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Night Call

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It’s half past midnight.

Iwaizumi took a cold shower at around nine and climbed onto his bed a quarter before ten. When he figured that his tossing and turning would lead nowhere, he went out to the kitchen to get something to drink. Beer would do. Beer made him tipsy. He wandered away from the stainless steel wares and dark marble countertops two and a half bottles later. The late night news at eleven force-fed him more negativity than he had initially liked. Corrupt government officials. Missing persons. Drug busts. Failing consumer markets. Spotted Chinese fighter jets by the coast—

Watching the news has always served as a quick fix whenever he forgets to feel hopeless.

He's back on his bed, the mattress sinking at the weight as he begins to hate the clock hanging innocently on the wall. It always strikes back at him antagonistically - twelve midnight, two-thirty, half past five. The seconds pour slowly and the ticking doesn't stop. It only deepens that wretched feeling of awareness of not being able to sleep, finding it hard to remember when it had been a natural company in his life.

Time melts onto the dark edges of his room until it's one in the morning.

The city is unsettling at this time of the night. It’s quiet and it’s cold, even though spring is already singing its swan song. But then again, corners in Roppongi won’t get any warmer under any kind of weather. There’s a breakfast place that’s warm enough - open all day and all night. Iwaizumi hops off to blindly put on a graphic tee, layering it with a black letterman jacket with mint sleeves and mint trimmings to ward off the cold before traveling thirty floors down from his pad down to the commercial floor of his condominium.

In spite of its name, Ogatama is an inviting entity. It's a tree. It's an inviting spirit. It serves breakfast at night. He sits himself inside the restaurant, always at the same table by the windows. Their set meal of western-style pancakes, grilled fish, pickled vegetables, banana bread, and that one glorious spinach quiche never fails to give him that slight rush of optimism. He’ll get sleep soon. The sun will rise. Tomorrow will come.

It doesn't take too long for the waiter to come walking by with a tray of food - the meal Iwaizumi usually orders already on top of it. This restaurant has had the same people for years. That waitress on the other side of the room is Haruna, the guy responsible for the spinach quiches is Toshi, the cook who makes mediocre miso soup is Maeda, and this waiter assigned from midnight until early morning is Kindaichi.

“Couldn’t sleep, Iwaizumi-san?” he asks, placing the breakfast plates gently in front of Iwaizumi. He wonders how Kindaichi can be that energetic at this time of the night. He fills a glass with water, another with iced shaken tea. “I haven’t had a good night’s sleep lately, too. Night shifts are hell.”

Iwaizumi finds it slightly hard to sympathize, doubtful anyone can sleep as badly as him. Kindaichi wears his ability to stay away like a badge of honor. He probably doesn’t wake up every thirty minutes at night, doesn’t have to hit his head against the wall so he could knock himself out, doesn’t have to shoot up diamorphine to fall into that fabricated hallucination of a well-rested afternoon.

But still, Iwaizumi nods. He spews out words of encouragement, although personally, he knows it’s not worth shit. "Hey, at least you get paid more, right?"

“Right—Oh, by the way,” Kindaichi adds suddenly. “I know it’s already, like, one in the morning, but do you want yesterday’s newspaper?” Iwaizumi cranes his neck up to look at him, then down to his hands. He’s already holding the said object while another customer calls out to him. There’s only one other person inside besides him right now. Seems like a slow night.

Iwaizumi thinks reading the newspaper is just as depressing as watching the news. But the kid’s obedient, persistent, and he obviously looks up to him.

Kindaichi should really find a new role model.

“Sure,” he says, then takes a huge bite of his midnight meal before lighting a cigarette. “Leave it here.”

In these small hours, the majority of people in the continent is asleep, and somehow this very fact makes him feel small and mundane and tragic. Just specks of dust trying to get through the night. Iwaizumi’s line of thinking quickly swerves into the opposite direction when the phone in his pockets rings. He picks it up, calmly, casually, his bland reaction contrasting to those around him, heads turning at his ringtone of a partly recognizable synthesized guitar riffs from an old foreign television show.

“Hey there! It’s Kurosaki from the Valhalla Nightclub. The DJ backed out last minute, and I was hoping you can fill in for him at around two. We have a set list ready. It’s in the usual spot. I want everyone dancing tonight!”

Straight off, the call ends. It ends when it likes to end. That’s how it is. Not a second early, not a second later. Iwaizumi can say the Nightcall helps ease those thin dreams and his desperate pursuit of sleep. The desire to sleep simply vanishes, and Iwaizumi takes out an awfully long sigh. He rushes in to finish his food and pushes the cigarette on an ashtray. The red light between the embers and ashes disappear together with his appetite. He leaves cash on the table and goes out to leave, but not before grabbing the newspaper he had so willingly accepted. It’d be rude to leave it.

Kindaichi didn’t have the chance to say goodbye as Iwaizumi walks out the door.

The Palm Plaza Hotel isn’t far, and honestly if Iwaizumi can spare fifteen minutes, he can walk right to it. He doesn’t though, and heads straight to the fifth floor parking lot to hop onto his Lexus, knowing the hotel won’t be his first stop for tonight. He drives off to his destination. Despite its location, Iwaizumi can’t help but praise of its ability to mimic a beachside resort in the tropics, dotted with faux palm trees exported from the Southeast, big enough to unfaithfully clean the polluted air and tall enough to hide the entire city’s secrets.

It’s in the usual spot, just as the Nightcall had said. The hotel’s staff entrance is hidden within an underground parking lot, the locker room for employees located in the basement. Expectedly, Iwaizumi is a figure well-known enough that the security guards didn’t have to question him.

There’s no lock. Iwaizumi finds a note, vines and leaves embossed on the scented paper.

 

Your targets are stolen diamonds. Retrieve the target from Kazuo Kozlov. Eliminate Kozlov and all witnesses. Discretion is of essence. Leave the target at point HK-107. 

 

Without fail, the notes would always give out direct and clear-cut errands, and with it a rubber mask. It’s a wolf baring its teeth this time again, and has been for the last couple of months. Why do they keep leaving this? He never uses it. Probably did once or twice before. It’s hard to breathe in it, hard to see through it, hard to do anything in it. Iwaizumi has never been a fan, so he leaves the mask inside and slams the locker close.

Outside, the air grows colder. He finds his car where he had left it on an outdoor parking lot. It has a great view of the city, the land higher and steeper than normal, lights brighter, roads wider. Iwaizumi lights a cigarette and leans back on the car doors. His watch points at one-thirty before he removes it from his wrist. Still have time left. Usually he’d be pulling his hairs at this hour, desperately trying to sleep. He closes his eyes and lets the nicotine warm his senses.

Iwaizumi gets inside the car after finishing his third cigarette. In an attempt to kill time, he turns on the car’s interior lights and grabs the newspaper he got from Kindaichi sitting and neglected on the passenger seat. He isn’t a reader, more of a movie person when it comes down to it. But he flaps it open anyway.

 

May 4, 2016 — Search for missing student reaches third week: The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department resumed their search Wednesday for a Tokyo University student who has been missing since early April. Oikawa Tooru, 20, was the subject of extensive search as police believed he was taken by a crime syndicate operating in the city. Video footage showed the student walking alone northbound to his apartment in Ueno, hours before the building was—

 

It’s one of those missing kids again, and there’s a photo peering out in the middle of an article, eyes front. Iwaizumi wonders what color his eyes are. They look big, round, and definitely bright enough even on a gray canvas. Is it blue? He must be half-foreign or something. The photo provides a bit of wistful calmness in him - a young man radiantly smiling on the front cover like he had won a competition. Maybe he did. Maybe the black and white ink didn’t do him justice.

He stops and looks back down to read other articles until the words become stale and the utter hopelessness of the journalists writing this crap begins to float around his feet. Because somehow there are two students missing, then there’s a famous actor accused of sexual assault on the second page, rumors about North Korean missiles right next to it, an Olympic champ failing a drug test on the bottom right corner, a gang war brewing in the capital written in big letter across the last page. All of these in one day, written in sheets of paper for everyone to worry about. Finally, he folds the newspaper in half and throws it back on the seat. There it’s joined by an old baseball bat with dark red streaks from a previous job and some of last week’s laundry.

Iwaizumi pushes in the key and starts the engine.

In the east of Shinjuku is a beastly district called Kabukicho. Just like the breakfast place on the ground floor of Moriyome Hills, it’s alive twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. It’s the sort of Tokyo foreigners would see several times in magazines and brochures; streets washed in saturated pinks and purples, a hundred thousand impatient locals, drunk on alcohol and drunk on lust, well-dressed but ill-mannered. Iwaizumi avoids walking among them. In Piss Alley, no one cares if you’re holding a bloody baseball bat. It’s uniquely closed in and tiny and dark, dimly lit by red paper lanterns and old unmarried ladies serving chicken intestines skewers and grilled salamander. Other than that, it’s just this cramped inebriated street that serves as a nice little shortcut.

His feet stop at a three-story building that's excessively lit up with neon that paints the fog around it red and demonic, making it look like the entrance to hell than a nightclub. Just like the rest of Kabukicho, it's cramped tight between two other buildings, narrow alleyways separating them from each other. Iwaizumi slips through the alley that's only big enough for a child to go through comfortably. At the back of the Valhalla Nightclub is an emergency exit and a camera right above it. The door’s locked, naturally. Iwaizumi begins, squeezing through a blind side and planting an electronic mine on the outside wall, right next to a dumpster. That should fuck up those stupid cameras.

Two o’clock.

Kazuo Kozlov must be comfortably settled in by now.

He kicks the door open, destroying the scrawny fire exit bar with a single hit. The welcoming committee consists of flamingo-colored walls and two bald guys, one with a tiger tattoo on the side of his face, and one with a tacky purple shirt hiding under a white suit. Iwaizumi hears them shout in both confusion and anger.

“Hey!” Purple Shirt barks at the stranger prowling in their club, sounding afraid despite his furious expression. "How'd you get in here, you bastard?"

“Get the fuck out if you don't wanna get hurt,” warns the more aggressive one; Tigerface, as Iwaizumi decides to call him.

He wonders if they have ever been in a fight before. They seem like they have no idea what their capabilities are, no idea what another man could do to hurt another. Their faces look like they didn’t expect a confrontation this late in the night. But Iwaizumi keeps walking towards them, and he finds it a little funny that Tigerface thinks he’ll go away just by shouting at him like some dog.

Little by little, he closes the gap between them.

Iwaizumi knows a bat is designed to be swung on a horizontal plane, and now that he’s closer, he figures this guy is just the right height for a home run. Without delay, Iwaizumi swings his bat, except the ball isn’t a baseball, and instead, it’s Tigerface’s head.

“Whoa, you’re pretty sturdy,” Iwaizumi mutters, almost impressed. Tigerface is still standing there, quiet and wordless, despite the gaping crack on his skull and a now empty eye socket. On the second swing, he drops on the floor, pink flesh flowering from where his brain should be. Blood had poured into every crevice of his face before Iwaizumi could notice Purple Shirt breaking into a panicked run.

Iwaizumi’s not having it.

He realized that he had been holding his breath, listening to the bass music permeating within the hall, keeping his focus and energy into his limbs and strength. Purple Shirt is slow and Iwaizumi is able to catch up easily before he could climb up the stairs to tell his friends about an uninvited visitor. He hits the man’s legs out from under, and as he went down, Iwaizumi swings a fist straight to his face. Two, three, four. Eye, nose, mouth. His purple collar buttons are all broken when Iwaizumi lets go.

“Any ideas where Kazuo Kozlov would be?” Iwaizumi asks as if he’s talking to a child and he doesn’t want to scare him off.

Most of the guys he had to beat the shit out of wouldn’t falter just as easily as this one. When their faces get beat to a pulp even more, they get afraid a lot less. With blood shining on his lips and leering bruises hidden behind the pink neon lights, the man swallows, then forces his mouth to move along the pools of blood and saliva.

“T-Third floor...V—VIP room—!”

At this crucial moment, Iwaizumi feels like a higher power had granted him the right to smite someone to death. He raises his baseball bat, takes one long inhale, then smashes the man’s head with one swift move.

 

☆ ☆ ☆

 

As soon as the acid gains in richness and climbs to its peak, that’s when Oikawa is able to distinguish the streams of color that mingle at the edge of things, at the edge of their faces.

It’s a circus, the light – the vivid lights. It’s penetrating and volatile, adhering in objects, his brain focusing selectively on other levels of textures and patterns; the diagonal cuts on the tiles, the fabric padded walls, the blinding neon lights reflecting on glass panels. Oikawa observes these colors with keen interest, as long as he’s able to forget he's being used, a trophy to share and display, monsters pursuing a forceful and irrational physical exchange that he had no choice but to succumb to.

A cigarette is pressed onto his skin, a reminder, a branding iron, sizzling, right along the collarbone, melting the surface, mixing in with the other burns as if to form a symbol of some sort. Don’t look at him. He’s strong and barbarous and did not care by the way he forces himself into him until he’s satisfied. This is the third one. Don’t think of anything. It numbs the pain, whatever that thing they injected in him with. But that was half an hour ago, and sadly the effects are withering the more they used him.

The acid helps, in a way.

“Better be careful, Kozlov! At this rate your boy here might grow to like my cock more than you!” a man says, a disgusting laugh blaring right after. The thick fingers that had been digging deep into his hips disappears, along with the burning intrusion, the sick sloppy noises. It’s gone for a while. He is thrown like a rag on the floor before the man pulls his pants back up. He lets out this condescending sigh when he looks down at Oikawa, simply proud of his accomplishments. “Straight flush, two times in a row. Can you believe that?”

“Shut the hell up, fucking cheater,” the man called Kazuo Kozlov grunts, gritting his teeth. Oikawa can’t see his face from his view. He doesn’t need to, having memorized his face in less than three weeks. His face reminds him of a withered apple, angry and impish with a short-cropped beard. “There ain’t no way you’re winning this time, goddamn son of a bitch.”

His most recent patron, Kuhara Cheung, as the others have called him, goes back to the low loveseat by the center table. He shuffles the deck of cards as three others wait and break into their vices. Kozlov had just arrived from Hong Kong that night, bringing in some of his friends to the club. Important people, apparently. Oikawa memorizes their faces before he forgets.

Each of them throws in cash in ten-thousands, but Kozlov throws in one or two packets of condoms - a token of Oikawa’s service.

Oikawa feels as though he should thank Kozlov’s guests. They had brought in experimental narcotics and tested it on him. And so unlike most days, his hands aren’t tied, he’s isn’t blindfolded or gagged, the pain substantially halved. He spends the next several minutes waiting – waiting for the current round of poker to be finished, waiting for an infection to permeate, waiting for a victor while his own face lies numb against the cold tiled floor, the increased drug-induced sensitivity raising the deep, deep feelings of pain and self-destruction.

“Ha! Four of a kind!” Kozlov cheers, throwing his cards, banging the table in triumph. There’s a collective groan of curses and chuckles as Kozlov pulls the mountain of crumpled money to him. He sneers st Oikawa. “Now, for my prize.”

The touch Oikawa had sickeningly grown familiar to sends an atomic bile in his stomach, the sound of zippers and belt buckles clanging enough to make him vomit. His eyes can’t focus on the man’s face, even more so when he is turned over on all fours with a heavy foot, knees and palms against the pink ice. He still has four limbs intact, but it feels like he had none. Oikawa can do nothing but to cry at the brutal penetration from behind, the rough fabric of Kozlov’s suit scratching his exposed back. Close your eyes. His arms tremble to keep himself up. Don’t cry. The effects of the acid wear off with every agonizing thrust. Don't think of anything.

“You missed me a whole lot, didn’t ya?” he grunts, laughing out ragged breaths. It’s all a dream. Oikawa chokes, feeling actual acid burning in his throat. You'll wake up soon. Oikawa’s concentration is interrupted when Kozlov grabs a handful of his hair and pulls his head back. The mouth and tongue that slides across his skin feels like flesh-eating worms. Slimy. Predatory. His hair is being pulled from its roots. It’s painful. Everything’s painful. “Come on, Oikawa-san, say you miss me.”

“...Hurts—” Oikawa chokes out instead, then coughs out a sob. “It hurts—”

He’s cut off when the hand in his hair slammed him face first into the sharp patterned tiles, a whirlpool of pain ringing inside his head. Again and again and again until something wet drips down from his brow bone. “That’s not what I said, fucking faggot!” The pain heightens, and Kozlov digs in faster in growing fury. "You like that, don't you? Come on, don't deny it!"

Oikawa keeps his mouth closed tight. Eyes squeezed shut.

“Hey, don’t fuck angel face up,” Kuhara says with little to no empathy at all. He squats down in front of him, grabbing his chin with firm hand. Oikawa chokes when Kuhara's dirty fingers are forced inside his mouth. “I ain’t fucking him no more if he ain’t pretty.”

Oikawa fears the remark.

These people get off on destroying beautiful things.

“Give him another dose. This crap wears off too quickly,” he hears someone else say with a grim and almost disappointed chuckle.

“What did you expect from cheap shit from China?”

Oikawa doesn’t feel the syringe needle in his arm, his mind too preoccupied with the pain surging from everywhere else but the foreign substance running through his veins. He finds himself quietly wishing that all of his open wounds get fatally infected, or that he’ll suffer from an accidental overdose. It’s more likely he’d die from those than escaping from this hell.

Death sounds like such a nice idea right now.

"This isn't fair, man! He's gonna be bleedin' and shittin' down there once you fags finish—!"

"Boss!"

The door flings open and the obscene party stops. There's a man by the doorway, his hands on his knees, panting as if he had been in a marathon.

“Goddamn it, you fuck—! We’re busy here!" Kozlov halts his abuse, and Oikawa feels the need to look at the man responsible for the disturbance. Frantically, Kozlov hurries to pull his pants back up. "What the fuck do you want, shithead?”

“W-We found Jirou's corpse downstairs!”

Kozlov freezes. “What? What the fuck happened?!”

“There’s a fucking psycho killing all our—!”

In a way, the erratic flashes of pink neon made the starburst of blood and flesh quite exquisite.

The man that was in panic and breathing and alive just seconds ago drops slowly, knees first, then awkwardly drops across the floor, face down, although not much of his head is left in there.

“Ah, sorry. My hand slipped,” Iwaizumi mutters, twisting his shoulder back a bit. His arm had hurt a bit with the impact. “That guy downstairs was Jirou? He has a pretty hard skull. Took me two blows.”

Iwaizumi strides forward, making sure he doesn’t step on the man making a mess with the insides of his skull. The tufted lavender padded panels compliment the bright pink tiles, and the wide one-way mirror covering one side of the room gives a lovely view of the nightclub’s lively dance floor below. It’s the perfect place, Iwaizumi thinks. Private, cramped, but allows enough party lights to pass through the luminous glass.

“Impressive,” he says blankly, looking around the room.

With every step forward, the men who had just been playing poker and getting fucked up on crystal methamphetamine would take one step back. It’s almost like an artistic, comedic display. Except no one is laughing. Iwaizumi lets them frantically get their guns from their pockets, from their bags.

He lets them.

“Who the fuck are you?!” one of them screams out, pointing a pistol at Iwaizumi’s direction. Another one has a bulky shotgun on him. The room’s small, and Iwaizumi is close enough to see the small details. Trembling hands. He stops, smiling menacingly. “Stay right there, fucking bastard! Drop your weapon!”

“You mean this old thing?” Iwaizumi asks, raising his fist holding a bat. He looks at it. The cracks in the wood is barely visible, simply looking like it’s made out of red aluminum. “I think one more swing would break it.” He relaxes his shoulders, as a way to show them submission. His eyes say otherwise though. “Wanna try it out?”

They didn’t have the chance to pull the trigger as Iwaizumi throws the bat as hard as he could, spinning in a way that had hit both the man’s face and hand. The pistol drops on the floor just as its owner falls. Iwaizumi walks closer to another mob, each stride threatening. One of the men pulls the trigger of his shotgun. Click. Click. No bullets coming out. Click. Click. No brains being blown away.

“Be careful with big toys like that,” Iwaizumi warns, smirking, still walking toward him. When he’s close enough, he wraps a hand around the barrel. “The safety’s on, you stupid piece of shit.”

Iwaizumi redirects the barrel towards the ceiling, left arm stretched up with great strength, his free hand sweeps forward and grabs the stock and twists it around, the man bending to Iwaizumi’s will. As soon as he is disarmed, Iwaizumi hits his head hard with the side of the muzzle.

There are two more guys cowering in one corner. Both unarmed and scared to death.

Iwaizumi hears his own breath, could feel his bone and muscle ache into a biomechanical expedition. His face is warm with blood and sweat, only one of each belonging to him. His eyes travel down. Wrong. Three guys. In his line of vision, he sees a young man, stark naked, skin rose-colored but bespeckled in black and blue. Stripes of neon curve on the surface of his skin. Dazed and unmoving, insipid eyes stare up at him. Iwaizumi holds his breath—

Oh, so his eyes are brown.

Unlike the other two, his gaze had no traces of fear. No fear of the bat-wielding killer. No fear of death. The gaze is blank, the radiance from that photo in yesterday’s paper gone and extinguished. Kill me. That’s what his brown eyes say. There’s no dramatic framework about it, no waves of emotion, just the pure desire to end his miserable, insignificant life.

Iwaizumi puts the gun down for a minute.

He takes off his mint-black jacket.

“You’re gonna catch a cold,” he says. He flops the jacket once to get rid of the dust, although that’s not what he should be worried about. Then, he covers the young man with it - a warm, contrasting veil that might’ve been enough to release Oikawa from his hypnosis. Iwaizumi stands up, one knee first. “It’s got Jirou-san’s brains all over. Hope you don’t mind.”

“You’re fucking dead—!”

The butcher knife that Iwaizumi has been hiding behind him hits the man mid-threat, straight in the face, the thick wide blade chopping his face. Red diagonal line. His eyes are wide open before it rolls back into his head, then it goes back in the same front position, looking at every direction but him. Half-dead hands opens to drop a pocket knife, then tries to grab Iwaizumi’s hands. Iwaizumi keeps the knife firmly in place. Blood slowly begins to gush from the insides of his mouth, and when Iwaizumi pulls it out, his face spurts out a fountain of red. The body falls, twitching, his entire head blossoming into a nice red flower of jumbled teeth and meat, pink, red, and glistening.

Iwaizumi is a bit shocked, honestly. He didn’t expect the guy to wake up from his concussion so early. Clicking his tongue, he shakes the blood off the knife. He sighs, annoyed.

This is why double tap is a thing.

His blood surges at that sudden attack on him. His heart races just as wildly, the mechanisms in his brain summoning the remaining reserves of a raging rampage. In a heartbeat, Iwaizumi grabs the shotgun, pump-action, double-barrel, and shoots the guy he had just slashed in the face once, blowing his head further into grinded chunks of meat. Then another to the stomach, exploding into mashed up pieces of human organs, intestines smeared across the floor like bloodthirsty purple alien worms. The nightclub’s deafening music resonates around the room, muffling the gunshots.

It’s almost as though it’s part of the song.

The floors are slowly turning into a lovely shade of red when Iwaizumi looks at the remaining witnesses. He wonders which one of them is under the Nightcall's hit list. They both look strange enough to be half-breed mutts. He’s tempted to just gut them right there, slice their stomachs open, or maybe sever a spine. But the temptation to kill them is replaced when hears the man he had knocked unconscious crawling on the floor. Iwaizumi’s eyes wander and sees a hand that’s reaching for a short-barreled .38 pistol.

“Don’t get too carried away.” His screams are horrible and guttural, interrupted with chokes and sobs when Iwaizumi strikes down with the bloody butcher knife, slashing a clean cut across his wrist. “Shut up already, will you?” He tries to crawl away but Iwaizumi cuts his jugular next, so his screaming stops instantly, blood spurting and spraying everywhere like fucking jets. The muscles stiffen, the mouth fills in with blood, entire body quivering spasmodically.

“Are you Kazuo Kozlov?”

The man jumps and shrieks at the question. His trembling finger points to the other living, breathing creature on the opposite corner. “I’m not Kozlov! He is!”

“W-What the—You fucking bastard! I’m not Kozlov! He’s Kozlov!”

Iwaizumi lets out a loud dragging sigh as a little gesture of impatience.

“Which is it?”

It’s funny because it doesn’t matter, because they’re both going to die anyway, but they keep pointing at each other like children blaming the other one of breaking mom’s precious flower vase. Iwaizumi rolls his eyes and comes back to Oikawa.

There’s something else in his eyes now - hope, delight, the very prospect of liberation. He’s not quite sure, but it’s getting there. Iwaizumi squats next to Oikawa, puts a gentle hand behind and helps him sit up.

Right next to him is a cigarette, unlit, and crunched up, some splatters of blood here and there. Iwaizumi reaches for it and takes out a lighter from his back pocket. Inhaling the nicotine and tasting the iron of whoever’s blood is in his mouth, he adjusts the stained mint letterman jacket so it covers the shoulders and falls over the young man’s back. He mutters a soft apology, and wipes blood from his cheek. Sorry I got their dirty blood on your face. Sorry my jacket’s covered with their flesh.

The sudden kindness made Oikawa flinch. He's probably not used to that, Iwaizumi thinks.

“Is he Kazuo Kozlov?” Iwaizumi asks him a second later, his voice changing drastically. He gently positions Oikawa against the wall so he can lean on it.

Oikawa might still be in the process of waking up from the acid trip, but he sees where exactly Iwaizumi’s cigarette is pointing. And he knows the nightmare hasn’t ended yet when he sees his captor at the edge of the room, face twisted in absolute horror. That's Kazuo Kozlov. The other guy is Kuhara Cheung. Oikawa wants to tell him, but his voice won't come out, still enslaved by whatever’s stirring his senses into depths of spiraling neon colors.

Oikawa just nods.

Iwaizumi shoots the man that’s not Kozlov in the face.

“F-Fuck—! Jesus fuck—!”

There’s a gaping hole in the middle of Kuhara's face, blood flowing down like chocolate pudding. The explosive boom of the shotgun still echoes in Iwaizumi’s ear, as he pushes a finger in and twiddles it around to get rid of the ringing. He wants to fire another shot. Double tap. But it just clicks. Nothing comes out. Iwaizumi pumps the slide back, frowning in disappointment when he sees the loading flap empty. He throws the shotgun on the tiled floor.

This is taking way too long.

He sees Kazuo Kozlov, finally, a sad little brokeback half-breed crippled with a goatee and years of swindling and debauchery. In the midst of his fear, Kozlov kneels down, pleading, his head touching the floor in shame.

“P-Please! Don’t kill me! I’ll do anything—anything! Is it money? I’ll pay more than what they’re paying you! I’ll double it—no, triple it!" He raises his head slightly, mustering a sick smile. "C-Come on—W-What do you say, champ?”

“Cut your dick off.”

“What?”

Iwaizumi takes a drag of his now tiny cigarette. The smoke clouds his vision for a moment before he kicks a butcher knife towards the mangled man.

“You said you’ll do anything, didn't you? Cut your dick off.” He feels the man staring into him pathetically, his mental and emotional being about to collapse. There’s a long silence. Kozlov doesn’t know what to say, trembling, too afraid to do what Iwaizumi wanted him to do. He's frozen on the spot. Iwaizumi breathes out a loud sigh along with a mist of tobacco smoke. “Ah, shit, I really have to do everything around here.”

The neglected baseball bat on the floor didn’t break the last time Iwaizumi had used it. It feels so frail he was so sure it’d be break when he had thrown it earlier. Nevertheless, he picks it up again. Iwaizumi kicks the man from his dogeza position. His movement is slow, steps easy and tired until he’s standing in front of the lying figure on the ground. In this very second of fear, Kozlov doesn’t even notice when Iwaizumi raises the bat above his head.

"N-No! Please—!"

Kozlov screams, hands clutching his crotch. The bat finally broke in half when it hits Kozlov directly between his legs. Though to be fair, it did hit two balls and a cock before its demise. Kozlov convulses and wails in nothing but pain and terror, yelling out something garbled, eyes glinting with death and lips a sickly red. The man cries and vomits in his mouth, and Iwaizumi hopes he doesn’t choke on it yet.

“Where are the diamonds?”

His face is wet with tears and sweat, puke dribbling on the side of his mouth. “W-Where’s… What? What the fuck—Why are you doing this…! Fuck—!” The curses broke down into whimpers.

“Diamonds,” Iwaziumi says simply. He doesn’t really know anything about it but that. “You have them, don’t you?”

“I-I don’t—I don’t have diamonds!”

“I got intel that you have them.” Iwaizumi drops the cigarette and steps on whatever’s left of it. “Pretty reliable stuff.”

“I don’t know where it is! I swear! Fuck—I don’t know what you’re talking about! P-Please!” he pleads. Fetal position. Hands in his groin. Vomit bubbling in his mouth—

Iwaizumi is losing his patience. He turns to the other person who's still alive besides Kozlov. 

“Hey, you, who did that to you?” His voice is vengeful, the low growl sending chills through the other man’s spine. “Was it this guy?”

Eyes big, Oikawa opens his mouth, but nothing’s coming out. “I—I...”

Iwaizumi scratches the back of his head and sighs, tightening the bandages on his knuckles. It's obvious. He squats next to the dying man. “Alright. I’ll be generous. I’m giving you ten chances to tell me where the diamonds are. Okay? Let me ask again, where is it?”

Kozlov shakes his head wildly. Same thing. I don’t know. What are you talking about. Iwaizumi forces one hand out of him and grabs one finger, pinky first. He bends it on the opposite direction. He asks again. Kozlov doesn’t answer coherently this time. I don’t know, I don’t know. He breaks the next finger. The bone cracking is like music to his ears. Where is it? I don’t know. Another finger. Same thing, again and again. It took him a while to notice he’s out of fingers, all of them morbidly broken and bent into crazy angles.

“I don’t have time for this, alright? I want to go home and sleep. Just tell me and I’ll even call the fucking ambulance for you.”

“I swear! I don’t know anything! P-Please—!”

His eyes stay open for a second, tearful and desperate, even after Iwaizumi had hacked his face with the only acceptable weapon available. Iwaizumi pushes the butcher knife up from his forehead, then to his nose until it slides out the flesh from his head. The eyes had gouged out with the pressure.

It’s a sweet, sweet thought. Perhaps for years, this guy has been tricking women, deluding them with hopes of a great job and a great salary only to end up in massive debt, and the only way to pay them is by working for seedy massage parlors and nightclubs which offers more than an ear to listen and a hand to pour drinks. And now he’s dead, face barely recognizable. Dead. His dick and balls pulped into mashed potatoes. Dead. Blood pooling beneath his head. Face broken into two like freshly cut watermelons.

The dark red pool that’s building up matches the pink tiles, Iwaizumi thinks.

But among all that’s happened, no one is probably as relieved as the young man sitting behind him, head resting against the wall, seemingly disinterested, vaguely affected at this morbid horror show. This man Oikawa had probably wanted to kill for days, weeks, now lifeless.

Dead.

Oikawa looks at Iwaizumi again, his eyes singling out among the red splatters of blood and neon pink. His face had twisted in some kind of drugged confusion and fear and joy, maybe? God knows what he’s been through. Does he think he’ll be killed next? Why does he have such expectant eyes?

The job’s been awful so far, and frankly, Iwaizumi just wants to leave. With a grunt, Iwaizumi stands up straight and peeks at the dance floor, all the drunken night owls below still oblivious on what’s happening. But despite the flashing lights and thumping music, Iwaizumi catches suspicious-looking guys come in from the main entrance, their padded white suits and crew cuts unable to blend in with the young hedonistic crowd.

“Shit—” Iwaizumi mutters under his breath. “We need to go.”

Oikawa's eyes speak to him louder than a million words per minute.

Without hesitation, Iwaizumi picks up the unused pistol from the floor and grabs Oikawa’s wrist, pulling him up with a brutal tug. He pulls down a curtain hanging by the doorframe and drapes it over Oikawa before running off.

Oikawa’s mind stumbles, his feet, legs, knees faltering with it. The criticality of it all delivers an immense amount of oxygen and energy to his body, but it’s not enough. A throttle of an engine. It's all quiet and slow-motion. The music is gone. Someone had entered through the back door. Iwaizumi shoots him in the head, blood splattering on the walls, on the ceiling. There’s another one. Bullet to the head. One more unfortunate guy blocks their exit. Same fate as all the others.

By this time, the dark seedy alleys are dying and empty, the remaining nightcrawlers are too drunk to care, the paper lanterns have burned out. Someone’s passed out drunk and sleeping on the sidewalk. Iwaizumi just runs, never stopping, dragging Oikawa by the wrist.

“W-Wait—I can’t—!”

Oikawa drops hard on the asphalt. He lands on a bad knee, scraping the surface and tearing the skin off. His sobs indicate that his cosmic consciousness had returned to normal, and the drugs and adrenaline had partly subsided, skin and hair slick with blood and perspiration. Without the pink flushes of color, Iwaizumi is finally able to notice his true colors.

“I can’t…” Oikawa mutters in choked sobs. Shaking hands. Shaking knees.

But he wants to move.

He wants to run.

Iwaizumi clicks his tongue. “Can’t what?” he yells out, yanking Oikawa’s wrist so he could get up on his feet. His voice is so very different again. It's fatal and frantic. “Do you wanna go back to that shithole?”

Oikawa shakes his head desperately like a child, face wet with tears. His breath comes in short huffs, hot and flustered. His bare feet would kiss the rough pavement painfully but it’s okay. He had never run this far from the club before, and realizing this he’s able to concentrate all his energy to his legs despite the limp and follow his liberator’s grueling pace, although his weight would always end up relying on the other’s iron grip. He doesn’t know where they’re heading. Don’t think of anything. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

Don’t stop for anything.

 

☆ ☆ ☆

 

It’s three o’clock.

The first bite of the threatening daybreak nips Iwaizumi's skin, the shadows of the parking lot blending into the reflections of neon lights over the puddles. It’s quite a sharp contrast from where they had come from. The loud electronic music is replaced by the crisp gentle sound of trees swaying against the breeze. Iwaizumi doesn’t have his jacket on, so it’s colder than usual. The other guy needs it more than he does anyway.

“Get inside,” Iwaizumi tells him, even opens the car door for him.

He watches as Oikawa stares at the car’s dark interior, wordless, motionless, brows crunched with mistrust. When he breathes, the air is visible. He pulls the mint jacket closer. His eyes waver back to Iwaizumi to look for any hint of reassurance—asking if this is okay, asking if this isn’t a trap.

Iwaizumi takes a deep breath. “Relax. I won’t hurt you,” he says almost in an annoyed voice. It doesn’t work. He scratches the back of his head. What else does he want him to say? This time, he schools his tone down, softer, thinner. “I promise.”

There’s a loud gulp in his throat, then a small nod. He says “okay” with a trembling voice and a seemingly dubious heart. Iwaizumi closes the door and walks around to hop onto the driver’s seat.

He turns off the cooling and drives away.

“Do you know anything about Kozlov stealing diamonds?”

Oikawa snaps his head up. Iwaizumi stares at the rear view mirror, their eyes meeting through each other’s reflection. He sees Oikawa dip his eyes back down, shaking his head.

“No.”

“You don’t hear that ugly fuck talking about it?”

“No,” he says again. His voice is timid and clipped. “He doesn’t say anything about diamonds.”

Click of the tongue. Iwaizumi fishes the note from the Nightcall out of his back pocket to double check. He goes to the coordinates given. Maybe he’d get answers.

“Where are you taking me?”

Iwaizumi doesn’t respond. His dark green eyes flicker back up to Oikawa’s reflection, finding it harder and harder to look at the tragic scene. Some people deserve to be treated like shit, but he doubts this kid is one of them. Iwaizumi finds himself going back to that previous thought. Kid. He scoffs at himself because he doubts Oikawa is that much younger than him.

HK-107. That’s what’s written on the note. He doesn’t have the target, but maybe he can explain himself. You guys are wrong. You guys gave the wrong target. Yeah, that should work. The drive itself isn’t too long, although Oikawa occasionally drifts off to sleep, only to wake up during sharp turns and at Iwaizumi’s rough driving. He stops at another empty parking lot. It’s a dead street. Dark. Empty. They’re across a hotel. It has 'Hotel Ki' above the subtle entrance, but it’s so dim and quiet it feels like there’s no one inside.

Iwaizumi swears he felt that sudden mass of anxiety behind him.

“It’s not what you think,” he explains himself first. Although a love hotel isn’t really a good place to take someone like Oikawa to, he really doesn’t have much of a choice. They’re both covered in blood and bits and pieces of human organs, and even with all that Iwaizumi wasn't able to procure his target. “We need a place to clean up. This is discreet enough.”

He throws a bunch of clothes at Oikawa.

“Here. Wear these.” Iwaizumi comes out to light up a cigarette. He leans back outside car door until Oikawa is ready. He has on Iwaizumi’s old dark gray hooded sweater and sweatpants. They fit him quite nicely, much to Iwaizumi’s surprise. They would’ve looked normal if it weren’t for their bloodstained faces. But there’s no need to worry, Iwaizumi tells him. No front desk staff. No cameras. No security guards.

That's the beauty of love hotels.

At the end of the lobby, a vending machine greets them instead of a manned concierge. There’s a horizontal slot where the cash should be put in, but Iwaizumi simply presses the button without putting anything in. It makes a mechanic sound, gears turning, electronics working. Finally, a loud metallic clang echoes. Iwaizumi gets the keys. It has the number “107” embossed on it.

“No one’s here,” Iwaizumi says as he scans the empty room.

Shit. He should’ve expected it. The Nightcall is ridiculously private it’s fucking insane. They're not going to appear just like that. He dials a number on his phone. It’s ringing. No one’s answering. He keeps the phone in his ear, then looks at Oikawa who’s sitting quietly on the edge of one of the two beds. “Are you sure you don’t know anything? Kozlov isn’t hiding any diamonds?”

Oikawa’s eyes flutter nervously. Looking at him, then looking down. They really are brown. “If I did, I would’ve told you by now,” he says, voice honest. Believe me, his eyes scream out. Iwaizumi looks away. It seems like he still has a hard time talking. Might be the drugs still swimming in his veins. “B-But I could—I could probably tell you some other stuff.”

Okay, that’s good. It's a start. Iwaizumi gives up the phone call and sits across from him. The incandescent lamp between them makes his eyes even more lustrous. It looks like honey at this point. “What can you tell me about him? Did he steal anything recently? What's his business around here?”

His dry lips purse, the slight gesture opening a little cut in the middle of his bottom lip.

“He’s part of some... kind of group called Yaponskaya-kai. He runs the nightclubs in the district,” Oikawa starts, even though his voice is audibly strained. He fiddles with his bruised fingers. Iwaizumi wonders why he’s still shaking. Is he afraid of him? Then again, who isn’t? “He doesn't steal diamonds," he continues, pain evident under the hood of his lids. "He steals people.”

Iwaizumi’s features are etched with empathy suddenly, scratching his nose. “What's your name?”

There’s a long silence, and Iwaizumi is able to catch the other’s eyes brimming with uncertainty. Oikawa Tooru. That’s his name. That’s what the papers say. Why does he look like he doesn’t know?

“I think it's Oikawa. It might be my last name,” he says, lips trembling with hesitation. Oikawa knits his brows tightly together, as though he’s trying to remember something. He’s scratching at an itchy abrasion between his knuckles. “I-I don't know. They just started calling me that.”

Iwaizumi flashes the young man another moment of silence before standing up. Oikawa’s gaze follows his movement.

“Wait here. I’ll get something in the car.”

There’s a hushed roll of thunder overhead when Iwaizumi steps back outside, the parking lot muggy with a soft mist. It’s going to rain until the sun comes up seems like. He sits inside his car for a little while, hands gripping the wheel tightly. He’s nervous and he needed something to hold onto. The Nightcall hasn’t contacted him yet. They’re never wrong. That’s their goddamn slogan, their business model. They should be calling him back by now.

Did he kill someone who had no connections with those diamonds? But then again, wrong guy or not, bastard deserved to die anyway. He never killed outside a contract before. Iwaizumi shakes his head. No. It’s not outside of his contract. He didn’t do anything wrong. They gave him the wrong information. They're the ones responsible for this shitfest.

He bumps his forehead on the wheel, stumped, and when he turns his head, sees the newspaper with Oikawa’s face on it, a headline dedicated to him. Missing college student. That’s one interesting thing that came out of his job. Iwaizumi grabs the paper and looks at the photo again. Same hair. Same eyes. Fuck. That’s definitely him. Oikawa doesn’t know that though. He might’ve lost his memories in the middle of his captivity - brain repressing memories or some other bullshit like that. Just like the movies.

His phone tells him he has less than twenty percent battery left. He should probably go check up on Oikawa again. Iwaizumi opens the glove box and grabs that half-empty bottle of hydrogen peroxide and antiseptic wipes. He remembers having bandages and gauze in the trunk, so he steps out and walks to the back of his car.

When Iwaizumi comes back to their room, Oikawa is still sitting in the same place where he had left him, like he's afraid to move. He’s crying. Those are definitely fresh tears. His eyes sparkle in relief when he sees Iwaizumi by the door. Did he think he had left him? Iwaizumi kind of wanted to apologize, but he simply decides against it. Instead, he grabs Oikawa by the sleeve and drags him to the bathroom.

The thunder roars and Oikawa jumps at the sudden sound.

It’s raining.

“Don’t move,” Iwaizumi grunts, angry, jaw tight. He’s in the middle of cleaning a deep wound on the edge of Oikawa’s eyebrow. It looks like it needs some stitches, he says. He seals it with gauze and tape as a temporary dressing.

His hands are all jittery and blotted with tiny cuts and bruises that Iwaizumi might as well just wrap his entire hand with bandages.

Oikawa turns his head to the side. There’s a large window right above the moldy bathtub. The cheap hotel room they’re in isn’t that high up, so the rain glows neon even in his view, capturing the city’s flashing lights in red and blue and pink. It drinks in the surrounding colors, and Oikawa feels his shoulders relax. He looks back at Iwaizumi. His face is so much clearer now. No more blood or any other unmentionable things. He seems like a man of his regiment; sharp edges that could express benevolence, ultraviolence, unforgiving hazel eyes, bearer of cruel tidings, knuckles firm and ruddy – all of which disproportionate to the way his hands would gently graze over his deathly pale ones. His touch feels certain and cautious and safe.

It’s a brand new feeling.

“Thank you,” he blurts out, mustering up a small smile despite everything. He should’ve said it earlier, and he has no idea why he’s saying it now. Iwaizumi looks at him, at his eyes first, then at his smile. Oikawa sees the slight wince in his sharp eyes. Still, he doesn’t say anything else after that.

Iwaizumi then asks him to roll his pants up, so he can see the bruises on his knees, but his phone rings before he could.

“About fucking time,” he hears Iwaizumi whisper. “We’ll leave in a moment. Take a bath. Clean the rest of yourself up,” he tells Oikawa before walking out the bathroom and slamming the door behind him.

“Ten missed calls? Really? It’s four in the morning, Iwaizumi!”

“The Nightcall gave me the wrong target,” Iwaizumi says in between gritted teeth when he realizes it's not the Nightcall on the other line. He cuts to the chase. “It’s been more than an hour since I took out Kazuo Kozlov. That asshole doesn’t have anything to do with diamonds.”

“What? The Nightcall’s never wrong,” the man on the other line says, sounding like he can fall back asleep anytime soon. “If they say he has them, he has them. Are you sure he’s not hiding anything?”

“Crushed his dick and broke all of his fingers. No mention of diamonds.”

He hears the other make an uncomfortable sound."Cruel as always, Iwaizumi.”

Iwaizumi sits on the bed, rubbing his temples. He did not just lose sleep to get absolutely nothing. “I got one of his guys, well, some... kid from the nightclub. He says the same thing. I was given the wrong place, Hanamaki. They’re not calling. They’re not closing the job. You’re from Aobajousai-kai. Do something about it.”

“Okay, okay. Relax. We can’t do anything about the Nightcall, but I’ll talk to Matsukawa in the morning and see what we can do—” Hanamaki pauses for a yawn. “Go home for now, Iwaizumi. I’ll keep you posted.”

 

☆ ☆ ☆

 

Outside, the heavy rain falls like poetry, drops short and whimsical, but somehow still feels heavy in a way Oikawa can’t quite figure out. Each drop perches on the surface of his skin, like a hail of bullets, cool and warm at the same time. It’s refreshing against his cuts and bruises. He can’t remember the last time he had experienced a thunderstorm like this, not that he remembers much from his past anyway.

“Hey! Get in already!”

Iwaizumi’s voice snaps him out. The car horn honks impatiently, and Oikawa hurries inside the car.

It’s another short drive.

Oikawa asks where they’re going again, to which Iwaizumi replies with silence along with the sounds of a windshield diligently wiping the wall of water that comes rushing down. Blurs of light. Relentless pitter-patter. The night’s coming to an end, but the sky doesn’t want people to notice.

Rear view mirror. Oikawa is asleep. The rain is stopping. Iwaizumi drives slower.

“Wake up.”

Iwaizumi’s voice rouses him up again. The sleepiness quickly fades, Oikawa sitting up in alert. The interior lights of the car die down, just as the engine stops. Iwaizumi slides off the seat, leaving Oikawa inside to observe where they are.

It’s another parking lot, an indoor one, the dim green overhead lights not really helping in easing his nervous heart. The door opens for him. Oikawa slowly slithers out.

“Follow me,” Iwaizumi says before heading to an elevator. Oikawa does just that.

The elevator ride is too long and too quiet, and Oikawa can’t help but wonder which floor they’re in. He looks at the buttons, noticing Iwaizumi had pressed “30”. That’s really high up. It feels like there’s no end to it, the pressure in his ears making it hard to hear. Oikawa waits patiently behind Iwaizumi, watching how his shoulders would heave up and down, how the wet shirt had clung to his back. The man in front of him is tall, but not as tall as him. Looking down, Oikawa sees a gold watch on his wrist. That wasn’t there before.

Ding.

He walks out, and Oikawa obediently follows.

Iwaizumi’s home is subtle, monochrome, almost geometric. White walls, black furniture, dark hardwood floors. Full-height windows wrap around the majority of the space, the city lights looking more like a painted mural behind it. High ceilings. Browns, grays, and blacks. Empty bottles of beer by the door, same space where Iwaizumi leaves his soaked sneakers on. More bottles of juice or water or whatever on the corners of hallways. Boxes of pizza stacked up like towers on the carpet. Disposable convenience store plasticware. Used syringes. Unidentified white powder on a coffee table.

Their clothes had gotten wet from the rain, so Iwaizumi takes the initiative and pulls his shirt off, dropping it on the floor and not really caring where it ends up on. His completely inked back is exposed, taut and olive underneath, an exquisite display of blacks and reds and greens creeping up from his back to his shoulders blades up to his chest.

Oikawa turns his head away.

“Can I really stay here for the night?”

Iwaizumi stiffens. His sigh slices through the silence that comes after the question. Why would he ask that? Isn’t it obvious enough? 

“Come on,” he says instead, then leads him to the bathroom.

Same colors. The floor is light hardwood. Flat-panel cabinets. Oikawa leans back on one of the white quartzite countertops, resting his palms on the cool surface.

Iwaizumi stops to eye him head to toe, noticing Oikawa’s hair had substantially flattened, then clicks his tongue.

“You’re soaked. Take that off. I haven’t washed that for days.”

He feels Oikawa staring at him. Still, he complies timidly and pulls the hoodie off.

Oikawa Tooru is a garden. There are tangled thickets of purple sage on his chest, blotches of hawthorn along the curve of his arms, wisteria vines constricting his neck and wrists, honeysuckles growing on his collarbones. Clusters of defiant spring roses scattered, blooming south until they disappear below his pelvis.

He’s a neglected, unweeded, unmown garden of misery.

Dark green eyes cruise further below, noticing stitches carving his skin in shapes of centipedes – one above his elbow, a vertical one along his abdomen, small raised keloids on his forearms and sides. They look sloppy and might’ve been done by an amateur. Chemical burns. Cigarette burns. He notices that the discoloration on his body greatly contrasts his face. It makes him sick. They were careful not to fuck up his redeeming feature. Iwaizumi understands somehow.

He’s heartbreakingly beautiful.

The cut by his brow had opened again, perhaps due to the rain, the gauze he had messily taped earlier barely able to contain the fresh blood. “Let me see that,” Iwaizumi says as the other bows his head lower. He removes the gauze, then notices that his flesh had split open real bad. That’s going to be an addition to his collection of stitches. Iwaizumi tells him this, and Oikawa just nods like he had grown used to such things.

The green in his eyes softens when Iwaizumi leans closer. He’s near enough that Iwaizumi can feel the other’s breath hitch, near enough to see his long eyelashes flutter in uncertainty, but then he skids to the side, plaintive, and extends a hand to open the cabinet above Oikawa’s head. Iwaizumi grabs his suture kit.

Iwaizumi is by far, not gentle when sterilizing his equipment. His crude hands had pulled out a basin from the cabinets behind Oikawa’s legs. He proceeds to pour an entire bottle of hydrogen peroxide on it and dumps all of the instruments there; scissors, tweezers, needles, everything.

“Does it hurt?” Iwaizumi asks, pinching the edges of the brow wound together. It’s good that the cut itself isn’t jagged. No need to cut bits of flesh. A little bit of blood drips from it when he squeezes it tighter, so he can figure out how to stitch them back together.

Oikawa blinks up then looks down at his hands again. “Not… really.”

“Your nerves are probably dead,” Iwaizumi half-jokes, voice monotone. It might’ve made Oikawa more anxious by the way his eyebrows had creased. It could be the previous drugs that are helping numb the pain, or he actually ended up with severed nerves. Iwaizumi irrigates the wound with antiseptic fluid, careful it won’t drip down to reach Oikawa’s brown eyes.

“Is that—Is that bad?” Oikawa asks in worry.

Iwaizumi guesses that his stale delivery didn't really quite help his dry humor.

“Don’t worry about it.”

Iwaizumi holds a hemostat, a curved needle clasped at the tip, a thin black nylon inserted at the small hole. At the first puncture, Oikawa flinches, eyes squeezing shut. He asks him if it hurts. Just a bit, he says. He drags the thread, punctures another dot of flesh. Does it hurt? No. He knots the first suture into place.

“Have you done this before?”

Iwaizumi redirects his gaze from the wound to Oikawa’s mouth for a second. He can’t tell whether his lips are naturally that rouge or swollen from another cut. It’s most likely the latter.

“I’ve done it to myself,” he replies, then continues weaving his flesh back together. “Not to other people though.”

It took only about three sutures to close the cut entirely.

That should be good for now.

Oikawa hovers his fingers over the new gauze by his brow bone. It stings, but the pain subsides after a long while. It’s nothing compared to what he had experienced for the past week.

Iwaizumi doesn’t bother tidying up the bathroom and leaves the bucket of medical apparatus swimming in hydrogen peroxide, mentioning he’ll clean it up the next day. He walks out of the bathroom without saying anything. Oikawa follows him by instinct. They don’t have shirts on, but the bottom of their pants still leaves drips on the floor.

“Get anything from the closet,” Iwaizumi states, pushing open the door to a bedroom.

It’s pitch black without any lights on, and even more so with the light rain going on outside. Oikawa carefully steps inside the spacious area. It has the same tall windows on his living room, ceiling to floor, dark curtains covering them. Glass divider on the left. Small visible office behind it. Smooth dark timber furniture. Oikawa opens one out of four. Tank tops. Henley shirts. Denim jackets. Expensive sportswear.

Once he had changed into a simple shirt and joggers, Oikawa sees Iwaizumi outside, lying on his back on one side of a sectional sofa. He has his bulky arm over his eyes, shirtless, a thin blanket covering his lower body. One pillow behind his head. Lights off except for one lamp on the other side of the room.

“I can sleep on the couch instead,” Oikawa insists. “You—You must be tired.”

His shadow looms over him when Iwaizumi removes the arm from his face. In the dark, his piercing eyes still gives Oikawa a slight chill, the hairs on his skin standing up.

“Probably not as tired as you.” Iwaizumi then rolls over to his side, wanting to end the conversation and avoid looking at Oikawa. “I’m not the one who looks like death right now.”

“B-But—”

“Take the bed before I change my mind.”

Oikawa blinks, shoulders sagging. In all honesty, Oikawa would be okay with a mat on the floor, or just the floor even. He’d been sleeping on cold cement for the past few weeks, so he really wouldn’t mind whatever’s thrown at him. Looking at Iwaizumi’s figure one last time, his thoughts began to topple over. It’s anything outside of what he knew, what he had experienced. There's a fear boiling in his stomach.Who exactly is this guy? What does he want? What does he want from me—

He walks back to the bedroom, quiet this time, and closes the door.

Oikawa earnestly grazes his palms along the silken mattress, then presses his cheek to the softest pillows he had ever had the luxury to lay on. Pulling up the thick cloud of the comforter up to his neck, he rolls to the other side, rubbing his feet together. The room is cold, but the sheets are so warm it’s making him cry. He couldn't remember that last time he had felt this soothed. The pillows smell good. The chocolate-colored comforter smells good. They all smell like sage and rosemary. This is probably how he smells like. Oikawa hugs the duvet a little bit tighter.

His brain races in anxiety, his limbs tingling with it. Is this a dream? Is this a hallucination? If it is, Oikawa isn’t sure he wants to wake up. Because they’re all dead. Brains blown off. He’s lying on the most comfortable bed in the world, relying on the kindness of a stranger. What is this? How did this all happened? It's too good to be true, he thinks. Oikawa doesn’t want to get his hopes up, doesn’t want this bright star of trust to explode into an empty universe. Yet, the feeling brewing inside him is warm and potent. And for the first time, Oikawa is able to let his body rest, his muscles loosen. The warmth around his body cradles him until he finally succumbs to the exhaustion and falls asleep.

 

☆ ☆ ☆

 

At ten-forty, Oikawa bats his eyes open.

He doesn’t know the sun has already risen until his vision catches a clock mounted on the opposite wall. The entire room is still so very dark, and only a few threads of light are able to get through the slits between the curtains.

His limbs and joints feel like they don’t belong to him, each movement more of a plea than an order. Sitting up is a trial itself, the ache getting worse the more he tried. Oikawa looks at the clock again. Then he looks at the door when he hears clamoring from outside it. His hands press against the pain on his right knee. Despite the lovely bed that he had gladly taken for granted, his brain still won’t let him forget about what happened to him last night and the nights before.

The doorknob is ice cold when Oikawa turns it.

It takes a while for Oikawa to drink in the sight of the same man, who had by the way mercilessly butchered a couple of gangsters last night, trotting around in a crisp suit; dark gray with notched lapels, pure wool, tailor-made perhaps. White basketweave shirt. Chevron midnight blue tie. He hasn’t noticed Oikawa standing in the room yet. His charcoal hair is swept up with moose, showing a high and bony forehead. Above his perpetual frown, Oikawa sees the brief flash of hazel in his eyes when he finally meets his gaze.

The man in the suit walks to him. Oikawa doubts it's to say good morning.

“You’re not allowed to leave. Someone knocks, ignore it,” Iwaizumi warns, his face dangerously close. The black patent wedge Derby shoes he has on allows him to be almost the same height as him. “Don’t answer any call or messages, and don’t listen to the voicemails. You can’t use the phone, internet, and television. Got it?”

Oikawa blinks, eyes wide. His words slip out quietly when Iwaizumi hopelessly try to get some seemingly important papers beneath empty bottles and silverware he might’ve used to cook dope.

“W-What am I supposed to do all day then?”

Iwaizumi stops and stares back at him, raising an eyebrow.

“Wait for me to come back.”

Oikawa looks down, a pout bursting from his mouth.

“What happens if I break your rules?”

Shit. Maybe he shouldn’t have asked that.

Oikawa stumbles back when Iwaizumi glares at him, eyes sharp, brows drawn.

“You know damn well what I’m capable of.”

His gaze is a knife deep in his gut, a bullet wound, an iron chain. Oikawa presses his lips together and studies him more, listens carefully if there’s any sarcasm in there. There isn’t any. He’s definitely not joking. Seconds had gone by, and Oikawa barks back with miserably scrunched sutured eyebrows.

“But you promised you wouldn’t hurt me.”

The late morning sun casts a golden stripe across Iwaizumi’s face just as his features soften. You’re right. That’s what his face is saying. Oikawa can tell.

He blows out a defeated sigh.

“You shouldn't trust the words of someone who likes hurting other people.”

With that, he turns and heads to the door. Oikawa bites the insides of his cheeks, a sudden frustration blossoming from his chest.

But before Iwaizumi steps out completely, he peers back to Oikawa.

“Eat whatever’s in the fridge.”

The echoing sound of the door closing made Oikawa jump. He makes sure to wait a couple more seconds before blurting out, “Fine. I’ll eat all of your food then.”

Now that he’s alone and driftless, Oikawa doesn’t know what to expect, really. The kitchen is only a few steps away from the living room, and he goes there first. It has the same subtleties as all the other rooms. Glass panels. Lengthy kitchen islands. Mirror backsplash. Stainless steel. Black cabinets. Steel. Black. Steel. Black.

It feels like opening large French doors when Oikawa pulls open the fridge.

Beer and energy drinks take up most of the space. Bottled water. Rotting fruits. Plastic containers with dried up vegetables and two-day-old leftover rice. Then there’s a carton of eggs, but with only one egg inside. The crisper below doesn’t have anything on it besides a small container of uncooked tofu.

“Nothing much to see here,” Oikawa mutters, sighing, disappointed. Muscles still aching, he struggles to sit down in front of the open fridge, cross-legged, shoulders dipped down.

The guy seems normal enough. He thought he’d have to stomach finding intestines and livers and human bones in there. But really it’s just a guy who’s too lazy to go to the grocery store and lives off on instant noodles and Pizza Hut. Oikawa wonders how he could keep in shape with food like that. Murdering people just might be a good workout routine.

He couldn't properly recall what had happened last night. It's a blurry but rhythmic experience; blazing colors, pounding walls, screaming, whirling masses of movement. He remembers the strain in his joints, the burning of his skin. He remembers all the faces before they were brutally disfigured. But what really stood out was the vibrant mint green of a stranger's jacket, and the glint in his rabid green eyes.

Oikawa shakes his head to unburden himself from his thoughts. The important thing is that he's out of that wretched place, and that he had slept on the most comfortable bed in the world, and that this mysterious guy is kind enough to let him stay in his home.

By instinct, his fingers go up to touch the stitches by his brow bone. It's a lot more painful now, unlike yesterday. It must mean it's healing. It must mean his system had flushed out the drugs. Oikawa's heart flutters when he remembers how calming his savior's hands felt like. How could a man who's able to crush a human skull with one swing of a bat be so gentle? Oikawa wonders if it's even the same person who had cleaned his wounds. Take the bed. Wear anything. Eat whatever's in the fridge.

Except there's nothing wholesome in the fridge.

Just when Oikawa thinks he’d just starve to death while waiting for his morally ambiguous knight, he notices a pink box hidden below the fridge’s wine rack. Curious, he pulls it out. It’s big and rose-colored. Golden trims. Pastel and cute. ‘Camellia’s Pastry Shop and Restaurant’ is embossed beautifully on the top.

“It expires today…”

Oikawa opens it, a little bit of excitement twirling with his fingers. His eyes widen. It’s filled with assorted pastries; chocolate brioche, mini croissants, cream puffs, cinnamon rolls. The very sight of them makes his stomach growl until the gnawing inside him is no longer tolerable.

He unapologetically eats them all.

Four o’clock in the afternoon. He’s still alone.

It starts when Oikawa lies down on the sofa. It’s not very comfortable to sleep on, so he just sits up. He wants to rest his bruised feet on the table, but it’s so cluttered it seems like there isn't a table existing underneath. And so he picks up the empty bottles of beer, some of them still half-full and lukewarm, and puts them on one side.

It really didn’t do much and is still an eyesore.

Oikawa ends up spending half an hour looking for garbage bags, cursing the abundance of cabinets, yet when they open them they’re mostly empty. He gathers all the trash from the poor center table – cartons, plastic spoons, used syringes, pizza boxes, water bottles, and many other things. There’s a small ziplock with white powder in it. Oikawa wrinkles his nose in disgust. Trash. No one needs that stuff. Oikawa puts it all in one black bag. By the time he’s finished, the plastic bag is full and the table spotless.

In the midst of cleaning all that, Oikawa spots another pink box by the sink, next to a basket of aging fruits. It has the same name as the previous one. It looks newer too. There are scones inside when he opens it. Oikawa observes them, smelling them and realizing they’re really fresh. It was probably bought only yesterday.

He had consumed all of it when he starts to feel full and the call of sleep nags at him. Oikawa hopes the owner of the place doesn’t mind that he had eaten all his cakes and pastries. He did say he can eat anything. Oikawa goes back to the bed for an afternoon nap, feeling incredibly bloated.

 

☆ ☆ ☆

 

It’s entirely a surprise for Iwaizumi when he comes back home.

His footsteps are quiet and he's not sure why he's acting so cautious in his own home. The first thing he checks is the bedroom. It’s dark and awfully cold, even though the May sun is just setting. Oikawa is sleeping peacefully, sinking in the center of the bed, completely covered in layers of comforters head to toe. Iwaizumi sighs. He could’ve adjusted the thermostat if it’s too cold.

It’s surprising enough that Oikawa didn’t even make an attempt to leave, and now he sees his living room clean and free from clutter, balanced with a ridiculously huge garbage bag by the entrance. Oikawa could’ve gotten out and thrown it into the trash chute. He’s allowed to do that much at least. Iwaizumi makes a mental note to rewrite a few rules.

He huffs within his not-so-empty abode, exhausted. Then he sits on the now decluttered sofa; the blanket and pillow he had used last night folded neatly on one side. His vision focuses on the bedroom door he had left ajar. Honestly, Iwaizumi had no idea why he had taken him in. It could be a lot of things. It could've been pity, mercy, a sudden streak of compassion - like when he sees a wounded stray puppy in the street. It could be anything.

Iwaizumi guesses that it might be the way his eyes shone on mere newsprint, followed by the odd look that had left him frozen in place when Iwaizumi finally saw them up close, fearful and disdainful at the same time, like a young deer lost and wounded in the forest but determined to get out. Maybe it's the small smile he had first given him. Maybe he's just lonely. Maybe it's none of the above.

Yanking out from his own thoughts, Iwaizumi takes off the suit jacket, observing his surroundings as he unbuttons them.

Oikawa didn't touch the television just as he had told him not to. The remote is still where it is, voicemail untouched, laptops off. When he cranes his neck back, he sees the kitchen is just as orderly, except for the missing flash of color - a missing flash of pink. Iwaizumi raises a brow. Had he eaten it? He had a lot of baked goods from Camellia's. Could Oikawa have eaten all of those in less than a few hours?

He checks the fridge just for the hell of it.

All of his pastries are gone.

Iwaizumi frowns, running a hand through his hair when he slumps on a bar stool.

"At least he's eating."