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Before the Storm

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“Hey, Kiryu.”

“Huh?”

Making their way out to the street to catch a taxi, their footsteps rang out on the metal steps of the fire escape behind Serena.

“Ah... wait just a second.” Date caught Kiryu's arm as he reached the pavement, leading him just around the side of the building out of sight of both Serena's back door and the street. In the dim light, Date's face was nearly unreadable, but his posture was odd, almost uncomfortable. Nervous?

“Hm? Something else you needed to tell me?”

“Well… yes. Sort of.”

Kiryu just looked at him, his brow furrowing in confusion as he waited for Date to continue.

“I can tell there's something... off between you and Sayama.” Date frowned at Kiryu's lack of reaction, his shoulders sagging with exhaustion.

“If there's anything you need to talk about, I'll listen.” Date sighed. “I know you don't really have many people you can just talk to about things .” He shrugged, a casual gesture with a tired smile that didn't reach his eyes.

Kiryu thought about it, and found he had to agree - since ending up in prison, he didn't really have anyone to talk to. He usually just kept his thoughts to himself, and while Haruka was pretty perceptive for a kid, it wasn't like she'd really understand these kinds of adult problems. Not yet, anyway. And he couldn't even imagine talking to Majima about serious things like feelings, not without the other man carving the awkwardness out of him in a flurry of knives. He knew the former patriarch well enough to avoid deliberately provoking what was by all appearances a careful balancing act of honesty and facade surrounding his own deep-seated issues.

Kiryu nodded. “Thanks, Date-san. I'll keep that in mind.” It still wasn't something that he could articulate enough to talk about, he could tell Date knew that, but the gesture wasn't unappreciated. He started to turn, to continue on their way to Tokyo PD, and noticed that Date was staring at the ground, his eyes unfocused, caught on the reflection of neon on the street a few meters away. His shoulders were shaking almost imperceptibly, though his face held the remnants of his tired smile.

It suddenly dawned on Kiryu that Date offered his support in spite of the weight and stress on his own shoulders. Date was technically a wanted man, his police contacts were unwilling to listen to even a credible bomb threat, and regardless of his opinions of the man's approach, his partner on this case had been killed in cold blood in front of his own daughter. Knowing Date, he felt the weight of that responsibility as if it were his own. He wouldn't have mentioned any of this to Saya even if he'd had time to do so. Date was just as alone as Kiryu in this, and struggling to keep up his strong, unaffected face just the same.

Kiryu frowned, unsure how to proceed with this realization.

He'd kissed Sayama before, draining the tension out of the room like lancing a painful blister, the initial discomfort leaching out but leaving a raw sort of hollow feeling behind. The symptom had cleared - she'd seemed relieved and thanked him - but the initial sting remained in its wake, unaddressed. Exhausted from so many fights in rapid succession, each time another person in need of saving, he wondered if the same trick would work again - at least long enough for the tension to resolve itself. At least he knew where this specific tension was coming from. Floating adrift in his own mind, somehow it didn't seem like the worst idea.

Date shook his head and straightened his shoulders, pushing down his own uncertainty to look Kiryu in the eyes, just as Kiryu finished accumulating his resolve and leaned in. Their mouths connected painfully, Date staggering back the two steps into the side of the building with a grunt. His eyes went wide at the brief sensation of falling, but they slid closed as Kiryu's wordless offer of warmth surrounded him. This kiss was rougher than with Kaoru; Kiryu was never quite sure how to handle women, given his own strength, but this was different. Date had never seemed fragile .

Kiryu embraced him anyway, holding him up with a reassuring strength that in any other context would be intimidating. Their mouths moved together with a brush of chapped lips, the scrape of a hastily shaven cheek approaching its five o’clock shadow. Harsh sensations went ignored for the sake of grounding closeness, the slickness of probing tongues a reminder of tenderness in a world narrowed to a point filled with bomb threats and the taking of hostages. Date's hands found purchase gripping the back of Kiryu's jacket, a tether to his human shipwreck as he fell further into Kiryu's arms. As they both shook apart, and seeing the fragments of each other, commiserated and regained wholeness.

Kiryu pulled back just enough for air, and rested his forehead against Date's, their noses brushing, unwilling yet to leave the confines of the embrace. Date sighed, a weight lifting off him even as the cold of the bricks began to seep in through his coat. Kiryu had guessed correctly for once, and they both felt the tension leach away like rinsing out a wound. It still hurt, but at least it would heal more smoothly.

Date was the first to crack a smile, leading Kiryu into a chuckle as they righted themselves.

“Let's not keep Bessho-san waiting any longer, hm?” Date clapped Kiryu on the shoulder and started walking toward the street.

“Right.”

They headed out of the alley in companionable silence, making a quick detour by Kotobuki Drugs to get some energy for the trip. Relaxed and rested were two very different things, though having at least one of those helped.