// honestly i agonised over whether to refer to kira by his first name or his last name but... since i refer to josefumi by his first name, it felt inconsistent not to do the same for kira 💦
Josefumi sat with his legs over the side of the boat, and his hands behind him. He leaned back but never forward - saw the horizon, but never the water under his feet. For some time, Yoshikage had been observing this strange habit, and wondering.
"Josefumi... Are you afraid of the water?"
Their eyes met, and for a moment, there was an air of surprise that came as quickly as it went.
"The water?" he echoed, "I'm okay now."
He said this in a way that Yoshikage thought, was neither here nor there. Not the truth, and not a lie, but something of an in-between. Annoyed by it, he pressed the matter more than he'd intended.
"You go swimming on the beach, too?"
At that, Josefumi dropped his gaze to the deck.
"That's... um, swimming is a bit..." he fell into an awkward stutter, and his waning voice was drowned out by the sea.
Yoshikage waited for him to finish. Then, realising that he never would, he sighed.
"Sorry... for bringing you this far out."
"Eh? No... it's okay."
Rain tapped on his umbrella as he stepped out of the corner shop, carrying two bags - one with food for the week, and another with Holly's favourite magazines and treats. Glancing at the time on his phone, he crossed the street to the cafe, where the windows were crowded by students from the neighbouring university.
His eyes skimmed the room as he waited for his order, searching for an empty seat. Then, amid the clusters of laughing students, he recognised Josefumi. He was sitting alone at a table by the window, with his feet tucked under his chair as he toyed with his phone in silence.
Josefumi wasn't looking at anyone, and no one was looking at Josefumi.
He cut out of his thoughts when they called his order from behind the counter. Sliding the bags over his arm, he took the coffee and left for the hospital.
He was leaning over the kitchen counter when Josefumi asked, "Is it okay if I study for my exam here? I can't really focus at home."
Yoshikage pulled himself upright.
"It's not a bother."
He watched as Josefumi lifted his schoolbag off the floor and took a seat at the counter. Feeling around for a pen, he pulled out his textbook and a notebook, and a folder of worksheets marked with red ink at every line. Too listless to move, he leaned over the counter again, and for a while, only watched him study. When his surroundings were too boring to suffer any longer, he stood up and went to his room.
Four hours had passed when he returned to the kitchen, and found Josefumi still paging through his textbook.
"Hey - you wanna take a break and get something to eat?"
He looked up, only for a moment, before he turned back to his book.
"I'll pass. I can't really take a break right now. I don't get this stuff at all."
Yoshikage hung on his words for a minute, half expecting him to change his mind. But the room soon went static, and he reached for his keys.
It was two in the morning when Josefumi's vision began to blur. His head felt heavy, and with every second in passing, he seemed to be sinking closer to the counter. Resting his head on the page, he told himself he would only close his eyes for a minute, then pick up the pace.
When his eyes opened again, they saw sunlight.
Blinking the sleep away, he lifted his head off the book and sat up. In the same motion, something slid down his back and fell around his feet.
He looked at the blanket curled on the floor.
Waves broke on the side of the boat as storm winds rushed the dock. Josefumi was fumbling with the mooring line when Yoshikage noticed the streak of blood on his hand. Without thinking, he reached out, and turned his hand toward the light to see it better.
"How did you get this cut?"
"Ah - I scraped it on a bike chain."
His eyes narrowed at the dark skin under the blood.
"If you don't clean this, it'll get infected."
"Oh?" Josefumi lifted his hand to his face, "I'll clean it when I get home."
"It won't do any good unless it's alcohol," he warned, moving to bring down the sail. But his feet froze to the deck when Josefumi so casually replied, "Kira-san, you never struck me as the type to fuss over people."
He looked over his shoulder, at Josefumi who was still fumbling to secure the line as the boat tilted in the wind. To himself he thought, I'm not. And yet it felt insincere, somehow, when he tried to say it aloud.
Josefumi was crying, tears of pain and fear, of disappointment and regret. He felt the last breath of his life approaching, and he was crying a lifetime of tears. Yoshikage wished that he could reach out a hand, but he could only reach him with his voice, could only save him now, if ever.
He looked up, blinking tears out of his eyes to see him.
None of it was your fault.
They fell like rain and pattered on the deck.
You didn't do anything wrong...
Josuke's eyes opened to the dusk.
He was folded up on the sofa, with Daiya still asleep at his knee. That evening, the house was quiet, so quiet that even the lilting trees in the orchard seemed livelier than anything inside. Shuffling onto his feet, he glanced at the clock and rubbed the sleep from his eyes.
He stilled when he suddenly felt a tear rolling down his sleeve.
Lowering his hands, he watched them fall into his palms, without reason, without right. A strange feeling washed over him - a feeling that he'd dreamt of something important, something that made him sink to the floor, and fold into himself again. It came in waves, with each hitting harder than the last. It ached, like a longing, like a wish, to see a face he couldn't remember.