at points like it doesn't all belong together.

Hajime squeezes his baton tight and, before he can react himself, Oikawa's moving. But this isn't like their first time. This time, Hajime can back him up.

Oikawa steps to the side as the demon slices down with fingers as long as swords. Somehow, Hajime manages to lunge in and hook his baton between it's little finger and the next one, he yanks back and it snaps off, crumbling at the base. Oikawa's already on his feet and behind it, slashing away.

Hajime brings his baton down on its knee, which is up at the height of his chest but shrinking lower. It crumples from his blow.

They're winning, easily, he realizes.

With one knee down and its mobility stunted, it turns wilder than they could have imagined, claws lashing everywhere. But with its only way to move pulling itself along using its arms, Oikawa makes short work of it, using the length of his scythe to cut through its matter until it shatters into another pile of sand.

Oikawa pants and drops his scythe. It vanishes.

Hajime's breath is as ragged as Oikawa's and he dismisses his baton as well.

"You fought with me," Oikawa says to break the build up of silence.

"Didn't have much of an option," he replies, gruff. "You would have done the same for me."

Oikawa nods but Hajime is sure he's thinking about something else. Which is fair, he is, too.

"You did a shitty thing, Oikawa," he says, figuring he can start talking, if Oikawa isn't going to.

"I've done plenty of them, only one ever seemed to make you hate me and I had to take it back."

They sit on the footpath to talk, leaning against the flowerbed, resting on the other side this time, the side with people walking past rather than cars driving by.

Hajime clears his throat, wondering how to phrase this question and deciding just to go for it. "I really loved you, before?"

"Absolutely!" Oikawa says, immediately. "I was Iwa-chan's whole world, sometimes I thought I was the only one who could keep you entertained." Oikawa pulls his cigarettes out of his pocket, Hajime waits until he lights one, before plucking it from his hand and crushing the tip on the concrete.

"I was fine before I died," Hajime says.

Oikawa laughs and Hajime tries not to look away in embarrassment. "You had such a saviour complex you killed yourself to ensure a rapist went to prison. I don't think you were fine, Iwa-chan."

Hajime flinches and does look away. He didn't want to know that, though he must have had an inkling if he knew not to read the article on his death. He diverts his attention towards the people walking along the path in front of them. One or two delicately step between the spaces where Oikawa and Hajime's legs lie without so much as a blink.

"I think-" Hajime breaks off to lick his lips, mouth very dry. "I might have been trying to make up for you, even though I couldn't remember." He spent long hours in the office to the point where his coworkers thought he was a mad new rookie, too green to know how to pace himself, but he never stopped until the day he died. And though they don't know it, he's still going.

"You know," Oikawa begins, "when I saw your name on the note it was the first time I regretted what I did, making you forget. You never would have killed yourself if you remembered." Oikawa's smile is wistful and makes Hajime want to cover it with his lips, but that went so poorly the last time he stays where he is. "I thought you were going to turn into a demon. But you didn't. And I had you back." Oikawa's eyes are moist and Hajime can hear a tremor lingering in his voice.

Hajime slings his arm around Oikawa's shoulder and drags him closer so they're pressed together in an awkward hug. "'Bout time you said thank you for that."

"Thank you," Oikawa whispers into Hajime's shoulder, through his own cream coat. He says it so quietly Hajime can hardly be sure of the words.

"You didn't mean to kill me," he says with a sigh. "Lots of other things could have kept me alive." He tilts his head and places a kiss on the nearest part of Oikawa, which happens to be his hair, just above his ear. "No more running away, asshole. It's easier to work together."

"Even if I tell you I love you?"

Hajime pulls back and presses his lips to Oikawa's without letting his brain get in the way. He draws back, heart hammering. "Believe it or not, I like your shitty love."

Oikawa hesitates, his lips in a thin line. He's forgotten to smile but Hajime will gladly take any expression from him that isn't forced. Tentatively, Oikawa leans in and places his lips on Hajime's again, like he wasn't perfectly comfortable shoving his hands down Hajime's pants.

"Hey, assface," Hajime says, shoving his shoulder against Oikawa's. "What's your name?"

Oikawa's eyes grow wide and his mouth twitches like it doesn't know how to process that he wants to smile, because for once he's actually happy. "Oikawa Tooru," he says.

"Tooru," Hajime says. Oikawa's name sounds perfect on his tongue. "I'll be counting on you."