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Ten years was an unfathomably long time to be kept away from society. Fashion had changed, televisions looked different and Kiryu didn’t know what half the buttons on his cellphone did, but it was more than that. Everything was louder and brighter than he remembered it, and he’d heard about guys who did long stints in the joint getting agoraphobic, but he didn’t know what that would look like until being out under open sky made his heart pound in his throat. He toted around the sickening feeling that he always had somewhere to be after a decade of having his days strictly divided into preordained parcels of time.

He thought it was a coincidence that he bumped into Majima the first day he was out and would later learn that Majima had been carefully following his parole proceedings and release date, then set out that morning looking for him. Thinking back on it, he wouldn’t be surprised, but in the moment all he could think about was how Majima had aged. His face bore its fine lines well and the flecks of silver in his hair shone pink in the neon lights. He looked tan, as if he’d been spending time outside. His abrasive sense of style hadn’t changed.

“Kiryu-chan,” he said, his voice like a smile. “It really is you.”

After Kiryu got the shit beat out of him, he lay on his back on the pavement trying to catch his breath, his face throbbing with what would be a series of glorious bruises. He would be ashamed of how soft he’d gotten if he were fighting anyone else, but with Majima, it was just a fact. Majima hung his head over him and grinned widely.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Kiryu tried to blink the blood out of his eyes as it ran down from his split brow.

“It’s good to be back, Majima-san.”

 

 

On top of everything else Kiryu was dealing with, Majima’s constant surveillance and habitual beatings turned from amusing to irritating after the first few run ins. It would be less frustrating if it wasn’t so tough to beat him. His win ratio was getting better but still appallingly low and more often than not, the fights ended with both of them half dead and choking on their own blood. One of them was always just slightly less dead than the other.

Still, in the sweat and ache and exhaustion, he felt his strength coming back. He saw it in the width of his shoulders and the shape of his arms, and the increasing ease with which he knocked out Majima’s teeth. It felt good, not that he’d ever thank him for it.

Sleeping on the couch at Serena wasn’t doing his back any favours, but it was clear that his real life wouldn’t get started any time soon; he didn’t have a spare second to stop his heart from racing, let alone rent an apartment. One night, when he was wrapping ice from the bar in a towel to press to his swollen knuckles, Haruka asked, “Who’s that pirate man who always beats you up?”

Kiryu’s first instinct was to say, I beat HIM up, too.

“He’s…” There were no words that fit. ‘My superior’ didn’t encompass the breadth of whatever their relationship was and ‘my friend’ was too generous. “Majima-san.”

Haruka squinted at him from her perch on the couch. “Majima-san?”

He nodded seriously and she seemed to accept that as an answer. He didn’t correct her on the pirate part.

 

 

He started to recognize Majima family goons on sight and a few lieutenants, too. He learned that Majima had a small network of men out on the streets looking for him who were ordered to call in if they spotted him, which made him wish he knew exactly where their family office was so he could better avoid its radius.

But as it was, when he walked out of M-Store close to midnight and Majima slapped his cup noodles out of his hand, he couldn’t even find it in him to be surprised.

The worst part was that he always got into it. Even Majima, as irritating and persuasive as he was, couldn’t force him to fight if he didn’t want to—he always had the option of walking away. He could get in a cab, shut the door in his face and leave, but he didn’t. He threw punches in the street like some greasy delinquent for reasons he couldn’t wrap his head around. He wanted to win.

So, he fought Majima outside of M-Store. He picked up a shiny red bicycle and brought it down on his head like the hammer of the gods. He got his face smashed into the concrete. Again and again, his fist ploughed into Majima’s face, but he couldn’t get him to stay down. He landed a perfect back kick and Majima’s winded wheeze sounded more like a laugh than a death rattle and it pissed him off. He wasn’t used to being genuinely, deep-down angry.

Majima scrambled for the mouth of a nearby alley and Kiryu brought his heel down on his back. Majima rolled out of the way, leapt to his feet and put a few paces between them. Kiryu charged after him and he ducked a sweeping kick, bracing himself low to the ground like a pouncing cat. He launched himself at Kiryu, who stepped to the side, spun and nailed him back against the wall of the alley. He cracked his head against the cinder blocks once, good and hard, before Majima smacked him with an uppercut and pushed him back. He got a kick in before Kiryu could right himself and his back hit the opposite wall. All the air rushed out of his lungs and as he struggled to get it back, Majima slammed into him with an arm across his throat and stayed there, laughing hoarsely.

Kiryu snarled, “Leave—me—alone,” too tired, too sore to keep going. Majima’s grin was all he could see.

“Nah.”

“Why are you doing this?” Kiryu spat. “I’m fucking busy, I can’t—”

Majima fisted his hands in his jacket and leaned in so close he could smell the blood in his teeth.

“I’ve been dead for the past ten years,” he said slowly. His breath shuddered as he spoke. “Being around you. Fighting you. Ya make me wired like nothing else.”

Kiryu tried to land a punch between his ribs but Majima caught his fist, held it, pushed it down. Kiryu’s heart was beating too fast even for after a fight and the corners of his vision went blurry with adrenaline and an ache in the back of his head. The alley was dark and secluded. If anyone caught even half a glimpse of them, they would turn the other way. They were alone.

He croaked, “I’m not in the mood for one of your monologues.”

Majima’s hand was still around his fist and the leather stuck to his skin. He didn’t yank it back. He couldn’t take his eyes off him and every muscle in his body was taut and waiting for his next move. But Majima didn’t swing or go for his throat. He kept talking like Kiryu had never spoken.

“You gotta feel it, too. We got a connection, you and me. Ya know that little voice in the back of your head, that says the worst thing imaginable before ya even really think about it? And ya wonder… Is that who I am inside? Am I really that nasty?” He leaned even closer and whispered, “That’s me.”

Kiryu hit him across the cheek with his free fist and the wet smack of skin was like throwing down a side of beef. Majima dove back at him, slapped both hands on either side of his face and dug his thumbs in hard. The sudden intimacy and threat of thumbs in his eye sockets made Kiryu freeze up. He couldn’t feel his hands. He was almost too close to see, but he caught a glimpse of Majima’s smile.

“You must get tired of being good all the time. Every time I do somethin’ unselfish, I gotta recover for days. You should do something for you. One of those real bad ideas that ya just gotta do anyways, like eatin’ a pint of ice cream at three in the morning.” He let Kiryu go and ran his hands down his chest. Kiryu didn’t stop him. “Or gettin’ your dick sucked by the least reputable patriarch the Tojo Clan has ever seen.”

Kiryu’s palms started to sweat. Part of him had been waiting for that moment since the first second he met Majima, because there had always been something. He convinced himself he was imagining it, the mounting tension that dared them to mention it—choking hands that lingered too long on each other’s throats, grappling for purchase in a way that involved a lot of thighs between the other’s legs. Kiryu knew it would eventually be Majima who mentioned it.

“Stop it.”

“See, ya never listen.” Majima’s voice was low and rumbled, nearly a purr. “You’re too good to say what you mean. Ya mean stop like go away? Or stop like quit talking?” He ran the pad of his thumb up Kiryu’s throat, over the jut of his Adam’s apple. “I could do either. But I could have a lot more fun if I quit talking and don’t go away, capisce?”

There was something fake about his smile but he couldn’t tell what it was masking. They were almost exactly the same height and he could feel his breath on his lips. His words tumbled out heavy and awkward.

“You’re fucking with me. You want me to say yes so you can—”

“So I can what?” Majima leered, all teeth. “So I can actually do it?”

“So you can beat the shit out of me,” Kiryu ground out. “That’s always what you want.”

“Not true. That’s what I want… a solid seventy percent of the time.” Majima tipped his head to the side. “The other thirty, I wanna fuck you so bad I can’t stand it.”

Kiryu squeezed his eyes shut and his head spun. “Shut up.”

“It's a confusing line and I ain’t real great at drawing it. Ya got no idea what you do to me, Kiryu-chan.”

“Stop it.”

“I’ll go from wanting to bash your head in to wanting to ride ya like the stallion you are, and back again. Sometimes both at once. Ya wouldn’t believe what—”

“Stop,” Kiryu snarled and grabbed Majima by the throat. Majima held onto his shoulders, rising up on his toes to get away from the pressure.

“Why, is this gettin’ you going? Ya scared of that?” He laughed a wheezy laugh. “It’s scary ‘til ya get used to it. I used to worry you’d feel how hard I got when ya threw me around.” He grinned and slowly pressed his hips to Kiryu’s. “Now I’m hopin’ you notice.”

Kiryu was speechless, his teeth bared, his heart ramming against his ribs. He could feel Majima’s pulse under his thumb and the unbearable heat radiating off him. Majima looked beyond pleased.

“I’m not making you do anything, mind you. I wanna help ya do what you want. You’re a guy who’s always real direct about shit. So, whatcha gonna do? Since I’m bein’ real direct, too?”

Their faces had never been so close without one of them headbutting the other. Kiryu let go of Majima’s throat and his heels hit the ground again. He clutched at Kiryu’s jacket and Kiryu grabbed his wrists and squeezed them hard enough to feel his bones grind.

Majima whispered, “Ya got a good grip. Makes a guy’s mind wander.”

The life path Kiryu chose didn’t allow for much soul searching, by necessity: he did what he felt was right and then dealt with the consequences. Majima made that more confusing because nothing was black and white with him. He made Kiryu’s guts knot up and he didn’t know what that was supposed to mean. In the end, he made a split-second decision because his life was cobbled together by split-second decisions, and even if he didn’t like the outcome, the decision would be his own and no one else’s.

He pulled Majima’s hand down and jammed it between his legs.

He physically felt Majima’s body switch into high gear, all jittery energy and power. Majima curled his palm around him through his slacks and he was already half hard.

“Fan-fucking-tastic.” He leaned in slowly, as if to make sure Kiryu wasn’t going to deck him, and dragged his open mouth up his neck. “I knew you were in on it, too. I’m good, but a guy can’t generate this kind of sexual tension on his own.” He gave him a few strokes through his pants, feeling the shape of him. He spoke with his lips on his skin. “Of course you’re hung. Ya can’t fake that kinda confidence.”

Kiryu’s head spun and he closed his eyes against the dizziness. He felt Majima’s hands at his belt, his head resting on the wall next to his own and tipped down to watch.

He got his hands into his pants and Kiryu ground out, “Lose the gloves.”

Majima laughed. “Killjoy.” He bit his gloves off and dropped them on the ground at their feet, then slipped a hand into his briefs. They both hissed at the bare skin contact and Majima laughed again, breathless, and took his dick in his hand. The last thing he said before he sunk to his knees was, “Pinch me.”

Kiryu breathed in sharply as his mouth closed around him but otherwise he didn’t make a sound, too shocked and too desperately trying not to think about whose wet, hot mouth was on him. He stared at a spot on the alley’s opposite wall. He closed his eyes and opened them again. He didn’t know what to do with his hands. His brain made the one-eighty from fighting to fucking too easily for his comfort; physicality was physicality, it was the same category, it was Majima. Seconds bled into minutes. Majima was too rough and almost frantic, his grip a little too tight, pace a little too fast, and if Kiryu thought the man was capable of uncertainty, he’d think he was nervous.

 At first he tried to imagine it was a woman, then realized he didn’t want to. He could feel himself sweating in the cold night air, panic tightening his throat bit by bit at the thought of that. One of Majima’s hands moved off him and he heard the clink of him fumbling with his own belt. He glanced down to see him working his hand into his pants and quickly looked back up.

It felt good. It had been a lifetime. He wasn’t sure what he expected. It would have been easier if it was awful and he couldn’t get it up—failure would have been awkward and simple, but how good it felt made it awkward and very, very complicated. It kicked open a lot of doors he meant to keep shut.

He gingerly curled his hand around the back of Majima’s head and felt the band of his eyepatch hidden neatly under his hair. He didn’t have the luxury of pretending it was anyone else. He pressed back into the wall and tried not to buck into his mouth, tried to keep breathing, tried not to come. He hadn’t been so quick since he was a teenager and chalked it up to how long it had been and the sick thrill of being in public.

Majima made a low sound that he felt all through his body. He looked down and saw him finish onto the pavement, dripping into his own fist, his leather pants peeled back.

For years later, he’d be embarrassed that that was enough. He came so hard it took his breath away, his hand fisted in Majima’s hair, mouth open in a silent gasp. Majima dug his hands into his hips and sucked him until he was done and then, as quickly as it started, it was over. He hiked his pants back up. Majima let cum and saliva string from his tongue to the pavement. There was a bit of blood in it. Then he spat, rolled back on his haunches and looked up at Kiryu.

“You should eat more fruit,” he said, wiping his chin with his palm.

They don’t give you fruit in jail, Kiryu wanted to say, but he couldn’t make his mouth work. His face was numb, his fingers buzzed and his heart raced with fight-or-flight that he rarely felt outside an actual fight. His legs were like jelly.

Majima stood and stretched his hamstrings.

“Good thing you’re such a quick date. I’m an old man, can’t be on my knees real long.”

Kiryu still said nothing and pressed back into the wall to keep his knees from buckling. His face was burning. Majima stepped in close again and he didn’t move, even as he screamed at himself to do something, anything to yank himself back into control. He’d never been thrown anything he couldn’t handle but now there was this painful, awkward, confusing thing, and Majima had finally gotten under his skin.

Majima picked his gloves up off the ground and pulled them on.

“Shit, the things I’d do to you if you let me,” he said lowly. “Borderline criminal.”

Kiryu opened his mouth to speak. Spit and cum was still on the ground at their feet and he couldn’t believe any of it. None of his thirty-seven years on earth had prepared him for that moment.

“Yeah,” he croaked.

Majima laughed and moved slowly out of his space. It was dark but Kiryu could see a flush high on his cheeks.

He flicked his eyepatch and said, “Ya know what the worst thing about this sucker is, besides not being able to see shit on my left? I miss people bein’ able to tell when I’m winking.” He blinked and tugged on the front of Kiryu’s jacket. “Ya got my number. Call me.”

Kiryu had never thought too hard about whether Majima was attractive. He tried not to. His face was always contorted into something wild and ugly—cackling, howling, shrieking—and that made it hard to tell whether or not it was actually good. But his eyes lingered on Kiryu’s as he turned away, smiling like a boy with a secret, and in that moment he looked deeply, undeniably handsome. It socked Kiryu in the chest as real as if he’d punched him. He already knew he was in trouble, but that drove it home.

Majima sauntered around the corner. Kiryu took off the other way as soon as he was sure that he wouldn’t hear him run.

 

 

Being the focus of Majima’s terrifying and obsessive affection was—and had always been—like nothing else Kiryu experienced. It was completely unlike the sweet back-and-forth he had with women. He liked to make a girl feel pampered and see her open up and become comfortable with him, inching closer to him across a sofa as the night went on. It wasn’t that he was timid, but he was careful with women because kindness and trust was what they deserved. They would start touching his arm after a few drinks and he’d ask them about school, work and family, slowly getting to know them. It was all very sweet. He pursued them and they accepted his pursuing of them as long as he did it correctly, which he often did.

If his dates with women were exhilarating in the way that hurrying across the street seconds before the light turned green was exhilarating, his interactions with Majima were exhilarating like jumping out of an airplane. Both got your heart racing, but one was low risk and low reward and the other changed your entire outlook on life, if it didn’t kill you. At least that’s what Kiryu heard from anyone who’d been skydiving.

Majima pursued. He didn’t wait for anything. He hunted Kiryu down and told him what he wanted, and that meant he saw Kiryu as something worth hunting. Kiryu couldn’t remember if a woman had ever asked him out or even made a move—not that he wasn’t desirable, but that he was the one who had to put the work in. Talking to Majima felt like being dragged around by the scruff of his neck and there was a tiny, embarrassing part of him that liked relinquishing that control. Being told: you’re worth putting myself out there for, not because you want me to, but because I want to. Majima wanted him badly enough that he wasn’t going to wait for Kiryu to come to him, and that thought alone made Kiryu wild, nervous, thrilled.

He didn’t bump into Majima for a few days after that. He went to purgatory, dug for information, got a little further. He protected Haruka, for the most part. He tried to protect Date. Each hour dragged. Majima drifted into his thoughts and back out. His mouth on his throat. His hand around his own dick.

One night, he got back from a couple hours of prowling the streets looking for a lead, lay on the couch at the Serena to rest his eyes and accidentally fell asleep. He woke with a start a couple hours later and, as he’d learned to do, he checked his phone.

Five missed calls from just a minute ago and one voicemail. That was excessive. Had Date found something?

He sat up and struggled through calling his voicemail. The robot lady voice said, you have one new message. First new message.

There was the sound of a wet, snuffling breath. And then an absolutely unmistakable, “Kiryu-chan?”

He groaned aloud. The message went on.

Kiryu-chan, I need help. I need YOUR help. I’m—I’m gonna bleed out. Pick up your damn phone!

The robot lady said, end of message. To save this message, press 7. To

Kiryu hung up and called Majima back. It hardly rang once before he picked up.

“Hel-lo?”

“Majima-san?”

“Hiya, baby boy,” Majima’s voice came through the phone all wobbly and happy. “How’s life treatin’ your pretty face these days?”

“You called me five times and left an alarming voicemail.”

Majima cackled. “Did I? Damn, that’s coming on a bit strong, even for me.”

“What’s going on?”

“Aw, I just… you know.” His voice seemed to fade away from the receiver. “I think I got kidnapped or some shit? I dunno, the guys left to take a piss and I called ya a bunch.”

“You were kidnapped?”

“Sounds dumb as hell when you’re a grown-ass man, gettin’ kidnapped, but yeah, I dunno. Held hostage, I guess that sounds cooler.”

“Hostage for what?”

“Mmm. Dunno. Some asshole stuck me between the ribs, I don’t… remember why. Just walkin’ down the damn street, minding my own business.”

Kiryu paused. He tried to take note of any sounds in the background of the call; music, cars, voices, anything he could use to determine where Majima was.

“Are you drunk?” he asked.

“Oh, nah. That’s probably the, uh—they gave me something, I dunno what. Dosed me real good.” He laughed. “It ain’t so bad. Feels real nice. Sure takes the edge off bein’ stabbed, I’ll tell ya that.”

“Where are you?” Kiryu snapped.

“Hold on.” He heard a scuffling and scraping and Majima grunting in pain. “Uhh. I think the Champion District someplace. Can’t see nothing out the window but another window. Real grimy. Reeks like piss and booze.”

“Anything else?”

“Place looks like a gutted office, for sure. I can see a sign. A… pink sign. Neon?” He laughed again and there was a clatter and a scrape. “Why, ya gonna come see me, sweet cheeks?”

“Stay where you are and don’t do anything stupid. I’m on my way.”

“Aw, lookit you, Kiryu-chan! Coming at my beck and call! Ya got it real bad for me, don’t ya?”

“This isn’t one of your stupid games, is it?”

Majima laughed. “You think I’d do that to ya?”

Kiryu hung up.

He took a cab to the Champion District and jogged up and down each narrow, ramshackle street. He found a pink neon sign in the shape of a martini glass in the back corner and looked up; all the nearby second floor windows were boarded up except for one, which was covered only by broken venetian blinds. Majima could have spotted the sign out of that. He searched around the side of the building and found a locked stairwell. He kicked it in, vaulted up the rotting stairs and emerged in a dilapidated hallway; only half the doorways had doors in them and cobwebs blanketed the ceiling. Light spilled out from under a door at the end of the hall.

“Majima-san?” he called out.

“The fuck? Who’s there?” A voice, distinctly free of a Kansai accent. A scrape and a thud. “Shigeo, go check.”

The door opened and a guy with bleached hair stuck his head out, saw Kiryu and paled. “Aw, shit.”

He slammed the door shut. Kiryu charged down the hall and didn’t hesitate for a second before kicking the door in. It splintered at the frame and showered the four men on the other side in drywall and wood chips. A blinding work light bathed the grimy room in white. There was a big hole in the floor that went clean through to the room below and tied to a chair in the middle of the room was Majima.

“My knight in shining armor!” he cheered. “God, I love watchin’ ya bust shit down! Never gets old!”

His jacket was missing and he had blood all down one side of his chest, congealed around a slice in his ribs. One of his cheeks was red and blue and there was a shattered cell phone on the floor at his feet. He looked impossibly happy and very, very high.

The guy with the bleached hair swung a panicky haymaker at Kiryu and he swooped under his arm and cracked him under the chin. Majima hooted and rocked his chair back on two legs.

“Kick some ass, baby! Gimme a show!”

The guy he’d already hit was out cold. There was a skinny guy near the window holding a knife, a big guy on his left and a guy with long, greasy hair on his right, and they were all wearing cheap suits. Kiryu wasn’t too concerned with his chances. He spun and nailed the big guy in the throat with a back kick, then when the guy with the long hair rushed him, he grabbed him, grabbed the big guy by his head and cracked their skulls together. They both dropped and stayed down and Majima’s laughing and cheering was so loud Kiryu could hardly think. The guy by the window was terrified by this point and it was easy to snap his knife-wielding hand back and chuck him out the window onto the hood of a parked car below.

He turned to look at Majima, barely breathing hard. “You owe me.”

Majima kicked his legs out in front of him and leaned his chair back on two legs. His eye glittered playfully. “I’ll think of some way to make up to ya.”

Kiryu took the knife from the sheath around his ankle and cut the zip tie holding Majima’s wrists behind his back. When they were free, he rolled his shoulders forward and groaned. Kiryu inspected his stab wound, but he’d done worse to him himself.

“How did you call me if your hands were tied?” he asked.

“They tied me up when they caught me makin’ the call. Thought I was… too out of it to do anything. Didn’t bother tying me up.” Majima nudged his smashed cell phone with his toe. “Bummer.”

His movements were sloppy and slow. He picked around in the bits of broken phone for his SIM card, which he slipped into his pocket. He patted his chest for his smokes before realizing he wasn’t wearing his jacket. Kiryu looked around.

“Over there,” he said, nodding towards the work light. Majima hummed in thanks, pushed himself to standing and teetered towards where his jacket was crumpled on the floor. “What did they want?”

“Mm. Said some of my boys were running collections on their guy’s turf. They thought they’d get more leverage by tryina guilt me.” He snatched up his jacket, found his smokes in the pocket and lit one. He dropped the jacket and then thought better of it and put it on. “I told ‘em to kill the guys, see if I care. If my boys can’t hold their own against three fuck ups—” he said, punctuating it with a kick to the unconscious man nearest him, “—then I don’t want ‘em anyways, ya know?”

“They got the drop on you.”

Majima squinted at him. “They snuck up on me with a knife to the ribs, then jabbed me fulla…” He paused and rubbed the bruise on his face. “I dunno what this is. Some tranq. Pretty fun.”

Kiryu couldn’t tell if they were ignoring the elephant in the room or whether, in his opiate-induced stupor, Majima had forgotten that they hadn’t seen each other in days, and what happened the last time they had. Kiryu was thinking about it. He thought about it on the cab ride over and while smacking those guys around. The blood from Majima’s wound had dripped down his abs and it looked… nice. He was faintly sweaty. That was nice, too.

The big guy on the floor groaned. Majima glanced down at him.

“We better go.”

Kiryu nodded and made for the door. Majima followed and whistled a tune as they made their way down the hall.

“Thanks,” he said lightly. “By the way.”

Kiryu grunted at him. He felt lightheaded and chalked it up as a delayed reaction to the fight. He wasn’t used to complicated. The pieces of his life had a lot of moving parts, but emotionally, they were simple. He did the right thing. He protected the right people. He followed his gut and it was easy. This was something else.

He stopped at the top of the stairs and Majima stopped behind him.

“Call me when you’re healed up,” he said quietly, not looking at Majima or anything. “I’ll come by.”

He swore he could hear the grin in Majima’s voice.

“Yeah?”

“I’m not saying it again.”

“Alright, alright, I gotcha.” Majima edged by him to get down the stairs and conspicuously brushed their hands together. It was nothing, but it sent lightning up Kiryu’s skin anyways. “I’ll call ya.”

 

 

Majima texted him an address. They negotiated a time. He made sure Haruka was safe with Date and, against his better judgement, he went. The place was in Kamurocho on Pink Street, but no one lived in Kamurocho proper, so he figured it was the Majima family office and started to think maybe Majima misunderstood him. He went anyways.

The Majima family office was, like all offices, inconspicuous from the outside, especially at night. It was on the third floor of a nondescript office building wedged against a massage place, up a rickety street-level elevator and down a fluorescent-lit hallway. Kiryu shoved his hands in his pockets as he rode the elevator, inspecting his warped reflection in the wall’s shiny panelling. The door at the end of the hall had a big, complicated-looking keypad on it and an intercom next to it. He pressed the button and waited.

State your name.” A tinny voice ran through the speaker, overly formal. Not Majima’s.

“Kiryu Kazuma.”

There was a pause.

One second.”

After a minute, several locks clicked and the door swung open to reveal Majima on the other side. His voice was syrupy sweet with barely-contained mirth.

“Hi, Kiryu-chan.”

The hall behind him was golden yellow. Kiryu could see the gilded edge of a picture frame.

“Majima-san—”

“No, no no no.” He turned on his heel and beckoned Kiryu to follow with a flick of his gloved fingers. “No more of that -san bullshit.”

“You outrank me,” Kiryu said flatly, following him in and shutting the door behind them.

“Sure, but this ain’t family business. We’re just two guys with a… a shared interest. And it’s always irked me that you call me that. Ya sound like a stupid little kid.”

Kiryu was stuck on whether or not dick could count as a shared interest. The hallway they walked down was lined with plush carpet and his shoes sunk in. There was a gleaming oak sideboard bearing a vase of fake flowers, an ashtray and a fruit bowl heaped with unopened packs of Seven Stars.

“Then don’t call me Kiryu-chan.”

Majima snapped his fingers. “Sold.”

The hallway opened up into a large room bustling with men. Lights from the signs on the building across the street streamed through wide windows on the far side and cast a colorful glow over the room’s activities. At one end, men sat on the floor in front of a flat screen TV playing a game Kiryu didn’t recognize on an old Genesis, hooting and hollering and slapping each other on the back. Another group sprawled around a coffee table and on a big leather sofa, nursing drinks and doing lines off the glass tabletop, cutting more with razorblades and credit cards. A guy sitting on an ottoman was grinding pink pills in a mortar and pestle.

“How are are you healing?” Kiryu asked.

“Fine, ya sap.”

There was a sizeable blood stain on the floor around a long dining room table and the men playing cards at it didn’t seem to mind it. A giant oil painting of an American man on horseback hung in an opulent frame on a wall at the end of the room. The frame was smashed at the bottom like someone had been rammed into it.

Kiryu finally noticed a life-sized cardboard cutout of a Chippendale dancer standing by the couch with a low-res photo of his own face taped over the cutout’s face. Not a recent one. On the cutout’s bicep, someone had drawn a tattoo of a heart with a banner over it that said KAZAMA.

He snagged the back of Majima’s jacket to halt his stride. Majima looked over his shoulder and Kiryu raised his chin at the cutout.

Majima said, “The boys got that for my birthday. Funny, right?”

“No.”

“Sure it is. You should see some of the photos we take with that thing when we’re wasted. Unbelievable.”

They continued to move through the room. Faces turned towards them as they passed, heads inclined in little bows.

Kiryu said, “You let your men have fun.”

Majima shrugged. “Work hard, play hard, ya know? They know what happens when they step outta line.”

He’d seen Majima beat his own men to a pulp more often than he beat them himself. He had no doubt that they knew their boundaries very, very well, and he almost admired that kind of leadership—it wasn’t how he’d do it and it wasn’t kind or good, but it got the job done and that was more than a lot of people could say.

A young man with a babyface and angular eyebrows stepped out of a room in front of them, caught sight of Kiryu and beamed. As soon as he spoke, Kiryu recognized him by his voice as Nishida.

“Ah, Kiryu-san! I heard you got a blowjob, congratulations! Ten years is a very long time to be in prison.”

Kiryu whirled around and glared at Majima, who doubled over and cackled like a hyena. Kiryu shoved him and he almost fell over.

“You son of a bitch.”

“I had to! Nishida-chan knows everything about me! He’s a vault!”

Kiryu grabbed the back of Majima’s jacket and hauled him past Nishida and down the hallway.

“You son of a bitch,” Kiryu said again, humourless. He could feel his ears burning and he felt like an idiot. Majima shook off his grip on his jacket.

“I didn’t tell him to say that. I don’t know ya didn’t get any action in the slammer.”

Kiryu let him walk in front when he realized he didn’t know where he was going. He didn’t dignify his slight with a fuck you, but he thought it loudly.

Majima led him to a sitting room at the end of the hall containing a loveseat, a dark wooden coffee table and a small but well-stocked bar. There was another door at the end of the room. Majima sauntered for the bar while Kiryu stood stiffly by the door and looked around. The room seemed untouched, but most of the liquor bottles were half empty. A chrome fridge hummed away beneath the surface of the bar.

Majima grabbed two crystal tumblers from a shelf, turned around and saw Kiryu still by the door. He waved a glass towards the couch.

“C’mon, sit, sit, this ain’t a booty call.” He set the glasses down, dropped a couple whiskey stones into them and inspected the bar for only a second before choosing a bottle. He peeled the foil off a new bottle of Ballantine’s. Nice Ballantine’s. “Relax, put your feet up. Ya got somewhere better to be?”

Kiryu chose not to answer that. He lowered himself to the plush leather sofa, pulled his smokes out from his jacket and lit one. He felt better having something to do with his hands. On closer inspection, the arm of the sofa was worn and soft from use. The lacquered ashtray on the table was empty but contained a fine layer of ash. The room smelled like Majima, and when Kiryu realized that he recognized it, he felt sick.

The popping cork brought him back. Majima watched him and poured two generous fingers of whiskey into each glass.

“You’re not bent outta shape over the other night, are ya?”

“In the Champion District? Or the…” He trailed off. “No.”

Majima ducked under the counter and came back with a pack of smokes and a cheap plastic lighter. He tapped the pack on the heel of his palm, pulled one out and lit it.

“If you’ve never seen two guys sucking each other in a back alley in Kamurocho, ya haven’t been looking hard enough.”

He wasn’t wrong. Kamurocho was nothing if not sordid, not a community as much as it was a collection of cloak-and-dagger goings-on, backroom deals and illicit alley meetups exactly like their own. What they did had its own space. It was all about shared looks and specific bathhouses and soaplands, plus a dozen other things that Kiryu knew about only tangentially. He wondered how much Majima knew, where he’d been and how big a role this kind of thing played in his life. What he did with other men and who knew about it.

In the end, he just shrugged. Majima laughed at him and brought the two whiskeys over with the bottle tucked under his arm. He set the bottle down, handed one glass to Kiryu and sat at the opposite end of the loveseat with his arm draped over the back. Kiryu nodded in thanks and took a long pull right away. The whiskey was so rich and smooth it made his mouth water. He took another and Majima laughed again.

He motioned for his glass and said, “Gimme that.” Kiryu gave it to him and he poured him another shot. “Ya gotta relax.”

“I’m relaxed,” Kiryu lied. Majima handed his drink back and he forced himself not to finish it in one gulp.

“I can see you sweatin’. Talk to me, I don’t bite.”

Kiryu glared at him. “You stabbed me in armpit last week and I think it’s infected.”

“You’ve knocked out half my teeth. I spent most of last week at the dentist, and the doc said it’d be cheaper to get dentures at this point with the amount of fakes I got.”

“You made me swallow one of my teeth and I had to shit it out later.”

Majima sucked on his cigarette. “Agree to disagree, then.”

They lapsed into silence. Kiryu couldn’t take his eyes off him, still not convinced that he wasn’t there to fight. He watched the rise and fall of his bare chest. His jacket had a faint sheen to it in the low light. He looked handsome when he wasn’t talking and the way he smoked was slow and methodical and the Kiryu couldn’t tell if the tightness in his gut was nerves or lust or both.

“This is a setup,” he said finally. Majima looked amused.

“Ya think?”

“One of your pranks.”

Majima kept eye contact as he took a drink. “Ya think I sucked your dick as a prank?”

Kiryu shrugged stiffly. He tapped his thumb nail over and over again on his glass until he realized it was making a noise and stopped. He wasn’t used to being so far out of his element. There was nothing he couldn’t beat into submission and come out the other side better and stronger for it, except this. This was a mess of social cues, taboo and things he’d hidden in himself for so long that he didn’t know how he was supposed to bring them out. And certainly not with Majima.

“Why me?” he asked. Majima looked up from pouring himself more whiskey.

“Why you what?”

“If this isn’t a setup for something, and it’s just something you… do. Why do it with me?”

Majima smiled. He leaned forward to tap his smoke into the ashtray, which he then nudged towards Kiryu. He sat back into the couch and it was clear that every passing second made Kiryu more uncomfortable and Majima more pleased.

Majima said, “I kinda like ya. Was that not clear?”

“When was that clear? When you beat the shit out of me? Stabbed me? Pissed me off and wasted my time?”

“Yeah. ‘Zactly.” He blew a smoke ring. “You’ve never been scared of me. Ya got massive stones and you don’t even care. Guys that tough, they always wanna tell ya about it, swingin’ their dicks around and shit. But you’re quiet. They don’t make ‘em like you anymore.” He paused, his eye searching Kiryu’s features. “Probably never did.”

Kiryu rubbed his face. “What am I supposed to do with that?”

“Whatever you want.”

He had no idea what to do with it. He felt the need to say something about Majima in return and kind things bubbled to the surface without his say-so. Majima was strong and brave and he scared the shit out of him in a way that no one else did, and Kiryu liked that. He was also immature, abrasive and one of the most genuinely unlikable people he’d ever met, but that was neither here nor there.

He went with: “You’re… yourself. All the time. I’ve never met anyone like you. You walk your own path.” He took a drink to distract himself. “Nobody does that, either.”

Majima raised his eyebrows. “Well, you do.”

“I know.”

Another silence stretched, just too tense to be comfortable. Kiryu finished his drink and Majima didn’t pour him another. They stubbed out their smokes. Kiryu ran out of things to do with his hands. He looked at Majima when Majima wasn’t looking back. His face had become less gaunt with age but still looked hawkish, sour and mean with his big nose and sharp cheekbones. His crow’s feet were charming.

“Well,” Majima said, knocking back the rest of his drink. “If it were up to you, we’d sit here all night makin’ eyes at each other.”

He pulled his gloves off one by one, then stood. When he slid his jacket off, Kiryu held his breath. The ink on his back was dark, colourful and intricate, the hannya’s face and delicate flowers appearing above the collar of his jacket and shifting as he moved, folding the jacket over the arm of the couch. The knife wound from the other day was still angry and swollen and pierced with stitches. He slunk towards him. Kiryu rarely saw his full tattoo: blossoms nestled in black waves, twin snakes curling over his shoulders like Odin’s ravens whispering secrets. His omnipresent gold chains glittered around his neck. It was all imposing. He knew it was supposed to be. When he was close enough to touch, Kiryu reached out and traced the shape of the snakes and watched the way the ink pulled under his fingers. Majima smiled and sunk down into his lap with the languid arrogance of a well-groomed housecat, clearly enjoying the attention. Kiryu’s hands slid down his sides to his hips and his splayed leather thighs, and he watched his hands move as if they didn’t belong to him. He breathed deep and slow because he felt like he’d hyperventilate if he didn’t.

Majima leaned back to let himself be seen and touched. He trailed one hand gently over Kiryu’s shoulders.

“Lookit you,” he laughed, a little patronizing. “You’re learning a lot about yourself right now, aren’t ya?”

Kiryu breathed, “Yeah,” too glazed over to lie. He ran his mouth up Majima’s chest to the pit of his throat and Majima all but trilled in happiness. Kiryu took one of his chains between his teeth and leaned back, pulling him with him so he braced his hands on the back of the couch. He held his hips and rolled up into him again and again and heard his breath come short. Majima hung his face over his.

“I remember the first time I was—with a guy. Thought it was gonna kill me. Ya live your life thinking ya—ya know yourself. And then it turns out ya don’t. It’s a real—shocker.” His back bowed and his shoulders came up as he ground his hips down. “Well, that and taking dick. That’s no walk in the park, either.”

“How old were you?”

“Fourteen.”

Kiryu squeezed his eyes shut. He tipped his head onto the back of the couch and felt Majima’s breath on his face. They had a good rhythm going and he was so hard it ached, each push of his hips making heat lick up his belly. He grabbed Majima’s ass in both hands and he made an indescribable noise.

Now we’re talking.” He spread a hand out on Kiryu’s clavicle and Kiryu remembered him cracking said clavicle with a back kick not too long ago and winced instinctively. It was too close to his throat to not be threatening. “Whadda ya wanna do?”

Kiryu dug for an answer. The v of Majima’s thumb and forefinger was at the base of his throat, not pressing but waiting, and he wondered if there was a wrong answer. With Majima in his lap, hunched over him, he was looking into the ink of his shoulder and couldn’t see his face.

“I don’t know,” he panted. He didn’t have the words to talk about it and would sooner fall on a sword than bumble through whatever he needed to tell the truth about something like that. Majima’s hand slid closer to his throat and he dragged his hips to a slow, stuttering stop, smiling.

“Nah, don’t be like that. Ya gotta throw me a bone here.” He slipped his hand up Kiryu’s throat but instead of choking him, he slid it gently along his jaw. He was close enough that he only had to whisper. “I’m doin’ all the leg work. I make that real crucial first move. Then I blow you so good you bust in nothing flat. I welcome you into my place of business. That’s all been me, me, me. Ain’t so crazy that I wanna hear ya say it.” He curled his fingers in Kiryu’s hair. “You’re making me feel like a goddamn fool. I’m gonna think ya don’t like me or something.”

Kiryu still floundered. He’d never been so out of his element. He dragged Majima against him to get him to keep moving but he dug his knees into the couch on either side of Kiryu’s hips and lifted off him entirely. Kiryu heard him laugh, almost silently.

“I—” There was a vocabulary Kiryu didn’t know, a cool way to say things. He didn’t like talking about it. They weren’t a couple of kids who’d grind against each other until they came and he didn’t want to stop at another blowjob. “We should have sex.”

Majima stifled a laugh and it came out as a derisive ssnnrrrkk.

“Ya make even that sound like it’s coming from a goddamn boy scout.” He settled back in Kiryu’s lap; Kiryu’s mouth fell open. “You wanna fuck me? That what you’re getting at?”

“Yeah.” Kiryu was three shades too breathy. He sat up abruptly and Majima slung his arms around his neck to keep from falling. He was flushed all the way down his chest and it wasn’t from exertion, he didn’t get that way when they fought, and that ruined every second of his tough-guy routine and made Kiryu blaze with confidence. He dragged his mouth up Majima’s throat and bit him, sucking hard enough to make Majima cuff him in the back of the head.

“Motherfucker—”

Kiryu tipped them forward and they fell to the floor. Majima cracked his head against the coffee table, fisted his hands in Kiryu’s lapels and headbutted him. Kiryu kicked the table out of the way and Majima snatched and rolled and so he was on top. Kiryu lifted his shoulders to let him yank his jacket off, tear his shirt open and paw at his bare chest. Majima was breathing hard and his eagerness was infectious; Kiryu fumbled with his belt as Majima pulled at his. It was fast and desperate and it would have been embarrassing if they weren’t matching each other stride for stride.

“C’mon, c’mon,” Majima grumbled, mostly to himself, “ten fucking years—”

Kiryu pushed him back so he could shove his pants and briefs down and Majima snarled at him but followed suit. Majima’s gaze burned over his body and he didn’t know what to do with getting looked at like that. His chains were flipped around backwards. His thighs were curved and his dick was flushed, thick, about the same size as Kiryu’s own if he had to ballpark it. Looking at it made him nervous with that specific brand of Majima-related tension that made him question himself like nothing else did.

He crowded in close and Majima let him, pressing his face to his throat, sliding his arms around his waist. When he tried to lay him back onto the floor, he bit him so hard he drew blood. Kiryu swore and punched him in the gut and Majima pushed him back until he let him get up.

“You’re outta your mind if ya think you’re gonna get me on my back.”

Kiryu held his hands up silently, a universal concession.

Majima got a look on his face and said, “Wait,” and with no further explanation, he leapt to his feet and banged through the door on the far side of the room. Kiryu sat there alone with his pants half off and his dick out, feeling like an idiot. Majima stormed back in holding a massive bottle of lube with a pink cap.

“I appreciate the romance of spit lube as much as the next guy, but I’m too old for that shit.” He lobbed the bottle at Kiryu. “You know how this works?”

Kiryu only knew what he could piece together from locker room talk and one specific adult video he rented in his early twenties. Both were unhelpful, but it wasn’t particularly complicated. He scowled and nodded. Majima went to his jacket, got a condom out of his wallet and flipped it at him.

“Humour me.” He plunked himself back down on the floor. “By the way, please tell me ya did get laid in the joint. Or since ya been out. ‘Cause if I’m about to be on the receiving end of a decade of sexual frustration, I better do some stretches or—”

Kiryu snapped. He was tired of being tired, inexperienced and out of his element, letting Majima lead him around by the nose. He grabbed Majima by the throat with his thumbs against his windpipe and hauled him in until the tips of their noses were touching.

“Show me some fucking respect or I’m gone.”

“You got it,” Majima wheezed, still somehow smiling. He ran his hands slowly up Kiryu’s arms and there was something blatantly appreciative in the pressure of his fingers and the way he curved them around his muscles. “Christ, you’re gonna be fun.”

Kiryu snarled and everything went fast after that. He shoved Majima over the coffee table and he seemed enthusiastic about that. He was lightheaded as he rolled the condom on, slicked himself up and ran a hand over Majima’s lower back, his tattooed ass. His mind was blank. He slid inside him.

Fuck.” Majima braced his hands against the table, his shuddering shoulders hunching forward. His voice sounded far away. “Easy.”

Kiryu watched the dips and valleys of muscle in his back, the delicate clasp of his chains, his neatly trimmed hair. His heartbeat thundered in his ears. He eased in deeper and Majima’s hands made fists as he spat unintelligible curses; Kiryu couldn’t tell if that was good or bad. His body drew him in and he held his breath, stunned silent. He’d forgotten, or maybe it had never been like this, so slick and tight and perfect. He grabbed the edge of the table and buried himself inside him. Majima swore again, his back arching. He couldn’t think, he had to go slow. Majima made a sound every time he moved. He couldn’t tell which sounds were whose. He fucked him in slow, deep thrusts that drove spikes of pleasure to the core of him with his hands white-knuckled around the table, holding back, worried he’d be too quick after so long without when it was so, so good. He watched Majima’s hands flex on the tabletop and felt his body pulse and hum around him.

“Hey,” Majima said quietly, his voice tight. “I ain’t fragile. Go for it.”

He bottomed out and pressed his face to the back of his neck and felt him shiver. He scraped his teeth over his chains, ran his hands down his sides and bucked into him so hard he pitched forward.

Majima moaned and dropped down onto his elbows, a hand coming up to push his hair back.

“Just like that, c’mon—”

He did it again and again and Majima dissolved into a babbling string of very positive yes yes there fuck yes. He grabbed his hips to hold him still and hammered into him, knocked his legs wider, shoved his pants down further. He dug his hands into his sweat-sticky thighs and bowed over him, as embarrassed as he was turned on by his racket. He couldn’t find it in him to care who heard and thought only about the power of the body under his, his tense muscles, the way he pushed back on him.

He could feel himself losing control and his whole world narrowed to the sweat stinging his eyes, the obscene slap of their skin, his palm moving over the swell of Majima’s pec, the hard peak of his nipple, his harsh breath ringing in his ears and matching his own, everything rushing together and going faster, harder, tighter, desperate and close and so unbearably good.

Majima choked out, “Aw, fuck,” and slapped a hand on the table. Kiryu came to that one punctuated noise as he dug his hands into his sides, bent his back and pressed his face into his hair as he emptied himself inside him. His breath came in painful gulps. His stomach jumped like nausea, thrill, his chest plastered to Majima’s back.

“Hey, hey, hey,” Majima groaned, reaching back to pry one of Kiryu’s hands off his hip. “You’re not done yet.”

He slid Kiryu’s hand over his dripping cock and pushed into his fist. He dropped down onto the table, buried his face in his hands and gurgled shit shit shit shitshitshit as Kiryu jerked him off, his body jolting at every stroke like it burned him. He came with a sharp cry and pushed back on him. Kiryu felt him pulse in his fist as he shot a load onto his nice carpet. He thought about how getting a guy off meant something different than having a guy get you off. One, you were a passenger, and the other, you were a willing participant. He circled his thumb over the wet head of his dick and felt as his body clenched around him, spasming with pleasure. The instinct to do that meant something. He stopped. He spent a few breaths there in the scent of his hair and cologne. Then he leaned back.

Majima shuddered and rubbed a hand over his face. Kiryu pulled out slow and the hannya narrowed as Majima’s shoulder blades drew together. He peeled off the condom and, not sure what else to do with it, dropped it on the floor. Not sure what else to do, he sat down. After a second, Majima eased himself to sit next to him, scrubbing at his elbows where they went red from sliding against the table. He hiked his pants back up.

“That was good.”

Kiryu nodded and did the same. Majima poured another glass of whiskey, wagged the bottle at him in question and got another nod in return. He filled a second glass and pushed one towards him. He didn’t take it until he was sure his hands weren’t shaking. The whiskey in his dry mouth was heaven but it made his heart beat even harder.

He wasn’t used to there being so little ceremony after sex. He hadn’t thought about how it would be different with Majima—looking back, it’s not like he expected cuddling and pillow talk, but that was what he knew. A reflex. Fucking someone over a coffee table with your pants still on was a new realm.

Majima pulled his jacket off the arm of the couch and got his smokes from a pocket. Lit one for himself then held the pack out to Kiryu, who took one. He leaned in close to light it for him. He smelled like sweat and sex and ripe breath, sharply human. Declawed. He dropped his head back onto the couch and laughed.

“Christ, I needed that. There’s just… nothin’ like that,” he said, slow and dreamy. “It makes everything go quiet. You’re gettin’ railed and everything—all that babble in yer head—just shuts up.”

Kiryu wondered if he was supposed to have babble in his head. He didn’t.

“Does that not happen when you’re with a woman?”

“Nah. Not unless she’s fucking me. You ever had a girl fuck ya? With one of those—” He gestured vaguely at his crotch. Kiryu tried not to look surprised.

“No.”

“Aw, you’re missing out. If ya find someone who’s into it, it’s really somethin’ special.”

“I bet.”

Kiryu’s mind was filled with images of Majima on his elbows and knees in front of nonspecific women who thrust into him, her bare ass framed by the harness of a strap-on.

Majima laughed. “You’re thinking about it.”

“Shut up.”

Their silence had a distinctly different flavour to it than earlier, sated and happy following the release of ten-plus years of sexual tension. Kiryu wondered how long it would stay sated for, whether he’d want this again and how he’d get it if he did. Whether it was worth it. Their cigarettes and drinks dwindled and he wanted to get out before he was told to leave. He started planning his exit.

Majima took a long last drag on his smoke, stubbed it out and turned to look at him.

“Ya wanna grab ramen?”

“Now?”

“I know a place down the block that’s got a tonkotsu so strong it tastes like a hairy guy named Brad got ya in a headlock.”

Kiryu grimaced. “Great.”

Majima laughed and hauled himself to his feet.

“I’m takin’ that as a yes. Lemme get cleaned up and we’ll go.”

 

 

They walked next to one another with their hands in their pockets. He was so used to ducking away from Majima on sight that it was bizarre to be around him in public and he tried to imagine how many people in Kamurocho had watched them fight. Neither of them spoke. Usually, getting Majima to shut up was the issue. Learning that he had an off switch was staggering.

The ramen place was a small, wood paneled restaurant that opened onto an alley and smelled of fat and salt. Majima nodded amiably at the old guy behind the counter and held up two fingers. The guy nodded back. The two of them sat at a rickety table against the wall and after a minute, the old man brought them out two beers and disappeared again.

“Do we order?” Kiryu asked as he watched the guy shuffle around in the back room through the gaps in the noren.

Majima took a swig of beer and leaned back in his chair. “He knows what I get.”

The concept of Majima being a regular anywhere moved Kiryu to silence. He couldn’t imagine Majima being kind or respectful to an old man. When he really thought about it, he couldn’t even imagine him eating—Majima was some brash, irritating yokai that floated into and out of his life, appeared in the corner of his eye and showed up to mock him when he stepped out of line. To think that he ate and slept and shit and cried like everybody else seemed presumptuous.

Majima craned his neck to try to look into the back room. “The place is specifically a late night joint, so it runs on a different schedule than the lunch places. Broths go durin’ the day instead of overnight, they open at eight and stay open ‘til four. So we missed the after-bar rush.”

“They make broth overnight?”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s a whole big shebang. Ya got different stages of it, big vats bubblin’ away with shit floatin’ in ‘em, pig heads and bones. The whole thing takes days.”

Kiryu smiled. “Are you a ramen guy?”

Majima shrugged. “When I was seventeen, I fooled around with a kid whose pop ran a ramen joint.”

He’d never heard Majima talk about himself and didn’t know what he was supposed to say. “Oh.”

“Yeah, Taishi, I think. Tai-kun. He was this sweet schoolboy type, smart as hell, and then there was me with my long hair, drippin’ in chains. Hilarious. But if the kid wasn’t worrying about cram school, he was talkin’ about ramen. We were always in the shop, so I learned a lot about the stuff.“

The old man brought them two steaming bowls of ramen in thick, cloudy broth, heaped with seaweed, chashu, a marinated egg and a pile of something pickled and visibly spicy. Kiryu nodded at him in thanks and the guy bowed back and left again. They both dug in and it was startlingly good.

It was a few minutes before Kiryu spoke again. “The guy didn’t mind you hanging around with his son?”

“Hell no, I was real good with parents.”

You.

“Oh, for sure. You shoulda seen me put it on, I was an angel. But my favourite thing to do was—get this—we’d be at the counter after close, me and Tai-kun, and his dad would be there doin’ us up the leftover noodles, right? And I’d jerk the kid off under the bar where his dad couldn’t see.”

Kiryu put his chopsticks down. “That’s sick.”

“Nah, he was into it.”

“Where is he now?”

“Tai-kun? The fuck should I know? This was twenty years ago. All I know is he’s probably got a wife and kids and some desk job now, and he’s gotta think about how some ugly delinquent ate his ass behind a Family Mart.”

Majima shoveled food into his mouth and Kiryu just watched him, amazed by all the new ways he found to be unpleasant.

“How much of that was true?” he asked.

“Most of it.” Majima noisily slurped his noodles. “It mighta been behind a McDonald’s.”

 

 

When they left the ramen place they wandered back in the direction they came without discussing it. It was the opposite direction of the Serena, but some irrational, curious part of Kiryu needed to know what Majima was thinking. How far he would go. When they got to the intersection near Majima’s office, Majima stopped and turned towards him.

“You, uh.” He flicked his chin eastward, nowhere in particular. “Wanna come back up?”

Kiryu raised his eyebrows. It was the closest he’d ever seen Majima to hesitant and he pulled it off well. Even Kiryu wasn’t sure if that’s what he was seeing.

He was surprised to learn that he did want to go up. He never thought of himself as a particularly passionate person, but he thought about watching Majima shake and swear under him earlier and there was a pang of need in his gut that he didn’t expect to find there. He figured that meant he was passionate about seeing that again.

He said, “Sure,” and Majima grinned a mean sort of grin, like he’d won something.

On the elevator, they stood close enough that the sleeves of their jackets brushed. The activity in the office had wound down and only a few stragglers chatted around the last piles of blow on the coffee table, where they’d likely be until the sun came up. They nodded at Majima as he passed. One gave Kiryu a shit-eating smirk.

Majima led him back to the room they’d been in before, but instead of taking a seat on the couch, he snatched up the lube and the whiskey, said, “Grab the glasses,” and headed for the door at the back of the room.

The light flicked on and to his surprise, it was living quarters—a small room with a kitchenette on one side, a futon on the floor and a closet with a toilet on the other side. A narrow window looked out onto an alley.

“Do you... live here?” Kiryu asked.

Majima tossed the lube to the futon and uncorked the whiskey. “Just a flophouse type thing. I got a real place on the other side of the highway.”

Kiryu hummed. He handed him the glasses and he filled them. He wasn’t drunk, not really, but enough that his fingers buzzed with warmth and pleasant numbness. He glanced at the futon. He was bone-weary exhausted and when he looked at Majima, he was already looking back.

He threw his drink back and put the glass on the counter. Majima did the same. Kiryu stepped into his space and he allowed it, leaning back into the counter, his hands coming up to start at the buttons of Kiryu’s shirt. When he really thought about it, all of this was about what Majima would let him do. How far he could push the man who did nothing but push him. Whether he'd find some leiniance there.

He slid his jacket off his shoulders and dropped it on the floor. He ran a hand down his chest and it was warm and hard under his palm. His breath smelled like cigarettes and whiskey. Their cheeks brushed and he felt the day’s worth of stubble scrape on his skin. Majima took off his jacket and his shirt, and when Kiryu slid a hand between his legs, he let him.

“Now you’re gettin’ it,” Majima said lowly, dripping with smug satisfaction.

He felt him harden against his palm. Their hands brushed as he worked his belt free. With a twist of his wrist, he slipped his hand into his briefs. Majima shuddered against him. He dropped his head to rest on Kiryu’s shoulder and said nothing; his hands slid down his sides, brushed his erection through his slacks, grabbed his ass. Kiryu worked him in his fist and the only sound was their breathing. It was almost sweet and dangerously close to easy.

Majima nudged him with his face.

“Take your pants off an’ lie down,” he said, moving for the futon. “We’re doin’ this right.”

He dropped his pants and briefs in one motion. Majima gave him a long, appreciative look, and he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t flattered. He sat on the futon and Majima kicked his pants off, his dick springing free of his briefs. He sat next to him with an inelegant thump, and then that was it—they were naked and alone, nothing left to do but whatever they were going to do.

Kiryu thought again about what Majima would let him do.

“I want to see something.”

He put his hand on his chest and eased him to lie back on the futon, and Majima let him, warily. When he lowered his head between his legs, he made a surprised sound.

“Ya done this before?”

Kiryu closed his mouth around his dick and Majima choked on his tongue.

“Alright,” he said, his voice a little too high. “Keep your teeth to yourself, you’ll be fine.”

He’d gotten his dick sucked enough times to know the mechanics. He could feel Majima tense under him as he moved, his hands open and waiting to snatch him away if he fucked up. He could taste him bitter and salty on his tongue and kept his panic at bay. He closed his eyes, dragged his fist down his length, curled his tongue around him, and slowly, he felt him de-tense.

Even giving head was something he had the potential to do well, and there were very few things in life that he bothered doing without caring enough to do them well. One of Majima’s heels slid up his back and his legs fell open wider. There was something powerful about giving pleasure, he was slowly realizing. Holding power wasn’t something he’d thought about when he was with women, but he thought about it with Majima. It was the same thing that sparked inside him when they fought—he didn’t hate him, he harboured very little ill will, he just wanted to win. It lit up rarely used parts of his brain and it felt good. He understood why Majima blew him in that alley: getting him to let him was a victory, and now, every time Majima moaned, it was a victory. Every time his breath hitched or the muscles in his stomach went tight, it felt like winning.

“Quick study,” Majima mumbled. Kiryu was flattered, but he also knew that. He got to where he was—alive, when a lesser man might have died a dozen times—by being a prodigy, and adaptable.

His jaw ached. He rolled his balls in his fingers and the sound that escaped his lips made him push his hips into the bed. He liked doing it, he realized, and hated that he liked it. He liked the way Majima rested his hand against his head and guided him, tried to set the pace, pushy. He liked feeling that hand shake a little. He moved faster and sucked harder as he got used to it and Majima’s body curling around him was positive affirmation, a wordless yes. Every curse he offered up sounded distinctly reverent and he could feel him start to sweat.

He put his hand on Kiryu’s jaw.

“Enough,” he said, and it would have been more commanding if his throat hadn’t been so dry. “Up.”

He sat back on his heels and dick stood at attention, flushed and wet at the tip. Majima stared at him like he wanted to devour him.

“You were getting off on sucking my dick,” he said slowly, glee glittering in his features. “How’s that make ya feel?”

Humiliated, Kiryu wanted to say, but he wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. He also remembered him jerking off while he sucked his dick, finishing even before he did. Whatever they were, they were of an ilk.

He crawled up Majima’s body, took his jaw in his hand and turned his head. When he sucked hard at his throat, his dick twitched against his hip. He bit his earlobe and he convulsed under him. His neck, and again, the same. He ran a hand down his stomach, stopped short and felt him pulse against the back of his knuckles. His laugh was right next to his ear.

“Ya fuckin’ tease.”

He thought about how good it would feel to pin him down, push his legs apart and fuck him, and Majima caught him off guard, grabbed and rolled, and he was flat on his back and winded. Majima slapped hands around his wrists and dug a knee into his thigh. Kiryu just stared up at him and tried to scrape his brain cells together. Majima looked impossibly pleased. He rolled his hips and his dick slid against him, wet with spit. He braced his weight on Kiryu’s hands and did it again, again, pushing hard into his wrists when he flexed against his grip. Kiryu’s dick slipped against his ass and he used Majima’s momentary pause to push up against him, knock him off balance and get his hands back. He went to sit up—he could see Majima kneeling on the futon in front of him, his arms braced against the wall—but Majima put a hand on his chest.

“Stay,” he said, like a dog. Kiryu snarled at him. He reached over his head down behind the futon and one of his chains bumped against Kiryu’s nose. He came back with a condom and tore it open, rolled it on Kiryu’s dick. He smiled as he did it. “You’re in for a real treat.”

He had a terrifying energy in bed, Kiryu learned. It was a funny kind of magnetism, just manic enough and just alluring enough that he could have suggested anything and it would be all Kiryu could do to keep up with him. He was over-eager and rude and even that little bit of repulsion just made him exciting and incomprehensible. Denying him anything wasn’t in the cards.

He watched him drip lube onto his dick and slide it around with his fingers. He got up on his knees and lined up, took a long, slow breath, and slowly eased himself down.

Kiryu’s back arched off the bed, his mouth open in a silent shout. His hands found Majima’s thighs and dug in hard, every muscle in his body taut. He heard Majima laugh, distantly. He had a mean laugh even when he wasn’t being mean. He sunk all the way down. Kiryu’s heartbeat thundered in his ears. He bent his knees, dug in his heels and angled his hips in a way that got a quiet shit from Majima. Both of them swore when he lifted himself up, down again, leaning back to grab one of Kiryu’s knees for purchase, neither looking the other in the eye. Kiryu’s gaze slid down the planes of his body, the snakes that curled onto his pecs, the cut of muscle over his hips, his hard abs, evidence of his age only in an indescribable quality to his skin, and even then just barely. His dick curved up towards his belly and dripped as he moved.

Where last time it had been frantic, now it was intense. He raised up on his knees and back down, rolling his hips unhurried, each time getting so deep that Kiryu’s hips lifted off the bed to meet him, searching for deeper, tighter, more. Sweat stuck him to the sheet under him and Majima’s skin was burning under his hands. He was close and he wanted to toss him down and pound into him until he came, a hand on the back of his thigh pushing his knee up against his chest. He could see it—the way he’d look with his head thrown back, trembling with need.

Majima shifted his weight forward, bracing his hands against Kiryu’s chest, and hung his head. Kiryu looked at him then and his face was tight with pleasure, shimmery with sweat, his eye squeezed shut.

He said, “Touch me,” and Kiryu, enraptured, took him in his fist. His whole body rolled, his shoulders shuddering. He moved faster then, less elegant, more focused, straining for it. Kiryu thrust up into him, free hand sliding up his hip, and for a stretch they were in perfect sync—the slap of skin, Majima’s stuttered curses and threats and pleas all running together—and it was heaven.

“There we go, baby,” Majima panted, his back curving in. “There—”

He came in streaks up Kiryu’s chest, dripped over his knuckles, the feel of his body convulsing with pleasure driving Kiryu right up to the edge.

He heard himself say, “Don’t stop,” and half expected Majima to ruin it for him on principle, but he didn’t. He planted his hands on either side of Kiryu’s head and let him buck up into him with his hands in a vice grip on his hips. Getting some control back was almost as good as flipping him over. He felt him twitch every time he drove inside him, his shoulders pushing back into the bed, knees falling wider, and then he was coming and it was perfect, endless, tight.

Majima said something but he couldn’t hear what. When he opened his eyes, he was looking down at him, his face flushed and shadowed by the halo of the overhead light, with an implacable expression. Again, appreciative. There might have been awe, if he was being generous. They stayed like that for a few moments, looking at each other as their bodies thrummed with receding pleasure, Kiryu’s hands still on Majima’s thighs, still inside him.

It ended. Majima sat up, pushed his hair out of his face and lifted himself off Kiryu’s dick. He flopped down next to him with a loud sigh, and there were no flippant words of approval this time, like he was judging a performance or reviewing a cut of steak. Just silence. Kiryu sat up and leaned against the wall, eager to move away from the hot, damp sheets.

Majima sat up, pulled his smokes from his jacket and threw Kiryu’s to him so he could do the same. Then he crawled over to the whiskey bottle and poured two more glasses. Kiryu lit his cigarette and watched his wide, stooped shoulders move. His movements were sloppy and lazy and Kiryu had no idea what time it was.

Majima handed him his drink and lay down next to where he sat, closed his eyes and smoked in silence. Kiryu sipped his whiskey and let his eyes rove over the body stretched out in front of him. The short, dark hair between his legs, his soft dick lying thick against his thigh. He knew next to nothing about him, and what he did know, he knew more by osmosis than intentional effort. His given name was Goro. He was from Osaka or somewhere near it. He was a few years older than Kiryu himself, but not many. He used to run cabaret clubs, or people said he did. His skin was about the same shade as his own, a little lighter. He had less hair on his legs. There was a scar on his calf that could only be from a knife slash. Something else that may have been a burn or a branding. Kiryu’s skin crawled.

Majima sat up just enough to drink and the motion was awkward. Kiryu chuckled quietly and broke the silence, but Majima said nothing, so it continued a little longer. Naked and close enough to touch, it was more intimate than last time, or maybe Kiryu was imagining it. Seeing something that wasn’t there.

“Do people know about you?” Kiryu asked suddenly. Majima tipped his head back to look up at him.

“Heavy pillow talk,” he said. Kiryu shrugged.

“So don’t answer.”

Majima shook his head and finished half his drink in a long pull.

“A few of my boys know. Only ‘cause I know about them, too.”

“Really?”

“Mm. I’ve ran into a couple of the young guys at shady bathhouses, different times. Works for everyone, though—can’t rat each other out ‘cause we were there, too.”

“How many is a few?”

“Probably about five now. A couple of the new errand boys are homos.” He sighed and folded his arms behind his head. “I got this theory that I’m gettin’ known for it, ya know? Secretly. The guys I already got tell their buddies I’ll treat ‘em good and they sign on. Lot less scary to think about your boss finding out you’re queer if he is, too.”

Kiryu smiled down at him. “You’re looking out for them.”

Majima snorted. “Don’t get the wrong idea, I ain’t being nice. It just happened. And they let me fuck them, for sure. Not that I ask, they offer. They figure that’s part of the deal, I don’t correct ‘em, you get the picture.” He took a long drag on his smoke. “I get mine, trust me. This ain’t Goro’s Home For Troubled Gay Yakuza.”

Kiryu kept smiling. “Okay.”

Majima elbowed him and scowled. “I said I ain’t lookin’ out for nobody, I’m coverin’ my ass. You should, too.”

“I do,” Kiryu said, and hoped it was true. “Do you worry about that?”

“Top brass findin’ out? Nah. Anyone who doesn’t like it can come fucking try me, I’ll put ‘em in the ground. Eventually, there won’t be anyone left who doesn’t like it.” He turned his head and looked at Kiryu. “Anyone know about you?”

Kiryu shook his head.

Majima said, “What, no one? Not your bro?”

“Nishiki… wouldn’t understand.”

“Kazama?”

“No,” Kiryu said, hard. “I wouldn’t do that to him.”

Majima sighed and rubbed a hand under his eyepatch strap. When he let it go, it snapped loudly against his face. “That must kill ya.”

“I never thought about it.”

It was the truth. It was a weak spot he made disappear by ignoring it, for a while. Now, he wasn’t ignoring it. Now there was Majima. He didn’t know how he’d have to reorganize his sense of self in the wake of this. He’d made sure that his sense of self wasn’t a malleable thing.

Majima said, “Kiryu.”

“Hm?”

He reached up, ran his index finger down his jaw and flicked it off the tip of his chin.

“You are the most tragic motherfucker I ever met.”

 

 

He didn’t mean to fall asleep. He woke up at four in the morning with the light still on, still sitting half upright. Majima lay sleeping next to him with his nose pressed to the dip of his bare hip. Pain shot up his stiff neck when he slid down the wall to lay properly, careful not to wake him. He couldn’t reach the light to turn it off so he left it on and drifted back to sleep.

 

 

He blinked himself awake and in those first seconds, he forgot where he was. Sun streamed in the room’s small window and there was a noise from somewhere. A real futon under him. Not the Serena. He rubbed his eyes and propped up on an elbow.

Majima stood at the kitchenette’s small counter, mostly turned away. A cigarette hung from his lips and he wore only small white briefs that cut the through dark ink of his tattoo on the curve of his ass and thighs. His hair stuck up from being slept on.

He noticed Kiryu stir and turned, not far enough that Kiryu could see his good eye, just the patch, and it wasn’t the same patch as he usually wore: this one was a soft, white medical patch with two bands that cut over his nose and face. Kiryu realized he’d never seen Majima’s covered eye and wondered if it was scarred, how the eye was damaged. It couldn’t have been pretty, not as clean as chopping off a pinkie.

“Mornin’, sunshine.” Majima took the smoke from his lips and used it to point at a kettle boiling away on the counter. “Ya want coffee?”

“Yeah.” Kiryu sat up against the wall. Majjma turned to the counter and he watched his back shift as he grabbed a jar of instant coffee from the cupboard. The hannya’s face moved with him. “Your eyepatch.”

“Yeah. I wear this one at home.” Majima set the coffee on the counter with a clunk and ashed his cigarette into the sink. “It’s softer and lighter ‘n shit. Less of a drain. The other one’s got a stiff edge.”

“Right.”

“But this one ain’t half as sleek.”

“Right.”

There was a pause. Kiryu looked only at Majima’s left eye.

“What does it look like?” he asked.

“Under the patch?”

“Yeah.”

Majima squinted at him. Kiryu’s eyes wandered over his body; toned abs and a fine trail of hair disappearing into his briefs, the outline of his dick sitting against his hip. He remembered him from the night before and it was funny to think that there was only one Majima. The one who stood in front of him making coffee was also the guy who swung at him with a bat in the street and rode him mercilessly the night before.

“Pretty normal,” Majima said finally. “Eyelid’s still intact.”

“Oh.”

“Sometimes if I wanna look less, ya know, like this, I’ll just wear sunglasses. People don’t normally notice the eye.”

“Yeah.”

“Wanna see it?”

“Yeah,” Kiryu said, because he did.

“For sure? Ya can’t unsee it.”

“Just show me.”

Majima pulled the eyepatch off. Kiryu expected a blind eye and a scar, but there was nothing. Literally nothing: hardly any scarring, just an empty eye socket. His eyelashes were still there. His eye was not.

Majima said, “When they stabbed the thing, it… deflated. That’s what happens ya mess up eyes when they’re still alive. Blood everywhere. They fucked with it a bunch. I went to a doctor later and got the dead tissue and tendons removed.”

Kiryu couldn’t remember the last time he blinked. It was strange to see Majima’s face symmetrical and whole; more or less two eyes, and no bisecting black stripe. If he shut his eyes he would look like a normal man, which was impossible to imagine. There were faint tan lines where the strap and patch lay.

“I thought it would be gross,” Kiryu said.

Majima put the eyepatch over his head and slid it back into place.

“It gets dry in the socket, if that makes it nice and gross for ya. I got a special medical balm. And if I get sick, it’s all crusty,” he said. Kiryu pulled a face and he cackled. “There ya go.”

The kettle clicked loudly as it finished boiling and Majima poured water into the two waiting mugs in a billow of steam. He stirred both with a spoon, brought them over to the futon and put one in front of Kiryu, then sat cross-legged next to him with his mug on his upturned knee.

He said, “Ya got somethin’ outta me. I feel like you owe me one.”

Kiryu looked down at the mug on the floor. Majima didn’t ask if he wanted sugar.

“I don’t have any secrets.”

“Aw, that’s bull. What about an ugly birthmark I missed? A fear of heights? Fear of clowns?”

The over-familiarity made Kiryu freeze up. He both did and didn’t know Majima—they spent a lot of time around each other, but they weren’t exactly having thoughtful heart-to-hearts. He could perfectly replicate his fighting style if asked, but he didn't know whether he had parents.

“I’ll let you know if I think of anything,” he said. He gingerly picked up his coffee and sipped at it, hot enough to burn his hands and tongue, bitter and cheap. His head spun with the outer reaches of a hangover and the smell of it made him sick. It took him a while to notice Majima was looking at him, as it usually did. “Hm?”

“I’ve never seen ya smile,” Majima said, setting his mug down. “I mean a big ol’ smile with teeth, like a laugh. Not one of your amused little smirks.”

Kiryu gave one of said smirks. “Okay. So make me laugh."

“Well, I can’t do it on command. This show ain’t free.”

“I’ll be waiting.”

More silence. More coffee. Kiryu was distracted by the guilt of leaving Haruka all night, then extra guilt for not having thought of it earlier.

“What kinda yakuza doesn’t have secrets?” Majima grumbled. “Ya got one big secret, but now that I know ya wanna pound me like a frosty six pack on a hot summer day, that ain’t a secret to me.”

Kiryu laughed.

It felt like everything went slow—his smile spread in the way that pulled at his cheeks, his breath caught in his throat and his eyes narrowed. Later, he’d remember that’s what laughing felt like. It had been a long time since he had anything to laugh about.

“Christ,” Majima said slowly, shaking his head. “You be careful with that. You’re gonna get half the city in here on their knees.”

Majima was watching him and he was less comfortable calling his gaze appreciative this time. He didn’t know what to call it.

 

 

He didn’t run into Majima the next day or the one after that. No hokey calls or emails from Nishida. Radio silence. He didn’t think about it much at the time, but when he did, he was surprised to find that he was mad. He had no illusions that sex meant much of anything to Majima or to himself, but there had been something else. They shared a meal, slept together and had coffee in the morning, and he wasn’t stupid to think that might have been an inkling of friendship. That, and there was something deeply pathetic about being blown off by Majima.

Like everything else that bugged him but couldn’t be solved with fists, he pushed it down. No time.

 

 

The days bled into one another as he ran on empty. He wondered idly what he would do if he learned that Majima had been killed. He didn’t think he’d been killed, he thought he was ignoring him, but yakuza were killed all the time and that was a reality he’d lived with for as long as he could remember. He thought about how the shirt he wore to Majima’s suite still smelled like him and how if he pressed it to his nose, it felt like he was burying his face in his shoulder. Majima’s role in his life was now a deep, fresh wound that anyone could tear into, and it would hurt him. If anyone killed him, he’d do whatever it took to make that right. He’d rip their face off.

 

 

From a dozen meters away, he saw Majima leaving Bantam with a group of people at an ungodly hour of the night. Kiryu’s right eye was swollen shut from some drunk’s lucky punch, but Majima couldn’t be mistaken for anyone else. Of the group, most were family men, and a few weren’t. A pretty young woman with dyed hair dug through her purse, which Nishida was holding for her. Majima had his arm over the thin shoulders of a pretty young man with full lips and short cropped hair. As they walked, his gloved hand dipped into the open collar of the man’s shirt, fingers idly tracing his collarbone. He bent his head towards him and was speaking low and private to him alone. Kiryu thought he heard the kid laugh, but he was too far away to tell.

 

 

Lying on the floor of the Coliseum, looking up through the sting of the blinding lights, he saw Majima’s blurry face appear above his with a cracked hannya mask hanging by an eyepatch strap. When the man—Majima?—reached forward and stroked his cheek, the lines in his palm became startlingly clear, like mountain ranges, telescopically close. His touch was unbearably tender. Then Kiryu passed out and lost.

The Florist approached him while he was wrapping his hands afterwards and said, “You know the guy with the mask, eh?”

Kiryu scowled down at his swollen knuckles. “What makes you say that?”

“That fight was electric, you got the whole damn arena up on its feet. Some real over-the-top anime shit.” The Florist slowly smiled, his eyes scrunching closed like a fat, happy Buddha. “That energy only comes with history.”

Maybe Kiryu was imagining it, but he thought the quirk of his mouth carried a tongue-in-cheek sort of knowing. The Florist had eyes everywhere. It wasn’t unreasonable to think that one of his men could have wandered down the street, glanced into an alley and recognized Kiryu by his grey suit and Majima by his jacket with no more than a passing glance. He’d relay the information back and it would be recorded neatly and efficiently in the Florist’s web of connections: Kiryu Kazuma, former Dojima family lieutenant, and Majima Goro, patriarch of the Majima family and captain of the Shimano family, have entered into a sexual relationship. They would have seen him going to the Majima family office late at night, staying for a few hours, leaving with Majima to go for ramen and then returning to the office to spend the night. Kiryu wondered what kind of exorbitant fee it would take to have the Florist erase that particular piece of history. More than he could afford.

“Something like that,” he grunted.

 

 

State your name.”

“Kiryu Kazuma.”

There was a long pause. He shoved his hands into his pockets as he waited, tapping his heel against the hallway’s tiled floor.

The boss isn’t expecting you, sir.”

“Is he in?”

He’s busy.”

“But he’s there?”

That’s private information, Kiryu-san.”

Kiryu sighed hard. “You can either let me in now and take me to him, or I start kicking down this door and you use that time to run ahead and let him know I’m on my way.” On second thought, he added, “I’m unarmed.”

After a second, the lock clicked open, but there was no one on the other side. Kiryu let himself in. It was early afternoon but, so late in winter, the sun hung low in the sky and cast long shadows. The energy in the office was subdued and the few men that sat scattered in the common area were hunched over their phones or speaking quietly to one another. They looked up when he passed and most seemed alarmed to see him.

The first two office doors Kiryu opened were empty. He heard voices behind the third and flung the door open so hard the knob cracked the wall behind it.

Majima sat on one end of a leather loveseat and an older man with a mean face and a pinstripe suit sat on the other side of a coffee table covered in papers; one of his guys, Kiryu recognized him but didn’t know his name. He ignored him.

He pointed at Majima and spat, “Fuck you.”

Majima glared up at him, his brow drawn. The guy in the suit was twitchy and his right hand was ready to grab something from his pocket. For a handful of tense seconds, no one spoke. Then, Majima flicked his eyes over to the guy and waved his hand at the door. Without even a second of pushback, the guy got up and left. Kiryu stepped out of the way to let him go.

“Fuck you, too,” Majima said to Kiryu once the door was shut. “I’m busy. Whadda ya want?”

He was slumped lazily into the couch and it pissed Kiryu off more than he thought it would.

He said, “You don’t get to fuck up my life, then drop out of it.”

Majima cackled. “You’re mad that I didn’t call you? Princess, that ain’t how this works. Ya don’t come in here with your lovers spat bullshit in front of my boys.” He stood and sauntered over to Kiryu. “Ya sit and wait for me to be in the mood for your dick, then ya come over here and give it to me. And then ya go home.” He stood so close to Kiryu that their shoes nearly touched and twisted his mouth into a mean smirk. “Capisce?”

Kiryu didn’t flinch.

“You’re pathetic.”

In an instant, Majima flared up, baring his teeth, his eye wide. “What was that?”

“You’re a blowhard just like the rest of them.”

“Yeah?”

The bloodlust radiating off Majima in waves was so strong he was sure it would explode into a fight. Kiryu wanted to grab the leather chair next to him and smash it over his head. He wanted to slam his face into the door so hard it splintered. Majima was flexing his hands and he knew he wanted it, too. It wouldn’t fix anything, but it would be so, so satisfying.

He took a deep breath, two, three, staring unblinking into Majima’s eye. He spoke low and hard.

“You’re a scared little boy too afraid to say what he means.”

Majima’s voice was pure vitriol. “Is what you think?”

“It’s what I know. You play this stupid game with me to keep me guessing, or interested in you, or… at arm’s length. But that’s all it is—a game. And you’re a coward for playing it.”

Surprise only flickered on Majima’s face for a second before it was twisted with rage. It burned so hot that Kiryu knew it hadn’t started here, that it was something Majima had built up without him realizing it. A bunch of little things he didn’t notice, things he’d said, toes he stepped on. It was that kind of fight.

“So what if it’s a game? What would happen if I came clean, huh?” Majima leaned in and his spoke in an incensed hissed. “And I tell you how I can’t stop thinking about you. And maybe I wanna get a swish apartment where we drink whiskey and walk around in our underwear all day, and I call you Kaz. And we wake up together every goddamn morning.” His jaw was trembling and his face was hard and cold. “The fuck’s a guy supposed to do with that, huh? A fucking patriarch. I’m forty.

“Ma—”

Majima shoved him and, unprepared, he staggered back.

You’re the coward. Not everything fits in with your stupid good guy bullshit,” he snarled, his voice wet and raw. “Sometimes ya gotta make do just to get through the day, and maybe that means holdin’ your damn tongue. And if you don’t get that, you’re living in a fantasy world. I’m takin’ what I can get and it was working pretty fuckin’ well up ‘til now, alright? So don’t you dare call me a coward, ‘cause you got no idea.”

He sat hard on the armchair, put his head in his hands and let out a hard, angry sigh. Kiryu watched him and his emotions flipped through rage, nerves and sadness before landing on an awkward, fumbling affection. Later, he wouldn’t remember why he did it, and wouldn’t remember thinking much about it. It was the right thing to do.

He crouched in front of where Majima sat, took his face in his hands and kissed him.

During that first tense second, he thought Majima might crack him in the jaw for it. The next second, he felt him melt. His mouth was soft, his breath warm, and he made a sound against his lips, quiet and surprised and a little indignant. He tipped his head and their lips slid together. In their mutual surprise, it was almost demure. Kiryu couldn’t remember the last time he kissed someone and the intimacy drove stabs of adrenaline through his chest. It was their first kiss.

After a few seconds, he let Majima go. He sat back and his hands fell from his face but he stayed on his knees in front of him, their heads bent towards one another.

He mumbled, “I don’t care what you call me.”

Majima’s hands wandered up his arms and across his shoulders.

“Kazuma,” he said slowly, thoroughly, like he was trying it out. “Kaz.”

He touched his jaw and pressed fingers along his cheekbones. It showed a tenderness so perpetually absent in him that it moved Kiryu to an awestruck stupor. He wanted to say, you’re learning a lot about yourself right now, aren’t you? He smiled.

“Nobody calls me Kazuma.”

“I could,” Majima said, then kissed him, deeper than the first. He sunk into it and pressed closer. He felt his eyelashes flutter on his cheek. Their tongues slid and Majima slipped off the chair to kneel with him on the floor, holding on, breathing. He pulled off his gloves and buried his hands in Kiryu’s hair. He was pushy. He bit his lip and sucked it into his mouth. Kiryu’s head spun and his breath came heavy when they broke apart, his fingers gripping Majima’s bare ribs under his jacket. They slowly sat on the floor and were still hanging onto one another in a way neither wanted to address.

“What’re ya thinking, kissin’ me like that?” Majima muttered, bumping his forehead against Kiryu’s. “Gonna give a guy the wrong idea.”

Kiryu looked down to hide his smile. “What idea?”

“That ya got a big, sloppy heart somewhere under those pecs.”

He went over what he said about an apartment. He pictured Majima as he’d seen him the other week, standing at the counter in his underwear as he smoked and watched the kettle boil, except this time he got up, came up behind him and put an arm around his neck, pressed up against him from chest to thighs.

“You know I do.”

Majima kissed him again, his hands framing his face.

“Yeah, yeah,” he mumbled against his lips, “I know.”

He combed his fingers through Kiryu’s hair like a mother fussing over her son. Kiryu closed his eyes and let him. It was soothing. Bit by bit, he felt everything rest hard on his shoulders—the stress of the events since his parole, his exhaustion, pressure, responsibility, duty, fear. He let himself feel it and absorb it and turn it over in his head in a way he hadn’t had a chance to yet. It didn’t feel good, but he knew he needed it.

“What do we do now?” he asked, embarrassed to be voicing it. Not talking about today. It took Majima a while to say anything back, and when he did, his voice was smooth as silk. So confident that Kiryu believed him.

“Whatever we want.”

 

 

The little room was the same as before. Majima stretched out on the futon, his arms splayed above his head.

“So, what’s it gonna be? Ya gonna make slow, sweet love to me, ya big sap?”

Kiryu smiled. “I can try.”

He lowered himself between his legs, leaned up his body and kissed him. He couldn’t stop kissing him, so hungry for something he hadn’t known until so recently. He liked biting his lip and feeling him dig his nails into his back in retaliation. He liked how he flicked his tongue against his and raked his hands through his hair.

They undressed each other in silence, hands mapping each other’s bodies. Kiryu waited for him to get up on his knees, but he didn’t. He dropped his head back when Kiryu slid inside him and let him run his lips up the curve of his exposed throat. His breath shook. Some amount of trust was held there, Kiryu’s teeth to his windpipe, buttery soft skin. He drew him deeper.

Shit.”

Kiryu fucked him until his thighs ached, until they were both sweating and shaking and clawing at each other. Majima slung his arms around his neck and held on, buried his face in his shoulder. He could hear his breath rush in his ear and his heart thump against his chest, his heels dig into his back, his flexing fingers against his skin. It was vulnerable and embarrassing and intimate and he came so hard his ears were ringing after.

He lit Majima’s smoke for him. They lay with their shoulders crammed together on the too-narrow futon, still breathing hard. Gray afternoon sun streamed in the window over their shining bodies and crumpled clothes. Kiryu touched his foot to Majima’s calf and he didn’t pull away. Majima was only one of the thousand things that demanded his attention and all of them made him jittery and furious. Now, with this, he was the least of his worries. He wished he felt better about that.

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” he said quietly.

Majima turned his head to look at him. He glanced away momentarily to tap his smoke into an ashtray next to the mattress.

“Does anyone?”

Kiryu shook his head.

“I haven’t lived for ten years. I didn’t make a single decision. I wasn’t my own person. I… sat. And I was alone with my thoughts.” He let smoke pour from his lips and lift towards the ceiling. “I thought I’d go crazy with it,” he said softly, confidential, “all that time. And since I’ve been out… I’m still not living. All this shit I’m dealing with, this isn’t real life. It’s one thing after another.”

“You’re tired.”

“Exhausted.”

Kiryu turned to look at him and he was already looking back, so he leaned in and kissed him because he thought it would make him feel better. It didn’t make him feel worse. His lips were soft and raw and he kissed him back, nipping his lip gently before he let him go.

Kiryu said, “This isn’t real life either.”

“You an’ me?”

“Yeah.”

“Says who?”

“I don’t know where I’ll be in two days, let alone a year. Or a week. This is…” He trailed off. It was his entire relationship with Majima coming to its natural conclusion, exactly what it had always been building to. It was a belated conjugal visit. Two men with a shared interest getting to know each other a little better. A few mind-numbing orgasms and a place to sleep.

“I gotcha,” Majima said. He didn’t need him to say it. “You’re not livin’ yet.”

“I will.” Against his better judgement, Kiryu reached up and carefully, giving him plenty of time to smack him away, stroked his hair back. It was coarse and glossy under his fingers. “There won’t always be something.”

Majima laughed. It was almost pretty and very gentle. He leaned his face into Kiryu’s palm. Didn’t look him in the eye.

“I ain’t gonna hold my breath.”