the airport’s always almost empty this time of the year
so let’s go play on a baggage carousel
and set our watches forwards like we’re just arriving here
from a past we left in a place we knew too well
(watermark, the weakerthans)
Majima’s flight to Okinawa was hell at thirty thousand feet. The guy next to him kept eating and sucking crumbs off his fingers and the stewardess only gave him three gins in the little plastic cup with the little plastic swizzle stick before she cut him off. After he landed, he grabbed his bag from the carousel and pulled on a t-shirt in the airport bathroom. He looked at himself in the mirror and grimaced. He lifted his chains out from under the shirt, considered them for a moment, then tucked them back in. He was wearing dark sunglasses, no eye patch, in an attempt to blend in. His pants were still black but a light kind of cotton; the forecast called for highs of thirty all week, not that he knew how long he’d be staying.
He gave the cab driver the address and when they were still driving after thirty minutes, he said, “Christ, where is this place?”
The driver glanced out his window at the glittering ocean. Their road twisted and turned against it in a playful back-and-forth.
“Real far out,” he said.
Majima leaned on the low wooden fence across from the orphanage with his bag between his feet, and halfway through his second smoke, a fat little boy ran outside with two smaller kids on his heels. All three saw him and stopped dead in a cloud of dust. Then they slowly backed into the house, pretending to be casual about it.
Before he finished his second smoke, Kiryu came out.
On one hand, he was a fucking sight. He looked tan and thick and happy and his hair was glossy, still jet black when Majima’s was starting to run flecks of silver. On the other hand, he was wearing a floral print shirt and khakis. These two thoughts warred for dominance in him as Kiryu stopped at the edge of the porch and squinted into the sun at him, then slowly made his way across the courtyard. He stopped several paces away, nearly across the road.
“I…” Kiryu put a hand up to his eyes to shield them from the sun. “I’ve never seen you wearing a shirt.”
“Pretty good, right?” Majima tapped his sunglasses. “I could be a plain ol’ tourist in this getup.”
Kiryu stared. “I can still see your ink.”
Majima looked down at his chest and could see the faint colours of his tattoo through the t-shirt.
“Alright, I coulda gone a bit bigger, and not white, but gimme some points for effort.”
He watched Kiryu’s eyes wander down his body and land on his shiny snakeskin shoes, which he had refused to compromise on. Kiryu said nothing. A little closer, his age was a little more apparent; he looked tired in a strange and wholesome way that Majima wasn’t used to seeing on him, tired like relaxed and not tired like drop dead. No bruises or cuts, no bandages. He didn’t like it. He looked like someone a little different, like Kiryu’s own imagining of Kiryu. A parallel universe Kiryu.
He told him, “Daigo cracked and gave me your address. I spent an hour tryina convince him that you and I are actually pals and not just… mutual antagonists.”
“I don’t antagonize you.”
“You’re antagonizin' me right now.” Majima picked up his bag and swung it over his shoulder. “Ya gonna invite me in?”
“What do you want?”
“I wanna be invited in.” Majima shrugged. “Not here on business.”
Kiryu looked like he was thinking about it for a moment. He strode the short distance between them with such conviction that for a second, Majima could see who he used to be. His dick twitched.
“No shop talk in front of the kids,” Kiryu said lowly, his voice electric. He smelled faintly of raw onion. He’d been cooking. “I mean it. Whatever’s going on, you’re not going to scar them for kicks. Understand?”
“I’m great with kids.”
“They don’t know anything about yakuza and they’re not going to. They don’t need to, and they’re too young to… I don’t do that anymore.”
“That a yes?”
“Just… be calm. Be normal for once. Can you…” His facade cracked and for a second, he looked amused. “Can you do that?”
Majima grinned. “We’re gonna find out.”
Kiryu entered the rickety wooden house before him and called out, “Come here! We’ve got a guest!”
Squeals of joy emanated from somewhere, everywhere, followed by the slap of bare feet on the floorboards. A horde of little girls barreled down the hallways and screeched to a stop in front of the two of them, with the boys who had seen Majima in the street reluctantly bringing up the rear.
Majima recognized Haruka instantly and he’d be lying if he said watching recognition spread over her features didn’t give him some tiny amount of wholesome happiness.
“Majima-san!” she chirped, jostling her way to the front so she could bow theatrically. “You’re in Okinawa!”
“Sure am, princess. How’s this guy been treatin’ ya out here in the sticks?”
Kiryu pinched the back of his arm where the kids couldn’t see.
Haruka said, “Everything’s been amazing! I love it here!” She turned to the other kids. “Guys, this is ojisan’s friend from Tokyo, Majima-san! Majima-san, this is Eri, Izumi, Ayako, Riona, Shiro, Mitsuo, Koji and Taichi.”
“I’m not gonna remember all that.”
Kiryu pinched him again. He smiled. The kids gaped at him. Most of them looked concerned or scared and a couple looked oddly thrilled. He prided himself on having that effect on people.
Kiryu said, “Majima-san will be joining us for dinner. Let’s show him hospitality.”
The kids chorused right and took off in all directions. They reminded Majima of happy, industrious little ants. Kiryu stood stiffly next to him and rubbed the back of his neck, and Majima watched him. After nearly two years away, he couldn’t get enough of looking at him and he felt like a kid at a zoo, crushing his nose against an animal’s glass enclosure.
Kiryu said, “Leave your bag in here.”
He opened a paper door to reveal a small room that was big in proportion to the rest of the small house. There was a low table, a desk with a child’s drawing pinned above it, and a futon folded in the corner. The table had a couple sports magazines on it and an empty glass.
“This your room?”
Majima dropped his bag on the floor and nudged it out of the way of the door. “You stay here?”
“I live here.”
“I thought ya went somewhere offsite for like, your downtime. An apartment.”
“I need to be here. I take care of the kids.”
“What, all the time?”
“Yes. They’re kids.”
“Jesus Christ. So, you’re a dad, basically.”
“You’re a papa with like ten kids.”
Kiryu turned on his heel. “Dinner, then we’ll talk. If you make anyone cry, I’ll make you eat your teeth. Understand?”
Majima drawled, “Yes, sir,” and Kiryu shot his leg back and kicked him in the knee without turning around.
He spent most of dinner watching Kiryu interact with the kids. He was quiet—that much hadn’t changed—but hearing him ask an eight-year-old about their day wasn’t anything like hearing him bark at cocky punks whose arms he’d just broken. He sat at the head of the table and Majima sat to his right. Haruka sat on Majima’s other side, most likely to provide a buffer between him at the other kids.
During a lull in conversation, Majima caught a little girl in pigtails staring at him. He raised his eyebrows at her and she put her chopsticks down so she could wring her hands.
“Um. Mister. Do you… have an injury?”
She was looking at his left eye. He’d swapped his shades for a white medical eye patch because he thought it would be less threatening if the patch seemed normal and temporary, and because his usual patch got sweaty in that kind of heat.
“Yeah, I got all banged up. Don’t worry, it ain’t contagious.”
Haruka had stopped eating and he was sure that if she was sitting on his good side, he’d have seen her looking up at him. She would have remembered that Majima had his eye patch years ago, too, but she said nothing. Kiryu must have been raising her well, because he’d never met an eleven-year-old who knew when to shut up.
The kids talked among themselves other than that, which suited Majima just fine. Dinner was some oily whitefish, rice and vegetables, and it was plain but good. Country food. After dinner, the kids took their plates to the kitchen—one of them snatching Majima’s—and him and Kiryu were left at the table.
Apprehension radiated off Kiryu in waves, like he expected Majima to pull out a knife. Majima leaned back on his hands.
“Good grub. Thanks, pop.”
“Aw, lighten up, I said it was good. I didn’t know ya were much of a cook.”
There was a long pause. “Haruka does most of it.”
Majima’s eyes traced over him. He had his hands on his folded knees and his nail beds were dirty. His skin was a few shades darker than he’d ever been in Kamurocho, enough that a new freckles bloomed in constellations on his forearms. The rich colour made his battle scars stand out like the pockmarked wood of an old ship’s bow.
Majima asked, “What’s a guy do for fun around here when he’s got an old buddy in town?”
Kiryu wrinkled his nose at buddy. Majima made a mental note.
“We could have a drink,” Kiryu said finally. Majima perked up.
“I could go for that. Whaddya got?”
“I don’t keep anything in the house. There’s a shop down the street.”
Majima’s laughter barked into the space between them. He hauled himself to his feet.
“How the mighty have fallen, eh?” He put out a hand to help Kiryu up, and he ignored it.
The night was hot and wet and the air smelled like peat and the sharp, almost acrid scent of flowers in the bushes that lined the dirt road. Kiryu loped along next to him and Majima remembered the motions of his walk like coming home after a long trip. It was pitch black except for the buzzing lamps that studded the street every couple hundred metres.
Kiryu asked, “Is this about Daigo?”
“Hm? Aw, nah, he’s alright. So stressed he’s gettin’ twitchy, but he hides it like a champ.”
“Then where is he?”
Majima glanced over. He could hardly see him in the dark. “I said this ain’t about him. Ya told me to crush his enemies, not babysit him.”
“Is it about the resort deal?”
“What resort deal?”
Kiryu went quiet. They passed a dilapidated home that reeked of fish and had raincoats drying off the balcony. The narrow road took them away from the ocean and the crashing waves were replaced by the roar of a thousand bugs in the foliage. A store appeared at the end of a wooden fence and looked as though it was held together with bent nails and duct tape. A big plastic sign out front glowed blinding yellow in the night. The place was so small they had to walk sideways between the metal shelves stuffed with bags of chips, candy, toilet paper, incense. Grimy glass fridges at the back were stuffed with drinks, and near that, a shelf of liquor. Kiryu grabbed a bottle of middle-range whiskey and Majima took a can of milk tea from one of the fridges. He slapped it down on the counter at the cash register next to Kiryu’s whiskey. Kiryu glanced at him, said nothing and paid for both.
Majima patted him on the back. “Thanks, buddy.”
Kiryu scowled at him. The ancient man behind the counter blinked up at them as he held out Kiryu’s change in his shaking palm.
“You’ve brought someone, Kazuma-kun.”
Kiryu nodded. “A friend from the mainland.”
Majima bowed lightly. “Hullo.”
The old man seemed put off by him. He shook his head.
“Tourists comin’ farther and farther out, now… No peace anywhere.”
They cracked the whiskey in Kiryu’s room, the flimsy door shut, the kids not asleep but chatting quietly in their rooms. Majima sat with his legs splayed out across the low plastic table from Kiryu, absorbed in just being in the same room as him after so much time. Even at most, he only saw Kiryu in snatches, and always when he needed something. He remembered their last talk on the roof of the Millennium Tower when he’d been so jacked up and pissed off and could have said a lot more. Instead, he got a thorough fight and a final smoke together. It was a real man’s fight, but he could’ve done better.
He said, “The kids don’t know you’re yakuza, eh?”
Kiryu sipped his whiskey from an ugly plastic cup that matched Majima’s own.
“No. Their past caretaker died—or left, or something—and I showed up. I was nice. That’s all they cared about.”
“No questions? With that mug?”
“But your little girl knows.”
Kiryu filled Majima’s empty cup and used the pause. Majima watched the movement of his bare arms, so often hidden by his suit jacket back in the day. Seeing more of his skin felt unreal, like he was making it up, and the absence of his red silk shirt felt like a mistake in his imagination; he’d seen him with his shirt off but only at times where his body meant threat and power and its movement was more important than its aesthetics. Only marginally.
“I tell Haruka everything.” Kiryu refilled his own glass. “She knows not to tell the others. They’ll find out eventually, but… I don’t want to be that entry point for them.”
“Pop is why I joined up, because he brought it into my life. He opened that door, and it was my choice to walk through it, but... I’m not doing that to these kids. They’re gonna live good, honest lives.”
“So are you, apparently.” Majima slurped his whiskey. “The kids seen your back?”
“Yeah, but they don’t know enough about yakuza to ask. To… connect the two.” A half-nervous gulp of whiskey. “They just know that some guys have tattoos.”
“They got families here, though?”
“Some. Two main ones.”
“You talked to ‘em much?”
Majima squinted at him. “So ya really are a civilian. Not even a downgrade, really just… out.”
“Ya just wake up, take care of these kids, an’ go to sleep. Every day.”
Kiryu shrugged. “I play cards with some guys down the street on weekends. And I spend time with the kids. Baseball, fishing…”
“Ya don’t keep liquor in the house and ya play ball with five-year-olds.”
Kiryu set his cup down and leaned towards Majima across the cheap plastic table, subtle enough to only imply ihreat.
“Why are you here?” he asked again, his voice pointed and hard. “Even you wouldn’t take a three-hour flight just to make fun of me.”
Majima tossed back the rest of his whiskey and smiled. He loved the sound of his own voice, but he knew how to use a silence. Kiryu would get uncomfortable before he did. The concentration on his face would have been funny if it weren’t so sad.
“I’m here to see ya,” Majima said, mocking Kiryu’s posture and conspiratory tone. “Not ‘cause of Daigo or any of the others. You know I’m no good at scheming, I’d’ve told ya as soon as I got here if I were up to something. Makes it more fun.”
Kiryu clearly didn’t believe him.
“Where are you staying?”
Majima spread out his hands. “You’re lookin’ at it.” He paused. “Ideally.”
“Few days. A week. ‘Til whenever I get bored.”
It was Kiryu’s turn to make him wait. He was happy to. His eye kept drifting around the room to take in the unremarkable artifacts of Kiryu’s now-unremarkable life. One black pen on his desk, no paper. A pair of slacks identical to the ones he was wearing thrown over the desk chair. His absurdly modern cell phone sitting closed on the floor next to his hip. He never saw Kiryu at rest, and the thought of him owning objects that weren’t for consumption or murder was mind-boggling.
Finally, Kiryu said, “You’re sleeping in the dining room.”
Majima woke up on his borrowed futon just before sunrise and strolled through the courtyard, across the street and down to the beach in his bare feet. Other than the crash of the waves and distant bird calls, it was silent—no car horns, shouting, feet slapping in puddles or the buzz of neon. He rolled up his pants and walked into the ice-cold surf, then stood there and smoked a cigarette, looking out at the endless pink and purple sky as it turned gold and blue at the edges. When he got tired of standing, he walked back up the beach and sat in the sand. When he was done his first smoke, he lit a second, tucking the butt of the first back into his pack; he’d never seen such a pristine beach and he wasn’t going to be the first asshole to ruin it.
“Hey.” He looked over his shoulder. He had no idea how long he’d been out there, but it was bright enough that Kiryu shielded his eyes from the sun. He stood up by the road and jabbed a thumb back towards the house. “Breakfast.”
Once the kids went to school, Majima followed Kiryu around like an anthropologist. He leaned in the laundry room doorway and watched him shove clothes into the washing machine, then sat on a stump in the courtyard and watched him hang it to dry, never offering to help and managing to be menacing without saying much. At eleven, he started carrying around a glass of whiskey. His ice melted instantly in the heat. Kiryu’s shirt was a little less ugly than the day before: gold and orange and patterned with leaves. Every geriatric who ambled down the road outside the house wore something similar and Majima wondered if they handed them out to every man over forty who lived on the island.
In the early afternoon, Kiryu went fishing, which apparently meant whipping a dangerously long fishing line around for a bit, then standing on the beach holding the rod like an idiot. Majima lounged under a beach umbrella on the beach and watched him. He dug a hole in the sand for his whiskey glass in an attempt to keep it cool and traded his eye patch for sunglasses to help with the glare coming off the water.
“What’re ya using for bait?” he called out. He was far enough up the beach that he had to yell. It was the first time either of them had spoken in an hour.
“A worm I found in the yard,” Kiryu called back.
“They any good?”
“We’ll find out.”
“What kinda fish ya tryina get?”
“Would you know it if I told you?”
“No,” he yelled, and then, quieter, “Smartass.”
After about thirty minutes, Kiryu cursed and started to reel in his line.
Majima laughed. “No dice?”
Kiryu didn’t answer and instead stalked up the beach towards the house. He left his ashtray and tackle kit in the sand, so he figured he was coming back, and after a minute he did, holding some big forked spear. He jabbed it in the wet sand down by the shore and started to unbutton his shirt. He tossed it in the sand and Majima felt an unexpected pang of nostalgia at seeing the dragon on his back, and then sour regret, which he pushed down. Kiryu pulled off his pants and he felt something else entirely. His body was changing with age and it was all for the better; his boyish charm was replaced with a grizzled handsomeness, his muscles softened with a healthy layer of fat that made him look bigger and more powerful. Majima couldn’t remember how many of his myriad scars came from his own dagger but he could ballpark it, hungrily and with an unhealthy amount of possessiveness.
When Kiryu grabbed the spear and waded into the water in his briefs, going deeper and deeper until he dove beneath the surface, Majima ducked out from under his umbrella and wandered down to the shore. The sun scorched his back and shoulders and his chains got hot against his neck. His shirt was wet under the arms. He lit a smoke and watched Kiryu appear and disappear below the waves, nothing more than a glint of glossy black hair and a flash of shining skin. The sun on the water was so bright he could hardly see, but he caught the snarl of colour when Kiryu burst above the surface with a flopping fish on his spear.
He waded out of the deep, water pouring off him, and stopped in the shallows. He heaved the spear back and launched it forward to chuck the fish halfway up the beach.
“Hit it for me,” he said to Majima, swishing the spear in the water to get the blood off. “Seems like your forté.”
Kiryu stood in the water up to his knees, breathing a little heavy. His nipples were hard, his skin was goose-bumped and he could see the shape of his dick in his wet black briefs. The curve of muscle in his bare thighs was like something on a Greek statue. A hunter draped in leather and furs. He turned around and Majima watched water from his dripping hair pour over the bright ink in the column of his spine.
“Ya look good with a bit more meat on your bones, by the way. Your ass is a fuckin’ vision right now.”
Kiryu didn’t turn around. “Stop it.”
“You’re lookin’ juicy.”
“You’re not funny.”
“Who said I’m tryina be?”
Kiryu still didn’t turn around, so he smiled at the back of his head. He dove back into the water with his spear and Majima grabbed his metal tackle box, locked it, then beat the fish over the head with it until it stopped moving.
Kiryu caught two more fish and fried one up for lunch. After they ate, he went out in the courtyard and started chopping wood for the stove with the eerie proficiency that came from practice. He took off his shirt. Majima sat in the shade and supervised. Sweat beaded on Kiryu’s shoulders as they turned pink in the sun.
As he set up a new log, he said, “You’ve been quiet, for you.”
Majima shrugged. “This place breeds quiet. Feels like… yellin’ in a library.” He rested his elbow on his drawn-up knee and put his chin in his palm. “Everything’s golden ‘n slow. Makes ya sleepy. How do ya live here?”
“Slowly,” Kiryu said.
CRA-A-ACK, another log split neatly in two. He stacked the two halves with the others and set up another chunk. His palms were red from holding onto the axe and a lock of hair fell over his forehead. CRACK. He set up another, his pile dwindling, and glanced in Majima’s direction.
“You’re just gonna watch me.”
Majima raised his chin. “Got a problem with that?”
Kiryu’s eyes snapped to his and they spent a perfect, electric moment there. His breath caught in his throat. The sun glinted off Kiryu’s axe. They were there.
Kiryu turned, heaved the axe over his head and split the log. He yanked the blade out of the stump and set up another chunk of wood. His biceps swelled and pulled under his skin, his abs tight, his body glimmering with sweat. He let himself be watched. Majima smiled into his palm.
The kids got home from school and Majima made himself scarce so he didn’t have to talk to them or help with dinner. He walked to the corner store for a pack of smokes—they didn’t have his brand, so he bought some cheap, run of the mill shit—and did a lap of the small beachfront community that surrounded the orphanage. The train station was so old it looked abandoned, its cracked and yellowing tile covered in dead leaves and flower petals like a forgotten shrine nestled in the forest. He skipped it, not knowing where he’d go. He could hear the train rattle through the trees every ten minutes no matter how far away from the track he got.
He didn’t know what to call the knot in his gut, but it got worse the longer he walked around. Someone else might have called it anxiety, but whatever it was, it pissed him off. His buzz from earlier was gone and it left him empty and agitated. Okinawa’s faux-quaint atmosphere pissed him off too, and he couldn’t stop imagining what it would be like to crack whoever’s skulls would get him control over the island’s shitty little families, then ruling the whole region with an iron fist. It would be something to do, if nothing else. It was what Kiryu should have been doing. It enraged him to think that Kiryu had been there over a year and hadn’t made a move when he could have been kingpin by now, and by hardly lifting a finger.
He headed back for the house once he was sure he was sure he wouldn’t be any more bored being there than he was being away. He kicked up his heels as he walked down the road to watch the dirt cloud around him. He could clean his shoes later.
He heard Kiryu’s voice before he saw him. It took him a second to realize he was sitting hidden behind the orphanage’s low rock wall.
Kiryu said, “Yeah, I’m sure.”
Majima slowed his walk. There was a boy’s voice, too.
“He looks… scary. Is he a bad guy? Are we in trouble again?”
He stopped walking completely and slid a step to the right, hiding. Obviously, they were talking about him. He couldn’t imagine that anyone else in Okinawa looked scary.
“We’re not in trouble. But you shouldn’t judge people based on how they look.” Kiryu’s voice got unbearably soft when he talked to those kids and Majima didn’t know what to do with it. “Do you think I look like a bad guy?”
“No!” the kid yelped.
“Well, there are people who think I do. But you know me, right? Am I a bad guy?”
“No,” the kid said with conviction, “you’re the best grown-up in the world.”
Kiryu laughed. It was short but real, and almost pretty. “See? So, Majima-san is a good guy, too. He just… looks like that. You have to let people prove to you what kind of person they are before you make those judgements. You know?”
Majima sneered. He considered vaulting over the wall and scaring the shit out of them to prove a point. He wished he had his dagger on him.
“I know, ojisan. Thanks.” The kid sighed with what sounded like relief. “So he’s really your friend?”
“Yes. What did you think he was?”
“I told you, I thought we were in trouble.”
“We’re not. He’s a very good, very old friend of mine.”
“Yeah. You’re right to be wary of strangers, but I wouldn’t let anyone into the house. You’re safe here.”
Majima rolled his eyes. He took a few big steps backwards up the way he’d came, silent, then started walking forwards normally. He coughed loudly, and in a second, Kiryu’s head appeared over the wall. Next, the kid’s. It was the little nerd with the glasses; Majima forgot his name.
He disappeared after they ate and paced along the orphanage’s chunk of beach like a caged tiger, pissed off at everything and nothing, or nothing he’d admit. He smoked half a pack and couldn’t calm down, couldn’t find a proper outlet for his anger on that stupid island. It was like coming down off amphetamines, where what had been thrilling and pleasant when it seemed endless—watching Kiryu go about his sad, tiny life as if it were a stage play—had come to an end and left him empty, raw, needing more of what he couldn’t get. Like a child throwing a tantrum, he ran away and wanted to be found, and eventually Kiryu appeared on the road above him.
His eyes searched for Majima in the near-dark and found him. Majima stopped his hurried pacing and stared up at him, seething, daring him to come ask. His heart rate spiked when Kiryu started to amble across the sloped beach to where he stood up by the tangled weeds and long grass that faded into the sand.
Kiryu stood in front of him with his hands shoved into his pockets and asked, “What are you doing?”
There was no concern, all accusation. Everything clicked into place in Majima’s head and the words fell out of his mouth like he’d been planning them for years instead of one tense hour.
“Is this really it?”
Majima spread out his arms and gestured at the waves, the beach, the rolling hills behind the orphanage.
“You. This place. All this empty bullshit. This is what ya left Kamurocho for?”
Kiryu shifted his weight back and forth, hands still in his pockets.
“I left Kamurocho for a lot of reasons.”
“That a shot at me?”
“Not everything’s about you.”
“Then what’s it about?”
“Maybe I don’t want to make a living on violence and lies, and some other guy getting rich off me. I want to live a real, honest life.”
“Now that’s a shot at me.”
Kiryu’s eyes narrowed. “Not just you.”
The familiar stabs of anger that ran through Majima felt so much like lust that he always got the two confused; fucking and fighting were both about rush and release and dominance, the same parts of his brain lighting up, the same fingers and fists and faces. The differences were mostly about context. It was more confusing with Kiryu than anyone else.
“It used to be good enough for ya. Ya think you’re better than me now?”
“I think we want different things.” Kiryu’s tone wasn’t even a little angry and it pissed Majima off. It was empty. “I lost enough to make me question why I’d keep playing the game.”
“That was way back when. You’re a somebody now, ya don’t want all this shit.”
“Why can’t I want this? Because you don’t want me to?”
“‘Cause you’re not some fuckin’ softcock, puttering around some bullshit island like an old man!”
“I’m happy here.”
“You don’t know what happy is!”
“I’ve got a better idea than you,” Kiryu snapped, taking a few quick steps closer. “You think I can’t be happy here because you don’t get it, and anything you don’t get isn’t worth understanding.”
“It ain’t worth understanding!” Majima shouted. “I seen you smash a guy’s face into a curb until his own mama wouldn’t recognize him, and you were fucking alive! You were glowing!”
“I didn’t like a second of that shit.”
“Are you kidding me? Ya loved it! Ya made it a fucking art! Ya tell yourself this story where you’re the good guy, but you’re not!”
“I can try to be.”
“At what fucking cost, Kiryu? Ya think I’m gonna let ya waste away here? You’re gonna go from bein’ the most feared yakuza in the country to bein’ some leathery old fuck clackin’ mahjong tiles?”
“I didn’t ask you to save me.”
“Well, someone’s gotta! Ya used to knock a guy’s teeth out for lookin’ at ya funny! Grown men pissed themselves when ya walked into a room! You’re a fucking legend, you could have anything!”
“I don’t want anything!” Kiryu shouted back, both of them shouting now, only a few feet apart. “You’re fucking pathetic, coming here to—”
“Bullshit, you don’t want anything! You’re the fucking Dragon of Dojima!”
“You are!” Majima screamed. “Show me some fucking fire, you pussy! What do you want? What do you want?” He shoved him hard in the chest. “You’re a dragon! Fucking take it!”
Kiryu punched him in the face and that first second was so good he swore he almost came.
He would have slowed it down if he could and lived forever in the meaty thwap of knuckles on his cheek, his head snapping back, the sharp pain and then the dull ache that spread through his skull, and most importantly, the adrenaline. Everything in his body switched on all at once, his muscles firing, brain buzzing, synapses kicking into high gear to make him run towards or away from the threat—always towards—and every inch of his being was suddenly a pack of dogs straining at their chains, all of them salivating for a common goal: you get to fight now.
He lunged back at him and Kiryu was too shocked or mad or slow to stop him. He planted a palm in the middle of his face and pushed, felt his nose cartilage bend under the force of it, knocked him over and went with him. Kiryu swung and nailed him in the ribs, got a knee up between them and kicked out hard. The sky spun above him as his back hit the sand and he flipped over and sprung at him again, got a fistful of Kiryu’s hair and held him in place as he punched him once, twice, hard right across the cheek, and pushed his face into the sand. Kiryu grappled blindly for him, grabbed his wrist and squeezed until the bones ground together, until he felt something give a delicious, disgusting pop.
It made him let go, and that was all it took. Kiryu spun around and kicked him in the chin almost faster than he could see it. His mouth was full of blood. He spat it out, choking on it, his tongue stinging, and then he was on his back, Kiryu’s knee was digging into his thigh and his elbow was digging hard into the soft spot just inside his arm. The fingers of one of his hands clutched at his face so hard it burned. His body twitched to fight back and Kiryu dug his nails into his face and pushed his elbow down harder. He froze against the searing pain, euphoria, excitement, intimacy, all variations on a theme.
Kiryu’s face hung panting above his. His skin was an ugly mottled red and he had sand in his hair, stuck to the blackish blood just inside his nostril, not enough to drip. It was only a second that they stayed there like that, but it felt like forever. Majima could feel himself aging, shriveling, waiting, going crazy.
He lifted his head and hissed, “Take it.”
Kiryu kissed him.
He shoved their mouths together so hard their teeth hit and all Majima could taste was blood. It was so perfect it hurt, it hurt his brain to think about, it hurt his lips and his bitten tongue. Kiryu’s hand stayed gripping his face, pulling at him like he’d ever try to get away. When he tested the weight on his arms, Kiryu let up, and he used the freedom to dig his hands into his hair. Kiryu kissed messy like Majima knew he would, all passion and balls and no experience to carve technique out of, and it was so deeply, inexplicably good. He kissed like he wasn’t thinking about anything else, like he’d never thought about anything else, as if Majima conjured him out of pure lust and vitriol and black magic, just for him.
Kiryu let his face go and slid a hand down his throat, where he held him, just shy of too hard. Open mouth. Spit. His cautious tongue. Majima curled a foot around his calf and pulled him in. The hand around his throat tightened and his head spun and throbbed where he’d been hit. Later, he’d be mad that he couldn’t remember who dove into whose pants first, only the crystal-clear image of Kiryu straddling his thighs with his head bent down to watch as they jerked each other off, barely visible in the moonlit blackness. He’d remember hearing his rushing breath over the waves, his frantic grip and his own stupid, boyish excitement over a new big dick.
Kiryu bowed over him and breathed hot in his ear, cheek to cheek. Their knuckles brushed as they worked one another in their fists, and he felt Kiryu’s body seize up and his thighs crush his own as he came into his hand, dripping onto his belly. The thought of it alone pushed him over the edge, the situation, ten or twenty years of ardent states culminating in that exact moment, Kiryu-chan. He buried his face in Kiryu’s shoulder as he came and dug his fingers hard into his thigh, his eye squeezed shut.
The seconds that followed stretched. He was so hot he thought he was going to pass out, the night air stinging on his skin. Kiryu’s back heaved before he let him go and sat up. He was flushed all the way down his throat and his cheek had started to bloom a brilliant red where he got hit. Majima wanted to suck his fingers clean but didn’t think he would appreciate it, and he couldn’t decide what he wanted to do most because he wanted to do everything; flip him over and fuck him, propose to him, pledge allegiance, get on his knees, beat him until he never had the gall to look at him with such a surprised and vulnerable expression ever again.
Instead, he laughed. It came out all reedy.
“Thought I was gonna have to spell it out for ya.”
Kiryu shook his head. He didn’t look happy or angry and he wouldn’t look him in the eye. His softening dick still hung out of his khakis, and in all his years, that wasn’t how Majima imagined it would go the first time. He wanted neon and not moonlight, rain and not that sticky summer heat, asphalt, astroglide, maybe guns or some other imminent danger, more blood, more machismo. This was different. Okinawa was romantic and secluded, it was just the two of them and it had a different edge to it, more honest than Majima had ever planned to be.
Kiryu climbed off him. He hiked up his pants and scrubbed his hand through the sand, and then on his slacks.
“Wait five minutes. The kids are up.”
He walked unsteadily down the beach back towards the house.
Once he was gone, Majima starfished in the sand with the low beach scrub brushing prickly weeds against his back. The waves crashed rhythmically against the shore and his body pulsed in time with pleasure that grew more distant every second. His left wrist ached from Kiryu’s grip in a way that promised a doctor’s visit. He replayed his tongue sliding against his and his calloused palm around his dick, and basked in the unparalleled pleasure of being right.
They would never be close enough. He wanted to crush him into a powder, snort him through a rolled-up banknote and feel him scream through his veins. He wanted to devour him and be devoured, body and soul, and short of that it would never be enough. Nothing would ever, ever be enough.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Majima woke up the next morning as the kids stomped around the house getting ready for school. He threw his blanket over his head, burrowed down and pretended to be asleep until they left. Once they had, he knew the quiet sounds in the house were Kiryu moving around gently on his bare feet. The faucet would run and then stop. He slid open doors, went outside and came back, all without passing through the dining room where Majima lay.
He perked up when he heard the bath run, in the middle of the morning. Life with nine kids, he figured. He waited until the faucet stopped and then for the long pause afterwards. Then, the bath draining. Then another two minutes to be sure. He crept to the bathroom and opened the door.
Kiryu stood at the mirror with a towel around his hips and shaving cream on his face. His hair was slicked back and dripped water onto his shoulders. In the white-blue tile and gray morning sun, his tattoo stood out like fire.
He went silent when he saw it was Majima, no oh it’s you, just a very tense stare.
Majima stepped in and shut the door behind him. Kiryu looked at him a moment longer in the mirror, then went back to shaving. Majima leaned against the closed door and watched him slice neat lines through the foam on his cheeks, intermittently rinsing his razor under the faucet. The muscles in his back shifted as he moved and his towel had slid low enough to rest on the crest of his ass. The air was wet and sweet and Majima was dizzy with it. With the possibilities.
He asked, “Ya know why I’m here, yeah?”
“In Okinawa or my bathroom?”
Kiryu’s eyes flicked to his in the mirror, then away. “I have a pretty good idea.”
Majima sighed quietly out his nose. He didn’t know whether it would be a harder or easier sell after they’d fooled around, but he knew Kiryu well enough that he could guess. The guy was a sap. He slid a step closer on the wet tiled floor and Kiryu kept shaving. He ran his razor over the last bit near his chin. Another step closer and he stopped. He locked eyes with Majima in the mirror. His gaze dropped when Majima put his hands on his waist and spoke softly in his ear.
“Come home, Fourth Chairman.”
Kiryu’s skin was hot and sticky after his bath. His chest swelled with a deep breath.
“This is my home.”
“For now.” Majima turned his head and brushed his lips against his neck. He could feel his pulse thundering. “You’re growin’ dim out here, Kiryu-chan. Ain’t no place for a dragon to roam. Shit, if you came back...” He slid a hand up Kiryu’s chest, curling under his arm. “I know ya see it, too. You and me, at the top of it all. We’d be fucking unstoppable.”
Kiryu said, “I don’t care about that.”
His eyes fluttered nearly shut. It was going well. Majima pressed his chest to his back, his dick in the cleft of his ass.
“Maybe not for the same reasons I do, but ya care. Deeply. Ya wanna see the Tojo clan restored, right? Bring it back to all that honourable shit your pop wanted? We could do it, you and me.” He kissed the back of his neck, bisected by a dark tan line. “You could keep me on a gilded leash. You’re the only one I’d let do it. Not Daigo. You.”
Kiryu said nothing. His face was tight and not angry but maybe confused, or something like it. Nervousness thinly veiled as anger. The front of his towel started to lift where his erection pressed up against it.
Majima said, “You know that, though. Right? You know you’re the only one?”
Kiryu wouldn’t look at him. Majima ran his hand down his stomach, tantalizingly close to the knot of his towel.
“C’mon,” he breathed, “tell me you know.”
He could see Kiryu sweat. A near-sexual pleasure rolled through him at the unique je ne sais quoi of causing someone discomfort. The Majima Goro National Pastime.
Kiryu tipped his head back so it bumped against his. “I know.”
Majima kissed his neck, mouth open, teeth grazing, and slid his hand into his towel. The knot came loose, the towel dropped and he wrapped his fingers around his hardening dick.
“I’m yours, whether ya want me or not.”
Kiryu squeezed his eyes shut. “I know.”
He jerked him off tight and slow, his face pressed to his nape, his free hand wandering over the expanse of his chest. Kiryu hung his head, gripped the sink with both hands and let himself be touched. Majima had never been with anyone so quiet and he didn’t like it, but he wasn’t about to tell him to sound more appreciative. The silence made him work for it, hyper-aware of every muscle twitch, a sharp inhale or anything that could be constituted as a response. He liked that he was pushing back into him, almost imperceptible but there. He’d never been so pleased by such scraps of praise—he fucked like a king and he deserved bass-boosted fanfare, not quiet huffs—and for a moment, anger twisted at his gut. It pissed him off that anyone could make him want anything. In the handful of seconds before he dropped off to sleep every night, he was capable of fear, and sometimes he worried that their little game didn’t stop where he said it did. He entertained the possibility, however small, that he wasn’t in control. Then he fell asleep and dreamed of other things, and when he woke up, he didn’t remember thinking about it at all.
He peeked over Kiryu’s shoulder and saw his hands flex where they gripped the lip of the sink, white-knuckled and trembling. He smiled. His pace quickened and his other hand slid between his legs to roll his balls in his fingers.
“Come on,” he whispered against his shoulder. “Almost there.”
He got a bit of fanfare. Kiryu let go of the sink, slapped a hand over his face and shuddered as he started to come, his whole body pushing back into Majima’s, cum dripping down the front of the sink and onto the tile. Majima curled a hand around his hip and held him, laughed breathy against his nape and wrung him out until he smacked his hand away.
Kiryu went still and didn’t shake him off. Majima could smell his sweat. He dragged his tongue against his skin and could taste the bitterness and salt. He wanted to crack him into chunks like a crisp watermelon, dig around inside him and learn what made him tick. Suck the life out of him and get at all the tender spots. Run the slimy pulp of his soul between his fingers.
He wiped his cum on his stomach, peeled himself off him and shoved him towards the door.
“Get lost, I gotta take a shit.”
It was like the obsessive centre of his brain, which had always been mostly Kiryu-centric, had redoubled its efforts now that he knew exactly what he could get away with, and that what he could get away with was a lot. Kiryu’s existence was one big intrusive thought, as real as if he were breathing down his neck. He forgot how to think about anything else, if he ever did, and Okinawa didn’t provide many distractions. When Kiryu wasn’t around, he became a concept. Dealing with him in the flesh presented some challenges.
That afternoon, he started to catch Kiryu looking at him. He lounged at the table in the courtyard reading a magazine and looked up to see Kiryu lingering in the doorway to the house, his eyes on him. The back-and-forth was as immature as it was exciting. It was like playing chicken, daring the other to say more.
When the sun was high in the sky, Kiryu came out and stood a few paces away. He shielded his eyes from the light and squinted anyways.
“I'm going into town,” he said, firm. “Come with me.”
Majima raised his eyebrows. The tint of his sunglasses made Kiryu look like an old sepia photograph, save for his floral print shirt.
“Shopping. To help carry groceries.”
“Ya got biceps like a compact car. You're tellin’ me ya can't carry home a coupla bags?”
Kiryu hesitated. Again, it would have been cute if it weren't so pathetic.
“It's a staples run. Rice.”
Majima rolled his eye. He hauled himself to his feet. “Yeah, yeah. Lemme get shoes on.”
He had seen Tokyo strip malls that looked better than this small city's downtown core. He strolled through the market alongside Kiryu, who stopped at stalls to buy vegetables and meat and chatted with infuriating charm to the elderly ladies who sold them. He bought a massive sack of rice and made Majima throw it over his shoulder while he carried four grocery bags at his own sides.
“Ya go shopping,” Majima said flatly as they waited at Ryukyu’s only busy intersection. “Runnin’ errands.”
“So what if I do?”
Majima sucked his teeth and watched the cars go by. “The Dragon of Dojima, haggling for taro.”
“I'm gonna beat the shit out of you.”
“Doubt it. That'd take guts, an’ it seems like you're goin’ without lately.”
“If you don't—”
Someone called out from behind them. Majima turned and was surprised that Kiryu did too; he wouldn't have been anyone's aniki in a long time. A short, young guy with a baby face and curly hair loped up to them, waving. Kiryu nodded at him. He beamed.
“Long time no see, aniki! You been busy with the kids?”
He paused. Rikiya's gaze was fixed on Majima and he visibly thrummed with nervous energy as he waited to be introduced.
“Uh, Rikiya, this is Majima-san. From Tokyo.”
Rikiya had stars in his eyes and still managed to look scared shitless. Both Kiryu and Majima were half a foot taller than him and the effect was more pronounced when they were both there. Rikiya bowed surprisingly low.
“Nice to meet you, aniki!”
Majima barked out a laugh before he could help it. Kiryu smacked him and Rikiya looked embarrassed. The kid and his oozing earnestness reminded Majima so much of a young Kiryu that it hurt.
“None of that formal jazz, it's all good. You in one of the families?”
Rikiya looked surprised. He figured Kiryu had been skirting around yakuza talk, even in Okinawa.
“The Ryudo family, sir.” He paused. “And you…”
“Tojo Clan lieutenant. Patriarch of the Majima Family. Nice ta meet ya.”
The lowest and most attention-seeking part of him kicked into high gear as he watched awe spread over Rikiya’s features. The kid bowed violently low.
“The pleasure’s all mine, SIR!”
Kiryu groaned. “Rikiya, get up. Majima, stop provoking him.”
“I ain't provoking him! He's a smart kid bein’ humbled in the presence of greatness!”
“Rikiya, get up,” Kiryu said again. Rikiya reluctantly stood, his eyes still locked on Majima.
He asked, “So, you know each other from when Kiryu-san…”
“Yeah, back in the day. Different families, though, I wasn't his boss or nothing.” Without thinking much about it, he slung an arm around Kiryu's neck and brushed his knuckles against his cheek. “Don't let Kiryu-chan bust your balls too bad. He still calls me Majima-no-niisan in front of the boys.”
Kiryu shook him off but the damage was done and surprise was plastered on Rikiya's face. It hadn't been much, but it was a touch that went beyond the borders of standard masculinity. Rikiya seemed clueless, but if he wanted to see it, it was there. And it looked like he'd seen it. For anyone who spent time around Kiryu, it would have been the final piece to a puzzle they'd probably been trying to solve.
Kiryu said to Rikiya, “We're busy. I'll talk to you later,” and took off across the street. Majima gave Rikiya a little salute and hurried after Kiryu. He was walking faster than he’d been before.
“Don't do shit like that in public,” he said quickly. Majima scoffed.
“This ain't the eighties anymore, ya old fuck.”
“It doesn't matter. It's my private business.”
“That kid clearly fuckin’ adores ya, and ya can't tell him? You could shit in his mouth and he'd thank ya, you can probably trust him. Bust open his worldview.”
“Shut up about Rikiya.”
“Fine, but it ain't about him. You all bent outta shape about messin’ around with dudes?”
His pause was transparent. He jostled the grocery bags in his hand. “There's nothing to get bent out of shape over.”
“Aw, bullshit! You're hidin’ it. What good's a small town if ya can't even be yerself? Who gives a shit out here?”
“If you're not gonna bust any kneecaps, ya might as well get yer dick wet.” He adjusted the sack of rice over his shoulder. Their walk had slowed now that they were alone. “Ya like ladies too, or nah?”
“Come to think of it, it don't matter. A secret's a secret, ya know? Rot's still rot. Eats away at ya the same.”
“You know from experience.”
“Nope. Never kept a secret in my life. Nishida-chan reads my dream diary.”
“Transparency, Kiryu-chan. Lay it all out and beat the life outta anyone who still tells you no.”
The train station loomed ahead. Just before they passed it, Majima dropped the sack of rice and shoved Kiryu aside, back behind the phone booth.
He fisted a hand in the front of his shirt, yanked him in and kissed him. He dropped the groceries and brought his fists up and Majima braced himself for a blow, but it didn't come. Kiryu dug his hands into his face like he was going to wrench him away, but he didn't. He let himself be kissed. It wasn't long but it was deep and tense and Majima's toes curled inside his shoes. He pulled back and kept his fist in Kiryu's shirt, lingering close. People passed by behind them. Kiryu's breath hissed through his bared teeth and it sent a shiver down Majima's spine. The chemistry kept surprising him; tension he expected, but the fire was catching him off guard.
Kiryu said, “We’re too old for this.”
Majima slid a hand around the back of his neck and squeezed hard. He could still taste him on his tongue and it was as immediate and dizzying as blood on his hands. Evidence. Adrenaline.
“Speak for yourself.”
Kiryu pushed him back. He picked up the groceries and Majima heaved the sack of rice back on his shoulder, and they spent a sticky train ride pretending they weren't looking at one another whenever the other turned away.
The evening dragged. It was a warm night so the kids ate their curry out on the long table in the courtyard and Majima stayed inside alone, reading a magazine while he ate. Play-acting like he was Kiryu's harmless old war buddy was grating on his nerves and made him impatient. He didn't remember kids ever staying up so late. He crept outside and sat on the rock wall like a gargoyle, looking out over the ocean as the sun sank to purples and black-blues. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been so antsy and impatient and, if he wanted to squint, unsure. He hated it. He smoked until his head spun and the stale tar smell of his own fingers made him feel sick.
The wooden door slid open behind him; the tide had gotten choppy and he hardly heard it over the sound of waves crashing against the shore. He smelled Kiryu before he looked down and saw him. Sweat, aftershave and an already-lit cigarette that glowed faintly in all the dark.
Kiryu said, “Of course you wouldn't help with dishes.”
Majima snorted. “I pay people to do that shit.”
He glanced down. A few locks of Kiryu's hair fell over his forehead, whatever pomade he used giving up as the day waned. He leaned his elbows on the wall by Majima's hip.
Majima was stuck on their kiss by the train station and thought endlessly and voraciously about what else he could get away with. He knew what he wanted, but not how he was supposed to phrase his request to actually get it. He spat his cigarette butt into the street and tapped a new one out of his pack, stuck it in his mouth and looked down at Kiryu. When he looked up, he took his chin in his fingers, tipped his face up and lit his smoke with Kiryu's. The papery crackle as it caught fire was warm and intimate and Kiryu's stubbly chin rasped against the pads of his fingers.
He pulled back and looked out at the water again. In the minute since Kiryu arrived, it seemed like it had gotten twice as dark and he could hardly see the shore, just flashes of foamy ocean spray.
Kiryu asked, “What do you want?” his voice flat and hard and transparently tough guy.
“Other than a chance to suck ya dry? Not much.”
Kiryu nearly inhaled his smoke. He coughed furiously and Majima chuckled.
“No one says shit like that to ya, huh?”
He caught the motion as Kiryu looked up at him. “No.”
“Well, they’re thinkin’ it.” He raised his arms above his head and pulled on his wrist until it popped, his back arching up. “Ya wanna do this right, or are we gonna keep trading handies like a coupla sixteen-year-olds?”
He wondered what else he would have to say. He wasn’t convinced that Kiryu knew how sex worked. His reply took a few beats longer than their habitual back-and-forth.
He hopped off the wall and Kiryu's mouth was on his before his weight had settled back on his heels.
Their noses crushed for a moment before he tipped his head. Kiryu's mouth tasted like cigarettes and, betraying a charming amount of foresight, toothpaste. Majima lost himself for a moment with his eyes closed and his body lax; the motions of sex came effortlessly to him, like strutting, like fighting, all part of his animal brain. Kiryu made things more stilted than he was used to, but Majima suspected he didn't know any better. He was new. His mouth was wet and eager, pushy, never coming up for air, his hands yanking at the front of his shirt like he was looking for a fight. After a long, fierce kiss, Majima took his face in his hands, eased him back and ignored the tug in his gut when Kiryu ducked his head to try to keep kissing him. He swallowed hard.
“Grab a blanket an’ somethin’ slick and meet me on the beach.”
Kiryu let him go and stormed inside before he could blink. He filed it away to make fun of him for later.
He wandered across the street and kicked his shoes off into the sand, debated getting out another smoke and decided against it. Away from the house, it was so dark that he couldn't see the shore. He glanced back up and saw Kiryu's dark shape ambling towards him with a bundle in his arms. When they found each other in the dark, Kiryu went to drop his armful and Majima stopped him. He waved a hand and made his way down the beach.
“Closer to the water. It’ll drown out the noise.”
There was a long silence behind him. When Kiryu spoke, it was beyond hesitant. Dipping his toe in.
“There’ll be noise?”
He liked the spot he'd found, down at the end where the waves crashed a cacophony against the rocks and no one would see them until they stepped on them. He turned towards Kiryu; his vision was adjusting to the dark and he could just make out his face.
“If ya play your cards right, there’ll be a fuckin’ racket.”
Kiryu dropped his bundle of blanket, yanked him in and kissed him. Majima kissed him back without thinking, pulling his lower lip between his teeth, one hand coming up between their bodies to press at the base of Kiryu’s throat. He spoke with their lips still touching.
“Your enthusiasm is noted an’ appreciated.” He bit his lip again, slowly increasing pressure until it hurt. “Ya wanna fuck me?”
Kiryu slid a hand over his hip and grabbed his ass hard. The sudden physicality made Majima’s heart rate spike, hard and painful right up through his throat, a beautiful union of lust and adrenaline and everything else he thought he’d die holding onto and now suddenly had an outlet for. He kissed him again and groaned into his mouth, pushed their hips together. Every second that passed was too promising, everything he did too perfect, as good as if he’d thought it up himself.
Kiryu couldn’t say it and he never would; his answer was always in his fists, in his body. Majima melted into him. He ran his hands up his wide chest and felt demure, sweet, playful, out of his body, alive.
“You got it.”
Kiryu pulled at his clothes like some creature speaking in monosyllabic grunts, this, up, here, off. They tossed their shirts into the sand. Majima clinked his belt buckle free and watched Kiryu’s big, scarred hands hovering nearby as if they were supervising the process. Both their heads were bowed and watching. He shook his dick as he got it free.
“Ya done this before?” he asked, for no reason other than gauging the depth of the speech he was about to launch into.
But then Kiryu said, “No,” so quietly, his hands still hovering nervously. So, this was big. This was a time for tact, as much as Majima could offer it. He understood that. He didn’t know whether no meant no, not with men, or no, not with anybody, and frankly, it was none of his business. The prospect of Kiryu being new at this was exhausting, but nothing he was unwilling to deal with. He started on Kiryu’s belt.
“You know where it goes. You’ll pick up the other stuff real quick.”
Kiryu’s mouth was on his again, hot and demanding. Most guys didn’t like kissing so much and he didn’t know what it meant that Kiryu did—it meant he was soft, which he already knew, and maybe that he wasn’t so affected by the trappings of masculinity that he was embarrassed by intimacy.
He let him go to spread the blanket on the ground and as he did it, Kiryu put his arms around him from behind, crushed his mouth to the back of his neck and groped his hands over his bare chest. When he turned around, Kiryu all but threw him down. Kiryu felt bigger when he was on top of him, he always did, his shoulders so wide they'd block out the sun. Before, he’d jam his knee a lot harder between his legs, but now he was looking for something else. His hand on his dick was as rough and jerky as it had been the night before. Majima caught his mouth, bit him, sucked his lip. He yanked his pants down around his thighs and kicked off his own. In the dark, his touch felt heightened and he got distracted tracing the shapes of scars over Kiryu's sides; the sharp edges of knife wounds, the ugly pucker of bullet holes. He didn't know which ones were his own handiwork and loved trying to remember.
Kiryu flipped him onto his stomach and bowed over him, his lips pressed to the back of his neck. He’d clearly never been fucked because he didn’t know to start slow and buried himself inside him in one hard thrust. Pain and pleasure burned up Majima’s spine, inseparable and indistinguishable from one another. He couldn’t breathe. Kiryu slapped a hand down on top of his, which was either a mistake in the dark or an embarrassingly sentimental intentional action. He squeezed his fingers so hard it hurt and Majima knew it was the latter. Kiryu went still, as deep inside him as he could go. Majima’s heart beat like a war drum against his ribs. He pushed back on him, it burned a little worse and Kiryu made a quiet, choked-back noise that made it worth it.
He got the hang of it quick and held onto Majima's hips as he hammered into him, shifting his knees until he found something he liked, moving until the angle was whatever he was looking for. It was good, better than it had any right to be, arousal twisting hot and tight in Majima's gut. He dug his fists into the blanket and felt the wet sand give way underneath them. He met him at every thrust. He was dizzy and anxious just like before, when he was waiting. He was used to hot, macho goons who spat horny one-liners like they were in a porno and Kiryu's silence and tenderness disarmed him. He didn't expect to feel so vulnerable, but in retrospect, he should have; they'd known each other for so long and tension had built every second they were around one another—he should have known it wouldn't be a fun romp when they finally fucked. It was like he was being crushed under the weight of it and he felt young and stupid and overwhelmed. It was an easy enough feeling to bury.
He hissed, “That's all ya got?” and craned his neck to look back over his shoulder, but he couldn't see anything in the dark. If he could piss him off, he could bring it back to something he knew. He knew he could get him to choke him if he got him mad enough, it was just a matter of pushing the right buttons, and then it would be easy again. He felt his dick start to drip. “You new at this or something?”
Kiryu shuddered and bowed forward. Majima felt his thighs tremble. “I'm—”
He bucked into him and came, silent over the crashing waves. Majima's hips stung where his nails dug into them and he felt him pulse inside him again and again. He pushed back on him, trying to get some movement, anything. He laughed hoarsely. Kiryu wouldn't notice him shaking.
“You're so fuckin’ green.”
Kiryu dropped his head against his shoulder and ran a hand down his stomach. Still quiet. He jerked him off and fucked him in shallow thrusts, half-hard, until Majima came into his fist with a feral shout. Again, better than it had any right to be.
His breath came hard and fast even once they were done, when he rolled onto his back and panted up at the inky sky. He wasn't as young as he used to be. Kiryu's face appeared above his, smudgy in the dark, and his hand reached out. He ran his thumb up his cheekbone, just under the lip of his eye patch. He spoke so quietly he might have misheard him.
“You look at me like…”
Majima waited for a final word. There wasn’t one, not that he needed it.
He hissed, “Say it.”
Kiryu kissed him. He shoved him off.
“We done here?”
The house was silent, shut up tight against the wind. Majima went to the dining room and stared down at his folded futon in the corner. The front door banged open and shut as Kiryu entered behind him, then the floof of the blanket falling to the floor of his room. Majima wandered in. Kiryu was pulling his futon from the closet and he leaned in the doorway and watched him. The only light was from the lamp in the hall and it took Kiryu a moment to notice him.
“Your bed okay?” he asked, too gruff. His face was still red. Majima snorted.
“You’re gonna fuck me in the ass and make me sleep in the goddamn dining room?”
Kiryu had the decency to look embarrassed. He opened the door again.
“Pull it in here.”
Undressing in front of him even in the low light felt like peeling his skin off. The unease hadn't gone away, only accompanied now by a dull ache between his legs, and he didn't see that coming. He thought it would go away. It had been a long time since something happened to him that he didn't see coming.
Kiryu ran his fingers over the cloudy bruise in the centre of his torso, left by his own back kick the other day. Sorry wasn’t something they did, so he just looked at it and Majima watched him look.
His futon hardly fit next to Kiryu's in the small room and it was hotter there than in the airy dining room; when he lay down, his back was already sticking to the sheets.
“No idea how ya live in this heat,” he panted up at the ceiling. “Fuckin’ sadist.”
“You get used to it.”
There was enough space on the two futons that Kiryu was able to avoid touching him. Like a coward. He drifted off without thinking too much about it and when he was jostled awake some indeterminate time later—long enough that his mouth tasted like shit—he was immediately aware of Kiryu's body heat next to him and his toes on his calf.
His voice near his ear. Majima swatted at him and mumbled, half asleep, “Can’t go again, big boy, ‘m drained.”
“No, you’re on my arm.”
He had rolled onto Kiryu's pillow in his sleep and could feel his arm under it, tucked neatly under his neck. It was comfortable.
“Yeah, and you’re bein’ a real gentleman about it.”
Hesitation. Then, shifting closer. He tucked his knees behind Majima's and they were virtually the same height, so he fit perfectly. His chest was smooth and hard against his back. His deep, even breath was warm on the back of his neck. It was grounding. In the seconds before he fell asleep, that scared him. When he woke up the next morning with Kiryu’s face pressed against his back and his arm thrown over his side, he remembered thinking about it, and for the first time, the feeling lingered.
"I don't let the kids snack."
Kiryu shoved his bulk into the narrow hallway to wedge himself in between the two walls.
"Good thing I ain't your kid, then. Lemme through, I'm dyin' on that porch."
"You can wait until dinner like everyone else."
"You're just tryina flex 'cause you miss pushin' people around. Go find that starry-eyed kid, I ain't interested."
"Not for hours! Lemme go—"
There was a clunk in the kitchen behind the closed door and they both froze.
A voice from within: "It's just for the kids, are you sure I have to?"
One of the girls. The sound of glasses on the table and an exasperated sigh.
"He's sitting on the porch, you're just gonna walk by him, Ri?" That was Haruka.
"No, I just mean—it's—awkward."
"Well, he’s ojisan’s special friend, so we have to be nice. He’s our guest.”
There was a long pause and each passing second felt like an hour.
Riona said, “Special friend?”
Kiryu’s hand tightened reflexively around Majima’s arm.
Haruka scoffed. “Oh, you know what I mean. Just go ask him if he’d like some juice. Please, Riona. You want to act like a grown-up, right? Grown-ups can speak to other grown-ups.”
Majima put his hand on Kiryu’s back and whispered, “Gotta get back out there. You field this one, special friend.”
He crept through the room and out onto the porch. The sky was turning pink and gold but it was still oppressively hot, and he stretched out his legs and plucked at his sweat-wet shirt. He glanced down at the book he'd been reading, a crummy romance novel he found in one of the girls' rooms. The kids were playing baseball on the beach and he could see their sunburns from here.
Tiny footsteps padded up behind him.
He looked over his shoulder. It was the tall girl who wore pink. She held a pitcher of juice and a stack of glasses.
“I’m bringing this down to the kids, but… please take a glass. We made it ourselves.”
He nodded and took a glass off the stack in her hand. When she tried to tip the pitcher and keep hold of the glasses at the same time, it was clear that she wasn’t strong enough and she started to get flustered.
Majima said, “Here, here. I got ya.”
He took the pitcher from her, poured his own juice and handed it back. Her whole face was red.
“I’m so sorry.”
“Nah, don’t worry about it. Here, pour yourself one. It’s easier if ya set the glass down.”
“What, you’re in a rush?”
She glanced nervously at the beach and inside, then shook her head. She set the glasses down, took one from the stack and carefully poured the juice, crouching on the porch. Majima smiled.
“See? Yer a natural. Good as any hostess I ever seen.”
Riona took a seat next to him and peered into his face.
“A hostess? Really?”
“You bet. I mean, if ya want. I bet ya don’t have hostess clubs on this shi— on a little island like this, but back home, they’re crawlin’ with ’em. Just the best, nicest ladies, servin’ up drinks and chattin’ all night.”
“Back home… You’re from Tokyo, right?”
“How come you talk so funny, then?” Immediately after saying it, she jolted with shame and bowed her head. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean that.”
Majima cackled. “C’mon, sure ya did! That’s funny as hell! An’ you’re right, I got a real marble-mouth.” His hands went to find his smokes, then thought better of it. He took a sip of the tart pink juice instead. “Lived around Osaka when I was a kid. Didn’t shake it even after I moved away.”
“Wow… Osaka and Tokyo. I’ve never even left the island.”
Majima scoffed. “You’re not missin’ much, trust me. I been all over the place and lemme tell ya, you got a good life here. Nothin’ in the city is what ya think it is—people talkin’ out both sides of their mouths, tryina swindle ya for whatever they think they can get. Real shady.”
Riona recoiled. “That sounds awful.”
"It ain't always so bad. Ya get some good outta it."
"Like Kiryu-san, right? You met in the city."
She said it with such genuine, naive affection that it moved him to something that was almost like tenderness. Those kids loved the guy.
"Yeah," he admitted. "Like meetin' him."
"Where did you meet? Just on the street?"
His knee-jerk reaction was to tell her the truth. It was stupid how Kiryu was coddling the kids, keeping the yakuza thing hush hush like they were too dumb to decide for themselves whether they wanted to pursue a life of crime, and would just fall into it the second they knew it was an option. It was insulting to everyone involved. He'd tell this kid here, she'd tell the others, and then it would be public knowledge and Kiryu could snap out of his sweet old man act and get back to the way things used to be.
The crack of a bat split the air in two and he watched the ball sail up above the horizon and plummet back down into a gaggle of joyous screeching and a cloud of dusty sand. Kiryu and Haruka hadn't come out of the house yet.
"We worked together," he told Riona. "Real estate, back in the day. Your pops ran a firm and got me to manage his people."
This delighted her. "No way! Kiryu-san was in real estate?"
"Yup. He even wore glasses."
"Wow." She kicked her feet where they swung over the edge of the porch. "So… dorky. I never would have guessed."
"That makes two of us."
They sat in silence for a moment. Riona smoothed out her skirt. Majima felt sweat pour from his underarms down his sides. He hadn't worn a shirt for so many hours in years and he hated it.
Riona asked, "Would you… like to come play ball? We always need another and we're good, I promise."
The door clattered open behind him. He tipped his head back until he saw Kiryu's face looming above him in the doorway.
Kiryu smiled at Riona and said, "Sure. We both will."
Majima growled at him but he chose to ignore it. Haruka bounded out of the house behind him and scooped up Riona's juice pitcher.
"We gotta even up the teams! C'mon!"
The kids were, in fact, not good. The game dragged and Majima couldn't hit the ball as hard as he could without it flying into the ocean or someone's yard, so it wasn't even fun. During the final inning, Kiryu was on third, and when he stopped there he stood so close he could feel the heat radiating off his body. The sun glinted off the water and he squinted against it behind his shades. Kiryu shifted and their hands touched.
Majima mumbled, “This ain't me, Kiryu-chan. Ya know that.”
Koji and Mitsuo argued over who would bat next. Kiryu sighed softly.
“Then what are we doing?”
He could feel the back of his neck baking in the sun. Sweat wet under his arms.
“We're just playin’ ball.”
Crack, Mitsuo hit a wonky pitch from Haruka. Majima sprinted for home.
He woke up before dawn the next morning and couldn't fall back asleep. Kiryu slept on his side next to him, curled away, his tattoo criss-crossed with pink pressure lines where the sheets had pressed. He pulled his briefs on, grabbed his smokes and crept out of the house without waking him.
Now, on his third day, his spot on the porch felt familiar. That wasn't good. It was too early to be hot and the breeze coming in off the water was cool and gave him goosebumps. He lit a smoke, leaned back on his hands and stared up at the pale sky, blue-white with gauzy strips of pink, and knew it would be his last morning there.
The door clacked open behind him. He tipped his head back.
"You love just creepin' around, eh? Just showin' up places?"
Kiryu scoffed and sat down next to him as he lit his own smoke. "You're one to talk."
"What, comin' here? I thought if I called first, you'd high-tail it outta here before I could show up. Can't take the risk."
"Well, I know that now."
Kiryu was wearing thin linen sleep pants and nothing else, his flesh also raised in the slight chill. His tan lines made it look like he was wearing a pale shirt. Age was giving his skin an inexplicably delicate quality, a faint slackening, but it still glowed with health and sun. He was as mind-numbingly handsome as he'd ever been and Majima found it as distracting as he had when he was thirty. It was probably for the best that Kiryu wasn't coming back with him; one way or another, he'd get him killed.
He asked, "Ya talk to Haru-chan about your 'special friend'?"
Kiryu rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah. She… opened the door the other morning to tell me I had a phone call and saw us sleeping."
"I don't know." He sucked on his smoke. "Complicated."
"What'd you tell her?"
"She's not stupid. She knows."
"I told her we used to be close, in Kamurocho. And that sometimes, it's still… like that."
"That ain't true."
"This is the only time it's been like this."
Kiryu said, "Yeah. Technically," which Majima would unpack for weeks to come. "I told her you might come visit sometimes."
"You didn't tell her you're movin' back to the city?"
"No. Because I'm not."
Majima smiled. "Figured it was worth a shot."
They finished their smokes without saying much else and headed back inside. Majima plodded onto their rumpled futons in Kiryu's room, yawned and stretched.
"I'm gonna try to squeeze out a couple more hours before yer little demons wake me up."
Kiryu went, "Oh."
He turned around. Kiryu hovered behind him.
Kiryu stepped forward smoothly, slow but not nervous. Just careful. He brushed the backs of his knuckles against Majima's bare hip, his face turned downwards. Majima laughed.
"Just ask, ya freak."
Kiryu kissed him. Majima kissed him back, surging into him, and wound his arms up his back. Some things were more important than a good night's sleep; most things, actually. Feeling Kiryu's body switch on was a holy experience. He dug his hands into Majima's neck and moved him how he wanted, pushed closer until their chests were flush and there was nowhere else to go.
Majima turned his head for a breath and chuckled into Kiryu's ear.
“If I can’t take ya with me…” He slid a hand over his ass. “At least lemme take ya.”
Kiryu laughed hoarsely.
“What a line.”
“Is that a no?”
Kiryu didn’t say anything for a long time. Then: “I don’t know.”
The sensation was like jamming his foot into a closing door. He had a few seconds to make his case as convincing as possible before it slammed shut on him.
“I’ve wanted to put my dick in your ass since the first second I saw ya.”
Not his best work. Kiryu made a vaguely disapproving noise. He ran a hand up Kiryu's back and tried again.
“I want ya to know what it’s like.” He brushed his lips against the shell of his ear. “I wanna see ya lose your fucking mind over it.”
That seemed to go over better, because he felt him shudder.
“I don’t know…” Kiryu said again, and Majima purred against him. It was like the serpent and Eve. He squeezed his ass.
“I let ya do it to me. Ya think I’m a liar? Like I’m doin’ you a favour?”
“No.” Almost a gasp.
“Sometimes…” he said slowly, running his hand down Kiryu’s side and back up, “...the only thing that gets me outta bed in the morning is the thought that someone, God willin’, is gonna raw me before I go to bed that night.” He grazed his teeth down the shell of his ear. “There’s no time. No space. Ya feel… complete, for the first time. Present.” He bit his ear lobe. “Full.”
He was so close he could taste it. He wanted to be the first one to fill him up. He wanted to break someone untouchable, feel what it was like to have his hands clutching his back in panic and passion and everything else, and give as much as he got. Kiryu tipped his head, bared his throat and fisted his hand in the back of Majima's hair.
It might as well have been a twenty-minute chorus where trumpets blared, drums wailed and cherubs bleated a heavenly tune, those two syllables. Majima ran his mouth up his throat and the hands on him tightened.
“I’m gonna need a big, enthusiastic yes, Kiryu-chan.”
The futons were still faintly warm from their sleeping bodies. Majima still wasn't used to so much kissing and drowned in it a bit, lost in the slick warmth, the intimacy, Kiryu's hard body pushing up under his. He tried to remember how long he'd wanted this but the first moment wouldn't come to him; it was like Kiryu had always been there, first hot and young and dumb, and then nearly forty, haunted and fresh out of jail, and both were good. Both were Kiryu.
He caught himself and bit Kiryu's lip hard enough to make him grunt, pushed his legs apart with his thigh. He was already hard, which was a compliment Majima would carry around with him for years after. Even the rasp of the sheets felt loud in all the quiet, to say nothing of their rushing breath. He realized he was hurrying but didn't know how to slow down. He turned him over and he went willingly, grabbing a pillow to shove under his chest.
Majima sat back and dragged his eyes down the prone body in front of him, raised up slightly on his knees, legs spread.
“You trust me,” he said softly. It rung with accusation.
Kiryu’s voice was tense and low. “You trusted me first.”
“Guess I did.” He leaned down and brushed his lips against the back of his neck, up behind his ear. “Didn’t think that’s what it was ’til now.”
He started to ease in. Kiryu went tense all over but didn't pull away. The closeness and tightness tore at him and he pressed himself all up his back, buried his face in the crook of his neck. He mumbled something against his skin that he couldn't remember later, a dumb reflex, just there you go you're alright that's it and felt Kiryu's body draw up under him.
It was so good it was excruciating and once he started, he couldn't stop, bucking into him over and over again, dizzy with the sheer thought of it. If he let himself think too hard about how it was Kiryu whose body pushed back against him, his mind drew away from it as if the thought were white hot, too much. Lust beat a deafening drum in his ears, his energy all kinetic, motion, thrust. They would never be close enough. He wanted to crush him into a powder, snort him through a rolled-up banknote and feel him scream through his veins. He wanted to devour him and be devoured, body and soul, and short of that it would never be enough. Nothing would ever, ever be enough.
"Quiet," he breathed, though it was him who was being loud. "Don't want 'em to hear."
Kiryu's teeth snapped at him. "Shut—"
He didn't expect him to listen, but when he put his hands on his hips and twisted he felt no resistance; he pulled out and Kiryu rolled over and suddenly his mouth was on his, wet and hungry after only minutes without. His skin was burning hot and his fingers clutched Majima's throat as he let himself be entered again, his eyes squeezed shut, his knees apart. Majima's hands spread on the mattress by his shoulders and his thighs ached with the force of each thrust, pushing in again and again and again until it was easy, perfect, slick and all he could think about. There was no him, no Kiryu, no nothing, just that feeling. He heard his own voice but didn't know what he was saying and Kiryu never said anything back, anyways. It was like leaving a horny voicemail. He hissed at him, each word punctuated by a hard thrust.
"Ya got no—idea—what ya do to me—"
He could feel his body going tight underneath him, each muscle pulled taut. It was this choking, squeezing pleasure that clawed at his throat and made his chest tight, made every second an unbearable tick towards the moment it would end too soon and leave him empty. He twisted a fist in Kiryu's hair, buried a shout against his shoulder and came in a rush of pleasure so loud and bright it scorched his skin, raw, perfect. He bucked into him until his body was begging him to stop, then he lay plastered against him, breathing hard.
"I'm yours," he said again, his throat hoarse. "Ya don't get to pretend I ain't."
Kiryu's voice sounded tight and thin. "I'm not."
He lifted up and palmed Kiryu's dick between them, dripping and hard. Kiryu jolted at the touch. He put his arm over his face and Majima laughed lowly as he started to drag his fist around him.
"You're embarrassed now? Ya goof."
Kiryu made a pained sound and tried to twist away, bared down on him to get some kind of satisfaction and came with a lovely suddenness into his fist, his chest heaving.
The only light in the room was filtered through the walls from the growing sunrise outside, nothing had a shadow and everything glowed blue-gray and unreal. Majima ran a hand over Kiryu's jaw a little too rough, pulling at his skin with threat, affection and possession all in one.
“Come home,” he said softly. “We keep doin’ this for a couple months and I could read your body like a fucking book. This is just gropin’ around in the dark, now. Imagine if we got good.”
Kiryu shuddered under him and around him. Pleasure like knives in his gut. He pulled out and Kiryu groaned into his folded arm.
He said, “I bet I can get ya to go again," and Kiryu lifted his arm from his face and blinked blearily at him. There were teeth marks on the back of his forearm.
He sat between Kiryu's spread legs and ran a hand up his thigh. He sunk his fingers inside him until he started to shake.
"Like this." He crooked his fingers, sought, found. "Y'ever do this?"
Kiryu's head was tipped back, crushed into the pillows. He maybe shook it no. His free hand clutched Majima's thigh hard enough to sting; he didn't knock him off. He was intimately familiar with the insane and electric pleasure he watched Kiryu experience and how it made your mouth dry and wrecked you and blew your brains out, and he was jealous. He fucked him with his fingers and soaked in every inch of his body to commit it to memory as best as he could. One of Kiryu's legs came up and tried halfheartedly to kick him away, then draw him closer, then kick him away. He was mostly hard again and Majima started to jerk him off in his other hand, pleased with how he tried to pull away at the same time as he clawed him closer.
"Ya like it?"
Kiryu had his arm over his face again and he made a guttural sound behind it. Majima quickened his pace and knew it wouldn't take much more. Words tumbled out of his mouth.
“All you’re ever tryina do is see how far you can go. Lookin’ for that limit. You let me, and I’ll find it. We’ll do everything.” He added another finger and pushed and twisted as Kiryu's hips started to lift off the futon. “I’ll fuckin’ break you.”
He felt his body convulse as he started to come and it was the nicest compliment Majima had ever received. He dug his fingers into Majima’s thigh so hard his nails broke the skin, buried his face in his hand and bucked against Majima's hands, and it was the closest Majima ever came to seeing him let go.
They hadn't been loud but it seemed oppressively silent afterwards. They were both sweating and Kiryu was breathing hard. Majima wiped his hands on the sheets and sat back on his heels.
“That mighta been a li’l intense for the crack o' dawn."
“Mm.” Kiryu didn't lift his face from his arm. After a moment, he said, "Stop looking at me."
Majima flopped down onto the futon next to him. The one Kiryu was on had worked its way forward as they fucked and there was now a small wedge of floor between the two of them. Majima put his leg in it. His heartbeat thumped in his ears and he listened to the sound of Kiryu breathing, which relaxed him more than it should have. It reminded him of a post-fight rush of endorphins, only different. A second situation in which he heard Kiryu out of breath.
After a while Kiryu got up, his knees cracking. He found a washcloth folded up with his laundry and used it to clean up, and when he lay back down, it was close enough that their shoulders touched. After a minute, he inched his hand towards Majima's and let the sides of their fingers touch. Majima sighed. He rolled onto his side and pressed his face against Kiryu's upper arm, breathing in the smell of him. His skin was sticky with sweat. He heard the shhf of his hair against the pillow as he turned his head, felt his breath in his hair. Every movement felt big and profound because they'd never been so close for so long without shedding blood.
Somewhere deeper in the house, he heard the pattering of bare feet. Their time was coming to a close.
Finally, Kiryu asked, "Why did you really come? All this way."
His baritone voice rumbled through him. Majima turned the question over in his mind, played with it, sucked on it. There were a lot of answers and none that he liked, so he picked the worst one
Kiryu's sigh sounded pained and he almost almost almost wanted to fix it. But he knew exactly what it would be like if he stayed. For a week or two, he’d relax—they’d screw like rabbits, he’d get friendly with the old ladies at the market, he’d get a tan and maybe get halfway to learning how to fish. And then he’d get so bored he tore his hair out and they’d fight, and not in a fun way. He’d get pissed off and not in a fun way. He already missed his violent and dedicated army of Majima family men, the slippery viscosity of blood between his fingers and the satisfying pop of his dagger breaking through the surface tension of someone’s skin. He wanted to stroll into a glitzy restaurant and drop a million yen on booze and meat and not leave until it was three in the morning and he had the cutest member of the wait staff tucked under his arm. Kiryu was a piece of the puzzle, but it was just that: there were other pieces. Just as Kiryu wanted to live a life without stress or violence, Majima couldn’t live without it, like water passing through a shark’s gills. Blood and money and glamour and the immediacy of it all was the only thing that kept him going.
He mumbled, “Y’ever feel like the older we get, the less we got in common?”
His lips moved against Kiryu's shoulder as he spoke.
“I gotta go today.”
“Ya comin’ with me?”
His pause was too short. “You know I'm not.”
No surprise there. Majima closed his good eye and his eyelashes fluttered on Kiryu's skin.
“Tell me again why ya think you're better than me. Make it stick this time."
Kiryu slid his arm out from between them and put it behind Majima's head. Majima clicked his tongue in wordless disapproval but allowed it, and rested his head on his bicep. Kiryu dropped his hand down and sifted fingers through his hair.
"I'm too tired of death to go back there. I got to a point where I just… I'm tired of seeing everyone around me die."
"I guess that's fair."
Kiryu started pinching Majima's eyepatch strap in his fingers, pulling it back just a hair and letting it snap back against his head, over and over again. It was a disarmingly familiar gesture, as if they were childhood friends.
Kiryu said, "If I'm out, I don't have to believe in it enough to die for it anymore. I won't die for anyone but the people I love."
Majima tipped his head to look up at him.
“Whaddaya mean, die for it? For the clan?"
"Yeah. If it came down for that."
"You don't gotta die for shit if ya don't want to. Who told ya that? Dyin' on principle is for errand boys."
"No one had to tell me. Eventually, there could be a time where that's what's right."
"Aw, naw, naw. Dyin' over business is for suckers—at the end of the day, it's all some other guy's problem." He waved a hand. "All that matters is that I keep doin’ this thing. Life, whatever. I've never believed in something enough to die for it, ya kiddin’?" He paused. “Have you?”
“Yeah. All the time.” He looked down at him. “You took a knife for me.”
“That was different.”
Majima thought maybe he was on to something, like he was close to saying some magic combination of words that would make Kiryu come back to the mainland with him. Knowing that there must be a combination, he thought, it only made sense to stay. He never walked away from an unsolved problem.
They both dozed off and didn't wake up again until there was a soft rap on the bedroom door and Haruka asking if they wanted breakfast.
"I'll miss the kids," Majima said, after everyone had left for school and he was toeing his shoes on in the entryway. Kiryu chuckled.
"No you won't."
"Nah, but you'd like me better if I would."
When he first arrived, the house smelled overwhelmingly like Kiryu, but it didn't anymore. He'd been there too long. Even three days had been too long. He turned around to where Kiryu watched him from the top step. He took the two steps down and set Majima's duffle at his feet.
"You're not exactly a… family man," he said, smiling.
"So? You're not into murderin' for fun. We all got our flaws."
It was so easy, and it would get easier if he stayed. He found himself falling for his own propaganda: this is just groping around in the dark, now. Imagine if we got GOOD. Something pulled him incessantly towards Kiryu like the tug at your gut that made you want another fix, mindlessly wanting against all logic and self-preservation. When would he see him again? Would staying really be worse than leaving?
"I'll see ya soon," he said into the silence.
Kiryu shook his head slowly. Not sad and not anything else, either.
"Not for a while."
He knew it was his dick and his heart working in cahoots against his brain, but he thought again: would it be so bad if I stayed?
“You could get everything you ever wanted," he said instead, suddenly almost a snarl, indignant over losing. He snagged Kiryu's hand in his own and masked the sentimentality by crushing his fingers. "How ya gonna turn that down?”
There was no final kiss because a kiss then would have admitted that a half measure was better than nothing at all, and neither of them believed that.
Kiryu said, “This is the only thing I’ve ever wanted.”
He said it so softly, sounding almost ashamed and still looking down at Majima's hand in his, that Majima wasn’t sure if he was talking about his simple life in Okinawa or him. He wasn’t dumb enough to ask.